Issue II: Texas, etc.

17 May

The War (an update)
I want one day to discuss the underlying dynamics of the war (namely, who is killing whom), but I thought I wanted to mention to everyone that the House of Representatives and the Senate have both voted now to withdraw troops from Iraq by March 2008. The vote was narrow in both houses (a few antiwar Democrats voted against it because they thought it was not strong enough; they may be right). The vote ended up being 51-48 in the Senate after Sen. Mark Pryor returned to the party position and Republicans Chuck Hagel and Gordon Smith broke with Republicans. So if you are antiwar, there is zero reason to vote Republican because in the House also, the vote was almost all Democrats and only TWO Republicans for the deadline. President Bush has said he will veto the deadline, but the deadline is attached to the Iraq war budget of $124 billion, which is more than he requested. Vetoing the budget would not be smart because the Defense Department will run out of money by around June 1st. Can anyone say constitutional crisis? This is a big, big story.

(BTW, want to know what the state of Texas budget is for the next TWO years? $150.1 billion. The war is almost as much as the state’s two year budget. Fuck the war, it’s time to end it and spend that at home. Or at least spending it on foreign aid or something else.)

A big debate in the anti-war community is whether or not the war funding should be cut off. I have read that during the Vietnam War, even after an anti-war Congress was elected, repeated repeals of the Gulf of Tonkin Bay resolution passed, while the war went on and on under Nixon. The theory goes that as long as the Congress provides money for the war, the President can still carry it out anyway. The budget for the war is considered “implied consent.” Goals and deadlines placed in this current budget have been criticized as vague, and the president could easily lie and say conditions are being met that are not. As long as he as the money, he will fight as long as he can. Junior will never, ever learn unless he is forced to.

This week there was a hardening of the Democrats’ position. Nevada Democratic Senate Majority Leader (i.e. most important senator in the country) Harry Reid came out FOR cutting off money for the war by March 2008 if the President vetoes the budget. Bush’s intransigence is hardening the opposition, and everyone knows that Red State boys are dying as much or more than Blue State children. Bush might start hemorrhaging Republican votes on this. The cutoff for money was proposed by Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin. He was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act AND the Iraq war. Personally, I wanted this guy to run for President as the Hillary-slayer, but unfortunately, he dropped out due to the Obama mega-star draw (which I kind of think is a bit bullshit, but whatever). Feingold has consistently been against the war and is someone I would trust to end the war. I saw him in Austin, and he was genuinely concerned about both the Patriot Act/civil liberties and the war while not being some shrieking hippy on the side of the street. This is big news, so stay tuned.

Et tu, Brute?
The knives are always sharper when they come from your friends. Bush may be an imperial president “who wears his crown everywhere but in Rome,” I mean America, but this is the closest stabbing Bush will get from the disillusioned followers.

New York Times : “Ex-Aide Says He’s lost Faith in Bush”

Associated Press : “Iraq Military Victory No Longer Possible, says Henry Kissinger

The South
I saw this, and I thought it was really interesting. The weakest Southern presence in Congress since the Republicans controlled Congress in the 1950s.

Associated Press : “Southern Clout in Congress hits a 50-year low”

If you ever wondered why it took almost 100 years after the Civil War to give civil rights to black people, then one needn’t look further than the Southern senators who would just not die. Locked into Senate chairmanships earned by seniority, the Senate enacted an unending revenge on the North for the “War between the States.” Of all Southern politicians of that era, I would only say I liked Huey Long, Ralph Yaborough, Albert Gore, and J. William Fulbright.
The influence of the South on American politics, I think, has been a generally bad thing. They’ve been for Vietnam, against Civil Rights, and for pork-barrel politics and military adventurism on a grand-scale. Right now is one of the few times since Independence that the South does not control all.

Why Obama Came Last?

What the hell do Israelis think? I dunno, read their newspapers. Apparently they are running a series rating which American presidential candidate is the most pro-Israel. Obama came in last recently because he is felt to be an unknown commodity. The subtext (finally made explicit) is that Israelis aren’t comfortable with a black presidential candidate because they know that black politicians are virtually in the only federal politicians that ever criticize Israel (support for a Palestinian state was one of Jesse Jackson’s planks running for President in the 80s). Glad to know that the blackness was the issue, but if it gets the world a Palestinian state, I’d look at that low rating as an endorsement.

