Saturday, September 30, 2006

congress repeals wright amendment

An effort spearheaded by Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, both Republicans, has finally come to fruition: both houses of Congress have passed legislation that would phase out flight restrictions at Dallas Love Field. President Bush will presumably sign the bill into law next week.

"It's a great relief to have a final solution," said Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, whose district includes Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. "The fact that none of the parties are completely happy and all of the parties are relieved to have it over should be a sign that it's a good agreement."

The congressional legislation comes after an intensely-negotiated agreement between the mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth concerning the repeal back in June. This plan will be implemented under the new legislation by 2014.

The Dallas Morning News notes that this issue split legislators unusually: they were not divided by party lines or by geography.

Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the judiciary committee, argued against a frequent ally, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, whose district includes Love Field.

Mr. Sensenbrenner [R-Wisconsin], recalling the "Don't Mess with Texas" bumper stickers in the House garage, said, "Tonight is one of the nights where we ought to mess with Texas.

"This is the most anti-consumer, anti-free-enterprise legislation that has come before this House in a long time," he said.

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, was distributing red "Vote Yes" fliers to members on the floor; Ms. Johnson had her own yellow fliers supporting the bill.

The final tally, which came just past 10 p.m. Dallas time, was 386-22.

Again, reactions to the passage is mixed. The chief operating officer of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Kevin Cox, predicts a "calming effect" at D/FW and a possible dip in fares as American tries to match Southwest's low rates. Some travel analysts disagree.
[Terry] Trippler said consumers shouldn't expect ticket prices to go down at D/FW because Fort Worth-based American will still be able to charge a premium for nonstop flights, compared with the connecting and one-stop service that Southwest Airlines will offer from Love. American operates more than 80 percent of the passenger flights at D/FW.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has a good piece on the "winners" in the new legislation. The list includes passengers, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, and both airports in contention. Many look at the situation as a win-win. "Everyone gave up something for the common good," said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth.

Another local lawmaker summed up the debate: "This bill is important to North Texas, the air-service community at large and my constituents at Love Field, which is in the heart of my district," said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas. "I am not anti-competitive. I'm not anti-lower fares. I'd be stupid to be that. But I am pro-principle."

Friday, September 29, 2006

Democrats Challenge Voting Machine Security

The controversy over the security of electronic voting machines is once again in the spotlight as the Tarrant County Democratic Party prepares to file a federal lawsuit over the right of voters to have a verifiable paper trail in the coming fall elections. As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports:

Local party Chairman Art Brender asked Secretary of State Roger Williams several weeks ago to overrule a decision by his deputy and allow Tarrant County election officials to provide a backup paper system to its new electronic voting machines.

"I think it is essential that we provide the people of Tarrant County assurance that their vote will be counted," Brender said.

Brender said that if he does not have a response by early next week -- or if his request is rejected -- he will file a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of one or more local voters alleging that the secretary of state's office is in violation of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which he said requires that a voting system produce a "permanent paper record."

Brender said he would also seek to have the Texas voting system declared unconstitutional as a violation of the equal protection clause. In the case stemming from the 2000 presidential election, the U.S. Supreme Court found it was unconstitutional for different jurisdictions to use different methods to recount votes.

Brender said some Texas counties use paper ballots while others use electronic machines without a verifiable paper trail, making a standardized recount impossible statewide.

Residents have cause to be concerned after a preliminary count in the March primary overstated votes by 100,000 (see previous post Tarrant County: One of the Worst Places to Vote in America.)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Guantanamo Lawyer Calls Out Senator Cornyn

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 2
The Constitution of the United States
This is how Rear Admiral John Hutson, Ret. began his testimony on what's being referred to as the "torture bill."
A persuasive argument can be made that the Writ of Habeas Corpus, the Great Writ, is the single most important bulwark in protecting our rights and freedoms. It is virtually sacrosanct, and those who have suspended it have often been treated harshly by history. That is why these hearings are so important and the action Congress is being asked to take is so momentous. This is an historic moment.
Today's hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee examined the compromise provisions that suspends habeas corpus for detainees labeled "enemy combatants." The Senate Judiciary Chair, Arlen Specter (R-PA), has previously stated his objections to the suspension:
"The courts have traditionally been open to make sure that individual rights are protected, and that is fundamental," Specter said on CNN's "Late Edition. "And the Constitution says when you can suspend the writ of habeas corpus, in time of rebellion or invasion. And we don't have either. So that has to be changed, in my opinion."

