2009 In Pictures

Normally I try to do a recap of my favorite posts from each year but here's the thing: I really didn't write much this year. So I decided to do a photo essay from 2009, which has some hidden posts included in the storyline.

Rang in the New Year in Marathon, Texas (et. al.) with my best friend and some really nice people who are terrible at dominoes.

Celebrated the inauguration of our first African American president.

Met Billy Joel at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas... (with Cvoss)

...and Jim from The Office (John Krasinski) at The Driskill in Austin.

Spoke at the Young Democrats of America State Convention in Texas, Lanier High School and St. Edward's University.

Went to four weddings, including my sister's.

Created and launched a new website, PR and marketing strategy at PetRelocation.com -- and threw a killer after party.

Learned how to play the fiddle, at least well enough to play with my mom in the Wings and Thighs.

Went with two girls and a dog on a road trip to New Jersey, New York and DC. Said goodbye to a best friend.

Went to the White House. For the first time.

Saw President Obama speak in College Station. Wrote one of my favorite posts because of it.

Went to Port Aransas for Thanksgiving for the third year in a row. A highlight of every year.

Stopped straightening my hair! No, really! And got to see Cvoss several times

Started riding again. Probably my favorite part of this year -- and the one thing that in 1999, when I was fifteen and horseless, I wanted more than anything and never got to do. It took 10 years but that is, after all, why we live.

Like Maya Angelou said: Lift up your hearts. Each new hour holds new chances for new beginnings.

Happy New Year.

TPA Texan of the Year Goes To Annise Parker

The Texas Progressive Alliance announced on Wednesday, December 30th that Houston Mayor-Elect Annise Parker is its "Texan of the Year" for 2009. The Texan of the Year Award is voted on annually by the members of the Texas Progressive Alliance, the largest state-level organization of bloggers, blogs, and netroots activists in the United States.

Also earning recognition from the Alliance were Ramey Ko, Hank Gilbert, Calvin Tillman, Texas Watchdog, and State Representative Elliott Naishtat, who were each recognized as "Gold Star Texans" for 2009.

With the election of Annise Parker as mayor of Houston, the fourth largest city in the United States signaled that they pay more attention to qualifications than to sexual orientation. This news reverberated around the globe, and brought positive attention to Texas. National Democratic groups took note of a more progressive Houston than they assumed, and the talk and speculation turned to the possibilities of Texas turning blue sooner rather than later.

The Parker win was no accident. She put together a talented campaign team that ran on the strength of the grassroots, rather than City Hall insiders. Key Houston area progressive bloggers aligned themselves with Parker, and were embraced by the campaign. Blogs became an effective messaging strategy, emphasizing Parker’s qualifications, and her opponent’s weaknesses.

In the runoff, several third parties, including one longtime right wing operative who endorsed Parker's opponent, launched a series of homophobic attacks against her, but they failed to do her any serious damage because voters recognized her distinguished service as a member of Council and City Controller, and valued her experience and financial acumen. Voters knew who she was and what she was about because she had always been open and honest about it, and that was more important than anything some agitator could say.

For her historic victory, for making the rest of the world re-evaluate its opinion of Texas, and for running a truly modern grassroots campaign, the Texas Progressive Alliance is proud to name Houston's Mayor-Elect Annise Parker its Texan of the Year for 2009.

Congratulations to the Mayor-Elect and all of the Gold Star Texans. Thank you for all you do and all the best for 2010.

Larry Joe Doherty's Decision on the CD10 Race

Unfortunately, it looks as though Larry Joe Doherty won't be making another run for CD 10 in 2010.  

From an email I received this evening:
Rachel –

First, I want to thank you and all of the well meaning supporters who have encouraged me to consider running as the Democratic nominee for CD-10. However, to now be the unopposed candidate is an opportunity that I must decline. Depending on the outcome of the Republican Primary race for Governor, it is at best an opportunity for a pyrrhic victory, if at all, that could be snatched away in redistricting. At worst, my friends will be donating, if at all, to another losing cause. I cannot in good conscience ask them to do that again. 
As Texas Democrats I/we need to be involved in insuring the success of our State races. Join me in that effort, please. That is how the “Gerry Monster” can be slain.

Larry Joe
I hope this isn't Doherty's last consideration for a run for public office -- in fact, earlier this week on Twitter, many wondered if he might consider making a run for Land Commissioner.  

I leave you with a thought -- an allegory, really -- of the Republican party in Texas: Michael McCaul, tonight taking a nice, deep sigh of relief in his water-guzzling Westlake ivory tower in the belly of the dragon.  

I hope he gets comfortable, as it won't last much longer.


Larry Joe Doherty Takes Another Look at CD10

Yesterday, I received an email from Larry Joe Doherty letting me know that, after Jack McDonald's announcement that he would not be running, he was taking a look at the poll numbers regarding another race for Congressional District 10. He closed in typical Doherty fashion with an epigram: "You may tell all interested that I'm interested."

Some history, for the sake of disclosure: One benefit -- of from what I can tell is often many -- of not working in politics is that no one can ever accuse you of a professional bias. While the lines blur between bloggers and paid communications specialists, press events become steak dinners and receiving a CHI Iron is a party favor, I get to stand on the sidelines and help those who I believe in. I also get to enrage those who I don't and remain unconcerned with the consequences.

I was very involved in the Larry Joe Doherty for Congress campaign in 2008, supporting Larry Joe through the primary and into the general after seeing his somewhat fire and brimstone style at a candidate forum. I was never associated with the campaign professionally and, while I spent countless hours phone banking, blockwalking, putting up yard signs and annoying his staff, I was never a paid employee of the campaign. I believed Larry Joe could win then, and I believe he could win now. These are my opinions and do not reflect that of any campaign that does not exist yet.

There were, like any campaign, some mistakes. The previous campaign began with an expensive primary battle in Austin, and it never really left primary mode. Harris County outreach seemed neglected leading up to the general. Ideally the campaign would have moved to Houston -- it didn't and the numbers on Election Day showed this mistake. Wounds that seemed to run deep between Austin Democrats weren't mending, and as far as I could tell, winning the hearts and minds of Austinites became a constant struggle and sore spot for the Doherty campaign. No one rolled out the red carpet for Doherty. There seemed to be an immediate visceral reaction to the way Larry Joe sounded and looked -- twangy and in cowboy hat. We were almost rid of George Bush. Who on Earth wanted another urban cowboy?

This was my first thought when I went to see Doherty and Dan Grant speak. My second thought was that both candidates were incredibly well-versed on the issues. But my very next thought was that Doherty was as angry as I felt. There was a lot to be angry about then. One could argue there's even more to be angry about now, we just have someone else delivering the bad news.

If Larry Joe runs again, I don't know what his platform will be or where he'll end up on the issues. But I know that if you get him talking about water conservation, you won't be able to make him shut up. I know that he believes dung beetles -- and our farmland -- are more important to our long-term ecosystem than Rick Perry's failed Trans-Texas Corridor. I know he respects the Bible but he believes in the Constitution. I know he's not afraid to say things that another candidate might shrink away from, usually because they really need to be said.

