Wednesday, November 29, 2006

He's Still the One

The WaPo, Firedoglake, and Stephen Colbert have extensively covered John Hall, the first professional rock musician -- "rock" being a loose description, IMHO -- elected to Congress, so go click and read.

He was/is the lead singer for Orleans, which had two megahits in the Seventies, "Still the One" and "Dance With Me". My personal connection is that this music was released in 1976, my senior year in high school. It got plenty of play at our prom, and contained some good makeout tracks from what I can recall; you can listen to a blast from the past here.

That's the album cover of "Waking and Dreaming" on the right (Hall, with more hair, stands in the middle); it's obvious that the radical homosexual agenda was even then seeping into American culture.

Hall made two appearances on the Colbert Report; the first was in the recurring "Better Know a District" segment in which Colbert sends up an always-hilarious parody of a serious interview. In his bit with the future Congressman, Colbert produced a set of 'smear flash cards'. Hall drew the "My opponent smokes marijuana" one. After he was elected, Hall returned to sing a National Anthem duet with the host (the video snip is linked above).

Congratulations to John Hall, and thank goodness musicians and their fans finally have representation.

Monday, November 27, 2006

This Week in Irony (and it's only Monday)

One of the companies hired to build a wall to deter illegal immigration is being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security for hiring undocumented workers.

Senator Dan Patrick -- the general in his self-proclaimed army of douchebags conservatives -- might just be a bleeding rectum. And the other Republicans in Austin might have to curb their fascism alter their strategy.

The oil companies could be -- surprise! -- squeezing production in order to prop up the price of gasoline.

The Bush twins, Jenna and Not Jenna, went buckwild in South America for their 25th birthday celebration. Apparently they did oversee a little family bidness while they were there: their dad purchased a hundred thousand acre property in Paraguay and Jenna took a meeting with the president of the country and the US ambassador. I hope she didn't have to take her clothes off.

NBC and MSNBC decide to call it a civil war. They are not joined by the rest of the corporate media yet. Kofi Annan says it is almost civil war. The Bush administration calls it a "new phase".

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Tired of turkey already

... and of media reports of shopping. Do they simply regurgitate last year's story so that they don't have to go out to the mall and honestly report the percentage of the parking lots' capacity? As if that's news anyway?!

... How about football? Anybody tired of football yet? Shit, I might have to go shopping just to get away from it.

... who's grown weary of certain relatives they only see once a year?

... and why doesn't anyone serve a freaking vegetable at Thanksgiving dinner? Is green bean casserole as close as it gets? Cornbread dressing, oyster dressing, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, baked yams, candied yams, squash casserole, dinner rolls, croissants, cranberry sauce, giblet gravy and the nearest I came to a vegetable was a piece of celery the size of my pinkie fingernail and a chive. One. Chive. No wonder everybody falls asleep after feasting on so many carbs.

Boy, I'm tired. And I think I want some sushi for dinner this evening. Or some Vietnamese soup. Maybe a movie. Anybody seen Bobby yet? The reviews are cruel. Those who've written the ones I've read must be all Republicans ...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Friday Postpourri

Scattershooting while wondering what it's like to be fighting for a parking place -- or the last of a certain sale item -- at the mall right about now ...

-- Two separate groups of 20,000 people each in downtown Houston yesterday were fed, and some of those were clothed. Five thousand showed up to help. Elsewhere the need is similarly great.

-- A terribly bloody day in Iraq, but the stores here open early anyway.

-- Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings lost on Jeopardy to David St. Hubbins of Spinal Tap (or Lenny from "Lenny and Squiggy" if you prefer). I believe another "fresh perspective" is in order.

-- FOX prepares a conservative version of "The Daily Show". No, really. Their current lineup isn't funny enough (of course).

-- Newt Gingrich intends to use the power of magic -- well, hocus-pocus -- in order to be "elected" President. I'm scared. No really, I am.

After all, it could happen. He could easily carry Georgia and Florida and South Carolina and Texas and several other southern states using this strategy.

-- Jordan Barab at Firedoglake has the comprehensive wrap on the Houston janitors strike.

-- the American Family Association wants you NOT to shop at Wal-Mart this weekend because of their sublime support of the "radical homosexual agenda". No, really.

-- here's some more backstory on last week's James Carville-Howard Dean dustup.

-- The Time is Yao.

Update: I shouldn't mention Black Friday without quoting Steely Dan ...

When Black Friday comes
I'll stand down by the door
And catch the grey men when they
Dive from the fourteenth floor
When Black Friday comes
I'll collect everything I'm owed
And before my friends find out
I'll be on the road
When Black Friday falls you know it's got to be
Don't let it fall on me

When Black Friday comes
I'll fly down to Muswellbrook
Gonna strike all the big red words
From my little black book
Gonna do just what I please
Gonna wear no socks and shoes
With nothing to do but feed
All the kangaroos
When Black Friday comes I'll be on that hill
You know I will

When Black Friday comes
I'm gonna dig myself a hole
Gonna lay down in it 'til
I satisfy my soul
Gonna let the world pass by me
The Archbishop's gonna sanctify me
And if he don't come across
I'm gonna let it roll
When Black Friday comes
I'm gonna stake my claim
I'll guess I'll change my name

Things to be thankful for

-- My health and the love of my wife, family, and friends.

-- The brave men and women serving our country in the armed forces.

-- that America dumped the 109th Congress.

-- I'm thankful Rick Santorum will have more free time to find the WMD.

-- Really thankful we no longer have to go to war with the Secretary of Defense we had.

-- for "red state values" like protecting reproductive rights, supporting stem cell research, and rejecting discrimination.

-- I'm thankful Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who calls climate change the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” will no longer chair the Senate environmental committee.

-- and that Al Gore helped the nation, and the world, face an inconvenient truth.

-- I'm thankful the Dixie Chicks aren’t ready to make nice.

-- I'm thankful Ted Haggard bought that crystal meth but never used it.

-- I'm thankful for "the Google" and "the email" (and the "series of tubes" that make them possible). I'm particularly thankful Maf54 isn't online right now.

-- that Keith Olbermann's ratings are up and Bill O'Reilly's ratings are down.

-- I am so thankful I won't ever have to spend Thanksgiving hunting with Dick Cheney.

-- and last but nor least, I'm thankful the "Decider" only gets to make the decisions 789 more days.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Agonist Radio tonight (and all week)

My blog buddy Sean-Paul Kelley is hosting his progressive radio program each evening this holiday week on KTSA-550 AM. Stream it live over the Web if you cannot listen in the San Antonio market. Here's a podcast from last night's program and his conversation with Nathan Newman about the just-settled Houston janitors strike. Here's tonight's schedule:

700-730: Intro segment, introduce the night's guests, main topic, poll question and call-ins, etc.

730-800: Cliff Schecter is a regular contributor to MSNBC, the Huffington Post, a National Political Correspondent for The Young Turks on Air America and proprietor of online.

800-830: Ted Rall will discuss his new book, Silk Road To Ruin

830-900: Ciro Rodriguez to talk about his quest to knock off Henry Bonilla in the still-to-be-scheduled runoff election in CD-23.

900-930: Charles Kuffner.

930-1000: S-P BS'ing his way through the last 30 minutes of the show.

Call in (toll free) 800-299-KTSA.

They tried to steal it, but we stole it back

Frequent commenter Bev sends this along:

A major undercount of Democratic votes and an overcount of Republican votes in U.S. House and Senate races across the country is indicated by an analysis of national exit polling data, by the Election Defense Alliance (EDA), a national election integrity organization.

These findings have led EDA to issue an urgent call for further investigation into the 2006 election results and a moratorium on deployment of all electronic election equipment.

