Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"And for me, it's leaving time"

I have a grandly dramatic vision of myself stalking through the canyons of the Big Apple in the rain and cold, dreaming about driving with the soft night air of East Texas rushing on my face while Willie Nelson sings softly on the radio, or about blasting through the Panhandle under a fierce sun and pale blue sky….I’ll remember, I’ll remember…sunsets, rivers, hills, plains, the Gulf, woods, a thousand beers in a thousand joints, and sunshine and laughter. And people. Mostly I’ll remember people.

There is one thing, an important thing, I have to tell you before I go. What I’m going to tell you is more than a fact. It is a Truth. I have spent six years checking it out, and I know it to be true. The people who subscribe to The Texas Observer are good people. In fact, you’re the best people in this state. I don’t care if you think that’s pretentious or sentimental—it’s just true.

If I got to naming you, I would never stop, so I won’t. But please believe me that all of you whom I know and many of you whom I know only by letter are in my mind as I write this—even if I do forget your names half the time. Always excepting, of course, the turkey who sends me hate mail after my annual gun-control editorial. Turkey, turkey, turkey.

I wanted to call this “The Long Goodbye” but Kaye won’t let me. She wanted to call it “Ivins Indulges in Horrible Fit of Sentimentality.”

I love you. Good-bye my friends.

The closing paragraphs of Molly’s goodbye column to Texas Observer readers published June 18, 1976, as she left to join The New York Times.

Barack's poster, Hillary's arms, and Abe's conservative agenda

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Another drive-by

Too busy still to put my own thoughts up so here's some of the reading I'm liking:

-- Vince (and other of my Texblog brethren and sisteren) say that giving Tom Craddick any more power this session is a bad idea. But a comment to Vince's post suggests it would be the better of two evils. Update (5 p.m.): The resolution is defeated, handing Speaker Craddick a loss.

-- Here's your Libby trial update from Marcy Wheeler and Jeralyn Merritt, courtesy Steve Gilliard and Easter Lemming (the Warren Zevon link is icing).

-- Vista's here. This crap by Bill Gates -- planned obsolescence promoted on the Daily Show -- really makes me want to go buy a Mac. Dwight has, as he always does, the best tips on how to make the switch. I'll wait until the last possible moment, i.e., if one of my computers needs replacing or MS stops updating XP. Hopefully that moment will be a few years from now.

-- Some local news: a good article on the state's programs to support families is here, with a cool quiz. I scored a 70. The Auto Show is in town and it's much greener than in the past; this is still one of the best diversions that comes to Houston. I particularly want to go examine the new crossovers -- I drive an Equinox but am lustily eyeing the new Nissan Rogue. The Chronic also has the news that electricity deregulation has failed Texans. This article is about ten days old but provides an update on Jim Turner, who may yet have some political ambitions. And j-a-x has some of the best skyline photos I have seen.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Cold, wet bloggerhea

-- Shelia Jackson Lee is hosting "Iraq War Summit: What Next?" today in downtown Houston. The conference will be followed by a silent march.

-- the Discovery Channel scoops CNN relative to an old story: that TWA 800 was brought down by a missle and not a spark in the gas tank. I've always thought that the biggest argument against any conspiracy theory is preventing someone from talking to Mike Wallace (or writing an expose') years later. Keeping hundreds of military personnel quiet -- after retirement -- ten years after seems far-fetched to me. Yet Kristina Borjesson wrote that book almost five years ago.

See, this isn't about a plane crash; it's about a coverup by the corporate media.

Ted Kennedy asks his Republican colleagues: "What is it about working men and women that you find so offensive?" Watch it:

This would be an excellent question to ask our two miserable excuses for Senators from Texas, who have been filibustering the minimum wage bill.

-- Molly Ivins has been hospitalized in her continuing struggle against breast cancer. My family, as some may recall, is going through the same thing at the moment. My advice to Molly fans: say a little prayer (or whatever you say in this circumstance).

-- the Scooter Libby/CIA leak trail has been diligently live-blogged and summarized by Jane and Christy at firedoglake. Here's the two most recent entries. The end of the week's two revelations were: a) Scooter being thrown under the bus by Cathie Martin, former Cheney spokeswoman (and current deputy communications director for the president) ; and b) Karl Rove and Dan Bartlett have been subpoened to testify.

-- The Iraq escalation will 'work' this time, according to the president, because he "told them it had to."


It's not even clear who he is referring to when he says "them". Is it the generals? the Iraqis? I no longer believe it's alcoholism affecting his thinking. The president is just plain delusional.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Help Lara Logan

From: lara logan
Subject: help

The story below only appeared on our CBS website and was not aired on CBS. It is a story that is largely being ignored, even though this istakingplace verysingle (sic) day in central Baghdad, two blocks from where our office is located.

