Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

May your new year be filled with many gifts -- including a new president.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne

Texas Blog Roundup: Best of 2007 Edition

2007 was a great year for the Texas Progressive Alliance and its many member blogs and bloggers.

In recognition of the excellent work done by our many bloggers we're treating you to a special New Year's edition of the TPA round-up. So, without further ado, here is your "Best of 2007" from the many bloggers of the Texas Progressive Alliance.

Eye on Williamson has been one of the state's leading blogs when it comes to covering toll road issues and State Representative Mike Krusee's career. EOW's top posts of 2007 included: Eye on Williamson on toll roads, The "New Way Forward" On Tolls, the coming demise of Mike Krusee in Krusee's Influence And Credibility Are Gone, Time For HD-52 To Start Over and a post on the ongoing battle between the citizens and the county government over a new landfill contract, The Landill, TCEQ Hearing & More Gattis Shenanigans .

The most popular posts from The Texas Blue in our first year included: Our running coverage of the 2008 Senate race. We kicked everything off with one of our inaugural pieces analyzing Cornyn's potential vulnerability in '08, in a piece picked up by the Washington Post. We then broke the code on Kos' "mystery candidate," revealing that it was Rep. Rick Noriega that Kos had in mind with his draft movement, and interviewed the Representative shortly before he declared his official candidacy. And we published some of the first information examining Mikal Watts' candidacy in what became the most read story on the Blue this year; In what also became one of our most-read pieces, we analyzed the role of money in statewide Texas campaigns, looking at the efforts taken by the statewide campaign of David Van Os to illustrate the need for money in politics, the proper role of a nascent state party organization, and the limits on the effectiveness of a political message that come from the inability to effectively spread that message due to the lack of funds to reach large numbers of Texans efficiently. This article led to a dialog with David Van Os, and to an interview with him shortly afterward where he voices his side of the issue; And finally, though two interviews have been mentioned already, our "Who's Blue" audio interview series also includes a number of other fascinating figures in Democratic politics, both statewide and across the nation. Some of the more notable interviews have been with four-star Army General and 2004 presidential candidate Wesley Clark, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, and current presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.

John Coby of Bay Area Houston documents what a team of anonymous citizens have accomplished to expose the Texas Ethics Commission as incompetent in the series Spending Campaign Cash. Their work uncovered $3million in undisclosed expenditures by Texas Legislators. The Series. KHOU in Houston featured their work in late December with their report Activist: State's campaign finance oversight out-of-focus.

Easter Lemming Liberal News's topics covered this past year include Pasadena politics, the Joe Horn shooting and our national So-Called-Liberal-Media.

News items covered by TXsharon on Bluedaze: An attempt to shame a Texas Granny who received the Peacemaker of the year award. The depletion of and pollution of our water due to the irresponsible and shocking use by the oil and gas industry including an explanation of Groundwater Conservation Districts and how they can help that was published in two Texas newspapers and the attempt by oil and gas to sabotage the Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District. The failure of the Texas Railroad Commission to protect Texans. The protection money breakdown paid to Texas Railroad Commissioners by the oil and gas industry.

WhosPlayin's favorite posts of 2007 were all about ideas: Universal Health Care - You're Soaking In It in which he explains that we're already paying for universal health care. Why Democrats Oppose "Voter ID" Bills - an explanation for our conservative friends. Lastly, Fiscal Progressivism - Fiscal Conservatism with a Broader View.

Hal at Half Empty hemmed and hawed. How to decide which three of this year's postings merited special recognition? Then it dawned on him to mention the three postings about three singular events that he attended and posted photos about. Priceless! In reverse chronological order: The Fort Bend Democrats Have a Booth at the Fair. Then a summer fundraiser featuring TDP Chairman Boyd Richie. And last February The Fort Bend Democrats held a Love Fest for Rick and Melissa Noriega.

Off the Kuff submits his top posts of 2007: David Dewhurst and Voter ID. Property Tax Cuts Uber Alles, the mantra of the 80th Lege, and Drafting Rick Noriega for Senate.

BlueBloggin', another new blog to the TPA in 2007, submits their best of 2007: nytexan pens an op-ed on The Christian March Against America; BossKitty has a poignant OpEd: All Answers Are Selfish And Shallow; and nytexan discusses how Mexico Get Texas Land Through Border Fence

Refinish69, at Doing My Part For The Left, takes a look back at the year and is still disgusted with Hypocrites, Toe Tapping Senators, and Knee Pad Presidents. While looking back at the year, who can forget Ann Coulter proving what a witch(usually spelled with a capital B) she is. Refinish69 also looks at Gay Pride and World AIDS Day again to explain some history about himself and the continuing need for Gay Voters to speak out.

One of Grand Moff Texan's too rare diaries is always a special delight for us at Texas Kaos. But a standout diary inspired by the ignorance of the beltway punditry really broke down Why We Blog, Or Broderism in my Rear-View Mirror. Read it, and be inspired as we kick off into the 2008 election cycle. As the wilder-than-usual Texas Legislative session came to a close, Boadicea highlighted a few particular items of interest in Personal Courage, Political Vendettas, and an Unexpected Outbreak of Spine. With his usual sharp eye and incisive writing, Krazypuppy noted the REAL importance of the Larry Craig scandal in Why Another GOP Sex Scandal Matters-It's Not the Queers, Either.

It's been a wild year at McBlogger. We've heard about 39%'s trip to meet the Bilderburgers. We've also had exclusive one on one interviews with the Democratic candidates. We've also taken time out to call on some of our friends to be quiet. Because they're being a pain in the ass. This year McBlogger turned two and like all two year olds you can expect tantrums mixed with an even larger dose of mischief. Like all children, though, you'll want to kill us but won't be able to because killing kids is wrong (so, so very wrong). You'll also find us precocious and irresistibly cute.

We at The North Texas Liberal had some trouble deciding on which posts were our absolute favorites of 2007! But we decided on a few standouts that seemed worthy of mentioning for a second time. First, a series on Shaquanda Cotton. Cotton is a fifteen-year-old African American girl from Paris, Texas. She was sentenced to up to seven years at the TYC for pushing a hall monitor at her school (the same judge that sentenced her gave a white girl that was convicted of burning down the family home to probation). Our coverage of Cotton garnered the attention of someone at the Lamar County DA's office who used some recycled talking points to trash Cotton and her mother. Despite all of this, after the mainstream media broke Cotton's story, she became a candidate for early release. By the end of March, it was official that she would be released from the TYC, and in April we showed a video of her reunion with her mother. Cotton has returned to school and wants to study to become a lawyer so she can fight future injustices. We continued our global warming coverage with our Planet Purgatory series, parts One and Two. In May, we heard that the global warming tipping point could be in only ten years' time. NASA scientist James Hansen, a tireless environment advocate who testified about global warming before the Congress back in the 1980s, explains the tipping point theory... the point of no return. But he also believes in prevention rather than adaptation. If you missed this one, check out the post... if you're concerned at all about the environment, you'll want to read it. We continued our global warming coverage with our Planet Purgatory series, parts One and Two. Lastly, we gave Sen. John Cornyn the credit he deserved when he finally stood right side of an issue. Despite a year of flops and fabrications, he said he would support seasonal workers through the H2-B visa program. But despite the efforts of Maryland Democrat Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the fix wasn't finalized before Congress broke for the winter holidays, leaving thousands of small business owners out in the cold this holiday season. When we spoke face-to-face with a legislative expert at Cornyn's DC office, we were told that the Texas senator would like to see comprehensive immigration reform and wouldn't lobby for the H2-B visas, though he supported seasonal workers, because he didn't want to piecemeal a fix for the immigration problem. So even though he stood with his constituents on the right side of the issue, in the end he let them down again.

