Friday, February 27, 2009

Who Replaces Hutchison ?

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has made it very clear that she going to run for governor in 2010. When she does, it will open up a chance for someone else to win her senate seat. It's not yet known whether she will resign the seat before or after the Republican primary next year, but if Public Policy Polling (PPP) is right then it doesn't matter -- the seat will be available.

Public Policy Polling released a poll last Tuesday that shows Hutchison with a 25% lead over her opponent in the Republican primary -- Rick Perry. That's a huge lead to have over a sitting governor, especially one that got only 39% of the vote in his last general election. It looks like the likely Republican voters are tired of "Governor Goodhair".

So, who will fill the vacancy left by Hutchison in the United States Senate? PPP also tried to answer that question, but the results were not nearly as decisive as the figures in the governor's race.

There are three main Republican contenders for the post (Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Attorney General Greg Abbott, State Senator Florence Shapiro), and two Democratic contenders (former Comptroller John Sharp, Houston Mayor Bill White). PPP poled to see if there was a clear leader among these five candidates, and found there wasn't.

Dewhurst leads Sharp 42%-36% and White 42%-37%. Abbott leads Sharp 44%-36% and White 42%-36%. Shapiro barely trailed Sharp and beats White by 1 point. Dewhurst and Abbott look pretty even, but neither gets near 50%. That bodes well for the Democrats, and means it could be a very close election.

The only real loser here is Florence Shapiro, who is the fartherest to the right of any of the candidates. I think even the Republicans know she is also the weakest candidate, and would give Democrats the best chance of snatching the seat away from them.

This coming senate race could be a lot of fun for both parties.

Let Them Fall ?

Political Cartoon is by Jeff Parker in Florida Today.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What A Mismatch !

I watched President Obama's address to Congress and the nation a couple of nights ago, and the Republican response to it. Since then, I just can't shake the feeling that this was one of the greatest mismatches of all time.

What the hell were the Republicans thinking? Did they think they had to answer one man of color with another? They should have learned their lesson when they tried to run Alan Keyes against Obama in the senate race a few years ago, and got badly beaten. It does you no good to present a token alternative "man of color",if that man has no real substance.

The Republicans are trying hard to find a token to make it look like they appeal to others besides white people. But so far, all they've been able to come up with is Alan Keyes, Michael Steele and Bobby Jindal. That's pitiful.

What they don't seem to understand yet is that President Obama is not a "token" put up by the Democratic Party. He is a man of substance, who ran against the best the party had and beat them fair and square. Tuesday night he showed that.

The president looked like a man who understands our problems, knows what needs to be done and knows how to get it done. Jindal looked like a whiny kid parroting what his parents had told him.

After watching both speeches, the following sports analogy came to mind. Remember when you were a kid and were choosing sides to play some sport? Obama looked like the kid you would always choose first. Jindal was the reason you didn't want to choose last, because you would have to choose him and you knew he'd screw up.

This can't be the best the Republicans have to offer. If it is, the 2012 election will be as big a mismatch as Tuesday night was.

White And Black

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

The White House Dog

On election night, President Obama promised his children he would get them a dog, because of all they had to put up with during the campaign. Now it looks like that's fixing to happen. At least, they now know what kind of dog their going to get -- a Portuguese Water Dog (like the one pictured above).

The President wanted a big playful dog, but they couldn't just get any dog. That's because Malia is allergic to a lot of breeds. One of the good things about the Portuguese Water Dog is that they're hypoallergenic.

The First Lady said, "From the size perspective, they're sort of middle of the road - it's not small, but it's not a huge dog. And the folks that we know who own them have raved about them." One of the Obama friends who owns a couple of dogs of that breed is Senator Ted Kennedy.

Kennedy says of the breed, "They have a can-do and hopeful spirit. They are smart. They are resilient. They are determined. They are optimistic. And they are tireless. Sounds like a perfect fit for the Obama Family and the Obama administration."

Now that they know what breed they want, the Obamas are hoping to have their dog by April. They haven't yet picked a name for the "First Dog".

A Stubborn Donkey

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Good Supreme Court Decision

If you've read this blog for very long, then you probably know that I supported the Supreme Court's decision that verified the right of Americans to own a gun. I do not own a gun, and probably never will, but the Constitution is very clear. The second amendment clearly states that individuals have the right to own a firearm.

But that right is not unlimited. All states deny a convicted felon the right of gun ownership, and the Supreme Court was careful to say that the individual right to gun ownership does not invalidate this prohibition.

The federal government has also expanded this prohibition of gun ownership to those convicted of domestic violence, even if the conviction is a misdemeanor. Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled on this new prohibition. In a 7-2 decision, the court upheld the law -- if you are convicted of domestic abuse, you do NOT have the right to own a gun.

I totally agree with this decision. It makes a lot of sense. If are unable to control your temper to the point that you wind up beating on members of your own family (those you supposedly love), then how can you be trusted to possess a deadly weapon like a gun?

This prohibition not only protects family members, but also neighbors and others. It also protects the police, who are the first responders in cases of domestic violence.

The Supreme Court was very clear in this lop-sided decision. If you want to own a gun, then control your temper and keep your hands off other people.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

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

Legalizing Pot Will Help The Economy

It took the state of California going broke and our nation sliding into a deep recession (depression?), but finally someone is talking some sense about our draconian drug laws -- especially those regarding marijuana. Finally someone is acknowledging that not only is marijuana less damaging than many legal drugs, but it has the potential to bring in enormous sums when taxed.

