Dec 31, 2005

Veterans Hold Press Conference To Denounce Clinic Over Hospital

The news of the Veterans' clinic expansion spread like wildfire in the Veterans' community. But like reading an insurance contract, what was first viewed as a good deal is now viewed as a sour deal, once the fine details of the agreement are read. So says a gathering of various South Texas Veteran's groups at a press conference held yesterday.

The Monitor has the story about the dissatisfaction expressed by the Veterans.

At this point I would expect the Veterans administration office or one of our senators to provide an explanation to our Veterans why a Veterans' hospital is not an option.

Consider this. On our 250 mile journey from Edinburg to San Antonio I had the pleasure of walking with General Marc Cisneros. The photo below is of the two of us on the march. General Cisneros is noted for capturing Manuel Noriega but in retirement lives in his home in South Texas. I asked him point blank why a Veterans' hospital has not been built in South Texas when a disproportionate number of our soldiers come from the area. His response was interesting.

He said that Veterans hospitals have been built in other areas of the country were fewer Veterans reside in comparison to South Texas and that he could think of no other reason except that it was a political problem. In short he said South Texas does not have the political muscle to demand a hospital.

In observing these proud men and women of South Texas, I can only say that Washington had better take notice, and start explaining because a slumbering giant seems to have awakened. The fiber of these soldiers is strong and their cause just.

This country trained these proud South Texans well and like it or not this objective will be accomplished. One needs to simply look into their eyes to understand this. I dare say this is not the last we hear from these Veterans.

I pray to be right there with them.

Dec 29, 2005

Breaking News: Marching Valley Veterans Successful In Securing Clinic Expansion

As our readers know this author marched 250 miles with a number of proud and dedicated South Texas Veterans to highlight the lack of adequate medical services available to the growing score of Valley Veterans.

A hospital to serve the needs of the Veteran population was the unanimous cry made by nearly every Veteran I met on the journey through the roads of South Texas on their way to the Alamo.

Today many Valley Veterans received the news that Washington has decided to expand a medical clinic in the Valley. My initial response was that I saw and still see this as a positive first step in the fufillment of the dreams of so many South Texans who served this country proudly.

Although some Valley Veterans may have felt that way, after talking to a number of them, I can say that any initial response similar to mine quickly faded. Generally speaking, the Veterans who marched feel they were given, to use their words -"crumbs." As they put it, "Other communities, who may not have the number of front line Veterans, have access to a Veterans' hospital, so why shouldn't we."

It is easy to understand the frustrations felt by many Veterans on this issue of access to adequate medical care. Many of them feel ignored and taken for granted. They love this country, but sad to say many of them feel that sentiment is not returned by this nation's government.

As always on this issue, I stand 100% behind the men and women who so bravely served our country in our time of need. Although I must commend the effort to respond to the pleas of our Valley Veterans, their numbers and their service demands nothing less than a hospital.

I would suggest to the powers that be that what the Veterans first seek is communication. A number of Veterans have expressed to me that they feel people in Washington, decision makers, are not communicating with them and simply making decisions without their involvement. My second suggestion is that any projects, including this one, have real substance and not mere symbolism. The sentiment you may hear over the next couple of days from these Veterans regarding this story is that the gesture is more symbolic than meaningful.

I want to look at this situation in a positive light and therefore welcome the recent announcement as a positve first step. As I noted in the related newspaper story anything is better than the current situation which demeans our Veterans.

I am presently vacationing with the family, but will monitor the situation and report as things progress. Valley Veterans who read this post are free to call me on my cell phone, as this matter is close to my heart.

Until then, here is the story from the Valley Morning Star. Steve Taylor's Rio Grande Guardian is also following the story.

Dec 24, 2005

Rep. Pena and Family Wish All a Merry Christmas

Santa will soon be about his business here at the Pena home, so I must get to my obligations, excuse me, I mean, must get to spending time with my family. Before I go I just wanted to wish all of my neighbors and friends a Merry Christmas and Holiday Season. We have much to be grateful for and regardless of your personal circumstances I would hope that all would take note of their blessings.

I personally am beyond blessed with numerous friends and supporters that have made each day a real gift.

Best wishes to all!

Another Mark Fiore Cartoon on Spying

Mark Fiore calls them as he sees them in his most recent story on this administration's "spying problems."

Click here.

A Move To Impeach Bush Over Domestic Spying?

The Constitution still stands, but Bush's recent actions may bring about a political firestorm. Howard Fineman believes the talk is already beginning on a move by some to impeach the President. I will follow this story closely as it develops.

Here is the story by Newsweek's Howard Fineman.

Bush's Spying Reportedly Broader Than Reported

Just came across this story and I hope that many of you are as concerned as I am. Our President does not seem to have a full grasp of the implications of his actions. I fear that the President does not understand how all Americans, both Republican and Democrat, disapprove of the actions of any elected official that ignores the fundamental rights and principals upon which this country is based. In this country not even the President is above the law. This observer is very concerned over what has been appearing in the press regarding domestic spying.

Here is the story hot off the wire:

The National Security Agency has conducted much broader surveillance of e-mails and phone calls without court orders than the Bush administration has acknowledged, The New York Times reported on its Web site.

The NSA, with help from American telecommunications companies, obtained access to streams of domestic and international communications, said the Times in the report late Friday, citing unidentified current and former government officials.

The story did not name the companies.

Since the Times disclosed the domestic spying program last week,President Bush has stressed that his executive order allowing the eavesdropping was limited to people with known links to al-Qaida.

But the Times said that NSA technicians have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might lead to terrorists.

The volume of information harvested from telecommunications data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the paper said, quoting an unnamed official.

The rest of the story here.

Here is the New York Times story that first reported the broader abuses.

Diebold Voting Machines Shown Vulnerable to Hackers Has California Concerned

A controversial electronic voting system must undergo federal security testing before it can be approved for use in California, Secretary of State Bruce McPherson said Tuesday.

Diebold Election System's optical scan and touch-screen voting systems, which were scheduled to be used in 17 California counties in June's election, will have their state certification delayed for the second time, McPherson said.

"We have determined that there is sufficient cause for additional federal evaluation,'' he said in a statement. "I have consistently stated that I will not certify any system for use in California unless it meets the most stringent voting system requirements.''

Studies in other states have suggested that the company's new memory cards may be vulnerable to hackers. A test in Leon County, Fla., showed that hackers using the same access as election department employees could reprogram the cards to change election results and leave no trace.

The rest of the Christian Science Monitor story here.

Dec 23, 2005

We Can Expect Some New Indictments In Hidalgo County

The McAllen Monitor is reporting that new indictments should be coming soon regarding new allegations of voter fraud.

McALLEN — A grand jury’s indictment of 10 people Wednesday, on charges related to a voting fraud probe of absentee ballots cast in the May city elections in McAllen and La Joya, may not be the final word on the investigation into this year’s elections.

"We haven’t finished with all of the complaints from the May elections. We still have some pending," Hidalgo County elections administrator Teresa Navarro said. "I can’t say if a new grand jury won’t have something to continue in January. It’s a possibility."

Navarro declined to say which additional elections are in question, but she said there are other irregularities with the La Joya city election that appear to be unrelated to Wednesday’s indictment of La Joya city secretary Julianita R. Sabala.

Sabala faces one count of tampering with a governmental record, after the grand jury found she had signed her daughter’s name to an application for a mail-in ballot.

Two of the mail-in ballots the ballot board rejected in the La Joya city election belonged to William R. Leo Jr., 24, and Leticia Leo, 22, son and daughter of La Joya Mayor Billy Leo, whose reputation for controlling the western Hidalgo County political machine has become local legend.

Navarro said questions arose around the Leo children’s mail-in ballots when the individual signatures on each of their mail-in ballot applications were compared with the signature on the carrier envelope.

