Saturday, December 31, 2005

Inside the DeLay machine

It seems typical for an information dump on Friday afternoon during the holidays that this Washington Post article hasn't gotten more attention:

The U.S. Family Network, a public advocacy group that operated in the 1990s with close ties to Rep. Tom DeLay and claimed to be a nationwide grass-roots organization, was funded almost entirely by corporations linked to embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to tax records and former associates of the group.

During its five-year existence, the U.S. Family Network raised $2.5 million but kept its donor list secret. The list, obtained by The Washington Post, shows that $1 million of its revenue came in a single 1998 check from a now-defunct London law firm whose former partners would not identify the money's origins.

Two former associates of Edwin A. Buckham, the congressman's former chief of staff and the organizer of the U.S. Family Network, said Buckham told them the funds came from Russian oil and gas executives. Abramoff had been working closely with two such Russian energy executives on their Washington agenda, and the lobbyist and Buckham had helped organize a 1997 Moscow visit by DeLay (R-Tex.).

The former president of the U.S. Family Network said Buckham told him that Russians contributed $1 million to the group in 1998 specifically to influence DeLay's vote on legislation the International Monetary Fund needed to finance a bailout of the collapsing Russian economy.


Whatever the real motive for the contribution of $1 million -- a sum not prohibited by law but extraordinary for a small, nonprofit group -- the steady stream of corporate payments detailed on the donor list makes it clear that Abramoff's long-standing alliance with DeLay was sealed by a much more extensive web of financial ties than previously known.

And there's a whole lot more at the link, including how DeLay's wife went on the payroll, how the cabal purchased a townhouse and went into contortions to wriggle around the financial and disclosure rules, and so on and so on.

This is another example of Tom DeLay's personal hypocrisy, as demonstrated in his own words, and another reason why he's a dead man walking (politically speaking only, of course -- Hello, NSA).

Because if Ronnie Earle can't nail him, Jack Abramoff will.

Update: More details about the DeLay/Abramoff/Russian connection from MSNBC, here.

Update#2: Josh Marshall summarizes.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Ben Grant for Lt. Governor

This is a mild surprise. Via BOR and Kuff, directly from the Marshall News-Messenger (a newspaper I nearly went to work for, once upon a time):

Marshall resident and attorney Ben Z. Grant on Thursday announced he will be a candidate for Texas Lieutenant Governor in the March Democratic primary.

Grant, 65, a former state representative who also served 17 years as justice of the Sixth Court of Appeals in Texarkana, said he is looking forward to the statewide race.


Grant retired from the Sixth Court of Criminal Appeals when his term ended in 2002. He served as a state representative from 1971 until 1981.

Grant was also a district judge for the 71st Judicial District Court in Harrison County and was appointed to the court of appeals in 1985 by then-Gov. Mark White. He said he spent 37 years in government, starting his career as a school teacher.

Grant has also been a columnist for the M N-M, giving them the scoop here. If he gets some competition in the primary, we won't know about it until the end of the filing period, which is next Monday.

Handicapping 2005 for 2008's prospective candidates

Chris Cillezza has some pretty good takes here. For the Dems, the year just past grades out as a winner for Mark Warner, and he also gives Russ Feingold high marks for having broken into the top tier. John Edwards trails them slightly, managing to keep his profile elevated and positive. Hillary Clinton and John Kerry didn't help or hurt themselves during the year, which is a net negative for them both.

Another Virginian, George Allen, tops the Republican list with Haley Barbour (!?) and then John McCain in third, mostly on the basis of how he manages to alienate the base and burnish his independent credentials at the same time. Dr. Bill Frist had the worst year among all contenders, and the jury's still out on Chuck Hagel and Mitt Romney. Cillezza rates Arkansas Republican governor Mike Huckabee as a darkhorse on the order of New Mexico's Bill Richardson on the Democratic side.

He gives the chances of Condi Rice running for president the same odds he gives Al Gore, about zero. And makes no mention of Dick Cheney standing before the voters again.


Seriously, though, I think he's about right on all of these, and particularly if sad sacks like Allen and Barbour enter 2006 as the GOP pols with the most momentum, then all I can say is "heh."

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A great week for Texas progressives on Texas radio

Tuesday you had BAR, last night you got Bell, and tonight you can listen to Charles Kuffner of Off the Kuff from 7:30 until 8:00 pm, John Courage (Lamar Smith slayer) for the entire hour -- 8 to 9 pm -- and David Van Os from 9-9:30, all hosted by Sean-Paul Kelley.

Listen live if you're in San Antonio on KTSA AM 550 or stream it live by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Rick Causey (Enron head beancounter) flips

With Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling slated to go on trial in a few weeks, their defense teams just got bad news:

Enron's former chief accounting officer, Richard Causey, has struck a plea bargain with federal prosecutors and will avoid going to trial with the fallen energy company's two top executives, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. ...

Causey, 45, agreed to testify against his former bosses, Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay and former CEO Jeffrey Skilling, in exchange for a much lesser prison sentence than he would receive if convicted on all counts. The trial is scheduled to begin next month, but a delay is considered likely since defense attorneys would want more time to prepare for the government's new witness.

Causey is charged with fraud, conspiracy, insider trading, lying to auditors and money laundering for allegedly knowing about or participating in a series of schemes to fool investors into believing Enron was financially healthy. The company imploded in late 2001 amid disclosures of complicated financing schemes that gave the appearance of success.

As indicated, the trials of Lay and Skilling will likely be postponed while their lawyers scheme a strategy to attack Causey, who is now a hostile witness. Causey ranks higher on the totem pole than Fastow, was an insider to the boardroom where Lay and Skilling managed the company, and is without the stain of self-enrichment that accompanies Andy Fastow:

Causey could be more damaging to Lay and Skilling than former Enron finance chief Andrew Fastow, who joined the government's cadre of cooperating witnesses when he pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy in January 2004. Unlike his former peer, Causey didn't skim millions of dollars for himself from shady deals and therefore would bring less baggage to the witness stand.

"While they were preparing to deal with Fastow, Causey is another matter," said Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor. "Fastow has been so demonized by the books and media accounts of the Enron collapse that he is an enticing target for the defense teams."

And finally, for the trivia buffs:

Causey would become the 16th ex-Enron executive to plead guilty and agree to cooperate with the government.

Could it be more embarrassment for the Republicans in the new year as the Enron thieves turn on each other?


The Christmas holiday is passed, the fiber-optic Santa packed away, and the campaigns for the March primary are about to swing into high gear. I am going to advocate again for my favorite Democratic candidate, and it's not to beg for money (though you would never be discouraged from donating).

David Van Os needs your help in securing the endorsement of his campaign for Texas Attorney General from the good folks at Democracy for America.

The seal of approval from DFA is a coveted one in progressive circles, and there’s no candidate who is more deserving. So click here, and write a few words as to why you think he merits their endorsement.

Don’t have the words? Don’t know the man well enough to do so? Let me help you with that.

Van Os has been fighting the Bush regime long before he went to Florida in 2000 to contest the recount in Bush v. Gore. He’s been fighting for working men and women long before he was the general counsel for the Texas AFL-CIO. He fought against the illegal and immoral war in Iraq way before he went to Camp Casey this summer. He’s been a warrior for economic and social justice for the people of Texas all of his life. You can read more about his life here, but you can also take my word for it. David Van Os walks the walk.

In 2004, Van Os ran for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court because he wanted to take that court back from the mega-corporations which have it bought, paid for, and tucked in their vest pockets. At a time when the PATRIOT Act was our biggest concern, he chose to fight to restore the constitutional checks and balances that protect the rights and liberties of all Texans.

He is running for the office of Texas Attorney General in 2006 in order to carry the same fight to a new front. Texas is under withering assault by swarms of corrupt Republicans lining their pockets with the millions of dollars flowing from ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco and the other big oil companies, from State Farm and Allstate and the other insurance companies, and all of the other assorted lobbyists and mouthpieces of greed. A strong attorney general in Austin, vested with the power inherent in the Texas Constitution’s Bill of Rights, can do more to achieve economic and social justice for Texans than twenty congressmen in Washington DC.

With your help, DFA will be influenced to throw the weight of their endorsement behind David’s campaign, and that will be a big push forward in returning the state of Texas back to the people (and away from corporate control).

