Wednesday, August 30, 2006

democrats, independents oppose toll road SH 121

Letter from Amy Manuel, Democrat for Denton County Commissioner [Precinct 2]. Hwy 121 stretches across Collin and Denton Counties.
The west bound lanes of Hwy 121 were dedicated Tuesday with Republican Gov. Rick Perry, all four Republican county commissioners and my opponent, Republican Justice of the Peace, Ron Marchant.

Toll roads burden our family finances even further. With rising gas prices and declining wages, why put more financial drain on our families. The tolls will be 14.5 cents a mile, one of the most expensive toll roads in America with increases planned every two years. We already pay city, county, state and federal taxes for our roads. Why do the Republicans feel we need to be charged again?

As the Democratic candidate for County Commissioner, I tried to attend this event, which was held at a public middle school and was announced as a public event. I was barred at the door. Apparently citizens with different views are not welcome, especially those who stand up and challenge our leadership when it comes to their anti-family policies.

This November, you have a choice. You have a choice to put a citizen in office who believes we should not be taxed yet again to drive on our roads. You have a choice to put a citizen in office who will not allow our hard earned dollars to be spent on more toll roads built by Perry donors and their overseas subcontractors. You have a choice to just say no to abuse of power. That choice in November is me, Democrat Amy Manuel.

Amy Manuel, Democratic candidate for Denton County Commissioner pct 2.

Thanks to John McClelland at Burnt Orange Report for making us aware of Amy's press release.

Supporters of independent candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn say that their gubernatorial nominee is also opposed to the toll road (and all new toll roads statewide, for that matter). Strayhorn, currently the State Comptroller, will host a press conference tomorrow (August 31) at 2 p.m. in Lewisville opposing the toll road SH 121. The event will be held in front of the Vista Point Business park at 405 SH 121 (aka SH 121 Bypass, SH 121 Toll) in Lewisville. The business park is just west of MacArthur Blvd on the 'south' bound service road of SH 121.

Democratic candidate Chris Bell has vowed to fight the Trans Texas Corridor, a Perry-backed plan to create a Texas super highway funded by tolls. Independent candidate Kinky Friedman is also opposed to the construction of new toll roads.

The North Texas Tollway Authority will begin tolling SH 121 drivers on Friday, September 1.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

new orleans: one year later

This morning at 9:38 a.m., Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans, Louisiana rang bells to signify the anniversary of the moment the first levee broke during the disastrous run of Hurricane Katrina exactly one year ago. According to Wikipedia, Katrina was "the costliest and one of the deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States." Today, the nation looks back to the catastrophe that happened one year ago and how we dealt with it and are still dealing with it today.

Politicians across the nation continue to lambast the slow pace at which the government has intervened in the situation. Senator Hillary Clinton, D-New York, said today that she was ready to see the government "step up and do a better job."
A year later, the results are still unacceptable. Contracts for rebuilding are going out to big corporations with ties to the administration while the people who live in the Gulf Coast are being shut out of opportunities. We saw people evicted from hotels and clamoring for housing while 10,000 trailers sat unused at an Arkansas airport. FEMA has already wasted $1.4 billion, with much of the money it spends still not getting to those who need it most.
Senator Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., has called Katrina "a national disgrace" and recommends that the White House take the following actions: "rebuild the levees to withstand another Katrina, focus on rebuilding schools and colleges, and extend unemployment benefits to displaced Gulf Coast workers."
The people of the Gulf deserve a response from their government that's as good as the American people. Instead the White House "recovery plan" starts and stops with public relations. In the meantime, the Gulf Coast sits vulnerable -- almost defenseless against the next storm -- with schools in desperate need of repair and displaced workers in need of help. has launched a new book called It Takes a Nation: How Strangers Became Family with a forward by Senator Barack Obama, D-Ill. The book showcases families that were forced to evacuate from the Gulf Coast in the devasating wake of Katrina. Every cent of the profits will be donated to ACORN to help "protect evacuees' rights and rebuild New Orleans right." You can find out more and purchase the book here.

Fortunately, parts of New Orleans were spared and have become fully functional over the past year, CNN reports. Many places are open for business or plan to resume regular schedules before the year is out.
"We are a tale of two cities," said Mary Beth Romig, spokeswoman for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We have a long way to go in those residential neighborhoods."

However, much of uptown, downtown, the French Quarter, and the business, Garden and Warehouse districts -- all areas that draw out-of-towners -- was "spared from the flooding and they're all thriving now," Romig said.
Even the once-ravaged Louisiana Superdome advertises its September 25 reopening, just in time for the Saints' first home game -- an NFL Monday-nighter against the Atlanta Falcons.
Other areas were not so lucky. Many places sit in ruins. On a tour today with a group of House Democrats, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, said that "it's hard to believe this is the United States." President Bush is also expected to tour the area this week; he is expected to arrive in New Orleans later this evening.

