A Response from Rep. Naishtat

They always say to be careful what you wish for. I got a response from Representative Naishtat earlier this week, which prompted a dinner meeting tonight to discuss my proposal regarding the website.
I don't remember wishing to create a website for a person whose cell phone's "unique feature" is a flashlight and whose personal organizer's most technological function was six years ago when a worm worked its way out of the pages.
Nevertheless, it seems we will be moving forward with NaishtatFinallyGotAWebsite.com. Godspeed.
Below is the response from Representative Naishtat from a few days ago, and in the comments section you can find my reply.

Representative Naishtat reflecting on 18 years of avoiding the inevitable.

Subject: Your Offer

fromElliott Naishtat

Dear Rachel,

I tried to locate your email to me dated July 22nd, but couldn’t. I’ll try again, tomorrow, at my Capitol office.

But I did succeed in finding your letter to me on your “Mean Rachel” web-blog page.

I think it’s wonderful of you to offer to design a website for me, obviously long overdue (not your offer, but my need for a website). A couple of years ago, Rep. Eddie Rodriguez made a valiant attempt to get me out of the Stone Age by giving me a Palm Pilot for Hanukkah-Christmas. He sits across the aisle from me in the House Chamber and couldn’t stand looking at the small, brown, dog-eared address book I keep on my desk—the same address book I’ve had for more than 20 years. It’s held together with duct tape, string, rubber bands, glue, and paper clips, plus a bit of blood, sweat and tears shed during difficult times in the Lege, especially since Tom Craddick was elected speaker in 2003. It serves me well, but is admittedly disgusting to look at, or touch. One time a fellow member was staring at it on my desk, picked it up to see if it was real or some sort of prop, and screamed when she swears a worm crawled out of it!

I took the Palm Pilot out of its packaging, looked it over, and called Eddie to see if he could come to my office and teach me how to use it. He came right over. After 5 minutes of utter confusion (I felt like I felt the first time Rep. Scott Hochberg tried to explain Public School Finance to me), I told Eddie I simply wasn’t psychologically ready for a Palm Pilot, and put it back in its packaging. It’s still in a desk drawer in my office. Eddie didn’t talk to me for weeks.

But, these days, nearly every member has a website, and I’m more aware than ever before that many of my constituents would like to believe that their state representative is interested in communicating with them in a manner that is at least as convenient for them as it is for me. So I’m eager to start working with you on this website project!

I do have one question, though: How on earth will I report your offer and “gift” to the Texas Ethics Commission?!

Finally, dear Rachel, please know that unlike Senator Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, as well as that other politico from New York, former Governor Elliot Spitzer, my first name is spelled with 2 L’s and 2 T’s.

Thank you, again.

Your friend,

Elliott Naishtat

Naishtat's personal organizer with a note I found tucked between the pages.
It looks like whomever wrote the note also had a difficult time getting the two T's at the end.

An Open Letter to Congressman McCaul

Dear Congressman McCaul,

I hope you had a good night's sleep and didn't lose too much of it Googling me in an attempt to figure out just exactly who Mean (or Mad) Rachel is. Because it says so right in my profile. Hollaback!

Meanwhile, I'm just going to reiterate the point: You are so McBusted. Headline of the day: Is McCaul Re-Importing Possible Terrorists? Damn. I bet George W. Bush gets a little pissy over that.

Here are some other good ones:
McCaul's Rescue Effort Questioned
Did McCaul Rescue or Exploit?

Hope the Starbucks goes down real nice this morning.

TPA Weekly Round Up

It's Monday and it's time once again for another Texas Progressive Alliance roundup. Here are the blog highlights for the week of July 28:

TXsharon challenges you to view these pictures of Domestic Drilling Armageddon in the Barnett Shale and still support the Drill and Burn Domestic Drilling agenda.

U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez' Republican challenger for the 23rd Congressional seat is taken to task by Mike Thomas of Rhetoric & Rhythm for shirking his responsiblity on a critical hospital expansion vote before the Bexar County Commissioner's Court.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the GOP's "latest" energy plan in Carter, Oil, & Hair Of The Dog.

Neil at Texas Liberal asks what would be the impact if Polar Bears could vote.

Off the Kuff looks at a Texas Monthly overview of the effects of the Presidential race on downballot elections in Texas and offers his criticism of it.

Guest Columnist JR Behrman at Texas Kaos has a few strong words about Energy Policy: Democrats Routed. He also has a Texas Plan.

Julie Pippert of the MOMocrats asks the Obama campaign to explain its absence in Texas after they announced the roll-out of their Spanish-Language ads as an outreach to Hispanic voters, then discusses a Senate proposal that would require 50% of US cars to have a flexible fuel system by 2012, and finally the MOMocrats share the draft of their position paper to be submitted to the Democratic National Committee for inclusion in the party platform.

McBlogger had a great time in the subprime panel at Netroots Nation. So good in fact that he decided to offer some of his own solutions since the panelists, including the dimwitted Rep. Brad Miller, decided to offer nothing of substance.

XicanoPwr reports on the latest poll by the Pew Hispanic Center on the Latino vote. Latino polling shows that 66% of Latino registered voters will support Obama.

Burnt Orange Report points out that Ag Commissioner Todd Staples finally comes around to what Democrat (and future Ag Commissioner) Hank Gilbert has been saying all along- Texan's are being overcharged at the gas pump due to lack of state inspections.

BossKitty at TruthHugger dreams about the "Count Down To Accountability - Bush, Cheney Indictments"

refinish69 from Doing My Part For The Left invites everyone to meet Annette Taddeo- A True Progressive Democrat.

jobsanger writes about how after years of the Bush Presidency even our cloest traditional ally no longer trusts us in Brits Don't Trust Bush On Torture.

