Thursday, June 30, 2005

Light blogging ahead

during the holiday weekend.

Bush's speech was -- as expected -- a zero. I did notice that CNN and other MSM outlets seemed to have grown a pair in their coverage of it. Karl Rove and Dick Cheney have retreated to their undisclosed locations to plot their next attack on America's enemies (that would be the judiciary, the Senate, or the left in general but would not include Osama or al-Qaeda).

A calendar of progressive activist events coming in July has been posted at Houston Democrats and also the Democratic Underground.

Matthew Cooper -- as well as that douchebag of liberty, Robert Novak -- will probably avoid being jailed over the Plame affair, but it remains to be seen if Judith Miller will manage likewise.

Watch for one hell of a Friday afternoon document dump tomorrow.

This weekend at least, I think I'll stick to the chicken.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005


... handicaps the Justice horse race Luttig, Roberts, Garza. Of course it may yet be awhile before post time, as Rehnquist continues to hang on by his fingernails.

The most incredible news in that article -- from a dozen disconcerting things to choose -- has to be the news that Al "Abu Ghraib" Gonzales is considered by the Talibaptists too moderate a candidate to be submitted.

*insert head-banging-against-wall emoticon here*

Update (6/29): Kos has more, including speculation on O'Connor, as well as Harry Reid's suggestions on Supreme Court nominees from among his peers.

Update II (6/30): A pretty interesting story here about summer vacations and multi-million-dollar ad campaigns and lives placed on hold, waiting for the eventual Supreme Court vacancy.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Election Assessment Hearing here Weds. 6/29

On Thursday, June 30th, the (James A.) Baker -- (former Pres. Jimmy) Carter Commission on Federal Election Reform will hold their second and final hearing at the campus of Rice University.

The commission has already refused to hear the testimony of Rep. John Conyers, who of course headed a congressional subcommittee investigation into the voting irregularities with regard to the 2004 election in the state of Ohio. David Cobb, the Green Party's 2004 presidential candidate, was also denied the opportunity to testify about the problems he encountered with Ohio's electoral processes during the attempted recount. Other election process researchers, analysts, investigators and atorneys were likewise refused the chance to report their findings of problems with our election processes during the 2004 election.

In response to this apparent lack of interest on the part of the Baker-Carter Commission in surveying problems with election processes evidenced in the last election, and in order to provide state election officials with data which will help them make informed decisions, 51 Capital March, with the endorsement of BradBlog, CAEF, IPPN, J-30 Coalition, USCountVotes, VotersUnite and others, is sponsoring an Election Assessment Hearing to be held in Houston on June 29th, the day before the Baker-Carter Commission is scheduled to meet.

Here's the location and agenda, and this is the list of presenters, which include Cobb and Bev Harris of .

Update (7/1): DemoDonkey posts her report on the hearing here.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Toy Cannon in 1972.

There was a jersey retirement ceremony yesterday at Minute Maid Park for Jimmy Wynn, who has been one of my very favorite Astros from the time I sat in the shiny new Dome as a six-year-old (in the center field bleachers, with my glove, anticipating -- in that excitedly hopeful way that kids have -- a home run hit to me).

Wynn was, and still is, one of the humblest stars I ever watched. Even when he was told this past winter during a luncheon with owner Drayton McLane that his number would go into the rafters, he was speechless.

Congratulations to one of the true good guys.

Update: Tom Kirkendall, and via him John Brattain, each discuss in greater detail the Toy Cannon's career.

Liberals in the armed forces

are mad at Karl Rove.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Last notes on Democracy Fest

-- Arriving at the campus of Huston-Tillotson a week ago Friday afternoon, I proceeded to the media room and got credentialed, met Charlie of Pink Dome (he spoke at the Blogger's Caucus) and saw Seth of Radnofsky2006 again, who took and then posted a photo of me. On Saturday there I bumped into Jim Dean -- literally.

-- the socializing at Threadgill's Friday night was excellent. I met several of the DU crew, many I knew before, some I was meeting for the first time. Good times.

-- I've already posted about the workshops we attended; here's a couple of good reports on ones we didn't -- "What it Means to be a Progressive" and the Civic Action Networks. Around 2 on Saturday afternoon we took a late lunch over at Scholz Garten, and who should walk in with twenty of her entourage but Carole Strayhorn, fresh off her announcement rally. She didn't come by our table to say hi, and I didn't run the gauntlet of "Team Tough Grandma" t-shirted minions. So no blood was shed.

-- The big party was of course the Progressive Express event at Stubb's BBQ. Tickets were sold for $20 just for this event (and those folks didn't get the buffet like we did) and it sold out also. I don't know how many people were there, three thousand maybe; whatever the fire marshal's capacity for Stubb's is, I suppose. The fifteen or so evil DUers gathered at a table upstairs where we could enjoy some air-conditioning and still see and hear, and when Howard Dean came on we pushed outside. A white-haired lady brushed right past us; I heard Mrs. Diddie say, "Molly Ivins, you are a fountain of wonder!" and looked around just in time to see my wife getting kissed on the cheek by her.

-- The Sunday blog breakfast was a happening also. Getting to meet Kos was a treat.

-- Here's a great list of links that roses compiled. And here's the Austin Chronicle's take.

-- We departed a little early to meet a delightful A2Ker and her family for brunch, and with a few minutes to spare beforehand, walked through the Texas State Cemetery. In less than a half hour, we saw the graves of Tom Landry, Barbara Jordan, John Connally, Preston Smith (there are seven other governors of Texas buried there), Bob Bullock, Stephen F. Austin, and the Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston (his tomb is on the left in this picture). Jake Pickle, the long-time Austin Congressman who passed away last Saturday, is now interred not far from Connally and Bullock there on Republic Hill.

-- and on the way home we stopped at the Berdoll Pecan Farm and Store for some of their goodies, which included not just the dark chocolate covered pecan halves but also tomatoes and peaches. This place is worth the drive all by itself. It's on Highway 71, just west of Bastrop, and if you find yourself traveling that way, don't miss it.

