Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kay Bailey veering all over the road

Mostly she's got two wheels in the right-hand bar ditch. Yesterday:

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announced Tuesday that she would oppose confirmation for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send the jurist's nomination to the full Senate for confirmation next week.

Going after the freak base already committed to Governor MoFo. That'll sure pick up the moderates and crossovers. And today ...

U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said today that she will resign her Senate seat in October or November to challenge the re-election of Gov. Rick Perry in next year's Republican primary. ...

“Well I'm going to announce in August. Formal announcement: I am in. Then the actual leaving of the Senate will be sometime – October, November – that, in that time frame,” she said. ... “I had hoped that he wouldn't (run for re-election again.) You know, no one expected him to run again. And I thought, you know I stepped back last time, Mark. I tried to give him a, really a free ride with no primary because I thought it was right for Texas. But, for him to try to stay on for 15 years is too long,” Hutchison said.

But she actually backpedaled from this, "clarifying " her comments like so:

"I was trying to say that I stepped back once before," Hutchison said, referring to two occasions on which Hutchison has eyed and then backed away from challenging Perry. Hutchison said that "nobody expected [Perry] to run for 15 years, and I think there's a chance that he wouldn't run because he would see how divisive it is and that he's trying to stay too long and that he can really help in many ways if he doesn't run, in which case I could then be able to stay in the Senate all the way to the end."

Hutchison said her preference would be "to stay all the way through the election but for it being very difficult with the governor continuing to run."

"I was really trying to say to him he could step back here, and he's really trying to hang on too long and maybe he'll rethink," she said.

So the senator wanted to send the governor a message, and she took out her frilly scented stationery and wrote it out in long hand. Team Goodhair's response?

“The senator is clearly putting her own political ambitions above the needs of the people of Texas,” Miner said. “We would want to be sure to name someone in that position who wants to be there and wants to do the job they were elected to do.”

And ...

“I got some very important decisions ot make on a daily basis," Perry said. "Trying to follow a moving target of there’s going to be a senate opening, there’s not one. Why waste one bit of my energy? We’ve got work to do in this state. I’m going to stay focused on leading this state.” ...

"For us not to have someone in the United States Senate looking after Texas interests, I think, is irresponsible," Perry said. "Maybe the Senator should think about that rather than the other things she’s thinking about."

When told by a reporter that Hutchison had remarked that 15 years in the governor’s mansion is too long for one person, Perry said, “I guess 15 years in the United States Senate is not too long.”

You're still losing ground, Kay.

Update: Rick Perry's crew reads this blog.

A few photos from Bolivar Peninsula

This is a still-quite-damaged home on the harbor side, just before Rollover Pass:

It has some warning signs posted, including "claim pending". This is the side that faced the wrath of Ike, obviously. Despite the condition of this one, and more signs of devastation -- dunes several hundred yards inland and spread evenly across the coastal prairie, some wrecked and rusted autos -- the peninsula is looking good, with lots of new construction, many RV parks full, lots of activity.

While I waited for the ferry (less than five minutes), a gaggle of gulls dropped by to squawk and beg for a handout.

A very large container ship passes in front of our ferry.

And on past, on its way out to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Weekly Wrangle

Still difficult finding time to post. Here again is the Texas Progressive Alliance weekly blog roundup.

Off the Kuff takes closer look at that story about Texas turnout in last year's election.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson adds some context to what's being said in Texas about unemployment insurance, the stimulus, and Gov. Perry.

This week at McBlogger, Krispy Kreme takes a moment to tell of her personal experiences with folks desperately in need of adequate health care.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston thinks Clear Lake Hospital has a heart of cold.

No matter what Governor Rick Perry says or hopes for, Texas is part of the federal union. Neil at Texas Liberal offers a video this week of him reading Federalist Paper #9 on the site of the San Jacinto battlefield. Federalist #9 talks about the need for a strong union (and San Jacinto is where Texas won independence from Mexico,of course).

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that John Cornyn chooses to be an a**hole over Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation.

TXsharon is combining Principles of Community Organizing (POCO) training with a vacation in Colorado so several of her posting this week contained pictures of the Durango & Silverton train ride, clean air, huge deer and breathtaking beauty. But be sure to check out the progress made from working on the Railroad in regards to land farming toxic drilling waste.

Over at TexasKaos, lightseeker explains why the language we use in defending health care reform matters more than we may think. Hint: They want to have a discussion of government takeover of health care. We should want to discuss the necessity and fundamental fairness of publicly assisted health care for all. We can win one of these debates, but probably not the other. Check it out...

Miss Hypocrisy, meet Mr. Ignorant. Kay Bailey pricked Rick Perry for snubbing stimulus money she voted against. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs serves.

WhosPlayin was on vacation all week, but still ended up spending some time reading the health care bill and has written a summary of the 'Public Option' part of the bill, noting that it looks an awful lot like a PPO.

This week Teddy from Left of College Station covers the Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce resolution to oppose any national health care, and reviews what the resolution says and what the resolution means. Left of College Station also covers the week in headlines.

