My Top 5 Songs of 2010

I don't usually (ever?) talk about music on this blog but I got the idea from an Austin conservative blogger named Robbie over at Urban Grounds who did a top-five post.  While I agree with less than 1% of what Robbie writes about politics, I check in on his blog from time to time and was pleasantly surprised to see that we do have some similar musical tastes (KOL and the Zac Brown Band being two of them).  It was kind of fun to hear what music another blogger enjoys, so I decided to steal the idea and do my own top five.  Thanks for the inspiration, Robbie.

1. Laredo - Band of Horses
My 2010 actually began with a trip to Laredo and a "crossroads with myself."  I love the dusty, mesquite-smoke sound of this song.  It just sounds like all of Texas blended into music: urban, rural, painful, comforting, wistful, gorgeous, grainy, vacant two-lane country roads and gridlocked I-35.


2.  Fisherman's Blues - The Waterboys
This song isn't new, but it's new to me.  I discovered it over the summer when I was out in West Texas and Glenn Smith and his daughter Katie covered it.  When I learn to play an instrument, there's usually a song that grabs me enough to make me want to learn it, even though it's way too hard to play.  I've been working on this song on my fiddle, and my mom and I played it (somewhat poorly) over Thanksgiving at the beach.



3.  Free - Zac Brown Band
The extended version of this song has some beautiful fiddle work at the beginning and the fact that it devolves into "Into the Mystic" (one of my favorite songs) at the end is just an added bonus.  This chord progression of this song also reminds me of some early 90's country song that used to play in the stables when I was eight years old at horse camp, so it stirs up memories of hay bales baking in the summer sun, nighttime trail rides and camp fires.


4.  Stay - The BoDeans
I have been listening to this on repeat for a couple of months now.  This song is mellow and sweet, just like it should be.


5.  Hard Believer - First Aid Kit
First Aid Kit is made up of two sisters from Sweden whose harmonies are stunning.  The rest of their debut album is pretty folksy, but I like the strength of this song and their single "Ghost Town."


Bonus: You knew I wouldn't forget F**K You.
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Not Everything from Alaska is Bad

I hope this video from the Yup'ik village of Quinhagak brings you as much joy as it did me this holiday morning, no matter what you celebrate.

Merry Christmas.

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Enemy of the Valley: Aaron Peña's South Texas Party Switch Stings Constituents

This post initially appeared on The Huffington Post.

Tony Martinez, who works in marketing for a produce company in a small town in the Rio Grande Valley called Edinburg, Texas, understands the significance of a powerful message.  That's why it's unsurprising that he remembers what party-switcher Aaron Peña's yard signs used to say -- and the promise they never fulfilled.

"He had these signs that said 'Fighting for the People,'" Martinez told me over the phone Sunday afternoon.  Martinez, a Marine Corps veteran who returned from combat duty in Iraq in 2005, appreciated Peña's interest in veteran's issues, like when Peña walked in a rally with Martinez to support a veteran's hospital being built in South Texas.  "People like me were loyal to him because he was loyal to our needs.  He would listen, y'know?"

But despite support from his mostly Democratic district, Peña's message -- and his politics -- took a strong right turn.

"I know legislation takes time but he's just been playing the fence for years," Martinez said, who's still waiting on a veteran's hopsital to come to the Rio Grande Valley.  "He's been in every photo op but can someone to actually point at something and say 'Aaron Peña did this?' No."

Peña appeared on FOX News on Sunday morning talking about his reasons for switching parties.  When asked by the reporter about Call Out Aaron Peña Day, an online initiative to publicly denounce Peña's party switch, Peña chuckled and said "There’s been absolutely no backlash where I live. I’ve been embraced by the community."

It doesn't seem that way to Martinez, an Edinburg native who said Peña has become the "laughing stock" of Hidalgo County since the switch.  "He comes from a big family," Martinez said.  "Aaron's dad was a respected attorney who's been down here for years, and people trusted the name.  He's tarnished that name."

Peña's rationale behind his party switch stems from a Eeyore-like refrain that complains that not enough is being done in South Texas by the Democratic Party, and yet ignores the fact that the Republican Party's platform seeks to disenfranchise minorities and suck state funding out of already low-income areas.  University of Texas-Pan American political science professor Dr. Samuel Freeman finds Peña's reasons for leaving the Democratic Party counter-productive. "One place where he and I are in complete agreement is that the Democratic Party has not paid sufficient attention to South Texas," said Freeman.  "But while Peña's criticisms [of the Democratic Party] are correct, his solution is absolutely wrong."

Dr. Freeman has lived in Edinburg for over thirty years and, as both a constituent of the district and professor of political science, found Peña's party switch to be "duplicitous."  Freeman's semester wrapped up yesterday, but when I asked if the campus had reacted at all to Peña's decision to leave the Democratic Party, Freeman was quick to answer.  "Everywhere I have gone, everyone I have talked to, they are all upset, angry, hurt [and] betrayed at what Aaron Peña has done.  The opposition is almost visceral," Freeman said.  "For Peña to say there hasn't been backlash...he's either delusional or a liar."

Another one of Peña's constituents, Amber Arriaga, lives in Donna, Texas and is a UTPA graduate who helped spread the word in South Texas about Call Out Aaron Peña Day.  She questions Peña's insistence that the Democratic Party's "professional left" in Texas has ignored her community.  "I don't feel ignored by the left, more like attacked by the right," Arriaga said, adding "I never see people like [John] Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison here."

Cornyn and Hutchison, two long-time Texas Republican Senators, voted Saturday against the DREAM Act, which seeks to provide pathways to US citizenship through military service and higher education for minors who arrive illegally in the States and graduate from US high schools.  It's because of the Republican Party's stance on this issue and others that directly affect the Hispanic majority of Peña's district -- like Arizona-style immigration legislation -- that make many of Peña's constituents feel jilted by Peña's sudden change of loyalty.

"Aaron Peña has gone over to the side of people who are unalterably opposed to anything and everything of any benefit to the people of the [Rio Grande] Valley," Freeman said.  "He has in a very real sense become an enemy of the people of the Valley."

Freeman, Arriaga and Martinez all agreed that the best way forward for Aaron Peña would be to resign, but are doubtful he will due to the fact that that he is unlikely to win in a Democratic stronghold like Hidalgo County.  Martinez, meanwhile, is strengthening his resolve.  "He can do anything he wants.  I'm going to support any Democrat who runs against him.  It's just a damn shame it's going to be in 2 years."

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Punishment


Often, when I meet someone, they say to me "Mean Rachel?  You're not mean."

Truth is, I'm not.

But what I am is a person of strong convictions with zero patience and a very, very short fuse.

So that's why it really frosts my Christmas cookies that Aaron Pena (hereby tilde-less and using his cleansed, conservative Republican namesake) decided to switch to the Republican Party a month after being elected as a Democrat.  This sure doesn't seem like some big life decision that Aaron Pena made randomly one cold December morning.  It's the decision made by someone who's looking out for numero uno, while his constituents live in poverty.

Now, to make matters worse, Pena is tweeting JFK platitudes to try to make people like myself less livid. "Forgive your enemies but never forget their names."  Really?  I don't think Rick Perry can even pronounce your name, Aaron.  He's also grousing about the "destruction of the center" which is really interesting given the fact that he has switched to a party whose leader wants to secede from the United States of AmericaHow the hell is that a move toward the center?