I hope this is the kind of campaign Larry Joe decides to run, should he end up running. When you've already lost, you have nothing to lose. Karl Thomas Musselman from Burnt Orange Report asked me on Twitter yesterday if I thought Larry Joe had a better chance of winning. Hard to say. I don't care about his chances -- I only have to believe that if he did win, Doherty would be a better Congressman than McCaul and that I can help him win. "It's time, money and votes," Doherty says. In varying sums, I can offer all three.

And if Democrats, the DCCC, moderates, independents, and disenchanteds are really as tired of Michael McCaul as we all say we are, it's time to put our time, money and votes on the table.

Movie Review: Into the Wild

It's rare that I sit down long enough to watch a movie and even rarer that anything about it stays with me long enough to write about. But last night and today, both happened. I picked up Into the Wild at Cheapo's a few weeks ago in hopes of watching it over Thanksgiving. As it turned out, everyone at the beach had already seen it, so last night I popped it into my computer when I couldn't sleep.

I'll assume that the one or two people who still read my blog have already seen this movie when it came out in 2007 (spoilers might follow). I found it particularly compelling to watch, mostly because it hit on some themes that I've felt struggling to work their way to the top in my life as of late: escaping the norm, reinvention of oneself, ignoring society's pressures. The movie, which is based on a true story, centers on Christopher McCandless (played by Emile Hirsch), who sheds the expectations of his family after graduating from Emory and strikes off on a quixotic journey "into the wild." His goal is to make it to Alaska, and this quest for freedom and solitude ends up ultimately being more of a trap.

I joke that I never joined the Peace Corps because I have a strange habit of having to wash my feet each night before I get in bed. As I watched the McCandless character (who goes by Alexander Supertramp after he roasts his Social Security card), I found myself at stages wanting to take a shower for the guy. But part of me, even during his starving, frozen gasps at the end of the movie, felt sharp pangs of envy.

Captive horses have very little to look forward to outside of their feeding time, which causes them to become fierce and often frightening. Protecting their backs, they kick out at anything that walks behind them, pin their ears and snake their muzzles around, teeth gnashing. Even in an enclosed space, they spin and stomp, rattling the bucket with their angry nose, eyeballs rolling backward looking for predators -- or competitors.

I've felt this way lately: a rather possessive, paranoid beast with my nose stuck firmly at the bottom of a feed sack, spending half of my time looking over my shoulder and the other half reaping the rewards of whatever is put in front of me. It's a vulnerable way to live and, like McCandless believed, a way that society forces us to conform to. Things, goods, wants, needs -- all of this stacks up in our buckets and we grind our teeth and greedily look forward, wanting more of the next thing.

McCandless -- and also his alter-ego Supertramp -- escaped this cycle by heading somewhere where your only vulnerability is your actual life on Earth; your only need is food and water; your only desire is to live another day in a very harsh environment. Some skeptics later called McCandless foolish and argued that he was under prepared for the realities of wilderness. But even in his moments of foolishness, I think he was most certainly aware that he was at least living a full life -- and if we could all say that for our own moments of foolishness, we'd certainly have some interesting stories, wouldn't we.

An Open Letter to the Hair Guy (the little one)

Hey Farouk - you didn't have to wait for Barack Hussein Obama to open the door for you to care about politics or to begin voting or to run for Governor. You could have just opened it yourself. People do it all the time.

Houston elit un maire gay.

Over the weekend, Annise Parker was elected to be the next Mayor in Houston, Texas. Not only is this openly gay woman now Mayor of the 4th largest US city, but that city is in east Texas.

Now I know Houston is very different from rural east Texas but I'd like to pause for a moment and pose a question to anyone who doesn't think that the spectrum of eligible voters giving a damn whether someone is gay or not is growing rapidly:

In 2005, when Texas voted to ban gay marriage, had you ever heard of Twitter?

Our lives are changing at a rapid pace, one in which people -- very, very young people -- are exposed to varying degrees of culture and ideas on a second-by-second basis. Hell, iPhones didn't even exist until 2007. Everywhere around us is change, and not the Obama kind of change but real things. Ones that we can hold in our grubby hands and find where the nearest liquor store is or that tells me when a Parisian newspaper tweets about a gay woman getting elected in Texas.

And while maybe people in metropolitan areas are catching on faster than others, sprawl and widespread desensitization to these wedge issues is inevitable due to these very inventions that connect us and break down our privacy. This generation is growing up to songs with lyrics like "I kissed a girl and I liked it" and "bluffin' with my muffin." The dying generation's wedge issues are a simply like cassette players in cars -- as people stop asking for them, they won't even notice when they're gone.

Anyway. Go Mayor-Elect.

Yes please.

We interrupt this normally scheduled political blog to bring you Matt Damon playing a super hot South African in a feel-good movie with an African music soundtrack!



If only your campaign was as smooth as your hair products.

Oh, Shami, Shami, Shami. What a shame-y.

You're firing your top staffers.
You've given money to the RNC and -- gag me -- Nader.
You have roughly 13 people in Austin who actually care about your campaign attending your meet and greet event at Carmelo's.
Even your endorsement from Hank Gilbert is under scrutiny.

Can I be honest with you? Your entire campaign is like watching a drama-filled episode of Shear Genius.

Minus that whole "genius" part.

I'll give you the same advice I'd give Governor Rick Perry if I ever ran into him: You should stick to what you do best.


How Not to Exit a Race: Hank Gilbert Style

Today, as everyone expected and some had hoped, Bill White announced he would be switching from the Senate race to the Governor's race.

Democratic candidate Hank Gilbert then wasted no time in switching to the ag commissioner race and announcing his endorsement of CHI-man Farouk Shami for Governor. Gilbert's move is coming across as sour grapes on Gilbert's part because White had told Gilbert he wasn't going to run for Governor.

You follow?

Hank's not the only one feeling swindled though. I mean, Hank told me he was running for Governor. Now he's running for ag commissioner? How dare he! I guess by his logic, I should transfer my support to someone else for ag commissioner!

The Dallas Morning News forgot to point out this in their story about Gilbert's switch, so I'm offering this addendum, replacing "Gilbert" with "Farris" (that's me!) and "White" with "Gilbert."

Farris says Gilbert broke his word about running for Governor, not ag commissioner. "I was raised to be a woman of principle and always thought that if a man gives you his word, his word is his bond," Farris said in a noon conference call to reporters. On multiple occasions including one questionable Texas Tribune poll and a gaggle of press releases sent at early hours of the morning with large attachments and novella-style fact sheets, Farris says Gilbert assured her he wouldn't be a candidate for anything but Governor. "My particular value says I've got to support someone I can trust. And he lost that trust factor with me."

Might want to extend your hairbrained logic to your own race before you start publicly proclaiming your distrust of other people, Hank.

Also, rumor has it Kinky's dropping out on Monday! Cheers!

Candidate 101: The Do's and Do Not's of Blogger Relations

Tonight is the eve of the beginning of the filing period for the 2010 elections, which means that many rumored candidates who have been biding their time will need to step out of the outhouse and into the game. For all of the Democratic primary candidates out there, I thought I'd offer ten general rules on how to approach and appeal to bloggers (or at least, this blogger) during the primary season. Gentlemen, please shelve your egos.

1. Don't buy any blogger anything. There's a line between bribery and good blogger relations. The line isn't that thin. Chances are, if you can't see it you'll make a great politician and a terrible elected official. We aren't as cheap as we look (or act).