After Citizen Sarah at Texas Vox read the Austin American-Statesman's report on how poorly the Green Choice power program was selling, she felt motivated to write a rebuttal on how Austin Energy's pricing of wind energy left something to be desired. And this week, the Statesman reports that Austin Energy may re-evaluate the price of their latest batch of clean energy When folks start asking questions, the powers that be (get it?) pay attention. Ya gotta agitate to get the dirt out!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Kay pricks Rick for not taking stimulus $$$ that she voted against

How about another cup of our steaming GOP hypocrisy, Texas Special Blend?

Back in February, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) voted against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in part because she said the bill “doesn’t actually stimulate.” Today, however, in an early move in the 2010 Republican primary for Texas governor, Hutchison attacked incumbent Gov. Rick Perry for turning down the very stimulus money she believed would do nothing for the economy:

“Governor Perry recklessly turned down the federal unemployment insurance money,” Hutchison said. “He never even looked at cutting the ridiculous federal strings attached to that money like I would have done. He didn’t even attempt to negotiate a way to relieve employers from a tax increase while helping Texans affected by the economic downturn.

“But now, because of a purely political decision to turn down UI funding, Texas has to go into debt and beg the federal government for a $650 million loan,” she said. “And like all loans, this one has to be paid back. And who will pay it back? Texas businesses and hard-working taxpayers already facing enormous hardships.

It’s not conservative. It’s irresponsible.

Perry, of course, originally opposed the stimulus, but was recently forced to ask the federal government for a $170 million loan to cover unemployment insurance.

Heh-heh. She said "reckless".

So to be fair, there is a difference between a senator and a governor saying (or voting) no on this matter. When a senator votes no to the stimulus plan, they were voting to kill it before it even got out of the gate.

When a governor says no to stimulus money that has already been approved for distribution, he's just being an idiot for refusing free federal grant dollars which the state and their taxpayers will have to pay back anyway as part of the national debt, regardless of whether they took the money or not.

So the difference is that what Governor MoFo is doing -- besides acting ignorantly -- is worse for Texas then what Hutchison did (hypocrisy notwithstanding).

I am confident, however, that the morons who vote regularly in the Texas Republican primary will not understand this, and instead reward Perry for "bein' true to conservative principles".

You're still not making up any ground, Kay.

Update: Eye on Williamson links to Rachel Maddow's takedown, points out the embarrassment, and suggests that it still might be OK for Kay to get to Austin. I don't agree with that part, but I sure like the way he makes his point.

Friday, July 24, 2009


More to post in the next day or two, including some photos of Bolivar Peninsula (starting to look good down there). But this article is humorous for its assembly of jabs, some light-hearted, at the Secretary of State.

Those of you who read here regularly would already know that I was not a supporter of Mrs. Clinton's candidacy (and was lukewarm of Obama's, right up to the Texas primary in March). But I think she's a perfect SoS -- perfect for Obama, perfect for the country. Apparently some would say it's been a rough time lately for her:

And Hillary Clinton thought she was having a bad day when she broke her elbow ...

Today, a meeting of Asian leaders in Thailand turned into the set of "Mean Girls": North Korea called the Secretary of State a "funny lady" who "looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping." Ouch. To be fair, Clinton stirred it up earlier this week when she compared North Korea to "unruly teenagers."

For the Secretary of State, this latest scrap must feel like the cherry on top of a big fat banana peel of a month.

This is Clinton's first trip abroad since she fell and broke her elbow in the White House basement last month. (Does the White House offer workman's comp?) Clinton's duties, naturally, were curtailed somewhat during her recuperation, but political pundits quickly jumped on the fact that while she was laid up, President Obama was gallivanting around the globe sans his Secretary of State.

Fox News asked whether it was a broken elbow or "sinister forces at work" to sideline the Secretary of State. Tina Brown at The Daily Beast blogged that it was "time for Barack Obama to let Hillary Clinton take off her burqa," while the New York Daily News dubbed her plight "The curious case of the steadily shrinking Hillary Clinton." Foreign Policy website noted that Obama has been to several countries without her.

So while Clinton was recuperating from surgery on her broken elbow and handling her job as best as she could from home, she has also had to defend her boss and reassure everyone that, yes, she is, in fact, happy with her job.

Clinton responded to the rumors, speculation and analysis with a quippy "I broke my elbow, not my larynx." ...

More of this if you like. Strikes me as a tempest in a teapot.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Weekly Wrangle

It's Monday and it's time for another Texas Progressive Alliance blog roundup.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is sick of cronies running our cities our state and our country!

WCNews at Eye On Williamson on more GOP shenanigans: Republicans, hypocrisy, the stimulus, and more Carter "nuttiness".

Off the Kuff notes that as Texas' unemployment rate continues to rise, we are now in the position of having to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government to fulfill our unemployment insurance obligations. Heckuva job, Governor Perry!

John Coby at Bay Area Houston has posted a A How to Guide for Illegal Immigrants to Vote in Texas Elections.