Even if you have already donated money, food, or volunteered your time in the effort, please continue to do what you can to help rebuild and recover in New Orleans and other areas on the Gulf Coast. Buy the book from, donate to UNICEF or Oxfam America, and let your elected officials know that it's time to step up, even if it is a year too late.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Waterboy

The following letter to the editor was printed in the Denton Record-Chronicle on August 19, 2006 [reprinted with permission of the author].

If Congressman Burgess as­pires to an acting career, as William Trantham quips (DR-C, Letters, Aug. 10), instead of auditioning for Slackers, Part II, he might consider a staring role in a sequel to The Waterboy.

This seems more consistent with his present experience — carrying water for the Bush ad­ministration and kindred special interests.

Such adulation is evident in his facile correspondence to middle- and working-class constituents who offer citizen input.

This correspondence generally starts with the most generic and embarrassingly simple recapitulation of the issue about which the constituent has written and concludes with a summary of and enthusiastic praise for the Bush administration’s position on the issue.

Oddly, while Michael Burgess may spend little time thinking about the average citizen’s views, he always notes that he is grateful that we have shared our thoughts with him.

I guess it’s just nice to know what the “rabble” thinks. I wonder if his more generous, special-interest contributors (the minority who provide disproportionate financial power to his campaign) get comparable treatment.

While I can’t suggest a single reason that Mr. Trantham may want to vote for the incumbent, I believe his Democratic challenger, Tim Barnwell, is an extremely capable and diligent opponent.

What’s more, he is likely less beholden to special interests and more able to truly represent the people of District 26.

Although Mr. Trantham and I differ about movie casting for Congressman Burgess, we seem to share the hope that he will find more suitable work in the not-too-distant future.

Arnold Collins,

Let's help Burgess find his true calling. Click here to vote for Tim Barnwell in the Progressive Patriots Fund. (He'll get a $5000 campaign contribution if he earns the most votes in this poll.) It's the last day to vote and he needs your support. Get used to putting a check by Tim's name. It'll be good practice for this fall.

[Disclaimer: I volunteer for the Barnwell campaign. Join me.]

Monday, August 21, 2006

Join the Fight Against the Fast Tracking of Coal Burning Power Plants

Several weeks ago Mayor Laura Miller of Dallas called on cities across the metroplex to join her in opposing Gov. Perry's fast tracking of seventeen new coal burning power plants. In today’s Dallas Morning News Mayor Miller and the TXU CEO make their cases. So far, fifteen Metroplex communities have joined Mayor Miller’s efforts.
Arlington, Cedar Hill, Coppell, Dallas, DeSoto, Duncanville, Fort Worth, Frisco, Houston, Irving, Lancaster, McKinney, Plano, Rockwall, Wylie

The list includes nearly every major North Texas community except areas north of Dallas: Flower Mound, Denton, and Lewisville.

The Flower Mound Town Council meets tonight (8/21). Residents can submit a written comment asking their elected officials to join with Laura Miller and the communities fighting for cleaner air. If you can’t do it today, go to and click the Agenda Item Comments on the left hand side and enter "public comment."

Friday, August 18, 2006

events tomorrow in denton & collin counties

Tomorrow (Saturday, August 19) will see a full day of Democratic events in both Collin and Denton counties. Please consider attending these exciting events to support your local candidates in North Texas.

The Highland Village Balloon Fest will continue tomorrow at Copperas Branch Park. Highland Village is located off of I-35 E near Lake Lewisville. This weekend marks the event's twentieth anniversary. After you check out the hot air balloons and other activities, make sure to head over to the booth hosted by the Denton County Democratic Party to meet several local candidates, including Tim Barnwell, Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives from the 26th District.

At 7pm, join Democratic candidate for Collin County Commissioner in Precinct 2, Bill Baumbach, for Burgers with Bill. The event will take place at Fuddruckers in Plano (located at 2205 N. Central Expressway, Ste. 100). Kids are welcome and vegetarian options will be available. Event coordinators suggest a $25 donation to the Baumbach campaign.

Also at 7pm, the Amy Manuel campaign will host a house party in Lewisville. Join the candidate and her friends and supporters for wine, cheese, and other refreshments. Event coordinators suggest a donation of $10 or more. Please contact John McClelland for more information, including directions. Help Amy Manuel get elected as the next Denton County Commissioner in Precinct 2!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

progressive patriots: vote for barnwell

Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) has chosen several congressional candidates from key races across the country for inclusion in his Progressive Patriots Fund. The candidate with the most votes by August 23 will receive a $5,000 contribution from the fund.

This poll gives us an opportunity to support a Democrat from North Texas who is running for Congress this November. Tim Barnwell is running against Rep. Michael Burgess, a Flower Mound Republican, in the 26th Congressional District. Of the twelve candidates, he's the only one from Texas. We encourage you to cast a vote for Barnwell and demand change here in North Texas. The generous donation from the Progressive Patriots Fund would be an important and vital contribution to the Barnwell campaign.