Here is the rest of the story.

A Sad Story From Edinburg-The Death of a Young Woman

The Monitor

EDINBURG — All was quiet Thursday outside the Schunior Village condominiums, where a University of Texas-Pan American student — who graduated just days before — was found murdered earlier this week in the apartment she shared with her brother.

Miles away, in Harlingen, nearly a dozen vehicles were lined outside Sergio Cavazos’ home, as friends and family came by to support him and his wife, Norma, in their struggle to come to terms with their 23-year-old daughter’s brutal and sudden death.

Larissa Cavazos graduated with honors from UTPA on Saturday, receiving a bachelors degree in speech pathology and English. A straight-A student, Larissa had planned to use speech therapy to help children, her father said. She graduated from Harlingen South High School in 2000.

"She was going to work on her masters degree," Sergio Cavazos said. "She was a happy, go-to person, full of life and hardworking. She was the kind of girl that, every weekend, she was here Friday through Sunday.

"She was a wonderful daughter, a loving daughter."

Police say damage to the front door of Larissa’s Edinburg home indicates forced entry. The residence, at 1029 French Ave., is just blocks from the university, and is home to many college students.

Larissa was discovered inside a bedroom with a gunshot wound to her upper body, said Edinburg Police Chief Quirino Muñoz. He is awaiting autopsy reports to declare an official ruling on the cause of death.

Muñoz said police are in the preliminary stages of the investigation. They currently do not have any suspects or a motive for the murder. They are piecing together a timeline. Her roommate, who family identified as Larissa’s brother, Sergio Jr., was not home at the time of the murder.

Judging by the body, the killing probably occurred late Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning, Muñoz said.

A neighbor who lives in the same complex went over to Cavazos’ residence Wednesday afternoon and upon seeing the damaged front door became worried and entered the residence, finding her body and immediately calling police.

Chris Johnson, who lives down the street from where Larissa lived, describes Schunior Village, which sits northwest of campus, as a typical college haven. He said the area sees high volumes of traffic at night and a few noise complaints from more low-key residents over the weekend. Johnson says police patrol the neighborhood regularly, which makes the neighborhood as safe as any other.

"We see the same people every day … those people know other people and so on," said the 20-year-old pre-pharmacy student. "It’s sad and very tragic, but (a murder) can happen anywhere no matter where you live."

Johnson, a member of the Tao Kappa Epsilon fraternity, didn’t personally know the victim, but met her through various acquaintances.

Cavazos said his daughter was very outgoing and had a very close relationship with her family. Her uncle, who asked his name not be used, said she had a lot of friends.

"She loved her family very much," the uncle said. "No words are going to describe what they are going through," he added, referring to Sergio and Norma Cavazos. "We appreciate the outpouring of support from our friends and family."

UTPA officials declined to comment Thursday, because the murder occurred off campus.

However, Richard Treviño, executive director for the learning assistance center, said on-call grief counselors were made available to students.

Students wishing to talk to a counselor can call (956) 381-2529 during regular business hours. After hours, students may call the university’s police department at (956) 316-7151.


Miriam Ramirez covers eastern Hidalgo County and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach her at (956) 683-4441.


Cari Hammerstrom covers law enforcement and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach her at (956) 683-4424.

Mexican Ambassador Weighs in On Porposed Border Wall

Eduardo Castillo of the Associated Press once again has another excellent story on border issues.

Many Americans are opposed to a U.S. proposal to build 700 miles of additional fences along the U.S.-Mexico border, Mexico's ambassador to the United States said Thursday.

Carlos de Icaza told W Radio in Mexico City that U.S. businesses, church groups and even politicians have "clearly indicated their opposition to measures that could put the economy of the country in danger."

Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez has called on other Latin American countries to unite against a U.S. House of Representatives bill to toughen border enforcement.

Click here for the rest of the story.

President of Rio Grande Valley Chamber Opposes Border Wall

Steve Talyor at the Rio Grande Gaurdian has a story about various border business groups' opposition to the federal border wall proposal.

WESLACO - Bill Summers has built up such good relations with business and political leaders in Tamaulipas that when the local media wants reaction to a U.S. news item they often call the president of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.

Summers says he plans to take advantage of those media links to tell the people of Tamaulipas that South Texas communities are strongly opposed to the construction of a border wall between Texas and Mexico.

“I want to go on the air and tell our good friends in northern Mexico that the members of Congress that have voted for this wall do not represent the border community,” Summers said.

Dec 22, 2005

Rep. Morrison Considering Bid to Succeed Senator Armbrister

State Rep. Geanie Morrison of Victoria has spent much of the past two days thinking about whether to run for the Texas Senate seat being vacated by Victoria's Ken Armbrister.

Armbrister announced on Monday that he wouldn't seek another term.

"Geanie spent all day (Tuesday) on the phone, talking to people who were encouraging her to run for the Senate seat," Morrison spokesman Justin Unruh said Wednesday.

The Victoria Advocate has the rest of the story.

10 Indicted for Voting Fraud in Hidalgo County

The McAllen Monitor has a story on the recent indictments of 10 politiqueras in Hidalgo County. The ten are accused of voter fraud in the May McAllen mayor's race.

by Marc B. Geller

McAllen — An Hidalgo County grand jury indicted 10 people Wednesday, capping its five-month investigation into absentee voting complaints in the McAllen city elections earlier this year.

The biggest surprise for many observers was the indictment against Othal Eugene Brand Jr., son of former mayor Othal Brand Sr. and manager of the elder Brand’s mayoral campaign this year.

Brand Jr. faces one count of unlawful buying and selling of balloting materials.

Also indicted in connection with the McAllen election were sisters Elvira Rios and Alicia Liscano Molina, both longtime political operatives, or politiqueras, as they’re commonly called in the Rio Grande Valley; Jose "Joey" Eliseo Lopez, who emerged as a central figure in a purported votes-for-money scheme; Gloria Barajas; Maria Helena Belasquez; Carmen Castillo; Maria Guadalupe Garcia; and Esmeralda Lara. The grand jury also indicted La Joya City Secretary Julianita Sabala in an unrelated case.

Click here for the rest of the story.

Dec 21, 2005

Russia Planned Army of Half-Men, Half Apes

We had some cloning legislation come up before the House this last session but I don't think anybody envisioned a scenario like this.

SOVIET dictator Joseph Stalin once ordered a scientist to try to cross apes with humans to create an army of Planet of the Apes-style soldiers, a British newspaper has reported.

The Scotsman's website, citing Russian reports of recently uncovered secret Moscow archives, said communist strongman Stalin pursued the idea not long after he came to power in the 1920s.

Here is the rest of the story.

Drug Violence Now Fueled by US Supply Not Just Demand

AP continues to cover the drug violence in Mexico. This story details how the United States is now supplying hitmen to the Mexican drug cartels.

Mexican drug cartels are recruiting hired killers in the United States, since many of their Mexican gunmen are now behind bars, Mexico's federal attorney general's office said Tuesday.

The country's anti-drug prosecutor, Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, said in a news release that "the grand majority" of gunmen for the Sinaloa cartel are U.S. citizens who live in the United States.

Eduardo Castillo has the story.

Nuevo Laredo's Own Valentine's Day Massacre

Mariano Castillo at the San Antonio Express News covers another drug related execution in Nuevo Laredo.

Five men believed linked to "Los Zetas," the ruthless enforcement arm of the Gulf Cartel, were killed in an ambush Monday night at a mechanic's garage, authorities here said.

The men were playing cards around a table at the garage when another group of men suddenly appeared and opened fire at about 11 p.m., said Rogelio Ramirez Sanchez, a spokesman for Tamaulipas state investigators.

Click here for the rest of the story.

