Friday, August 31, 2007

vote in the texas eprimary!

Even though it seems like we'll be deciding our next president any day now considering the number of debates and the near-rabid attention the media is giving the race, the first votes won't be cast in the Democratic Primary until early next year.

Since more and more states are having earlier primaries and the de facto candidate is usually crowned before we ever hit the voting booth, the Texas Democratic Party is letting Texas Democrats pick their candidate now through an online poll: the TDP ePrimary poll.

Sure, it's unofficial and unscientific. But why not lend your favorite national ticket Democrat some support? It will be an informal sampling of the current mood of Texas Democrats, and who they may decide to support in the primary. But it won't work without enough people taking a couple of minutes to cast their vote.

Each candidate (excluding Obama, whose team instead offers a news widget) gives a personal message to Texas Democrats. Dennis Kucinich's message even comes in the form of a YouTube video.

Here are some excerpts:

"It is clear that Texans are ready for change, and I have the experience to bring about change in Washington. I am proud to have the support of elected officials and community leaders across Texas -- including Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Congressmen Henry Cuellar and Ruben Hinojosa -- and I am asking for your help and support."
- Hillary Clinton

"It’s been an honor to get to know so many great Texas Democrats during this campaign and in my time as Governor of New Mexico. You know what I’ve done and where I stand. When I’m President, we’re going to get all of our troops out of Iraq—all of them."
- Bill Richardson

"In Texas and across the country, we face a crucial choice -- whether to do what America has always done in times like these – change direction and move boldly into the future or wander in the same stale direction we have traveled in our recent past."
-John Edwards
You can vote in the TDP ePrimary poll through Friday, Sept. 7. Daily tallies will be posted beginning Sept. 4.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Parole Board Votes 6-1 to Spare Kenneth Foster

By a vote of 6-1, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has recommended clemency for Kenneth Foster. Whether they were troubled by the implications in this case or simply yielded to overwhelming pressure, today justice was done.

This is only the third time in its history that the board has recommended commutation on a death row appeal. The final decision is up to Gov. Rick Perry, and although his concurrence seems likely, it's not guaranteed.

In fact, the Board of Paroles has only recommended that a sentence be commuted twice in its history [prior to the Kenneth Foster decision.] In 1998, a recommendation was approved by then-Gov. George W. Bush in the high-profile case of Henry Lee Lucas. And, in 2004, they recommended the execution of paranoid schizophrenic Kelsey Patterson be commuted to life in prison, but Perry refused to grant the commutation.

Take a moment to thank the handful of Democratic legislators who signed letters to Governor Rick Perry urging a halt to the execution of Kenneth Foster, including three from North Texas.

Alma Allen (Houston)
Lon Burnam (Fort Worth)
Harold Dutton (Houston)
Jessica Farrar (Houston)
Helen Giddings (Dallas)
Terri Hodge (Dallas)
Donna Howard (Austin)
Ruth Jones McClendon (San Antonio)
Elliot Naishtat (Austin)
Dora Olivo (Rosenberg)
Eddie Rodriguez (Austin)
Sylvester Turner (Houston)
Mike Villareal (San Antonio)

Update: It's official. Bodicea at Texas Kaos reports that Gov. Perry has commuted Kenneth Foster's sentence to life in prison.
"After carefully considering the facts of this case, along with the recommendations from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, I believe the right and just decision is to commute Foster's sentence from the death penalty to life imprisonment," Gov. Perry said. "I am concerned about Texas law that allows capital murder defendants to be tried simultaneously, and it is an issue I think the legislature should examine."
It's time to revisit the "law of parties." And while we're at it, it might be a good time to take a good hard look at the makeup of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to Rule Today on Kenneth Foster

The execution of Kenneth Foster is scheduled tomorrow, August 30 at 6:00 p.m. Foster was sentenced to death under the Texas "Law of Parties" provision. If you aren't familiar with the case of Kenneth Foster, you can catch up here.

After a day's delay, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is scheduled to issue its ruling on a possible commutation of sentence for Kenneth Foster at 1:00 p.m. today. Governor Perry can either accept or reject the board's advice. Supporters of Kenneth Foster plan a rally this afternoon, after the board's decision.

The Campaign to Save Kenneth Foster will hold a rally and press conference to respond to the board's decision at 5:00 PM at the Texas Governor's Mansion (Lavaca at 11th).

Capitol Annex points out that as a Methodist, the decision to commute Foster's sentence should be easy one for Perry.

The call for mercy for Foster has literally reached around the world, and in the process, cast a harsh light on the Texas legal system. Jimmy Carter and Bishop Desmond Tutu are the latest in a distinguished line of concerned citizens, organizations and newspapers to call for a halt to the execution.

Update: According to the Texas Moratorium Network, there has been another delay in the decision by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles did NOT make a decision today on the case of Kenneth Foster, Jr. There was a crowd of about 75 people who had gathered at the governor's mansion in Austin waiting on the decision, but it never came. Now, we expect a decision tomorrow. We do not know what the reason is for the delay, but it is not really the best way to conduct a decision about an execution when the governor will have much less than 24 hours to consider whatever the board recommends. In fact, the governor should go ahead and issue a 30-day stay because of the BPP's failure to give him 24 hours to make a decision.
There is still time to contact the governor's office and urge him to stop Foster's execution. Contact info is here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Cornyn Defends Gonzales to the End

Yet another Bush crony had his wings clipped and is headed back to Texas to wait until the next molt.

Alberto Gonzales may be a pariah to most Republicans, but the administration knew who to call when it needed a talking head on his resignation. As one of the few Republicans still willing to defend "Fredo," Senator Cornyn proves once again that his ethical compass points a few degrees shy of true north.