So yeah, I'm angry and I'm looking for a fight.  Pena, in Spanish, means a penalty or punishment.  And since Pena has always been such a social media warrior, voy a penar my amigo on his favorite battleground:  online.

So, please, join me and other bloggers and Twitterers for Call Out Aaron Pena Day.


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Peña: Forget You

There's a lot I could say about Aaron Peña's party switch but for now, I think this Cee Lo song sums it up pretty well.  And, amigo, I'm taking small comfort in the fact that it looks like your own damn party can't even be bothered to put a tilde over your name.  Did they also remove it from your papers after they asked to see them?



Aaron Peña:  Forget you.  The only "shortsighted cabal" is the one standing behind you in the photo above.

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Fight or Flight: Aaron Peña's Party Switch

As rumors began to swirl about his switching parties, State Representative Aaron Peña tweeted a blog post that I wrote a few weeks ago about the "Crisis of Character in the Democratic Party."

Peña's tweet of the post long after it had been pushed into the archives of my blog made me realize that the wound is still there.  To play off of Harold Cook's excellent metaphor of Peña leaving one party for the come-hither look of another, it's as though Democratic activists and their establishment players have been sleeping on opposite sides of the bed for quite some time now.

It's a messy marriage.  Peña's likely party switch didn't surprise me, but it did disappoint me.  Peña has always made himself available to me, and most bloggers, so in the process of writing this post, I decided to ask him if he had any comments for me.  This is what he wrote:

"I've been a Dem. since I first worked for Hubert Humphrey at the age of 5.  Was Pres. of Hidalgo County Young Democrats, State Pres. of Tejano Dems. Twice national delegate and one time national platform committee.  Was one of Clinton's top Texas donors.  Ran for state party chair.  Texas party took for granted Hispanic community and ostracizes moderate and conservatives.  I have spent my life trying to break the direction of the shortsighted cabal in charge."

My follow-up question was easy: "So why give up now?"

His answer?  Not so simple.  "Still thinking.  Go get em."

Whether you agree with Peña's ideologies or political choices he's made as a Democrat, one thing has always been fairly evident: he's not afraid of confrontation.  He's ready to fight for what he believes in.  On a personal level, his potential party switch makes me wonder what I could have done differently.  On a Party level, though, it makes me wonder how weak a party must become in order for it to no longer be worth fighting for.

Horses, and many prey animals, have a biological response caused by acute stress known as "fight or flight."  In times of great peril, their heart rate will go up, their peripheral vision narrows to focus soley on the threat facing them and they experience "auditory exclusion," the inability to hear anything around them.  There is a moment -- sometimes a split-second of time -- where all of these physical reactions enable them to either have the speed and agility to run away, or the strength and focus to stay and fight.

And maybe that's where Peña and I must go our separate ways.  Because while the Party has consistently disappointed me, since age 13 when I learned what a blow job was from Bill Clinton; since the first time I ever voted and my mom announced to a bunch of pot-bellied Republicans in line in front of us that I was there to vote for "Tony Sanchez, even if he is going to lose;" since our Gubernatorial candidate refused to be seen with our President; even after all of this, there is still so much worth fighting for in the Texas Democratic Party.  There is a woman whose body is controlled by a man.  There is someone on death row who will be killed for a crime he didn't commit.  There is an immigrant whose plight is the cultural makeup of this country.  There is a child across the street who doesn't have health insurance.  And there are two people who love each other who deserve equal rights.

There is struggle ahead and difficult change.  It is the moment of deciding whether we choose fight or flight, and I say we fight.  And while he's well-equipped to do either, I wish Peña would do the same.
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Two losses

It is a tradition of mine to post a photo and my favorite quote of theirs when someone dies.  We have had two big losses over the last two days, so please take a moment to remember Carlos Guerra and Elizabeth Edwards.

Carlos Guerra

"Do I look illegal?"
-from Guerra's buttons, June 2010


State Rep. Aaron Pena has a nice blog post about his last meeting with Carlos Guerra during the State Convention in Corpus a few months ago.  This meeting happened to be the first -- and only -- time I would meet Carlos.  He was handing out buttons (in the picture above) that said "Do I look illegal?" on them, which I was really tickled by.

Harold Cook remembers Carlos
Coby remembers Carlos
XP remembers Carlos
Stace remembers Carlos

If you have a post up remembering Carlos, let me know and I'll add it here.


Elizabeth Edwards

"I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious."
-from Edwards' final statement
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Follow Up to "Social Lobbying"

It was purely uncanny timing that my post on social lobbying went up on the same day that Austin-based ratings and reviews company Bazaarvoice announced that it hit a 1000-brand milestone.  CEO and co-founder Brett Hurt (on twitter: @bazaarbrett) has a post up about the announcement that even makes mention of the use of ratings and reviews in our government's future (emphasis mine):
When I left Coremetrics and started Bazaarvoice with Brant on May 2, 2005, it was because we were striving to help the eCommerce industry increase conversion. According to Shop.org’s annual study, conversion rates were still under 3%, meaning 97% of visitors to eCommerce sites didn’t buy.
...
Soon we’ll share our opinions about everything — governments, employers, and people. This feedback won’t just help individuals make decisions — it has the power to improve almost everything in our world. It’s going to happen faster than you think — our 1,000 diverse and global brands are proving that.
This is a huge milestone for a quickly growing company based right here in Austin, and marks a larger shift in the way our own population is choosing to make decisions.  Working at a start-up with a similar potential for reach, it's exciting to see another local company with a global focus doing so stratospherically well.  Could this mean ratings and reviews are coming to your favorite politician's website sooner than we think?  Let's hope so.  For more on this issue, check out Hurt's piece on transparency and leadership (with specific mention of the Obama campaign opening the door to increasingly transparent government).
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Social Lobbying: How Ratings and Reviews Could Change Politics


Holiday shopping is in full swing and, since I detest malls, I've been checking items off my list by shopping entirely online.  Whether I'm buying baubles or gadgets, one thing is consistent in my shopping habit:  I look for customer reviews.  I sort products by those that have the best ratings.  I want to know how others say items fit or feel.

When it comes to e-commerce and online shopping, ratings and reviews are fairly proven in terms of their widespread use. A study done in 2008 by Forrester Research found that, as of October 2008, almost half of US online adults read ratings and reviews at least once a month, which was doubled from 2007.  A more recent survey done by Brand Reputation in late 2009 found that 84% of consumers said they were more likely to check online for reviews prior to making a purchase compared to twelve months earlier.

This got me thinking about the way we shop, which really is just another way we make decisions.  I then started to wonder about how ratings and reviews could affect one of the most important decisions many of us make in our lives:  who we choose to vote for, based on how we expect them to perform.  The more I thought about it, the more I started to realize how many ways a broken political system could benefit from a concept that retailers bought into long ago.


1. Ratings and Reviews Put the Power in the End-User's Hands
Voting once every two or four years is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ensuring that an elected official will vote on legislation that you support.  If you think that just by voting for someone, your voice is being heard, you're mistaken.  When was the last time you wrote an email to your Congressman on an issue?  When was the last time you called your Senator to leave them a voicemail?  Guess what:  I had no idea you did that.  Odds are also very good that your Senator or Congressman didn't, either, unless one of his or her staffers placed the letter directly in front of them.

