Sunday, July 30, 2006

Why You Should Boycott Snickers

And Campbell's Soup, and Wal-Mart (heck, you do that anyway, don't you?), and all the other companies whose heirs have lobbied the Republican leadership for repeal of the inheritance tax. Because Saturday's shameless one a.m. session really did make a mockery of the term "compassionate conservative."

The Republican Congress is so opposed to raising the minimum wage, stuck at $5.15 for nine years, that the only way they will back a raise for the working poor is to couple it with legislation to raise the cap on the estate tax. Even as they were passing the bill, the Republican leadership acknowledged that its chances for passage were slim, but that's not the point. Elections are just around the corner, and Republicans think they can have their cake and eat it, too.
Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, said Republican leaders knew that the tax provisions would surely be killed in the Senate. He accused them of giving their moderate members a chance to go on record in favor of boosting the minimum wage without having to deliver results.
We're covered the Paris Hilton tax cut before, and the reasons why it isn't just unfair and unprogressive, but a disastrous fiscal policy as well. Republicans have been rying unsuccessfully for years to eliminate the tax altogether, but they would settle for raising the cap high enough and lowering the tax rates to the point where it almost never applies. But just in case this legislation doesn't pass, the administration is preparing to try the back door and eliminate the auditors.

Meanwhile eighteen millionaire families and their Republican handmaidens think that a two-dollar-an-hour raise every decade for the lowest rung of the working class must be balanced by a $91 billion dollar inheritance tax cut for some of the wealthiest families on the planet, dynasties who already control $185 billion dollars in assets. Who are these families? The Blethens who own the Seattle Times, the Waltons of Wal-Mart fame, The Mars family of Mars, Inc., the Dorrances of Campbell Soup fame, the Gallos of E&J Gallo Winery, the Nordstroms, and a few other less familiar names.

Not every wealthy heir thinks more tax cuts on inheritance are a good idea.
.... Elizabeth Letzler, an investment manager from New York who will be subject to the estate tax and who spoke at the press conference, “The current estate tax structure should permit any wealthy household to pass on a legacy of financial security, education and family heirlooms to the next generations.” She challenged the families showcased in the report: “Do something spectacular during your life-time investing in the social welfare and well-being of the children and grandchildren at the bottom of the pyramid.” Her daughter Stephanie, also in attendance, said, “If keeping the estate tax means a step closer to a debt-free treasury, a step closer to improved health care, Social Security, education, and every other program that makes me proud to be an American, show me where to sign the check.”
Warren Buffet, who doesn't believe in "dynastic wealth," set the bar for noblesse oblige when he decided to pass along the majority of his estate through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And a famous blue-eyed actor recently voiced these sentiments:
Paul Newman, actor and founder of Newman’s Own food company, agreed in a separate statement: “For those of us lucky enough to be born in this country and to have flourished here, the estate tax is a reasonable and appropriate way to return something to the common good. I’m proud to be among those supporting preservation of this tax, which is one of the fairest taxes we have.”
So put back that Snickers bar and pass the Newman O's.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Barnwell for the 26th Congressional District

Check out victory06's diary on Texas Kaos outlining Tim Barnwell's platform for the 26th Congressional District in Texas.

TIM BARNWELL and a Democratic Congress will:

- fight to raise the minimum wage and repeal subsidies for companies that send our jobs overseas.

- overturn Republican cuts in financial assistance to college students.

- repeal the Republican bill that denied competition in drug pricing for Medicare Part D, and will work toward health coverage for all Americans.

- return to the fiscal responsibility of the Clinton years and reduce the deficit and the debt.

- champion stem cell research, providing hope to millions of Americans for cures from catastrophic diseases.

- promote alternative fuels, fuel efficiency, and reduce dependency on foreign oil.

- follow up on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and demand oversight of the administration’s build-up to and conduct of the war on Iraq.

With your help, Tim Barnwell will go to Washington to help accomplish all these goals. Please join us in this exciting opportunity to show the country what North Texas really believes in and will fight for.


Residents of the 26th Congressional District deserve better. Let's work together to send Tim Barnwell to Congress in 2007.

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

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

democratic reunion - july 29

On July 29, the Democratic National Committee is sponsoring the Democratic Reunion. It's similar to the blockwalk they hosted back in April, but this time there is a lot more going on, including house parties! Here are the events we've been notified about by the Denton County Democratic Party:
The events in Denton County will also include some Denton County candidates that want to get out and meet the voters. If you are a Democrat in Denton County, get yourself to the closest event! It seems that all of the events are south of Denton proper, but there should be one near most Denton County activists.

If anyone has information about events going on in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, or other North Texas counties, please pass it on through the comments. We hope the blockwalks are as successful as the ones a few months ago. Good luck to everyone participating!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

specter ready to sue president bush over unconstitutional signing statements

Since the beginning of his administration, President Bush has shown that he doesn't put much stock in what Congress says. After all, he's the decider. Even though he just used his first veto last week over the stem cell research bill, he has shown his contempt for over 800 individual laws in the bills he has signed by creating signing statements in which he declares that he doesn't really have to listen to the legislation even after it becomes law.