Let’s dispense with this quickly, shall we?

When Howard Dean speaks, he’s speaking as the chairman of the Democratic Party. The Democrats pay him. If there are Democrats who don’t like what Dean says, then they can stop donating to the party (they ought to have sense enough to keep their disagreements private, but that's tangential).

When Dick Durbin speaks, he’s representing the people of Illinois, to whom he will answer when he’s up for re-election.

When Karl Rove speaks, he speaks as an official with the White House. He is no longer simply an evil-genius-political-operative extraordinaire, he's also responsible for shaping policy and stuff, due to his not-so-recent promotion. The only person he’s accountable to is the President of the United States, who has no intention of asking Rove to apologize.

Karl Rove is paid by each and every American taxpayer. He represents all of us.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The new L'Auberge du Lac is very nice ...

... it is certainly now the nicest casino in southwestern Louisiana (and I ought to know; I've driven Mom to all of them in recent years for some slots-o'-fun). We came over here today for her 79th birthday, and now I'm sitting in the Fairfield Inn in Beaumont getting a little business done before returning to H-Town tomorrow.

But as we gambled and then hit the buffet, and I marveled at the Tahoe-like rustic quality of their sprawling, spanking-new facility, I couldn't help but chuckle sadly thinking about how badly the Coushattas just up the road in Kinder were screwed by Michael Scanlon and Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay's butthole buddies.

Those TRMPAC indictments haven't shown up yet, but it's just a matter of time ... =)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Dear MasterCard:

Effective May 1, 2005, any compromise of my data will result in a $50 liability for you, the card issuer, owed to me, the card holder.

Cashing the payment check I sent you last month (which you did) shall constitute your acceptance of this agreement. Subsequent security breaches will compound the fee. I will spell out the terms of just how much these fees and related costs will escalate as soon as I find a typeface that is small enough.

Failure to comply with these changes will result in finance charges, compounded monthly and based on the average daily balance of the amount lost to fraud.

By the way, I recently incorporated myself in South Dakota, which means I can now engage in usury as much as you can. Therefore, I have selected an annual percentage rate of 28.7 percent. However, failure to make payments will force me to raise this rate to 73.9 percent, just because I can.

And one more thing. I expect my payment to be on my desk by 12:37 p.m. on the day it's due. I'm usually at lunch at that time, so I will consider it late if it's not there by 11:24 a.m. After that, all the previously listed finance charges will apply. The date the payment is mailed is irrelevant.

Also, given the widespread nature of the security problems, I am going to share information with my fellow consumers. If I determine you failed to secure their private account information, I may be forced to enact the terms specified in this agreement even though you did not violate the agreement with me. Call it universal default in reverse.

More at the link in the title.

I just tapped out that bit about

the forum I attended last night regarding the Halliburton shareholder's protest/police action.

It's here and also at Houston Indymedia, but I can't link to it at the moment because their server is down (as well as their rather odd justifying seems to prohibit paragraphs, so it's hard to read there).

Update: They're live again over there, and Renee Phillips of KPFT has posted her 7 1/2 minute mp3 audio account of the forum. (Clicking on the link starts the audio in your default media player.)


Charles hit me with this dart, and it keeps me from working on a post that requires much thinking (or blogging about the NBA Finals or the Astros) ...

1. How many books do you own?

I don't really know. I have one floor-to-nearly-ceiling built-in bookcase and it's so full that books are crammed on top of books. There's no more room in it, and I have a few books on the coffeetable in the living room and a stack on the floor next to my desk here that looks like it's about three feet tall.

When we moved from Midland, TX to Treasure Island, FL in 1992 we gave away probably a couple of hundred or more to friends and neighbors and the literacy project there (Midland Need to Read, where I had been a tutor). That was a nice library too; an autographed copy of Tom Landry's biography given to me by my younger brother was part of that collection.

2. Last book read.

The Broker, by John Grisham.

3. Last book purchased.

Amy Goodman's Exception to the Rulers, signed by the author. I just offered to trade it to one of my friends, as a reciprocation for the book she's going to send me, so I'm glad she didn't take me up on that ...

4. Name five books that mean a lot to you.

1. See Dick Run. Probably the first book I ever read. Seminal. Seriously, though ...

2. The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton. I can still see some of the pages in my mind's eye.

3. Moby Dick. We read it aloud in my eighth-grade language arts class right before school let out for the summer, and I still remember some of Melville's best work from it:

"And he piled up one the whale's white hump the sum of all the rage felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it."

And for my big finish, I'll list 4. A Bright Shining Lie, by Neil Sheehan, and 5. Liars' Club by Mary Karr, because they represent two genres that I enjoy the most, which are historical and biographical topics, and novels with some local flair ('local' in this case defined as any place I've actually lived or visited). I have bios and autobios of LBJ, Jimmy Carter and the Clintons, but also a few of Elmore Leonard's and Jimmy Buffet's books because of that year I spent living in and traveling around Florida.

Mary Karr is about my same age, grew up in Port Arthur, and went to a bunch of the same places my crew went, so I'm kinda surprised we didn't bump into each other at a high school football game or something. I knew girls just exactly like her, though ...

5. Five people to tag.

Sarah, Charles, Joe, Lyn, and Lisa, you're it.

"DeLay Factor", finally

This workshop from the DemFest weekend just past was greatly anticipated, well-attended, and without disappointment.

Panelists Lou Dubose, Chris Bell, Richard Morrison (you already ought to know who they are) were joined by Sue DuQuesnay, whom you may know better as Juanita Jean HerOwnself, owner of The World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon.

The two men who have taken on Tom DeLay mano y mano in the past year talked about that experience. Bell is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the filing of the House ethics complaint against the Majority Leader, an action that was heartily discouraged by even Democratic House leaders, but which has slowly revealed the enormous and tangled web of influence peddlers, former House staffers, corrupt children's foundations and PACs and more that The Hammer has spent many years painstakingly weaving together.

Morrison spoke of his campaign in the last cycle which was viewed by everyone but him in the early stages as quixotic, but which resulted in an extraordinarily narrow margin of victory for La Cucaracha Grande.