Click here to vote for Tim Barnwell in the Progressive Patriots Fund!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Billboards in Texas Support School Vouchers

James Leininger's political PAC is putting up billboards across Texas asking parents to support school vouchers.
On Monday, the Texans for School Choice political action committee launched a campaign of billboards and radio ads in Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston to target low-income, inner-city parents. The ads, which are in Spanish and English, carry the message "Give parents a choice. Give children a chance."
Jobsanger weighs in.
School vouchers are a bad idea, and will contribute to the worsening of our public schools. It has always been a point of pride in this country, that every student is entitled to a free public school education. How will we fulfill this obligation after vouchers destroy our public schools? Our public schools do have some problems, but it makes a lot more sense to fix our public schools instead of destroying them.
We've posted before on Leininger's Edgewood myth. The Jobsanger post lists five good reasons why school vouchers are a very bad idea.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Denton County Teacher Back-to-School Celebration

Join John McLeod, Democratic candidate for State Representative in District 64, as he celebrates with some of the hardest working men and women in the county, our teachers.
You may have noticed stores and businesses busier than normal and restaurant waiting times increasing, helping to remind us all that it's back to school time again. For the last few months the media and our conversations have been filled with discussion of our struggling Texas schools as the Legislature, once again, failed to increase school funding by even $1. However, what often gets overlooked is that despite the many failings of our representatives, we are blessed with some of the best educators anywhere. These hardworking men and women continue year in and year out to overcome substantial obstacles to teach our children in difficult circumstances. To thank them for all their sacrifices and hard work, we are hosting a special event. We will be providing fun, food and fabulous door prizes thanks to the generosity of many local businesses that care about our teachers.
What: Denton County Teacher Back-to-School Celebration
When: Wednesday, August 16th from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.
Where: Downtowner, 725 N. Elm St., Denton

If you would like to volunteer, donate food, gifts or gift certificates, or make a donation to this event, please email

Highland Village Balloon Fest

Join congressional candidate Tim Barnwell and your fellow Democrats this weekend at the Highland Village Balloon Fest.

The festival, in its twentieth year, is sponsored by the Lion's Club and features a Friday night balloon glow, balloon launches and competitions, arts and crafts, raffles, sky divers and more. So bring the family, and be sure to check out the Denton County Democratic Party booth for information on your local candidates.

When: August 18 & 19, 2006
Where: Copperas Branch Park - Highland Village

There is still time to volunteer, and we'll make sure you have plenty of time to check out the balloons and events. See you there!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Global Warming's Political Spin

In the September issue of The Atlantic, Greg Easterbrook, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institute, offers some thoughts on the prevailing debate on global warming (subscription required).

Easterbrook chastises Democrats and Republicans alike for inaction in the political arena, citing the gloom and doom of Al Gore's apocalyptic vision and the disingenuous arguments of Republicans who suggest that restrictions on greenhouse gases would cripple our economy. To prove his case, Easterbrook points to the successes of recent years in battling major problems in air pollution.

Since 1970, smog-forming air pollution has declined by a third to a half. Emissions of CFCs have been nearly eliminated and studies suggest that ozone-layer replenishment is beginning. Acid rain, meanwhile, has declined by a third since 1990, while Appalachian forest health has improved sharply......

One might expect Democrats to trumpet the decline of air pollution, which stands as one of government's leading postwar achievements. But just as Republicans have found they can bash Democrats by falsely accusing them of being soft on defense, Democrats have found they can bash Republicans by falsely accusing them of destroying the environment. If that's your argument, you might skip over the evidence that many environmental trends are positive. One might also expect Republicans to trumpet the reduction of air pollution, since it signifies responsible behavior by industry. But to acknowledge that air pollution has declined would require Republicans to say the words, "The regulations worked."

Last year's monster storms and this year's record-breaking drought have settled the debate. Global warming is now accepted as fact by most Americans. But compared with our foreign counterparts, Americans take the issue less seriously. Perhaps they are waiting to take their cue from our political leaders. As Easterbrook notes, "It only remains for the right politician to recast the challenge in practical, optimistic tones."

Recently, a disparate group of politicians is attempting to do just that.

This month, former president Bill Clinton launched an effort with 22 of the world's largest cities to cut their emissions, while Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican, and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain said they would explore trading carbon dioxide pollution credits across the Atlantic.

And in his recent press release, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell expanded his "Healthy Texas" environmental plan to include the following:

State regulation limiting the emissions of carbon dioxide, the number one cause of global warming. The goal of these new rules will be to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 80%.

Give the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) the authority to require power companies to consider coal gasification (IGCC) as an alternative technology to the pulverized coal burning plants that threaten our air and our climate.