Our crew had to be pulled out because we got a call saying they were about to be killed, and on their way out, a civilian man was shot dead in front of them as they ran.

I would be very grateful if any of you have a chance to watch this story and pass the link on to as many people you know as possible. It should be seen. And people should know about this.

If anyone has time to send a comment to CBS – about the story – not about my request, then that would help highlight that people are interested and this is not too gruesome to air, but rather too important to ignore.

Many, many thanks.

(Work-safe but not child-safe)

Hat tip to Matt Stoller.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Belatedly linking for choice

Since I'm tardy here are few of my favorite postings from others:

Blog for Choice Day - January 22, 2007

Agonist (Ian Welsh):

... (C)hoice is non-negotiable issue for me. I've been pro-choice ever since I first thought about the issue as a teenager.

The reason is elemental, as it is on both sides. If I were a woman, I would want to have the choice available to me. I would want to control my body. Without that ability to control her own body, a woman loses a certain amount of freedom.

MyDD (Matt Stoller):

The right to an abortion is about the right for women to control their own lives, and I won't accept any arguments that suggest that women shouldn't have the right to make very personal decisions or should have to make them in some sort of legal jeopardy. That's just immoral. I'm all for legislation reducing the number of abortions through legal assistance, economic help, and sex education, though I would point out that these tend to decrease all social ills and so I would support them for other reasons as well. But anything that makes the state sanction abortion as anything but an intensely private choice by women (and men to a lesser extent) in a vulnerable and difficult position in their lives is wrong, wrong, wrong.


I come at it first from a fundamental belief in civil liberties. It's clear what the "right to life" agenda is and it has nothing to do with the fetus these people pretend to care so much for (until its born.) It has to do with sexual behavior. ... I'm a big believer in the fundamental argument which is that if women don't own their own bodies they are not free. It's just that simple.

My Left Wing
(Lilian M. Friedberg):

When my mother was "forced"--not once, not twice, but three times at least--to bring a child into the world which she could not feed, there were no aspirations to be abandoned, no childhood dreams to be shattered, no adolescence or naiveté to be lost: that had already gone down the tubes when she became the primary breadwinner in the family as a teenager--waitressing and cleaning houses to feed and clothe her younger siblings.

I was also the product of rape. Marital rape. It must have been a very difficult decision for my mother: this child, to keep or not to keep. She kept. Even though she could not afford it. Even though she must have known what she was keeping was a lifetime reminder of rape--and of her own inability to "provide"--for yet another "unwanted child".

We both bore the scars of that decision-and to this day, I cannot tell you whether her decision was right. I've written about it ; many a time.


Not one pro-life organization in the United States that supports the use of contraception? If you cruise around their web sites, you see that even those groups that don’t explicitly oppose the use of birth control don’t support it, either. For example, you can search the National Right to Life web site for a kind word on the responsible use of birth control until you turn purple; it isn’t there. But as Cristina Page documents, many state chapters have taken firms stands in opposition to any form of birth control.

Is there a corresponding degree of fanaticism on the pro-legality side? Not that I have found. No pro-legality association suggests that abortions should be forced on women who don’t want them. No pro-legality group I know of advocates abandoning the gestational limits on elective abortion set by Roe v. Wade. Not NARAL, not Planned Parenthood, not any of their affiliates. Instead, “legals” work to preserve the legal rights outlined in Roe v. Wade. And Roe v. Wade allows states to ban late-term elective abortions and place some restrictions on mid-term abortions. The notion that Roe v. Wade allows a woman to waltz into an abortion clinic and terminate a third-trimester pregnancy just because she feels like it is not, and never has been, true. Yet pro-legality organizations often are accused of being just as absolutist and extremist ...

Norbizness (from two years ago):

As a uterus-free person, this may be my first and last post on Roe v. Wade, but the disingenuous, historically fallacious, and insulting column by David Brooks (other comments here) required a little clean-up and attention. ...

When Blackmun wrote the Roe decision, it took the abortion issue out of the legislatures and put it into the courts. If it had remained in the legislatures, we would have seen a series of state-by-state compromises reflecting the views of the centrist majority that's always existed on this issue. These legislative compromises wouldn't have pleased everyone, but would have been regarded as legitimate.

First of all, I live in Texas. In this, the year of our Lord 2005, we are trying to rip foster children from the loving homes that gay and bisexual couples are providing for them. I'm pretty sure that the 14 million women in this state would be enjoying no such right, nor would they be getting bus vouchers for the nearest state that would (California? Iowa?). The idea that the religious right would have never developed as a political force in the absence of Roe v. Wade is absolutely nuts; they were there all along and would have fought state-by-state to assert their political power.

Planned Parenthood's Lobby Day at the Texas Capitol is February 28.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The candidate left out in the cold

There have already been several lively conversations regarding the focus of the Texas Democratic Party’s 2006 election strategy, its perceived success or failure, who’s responsible and how to fix it and so on. If you need the backstory, begin there and return here.

