A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Incompetence Personified

From the FaceBook page of Linda Casares.

Fringe Right-Wing Nuttiness

The last few days have been full of right-wing fringe nuttiness. And looking at it all, I have to feel sorry for the old-time conservatives. It seems like the old voices of reason among conservatives, those who actually had half a brain and thought about what they were saying, like William Buckley and Barry Goldwater have now been replaced by non-thinkers like Michele Bachmann (pictured), Sharron Angle, George Will, Louie Gohmert and other Republican politicians and pundits.

Let me start with Michele Bachmann. The Minnesota representative can't open her mouth without something dumb coming out. She has now decided that she is opposed to a global economy (because it will obviously lead to a one world government according to her). She recently told a radio audience:

"Well, President Obama is trying to bind the United States into a global economy where all of our nations come together in a global economy. I don’t want the United States to be in a global economy where, where our economic future is bound to that of Zimbabwe. I can’t, we can’t necessarily trust the decisions that are being made financially in other countries."

“So I think clearly this is a very bad direction because when you join the economic policy of different nations, it is one short step to joining political unity and then you would have literally, a one world government."

Obviously it has escaped her attention that the United States has been an active participant in the global economy since well before she was born. Many businessmen, workers, farmers and ranchers have depended for years on exporting products to other countries -- meaning they depend on the U.S. being involved in the global economy. In fact, I'm not sure any country in the modern world could go it alone and not be a part of the global economy. I'm sure her corporate friends are wondering what the hell she's talking about on this one.

The we have the teabagger that is trying to unseat Senator Reid in Nevada -- Sharron Angle. Energy policy must be too complicated for her tiny brain, because she wants to keep it very simple. When asked about her energy policy, she said all we need to do is deregulate the "oil and petroleum industry" and the "mining industry". I guess it has never occurred to her that the deaths of 25 miners recently, as well as the ongoing Gulf oil disaster, are the direct result of either the lack of appropriate industry regulation or the industry not following regulations that are in place. I am amazed that she could want either of these industries to be unregulated.

Then she goes from an incredibly simple and unworkable solution to a view that I consider just downright mean. She is opposed to a woman having control over her own body -- even in cases of rape or incest. This is a position that even most Republicans are not mean enough to take. Has she never thought about the torture it could cause many victims of rape and incest to be forced to have the criminal's baby? She thinks allowing an abortion in these limited cases would be to interfere with "god's plan". In other words, she would elevate her own religious beliefs above the psychological and medical welfare of American women.

And of course no coverage of right-wing nuttiness would be complete without something from the Texas contingent. Let me start with one of the worst senators in Washington -- "Box Turtle" John Cornyn. In an uncharacteristic moment of honesty, Cornyn says the Republicans are opposed to the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court "simply because President Obama nominated her." I wonder what his Republican brethren think of his sudden honesty.

But for true Texas nuttiness you have to go to Rep. Louie Gohmert. He's convinced we must protect ourselves from a new muslim plot he has uncovered (even if it would be unconstitutional to do so). He says the muslims are getting women pregnant and sending them to the United States to have the babies. Then they take the baby home to indoctrinate them as radicals, and twenty or thirty years from now they'll send them back to destroy our society. That has to be the stupidest conspiracy theory I've heard in a long time.

And the right-wing nuttiness is not restricted to politicians. Political pundit George Will has shown that he has few functioning brain cells left either. Will has decided that the millions of dollars paid out in unemployment benefits don't stimulate the economy. Let me get this straight. Millions of dollars are given to out-of-work people who must spend all of that money to pay rent or house payments and buy groceries and other necessities, and yet this does nothing to stimulate the economy? Unbelievable!

Let me finish with the morons on the Republican National Committee. They are obviously having trouble finding a rational reason to oppose the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court (and they are not willing to endorse the unusual honesty of Cornyn). They have now decided that she is a "liberal activist" because while at Princeton in 1980 she opposed a military draft. What makes this laughable is that their conservative icon, Ronald Reagan, was also opposed to the proposed military draft at the same time, calling it "slavery" and "morally repugnant to the ideals of a free society." Does that make Reagan a liberal activist?

Do these people ever listen to the crazy things they say? It's very clear that they don't do any fact-checking. I do hope they keep it up though. They could take an election that they should do well in and make a gift of that election to the Democrats. Amazing!

Is There An Exit ?

Political Cartoon is by Monte Wolverton at caglecartoons.com.

Even Texas Has Atheists

This is the new billboard put up on Interstate 35 in Austin by the Austin Coalition of Reason. Don Rhoades, a coordinator for the organization said, "We also want everyone to know that those who don't believe in a god are your neighbors. People like us can be found everywhere: among family members, friends and co-workers. One of us might even be in the pew next to you in church! So, in the same way that other people are open about their views, we think we should be free to express ours."

He's right. But this is Texas, solidly in the fundamentalist Bible Belt. It cost $7,344.00 to put up the sign, but I'll bet it doesn't last more than a couple of days before some "christian" defaces it with a two dollar can of spray paint (and he/she will think they're doing god's work).

I would like to be more positive and think the sign will be left alone in the belief that this is a free country and everyone has the right to free speech. But I have lived in Texas far too long to believe that. Texas fundies only believe in free speech for themselves -- everyone else must be forced to agree with those beliefs.

The sign will be defaced. It's only a question of how quickly.

Just A Touch Of Bigotry

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

Thoughts On State Democratic Convention


I've been back home for a couple of days now so I guess it's time to give my thoughts on the recently completed Texas State Democratic Convention in Corpus Christi. On the whole, I would have to say it was a very successful convention -- far less contentious than most I have attended in the past (and I have been attending them since 1988). Those Democrats in attendance seemed energized, hopeful and ready to work their tails off for a successful November election.

