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The opinions of Steve Southwell, Editor of the Lewisville Texan Journal
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Rep Michael Burgess' Statement on the Recommendations of the Iraq Study Group

The Editor's Column
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2007/1/4 21:34:23 (2014 reads)

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX 26) sent out his periodic newsletter via email today to his constituents. If you've ever emailed him, you probably received a couple of these. Most of the folks I know got two copies. The letter is in grey, my comments in the white area:

Our presence in Iraq is a critical component of the War on Terror. Today’s recommendations by the Iraq Study Group are aimed at returning the United States to its place as the watchdog of democracy and freedom for people all over the world.

Whoa... So much crap here... Our presence a "critical component of the 'War on Terror'". Would that be the component that foments the terror? Maybe the part that provides a target for the terrorists?

"Watchdog of democracy and freedom?" Michael, you and your Republican cohorts have been more lap-dog than watchdog here in OUR country. Freedom and democracy are to be cherished, preserved, and guarded, but it starts at home. Your assertion that we should be the watchdog for the world is authoritarian and wrong. We are to be the shining example of freedom and democracy, lending a helping hand in times of crisis to countries where the people want us there. While I don't disagree that Iraqis needed more freedom and democracy, there are now and have been more pressing needs.

The most critical component of the recommendations focuses on the need for the Iraq government to step-up its responsibility of serving, protecting and providing for their countrymen. I could not agree more with this point; it is not an open ended commitment.

If it's not an open-ended commitment, then we should define the time-table under which we should leave.

We continue to train and encourage the Iraq Security Forces so that they will sooner, rather than later, be able to take the reigns of control completely. This is a recognized goal, and we are taking the actions to make it a reality. As soon as we can confidently depart Iraq, knowing it can defend itself, we will.

So if we want to encourage them to step up, why are we sending 40,000 more troops?

However, we must remember this is not simply a matter of Iraq taking care of itself. It remains an important player in Middle East politics. A tentative balance of power in the Middle East continues, but should it falter, there would be a consider threat to the peace of the entire region which will inevitably spread across the globe. The negative ramifications of this failure could be felt for generations to come.

Right. I remember the same being said about communism. Vietnam... When South Vietnam fell to the communists, how many countries "fell as dominoes?"

It should come as no surprise that a powerful and vindictive Iran is waiting in the wings. As Iran gains nuclear power, its prominence and sway over the region will present an unprecedented threat to peace everywhere. Iraq must stand as the beacon of democracy and be able to balance the power of her surrounding neighbors who are openly hostile to any form of freedom.

Neighbors like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia too? Should we be concerned about Iran? Absolutely, but there is no reason for a pre-emptive strike. We don't need to be as concerned about Iraq's ability to defend its borders. Iraq needs to secure its streets. If you're telling me that we're training security forces in traditional combat, that scares me.

I plan to return to Iraq soon and review the progress of the Iraq Security Forces. They are being trained by the best in the world - our United States Armed Forces. I know that our soldiers have done all we have asked of them.

Before you waste our tax dollars on another joy ride to Iraq, why don't you resolve to venture outside the green zone and LISTEN. As a Member of Congress, you should know that you're seeing a dog-and-pony show each time you go. You are in the way, and making difficulties for the troops that must support your visit and protect you. They're not going to let you see anything they don't want you to see. I'm telling you this as someone that has actually served in the military.

But I also go to Iraq to meet face-to-face with new leaders I the Iraq government so I can share my political and governing experience in a complex and partisan government.

Your "governing experience in a complex and partisan government?" That's priceless. You're about half right. It definitely has been a complex and partisan government during your tenure, but your party fails to actually govern, so your experience can't count for very much. In all seriousness, your statement assumes that Iraq can be governed in a similar way to the United States. I just don't think that is the case.

I hope that all Members of Congress, in both Houses and on both sides of the aisle, will remember our overarching goal – to defend our homeland and to seek freedom for all. I will carefully and diligently review and support the best of the recommendations.