David Van Os has made his feelings well-known about the missing support of statewide Democratic candidates from the state party’s apparatus. As anyone who read here occasionally over the past year was aware, I served briefly as the Van Os for Attorney General campaign director for a couple of months in the spring of 2005, and after that in a reduced capacity as statewide coordinator due to my illness (diabetes mellitus with neuropathy in both feet) and my going business concern (annuities brokerage). Here’s a few more places you can go to catch up on DVO's POV if you need to.

But this posting isn’t about that campaign or even that candidate; this is the story of Janette Padilla-Sexton, the woman who ran as the Democratic nominee for HD-144 in southeast Harris County against longtime Republican incumbent Robert Talton.

Here’s the briefest of biographical data: strong progressive (early Dean presidential campaign supporter, among many activist roles), technical writer for the United Space Alliance, single-income homeowner. A citizen-activist for Democrats and progressive causes, she had no prior elective experience and no visible means of campaign support, but her early announcement for the primary might have scared off attorney Rick Molina, who instead challenged -- and lost to -- Ana Hernandez in neighboring HD-143.

Padilla-Sexton also suffered during the campaign season from a variety of physical ailments which ultimately precluded her from active campaigning: meniscus tears in both knees, a misdiagnosis of osteoarthritis resulting in additional and unnecessary doctor’s visits, hospital stays, incorrectly prescribed medication and so on. She did suffer from arthritis as it turned out but not in that particular knee; she also developed high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea and some pre-diabetic conditions.

But that wasn’t all she suffered from: several Houston-area Democratic legislators made promises of help of all kinds, but when she called to take up those offers, her calls went unanswered and unreturned. There were some people who leveled with Padilla-Sexton: state representative Garnet Coleman told her that he and his colleagues had discussed her race and come to the conclusion that they could not assist her because “they had to work with Bob Talton on regional issues”. (I contacted Phillip Martin, Coleman’s chief of staff, for a response but my queries went unanswered.) Mostly she got the cold shoulder: Rep. Jessica Farrar was effusive in her initial offers of assistance, but declined to return phone messages when the time came to help. Padilla-Sexton also reached out to Harris County commissioner Sylvia Garcia (mentoring), Sen. Rodney Ellis (about an air quality question), Rep. Scott Hochberg (regarding state education funding), Sen. Mario Gallegos (for adding credibility to her campaign) and Rep. Rick Noriega (for general help and direction), but none of those people returned her calls, either.

So she soldiered on, spending a total of just $8,000 $13,000* -- virtually all of it her own money $8,000 of her own money* -- on her race, and finished with 40.5 per cent of the vote on November 7th. Talton spent about ten times that. Here’s how she performed in comparison to other statehouse Democratic political novices:

Ellen Cohen: 54.70%

Sherrie Matula: 42.29%

Kristi Thibaut: 41.76%

Janette Sexton: 40.55%

Diane Trautman: 39.87%

Mark McDavid: 38.73%

Chad Khan: 32.61%

Dot Nelson-Turnier: 29.93%

Scott Brann: 29.1%

Pat Poland: 25.00%

Sammie Miller: 22.8%

It’s worth noting that Cohen raised $500,000 for her campaign, with the assistance of many of the previously named legislators, an army of volunteers and the wherewithal to take a ten-month leave of absence from her position as the director of the Houston Area Women’s Center. Thibaut, an adroit fundraiser, collected $150,000 and also a core of vigorous volunteer support. Matula, who ran in neighboring HD-129, benefited from the teachers PAC and strong efforts from the Bay Area New Democrats, Area 5 Democrats and Battleground Democrats -- all clubs that could have chipped in volunteer assistance to Padilla-Sexton as well -- enabling her (Matula, that is) to have extensive blockwalking and phonebanking. BAND, to their credit, provided robocalls to Janette’s campaign. John Cobarruvias, the president of the club, admitted that BAND’s efforts were stretched too thin over the Bell, Lampson and Matula campaigns to provide much in the way of anything extra. So with virtually no help and no resources – no money, no volunteers, consequently no direct mail, blockwalking or phonebanking, not even any campaign literature – Padilla-Sexton performed fourth of eleven political novices. Trautman, McDavid, and Khan all had greater resources and performed less well in their districts.

I believe the overall conclusion is that HD-144 was ripe to flip, but none of the power brokers believed it, and consequently none of them decided to try to make it happen. Privately, I was told disparaging things about Padilla-Sexton that I won't bother rehashing here. So could it also have been her fault, as a candidate with initial shortcomings made worse by her health issues? Possibly. Her experience nevertheless adds evidence to the opinion that there are many Texas Democrats who are just too timid to challenge a variety of status quo beliefs: taking on an entrenched Republican no matter how extreme (perhaps in order to avoid the same sort of challenge in their own districts); a state party structure managed by a couple of inside players controlling the selection and momentum of their perceived “winners”; a governing body (SDEC) which has abdicated its responsibility to hold accountable the unelected decision-makers; and finally the perception that Texas Democrats simply aren’t committed to make a winning effort across the board, no matter the odds.

