Friday, March 11, 2005

Common Sense is moving on up

I'm sorry for the strange format, but it is necessary so that Typepad could import all of my archives and comments. I finally got fed up with Blogger and not being allowed to post all day yesterday, so I decided to move to a new Blogging Publisher. Typepad seemed like a good provider and I'm learning all of the new features and I'm working on getting things set up so that it will be as seamless a transition as possible. I've still got to enter the new domain into Google and maybe some news aggregators and set up pings for blog sites, but I'll work on that. All you have to do is click here to visit Common Sense's new home. I hope you still come visit and that this isn't going to be a big inconvenience for you. I should think it's not that bad, just update your bookmarks and change your aggregators. I'll take care of the rest.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

House Bill 2 passes, 76-71

It was a closer than expected vote, with only 1 Democrat not voting against and 9 Republicans joining us. I'm too lazy to actually do my own rsearch, so here's Andrew's post.

The Republicans who sided against the bill were Fred Brown, Charlie Geren, Toby Goodman, Bob Griggs, Pat Haggerty, Delwin Jones, Ed Kuempel, Tommy Merritt and Todd Smith. All the mean things I say about Republicans are not meant towards you, until you do something to screw it up (which I'm sure they will soon). That goes double for the four that voted for Hochberg's amendment- Brown, Goodman and Merritt (they were joined by Bob Hunter, who voted for the final bill).
HB 2 doesn't go into effect until HB 3 passes, and, at the moment, there aren't enough votes in the House for it to pass. And the Senate will undoubtedly remake HB 2 in their image. Long story short, we are still a long way away from having any real plan to fund public education in Texas.

In trouble again?

I've never seen someone who is set on breaking ethics rules and generally just being a sleazeball.

A delegation of Republican House members including Majority Leader Tom DeLay accepted an expense-paid trip to South Korea in 2001 from a registered foreign agent despite House rules that bar the acceptance of travel expenses from foreign agents, according to government documents and travel reports filed by the House members.
When will the madness end, and when will someone just kick him out of Washington? I know Republicans have got to be tired of having to defend the kind of crap he pulls. More interesting, "The cost of DeLay's trip was the fourth largest for any single trip by lawmakers from Jan. 1, 2000, to September 2004, according to the Medill tally." At least 3 Democratic Congressmen accepted trips from the exchange, as well as an aide to Nancy Pelosi. Even if the ethics committee doesn't punish him, that doesn't mean that his continued trouble with them won't become a major Republican liability.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

More free advertising

This time its for gubernatorial hopeful, Chris Bell.

Dear Friend, If you're as tired as I am of hearing that Democrats can't win in Texas, then just think what Democrats in Kansas felt like going into their 2002 gubernatorial election. Registered Democrats comprised only 28 percent of that state's electorate and no Democrat had won an open race for governor in over 65 years. But Democrat Kathleen Sebelius won that race, and the political environment that produced her win has striking parallels to the environment here in Texas today. As speculation increases that Sen. Hutchison has all but decided to challenge Rick Perry for the Republican nomination, pundits are already talking about a bitter, bloody primary battle that would strain GOP loyalties and alienate moderate Republicans as well as Republican-leaning Independent voters. This closely mirrors the rift within the Kansas GOP, a rift so severe that one political magazine described Kansas as a virtual three-party state in which the moderate and conservative wings of the state party fractured to support their own candidates and agendas. As intra-party squabbling continued over education funding and conservatives' censorship of state curriculums, independents and moderate Republicans began to shift into the Sebelius camp. On Election Day, the pro-choice Sebelius won a resounding 53-45 victory in one of the most culturally conservative states in the nation, a state that President Bush would go on to win by 25 points in 2004. The Democratic victory in Kansas speaks closely to our current mission. Debates over school funding and legalized gambling continue to strain relations between GOP moderates and conservatives within the Texas Legislature. Sen. Hutchison's expected entry into the race will further divide Republicans, and a divisive GOP primary will produce a weakened and vulnerable nominee. The lesson from Kansas is clear: When the Republican Party turns on itself, Democrats will win even in the reddest of red states.
All the free media he can get.

CHIP funding wishlist

My very own state senator, Kip Averitt, R-McGregor, managed to keep the hope that the enrollment period for the CHIP program could again be raised to one year. The finance committee was set to block it, but Averitt managed to put it onteh Senate Budget Wishlist, meaning that if the money comes along later it might happen. The prospect is dim, but still alive. All this of course, is because of Chet Edwards. One of hte many things that helped Edwards survive was that he was running against Arlene Wohlgemuth, who instigated the cuts during hte budget crisis 2 years ago. He was able to bludgeon her over the head with cutting children's health insurance and losing the state money while doing it, and all she could come back with were the usual Republican claims of "tax and spend liberal" and "I got my picture taken with the president." Averitt saw the writing on the wall and people in his district were already pissed at him for not stopping redistricting when he was put on the judicial committee that was holding town halls across Texas. His response was something along the lines of "I know you don't want to spend millions to redistrict, but it's going to happen anyway and I will try not completely destroy your congressional district." That didn't happen, and Edwards still managed to survive, though Fort Hood was removed and he had to run to represent Burleson as well as College Station and Waco. Now Kip is doing all he can to restore CHIP funding to pre-2002 levels so that he can be the hero again. It's sad, but let him think whatever he wants, as long as funding gets restored and little kids get their health insurance. I do plan on campaigning hard for whatever Democrat decides to run against him, though. Many thanks to Dan Genz, staff writer at the Waco Tribune-Herald, for telling me about this, though I couldn't pay him for the info because I'm a cheap bastard.

Defining that which cannot be defined

Jacob Weisberg writes in Slate today trying to answer the question: Who is a journalist? He makes a number of really good points, one of the best is his closing statement that instead of trying to define "who" a journalist is and isn't, we should understand that in a democracy, being a journalist is a basic universal right. If we can't all investigate and speak freely, then it really isn't a free society. Weisberg, I think, makes the argument that if you engage in a journalistic practice, then you are a journalist. If an when you do not engage in a journalistic practice, then you are not. It is a lot more complicated than that, but that is a good framework that I think I would agree with. In other words, when I'm writing about how Democrats need to beat Republicans because the GOP is a bunch of God-less, evil old men, I'm engaging in partisan hackery and not journalism. When I'm writing like I am now about a subject, that's journalism. The point is, journalism is more of an abstract concept, unlike being a certified member of the Bar with a test score to prove it. Writing is an abstract excercise and it will always be such. But by understanding that being a journalist is more about what you do than where you went to school, we can begin to have legal protections for all of those who are in fact journalists, which is important in a democracy. Weisberg also has this passage which I think is great.

In response, many old-line journalists have tried to define their work in a ways that exclude the new aspirants. Insitutionalized journalists argue that bloggers don't do conventional reporting, aren't accurate, aren't responsible, or aren't paid—and hence are not genuine reporters. They fret that the current influx of amateurs will undermine professional standards or that seasoned professionals will be unfairly brought down by an electronic lynch mob, as some posit that Dan Rather of CBS and Eason Jordan of CNN were. Disregard all such self-interested whining. The breakdown of what once were formidable barriers to entry in the field of journalism is good news for democracy as a whole and for the press itself. The great cacophony of voices in the blogosphere means that more views are being represented, that more subjects are being examined in detail, and that more sunlight shines into institutions of all kinds. Thousands of bloggers ranting from their soapboxes mean that our political culture encompasses bracing debate about everything people disagree about. If you don't like this raucous clamor emanating from cyberspace, you're not really comfortable with democracy.
I couldn't have said it better myself. I think the MSM doesn't like blogging because of what the bloggers represent, people who read the news who are tired of not getting all the facts and not getting the truth. I think, also, the fact that they have to give up the biggest bias in journalism, laziness, or risk losing their jobs motivates them to attack blogging. And believe me, more than conservative or liberal political tendencies, laziness is the biggest bias. Some reporters are so lazy that they can't be bothered with even doing a Google search before writing. They just read the press release and call someone for a few choice quotes and turn something in. It's even worse for the 24-hour news channels. They will literally have 12 hours of experts talking about a routine check-up on a former president. And in between those 5-minute segments with experts explaining that everything will be fine and that "the routine check-up is indeed routine and I wouldn't read anything into it", they show the same video clips that they've been showing all day. It's ridiculous. They don't even read the press release; they just make shit up out of whole cloth. Not every reporter I know is like that. In fact, I would say that the guys here at the Trib are above average for trying to get news or find someone for the right quotes or information. But I read other newspapers, too, and the lack of dedication is very apparent in their writng. And it's blatantly obvious for televsion. Blogging is a new vanguard in journalism, and hopefully we will get some people fired who should have been better at their jobs. Democracy and freedom are at stake.

