Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The GOP has found a new word

An old word, but new to them, of course. It's only the latest Rovian strategy to define the terms according to his own warped ideology:

President* Bush in recent days has recast the global war on terror into a "war against Islamic fascism." Fascism, in fact, seems to be the new buzz word for Republicans in an election season dominated by an unpopular war in Iraq.

Bush used the term earlier this month in talking about the arrest of suspected terrorists in Britain, and spoke of "Islamic fascists" in a later speech in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Spokesman Tony Snow has used variations on the phrase at White House press briefings. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., in a tough re-election fight, drew parallels on Monday between World War II and the current war against "Islamic fascism," saying they both require fighting a common foe in multiple countries. It's a phrase Santorum has been using for months.

And Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday took it a step further in a speech to an American Legion convention in Salt Lake City, accusing critics of the administration's Iraq and anti-terrorism policies of trying to appease "a new type of fascism."

These men are obviously confused about the word. Merriam-Webster defines fascism as "a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition".

A recent definition is that by Robert O. Paxton:

"Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."

So essentially you can't be a fascist unless you have a country and an economy. You can, however, be a religious fundamentalist/extremist without a nation, but you still must be able to finance your revolution.

But the Republican party, its own hoary alliance with Christian fundamentalists -- and yes, extremists -- together with the billions in US corporate largesse, fits the definition perfectly. And believe it: Bush knows a fascist when he hosts one.

Simply put (for you conservatives still having trouble understanding), the Islamic fundamentalists attack us because they want us out of the Middle East. It's not just about oil or money or power; they reject our commercialism because they fear Islam losing its influence to the siren song of Western fashion, electronic gadgets, cinema, music, and vices. And because they want revenge for what (they perceive) we have done to the region and the religion.

But back to the Fascists. I know; let's ask someone who actually was a Fascist for his definition. Hey, Benito Mussolini:

"Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."

What do you have to say about this, Sinclair Lewis?

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."

Here's more from the AP:

Dennis Ross, a Mideast adviser to both the first Bush and Clinton administrations and now the director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he would have chosen different words.

"The 'war on terror' has always been a misnomer, because terrorism is an instrument, it's not an ideology. So I would always have preferred it to be called the 'war with radical Islam,' not with Islam but with 'radical Islam,'" Ross said.

Why even mention the religion? "Because that's who they are," Ross said. "Fascism had a certain definition. Whether they meet this or not, one thing is clear: They're radical. They represent a completely radical and intolerant interpretation of Islam."

While "fascism" once referred to the rigid nationalistic one-party dictatorship first instituted in Italy, it has "been used very loosely in all kinds of ways for a long time," said Wayne Fields, a specialist in presidential rhetoric at Washington University in St. Louis.

"Typically, the Bush administration finds its vocabulary someplace in the middle ground of popular culture. It seems to me that they're trying to find something that resonates, without any effort to really define what they mean," Fields said.

Naah, that can't be true, Mr. Fields. (Can it?) So how long has this been going on, Mr. President?

"The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government of the U.S. since the days of Andrew Jackson."

That was FDR, not GWB. Another US president:

"I hope we shall... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

Thomas Jefferson said that. In 1816. Once more from the original source:

Stephen J. Wayne, a professor of government at Georgetown University, suggested White House strategists "probably had a focus group and they found the word 'fascist.'

"Most people are against fascists of whatever form. By definition, fascists are bad. If you're going to demonize, you might as well use the toughest words you can," Wayne said.

Remember who the real fascists are as you hear this phrase repeated over and over again in the coming days and weeks.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Fixing the vote (and then fixing that)

Stephen Pizzo writes:

If you can watch this entire video and still use an electronic voting machine, you deserve the government you get. If your state or district has decided to use electronic voting machines this November demand an absentee ballot today. Watch this video. Then join those of us who have decided that since paper was good enough for our Constitution, it's good enough for our vote too.
Oh, and when you're done watching the whole video... pass it along. November is only a few weeks off and the last thing Republicans want to see is either house returned to Democratic control. Because if that happens, hearings happen. And if hearings happen... well, who knows - someone(s) could go to jail. So demand a paper ballot or an absentee ballot in Nov. and leave the cheaters with a pocket full of worthless Diebold electrons.

Here's a partial transcript if you don't have time to watch right now...

Are there computer programs that can be used to secretly fix elections?


How do you know that to be the case?

Because in October of 2000, I wrote a prototype for Congressman Tom Feeney [R-FL]...

It would rig an election?

It would flip the vote, 51-49. Whoever you wanted it to go to and whichever race you wanted to win.

And would that program that you designed, be something that elections officials... could detect?

They'd never see it.

Two recent Houston Chronicle editorials detailed the concerns of fraudulent vote processing associated with Hart Intercivic's e-Slates, the DRE voting machines in use in Harris County and throughout the state. First, Stan Merriman wrote:

When the Hart voting systems were acquired in 2001, voters in Harris County thought they were being treated to the "latest and greatest" in voting system technology. This electronic system replaced a punch card system (remember hanging chads?) with the belief that we needed to enter the electronic age in the electoral process while also meeting emerging federal guidelines to simplify the voting process for our disabled citizens. ...