That’s a defeatist state of mind. It’s a loser’s mentality, or in the words of Chris Bell, a strain of battered-wife syndrome. It flies in the face of Howard Dean’s rather successful 50-state strategy, and ultimately provided very limited Texas results in a year of watershed electoral change across the rest of the United States.

So maybe it was a 49-state strategy, come to think of it (without blaming Dean for leaving Texas out).

I’m sure it’s just coincidence: Matt Angle, the political consultant taking the most credit for the narrowly targeted 2006 legislative strategy, served as chief of staff to former US Rep. Martin Frost -- ejected from Congress in Tom DeLay’s 2004 redistricting gambit -- who was also defeated by Howard Dean in the race for DNC chair.

Bob Schrum would be so proud.

Update (1/24): Easter Lemming provides the verification and the financial corrections, noted by asterisk above. (He worked on Janette's campaign, so it's not quite accurate to say she had "no" volunteers, either). And Stace throws in his dos centavos as well.

A blog is born (and less weighty matters)

Put your hands together for Feet to the Fire, a collaborative effort by some of my favorite people -- including me, of course. Muck will be raked.

-- Another of the Astros journeyman hurlers who sent the team into their glorious 1980 playoff run, Vern Ruhle, passed away at MD Anderson over the weekend. I thought that Ruhle was a tremendous pitching coach and felt bad when the Astros canned him in 2000, coincidentally the same year they began play in Enron Field Minute Maid Park. Crawfish Boxes has a nice compendium of stats (like always) and an old baseball card. Vayo con Dios, Vern.

-- As more global warming news warns, the fair-and-balanced pushback manages to get itself into the Chronic. Shame on you, Eric Berger. All the conservative freaks in town will continue to think the newspaper is too liberal, so you may as well quit trying to appease them.

I'll have more than these bite-size pieces later on as I'm sitting around doing nothing but scratching where it itches all day. (Pajamas media, indeed. I'm wearing sweats.)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

I smell postpourri

-- excellent point-counterpoint by Markos regarding the 2008 Democratic declareds.

-- there are several conversations going on about the past and future direction and management of the Texas Democratic Party.

-- another Houston police shooting of an unarmed African-American man has a neighborhood on edge. On a lighter note, this is the HPD news I count on HouStoned for.

-- the Texas corporations who benefited the most from Republican administration paid most of the$2 million tab for Rick Perry's inaugural. They include TXU, which is rushing to build several coal-fired plants in Texas. We're also getting gouged by the cellular phone companies. Surprised?

-- Iran got military parts and equipment from the Pentagon. Bush caved on his wiretapping efforts. Cheney thinks it's OK to look at your credit report. The White House visitors logs are now classified 'top secret'.

-- The Sunday Funnies and more tomorrow.

Scaling Mt. Mutombo

I was all set to post about the Rockets and then Norbizness said everything I was thinking (and more, and better):

The most interesting senior citizen player in the NBA reached a milestone (on January 10), as a rejuvenated Dikembe Mutombo collected 19 rebounds and 5 blocks to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as second on the league's all-time blocks list. More importantly, I think he's some sort of prince, he speaks 12 languages, he probably never used "Who wants to sex up Mutombo?" as a pick-up line at college bars in DC (although he should have), and, most importantly:

A well-known humanitarian, Mutombo started the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation to improve living conditions in his native Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997. His efforts earned him the NBA's humanitarian award in 2001. In the same year, ground was broken for a hospital in his hometown, the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, with Mutombo personally donating $3.5 million toward the hospital's construction. On August 14, 2006, Dikembe donated $15 million to the completion of the now named Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital, named for his mother. When it opens in February 2007, the $29 million facility will become the first modern medical facility to be built in that area in nearly 40 years.

The Rockets, despite injuries to their two main players at different points in the season, are inexplicably 23-13 after blowing out the paper-tiger Lakers (January 10). Unfortunately, they are jockeying for midseason position in the Western Conference, which has approximately 100% of the top teams in the league. Put another way, teams like the Clippers that miss the playoffs in the West would probably be 3 or 4 seed in the pathetic, interest-less Eastern Conference.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Edwards, Obama, Clinton, Clark, Richardson

As Barack Obama prepares to enter the race for the Democratic nomination (the official announcement comes on February 10), the denizens of Daily Kos are conducting their monthly straw poll.

My personal ranking appears in the headline (first to fifth, descending), as would be measured by today's momentum. FWIW, the 15,000 22,000-plus Kossacks have it Edwards, Obama, Clark, Richardson, Kucinich, then Clinton. Which could be one of the reasons Greg is posting so pissy.