Dec 20, 2005

Senator Armbrister Not Seeking Reelection

As I mentioned to some of you in private, The Victoria Advocate has confirmed the rumor that Senator Ken Armbrister is retiring from the Texas Senate.

Musical chairs will ensue as Democrats and Republicans both vie for the Central-South Texas based seat. One of the names emerging as a possible Democratic candidate further along down the ballot should some incumbent decide to run for the vacated senate seat is Victoria native Philip Vasquez, an attorney who previously served in the Clinton Administration.

The AP also has a story on Senator Armbrister's retirement.

Dec 19, 2005

The Monitor: Reaffirming Dignity

I am so pleased to see my home paper stand up for human rights in these difficult times. It's so easy in this period of war hysteria to loose sight of the principles that make this country great. On the issue of torture this administration is severly lacking. This is a country that should be a shining beacon on a hilltop, an example for good.

I agree with the opinion editor, on the issue of torture, this country should stand above the rest.
"Abandoning civilized values would make an apparent victory against terror hollow. The McCain amendment is a small step toward avoiding such a "catastrophic victory."
Here is the full editorial from The Monitor.

I Came Across An Interesting Blog On Immigration Issues

I came across a new blog that looks at immigration from a progressive point of view. It is called MigraMatters and can be found here.

Want to Snoop on Americans? Get a Court Order

After initially refusing to discuss whether he had authorized domestic spying without court approval, President Bush decided to come clean. He acknowledged over the weekend that such spying had taken place, much as it was described in Friday's New York Times. He argued that it was vital to thwart an enemy that knows no boundaries.

Read the rest of the opinion piece coming out of the USA Today newspaper here.

These facts remind me of the axiom -- "Where laws end, tyranny begins."

LA Times: Redistricting Case Is Court's Chance to Stop Partisan Excesses

On the Davis Rankin radio talk show I told the audience that I thought the U.S. Supreme Court was going to put the brakes on with regard to the excesses in political redistricting. I came across this article that expresses the same sentiments and reasons for the opinion.

Here is the story from the LA Times.

Here is the authoritative book "Party Lines" which I reccomend highly for those interested.

Redistricting Reform Is All The Rage In California Because Of Texas

California, a strongly Democratic state, is about to vote on having a judicial commission decide redistricting for the state. Why? Texas has been a shining example of how things can devolve out of control. The age of the cartoon above, with Bullock and Hobby named, shows how long this has been a problem. Of course our last debacle was because of Mr. Delay.

Here in Texas I would hope that other Republicans and Democrats would join the likes of Senator Wentworth and myself in advocating for redistricting to be performed by an independent commission.

Here is the story by the Dallas Morning News.

Texas Redistricting: What Are the Scenarios?

Todd J. Gillman of the Dallas Morning News explores a few what-ifs about House redistricting. Here is the story.

Dec 18, 2005

"Things of Value" To A Member of Congress

"Congress The Most Corrupt In History"

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid called the Republican-led Congress "the most corrupt in history" on Sunday, and distanced himself from lobbyist Jack Abramoff, at the center of an escalating probe.

The Justice Department is investigating whether Jack Abramoff directed illegal payoffs to lawmakers, including Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, who was forced to step down as House Republican leader in September after indicted in his home state of Texas on unrelated charges.

"Don't lump me in with Jack Abramoff. This is a Republican scandal," Reid told Fox News Sunday, saying he never received any money from Abramoff.

Reid, like many members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, has received campaign contributions from Abramoff clients.

The rest of the story from Reuters.

POST NOTE: This story and the other stories of corruption truly disturb me, as I am sure they disturb the general public. I want to publicly apologize as a representative of the State of Texas for the culture of corruption that surrounds Texas Congressmen Tom Delay and now the U.S. Congress. This state is filled with good, hardworking public servants who with little note or fanfare do their job for love of community. I am sorry that so many good and decent people will be painted with the same brush covering the corruption out of present day Washington

Rep.David Leibowitz Files for Re-election To Texas House

My good friend, Rep. David Leibowitz filed for re-election to Texas House House of Representatives on Saturday. David's district is 117 which lies in Southwest Bexar County, San Antonio, Texas.

David served his first year with distinction. I fully expect him to return. He has however drawn a Republican opponent, local business attorney Ted Kenyon, who previously failed in a City Council race.

Most people are unaware of the fact that David like Rep. Eddie Rodriguez of Austin are both from the Rio Grande Valley. David is from Pharr, Texas. He is fluent in Spanish and is one of the House's best debaters.

David sits on the Defense Affairs and State-Federal Relations Committee and the Land and Resource Management Committee.

I would ask all of our friends in San Antonio to send David back to Austin.

Andres Oppenheimer: GOP May be Saying 'Adios' to Hispanic Voters

Let me first wish everyone of you from my family and myself a Merry Christmas and holiday season. Now allow me to show off the family Christmas photo as well as segue back to my issue of the moment: immigration.

Look closely at this picture, it's the guy in the beard, yes Mr. Kringle, that is most likely the guy not from this country. The rest are seven or eighth generation Texans. Yes, our ancestry is from Mexico, but still proud Americans. Mr. Oppenheimer expresses a fear in the well written piece below that it may be the other people in the photo, namely me and my family, that will have to one day prove that we are American citizens. That is certainly not the America I know and love. That's why enlightened voices must maintain a vigil on the immigration debate and monitor those who may chose to go too far. Let us therefore proceed as a nation to effectively address the issue before us with our fears in check, with concern for our national welfare, but never forgetting the responsibilities to our fellow man.

Here is Mr. Oppenheimer's piece:

President Bush's Republican Party's love affair with Hispanic voters may soon come to an end: Judging from the xenophobic measures proposed by conservative Republicans in Congress last week, many Latino voters will think twice before casting a vote for Republicans in the 2006 congressional elections.

The massive anti-immigration package presented to Congress late last week by House Judiciary committee chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Homeland Security committee chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., contained some of the most radical anti-immigration measures ever, including depriving babies of undocumented workers of their right to U.S. citizenship.

While that proposal didn't fly, the House on Friday approved other draconian GOP sponsored measures, such as a proposal to turn undocumented migrants into criminals -- which would allow the police to ask both illegal aliens and U.S. citizens for proof of citizenship at any time -- and a plan to build new fences in several areas along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Besides representing a monumental waste of money (more about this later), the proposed measures are likely to erode part of the recent gains made by Republicans among Hispanics.


Bush won the 2004 election in part thanks to an unprecedented 40 percent slice of the Hispanic vote, nearly twice what Republicans got in the 1996 election.

Bush has opposed the bill, saying enforcement measures should be accompanied by a temporary guest workers' program. But the isolationist wing of the Republican Party, perhaps taking advantage of Bush's political weakness, steamrolled the bill through the House.

Why did they do it? Among the possible reasons:

It's a popular crusade in U.S. border states, which are suffering from congested hospitals, roads and public schools because of the massive influx of Latin American migrants. Several fear-mongering media celebrities -- CNN's Lou Dobbs and radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh among them -- are building a following by raising the ''broken borders'' theme in their daily broadcasts.

Some Republicans may want to use illegal immigration as a smoke screen to drive public attention away from the Iraq war fiasco, the Hurricane Katrina mishandlings and the corruption scandals around former Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, as we get closer to the 2006 and 2008 elections.

Many Republicans, fearful of a debacle in upcoming elections, may want to use the Hispanic threat theme as a way to get disillusioned conservatives to the polls, much as they did with the gay marriage issue to increase turnout from churchgoers in 2004.

But pollsters warn that, even if these measures don't pass the Senate as expected, isolationist Republicans are playing with fire. Their crusade is likely to trigger an angry response from Hispanics, much like what happened when former California Gov. Pete Wilson lashed out against illegal immigrants in the mid-1990s.

