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Friday, 27 May 2005
Making your voice heard
I'll probably edit this entry several times - it's going to be a resource page for contacting people on issues.

Local Contacts

Commissioners Court
The Commissioners Court is composed of the County Judge and four commissioners.

County Judge
Robert Hebert (R - 2006) 281-341-8608
Precinct 1 Commissioner:
Tom Stavinoha (R - 2008)
Telephone: 281-344-9400
FAX: 281-342-0587
Precinct 2 Commissioner:
Grady Prestage (D - 2006)
Telephone: 281-403-8000
Precinct 3 Commissioner:
Andy Meyers (R - 2008)
Telephone: 281-494-1199
FAX: 281-242-9060
Precinct 4 Commissioner:
James Patterson (R - 2006)

Posted by mythmere at 1:28 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, 27 May 2005 1:41 PM CDT
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Wednesday, 25 May 2005
Patriot Act II
Let's see what's on the radar screen for the moment. We've got so-called "conservative" Republicans trying to scrap 200+ years of Senate tradition by creating a special rule to do away with judicial filibusters (and saying that the Democrats are the ones who are trying to break a precedent by keeping the filibuster). Meanwhile, we've got the president trying to persuade the American people that allowing us to put a portion of our social security money into private accounts will somehow help the cash-flow problem involved in the normal pension-like part of Social Security.

It's worth looking at what's happening under the radar, though, with the Patriot Act II, since this is a law that will have far-reaching consequences in our everyday lives as Americans. One of our most treasured rights, as Americans, is our right to a private life enjoyed free from tyranny. Keeping that in mind, let's take a quick look at the draft bill. This summary is from the ACLU, so some of it is strongly worded - but it is an accurate summary.

1. The government would no longer be required to disclose the identity of anyone, even an American citizen, detained in connection with a terror investigation – until criminal charges are filed, no matter how long that takes (sec 201).
Current court limits on local police spying on religious and political activity would be repealed (sec. 312).
2. The government would be allowed to obtain credit records and library records without a warrant (secs. 126, 128, 129).
3. Wiretaps without any court order for up to 15 days after terror attack would be permissible. (sec. 103).
4. Release of information about health/safety hazards posed by chemical and other plants would be restricted (sec. 202).
5. The reach of an already overbroad definition of terrorism would be expanded – individuals engaged in civil disobedience could risk losing their citizenship (sec. 501); their organization could be subject to wiretapping (secs. 120, 121) and asset seizure (secs. 428, 428).
6. Americans could be extradited, searched and wiretapped at the behest of foreign nations, whether or not treaties allow it (sec. 321, 322).
7. Lawful immigrants would be stripped of the right to a fair deportation hearing and federal courts would not be allowed to review immigration rulings (secs. 503, 504).

I'd like to focus on 5. It sounds alarmist to say that people involved in Civil Disobedience could lose citizenship, so I'll dig a bit deeper. Is this just a radical ACLU talking? No. The definition for "terrorism" in this law is as follows: an activity that breaks state or federal law, is intended to change government policy, and which could be dangerous. COULD BE dangerous? Do you mean if I light up a cigarette within 25 feet of a courthouse door as a protest against draconian anti-smoking laws, I'm a TERRORIST?

Let's do the math. State law? Yup. Intended to change policy? Yup. Dangerous? Secondhand smoke, very dangerous - everyone says so. Light up within 24 feet of the courthouse door, folks, and you might be a terrorist under Patriot Act II...

Posted by mythmere at 9:25 AM CDT
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Tuesday, 24 May 2005
Kudos to Senfronia Thompson
State Rep Senfronia Thompson made a great speech about what is going on in the Texas legislature, and it is worthy of a link.

Molly Ivins Article

Posted by mythmere at 10:43 PM CDT
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Tuesday, 17 May 2005
On a less academic note...
I went to the party's county meeting last night, where Richard Morrison was the speaker. He is going to be doing a lot to help the party keep building up strength. Hopefully, we'll really be at our fighting weight by the time the 2006 elections roll around.

I've agreed to put together the FAQ for the party's website, so if anyone has ideas, comment on the blog or email me at mythmere (at sign) dot yahoo dot com.

Posted by mythmere at 8:08 AM CDT
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Saturday, 14 May 2005
What I'm in favor of
In my last entry, I gave a quick summary of the two main elements of the new American radical right. My description of these two schools of thought was pretty charitable, but it is worth understanding why reasonable, rational people who consider themselves to be good Americans might support political initiatives that are in reality quite corrosive to the fabric of our nation.

For this entry, I want to give an equally brief description, not of what I'm against but what I'm in favor of. Then I'll begin a more in-depth analysis of both the radical right and of my own beliefs as a conservative democrat.

I am very much a fiscal conservative; I have children and I don't want our generation to pass on a legacy of overwhelming national debt to future generations. There will be a lot more on the topic of fiscal conservatism, because most economic rhetoric of both parties tends to oversimplify or even ignore the actual economic theories that are really being used in think tanks and briefing memos. I'm going to leave this topic open, since it's a pretty complicated one, but suffice to say that free market economics, properly understood, don't actually support much of the Republican agenda. It's important for traditional conservatives to understand that many of the Democratic party's economic initiatives are actually better rooted in sound economic theory than the Republican party's.

