Archive for October, 2009

For FOX Sake!

If you only have time for one Daily Show clip this week, then make it this one from last night’s show:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
For Fox Sake!
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

FOX fans out there should take ten minutes to watch the above clip as well; the payoff is understanding why most of the country sees that FOX News certainly isn’t “fair and balanced.” The only people propagating that claim are those that watch FOX News exclusively.

Jon Stewart nails the main point:

The FOX Opinion Guy’s outrage becomes the “some say” source for the news side. It’s a perpetual revulsion machine.

In other words, deciding what is newsworthy at FOX is done by the FOX pundits. The FOX news anchors then chatter about whatever the pundits have put on their agenda for the day.

Also, FOX fans: no one is talking about censoring or shutting down FOX News, especially not the White House. All the White House did was identify the network for what it is: the propaganda wing of the GOP.

The Yes Men Fix the World

It’s time for Lubbock DFA Movie Night:

Who: Lubbock Democracy for America
What: “The Yes Men Fix the World” free screening with refreshments and
When: Thursday, October 29, 2009 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Where: Lubbock County Democratic Party HQ, 2809A 74th St
Why: Because the Yes Men pull hilarious pranks on irresponsible corporations!

The Yes Men are a comedians who infiltrate corporate events and make fake announcements designed to draw attention to important global issues that the business world has a history of ignoring or handling poorly (e.g. climate change, pollution, globalization).

Here are some of my favorite Yes Men hijinks:

I think we could use the Yes Men in Lubbock, where people take themselves too seriously sometimes.

Election Time part two

OK, let’s talk amendments:

Amendment 1 – Bonding authority for cities and counties to buy land around a military base to prevent encroachment

I don’t feel strongly about it, but I think this one is a good idea. Bases are a big deal for the communities they are in, and the communities ought to be able to take reasonable action to accommodate the bases and their projected needs. Some developers might be upset if this passes, but oh well.

Amendment 2 – Mandates taxation of a residential homestead based on the property’s value as a residence and not on whether the “highest and best use” of the property is deemed to be taking place.

This is absolutely a good amendment. If someone’s home just happens to be in an area that has grown into a high-dollar commercial property area, this prevents the home from being appraised as if it were potential high-dollar commercial property.

Amendment 3 – Uniform Standards and procedures for property appraisal

Another good one. Certain appraisal districts have a habit of appraising things, let’s say, a little bit too high a little bit too often. This amendment gives the state more oversight on these practices.

Amendment 4 – National Research University Fund for emerging research universities

This is a big one for Texas Tech, which is basically next-in-line for Tier One status. If you live in or around Lubbock, you need to support this.

Those concerned about extra spending need not worry — it’s actually revenue-neutral. It just shuffles state money around into an endowment for emerging research institutions.

Amendment 5 – Consolidation of appraisal review boards

This is another good one to help rural counties save money and provide better service for appraisal reviews.

Amendment 6 – Expand bonding authority for programs allowing veterans to finance land and home purchases

This one is good because it cuts out red tape when it comes to helping veterans get into a home.

Amendment 7 – Exempt Texas State Guard offices from prohibition against dual office-holding

I don’t feel strongly either way about this amendment. We already make exceptions for dual office-holding for County Commissioners, JPs, National Guard, and US Armed Forces. It does seem like an oversight that Texas State Guard was left out, so it’s probably worth supporting this amendment.

Amendment 8 – Veterans’ Hospital for the Rio Grande Valley

Yes. Texas has a large veteran population, and we need more facilities to support them.

Amendment 9 – Place Open Beaches Act into Constitution

This one is tricky. Public beaches are important and should be preserved, but what happens when your privately-owned house is now underwater thanks to a natural disaster? This is exactly what happened with Hurricane Ike, and it looks like several homeowners are about to see (what’s left of) their homes become public property without compensation.

My inclination is to go for this one. Beach houses and businesses come with a certain amount of risk, and mitigating that risk should not trump the right of the public to access the beaches of Texas.