Obama and the down-ballot races in Texas are the focus of two articles by R.G. Ratcliffe of the Houston Chronicle. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs summarizes, and finds some to agree with and some not.

Mean Rachel writes an open letter to Rep. Elliot Naishtat, encouraging him to consider joining the technology age and starting an inexpensive, easy-to-use website tailor-made for state legislators with Wired for Change's DLCCWeb, a Netroots exhibitor.

nytexan at BlueBloggin keeps an eye on Mitch McConnell, the GOP king of distortion and extortion. McConnell plans to block legislation that can impact Americans now and push for a bill whose product will not be seen for 10 years; McConnell Extorts Senate For Off Shore Drilling. McConnell never fails to please Bush and his corporate buddies.

WhosPlayin looks at a new USGS petroleum estimate for the Arctic Circle, and notes that only a small portion of ANWR is estimated to be productive, and that the study doesn't address economic feasibility. (Includes Map)

Vince from Capitol Annex tells us that, while indicted former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Sugar Land) won't accept a presidential pardon, he'd love one from Texas Governor Rick Perry.

CouldBeTrue from South Texas Chisme gets upset
with a crappy newspaper article.

Applauda fora Strama.

The 2008 Strama Campaign Academy

Sunday I headed over to Threadgill's to attend the Stramarama fundraiser, despite being fundamentally opposed to anything rhyming with "Strama" being used as an event headline.
I may give Mark Strama a hard time for his Google alerts and corny jokes, but even I have to admit that the Campaign Academy is not only a great idea, but a mutually-beneficial co-op that just makes sense. People of all ages and demographics -- from single moms to sophomores in high school and college, activists to gap-toothed elementary school children -- turned over their summer to sweat it out at the TCDP Headquarters and the streets of Austin, blockwalking and phonebanking for the Strama campaign. The icing on the cake for them was learning about the inner-workings of campaigns and getting to brush shoulders with the likes of Howard Dean and Christine Pelosi.

It was evident tonight that for all the jokes about free child labor and for as Tom Sawyerish as it may seem, the Campagin Academy pupils sincerely love what they are doing -- one-hundred degree weather notwithstanding. I was reminded of what James Carville said in The War Room: "Any time you can combine labor with love, you've made a merger." Clearly, Strama has capitalized on this, and who's to say whether his campaign or the volunteers themselves are benefiting more.

There was something sort of tender about the younger kids, particularly a seventh-grade girl who looked like she came from central casting for the role of a young Hillary Clinton -- or maybe just herself in her own biography in thirty years. I happened to notice her, long after the crowd had thinned out and most of the electeds had wilted and gone home, spinning dizzily in circles at the back of the yard. Grinning from ear to ear, a kid like that doesn't keep track of what the voter file says, and I'm sure if asked her opinion on a particular subject, she'd tell you exactly what she thought without a moment's hesitation about how it would make her look.

So to Mark Strama I say kudos, and go ahead, make those Obama-Strama jokes. Because as long as there are people who are climbing to the top, and reaching down behind them to pull up a young girl soaking in democracy on a stifling July evening, we'll get our change, eventually.

McCaul's McExploitation of American Children

A politician using his office to exploit Americans' fears about homeland security, radical Islam, and foreign intelligence. Sound familiar? We're not talking about George W. Bush this time, but instead Republican Congressman Michael McCaul. Since early July, McCaul has been misleading Americans about two young Pakistani-American boys who McCaul claimed were being "held in there against their will" at a international madrassa school, which McCaul says has Taliban ties in this FOX interview.

However, as CNN reported Sunday night, the media-hype surrounding McCaul's messianic quest to bring these children home is essentially just that: overblown hype about two children who were in fact not being held against their will and not being trained at a radical Islamic school at all.

After hearing about the two Atlanta children in a 2008 documentary called Karachi Kids, McCaul, who sees everything through red-threat-level colored glasses, immediately began exploiting homeland security fears in the name of the two children, as evidenced in this article from the Houston Chronicle on McCaul's website. He refers to schools like the one the boys were at as "jihadist seminaries" and claims that they are "creating a new breed of terrorist." However, in his haste to turn this into an election-year fist-bump, McCaul failed to check with his own State Department, the parents of the children or to do any sort of his own research to find out what the situation at the international school was.

As recently as Wednesday, the Austin American Statesman's Gardner Selby had a mention of the Pakistani-American boys being "released." When McCaul's spokesman Geoff Bailey found himself grasping for answers as to why McCaul was MIA on July 4th weekend in his own district, he used the two children as a political pawn in explaining how McCaul has shown "proven leadership." Communications director Mike Rosen attempted to explain further:

Rosen said McCaul’s personal request to Pakistan’s president that the two boys be released “absolutely” prompted their freedom.

“He’s very much responsible for those boys being home today,” Rosen said.

It makes one wonder that since these children were not being held against their will to begin with, what exactly did McCaul do to catalyze their so-called freedom? Additionally, also taking into account that these children were not being held against their will, what sort of government has the right to bring them back from another country? It sounds as though they've lost more of their freedom in McCaul's hands being brought home -- collateral damage, and nothing more, in McCaul's exploitation of American children and misinformation to American citizens.

A Rare Moment of Optimism.

Yeah, I don't really know either.

An Open Letter to Rep. Elliot Naishtat

Dear Rep. Naishtat,

I hope you and your non-cancerous lesion are doing well. I am writing to you in an attempt to pull you out of the dredges of 1991 to inform you that Al Gore has since created the internets and now most candidates and elected officials have joined the technology age and have websites.
As someone who represents such a progressive part of Austin, Elliot Naishtat of all people should have a website. And as a concerned (non)constituent, I am volunteering to donate $50 to your campaign to start a website with Wired for Change. It is $10 to secure a domain (like ElliotNaishtat.com or ElliotForAustin.com or something) and then $40 a month to maintain it, along with unlimited blast emails and an integrated database. Here is a little video which explains why it is so inexpensive.