Both men talked about how it's all about the money. It got DeLay the power he craves so greedily, it keeps him there in his position of influence by intimidation, it has purchased for him dozens and dozens of sycophants masquerading as House Republicans, and will ultimately be his downfall.

Morrison noted that DeLay outspent him by a factor of nearly 7 to 1 in the fall, 2004 campaign. This illuminates the value of having a high-profile Democratic candidate in the next cycle, one that can both raise his own dough as well as draw national funding. Having exposed the Bugman's vulnerability, it also creates a race that the DCCC and others will now target. So if DeLay calculates that he must again raise and spend to the same advantage to be re-elected in 2006, and if Nick Lampson can raise $2 or $3 million compared to Richard's $600,000 ... well, you can do the math.

More importantly even than that, believe it or not, is that DeLay will have considerably fewer dollars to send to his cronies and lickspittles, which means a more level playing field for Dems in House races around the country. With his lawyers still clamoring for payment, with his legal troubles still on the rise, with something stupid coming out of his mouth every time he opens it ...

... there's just a lot of schadenfraude still to look forward to.

On the news over the weekend that KBH wouldn't be running for governor, that CKMcCRS would, and that TRMPAC indictments are imminent, Chris Bell felt like he had hit the trifecta. "I think I'll go to Vegas," he said.

And Juanita Jean? Well, she had to apologize for something she said at the forum, but no, it wasn't for calling anyone a Nazi. Scroll down to the June 20 entry.

I'll have a post-mortem on the weekend including the social events and the get-togethers of kindred spirits and links to some photos "shortly".

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

With all the material I have to blog about...

... two or three more lengthy things to say about Dem Fest; a rather flabbergasted report on a public forum I attended this evening about the Houston police brutality visited on Halliburton protestors last month -- with HPD in the room; Frist's flip-flop on Bolton and Durbin's weak-kneed apology for invoking Godwin's Law just today, and the only thing I want to post is:

"Adios, Mofo."

Oh yeah, it seems there are quite a few rumors floating around online that Rehnquist has resigned and no one with official knowledge will admit it.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Religion, Democracy, and the Common Good

Even though I did not attend this workshop I found its topic and the reports of others to be one of the most fascinating of the weekend.

Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, author and scholar and director on the national boards of the Christian Church and the United Churches of Christ, opened the discussion by saying that progressives need people of faith as equal partners. Progressives and liberals, and by extension the Democratic Party, have been cast as secular by the opposition, and specifically the 'secular left' -- a right-wing frame you hear coming out of the mouths of pastors in pulpits these days -- is considered "weak" in comparison to the conservative, fundamentalist conviction of Christian faith. In order to win the battle of phraseology, progressives need to emphasize the aspects of love in their practice of faith as well as in everyday life, and to contrast it with the "theo-fascists' war against love". Indeed, Brock noted, some secularists tend to feel isolated from the social aspects inherent in the practice of organized religion (in my own Church of Christ upbringing this was called 'fellowship'). In order to mitigate that sense of isolation, they can seek out an "agency" in order to align their associations with their core values; in short, find others who share their beliefs and hang out with them on a regular basis (just as so many of us did this weekend).

Dr. Davidson Loehr had probably the most interesting bio on the panel: Unitarian Universalist minister, author of the forthcoming America, Fascism, and God: Sermons from a Heretical Preacher, former combat photographer in Vietnam, former professional musician. He reminded us again that the left has lost the vocabulary as it relates to nationalism and patriotism, religious conviction, and moral and personal responsibility. His call to action was to reclaim the words like "morals" and phrases like "high ideals" to communicate the goals of progressives. And to likewise use language that casts the opposition unfavorably, just as the Republicans have for so long; for example, the "plutocracy currently being implemented leads to imperialism, and fundamentalism is a natural extension and dangerous ally of the two". Plutocracy, of course, also results in undesirable things like "control of the media, and thereby control of the masses". (Now we just have to dumb this down a bit for the Southerners who haven't gone to college.)

Andy Hernandez, co-author of the Almanac of Latino Politics 2002-2004 and widely respected for his expertise on Latino political strategy, spoke about the fallacy that people cast votes relative to their moral values. We all recall the MSM beating us over the head in the first week of November, 2004 about the 'moral values' voters, right? Well, the statistics are that twenty-two percent of voters in the presidential election indicated they cast their ballot based on 'moral values', and 80% of that 22%, naturally, voted for George W Bush. But in 2000 that number was 35%, and it was 40% in 1996 (and who was elected President in '96, again?). So this choice has actually waned in importance by nearly 50% in two election cycles, at a time when our media is telling us just the opposite. It's important just in terms of one issue -- abortion -- that we begin to say something like this:

"Conservatives aren't pro-life; they're just pro-birth. Liberals are pro-life."

And finally Dr. Paul Woodruff, a professor of ethics at the University of Texas and author of Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue and First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea said that when it comes to ethical behavior, winning is way down the list of priorities. Too much winning, in fact, leads to a swollen head. The Greeks had a word for it: hubris. Indeed, as Brittanica conveys, "in classical Greek ethical and religious thought, overweening presumption suggesting impious disregard of the limits governing human action in an orderly universe" was "the sin to which the gifted were most susceptible". The opposite of hubris is reverence; not religion, not the Diety, but reverence in terms of ethical behavior and integrity. Using the word 'reverence' when progressives speak of caring for the elderly (Social Security), the sick (healthcare), and the environment is an important distinction; one can reap moral value -- i.e. strengthening character -- by losing, for example. And we've had more than enough of that ...

(Aside from me: Boy, I want to hear some Democratic Senator who voted for the war say something like, "I revere the sacrifice our men and women of the armed forces have already made in Iraq, and I feel strongly about this: they have sacrificed enough. It's time for us to bring them home.")

The last postulate on this topic was actually forwarded not in this seminar but by Molly Ivins during our lunchtime forum, where she and Jim Hightower and Glen Maxey and Glenn Smith shared Texas political war stories. She made reference to the "red print" Christians to whom the left can and must appeal.