I had personally hoped for two things to come out of this convention. I wanted the party to choose a new state chairman and to keep our delegate selection process (commonly referred to as the "Texas Two-Step" because of its two-tiered selection process). I got one of those and I'll just have to live with the other.

The current chairman, Boyd Richie, was overwhelmingly re-elected to another two-year term. I had hoped the Dems would choose someone who would fight for Democrats with a 254-county emphasis rather than the urban strategy of Mr. Richie, but that did not happen. I'm afraid that now West Texas and the Panhandle will once again be written off as hopeless and ignored. That's a shame because if the state party would put some effort into organizing in those areas they would be surprised at how well they could do there.

The fight over the "Texas Two-Step" was probably the most contentious moment of the convention, but in the end the delegates voted overwhelmingly to keep the current delegate selection process. I think that's a good thing. It not only recognizes the choice of statewide voters, but it also rewards the party regulars (the people who do the real work of the party). Since I expect the party to be unified in 2012 behind the re-election of President Obama, I doubt we'll have to address the delegate selection process again until at least 2016 or 2018.

My own Senate District 31 caucus went very smoothly. There were no fights or serious disagreements and our current State Committee members were easily re-elected. The caucus even allowed me to serve as a member of the Credentials Committee. It was my first time on that committee and I really enjoyed it.

And it was also good to re-aquaint myself with delegate friends from past conventions, and to meet new delegate friends for the first time. I want to give a shout-out to former State Committeewoman Harriet Irby of Arlington. It was good to see her (she introduced me to the convention procedures back in 1988 when we were both Jesse Jackson delegates).

Once again the Texas Blogger's Caucus had the best party at the convention. And it just seems to get better with each convention. I'm still recovering from this one but I'm already looking forward to the next one in Houston in 2012. I don't know how they'll make it better than this year's party, but I fully expect that it will be.

It was great to see a lot of my fellow progressive bloggers. I don't get to see them a lot (since I live in Amarillo and that's a long way away from everywhere else in Texas) but it's always a pleasure to see them and swap stories. I especially want to recognize the personal kindness and great writing of Perry from Brains and Eggs, Trey from McBlogger, Vince from Capitol Annex, Kenny from Lubbock Left, Martha from musings, Stace from Dos Centavos, and John from Bay Area Houston. Anyone who wants to keep up with Texas politics really needs to be reading these excellent blogs.

I even thought Bill White (the only statewide candidate I'm not crazy about) gave a pretty good speech, and the other statewide candidates were inspiring. The only downer for the convention was the absence of Hank Gilbert (candidate for Agriculture Commissioner). His mother died and he had to be with his family in East Texas. I wish him and his family well, and I have no doubt he'll be back to fighting for Texas real soon.

It was a good convention, but the fun is over. It's now time to get to work and see if we can elect some good Democrats in November.

Could Be Worse ?

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

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Question For Right-Wingers

Found at the fun blog of the great Yellowdog Granny.

Supreme Court On Target With Two New Decisions


I often complain about the right-wing leanings of the current United States Supreme Court, but I have to admit that I think most of their decisions this term have been right on target. That has not changed with their latest two decisions.

The first of those two decisions regards the Second Amendment rights of American citizens. A few months ago they ruled in a case involving Washington D.C. that the banning of gun ownership for all citizens was unconstitutional. But that ruling only covered bans by the federal government.

The new case regarded a ban imposed by the city of Chicago. In a 5 to 4 vote, the court used this case to extend the unconstitutionality of gun bans to include laws imposed by states and cities. The court decision does not remove all restrictions on gun ownership -- only across-the-board bans on ownership. Although the court did not specify which restrictions they might consider constitutional, it probably includes reasonable restrictions like banning ownership by felons and restricting guns in such public places as bars, schools, churches and courthouses.

I am not a big fan of gun ownership. I have never owned a gun, and I was the shot by a criminal during a carjacking in 2005. It would make me happy if all guns were dumped in the deepest part of the ocean. However, I can read and the Second Amendment to the Constitution gives the right of gun ownership to American citizens.

I know many of my fellow liberals think the Constitution gives the right of gun ownership only to state militias, but I'm convinced that is just wishful thinking. The amendment clearly gives the right to individual citizens and the phrase about militias is just a justification for granting the right of ownership. The need for militias is no longer a compelling reason for gun ownership, but was at the time the amendment was written.

Even though militias are no longer viable or needed, the right to ownership remains valid. Nothing short of another constitutional amendment can take this right away, and the odds of that happening anytime soon are very slim indeed.

The second case involved the University of California's Hastings College of the Law and a campus christian group called the Christian Legal Society (CLS). The CLS wanted recognition as a college-approved campus group which would also allow it to receive funds from the school for their activities. But Hastings denied them this official recognition.

Hastings has a rule that applies to all campus organizations. All school-approved organizations must be open to all students of the school -- a rule that makes imminent sense because any funds given to one of the approved groups would come from funds paid by all students. The CLS did not meet this requirement because they required members (and especially officers) to sign a pledge that they would not engage in immoral behavior and believed in marriage between only a man and a woman.

In other words, homosexuals would not be accepted as members. Because the CLS was not open to all students, they were denied the status of a school-approved organization and the funds that came with that designation. The CLS sued the school and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court (since lower courts decided in favor of the San Francisco-based school).

The Supreme Court also sided with the school in another 5 to 4 decision. They did not accept the CLS's argument that their First Amendment rights were violated by the school's action (they had claimed they were denied free association, free exercise of religion and free speech rights).

