Thursday, May 31, 2007

NASA Chief Not Sure Current Climate 'Optimal'

While the Decider-in-Chief is once again using his clout to attempt to water down a report from the upcoming G8 summit urging immediate action to confront the consequences of global warming, his appointee in charge of NASA, Michael Griffin, implies that anyone voicing concerns about climate change is suffering from a God complex.

If you can read this with a straight face, stop reading blogs and get to the nearest casino for a round of Texas Hold 'Em.

Q: Do you have any doubt that this is a problem that mankind has to wrestle with?

Griffin: I have no doubt that … a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change.

First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown.

And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take.

NASA's James Hansen, one of the top scientists on global climate change, called his boss' position "arrogant and ignorant."
It indicates a complete ignorance of understanding the implications of climate change," Hansen told ABC News.
And if you seriously want to know how climate change might impact us here in Texas, here's a preview and it ain't pretty.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Global Warming Tipping Point Only Ten Years Away?

Mention global warming recently, and the attention rightfully turns to Al Gore, who has been hitting the airwaves promoting his new book, The Assault on Reason. One of the topics highlighted in Gore's book is the attempt to subvert science for political purposes. And one man who knows this only too well is NASA scientist James Hansen.

Like Gore, Dr. Hansen has been a tireless advocate on the environmental front. He first testified before Congress to raise awareness of the issue back in the 1980's. As one might expect, Hansen has also been a vocal and determined critic of the Bush administration's policies, or lack thereof, regarding global warming.

In the University of Iowa speech, Hansen recounted how NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe told him in a 2003 meeting that he shouldn't talk "about dangerous anthropogenic interference" -- humans' influence on the atmosphere -- "because we do not know enough or have enough evidence for what would constitute dangerous anthropogenic interference."

But Hansen said that scientists know enough to conclude we have reached this danger point and that their efforts to get the word out are being blocked by the administration. "In my more than three decades in government, I have never seen anything approaching the degree to which information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it has now," Hansen said. He added that although the administration wants to wait 10 years to evaluate climate change, "delay of another decade, I argue, is a colossal risk."

Hansen's concern is predicated on the concept of a "tipping point," the point at which the earth's biofeedback mechanisms kick in and warming becomes a runaway process.

As the tipping points pass, "there is an acceleration, potentially uncontrollable, of emissions of vast natural stores of greenhouse gas," according to Hansen.....

The melting ice caps are one example of a biofeedback loop. As warmer temperatures cause the ice to melt...
The disappearance of that bright sea ice and snow is uncovering more and more dark water and bare ground — creating another dangerous feedback loop.

These feedbacks all produce more heat, thus all reinforcing each other, leading to evermore thawing — and thus releases of natural greenhouse gases (including CO2 and methane) in a viciously accelerating circlering more and more dark water and bare ground — creating another dangerous feedback loop.

Given this scenario, some economic advisors are suggesting that the best course of action may be adaptation rather than prevention. Hansen disagrees.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scenarios modeled by scientists predict CO2 emissions rise to anywhere from a low of 450 ppm (parts per million) to as high as 650 ppm.

Hansen told ABC News today he believes the upper limit for avoiding dangerous climate change "could well be much lower" than 450 ppm.

In the NASA announcement, Hansen said, "'business as usual' emissions would be a guarantee of global and regional disaster."

Earth's CO2 concentration is currently 383 ppm, up from 280 ppm at the start of the industrial age.

Studies released earlier this month report human-made emissions now spiraling upward at an accelerating rate much faster than scientists expected only a few years ago.

But not to worry - after dilly dallying around for six years, President Bush has finally decided the government should take action - after he leaves office.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Drama Over Craddick Continues

If you haven't been following the attempted ouster of Speaker Tom Craddick from the Texas Legislature, you're missing the most excitement since some Democrats went missing a few years ago during the redistricting saga.

The mechanics are a bit complicated, but Craddick (dubbed Auto-Craddick by his detractors for his dictatorial style) is facing a bipartisan movement to elect a new speaker before the end of the session.

The Burnt Orange Report has all the juicy details, including speculation that Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, never a Craddick fan, is lending some behind the scenes support.