This is a time when nearly every state is having trouble balancing their budgets, especially the large states. California has just had to pass a mix of cuts and tax increases to cover a $42 billion budget deficit. Here in Texas, we're looking at a $2 billion budget shortfall spurring 10% budget cuts in all state agencies. A new taxable commodity would be beneficial to all states.

A San Francisco Assemblyman is introducing legislation in California that would legalize marijuana for those who are at least 21 years-old, and tax it just as alcohol is sold and taxed. The marijuana crop, even though illegal, is huge in California (and most other states). In California, it is a $14 billion industry. To show how big that is, the California vegetable industry is $5.7 billion and grapes are $2.6 billion.

The Assemblyman, Tom Ammiano, estimates that at least $1 billion could be raised in taxes on marijuana. Personally, I think that is a very low figure. I think that marijuana could be taxed at 50%-100% and it's users would willingly pay that to have it legal. States like Texas and California could probably raise $5-$10 billion in new taxes off of marijuana. Think of the budget problems that kind of money would solve.

Another benefit of the legalization and taxation of marijuana is that it would make it harder for teens to get the drug. As long as it is sold on the black market, it is just as easy for teens to buy it as anyone else. Once it is legalized under the same rules as alcohol, then the black market will dry up (just like it did when prohibition was repealed) and it will be harder for teens to buy it.

Frankly, the prohibition of marijuana has been a gigantic failure. Anyone who wants it gets it. The only thing it has accomplished is to create a lucrative (and tax-free) black market for criminals to engage in.

Let's put the criminals out of business, and fill our state and federal coffers with a lucrative new tax. It just makes sense in light of the failure of prohibition and our ailing economy.

Problem Whines About Solution

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Government Or Wall Street ?

If you've been watching the mainstream media lately, you've probably been given the impression that there is a huge backlash against Obama and the Democratic Congress since they passed the Stimulus Bill. Nothing could be farther from the truth, according to the newest CNN/Opinion Research poll.

Wall Street, the Banks and the Auto Executives (and other corporations) would have us believe that if we just keep giving them billions of dollars and don't nationalize or otherwise constrain them, they'll magically bring this country back to prosperity. They might have gotten away with that a few years ago, but the populace has been awakened. The people know these corporate barons of excess are not the solution, but the problem.

Only 30% of the people believe Wall Street will make the right decisions to bring us out of the recession. Bankers have the confidence of 28% of the people, and auto executives do even worse with only 26%.

The people have much more faith in government than in business right now. About 66% have confidence in the decisions of the Democrats in Congress. President Obama fares even better. About 75% of the people believe President Obama will make the right decisions to end the recession. Amazingly, even 37% of Republicans believe Obama will make the right decisions.

Also interesting is the fact that only 37% approve of giving more money to auto companies and 36% would give the rest of the TARP money to financial institutions, while 62% are opposed. But while they don't want to throw more money at corporations, the people don't feel the same way about homeowners in trouble. Over 60% favor the government helping ordinary Americans facing foreclosure.

The Republicans are making a serious mistake by fighting Obama on everything he's trying to do right now, and that includes Jindal, Perry, Sanford and other governors who hurt ordinary Americans by refusing some of the stimulus funds destined for the ordinary people of their states. If they keep trying to obstruct President Obama, they could be in for a nasty surprise in the next election.

Right now, President Obama has a huge mandate from the people -- they believe in him (far larger than any mandate Bush tried to claim). I hope he'll not only use that mandate to solve the economic crises, but also the health care crises. Over 70% of the poll's respondents said they believed it was time to "increase the government's influence over the health-care system in an attempt to reduce costs and expand coverage."

Obama's off to a good start with the economy. Now he needs to build on that good start to fulfill his other promises of change.

Executive Point Of View

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner.

The Right To Know The Penalties

Does a defendant in an American courtroom have the right to know what can happen to him, especially if he pleads guilty? The answer would seem obvious to most of us. It would be extremely unfair to spring a surprise punishment on a defendant after he pleads guilty. Under the rule of law, any defendant should be apprised of all possible consequences of his guilty plea or guilty verdict.

But believe it or not, there are some courts in this country who don't think all defendants should have that right. Consider the case of Jose Padilla. Padilla is a Honduran immigrant. He served in the American military during the Vietnam War, and has lived in this country for decades -- but he never became a citizen.

Padilla was arrested in Kentucky for "trafficking" in marijuana. After his lawyer told him he would not be deported, Padilla entered a plea of guilty. But his lawyer was wrong, and the United States government began deportation procedures. Padilla withdrew his plea, and the case has now reached the highest court in the land.

The crux of the case is that immigrants have the right to be told of all possible actions that could be taken against them, including deportation. The United States Supreme Court has decided to hear the case and make a ruling on this matter. They will hear arguments from both sides this coming Fall.

I have a hard time believing this matter is even in question. We are supposed to be a nation of laws and believers in a fair system of justice. How can a system be fair unless defendants are told the truth about possible consequences?

I know some right-wingers will say the system is meant only to be fair to citizens, but that is a ridiculous assertion. How can a system be fair when it treats some defendants more equally than others? What about tourists? Does the system not have to be fair to them because they are not U.S. citizens?

The only way our system of justice can be considered fair is if it treats everyone the same -- even those immigrants without proper documentation. After all, if you can deny equal rights to one group, then you can do it to any other group.

There is no question here. Immigrants have the right to know about all possible punishments, including deportation, before they go to trial or plead guilty.

As The Nose Grows

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

Well, another week has passed, and once again it's time for another round-up of posts by members of the Texas Progressive Alliance. Here are this week's submissions:

WhosPlayin presents a short video about what oil and gas pipelines have done to Dish, TX.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme encourages adults not Republicans to frame and address the problems drug cartels bring to Mexico and the US.

