Monday, October 31, 2011

"Save a pretzel for the gas jets" come to life

Does everyone remember seeing this? Well, Rick Perry decided to do a parody of it.

The sound is a little low but you can watch it muted and get the full effect. My initial reaction is that he's taking too many of whatever pain meds the doctor prescribed for his back. And perhaps washing them down with too much tequila.

There's been some talk that Perry might be able to mount a comeback, particularly given Herman Cain's Manic Monday, but not if things like this keep showing up.

Update: Herman Cain demands equal time, so here we go. You decide which one is real.

Halloween Toons

This one is from the 1930's. The more things change ...

Commissioner's court, city council, "mine's bigger", and what we can do about it

Charles has an interesting rant on the friction that seems to perpetually exist, in varying degree, between the City of Houston and the County of Harris.

A few months ago, I was invited to speak at a Rotary breakfast. I talked about the importance of paying attention to local government, which I said has a much greater impact on your daily life than what goes on in DC but which tends to get less scrutiny. Someone asked me a question about waste, and I told him that if you had to design a government structure for the Houston region from scratch, you’d never come up with what we actually have. You’d want something more broadly focused, with less duplication and not as hindered by arbitrary boundaries. Something like that would surely be better able to solve regional issues, and be much less prone to the kind of penny ante pissing matches that we’re so used to around here.

We’re not going to get the chance to reinvent our government structure, of course. But that doesn’t mean I can’t think about doing things differently. And the question I find myself asking is why should Houston be a part of Harris County? As a taxpayer in the city of Houston, it’s hard for me to see what benefit I get from that arrangement. They don’t build roads that I drive on, Sheriff’s deputies don’t patrol my neighborhood, and so on. More to the point, there’s no one on Commissioners Court that gives a damn about the city of Houston, and three fourths of their combined budget is controlled by people who are unaccountable to me or anyone else electorally. So why should we put up with this? Why not get out?

Chuck knows he's spitballing and so do the rest of us. First of all, much of the antagonism comes about because of all of the conservatives on commissioner's court bumping up against all the libruls on city council. And commissioners are, for the most part, not really held accountable by the voters -- Sylvia Garcia being a recent exception -- and thus the corruptive influence of money combined with what is essentially a lifetime job turns it into a good old boy's club. (Sorry, El Franco.)

Houston resolved some of these character issues with term limits and a cap on campaign contributions some years ago. Don't expect the court to ever do anything that radical.

With about 4 million residents of Harris County compared to roughly 2 million Houstonians, and the proportion of county voters slightly skewed to the GOP, it really shouldn't be a surprise about how much influence those "unincorporated-area" voters have on county elections -- not just commissioners but judges and executive offices like county clerk and tax assessor/collector. Bellaire and West U Place and Pasadena may have a few more Democratic voters but the Republicans in Jersey Village, Katy, Webster, Baytown and Humble even things out. Those folks out in the sticks sure do turn out the vote. Must be those excellent bridges and roads providing easy access to the polls.

I don't expect redistricted precinct maps to help this phenomenon. It wouldn't matter if we threw the whole thing out and started over with a map that more closely approximated community interests -- where and how people live, instead of the woefully gerrymandered precincts now. Say for example there was a precinct roughly inside the Loop, another couple consisting of everything outside the Loop but inside the Beltway, and then one for everybody else in the boonies. We would still have 3 TeaBaggers and one Democrat, very likely an African-American. Just like now.

That leaves County Judge, who among his other imperial duties gets to fill the rare vacancy on commissioner's court unilaterally. He alone picks the replacement for everybody, including himself (with the voters eventually confirming his selection). That's where IMHO the most emphasis for change should be focused each election cycle. But even if someone with the money and the electoral base -- like say, Rodney Ellis -- decided to run for the top job, and then somehow managed to get elected, he'd still have to push a reform agenda through with a Republican vote.

So then the most reachable goal to implement reform becomes electing a Democratic county judge and replacing a Republican county commissioner. Still a pretty tall order when we can't get Democrats to come back and vote in off-presidential years.

Nedless to say I just don't see any of this happening in my most feverish of dreams. Which is why the most powerful agent of change on Commissioner's Court winds up being ... Wayne Dolcefino. And that begs the question: what's really the difference between Cactus Jack Cagle and Jerry Eversole besides a criminal record?

Given a little time, that probably evens up too.

All Hallows Eve Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance wants more treats and fewer tricks as we bring you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff has some updates on the state of play in the redistricting lawsuits.

McBlogger finds Texas House speaker Joe Straus finally discovering that he fudged the numbers on the budget (profanity warning). And when McB offers a profanity warning, you know it's pretty salty.

As Michelle Obama appears at a Houston fundraiser hosted by hedge fund billionaire John Arnold, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wants to know what the difference is between Democrats who cozy up to Wall Street and Republicans.

Now that Rick Perry has flamed out, CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders if the batsh*t crazy crowd will prevail with Herman Cain?

Darth Politico takes a break from their Austin Film Festival coverage to offer some Star Wars-themed advice to those enemies of the Occupy Wall St movement, and offer solidarity with those who have been arrested: The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.

The DOJ stated the GOP redistricting plans in Texas had "... the intent of limiting the voting power of Hispanic voters". WCNews at Eye On Williamson has that and more: Texas GOP's attack on Hispanic voters.

Lightseeker explains why the banks have no grounds for raising their fees now! Check out the details at TexasKaos.

Neil at Texas Liberal offered his views on who liberals and progressives can support in upcoming Houston municipal elections. Neil's view is that Green candidate Amy Price leads the pack for City Council, while incumbent Mayor Annise Parker does not merit the support of those on the left.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

As OWS settles in for Valley Forge winter, Arab Spring has sprung in Yemen, Syria

President al-Assad doesn't realize he's the one straddling the fault line.

Western powers risk causing an "earthquake" across the Middle East if they intervene in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad said, after protesters called for foreign protection from a crackdown in which 3,000 people have been killed.

Assad's warning came ahead of Syrian government talks on Sunday with the Arab League aimed at starting a dialogue between the government and opposition and ending violence which has escalated across Syria in recent days.

Activists said Syrian forces killed more than 50 civilians in the last 48 hours and one activist group said suspected army deserters killed 30 soldiers in clashes in the city of Homs and in an ambush in the northern province of Idlib on Saturday.

Assad's suppression of the seven-month uprising has drawn criticism from the United Nations and Arab League. Western governments have called on him to step down and imposed sanctions on Syrian oil exports and state businesses.

Assad is, as the toon suggests, the last in a long line of Arab dictators whose number has come up this year. As with Mubarak, Ben Ali and Ghaddafi, his time is coming. And he'll spill a lot of blood before the sands run out on him.