Yes, those are worthy goals - but they have nothing to do with our presence in Iraq. We are there as the result of a mistake at best. The only goal that should apply here are mitigating this mistake, and exiting in an honorable way. The protection of our troops and the lives of innocent Iraqis can be our only concern. The destabilizing presence of our troops must come to an end. The sooner the better.

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Thanks to Michael Burgess - Seriously

The Editor's Column
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2007/1/3 23:45:48 (1440 reads)

If you read regularly, you may recall that I wrote recently about My son's first letter to Congress. My 7-year old son wrote about his favorite topic: Sharks. (They are hunted for their fins, a delicacy in parts of Asia)

Congressman Burgess wrote back promptly, and it wasn't the usual squishy form letter full of blind partisan dogma, but a very well researched and thoughtful letter not only addressing my son's concerns in detail, but thanking him for his activism. When I get a chance, I'll post the letter.

I appreciate that very much and applaud him and/or his staff for taking the time. I think it is important for children to learn early how to articulate their opinions and actively engage their government for solutions to the problems they see.

So although I normally publish a different picture of Rep. Burgess, this one will go undoctored. (no pun intended). Seth is the one next to Rep. Burgess, (3rd from left) with the obnoxious display of over-enthusiasm for yet another family political outing.

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Peace Vigil in Denton, TX - 1/1/07 at 3:30pm

The Editor's Column
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2006/12/31 18:03:27 (960 reads)

From Peace Action Denton:

The 3,000th official US troop death of the Iraq war/occupation was reached on Sunday, Dec. 31. Also not to be forgotten are the estimated 650,000 Iraqi deaths.

In memorium and to ask for immediate US troop withdrawl, please join us at 3:30 pm on MONDAY, JANUARY 1 at North Texas Bl and I-35 (Denton). Dress warmly as the high is predicted to only be 50 F. (this is an earlier starting time than previously stated)

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Edging up on 3,000 Troop Deaths in Iraq

The Editor's Column
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2006/12/29 16:52:53 (1664 reads)

From Peace Action Denton:

As of this writing there are now 2,990 2998 (12/30) reported KIA in Iraq for a lie. The past month has seen an increase in military operations by both the Allied forces and the insurgents, with resulting increase beyond the average of approximately 3 KIA daily prior to that time. The 3,000th will probably be Friday or Saturday, Dec 29 or Dec 30

The plan is for a demonstration in support of the troops and against the war day to be held the day AFTER the 3,000th KIA is announced on the website

The vigil is intended for 5pm-7pm in the area of North Texas Blvd and I-35, near the main entrance to UNT. (TAKE THE NORTH TX BLVD EXIT FROM EITHER DIRECTION ON I-35) Bernie will be coming up from Carrollton with his large VFP banners which we intend to display facing traffic on the N. TX Blvd overpass bridge to provide mass visual impact to the maximum number of persons.

Space will be limited there, so if a large number of people show up I suggest that they line the sidewalk(s) from the corner in towards UNT. North TX Blvd is a 20mph zone in that area with sufficient curves and corners that it should slow down even any potential hostile motorists, such as the guy at Burgess' office in Lewisville last summer.

If anybody needs sign making materials I have a few yard signs collected from the last election available for your use. Email David Honish or call David at 940-382-2790.

WEATHER? My mother did not raise any fools dumb enough to stand out in the rain. (Well at least not more than once, as we saw at the Old Courthouse Sq last March.) If there is rain let us postpone the event for a day, rather than risk anyone's health standing out in bad weather!

Wage peace, David Honish

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Lewisville City Council Breaks Wind

The Editor's Column
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2006/12/24 21:40:00 (3276 reads)

From the "If it ain't fixed, break it" department: On December 18th, the Lewisville City Council passed an ordinance banning the use of wind turbines for the generation of electric power within the City of Lewisville.

Here’s how the Agenda item read:

19. Consideration of an Ordinance Amending the Lewisville Code of Ordinances Prohibiting the Use of Wind Turbines for the Generation of Electric Power Within The City of Lewisville.