BossKitty at TruthHugger is is angry that Texas Senator John Cornyn is still the handmaiden for the George W Bush catastrophe. Cornyn represents the extreme Right Wing faction that treats the US Bill of Rights as a nuisance. They still promote fear to acheive their agenda ... Cornyn Wants Wi-Fi Spys - S.436 and H.R.1076. Under the guise of protecting America's children from 'domestic terrorists', Cornyn wags his righteous tongue against privacy!

The Texas Cloverleaf talks about the possibility of a Sam Rayburn Tollway in DFW.

jobsanger posts about the conviction of Jim Adkisson, who entered a peaceful church with a shotgun and began to kill those he believed to be liberals in Right-Wing Hate "Warrior", and says the hate-talkers of the right like Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity, O'Reilly and others must accept their share of the blame.

This week, McBlogger took a look at the President's housing plan and found things to like but one really giant thing to hate.

Neil at Texas Liberal writes about the frustrating choices light rail involves in Houston and recalls former Houston school Board member and council member Eleanor Tinsley as someone who thought that Houston had value.

Off the Kuff takes a look at the case against Justice Sharon Keller.

Industry officials expose environmental impact of Barnett Shale drilling rig. By TXsharon on Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS

nytexan at BlueBloggin is appalled that The White House is involved in Karl Rove's deal cutting with Congress. Obama, Like Bush, Seeks To Delay Rove’s Testimony. Like Bush, Obama is meddling with the operations of the Justice Department.

At Texas Kaos, Liberal Texan takes a look at what's in the stimulus for Texas-you know, the the stimulus Rick Perry wants to piss away because it will hurt him in a primary for national office.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson discusses this sessions attempt at transportation financing, Enough of the half-measures and tinkering.

The connection between Texas' junior senator, a Houston financier-turned-crook, and a beautiful Caribbean island is explored by PDiddie of Brains and Eggs in Cornyn, Stanford, and Antigua.

Vince at Capitol Annex notes that the kind of waste being deposited right now in Andrews County isn't exactly what the legislature intended when -- greased up with cash from nuclear waste interests -- it passed a law in 2003 to allow the dumping of low-level radioactive waste in Texas.


Political Cartoon is by Gary Brookins in The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Bush Checks On Job Offer

It looks like George Bush may have a sense of humor after all. Either that, or he already misses the spotlight. About a month ago, right after Bush left office and Obama took over, a north Dallas hardware store put an ad in the Dallas Morning News. The ad for Elliott's Hardware noted that Bush was out of work, and offered him a job at the store as a door greeter.

Last Saturday, Bush checked out the offer -- sort of. As he entered the hardware store last Saturday, he told the manager, "I'm looking for a job." Actually, Bush was on an errand for his wife, Laura. He wound up buying some flashlights, batteries, nightlights and a can of WD-40.

One of the store's managers, Andrea Bond, kept the joke going by giving Bush one of the store's uniform shirts and a nametag with "W" on it. It turned out to be a good photo-op and some light-hearted publicity for both Bush and the hardware store.

He wasn't much of a president, but it looks like he's trying to be a good neighbor in north Dallas.

The Sycophant

Political Cartoon is by Gary McCoy in The Suburban Journals (Illinois).

Censure Leo Berman

It seems like East Texas' favorite racist legislator has put his big foot in his mouth again. Leo Berman, the Tyler Republican representative, got into an argument with a Chinese-American lawyer from Dallas after presenting his proposal to make all illegal immigrants move to "sanctuary" cities.

The attorney, Harry Joe, practices immigration law, and told Berman the proposal was evil and looked "like a bill the Nazis would have passed". He said Berman was despicable. Joe later apologized for his remarks.

But Leo Berman seems proud of his over-the-line remarks. Berman told the attorney to go back to China, and to kiss his ass. Berman has refused to apologize for the remarks, but that doesn't really surprise me. Berman has been proposing racist laws and making racist remarks for many years now, and has never been known to apologize for them.

Frankly, I think he's guilty of inappropriate behavior for a state representative. I believe it is time for the Texas House to censure him. He needs to be publically admonished for his behavior, and I'm not the only person who believes that. There is a new website that has been established by over a dozen bloggers (including yours truly) called CENSURE LEO.

I have linked to the blog, both in this post and in my links labeled "good blogs". I urge readers to check the blog out, and hopefully sign the petition calling for Berman's censure. I also urge the people of Tyler to replace this fool in the next election. Elect a Republican, if you must, but please make sure he's not a racist.

Laws Of Mathematics

Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at

Sunday, February 22, 2009

In Honor Of Black History Month

February is Black History Month in the United States. To my chagrin, the month is nearly over and I've not posted anything about it. Hopefully, this post will make up for that.

One of the most important events in Black History in this country was the Civil War -- the final blow that ended slavery. But although tons of books have been written and movies made about the Civil War, most of them are about Whites, and how the war affected them. It would give one the impression that all the heros of the war were white.

Of course, that isn't true. In 1989, the movie Glory came out and did a little to help dispel that notion. The movie did a good job of showing the bravery and patriotism of the African-American men who fought as soldiers during the Civil War. But these weren't the only African-American heroes of that time. There were the abolitionists like Sojourner Truth, and the members and leaders of the Underground Railway like Harriet Tubman.

And there were others that most of us have never heard of, like the hundreds of slaves in the South who acted as spies for the Union Army. All of these courageous slaves risked their lives, and many gave their lives, for our Union even though it was not yet perfect.