Totally shameless promotion

I've added In the Pink to the blogroll on the right, so that you know, easy to get to and all. I also highly uggest you visit there and sign up for the email, especially if you've got a huge blogroll like me with 50 or 60 blogs to read everyday. It's nice to just have one or two by email that you can read without doing anything. I hope all this makes it easier to read some of the really good Texas blogs out there. I need to add Greg's Opinion, since I read it everyday, and probably Bull Moose, since he is a fellow Wacoan. I'm holding off on trying to get my entire blogroll put over to the right, just because it would be such a long list and I'd have to divide it up into sections of interest or by area or something. Besides, I think it looks fine the way it is, just as long as I put a link to my entire blogroll somewhere. I also hope that any searches for In the Pink also reference me for all the times I mention her. I am a pragmatist after all. But it's nice to help her get all the traffic I can, even if no one comes to visit me.

I'm shocked and awed

I can't believe Bill Bishop doesn't read In the Pink. I mean, anyone who is anyone reads In the Pink, especially after yesterday's AAS article on the flap that In the Pink caused (do you think I've worked in enough references to In the Pink? Free advertising!). Today's Lasso has two posts on Gov. Goodhair's "secret weapon" to create jobs, the Texas Enterprise Fund. He points out that for Dec. '03-Dec. '04, Texas had below average job growth, so he wonders how Perry got the governor's cup. Hmmm, and just one day after the article that should have vaulted this onto front pages. Everything that she said about Site Selection Magazine and its connection to the Enterprise Fund is a factoid, which all have the benefit of being provably true. You know, the sooner we get some serious communication between bloggers and the MSM, the better off everyone will be. We'll have some good original reporting and really good fact-checking that only bloggers seem to be able to do.

More Joementum than you can shake a stick at

In the interest of journalism, I feel that I have to inform you about a site called Time To Go Joe. I've been meaning to write something about his appearance on Wolf Blitzer on Sunday, but I just haven't gotten around to it. I will do that some time tonight or in the early morning. Until then, visit the site and tell me what you think, pro or con.

Ahead of the curve

Today's Statesman story was on the debate that was going to happen today, not on the debate from yesterday. I think this graf sums up exactly what is wrong with the leadership in this state.

In a surprise move, Gov. Rick Perry warned publicly that a defeat of the tax plan, House Bill 3, would prompt a special legislative session, a message he acknowledged was intended to "keep the process moving" by securing House approval of a plan, any plan.
Because, obviously at a time like this, you don't care if your multi-billion dollar plan to refinance schools works, just that you have one. Can somebody please kick this yahoo out of office. The Trib's own Dan Genz has a piece on last night's developments. Wouldn't you know it, one of our local legislators is Jim Dunnam, a Democrat, and the other is Doc Anderson, who didn't want to talk about school financing to a reporter. Hmmm. This has become a total circus. Maybe it was already and I just wasn't paying attention. Is there no hope for the children?

That's comforting

After Porter Goss' words last week, I was already feeling on edge about my safety, but now the NY Times is reporting that Director Mueller has announced the death of the FBI's $170 million computer upgrade. Tuesday he said

"Our ability to handle a project like that was not what I thought it was," he said. "It's my fault for not having put the appropriate persons in position to review that contract and assure that it was on track."
At least he's taking personal responsibility for it. And he's right, this failure is an oppurtunity to get a better system that is more modern and more flexible, I'm still a little outraged. Oh, not by the money. I don't care how much they spend. I'm always in favor of intelligence (in all its definitions) and intelligence is no place to start nickel and diming. I'm more outraged that it is going to take another 3 and half years to design and install a system that works. Not too long ago, the guys at the FBI couldn't do the equivalent of a Google search and things don't seem to have progressed too much. And that means we are less secure. And the real shame is that there really is nothing we can do about it. It takes however long it takes. And until the FBI has a new system to search databases and do all the things they need to be able to do, we are going to have live under a system that is a painful reminder of just how unsafe we are because it failed on 9/11.

So much for blogger credibility

I should have said, in the lower post on Andrew's blogging the debate in the Lege, the debate today was on HB 2. Tomorrow (or today... whenever, Wednesday) is the debate on HB 3. Sorry to have confused anyone.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Someone does get it!

From The Red State:

Dear Reporters/Journalists, You do not need to be afraid of bloggers. We are not in competition with you. In fact, we need you. Bloggers make news by bringing ignored news to the forefront. You cannot be everywhere, so we will be. In spite of our newness and proclivity for errors, we provide a personal voice that is missing in mainstream media. Information hierarchy has changed from top-down to bottom-up. The sooner you realize that, the quicker we can get to work towards the same goal: free exchange of informed ideas and opinions. We want to be your friends. Really, we do! Nevertheless, we will call you on your bullshit, as a good friend would. Love, The Red State
That's just what we want them to think. Then, when their back is turned... Seriously, though. Someone who works at a newspaper should write about why blogging is not really in competition with the MSM, but working with it.

In defense of In The Pink

I spent all day watching TV from yesterday, so I just read this, but I'm pissed. I read In the Pink everyday and I like Eileen Smith, the very nice who writes it. She seems like a cool person to hang out with and I'd like to think of her as a friend. But Gov. Rick Perry doesn't think so. His flunky went to the Statesman and said this:

"Blogs are certainly appropriate expressions of people's opinions," gubernatorial spokesman Robert Black said Monday. "The general public has to realize on blogs . . . there are no controls on accuracy or honesty. And there's no accountability. "People need to be very careful with what they read in the blogs. Most blogs seem to be run with a pretty severe liberal bent."
All this is because Perry didn't like this post about the governor's cup she wrote. That's just petty. Byron weighs in, pointing out several conservative blogs and ends with "So, my advice to Rick Perry? Stop whining and set up your own damn blog!" That's about the all the advice I have Perry, plus something about anatomy and doing certain things that are impossible because of the Laws of Thermodynamics (geek speak). This also opens up a discussion about accountability in blogging, though. Several commenters weighed in on Byron's post, pointing out that readers give feedback and that it is a self-correcting system. All this is well and good, but I think it is a lot of hogwash. I should start out by saying, I write for myself. No offense to anyone reading this blog, but my number one priority has always been writing about whatever interests me. I don't pick things I think certain readers will like or on things that people suggest. I link to the blogs that I like about things I like. I review movies that I want to watch and write reviews that I would want to read. Whether I had a million readers or 5 (like now!), I would always write like that. I started blogging to write my opinions and allow other people to give me there's so that I could in some way debate to see if I had the courage of my own convictions. If I get a million readers, that's great, but it wouldn't change a thing. Except maybe I would have money from advertising, so I could blog more often about things I want to write about. I should probably also say that, since it is such a personal thing to me, I take a lot of pride in beig able to link to the source I use for whatever quote or information I print. Sometimes it's a simple Google search, sometimes it's more involved. The MSM doesn't do that, they can't do that. Only blogging can. That's why blogging will never really go away. But bloggers link to MSM sources everyday, and it will never really go away. The sooner people realize it is a symbiotic relationship, and not a really hostile one, the sooner we can see a great change in journalism and the media that benefits everybody, especially the reader. I'll end al of this by linking to In the Pink again and her response to all of this. It should most definitely be noted that she did everything by the book, a textbook case of pure journalism, and Perry just couldn't take it. "Shit, truth hurts."(free ice cream to whomever tells me where that quote comes from)

Texas our taxes

Andrew at BOR has been doing a super job of covering the debate on HB 2 and HB 3, the bills in the Texas House to fix the broken school financing system in Texas. In writing about HB 3, Andrew points out that the Legislative Budget Board scored it, and it would actually only cut taxes for those Texans making more than $100,000 a year. For Texans making less than that (which includes me), we would actually see a tax increase. I know, it's hard to believe. Republicans in favor of raising taxes. Actually, raising taxes on poor and middle-class people doesn't seem to bother them, but "on principle" the top income tax rate shoudln't be higher than 33%. I don't know how anyone can honestly say that the GOP in Texas represents anyone but the richest people in the state. I haven't really written about it much, but the Democrats do have an alternative plan, and it has been getting a lot of praise from educators and administrators. Debate's going to continue, and I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday's with Tucker Carlson: To the brink of obscurity

I haven't done one of these in a while, and now seems like it would be appropriate. I see on TVNewser that Tucker's new show on MSNBC could still be month's away, which is sort of bumming me out. He's made a few appearances lately. His appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher was really good. He was on a panel with Tim Robbins and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, and he made a better case. In fact, the two conservatives were more appealing than all the liberals on the show. That's not an easy thing to say for me. But Bill and his other guests seemed to really be reaching for something and just not finding it with their answers and his questions. Tucker was more libertarian and more consistent with his. For instance, Tubbs-Jones said she was OK with Arab men not shaking her hand because of tolerance to their culture, but she drew the line at "bee-keeper suits" and driving priveleges. Tucker was more consistent, drawing the line at intolerance of any kind. I suspect that it had more to do with the subjects being discussed than Tucker being the more sensible person. If Gannon/Guckert had been discussed that week, we probably would have seen him reaching for "Democrats being intolerant of gay people" or some such nonsense. Or if we had been talking about the bankruptcy bill and some of those provisions like they probably will this week. And all I really have to do is think back to the campaign and remember "Jacuzzi cases." That bullshit is enough to hate Bow Tie Boy for a lifetime. Regardless, i'm still going to DVR his show and make it a regular part of my viewing. Hardball has become too tedious for me and I hardly ever watch it anymore, so it will be good to have something besides Countdown to watch every night. And it will give me more regular material to discuss in these columns.

