Political And Other Miscellany From A Stout Democrat In Dallas Texas.
"Politics is the only game for adults." --from Robert A. Heinlein's Double Star

Friday, April 29, 2005

WITHOUT EVEN THE GOOD INTENTIONS: Jenny, the "Texan in diaspora" of Little Red Cookbook, points out next week's rally in Austin against Perry's pork barrel tollroads and the swath of destruction they would bring to this state,
built by foreign contractors (a seeming reward for the participation of Spain in the Iraq War)? ...

Meanwhile, at least twenty County Commissioner's Courts have declared their opposition to the corridor project (props to Wharton and Fayette counties, my ancestral homes), as have the Texas Farm Bureau and civic groups across the state. Now is the time to let your voice be heard on this issue.
Read it all at Protesting the "highway to hell".

Thursday, April 28, 2005

FREE SPEECH FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE: This is unremarkable, and exactly what you would expect to read from such a person:
A Republican political consultant under indictment on charges of taking illegal corporate contributions in the 2002 House races is urging lawmakers to defeat a bill to tighten the state's ban on corporate and labor union spending in Texas political campaigns. John Colyandro was indicted by a Travis County grand jury last year on charges of illegally accepting corporate contributions for Texans for a Republican Majority, or TRMPAC.

Colyandro, as executive director of the Texas Conservative Coalition, a bipartisan group of 83 House and Senate members, recently wrote an analysis for the group urging legislators to vote against a bill that would completely ban corporate and union money from Texas elections. "The Texas Conservative Coalition cannot support any attempt to curtail or limit the freedom of speech as secured under the First Amendment," the analysis says.
What is surprising, shocking, and sad, is what comes next in that same article:
Fred Lewis, executive director of Campaigns for People, said Colyandro should have stayed away from commenting on the bill as long as he is under indictment on campaign finance law violations. "It seems to me that someone who has been indicted for allegedly violating a statute should not be allowed to analyze bills to clarify the law," Lewis said. "It seems to me that they are too emotionally involved and have too many conflicts of interests."
Fred, a good person striving uphill against big money in Texas politics, teeters on the very edge of the pit where he would be advocating censorship of such servants of Mammon. His advice is tantamount to saying a person cannot urge a change of laws he is charged with breaking. Even if that were true (and it is not, as long as the Bill of Rights still stands), whatever happened to considering a person innocent until proven guilty? No, it would not surprise me if TRMPAC broke the law, but as the good guys we should not just assume it, and use that as an argument that anyone should remain silent. Frankly, even those who already have been convicted still have the right to call for repeal of the law they violated.

As for the specific issue of this or other bills to restrict political speech, I personally am against them. I say let anyone contribute whatever they want, AS LONG AS absolutely everything is reported, and that information is freely available on-line and at libraries, so the voters can know just who is backing which candidates. If a candidate is rolling in million-dollar checks from corporate CEOs, I can decide for myself who he'd be representing. The alternative is to let some authority (perhaps even elected legislators) get to decide just how much free speech a person is entitled to have. I'm an absolutist about opposing even angelic elites having such power, and certainly not the far lesser beings in office today. As Jefferson said, "I know of no safe repository of the ultimate power of society but the people. And if we think them not enlightened enough, the remedy is not to take power from them, but to inform them by education."

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

NARROWING THE FIELD: Though he has been actively running against the House Republicans' Svengali, Tom "terminal" DeLay, the bug-killer's last opponent won't face him again.
A Democratic challenger who won 41 percent of the vote against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in 2004 said Monday he won't make a second attempt to unseat the incumbent. Richard Morrison cited family and financial obligations.

"Over the weekend, I had to put pen to paper on how to support my family during a campaign," Morrison said. "To have to begin campaigning now (for the March 2006 primary), I just don't have the money to put aside my law practice long enough to do this." ...

