Thursday, January 29, 2009

Republican Death Spiral?

I wrote my new congressmen the other day.

I asked him how could he be so stupid. He voted to not delay the digital TV conversion.

I am telling all my friends and relatives that the reason their TVs won't work soon is Republicans like him falling in lockstep in votes that harm lower income folks and the elderly. They voted to not delay the digital TV rollover despite the fact that 2 million plus rebate coupons have not yet gone out.

The leadership of the GOP thinks this issue only effects the poor, minorities and the elderly. Those are not their priorities. As Nate Silver reminds us:
This measure was approved unanimously by the Senate; every Senate Republican gave it the green light. But 155 out of 178 House Republicans voted against it, which resulted in the measure's defeat since a two-thirds majority would have been required for passage under the House's suspension of the rules.
Despite a very popular new president and major poll support, House Republican also voted unanimously against the tax cuts and the stimulus spending package. Voting against tax cuts - to make a point that they want to scream NO.

I agree with Nate, self-described conservative Republicans represent only about 20 percent of the population but the GOP leadership are following the Rove tactic of appealing only to this base and putting their future in jeopardy. This creates its own dynamic. Hopefully, as Nate suggests, a death spiral.
Thus the Republicans, arguably, are in something of a death spiral. The more conservative, partisan, and strident their message becomes, the more they alienate non-base Republicans. But the more they alienate non-base Republicans, the fewer of them are left to worry about appeasing. Thus, their message becomes continually more appealing to the base -- but more conservative, partisan, and strident to the rest of us. And the process loops back upon itself.
The GOP is down to only FIVE states where they have a majority of the voters supporting their party over Democrats, according to a recent huge Gallup poll. Lets see if they can hit TWO by 2010.

Nate at FiveThirtyEight has updated the GOP Death Spiral post with a graphic of the new House.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Yes We Can

I have some ideas for blog posts but life keeps interfering.

Meanwhile, listen to the Yes We Can Remix.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Annie's List in Texas

Nice cover story in The Texas Observer about Bye-Bye Boy's Club - the highly effective Annie's List PAC to elect moderate and progressive women to the Texas legislature. It would have been nice if it was more effective in 2006 but it seems to have found its legs now making clear differences in a number of races.
Maldonado went through Annie’s List candidate training. She was given three staffers trained in the group’s campaign school. She broadened and sharpened her message beyond her educational expertise. She knocked on countless doors, day after day, keeping herself to a personal vow: “For everyone who says no, I told myself, I will always talk to five who say yes.” She phone-banked “until I was hoarse.” Whenever a volunteer came back from block-walking and reported an undecided voter, Maldonado called each one personally. “They were surprised to be hearing from the candidate,” she says. “But I told them that’s part of the change we’re talking about.”

This past November, despite an infusion of almost $600,000 into her opponent’s campaign by Republican and big-business groups in the final six weeks, Maldonado became one of four new women legislators to “flip” Republican districts across the state. Over the past three election cycles, Annie’s List candidates have taken eight Republican seats and sent 13 new lawmakers to Austin, setting records for women’s representation in each of the last two sessions. Those women, in turn, are threatening to turn the most powerful boys’ club in Texas into a very different, less dysfunctional place.
Over the past three election cycles, Annie's List candidates have taken eight Republican seats and sent 13 new lawmakers to Austin, setting records for women's representation in each of the last two sessions. Those women, in turn are threatening to turn the most powerful boys' club in Texas into a very different, less dysfunctional place. - Annie's List, electing good people for Texas.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Free At Last, Free At Last

While you're waiting for the current nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue to end, please read the best postings from the Texas Progressive Alliance.

Easter Lemming Liberal News
is pondering the future of newspapers with net marketing guru Seth Godin and the Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston is counting down till the end of an error

The Texas Cloverleaf looks at an outgoing Denton County Commissioner becoming a TxDOT spokesperson.