In an interview about Gonzales, Cornyn responded with a rather telling choice of words.
"I think he was just worn down by the criticism. This thing has a Chinese water torture effect of drip, drip, drip, drip.
And TMPMuckracker notes, all the scurrying around to defend the failed war, er, failed attorney general, must have blown Cornyn's talking points out of order.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has a unique take on what's next to come at the Justice Department in the wake of Alberto Gonzales. Just now on CNN:

"This will not bring peace. This will bring more chaos."

No word yet on whether the chaos created by Alberto Gonzales will follow us home.
If you're from Texas, that's not funny.

Texas Blog Roundup: August 27, 2007

It's time once again for the weekly Texas Progressive Alliance blog round-up. This week's round-up is brought to you by Vince from Capitol Annex.

Getting this week's round-up off to a great start, we want to thank our friends over at the 50 State Blog Network for taking note of our round-up and mentioning it in their round-up.

John at Bay Area Houston thinks it is time to drag Ari Fleisher out of town for using disabled vets in his pro-war commercials.

After the space shuttle safely landed this week, Krazypuppy at Texas Kaos wonders "Who Does an Astronaut Have to Bleep to Get Some Attention From the Media?"

At Bluedaze, TXsharon tell us that Barnett Shale drilling with it's insatiable thirst for fresh water is just another kind of blood for oil war. Barnett Shale Drilling: It's not sexy but Noriega for TX US Sen. is.

Alexandra Pelosi screened her documentary "Friends of God" in Houston last Thursday, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has the report.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the lawsuit filed against Round Rock Independent School District for allowing prayer at high school commencements in Graduation Prayer At Three RRISD High Schools Draws Lawsuit.

Todd Hill at Burnt Orange Report talks impeachment. Funny thing is because independent Linda Curtis is working to "Impeach Perry".

Stop Cornyn talks endorsements this week. Watts has picked up a few mayorial endorsements in the Valley and Lt. Col. Rick Noriega is getting the endorsement of some big statewide Democrats Monday. Our chances continue to look good in 2008.

Steve Southwell at finds himself agreeing with a Republican city councilman regarding the government's role in banning smoking in restaurants and bars.

Vince at Capitol Annex continues his exploration of the last days of the 80th Texas Legislature and the events surrounding the resignations of the House Parliamentarians and uncovers a smoking gun--an opinion drafted by former Legislator and now-Parliamentarian Terry Keel days before he was appointed to the post.

Muse muses about 8th graders--including her own--who are on the front lines of Texas' education accountability system.

Texas Toad at North Texas Liberal asks some important questions concerning education and a forthcoming campaign for intelligent design in the classroom.

Easter Lemming spots censorship and uncivil airwaves on Houston radio news. He relates that to the censored radio guest and himself become less conservative years ago when exposed to the Wall Street rape of employees in leveraged buyouts.

McBlogger takes some time out of his far too busy schedule to bash all the immigrants in Austin.

Half Empty writes about Rick Noriega's Enthusiastic Ovation at the SDEC quarterly meeting this past weekend.

Off the Kuff asks how students can be expected to understand the debate over evolution and "intelligent design" when it's clear that neither SBOE members nor newspaper reporters really understand it.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

General Land Office Selling Land Donated by Conservation Group

The General Land Office is at it again. After the controversy over its proposed sale of land at Eagle Mountain Lake, the office agreed to the development of a park only after it became a political football in the last election. Now the office is proposing another controversial sale. It has taken bids for 9,269 acres of land in the Christmas Mountains adjacent to Big Bend National Park.

According to the Conservation Fund, who gifted the land to the state, the state was bound by deed restrictions and could not sell the land without the approval of the fund.

"It was the hope...that this land would be made available to the general public for hunting and other recreational uses," Richard Erdman, executive vice president of the Virginia-based Conservation Fund, wrote in [an] Aug. 8 letter.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson stated that the deed restrictions were probably unenforceable.

One of the bidders is Houston businessman John Poindexter, of J.B. Poindexter & Co. Inc. and owner of nearby Cibolo Creek Ranch Resort. Poindexter has been trying to buy land in and around the area for some time now. He previously made news when he initiated the sale of 45,000 acres in Big Bend State Park. After a public outcry, that deal fell through.

Poindexter's statements imply he is only interested in conservation of the Christmas Mountains land.

"The restrictions are so significant, that fundamentally, all you can do is look at the land."

Apparently, that's an argument we've heard before. Of the Big Bend sale, Poindexter had this to say.

The 46,000 acres that the state considered selling him wasn't being sought to expand his resort facilities, as some critics asserted, he added.

"The development potential — as was so frequently cited in the hearing — for this property is as close to zero as anything could reasonably be in the state," he said.

What he failed to mention was that an easement on the 46,000 acre sale allowed development of 4600 acres.

Regarding the Christmas Mountains land, the original donor, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, was disturbed enough about the pending sale of its land to issue this warning.

If the land sale goes through "the state of Texas (should) not look to the R.K. Mellon Foundation for any future help."

That sentiment was echoed by Carolyn Vogel of the Texas Land Trust Council.

"If the foundation intended for conservation to be the major outcome and it got developed instead, it could have an effect" on future donations to the state.

Hat tip South Texas Chisme and B & B.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Will the Texas State Board of Education Oppose Teaching ID?

Lightseeker at Texas Kaos takes heart in a Houston Chronicle article assessing the views of the Texas State Board of Education members on the teaching of evolution versus intelligent design in the schools. The board is scheduled to revise the science curriculum in the 2007-2008 calendar, and many expect proponents of intelligent design to launch an aggressive campaign to include the teaching of ID in the classroom.