Xanthippas takes on more disability-as-diversity nonsense. Also, on a side note, his blog Three Wise Men's 5th anniversary is this Tuesday. We'll be putting up a special post in commemoration.

The Texas Cloverleaf looks at how the NTTA will be raising rates because volume is down. So much for supply and demand theory.

This week, an old author returns to McBlogger with a true story about dogs. Completely unrelated to politics and nothing but funny.

Neil at Texas Liberal posted a video of him reciting the words of the 1848 Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" as a ship passes behind him on Galveston island. Coming up this week at Texas Liberal will be a video shot at the San Jacinto battlefield.

Upon the arrival of Fashion Week in Austin, Mean Rachel wants to know "Does this city make my butt look hot?"

Citizen Sarah at Texas Vox expresses disappointment, to say the least, that the Public Utility Commission denied Sylvester Turner's petition to protect our most vulnerable from dangerous summer heat.

Teddy at the fourth estate will be able to survive the economic recession and into the new digital age. Left of College Station also reviews the week in headlines.

The Texas Tribune, a new media project headed up by soon-to-be-former Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith, is an idea that shows lots of promise. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has more details about it.

Just as during the campaign, malicious emails are being sent, especially to the elderly. One paticularly nasty one is entitled: SENIOR DEATH WARRANTS. Over at TexasKaos, lightseeker takes on piece of electronic hit mail and offers some ideas on fighting back in his diary, Healthcare Scare Mail and what You Can Do To Help.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Funnies

See, it's not "affordable health insurance" that the American people need. It's AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE. Tell your Congress critters that. Especially if they are conservative (Blue Dog or worse).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite 1916 - 2009

Another iconic figure of my formative years goes into that good night.

Walter Cronkite, who pioneered and then mastered the role of television news anchorman with such plain-spoken grace that he was called the most trusted man in America, died Friday at his home in New York. He was 92. ...

From 1962 to 1981, Mr. Cronkite was a nightly presence in American homes and always a reassuring one, guiding viewers through national triumphs and tragedies alike, from moonwalks to war, in an era when network news was central to many people’s lives.

He became something of a national institution, with an unflappable delivery, a distinctively avuncular voice and a daily benediction: “And that’s the way it is.” He was Uncle Walter to many: respected, liked and listened to. With his trimmed mustache and calm manner, he even bore a resemblance to another trusted American fixture, another Walter — Walt Disney.

That photo to the right is how I remember him: his hair and sideburns a little longer in the style of the '70's. A little whiter also. I don't remember "the flash from Dallas, apparently official" or his declaration that the Vietnam War was lost. I don't really remember the Apollo missions or the conventions he covered. I just recall that his was the voice of reason and authority in our house. At a time when there was only thirty minutes of national news a day, beginning promptly at 5:30 p.m. Central -- and you had three choices where to get it -- he was 'the gold standard', as longtime producer Don Hewitt has said. He certainly invented the post of broadcast news anchorman, though he referred to himself by a newspaper term, managing editor. (In Sweden, newscasters are actually called Kronkiters.)

Some viewers thought Cronkite was liberal, and they were right. But he wasn't a Democrat. (A personal aside: mine was a Democratic and union household growing up, but my wife's was Cuban-born and Republican. She said her father suspected his political leanings, and thus they were presumably a Huntley-Brinkley home.) Cronkite lived during an era when "liberal" and "conservative" applied to both political parties evenly.

Now, of course, all the thinking conservatives have abandoned the GOP. But I digress.

On Oct. 27, 1972, his 14-minute report on Watergate, followed by an eight-minute segment four days later, “put the Watergate story clearly and substantially before millions of Americans” for the first time, the broadcast historian Marvin Barrett wrote in “Moments of Truth?” (1975).

In 1977, his separate interviews with President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel were instrumental in Sadat’s visiting Jerusalem. The countries later signed a peace treaty.

“From his earliest days,” Mr. Halberstam wrote, “he was one of the hungriest reporters around, wildly competitive, no one was going to beat Walter Cronkite on a story, and as he grew older and more successful, the marvel of it was that he never changed, the wild fires still burned.”

Rest in Peace, Uncle Walter.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Texas Tribune

Reported earlier today by the Quorum and Burnt Orange Reports ...

The longtime editor of Texas Monthly magazine will team with an Austin venture capitalist to form a nonprofit news Web site devoted to government and politics in the Lone Star state.

With a large bankroll, a staff at the outset of about eight journalists, and the cachet of Evan Smith, the Texas Monthly editor, the new venture, called the Texas Tribune, hopes to be an immediate force on the state’s political landscape, much as Politico became two years ago in national politics. Many local news organizations have cut back on statehouse coverage, and the creators of the Texas Tribune plan not only to post news on their own site, but also to supply it to newspapers around the state.

“This is not about horse race politics, primarily,” Mr. Smith, who will have the title of chief executive, said in an interview. “It’s going to be a lot of deep-dive policy stuff. We have the lowest voting turnout in the country. We have a number of major issues that get no attention or insufficient attention by the people we elect.”