"We see evidence of pervasive fraud, but apparently calibrated to political conditions existing before recent developments shifted the political landscape," said attorney Jonathan Simon, co-founder of Election Defense Alliance, "so 'the fix' turned out not to be sufficient for the actual circumstances." Explained Simon, "When you set out to rig an election, you want to do just enough to win. The greater the shift from expectations, (from exit polling, pre-election polling, demographics) the greater the risk of exposure--of provoking investigation. What was plenty to win on October 1 fell short on November 7.


"The numbers tell us there absolutely was hacking going on, just not enough to overcome the size of the actual turnout. The tide turned so much in the last few weeks before the election. It looks for all the world that they'd already figured out the percentage they needed to rig, when the programming of the vote rigging software was distributed weeks before the election, and it wasn't enough," (Sally) Castleman (the national chair of EDA) commented.

Greg Palast previously warned us this might happen (read everything at the link, ahead of the excerpt below, to understand how they almost stole it):

It’s true you can’t win with 51% of the vote any more. So just get over it. The regime’s sneak attack via vote suppression will only net them 4.5 million votes, about 5% of the total. You should be able to beat that blindfolded. If you can’t get 55%, then you’re just a bunch of crybaby pussycats who don’t deserve to win back America.

We took your advice though, Greg, and stole it back. And we're going to work a little harder in 2008 to do the same thing.

Thanks for the heads-up. Botha ya's.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Corporate greedheads give in; janitors strike ends

After the appallingly bad publicity associated with the police crackdown (and additional unconscionable behavior by an assistant Harris County district attorney) on striking janitors over the weekend, the companies involved settled with the SEIU and the five-week-long strike came to an end today.

Bill White made sure he got some of the credit. Not for forcibly clearing the intersections of the city, but for "making many phone calls behind the scenes" to bring the strike to a close.

I call bullshit (until I hear differently from people in the union). White was out to lunch for the last month -- as he has been on nearly every issue requiring even the slightest confrontation during the past year. ( Let's do give him credit for taking on that badass Jordy Tollett, though.) The mayor is doing almost as good a job of wasting his political capital as George W. Bush. Oh, and FWIW, unnamed sources on a "blog" -- especially a corporate media-owned one -- don't impress me much.

And Miya Shay really sucks at blogging, too. Somehow though, she managed to get at least two of the more progressive Texas blogs to pick up on her meme that the strike was pointless. Nice going, fellas. Something about that reminds me of the Texas Democratic Party making sure everyone understands well in advance that they can't win a statewide election.

So if you work in an H-Town office building, thank the person who cleans your bathroom and empties your trash and mops your floor. They won a small victory for their families today against the formidable forces of our local Fortune 100's greed, not to mention surviving the thuggery of Houston's Finest.

Houston's business and governmental leaders distinguished themselves in this matter. Not in a good way.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Houston can’t go on like this, with so many living in poverty."

We sat down in the intersection and the horses came immediately. It was really violent. They arrested us, and when we got to jail, we were pretty beat up. Not all of us got the medical attention we needed. The worst was a protester named Julia, who is severely diabetic. We kept telling the guards about her condition but they only gave her a piece of candy. During roll call, she started to complain about light-headedness. Finally she just collapsed unconscious on the floor. It was like she just dropped dead. The guard saw it but just kept going through the roll. Susan ran over there and took her pulse while the other inmates were yelling for help, saying we need to call somebody. The medical team strolled over, taking their own sweet time. She was unconscious for like 4 or 5 minutes.

They really tried to break us down. The first night they put the temperature so high that a woman -- one of the other inmates -- had a seizure. The second night they made it freezing and took away many of our blankets. We didn’t have access to the cots so we had to sleep on a concrete floor. When we would finally fall asleep the guards would come and yell ‘Are you Anna Denise Solís? Are you so and so?’ One of the protesters had a fractured wrist from the horses. She had a cast on and when she would fall asleep the guard would kick the cast to wake her up. She was in a lot of pain.

The guards would tell us: ‘This is what you get for protesting.’ One of them said, ‘Who gives a shit about janitors making 5 dollars an hour? Lots of people make that much.’ The other inmates -- there were a lot of prostitutes in there -- said that they had never seen the jail this bad. The guards told them: ‘We’re trying to teach the protesters a lesson.’ Nobody was getting out of jail because the processing was so slow. They would tell the prostitutes that everything is the protesters’ fault. They were trying to turn everybody against each other.

I felt like I was in some Third World jail, not in America. One of the guards called us ‘whores’ and if we talked back, we didn’t get any lunch. We didn’t even have the basic necessities. It felt like a police state, like marshal law, nobody had rights. Some of us had been arrested in other cities, and it was never this bad before.

Rest of the story here.

HB-129 seeks to end blogging as we know it

I'm going to sample a good bit of Vince Leibowitz' research and re-print his Q&A regarding one of the bills pre-filed for the Texas legislative session opening in January:

House Bill 129, filed by State Rep. Vicki Truitt (R-Westlake) for consideration by the 80th session of the Texas Legislature is legislation that will drastically impact writers for whom the World Wide Web is their primary medium of distribution.

House Bill 129 is legislation that would amend Texas' Civil Practices & Remedies Code by adding Section 73.0045. This section would provide statutory provisions in Texas law under which the authors of websites (including blogs) can be sued for libel, slander and defamation in the same manner as print or broadcast media. It also provides mechanisms that allow courts to order website authors to remove the offending content.

But aren’t websites and blogs already subject to libel and slander law?

Yes. Since the popularity of the Internet began to rise in the mid-1990s, courts across the country have held that website authors can be held to the same or similar standards as newspapers, radio and television stations when it comes to libelous, defamatory or slanderous statements. In Texas, web writers and websites (including blogs) have been sued successfully on a number of occasions.

If the Web is already subject to libel law, then what's the big deal?

Good question! There is a very big difference to the manner in which websites and their authors can be held accountable currently and what would happen if HB 129 became law.

Presently, websites and blogs are subject to the libel and slander provisions of the Civil Practices & Remedies Code because federal and state courts have consistently held that web-based content is similar to other media and must be held to the same standards. And, web writers have no problem with that. Courts have been the ones to make these decisions and determinations because, when the Civil Practices & Remedies Code was originally written, the Internet was not the major force in society that it is now. As is the case with patent law, copyright law, election law and numerous other areas of state and federal law, when the law does not specifically cover a new medium or area that develops as a result of emerging technology courts make determinations about the applicability of that law to new mediums.

The 'big deal' is that, although House Bill 129 codifies the already established fact that websites in Texas can be sued for libel and defamation, it fails to provide web-based writers with the same protections as other mediums are afforded under Chapter 23 of the Civil Practices and Remedies Code.

What are these protections?

Print media is specifically protected by Section 73.002 of the Civil Practices & Remedies Code when it comes to a concept called "privileged matters." House Bill 129, though it codifies that websites may be sued for libel, does not further revise the CP&R to indicate that websites are subject to these protections.

Specifically, the privileged matters clause protects print writers from lawsuits for defamation in certain instances relating to coverage of public events. This is especially important for bloggers, who often function as citizen journalists.

In short, fair, true and impartial accounts of judicial proceedings, legislative or executive proceedings, and other official proceedings and public meetings (like city council meetings and county commissioners court meetings) is protected from libel action. The coverage is considered "privileged" so long is it is fair, true and impartial.

The privileged matters clause also protects commentary (opinion and satire) related to public officials and other matters of public concern so long it is "reasonable and fair."

House Bill 129 fails to amend the CP&R Code to provide the necessary and appropriate protections to bloggers and citizen journalists.