Edmundo Rocha of Para Justicia y Libertad reports about two protests against the prison industrial complex used here in Texas to detain undocumented immigrants--the Houston
Processing Center in Houston and the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, TX. Prior to those reports, he reported on the suicide of David Ritcheson of Spring, TX, the Latino teen who was brutally beaten, tortured, and sodomized with a plastic pole by two white racist teenagers, David Henry Tuck and Keith Robert Turner.

Marc G., of Marc's Miscellany, analyzed Tom Craddick's preposterous claim that the speaker of the house can only be removed by impeachment. Marc also discussed Gov. Perry's controversial decision to veto the health insurance appropriation for community college employees.

Israel Behar-Ojalvo, PDiddie's father-in-law, passed away in March and Brains and Eggs had a post with photos in tribute. The Texas Youth Commission remains the worst scandal in Texas history, and that was apparent in April of last year. And in the matter of a few hours just before Labor Day, Alberto Gonzales, Phil Garner, and Tim Purpura all lost their jobs. Good riddance to a big bunch of losers. More like this in 2008, sure to come.

2007 was a heck of a year for Capitol Annex. Vince Leibowitz at Capitol Annex is most proud of his ground-breaking coverage of the saga surrounding the insurgency in the Texas House and Speaker Craddick's power grab, including Terry Keel's Troubling Memo (a smoking gun, for sure), and the saga surrounding the resignation of parliamentarian Denise Davis, which earned him a mention in (among other publications), Texas Lawyer. Coverage of the 80th Texas Legislature was also a major event for Capitol Annex, including a mind-numbing Liveblogging of debate on the General Appropriations Act, and a special video: Jodie Laubenberg Is Screaming.

It has been another exciting year at DosCentavos. I've tried to go over some of my better postings of the year and came up with three. DosCentavos wrote about his expectations for the 2007Lege Session. Beyond La Politica, we also know DosCentavos enjoys writing reviews on the latest releases in the Tejano and Mexican American music genre. This year, he received the honor of being asked by Los Lobos to rate their most recent release, The Town and The City. Finally, during the last Lege session, some Senators attempted to take up the debate on legalizing gambling to pay for education. DC tells us a few realities about higher education funding in the process.

Musings started the year concerned about science education in Texas (see: Warren Chisum, R-Dark Ages) and ended the year with some commentary about her friend, Chris Comer, being fired as Director of Science at the Texas Education Agency over her stand on evolution. In between it was all about Melissa and Rick Noriega.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes a church in El Paso falls victim to manipulation by a right wing cadre bent on world domination. CouldBeTrue then wonders what would have happened in a perfect Republican world when the Minnesota bridge collapsed. South Texas Chisme covers the wedge'em and hate'em campaign,, also known as Republican immigration strategy. Hispanics have taken note.

The Texas Cloverleaf, another blog new to the TPA this year, was a submission hold performed by professional wrestler Dean Malenko, which tied up his opponent's legs, much like a clover. We are designed to be one of those lefty progressive Democratic type political blogs. We live in North Texas, so expect a lot of DFW area stuff. But, we like the rest of the state, sometimes. Maybe even America. But don't push us! Politics is like a Texas Cloverleaf. It takes you in different directions, and ultimately will make you tap out! The series we are most proud of since forming in the summer of 2007 was the continued exposure of the outright lies and misleading statements coming from the pro-toll road crowd in Dallas during the Trinity Vote effort. Even though the referendum failed, we feel we did our part to help Dallas voters make an informed decision. Read the series here, here, here, here and here.

Best wishes for a happy 2008 from the Texas Progressive Alliance.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bipartisanship Is Not the Answer

As John Edwards surging poll numbers are raising the exciting prospect that the Democratic presidential nomination might become a horse race, Edwards is coming under increasing attack from the press questioning whether his populist stance and increasingly tough anti-corporate rhetoric are seen as polarizing.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Edwards said he was trying to ease fears about his electability by arguing that his sharply populist message is not polarizing. "It's not divisive at all," he said, "it's uniting."

Wait, wasn't it just a few months ago that Hillary Clinton was being decried as unelectable she was seen as too divisive? But she's the anti-populist. That's right, she's polarizing because she's a woman. Or a Clinton, take your pick. And Obama is guilty as well, even though he's running on a platform to transcend partisanship. But he's still divisive because he's black.

Listening to all the pundits ratchet up the heat on the Democrats to play nice, I keep coming back to Digby's post on the topic last winter, shortly after the Democrats regained congress:

As regular readers know, I've been pondering this infuriating fixation on bipartisanship and moderation for the last couple of weeks and watching aghast as the press does the wingnuts' bidding, setting up the Dems as failing to fulfill their promise to the American people that they would be moderate and bipartisan if they won the election. This was simply not on the agenda during the election, other than that the House Democrats would restore some sort of fairness to the rules and pass anti-corruption legislation. In fact, the entire election was about the Democrats taking power to provide some needed checks and balance on the Republicans.

Oddly, however, in the last couple of weeks, the media has been obsessing that the election reflected a desire among the American people for the congress to stop fighting and work together, which makes no sense. The Republican congress didn't fight --- the Democrats just caterwauled ineffectually from the sidelines, while the Republicans did what they wanted. There was no gridlock, they passed virtually every piece of legislation they wanted and the congress was perfectly in sync with the president. If comity was what people were concerned about they obviously would have kept undivided government.

The American people voted for the Democrats because they wanted them to stop the Republican juggernaut.

The public is rightfully upset with Congress over their failure to stop Bush's agenda in 2007. But the answer is to play hardball while strategizing for a larger majority in the next election, not to find more ways to compromise. Previous calls from the GOP for moderation merely provided the political cover to stay the course, and the result has been a legislative agenda vastly out of sync with the views of its electorate on every key policy issue: the war, fiscal responsibility, healthcare, energy.

And as for presidential candidates and "divisiveness," the Republican strategy since the days of Lee Atwater has been to pit one segment of the electorate against the other. Now that legacy is playing out in prime time as the Republicans attack one another over immigration (anti-Hispanic), terrorism (anti-Muslim), and religious bona fides (anti-Mormon). Does anyone think that electing any of the current Republican presidential candidates will result in a less contentious executive-legislative interface than any of the Democrats mentioned above?

If the media wants to make this an issue for the campaign, they at least need to apply the standard evenly. Try googling the names of any of the candidates + "divisive" and see which party's candidates have the highest hits.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dallas Morning News Names Illegal Immigrant Texan of the Year

The Dallas Morning News has acknowledged the complexity of the immigration issue by writing a balanced editorial naming illegal immigrants as its Texan of the Year.

Few issues have the intense rhetoric associated with them as the immigration debate. For many Republican voters, it is the single issue that defines their political view. How important this issue is in the current primary campaign is evidenced by how many in the GOP field have tacked to the right on this issue since declaring themselves as presidential candidates.