I finally get some sleep

I slept for a good 6 hours last night. That's the longest I've slept in a while. I've been too busy with too many things going on at different times of the day to be able to sleep all night or all day. So I've been getting it in increments of 2-4 hours every day. I finally sort of crashed last night. I was so tired at work that I literally started to doze off while typing and getting some strange results. I didn't think jkay fauyaoiyh; ihjahf were words until I saw them on my screen while I was typing up baseball linescores. So I went home and slept. Then I spent all day watching the 6 hours of TV that I recorded from last night. Hence the no blogging until now. But I'm totally rested and ready to go another 4 or 5 days without sleeping before crashing and getting up and going to Austin. Some programming notes: I'm working on my press ID badge Thursday. It's going to be too cute, withthe picture from the right. JJ's mom is a whiz with this sort of thing, so she's helping me out. I'm also getting one of the new G4 laptops for this gig. It's going to be super sweet, with a WiFi connection and killer laptop, I'm just going to have to liveblog. And Space Monkey's birthday is Thursday, so we'll be doing a pizza and beer movie night. That means no blogging then, unless I get drunk and use his computer. I'm also soliciting advice from readers. I've been made painfully aware that I do in fact need a laptop, so I'm wondering what you guys think of Dell's laptops. I'm on a shoestring budget, but I definitely need one, so tell me what you recommend.

Monday, March 07, 2005

I see I'm not the only one getting credentials

After his long, arduous journey, Garrett Graff is now a White House press reporter. The thing about that is that he is "editor" of FishbowlDC, a blog. Graff is the first blogger to be given a daily pass to attend the gaggle, marking a huge leap toward permanent credibility for blogging. It's going to be kind of hard to argue bloggers aren't journalists or that they don't deserve the same legal protections as other press when they are doing the exact same job of covering the White House. Raw Story has an interview with Graff about his impending admittance. And he couldn't resist, Jeff Gannon/James Guckert has to toss in his two cents. Editor & Publisher has this:

Gannon fails to mention that, whatever his political background, Graff is not currently employed by a partisan political organization (as Gannon was during his two-year stint at the White House), nor does Gannon differentiate "sexual history" from "selling sex."
That gets right to the heart of the matter of why Graff is OK but Gannon was not. Graff is an actual journalist, he spent time learning things like "don't plagiarize" and whatnot. Also, as the article points out, Graff is not currently working for a party or campaign, Guckert was working for GOPUSA. Bottom line, Graff is a good addition to the press corps, Gannon is a waste of space and air.

All kinds of drama

I don't get very much in the way of hate mail for writing this blog. Generally, somone just disagrees vehemently with something I said or the way I characterize an issue. I guess that is fine, if I have the right to say it you have the right to call me an idiot for saying it. It's all about freedom, baby. But what about getting threats for something I didn't write? I was up at the newsroom this morning doing a little more work on a special Web thing for the Balor Lady Bears. Since I was there and it is my job, I answered the phone. A very elderly gentleman called to complain about the fact that we published a story in the Sunday paper about the recent book that came out, The First Waco Horror: The Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP. We've talked about this book before. I think it's important to have this kind of thing out in the open. If people try to repress the past, I think all too often we are doomed to repeat our mistakes. I'm not quite sure what is getting people so angry. This story wasn't editorializing about the event or the book. I guess it is the fact that it is a black mark on Waco's past and people would rather be blissfully ignorant or things that went on in the history of the South rather than face up to it and apologize. You can't just forget and move on after something like this particular lynching takes place. Anyway, this person decided he would tell me that he and his friends were going to come down to the office and start some trouble and we should probably call the police to stop them. I took this to mean one of two things. One, this person was a complete psycho who didn't care what could possibly happen to him as long as he hurt somebody else to prove his point that what we published was indecent. Or two, this person was a coward who was just making idle threats to a stranger on the phone because he was unhappy and totally powerless to do anything about it. I tend to go with option b in this situation. If he was going to do anything, he probably wouldn't warn us. At least I remember that much from Psychology class (I took a semester). So, we kind of joked about it and I told J.B. he probably shouldn't go outside, he could just sleep in the interview room on the couch from now on and eat powdered donuts from the snack machine. He asked me to get a sniper to cover him while he went to his car. Laughs all around. Besides, this guy sounded old enough to have been at the lynching in 1916. I don't really feel that threatened by people who fall down without their walkers. Anyway, that's how my morning has been. Total acceptance as a credentialed journalist and total rejection by some old guy.

What's going on in Texas today?

I do love to read Lasso. Today Bill Bishop writes about the funk surrounding Rep. Solomon Ortiz and KBH. Apparently the two aren't getting along, which is to be expected since Ortiz is tight with the DeLay family and DeLay is tight with Speaker Tom Craddick and Gov. Rick Perry. If KBH is mulling a challenge to Perry, then it stands to reason that his friends are going to rally around him and do what they can to whittle support for her before the primaries even start.

Now I know I am a journalist

See, now I can prove it. If I wasn't a journalist, then how did I get on the day pass list for the Wonkette interview next Monday? That's right, boys and girls, I'm covering the event right here on Common Sense. Seeing as how I don't have a laptop, I've had to compromise a little to get one. The Brazos Living editor at the Trib will let me borrow one of the paper's if I write a feature on Wonkette with an interview. Piece of cake, I'll just spring for drinks on 6th Street and interview her there. It's ver hard to resist me when I'm being charming. So, things look all set. And I can say with all confidence that I am a journalist.

Is blogging journalism?

That is the question. Recently in one court case where Apple Inc. sued two bloggers for revealing product information, the judge ruled that bloggers aren't journalists and allowed the special protections thereof. That case is on appeal. AOL News has this story about people being fired from their jobs for blogging. So, with all this backlash, how can blogging be journalism? How can I sit here and tell you that I have no special protections but I'm still a journalist? That part is rather easy. Because I'm a journalist when I'm not blogging, too. But the fact that the medium I choose to publish in is the Internet should have no bearing on whether or not I get credentialed. What should go into consideration is do I update regularly (regularly enough) and do I have a way of being contacted so that I'm not totally anonymous, peddling gossip as fact and spreading lies. But that gets right to the heart of what it means to being a journalist. A journalist is someone who seeks the truth and then lets others know about it. The only difference between me and the staff writer at the Washington Post is that I have taken a different method. I believe that being subjective allows me to get at the truth. A typical objective news story will have one person say one thing and another person say another thing. The He said...She said school of journalism. Most people use this to remain objective so that they maintain credibility. I quote one person and tell you point blank he is lying and here is why. I source it and tell you in no uncertain terms that I am pissed off that that particular person is lying. I'm being subjective, I'm being opinionated and I'm more than likely being partisan. But I'm also telling you the truth. Hunter Thompson, in his famous obit of Richard Nixon, explained that

It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. He looked so good on paper that you could almost vote for him sight unseen. He seemed so all-American, so much like Horatio Alger, that he was able to slip through the cracks of Objective Journalism. You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.
That's what I and other bloggers do. We get subjective and we expose the lies, the horrible jobs that other so-called-journalists do and we publish on the greatest tool ever created to communicate with other people. My credibility comes, not from who signs my paycheck, but from my readers who appreciate that I seek the truth. Even if I fail, I think you guys would still be here because you at least appreciate that I want to find the truth and let you know; not construct some false sense of objectivity and leave you in the dark on what's really going on.

I shoulda DVRed 60 Minutes!

Last night's 60 Minutes featured a segment on the TRMPAC investigation. The Daily DeLay, as usual, has it all. Including this excerpt with Norm Ornstein from the American Enterprise Institute

Would this be considered a technicality – a way to revolve around a definition of administrative? "We're not talking about Mother Teresa here who gets caught for turning right on a red light in a state that doesn’t allow such a thing," says Ornstein. "The history of Tom DeLay in Congress is that he 's pushed every envelope. It is often the case that powerful people get their comeuppance because of something that a lot of people would see as a technicality." Case in point is what happened to another Texan, Democrat Jim Wright, who was forced to resign as Speaker of the House and from Congress in 1989. "When you look back at what brought down the most powerful member of Congress, Jim Wright, which was publishing a book, and having a bunch of copies go on bulk sales to people who then gave him royalties through some kind of subterranean process, wasn't even a violation of a law or a specific ethics rule," says Ornstein. "It was just the general sense that this is not how a member of Congress behaves. It was murkier than what we have now." Does he think that the Republicans are taking better steps to make sure that what happened to Wright won't happen here? "Do you think this is in the back of the Republicans' minds now that it happened to Jim Wright, 'Oh oh, we better take steps to make sure that doesn't happen here,'" asks Stahl. "It's not in the backs of their minds about Jim Wright, it's in the front of their minds," says Ornstein. "They see the parallel here and they want to be sure this doesn't happen."
Read the enire transcript. I'll find a video clip (if I can) but this is good television.