I'm not a blogger, I just have a MySpace page. How does this apply to me?

Whether or you are a blogger, have a MySpace, Xanga, or Facebook site, or a regular website, House Bill 129 poses a significant danger to you.

Because the term "website" is not defined by House Bill 129 and is overly broad, social networking sites are covered. Almost everything on the web could be included in the term "website." Technically, under the changes House Bill 129 would cause, email messages in an archive on sites like Google Groups, Yahoo Groups could result in actionable libel claims.

A comment you leave on a MySpace page, something you write on a friend’s "wall" on Facebook, or a message you send to Google Groups will be wide open to frivolous lawsuits from anyone you happen to offend, and you could find yourself paying thousands of dollars in legal fees just to have a frivolous lawsuit thrown out of court.

I am a blogger, but I'm very careful about what I write. Why should I care?

Whether you blog about your Labrador retriever or Texas politics, House Bill 129 should scare you into action.

As noted previously, those of us writing on web-based mediums have been subject to libel and defamation suits for years. However, once it is codified in Texas law that writers and owners of such sites can be sued, you could find yourself answering for even the most nonchalant blog post in court.

Consider this: A blogger or MySpace goes to a national chain retailer like Wal-Mart and has a bad experience with a rude cashier; the blogger blogs that Wal-Mart has horrible customer service on their blog. Wal-Mart can now sue you for libel. Will they win? It’s doubtful, but under House Bill 129, a major retailer could use your offhand comment about their store as a test case to scare off other web-based writers from making similar statements.

For political bloggers on the "left" and "right", the danger is far worse. Because we don't get the protection of the "privileged matters" clause, we could find ourselves sued every time we write about a politician or political candidate no matter how careful we are. A simple post about staff being fired from a congressional office or a state representative accused of ethical violations or sexual harassment could result in a multi-million dollar lawsuit being served upon you because you have no protection when writing on matters of public concern no matter how unbiased and accurately you report. While your unbiased manner and accuracy may mean a jury might not find you actually libeled someone, it will cost you thousands of dollars in legal fees and you may be bankrupt by the time a verdict is returned in your favor.

You should also care because you could be held accountable for things you didn't even write.

If you are the owner of a blog of website with comment capabilities, you could be held responsible for what others say in the comments section or on the bulletin board section of your website. Because you own the website, and HB 129 codifies the ability of websites to be sued for libel, you bear the ultimate responsibility for every word that goes on your site. You can be sued for comments.

So what do we want?

Since bloggers and web writers have already been successfully sued in Texas, the addition of websites to the Civil Practices & Remedies Code is somewhat moot. Our complaint isn't that reality has been codified. It is that reality has been codified without citizen journalists being given the protections they rightfully deserve.

What we want is either a defeat of HB129 or to see it amended such that web writers, bloggers and citizen journalists are offered the same protections under the "privileged matters" section of Chapter 73 of the Texas Civil Practices & Remedies Code.

What should we do?

Contact your state legislator -- Senator and Representative. Ask them to oppose HB-129.

Demon seed

You just know that poor child is so conservative she'll never be able to smile anything but crooked...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Bail set for striking janitors at $888,888 *UPDATE: Bail reduced

This is the justice you get when all of the law officials in the nation's third most populous county are Republicans.

People arraigned on murder charges have had bail set as low as $30,000, but if you're making $5.00 an hour and sit down in the middle of a Houston intersection, you get intimidated -- at best -- by a mounted Houston Police officer, arrested, charged with a Class B misdemeanor, and thrown into jail with your bail set at "send-a-message" level.

Update (11/19) : "Bond rates were later reduced by a magistrate judge to $1,000 per person."

Houston and Harris County truly feels like the belly of the Neo-Fascist beast today.

More at MyDD, Daily Kos, and The Agonist.

Update (11/19): Matt Stoller stays on the story:

Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee, Henry Waxman, John Lewis, Al Green, Senator Ted Kennedy, Reverend James Lawson, Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis, Texas State House Representative Garnet Coleman, Houston City Council Member Ada Edwards, Reverend James Orange, and Reverend William Lawson have all spoken out.

If I were Chevron, Exxon, and Shell Oil - all of whom make billions and any of whom could end the strike - I would be nervous that Henry Waxman is asking you to intervene. A few million dollars in extra salary and health care benefits for the people cleaning your offices is a really small price to pay to prevent Waxman from really scrutinizing your business practices. He plays hardball, he dislikes corruption, and he's pushing global warming legislation.

Friday, November 17, 2006

HPD gets violent with SEIU protestors

Photos here.

We've seen this sort of hyper-aggressive police action, particularly with mounted officers, previously (at the Halliburton protest last year).

Update: The Washington Post has more, or you may click on the image of Ercilia Sandoval on the right. And Easter Lemming, who shot the video above has even more, including the link to the Justice for Janitors blog.

Moneyshot Quotes of the Week

Reviving this irregular series as a result of the newly target-rich environment:

"Ted and I had a discussion. He said homosexuality is genetic. I said, no it isn't. But I just knew he was covering up. They need to say that."

-- Rev. Louis Sheldon, a Christianist from the Traditional Values Coalition, disclosing that he and 'a lot' of others knew about Haggard's homosexuality 'for awhile ... but weren't sure just how to deal with it'.

Obviously the best way to address the troubling issue of the nation's leading evangelical being gay and a drug abuser was to say and do nothing while continuing to rake in the cash from the gullible fools who buy their lies.

"It cannot be just a matter of friendship. It will have to become almost a confrontational relationship. You've got to confess your sins and you've got to have a group of people around you who will not let you whitewash the issue. From the Christian perspective, we think in terms of prayer, we think in terms of what we call godly counsel, where godly men who are clean themselves insert themselves in the life of the one who is struggling."

-- H.B. London, vice president for church and clergy at Focus on the Family, on the spiritual 'restoration' of Ted Haggard

Did he actually say that a gay evangelical can be cured by other 'clean godly men inserting themselves' into him?

Isn't that how all this trouble began?

"Bob Sherwood's seat (in Pennsylvania) would have been overwhelmingly ours, if his mistress hadn’t whined about being throttled."

-- Grover Norquist, excusing Karl Rove for the GOP's electoral wipeout one Congressional seat at a time

Hear hear, Grover. If those bitches would just keep quiet and take their strangling from their Congressmen, the House of Representatives might've retained another Christian soldier to carry on the fight for God and Dubya.

"Our party does not suffer the affliction of being a boiling mad collection of fringe interests with notions so cockeyed that they ultimately rub each other raw and make average Americans cringe."

-- Rep. Joe Barton (R - Batshit Crazy, TX)

'Rub each other raw', Joe? You're really going to miss Mark Foley's Christmas party, aren't you?

"I still consider Santorum and Allen among the best and most appealing conservatives on the scene. I believe Santorum has national appeal, despite his loss in Pennsylvania. And although Allen's campaign was knocked off stride, nobody will care much."

-- Mark Levin, National Review Online

Don't you need to be the guy running the RNC, Mr. Levin? Are you by any chance gay? That would be an advantage...

And finally, an old photo needs a new caption:

I'll open the bidding:

"Man, last week was really shitty."

"Dude, don't get ME started..."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It's only been a week ...

... and I'm still not as happy as everybody else about the election results in Deep-in-the-Hearta.

I believe the elation some feel comes from their proximity to Dallas County, or Hays County, or how much work they did in Ellen Cohen's or Juan Garcia's or Valinda Bolton's campaign. And to be clear, the following is not at all meant to rain on their victory parade. Those wins are certainly sweet, and those candidates and their campaigns deserves congratulations for their hard work.

