Is Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison just having hot flashes or does someone need to adjust her Premarin? Yesterday, when asked by a Dallas radio interviewer when she would be "coming out," Hutchison said (and yes, this is a quote):
"I’m going to announce in August. Formal announcement I am in. Then the actual leaving of the Senate will be sometime – October/November – that-- in that time frame."
Hours later in Washington, Hutchison tried to Jazzercise out of her comments, further proving that the sky is, in fact, not blue in DC. "I was really trying to say to [Governor Rick Perry] he could step back here," Hutchison said, "and he's really trying to hang on too long and maybe he'll rethink," implying that she thinks Perry should just drop out of the race.

Really, Kay? That's like saying you think Lance Armstrong should retire. After everyone in the state of Texas had a nice, long, cynical laugh about that pipe dream, they started speculating as to what Hutchison really meant. Which is really hard, because even Hutchison doesn't know what Hutchison meant.

The Hutchison campaign is acting bipolar, when it acts at all. Earlier this week, they found themselves in another "Can you read that back to me again?" moment when, after assuring reporters that rumors of a staff shakeup were untrue, rumors of a staff shakeup turned out to be...true.

From the Statesman's Jason Embry's First Reading:
"What isn’t clear is why Klingler told Selby in early July that there was no shakeup in place, since Wiley told the campaign in early June that he could no longer serve as campaign manager."
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Governor Perry isn't doing much better when it comes to consistency. After turning down $555 million in federal stimulus money that would have gone to Texas's unemployment system, he's now decided to borrow some money. Two billion dollars. From the federal government. To go to the unemployment system. How he plans on justifying this move with the wild-eyed savages that he calls a "base," I don't know. What exactly are they steeping in those tea bags?

And, candidates? Can I bring up something a little awkward? This is a fun little quote from 2004, in which Kay Bailey Hutchison is being interviewed on CNN about Democratic nominee for President, John Kerry:
It's unbelievable that someone could be so wishy-washy and flip-flop so many times, and then ask to lead our country with clarity and vision.
Et tu, Ms. Kay?

Bush League: Tom Schieffer, Crawford and FEMA

A few months ago, I decided that I wasn't really ready to be courted by snowbird Democrat Tom Schieffer. But after reading Burnt Orange Report's starry-eyed writeup on their meeting with him, I decided to Google the guy like a blind date.

Now, the first thing a girl is always after is a good picture of the potential suitor -- one that really sums up the qualities that you might find attractive that you can send to your friends and, giddy, ask "What do you think?"

Well, friends: What do you think?

Democrat running for Texas Governor Tom Schieffer pictured in Crawford with George W. BushGeorge W. Bush and Fmr. Ambassador Tom Schieffer
Taken in January 2004 during Bush's holiday at Crawford ranch. Photo credit: TIME

In all of Schieffer's lengthy bios, there is a brief mention of his time on the board of an innocuous-sounding manufacturing company called Drew Industries from 2000-20001, along with another familiar name, Edward "Rusty" Rose, another one of initial investors in the Texas Rangers. Bush's people sought out both Schieffer and Rose after baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth said their investment team, whose investors were largely from out of state, needed more local ties. Rose continues to own a large portion of Drew Industries shares, and by "large" I mean "several million dollars worth."

Drew Industries, as it happens, makes RV supplies and manufactured homes. Why, you might ask, would a white-collar lawyer like Schieffer care about manufactured homes?

Three words, like everything that touched George W. Bush's presidency: no-bid contracts.

Drew Industries, after voting to split their stock on August 5, 2005, made millions and was able to "outpace the industry" (that's PR speak for "screw over smaller competitors"), off of FEMA orders for manufactured homes after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Two years later, the Washington Post wrote about FEMA's inability to offload the trailers (emphasis most emphatically mine):
The Federal Emergency Management Agency hurriedly bought 145,000 trailers and mobile homes just before and after Katrina hit, spending $2.7 billion largely through no-bid contracts. Though FEMA paid on average $18,620 for each of the trailers and mobile homes, during the past year the agency says it has received an average of only $7,367 for the 2,665 it has sold so far.

But forget all that insider stuff and do me this one favor. Scroll up and take a good, long look at that TIME photo from Crawford.

I'll wait.