Author Ken Dagler said, "What the Union officers found very quickly with those who crossed the line ... was that if you talked to them, they remembered a great more in the way of details and specifics than the average person ... because again they relied totally on their memory as opposed to any written records." The slaves had not been allowed to learn to read and write, and therefore developed extraordinary memories that served them well as spies.

One of these brave people was William Jackson (pictured above). Jackson was a slave, and his owner was Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. Since he was "just a slave", Jackson was ignored by Davis and other Whites as he went about his duties. Jackson quietly overheard many Southern secrets, and it never occurred to these racist Southern leaders that a slave would not only understand what they were talking about, but commit it all to memory.

Jackson was able to tell Union Officers about Southern troop deployments, supply problems and other valuable information gathered from the office of the Southern President. This was extremely valuable information.

It is not known what happened to Jackson (or most of the other slave spies) after the war, but we owe them a debt of gratitude. These brave African-Americans helped to make the United States a better country (and indeed even to survive). They are true American heroes.

Recovery Plan

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What Happened To Priorities ?

One of the biggest stories out here on the High Plains yesterday, was the signing of a contract extension for the football coach at Texas Tech University -- Mike Leach. Leach had brought the Tech football program from second-tier status to national power, and that was a feat many did not think was possible. After some rather public arguing, Leach met with Texas Tech Chancellor Kent Hance and a contract extension was agreed to.

In the new agreement, Leach's contract will be extended by three years. That means he is bound to Tech for another five years (he had two years left on his current contract), and over that five year period he will be paid $12.7 million dollars. That's over $2.5 million a year! But that's not out of line with what winning coaches in large schools are being paid these days.

Now I love a good college football or basketball game as much as nearly anyone. I've been known to blow a weekend watching several. But I can't help but think our priorities are completely out of whack.

What is the real purpose of college/university? Isn't it supposed to be to educate students? When did it become big-money entertainment? Or a minor-league system to train professional athletes (most of whom won't even graduate)?

If you are one of those who still believe the purpose of a college is to educate students, don't you have to wonder how they can justify paying coaches millions of dollars. Just think about what the real teachers at Tech (and other schools) are being paid. I'll bet they would be lucky to make 3-5% of Leach's salary, and yet they are the one's actually carrying out the school's mission -- education.

Making this seem even worse, is the fact that colleges have already priced themselves out of reach for many deserving youth, and they seem to keep raising tuition and other costs every year. Many of those lucky enough to find the money to attend a college, find themselves $20,000 to $50,000 in debt upon graduation. All of this is going to get even worse as millions lose their jobs and we slide into a depression.

If Tech (and other large schools) were professional sports franchises, then the huge salaries for coaches would be justified, but they aren't. In this failing economy, colleges should be cutting costs -- not raising them. And they should be putting their limited funds toward educating students. This is needed not only for the students' futures, but also for the future of our country.

It's time for our colleges and universities to get their priorities straight and re-discover their mission. Million dollar coaches' salaries can't be justified any more than million dollar corporate bonuses in this economy.


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

Thursday, February 19, 2009

U.S. Diplomats Kicked Out Of Ecuador

George Bush and Dick Cheney may be gone, but it looks like we're still not very popular in some places. In the last week, the government of Ecuador has expelled two United States diplomats. They said the diplomats in question were interfering in the internal affairs of the South American country.

Last week, customs attache Armando Astorga was kicked out. Ecuador's President said Astorga was "insolent and foolish", and had tried to dictate Ecuador's choice of a commander for an anti-drug unit in exchange for $340,000 in U.S. aid. Yesterday, first secretary of the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Mark Sullivan, was given 48 hours to leave the country for the same thing.

The U.S. State Department has said the charges were unjustified, but they also claimed the right to vet any candidates for the post (created with American "war on drug" dollars). That sounds like the U.S. wants to have it both ways -- claim they're not interfering and then interfere.

Stop and think, would we let another country pick the head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency -- even if they gave us a boatload of money? Of course not! So why would we think it's OK to do that to another country? Does our government still think rules don't apply to us -- just to all the other countries?

The State Department needs to make a decision. Do we trust Ecuador or not? If they trust them, then give them the money. If they don't trust them, then don't give them the money. It's as simple as that. But either way, they don't get to pick the officials of another country.

The "war on drugs" has been a massive and expensive failure. We shouldn't let it destroy our relationship with a friendly country in our own hemisphere.

Typical Republican Legislator

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

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bush Stood Up To Cheney ?

I believe in the past, many progressives (including myself) have largely considered George Bush to be a not-to-bright buffoon who allowed himself to be pushed around by Dick Cheney and his neocon buddies. It now looks like I may have to adjust that opinion. Maybe he wasn't such a pushover after all.

It looks like he may have had the balls to stand up to Cheney after all. According to sources within the Cheney camp, Cheney tried repeatedly during the final weeks of the Bush administration to get Bush to give Scooter Libby a full pardon. Cheney is said to be furious that his repeated attempts were rebuffed by Bush.

I don't know if Cheney was just feeling sorry for Libby, or he was afraid he might be getting ready to tell the truth, which would put Cheney on the hot seat. I suspect it was the latter. But I am surprised that Bush didn't give Cheney what he wanted.

Of course, this doesn't let Bush off the hook for anything. In fact, now that we know he had the balls to stand up to Cheney, it actually makes him more personally responsible for the criminal actions of his administration. He's still a buffoon, but he's a buffoon who knew what he was doing. He was not tricked or bullied into anything.

No one need feel guilty about holding both Bush and Cheney responsible for their heinous actions.

Why It Happened

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

Burris Tainted? What A Surprise!

