Tuesday, July 31, 2007

NTL Welcomes Texas Cloverleaf

One of the more rewarding aspects of blogging is finding like-minded voices in the area. The DFW area could use a few more political blogs, and so it's exciting to be able to point to a recent addition to the lefty blogosphere.

The Texas Cloverleaf describes itself thusly.

The Texas Cloverleaf was a submission hold performed by a professional wrestler named 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 Dallas 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 latest post by Texas Cloverleaf examines the issue of building toll roads in the Trinity River project and notes that the 80,000 signatures collected is more than enough to put this on the November ballot. Sounds like Dallasites have another hot issue for the upcoming election.

And while its been around longer than we have, a blog that has come to our attention is the Caravan of Dreams. Written by Steve-O, it's not exclusively a political blog (Steve-O has some pretty eclectic tastes) but it has political posts and covers Fort Worth and vicinity. He did a write-up on a Lon Burnam breakfast that we missed until recently. Go check it out.

And one final note while we're highlighting DFW blogs - Marc at Marc's Miscellany could use a "get out of jail free card." Go help him out.

Monday, July 30, 2007

texas blog roundup: july 30, 2007

It's Monday, and that means it is time for another Texas Progressive Alliance Texas Blog Round-Up. This week's round-up is brought to you by Capitol Annex.

Diarist Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos has had enough, and she shares the letter she wrote Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn in Tell Me That Our Elected U.S. Lawmakers Do Not Embrace a W. Monarchy.

Could Be True ponders the often asked question (by the Right), "Why Post Election Information in Spanish" at South Texas Chisme.

Vince at Capitol Annex reveals a letter House Speaker Tom Craddick sent to former Parliamentarian Denise Davis telling her to keep her mouth shut about her time as Parliamentarian.

Texas Education just took another hit thanks to Governor Perry, according to a post by TXSharon at Bluedaze. Rick Perry appointed Dr. Don McLeroy as the Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education. McLeroy is known for his radical fundamentalist views. This is especially bad because textbooks are up for review this year.

Hal at Half Empty ponders early endorsements in the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate in An Endorsement Is Worth Watt Price?

Matt at Stop Cornyn lets us know that John Kerry has announced a contest to Remove Republican Roadblocks (like John Cornyn).

Karl-Thomas at Burnt Orange Report tells us about Town Lake being named after Lady Bird Johnson.

Muse at Musings has the invite to LTC Rick Noriega's change of command ceremony at the Alamo on August 4th. Noriega will take command of the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, which can trace its history back to the Republic of Texas. The event is open to the public.

Thought we were done with Accenture and HHSC privatization? Charles at Off the Kuff says think again.

Stace at Dos Centavos tells us about a Pew study which finds Latino political participation is not matching up to Latino
population growth
. Will demographic changes be enough to put Democrats over the top?

Gary at Easter Lemming Liberal News points to a peer reviewed study that shows illegal immigrants are not criminals--they go to jail at an amazing low one-fifth rate of current citizens. Perhaps we should promote immigration to reduce the crime rate in the United States?

Dembones at Eye On Williamson County posts on the similarities between the new "right-wing" talking points on Iraq and the change in rhetoric by Rep. John Carter (R-Round Rock) on bringing troops home from Iraq in John Carter Heeds Grover Norquist Talking Points.

John C. at Bay Area Houston, in Raising Campaign Cash 2007 from Bob Perry tells us that, during the first part of 2007, Bob Perry didn't get close to his record contributions of 2006 of $4.5 Million. In 2007 he only donated $471,000 with $250,000 doing to Texans for Lawsuit Reform. HillCo PAC, another fine anti-consumer organization received $50,000 and Lt. Governor Dewhurst received $25,000.

Texas Toad at North Texas Liberal tells us that Carrollton attorney Karen Guerra is set to run as a Democrat for the 16th District Court in 2008.

Steve at Who's Playin'? tell us about three North Texas men calling for impeachment with a freeway banner over I-35 in Lewisville during rush hour.

Mayor McSleazeatMcBlogger takes on recent changes in the dress code for visitors at the White House.

And, don't forget about these other Texas Progressive Alliance Members: Three Wise Men, In The Pink Texas, Marc's Miscellany, Common Sense, The Agonist, People's Republic of Seabrook, B and B, Brains and Eggs, and Feet To The Fire.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Digby Channels Thomas Paine

But where says some is the king of America? I'll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is.

Source: Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, printed by W. and T. Bradford, Philadelphia, 1791.