Craddick's future hinges on some arcane parliamentarian rules regarding a "motion to vacate." As Speaker, Craddick has prevented the attempted coup by using his role as speaker to block any motion that would lead to his removal. Members argue this is in violation of House rules. (Read his defense and the arguments against.)

In the meantime, some local representatives have signaled their support for Craddick.

Euless Republican Todd Smith called the speakers position an "abuse of power," while supporter Myra Crownover, a Republican from Denton, called Mr. Smith and the other critics "anarchists."

Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, is seen lending a sympathetic ear to the embattled speaker.

The drama overshadows last minute attempts to move some bills in the legislature, which is sure to make for some interesting political football down the road. Speculation hints that the showdown may leave the budget bill unfinished, mandating a special session later this summer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Republicans Throw in the Towel on Voter ID Bill

What has been one of the most dramatic stories of the legislative session drew to a close this evening when Lt. Gov. Dewhurst agreed not to bring up HB218, a bill that would require voters to show an ID at the polls, and sent an exhausted and ailing Senator Gallegos home.

The admission of defeat on the bill, which [Dewhurst] had confidently predicted would pass the GOP-dominated Senate, came when he sent home state Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, an ailing senator who had been in the chamber for the past few days to give the Democrats the votes they needed to block the bill.

Gallegos is recovering from a liver transplant, and doctors fear that his body might reject the organ he received in January......

“He’s looking tired,” Dewhurst told reporters, saying that if Gallegos left the Senate before the Wednesday midnight deadline to pass bills, Dewhurst would not bring up the voter ID bill.

Gallegos said he thanked Dewhurst, the Senate’s presiding officer, for the gesture.

He said that remaining in Austin despite doctors’ orders that he stay close to home “really took a lot out of me, both from the stress and from the illness.

“But it was worth it,” Gallegos said. “Voter ID is a bad bill.”

We thank the Senator and wish him a speedy recovery. As for Dewhurst, better late than never. Keep in mind, he dismissed Gallegos only in the waning hours of the session, when it became clear that Democrats would be able to filibuster any last minute attempt to pass the bill.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Senator Gallegos Returns to Austin to Block Voter ID Bill

The ailing senator from Harris County, Mario Gallegos, is back in Austin this week despite warnings from his doctors that he is jeopardizing his health to do so. After casting the decisive vote last week to block introduction of the voter ID bill, HB 218, Sen. Gallegos underwent a liver biopsy on Friday. Tests confirmed that his body is rejecting his new liver.

Because the senator's presence is needed to prevent re-introduction of the bill, Gallegos returned to the Senate floor yesterday. In an interview with the Star-Telegram, he lays out his reasons for returning, and gives Lt. Gov. Dewhurst a pass for last week's controversial vote:
Question: Why is this issue important enough to risk your health, and perhaps your life?
Answer: "I can remember my grandmother, who was born in Mexico and became a citizen. She would not be able to vote if this bill had been the law of the land.

"I haven't heard any complaints, at least in my district, that illegal aliens are voting. I haven't heard of a single instance since 1991, when I took office" as a state representative.

Q: The session ends May 28, but the last day to pass the bill without resorting to extraordinary parliamentary maneuvers is midnight Wednesday. Will you be in the Senate until then?
A: "They have a hospital bed here for me if I need it. It's a big enough issue for me that I have to be here. As long as I can stand, I'll be here.”

Q: If you are unable to remain at least available to return to the Senate floor, do you expect your Democratic colleagues to filibuster the bill until the clock runs out?
A: "We're pretty united on this. I'm going to try to buy them all the time I can."

Q: Do you agree that supporters of the bill make valid points?
A: "I respect their point of view. They are following polls that show their constituencies want this."

Q: Considering the status of your health, shouldn't the lieutenant governor just take the issue of voter ID off the table for the remainder of the session?
A: "No. If you have your votes, you move your bill. If I was Dewhurst, I'd do the same thing."