Off the Kuff takes a look at the early campaign finance reports for KBH and Rick Perry.

CouldBeTrue at South Texas Chisme notes that while the house plays nice with Straus, the senate went all Craddick/DeLay/Rove batsh*t crazy. Many think that Republican bully partisanship will continue to bite them at the polls.

Neil at Texas Liberal contuines to wonder how Houston Democratic Councilman James Rodriguez, and others, can support a Republican for citywide office. This post also includes a happy picture of dancing from Singing In The Rain.

McBlogger gets some answers from Sen. Carona (well, from Steve Polunsky who was channeling Sen. Carona) about why Sen. Carona is still keeping CDA's on the table. It'll come as a HUGE shock that McBlogger is still not buying it.

jobsanger takes on a couple of the Panhandle's worst legislators. He notes that while the Panhandle is a natural for renewable wind energy, Sen. Kel Seliger is pushing coal energy in Has Seliger Flipped Out Or Sold Out? and points out that Rep. Warren Chisum is the Panhandle's Biggest Embarrassment.

As Kay Bailey Hutchison starts her semi-annual tease about running for Governor, Texas Kaos diarist Libby Shaw notes that Fat Cats (are) Emptying Pockets for Senator-Will-She-or-Wont-She. Some folks never learn. At least with this week's Quorum Report analysis about Henry Cisneros as a potential candidate there will be something else to talk about for 2010...

After Twittering his experiences in the Capitol on the first two days of the 81st Session of the Texas Legislature, Vince at Capitol Annex takes a look at why Lt. Governor David Dewhurst has adopted the personality of former House Speaker Tom Craddick.

refinish69 continues his harrowing journey through the homeless situation. Part 6 of the series leaves more questions than answers but gives some insight into his situation. While not having access to Doing My Part For The Left, he does appreciate Texas Kaos and other blogs for allowing him to post his story.

Burnt Orange Report compiles all the information from the first campaign finance reports for candidate seeking to join the Austin City Council or become the city's Mayor.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson takes a look at Diana Maldonado's first day in the Texas Legislature.

Big Oil is just exactly like Big Tobacco so even though the Texas Railroad Commission recommended legal action against Braden Exploration for illegally dumping drilling waste in Wise County, TXsharon won't be surprised if nothing much happens. We just keep trying over at Bluedaze: Drilling Reform for Texas (DRTX).

There was some contentiousness in the blogosphere last week, as a dinner with John Sharp and and a photograph of James Rodriguez created a little friction among kindred spirits and fellow travelers. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs rounded that up.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Future of Newspapers

I was at the Houston Chronicle Thursday night for a lecture by the Columbia School of Journalism Dean on the future of print newspapers - which got changed to the future of journalism. Before I go into that lecture this is Seth Godin on When newspapers are gone, what will you miss?
If we make a list of newspaper attributes and features, which ones would you miss?

Woodpulp, printing presses, typesetting machines, delivery trucks, those stands on the street and the newsstand... I think we're okay without them.

The sports section? No, that's better online, and in no danger of going away, in fact, overwritten commentary by the masses is burgeoning.

The weather? Ditto. Comics are even better online, and I don't think we'll run out of those.

Book and theater and restaurant reviews? In fact, there are more of these online, often better, definitely more personal and relevant, and also in no danger of going away.

The full page ads for local department stores? The free standing inserts on Sunday? The supermarket coupons? Easily replaced.

How about the editorials and op eds? Again, I think we're not going to see opinion go away, in fact, the web amplifies the good stuff.

What's left is local news, investigative journalism and intelligent coverage of national news. Perhaps 2% of the cost of a typical paper. I worry about the quality of a democracy when the the state government or the local government can do what it wants without intelligent coverage. I worry about the abuse of power when the only thing a corrupt official needs to worry about is the TV news. I worry about the quality of legislation when there isn't a passionate, unbiased reporter there to explain it to us.