The corporate media has reduced coverage of the Lege due to financial hardships -- closed bureaus, senior reporters let go. Though Kuffner, BOR, and Capitol Annex along with my other brother and sister blogs of the Texas Progressive Alliance do a terrific job, we can't cover the beat full-time. And the Texas Observer -- rest in peace, Molly -- has started publishing op-eds from Dan Patrick. Beyond the bite-sized pieces from Paul Burka and Harvey Kronberg, this concept fills a perceptible void. Something with some meat in it, produced by some of the state's recently unemployed journalistic talent, could be a real winner. There's also a very interesting reveal about the money behind it:

The chairman of Texas Tribune is John Thornton, general partner of Austin Ventures, a venture capital firm, who said he has given $1 million to the project and has raised $2.2 million, and plans to raise $4 million from individuals and foundations by the time it begins, possibly in November. Other nonprofit local news sites in places like the Twin Cities, San Diego, St. Louis and Chicago started with significantly less money behind them.

“We want to have at least two years’ runway, even if there’s no additional revenue, and preferably three,” he said.

An active supporter of Texas Democrats, Mr. Thornton, 44, who is based in Austin, said he is giving up partisan politics for the sake of the Texas Tribune. He said the new venture has quietly approached reporters and editors about joining, and that with many journalists unemployed, and others worried that their employers will keep shrinking, “talent ain’t the issue.”

And the climate forecast is improving:

Texas newspapers and people who follow the state’s politics will have to take Texas Tribune seriously, said Rich Oppel, who retired last year as the top editor of the Austin American-Statesman. “I think this is significant,” he said. “Evan Smith has been an excellent editor of Texas Monthly, which may be the best regional magazine in the country. He’s drawn talent.”

The timing plays into what promises to be a fertile period in the state’s politics. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison may challenge Governor Rick Perry in the Republican primary next year, in what political analysts predict would be the hottest race the state has seen in years.

This is a media development worth watching closely.

One Houstonian's experience with the Texas HHS failure

Reposting in its entirety:


The Texas Health and Human Services Commission is a disaster. They fail to the needs of the people they are to serve, and indeed increase the pain and difficulty those people are having. There are so many problems with this agency that it is difficult to know where to begin. But I’ll start with my knowledge of problems in the administration of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

For the uninitiated, this is the program colloquially known as Food Stamps. They fail to process applications or renewals in accordance to laws and are having the people wait months for an interview. The agency is strikingly unresponsive. Now in July, they are making appointments to interview people in September that applied or should have been renewed and the Food Stamps delivered in June.

This is not what was intended when the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 authorized USDA to award $5 million in grants for state and local government and private non-profit organization projects aimed at simplifying the SNAP application and eligibility systems or improving access to SNAP benefits by eligible households.

You may ask how am I qualified to berate the Health and Human Services Commission in the Great State of Texas. I have had to become familiar with Texas HHS and the nightmare that agency is. If you take a little bank fraud, employment outsourced to other countries, some health problems w/no insurance and reach the age where nobody wants to hire you, all you have to do is stir. You have the perfect recipe for personal financial disaster.

I moved to Houston because I had family here. Shortly after I moved here, my sister’s husband was transferred, and now I’m the only one who can care for my 89-year-old mom. This is my first diary, and I’m coming out of the Food-Stamp Closet with this story in hopes that I can bring awareness to the problems faced by so many here. I petition anyone reading this to join me in bringing attention to the problems in that agency and to work towards making things better for the many who have no voice.

By my experience, I can tell you:

The public web site doesn’t work. I called Information, 211, and they steered me to the Internet to apply for benefits. I did so, and two months later I spent days and dealt with people all over the state, looking for the status of my application. The application showed on the web as having been submitted, but no one could tell me the status. I spoke to people in Midland, several in Austin, and several in Houston. The final verdict was that my app must have gone into a black hole in their system, as the system didn’t handle applications from Harris County yet. Then why was I sent to this system? And why did this system accept my application when one of the first questions I answered was "County"? What kind system is built so that "records in" aren’t tracked and accounted for? And if there is an error that the system is unable to process, why was three no error message and the requestor not notified?

They cannot process mail. An example of how poorly they handle any mail is a notice I have before me right now, (because I needed to reference it) and the envelope it came in. The notice was dated June 30th and it came in an envelope postmarked July 8th. Personally, I believe the postmark. I’ve learned to save the envelopes because I suspect this particular problem is a deliberate attempt to make applicants fail their response times. Clients have time limits to respond, and if it takes eight days for a notice to get from someone’s out-box to the Post Office, the client can miss their deadlines and loose their benefits. I’ve also taken to sending mail Certified (this is a hefty cost to someone on food stamps). While they can’t deny getting the mail when you have a receipt, I have found that it failed to speed delivery to the recipient (i.e., Post Office" signed for date" does not mean that the recipient got it (or the worker fibbed to me about when it got to their desk)), nor does sending it Certified have any time impact on having the contents processed.