Fifty dollars is a Thursday night bar tab, and would be worth the contribution to get you a spot on the World Wide Web. I will even donate my time in collecting information and work on creating it and making it look good. I will ask people for permission to use photos like this patriotic one taken of you on the 4th of July (before or after the water-balloon tossing contest I wonder?).
This will be the easiest website you never made, and help launch you into the 21st century.

Let me know if you are interested,
Mean Rachel

UPDATE: Check out the response from Rep. Naishtat.

TCDP Issues & Policy Meet Up: A Visit from Larry Joe Doherty

Larry Joe Doherty talking with TCDP activists.

After a weekend of national netrootsing, I felt somewhat like a fried green tomato sitting in a crowd of about fifty people eating homemade cookies and listening to locals discuss issues that are not exclusively local but are national problems reverberating throughout Travis county.

I have been trying to get to the Travis County Democratic Campaign Headquarters for the last few weeks, but my company's westward offices and a hectic schedule hasn't allowed it. I was impressed by the crowd when I walked in -- a mixed demographic across the board was gathered in a circular-shape, listening intently to David Kobierowski, who is the TCDP Issues Committee Chair. We went through the issues -- one of the people who was in charge of commenting on the energy crisis said "It reminds me of high school debate class," referring to the three-minute timed discussions for each issue -- and then it was time for Larry Joe Doherty to speak.

Doherty started by referring to the vast size of the district and its general percentage points. He hailed past candidates like Lorenzo Sadun and Ted Ankrum as having helped move the ball forward, citing Ankrum's 2006 poll which showed that 60% of the district had polled at wanting "anyone but McCaul."

But we all know that this is not 2006, and Doherty quickly moved into a rundown of his own numbers and polls, stating that "the winds of change are blowing" and that "when the message gets out, voters will respond." In fact, 40% currently are polling at being in favor of LJD when they connect the dots between him and his "Texas Justice" stint; that number goes up to 45% when they hear he's "that lawyer who sued lawyers!"

Perhaps some of Doherty's strongest points were when he segued into veterans' issues. He pointed out -- after a quick fact check -- that currently 120 war veterans a week commit suicide. One Hundred. And Twenty. A Week. That's a statistic worth taking the time to get the numbers right, which Doherty was careful to do. If you've been keeping up with the Dwyer suicide or "accidental overdose," the issue of PTSD is no small factor in today's world, where we are not only a nation comprised of soldiers suffering from PTSD but also a nation of the men and women left behind dealing with their spouse's PTSD and children dealing with their parent's.

As for benefits coming to veterans more quickly and efficiently, Larry Joe said it best tonight in one sentence: "Justice delayed is justice denied." Doherty's solution is to start an advocacy board for veterans made up of members from across CD-10's counties to appeal to the highest levels against denials to veterans seeking benefits.

After a weekend of star-spangled politicians at Netroots Nation, and various panels pointing out all of the progress that is left to be made by Democrats, I was feeling notably overwhelmed by the process. Where do you start? Holding Bush accountable for torture? Getting mercury out of vaccines to prevent autism? Finding ways to end our addiction to oil? The possibilities for change are endless.

But the easy answer is this: you start here. Local, wherever you've got it, you start. You start in an abandoned grocery store off of I-35. Or in a loft of a campaign office off of Far West making phone calls to people who "don't do computers" or are on their Kubota tractor when you call. Or in the sun in a neighborhood with small front porches and big side yards. In a voter registration drive, or a phone bank, or a block you walk, you start.

You won't find any DC dot-coms at the TCDP headquarters, you won't find swag bags with T-shirts and techie goodies inside and no, you won't find Al Gore. But there's something wholesomely tender about a mixed bag of activists, some with computers, some with pens and paper, and some...well, some just with open ears and determined souls.

Donate to Larry Joe Doherty today!

TPA Weekly Round-Up

It's Monday, and that means it is time for another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's weekly round-up.

This week's round-up is compiled by Vince from Capitol Annex.

The Texas Cloverleaf asks if John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison want more HIV in the global pandemic? Our TX Senators were 2 of the 16 votes against the latest HIV/AIDS bill in the Senate this week that passed overwhelmingly.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on Diana Maldonado's great fundraising numbers in Diana Maldonado Has Almost 4 to 1 COH Advantage In HD-52.

WhosPlayin at WhosPlayin steped outside of his comfort zone a bit and commented on the Fannie and Freddie situation.

jobsanger blasts Republican attempts to allow offshore and ANWR drilling in Drilling Won't Make Us Energy Independent and in Bush Playing Politics With Oil.

The bar may be open, says TXSharon at Texas Kaos in Fire Water: With Compliments from EnCana, but if Encana's serving up the cocktails, it might be better to abstain.

McBlogger's own Harry Balczak has a new recurring feature, Harry Balczak's Reminder To You People. In this edition, he'd like to remind Those Of You Who Just Couldn't Vote For Kerry that your decision was, well, pretty stupid. He is nice about it, though.

Vince at Capitol Annex notes that poultry kingpin Bo Pilgrim paid to jet around Texas Governor Rick Perry's staff to promote the ethanol waver he bought and paid for with a $100,000 contribution to the Republican Governor's Association.

Mean Rachel contemplates whether Fannie and Freddie have anything to do with being raised in 78704, but living through young-adulthood in 78749 in Crashes.

The final word, for now, on the Webb County Sheriff's race says Martin Cuellar wins by 41 votes. Since the various 'official' totals for Cuellar have been +37, -133, +39 and finally +41, CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders what the h*ll happened!

Off the Kuff looks at the Harris County campaign finance reports and finds good news and not-so-good news for Democratic campaigns.