Speaking for the majority Justice Ginsberg said, "In requiring CLS -- in common with all other student organizations -- to choose between welcoming all students and forgoing the benefits of official recognition, we hold, Hastings did not transgress constitutional limitations. CLS, it bears emphasis, seeks not parity with other organizations, but a preferential exemption from Hastings' policy."

The head of CLS said it was not fair that they were banned. That's both a silly and untrue statement. They were not "banned" and have been in fact meeting. They were just denied official recognition because they would not follow the school's rules as all organizations are required to do.

I believe both of these close decisions are constitutionally correct.

Republicans Just Being Themselves

Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Helping When Help Isn't Wanted


One of my daughters has a blogger friend who lives in Europe. Although he was born in the United States, he has lived in Europe for over thirty years and is now also a citizen of a country there (which I will leave unnamed). Although they have never met in person, they have both been posting on the same blog and have been e-mailing and instant-messaging each other for a couple of years now. It is one of the nice things about the internet that people can now easily have friendships with people all over the world -- people they will probably never get to meet in person.

This gentleman has had some recent hardships in his life, but we all thought he was handling them well and would get through them with some help and love from his friends. It looks like we were wrong because this post appeared on his blog a few days ago:

I won't be around much longer. Yup, am gonna leave the planet.

Oh, don't get all crazy, I am so focussed on this. There are things that in themselves are meaningless. However.... something turns up that is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back.

Hey, you can get knocked down, you get up, brush yourself off, and go on.

But ONE day.... everything crashes on your head, and all you want to do is leave.

And you realise you can't DO it any more. Am at that point.

This isn't a cry for help. It's been in my mind for a lonnng time. I want everyone to know... I have loved people... deeply. I have tried to make a difference in the world. Most of it didn't work.

Am hanging out for a week or so, but once I get things squared away, I will be gone.

I wish to say I loved being here. . . And the nice people here who were supportive.

I don't know how to say this.... I probably would have left the planet if not for you all.

I have a week or so to get things in order. But it was profoundly nice to meet you all.


Although he said the post was not a "cry for help", my daughter (and I) believed that was exactly what it was. My daughter got on the internet and for the next couple of hours traded instant messages with him. She pleaded with him, tried to reason with him, and pointed out that he had friends who cared for him. It was all to no avail. He said his mind was made up and there was nothing she could do or that he wanted her to do.

That was not good enough. A person simply cannot sit idly by while a friend, who is obviously in the midst of a serious depression, commits suicide. My daughter decided to call the Suicide Hotline, in the hope they would have some suggestions about what to do. They were of no help at all. Their only suggestion was to call 9-1-1 (which would have been a waste of time since 9-1-1 can do nothing about a threatened suicide in Europe).

But persistence is not a quality lacking in my daughter. The next morning she contacted the United States State Department, explained the situation to them, and asked if there was anything they could do to help. I must admit that I didn't expect them to help. I was wrong! My daughter was contacted by an official from the U.S. Embassy in the European country. This same official also called the gentleman wanting to commit suicide, and the appropriate social service agency in that country (and even gave my daughter the name and contact information of the social service worker assigned to the case).

That social service agency worker paid a visit to the gentleman in question. We know this because the gentlemen sent my daughter an angry e-mail about her "interference". That is the last thing we have heard about the matter. Did he go ahead and commit suicide? Is he now in a hospital getting psychological help? We don't know. All we can do at this point is hope for the best.

We do know the U.S. Embassy and the social services of that country are trying to help, and we must trust they will be able to do so. We do appreciate the fact that they would take action on a request from an ordinary person halfway around the world.

As for my daughter, she says she could not just do nothing. It is better that he receives help even if he hates her for making sure he got that help. It goes without saying that I'm very proud of her. But that is not why I wrote this post.

The point is that if you know of a person threatening suicide, you must take action. It does not matter that the person doesn't want help or would hate you for helping. Life is far too precious to let chronic depression take it away. In the final analysis you must live with your own conscience, and that is far easier to do if you know you did everything you could possibly do to save a person's life -- even if that person said they didn't want your help.

The Answer Is Still No

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Monday, June 28, 2010

This Makes Sense ?

From the thought-provoking blog of Unreasonable Faith.

Too Tired To Post


I apologize to my readers, but it is now midnight and I just got home from the Democratic Convention in Corpus Christi about 15 minutes ago. I have been in airports and on planes since about 11:00am this morning and I'm completely exhausted, so there will be no posts for Monday.

After I get some rest and get my brain functioning again, I'll see about getting some posts up for Tuesday morning. Hope you all understand.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Stopping The Oil Leak

This one is for all of you Terminator fans out there. I found it at the fine blog Pete's Place, but it originated at the hilarious site of Pundit Kitchen.

Policies Of "Saint Ronnie" Ruined America


If you listen to conservatives you might think that Ronald Reagan was one of our greatest presidents. Even today, they are preaching a return to the policies of the dead president. They point to the time of his presidency as a time of economic benefit for almost all Americans.

They may have a small point. During the early years of his presidency, Americans were doing well. But they were doing well thanks to the efforts of the administrations that preceded the Reagan administration. The sad fact is that the policies that Reagan put into place started a long slow slide into the economic mess that we are now experiencing.

Reagan's idea was that if we just removed the regulations inhibiting Wall Street and American corporations the resulting economic growth would be of benefit to everyone in the society. He called it the "trickle down" theory. The theory said that as businesses (mainly the giant corporations and financial institutions) prospered, much of the money they made would trickle down to workers.