Digby at Hullabaloo has a post up on the implications of the imperial presidency for the next election, and ends it with a clarion call to the citizens of this country to repudiate the scoundrels who have enabled it.

....The founders never counted on politicians "doing the right thing." Profiles in courage are always in short supply and no government can depend upon good intentions. But they did assume that they would, at least, want to preserve their own careers and constitutional prerogatives. The modern Republicans are so committed to their party that they will follow their 28% president over the cliff, and that is a mindset we haven't seen since the civil war.

GOP power politics have exposed some weaknesses in our constitutional framework: as long as there are 34 Senators willing to back the president no matter what, short of a coup, he can pretty much do anything he wants until the next election. That's always been true, but nobody ever wanted to push it before. Cooler heads have generally known that balance of powers issues should be left somewhat vague and subject to political compromise so you don't get a permanent imbalance you later regret. (The independent counsel law was arguably one of those unanticipated consequences.)

.....People wonder why they would give so much power to the president since a Democrat could hold the office someday. I think they know the Democratic party is just not as temperamentally amenable to authoritarianism. They know that Democrats will, in the end, act out of their own self interest rather than out of partisanship since they don't have the kind of discipline or homogeneous constituency the Republicans have. (Bill Clinton was saved by the people, not the Democratic congress who were prepared to jump ship at the first sign of a decay in public support. Luckily for him, the more the Republicans pushed the more the public stood behind him.) These Republicans are completely unresponsive to anything but party loyalty and their hardcore base.

Finally, ongoing GOP influence in the media and the elite establishment means they can manipulate the narratives, which after this reign of terror, if the Dems win, will undoubtedly be a passionate reverence for absolute government transparency and accountability, federalism, strict division of power and the letter of the constitution. And they count on the public forgetting all about their crimes by the time they run on the "honor and integrity" ticket a couple of years from now.

.....My point is that in a democracy these issues are ultimately and always questions for the people. If we don't want an imperial president, we are going to have to make sure that when they do this stuff they lose their power, not at the hands of politicians of the opposing party but at our hands, the citizens of this country.

In his essay last year, Lewis Lapham of Harper's Weekly noted that in a parliamentary political system, Bush would have been booted long ago by a vote of no confidence and asked if Republicans would do the right thing.

But in the news media [the American electorate] find no strong voice of dissent, in the Democratic Party no concerted effort to form a coherent opposition. Which places the work of protecting the country's freedoms where it should be placed -- with the Congress, more specifically with the Republican members of Congress. What else is it that voters expect the Congress to do if not to look out for their rights as citizens of the United States? So the choice presented to the Republican members on the Judiciary Committee investigating the President's use of electronic surveillance comes down to a matter of deciding whether they will serve their country or their party.

I don't envy them the decision; the rewards offered by the party (patronage, campaign contributions, a fat retirement on the payroll of a K Street lobbying firm) clearly outweigh those available from the country-- congratulatory editorials in obscure newspapers, malicious gossip circulated by Focus on the Family and Fox News, an outpouring of letters and emails from grateful citizens not in positions to do anybody any favors.

Republicans didn't do their duty when they held the reins of Congress, and now they are blocking the ability of Democrats to hold anyone accountable. The members of Congress who continue to obstruct the will of the people - by refusing to discuss an end to the war in Iraq; by continuing to allow Gonzales to maintain his post at the Justice Department; by defending a government that flouts the law of the land when wiretapping its own citizens without a warrant; by refusing to take whatever steps are necessary to repudiate a presidency whose monarchical power grab has plunged us into a constitutional crisis - these supporters of the imperial presidency are the Tories of our time. Mistaking loyalty for patriotism, they fiercely defend the Bush regime at all costs. They will continue to do so until the tables are turned and Democrats are in the White House, at which time they will wrap themselves in the flag and decry the flagrant abuses of its current occupants.

Digby is right. The election in 2008 will be a watershed for our country. Either we exercise our power and vote out the legislators who have enabled the imperial presidency, or we live forever with the consequences.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Karen Guerra to Run for 16th District Court Judge

A Denton County attorney from Carrollton has declared for the 16th District Court. From the Carrollton Star Leader:

Karen Guerra, prominent local attorney, announced this week that she is seeking election as Judge of the 16th District Court in Denton County. Mrs. Guerra has been an attorney for almost 18 years and currently operates a private law practice in Carrollton, Texas. She is board certified as a specialist in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. In her announcement, she pledged to work hard for the citizens of Denton County as the 16th District Court Judge.