The Texas Observer's Melissa Del Bosque had an observation about one
of the panels at Netroots Nation this past weekend, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs had some observations about what she observed.

BossKitty at BlueBloggin shows us smuggling humans into the US is no problem at all; From Africa to Mexico to US, Any Way They Can Immigrate.

BossKitty as TruthHugger points out the continued struggle by our soldiers suffering from PTSD and the inadequate response by the incapable VA, in But, When They Come Home ….

The One Who Stood Up.

IGTNT Display

Here at the convention center, between rooms twelve and sixteen, there is a long hallway with panes of frosted glass on either side that allows a soft gray glow of light to come in from the outside. Maybe that's why they've chosen to put the art project, I Got The News Today (IGTNT), in this hallway.

Or maybe it's because the hallway was just long enough. Long enough to accommodate fifteen panels of poster board, uninterrupted, listing the name of every soldier killed in Iraq to date.

Blogger Lesley Wischmann started this as a way of keeping track of troops killed from her home state of Wyoming. The panels are modest and scrawled in a neat print -- not exactly the Vietnam Memorial Wall, but I suppose the Department of Defense can't erect a wall when they're still adding names to the list.

In the panel I went to yesterday about milblogging, I mentioned the person who stood up at one point, before they opened the forum to questions from the audience. He was near the front, and just stood while the VoteVets panelists were talking, until Kevin Maurer, the moderator, said, "Did you have something to say?"

He announced that he was Christopher Gallagher, the president of the Iraq Veterans Against the War Las Vegas chapter. He made a statement about his belief that the IVAW does in fact work and create change. Then he sat back down.

I remembered thinking at the time that it was strange that he would just stand up and declare he was part of IVAW, without posing a question or starting some sort of talking point. I don't know really anything about the politics between IVAW. IVAW seems to spend time protesting the war and speaking out about an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, while VoteVets seems to avoid getting involved on the extreme end of the issues and instead supports veteran-friendly candidates.

I ran into Christopher last night and had a chance to sit down and talk with him -- about IVAW and his time in the Marines, when he was part of the battalion that took down the statue of Saddam Hussein. He came to Netroots Nation on a scholarship, and having left the Marines, he now works as an electrician in Vegas.

It seems easy to come here and get dragged down by politics -- when I listen to someone like Jeremy Scahill talk about the very likely notion that Obama won't fix anything any more successfully than George Bush, McCain or a head of lettuce could, it's easy for me to take a long look at my laptop screen and think "What the hell am I doing here then?"

But then I walk outside, into a long hallway with a gray glow, and I stare at a list of names. I stare at the name of someone who was once a living, breathing human being but now is just a few letters written in ink, another line on a piece of poster board in a long, narrow hallway framed by glass.

These things are important. These long, grave hallways are worth standing in and reflecting on. These issues of Guantanamo and our Constitution and torture may seem hopeless, but they will never be fixed if we don't start to stand up and demand that they be addressed. We have to stand up and join people like Christopher Gallagher in demanding that not another name is added to a list of people who died in an illegal war.

Otherwise, there will not be a hallway long enough, a convention center big enough, to hold the names of everyone who will become a victim of what we have allowed to happen.

Guantanamo, Habeas Corpus, Torture and Military Contractors: The Roadmap to Accountability in the First 100 Days

AKA "Your Government Failed You, Reasons Number 2, 374 - 5, 649."

Now I'm at the Guantanamo panel, which is the most well-attended event I've been to so far. We've got someone moderating this but I can't see her name and Vince Warren who is the executive director for the Center for Constitutional Rights. Jameel Jaffer is the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. Jeremy Scahill is most well-known lately for his book Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, and having exposed Blackwater's being in New Orleans (hey Scahill, what about the 1st CavalryDivision being sent on patrols in New Orleans post-Katrina?). Finally, Dahlia Litwick is a senior editor and legal correspondent for Slate.com.

Jameel Jaffer mentions that he doesn't feel that all of the human rights violations that have gone on are solely because of the Bush administration. He also says it's dangerous to dismiss it that way, because only some of the issues will be fixable by Obama or McCain as President.
Scahill comes out swinging, saying that the Democrats in Congress have not been strong enough as an opposition party and Pelosi's only crowning achievement as Speaker was managing to get a lower approval rating than Bush. He points out there are more private contractors than there are soldiers in Iraq -- 180K private contractors, and 150K soldiers Iraq. In fact, the people who are currently hired to guard Obama while he tours around Afghanistan and Iraq, who make up the Worldwide Personal Protective Services contract, includes Blackwater, Triple Canopy and Dyncorp, three of the largest mercenary companies.

Litwick brings up the lawlessness of the presidency, and the "Nixonian notion" if the President does it, it's not illegal.
One of the points that Warren brings up is that there needs to be a special prosecutor who is elected to provide oversight and who isn't afraid to go after the people who are currently serving in office who are war criminals and and hold them accountable and that "when somebody decides not to show up for a hearing, you need To Throw. Their Ass. In Jail"

A few theories were discussed as to the spin that the administration uses to create confusion about torture that goes on, in both the nation and in Congress -- the "Rogue Soldier," "Modified Insanity," and the theory that that "it's just really complicated." A rather disgruntled man in the back interjects saying that all of these are just the government's way of saying "Fuck you" (his words) and I've got to agree with him.

One woman stands up and says "We are getting to the torch and pitchforks stage." Sounds a lot like banging on pots and pans. Scahill says, "that a lot of people spend too much time in front of their computer, and not enough time in the streets."

Bloggers and the New Green Economy

This is a workshop, not a panel, where we will be learning about how bloggers and support activists and organize to help create a New Green Economy. This is a rather timely forum on the heels of the Public Utilities Commission approving a 4.93 billion-dollar plan to move renewable energy from West Texas to more populated areas.