First the good news:

In Interviews with The Dallas Morning News, 10 of the board's 15 members said they wouldn't support requiring the teaching of intelligent design. One board member said she was open to the idea. Four board members didn't respond to the newspaper's phone calls.....

Other board members who said they believe the curriculum should continue to include evolution and not be changed to accommodate intelligent design were: Geraldine "Tincy" Miller, R-Dallas; Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands; Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas; Bob Craig, R-Lubbock; Mavis Knight, D-Dallas; Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio; Lawrence Allen, D-Houston; and Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi.

Note that Gail Lowe, who calls herself a creationist, represents District 14, including Denton County.

And then there is this reassuring quote.

"Creationism and intelligent design don't belong in our science classes," said Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy, who described himself as a creationist. "Anything taught in science has to have consensus in the science community and intelligent design does not."

It's reassuring, because McElroy's appointment last month by Governor Rick Perry kicked up a firestorm of protest over concerns that he was an anti-science, religious ideologue. We should take McElroy's quote to mean that evolution will be taught in our public schools according to scientific consensus, right?

Maybe not. Here's another quote from the Houston Chron article by McLeroy.

McLeroy, R-College Station, said he doesn't want to change the existing requirement that evolution be taught in high school biology classes. But he joined several of his colleagues in arguing that biology textbooks should cover the weaknesses of the theory of evolution [emphasis added].

The Texas Freedom Network highlighted a speech McLeroy delivered to the Grace Bible Church in 2005.

McLeroy recounted the controversy over teaching evolution during the State Board of Education’s adoption of new biology textbooks in 2003. McLeroy was one of only four members on the 15-member panel who voted to reject the textbooks. Those four members argued that the textbooks failed to discuss what they called the “weaknesses” of evolutionary theory. They were backed by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based organization that opposes evolution and promotes “intelligent design” as an alternative. McLeroy said:

“It was only the four really conservative, orthodox Christians on the board [who] were willing to stand up to the textbooks and say they don’t present the weaknesses of evolution. Amazing."

So don't think for one minute that Perry appointed McLeroy to be chairman of the board with the concession that he not advocate his views on creationism. The "weaknesses" argument is code for ID, which in turn is creationism wrapped up in enough jargon to make a claim that it passes scientific muster. It doesn't, but that's for another post.

TFN leaves us with this warning.

In the 2006 elections, religious conservatives increased their numbers on the state board to eight – a majority. The board is currently overhauling all public school curriculum standards. The board is scheduled to take up revisions to science standards – including standards dealing with evolution – in 2007-08.

Even Lightseeker warns us to "pay attention, even while celebrating this , apparent, step forward."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Texas Blog Roundup: August 20, 2007

Here is your Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Round-Up for the week of August 20, 2007. This week's installment is brought to you Vince from Capitol Annex.

Krazypuppy at Texas Kaos keeps track of What You Will Not Find at Laura Bush's Library.

TXSharon at BlueDaze asks, "Would you make Osama Bin Ladin director of Homeland Security?" If the answer is no, read about who wants to protect our water in Barnett Shale: Devon wants to conserve our water? Like hell!

Hal at Half Empty sees vultures flocking to pick over the bones of Tom DeLay's old seat.

Texas Toad at North Texas Liberal exposes the hypocrisy of chickenhawk Republicans taking shots at Rick Noriega.

Vince at Capitol Annex tells us about the coming storm surrounding implementation of religious viewpoint "anti-discrimination" policies in Texas schools to comply with a bill recently passed by the Texas Legislature.

WcNews at Eye On Williamson points out the hypocrisy in sentencing in recent child molestation cases in Williamson County.

PDidde at Brains and Eggs fries up a double order of e-Slate voting woes: an advance of the meeting over security issues with Houston Mayor Bill White and the Harris County (Republican) clerk; and the disappointing results of that meeting, including the news that the TDP lawsuit over "emphasis voting" was dismissed.

Captain Kroc at McBlogger suggests the incumbent in the Travis County Tax Assessor-Collector race is using a page or two from Turd Blossom's playbook.

Boadicea at StopCornyn tells us about John Cornyn's Badge Of Fiscal Irresponsibility.CouldBeTrue at

South Texas Chisme
exposes another Republican minority district suppression scam - using immigration raids to minimize population counts for the 2010 census.

Kuff at Off the Kuff asks "How many felonies could you commit with an oyster?"

Glenn Smith at Burnt Orange Report gives a "political type's" perspective on the media's fascination with Karl Rove.

Also, don't forget to check out these other great Texas Progressive Alliance blogs: People's Republic of Seabrook, Three Wise Men, Musings, Bay Area Houston, In The Pink Texas, Who's Playin?, Feet To The Fire, Easter Lemming Liberal News, Winding Road In Urban Area, Common Sense, B & B , The Agonist, Texas Truth Serum.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Republicans Support the Troops Unless They're Running for Office

The patriots at the The Lone Star Times want to thank Lt. Col Rick Noriega for his long as he doesn't mention it ever again.

Noriega, who is one of several Texas Democrats running against John Cornyn for U.S. Senate, has served in the military since 1979, including a stint in Afghanistan. He also distinguished himself in the National Guard during the Katrina disaster. And now, as his campaign notes, he is preparing for a two week stint in the National Guard.