Signing statements have been used by presidents, typically for such purposes as instructing agencies how to execute new laws.

But many of Bush's signing statements serve notice that he believes parts of bills he is signing are unconstitutional or might violate national security.

The White House insists that these signing statements are not intended to provide the president a means in which to ignore the law, but others feel differently: namely, the American Bar Association.

President Bush's penchant for writing exceptions to laws he has just signed violates the Constitution, an American Bar Association task force says in a report highly critical of the practice.

The ABA group, which includes a one-time FBI director and former federal appeals court judge, said the president has overstepped his authority in attaching challenges to hundreds of new laws.

Now, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, has decided that the time has come to challenge President Bush's blatant disregard for constitutional measure. Senator Specter has said that he will have a bill ready by Monday allowing Congress to sue the president in a federal court.
"We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will... authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, said on the Senate floor.

Specter's announcement came the same day that an American Bar Association task force concluded that by attaching conditions to legislation, the president has sidestepped his constitutional duty to either sign a bill, veto it, or take no action.
The ABA report that found Bush's signing statements unconstitutional also came to the conclusion that the unlawful practice came about during the Reagan administration. Apparently, President Reagan was instructed to use this "strategic weapon" by young lawyer Samuel Alito, Bush's latest Supreme Court installment.

Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn was quick to side with the president, as usual. He pointed out that signing statements hold no weight in the courts and are nothing more than expressions of presidential opinion. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, when pressed on the issue, said that "it's important for the president at least to express reservations about the constitutionality of certain provisions."

According to top Democrats, Specter's legislation will be supported by the progressive caucus and many moderate Republicans. Senator Patrick Leahy, senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committe and a Vermont Democrat, said last month that "we are at a pivotal moment in our nation's history, where Americans are faced with a president who makes sweeping claims for almost unchecked executive power."

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Who Is Fred Zeidman and Why Should You Care?

A recent Washington Post article covering the conflagration in the Middle East lured me in with its title: "In Mideast Strife, Bush Sees a Step to Peace."
President Bush's unwillingness to pressure Israel to halt its military campaign in Lebanon is rooted in a view of the Middle East conflict that is sharply different from that of his predecessors.
The article goes on to quote several authorities giving their take on Bush's current policy toward the Israeli-Lebanon flare-up. It concludes with this interesting quote.
Fred S. Zeidman, a Texas venture capitalist who is active in Jewish affairs and has been close to the president for years, said the current crisis shows the depth of the president's support for Israel. "He will not bow to international pressure to pressure Israel," Zeidman said. "I have never seen a man more committed to Israel."
Now I'm just a blogger, not a journalist, but it seems to me that there is some context to that little paragraph that as a reader you ought to know. And since the author didn't see fit to fill you in, here ya go.

Zeidman's name might be familiar in Houston circles, where he was known as an old and close friend of George Bush. He was a Bush Pioneer in the 2000 presidential campaign and a Bush Ranger in the 2004 election cycle.

Zeidman has ties to another infamous Texan. In 2003, he accompanied House Majority leader Tom DeLay on his 2003 trip to Israel. The trip made headlines because, while there, DeLay contradicted the President's own policy on Israel, condemning cease fires as "vacations" for terrorists.
“He really made an impression,” Fred Zeidman, a longtime Jewish Republican activist and now chair of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, said of DeLay. Zeidman took DeLay on his first trip to Israel in the mid-1980s.
Oh, and did I forget to mention that Zeidman's son just got hired to represent the White House?
[Jay] Zeidman is the son of Fred Zeidman, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and a fund-raiser for President Bush in the Jewish community. The younger Zeidman said he attended a lot of meetings with his father for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Anti-Defamation League in Houston, and walked away with strong support for Israel and political activism.
Oh, by the way, Jay is 22. But don't be thinking his father pulled any strings for this appointment.
Both father and son acknowledge that some may try to depict the appointment as an act of nepotism. But Fred Zeidman said that after he introduced his son at the White House for the first time, he was on his own.
Nepotism? In the administration of the son of a former president? Oh, wait...

And of course, you've probably heard of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) because they were implicated in the indictment and prosecution of Larry Franklin, a Pentagon analyst on the Iran desk who plead guilty to passing classified documents to AIPAC regarding U.S. plans to destabilize Iran.

Oh, and if you're looking for the obligatory oil connection, that's there, too. Zeidman is the former Chairman of Seitel, Inc. a leading provider of seismic data and related geophysical expertise to the petroleum industry. When he was appointed, the company was trying to burnish its image after restating earnings in the wake of the Enron scandal, and SEC charges against a former CEO for abuse of company funds.

Okay, here's probably the most important thing to remember. In 2004 Fred Zeidman was appointed the Senior Director of Governmental Affairs to the lobbying firm of Greenberg Traurig. Greenberg Traurig was in the headlines recently, after one of its former lobbyists, Jack Abramoff, got in a little trouble over some PAC money.

Greenberg Traurig provided lawyers to the Bush-Cheney team during the Florida recount. And speaking of nepotism, the firm also hired Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's son on election day 2000, just a few weeks before his father famously quashed the recount in a 5-4 decision.

