Friday, October 13, 2006

Too little, too late

Something I wanted to comment on the other day but did not have time to, was the $1 million cash infusion into Chris Bell's struggling gubernatorial campaign by a wealthy trial lawyer and Bell's pathetic, and definitely unheeded plea to Kinky Friedman to drop out of the race and endorse him.
Both items are too little, too late in my opinion. I think it is a foregone conclusion that Rick Perry is going to waltz into re-election with possibly under 40 percent of the vote while the troika of challengers split the rest.
The fact that Perry could be that unpopular and still win re-election so easily is a sad testament to the state of our democracy. Why they cannot have a runoff in a race this important is beyond me, but it is clearly a disservice to the electorate. We are getting screwed.

Meanwhile, I think too much of our electoral process goes toward these countless judicial and administative positions which should all be appointed anyway. Why do we need to elect a county clerk or even a tax collector? And all these judges that nobody pays any attention to. Let's have them appointed and leave the voting for representative positions like city council, county commissioners, state reps and Congress critters. Then maybe people's eyes wouldn't glaze over when they get their ballots and they might even cast their votes more intelligently.

Agreeing with Gurwitz

Jonathan Gurwitz had a column earlier this week that I almost fully agree with. With the exception of a gratuitous knock at Democrats as "anemic and philosophically barren" towards the end of the column, I would have to say that I agree with it nearly 100 percent.

The scandal is that colleagues who had some inkling that Foley was engaging in inappropriate behavior — to give his Republican cohorts a very generous benefit of the doubt — did nothing to seriously confront him and failed to fully investigate the matter.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Rep. John Shimkus, the Republican chairman of the House Page Board, may have had a good grasp of Foley's turpitude for months. They may have hoped Foley's proclivities would simply fade away or at least be kept quiet until after the midterm election.

More likely, Hastert and others simply deemed what they thought was Foley's inordinate interest in pages as an acceptable bending of the rules. Some members of Congress shower their attention on lobbyists and special interest groups. Some have a weakness for travel, others for Louis Philippe period commodes. "So what," they might have thought, "if Foley's special interest is well-groomed young men?"

Either explanation gets to the essence of the GOP's problem: the abandonment of principle.

And that abandonment is certainly costing them in the polls. As many as 20 to 30 House seats have shifted toward the Democrats since the Foley scandal broke.
Political scientist Larry Sabato on his Crystal Ball blog is now predicting that the Democrats will win the majority in the House next month. He has 11 Republican-held seats now leaning toward Democrats and another 16 Republican-held seats are rated as tossups. If they truly are tossups, that would mean at least half would go Democratic giving the Democrats a net gain of 17 seats at the minimum. They need only 15 to take control.

Can you say - Speaker Pelosi? Better get used to it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bonilla's bin Laden ad

Now back to that mailing I got from Henry Bonilla. It was rather odd, to say the least. On the front page is a grouping of three photos of beared Arabic men wearing turbans. One of the men pictured is obviously Osama bin Laden. The caption says “For Men Like These, America is Still a Target”.

My first thought on reading this was to say “Sure, because President Bush failed to capture them after 9/11.”

Do the Republicans really think reminding us that bin Laden is still loose is a good campaign strategy? Apparently so.

Another smaller picture in the ad is of another high-ranking al-Qaeda figure whose name I can’t recall.
But the third picture is of the Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who founded the Mahdi Militia or Mahdi Army
in Iraq.

There are several problems with this. First, al-Sadr has no connection to al-Qaeda. But that has never stopped Republicans from trying to tie Iraq to 9-11. Second, you would think that if they are going to try and force this link they would at least pick a guy who was one of the Baathists affiliated with Saddam Hussein. But the Baathists were all Sunnis and this guy is a Shiite cleric. Third, while the Mahdi Army is a problem for our troops in Iraq, saying that they consider the continental United States a target of their aggression is a bit of a stretch. This guy is only fighting with us because we are in his country and he wants us out. He never had any intention of coming over here and attacking us.

I figure that when they were putting the ad together they had a picture of the Sunni militant Al-Zarqawi filling that slot. But when he was killed, they were trying to find someone else to fill that spot. I'm sure they figured any old guy in a turban would do.