Take two minutes and write a recommendation on behalf of David Van Os, and then click 'send'.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Friday, December 23, 2005

The War on Terror (abridged version)

If you vote for Kerry, you will be attacked by terrorists.

If you don't renew the Patriot Act, you will be attacked by terrorists.

If you don't pass this spending bill, you will be attacked by terrorists.

If you force us to leave Iraq, you will be attacked by terrorists.

If you don't let us torture people, you will be attacked by terrorists.

If you don't let us eavesdrop on you, you will be attacked by terrorists.

If you challenge our authority, you will be attacked by terrorists.

Bush war powers, Tom Daschle, anthrax and September 18, 2001

The Washington Post details the backstory regarding the resolution passed after 9/11 (the one which Bush claims gives him the authority to spy on us):

The Bush administration requested, and Congress rejected, war-making authority "in the United States" in negotiations over the joint resolution passed days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to an opinion article by former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) in today's Washington Post.

Daschle's disclosure challenges a central legal argument offered by the White House in defense of the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. It suggests that Congress refused explicitly to grant authority that the Bush administration now asserts is implicit in the resolution.

The Justice Department acknowledged yesterday, in a letter to Congress, that the president's October 2001 eavesdropping order did not comply with "the 'procedures' of" the law that has regulated domestic espionage since 1978. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, established a secret intelligence court and made it a criminal offense to conduct electronic surveillance without a warrant from that court, "except as authorized by statute."

... The congressional resolution of Sept. 18, 2001, formally titled "Authorization for the Use of Military Force," made no reference to surveillance or to the president's intelligence-gathering powers, and the Bush administration made no public claim of new authority until news accounts disclosed the secret NSA operation.

I'll explain why I added the emphasis to the date above in just a moment. As Daschle explains:

The Bush administration now argues those powers were inherently contained in the resolution adopted by Congress -- but at the time, the administration clearly felt they weren't or it wouldn't have tried to insert the additional language.


If the stories in the media over the past week are accurate, the president has exercised authority that I do not believe is granted to him in the Constitution, and that I know is not granted to him in the law that I helped negotiate with his counsel and that Congress approved in the days after Sept. 11. For that reason, the president should explain the specific legal justification for his authorization of these actions, Congress should fully investigate these actions and the president's justification for them, and the administration should cooperate fully with that investigation.

Now then.

The same day that joint resolution passed in Congress -- September 18, 2001, and a resolution changed at the last minute by Daschle to prevent Bush from declaring war on Americans in the name of terror -- that same day, Americans were targeted in a domestic terrorist attack.

Letters laced with anthrax were dropped in mailboxes around the country. One originally thought to be postmarked 9/18/01 was addressed to Tom Daschle (scroll down to just above "Elsewhere Monday"). This letter was actually mailed in early October. Here's some images of anthrax letters.

That was a heckuva job on that investigation, wasn't it?

(Special thanks goes to bettyellen and Syrinx for their research.)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Is flip-flopping patriotic?

SusanG at Kos points out the latest:

From MSNBC six days ago:

Mr Bush, in an effort to force passage of the bill, warned on Friday he would veto any temporary extension of the (Patriot) act.

From AP today:

The White House is hailing the Senate's vote to extend the Patriot Act for six months, a day after vowing President Bush wouldn't accept a short-term extension.

Press Secretary Scott McClellan calls Wednesday night's Senate vote "an important victory for the American people."

It's truly astounding how myopic and forgetful the administration presumes us to be.

Moneyshot Quote of the Week #2: Tom DeLay on Congressional Ethics

Joe Conason via David Sirota and kos. Originally from the Congressional Record, 11/16/95 (.pdf) :

"The time has come that the American people know exactly what their Representatives are doing here in Washington. Are they feeding at the public trough, taking lobbyist-paid vacations, getting wined and dined by special interest groups? Or are they working hard to represent their constituents? The people, the American people, have a right to know ... I say the best disinfectant is full disclosure, not isolation."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A few Christmas images

"The Grinch Factor"

(a poem by UVa law school professor Rosa Brooks:)

The Whos down in Who-ville

Were a tolerant lot:

Who Christians, Who Muslims — a Who melting pot.

Who Hindus! Who atheists! Who Buddhists, Who Jews!

Who Confucians, Who pagans,

And even Who Druze! The Who 1st Amendment's Establishment Clause

Said, "No creches in courts," and the Whos loved their laws.

Because somehow … they worked. The Whos rarely fought,

Mostly, each Who did just what he ought.

Every Who down in Who-ville

Loved the Consti-Who-tion a lot.

But the O'Reilly, who lived up in Fox-ville,

Did NOT!

The O'Reilly DETESTED the Who Consti-Who-tion,

He thought it was some sort of liberal pollution.

Now, please don't ask why, for I really don't know.

Perhaps it had something to do with his show.

It could be that his head wasn't screwed on quite right.

Or it could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.

But I think that the most likely reason of all

May have been that his RATINGS

Were two sizes too small.

Well, whatever it was, bad ratings or tight shoes,

He stood there one Christmas, just hating the Whos.

"They're so multicultural," he sneered, "and wherever they're from,

They lack the good sense to just launch a pogrom!

There's no Who ethnic cleansing, no Who Inquisition,

If this PEACE can't be stopped, I may lose my position.

Those sensitive, tolerant Whos! It's quite grating.

I must think of something to fix my show's ratings!"

Go read the rest here.

Abramoff ready to flip

And this is quite honestly the worst news of the day for DeLay (and a few dozen other Republicans, and perhaps even a Democrat or two):

Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under criminal investigation, has been discussing with prosecutors a deal that would grant him a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against former political and business associates, people with detailed knowledge of the case say.

Mr. Abramoff is believed to have extensive knowledge of what prosecutors suspect is a wider pattern of corruption among lawmakers and Congressional staff members. One participant in the case who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations described him as a "unique resource."

Whatever Ronnie Earle does or does not accomplish with regard to DeLay's crimes in Texas, this case will result in all manner of Republican indictments, resignations, and defeats at the ballot box next year.

The tsunami is coming, and the corruption is going to be washed out.

And there isn't a damn thing that can be done to stop it.

The Chronic shows two faces

A few days ago the Houston Chronic published their opinion regarding the unfairness of Tom DeLay's current legal proceedings:

DeLay Monday asked the appeals court to expedite the case. The court should grant DeLay's request. For DeLay, justice delayed equals political downfall and the lost power and prestige that go with it. If DeLay is found innocent of the remaining charges against him, he deserves a chance to return to the status quo ante.

My opinion: the editorial board of the Houston Chronicle really ought to get out of the business of telling a judge how to run his courtroom, and let this case run its course. If the timing is unfortunate for the defendant, then that's too bad for him.

But the news department made up for the edit board's faux pas by publishing the news of DeLay's lavish lifestyle as the self-declared "Federal Government":

Public documents reviewed by The Associated Press tell the story: at least 48 visits to golf clubs and resorts; 100 flights aboard company planes; 200 stays at hotels, many world-class; and 500 meals at restaurants, some averaging nearly $200 for a dinner for two.

Instead of his personal expense, the meals and trips for DeLay and his associates were paid with donations collected by the campaign committees, political action committees and children's charity the Texas Republican created during his rise to the top of Congress. His lawyer says the expenses are part of DeLay's effort to raise money from Republicans and to spread the GOP message.

Put them together and a lifestyle emerges.

"A life to enjoy. The excuse to escape," Palmas del Mar, an oceanside Puerto Rican resort visited by DeLay, promised in a summer ad on its Web site as a golf ball bounced into a hole and an image of a sunset appeared.

The Caribbean vacation spot has casino gambling, horseback riding, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing and private beaches.

"He was very friendly. We always see the relaxed side of politicians," said Daniel Vassi, owner of the French bistro Chez Daniel at Palmas del Mar. Vassi said DeLay has eaten at his restaurant every year for the last three, and was last there in April with about 20 other people, including the resort's owners.

Wait a minute. DeLay eats a swanky French restaurant? Frequently?

It's over for him, then.

Moneyshot Quote of the Week: Cornyn vs. Feingold

Senator Box Turtle:

"None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead."

Senator Russ Feingold:

"Give me liberty or give me death."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"Arrrgh! It's a Pirate's life for me"

Happy Hanukkah,
Bill O'Reilly!

