Wednesday, August 30, 2006

So who was the secret holder, anyway?

Ted Stevens.

Mr. "Bridge to Nowhere" himself.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Why can't an Army of Davids teach?

Recently I read An Army of Davids (by Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds, for those not in the know). Overall, it was a good read, with discussions of how "we the people" make the advances that spur our civilization along (as opposed to our government, which is making advances toward bankruptcy). I really don't need to go into all that, as countless other blogs and websites have reviewed this book already.

Anyway, with all these changes and advances, Mr. Reynolds supposes, the schools, "will have to adjust to train kids for different career options." But should they? And should we have to continue down the same path, with regard to public schools, that we have travelled for decades? If government is not the answer for most other advances, or, really, for anything of real value, then why should government be the only answer for educating our children?

Surprisingly, education gets short shrift in the book, and nothing whatsoever is said regarding home schooling. Home schooling is a passion of my wife, who is a former teacher (she left to have our first child), and we know at least one other family that home schools its children and does so very well. (Of course, we've also heard the horror stories about home schooling gone wrong; as with anything, you get out of it what you put into it.) The idea of people trying different solutions to the question of education seems to be the same idea that Mr. Reynolds discusses with regard to other questions/problems. Seemingly, having an army of Davids teaching children (and knowing how best to spur them not only to learn but to want to learn) would be the best thing that could happen to the children of this country. Let's encourage it.

Does Courage lack courage?

The first candidate at which this blog will look in regard to these questions will be John Courage. Mr. Courage was the Democratic candidate for TX-21 before the redistricting, and if I recall correctly (the information is no longer on his webpage) he easily received enough signatures to requalify for the ballot without paying the filing fee. The Democratic party establishment has rallied around Mr. Courage (which is no surprise, given that the only other Democrat in the race is perennial also-ran Gene Kelly).

I assumed that Mr. Courage was all for openness and dialogue; this was based on this post from his blog slamming incumbent Lamar Smith for closing a public meeting when Mr. Courage and his supporters arrived. So, I thought Mr. Courage would be happy to articulate his positions, especially given his personal passion for education. Unfortunately, Mr. Courage waited a week and then finally declined to answer the questions. So much for openness. His communications director directed me to his blog and his webpage. Quite frankly, if I had found all the answers I wanted, I wouldn't have needed to send the questions.

With that being said, a study of Mr. Courage's website yielded the following information:

Fiscally: Mr. Courage wants to keep Social Security and Medicare solvent. He wants a prescription drug program "that actually works for our seniors". (That means a much larger one than the boondoggle President Bush signed.) He's big on veterans' benefits and the environment, and he "is committed to develop a real plan for American energy self sufficiency". (That means he doesn't have one now.)

Foreign policy/Iraq/War on Terror/National Security: Says "the United States cannot be the policeman for the world." He also says protecting our borders should be the primary aim. Couldn't tell what that is saying about immigration, since from what I can tell, he never once mentions it on his site. Maybe if we ignore it, it'll go away...

Differences from Other Candidates: He concentrates solely on Mr. Smith, assuming, most likely correctly, that the two of them will be the top vote getters. He's attacked Mr. Smith for not supporting a direct vote on the annual Congressional COLA, and also for his sitting on the ethics committee when it appeared Tom DeLay might be brought before it. His website mentions Lamar Smith's name possibly more than his own.

Education: Fix No Child Left Behind, have smaller class sizes, and pay teachers more. Those are all nice enough, but he doesn't really offer any way to pay for all this. And really, what exactly does fixing NCLB involve, anyway? Somehow I'm thinking it involves more federal government control.

I do want to thank Meredith of "Team Courage" for taking the time to talk with me, even though her boss wouldn't. More on TX-21 in later entries.

What are our defining issues for TX-21 and TX-25?

A couple of weeks ago, this blog attempted to interview by e-mail several TX-21 and TX-25 candidates. Should I have expected any answers? Who knows; this blog isn't that old. Anyway, the interview was a rather short four questions:

1. What are your opinions on President Bush's fiscal policies? His foreign policies? In what areas, if any, would you like to see changes made?

2. In which areas are your views most different from those of your opponents?

3. What should the federal government's role in public education be?

4. How should the United States resolve the Iraq situation? What is the best way for the US to handle the War on Terror (assuming, in your opinion, that
such a war exists)?