In the 2002 election some strange "vote flipping" incidents occurred that actually resulted in the temporary sequestering of machines reported as malfunctioning. The problem occurred with votes cast for senatorial candidates Ron Kirk and John Cornyn "flipping" to both rival party candidates. Lawyers were dispatched to scratch their heads over the cause and effect. No resolution of the situation was achieved.

This same anomaly occurred in the Kerry/Bush presidential election in 2004 in Harris County. Once again, the matter was dismissed as a "glitch" of no consequence and blamed on improper voter use. ...

In all, 1,218 voting machine complaints were filed in Texas in the 2004 general election with People For The American Way's Election Protection Division. In Harris County, 2,400 voting machine complaints were filed with a national voting advocacy group during that election.

In addition to these complaints, others were filed in Collin, Travis, Bexar and Wichita counties. Complaints included vote "transfers" (Kerry/Bush evidenced the same phenomenon reported in the 2002 and 2004 election in Harris County), lost votes, and machine and memory card failures. For the 2004 election, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Verified Voting Foundation received more complaints from Harris County than from any other voting jurisdiction in the nation.

And the Chronicle editorial board wrote:

"If folks can hack the Pentagon," Harris County Democratic Chairman Gerry Birnberg said, "they can certainly hack a machine in Harris County."

County Clerk Beverly Kaufman, a Republican, says such concerns are unfounded. "There's this kind of cavalier attitude on these folks' part that all you've got to do is just bolt on a printer and there it is," said Kaufman, who estimates that it would cost up to $8 million to buy equipment and reprogram the system with the capability to print ballots in three languages. "We're just not at a point here where we're able to do it if we wanted to, which we don't."

Well, we're just going to have to fix this, Bev. And we're going to do so first by replacing you with someone who does.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Hola, Ernesto

No esta bienvenido aqui. Vaya se.

Update (8/27): "There will be probably be a restrengthening after it leaves the Cuban coast to a Category 2, and Wednesday night it will be west of Fort Myers as Category 3. That's the current thinking," (Ron) Goodman (a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center) said.

Update (8/28): Ernesto has heeded my warnings; he has veered so far to the east, away from Houston and New Orleans, that his dirty side appears ready to deliver an upper cut to Miami. He now poses a greater threat to the eastern US seaboard than to anything in the Gulf. With so much of the Florida peninsula to traverse, his impact will (hopefully) be greatly and quickly diminished.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Photos from the Courthouse Tour

Happy Anniversary, Katrina (you bitch)

One year ago as our merry little band of leftists was returning from Camp Casey, we heard on the radio that a strengthening hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico had turned toward New Orleans.

That bitch's name was Katrina.

Jordan Flaherty was an eyewitness on the ground; here's the archive of his postings. His journal begins here. I blogged about my experiences helping evacuees in the Astrodome and the GRB convention center, and I posted that of others'. Lyn's account was also significant.

Earlier this week the four-part documentary by Spike Lee, When the Levees Broke, aired on HBO. I urge you to watch it.

Here's a Katrina timeline from Think Progress.

This YouTube from scoutp is moving:

I'm left with these still-raw recollections, and the ominous foreboding that it could all happen again, shortly, here in Houston or Miami or New Orleans once more.

Do you feel safer?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

You're eating WHAT ?!?

I've gotten more than the usual inquiries lately regarding the origin of the title of this blog, and though I've answered the question "What is 'Brains and Eggs' and why do you call it that?" many times, I haven't done so here.

Brains and eggs were considered a breakfast delicacy by my maternal grandmother, who lived in the South -- mostly Arkansas and Louisiana -- and through the Depression. I suspect that what she ate was cow brains scrambled with eggs, because during her life people rarely disposed of any part of a beef cow, and the two items cooked together have a similar consistency and texture. But it could have been calf brains or even pork brains that she was so fond of (perhaps my mother, who reads this blog, will post a comment and clarify). has an interesting page informing us that a 5.5 oz can of Armour's Pork Brains contains almost 12 days of the recommended (?) value of cholesterol:

More references to "brains and eggs" appear online; a Yahoo search turns up an episode of the television comedy "3rd Rock from the Sun" by that name which first aired in January of 1996, and contained some of the following dialogue:

Dick: I think we underestimated the life on this planet. The people have so much courage. Here they are hurling through space on a melting rock on at 67,000 miles an hour and the only thing that keeps them from flying out of their shoes is their misplaced faith in gravity.

Mary: For future reference I have a red Volvo.
Dick: Please, Dr. Albright, we barely know each other.

Nina: Is your wife out of town?
Dick: Er, Mrs. Solomon is no longer with us. She... er, burned up on re-entry.
Nina: I had a boyfriend who used to burn up on re-entry. He walks with a limp now...

There are recipes and accounts of having served as well as consumed the dish. I have never tasted brains and eggs and probably won't, and not just because of bovine spongeform encephalopathy. I find simply the consideration of consuming them perhaps as you do: nauseating.