Regulating blogs?

I didn't really get into the big stink over comments made last week that blogs might be under the purview of the FEC. The idea that any journalist who mentions a specific campaign or gives to that campaign the same way a donor does is just stupid. Columnists mention campaign and politicians all the time, and that doesn't count as contributing, so why would blogging about them? That's why I really think you should read Mark Schmitt's take on the affair.

That's mostly right. Even without calling him a liar, it's enough to note that Smith, a Trent Lott appointee to the commission, opposes all campaign finance reform and the very existence of the agency that he chairs and that pays his salary. If he says that the FEC might have to regulate bloggers linking to campaign web sites, it's certainly not because he wants to or thinks the FEC should regulate such activity, or any other. It's because he wants to make the argument that the current trend in regulation might lead to that point. And he would find it useful in his own deregulatory campaign to get the internet activists worked up about a threat to them (us). He's not saying this because the FEC is actually about to enact this regulation. This is reminiscent of those "Congress is about to tax the internet" scares of a few years ago.
It goes on from there to describe the myriad ways that Smith might be trying to end regualtion of campaign finance or scare Congress into some kind of regulation of the Internet. It's a great piece.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

I HEART WONKETTE!

I just read a really cool Nellie Blog Q&A with Ana Marie Cox over at the Austin Chronicle. Some really good insights (and a hot photo. Grrrr, baby) into how she views blogging. For example.

AC: How about the recent scandal of Jeff Gannon, the supposed gay prostitute-cum-fake journalist. Do you think something good will come of that? A prostitution ring in the White House? AMC: Right, Karl Rove, political genius of the century, is going to be caught running a prostitution ring. I don't think so. Actually, I'm for Jeff Gannon. I think bloggers should be for having bloggers ask questions of the president. Isn't that what we are for? More legitimacy for weblogging?
She's right that we want more legitimacy for bloggers. She's wrong to suppose that Guckert helps us do that. For one thing, he wasn't a blogger (I'll go as far as saying he kinda is now). I'd also point out that he got paid to shill for GOPUSA and the Republicans, and the kind of jackass questions he asked don't make us look very good. Guckert takes any legitimacy away, so it was a good thing to investigate him and prove he was a phony. But we get to see how Wonkette thinks, if only briefly. That said, we may get a better chance as Evan Smith, editor at the Texas Monthly interviews her next Monday.
Texas Monthly Editor Evan Smith will conduct SXSW Interactive's keynote interview with Ana Marie Cox at 2pm, Monday, March 14, room 17AB of the Austin Convention Center. For more information, see www.sxsw.com.
I'll be there!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

It took me long enough

I wanted to calm down a little before I opened up my own can of whoop ass on Ann Coulter. I should probably start by saying that it all has to do with the senior senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd. Among other things, Byrd is a former member of the KKK and was a fierce believer in segregation in his early career. He gave a speech Wednesday in which he said

But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends. Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler’s dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that “Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact.” And he succeeded.
Hitler’s originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions, in modern conditions, are carried out with, and not against, the power of the State: the correct order of events was first to secure access to that power and then begin his revolution. Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.
What has been part of the controversy is that many conservatives, especially Joe Scarborough, who we will get to in a minute, say this is Byrd comparing Republicans to the Nazis. Reading the text of the whole speech makes it easy to understand that he was drawing an analogy to what could happen without the fillibuster and what kind of abuses of power are possible if the minority is kept from expressing itself. He was making an argument, in a speech on the Senate floor, to how important it is to respect the minority party's rights. But what has really gotten out of control is how people like Scarborough have tried to link it to Byrd's past. I'm not, for an instant, going to try to defend Byrd against involvement with the Klan. For that, he should be utterly ashamed. But I'll leave it to the voters of West Virginia to decide what to do with that information. Scarbrough has used this as the centerpiece in his argument, however, that Byrd being a Klansmen, would know what Nazis are like, thus implying his word isn't worth anything. He had, of all people, Ann Coulter on his show Thursday night debating Paul Waldman, editor-in-chief of The Gadflyer, talking about this. I'm going to let Scarborough off the hook for now, since it was his show so he can decide what topics to cover. I'll finish up with him at the end. Coulter, on the other hand, is not off the hook. First of all, to her everlasting credit as a total idiot and an awe-inspiringly bad writer, she continually referred to Byrd as "ex-Klanners", which isn't even a real word. But it goes on in this talk to include
COULTER: No, he compared Republicans to Hitler, saying that this change in rules, yes, it can be done legally, but Adolf Hitler operated legally also. (CROSSTALK COULTER: That‘s comparing a change in rules to Hitler. ... COULTER: Not even a congressman. This was a speech that was given yesterday about something that‘s very important that‘s going on right now. He is hailed as a profile in courage in “Vanity Fair” just a few years ago. If you want to give us something else to talk to, I‘d love to, but this is the most the Democratic Party is giving us. All we get are ex-Klanners and nuts to argue with now. And, frankly, it‘s not really helping either my career or Joe Scarborough‘s career. WALDMAN: All we get are ex-Klanners? All we get are ex-Klanners? What are you talking about? COULTER: And nuts, and nuts, I said.
The really funny thing is that Trent Lott was brought up because of his "off the cuff remark" about Sen. Strom Thurmond. Lott said his statement in this century, Byrd said many of the things that Scarborough quoted back in the '50s and '60s, and has since renounced his racist past, unlike Lott who continues to give speeches to white supremacists or Strom Thurmond. Scarborough quoted a 2002 article in which it seemed Byrd preferred a segregated army. That article, if he had mentioned which article and from whom, probably would be found to have quoted something from Byrd's record, but not a recent quote. Just more of those cute little tricks Republicans pull when they are blowing something way out of proportion or lying (Coulter would know about that). The fact that Ann Coulter was talking at all about being civil and not calling the other side names, was the biggest joke of the show, however. Let's take a stroll through some of the things Coulter has said about liberals and Democrats.
As a rule of thumb, Democrats opposed anything opposed by their cherished Soviet Union. The Soviet Union did not like the idea of a militarily strong America. Neither did the Democrats! ... Democrats always had mysterious objections and secret "better" ways, which they would never tell us. Then they would vote whichever way would best advance Communist interests. ... McCarthy's fundamental thesis was absolutely correct: The Democratic Party had fallen to the allures of totalitarianism. It was as if the Republicans had been caught in bed with Hitler. ... What we have now is the evidence from Stalin's agents in the United States -- evidence that was not released until 1995 and which Democrats sheltered, defended, ferociously attacked anyone who went after Soviet spies, agents of Stalin, a regime as evil as the Nazis. They were defended by the Democratic Party. It would be as if Republicans were caught in bed with Hitler. And thess old chestnuts Liberals become indignant when you question their patriotism, but simultaneously work overtime to give terrorists a cushion for the next attack and laugh at dumb Americans who love their country and hate the enemy. ... My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building. Oh, and do I really need to remind anyone of how she got booted from covering the Democratic National Convention this summer after her first day's column where she wrote "My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie-chick pie wagons they call "women" at the Democratic National Convention."
Yeah, Ann's a regular repository of "rhetorical civility." This, people is a farce. It is hypocritical in its very nature, because people like Coulter will call Democrats communist spies and hail McCarthyism, then be shocked and offended if someone mentions Hitler in a speech that also mentions Republicans. They are some very irrational people and I've spent entirely too much time this morning writing about them. So I'll end the way Joe Scarborough ended his segment, short and without allowing the other side a chance to respond.

The tactics have changed

But the policy hasn't shifted. From this morning's NY Times:

One proposal in circulation would allow individuals to invest in personal retirement accounts on top of their current payroll taxes, as an "add-on," rather than diverting payments from the existing system. Mr. Bush has been cool to the "add-on," approach, but he used that very phrase on Friday to describe his vision for the plan. Under his proposal, Mr. Bush said, income from a private account "goes to supplement the Social Security check that you're going to get from the federal government."

"See, personal accounts is an add-on to that which the government is going to pay you," he said. "It doesn't replace the Social Security system."

What he fails to mention there, is that for this type of add-on, he's going to add more than $5 trillion in new debt in the next 25 years and he's still going to cut you Social Security check by 50% or more. If that's an "add-on" it really sucks.

He's going to try and usurp our language because it has been more effective than his switching from "private accounts" to "personal accounts" to "personal investment accounts." He's going to talk about this being an "add-on account" to what you are already "guaranteed" from the government. But these account will be funded by taking money out of Social Security thus making it less sustainable, and the guarantee he's willing to give you is that the government check will be significantly less than what you are promised now.

Don't be fooled he hasn't been beaten yet. And he's going to keep trying until he realizes that he's definitely on the wrong side. As the Times story puts it, "A central question for Mr. Bush is whether he will consider a compromise with Democrats so he can claim victory on the biggest agenda item of his second term."

I'm staking my assertion on how easily he would take the political path of least resistance and accept some small measure of victory instead of total, utter failure on his first big initiative after re-election.