While governor, Huckabee gained favor with Hispanic leaders by denouncing a high-profile federal immigration raid and suggesting some anti-illegal immigration measures were driven by racism. He advocated making children of illegal immigrants eligible for college scholarships.

Huckabee's Republican presidential rivals have tried to make an issue of the scholarship plan, portraying him as soft on illegal immigration. Huckabee responded this month by unveiling a plan to seal the Mexican border, hire more agents to patrol it and make illegal immigrants go home before they could apply to return to this

From the border fence to the ordinances in Farmers Branch, the immigration debate has held the spotlight all year. In its editorial, the DMN acknowledges that the controversy will be with us for some time to come. But although Texas is projected to be majority Hispanic by 2020, the editorial also makes the observation that Latin America's own demographics may ultimately impact this issue regardless of political strategy.
... though the current immigration flow shows no signs of abating, the Mexican GDP is growing and the national fertility rate has plummeted by almost two-thirds since 1970. That birth rate is nearing the level at which Mexico would need to retain workers for its own economy, thereby shutting off the spigot of immigration into the U.S.
So if the GOP can't put this genie back in the bottle, it will have spent a decade or more alienating what will then be Texas' largest bloc of voters on an issue that may resolve of its own accord. Brilliant strategy, pachyderms. Don't stop on our account.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

John McClelland has an announcement up at the Burnt Orange Report.

I am officially announcing my candidacy for House District 64 in Denton County, Texas.

While I could post the usual press release, which I have blasted out today to various media outlets, I have decided to make this more personal for the blogs, especially my former home at Burnt Orange Report.

I was asked by the Coordinated Campaign to run for the 2008 nomination because we need to make a change. Denton County, and all of Texas for that matter, needs positive change, which only a Democrat can deliver.

We are the party that works for the people. I want to see the best for our children in Texas by improving education and raising teacher salaries, so they can provide students with the attention they deserve. I want to see Texas take care of its sick and injured, by increasing the number of insured citizens and offering greater access to healthcare. I want to improve public transportation, and look for alternative sources of energy, so we can end the nightmare of traffic jams and poor air quality in our state.

In order for this change to happen, we need a majority in the TX House. At last count, we are 5 seats away from that majority. 5 more seats gives us the power to reverse the problems that the GOP majority and House Speaker Tom Craddick have caused. I believe the people of Texas are ready.

I need only look at HD 97, a Republican stronghold, electing Democrat Dan Barrett to represent them. That is inspiration enough. HD 64 has been a similar Republican "safe district" for many years. I plan on dispelling that notion in 2008.

I am asking for everyone's support in this campaign. Together, we can make a difference in Denton County and all of Texas. John McClelland for State Representative District 64.

All of us here at NTL want to thank John for stepping up and giving voters a clear choice here in Denton County. We wish him the best of luck. You can help launch John's campaign into the New Year. Click here to contribute.

benazir bhutto assassinated

While addressing supporters, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto suffered a shot to the neck and was killed.

John Moore, a photographer for Getty Images, said Bhutto was standing through the sunroof of her vehicle, waving to supporters, when two shots rang out.

Bhutto fell back into the vehicle, and almost immediately a bomb blast rocked the scene, sending twisting metal and shrapnel into the crowd, he added.

Police sources told CNN the bomber, who was riding a motorcycle, blew himself up near Bhutto's vehicle.


Chaos erupted at the hospital when former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived to pay his respects to Bhutto less than three hours after her death.

Hundreds of Bhutto supporters crammed into the entrance shouted and cried, some clutching their heads in pain and shock. Sharif called it "the saddest day" in Pakistan's history. "Something unthinkable has happened," he said

Sharif said his party will boycott Pakistan's January 8 parliamentary elections in the wake of the assassination.

President Pervez Musharraf said the killers were the same extremists that Pakistan is fighting a war against, and announced three days of national mourning.

Police warned citizens to stay home as they expected rioting to break out in city streets in reaction to the death.

NTL mourns the loss of a great world leader and a shining light in the turbulent Middle East. Bhutto was a strong proponent of democratic values and she will be missed in Pakistan and around the world.

Monday, December 24, 2007

season's greetings

Merry Christmas
Buon Natale ~ Joyeux Noël ~ God Jul ~ Mele Kelikimaka ~ Feliz Navidad ~ Happy Christmas

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cornyn's Hypocrisy on Court Security

Senator Cornyn wants us to know that he takes the safety of our judges seriously. That's why he's so pleased to see the passage of the Court Security Improvement Act of 2007.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called the passage an important step to protect judges, courthouse personnel and their families against increased threats of violence.

Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was an original co-sponsor of the legislation, which was passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate on April 19. “Our democracy depends on our ability to attract and protect dedicated public servants to administer justice. This vital role comes with serious security risks that place judges and their families in harm’s way,” Cornyn said in an announcement late Wednesday.

Cornyn is, of course, hoping that no one will remember his famous quote during the Terri Schiavo controversy, where he suggested a direct link between violence against the judiciary and the actions of "activist" judges.

…it causes a lot of people, including me, great distress to see judges use the authority that they have been given to make raw political or ideological decisions. And no one, including those judges, including the judges on the United States Supreme Court, should be surprised if one of us stands up and objects.....

And finally, I-- I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news. And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in -- engage in violence. Certainly without any justification but a concern that I have that I wanted to share.

I'm sure Cornyn had only the best interests of the judiciary in mind when he tried to warn them of their errant ways. He's certainly not responsible for how some right-wing nut job interprets any of it, right? Joan Humphrey Lefkow, the judge who lost her husband and mother in a double murder that served as the incentive for the security bill in the first place, might disagree. In a hearing designed "to address the possible threat that irresponsible, anti-judiciary rhetoric can pose to the safety of judges, their families, and judicial independence", Lefkow stated:
Fostering disrespect for judges can only encourage those that are on the edge, or on the fringe, to exact revenge on a judge who displeases them."
Fortunately, the pandering politicians who fanned those flames are mostly gone: Tom Delay, Rick Santorum, Bill Frist. Here's hoping our junior senator is not far behind.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reid Blocks Recess Appointments for FEC

For all the many things Senator Harry Reid has gotten wrong lately, one thing he has consistently done well as majority leader of the Senate is blocking Bush's insidious recess appointments. Today, once again, Reid made the decision to keep a pro forma Senate session during the holidays. This decision will prevent Bush from appointing his designees to the FEC during the holiday break.

And that's good news and bad news.

Good news, because one of those candidates to the FEC (Federal Election Commission) was Hans von Spakovsky. von Spakovsky was a controversial candidate to the post of the FEC because of his past tenure at the Civil Rights Division. After his appointment to the Civil Rights Division, also made during a recess appointment, he was accused by fellow members of the Justice Department of de-emphasizing protection of minority voters in favor of pushing the bogeyman of voter fraud. During his tenure, his push for voter ID laws came over the objections of career civil attorneys in the agency, and sparked the resignations of half the staff.

Bad news because the alternative is to shut down the FEC.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) just announced that the Senate will not clear four new appointees for the Federal Election Commission, meaning the panel that acts as a watchdog on political campaigns cannot function during the critical election-year period.

Reid pursued a strategy to get the administration to agree to send its other nominees to the Senate for approval, without von Spakovsky. Predictably, Bush threw a tantrum and refused to negotiate.