Western countries "are going to ratchet up the pressure, definitely," Assad told Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

"But Syria is different in every respect from Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen. The history is different. The politics is different."

"Syria is the hub now in this region. It is the fault line, and if you play with the ground you will cause an earthquake."

Even as the Occupy Wall Street movement settles in for its Valley Forge winter, the Arab spring continues, with Yemeni president Saleh the most recent leader teetering on the brink.

Hundreds of Yemeni women set fire to traditional female veils in the capital to protest against President Saleh's regime as it continues a brutal crackdown againsy the country's popular uprising.

Although unverified, amateur video reportedly filmed on Wednesday showed women throwing their full-body veils, known as makrama, onto a pile and setting them ablaze in the capital Sanaa.

The act was a symbolic Bedouin tribal gesture appealing to tribesmen for help in stopping the attacks on anti-government protesters.

As for OWS, they're waking up in a snow blanket this morning. That's much better than taking police projectiles in the head, though. Austin followed Oakland, Portland, and Denver's lead in bashing its protest camp yesterday:

I'm ashamed of my city tonight. 35+ arrests and counting as #OccupyAustin food & water raided by APD. This will only fan the flames.

Update: More in detail from the Austin Chronicle. Meanwhile, Occupy Houston had a real fun Halloween party.

And the beat goes on.

Sunday Choose Funnies

"If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." -- Rush

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Texas Republican Douchebags of the Week

First Place, going away: our gloriously good-haired governor and his massive, big-footed flip flops.

-- Had Anita deliver the shiv to Dave Carney, replacing him with Joe Allbaugh, who ran W's successful (sic) 2000 campaign.

-- "It's fun to poke at" President Obama about the long-past-its-expiration-date birth certificate non-issue, but "it's a distractive issue".

-- Needs to spend more time in Iowa romancing voters one-on-one, so he will be appearing in a lot fewer debates. Update: Whoops. No, he won't.

-- That flat tax plan? Not so much. Gotta get off that Confederate license plate thingie, too.

-- Poll numbers sagging into Bachmann territory, he drags the money bag around California. Is more money really going to help this guy now? Oh yeah; it can't hurt any worse.

And this is actually a better week for Rick Perry than he's been having.

Runner-up: Congressman Michael McCaul, who alas won't run for the US Senate. Because the Rich White Guy Caucus is already well enough represented by David Dewhurst and Tom Leppert. Speaking of Dewface...

Show: ...he comes in third by virtue of his carefully following the Rick Perry 2010 campaign lead and making his Senate '12 race all about Obama

Fourth (in the money for those holding superfecta tickets): Herman Cain, riding high atop the national polls and cashing in on the strength of his haunting television ad and the Internet meme it has spawned. Earns honorary Texan status by virtue of his rally with the Clear Lake Tea Party, 3000 strong showing up at the dog track in La Marque to see, hear, and buy his book. If he were a real Texan he might have come in first with this effort.

Place your bets for the next Battle of the Douchebags, ladies and gentlemen. Post time in one week.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Is this what they are talking about?

You know, those roughly 50% of Americans who do not vote who say things like 'Republicans and Democrats are all the same'?

The king of natural gas will be dining with the First Lady.

On November 1st, Michelle Obama will headline a fundraiser hosted by the the young billionaire (via a Houston Chronicle blog).

From the piece:

"The super-wealthy hedge fund manager and his wife will introduce Obama to individuals who paid $10,000 for the privilege or couples who paid $15,000."

Arnold manages Centaurus Advisors.

You remember John Arnold, don't you? He founded Centaurus with his Enron bonus from 2001, which was the year before Enron collapsed under the weight of its scams.

Now he and his wife are tackling pension 'reform' (sic) in California.

John D. Arnold, a former Enron Corp. trader in Texas who became a billionaire by buying and selling natural gas, is bankrolling a group supporting changes to limit California’s pension-fund obligations.

Arnold, who formed hedge fund Centaurus Advisors LLC in Houston after leaving Enron, started a foundation that Meredith Simonton, a spokeswoman, said has given $150,000 to the California group.

The organization set up by Arnold and his wife, Laura, a lawyer, plans to be involved in pension-overhaul efforts around the U.S., Simonton said by telephone from Houston. State and local governments confront “massive financial distress” from the gap between assets and promised benefits, she said.

Let's count the six degrees of separation: Michelle Obama, John and Laura Arnold, Enron (Ken Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, Andy Fastow,, George W. Bush.

Whoops. That's only four.

Anybody still confused about what OWS is all about?

Update: CA Gov. Brown seek sweeping pension rollbacks. It's not just for Wisconsin any more.

Update II: POLITICO's Julie Mason (formerly of the Houston Chron) picks up the story.

An upcoming Houston fundraiser featuring first lady Michelle Obama at the home of a former Enron executive who is part of a movement to convert public pensions to 401(k)-style plans is angering some local Democrats.[...]

Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, called the 401(k) proposal "very frightening for teachers." She noted the nose dive many retirement plans took in the stock market in 2008, saying, "What if I was retired and that happened?"

"My people supported Obama big-time in 2008," Fallon said. "This is not helping." [...]

Art Pronin, a Houston Democratic activist, said, "This just got my dander up."

"Does Obama support converting teacher pensions to 401(k)'s? I doubt it," said Pronin, president of his neighborhood Democratic club. "This is creating a lot of consternation in Democratic circles, and it's going to make it that much harder to get the vote out next year politically."

Local activists, including the Houston chapter of Occupy Wall Street, are considering some kind of protest of the first lady's event. Meanwhile, the local teachers' union is working to educate members about the pension campaign.

"We need street action that will make Wisconsin look like a picnic," Fallon said.

Update III (Monday 10/31): Thanks to Matt B. in the comments for the news on Halloween -- the day before the event -- that the First Lady will not be attending and the fundraiser will be "rescheduled at a later date".

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Anita Perry brutalizes Dave Carney

Maybe you missed it. It's being called a 'campaign shake-up'. WaPo's Right Turn:

Time’s Mark Halperin reported yesterday that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is bringing in two nationally known GOP insiders, Nelson Warfield and Curt Anderson, to help turn around his ailing campaign. Halperin writes, “In some ways, the Texan’s original, relatively small team had been overwhelmed by the demands of getting a campaign up and running.” 

Burka has the skinny.

An advisor to Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) tells [Politico's] Ben Smith that the Texas governor has reassembled the team that helped run Scott’s “unlikely, big-spending, and successful 2010 campaign.”

It’s about time. It is my understanding that Anita Perry was the driving force who insisted upon a reorganization.

She's on a mission from God, you see. After the brutalizing her man took at the hands of ... well ... everybody, something had to be done. Which gives me the opportunity to insert this barely-a-sequitur, starring Mandy Patinkin as Governor Goodhair, fresh off the farm in Paint Creek or maybe the campus of Texas A&M University.