We don't have to step back on the add-on accounts, yet. By taking our language he has made it easier for us to frame the debate. Simply saying that "It's not much of an 'add-on account' if we're borrowing $5 trillion dollars and taking money out of Social Security" will be fine for right now. And this step he's taken will also make it easier to compromise with add-on accounts later. If we're already both using the phrase, it will be less-stressful to do it.

He may even be able to claim he got personal accounts for everybody. That's OK, because we will have won the bigger victory which is saving Social Security from being phased out.

The truth about Alan Greenspan

Over the past few days, a lot more Democrats have voiced their belief that Greenspan is a partisan conservative. They think that he has been more apt to make decisions based on fealty to the Republicans and not on the nonpartisan best interests of the country. In a lot of ways, that's totally true. He's been out there talking about the need to cut spending even though there is no way to cut enough discretionary spending to get rid of our annual deficits and and that recent economic history shows that slowly raising taxes on the more affluent and not the middle classes doesn't do significant harm to the economy. On the contrary, it's how we balanced the budget in the 90s, and as long as the middle and working classes have discretionary monies, they will spend them and keep us out of recession. That makes him a hack more willing to accept ideology over real world evidence. But I still think that Greenspan requires a secret decoder ring to understand. His public statements hae a tendency to favor the ruling party, but still leave options open for things like tax increases on the wealthy. Even the talk of a consumption tax to replace the income tax can have a double meaning. It puts the issue on the front page and gets people talking. It was brooched not that long ago by some Republicans, but didn't get the kin dof play that it really needs. This gets us talking and allows people to learn about how bad an idea it is to have regressive taxes. So, at the moment, I'm still willing to believe Alan Greenspan is sane and hasn't gone completely senile. He is the consumate beauracrat, and it would only make the kind of practical sense that he is known for to do what he can to keep the administration from getting rid of him the same way they canned his long-time friend Paul O'Neill. He's definitely a conservative, but he's not drinking the kool-aid.

Friday, March 04, 2005

I get a press release

With all the press releases and stuff, you'd think I was a journalist or something (Oh wait...). From Congressman Chet Edwards' office, via e-mail

Edwards Secures $30 Million For District 17 Road Projects in Transportation Reauthorization Bill

( WASHINGTON , DC ) - U.S. Representative Chet Edwards announced that legislation that would provide $284 billion in federal highway, transit and road safety projects through 2009 was overwhelmingly approved by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Wednesday. The bill contains $30 million added by Edwards for highway and road improvements in District 17.

"I appreciate Transportation Committee ranking member Jim Oberstar supporting me in my requests for our district transportation projects," said Edwards. "These transportation projects are crucial for the safety of our citizens, continued economic growth, and easing congestion" said Edwards, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. "Transportation projects create jobs today through construction and they create jobs tomorrow because transportation infrastructure attracts new business to the region."

"I have fought and will continue to fight to ensure funds are made available for these important projects in District 17," said Edwards. "Better highways and roadways not only connect us safely to the places we need to go, they also contribute to an overall improvement in the quality of our lives."

The bill will go to the House floor next week for passage before heading to the Senate. The annual 2006 Transportation bill, a separate measure, is scheduled to pass later this year.

Sounds good to me; of course, I live in District 17 and I'm tired of shitty roads full of potholes.

It's been a long day

Between meetings, more meetings and extra work, I haven't had much time to blog today. There are a couple of things I want to get to tonight, so keep looking for them. I also planned to spend part of my day off tomorrow in Austin, just relaxing and maybe going to Joe's Crab Shack. Unfortunately, work precludes me from doing that. I've got a special project I need to finish this weekend for sports, so not a lot of free time to drive 100 miles for dinner.

The New President of the United States?

From the Drudge Report, I learn that there is a new show on ABC called Commander-in-Chief with Geena Davis as the first female president. I'll have to check it out, hopefully it will be as well-written as The West Wing is (though the first three seasons with Aaron Sorkin writing are the best television ever). Drudge has that they are holding open calls for different positions, I could so be the Press Secretary. If any of you, my many minions, would be sl inclined, start a mass e-mailing to ABC that you want me on the show as the Press Secretary. If you are not a minion, rest assured I do have some acting experience and I'm very egotistical so I'm not going to crap out when the cameras start rolling. Besides, look at that picture over on the right. I was born to be President Geena Davis' press secretary! Let's get those e-mails started, eh.

Texas Dems got themselves a plan

In my very own Waco Trib, my good friend Dan Genz writes about Rep. Jim Dunnam and the Dems' plan to fund schools in Texas.

The effort promises $2 billion on top of the Republican-backed plan that offers $3 billion in new money for public schools. It won tentative support from local school leaders who believe the system needs more money and view the Republican plan as "chaos" and "a disaster."
The sad thing is that this problem has been around for years and people are only just now realizing that Republicans are horrible with money. They're more worried about scores on standardized tests than making sure kids have adequate funding in the first place. I don't want to get into a lengthy post on how stupid I think standardized tests are (I should know, I had to take them every year since the 3rd grade when Bush became governor), but I do want to stress that it is important to give schools all the money they require. Try spending more to get qualified teachers who feel good about getting up and going to work than short-changing their pension plans and denying them funding to even buy the textbooks needed to teach to your stupid tests.
Many educators deride Grusendorf's plan as benefiting property-rich districts and providing just enough money to pay for the new programs it creates.

Four area superintendents greeted the Democratic alternative with more optimism.

"If we could have an additional $5 billion that is actually new money, that would be a very good start," said Jerry Maze, superintendent of the Hillsboro Independent School District.

Yeah, that says it all right there. Give them what they ask for and let teachers do the teaching, not the state legislature.

Sure he's not scared

The NY Times this morning has an interesting article about Bush acknowledging that private accounts are an uphill battle, but not dead in the water. But I think he's betrayed himself with the way his guys have handled Frist and Grassley. Grassley in particular, because he definitely said somethig taht would have brought Democrats to the table at least, but he was totally rebuked by the administrationBut later Thursday, Mr. Grassley issued a statement suggesting he was not breaking ranks with the administration, declaring, "Personal accounts are still on the table along with all the other ideas to strengthen Social Security."And that was just for talking about improving the fiscal health of Social Security and admitting private accounts don't do anything to help. This is the chink in the armor people. These kinds of actions are those of desperate people. I know, look at pissed I got at Joe Lieberman just for talking to another senator. They really want to win but the wind is against them and there is nothing they can do about it. I don't think it really matters how much money they spend. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. They've been trying to fool all of the people and it looks like it may have come back to bite them. I also want to point out this Post editorial. These guys have consistently referred to private accounts as a good thing, and it just ticks me off. Today's editorial uses the phrase "sweetener to help the medicine of benefit cuts go down." For the love of... and I don't even know where they get the idea that private accounts will happen at all, let alone without huge cuts in benefits. Are we even talking about the same Social Security debate?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

We partyin' tonight

The Baylor Lady Bears just won the Big 12 Conference championship outright by beating Texas Tech 79-69 in Waco. The Lady Bears went undefeated at home and end the season at 24-3, 14-2 in conference. And we are going to party like it is 1899 (this is a Baptist town, after all). So there will be lots of drinking and waking up tomorrow full of regret. How sad. But the drinking and doing things to regret in the morning part sounds fun.

Just how liberal is CNN?

That being a stupid-ass question, I hope you didn't answer "too damn liberal." Cause you know then you look like a fool. I've been watching the "Inside the Blogs" segment on Inside Politics with Judy Woodruff lately (just another show I DVR) since it started. Someone at American Street has actually sent their interns to work reading the transcripts of IP to find that the segment mentions 59 conservative blogs to 29 liberal blogs. Since I think that there are a heck of a lot mroe liberal blogs out there, why would this be? Especially since some of the most popular blogs are indeed liberal. I chalk it up to them being complete idiots. For instance, on March 1st they classified Andrew Sullivan as a centrist, they routinely misidentify certain blogs and the fact that the segment is about two chicks sitting at computers reading blogs to find out what the hell is going on in the world for CNN's studio cameras live shows just how they don't "get it." It's sad that these people are reading Andrew Sullivan and Powerline Blog instead of actual news blogs like Political State Report.

"Still as uninformed as ever"

Just now on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, we learned about "Jeff Gannon", not his real name, and his daily briefing question. On his Web site, Gannon/Guckert says he is "on hiatus" from the Press Briefing Room, but he still wants to ask questions. Sidestepping for a moment the fact that he probably isn't getting anywhere near the White House ever again and this is just one more lie, take a gander at his recent question:

March 3, 2005 Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan told members of Congress on Wednesday that the U.S. economy is growing at a "reasonably good pace" and recommended that budget deficits be fixed through spending cuts instead of tax increases. Does the White House consider this an endorsement of its fiscal policies as opposed to Democrats who still want to roll back the Bush tax cuts?
Now, what Greenspan actually said was
"Addressing the government's own imbalances will require scrutiny of both spending and taxes. However, tax increases of sufficient dimension to deal with our looming fiscal problems arguably pose significant risks to economic growth and the revenue base," he said.