There may have been a time when phone calls and letter writing actually influenced Washington, when people stood in the street and talked to their neighbors and had strong ties within their community.  That time ended with the adoption of air conditioning and, later, personal computers, when families retreated indoors, left their front porches and yards, bought 52" plasma screen TVs and iMacs, and began living inside -- and online. In the meantime, someone is getting paid very, very well to be your voice in the Capitol.  That person is called a lobbyist. 

So how do you fight back?  You take your issue public.  Bloggers have been doing it for a few years now.  Our voices are very public and, typically, very extreme but that's usually the way to be noticed.  We may not influence everything an elected official does -- but we do often influence what he or she doesn't do, for the simple reason is that electeds can't get away with everything they used to.
Politicians come and go but one thing is consistent: they all have an ego, and they all want to know what is being said about them.  It's just been the case too often lately that the only people talking about elected officials are a very small slice of the actual voting-age population.  Ratings and reviews would allow Americans to collectively remind their elected officials exactly who they serve: the voters.

2. Ratings and Reviews Have a Low Barrier to Entry
Most people are simply not going to wake up in the morning, drink their coffee, and start a political blog.  And why should they?  I have a passing interest in shoes and clothing, but I have no interest in or authority to be writing a fashion blog.  But that doesn't mean I haven't taken five to ten minutes to review a pair of particularly uncomfortable flats I bought online at Old Navy.  If, while drinking your coffee one morning, you saw in your Facebook feed that a friend wrote a review of a Senator's stance on Don't Ask Don't Tell, you might be moved to do the same.  Then you would finish drinking your coffee and move on with the rest of your life. 


3. Ratings and Reviews Encourage Constructive Feedback and Change
Even though I was unhappy with my aforementioned shoes, it was mostly because they fit smaller than they should have.  Was I annoyed?  Yes.  But I didn't trash the shoes, or tell everyone to stop shopping at Old Navy -- after all, if I didn't like some of their products, I wouldn't shop there to begin with.  Instead, I offered a solution to future shoppers: buy one size larger than you normally would.

Sam Decker, former CMO of Austin-based ratings and reviews company Bazaarvoice and notable godfather of social marketing, wrote an article in 2007 called "Positives About Negative Product Reviews" in which he explained the effect of negative reviews on a product:
"Almost everyone describes looking for the negative comments to make sure they can live with any shortcomings in products they buy. We all know we don't live in a world of five-star products."
Decker goes on to talk about how, while sales of the iPod were wildly popular, most reviews mentioned the screen being easily scratched and recommended that buyers purchase a protective case.  Imagine that: a problem and a solution.  What would this sort of collaborative attitude do to our currently divisive, polarizing national conversation?  Change it entirely, or so we should hope.

That politicians have stopped listening to voters and started listening to lobbyists plays a huge part in the fact that the primary way we communicate our political views is by standing at the opposite ends of the political spectrum, screaming at each other, and hoping we're the loudest one in the room.

4. Ratings and Reviews Foster Authenticity
Voter apathy was rampant in the most recent midterm elections but it wasn't for lack of trying on the part of campaigns from both sides.  In a Politico article about a Women's Monitor poll of female Democratic voters just before the election, Alexander Burns wrote, "The information gap that emerged from the poll is clear: 44 percent of women in the poll agreed that 'it’s hard to get meaningful and accurate information.'"  Additionally, during an election year in which $4.2 billion dollars were spent on political TV advertising meant to deliver a message to voters, the Women's Monitor poll found that 53% of respondents said "they had no impression of their current member of Congress."

Perhaps this sentiment has something to do with what women consider to be "meaningful and accurate" information.  As our ways of consuming information change, so does our view of who is qualified to provide it.  For example, according to a survey of female US Internet users, consumer reviews are nearly 12 times more trusted than descriptions that come from manufacturers.

If we can't change the way we discuss and learn about politics, then nothing will ever change in a political process that everyone, no matter what side you're on, agrees is broken.  Could that be the way lobbyists and special interests want it?  To quote a notable Alaskan, if I may, "You betcha."
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"Nothing Good is Going to Happen"

I finally found some time over the long weekend, after I drove back from Port Aransas, walked my dog, did my laundry, tidied up my house, met a friend for drinks and caught up on The Office, to watch Senator Kirk Watson's "Honesty Agenda" that was filmed a couple of weeks ago.  Yes, all thirty minutes of it.

Despite the catchy title of the speech, I'm not going to lie to you: this is super boring.  I've seen buffet lines that were more exciting.  But, as boring as it is, this video -- or, more accurately, the topic of our state's budget crisis and the reform that needs to happen in the budget-writing process -- is also important.  So when you've done all you can do at the end of the day sometime this week, skip an episode of Modern Family on Hulu and consider watching this instead.  Your friends will probably laugh at you (or stage an intervention) but at least you'll walk away with a better grasp of what caused the budget shortfall and where we could (but likely won't) go from here to solve it.

Strongest point:

"They say 'There's no hope?' 'This is just the way it has to be under these circumstances?'
I say that's the same sort of deception and irresponsibility that got us here.
They say 'We're the victims of these uncertain times?'
I say they're the cause of them.
....
No one, no matter how conservative, should feel good about brutal cuts that would potentially put teachers out of their jobs, packing kids into classrooms and undercutting their ability to learn there."

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Book Smart

For just under $50, Amazon.com will bundle Governor Perry's new book Fed Up! along with George W. Bush's new pageturner, Decision Points, and Sarah Palin's America By Heart.  Sarah's is priced, naturally, the lowest -- perhaps the alternative title should have been "Doin' Equal Pay Proud."


Looking for something more?  For another $1.08 trillion, Amazon.com will also bundle both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for you.

From our Texas Republican disasters to yours, happy holidays, America.
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Giving Thanks

It's that time of year again.  The time of year when a large portion of my family crowds into a tiny vehicle, heads south to Port Aransas and spends the weekend staring at the Texas coastline while we eat handfuls of roasted nuts and have pie for breakfast.

We have a great time.  But no Thanksgiving trip to Port Aransas would be complete without the rest of my family watching a corny movie on TV while I write my annual Thanksgiving post, which I've been writing (thankfully) for five years now (2006 here and here, 2007, 2008 and 2009).

I'm always thankful for all the riches and loves in my life, but this year, I feel like there have been two hallmarks that have changed my outlook of the world around me entirely.  For two thousand and ten, I can sum up what I'm most thankful for in two pictures:

Julius

Buying a house six months ago was one of the best things I've done in my life.  It makes me happy every day in subtle ways that have given "it," or as I call it, Julius, a personality.  When I come home after a long day at work and find my rosebush blooming, when I hear mariachi music coming from the steps of a nearby church after a Catholic wedding, when I open my door and hand out popsicles to the neighborhood children, when I found a can of paint called "Golden Retriever" in the bathroom -- all of this has made me keenly aware that my house has a soul.  Call me crazy but it's there, and I've enjoyed living in Julius and finding that the soul of Julius now lives in me.