''If the Republicans come across like they are just bashing immigrants, there is a potential for a strong negative reaction,'' says Roberto Suro, of the Pew Hispanic Center, which conducts some of the most comprehensive nationwide polls of Hispanics.

According to a recent Pew Center poll, about 80 percent of Latinos believe immigrants help strengthen the U.S. economy while 14 percent say they are a burden. While there is some support for anti-immigration measures among U.S-born Latinos, it tends to vanish when Hispanic voters smell racist motivations, other polls show.

''The image this [immigration bill] projects among Hispanics will be disastrous,'' says Sergio Bendixen, a Hispanic community pollster who works mostly for the Democratic Party. ``All the gains made by President Bush in the Hispanic community may evaporate.''


My conclusion: The Republican-sponsored anti-immigration bill is a waste of money, because no 10-mile-long fences along the 2,000-mile border will stop illegal immigration as long as the income gap between the United States and Latin America remains so wide.

The only solution to the reduce illegal immigration will be launching a European Union-styled ''Community of the Americas'' in which Washington would offer aid to Latin American countries in exchange for commitments of economic discipline and free-market policies.

If Republicans come across as the party that wants to turn Spanish-speaking people into criminal suspects who can be stopped at any corner by police demanding proof of citizenship, they can say adios to a significant portion of the Hispanic vote.

Dec 17, 2005

Do The Minutemen Know Who These Guys Are?

I attended the Pink Christmas event Wednesday night. Pink Dome and In The Pink-Texas did a great job putting the event together. For those who are not aware, this was a gathering of Texas bloggers and many of the people who love them.

What I found particularly impressive is that members of the mainstream media were present. Does this mean bloggers are part of the club now? I was star-struck with meeting many of this state's best bloggers.

As time passes by and the number of bloggers continue to grow, this will be the bunch we will call pioneers.

God help us!

By the way who is the guy with his hand up in his face everytime I take a photo?

Minuteman Group Opposing Illegal Immigration Gains National Foothold

Still looking for me?

The AP writes about the growth of the Minutemen Group and their position in society.

Immigration May Again Drive a Wedge Between GOP, Latinos

In the renewed controversy over illegal immigration, old choices are resurfacing for California Republicans.

Responding to rising demands from local and national conservative activists, GOP House members from the state are enlisting behind a tough measure to crack down on illegal immigrants that the chamber began debating Thursday.

But this legislation could present the party with the same risky political equation it faced in 1994, when then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, promoted Proposition 187 to bar illegal immigrants from most public services in California, including schooling. Though support for the proposition helped Wilson win reelection, most analysts agree that a backlash against it helped tilt the state toward the Democrats by increasing turnout among Latinos — and souring those voters on GOP candidates.

Now, state Republicans find themselves on a similar tightrope as they try to satisfy activists urging tougher measures against illegal immigrants without again alienating Latino voters, who have only recently shown signs of reconsidering the GOP.

"There is plenty of danger on all sides," says John J. Pitney Jr., a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College. "On the one hand, there really is strong concern at the grass roots about stopping illegal immigration…. On the other hand, California Republicans can count: They know that the Latino vote is growing, and a lot of them need a chunk of that vote."

Even some leading California Republicans argue that the party must move carefully as it fashions its immigration agenda. Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas), chairman of the House Rules Committee, said the GOP must make clear that "this is not a Mexico-bashing issue. This is an issue of dealing with our security and the problems that have been created with illegal immigration."

But sending such a nuanced message may not be easy at a time when those most critical of immigration are clearly rising within conservative circles. The legislation the House began considering Thursday bristles with tough-minded proposals such as designating all illegal immigrants, for the first time, as felons.

A coalition of Republican immigration skeptics led by Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) is pushing even tougher measures, including a provision to end automatic citizenship for the children born to illegal immigrants in America, though it is not clear the House leadership would allow votes on all their proposals this week.

Illegal immigration is now drawing more political attention than at any time since the mid-1990s especially among conservative activists. In that earlier period, the catalyzing event was the passage of Proposition 187.

As is often the case, California's action immediately generated a wave of momentum behind the issue. The Republican-controlled House voted twice in 1996 to allow states to remove the children of illegal immigrants from public schools. The GOP platform in that presidential election year endorsed a Proposition 187-type ban on public benefits and a constitutional amendment to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants.

But the wave crested less powerfully, and receded more quickly, than advocates had expected. The GOP-controlled Senate rejected the House measure authorizing states to deny public schooling, although the two chambers did agree to toughen border security. Back in California, a federal judge blocked the implementation of 187; the proposition died when Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat elected in 1998, dropped an appeal.

But most analysts agree that the controversy hurt the GOP's standing with Latino voters, especially in California. Before Proposition 187, Republicans attracted as much as a third of the vote among California Latinos, as Wilson did in the 1990 governor's race.

After Proposition 187, GOP candidates failed to win even a quarter of the vote among California Latinos in the 1994, 1998 and 2002 governor's races and the 1996 and 2000 presidential elections, according to Times exit polls. Compounding the damage, Latinos increased their share of the state's vote from 7% in the 1992 presidential race to twice that by 2004.

This dual effect — an increasing share of a growing voter bloc — has become a key to Democratic dominance of statewide California politics.

Recently, California Latinos have shown signs of thawing toward the GOP. Both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in his 2003 special election and President Bush in 2004 cracked 30% of the Latino vote, the Times surveys found.

"They are obviously still more positive in their view of Democrats than Republicans, but they don't have the antipathy to Republicans that they had 10 years ago, and the president is largely responsible for that," said Kevin Spillane, a Republican political consultant from Sacramento.

Many Democrats, though, believe that the GOP's renewed focus on pursuing illegal immigrants could repel Latino voters again.

"They will end up once again being seen as anti-immigrant," said Bill Carrick, a veteran Democratic consultant in Los Angeles. "They definitely run the same risk they had before — that Latino voters will end up feeling very negative about a really harsh debate within the Republican Party on immigration."

Many Republicans insist that the environment has changed enough since the early 1990s to minimize that risk. Dreier said there was one fundamental difference separating the illegal immigration debate today from that of a decade ago: the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"That creates a scenario where border security is national security, and that was not part of the mix in 1994 when Proposition 187 was on the ballot," said Dreier, who was criticized strongly over illegal immigration by two conservative radio talk show hosts during his unexpectedly close 2004 reelection campaign.

But Dreier said the GOP must be careful to avoid "strident rhetoric" during the escalating immigration debate. Any final bill that emerges from the House and the Senate, he contended, must include a guest-worker program both for future migrants and for illegal immigrants already here. Both Bush and Schwarzenegger also support a guest-worker program.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Visalia), whose district is more than 40% Latino, echoed Dreier's assessment. "You find very few people who oppose strengthening the border, even in my district that is heavily Hispanic," he said. "What you'll also find in my district is people want some type of guest-worker program. They understand the need for it."

But most conservatives staunchly oppose any guest-worker system as a form of "amnesty" for illegal immigrants; the measure the House is considering this week pointedly excludes it to focus solely on enhanced enforcement.

This story is by Ronald Brownstein of the LA Times.

Civil Liberties Sometimes Become First Casualty of War

Given a free hand after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush followed the uncertain footsteps of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John Adams and other past presidents who made civil liberties the first casualty of war.

Eavesdropping without warrants, redefining torture, building loopholes into the Geneva Conventions and the USA Patriot Act will be parts of Bush's legacy and a cautionary tale for the next president who struggles with the balance between safety and civil liberties.

Congress is raising its voice. Emboldened by Bush's political woes, lawmakers seem determined after four years of acquiescence to play their role as a check on presidential powers.

On Friday alone:

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said it was inappropriate for the super-secret National Security Agency to eavesdrop without warrants on people inside the United States. He promised hearings on Bush's NSA directive.

Senate Democrats blocked extension of the Patriot Act, which expanded legal eavesdropping and allowed secret warrants for books, records and other items from businesses and libraries.