Back to the story.

It is hardly surprising that Perry has decided to shake up his campaign staff. (For some time Right Turn has suggested a major overhaul of Perry’s campaign would be in order.) A GOP operative told me last night, “I had heard about a week ago that there was a move to get rid of Dave Carney. This was almost 100% predictable given the collapse of the Perry campaign. Plus, when Perry was deciding if he should run, Carney had made assurances to him that he could do very well in New Hampshire.” Perry is now in the low single digits there. Carney is expected to remain on the campaign but plainly has lost his perch as the top campaign guru.

Sure enough ...

Joe Allbaugh, who headed George W. Bush’s presidential campaign and served as director of FEMA in the Bush administration (pre-Katrina), will hold the title of Senior Adviser in the Perry campaign. He specifically did not want a title that suggested he was in charge of the campaign (although he is).

Allbaugh seems to have a good sense of timing: bailing out of FEMA right before Hurricane Katrina -- leaving the debacle to Heckuva Job Brownie -- and now parachuting in to a Perry campaign that may or may not be swirling the drain. If things go well he gets the credit, if they don't Rick Perry still gets the blame.

The house-cleaning comes just before Perry’s major policy rollout Tuesday, and to a large extent, will dominate political coverage. Why release the news now? Well, given a choice between being overshadowed by a staff shakeup and having the press focus on Perry’s bizarre interview on birtherism and secession, I suppose the former seems preferable. Interestingly, the shakeup follows Perry’s meetings with K Street lobbyists, an effort to staunch concern about his campaign. It may have been essential for Perry to demonstrate swiftly that he understands the campaign’s dire straits and is willing to shove aside even longtime aides to get his campaign on track.

Warfield was Bob Dole’s press secretary in his 1996 presidential campaign, and he acquired a reputation for a sharp tongue and pointed humor. Interestingly, in that capacity Warfield led the attack on Steve Forbes’s flat tax. Forbes is now a Perry adviser, and a flat tax will be part of Perry’s policy initiative unveiled Tuesday. Back in 1996, the Dole campaign criticized a flat tax as a “soak the middle class” plan that would increase the deficit. Presumably, that experience will help Warfield fend off attacks on the flat tax plan Forbes developed for Perry.

Warfield also spent time on the ill-fated Fred Thompson 2008 presidential campaign. He joined in June 2007 and jumped off the sinking ship in October. More recently, Warfield worked on Rick Scott’s successful Florida gubernatorial campaign, during which the candidate used the illegal immigration issue to savage primary opponent Bill McCullough. ...

Let's finish with Burka again.

The first thing Allbaugh ought to do is send Perry to Dallas to apologize for badmouthing W. all over the country.

Yeah, that oughta fix things right up.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Weekly Early Voting Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance provides you with all the information you need to cast your ballot early -- beginning today -- in the Houston municipal and educational elections. There are also ten Texas constitutional amendments on your ballot. Rep. Scott Hochberg provides in-depth background on each.

Here are early voting locations and hours for those voting in Houston (.pdf, 1 page).

Here's the League of Women Voters guide to all candidates on the ballot in Houston (.pdf, 51 pages).

As previously posted here, your progressive voter's guide for Houston municipal candidates is here (Jolanda Jones ... or Bob Ryan, but only if you just have to vote for a Republican), here (Annise Parker, Don Cook, and Karen Derr), here (Kristi Thibaut or Jenifer Rene Pool, and Amy Price and Larry Green), here (Melissa Noriega, Bob Schoellkopf, Wanda Adams, Peter Rene'), and here (Ronald Green, Ed Gonzalez, James Rodriguez, and Mike Laster).

Here is more on the status of the mayor's race, and more on the developments in District C.

And here is the roundup of TPA blog posts, the best from last week.

Off the Kuff has information about the interim redistricting maps that the federal court in San Antonio will be considering.

Letters From Texas discusses Republicans not understanding basic biology, which is why some candidates might not even realize that they're advocating banning birth control. Much worse, others do understand it.

Several Houston city council candidates earned the coveted PDiddie endorsement. Pick up your progressive voting guide at Brains and Eggs.

As early voting for the November constitutional amendment election gets started, WCNews at Eye On Williamson says Vote No on Prop 4 - the latest transportation scheme.

Libby Shaw says it best in Rick Perry: A Right Wing Wrecking Machine . She compares the degrees of diaster that separate Perry from Romney. The result is a "how low can you go" contest that America can't afford, not when one of these mean-spirited clowns could be the next American President. See her post at TexasKaos.

Neil at Texas Liberal continues to blog about and to support Occupy Houston and Occupy Wall Street.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Early Voting Sunday Funnies

The spotlight on Mayor Parker's prospects

Again, as many have already pointed out, not so much for 2011 as for 2013.

Political analysts predict Mayor Annise Parker has a virtual lock on a second term, but she still has a lot at stake in next month's election.

Winning isn't enough, the experts say. She needs to win big to head off a challenge in 2013 and to give her a stronger hand with the City Council. [...]

(P)oll numbers released last week suggest the mayor faces a dissatisfied electorate. Less than a month before the election, more than half of respondents said they were undecided. Thirty-seven percent said they would vote for Parker.

"Had she had a serious opponent she would have been at least in a runoff, and possibly defeated," said Rice University political scientist Bob Stein, who ran the poll for radio station KUHF and KHOU-TV.

Parker's approval rating was just 47 percent.

"It's the lowest job approval I've seen of a (Houston) mayor, ever," said Stein, who has been polling for decades.

Too slim a majority in November, some observers say, could encourage a stronger challenge two years from now.

Clue: The mayor's low approval numbers do NOT have anything to do with the national economy.

Parker and political analysts say most of the damage to her approval ratings is due to the sputtering national economy.

"If you look at what's on the minds of Americans all over the country, it's jobs and the economy," Parker said.

The "jobs" part, yes. But the mayor's jobs plan, as you can find in the article yourself and at her website,  appears to consist of 'instructing city departments to hire local firms and hoping that spurs job creation'. In the wake of the city's budget cuts that saw thousands of municipal employees lose their jobs, I have to say that is a pretty sad plan.

Aside from that, the mayor has been slammed by events mostly outside of her control that are well beyond the national economy: the red-light camera issue -- yes, mostly outside her control, and that includes poorly-worded vendor contracts and a ballot referendum voided by a judge and all the rest of the mess -- the Rebuild Houston emerging scandal, the George Greanias affair.

And while she has consistently earned low marks for style, it's also fair to suggest that she merited a bit of arrogance in besting her political opponents in the last cycle, and in grappling with the city's many challenges.

