McCarthy leaves the House Speaker race. Now what?

That already disorderly body of folks known as the Republican House members went ever farther off the tracks this morning with the announcement Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., — the front-runner for the job — would not seek the Speaker position.

McCarthy recently let the cat out of the bag that his party in Congress had purposely held hearings on the Benghazi episode to discredit the front-running Democratic candidate for the presidential race, Hillary Clinton. Oops! McCarthy told members he didn’t want to be a burden in the process of picking one of the most important seats in government. He said he didn’t want to make electing a speaker hard for members.

Two other top GOP House members had announced they too coveted the Speaker’s job: Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Daniel Webster of Florida. Chaffetz is known for his chairing the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, other than that, he bears a striking resemblance to a cartoon chipmunk. Webster is less known, despite a namesake who was a key antebellum orator and statesman who served in the Whig Party. The living Webster was a former Florida House of Representatives speaker. Whether he was elected on name recognition only is not known.

The Hill is reportedly all abuzz. That would be Capitol Hill, not the publication, flabbergasted over this sudden eruption in Republican leadership. The two announced candidates would not make me feel secure were I Republican. No one knows much about Webster other than his Florida House history which included his involvement in the Terri Schiavo case.

Obviously, Chaffetz is questionable as a House Speaker candidate due to the recent scandal over the Secret Service accessing the congressman’s personal file that noted when he applied for a job with the agency in 2003. He was turned down for that job for what was allegedly a “Better Qualified Applicant.” Some 45 Secret Service officials are known to have seen the file. So far, no information has come forward that tells the reason Chaffetz was rejected for the position he sought.

No front-runners have emerged since today’s announcement by McCarthy that he was dropping out of the Speaker’s race. Although I have not been in a position lately to speculate who might be a winning candidate, I know of a good many congressmen — about 425 or so and from all parties — I wouldn’t recommend.

Ho hum in some elections. Others have real issues to decide.

Of the two acts I did this afternoon — vote and get a flu shot — I have to say the latter was perhaps the most significant. That is to me, at least.

The flu shot might help keep me safe from some flu bug. And perhaps influenza can be ruled out should I get some other virus like Ebola or West Nile. The second bug is always a possibility when the skeeters are out and biting as they do here in the marshes of Southeast Texas.

But other than fulfill a civic duty, I do not believe voting today accomplishes much for me. Oh, I suppose if Wendy Davis surprises the world and wins as governor, or if Democrat Sen. Leticia Van de Putte wins Lieutenant Governor, then perhaps I will feel some satisfaction. The first doesn’t seem likely at all, however, and the second, we’ll just have to see.

We have Republicans in our local congressional districts and are likely to stay that way for awhile.

The Texas Legislature? Even worse, although there are a few Democrats including my State Rep. Joe Deshotel who can get a few things done.

In reality though, even a change in who controls Congress — Reds or Blues — will not really matter a whole lot because the number of seats gained will do little toward changing anything. Thus, we can probably expect the same do nothing Congress we have had for some time. And in the case of the people who make it a do-nothing body, that will probably be a good outcome given all the nuts loose among Capitol Hill.

While my election might not mean much, to me at least, some issues will be of importance to voters in other venues. Marijuana usage and other matters will be decided in some states. And we shall see what the impact the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission verdict the Supremes allowed will have on local governments in at least two cities.

One is the mayor-council elections in Richmond, Calif. The Bay Area city had a massive fire at its Chevron refinery in August 2012 that caused all kinds of local problems including illnesses for its citizens. This has led to numerous lawsuits including those against the city government. This election has seen millions spent on billboards and mailers for candidates who would side with Chevron. It is an overwhelming media blitz by big oil.

A similar election is taking place today in our own state of Texas. Residents of Denton, Texas, a North Central Texas, college town, are voting to ban or not ban “fracking.” That is the use of chemicals and water that are infused in the ground to create fracturing which make oil and gas flow more freely. The technique is credited for massive amounts of oil and gas, the latter pushing the U.S. into the forefront of global natural gas producers.

Opponents say fracking has its problems though, some say the possibility of fires from water spigots, even earthquake-like tremors in some vicinities.  A lot more study probably is required to get to the bottom of whether fracking is more bad than good. But it is easy to say why Denton residents might like to put a hold on the process, at least in the city limits.

This too is an election drawing unlimited amounts of moo-lah by oil and gas concerns and their supporters.

I suppose this election all depends upon where one lives whether the election is a meaningful exercise in civic responsibility. Some say that if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain. Well, by God, I have the right to complain anyway and I do. Voting apparently does some good. It’s just hard to see when it is something hundreds of thousands and millions do all at once. It’s like Chinese residents of China jumping off a chair all at once. What the hell would that feel like? I don’t want to know. But perhaps it is applicable.