But our own Senator John Cornyn shows us why he's one of Bush's favorite lapdogs.

.....the Texas Republican who was the only other member of the committee present for the unusual Monday morning hearing, defended the bill, which he said provided “an alternative source of judicial review rather than the writ of habeas corpus,’’ in the form of annual status reviews and the possibility of appeal after trials before military tribunals.

“It is important to remember — and sometimes I think some forget — these are enemies of the United States captured on the battlefield,’’ Mr. Cornyn said

Cornyn's testimony was rebutted eloquently and forcefully by turns, including Admiral Hutson's address. But my favorite, by far, was from Tom Sullivan, a partner in the law firm that has represented ten prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.

Senator Cornyn, I'd like to address a few remarks you made.

You said these are enemies of the United States captured on the battlefield. None of the 10 we represent were captured on the battlefield or are enemies of the United States.

You said no one suggested that the enemy combatants were entitled to the habeas corpus. The Supreme Court of the United States in the Rasul case two years ago held specifically that they were entitled to habeas corpus, to challenge the reason for their detention.

You said they have an administrative review following a trial on the merits. None of them got a trial on the merits....

No cross-examination was allowed. There wasn't any objection to physical evidence, because there wasn't any produced.

Now, you call that due process, Your Honor? Do you?

Well, of course he does. Senator Cornyn can call it anything he wants. He's a former Attorney General. He served on the Supreme Court of Texas, for goodness sakes! Maybe he tapped into the unitary executive theory by proxy, who knows? At any rate, in case you haven't noticed, we're in a war!

Key members of Congress are trying to enable the highest officers in the land by suspending portions of the Constitution so that the government can indefinitely detain people, and sanction a torture bill. Heaven help us.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

What Ventura's Political Tenure Says about Kinky

Kinky Friedman's campaign has announced that former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura will be campaigning for him. That's not surprising considering that Dean Barkley, Friedman's campaign manager, also ran Ventura's campaign. This latest move might be a sign, though, that the recent controversy over Friedman's controversial use of, umm, racial epithets has had an impact.

The juxtaposition of Ventura and Friedman invites further comparison. Ventura, like Friedman, was an entertainer first and ran an unconventional campaign. Ventura's famously contentious relationship with the press is presaged by Kinky's surly responses to serious questions, such as the one dubbed his worst interview ever. (And like Ventura, Friedman also offers merchandise which includes his own talking action figure, which in Jesse "The Body" Ventura's case made a little more sense.)

Ventura also ran an "insurgency campaign," captializing on the discontent of a disaffected group who saw a vote for a third party as a way to shake up politics as usual. But unlike Friedman, Jesse Ventura had legitimate experience in politics prior to running for governor, as well as the backing of the Reform Party ticket. Once in office, though, the easy answers gave way to legislative gridlock.

This article posted on Kinky's own website, acknowledges as much:
Ventura, it must be said, was less than successful once he reached office, spending much of his time on extracurricular activities and flaming out at the end of a single term. Barkley said his big mistake was to wage war on the legislature, uniting the Republicans and Democrats against him.
In a poll conducted in the spring of 2003, only 29% of voters said they would vote to re-elect Ventura. Considering he was elected initially with only 37% of the vote, that's not as big a drop as it might seem, but it certainly wasn't enough to guarantee him re-election, even in a three-way race. And that, more than any other reason he cited - the money, the press or his fondness for term limits - probably explains why he chose not to seek re-election. Now that he's out of office, Ventura has gone back to that which he does best, being a celebrity.