Their phone system is a dreadful. Do you like to wade through a phone tree and wait for a long time listening to messages repeated, to be disconnected and have to start all over? How about when you finally get a person and explain your problem they transfer you to a line that asks for your FAX number to continue? (This was a new one for me. I’ve had a phone tree problem on other phone systems, but HHS’s has been the only phone system I’ve encountered to throw me out because I didn’t have a FAX number.) If you’re wondering why phones are important, consider that Houston is a big place. I live in the northwest area but I’m assigned to an office in the southeast. This is equivalent to having someone in the Bronx go to Brooklyn or someone in Queens sent to Staten Island, except that New Yorkers have a public transportation system that Houstonians don’t.

They do not send notices to claimants even when benefits are ending. They don’t follow normal business etiquette and provide information to clients by mail or phone when there is a major change and frequently don’t reply to the clients at all. I sent one certified letter that never been replied to at all. No letter. No call. Nada. I appealed a decision and got the same treatment: Nothing. I ask, " Is this any way to run a railroad?"

From the start the experience is humiliating. If you can manage to get your application processed you are fingerprinted and they share your personal data with law enforcement agencies. Barbara Ehrinreich, from her op-ed A Homespun Safety Net published in the NYT July 12, says this is making it hazardous for anyone who might have an outstanding warrant — for failing to show up for a court hearing on an unpaid debt, for example — to apply.

Then they check and check and check. Everything you tell them they check. How many times do you have to submit your social security benefits statement and your apartment lease? The answer is: every time they ask for it. The redundant paperwork is incredible.

Right now I’m trying to fix their failure to renew my case in June and this is a rerun of what happened last year. In December 2008, I mailed my renewal info as requested but my case was not processed. In January I started pleading for help as my account was not credited. No notice. Nothing. Just no credit to the account, the same as this time. It took a while before I could get any action, and when I did, they cut my benefits greatly. I had just spent $11.31 in postage to send all the paper they demanded!

I appealed the reduction in benefits. And I suppose I lost. I say suppose, because after the insane "hearing" by phone, which is a horrendous story by itself, I never received the result, which should have been sent by mail. I was told in a month or so. (I could go further into the appeal, but I’ll limit my discussion here).

I’m fortunate in that I can tell the story and point the finger because most of those in need cannot. Many of the people here have nowhere else to go except to the Texas HHS and have no voice at all. It’s not like you can take your need to another agency. Poverty itself can deplete and strain entire social networks, leaving no one to turn to. When the poor get no help, they are forced in a further downward spiral, often falling for the rip-offs of ‘payroll and quick auto loans’ that they can never get paid off. They are the most vulnerable and they suffer the most from many scams. If they can’t pay their credit card, the banks slam them and their car insurance goes up. If they don’t get their food stamps they may not have the cash for a haircut to go on the job interview they worked hard to get.

As the national recession persists and our federal government is striving to help people caught in it, Governor Perry and most of Texas’ Republican lawmakers work overtime to set up barriers to any help that’s made available. Senator John Cornyn voted against the SCHIP program (health insurance for low-income children). I can never understand how the Republicans, who care so much for the unborn, have no heart when it comes to children who are here. Perry refused the federal assistance to the unemployed. He should be ashamed of his record and the punitive bureaucracy he is in charge of, but he’s not.

It’s true, Texans likes to brag. But for those who can face the truth, the quixotic becomes brutal. Eliot Shapleigh, a state senator from El Paso, compiles a report each legislative session called Texas on the Brink (.pdf). Shapleigh's little book of horrors comes fully footnoted to avoid being attacked by partisans. His staff gathers data from the Census Bureau and Texas government agencies. Skimming it will provide more than enough data to show where the Republican leadership, which so proudly brags about its governance, has brought the state. Here are a few of Shapleigh's tidbits about Texas that Rick Perry doesn't want the rest of the nation to know:

  1. 49th in teacher pay
  1. 1st in the percentage of people over 25 without a high school diploma
  1. 41st in high school graduation rate
  1. 46th in SAT scores
  1. 1st in percentage of uninsured children
  1. 1st in percentage of population uninsured
  1. 1st in percentage of non-elderly uninsured
  1. 3rd in percentage of people living below the poverty level
  1. 49th in average Women Infant and Children benefit payments
  1. 1st in teenage birth rate
  1. 50th in average credit scores for loan applicants
  1. 1st in air pollution emissions
  1. 1st in volume of volatile organic compounds released into the air
  1. 1st in amount of toxic chemicals released into water
  1. 1st in amount of recognized cancer-causing carcinogens released into air
  1. 1st in amount of carbon dioxide emissions
  1. 50th in homeowners' insurance affordability
  1. 50th in percentage of voting age population that votes
  1. 1st in annual number of executions

Given these numbers, need I explain?

There are a lot of Texans that need help. If you qualify for food stamps you should be able to get them. The state government should be held accountable.

The Houston Chronicle reported that our lawmakers cleaned out the public schools’ piggy bank so it could replace it with federal stimulus money in Stimulus, or better yet, status quo.