“The district courts are vitally important to our citizens, since they are the primary trial courts in Texas. District courts handle felony criminal cases, family law cases, suits for title to land, and large civil cases. I have extensive experience in the types of cases that come before the District Court,” Guerra stated. “We need judges with experience in all areas of the law. The citizens of Denton County want judges who will be fair and impartial and who will make rulings based on the evidence and the applicable laws. I will be such a judge. I am committed to making a positive improvement in the administration of justice in that Court.”

.....She went on to say, “It is time for a change. I recognize that in Denton County, I may be considered an outsider of the current political establishment. But I believe this is an advantage, since a judge is to be fair and impartial. More importantly, most informed voters in Denton County vote for the individual who is best qualified for the job, regardless of party affiliation.”

Karen Guerra has been married to fellow attorney John Guerra for 33 years. Their son, Johnny and his wife Michelle, recently blessed the Guerras with their second grandchild.

Ms. Guerra will run against the Republican incumbent Carmen Rivera-Worley in the November 2008 general election.

Whoplayin has the press release.

To learn more about the eminently qualified Ms. Guerra, visit her website. To contribute to the campaign, click here.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thoughts on the State Abuse Scandal

Vince Leibowitz at Capitol Annex had a great overview of the state school abuse scandal, if anything about this tragic story deserves the term "great." It's worth coming back to the issue today, because one of the state schools mentioned is here in Denton County.

The Dallas Morning News story quotes Jeff Garrison-Tate of Advocacy Inc., who cites the lack of guardians as one part of the solution. (He also wants smaller, community facilities.) Guardian ad litem programs certainly have their merits, but it's worth emphasizing that they are often volunteers. Some of society's most vulnerable citizens are being cared for by some of the health care industry's lowest paid employees, in a system where cost-cutting, not need, has determined the level of acceptable care, and it won't be fixed by an act of charity. This kind of systemic failure calls for reform at the highest levels.

As Capitol Annex notes:
The bottom line here is this:
•This is yet another failure of the Perry administration and his appointees—whom he consistently refuses to hold accountable.

•This is an indirect result of the 2003 and 2005 budget cuts and reorganizations forced upon the people of Texas by the Craddick-Dewhurst-Perry dominated and controlled legislature. And, there are individual legislators (mostly Republicans) who bear personal responsibility for this (because they wanted it, they voted for it, and by God, they damned well got it—and, look what good it did!)

•Rick Perry has once again been asleep at the wheel. We’ve seen and heard how much his office really knew about the Texas Youth Commission scandal he claimed he was only aware of because he read it in the paper. Thus, it’s unrealistic to think Perry (or at least his staff) wasn’t aware of what was going on in the State Schools. If someone’s child/sister/brother is beaten near to death on a bathroom floor, you can bet the Governor’s office probably heard about it.
And Charles Kuffner offers a similar opinion.
When we talk about "shrinking government", or "cutting government", or whatever the catchphrase that gets tossed around in times of budget crunches or election campaigns is, this is what it really means. We're not talking about the mythical elimination of "waste", or of throwing bureaucrats onto the street. We're talking about employees of places like the Lubbock State School, or the TYC facility in Pyote. We pay them stingy wages for their demanding jobs, we don't spend money to train them, we don't retain them long enough for them to earn raises and promotions, and every few years, we get to be shocked at the terrible conditions at those places. The only mystery is why this is ever a surprise.
And selling the public on the need to adequately fund social services would be easier if working-class citizens weren't bearing the brunt of the tax burden while corporations raked in record profits and our richest citizens basked in the new gilded age.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Environmental Groups Sue State Over Oak Grove Permit

While the national news headlines on our imperial presidency have been grabbing all the attention lately, the latest stories on TXU have been flying under the radar.

Via Pegasus News, the company is being fined $5 million for overcharging customers.

".....TXU is getting fined by the Public Utilities Commission of Texas once again, this time around for automatically renewing unrequested services for business customers."

But that fine is pocket change for a company that earned 2.5 billion last year and is preparing to offer its current CEO, John Wilder, a $270 million plus golden parachute for completing the buyout to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

Meanwhile, as promised, suits have been filed against the state over its decision to issue a permit to TXU for construction of a lignite-burning coal-fired power plant. One suit is led by the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition and the Early Action Compact Task Force, which includes governmental entities, and a second was filed by the Texas Clean Air Cities Coalition, which includes Dallas and Houston.
Claiming the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality violated state health laws in granting the permit, a coalition of city leaders is asking a state district judge to reverse the decision that angered environmentalists and local residents.....