Barbara Ann Radnofsky,
Texan for U.S. Senate 2006
No lyin'
No cheatin'
No stealin'

I didn't realize that Andrea Mackris had poked Bill in the eye with her loofah ...

Spies like us

This latest police-state action by BushCo just almost leaves me speechless.

The president summoned the publisher and the editor of The New York Times to the White House two weeks ago in order to talk them out of printing the story they held back for over a year. (Let's see, what we doing about fourteen months ago?)

thirdparty at Kos asks some questions of the Times. Kuff posits the future scenario for supporters of domestic spying without FISA court approval.

The corpulent corporate media obediently reports that Bush has been "fiery" in "vigorously defending" his right to violate the Constitution.

Speaking of the Constitution, there will very likely be a crisis associated with these events, but that's provided our nation's leadership responds to it. Don't count on any Republicans doing so, and if the Democrats are able to have hearings, you'll never know about them if you only watch the teevee.

I remember one summer in the mid-'70s when we watched Congressional hearings gradually reveal the crimes of a President and his minions; they were conducted in bipartisan fashion and without as much rancor as would be seen today on FOX News.

No chance of that happening again.

So it's a good thing there are people blogging about it.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Spreadin' it around

I posted on some of the group blogs this morning, so if you're looking for some Sunday Funnies go here, and if you want hard news, go read about the homoerotic overtones associated with this announcement.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

My Texas Gubernatorial Poll

is posted here. Go vote.

The overnight results are somewhat intriguing:

Who will you vote for in the March primary?

  • Felix Alvarado
  • 5%
  • Chris Bell
  • 30%
  • Bob Gammage
  • 32%
  • Not voting -- signing Kinky's petition
  • 30%
  • Other
  • 2%

    Votes: 40

    Friday, December 16, 2005

    Moneyshot Quote of the Week #2: Jack Cafferty

    CNN's resident curmudgeon has really been coming out from under the ether the past few months:

    Who cares about whether the Patriot Act gets renewed? Want to abuse our civil liberties? Just do it.

    Who cares about the Geneva Conventions. Want to torture prisoners? Just do it.

    Who cares about rules concerning the identity of CIA agents. Want to reveal the name of a covert operative? Just do it.

    Who cares about whether the intelligence concerning WMDS is accurate. Want to invade Iraq? Just do it.

    Who cares about qualifications to serve on the nation's highest court. Want to nominate a personal friend with no qualifications? Just do it.

    And the latest outrage, which I read about in The New York Times this morning, who cares about needing a court order to eavesdrop on American citizens. Want to wiretap their phone conversations? Just do it.

    What a joke. A very cruel, very sad joke.

    You can watch him say it at C&L.

    Bush flip-flops; now opposed to torture

    While we were out Christmas shopping yesterday afternoon, the president came around to John McCain's opinion on torture:

    President Bush reversed position yesterday and endorsed a torture ban crafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) after months of White House attempts to weaken the measure, which would prohibit the "cruel, inhuman, or degrading" treatment of any detainee in U.S. custody anywhere in the world.

    The announcement of a deal at the White House yesterday was a setback for the administration, which had pressed the senator to either drop the measure or modify it so that interrogators, especially with the CIA, would have the flexibility to use a range of extreme tactics on terrorism suspects.

    Dick Cheney has been banished to his bunker until after the holidays, his whips, chains and waterboards removed.

    Courage wins Progressive Patriot award

    And along with it comes $5000 from Russ Feingold for Courage's bid to represent the 21st Congressional District. I've previously written about his challenger and the Republican incumbent in the 21st, the atrocious Lamar Smith.

    I met John Courage at Camp Casey this past summer. He is everything a Progressive Patriot could be. Visit his website and introduce yourself.

    Can we call it fascism yet?

    A truly appalling revelation from the New York Times today: they concealed, at the request of the Bush administration, the fact that the president of the United States authorized the National Security Agency to monitor the international phone calls and international e-mails of hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of people living inside the United States.

    Wiretaps on Americans without judicial approval. And the Times held back the report for a year.

    Fortunately, I see that even reaction from Congressional Republicans has been swift:

    A key Republican committee chairman put the Bush administration on notice Friday that his panel would hold hearings into a report that the National Security Agency eavesdropped without warrants on people inside the United States.

    Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he would make oversight hearings by his panel next year "a very, very high priority."

    "There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," said Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

    Other key bipartisan members of Congress also called on the administration to explain and said a congressional investigation may be necessary.

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., appeared annoyed that the first he had heard of such a program was through a New York Times story published Friday. He said the report was troubling.

    Do you feel safer from terrorism yet, knowing that your government may be eavesdropping on you?

    Today, Senate debate begins on the reauthorization of the USA Patriot act. Senator Russ Feingold will filibuster, with the support of GOP Senator Chuck Hagel and others.

    Perhaps some sanity can be restored to the cause of civil rights. We'll have to watch this outcome to know for sure.

    Update (today) : The Senate rejected the extension, 52-47, with these Republicans voting against: Hagel, Murkowski, Sununu, Craig, and in a last-minute switch to take advantage of a parliamentary tactic (so that he could call the question again at any time), majority leader Frist.

    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    Gammage files for Governor

    As of this morning, the Texas Democratic Party will have a legitimately contested gubernatorial primary in March:

    Bob Gammage today filed paperwork with the Texas Democratic Party, officially becoming a candidate for Texas Governor. Below is the text of his of his remarks.

    “Good morning. Thank you all for coming. In the weeks to come we will have a formal announcement that addresses specific issues and goals. Today I will just make a brief statement about why I am running.

    “This campaign is about reform. It is about opening state policy-making to public scrutiny. It is about restoring the public trust.

    “When I first entered public life as a newly minted freshman member of the Texas House some years ago, the people of Texas faced a crisis of political corruption. Our lawmaking process and our entire state government were dominated by an authoritarian system, controlled by lobbyists, special interests and power elites who ran rampant in our halls of government, and who ran roughshod over the public interest. I soon became a proud member of the Dirty 30 - a bipartisan group of 19 Democrats and 11 Republicans in the Texas House - who stood up to the power brokers and, with the help of an outraged citizenry, beat that corrupt political machine.

    “Today, unfortunately, our state government has come full circle. Once again we desperately need the citizens of Texas to take charge of their state government.

    “Today there is a corrupt political machine which stretches from Washington, D.C. all the way to Austin. Tom DeLay and his cronies are at one end, and Rick Perry and his pals are at the other. The money flows both ways. It has corrupted our politics, corrupted our government and, more importantly, corrupted public policy and betrayed the public trust.

    “Public office is a public trust. I am running against today's corrupt political machine. I am standing up for reform. I am determined to do everything in my power to restore the public trust and the integrity of the political system. Sometimes good citizenship requires you to put your personal interests aside and just do what's right.

    “In an ideal world, the governor of Texas should denounce the shenanigans of Tom DeLay and his twisted, unethical schemes. But Rick Perry is too weak and too dependent on the wealthy, powerful and ruthless special interests that both he and DeLay work for.

    “The sad truth is that bad values and weak character at the top produce bad policies for the rest of us. We've seen it time and again -- a leadership that preaches character and commonly held values while practicing neither. On virtually every important issue - funding our public schools, the tax burden on middle-income families, health care for our children, preserving our environment, funding for our public colleges and universities, and how we choose our elected officials -- the men at the top do not fight for the common good, but for the privileged power elite who bankroll their campaigns and keep their machine rolling.

    Let's hope for the sake of ridding ourselves of Rick Perry that this doesn't turn into an expensive knockdown dragout that weakens our eventual nominee. Gammage sounds capable of taking the fight to the GOP, and he offers a clear choice between old guard and New Mainstream.

    To be clear: if Gammage wins the primary in March I'll gladly support him.

    But I'll support my former Congressman and friend Chris Bell in the primary, and I'm still waiting for Bob -- or anyone else -- to answer some questions for me.

    Update (12/16) : Yesterday morning, I e-mailed the Gammage campaign the questions I asked in the blog post linked immediately above, and last night I attended the Harris County Democratic Party holiday party, where Bob Gammage coincidentally was a late arrivee. As I made my way over to introduce myself, his associate John Effinger intercepted me and -- being familiar with my questions -- brushed them aside with a curt "There's nothing there".

    Well John, in the holiday spirit I chose not to make our intial meeting confrontational, but that answer just won't wash.