Kinky Friedman's campaign is not a serious bid at a third party candidacy. There is no reform platform, no serious attempt at policy at all, just a pastiche of one-liners and the occasional stab at making headlines, the more controversial the better. His contempt for the seriousness of office is on display in every interview he's ever conducted in this race. He's not a rebel, he's not a leader, he's just a comedian without the demeanor to hold such high public office. His campaign has no prayer of success except to serve as spoiler and when it's over, he'll leave nary a ripple on the political waters. It's enough to make true champions of democracy cry.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Tax Breaks and Texan Billionaires

On a campaign stop for Republican candidates in Florida, Bush trotted out the latest scare tactic from the GOP.

"If they [Democrats] get control of the House of Representatives, they'll raise your taxes," Bush told several hundred supporters at a fundraiser in Tampa. "It will hurt our economy, and that's why we're not going to let them get control."

The President's remarks were a reference to Charlie Rangel, (D-NY) who would take over the powerful House Ways and Means Committee if the Democrats gain control of Congress in November's election.
....Rangel said a top priority will be offering families relief from the alternative minimum tax. He also said he will review "tax breaks for the wealthy that no one has asked for and have driven our nation deeper into debt."
If you want any more proof of the success of the Paris Hilton tax cuts and other Bush administration policies rewarding the "have mores," consider this from Forbes magazine's new rankings of the richest Americans:
Making a billion just isn't what it used to be. In our inaugural ranking of the world’s richest people 20 years ago, we uncovered some 140 billionaires. Just three years ago we found 476. This year the list is a record 793. They’re worth a combined $2.6 trillion, up 18% since last March. Their average net worth: $3.3 billion.
It's a good time to be filthy rich. In fact, the list should be renamed "Ranking America's Billionaires. " For the first time in Forbes' history, no one who was not a billionaire made the list.

Among the Texans on the Forbes list, Texas' highest ranking billionaire was computer mogul Michael Dell of Austin at number 12. Alice Walton (see Republican Priorities - More Gifts for the Rich) was close behind at 20. Three members of the Bass family of Fort Worth made the list.

Oh, and those tax breaks the President refers to?
Virtually all of President Bush's tax cuts and credits — the lower rates, the child tax credit, the special breaks for married couples and the lower tax rates on investment income — are set to expire by 2011.
Of course, they never intended to let them expire, but making them permanent would have required a little honesty about the true costs of these measures - crushing deficits as far as the eye can see. And when our government finally acknowledges it's bankrupt, who do you think will be giving up government services? Care to put your political clout up against the Waltons?

Politically, that means that fewer and fewer tax breaks will be considered too sacred to sacrifice. It also means that tax breaks benefiting those with less political power could be at greater risk.

Scores of other expiring tax breaks for middle-class and lower-income people could face challenges as well. Among them are a tax deduction for parents who pay college tuition, a tax deduction for schoolteachers who buy classroom supplies, and tax credits for hiring workers in areas of high unemployment.

As the competition to save endangered tax breaks grows more intense, survival is likely to go to the fittest.

Are you ready for the next assault on social security?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Alice Fisher Confirmed for Assistant Attorney General"

Largely overlooked in yesterday's news cycle was a Senate confirmation hearing with important implications for the issue of torture at Guantanamo Bay. Alice Fisher first gained notice when she was appointed as Assistant Attorney General to head the Criminal Division in the Department of Justice at the height of the publicity over Jack Abramoff and Plamegate.

Fisher was nominated March 29, 2005, and her nomination was sent to the Senate April 4, 2005, but it had been blocked by Michigan Senator Carl Levin over interrogation tactics at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba naval facility. President Bush subsequently appointed her in a controversial recess appointment in August of 2005.

