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 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,

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. 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.


Austin City Limits: Down the Drain

Two pictures, swiped from social networks, adequately sum up why I don't like ACL.

Friday Morning (via @JenniJones_TX)

Sunday Evening - via Facebook - Hunting the Snark
The caption to this photo was "And it smells like manure."

Radio personality JB Hager, from JB and Sandy in the Morning, twittered late Saturday night: "The irony is, it wouldn't be so muddy at ACL if they hadn't brought in all that new soil. Crazy mud here."

Statesman reporter and Out and About writer Michael Barnes twittered Sunday afternoon: "A fetid, barnyard pall hangs over Zilker Park."

Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Martinez also twittered Sunday afternoon: "The park is trashed. But we will rebuild it and make it even better. No choice."

Go on, try to tell me this isn't wasteful.

Bye-Bye Dillos

You taught me what an armadillo was.

I'll miss you.