Give the TCEQ the authority to require that applicant for new air permits show that their newly permitted facilities will not negatively impact the ability of Houston and Dallas/Ft. Worth to meet the federal clean air requirements by the 2010 deadline.

Institute state requirements and incentive programs for commercial builders in Texas to use building materials and techniques that reduce the radiant heating of our urban areas.

To view the complete plan:

Whether Texans are ready for this issue in the political debate, and whether the Bell campaign can strike the right balance between alarm and optimism, have yet to be determined.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Candidate Profile: John McLeod

If John McLeod is elected to the Texas Legislature this fall, he will be among the youngest politicians in the statehouse. But don’t let his age fool you. McLeod’s interest in politics goes back to childhood, and he has volunteered on a variety of campaigns. These early experiences naturally led him to study government while at the University of Texas at Austin.

McLeod is running in the 64th District, which includes most of the city of Denton, Lake Dallas, Corinth, and The Colony. The seat is currently held by Republican Myra Crownover.

A fellow candidate describes him as “a true gentleman, in the old-fashioned sense of the word.” Talk to John, and on everything from his political priorities to even the way he criticizes his opponent reflects a certain decency. Of his opponent, Myra Crownover, he says, “Give her credit. She took over her seat under difficult circumstances, after the death of her husband. But her heart isn’t in it, and it shows.” In fact, the latest reports show McLeod’s fundraising efforts outraising Crownover by a two-to-one margin.

John’s wife, Carabeth, is a middle school teacher, and education reform is among his highest priorities. Despite the money and energy spent in recent special sessions, he doesn’t feel Texas has solved its educational crisis. Asked specifically what needs to be done, he states that funding is still an issue, and that we are still not allocating enough dollars to education to provide a first rate system. “Texas needs to adequately fund education, not just pretend to. I’m sick and tired of being first in all the wrong measures, and fiftieth in everything that counts.” A good education shouldn’t be “reserved for someone whose parents are crafty enough to figure out how to send them to private school.” Among his educational priorities, he sees a need to radically improve technology, upgrade textbooks, and increase teacher salaries to keep our school systems competitive.

Asked about the funding crisis for Texas parks, he replies, “This is an issue that resonates with everyone whenever it comes up. There is widespread support for increased funding.” He supports legislation to raise the cap on the amount of money directed to parks from the sporting goods tax.

Discussing one of his reasons for running for public office, he talks about the need for comprehensive campaign finance reform to stop lobbyists from picking the pocket of Texas tax payers. “We’ve created a system of government that is ‘pay to play’.” McLeod doesn’t feel public service should be about making money for himself or lobbyists. One of his heroes is Henry B. Gonzalez, the first Hispanic representative to Congress from Texas. “Henry left office poorer than he came in. That’s public service.”

Thursday, August 10, 2006

local candidates interviewed: manuel & barnwell

Check out's interview with Amy Manuel, candidate for Denton County Commissioner, Precinct 2.
I have been a Democrat all of my life. My father was a precinct captain for President Johnson and my mother still refers to herself as a “yellow dog”. I am also distantly related to former DNC Chair Robert Strauss.

My religion plays a major role in political beliefs as well. I was raised a Reformed Jew in Southeast Texas. Reformed Jews tend to be liberal. We are encouraged from a very young age use logic and reason to understand what we believe and not just accept on faith. Jews also have an obligation to tikkun olam, which means to mend, heal and repair the world. This obligation implies an obligation to the environment, as well as, an obligation to care for and help those who are less fortunate. My religion is also grounded in science and education. I have always felt that the Democratic Party has a greater dedication to the environment, science, education and to helping the less fortunate than other political parties.
Also, Democratic candidate for U.S. House of Representatives in the 26th District, Tim Barnwell, was recently interviewed for Burnt Orange Report by John McClelland.
....We have a Congress that has abandoned the will of the American people, and has not faithfully discharged the duties assigned to them under the Constitution of the United States. Lobbyists now write legislation. Too much money changes hands. People come out of Congress much richer than they went in.

The incumbent Congressman in our district, is a perfect example of this: He owns stock in a petroleum company, took over $60,000 in their campaign contributions, and then voted for an enormous corporate welfare package to the industry even as they made record profits, charging us all $3 per gallon at the pump. A recent check shows my opponent owns stock in 4 major pharmaceutical companies, and voted for the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage plan that forbids the government from negotiating prices with the drug companies. He should have recused himself.