Annise Parker gets my (albeit tepid) support for re-election. Just like President Obama, in fact. In many ways she has done a good job, and in many others she has done the best she could with what she has had to work with. And yes, in some ways she's done a lousy job. She's still far and away the best -- indeed, the only -- choice for mayor in this cycle.

I hope, based on her forthcoming performance in office and a little better luck outside of it, that I can say the same two years from now.

The Cohen kerfuffle

The quarrel surrounding Ellen Cohen's $10,000 contribution from Bob Perry moves into a higher gear:

If the abOUT editorial had simply been a question of how to interpret facts (namely that Cohen accepted a contribution from Perry and did not author LGBT-specific legislation while in the Texas House) it would have been unlikely to generate controversy, but two statements in the original editorial unrelated to Cohen’s record have created a backlash against abOUT and its editor, Cade Michals. The editorial originally stated that Cohen’s office had not responded to a request for comment (abOUT has since added a comment from Cohen), and that the Houston GLBT Political Caucus (which has endorsed Cohen) had been “silent” on the matter. Caucus president Noel Freeman says that, in fact, Cohen had made a statement to abOUT before they published the editorial and that, as president of the Caucus, Freeman had already granted an interview to the Houston Chronicle on the matter and would have happily done the same for abOUT had they bothered to contact the Caucus before publishing their article. Freeman contacted Michals requesting a retraction of the editorial in light of these inaccuracies. Freeman says he told Michals that if abOUT did not retract or issue a correction that the Caucus would contact the magazine’s advertisers and request that they pull their ads. “That’s a standard tool in the political activist’s tool belt: boycotts,” said Freeman.

In response, Michals contacted the Houston Police Department and filed a complaint against Freeman. According to Freeman, Michals also threatened to contact a “multi-millionaire investor with a lawyer from Baker Botts who was going to file a lawsuit against me for slander and harassment. He then told me to ‘bring it on’ several times and I ended the call.” Freeman is emphatic that he made no threats against Michals.

And then there is District C candidate Josh Verde's involvement.

According to phone records provided by Freeman, Josh Verde, another City Council District C candidate and the only out LGBT candidate in the race, contacted him less than five minutes after he ended the phone call with Michals. Freeman says Verde called, at the bequest of Michals, to dissuade Freeman of pursuing his request for a retraction. Verde claims he called Freeman to accuse him of stealing a rack of abOUT issues and that his attempts to persuade Freeman to drop his request for a retraction were based on a fear that the situation would damage the Caucus’ reputation. Verde refused to answer whether he made the call at the request of Michals.

Commenters on the Press article have been quick to connect Verde with Michals and abOUT. Verde and Michals are former co-workers. Michals previously worked as general manager of Vue Nightclub. His tenure overlaps that of Verde’s work as a bartender at Guava Lamp, a trendy gay bar. Both bars are owned by Elwood Gould Jr. and housed in the same building. Verde held his campaign launch party at Vue with Michals in attendance.

The reporter for the Voice, Daniel Williams, discloses that he both worked on Cohen's campaign in 2010 (as did I) and was a member of the HGLBT caucus (I am not, have never been).

For Cohen, the abOUT editorial is a distraction from her long record of LGBT advocacy. “I have dedicated my life to equality for all people. I have always been supportive of the GLBT community and will continue to be so on City Council. As executive director of the Houston chapter of the American Jewish Committee, and CEO of the Houston Area Women’s Center, I took a leadership role in advocating for same-sex partner benefits at the city, and encouraged other non-profits to do the same. In the Legislature, I worked on legislation that addressed health care rights of domestic partners, bullying in Texas schools, and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

For Verde, his connections to abOUT, Michals and the pseudonymously authored editorial by “Jack H,” are quickly becoming an albatross of negative campaigning weighing down his candidacy, from which he is working hard to distance himself.

However you may happen to feel about this matter ... this is why I am supporting Karen Derr in this race. Not because I don't like Ellen and don't think she wouldn't make a fine council member (I do, and she would). And not because I think the same of Verde. Because we have to get the money out of our politics.

We must stop evaluating the viability of our political candidates on the basis of how much money they can raise. We must stop feeding a political consultant class that gets paid for advice, direct mail lists, and their network of associated vendors who provide absolutely nothing to our republican democracy except for a compromised product (the politico himself or herself). Particularly for Democratic consultants from Bob Schrum all the way down to Marc Campos, here's a question: how comfortable would your lifestyle be if you got paid on the basis of whether you won or lost?

I'm not talking about unilateral disarmament by the left. The fact is that the Money Race is over and the Republicans have already won. (See Rove, Karl and Brothers, Koch. I picked those links so that you can cry first and then laugh. A little.)

My humble O, as you already know, is to handle this by constitutional amendment. But that is a 15 to 20-year process by this movement's own standards. I'll probably be dead by then. So I have to do what I can while I can, and that means not supporting candidates based on their fundraising -- indeed, to leave money totals out of the consideration -- especially from questionable sources.

Oh yeah, and we absolutely have to stop voting for politicians as if they were American Idol contestants.

Update: Juanita Jean has a similar perspective.

Sunday Funnies

Friday, October 21, 2011

Your voter's guide for November 8, 2011 Part 4: the rest

Controller: Ronald Green

Green is unopposed. He succeeded Annise Parker two years ago -- moving up from city council's at large #4 slot to assume management of the city's books -- and like Parker before him, keeps a low profile in the position. He probably has designs on higher office when he's term-limited out in 2015; until then he shouldn't make much news to speak of. Anticipate a run for Congress or the statehouse in 2016.

District B: No endorsement

No agenda here; I simply don't know any of the candidates well enough to endorse one. Of the eight contestants in line to replace Jarvis Johnson, only Charles Ingram is listed as a sustaining member of the HCDP and his website's homepage still says "under construction" (the link to his bio there is functional but nearly nothing else; the links to his Facebook page and Twitter feed likewise inoperable). I've received e-mail invitations to events from Kathy Blueford Daniels and Phillip Paul Bryant (from the D-MARS listserv) but haven't gotten to any of them. Bryan Smart has an introduction video but nothing else. Alvin Byrd worked in constituent services for former councilman Johnson.

Jerry Davis co-owns the popular Breakfast Klub restaurant (have the wings and waffles) and thus may share the highest community profile with Byrd. Two candidates, James Joseph and Kenneth Perkins, list no website; just a Hotmail e-address.

All except Perkins, Smart, and Davis have recent Democratic primary voting histories (none are Republicans). Bryant, Byrd, and Davis seem to have the most professional campaign organizations, online and off.