A few weeks ago, when former-Governor Rod Blagojevich was caught by the Justice Department on tape trying to sell the vacant Illinois senate seat, many progressive bloggers warned about seating anyone appointed by Blagojevich for the seat. At the time, it even looked like Majority Leader Reid and senate Democrats understood the situation. Reid acted like he'd developed a spine when he said they would never seat anyone appointed by Blagojevich.

But then Blagojevich appointed an African-American, Roland Burris (pictured), and the waffling began. Even though the Democratic Party has a proud tradition of standing up for racial justice, Reid acted like he was afraid of being branded a racist and once again showed he really had no spine. After all, Burris claimed he had done nothing for Blagojevich and had been asked for nothing. He even testified this way under oath in the Illinois Legislature.

Progressive bloggers pointed out that Burris had been a fund-raiser for Blagojevich in the past, and it was unknown what he has promised to get the senate seat. But we were ignored, and even criticized for speaking against this "honest" politician. After all, he would vote as a Democrat, wouldn't he?

Personally, I didn't care how he would vote or what color his skin was. Allowing Blagojevich to fill the senate seat was just wrong. Anyone he appointed would be tainted and we would always wonder whether promises were made or money was paid for the seat. Now it looks like we were right.

Afraid he had been caught on tape by the Justice Department, Burris is now changing his story. He admits he lied to the Illinois legislature. It turns out that Blagojevich's brother asked Burris three times to raise money for the governor -- and Burris agreed. He still claims that no money ever changed hands, because he says he's a "lousy fundraiser".

How can we believe that? And even if it's true, were promises made of future actions or money? The man has lied to us. He wanted to be senator so bad that he made some kind of deal with Blagojevich. Whether anything actually happened or not is a moot point now.

Burris should be kicked out of the senate (actually, he should never have been allowed in). And while we're at it, can we replace Reid as Majority Leader? He has shown no leadership skills.

Moderation ?

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Burnam Introduces Impeachment Resolution

On September 25, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court decided it would decide whether execution by lethal injection was constitutional or not. A Texas prisoner was scheduled to die at 6pm on that date using that method of execution. His attorneys believed his execution should be delayed until the Supreme Court made its decision, so they rushed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals -- only to find it was closed.

Now it was a tradition of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to stay open late when an execution was scheduled, to hear any last minute appeals. The judges rotate that duty among themselves. On that date, it was Judge Sharon Keller's turn to stay late (Keller is pictured above). Instead, she closed the court at 5pm and left, leaving no one to hear the last-minute appeal. Her action showed a remarkable callousness in light of the scheduled execution.

Since that time, the court has allowed attorneys to file last-minute appeals by e-mail. But it looked like Judge Keller would escape any real punishment for her dereliction of duty (and that's exactly what it was). However, Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) has filed HR 480 to initiate impeachment proceedings against the judge. He accuses her of "neglect of duty" and "willful disregard for human life".

Burnam says, "It's one thing for a banker to close shop at five o'clock sharp. But a public official who stands between a human being and the death chamber must be held to a higher standard."

Burnam's resolution calls for a special House committee that "shall conduct an investigation to consider whether to recommend that under Section 1, Article XV, Texas Constitution, and Chapter 665, Government Code, the House of Representatives adopt and present to the Texas Senate articles of impeachment against Judge Sharon Keller, Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, for gross neglect of duty and conducting her official duties with willful disregard for human life in connection with her actions on the evening of September 25, 2007, including her apparent irresponsible refusal to abide by the prior practice of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in order to receive the appeal of Michael Richard, which conduct may have resulted in Mr. Richard's deprivation of life without due process of law as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and Section 19, Article I, Texas Constitution, by means of a potentially unlawful execution by lethal injection, and in the embarrassment of the State of Texas in a manner that casts severe doubt on the impartiality of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the entire criminal justice system of this state."


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

Right-Wing Hate "Warrior"

Last summer, Jim Adkisson (pictured above) walked into a Knoxville (Tennessee) Unitarian Universalist Church and opened fire with a shotgun. He killed two people and injured several others. At the time, it was believed to either be a personal crime against someone he knew, or the act of a mentally unstable person. It turns out that neither was true. This was a hate crime.

He was a complete stranger to the people in the church, and seemed to know exactly what he was doing. He was saving America from "liberals". He turns out to be a right-wing conservative nut. Police found books by Michael Savage, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity in his home. He quoted from a conservative book by Bernard Goldberg, and very probably also enjoyed the hate speech of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.

He was not confused or disoriented when he committed the heinous crime against unarmed and peaceful church-goers. He was carrying out the orders of his right-wing heroes, who had filled him with the hate-filled belief that only those who agree with them are patriotic Americans, and it's OK to commit violence against anyone who disagrees -- even heroic.

On February 8th, Adkisson was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murders, but he still shows no remorse for his actions. In fact, he calls for other right-wingers to follow his lead and kill "liberals". He gave the Knoxville newspaper a four page "manifesto" which contained the following:

"Know this if nothing else: This was a hate crime. I hate the damn left-wing liberals. There is a vast left-wing conspiracy in this country & these liberals are working together to attack every decent & honorable institution in the nation, trying to turn this country into a communist state. Shame on them....

“This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg’s book. I’d like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I know those people were inaccessible to me. I couldn’t get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people. Someone had to get the ball rolling. I volunteered. I hope others do the same. It’s the only way we can rid America of this cancerous pestilence.”

