Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Texas Monthly Article Featuring Bill White

Houston Mayor Bill White, pictured left, has been in the running for Kay Bailey Hutchison's U.S. Senate seat -- when, and if, she ever resigns her U.S. Senate seat to run for governor -- during most of 2009.

Mayor Bill White is strongly considering a run for the governor's office now that it is looking far less likely that Kay Bailey Hutchison will resign her senate seat.

A Texas Monthly article featuring Bill White hit the news stands last week. The article presents both a picture of Bill the Mayor and Bill the man:

The Great White Hope

Democrats haven’t won a statewide race since 1994, so why does this middle-aged guy with a bald head and big ears think he's the fresh face of the party? Because outgoing Houston mayor Bill White has a record that makes some Republicans envious, he can raise a ton of money, and he will kiss as many babies as it takes (whether they want him to or not).

Click here to read the rest of the story

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Conservatives Find No Sympathy For Tiny Tim Cratchit

At a town hall held by Rep. Lipinski (D-Ill.) on November 14th, Dan and Midge Hough spoke about the death of their daughter-in-law and her unborn child:

Twenty-four-year old Jennifer was not receiving regular prenatal care and she did not receive immediate medical care when she first got sick -- because she was uninsured. Jennifer's illness worsened and she eventually went to a hospital emergency room.

By then, Jennifer's illness had turned into double pneumonia. Complications from the pneumonia then resulted in septic shock. That further complication caused a heart attack, a brain bleed and then a stroke. Jennifer lost the baby and she died a few weeks later.
As the grieving Midge Hough told her story she was heckled by conservatives attending the town hall to protest against health insurance reform. Ms. Hough told the conservatives, "You can laugh at me, that's okay," she said, crying, "But I lost two people, and I know you think that's funny, that's okay." Catherina Wojtowicz, an organizer for the conservative Chicago Tea Party Patriots, who oppose health insurance reform, said the audience was exasperated by stories of these "isolated tragedies" that cloud debate about health insurance reform.

Clearly, conservatives can find no sympathy for the "isolated tragedy" of A Christmas Carol's Tiny Tim Cratchit. Can conservatives find any fault at all with Ebenezer Scrooge's character - before his spiritual reclamation?

About 44 million people in this country have no health insurance, and another 38 million have inadequate health insurance. This means that nearly one-third of Americans face each day without the security of medical care for them and their families, if and when they need it.

Research released in the American Journal of Public Health in September 2009 estimates that 45,000 deaths per year in the United States are associated with the lack of health insurance. [reference one and two]

Many of those who feel satisfied with their health insurance coverage and who reject the need for health insurance reform, in fact, aren’t “insured” from the financial burdens of rising health care costs or an unexpected high cost illness.
“Under-insurance is the great hidden risk of the American health care system,” says Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor who has analyzed medical bankruptcies. “People do not realize they are one diagnosis away from financial collapse.”
A national study released this year found that while medical debt contributed to 62 percent of the bankruptcies in 2007, 78 percent of those bankruptcy filers had health insurance but “still were overwhelmed by their medical debt.” No government agency keeps an official count of the under insured.

LATIMES: The public and employers are staggering under the cost of the present system -- rising at more than twice the rate of inflation and expected to surpass $2.2 trillion this year.


[From Rep. Lipinski's town hall]


HuffPost Editor Roy Sekoff Discusses The Heckling Of Hough Family
On MSNBC's 'The Ed Show'

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Schieffer Drops Out And White (Maybe) Switches To Govenors Race

Two Democratic candidates have been in the running for Kay Bailey Hutchison's U.S. Senate seat -- when, and if, she ever resigns her U.S. Senate seat to run for governor -- during most of 2009. Those Democrats are Houston Mayor Bill White, pictured left, and former State Comptroller John Sharp, pictured right.


Hank Gilbert


Mark Thompson


Tom Schieffer
Democrats previously lined up for the 2010 Governor's race included Hank Gilbert, right, Mark Thompson, middle right, Tom Schieffer, bottom right. Former Independent, Kinky Friedman, has also announced plans to have his name added to the Governor's position on the Democratic primary ballot.