A few songs have been recorded with the title "Brains and Eggs"; here's a place to download an mp3 of Los Straitjackets' riff. Before Aimee Mann formed 'Til Tuesday, she was in a band called the Young Snakes, who wrote a different version by the same name. I can't seem to dig up any published lyrics, so go give a listen.

I'll be happy to answer any further questions you may have ...

(This morning it's Total mixed with Honey Nut Cheerios, a banana sliced over the top and sprinkled with cinnamon. Tomorrow, back to the soy protein shake with strawberries and blueberries blended in. I don't drink cow's milk and haven't for years; Silk Soy Milk -- the Enhanced version with omega-3s and such -- is what replaces it.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

More arrogance and incompetence from the Texas Attorney General

The Corpus-Christi Caller-Times reports this rather alarming -- even for Greg Abbott -- defiance of a federal judge:

U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack is incensed at Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for seizing X-rays, some of which are now missing, that are key to federal and state investigations into potentially fraudulent diagnoses of the lung disease silicosis.

Jack made national headlines last year when she issued an opinion that the majority of more than 10,000 silicosis lawsuits before her were about litigation rather than medical care and that the "diagnoses were driven neither by health nor justice: they were manufactured for money."

Abbott's office, along with a congressional committee and the U.S. Attorney's Office, have been investigating since.

Four armed agents from Abbott's office visited the storage facility where thousands of X-rays related to the case were being housed on behalf of the federal court with a subpoena June 23, threatening to arrest the storage supervisor if he did not turn them over.

When Jack learned July 5 that the state attorney general's office had removed the X-rays, she ordered the office to return them by noon the following day, according to court records.

Forty boxes of X-rays came back, but an inventory by records custodian Gary Cosgrove showed that 152 X-rays are missing.

"Let me tell you that real, real clearly. It may be a criminal matter, and we're going to have to turn this over to the appropriate people," Jack said during an Aug. 11 telephone hearing that included representatives from Abbott's office. "The arrogance of taking those documents from a federal court supervised depository is astounding. You all took documents that did not belong to you, under - with armed guards."

How is it beneficial to anyone -- the plaintiffs, the defendants, the courts, an atmosphere of cooperation between federal and state authorities and oh, maybe all of the people of the state of Texas -- when the OAG runs amok, seizing X-rays from a US federal record depository using men with guns, and then losing some of them?

Or are the X-rays even actually "misplaced"? Can we next expect Greg Abbott to grandstand something outlandish in order to bring attention to himself in an election season?

Abbott, suddenly realizing that he's in a tough re-election fight, is scrambling to show that he has been doing something -- anything -- to justify his term as the state's chief law enforcement officer and protector of Texas consumers (clue: he hasn't done a damn thing for anyone except conservative evangelicals and greedy corporations). All he's got to show for the past four years is a couple of online child predator convictions and some charges of voter fraud against little old ladies who took mail-in ballots to the post office.

Appalling. This is what it looks like when power-mad Republicans get desperate. To paraphrase the car commercials: they are arrogant, incompetent, and built to stay that way.

Of course, no matter how this matter is eventually resolved between Judge Jack and Abbott -- whether by sober discussion, flying subpoenas or flying bullets -- you have a clear choice in the Texas Attorney General's race.

Update: Tom Kirkendall links to the New York Sun, which has more on the legal backstory.

Update II (8/24): The Houston Chronicle remains mute on this story. They didn't even pick up the AP report, which the Dallas News had first, and the Austin Statesman and several Texas radio and TV stations managed. To the Chronic's credit, however, somebody over there reads (and maybe even likes) this blog, because this posting appeared on the Opinion page (it's now cycled off; it was listed shortly after I put it up). Other blogs commented ...

Pink Dome:

Short story: A federal judge was keeping thousands of X-rays under lock and key. They were to be used as part of a federal investigation into potentially fraudulent diagnoses of the lung disease silicosis. 4 armed men from the Attorney General's office, carrying a subpoena, threatened to arrest the owner of a storage complex if he wouldn't fork over the X-rays. They then walked off with the X-rays. Thing is, the Constitution bars states from intervening in a federal court's jurisdiction. Abbott could now be deposed in a federal court if it turns out he ordered the seizure of the X-rays.

Daily Kos (TXsharon's diary):

There's more to this story then an overzealous attorney general. That is out of character for Greg Abbott who is a corrupt, Karl Rove and Tom DeLay crony and an enabler of predatory corporations and monopolists.

John Colyandro, who worked for Karl Rove, was laundering Tom Delay's TRMPAC money while on Greg Abbott's campaign payroll during 2002. Colyandro has been indicted for money laundering and also faces 13 charges of unlawful acceptance of corporate political contributions.

Abbott's biggest donor is Bob Perry, tycoon homebuilder and financier of Karl Rove's Swift Boat smear campaign tactics.

I have a burning desire to discover those doctor's names and see if they happen to show up on Abbott's Texas Ethics Commission report. I do note that doctors seem to contribute heavily to Abbott.


This isn't, by any means, an exhaustive list of the things which should not be entrusted to Attorney General Greg Abbott so please, just because you don't see something here, don't assume that Attorney General Greg Abbott can be trusted to care for it.

In fact, it would be best if you just didn't trust Attorney General Greg Abbott.