"Fight on the Ice", Abbott vs. Van Os, scheduled today

In lieu of the canceled inaugural parade (Eileen gets kudos for best headline, again) the much anticipated "Fight on the Ice" between the 2006 attorney general candidates is on for today, at high noon, in front of the Texas Capitol.

Picture this:

David Van Os, twirling on ice skates like Eric Heiden, swinging a grapple hook like a lasso over his head, slams it into the back of Abbott's wheelchair and yanks his seat from under him. Abbott, his arms waving wildly but his useless legs splayed ridiculously, sails down the Capitol promenade on his backside, gathering speed on the downhill run. He skids all the way down Congress Avenue, bounces off the bridge railing and launches like an Iraqi mortar shot into the air and out into the middle of a not-quite-frozen Town Lake. As Abbott splashes spectaculary into the water, a tremendous cheer erupts from the assembled fight fans back on the south steps.

I can see it as plain as day.

(Hat tip to Phillip for the original inspiration.)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sunday Funnies (re-lo edition)

(The Sunday Funnies, a regular feature formerly appearing here, are moving permanently to this location. Mouse over and click to view larger.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The TDP's election strategy got hosed -- by Texas Democrats

I owe a long posting on the Austin events I attended this past Monday and Tuesday: the goings-on associated with TDP chair Boyd Richie's presentation at the quarterly Senate District Executive Committee, and his dress rehearsal -- err, blogger's conference the day before, as well as my day at the Capitol for the opening of the Texas Lege's 80th session and the swearing-in of my new representative, Borris Miles of HD-144.

But I wish to begin with a bottom line observation:

The TDP's celebration of their 2006 election strategy -- targeting a handful of selected legislative races -- was blown up 24 hours later by the Craddick Fifteen.

Let's begin with last Sunday afternoon's get-together: on location at the little office on Rio Grande were Texas Progressive Alliancers Anna, Muse, John, Bo, McB and others. On the phone (in the middle of the conference room table) with me were Hal, Marc, Vince, and maybe more.

The very first thing Amber Moon, the party's communication director, said as we began was that there were going to be some breaking-news elements in what the chairman had to tell us, but we could not say anything about them on our blogs until 1 p.m. the next day, when he was to make the same PowerPoint presentation to the SDEC members.

This just doesn't reflect much knowledge about what we do, does it? "Keep a secret," you say? Oh, shurrrrre we will ...

And actually we did. In the interests of, you know, good working relations.

So Boyd got a dress rehearsal for Monday and we got some inside dope, such as the news that the TDP would be filing a lawsuit against Secretary of State Roger Williams and Attorney General Greg Abbott for their failure to enforce HAVA, specifically the integrity of Texans' ballots as they relate to DREs (electronic voting machines), and most particularly straight-ticket votes.

This is very good news, actually; the party has been extraordinarily successful in the courtroom in recent years, and the two attorneys named by Richie as taking charge of this case, Chad Dunn and Buck Wood, are capable litigators.

But most of Richie's remarks -- full transcript here -- were of the self-congratulatory variety regarding the Democratic victories in November, along with the obligatory cheerleading and back-slapping. This spin has always irked me more than a little bit, since the state party all but ignored every single other race in the state that they considered 'unwinnable'.

Monday, January 8: SDEC meeting, Hyatt Regency, Austin

The first part of the general assembly is no secret: Boyd gives his talk but I'm seeing the slides for the first time, and I note that the photos of the six new House members do not include Joe Heflin of Plainview; Donna Howard replaced him for some reason. Following that there were the various committee reports, but the most interesting exchange came when the finance report was given by Dennis Speight.

A handful of SDEC members -- Linda Perez of SD-21 (Floresville), Lloyd Criss of SD-11 (Galveston), Don Bankston of SD-18 (Richmond), Bob Dean of SD-19 (Pecos) -- raised questions about the campaign committee's revenues of $400,000 and its objectives but another SDEC member, Bill Perkison of SD-24 rose and shouted a non-sequitur about candidates needing to raise their own money and called the question, which was acceptance of the finance report.

This rather mundane circumstance has significance because the printed agenda for this meeting contained no item for new business. Richie did call for new business at the very end of the meeting, and when Linda Perez requested the creation of a campaign committee for 2008, that motion was referred to the rules committee for discussion at the next quarterly meeting.

What was apparent to this observer was that the SDEC as a group has generally abdicated its responsibility to direct and execute political strategy, leaving the void that Boyd (and in fairness, Fred Baron and Matt Angle) filled. The new blood on the committee intends to provide some oversight and accountability but they will be stonewalled by the old guard, who seem more interested in preserving the status quo.