This simply didn't work. Actually less money filtered down to workers as the unregulated corporations depressed wages to make even larger profits, and the poor were left completely out of the equation. It didn't work because Reagan (never an economic genius) bought into the corporate lies and got economic reality exactly backwards -- money doesn't trickle down in a capitalist economy, it flows upward (when the workers have money everyone benefits, including businesses).

Even though the right-wing denies that the current economic mess is due to policies put into place during the Reagan administration (and accelerated during the George W. Bush administration), there is evidence that "Reaganism" had seriously hurt America. The folks over at AlterNet have published six revealing charts which show how American economic well-being has degenerated. And oddly enough, these six things started degenerating in the early years of the Reagan administration (1981-82) -- all six of them!

One of these might be a coincidence -- maybe even two. But six things traced back to the same period of time shows a clear failure of Reagan's policies. Here is what the AlterNet charts show:

1. Around 1981-82 the United States started a downward movement from a creditor nation to a debtor nation. The U.S. net international investment dropped by over 30% (as a percentage of GDP).
2. Around 1981-82 the worker's share of benefits from increased production (which had been relatively flat through both Democratic and Republican administrations) began to steadily drop. There was a small period of recovery during the Clinton's second term, but then dropped even more precipitously when Bush took office and continued Reagan's policies.
3. Around 1981-82 the concentration of wealth among the richest 10% of the population began to steadily rise. They went from owning less than 35% of America's wealth to currently owning well over half of the country's wealth.
4. Around 1982 the personal saving rate of American workers began to drop. It fell from 11.2% to a saving rate in the negative percentages (2006 was -1.1%) as workers have had to start spending their savings just to live.
5. Around 1981-82 total household debt (as a percentage of GDP) began to climb from less than 50% to over 100%.
6. Around 1981-82 nominal GDP growth began to fall from a healthy 3.0% to less than 0.5%.

Put all these factors together and you have the makings for an economy in crises -- our current recession. And every single one of them can be traced right back to policies instituted during the first Reagan administration. I'm not trying to excuse George W. Bush. He accelerated the impending crises with free-spending coupled with tax cuts. But the genesis of the current crises was the policies instituted under Ronald Reagan.

"Saint Ronnie" was not only not a good president, but he was a bad president who planted the seeds of our economic destruction.

The Republican Option

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

Working For A Death Penalty Moratorium


These are the very nice people at the Democratic convention who were manning the booth of the Texas Moratorium on the Death Penalty. While the Republicans mouth words about the sanctity of all life, these people actually work hard for it (and that's not easy in a state like Texas that kills more people than any other state each year). I applaud their courage and perseverance.

Uncle Sam Wants . . .

Political Cartoon is by Monte Wolverton at caglecartoons.com.

Has Hutchison Blown Her Re-election ?


It's starting to look like Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's recent loss to Rick Perry in the Texas Republican primary has done damage to her political future in general. Much of this may be due to her continually shifting promises about quitting the senate.

Hutchison originally told voters that she would quit the senate last summer to devote her full time to running for governor. Then she pushed back her resignation to the Fall. Then she said it would be Spring of this year. After losing the primary, she said she would finish out her term. And now she is actually considering running for re-election. Her promises have become cheaper than two-day-old bread.

And it looks like it's not only hurting her credibility, but her chances of re-election. Her numbers have fallen drastically. Here is how Public Policy Polling puts it:

"In February of 2009 PPP found Hutchison with a 58% approval rating, putting her among the most popular Senators and Governors in the country. Now Hutchison's approval is only 37% and she has negative overall numbers with 43% of voters disapproving of her. Only 35% of voters think she should seek another term in 2012 while 48% think it's time for her to hang it up. And if she does decide to run again only 32% of voters say they'll support her with 47% saying they'd support someone else."

Her race for governor didn't do her political future any good. She had to veer to the right to try and appeal to the right-wing base of the Republican Party, and now many moderates consider her to be too far to the right. At the same time, most conservatives consider her to be far too moderate. She seems to have upset everyone.

Of course it's still a long way until her seat is again contested in 2012, but if she is seriously thinking of running again then she has a lot of repairing to do with her image.

Will It Work For All Of Them ?

Political Cartoon is by Jeff Parker in Florida Today.

Bill White Addresses The Convention


The high point of the state Democratic convention for many of the convention delegates came on Friday night. The party's candidate for governor made his appearance and spoke to the convention. And surprisingly, he gave a pretty rousing speech. Normally White's speaking style could put a charging bull elephant to sleep (and that might be his best chance of winning -- to lull the Republicans to sleep on election day).

But Friday nights speech actually had a little oomph to it. It was short on specifics and long on attacks on Perry. And of course, he kept all his promises to vague generalities. But then, this is what a convention speech is supposed to do. He does not have to sell most of the convention delegates on his candidacy -- they are already on board. This speech was not to convince, but to energize -- to get these party regulars energized enough to go out and do the hard work needed to make his (and other Democrats') candidacy viable in the coming election.

I guess he was successful in the effort to energize his supporters, because I heard a lot of the convention delegates talking the next morning about what a great speech it was. Now all he has to do is convince the voters of Texas and that's going to be a lot harder. A recent poll showed White and Perry tied at 43%. I'm not sure this isn't just an anomaly that will disappear with the next poll, but hopes are running high in the party right now.

Democrats want to believe they can grab some of the statewide offices back this year. After Friday night's speech, many are feeling a little better -- a little more hopeful about their chances.

BP PR

Political Cartoon is by Mike Luckovich in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Proof

From the pages of a gal and her blog.

