A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Saturday, January 31, 2009

DPS Is Too Stingy With Amber Alerts


In the state of Texas, it is up to the Texas Department of Safety (DPS) to issue statewide Amber Alerts. If they say no, then the alert does not get broadcast. Since the law was passed creating Amber Alerts in 2002, the DPS has received 236 requests to issue an alert (less than 53 per year). They turned down 194 of those requests, and only approved and issued 42 alerts. So far this year, two requests have been made and both were denied.

The DPS says they are afraid that if too many Amber Alerts are issued, that people might stop paying attention to them. So they limit the alerts to stranger abductions and children taken unwillingly.

I think this is faulty reasoning on part of the DPS. After all, an Amber Alert means there is a child in danger, and the public knows this. I seriously doubt anyone would ignore an appeal that meant a child was in danger, even if there had been several alerts issued recently. Would you ignore it?

For example, take the case of the latest request that was turned down. It involves an 11 year-old Tyler girl who willingly ran away with a 23 year-old, who was a family acquaintance. The family didn't know the man was making amorous advances toward their daughter. They also didn't know the man was on probation for a burglary in 2006. It is believed the couple may be heading for Mexico.

The Tyler Police are doing what they can. They charged the man with kidnapping and violation of probation. They also asked the DPS for a statewide Amber Alert, and were turned down. The DPS turned it down because the 11 YEAR-OLD GIRL went with the man willingly.

What is the DPS thinking? The man is clearly a pedophile. This is not a case of a 14-17 year-old girl running away with her boyfriend, which certainly would not warrant an Amber Alert. No, this is a case of a child molester and his victim. The fact that he convinced the child to go with him willingly should have no bearing on whether to issue the alert or not.

Cathy Crabtree, director of Children's Advocacy Centers of Texas, says, "There's no question the way the penal code is written, that a child 14 and under cannot give consent. I can't imagine that the same thought process ... would not apply as well to abduction, particularly considering that this person is not a family member or relative. If they pick this guy up and find out he's had a sexual relationship with this child, regardless of whether she went with him willingly, there's no way they can't press charges. What harm can there be in running it versus the potential harm of not finding this child?"

She is right. The DPS is worrying far too much about its policy, and not nearly enough about the safety of this child. Wasn't the Amber Alert created for children's safety? The DPS policy must be changed to reflect this.

Republican Bipartisanship


Political Cartoon is by David Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star.

Zombies Invade Austin !


I used to think I wanted to live in Austin, but not anymore. It seems the capitol city of Texas has been invaded by an evil horde of undead Zombies! This awful truth was verified to horrified citizens last Wednesday morning.

Fortunately, a couple of unknown heroes were able to break the padlock on some highway department signs, and hack into the signs' computer to warn the unsuspecting citizens of Austin. It is believed that the warning on the signs allowed innocent motorists and others to take evasive action, and luckily, it seems that no one was hurt.

Rumor has it that the Zombie horde is led by the supremely evil undead monster called "39%" and his imbecilic sidekick "Dewie". We can only pray that the good citizens of Austin can protect themselves until the Zombies are driven from their city. Some believe it could take until 2010 to rid the city of this evil.

Cell Phone Driver


Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Obama Should Act On Medical Marijuana


A total of eleven states now have approved the use of medical marijuana. If a patient has a prescription, he/she can legally use marijuana in those states. But the Bush administration never agreed with the medical use of marijuana, and during his presidency, the federal government and the states were continually at odds. The states would allow a medical marijuana dispensary to open, and the federal government would raid it and shut it down.

It was hoped that President Obama would change this and let sick people fill and use their marijuana prescriptions in peace. During the campaign Obama said, "I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors (is) entirely appropriate. I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue."

But so far, Obama has taken no action on the issue. In fact, leftovers from the Bush administration are still in charge, since Obama has not yet chosen a new head of the DEA or the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

There is an acting DEA administrator, Michele Leonhart, and some think she might get the job. She would be the first African-American woman to head the agency if chosen. But choosing her would be a mistake. She has already shown she favors the Bush administration policy of fighting the states on medical marijuana.

In the last week of the Bush administration, Ms. Leonhart "took a hard line in issuing a 118-page decision rejecting a DEA administrative law judge's recommendation to allow a University of Massachusetts researcher to grow higher-quality medicinal marijuana." Two days after President Obama took office, the DEA under her guidance raided a medical marijuana dispensary in Lake Tahoe.

I realize that the President has been busy and can't do everything at once. But it is time for our government to stop persecuting sick people. Obama needs to order the DEA to stop harrassing the marijuana clinics, and then act to put in place people who will carry out the policy he put forth on the campaign trail.

In the past, the government has told many lies about marijuana. It is not a gateway drug any more than tobacco and alcohol are, and in fact, it is much less dangerous than either of those drugs. And it has shown to be a help with several medical problems. Personally, I think marijuana should be legalized under the same laws that govern alcohol. It could be heavily taxed to help cover government deficits and could be an excellent new cash crop for farmers.

But I would be happy if President Obama would just keep his campaign promise, and allow sick people to use the drug they believe helps them. What kind of country is it that denies a helpful drug to the sick?

Please President Obama, rein in the DEA and keep your promise.

Bipartisanship


Political Cartoon is by John Darkow in The Columbia Daily Tribune.