But then I see the in depth stories about the gowns to be worn to the inauguration or the selection of the White House dog and I wonder if newspapers are the most efficient way to do this anyway.
So if online newspapers can generate more than 2% of the revenue of the present print versions could we still maintain an effective media?

The lecture at the Chron was not sponsored by the Houston Chronicle, oddly enough, but by the Houston area Columbia Alumni Association. Dean Nicholas Lemann had earlier given a talk to Chronicle employees. The well respected Columbia School of Journalism, publishers of CJR, seems to be a leader in training all of its graduates in the new digital journalism. The Dean explained that most of their recent graduates in whatever journalism field, broadcast, photography, new media, or newspaper, are working at least partly on the web. Applications to the school of journalism are way up, but that may be a economic counter cyclical phenomena, as jobs disappear some people go to school for a couple years or more.

The following is from my notes, and interpolations, and don't represent quotes from Dr. Lemann.

The magazine business has had a terrible year but doesn't seem to be in a midst of a sea change like newspapers. With very rare exceptions major magazines are defined by affinity groups, not geography. Attempted clones of Texas Monthly in other states have failed. The crisis in newspapers may be because for the local news mission the web is just as good, if not better, than a printed newspaper while the slicker more transportable magazines with a narrow focus of articles are more comparable.

In contrast to the newspaper business problems, if you like reading journalism you have never had it so good. The Internet provides articles and opinions from publications around the world, with even tools to translate, as well as the hyperlinks often embedded in the articles and the browsers that can open another window or tab to search for related material. Several businesses like Google News will help you search and display for topics and key words. And they provide these services free to the user.

The problem for the users is that the web is destroying the profitability of the providers of the news. Printed newspapers have the large staffs of trained reporters, photographers and editors that generate the content. In any metropolitan area printed newspapers have a large majority of these resources. These people have to be trained, overseen and paid. The web doesn't have much money to pay these people. The newspaper business model depends on advertising, and right now businesses value an online reader only about a tenth as much as a print media reader. The well paying department stores and automobile dealers who provide much of the newspaper revenue don't spend much of their advertising dollars for online products.

It would be a shame, a damn shame, if the number of journalists in America diminished.

The economics of online journalism is that readers very rarely will pay for the information and the paid advertising needed isn't there yet. Economically it would be cheaper to give everyone free high speed Internet access than to give everyone a free newspaper subscription.

From the Q and A session:

This is actually a pretty good time for ethnic journalism as they are expanding.

Locally owned definitely does not mean better. There have been many newspapers which are locally owned by bad, cranky, very opinionated, wealthy local businessmen who don't produce as good a product as the newspaper chains.

Bloomberg has been one of the success stories for new media and content due to getting paid subscribers for proprietary financial content. The Wall Street Journal is another content provider which has a large paid online subscriber base. (The WSJ has excellent reporters but often biased and uninformed editorials - EL)

Is there a "crisis of authority" for newspapers and particularly the New York Times now? Not now. (The NYT responded to critics and made changes. The people who disrespect and don't like the Times now are those who have always disliked the paper. By contrast, the Washington Post ignored and denigrated thousands of its readers when they made critical comments on some bad articles. They have made no effort to change or answer the criticisms of the paper's former supporters. - Easter Lemming)

(Of course, it can be difficult to distinguish between legitimate criticism and heated passions among a segment of readers. The Houston Chronicle had many outraged Texas readers when it said that shooting burglars robbing a neighbor's house in the back as they were leaving, against the advice of the 911 operator, was not something we as a society of laws should want to encourage. - Easter Lemming.)

I am not sure there was any new material presented at this lecture and the cost ($25) seemed high. A very good friend of mine gave me the ticket.

I like the Dean and perhaps as Alison Cook said he may be "one of the smartest people I've ever met." I don't know, I hang around with some very smart people. A lot of food for thought, even if no solutions for the print journalism profitability problem were offered.