But mention any of this, and Republicans cry foul.
Is it a proper way to advance your political career by shouting about your service every chance you get? The reason I ask is because when I see advertisements like this, it makes me question the person’s motivation for his service. Is it really for the country, for duty, for honor? Or is it to have another feather in your cap to attack a political
Okay, this is going to be a long slog of a campaign, so let's make sure we understand the rules of engagement (sticking with the war metaphor.) If Democrats call for an end to the Iraq war they are "cut and run cowards." If they tout their own military experiences as proof that they have the leadership qualities necessary to lead our country, they are crass manipulators. If they offer even modest proposals to provide some relief to our suicidal troops, they are undercutting our leaders.
Mr. Noriega is not the right man for Texas. In Mr. Noriega’s campaign email, he derided current Texas Sen. John Cornyn for voting against a bill requiring the military to keep soldiers on leave longer. Sen. Cornyn thinks that should be a military decision.
It's ironic that the gist of the LST post is to excoriate a fan of Noriega's for overstepping the line and insulting the family of a deceased military serviceman. Yet this post is insulting to our servicemen and women on so many levels.

The writer ends with a plug for Cornyn, who never served a day of military service, for standing up for American values, like torture.
Also in Mr. Noriega’s email, he lashed out at Sen. Cornyn for voting against a bill banning the use of torture on terrorists detained in the field. Sen. Cornyn recognizes that putting women’s underwear on the heads of terrorists isn’t life threatening.
Frankly, I'd be willing to forgo the call for an apology to Noriega, if Cornyn would personally put that theory to the test.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Texans Weigh in on Karl Rove

In an interview with Keith Olbermann, Rove biographer James Moore was asked what it would mean to the Bush presidency to lose the advisor dubbed "Bush's brain." "I say he goes from a lame duck to lamebrain." Some of us might ask what's new?

Around the Lone Star State, fellow Texans are contemplating the return of Karl Rove with remembrances of previous political wars gone by. At BOR, Glenn Smith muses on the gullibility of the press coverage and asks why media had such an infatuation with Karl Rove?

In any case, I had over the years many occasions to discuss Rove with reporters who had been my colleagues. In Texas, they shared my dislike for him, my suspicions about his character and morality. That changed when he could control their access to Bush during the 2000 campaign. For once, Texas reporters were at the front of the bus. People from around the world sought their opinions of Bush and his team. They were on television. And their insights were important. But Rove controlled the seats on the bus, and if they went too far, they'd lose those seats. These are hard-bitten journalists. I still admire every one of them. But, they are human beings, and they had a job to do. One of my early colleagues, Jim Moore, joined Dallas Morning News reporter Wayne Slater in writing two Rove exposes. Of course, my friend Molly Ivins saw through Rove from the beginning too. Bless them.

But apparently not everyone in the press was seduced by the "boy genius". The Seattle Times issued a reprimand to its reporters for cheering in the newsroom upon announcement of Rove's resignation. But this was crunchy Seattle after all, where the questionable charm of an arrogant, Machiavellian like Rove, whose presidential nickname refers to a flower that grows on cow dung, might be less likely to seduce.

Actually, you don't have to be a librul or even a Democrat to harbor some resentment toward Rove. From the Joshua Green article in this month's Atlantic, comes this quote from Dick Armey.
Dick Armey, the House Republican majority leader when Bush took office (and no more a shrinking violet than DeLay), told me a story that captures the exquisite pettiness of most members of Congress and the arrogance that made Bush and Rove so inept at handling them. "For all the years he was president," Army told me, "Bill Clinton and I had a little thing we'd do where every time I went to the White House, I would take the little name tag they give you and pass it to the president, who, without saying a word, would sign and date it. Bill Clinton and I didn't like each other. He said I was his least favorite member of Congress. But he knew that when I left his office, the first schoolkid I came across would be given that card, and some kid who had come to Washington with his mama would go home with the president's autograph. I think Clinton thought it was a nice thing to do for some kid, and he was happy to do it." Armey said that when he went to his first meeting in the White House with President Bush, he explained the tradition with Clinton and asked the president if he would care to continue it. "Bush refused to sign the card. Rove, who was sitting across the table, said, 'It would probably wind up on eBay," Armey continued. "Do I give a damn? No. But can you imagine refusing a simple request like that with an insult? It's stupid. From the point of view of your own self-interest, it's stupid. I was from Texas, and I was the majority leader. If my expectations of civility and collegiality were disappointed, what do you think it was like for the rest of the congressmen they dealt with? The Bush White House was tone-deaf to the normal courtesies of the office......"

When Bush revived immigration reform this past spring and let it be known that Rove would not take part in the negotiations, the president seemed to have belatedly grasped a basic truth about congressional relations that Armey summed up for me like this: "You can't call her ugly all year and expect her to go to the prom with you."
Gotta love those Texas aphorisms. Speaking of which, here's a preview of Bill Moyer's Journal to air on Friday.
Rove is riding out of Dodge city as the posse rides in. At his press conference this week he asked God to bless the president and the country, even as reports were circulating that he himself had confessed to friends his own agnosticism; he wished he could believe, but he cannot. That kind of intellectual honesty is to be admired, but you have to wonder how all those folks on the Christian right must feel discovering they were used for partisan reasons by a skeptic, a secular manipulator. On his last play of the game all Karl Rove had to offer them was a hail mary pass, while telling himself there’s no one there to catch it.
Update: If Karl Rove's biggest concern right now is Bush's legacy, dreaminonempty at Daily Kos has a few maps to demonstrate how that might be playing out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rally for Kenneth Foster on August 21

I wanted to highlight a comment that someone left on a previous post on the plight of death row inmate Kenneth Foster.
If you are moved by the case of Kenneth Foster, and if you can get to Austin, we encourage all justice-minded people to come to a rally in support of Kenneth. The rally is on Tuesday, August 21, starting at 5pm. We will gather in front of the Capitol at 11th St. and Congress Ave. and march to the Governor's mansion to make our voices heard. For more information, visit [Save Kenneth Foster] or call 512.584.1578.
In the meantime, Sean-Paul Kelley, whose plea for mercy so moved us in the first place, notes that the human tragedy of this story has been lost in the scramble of media to win the ratings war.