Democratic candidates for the Senate and Governor races are quickly lining up differently after news broke a week ago that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison had flip-flopped on her promise to resign from the U.S. Senate to focus on her gubernatorial campaign against Gov. Rick Perry.

Hutchison officially announced last Sunday that she won't resign her U.S. Senate seat until after the March 2010 Republican primary election. Hutchison's announcement strongly implies she will not resign from the U.S. Senate if Perry defeats her in the March primary.

Hutchison backed away from her commitment to resign from the Senate after a new Rasmussen poll of Texas GOP Primary voters showed Perry with 46% while Hutchison trails with only 35% of the Republican primary vote.

So, today, the Texas Tribune reports that the Tom Schieffer is dropping out of the race. A bit later in the day the Houston Chronicle breaks a story that Houston Mayor Bill White is going to switch races and make a run for the Governer's office rather that wait for a now very uncertain chance to run for KBH's Senate seat.

In remarks last June to an audience of Collin and Denton county Democrats, Mayor White made the point that, "TX needs leadership that is more interested in seeing the state succeed, rather than scoring partisan points and constantly looking for wedge issues - leadership who is more interested in the educating Texas children than in seceding from the union."

Here's a statement from Bill White, posted Monday Nov. 23rd on his campaign website:
"Since Friday a week ago Texans from all backgrounds and all regions have asked me to consider running to be our next Governor of Texas. Today I agree to consider running for Governor, and shall make a decision by Friday, December 4th.

Before then I invite the citizens of Texas to weigh in on this decision by visiting this page and emailing me at billwhite@billwhitefortexas.com."
Mark Thompson dropped out of the Texas governors race in early November and endorsed Hank Gilbert.

Last week Houston hair care magnate Farouk Shami (picture right) also announced for the Texas governors race. Shami has stated he will spend $10 million of his own money before the March 2 primary, plus he has hired veteran Democratic political consultants. Shami is on record saying he is a "Democrat all the way to the bone."

Fort Worth teacher Felix Alvarado has also announced for the Texas Democratic primary governors race.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Any Legal Status Identical Or Similar To Marriage Can't Be Recognized By Texas

Remember the so called "same-sex-marriage" amendment (PDF) to the Texas State Constitution approved by voters in November 2005? The wording of that amendment may have effectively nullified all marriage in Texas!

That amendment to the Texas Bill Of Rights said, "SECTION 1. Article I, Texas Constitution, is amended by adding "Section 32 MARRIAGE" to read as follows:

  1. Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.
  2. This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that, Barbara Ann Radnofsky, a Houston lawyer and Democratic candidate for attorney general, is saying that section (b) effectively “eliminates marriage in Texas”:
She calls it a “massive mistake” and blames the current attorney general, Republican Greg Abbott, for allowing the language to become part of the Texas Constitution. Radnofsky called on Abbott to acknowledge the wording as an error and consider an apology. She also said that another constitutional amendment may be necessary to reverse the problem.

“You do not have to have a fancy law degree to read this and understand what it plainly says,” said Radnofsky.
This isn’t the first time the reach of the second section has been questioned. Before the amendment passed, a group called Save Texas Marriage warned that a judge could potentially void all marriages in the state if the language became part of the Texas Constitution.

Star-Telegram story continues: Radnofsky acknowledged that the clause is not likely to result in an overnight dismantling of marriages in Texas. But she said the wording opens the door to legal claims involving spousal rights, insurance claims, inheritance and a host other marriage-related issues.
"This breeds unneeded arguments, lawsuits and expense which could have been avoided by good lawyering," Radnofsky said. "Yes, I believe the clear language of B bans all marriages, and this is indeed a huge mistake."
In October, Dallas District Judge Tena Callahan ruled that the same-sex-marriage ban is unconstitutional because it stands in the way of gay divorce. Abbott is appealing the ruling, which came in a divorce petition involving two men who were married in Massachusetts in 2006.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

KBH Flip-Flops On Resigning From The Senate

A new Rasmussen poll of Texas GOP Primary voters finds Perry with 46% of the vote while Hutchison has 35%. Four percent (4%) support Debra Medina, a tea-party activist who joined the GOP race a few months ago, and 14% are undecided.