Note that Texas is last in voter participation of all the states. Now try to square this with the fact that the Republicans spent much of their effort during the last legislative session working on a bill to make voting more difficult, (to require Voter ID). Should they really work so hard to defend their position of dead last?

Sometimes you need a laugh.

Nick Anderson, editorial cartoonist for the Houston Chronicle, did one of his toons about it: He has a crossing guard stopping Traffic so that a Mother Duck and her little duckies can cross the road. While allowing a string of ducks to cross the road is normally a kind, humanitarian act to be admired, Nick’s crossing guard is a big elephant, holding his hand up to stop Emergency Trucks "Children’s Health Insurance", "Windstorm Insurance Reform" and "Unemployment Benefits", so that V (momma duck) could lead the little ducklings o,t,e,r—I,d across the street.

In the same Off the Wall vein he did one of an angry looking Nancy Pelosi sitting behind a desk piled high with stacks of Budget, Health Care, Economy, etc. papers, saying," Beat it!", with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in the background grandstanding a ‘Congressional Resolution Honoring Michael Jackson’, with her own portable spotlights.

In yet another, he has Perry slurping stimulus funds out of a straw while pushing an unemployed back with, "STOP, It’s Tainted".

To quote Barbara Ehrinreich from the article cited above:

So far, despite some temporary expansions of food stamps and unemployment benefits by the Obama administration, the recession has done for the government safety net pretty much what Hurricane Katrina did for the Federal Emergency Management Agency: it’s demonstrated that you can be clinging to your roof with the water rising, and no one may come to helicopter you out.
Even the help that has been sent doesn’t make it to the citizens of Texas. That’s due to a state government that undermines it and sets up roadblocks to its use. And if Texas doesn’t address its Health and Human Services problems fast, things are going to get a lot worse.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

West Side Story II: White Republican Man's Burden

Revenge of the Senate Nerds

Let's go to the MoDO ...

A wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not know that a gaggle of white Republican men afraid of extinction are out to trip her up.

After all, these guys have never needed to speak inspirational words to others like them, as Sotomayor has done. They’ve had codes, handshakes and clubs to do that.

Pick your bastard. I'll take Lindsey Graham of South Carolinah:

Graham read Sotomayor some anonymous comments made by lawyers about her, complaining that she was “temperamental,” “nasty,” “a bit of a bully.” Then he patronizingly lectured her about how this was the moment for “self-reflection.” Maybe Graham thinks Nino Scalia has those traits covered. ... Graham said Sotomayor would be confirmed unless she had “a meltdown” — a word applied mostly to women and toddlers until Mark Sanford proudly took ownership of it when he was judged about the wisdom of his Latina woman.

That tops Tom Coburn's impression of Ricky Ricardo (do you think the senator from Oklahoma knows the difference between Cuban and Puerto Rican?) and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III's cornpone-and-hayseed-flavored bullshit. Our own John Cornyn's monotonous and repetitive droning actually comes in fourth in the competition. Some however will say it was his time to shine.

Damned liberal media.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Marfa Lights "Shimmer"

Updated: Moving this post to the top for today's event. And click on the "Comment" icon at the end -- it's the tiny little cloud on the left -- and ask Spacedark what size he thinks they are.)

(Note: Author David Morrell -- whose sponsorship of this blog appears at right -- will be signing copies of "The Shimmer" at
Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet, on Tuesday, July 14 at 6:30 p.m.)

Football-sized lights hover over the dark horizon outside Marfa, Texas, bouncing, shimmering, even changing colors. Some can see them, others can't. Theories abound as to what they are, but no one seems to know for sure.

A newspaper article about this real-life mystery inspired David Morrell to give it his own, very creative spin. The result is "The Shimmer," a high-caliber, one-of-a-kind action thriller only the creator of "Rambo" could have conceived and executed to perfection.

In the novel, Marfa becomes Rostov, but otherwise, the two towns are almost identical. Like the real town, Rostov is located in grassland near the Mexican border. Standing a short distance away are a radio observatory, an abandoned World War II airfield, and an observation platform to view the lights. As the author says in the afterword, the novel contains a "surprising amount of 'reality.'"

The story begins as Dan Page, a sheriff's deputy in Santa Fe, N.M, receives a phone call from the Rostov police chief: His wife Tori, missing for two days, has been found there. Page, a private pilot, hops on his Cessna and flies to the small town. He finds Tori on the observation platform, but before he can have any significant conversation with her, a man appears with an AK-47 and begins shooting toward the lights, shouting "Don't you see how evil they are?" He then turns the gun on a crowd gathered around the platform, killing a dozen.

More here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Weekly Wrangle

Time for this week's Texas Progressive Alliance highlight reel.

Off the Kuff suggests that a pro-science PAC could do a lot of good, nationally and in Texas.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson reminds us that despite the brouhaha over transportation during the recently passed legislative session, TxDOT is still broken.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is outraged at the way Texas Republican crony capitalism whips patients in hospitals and psychiatric facilities.