But I believe the overabundance of enthusiasm for last Tuesday's election returns in some quarters simply comes from having met an extremely low set of expectations:

"We made a practical decision," said Matt Angle, a Democratic strategist who is helping rebuild the state party. "It was the most efficient way to spread the resources. It wouldn't have been a rational decision to do otherwise."

Mr. Angle said the party focused its resources in 17 House districts, half of those in which Democrats mounted a challenge against Republican opponents.

I just don't recall Matt Angle being elected by anyone to develop and execute the Texas Democratic Party's election strategy. I also don't believe that anybody at the SDEC level of governance approved or even consented to a plan of focusing all of the party resources on just 17 statehouse races.

Furthermore, I have it on good authority that the party officials at the highest level repeatedly assured candidates who were NOT in one of the afore-mentioned 17 contests that the words Matt Angle is quoted above speaking -- about concentrating on just a few selected races -- was absolutely NOT the case; that there would be no narrowly-targeted strategy in 2006.

In other words, somebody lied. And in any event, their deeds spoke louder than their words.

The Texas Democratic Party, such as it is, long ago chose a minimalist strategy for 2006. Big-dog contributors like Walter Umphrey and John Eddie Williams sent six-figure checks early on to Carole Strayhorn, apparently thinking she was the only Democrat capable of defeating Governor MoFo. Potential Democratic candidates stayed away from filing for office in droves. It took a late leap by three members of the Dirty Thirty -- Bob Gammage, Ben Grant, and Fred Head -- to make things interesting. But none of the members of the "Dream Team" from 2002 stepped up to support anyone or anything on the Democratic slate. The only thing John Sharp ultimately did, after having his name published repeatedly as the only Dem with a snowball's chance of being elected Governor, was to join Rick Perry in a bipartisan education funding initiative. Charles Soechting abruptly abandoned the chairmanship in the middle of the campaign season, setting up a protracted fight at the convention between old-guard and new-school factions. The most positive message conveyed to the media all during this time was: well, we're going to have to lower our sights somewhat. And guess what? The media picked up on the defeatist attitude of the bigwigs who call themselves Democrats and ran with it. Over and over.

The state party -- the tattered shards of it, anyway -- was so impotent that it gave up on all of the statewide races long before the party's convention in June of this year. All of the enthusiasm generated by the grassroots in Fort Worth for the slate of populist candidates was wasted on the small band of elitists and insiders pulling the strings and moving the money around, who had long since determined -- and telegraphed to the media -- that there was no hope this year.

They didn't even do a good job of going through the motions. Their overt acts of capitulation contradicted their mealy-mouthed expressions of support. Well, most of the time that was the case, though I frequently heard the following:

"We have limited resources." "We can't concentrate on every race." "This is a rebuilding year." "We need more staff and better databases in order to rebuild our infrastructure so we can be competitive in (pick one: 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014)."

In that respect, the men in charge of the Texas Democratic Party -- that would be Fred Baron and Matt Angle -- did exactly what they said they would do.

Performance met expectations. I suppose congratulations are in order. What do you think, Boyd?

"There's enough credit for everyone involved in the effort," state Democratic Party chairman Boyd Richie said. "But certainly the (Texas Democratic) trust created an atmosphere where we could organize, plan and execute."

Can't wait to see the game plan for 2008, fellas. Here's a question for Freddy Bosshog: do you think John Edwards can carry Texas as the presidential nominee? Can he at least win the Texas primary in March of year-after-next, or will he be an Iowa-only kinda guy (he IS lookin' good in the Hawkeye State, for whatever that's worth)?

Hey Matty All-the-Angles: who are you recruiting to run against Senator Box Turtle? Oh wait; that's Boyd's job -- allegedly. Can Nick Lampson hold that seat in 22, ya think? And who's gonna challenge Ralph Hall, Boyd? Got anybody in mind besides you?

Boy, I'm stoked. *belch* *fart*

Update: Burka says ...

Opportunities like 2006 only come along once in a generation, and Democrats failed to make the most of this one.

Bush's Brain Damaged

"How could one notice," you're thinking. Not referring to the one encased in his skull, in this case:

President Bush had many explanations for what he called the "thumping" his party took on Tuesday, but the most creative was the notion that his chief strategist, Karl Rove, had spent too much time reading books.

"I obviously was working harder on the campaign than he was," the president said at (the Wednesday November 8) East Room news conference. The reporters laughed. The Architect, who had challenged Bush to a reading contest, wore a sheepish grin and stared at his lap.

Newsweek piles on:

Rove's miscalculations began well before election night. The polls and pundits pointed to a Democratic sweep, but Rove dismissed them all. In public, he predicted outright victory, flashing the V sign to reporters flying on Air Force One. He wasn't just trying to psych out the media and the opposition. He believed his "metrics" were far superior to plain old polls. Two weeks before the elections, Rove showed NEWSWEEK his magic numbers: a series of graphs and bar charts that tallied early voting and voter outreach. Both were running far higher than in 2004. In fact, Rove thought the polls were obsolete because they relied on home telephones in an age of do-not-call lists and cell phones. Based on his models, he forecast a loss of 12 to 14 seats in the House -- enough to hang on to the majority. Rove placed so much faith in his figures that, after the elections, he planned to convene a panel of Republican political scientists -- to study just how wrong the polls were.

So a reputation as 'genius', painstakingly constructed over nearly a lifetime, washed away in a single wave.

I built a sandcastle once, too. Only took me a few hours though. And boy was I crushed when the tide came in that afternoon.

I can only imagine how sick Karl must be feeling these days.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Houston's Veterans

From yesterday's parade here:

From Arlington West (in California):

Arlington West is the Veterans for Peace project to acknowledge the loss of life in Bush's Iraq war.

Yesterday in Houston, the Veterans for Peace contingent marching in our parade received a great deal of positive feedback, but there were a few boos and heckles of "peace is cowardly" and so on. (We have the classiest conservatives around here.)

Images above courtesy Houston Chronicle. See also this story about the younger veterans and how they were impacted by their participation in the parade. Be sure also and click on the moving multimedia entitled "Three Generations of War".

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ed Bradley, 1941-2006

Bradley had many nicknames throughout his life, including Big Daddy, when he played defensive end and offensive tackle in the 1960s at Cheyney State College; but his favorite, (Charlayne) Hunter-Gault and (Jimmy) Buffett said, was Teddy Badly, which Buffett bestowed on him onstage the first time Bradley played tambourine at his side.

“Everybody in my opinion needs a little Mardi Gras in their life, and he liked to have a little more than the average person on occasion.”

“He was such a great journalist,” Buffett added, “but he still knew how to have a good time.”

One mo' for Biggio

Biggio, 40, will begin next season just 70 hits shy of becoming the first player in team history and 27th all-time to reach the 3,000-hit total, a feat that will cement his Hall of Fame credentials.

He's the club's all-time leader in games (2,709), hits (2,930), at-bats (10,359), runs (1,776), doubles (637), extra-base hits (970) and total bases (4,514). He's second in homers (281) and RBIs (1,125).

In 1988 I was still a newly-wed and we had just moved to Midland, Texas so that I could become the national advertising manager for the Reporter-Telegram. It was difficult to impossible to get Astros games or news in West Texas at the time -- not much in the way of satellite TV, no Internet quite yet, ESPN was just coming around.

It was 1993 before we moved back to Houston. I had to be in San Diego training for a new assignment during the time allotted for our move and asked my wife to find an apartment as close as possible to the Astrodome, so that I could go see a game whenever I chose. She accommodated me and found us a little loft on Holly Hall where I could walk right down the street to the Dome. From my front door to the box office on the east side: twenty minutes.