The night before, Morrison said he learned his mother had pancreatic cancer. Morrison and his wife are also expecting a fifth child in August.
But Bush's bad boy won't be safe next year.
Former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson has announced that he'll run in the Democratic primary while Houston City Councilman Gordon Quan has said he is considering it.
Several of us from the Dallas area rode buses to southeast Texas to help campaign for Lampson in a winning campaign a few years back; there might be interest in doing that again.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?: Today the Senate Democrats are wimping out, making offers of "compromise" to allow one of Bush's worst nominees to be voted on, if the Republicans will promise not to change the rules allowing filibusters. There can be no compromise with these people; all they will accept is total surrender. What is at stake is the very future of the nation itself as a free country. Just to be helpful and remind them of how the would-be tyrants see this, one of Bush's worst choices made a talk setting out her views for the world.
California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown told an audience Sunday that people of faith were embroiled in a "war" against secular humanists who threatened to divorce America from its religious roots, according to a newspaper account of the speech. ...

"There seems to have been no time since the Civil War that this country was so bitterly divided. It's not a shooting war, but it is a war," she said, according to a report published Monday in the Stamford Advocate.

"These are perilous times for people of faith," she said, "not in the sense that we are going to lose our lives, but in the sense that it will cost you something if you are a person of faith who stands up for what you believe in and say those things out loud." ...

The Advocate quoted Brown as lamenting that America had moved away from the religious traditions on which it was founded.

"When we move away from that, we change our whole conception of the most significant idea that America has to offer, which is this idea of human freedom and this notion of liberty," she said.

She added that atheism "handed human destiny over to the great god, autonomy, and this is quite a different idea of freedom…. Freedom then becomes willfulness."

Brown's remarks drew praise Monday from one of the nation's most prominent evangelical leaders, Gary Bauer, president of the socially conservative advocacy group American Values.

"No wonder the radical left opposes her," Bauer wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "Janice Rogers Brown understands the great culture war raging in America. That is why the abortion crowd, the homosexual rights movement and the radical secularists are all demanding that Senate liberals block her confirmation."

Monday, April 25, 2005

DE GUSTIBUS NON DISPUTANDUM EST: With all the brouhaha over the "finding" of a finger in Wendy's chili, I haven't noticed anyone else comment that if it really had been cooked in that brew, the taste might have been improved. No disrespect meant to the person whose digit was "discovered", but Wendy's makes some Yankee's idea of chili, a boring, bland, abomination, which is insulting to Texas tastes. It is as though they were making fajitas, and put mayonnaise on them. Those who actually like this stuff deserve it. (Preferably free of inserted ingredients from litigious provocateurs, of course.)
EXPENSIVE BAD TASTE: This week Norman Mailer will be in Austin, where The University has agreed to buy his mountain of notes and letters for $2.5 million. Why, oh why, spend Texas money on such drivel? This pretentious, boring, sexist brute did one war novel some folks liked, and has spent over five decades since, not just failing to live up to his promise, but scrawling literary graffiti over everything in sight. As time went by his reach exceeded his grasp by increasing margins, and his long-windedness passed all reason. (Yes, so does mine, but I'm not asking to be paid for it.) Clever ideas, like Ancient Evenings and Harlot's Ghost, drowned in their self-indulgence. His most unusual project, the underestimated An American Dream, was his own spin on surrealism as therapy: instead of telling this nightmare to a shrink, he bundled it up with pop icons and charged readers for it. (In passing, I warn that not even such a novel deserved the gross butchery and dishonesty of its unspeakable movie version.) A century from now spiders will be building webs on unconsulted boxes of his memorabilia. What a waste -- of his possible talent, and of U.T.'s acquisition funds.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

THREE HOMILIES ON THE NEW POPE: The post-medieval world has been lamenting the choice of the Cardinals in Rome. Liberals generally, Catholic, Protestant, and all other kinds, describe him as a Pontiff who will give the Church more of the same rigid reaction he ratcheted down as chief inquisitor. One of the silliest such rants was, unsurprisingly and typically, from Maureen Dowd in the New York Times this weekend. She strained herself to find parallels between Benedict and Dick Cheney. I won't link to her simplistic screed, but you can find a nice dissection of it by an ex-Texan, Jenny of Little Red Cookbook, at "The pitfalls of polemics":
I strongly disagree with the man's stances on, well, most everything. And I was really offended that one of the first developments of his pontificate has been the crackdown on gay marriage in Spain. But again, just because he makes me angry does not mean I have the right to reduce his character to glib one-liners, however elegant.
There really is plenty to be concerned about with this new Pope, but it's not as obvious as Dowd's knee-jerk comparison. I have been waiting for days to hear from my own Conscience Of The Web, and she has finally weighed in, with her usual thoughtful, subtly built emotional dynamite. Jeanne D'Orleans of Body and Soul explains just what the problem is at "The German Shepherd and the Salvadoran Pastor":
...when Ratzinger and his brother (who is also a priest) say that anti-Nazi resistance was "impossible," they're lying. And it's not an insignificant or harmless lie. Denying the option of resistance insults, indeed, denies the existence of, a lot of people who made far braver and more difficult decisions than the Ratzingers. Failing to exhibit extraordinary courage is human and understandable. Denying the extraordinarily courageous their due is shameful. Denying moral agency is surely unworthy of a man who would be pope. ...