While higher taxes boost government revenues, they also deplete consumer coffers, dampening economic growth and spending — strains the economy can ill afford as the baby boom generation retires and the proportion of workers shrinks, he said.

Greenspan has long favored spending cuts over tax hikes.

Greenspan requires a little decoding, so let's look at some numbers. The deep budget cuts that Bush proposes in his FY 2006 Budget equal about $20 billion dollars. The expected budget deficit for 2006 as projected by the CBO is $295 billion. And that only includes outlays for appropriations already enacted and continued spending at the current levels, not any new monies for Iraq and Afghanistan.

What this means is that Greenspan wants spending cuts, but tax increases are on the table. By mentioning a national consumer tax, he leaves more room for something as simple as rolling back part of the Bush tax cuts.

I think he also would like to see a new formula for defining the benefit under Social Security, something he might see a spending cut from the mandatory side of the budget. But he has laid out tax increases as being part of the solution possibly.

How we got from Guckert to Greenspan, I'll never totally understand, but there it is.

If only we lived in TV Land

According to Zogby, Jimmy Smits led Alan Alda in the poll as to who viewers of The West Wing think should be the next president.

Smits' character leads Alda's character 44 percent to 28 percent among "West Wing" viewers contacted by computer for the interactive poll.

Vinick, it seems, has a gender problem.

"While he and Santos are tied among men, each getting 35 percent of the vote, Santos holds a commanding lead among women, where he outpolls Vinick 53 percent to 22 percent," Zogby said.

I'm actually a rabid West Wing fan, and I'm so rooting for Smit's character. His character, Matt Santos, has a presidential campaign being run by the character of Josh Lyman (Brad Whitford). Since Sam Seaborne (Rob Lowe) left after Bartlet's re-election. Last night's preview of next week's show eluded to a sex scandal for the Santos campaign, so I'm glad have that suckered DVRed.

Hell has finally frozen over

That is a big extreme, but the Dallas Morning News and I finally agree on something! In this morning's story on Social Security:

In the meantime, Republican congressional leaders say they cannot guarantee a vote on Social Security legislation this year – a potentially fatal delay for Mr. Bush's top domestic priority. "The prospects are somewhere between poor and miserable," said analyst Stuart Rothenberg, who publishes a Washington-based political report.

Overhauling the 70-year-old Social Security system will only get harder as the calendar inches closer to the 2006 mid-term elections, congressional officials say.

And the longer the debate takes, the closer Mr. Bush is to becoming a lame duck.

Can I call them or can I call them. Actually, I'm worried that it means I'm wrong and that DMN is agreeing with me because they're wrong, too. Stranger things have happened (like me and Zogby making the same Electoral College Prediction).

Hat tip to Ed Kilgore guest blogging at TPM.

New poll out

This is an encouraging headline: New Poll Finds Bush Priorities Are Out of Step With Americans. That's in today's NY Times. So is this.

On Social Security, 51 percent said permitting individuals to invest part of their Social Security taxes in private accounts, the centerpiece of Mr. Bush's plan, was a bad idea, even as a majority said they agreed with Mr. Bush that the program would become insolvent near the middle of the century if nothing was done. The number who thought private accounts were a bad idea jumped to 69 percent if respondents were told that the private accounts would result in a reduction in guaranteed benefits. And 45 percent said Mr. Bush's private account plan would actually weaken the economic underpinnings of the nation's retirement system.
A majority thinks it's a bad idea, even if you don't tell them about reduced benefits and borrowing $4.5 trillion dollars the first 20 years. We haven't won, yet. We still need to hold the line. With a littl luck, we might be able to talk them out of private accounts all together. There's movement on the Republicans' part, and I think it's possible. They won't want to just drop the subject if they can't get what they want, Bush will compromise to make it appear as though he is actually doing something. If we give him the political cover to say that he came to the table and gave up on private accounts to make sure that Social Security was solvent, he'll jump at it with these kind of poll numbers. Still, I remain cautiously optimistic. He could just wait until after the midterms to bring it up again. But he won't want to because by then people will be talking about the next president and his ability to wrangle his own party will be waning. He will be a lame duck in every sense of the words. No, he sees this as the time to move. He's got his "mandate" now, just after his re-election. The longer this drags out and the worse the polls get for him, the more eager he becomes to take a deal. We just have to hold the line.

Tom DeLay in trouble?... Nah

The Washington Post has a story this morning about the eroding support in DeLay's base.

But DeLay now has to worry about "Texas 22," the congressional district he has represented for the past 21 years in the U.S. House. Ironically, the Texas redistricting plan he engineered over strong Democratic objections drained some vital Republican support and could make it tougher for him to win reelection. In his old district, DeLay took 60 percent of the vote in 2000 and 63 percent in 2002.

In 2003, at DeLay's behest, the Texas legislature redrew the state's congressional lines without waiting for the next census (in 2010), the customary occasion for redistricting. With the new districts, which still face court challenges, Texas elected five additional Republicans to the U.S. House last November, accounting for all of the party's net gain.

DeLay's new district wound up several percentage points less Republican than his previous one, and it has a substantial and growing Asian American population.

Why could that be a problem?

DeLay garnered 55 percent of the vote in the November election against a relatively unknown Democrat, an unusually modest showing for a veteran House member who is one of the most powerful politicians in Washington. Some Republican officials and DeLay supporters worry that with President Bush absent from the top of the ticket next year, liberal interest groups might target the conservative majority leader and spend millions of dollars on campaign ads to try to defeat him.
No, we Democrats would never do that! Note to self...

If anything, this should give us some impetus to really start hitting DeLay hard.

Ups and downs in Joementum

Greg Wythe and I have our share of differences, but I respect him because he's my elder. Just kidding, but he has done a lot for the party. It is more him than anyone else that got me excited about Chris Bell and his potential (very, very high potential) run for governor. But, like I said, we have differences. One of them is that he is a staunch supporter of Joe Lieberman. "Marshall Wittman is making it tough for me to maintain my crown as "Biggest Blog Defender of All Things Joe." Nevertheless, it's a competition I relish. Bring da moose on!" He goes on to quote the Bull Moose:

The fight against social security privatization is important but not vital to the future of the Democratic Party. While the President may get something, he most probably will not win passage of his most ambitious privatization scheme. Meanwhile, Democrats must still address the problems in their own house. And those weaknesses involve being perceived as weak on values and national security. No member of the party can better assist the party in addressing these weaknesses than Joe Lieberman. No, the Moose is not suggesting that he run again for President. Rather, he can provide valuable counsel to the party on how to better connect with those folks who have become estranged from the party in the past years.

If donkeys believe that defense of the New Deal, however noble and necessary, is their ticket back to power, then they will be wandering in the wilderness longer than the Lord's Chosen People.

My argument comes from the fact that I'm tired of having a Democrat criticize us and help the other side. In the Social Security debate, I would rather bargain from a position of strength, if it comes to bargaining, then of desperation because a Democrat would rather vote with the Republicans to gut our party's crowning achievement of the New Deal than vote with us.

Besides, I think Social Security is vital to the party. If we can't all agree that taking assured poverty out of retirement was one of the greatest accomplishments of the Democrats; if we can't all agree that FDR did something great and remarkable with his New Deal and defend it against the attacks from the likes of USA Next and Tom DeLay, we might as well pack it up and vote Green. If we can't all stand for this, then we fall down with no reason to get up except to grab little bits of power that the Republicans don't want anymore. "The line must be drawn here! This far, no farther!" Points to anyone who knows who I just quoted and from where.

There's no personal animus against Joe. It may seem that way, but I'm sure he's a likable enough guy. And I'm sure he really cares about the party. But the way he goes about it, I think, does more harm than good. I think it is time for him to go, seniority be damned. I don't even care if we lose his seat, I think it won't really matter that much for the time being. But getting him out does matter.

Separation of Church and State: Vol. II

We get into this an awful lot around here. Is there an actual separation between the two, and does that mean we have to be free from all religion or just we can't establish one? I've always taken the view that we should have a basic litmus test for this sort of thing. If this is really about promoting a moral and ethical foundation instead of promoting religion, then would the state allow me to raise money and put up a giant, golden statue of the Buddha next to the Ten Commandments. But Justice Scalia takes a differing view:

Scalia, who has little patience with church-state separation concepts, was expected to be a very active participant in the oral arguments, and he was. But, early in the argument, he essentially took himself out of the combat by stating his position with utmost clarity. He said that the Ten Commandments have long been accepted by the Nation’s majority as “a symbol of the fact that government derives its authority from God,…The minority should be tolerant of the majority expressing its belief that this government comes from God.”
I'm not one to quibble with a Supreme Court Justice, but I think the entire purpose of the freedom of religion mentioned in the 1st Amendment is just so that the minority isn't tyrannized by the majority and its religious beliefs. The majority is free to practice (by the way, the majority is not protestant. Roman Cathoics make up a far larger part of the population than any other denomination, about 60 million of us in the US alone) but not free to set up a state-supported religion that the minority must recognize. I'd probably go into an argument about how the Founders would argue that ultimate authority in a democracy comes from laws, not God. Like in the Declaration, when Jefferson writes about inalienable rights, by definition those are rights that not even God can take away, thus limiting God's power and giving it to the rule of law. But it's late and we've got until June for them to hand down their decision. Plenty of time to go over this.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

It sounds like a global diet pill pyramid scheme

Continuing coverage of the TRMPAC trial at In the Pink.