Dave Johnson, Susana Almanza, Larry Joe Doherty, and Jeff Sharp.

They start by asking for brainstorming ideas as to how blogs help support positive economic development efforts. Dave Johnson is moderating, and he blogs at Seeing The Forest -- and has for the last six years (Ed. note: that's a lot of blogging). Susana Almanza is part of People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources, also known as PODER. PODER looks at the green economy not only as a economical factor but also a social justice issue -- advocating for educating younger people in lower socioeconomic classes about green living and the importance of not only living that way but seeking out the jobs that are becoming available within the green sector.

Larry Joe Doherty is also here, not only as a candidate for Congress, but also as a concerned citizen who puts the value of open spaces and land preservation ahead of special interests and partisan politics. He is also a past president of the Washington County Wildlife Society and a member of the Texas Wildlife Association and a past member of the Texas Quail Council, which promotes the conservation and restoration of wild quail in Texas.

Adam Segal blogs at GetEnergySmartNow, on everything from things people can do in their own home to help reduce their energy usage to national policy ideas. He mentions we need to reduce our energy illteracy, something that he himself struggles with. Jeff Sharp is the director of new media communications for Congressman Ed Markey (D, MA-7), who is on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. He emphasizes that bloggers need to continue to push for renewable energy, and advocate it, because they are the only ones who can fight effectively against the special interests. This ties in to the forum I just went to -- bloggers are becoming the new lobbying force for DC.

Larry Joe Doherty, Jeff Sharp and Adam Segal look on as
Barry Kendall takes notes while audiencemembers brainstorm
on how bloggers can help advocate for a green economy.

A woman poses a question about Congress providing people who cannot afford computers with the hand-me-down pieces of technology from bloggers so that other people can then start to advocate. Larry Joe mentions that he is in favor of streaming meetings with lobbyists, eliminating the closed-door policies of the past and allowing constituents and bloggers alike to see exactly what lobbyists are proposing so they can immediately comment and have their voices be heard. He gets a round of applause for that.

Here are some of the links to the websites that were discussed in the brainstorming session:

Larry Joe Doherty - Donate here.
Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming
Get Energy Smart Now - Donate here.
Seeing the Forest
Commonweal Institute
Green For All
Reverb Rock
Native Energy
The Observer
Grist Mill
We Can Solve It
Green for All
Reef Stewardship Foundation
Renew Solar and Wind Incentives Now - Facebook Group

Lobbying Congress: Advocacy and Digital Empowerment

I'm at the Lobbying Congress discussion panel, which is being led John Wonderlich from the Sunlight Foundation, which emphasizes the use of internet to influence Congress, and Matt Stoller, a political consultant and blogger for OpenLeft. Craig Aaron, the Communications Director of FreePress, is taking the place of Ben Scott on the panel.

Wonderlich mentions that he parlayed his blogging on DailyKos background into a career in lobbying.

Stoller starts by referring to lobbyists as "conservative activists" because they do what activists do, just behind closed doors. He mentions that "we are the only competitive network" to the lobbyist culture in DC.

"Congress is reading your stuff," Aaron mentions, but points out that "the only way to beat organized money is with organized people."

These three men are pretty young -- they look to be in their early thirties -- and all essential, influential voices in DC with Congress. They're not exactly what you think of when you think of a slick lobbyist. Their influence has been not only created but inflated by the Internet.

Wonderlich points out that the problems of the past, where the only good ideas were the ones that could get funded, are easier to circumvent with the internet. Now, the good ideas are the ones that get attention -- for example the power of the "Recommended" articles on sites like DailyKos, where suddenly one person's idea can get attention of tens of thousands of people. He also recommends that when you write about something, even if it's negative, you should send it to the office of the person you're writing about. He also recommends reading committee reports and writing about them, because they're easier to understand and the committee will generally appreciate someone reading what they've written.

Wonderlich also mentions that the Open House Project has a Google group you can join where a lot of discussion goes on about bloggers and advocacy. The Congressional Management Foundation is on there and asked for suggestions on how to make it easier and more efficient to communicate with Congress.

Stoller really has the last word. "We need to confront these people," he says, referring to the likes of Obama and Pelosi, "because if you treat them like kings and queens, they'll act like kings and queens."

How very JFK.

CD-10 in Burka's "State of Play"

Burka has a nice blurb about Larry Joe Doherty and CD-10 in State of Play. LJD was at the candidate forum last night at the Hilton, and I noticed some old-timer had a LJD sign (where'd he get that?) he was waving around over his head enthusiastically.

LJD is speaking on a panel here later today at 3 PM about the new green-collar economy. Stop by and hear what the next Congressman of CD-10 has to say. If you've ever spent ten minutes in a conversation with him, you know that Larry Joe Doherty cared about the environment before caring about the environment was cool.

And all without having to wear a quirky hat.

Despite the fact that I was wearing several pieces of flair declaring "NO BIG MEDIA" yesterday, Karen Brooks, journalist for the Dallas Morning News, made the mistake of asking me what I thought the difference between Netroots Nation and the dueling conservative "Defending the American Dream" summit was.

Perhaps the best people to describe the different worlds going on in Austin this week were the conferencegoers.

"The people here have brains," said Netroots-goer Rachel Farris, an Austin blogger aptly named "Mean Rachel."

Check out the rest of the article here.

In other news, Nancy Pelosi and super-secret suprise guest Al Gore showed up this morning.

Netroots Night Scene Day Two

Netroots sure is giving the Texas Democratic Convention a run for its money when it comes to which one tried to kill me more. I haven't yet started talking exclusively in parliamentary procedure terms, and I haven't had to listen to David Van Os, so I'm leaning toward enjoying the Netroots event more.