And while we sympathize with Kelley's anguish, we're hopeful that the wider exposure will accomplish what the appeals process so far has failed to do - commute Foster's sentence. The odds at this point don't look good.

[Foster's attorney, Keith Hampton] said he has exhausted virtually all legal recourse, including an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and that his last best hope relies on a recommendation of commutation from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to [Gov. Rick] Perry.

Is he hopeful? Given Texas' track record with executions, "No, I am not," Hampton said. "The odds are extremely low."

In fact, the Board of Paroles has only recommended that a sentence be commuted twice in its history. In 1998, a recommendation was approved by then-Gov. George W. Bush in the high-profile case of Henry Lee Lucas. And, in 2004, they recommended the execution of paranoid schizophrenic Kelsey Patterson be commuted to life in prison, but Perry refused to grant the commutation.

Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for Perry, said the governor considers each execution on a case-by-case basis. She said Texans overwhelmingly support the death penalty, and that Perry, in his suppot [sic] for it, is "carrying out the will of the people."

Jackie Deynolles, the acting chair of the 7-person pardons and parole committee that will review Foster's case, would not comment, other than to say that the board has received Hampton's petition and will issue a decision on Aug. 28.

Perry never made a move in his life that wasn't political. The fact that in Foster's case the punishment clearly does not fit the crime probably isn't keeping the governor up at night. The only way to convince him and the board to commute Foster's sentence is to convince them that an execution in this case is clearly not the "will of the people." (See rally, above.)

Foster is scheduled to be executed on Aug. 30th.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Texas Blog Roundup: August 13, 2007

It’s Monday, and that means it is time for this week's Texas Progressive Alliance statewide round up. Matt Glazer over at Burnt Orange Report is giving Vince a break this week and has the best of the left from over a dozen progressive blogs.

As always, the greatest hits are below.

Charles Kuffner at Off the Kuff is suffering from a little Kinky fatigue.

McBlogger special correspondent and legal counsel, Harry Balczak, enjoys a trip to the AFL-CIO Democratic Presidential debate...and interviews the candidates!

North Texas Liberal reports on the rumor that Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairman Art Brender and Ft. Worth City Council Member Wendy Davis are going to square off for a chance to face unpopular Sen. Kim Brimer, R-District 10, in 2008.

Marc shows us the Democrats have set their sights on SD-10 and Tarrant County Democrats have reason to be optimistic.

Matt Glazer at Burnt Orange Report is working for change. Bloggers and activists across the state have launch TexBlog PAC to usher in a new majority—a Democratic Majority.

What do Republicans do when whistleblowers reveal their evil secrets?

South Texas Chisme lets us know they go after the whistleblowers, of course. Fixing the problem? Not an option. TYC goes after employees who report to the Texas legislature or to newspapers.

Stace Medellin from DosCentavos is added to the Texas Kaos family. But never fear, DosCentavos will still be around for your reading pleasure! Stace begins his association with TK on Monday, August 13!

Speaking of TexasKaos, this week the Presidential candidates sat down and answered questions from the LGBT community on Logo.

Texas Kaos' contributor Refinish69 writes just how far the LGBT rights fight has come in his post, GLBT History was Made Tonight & My Part in That History.

Stop Cornyn highlights John Cornyn’s low lights. Sad thing is just how many bad votes he has made this past week.

"Republicans For Rick Noriega?" Half Empty explores the origins of this movement.

Musings reports on Rick Noriega’s visit to The Lake – firedoglake, that is!

WCNews at Eye on Williamson asks What Did Senator Carona Expect? After caving to Ric Williamson during the legislative session Sen. John Carona can't believe Williamson isn't showing courtesy to him.

Gary at Easter Lemming Liberal News has a local digest this time: In the event of a WMD attack our librarians will be sent in.

Vince at Capitol Annex brings us news about protesters--who happened to have been paid operatives hired through a temporary agency—who tried to make noise at a fundraiser for Texas Supreme Court candidate Susan Criss.

Who's more corrupt, Republicans or Democrats? Find out at Bluedaze, with TXsharon's Corruption in Government: Comprehensive List. Hint: Republicans = 204 – Democrats = 3.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston simply calls the Republican Texas Ethics Commissioners incompetent after the disclosures of millions in undisclosed campaign expenditures.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wrote the tongue-in-cheek advance of the Democratic presidential front-runner's visit to the Bayou City with The Nutcracker comes to H-Town.

Steve at WhosPlayin? takes Congressman Michael Burgess (R -Lewisville) to task for fear-mongering about the trace amounts of mercury in energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs.

why we still love wendy davis

Wendy Davis may have some skeletons in her closet, and we aren't just talking about the readers of Fort Worth Weekly voting her "Most Likely to Sell Grandma to the Highest Bidder" back in 2002.

After resigning her position on the Fort Worth City Council and declaring her intentions to run for SD-10 against unpopular and unethical Republican Kim Brimer, eager politicos have started to examine her past political contributions. Apparently, she even gave money to George W. Bush in 1999.

Caravan of Dreams notes that contributions to Republicans may help her with a suburban audience, since instead of representing downtown Fort Worth, her district would encompass Grapevine and Southlake. She looks like less of a partisan than the other name being tossed around: Art Brender. Brender is the current chairman of the Tarrant County Democratic Party. But will her nonpartisan past hurt her reputation with the Democratic base?