Charlie

I can't talk about Charlie without talking about my first Golden Retriever, Gus, who died of cancer in July of 2007.  Gus was my best friend from age 13 onward, and when he passed, I was just hitting my early twenties, apartment-bound and always on the go.  Despite the fact that I've worked at a company where you can bring your dog to work every day for almost five years now, I haven't had another dog since Gus.  But when I knew I was going to buy a house, I applied online with a Golden Retriever rescue group based in Houston.  They told me to keep checking the list of adoptable Goldens and a week after I moved into my house, I saw Charlie on their website.  More accurately, I read a description of Charlie and emailed to see if they had any photos.  As soon as I saw his picture (the one above) I was sold.  How could I not want this smiling furball in my life?  Since I adopted him in August, he's dragged me around East Austin for his walks every day, curled up at my feet on chilly evenings, accompanies me to work (just like Gus did when we worked at the horse barn) and fit snugly into a place in my heart, right next to Gus. 

Finally, I feel like it's important to also give thanks for what makes both of these things possible: my job, which challenges me and always gives back to me as much as I give to it.  I'm thankful that my career path, such as it is, has led me to where I am.

I hope you have a great Thanksgiving weekend and that you, too, have much to be thankful for.
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The Best Speech Texas Democrats Never Heard

Today in history, on November 22, 1963, the best speech Texas Democrats never heard was never delivered.

Today in history, on November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was scheduled to give this speech in Austin.

I am a blogger so, naturally, I've edited it for space.  But you can read it here in full -- and I recommend you take the time to do so if you haven't before. I've also taken the liberty to embolden some of my favorite parts.

---

One hundred and eighteen years ago last March, President John Tyler signed the Joint Resolution of Congress providing statehood for Texas. And 118 years ago this month, President James Polk declared that Texas was a part of the Union. Both Tyler and Polk were Democratic Presidents. And from that day to this, Texas and the Democratic Party have been linked in an indestructible alliance--an alliance for the promotion of prosperity, growth, and greatness for Texas and for America.

Next year that alliance will sweep this State and Nation.

The historic bonds which link Texas and the Democratic Party are no temporary union of convenience. They are deeply embedded in the history and purpose of this State and party. For the Democratic Party is not a collection of diverse interests brought together only to win elections. We are united instead by a common history and heritage--by a respect for the deeds of the past and a recognition of the needs of the future. Never satisfied with today, we have always staked our fortunes on tomorrow. That is the kind of State which Texas has always been--that is the kind of vision and vitality which Texans have always possessed--and that is the reason why Texas will always be basically Democratic.

For 118 years, Texas and the Democratic Party have contributed to each other's success. This State's rise to prosperity and wealth came primarily from the policies and programs of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman. Those policies were shaped and enacted with the help of such men as the late Sam Rayburn and a host of other key Congressmen--by the former Texas Congressman and Senator who serves now as my strong right arm, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson--by your present United States Senator, Ralph Yarborough--and by an overwhelming proportion of Democratic leadership at the State and county level, led by your distinguished Governor, John Connally.

It was the policies and programs of the Democratic Party which helped bring income to your farmers, industries to your cities, employment to your workers, and the promotion and preservation of your natural resources. No one who remembers the days of 5-cent cotton and 30-cent oil will forget the ties between the success of this State and the success of our party.

...

For this country is moving and it must not stop. It cannot stop. For this is a time for courage and a time for challenge. Neither conformity nor complacency will do. Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a party is not to our party alone, but to the Nation, and, indeed., to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.


So let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation's future is at stake. Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause--united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future--and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.
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Tina Fey on Sarah Palin

This whole acceptance speech by Tina Fey is just brilliantly funny but apparently PBS cut a bit about Sarah Palin out.  I can see why.  There was clearly a contingency of conservatives clapping during the long pauses in between her sentences favoring Palin and, to quote Austin Powers, it got weird.  It starts around 12:30 but the whole speech is worth watching.


Watch the full episode. See more Mark Twain Prize.
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Rubbernecking

I'm struggling with something rather personal. 

I don't know whether I can read Decision Points.

A few weeks ago,  I met up with some friends at a bar in Austin.  The flat-screen TV's were showing some football game that people around us were watching, off and on.  At some point, my attention turned to the screen as I realized that they were promoting a clip from Matt Lauer's interview with George W. Bush about his new book.

I was captivated, spellbound.  And, as I looked around me, I realized everyone was, too.  There was a group of people standing up to leave, about eight of them, and they all paused what they were doing -- putting an arm through the sleeve of a jacket, opening a purse to dig for keys, swigging the last ounce of Fireman's Four -- and watched.  It was as if someone had yelled "Freeze!" during a game of tag and they became statues, almost as if they were afraid to move, stopped in their tracks by a man who, last we heard from him, was the receiving end of a tennis shoe.

He's different than President Obama.  What power Obama had during the election, all his "Elvis," has worn off.  Our President now proselytizes or lectures and most people don't pay him much attention, as far as I can tell, in a 24-hour news cycle.  In this age of pundits and cable TV, it's easier to pay closer attention to those who filter Obama for the masses, awash in either a positive or negative light.

But Bush is different.  He's a car crash of epic proportions, so grizzly that you can't bring yourself not to look at it.  And for every time I think to myself "I can't read that book," part of me thinks "I have to."  There's a certain part of human nature that wants to observe, hit the brakes just a little bit, peer out the windows, just to see if you can make some sense out of a pile of twisted metal and rubble.  In this case, I'm no longer looking for dead bodies left lying in the road -- I'm just looking for answers as to how they got there.
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Texas Progressive Alliance Weekly Round Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance is beginning to feel the holiday spirit as it brings you this week's blog roundup.

Off the Kuff discusses the issue of Latino turnout in the wake of last Tuesday's elections.

This week on Left of College Station, Teddy takes in the landscape after the storm and presents a way forward for Texas Democrats. Left of College Station also begins the Texas Legislature Watch by looking at the bills that Representative Fred Brown has pre-filed. Left of College Station also covers the week in headlines.

Letters From Texas explained a fundamental truth to state Senator Dan Patrick: democracy is about more than two wolves and one sheep voting on what's for dinner.

Killing medicaid and CHIP along with Grandma and the kids will devastate the Texas economy. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders why the evil Heritage Foundation wants to hurt the Texas economy.

Mean Rachel wondered when the Democratic Party decided to become the I Can't Believe It's Not Republican Party.

Bay Area Houston says the GOP is giving poor Hispanic kids the bird.

Over at TexasKaos, libby shaw gives her take on "Fixing the Federal Deficit" or rather how NOT to do it while distracting a nation. Check it out : Fixing the Federal Deficit.

Neil at Texas Liberal says that where there is smoke you will not inherently find fire. Yet the smoke alone may be enough to do a great deal of damage.

This week at McBlogger, Captain Kroc takes a look at one of the newest members of the Texas Legislature.
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Oh really?



It's hard to tell in the above quote, tweeted by the Quorum Report, if Straus is referring to the Speaker's race or the Republican Party's strategy of running Latinos for State Representatives and then immediately filing Arizona-style immigration reform.
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The Crisis of Character in the Democratic Party

When did the Texas Democratic Party lose its flavor?