    I'll keep asking them, and it might be wise if you suggest that Bob consider answering them straight.

    Moneyshot Quote of the Week: Viggo Mortensen

    King Aragorn has spoken:

    “I’m not anti-Bush; I’m anti-Bush behavior,” Mortensen told Progressive magazine. “In other words, I’m against cheating, greed, cruelty, racism, imperialism, religious fundamentalism, treason, and the seemingly limitless capacity for hypocrisy shown by Bush and his administration.”

    Mortensen also blasted the administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina and discussed why he supported anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, who has protested the war in Iraq since her son was killed there. “Cindy Sheehan and how badly Katrina was bungled are two shots to the heart,” he said. “I hope the beast does fall down soon."

    Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    Sorry been sick

    ... and posting's been light.

    Finally seem to have gotten the blood glucose and the blood pressure back into some semblance of normal with the help of Big Pharma, so I'll catch up with the following quickies...

    ** I spent some time on a bloggers' conference call this morning with former CIA director Vincent Cannistraro and Elisa Massimino, the Washington director of Human Rights First, an organization recognized for leading the battle to end U.S.-sanctioned torture. Cannistraro and more than two dozen former CIA operatives and analysts are signers to a letter to the Senate, urging them to keep the McCain amendment intact.

    (It may be that you are unaware that Vice President Cheney has lobbied John McCain to make exceptions to his amendment banning mistreatment of detainees, and redefines techniques such as waterboarding a form of 'enhanced interrogation', and exempt from the amendment. I'll probably have a lengthier post on this in the future, when I can tether myself back on the other side of the Looking Glass.)

    ** Bob Novak says Bush knows who the Plame leaker is:

    "I'm confident the president knows who the source is," Novak told a luncheon audience at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh on Tuesday. "I'd be amazed if he doesn't."

    "So I say, 'Don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is.' "

    So do you think Novak might actually be telling the truth? And if he is, do you wonder --as do I -- why the President hasn't fired that person?

    ** People Get Ready has some pretty funny photos of deceased refrigerators in New Orleans.

    I promise I'll get wordier later.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    Saturday, December 10, 2005

    Richard Pryor and Eugene McCarthy, and racism and war

    The passing of two prominent men, each of whom could be described by the same word, 'anti-establishment', is reported today.

    Richard Pryor and Eugene McCarthy had a lot in common, but came at the American psyche from completely opposite directions. And because they were hardly two guys who traveled in the same circles, there's more than a small measure of irony that they proceed side-by-side to the hereafter.

    Pryor made racism in America something white and black people could laugh at together -- the first time that may have happened (some would say Redd Foxx was ahead of him).

    Eugene McCarthy made an increasingly unpopular war a seminal moment for the Democratic Party (and the nation).

    And while the issues they tackled were -- are -- far from resolved, their places in history are safe simply by the impact they each had in shifting the conventional thinking of the time.

    Pryor released an album while I was in high school in the mid-'70's called "That Nigger's Crazy". We rode around drinking beer listening to it and laughing our AO --and I grew up in small east Texas town where the Klan had a bookstore on Main Street. He later did a movie, one of my favorites, with Jill Clayburgh and Gene Wilder -- "Silver Streak" -- which started a long cinematic collaboration with Wilder. A couple of years later when I was in college, a racially mixed group of my friends went to see "Stir Crazy" and we cracked up all over again.

    I was too young to be much aware of Senator McCarthy's influence on the political landscape; I was getting ready for Boy Scout camp in the summer of '68 when McCarthy's anti-Vietnam war campaign forced LBJ out of the race for the White House. McCarthy's campaign splintered an already fractious Democratic party that election year, and the American racial divide was on full display on the ballot that November with George Wallace, (I).

    And that's how we got Nixon (and many more years of war and death and dirty political tricks and lies and high crimes).

    I doubt whether McCarthy and Pryor ever met and discussed their respective influences on American pop and political culture, but it pleases me that they are somewhere tonight -- outside the pearly gates, or maybe some place warmer -- talking about it and having a chuckle.

    Rest in peace, gentlemen.

    Update (12/11) : Digby's got a great reminiscence of Pryor posted.

    Bible-thumping approaches thunderous roar

    Lifted entirely from the Benquirer, and offered for your reading pleasure without editorial comment:

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the outcry from religious groups intensified following the White House decision to sign its holiday cards “Have a Happy Holidays,” it would appear as though Bible-thumping levels across the nation are approaching near-deafening levels.

    Members of the Christian Right are promoting a period of “prolonged Bible-thumping” in the wake of the President's holiday card decision and have moved in for the kill in the self-proclaimed War on Christmas.

    This new war has taken precedence over the other, harder-to-spin and much bloodier war in Iraq. Supporters are now arguing that saving impossible-to-prove religious symbolism and rehashed Kerri Underwood Christmas sing-along CDs are more important to the future of humanity than a terrorist-making factory in the Middle East.


    “We’ve done near worn out 12 Bibles just this week so it’s a good thing that, as God-fearing Christians, we keep an ample supply by taking the ones from the nightstands at all the hotels we stay at,” said Mary Joe Joe, a Catholic. “And who could not love Christmas trees and presents? It was all in the Bible after all, wasn’t it?”

    It would be so much more funny if I didn't actually know people like this.

    DeLay and Abramoff and the Sopranos

    Reported by me previously, the story of Jack Abramoff's wiseguys getting a recalcitrant business deal moved forward in their favor by bumping off the recalcitrant business owner has taken a turn for the worse (if you're the bad guys, that is):

    According to an article just posted in the (South Florida) Sun-Sentinal, Adam Kidan looks set to flip and testify against Abramoff in the SunCruz case down in Florida.

    A "change of plea" hearing has been set for December 15th.

    Here's something I don't quite get, though. As we've noted many times before, there's at least some very suggestive evidence that Kidan played a role in the death of Gus Boulis, the guy he and Jack bought SunCruz from.

    Even that is a bit generous: Kidan was in a feud with Boulis that had already led to one physical altercation between the two men. Then or around that time Kidan, who has a history of Mafia associations, puts three known mobsters on the SunCruz payroll, hiring them as either caterers or 'security consultants' or both. Then those three guys mow Boulis down in a gangland-style hit.

    You know, call me suspicious.

    That is Josh's summary, but the Sun-Sentinel article has a bit I want to excerpt just for the nicknames:

    By November 2000, Kidan had contacted an old friend, Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello. Moscatiello had signed a contract with SunCruz to be a "catering consultant" at $25,000 a month, according to court records. Kidan said he thought Boulis was going to kill him, according to statements Moscatiello gave police. Moscatiello, a known associate of the late crime boss John Gotti, promised to smooth things over.

    Moscatiello put Kidan in touch with Anthony "Little Tony" Ferrari, who ran "Moon Over Miami Beach," a company that, among other things, is described in records as a security firm. One of the men who worked for Ferrari was James "Pudgy" Fiorillo. In September, Moscatiello, Ferrari and Fiorillo were indicted in Boulis' murder. Kidan has not been charged in the case.

    Frankly, David Chase has written better subplots.

    So, if you're caught up with your reading, you now know that Jack Abramoff, someone whom Tom DeLay has described as one of his "closest and dearest friends", has been implicated in a mob hit, and the mobster who 'allegedly' ordered the hit is about to flip.

    I think we're out of popcorn. Will these mixed nuts do?

    Friday, December 09, 2005

    Culberson thinks al-Qaeda caught, in W. Texas jail

    Hilarious. Tom DeLay's towel boy, John Culberson, was on Hannity and Colmes in November and announced that a member of al-Qaeda had been captured by the Brewster County sheriff's department. Too bad for him it wasn't true:

    Local Republican congressman John Culberson took to the Fox News airwaves last month to raise the alarm about illegal immigration.

    Two West Texas sheriffs, he said on Hannity & Colmes, "confirmed for me that they had an Al Qaeda terrorist…in the Brewster County jail."

    To which the two sheriffs in question have answered, in essence, WTF?

    One of the sheriffs, Brewster County's Ronny Dodson, told The Big Bend Sentinel that he had jailed one person "who had drawn a picture on his pants of Osama Bin Laden, and we don't know if that was a joke or not." He said Culberson must have been confused somehow by hearing various stories from border agents.