The House called on the administration to give Congress details of secret detention facilities overseas.

On Thursday, Bush reversed course and accepted Sen. John McCain's call for a law banning cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of foreign suspects in the war on terror. While the White House's stance on torture did not affect civil liberties of U.S. citizens, it raised questions about the nation's values at home and abroad.

In a related debate, the president has long insisted that hundreds of prisoners held in the war on terrorism are enemy combatants, not prisoners of war, and are not entitled to the same rights afforded under the Geneva Conventions.

Have we gone too far to defend the nation?

What happens if we don't go far enough?

Those are the questions that haunted Lincoln, Roosevelt, Adams and others who stretched the U.S. Constitution in the nation's defense.

"Civil liberties are always most endangered during wartime and there does seem to be a greater tendency to look for and find domestic and internal enemies during wartime," said Marc Kruman, chairman of history and director of the Center for the Study of Citizenship at Wayne State University in Detroit.

Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus the guarantee against being held indefinitely without being charged with a crime during the Civil War, arousing opposition throughout the country. In one case, he ignored the order of Chief Justice Roger Taney to grant a writ to a Southern agitator who had been jailed by military authorities in Maryland.

Fearing war with the French, Adams approved the Alien and Sedition Acts, which, among other things, prohibited people from speaking against the government.

Franklin Roosevelt ordered the internment of Japanese-Americans in camps during World War II.

"There has to be a balance when we're at war between national security and what I call core American values," said Tom Newcomb, assistant professor of criminal justice and security studies at Tiffin University in Tiffin, Ohio.

Newcomb has observed the balancing act at several levels of government: He has been a CIA station chief, counterterrorism expert at the White House, legislative aide to the House Intelligence Committee and legal adviser to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret Washington court that handles national security issues like NSA eavesdropping.

"The best overt example of this is ... the so-called libraries provision of the Patriot Act. There's no doubt in my mind that it is constitutional, but it seems offensive to the sensibilities of a lot of Americans and may be an example of how protecting our national security can go too far into the core American values," Newcomb said.

In the debate over torture, Newcomb said the White House may be fighting to protect executive-branch prerogatives that are not needed by the intelligence community.

"I do think that any interrogators need some broad guidelines to enable them to do their jobs," he said. "However, it's axiomatic among spooks like me former spooks like me that the more duress the less reliable the information is that you get."

Harvard lecturer Juliette Kayyem, author of "Protecting Liberty in an Age of Terror, said it's "as traditional as apple pie to recalibrate the balance between security and civil liberties in times of crises. The question we're starting to ask here with the torture debate, the NSA eavesdropping and the Patriot Act is how do we calibrate that balance after September 11?"

Lincoln, Roosevelt and Adams struggled with the balancing act. Congress and history will judge how well Bush handled it.

This story is by Ron Fournier of the Associated Press.

Dec 16, 2005

Border Fence Coming to Laredo?

Interesting comments from a Congressman in Colorado in the AP today on the proposed border fence. I am pretty sure that most Americans living along the border would disagree with Rep. Tancredo's sentiments.

Colorado's Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo praised the fence, saying "what would be the best Christmas present to the American people is pictures of concrete being poured" for the fence.

Click here for the rest of the AP story.

Dec 15, 2005

Home Sweet Home!

The drug wars, corruption and continuous violence on the border distracts from the beauty of my community and the beauty of it's people. I wanted to end the day on a good note. Here is a snow filled picture of my hometown from last year.

Given the choice, this is my home and I'm proud to say that. As the new year is upon us look to see growth and prosperity continue in the Valley. Evil and greed will always rear their heads, be it in South Texas or any other part of the world.

How we chose to respond to evil is where beauty can be found. In the coming year watch as the light of the world refuses to be diminished by the darkness.

Until tomorrow. I'll keep the fires burning until then.

And The Violence Continues: Husband, Nephew of Legislator Found Shot to Death on Border

The bodies of a husband and nephew of a Mexican federal legislator were found inside the politician's car, which was parked outside a bar near Ciudad Juarez, police said Thursday.

A security guard found Armando Sanchez, 38, and David Garcia, 24, late Wednesday. Sanchez and Garcia were the husband and nephew, respectively, of federal legislator Maria Avila of the Ecologist Green Party, said Luz del Carmen Sosa, a spokeswoman for Ciudad Juarez police.

Avila is a federal legislator for the state of Chihuahua, where Ciudad Juarez is located.

Sosa said the men were shot in the head and their bodies left in Avila's car, which was parked outside a bar in the town of Zaragocita, 18 miles southeast of Ciudad Juarez, a city of 1.3 million across the border from El Paso, Texas.

Police were investigating and had not made any arrests.

Relatives of the men told local reporters the pair had gone shopping but didn't return home.

The AP covered this story.

More Violence In Bordertown - Grenade Thrown Into Convenience Store

Voices in the wilderness are calling. Can you hear them? They warn you of great harm that will come to the people and communities you love. Will you remain unguarded when like a thief in the night the terror and corruption visits your home?

Moments after reading and posting the editorial by the Dallas Morning News I heard of continued violence in the community that neighbors mine here on the border.

Channel 5 television has the story. Here is a quote from their coverage:

"NEWSCHANNEL 5 spoke with two women who live a block away from the store. They are confused by the violence that seems to be spreading faster than their government can put it down. They say family and friends who live in the United States won't visit anymore. They say they feel like living in Reynosa is like being in a war zone."
I try not to get jaded with the constant barrage of violence, but I would put this latest incident low on the recent scale of violence.

Tortured voices have long warned this nation of the impending doom and violence that we see developing on our southern border. Let the trumpets sound! Let every ear and heart be opened to hear the Clarion call!

Some may find it easy to ignore our protest, small as our voice may be. One can no longer ignore the growing thunderous voices of those lost. It is their loss that demands action.

Here is the news story from Channel 5 television in the Rio Grande Valley.

Dallas Morning News: 'It's Our Problem' -- Border Doesn't Keep Out Drug Corruption

Texas and the nation needed a waker- upper.

The pathetic case of former Cameron County Sheriff Conrado Cantu fits the bill.

His sentencing to 24 years in a federal penitentiary this week is a strong antidote for anyone starting to feel superior after months of dire reports of Mexican corruption and chaos.

Those problems clearly don't stop at the border.

Awash in money from the illegal drug trade, our southern neighbor shows signs of accelerating social and institutional decay, most prominently near the Rio Grande. It's been an alarmingly bloody year, with more than 1,100 drug-related slayings. Federal troops moved into Nuevo Laredo after the entire police force was suspended on suspicion of corruption.

Now a prominent lawman on the U.S. side stands in court and apologizes for his own sickening level of corruption – drug trafficking, extorting money from drug dealers, bribery, etc.

The saving grace was the ongoing federal anti-corruption effort, now responsible for sending a string of four Texas sheriffs, including the brazen Cantu, to prison in recent years.

This fall, top U.S. and Mexican officials announced cooperative efforts against drug lords, whose open warfare has claimed casualties in both countries. We would still like to see the FBI list top traffickers on its Most Wanted list, a tactic that has previously delivered key Mexicans into federal custody and prisons.

The harder task for Americans is recognizing the real enemy – this country's insatiable need for a high, the source of the corrupting money.

State Rep. Aaron Peña, of Edinburg, took up the fight against drugs after his 16-year-old son's drug-related death. He told this newspaper recently: "It's a problem we can't blame on the Mexicans. At its root, it's our problem. It is the demand for drugs that causes this to happen."

Dec 14, 2005

Richard Raymond Pulling Out of The Congressional Race

We were first to tell you that he was running for Congress, let me be the first to tell you that he has had a change of heart and will be running for his old State Representative seat again.