Commercial windmill farms are becoming more common in Texas, generating pollution free electric power in larger and larger amounts. Typically these windmills, or wind turbines, are found in sparsely populated locations outside of metropolitan areas. There is, however, increasing interest in using private wind generators for producing electric power for individual home use. Published information about individual wind turbines indicates that such towers would range from 45 to 85 feet in height, but also express concerns about the noise made by the turbines. It is possible that future technology will provide a less intrusive way of harnessing energy from the wind, but until then the current technology would appear to provide more of a noise nuisance than benefit when used on individual lots within an urban area.

That the City Council approve the proposed ordinance prohibiting the use of wind turbines for the generation of electric power within the City of Lewisville.

OK, something just doesn't smell right to me about this. Did we really have a problem with too many wind turbines within the city limits? I sincerely doubt that "noise" is the issue here, since most of the city is in the extremely noisy flight-path of DFW Airport, or along the extremely noisy I-35 corridor. A light "whup, whup" sound in the background might actually be soothing, compared to the ambient noise levels in the city. I can certainly understand the sense that you wouldn't want to have these within tightly packed residential neighborhoods, but if that were the motivation, then why not just enact zoning regulations for them, with appropriate setbacks and decibel levels?

I've requested more information from the City, and will update this post when I receive it.

Most of Texas' wind farm generation comes from West Texas, and feeds the grid for consumption mostly along the I-35 corridor. Transmission congestion for the 375KV Texas power grid has throttled Texas wind generation quite frequently lately according to ERCOT records, with the generators producing more voltage than the grid can handle. Upwards of 30% of the power generated is lost via transmission. Relocating power generation sources closer to the point of usage requires less generation. Of all power sources, wind energy is the most environmentally friendly.

I think the city should reconsider this ordinance, and hear cases for wind generation on their individual merits. is powered by 100% wind energy.

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Was There a Major Safety Issue Found at Comanche Peak Recently?

The Editor's Column
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2006/12/17 23:29:04 (1867 reads)

Though I'm not a full-time journalist, I do attempt to publish only substantiated stories here, and not rumors. However, the cat is out of the bag that I'm following a lead about major safety issues recently found at Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant.

Since I covered the Michael Burgess Town Hall meeting this summer, and he mentioned Nuclear power as being in his preferred list of options, I've wanted to do a few blogs to thoroughly explore the issue, explaining as best I can in layman's terms how nuclear energy works. I put out the first in my 3 part series about Nuclear Energy this summer, and have been sitting on part II waiting on some time after the elections to get more news resources and examples of the various types of safety failures I was trying to explain.

That's why it piqued my interest when I heard on KERA 90.1 FM (our local NPR affiliate) on Friday, Dec. 8th that inspectors had found 2 major problems in the nuclear power plant in Glen Rose: Firstly, that a water tank designed to flood and cool the reactor in the case of an emergency situation had been left dry, and apparently may have been dry for a period of years. Secondly that some of the chemical mixtures for the reactor had been improperly formulated.

Today, when I went googling for that story, I was unable to turn it up anywhere, so I sent an email inquiry to one of the local bloggers down in that area at the Somervell County Salon to see whether they had heard anything of this story.

I've been unable to find a report of it on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's websites for Comanche Peak:
Comanche Peak Reactor #1
Comanche Peak Reactor #2
This of course assumes that it was the NRC that found the problem. I suppose it could have possibly been the NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration).

At any rate, I'll keep looking for information on the problem, and will publish an update when I find it. In the mean time, if anyone reading this knows where I might find a copy of the report or the citation, either confirming or discrediting this story, please contact me, or post a comment.

If I understand the problem correctly, this was a failure of the safety system that would have been used in the case that the reactor needed emergency cooling water to quench the heat and/or slow the reaction by using a chemical mixture that reduces neutron flux. I'm speculating to some extent because I'm not a nuclear chemist, nor am I familiar with the plant's design, nor have I seen the report - only heard it on the radio.