    Tony Essalih, Culberson's press secretary, says there's no confusion. Two other aides of the congressman were present when the sheriffs told them of the terrorist prisoner, he says.

    "We really haven't figured out where the communication breakdown was. What he said on the show was what he was told by the sheriffs," Essalih says.

    Both sheriffs have been avoiding the non-local media since the story broke, but one staffer at the Brewster County Sheriff's Department said Culberson's people "were lying through their teeth…I told them if they'd bring me an Al Qaeda I'd slap him four times, make him pick up cigarette butts; you know, something really mean. But no, no Al Qaeda [here]."

    David Murff, one of Culberson's challengers in CD-07 and who has joined the blogranks, has more.

    Thursday, December 08, 2005

    DeLay: Marianas dealings may be his worst crimes

    Jesse Lee at the Stakeholder, via Josh Marshall, links to the Marianas Variety, which reports that the recently-elected head of state has turned state's witness:

    Governor-Elect Benigno R. Fitial says he will cooperate with federal authorities in the ongoing investigation of Rep. Tom Delay and former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whom he once described as his “close friends.”

    You should go here and read the entire, tangled, complicated thing, but here's the moneyshot:

    As Jesse points out, interference by Congress in the internal elections of territories such as the Marianas Islands is illegal. Rep. George Miller (D-CA) took an interest in DeLay's involvement in the Marianas some years ago, and as ranking Democrat on the House Resources Committee repeatedly asked Republican Chairman (and Abramoff implicatee) Richard Pombo to investigate. Pombo stonewalled but eventually co-signed a letter to the Department of Justice asking them to expand the Abramoff probe to include the Marianas Islands. The following excerpt -- one of the letters Miller wrote to Pombo -- summarizes:

    I wrote that in 1999, two men associated with then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay - Ed Buckham, a one-time chief of staff who later became the head of ARMPAC, and Mike Scanlon, a DeLay spokesman - were reportedly involved in an effort to influence the election of the Speaker to the CNMI House of Representatives. I have since learned of additional evidence to suggest these two men may have traded political favors to sway the election in favor of a candidate most likely to renew a contract with lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

    There's more, naturally.


    Wednesday, December 07, 2005

    Deep progressive thoughts

    The group of bloggers at Think Progress are simply doing all the good work lately. Here's from one of their posts on ScAlito:


    Throughout the confirmation process, Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito has had difficulty standing by his words and taking responsibility for his actions.

    For example, when he was nominated to a federal appeals court in 1990 he promised the Senate that he would recuse himself from any case involving the investment firm Vanguard because of his substantial investments with the company. In 2002, he ruled on a case involving Vanguard anyway.

    Instead of taking responsibility for his actions, Alito has made excuses. In a letter sent to Alito yesterday, Sen. Ted Kennedy documented six different excuses Alito has floated to avoid taking responsibility. Here’s a summary:

    1. It wasn’t really a promise. He was free to dissolve his responsibility at anytime.

    2. It was an oversight.

    3. It was OK because the specific investments he owned were not at issue.

    4. It was OK because he “voluntarily” recused himself once a complaint was filed.

    5. It was a “harmless error.”

    6. It didn’t matter because the defendant was representing herself.

    These excuses are contradictory and irrelevant. But biggest concern is not that his excuses are bad but that he’s taken the time to make so many. It is essential for Supreme Court justices accept accountability for their words and actions. Alito has shown he has trouble doing either.


    And another:


    The right’s latest campaign to build public support for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito? Convincing you he’s the Christmas candidate.

    The right-wing Commitee for Justice yesterday began airing a radio ad in Colorado, Wisconsin, and West Virginia, trying to convince conservatives that he will lead the fight against the so-called “War on Christmas.” As notes, the Committee was formed at the behest of Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) and Karl Rove to funnel business money into the Supreme Court fight. From the ad:

    It’s the season when Americans celebrate our traditions of faith … and once again religious freedom is under assault. … Some courts and judges have supported this radical agenda, but not Judge Sam Alito, President Bush’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Throughout his career, Judge Alito has consistently upheld the Constitution’s protection of free religious expression. [Listen to the ad here]

    Right-winger Jay Sekulow, who has helped the White House with its Supreme Court nominee strategy and chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice, has created his own Christmas resource center and hints that more ads pairing Alito and Christmas and attacking Alito’s critics as “anti-God” may be forthcoming:

    This is going to be the dominant theme on the Alito nomination until the end of the year-the convergence of a Supreme Court nomination, the Christmas season, and a judge who has a well-staked-out position on support for religious expression.

    Evidently the “well qualified” conservative argument wasn’t working well.


    And from an interview with Rep. David Obey (D-WI), the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. David Price (D-NC), and Rep. Tom Allen (D-ME), on Congressional ethics:


    THINK PROGRESS: Our last question – why isn’t Roy Blunt as effective a leader as Tom DeLay?

    OBEY: Well, there was a reason Tom DeLay was referred to as “The Hammer” because Tom didn’t just lead by persuasion, he led by intimidation, he led by muscle. I mean, this is a man who would bring in outside lobby groups in and trade associations and tell them that if they wanted attention and access, they had better hire Republicans in their operation. He created a marriage between K Street lobbying operations and the Capitol and Pennsylvania Avenue and that made him very formidable even as it gutted what democracy was supposed to be able to produce.

    ALLEN: I would say it’s too early to say how effective Roy Blunt is, but clearly, the ruthlessness of a Tom DeLay has had a huge impact on the way the House has been run. Of course, right now, Roy Blunt’s going to deal with the fact that opinions of this Republican Congress are in the tank, and there are Republicans who, just as I said before, are really anxious, they’re afraid they’re going to lose their own elections – so it’s a hard group to manage. This is all the result of an underlying philosophy that we’re not going to deal with Democrats, we’re only going to rely on Republicans, and we’re going to force cohesion when it doesn’t even exist in many cases.

    PRICE: Roy Blunt’s got his hands full. I mean, this is an agenda – a terrible way to try to start out a leadership career, cutting food stamps, and Medicaid, and student loans, and child support, while you’re at the same time giving tax breaks for dividends and capital gains – goodness, that’s a nightmare, for any leader. And the notion that Tom DeLay could pull this off, I’m not sure is correct. But, anyway, it’s Roy Blunt’s bad luck to be coming in just as President Bush’s popularity goes south, and conservatives are trying this power play to do all these draconian cuts to the most vulnerable people in society and Roy Blunt’s being asked to deliver on this. He’s guilty of, if nothing else, of bad timing, of trying to pull this off. But the notion that DeLay could come in here and do it – I’m not sure even DeLay could manage this.


    They have become a daily must-read. Bookmark them.

    Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    Fun with Tom and Dick

    From the DeLay fundraiser /protest, at the Galleria yesterday. Protestors outside outnumbered attendees inside by about three-to-one.

    Go here for more pictures.

    Is Bob Gammage Damaged Goods?

    I 've been watching the viral marketing campaign online for former Texas Supreme Court justice Bob Gammage's "campaign" for Texas Governor unfold over the past two weeks, and I must say it's been an interesting and yet obviously choreographed demonstration, and a lesson for anyone who wants to create buzz about a candidate "considering" a run for office. Apparently, it worked, because Gammage is to declare himself a candidate next week, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

    (In fact, we're seeing the same thing also happen with rumors now online around two other possible Democratic candidates for Governor, former Texas House speaker Pete Laney and Houston mayor Bill White, but that's fodder for a post I'll make should either or both decide to crowd into the water.)

    The questions I pose below have been turning over in my mind since I did some Googling on Gammage -- his long experience in Texas politics predates my own quite short experience as an activist, so I went looking for some information in the public domain that might tell me what he's been up to since he retired from the Texas Supreme Court in 1995.

    Not a lot, it appears, beyond earning a comfortable living as an attorney and working in the Wesley Clark campaign in 2004.

    First of all, some self-disclosure is in order. It ought to be no secret that I'm an avid supporter of Chris Bell. Bell was my representative when he served in Congress; he's been a friend of my family's for quite some time, and I like him a lot personally. So there will be some who are going to carp about my bias, and I'll admit it straight up front so there's no misunderstanding. I'm on record as saying that a contested primary is not a bad thing. And so it ought be just as clear that my enthusiasm for Bell has nothing to do with the questions that surround Bob Gammage's departure from public service ten years ago, his reasons for doing so, and his political activism since that time. These are matters Gammage is simply going to have to clear up in order to run a successful campaign.