Raymond's withdrawal would make it a two-man race in the March Democratic primary between Cuellar and Ciro Rodriguez, the former congressman from San Antonio who was ousted by Cuellar in a bitter contest two years ago.

A poll conducted by Pineda Consulting surveyed 499 primary voters between Oct. 18-23 and Oct. 26-29. It showed that if the election were held immediately, 45 percent of voters would go for Cuellar, 32 percent for Rodriguez, and 11 percent for Raymond.

Here is the story hot off the wire from the San Antonio Express.


Who are the misguided few who have earned a special corner in Hell? I'm sure we can all name a few, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao Tse-tung, to name but a few.

Back home in South Texas there are a number of public figures that if they don't repent and change their ways, will be on the short list of draftees made by the good citizens of the Valley (some former residents as well) (and out of towners).

Right now former Cameron County sheriff Conrado Cantu is high on that list. Conrado Cantu received more than 24 years in prison without parole Tuesday for protecting drug traffickers, money launderers and illegal gamblers during his four years as Cameron County sheriff.

Cantu, 50, served as the county's top lawman between January 2001 and December 2004. He pleaded guilty to a federal racketeering charge in July.

As part of a plea agreement to dismiss six other charges, Cantu admitted to running a three-man crime ring with his former captain and former county jail vendor that abused his office to solicit and extort bribes from drug traffickers.

As a citizen of the Valley, I am angered by the shame Mr. Cantu has brought to this proud region and its good people. As a father who fights to protect his children from the drugs that have now permeated the area, I am angered that he sold his law enforcement office to the drug dealers, the very people who prey on our children.

I agree with the statement made by the Justice Department in this case.

“Mr. Cantu sold his badge and his office, and we will not tolerate that,” said United States Attorney Chuck Rosenberg. “His long sentence of imprisonment fits the crime, for it is simply inexcusable for a law enforcement official to violate the very laws he is sworn to uphold.”

For those who say the Mexican drug corruption problem has little affect on the U.S. here is one of the poster children for the contrary.

Judge Tagle put it best in sentencing Cantu:

"You used your charisma to betray your community," she told Cantu. "For somebody who hates drugs, you certainly did a lot to help the drug trafficking trade."

Dec 13, 2005

Texas Tax Reform Commission Hears From South Texans in Victoria

Adopting a state sales tax and adding taxes to cigarettes, gambling and gasoline were among the suggestions aired Tuesday during a three-hour hearing in Victoria conducted by a task force that will make reform recommendations to the Legislature.

"Our charge is pretty simple," said task force chairman John Sharp, former state comptroller. "We need to figure out a way to lower property taxes by a significant amount."

The Texas Supreme Court has declared the property tax system that supports schools unconstitutional, and it gave the Legislature until June 1 to come up with a new way to pay for education.

The rest of the story from the Associated Press.

For the folks who heard me on the radio this morning, this is the commission that I mentioned that needs to be watched on the question of who is ultimately going to pay for services. Look for them to be in the Rio Grande Valley on Friday, Jan. 27 at 10:00 a.m. The rest of their schedule is here.

Be there if you want to have early input in the process.

Father Hidalgo And A Snow Filled Town Square

In keeping with the spirit of the season, this is Christmas Day 2004 -- the Hidalgo County Square in the City of Edinburg, Texas. This is right smack in the middle of District 40. The bust is that of Father Miguel Hidalgo (full name: Miguel Gregorio Antonio Ignacio Hidalgo y Costilla Mandarte Villaseñor y Lomelí) after who the county is named.

Sweet Nothings In My Ear

I've got Tahoe on my mind!

I made some good friends at a legislative conference this past June where I was asked to speak on the emergence of blogging as a medium for communicating with constituents. I remember the event well because I personally made tons of points with Mrs. Pena for "sweet nothings" I noted in one of my blog posts about how we came to be married. Guys, trust me, you just can't go wrong after writing a post like that.

Which brings me to the subject of today's post. One of the many persons that I met on that fateful day is Wayne Hall of "A Nation of The People And IP Addresses." Well after this morning's radio program I came to the office only to be met up with a number of constituent issues that will be difficult to resolve but for which we will find a solution. "Tough work in front of us" -- I told the staff. One of the younger vounteers said, "does anybody really know about some of the work we do!" She was in effect asking -- does anybody really care?

I started up my computer and there was the answer to the simple but important question. It seems my new found friend Wayne Hall had posted some "sweet nothings in my ear" on his blog. It could not have come at a better time. I answered the young volunteer's question with a "see people do see and they do care."

Now I posted the story about my wife so that maybe I could re-cycle some of the same good feelings I got after the first time I posted the story about how we were married. Secondly and more importantly, I posted that story to tell Mr. Hall over at A Nation of The People And IP Addresses that after your post, you can do no wrong.

Thank you for the timely post and the kind words.

The U.S. Supreme Court Has A History Of Injecting Itself In Redistricting

The Supreme Court is injecting itself into the question of how much politics is acceptable in drawing legislative boundaries, revisiting a subject that has divided current court members.

The outcome of the new case, involving a hotly contested congressional map engineered by Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, could be affected by the court's turnover, still in progress.

The justices said Monday they would review challenges filed by Democrats and minority groups.

The rest of the story by Gina Holland of The Associated Press.

On KURV Radio: Redistricting And Its Effects On South Texas

I have been invited to appear on Davis Rankin's Talk Radio program this morning to discuss the U.S. Supreme Court decision to hear the Texas redistricting case. For those in South Texas it is 710 on the AM dial. The show starts at 9:30 a.m.

The latest on redistricting.

Back in the office. Boy, we had good discussion on the the topic of redistricting. We also had great questions on teachers health insurance and the Iraq War. The Iraq War is not a subject we address in the state legislature and the question got me to flesh out a position.

With regards to the increasing demands on state government and how we are going to pay for services. I would advise the public to monitor the special committee headed by former Comptroller John Sharp as to how this state is going to address it's tax structure.

If you demand more services, then someone is going to have to pay for it. Most of us want those taxes to be paid for by someone else. This of course is the question of the moment and would appreciate the public's input on this difficult question.

Dec 12, 2005

Texas Awaits Supreme Court Decision in Redistricting Case

The Supreme Court's decision Monday to consider constitutional challenges to Texas congressional boundaries could send the redistricting map back to the Texas Legislature, if the court finds it unconstitutional.

But next year's elections are moving forward under existing Republican-drawn districts, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said.

"The 2006 elections will proceed forward under the current map," Abbott said.

Read the rest of Kelley Shannon's story for the Associated Press.

Congressional Redistricting: The Safe Seat Pandemic

An interesting piece by Rob Richie, the executive director of FairVote. This article appears in

Rick Bolanos, Member of the Celebrated Vietnam Veteran Family, To Challenge Bonilla

During the Veterans march to San Antonio we heard a rumor that Rick Bolanos was going to address us when we arrived in San Antonio. A little bird told me he was looking to make a run for Congress and might announce at the event. He did not, but the some of the truth was contained in that rumor.

Rick is a member of the famous Bolanos brothers who I had the pleasure of introducing at our last state convention. They are all passionate speakers and well representative of the military pride and participation by so many in military service from our communities back home.

Rick who is an El Paso native, officially made the announcement that he intends to challenge District 23 Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, in next year's congressional election.

Bolanos, a Democrat, built up some name ID during the 2004 presidential race while accompanying U.S. Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards on the campaign trail.

He and his three brothers made headlines last year as "The Band of Brothers" for having all served in the Vietnam War. He says that background gives him cachet when asked about the war in Iraq.

The story as it appeared in the San Antonio Express newspaper is here.

Immigration Booming as Congress Grapples with Border Control

There are 35.2 million foreign-born people living in the United States — about 12.1 percent of the population, according to a report Monday by the Center for Immigration Studies.