I'm no novice on this topic; although my exposure to economic theory was fairly limited while I was at Harvard, I focused on it during law school -- and after working as a stockbroker, debt trader, and most recently as a mergers and securities lawyer, I know what I'm talking about - street knowledge as well as book knowledge.

Second, I support American cooperation in the international arena. The radical right, particularly the neoconservative school of thought, is isolationist and hawkish. The Religious Right doesn't really have a theory of international relations - they defer to the neocons. My own view of international relations is actually fairly close to the neoconservative model. While I was at Harvard I was extremely conservative and my thinking during the cold war was basically a neoconservative understanding of international relations. I'll get to the actual neoconservative model of international relations, but my purpose here is to describe what I'm in favor of, so here goes:
1) I think that the United States should be involved in foreign aid, debt reduction for poor nations, and other compassion-based initiatives in other countries - but not because of any concept of human rights, and with an eye to the fact that every dollar spent overseas might potentially be a dollar that's taken out of the American economy or (in a deficit economy) out of the hands of our children. Compassion-based initiatives have benefits, and should be viewed in this light. They promote epidemiological protections for the United States, they can, if properly conducted, support world stability (which helps our economy), they produce international goodwill, and they can be a tool for the advancement of worldwide democracy.

2) I support the idea of the United Nations, but I think there is indeed considerable room for the improvement of the United Nations now that the Cold War has ended.

3)I am not a pacifist, although I think it is a grave undertaking to commit US soldiers into harm's way. I believe there are circumstances in which the use of force in international relations is not only appropriate but sometimes necessary. Some international problems can only be achieved by the use of force. However, it should be understood that the neoconservative agenda which is now driving the Republican party is an agenda that supports an eternal state of under-the-surface warfare, an agenda that calls for constant expansion of American power-projection capability, an agenda of aggressive interference, brinksmanship, and shove-me, shove-you politics that will increasingly restrict our ability to grow the economy through free trade, joint initiatives to increase stability, and other ventures that can grow our economy. It is a misguided application of what started out as common sense.

The third thing I'm in favor of is protecting the rights of US citizens. Our rights are the very reason that our country was founded - the reason for its existence, the brilliant innovation that makes this country great. If we sell out our rights as they are embodied in the Constitution, we have lost sight of the ultimate purpose of national defense and of fiscal prosperity. It is individual, Constitutional rights that make this country a beacon for other nations, a place to be proud of, a place to make a home. The United States is based upon individual rights, not upon our national boundaries or our religion. The radical right has lost sight of this crucial fact and is in fact gnawing at the roots of the Constitution itself.

That's all for now about what I'm in favor of. I think my opinions will be pretty apparent in later entries as I get more specific about these issues.

It will become clear, I believe, that moderate, traditional conservatives fall pretty squarely within the Democratic party, not the Republican party - if you cut through the rhetoric.

Posted by mythmere at 9:43 AM CDT
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Friday, 13 May 2005
My name is Matt Finch, and I am the Democratic Party's Precinct Chair for Precinct 4111 in Sugar Land Texas, Fort Bend County.

I am a graduate of Harvard College, class of 1989, cum laude general studies, majoring in Government. I have a law degree from Georgetown University.

I consider myself a conservative democrat, although the rising tide of the American Radical Right has, for the time being, reduced most such fine distinctions into virtual irrelevancy.

The conservative ideology, if it may be so termed, follows governmental theories that rose to prominence during the Enlightenment and which drove both the American Revolution and the subsequent drafting and ratification of the Constitution of the United States. This philosophy holds that government is a necessary evil, to which we submit in the interest of protecting our own liberty, lives and property from other people who might enslave us, kill us, or steal from us.

A conservative seeks to restrict the role of government in our lives - to keep its financial burden to a minimum, and to prevent government from dictating how we behave and think. The traditional conservative sees the primary purpose of government as protective, not progressive. Government is not an appropriate tool for social change, nor should it prevent social change -- government's role is to protect the rights of people as they are, not as they should be.

Two schools of right wing ideology have risen to power in recent decades, and these schools of thought are quite alien to traditional conservatism, squeezing conservative republicans into the center and completely alienating many conservatives from the newly radicalized republican party.

The first of these groups is the neoconservative right. This philosophy takes as its primary objective the power and survival of the United States as a nation. In many of its incarnations, neoconservatism is little more than an expression of social darwinism - might makes right. Neoconservatives tend to favor whatever works best for the prosperity and geopolitical power of the United States, without regard for the civil rights of citizens and with no regard for the interests of foreigners. The biggest distinction between Neoconservatives and traditional conservatives, though, is that Neoconservatives are not against a large and centralized Federal government.

The second faction in the new Right is the Religious Right - dedicated to using government as a moral force that promotes and embraces Christianity.

These two factions of the new Radical Right are quite at odds with traditional conservatism, for neither faction has any interest in preserving or protecting the rights of certain groups of citizens of the United States.

This outline of what is happening in the Republican party (and within the ranks of traditional conservatives, not necessarily the same as the Republican party) will serve as the context for later blog entries here, explaining why traditional conservatives should at this point be aligned with the Democratic party rather than with the Republicans.

I will describe why I, as a traditional conservative, am a Democrat -- a centrist Democrat, but a Democrat nonetheless. And in the current political context, with the rise of the Radical Right, I am passionately dedicated to the cause of the Democratic party.

I welcome comments.

Posted by mythmere at 11:37 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, 19 May 2005 11:54 AM CDT
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