Iraq Gives Bush His Statue

I've heard some right-wingers saying the Iraqis should build a statue to Bush for getting rid of Saddam and giving them "democracy". Well, it looks like Bush finally got his statue -- sort of. The statue pictured was recently unveiled in Tikrit (Saddam's hometown). It is a sofa-sized bronze-colored shoe sitting on a white ten foot base. The statue actually honors the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at Bush.

While the Iraqi government is trying to display its fealty to the United States government by jailing the journalist and beating him (he has had ribs and an arm broken) and charging him with a crime (he could get 15 years), the Iraqi people have hailed the journalist as a hero. They love that he stood up to Bush and told him what they would all love to say to Bush.

The statue stands in the garden of an Iraqi foundation that takes care of children whose parents were killed after the illegal American invasion. That seems to be a fitting place for the statue. When the journalist threw the shoes, he said, "This is from the widows, the orphans, and those who were killed in Iraq. This is a farewell kiss, you dog".

This is the closest thing to a statue honoring him that Bush is going to get from the Iraqis. To them, he didn't bring democracy. He brought the destruction of their country, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of their citizens and drove several million of their countrymen into exile. Instead of a savior, he turned out to be a pestilence.

The Iraqi people don't want us in their country. There is no reason for even more Americans to die in this useless occupation of Iraq. President Obama should withdraw all American troops immediately, and let the Iraqis set about the business of choosing their own form of government and healing their country.

It's the right thing to do.

Ignoring Reality


Political Cartoon is by Mike Lane at caglecartoons (msnbc.com).

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Feingold Amendment Should Be Approved

The filling of vacated seats in the United States Senate this year has left a lot to be desired. Frankly, it was a mess. It definitely showed the need for the Constitution to clearly delineate how vacated senate seats should be filled. Just look at what happened this year.

First, we have the nutty governor of Illinois -- Rod Blagojevich. He decides that he should be able to sell the Illinois senate seat to the highest bidder. Then he gets caught on tape trying to do just that, and is arrested by federal agents. He faces impeachment and a criminal trial, but that didn't stop him from making a senate appointment anyway. So now Illinois is saddled with a senator blemished by Blagojevich's criminal behavior, and it'll be a couple of years before they can replace him.

Then we have the weird pick of New York's governor -- David Paterson. From the very start, there were two clear favorites of the people of New York. In every poll conducted, Cuomo and Kennedy were far ahead of any other candidate. So who does Paterson choose? He ignores the wishes of the people of New York and picks his own favorite -- an virtually unknown representative from upstate. Again, it'll be a couple of years before the people can choose for themselves.

Add to this the fact that a caretaker senator was chosen in Delaware. The people will choose their real senator in a couple of years. This is OK I guess, but they have given away two years of seniority, and seniority is important in the U.S. Senate.

The states also can't seem to agree about how to vacated senate seats. Some states let the governor pick, but have a fast special election. Some states let the governor pick, and then wait a couple of years for a real election. Some states just have a quick special election and let the people choose. In some states, the governor must choose someone from the same party as the leaving senator, and in other, the governor can choose someone from either party.

Senator Russ Feingold believes it is time to fix this mess. Sen. Feingold says, "The controversies surrounding some of the recent gubernatorial appointments to vacant Senate seats make it painfully clear that such appointments are an anachronism that must end. In 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution gave the citizens of this country the power to finally elect their senators. They should have the same power in the case of unexpected mid-term vacancies, so that the Senate is as responsive as possible to the will of the people."

Feingold is proposing a new constitutional amendment. He says, "I plan to introduce a constitutional amendment this week to require special elections when a Senate seat is vacant, as the Constitution mandates for the House, and as my own state of Wisconsin already requires by statute."

This just makes sense. If a senator elected by the people vacates his/her seat, it should be the citizens of that state who choose the replacement. This is already done for House members, and there's no reason why it can't be done for senators. I think this is an excellent amendment, and I believe it has a good chance of being approved. At least, I hope so.

Once again, Russ Feingold shows us the best way to solve a problem.

Layoffs In The Computer Age


Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Republican Bag Of Ideas Is Empty


In the last year-and-a-half of his presidency, Bush oversaw the loss of a couple of million American jobs. This month, another 200,000 jobs were lost, and most economists believe the next few months could be just as bad (if not worse). Our nation is quickly sliding from a recession into another depression like that experienced in the 1930's.

Our new president has come up with a stimulus package that would "provide income support to the poor and recently unemployed, distribute aid to state governments, seek relatively quick employment gains through public works spending and aim to spark consumer and business spending through targeted tax cuts." The plan is huge and most of the money would be borrowed, but most economists believe if it is implemented quickly it could be a big boost to the economy.

President Obama has reached out to Republicans to try and get their ideas to see if the plan could be improved. That was a useless gesture. The Republicans are completely out of ideas and have decided their only course of action is to try and obstruct the plan offered by Obama and the Democrats. The only thing the Republicans can come up with is to give their rich buddies some more tax breaks.

Of course, the last time they did that, it just resulted in huge deficits and did nothing for the economy. The truth is that Obama's plan includes some tax cuts, but it is for the working and middle classes. These cuts make sense, because this is money that will have to be spent, helping to spur the economy.

But those aren't the cuts the Republicans want. They want tax cuts for the rich, claiming it will result in job creation. Nonsense! Even in good times, a tax cut for the rich results in only 30% of it being invested in ways that would create jobs. In these uncertain times, it would do nothing. It would simply be hoarded and cause the deficit to be even larger than necessary.