Oscar Romero, forty years later, met the test, and in a way that demonstrates the falsity of Ratzinger's conclusions. Romero -- and others like him -- were finding a way to put those absolute values into practice. It was Ratzinger who stopped that effort. This time he didn't say that resistance was "impossible." He called it a "fundamental threat to the faith of the Church."
Finally, for a more upbeat note, consider the better parallel drawn by Bill Quigley, a Catholic teacher:
If our country will not stand up for justice for civilians in Iraq, prisoners here and abroad, a living wage, racial justice, quality public schools, fair healthcare, and reigning in national and international corporate power - then it is up to us to do it. Our country is the one of Harriet Tubman, Patrick Henry, Eleanor Roosevelt, Cesar Chavez, and Martin Luther King. They inspire us and they give us hope to push forward in these times.

If our church will not stand up for women leaders, accountability for abuses, democracy in our institutions, healthy sexuality, equality for people of all orientations, and real respect for all life - including the born - then it is up to us to do it. Our church is the one of Archbishop Oscar Romero, Joan of Arc, Philip Berrigan, Dorothy Day and Francis of Assisi. They inspire us and give us hope to push forward in these times.

"Benedict and George - we are not leaving". It is our church and our country. We are going to stay and struggle for the soul of both, with love and justice for all.
WHO YOU GONNA CULL?: Charles P. Pierce at American Prospect is taking no prisoners. Among other gems in "New Demolition":
...I got very concerned about the recent proposal that Wisconsinites be allowed to go hunting for what is apparently an overpopulation of feral cats. ...if this law passed, poor Russ Feingold might have Bill Frist living on his sofa for six months at a time. ...
(Mandatory Faith-Based Anecdote: So far, this bunch has managed to avoid the precedent set back in the 9th century, when Pope Stephen VI dug up the corpse of his predecessor, Formosus The Only, put it on trial, convicted it, and eventually had the body tossed into the Tiber. Were I the folks in charge of, say, FDR's grave site, I might put on some extra people this month.)
Best of all, he has a quiz, so that you can see if you are eligible to be a "New Democrat", such as Senator Lieberman. Here's one question:
You find that a young man has tagged your priceless European tapestry with gang graffiti. Do you:

1. See that he is arrested.
2. Thank him for not spray-painting the Monet across the room.
3. Compliment him on his spelling.
4. Blame Michael Moore.
The right answer for the New Dems is anything except number 1. (Thanks to The Liquid List.)
"IF YOU BELIEVE, CLAP YOUR HANDS": Since a children's author has been chosen to write an official sequel to Peter Pan, James Finn Garner at The Morning News has printed the hilarious cover letters for several rejected applicants. My favorite was:
It is with great humility and gratitude that I submit my completed manuscript for the sequel to J.M. Barrie’s masterpiece, entitled Wendy Shrugged. I apologize in advance for the size of the box.
WE HAVE SEEN HIS STAR IN THE EAST: Fred Clark at Slacktivist has noted that General Tommy Franks is making motivational speeches:
Local business leaders have apparently been sitting around in their chambers of commerce wondering, "How can I make my business more of an insoluble quagmire?" Or "In today's competitive marketplace, how can our company create a situation in which we can never win and never leave?"
Laugh at it all at "Get Motivated". Discussion: does this confirm or disprove Fitzgerald's observation "There are no second acts in American lives"?

Friday, April 22, 2005

The leading candidate for mayor of San Antonio admitted on Thursday using his twin brother as a stand-in at a civic event without telling anyone it was not him.