Christian Zionism
BBC : “Evangelical Christians plead for Israel”

I first heard of this in the Wall Street Journal. Traditionally, Republicans and conservatives were pro-Arab while Democrats were pro-Israel. Republicans went for oil interests while Democrats went for the liberal and socialist dreams of the new Jewish state of Israel (I think). Pat Buchanan, an old-school conservative, is one of these type of Republicans. George Bush’s father was apparently the President most tough on Israel with the Israeli settlements along with his Sec. of State James Baker while this President Bush is the most obscenely pro-Israel President in history. What happened in between?
Newer breeds of conservatives (in a totally perverted meaning of the word conservative) are pro-Israel for religious reasons that have to do with the Book of Revelations. Apparently these people can be just as anti-Semitic, but they want to keep “God’s land” for his “chosen tribe” indivisible. When this San Antonio preacher started out doing pro-Israel rallies in the 1990s, he was laughed at. Why should evangelicals care about Israel? This is why, he said, and this is now the stuff of American foreign policy.

You’d never think that foreign policy was decided on the Book of Revelations, but maybe shaman still whisper into tribal chief ears. Condi is a believer, as is Cheney and Bush.

Who Runs Texas?
It would be pretty brash of me to say that I know who pulls all the levers here in the Great State. I’ve never worked in the Capitol, and I didn’t intern with the governor. I don’t donate big bucks to the bigshots, and I don’t sit in Las Manitas Café in Austin with anyone or thing more powerful than my salsa and enchiladas. So how could I give you a list? Easily, someone already did the work for me.

Texas Monthly (yeah, I know, it’s a doctor’s office magazine) had a “Power Issue” in 2005, and they ran a top 25 of the most powerful people in Texas. The intro to the issue comes from their longtime political editor, Paul Burka, and throws out the names of all the old Texas greats, good ol’ boys, and fixers (the phrase “good ol’ boy” is just integral to the whole Texas power thing as I learned tearing suite tickets for UT football games). What do these people have? According to Burka, “money, institutional knowledge, relationships, and ideas” are the four things that these people have, and we don’t.

So why the hell do I read a rich man’s (or rich Neiman Marcus-shopping River Oaks housewive’s) magazine like Texas Monthy? Am I reaching their median reader age of 48? Actually, a door to door magazine salesman down on his luck in Austin was just begging for a sale, and I thought it might have some decent political coverage, so I bought three years worth (I’m a sucker, I know). I’ve been pleasantly surprised between puff pieces on why trucks and football are just so damn awesome and restaurant reviews for expensive places I would never, ever eat at to find some decent long feature articles, Texas politics/history, and bigshot interviews that the Texas alternative press like the Texas Observer will never get. Plus some of those perfume ads smell good.

My letter to the Editor that got published in Texas Monthly called Burka the court historian of the Texas Establishment. He is just so darn chummy and forgiving of the politicians. Sometimes that is what you need to get a personal feel for the elite (and the exclusive interviews for the recluses and assholes), but always remember that it is just that: The Establishment view and the conventional wisdom. The view of the elite and moneyed (just look at the advertisments! I’m not buying that watch!), and nothing that’ll shake that yacht too much. Paul Burka can just be downright stupid and naive sometimes too. Must be that dumb mustache.

Want a single name? Tom Craddick is the biggest dog in Texas since the downfall of DeLay. The Speaker of the Texas House is from Midland, Texas and the first Republican speaker since Reconstruction in the 1870s. He is also an unmitigated asshole and right-wing nutcase who loves to hold grudges from the action I have seen when living in the capital.

He apparently doesn’t keep many politician friends in Austin, and instead has close ties with the permanent government of Texas: the right-wing financiers and all their quack foundations.

Shall I name names? James Leininger is a San Antonio emergency medicine doctor that made a very large fortune selling hospital beds. His obsession is private school vouchers, and he is good buddies with Tom Craddick. In the 2005 session, vouchers were defeated in the Republican House by Democrats and rural Republicans who felt that the whole program would de-fund Texas schools. Leininger himself found and funded GOP primary challengers to the moderate Republicans who opposed his voucher agenda. 80-95% of the money for these Leninger clones in the 2006 primaries came from James Leninger (Texas has no contribution limitations). Basically, he bought himself five candidates (two of them lost) to enforce the pro-voucher line. Rumor had it that these clones were run with the secret backing of Craddick to enforce GOP loyalty to his hard-right agenda.

Bob Perry is a reclusive and secretive homebuilder that is the biggest political donor in the United States . Ever heard of something called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? Possibly the most dishonest, sneaky, and hypocritical untraceable (to the Bushites) attack ad on a presidential candidate in our lives, Bob Perry was the major funder of the 527 organization that put these ads out and sank John Kerry’s presidential boat.

I don’t know if these TX Monthly links work. But see if you can get your hands on that Feb. 2005 issue, I think it would be worth browsing. I also want to go into detail in the future about how Texas is a deadbeat state for its children because we have the most uninsured children and the highest dropout rate in the country. It’s the 50 or 1st state. 50th in anything good, and 1st in anything bad.

And to be fair, the Democrats ran this state for over a century, and didn’t do a blessed thing either. Conservatives, however, have almost always run the state and legislature. It’s just gone from conservative Democrats to far right Republicans now with the GOP takeover in 2002.

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