What are "red print" Christians?

Those of you familiar with the 1970's-era King James versions of your Bibles may recall that the words of Jesus in the New Testament always appeared in red. The New Testament, of course, spoke quite a bit of love, compassion for others, especially those less fortunate, and forgiveness (through the Son of God and his apostles). The Old Testament, by contrast, deals in moral absolutes -- an eye for an eye and so on -- and also speaks about smiting one's enemies and plagues and adultery and sodomy and the consequences of these (usually a painful death).

Sound like any grand old political party you know?

Somewhere there's bound to be some statistics on the percentages of "red print" Christians to the whole, and how many of them don't vote GOP. I would hazard a guess that there are several million votes just in that subgroup that the Democratic Party needs to ask for (and receive).

I'll post about "The DeLay Factor" seminar tomorrow.

Update: Jon Lebkowsky, at his creatively-named Weblogsky, has a report on this seminar as well, and he found a few things I missed.

A few DemFest snapshots

... some suitable for framing, coming up.

And speaking of frames, Jeff Feldman of The Frame Shop led a workshop on that topic Saturday morning. It included an exercise on developing your thirty-second elevator speech for the news of the day (or week). But the seminar I attended prior to that was entitled "Film as an Organizing Tool" and featured excerpts from the new Robert Greenwald documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. As Al Norman, the virtual one-man crusader against Wal-Mart says:

Wal-Mart, through its own excesses, has become a caricature of itself--- a cartoon company symbolizing what Sinclair Lewis called the "completest boredom" of America. Wal-Mart is no longer just a store, or even a corporation. It is an icon of uncontrollable lucre, the Orwellian business machine with a greeter at the sliding doors.

Mrs. Diddie and I split to cover two workshops before lunchtime; she went to "Religion, Democracy, and the Common Good" and I attended "Turning Red States Blue", which was moderated by DFT political director Glen Maxey, political consultant Sandra Ramos, and Dallas County sheriff Lupe Valdez. Maxey's best point was that there is still a majority of Americans who do not vote at all, and his campaigns (Maxey served six terms as an openly gay state representative) typically concentrated on projects to register new voters that involved activities like posting -- or holding -- signs on streets and intersections all over the city of Austin directing people to where to register that day. His GOTV efforts likewise focused not on the frequent voters whose opinions are entrenched but on these first-timers; in calls and GOTV literature they were told when to vote, where to vote, what to bring with them when they went to vote, what to expect when they got to the polling place, etc. Rather than force the virgin voter to look up this data, they tried to make the activity of voting more accessible and less intimidating to people who hadn't done it before (or who hadn't done so in a long while).

Ramos, a veteran of seven congressional campaigns in Colorado last year, six of which were victorious with all of those seats previously held by Republicans, said that the Democratic success she managed was due to having candidates who matched the district, and letting those candidates be themselves. One unique example she cited was the cowboy who simply couldn't blockwalk and canvass for votes; he instead held cookouts and barbecues in every park in the district, and he played his guitar and sang about his campaign message. And Lupe Valdez' best advice was, as a candidate, to find a campaign cause that no one can disagree with and dwell on that. It's counter-productive to spend time talking about issues that are divisive when there are issues that everyone can agree on.

I'm going to devote the next post to Mrs. Diddie's notes on the "Religion" seminar, a post by my friend CitySky who was also in attendance, and some related links.

"later today" has turned into tomorrow

... as referenced in the previous post, and work and life is still preventing me from being wordy, so there'll be more "later".

A family friend in Beaumont e-mailed to report that she saw us on C-SPAN (which obviously was the DeLay Factor telecast). I'm just not going to be able to stay undercover much longer, it seems ...

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Diebold) wins a belated Moneyshot Quote of the week for this:

"The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq..."

Must get back to the grindstone.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Breakfast blogging

Went down the buffet line this morning with Barbara Radnofsky and Kos.

Kos and Jerome note how vital it is to take our activism offline; that elections aren't won by banging on keyboards, but by banging on doors. And just as elections and politics is local, so are the blogs evolving to reflect regional interests (I've noticed this even in my own posts here). Since our best opportunity to interact with our leaders and potential leaders is on a city and state level, then those issues will be the ones we know best -- and can blog intelligently about. Of course it all expands outward from there, even beyond our country's borders of course.

And by driving the change from the bottom -- just as the GOP did thirty years ago -- then you affect the long-term trends.

Barbara Radnofsky is speaking about breaking down the "babykiller" argument waged against the left by the anti-choice right. If, for example (as I have posted previously in regards to Planned Parenthood) we focus efforts on pregnancy prevention, then everybody can find a common place to agree. It's that old reframing thing ...

More coherent and lengthy postings later on today.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

TRMPAC indictments Tuesday?

Charlie at Pink Dome (who proudly declares that his blog publishes rumor as fact) says that there could be as many as eight indictments associated with the misadventurers of TRMPAC handed down next Tuesday, which is also allegedly the day the Texas Lege will be summoned back into special session by Guvnah "God is my campaign manager" Goodhaiyer. To be fair -- something that comes naturally to me -- June 27 is another date being floated for our state legislators to attempt again the titanic struggle to find a way to fund Texas public schools.

Is it possible to fantasize that we could see Tom Craddick being led away from the dais in leg irons? Dare we dream to see the Speaker of the Texas House frog-marched out of the Capitol?

Be still my beating heart ...

The GOP has passed a mighty wind this weekend in order to try to draw attention away from the one thousand progressive activists assembled in Austin working to counter the very crap they are busily dispensing, with Kay Bailey Hutchison finally getting off the pot and Rick Perry and Carole Strayhorn scheduling their dueling press conferences today. It's possible that Speaker Craddick may trump them all by the beginning of next week.

Live from the center of the left

This is both the coolest thing and the hottest thing I've done in awhile.