The Texas Democratic Party desperately needs a governing body that is more activist and energetic and less beholden to the inertia of longtime members who consider their positions ones of prestige and social networking exclusively, not designed for any real effort.

Tuesday, January 9: Opening Session of the 80th Texas Legislature, Capitol

My bus departed Houston around 8 am with several government students from Westbury High School and a handful of Borris Miles' staff and supporters. It was a grand celebration on behalf of my new rep (details appear in my previous posting).

You've likely read all the analysis regarding the election of the speaker of the Texas House elsewhere, so let me repeat the contention I stated at the top here again:

The Texas Democratic Party's strategy in the last election cycle of maintaining a narrow focus on a few legislative contests was proven to be completely worthless as a result of the Democratic members of the Legislature who refused to stay with their caucus in the election for speaker. Moreover, since a legislative body almost by definition relies on compromise in order to be effective, this minimalist/defeatist strategy continues to be a problem until such time as enough seats flip to retake the majority. That certainly seems a stronger possibility in 2008 with a speaker named Craddick, but unforeseen presidential, economic, and assorted other socio-political scenarios always cloud the future.

The notable lack of a Democrat at the statewide executive level -- a drought entering its second decade -- means that until the party musters the will to get one (or some) elected, we'll be stuck in minority status for longer than ought to be necessary. As long as legislators don't see the state party standing up for statewide candidates, they're not tempted to run for higher office, thus making themselves content to feather their nests with plum committee assignments and the temptations of the trappings of entrenched power. This also means that Democratic bench strength -- having worthy challengers for higher office like senator or governor -- remains illusory.

As to the folly of having Democrats voting for a Republican speaker to support their own interests at the expense of everyone else's, a diarist at Burnt Orange put it best:

Every time a child gets kicked off CHIP, remember the Craddick 15.

When your public schools are once again under-funded, remember the Craddick 15.

When teachers are denied a real pay raise, and their health insurance once again fails to get restored, remember the Craddick 15.

When Jim Leininger forces the Texas House to endure a bloody floor fight on his risky private school voucher scheme, remember the Craddick 15.

When a Craddick lieutenant kills the ethics bill, remember the Craddick 15.

Every time you read an article about Craddick's corruption, self-dealing, being in business with a lobbyist, or collecting rent from a state contractor, remember the Craddick 15.

When (Rep. Will) Hartnett tries to outlaw a woman's right to choose, remember the Craddick 15.

When (Warren) Chisum uses the $14 billion "surplus" to buy down the property taxes of Bob Perry, Louis Beecherl, and Exxon Mobil, instead of restoring health care benefits for kids, or teachers, or the elderly, remember the Craddick 15.


When Phil King tries to outlaw stem cell research, remember the Craddick 15.

When kids can't afford to go to a state college because of the skyrocketing price of tuition, remember the Craddick 15.

When homeowner insurance rates continue to skyrocket, remember the Craddick 15.

When a coal plant gets built in your back yard, remember the Craddick 15.


When machines malfunction and arms are broken in public after close votes, remember the Craddick 15.

When the open meetings law is ignored, and Craddick lieutenants cut deals in the back halls in secret, remember the Craddick 15.

When tolls roads are built through minority neighborhoods, remember the Craddick 15.

When farmers lose their land through imminent domain so those toll roads can be built, remember the Craddick 15.

When the El Paso Medical School fails to get funded, remember the Craddick 15.

When promises made to the Valley don't get funded, remember the Craddick 15.

When appraisal caps are imposed on local governments, remember the Craddick 15.

When utility rates fail to get reduced and the poor and elderly in Houston and Dallas start dying from the heat this summer because they can't afford to pay double the national average for electricity, remember the Craddick 15.


When you see any nutty bill on the floor authored by Frank Corte, Bill Zedler, or Sid Miller, remember the Craddick 15.

When Leo Berman causes racial unrest on the House floor with his "round `em up and throw `em out" solution to immigration, remember the Craddick 15.

When you see Beverly Wooley at the front microphone (with her designer blouse and her Dooney Burke purse) bumble her way through every calendars committee announcement, remember the Craddick 15.


When you see a high school basketball team from a minority school represented by a Democrat denied access to the House floor, remember the Craddick 15.

When you see a story about a kid dying at CPS because they are still under-funded, remember the Craddick 15.

When you see the Enterprise Fund invest in some Midland deal, remember the Craddick 15.

When you have to endure a self-serving, pseudo-intellectual history lesson from Aaron Pena, remember the Craddick 15.

Every time you see a Republican lobbyist kissing Patrick Rose's ass, and calling him "Mr. Chairman", remember the Craddick 15.

When you see Bill Ceverha, a bankrupt lobbyist who ran Tom DeLay's TRMPAC, get re-appointed to manage a state fund worth $21 billion dollars, remember the Craddick 15.

Every time you're sitting on your toilet, think about Craddick sitting on his $1000 toilet that was paid for by special interest money and remember the Craddick 15.