The rationale behind these questions was something like this:

1. I cannot believe that the Republicans are going to march in lockstep with President Bush on every issue. Of course, the Democrats surely aren't, either. Clarifying the differences between the candidates' ideas and the president's, rather than either saying nothing or issuing blanket statements slamming the president, would help. (Or, if no differences exist between the candidate and the president, articulating those positions would help also.)

2. Same thing, basically. I want to know what each candidate sees as a strength that distinguishes them from the others. This is especially helpful in 21 & 25, where we now have seven and four candidate, respectively.

3. What can I say; I have kids. I want to know what to expect from my representatives: will it be more mandates, more money, or a whole new paradigm.

4. Hey, guess what...every candidate is going to say let's support the troops and bring them home as soon as possible. Let's have some details.

Future entries will explain candidates' positions on these issues.

And what should the other important issues be for these districts? (aside from bringing this area a cell phone throwing contest, that is...)

Monday, August 28, 2006

TX-21 update

Thanks to the third round of redistricting since 2000, the Texas 21st Congressional District now will have an open election.

Our candidates (per our friends at the Austin American-Statesman):

Lamar Smith (R, incumbent): apparently so confident in his win that he hasn't bothered to have a campaign website, Mr. Smith is tied by his detractors to a certain former House Majority Leader over in TX-22. Pretty strict on immigration, pretty lousy on tax policy.

The rest, in alphabetical order:
Tommy Calvert (I, consultant, San Antonio): his website states that he is "running on a centrist platform". That is the only issue-related statement on the whole site.

John Courage (D, teacher, San Antonio): his website is well organized, with statements regarding many issues. One of the most important to him appears to be veterans' benefits. Another, as one might expect from a teacher, is education. As I have said before, his ideas give no indication of how they are to be funded. More on Mr. Courage in a later entry.

Gene Kelly (quasi-D, perennial candidate, Universal City): no website, and he is apparently banking on the hope that a lot of people don't realize that Gene Kelly, the actor, has been dead for 10 years. And since this guy doesn't articulate any positions, I'll go off the board and just say that the other Gene Kelly was quite a good actor, and I really enjoyed Singin' In the Rain.

James Lyle Peterson (I, computer programmer, Austin): couldn't find anything online for him, either. Also, he does not share a famous name. In a seven-man race, those two points together can't help your chances.

Mark J. Rossano (I, automotive management, Austin): several empty pages on his site (plus solitications for signatures for the May deadline), but he does have a platform page spelling out his positions, which apparently include heavy government involvement/interference (take your pick) in health care and energy. This includes reinstating the wildly popular windfall profits tax, which will make those people nostalgic for the 1979 gas lines happy.

James Strohm (L, technical writer, Austin): he readily admits that his website is still under construction. His three issues of choice appear to be immigration, taxes, and "good government", though only the Taxes section has any information. As has been mentioned on this site, he is a FairTax supporter. More on Mr. Strohm in a later entry as well.

This race was originally dominated by Mssrs. Smith & Courage, and honestly, it probably still will be. The loudest supporters are definitely those of Mr. Courage, but TX-21 is still majority-Republican, so it appears that Mr. Smith will retain his seat. But we'll see.

How far can you throw a cell phone?

Well, some guy tossed a cell phone 292 feet to win a competition in Finland. (How come Austin hasn't picked up on this? We're supposed to be weird, after all...)

What this contest really needs for competitors to achieve really great distances is for each entrant to have to take a call from an angry customer just before they throw the phone. I would almost guarantee that each throw would have about 20 more feet on it.

And where do we find these angry customers? Ask UPS or FedEx, for starters...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Some Refreshing Hot Air

Sure, Dave Ramsey has been seen in places from CBS News to Oprah, and he certainly doesn't need the scant attention he'll get from my site, but everyone, particularly those interested in a quaint, forgotten concept called fiscal responsibility, needs to check out Bethany's profile of him.

Sure, it's not the usual Vent one would see over there, but this definitely has a more practical application, as most people I know (myself included, as I am a somewhat successful graduate of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University) do better when they remember to live within their means. Too bad the federal government hasn't figured out how to do that...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A better alternative for TX-22...

Okay, TX-22 isn't anywhere close to being my district, but since I keep getting ads for the one remaining mainstream candidate in my AdSense ads, I thought I would point out that rather than trying to mount a futile write-in campaign (has one ever worked?) to replace Tom DeLay, perhaps those who do not want the other guy to win (maybe if I don't mention his name the ad won't seem so relevant to Google's servers) should support the Libertarian candidate, Bob Smither.