Met some Kool Kidz (that would be you, Charlie and Umpire), met some campaign operatives (that's the obligatory Novak reference, Tim and Seth), got a hotel room that overlooks the cemetery (orbs are floating around all over the place, according to my digital camera), and I'm eating one of those scrumptious Doubletree cookies for breakfast (it's no wonder I'm diabetic, with diets like mine).

Good Christ, it's freaking sweltering outside, even at this hour.

Hm. I see Kay Bailey is going back on her word. That's going to have quite a constipating effect on the GOP bench players. David Dewness and Henry Vanilla (I've heard quite a few Latinos call him that, so I hope it's not racial or anything) have to sit tight for the rest of the decade. Poor them.

Which reminds me; I getta get over to the Capitol and grab a couple of Carole's free hot dogs at lunch today...

My picture's been taken a lot, total strangers have read my media credentials and told me how much they enjoy the blog, and a couple of the pols whom I've met a few times now even recognize me.

Damn, this being the media is the shiznit.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Democracy Fest 2005, Austin

Much has been said, here and elsewhere, about this seminal progressive event taking place in Keep-It-Weird this weekend. I have been granted media credentials (boy, doesn't that make me sound like hot shit, eh?) and will liveblog some events as wireless access allows and others after the fact. The Bloggers Caucus opens the weekend and features appearances by the following candidates and their representatives:

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston attorney and Democratic candidate for the United States Senate seat now held by Kay Bailey Hutchison, who will be represented by her campaign blogger Seth Davidson. Radnofsky has posted recently at Burnt Orange Report and Off the and will also be at our blogger's breakfast on Sunday with Markos and Jerome.

Chris Bell, exploring a run for Governor of Texas, will be represented by operations manager and blogger Tim McCann. Bell has participated in conference calls with the Lone Star blogosphere -- most recently this week -- and will also be on the Saturday panel called "The DeLay Factor" with Richard Morrison, whose campaign against the Bugman last fall rocked the establishment, and Lou Dubose, whose book "The Hammer: Tom DeLay, God, Money, and the Rise of the Republican Congress" is a fine primer for DeLay watchers.

David Van Os, candidate for Texas Attorney General, will appear at the caucus in person accompanied by Dave Collins, chair of his steering committee. I'm privileged to know Van Os from my earliest days as an activist in connecting to him through the Progressive Populist Caucus of the Texas Democratic Party. Van Os is hosting a campaign reception immediately following the Bloggers' Caucus Friday evening from 6:00 P.M. - 8:00 P.M. at Nuevo Leon Restaurant, 1501 E. 6th.

John Courage, who is hoping to replace Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) as Sixth Street's Representative in Congress (CD 21), will be present, as will Andy Brown, an Austin attorney who has announced for HD 48 against Todd Baxter, and also Mark Strama, the Democratic incumbent in a swing district, HD 50. One of the most critical aspects of our caucus will be discussing how we can help secure re-election for strong progressives like Strama who have stayed true to their base while representing close districts.

Judge Charlie Baird was formerly on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and was one of the last Democratic judges elected to statewide office. He is a candidate for the 299th Judicial District Court in Travis County and will be represented at the caucus by Glen Maxey, former member of the Texas House, Democracy for Texas political director and Baird's campaign manager. Judge Baird wants to generate public discussion, utilizing the Lone Star blogosphere, of the possibility of reforming judicial elections in Texas.

And LGRL of Texas will be represented at the Caucus in connection with the upcoming vote on the proposed Marriage Amendment to the state Constitution. LGRL is very interested in working with us Texas blogmeisters to get the word out about the discrimination proposed by the Amendment and its unintended consequences if enacted.

There's more, a whole hell of a lot more, but I'm going to try to dole it out in bite-size pieces over the weekend.

Please stay tuned ...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

One Tough Grandma is about to say something

... about her 2006 plans.

Lots of other bloggers are reporting and speculating on this rumor/news.

Here's my take:

1. This has to chap Kay Bailey's ass. Now she has to a) announce her own intentions sooner than she planned in order to avoid being left in the starting gate, or b) continue shilly-shallying and risk looking indecisive.

2. Rick Perry's going to have his hide torn off between now and next spring. And he'll have to spend millions of dollars to try and lock down the nomination, money he could have saved for autumn, 2006.

3. It makes a Kinky candidacy either less likely or more formidable, depending on your POV. Friedman needs something like 50,000* signatures of registered voters who can't have voted in either primary next May, and he has a small window after those primaries to gather them. So if he can get on the ballot -- a tall task, considering how many people will be drawn to a GOP primary with Perry and Hutchison and Strayhorn and a Dem primary with possibly Chris Bell and maybe John Sharp -- he stands a reasonable chance of drawing off that 15 or perhaps 20% of general election votes, giving him kingmaker status.

Dammit, I've got to get to Costco for a case of Orville Redenbacher's ...

*Update: An e-mail to me corrects the numbers of signatures required for an independent candidacy to between 45,000 and 50,000. Holy shit.

Tomorrow's going to be a bad day for the Bush administration

Tomorrow morning, Rep. Walter Jones will announce, along with Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, the bipartisan legislation that will call on President Bush to "to set a plan for beginning the phase-out of US troops in Iraq." They might be joined by another conservative Republican, John Duncan of Tennessee, who yesterday called for an end to "a totally unnecessary war".

(The legislation itself sounds kinda mealy-mouthed to me, but it's a long way from where we -- that would be us as well as "Congressman Freedom Fries" -- were just a few months ago. )

Tomorrow afternoon, Cong. John Conyers will open hearings on the Downing Street Minutes, which will be carried live by several out-of-the-mainstream outlets. If you should happen to need to know more about what DSM is, then look here.

Since the so-called liberal media is finally coming off its celebrity trial intoxication, maybe it will cover some real news tomorrow. But even if it doesn't, you'll be able to find out the truth...

... if you just dig a little for it.

Democracy Fest on C-SPAN this Saturday

Via Karl-T at BOR, Democracy Fest will have a segment aired on C-SPAN this Saturday at about 3:50 CST. One of the breakout sessions I wouldn't miss for the world, "The DeLay Factor", moderated by Lou Dubose and featuring Richard Morrison and Chris Bell, will be the feature.