It's bad enough that we must create a huge deficit to stimulate the economy. But if we must do it, the money should go to help those who need it -- and that's not those who are rich. They can take care of themselves. Those without jobs, those losing their homes and those having trouble feeding their families are the ones who need help.

But the Republicans are out of ideas. Most of their old ideas of deregulation, help the rich and letting the corporations write our laws, are what has put us in this mess in the first place. Those ideas have created the biggest gap between the rich and the rest of America in over a hundred years and destroyed our economy.

Their idea of giving all the money to the rich and waiting for it to trickle down to the rest of us, has been shown to be a joke. The times this country is most prosperous is when the common man has money, because then it will be spent and the economy stimulated. Money does not trickle down in a capitalist economy -- it flows upward.

The fact is that the bag of Republican ideas is empty, and has been since the neocons took control of the party.

Surviving Republicanism


Political Cartoon is by Thomas (Tab) Boldt in The Calgary Sun.

It's Not A Crime In Kentucky


On the Wednesday before last year's presidential election, students and staff at the University of Kentucky awoke to an effigy of a black man (Obama) hanging from a tree on their campus. The university's president called the police and then labeled the incident as "deplorable" and "abominal". To many, it brought back memories of the lynchings of black men.

The next day the Lexington police arrested two young Republicans (pictured above) -- 21 year-old Hunter Bush and 22 year-old Joe Fischer. It was learned they had broken into a fraternity (they did not belong to) and stole the clothing they put on the effigy. They were charged with burglary, theft and disorderly conduct.

Bush and Fischer were shocked at their arrest. They saw nothing wrong with hanging a black man in effigy. To them it was just a harmless "political prank". Their lawyer even said, "If they had hung Joe Biden, we would not be here." That's probably true. Even though Biden is not black and wouldn't evoke images of past lynchings, he is still a Democrat and Kentucky is a very red state.

But the young Republicans didn't need to worry. The "good ole boys" on the Grand Jury bought the "harmless prank" argument, and refused to indict Bush and Fischer for any of the charges. Evidently, in Kentucky it's not a crime to break into other people's living space, steal their clothing and use them to hang an effigy of a black man -- as long as that effigy is of a Democrat and the perpetrators are Republicans.

I have to wonder though. If the defendants had been a couple of young black men, and they had broke into someone's place and stolen clothing for an effigy of Bush or Palin, would the outcome have been the same? I doubt it. I think if that were the case, the defendants would be looking at some serious jail time.

I'm shocked at this decision. Aren't burglary and theft crimes -- even in an election season?

More For The Rich


Political Cartoon is by Steve Sack in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Break-Up Letter


Found this on the great blog of Yellowdog Granny, and it was just too good not to pass along. You ought to check out her site. She's always got something interesting going on!

Karl Rove Is Subpoenaed

I have to love Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan). Too many Democrats have wussed out, and don't want to hold the Bush administration responsible for their many crimes. They really seem to think they can rule in a bipartisan way with the Republicans, and don't want to rock the boat. They don't seem to realize that talking bipartisanship is just a ploy for right-wing Republicans.

Conyers doesn't play that game. He realizes that unless the Bush administration is held responsible for the crimes it committed, another administration in the future will do the same things because a precedent has been set. Conyers knows that in a democracy, no one can be above the law.

Conyers is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and he is investigating the politically-based firing of several U.S. Attorneys and the unlawful prosecution of Governor Siegelman of Georgia. He tried to subpoena Karl Rove while Bush was still president, but Bush claimed immunity for his aides and wouldn't let him testify.

But things have changed now. As Conyers says, "That 'absolute immunity' position ... has been rejected by U.S. District Judge John Bates and President Obama has previously dismissed the claim as 'completely misguided'." Conyers went on to say, "I have said many times that I will carry this investigation forward to its conclusion, whether in Congress or in court, and today's action is an important step along the way."

So Conyers has once again subpoenaed Karl Rove, and he's determined to get to the truth. I wish we had a lot more Democrats with the courage and thirst for justice of John Conyers. We need men like this to uphold and re-establish the rule of law.

Thank you, Rep. Conyers!

Getting A Loan These Days


Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Is General Motors Really Trying ?


Last month, the General Motors Corporation (GM) went to Congress and begged for a multi-billion dollar bailout to keep their company from going under. Even though most Americans believed GM had created their own problems by the bad decisions they made, the bailout was granted.

For years, GM had built ever larger gas-hogs as oil prices rose and their foreign competitors opted for smaller more fuel-efficient cars. Then last year, Toyota overtook GM, and for the first time ever, become the biggest seller of cars worldwide. As oil prices spiked, GM was left holding the bag with their gas-hogs, and the company was in deep trouble. They assured Congress and the American people that they had learned their lesson and would change their ways, in return for the bailout.

The American people didn't like it, but they went along with the bailout to save millions of American jobs. After all, GM had learned their lesson hadn't they? Or had they?

This week, because the gas prices had gone down, GM announced they were once again increasing production of their expensive gas-guzzling Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV). They are increasing production of these SUVs, while laying off workers at the same time in other plants -- cutting 1200 jobs in Michigan and 800 jobs in Ohio. Do they really think Americans are going to flock to buy these expensive gas-guzzlers just because gas prices gave fallen?

Someone needs to tell these dummies that the only reason gas prices have fallen is because no one can afford to buy it. This country is losing around 200,000 jobs a month, and that may go on for a while. If GM wants to once again become the car of the masses, and not just the rich, they're not going to do it with SUVs. I have to wonder if they've learned anything at all.