Aside from a lot of free stuff (American Apparel shirts, water bottles and yoyos being handed out at The Point booth? Someone's got some serious venture capitol!), there have been some good parties and oodles of young, nerdy men who will soon go back to DC available to buy and/or fetch me drinks at them.

The winning party tonight was definitely the Huffington Post/GQ party at Lambert's. Good scene, non-netroots people who looked like they were more GQ than HuffPo, if you get my drift, and free food. I haven't ever seen deviled eggs in a bar, but then again, I've never been to a bar that had GQ magazines sitting on every table.

First, this guy from the DLCC was mad because I apparently triggered the Google alert back in DC and all of his colleagues made fun of the picture I put up of him from yesterday. So we did another take. What do you DLCC people think of this one?

This is Kenton Ngo, who is 17 years old and has been blogging since he was in the womb. He was on the panel about kid bloggers which I hear Matt Glazer was a co-panelist on. When asked about his hat, Ngo said he likes the quirky hat because it "attracts print journalists." Right. So I guess print media isn't dead? Ironically, Kenton's blog was hacked into today so when I tried to go to 750 Volts on my Blackberry, there was this huge link farm for Viagra on his blog instead. Kenton just about had a meltdown. Kenton is also from DC and struggles with the fact that he has a flip-phone.
I couldn't make this stuff up, people.

The beauty of being young and in a WiFi zone is that when you meet someone new, you can instantly Facebook them and subsequently Google the heck out of them. And I say that without the slightest bit of innuendo. Here, Jim Walsh from DLCC Web and I share an intimate meta-moment.
This is what my Friday nights have been reduced to.

Also at Lambert's was Baratunde Thurston, a comedian, blogger and the emcee of Netroots Nation 2008. He thinks Austin feels naked without SXSW to which I had to keep from saying "Yes, without all of those skinny jeans in town, we really do."

Last but not least, I met Ed Kilgore who is a political analyst and writes for the likes of Salon.com and The Democratic Strategist. I talked to him for a long time about the changing face of Austin, speechwriting, and Hunter S. Thompson.

Trying to look like mean bloggers.



Kevin Maurer, Brandon Friedman,
I decided to come to the Milblogging panel rather than go to the Texas blogging panel because...well, I figured the Texas bloggers would be well-covered.

Kevin Maurer is with the AP and moderating the forum. Brandon Friedman is the vice-chairman of VoteVets.org. He's blogged since late 2006 when he was recovering from emergency appendix surgery. After he got going on DailyKos, he started up VoteVets.org and subsequently VetVoice.com, the blogging platform. Richard Smith, another panelist, writes on VetVoice and was an NCO with the 6CAV, 2ID, and 82nd Airborne. Alex Horton started the blog Army of Dude, as a way of keeping his family informed and developed a readership.

It gets a little awkward when someone asks "Are any of you part of Iraq Veterans Against the War?" None of them are, but there is a member of the audience who is the president of the Las Vegas chapter of IVAW.

Kevin asks the audience a good question- why do you (being us civilians sitting in the room) read these military blogs? Because you don't believe the media is reporting it? A woman raises her hand and explains that the mainstream media is a good place to start, but that she reads both military blogs and Iraqi blogs. She finally sums it up in once sentence: "I want to understand what it's like over there."

Someone in the audience also brings up the low turnout to this panel and says he thinks it's embarrassing -- that this is a more important issue and he is embarrassed that more people aren't here. To their credit, the Iraq panel I was going to go to earlier got moved to right now and then they're also up against the Texas blogging regime going on in Ballroom F. There are about twenty five people in here, including Democratic Congressional candidate Brian Ruiz whose district spans into the Fort Hood, Texas area. Lt. Col. Charlie Brown is here as well, the VoteVets-endorsed Democrat running for Congress in California.

How does milblogging function as oversight? A good example is of a soldier who was given a 30% rating on his PTSD but it got worse, so he reapplied for a 50% rating. He was denied because of his activity with a VoteVets.org, which meant he must be fully functional, saying that he had "ocassional suicidal ideation." So he only occasionally thinks about committing suicide?

VoteVets highlighted it on their blog and three days later, the VA issued a reversal after an "administrative review."

Your Government Failed You.

I decided to head over to Ballroom E to see the panel called "Iraq in Strategic Context." It sounded like an oxymoron to me. However when I got here there was a sign saying that the Iraq panel was postponed for one hundred more years two hours and instead they had moved up one of the other panels I wanted to see to 1:30 PM. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

Did anyone see the two pigeons roaming around the east side of the Convention center? They looked like they were setting up camp in the cool air conditioning. I hear they're liveblogging at PigeonBlogger.com.

So now I am here at "Your Government Failed You." Cheery. Here's the blurb if you'd like to check it out in more detail. Richard Clarke, former chief counter-terrorism adviser and author of Your Government Failed You: Breaking the Cycle of National Security Disasters and Rand Beers, president of the National Security Network, are leading the discussion.

Richard Clarke, left, and Rand Beers discussing the government failures.

Beers gets a laugh by starting with saying "Dick, why would you write a boring book like this?" Clarke explains the usual reasons -- looking back on past mistakes so you can prevent more in the future.
Clarke is now debunking some of the myths about the US military - best trained? Nope, no counter-insurgency training. Best equipped? Nope, Humvees with canvas over the windows.

"As to best led?" Clarke says. Uncomfortable silence, and then: "They were led by Tommy Franks. Who let Bin Laden escape in Afghanistan...and it's not just Franks. It's the whole US Army General corps at that time. Who stood up and said we don't have the training and the equipment to do this?"