2. Don't ask for our support repeatedly. We're not soccer moms who got distracted by the Bobby Bones Show while listening to a KUT story on your excellent platform. We know who you are and whether we are likely to support you. We don't need hounding. It's okay to ask once -- phone calls are nice, personal emails are better, tweets are hot. But leave it at that. If and when we want to support you, you'll know where to find out (hint: at the end of our URL).

3. Don't send a fundraiser who has more money than God after me to ask for money. If I wanted to give money to someone who doesn't understand what $500 means to the average citizen, I'd be supporting Republicans.

4. Don't compare yourself to famous people. This is just generally a bad idea. No one cares if you look like Reese Witherspoon or if your mom thinks you're the next Obama. Until proven otherwise, you just have a small head or big ears.

5. Have an event somewhere other than Scholz. I'm all for legacy, but have you heard? We live in Austin. There are hundreds of locally-owned bars worthy of patronizing that don't leave me smelling like smoked pickles for a week and sell vodka. I suggest you utilize them. Oh and bar owners tend to have money and care about the world around them. You might try reaching out to them every so often.

6. Respect bloggers' time. Most of us have real jobs that require us to put on pants and leave the house every once in a while. We aren't sitting around waiting for your call. Be brief and to the point. Don't call during the work day when I'm trying do my job to ask for advice about or support for yours. But you have other things to do in the evenings? Guess what. So do I.

7. Tell me more about your compelling life story and your vision for your time in office than your opponent's stance and story. Otherwise I'll assume you don't have your own.

8. You have a Facebook page/group/account/event and you want me to join. I get it. I am aware of how it works. Stop sending me requests. If I say "No" to an event or group, do not keep asking. You can segment out "No" people on events on Facebook so they don't receive updates about an event they don't plan on attending. Learn how to do so immediately. And don't get your feelings hurt. Sometimes I just want to sit at home.

9. DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT, DO NOT! EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER! say "Now write something nice about me" after you've gained a blogger's support. That's what consultants are for. Hire one of them if you want a soapbox to stroke your ego. Better yet, find one with a blog. Everyone else has.

10. Admit when you're wrong or when you've made a mistake. It happens. But what shouldn't happen is covering it up. If you do something stupid or get something wrong, just come out with it. Cringe if you must but I recommend doing so in an open forum or in a social way that allows your supporters to do what they're meant to do publicly: support you. Hiding mistakes is just throwing chum to the sharks.

A warning: it's primary season. They're circling. And they're hungry.

Want to keep up with Democratic filing news? Check out the Texas Democratic Party website where they will be posting the latest filing information at the end of each business day. Or you could read any other one of the Texas blogs or newspapers or live Twitter streams, which will likely also be doing the same.

Pick your battles.

"Morale was deteriorating and it was all Yossarian's fault. The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them."
-Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Tonight's speech in front of gray shouldered West Point cadets was a stark, stuffy contrast to the speeches in which Obama has most moved me -- from a misty shoreline in Austin in February of 2007 to a wide-open stadium in Denver with confetti dripping from the skies -- but it wasn't that kind of speech. If Obama's speech was a horse, a judge would have called it "workmanlike." It got the job done, with little emotion or thrill, in a manner that was both tidy and flat. Despite all of this, sometimes in a field of distracting showboats, those horses actually win.

No one trusts the Afghanistan government. And the war that President Obama has supported since its inception -- yes, this war -- has until now escaped the attention it deserves from not only our nation but from our past administration. We've broken more than one item at Pottery Barn this past decade and continue to be paying for the damage in lives and money, despite the fact that our nation is currently short on both. This isn't and never has been Pearl Harbor and alluding to it isn't going to make anyone feel any differently.

Which leads me to the question: Why now? Obama could let us continue to flounder around in Afghanistan, blame the terrorists' evasiveness on the caves and crossing into Pakistan, and we could spend years upon years doing more of the same. The terrible timing of committing more money and troops to a war that seems so futile makes me think -- despite my utter dislike of the plan -- that it might actually work.

I use the word "work" loosely, like many people use the term "paradigm," having no idea how to define it. I don't know what would "work" at this point in Afghanistan but I do know that while Obama has always supported the Afghanistan war, he's also a bit of a control freak and a perfectionist. If he didn't think this was a battle worth fighting, and worth fighting now, then I'd like to believe -- and I think that I still have enough faith in him to do so -- that he's right.

After the speech, Texas blogger Steve Southwell, who writes Who's Playin', tweeted that his oldest son was motivated to write a letter to Obama. When I asked what his son's take on it was, Southwell replied that his son wants Obama to "'bring them home' and 'fix this war'." But despite these desires, Southwell continued to say that his son "says he wants to fly a bomber when he grows up, but not in a war."

Gently, I'd remind his son that you can't have bombers without wars. And to Americans frustrated with the situation in Afghanistan, but unhappy with the President's decision tonight, I'd remind them that we can't have peace until we've ended the wars we started.

Reset your preset, despite what the billboard says.

Longtime Austin radio station (now owned by Emmis Communications) KGSR, or as we call it in my family K-Geezer, has moved from 107.1 to 93.3 FM, citing a desire for additional signal strength to reach wider audiences in the Austin area.

I didn't find out about this switch while listening to the radio. I didn't first see it on TV either. By the time a friend and fellow listener told me, I already knew. I saw it on Twitter. And I know, it's not any shock that I spend a good part of my day with an eye on some form of a Twitter stream or another.

But I was a little caught off guard when I drove by a billboard last night on South Lamar advertising their annual compilation CD, KGSR Broadcast Volume 17. They go on sale every year around Christmas and are snapped up by local music fans. On the billboard, no doubt slapped up before the channel debacle, the logo still says 107.1 FM. Whether it's too expensive to change or they just haven't gotten around to doing it yet is unknown to me.

But it's odd, really, to see such a physical representation of how print advertising is a dying and expensive breed of communicating to an audience. For free, KGSR can reach thousands of listeners, a captive audience that has nothing better to do than "reset their preset." Meanwhile, their billboard sits vulture-like looking down over the city, serving as a tombstone to a mode of advertising that has seen its day.

Giving Thanks

I'm headed to the Gulf for the long weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving. Our annual trek to Port Aransas has been my favorite tradition since we invented it in 2006. I plan on doing lots of sitting, sleeping, eating, beach-walking, ocean-gazing and fiddling (on a fiddle). I'm also bringing my laptop so I might try to do some writing.

Happy Thanksgiving. When I'm at the beach, I reflect on what I'm grateful for this year. What are you grateful for?

While you ponder that, feel free to read some of the highlights below and enjoy some pictures from Thanksgivings the past few years.

Lucky Shots

A Memory at Every Port

Shameless Confession Regarding Thanksgiving

Adios Mofo: Schieffer Drops Out [Updated]

Tom Schieffer will announce he's dropping out of the Governor's race today in a press conference at 3 PM in Austin, sources say.

To put it bluntly, I was never much of a fan. It seems Christmas, for me, is coming a month early!

Now, an important question: I've had a bet going since August with another blogger that anyone would win the primary over Schieffer, including Kinky. Does Schieffer dropping out mean I won or does it void the contest entirely? I have a Sullivan's steak dinner riding on this.

Bill White is now going to run for Texas Governor. Texas Monthly recently had a plush piece on him and Ross Ramsey at the Tribune brings a good perspective this afternoon about what makes White a serious contender.