The Home Rick Perry Turned Down


As you may know, the governor's mansion in the state of Texas is currently being renovated. And Governor Rick Perry has taken the opportunity to set himself up in some pretty fancy digs at the taxpayer's expense. He has rented a real mansion which is costing taxpayer's the princely sum of $10,000 a month in rent payments. That's a rather heady sum to be billing to a state with a $15 to $18 billion dollar shortfall in the next biennium.

In an effort to save the taxpayers this money (and score some political points), the Texas AFL-CIO offered the mobile home above to Governor Perry. The cost to the taxpayers would have been only $1 a year. Before anyone says the governor can't live in a mobile home, let me say this would not have been precedent-setting. When Mike Huckabee was the governor of Arkansas, he lived in a mobile home while his governor's mansion was being renovated (although I will admit it was a double-wide mobile home).

I'll bet if Perry had asked them nicely the AFL-CIO would have come up with a double-wide, but that's just not good enough for coyote-hunting Rick Perry. He considers himself far too important to live like common folks -- no matter what it costs the taxpayers.

The AFL-CIO has the trailer parked outside the convention center here in Corpus Christi for the duration of the Democrats' state convention.

Convention Gets A Lone Picketer


It looks like a high-level Republican operative has infiltrated the state Democratic convention -- one of Rick Perry's aides perhaps? Seriously, a convention is not official until it has been picketed by one or more nuts. It must be too hot outside today for most Republicans (or teabaggers) because the guy pictured above was alone (and thrilled to have his picture taken). I guess he'll do though. The convention is now official.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Voting Against Their Own Interests

Found at the excellent blog What Would Jack Do?.

Notes On Sarah Palin


I haven't blogged much about Sarah Palin lately, so I thought I'd catch you up on some things going on in Palin-World. It seems that things are not going too well for the Wasilla Witch. One of the biggest of these is how silly she now looks for her "drill, baby, drill" mantra. She's still trying to push that but it looks pretty feeble in light of the continuing Gulf oil disaster.

She also hasn't had much luck in endorsing candidates this year. Almost every candidate she endorsed in the primaries lost. The notable exceptions are Rand Paul, who takes crazy to new and dizzying heights, and Nikki Haley, whose success can be traced more to a Jenny Sanford (ex-wife of Gov. Mark Sanford) endorsement than to Palin. In fact, it's starting to look like a Palin endorsement can have a toxic effect on a candidacy.

The Washington Post's on-line column called The Plum Line has some interesting numbers culled from a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll asked its respondents how they'd feel if a candidate were endorsed by Sarah Palin. Here's how they answered the question:

8% would be enthusiastic about that
17% would be comfortable about that
15% would have some reservations about that
37% would be very uncomfortable about that

Those are not good numbers. At least 52% (a majority) would have some or serious reservations about a candidate endorsed by Sarah Palin. It looks like Republican candidates need to think twice before asking Palin for an endorsement. And there were only two things that were seen by the respondents as being worse than a Palin endorsement. They are:

Supporting the economic policies of George W. Bush
Supporting the elimination of federal agencies and/or social security

Meanwhile, things are not going well for Palin on the legal front either. Remember when a legal defense fund was started for Palin to defend her against various accusations of her misusing her position as governor (some of which were found true)? Well it turns out, as many of us thought at the time, that the fund violated ethics laws.

To settle the ethics complaint, Palin has now agreed to return all of the money collected before she resigned as governor -- a total of $386,856 (only $33,546 was collected after she resigned). Complicating matters is the fact that $87,680 has been spent from the fund. That means $54,134 is going to have to come out of Sarah's pocket since it can't come from the $386,856. But I'm sure she can afford it with the huge speaking fees she has been getting.

Speaking of the huge speaking fees, she may not be getting those much longer. It seems that Sarah Palin just doesn't have the drawing power she once had. Maybe people are starting to figure out that her head is as empty as her speeches are incoherent.

In Atlanta (in one of the reddest of the red states) Zachariah's Way, a Gwinnett County ministry is holding a fund-raising event for special needs parishioners. They have rented a 13,000 seat auditorium and the headline speaker at the event is Sarah Palin. But so far the soon-to-be-held event is a flop. They are having a lot of trouble selling tickets to the event and it now looks like thousands of the seats may be empty. People are just not willing to spend $25 to $65 to see Palin ($1000 to attend a special reception).

As I said, things are just not going well in Palin-World. If the magic is not gone, it is disappearing fast.

New Mechanic, Same Car

Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

I Meet Senfronia (By Accident)


I have a confession to make. I am a political junkie. That won't surprise regular readers of this blog, but it is why I am currently attending the state Democratic convention. I haven't missed one of these conventions in years (either as a delegate or with a press pass). This year I am lucky enough to be doing both. The good Democrats of Potter County were kind enough to select me as a delegate and the state party once again credentialed me as a member of the press (I know -- they have a rather loose definition of press).

The convention is being held in Corpus Christi this year, and believe me, that's a long way from Amarillo. I left Amarillo about 7:00am yesterday, and three plane rides and several hours later I finally arrived in Corpus Christi. The plane rides were from Amarillo to Dallas, Dallas to Houston, and Houston to Corpus Christi. It was on the last leg of that journey that I had a rather exciting accidental meeting (remember -- I'm a political junkie).

As passengers were boarding this rather distinguished lady sat down next to me. I didn't think much about it -- after all, who expects to meet someone they admire this way. I was just glad it wasn't some 300-pound behemoth who would take up his seat and half of mine. Then another lady who was boarding put her hand on the lady's shoulder and said "Senfronia" in a sing-song voice before going on down the aisle.

I was flabbergasted (and embarrassed that I hadn't recognized her). But just to make sure I tapped her on the arm and asked her if she was Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a member of the Texas legislature. She politely replied that she was and shook my hand as I introduced myself.