Questions from the audience time. A guy poses a question about how Clarke mentioned Franks let Bin Laden escape, and how he thinks that the US didn't really want to capture Bin Laden at all so that we could go into Iraq.
Clarke says in December 2001 we went into Afghanistan, as he understood it, to capture Bin Laden. The CIA was in the mountains closing in on Bin Laden, and then asked for military reinforcements. Clarke announces that he reveals in his book that the Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin also said that they need to move troops to the border to prevent Bin Laden from escaping. But her request was also denied.
Clarke says that the human brain wants to assume that those facts add up to that we just wanted Bin Laden to escape. Then he pauses and says "But actually, it was just incompetence."
That's comforting.

Someone asks about Valerie Plame, and how much damage outing her did. Clarke says that Randy can better answer it. Beers answers that as an individual case, it's not clear yet and the investigation was classified so it's hard for him to say. But it is a "clear reminder that this kind of thing can happen again and preferably people will be better-skilled at keeping these kinds of secrets. But it does represent the kind of politicization of the intelligence committee."

Time's up.

Mean Rachel Truth #1 of the Day: Our government sucks.

2004 Democratic Primary Redux

Wesley Clark speaking.

I felt like I was in a time warp watching Gen. Wesley Clark & Howard Dean speak last night. How the hell did we end up with Kerry as our nominee again?

On second thought, don't answer that. Bygones.

I thought Gen. Clark definitely had Dean beat on his speech. Clark called bloggers the "keel on the ship of state." That's one way of putting it, Wes.
If we held the primary right then, I so would have caucused for Clark instead of being empowered by Howard.
Dean did have a few good lines. "The difference between Obama and McCain on Iraq," he said, "is ninety-eight years -- and we don't want to be in Iraq for ninety-eight years."

Obama signs and Dean screams.

After the speeches, I ambushed General Clark for a photo op. He looked completely thrilled. Interesting side-note: His hand feels exactly like Obama's hand -- all skin, like the throat of a salamander.

Some good photos from the rest of the night. I'll put 'em up on Flickr or something.

Netroots Has Begun

Matt Glazer & JD Gins with their Matching Nerd Video Cameras.
"We got 'em today!" Matt said, nerdy joy in his voice.

WOW. So Many Nerds. I MEAN NERDS.

And I am one of them. I'm almost embarrassed to admit I'm here.

Met Noriega. He was carrying around grape leaves or something. What?

With Noriega, running for Senate, campaigning in Nerdville, USA

Apparently "Obama Girl" is here. The nerds seem to conclude that this is the highlight of the event.

DLCC Peeps.
Yes, the MeanRachel is going to come out this weekend in full force.

Gotta go, they just told us to close up our laptops for the Dean speech. But first, we have to chant.

When I say Nerd, you say Netroots! NERD! NETROOTS!



My parents bought their first house on the bluff that overlooks Barton Springs and Lamar in 1976 for $23000 (yes, you read that correctly -- three, beautiful zeros), when my mom was 25 years old and my dad was a tender 24. My current age. They waited until the mid-eighties to have children, perhaps a sign of the economy, and I grew up on the smooth, rounded corner where Josephine Street ends and Hillmont begins. I wasn't a child of the 70's -- I was a child of 78704.

Back then, $23000 bought you a 1200 square-foot house with cool limestone outer walls that I would press my body up against in the summer heat when I'd finish running through the sprinkler. My refined ear would count the seconds between screeching cars and the impact of the wrecks on South Lamar, like listening for thunder and lightening and attempting to gauge the speed and damage that had been done. Sometimes there was no impact, but sometimes, wailing sirens followed the hollow smack of metal. I would wonder who had been hurt and how badly -- morbid thoughts for an eight year old, but there they were -- and how their lives would be affected the next day. The romance of the nightly urban thunderstorms eventually wore off, and in the mid-90's my parents cashed out and we moved to a new neighborhood that was allegedly quieter. Perhaps it was suburbian sprawl or just our proximity to Mopac, but the din never seemed to subside.

With the crashing of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, I can't help but feel myself listening for the impact, straining to hear over all of the other background noises: rising gas prices, election cycles, Constitutional injustices, IED's exploding.

But maybe it's the cacophony of so many other fears and concerns that I cannot make out the audible crash. It's just an anticlimactic silent flash of lightning followed by no thunder, only the clattering of rain on the roof of my home that I rent in 78749.

Childhood. I never walked ten miles in the snow, uphill both ways. I never popped tar bubbles in the middle of a street sticky with fresh asphalt. I never washed my clothes by hands or harvested crops or slaughtered a pig for dinner. I tried to sell lemonade once but no one ever walked by, so I gulped down the juice and closed up shop.

I feel like my generation has been abandoned, raised halfway and tossed out of the nest into the dank undergrowth of mismanagement. We've got it all so terribly wrong, and we didn't even get to pick the wrong choice.

I've resigned myself to the fact that until I jump up several tax brackets, I will be banished to suburbia should I ever buy a house. 78704 might have raised me, but it will probably not be where I get to raise my children.

Coming to terms with that awareness is not easy. I feel myself braking, hard. This isn't a near miss. They're going to have to call 911 for this one. I hear the impact.

TPA Round-Up

I'm now a member of the Texas Progressive Alliance, which I think is sort of like the Dead Poet's Society of Texas or something. I'm looking forward to the movie remake, in which MeanRachel will be played by Barbara Walters. Until then, I'll be cross-posting the round-ups that look back on the highlights of the past week. Check out some of the other TPA bloggers, if the mood strikes you. Some entries are local topics, some are national but there's some all around Good Stuff in there.

It's Monday, and that means it is time for yet another edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's weekly round-up. (compiled by CapitolAnnex)

South Texas Chisme got what they were asking for - a spotlight on the Webb County Sheriff's race. BlackBox Voting's Bev Harris has asked for relevant auditable materials. CouldBeTrue can hardly wait to find out what happened.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the "rail-rage" that's hitting Central Texas, Rail, Rail, Rail - Do It Right, Not Fast.