At the same time that GM is increasing production of SUVs, Toyota announced they are considering bringing their smallest car to America. The Toyota iQ (pictured above) is 10 feet long, holds 3 adults and a child, gets over 50 miles to the gallon of gas and costs a hell of a lot less than an SUV. Which company do you think sees the reality of a world slipping into depression?

I'm very disappointed in GM. With their current viewpoint, it's only a matter of time before they're asking for another bailout. Unless things change, they won't deserve it.

Prisoner Released


Political Cartoon is by Cameron (Cam) Cardow in The Ottawa Citizen.

Monday, January 26, 2009

What's Wrong With Socialized Medicine ?

Anyone in our country with even half a brain knows that our healthcare system is a mess. Even the healthcare professionals know it. In fact, the only entities that like our system, other than possibly the filthy rich, are the health insurance companies, and that's because they are currently in charge and running the system. So why haven't we done something about it?

Fear. That's why. Too many of our people have swallowed the health insurance industry's propaganda about "socialized medicine". Most people don't even understand what socialism is, let alone socialized medicine, but they have been trained to fear it. Never mind that we are the ONLY industrialized nation in the world that doesn't cover all of it's citizens with some form of a government run healthcare insurance system.

But here in America, we stumble along with a system in which insurance executives make our healthcare decisions, some 40 million people have no coverage at all, and most of our middle class is just one serious disease away from bankruptcy. The fact is that per patient, we spend more money on healthcare than any other nation, and receive less for it. All because we have been taught to fear the dreaded "S" word.

Now I agree that some of the socialized systems in the world would not be a good fit for this country. Take the English system for example. There the entire system is owned by the government, including hospitals and clinics, and doctors are government employees. That would not work in this country.

We do need a single-payer government-run system of healthcare insurance, but Canada or France would be a better model. The doctors, hospitals and clinics should remain independent businesses who rise and fall based on the quality of care they provide. There is no reason why we can't create a government single-payer system that would:

* Cover all our citizens with adequate health insurance.

* Put doctors back in charge of making treatment decisions.

* Allow each person to choose his own doctor and hospital.

* Provide this coverage at less cost to the business community.

*Spend less overall on healthcare expenses and get better care, because the huge profits and overhead of the insurance companies will be eliminated.

* Provide economic stability to the middle and working classes, even if their families are hit by a serious disease.

The only reason we can't have a system that accomplishes all of the above, is because it could be labeled as "socialized medicine" -- something we have been taught to fear. Personally, I'm sick of this ridiculous cowardice. So what if it is socialized medicine? What's so bad about that if it accomplishes all of the above?

And don't try to feed me that old lie about how the Canadians hate their system and would prefer ours. That's just more lies and propaganda. I've been to Canada and met many Canadians, and I've never met one that would trade their system for ours. They're too smart for that.

So please, if you're one of those people who are terrified of socialized medicine, tell me why. I'd really like to know. Do you fear it because someone told you to, or do you have a valid reason? I suspect it's the former.

Go to this site to find out what a decent single-payer system could look like. Then come back and tell me you prefer our broken system.

(Above cartoon is by Jeff Parker at caglecartoons.com.)

A Good Idea


Political Cartoon is by Larry Wright in The Detroit News.

Texas Officials Love Lobbyists


How much money can you afford to spend on treating your legislator and other state officials, to take them to dinner or send them on an all-expense paid vacation? If you're like most Texas citizens, the answer is zero. In this economy you're probably just trying to hang on to your job so you can feed, clothe and shelter your family.

But corporations don't have that problem, and their lobbyists are spending millions on those same Texas officials. According to the Houston Chronicle, that spending by lobbyists is more than $12.8 million in the last four years. That's a ton of money for a state whose legislature only meets for 140 days every other year.

According to the Chronicle, over $3.5 million was spent directly on Texas legislators, and another $3.8 million on members of their staffs. Now Texas only has 150 members of the Texas House and 32 members of the Texas Senate -- that's just 182 total legislators. Doing a little math, that's over $19,230 per legislator (not counting what was spent on their staff).

Even worse, most of this money spent on our state officials doesn't even have to be reported. That's because back in 2003, the Republican legislature nearly doubled the amount that could be spent without the lobbyist (or the legislator) having to report it.

In essence, the lobbyists are buying access to our state officials -- access that the private citizen does not have and can not get. Is it any wonder that new laws and regulations always seem to favor the corporations rather than the common man?

We need some new laws regulating lobbyists. Ideally, lobbyists should not be able to buy anything for or give anything to any state official. At the very least, they should be forced to report everything (even down to a $1.00 double cheeseburger at McDonalds).

Quite simply, the people of Texas have a right to know who is buying access to our state officials, and for how much.

Throwing Out The Trash


Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up


It is Monday (the first Monday of the new Obama Administration, in fact) and that means it is time for another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance Weekly Round-Up.

Would you like a Cheeseburger in Paradise made from Texas Black Angus raised on drilling waste? Get yours at Bluedaze: Drilling Reform for Texas. Served up by TXsharon.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders why John Cornyn is dropping poo in our collective punch bowl. Why be reasonable when you can be a Republican?

WhosPlayin was glued to the TV all day Tuesday, popping the cork on champagne at 11 AM. But ultimately there were more important things.

jobsanger thinks it was wrong for federal and state representatives to threaten the El Paso city council with cutting off state and federal funds if they passed a resolution asking the government to reconsider the failed "war on drugs" in Legislators Threaten El Paso Council.