Brender has already taken some shots at Davis. After announcing that she voted in the 2006 Democratic primary, he reportedly said "I believe like Harry Truman if you run a Republican against a Republican, the Republicans will win every time."

There are two types of people that can't understand why a Democrat would vote in the Republican primary: people that live in blue states and Democratic county chairs.

In the reddest of Republican suburbs in North Texas, some Democrats have been tempted to vote in the Republican primary in order to have a say in who will actually represent them. In many areas, there weren't even Democratic candidates on the ballot. One prime example is in Flower Mound, where Tan Parker and Anne Lakusta faced off in a run-off election for Texas House District 63. The race was irresistible to even some hardcore Democrats that couldn't stand to be represented by the Bush-loving Parker. That race was decided in the primary, because no Democrat stepped up to run for the seat. (Unfortunately, Parker went on to win the election, anyway.)

The truth is that it shouldn't matter. Davis is, from most accounts, a tried and true Democrat. As a councilmember, she remained nonpartisan, which is expected. But her donations, while some need an explanation, show that she supports Democrats. She has recently given campaign cash to Hillary Clinton. She even donated money to Art Brender himself!

One commenter on Burnt Orange Report described Davis this way:
Fair taxes, economic development in the inner city, no school vouchers, pro-choice, solid on GLBT issues, inclusive of minorities, against cutting off access to the courts via tort reform, an advocate for clean air and public transportation, sounds like Wendy Davis is a fine Democrat.
Obviously, Davis' record speaks for itself.

Also consider these glowing endorsements from her fellow council members, via FWST:

Council members praised Davis' service on the council, emphasizing her work on economic development issues.

"She has been at the forefront of many economic deals that have benefited Fort Worth," Councilman Sal Espino said. "And she brings to public life that unique perspective of someone who has worked hard to get where she is at."

Mayor Mike Moncrief said Davis fights for what she believes.

"You have done a masterful job," he said. "You are not afraid to shed a tear every now and then, and you are concerned for the least of us in the city as well as the most."

Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks said Davis has worked hard on issues throughout the city.

"Not only the work you've done in your district, but the work you've done in southeast Fort Worth has challenged me," Hicks said.

Wendy Davis is our best shot at taking back SD-10 from a fund-funneling Republican that has got to go. And if calling her a "DINO" is the best that her primary opposition can do, she has a pretty good shot.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

introducing rick noriega

It's an exciting time to be a Texas Democrat. 2008 could be the year that we finally turn Texas blue. An entire slate of candidates is ready to make that happen, and that's why they are vying for a spot on the ballot by campaigning in the Democratic primary.

One such candidate is Rick Noriega. Lt. Col. Noriega is running against Mikal Watts, Emil Reichstadt, and anyone else that throws their name in the race between now and the deadline, in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate race. Isn't it nice to have some choices?

Noriega seems ready to take on John "Box Turtle" Cornyn. Here's a recent television ad from the Noriega campaign. Let us know what you think. Is he your candidate?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Wendy Davis Officially Declares for SD 10

The FWST reports that Wendy Davis has resigned her position as Fort Worth councilwoman and plans to run for Texas State Senate District 10.

City Councilwoman Wendy Davis resigned Thursday night, announcing that she plans to challenge veteran state lawmaker Kim Brimer for his state Senate seat in 2008.

Davis has represented District 9 since 1999.

She is chief executive of the Fort Worth division of Republic Title.

Davis will run as a Democrat. Brimer is a Republican.

In a tearful speech, Davis told her council colleagues that she feels compelled to fight special interests in Austin.

"Texas is ready for change," she said. "The partnership in Austin is badly broken."

Davis will join Art Brender, another possible challenger to the seat. And at least one of them already has a fan.

Capitol Annex , Burnt Orange Report, Job's Anger and Caravan of Dreams have more. Also, Lone Star Project deconstructs Brimer's response to their recent poll.

The One Headline that Might Actually End the War

For well over a year now, retired military brass, (the only ones who could afford to speak out,) have been saying that the rotations necessary to fight the war in Iraq were unsustainable. It is now conventional wisdom among veterans and politicians alike that our military is broken.

But not to worry.....Bush's "war czar" has a solution.
Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan, says he is concerned about the toll the war in Iraq and extended deployments are taking on U.S.

The man who is widely known as the "war czar" also says that from a military standpoint, a return to a draft should be part of the discussion.
And as scary as that quote is, it's way past due.

There is a price to be paid for endless war. So if this is to be our destiny, then it's only fitting that we share this burden a little more equally.

Let those craven Republicans who have bowed to administration pressure and repeatedly blocked any meaningful legislation on withdrawal, defend the draft in their town meetings this summer.

Let all those clueless twenty-somethings who think we're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here set aside their tanning lotion long enough to consider whether that argument still holds up if that "we" is no longer a proxy.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Low Polls for Kim Brimer in SD 10

The latest polls on Texas State Senate District 10 show why the race might be drawing some serious contenders in next year's election. (See yesterday's post.) Numbers from the Lone Star Project indicate Republican incumbent Kim Brimer could be vulnerable to the right challenger.

A recent Lone Star Project poll reveals that Republican State Senator Kim Brimer has squandered almost 20 years in public office to remain largely unknown in his own backyard. With little to show for his time in Austin other than negative press accounts detailing questionable ethics, Brimer is clearly vulnerable to an adequately funded mainstream challenger. Without question, Tarrant County activists currently considering a challenge to Brimer are on solid ground (see story here).

