Saturday, December 10, 2005

Ed-ju-kay-shun

Now, I actually kinda know Kinky Friedman. When I lived in Kerrville, he was dating a girlfriend of mine and was also quite insistent that I name my daughter "Kinkarina." Of course, Kerrville is a small town and any real Kerrvert knows the Kinkster.

I have a confession to make.

I LIKE Kinky Friedman.

Hells Bells, I might have even considered voting for him if it wasn't for two things.

1. We have a mighty fine alternative to Guv'ner Goodhair already. The dem candidate, Chris Bell may not be as colorful a character, but will do a fantasic job in office. Even if his campaign blog isn't nearly as much fun as ours.

2. More importantly, I just can't vote for anyone who still publically admits being friends with George and Laura Bush.

That being said, Kinky does manage to push the joking aside to make some honest, passtionate comments about education in his current Bookslut interview.

I thought I would be the only one hip enough to post the link to Bookslut, but this new interview has been making the blog rounds pretty quickly. Everyone is commenting on his snark, but not many people are talking about how he called out the current politicos on public education issues in Texas.

It's something that bears discussion, no matter what your party affiliation.

In related news, the Texas Freedom Network rated all the Texas Lege members on their public education voting record.

Frank Corte was rated Academically Unacceptable.

Damnation. No matter what the issue, Mr. Corte manages to maneuver himself to the polar opposite of the common good...not to mention the common sense.

I'm starting to think that the only thing that Frank Corte has made easy is my job as Larry Stallings' communications director.

The Morality Corner

Fellow Democrats, we hold the high ground on morality. Tell all independent, moderate and progressive folks to remember the words from the Book Of James:

"Faith without works is dead."

So let us all measure political action by work, not conversation. If "works" are the measuring stick of faith, what have the Republicans done lately?

Medicaid, Medicare, food programs and education have been reduced to help fund an unjust war and to expand the tax cuts for the already very rich. Republican "works" hurt the most vulnerable Americans - children, the aged, the disabled and the sick.

To the republicans who regularly thump their Bibles and talk about daily prayer, I have a message. Instead of thumping your Bible, open it up and read it. Read Matthew 25:31-46. Read Jesus saying:

31
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne,
32
and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
33
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34
Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,
36
naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.'
37
Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
38
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
39
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
40
And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
41
Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
42
For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
43
a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'
44
Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?'
45
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.'
46
And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."



Now, you tell me - who are the righteous, and who are the goats?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Frank Corte Does Too Have An Education Plan! (Vouchers Lite)

Now, this is not a joke (well, it is, but the joke is on the people of The Great State of Texas): Frank Corte sponsored a bill to help pay for education. (Relevant sections underlined) It's a generous bill to really tackle the problem of school finance. It says that children in grades 6 and above (including college students) who play "Taps" with a bugle, trumpet, or cornet during military honors funerals will have $25.00 deducted from their tuition every time they do - and, as an added bonus, any student performing under this subsection, will not be penalized for this absence. Even better, because Frank knows how very important public school attendance is in calculating state and federal education program dollars, he specifies in this bill that absences so covered "shall be counted as if the student attended school for purposes of calculating the average daily attendance of students in the school district."

This bill also thinks of the student, struggling to pay for his or her education, by specifying that all students who do play "Taps" during school, should be given enough time to make up any work they may have missed in doing so. But Frank is watchful of our education dollars, generous as this program is. It is very clearly spelled out in the bill, just what constitutes a properly played "Taps". I guess no jazz renditions are allowed, huh?

Wow. Underwhelmed along with me?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Arbeit Macht Frei

Today we are going to talk about money. Those of us who don’t have a whole helluva a lot of it tend to talk about it a lot. I know, I know… it’s just not polite cocktail party conversation. But for most of us, worrying about how we are going to pay our mortgage, AND our utilities in the same month; keep our growing kids in sneakers, and squeeze enough gas in the car to get to work makes us increasingly impolite.

And right now? I’m feeling downright crass.

So what are the two main causes of money woes? If you are George W. Bush the answer is tax breaks for your buddies and unholy wars.

But for the rest of us? Well, the two reasons listed above don’t help any; but the biggest issues are unemployment and underemployment.

Now underemployment is something most of us have dealt with in our careers, including the candidate. And it is an issue I would like to address further at another time.

And after a few shots of tequila.

But this week Team Stallings was lucky enough to add a real-honest-to-goodness economist to the brain trust. Now that we have him on board, we can actually call it a brain trust without busting out laughing at ourselves.

Caron Richard Waits, Ph.D. is a Professor Emeritus at Texas Christian University and is one of those rare people who can take something as complicated as economics and make it understandable for the rest of us. So when he sent us this email today, we knew we had to pass it along right away.

I just received the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly report on employment changes. Here is what it shows:

"Non-farm payroll employment increased by 215,000 in November. . ." This figure resulted from a survey of business establishments and involves double counting of persons who have taken a second job and includes any increase in UNFILLED positions.

However, the Household Survey of employment (the traditional method of estimating the number of employed persons) shows a DECLINE in the number employed of 52,000.