Environmental groups fear the Oak Grove plant will foul Austin's skies and pump 1,440 pounds of mercury into the air each year.

Two administrative law judges recommended last year that the air permit be denied, saying TXU failed to prove it could meet emissions limits.
In a related story, the Dallas Morning News says good riddance to Kathleen Hartnett White, chairwoman of the TCEQ. Ms. White announced that she would not be seeking re-appointment when her term expires August 31. Ms. White contends that the decision not to seek renewal of her term had been made months ago, and was not in response to public pressure.

Whether Ms. White jumped or was pushed, her exit is welcome news.

She has been an apologist for polluters, consistently siding with business interests instead of protecting public health. Ms. White worked to set a low bar as she lobbied for lax ozone standards and pushed through an inadequate anti-pollution plan. She also voted to approve TXU's pollution-intensive Oak Grove coal units, ignoring evidence that emissions from the lignite plant could thwart North Texas' efforts to meet air quality standards.

Ms. White's departure could signal the end of an era – but only if Gov. Rick Perry seizes this opportunity to reshape the environmental commission.

The TCEQ must take a more proactive approach to reducing pollution and enforcing environmental regulations. Ms. White's successor should not pick up where she left off.

.....Finally, we ask Mr. Perry to set aside outdated ideas about partisan politics and environmental issues.

Increasingly, bipartisan coalitions that include both business leaders and environmentalists are coalescing to address questions about power and pollution. Texas' Republican governor need look no further than North Texas to find corporate leaders (the high-powered founders of Texas Business for Clean Air, for example) and conservative politicians (Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck) with progressive ideas about balancing business interests and environmental issues.

With so much at stake for the state, Mr. Perry should appoint a commissioner who will bring a similar, forward-thinking approach to the TCEQ.

And echoing that sentiment, yes, any of these folks would make a fine chairman for the TCEQ.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

the debate of the future

At last night's CNN/YouTube debate among the Democratic candidates, a full slate of primary contenders were vying for your vote, but in the end, the format won.

Voters recorded videos of themselves and submitted them to YouTube. CNN then picked the cream of the crop and presented the best questions to the assembled candidates.

Political debates that incorporate the public are undoubtedly the way of the future. After the debate ended, moderator Anderson Cooper said on CNN that he couldn't imagine future political debates that did not follow a similar format.

But who among the candidates really shone last night? Who stood out? Who earned some votes? Reaction was mixed.

According to Easter Lemming Liberal News, four different panels chose three different winners. After the debate ended, the CNN broadcasters said that New Hampshire voters were most impressed with Barack Obama, while Nevada voters were equally impressed with Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson.

Mike Gravel appeared incredibly feisty and ready for a fight, but unfortunately CNN only allotted him four minutes and ten seconds, as opposed to Barack Obama who talked for more than fifteen minutes, even out-talking host Anderson Cooper. Gravel even used some of his time to comment on that sad state of affairs. He spent the rest of the time calling the other candidates the advocates for mainstream Washington and keeping things at the status quo.

John Edwards, often polling at third behind Clinton and Obama in surveys of potential voters, may have hit a speed bump when asked about gay marriage. He said that his wife Elizabeth supports gay marriage, but that he does not. When pressed, he admitted that he supported civil unions and that he was still, with much of America, "on a journey."

Some of the submitted questions were hard-hitting and probably would never have been asked in a traditional debate. For instance, one voter asked for a response to critics that said Hillary Clinton was not feminine enough and that Barack Obama was not black enough. Edwards said that if anyone considered not voting for Clinton or Obama based on gender or race, he did not want their vote either.

(Unfortunately, though, Edwards brought gender to the forefront again later when asked to say one good thing and one bad thing about Hillary, and he said he didn't like her jacket. It was all in good fun, but isn't that what we're trying to get away from?)

When Clinton was asked whether or not she would be taken seriously abroad, she pointed to female foreign leaders in Germany, Chile, and various other countries. She also said that she couldn't see a more fitting thing to have a woman American president addressing the treatment of women in Muslim countries.

Clinton was also asked about the dynasty problem (that is, Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton). If she were elected and re-elected, the Bushes and the Clintons would have controlled the American presidency for 28 years. The senator responded humorously, saying that Bush shouldn't have been elected in 2000 and that she was under the impression that a different person had won.

