Monday, June 30, 2008

We're getting ready to attack Iran.

Could be weeks, could be days away. Seymour Hersh:

Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program. ...

“The Finding was focussed on undermining Iran’s nuclear ambitions and trying to undermine the government through regime change,” a person familiar with its contents said, and involved “working with opposition groups and passing money.” The Finding provided for a whole new range of activities in southern Iran and in the areas, in the east, where Baluchi political opposition is strong, he said.

Although some legislators were troubled by aspects of the Finding, and “there was a significant amount of high-level discussion” about it, according to the source familiar with it, the funding for the escalation was approved. In other words, some members of the Democratic leadership—Congress has been under Democratic control since the 2006 elections—were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party’s presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy.

The request for funding came in the same period in which the Administration was coming to terms with a National Intelligence Estimate, released in December, that concluded that Iran had halted its work on nuclear weapons in 2003. The Administration downplayed the significance of the N.I.E., and, while saying that it was committed to diplomacy, continued to emphasize that urgent action was essential to counter the Iranian nuclear threat. President Bush questioned the N.I.E.’s conclusions, and senior national-security officials, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, made similar statements. (So did Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee.) Meanwhile, the Administration also revived charges that the Iranian leadership has been involved in the killing of American soldiers in Iraq: both directly, by dispatching commando units into Iraq, and indirectly, by supplying materials used for roadside bombs and other lethal goods. (There have been questions about the accuracy of the claims; the Times, among others, has reported that “significant uncertainties remain about the extent of that involvement.”)

This follows on the heels of this, last week:

Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen leaves Tuesday night on an overseas trip that will take him to Israel ... The trip has been scheduled for some time but U.S. officials say it comes just as the Israelis are mounting a full court press to get the Bush administration to strike Iran's nuclear complex.

CBS consultant Michael Oren says Israel doesn't want to wait for a new administration.

"The Israelis have been assured by the Bush administration that the Bush administration will not allow Iran to nuclearize," Oren said. "Israelis are uncertain about what would be the policies of the next administration vis-à-vis Iran."

Israel's message is simple: If you don't, we will. Israel held a dress rehearsal for a strike earlier this month, but military analysts say Israel can not do it alone.

"Keep in mind that Israel does not have strategic bombers," Oren said. "The Israeli Air Force is not the American Air Force. Israel can not eliminate Iran's nuclear program."

Cheney wants to strike, Mullen and Defense Secretary Gates do not.

How are we going to stop a third war in the Middle East, which will quickly send oil to $200 a barrel and beyond and gasoline past $5 the week the attack commences?

For starters, contact Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi -- they're on their Independence Day break, if you recall from my many FISA postings -- and tell their staff to pass on along your exhortation to stop the Bush administration's rush to another war.

You can also spread the word about it. E-mail this post to your list. Talk about a third war with Iran out loud, in public, with people where others can overhear you. You can also contact your locals, but for now start at the top, and speak out forcefully and clearly.

This shit has got to stop, and we're the only ones who can make them.

The Weekly Wrangle

Time for yet another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's weekly blog round-up. Posts included in the round-up are submitted each week by Alliance member blogs, and compiled by Vince from Capitol Annex.

Maybe PDiddie at Brains and Eggs was wrong about Obama and Texas. Decide for yourself.

Off the Kuff has one last belated interview from the state Dem convention, with CD32 candidate Eric Roberson.

There is a new email scandal in Harris County. XicanoPwr writes about the offensive emails discovered at the Harris County sheriff's office by a local media undercover investigation. One email has Osama bin Laden urging folks to vote Democratic. In another, a top commander suggested that alligators should be put in the Rio Grande to cut down on illegal immigration.

Big Drunk at McBlogger points out, again, the flaws in the R's "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" strategy. Which really isn't hard to do since the R's don't excel at critical thinking, are in love with fantasy and are (to a large extent) willfully ignorant.

refinish69 of Doing My Part For The Left is delighted to announce that the Texas Medical Association rescinded their endorsement of Senator Box Turtle, and shares Rick Noriega's response to Big Bad John.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the cracks forming in the Texas Republican base in A Cooling Off Period For The Texas GOP.

Vince Leibowitz at Capitol Annex takes a look at the Texas Supreme Court's recent opinion declaring, essentially, that if you are injured by a church, you are screwed, which stems from the case of -- get this -- an exorcism gone horribly wrong.

North Texas Liberal reports on the charge that John McCain and his wife Cindy have defaulted on four years of back taxes for their La Jolla, Calif. residence.

The Texas Cloverleaf helps expose the fact that oil companies are not drilling on 3/4 of the land they already lease, because it will cost them too much. Corporate greed, anyone?

Over at Texas Kaos, it is Kenneth Foster all over again, as it looks like Texas' law of parties is fixing to execute another man, Jeff Wood, who didn't kill anyone.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes John McCain shows his true colors by choosing Phil 'Enron' Gramm as a close associate.

NyTexan at BlueBloggin tells how the Bush administration has hit the pinnacle of security chaos. We can rest easy now, knowing that we have outsourced the outsource: Department of Homeland Security Outsources National Security.

Bay Area Houston writes about state senator Kim Brimer keeping campaign cash for himself.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Extra Sunday Funnies

Still 317.

Had to think hard about changes from last week, but there is consensus that Nevada currently sits in McCain's camp, and that Alaska has moved to toss-up, again due to the Bob Barr phenomenon. But that doesn't change Obama's numbers.

<p><strong>><a href=''>Electoral College Prediction Map</a></strong> - Predict the winner of the general election. Use the map to experiment with winning combinations of states. Save your prediction and send it to friends.</p>

Maybe I'm wrong about Obama and Texas

After I wrote this, then the campaign appeared to take my challenge and made several promising announcements about moving staff into and spending money in the Lone Star.

Obama's 50-state strategy, (Obama campaign manager David Plouffe) said, is designed to help the party increase its majority on Capitol Hill and to try to regain control of state legislatures, including Texas, where the Democrats need to pick up just five House seats to control the chamber.

Another goal is to force the Republicans to spend money in "red" states so they have less available for swing states.

Obama's aides told the Houston Chronicle that the Texas expenditures could increase party turnout in targeted races such as Harris County district attorney, sheriff and county judge.

The national campaign's presence in the state also could help Democrats in closely watched Houston-area congressional races for the seats of incumbent Democrat Nick Lampson and Republican Michael McCaul.

"It'll help us create a government majority," said Plouffe. "In a state like Texas, there's House races, there's state Senate races, and we're going to encourage people to get involved in their local elections."