We exchanged some polite banter about politics, and then she found out I was recently retired from a juvenile justice career with the state. She asked me point blank what needed to be done in the area of juvenile justice. Never being one who was too shy to give my opinion, I launched into a long discourse on the subject. Now most politicians would have interrupted me and told me what they thought needed to be done. Ms. Thompson didn't. She listened intently as though I might actually have something important to say. I must say I was impressed with her.

Now, I was already a fan of Rep. Senfronia Thompson. I even posted a couple of years ago that I thought she would make a great Speaker of the Texas House (and I still believe that). But she has climbed even higher in my estimation. I can now tell you that she is as nice as she is capable (and she is very capable). And she is willing to listen.

Ms. Thompson, I hope I didn't bore you too much and I appreciate your kindness. You really made this political junkie's day.

Saying What They Really Think

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

At The Convention


This is a picture of the view from my hotel room in Corpus Christi, where I am currently attending the state Democratic convention. Looks like I'm going to be suffering for the next couple of days. ;-)

Doesn't Have A Clue

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

David Van Os On Texas Democratic Chaimanship


The other day I wrote a post on the current Texas Democratic Party chairman Boyd Richie (pictured above). The point of my post was that Richie has been utterly ineffective as chairman and the state party needs a new chairman. The Democratic Party doesn't hold a single statewide post in the state of Texas -- that's 0 for 29 if you're keeping score. And yet I still hear people talking about what a good chairman Richie has been. Frankly, I'm at a loss to understand their thinking on this.

Fortunately, the state party will again vote for a chairman at it's convention over the next two days. The good news is that there is a candidate running against Richie. He is Michael Barnes. Is he the answer for Texas Democrats? I don't know. What I do know is that he couldn't be any worse than the current chairman. I plan to vote for Barnes, and I urge other delegates to the state convention to do the same.

I just learned today that one of the states leading progressive Democrats, David Van Os, agrees with me on this matter. Here is what Mr. Van Os has to say:

Many of you reading this message will be delegates to the Texas Democratic Party State Convention that opens tomorrow in Corpus Christi. You will have the opportunity to make a badly needed change in the election for state party chairman that will take place on Saturday. I will be eagerly casting my delegate vote for Michael Barnes for state party chairman and respectfully urge you to do the same.
Michael met with me recently during a visit he made to San Antonio. I liked what I learned about him. Michael knows that Republican control of all 29 of the statewide elective offices in Texas state government, as it has existed since 1998, is intolerably detrimental to the economic conditions, health, education, and welfare of the vast majority of Texans. He knows that incumbent party chairman Boyd Richie refuses to acknowledge any accountability for the party's failure to win statewide on his watch, but to the contrary, is full of excuses. Michael knows that if something isn't working it needs to be changed. Michael has vision and a winner's attitude. He knows that the people of Texas need relief from Republican Corporate rule and "wait until next time" is not a satisfactory response from the Texas Democratic Party leadership. Michael knows that unelected mercenary consultants are making the strategic decisions behind the scenes and the skills and insights of grassroots Democrats are ignored. Michael knows that to be true to its professed values the Texas Democratic Party has to be governed democratically from the bottom up. He knows that going 0 for 29 in the statewide offices is failure, not success. Michael knows that Texas Democrats have to stop rewarding failure with re-election of the same officers and more contracts for the same consultants.
Please let me share some background history and facts with you that you may find relevant.

Twelve years ago in 1998, the Texas Corporate Republican Party came out of that year's general election holding all 29 statewide offices in the Executive and Judicial branches of State government. (The executive branch offices are Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, Land Commissioner, Agriculture Commissioner, and the three Railroad Commissioners; the judicial branch offices are the nine Justices on the Texas Supreme Court and the nine Judges on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals)

As the Democratic Party's candidate against incumbent Republican corporate-loving Texas Supreme Court Justice Greg Abbott that year, I experienced the 1998 wipeout very personally. A few days after the election, I predicted on my website that with Republicans now owning 29 of 29 statewide offices the people of Texas would be subject to the iron grip of corporate power to a worse degree than at any previous time in the state's history. Reviewing the history of the past 12 years, was I wrong or right? Have millions of Texans lost ground compared to 1998, or have they not?

For the last 12 years I have continually believed and advocated that the first priority of the Texas Democratic Party should be to win back the statewide offices with hard-driving populist campaigns showing, and meaning it, the will to fight back on behalf of the people of Texas against the domination of our state by undemocratic aristocracies of the rich and powerful. In my opinion, by defaulting on the statewide offices the Texas Democratic Party defaults on its historical mission to give the people an equal voice with the powerful.

In contrast, the leaders (actually, the unelected consultants like Matt Angle of the Texas Democratic Trust who are the true strategic decision makers) of the Texas Democratic Party have primarily concentrated on trying to win seats in the Texas House of Representatives each election. They usually "target" about 10 to 15 Texas house districts, apply cleverly crafted lip service to the statewide races and the other 100 or so contested legislative races, and then proclaim victory if they win a handful of their "targeted" house districts while staying 0 for 29 in the elections for the far more powerful, more widely impacting, statewide offices.

With all due respect to the members of the Texas House, and there are certainly many members whom I greatly respect, winning a majority solely in one of the two chambers of the legislative branch of government, while continuing to forfeit the executive and judicial branches, which together possess far greater power to improve the lives of Texas' people and protect the people's Constitutional rights,does not constitute turning Texas blue.

Over the next two and one-half days, incumbent party chairman Boyd Richie will be loudly proclaiming his dedication to the mission of winning statewide offices. Do not waste one second listening to him. He says this every election year. He has never meant it sincerely and does not mean it now.