Amendment 10 – Allow Legislature to extend terms of emergency services districts from two to four years

I don’t feel strongly about this one either. It’s probably not going to hurt anything to have four-year terms instead of two-year terms. But, I don’t see a compelling reason to change it away from two-year terms either.

Amendment 11 – Limit Legislature’s authority to grant power of eminent domain to certain governmental and public purposes, and not for economic development

Yes. This follows eminent domain legislation passed a few years back. Eminent domain for economic development or tax revenue enhancement is an avenue to corruption.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

As always, the wonderful and nonpartisan League of Women Voters voter guide is a great resource. You can take it or any other literature you like with you into the voting booth.

Have at it in the comments.

Election Time!

Early voting started yesterday. You can early vote in the usual places — most United Supermarkets, the TTU Rec Center, and Lubbock City Hall. Early voting runs through October 30th, and Election day is Tuesday, November 3rd.

What’s on the ballot this time? For City of Lubbock residents there are four bond issues, and for everyone there are eleven proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution. Of note, there is an important amendment relating to Tier One universities and a few relating to property tax / appraisal reform.

Today I’m going to talk about the City of Lubbock bond issues.

I have obtained some documents from West Texas Organizing Strategy (WTOS) about the Lubbock bond issues that may be useful to you:

Map showing City recommended bond proposals (pdf)
Map showing gateway street fund expenditures (pdf)
Gateway funds summary (pdf)

I strongly recommend reading those documents.

It’s interesting to see what made it from the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to the ballot — and what didn’t make it. Example: Mahon Library needs serious repairs and upgrades, but was dropped from the bond proposal.

Also interesting is WHERE the proposals ended up — mostly in SW Lubbock. For Lubbockites, this is a familiar tune; developers guide the business of the City to their advantage. New properties (mostly outside the loop) get attention and money, while maintenance and upgrades get a pass. Deferred maintenance is how we end up with bumpy major thoroughfares and a library so moldy we have to close it.

Let’s have a look at the propositions.

Proposition 1: “The issuance of $43,085,000 general obligation bonds for street improvements”

I wish the language on this proposition in particular were more precise, and I wish it were split up into smaller, clearer projects on the ballot. Right now, the money from this proposition is earmarked $20,725,000 for 34th Street, $4,750,000 for traffic signal upgrades, and the rest for streets in SW Lubbock. I would prefer to vote for a 34th street issue separately from paving new streets in SW Lubbock, but somehow they got bundled together into a single bond issue that accounts for 2/3 of the value of all the bond proposals.

It feels like the City is saying, “We’ll fix 34th St for you, but you have to approve money for new streets in SW Lubbock first.”

Also, if this proposition passes, the work on the SW Lubbock streets will begin right away, while the work on 34th St is still 3-4 years away due to engineering and architectural studies that have to be done. With the vague wording of this proposition, I believe there’s a real possibility that the money will get eaten up by other street projects before 34th St is ready to go.

Additionally, Gateway Streets Fund money (40% of our franchise taxes and access line fees collected in Lubbock) could have been spent on 34th St, but it’s being spent elsewhere, again mostly in SW Lubbock.

Proposition 2: “The issuance of $7,500,000 general obligation bonds for firefighting facilities and equipment”

Who would vote against providing firefighting facilities? This is easily the least controversial bond proposal, and the new fire stations are in areas where response time could use improvement.

Proposition 3: “The issuance of $1,200,000 general obligation bonds for water recreation facilities”

This proposal is for four “splash pads,” which are little water parks where water shoots out of the ground and falls back down on a mat. Splash pads are basically cheap alternatives to pools. If you look at the placement of these splash pads, they suggest a line of thinking like this: “Sorry we filled in your swimming pools, North and East Lubbock. Have some splash pads!” (There is one in SW Lubbock as well, but two are in East Lubbock and one is in North Lubbock.) As far as I know, these will be the first such facilities in Lubbock.

Proposition 4: “The issuance of $9,000,000 general obligation bonds for soccer facilities”

By “soccer facilities,” this proposal is not referring to the existing Berl Huffman Complex, which needs serious repair. It refers to a new soccer complex at FM1585 and Milwaukee Ave.