Julian Castro, a 30-year-old city councilman, said brother Joaquin, his identical twin, rode for him in the annual River Parade through downtown San Antonio on Monday. Videos showed Joaquin smiling and waving to the crowd as he floated along the San Antonio River in a barge for city council members. "He was standing in the River Parade because I had to host a neighborhood leaders meeting," said Castro. ...

Castro said his brother, who is in the Texas legislature, was not impersonating him and would not have been mistaken for him. "He's not as good looking," he joked. But a television anchorman moderating the event identified the man on the barge as Julian, as did the River Parade announcer.
(Thanks to San Antonio Election 2005.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

...a quick Guide to Smoke. ...

Red smoke = "A Cardinal is on fire."
Go ponder the entrails at "Popewatch, Day 1".
"We in the conclave are all shocked. We cast our votes using these new electronic voting machines...."
Groan at the news at "George W. Bush Elected Pope!"

Monday, April 18, 2005


Garbage is being left on people's doors in one Dallas City Council race. The anonymously copied trash isn't really about the candidates in that district. It is one more richochet in a long local feud between two groups who use the same word to mean two very different things. The word they are fighting over is "dignity".

Here's how one side feels about the term, from an old history of England, quoted in Victor Hugo's "The Man Who Laughs":
The Commons, who are the people, when ordered to the bar of the Lords, humbly present themselves bareheaded before the peers, who remain covered. The Commons send up their bills by forty members, who present the bill with three low bows. The Lords send their bills to the Commons by a mere clerk. In case of disagreement, the two Houses confer in the Painted Chamber, the Peers seated and covered, the Commons standing and bareheaded.

Peers go to parliament in their coaches in file; the Commons do not. Some peers go to Westminster in open four-wheeled chariots. The use of these and of coaches emblazoned with coats of arms and coronets is allowed only to peers, and forms a portion of their dignity.
No, America does not have an inherited nobility (unless you count trust funds and legacy admissions). Those here in Dallas who see themselves as deserving that kind of "dignity" don't actually insist on being bowed to in the streets. They do demand to be treated with "respect" just as fiercely as do Mafia dons, and for much the same reason. If you work for them and want a raise or better conditions, they want you to come around and beg humbly, hat in hand, much like Oliver Twist with his bowl asking "Please, sir, may I have some more?"

They have the same elitist attitude in politics, and they used to get away with it. Forty years ago all the Dallas City Council members were elected at large. A tiny group of big business leaders kept control of this huge district by dribbling out contributions and publicity to a selected few that came around and "kissed the ring" of the heads of the two big banks (both now absorbed into bigger firms), the publishers of the two big papers (one has now bought out the other), the top men at the big utilities (now part of bigger conglomerates), and so on. Now the end of poll taxes, and the adoption of single member districts, voting rights acts and campaign finance laws have broken up the power of that clique. Some of their heirs still miss it.

A vital member of this group of local would-be rulers was the Dallas Morning News. It has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the most right-wing big city newspapers in the country. The days are gone when they could advocate slavery or segregation, and they stopped calling themselves a "conservative Democratic" paper about the same time the old Southern reactionaries began deserting to the Republicans. Today it is truly extraordinary for them to endorse any Democrat.

Though their party affiliation has changed, they continue their agenda of supporting big business and denouncing anyone challenging the local establishment. Welfare for the rich, like a taxpayer-funded baseball park, is a civic good to them, but anything for the poor or working class (especially minorities) is no more than grudgingly tolerated, if that. Disagree with them and you become a rabble-rousing radical demagogue in their eyes, and in their editorials. To have to listen to the little people speak out is an affront to their "dignity".

Fortunately, there have always been lots of Americans who hold a different view of that word. Many of their ancestors came here from other countries just so that they wouldn't have to kowtow to the powerful. Rather than knuckle under to self-important bullies, they would just move on to new territory. When the frontier closed and increasing productivity left no room for all of them on the farms, they began working in city jobs. When the Great Depression hit, there was no place left to run. The ones on the assembly lines, treated like serfs, rebelled and demanded their rights. They wanted not just money, but something more important: to be seen as human beings, not expendable tools of production. They wanted to be treated with "dignity".