Here's three videos, one from "Red, White, and Blue" discussing the race with Garnet Coleman and Houston Defender publisher Sonceria Messiah-Jiles, one of the debate between candidates sponsored by the LWV, and the third is Jones and Polland's take on that.

With a slate of eight and three appearing to hold the higher profiles, expect a runoff. I'll examine the two remaining candidates closer in that event.

District E, District G: No endorsement

Mike Sullivan is unopposed and Oliver Pennington has token opposition in Clyde Bryan (no website). All are Republicans. I'll pass.

District H: Ed Gonzalez District I: James Rodriguez

Councilmen Gonzalez and Rodriguez likewise have token opposition to their re-election and should be returned to council.

District J: Mike Laster

Like Karen Derr in C, Laster should have already been elected to council in 2009. He lost a runoff two years ago in District F to Al Hoang, a tragic error on the part of Houston's voters. But we get a make-good, as we do with Derr.

J is one of the two new districts added this year as a result of the 2010 Census pushing Houston's population over two million and change. The Sharpstown area, carved away from F, should be competitive for a Latino candidate ... but there are two -- Rodrigo Cañedo and Criselda Romero -- and they are going to split that voting bloc. It certainly isn't the case that Cañedo and Romero are not well-qualified to serve on council; Rodrigo helps run the family's small business while Criselda served in Councilman Ed Gonzalez' office. All three have Democratic primary voting histories, with Laster the sole sustaining member of the HCDP.

If I'm wrong and the district goes to a runoff -- without or without Laster -- then it's anybody's game.

That's it for the municipal politicos; I'll have some thoughts on the down-ballot educational races in a later posting. *I did not find time to get to these. Here are Stand for Children's endorsements for HISD board and the Chron's endorsement for Houston Community College trustee.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Your voter's guide for November 8, 2011 Part 3: AL3, A, D, F

At Large #3: Melissa Noriega

Councilwoman Noriega has two opponents, neither of whom have achieved any particular positive distinction. Chris Carmona is the conservative's choice -- at least according to Amy Peck -- and Brad Batteau is running apparently to try and draw off some of Noreiga's Democratic support (HCGOP lists him as a D but does NOT list Carmona as an R).

Noriega's talent and skills as a problem-solver and council moderate and mediator easily merit her re-election.

District A: Bob Schoellkopf

Republican incumbent Brenda Stardig's most significant claim to fame remains the Long Point road rage incident with her 2009 runoff opponent, Lane Lewis -- who's now poised to become the chair of the Harris County Democratic Party. I just have to excerpt this again ...

The two have not debated face to face — unless you count Lewis' version of them shouting at each other from separate cars while driving down Long Point.

According to Lewis, he attended a Spring Branch West super-neighborhood meeting on Nov. 12 (2009). Attendees asked aloud why Stardig was not present and speculated that she was at a nearby bar.

After the meeting, Lewis went to the bar and photographed the license plate on what he believed to be Stardig's car, he said.

While driving home, he said, Stardig pursued him, honking her horn, swerving to both sides of his vehicle and shouting questions at him. Lewis said he shouted answers back.

“It was an irresponsible choice that a candidate for a district race for City Council would choose a bar instead of a neighborhood meeting,” Lewis said.

“I've been everywhere I need to be,” Stardig said. She would not comment on specifics of the encounter.

Helena Brown is challenging Stardig from the right, as in the far, farther, farthest TeaBagging right.  Check this out:

Helena Brown of Houston is not pleased.

A lifelong Republican — and a precinct chair at that — she also identifies with the Tea Party movement and was a Debra Medina supporter. Now she and her fellow Tea Party Republicans must decide whether GOP candidate Gov. Rick Perry is worthy of their support or perhaps look for an independent write-in candidate. (Brown says she thinks actor Chuck Norris might be interested.)

Schoellkopf is a loyal Democratic activist. How hard is this?

District D: Wanda Adams

Incumbent, good Democrat, hard-working. The HGLBT Caucus has criticized her, but that has seemed a little harsh to me. Challenger Larry McKinzie seems like a nice enough fellow, though ...

District F: Peter Rene'

Incumbent Al Hoang has been savaged by his Vietnamese constituency in this way-out-west district. The local newspaper even describes the tussle between Hoang and challenger Hoc Nguyen as the "Vietnam War Revisited" (the Google cache still has that headline; the article has been changed). But I'll excerpt instead from the Chron a few days ago:

Councilman Al Hoang pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in donations meant for the local Vietnamese community organization he headed prior to his election as District F councilman, a lawsuit by a group of Vietnamese civic activists claims.

Hoang denies the charges and has countersued the plaintiffs for what he considers libel.

The lawsuit is another step in what Hoang sees as a persistent campaign of harassment against him. Detractors have been so aggressive, he said, they once mailed him a photograph of themselves urinating on the graves of his parents.

He is a target not for any legal improprieties, he said, but for his maturing attitude toward Vietnam, one that has evolved from focusing on the regime's violent overthrow to one of promoting change from within the country through trade and dialogue.

"They want me to use this seat as a base to overthrow the Communist government" of Vietnam, Hoang said.

Outside of court, Hoang is being challenged for re-election by Hoc Thai Nguyen, a businessman who claims Hoang's sister-in-law threatened to poison his children, calls Hoang "the Gadhafi of Houston," and says he fears for his life because he believes Hoang is capable of killing him. Nguyen is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

That's pretty spicy stuff. There's more at the link regarding the investigations of Hoang's alleged impropriety since he was elected two years ago. A proud Republican, Hoang defeated Democrat Mike Laster in the runoff for F in 2009; Laster is running in Sharpstown's new J district (I'll cover that contest tomorrow). Back to the Chron for the reasons why you should stand well back from this Vietnamese food fight and vote for Peter Rene':

After a series of controversies involving incumbent Al Hoang divided his Vietnamese-American base, Hoang indicated he would not stand for re-election. Though he later changed his mind, we think his initial decision was the right one. The district, which has demanding infrastructure and economic development needs, requires new, focused leadership at City Hall.

Fortunately, voters have the opportunity to elect such a person, businessman and community activist Peter "Lyn" René. Born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, René came to Houston in 1979 and graduated from Westbury High School and UH-Downtown.

The Westchase resident is the CEO of the Caribbean American Foundation of Texas, which organizes events that bring together Houston's sizable and vibrant Caribbean-heritage community.

René is an integrated technology project manager who owns and operates Consumer Information Services, LLC. He is a certified mediator who does volunteer work at the Harris County Dispute Resolution Center and is the founder of Singing from the Soul Foundation. It provides talented but economically disadvantaged high school students classical voice training and preparation to seek college musical degrees and future professional careers.

René promises to be a strong voice at City Hall for street repair and district beautification. To counter budget cuts that have closed community centers and after-school programs, he says he would use his skills as a grant writer to solicit funds from corporations and foundations to continue vital municipal youth services.