To put this in an analogy I think is fair, imagine going in to get a tire changed on your car, and you discover that lo and behold, your brake is totally missing on that wheel. Further, your car shows evidence that it's been missing the brake for years. All this time, even after taking your car to the shop for professional maintenance, you've been driving with only 75% of your braking power. Now imagine that instead of a 2 ton car capable of thousands of dollars in damage, and killing several people, you're driving a rig that has an output rated in gigawatts and kilotons, and is capable of killing thousands and costing billions in damage. If the story is true, it's quite disturbing.

In the event of a meltdown or containment breech at Comanche Peak, residents of Glen Rose would be the first to buy the farm, but depending on weather conditions, the DFW Metroplex could see mass casualties as well

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Will Congressman Burgess lose his seat on Energy and Commerce? (updated)

The Editor's Column
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2006/12/10 3:39:34 (1960 reads)

In the 109th Congress (2005 - 2006), our 26th Congressional District Congressman Michael Burgess served on the prestigious 57 member Energy and Commerce Committee.

Since the Democrats have taken control of the House, I'm going to take a guess at what's going to happen here. First, according to this house website, Burgess is ranked 30th of 31 Republicans in seniority in this committee. There are currently 26 Democrats on the Committee. Since the committee will likely balance out to 30 Democrats and 29 Republicans (or possibly 31 to 26) Democrats will gain 5 to 6 seats.

First, lets see which Republicans are leaving the committee by virtue of not being re-elected:
- Vice Chairman Michael Bilirakis is out. His son Gus was elected to take his place, but this doesn't give him a place on the committee.
- #19, Rep. Charles Bass was defeated by Democrat Paul Hodes.
- #26, Rep. Butch Otter, left office to become Governor of Idaho, and was replaced by Republican Freshman Bill Sali.

So, the three Republicans above have lost their seats. If the Republicans have lost at least 4 seats, then strictly by seniority ranking, then #31, Rep. Marsha Blackburn of TN should lose her seat. If the Republicans have lost at least 5 seats, then by seniority, #30, Rep. Michael Burgess will have to go too.

As of now, Democrats have 231 of 435 seats, meaning a 53.1% majority.
29 of 57 seats equals only 50.8%, whereas 30 of 57 is 52.7% - most closely mirroring the new majority makeup. Since 5 congressional seats still hang in the balance, if those seats went to Democrats, it would take the majority to 54.3%. If Democrats had a 31/26 ratio on this committee, it would roughly equal 54.4%.

Update 12/12/06 - 10:09pm: With Ciro Rodriguez winning the CD 23 race, defeating Republican Incumbent Henry Bonilla, Democrats now control 232 of 435 seats, meaning a 53.33% majority. As of now, that would still mean 30 to 27.

Though Republican Leadership doesn't HAVE to enforce seniority, it seems possible they will:
- North Texas Liberal reports that Michael Burgess will serve as Vice Chair of the GOP Policy Committee. Sounds to me like a nice consolation prize.
- In a recent newsletter, Burgess highlighted his "4th Annual 26th Congressional District Transportation Summit on Tuesday, November 28th" which was held at the Texas Motor Speedway. (In his first term, Burgess served on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, where he submitted a bill for a whopping $5 mil. to expand I-35. The bill died in committee, if I remember correctly.)

On the other hand, Burgess was ranked by as #36 in effectiveness compared to other members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, outranking 6 other Republicans.

We won't know committee assignments for sure until they are approved by the Committee of the Whole, but I would say that it's quite possible Burgess would lose his seat on E & C. Only the Republican leadership, and perhaps Burgess himself knows for sure.

What does this mean for North Texas?

It's hard to say for sure. Having Burgess move down to the Minority party, makes him even less effective in having our local interests heard. However, he hasn't done a stellar job of that so far, so we don't lose much. Given that Texas is facing over a dozen new fast-tracked coal-burning power plants, we could use a E & C bill that imposes tough federal regulations to prevent this "race to the bottom" that Rick Perry has placed our state into.