There is still lots about Texas Democrats that needs fixing. We got a long way to go and a short time to get there, and worse yet, a bunch of good ol' boys and girls allegedly on our side blocking the way.

Sifting the Speaker's election

Leonard Cohen?

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

Or My Chemical Romance (hat tip Vince)?

And we will send you reeling from decimated dreams
Your misery and hate will kill us all.
So paint it black and take it back,
Let's shout it loud and clear
Do you fight it to the end?
We hear the call to, to carry on;

And on we carry, through the fears

Ooh oh ohhhh
Disappointed faces of your peers,
Ooh oh ohhhh,
Take a look at me, 'cause I could not care at all;

Do or die, you'll never make me.
Because the world will never take my heart.
You can try; you'll never break me.
You want it all, I'm gonna play this part;
I won't explain or say I'm sorry
I'm not ashamed, I'm gonna show my scar
You're the chair, for all the broken
Listen here, because it's only...
I'm just a man, I'm not a hero!

Yesterday's outcome will be sliced, diced, sorted and stored a few thousand ways.

Jocularity first: Pink does the live-blog of the live-blogging some of us did yesterday. It was exactly like that. The Austin Chronic also broke it down, with a skosh more contempt.

This number -- 80-68 -- was as close as Craddick came to losing. That's almost precisely the partisan split in the House, but there were 14 Republicans who voted against the Speaker, and 15 Democrats who voted with him. Here are their names.

Paul Burka got a lot of credit for calling it early, even from Rep. Will Hartnett on the floor of the House. Quite a few people feel like a little payback against the fifteen Craddickrats is in order, in the form of primary challenges.

Those 15 Democrats rationalize that their support of Tom Craddick translates into positions of power on important committees, and thus the pork they can bring home to their district is by extension 'good for their constituents'. That is at least a plausible rationale; it may even be accurate.

But it does not serve the greater good, as others have also pointed out.

This style of cronyism and patronage is what Al Edwards got booted out for. And yesterday his replacement, Borris Miles, bussed 450 of his constituents to Austin -- another 200 drove themselves over -- for his swearing-in. And he fed them breakfast, lunch and dinner, gave them lapel pins and t-shirts, and arranged for tours of the Capitol. Seniors, students, his extended network of family and friends and supporters and well-wishers all crowded into a picture with him on the South Steps. And I mean crowded.

And shortly thereafter, Representative Miles went into the building and with twenty-seven of his colleagues (now officially the Courage Caucus) cast his ballot against Speaker Craddick.

That's what taking care of your constituents -- and for that matter, good government -- looks like.

Special note to Aaron Pena: if you're sneaking down the alley, ducking through the back door, wearing a jogging suit and baseball cap pulled down low, you might be sending a subliminal message about your pride in seconding the Speaker's nomination.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Live-blogging the Lege

I'm in E2.030, one of the Capitol's hearing rooms, with Greg and about a hundred of Borris Miles's supporters, awaiting his swearing-in.

More as we move along.

Update (12:31 pm): The Pledges, roll call, and swearing-in of the Texas House members has completed.

Update (12:39 pm): Vince is, as always, doing the repetitive exercises. Matt is hosting a party in Senator Gallegos' office, and I'm about to go over there for something to eat.

Update (1:10 pm): I'm fed, and the resolution for the rules for the speaker election is being read. Nothing special; it follows protocol from sessions past and is adopted unanimously.

Update (1:58 pm): Phillip doesn't think it's supposed to be taking so long, but HR 35 is finally being read with the "agreed language". It's going to be a paper ballot, signed by each respective member.

Update: (3:08 pm): Republican Reps. Will Hartnett and Robert Talton just exchanged pleasantries over Hartnett's amendment to make the voting record public immediately. Talton exclaimed several times, "Don't you want to protect the members (from retribution from Craddick)?" FTR, Hartnett is a Craddick supporter, Talton is not. Talton is followed by Mondo Martinez, Dan Branch, Paul Moreno, and Scott Hochberg in similar vein.

Update (3:30 pm): Sadly, my live-blogging is coming to an end, as our bus for Houston departs shortly. Check in at BOR and Capitol Annex for the finale.

Monday, January 08, 2007

In Austin today for SDEC

After four days of twelve-hour shifts at the hospital, I'm headed to Austin this morning for the SDEC winter conclave. While I was on the conference call yesterday with Boyd Richie, Amber Moon, and Hector Nieto of the TDP, Anna was in the room and filed the report.

TexBlog-observation: With the addition of high-profile writers Anna -- she had her own place but has moved over to TK -- and Boadicea, Texas Kaos is currently doing the best investigative and analytical blogging from the progressive perspective about the developments down here in Deep-In-The-Hearta. BOR is evolving once more as one student generation (Karl-T) departs and another (Phillip Martin) assumes the day-to-day responsibility, and has lately become the go-to for insider dope on all things Lege as well as other Texas Democratic scuttlebutt.