A Second Hand Conjecture has links, comments, and generally more information.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

Why I really don't love UPS...

UPS and I have never really been on good terms. Maybe it started when UPS managed to route a package we were awaiting to Corpus Christi, apparently under the misconception that perhaps we didn't enter our own city correctly when we ordered it. The merchant was so embarrassed by the incident that they refunded everything. I hope they hit UPS up for the chargeback. (We did get the package eventually...a month later.)

So, this week I received a nice little e-mail from UPS explaining ever so helpfully that an item I had ordered had shipped and that I could track it online. And, I suppose I could...if the package hadn't already arrived seven days earlier.

Yes, that would be UPS, where the U stands for "unhelpful".

So who is the secret holder, anyway?

There is a great bill in the Senate that would further the cause of federal transparency (so we the people can see where our money is going), thanks to Senators Tom Coburn and Barak Obama. Unfortunately, thanks to a really stupid Senate procedural rule, one or more senators have put a "secret hold" on the bill, so that there cannot be a vote on it. It seems a fitting way to kill a bill promoting transparency, yes?

Anyway, Porkbusters.org has a special page with more details, including how you, the reader, can help. Give your senators a call and ask them to state for the record whether or not they are responsible for the "secret hold". As for the great state of Texas, Senator Hutchison's office could not give me a definite answer, stating that her response would appear on her website, which hasn't been updated anytime recently. Senator Cornyn's office sent me to someone's voicemail, which, of course, was never returned.

(Hat tip: Club for Growth)

Update: Senator Cornyn's office called me this morning (22 August) and denied that he placed the hold. I had assumed he didn't, given that he was a co-sponsor of the bill, but it's good to know nonetheless.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Commitment? What commitment?

Over in Texas House District 48, Republican candidate Ben Bentzin has decided to drop out of November's election. Mr. Bentzin blamed his late withdrawal on the tone of the special election campaign from earlier this year and a new business opportunity.

A new business opportunity? You know, when you run for office, you are committing to serve out the term of office. Mr. Bentzin should not have been considering a new business opportunity when he told thousands of voters who trusted him that he would serve if elected. Way to let them down, Mr. Bentzin.

Just noticed: it's a teaching opportunity at the University of Houston. Yeah, that's worth letting down a district-full of supporters.

I'd think twice before trusting this guy again.

By the way, there are still two options for the abandoned supporters of Mr. Bentzin: Donna Howard and Ben Easton.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Maybe someday Texas will get it right...

How nice...thanks to the third redistricting process in Texas since 2000, I now longer find myself in TX-21, but in TX-25, in which my new Congressman is the same as my old one before I moved, Lloyd Doggett. Not a great development...Mr. Doggett has not shown himself, in my experience, to be as responsive as Lamar Smith was with regard to inquiries from constituents. (Not that I won't continue to try...) As shown here by the Club for Growth, Mr. Doggett scored a whopping 7 out of 100 for being pro-growth. But then again, this is Austin, the home during the 80s and 90s of the "if we don't build it, maybe they won't come" mindset regarding infrastructure, or lack thereof. (Drive I-35 or Mopac at 5:15 any weekday afternoon and tell me that's not true.)

Mr. Doggett's opponent, before the redistricting, was to be Grant Rostig, who was running as a Libertarian. Since the redistricting, it was decreed that there would be an open election, with a possible runoff in December. In the meantime, Mr. Rostig's name has mysteriously disappeared from the Libertarian Party's list of candidates. (However, I did notice a FairTax-supporting Libertarian in TX-21...check out his website.) Mr. Rostig's site now lists him as a Republican (though the state GOP site doesn't list him there either). In any case, Mr. Rostig is a FairTax supporter who is in favor of limited government, so at this point, if in fact he is still running, I know who is getting my vote.

My assumption is that the candidates for the redrawn districts will fall into place pretty quickly, so that we can get on with the usual three months of annoying advertisements (followed by the two months during which signs remain up on Mopac). But we'll see.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Stars Are Blind...To World Affairs, Apparently

It must be nice to be Paris Hilton. Per this article, Ms. Hilton could not recall who Tony Blair was.

If it hasn't happened already, I expect someone to compare Ms. Hilton's inability to remember world leaders when spotted their names with then-Governor Bush's performance on his world leader pop quiz in November 1999. Doesn't look as if this has been done yet (Kos and HuffPo are both still fawning over Ned Lamont at the moment), but give it time.

Remember, you heard it here first. And hopefully last.