Things are getting interesting and perhaps a bit less dismal for Democrats in 2010. I was really looking forward to taking a nice long nap after the primary but sounds like the times may be a-changin' after all. I can't complain.

Comedy Gold

Over the last few weeks, I had the opportunity to take improv comedy classes at a local theater called The New Movement. Set in an old, triangular building off of 11th in East Austin, the theater is the baby of Chris Trew and Tami Nelson, two talented and funny people who say "y'all" a lot.

Improv kind of goes against everything I'm used to - I'm a planner and a thinker, so the idea of standing on a stage without a plan is not only frightening but a little like breathing underwater to me. It took a few times on stage for me to realize the simple fact that it really is improv and you really can't plan for it. You might have a hilarious script in your head about an alcoholic woman yelling at her husband who's cooking sausage but when you start saying the part of an alcoholic woman, the other person on stage starts playing the part of a safari guide on a zebra hunt.

Needless to say, you have to adapt.

But what I found most rewarding about improv was the insight it gave me to others and, strangely, how to work with them. At work I operate in an insular bubble, with my own ideas about how I want something done and how it should be done. It's led to struggles oftentimes of my own making because rather than delegate, I end up just doing what I want done myself. Improv teaches you -- forces you, really -- to take your ego and your preconceived notions about what might be funny out of the equation. You are just there to talk and make motions with your hands. You let the others around you do the work and, when you really let go of the control, that's what becomes funny.

One attitude that I've taken with me from the classes was a sincere respect for those around me that I don't think I had before. The New Movement mantra "Your teammates are the smartest people in the room" is something that can be applicable to nearly everything in life: work, relationships, family. Once you've accepted this belief (it's a little like having faith in God, hold the jihad) it's amazing how easy it becomes to see the strengths in others around you.

And for a girl who spends most of her time in a cynical funk about the world, that acceptance is pretty damn funny.

State of the Texas Democratic Primary Address

Isn't it a great time to be a Texas Democrat's hair?

Tom Schieffer has got to be considering his exit strategy to the Crawford ranch right about now. Hank Gilbert got into the race and ruined all his fun. Schieffer's also being upstaged by not one but two men who sound like they belong on Dancing With the Stars instead of a campaign for Governor of Texas. "Humorist Kinky Friedman and hair magnate Farouk Shami" is how the Ft. Worth Star Telegram described them in a story today about how they didn't attend a candidate forum last night. Why bother? It's not like they're running for office or anything!

[Pause for laughter; applause.]

Now, I can't blame Schieffer for not wanting to spend any of his own money on a campaign against someone who's garnering headlines like "Kinky Friedman’s Pet Parade Has Hungry Armadillo, Gassy Horses." But "hair magnate" Farouk Shami brings a whole level of Sham-wow! to the podium. It's the stuff of little Texas rodeo queens' dreams: a handsome Palestinian, who scraped together millions by selling handheld griddles guaranteed to tame your mane, takes on Governor Good Hair, shifting the debate from health care and home foreclosures to hair products and humidity control.

I know we all have more important things in this state to discuss that don't involve frizz and follicles. As a Democrat, and more importantly, as a Texan, I get that. But as a girl with a long history of hair issues that have been less than Democratic, I'm thrilled to see Mr. Shami bringing the plight of untamed tresses to statewide attention. Millions of Texas women, young and old, struggle with their hair every day. And, for many years, I was one of them. As the daughter of a hardworking woman with multiple cow-licks and a self-made man with a tangle of curls, I've always walked the line of having sort of straight, sort of curly hair. And you know what? It's never been Just. Right.

That was until I bought a CHI iron, produced and distributed by Farouk Systems. It changed my life. Suddenly my curly hair fell straight and, more importantly, stayed straight for 8-10 hours no matter what the weather. It brought me a new level of hope and -- I like to think -- a commitment to maintaining our state's hair quality.

Let me set the record straight: I did pay $200 for it at one point in 2005, which will no doubt be exposed on Mr. Shami's TEC report. However, this does not mean I endorse Mr. Shami for Governor -- but I am proud to stand before you today and say: Two true blue thumbs up on his fantastic line of hair care!

Fellow Democrats, this is our time. No, not our time to have a serious Democratic candidate for Governor. That would be too much to ask for. But it is our time to cast aside our stale Paul Mitchell products and our low-wattage blow-driers. It is our time for good hair.

Because if we're going to lose in 2010, and as of now, we're going to lose big, then we might as well look good doing it.

Thank you and may God Bless Texas!

If blogs are killing newspapers, is Twitter killing blogs?

Today I fell in love with a blog. I wandered onto the blog through an online petition and couldn't stop reading. Her writing was witty. Her posts were intriguing. Her layout was fun and inviting. Her blog was…last updated in January 2009?

How could this happen? This smart, funny DC-based gal called herself a social media junkie but her blog was a graveyard of social media conventions past. Maybe she joined the Peace Corps, I thought. Maybe she had to stop writing because she's running for office. Maybe she's in the hospital in a coma. Then I clicked over to her Twitter page. She was definitely not in a coma or in the Peace Corps. She's just been twittering. A lot. Like, every hour.

My initial instinct was to send her a snarky @ reply on Twitter telling her she needed to get back to blogging more. But then I realized that I was, frighteningly, becoming That Girl.

My blog is dying.

Twitter's just easier. There's a definite advantage to being able to write in short spurts whenever you feel the impulse. As a kid, I wrote pages and pages of scrawling print about horses and families of twelve who go on cruises. Never mind the fact that I didn't have a horse and my mom would sooner catch on fire than take us on a family cruise, my creativity poured out of me. I wrote all the time, everywhere -- much like I do now. It was just more than 140 characters at a time back then.

I signed up for Twitter fairly early on, when only one or two of my friends were on it and I, like most others who have been out of their house within the last five years, took one look at the fail-whale-ridden site and quickly left the page. But since the mass adoption of Twitter, which for me was early 2009, I've noticed a sharp drop-off in the amount of content I'm producing on my blog. I tweet in the morning carpool (when I'm not driving of course), when I'm in a bar, when I'm at dinner, when I'm at work and when I'm not doing anything. And I've started to notice - all of this twittering has got me chattering more and blogging less.

Sure, I'll bang out a long thoughtful post every once in a while, when its raining outside or I've been drinking too much wine. But all the little nuggets that I used to drop onto my blog over the last four years -- a video, a random musing of a few sentences, a shout-out to a friend having an art show or a candidate having a fundraiser -- have been sheared down into tiny, bite-sized tweets that oftentimes are merely a regurgitation of someone else's self promotion or discovery (that's a 140+ way of saying that I'm not afraid to RT). I went through a phase in 2007 where I took a camera everywhere and posted lengthy blogs with photos of people I met who I gave my blog address out to in hopes they would leave a comment or start reading my blog more regularly. Now I use my phone to snap a TwitPic and assume they'll figure out how to find me through Google. My style and even my social dialogue has completely changed.

Tomorrow night, I'm going to a tweetup. I probably will tweet the whole time I’m there ("OMG, just met @fillintheblank!") but I doubt I'll blog about it. After all, this post gets me off the hook for a few more days.

The Decider, Deconstructed

Cross-posted on Huffington Post.