In Texas, for instance, Obama’s three dozen offices were overrun with volunteers during the primary; the campaign’s challenge is, in part, to find something useful to do with all that free labor. But, while Hildebrand said Obama is unlikely to pay for television advertising outside a core of about 15 states the candidate thinks he can win, he will spend some money on staff. Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, reportedly told donors in Houston that he would send 15 staffers to Texas, and the campaign has committed to having some staff on the ground in all 50 states.
Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Gerald Birnberg said his ears perked up when Axelrod brought up, without being asked, redistricting after the 2010 Census.

"He said they were acutely aware that 2010 will be a redistricting year and that Texas presents some real opportunities."

Estimates are that Texas will gain four or five seats in the U.S. House of Representatives at the expense of northern states because of population growth.

That last part is emphasized because it means that, as a result of the 2010 census, the Lone Star adds Congressional districts -- likely Austin, San Antone, and a couple each in D-FW and Houston. Those districts get drawn by the majority in Austin, as Casey reminded re: DeLay.

I think fifteen staffers in Texas is -- well, something at least. Emphasis on voter registration is slightly disappointing, because of what Greg Palast has uncovered regarding state voter registrars' ability to throw out new registrations. You know if you read here regularly that countering voter suppression is much higher on my personal priority list.

And finally, if they're going to train a bunch of people here and then send them out to Virginia and Michigan and Nevada then I fail to see the positive impact on Texas.

But I will hold off for the moment on being a grouch, subject to how well the Obama campaign's words match their deeds.


What a ballgame last night.

The home team overcame deficits of 4-0 and 9-6, then hung on in the ninth to win. They held Man-Ram nearly hitless but couldn't get Dustin Pedroia out. They rocked Bosox starter Jon Lester -- particularly Mark Loretta, who hit the first pitch he saw out of the park, after Lester had gotten struck on a comebacker and limped around the mound before resuming. They blasted reliever Manny Delcarmen in the eighth, in particular Lance Berkman, who had whiffed three times against Lester but turned around as a left-hander and delivered the game-winner.

Delcarmen entered in the eighth ("a short inning and I probably would have gone out for the ninth") and that dominance didn't last another batter. Ty Wigginton, the former Tampa Bay Ray, led off the bottom of the eighth with a tying, opposite-field home run, and Lance Berkman, who had been tied up in knots by Jon Lester in whiffing his first three at-bats, sliced an opposite-field, two-run double to climax an improbable comeback.

"I just looked at the video," Delcarmen said. "The pitch to Wigginton was away, and he just got his bat out there. When he hit it, I thought there was no way it had the height to go out. A 3-and-2 pitch, I didn't want to walk him with anything offspeed."

Darin Erstad followed by lining a pinch single ("A hanging curveball," said Delcarmen), and Brad Ausmus, the Dartmouth grad, showed that at 39 he can still drop down a bunt, sacrificing Erstad to second after being sent to pinch hit by manager Cecil Cooper.

Delcarmen struck out Michael Bourn, but walked Hunter Pence before Berkman delivered.

"We made some mistakes out over the plate and we about paid for every one of them," said Sox manager Terry Francona.

A full house of 43,000+ fans, split pretty evenly, screamed and chanted and stood throughout the ninth, yelling with the strikeout of Manny by Astros closer Jose Valverde, groaning with the Crawford Boxes home run shot by Mike Lowell, and rejoicing on the K's of Kevin Youkilis and Jason Varitek.

The pre-game New England buffet, complete with brats and chowdah and prime rib and Italian sausage and pasta and baked beans and Boston creme pie -- was very nearly as spectacular as the baseball playing.

If you have a ticket to this afternoon's matinee, you can't do much better than what we did last night for food, fun and games.

Sunday Funnies

Friday, June 27, 2008

Of FISA and diverticula

The BooMan with the executive summary:

Paraphrased (and disguised) from a Capitol Hill source:

1. There will be no FISA votes before recess.

2. We will have the FISA vote on Tuesday July 8th, which will feature an up or down vote on Dodd/Feingold amendment to strip out retroactive immunity.

3. Senator Dodd will be controlling the 2-hour debate time leading up to the debate on the Dodd/Feingold amendment with Senator Leahy getting 10 mins.

4. Following the votes on amendment(s) there will be another cloture vote.

5. Prior to the cloture vote, there will be up to 60 minutes for debate equally divided and controlled between the Leaders or their designees, with Senator Leahy controlling 10 minutes. Senator Feingold will control an additional 30 minutes and Senator Dodd will control an additional 15 minutes.

Between now and July 8th we must work a miracle. We have won a temporary reprieve. Now is not the time for complaining but for organizing. Suggestions?

Well, Tuesday July 8th is my 50th birthday, so my suggestion is that we all celebrate it this way:

So here's a fantastic opportunity to talk to your Senators, when they're home for the most patriotic of all holidays, about what this bill means to you as a constitutent. If they're having town meetings, please attend and bring up the bill, or try to schedule individual meetings with them.

Senator Tamaulipeca Jacket -- 202-224-2934 -- and Senator Perjury Technicality -- 202-224-5922.

In other 50-year-old news, I had my colonscopy yesterday morning, causing me to miss the TexBlogPAC event, complete with VIPs. (Had I attended I would've urged Chris Bell to run for state Senator.)

But instead I enjoyed a little Demerol -- it really relieved the lingering pain in my shoulder from the adhesive capsulitis I have been suffering from -- and looked at teevee pictures of the inside of myself. The colon (well, mine, anyway) is not gray or blue but actually orange, which is why, as part of the preparations for the event, I was instructed not to eat anything red or orange in color. It's bad enough being limited to clear broths, but green Jell-O? The grape popsicles were good though.

Because my maternal grandfather died of colon cancer, in his sixties -- he passed away three weeks before I was born, which if you've been keeping up is almost precisely fifty years ago -- it's been a good idea for people in my family to have this routine screening performed, as suggested by the medical advisors, at age 50 and at subsequent intervals thereafter as determined. Sure enough, I had one small polyp which was removed and two diverticula, which earned me a scolding about fiber in my diet. I'll call in about a week after they biopsy the polyp for results.

The most painful thing was actually the MoviPrep taken before and the bloating immediately after. The procedure itself was unremarkable.

We're good to go for the Red Sox-Astros this weekend, and the special Boston buffet being served at the ballpark. It's going to take a lot of eating to refill that 23 feet of lower intestine, after all.

Now go back and click on all those links up there, and read them each thoroughly.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Revealed: Texas' most endangered Republican


What makes John Davis the most endangered Republican in the Texas House? It's a good question, and we've got the answer.

John Davis is out of touch with HD 129, a district that includes El Lago, Nassau Bay, Seabrook, Shoreacres, Taylor Lake Village, and Webster and parts of Friendswood, Houston, La Porte, League City, Pasadena, and Pearland -- all in Harris County.