That being said, based on my personal conversation with Burgess, I think he actually understands the problems we face with energy. With less Republican pressure on him, he may come to his senses and vote his conscience on some of these things.

He still opposes fixing Medicare Part D to allow federally negotiated prices, and this is something that falls under the 33 member E&C Subcommittee on Health. If he stays in the E&C Committee, his profession as a medical doctor will most assuredly guarantee him a seat. In my opinion, this is a bad thing. Being a doctor qualifies one to fix the human body, but it doesn't necessarily allow one to fix an ailing system. Since he's been down in the trenches in healthcare, he knows a thing or two about the system, but he's not demonstrated much understanding of the concept of universal coverage. He has, on the other hand, worked to cap malpractice claims against incompetent doctors. He does seem to be against the practice of lowering payments each year to Medicare providers, and that's a smart thing - one of the few that I agree with him on.

So, I guess I'm ambivilent. If I were totally partisan, I'd want him off the committee, so he would lose seniority and be easier to beat next election. But it probably benefits North Texans to have a member on that committee with seniority. I'd rather throw Joe Barton under the bus on this one.

I think we'll see John Dingell as Chairman, and Henry Waxman and Ed Markey as Vice Chairs. (I don't know much about Dingell, but I'm impressed by Markey and Waxman)

I'd be interested to hear the thoughts of others on this. (Mike - chime in here, if you want to...)

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2007 Congressional Schedule is Posted - 145 days in session.

The Editor's Column
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2006/12/10 1:52:17 (2754 reads)

The work schedule for the 2007 Congress has been posted.

The 2007 congressional calendar, by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer goes through the end of October and has Members working 4 1/2 days per week instead of the 3 days maintained under the Republican leadership.

January: 16 voting days, 2 days "Republican Retreat", off for MLK day, Swearing in, and voting begins Jan 4th.
February: 12 voting days, 5 days "District Work Period", 2 days "Democratic Retreat"
March: 19 voting days
April: 10 voting days, 10 days "District Work Period" (including Passover, Good Friday, and Easter)
May: 17 voting days, 4 days "District Work Period"
June: 19 voting days, 1 day "District Work Period"
July: 15 voting days, 5 days "District Work Period" including July 4th.
August: 3 voting days, 20 days "District Work Period"
September: 15 voting days (4 days off for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur)
October: 19 voting days with scheduled adjournment on the 26th

Members will be required to be in DC for 145 days, and will have ALL weekends off. Congressmen will generally be required to be present by 6:30pm on Monday nights when Congress is in session.

There are 45 days marked as "District Work Period".

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Immigration: Enforcement or Progress?

The Editor's Column
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2006/11/25 23:32:38 (1831 reads)

Sebastian Lara has posted a lengthy but worthwhile essay on the topic of immigration reform: Enforcement or Progress on his blog, Burrocracy.

In the essay, he examines the similarities between the laws that enforced segregation before the civil rights movement, and the laws that are being proposed to clamp down on immigration. Here's an excerpt:

Federal policy that is unrealistic and unjust, was enforced through local laws that establish and institutionalize this injustice. Only after the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision, which revered Plessy v. Ferguson, did federal law change and similarly so did local laws where segregation was legal.

This is relevant to today’s topic of immigration because as much as anti-immigrant proponents deny they are racist, little else explains the fervor that is expressed in their efforts today. Proposition H.R. 4437 has encouraged dozens of communities to propose anti-immigration laws in order to make life difficult for immigrants. They admit it themselves. “Since mass deportation of illegal immigrants is impractical, then we must make lives as hard as possible on them, so they go back home,” they argue. They go on to argue “we must make sure no one hires them, no one rents to them, ensure that they do not benefit from public schools nor get health care benefits.” Furthermore, many anti-immigrant proponents feel that illegal-immigrants have no rights at all, that because they are not authorized to be in this country that this is justification for mistreatment, exploitation and humiliation of these people, and support laws that would facilitate them to do as much. In recent demonstrations they have chanted, “Rule of Law, rule of Law!”