• 4:00. I’m sitting in a courtroom, brow furrowed, feverishly jotting down notes in a reporter pad, trying to crack this bad boy wide open. Look at me! I’m Nancy Drew! • 4:03. Happy hour started, like, three minutes ago. • 4:05. Defense questions Anderson about any inconsistencies between the Texas Election Commission report and IRS Form 990. Anderson tries to compare the “hard” versus “soft” money distinction with “cash” versus “accrual” based accounting – different means to the same end, or something. But then Anderson goes NUTSO. Anderson: “This looks like a bunch of hyperventilating attorneys going ‘Gotcha’ … This is the biggest to-do about nothing that I’ve seen in a long time.” I agree with you there. But, seriously, if we didn’t make to-do’s about nothing, then there wouldn’t be anything to blog about.
I'll drink to that. This is turning in one of those "media circuses" that the media is always berating (cognitive dissonance), or at least it should be. I'm wondering why CNN is bothering with the Michael Jackson trial at all. This is the story people!

A quick note

I've been invited to write for Political State Report, so starting this week, I'm going to be putting most of hte stuff about Texas Politics that I run across up there. It will only be news I come across, not links to other bloggers, thoug I will from time to time. So I will probably have to put a link over on the right. Check it out.

Chris Bell for Governor

I'm pretty excited because Chirs Bell is speaking to Democracy for Texas, the Texas branch of Democracy for America right now. Byron is liveblogging it and soon my post will pop up with my reaction after reading the speech. I'm not totally set on Bell. He could say something in the next 2 years that totally makes me not vote for him, but for now I am enthralled by his devotion to ethics and his desire to open up the system for everybody. So, I'm supporting him.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

TRMPAC case solved!

Or at least whether it would be worth taking a day off to go see it. In the Pink finds that the trial is so boring that she's trying to escape from the ladies' room on the 4th floor of the courthouse. Suffice it to say, I don't think I'm going to give up part of my paycheck for that. And Craddick isn't even testifying! He "might have" accidentally on-purpose shredded documents that proved he took corporate funding for his and other Republicans' campaigns in flagrant violation of the Texas constitution. Oops. Last week, I was hoping we might uncover something with this trial, but it is turning out to be a total gip. Even the Texas media aren't really that interested. Vince knows where you can get total coverage, though.

Rethinking the plan

The latest polls show at least a majority of Americans agree that we don't need to privatize Social Security, and Gallup has 75% trust Democrats to fix Social Security, not Republicans. That's some really good news for us. But this piece from Mark Schmit in the Decembrist has me thinking about how do we actually do it. He argues that raising the payroll tax cap is a bad idea, if not just because of the political retribution then because it is bad policy. When Bush put it on the table, I said

Unless this is some Rovian-reverse-psychology thing, he should really learn to not talk. Everytime Bush says something, he either pisses off Democrats or confuses Republicans. Nothing good ever comes from him opening his mouth.
because I thought it probably was some Rovian-type thing to trcik Democrats. Mark writes today
First, this is an obvious political trap. Bush all but gave it away when he said he was open to raising the cap in Portsmouth, NH on February 15: "It's important to keep the options on the table. And it's important for me to say to the members of Congress, if you've got a good idea, bring it forward; there will be no political retribution." That's Lucy talking to Charlie Brown: Don't worry Chuck, I won't pull the football away at the last minute. Go ahead and kick it. Of course there would be retribution. That's exactly how they were hoping to get out of this trap, by turning the tables. The minute a Democrat stepped up to propose raising the payroll tax cap, USA-Next or Club For Growth or some other group that the poor helpless White House cannot possibly control would be on TV in his district with ads denouncing him as a tax raiser, complete with a tearful testimonial from some ordinary looking person, a single parent with three kids who would pay a higher tax. And no one is exempt -- Senator Lieberman, this means you, you never-met-a-tax-you-didn't-raise big government liberal. Unfortunately, the White House didn't send out the memo, because all their allies who were supposed to shoot at this hypothetical Democrat instead panicked and fired at the White House.
Uncanny, isn't it? Mark also points out that while raising the cap would make it more progressive, the payroll tax is still regressive as a whole, so it would just be raising a regressive tax on people who weren't really benefitting from those big Bush tax cuts. I would just point out to him that raising the cap so that it covers 90% of incomes instead of the 85% it does now would be balancing out what was assumed to be the norm when Greenspan did his thing in 1983. They assumed a great many things back then, not all of them correct, and the fact that less money is coming in than was expected is how we got into shortfall territory in the first place. But I'm sympathetic to Mark's cause. Being a progressive, liberal guy, I don't have a problem with a progressive tax on very rich white old men. Perhaps some sort tax on their estates when they die. We could call it the "estate tax" and that money could possibly go to shoring up the Trust Fund and, if there is anything left over since it's only going to affect about 4,500 families, we might even pay down some of our debt. Lots of thing are "on the table" so we'll see how that one goes over before we allow private accounts.

Chris Bell weighs in

In a follow-up to their earlier story, Raw Story has comments from former Congressman Chris Bell who was forced out of the House because of re-redistricting by Tom DeLay. He also filed ethics complaints against the Majority Leader this November after the elections which resulted in two rebukes to DeLay for his ethics violations. Bell says “I can’t say I’m terribly surprised.” He continues to call for an investigation into DeLay's activities.

“Such an investigation would reveal other matters that probably had not come to light such as this,” Bell said. “My feeling for quite some time has been that Tom DeLay is individual who is willing to thumb his nose at rules and the law to get what he wants. This is just another example of that kind of conduct.”
Well, if he has one thing going for him in the gubernatorial race, he is definitely against unethical behavior.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Why I need to quit watching CNN

Several things happened on Inside Politics, not the least of which was an interview with Gov. Warner of Virginia, a possible contender in 2008. But that's not what irked me. No, it's just plain stupidity that's angered me today. Toward the end of show, Judy brought on Bob "Douchebag of Freedom" Novak himself to talk about the Democrats. Here's what he had to say.

WOODRUFF: ... you could say. All right. Moving over to the Democrats, Howard Dean, you've been doing some reporting on what's he up to. NOVAK: Since he was elected Democratic national chairman, he has been -- they've been keeping him out of the national spotlight. No major television interviews on national networks are scheduled for the next couple weeks, I'm told, and maybe the reason is that they've got to really get Howard under control. He spoke at Cornell University last week, and the only paper that covered this was "The Cornell Daily" student paper, and he said, yes, Social Security has a big problem. Over the years it's going to lose about 80 percent of the benefits. That, Judy, is not the Democratic line. The Democratic line is there is no problem. So Howard Dean says what he thinks is the truth. Often it is the truth. He's going to be a lot of fun as national chairman.
You see, for some people, like Novak, reality isn't enough of a thrill for them, so they construct their own by citing controversy where there is none. For instance, the Democratic line is that there is no crisis, not that there is no problem. That's a big difference Bob. Anyone can see where the numbers point, there is going to be a shortfall of some kind. But Democrats don't see a crisis, and we definitely don't think we should gut Social Security and make the shortfall even worse for private accounts. Second, according to the Cornell Daily Sun (he can't even get the name of the paper he's misquoting right) Howard Dean actually said
Dean pointed out that, while he would not endorse this, if Social Security were left alone for 30 years, its benefits would be reduced to 80 percent of what it is now. He acknowledged that while there were indeed problems with the program, turning to Wall Street was not the answer.
That's reduced to, not by, Bob. It's hacks like Novak, peddling falsehood and misrepresentation as truth, and going on national television to report without the most basic of fact-checking (I did a simple Google search) who give journalists a bad name.

Breaking news... kinda

Raw Story breaks the story that a group surreptitiously (now that's an adverb baby) promoting Social Security phase-out paid for two junkets for Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Since at the time this took place, the group in question, the National Center for Public Policy Research, was a lobbying group, DeLay may have stepped over the bounds of House ethics rules and maybe even the law. I've mentioned this group before, in my research on pro-phase out groups. They're of the "there is no trust fund and we have $25 trillion debt in the system in 50 years" stripes. The NCPPR spent $64,064 dollars for one junket in 1997 to Moscow and St. Petersburg, and more than $70,000 for a trip to London for him and his wife, where he even played golf in Scotland. I'm not arguing against Congressional junkets here, but they shouldn't be paid for by lobbyists who are trying to get Congressmen to vote the way they want them to. That's called bribery and it's wrong. NCPPR also has launched a number of scare tactics to get people to send them money and keep the fact that

“Inside your sealed envelope is information regarding the potential collapse of the Social Security system – and how it can endanger you and the entire United States senior citizen population,” NCPPR president Amy Ridenour writes in one such letter obtained by RAW STORY. “It is also critical that you share this pertinent information ONLY [sic] with other trustworthy individuals.”
Yeah, really creepy stuff. But I've almost come to expect it from right-wing think tanks. So, we won't see DeLay in front of the ethics committee, though, too many of his friends are now running that show. The Republicans have done a pretty effective job of subverting any and all attempts at being ethical and within the boundary of the law in order to protect sleaze like Tom DeLay. Go Red State Values!