The Senate's inaction means that recess appointments for three of the nominees, including von Spakovsky, will expire at year's end. Unless some of those commissioners choose to work without pay, the six-member commission will be left with only two members, Republican holdover David Mason and Democrat Ellen Weintraub.

With only two members, there will not even be enough commissioners to hold a vote. So if the Bushies can't have their crony von Spakovsky placing his thumb on the scale of justice, they will force the shutdown of the commission responsible for compliance with federal campaign finance laws. For the Rethugs, its a win-win.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

dan barrett wins early vote in fort worth district

Dan Barrett, the Fort Worth Democrat endorsed by TexBlog PAC and the Texas Progressive Alliance for State Representative in District 97, has won the early vote in that district's special election and is on track to take the seat, according to Burnt Orange Report.

UPDATE: With nearly 30 of 46 precincts reporting, Barrett is still up with over 53% of the vote. Hat tip to KT at BOR for following this race so closely and accurately.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Texan of the Year 2007

[Today, the Texas Progressive Alliance honors its 2007 Texan of the Year. This year, the Alliance elected to recognize a number of other Texans who have contributed to Texas politics and the Progressive cause during 2007. This week, leading up to the TOY announcement, we brought you our Texas Progressive Alliance Gold Stars. Thursday, we recognized State Sen. Mario Gallegos. Wednesday, we recognized Molly Ivins. Tuesday, we recognized Denise Davis. Monday, it was Rick & Melissa Noriega. Our Silver Stars, announced last week, may be found here.]


The Texas Progressive Alliance is proud to announce the House Leadership team of State Rep. Jim Dunnam, State Rep. Garnet Coleman, and State Rep. Pete Gallego as our 2007 recipients of the Texan of the Year award.

There may not be another three individuals who have done more for Democrats in the state of Texas over the past four years than Rep. Jim Dunnam, Rep. Pete Gallego. Together, they have led the fight for the resurgence of the Texas Democratic Party. Every day is another story. They fought through the 2006 elections, and then they fought for the months leading up to the first day of session. They led the fight against Speaker Craddick in the final days of the session, and are now poised to add to the Democratic gains in the House as they continue their roles as Co-Chairs of the House Democratic Campaign Committee.

Their work together is imperative to the continued progress of Democrats in Texas, but it's their individual efforts that really demonstrate how this leadership team makes the best of one another for the good of all Texans. Here is a brief highlight of what each of these leaders did over the past year:

State Rep. Jim Dunnam

When we had a mere 62 members in the House in 2003. Today, there are 70, including State Rep. Kirk England who announced his intentions to switch parties and run as a Democrat next cycle. In only 5 years, there was full frontal attack on Speaker Craddick's ability to lead, launched by one question by the Waco Democrat: "Mr. Speaker, what is the process of removing the Speaker of the Texas House?" His mastery of the House rules is incredible to watch.

During the 80th Regular Session, Rep. Jim Dunnam led efforts to clean up the mess Governor Perry and the Republican leadership made at the Texas Youth Commission. He worked with Rep. Coleman and Rep. Gallego to lead the fight against expanding new tax cuts for the richest 10% of Texans at the expense of health care and education opportunities for Texas families. He passed numerous bills for his district, but he will forever be remembered for the efforts he made on the House floor, challenging the absolute power of Speaker Craddick.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman

Rep. Garnet Coleman is one of the most progressive members of the Texas House. Rep. Coleman filed over sixty piece of legislation, including (1) legislation end tuition deregulation, (2) legislation to overturn the ban on gay marriage, (3) legislation to prevent the construction of any new toll roads anywhere in the state of Texas. But beyond these strong policy positions, he successfully passed legislation to expand health care opportunities for former foster children and double the funding for cancer research. He continued his fight to fully restore CHIP -- an effort he's worked for ever since Speaker Craddick and his allies cut hundreds of thousands of kids off of health care since 2003.

Beyond his legislative work, Rep. Coleman is the top fundraiser for Texas Democrats, and is well-known for his non-stop efforts in supporting House Democrats across the state. He chairs the Legislative Study Group, which received a Silver Star award from the TPA for its incredible policy work.

State Rep. Pete Gallego

Rep. Pete Gallego is the chair of of the largest bipartisan legislative caucus in the Texas House-- the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. He also sits on the national board of NALEO. He was a top lieutenant for Speaker Pete Laney, and his trust from that better time in the Texas House allows him to remain as one of the most trusted members in the Texas House.

His policy issues are far-reaching, and can range from helping protect our state's natural resources to preventing those horrid voter ID bills behind the scenes. Rep. Gallego also helped temper some of the more controversial issues of the session, including immigration and security.

Rep. Gallego often makes waves quietly inside the Capitol, but his efforts help thousands of Texans from all walks of life. Together, Rep. Gallego, Rep. Dunnam, and Rep. Coleman are extremely deserving for our 2007 Texan of the Year award.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Texan of the Year 2007: Gold Stars - Mario Gallegos

[This year, in addition to recognizing its Texan of the Year (which will come this Friday), the Texas Progressive Alliance elected to recognize a number of other Texans who have contributed to Texas politics and the Progressive cause during 2007. This week, leading up to the TOY announcement, we bring you our Texas Progressive Alliance Gold Stars (one each day through Thursday). Wednesday, we recognized Molly Ivins. Tuesday, we recognized Denise Davis. Monday, it was Rick & Melissa Noriega. Our Silver Stars, announced last week, may be found here.]

Don't forget! The Texan Of The Year Will Be Announced On Friday!!!!

Mario GallegosState Sen. Mario Gallegos

We all like to think that when our beliefs and principles are truly put to the test, that we will be able to answer the call and stand up for the things we hold dear, even if it means putting our own well-being at risk. Most of us never find ourselves in that position, and it's often just as well, for as the Apostle Peter could tell us, it's easier said than done. But when it is done, it serves as an inspiration for all of us.

State Sen. Mario Gallegos was in that position this spring. Having undergone a liver transplant shortly after the legislative session began, he spent most of the rest of the session in Houston recuperating. His absence meant that the Democratic Senate caucus had only ten members in it, which by itself was not enough to block a divisive partisan bill, such as the many that were filed to restrict voting rights by requiring photo ID. Sen. Gallegos asked Lt. Gov. Dewhurst to give him notice if a voter ID bill was going to be on the docket, so he could do his duty and prevent it from passing. Dewhurst made a one-time-only guarantee, so against the advice of his doctor, Gallegos arrived in Austin and vowed to stay there until sine die to protect all voters' rights. And it was a good and necessary thing that he did, as later events proved Dewhurst's willingness to pass such a bill by any means necessary. His health was weak, but his will was strong, and the battle was at a standstill.

But alas, just as victory seemed assured, his fragile health sent him back to Houston, and it looked like Dewhurst would finally get his chance. And then, when everyone least expected it, he came back, and he left no doubt as to the force of his resolve.
Ailing state Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, has a hospital bed set up in the sergeant's office -- about a 100 feet from Gallegos' Senate chamber desk, Monday so that he could help block a contentious voter ID bill from debate.

"I'm hurting. I'm hurting," Gallegos said a few minutes ago as the Senate went into session.


In the meantime, Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, is monitoring Gallegos' health. Deuell is a physician.