A common misconception is that HD 129 is a "silk stocking" district full of wealthy folks. That's not true, however. While a majority of families do have an annual income of over $50,000 according to the 2000 Census (the most recent numbers broken out by House District), the population of HD-129 is more middle-class than anything else.

And Davis' voting record is pretty shoddy when it comes to the needs of middle-class families.

Davis voted for tuition deregulation. It doesn't take a genius to tell you that middle-class families have been impacted significantly by the Legislature's decision in 2003 to deregulate college tuition. It has become very difficult for middle-class families to afford to send their kids to college because tuition costs are skyrocketing. Clearly, tuition deregulation is not a middle-class value that the people of House District 129 support. Davis has even put the interests of one of his big supporters, Houston home builder Bob Perry, above middle-class students who want a college education when it came time to cast votes on the Appropriations Bill on the House floor!

He's for dirty air. Once again, it doesn't take a NAS scientist to tell you that the air quality in Harris County is lacking. Heck, even the American Journal of Epidemiology has taken note of the fact that lung cancer mortality in Harris County is high--and that isn't because more people in Harris County enjoy the occasional Marlboro, either. Yet John Davis -- time and time again -- has voted against improving the air quality in his own district. Here is some of what Davis actually has to say about this topic:

"It's much cleaner than it was 20-30 years ago. I believe we are on the right track. I don't want to choke off industry.

You can watch a YouTube of Davis actually making that statement here.

Davis also voted for raising taxes on small businesses. Even though Republicans are typically pro-business, Davis is surely no friend of small business. Even others in his own party call the tax John Davis supported an "abject failure." Taxing small businesses out of business isn't exactly a middle-class value, either.

And there is plenty more where that came from: Davis voted to disenfranchise minorities and the elderly (Voter ID), to waste taxpayer dollars on state-funded lobbyists (more than once), and even allowing the state to seize homes of Medicaid patients (HB 2922).

Does Davis share his district's values? We think not.

Davis' failure to reflect the values of his district alone, however, doesn't make him endangered. It is, rather, a variety of factors.

One of the key factors that makes Davis terribly endangered is the quality of his Democratic opponent, Sherrie Matula, and the campaign she is running down in HD 129.

Sherrie Matula is one of my favorite Texas House candidates this cycle, and you can meet her in person at tomorrow's TexBlogPAC function.

Some local events to attend this week

-- TexBlogPAC is holding another Houston soiree:

Please join host Mustafa Tameez

and sponsors:
State Representatives Ellen Cohen, Jessica Farrar, Armando Walle,
and Ana Hernandez
Democratic Candidate for U.S. Congress Michael Skelly
Democratic Candidate for State Senate Joe Jaworski
Democratic Candidates for State Representative Carol Alvarado, Sherrie Matula, Joel Redmond and John McClelland
Houston area bloggers Martha Griffin and Charles Kuffner
and many more…as we come together to take back the Texas House
Join us at a
TexBlog PAC Event

with special guest
State Representative Garnet Coleman

Thursday, June 26, 2008
5:30 to 7:30 pm
Rice Lofts, Room 203
909 Texas Avenue
$25 Contribution Suggested

Sponsorships available at the following levels:
$500 $250 $125 $50

Please make all checks payable to:
TexBlog PAC
501 E. Stassney Lane, Ste 1010, Austin TX, 78745

or contribute online by visiting:

for more information, or to RSVP, call Charles Kuffner at
713-825-0013 or email: kuff at offthekuff dot com

I won't be in attendance, since I am 50 this year I happened to have scheduled my routine screening colonoscopy that same morning. Politicians, bloggers, colonoscopy... don't jump to conclusions, okay?

-- Several of the politicos above are going to have a busy evening on the 26th:

LAWRENCE V. TEXAS CELEBRATION: Join City Controller Annise Parker, City Council member Sue Lovell, and Texas Representative Garnet Coleman on Thursday, June 26, at the Lawrence v. Texas Celebration, the event hosted by the Houston GLBT Community Center marking the fifth anniversary of the 2003 Supreme Court decision in the landmark case. That historic ruling overturned anti-gay sodomy laws in the state and across the nation. When the decision was announced, Lambda Legal, the national gay-rights organization whose attorneys argued the case before the high court, called Lawrence "a legal victory so decisive that it would change the entire landscape for the LGBT community."

The Lawrence v. Texas Celebration will take place at Bering & James art gallery, 805 Rhode Place #500 (77019). The 6:30-9 p.m. event will include remarks by John Lawrence, one of the co-petitioners in case; Mitchell Katine, the attorney for Lawrence and fellow petitioner, the late Tyrone Garner; and Ben Leal of Lambda Legal.

Poet and entertainer A.C. Coleman will open the event with a poem of celebration. Representatives of Mayor Bill White and state representatives Ellen Cohen and Jessica Farrar are also scheduled to attend the event.


From Peace Corps to Harvard Business School to Renewable Energy to…

Please join

Joaquin Altenberg, Anna Rotman, Bryan Sanchez

Marlon Castillo, Collin Cox

Seth Kretzer, Adrian Patterson

for a private reception to send

Michael Skelly

Candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives
7th District of Texas to the U.S Congress

Learn firsthand about Michael’s unique experiences, successes and obstacles. Network with other young leaders in Houston’s business, legal and non-profit sectors.

Thursday, June 26, 2008
6:00 - 7:30 p.m.


Pub Fiction, 2303 Smith, Houston, Texas

(Open Bar and Hors d’oeuvres provided)

Sponsor $500 Host $250 Friend $50



Brent Coon & Associates


Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels & Friend

Invite you to join us for

a reception for


of the 13th Court of Appeals


Candidate for Supreme Court of Texas, Place 8

Thursday, June 26, 2008

5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

Brent Coon & Associates

Houston Pillot Building

Penthouse Suite, 300 Fannin, Houston, Texas 77002

RSVP to Sherry Boyles at or 512.619.4997

-- One of my favorite judicial candidates has an event downtown tonight (and you don't want to miss his events, trust me):

-- And there's also the Harris County District Attorney Democratic candidate's event this evening, with his Dallas County counterpart joining him:

Join us on Wednesday, June 25, at 6:00 p.m. in Midtown at Open City (located at 3416 Brazos) to support our good friend and former Chief of Police C. O. "Brad" Bradford for Harris County District Attorney. Brad is the most qualified and experienced candidate for Harris County District Attorney. Brad will restore honesty and integrity to the District Attorney's office by obeying the law, respecting the principle of justice and pursuing the truth.