“I thought I’d do something good for this Country Kill Democrats til the cops kill me....Liberals are a pest like termites. Millions of them Each little bite contributes to the downfall of this great nation. The only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is to kill them in the streets. Kill them where they gather. I’d like to encourage other like minded people to do what I’ve done. If life aint worth living anymore don’t just kill yourself. do something for your Country before you go. Go Kill Liberals."

Adkisson is right where he needs to be -- in prison for the rest of his life. But there are some other criminals who will not be punished for their crimes. I'm talking about the people who filled him with hatred for his fellow Americans. The ones who convinced him that it's permissable to be violent toward anyone who's not a conservative.

Hannity, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Savage, Goldberg and Coulter (and others like them who spew hate speech) are complicit in this crime.

Three Senators Down !

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

Monday, February 16, 2009

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

It is Monday, and that means it is time for another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's Weekly Round-Up.

Off the Kuff takes a look at the early possibilities for the Democratic nomination for Governor in 2010.

Vince at Capitol Annex takes a serious look at Speaker Straus' Committee Assignments.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to know howpolice officers can mistake a 12-year-old black girl standing in her own yard for 3 white prostitutes?

WCNews at Eye On Williamson has noticed there's been plenty of misinformation about the the New Deal during the stimulus debate. This week was no different, Another misleading GOP talking point on the New Deal.

McBlogger takes a look at the current economic situation in light of renewed attacks on the stimulus plan. His conclusion is that you really shouldn't listen to those on the right since they don't, you know, understand what's going on or have an accurate read on historical analogues.

Are you terrorized by Barnett Shale gas well compressor noise? If so, you aren't the only one. TXsharon knows about a recent court case that might be helpful. Learn about it on Bluedaze then help us get OGAP here so we can rein in out of control drilling.

Possible KBH replacement, TX Sen. Florence Shapiro, does some political posturing with the new "MySpace bill".The Texas Cloverleaf reports.

Neil at Texas Liberal reviewed structural causes of longterm poverty. Also, Neil determined that the song running through his mind for the past 20 years was Bring Me Edelweiss. It's a song from an Austrian techno-dance group. Check out the video.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston thinks the leadership at the University of Texas is a bunch of Rotten Teasip Bastards and the Student Government leaders are a bunch of Teasip wusses.

DosCentavosopines onSenate Bill 320; a bill to require any Justice of the Peace in a county of 200,000+ to be a licensed attorney. And Stace is not happy at all about it.

jobsanger expresses his disappointment in Panhandle legislator Warren Chisum in "Chisum's Law Is Abject Failure" and celebrates Chisum's fall from his powerful chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee in "Chisum And Swinford Are Out".

Xanthippas at Three Wise Men examines the claim that groups on the left are in the pocket for the Obama administration, and have sacrificed their credibility on issues like the stimulus package.

The two front-runners for the Democratic nomination for Texas Governor in 2010 are Kinky Friedman and Tom Schieffer. Seriously. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has the details.

BossKitty at TruthHugger is is angry at the sloppy traffic cops we call the US Strategic Command. They oversee our Space Surveillance Network tracking thousands of pieces of space junk orbiting over our heads every day. So, is this just a movie to them? Shouldn't they sound nsome kind of alarm when a collision is imminent? There is Serious Space Debris - US Command Fails Role As Traffic Cop.

WhosPlayin wonders why roadside puppy sales continue despite a new ordinance banning it in Lewisville.

Holding For Applause

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

U.S. Army To Recruit Foreigners

It looks like the United States Army is still having trouble recruiting soldiers for its illegal occupation of Iraq and its poorly run war in Afghanistan. They have already reduced academic standards and even begun accepting felons and gang-bangers that they would not have even considered a few years ago.

But it looks like the radical dropping of standards has not been enough. This year the Army will try to recruit 1,000 foreigners who possess only a temporary visa to be in the United States. In the past, a foreign-born recruit must have had a green card. If the foreign-born recruits with temporary visas do well, they plan to expand the program to the point these recruits will make up over 16% of the Army's soldiers. Next year, the program will probably also be introduced to other branches of our military services.

Those that sign up will be offered an accelerated path to citizenship. They can become citizens in a matter of months. Otherwise, it would take them years, if allowed to become citizens at all.

The Army claims it will allow them to recruit those with needed language and cultural knowledge. I think that is just a cover for getting overall numbers up. The current language and cultural needs are Pakistani and Arabic, but only 3% of immigrants living in America are from the Middle East, and since 9/11, the Bush administration has cut severely the immigration from that area. The excuse for the cut is fear of admitting terrorists.

About 55% of all immigrants are from Latin America, and it only makes sense that most of the recruits will be Spanish-speakers. The point is that Americans are very opposed to the occupation of Iraq, and fewer and fewer qualified Americans are willing to put their lives (or their children's lives) on the line for it.

The answer the Army has come up with is sort of like the French Foreign Legion. Let foreigners fight the wars that citizens want no part of, and award them with citizenship. The only difference is that we do not separate the foreigners in our military (at least not yet). It's bad enough that it has come to this at all, but a separation must not be allowed to happen or those will become our "suicide" forces.

It would not have come to this, if we had limited our fighting to self-defense or prevention of genocide -- wars that can be defended and believed in. We should never have invaded Iraq and tried to force our ways on them militarily. It was wrong to do so. Yes, Saddam was a cruel dictator, but we allow dozens of such dictators to exist without making war against them. We even give economic aid to some of them.

It was wrong for us to invade Iraq, and it's wrong for us to occupy that country. We need to withdraw our troops immediately. I know President Obama has said we will withdraw within months, but that is not soon enough. It has become obvious that we cannot solve Iraq's problems, so we need to leave so they can begin to do so.