And did I mention that Congress is opening an investigation into the ties between Abramoff and the White House?

Chairman Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) authorized a subpoena weeks ago to Greenberg Traurig, according to several of the law firm's former clients who have been notified that it is turning over billing records, e-mails, phone logs and other material that reflects efforts to lobby the White House. Abramoff, the once-powerful lobbyist at the center of a wide-ranging public corruption investigation, was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison on March 29, after pleading guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials in a deal that required him to provide evidence about members of Congress.

Representatives of four of Abramoff's former tribal clients said they have been notified by Greenberg Traurig that the firm is turning over records. In some cases, there were scores of phone calls or other contacts with the White House. It is not known whether any of those contacts resulted in improper aid to Abramoff. Several tribal representatives said they believe many contacts were with staff members at the White House office of intergovernmental affairs.

In a subpoena -- read to The Washington Post by a former client who received a copy from Greenberg Traurig -- seeks all firm billing records "referring or relating to matters involving Jack Abramoff or any person working with Jack Abramoff," as well as all records reflecting any contacts those lobbyists had with the White House. The subpoena seeks records from Jan. 1, 1998, to the present, though Abramoff did not begin work at Greenberg Traurig until early 2001.

So yeah, Zeidman is a "Texas venture capitalist who is active in Jewish affairs and has been close to the president for years." I guess it's accurate as far as it goes. Like Forest Gump, he has the distinction of showing up in the background at auspicious moments in history. Now I'm not implying anything by all this, mind you. I just thought you might like to know.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Bell Challenges Perry on Support for Coal-Fired Plants

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell has been criticizing Perry for some time now on the state of our parks. Now he's taking Perry on on another issue of concern to North Texans -- the fast-tracking of permits for coal-fired power plants.

Mr. Bell said that there should be more studies of how new plants would affect air quality in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and that neighborhoods should get a chance to voice concerns.

"Obviously there's some big challenges in the Dallas area," Mr. Bell said at a news conference in front of Kimball High School. "Rick Perry has fast-tracked that process. ... The deck is completely stacked on the side of the polluters."

Bell's concerns join Dallas Mayor Laura Miller's call to fifty mayors to help her intervene in the permitting process.

Texas power companies are considering construction of up to sixteen new power plants over the next few years. They have enlisted Governor Perry's help in fast-tracking the review process to green light construction.

So why the rush? Proponents argue Texas is growing and construction now will prevent a California-style shortage in the near future.

There have been volleys from both sides arguing whether the pollution levels will increase or decrease as a result of the construction. North Texas municipalities are facing potentially severe sanctions if pollution, such as ozone, isn't brought down to conform to federal guidelines by 2010. Coal is a particularly dirty if inexpensive source of energy, contributing to a range of pollutants, including mercury. As a result, many power companies are trying to eliminate reliance on it. But here in Texas, TXU leads the way in proposals to build coal-fired plants.
TXU's strategy stands in stark contrast to many of its industry peers. Sempra Energy recently dropped plans to build two coal-fired power plants in Nevada and Idaho because of impending state regulations to curb global warming pollutants. PG&E has avoided coal altogether, opting instead to spend billions of dollars on energy efficiency so that it will delay needing new power sources. And even though American Electric Power is relying on coal, it is pushing to build "clean coal" power plants in the Midwest that will be able to capture carbon dioxide, the main pollutant causing global warming.
The global warming issue has even investors concerned. Coal-burning power plants are the number one source of carbon dioxide emissions. Critics charge the decision to invest in more coal-burning plants now may have less to do with demand than the growing realization that carbon dioxide may soon be regulated as a pollutant. The Supreme Court is set to begin considerations in October regarding this issue. And retiring Senator Jeffords (I-VT) is preparing to introduce a bill regulating carbon dioxide emissions as his swan song in the Senate. The question is whether TXU can build its plants soon enough that they would be grandfathered under any new regulations.
TXU is already the nation's 10th-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the electric sector, emitting 55 million tons in 2004 alone. And those numbers will jump dramatically if it builds 8,600 megawatts of new coal plant capacity -- all without any controls for capturing greenhouse gases
Chris Bell thinks caution is in order.

"I would definitely do away with the fast-tracking," Mr. Bell said. "Under Rick Perry's reign of error, polluters actually get rewarded for violating environmental laws."

In outlining his own plan, Mr. Bell said the state would have to consider using more renewable energy and rethink transportation policy. He also called for the preservation and planting of more trees.

With record temperatures scorching the country and ozone levels creeping up, the detrimental effects of our current energy policy are becoming more concrete in the public's mind. Sooner or later stricter regulations are inevitable. The question is whether critics can stall construction long enough to garner the widespread support necessary for change, or whether business concerns will once again trump public health.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Perry Blasted on Cuts for State Parks

Jobsanger has a post up about the latest turn in the funding crisis for state parks. Governor Perry is pushing for another ten percent across the board cut in agency budgets for the coming year. Officials in the Dept. of Texas Parks and Wildlife have stated that that can only be achieved with additional layoffs and closure of as many as 18 parks. Now his gubernatorial challengers are firing back.
Kinky, Bell, and Grandma have all called for the $35 million cap to be removed, and an extra $50 million be given to the parks from the fund.
Of course, Strayhorn has been a little inconsistent on this issue, as one of our readers pointed out.