Nat-Wu at Three Wise Men takes a look at the nation's unemployment picture, and finds it's even worse than the numbers make it appear.

Over at Texas Kaos, Lightseeker shares an email indicating Big Insurance doesn't just want to maximize the profits it makes from its members, it wants them to help protect them from competition. No, REALLY. Big Insurance Wants YOUR Help to Block Competetive Reforms.

Barfly at McBlogger takes a look at an exciting new movie coming out soon that's sure to draw in every douchebag you know.

With the news that the CIA concealed a clandestine counter-terrorism program from Congress on direct orders from Dick Cheney, the recently loquacious former veep has once again clammed up and disappeared. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs notes the turnabout.

Teddy at Left of College Station asks whether or not soon to be former Governor Sarah Palin is going with the flow, swimming upstream, or flopping on the shore? Teddy also answers the question of whether or not Congressman Murphy can push through legislation that would be the beginning of the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". Also, Left of College Station covers the week in headlines.

Neil at Texas Liberal watched a 35-year-old rerun of All In The Family. In the episode Neil watched, George Jefferson called Archie a honky.

WhosPlayin posted video of an inappropriate campaign solicitation at Congressman Michael Burgess' recent town hall meeting.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The GOP's politics of resentment

Another blistering from Frank Rich:

Sarah Palin and Al Sharpton don’t ordinarily have much in common, but they achieved a rare harmonic convergence at Michael Jackson’s memorial service. When Sharpton told the singer’s children it was their daddy’s adversaries, not their daddy, who were “strange,” he was channeling the pugnacious argument the Alaska governor had made the week before. There was nothing strange about her decision to quit in midterm, Palin told America. What’s strange — or “insane,” in her lingo — are the critics who dare question her erratic behavior on the national stage.

That's going to sting for a few minutes.

Sharpton’s bashing of Jackson’s naysayers received the biggest ovation of the entire show. Palin’s combative resignation soliloquy, though much mocked by prognosticators of all political persuasions, has an equally vociferous and more powerful constituency. In the aftermath of her decision to drop out and cash in, Palin’s standing in the G.O.P. actually rose in the USA Today/Gallup poll. No less than 71 percent of Republicans said they would vote for her for president. That overwhelming majority isn’t just the “base” of the Republican Party that liberals and conservatives alike tend to ghettoize as a rump backwater minority. It is the party, or pretty much what remains of it in the Barack Obama era.

That’s why Palin won’t go gently into the good night, much as some Republicans in Washington might wish. She is not just the party’s biggest star and most charismatic television performer; she is its only star and charismatic performer. Most important, she stands for a genuine movement: a dwindling white nonurban America that is aflame with grievances and awash in self-pity as the country hurtles into the 21st century and leaves it behind. Palin gives this movement a major party brand and political plausibility that its open-throated media auxiliary, exemplified by Glenn Beck, cannot. She loves the spotlight, can raise millions of dollars and has no discernible reason to go fishing now except for self-promotional photo ops.

There's a lot more to sink yourself into, including the inevitable comparison to Dick Nixon and the "kick around" speech.

(Let's try to remember that Nixon did make a big comeback, before he scowled away into history as America's worst president ever ... until, of course, the most recent Republican.)

Sunday Funnies

Saturday, July 11, 2009

"Efforts to reach Cheney through relatives and associates were unsuccessful."

That's the most surprising news in the article, frankly:

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

The report that Cheney was behind the decision to conceal the still-unidentified program from Congress deepened the mystery surrounding it, suggesting that the Bush administration had put a high priority on the program and its secrecy.

Panetta, who ended the program when he first learned of its existence from subordinates on June 23, briefed the two intelligence committees about it in separate closed sessions the next day.

Recall that Seymour Hersh was the guy who reported on Cheney's death squads, commanded by Stanley McChrystal, that allegedly took out Benazir Bhutto and the Lebanese prime minister and so on and so on. Obviously that's not information Cheney would want Congress to find out about directly from the CIA.

What would the Republicans in Congress do if the Justice Department chose to prosecute the former veep? Oh, right ...

Friday, July 10, 2009

My guess is Kay quits

The race for governor, not her Senate seat. Harvey Kronberg, yelling again:


For second time in as many weeks, a survey of Texans shows Perry with double-digit lead.

A new horse race poll out today has Gov. Rick Perry with a double-digit lead over U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for the GOP nomination for Governor next year. Perry leads Hutchison by a 38 percent to 26 percent margin in the survey conducted by UT’s Texas Politics project.

Perhaps more notable is that this is the second survey in as many weeks to show Perry with a significant lead over his Republican rival. In late June, the Texas Lyceum released a poll showing Perry leading Hutchison, 33 percent to 21 percent.

But if the Hutchison camp can find something heartening, it’s the high level of Texans who have yet to pay attention to the horse race. The Texas Lyceum poll found 45 percent of those surveyed undecided about their choice for Governor. That number was down significantly in the UT poll but 34 percent still said they either would vote for someone else or were undecided.