If you can strip a newspaper down to the core reporters and editors which represent 2% of the present costs can you generate 5-10% of the present revenue purely online?

Coming soon - the retail advertiser view.

Ten Citizen Voted Ideas For Obama

Well, it looks like are the spineless wimps suspected, as is the Obama transition team, and they refused to seriously consider the most popular idea - Legalize the Medicinal and Recreational Use of Marijuana. decided it was politically more sound to just present the top 10 ideas in no particular order.

Winners of the Ideas for Change in America Competition

After 656,991 votes for 7,847 ideas, we present the top 10 ideas for change (in no particular order):

Pass the DREAM Act - Support Higher Education for All Students
Appoint Secretary of Peace in Department of Peace and Non-Violence
Free Single Payer Health Care
Develop & Implement a National Strategy for Sustainability
Pass Marriage Equality Rights for LGBT Couples Nationwide
Make the grid green in 10 years
Legalize the Medicinal and Recreational Use of Marijuana
Get FISA Right, repeal the PATRIOT Act, and restore our civil liberties
Save Small Business From the CPSIA
Health Freedom IS Our First Freedom

My votes (from an email sent just before voting closed) showed the actual ranking of many of these ideas.

You have voted for the following 10 ideas:

Legalize the Medicinal and Recreational Use of Marijuana (1st Place)
Health Freedom IS Our First Freedom (4th Place)
Make the grid green in 10 years (5th Place)
Pass the DREAM Act - Support Higher Education for All Students (7th Place)
Pass Marriage Equality Rights for LGBT Couples Nationwide (8th Place)
Get FISA Right, repeal the PATRIOT Act, and restore our civil liberties (9th Place)
Develop & Implement a National Strategy for Sustainability (10th Place)
Appoint a Special Prosecutor for the Crimes of the Bush Administration (14th Place)
Restore Investments In Rail Service And Infrastructure (29th Place)

Monday, January 12, 2009

TPA Blogger Roundup Jan 12, 2009

It's Monday, and that means it is time for another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's weekly blog round up. Each week's round-up is compiled based on submissions made by member bloggers.

refinish69 is still having problems with connecting to Doing My Part For The Left but continues his series- Homeless in Austin-An Insider's View Part 5.

Off the Kuff enjoys a little schadefreude over the resolution of the Speaker's race.

Gary at Easter Lemming Liberal News is back with another graphical map look at the election results in SR-144.

Why did the 5th Judicial Circuit give Judge Kent a vacation and a slap on the wrist while a grand jury decided several felony counts for sexual assault and obstruction of justice was more appropriate? CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to know if the 5th Judicial Court has any shame at all.

BossKitty at TruthHugger sees our only option is to communicate with current senators, like them or not. Even though John Cornyn is Republican of questionable contribution to Texas, he sits in the position to help or hinder America's recovery. I encourage everyone to write to Cornyn and remind him he must represent ALL his constituants, regardless of party affiliation. Fill his inbox with your comments. This is my Letter to John Cornyn.

Look what TXsharon found in Wise County: The hose stretches from toxic drilling waste, downhill to the creek. On Bluedaze.

WhosPlayin was dismayed by TxSharon's discovery of apparent oil and gas waste dumping into a creek, and spent some time on the Google Earth figuring out where it was, and whether there could possibly be any legitimate excuse.

Stace at DosCentavos opines on theproblem with the anti-immigant bills that have been submitted for the 81st Lege. Some say that "Joe the Speaker" won't allow them to progress, but the hateful rhetoric will still be there.

McBlogger takes a moment this week to review one of the candidates for Austin Mayor. I'm sure it'll come as a shock that he found Brewster McCracken, well, lacking.

The Texas Cloverleaf, and the nation, reminds Obama to end DOMA, among other things that were promised.

Californians passed Proposition 8 in the last election, denying equal rights to some citizens. jobsanger reviews the court fight over Prop 8 and the legal argument for overturning it in The Fight Over Prop 8.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson takes a look at TxDOT's Transportation Promise.