And kudos to the journalist R.A. Dyer and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's coverage of this issue. Barely a day goes by without another article or editorial in the paper highlighting the disgraceful state of our state parks. It appears that this issue has finally gotten the public's attention. But promises are cheap. Let's hope the pressure doesn't let up until a resolution is in place.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

stem cell research enhancement act: vetoed

Recently, the Senate passed legislation that would enhance stem cell research by loosening restrictions on federal funding. The legislation passed in the U.S. House back in 2005 without help from several North Texas Republicans that voted against it: Rep. Michael Burgess (Flower Mound), Rep. Ralph Hall (Rockwall), Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Dallas), Rep. Sam Johnson (Plano), Rep. Kenny Marchant (Carrollton), and Rep. Pete Sessions (Dallas). Two North Texas Republicans supported stem cell research and are to be commended: Rep. Kay Granger (Fort Worth) and Rep. Joe Barton (Ennis).

How did the Democrats vote? Totally in favor of stem cell research. Texas Democrats stood in solidarity; not a single one voted against the legislation. If you're represented by a Texas Democrat, take a minute to write them a letter and thank them for supporting stem cell research.

Over in the Senate, our two Republican senators were split. Sen. John Cornyn voted against the stem cell research legislation, while Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison voted for it. Sen. Hutchison is to be commended for standing up and letting her vote be counted to help save lives. Unfortunately, Sen. Cornyn decided to cater to the religious right.

Regardless of how everyone voted, President Bush used the first veto of his presidency today to reject this legislation that was overwhelmingly passed by Congress.
"This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others," Bush said Wednesday afternoon. "It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect. So I vetoed it."

Attending the White House event were a group of families with children who were born from "adopted" frozen embryos that had been left unused at fertility clinics.

"These boys and girls are not spare parts," he said of the children in the audience. "They remind us of what is lost when embryos are destroyed in the name of research. They remind us that we all begin our lives as a small collection of cells."

Despite Bush's decision, the issue has divided much of the Republican Party. Only two Texas Republicans (North Texas Reps. Barton and Granger) strayed from Republican talking points to cast their vote in favor of the legislation, but across the nation things were different. In the Senate, many states were split with one senator voting one way and the other voting another. In the House, a coalition of 200 Democrats and Republicans co-sponsored the legislation. Even top Republicans in Congress were forced to publicly disagree with the president.

The Senate bill's principal sponsor, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, who recently survived a brush with cancer, was joined by Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, a physician who argued that Bush's policy is too restrictive.

"I am pro-life, but I disagree with the president's decision to veto the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act," Frist said in a statement. "Given the potential of this research and the limitations of the existing lines eligible for federally funded research, I think additional lines should be made available."

Currently, House Republicans plan to re-introduce the legislation in an attempt to override President Bush's veto. Please help this effort! If your legislator voted against the bill last year, there's a chance that public opinion could change their mind this year. If they supported it last year, make sure you write them to encourage them to cast the same vote to override the veto. Right now, House leadership isn't sure that they'll have enough support for the measure, so this requires immediate action if we want to save lives. Contact your representatives in Congress here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

bor: focus on north texas

Lately, we've seen an influx of posts on Burnt Orange Report that don't focus on Austin or the state as a whole, but on North Texas. We've decided to profile some of these front-page blogs.

Earlier we reported that BOR front-paged John McClelland's blog about Amy Manuel. Soon after, McClelland blogged about Strayhorn's waffling on Denton toll roads. Now, you can find a blog about Gary Page and the race for the U.S. House seat in District 24.

Also, Katie Naranjo is reporting that John McLeod, Democratic candidate for Texas House District 64, has fundraised "past his competition." That's right, McLeod has raised more money than the Republican incumbent, Myra Crownover.

Either well-connected Austin bloggers think that North Texas Democrats have a chance in November or, at the very least, have begun to take notice of our active blogosphere and party politics in Dallas, Tarrant, Denton, and Collin counties. Either way, we're happy about it.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Grapevine Company Cited for Drilling Violations in Denton County

Lowell Brown of the Denton Record Chronicle has an article on the impact of gas drilling in Denton County.

As development of the Barnett Shale fields travels east, more and more sites in Denton County are being drilled in proximity to home owners. Brown's article highlights the problems facing residents of Briarcreek Estates subdivision in Argyle.

Jennifer Cole didn’t know much about the gas-drilling industry until it arrived at her backdoor.

But when her backyard view changed from 12-acre prairie to potential drilling site last year, the stay-at-home mother started doing her homework.

She’d heard about recent gas-drilling accidents, including one in Palo Pinto County last December where a blowout left a 750-foot-wide crater and burned more than 50 acres. Could something like that, she wondered, happen in her neighborhood?

