The ABC's of Texas Politics 
Thursday, January 8, 2009, 03:50 PM
Leave it to the Texas Legislature to be able to start a fight before they even get to the arena, much less get in the ring with their gloves on.

Of course, the sparring has always been a major part of our Legislature's history. When you only meet once every two years, I guess you have time to build up a lot of animosity.

Apparently, though, this latest fracas is not just a Democrat vs. Republican battle or a liberal vs. conservative bout. On one side you had the ABC (Anybody But Craddick) Republcans; in another part of the alphabet you had the Craddick "D's," a small group of Democratic representatives who were for the current speaker. Between these two groups was the great majority of representatives, caught in the middle of this political alphabet soup.

At stake are the powerful committee chairmanships and the preferred assignments to important committees, all controlled by the Speaker of the Texas House.

This scenario created a kind of Russian Roulette syndrome for aspiring representatives, many of whom are seeking nothing more than to be in the best position to help the districts they represent. Even delegates in the Lubbock area were split, with longtime State Rep. Delwin Jones, a Republican, and Democratic State Rep. Joe Heflin of Crosbyton both announcing against Craddick.

Although Craddick has announced his withdrawal from the Speaker's race, the actual vote will not take place until Tuesday, when the legislature convenes for the first day of the session.

In the meantime, Craddick's support seems to have disappeared. But as Yogi Berra has always reminded us, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

For Texas' sake, let's hope that this time it is.

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Straight Shooters have been pretty rare in Texas Legislature 
Wednesday, December 3, 2008, 02:44 PM
Just when we were all ready to relax--Obama is putting together an awesome Cabinet, Congress has been preparing for its winter recess, the economic news bounces from bad to good and back again--most of us were looking forward to a fairly calm, though frugal, Christmas season.

But leave it to the Texas Legislature to disturb whatever tranquility we might have enjoyed. According to an AP story out of Austin this week, some pro-gun group is planning an "all out assault" on the upcoming Texas Legislative session to get them to pass a law allowing open carrying of guns by Texas citizens.

They're not talking about regulated concealed weapons. They're apparently pushing for everyone to be able to openly "pack heat"--like a six-shooter in a hip holster from an old western movie.

* * * *

Now before all you stereotyping bloggers start rolling your eyes about us "bleeding-heart liberals," let me give you a brief history of my upbringing in the Panhandle/South Plains of Texas:

I fired my first rifle when I was 5 years old, under the strict supervision of my great uncle, who was the town marshall and later a lifelong member of the Deaf Smith County Sheriff's Department. When I turned 12, he promised me my very own gun for Christmas--IF I memorized the "Ten Rules of Gun Safety," a large poster published by the NRA and hanging proudly on the basement door of his gun room. I memorized those NRA rules, repeated them verbatim before December 25 of that year, then received my first gun, a single-shot, bolt-action .22caliber Winchester rifle, which I still have. Every fall and winter I went hunting with my great aunt and uncle for dove, ducks and, best of all, Canada geese, using my aunt's 20-gauge pump shotgun. (My own .22 was reserved for rabbits and prairie dogs in the summer.) By the time I was in college I had figured out that I had been shooting a bunch of defenseless and un-armed animals, so I gave that up; but later I acquired my .38 caliber pistol, and continue my interest in recreational target shooting to this day.

* * * *

Okay. So that was then, and this is now. And somehow it makes me nervous when anything important comes up before our beloved Legislators. Especially when it involves money and/or lives.

So forgive my skepticism, and concern when it comes to an issue like this.

For most Texans, whose lives seem to revolve around sports, what could be scarier than a Soccer Dad shooting off more thanhis mouth, or Pistol-Packin' Hockey Moms gunning for each other?
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Texas Republicans--a breed apart, or a dying breed? 
Tuesday, November 18, 2008, 03:43 PM
If you had any doubt about most Texas Republicans being totally clueless, a recent AP story out of Austin should convince you once and for all.

They actually are asking for "unlimited" corporate and personal donations to finance their pre-legislative session "strategy meetings" at a fancy place called "Lost Pines Resort and Spa."

Facing dwindling numbers and a bare two-seat majority for the upcoming session, these clowns have the gall to try to sell their "influence" to the highest bidders!

In all fairness, there apparently are a few of their fellow Republicans who are just as appalled as the rest of us. They and other critics call this latest attempt at influence peddling particularly "ill-timed and tone deaf," given the economic downturns and recent electoral losses.

Well, DUH!

I suppose there are a few dumb millionaires out there who would shell out $10,000 for six "VIP Dinner" tickets and a couple of golf outings with a "Preferred House Leader" (their term, not mine.) There might even be a few dumb enough to ante up $25,000 for 15 VIP dinners and four golf outings with a "Preferred House Member."

Maybe they should take some of the money raised from these so-called strategy session to get the owner of that fancy resort to change the name of the place. How about "Lost Souls Resort and Spa?"

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Colors that have colored our attitudes 
Wednesday, November 12, 2008, 02:27 PM
If the recent election results produce nothing else in the next two months or so, I hope it will mark the demise of the TV media-created designations of "red states" and "blue states."

In the first place, different colors have always had different connotations, depending on the times and places they have been used: From the "Red Coats" to the "rednecks;" from "in the red" to "red-faced" to communism's "The Reds". Except for the hero reindeer Rudolph the red-nosed, most of these references have been seen as negative qualities.