I got to see Biggio (and Bagwell) on the field on a regular basis. They're the best ballplayers Houston has ever had. Not counting Hakeem and Earl, of course.

All the best to Biggio as he chases 3,000 next summer.

Update (11/13): HouStoned is a bit harsher on Bidge.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thursday, November 09, 2006

OK. I suppose I'm a little encouraged

by this:

Harris County Democratic and Republican officials have looked at Tuesday's local election results and they agree: The GOP-dominated county government could be recaptured by Democrats as soon as 2008.

"Believe me, it's being discussed," said Republican Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt, a conservative leader. "It's an amazing wake-up call," said Republican County Commissioner Steve Radack.

In an election when many ethnic minority voters didn't vote, Republican judicial candidates on the bottom half of the Harris County ballot won by an average of fewer than four percentage points — 52 percent to 48 percent.

The average margin four years ago was more than nine points.

If minority voters had been energized, as they might be in the 2008 presidential year, it could have been a Democratic sweep, some analysts said. They point to Dallas County, long a GOP stronghold, where Democrats claimed every countywide seat elected Tuesday.

Here's what political analysts and party officials are seeing:

Countywide judicial races are considered a good indicator of party feelings. There are so many of them that voters tend to choose based on party affiliation rather than knowledge of individual candidates or issues. The Houston Chronicle calculated the combined GOP margin of victory for all contested races for state district courts, which are elected countywide.

It was 3.9 percentage points, the smallest since at least 1998.

Some Republicans evaluating Tuesday's results said conservatives didn't get out to vote. Others said the problem might be that fewer Republicans voted straight-party tickets because the governor's race included two independent candidates. Those lost straight-ticket votes might have benefited down-ballot judicial races that voters otherwise didn't bother with, Radack theorized.

Democrats noted that the margin in the judicial races was close even though ethnic minorities who generally vote Democratic skipped the election, which featured few Hispanic or non-Hispanic black candidates in showcase races. In the 11 state House districts within Harris County that have Anglo majorities, voter turnout Tuesday was 36 percent. In the 12 with non-Hispanic black and Hispanic majorities, the turnout was 26 percent. Local Republicans faced a national political current Tuesday that they hope is temporary -- congressional scandals and wide dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq.

But the demographic trends are long-term: The Hispanic population is booming and the Anglo population is not.

"The Republican Party is not attracting minority voters the way it should. I've been saying this for 10 years," Radack said. Former Harris County Democratic Chairwoman Sue Schechter said she regrets the party didn't put more money into the judicial races this time. It might have made a difference, she said. Rice University political science professor Bob Stein said an immediate effect of Tuesday's local and national results could be interest from talented Democrats who realize they have a legitimate chance to be elected next time around.

Radack predicted trial lawyers, stung by lawsuit limitations enacted by Republicans, will pour money into the races.

When state District Judge Katie Kennedy stepped down in 1999, she was the last countywide Democratic officeholder. In the closest Harris County judicial race Tuesday, Democrat Mary Kay Green got 49.4 percent of the votes against Republican incumbent Annette Galik for a family-court bench. The margin of victory was 6,800 votes, but the "under vote" — the number of people who voted in other races on the ballot but not that one — was 51,000. There's no way to tell which candidate would have benefited most had those 51,000 voters made a choice for the 245th District Court.

But the demographic and political trends seem clear.

"Doomsday is coming," said UH political science professor Richard Murray.

Radack said factors such as the independent gubernatorial candidates and national scandals made things worse this year. But the handwriting was on the wall for anyone who cared to read it, he said.

Many of the minority/majority precincts in Harris County (one of which I chair) had, to be kind, an under-representation at the polls on Tuesday. But from a Texas perspective, it also appears that our Democratic base in El Paso and the Valley sat this one out in large measure.

That cost the Democratic Party some judges, county-wide and statewide.

Was it the fault of the candidates? The TDP, and Boyd Richie specifically? The voter registration effort, or the GOTV one? How about the media? Or should the voters themselves take some blame for being blase' ?

Everybody catches a little bit, I suppose, but it may be something we can improve on next go-round.

I must say however that I believe this incremental strategy is bullshit. There was constant repetition from the party machinery in Austin that this was a rebuilding year, that we should only focus on a few select races, that the efforts of fund-raising and spending would be on infrastructure and rebuilding for 2008 and not on candidates and races in 2006, because there was really no hope of achieving anything any grander like capturing a statewide office.

Congratulations, Mr. Richie. Your strategy was executed flawlessly.

A closing thought from my man David:

I must add that despite the results in Texas, I'm ecstatic about the Democratic takeover of the Congress. These midterm results may have saved the country from dictatorship and civil war.

The Bushite arctic freeze is thawing nationally but in Texas we're still iced in. Fight 'em on the ice.

More Pat Tillman death coverup details

Keeping the truth hidden about what really happened to this American hero is one of Bob Gates' first orders of business:

One of the four shooters, Staff Sgt. Trevor Alders, had recently had PRK laser eye surgery. Although he could see two sets of hands "straight up," his vision was "hazy," he said. In the absence of "friendly identifying signals," he assumed Tillman and an allied Afghan who also was killed were enemy.

Another, Spc. Steve Elliott, said he was "excited" by the sight of rifles, muzzle flashes and "shapes." A third, Spc. Stephen Ashpole, said he saw two figures, and just aimed where everyone else was shooting.

Squad leader Sgt. Greg Baker had 20-20 eyesight, but claimed he had "tunnel vision." Amid the chaos and pumping adrenaline, Baker said he hammered what he thought was the enemy but was actually the allied Afghan fighter next to Tillman who was trying to give the Americans cover: "I zoned in on him because I could see the AK-47. I focused only on him."

All four failed to identify their targets before firing, a direct violation of the fire discipline techniques drilled into every soldier.

There's more.

Cold comfort

I'm still not as thrilled as I ought to be about Tuesday's election returns flipping the Congress from red to blue. There's much that is historic about what occurred: 28 House seats, six in the Senate, six new Democratic governors, lots of new faces in state legislatures -- even including the ones I personally know going to Austin in January -- and no incumbent Democrats having lost, provided Rep. William "My freezer is my bank" Jefferson in Louisiana survives his runoff, a hopefully unlikely occurrence. (To that end, I have renamed my ActBlue page "The Jefferson/Bonilla Retirement Fund".)

But Texas, and particularly Houston and surrounding Harris County, built a red levee strong enough to withstand the blue tsunami that washed across the land.

I have a lingering taste of quinine over that.

But the cold comfort part of this posting regards the political epitaph of one Donald Rumsfeld, the architect of military failure in the Middle East, whom President Warmongerer sacrificed on the rubble of his two-year-old political capital just before lunchtime yesterday.

Rumsfeld wasn't just one of the sorriest men Bush brought back to Washington six years ago, he was probably THE sorriest. His contempt for the military -- "people are fungible", "you go to war with the army you have, not the one you wish you had", and on and on like that were verbals displays of it.

The physical display of his contempt can easily be found lying in beds at Walter Reed, and in eternal rest in Arlington National and many more cemeteries around the country.

His contempt for those who who dared question him in the media room at the Pentagon was legendary and obvious. Last week it had moved from "Henny Penny the sky is falling" to "Back off". Well Rummy, this week it's "back your ass out the back door and don't come back". And take that goddamned PNAC manual with you.

And from the Decider-in-Chief last week it was "Rumsfeld will stay until the end of my term"; this week it was "fresh assessment". The president now simply mocks the White House press corps with every lie that falls out of his mouth.