You can read further coverage of this story at Texas Kaos, Dos Centavos, and Eye on Williamson County.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Voter Suppression and Politics at the Justice Department

If the scuttle over political appointees at the Justice Department draws yawns instead of outrage, perhaps it would be helpful to present a little object lesson in the form of one Justice Department civil rights lawyer named Hans von Spakovsky. The story serves to highlight the on-going attempt to subvert career civil service positions for political ends, and further emphasizes why defeating the pending Texas voter ID bill is so critical.

Greg Gordon has some great coverage of the story (here, here and here.)
For six years, the Bush administration, aided by Justice Department political appointees, has pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates.....

Facing nationwide voter registration drives by Democratic-leaning groups, the administration alleged widespread election fraud and endorsed proposals for tougher state and federal voter identification laws. Presidential political adviser Karl Rove alluded to the strategy in April 2006 when he railed about voter fraud in a speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association.

First, a little background on von Spakovsky. If you want to know why Senator Harry Reid is planning on reconvening the Senate every ten days during the summer, look no farther than President Bush's December 2005 recess appointment of Hans von Spakovsky to the Federal Election Commission. The New York Times opined after his appointment:
[von Spakovsky is] a former Republican county chairman in Georgia and a political appointee at the Justice Department. He is reported to have been involved in the maneuvering to overrule the career specialists at Justice who warned that the Texas gerrymandering orchestrated by Representative Tom DeLay violated minority voting rights. Senators need the opportunity to delve into that, as well as reports of Mr. von Spakovsky’s involvement in such voting rights abuses as the purging of voter rolls in Florida in the 2000 elections.
Yeah, you knew there would be a Texas connection in there somewhere, didn't you? The redistricting plan was later ruled unconstitutional. And the purge of the Florida voting roles disenfranchised enough legitimate voters to give the presidency to Bush. As a key Republican operative, von Spakovsky brought those same goals to his four-year stint at the Justice Department as a civil rights lawyer.
"Mr. von Spakovsky was central to the administration's pursuit of strategies that had the effect of suppressing the minority vote," charged Joseph Rich, a former Justice Department voting rights chief who worked under him.

He and other former career department lawyers say that von Spakovsky steered the agency toward voting rights policies not seen before, pushing to curb minor instances of election fraud by imposing sweeping restrictions that would make it harder, not easier, for Democratic-leaning poor and minority voters to cast ballots.

During his stint at the Justice Department, von Spakovksy

• Sped approval of tougher voter-ID laws in Georgia and Arizona in 2005, joining decisions to override career lawyers who believed that Georgia's law would restrict voting by poor blacks and who felt that more analysis was needed on the Arizona law's impact on Indians and Latinos.

• Tried to influence the federal Election Assistance Commission's research into the dimensions of voter fraud nationally and the impact of restrictive voter-ID laws -- research that could undermine a vote-suppression agenda.

• Allegedly engineered the ouster of the commission's chairman, Paul DiGregorio, whom von Spakovsky considered insufficiently partisan.

Just how effective are voter ID laws in suppressing turnout for Democrats?

Among Republicans it is an "article of religious faith that voter fraud is causing us to lose elections," Masset [former political director of the Republican Party of Texas] said. He doesn't agree with that, but does believe that requiring photo IDs could cause enough of a dropoff in legitimate Democratic voting to add 3 percent to the Republican vote.
Now it might be a little clearer why Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, who obviously has higher ambitions, is so keen to do the administration's bidding that he would resort to last week's procedural tactic to pass the Texas voter ID bill. Say a little prayer for Senator Gallegos and let's hope that the Senate Republicans still have a conscience.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Texas Voter ID Bill in Limbo

After last week's drama (reported here) over the Texas voter ID bill, questions remain as to whether Lt. Gov. Dewhurst will attempt passage this week.

Ailing Sen. Mario Gallegos' absence from the Capitol leaves his fellow Democratic state senators one vote shy of a procedural tool they can use to block legislation.

Republicans did not take advantage of the situation Friday to force a vote on a contentious bill that would require voters to present identification, which Democrats have blocked.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, said senators told him they "didn't want to take it up today out of respect for Senator Gallegos." But he was noncommittal about his plans for next week, saying he believes a vast majority of Texans support the idea.

"We'll see," he said. "I would like to see it passed."