Humor was prevalent throughout the debate. One submitted video featured a talking snowman asking about global warming. Another asked the candidates if their feelings were hurt by the attention that the media gives to Al Gore. Bill Richardson said he liked all of the candidates and thought each of them would make a good vice president.

If you missed the debate, you can read the transcripts or watch the videos online. See where your favorite candidate stands on important issues like global warming, No Child Left Behind, national health insurance, and the war in Iraq. If you want to watch specific issues discussed, YouTube has single videos of each particular question.

CNN and YouTube will continue in this vein of technology-age debates on September 17, when the Republican candidates take the stage and field questions from voters.

EDIT: CNN website users that participated in the debate scorecard said that Hillary Clinton won the debate (46% voted for her, while Obama garnered 28% of the nearly 7,000 votes). The poll also shows that viewers thought Joe Biden knew most about the issues, that Barack Obama's campaign would get the biggest boost, that John Edwards had the best singular answer to a user-generated question, and that Bill Richardson showed the most disappointing performance.

Monday, July 23, 2007

keith olbermann on scapegoats

Who doesn't love Keith Olbermann? He tells it like it is without fear of consequences. In this "Special Comment," he sticks it to President Bush for trying to use Hillary Clinton as a scapegoat. He decries the war and even goes as far as calling for the president's impeachment.

Friday, July 20, 2007

cheney in charge

Tomorrow, President Bush is set to undergo a colonoscopy, during which Vice President Dick Cheney will assume the position of acting president.

The medical procedure, according to CNN, will take place at Camp David and is expected to last for 2 1/2 hours, during which time the United States will send another surge to Iraq while declaring war on North Korea and Iran.

So that's an overstatement, but seriously... think about it. President Dick Cheney. It's a scary, scary thought, isn't it?

No wonder Nancy Pelosi says impeachment is off the table.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

battle of the divas: obama vs. giuliani

If you haven't heard of Obama Girl or seen her video for "I Got a Crush on Obama," you've either gone on a hiatus from the online political community or you're living under a rock.

Actress Amber Lee Ettinger lip-synched and acted in a video for a sexy song by Leah Kauffman that details, in a humorous way, one girl's crush on Democratic primary candidate Barack Obama. The video took the internet (and the mainstream media, for that matter) by storm almost overnight. It's this campaign season's JibJab.

Now, they're at it again. This time, it's the Obama girls versus the Giuliani girls.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Emil Reichstadt to Address CGS Democrats

Emil Reichstadt, a 2008 Democratic primary candidate for U.S. Senate from Texas, will be in Tarrant County this week to meet with the CGS (Colleyville, Grapevine, Southlake) Democrats.

Special guest Emil Reichstadt

Three Democrats have announced their candidacy in the U.S. Senate race - Rep. and Lt. Col. Rick Noriega, Emil Reichstadt and Mikal Watts. Emil Reichstadt will attend his Thursday's CGS Democrats meeting. The 58-year-old former JAG Army officer was the first candidate to announce his bid. He currently practices law in Dallas. Please read up on Emil, come with your questions and bring a friend.

Date: Thursday, July 19 - CGS Democrats regular monthly meeting

Place: Grapevine's la Madeleine, 900 Highway 114 (NE corner of Hwy. 114 and William D. Tate Ave.)

Time: 6:30pm to socialize and eat, 7pm to meet

Monday, July 16, 2007

Senator Reid's Jujitsu on Iraq

Senator Harry Reid has finally decided to call out the GOP on Iraq.

Reid is a fair-minded, consensus-building gentleman from the old school, so it took him a while to catch on that simply being reasonable and playing nice with the Republicans wasn't going to work. Now Reid is telling the Grand Obstruction Party if they want to filibuster legislation setting timetables for withdrawal from Iraq, they'll have to stand and deliver.

In their newfound role as minority party, the Republicans have threatened to filibuster over 40 times this legislative session. It takes 60 votes to break a filibuster. In other words, having a simple majority is no longer enough to swing any legislation in the Senate.

The Republicans weren't always so cheery about filibusters. In 2005, when the minority Democrats threatened to filibuster over the confirmation of three appellate court nominees, the GOP talking heads immediately cried foul. Labeling the Democrats as obstructionists, they went public and demanded an up or down vote to confirm. So incensed were the Republicans, they actually considered taking a vote on the "nuclear option," banning the right of the minority to filibuster judicial appointees. The Democrats backed down after the "gang of 14" agreed to compromise, and appointees were confirmed.