At McBlogger, we're all about things that make your taco go POP!

Off the Kuff commented on the actions of the State Board of Education in which efforts by religious conservatives to weaken science education were (mostly) thwarted.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston has posted how much money Bob Perry has donated in 2008.

Gay divorce comes to Texas once again, forcing the hand of the judicial system to do what is right in civil law. The Texas Cloverleaf examines the case in Dallas.

Neil at Texas Liberal inquires about Barack Obama's urban policy.

The Texas Congressional GOP delegation is still voting to deny poor children their health insurance, and John Cornyn continues acting like a massive bleeding hemorrhoid. It's just a gambit to establish himself as the conservative foil to President Obama, and perhaps presage a White House bid of his own in 2012. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has the bloody details.

BossKitty at TruthHugger illustrates how Homeland Security can justify any risk. All euphemisms aside, taking the most lethal pathogens in the US arsenal into America's heartland and breadbasket seems suicidal. Plum Island to Manhattan - Pathogens On The Move. Instead of taking researchers to the lethal experiment, they are placing the experiment among us.

Burnt Orange Report formalizes and announces its Right to Respond Policy.

Though the Three Wise Men have been as critical of Isreal's actions in Gaza as anyone, we're as quick to point out-as historian Mark LeVine makes clear-that Hamas' embrace of violence hasn't exactly helped the cause of Palestinian self-determination either.

Vince from Capitol Annex takes a look at Houston Mayor Bill White's campaign finance reports and notes that White is spending money from his municipal campaign account on his race for U.S. Senate.

New Cook Goes To Work


Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Where Are The Real Conservatives ?

I really have to wonder what has happened to the Republican Party. There was a time even recently, when they had beliefs and a philosophy that, although I disagreed with it, could be defended. They had leaders with political ideas -- leaders that loved and revered the Constitution, like Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater (pictured), William Buckley and others. These men would argue political ideas and political realities, but they did not indulge in the politics of hate, and they actually wanted a better America for all its citizens.

Those former Republican leaders were true conservatives. They would never have stood for many things the modern party has engaged in. Here are some of the differences between the "true conservatives" and today's new or neo-conservatives:

1. Real conservatives honored the constitution and considered it the supreme law of the land, while neocons would like to replace it with their religious beliefs.

2. Real conservatives believed American soldiers should participate in foreign wars only as a last resort to defend America, while neocons believe that American ideas can be forced on other nations through military power.

3. Real conservatives would never have countenanced the spying on American citizens without a search warrant, and revered the rule of law and the concept of habeas corpus, while neocons are willing to spy without warrants, deny habeas corpus and ignore the rule of law.

4. Real conservatives believed in an adequate government with limited powers, while neocons believe in a small government with unlimited power.

5. Real conservatives believed in fair and open markets where everyone had a chance to better themselves, while neocons willingly tilt the playing field to benefit their corporate masters (while talking about, but not helping small business).

6. Real conservatives knew how to compromise for the good of the country and its citizens, while neocons consider compromise to be defeat -- it's their way or no way.

I think if some of the real conservatives of the past were to come back and look at today's Republican Party, they would be horrified. Conservative author, thinker and ex-congressman Mickey Edwards agrees. He says:

"The Republican Party that is in such disrepute today is not the party of Reagan. It is the party of Rush Limbaugh, of Ann Coulter, of Newt Gingrich, of George W. Bush, of Karl Rove. It is not a conservative party, it is a party built on the blind and narrow pursuit of power.

Over the last several years, conservatives have turned themselves inside out: They have come to worship small government and have turned their backs on limited government. They have turned to a politics of exclusion, division and nastiness. Today, they wonder what went wrong, why Americans have turned on them, why they lose, or barely win, even in places such as Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina.

And, watching, I suspect Ronald Reagan is smacking himself on the forehead, rolling his eyes and wondering who in the world these clowns are who want so desperately to wrap themselves in his cloak.
"

Although I didn't agree with them (and still don't), I miss the real conservatives of the past.

The Obama Presidency


Political Cartoon is by John Cole in The Scranton Times.

Cheerleader vs. Cheerleader In 2010


If you've been keeping up with Texas politics lately, this should come as no surprise to you. Kay Bailey Hutchison says she's definitely going to run against Rick Perry for governor in 2010. She met with around 300 supporters in Austin yesterday, calling them the "people who are going to help me in my quest to be governor of Texas."

Those 300 supporters include some real heavyweights among Texas Republicans. Among them are former Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, former Rangers pitcher and current president Nolan Ryan, U.S. Representatives Mac Thornberry, Kenny Marchant, Kay Granger, Michael Burgess, Ted Poe, former Representatives Henry Bonilla and Richard Armey, and former Senator Phil Gramm.

This sets up what I like to call the "race of the cheerleaders". Perry was a yell leader while in college at Texas A&M, and Hutchison was a cheerleader while in school at the University of Texas.

This could be a bloody primary for the Republicans. Perry is playing directly to his natural base -- the social and religious nut-wing of the Party. He is already trying to paint his opponent as not being a "real conservative". Perry told an anti-abortion crowd Saturday, "We're going to tell the truth - there's only one conservative in this race. She's not going to be able to hide behind her policies, whether it's bailouts, abortion or out-of-control spending."