In the face of such resistance, Dewhurst finally capitulated, and let Sen. Gallegos return home where he could get the treatment he needed. He left the Senate chamber to a standing ovation, and the lasting gratitude of all Texans who cherish the right to vote.

For literally putting his life on the line in order to protect democratic principles, State Sen. Mario Gallegos is a deserving winner of a Gold Star from the Texas Progressive Alliance.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Texan of the Year 2007: Gold Stars - Molly Ivins

[This year, in addition to recognizing its Texan of the Year (which will come this Friday), the Texas Progressive Alliance elected to recognize a number of other Texans who have contributed to Texas politics and the Progressive cause during 2007. This week, leading up to the TOY announcement, we bring you our Texas Progressive Alliance Gold Stars (one each day through Thursday). Yesterday, we recognized Denise Davis. Monday, it was Rick & Melissa Noriega. Our Silver Stars, announced last week, may be found here.]

Molly Ivins Molly Ivins. Had Molly Ivins been born in 1984 instead of 1944, she might have been a modern-day blogger. Instead, she was an award-winning, best selling journalist, columnist and author. A Texan, a progressive, a feminist, and a survivor, Molly Ivins passing earlier this year marked the end of an era for Texans and those who loved her fiery, populist brand. Molly Ivins gave progressives a prominent, national, voice.

In honoring someone as distinguished as the late, great Molly Ivins, sometimes it's best to do so in someone else's words. In this case, Molly's:
I used to say, having once been a card-carrying Sixties radical, that if I had to be called a liberal, I’d just as soon be the worst kind of liberal--a bleeding heart. I wound up being a liberal because I was for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam and that’s what I got called. I missed the New Deal and McCarthyism and all that good business.

I’ve got more important things to worry about--three-year-old kids getting raped and denied admission to a hospital because their mamas don’t have any money and things like that. I carry neither brief nor guilt for the many sins of liberals past and present: there’s too much to bleed over. And laugh over.
Indeed, Molly Ivins. Indeed. For this and more, we name you a Texas Progressive Alliance 2007 Gold Star.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Texan of the Year 2007: Gold Stars - Denise Davis

[This year, in addition to recognizing its Texan of the Year (which will come this Friday), the Texas Progressive Alliance elected to recognize a number of other Texans who have contributed to Texas politics and the Progressive cause during 2007. This week, leading up to the TOY announcement, we bring you our Texas Progressive Alliance Gold Stars (one each day through Thursday). Yesterday, we recognized Rick & Melissa Noriega. Our Silver Stars, announced last week, may be found here.]

Denise DavisDenise Davis. Few stories this year enthralled the politically inclined among us this year like the ongoing turmoil in the Texas House of Representatives. From the Speaker's race at the onset of the 80th Legislative Session to Rep. Pat Haggerty's call for members who wanted to remove House Speaker Tom Craddick to take the keys to their voting machines and follow him out of the chamber at the end of the session, this year was a watershed moment in Texas political history. While there were many, many, elected officials who deserve (and, indeed, will receive) recognition and historical remembrance for the parts they played in the pageant of chaos that was the 80th Texas Legislature, one other individual--who happens not to be an elected official--also deserves to be recognized for the role she played in the unprecedented drama. Denise Davis, the former Parliamentarian of the Texas House of Representatives was never an uncontroversial figure. Throughout her tenure--which lasted for nearly three sessions--some Democrats privately criticized Davis for some of her rulings and believed her to be an unrepentant loyalist to House Speaker Tom Craddick. That changed near midnight on May 25, 2007 when Denise Davis walked out of the Parliamentarian's Office and into the pages of history. Around 9 p.m. that night, after House Democratic Leader Jim Dunnam attempted to get Craddick to recognize a motion to vacate the chair, Craddick walked off the dais and left the House in utter chaos, 'adjourned' until 11 p.m. What happened in the interim to some degree remains a blur, although one thing is clear: Parliamentarian Denise Davis (and her deputy, Chris Griesel) resigned, and House Speaker Tom Craddick appointed two enforcer-thugs to take their place. Denise Davis departed House Speaker Tom Craddick's service that night rather than legitimize his dictator-like hold over the Texas House. It is a move that took courage, because the full weight of Craddick's office--in attempts to keep her quiet about what happened in those last days--came down upon her and demanded she say nothing about her tenure publicly. While Davis, for her own reasons, has not spoken about what happened in those last days and hours of her tenure, one thing is sure: when the history of the 80th Legislature is written, amidst the legislators who will occupy the pages of the texts that tell this story, there will be one other person whose part will be recognized, and that person will be Denise Davis--for her courage.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Texan of the Year 2007: Gold Stars - Rick and Melissa Noriega

This year, in addition to recognizing its Texan of the Year (which will come this Friday), the Texas Progressive Alliance elected to recognize a number of other Texans who have contributed to Texas politics and the Progressive cause during 2007. This week, leading up to the TOY announcement, we bring you our Texas Progressive Alliance Gold Stars (one each day through Thursday).

Rick & Melissa NoriegaRick and Melissa Noriega. These two Houston Democrats could easily be called Texas' new Political Power Couple. Melissa Noriega made news early this year with her run for the Houston City Council seat vacated by Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, who resigned the seat to assume the last six weeks of former Congressman Tom DeLay's term in 2006. Through a special election, a runoff, and a general election battle to win the seat for a full term, Melissa Noriega's progressive message endeared her to Houston voters, earned her statewide media recognition, and helped mark her as part of a new generation of progressive leaders with statewide potential. Rick Noriega's story is one that is also well known. A veteran of the "War on Terror," Rick Noriega started generating buzz early in 2007 as a number of progressive Netroots activists and bricks-and-mortar Democratic activists created a movement to "draft" Noriega into the Democratic Party's race for United States Senate. Rick Noriega answered the call to service and threw his hat into the ring to take on John Cornyn and the Texas Republican machine in the 2008 election in spite of the fact that he could have easily won reelection to his seat in the Texas Legislature or even run for another office where the fight would have been small to none. Instead, he had the courage to stand up for all Texans and say enough is enough. A true people-powered candidate, Rick Noriega, along with Melissa Noriega, have both made significant sacrifices to serve the people of Texas. For this and many other reasons, the Texas Progressive Alliance is pleased to recognize Rick and Melissa Noriega among its 2007 Gold Stars.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Texan of the Year 2007: Silver Stars

Since 2005, the Texas Progressive Alliance has named a "Texan of the Year" to give recognition to one worthy Texan who has made a significant contribution to the world of politics or the progressive cause.

For our Third Annual Texan of the Year Awards, the Texas Progressive Alliance elected to not only name a Texan of the Year--the Texan or Texans who contributed the most to the cause of the Progressive movement in 2007--but also recognize other Texans whose contributions were also important to the Progressive cause and worthy of recognition.

The Texan of the Year will be announced next Friday, December 14. Between now and then, the Texas Progressive Alliance will announce its list of Texans whose contributions to the progressive cause it believed worthy of special recognition. This begins today, with the announcement of the Texas Progressive Alliance's Silver Stars. Starting Monday, four additional "Gold Stars" will be announced followed by the TOY on Friday.