Honorary Chairs for the event include The Honorable Chris Bell, Senator Rodney Ellis, Senator Mario Gallegos, The Honorable Ron Kirk, Senator Royce West and Senator John Whitmire. We are also pleased to have The Honorable Craig Watkins, Dallas County District Attorney, as our very special guest. Craig is the first African American District Attorney elected in the State of Texas. His outstanding work and dedication to righting the wrongs of the past and freeing innocent men from prison has earned him praise and media attention around the world. Craig was recently featured on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes."

-- On Friday the AFL-CIO is going to make a public statement about the out-of-control gasoline prices:

Harris County AFL-CIO Council
Gas Prices Out of Control
John McCain Offers More of the Same
Working Families hit hard with extreme gas prices

Almost $4 a gallon & tax cuts for Big Oil!

It just doesn’t make any sense. McCain proposes tax breaks for Big Oil while working families are trying to figure out where they will get the money to pay for their next tank of gas.

Come join us on Friday, June 27, 2008, 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Shell Plaza Building - across from City Hall – 900 Smith St.). Let’s let the public know that we need to boost the economy by investing in jobs and energy independence. We will hold signs that say, “Bush and McCain love Big Oil” and “It’s Time to Turn Around America.” We will also distribute information about “McCain Revealed” an AFL-CIO national campaign.

If you like the gas prices, go on home.

If you don’t like them, join us at the rally.

Date: Friday, June 27, 2008

Time: 3:30 - 5:00 p.m.

Place: Shell Plaza - 910 Smith St. (across from City Hall) -Houston, Texas 77002

Overnight FISA developments

-- Feingold and Dodd will filibuster, and Reid will support it. Their allies include Boxer and Wyden as well. The majority leader likewise supports their efforts to strip the bill of its retroactive immunity provision.

-- Reid has also indicated that the bill may not come up before the Independence Day recess, a very minor victory in itself:

Anyone watching C-SPAN? Senator Reid just informed his colleagues that, because of all the other bills in the queue (like the housing bill, and the Iraq supplemental), FISA may not get a vote until after the July 4 holiday recess.

This is honestly the best we can hope for with this bill. Sens. Dodd, Wyden and Feingold are ready to filibuster and gamely trying to get colleagues to do the same (Sen. Dodd's speech tonight was a bravura performance), but realistically there aren't the numbers to stop cloture. However, that could change if the delay continues. And getting this to the recess means being able to get in a lot of Senator's faces on their trips back home. In addition, there's going to be a very short window in August where a ton of must-pass bills have to get through Congress, and throwing FISA in with that mess means that anything can happen.

Operative word above is 'may'. It could get pushed through and done by Friday. Lots of fluidity regarding the Senate 's calendar and pending legislation.

-- If you care to know why Texas Democrats Al Green, Gene Green, "Zero" Rodriguez, rumored vice-presidential candidate Chet Edwards, and ninety other House members chnaged their votes on FISA, well ... just follow the money:

On March 14 of this year the House passed an amendment that rejected retroactive immunity for phone carriers who helped the National Security Agency carry out the illegal wiretapping program without proper warrants. Ninety-four House Democrats voted in favor of this measure--rejecting immunity--on March 14, then ‘changed’ to vote in favor of the June 20 House bill--approving immunity.
“Why did these ninety-four House members have a change of heart?” asked Daniel Newman, executive director of, “Their constituents deserve answers.”'s research department compiled PAC campaign contributions from Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint and correlated them with the voting records of all House members who voted on last week’s FISA bill. (The analysis used data from CRP; contributions were from January 2005 through March 2008). Here are the findings:
Comparing Democrats' Votes (March 14th and June 20th votes):
Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint gave PAC contributions averaging: $8,359 to each Democrat who changed their position to support immunity for Telcos (94 Dems)
$4,987 to each Democrat who remained opposed to immunity for Telcos (116 Dems)
88 percent of the Dems who changed to supporting immunity (83 Dems of the 94) received PAC contributions from Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint during the last three years (Jan. 2005-Mar. 2008). See below for list of these 94 Dems.

I'll leave this topic be until the vote takes place. Obama's leadership still appears to be MIA. But perhaps he is working behind the scenes and outside of my view. If I learn something to that effect I would be very pleased.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

FISA vote tomorrow

Sen. Russ Feingold, on the pending FISA bill:

“I do think this is a total farce with regard to the immunity [for telecommunications companies]. It basically guarantees the immunity,” Feingold said. “It doesn’t simply have the impact of potentially allowing telephone companies to break the law. It may prevent us from ever getting to the core issue … which is the president ran an illegal program that could’ve been an impeachable offense.



Telcom immunity means we will never find out what happened in the PAST. OK, that's bad. Cases that can't be used as precedent can, over a long period of time, erode the legal system as we know it. That's bad, too.

But changing the definition of who can be surveilled under a basket warrant to remove any requirement that the surveillance subject be a spy or a terrorist or any kind of bad guy--that's way beyond bad.

My personal guru for all things FISA, David Kris, has two posts up over at Balkinization. The first one has some definitions and basic premises. The second, made my blood run cold.

Here's the money quote:

It is interesting to compare the pending legislation to the TSP as it may have been implemented just prior to, and just after, the January 2007 FISA Court orders. There appear to be two main differences. First, the pending legislation applies only to targets located abroad, while the January 2007 orders may have allowed surveillance of targets in the U.S. (as long as they were making international calls). Second, more importantly, the pending legislation focuses only on the target’s location (or the government’s reasonable belief about his location) not his status or conduct as a terrorist or agent of a foreign power. In other words, there is no requirement that anyone – the FISA Court or the NSA – find probable cause that the target is a terrorist or a spy before (or after) commencing surveillance. [emphasis mine]

Read the whole article. And then call your senators.


Recapping: every Senator that votes for this bill is wiping his or her ass with that "goddamned piece of paper" called the Constitution, specifically the Fourth Amendment.

Call Barack Obama's Senate office -- 202-224-2854 -- and tell him he needs to vote NO as well as support a filibuster.

Harry Reid has indicated he would "try" to strip retroactive immunity from the bill, but we saw how hard he tried the last time the Senate approved a bill like this. Dodd and Feingold and a few others will stand up for the rule of law but how hard a fight we can manage is to be determined.

Today is the day. Tomorrow is probably too late. Make a phone call.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The "pop" in pop culture

He was the father of pop culture as well:

Although some criticized parts of his later work as too contentious, Mr. Carlin defended the material, insisting that his comedy had always been driven by an intolerance for the shortcomings of humanity and society. “Scratch any cynic,” he said, “and you’ll find a disappointed idealist.”

He was 21 the year I was born. He was too old to trust by 1967, and was still one of the seminal voices of the Beat generation.