SouthTexas Chisme:

Ok. I understand the war on class action suits. Republicans don't want little people to band together to fight the big guys when the big guys do bad things. I understand that companies want plantiffs near death when they begin the process to sue for medical injury. What I don't understand is the battle between the judge who wanted the injured near death and the AG who is a Republican tool.

Capitol Annex reported the story and also David Van Os' response:

“I’m not surprised by this arrogant conduct. Greg Abbott is part of the silk-stocking social clique that runs Texas government as if it were their private club. This it the same Greg Abbott who lets the Texas Department of Transportation hide its contracts with foreign companies, who uses the taxpayers’ money to file legal briefs and maps on behalf of the Republican Party, who employs Tom Delay’s cronies, and who refuses to challenge the oil companies on behalf of the people of Texas. Seizing and then losing working people’s personal medical records from a court file is par for his course.”

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Your thalamus is a club bouncer

Having a little trouble waking up this morning? Perhaps your brain stem isn't transmitting enough nitric oxide to your thalamus ...

As we yawn and open our eyes in the morning, the brain stem sends little puffs of nitric oxide to another part of the brain, the thalamus, which then directs it elsewhere.

Like a computer booting up its operating system before running more complicated programs, the nitric oxide triggers certain functions that set the stage for more complex brain functions, according to a new study.

Let me pause the article for a moment and say that I am one of those weirdos who has always been able to wake up early in the morning, and wake up wide awake. I inherited this from both parents; my mother would pop out of bed at 5 a.m. intense and focused; my father was at the refinery before 7 a.m. throughout his working career. I have become even more pronounced in this pattern as I've gotten older (witness many of my postings here as evidence). Furthermore, it took me a long time to understand that I am the exception compared to most other people. I spent quite a few years being harsh on those with whom I shared living arrangements -- siblings, roommates, spouse -- who could sleep soundly until noon. (Frankly, most of my life I thought they were simply lazy.)

In these first moments of the day, sensory information floods the system—the bright sunlight coming through the curtains, the time on the screeching alarm clock—and all of it needs to be processed and organized, so the brain can understand its surroundings and begin to perform more complex tasks.

"The thinking part of the brain is applying a sort of stencil to the information coming in and what the nitric oxide is doing is allowing more refinement of that stencil," says Dwayne Godwin, an associate professor at Wake Forest University and lead author of the study, which was funded by the National Eye Institute.

The little two-atom molecule, it seems, is partly responsible for our ability to perceive whatever it is we're sensing.


The thalamus was thought to be a fairly primitive structure, sort of a gate that could either open and allow sensory information to stream into the cortex, the higher functioning part of the brain, or cut off the flow entirely.

Godwin says the new research shows it's more accurate to think of the thalamus not as a gate but as a club bouncer, who doesn't simply allow a huge rush of people to go in or no one at all, but picks and chooses whom to let in and out.

"Instead of vision being a process going straight from eye to cortex, it's more of a loop," Godwin explained. "This constitutes a new role for the thalamus in directing, not just modulating."

While this study is the first to identify nitric oxide's role in the thalamus, elsewhere in the body it was already known to have an important, if somewhat different function. The molecule is actually integral to controlling blood flow and is, in fact, the molecule Viagra targets in order to increase blood flow to the penis.

The teeny molecule might have other medical uses.

"This study shows a unique role for nitric oxide. It may help us to someday understand what goes wrong in diseases that affect cognitive processing, such as attention deficit disorder or schizophrenia, and it adds to our fundamental understanding of how we perceive the world around us," Godwin said.

The club bouncer uses Viagra. Well, he's so obese that I guess he has to. What a simultaneously compelling and repulsive visual (within my own personal subcortex, of course).

There might be more postings today live from Camp Wellstone, as I can find a few moments. There are about sixty or so of us in attendance, most from Houston and elsewhere in Texas but also an independent candidate from Oklahoma, a guy whose family owns a restaurant in Chicago and a New York author of erotica.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

You're all on notice!

Create your own at this link.

Barbara vs. Kay, Camp Wellstone, Fire Thunder and Feingold

The Dallas Women Lawyers Association confirms that Barbara Radnofsky will debate Kay Bailey Hutchison on Friday evening, September 29, at 6 p.m. at Dallas' Belo Mansion.

I'll be attending Camp Wellstone this weekend, as well as ROADWomen's Fork in the Road dinner on Saturday, which features Cecelia Fire Thunder as guest speaker.

And Senator Russ Feingold will headline the Harris County Democratic Party's Johnson-Rayburn Dinner, to be held Saturday, September 30, at the JW Marriott here.

Congratulations also to Jamaal Smith and Sandra Puente on their new gigs at the HCDP.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Jocularity! Jocularity!

This is a photograph of former Ohio State football hero Maurice Clarett's front seat, after he was arrested in a standoff with police in which he was first Tasered, then Maced because the Taser didn't work (he had on a bulletproof vest):

Only one observation:

When you finna throw down on tha playa-hatahs, it's important to be lint-free.

I found this while bumping around in Ted Stevens' tubes. It's a mock-out of both Star Trek and those inspirational posters that have been around for a few decades now:

There are many more here.