Lubbock soccer has had a bumpy ride, not only because of the condition our soccer fields. For some reason, those on the political right in this town really decided that they hate soccer because it represents “communism” or some other bull.

My hope is that the new complex gets built, but can’t we maintain our existing soccer fields as well?

That’s all I’ve got about the Lubbock bond issues. Be sure to check out the WTOS documents I linked above. (WTOS will make a presentation about those documents this Sunday, October 25, at 12:15 at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 4600 48th St.)

As always, the wonderful League of Women Voters voter guide is available online for free. Also, the Texas Legislative Council has an analysis of the amendments (pdf).Remember, you can take these (or any other literature you want) into to voting booth with you.

I’ll return with a post about the amendments tomorrow.

Rally and Response

Wednesday’s lunchtime rally at Senator Cornyn’s Lubbock office was a success. The A-J covered it fairly, and four TV news stations also covered it (e.g. KCBD coverage, KLBK coverage). The rally was coordinated by and attended by about 40 local citizens willing to use their lunch break to let Senator Cornyn know that Texans want a public option.

I want to show you the statement, in full, that Senator Cornyn’s office responded with:

“Sen. Cornyn fully supports the rights of all Texans to free speech and peaceful assembly, but it is obvious that today’s protests were orchestrated by the extreme left wing who is out of touch with the priorities and concerns of the majority of Texans. Sen. Cornyn must represent all 24 million Texans, the overwhelming majority of whom are vehemently opposed to a government takeover of health care. We need health care reform that makes insurance more affordable and accessible to all, but we can’t fund it by raising taxes on middle class families and small businesses and stealing a half trillion dollars from a Medicare program that is already $38 trillion in the red. Nor can we afford to make historic expansion to Medicaid and add millions of Texans to this program that already has severe access problems and is wrought with fraud, waste, and abuse. Sen. Cornyn stands for real choice and competition, but a competitor that takes the field as it sets the rules of the game isn’t fair competition.”
Jessica Sandlin, Spokesperson for Senator John Cornyn

There are so many problems with that statement. There are the typical right-wing red herrings like “government takeover,” and “raising taxes,” that have no basis in reality. And there are a few more that stand out to me:

Medicare … is already $38 trillion in the red.”

That’s some crazy math right there, since $38 trillion is nearly 3 times the GDP of the USA (and approaching the GDP of the entire world). This $38 trillion remark is more likely based on a flawed projection of the future of Medicare, in which case the world “already” makes the statement a lie (in case the $38 trillion number didn’t red-flag it for you).

Medicaid … has severe access problems and is wrought with fraud, waste, and abuse.

The thing about a government program is that the people have recourse to get in there and fix it. If Medicaid is as bad as Cornyn thinks, then fixing it should be a top priority of his. With private industry, citizens don’t have as much recourse, and there is plenty of evidence that the private industry has much more fraud, waste, and abuse.

Sen. Cornyn must represent all 24 million Texans, the overwhelming majority of whom are vehemently opposed to a government takeover of health care.

Also irritating is the Senator’s attempt to find the right words to claim that Texans don’t care about health care or the public option. A few months back, I delivered a DFA petition to Sen. Cornyn’s Lubbock office that listed tens of thousands of Texan supporters of a public option (they signed the online petition at including hundreds from Lubbock and the surrounding counties. Either he’s not listening, or we’re not making our voices heard enough. I suspect the problem is both! We can do our part by calling Sen. Cornyn’s Lubbock office at 806-472-7533 (or fax him at 472-7536). We can’t let him get away with claiming that Texans are fine with health care the way it is.

Overall, the rally was a boost for me personally and (hopefully) a good shot in the arm for a movement that has been building for decades and needs to push on through the finish line.

The Award-Winning Lubbock County

When government does something well, it’s worth noting. (Quick example: Lubbock City Council selecting the old Barnes and Noble location as the new home of Godeke Library.)

A friend clued me in to something that — strangely enough — local media seems to be missing or ignoring completely. And it’s kind of a big deal.