The Rasmussen poll also finds that 60 percent of those surveyed responded the KBH should stay in the Senate while she runs against Perry.


U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on Rasmussen
poll and resigning to run against Gov. Rick
Perry in the GOP primary.
News broke late Friday afternoon that Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison has flip-flopped on her publicly announced timetable for resigning from the Senate. Now Hutchison says she won't quit until after the March gubernatorial primary.

Hutchison told a Dallas WBAP radio talk show host host Mark Davis in July that she would resign her Senate seat in October or November. Hutchison told Davis in that interview that she would like to stay in office while running for governor, but she cannot so long as fellow Republican Gov. Rick Perry remains in the contest. [Transcript of the WBAP Interview at Houston Chronicle ]

Texas Tribune's Ross Ramsey reports that Hutchison's announcement is expected by the end of the day, and that she "began calling other Republicans Friday afternoon to tell them to make other plans." A resignation in March would still mean a May special election to fill her senate seat.

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Fox News Pulls The Plug On Progressive Bloggers

The Raw Story: Liberal bloggers are accusing Fox News of launching an Internet war against them in a campaign to selectively remove Fox clips from YouTube.

On Wednesday, YouTube shut down the popular News1News channel, which featured news clips that many progressive bloggers and news sites would add to their stories. On the rare occasion, Raw Story also embedded News1News clips in stories having to do with media coverage. The channel provided clips from all news networks, but often focused on Fox's controversial commentators.
The decision to shut down News1News came after Fox News issued 150 take-down notices to the channel, which they are entitled to do under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, reports Adrian Chen at Gawker. YouTube's policy is to shut down any accounts that receive three or more take-down notices, so News1News was immediately pulled offline.

But Fox News' move appears to be limited to News1News, while other YouTube channels -- those viewed as having conservative leanings -- remain untouched. Chen points out that the Glenn Beck Daily Clips channel continues to operate, although it features 614 clips, as of last count, of Glenn Beck's Fox show. The Conservative Nation channel, with close to 200 clips, is also still online.

Thus, Fox's move will mostly affect stories posted on progressive-leaning blogs, such as Gawker, the Huffington Post and Truthdig, while leaving intact YouTube clips embedded at conservative Web sites. Instead of embedded video, visitors to those sites will now see a notice stating that the video in question is "no longer available."

Queerty blog reported Friday that News1News' creator, identified only as "Jon," has experienced this before. This past summer, Fox shut down his NewsPoliticsNews channel on similar copyright grounds, but the channel was reinstated after YouTube lawyers disagreed with Fox's basis for the take-down notice.

Because there's no limit to how many YouTube accounts someone can create, Jon's news channel is now back online, under the name NewsPoliticsAmerica (See "Top News of the Day" block in the right sidebar of this blog). Bloggers will no doubt be watching closely to see if and when the channel is once again shut down.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gov. Perry: Federal Government Protecting The General Welfare Of Americans Is Socialist

“This is an administration hell-bent toward taking American towards a socialist country," Texas Gov. Rick Perry remarked, while speaking at luncheon for a conservative audience at the Midland Country Club on Wednesday.

Gov. Perry also called for doubling the size of Texas tea parties to tell Washington that Texas does not want any more of President Obama's socialist federal money and programs.

Gov. Perry says Texas just will not stand for the federal government promoting the general welfare of Americans -- That's just plain socialism!
The Preamble of The Constitution of the United States of America, "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Back in late July we posted that Gov. Perry, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator John Cornyn, Congressman Sam Johnson and every Republican elected official in Texas made headlines for months pronouncing that President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) socalist economic stimulus plan was unneeded and unwelcome in Texas.
Gov. Perry, the top Republican in Texas, proclaimed that federal money from Washington is so onerous to "all" Texans that Texans might rise up in revolt and secede from the United States, by invoking the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, rather than accept "Washington money."
In March, Gov. Perry rejected $555 million in federal stimulus funds to fund unemployment benefits. By July, Perry was forced to ask the federal government for a $170 million loan to cover unemployment insurance. The state is expected to request a total of $650 million to fund unemployment insurance, around $100 million more than Perry originally rejected.