Read the entire article at Burrocracy...

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My Thoughts About the 2006 Mid-Term Elections

The Editor's Column
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2006/11/11 12:21:13 (1526 reads)

It has taken me a while to absorb the results of these elections. I've purposely held off commenting until now because I wanted to be able to share my thoughts without emotions getting in the way.

I worked very hard on these elections. This was the first time in my life that I've had so much invested in the outcome of an election. As a Democratic precinct chair, I was responsible for turning out the Democratic vote in my precinct. As a campaign advisor and volunteer for Tim Barnwell for U.S. Congress, I was responsible for trying to make the most of limited campaign resources and get our message to the voters. As an alternate election judge, it was my duty to make sure that every eligible voter had the opportunity to cast their ballot and have it count.

As a Democrat, I can say that overall, I'm very pleased and optimistic about our outlook as a nation. With control of both the Senate and the House, checks and balances are now restored. The nation's business will hopefully now be addressed and not take a back seat to the corporate interests and partisan stranglehold that have so badly corrupted the process.

For Texas the only bright spots for me were that the voters of Central Texas soundly rejected the campaign tactics and big money backing of Nicholas Van Campen Taylor, in favor of moderate Texas Democratic incumbent Chet Edwards, and the voters in Sugarland, Texas rejected Shelley Sekula Gibbs in Tom Delay's old district, choosing Democrat Nick Lampson - the former Congressman and victim of the Perry/Delay/Craddick redistricting scheme.

Overall, I think Texas loses because of this election. The majority of voters chose "anyone BUT Rick Perry" and they lost. Rick Perry will serve yet another term. Because the voters re-elected Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and Attorney General Greg Abbott, nothing will stop him from continuing to sell off our public lands, allow the pollution of our environment, and shortchange our children's education.

Had the voters actually strayed from partisanship long enough to look at the Attorney General's race and compare the records and stances of the candidates, I do believe that informed voters would have chosen David Van Os. He would have been the balance that Texas so sorely needs in its government. He would have put a stop to the Trans-Texas Corridor project, held corporate interests accountable for their misdeeds, and protect children.

Here in Denton County, no Democrat won any office. That was very disappointing, but yet, we see that our candidates did better than they ever have. We gained a few percentage points over the past election cycle, and it's part of a trend.

What went wrong? I think the question presumes an expected outcome of victory. Victory for candidates in Denton County would have been considered as an upset. Of course victory is what we all worked for. You never try for anything less. But the expectation would have been that we energize and turn out a higher percentage of voters for Democrats than in years past. We did that and gained momentum, despite the fierce competition from a well-funded well-oiled Republican machine.

In the race for U.S. Congress, for instance, we did quite well. In a heavily Republican area, (Dick Armey's old district) we garnered 37% of the vote for our Democratic candidtate, Tim Barnwell, despite the fact that he only had a $15,000 budget, compared to the $780,000 of his opponent, incumbent Republican Michael Burgess.

    When I think about what we have to work with here in Denton County, I believe that our problem is systemic:
  • Denton is part of the Dallas - Fort Worth media market. For local candidates, getting on television is prohibitively expensive. The free coverage of the elections provides little time for the candidates, but it's rarely prime-time. Coverage in local papers is almost irrelevant because of declining circulation. Further, since the Dallas Morning News is owned by the Belo Corp., coverage is definitely slanted.
  • Texas voters overwhelmingly identify themselves as Republicans or Conservatives. Many of these identify as such because of the "values issues". The Democratic party has done a poor job of explaining our values.
  • The Democratic position has been defined to the public by conservative radio and television commentators.
  • Because we have a Republican incumbency, there is a momentum there that is hard to break. The power of incumbency provides the Republican candidates with P.R. opportunities that the Democratic candidates just do not get.
  • The Democrats do not have a "farm team" of suitable candidates for higher office who hold lower offices.

So, the solution to bring Denton County back into balance is to work at breaking that system. On November 8th, we started on that. You'll be hearing from us in a big way in 2008.

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