Carlin began his standup comedy act in the late 1950s and made his first television solo guest appearance on “The Merv Griffin Show” in 1965. At that time, he was primarily known for his clever wordplay and reminiscences of his Irish working-class upbringing in New York.

But from the outset there were indications of an anti-establishment edge to his comedy. Initially, it surfaced in the witty patter of a host of offbeat characters like the wacky sportscaster Biff Barf and the hippy-dippy weatherman Al Sleet. “The weather was dominated by a large Canadian low, which is not to be confused with a Mexican high. Tonight’s forecast . . . dark, continued mostly dark tonight turning to widely scattered light in the morning.”

Do you remember his character as Marlo Thomas' agent in "That Girl"? How about "With Six You Get Egg Roll"? Neither do I.

By the end of (the Sixties), he was one of America’s best known comedians. He made more than 80 major television appearances during that time, including the Ed Sullivan Show and Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show; he was also regularly featured at major nightclubs in New York and Las Vegas.

That early success and celebrity, however, was as dinky and hollow as a gratuitous pratfall to Mr. Carlin. “I was entertaining the fathers and the mothers of the people I sympathized with, and in some cases associated with, and whose point of view I shared,” he recalled later, as quoted in the book “Going Too Far” by Tony Hendra, which was published in 1987. “I was a traitor, in so many words. I was living a lie.”

So he rebooted. As "counter-culture".

In 1970, Mr. Carlin discarded his suit, tie, and clean-cut image as well as the relatively conventional material that had catapulted him to the top. Mr. Carlin reinvented himself, emerging with a beard, long hair, jeans and a routine that, according to one critic, was steeped in “drugs and bawdy language.” There was an immediate backlash. The Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas terminated his three-year contract, and, months later, he was advised to leave town when an angry mob threatened him at the Lake Geneva Playboy Club. Afterward, he temporarily abandoned the nightclub circuit and began appearing at coffee houses, folk clubs and colleges where he found a younger, hipper audience that was more attuned to both his new image and his material.

(Arrested by Milwaukee police in 1972, after reciting the "Seven Words".)

By 1972, when he released his second album, “FM & AM,” his star was again on the rise. The album, which won a Grammy Award as best comedy recording, combined older material on the “AM” side with bolder, more acerbic routines on the “FM” side. Among the more controversial cuts was a routine euphemistically entitled “Shoot,” in which Mr. Carlin explored the etymology and common usage of the popular idiom for excrement. The bit was part of the comic’s longer routine “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” which appeared on his third album “Class Clown,” also released in 1972.

“There are some words you can say part of the time. Most of the time ‘ass’ is all right on television,” Mr. Carlin noted in his introduction to the then controversial monologue. “You can say, well, ‘You’ve made a perfect ass of yourself tonight.’ You can use ass in a religious sense, if you happen to be the redeemer riding into town on one — perfectly all right.”

The material seems innocuous by today’s standards, but it caused an uproar when broadcast on the New York radio station WBAI in the early ’70s. The station was censured and fined by the FCC. And in 1978, their ruling was supported by the Supreme Court, which Time magazine reported, “upheld an FCC ban on ‘offensive material’ during hours when children are in the audience.” Mr. Carlin refused to drop the bit and was arrested several times after reciting it on stage.

Carlin got even more cynical in the years that followed (probably why I enjoyed him so much) ...

By the ’80s, he was known as a scathing social critic who could artfully wring laughs from a list of oxymorons that ranged from “jumbo shrimp” to “military intelligence.” And in the 1990s and into the 21st century the balding but still pony-tailed comic prowled the stage — eyes ablaze and bristling with intensity — as the circuit’s most splenetic curmudgeon. During his live 1996 HBO special, “Back in Town,” he raged over the shallowness of the ’90s “me first” culture — mocking the infatuation with camcorders, hyphenated names, sneakers with lights on them, and lambasting white guys over 10 years old who wear their baseball hats backwards. Baby boomers, “who went from ‘do your thing’ to ‘just say no’ ...from cocaine to Rogaine,” and pro life advocates (“How come when it’s us it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken it’s an omelet?”), were some of his prime targets.

He had battled drug and alcohol abuse, as well as heart problems -- including one heart attack and two open heart surgeries -- in recent years, but that hadn't tempered him.

Still, when pushed to explain the pessimism and overt spleen that had crept into his act, he quickly reaffirmed the zeal that inspired his lists of complaints and grievances. “I don’t have pet peeves,” he said, correcting the interviewer. And with a mischievous glint in his eyes, he added, “I have major, psychotic hatreds.”

Now I would like to see a week-long Irish wake, followed by glowing tributes from newsmen and women on all channels, followed by a televised funeral and the flags at Thirty Rock flown at half-mast, please.

The Weekly Wrangle

Here's this week's edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's Weekly blog round-up, compiled from posts submitted by member blogs.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson takes apart the new GOP business tax in Tearing At The Margins Tax.

Off the Kuff published the rest of his convention week interviews, with Joe Moody (HD78), Ernie Casbeer (HD59), and Rep. Juan Garcia (HD32).

McBlogger asks why are the Republicans so ideologically driven on energy policy? Then he remembers that knowledge isn't so useful in the faith-based economy.

Something stinks about the Webb County sheriff's election. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme can't wait to find out who did what.

BossKitty at BlueBloggin points out that we have more than just McCain and Obama running for president. And Then There's Bob Barr; one-time conservative Republican, current Libertarian Party presidential nominee, offered a scathing critique of Sen. John McCain today and predicted he would garner substantial conservative Republican support in a handful of battleground states critical to McCain in his campaign against Democratic Sen. Barack Obama.

Obama needs Texas to win the presidency, but only -- as with recent previous Democratic nominees -- for its money and not its electoral votes, claims PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

WhosPlayin piles on after Joe Barton, Michael Burgess, Pete Sessions, and Kay Granger hold a press conference to blame Democrats for high fuel prices. It was so bad that even Fox 4 News called B.S. on it.

at Texas Kaos continues to keep an eye on Blackwater's shenanigans. The latest is that Erik Prince loves him some Sharia law--if it will quash a lawsuit for him. Wonder how long it will be before the company dress code includes a burqa?

refinish69 reviews the GOP's Big Bad John at Doing MY Part For The Left. While the video is wonderful for a laugh and has wonderful production values, it is as full of crap as John Cornyn's career as a US Senator.

Vince at Capitol Annex takes down the new platform of the Republican Party of Texas.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My electoral college vote prediction, 6/22

I'll begin this weekly prognostication today, and continue it through the first week of November, based in part on data compiled at and If you want to play around with your own map, click below or click here.