TiVos ready, set ...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

This is a "Michael Jackson-Free" Zone

Always has been, always will be.

Last night I tried to listen to two things at once: Chris Bell on his conference call with Blogville, Texas and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in person locally.

I had dialed in, we had called the roll, and Tim McCann -- Bell's nearly-a-campaign operations manager -- was discussing the numbers on the House Parties held Sunday. I was proceeding to my seat in the Hobby Center just a few minutes before the program's opening.

And my phone dropped the call. And couldn't get it back up. Unless I went outside.

So your best reports will be found here and here.

I'm afraid I can't even give a good account of RFK Jr.'s discussion of our environmental woes, and they are woeful. He dispenses so much information that I simply couldn't keep up with it all. I noticed a woman a row in front of me taking shorthand, and she quit a few minutes after I did.

Here are a few snips of what I could assimilate:

Consider the devastation of Appalachia by the coal mining companies, whose product spins our country's electricity generators, which results in emissions loading up our breathable air with particulate that's choking our children (the incidence of juvenile asthma is skyrocketing) and causing our planet to warm up like an asphalt parking lot in Houston in June. With July and August on the way.

Consider the pollution of our rivers and lakes, where the fish we catch and eat has so much mercury now that it is dangerous -- approaching deadly -- to continue doing so. Kennedy's own recently-tested blood mercury levels are twice the recommended safe level, and his doctor claims that if he were a pregnant female, the child he would bear would have -- not might, would -- have significant cognitive impairment.

There was so much more -- the Bush administration's hand in all this, with all of the various lobbyists and corporate cronies now writing the laws meant to safeguard our environment for your children in the future. To use only the most recent example, it was revealed that a lackey for the American Petroleum Institute named Philip Cooney was editing the government's reports on global warming to eliminate the blame on the oil companies (and by extension the auto manufacturers for dragging their feet on hybrid vehicles and the Congress for failing to strengthen MPG standards, and on and on).

And then there's the complicity-by-indolence of our corporate media, to say nothing of the right-wing propaganda organs.

Kennedy noted that in his speeches before conservative groups, he gets exactly the same reaction as he does when he speaks at a liberal college campus; the one difference being that members of the mostly Republican audience invariably ask afterwards: "Why haven't we been hearing this before?" And his answer is "Because you're watching FOX News."

Go read this interview for more. And if that strikes a chord, read his book.

Update: Local Pacifica affiliate KPFT will broadcast a recording of RFK Jr.'s speech this Thursday evening, June 16, beginning at 7 pm CST. Streaming link also available there.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

"Freedom Fries" Congressman quits on Iraq

I find myself speechless -- well, nearly -- following the interview with Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina on "This Week" just now.

The Republican Congressman, a member of the House Armed Services committee, the guy who compelled the Capitol cafeteria to rename two of its offerings "Freedom Fries" and "Freedom Toast", will next week send a letter to the White House calling for a 'date certain' withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

When asked on whom he blamed the failures of the Iraq War --and was prodded by Stephanopoulis to blame Rumsfeld, or Bush -- he said:

"I blame the neoconservatives in the runup prior for providing bad information to the administration."

I cannot say I have ever heard a Republican use the word 'neoconservative' like that.

Rep. Jones apparently came to his change of heart after writing letters to the families of the fallen (and receiving letters back from them), and after attending a funeral for a soldier at Camp LeJeune, who among his survivors left twins he never saw.

The finger's out of the dike, folks.

When a GOP congressman of this man's once-proud conviction jumps off the war bandwagon -- the one, incidentally, Joe Biden is still on -- it's the beginning of the end.

For this war. Thank God.

There's no transcript up yet at ABC, but when there is, I'll post it in the comments.

Update: Congressman Jones, along with Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, will announce tomorrow their bipartisan legislation that will call on President Bush to 'set a plan for beginning the phase-out of US troops in Iraq.' A press conference will begin at 10:30 a.m. (presumably EDT).

"Real Texas heroes"

Mrs. Diddie and I arrived about two hours into the event, so we missed meeting some of our fellow blogonians, but we did manage to make the tail end of the program honoring Texas Democratic legislators (plus, the food was good).

Among the pols in attendance were candidates Chris Bell, Nick Lampson and Barbara Radnofsky, US Congresspersons Sheila Jackson-Lee and Al Green, and Texas House members Hubert Vo, Al Edwards, Garnet Coleman, and Melissa Noriega (serving in the stead of her husband Rick, who is completing his tour of duty in Afghanistan).

One of the really marvelous things about being an activist in a city like Houston is the opportunity to meet personally so many of the most important people serving us; people who are not just in the headlines but on the front lines, doing the real fighting.

And next weekend we'll be in Austin for DemocracyFest, and that lineup includes Howard Dean, Congs. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Lloyd Doggett, Jim Hightower, Molly Ivins, a blogger's caucus and breakfast with Kos and Jerome of MyDD, a seminar focusing on "The DeLay Factor" with Chris Bell, Richard Morrison, and Lou Dubose, and Nathan Wilcox of and Glen Maxey of Democracy for Texas and many more.

Yes, we'll keep ourselves entertained as well.

I hope all this hobnobbing with the powerful and famous doesn't go to my head ...

Saturday, June 11, 2005

RFK Jr. speaks here Monday June 13

He'll be in the Sarofim Hall of the Hobby Center for Performing Arts, along with Mayor Bill White, talking about our environmental challenges in a speech called “A Contract with Our Future,” which explains how our natural surroundings are linked to our work, health, and identity as Americans, and how good environmental policy is good for business. He also wrote Crimes Against Nature, whose first chapter is entitled “The Mess in Texas.”

I'll blog more about his talk on Tuesday; for now here's a sample of an interview he did with SierraSummit2005:

Planet (editor Tom Valtin): What is the biggest environmental problem we face in this country today?

Kennedy: George W. Bush, without any rival.

Planet: The Sierra Club obviously feels much the same way. But we found during last year’s elections that when we criticized Bush the person, many people—including Sierra Club members—were angered, and consequently less open to our message. How do we oppose the policies without criticizing the person?