So while TK is sharpening its swords for progress, BOR is becoming the agent for the majority (read Democrats). Before anyone gets excited: this isn't a criticism or even necessarily a bad thing.

My beeves with the state party have received plenty of airing and I won't repeat them now. As Bo states, the best thing blogs can do is offer our opinion on the visibility, the accountability, and the effectiveness of the state apparatus.

And perhaps influence those in another ways.

More to write later, when I can find the time.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The usual insomnia

-- As I have spent much of the past few days in the Texas Medical Center waiting while chemotherapy bags drained into my father-in-law, I understand this completely. My take is that it isn't even so much the time lost by the patient but by his caregivers.

Update (1/5): For those who have sent me their kind thoughts, an update on my father-in-law's condition is posted in the comments.

-- The contest for speaker of the Texas House occupies much blog bandwidth lately. Too many to link to; you can follow the play-by-play over in the Texas Blogwire in the right column. I do better with color commentary (though I'll be in Austin next Tuesday when the Lege convenes to watch the action, and post here about it). The conventional wisdom holds that Tom Craddick is toast. I don't think he is, yet. Here's my observation/projection as of the moment:

Jim Pitts will have a press conference in roughly twelve hours to announce that he and Brian McCall will join their forces to defeat Craddick under one flag -- his. Senfronia Thompson is poised to re-enter the race in order to manage a voting bloc of around fifty Democrats who committed first to her, then to McCall when she withdrew, but are lukewarm at best about Pitts.

If Senfronia controls those fifty-ish votes, she (and Texas Dems) are in a pretty sweet bargaining position. Unless, because the GOP loathes the idea of the Democrats controlling the outcome of the speaker's election, they suddenly coalesce again around Craddick. Then they have all the votes they need -- there are around ten or so Democrats who are firmly with the incumbent speaker -- and in the process ram it down everybody else's throats.

So my point is: pay close attention during the Capitol presser this afternoon to which Republicans are standing with Pitts. Not just the announced names of those who signed his pledge card, but which ones are actually standing there behind him. The ones that are not present are the real swing voters, and they are much more critical here than the Democratic members who have sold themselves out to Speaker Craddick.

Sylvester Turner, Harold Dutton, Dawnna Dukes, Kevin Bailey, Aaron Pena, etc. aren't even pawns in this game; they're drones -- the same as any of Craddick's mindless GOP supporters -- and as such they don't have the significant influence on the result that is believed. Honestly, only the Republican insurgents do. If Craddick buys back the support of the rebels -- literally buys them back, with promises of chairmanships, unfunded primary opponents in 2008 and so on like that -- then together with the Democratic sold-outs it's over.

This poker match is going to have the stakes raised several times over the next few days. Craddick is far from finished. And once the smoke clears next week there will be precious little "bipartisanship" to be had in this session, no matter the outcome.

Of course, I could be wrong about everything.

Update (90 minutes after this posting): Senfronia claims to have sixty votes, though McCall had less than that, and his tally had as many as 19 Republicans. I still think her number is closer to 50.

Update (1/5): No names and no supporters at the press conference yesterday. That's not good for anybody but Craddick.

-- It's Thomas Jefferson's Quran. You can't attach a value to irony this priceless.

-- The same with this level of deceit (though the price to ExxonMobil was apparently a paltry $16 million). Please remember this every time you need to fill your gas tank.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy National Hangover Day!

I didn't even consider a year-end rantrospective. My reputation as a curmudgeon is pervasive enough as it is. I still feel like giggling along with some of these ...

-- Bob Woodward snags a gallows Q and A with Saddam. A brief excerpt:

“In fact,” Saddam added, “I could empathize with George the elder, since I also had to suffer the indignity of two idiot sons.”

-- Never poke at an angry wildcat with a stick.

-- Speaking of stupid, here are the 2006 Darwin Award winners. No, Steve Irwin isn't listed, but he ought to be.

-- I thought we just said farewell to this douchebag ...

In what some called a desperate gambit to retain Republican control of the Senate, Majority Leader Bill Frist announced today that he had examined a videotape and pronounced recovering Senator Tim Johnson dead.

"I will remain Majority Leader and the Republicans will continue to hold the Senate," he said in a press conference this morning.

-- the official statement from the president on the passing of Gerald Ford:

Laura and I were kind of saddened by the news of President Ford's death. The American people will occasionally admire Gerald Ford's devotion to duty, his character and the relatively honorable conduct of his Administration. The 38th President will be vaguely remembered by our nation. We offer our sympathies to Betty Ford and and some of President Ford's family. Our thoughts and prayers will be elsewhere in the hours and days ahead.

-- and yesterday's Funnies.