The residents petitioned government officials to investigate.

Last month, the city of Denton sued Grapevine-based Reichmann Petroleum Corp., claiming the company was operating at area sites — including the one behind Cole’s home and a nearby well — without city approval.....

The company failed to comply with city regulations on attaining plats, posting signs,
erosion control, drainage, security and well site maintenance, according to the lawsuit. City officials say gas lines that aren’t platted could be ruptured during routine utility construction, risking the safety of nearby residents.

Regulation of gas drilling comes under the jurisdiction of the Texas Railroad Commission, but laws generally favor mineral rights over surface rights. The commission has limited authority on placement of equipment, although it is chartered to ensure the purity of the watershed.
The site’s reserve pit of drilling “mud” — a blend of clay, salts, other chemicals and water — abuts the creek line, and neighbors worried a heavy rain could cause it to overflow into the creek. The pit has since been drained.
However, residents are still dealing with the impact of flooding caused by changes in the sites drainge patterns.

[Denton's gas well inspector] said the city would have considered drainage issues during the platting process, had Reichmann complied with it.....

Denton receives royalties from gas wells on city property, including several at Denton Municipal Airport. The Denton school district also has leased land for gas wells, including two at Guyer High School.

To appreciate just how important the impact of gas drilling is in Denton County, view the map.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

blogosphere roundup

I figured it was due time for another roundup of the extensive political blogosphere. Here are some excellent and recent blogs from both a local, state, and national level:
  1. Burnt Orange Report tells us that the Texas Federation of Teachers has endorsed Carole Keeton Strayhorn for Texas Governor.
  2. Capitol Annex offers an extensive post on the redistricting situation, with some corrections and clarifications here.
  3. DallasBlog considers Darrell Jordan as a Dallas mayoral candidate in 2007.
  4. Gonzo Muckraker reports that someone sent fake anthrax to the New York Times.
  5. At the Huffington Post, Arianna comments on the week's events at her famous blog.
  6. In the Pink Texas speculates about the midterm elections.
  7. PinkDome reports on the evolution of MySpace and how it can help candidates. Amy Manuel's MySpace account is profiled.
  8. Right of Texas points out that Democrat Chris Bell is the only gubernatorial candidate without a nickname.
  9. Stop Kinky! predicts that Kinky Friedman will end up in the single digits come November.
  10. WhosPlayin' outlines a (short) list of Texas candidates that support Network Neutrality.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Battle for Eagle Mountain Lake

State Representative Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) of District 99 will be holding a town hall meeting tonight to discuss the fate of Eagle Mountain Lake. The meeting will be attended by representatives of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, and the Tarrant Regional Water District.

WHEN: Thursday, July 13th 6:00PM-7:00PM
WHAT: Town Hall Meeting to solicit input on the potential sale to developers of park land on Eagle Mountain Lake.
WHERE: W. E. Boswell High School Fine Arts Center
5850 Bailey-Boswell Road
Fort Worth, TX 76179.

In case you've missed the controversy, the organization Save Eagle Mountain Lake provides this synopsis:

For the past 5 years, TPWD has considered the sale of this property to in an effort to raise funding for an alternate park located over 90 miles from the current site. In response to that initiative, the Tarrant County Commissioners Court, Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD), state and local representatives, and the citizens of Fort Worth have worked diligently to secure the required funds to purchase this property on behalf of the residents of Tarrant County and neighboring communities. In recent negotiations, TRWD brought forth a purchase agreement congruent with the appraised value with a commitment from the Tarrant County Commissioners Court to assist in the development and maintenance of the park as originally intended. These offers have been rejected in favor of a state supported plan to sell the property to the highest bidding residential or commercial developers. Save Eagle Mountain Lake, Inc., has recently learned that Governor Perry has directed his staff to prepare a Request for Proposal (RFP) to begin the process of conveyance for development purposes [emphasis mine].

Representative Geren has sponsored legislation supporting the sale to TRWD.

The Tarrant County Commissioners Court approved a resolution in support of the sale of Eagle Mountain Lake for $10 million. If the Tarrant Regional Water District buys the land, they plan to turn it into a wildlife preserve and nature park.
This is an important venue for the citizens of Fort Worth to voice objections to the sale of the land surrounding Eagle Mountain Lake and urge the preservation of a small corner of our ever-dwindling natural heritage.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

are republicans feeling threatened by strayhorn?

Secretary of State Roger Williams, a Perry-appointed Republican, has ruled that Richard "Kinky" Friedman can use his nickname on the November ballot, but "One Tough Grandma" Carole Strayhorn must be called "Carole Keeton Strayhorn." Williams insisted that "Grandma" is a slogan, while "Kinky" is a nickname. As reported at Capitol Annex, Strayhorn is going to challenge this decision in court. In the process, the Republicans will say that she is wasting time and money on a petty issue. She's probably worried about voter recognition because she was previously elected as "Carole Keeton Rylander." Vince hypothesizes that she will lose support over this move.

This is yet another attempt by the Republicans in power to undermine Carole Keeton Strayhorn. I think it's telling that the Republicans are against any real competition and debate among conservatives.