This was a new, grass-roots, bottom-up use of the word. Backed by Democratic officials elected by voters disgusted over the Republican economic disaster, they demanded and got recognition for their unions as bargaining agents, and began building the working class prosperity that reduced economic polarization in this country to its lowest point in history. This scared to death the tycoons who wanted to see themselves as "better" than their employees, as benevolent monarchs of their companies who would magnanimously grant favors to their subjects, if politely importuned. In Texas the newly flourishing unions were condemned by the moneyed elite as communist subversives trying to destroy the country. They were harassed and persecuted and beaten and killed.

Some of the most vicious attacks on labor and anyone supporting it came from the state's newspapers. These rose to an even more strident pitch when organizers dared to try to bring the workers in the newspaper press rooms into the union. It was only partly the money, though a strong union could get higher wages, slightly reducing those sacred profits. Mostly the publishers resented the insulting way those lefty agitators told the subservient employees that they could stand up on their own two feet and demand to be dealt with as equals, not supplicants. To the media magnates, not to be looked up to and begged for favors was downright un-American. That's what they called it in print, repeatedly and angrily. One of the worst offenders was the Dallas Morning News. They marked union organizers as enemies for life, and condemned them at every opportunity.

The News is now part and parcel of the Republican media machine. One of the ideas that party and its willing message carriers keep touting is that minorities steal elections. If this was a new theme since the questionable counts by Republican-owned election software companies in Florida and Ohio and Georgia in recent years, one might think it was just "projection" of their own crimes onto a scapegoat. But this isn't new. William Rehnquist was trying to intimidate minority voters in Arizona in the 1950s, and the party's efforts are even more widespread today.

Every few years the News cranks out the same old campaign, telling scary tales of alleged massive voting fraud by Democrats, and warning that poll watchers and prosecutors will catch and punish all those villains. They do this at the same time the Republicans mount major drives to question and disqualify every minority voter they can. The purpose is clear: to intimidate Democratic voters and keep them away from the polls, or failing that, to ignore their votes on trumped-up grounds. The Chief Justice is not the only sitting federal judge who was involved in these efforts.

Once in recent decades they accused a slew of minority Democratic election judges of trivial technical violations of the law. They were mounting a major campaign against them until someone looked and found the same practices were equally widespread in rich, white, Republican-judged precincts in north Dallas and wealthy suburbs, and then they dropped that like a hot potato. Another time they managed to pressure a Republican D.A. to file similarly obscure indictments against several Democrats. Except for one election judge who ignored legal advice and pled no contest, all the accused got the silly charges thrown out.

One Republican Commissioner staged a crusade to convict one Democratic Precinct Chair not of cheating in an election, but of living in a different precinct. Normally that would be grounds for removing someone, not convicting them of anything, but he pushed on. It took the Democrat many months and lots of lawyer's time to quash this persecution. The News keeps throwing its mud despite no results in court, because the real target is not wrong-doers but wrong-voters, namely those who don't pull the Republican lever. Besides, in one of those frenzied crusades, they got a two-for-one deal, venting spleen not only against the usual minority Democrats, but also against one of their old enemies.

Back in the days when commie-baiting of unions was running strongest in Texas, one of the heroes of the labor movement was a man from Dallas. He went around the country helping organize the exploited, even working with that terrible devil Cesar Chavez to aid farmworkers -- a sure sign he was a monster. To add insult to outcry, he was with Lyndon Johnson in Dallas when the future President and his wife were physically attacked by right-wing nutcases, embarassing the city establishment by showing the violent haters who were only barely under their rock. Above all, this man was a former boxer who couldn't have looked like he was cowering or afraid even if he had to. This was dangerously inspiring to the beaten-down hopeless workers he spoke to. That made him a real threat to the peace of mind in the top offices at the News. What if this subversive standing up for your rights spread?

The man was Pancho Medrano. In forthcoming years, the only major daily paper we've still got here vented their wrath against, not him, but his children. Once Dallas got single-member districts, one of Pancho's sons was elected to the school board, and another served on the City Council. Invariably, they were attacked in the News. None of it stuck, and they followed the lessons they had learned from their father and stood up for the ordinary working people, the poor, and minorities in the city. That didn't follow the News agenda. Stewing in frustration because those inner city voters weren't listening to the voice of the patrón, the paper kept slugging. One of those times when they were fruitlessly tossing trash at Democratic election judges they found that one of their targets was Pancho's daughter Pauline Medrano. Their mud slid off her back just as it did from everyone else's.