The 35.2 million immigrants living in the country in March 2005 is the highest number ever recorded — two-and-a-half times the 13.5 million during the peak of the last great immigration wave in 1910," said the report by Steven Camarota, the center's research director.

The rest of the story by the AP here.

Looks Like The U.S. Supreme Court May Have To Clean Up Tom Delay's Mess

Speaking of Ardmore! It looks like the US Supreme Court is going to review the Texas redistricting mess.

The Supreme Court said today that it would consider the constitutionality of a Texas congressional map engineered by Rep. Tom DeLay that helped Republicans gain seats in Congress.

The 2003 boundaries helped Republicans win 21 of the state's 32 seats in Congress in the last election- up from 15. They were approved amid a nasty battle between Republican leaders and Democrats and minority groups in Texas.

Read the rest of the AP story.

The New York Times story is also a good read.

Key Texas Legislators Choosing To Call It Quits

At the end of one our last sessions this journal documented the fatigue and the personal toll felt by many of the legislators. Session after session with acrimony has taken the joy or satisfaction from the process. So many months away in session after session was made at the sacrifice of the legislator's family. The financial toll was also taxing. This was the lament I heard over and over again.

Never did I suspect that what I was observing would cause so many to end their careers in the Texas House of Representatives. Many a senior member would tell me how horrible it was for me not to know the enjoyment from prior bi-partisan sessions. Coming in as a freshman during the redistricting process and having survived a trip to Ardmore, I responded that no session can be as bad in terms of acrimony than that session. Simply put, I didn't know any better.

The Houston Chronicle notes the loss of many senior members.

Dec 11, 2005

Democrats Test Themes for `06 and `08

To hear Democrats tell it, an anxious and isolated public craves a sense of national community and would galvanize behind a leader who asks people to sacrifice for the greater good. John Edwards says he's that leader.

Wait a minute, so does Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. Ditto for Virginia Gov. Mark Warner.

The rest of the AP story.

Solomon Ortiz Jr., Continues To Be Coy On Future Intentions

Today's "Political Pulse" section of the Corpus Christi Caller Times tells the story of Solomon Jr.'s dance about the question of whether he is going to run against state Rep. Vilma Luna.

On Verdades y Chismes (Truth and Gossip), Vicente Carranza's radio show asked the question of the day - whether he is going to run against state Rep. Vilma Luna. Ortiz' answer: he will consult with friends, supporters and family before making a decision.

Here is an insider's view: The rumor that Solomon Ortiz Jr. was interested in running against Rep. Vilma Luna has been widely known. As far back as the beginning of this past session, people in Austin and certainly both potential candidates, were aware of the rumor.

To those who do not follow Corpus Christi politics, it should be noted that each of these individuals come from opposing political camps within the Democratic Party in Nueces County. Although not solely based on disputes originating out of the race for Texas Senate between Juan Hinojosa and Barbara Canales, disputes from that race play a key role in the divisions of these two camps.

Despite the rumors, Rep. Vilma Luna is seemingly confident that she would win a race against any challenger in her district. Solomon Ortiz, Jr. has held on to the difficult job of leading the different factions in Corpus Christi and by most accounts is ready to move on.

This leaves most observers watching to see what happens. The readers of this blog should know that this writer knows both individuals personally. Although I will maintain our discussions in confidence, I can't help from observing the circumstances raised. Much of the speculation on this match-up seemed to have died off until the recent announcement that County Judge Shamsie was not seeking re-election. Speculation arose in the Ortiz camp that Rep. Luna would possibly run for County Judge or as a district judge. Ortiz' decision not to seek re-election as Democratic Party Chair has added to the speculation.

Challenging the Vice-Chair of Appropriations and one of the most powerful legislators is a daunting task, which probably explains the hesitation to announce. Many Ortiz supporters would probably rather see the powerful legislator move on to another interest on her own before they see Ortiz announce for the job.

For the moment all eyes will be on who files for what in Nueces County as the game of musical chairs continues in the Coastal Bend community.

49% of Texans Oppose Civilian Minutemen Groups; 47% Support Them

The poll was conducted between Nov. 14 and Nov. 30. It surveyed 1,000 adult Texans by telephone in a random sample of active telephone exchanges statewide. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.

Forty-seven percent agree with the practice and 49 percent oppose it. More clearly, 79 percent of Texans believe the government is not doing enough to stop unauthorized immigration from Mexico, up 21 percentage points from just before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and up 10 points from February 2004.

On the broader issue of the seriousness of unauthorized immigration from Mexico, 84 percent of Texans said it is a very serious or somewhat serious problem, 15 percent said it was not very serious or not serious at all and 1 percent did not know.

The ethnic group represented most heavily in the poll was Anglos, at 67 percent. Hispanics made up 21 percent of the sample. Statewide, Hispanics make up 43 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census. Regionally, North Texans made up 34 percent of the poll's respondents and South Texans made up 17 percent.

Read the rest of the story from the Corpus Christi Caller.

Democrats Seeking New, Early Caucuses

As this blogger once suggested some time ago to the Texas powers that be, this could be Texas involved in an early caucus. At least two of the commission members would be willing to argue our cause. The remainder is up to us.

The Seattle Times has the story.

UPDATE: Changes were adopted 23 to 2 by the Commission. The story.

Anna Hernandez, Former Aide to Rep. Joe Moreno, Wins Runoff Election

Anna Hernandez, the former aide to Rep. Joe Moreno, won the runoff election on Saturay. Her district, district 143 covers one of Houston's oldest Hispanic neighborhoods that now ring the Houston Ship Channel and include the city's heavy industrial and petrochemical facilities.

The AP story.

The Houston Chronicle story.

Candidate Early Percent Total Percent
Hernandez 871 73.25% 2,147 61.13%
Salinas 318 26.75% 1,365 38.87%

Dec 10, 2005

Republican George Antuna, Staffer for U.S. Sen. Hutchison, Considering Run for Carlos Uresti's Seat

Republican George Antuna, a staffer for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, is "seriously considering" a run for Texas House District 118 — a seat historically represented by Democrats.

"It's winnable by the appropriate (Republican) candidate," said Antuna.

In describing Antuna politics a friend described him this way, "He'd be a Joe Straus Republican or a Frank Madla Democrat," referring to two state lawmakers who "don't necessarily follow the party lock-step and follow the district rather than the party line."

The rest of the story.

Outrage: Speaking Spanish in School Results in Child's Suspension

This story about a child being suspended from school for speaking Spanish may make many of you boil over for some you may see the usefulness of such a policy. As a Texan, I will tell you that the punishment is shortsided and particularly cruel to a child who can not be forced to change who he is.

This last legislative session I passed a resolution honoring the contributions of people we today would call "Czechs" who migrated to Texas and have contributed to the rich cultural fabric of our state. My nephews and nieces you see are Americans with a Czech-Mex ancestry and I wanted to do something to remember the ancestry of their grandfather Frank Kohoutek who recently passed away.

In doing research I noted how German and Czech children were punished for speaking anything other than English. How sad I thought that most Texans today with those ancestries can not speak the language of their fathers. In Europe nearly everyone speaks an additional language to their own. There they embrace the economic and social value of speaking more than one language.

Today more than 51 percent of Texas elementary school children speak a language other than English, and seven of the 10 largest communities in Texas have a majority population that is non-Anglo. The policy if imposed in Texas would surely result in a number of suspensions. Half of our public schools would be empty.

Don't get me wrong, there is utility in sharing a common culture and a common language but to be punished because you are fortunate to have an expansion on the norm, I simply don't agree. Fear of the other, fear of others who may not be part of our tribe may be an instinctual defense mechanism that worked 10,000 years ago, but in our diverse modern social order, there is little room for this.