President Bush hasn't seen Russian President Medvedev since his 'election' to the Russian Presidency. Last week, he had his first opportunity to look into his eyes. Check out McBlogger to see what he saw.

Lightseeker at Texas Kaos tells the chilling tale of Goodhair and the Fire at the Governor's Mansion. Governor Rick Perry didn't light the match, but decisions laid at his door certainly made things a lot easier for the arsonist who did.

The Texas Cloverleaf examines T. Boone Picken's Plan to save us from evil oil men and move forward with greener energy.

Texas Senators Cornfed and Bailey scored a perfect ten in synchronized flip-flopping on the Medicare bill last week, shortly after they and the rest of their Republicans exhibited mirror-image coordination on FISA. PDiddie at Brains and
has the details.

BlueBloggin sees Maliki making the same mistakes as King GeorgeIraq Hands Out Stimulus Money As Us Shifts Occupation.

BossKitty worries about the consequences of revaluing human life in AmericaDollar Value of American Life drops - Now What.

Vince at Capitol Annex notes that Senate Democrats have taken a strong stance on calling for reform of the Texas Department of Insurance, with one senator even calling for the Insurance Commissioner to be an elected official.

MeanRachel wonders when politics became unpatriotic on July 4th.

Off the Kuff had a guest post from Rep. Pete Gallego about the HDCC and its efforts to reclaim the State House for the Democrats.

WhosPlayin was impressed that Ken Leach, candidate for U.S. Congress in CD 26 got good coverage in the Gainesville Register, even though his totally honest quote didn't pass the "smell" test.

jobsangertook a look at the lies being told in a McCain campaign ad in McCain Ad is Full of Lies.

Nat-Wu of Three Wise Men ponders whether long-suffering American Indians could actually count for something in the upcoming Presidential Election.

Tony Snow Dies.

June 1, 1955 - July 12, 2008

"I don't think he really thought a lot about it."
Tony Snow, when asked in January 2007 what Bush thought about the peace march in DC.

We're ALL Going to Denver!

Oh, no he didn't.

Because Freedom Isn't Free.

Look at it this way: Surely it can't get any worse. Happy Independence Day to you & yours (unless "yours" includes a Republican).



This was forwarded to me today by a non-political person and I can't tell if this is supposed to be Republican propaganda or the ultimate symbol of Democratic unity (that's what she said).

What do you guys think?

Now if someone would just do one of these for Obama-Strama.

Happy 5th Annual Birthday, Eddie!

Apparently State Representative Eddie Rodriguez has only had 5 birthday parties in the 37 years he's been on the planet.
Meanwhile, in related news, Mark Strama is hosting his 57th Stramastastic Birthday Party for his 40th birthday this year.

Anyway, moving on. Here are some pics from the birthday bash tonight.

Congressman Lloyd Doggett was there, celebrating his first day off of crutches. He was "late to the Sierra Club meeting" (Congressman speak for "My leg *#$*&ing hurts!") and so he rushed off after taking this picture with Stubb's honcho Kurt Koegler and his son Chris (who looks a bit less-than-thrilled to be making his debut on MeanRachel.com. Teenagers.).

Rep. Elliot Naishtat was there, consuming all of the food, still smarting over not getting invited to go to West Texas and also the fact that he had some sort of benign cancer chopped off the side of his face last week. Seriously, I promise my partner in crime did not know to ask you that, Naishtat! Here's Naishtat with the man of the day (Eddie, not Strama) and his extended family.

From left to right: John Grey, Isabel Grey-Rodriguez, Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, and Eddie's sister Deanna Rodriguez.

John Lipscombe made an appearance, and offered to give us a ride in the back of his truck afterwards. Only in Texas. We had to decline.

Perhaps my favorite picture of the evening -- Glen Maxey holding court, McBlogger furiously text-messaging (blogging? Yeah, right.), both from their respective rocking chairs. Just remember, McB: It's hard to look tough when you're swaying with a southeasterly wind!

In Summary:
Rep. Eddie Rodriguez doesn't have Google Alerts set up for himself. If you think that's pretty freaking cool, donate to his campaign today.
Rep. Elliot Naishtat is judging a water-balloon contest on July 4th, had some serious dermatological work done last week, and as far as I can tell, does not have a website. We should donate to the TCDP, where he is somehow matching funds, out of empathy for at least one of those reasons.

Campy Stramalama, We Hold You in Our Hearts.

What a heart-warming story on Political Junkie yesterday about Mark Strama's Campaign Academy.
I was getting all these warm-fuzzies about young people out furthering the Democratic process.

Until I saw this hidden in the caption of one of the photos:

Strama asks the group for an update on "Stramarama", a fundraiser they have planned for late July.


In an effort to purge this from my memory, I am going to Eddie Rodriguez's birthday bash tonight. Anyone else going? There's something kind of sad to me about the fact that Eddie Rodriguez was born in 1971, but he's only had five birthday parties.

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez's
5th Annual Birthday Party

"Eddie is dedicated to making the changes needed to promote fairness and equity in Texas.
His progressive ethics are just what we need in the Texas House." -- Rep. Elliott Naishtat

"Eddie Rodriguez works hard, isn't afraid to take a stand, and cares deeply about the people
he serves. Travis County should be proud of Eddie and support him to continue his work in
the Texas Legislature." -- Sen. Kirk Watson

July 1, 2008
5:30-7:30 p.m.
at the home of D'Ann Johnson & Alan Pogue
1604 E. 11th Street, Austin

Party tickets are $25 in advance or $30 at the door.

R.S.V.P. to Christine Simmons at (512) 292-3000.

Campaign Contributions are Much Appreciated!
Suggested Levels: $500, $250, $100, $50

Contributions can be made by telephone at (512)292-3000 or online at:

Contributions may also be mailed to:
Eddie Rodriguez Campaign
P.O. Box 2436
Austin, TX 78768