Finally, I remember visiting the monuments and memorials when my son Josh and I went to Washington D.C. a couple of years ago. In a quiet, unassuming spot lay a simple well-worn stone laid in honor to the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Upon this stone are written these words from the final paragraph: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." This really stuck with me……and I’ve decided to pledge my life, fortune and honor in serving the people of the 26th District.
To help these great North Texas candidates, visit their websites, contribute what you can, and contact their volunteer coordinators for more information on how to get involved with the campaign. Tim Barnwell and Amy Manuel would appreciate your support.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Poverty: Making Woes Worse

In a commentary this weekend in the Weekly Review section of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Michael Smith responds to Richard Wexler's editorial, "Paying the price of panic in Texas foster care." Mr. Wexler is a former reporter who covered many cases of child abuse during his career and now advocates for foster children through the National Coalition for Child Protective Reform. Among Wexler's arguments:
We argued that Texas was in the midst of a foster-care panic -- a sudden spike in removals of children from their homes in response to highly publicized deaths of children "known to the system." We argued that many of those children were taken from parents who were neither brutally abusive nor hopelessly addicted. Instead, their poverty had been confused with "neglect." Worst of all, we said, all those children needlessly removed from their homes would distract caseworkers from finding children in real danger.
In his response, Smith points out that separating poverty from its causes and effects is not always easy.
I work in a public agency -- not CPS -- providing infant mental health services to children and families, including many who are involved with CPS. I see young children still living with their family of origin as well as children who have been removed because of allegations of abuse and neglect.

In my experience, CPS is, if anything, slow rather than quick to remove children....

If this family can receive and benefit from the support that it needs to properly nurture and raise the children, keeping it together is the right thing to do. However, we all need to realize how complex and challenging it is to help a family in which poverty, mental illness, trauma, low education and skills, and substance abuse are present in some degree.....

Poverty does not cause child abuse and neglect. All of us have heard of very poor families that were still strong and resilient and produced happy, healthy children.

But other families are not so fortunate. Poverty is a "risk factor" for many problems. It increases the family's vulnerability to other stresses and challenges. The family may be at greater risk for having problems with mental health, physical health, and child abuse and neglect.

No one familiar with the foster care system would argue that there are not areas in serious need of improvement, but Wexler oversimplifies both the problems and the solutions. For example, he tends to portray any parent who doesn't physically abuse a child as unjustly accused. In the real world, a child who is chronically neglected and fails to build an emotional bond with a parent is as much at risk as a child whose parent loses control on occasion and physically abuses him. The latter might suffer bruises or worse, but the former may fail to develop a conscience.

Mr. Wexler often cites the Illinois child welfare system as a model for reform. But knowing the level of intervention required to keep families functioning, how close can Texas come to replicating the Illinois model? CPS alone cannot provide every service required by a family. That requires an adequately funded, integrated system of social services, focusing on the big three: addiction, mental illness, and mental retardation. Perhaps it isn't a coincidence that Illinois is a Democratically-controlled state. In Texas, where cutting taxes is the mantra of every political campaign, it is hard to imagine a public willing to fund the programs necessary to reduce risk for society's most vulnerable families.

Michael Smith acknolwedges as much in his editorial.

What will we do with these families?

They don't all fit our ideal picture of personal responsibility. Some of them have faced obstacles and traumas that would break any of us down -- were we in their shoes, we might be just as impaired. But when we see them accused of hurting children, it is hard to be empathetic. We could blame them and throw them away, but if we do, we had better be prepared. When their children grow up, they will place increased demands on the courts, jails, mental health systems and child protective systems.

On the other hand, we could make a meaningful commitment to provide real treatment to families, and in those cases when it is too late to heal the family, remove the children and give them a better chance at a future.

This option also carries high costs. Like all public agencies in Texas, CPS is spread very thin -- even with the changes that have been made in the past year. Intervening with families requires a great deal of time and skill, from CPS and from therapists and social workers.

So no matter which way we react, there will be a cost. I hope we will think carefully about the outcomes of our choices.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

sore loserman and crazy cynthia

With nearly all precincts reporting and with Ned Lamont the apparent victor with nearly 52% of the vote, Senator Joe Lieberman conceded the Democratic primary race in Connecticut. Shunned by his Democratic constituents, he has vowed to make a run for his old Senate seat as an independent candidate. Lamont had accused Lieberman of being too close to the Republicans and cited his outspoken views in favor of the Iraq war. In the final throes of the primary battle, Lieberman's campaign site imploded. The campaign blamed Lamont supporters. Burnt Orange Report is drawing comparisons between Lieberman's independent bid and Carole Keeton Strayhorn's independent campaign in the gubernatorial race here in Texas.

Down in Georgia, it appears that Rep. Cynthia McKinney, "Bush's worst enemy," lost the Democratic primary runoff by a little less than 20% of the vote and won't be returning to Washington next year. Her opponent, Hank Johnson, accused McKinney of being an embarrassment to Georgia's 4th District and encouraged voters to pick a more moderate candidate. In March, McKinney had a scuffle with U.S. Capitol security when she wasn't wearing a pin that signified her as a congresswoman and the officer refused to let her enter the building. She cited racism, but the officer claimed not to recognize her. McKinney blamed losing the original primary on Republicans turning out to vote for Johnson. After briefly being unseated in 2002, she gave the same reason. Johnson's catch-phrase was "Anybody But Cynthia," and he promises to be a less divisive congressional figure. His detractors call him a Republican-funded Democrat. MSNBC analysis says that in the heavily-Democratic 4th District, the victorious Johnson is likely to win the seat in November.

help raise $3000 for the texroots trio

The Texas Progressive Alliance, a bloggers' caucus that NTL is proud to be a member of, has begun fundraising for Texas candidates through the TexRoots ActBlue page. TexRoots is a Texas-based version of the NetRoots campaign sponosred by DailyKos.