If I'm wrong, and she quits the Senate soon to focus on this ill-fated attempt to be governor, then I believe that Rick Perry will take John Cornyn's advice and appoint Greg Abbott to fill the unexpired term. I don't think the governor likes Dewhurst as much; his good buddy Roger Williams (despite the love from Paul Burka and Roger Staubach) probably doesn't have enough name recognition to close the deal, and I think Perry is too afraid of his base to nominate a black man to the post.

And if I'm wrong again and Dewhurst does get the seat, then Abbott runs for lieutenant governor. We're not going to rid ourselves of that guy no matter what.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Post-Fourth Wrangle

Now that we've celebrated another birthday for America, it's time for the weekly Texas Progressive Alliance blog roundup. Here are your highlights from the holiday week.

Neil at Texas Liberal says that while people went on about Michael Jackson, the U.S. Supreme Court was making it more difficult for black folks to get promoted at work.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme thinks Manuel Banales should recuse himself from all things Mauricio Celis.

Off the Kuff takes a look at what happened during the blink-and-you-missed-it special session.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson has more on the impending statewide campaign of former Travis County as the site goes live: Ronnie Earle is causing a stir.

Mr. The Plumber took some time out recently to talk about much the Founding Fathers hated those Godless Communists. McBlogger, obviously, thinks he's kind of a dummy.

Over at Texas Kaos, Libby Shaw catches Cornyn in yet another big bad whopper: John Cornyn Out to Kill Health Care Reform: Misleads Houston Doctors.

WhosPlayin wondered what could be the real reason for Sarah Palin quitting her post, and decided to post a little poll.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Ariza for Artest is a bad deal

Kobe Bryant always admired that Ron Artest never acted like he wanted an autograph when duty demanded that he defend him. He loved that Artest was combustible and crazy and always left people wondering: Is this the moment when Ron-Ron loses his mind again, when all hell breaks loose?

Deep down, Bryant wanted Artest on his side. Artest gives a thirtysomething Kobe what Dennis Rodman gave a thirtysomething Michael Jordan: A belligerent, tough guy bearing the burden of protecting the superstar’s back.

This is a final insult to the Rockets from LA, worse than getting your nose rubbed in the ground after a bad beating by the neighborhood bully. Ron Artest was the only reason the Rockets made it out of the first round in years, and the only reason they made it to the seventh game. Trevor Ariza isn't half the defensive player, and while he may blossom at some point, will likely also leave after suffering ignominy in H-Town.

(Y)ou can be a star without being a star with the Lakers. When L.A. is winning championships, the role players become commodities. They get endorsements. They get television careers. Ask Rick Fox. Or Derek Fisher. Ariza was an L.A. kid living a dream, 24 years old, a gifted, young talent on the defending champion, and his agent’s bluff backfired.

Now, Artest trades places with Ariza, and the Lakers get a dimension they haven’t had in a long, long time. Perhaps three or four years ago, Artest couldn’t have handled living and playing in L.A. He gives the Lakers sheer nastiness, and as an executive with one of his past teams said Thursday night, “Ronnie will show everyone that he can win. I think he’s matured, and overall, he’ll be on his best behavior. Phil [Jackson] has been through this before with Rodman. He’ll handle this.”

Most here think this is a great trade, but I'm not one of them. And if it also costs them Von Wafer ... Most in the NBA think it's curtains for everybody but the Lakers:

“I hope it’s chaos,” a Western Conference GM texted Thursday night.

And maybe, in some ways, that won’t be the worst thing in the world for the Lakers. Chaos? That’s letting your agent’s agenda and big mouth get your butt shipped from the Los Angeles Lakers for lottery land in Houston. Kobe Bryant had been willing to take back his whole team, but Ariza made the mistake of giving the Lakers what they always wanted, what they always believed was available to them: the combustible and crazy Ron Artest.

Kobe Bryant gets his Rodman now, and yes, this is how all hell breaks loose in Hollywood.

All hell is probably going to be a lot more fun than whatever next fall holds for the Rockets.

Bible Spice steps down to pack for the 2012 GOP Clown Car Caravan

Or maybe not:

"If she is thinking that leaving her term 16 months early is going to help her prepare to maybe go on to bigger and better things on the political stage, I think she's sadly mistaken. You just can't quit," said Andrew Halcro, a Palin critic who lost the 2006 gubernatorial race to her.

Palin's abrupt announcement Friday rattled the Republican Party but left open the possibility of a presidential run. She and her staff are keeping mum on her future plans.

Palin's spokesman, David Murrow, said the governor didn't say anything to him about this being her "political finale."

"She's looking forward to serving the public outside the governor's chair," he said.

As what exactly? Continuing nightly entertainment courtesy of every comedian in the world?

"Many just accept that lame duck status, and they hit that road," Palin said. "They draw a paycheck. They kind of milk it. And I'm not going to put Alaskans through that."

The people of Alaska may now breathe a deep sigh of relief. But the rest of us couldn't be this lucky, could we? Thanks to Pam for the headline.