Today's map reflects my view that Obama turns Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico from red to blue. Florida and Nevada are too close to call, as is Georgia (due to the Libertarian candidacy of favorite son Bob Barr).

<p><strong>><a href=''>Electoral College Prediction Map</a></strong> - Predict the winner of the general election. Use the map to experiment with winning combinations of states. Save your prediction and send it to friends.</p>

Sunday Funnies

See, it's not just me

who's irritated about Obama and FISA.


Unless this all part of a brilliant plan to popularize the campaign of Libertarian candidate Bob Barr and thereby win some extra states, Obama is making a big mistake in moving to the right of Arlen Specter. And even if it is a political move, the FISA debate is about bedrock principles of constitutional rights, separation of powers, and the rule of law. Political dodges and maneuvers are inappropriate.

But here's an honest question. Who is saying this bill is good and necessary? Look around. Is anyone saying that who is not implicated in the wrongdoing? The New York Times thinks it is a terrible bill. The ranking member of the Judiciary Committee (Sen. Specter) thinks it's a terrible bill. The chairman of the Judiciary Committee (Sen. Leahy) thinks it is a terrible bill. The ACLU thinks it is a terrible bill. The entire blogosphere thinks it is a terrible bill. Who thinks it is a good bill?

Even Reid, Pelosi, and Hoyer are not saying it's a good bill. They're calling it a good compromise or whatever. It's bad law. It's wrong to support this bill.


... Democrats will regret embracing the expansion of executive power because a President Obama will find his administration undone by an "abuse of power" scandal. All of those powers which were necessary to prevent the instant destruction of the country will instantly become impeachable offenses. If you can't imagine how such a pivot can take place then you haven't been paying attention.

Of course it's not just Obama but Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel and Steny Hoyer who think we're stupid for not supporting their bad bill:

That is my primary objection, here. Democrats: if you're going to cave, just cave. Don't draft up flagrantly insulting talking points that pretend you've gotten something in return -- you haven't. You haven't gotten squat, except for the knowledge that the illegal is now legal, that past illegalities will be swept under the rug, and that future illegalities will be met with no action more substantive than a few harshly worded reports.

We all know how much money the telecommunications companies spent "lobbying" you for this legislation; fine. So just come out and say it -- you can't piss off corporate contributors that are that important, so the Fourth Amendment can go suck eggs. We all know you don't have any confidence you can both stand up for the rule of law and get reelected in the face of conservative demands that our laws be considered obsolete in the face of our own pants-wetting fear; fine. So just say that, and quit painting us as rubes who won't know any better if you shove a few noble-sounding sentences our way.

Pelosi's right about one thing, though. This is a democracy, not a monarchy. In a monarchy, the king would just violate the law at will, and nobody would say a word. In a democracy, the President gets to violate the law at will, and we'll jump through months of hoops to change the law so that he retroactively didn't violate it.
After all, Emanuel says these are the "civil liberty protections" you "deserve." If the President said it, that makes it legal, and if you don't like that new interpretation of your rights, hey -- you're just against "compromise." In this case, "compromise" means blanket immunity for everyone involved: they don't have to prove that what they were doing was legal -- because they can't, we know it violated the law -- they just have to prove that the President told them to do it anyway, and we'll just forget the whole thing. And let them keep doing it. And they don't actually have to come clean on the extent of what "it" was, or is.

Here's Digby, with the calm voice of reason (and the tie-in to the other outrages, as well as a little bit of excuse-making for the Dems which I personally refuse to buy):

Here on planet earth, the civil liberties issues, along with torture and Guantanamo and the entire GWOT legal regime is a central concern because I have watched a very ruthless and cynical right wing show themselves to be bent on rebuilding the police state of J. Edgar Hoover and the imperial presidency of Richard Nixon. I don't think it's a good idea. It's not that I don't realize that the Democrats have an equally awful history or think they are the exemplars of all that is true and good, it's just that in recent years the Republicans have shown they have a real fetish for undemocratic authoritarianism, and in a complicated system, you have to focus on those who are creating the most obvious and immediate threats.

Democrats have certainly enabled them over the years and will likely continue to. They are politicians, after all, not comic book superheroes. But there should be no doubt to anyone who isn't wrapped up in immature freshman dorm cynicism, that there is a distinct difference between those who believe in the concept of an imperial presidency and those who are simply weak and corrupt. They both undermine freedom, but the first is many orders of magnitude worse than the second.

And lastly emptywheel, who's closer to my level of upset:

In case you couldn't parse the three bolded sentences yourself, here's my take on them.
  1. I will make a showy effort in the Senate on Monday to get them to take out immunity. I will lose that effort 32-65. But hey! I can say I tried!
  2. But don't worry, little boys and girls, Inspectors General are an adequate replacement for our third co-equal branch of government!
  3. Nice little bloggers! Aren't you cute! After you demanded accountability we gave you piggy lipstick and fig leaves and told you it was time to move on while we important Senators told you--in polite terms--to fuck off.

The Senate vote is scheduled for Thursday. Don't waste your time with Texas Senators Perjury Technicality and CornDog. Call Obama's Senate office, starting tomorrow morning, and tell him what kind of vote you expect of a constitutional scholar.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Happy-to-bitter ratio is out of round

So we'll have a few funnies early this weekend.

(So that no one confuses me for being overtly jolly, the Obama widget on the right column is in danger of being removed until I know for certain exactly how he intends to vote on FISA next week -- as well as what he means on NAFTA. It's coming off pretty quickly if he indeed supports either one. Running to the middle is for losers.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Obama needs Texas

but only as an ATM:

While Texas is unlikely to turn blue this November, Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama may still be making a few more trips to the Lone Star state now that he has made it official that he is not taking public financing.

Obama's decision to forgo $84 million in public money means he will have to really crank up his already formidable fund-raising machine. And Texas has always been generous to candidates, regardless of party. Indeed, Lone Star donors have showered Obama with far more campaign bucks than the Republican nominee John McCain. According to the Federal Election Commission Obama has raised $7.8 million in Texas compared to $6.3 million for McCain.

Robert Gibbs, Obama's communications director who spoke to reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Thursday, indicated that the candidate, who has not visited Texas since before the March 4 primary, will be back.

"We'll be down there a lot,'' Gibbs said. But don't expect lots of those big, noisy rallies like the candidate held during the primary season. More likely the drop-ins will consist of discrete private fund-raisers.

Saw this coming after Boyd Richie spurned them prior to his coming-out party as a superdelegate, and they payed him off in full for that by shining his shoes in Austin.

They're even now, and both have cover for pretending to do something to get down-ballot Texas Democrats elected without actually doing much of anything.

With the local consultant class following Texas Monthly's lead and making excuses in advance for Rock Noriega losing to John Cornyn, the circle of defeat is almost complete and we're still two weeks away from the long July 4th weekend.