In Texas, the ARRA stimulas is expected to save or create 269,000 jobs over the next two years. The plan also includes provisions to help both employed and unemployed Texans. Nearly 8.2 million workers will receive the Making Work Pay tax cut of up to $1,000, and 677,000 unemployed workers will receive an additional $100 in unemployment benefits per month. In addition, the plan includes funding to help unemployed workers pay for COBRA coverage. [Monster.com]
Gov. Perry's Texas Transportation Commission is also ready to get Texans to work by approving construction and maintenance projects to be funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. TxDOT has been working for months with its local and regional transportation planning officials to identify projects eligible for this funding.

Texas was appropriated approximately $2.6 billion for transportation projects, which will create 69,000 new jobs, 23,000 of them a direct result of the funding. Half of the funds must be dedicated within 120 days and the rest within 12 months. Obligations to Metropolitan Planning Organizations must also be made within 12 months. [Taken directly from the TxDOT website.]

On the issue of health insurance reform Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) also threatens 10th Amendment secession. [Star-Telegram] Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator John Cornyn, Congressman Sam Johnson and every Republican elected official in Texas have again lined up with Gov. Perry to reject the idea that Texans need health insurance reform.

According to facts given in a The Dallas Morning News article, Texas may need health insurance reform more than any other state:
"[Even after removing illegal immigrants from the numbers] Texas virtually leads the nation in percentage of residents without health insurance, according to both conservative and liberal researchers.

Only 49.5 percent of [Texas] residents were covered by employer-sponsored insurance, in a two-year average ending in 2008, compared with 58.5 percent nationwide, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated this month. Between 1996 and 2006, the cost of family coverage for private sector workers in Texas increased 86 percent, while incomes increased by less than 9 percent, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which finances health care research and supports universal health coverage.

Compared with the rest of the nation, the Texas economy relies heavily on small businesses and relatively low wages. So although most of the state's uninsured live in households with people who work, fewer employers offer coverage, and fewer employees can afford it.
The Texas Democratic Party recently put out -- the "Top Ten Rick Perry Failures." Here they are:
  1. What Recession?
  2. Perry: A Bad Prescription for Children's Health
  3. Perry's Political Cover-UP Compromises Texas Criminal Justice System
  4. Perry Education Report Card: F
  5. Perry's Stimulus Hypocrisy Costs Texans
  6. Perry Prices Texans Out of a College Education
  7. Perry Taking a Toll on Texans
  8. Utility Rates Out of Control
  9. Homeowner's Insurance Rates Skyrocket During Perry's Tenure
  10. Health Insurance Premiums Increase 91.6%
A least one more failure should be added to Gov. Perry's list; With Perry's steadfast insistence on abstinence-only sex education programs in Texas public schools, more of that socialist federal government money has been spent on the cause of sexual abstinence-only education in Texas than any other state, but Texas' teen birth rate has climbed to the third-highest in the country, the percentage of teen mothers giving birth more than once in Texas is the highest in the country and rates of sexually transmitted diseases among Texas' teens are rising. Teen childbearing (teens 19 and younger) now costs Texas taxpayers (federal, state, and local) at least $1 billion annually for social programs supporting teen mothers and their children. Of course, the official Texas Republican Party platform and every Republican elected to represent the people of Texas also oppose any sex education other than abstinence-only.

Rachel Maddow called out Gov. Perry for his states’ rights comments on health care in this MSNBC program aired in July 2009.

Maddow, "Governor Rick, you’ve been governor for nine years. How are you doing finding a solution for Texas’ health care problem, Governor? You’ve got the most expensive health care markets in the country, and the least number of people insured. And you’re worried the federal government is going to screw up the good thing you’ve got going on in Texas? You need to protect Texas’ health care system that you’re doing such an awesome job with, from people you think might really screw it up? Let the states find their own solution? You’ve had nine years, Governor. You’re the worst in the country. How are you doing with that?"

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Sex Ed In Collin County Schools - Follow Up

Updated November 9, 2009 @ 11:05 P.M.
In June and July of this year this blog published a five part series of articles on sex education in Collin Co. ISDs. In this series we reported that the largest school districts in Collin County focus either heavily or exclusively on "abstinence only" instruction in their public schools.