The Statesman ran a full-color review of the new Molly Ivins biography, Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life, by Bill Minutaglio and W. Michael Smith, today. I picked up a copy of the book at the Texas Book Festival a few weeks ago, where I also got to see a panel with co-author Minutaglio, who spoke to a packed Capitol auditorium.

I never met Molly - in fact, I never even laid eyes on her in real life. Molly as a person has always been more of an intangible spirit to me. When I'm around any of her close friends, it often feels as if she just walked through the room and I happened to miss her. Next time.

Reading her biography has been much like poking through my sister's diary when I was eleven, or meeting a television star when you only know them as having played one role. It's easy to forget that people have lives much different from the one you might assign to them, and the book uncovers stories about Molly that I haven't heard told in the bars before.

She grew up with more privilege and with less chickens in her backyard than I'd always imagined. The daughter of an oil executive in Houston, her prescient world views came from rather narrow-minded beginnings. Lovingly inserted early excerpts of her childhood scribbles - a letter to herself warning herself not to read the letter, and at the end of the letter, admonishing herself for having read it; dispatches from the miseries (read: bunkmates) of camp - all reveal a much more vulnerable, albeit equally opinionated, Molly of yesterday than is portrayed in the caricatures of today.

But while her physical being might elude me, her voice never ceases to stomp its way across a page and in A Rebel Life, it is no different. It evolves and matures, but it is always hers, in letters and opinions that hang in the air. And even though I might have missed her when she was leaving, it's a comfort to get to see where she was coming from.

Read an excerpt from Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life at The Texas Observer here.

News to Me: Quickie-Mart Now Sells Womanhood

Damn, is there any better fix than being a woman?

Every day I get to wake up, shave my legs, wrestle my hair into something that more often than not resembles a squirrel's nest and think "By God. I sure am lucky to be a woman." Sometimes I even get a thrill when I wear a skirt outside on a particularly blustery day and the wind blows it straight up in the air.

But, like any good thing, there's the comedown. About once a month, my spine feels like a woodland creature is chewing through it, my forearms tingle with rage when a coworker says something outrageous like "Good morning" and I get the urge to either curl in a ball and sleep forever or get out a voodoo doll when I come home from work.

All of this, in the eyes of Texas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions, is merely penance for my poor choices in life, no different than a marijuana burnout or a particularly nasty hangover. In debating the health care reform bill, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) referenced discrimination by insurance companies by citing disparities in cost based on gender. When Rep. Sessions argued this was not against the law, Pallone explained it would become against the law and asked why this would be a problem.

"Well, we're all different," Sessions explained. "Why should a smoker pay more?"

Why should a smoker pay more? I don't know, Pete. But I'll take a crack at it. Maybe because a smoker chooses to smoke. As thrilling as it is, and as much as I enjoy your Party trying your best to control my uterus at every turn, it may come as a surprise to you that I didn't choose to be a woman. When I was thirteen, I didn't decide "Wow, PMS sounds awesome. All my friends are doing it. I'm going to try it!" I didn't buy my chromosomes from some red-eyed college student and I sure as hell didn't pick up my ovaries in a 7-11.

If I seem a bit irrational in my argument, don't blame me. It's just a side affect of my womanhood.

Electile Dysfunction

Cross-posted on HuffPo.

Last Monday, I had the opportunity to go to the fifth annual fundraiser luncheon in Dallas for Annie's List, an organization that raises money and provides resources for progressive female candidates in the state of Texas. Donna Brazile, a woman whose cadence often makes me feel like I'm living in a moment in time much more important than the one I'm in, was to be the wild-eyed liberal keynote at the luncheon.

I was seated at a table whose seats were donated by one of the Ellis County women's groups, and when I sat down, introductions among the mixed array of women at my table were already underway. The two women next to me introduced themselves as Sandy* and June*, both of whom were longtime residents of the Dallas area region and and had the fashions to prove it. They glittered in gilded cocktail rings, perfectly coiffed hair and the lipstick-ringed smile rarely seen at events in Austin, where climbing out of one's jeans is socially equivalent to putting on makeup.

They asked me why I was there and I mentioned that I was a blogger, which immediately piqued their interest. Sandy asked whether I wrote about national or state politics. I told her the truth: a little of both, sometimes neither, and lately a lot about Rick Perry. "I'm kind of enraged at Rick Perry right now," I said, and as the words escaped me, I had a brief moment of fear. This was, after all, Dallas.

But to my relief, both Sandy and June were nodding furiously in agreement. "Oh honey," June cackled in a North Texas drawl, "who isn't. Now, what I wanna' know is -- if it comes to it, of course -- can I still vote for Kay in the Republican primary but vote for the Democrat in the general?"

I explained to them the pro's and con's of voting in the Republican primary, reminding them that their preference of down-ballot candidates -- if any -- would be left by the riverside. They listened carefully, but didn't seem concerned about the other Democratic races. "I'm for Anyone But Rick," Denise said. "Yes," June agreed, "I think that's what I'm going to do. Vote for Kay to get that awful man out of there."

It occurred to me that neither of these women had mentioned a single Democratic name. I sipped on my iced tea, hoping to look civilized, and said "So here's a question...what do you think about our Democratic field for Governor?"

June and Sandy looked perplexed. I felt their momentary pain, until June appeared to think of something. "Well, we have Kinky and now, who else?"

In the glare of a white linen table cloth and two women's eyes who were wanting to be informed, I felt ashamed. But politics doesn't leave much time for self-pity. "That's right," I said. "We have Kinky. Does the name Mark Thompson ring a bell to either of you?" They shook their heads. Sandy picked up a dinner roll and tore off a corner. I continued, "Hank Gilbert?" No. "What about Tom Schieffer?" Sandy chewed thoughtfully, and June started to shake her head before a light went off.

"Why, yes. Yes, I have heard of him, come to think of it. I've been invited to a couple of his luncheons but never went because I'm just so busy and you know..." She trailed off before leaning toward me and dropping her tone. "Besides, doesn't he have something to do with Bush?" She said the last word like she was spitting out an olive pit, the sound tumbling out of her mouth with a downturn of disapproval.

"He does," I said. Both of them recoiled at the thought. But I wasn't done with my poll.

"So you both say you'd vote for Kay over Rick. And if Rick Perry wins the primary, you'll vote for the Democrat I assume?" They both nodded vigorously. "So," I said, "What happens if Kay wins? Who do you vote for in the general? What if it was Kinky versus Kay?"

Both of them shook their heads. "I can't stand to say this," June said, "but I think I'd vote for Kay Bailey. How could I vote for that awful man?" The conversation turned to Kinky's penchant for cigars. They'd both recently seen him promoting his book on the local news, puffing away. Using a cigar as a prop in a post-Clinton world is, best I can tell, a Democratic deal breaker. How, I thought, is this guy staying ahead of other qualified candidates?

Without a doubt, organizations like Annie's List are helping to pave the way. Donna Brazile spoke about the importance of women being in the room when decisions are being made about their lives and their bodies, saying, "There's no reason [women] should lack on anything when we're the majority of everything,"a line that sent nearly every woman in the room (including myself) reaching for her checkbook. Brazile also continued the Obama chorus of this being "our moment," but wisely failed to mention what a squandered one it has become for Texas progressives. The Democratic women who could be running for Governor -- should be running -- are not. Other candidates hide in the pockets of their lobbyists. Someone whose underfunded message might deserve to make it to the masses is lost behind a celebrity press junket disguised as a campaign. Others are simply helped by their dowry to the Bush era, with a wink and a nod from the political machine saying, "He'll do." It's the political equivalent of taking the Devil's money to do God's work, while forgetting that at the end of the day, it is the Devil who gets all the power.