In a Daily Kos diary, peace voter excerpted some of Senator Levin's comments during yesterday's hearing:

"The Administration has put up barrier after barrier, hurdle after hurdle to efforts to get legitimate information that bears on Ms. Fisher's fitness to serve in this important position. Why the Administration has stonewalled for so long instead of answering questions and providing information can only be speculated by me. Is it because it is part of an effort to prevent information about interrogation tactics from being provided to Congress, or does it relate directly to Alice Fisher? I don't know the answer, but the fact of the stonewalling is undeniable. It is part of a pattern of secrecy that this administration has engaged in in so many areas and so many ways.

"The information I have sought relates to what Ms. Fisher knew about aggressive and abusive interrogation techniques in use at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during the time that Ms. Fisher served as deputy head of the Criminal Division in the Justice Department from July 2001 to July 2003. From publicly-released FBI documents, we have learned that FBI personnel raised serious concerns about these DoD interrogation tactics at weekly meetings between FBI and Department of Justice Criminal Division officials. I have sought to find out what Ms. Fisher knew about these FBI concerns over aggressive DoD methods; what, if anything, was reported to Ms. Fisher; and what steps, if any, she took in response.

"If Ms. Fisher knew of aggressive interrogation techniques at Guantanamo and did nothing about it, or she knew about them but has denied knowing, then I would be deeply troubled. The Administration has repeatedly obstructed efforts to get this information, information which is, in my judgement, relevant to Ms. Fisher's suitability for the position to which she is nominated. "

The Administration has literally and figuratively covered up the Guantanamo abuses. This refusal by the Administration to provide relevant information is part of a larger pattern by the Executive Branch of denying the Senate the information needed to carry out confirmation and oversight responsibilities. Over and over again, the Administration seems to use every means at its disposal to deny documents or information to the Senate, or to withhold key portions of documents, or to limit access to information."

So when Senator Levin, who is a 1959 graduate of Harvard Law School, repeatedly uses terms like "obstruction" and "cover-up" when referring to the administration's refusal, since May of 2005, to provide specific information requested by the Senate, do you think he's trying to tell us something?

Let's face it - if you were facing as many scandals as the Bush administration, wouldn't it feel good to have your handpicked lackey in the Justice Department serving as gatekeeper for criminal investigations? The confirmation of Alice S. Fisher represents just one more example of the politicization of the Justice Department (see previous post, "Revenge of the Nerds".) As Christy Hardin Smith of Firedoglake noted earlier this summer:

And it is high time that reporters in Washington started asking Alice Fisher what she is doing with her fingers in the Abramoff pie and all of the other inter-related lobbyist scandal and corruption issues in the Beltway.

Investigations into the corruption problem in and among lobbyists, elected representatives and Administration officials are too important to be spiked by a political ringer who has the ultimate say on charging decisions, and who has the authority to recommend promoting the best and the brightest out of the Public Corruption unit to ensure they can’t complete their investigations and have no avenue to complain about it. (And the folks who have worked federal public corruption cases can back me up on this — this is the favorite method of stripping the staffing bare, so you protect the political asses of your cronies. Sound like a tactic that an Administration you know and loathe would use?)

Fisher's nomination was approved largely along party lines. Now you can add Gitmo to the list of scandals whose details may never see the light of day.

an evening in the tropics with amy manuel

Mark your calendar! Join the Amy Manuel campaign in Carrollton on Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. for An Evening in the Tropics, featuring African and Latin food, drinks, and music.

Event coordinators suggest a $25 minimum contributon to Democrat Amy Manuel's campaign for Denton County Commissioner Precinct 2. Please RSVP as soon as possible. For more event information, please contact Donna Obenda.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tarrant County: one of the worst places to vote in America

A recent Mother Jones article lists the eleven worst places to vote in America. Guess which Texas county is number two on the list? Tarrant County! (Travis County also made number six, and Waller County number nine, tying Texas with Ohio as the worst state in which to vote.)