Democrats are on high alert for the last week of the session.

Democrats won't disclose how they will respond if Dewhurst brings the voter ID bill up for debate.

Options could include breaking quorum or filibustering, either of which would kill other legislation in the waning days of the session.

"I'm not going to expose our strategy," said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus. "We're looking at this on a day-by-day situation. Certainly, the Senate realizes that we have really important bills and work that needs to get done."

She warned that bringing up the voter ID bill would distract from the Senate's need to finish work on budget, transportation, border security and air quality bills.

It is not known whether Gallegos is out for the remainder of the session.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Vote in TCAN Poll

The True Courage Action Network is conducting a poll .....
honoring the best efforts of legislators and advocates who have shown courage relating to TCAN's mission to restore strong ethical standards, government transparency, and electoral reform and voter protection during this legislative session.
Among the names nominated in the Texas State Senate is Senator Eliot Shapleigh, nominated for his Texas on the Brink reports.

And the Texas House of Representative nominees include Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, for his fight against voter ID bills and Fort Worth's Lon Burnam. Burnam, who joined Anchia in that fight, was nominated for his attempts to reform the Texas Ethics Commission.

And don't forget to vote for Texas Progressive Bloggers in the Texas Advocate category. If you need convincing, check out some of the blogs on our list to the right. You have until May 20 at noon to register your vote.

texas democrats block voter id bill

In the Texas Senate, the Democrats hold 11 seats. 21 senators must agree to bring a bill up for consideration, so the Democrats can effectively block legislation if they vote as a bloc.

But they also have to have their votes counted.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst tried to pull a fast one today, when the Senate was voting on the Voter ID Bill (HB 128). One Democratic senator wasn't on the floor because he was ill, and another that was there didn't even get his vote counted.

When the vote total, 19-9, was announced, chaos ensued, according to the Houston Chronicle.

[The Democrats] revolted after the original 19-9 vote was revealed, loudly arguing that Sen. John Whitmire was on the floor but his no vote wasn't counted.

"Right is right. Wrong is wrong. You tell the man I have a right to have my vote counted," Whitmire growled at his Republican colleagues. He later slammed his fist on his desk, prompting Dewhurst to threaten to kick him out of the chamber.

"You're going to compose yourself or you're going to leave the floor," the Republican lieutenant governor said.

Dewhurst insisted that he had given Whitmire plenty of time to cast his vote and resisted Democrats' calls for a re-vote. But he eventually agreed to conduct another vote, insisting it wasn't going to change the outcome.

But by that time, the Democrats were able to vote as a block, with ill Sen. Carlos Uresti returning to the chamber and Sen. Whitmire's vote being tallied (plus another Republican making it to the floor), and the legislation was blocked by a vote of 20-11.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

election results: arlington, fort worth, grapevine, haltom city, keller, mansfield

Robert Cluck was re-elected to the position of Mayor of Arlington. In District 3, incumbent Robert Rivera defeated challenger Marvin Sutton. Kathryn Wilemon, Lana Wolff and Gene Patrick also return to the council.

Fort Worth
Mayor Mike Moncrief was re-elected in a landslide with over 80% of the vote. Also, all of the incumbents on the council were re-elected: Sal Espino, Chuck Silcox, Danny Scarth, Carter Burdette, Kathleen Hicks and Wendy Davis.

In Grapevine, Place 1 voters will have to decide between Traci Wilkinson and Mike Lease in a runoff election. In Place 4, incumbent Darlene Freed handily won re-election.

Haltom City
Incumbent Bill Lanford returns as Mayor, and on his coattails, so do incumbent council members Jim Sutton, Christopher Holcomb and Diane Bransom.

Challenger Pat McGrail defeated incumbent Mayor Julie Tandy, and in Place 1, incumbent Steve Trine lost to newcomer Ray Brown.

In Mansfield, it was another sad night for incumbents: the new mayor is Barton Scott, who defeated Mel Neuman for the job; Mary Ann Johnston lost her Place 1 seat to her opponent, Mike Leyman.