Neil at Texas Liberal takes a look at the ides of casino gambling in Galveston and in Texas, and compares it to an opportunistic infection such as a staph infection.

Wondering why Tom DeLay hasn't been served justice yet? PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has the story.

Vince at Capitol Annex takes a look at the possibility that cyclist Lance Armstrong will run for public office in Texas and hopes it doesn't come to pass.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


You are a

Social Liberal
(73% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(23% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Democrat

Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also : The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

The OKCupid politics test has changed slightly. I miss that they did not track the presidential vote of people taking the test like they did last time.

Another Look at SR144

I've been looking at the Redmond and Legler results again.  That was one we Democrats feel should not have gotten away.

Here is another graphical look at it that highlights the core features of the district - the Fairmont Parkway Republican area, the Democratic Houston and the toss-up areas in Pasadena away from Fairmont Parkway.

Click the map for a larger view.

The 2008 results are the pie charts placed on the center of the precincts and the background is the 2006 Janette Sexton results averaged by zip code. The size of the pies reflect the number of voters in the precinct. Turnout and Democratic results could be better in the North Pasadena precincts with a bit more organization.

Here is a similar graphical map for the Presidential vote in 2008.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


The biggest problem that may overwhelm Obama is the ultimate truth - America is going broke at a rapid rate.

See the critically acclaimed documentary.

A sign of the Bush end times

Ohio unemployment lines melt under overload. The state says it will also run out of money to pay the unemployment claims soon.
Ohioans' post-holiday demand for jobless benefits has spiked sharply, crashing the state's unemployment-claims system and forcing people to wait hours, sometimes days, before getting help.
In yet another sign of a worsening economy, the state Web site for filing claims electronically was shut down and phone lines have been jammed by more than 10 times as many requests.

Unemployment-filing systems have crashed in at least two other states in recent days as 4.5 million Americans -- a 26-year high -- are collecting jobless benefits.

Ohio officials say they are scrambling to hire temporary workers to staff call centers, and technicians are working to fix the Web site...

Ohio's unemployment rate in November was 7.3 percent, with 435,000 out of work. The state pays nearly $43 million in jobless benefits each week.

The demand is about to exhaust the state's unemployment compensation fund, which as of Monday was down to $16 million.

When that's gone, Ohio will be forced to borrow -- with interest -- from a federal loan fund to ensure that benefits continue being paid.

Unemployment compensation systems are under similar strains in North Carolina and New York, where Web sites crashed because of high demand.

Well, there goes that excuse -- Boo Rick Warren

Team Obama has been asking their gay and lesbian friends and their supporters to put up with the Reverend Warren speaking at the Inauguration ceremony pointing to Warren's work fighting AIDS in Africa. But until now no one had looked at how his mission against AIDS in Africa works. Now Max Blumenthal has and it ain't pretty.

Condom Burnings and Anti-Gay Witch Hunts: How Rick Warren Is Undermining AIDs Prevention in Africa
Warren may be opposed to gay rights and abortion, the thinking goes, but he tells evangelicals it is their God-given duty to battle one of the greatest pandemics in history. What could be wrong with that?

But since the Warren inauguration controversy erupted, the nature of his work against AIDS in Africa has gone unexamined. Warren has not been particularly forthcoming to those who have attempted to look into it. His Web site contains scant information about the results of his program. However, an investigation into Warren's involvement in Africa reveals a web of alliances with right-wing clergymen who have sidelined science-based approaches to combating AIDS in favor of abstinence-only education. More disturbingly, Warren's allies have rolled back key elements of one of the continent's most successful initiative, the so-called ABC program in Uganda. Stephen Lewis, the United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, told the New York Times their activism is "resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which should never have occurred."