But newspaper archives are forever. Anyone can copy old accusations and pass them out, without mentioning that nothing ever came from them, or the rabid political context they were hurled in. That is just what someone is doing now in Dallas City Council District 2, where Pauline Medrano is running.

She has served for years in government at the city, school, and state level; she has worked in her community doing things like starting a neighborhood Crime Watch; she has more experience and training for the job than her two opponents combined.

None of that matters to the News. They know whose daughter and whose sister she is, and they know who she'll be representing. They endorsed one of her opponents despite being at least a nominal Democrat, with a personal background that must gag them when they look in the mirror. That endorsement will have trivial or no effect in the district, as usual, which no doubt irks them even more.

What some anonymous person is putting on people's doors now is not the editorial, but copies of the old, cold, unproven mud slung from that paper about election laws. The nameless cowards hope that warming it up again will make it work this time. The opposition of the News is no news. Trying to revive this empty shell they tossed long ago is disgusting and pathetic. This filth is even being waved around at Democrats, trying to scare people who should know better than to ever trust anything the News says, especially about this family. I have no proof who put this out, but they should be ashamed to hold their head up among the voters they are trying to mislead.

As for Pauline Medrano, she follows her late father's definition of "dignity", not the one dreamed of by the publishers and their friends at the country club. She'll be upholding the rights, and fighting for the individual and collective worth, of the ordinary people of Dallas, despite all the anti-Democratic rants of that newspaper. She'll make not only her father, but all of us, very very proud.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

LESSONS FROM THE MASTER: There are many good reasons why Aristotle was long considered the greatest philosopher of all. Here one blogger shows how he anticipated Machiavelli's analysis of dictatorships by well over a millenium, with timely illustrations from our current El Presidente. The hilarious pictures and quotes are at What Would Dick Think? (no, not Dick Cheney -- it refers to Philip K. Dick), and it's called "Aristotle's Suggestions for Preserving a Tyranny (Politics V.11)". Go read it and nod with glee.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

THE 1040 PARTY: On April 13, the Dallas County Democratic Party held their Third Annual Tax Relief for Working Americans Burger Bash, in the parking lot outside the party office. For a picture of some of the candidates who attended, see THIS PAGE.

This event was hastily put together to continue a recent tradition, when no signs were found of preparation to hold it. As a result, there was very little notice. It still drew over 100 people (112 signed in, but several others, including some elected officials, did not; the estimates range up to a total of 150), and raised a profit after expenses (including a small mailing to Precinct Chairs and others) of over $1200.00. The main purposes were to give some active Democrats a chance to have fun, meet candidates for public office (about 15 of them, mostly for judge), sign their petitions to get on the primary ballot, and hear the three candidates for County Chair. The optimistic good feeling manifested at the April meeting that elected Theresa Daniel as Interim County Chair continues to prevail.

It was unfortunate that this wound up being on a Wednesday, since that is a church night for many people (including some ministers who are Precinct Chairs), and no doubt hurt attendance. The idea was to have it close to the dreaded income tax deadline day itself, but this weekend the State Democratic Executive Committee was meeting in Austin, along with a state convention of the Young Democrats, and a teacher's conference there. All of these would draw away many wishing to attend on Friday. On Thursday, the Garland area Democrats were meeting, so Wednesday would up as the least evil date available with time for preparation.

Those who would like notices of the hopefully much more frequent events the DCDP will be having in the near future can write me at a new email address set up just to cover this: BILLHOWELLDCDP at YAHOO dot COM. You can also call me at the party office at 214-821-8331.

Monday, April 11, 2005

I think that I shall never see
An unused gun become a tree
Jeanne of Body and Soul has seen it. Go look at the pictures at "AK-47s into ploughshares".
THE THERMONUCLEAR OPTION: The Republicans in the U.S. Senate, driven largely by the Presidential ambitions of Bill Frist (who figures this would lock up theocratic support for him), are contemplating trashing traditional rules there so that they can end filibusters. Their goal is to guarantee that a simple majority could approve all of Bush's judicial appointees, no matter how incompetent or reactionary. This is such a huge seismological change that it has been called the "nuclear option". It would totally destroy the mutual respect -- or at least courtesy -- under which the Senate has operated for two centuries. It is well named, since the "collateral damage" will devastate the government, and people depending on it, especially the poor and ill, but big corporations as well, in many unforeseen ways. The Bu'ushists don't care about tomorrow, as long as they can get their way today.