Now, as a key U.S. general responsible for the surge suggests it could continue until spring, the Democratic-led House and Senate are renewing calls for a firm timetable for withdrawal. After hours of debate this week, Reid has taken a page out of the Republican play book and is promising to enforce an actual filibuster if the Republicans refuse to allow a vote on the Levin amendment.

From TMP Cafe, here is an excerpt from Reid's speech.

It would be one thing for Republicans to vote against this bill. If they honestly believe that “stay the course” is the right strategy — they have the right to vote “no.”

But now, Republicans are using a filibuster to block us from even voting on an amendment that could bring the war to a responsible end.

They are protecting the President rather than protecting our troops.

They are denying us an up or down — yes or no — vote on the most important issue our country faces.

I would like to inform the Republican leadership and all my colleagues that we have no intention of backing down.

If Republicans do not allow a vote on Levin/Reed today or tomorrow, we will work straight through the night on Tuesday.

The American people deserve an open and honest debate on this war, and they deserve an up or down vote on this amendment to end it.

The Democrats were concerned after the elections that the public not perceive them to be too divisive, and they bent over backwards to show compromise with their peers across the aisle. All they got for their efforts was mud thrown in their face.

Republicans this week were starting to put some distance between themselves and the President on Iraq. Now they'll have to pick a side. If it plays out, it will finally show once and for all who supports the troops. Let's hope Harry means it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

lone republican draws attention at naacp

Photo credit: USA Today

According to the USA Today blog, only one Republican candidate for the presidential nomination showed up to the annual NAACP Convention in Detroit. Ten candidates were invited, but either didn't respond to the invitation or cited scheduling conflicts.

The audience gave Rep. Tom Tancredo a standing ovation as he stood amid nine empty lecterns on stage. "Do you think we should wait a few minutes to see if these other guys show up?" he asked.

Rudy Giuliani was fundraising in Michigan, anyway, but still couldn't be bothered to appear at the convention of more than 8,000 NAACP members.

On the other hand, all eight of the Democratic candidates that were invited showed up to discuss the issues at hand. Sen. Barack Obama reportedly drew the most applause.

All the Democratic candidates were warmly received, but Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, an African-American appearing before an African-American crowd in the nation's most African-American city, drew by far the loudest applause.

Obama said that while government cannot guarantee success, it is "a betrayal of our ideals" for people to be held back from opportunity because of their skin color or their economic class.

"If you're poor in this country, that's hazardous to your health," Obama said. "If you're poor and a minority that's downright lethal."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cornyn Sees Progress in Iraq

As the President prepares to veto the House bill requiring redeployment of troops from Iraq by April of next year, Senator Cornyn and the Republican rubberstamps in the Senate continue to successfully filibuster meaningful legislation on the war in Iraq.

Earlier this week, Cornyn failed to support our troops by voting against the Webb amendment, which would have provided more rest between deployments for our over-extended military.

Disregarding the latest glum report citing the failure of the Iraqi government to achieve benchmarks established by the administration at the outset of the surge, Bush and Cornyn both agree on one thing - we may not be winning yet, but we're making progress.
"It boils down to how do we win and what constitutes a win," Mr. Cornyn said. "What we hope for and what's important to our national security is that we can stabilize it. ... We don't want to leave any safe havens for groups like al-Qaeda. That ought to be our goal, and I think we're making some progress."
Yeah, it's deja vu all over again. In February of 2006, the Senate armed Services Committee held hearings on the progress in Iraq. From a previous post, here is the exchange between Senator Kennedy and National Intelligence Director John Negroponte.

Kennedy: [Quoting the President] I'm confident of our plan for victory...and we are winning. Those are the words of the President.....Did you tell the President we were winning [the war in Iraq]?....

Negroponte: I personally? Recalling conversations I've had with the President and other members of the administration, my view has always been that we are moving in the right direction, that we're making progress.

I analyze it usually in terms of the political process there, the progress towards achieving their political timetable on the one hand and progress towards developing their army and their police forces, effective military and police forces. And I believe that progress has been made in both those areas. And I believe that yes, things are moving in a positive direction in Iraq - overall.

The year 2007 rang in with the loss of our 3000th solider. Seven months into the surge, that toll stands at over 3600. The April-June period was the deadliest three months for U.S. troops since the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Since Negroponte spoke those words a year and a half ago, the toll of Texans on that hallowed list has gone from just over 200 to over 300.