    I hereby invite him to do so, here or elsewhere online (or in the MSM, if he so chooses).

    Let me begin with the circumstances surrounding Gammage's departure from the Supreme Court in August, 1995:

    At the time he resigned -- almost a year and a half prior to the expiration of his term on the Court -- Gammage stated that he intended to go to work with former Texas attorney general, judge, and gubernatorial candidate John Hill, who had announced plans to reform the judicial system in Texas. But Gammage did not do that; instead he accepted a position in then-Land Commissioner Garry Mauro's office.

    This prompts two questions:

    -- why did Gammage resign so early? He created a vacancy for Bush to appoint James Baker -- no relation to the former G. H.W. Bush Secretary of State -- and Baker was able to run as an incumbent, winning the 1996 election, strengthening the assimilation of increasingly harder-right-wing radicals to the Court, and paving the way for the GOP sweeps from that time up to the present.

    -- why did Gammage say he would do one thing, but then do another? Was the pay in Mauro's office so great, or the calling greater than that of Hill's judicial reform efforts? Wouldn't a retiring Supreme Court Justice have better prospects than this?

    Now as far as I can tell, Bob Gammage left Austin in 1996 and relocated from Houston -- where he had served in the US Congress before his constituents selected Mike Andrews instead to represent them -- to Arlington, began a law practice in Llano, and spent nearly a decade out of the political limelight ... until he got heavily involved in Clark's presidential campaign in 2004.

    (More disclosure: I also worked on Clark's campaign, attending Meetups and writing letters to New Hampshireites and Virginians and making phone calls as well to voters in those states. I did not meet Gammage, or even hear of his name during that time. And I am sure he did not hear of mine. I daresay he has little to no idea who I am today).

    According to people who would know, Bob had promised his wife Linda a quieter, more comfortable life after his years in governmental service, something to which they were both certainly entitled.

    But according to other people who would know, Gammage had some murky implication in the scandal of the time: the tobacco-litigation kickbacks that eventually ensnared attorney general Dan Morales, forcing his resignation from office and resulting in his conviction and prison sentence (which as of this post Morales is still serving):

    But if he enters the race, (Gammage) also may have to answer campaign questions about his own unwitting role in a major Democratic scandal, former Attorney General Dan Morales' attempt to obtain millions of dollars in fraudulent legal fees for a friend in Texas' anti-tobacco lawsuit.

    Morales is about halfway through a four-year federal prison sentence stemming from the case, and his friend, Marc Murr, was sentenced to six months in federal prison. Both pleaded guilty in 2003 to federal mail fraud charges.

    Gammage was one of three state arbitrators who recommended in 1998 that Murr, then an attorney, be paid $260 million for purported work that other lawyers in the tobacco suit said he never performed.

    The arbitrators were selected by Morales and Murr after Morales had obtained a $17.3 billion settlement of a suit against tobacco companies over health care costs associated with smoking.

    A national arbitration panel overturned most of the state award and gave Murr $1 million, which he later relinquished after Morales' successor, Attorney General John Cornyn, challenged the award in court.

    Five other law firms hired by Morales to try the case shared in $3.3 billion in legal fees awarded by the federal arbitrators. The fees are being paid in installments by cigarette makers.

    Gammage said Thursday that he and the other two state arbitrators "dealt with the evidence that was before us."

    "There was a very detailed account of what he (Morales) said Murr had done," Gammage recalled.

    No one, he said, presented evidence against the fees.

    He also said the arbitration process had been approved by the federal judge presiding over the tobacco case and the panel's recommended award was conditioned on the judge's approval.

    I'd simply like a bit more detailed explanation than so far has been made regarding this from Gammage.

    And I make my request so that the voters of theTexas Democratic Party can select a candidate for Governor that has absolutely none of the same stench of corruption that the Republicans thoroughly reek of.

    What say you, Mr. Gammage?

    : Apparently Bob's been thinking about running for quite bit longer than the last couple of weeks.

    ZL0b-ing it yesterday

    That's the name of the nasty virus I picked up and dealt with all of yesterday. It's still got one last annoying little thing popping up, and it's dug its fingernails into the registry, but I will shortly rip it out by the roots.

    On Saturday we spent the day in Galveston at Dickens on the Strand, and Sunday we attended Jim Henley's campaign kickoff.

    So that's why you haven't seen me around here for awhile.

    A few things happened while I was away...

    Tom DeLay got bad news on three fronts: he'll go to trial on money-laundering charges after the holidays, the House Republicans are desperate to ditch him, and he polls well behind an unnamed 'Democrat' in his district. (Pssst, Gallup: several of us in Texas know the name of the Democrat.) La Cucaracha Grande still hasn't awakened and smelled the coffee, though, because he was all smiles at a fundraiser for his lawyers last night. The protestors outnumbered the donors again; about 300 to 100. I think they call that a 'slam dunk'...

    It now appears as if a handful of Democrats -- from Bob Gammage to Pete Laney to Tony Sanchez to Bill White -- are grinding their rumor mills in an effort to build support for a run for Governor. None of them seem to have noticed that there are other statewide offices with no candidates. And the Houston Chronicle still may not be aware that David Van Os has been running for Attorney General for months now. (I will have a post regarding Gammage in the next day or two regarding his online viral campaign, and a handful of unanswered and rather unsettling questions.)

    And the network of Lone Star Lefty bloggers' Texan of the Year campaign finally made the MSM.

    I'll try to get caught up later.

    Saturday, December 03, 2005

    GOP Goobers finally fire their muskets

    We've all been waiting for the eye-scratching and hair-pulling to commence in the Republican gubernatorial primary. It's finally time to microwave Orville Redenbacher:

    Gov. Rick Perry's campaign Friday accused Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, his Republican primary rival, of using her state office equipment to produce a campaign news release.

    That prompted Strayhorn's camp to fire back and accuse a Perry aide of acting as a political operative even when he was working in the governor's press office at the state Capitol.

    "Yes you did!" "No I didn't, but you did!" "Neener, neener!"

    Another stimulating debate between the GOP leaders of the Great State of Texas on the difficult issues facing us. Repeat after me: "Adios, MoFos".

    Friday, December 02, 2005

    Texas redistricting was illegal -- but the GOP did it anyway

    Others have this news from overnight, so I'll be brief with the snips and the linkage. From the WaPo:

    Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo obtained by The Washington Post. But senior officials overruled them and approved the plan.

    The memo, unanimously endorsed by six lawyers and two analysts in the department's voting section, said the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts. It also said the plan eliminated several other districts in which minorities had a substantial, though not necessarily decisive, influence in elections.


    One of two DeLay aides also under indictment in the case, James W. Ellis, is cited in the Justice Department memo as pushing for the plan despite the risk that it would not receive "pre-clearance," or approval, from the department. Ellis and other DeLay aides successfully forced the adoption of their plan over two other versions passed by Texas legislators that would not have raised as many concerns about voting rights discrimination, the memo said.

    ... the Justice Department's approval of the redistricting plan, signed by Sheldon T. Bradshaw, principal deputy assistant attorney general, was valuable to Texas officials when they defended it in court. He called the internal Justice Department memo, which did not come out during the court case, "yet another indictment of Tom DeLay, because this memo shows conclusively that the map he produced violated the law."


    Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, said he did not have any immediate comment.

    You can read the 73-page memo here (.pdf file).

    So, two things:

    First, it's clear once again that Nothing Gets In Tom DeLay's Way. Not the law, not the Justice Department, not the will of the people, nothing.

    He's proven -- once again -- that he's the one at the heart of the Republican Mafia running Texas and the nation. Not the brains (that's Rove and Cheney) but the muscle. DeLay is the capo who breaks the kneecaps and collects the insurance, which he then doles out to his little henchmen all over the country. DeLay is both good earner and enforcer.

    A reminder: Big Time Dick will be in Houston next Monday to keep the Republicans' Thing going -- he's coming to help The Hammer raise money for the brigades of lawyers working nights to keep his sorry ass out of jail. With them wll appear the Governor of Texas, Rick "Adios MoFo" Perry, and the junior Senator from Texas, John "I Love Torturing Box Turtles" Cornyn.

    A Corruption Superfecta.