The Household Survey also shows an INCREASE in the number UNEMPLOYED of 149,000 and an INCREASE in the number no longer in the work force of 148,000.


Now, I haven’t been able to find any kind of policy set by Mr. Corte in terms of employment, labor (remember now that his labor support in the last election was a big fat goose egg), job training, or economic development.

Actually, unless it is about raiding the public school coffers or finding ways to make it as miserable as possible to be a female member of the species, Mr. Corte doesn’t seem to do a whole lot of anything.

Maybe it is kinda hard for him to work up some feelings of concern for the unemployed. After all, Mr. Corte has a job. And his district statistics show higher rates of employment, lower rates of unemployment, a signficantly higher margin of college educated people, and a signficantly lower number of high school dropouts than the state average.

This statistical analysis doesn’t show income levels in comparison to the norm. But I imagine they are a lot more comfortable than the state average. The 122 is a fairly comfortable, even wealthy, district. But this a rarity in South Texas. When you look at the state averages next to the district averages, the numbers are immensely disturbing. And while it may not be in our own back yard, it is right next door.

Unemployment is an overwhelming problem. We aren’t going to be cute and throw out any slogan-y, pat solutions. We know it is going to involve multiple courses of action over a number of years to create a strong, successful workforce in this state. Having people like Dr. Waits on board is a great way to get started.

So let's help Mr. Corte feel the nip of unemployment by voting him out of office next Fall. And then start winning this battle against unemployment by fighting to get this bill out of the great sucking vortex of committee neverland and onto the House floor.

Because, you know, it's like, important. You know?

In an attempt to find more information on Mr. Corte's issue positions, the Stallings Research Team found this direct quote about affirmative action.

"I think that what we’re doing is we’re telling students that, you know, don’t worry about academic excellence, don’t worry about doing well, because we’re going to get you into school anyhow for whatever other reasons, and I think that’s the wrong thing to do. I think that whether you’re minority, Hispanic, you know, African-American, you know, abilities to get into college should be based on academic excellence."

FRANK CORTE, State Representative
PBS Online NewsHour
May 20, 1997


That clears everything up nicely now, dunnit?

I read that Texas Education got an "F" in Science today, and now I'm wondering where Mr. Corte learned his critical thinking skills.

Grip and Grins Are Not So Bad

Today I made my first visit ouside my comfort zone, and in the freezing cold, too. I drove, with the help of 3 Google maps over-annotated by Diane, to the home of Carolyn Carpenter way out in the wilds past Fair Oaks Ranch. She was hosting the Kendall County Democratic Women and Men for a holiday get-together, and was nice enough to invite me. I met about 2 dozen Dems, including outgoing and incoming County Chairs. The consensus is that Frank Corte is "super-anti-women". That seems to be the first thing most folks say when they hear I am runnin' agin' him. I ate both lunch and dinner in the hour and a half I was visiting - there was so much good food, and I danced with the animated Texas Santa on the porch, then made my way back to the medical center to end-of-year meetings and such. It sure was great meeting Democrats where we don't expect 'em to be living.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Frank and Beans

I had all sorts of things spring to mind when I read the finance reports from Corte’s 2004 campaign.

Damn! That’s more than our total household income! was the first thing that came to mind.

Damn! I bet his Communications Director gets a salary”! was, admittedly, the second.

Mr. Corte brought in almost 71,000 dollars in campaign donations in 2004. For an election in which he ran unopposed.

But hey, that’s not a bad thing. We have $125.00 in our campaign coffers, so we speak from the voice of green-eyed jealousy.

But once I wiped the drool from my chin and read further along there was one thing that really stood out to me.

It wasn’t the fact that 99.8% of his donations came from business interests and .02% came from the party itself, making his grand total of labor interest donations 0.00%.

After all, Mr. Corte is a bidness man. And as Molly Ivins would say, the bidness of Texas is bidness. Mr. Corte isn’t interested in the working man and the economic interests of the labor sector. Mr. Corte is a bidnessman his ownself, so it makes sense that he votes in favor of business interests.

But the part that surprised me was the breakdown of where this business money was coming from.

Now, I don’t know nuthin bout birthin no babies, but I would think that Mr. Corte’s money would, as a general rule, be coming from Mr. Corte’s district.

About 7% (5000 of his $70,723) was from out of the state of Texas entirely (to be specific, Washington D.C. and Indianapolis, IN). And another 33% was from Austin, Houston, and Dallas. Mostly Austin, and mostly political PACs.

That still leaves at least the majority of his money coming from San Antonio, right? Well, true. It comes from San Antonio, but just not his district. When you plug in the zip codes his donations came from, three of the zips (78215 for 3000$, 78239 for 2420$, and 78205 for 2325$) are not even in his district at all. These donationas total $7745.00 for another 11% of his grand total.

So a bit over half of his money comes from out of the district.

No big deal right? At least it is all respectable donations (if’n you consider bidness money respectable), unlike the money he took from Michael Ellis and kept even after his meth lab bust became news during past election cycles.