The County of Lubbock has just won (actually, back in August!) three prestigious awards from the Texas Association of Counties. They are part of the 2009 Best Practices Awards. Along with Travis County, Lubbock was the only county to win three awards. (Lubbock County’s awards are way cooler than Travis County’s awards, by the way.) Each of the three awards represents a significant, unique achievement of Lubbock County — unmatched in the State and with only a few peers throughout the whole nation.

Here’s what Lubbock County won:

CourtTools Accountability Program

Lubbock County is the only county in all of Texas to provide accountability through all ten measures of the CourtTools system. Only a few entities in the nation provide this much accountability. And 2009 is not the first year that Lubbock County has published metrics through CourtTools, either — reports go back as far as 2005.

What are the CourtTools metrics? They are:

  1. Access and Fairness
  2. Clearance Rates
  3. Time to Disposition
  4. Age of Active Pending Caseloads
  5. Certainty of Trial Dates
  6. Reliability and Integrity of Case Files
  7. Collection of Monetary Penalties
  8. Effective Use of Jurors
  9. Court Employee Satisfaction
  10. Cost Per Case

Courts Administrator David Slayton and his staff are responsible for compiling these reports.

The especially valuable thing about these reports is that, over time, they provide an objective measure for courts and the judges that run them. We’re fortunate to have a court system that takes these measures seriously.

Vote Centers

As most of you probably know, Lubbock County has been the leader in Texas when it comes to voting anywhere you like on Election Day — a concept known as Vote Centers (formerly Superprecincts). Our November 2006 election was the first such election, and we’ve done it again several times since. The November 2008 election is the one that got Lubbock County this award, not only for remaining the statewide leader in vote centers (Erath County was the only other County to attempt vote centers in November 2008 — prior to that, Lubbock was the only county to do so), but also for innovative ways to help voters find their nearest polling place. The County used text messaging, email, snail mail, radio, TV, websites — the works — to get the word out.

Elections Administrator Dorothy Kennedy and her staff at the Elections Office are responsible for implementing vote centers. (Notice a pattern of nonpartisan, appointed administrators behind these successes?)

An important note — Primary elections will continue to be precinct-driven, due to the nature of internal Party political structure (for all Parties).

Regional Capital Case Public Defender’s Office

Last but not least, Lubbock County hosts the regional public defender’s office for capital cases, for which it also won an award. The public defender’s office serves 70 counties in West Texas.

Why is this such a big deal? The costs involved in bringing a capital murder case to trial can easily bankrupt a rural county. Extra steps have to be taken for a capital trial to take place, and attorneys must have special certification to take part in a capital murder trial. (And they must maintain it as part of their continuing legal education.) Having a regional public defender’s office for capital cases is like life insurance for the counties involved.

Lubbock attorney Jack Stoffregen is the Chief Public Defender of the office, which was created in November of 2007.

Oh, and one more…

As a final note, there is one other area worth mentioning here that Lubbock County does well that didn’t make it to these awards: drug court. The drug court is a special court that hears cases involving nonviolent drug offenders and works to rehabilitate them. By doing so, it can divert the nonviolent drug offenders from the regular courts (and jail system), returning productive citizens to the community and saving taxpayer dollars. Really, the drug court deserves its own post, but I wanted to mention it here because people may not be aware that it even exists.

So, way to go Lubbock County! It’s nice to have non-embarrassing news from our area every now and then.

The President of Peace?

A lot of people (even Glenn Greenwald) are scratching their heads this morning about the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to President Obama. I can’t say I blame them.

That’s the thing about peace — it’s harder than war to call attention to. “World at peace” doesn’t make a good 5:00 news story in today’s media climate. A lot of the work President Obama has been doing with world leaders to change the political climate doesn’t show up on TV.

On the other hand, some of his work toward peace has been quite noticeable, like addressing the Arab world on TV or talking to Iran in language other than shouting or taking very real steps to reduce the world’s nuclear stockpile.

What’s interesting to me about the awarding of the Peace Prize to President Obama is that it’s not just a recognition of a change in tone, but a message that says “the world wants peace, and we’re watching.” Giving the award early in Obama’s Presidency is a way of reminding the President about the ramifications of the critical decisions he is now in the process of making, especially re: Afghanistan.