All of this was brought to our attention by Roger Williams, Texas Secretary of State. In his FWST letter to the editor, Mr. Williams makes the following argument:

Contrary to the perception conveyed in the Mother Jones article, technology was not responsible for the errors in the Tarrant County primary elections -- indeed, it was crucial in identifying them. As the article mentions, "Initial results in Fort Worth, Texas, showed 150,000 votes being tabulated in a county where only about 50,000 people voted." The error was caught and was corrected the next day. Tarrant County officials have been working tirelessly to ensure that a similar human error does not occur in November.

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) created a great deal of change in elections in Texas and specifically for the counties conducting them. The lesson learned in Texas is that new systems require new training. But to suggest that Texas, or the nation, should abandon electronic voting because of minor human errors defies common sense.

Mr. Williams' defense raises more questions than it answers. First, only in Halliburton's accounting department would overstating the numbers by a factor of 300% be considered a "minor" error. And if the percentage of the error had been less, would this have simply made the error less likely to be noticed? Should we be comforted by the implication in his argument that the human error occurred because of lack of training on the new system, rather than something more malicious?

The Tarrant County Democratic Party has weighed in on behalf of voters to ensure fair elections this fall.

The Tarrant County Democratic Chair, Art Brender, announced that the Tarrant County Democratic Party has asked the Secretary of State, Roger Williams, to overrule the decision by a Deputy Secretary of State which refused to approve Voter Verifiable Paper Audit system that was to be retrofit into the Hart InterCivic Voting System 6.1. That system, without the paper audit trail was used by Tarrant County voters in the Republican and Democratic Primaries this past spring. The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit ("VVPA") consists of a continuous paper roll contained in a sealed plastic container which fits into the E-Slate electronic voting computer. The device prints a paper copy of the voter's summary ballot before the voter casts his or her ballot on the E-Slate. The voter can then compare the printed ballot with the electronic ballot displayed on the computer screen before voting. Once the voter pushes the "vote" button, the paper ballot scrolls forward displaying a blank page to the next voter.

"Programming errors which necessitated a 36-hour recount of all votes cast on lection Day in the 2002 General Election and programming errors that occurred in the Democratic and Republican Primaries this past spring have created considerable distrust among Tarrant County voters of any type of electronic voting system that does not have a Voter Verifiable Paper Audit. The scanners that are used on Election Day have such an audit trail -- the ballot itself which is marked by the voter. Those Tarrant County voters who vote early, or who use the E-Slate on Election Day have no such assurances without this verifiable paper audit trail. The Hart system, including the VVPA, has been approved and past all of the federal standards. There is no reason for the State of Texas to deny the use of this Voter Verifiable Paper Audit which is in use in California, Colorado, Ohio and many other states."

Brender said he was only informed about this matter last week and there is still time to retrofit the Tarrant County machines if the Secretary of State will move promptly to overrule the decision of the Deputy Secretary of State.....

Doesn't everyone stand to gain if elections are free and fair? The real question is why this is a partisan issue at all.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

former governor ann richards dies at 73

Tonight, NTL grieves the loss of former Texas Governor Ann Richards, who was diagnosed with cancer in March. Cecile Richards announced her mother's death Wednesday at 7:50 p.m. Richards was 73.

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, the Democratic candidate running for U.S. Senate in Texas, mourned the loss of Ann Richards today. "We mourn the death of a great Texas leader, Ann Richards. She inspired the next generation. She championed vital causes and led with spirit, eloquence, humanity, wisdom and humor. May her memory be a blessing."

Richards was known for her biting wit. Of former President George H. W. Bush's verbal gaffes, she was quoted as saying, "Poor George. He can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth." She was also a strong supporter of women, especially in politics. A feminist, she once said, "Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels."

Vince Leibowitz of Capitol Annex put it this way: "For the Texas political landscape to be without Ann Richards’ presence is like a field without bluebonnets."

Rest in peace, Ann. You will be sorely missed. Because of you, Texas will never be the same. Thank you for your service to our great state.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Eagle Mountain Lake will become a public park

Tomorrow morning, Sept. 13 at 10:00 a.m., Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell will hold a press conference at Eagle Mountain Lake. Chris will be joined by fellow candidates Steve Lerma, Danny Anderson and Sheila Ford. The candidates will be highlighting the crisis over Texas state parks, but they will also be celebrating a significant victory.