TexRoots is an effort by Texas bloggers to promote blogger-endorsed candidates. The Alliance has already raised $5000 just to activate ActBlue in Texas. ActBlue is a critical campaign tool for Democrats hoping to be elected across the state. We are excited about this launch and eager to prove what a real and powerful fundraising tool blogs can be.

Our first endorsed candidates are Shane Sklar, candidate for U.S. House in the 16th District; Juan Garcia, candidate for Texas House in the 32nd District; and Hank Gilbert, statewide candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture. After the Alliance has raised $3000 for these candidates, we will move on to another set of candidates and continue this process until election day. To donate and help reach the goal, please click here. To donate at a later date, please note the image on the sidebar to the right. If you click that image, it will take you to the donation page at ActBlue.

For more information about the TexRoots campaign, please contact

Sunday, August 06, 2006

How can we fix this party?

Following is a letter I recently sent to the Texas State Democratic Party. I was disgusted about the particular issue of the credit card and the whole industry, but that only sparked my frustration with the whole lot of 'em - county, state, and national. No financial or press support for good candidates such as Radnofsky, whose numbers are better than Bell's? Howard Dean kissing Pat Robertson's ass? Hillary Clinton and flag burning bills? Spurning Feingold and Murtha for actually having some integrity? Disorganization, mixed messages, lies, corporate complicity. Believe me, I hate hearing from the mealy-mouthed moderates that they "...don't like what the Republicans are doing but there are no options..." I will still vote for the obvious lesser of two evils, but I sure as hell wish they'd stop giving the voters rightful pause before they check that "D" box.

Stop overcomplicating it. We're the party of reason. We're the party of the people. Yes, the issues are complex, but trying to woo the wingnuts gets us nothing but disrespect. Withholding criticism of the polluted, corrupt industries destroying the middle class and the whole concept of democracy defeats our entire platform. Republicrats' voting records speak for themselves. I know, we need the money to win. Then we owe the favors. Big vicious cycle. God forbid any Democrats actually grow a pair and push the agenda for a better way. Yep, that's scary. That's hard. Change is hard, you bet. But if we're not the party of change, what are we? Just do it already. Start fighting and we might be surprised at the masses aching to fight with us.

Check out the customer reviews of Juniper, the bank for the Democratic Credit Card. This says it all.
Dear Texas State Democratic Party,

I am a Texas liberal who despises the corrupt Republicans in charge of our state and our nation. I desperately want them gone. I have been working hard volunteering, canvassing, calling, emailing, etc. for local and state Democratic candidates for the last three years. I would love to see the Democratic Party get its act together, but I'm afraid the outlook isn't good. Disorganization and hypocrisy continue to plague the party. Most candidates will get my votes this November, but you will not get a dime from me; a serious loss because I have the money to give and the passion for change.

I do owe thanks to the party for the good laugh this morning when I was denied the Democratic Party credit card. I'm debt-free, with the exception of a mortgage, have a high FICO score, and I save over half of my better-than-modest annual income. My credit history is unblemished. I'm not playing by the big money rules, though. I don't have revolving balances and was therefore denied the opportunity to contribute to the party that supposedly opposes the assault on the middle class. I thought I'd make an exception to my disdain for the credit card industry (I do have a card which I pay off every month) and help out, but your issuing bank wouldn't let me. Hilarious. I don't need the card and I've lost nothing without it; I just thought it would be a good way to help. You won't take money from an affluent, responsible consumer, but I'm sure you have plenty of contributors with the card who are carrying balances at usurious rates while struggling to pay for their children's healthcare, education, etc. You've certainly earned the title Republicrat.

You can all give yourselves a big pat on the back for contributing to the fascists encouraging and rewarding debt among the huddled masses while gorging themselves on the profits. You will probably argue that the bank makes the decisions based on their criteria, etc. and that you cannot control their decisions. No, you can't, but it doesn't matter. You're part of the problem. If you want to encourage a healthy, fair economic system wherein the middle and lower classes are provided equal opportunity for success and financial stability, you'll stop indulging the corporate pirates by joining their manipulation. There is a systemic problem of rewarding debt and punishing financial independence among the citizens and you are encouraging it. You were supposed to part of the solution, but you've finally convinced me to give up on you and look elsewhere. Congratulations.