I don't expect a McNamara-like change of heart from old Don in a few years regarding his Iraq/Afghanistan folly. I do expect him to land not on his front porch in a wooden rocking chair but in a plush leather seat in a defense contractor's boardroom, in short order.

Where he can no doubt continue his good work for America.

And don't expect any revealing truths to be told by his replacement, Bob Gates, who as deputy chief spook in Ronald Reagan's government and the top one in Poppy Bush's, kept the dirty details of Iran/contra covered up. Gates has been an efficient trucker of smiling insincerity throughout his life.

When Dick Cheney comes back from his Wyoming hunting trip he'll find another old pal in the Pentagon, one with plenty of secrets to tell but also with a lifetime of of CIA discipline meant to enforce their secrecy. Gates isn't at Defense to win the war on terror; he's there to keep the mess Rumsfeld made safely under wraps from a Democratic congressional investigation.

See, Big Daddy Bush dispatched Gates to Arlington from College Station and his post at Texas A&M where's he's been zealously guarding the Bush library's papers, raising money from Republicans for the university, visiting with Governor MoFo about reigniting the Aggie bonfire tradition and other important tasks like that.

James Baker says he's perfect for the job.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Not really cheery over here

Ugh. Kuffner may be happy, but me? Not so much.

On a night when Democrats nationally seized the House and possibly the Senate, Texas Republicans suffered barely any losses, re-electing incumbents in wide margins.

No statewide offices, no Harris County-wide officeholders were upset -- yet. Oh, Nick Lampson's win is sweet, and so is Ellen Cohen's, and Hubert Vo put old Talmadge out to pasture again. Locally, we may yet pull out a county judgeship (Jim Sharp, Mary Kay Green). Across the Lone Star, our dear friend Valinda Bolton over in Austin is to be heartily congratulated. And a special tip o' the chapeau to the good folks in Hays County, who managed to sweep their trash out.

But for that to be all the change Texans demanded in a year like the last one -- to quote an obnoxious chain of Mexican restaurants -- ees preety pathetic.

Here's some quoteworthies:

"I feel like the Republican Party is not my party anymore," Joan Domek, 75, said after voting in Parma Heights, near Cleveland.

Way to go, lady. I'm glad y'all killed 'em in Ohio. They've dug their little claws into the upholstery down here.

"It's time for a change. That's the buzzword," said Cindy Mushrush, 54, a stay-at-home mom from suburban Columbus.

Not in Deep-In-the-Hearta, honey. Some of us like one-party rule.

On a night that began with promise and after a long day at the polls, we couldn't find parking at Jim Henley's party just down the road from our house, so we went on to see my birthday buddy Barbara Radnofsky. She took a call about 9:30 from someone who told her Chris Bell had already conceded. So we headed over to the Sheraton Brookhollow to drown some sorrows and got encouraged by the national returns. But not nearly enough so.

Governor MoFo now goes back to Austin for a total of ten years (unless the 2008 GOP presidential nominee is stupid enough to give him another job). Kay Bailey Sock Puppet glides back to DC and a seat in the Senate she can have until she dies. Lite Guv Dewhurst might have been the only underperformer on the GOP side of the slate, as Maria Luisa Alvarado held him under 59% (big whoop). Greg Abbott's millions in campaign contributions from the state's largest companies, and the video production department he bought with taxpayer money, enabled him to run TV commercials non-stop for the three weeks before Election Day and swamp my man David. (WFAA-TV in Dallas, the recipient of a good portion of the Attorney General's largesse, sat on the followup to the story they originally aired three years ago regarding Abbott's malfeasance. This is what neofascism looks like, people.)

Judge Bill Moody's endorsements and experience went for 44%+. Our other judicials across Texas came closer, in the high forties. Hank Gilbert fared a few percentage points better than the other statewide executive candidates, at 41.7%. But Valinda Hathcox and Dale Henry, two statewides who had the least money and exposure, actually pulled a little better than most of those upticket Democrats. This left me with the distinct impression that our candidates could have -- in the spirit of the nearly-immortal Gene Kelly -- stayed home and done nothing and fared better.

I'm proud of Texas, how 'bout you?

So then, let me count the ways this pisses ...

1. To the winners go the gloating. Congratulations Chris E and Matty B, your Texas Fascists spent millions of bucks on TV advertising and ran up the score. That caysh bought a lot of political power, leaving the Republicans once again at the mercy of their corporate masters. And now several of them need to start raising money for their next step up, repeating the cycle of money breeding corruption.

Dewhurst for Governor in 2010? or Kay Bailey? or Abbott? Or maybe Mr. Wheelchair Molester Protector for Lt. Governor? Or maybe that's Susan Combs' next rung on the ladder, or Todd Staples.

My God they just reproduce like rats, don't they. Or javelinas in heat (thanks for nothing, Kinky).

2. Harris County remains the belly of the GOP beast in Texas. Dallas is doing better than us. *retch* A lot better.

3. Down in Corpus, the Seaman-Garcia race remains too close to call. That will be a nice victory for Democrats if the current numbers hold. And out in West Texas, Henry Bonilla was forced into a runoff with Ciro Rodriguez (hey, didn't he quit earlier though? I forget). Bonilla may still get kicked out of the US House, and in any event can kiss his Senate dreams goodbye. This contest may yet prove to be a win for redistricting (the court-ordered kind).

4. I'm going to be blogging a lot less about politics here for a good long while. I need a break. OK, a bit more about the future:

5. Where does the Texas Democratic Party go from here? The Dream Team choked in 2002; and when our merry band of populists stood up when no one else would in 2006, they were similarly drummed by the electorate.

Whither Void Richie? He was AWOL during this campaign. I'd like to see who he can recruit to run for office besides himself. I don't think Fred Baron is going to be a candidate. And who's going to take on Senator Box Turtle? Christ, he's not going to get a free pass too, is he Boyd?

OK, I'm going back to bed now. It's time for my nap. Maybe this afternoon I'll go see my massage therapist. This weekend is a big birthday bash for a couple of my friends, and the Veterans Day parade is Saturday. I'll be marching with the Veterans for Peace.

There's a couple more weekends of the Renaissance Festival, and the Civil War Weekend in Hempstead. I'll also be in the Diabetes Walk for Life this month.

And hey, the holidays are coming up; that means Dickens on the Strand, one of my favorite festivals. Fall is the best time of year -- I used to say 'October', but global warming moved it into November. I might even drag the sticks out and go golfing.

But no more politics for awhile. Or maybe I'll just quit worrying about Texas politics. Don't fret; I'll think of something to bitch about.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Off to party now

The wife took tomorrow off, so we're going to be late making the rounds at all these locations.

First stop: Henley, then Radnofsky, then Bell, then the big one at the Sheraton Brookhollow, then the nightcap at the Red Hat with Goodwille.

By 3:30 pm my precinct had

... only 298 votes cast, but there's been close to that number since. We're voting this year at the Holiday Inn at Reliant.

I'm not worried about turnout; it seems like a presidential year, judging from my vantage point outside the hotel pushing cards. And in 2004 my precinct went 79% for John Kerry.

I just hope I squeezed all of the juice out of it this time.

Not you, Elam

I have some extra invitations, but none with your name on them. You're an "outside" dog, anyway:

You are invited to spend the evening of November 7, 2006
with David and Rachel Van Os
in their suite at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel
Austin, Texas

After David wins the election,
we will all march to the Capitol
where he will make his acceptance speech
and take back Texas for the People.

Sounds elitist, doesn't it Chris? It won't be (except for excluding people like you).

Cheer up though, little buddy. I won't make it either. I'm working my precinct all day.