    It may yet be that the good people of the 22nd District will get to deliver the message the Sugar Land Bugman has been ignoring for years now, or maybe the law will eventually catch up to him, whether that is Ronnie Earle or the Justice Department attorneys who will prosecute the charges resulting from the misdeeds of Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon. But like Al Capone, Tom DeLay ain't goin' to the end of the block without a fight.

    Second, DeLay and his illegal cash corrupt everyone they touch. Why the Attorney General of Texas would roll over for Tom DeLay in defiance of the the Department of Justice makes him a stooge of the first rank. The only reason these nonbinding-but-heavily-weighted memos are issued is to avoid lengthy and expensive (to the taxpayers) court battles.

    The law said no, and the GOP political hacks said screw the law, we're doing it anyway. Let them try to stop us.

    Well guess what, thugs? The people are going to stop you. One way or another, we're taking you down.

    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    Lefty blogs select Republican as Texan of the Year

    So we had this contest, if you recall...

    And the winner is a Republican.

    And not Tom DeLay, or Tom Craddick, or Governor MoFo or either of the two idiots in the US Senate.

    We passed over Texans who made big news in a good way, such as Ronnie Earle and Bill White. We even skipped the Kinkster (my humble O is that he hasn't made any news yet).

    Rep. Carter Casteel of New Braunfels is the recipient of the first annual Texan of the Year.

    Now to be clear, Casteel was about my seventh out of a list of nine. I actually never heard the name until we ran this contest. And you may be saying the same thing to yourself at this moment. So by way of introduction, here's a bit from the press release:

    Casteel was selected, in part, for her outstanding courage and hard work during the legislative session to support public education. Representative Casteel, a Republican, was overwhelmingly selected by a group of ‘progressive’ and ‘liberal’ bloggers in Texas for her ability to break ranks with Republican leadership that was widely seen to ignore the pressing issue of school finance. “We believe, as a group, that Representative Casteel embodies the spirit of statesmanship and reminds all of us what a true leader does to stand up for Texas. We’re pleased and encouraged by her ability to work with leadership from both sides of the aisle for the common good,” says Charlie from

    Rep. Casteel answered a few questions posed by us, also:


    Do you expect a challenger in the primary (from either party)?

    I always run a campaign like I’ve got a challenger. I’ve not heard of one so far.

    What do you think of your party's attempts at targeting those that voted for the Hochberg amendment?

    I don’t think they are being targeted by the leadership.

    What do you think of the '65% rule'?

    That’s fine. That’s an admirable goal. Depending on how you count it. But here’s the question: what is the classroom? Are you talking about the teacher, the aide, the nurse, the librarian, the counselor? You have to include some of the support for the teacher so the kid is in the classroom in the first place.

    How does one balance voting one's district, one's party, and one's personal feelings when those three points are not all in line on a single issue?

    I’ve got a brain and a background so I know that’s important to use. I’m also in a district I’ve lived in for thirty-something years. I have a fair understanding of my district, but it is critical that I communicate with my district. It is a struggle because you are going to vote your district and your conscience and every two years you have to answer to them. I’m comfortable with my party platform.

    What concerns me is how public education became a liberal issue! That’s a conservative value.

    I balance all those things and make my decision. It can offend people, but I can stand by my decisions. Don’t forget, I listen to the debate.

    What do you think of the recent (Texas) Supreme Court ruling (on the funding of Texas public education)?

    I think adequacy is still on the table and will come up in the next special session.

    What would you like to see the Lege do with school finance reform?

    Competitive teacher pay and health care benefits. I don’t think it’s fair to ask our teachers to help shape the future of Texas and not compensate them in a fair way.

    What do you think will actually happen with school finance reform?

    I think everything is on the table. I’ve met with John Sharp and I believe we are all eager to see solutions that are fair from district to district. I think there is a growth and interest among the people of Texas that are paying attention and I think that is a good thing. People are concerned
    about our lack of progress and stepping up to the plate to get in front of the right people.

    What do you think about educators lobbying the Legislature?

    How in the world can they communicate with the legislature without coming up there and talk to (us). If you want to call it lobbying, fine. But people go on their own time and write letters. People have made the same complaints against everybody that comes up to the legislature.

    That being said, I’d rather see my tax dollars being used to educate children. If that’s not happening, then I want my tax dollars to communicate with the legislature on behalf of what’s not happening. I don’t know what the rule is, but we’ll see if a rule is going to be proposed. How is it being done? Can we invite the education community to the legislature in a different way? They’ve been shut out so maybe a lobbyist is the only way to get in the door.


    Jack over at The People's Republic of Seabrook appears to have weighed in first with the news, followed closely by the Pink Lady.

    Thanks for sponsoring the contest goes to PinkDome.

    Update (today): An excerpt from Eye on Williamson County's post:

    Her decision to stand up to Speaker Craddick, wing-nut money changer Dr. James Leininger, and the many Republican voucher sheep - in order to save what's left of our public schools so there is still a chance they can become what they should be - was an extraordinary act of courage, dignity, justice and just plain doing the right thing.

    And from Hope at The Appalachia Alumni Association:

    Perhaps this year's Texan of the Year Award should be renamed the Bill Ratliff Memorial Award For Not Being A Slave To Power Politics.

    Update #2 (also today): Kuffner notes Casteel's comment...

    What concerns me is how public education became a liberal issue! That's a conservative value.

    And responds:

    To me, public education isn't a conservative value any more than it's a liberal value. It is, or at least I hope it is, a universal value. It's a recognition by society that everyone benefits when knowledge and learning are accessible to all. We can argue about how best to implement that, and frankly I think we're best off when we have many perspectives in that argument, but we all need to agree that we have to implement it somehow before that argument can be a productive one. With people like Rep. Casteel in Austin, I feel like that's possible.

    And By the Bayou points out that, unlike the other nominees, Casteel had significant impact for better and for worse:

    Representative Casteel certainly deserves credit for her work on education. However, she was part of something else that had a big impact on Texas this year, and it wasn't something good: she was a co-author of HJR 6, which put the now-passed anti-marriage amendment on the ballot in November.

    On the other hand, though, she also voted against legislation that would have banned gay people from being foster parents. That was a good vote, and courageous for a Republican. ...

    While many of the other final nominees had an impact on Texas in one area or another, Ms. Casteel managed to be influential in two areas. First, she courageously broke with her party's leadership to help protect public education in Texas. She has demonstrated bipartisanship in an increasingly partisan legislature, and that's to be commended.

    But second, she not-so-courageously helped write discrimination into the state constitution. The impact of that one will be felt longer, and while it qualifies her as a person of importance this year, it's nothing to be proud of.

    Wednesday, November 30, 2005

    Upcoming Texas Democratic Candidate Events

    Air America Radio's Al Franken takes his show on the road to Dallas this Friday, December 2 at the Hard Rock Cafe (2601 McKinney, 75204 for those of you in Big D). Guests include Texas Attorney General candidate David Van Os, US Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, and columnist Molly Ivins.

    (Since Clear Channel hasn't yet been convinced to bring AAR to Houston, you can stream the broadcast live through your computer by clicking on the link above. David's interview with Al is scheduled to air at just after noon -- but since it's live radio that could change.)

    David's Whistlestop Campaign Kickoff party is Saturday, December 3, at Austin's Barr Mansion. Jim Hightower is featured speaker. Music by Tres Lunas. Tickets are $50 and include a dinner buffet.

    Barbara Radnofsky will file for election and hold a press conference on Monday, December 5 at the Democratic Party offices, 707 Rio Grande, in Austin at 2 p.m., where she will deliver her proposals for Texans' health care, education, and veterans' affairs. She'll also outline the Top Ten Cynical Anti-Texas positions her opponent, Kay Bailey Perjury Technicality Hutchison, has taken during the past year.

    And Chris Bell will be appearing at the Galveston County Central Labor Council's Holiday Banquet on Tuesday December 6, at Fisherman's Wharf restaurant in the Strand, Galveston. The event starts with a social hour at 6 p.m., and the dinner program begins at 7. Congressional candidates Nick Lampson and Shane Sklar will also be speaking at the event.