If you interpret the Peace Prize strictly as a recognition of accomplishments, then I agree that it’s premature to award it to the President. If, however, you allow the interpretation that the award is a recognition of not only accomplishments but potential accomplishments given at a critical decision-making time to promote peace, then I think the award makes sense.

The Nobel Peace Prize is a not-so-subtle reminder from the rest of the world to President Obama to do the right thing.

October is LGBTQ Awareness Month

A month filled with educational, engaging opportunities is underway this October: GLBTQ Awareness Month.

GLBTQ = Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer/Questioning.

So far, I’ve been to three events for GLBTQ month. Monday during my lunch break, I went to the brown bag lunch with Shelby Knox, hosted by the Texas Tech Women’s Studies program. Shelby, a Lubbock Native and subject of the 2005 documentary The Education of Shelby Knox, travels the country speaking and organizing for comprehensive sex education. She has appeared on many TV shows — Dr. Phil, Today Show, Daily Show just to name a few — and has testified before Congress (the sound is messed up, but that’s the best clip I could find on YouTube). It was a great discussion, and I learned a lot.

Monday night I attended a fascinating panel discussion about “outing,” and the sometimes unforseen consequences of outing someone who doesn’t want to be out. Being “out” can sometimes be an emotional minefield where individuals are out to one group, but not to others — e.g. out to friends and family but closeted at work. Modern socializing, especially via social networking sites like facebook, can make accidental disclosure more likely or more devastating. It was another great discussion, and I learned a lot there too.

Tuesday night, I saw the film “Shelby Knox Redux” a 40-minute film designed for public education in California. It summarizes the contents of The Education of Shelby Knox and includes Shelby’s recent (late 2008) return visit to Lubbock, where she visited with her family, LGBT activists including 2005 co-star Ricky Waite, the welcoming congregation at St. John’s Methodist Church, and (of course) conservative pastor Ed Ainsworth (aka “Sex Ed”). A panel of people who were in the film answered audience questions after the film, and the discussion was excellent. Once again, I learned a lot.

Here are some things I learned from three events over two days:

Lubbock has had a 200% increase in HIV/AIDS cases from 2006 to 2009, and that Lubbock media (with the exception of the Avalanche-Journal Editorial Board earlier this year — kudos to them!) has been silent about it.

LISD still has abstinence-only sex education in schools, if there is any sex education at all. Parents have a right to see the curriculum for sex education / health that their children are being taught. Reviewing these materials would be a good starting point for talking to LISD administration about getting comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education. Planned Parenthood has a comprehensive sex education program called “Straight Talk” that is available for families and could supplement what is taught in school.

Here’s a great internet resource for comprehensive sex education in Lubbock:

Here’s a blog about transsexual issues at TTU: TransTTU. One of the most relevant struggles for transsexuals right now is adding unisex bathrooms wherever possible, and the TransTTU blog is starting a list of venues that have unisex bathrooms.

There are plenty of exciting events throughout October as part of GLBTQ Awareness month. Here are few that interest me:

* 2 free screenings of the 2008 film “Milk”
* GLBTQ Allies training
* The Laramie Project epilogue, ten years later

A pdf calendar of events for the entire month is available.

Let’s Talk Iran

All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.
George Orwell

Short post tonight about Iran to get us talking.

It’s clear that Iran violated IAEA rules with their secret nuclear facility. It’s not clear that we need to start the drumbeat for war, which I am hearing in the media and from a steady stream of GOP Senators.

It’s the same song and dance as 2003. “They are seeking a nuke… they could know how to build a nuke… they could strike us soon… are ya scared yet?” (dramatization)

Thank goodness the chickenhawks aren’t running the roost any more, and we’re not living with a President who sees war as fulfilling some apocalypse fantasy.

I hope President Obama and our other military and diplomatic leaders can find a way through this Iran mess without starting another war, all while (hopefully) wrapping up two others.

That’s about all I have to say about that. Let ‘er rip in the comments.

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