Greg and Charles, who follow these things day-to-day closer than I do, were both a little surprised by the endorsement and went out on limbs to guess that the Chron would also not back Jolanda Jones (bad prediction there, guys).

I really don't get why they were so shocked; the district has been redrawn significantly and seems wide open to this casual observer. Throw in the controversy swirling around Hoang and you have yourself a contest.

With two Asian names and one French-sounding, it's hard to know which way the Anglo Republicans will go -- maybe for their fellow traveler the stained incumbent. This district's vote will be split, and all bets are off.

In any case, Rene' is the best (really the only) choice.

Continuing this series tomorrow.

Your voter's guide for November 8, 2011 Part 2: AL2, AL4, K

At Large #2: Kristi Thibaut, Jenifer Rene Pool

These are the two women I wish to get in the runoff for the seat from which Councilwoman Sue Lovell is retiring. Pool is the HGLBT Caucus endorsee and has been pretty tireless in campaigning; I've known Thibaut since we worked together on Borris Miles' first statehouse campaign in 2006. She also served a term in the Texas Lege (I walked blocks in that far west district for her then). Either would make a fine addition to Council. I hope we get to choose between the two in December.

There are mostly folks in this contest whom you should NOT vote for, and I have blogged extensively about him. Also avoid Bolivar Fraga, a candidate who has block-walked Republican houses telling them he's a Republican, and Democratic precincts claiming to be a D. An aspiring politico this disingenuous doesn't deserve anyone's vote. Elizabeth Perez has a huge rack and is a Republican; Griff is Houston's most lovable perennial loser. David Robinson has the resume' and lots of signs out, especially in the Montrose; Rozzy Shorter's been active in Democratic political circles, particularly in SD-13. Andrew Burks has been on the ballot previously but has no website and Gordon Goss is unknown to me. If you consult HCDP for a clue, you will see that only Pool is listed as a sustaining member. HCGOP lists Fraga, Perez, and Griff as R's based on their most recent primary voting activity. Dick, naturally, is an RLC contributor. The rest they show as D's except for Goss, who apparently is a ghost politically despite what he says about himself.

So that whittles ten options easily down to four: Thibaut, Pool, Robinson, or Shorter. Kristi and Jenifer are my top two -- I'll have to pick one when I vote and won't until then -- and David and Rozzy are acceptable alternatives.

Since AL2 will be settled in a December runoff, that's where the closer scrutiny will lie.

At Large #4: Amy Price

This one of course is easy for me. I've written a lot about this race, so if you need to be refreshed or need an introduction, by all means do so. Here I disclosed my limited participation in Amy's campaign and explained why her challengers fail the test to qualify for your vote. (Nothing personal against the two men; they just don't hold a candle to her.) Here is an embedded video and a link to her audio interview with Charles Kuffner. Amy's already earned the endorsements of people who say they would not normally consider a candidate like her. That speaks volumes about her and why I support her.

As I have mentioned previously, electing Amy Price sends the message that Houston City Council will not conduct "business as usual". Which is precisely what we need right now.

District K: Larry Green

Just as easy as the last one. Green has piled up endorsements in this new district -- my district -- while his two challengers are virtually invisible. Like Greg, I expect Larry Green to walk onto council. With expectations this grand, he needs to be able to deliver big things. I'll be watching closer than usual.

More as we draw closer to the early voting period beginning next Monday.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gene Green, Al Green, Sheila Jackson Lee all support Keystone XL

If you thought that the Koch Bros only had their hands up the backsides of Republicans, think again.

Nearly two dozen Democrats led by Rep. Gene Green of Houston implored President Barack Obama today to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil-sands crude from Canada to southeastern Texas refineries.

The project would boost America’s energy security and the U.S. economy, the lawmakers said in a letter (.pdf) to Obama.

“The proposed Keystone XL pipeline represents a true shovel-ready project that would directly create 20,000 high-quality domestic manufacturing and construction jobs for Americans who are desperately seeking employment,” the Democrats wrote.


Sean Sweeney, director of the Cornell ILR Global Labor Institute, said today in an interview: "This report questions the jobs claims promoted by TransCanada Corporation, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and other proponents of the pipeline. The report's findings should generate a high level of skepticism regarding the value of KXL as an important source of American jobs."

"It is GLI's assessment that the construction of Keystone XL will create far fewer jobs in the U.S. than its proponents have claimed and may actually destroy more jobs than it generates," Sweeney said.

"The industry's U.S. job claims, and even the State Department's analysis, are linked to a $7 billion Keystone XL project budget. However, the budget for Keystone XL that will have a bearing on U.S. jobs figures is dramatically lower – only around $3 to $4 billion. A lower budget means fewer jobs."

TransCanada and API's job projections also fail to consider the large number of jobs that could be lost by construction of Keystone XL, Sweeney said. This includes jobs lost due to consumers in the Midwest paying 10 to 20 cents more per gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel, as Keystone XL diverts oil from refineries in the Midwest to the Gulf region.

These additional fuel costs -- $2 to $4 billion -- will suppress other spending and cost jobs, he said. "Furthermore, pipeline spills, pollution and increased greenhouse gas emissions incur significant human health and economic costs, thus eliminating jobs."

Lara Skinner, associate director of research at the Cornell Global Labor Institute, said: "The company's claim that Keystone XL will create 20,000 direct construction and manufacturing jobs in the U.S. is unsubstantiated. There is strong evidence to suggest that a large portion of the primary material input for KXL – steel pipe- will not even be produced in the U.S."

Overall, she said, "Keystone XL could kill more jobs than it creates. There are alternatives to this kind of dirty energy that, if supported, could create large numbers of jobs in the emerging green economy."

Meh. Twenty-two House Democrats, including Texans Henry Cuellar, Charlie Gonzales, and Ruben Hinojosa swallowed the "jobs" BS and regurgitated it back onto this letter.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to decide by mid-November whether the 1,700-mile pipeline is in the “national interest,” paving the way for Obama’s final decision on whether to permit the project later this year.

But the question is a major political test for the White House, pitting two of Obama’s core constituencies — organized labor and environmentalists — against each other. Conservationists have cast the choice facing Obama as the biggest environmental dilemma he has experienced during three years in the White House, and they insist his chances of winning another term hang in the balance.


Environmental activists, native Americans and religious leaders insist that the 36-inch pipeline would jeopardize drinking water supplies in the nation’s heartland and keep the U.S. dependent on a form of bituminous oil that takes more energy to extract than other fossil fuels.

'Game over' for the environment didn't sway these Democrats. The sick and dying children who already live near where tar sands oil will be refined haven't swayed them. I doubt whether a revised economic forecast or another bunch of dirty effing hippies protesting is going to.