So here's my five-months-out prediction: Obama will have all the money he could ever need and gets elected the nation's 44th President handily -- over 300 EV. The US Senate and the House of Representatives increase their majorities, the Democratic Senators achieving a near veto-proof count of 58 seats. As in 2006, a big blue wave rolls across the country -- but hits a concrete seawall at the Texas border. Noriega, Nick Lampson, and a handful of Texas House members (such as Juan Garcia) lose, most of our Harris County executive and judicial races are very narrow defeats, "just five more seats in the Texas House" results in three net victories (but Chairman Richie declares victory anyway), Tom Craddick and David Dewhurst jam through Voter ID in 2009, and the battle cry for 2010 from the Texas Democratic Party becomes "focusing on a few, select, targeted races in order to take the Texas House, just in time for redistricting".

(Somebody please prove me wrong. Please.)

And hey: don't forget all those great activities next week.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why did the Democratic leadership capitulate on FISA?

Because -- and truthfully, this is not just mere speculation on my part -- they're bigger fucking corporate whores than even their Republican counterparts:

"Congress is poised to once again pass disastrous surveillance legislation, now upping the ante with a thinly-veiled giveaway to some major campaign donors.

"This bill allows for mass and untargeted surveillance of Americans’ communications. The court review is mere window-dressing -- all the court would look at is the procedures for the year-long dragnet and not at the who, what and why of the spying. Even this superficial court review has a gaping loophole -- ‘exigent’ circumstances can short cut even this perfunctory oversight since any delay in the onset of spying meets the test and by definition going to the court would cause at least a minimal pause. Worse yet, if the court denies an order for any reason, the government is allowed to continue surveillance throughout the appeals process, thereby rendering the role of the judiciary meaningless. In the end, there is no one to answer to; a court review without power is no court review at all."

"The Hoyer/Bush surveillance deal was clearly written with the telephone companies and internet providers at the table and for their benefit. They wanted immunity, and this bill gives it to them.

"The telecom companies simply have to produce a piece of paper we already know exists, resulting in immediate dismissal. That’s not accountability. Loopholes and judicial theater don’t do our Fourth Amendment rights justice. In the end, this is politics. This bill does nothing to keep Americans safe and is a constitutional farce.

"The process by which this deal has come about has been as secretive as the warrantless wiretapping program it is seeking to legitimize. While members and organizations who would seek to fiercely protect the civil liberties of Americans have been denied a seat at the table, one wonders how present the powerful telecom lobby has been.

"Leadership should be leading to protect the Constitution, not bowing to pressure from Republicans, the White House, and the telecommunications companies.

So again we have Democratic leadership in the House (Steny Hoyer) and Senate (Jay Rockefeller) who betray other Democratic leaders in both chambers who have beaten back telecom immunity several times already in this legislative session.

Like Steve, this is the sort of thing I simply cannot stomach and cast a ballot for in November. After all, when the corporate advertising and sponsorship banners at the Democrats' state convention are more prominent than the ones at the GOP's, we probably don't have a party for the people anywhere within sight.

Regarding FISA: there's fighting back to do, and it must be done tomorrow.

Torture is a war crime. Or an occasionaly useful tool.

Depends on who you ask.

The two-star general who led an Army investigation into the horrific detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib has accused the Bush administration of war crimes and is calling for accountability.

In his 2004 report on Abu Ghraib, then-Major General Anthony Taguba concluded that "numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees." He called the abuse "systemic and illegal." And, as Seymour M. Hersh reported in the New Yorker, he was rewarded for his honesty by being forced into retirement.

Now, in a preface to a Physicians for Human Rights report based on medical examinations of former detainees, Taguba adds an epilogue to his own investigation.

The new report, he writes, "tells the largely untold human story of what happened to detainees in our custody when the Commander-in-Chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture. This story is not only written in words: It is scrawled for the rest of these individual's lives on their bodies and minds. Our national honor is stained by the indignity and inhumane treatment these men received from their captors.

"The profiles of these eleven former detainees, none of whom were ever charged with a crime or told why they were detained, are tragic and brutal rebuttals to those who claim that torture is ever justified. Through the experiences of these men in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, we can see the full-scope of the damage this illegal and unsound policy has inflicted --both on America's institutions and our nation's founding values, which the military, intelligence services, and our justice system are duty-bound to defend.

"In order for these individuals to suffer the wanton cruelty to which they were subjected, a government policy was promulgated to the field whereby the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice were disregarded. The UN Convention Against Torture was indiscriminately ignored. . . .

"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

If you check the results of recent Pew Research polling, though ...

More than four in ten Americans (43%) say that the use of torture can be justified to gain key information sometimes (31%) or often (12%), according to a 2007 Pew Research survey. However, a 54%-majority say torture is never (29%) or rarely (25%) justified. The number of Americans saying the use of torture against suspected terrorists is at least sometimes justified has been fairly stable since 2004, though the percentage saying torture can often be justified has dipped from 18% in October 2006. There have been consistent demographic and political differences in views about whether torture of suspected terrorists is ever justified. For instance, more African Americans than whites say the torture of suspected terrorists is never justified (37% vs. 28%). Older Americans also are more likely to rule out the use of torture than are younger people: 36% of those ages 65 and older say torture of suspected terrorists is never justified, compared with 25% of those ages 18-29.

So how did we get to this point -- where far too many Americans still believe bullshit that has been proven false? Such as Saddam was responsible for 9/11, or that climate change is something Al Gore invented along with the Internet to make millions?

Can all of this ignorance be blamed on Fox News?

I don't think so.

At some point the morans are going to have to accept responsibility for the outcomes of their blind stupidity. That point ideally needs to be reached by them before the United States is attacked again by religious fundamentalists bent on retribution for a century of petroleum-driven political manipulation, or before global wars are instigated over water instead of oil.

Because by that time it'll be too late for them to make amends. It may be too late already.

Now that the funeral is over ...

Many of these people referred to Russert as a "journalists' journalist" and as "the most important person in the Washington media," and it's likely they believed what they were saying. If Russert deserved the title of Washington Journalist of the Era, it sure was a nasty thing to point out about someone whose corpse had yet to cool. Because during Russert's reign as NBC News Washington Bureau Chief and Meet the Press host, about the only thing politicians were held accountable for was one blow job. Other than that, the treasury has been privatized, our country has been marched into two violent quagmires, the rich have gotten richer and the poor have gotten stomped, and the Bill of Rights has been shredded and tossed as confetti at a ticker tape parade celebrating jingoism.

My choice to host Meet the Press? Helen Thomas.