Maybe I’m thinking about this in terms that are too straightforward and simple. Dems today tend to be all reality-based like that. But it seems to me that people donate money to you not because you’re cute or they think you are a swell guy. They donate money as a kind of insurance that you will protect their interests in the Lege. That the bills you introduce and the votes you record will support them. So all of this here? All this math, and links, and general jibber-jabber? - well, it's all thrown out in order to ask one reality-based and pertinent question.

If over half of Mr. Corte’s money comes from outside his district then whose interests are he really representing?

Happy St. Nick's Day And The New Phony War

Yes, Santa Claus really was the bishop of a Turkish town, and today is his very own day. Based on his generosity of spirit and generally jolly attitude, St. Nick is probably a Democrat. I suspect he is probably not too happy with the denizens of Fox News turning Christmas into a political opportunity. Ari, a texas kos friend of ours, wrote the following to his local paper which is to be published shortly:


To the Editor [of The Beaumont Enterprise]:

It seems that a group of people, who profess to be
Christians, are now complaining that a vast, left-wing
conspiracy is out to destroy Christmas. Nothing could
be further from the truth. First of all, there is NO
concerted effort by the big, bad Left, to destroy
Christmas. Indeed, what I do see is a phony culture
war, instigated by the likes of Bill O'Reilly and John
Gibson, who love to stoke the base instincts of
viewers for the sake of ratings.

When I was growing up, these self-appointed defenders
of the faith used to complain about the blatant
commercialism of the Christmas season. Now, there is a
hue and cry about being "persecuted" because some
stores, in an attempt to be inclusive, choose not to
use "Merry Christmas" in their advertisements. This is
ridiculous! Being shot, imprisoned or burnt at the
stake for professing your beliefs is persecution.
Target Stores using "Happy Holidays" in their ads is
not.

To those people complaining, please do us all a favor:
turn off the Fox News, enjoy the season and stop
looking for clouds in the silver lining of the
holidays. Merry Christmas to all.


Ariel A. Vitali, MD
Beaumont, Texas, USA
E-mail address: ari_mistral[AT]yahoo[DOT]com



This is what the Good Bishop left in our shoes last night:
Larry - a Snicker's bar
Diane - a tangerine
Molly - UNO card game and gingerbread train
Sam - Matchbox trucks and gingerbread train
Billy - Jelly Bellies

Monday, December 05, 2005

Frankly My Dear, I Don't Give An NPAT.

The candidate was hog-tied to his desk chair this weekend and has been feverishly working on his position papers. And we say feverishly we mean it all literal-like because he has that nasty flu that has already been going around town. Which only serves to remind the aforementioned candidate about the scarcity of flu vaccinations, which leads to another position paper. It's a never-ending downward spiral, gentle readers.

We are keeping Larry hopped up on herbal tea with lots of honey, and contend that hot tea is just as macho as black coffee when being drunk by a decorated veteran of 2 wars and 3 branches of service, despite his embarrassment of asking for a mug of Soothing Moments Blackberry Tea.

I was wanting to make a nifty little compare and contrast form with Frank Corte's issues stances on one sides and Larry's on the other. I thought it would make it easier for readers to see where each candidate stands before rocking the vote next Fall.

But here's the problem-o.

Mr. Corte has repeatedly refused to provide any responses to citizens on issues through the 2004 National Political Awareness Test (NPAT) despite repeated requests from news organizations and both Democrat and Republican party officials.

This makes it awfully hard to vote the issues now, dunnit? All we have to go on is his voting record, sponsored bills, and public statements. This provides an awfully imcomplete (and frankly, pretty scary) picture of Mr. Corte's platform. If you would like to know more about his issue positions, please use the link above to ask him to complete the NPAT.

And feel confident in knowing that we will continue to post position papers as quickly as Larry Stallings can churn them out. When the website is up and running they will all be available there as well. And if you have any questions about his position on any issues, feel free to post a comment here and he will answer 'em all.

As Larry said to me this weekend, "People may not vote for me, but at least they will know why!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Time To Paint Your Mailbox Blue!

Several weeks ago we of Precinct 3 accepted the challenge of leadership to Turn Texas Blue in 2006. Precinct 3 is a battleground area in Bexar County due to its current red history. Four democratic candidates came to our meetings and announced their campaigns. We need to help them.
Here’s how. The most pressing problem this month is to gather the required number of voter signatures on petitions. If enough signatures are not gathered in December these candidates must pay the filing fee.
For instance, a signature for Larry Stallings is worth $1.50 and for John Courage more than $6.00. Valuable dollars can be saved if we help them with the petitions. Three candidates brought petitions for us to sign and now need our help. Please contact the candidates, request blank petitions and collect registered voter signatures. You could talk to neighbors, civic groups, church groups or stand in front of retail businesses and work for our Blue Team. We don't have a lot of time.

The four candidates are:

John Courage: www.courageforcongress.org

David VanOs: www.vanosfortexasag.com

Cathy Torres-Stahl: www.judgecathy.com

Larry Stallings: larryforthelege.blogspot.com


The great blues singer Taj Mahal wrote a song whose title sort of describes the mission of Democrats. It's called, “Going Up To The Country And Paint My Mailbox Blue”. Let's see if we can get more Precinct 3 mailboxes painted blue.