Presidential powers unlimited

That would be a name for a great game show. You go around the world doing whatever you damn well please, and if anyone gives you any guff, you slap them with a sticker that says "Enemy Combatant." But that is only real in the fantasy world of television. US District Judge Henry F. Floyd, in a follow-up to Rumsfeld v Padilla and Hamdi v Rumsfeld, ruled that either the US has to let Jose Padilla go or charge him with a crime. His ruling states explicitly that the power to suspend the writ of habeus corpus lies soley with the Legislative branch, and any extension of the Executive's powers flows from the Legislative. In other words, in order to have the powers Bush claims to declare people "enemy combatants" and detain them without trial indefinitely, Congress would have declare so. That's a pretty reasonable ruling. Judge Floyd did allow for the government to re-arrest him as a material witness or by charging him with a crime. But I don't think that's going to happen. The intelligence used to apprehend Padilla would be over 33 months old now, I doubt it is going to negatively affect our national security. But they don't want to do that, they would rather just hold US citizens in jail for no reason. If I'm wrong, let the government prove it by charging Padilla with the crime they accuse him of.

Damnit Joe, that's the last straw

I think I've finally tired of Joementum and his constant "deal-making" and screwing us over. I'm not the only one, either. In what looked to be a DOA phase-out scheme, Joe will breathe new life into it by offering to make a deal with Lindsey Graham. That means privatization is still on the board and if any Democrats follow Lieberman, we'll be totally screwed. The only thing we had going for us, being the minority party and all, was that we had party unity on our side. We could have fillibustered if we had to, and we had enough people to keep the Republicans from ending it. But, Lieberman, acting on his own, will find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by bucking his party to work some deal we don't need with the GOP. I know there are some Joe supporters out there, I want to know how you can possibly suffer through this silently? I don't care if his record more liberal or moderate or whatever, than people give him credit for. He's fucking us over for God knows what reason. We were winning the fight to save Social Security, and Joe has changed the dynamic in the Republicans favor. I'm all about having a big tent and having pro-life Democrats and fiscal conservatives in the party. But I seriously think it's time that we dound a primary challenger to oust Lieberman. The way I see it, the worst that happens is we lose his seat and end up with someone who would vote Social Security phase-out. Only that person wouldn't be sitting and smiling in Democratic caucus meetings.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Playing devil's advocate

I'm going to go so far as to agree with everything Eileen says at In the Pink, except that her implication that the Texas Monthly isn't very good. I have to say, even though I have found conservative bias (gasp. Really?) withing its pages, I still think of it as the magazine of Texas. It is Newsweek, The New Yorker and Us Weekly all rolled into one, and it's all about my favorite state: Texas. Other than that little tidbit, I do think Paul Burka doesn't know what the hell he's talking about when it comes to blogs and blogging (not to mention bloggers). We'll have to storm the gates of the Monthly and drag him out and throw him in a pond. if he floats, he's a witch. Burn the witch! Or we could just call and try to get something written there that might include our frame of reference. You know, whichever. While we're at it, let's broaden the discussion to include your favorite idiot and mine, Howard Kurtz. He made quite a little remark today on Reliable Sources:

KURTZ: Let me turn back to your article, Henry Allen. You quoted some political descriptions from Thompson's book on the '72 campaign. "Being around Edmund Muskie," quote, "was something like being locked in a rolling box car with a vicious 200-pound water rat." Richard Nixon, quote, "speaks to the werewolf in us." And Hubert Humphrey, "there is no way to grasp what a shallow, contemptible and hopelessly dishonest old hack Hubert Humphrey is until you've followed him around for a while." Now, if he were writing that today, wouldn't all the bloggers be on him for bias and exaggeration and that sort of thing?
Well, number one he continued to write things like that and bloggers linked to it in praise. Number two, if he were his young self today, he would be a blogger. After all, he did only post online in his final years. Blogging is the extension of Gonzo journalism as interpreted by geeks like me who fell in love with his work. But Howie's too stupid to figure out what "New Journalism" is. We want to seek the truth. But Kurtz, Kurtz is stuck having a program on a 24-hour news network, where he talks about "hyping the Oscars" for the first 13 minutes of his show! Kurtz will never get it. He wasn't meant to find the truth, he was meant to be our jester. He's something to ridicule, not emulate. Thompson, he was a truth-seeker, doing everything and anything to find the heart of a story, which meant finding the heart of his own existence. Kurtz is incapable of that. We don't have to be.

Just a reminder

And for all you new people. I only have one rule... know what the hell you are fighting over. Today, we got even more confirmation what the battle with Republicans over Social Security is about from Dick Armey.

TYLER – Former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey said Friday that Social Security should be phased out rather than saved. "I think if you leave people free to choose, it will be phased out by competition," the former Republican congressman from Lewisville told reporters before sharing a President's Day Dinner with the Smith County Republican Club.
That's from the Longview News-Journal. They don't want to "save" Social Security, they are quite happy to have things they were in the 1930s. I can't say anything more than, don't let them. Via Byron.

Ah, damnit

I guess because this is a newspaper we have to watch the Academy Awards, but do we need to listen too? It's not important and I've got too many other things on my mind to listen to some airhead accept an award for a piece of shit movie. Does the torture never end?

What Southern strategy?

Though Howard Dean was elected chairman, and he plans to campaign in all 50 states, we Democrats still haven't quite figured out how in the hell we are going to win the electoral college in 2008. A great number of states are awash in red and we have no idea how we are going to turn them blue. Or do we? From Hullabaloo:

SouthNow: What’s your strategy for Southern progress? Mudcat: We need to quit all this tap dancin’ around the truth....We need to stop tap dancin’ around the issues of guns, gays and God....We’ve lost the white male. We need to get ‘em back. We need to get through the cultural wall. It’s a wall of straw. Inside every rural Republican is a Democrat trying to get out. Saunders, who has worked on the campaigns of Mark Warner, John Edwards, and Bob Graham, thinks that if Democrats ease up on the culture stuff they can win in the South: "We’ve got an affection for big guns and fast cars. It’s a macho thing. I’ve not seen any attempt by the Democrats to get into that culture."
As a soutehrn white male I can tell you its actually a stupidity thing, but that's another post. Mudcat seems to think that if we were to not be so stiff on supporting gay marriage or if we laid off the gun control schtick we might win a few red states in the south. Bullshit. Southern white males are voting for exactly who they want to vote for: Republicans. I'm OK with that, this being a democracy and all. It's time some of us woke and realized that a lot of people don't want what we want. They want extreme right-wing Republicans to represent them. Mudcat may see a Democrat waiting to get out, but some have Nazis inside waiting to get out. We need to recognize this. Do we totally write off the south? Not really. We can build up party operations in red states, especially the southwest and west, and we can work to change the way people think and vote. But that could take a generation or more; that won't help us in 4 years. So we have got to wake up and realize Republicans are not going to vote for us, no matter how moderate or centrist we are. Look around and you won't see many moderate Republicans. That's because these people don't want moderates, they want extremists. Does that mean we have to go full-tilt left to fight them? No. It means we go with whatever way is the right way, not whatever way might get us more votes. Process matters and keeping our integrity can be just as important as winning.

Self-referential congratulations

This is one of those times you are just going to have to take my word for it, but I'm actually well-liked in my newsroom. That's quite an accomplishment for someone as far down the totem pole as I am, being a lowly clerk on the sports desk and all. But, being well-liked, I get to talk to people and suggest things, like suggesting to my editor Carlos Sanchez that we should have something about the new book from Texas Monthly reporter Patricia Bernstein titled The First Waco Horror: The Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP. In fact, I'm the one who received the phone call at 12:30 in the morning from the irate woman who thought we should speak out against Ted Koppel bringing up such sordid business. She was nice enough, but I think she was a closet racist because she kept referring to "them" which I can only guess means black people. And I don't tolerate racism, which is why I'm telling you about it. Anyway, I connected the Nightline segment with the book after reading the Chronicle review through Kuff last week, and I thought maybe the Waco paper should probably mention it, so I collected some information and emailed it to him. And voila, today he has a column. Now, he does a much better job of explaining the book and its relevance than I could, so I'll just ask you to click over to it. This post is more of an ego boost and a pat on the back for the little people like me who answer the phones in the middle of the night and talk to loony women who are worried about race-relations without calling them racist idiots, which is the initial inclination. No, this is purely and simply about me and how influential I am, an not at all about the dark history that America suffered through when people might have thought it impolite to bring up how horribly a whole group of people were treated. Lest "they" get the idea nothing had changed after Emancipation, or something.