Every day we stay in Iraq costs more innocent lives -- many of them Americans.

Spreading Fear And Panic

Political Cartoon is by Jerry Holbert in The Boston Herald.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Chisum's Law Is Abject Failure

We have a right-wing nut-job here in the Texas Panhandle who has made it his personal goals to pass stupid laws and embarrass Panhandle residents. It is Republican Rep. Warren Chisum. In the last legislative session in 2007, he decided he knew how to fix Texas marriages and bring down the divorce rate -- whether anybody wanted him to or not.

He decided that everyone should get some marriage counseling before they got married. To try and force people to do this, he doubled the state portion of the marriage license fee from $30 to $60. All the couple had to do was get some pre-marital counseling, and the fee would be waived.

The only thing he didn't think of was that most people do not want the state to interfere in their marriage plans. As one Dallasite who wed last December said, "The state doesn’t have any business telling me what constitutes a good marriage."

It turns out that his program has been a huge failure (as anyone with half a brain could have predicted). Most couples have just paid the extra $30 and bypassed the counseling program. Tarrant County is a good example, where out of about 5,000 marriages only about 140 have opted for the counseling. That's less than 3%. That's not just a failure -- it's a spectacular failure.

But failure doesn't seem to faze Chisum. He's still determined to interject his ideas into other people's marriages. In this legislative session, he's introduced a bill that would force people to get marriage counseling before a judge could finalize their pending divorce. It doesn't seem to have occurred to him that some divorces are good and need to happen.

Why would you force a woman to go to counseling with a husband who beats her (and who she may be trying to hide from)? Why would you force a woman to go to counseling with a man who was abusing her children? Is it really a good idea to force a woman to go to counseling with an alcoholic or drug addict?

He seems to think that men and women are too stupid to know when a divorce is the best thing, and they need a psychologist to tell them if it's OK or not. Chisum may be that stupid, but most other people are not.

I think it's time for Chisum to get his big nose out of other people's marriages.

A Good Question

Political Cartoon is by Patrick Chapatte in the International Herald Tribune.

The Change Begins In Amarillo

This is the year that the United States is supposed to switch from analog television transmissions to digital transmissions. That changeover was supposed to happen on February 17th, when all TV stations would stop broadcasting the analog transmissions (most stations are broadcasting both kinds at the current time).

But much of the change has been delayed. A couple of weeks ago, President Obama and Congress decided to delay the change until June 12th. They were afraid that around 6 million people were still not ready, and would be unable to receive the new digital TV signals. The new law allowed and encouraged the stations to continue analog broadcasts until June, but did not force them to do so.

So, Tuesday night at midnight, one Amarillo TV station will go ahead and cut its analog signal off. KACV, the public broadcasting station, will go completely digital. But they are doing it just to be contrary. Their analog transmitter is very old and has been having problems. It is currently not broadcasting at its full power. The station says they would have to spend money to repair the analog transmitter if they had to continue the broadcasts until June, and they simply can't afford to do that.

One station, KVII (ABC), has already announced they will continue analog broadcasts until June 12th. KAMR (NBC), KCIT (Fox) and KFDA (CBS) have said they will continue the analog broadcasts, but have not announced whether they will continue them all the way to June 12th.

If you are not yet ready to receive the digital signal, it is time to get ready. Tuesday night, the first channel will disappear from your set. There is no guarantee that others won't follow suit before the official switchover date in June. And don't expect Congress to delay the switch again. They needed two votes to get it done this time.

Frankly, this is something that needs to happen. It will not only give viewers a better picture, but much of the bandwith being vacated will be used for emergency services. We shouldn't delay any longer.

That may sound mean, since the argument is that the people not ready are the poor and the elderly. I'm not sure I believe that, but even if it is true, that doesn't matter. When the signal disappears, they will find a way to go digital. They need to just go ahead and do it.

Good Shot !

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

Friday, February 13, 2009

Autism Not Caused By Vaccines

Recently vaccine-preventable diseases have been making a comeback in this country, even costing some children their lives. It's almost unthinkable that children may scarred or killed by a disease that easily could have been prevented, but it's happening. The reason it's been happening is that a small, but vocal group have been insisting that childhood vaccinations can cause autism.

That's a frightening thought, and it has caused a growing number of parents to refuse to get their children vaccinated. Scientists have denied there is a link between vaccines and autism, but some in the autism community believe otherwise. Thousands of parents of autistic children had their hopes for a monetary payment from vaccine producers hanging on a recent case before the U.S. Court of Claims.

The court, composed of three "special masters", was hearing cases brought by three sets of parents of autistic children, who claim to have proof of a connection between vaccines and autism. This court doesn't have as stringent standards for proof as regular courts. Instead of "beyond a reasonable doubt", the standard is only that the link was "probable". But they couldn't even meet this lesser standard.

The court found their evidence to be "weak, contradictory and unpersuasive". The court said, "Sadly, the petitioners in this litigation have been the victims of bad science conducted to support litigation rather than to advance medical and scientific understanding."

This was a victory for science over fear. Infectious disease expert Dr. Paul Offit said, "It’s a great day for science, it’s a great day for America’s children when the court rules in favor of science. A choice not to get a vaccine is not a risk-free choice." And that's the real point. It is important for children to be vaccinated against a whole host of preventable diseases.

I know this case will not convince everyone. There will be some parents who will still endanger their children because they cannot accept science over their own mistaken beliefs. I just hope the number will be a lot smaller.