Hey, why don't you crash it? I'll bet you've never had your ass kicked by a couple of pipefitters...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Top Ten Reasons to Vote Republican

... but only if you're an idiot, of course:

10. Vote Republican if you think it's a good idea to post detailed nuclear bomb-making instructions -- in Arabic -- on the Internet.

9. Vote Republican if you want to stay the course in Iraq.

8. Vote Republican if you think the President should get advice on gay-bashing from a fundamentalist pastor who secretly bangs gay prostitutes.

7. Vote Republican if you think the best way to deal with a child predator is to cover your own ass.

6. Vote Republican if you hate the military.

5. Vote Republican if you like people who will literally say anything to get elected.

4. Vote Republican if you think the best way to answer a tough question is to have your questioner beaten up.

3. Vote Republican if you think laws are for other people -- particularly brown, Democratic people.

2. Vote Republican if you think it's cool for Congressmen to pay their mistresses to keep quiet until after Election Day.

and 1. Vote Republican if you think this bunch is NOT the most corrupt, hypocritical, worthless bunch of asshats you have ever seen in your life.

In the past six years Republicans have had total control of the US and state government. They have held onto that power by literally terrorizing their constituents, fooling them into believing that if the GOP isn't running the show then Uncle Sam will be blown up by terrorists, buggered by a homosexual and lose his job to a Mexican.

The politics of fear have allowed Republicans in Washington and Austin to wipe themselves with the Constitution, redistrict themselves into semi-permanent majorities, take away rights that human beings have relied on for centuries, devastate our children's healthcare and education, abandon their responsibility to check the power of the presidency, enrich themselves and their corporate clients while assaulting the middle class, and ruin the lives of countless thousands of people from Baghdad to New Orleans and East Texas. They've done all this by following a strict doctrine of "divide and conquer," turning American against American and Texan against Texan while their cronies sit back, laugh, and rake in the cash.

If you have friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers who are as disgusted by the modern Republican party as I am, make sure you get them to the polls on the day after tomorrow. The GOP has spent the last six years telling us what cannot be done. There remains a long road ahead, but many Democratic victories on Tuesday can be the first step toward repairing the damage these idiots have done, and making the USA -- and Texas -- great again.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

God's Own Party: Screw the poor

During the early voting period just completed, the city of Houston offered free flu shots to people at selected locations. This was challenged by the Harris County Republican Party, which claimed through their chairman Jared Woodfill that it was a "scheme" to get Democrats to the polls. Mayor Bill White promptly ceased the program.

One of our vile local conservative blogs -- this is the only hint I'm giving -- quoted Jesus out of context from Matthew 26:11: "the poor be with ye always".

This rankles me on several levels:

1. I could simply note that the Harris County branch of US Hezbollah, also known as the Republican Party, is as sorry as Satan regarding this matter and leave it at that, but I won't.

2. Bill White is a bigger coward than John Kerry for rolling over on this. I hereby declare my support for whomever happens to be White's Democratic primary opponent when he runs for higher office.

3. The biblical quotation is not only out of context but incomplete as well. Anyone with a passing familiarity with the Holy Scriptures -- that barely describes me, incidentally -- can easily figure out that Jesus wasn't contradicting his many statements about the poor being blessed, the meek inheriting the Earth, that people should not covet earthly possessions and in fact should sell them, that the moneychangers were sinful, that the wealthy have almost no chance of entering heaven, and so on. Michael Dawson does a much better job of dissembling this atrocious rationale.

As previously noted many times in this space: I don't go to church, I hardly even believe in a higher authority, but I sure know an Elmer Gantry when I hear him.

What the Harris County Republican Party managed to pull off this week is absolutely NOT what Jesus would have done. But that won't stop them from wallowing happily in the stench of their hypocrisy like pigs in shit.

Support the Troops: Vote Democratic

-- "Donald Rumsfeld must go". That's the subject of an editorial which will appear in Monday's Army Times, Air Force Times, Marine Corps Times, and Navy Times, the military service's newspapers of record.

I'm careful wishing for this: he will likely be replaced by Joe Lieberman, who will resign the Senate seat he is probably going to be re-elected to, which means that the Republican governor of Connecticut will appoint a Republican to replace him. Then again, what really is the difference between Lieberman and any another shit-eating conservative?

-- November is off to a bloody start in Iraq. And I do mean bloody.

Republicans are chanting "taxes, taxes, John Kerry, taxes, what's their plan, taxes, taxes, taxes", but the truth about what issue Tuesday's vote turns on is flowing down that Baghdad street.

-- Tammy Duckworth, the Democratic candidate for Illinois' 6th congressional district who lost both legs in Iraq when her helicopter was shot down, was passed over for endorsement by the VFW. They instead picked the Republican who has had no military service. Why? Because a member of the national board lives in the district. He's a right-wing freak, of course.

The VFW overlooked sending a questionnaire to Duckworth -- as they typically do all candidates considered for endorsement -- and relied solely on the word of Ray Soden, said freak.

This is, as you might be guessing, backfiring on both the VFW and the Republican.

-- In this Vanity Fair interview with Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, David Frum and others, author David Rose reveals that even the hearts of neoconservative darkness have turned against the Bushies for their failures in Iraq.

Who's had enough?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Even more GOP scandals erupt

How could Karl Rove let all this happen so close to Election Day?

-- the Bush administration posted online the guidelines for constructing a nuclear weapon, and left it up for several months. In Arabic. When the New York Times asked them about it, they took it down.

Do you feel safer?

-- someone from the campaign of state representative John "Dufus" Davis flushed grease from a fish fry down a commode in the community center where the event was held. It clogged a lift station, which is how it got traced back to Davis. (Two questions I don't really want answered: what is a lift station, and how does one 'trace grease'.)

You simply cannot make this shit up. Go see Bay Area Houston and Musings (for the Fox26 video).

-- Pastor Ted Haggard, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals -- a group that claims thirty million members -- resigned yesterday after a male prostitute alleged that the minister had paid him for sex for three years and used drugs with him.

-- Don Sherwood, R-Allentown Pa., paid an ex-mistress nearly $500,000 to keep the affair quiet until after Election Day. Oops.

And this man wants to invest your Social Security money. Pshaw.

-- the mad-dog Republicans in Fort Bend County, led by Commissioner Andy Meyers, are terrorizing their neighbors with signs and direct mail. Since scaring them regarding terrorist attacks isn't working, they have resorted to scaring them about brown people in general. I wonder if the conservatives in Fort Bend are stupid enough to fall for this ...

-- Greg Abbott got chastised by the Austin American-Statesman editorial board, and made fun of by John Kelso for his videotaping crimes, but that's all. Damned liberal media.

I'm sure I missed some of yesterday's news, since I have been busy working get-out-the-vote efforts in my precinct. Would you please add the ones I've overlooked in the comments? The myriad electronic voting-machine irregularities, for example...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Power to the people

About a dozen supporters of striking Houston janitors blocked the intersection of Westheimer and Post Oak, in the Galleria, this afternoon. They sat down in the middle of the road and handcuffed themselves to trash cans in order to call attention to the strike by the recently organized SEIU janitors for better wages and benefits.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

WFAA continues the beatdown on Abbott

Byron Harris of News8 Investigates piles on:

Last week, we revealed Attorney General Greg Abbott is using video shot at taxpayers' expense in his commercials.

Tonight we report that the video is evidence of a sweeping change in the way his communications office is run.

Wearing jackets labeled 'Texas Attorney General,' armed law enforcement officers sweep into an apartment house. The video, shot by an attorney general videographer at taxpayers' expense, now shows up in Abbott's television commercial.

One critic says it blurs public service and self promotion.