Kennedy: I think you have to do both. Winston Churchill said that you have to just keep telling the truth, and telling it, and telling it. And ultimately, people are going to believe it. It can be frustrating, and of course industry and its indentured servants use every method to discredit you, including saying that you’re tree-huggers, or radicals, or against the president. But you have to persevere. There’s a huge systemic problem in our democracy now, which is the endless negligence of the American press and the huge corporate consolidation of the media. That’s the principal threat to American democracy, and it’s an issue that environmentalists have to take an interest in curing. We have to develop outlets and methods of getting our message across to the American public that don’t rely on the mainstream press, which is now controlled by the right wing and giant corporations who are interested not in informing the public but in entertaining us in order to increase their own revenues.

Rest at the link above.

Friday, June 10, 2005

If you haven't read The Rude Pundit's take on Howard Dean...

... then by all means please go do so now.

It's filled with salty sailor talk, so if that sort of thing bothers you, then don't click here.

Here's just a sample:

Challenged on the Today show yesterday by Matt "Behold My Stubbly Mane That Indicates I Am a Grown-Up" Lauer, Dean picked up Lauer, slammed him on the faux coffee table and whispered, calmly, in Lauer's ear that Democrats are tired of being the bottoms of the political f*** machine. He said, "They have the agenda of the conservative Christians...the Republicans don't include people. Look, they are outside the mainstream." And Dean wasn't afraid to invoke truly inclusive Democratic ideas: "They have used words like quota to try to separate black from white Americans. They did scapegoat gay Americans by putting an anti-gay amendment on it--in 11 states where gay marriage is already against the law. And they are attacking immigrants. Two--two Republican congressmen, Jim Sensenbrenner and Tom Tancredo, have incredible anti-immigrant legislation. This is not the way America needs to be." Calling out motherf***ers for f***ing their mothers is as brutally truthful as politics gets.

Believe me, that's not even the best part.

Hands down Moneyshot Quote of the Week (in a week filled with worthy contenders).

GOP stooges end the week losing their minds

A FOX News reporter named Brian Wilson went "batshit crazy" in Harry Reid's office yesterday when nobody aknowledged his screamed questions, and again when no one recognized who he was.

House Judiciary committee chairman Jim Sensenbrenner took his gavel and left his own hearing this morning when he didn't like what was being said. That was either before or after he wrote a note to Howard Dean -- after watching the good doctor slice him and dice him on "Today" -- calling the Democratic chairman "delusional", and then asked him to refrain from personal attacks. (!)

There's more, but I'm laughing too hard to finish typing it ...

... OK, I've caught my breath now.

Bush poll numbers hit a new low, the Coingate scandal is bubbling over, five more Marines killed in Iraq today by the so-called weakened insurgency -- no wonder they're losing it.

Now if our side could only convince Joe Biden to keep his mouth shut ...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

John Danforth is one angry Democrat

Oh, right; not. Democrat, that is. Is upset that the Republicans have "transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians ..."


An Episcopal minister and former GOP Senator is actually saying blasphemous things like:

... Republicans have allowed this shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.

Wait a minute; isn't this what the SCLM (and even DINOs like Joe Biden) have been calling Howard Dean out about this week?

I'm so confused.

(Thanks to AMERICAblog for the lead.)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Rick Perry to gays: Relocate

If our governor had his way, there would no longer be steers and queers in Texas -- it'd be just steers and homophobes:

"Texans have made a decision about marriage and if there is some other state that has a more lenient view than Texas then maybe that's a better place for them to live," Perry said.

Governor, Texans have made no such decision yet; the very legislation you signed in church last Sunday establishes your definition of marriage and calls for the referendum where they will decide. (But I hold no illusions about the decision some majority of bigoted Texans will make in November: you and your Old Testament followers will, verily, succeed in legislating this appalling discrimination. And probably do so by a comfortable margin.)

"A nurturing home with a loving mother and loving father is the best way to guide our children down the proper path," said Perry, who was joined by several legislators.

Unless, of course, they stray from the proper path and engage in the love that dare not speak its name. Then you cast 'em out. Make 'em move to Oklahoma, or Louisiana.

Unless they go to Texas A&M and become cheerleaders. Then they're on the path to the Governor's mansion, where nasty rumors linking them to homosexual affairs with the Secretary of State are quelled by drawing the most fundamentalist Christians they can find -- such as Rod Parsley -- close to their bosom.

Governor, your days in Austin are sooo numbered.

"The DeLay Effect"

That's what Republicans are calling it:

After enlarging their majority in the past two elections, House Republicans have begun to fear that public attention to members' travel and relations with lobbyists will make ethics a potent issue that could cost the party seats in next year's midterm races.

In what Republican strategists call "the DeLay effect," questions plaguing House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) are starting to hurt his fellow party members, who are facing news coverage of their own trips and use of relatives on their campaign payrolls. Liberal interest groups have begun running advertising in districts where Republicans may be in trouble, trying to tie the incumbents to their leaders' troubles.

The article names specific Republicans in danger -- Bob Ney of Ohio, Richard Pombo of California, Tom Feeney of Florida, and Charles Taylor of North Carolina and quotes GOP officials as saying they will likely lose seats in the House in the midterm elections.

Pair that with this news about Bush's latest polling (also from the WaPo via the Chronic):

A clear majority of Americans say President Bush is ignoring the public's concerns and instead has become distracted by issues that most people say they care little about, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey found that 58 percent of those interviewed said Bush is mainly concentrating in his second term on problems and partisan squabbles that these respondents said were unimportant to them ...

Ominously for Bush and the Republicans, a strong majority of self-described political independents — 68 percent — say they disagreed with the president's priorities.

That suggests Bush's mixed record in the second term on issues the public views as critical, particularly on Iraq and the economy, may be as much a liability for GOP candidates in next year's midterm election as his performance in his first term was an asset to Republican congressional hopefuls last year and in 2002.