Cornyn has been wrong on the war for five years now. Maybe it's time for Senator Box Turtle to come out of his shell and face facts - Iraq is embroiled in a civil war and the horrifying levels of sectarian violence, the escalating military casualties, the lack of a unity government, our deteriorating military readiness, the daily attacks on the once impenetrable green zone, the lack of essential services, the porous borders, etc., do not constitute progress.

See previous post All's Well That Ends.

remembering lady bird

Whenever you drive on a highway in the state of Texas, you are likely to see blooming bluebonnets clustered on the medians or on the side of the road. There's one person to thank for that breathtaking sight.

Claudia Alta Taylor Johnson, affectionately known by the country as Lady Bird, was the wife of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, and one of the most remembered and adored First Ladies in history. A Texas native, she embarked on beautification programs to make the nation a better-looking place for all of us to live. But planting flowers wasn't her only contribution to eradicating the ugly in life: she was known for condemning hatred and championing civil rights.

Lady Bird died on July 11 due to natural causes, surrounded by her family. She was 94.

Capitol Annex has a moving tribute to Lady Bird Johnson, including choice words from several other Texas bloggers that mourn her loss.

another bill for bush to veto

Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in an email to supporters that the House of Representatives, under her direction, passed a bill that
requires redeployment of U.S. troops beginning within 120 days of enactment and ending by April 1, 2008. It also requires the President to publicly justify the post-redeployment missions for the U.S. military in Iraq and the number of troops necessary to carry out those missions.
As she notes, this is a responsible way to end the war. Pulling out immediately could prove disastrous, and would be unfair to the Iraqi people. Even though they may prefer an immediate troop withdrawal, it would be extremely irresponsible to begin a full-fledged conflict on their soil and then leave them to pick up the pieces by themselves.

However, the Iraqis are not going to meet any of the set benchmarks. And we can't commit to staying over there forever. So this new resolution gives the best solution: have the troops out by this time next year. Bush has nearly a year to redeploy the troops. But will he do it? Or will he pick up his newly-found veto stamp and reject this responsible legislation should it come to his desk?

Meanwhile, over in the Senate, Republicans are beginning to challenge Bush's Iraq policy.
Two prominent Senate Republicans have drafted legislation that would require President Bush to come up with a plan by mid-October to dramatically narrow the mission of U.S. troops in Iraq.

The legislation, which represents a sharp challenge to Bush, was put forward Friday by Sens. John Warner and Richard Lugar, and it came as the Pentagon acknowledged that a decreasing number of Iraqi army battalions are able to operate independently of U.S. troops.

So with House Democrats ready to end the war as soon as possible, and Senate Republicans beginning to stray from the party line, could we have a responsible end to the war in the near future? Or will Bush obstinately veto, veto, veto, leaving a Democrat to clean up his mess in 2009? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Texas Blue Interviews Denton Democratic Party Chair

The Texas Blue's Grace Stevens has an interview this week with Denton Democratic Party Chairman Neil Durrance. Mr. Durrance was chosen in a special election in March of this year after the previous chairman, Dr. John Gossett, resigned due to health reasons.

[The Texas Blue]: What would you say are the primary issues concerning Denton County?

[Durrance]: The primary issue for Denton County is having an open and honest government. It has to become open with the people and become responsive to the needs of the community.

Other issues for the area are going to be important for many years, like health care for our citizens. Personal and professional responsibilities of elected officials are also growing issues.

[The Texas Blue]: What are you looking forward to in the coming cycle?

[Durrance]: A Democratic victory on a national level, a Congressional level, and locally. We currently have the best crop of candidates than we have in a long time, from the White House to state House to local seats, and we’re going to continue to have qualified candidates for years to come.

It is important to support good candidates that hold Democratic values like open government and personal integrity. This has been lacking for many years from all levels of government.

The Democratic message is beginning to resonate with voters all across the state. With issues and demographics favoring the Democrats, there are signs that the GOP's hold on Texas may not be as strong as it once was. That's reason enough for optimism, even in an area like Denton County.

Monday, July 09, 2007

3rd International Women's Peace Conference Comes to Dallas

The Third International Women's Peace Conference opens this tomorrow at the Adams Mark Hotel in Dallas.

Meet and strategize with Nobel Peace Laureates, elected officials, and grassroots peacemakers from other countries, faiths and backgrounds. Share peace skills and design an action plan for peace. Join us for the International Women's Peace Conference scheduled on July 10-15, 2007, in Dallas, Texas, USA.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Noriega to Help Burnam Celebrate Birthday

Rick Noriega is coming to Tarrant County.