After years of controversy, and enormous public pressure, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the 400-acre property at Eagle Mountain Lake will be sold to the regional water district to be used as a public parkland.

The land, which is owned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, has remained fallow for more than 25 years. The state in recent years has considered selling it to developers, who hoped to establish a high-end residential subdivision here.

But in a tentative agreement that is expected to be announced Wednesday at a news conference in Fort Worth, the Tarrant County Regional Water District, Tarrant County, the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, TXU and possibly others will partner to purchase the land, according to officials.

The details of the deal have not yet been released and may not yet be finalized.

Exactly how the deal will be structured is still being worked out, said Vic Henderson, president of the Tarrant Regional Water District board. He confimed that money from the project will come from several sources. Others said that TXU would pitch in between $850,000 and $1.5 million.
As the campaign season has progressed, the issue of funding for state parks and the sell-off of some parklands has become a major issue in this fall's elections. Governor Perry has been accused of trying to negotiate a back-door agreement to develop the Eagle Mountain Lake property, and recently, a member of his campaign steering committee resigned after failing to receive assurances that the land would be preserved in its entirety.

This decision is a victory for all those who stood firm in demanding that our government not renege on a committment, made twenty-five years ago, to develop Tarrant County's only state park. That includes candidates and politicians on both sides of the political spectrum, non-profit groups like Save Eagle Mountain Lake Inc., and the entire staff of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, who have been relentless in beating the drum for support of the state parks generally, and Eagle Mountain Lake specifically. R.A. Dyer's series of articles highlighting the parks issue deserves special mention. And to the countless private citizens who voiced their outrage at rallies, in editorials and through phone calls and faxes to government officials - well done.

The Bell press conference is at 10:00 a.m. at the Creek Harbor Fish Camp, Eagle Mountain Lake, 12792 Morris Dido Road, in Fort Worth. Come out and show your support for some great candidates and celebrate this victory for our public lands.

Monday, September 11, 2006

in memoriam: 9/11/2001

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

Today, the North Texas Liberal staff reminds you to pause and reflect on the events of September 11, 2001. Please take a moment to remember the souls lost five years ago today during those devastating terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. We also honor the brave heroes that brought down United Flight 93 in rural Pennsylvania to prevent another attack from taking place that day. We put aside partisan politics today in honor of the families that lost a loved one, anyone that lost a friend, and everyone affected by the tragic events that day. We will never forget.

Friday, September 08, 2006

More Hearings Possible for BP

BP is back in the news this week, after an executive questioned about corrosion in its Alaskan pipeline invoked the Fifth Amendment before a House subcommittee Thursday. The subcommittee is investigating whether neglect led to the leak of 200,000 gallons of crude oil last March.

BP has repeatedly made headlines for maintenance and safety issues. Last May, the company reported that the Texas City refinery emissions in 2004 tripled over the previous year, raising questions about the accuracy of its past self-reports. This month's revelation that the corrosion problems in Alaska may have been due to the company's failure to use a "pig," a basic tool to clean and detect problems in a pipeline.

The picture of BP executives, each with a lawyer in tow, parrying questions about management failure may have erased millions of dollars worth of BP advertising that had sought to craft an image of an environmentally conscious company thinking "beyond petroleum." [See previous post "BP: It's Not Easy Being Green."]

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said BP stood for "bloated profits." Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., said the company's name could stand for "broken pipelines."

[House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe] Barton leveled scorching criticism at the company, citing concerns about "BP's corporate culture of seeming indifference to safety and environmental issues." Noting that "this comes from a company that prides itself in their ads on protecting the environment," Barton said, "Shame, shame, shame."