Texroots Tuesday

Chris Bell and Maria Luisa Alvarado are traveling together through the Rio Grande Valley the next few days.

Supreme Court Justice nominee Bill Moody started his walk across Texas this week; Land Commissioner candidate VaLinda Hathcox has joined him. (See photos here and here.)

David Van Os continues his Whistlestop Tour to county courthouses in North Texas (Comanche and Archer City and Wichita Falls) and West Texas (Albany and Sweetwater and San Angelo).

And the inaugural trio of Texroots-endorsed Democrats still need a little juice from you. Here's an excellent Q&A on what the Texroots are all about, and here's more on Hank, Shane, and Juan, courtesy of Vince Leibowitz at Capitol Annex:

Juan Garcia. [Website, Bio, Volunteer] Juan Garcia is running against entrenched Craddickat incumbent Gene Seaman (R-Corpus Christi). This is one of a hand-full of races that can be “flipped” from Republican to Democratic control this fall. While Seaman has a massive warchest on hand from previous election cycles, Garcia is actually leading the incumbent in fund-raising right now. To boot, he’s flipped a number of Seaman’s contributors and supporters who are tired of this district being in the hands of someone who is more concerned with staying in Tom Craddick’s good graces than serving the people. And, who could forget Seaman’s vacation to his home-away-from-home in Vail.

Here are some other good Garcia coverage: Why You Should Vote For Juan Garcia (South Texas Chisme), Where In The World Is Gene Seaman (CapitolAnnex), Juan Garcia vs. The Culture of Corruption (Truth Serum Blog), Gene Seaman Is Already Running Scared (The Red State), Juan Garcia Conference Call (CapitolAnnex).

Shane Sklar. [Website, Bio, Volunteer] At 30, Shane Sklar has already headed one of the state’s largest agriculture groups and made a name for himself in the agriculture community. Now, he’s seeking to unseat failed Libertarian Presidential Candidate turned Republican Congressman Ron Paul (R-Surfside) to give the people of Congressional District 14 effective representation. Paul’s main pet projects including voting against nearly every piece of legislation he has the opportunity to vote against—including aide for parts of Texas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina—and bemoaning the fact that the U.S. is no longer on the “gold standard.” Polling in the district earlier this year shows that voters are dissatisfied with Paul’s “Dr. No” attitude and his failure to support legislation that would benefit the district.

Here are some other links related to Shane Sklar: Guest Post at Off The Kuff, Interview with Shane Sklar (via Kuff, mp3), Sklar blasts Paul for voting against Relief (Baytown Sun), Captain Ron (In The Pink Texas), Interview with Shane Sklar (, Bad Poll Numbers for Ron Paul (Kuff’s World).

Hank Gilbert. [Website, Bio, Volunteer] Remember Todd Staples (R-Palestine)? The State Senator who was one of the architects of DeLay’s redistricting scheme and is one of the Trans Texas Corridor’s best friends in the Legislature? He’s now running for Agriculture Commissioner, although no one can quite point to any major achievements he made for agricluture while in the Texas Senate. Hank Gilbert is a rancher and former high school ag teacher who actually wants to be agriculture commissioner, instead of simply use the post as a stepping-stone to higher office, like Leininger devotee Susan Combs. Hank’s fierce opposition to the Trans Texas Corridor and his common-sense goals for the Texas Department of Agriculture are far more suited to a state that boasts such an important agribusiness economy than those of his opponent.

Here are some links on Hank (or, in the case of the first link, against his opponent): Don’t Get Stapled, Hank Gilbert Or Corporate Interests–You Choose (Jobsanger), Hank Gilbert For Ag Commissioner (Burnt Orange Report), Hank Gilbert, 40/40 Project (Burnt Orange Report), Hank Gilbert: Candidate for Ag Commissioner has Better Solution (The Open Road [note: this is an anti-toll road blog, not a progressive “D” blog, but I thought it added some variety to this list), Interview with Hank Gilbert (mp3, via Off The Kuff).

So…what are you waiting for? Click here to support these three great candidates! You can split your donation among all three candidates or make separate donations to each campaign.

Update: The Blogging Representative has a report with photos of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor in the Valley. And I wish to express a humble 'thank you' to all who helped push David Van Os over the top in his "$30,000 in thirty days" fundraising appeal. (Note also the graphic in the right sidebar.)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Photos of Cubans

...who are now Cuban-American.

That's Nilda and Israel Behar-Ojalvo (my mother- and father-in-law) leaving the courthouse in Matanzas, Cuba, shortly after they were married in 1957.

This is Mrs. Diddie's brother Johnny (Juan) and aunt Delia, in Cuba, approximately 1954.

Left: a first winter (February, 1962) in the US, with those unsuitable overcoats. Right: with baby sister Nildita in 1964.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Shorter Lieberman

Yes, I know, not quite timely due to my being MIA around here since Monday. My absenteeism notwithstanding ...

"I care too much about democracy to respect the outcome of a fair election, and I have too much regard for the people of Connecticut to actually pay attention to the message they are sending."