Blue has done only slightly better: From being sad, or being cold, to being elitist (blue bloods) to turning the air blue (cursing.) Of course being "true blue" (loyal) is a good quality, but being a "blue nose" isn't.

These aren't the only colors with different interpretations: green with envy, green as in eco-friendly and green as in rookie or novice; also yellow as in cowardly or in "-dog Democrat."

But the TV journalists in the 2,000 election picked red and blue to designate states that are either Democrat or Republican, perhaps just because they show up nicely on their election night maps, in addition to making them look more patriotic.

Personally, I hope the TV guys spend the next four years trying to come up with a different color scheme, one that seems less devisive.

How about periwinkle and puce?
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How should the real spooks dress for Halloween? 
Thursday, October 30, 2008, 02:39 PM
We get a nice break from all the last-minute election hooplah on Friday, when we all get to celebrate Halloween. But it got me to wondering what kind of costumes McCain and Palin might choose for this special day. I came up with some suggestions for the Republican Dynamic Duo that I will offer them free of charge, so they can be dressed appropriately to go "trick or treating."

For McCain I immediately decided on a "Wizard of Odds" costume, based on many of his decisions in the current campaign:

Having the mean-spirited Phil Gramm as his top economic advisor. (He could be the Tin Man)

Using the fake plumber Joe as a foil to criticize others. (He could be the Straw Man)

Pandering to the high-dollar CEO's by proposing yet more tax incentives for them to let "trickle down" later. (The Cowardly Lions)

Finally, it seems that every time Bush comes around, McCain jumps back behind that curtain to hide, just as the real Wizard of Oz did.

But what about a costume for his lovely running mate? She needs to come up with something spectacular, and I'm sure the Republicans would be happy to shell out several thousand more of their dwindling funds to make sure their favorite trick looks like a treat.

Of course, my first thought was that she could go as the Wicked Witch of the (north)West, in keeping with the Wizard theme.

Then I had a frightening revelation. She can save all that money and still have the scariest costume of all.

She can simply spend Halloween as herself. Talk about Spooky!

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Tribute to a Conscientious Conservative 
Monday, October 27, 2008, 01:42 PM
It may surprise you, but one of my all-time political heroes was the man who founded America's modern conservative movement--the late William F. Buckley.

Articulate, erudite, eloquent and delightfully clever, Buckley founded the conservative National Review in the mid-fifties, and used that publication to present his political perspectives to loyal followers for the next several decades.

What reminded me of this national icon was a recent column in the A-J, written by yet another of their many conservative columnists. But this woman, also a regular contributor to the National Review, was bemoaning the fact that the "neo-cons" of today bear little resemblance to the principals and ideals of Buckley's original movement. She accused them of promoting ignorance as a political strategy, and said that segment of the GOP has devoted years of pandering to the extremists, whom Buckley frequently referred to as "The Kooks."

The point of her column, however, was to describe the treatment by these "neo-cons" of WFB's son Christopher, the heir apparent of the honorable Buckley legacy.

It seems he had the audacity to suggest in print that Sarah Palin should withdraw from the GOP ticket and let McCain get someone qualified to be that "heartbeat away" person. When that didn't happen, Buckley the Younger apparently followed his conscience and endorsed Barack Obama!

At this point, the neo-con zealots crawled out of the woodwork and demanded his immediate removal from the same National Review his father had founded.

Some of you liberals out there might be thinking, "So? We don't have a dog in that hunt."

But it isn't just a case of my nostalgia when it comes to the Buckley family. It's the dignity and civility WFB and his original followers brought to the political arena over the years.

When it comes to respect for the opinions of others, we ALL have a dog in that hunt!

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Playing the Name Game with Sarah the Siren... 
Tuesday, October 21, 2008, 02:26 PM
Only two weeks left. By my calculations that leave time for Sarah and company to introduce 14 more name/job characters to the long-suffering electorate.

As a writer, I would suggest that at least they make these references more alliterative. With that many names and jobs, it's going to become increasingly difficult to remember them all, so I graciously decided to provide them with a suggested list to make things easier for their supporters to keep track.

First of all, I would suggest that they immediately replace "Ed the Dairyman" with "Dan the Dairyman." They could even add "Dumb" to the phrase for a triple alliteration.

Next, they need to find a "Hank the Handyman," "Elton the Electrician," "Randy the Rancher," "Conrad the Contractor," "Louie the Lettercarrier," and "Billy the Builder."

One area they have neglected so far is finding women in the workforce to balance the ticket's appeal. Of course, they would have to be in the menial jobs they see as traditional for women.

"Rosie the Riveter," and "Nancy Nurse" are a little dated, but how about "Millie the Manicurist," "Teresa the Teacher," "Betty the Beautician," "Sarah the Scrub-woman," or "Hokey, the "Hockey-mom." Surely somewhere in the Republican party they could find someone who could be called "Hokey."

Finally, they should replace "Joe" with Pete or Paul or Patrick or Pluto. I"ll admit I'm a little prejudiced on this one--I actually have a plumber named Joe, right here in Lubbock! The Rushing family has been doing business here for several generations and I asked the questions that normally would be asked: dependable? honest? quality work? available in emergencies? The answers are all "yes."

Never once have I asked Joe about his political leanings, nor do I care, when the water heater is leaking or the furnace is making funny noises.

When this happens, Joe is there for me. That's all that matters.

Hopefully we can all say the same soon about our next president.
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