Warren's man in Uganda is a charismatic pastor named Martin Ssempa. The head of the Makerere Community Church, a rapidly growing congregation, Ssempa enjoys close ties to his country's first lady, Janet Museveni, and is a favorite of the Bush White House. In the capitol of Kampala, Ssempa is known for his boisterous crusading. Ssempa's stunts have included burning condoms in the name of Jesus and arranging the publication of names of homosexuals in cooperative local newspapers while lobbying for criminal penalties to imprison them.

Dr. Helen Epstein, a public health consultant who wrote the book, The Invisible Cure: Why We're Losing the Fight Against AIDS in Africa, met Ssempa in 2005. Epstein told me the preacher seemed gripped by paranoia, warning her of a secret witches coven that met under Lake Victoria.
"Ssempa also spoke to me for a very long time about his fear of homosexual men and women," Epstein said. "He seemed very personally terrified by their presence."
Rick Warren is fighting AIDS by working with ignorant preachers scared of witches and homosexuals and burning condoms and urging jailing of homosexuals. Is this the African AIDS policy Obama supports?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Krugman is right again

About Dr. Gupta and groupthink.

And in fighting off the looming depression.

Michael Lewis in the NYT is also smart about some of the problems we are still not facing.
Is the S.E.C. that inept? Perhaps, but the problem inside the commission is far worse — because inept people can be replaced. The problem is systemic. The new director of risk assessment was no more likely to grasp the risk of Bernard Madoff than the old director of risk assessment because the new guy’s thoughts and beliefs were guided by the same incentives: the need to curry favor with the politically influential and the desire to keep sweet the Wall Street elite.

And here’s the most incredible thing of all: 18 months into the most spectacular man-made financial calamity in modern experience, nothing has been done to change that, or any of the other bad incentives that led us here in the first place.

SAY what you will about our government’s approach to the financial crisis, you cannot accuse it of wasting its energy being consistent or trying to win over the masses. In the past year there have been at least seven different bailouts, and six different strategies. And none of them seem to have pleased anyone except a handful of financiers.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Jimmy Carter, Good President or Great President?

The Christian Science Monitor defends former President Carter as one whose public perception has been shaped by defaming enemies.
He kept us out of endless wars. He protected the Alaskan wilderness (Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D) of Wisconsin once told me that "Carter was the greatest environmental president the country ever had.") He promoted a visionary energy policy. He countered the Soviet military threat. And since he left office, he has persistently promoted the cause of peace around the world. The landmark Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty he fashioned remains in force today.

Against the backdrop of an unnecessary trillion-dollar war in Iraq, it is instructive to recall how Carter avoided a similar morass when he negotiated the Panama Canal treaties, for which he was excoriated by Ronald Reagan's Republicans. When he left office, he was able to say with Thomas Jefferson "[D]uring the period of my administration not a drop of the blood of a single citizen was shed by the sword of war."

In the public mind, Carter continues to be judged as "ineffectual." Yet he started that treaty ratification process with fewer than 40 votes of the 67 needed. Pentagon generals advised him it would require 100,000 troops, rivers of blood, and untold treasure if the US did not return sovereignty of the canal to Panama.

Carter was keenly aware that retaining US control of the canal, as Reagan demanded, might result in another Vietnam-like conflict. Today, looking at America's open-ended wars in Southwest Asia, Carter should be thanked for his wisdom and vision.
"He was in fact quite a good president." They've got that right.

If it wasn't for a hostile press, a debate gaffe, a botched rescue mission in Iran, and illegal and traitorous secret negotiations by the Reagan election team with Iran - our over-rated actor President would never had saddled into the White House.

A turn in the economy that left Carter only marginally better than the best GOP president was the icing on the cake for his reelection prospects.

I should provide links to the unconventional statements I make above but I'll leave those as exercises for the readers to improve their Google skills.

Blogging will be light - my New Year's Resolution for the entire year. That and avoiding giving any support to a web site I had been frequenting along with a few other personal resolutions. We will see what replaces blogging and commenting as a time waster.

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