This is our moment, but it's one that has left Democratic candidates staring off the edge of a cliff saying, "You go first." Is it any wonder we end up with the few who are merely dumb enough to jump? At one point, a slide of Ann Richards flashed on the screens behind the stage and an audible murmur rippled through the crowd. I heard Sandy whisper to June, "She was a heroine." I pulled my eyes away from Ann Richards to look over at Sandy and June, in their early sixties, and wondered when I'm their age, who that heroine might be.

Well, we have Kinky and now, who else?

*Names have been changed to protect the progressive. I asked both Sandy and June if I could use their quotes if I changed their names, and they happily agreed. Thank you ladies for being such excellent lunch mates.

CONTEST: What will be Rep. Naishtat's First Tweet?

State Representative Elliott Naishtat may very well be on Twitter, but his tweet remains untweeted as his follower count (a whopping 62) continues to slowly climb.

I started twondering -- what will be The Representative's first tweet? How could a man of so much mystery and intrigue sum everything up into 140 characters? We've all heard his speeches. They're way longer than that.

Rumor has it he might not know how to tweet, the mere thought of which stuns most of his fans, or that he is saving his first tweet for some sort of major announcement ("major announcement" of course being adjusted for Naishtat Standard Time, like a new buffet-style restaurant opening in town or half price baby carrots at Central Market).

Whatever the case, I am opening up the comments section for your best guesses as to what will be The Representative's First Tweet. You can also tweet your entry by using the hashtag #NaishTweet.

The tweet most adequately captures the NaishTweet spirit will receive a signed, 2010 Texas Capitol calendar that I will wrestle from the hands of Representative Naishtat.

Just don't expect to get it before March.

TPA Weekly Roundup

Time for a Texas Progressive Alliance Weekly Roundup.

Human tragedies are mounting in the Barnett Shale as study after study shows high levels of toxins in the air. The only ones who can't seem to find anything wrong are the regulators. TXsharon asks, "Will the EPA intervene in Texas?" at Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS.

Why did the US forcibly detain a Mexican human rights advocate? CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to know.

Bay Area Houston says Tort Reformers in Texas suck.

The Texas Cloverleaf presents the Kay Coward Bailey Hutchison plan for health care mediocrity.

Off the Kuff takes a look at Cameron Todd Willingham's supposed confession, and finds the evidence for it lacking.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson states that no matter what you hear Transportation schemes are continuing, despite “death” of the TTC. EOW also had a guest post this week on the PEC, Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC): Who’s Electing Your Board Representative?.

"Other big names" may enter the Republican primary for governor if Perry and Hutchison can't get their acts together, according to a right-wing talker in D-FW and passed along by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

The folks at Texas Vox would like to thank everyone who participated in Blog Action Day on Climate Change last week. Following that trend, check out our round-up of Texas Blog Action day posts, let us know who we're missing, and read up on the Business of Climate Change.

WhosPlayin posted an update on gas drilling in Lewisville, and also breaks the story that a local group is looking to ban smoking in public places in Lewisville.

refinish69 reopens Doing My Part For The Left with the latest installment of his series Homesless in Austin-An Insider's View Part 7.

We have known for a long time that Governor Perry is a bottom feeder, but letting an innocent man die and then refusing to get at the truth about his execution? Well, I would not want that on my conscience. Let Libby Shaw bring you up to speed in his posting, All the Good Hair on the Planet Won't Make the Cover Up Go Away.

Neil at Texas Liberal ran a picture he took this week of the confluence on White Oak Bayou and Buffalo Bayou in Downtown Houston. This spot, important in the founding of Houston, is still a place of connection. If connection could be found in the hot and Hell-like Houston of 175 years ago, we can find connection even in tough circumstances.

The Texas Death Panels: What You Can Do

Today at 2 PM, starting at the Texas Capitol in Austin, the Texas Moratorium Network will be having their 10th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty, where the focus will be on the Todd Willingham case and other cases involving innocent people sentenced to death.

I will be on the road to Dallas, however those of us who cannot attend or who are not in Texas can still can do something. Call Governor Perry at 512 463 1782 and leave him a voice message urging him to admit that Todd Willingham was innocent and that Texas should suspend executions before another innocent person is executed and that he should appoint an impartial, independent commission to examine the state’s death penalty system.

This is particularly important as Texas has an execution set for Tuesday, Oct. 27 for Reginald Blanton, a case that is under suspicion for prosecutorial misconduct in which "no physical evidence" links Blanton to the crime and African American jurors were "systematically excluded" from the jury pool. I'm told that Blanton's mother will be speaking at the march as well.

You, your voice, and your time, are one of this nation's points of light. Here's your chance to do something about it.

Mean Roundup

Going to the Big D

I'm headed up to visit an old friend in Argyle and to attend the Annie's List annual luncheon on Monday in Dallas, which features Donna Brazile as the keynote. The last time I saw her speak was at the Democratic National Convention Women's Caucus and I. loved. every. word.

Late Justice

The Texas Observer has a trifold view of the late federal Judge William Wayne Justice, who died on October 13th. Lou Dubose has written an excellent remembrance of the Judge, as have civil rights lawyer Dave Richards and Heather Way, a former clerk for the judge.

Why should you care about this? From Dubose's piece:
"...[H]is 1978 Plyler vs. Doe decision...found it illegal to deny public education to the children of undocumented immigrants. If the Tyler Independent School District hadn’t appealed the decision, Justice’s ruling would have been limited to the Eastern District of Texas. When the Supreme Court upheld the ruling by a 5-4 vote in 1982, it became the law of the land. Today, closing the schoolhouse door to a child is a violation of that child’s Fourteenth Amendment right to 'equal protection of the laws.'"
The ruling affected millions of children, who now live and work and prosper today. That's why you should care.

District Happenings

State Rep. Elliott Naishtat (D-Billy's on Burnet to somewhere north of the Green Mesquite) is having his annual fundraiser this upcoming Wednesday, Oct. 28th. Click here to go to the (are you sitting down?) Facebook invite and, after getting over the shock of The Representative being on Facebook, RSVP! Admission is $25 and all proceeds go toward Elliott Naishtat's "reelection campaign" aka "tie collection." You can also donate on Rep. Naishtat's ActBlue page.

I know. What's next?

Elliott Naishtat on Twitter?

Riding Lessons

I'm riding horses again. I have spent the last two years struggling to come to terms with what we do to horses and what they do to us. But I realized a few months ago that while I did not miss my career with horses, I was starting to miss my time spent with them. I began to yearn for velvety muzzles and prickly whiskers, ambling through fields and trotting in circles. Most of all, I missed the three-beat waltz of the canter, a steady, smooth gait that feels like breathing to me. Around the time I began thinking about horses, I was offered to start riding a wonderful (read: sound, free and well-trained) horse named Rapp (pictured). He greets me happily when I walk up to him, and watches me go when I leave. I feed him peppermints. I talk to him about the weather. I fawn over him, picking bits of straw out of his mane. I still look for lumps and bumps -- these are habits that a horse person never loses -- but I also notice Rapp's pretty dished face and hook-tipped ears, as if he was sprinkled with a dash of Arabian blood somewhere in his long genetic markup. These are all things that I either never had the time or emotional capacity to do when I worked with horses. The horse was a winner or a loser, push-button or yard art. And something or someone was running late.