Houston's air already fails quality compliance, we're adding a coal plant to the mix, and hey, the Republicans want to kill EPA anyway. Now Gene Green and Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee have signed on to this rush to environmental apocalypse.

Hope the money is worth it to them. Meanwhile ... we need to get all the money out of politics.

Get. the money. out of politics. That happens to be moving rapidly in the way wrong direction as well.

Your voter's guide for November 8, 2011 Part 1: Mayor, AL1, C

You can vote early beginning Monday at most of the usual locations around the city. On the heels of Greg's G-Slate, here's some of my selections:

Mayor of Houston: Annise Parker

Yes, it's her and five also-rans. If I didn't like the mayor personally so much my protest vote would go to the Socialist, honestly. What bothers me about Parker is that she goes to the Pachyderm Club and brags about being a fiscal conservative, and then backs that up by laying off several hundred blue-collar city workers, cutting library hours, and reducing many other city services. The ongoing ominous threat is that she will reduce the city's contribution to the municipal pension fund, which is just another in a series of defensive moves to try to ward off a Republican challenger two years from now. She could have done something brave and bold, like raising property taxes on the richest Houstonians. Of which there are more than ever.

But because so few vote in our municipal elections -- in a city of 2 million-plus, perhaps 100,000 to 125,000 will turn out, or around 5% -- the voice and influence of the most powerful drown out the the rest of the people's to an even greater degree than would normally be the case.

About one-third of Houston's children -- depending on how it is statistically defined -- live in poverty (that would be a 4-person household earning just over $22K). Probably some of their number now include the children of furloughed city workers: clerks, parks and recreation workers, garbage men, librarians. Given that Mayor Parker will coast to re-election (the percentage of victory she posts will be divined as whatever strength or weakness she will have as she runs for re-election to a third and final term in 2013) what can we progressives do to get her attention to this and other of our causes?

For now ... our support, and then our righteous indignation if she continues to cater to the wealthiest and greediest. Some of us expect a lot more from you in your second term, Mayor. This blog's unofficial motto,'Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable', has to go into overdrive after November 8.

At Large #1:  Don Cook

Cook, as I have indicated previously, is the progressive running against incumbent Stephen Costello, who sponsored the now-infamous Rebuild Houston drainage fee, about which fresh and troubling questions  have arisen just this week. Costello, a civil engineer made wealthy on municipal contracts long before he was first elected to Council two years ago, allegedly bragged recently to the Pachyderm Club that his own drainage assessment was coming in well below the city average. As in about a third of the city's now-revised average of $8.25. On his $300,000+ HCAD-assessed domicile.

Many Democrats still seem to be operating under the mistaken impression -- as they were in 2009 -- that Costello has drifted away from the GOP. Don't bet on it.

Other candidates include perennial James Partsch-Galvan and Republican Scott Boates, who may draw off a chunk of Costello's support from his right flank. Boates has purchased sustaining membership in the HCDP, but that's just camoflage. He's pretty much a TeaBagger from what I have heard him say at candidate fora I've attended. But if you need proof: the Harris County GOP lists Boates on the Republican Leadership Council (and Costello and Partsch-Galvan also as Republicans).

Don Cook is simply the only choice for Democrats, liberals, and progressives in this race.

District C: Karen Derr

I started out this campaign cycle as a supporter of my former state representative in my former city council district. But after I observed that she received $10,000 from "Swift Boat" Bob Perry in 2009 -- around which a separate and recent kerfuffle has erupted -- and then in this cycle garnered the endorsement of the Houston Association of Realtors (who endorse Republicans only slightly less than 99% of the time), I simply couldn't get on that bandwagon. We should have elected Karen in '09 to the AL1 seat Stephen Costello sits in now; the city would be so much better off if we had.

Which means we're getting a do-over for Karen. And we need to get it right this time.

C leans a little to the right -- outgoing Councilwoman Anne Clutterbuck previously worked for several years in constituent services for former Congressman and House Ways and Means chairman Bill Archer -- so it's possible the Cohen juggernaut will be stalled by one of the two RWNJs running: Brian Cweren and Randy Locke, who are busily trying to out-conservative each other. Forget them both. Josh Verde is also competing in this race and is a fine candidate. But Karen Derr is, once again, your best progressive option. I intend to help her into a runoff with Cohen and then get a real debate going on the issues.

More later this week.

Who won the 'Yet Another" Debate last night?

I really enjoy this particular site, and not just because the Paulians infest it. Cast your vote here.

Dr. No currently leads with 79%. I voted for Frothy Mixture (hey, he had a good night. Really.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bill White, Jack Christie, and Jolanda Jones


Former Mayor Bill White has endorsed Jack Christie for the At-Large 5 City Council seat. It is the only endorsement the ex-mayor has made in this year’s city elections.


White, last year’s Democratic nominee for governor, passed over two Democrats in the At-Large 5 race to endorse Christie. 

The reaction from the Khronically Konservative Kommenters seems to be the same as mine. Namely, WTF?

If Bill White so disliked Jolanda Jones that he had to endorse a Republican over the other African-American Democratic woman in the contest ... then I really doubt whether Bill White considers himself a Democrat any longer. Of course, if you have read this blog for very long, you know that my position is that the former mayor and loser to Rick Perry in 2010 is just coming out of the closet here.

Christie narrowly lost to JoJo two years ago in a runoff for At Large 5, and as Charles has noted, the Chron has not announced an endorsement in this race yet, moving on to propositions as of today.

Jolanda Jones has fought for every little guy in sight -- from the po' folks to the union men and women -- and she has paid the price for it: pointless investigations, vendettas from HPD, and even mockery by other city officials. She is by far the strongest progressive on Council and earns the enmity of her detractors as much for that as for her fighting spirit. (Of course, Houston voters can add a couple more progressive fighters to Council -- starting next Monday as early voting begins -- by replacing C.O. Bradford with Amy Price and Steven Costello with Don Cook, but that will be for another post later this week).

Conservatives who seriously think that White's endorsement damns Christie with faint praise have another option in AL5: Bob Ryan. Bob's a longtime friend of my family, and earned some renown as the Harris County grand jury foreman that in 2008 indicted Texas Supreme Court Justice David Medina on arson charges (that former DA Chuck Rosenthal refused to pursue). Ryan's about as principled a Republican as they come.

In the interest of noting the widely differing opinions in this contest, I will observe here that my friend Neil, with whom I agree on nearly everything, does not agree that Jones has been an effective council member.

Personally I am going to walk my precinct for Jolanda this weekend, and work hard for her re-election.

Update: Nice job here by the Chron.

