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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

Tuesday Roundup

While many have been advocating as of late for the public financing of elections or a total overhaul of McCain - Feingold, Senator Clinton took a step that may have wrecked the proverbial joint: she became the first candidate since public financing for Presidential campaigns was offered to turn down matching funds for both the primary and general elections. Bush and Kerry had both chosen to not take public money for the primaries in 2004, and of course Bush had no reason to; both, however, took it during the general. By opting out of the program for both the primary and the general, Senator Clinton is essentially signaling to everyone that she feels as if she can raise more money in total than the additional matching $125 million or so the program would provide. Which she can, and will.

So we return to the rub, concerning money and politics - by the time the first FEC reports come out at the end of April, we will know who has a chance and who does not. The top three fund raisers from each party will be able to hang in there, and we all know that Senator Clinton's fundraising ability and network are prohibitive. The cash on hand totals will be totally frightening and everyone will be scrambling to compete.

Speaking of other candidates, Fox News and a Washington Times offshoot called Insight Magazine got up to some hijinx last week by reporting that Senator Barack Obama was educated in a madrasah in Indonesia. If you aren't up on your terminology, a madrasah is a school in which Islam and the Qu'ran are taught along with other subjects like math or science - depending on the country it may more closely resemble a college or single-room, multi-age school house. In some cases, a more fundamentalist form of Islam, or even specifically Wahhabism, is taught. These types of madrasah can be found in Pakistan, and this is what Westerners generally take the word "madrasah" to mean. The usual madrasah, however, is not automatically a terrorist training ground. The literal translation from the Arabic is "school."

So, the story was dumb for two reasons. One, it was aimed at playing on a generalization of the word "madrasah" and meant to imply that Senator Obama is obviously the center of some sleeper cell into which he was initiated long ago. Two, CNN pulled some investigative reporting desire out of nowhere and revealed that the school Obama attended in Jakarta is a public school with a mixed student body where religion is not a focal point of the course work. So, silliness and lies, in case there was any doubt what the right-wing media are up to.

Speaking of right-wing machinations, Frank Luntz would like Democrats to play nice. The man who has spent most of his adult life figuring out ways to manipulate language and paint liberals and Democrats as the enemies of Democracy and Mom and Apple Pie. I love this chestnut:

Democracy is at its best when its practitioners use language to unite and explain rather than divide and attack.

Part of my background is in linguistics and semiotics. I know from whence Frank Luntz comes. I understand signs and signifiers and the Hermeneutic Circle which determines that an audience can only know what it is prepared to know. I get that. So when the guy responsible for phrases like "death tax," "Healthy Forests Initiative," and "Contract with America" tells the Democratic party that it shouldn't fall into the trap of using language that divides, I grit my teeth. Sure, he isn't calling Democrats terrorists, but he still engages in the practice of selling irresponsible policy to an unwitting public. Its like a sin tax on not paying attention, only this tax is paid in global warming and never-ending foreign wars.

In more local news, Farmers Branch passed another ordinance for voter approval in May. It is similar to the one they were already going to decide on in May, and the idea behind the new one seems to be motivated by legal logistics. The lawsuits filed against the city on the previous measure questioned the situations under which it was discussed, with claims made that they violated Constitutional rules concerning open meetings. So they haven't really backed down.

State Senator Eliot Shapleigh writes in an editorial for the Amarillo Globe that immigration is an issue close to the core of American society. While making his argument, the Senator clarifies a couple of points on the debate that often get overlooked, including issues with federalism, cost distribution, and the constitutionality of certain profiling activities. It is worth a read.

State Representative Mark Strama - hero, and friend of the show - has been busy looking into this whole good government thing. He's proposing reforms for campaign finance, redistricting, and automobile emissions. By going the route of California, Strama is looking to place the onus for emissions control on auto manufacturers rather than industry.

Outgoing Dallas Mayor Laura Miller pulled some crafty moves on TXU and Rick Perry by inviting the media to attend a deposition scheduled by the utility firm's lawyers. The deposition is part of the permit process for Perry's 11 coal plants, and TXU canceled the proceedings after they learned that journalists would be there. Miller is opposed to the coal plants, and is actively working against them. I don't know what she's going to run for next, but stuff like this can only help to solidify her liberal cred.

Finally, Rick Perry has announced another expansion of border security operations, including more National Guard troops and increased cooperation in the direct effort by federal and state law enforcement for work against drug trafficking. He also expanded FEMA temporary housing for Katrina and Rita refugees by six months. We certainly can't say that Perry has been idle lately, but the argument between border patrols as crime fighting and border patrols as national security initiative is a difficult policy fight that won't go away, on a state or federal government level.


I needed some smelling salts when I saw CNN so prominently displaying a story about how they did some simple investigative journalism. They were running it like the kid who just got caught for cheating turns around and proudly displays his homework that he did all on his own to the teacher.

It was refreshing to see them actually do some investigative journalism that worked positively for a Democrat, but I'm of the opinion that as a news outlet, you shouldn't celebrate investigative journalism as a rare ought to be a matter of course! Celebrating this piece the way they did only draws more attention to the fact that they don't do much of it.

Over the last few years, I've felt that Karl Rove got a lot of the credit that ultimately belonged to Luntz. That guy has a gift for the dark arts when it comes to framing.

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