Is anyone with a vote in 2010 for Texas Governor seeing this photo? Are you seeing Schieffer's comfortable slouch in the presence of a friend? Doesn't he look cozy in this Martha Stewart Does Crawford scene, with some unidentified paper pusher lurking in the background? Do we have to grin and bear it with a candidate -- and, Allah help us, a Governor -- who has more ties to George W. Bush than Afghanistan has caves?

Texas may still be a conservative state, and it might even still be a Republican state. But it sure as hell doesn't need to still be a Bush state.

Twit This: Distraction Nation

An article in the New York Times about the dangers of cell phone use while driving says that when we talk on the phone in our car, we see an image of what we're talking about instead of the road ahead. A red light turns into a pair of cowboy boots we just got on sale that we're telling our friend about, or a car comes out of nowhere because you were envisioning your Caribbean cruise that you're talking about on the phone with your travel agent.

A better metaphor couldn't exist for the way I'm feeling about the world in general these days.

I don't exempt myself from this metaphor. I'm too ashamed and distracted to count how many times I've glanced up from my Blackberry, tearing myself away from something fleetingly important, and said "...What?"

Even I annoy the shit out of myself.

One part celebsession, one part gossipmania, one part over-teched, it all came to a twittering head for me when I found out, almost two hundred and twenty times in one 24-hour period, that the Beastie Boys had canceled their ACL appearance, our beloved Barton Springs would be might be in a few months is closing for repairs, and that Austin really would love to get some rain.

My head feels absolutely full of useless trivia relating to nothing and everything. There's so much more I'd like to know, but I hardly have the energy to look it up, let alone read more than 140 characters worth of anything. Deleting emails has become manual labor.

I look up from my Blackberry and I see the scenery fading into the background: red lights, health care hypocrisy, women veterans not getting enough qualified health care at VA hospitals, slaves in Haiti, war crimes in Burma, torture in Gitmo, misuse of TARP funds.

I never even hit the brakes anymore.

Ed. Note: For an added interactive bonus for having read to the end of this post, play the NYT driving while texting game. There are some interesting statistics at the end.

Snow Queen Round Up

No, I'm not the Snow Queen. Snow Queen is a vodka from Kazakhstan I discovered this weekend. One word: Yum. It's so sweet and so good that I didn't want to put a lime in my usual vodka soda with lime.

Retails for about $25 for a small (750 mL) bottle and is forty percent alcohol by volume.

So you don't really need a whole lot.

Or maybe you do.

Plus with a name like Snow Queen, how could I not love it?

Also, it's Monday and it's time for another Texas Progressive Alliance blog roundup.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is sick of cronies running our cities our state and our country!

WCNews at Eye On Williamson on more GOP shenanigans - Republicans, hypocrisy, the stimulus, and more Carter "nuttiness".

Off the Kuff notes that as Texas' unemployment rate continues to rise, we are now in the position of having to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government to fulfill our unemployment insurance obligations. Heckuva job, Governor Perry!

John Coby at Bay Area Houston has posted a A How to Guide for Illegal Immigrants to Vote in Texas Elections.

Xanthippas takes on more disability-as-diversity nonsense. Also, on a side note, our blog Three Wise Men's 5th anniversary is this coming Tuesday. We'll be putting up a special post in commemoration.

The Texas Cloverleaf looks at how the NTTA will be raising rates because volume is down. So much for supply and demand theory.

This week, an old author returns to McBlogger with a true story about dogs. Completely unrelated to politics and nothing but funny.

Neil at Texas Liberal posted a video of him reciting the words the 1848 Shaker hymn Simple Gifts as a ship passes behind him on Galveston Island. Coming up this week at Texas Liberal will be a video shot at the San Jacinto battlefield.

Upon the arrival of Fashion Week in Austin, Mean Rachel wants to know "Does this city make my butt look hot?"

Citizen Sarah at Texas Vox expresses disappointment, to say the least, that the Public Utility Commission denied Sylvester Turner's petition to protect our most vulnerable from dangerous summer heat.

Teddy at the fourth estate, will be able to survive the economic recession and into the new digital age. Left of College Station also reviews the week in headlines.

The Texas Tribune, a new media project headed up by soon-to-be-former Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith, is an idea that shows lots of promise. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has more details about it.

Just as during the campaign, malicious emails are being sent, especially to the elderly. One paticularly nasty one is entitled: SENIOR DEATH WARRANTS. Over at TexasKaos, lightseeker takes on piece of electronic hit mail and offers some ideas on fighting back in his diary, Healthcare Scare Mail and what You Can Do To Help.