Governor Perry won the March primary with about 85% of the vote. Strayhorn, currently the State Comptroller, left the Republican Party to challenge Perry as an independent candidate. In early May, Secretary Williams tried to keep Strayhorn off of the ballot (or at least delay her candidacy) by refusing to use a statistical sample of her petition signatures and insisting on counting each of the required 45,540 one at a time.

Are the Republicans perhaps scared that Strayhorn will be a serious threat to Perry's re-election effort? With Kinky Friedman gaining popularity among teachers and college-age voters and Chris Bell likely taking the general 40% of voters that choose Democrats for statewide offices, Team Perry is probably starting to look at November without the rose-colored glasses. They sense that it's time to step up the offense and they aren't afraid to use and abuse their positions in the government to help Perry get re-elected. What's sad is that they find Carole Keeton Strayhorn more of a threat than Chris Bell.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Congressman Burgess Fails the Middle Class

The Drum Major Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit think tank, had this to say in a report summarizing last year's congressional voting record.

Congress played no small part in driving the American Dream further out of reach for ordinary citizens in 2005. Congress at the Midterm: Their 2005 Middle-Class Record takes a closer look at the decisions made by Congress, from creating new obstacles for families overcome with debt to declare bankruptcy to a disastrous budget that aimed to pay for tax cuts benefiting the rich with dramatic cuts to student loans and health programs for the poor. After examining each bill in detail, Congress at the Midterm assigns a grade to each member of Congress based on his or her support for the middle class......

While Democrats received lower grades than last year, the Republicans did still worse, with only a handful among them even managing to eke out a passing grade on the issues of concern to their middle-class constituents.

And how has Congressman Burgess voted on issues of concern to middle-class North Texans? It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Burgess' rubber stamp record, that he scored an F. You can read the report here. Be sure to check out the analysis at Whosplayin.

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

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Rehabilitation of Ken Lay

A review of this week's news and commentary reveals the public's conflict and frustration regarding Ken Lay's unexpected demise. The fact that his punishment will never be served leaves many feeling that he escaped his fate somehow, but the circumstances of his death were nonetheless suffused with a certain pathos. "Kenny Boy" lived the high life, but ultimately he didn't dodge any bullets. Given his age of 64, and the possibility of a twenty year sentence, he was looking at the specter of imprisonment for the rest of his mortal days. The stress of that future almost certainly contributed to his death.

But just because a massive heart attack has rendered justice in this earthly life a moot point, doesn't mean all is forgiven. You may not want to dance on Lay's grave, but you might still be a little outraged at the efforts to put a shine on the tarnished image of a man whose name had become synonymous with corporate greed. And although Lay's death was in many ways tragic, most people prefer to save their sympathy for the 5,000 Enron employees whose jobs, savings and pensions were wiped out by the company's spectacular implosion.

Adding to the sense of justice denied, although there are conflicting reports as to the actual value of Ken Lay's worth, his death puts a kink in the government's ability to pursue the estate.
Lay's death allows his lawyers to ask the court to vacate his conviction for fraud and conspiracy in the scandal that left thousands jobless and wiped out billions from investors. That would thwart the government's bid to seize $43.5 million from Lay, but his assets could still be targeted in civil litigation from shareholders and others.
Nonetheless, Lay's supporters this week were trying to convince the public that he was a martyr, not a villain. Rev. William A. Lawson, pastor emeritus of Houston's Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church who will preside at Lay's funeral, offered this take on his friend's life.

"I plan to tell them this is not the first time somebody good has been falsely accused and even crucified,'' Lawson said today in an interview before leaving for Aspen.

Just like Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, my hope is that people will view Ken Lay in a much more positive light after his death. Even though people say he's a robber and a crook and that it's a good thing he's dead, we have the right to tell his family we've seen this (vilification) before, and history can be kind.''

Lay's supporters quickly point to his charitable contributions as evidence of his character.
For a decade, Lay underwrote much of the budget for the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter. He donated about $1 million to build the YMCA in Katy, a Houston suburb.....
Ah, but here's the rub.

"The generosity that he showed the city of Houston should never be forgotten,'' [Robert Prentice, a professor at the University of Texas] said. "Unfortunately, we now know that it was done largely with other people's money.''

Not everyone was so quick to embrace long lost friends. Among the Bush administration's many Orwellian attempts to re-write history, a recent press conference offered this revision of the President's relationship with Ken Lay.

Q: What has been the President’s reaction to the death of Ken Lay?
[White House spokesman TONY SNOW]: I really have not talked to him about it. I will give you my own personal reaction, which is that when somebody dies, you leave behind those that grieve, and I think that they deserve our compassion. But — I don’t know, what do you think would be the appropriate thing to say?
Q: I do not know. I don’t know him. The President was his friend, not me.
SNOW: No, the President has described Ken Lay as an acquaintance, and many of the President’s acquaintances have passed on during his time in office. Again, I think that it is sort of an interesting question but not answerable by me.

You know, just another casual acquaintance, like Jack Abramoff--oops! Never mind.

Ironically, anyone looking for a moral to this story might heed Lay's own words.