And then, maybe it isn’t.

My mea culpa runneth over: Could I have changed DeLay-Babin history?

Ignorance seemed to sweep the state of Texas last night as all of the top right-right-wing candidates won the GOP primary for state offices. This include Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick who swept the top two offices. Fortunately, not all Tea Party candidates won the right to run in the November General Election. I speak specifically in the race to replace Rep. Steve Stockman, who gave up his office to seek the U.S. Senate seat held by John Cornyn.

Woodville dentist and former mayor Brian Babin defeated Tea Party mortgage banker Ben Streusand by a 58-42 percent margin. Streusand lives in Spring, a Houston suburb that is out of the district.

Babin lost two previous congressional races in 1996 and 1998 to original “Blue Dog Democrat” Jim Turner of Crockett. The GOP candidate for the 36th Congressional District of Texas, Babin, will face Democrat Michael Cole, a teacher at Little Cypress-Mauriceville in Orange County. A Libertarian candidate, Rodney Veatch, also will oppose the GOP and Democratic candidates.

The area in which CD 36 lies includes rural East Texas pineywoods, the area where I grew up. Longtime congressmen who served much of the area included colorful Democrats Charlie Wilson and Jack Brooks. Gerrymandering left out most of Jefferson County and adds GOP-prone areas of northern Harris County, home of Houston.

I lived in the area during the 1996-1998 Turner-Babin races and covered parts of both races for area daily newspapers. I found both men friendly and intelligent. I had been on the verge of a hot political story had I put more effort into it. “You gotta have heart,” as goes the song from “Damn Yankees.” At the particular time I didn’t have it.

I went to write about a rally for Babin at Cloeren Inc. in Orange. Pete Cloeren and his Dad had built a very successful plastics business. Unfortunately, he threw his politically-untested hands into helping finance the Babin campaign at the behest of Tom DeLay. A scheme was hatched that every Cloeren employee would donate to Babin the maximum $1,000 contribution allowed in congressional races.

DeLay was there at the rally I attended. I heard pols say that the Cloeren employees, each, all donated $1,000 of their own money in Babin’s name. I said: “Right! What bullshit.” I knew that was illegal and I knew it was about as likely as pigs flying that all the employees each gave $1,000 toward Dr. Babin’s campaign. Yet I was lazy, burned out, didn’t give a shit. Had I the time and the energy to go full force at this story as I had in later years chasing every cow pie that potentially entered the North Bosque River and the Waco city water supply, perhaps I might have changed the course of history with respect to Mr. DeLay. But I doubt it. I seriously, seriously doubt it.

In the end, well, we don’t know the end yet to the former bug killer, DeLay’s, saga. I do know from my time covering court cases that Houston appellate attorney Brian Wice — a sometimes legal talking head on TV — is still a guy I enjoyed hanging out with while awaiting a jury verdict. I say all that and add Wice is hell on wheels on appeals and he is representing Tom DeLay in “The Hammer’s” overturned conviction.

Babin and his campaign committee were fined $20,000 by the Federal Election Committee and paid $5,000 in excessive contributions. And now look at him. He’s the “Comeback Kid!”

That’s about as mea culpa as I’m going to get. I started off writing this thinking, “Well, at least we didn’t get Streusand if the GOP candidate wins in November.” But remembering my little lapse in doggedness, I feel even more that the 36th CD needs to elect Michael Cole.



The actions of our democracy were outside the chambers last night, sorry to say

This was the first State of the Union address I have missed in several years. I did not miss watching it because of something the President did or didn’t do. I missed it because I knew every good deed that was proposed in the past year was usually grounded because of our pitiful excuse of a Congress.

Here is a full transcript of the 2014 SOTU. Beginning with:

 “Tonight this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent: It is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong.”

What would the President say? “Man, this whole stinkin’ union sucks!”

During this past year, the minority within the House majority, along with the minority of the Senate minority, caused the federal government to shut down for half a month. We, the workers (part-time ones like me too) were all paid but we worried about whether that would happen because our senior U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R, Texas, held up the legislation allowing us our pay to the end of that sorry saga. I wish someone viable would appear to defeat Cornyn, the piece of dusty furniture that occupies our vaunted Senate succession from the great Sen. Sam Houston, who was for those from another planet was also President of the Republic of Texas and Governor of Texas. That is, until Big Sam was overthrown by Texas citizens of the United States who wanted to undo all the state had fought for by succeeding from this nation over slaves they couldn’t even afford.

No viable candidate brings me to the end of the SOTU. Read it yourself. I will. I have read the excerpts and the pundits, some of them. I rest my case, whatever it was on the SOTU because the scourge of idiocy showed itself outside the great congressional chamber where first, one of Cornyn’s opponents “showed his ass,” as we say down in Texas.