Alternative energy, in a civic sense.

Stumbled across this write up from LA Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa about their Summer Night Lights (or its pop culture connotation, SNL) program, aimed at keeping gang violence and crime down during the summer months when it's commonly on the rise.

The concept is so simple, one of those "Why didn't they think of that sooner?" kinds of things: keep the lights on longer - literally - at the city's gang reduction zones and parks, extending the hours and having "recreational, educational and artistic activities" planned. At-risk youth were also hired to help create the programs -- money going toward people who are willing to work, for a good cause. Last summer, the program's first year, the city saw a 17% drop in violent gang related crime and 86% reduction in gang related homicides. It was the safest summer in more than three decades.

How's that for results?

This year, the program was doubled from 8 to 16 parks, and the city's mayor has pledged to get it running in 50 parks by the end of his second term.

A key sentence from the Villaraigosa's write up on the program's success:

The goal was not to try and change the identity of local gang members, but rather to change their behavior during the summer and encourage them to participate in the positive activities at the parks.

It's refreshing to see people at a city level starting to acknowledge what most pacifists have been saying all along: you cannot fight violence with violence. Patrolling around in cop cars looking for crime is a defensive, reactive way of doing business with gangs. The same could be said for our current war on terrorism. Torturing, humiliating and holding captive our suspected "terrorists" merely creates more terrorists. It doesn't address any sort of problem, except for perhaps gaining intelligence.

Intelligence, it seems, that we wouldn't need if everyone in Afghansitan and Iraq had reliable water, electricity and commerce. What if we kept the lights on a little longer, rather than blacking out to keep curfews, making everyone miserable? What if the same proactive, forward thinking was applied to our military strategy? Sure, I probably wouldn't be picnicking in Kabul anytime soon, but pouring billions of dollars into useful sources of education, recreation and artistic pursuits might just have changed things for some people.

But, on second thought, who am I kidding. The best way to keep violence down is to dump bombs on people and oppress them. That always seems to work. They should start giving it a shot in Los Angeles.

Karl Rove and Dewhurst - On a break?

Editors note: This post is really best if you have this playing in the background as you read it.

Karl Rove, Monopoly-man-gone-evil, was seen leaving the building Sen. (don't write blogs while drinking) Lt Gov. David Dewhurst lives in today near Austin's Capitol building. He drove a black Range Rover with the new Texas license plates, which is almost as hideous as Karl Rove's soul.

Most curious: he took with him a lot of boxes.

I'll leave you to speculate for yourselves as to what was in those boxes.

As for me, I'm guessing it was the result of a bad breakup with the Dew.

Does this city make my butt look hot?

...Don't answer that. But, really: Austin now has a Fashion Week. Break out your rompers and gladiator sandals, ladies! Oh, wait, you wear those all day, every day, everywhere. For a city that's only used to seeing tents when they're set up for farmer's markets and music fests, not runways and sample sales, this ought to be interesting. What's next, Fleet Week?

Personally, I don't think Austin needs to adopt any more fashion trends. Those emo guys who stroll around SoCo wearing chucks and skinny jeans, whose only give is in the butthighs (yes, it's a word), just gross me out. Between the heat and their hair grease, they look like they're about to spontaneously combust. And for women - layers?

Tell me please, how can you have fashion week in a city that never has use for this season's favorite accessory, the summer scarf? I envy those East and West Coasters and their gauzy weather that makes draping another layer over themselves an actual possibility this time of year. I'm too busy making sure every article of clothing I'm wearing covers just enough to keep me from getting charged with prostitution, while still allowing a humid breeze to work its way through for an occasional thrill.

I dunno. The thought of a bunch of people melting outside the Long Center on Sunday's Austin Fashion Awards just doesn't appeal to me. It seems like way too much effort to get dressed up. Hell, it's so hot it's too much effort to even think about getting dressed up.

So, Austin fashionistas, enjoy your fashion week and your fabric fetish. When JCrew starts manufacturing the summer bra, I'll be the first in line.

Independence Day 2009

Today remembers a day when Americans declared their independence in order to form, eventually, a more perfect union -- because they believed that independence grants us all certain unalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

When it comes down to it, that's all anyone ever really needs.

May you find your yours.