The Lone Star Project commissioned the respected polling firm Opinion Analysts to conduct a survey of Texas Senate District 10 to help determine the viability of a challenge to incumbent Republican State Senator Kim Brimer. (see methodology below) The poll confirms earlier Lone Star Project vote analysis indicating underlying strength for a Democratic challenger and surprising weakness by the incumbent Brimer.

Among the more surprising results, 50 percent of the people polled had never even heard of Brimer.

Earlier this year, Charles Kuffner had some interesting statistics on the SD 10 race.
[Brimer's] district is entirely within Tarrant County, which is the one major urban county to remain a Republican stronghold (though that's gradually weakening), so it hadn't occurred to me to look there. But by every measure, Brimer is the Republican Senator in the bluest district.
Kuff includes some tantalizing data from previous races to make his case. Check it out. Tarrant County may not be ready to mirror Dallas' election successes yet, but winning back a senate seat would be a great start.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Art Brender Weighing SD 10 Candidacy

From bloggers blank and Todd Hill at BOR, the Texas State Senate District 10 will likely have a challenger to oppose Republican incumbent Kim Brimer.

Two possible names are being suggested as potential Democratic challengers. The first is Art Brender, currently chairman of the Tarrant County Democratic Party. A second person rumored to be interested is Wendy Davis, a Fort Worth City Councilmember in District 9.

This report from the FWST confirms Brender's interest in the seat, but leaves Wendy Davis' intentions up in the air.

Word has it that a couple of local Democrats are considering challenging Republican state Sen. Kim Brimer for the District 10 Senate seat next year.

Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairman Art Brender, busy gearing up a slate of local candidates for next year's elections, said he is considering making that bid himself.

"I'm looking at it real hard just in light of the changing demographics in that Senate district," said Brender, a Fort Worth lawyer.

And speculation is swirling that Fort Worth City Councilwoman Wendy Davis may be debating the same thing. She declined to comment.

Brimer's district covers about half of Tarrant County, including Fort Worth, Benbrook, Mansfield and part of Arlington. Brimer won the seat in 2002 with 59 percent of the vote.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee on FISA

Blue Dog Democrats, please watch this video. Take notes. There will be a test.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Texas Blog Roundup: August 6, 2007

It's Monday, and that means it is time once again for the Texas Progressive Alliance Weekly Blog Round-Up, where we review the best in Texas blogging from our various member blogs. This week's installment is brought to you by Vince at Capitol Annex.

TxSharon at BlueDaze brings us an interesting story about drilling companies in Wise County getting caught lying about water usage. Sometimes, the truth just slips out as it did when an oil field worker told TXsharon the truth about water usage in Barnett Shale drilling: Depleting and polluting our water in Wise County, Texas.

Texas Toad at North Texas Liberal asks "Will There Be Mercy For Kenneth Foster?"

John C. at Bay Area Houston Blog tells us about the newest corporation and industry to exploit the Federal Arbitration Act-- Comcast, in Another Consumer Scam: Comcast Arbitration.

If you want pictures of Rick Noriega at YearlyKos, Charles at Off The Kuff has them here.

McBlogger at McBlogger looks at the mortgage industry brouhaha and decides the sky isn't falling after all.

Easter Lemming does another of his Liberal News Digest's from progressive media. There really is a liberal news media, if you know where to look outside the mass media.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts regarding Williamson County County Attorney Jana Duty filing a brief with AG Greg Abbott regarding whether County Judge and Commissioners can use outside counsel without the County Attorney's consent in County Attorney Asks AG Abbott For Opinion On Hiring Of Outside Legal Counsel.

Hal at Half Empty points out that if you want quality education don't come to school bond issue meetings with box cutters.

Vince at Capitol Annex takes a look at the briefs filed before the Attorney General in the opinion request on the power of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

South Texas Chisme tells how FEMA dollars are being used to shill for Allstate agents.

And...Several Texas bloggers were also represented at Yearly Kos in Chicago, and did some great liveblogging. Here are some samples: Burnt Orange Report; Muse from Musings was liveblogging all over the place, including at her blog where she bings us the ePluribus interview with Rick Noriega; Markos of DailyKos' special endorsement of Rick Noriega; a session on female bloggers; liveblogging of the the presidential forum; and at Capitol Annex where she blogged more on the female blogger session here, the MSN-blog panel (also here, here, and here); and on the Local Blogging Round-Table at Musings.

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, Texas Kaos, Feet To The Fire, and Who’s Playin’.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

More Democrats Consider Themselves Liberal

The Reagan/Gingrich revolution didn't just give prominence to a new brand of conservatism; it shifted the whole political spectrum to the right. When NTL was formed in 2006, we had a debate for oh, at least a minute or so, about what to call ourselves. In the end, we stuck with "Liberal" instead of progressive, not because we see ourselves as all that liberal (the truth is we're not), but because we thought it was time to take that word back from the Republicans and define it on our own terms.

In a McClatchy article by Steve Thomma on the growing liberal movement, there is both good news and bad news. Here's the good news. A recent poll shows forty percent of Democrats now call themselves liberal, the highest percentage in three decades.
"There is greater support for the social safety net, more concern for inequality of income," said Andy Kohut, the president of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. "More people are falling into the liberal category based on their values."
The article notes the strong anti-war sentiment among Democrats, and increasingly, independents. And it highlights the fact that Democrats are increasingly turning against free trade, which is strengthening its ties to labor movement.