Hutchison is fighting back by lining up support from well-known Republicans, and accusing Perry of name-calling and dirty campaigning. She said, "I think that we have seen negative campaigns run by Gov. Perry in the past. Am I concerned? It's not going to dissuade me. I think that's why we need new leadership. I think people are looking for positive, happy warriors. And I'm a positive, happy warrior."


Both are also well-financed. Hutchison starts out with $7.9 million, while Perry has $6.6 million in his campaign fund. And there's plenty of time for both to raise a lot more money. I'll bet the people of Texas will get sick of seeing campaign ads for both candidates, because I expect them to start early and seem to last forever. They both can certainly afford a long and sustained effort.

There still has been no Democrat who has entered the race. Kinky Friedman is considering a run as a Democrat, and some of Henry Cisneros' supporters have been tossing his name about, but neither has tossed his name in the hat yet. While both men have state-wide name recognition, their only real hope in this red state is for the two cheerleaders to damage each other so much that the people of Texas are sick of both of them, and opt for a real change.

It should at least be an interesting race for us political junkies.

Going Out Of Business


Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More Freedom From Obama


Above is a good example of just how secretive the Bush administration really was. It is a page released as a result of a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request. So much information has been redacted from the page that only six words remain. Yet, the Bush administration counted this as a release of information.

I guess the recepient should be grateful they received anything at all. The Bush administration was definitely one of the most secretive of any presidential administration. I think they were disobeying so many laws and regulations, that they were afraid to release any information.

There are some FOIA requests that have been pending as long as eight years. Ten requests to the State Department have been pending since February of 2001, so even if a request was not denied, there was no guarantee it would be handled in a timely manner (or redacted so severely as to be useless). In fact, the Bush administration released information in less than half of the FOIA requests they received.

The table below shows just how secretive the Bush administration was. It's figures for 2007 are compared to figures from the Clinton administration in 1998. The percentages are the amount of FOIA requests granted or fulfilled.

DEPARTMENT.................1998............2007

Defense................................61%.............48%
Interior................................64%.............47%
State.....................................28%.............09%
CIA.......................................44%.............11%
Agriculture..........................95%.............85%

Fortunately, Obama seems to want a much more open and honest administration. On the 21st, he signed a presidential order that should reopen the public's access to information from the government. Obama's order states, "All agencies should adopt a presumption of disclosure," adding that "in the face of doubt, openness should prevail."

I have no doubt that President Obama will disappoint me at times, but so far, I am very impressed with everything he's done. It's so nice to have a president that is trying to do the right thing.

Futile Dreams


Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Abusing The President's Children


It certainly didn't take long for a capitalist to take advantage of our new president's family to make some money. The Ty Company, makers of the Beanie Babies dolls, has come out with two additions to its Ty Girlz line of dolls. Coincidentally, the two new dolls (pictured above) are the first African-American dolls in the line, and they just happen to be named "Marvelous Malia" and "Sweet Sasha".

Of course, the company denies that the president's children are the inspiration for the dolls. They say they don't name their dolls for "any particular living individual", because that might inhibit the imagination of the girls who buy or receive the dolls. What a fantastically large load of crap that is!

Anyone with even half a functioning brain can easily see where the inspiration for the dolls came from -- the president's children. I am amazed that the company has the audacity to deny that!

Now, I wouldn't complain if the company had made a Barack Obama doll. He intentionally made himself a public figure when he ran for office, especially on a national scale. But Sasha and Malia had no choice in the matter, and they deserve to have as private a life as possible -- without being taken advantage of for some company's profit.

If this company wanted to put out dolls based on the first family children, they should have first asked Barack and Michelle Obama. Then, if they got the OK, they should pay those children handsomely for using their names and/or likenesses. If they didn't get an OK, they should not make the dolls.

The Obamas are probably too nice to do it, but if this was done to my daughters, I'd find the greediest lawyer I could find and sue the hell out of them. The company deserves it.

A spokesperson for Michelle Obama said, “We feel it is inappropriate to use your private citizens for marketing purposes." I totally agree.

Hope Crosses Borders


Political Cartoon is by Cameron (Cam) Cardow in The Ottawa Citizen.

New Rangers Uniforms


These are the new uniforms for the Texas Rangers 2009 season. The red uniforms will be worn on opening day and for every Saturday game throughout the season. There will also be a "red-out" weekend. The team has also dumped the ugly blue shoes and belts. Both will now be black. All in all, I think the new uniforms are an improvement.

Batter Up


Political Cartoon is by R. J. Matson in The New York Observer.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bush - Worst President Ever ?

According to a new poll by Rasmussen Reports, 25% of Texas Republicans, 12% of Texas Independents, 3% of Texas Democrats and 6% of national voters are officially brain dead. You can go ahead and unplug the machines and take them off life-support because there is no hope for these people. That's the number of people who believe George Bush will be remembered as one of the five best presidents of all time.

Meanwhile, 7% of Texas Republicans, 47% of Texas Independents, 69% of Texas Democrats and 57% of national voters are convinced that Bush will be remembered as one of the worst 5 presidents of all time. Doesn't look like anyone will be carving his bust on Mount Rushmore with these numbers.

Those who believe he's neither the best nor the worst are 67% of Texas Republicans, 39% of Texas Independents, 24% of Texas Democrats and 34% of national voters. I think most of these people are just glad to be rid of him and don't want to think of him at all anymore.

Here are the combined Texas numbers:

Best....................13%
Worst.................41%
Neither..............44%
Undecided.........02%

Those are some pretty bad home-state numbers.