Between the Blue Dogs, the Rose-ian “I’m tough on immigration” ads and the shying away from our President – who, I’ll remind you, is the last person who actually energized the Democratic Party -- we aren’t the Democratic Party anymore.  We're simply a group of people constantly reacting to the demands of a radical right.

I’ve got to hand it to the Republicans. At their heart, caricatures like Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell only serve to define Republicans like Rick Perry as smart, practical leaders. If you’re used to seeing a sequined political figure doing the cha-cha, a potential Presidential candidate who wrote a book seems downright cultured. And it’s not a far leap from the seemingly acceptable ideology of many Republicans – anti-immigration, anti-gay marriage, pro-life – to the hairy under-armpits of the Mama Grizzly platform. As long as you can take at least one tiny step away from that, you’re a beacon for Republican radicals everywhere, somewhere just off the coast of crazy.

But these characters also give Democrats an opportunity to form characters of their own and a formula for what gets people's attention. Is it really that there are no voters left out there who believe that the premise of “terror babies” is a cultural fallacy as fake as the Botox-infused mouth it’s being spewed from? Or is it that Democrats have just stopped allowing our own true believers to make a counter argument -- or, better yet, a counter offer -- in a more compelling way? 

Democrats in Texas have a problem. Weak, flavorless and not good for cooking, the Democratic Party – particularly in Texas – has tried to blend in so much that we’ve lost our relevancy. We’re the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Republican Party. We were so afraid someone would stop and notice we were Democrats that we forgot one thing: we couldn’t make voters forget about the (D) next to each one of our candidates. "We're not crazy like them, but we're kinda' like them" is a fool's strategy.

"But we need the moderates." Who are these moderates, and where did they get us? They certainly didn’t get our Democrats elected. Our campaigns are over.  Most of our people now aren’t in office. And frankly, that’s how it should be. Because if you can’t embrace our President, then how can voters know that when the chips are down, you’re going to embrace the children of our state who go without health insurance? If you can’t stand up for your own Party’s beliefs, then who is going to go to the ballot box and stand up for you?

The Democratic Party is suffering from an atrophy of character. We have lost any conceivable moderates to attrition, because the Republican Party at least has the ability to define who it is – regardless of the fact that they’re the drunk guy at the holiday party, at least everyone remembers that guy’s name. Our fixation on “the bad guys” does no good if we’re not worth listening to in the first place. We need deliberately distinct leaders and we need to be unabashedly unafraid to support those leaders in bringing back the fundamentals of what matters to Democrats and -- as one insider so eloquently put it recently -- "the tangible consequences of voting for them." 

And if you’re shaking your head at all this saying "No, that won't work" then what will? We already tried it your way.
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Texas Progressive Alliance Weekly Roundup

The Texas Progressive Alliance remains committed to moving forward as it brings you this week's blog roundup.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is still reeling from the republican blowout. Say goodbye to your Social Security and hello to Warren Chisum in your bedroom.


Off the Kuff starts to discuss a way forward from this election.

There was some good, some bad, and some ugly in last Tuesday's election returns. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has the deets.

After Tuesday's Demageddon, Mean Rachel offers some advice as to what political candidates should do with their social media accounts after losing an election.

Len Hart at BlueBloggin has a few words on Election Postmortem: A Picture of Dorian Gray It is said that insanity is repeating a failed strategy in the expectation of one day getting a different result. Because that never happens, the nation is nuts! Just enough people always vote against their own interests to guarantee that wealth will continue to ‘trickle up’...

Andy Wilson over at Public Citizen's TexasVox wants to point out that members of Congress who lost their re-election in Texas all had one thing in common: Opposition to climate change legislation.

TXsharon who blogs at Bluedaze recently flew to EPA headquarters in North Carolina to present four case studies of health impacts caused by natural gas extraction in the Barnett Shale. She met with the top rule makers in the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards who are working on new rules for the oil and gas industry. They said it was "incredibly strong evidence."

A day after the election, Letters From Texas identified dark clouds on the horizon for victorious Republicans. Later in the week, he detailed the first cloud up to bat: the state budget.

Lightseeker, over at TexasKaos tries to figure out where we are and where we go next, after the mid-terms. Check it out.

While things were rough at the ballot box in the northern hemisphere, in Brazil the political left won a third consecutive national victory. Even on the darkest days, there is always progress being made someplace in the world. (Via Texas Liberal)

After a campaign-work related hiatus, Capitol Annex returns to active blogging with a new look, a new logo, and this post addressing the growth of food service jobs in Texas and why the growth of low wage jobs sill eventually cause the Texas economy to grind to a halt.
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Looks like Rick Perry and I agree on something.

From the New York Times' "Re-elected Texas Governor Sounding Like a Candidate":
And in defending states’ rights, [Perry] writes: “Texans, on the other hand, elect folks like me. You know the type, the kind of guy who goes jogging in the morning, packing a Ruger .380 with laser sights and loaded with hollow-point bullets, and shoots a coyote that is threatening his daughter’s dog.”
I wrote this two days ago:
No, it wasn't a year for incumbent Democrats, but what can you expect from a state full of trophy hunters? Texans know what big game looks like and have an uncanny attraction to shiny objects. We prefer our candidates to come in special packages with leather trim and low mileage and who carry guns when they go jogging because we think that makes them special, like a King Ranch edition of Ford truck.
And this yesterday:
We live in Texas. Texans don't vote for suits, they vote for dudes who go skeet shooting. Even if those dudes are terrible Governors, "they go skeet shooting" is the takeaway that most people will remember.
Like it or not, Democrats, it's time to accept this reality and, gosh, I don't know, work with it.

Update: Texas Observer's Bob Moser zeroes in on how I've been feeling:
A few years back, when Southern Democrats everywhere were suffering much the same way Texas Democrats are today, I asked an organizer friend in North Carolina: What's the remedy for the Democrats' inability to beat the Republicans down South?
"Well, sh-t," he said. "They could try being Democrats."
...
A crushing defeat like Democrats suffered on Tuesday in Texas is also an opportunity. With nothing to lose, damn near literally, the Texas Democrats have a chance to build a new party from the bottom-up. If they can emphasize organizing over "strategy," if they can rethink their whole idea of what makes a good candidate and a good campaign, if they can convey a hearty belief in what their party stands for (aside from a different brand of fiscal conservatism), this state might yet have a two-party system. But it ain't going to happen tomorrow. Old habits die hard.
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Tweet or Die: What Candidates Should Say Online After a Loss

The election is over and man, Democrats sure took a beating Tuesday night.  Since then, I've noticed a sharp drop-off in not only campaign ads and GOTV phone calls (hallelujah!), but a drying up of online activity among candidates who, a few days ago, were practically unlocking "Overshare" badges on Foursquare.  (Nerd reference, look it up.) 

I know there's resistance.  "I'm too exhausted/tired/sad/busy and don't have time." "My staff did that, and they're all gone now, so I'm just going to stay quiet for a while."  "The election is over, why should I bother?"  Simple:  Let your social accounts grow stale and you will lose your following.  It's as easy as that.  Tweet or die.

So with that in mind, here are some ways down-but-not-out Democrats can keep their post-election social strength up.  You're welcome.