Without further ado, here are the 2007 Texas Progressive Alliance Silver Stars (in alphabetical order):

Texas Ranger Brian Burzynski. It has been said that persistence is as much a virtue as patience. Inasmuch as that is so, it is also true that persistence pays off. In the case of Texas Ranger Brian Burzynski, persistence also saved thousands of Texas children from a certain Hell at the Texas Youth Commission. For nearly two years, starting in 2005, Burzynski investigated allegations of sexual misconduct in Texas' juvenile prison system. He was rebuffed by state authorities, local prosecutors, and even the United States Department of Justice. In spite of these rebuffs, Burzynski continued to push his case--investigating, making noise, not letting go, and never taking 'no' for an answer. The end result? It broke open one of the largest criminal justice scandals in the history of Texas and brought forward a flood of legislative reforms, and victims. For this and more, the Texas Progressive Alliance is pleased to confer upon Ranger Brian Burzynski a 2007 Texas Progressive Alliance Silver Star.

Hank Gilbert. When Hank Gilbert's race for agriculture commissioner ended last November, he kept on going. During his 2006 campaign, Gilbert promised Texans that--win or lose--he would continue to fight against toll roads, mandatory animal ID legislation, and international corporations that threatened the citizens of Texas. Gilbert organized a Texas Independence Day March on Austin. Working with farmers, ranchers, Democratic activists, and disillusioned landowners, brought nearly 1,000 Texans to Austin to testify against the Trans Texas Corridor at a session of the Texas Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security the day before the march. Thousands more Texans showed up the next day to continue the fight. Gilbert has been instrumental in forming a statewide umbrella organization of anti-toll groups to continue the fight against toll-enabling legislation. As a director for Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, he continues to travel the state and nation speaking out against the takeover of taxpayer funded infrastructure by private interests. For this and more, the Texas Progressive Alliance proudly names Hank Gilbert recipient of a 2007 Texas Progressive Alliance Silver Star.

Congressman Ciro Rodriguez. In 2006, Ciro Rodriguez was the "come back kid" of Texas Politics, winning a seat in congress after a runoff about the time the Texan of the Year for 2006 was announced. This year, Rodriguez took office as part of the first Democratic congress in nearly a generation, and has served his San Antonio-based district honorably. His race is considered one of national Republicans' top targets, although Rodriguez's constituent services and his support from Democratic Leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will no doubt help him retain the district.

Texas Bloggers Who Made A Difference. This year, for the first time, Texas Bloggers determined that some of their own were worthy of special recognition for their work during 2007: John Cobarruvias (Bay Area Houston Blog); Vince Leibowitz (Capitol Annex); Edmundo "Xicano Power" Roca (XicanoPwr); and Sharon Wilson (TxSharon of BlueDaze). A note on each blogger:
John Cobarruvias has almost single handedly changed the way Texas legislators use and report their campaign/officeholder expenses. Because he has held their feet to the fire through his Spending Campaign Cash series, organizing a group of volunteers to file complaints against offending legislators and urging media to report on spending abuses, legislators have cleaned up their acts. The Texas Ethics Commission has issued written reminders to legislators about the very problems with reporting expenses that Cobarruvias uncovered.

Vince Leibowitz. As the 80th Session of the Texas Legislature ended in turmoil--with parliamentarians resigning, a walk-out, and two stooges of House Speaker Tom Craddick on the dais as officers of the Texas House, Leibowitz decided that the whole story of those final days wasn't being told and started digging. Through public information requests, he uncovered a sheaf of documents from House Speaker Tom Craddick's office that helped piece together exactly what happened in those final hours. No main-stream media outlet had dug into this, and Leibowitz's work broke new ground and proved that House Speaker Tom Craddick's actions were the premeditated acts of a Speaker on the edge.

Edmundo Rocha. Blending lends heavy-handed social critiques, local and national politics, and a heaping dose of common sense in his blog, Edmundo Rocha tackles heavy topics like imigration, teenage pregnancy, racial and gender politics, and backs up everything with a sense of style and spirit. With a loyal and unwavering audience (his Texan of the Year nomination, in fact, was suggested in the comments of a blog by one of Edmundo's readers), Rocha has rapidly become one of the state's most prominent Latino bloggers. No issue is too tough, and none taboo for this blogger.

Sharon Wilson. Most Texans don't know what the Texas Railroad Commission is or does. In 2007, one Texas blogger changed that: Sharon Wilson. Wilson's reporting on the injection well drilling in the Barnett Shale region and its impact on the water quality and the environment in Wise County and surrounding areas has been exceedingly important to bringing wider attention to the dangers this practice poses across the state. Wilson has nearly single-handedly stood up to large oil companies and made the companies and state agencies--including the Texas Railroad Commission--take notice. Relentless in her drive to educate the public and elected officials to the damage being done to the Texas environment, Wilson's investigative reporting and blogging is worthy of recognition.

Texas Legislative Study Group. The policy clearinghouse for Progressives, the Texas Legislative Study Group is full of unsung heroes. Policy analysts who help Legislators keep up with the more than 50 bills that come up a day in the Texas House, the Texas Legislative Study Group and its policy analysts could perhaps be considered the most important behind-the-scenes players in the legislative process when it comes to safeguarding progressive principles. Legislators carry their reports around on the House floor like bibles. Their arguments against the Appropriations Bill, some versions of Jessica Law, and the Castle Doctrine were masterful. Also important to note is that the brilliant minds behind the work of the LSG aren't aged policy veterans, but rather among the best Texas minds of more recent generations, "Generation X" in particular. The men and women who daily toil at the LSG are indeed the men and women who will shape Texas public policy for generations into the future.

TexBlog PAC. Started by just a handful of Texas progressive bloggers, TexBlog PAC has harnessed the energy of the online community. In a state with one of the largest netroots communities in America--and the most vibrant progressive blogosphere, TexBlog PAC is poised to build on victories bloggers helped happen in 2004 and 2006. Having already raised over $10,000 in its initial months, the PAC will play a key role for Democrats as we try to take back the House in 2008.

David Van Os. Following his defeat in the 2006 Attorney General's race, Van Os made good on his promise to "keep fighting 'em on ice." From helping groups like TURF in their fight against the private takeover of government infrastructure to helping workers who were intimidated when nooses started showing up in their workplace (securing the removal of both the noose and the supervisor), Van Os hasn't stopped fighting for working Texans. In addition, from musicians to probation officers to non-profit workers, Van Os has continued his life's work on behalf of the working men and women of Texas.

State Representative Mike Villarreal. In 2003, many were ready to write Mike Villarreal's political obituary. Fast forward to 2007, and Villarreal has become one of the Progressive leaders in the Texas House of Representatives. Authoring legislation that would have made created contribution limits for political candidates and an independent redistricting commission, Villarreal took a lead with these progressive issues. In addition, Villarreal took a lead on GLBT rights by authoring HB 900, which would have provided protections from discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression for the GLBT community. This, coupled with the compromise he sought to proffer when Republicans tried to take over the House and suspend the constitutional provision concerning the consideration of legislation early in the session, make Villarreal worthy of recognition.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Condemnation for TEA Over Forced Resignation

The decision by the Texas Education Agency to force out its science curriculum director, Chris Comer, for sending an email suggesting that her colleagues attend a talk critical of intelligent design is still reverberating around the state and beyond.

Barbara Forrest, the author of the talk mentioned in Ms. Comer's email, has responded in a lengthy rebuttal condemning the TEA for its actions.