Republican Darwinism

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

Chisum And Swinford Are Out

As most of you probably know, the Texas Panhandle is one of the reddest areas in the state (hell, it's one of the reddest areas in the nation). We don't just elect Republicans up here. We elect dyed-in-the-wool right-wing fundamentalist nutjobs. It's so bad, that at times I feel like the Panhandle owes the rest of Texas and the nation a huge apology.

Two of the worst of the wing-nuts are Rep. Warren Chisum (pictured) and Rep. David Swinford. Both were die-hard Craddick supporters, and under his dictatorial regime, they had important committee chairmanships. Chisum was chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee and Swinford chaired the State Affairs Committee.

But these Craddick loyalists backed the wrong horse this year, and now they must pay the price. Craddick lost the speakership to San Antonio's Joe Straus, and Chisum and Swinford have lost a lot of clout in Austin. Both men have lost their chairmen positions. They are no longer powerful chairs who can kill a bill at their whim.

This is a very good thing for Texas. It would be better still if Democrats could gain control of the Texas House, but it's going to take another couple of years to do that. Until then, I'll settle for Chisum and Swinford losing their political clout.

Good things happen a step at a time, and this was a pretty big step.

Cupid's Toughest Job

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kinky Thoughts

We're still more than a year away from the Texas primary, where Democrats and Republicans will choose their candidates for governor. Although the Republicans already have two candidates who are already beginning to take potshots at each other, so far no Democrat has officially tossed his cowboy hat into the ring.

But there is a candidate who seems to be edging closer to entering the race -- Kinky Friedman. The comedian, author and singer ran in 2006 as an independent and finished fourth in the four-man race. In the interest of full-disclosure, I supported and voted for the Kinkster in that election, and I might do so again in 2010.

Kinky is approaching the race more seriously this time. If he runs, it will be as a Democrat. He said he learned in 2006 that an independent just cannot win in Texas in an important statewide race. He also says he will cut down on the one-liners and increase the talk about policies. Talk like this makes it sound like Kinky is getting close to announcing his candidacy for governor in the Democratic primary.

The thought that Kinky may be getting close to announcing his candidacy, and may actually start out as the front-runner because of his state-wide name recognition, seems to be upsetting some progressive political bloggers -- bloggers that I respect and normally agree with. The thought of Kinky as the Democratic candidate seems to be sending them over the edge, because at least three have launched some rather vicious attacks in the last couple of days.

The first attack was a simple one, and every bit as silly as it was simple. I quote what this blogger said about Kinky, "You are not a Democrat. Never were. Never will be." I can understand the bloggers feelings. At one time or another, most of us have wished we could define the rules for party membership and exclude the people we don't like. But it doesn't work that way, especially in Texas. If Kinky declares his candidacy for office in the Democratic primary, then he is a Democrat -- no matter who wishes it wasn't true.

The second attack was very disappointing, because it was made by a blogger who is normally very knowledgeable and right on target with anything involving Texas politics. He says, "This is not 1930, and the man on the tape repeating the word “n*gger” over and over isn’t going to win a Democratic Primary. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Democrats hate him for helping cost us the Governor’s Mansion in 2006." Both of these accusations are lies.

If Kinky is on tape using the word "nigger", then he must be a racist -- right? Wrong! He also wrote a song called "Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns in the bed". Does that make him a misogynist? The fact is that Kinky (and myself) were politically active before this blogger was born, and before "political correctness" became the liberal norm. It was normal in that time to expose stupidity by throwing the words or ideas of the stupid right back at them. It was a way of spotlighting the stupidity.

Many of us, including Kinky, demonstrated for civil rights back in the sixties, when it took more than a little courage to do so. He's not a racist, and calling him one is just plain wrong.

It's also wrong to blame Kinky for Chris Bell's loss in the 2006 governor's race. The fact is that the two Republicans in the race, Rick Perry and Carole Keeton Strayhorn, together got 57% of the total votes. Bell got slightly less than 30% and Kinky got slightly more than 12%. Even if you give half of Kinky's votes to Bell (and I seriously doubt he could have gotten that many of them), he would still have lost. The fact is the Democrats had a poor candidate that appealed to less than 30% of the voters, and that's why he lost.

The third attack is a little harder to deal with because the charges are true. for the most part. The blogger says, "I would like to say here, for the record, that I will never vote for that libertarian leaning, testosterone poisoned, immigrant hating, Hurricane Katrina evacuee bashing, no good bully no matter what." He gets a little carried away with the "testosterone poisoned" and "no good bully" parts, but the other three charges deserve some discussion.

I won't try to defend Kinky's position on immigration. I think he's wrong and I hope he changes his views (but I've never met the politician who I could agree with 100% of the time). As for the remark Kinky made when he called Hurricane Katrina evacuees "thugs", Kinky has backed off and admitted he was wrong to do that. I agree, and think he genuinely regrets that.

That leaves "libertarian leaning". It's true, Kinky does have some libertarian beliefs. So do I. So do most Americans, and I believe even most progressives. Do you believe the government should tell a citizen what he can eat, drink, smoke, or ingest, as long as he's not hurting anyone else? I don't. Do you believe the government should tell a citizen where they should live, go to school, or what job they must have? I don't. Do you think the government should try to force our views on other countries through military power? I don't.

Many libertarian beliefs make a lot of sense. But there are also some other beliefs of Kinky's that are more progressive, such as:

*doing away with the death penalty.
*defending a woman's right to control her own body.
*raising teacher pay to national average.
*stop teaching the TAKS test and really educate students.
*allowing casino gambling to help keep down taxes.
*opposing the TTC and other toll roads.
*moving away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.
*covering all Texans with healthcare insurance.
*supports gay marriage and homosexual rights.

I don't know about you, but that sounds like a program I can support.