As for me, I'll be going to Marathon for the second time - the first being when this picture was taken, back in January.


If writing was a horse, I never would ride.

Great, great post. Something that 140 characters just couldn't have said. Maybe you can still write, after all.

This was the start of my response which initially started as a comment to my friend in Boston, rooroo, on her post titled "on writing." Go read it. Then, if you care to, read the rest of what became my comment.

I've often felt exactly the way she feels. As an elementary schooler, I wrote masses and masses of creative fiction -- horse stories, mainly, but I occasionally dabbled in ten-page intros to random fictional stories about weathermen, gymnasts and all sorts of things I was way under qualified (at age nine) to be writing about. At eleven, I wrote something that is still my favorite fiction I've ever written, centering around a Nassau Beach (nevermind the fact that I've never been there) seagull named Fredwick (I didn't know it was spelled Frederick).

I wrote, left-handed, sitting on my twin bed blanketed with sheets of notebook paper, using whatever pen I could find on my bedside table. My mom used to refer to me as her "ink stained wretch," the sole of my left hand always smeared with evidence of my afternoon hobby. I cataloged my writing in baskets and boxes, the curly fringe from my notebooks littering my bedroom floor. I loved to write and it was never difficult to do so. Physically, mentally and creatively, I was at my writing peak with Full House, Black Beauty and Trumpet of the Swans as my muse.

The change happened when I was tasked with writing an analysis of an excerpt from Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. It was required for entry into my new middle school's honors "Language Arts" class. I remember staring at the question and thinking "This isn't asking me to write anything." Where was the standardized test question on how to cook a spaghetti dinner on the moon? Where was the prompt of a dragon holding a toaster that I had been weaned on in elementary school? Analysis, I decided then, isn't writing. As I read the speech, I imagined the look of the crowd, maybe a boy on his father's shoulders, and a story that could be told from his eyes about the movement. Or a basset hound who heard the speech and went on to befriend an orange tabby cat. Wild thoughts crashed together in my mind -- later I would call it my "imagination." But I pushed those tangents aside and struggled through my first analysis.

I remember getting my schedule for middle school classes on Back to School Day. There it was: Language Arts - R. We wondered what the "R" meant -- my sister pointed out that hers had an "H" next to it, clearly Honors. My mom marched my schedule over to a counselor, who explained that "R" meant "Regular." At that point, it might have well said "Remedial." I was embarrassed and ashamed -- me, the family writer, the ink stained wretch, hadn't made the grade. My analysis wasn't up to par.

I don't remember writing much of anything in middle school, creative or otherwise. But boy did I write in high school. AP essay after AP essay, I became an analysis machine. My handwriting looked like Arial Narrow 11-point font and I used roller-ball pens to keep my hands clean. I wrote on college-ruled paper because I liked how it made me write smaller, and I knew how many words I could fit on one side of the page. I still have everything I ever wrote in high school, all filed according to semester and teacher. One particular coup, when I was taking junior and senior English concurrently, was a piece entitled "Their Eyes Were Watching Gatsby," tying themes from The Great Gatsby, which I was analyzing for my junior class, to Their Eyes Were Watching God, my senior assignment.

Those pieces are some of the best analysis I'll ever write. They're probably also the most useless.

With the exception of this blog, whose only purpose is as my own one-woman reality show, I never write for fun anymore. I don't even think I have paper in my desk at home. The last time I tried to write, my hand got tired after the third sentence. Where was my keyboard? I couldn't remember how to spell "suppose" and there was no red squiggly line to help me out. But, most troubling, I couldn't think of a single story to tell. I could come up with an engaging introductory sentence, some ironic themes, and even a few metaphors. What then? Where did my imagination go?

We lose our hobbies, I think, when we get too good at them. Too trained and groomed and prodded, they become caricatures of what they were, Jon Benet-style faces that are scarily perfect. I used to have twenty six t-shirts with horses on them and seventy two plastic horses. Then, one day, I was able to name you every bone in the lower half of a horse's leg, point out the exact angle in the hoof that causes a horse to founder, and explain how they die because evolution never taught them to vomit. Wispy manes and velvet muzzles gave way to back injuries and frustrations. Somewhere went both writing and horses, and so I went: a horse-crazy, ink-stained wretch turned occasional blogger, a stiff spine and a critical eye, always looking for a limp or a lump.