In forcing Chris Comer to resign as Texas Director of Science, the Texas Education Agency has confirmed in a most public, unfortunate way the central point of my Austin presentation, “Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse,” the mere announcement of which TEA used as an excuse to terminate her: the intelligent design (ID) creationist movement is about politics, religion, and power. If anyone had any doubts about how mean-spirited ID politics is, this episode should erase them......

Ms. Martinez continued, “Thus, sending this e-mail compromises the agency’s role in the TEKS revision process by creating the perception that TEA has a biased position on a subject directly related to the science education TEKS.” But why would the TEA be concerned about being biased in favor of teaching children the truth about science? The TEA’s proper role is to ensure the quality and integrity of what is taught in Texas science classes. My Austin presentation was most certainly not a threat to that role, but in fact highly supportive of it. I presented the truth about ID as established by years of scholarly research. Has the process of administering the public education system in Texas become so politicized that even the truth is a threat to people’s jobs? One can only conclude that it has.

The full text of Dr. Forrest's letter is published here.

Meanwhile, Bud Kennedy at the Fort Worth Star Telegram [link not found] notes the irony of the rationale given by the TEA in forcing Comer's resignation.
Those who believe in teaching creation as science often argue that both sides of a debate should be heard.

Yet when Christine Castillo Comer, a former science teacher, forwarded an e-mail announcing a public speech by creationism critic Barbara Forrest, suddenly that side no longer needed to be heard......

Kevin Fisher, the science coordinator for Lewisville schools, is a past president of Texas Science teachers.

"The most astonishing part of this is that the Texas Education Agency would want science classes to remain neutral between evolution, which is science, and creationism, which is religion," Fisher said. "I think everybody in Texas wants a 21st-century education for our children. Bringing creationism into the classroom is 15th-century education.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


AUSTIN -- The Texas Progressive Alliance, a confederation of political blogs, bloggers, and online activists from across Texas, today announced its endorsement of Dan Barrett (D-Fort Worth) in the special election runoff in House District 97.

"We believe that Dan Barrett will make an excellent addition to the growing numbers of Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives," said Vince Leibowitz, Chair of the Texas Progressive Alliance. "We are pleased to offer him our support," he continued.

In early November, Barrett led a field of seven candidates vying for the seat vacated by retiring State Rep. Anna Mowery, a longtime ally of Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick.

"I believe the voters in House District 97 are ready for a change and will realize that Dan Barrett will be no rubber-stamp for Tom Craddick's regime and policies," said Charles Kuffner of Houston, the vice chair of the Alliance.

This is the second year for the Alliance, which is made up of more than 50 bloggers representing more than 30 of the state's most widely read progressive political blogs, to endorse candidates through its TexRoots program.

The TexRoots program helps bring blog readers and online activists to specific candidates and races where their funds can make an immediate difference. The Alliance endorsed three candidates for its TexRoots 2006 rollout during the mid-term elections including State Rep. Juan Garcia (D-Corpus Christi).

Sunday, December 02, 2007

TEA Science Curriculum Director Fired Over ID

In the latest skirmish over the teaching of intelligent design, the Texas Education Agency is making national news for forcing its science curriculum director, Chris Comer, to resign or be fired. Her crime? Sending an email suggesting that members might be interested in hearing a speaker who testified against intelligent design in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover School Board trial.

I thought that you might like to know that Barbara Forrest will be speaking on “Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse” in Austin on November 2, 2007. Her talk, sponsored by the Center for Inquiry Austin, begins at 7:00 p.m. in the Monarch Event Center, Suite 3100, 6406 North IH-35 in Austin. The cost is $6; free to friends of the Center.

In her talk, Forrest will provide a detailed report on her expert testimony in the Kitzmiller v. Dover School Board trial as well as an overview of the history of the “intelligent design” movement. Forrest is a Professor of Philosophy in the Department of History and Political Science at Southeastern Louisiana University; she is also a member of NCSE’s board of directors.

God forbid anyone responsible for the design of the state science curriculum should actually be exposed to both sides of the debate over intelligent design. Actually, as far as science goes, there is no debate, which was really the whole point of the Dover trial.

PBS' Nova covered the trial in a recent documentary. In the Dover trial, Republican Judge John Jones, a Bush appointee, ruled that teaching intelligent design equated to teaching creationism. And the Supreme Court had previously ruled out teaching creationism in public schools because it was religion, not science.

So who was responsible for this latest act of politicization of Texas education?
The call to fire Comer came from Lizzette Reynolds, who previously worked in the U.S. Department of Education. She also served as deputy legislative director for Gov. George W. Bush. She joined the Texas Education Agency as the senior adviser on statewide initiatives in January.
Looks like the TEA is doing a little housecleaning in anticipation of the battle over the science curriculum coming up next year.
Comer's resignation comes just months before the State Board of Education is to begin reviewing the science portion of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, the statewide curriculum that will be used to determine what should be taught in Texas classrooms and what textbooks are bought.
East Lemming Liberal News has a nice summary of the coverage being given this issue.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Patterson Still Playing Grinch with Christmas Mountains Deal

After a guardedly optimistic report in the Dallas Morning News on the potential for a compromise on the fate of the Christmas Mountains, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reports today that Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is still blocking the transfer of the land to the National Park Service.

According to the FWST, Patterson is insisting that the National Park Service must pay for the land, even though it was donated to the state with the understanding that it would become property of Texas Parks and Wildlife or the National Park Service. The TPWD has stated that it is not interested in acquiring the property. Patterson was supposed to meet with William Wellman, superintendent of the Big Bend National Park, on Friday but could not keep that appointment "because of bad weather."

But [Wellman] said that the insistence by the Texas General Land Office that it get paid for the 9,269-acre tract could seriously complicate any potential transfer.

"You're looking at a year delay if you were to involve federal funds -- it would definitely be a hurdle, and I don't know if it would be insurmountable," Wellman said.

In the meantime, Patterson has released more details on two private bids submitted for the tract. Award of a bid was postponed for 90 days to allow the National Park Service an opportunity to work out a deal to acquire the land.

A bid has been submitted by John Poindexter, who owns the 30,000-acre Cibolo Creek Ranch near Presidio.

According to the 21-page bid package, Poindexter would spend $175,000 on restoration and conservation projects.

The bid says that an annual barbecue with the tract's neighbors could take place on the property, as well as auctioned hunts for mule deer, whitetail deer and blue quail, but it is vague on other points involving public access. For instance, it says "selective public education might evolve" on the property.
Poindexter has been trying to acquire public land in this area for some time, including unsuccessful attempt to acquire 46,000 acres of Big Bend Ranch State Park in 2005. More recently, he proposed a land swap that would trade land of the bankrupt Lajitas Resort for part of Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rove and Cornyn Want States to Leave Immigration Policy to Feds

Senator John Cornyn and Karl Rove were in East Texas on Monday to discuss immigration at a panel sponsored by the Texas Employers for Immigration Reform.

It's interesting to watch Rove's moves on immigration. As a political strategist, he's always happy to have a wedge issue to focus voters and the media on something besides the president's shredding of the constitution or his own close calls with justice. But the immigration issue has backfired on the GOP. It's red meat to their base, and at the same time, backlash from the increasingly virulent rhetoric surrounding this issue threatens to undermine a decade of improving relations between the GOP and Latino voters. If the GOP pushes for laws that would please the anti-immigration base of the party, it would also alienate the business world and its funding base, who argue that without immigrant labor, their businesses would shut down.