The BP manager, Richard Woollam, who invoked the Fifth Amendment on advice of counsel in Thurday's hearings was involved in the design of BP's anti-corrosion program and served as head of the Corrosion, Inspection and Chemicals Group.
BP Alaska President Steve Marshall said that Woollam had been transferred out of Alaska after a 2004 investigation by an outside law firm cited Woollam for intimidating workers who had raised safety issues. Marshall said the Vinson & Elkins law firm "found evidence of intimidating behavior that had made some corrosion workers reluctant to raise health and safety concerns."
Although Mr. Woollam stepped down in January of 2005, his position was not filled until six months later, in July of 2005.

I can't believe they didn't know about these problems," Barton said. "I believe senior members chose to do less than needed for economic reasons."

While the prospect of additional Prudhoe Bay hearings guarantees more scrutiny for BP, Thursday's hearing focused almost entirely on Alaska. Some lawmakers mentioned in passing BP's 2005 fatal refinery accident in Texas and ongoing criminal probes into BP's energy trading operations.

BP has sought to define each of its problems as separate and consistently fought characterizations that the company suffers from systemic cultural flaws.

It's hard to believe that a company that last quarter posted profits of $7.27 billion would choose to squeeze the bottom line so hard that it would forgo the most basic maintenance on its infrastructure. The outrage against BP's record appears to be bi-partisan, but last week's hearing raised more questions than it answered. In light of Republican pressure to open ever more of our sensitive natural resources to drilling, including those offshore in the Gulf, it's past time we started holding our energy companies accountable for the damage they've done. In BP's case, more hearings are not only justified, they should be mandatory.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

commander in chief on dvd, part two

In July, we encouraged you to buy the first installment of the first season of "Commander In Chief" on DVD, reporting that the second half of the season would be available for purchase in the fall. Well, the date has arrived and "Part 2" is available wherever DVDs are sold!

Here is a quote from the previous entry about "Part 1" that is still relevant today:
It's important to support this show because not only is the acting and writing fantastic (and award-winning), this show promotes a world in which the Commander-in-Chief of the United States employs common sense, reason, and a genuine concern about the people of her country.

For now, the show has not been renewed for a second season, but a show of support via purchases of the DVD and letters sent to ABC could cause the show to be picked up as a mid-season replacement. Another network could also recognize the show's merits (and profitability, if we buy the DVDs) and order a second season to be completed on their network. Please do your part to save this worthy series!
Anyone interested in this award-winning show should take advantage of this great offer from Best Buy: the second installment is only $16.99! This is especially fantastic considering the MSRP of $29.99. If you didn't buy the first half when it came out, it is still available for purchase for the low price of $19.99 at Best Buy, Target, and other retailers.

"Commander In Chief" is a drama, originally airing on ABC, about the first female president and her struggles. The series stars Academy Award- and Golden Globe Award-winner Geena Davis, Emmy nominee and Genie Award-winner Donald Sutherland, Kyle Secor, Harry Lennix, and Ever Carradine.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

David Van Os' Whistle Stops Tour in North Texas

The David Van Os Whistle Stops tour is coming to North Texas. David Van Os, the Democratic candidate for Texas Attorney General, is going to every county courthouse in Texas to take his message directly to the people.

Big Oil and the other corporate predators had better spend every penny they can to try to beat him in his race for Texas Attorney General, because when he gets sworn in to office next January, as he tells them, "I'm coming after you." We believe they can spend billions against David and it won't be enough because the people have had enough.

David asks his fellow Texans, "Join me in my fight. Fight-em till hell freezes over! Then fight-em on the ice!".