Election results via Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Tarrant County Elections.

leppert, oakley face off again in june election

Eleven candidates sought to replace Laura Miller as Mayor of Dallas, and now only two remain: Tom Leppert and Councilman Ed Oakley.

This is an interesting (almost) end to an exhausting race. And according to the Dallas Morning News, the results don't come cheap.

This has been the most expensive mayoral race in Dallas history, with more candidates than anyone can remember.

The candidates together have spent more than $4.5 million by Election Day. That’s more than any previous campaign, and it doesn’t include the money runoff candidates will spend.

The runoff is June 16, so save the date. And expect NTL to make an endorsement in the race before that time.

election results: bartonville, double oak, flower mound, highland village, lewisville

Incumbents Carla Anderson and James Ashburn were re-elected, and newcomer Bill Reaves joins the Town Council. Bartonville residents also approved beer and wine sales in the town by a handy margin.

Double Oak
In a heated race that centered on a tax rise, Councilwoman Pamela King defeated Councilman Tracy Scott Miller to become the town's next mayor. Mike Donnelly and Jerry Lamel join the Town Council, defeating Chuck Bimmerle and incumbent Tom Pidcock.

Flower Mound
Flower Mound residents took to the polls to re-elect their leaders: Joel Lindsey, Tim Trotter and Jeff Tasker all return after soaring victories to the Town Council, defeating feisty opponents Michelle Pacifico and Jack Stufflebam that engaged a campaign around the current council's alleged unfriendliness toward business development in the town. Voters also approved a host of charter amendments.

Highland Village
Uncontested incumbents Austin Adams and Brian Fiorenza were re-elected to the council, but after an upset victory by Jon Calvin in Place 7, they will not be joined by their preferred candidate, Highland Village Unite-endorsed Pete Silva.

Voters will have to trek to the polls again, as a heavily-contested race will now lead to a runoff between the two candidates that received the most votes: Lathan Watts and Ron Aljoe.

Election results via Lantana Links, WhosPlayin?, and

Saturday, May 12, 2007

vote today

We apologize for the hiatus we've accidentally hit upon this month, but would like to remind you nonetheless to get out to the polls today before 7 p.m.!

Readers, please leave any recommendations on who to vote for in the comments.

In the city of Dallas, NTL likes more than one candidate for mayor, but in Place 12 we can wholeheartedly recommend the progressive candidate, John McClelland.

In Arlington, we'd like to recommend a vote for Marvin Sutton in Place 3, and so would several Star-Telegram readers.

In Flower Mound, we recommend re-electing the incumbents (Lindsey, Tasker and Trotter) and in Highland Village we recommend Pete Silva.

Anyone else have any suggestions for North Texas voters? Keep us in the loop in the comments!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

bush vetoes war spending bill over timetable

During the attack ads next year running up to the election, the conservatives will no longer be able to use their favorite line: "The Democrats don't have a plan."

Why not? Because the Democrats do have a plan. And they put it before Congress in the form of the 2007 U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act. This legislation, having passed both the House (218-208) and Senate (51-46), approved $124 billion in funding for the Iraq war, but also gave a timetable for withdrawal.

Today, President Bush vetoed the bill.

So the Democrats put forth a comprehensive plan on how to clean up the president's mess, but he rejected it. What more can the Democrats do at this point? Yes, the Democrats have a majority in both houses of Congress, but the majority isn't large enough to override the president's veto unless the bill garners more bipartisan support. An attempt to override has been scheduled for tomorrow in the House of Representatives.

If the president will remain immovably stubborn on this costly issue, there is nothing else that the Democrats can do besides utilize the power of the purse. It will take time to work out the best approach: should the Democrats immediately cut funding, refusing to reintroduce legislation that would re-authorize the president the use of that same $124 billion that he vetoed today? Or will they take a more subtle route? Or, will they force the Republicans to face the consequences of their mistakes as a Democratic president is ushered into office in 2008?

Whatever happens in the coming months, keep in mind that President Bush started this unpopular war in Iraq, and today in the Oval Office he used a red stamp that spits in the face of the majority of Americans. At the same time, he assured us that our troops will face the continued chaos and danger of the battlefield indefinitely. No wonder his approval rating is only 28%.