A real congressional race

I got my first campaign mailing from Henry Bonilla the other day, but more on that later. I live in the 23rd Congessional District which was impacted by the recent Supreme Court decision on redistricting. Bonilla is the closest thing to an incumbent in the race and the only Republican. Meanwhile, a whole host of Democrats are in the race with varying degrees of support.
At first, I thought former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez would be the best bet for a credible challenger to Bonilla. But after his hesitant off-again, on-again start to the campaign I’m not so sure anymore. Plus he has the definite aura of a has-been after first losing his congressional seat and then failing to win it back in a rematch with DINO Henry Cuellar.
Another credible contender in the race is Albert Uresti, brother of Carlos Uresti who recently won a Texas Senate seat.
But right now I am most impressed with Lukin Gilliland. He seems to be the best financed and most serious challenger to date. I’ve gotten mailings from his campaign, at least one phone call and I am starting to see signs for him go up everywhere. He is also on TV with some positive, biographical spots.
I’m basically an Anybody But Bonilla voter, so I will support any Democrat who gets into a runoff with Bonilla.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Baseball playoffs

George Steinbrenner was smart to keep Joe Torre as the manager of the Yankees. It would have been nuts to get rid of him. He is an incredible manager and I imagine about 90 percent of the teams in baseball would have been ready to snap him up had Steinbrenner given him the heave-ho.
You don't just ditch a Hall-of-Fame caliber manager because you don't win the World Series every single year. I just remember what happened to my beloved Cincinnatti Reds in the late '70s when they decided to get rid of Sparky Anderson. They didn't make it back to the World Series for more than a decade and they had to sit back and watch Sparky take his new team - the Detroit Tigers - all the way to the top.
The Yankees' problem right now is that they have a lot of talent, but they are lacking the chemistry or the spark that makes it all gel together. That chemistry is more important than having superstars. The Yankees of 1998-2000 proved that when they dominated the game for three years with a bunch of unknowns like Scott Brosius, Paul O'Neil, Tino Hernandez and Chuck Knoblauch. The only guys left from that era are Derek Jeter and Mario Rivera. So they still have to find that spark again that they lost around the time that they got rid of Knoblauch. But they sure won't find it any faster by dumping Joe Torre.

As for the playoffs, now that the Yankees are out of it I can whole-heartedly back the Detroit Tigers. They are long overdue for another championship and they have put together a heck of a good team with one of my favorite players - former Texas Ranger Ivan Rodriguez leading the way once again. Pudge is reunited with his Florida Marlins manager Jim Leyland who, kind of like Sparky, seems to find a way to get to the World Series no matter who he is coaching.

I'm rather indifferent as to whether the Cards or the Mets should win the National League championship. I was pulling for the Padres since they are the new affiliate for the San Antonio Missions, but now I'll just root for the Tigers all the way.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Everything is worse

Can anyone name one thing that has actually gotten better as a result of actions taken by the Bush administration? And I mean something that has gotten better that doesn’t have a correspondingly awful downside, like tax cuts.
Iraq is worse. Iran is worse. North Korea is worse. In fact, since Bush linked the three countries as the “Axis of Evil” at the start of the administration, they have all turned into foreign policy debacles.
As if that were not bad enough, the terrorism threat has gotten worse according to the latest National Intelligence Estimate and, of course, Osama bin Laden is still on the loose. Meanwhile, our military is stretched far beyond its means, our reserves and our National Guard have been exhausted and we are unprepared if any new threats suddenly emerge.
The economy has stank throughout the Bush tenure, with job growth mostly stagnant and wages unable to keep up with inflation. Meanwhile, health care premiums have continued to skyrocket and gas prices have sat around $3 a gallon for the better part of a year.
The immigration problem has continued to fester. FEMA went from being a first-rate government agency to a disaster waiting to happen - staffed with incompetent administration cronies. New Orleans, of course, is much, much worse.
Then, of course, the deficit and the national deficit are both worse. The public’s opinion of Congress is probably at an all-time low as corruption and incompetence have been the themes of this administration.
Surely there is something this administration has done that is positive, but I can’t think of anything right now.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Truth does not matter

This effort by Republicans to shift the blame for the Foley scandal onto Democrats is the most pathetic thing I've seen in years. And yet it is very typical of right-wing strategy these days. The fact that they have no evidence to back up the charge does not matter. What the Republican strategists understand is that all they need to do is throw out the charge - regardless of its veracity - and then the media will dutifully report it and the rank and file dittoheads will buy it. The truth does not matter, they just need the charge to be out there and that will be enough to keep their core constituency on board.

Perfect timing

If the Democrats retake the House, as looks more and more likely, the political dynamic in Washington will shift decidely.
It is a good time for the Democrats to regain the majority at this time. They've been lost in the wilderness long enough - 12 years - to fully appreciate what it means to be back in the majority, while at the same time they are not so far from when they last lost power - 1994 - that they have no institutional memory of it.
This is good because it means there should be enough Democrats who remember the mistakes that were made prior to 1994 so that they are less likely to repeat them. Plus they have the fine example set by the corrupt GOP as a kind of How-Not-To-Govern Guide.