Distracted by the brouhaha over this vicious increase in polarization in Washington, few have noticed the groundwork laid for a possibly even greater revolution in New York. Democrats have long mocked the far-right calls to get the US out of the UN and the UN out of the US. It should be taken very seriously. The Republican Party in Texas has actually voted in favor of this. Along with his rule-or-ruin corrosiveness, Bush has slipped this other Lone Star attitude over the unsuspecting nation. He has refused to take part in international agreements such as the global warming treaty and the International Criminal Court. (It wouldn't be "prudent" for these folk to allow Americans to be tried abroad for war crimes.) He has now appointed as Ambassador to the United Nations a man who has openly denounced the organization as a meaningless and useless nullity. Why?

As the media zeroed in on his ethics violations, Tom Delay roused the rabble to distraction (and incidentally, blithely trashed the Constitutional separation of powers) by jumping into a tragic family feud over a pathetic vegetative patient in Florida. As polls show Rove's scheme for letting Wall Street gobble up Social Security funds failing to catch fire, and the country convinced it is headed in the wrong direction, what could Karl possibly have devised to take the public mind off of his own boss's problems?

Here's a frightening scenario, taken from the rhetoric of Frist's followers accusing the Democrats of threatening to "shut the Senate down" if the filibusters are ended. What if Ambassador Bolton sits there at the Security Council and uses the U.S. veto on absolutely everything that comes up, even routine and ordinary matters? What if this man who claims they are ineffective proves it, by keeping them from doing anything at all? Won't this fan the flames of taxpayer revolt at home to oppose spending any money at all on the UN, and finally just to quit the organization? But, you say, they will be unable to act only because the US is blocking them. Do you think that simple truth will make it though the media spin machine? Those trying to point that out will be denounced as un-American and sympathetic to terrorists, suspiciously "international" in their thinking, and willing to surrender our sovereignty to dangerous appeasers like the French.

Let's call this one the "thermonuclear option". It's the weapon intended to finally end all institutional international cooperation, replacing it with ad hoc coalitions of obedient followers in the U.S. wake as it imposes its will on the rest of the planet. They are applying a fundamentalist and Talibanesque spin on the old motto of Boadicea, "the truth against the world". Bush and his fanatical followers believe they hear the voice of God, telling them to prepare the way for the Rapture by remaking not just the Middle East, but the whole framework of law and diplomacy between countries. The demons that will be unleased by this, armed with H-bombs and biological weapons, will make Hitler and Stalin look like playground bullies. It won't matter to George and his handlers; they know they're all going to depart for heaven and leave us here in the mess they've made. Bolton is just one more symptom of what happens when you let a kid who pulled wings off insects for fun grow up and get control of a very large match box.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

THE MEETING TO ELECT THE NEXT DALLAS COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY CHAIR: has now been scheduled by David Wilkins, the DCDP Secretary. It will be:

Monday, May 9, 2005
6:30 PM
CWA Hall
1408 N. Washington
Dallas TX

Until that meeting elects a new County Chair to fill the rest of the vacated term, Theresa Daniel is serving as the interim County Chair. She has changed the party office hours from the old 10 to 5 to the new 9 to 6. [Actually the old official hours were sort of meaningless, since it's been shut down for several weeks.] I should be there every day during the interim keeping the office open; Theresa is there when she's not teaching (which she does on Tuesdays, Thursdays and part of Wednesdays.)

Saturday, April 02, 2005

SOMETIMES THE GOOD GUYS WIN: "Yes, let the joyous news be spread."

Today the Precinct Chairs finished reclaiming control of the Dallas County Democratic Party.

They had begun at the end of February by passing resolutions requiring regular meetings of the Executive Committee (which is made up of the County Chair, County Secretary, and Precinct Chairs), and establishing an advisory committee to handle various business. That meeting was of course illegally adjourned in the midst of several gross attempts at manipulation and efforts to get people to leave to break a quorum, all propounded by angry supporters of the County Chair the members were in revolt against.

Quashing that meeting did not end the revolt, and the party office, bleeding money for bloated salaries and simply incompetent at collecting the usual drafts and sustaining memberships, actually was not even open for business for at least the past two weeks.