...following his conviction on fraud and conspiracy charges in May, the 64-year-old Lay offered a final bit of unofficial testimony that would have made his father [a Baptist lay preacher] proud.

"We believe God is in fact in control and indeed he does work all things for good for those who love the Lord," he said.
We'll just leave it at that.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

help texas candidates today

There are two polls you can fill out right now to help bring much-needed contributions to Texas candidates. Two Political Action Committees, one run by former Virginia Governor Mark Warner and the other by California Senator Barbara Boxer, have nominated Texas candidates for the honor of financial contributions and campaign events to help them get elected.

The first is Forward Together PAC, founded by former Democratic Governor of Virginia Mark Warner. He has initiated a Map Changers poll, as many of you know. The finalists include gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell and candidate for U.S. Congress District 21, John Courage. Mr. Courage and Mr. Bell haev worked out a plan to share the earnings and therefore we must recommend that you vote for Mr. Courage to avoid splitting the Texas vote and denying either candidate the contributions.

Vote for John Courage HERE.

The second is PAC For A Change, founded by Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat. Senator Boxer has decided to run a contest to name a Democratic challenger in a U.S. Senate race to become the target of fundraising efforts. One of these challengers is Barbara Ann Radnofsky, the Democrat that is taking Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas to task in November.

Vote for Barbara Ann Radnofsky HERE.

"The Big Buy" Showing at Peace Action Denton

If you haven't seen The Big Buy: How Tom DeLay Stole Congress, Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck's documentary on the fall of Tom DeLay, here's your chance. The Peace Action Denton group will be showing the movie this Saturday as part of their quarterly meeting. Congressional candidate Tim Barnwell will be saying a few words before the viewing of the film.
WHAT: Denton, Texas screening of The Big Buy

WHEN: Saturday, July 08 2006 07:00 PM

WHERE: Trinity Presbyterian Church, 2200 Bell (at Sherman), Denton

TICKET PRICE: FREE, RSVP required below

TIME: 5:30 P.M. Quarterly General Membership Meeting with Potluck supper - everyone invited. Movie starts at 7:00 PM.

Special Guest Congressional District 26 Candidate Tim Barnwell, who is running against Michael Burgess, will make a short presentation before the film.

Admission is free and film is followed by discussion. Please visit our website for information on all our upcoming events.

HOSTED BY: Peace Action Denton.
Disclaimer: I volunteer for the Barnwell campaign. Join me.

Denton County Commissioner Precinct 2 Race

John McClelland at the Burnt Orange Report has a front page interview with Amy Manuel, who is running for Denton County Commissioner in Precinct 2.

For over 20 years, Republican incumbent Sandy Jacobs ruled over this precinct. She has finally decided to retire, leaving an opening. The Republican nominee to replace her is Justice of the Peace Ron Marchant.....

[McClelland:] Your opponent has an ominous local connection of being the brother of a US Congressman and uncle to a Carrollton City Councilman. Do you think this is going to hurt or hinder your campaign?

[Manuel:] I have found this to be more advantage than disadvantage. To paraphrase what a number of Republicans have said to me, "The Marchants think that they own Carrollton. I wouldn't vote for a Marchant for dog catcher." People are sick of these political machine families. They prefer me because I am not a politician. I am just a concerned citizen and business systems analyst.

The Marchants play dirty politics. That is something that I simply will not do. I do not operate that way.

To read the rest of this interview, click here.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Texas Parks - Taking Action

In my previous post on the funding crisis in Texas parks, one of our readers suggested it's time to take action, and suggested a couple of ways to do so. Art Chapman seems to concur:

Texas state parks are in abysmal condition, and the state Legislature is the only source of relief in sight.

The problem is, the Legislature doesn't act unless there is an enormous political prize at stake or a catastrophic crisis is at its doorstep......

There has never been a true hue and cry on the part of the public. Not when it comes to parks. Let a new hunting restriction surface, or limit the number of red fish that can be caught by sports fishermen, and watch the people turn out for public meetings. Hunters and fishers keep up with legislation; they make their voices heard. They demand change.

There are several advocacy groups for the Texas parks system, including many local "friends" groups. One very informative site that is covers all parks is Texans for State Parks.

The funding crisis for the Texas park system is not new. A problem this serious takes years to develop. Last year, a bill was introduced which would have raised the cap on money generated from the sporting goods tax.

Because Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, has introduced House Bill 1292, which proposes to save our parks by more than doubling the allocation of sporting goods tax revenue dedicated to state and local parks. This bill would raise the decade-old cap to $85 million from $32 million. Instead of $16 million annually, state parks would receive $58.5 million, with local parks getting the balance to offset the amount taken away from them during the previous budget cycle.

This bill sits in the House Ways and Means Committee, with no hearing date set. There are other legislative opportunities to boost state park funding, but this is the most generous. And its chances for survival are not that good. Passage could depend on our input.

Despite those efforts, the bill never made it out of committee.

We have an election coming up. Among the long list of issues for which our state representatives need to be held accountable, funding for Texas parks should be at the top. Make sure they know it.