My generation was punished for speaking Spanish in school. In my particular case, well meaning Catholic school nuns wanted to "mainstream" my generation of young Hispanics into society. Many children were firmly discouraged or had their hands slapped if Spanish came out of their mouths. That generations parents believed that learning "English" was a ticket to success. I would not disagree, but why at the expense of learning a second language. Believe me learning one does not exclude the other.

For those who fear a wave of people who are different, fear not, we are not so different from you. A colleague once told me, "my people are afraid of your people." Why I asked? She responded, "Because you do not speak our language!" I told her that all I ever spoke to her was English. English is in fact my first language. She said, "not you, other Hispanics." I told her to note my son's generation, most of his friends speak little if any Spanish. Like other ethnic groups many younger generation, second and third generation Hispanics do not retain their Spanish language.

But I think of my brothers in Europe, is an Englishman any less English because he speaks German or Spanish? No, then why the American hang-up with language in a diverse society.

Fear not, for humanity has encountered this many times before. Romans once refused to allow neighboring tribes to partake in the "Roman dream." In part it was because of language and cultural differences. Today, Etruscan, Gaul, Hun, Roman they are all what we presently call Italians. How silly it looks in hindsight.

The policy of Texas public schools is to teach most regular classes in English. But if, during recess, a child is asked a question in Spanish, it is almost instinctual and certainly polite, to respond in the same language.

The economic future of this state in part is trade with our Southern neighbors. This means it is economically important that Spanish be learned as a second language.

Far from those painful years my generation experienced on this subject of language many parents are now seeing the value they pass to their children when they can speak another language. My granddaughter, Chelsea, whose first language is English, is attending a school where half a day is in English and the second half is in Spanish.

This may terrify some whose instinctual defense mechanism is up, but be warned my brother -- The future does not belong to those who fear the night. It belongs to those who can illuminate it.

'NY Times' Sunday Preview: Conservative Blogs Rock!

Okay, does your blood boil with that headline? Well it certainly is an interesting read.

The title of the piece by Michael Crowley in the magazine’s 5th Annual Year in Ideas cover package says it all: “Conservative Blogs Are More Effective.”

Crowley, a New Republic writer, claims that with the 2006 elections approaching, Democrats are now “trying to use blogs more strategically.” But he concludes by embracing the view of Matt Stoller, an activist who ran a blog for Sen. Jon Corzine during his 2005 race for governor of New Jersey, who believes that next year conservative bloggers “will certain have an upper hand.” Crowley adds: “Again.”

“Democrats say there’s a key difference between liberals and conservatives online. Liberals use the Web to air ideas and vent grievances with one another, often ripping into Democratic leaders….Conservatives, by contrast, skillfully use the Web to provide maximum benefit for their issues and candidates.”

The rest of the story from Editor & Publisher.

Dec 9, 2005

Nueces County Democratic Party Chairman Solomon P. Ortiz, Jr. Announces Not Seeking Re-Election

The expected Corpus Christi shake-up continues, following the decision by County Judge Terry Shamsie not to seek re-election. Solomon P. Ortiz, Jr., Nueces County Democratic Party chairman has announced he will not seek re-election.

"It is with a heavy heart, but a hopeful spirit, that I inform you that I have decided not to seek re-election to the position of party chairman of the Nueces County Democratic Party, Ortiz said in a letter to supporters. In my life, I have been blessed with so many opportunities. I've grown up with my family working on national, state and local elections."

Many a tongue in the coastal bend area have been wagging as to his next move as well as that of others. This blogger expects great changes in the city by the bay in the coming days.

Cris Bell Makes It Official And Files For Governor

Chris Bell made it official Friday that he's a candidate for Texas Governor. Read the post from his blog.

Bell, filed his candidacy with the Texas Democratic Party, said he feels good about his standing in recent polls, though he acknowledged he has "a long way to go." Bell, 46, served on the Houston City Council for five years and represented part of the city in the U.S. House for one term.

Since launching his campaign, Bell said, he has visited more than 40 cities and towns across Texas. He said his message centers on education -- school finance, the dropout problem and the overall quality of public schools.

Bell is the most prominent candidate in the Democratic race for governor. Fort Worth middle school administrator Felix Alvarado also plans to run. Former Texas Supreme Court justice Bob Gammage said he is leaning toward running but hasn't announced his candidacy.

The rest of the story by the AP.

SA Councilman Perez Won't Seek Uresti's Seat in Legislature

City Councilman Richard Perez said Thursday he will not seek the legislative seat being vacated by state Rep. Carlos Uresti, despite the strong urging of influential local Democrats who now must scramble to find a candidate for the March primary.

Read the rest of the story by Jaime Castillo and Greg Jefferson with the Express-News.

Menendez Accepts Corzine's seat In The United States Senate

Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, will be the first minority to represent New Jersey in the Senate. Dozens of Hispanic groups lobbied heavily for Corzine to select Menendez. He will join Sens. Ken Salazar, D-Colo. and Mel Martinez, R-Fla. as the Senate's only Hispanics.

The AP as always has the story.

Dec 8, 2005

Kinky Friedman Makes It Official And Files

Kinky filed paperwork at the Texas Secretary of State's Office declaring his intent to run for Governor as an independent.

Read the AP story.

DMN: Texas' Remap Mess: Supreme Court Should Hear Redistricting Case

Make it Plain! Listen to Martin Luther Kings historic sermons and in some there is one lone voice of truth in the back repeating the phrase. As I read the Dallas Morning New's editorial, I hear the voice in my head. I woud hope that the United States Supreme Court finally puts an end to this travesty. The story.

Another Announcement To Run For Soon To Be Vacant Nueces County Judge Seat Made

Now that the current Nueces County Judge Terry Shamsie has announced that he will not seek reelection, the free for all begins. One of the the first hats to be thrown into the ring today, is that of Nueces County Sheriff Larry Olivarez. Olivarez stepped down as the Sheriff of Nueces County today to pursue the Democratic nomination for Nueces County Judge in an announcement at the Nueces County Commissioners courtroom a few hours ago.

Once Olivarez officially announced that he is running, the commissioner's court will be forced to fill the vacancy through the next general election.

Former Corpus Christi mayor Loyd Neal has announced that he will seek the Republican bid for the Judge'’s seat. Other than these two candidates there have been rumors flying about South Texas speculating on a musical chairs change-up that involves the who's who of Corpus Christi's political society.

Here is the early story from the Corpus Christi Caller Times.

C.S. Lewis' Masterpiece: 'The Chronicles of Narnia' To Open in Movie Theaters

Okay I know this blog is primarily about politics and social commentary, but I feel obliged to bring in this review of the movie "The Chronicles of Narnia." C.S. Lewis is probably my favorite writer and although you may not see it, the release of this movie at this time reveals much of the present day American or western mind.

After watching the movie we can have fun with an analogy to present day politics. I just know Tom Delay has a metaphorical doppelganger in the movie.

Here is the review by Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times.

One critics view of the Christian symbolism of the movie.

Rep."Timber Jim" McReynolds Files For Re-Election

What does an East Texas country boy and this South Texas Representative have in common? More than one would suspect. My good friend and mentor Rep. Jim McReynolds filed for re-election. Here is the story out of Lufkin.

McReynolds, who was first elected to the Texas House in 1996, filed for the March 7, 2006, Democratic primary election on Monday. The veteran state lawmaker will be seeking his party's nomination for the District 12 seat. This will be his fifth term.

Jim is a good descent public servant who simply wants to do good for his community. When I entered the House as a freshman, Jim whose office and floor seat neighbored mine, guided me through the process. He also taught me independence. Now some of you may think this a bad thing, but it is not. What I mean by independence was a loyalty to the folks back home rather than to the Austin interests.

Yep, that "Timber Jim" is a fine man. I would ask all of my friends to support "Gentleman Jim" because like some of the few I have chosen to highlight, he is a leader Texans can be proud of.