1. Tell us what the HECK has happened to you since November 2nd.

I don't care if your only news is that your dog peed on the carpet on Election Night - if your last tweet is from November 2nd and says that polls close at seven, you need to update your Twitter and Facebook accounts.  Like, yesterday.  Otherwise, Billboard, I'm unfollowing you and probably unfollowing my interest in your future in Texas politics. 

2.  Collect feedback.

Since Tuesday night, I've heard a million and one reasons (some stronger than others) about why Democrats lost.  From consultants to bloggers to Monday morning quarterbacks, the suggestions and advice and "should haves" have been endless.  I don't believe in perfection and while some may chalk this cycle up to a national trend or a toxic environment, there has to be something that each campaign can learn from this election. I've been watching most of the Democrats I follow on Twitter and Facebook with a bit of a morbid curiosity to see if any of them asked the voters what they think could have been done differently, either within the campaign or on a larger scale.  Yes, we're just people who pull the lever (or, more accurately, turn the wheel), but we also see things that candidates -- and their campaign teams -- don't.  While the advice may not be something that could have changed the outcome of a historically bad election cycle, it could help down the road.  Storytime: 
One year, I completely stopped blockwalking for a campaign because they printed their walk sheets in a way that just listed all of the targeted houses for each street on one sheet of paper, rather than breaking it up between odd and even house numbers on two separate pieces of paper.  It made blockwalking confusing and it made it take forever.  I happened to mention it to the campaign manager after the election and he apologized, saying they had done it that way because they wanted to save money by saving paper.  But they also lost a blockwalker, which some might say is more valuable.

3.  Give thanks.

I can't tell you how many candidate's post-election emails I've read in the last two days that said "While I can't begin to thank everyone on my staff..."  Really?  Sure, you don't want to list off a gazillion names in a mass email to all of your supporters but let's talk about another great place where you can publicly thank people: Facebook.  Use the "@" symbol in a status update to tag those you want to thank -- you can tag up to six people in each one.  How about a status update a day until you list all your best staffers?  Or upload a photo of you and your staff and tag them in it with a simple "Thank you" in the caption.  Write a poignant note on Facebook and tag your staff. Find out which ones are on Twitter and mention them for #FollowFriday. Never underestimate the staying power of "Thank you."  It could come in handy the next time you want someone to answer your call.

4.  Start being a human again.

We live in Texas.  Texans don't vote for suits, they vote for dudes who go skeet shooting.  Even if those dudes are terrible Governors, "they go skeet shooting" is the takeaway that most people will remember.  There's a constant chatter in social media, PR and marketing worlds these days about "developing your personal brand."  Political candidates have a tough time with this and it's something they oftentimes only start working on when they decide to run for office.  Even then, these personal brands become veneers made up of what consultants or pollsters told them their brand should be, rather than the person they actually are.  The time to start a blog about your intense love of green energy isn't when you hire a campaign treasurer, it's when you realize you have an intense love of green energy.  If you're out there fighting for water rights every day, it's time to start letting people know nowTumblr and Posterous are free, easy-to-use platforms that make blogging as easy as sending an email or text message.  Start a video blog if you don't like to write.  Live tweet your City Council meetings.  If you care about education and you're an educator, post photos of your desk at school on Facebook.  Show your human side.  People vote for humans.  Don't let us forget about you.

The reason online organizing works is the same reason online organizing doesn't work:  it takes time to build a strong online base.  It's up to you to invest that time.  Whether you're planning to run for office again or you just want to crawl under a blanket with a pint of ice cream and hide out till January, candidates and past elected officials should stay connected with their social networks as much as possible.  After all, these people ultimately gave you one of the greatest gifts a citizen can: they voted for you.
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Anatomy of a Winning Governor's Race

Coming to us from Colorado...Former Mayor John Hickenlooper aces it.

August, 2010



September, 2010



October, 2010



October, 2010



October, 2010
(Perhaps the strongest one)

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Ready or Not, Here Comes Rick Perry

Crossposted on the Huffington Post. 

If your election night party is held at an exotic game ranch in Texas, what does that say about you?

It says you go for the kill.

The Wrangler-wearin', coyote-cappin', budget-bustin' Governor we had last year, and the year before that, and the year before that and -- well,  you get the idea -- has been elected again.  Becoming the longest-serving Governor in Texas history, Rick Perry got re-elected because Rick Perry goes for the kill.  And, ready or not, Rick Perry will become the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee for the very same reason.

For those in Texas who weren't getting paid to believe otherwise, Rick Perry's win wasn't much of a surprise.  Percentages might have varied but one thing was for certain:  Texans weren't ready, weren't even cattle-car close, to elect a Democrat as Governor.  Not this year, not after That One got into that big white mansion and sullied up, well, something.  Texans aren't too clear on the details down here but we hear it happened in Washington.

But Tuesday night's results were much worse than many ever believed possible.  Republicans took down countless (at press time) Democratic State House incumbents, longtime Democratic Congressional members like Chet Edwards, D-Waco, and left the others who didn't lose limping away with narrow margins.  It was a slaughter of epic proportions, gazelles being picked off from the herd, with the Republican party going for the weak and the elderly, the young and the slow. 

No, it wasn't a year for incumbent Democrats, but what can you expect from a state full of trophy hunters?  Texans know what big game looks like and have an uncanny attraction to shiny objects.  We prefer our candidates to come in special packages with leather trim and low mileage and who carry guns when they go jogging because we think that makes them special, like a King Ranch edition of Ford truck.  Texans went in to the voting booth Tuesday to pull the lever for the big game prize: straight ticket Republican with the twelve-point buck, Rick Perry, at the top.

But Rick Perry's not special.  In fact, he's really no different than our last Texas Governor who graced the White House, except for that this one's fantastically good at running the state into the ground.  Rick Perry will make sure that won't get talked about. Humility has never been one of Rick Perry's strong suits. What will get plenty of attention is that Rick Perry's Fed Up, according to the new book Perry took national as of, oh, ten seconds after he won Tuesday night.  But the book is just chum.  It's tossing out corn to distract from the issues at hand while he gets set up in his presidential deer blind, offering folksy, chest-puffing lines in his acceptance speech like "Texas [has] kinda' got a leg up on the rest of the country, gentlemen."  Well, saddle me surprised, Rick.  I thought Texas had a $25 billion-dollar budget deficit. Oh, wait, you weren't talking to me - because I'm a woman.

For many Democrats, their election cycle ended tonight.  But for the rest of America, the hunt for 2012 just began.  Rick Perry's already got it between the cross-hairs.
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Blue Texas

Turns out, turning Texas blue is like trying to put lipstick on a pig:  it just squeals and runs away from you.
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An Endorsement

Chances are, if you're reading this, you're planning on voting tomorrow.  You believe we all have a voice, and that, if used together, our collective voices can empower change.

So I'm not going to tell you to vote tomorrow.  You already know that.

Chances are also likely that, if you're reading this, you're planning on voting straight Democratic tomorrow.  You believe the Democrats best represent the values you agree with:  education funding, tuition regulation, renewable energy and -- perhaps most importantly -- an inclusiveness of humanity so lacking in nearly every other Party out there these days, including the little-known The Rent is Just High Enough, Thanks party.

So I'm not going to tell you to vote for Democrats tomorrow.  You already know that.