Rep. Steve Stockman, R, Texas is leaving Congress to run against Cornyn. That’s the good news, that he’s leaving Congress. Stockman, unseated congressional legend Rep. Jack Brooks who served 42 years in office. I wasn’t living in that district then. I am living in that district now but because of redistricting we have a brand new piece of Republican Tea Party furniture. Thankfully, I was ably represented back then, in 1995, by Rep. Charlie “Good Time Charlie” Wilson, D, Texas of “Charlie Wilson’s War” fame. Not that I could have done anything to stop the looney tunes Stockman from taking office. During Stockman’s tenure he was reviled for a bizarre incident in which he received a fax from Michigan militia types just after the Oklahoma City Bombing. While Stockman was accused of having received the message before the bombing and not reporting it to the FBI (he did report it), his sanity and ethics were questioned for sending the fax to the NRA. Plus his ties to a Michigan militia seemed also shady.

But Stockman, these days, seems shady-er, shadier. Cornyn’s high-powered Republican operatives have dug deep and found all kinds of dirt about financial shenanigans from Stockman and his missing in action from the House.  

Then there was that whole Stockman, figuratively thank you, showing his ass last night by walking out on the SOTU. The Senate candidate said he did so to protest the President abusing his power yadda, yadda. What a moron you are Steve Stockman.

Finally, the Republicans also made news for the party’s former Marine and FBI agent member of the House who last night threatened to throw a reporter off the balcony of the Capitol and to break the reporter into. That was because the reporter had the gall to ask Rep. Michael Grimm, R, N.Y., a question that was about some campaign finance irregularities rather that something from the SOTU on which the congressman probably had ready for a quote.

It turns out Grimm has a long history of bad behavior toward the press and others as well as many ethical and financial questions trailing his time in Congress.

Both congressional Republican morons think they can speak to reporters on their own volition. But that isn’t the way our democracy works. As it turned out, I made the better decision to just keep a copy of the SOTU handy to read at my own pace. Besides, all the action, if you want to call it that, was outside the chamber. Unfortunately.

Stupidity be thy name, Mr. GRIMM and Mr. STOCKMAN.

Congress: The good news and the bad news

The U.S. Senate is in need of about eight Republican who can be coerced sweet-talked into approving a bipartisan budget deal that was approved last week by the GOP-led House. The speculation among Dems and Repubs alike is that a deal will be passed this week. Not surprisingly, everyone doesn’t like the budget deal. I am included in that group. But I also will be happy to see it passed.

That is the good news. The bad news a bit later.

Like most Americans, self-interest is what makes me want to hold my nose while applauding both houses for approving the first budget that I can remember. Not that it has been that long ago, I just can’t remember when was the last time we weren’t operating on what everyone by now should know is a concurrent resolution. I just know it’s been more than a couple of years since an actual budget was in place.

I don’t know what all is in the budget. But I will stay happy with it if it doesn’t cut my pay through raising my pension contributions — it will make new hires pay more — and provides the first pay raise, even 1 lousy percent, in many football seasons.

If some other stupidity winds up in this budget — once again, provided it passes — I will face that when it happens.

Now for the bad news. Let’s say this little amoeba-sized-hailstone piece of bipartisanship happens. And here, let’s say theoretically that I don’t care whether it’s good or bad. This will likely be the last significant measure we will get out of this Congress, according to The Washington Post. Why, oh why, should I not believe it.

It isn’t to say the Congress won’t do anything after passing a budget. Maybe a farm bill will pass which will pay sorghum farmers for not raising dairy cattle or will provide subsidies that encourages Louisiana rice farmers to export their crop to Thailand.

Or maybe Congress will even come up with some sensible immigration reform before they all head home to really start campaigning for their upcoming elections. You know, they will probably make it easier for Southeast Asians to come here for tech and medical jobs. Something on that order. As for Mexico: ¿Quién sabe? 

I’m not one to support a “do-nothing” Congress. There are plenty who do. But there is a good case for it once they head home to start speaking at the Rotary Clubs and the VFWs and the Log Cabin Republicans, should you have a chapter in your town. Those in Congress who have done nothing will get their applause from their supporters. But they might just find their support dwindling, depending on who were inconvenienced by the government shutdown. The whole veterans at National Park/National Monument mumbo jumbo was just that. It was meant for the Fox News crowd. I am a veteran and what pissed me off the most were those poor old WWII guys were just getting used by the politicians who sought a distraction from their lockout of government employees and the American people.

Hopefully, such a crowd, audience if you will, might not carry a big bunch to the polls for the mid-term. I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong many times. As far as I am concerned, the quicker this Congress gets out of Washington the better. Even if it is only to politick for their mid terms. Although an absence for good would be much better.