During the election campaign season of 2006, most of us on the statewide ticket (which included me as candidate for Texas Attorney General) knew that the state party staff and chairman (Boyd Richie) had a defeatist attitude about the statewide races that projected itself to the public and the media to the great detriment of our candidacies. We were close to the situation and it was obvious to all of us. Most of us, maybe all of us, voiced our concern about this to Boyd and/or the party staff. In response, Boyd repeatedly denied any defeatism. If you asked him about this during 2006, he denied it to you too.

Well now, here is a direct quote from Boyd's recent interview with Reeve Hamilton of the Texas Tribune, wherein Boyd's objective was to deny accountability for the 2006 defeats:

"Frankly when I became chairman in 2006, our statewide candidates had already been nominated. I had nothing to do with recruitment, or how they got to be nominees. Those campaigns were doomed from the beginning."

A lot of you put in many passionate volunteer hours in support of the 2006 statewide candidates. You believed in that ticket. You fought for it and sweated for it. You probably believed that your state party shared your belief and your enthusiasm. After all, the state chairman told you so, right? But the truth is, as he now confesses when it suits him to do so, the state chairman had a defeatist attitude about that ticket. Do you call that leadership? I don't.

You may remember my last-minute run for state party chair against Boyd at the 2008 state Democratic convention. On the very eve of the convention I decided to make that run when I read Boyd's quote in the Burnt Orange Report that as far as trying to carry Texas for the Democratic presidential ticket, the presidential campaign would "take care of itself". This was proof to me that nothing had changed - there was to be no serious attempt by the Texas Democratic Party to win Texas statewide. I publicly confronted Boyd over the statement. His response was that the quote had been garbled and did not accurately express his meaning. That response of his was pure bull. After I promised in my speech to the convention that if elected chair my first order of business would be to fly to Chicago to press the Obama campaign to make a serious effort in Texas, Boyd took the podium and proclaimed how hard he would work to carry Texas statewide. He did not mean a word of it.

Usually when somebody evades something that means they have something to evade. Here is what Boyd also said in the recent Texas Tribune interview: "This year is the first year that I've had the opportunity to have any input about recruitment."

Come again, Boyd? Were you not party chair in 2008 and had you not served as party chair since 2006? Really, how much more transparent can you be in your attempt to deny accountability? What do you say now to the candidates who carried the party's banner in the statewide races of 2008?

Indeed, Boyd should hardly be bragging about his recruitment efforts for 2010. For the first time in many elections, there is no Democratic candidate for the major office of Comptroller of Public Accounts. To make matters worse, Boyd has repeatedly emphasized the importance, in his outlook, of the upcoming decennial redistricting. One would think that since he places such a priority on redistricting he would have certainly fielded a candidate for Comptroller, since the Comptroller holds one of the five seats on the Legislative Redistricting Board.

This is the excuse the Texas Tribune reports out of Boyd's mouth: "That was a seat that we took very seriously," he says, "and I'm very disappointed that we weren't able to recruit somebody."

Did you know that Boyd Richie was trying to recruit a Democrat to run for Comptroller? Did he put any word out about it in your community, or your county, or your Democratic club or organization?

Of course not! The real translation of Boyd's statement is, "we asked a few people within our insider circle." Is that good enough for you?

And the deeper meaning is a recurrence of the continuing theme: Whatever goes wrong is never my failing. It is somebody else's: the pre-doomed candidates whom I didn't recruit in 2006, the possible candidates for Comptroller who wouldn't step up and run in 2010, and 2008 doesn't matter because even though I had been chairman since 2006 I had no opportunity to participate in recruiting candidates for 2008.

Under Chairman Richie, Texas Democrats have not only had failure, but even worse, evasion of accountability. Michael Barnes knows what the problem is and he won't make excuses if he fails to deliver. It is time for a CHANGE. If you are a delegate to the Texas Democratic Convention, I respectfully urge you to vote for MICHAEL BARNES for state party chairman on Saturday.

Thank you for your consideration of my point of view.

Sincerely,
David Van Os

Seppuku

Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at msnbc.com.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blasphemy !

What a horrible blasphemy! A pasta-fatwa must be immediately issued against the artist who created this sacrilegious drawing! From the pages of Unreasonable Faith.

Creationism Loses A Battle In Texas


The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) thought they had found the promised land when they moved to Texas. Texas has as many fundamentalists as any state and it has been a real battle here to keep creationism out of high school science classes -- a battle that is still being waged.

The ICR wanted to issue their own version of a master's degree in science. Their science master's degree would be in "creation science". If they could get state accreditation for the degree, then they could get these fraudulent "science" teachers into schools across the state (and maybe across the South). But they ran into a problem. Even Texas is not that crazy.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) voted unanimously to deny the ICR the authority to issue the degree in creation science. The THECB ruled that the degree would not really be in science (but religion) so it did not meet the state's standards for a science degree. Well, fundamentalists never give up easily so they took the THECB to court claiming they imposed "an unconstitutional and prejudicial burden against ICRGS's (ICR graduate school) academic freedom and religious liberties."

But the United States District Court for Western Texas disagreed with them a couple of days ago. The court said the "Plaintiff (ICR) is entirely unable to file a complaint which is not overly verbose, disjointed, incoherent, maundering, and full of irrelevant information." The court found that the THECB's "decision was rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest, and there is no evidence the decision was motivated by animus toward any religious viewpoint."

In plain English, the state has a right to set it's science standards and doing so does not deny anyone their religious freedom. Whether the fundamentalists like it or not, science and religion are different things and religion should not be taught as science (or vice versa).