In the interim, that County Chair had finally resigned under fire effective April 1. Her parting shot was to call for a meeting to replace her to be held today, presided over by a Precinct Chair of her choosing. When rebel leaders protested that this was a violation of state law about how meetings to replace County Chairs had to be called and presided over, the State Chair ruled in the rebels' favor. That sunk the angry die-hards supporting the outgoing Chair by pulling the rug out from under their manuvering. Very few of them, and none of the most obnoxious ones from the last meeting, even showed up today. The now resigned County Chair herself also did not show up. As a result this was a much more peaceful and productive meeting.

This afternoon, Shannon Bailey (SDEC member for the Stonewall Dems, and a Precinct Chair) opened the meeting, announcing that this was a continuation of the adjourned February meeting. The long-time Dallas County party attorney (and SDEC member and former County Chair) Ken Molberg explained that, in accordance with the State Chair's ruling, the outgoing County Chair had no authority to call a meeting to choose her replacement, as only the Secretary could do that. Taking up the business which was before the last meeting when it was shut down, the Precinct Chairs elected one of their own, Mike Moon, a former executive director of the local party, as presiding officer for the rest of this meeting. He appointed me (a former County Chair) as Parliamentarian, and several younger Democrats as Sergeants-at-Arms. Their role here was mostly honorary, since there were no disturbances to deal with.

The party then turned to the vital task of filling vacancies among the Precinct Chairs. The chaos of the party office's records meant that several who had every reason to believe they had been properly elected long ago had to be added again, just to make their tenures official. Several other new folk joined their ranks.

One lovely piece of karma came home in the vacant spot which Gene Freeland was seeking to fill. He was the one designated by the ex-Chair as the Sergeant-at-Arms for the last meeting, who then illegally declared it adjourned as disruptive, claiming he represented the union which owned the hall. Since then, that union, the CWA, had repudiated his action in a letter from its actual leader to all the Precinct Chairs. People were still resentful over his role, and in a highly unusual event, someone else ran against him for Precinct Chair. Freeland, who does know how to count, withdrew, and the other man was elected.

Members passed a resolution repudiating the letter on party stationery signed by the ex-Chair supporting a Bush Republican appointee for judge, and calling for a correction of the Congressional Record. Though this was expected to be a major bone of contention with her supporters, it passed with no opposition.

The party voted to call another meeting in several weeks to choose a new permanent County Chair to fill the rest of the vacated term. This was described as giving all possible candidates (including unannounced ones) time to campaign and meet with the Precinct Chairs. [Parenthetically, I have long believed that is how County Chairs should always be chosen, rather than in the primary, by voters who have usually never heard of the candidates for that office, their backgrounds, or what they stand for. This ensures that the County Chair knows and is likely to be able to work together with the grass-roots activists. This would also avoid problems like the year Harris County unknowingly elected a LaRoucheite as County Chair in the primary.]

For now they elected an interim County Chair to serve until a permanent one is elected at that next meeting. Their choice for that office was Theresa Daniel, a long-time SDEC member from the 16th SD. She is generally very respected, and the sort of person who brings people together and works with all sides well. She also announced that she would not be a candidate for the permanent spot.

Energized by the show of unity and hope for the future, people started giving money, raising close to $9000 today. That may well be needed, as the party finances, unreported on in real numbers to the membership, appear not to be in peak condition (and yes, I'm being very diplomatic about that). Three experienced number crunchers (one of whom is Precinct Chair and former county Executive Director Elaine Wiant) have volunteered to audit just what the situation really is and reveal the dismal truth about whatever happened to the large sums supposedly raised by the now resigned Chair.

There were generally upbeat remarks of high expectations for next year's elections by State Senator Royce West and State Representatives Terri Hodge and Roberto Alonzo. A large group of candidates for next year (already circulating ballot petitions for the primary at this meeting) were also introduced. The general attitude at the end of the meeting was relieved, cheerful, and enthusiastic about our prospects.

At a post-meeting gathering at a local bar, interim County Chair Daniel publicly thanked all of those who had joined in the efforts to make today's meeting a success. She announced that she had gone by and gotten keys for the party office, and publicly presented one to me. I have volunteered to be there and help keep the office open for her, and we'll begin at 10 AM Monday morning. I think we all have reason to be excited that this bump in the road is behind us, and we are moving forward together again.