Now there's a reporter who knows what to ask and how to follow up until she gets an answer.

In Bill Moyers’ documentary, Buying the War, Russert claims that he didn’t raise sufficient doubts about what Cheney and others were telling him because critics and skeptics weren’t contacting him. He tells Moyers: “To this day, I wish my phone had rung, or I had access to them.”

Millions were protesting in the streets, United Nations inspectors, the International Atomic Energy Agency, various foreign governments, not to mention the World Socialist Web Site and other left-wing publications, were refuting the Bush government’s claims, but none of this was accessible to Russert. In this, he’s probably being honest. Attuned to what the powerful thought and considering left-wing opinion to be illegitimate, Russert only had ears for Cheney and his fellow conspirators.

This would be more my kind of response:

Poor little Timmeh, sole boss of "the Cathedral of Washington Journalism," (Doris Kearns Goodwin) couldn't get any powerful people in Washington to talk to him?

He didn't cover the second biggest story of Bush's reign because nobody called him? Is that what Woodward and Bernstein did in 1973 - sit and wait for their phone to ring?

Plus, notice how they have to go back to 1991 - the David Duke interview - to show us how great Timmeh was at interviewing people?

Why couldn't they show his more recent tough-as-nails interview with Der Fuhrer or Cheney? Oh, that's right - he was busy licking their ass and pushing their bloody quagmire.

How can anybody look up to this joke?

It's one thing to not speak ill of the dead; it's quite another thing to re-write them into sainthood once they pass (see Reagan, Ronald or Ford, Gerald for other recent examples).

All over every news channel for the past week the talking heads are calling the sudden and untimely passing of Tim Russert a 'tragedy'. No ... a tragedy is what we have in Iraq -- a tragedy that Russert helped create, by carrying water for the Bush administration.

A tragedy is to stand on your honor, like Joe Wilson did, only to be smeared in the public circle and have your wife's career ruined -- a tragedy that Tim Russert facilitated.

A tragedy is what happened in Abu Ghraib, and what is happening in Guantanamo. Tragedies that Tim Russert didn't follow up on with Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney or Condoleeza Rice.

Russert died of a heart attack. Last I checked natural causes were not tragic, as they go with the territory called life.

Sad? Of course, especially for his family and friends. Tragic? Let's get a little perspective, folks.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


The Celtics make Boston Titletown for the seventeenth time in basketball, routing Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in the sixth game of the NBA Finals.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Download Day for Firefox 3 (and some catching up)

I got mine. I'm not real happy about my bookmarks being incorporated with my Delicious tags, but I'll get used to it, I suppose.

Let's play some catch-up with the recent news:

-- RIP Stan Winston and Tony Schwartz. A lot of things would not look the same without their contributions to pop culture, politics, movies, and a lot more.

-- Yesterday was the anniversary of the first Democratic convention in Texas:

On June 16, 1855 the newly formed Democratic Party of Texas held its first convention in Austin.

Before 1848, Texas elections were conducted without political parties. Contests between factions became formalized with the birth of political parties. In 1848, the Democratic party was born in Texas. Competition for the Democrats came first from the Whig Party, then the Know-Nothing Party.

Wow, some things never ever change, do they?

-- I really like this response:

A defiant Barack Obama said Tuesday he would take no lectures from Republicans on which candidate would keep the U.S. safer, a sharp rebuke to John McCain's aides who said the Democrat had a naive, Sept. 10 mind-set toward terrorism.

"These are the same guys who helped to engineer the distraction of the war in Iraq at a time when we could have pinned down the people who actually committed 9/11," the presumed nominee told reporters aboard his campaign plane. "This is the same kind of fear-mongering that got us into Iraq ... and it's exactly that failed foreign policy I want to reverse."

This ain't 2004, Pukes.

-- Respect Are Country. Speak English. I've previously posted examples of 4th-grade education-challenged conservatives demonstrating their ignorance, but you'd really think someone on the Right who knows better wouldn't let them outside with their hand-lettered stupidity, don't you?

-- In environmental news, the oil companies have been given special dispensation to harm the recently-classified-as-endangered polar bears in their search for oil. And also as previously reported here, another health hazard, this time PCBs, are being incinerated in Port Arthur. PCBs release dioxins into the air and are proven to cause cancer and brain damage.

-- Harris County Republicans can't escape their Rap Sheet any longer.

Back to regular posting eventually.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Weekly Wrangle

Time for another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's weekly blog round-up, compiled based on submissions made by member blogs, by Vince from Capitol Annex.

CoulldBeTrue hears Rick Perry's rally call against Mexican drug cartels hooking up with local gangs and fears coded words meaning 'Lets profile Latinos' yee haw.

Off the Kuff spent his time in Austin interviewing candidates for office. The first group of interviewees published are State Rep. Dan Barrett, HD97; Wendy Davis, SD10; Robert Miklos, HD101; and Chris Turner, HD96.

refinish69 of Doing My Part For The Left gives a review of his experience herding cats at the Texas Democratic Convemtion and a podcast version as well.

The Texas Cloverleaf wonders why we are getting yet another TX Secretary of State, as Phil Wilson is resigning after only one year on the job.

PDiddie had some scenes from the Texas GOP convention posted at Brains and Eggs.

With four electric companies folding up shop over the last several weeks, it is going to be a difficult summer for Texas consumers. The failures underscore just how screwed up the retail utility business is in Texas. One commentator has called it a game of Russian roulette, and so it is....

In a much-anticipated mega-post on transportation issues, McBlogger tells us that lawmakers are "doing it wrong" when it comes to transportation funding.

Vince at Capitol Annex tears apart the Republican argument for getting rid of property taxes and replacing them with a sales tax for funding public schools, which this week was promoted by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

LSU alumni crawfish boil in Beaumont

The two years we have attended -- my mother is the alum; she got her master's there in 1949 -- the football team has captured the national championship, so we did our part yesterday and attended the annual affair at the beautiful ranch of Phil and Carla Meaux, on the north side of town.

LSU defensive coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto -- his dad was a football coach at my high school when I was growing up -- spoke to the assembled hundred or so about the Bengal Tigers' 2008 prospects, but I can't tell you a word that he said. I'm sworn to secrecy. Really. It's like one those insider information things that Coach Fran got fired over, except I only paid twenty bucks for my crawfish and I don't wanna get Coach Peveto in trouble. In any way.

In attendance were a handful of my Lamar professors (though retired nearly twenty years Mom still has a few friends among active faculty), Pat Harrigan and Cindy Barnes. And also SH-19 Democratic challenger Larry Hunter, who has a fundraiser in Houston next week.

A good time had by all (and a good team to be fielded by the Tigers of Red Stick this fall. Trust me).

Sunday Funnies