Don't you wish that Joe Nomentum would have put up, oh, maybe half as much a fight in Florida in 2000, when he was the Democratic Party's vice-presidential nominee?

"So now I will continue to run against a candidate who has already beaten me, against a party I expect to remain a member of."

Sadly, his cowardice in 2000 wasn't the end of Lieberman's political career but possibly the beginning. Out of disaster rose a (thankfully, doomed-from-the-start) presidential run in 2004. This latest twist to the story -- if handled with a previously-undiscovered grace -- could be the end.

(Unless of course President Rove names him Secretary of Defense on the occasion of Donald Rumsfailed's sudden retirement.)

We now return to your regularly scheduled snark

So what's up with this latest Red Alert?

Thank God the world is finally being made more secure from the likes of Dasani (a terrorist surname if ever there was one) and Paul Mitchell and Bausch and Lomb.

Is anybody testing those confiscated lotions for explosive content, or are they all being thrown away? Can't they be resold by DHS in the airport gift shops to fund the extra personnel needed?

Is any data being collected on those airline passengers who are surrendering their toothpaste and mouthwash? It seems we ought to be able to add to the bad-guy database if we knew precisely which al-Qaeda members were still trying to sneak Pond's onto planes.

This is what our airports are going to look like shortly after the next terrorist attack:

Do you feel safer?

Bicho malo nunca muere

Part Two of mi Cubana's story follows. Part One is here.


My family left Brooklyn for Hopewell, Virginia in 1963, after my father was hired by the Allied Chemical Co. as a mid-level engineer at a plant in Chesterfield, VA. We lived in a small frame house, but as my father was able to save a little, we moved to a larger home after the birth of my sister, who was named after my mother Nilda (and called Nildita). My brother Johnny had entered college, and my aunt Delia had remained in New York with her new husband Luis Quintero. She held a doctorate in pedagogy from the University of Havana, but she worked as a seamstress and attended night school to get her teaching certification here. My aunt taught in the New York public school system until she retired in 1984. She had met Uncle Luis in Cuba, and they were married in New York in 1963. He was a pharmaceutical sales rep and a Teamster.

Though I was only a first-grader, I can recall the heated discussions my family would have about the developments in Cuba. They were all incensed about President Kennedy's failure to support the soldiers at the Bay of Pigs in '61, and they really never got over it. (Most Cubans of my parents' generation have always voted Republican, and this is the primary reason.)

My dad was promoted to plant management with Allied and we moved to New Jersey in 1970. Sadly, my brother Johnny passed away in 1976, at the age of 28, the day before my sixteenth birthday. I spent my formative years in Freehold Township (Springsteen country!) and my father continued rising through the ranks at Allied-Signal, receiving a promotion to manage a chemical facility in Orange, Texas, where we moved in 1980.

That's where in the winter of 1981, at a fraternity party, I met the man who became my husband. Perry and I married in September of 1986, my father retired from Honeywell in 1988, and my parents moved to Miami to join my aunt and uncle and many of our relatives in Little Havana. They later moved back to Texas, joining my sister and I in Houston after my nephews joined the family in the mid- to late '90s.

My mother, who had long suffered from a defective heart valve, had an operation in 1994 to replace it but suffered several small strokes as a complication of the surgery. She recovered most functionality, but her mental condition has generally declined over the years since to the point where she now has severe dementia and must be cared for around the clock. My father was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2003, and has sent it into remission four times with a battery of chemotherapy treatments administered by the fine doctors at Baylor and Methodist Hospital, in the Texas Medical Center.

My uncle Luis passed away in 1990, and my dear aunt Delia, who was like my second mother, lost her battle with cancer in May of this year.

My parents and I had become United States citizens in 1967. Though their parents had always spoken of someday returning to Cuba, my mother and father had made a new life for themselves and were happy and comfortable here. They never spoke seriously of returning, though they both had many relatives on the island whom they would never see or speak to again. My mother, who is only a few months older than Fidel, often said of him: “Bicho malo nunca muere”, which translates to “A bad bug never dies.” She couldn't have guessed how prophetic that would turn out to be.

I have some interest in visiting Cuba, but as a naturalized Cuban-American it would not be possible until the Communist regime is done away with. I hope one day in the not-too-distant future that my husband and I can visit the land of my birth, perhaps see some of my distant relatives and complete the circle of discovery that my family began so many years ago.

Monday, August 07, 2006

"Texroots" rolls out first endorsements

See, a bunch of us have been talking, and we finally figured out how to leverage the Internets into something meaningful. This is how we do it:

The Texas Progressive Alliance today launched 'TexRoots,' an online fund-raising campaign designed raise funds for Democratic candidates in Texas via the internet. The launch of 'TexRoots' is the first major unified fund-raising effort by Texas blogs of its kind.