“It's disgusting. And that's why I took early retirement. It's just blatant misuse of state funds to promote Greg Abbott's name recognition,” said Bill Barnes, who worked for 18 years in the video departments of four Texas attorney generals, both Republican and Democrat.

He retired after Abbott took office. He says he saw the video department change from supporting the attorney general to promoting him.

“To increase general Abbott’s name recognition, there was nothing more important to the press office than that. That was what they were going to do,” Barnes said.

Salaries of press office staff increased to what amounts to more than $380,000 a year. A videographer was hired at $70,000 a year, just $22,000 less than the attorney general himself made at the time. Videos, such as one depicting busts being made by the attorney general's staff, were produced. Burns says he recognizes the videotape now being used in the attorney general's commercials.

The attorney general also built himself a TV studio. He says the world has changed with the internet and his beefed up operation is just trying to keep up.

Press secretary Jerry Strickland showed us the studio known as "the bat cave," which used to be a storage room. He says the attorney general did spend money for equipment here, but he doesn't know exactly how much. He says the studio produces videos on open government which are distributed to state officials.

The office also produces edited versions of the attorney general's press conferences and legal activities, which are distributed to television stations. We checked with attorney general offices in New York and California. Neither have a department like the one in Texas.

The attorney general's videos are edited for content. How is that not propaganda?

“It is a way for us to convey what people need to know in the state of Texas. We are providing information to the taxpayers and if the taxpayers would like more information we can provide that as well,” Strickland explained.

Strickland says unedited video shot by his office can be obtained by any citizen by filing a public information request. That's where all this material now on the website run by Abbott's political campaign came from. And how the campaign got the video now used in Abbott's commercial. The campaign says it's all totally legal.

The Abbott campaign is wrong. But -- as I asked previously -- who will charge the Attorney General with this felony?

Bush's latest strategery for victory in Iraq

Abbott rocked by scandals

The Austin American-Statesman finally reports on Greg Abbott's misuse of state resources with an appropriately misleading headline. They manage to get the story right, however (bold emphasis mine throughout):

It looks like a scene from TV's "Cops."

Instead, the arrest video highlighted in a campaign commercial for Attorney General Greg Abbott was shot by a state employee at taxpayer expense. In fact, video of everything from Abbott's news conferences to the latest bust of suspected child predators can be found on his campaign and official state Web sites — all shot by his $70,000-a-year state-paid videographer.

In essence, candidate Abbott filed an open records request to Attorney General Abbott for the videos produced by the state. ...

As legal rationale, (Abbott campaign staffer Daniel) Hodge cited one line from a Texas Ethics Commission advisory opinion: "Any candidate may use publicly available government information for campaign purposes and an inherent advantage of incumbency is knowledge of what kind of government information is available to the public."

But the opinion continued, "The lawful advantages of incumbency do not, however, extend to the use of work time of government employees or other government resources to gather or otherwise prepare information for campaign purposes."

The legal fine line would be intent: Was the video shot to inform the public or further Abbott's political career?

The attorney general's office has a communications department with six employees, including videographer Neftali Gonzalez. It spends more than $500,000 a year informing the public about the office's activities. ...

Wow. Is this sort of thing ... unusual?

Bill Burns, a retired state employee who was a videographer for four attorneys general, including Abbott, said the job changed when Abbott took over four years ago. It became more about promoting Abbott, he said, as opposed to doing the legal, internal work.

"There is nothing more important to the Abbott administration than his name identification," Burns said. "It's all about him."

No, I mean, do other Republican incumbents do this?

Representatives of Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn said Monday that they have not mingled video paid for by taxpayers with their campaign work.

OK. So what exactly is going on here?

"It's stealing the taxpayers' money," said David Van Os, Abbott's Democratic opponent. "Greg Abbott is so sure of his entitlement to public office, he thinks he has a special privilege to steal public equipment and resources to promote himself."

So with the millions of dollars Abbott has raised --and spent on TV -- in contributions from "Swift Boat" Bob Perry and the state's largest corporations, with the apparent violation of the Texas Penal Code regarding abuse of office, this is the article's moneyshot:

He said it's inexplicable why Abbott, who has a $7 million campaign bank account, would rely on state video for his campaigns. ...

Last week, as his commercial aired, Abbott wrote his supporters, complaining about the high cost of campaigning and urging them to donate more.

All-righty then.

Why is Greg Abbott so worried? What is so worrisome about his name recognition as an incumbent that he has to spend millions of his own money -- as well hundreds of thousands of the taxpayers' dollars -- on television commercials showing his armed agents busting into a house and arresting someone? Or surrounding himself with laughing children?

Another question: why isn't Abbott's wheelchair visible in any of his commercials?

And a third question: Have you seen any polling in the election for Attorney General? Considering what a publicity whore he is, do you think that if the polling were favorable to Abbott you would have heard about it in the media by now?

Fund-raising and electoral troubles aside, we're not even close to the end of Abbott's legal woes. From The Lone Star Project:

Judge Blocks AG Abbott's Vote Suppression Scheme

A short while ago, US District Court Judge T. John Ward granted a preliminary injunction stopping Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Texas Secretary of State Roger Williams from enforcing a Texas Law that makes it a crime to simply mail or posses a sealed ballot. This year, Abbott has aggressively prosecuted at least 13 individuals, most of whom had done nothing more then help senior citizens vote by mail. Virtually all of those prosecuted are minority senior citizens and all are Democrats. Judge Ward's order says:

For the reasons set forth in the court's findings of fact and conclusions of law, the court orders Defendants, Greg Abbott, in his official capacity as the Attorney General for the State of Texas and Roger Williams, in his official capacity as Secretary of State for the State of Texas, their employees, agents, representatives, attorneys, and servants, and all other persons acting in concert, privity, or participation with the defendants, immediately to:

1. cease enforcing, pending a trial on the merits, Tex. Elec. Code § 86.006(f) under circumstances in which a person, other than the voter, has merely possessed the official ballot or official carrier envelope and such possession is with the actual consent of the voter"
(Source: Preliminary Injunction, Willie Ray v Texas)

Read the Preliminary Injunction Here
Read the Findings of Fact Here

Over the past several months, the Lone Star Project has issued a series of investigative reports highlighting Greg Abbott's abuse of the flawed statute. Read the reports here. The Lone Star Project called for legal action against Abbott's efforts and has supported the legal challenge mounted by the six citizen plaintiffs and the Texas Democratic Party.

The Lone Star Project Director Matt Angle said, "Greg Abbott was not only improperly enforcing a flawed statute, but creating an atmosphere of intimidation and fear. Abbott has acted in a shameless manor, and Judge Ward's order is welcome protection for voters in Texas."

And from Boyd Richie:

The Texas Democratic Party has won a preliminary injunction stopping Attorney General Greg Abbott and Secretary of State Roger Williams from prosecuting voters who are trying to help seniors exercise their right to vote. Texas Republicans know that they would lose fair and free elections. That’s why they’ve done everything they can to stack the deck … even if it means willfully ignoring the law and abusing the power of their office. The examples of Republican misdeeds are numerous:

· Republicans blatantly broke the law when they pushed through an illegal redistricting plan that disenfranchised thousands of Hispanic and African American voters.

· They broke a long standing state law when they illegally used corporate money to fund state house elections.

· And, most recently, they tried to override the results of a legally held primary by attempting to remove Tom DeLay from the ballot when he decided to quit, instead of facing certain defeat at the ballot box.

It seems clear that the current Attorney General of Texas has created numerous problems for himself through misapplication of several laws, to put it as kindly as possible.

(Strangely, this message from the TDP chairman trumpeting his efforts never once mentions the Democratic candidate for Texas Attorney General. There could be a posting about whatever this means at a later time.)