Chipping Away


Political Cartoon is by Jimmy Margulies in The Record (New Jersey).

BlogNetNews Changes

As many of you may already know, I am the Texas editor for BlogNetNews. In the last year, the site has been very successful. Just here in Texas, we have gone from around 60-70 blogs listed to 187 current blogs listed, from all sides of the political spectrum. We're proud of that, and we'll continue to add blogs as we become aware of them.

If you have a blog you want listed, or if you know a blog that should be listed at BlogNetNews on the Texas page, please let me know at tedmcl@gmail.com and I'll check it out. The blog should post mainly about news and politics, and about half of the posts should be about Texas items.

The BlogNetNews sites for all states are getting over a million hits a month at present time, and we are still growing. BNN is now sending more readers to its listed blogs than even LeftyBlogs.

In an effort to help the readers and the listed blogs, BNN yesterday made some changes to the site. Instead of one main page for each state, there are now three -- the blogwire, the dashboard and the directory.

The blogwire is much the same. It has been cleaned up to read a little easier, but it still lists all the latest posts from member blogs with the most recent being listed first.

The dashboard will tell you the most popular blogs, posts and topics.

The directory lists all our members and when you click on a blog it will give you a little more information about that blog, including technorati and other ratings.

Go on over and play around with our new features at http://www.blognetnews.com/texas/. I think you'll like what you find. I'd like you to also consider adding a BNN blogwire widget to your blog (which you can customize).

We also have two new sites, which you can reach from the BNN page. They are Progressisphere (for the left) and RightyBlogs (for the right).

Check us out. We're proud of what we've accomplished so far.

Taking The Oath


Political Cartoon is by John Darkow in The Columbia Daily Tribune.

Senate Kills "Union-Busting" Amendment

When it looked pretty clear the U.S. Senate was moving toward the passage of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Senator DeMint (R-South Carolina)(pictured) tried to drop a poison pill into the bill in an effort to defeat it. DeMint proposed an amendment that would force a so-called "right-to-work" law on all states.

This is really a misnomer. Instead of "right-to-work", this should really be called "right-to-bust-a-union". This is a law that says each worker has a right to not join a union, even if he hires into a union-shop job. Cloaked as a worker right, this is an old tactic used to divide and weaken unions.

Had this amendment passed, Senators would have been forced to vote to bust unions, or vote to kill the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Fortunately, the senators didn't fall for DeMint's ridiculous amendment. Most Democrats (and several Republicans) voted to table (kill) the amendment in a 67-30 vote.

This was nothing more than continued Republican obstructionism.

A President For All


Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Bipartisanship ?


When Obama was elected, there was a lot of talk about bi-partisanship -- of Democrats and Republicans working together for the good of America. Obama has met with congressional Republicans, and last week, he even had dinner with some of the most influential Republican pundits. He's trying to fulfill his promise.

But bipartisanship is a two-way street. It requires cooperation from both sides. But it's beginning to look like the Republicans are simply using bipartisanship to obstruct the process. They have no interest in fulfilling their half of the bargain.

Take Cornyn's ridiculous blocking of Clinton's confirmation a couple of days ago. Take the Republican blocking of Holder's confirmation for at least another week. This is not bipartisanship, but political grandstanding.

Then look at the voting on the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Every single Republican says he/she supports equal pay for equal work, and then nearly every one of them turns around and votes against it.

The Republicans are showing their true colors already. They do nothing but obstruct, and when they are called on it, they yell "partisanship". In fact, Republican right-wing mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh has come out and said he hope Obama fails. That means he hopes America fails and things get worse for its citizens.

I admit I'm not a patient man, and personally, I'm already getting sick of this one-sided bipartisanship. It's time to show the Republicans they are a minority. It's time to steam-roller their obstructionism. When they're ready to accept reality and come to the table, maybe we can try again. But for right now, I find myself agreeing with The Rude Pundit in his take on bipartisanship:

"Here’s what bipartisanship meant to Republicans: let’s say a Republican and a Democrat are stuck on a desert island. The Republican knows how to survive in the wild, the Democrat knows how to build a raft. They need each other, right? They’re stuck there, and while they may hate each other, they gotta work together or they’re gonna die on the island. While the Democrat is, you know, building the raft, the Republican is gathering coconuts, keeping the fire lit, you know, that kind of shit. It’s all nice and cooperative. And then, when the raft is done, the Republican slits the throat of the Democrat, eats his flesh, drinks his blood, and uses his bones and his clothes for a sail. Bye-bye, island.


Here’s the Rude Pundit's deal: we’ll be bipartisan if you apologize. Not just an eye-rolling “We’re sorry.” Not good enough. We each need to come up with a way for Republicans to apologize. For the Rude Pundit, it’s simple. Blow jobs. He wants to get blow jobs from Republicans. Every time he meets a Republican, he wants to just point at his cock and have them nod, get on their knees. And blow him. He walks into Mitch McConnell’s office, he wants an immediate appointment for him to suck it. If he heads over to the Republican Party Headquarters, he wants to leave there raw. He goes into the Fox News bureau, he wants Greta Van Susternen on him like a Hoover on deep pile. That’s how you’ll apologize. He doesn't know what everyone else wants. There might be a whole lot of sucking and licking going on. And would that be a bad thing after eight years of getting raped?"

Filling George's Shoes


Political Cartoon is by Cameron (Cam) Cardow in The Ottawa Citizen.