I'm looking at horses with the child-like fondness I once had. I stretch my heels down and grab a fistful of mane, remembering what it felt like to practice the two-point, one of the first basic seats you learn when you start jumping. A large part of my time is spent thinking about my subconscious and how many actions come back to me without even thinking, sometimes with my body having to play catch-up. When I go to dismount, the ground seems a long way down. Was it always that far away? I think. Yes. It was. I just never noticed until I was face down in the sand.

And the sighs. Nothing, not even Malia Obama, can make my heart swell like the sound of a horse sighing. Nothing.

The next time you're around a horse, you'll see what I'm talking about. They sigh all the time. You just have to listen for it.

Morning Movie: Obama's Remarks at Texas A&M

If you enjoyed my post from yesterday about Obama's speech in College Station, you might enjoy watching the full speech. I highly recommend it to get your blood flowing this morning. If you're short on time you might want to start at about 1:30 seconds into the first one, since the first minute is just him thanking various people. If you're really short on time, just skip to the second video which is when he really gets ramped up.
And if your hair is still wet and you're going to be late to work, queue up the second video to 5:04 and watch the best part of the speech, including a rare moment when Obama stumbles over his words (which actually helped his speech) and his "blinding light" remark (note the audience's reaction).


Would you like some mean with that wine?

I noticed today on my Analytics that vino vino, one of my favorite Hyde Park eateries/drinker-ies, has started blogging and -- vat iz deece? -- they've linked to meanrachel.com in their blog roll.

Not only do I love a good wine bar (I went to vino vino just last week), but I love any business that believes in social media. So here's to you, vino vino, and your excellent taste in both pinot noirs and local blogs!


President Obama: Our One Blinding Light

Last Friday morning when I woke up, the last thing I expected to do was see President Obama speak later that afternoon. But a text from a friend who had secured tickets from Obama For America organizers changed my days’ plans, and by noon I was on the road to Bryan-College Station, Texas.

I’ve only been to College Station twice in my life but I drove into the Bryan city limits with a nostalgia that I didn't expect to have. I remembered how I’d been cramped on a bus coming back from Albuquerque almost exactly a year ago when I saw on my Blackberry that the Bryan-College Station Eagle had endorsed Barack Obama for President, their first Democratic endorsement in 50 years. Hundreds of Austinites had been bussed to Albuquerque as part of a "Bus Ride for Change" event and, after driving for fourteen hours straight, we spent an entire weekend knocking on doors to get out the vote. When I saw the news alert about the endorsement, I yelled "Listen to this!" and with a captive audience of road weary volunteers, I read aloud the full text of the endorsement. When I arrived at the final line of the endorsement -- "With hope in our hearts and confidence in our choice, The Eagle recommends a vote for Barack Obama for president" -- a cheer erupted on the bus. It wasn't because we were glad the newspaper had finally come over to our side. It wasn't even because we'd spent the weekend being lectured, having doors slammed in our faces and getting chased by the occasional dog. It was that after all of that, we kept walking on, street by street, block by block. And because of our efforts, we all had a small, individual role in that endorsement and its sweeping change of precedent. It was, perhaps, our greatest accomplishment of the weekend.

So it was appropriate that Friday's topic for Obama’s speech was to be about service, honoring the 20 year anniversary of George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light Institute, its name taken from a line in his inauguration speech in January 1989. At the time, President Bush called for a “thousand points of light" contributing to the community through their service.

Obama lauded our forty-first president on his administration’s commitment to service, but then paused for a moment before carefully saying that the role was not solely on the part of the government. “He didn't call for one blinding light shining from Washington,” Obama said. “He didn't just call for a few bright lights from the biggest nonprofits; but he called for ‘a vast galaxy of people and institutions working together to solve problems in their own backyard.’”

As he made one President’s words his own, Obama’s greatest asset and greatest flaw became stunningly clear. Obama embodies our “one blinding light” and we simply expect him to deliver. We are too easily blinded from the reality that we are the people who elected him and that we are the ones who have the ability to change things – not him. Obama has tried to remind us -- as he said in Denver at Invesco Field in 2008, "This election has never been about me. It's been about you."

We complain that he hasn’t brought home the troops, while not bothering to do anything about it ourselves. If we truly want peace, we have to create it – not demand it, or whine about it, or wish for it. No one in the world wins the Nobel Peace Prize on their own. While the Peace Prize might have been a call to action for Obama's policy decisions, it is also a call to action for all of us.

On Saturday, a friend forwarded me an op-ed from The New York Times by Charles M. Blow. Titled "Impatiently Waiting," the op-ed questions why Obama hasn't managed to create the sweeping changes he promised on the campaign trail, citing "the president’s quixotic quest for bipartisanship" as a hindrance to health care reform and complaining that Obama had merely "whisked into" New Orleans.

But Mr. Blow's first sentence most lazily sums up the expectations of our one blinding light:
When, Mr. President? When will your deeds catch up to your words? The people who worked tirelessly to get you elected are getting tired of waiting.
I don't know how tirelessly Mr. Blow worked to get President Obama elected but I do know this: it’s been a year since I slept on a crowded bus with a toilet reserved for “emergencies only” while driving fourteen hours to New Mexico. There’s work to be done now, just like there was work to be done then.

And if you, like Mr. Blow, are tired of waiting, then tear your eyes away from our nation's blinding light and start doing something.

And They Will Know Us by our Trail of Lights

I don't hate everything that happens in Zilker Park.

Take, for example, Austin's Trail of Lights, one last bastion of my childhood and an Austin I used to know. Our family would scurry down there from our house up the hill and I'd write my annual letter to Santa Claus asking for a pony (although something must have been messed up with Austin's postal service to the Pole because I never got one). I still try to make it to the Trail each year, and have only missed one or two years in my life.

Now, the City is arguing that they lose $500,000 a year on it "partly because it has been free to the public." This leads to their near-sighted solution: Let a private company take over and -- get this -- charge for it. Even worse -- it's the same company, Roadway Productions, that runs Batfest, a relatively new event in its 5th year that has been riddled with organizational issues and bad-will from local businesses in the past.

Why doesn't the City keep the Trail of Lights and, I don't know, charge for it? Or ask for suggested donations? Or start a program that will generate admissions fees from the thousands of people who walk through the park during the event, cash in hand. Call it "Pay a Kid's Way" or "Lights for Little Ones" or something catchy that the City would no doubt have to pay an expensive marketing consultant to come up with (I'm available and I won't even charge you).

Someone like me, who might not donate by mail or phone, would show up at the Trail of Lights full of holiday spirit, pay my admission and drop an extra $5 for another person or child, or an extra $20 to pay the way for a family of four. The City can then give out vouchers to schools and parents.

The absolute last thing that should happen is another C3-type takeover of this institution or allow the tradition to go the way of the Aqua Fest. We'll end up with Gold Packages that start at $75 and include carriage rides through the park, t-shirts and a free hot chocolate at the end. Instead of local dance troupes and school choirs, Miley Cyrus will end up taking the stage.