Instead, I'm going to push my little soapbox up to the sidewalk and instead, I'm going to ask you to not vote tomorrow.  Actually, I'm going to ask you to not vote for a Democrat.  I'm going to ask that you go to the polls, between 7 AM and 7 PM, hit the Straight Democratic button and then request to make changes to your ballot specifically to remove one Democrat:

Texas Supreme Court candidate Jim Sharp.


Because while we may not be able to collectively raise our voices loud enough to overcome the ignorance around us to elect great Democrats, we can at least stop electing those who don't deserve to be Democrats.

Thank you for your vote.
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Linda Chavez-Thompson: "Responsabilidad"

Goal ThermometerWhy am I a Democrat? Because I never feel more proud to be an American than I do when I'm reminded that I live in a country with a storied history of embracing vast diversity.  I will always support a Party that protects this important value of our country.

Leaders like Linda Chavez-Thompson are walking success stories of the American Dream, a return on investment of the American value and beacon of hope for the future of our country. Linda Chavez-Thompson's story is one of dedication overcoming defeat, standing up instead of sitting down, and a commitment to progress over politics. 

These are the qualities of a public servant, not a politician.  These are the qualities of a person who will better our state.

Linda Chavez-Thompson is why I'm a Democrat.  What's your reason?



Help this ad stay on TV. Donate to Linda Chavez-Thompson today - and then go vote.
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Texts from Last Night: Texas Election Night Edition

Wonder what the Texas political scene is going to look like on November 2nd?  Texts from Last Night has nothing on Texas's Texts from Election Night.  See if you can put an area code to a name in the texts below.

11/2/10 6:55 PM
(8683-2) You have five minutes left to VOTE! YOUR VOTE IS YOUR VOICE! | Tiene cinco minutos para VOTAR! SU VOTO ES SU VOZ! Reply VOTE for polling locations.  - http://www.billwhitefortexas.com

***
11/2/10 6:56 PM
(6689-07) Don't let the liberals take over!  You have five minutes left to make sure none of YOUR hard-earned money gets spent on illegals. Reply YES to sign your soul to the Republican party.  Reply STOP to stop gay marriage for good. - http://www.texansforrickperry.com

***

11/2/10 6:02 PM
(713) Where are U?  UR staff said meet at Kinky's ranch in Wimberly?
11/2/10 6:37 PM
(BLOCKED) Sry Shamster, mistake - meant Game Ranch off 290
11/2/10 6:38
(713) my press secretary mustve read it wrong. see you l8r for VICTORY!!! bringing bedazzled CHI like u asked
***
11/2/10 7:14 PM
(512) just left the polls.  So excited to give Perry the boot!  Where are you?
11/2/10 7:16 PM
(512) drinking at my house
11/2/10 7:16 PM
(512) cool, going anywhere tonight to celebrate?
11/2/10 7:17 PM
(512) He'll no, that's like going out on Valentine's Day to celebrate being alone.
(512) I meant he'll.
(512) Damnit!! Hell
11/2/10 1:25 AM
(512) why are you so mean?
***
11/2/10 8:35 PM
(713) Hola amiga, buena suerte tonight.
11/2/10 8:45 PM
(210) It's a little late for Latino outreach, amigo. 
***
11/2/10 9:05 PM
(214) I told you those polls were right.
11/2/10 9:15 PM
(512) Only 85% of precints are reporting, stop writing the eulogy before its over!!!
11/2/10 11:45 PM
(512) my bastterey s dieying..whrer r u@? we r drownng ou rsorrows @sholz.
***

11/2/10 11:45 PM
(BLOCKED)  We did it!  Thanks for all your help.  You're a great Texan and friend.
11/2/10 11:57
(202) Don't thank me, it's your deficit now.
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Q: What's spookier than Republicans?


A:  Democrats dressing up like them!

Come by the Texas Democratic Party's Young Professional Council's Political Halloween Costume Contest tonight from 7:30 - 10 PM at the Dogwood on West 6th.  Since I'm judging the contest, theoretically I should be dressed up as a terrible Republican judge but I wasn't able to get my law degree in time.



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Mean Pre-Weekend Roundup

Statesman: I'm feeling a bit conflicted by this cool slideshow of the Austin skyline at ACL over the years, given my fasciation with the changing Austin skyline and my "not in my town" attitude about ACL.  But I always love a good before and after, so it's worth checking out.

Michelle's Blog: Ever have one of those "I wish I wrote that" moments?  Yeah, well, I often have that moment when I read Michelle Greer (@michellegreer), particularly her latest post, Dear Gowalla, It's Not You, It's Me.  Brilliant, funny and -- I'm gonna say it -- some social good.  I've slowed in my use of both Foursquare and Whrrl but don't even have the Gowalla app on my iPhone.

Bazaarvoice: "Do you have Mickey Mouse waffles?" What question is your target audience - be it political or otherwise? - asking that you're not answering?

Washington Post: "If people approached air travel the way they approach major surgery - is your pet healthy enough to fly, young enough to fly? - pets would fly a lot more safely," said Farris. (Disclosure: I work for PetRelocation.com.)

WSJIs it gin o'clock yet?  Why yes, it is.  Have a great weekend.  I'm headed to Montreal for a work conference and won't be back till Thursday, so I apologize in advance if things get dusty around here (or more dusty than usual).  You can always follow me on Twitter here.


Shameless plug:  While we're on the subject of public relations, I'll be speaking on Thursday, Oct. 28th at Texas State University's Mass Communications Week on a panel called "New Rules of PR: Game Changing Tips and Tools from the Trenches."  Thanks to LuAnn Glowacz (@luannsaid) of Wordcove and Jenna Oltersdorf (@jennasnacks) of Snackbox for the invite.  I'll try not to embarrass you--oh who am I kidding?
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Itching to vote? Here's one ballot you can cast now.



This is a really cool project that the Texas Observer is trying to win a grant for:  $5000 to enable a citizen journalism network (iObserve) to enable citizens to track and report on the legislative process.

The deadline is today and they're not far off from winning.  Unfortunately, the voting process is completely tedious -- so you'll need to pay close attention to the voting rules below.

I know, I know - no one ever said voting was easy.


HOW TO VOTE FOR THE TEXAS OBSERVER

FIRST! Read the info below for help in navigating the voting. It’s a bit of a haul but our appreciation is boundless. YOU MUST VOTE FOR 3 TO 5 PROJECTS FOR YOUR VOTE TO COUNT. There are plenty of great ideas.

FIRST:  Click here.  You will then need to register for an account.

1. After registering, you’ll get a password emailed to you. Follow the link, log in and go to the Project Gallery (click on Projects tab).

2. The project is called The Texas Observer Citizen Networking. It’s on the 4th page. Another way to find it to type Texas Observer in the keyword search under the Issues & Regions tab.

3. To vote, check the box under the project title labeled Vote for this project: ___ FACT Social Justice Challenge. Vote for at least 2 other projects.
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"For all you naysayers..."

This is a curious video (which only shows, shouting muscled man after shouting muscled man, one woman whispering from a bed).

I think it's meant to inspire voters/activists but...it just makes me feel empty.  We're supposed to get motivated by movie stars and fictional heroes?  Someone ought to show this to Bill White.  I know he likes "just being Bill" but it's time to start getting passionate about why he's here.  That's not my job.  It's his.