So the Republicans have been trying to have it both ways - paying homage to the anti-immigrant wing in theory while catering to the corporate world in practice. If you have any doubt about how hard it is to walk that tightrope, take a look at the feedback that Cornyn and Rove received on the right-wing blogs covering the East Texas Panel.

Cornyn was pillaged for suggesting that immigration policy should be left to the federal government, but the biggest backlash came over Rove's comments regarding the question of deportation.
If you think we can take 5 percent of our work force and throw them out, you're kidding yourself," Rove said. "We would suffer serious economic damage. There's a moral cost. There's a practical cost."
Here is the response from a Lone Star Times commenter to Rove's quote.
What Cornyn and Rove mean is: “Monied GOP interests need cheap labor to exploit, so we have to consider the ‘economic’ impact.” Let’s at least tell it like it is.
As with so many other issues that can only be solved through complicated, "nuanced" policies, (think global warming or mideast peace) the GOP doesn't really want to solve this problem. So the best they can do is send the former deputy chief of staff out to try to soften the worst of the rhetoric and hope that the blow-back isn't too bad. And maybe they can blame it all on the Democrats. So far no one seems to be buying it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Texas Blog Roundup: November 26, 2007

It's Monday, and that means it's time for another Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Round Up, compiled by Vince from Capitol Annex.

Dealing with recalled toys that contain lead is putting a damper on charities' holiday toy drive efforts. Muse discovers some charities are not accepting toys or are throwing donations away.

Despite the Dallas Morning News article claiming the Texas Railroad Commission is stepping up Barnett Shale inspections, an injection well in N. TX remains seriously out of compliance. TXsharon has pictures, history and solutions at Bluedaze.

Who wont be President in 2009? John Coby at Bay Area Houston compiles an obvious list of Who wont be President in 2009 Any Republican candidate. The Republican party must have worked overtime to find this bunch of losers for President. White. Old. Dull.

McBlogger takes a brief look at the concerns of a Republican Bexar County Commissioner who doesn't realize the Republican Party of Texas is already known as the Tolling Party of Texas.

North Texas Liberal reports on President Bush's loss of an ally in staunch conservative PM John Howard of Australia, whose Liberal Party lost handily to the Labor opposition in Saturday's elections.

The Texas Cloverleaf visited Capitol Annex for Thanksgiving with a guest blog about Turkey, Football, and JFK. Oh my!

Off the Kuff looks at mass transit versus highways for dealing with traffic congestion.

Vince at Capitol Annex reprises his holiday tradition begun last year by reprising his Laws of Thanksgiving--with a 2007 update.

In "Giving Thanks for the Corporations", PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has a few choice words from David Van Os, Jeff Cohen, and John Edwards.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson notices the conspicuous absence of Rep. Mike Krusee since a rumor surfaced that he may be retiring in Where's Krusee?

CouldBeTrue at South Texas Chisme notes Lyndon Johnson was right, but demographics are having the last laugh.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Some Perspective on the Surge

The administration is launching a full-scale PR campaign now to hail the latest statistics in Baghdad. Citing a 55 percent reduction in violence over 2006, when the sectarian violence began escalating out of control, the war proponents have quieted many critics by claiming the "surge" has been a success.

Successes in Iraq have been few and far between, and while conservatives claim critics simply can't stop looking at Iraq as a glass half empty, some parts of this story simply don't add up.

For the moment, put aside all the questions that have been raised about the accuracy of the military's reporting of casualties, and let's accept that violence is down. Various sources, including some administration critics, seem to agree that significant progress has been made since summer in reducing both levels of sectarian violence and attacks in U.S. forces.

When the surge was first being discussed, the military brass went on the record against the surge, in part because the strategy lacked a clear and achievable objective. But the surge is working, right? How could they have been so wrong?

Well, something seems to have quelled the insurgency, but it probably wasn't the increase in troops, which were widely considered too little too late. What apparently has been effective are the bribes that Patreus has sprinkled on Sunni militias.

A report by independent filmmaker Rick Rowley noted that tossing around large sums of cold, hard cash had an immediate impact on violence in the Anbar province.

The U.S. is funding Sunni militias. They already funded the Shia militias. They're now funding all sides of this sectarian war......

Anbar is their big success story. They don't think that anyone who comes up there is going to go to the refugee camps and see the other side of it, or going to speak enough Arabic, which David Enders and Hiba Dawood do, to figure out what's going on. I think they were desperate to get people up there. It was all good news to them. And it was truly amazing. We were able to walk in the street and take our flack jackets off in a neighborhood, which just six months ago had been one of the most dangerous places in the country, where tanks couldn't even go. And that image is the image they wanted to circulate. Of course that's only possible because the people who were shooting at them six months ago are now on the payroll.

Anbar Province then became the model for Baghdad. Having staked future funding of the war on showing some "progress," and knowing that the number of troops deployed during the surge were never going to be sufficient to have a meaningful impact on the outcome, our war strategists simply bought the enemy off.

Well, if that's what it takes.....

Now that we know the key to peace in Iraq is giving bribes directly to the insurgents and bypassing all the bureaucratic middlemen, can we bring the troops home? After all, how many soldiers does it take to drop off bags of money?

Of course, there is a question as to whether this peace can hold, especially with the administration admitting that political progress in Iraq remains as elusive as ever. It also raises the issue as to how the Shia will respond to being two-timed.

.....Shiite "special groups" were believed responsible for a series of rocket and mortar attacks against American bases in eastern Baghdad on Nov. 18.

In addition to those attacks, an estimated 10 rockets or mortars fired from Shiite areas slammed into the Green Zone last Thursday in the biggest attack on the U.S.-protected area in weeks. U.S. officials said the barrage wounded an undisclosed number of people but caused no deaths.

Baghdad was generally calm Saturday, with no major incidents reported by police. But the recent uptick in attacks raised questions whether anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi Army militia, would call off the six-month truce he ordered last August.

U.S. officials have said the truce was generally holding and partly responsible for a 55 percent decline in attacks nationwide since June.

It may not be a long term solution, but so far it has been used effectively to quell critics of the war and the administration's incompetency. And every time the intensity of criticism against Bush's war eases, he buys a little more time in his goal toward long-term occupation.

When considering the U.S. shift in alliances from Shia to Sunni, keep in mind the goal of this war is to secure the oil rights. As the debate over the oil law drags on with no resolution in sight, the administration rhetoric against the Maliki government is picking up. Perhaps there is more than a little threat implied in the latest U.S. actions. A strong, united Iraqi government would almost certainly not support the oil law being pushed on them by U.S. corporate interests. But by backing Sunni militias, many experts think the U.S. may be weakening the long-term chances for Iraqi political stability. Maybe such an outcome isn't unintended. If the U.S. can't get Iraq's parliament to bend to its will and let Exxon Mobil and company plunder Iraq's oil fields, maybe a weaker government is seen as desirable. There are many levels of intrigue at play in Iraq, and the official scenario surely doesn't begin to explain it.

In the meantime, violence may keep falling, or go back up. The Iraqis may come together in a consensus government, or more likely splinter even further. Whatever happens, the events will be woven into the rationale for keeping troops stationed in Iraq indefinitely. And we will all continue to pay the price.