The Alliance, a group of blogs and bloggers united to promote Democratic and progressive candidates and causes, launched 'TexRoots' Monday with solicitations for three Texas candidates: Hank Gilbert, candidate for Agriculture Commissioner, Juan Garcia, candidate for Texas House of Representatives in District 32, and Shane Sklar, candidate for U.S. House of Representatives in Congressional District 14. The Alliance's goal is to raise a combined $3,000 for the "Texas Trio" of Gilbert, Garcia and Sklar. TexRoots works with the nationally recognized fund-raising tools of

So, your mission -- should you choose to accept it -- is to support the effort by contributing what you can to these fine Democrats. Take out your credit card, click on the box at the top right and help us turn Texas a little bluer.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Dejando A Cuba, No Mas Libre

As promised, Part One of the guest post from mi Cubana:


My family in Cuba was easily what would be considered upper middle class. We had a large home in the province of Matanzas, east of Havana, and employed domestics -- cooks, maids, people who did the laundry. My father, Israel, was a pharmacist and then a manager in a chemical plant which produced rayon. My mother Nilda was a teacher before she married my father and became a full-time housewife after the birth of my older brother Johnny in 1947. Johnny was my half-brother; my mother divorced his father and married my dad in 1957. I was born in 1960, twenty months after Fidel Castro overthrew the regime of Fulgencio Batista.

My family was horrified at the prospect of a communist Cuba. The thought of the schools, hospitals, businesses large and small being taken over by the state, with free speech not only stifled but clamped down, with boys conscripted at age 14, all was a terrifying thing to them. My maternal grandfather, Luis Felipe Lizazo, was a journalist and political activist; he ran for office in the years prior to La Revolucion challenging the party of Batista (as a capitalist, of course). He was also the highest degree Freemason and head of his lodge. After Fidel came to power he was almost immediately imprisoned for counter-revolutionary activity. So was the man who later married my mother's sister in the US -- my uncle Luis -- and my mother's cousin Elsa, who was detained for several days in very unsanitary conditions with a large group of other women.

The Cuban political prisons were as bad as anything you have heard. Once my grandfather got nothing to eat for a month but mashed pumpkin. There were mock executions, where a prisoner would be taken out of his cell and even fired at, but not upon. My grandfather was in and out of Castro's El Principe until he passed away in 1967.

The last straw for my parents came in 1961, when my brother was approaching his fourteenth birthday, and at that time boys of his age were taken from their family to military training camps. A large army was of course needed to continue La Revolucion. My father felt things in Cuba were only getting worse, and my mother was adamant that Castro would not get her son.

My dad concocted an elaborate ruse in order to escape; many professionals at the time were leaving the country while on vacation, and he believed he was under surveillance, so he took his vacation without traveling anywhere. A few weeks later, he reported to his plant supervisor that his father had suffered a heart attack, and he had to take time off to go see him in a neighboring province. They packed less than what you might take on a weekend trip -- a few clothes, some extra cloth diapers for me -- and left their home unlocked and all their money in the bank, and instead went to the airport in Havana.

My family's paperwork -- Papi applied for a passport long before Castro ceased processing them -- had initially been held up because my dad's name matched that of an avowed Communist, and that naturally meant he would be unable to qualify for political asylum in America. That matter had taken weeks to clear up, long before he took his vacation and arranged the "illness". But the most harrowing part of the journey came at the Havana airport: our flight to Jamaica was delayed for unexplained reasons for several hours. My father told me years later that those hours waiting were the most agonizing of his life. Had he been discovered he would have been thrown in jail, probably for the rest of his days. All of the trappings of wealth he had acquired were lost anyway, but the thought of his wife and son and infant daughter serving a Castro regime in destitution while he languished in prison was more than he could bear.

Finally we were all able to depart without incident, and my family, together with my aunt Delia, spent a few weeks in Jamaica getting the assistance of a Jewish organization to come to the United States. We arrived in New York in October of 1961.

My dad took a job in a pharmacy, but because his licensing was delayed, he performed janitorial work until he could be certified. My mother and aunt spent their first winter in the States with unsuitable overcoats, and they told me that as they trudged through the snow carrying groceries home, it was so cold that they cried.

Next: Bicho malo nunca muere

Friday, August 04, 2006

On call with Barbara Radnofsky

The next Senator from the Great State spent some time with a few of us blog-types on the phone last night, talking about her campaign, her opponent, and the brightening Democratic prospects in November.

Radnofsky had spent the day in Southeast Texas -- Jasper, Beaumont, Orange, Port Arthur, and Baytown -- talking to newspaper editorial boards and seeing firsthand the still-unrepaired damage from last summer's Hurricane Rita. In our 45-minute call we discussed immigration, education, healthcare, and veterans' affairs as well as polling and debates.

Some highlights follow, dear reader, but first take a moment and go read a little about Pence-Hutchison, our incumbent Aging Prom Queen's response to the immigration 'problem'.

Shorter version: Kay Bailey is asking all people in the United States without proper documentation to "just please go home".

Seriously. She calls it 'self-deportation'.

Once they do so, they can proceed to Ellis-Island type 'centers' -- buildings to be constructed by Halliburton, I'm guessing -- where they will be medically examined and biometrically tagged.

I'll bet you think I'm making this up, don't you?

Those people who get the US Government's Seal of Approval get a shiny new ID card matching their ear tag and the chance to apply for something called a Good Neighbor SAFE visa, and while they wait, Uncle Sam gets busy tightening up border security Republican-style (which means triple fences, more helicopters, guards, and much larger detention facilities). This process appears to be designed to last two years, and then once the President of the United States has certified our country's borders as "secure", then people get to begin returning – provided, that is, that they can prove they have a job waiting for them.