Currently, 52 percent of the public disapproves of the job Bush is doing as president.

This is the first time in his presidency that more than half of the public has expressed negative views of the president's performance.

It appears the tide may be turning. Trend or mirage?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Today's scuttlebutt is:

that John Sharp will run for governor, and that John Cornyn is on the list -- the long one, not necessarily the short one -- to be the next Supreme Court nominee.

Both developments are, if they turn out to be accurate, rather hideous.

John Sharp running for anything would simply be a mistake for both Sharp and Texas Democrats (I mentioned this just the other day). Sharp is a fine fellow, was a capable state comptroller, and has both won and lost on statewide ballots, most recently to Lite Gov. Dewhurst in 2002.

But his time has passed.

I wasn't aware that sparks have already been flying between Sharp and presumptive gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell for awhile now. So what that tells me is that he's gearing up to take a run at the top of the ticket.

There could be a few worse things, though, and one would be a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land for Senator "Box Turtle", who just a few weeks ago created a firestorm as a result of his ill-considered remarks on judicial activism.

Let me borrow from the Republicans for my advice on these two:

Flush the Johns.

Update: Pink Dome says the same thing, only a lot wittier; reveals heretofore-unknown-to-me information about Sharp's voting record in the Texas House being more conservative than Rick Perry's (of course, he was a Democrat then) and her comments posters keep the sarcasm amped.

Regarding that call yesterday no one picked up

Billmon's probably right; it may not be all the liberal media's fault:

But it's still hard to escape the conclusion that the American people have had, generally speaking, plenty of opportunities to learn the filthy truth about this administration and this war -- that is, if they were actually interested in the truth, which many of them (up to 51%, judging from the last election) apparently are not.

What the health of the Republic requires, in other words, may not be a new crop of leakers and whistleblowers, or a fresh young generation of Woodwards and Bernsteins -- or even a more independent, aggressive media. What it may need is a new population (or half of a population, anyway), one that hasn't been stupified or brainwashed into blind submission, that won't look upon sadistic corruption and call it patriotism, and that will refuse to trade the Bill of Rights for a plastic Jesus and a wholly false sense of security.

That's a much taller order than asking the Gods to send us another Deep Throat -- or even a Luke Skywalker. It's also not an easy thing for liberals, with their old-fashioned faith in democracy, to face: That the Evil Emperor might have a majority (a narrow one, but still a majority) on his side. But a truth isn't any less true for being politically unpalatable.

Which is why right now it's easy for me to imagine Richard Nixon, looking up from the inner circle of hell and lamenting his immense bad luck in being elected to the presidency 30 years too soon.

God damn it.

I have another rant going over here about the people on our side who keep surrendering. I suppose I'm just a bit pissed this morning, so I better go hit the gym (before I hit someone).

Sunday, June 05, 2005

"SCLM, call holding, line 2"

"If there's another Deep Throat out there, give us a call, won't you. We're waiting for your call."

-- Tim Russert and Tom Brokaw, at the end of their discussion of "Deep Throat", aka W. Mark Felt, earlier this week.

Well fellas, (s)he got tired of waiting for you to pick up the phone, and hung up.

I think it was Richard Clarke, but it may have been Sibel Edmonds. It could have been Karen Kwiatkowski, or Coleen Rowley. Or Paul O'Neill or even Joe Wilson. It might have been Gen. Eric Shinseki; I guess it could have even been John DiIulio, but if it was him, he sounded like he was already changing his mind even as I was putting him on hold.

Pick up your pages a little quicker in the future, guys.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

DeLay is gearing up for 2006

but it's how he's doing it that's creating the interesting questions -- even from his supporters.

Charles, via Jesse, has the skinny. "Inside baseball" warning: it'll take a while to read and click through all of the links and comments, but I encourage you do so if you're interested in getting to the mindset not only of DeLay and his campaign staff but Republicans nationally (the RCCC) and locally (two local conservative bloggers, one of whom claims to be close to the ground in Sugar Land).

Especially revealing are the on-the-scene viewpoints of perennial DeLay opponent Michael Fjetland at his blog. No sour grapes on his part; just intriguing observations.

It's just too early to tell what this all means. But I'm certainly enjoying watching it.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Howard Dean wins the Moneyshot Quote of the Week

for this:

Dean's comment came as he recalled conditions at crowded Ohio polling stations last fall. He wondered who could expect voters to work all day and then stand in line for eight hours to vote. "Well, Republicans, I guess, can do that because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives," he said, drawing some surprised "oohs" from his audience.

I only have one thing to add:


Update: The People's Republic of Seabrook nails it, again.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Today's media doesn't get "Deep Throat"

After watching G. Gordon Liddy turn up on EVERY SINGLE TALK SHOW ON TELEVISION to provide his opinion of the revealing of "Deep Throat", W. Mark Felt, I am left to wonder if the MSM is even worth saving.

Watergate would have never happened if it hadn't been for thugs like Liddy. Yet we were forced to hear over and over again his sneering judgment of the man who helped save our democracy (just so Bush Incorporated could pillage it thirty years later). Go here to get to the "Daily Show" video where GOP moral titans Pat Buchanan and Bob Novak join Liddy in condemning DT for not keeping his mouth shut about the felonies committed by the Nixon administration.

My friend Prairie Weather has it exactly right:

Does anyone else believe that Mark Felt's "coming out" needs to be greeted in a way which encourages and gives additional attention, legitimacy and support, when necessary, to whistleblowers?

We were as scared about the possible demise of democracy in 1974 as we are in 2005. Are we prepared to honor government officials and reporters who speak truth to power?

Do we dare hope there are reporters out there right now who are putting together the information needed to restore our national self-respect?

How about that separation between church and sanity?!?

I just cross-posted at Hou Dems and Come and Take It! on the news that Rick Perry will sign some legislation in church this Sunday.

It's simply appalling that we now live in a theocracy and no one really seems too upset about it.

This is exactly the reason

why I couldn't finish the Da Vinci Code.

And also the reason why I never posted why I could not. Everybody who wrote something there is pretty much spot on.