Friday, August 04, 2006

redistricting drama: is it over?

Texas courts have decided to be good to Texas Democrats... twice in a row! The blogosphere has been abuzz discussing the decision that determined that Tom DeLay must either stay on the November ballot or not be replaced with another Republican.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has declined to allow the Republican Party of Texas to replace former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on the November Ballot.

The Court upheld a ruling by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, who said in July that DeLay’s name had to stay on the ballot even though he resigned and claimed to have moved to Virginia.
Today, the buzz has grown even louder as the courts have released a map the redrawn districts. Vince from Capitol Annex, who has been following the redistricting drama closely, discusses the freshly-drawn districts and offers this interesting speculation about John Courage and other candidates:
The biggest question that remains unanswered is what Congressional Candidate John Courage will do. Courage is one of the Democratic party’s stars among Texas congressional—on a national and local level—gaining recognition from groups like Democracy for America and Governor Mark Warner’s political action committee. Courage, who is running against Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio) in the old 21, saw key Travis County territory—Democratic precincts—slip away in the court’s new remap. It seems most likely, however, that if Courage continues his race (when remedy maps first started being examined, he indicated he would) it would be in CD 21.

The other affected districts, CD 15 and CD 25, will likely not change hands from their current Congressmen: Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) for CD 25 and Ruben Hinojosa (D-Mercedes) for CD 15.
KT from BOR has more analysis of the new maps (and what they mean for Texas Democrats) over at DailyKos.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Our Natural Heritage at Risk in North Texas

The fate of the Texas state park system is now firmly entrenched as an issue in the gubernatorial race this fall. Democratic candidate Chris Bell is making it a centerpiece in his campaign, along with education. The issue cuts across party and demographic lines, and judging by the editorial pages of local newspapers, the outrage is palpable. So what now?

First, don't assume that just because the issue is generating so much negative publicity for Governor Perry that the idea of selling public land is off the table. At the local, state and national level, the battle continues.

Here are some of the public lands most at risk in North Texas and what you can do.

Eagle Mountain Lake
As FWST columnist Jack Smith reports, there is good news and bad news on the effort to stop the sale of this land.

After a potent public outcry, it appears likely that a public park will be established on at least part of a 400-acre site bordering Eagle Mountain Lake in northwest Tarrant County.

But it would be a shame if the entire 400 acres were not turned into a park. That's what the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) intended when it bought the land in the early 1980s.

But the state has other ideas.

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, in a telephone talk Wednesday, said he feels the best outcome would be to turn part of the 400 acres into a local park and part into a "very low-density, high-dollar" residential development. The portion sold for development presumably would fetch more money than if it were sold for parkland.

Patterson said money from the sale could be used by TPWD to help buy acreage for a much larger state park of perhaps several thousand acres located within a 90-minute drive of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. TPWD officials have, for example, eyed a site in Palo Pinto County.

Patterson isn't saying how much land will be set aside. Write Perry and Patterson and let them know what you think of their plan. The advocacy group, Save Eagle Mountain Lake has all the info you'll need to fire off those letters.

Fort Worth Prairie Park
Another local treasure at risk of the developer's bulldozer is a lesser publicized piece of land known as the Fort Worth Prairie Park.

The State of Texas’ Permanent School Fund is trying to quietly sell off development rights to nearly 2,000 acres of Texas public land in southwest Fort Worth that has enormous ecological, multicultural, educational, and historical values, including for Native Americans and African-Americans, as well as being one of the best remaining examples of virgin Fort Worth Prairie. Citizen and advocacy groups are clamoring to protect this 1,983 acre jewel as the cornerstone of the new Fort Worth Prairie Park Initiative, which is being spear-headed by the Great Plains Restoration Council on behalf of protecting the endangered tallgrass/mixed grass Fort Worth Prairie for future generations and struggling native wildlife.....

The State of Texas, working with a private developer, wants to bulldoze the prairie at 10700 Old Granbury Rd to “maximize income.” Due to the topography, and the huge cost of bringing a sewer to the property, they’d have to cut it into thousands of 50 foot lots to make a profit. This pristine prairie is also the last unspoiled land before the watershed empties into Benbrook Lake, a major source of Fort Worth drinking water.

If you want to help preserve this amazing piece of history, sign the petition.

Caddo-LBJ Grasslands
The National Wildlife Federation tells us that as much as 800,000 acres of public land will be up for auction in President's Bush 2007 budget. The Texas tally is listed here. To stop this outrage, click here.

Among the possible treasures up for grabs are the lesser-known Caddo and LBJ Grasslands. You can view a map of the LBJ Grasslands, named for a president who knew the true worth of America's natural resources could never be measured by the sum on a developer's check.

It's hundreds of cattle ponds create habitat for an amazing diversity of flora and fauna. Among the varmints of special interest to outdoor enthusiasts are ducks, butterflies, reptiles and amphibians, including, yep, the Texas Toad. (Do you think this picture makes me look fat?)