Then, in September, the The Austin American-Statesman and KBTX-TV in College Station echoed our five part series by reporting that Texas currently has the third-highest teen birth rate in the country and “the highest rate of repeat teen births.” The Statesman also echoed our series saying that not only has the teen birth rate climbed in Texas under "abstinence only" instruction, but sexually transmitted disease rates are up too.

Today, the Dallas Morning News published a story titled, "Texas sex educators take tentative steps beyond abstinence" that also echoes our five part series on sex ed in Collin County school districts.

By JESSICA MEYERS / The Dallas Morning News - Monday, November 9, 2009

Parents at the McKinney school district's curriculum information night were talking condoms. And some were frustrated that district officials weren't.

"Where would I find it?" McKinney mother Melissa Willardson asked as she searched for "condoms" in the glossary of a state-approved health textbook. "Where's the word?"

Her response – consternation rather than headstrong support for the district's approach – is becoming increasingly prevalent in North Texas schools traditionally known for their staunch abstinence-only approach.

Click here to go the full Dallas Morning News Story
Original follow up to our series noting the Austin American-Statesman story - posted September 30, 2009

Our series reported that:
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) a Texas teen gets pregnant every 10 minutes. Texas Medicaid paid for 17,322 deliveries to teen mothers aged 13-17 in 2007 and according to National Campaign To Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy data, teen childbearing (teens 19 and younger) costs Texas taxpayers (federal, state, and local) at least $1 billion annually. That $1 billion annual payment is on top of the $21 million dollars in federal and state tax payer money spent annually on government sponsored abstinence-only sex education that is increasing rather decreasing Texas teen pregnancy rates.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Texas received almost $18 million in federal "abstinence-only" funding in 2007, matched by $3 million in state funds in that year. While Republican Gov. Rick Perry rejected federal "economic stimulus" money in 2009, meant to aid unemployed Texans, Gov. Perry has said he supports Texas' abstinence-only sex ed programs, which have been largely funded by federal money. "The governor is comfortable with current law and supports abstinence programs," said Gov. Perry's spokeswoman, Allison Castle. [Houston Chronicle]

The Texas education code does not require public schools to offer sex education. But if they do, the teaching plan must be abstinence-focused, and instruction about contraceptives must be couched in terms of how often they fail.
Now the The Austin American-Statesman and KBTX-TV in College Station echo our stories reporting that Texas currently has the third-highest teen birth rate in the country and “the highest rate of repeat teen births.”
Texas also leads the nation in the amount of government money it spends on abstinence-only education. But some school districts in the state are now shifting away from that approach, admitting that it isn’t working: “We mainly did it because of our pregnancy rate,” said Whitney Self, lead teacher for health and physical education at the Hays Consolidated Independent School District. “We don’t think abstinence-only is working.” [...]

Both approaches to sex education teach that refraining from sexual activity is the safest choice for teens.

But abstinence-only gives limited information about contraceptives and condoms and tends to downplay their effectiveness, while abstinence-plus stresses the importance of using such protection if teens are sexually active.
Medical experts have concluded that not only do abstinence-only programs not curb teen pregnancy, but “there is evidence to suggest that some of these programs are even harmful and have negative consequences by not providing adequate information for those teens who do become sexually active.”

When will Collin County school districts see the light and being to shift from the abstinence-only education program to an abstinence-plus program?

Abstinence-plus programs stress pre-marital abstinence as the best choice, but also providing accurate information on safe sex and planned parenting options, which fully prepares teens for adult life decisions.

You can make a difference by joining your local School Health Advisory Council (SHAC).

Texas Legislature defined the roles of state government and local government in Senate Bill 1 (SB1) in 1995 by including the requirement that every school district establish a School Health Advisory Council (SHAC).

SB1 also included general guidelines for sexuality education instructions while at the same time charging SHACs with the responsibility of making recommendations to local school boards.

Local school boards must listen to both the SHACs and the Texas Education Code while deciding what to teach resulting in a diverse and inconsistent array of instructional materials – guaranteeing that teens across the state are learning different information and likely incorrect information.

Information on Collin County SHACs can be found in our post at Sex Ed In Collin County Schools - Part 5.

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