The defense attorney and former track star campaigned for office on the promise to serve as "the voice of the voiceless" at City Hall. Over the past four years she has more than fulfilled that commitment, winning a devoted following in the low-income communities of Houston while irritating and sometimes enraging critics and colleagues. She has rough edges, and certainly does not represent business as usual.

The Chronicle believes that on balance, Jones has served a valuable function on a City Council that has historically played a subservient role in Houston's strong-mayor form of government. She speaks out frequently, questioning administration proposals and demanding more information. That lengthens council meeting times and often delays action, but it also provides additional scrutiny and the impetus to improve legislation.

"I'm responsive to the people who put me in office," says Jones. "If I have to push, I will, but I do a lot behind the scenes. I don't brag about it, I just get things done."

Damn straight.

Update II: And a nice rejoinder to Bill White from Chris Bell:

Jo doesn’t mind ruffling feathers and obviously has made some people mad along the way. But if you’re just going to go around City Hall trying not to make anyone mad, you’re not going to get much done. Personally, I’m glad she’s willing to ask tough questions and stand up for people who otherwise might not have anyone in their corner. [...]

There are a lot of powerful people in Houston who would like to see Jolanda Jones off City Council. They don’t like it when someone stands up to them and refuses to go along to get along. But City Council Members aren’t supposed to just be voices for power brokers; they’re supposed to stand up for average citizens. That’s exactly what Jolanda Jones does and that’s why I’ll be standing with her on Election Day.

Update III: And a 4 bars of soap, walleyed, snot-nosed screamin' hissyfit from Juanita.

Monday, October 17, 2011


If you want to get down. Down on the ground.

Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain has cast himself as the outsider, the pizza magnate with real-world experience who will bring fresh ideas to the nation’s capital. But Cain’s economic ideas, support and organization have close ties to two billionaire brothers who bankroll right-leaning causes through their group Americans for Prosperity.

Cain’s campaign manager and a number of aides have worked for Americans for Prosperity, or AFP, the advocacy group founded with support from billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, which lobbies for lower taxes and less government regulation and spending. Cain credits a businessman who served on an AFP advisory board with helping devise his “9-9-9” plan to rewrite the nation’s tax code. And his years of speaking at AFP events have given the businessman and radio host a network of loyal grassroots fans.

As the Not-Romney of the Month, Herman actually has a chance to stick around a little longer than Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry before him.

His links to the Koch brothers could undercut his outsider, non-political image among tea party fans who detest politics as usual and candidates connected with the party machine.

AFP tapped Cain as the public face of its “Prosperity Expansion Project,” and he traveled the country in 2005 and 2006 speaking to activists who were starting state-based AFP chapters from Wisconsin to Virginia. Through his AFP work he met Mark Block, a longtime Wisconsin Republican operative hired to lead that state’s AFP chapter in 2005 as he rebounded from an earlier campaign scandal that derailed his career.

Block and Cain sometimes traveled together as they built up AFP: Cain was the charismatic speaker preaching the ills of big government; Block was the operative helping with nuts and bolts.

When President Barack Obama’s election helped spawn the tea party, Cain was positioned to take advantage. He became a draw at growing AFP-backed rallies, impressing activists with a mix of humor and hard-hitting rhetoric against Obama’s stimulus, health care and budget policies.

So the Tea Pees have known about the Godfather for some time now.

Block is now Cain’s campaign manager. Other aides who had done AFP work were also brought on board.

Cain’s spokeswoman Ellen Carmichael, who recently left the campaign, was an AFP coordinator in Louisiana. His campaign’s outside law firm is representing AFP in a case challenging Wisconsin campaign finance regulations. At least six other current and former paid employees and consultants for Cain’s campaign have worked for AFP in various capacities.

And Cain has credited Rich Lowrie, a Cleveland businessman who served on AFP’s board of advisors from 2005 to 2008, with being a key economic adviser and with helping to develop his plan to cut the corporate tax rate to 9 percent, impose a national sales tax of 9 percent and set a flat income tax rate of 9 percent.

“He’s got a national network now that perhaps he wouldn’t have had 15 or 20 years ago because of his work with AFP,” said Republican Party of Wisconsin Vice Chair Brian Schimming, who has introduced Cain at events in Wisconsin. “For a presidential candidate, that’s obviously helpful to have.”

The political experts on your teevee keep saying Herman's got no on-the-ground organization, though. They are obviously mistaken. It's a stealth organization, flying under the Beltway radar. And like the rest of the conservative extremists, Cain is just as mean and ignorant as Perry or Bachmann ...

GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain is pushing the idea of an electrified fence on the border with Mexico, complete with a sign in English and Spanish warning that it’s lethal, the New York Times reports:

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said Saturday that part of his immigration policy would be to build an electrified fence on the country’s border with Mexico that could kill people trying to enter the country illegally.

The remarks, which came at two campaign rallies in Tennessee as part of a barnstorming bus tour across the state, drew loud cheers from crowds of several hundred people at each rally. At the second stop, in Harriman, Tenn., Mr. Cain added that he also would consider using military troops “with real guns and real bullets” on the border to stop illegal immigration.

The Times reported that Cain said a sign would accompany the fence saying, “It will kill you — Warning.”

It’s an idea that Cain has broached before. When President Obama joked that some would want a moat with alligators, Cain embraced that idea, too.

Here's the quote in context:

Cain made the fence comments Saturday at a Tennessee rally while kicking off his bus tour to promote his "9-9-9" tax plan.

Speaking to the crowd, Cain recalled a conversation he had on his conservative radio talk show with a caller who argued against building a fence to prevent illegal immigration.But Cain said he fought back, telling the caller:"When I'm in charge of the fence, we going to have a fence. It's going to be 20 feet high. It's going to have barbed wire on the top. It's going to be electrocuted, electrified," Cain said. "And there's going to be a sign on the other side that says it will kill you."

On yesterday's D.C. BS Talking Heads, Herman was quick to say "That was a joke." Good to hear. Cain, as much as anyone, ought to be well aware of the price some people pay not only for bad jokes but for the sort of thing an electrified border fence would meet the definition of: a high-tech lynching.

Of course, the price paid depends on who's getting bought and who's getting sold.

Here's a bit more on the topic from Eminem (unreleased and NSFW at the link):

This was a beat with no words at first, it's a blank painting
Exercising the mind, it's brain strength training
Starts off something like shady's an insane maniac
Yeah slim shady that's a zany name aint it
Now all you needs an image to go with the name, baby
Wife beaters and white t-shirts
Hanes mainly, it's a long shot but is it possible
There's a lane maybe,
If not, he's gonna have to come and change the whole game aint he
He wants the fame so bad he can taste it
He can see his name up in lights


But he aint trailing anymore he's ahead of the race
While maintaining his innocence
Little does he know his train is derailing...