Hutchison Fails To Gut Ledbetter Bill

Last year, the Supreme Court made a ridiculous decision that effectively gave corporations the right to continue to discriminate against women and minorities in the area of equal pay for equal work. The case was Ledbetter vs. Goodyear. Lily Ledbetter had worked for Goodyear for 15 years before she learned that she was paid over $6,000 a year less than her male counterparts doing the same job.

Ledbetter took the company to court citing a 1964 law outlawing discrimination in wage compensation. She won the case and the jury awarded her damages. But the Supreme Court threw out her judgement. The court said she only had 180 days from the time the discrimination started in which to file a lawsuit. In other words, the court said she had to file suit 15 years before she knew of the pay discrimination.

This was obviously an unjust decision, and certainly not the intent of those that passed the law in 1964. Congress is now in the process of trying to pass a new law that would fix this unfair situation. It is called the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and it is currently being considered by the Senate. The bill would start the clock on filing from the time of the most recent discrimination (the latest discriminitory paycheck).

Naturally, it is a Texan that is carrying the water for the corporations in trying to gut the new bill, and sadly, a woman -- Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. Although she claims to be in favor of equal pay for equal work, Hutchison offered an amendment that would seriously damage the effectiveness of the new bill.

She claims the bill would be unfair to small business. That is just not true. Most small businesses already pay equally. It is the corporate culture that is clinging to the discriminatory pay practices, and that is who she (and other Republicans) are trying to protect.

Hutchison's amendment to the Ledbetter Bill would give victims only 120 days from the time they "should have known of the discrimination". What the hell does that mean? How is anyone supposed to know when someone "should have known"? This simply added another burden on the victim to prove that they not only didn't know, but that they couldn't have known.

This silly amendment would basically have codified the Supreme Court's terrible decision. Fortunately, the amendment was soundly defeated in a 55-40 vote.

But this certainly doesn't inspire faith in Senator Hutchison. She has already said she will be running for governor of Texas in 2010. The current Republican leadership in Austin already sides with the corporations against ordinary citizens in every area. Obviously, even if Hutchison is able to replace Governor Perry, there will be no change. It would be one corporate lackey replacing another.

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UPDATE - The senate vote on the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was 61-36, and the bill was passed without any onerous amendments. Our Texas senators split on the issue. Senator hutchison wound up voting for the bill, while Senator Cornyn voted for his corporate masters and against fair pay for women and minorities.

The First Appointment


Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hitting The Ground Running

President Obama has made it very clear from his first day in office that things are going to change, and he is wasting no time in making changes. One of his first acts was to halt all new rules issued by Bush and pending implementation. Bush spent his last couple of months in office trying to issue as many rules and screwing up as many things as he could before leaving.

Many of those will now probably never see the light of day. Obama will be reviewing all of them and I seriously doubt many of them will meet with his approval.

Then he moved to eradicate torture and restore justice. He had already said his administration would not allow torture to be used. But immediately after being sworn in, he issued orders to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay within one year. He also asked for a 120 day moratorium on the "kangaroo court" trials being held there. It has been obvious for a while that the Bush tribunals were not only unfair and unjust, but very probably unconstitutional.

Then he froze the pay for most White House staff. I think that was a symbolic gesture to show Americans that we're all in this economic mess together, and he would not be giving raises while American jobs are disappearing.

His next move was more than symbolic. He signed into effect a new set of ethics rules for his government. He banned anyone working for his administration from receiving any kind of gift from a lobbyist or anyone with business before the government. This is a rule that should have always been in effect -- no matter what the administration or Party.

All in all, I think President Obama is off to a good start. It looks like we may actually return to an honest and open government that takes the Constitution seriously.

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In a strange bit of news, the president retook the oath of office on Wednesday. White House counsel Greg Craig said it was done out of "an abundance of caution". Although I doubt it mattered, it was probably a good thing. The same right-wing nutjobs that are still whining about Obama's birth certificate (even though the state of Hawaii has assured everyone it is real and legal) had already began to complain about the bungled oath on Tuesday. It seems kind of funny though, because it's their own hero on the Supreme Court that messed up Tuesday.

The Comics Lament


Political Cartoon is by Mike Lane of Baltimore, Maryland on msnbc.com.

China Censors Obama's Speech


When President Obama was officially inaugurated into his new position, it wasn't just 80% of America that celebrated. In most of the rest of the world, people had eagerly awaited the passing of the Bush administration and were thrilled when Obama took the oath of office. While the people celebrated, their leaders sent Obama congratulations and their willingness to work with him for a better world.

But China was an exception. The Chinese leaders loved George Bush. After all, the Bush policies allowed them to create a huge trade imbalance with the U.S., and make tons of money by dumping their cheap junk and poisonous products on the American populace.

But they don't know what to make of Obama yet. He seems to worry the Chinese leaders. In fact, they are so worried that they censored the Chinese translations of Obama's inauguration speech on both the news and the internet.

When Obama said, "Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions", the words "and communism" magically disappeared from the Chinese version. It was as if Obama was talking only about fascist governments.

The phrase "blame their society's ills on the West" also failed to make it into the Chinese text, as did the sentence "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history."

The whole thing makes me glad to be an American. Our government is not always right -- Bush was a disaster, and I'm sure Obama will do some things I don't like. But I always have the right to say what I want without being censored. And we always have the right to hear what others say, without our government altering it.

I think the Chinese are making a big mistake. In this modern world, you can't hide the truth forever.

Reset


Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.