David will be touring North Texas tomorrow, Wednesday, September 6. Come hear him speak in the following counties:

  • 8:30 AM - Rockwall County Courthouse, Rockwall

  • 10:15 AM - Collin County Courthouse, McKinney

  • 11:45 AM - Grayson County Courthouse, Sherman

  • 2:30 PM - Cooke County Courthouse, Gainesville

  • 4:15 PM - Denton County Courthouse, Denton

David Van Os, who is running for Texas Attorney General, will be speaking in Denton at the Courthouse on the Square (110 W. Hickory St). The event is part of the WhistleStop Courthouse tour that Mr. Van Os is doing around the state. For those of you who have never heard him speak before, David Van Os is good old fashioned fire breathing Populist Democrat. The event starts at 3:15 with our local candidates speaking. Mr. Van Os will start speaking at 4:15 PM and you won’t want to miss it. Later on that afternoon you will be able to meet David at Banter Coffee Shop (219 W.Oak), he will be there from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm. Then at 7:00 pm, David Van Os and his wife are inviting people to have dinner with them at IHOP in Hickory Creek (8310 W. Stemmons Frwy). It should be a fun filled day with the next Texas Attorney General. For more information contact Martha Sutton at 940-390-6245 or at martha003[at]

Saturday, September 02, 2006

TexVac Files Ethics Charges Against Rep. Toby Goodman

A Democratic group called Texas Values in Action Coalition filed a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission on Monday alleging that Rep. Toby Goodman, R-Arlington, violated the Texas Election Code by using campaign contributions to pay rent on two Central Texas properties, one in Travis and one in Williamson County.

“While most Texans are working hard to legitimately make their own house payments, Mr. Goodman seems to be living large by funneling campaign cash into his own pocket,’ said Ed Ishmael, TEXVAC co-founder. “This would not only violate the law, but campaign contributors of Mr. Goodman will be surprised to learn that their gifts are being used to personally enrich the Goodman family.”

“We should demand that our lawmakers hold faith with the trust the public has placed in them and live not only by the letter but the spirit of the law,” said Ed Ishmael. “It looks like Rep, Goodman stayed up nights figuring out how to pay for these properties using campaign contributions. Using campaign money to enrich himself and his family through real-estate purchases would not only violate the law, but would violate the trust that the people of Arlington have placed in him.”

Saying that state law allows for campaign contributions to pay rent on a spouse's separate property, Goodman's lawyer, Ed Shack, dismissed the allegations.

"I don’t think the law limits you to Travis County,” Shack said. Goodman’s actions substantially comply with the law, he said.

Rep. Goodman is running against Democratic challenger Paula Hightower-Pierson.

"Whether it is legal or illegal, it looks bad," Hightower-Pierson said when asked about the ethics complaint.

She said she had not seen the complaint.

"My campaign will not run a dirty campaign," said Hightower-Pierson, a former Arlington councilwoman. "We're taking the high road, and we will win."

To learn more about TexVac, click here.

Friday, September 01, 2006

An Interview with John McLeod

Whosplayin has another great interview up - this time with candidate for State Representative in District 64, John McLeod. Here's a sampling:

Whosplayin: You were the child of a Presbyterian minister. How does your faith guide you in your political beliefs? What do you say to those who think Republicans have the "corner on Christ?"

John McLeod: My Mother, Jobeth McLeod is a Presbyterian minister in Alpine, TX. I was actually talking to her last night and she is in the middle of planning a fundraiser and meet-and-greet for Chris Bell incidentally.

I don't think that I can separate my political beliefs and my spiritual beliefs enough to really say where one begins and the other ends. In my mind public service, servanthood, spirituality, and being a good Democrat were always the same thing. When I volunteer with a soup kitchen it's both because I believe we're are all God's children and it's my Christian duty to do so, but also because as a Democrat I believe that we have a mutual responsibility to support one another. To whom much is given, much is required. As to having a monopoly on God all I can only say is that no one can truly say that God is on their side, only that they are on God's side.

Whosplayin: This question, for the benefit of my father-in-law: Are you a "godless liberal" hell-bent taking away Texans' guns?

John McLeod: I like your father-in-law already. No, the vast majority of Texans, myself included, generally support maintaining the status quo in terms of firearms laws. I am also a gun owner, skeet shooter, and hunter. The only new gun law I'd consider at this point is restricting the Vice President from handling a firearm within a three mile radius of me.

It's a long and in-depth interview. Read it here, and if you're as impressed as I was, go on over and contribute to the McLeod campaign.