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Government for sale or rent...


Rick Perry is king of the Capitol.
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Write your own ACL rant!

Update:  Now you can plug your own nouns/verbs into this handy-dandy ACL Rant generator and make your own!

Omar Gallaga has a great "Write your own ACL review" post up over on his blog at the Statesman.  But what if your ACL experience is miserable?  There are about 75,000 reasons why that might happen.  So for those of you who hate ACL, or have an awful time, allow me to do your heavy lifting.

(Expletive) ACL!!

I was so freaking stoked to go to ACL this year because (Band name 1) is totally one of my favorite bands.  At first I didn't want to go because (name of 70's band) is completely lame but come on, (Band name 1) was also playing!  So last (week/month/year) I found a three-day pass to ACL on Craigslist for a total deal -- just (dollar amount over $100).  Unfortunately, not only was the Craigslist seller a (noun) but (she/he) also smelled like a rotting (vegetable).  On my way back from picking up the tickets, I got stuck in traffic on (any major thoroughfare in Austin) for (number over 30) minutes.  FML.  Anyway, after that unpleasantness, I really thought I could just kick back and enjoy the rest of the weekend.  Perfect weather, hot (preferred opposite sex), raging afterparties.  Zilker Park, here I come.
Since I had (number over 5) friends staying with me in my studio apartment for the weekend, we all decided to pile into the (hybrid car manufacturer) to head down to Zilker Park on (weekend) morning.  We looked for parking for (number over 60) minutes and finally gave up.  We ended up parking at (business location north of 35th Street) and walked the rest of the way.  Luckily the weather wasn't too (adjective)
When we got there, we stood in line for (number) hours, until we finally got in.  We got an awesome spot but it was right behind a (type of intoxication) dude.  So annoying. Then (girl's name) was thirsty so I went to stand in line with her for a (alcoholic beverage).  We stood in line for (number over 2) hours and spent (dollar amount over $20) for just two (alcoholic beverages).  What sucked is that I totally missed (band name 1) play while we were in line and that was the whole reason I wanted to go in the first place!  I mean, I didn't spend (dollar amount over $100) on wristbands to stand in line all day!!

Well at that point, the sky got all (color) and the wind started blowing a lot of (noun) around.  We were completely (verb).  Everyone was trying to find cover, people were passing out, some people just started to (verb) because why the heck not.  WTF, Austin?  I didn't know it could go from (temperature) to (temperature) in such a short amount of time but it did and it was (adjective).  (Girl's name) didn't really mind the weather, though, and she said that she liked the (noun) in Austin so much that she's thinking about moving here next (month)
Anyway, to summarize: I missed (band name), got covered in (noun), waited in (number over 5) lines for (number over 15) hours total and spent (dollar amount over $300) in one weekend.  Oh and my car got towed.  Ugh.  Seriously, Austin.

It goes without saying that I'm not going back to ACL for at least (number) years.  From now on, I'm going to fly to (city) every year on this weekend and try to forget this ever happened.  Well, unless (band name) plays.  Then I might consider it.  
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Everything's bigger in Texas.

A face only a mother could love.  The last U.S. Governor to hold this title?

You guessed it:  George W. Bush. 

Rick Perry is following in the missteps of greatness.

VOTE on November 2nd.

created by @PhilipKD.
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Twitter's Influence on Texas Politics This Week

While Facebook might be topping the box office, it's Twitter, that 140-headed Medusa of a social network, that's been making waves in Texas political circles this week.  The Texas Tribune, fresh off their first-ever "tweet-up," had a wordy post today about Texas political campaign astroturfing, which the Statesman initially broke last week after a former Rick Perry employee had his anonymous pro-Perry Twitter account outed (notably, it was outed by an auto-tweet from another burgeoning social networking site started here in Austin called SocialSmack).  Phillip Martin (@phillipmartin) has more on this over at BOR.

Additionally, The Texas Observer's Melissa Del Bosque has a fascinating look at the use of Twitter across the border to keep citizens informed of cartel violence in Reynosa, Mexico.  It's certainly a new practical use of the service and one that Twitter, as a company, has shown a strong commitment to fostering.   Earlier this year, Twitter swiped former Google employee Katie Stanton (@katies) from the State Department to head up their international strategy.

Also this week, the Austin American Statesman's tech writer, Omar Gallaga (@omarg), had a front page story about the Governor's race and how both candidates are leveraging social media to get ahead.  Before the story went to print last week, I happened to ask some questions on Twitter about Rick Perry's tendency to "block" progressive bloggers from following him on Twitter.  In the spirit of the influence of Twitter, it seemed only appropriate to point out that a simple conversation on Twitter ended up adding to the story itself:
[Perry] says he blocks Twitter users who attack him with bad language, but he's also blocked a few progressive bloggers, according to a Twitter list kept by Katherine Haenschen of the Democratic news site Burnt Orange Report. When a Twitter user blocks someone else, the user's tweets no longer appear in that blocked person's stream of messages, and the blocked person is no longer on the user's list of followers.
The conversation of how that paragraph came to be is below.

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Hot or Not: Rick Perry's Ugly Governing

While Governor Perry funnels money via a fancy-sounding, taxpayer-funded technology fund into the pockets of his biggest campaign contributors, our focus turned to a much more serious issue today: Are Perry’s looks a factor in winning over the female vote?

That’s the question being asked by the Houston Chronicle’s Peggy Fikac today. Fikac’s pieces are typically much stronger, so I was surprised to see this come up at all:
When a poll by a group of newspapers including the San Antonio Express-News/Houston Chronicle showed that about 50 percent of women likely to vote favor GOP Gov. Rick Perry — compared to 40 percent for Democratic challenger Bill White - some called it a testament to Perry's looks.
Fikac goes on to quote the anonymous, pro-Perry blog “Rick vs. Kay,” who speculates that “Rick is who [women] wish their husbands looked like at age 60.”

I don’t know who writes Rick vs. Kay, but I’d wager he (yes, the writer is definitely a he) doesn’t know much about Texas women. Not only can a good portion of us saddle a horse with more confidence than Rick Perry crawls out of bed with every morning, but we also don’t vote with our libidos. If that was the case, we’d have a whole lot more Rafael Anchias and a lot less Leo Bermans.

But, let's get down to the real issue behind this whole "Women will vote for Rick Perry because he's better looking" whisper campaign.  It's really just a weak attempt to justify the fact that the only reason a man has ever stopped to even listen to the words coming out of Sarah Palin's mouth is because she looks like a librarian who's just dumb enough to get it on in the library and just hot enough to make it worth their time.  So there you go, Rick vs. Kay.  Two can play at that game.

Female voters -- and I’m going to venture to say that this goes across party lines -- vote using two things: their brains and their hearts. If a woman thinks that someone has her best interest in mind, and feels that his or her heart is in the right place, then they’re going to support them. And if we happen to notice that Rick Perry, who doesn’t believe women deserve a place at the table, consistently excludes women from his fundraisers and outreach, then we’re not going to vote for him no matter how good he looks in a pair of Wrangler’s.

The audacity to live in a $10,000-a-month rental mansion during a $21 billion dollar budget shortfall?  Pay-for-play appointees?  Rick Perry can manscape all he wants, but it's his governing that's ugly.
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