Monday, July 03, 2006

More on the Texas Park System

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has a front page article and a multi-page spread highlighting the state of the Texas Park system in Sunday's paper. R. A. Dyer's three articles cover an overview of the park system, a summary of the damage from Hurricane Rita, and a highlight of the problems facing Garner State Park, the most popular park in Texas.

The main article, "Texas parks in a state of neglect," documents many specific unmet needs in the parks, including the deplorable state of the transportation system, where decade old vehicles are being cannibalized to keep the remaining fleet running.

According to state parks Director Walt Dabney, the biggest challenge to park management is the escalating fixed costs, i.e., utilities and fuel. With a stagnant budget, the only way to manage increases in costs is to cut personnel.

The article details the funding issues, including sources of revenues.
So now the system is mostly dependant on its own revenue -- about 61 percent of its overall budget comes from operating fees, oil and gas royalties, and the sale of cattle. By contrast, about 35 percent of the overall parks budgets nationwide come from self-generating sources, according to a Texas A&M University researcher.
It is worth noting that although the Big Bend sale of 46,000 acres was blocked, the article lists ten other parks that are being transferred to other agencies, including local municipalities. The Matagorda Island State Park is being downgraded to a state wildlife management area, without staff or park programs.

Gov. Perry's recent ads targeted the good he's done for economic development in Texas. Yet in a state where tourism is among the top five industries, this is how Perry is responding to the park's funding crisis.

"Although funding for Texas parks slowly began to evaporate more than a decade ago, much of the slide occurred the watch of Gov. Rick Perry, who took office in 2000.

While the state budget has grown 42 percent under his tenure, the budget for parks has gone down. Perry also recently called upon all state agencies to submit spending plans for the upcoming two-year budget cycle that include additional cuts of 10 percent -- meaning the parks division is likely to face more reductions.

"The parks department, like other agencies, has had to tighten its belt," said Kathy Walt, a spokeswoman for Perry.

She said the agency may want to consider divesting itself of additional parkland as a way to save money [emphasis mine], although the department has already made reductions that far outstrip the state average.

It's visionary thinking like this that's earned him four challengers in the upcoming election. The article is a long one, but mandatory reading for anyone who fishes, hunts, boats, or camps in Texas.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

1998 letter sent to President Clinton by the Neo-Cons at PNAC to invade Iraq.

Thanks to one of our Flower Mound Democrats members for sending me this information. This is more information that proves Bush and the neo-cons pretended that 9/11 was the reason to invade Iraq. The information below gives information regarding a 1998 letter sent to President Clinton by the neo-cons at PNAC (PNAC was co-founded by William Kristol and Dick Cheney) to invade Iraq. Who signed this letter? Do these names sound familiar?
Elliott Abrams, Richard L. Armitage, William J. Bennett, Jeffrey Bergner, John Bolton, Paula Dobriansky, Francis Fukuyama, Robert Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad (current ambassador to Iraq), William Kristol, Richard Perle, Peter W. Rodman, Donald Rumsfeld, William Schneider, Jr. Vin Weber, Paul Wolfowitz, R. James Woolsey, and Robert B. Zoellick.
"The Project for a New American Century" (PNAC) is the elusive "cabal" that is hardly mentioned in the news, and never called by name. PNAC was co-founded by William Kristol and Dick Cheney & other familiar people. This cabal is the group that is presently in power. Needless to say, our American press has not been reporting all the facts regarding the current Bush Administration , so PNAC is rarely mentioned by them, if ever. If you google PNAC you will find it all over the internet , and many websites attempt to expose and "out" the PNAC. The UK press reports on PNAC all the time now, starting with an article by Neil Mackay in 2002 in the Scottish Sunday Herald.

PNAC is a small group who claim to act on behalf of you and not the elites. They hold many of the key positions of power in the federal government. But really, these are the people who brought us: * the war in Iraq* plans for simultaneous, multiple wars* legal 'justification' for torture* the 'Patriot' Act, expanded presidential powers and reduced citizens' rights* warmongering and war profiteering and on and on. In the past 5 years , only two well-known Americans have been videotaped publicly exposing the PNAC just this year: Helen Thomas "the first lady of the press" and Stephen Colbert, the comedic anchor of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central!

Here is PNAC's actual website , founding members & Statement of Principles. They wrote a letter trying to urge Clinton in 1998 to attack Iraq. Practically everyone in this organization is also in the Bush Administration, however W himself is not a member of the PNAC. Many bloggers surmise this is because he is the cabal's puppet to be kept "untouchable" in case of a need for pardons for the rest of the group. Even Jeb Bush is a member , but not W! The Iraq and potential Iran wars were already planned on their PNAC website in this document "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces, & Resources for a New Century" (remember , this is a non-profit organization , NOT a government entity, yet they came into power two months after this was written in September 2000.

There are hundreds of websites and blogs about the PNAC. Here are a few well-known favorites:

commander in chief on dvd

Don't forget to purchase Commander In Chief on DVD! The first ten episodes are now available wherever DVDs are sold. The rest of season one will be released sometime next fall.

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!