It's discouraging, though, that the article ends on this note:
"On economic questions, they seem to be moving more and more to the left,'' said Larry Gerston, a political scientist at San Jose State University in California. "More Democratic candidates are asserting traditional liberal positions on bread and butter issues, like health care. It augurs ideas of big government and safety net programs."
And this is the bad news. Mr. Gerston is a political scientist, not an economist, but it's hard to believe that in the long shadow of Bush's $9 trillion-dollar debt (and climbing), anyone would still let a statement like that go unchallenged. So tomorrow's post will shed some light on the myth of liberalism and "big government."

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Texas Progressive Alliance Files Brief on Speaker Authority

North Texas Liberal is extremely proud to join our fellow members of the Texas Progressive Alliance in filing an opinion with the Attorney General regarding actions taken by Speaker Tom Craddick during the 80th Texas Legislature. From the press release...

The Texas Progressive Alliance, a confederation of more than 50 Texas bloggers and Internet activists representing many of Texas' most prominent blogs, this morning filed a brief with the Texas Attorney General's office in relation to Request for Opinion No. RQ-0589-GA, pertaining to the authority of the Office of Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

The initial request for the opinion relating to the power of the Speaker was made June 18, 2007 by Texas State Representatives Jim Keffer and Byron Cook following the close of the 80th Texas Legislature which ended with House Speaker Tom Craddick (R-Midland) refusing to recognize House members for a Motion to Vacate the Chair claiming his office was above the precedents and rules of the House and was instead only subject to impeachment pursuant to the Texas Constitution.

Initially, the Attorney General's office invited only 29 individuals and organizations to submit briefs in connection with the Opinion Request. However, the process was later opened to all interested parties.

"Once the door was opened, we felt we would be remiss in not submitting a brief," said Vince Leibowitz of, Chair of the Texas Progressive Alliance. "As bloggers and citizen journalists, we all covered this process. We all examined the rules, the Texas Constitution, and case law and offered our opinions on this on our websites. We offered our opinions and shared with our world our collective shock at Speaker Craddick's actions, and felt this was a prime opportunity to interject some of our ideas on this process," Leibowitz continued.

The Alliance's brief addressed each of the four questions posed in Reps. Keffer's and Cook's opinion request, and brought to the attention of the OAG's opinion committee other information as well.

A key issue in the debate over the speaker's power concerns whether or not the Speaker of the House of Representatives is a legislative officer or a "statewide" officer, subject only to impeachment. Though precedent (including the removal of a speaker over a century ago) clearly show the Speaker is a legislative officer, Speaker Craddick's attorneys and others contend that he is, in fact, a statewide officer subject to impeachment provisions in the state constitution.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Will There Be Mercy for Kenneth Foster?

If you are following the Kenneth Foster case, Bob Ray Sanders has two op-eds on the subject this week. (See here and here.) If you haven't been following it, the Booman Tribune has a fairly succinct summary.

Kevin Foster, you see, was convicted under the "law of the parties" rule in Texas (in other states commonly referred to as the Felony Murder Rule) which makes a defendant liable for murder, even if the victim was killed by another person, and even if the defendant did not intend for the murder to occur, if anyone dies as the result of the commission of a felony. Foster was alleged to have been party to a robbery by Mauriceo Brown, the man who murdered Sean's friend, Michael LaHood, in the driveway of Mr. LaHood's home. Foster claimed no knowledge of the intended robbery, and never left the car in which he drove Mr. Brown and two other men. One of the other passengers in the car, Julius Steen, testified against Mr. Brown and Kenneth Foster in exchange for a lesser sentence. Brown and Steen had committed two other armed robberies earlier in the evening during the time Foster was with them. It was Mr. Steen's testimony which tied Kenneth Foster to the alleged robbery and subsequent murder of Michael LaHood by Mr. Brown. In essence, Kenneth Foster was sentenced to death for not taking a plea bargain before Mr. Steen did.

Sean-Paul Kelley, blogger for The Agonist, makes a very earnest appeal to spare Foster's life. What's remarkable about this diary is that he makes this plea for mercy even though the deceased, Michael LaHood, was Kelley's best friend.
I still remember eating chicken fried steak with him and D-Day--the third and most successful leg of our triumviral friendship--at Maggies at 3:00am after clubbing, back when the three of us attended the local junior college, were obsessed with the opposite sex but too stupid to realize they were just as obsessed with us as we were with them. God how I'd give anything to have him back. Thinking of him brings a tear to my eyes even now. What makes it worse is that I'd returned from living out of the country a few months before he was killed. A new career kept me busy. We kept postponing getting together. My last words to Mike--two weeks before he was murdered--were a cliché for all clichés: "we'll do it next weekend, buddy, we've got all the time in the world." I couldn't hear the clock ticking. I wish I'd listened closer.

And for that I hated Mauriceo and his gang even more, and for a long time. But the execution of a young man who didn't even kill Mike? That's not justice. It's senseless vengeance, a barbarism cloaked in the black robes of justice.
The Texas Moratorium Network has published Foster's letter to Governor Rick Perry. If one takes it on face value, it is a fairly affecting document.
I’ve discovered (and hopefully others will, too,) that the pain, sorrow and compensation is not taken care of through simply saying I’m sorry or through hundreds of executions, rather giving love everyday, helping someone, speaking truth to power - showing that one man with courage can be a majority.
If you agree with that last statement, Sanders' column ends with the following suggestion:

Contact the governor's office or the Texas Board of Pardons and
Paroles to object to the execution of Kenneth Foster Jr.

Gov. Rick Perry
Mail: State Capitol, P.O. Box 12428,
Austin, TX 78711-2428
Telephone: 512-463-2000
Fax: 512-463-1849

Use the form at

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
Mail: P.O. Box 13401, Capitol Station,
Austin, TX 78711

Kenneth Foster is scheduled for execution on August 30th.