If you know of other areas in North Texas at risk, leave a comment and a link, if you've got one.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

anti-semitism: from seattle to malibu

Yesterday, Academy Award winner Mel Gibson went to rehab after his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. The police report indicates that during his arrest, Gibson launched into a "profanity-laced tirade" against Jews. He also claimed to own Malibu and shot a sexist remark at a female officer.

As star blogger Arianna Huffington suggests, "the Gibson Affair" was a defining moment for Hollywood. One might expect a tidal wave of press releases condemning Gibson's remarks from the Hollywood elite, but no such thing has happened yet. Huffington encourages other actors and movie execs to ostracize Gibson and separate the extremists like Gibson from the rational thinkers.

This incident comes after Friday's hate crime in Seattle, where one woman was killed and five others were critically injured. All of the victims were Jewish.

Police said the gunman had been arrested without a struggle inside the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, where the shooting took place, and was being questioned by police.

The gunman is a U.S. citizen, and police said initial contacts with him by phone while he was inside the building indicated that he was a Muslim.

Amy Wasser-Simpson, the federation's vice president, told the Seattle Times in a story on its Web site that the man got past security at the building and shouted, "I'm a Muslim American; I'm angry at Israel," before he began shooting.

Since the attack, authorities are precariously monitoring Jewish organizations and synagogues in Seattle. The Reuters article also indicates that extra precautions are being taken at mosques in case of a retaliatory attack.

As the Israel announces plans to expand the ground war in Lebanon as long as a rocket threat to northern Israel is present, global critics have voiced their concern about the fragile situation in the Middle East. Many have called for a ceasefire, including Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican. The European Union is also expected to order a ceasefire, with the possibility of sending troops to the region to encourage peace. Others, including President Bush, support Israel's right to self-defense but warn that Israel should take care not to harm Lebanon's fledgling democracy.

In a joint statement, key House Democrats Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland condemned Hezbollah and urged the return of the kidnapped soldiers. The statement went on to recommend that the Palestinian Authority take similar action in Gaza.
Those who finance, direct, or otherwise support acts like these need to understand that they have produced an extremely dangerous situation and that they are responsible for the consequences. Israel has an inherent right to defend itself, and the United States supports our ally.
Unfortunately for Israel, the world judges its actions harshly. Vocal critics point to the contrast between the number of Lebanese dead and the number of Israeli dead. "The Bunker Blog," a highly-acclaimed diary of events from an Israeli perspective, informs us that this difference in numbers is because of Hezbollah's determination to use Lebanese civilians first as shields and then as propaganda, and documents these comments by a Shia Muslim from Lebanon:
After Israel left Lebanon, it did not take long for Hezbollah to have its say in other towns. Received as successful resistance fighters and armed to the teeth, they stored rockets in bunkers in our town as well. The social work of the Party of God consisted in building a school and a residence over these bunkers! A local sheikh explained to me laughing that the Jews would lose in any event because the rockets would either be fired at them or if they attacked the rockets depots, they would be condemned by world opinion on account of the dead civilians.
There is no doubt that Muslim extremists in Gaza and Lebanon are anti-Semitic. There is no doubt that Americans citizens that perpetrate hate crimes against Jews, such as the attack in Seattle, are anti-Semitic. Now it seems that even Mel Gibson, once accused of anti-Semitism because of his religious affiliation and his film The Passion of the Christ that purportedly portrayed Jews in a negative light, is indeed anti-Semitic. As the old adage goes: in vino, veritas.

I second Arianna Huffington's call for a separation between rational people and extremists. As shown in Seattle, extremism is also a domestic issue. Even in America, there are people with the despicable worldview of a terrorist in the Middle East. We must work to distance ourselves from extremism, lest we lend credence to anti-Semitic opinion at home and abroad.

Reading the horror stories of the survivors of the Qana bombing, any rational person's instinct is to criticize the tactics Israel is using to take on Hezbollah. Then a thought arises: will this criticism come across as part and parcel of the anti-Semitic worldview of the Gibson crowd?

Which is yet another reason Gibson needs to be ostracized: his lunatic ravings make it all-the-harder for legitimate criticisms of Israel's methods to be expressed and to be heard with uncluttered ears.

Legitimate criticism is healthy and warranted. Unhealthy and unwarranted are comparisons of Israel's self-defense tactics to the oppression of Nazi Germany, as proclaimed recently by protestors in Los Angeles and London. Anti-Semitic tirades by Hollywood stars are inappropriate and revealing of character. Obviously, hate crimes against any particular group are tragic and should not go unpunished. But what do this weekend's events say about the state of things? Anti-Semitism, quickly becoming a real problem again in Europe, is making a repeat performance stateside and the events unfolding currently in the Middle East are only adding fuel to the fire. Where are all of the rational thinkers?