Oh yes, one more thing, this 'guest worker' program is limited to citizens of Latin American countries which have ratified NAFTA and CAFTA.

After twelve years -- seventeen if they need the extra time -- these folks can apply for citizenship without leaving the US. Yesterday on Lou Dobbs' program they were calling this legislation the "Amnesty for All" bill.

That label alone likely queers the deal with the conservative hard-liners.

Fabulous plan, isn't it? I'll bet the eleven to twelve million undocumented workers here now will be rushing to take advantage of this opportunity.

Hutchison's own opinion of her legislation?

"What Mike and I are trying to do -- we've been meeting for a month -- is put something out there and say, 'Let's start.' We're not saying this is perfection. We're not saying this is the end result."

OK, now that you've managed to stop laughing, let's point out that Barbara Radnofsky thinks this idea is just as bizarre and doomed to failure as you do. This is unfortunately typical of the impact Hutchison has made throughout her tenure; it’s another example why the senior Senator from Texas has been so ineffectual. After thirteen years she still has no idea how to craft or even advance legislation, much less serve the interests of any but a narrow band of her constituents.

Radnofsky used a fishing term to describe Hutchison's incompetence: "she hasn't put out the traps." I don't know if Barbara has ever done any crabbing along the Texas coast, but I have, and I damn sure know what that phrase means: it means someone is too lazy even to catch themselves something to eat. Barbara probably meant that Hutchison hadn't done her due diligence. I took it to mean that Kay Bailey has simply done the same thing she has done all her life -- waited for someone else to catch, clean, cook and serve the food she eats -- and do the dishes afterwards.

And that's really an apt microcosm of Kay Bailey's political career. Cheerleader, homecoming queen, TV weather girl. She's never worked for anything in her entire life; it's all been handed to her. It's also part of why she refuses to agree to a debate with Barbara, describing herself as "too busy" even as she skips votes in the Senate.

Kay Bailey is weaker than rainwater. She’s the human equivalent of pablum. And everyone -- her colleagues, her supporters, and her constituents -- all know it. It’s why when you write or call her office you never get anything but a canned response.

KBH did manage to become a lawyer, though her interpretation of the law occasionally falls short of the law's actual definition, such as when she considered Karl Rove's (alleged) perjury to be a technicality, or when she recently asked Alberto Gonzales to simply overlook the anti-trust provisions being violated in the Wright Amendment.

These are only a few of the reasons why the woman once described as "the most popular politician in Texas" is suddenly slumping in the polls, even as Radnofsky begins to creep up. Texans -- like the rest of America -- have developed an acute case of Bush fatigue, and Kay Bailey has been one of the many enablers of its disastrous agenda.

At the conclusion of our conference call I asked Barbara specifically about the odd phenomenon of Democratic disillusionment, expressed in MSM articles like this one, and she said she'd experienced it in her nearly five hundred trips around the state, and that she, like Chris Bell and David Van Os in previous Texblogosphere calls before her, had also sensed a turning of the tide. The outrage of Republican policies in Washington and Austin has been expressed repeatedly by the Republicans who have shown up at Courthouse Tourstops and Trans-Texas Corridor hearings. The momentum is clearly shifting, the Traditional Media is largely unaware of it, and Democrats up and down the ballot will be the beneficiary.

Next week, as part of the push to November, the Texas Progressive Alliance (of which this blog is a founding member) will announce our first Texroots-endorsed candidates. Many of the Democratic candidates you have already read about here will be featured. A call to arms -- including of the financial kind -- will be part of that appeal.

Texas is going to turn a little more blue, and we're all going to have a hand in it.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Chris Bell on stem cell research

"To me it's not just an issue, it's personal."

Where does Grandmaw stand on this issue? Should we even bother asking Dick Friedman?

Tom gets to run, after all

according to an early flash from the Chronic.

I think this is good news, though replacing him would've suited me fine as well. District 22 is electing Nick Lampson, regardless of opponent.

This race no longer qualifies as all that interesting -- except for hearing that last crunch of The Coackroach being squashed on November 7.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

On Castro and regime change

With this news that Fidel has handed off some of the titular responsibilities of running Cuba to brother Raul -- no spring chicken himself -- I have asked a Cuban-born American citizen to guest-post here in the next few days.

She emigrated in 1962 1961, in the arms of her mother and father, and lived in New York and Petersburg VA before moving to Texas in the late '70's, where I met and later married her.

Mrs. Diddie has a few blog-worthy tales to tell about her family's experience as political dissidents, asylum-seekers, immigrants, and then US citizens. Regarding the man ultimately responsible for my being introduced to my wife, I only hope that his now-timely demise doesn't force her to hasten a thoughtful posting. Her mother has end-stage Alzheimer's and her father suffers again from a return of the bladder cancer that he has valiantly beaten back five times over the past ten years, so getting a few of their recollections of La Revolucion published is urgent enough as it is.

Look for this post here hopefully by the end of the week.