    Tuesday, November 29, 2005

    Lurching toward theocratic fascism

    Long before Dr. James Dobson forced Harriet Miers to withdraw from consideration for the Supreme Court, and long before Dick Cheney and the Big Oil kingpins had the minutes from their meetings sealed by the USSC after Cheney and Scalia went duck-hunting in Louisiana, I felt that the United States was heading down this ominous path. Two friends recently forwarded me some articles that prompt me to cobble together this post. Two excerpts follow, the first from Paul Bigioni:


    Observing political and economic discourse in North America since the 1970s leads to an inescapable conclusion: The vast bulk of legislative activity favours the interests of large commercial enterprises. Big business is very well off, and successive Canadian and U.S. governments, of whatever political stripe, have made this their primary objective for at least the past 25 years.

    Digging deeper into 20th century history, one finds the exaltation of big business at the expense of the citizen was a central characteristic of government policy in Germany and Italy in the years before those countries were chewed to bits and spat out by fascism. Fascist dictatorships were borne to power in each of these countries by big business, and they served the interests of big business with remarkable ferocity.

    These facts have been lost to the popular consciousness in North America. Fascism could therefore return to us, and we will not even recognize it. Indeed, Huey Long, one of America's most brilliant and most corrupt politicians, was once asked if America would ever see fascism. "Yes," he replied, "but we will call it anti-fascism."

    ... Before the rise of fascism, Germany and Italy were, on paper, liberal democracies. Fascism did not swoop down on these nations as if from another planet. To the contrary, fascist dictatorship was the result of political and economic changes these nations underwent while they were still democratic. In both these countries, economic power became so utterly concentrated that the bulk of all economic activity fell under the control of a handful of men. Economic power, when sufficiently vast, becomes by its very nature political power. The political power of big business supported fascism in Italy and Germany.

    Business tightened its grip on the state in both Italy and Germany by means of intricate webs of cartels and business associations. ... This was an era eerily like our own, insofar as economists and businessmen constantly clamoured for self-regulation in business. By the mid 1920s, however, self-regulation had become self-imposed regimentation. By means of monopoly and cartel, the businessmen had wrought for themselves a "command and control" economy that replaced the free market. The business associations of Italy and Germany at this time are perhaps history's most perfect illustration of Adam Smith's famous dictum: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."

    How could the German government not be influenced by Fritz Thyssen, the man who controlled most of Germany's coal production? How could it ignore the demands of the great I.G. Farben industrial trust, controlling as it did most of that nation's chemical production? Indeed, the German nation was bent to the will of these powerful industrial interests. Hitler attended to the reduction of taxes applicable to large businesses while simultaneously increasing the same taxes as they related to small business. Previous decrees establishing price ceilings were repealed such that the cost of living for the average family was increased. Hitler's economic policies hastened the destruction of Germany's middle class by decimating small business.

    Ironically, Hitler pandered to the middle class, and they provided some of his most enthusiastically violent supporters. The fact that he did this while simultaneously destroying them was a terrible achievement of Nazi propaganda.

    Hitler also destroyed organized labour by making strikes illegal. Notwithstanding the socialist terms in which he appealed to the masses, Hitler's labour policy was the dream come true of the industrial cartels that supported him. Nazi law gave total control over wages and working conditions to the employer.


    The same economic reality existed in Italy between the two world wars. In that country, nearly all industrial activity was owned or controlled by a few corporate giants, Fiat and the Ansaldo shipping concern being the chief examples ... As a young man, Mussolini had been a strident socialist, and he, like Hitler, used socialist language to lure the people to fascism. Mussolini spoke of a "corporate" society wherein the energy of the people would not be wasted on class struggle. The entire economy was to be divided into industry specific corporazioni, bodies composed of both labour and management representatives. The corporazioni would resolve all labour/management disputes; if they failed to do so, the fascist state would intervene.

    Unfortunately, as in Germany, there laid at the heart of this plan a swindle. The corporazioni, to the extent that they were actually put in place, were controlled by the employers. Together with Mussolini's ban on strikes, these measures reduced the Italian labourer to the status of peasant.

    Mussolini, the one-time socialist, went on to abolish the inheritance tax, a measure that favoured the wealthy. He decreed a series of massive subsidies to Italy's largest industrial businesses and repeatedly ordered wage reductions. Italy's poor were forced to subsidize the wealthy. In real terms, wages and living standards for the average Italian dropped precipitously under fascism.

    Even this brief historical sketch shows how fascism did the bidding of big business. The fact that Hitler called his party the "National Socialist Party" did not change the reactionary nature of his policies. The connection between the fascist dictatorships and monopoly capital was obvious to the U.S. Department of Justice in 1939. As of 2005, however, it is all but forgotten.


    It might be argued that North America's democratic political systems are so entrenched that we needn't fear fascism's return. The democracies of Italy and Germany in the 1920s were in many respects fledgling and weak. Our systems will surely react at the first whiff of dictatorship.

    Or will they? This argument denies the reality that the fascist dictatorships were preceded by years of reactionary politics, the kind of politics that are playing out today. Further, it is based on the conceit that whatever our own governments do is democracy. ... In the U.S., millions still question the legality of the sitting president's first election victory, and the power to declare war has effectively become his personal prerogative. Assuming that we have enough democracy to protect us is exactly the kind of complacency that allows our systems to be quietly and slowly perverted. On paper, Italy and Germany had constitutional, democratic systems. What they lacked was the eternal vigilance necessary to sustain them. That vigilance is also lacking today.


    And from Bill Wheeler, in an e-mail to me:


    The first of the Dixiecrats to leave the Democratic Party in 1948 took place when the Democrats would not remove a plank in the platform calling for an integrated military. Jesse Helms formed the Dixiecrat Party and ran for President that year. He later moved on to the Republican Party who accepted him and all others of his ilk with open arms.

    In the South they were called the ‘yellow dog’ Democrats because it was said that if they ran an old yellow dog against any Republican, they would still vote for the dog. Now they’re Republicans. Mostly made up of neo-Nazi, KKK, white supremacists, paramilitary and conservative religious fanatics, they joined the far right conservative, John Birch Sociey wing of the Republican Party. Their movement grew slowly in the fifties, gained speed in the 60’s and 70’s. At best, they could be described as social conservatives or, in my view, social misfits.

    They became the ‘swing vote’ that started changing the face of Congress and the national political scene. This is when the likes of Trent Lott and Phil Gramm went ‘over’. The old conservative social Democrats would accept the traditional Republican adherence to Big Business; in return, the Republicans would accept them as the petty bourgeoisie with their social hatreds.

    I explain this political movement not as a long journey from the politically extreme left to the extreme right; but as one short step. How? The political dichotomies, in my view, form a continuum not along a straight line left and right but rather as a clock face, where moderates or centrists are located at 6:00 and the extreme right and left wings converge at 12:00. With this in mind, it is easy to see that it is but a small step from totalitarian left to totalitarian right. There is not much difference in these extremes except their social standings.

    Leon Trotsky called both of these enigmas of mankind ‘fascist’. The right wing corporate conservative unites with the petty bourgeoisie left wing social (usually religious) conservatives. He called left wingers “social democrats” and “social fascists”.

    Once the petty bourgeoisie were compelled to change course, they were employed to fight the street battles, to get bloody, and take the risks. This is just what the Republican Party needed, an Army – not in this case to fight a war but to win the battle at the polls.

    Trotsky wrote:

    “the changes in this sphere ultimately play a minor role -- but it means first of all for the most part that the workers' organizations are annihilated; that the proletariat is reduced to an amorphous state; and that a system of administration is created which penetrates deeply into the masses and which serves to frustrate the independent crystallization of the proletariat. Therein precisely is the gist of fascism....”

    Trotsky further wrote:

    “After fascism is victorious, finance capital directly and immediately gathers into its hands, as in a vise of steel, all the organs and institutions of sovereignty, the executive administrative, and educational powers of the state: the entire state apparatus together with the army, the municipalities, the universities, the schools, the press, the trade unions, and the co-operatives.”

    And finally:

    “And the fascist agency, by utilizing the petty bourgeoisie as a battering ram, by overwhelming all obstacles in its path, does a thorough job. After fascism is victorious, finance capital directly and immediately gathers into its hands, as in a vise of steel, all the organs and institutions of sovereignty, the executive, administrative, and educational powers of the state: the entire state apparatus together with the army, the municipalities, the universities, the schools, the press, the trade unions, and the co-operatives. When a state turns fascist, it does not mean only that the forms and methods of government are changed."