I'm sure the ICR will probably appeal this decision, but I doubt a court of appeals will overturn this very rational decision.

History Repeated

Political Cartoon is by Rex Babin in the Sacramento Bee.

Even More Rand Paul Nonsense


This is not a new Rand Paul slip-of-the-lip but it's just too insane not to talk about. It's just another reminder of why Paul's handlers are saying he'll only answer questions that are submitted in writing. They know if they continue to allow him to do on-the-spot interviews, he'll continue to talk without engaging his brain. This way they can check his answers before the media gets them and hopefully head off further embarrassment.

A few years ago the Republican governor of Kentucky, Ernie Fletcher, was charged with devising "a scheme to illegally award state jobs to political contributors." After a two-year investigation by the state's attorney general, Fletcher signed an agreement admitting there was "wrongdoing by his administration. In return all charges were dropped.

But that wasn't good enough for the kooky Rand Paul. He wrote an op-ed piece for the Kentucky Post (in 2006) where he took the governor to task for mishandling the whole situation. Paul then relates how he would have handled the situation if he had been the governor. He said:

"What would I do if I were governor?

First, I’d have pardoned myself and everyone included nearly a year ago.Without a pardon the case goes on and on. Fletcher has gotten no kudos whatsoever for not pardoning himself."

What a ridiculous idea. Paul is not worried at all about one of his Republican brothers breaking the law (and admitting it). For him, breaking the law is not nearly as important as finding a way out of the trouble -- even if it would up making the governor look even worse than he already did. You can imagine what voters would think of someone who pardoned himself.

And I have to wonder if it is even legal for a governor to give himself a pardon. Could he pardon himself for an even more serious crime like theft, rape, child sexual abuse or murder? How about serial murder? This would be an interesting question for the Supreme Court to answer. I suspect that there is only one person in the state that the governor cannot pardon -- himself. It would violate all the tenets of justice to allow anyone to pardon himself (or herself).

But then Rand Paul seldom thinks things through before he sounds off (or even writes something). His handlers have a massive job in front of them, because they must check everything he says or writes for the next four months. Failure to do that will surely lead to further embarrassments.

Masters Of The Shakedown

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in the Miami Herald.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Republican Jesus Turns A Profit

From the satirical pages of Jesus' General.

Another Lie From A Top Republican


Much like Sarah Palin, one gets the feeling that Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele doesn't spend much time in the vicinity of the truth. I'm not sure whether he just doesn't care about the truth or whether he's just too stupid to know the truth. Either way, it certainly doesn't bother him to say anything he wants (mainly falsehoods) to try and make Republican policies look better than they really are.

Steele appeared on CNBC yesterday morning bashing President Obama's efforts at job creation. He told the interviewer that we need to return to the policies of George Bush because, "George Bush created a lot of jobs." That was an outrageous lie.

In the last month of Bush's administration, the Wall Street Journal (certainly no liberal media source) printed a story saying the Bush administration had created only 1 million jobs during his two terms in office. That is pitiful when compared to the last two Democrats in office. Carter created 10.5 million jobs in only one term in office, and Clinton created a whopping 23 million jobs during his years in office.

Making Bush look even worse is the fact that President Obama is on-target to produce more than 1 million jobs just in 2010. Add this to the fact that the Bush policies contributed to the largest recession since the Great Depression, and you have the perfect picture of absolute incompetence in economic affairs. Just in his last four months in office George Bush lost more than 2 million jobs for this country (see above chart).

Looking at these numbers, it is amazing to me that anyone (especially someone as high up as the chair of the RNC) could suggest a return to the policies of the Bush administration would be anything other than disastrous. It is ludicrous that Republicans hold thenselves up as better guardians of the economy than Democrats.

Democratic policies may not be the best for the rich bankers of Wall Street, but they produce a whole lot more jobs for the people on Main Street -- and that's what the country needs right now.

Back-Pedaling

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in USA Today.

Judge's Decision Feathers His Own Nest


When BP's shortcuts caused an oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama made what I think was a good decision to impose a moratorium on deep-water off-shore drilling. Now that it's months later and the damaged BP rig is still pouring millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, Obama's moratorium looks even more like the right decision.

But a Louisiana company, Hornbeck Offshore Services, didn't like the moratorium and sued to have the decision overturned in court. Yesterday U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman agreed with the drilling company and ruled that the moratorium was illegal. He said the moratorium was "arbitrary and capricious" and would have an "immeasurable effect on the plaintiffs, the local economy, the Gulf region, and the critical present-day aspect of the availability of domestic energy in this country."

You may be asking yourself why the judge would make such a questionable decision in the midst of the current oil disaster. I know I was. But it begins to make some sense when you look at the judge's financial holdings. The judge owns stock in at least 21 different energy companies, including Halliburton and Transocean. He also owns stock in J.P. Morgan Chase (which holds 28.3% of BP's stock). Here are the other companies that the judge holds stock in:


This judge obviously had no business making any decision in this case. He should have recused himself from the case. If he had decided in favor of the government, he would have suffered financially from his energy holdings. By deciding for the drilling company, he protects the oil investments that he has and his own financial well-being. How can we trust that he made a fair and impartial decision in this case? Answer -- we can't!

Fortunately, the White House is appealing this ridiculous decision to the 5th Court of Appeals (and the Sierra Club is joining in the appeal). But it is questionable whether they will get a fair hearing there either. Just last month, in a case against energy and chemical companies, so many of the 5th Court Appeals judges recused themselves for ties to these companies that there weren't enough judges left to hear the case.

Are there any judges left out there that aren't owned by the oil companies?