All of this, while a lovely thought, is not necessary and hasn't been for the last twenty five years of my life. You only need one good spin under the tree, a magical stroll through our public park and a good, warm, hat. Oh, and that pony I'm still waiting on.

Bad campaigner: Tom Schieffer. Worse Campaigner: Rick Perry?

That's what William McKenzie over at the Dallas Morning News is saying:

I am fully in the head-scratching camp. I don't see his moves as all necessary. And I sure don't see how they help him politically. It looks to me like he's handing an opening to Hutchison and even Tom Schieffer, if Perry winds up running against Democrat Schieffer in next November's governor's race.
Great. Too bad we don't have a better candidate at the top of our ticket to capitalize on this opportunity.

Oh well, too late now. Many Democratic members of our Texas House, including the esteemed Peeps caucus, have already endorsed Schieffer. Good move guys!

An Open Letter to Republican Consultant Ted Delisi

Mr. Delisi,

I can ignore a lot from your kind.

But not this:

Willingham fits the profile of a sociopath whose conduct becomes more violent over time & who lacks a conscience, http://bit.ly/IOayx.

Cameron Todd Willingham is dead. He was executed by a Governor who either didn't pay attention or didn't care. Those words that you so self-righteously tweeted were taken straight from the mouth of Dr. James Grigson, nicknamed "Dr. Death" because of "
his contributions to 150 capital murder trials. In a majority of those cases, Grigson determined the defendants were sociopaths who would likely kill again."

That same doctor was expelled from the American Psychiatric Association and the Texas
Society of Psychiatric Physicians for "alleged ethics violations."

Great source, Mr. Delisi.

But if you are going to wax nostalgically about faulty evidence, pretending like this isn't simultaneously a huge blow to your anointed Governor and also his terrible mark on American history, have the dignity to speak of the dead -- the executed -- in the past tense. That's the least you can do while you stomp all over an innocent man's early grave.

Please, spare us the fear-mongering. Cameron Todd Willingham isn't some sort of violent threat "who lacks a conscience." He never was, but he certainly isn't now. Governor Rick Perry made sure of that.


Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Martinez to Draw an Opponent?

Austinites were a-twitter today with rumors of a young, up-and-coming hotshot who not only speaks Chinese but can also teach you how for only three payments of $19.95. He got his big start on the widely-known Rosetta Stone infomercials, giving him both name ID and on-camera experience. You might be asking "Who is this international man of mystery?" The question is, "Who isn't he?"

But don't take my word for it. Check out this exclusive video of Alejandro, known to his many fans as "Mini-Me", our Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Martinez's son.


Pianos are fun!

I love this. Those crazy Swedes.


Watch. This.

Alan Grayson's gotta be one tough act to follow.
Salon.com had a great post last week some time about how Grayson is the new darling of the left.

Friday Morning Music

Here's a little ditty that I've been digging lately by the Avett Brothers. I can't decide whether I want to learn it on the piano or fiddle. Maybe the Wings & Thighs will learn it for Thanksgiving.
Happy Friday. Have a safe weekend.

Good news: This post isn't about ACL or politics!

Yup. I'm going nillo on caring about The World today. Why? Because I have been exposed to swine flu, that's why. In a twist of fate, the reporter who interviewed me on Monday twittered on Wednesday that he has H1N1. Seriously, World? If that's how it's going to be, then I'm boycotting you.

In the meantime, why don't you check out my supersmart and superfunny friend Debbie Singer's new website for all of your comedy, voice over and acting needs. That's Debbie on the left, along with me and my two former roomies in Vegas several years ago.

Tonight's "I Don't Think I Have Swine Flu" Events:

Kurt Kuhn Kick Off at Threadgill's
Should be a good time with local Dems and our beloved municandidates out shakin' hands. Plus I haven't seen The Representative in weeks and I'm going through withdrawals.

Improv Comedy Classes at The New Movement
I missed last week's class but I'm back and ready for some more "Yes, and's..." Also, by the way, the FTC is going to begin requiring bloggers to disclose any freebies or perks they get starting on December 1st, so let's just get this out of the way: I get to go to the improv classes for free. Because I can. But thanks for ruining the surprise, FTC.

Now, how am I going to disclose all those free drinks?


Austin City Limits: Before and After

After all of my grousing about the matter, I appeared on FOX 7 tonight talking about the "disaster" that was ACL 2009. While I hate to be the canary in the coal mine, I think ACL has jumped the shark.

Here's the corrected video.
I'm about 54 seconds in, and again at 1:19 and 2:25.


Welcome to Texas: The Death Penalty State

Cross-posted at HuffPo.

You know those billboards you see on the side of freeways advertising new subdivisions built in rural areas outside of town? "If you lived here, you'd be home by now."

Someone needs to throw up a similar one next to the "Welcome to Texas" signs you hit when coming in on I-10.

"If you'd done what our Governor has done, you'd be executed by now."

As the case against Cameron Todd Willingham, executed in 2004, sinks like a rock, the truth has started to float to the top and the rats are streaming out from all sides, led by none other than Texas Governor Rick Perry. Perry has reason to be running - his office denied clemency to Willingham just before he was executed, despite the fact that new information was submitted from arson experts stating that "no evidence of arson" was found (see Dare Devils: Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Death Panel).

This is the same Rick Perry - as a native Texan who voted for the Democrat in that election, I feel honor-bound to remind you - who won with only 39% of the vote in 2006. Even Texans know that at best this makes him unpopular. It also means that our Governor, his hair a-glaze, has his work cut out for him in his re-election race.

So it should come as no surprise that Perry is now pawing the ground like a cat in a litter box, covering his tracks. Inconveniently for him, the stink remains. As the state's Forensic Science Commission, which was set up to investigate the Willingham case, was preparing a report on the validity of the arson investigation, Governor Perry decided to replace three of the nine members appointed to the commission. The chairman of the commission was replaced with Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, who the Dallas Morning News calls "one of the most conservative, hard-line prosecutors in Texas." The timing, according to the Dallas Morning News, disturbed the former chairman, Austin lawyer Sam Bassett. "In my view, we should not fail to investigate important forensic issues in cases simply because there might be political ramifications," Bassett said.

But political ramifications, particularly to a professional politician who's been called everything from a "cyborg" to "Tricky Ricky," are exactly what keeps our Texas Governor up at night, not the death of innocent people, under-funded public schools, teen pregnancy rates or children without health insurance.

For the rest of us, Willingham's final words are a chilling reminder echoing in the news around the world this week nearly six years after his execution: "I am an innocent man convicted of a crime I did not commit. I have been persecuted for twelve years for something I did not do."

But, ultimately, Governor Perry's statement regarding his not-so-covered cover up says it better than anything I could ever write. In one moment at a press conference this week, he took all that was taken from Cameron Todd Willingham - a breath of life, a beat in his heart, an air of innocence - and said, straight faced, that his decision to replace the board members was, simply, "Business as usual."

Welcome to Texas.

Take action: If you would like to sign a petition to Governor Rick Perry and the State of Texas to acknowledge that the fire in the Cameron Todd Willingham case was not arson, therefore no crime was committed, please click here. As of this posting, there were 1,967 signatures.