As part of Rep. Lon Burnam's birthday celebration, the Houston representative whose name is currently being touted as a possible challenger to Senator Cornyn, will be visiting the metroplex.
The fundraiser is Thursday at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden Center. For the record, it's Burnam's fourth 50th birthday party.

UPDATE: Thursday's activities are from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome, but if you can, please RSVP to the Burnam campaign office: (817) 924-2008.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Savannah River Ecology Lab Closing Investigated

From Michael's Notes comes another chapter in the now familiar litany of science sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. This one deals with the closing of the Savannah River Ecology Lab (SREL) in Georgia.

For 56 years, the SREL has been documenting the effects of the Savannah River nuclear site on the surrounding environment, including the effects of low level radiation. But last year, the DOE (Department of Energy) decided to drastically reduce funding for the lab, essentially forcing its closure. Despite intensive lobbying, no amount of leverage seemed able to reverse the decision.

Michael speculates on what might be behind the government's insistence on shutting down one of the nation's premier research labs for wetlands ecology.

Why cut off funding for SREL? Did they discover everything that needed to be learned about how nuclear site activities affect wetlands and wildlife? No, but one line of research looked at the environmental effects of coal waste. Although it is a nuclear site, steam generation for the operation is coal-fired. And so, coal fly ash - containing many toxic heavy metals - is released in the area. The research was reportedly showing how these contaminants could have devastating effects on amphibian populations. According to a “Friends of SREL” website, the U.S. produces 126 million tons of coal waste annually, and coal is already under fire as a major source of greenhouse gases. The coal industry cannot welcome more bad press about coal. Reportedly, coal industry lobbyists threatened legal action. So, one presumes that Big Coal got on the phone to Cheney, and next thing you know, no more SREL.

Is it possible that the DOE had ulterior motives in the decision to close the SREL? Congress has launched an investigation, which is currently being undertaken by Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX 22nd) as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment in conjunction with the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. A hearing is currently expected sometime in July.

For more about the SREL, visit Save the Savannah Ecology River Laboratory.

"Sicko" Prompts Viewers to Take Action

Josh Tyler reviews movies at a blog called Cinema Blend. According to the Grand Prairie resident, the screening of Michael Moore's movie "Sicko," about the healthcare crisis in America, resulted in an epiphany for an Arlington, Texas audience.

"The entire Sicko audience had somehow formed an impromptu town hall meeting in front of the ladies room. I've never seen anything like it," Tyler wrote on CinemaBlend.com, his Web site devoted to films. "It was as if they simply couldn't go home without doing something drastic about what they'd just seen."

Read the entire post here.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

hillary -- don't write her off yet

Too many people -- including Democrats -- are ready to write off the most serious contender in the 2008 horse race to the presidential primaries.

And no, I'm not talking about Barack Obama.

Though the Illinois Democrat may have raised a staggering $32.5 million during the most recent fundraising period (an astonishing feat, especially given that he refuses donations from corporate interests), Sen. Obama is still slagging in the polls.

The most recent polls of the nation's Democrats show that they intend to vote for Hillary Clinton in the primaries -- and not by a slim margin. Sen. Clinton is sitting pretty at 43%, while Obama is at 25%.

So, assuming that Clinton bests Obama in the primaries next year, can she go on and defeat the as-yet-uncrowned Republican nominee in the general election?

Again, the answer is yes.

The polls are stacked in her favor. 55% of the general public is ready to vote for the Democratic candidate, whoever he or she might be. And when candidates are named, nearly every major poll has her beating out both Republican front-runners in the general: John McCain and Rudy Giuliani.

So what are Democrats afraid of? By no means is Hillary unelectable. The voters are telling the pollsters that every day. Even from the standpoint of the much-maligned electoral college system, Hillary can scoop up a victory. In 2004, John Kerry earned 252 electoral votes from a combination of nineteen states and Washington, D.C. Do you think any of the blue states have changed their mind between now and then? No, they're getting bluer. And so is the rest of the country.

Sure, the Republicans won't like her, but look at what they made us put up with for the past eight years! The population at large is ready for a change. A big one.

Hillary can win, and she's in it to win it. So even if she's your not your favorite candidate in the race, you'll do good not to write her off. Or she may -- like so many women -- just have to prove you wrong.