Archive for August, 2010

Senator Cornyn Statement on President Obama’s Speech on Iraq
August 31, 2010

Cornyn Statement on President Obama’s Address to the Nation

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, today issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s address to the nation on the war in Iraq:

“President Obama is right to honor our troops who helped turn the tide of violence in Iraq during its darkest days. But it’s puzzling to listen to this White House try to take credit for the results of the strategy he and Vice President Biden adamantly opposed from the start.

 

“Our success in Iraq has everything to do with the hard work of our men and women in uniform, the Iraqi people, and President Bush’s resolve. It has nothing to do with President Obama’s campaign promise to carry out the previous administration’s plan for returning US troops from Iraq.”

 

Senator Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary, Agriculture and Budget Committees.  He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.

 

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Miss The President’s Speech On Iraq? Read It Here!
August 31, 2010

 Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery

Oval Office Address on Iraq

Washington, D.C.

August 31, 2010

 

As Prepared for Delivery—
Good evening. Tonight, I’d like to talk to you about the end of our combat mission in Iraq, the ongoing security challenges we face, and the need to rebuild our nation here at home.
I know this historic moment comes at a time of great uncertainty for many Americans. We have now been through nearly a decade of war. We have endured a long and painful recession. And sometimes in the midst of these storms, the future that we are trying to build for our nation – a future of lasting peace and long-term prosperity may seem beyond our reach.
But this milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that the future is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment.  It should also serve as a message to the world that the United States of America intends to sustain and strengthen our leadership in this young century.

From this desk, seven and a half years ago, President Bush announced the beginning of military operations in Iraq. Much has changed since that night. A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency. Terrorism and sectarian warfare threatened to tear Iraq apart. Thousands of Americans gave their lives; tens of thousands have been wounded. Our relations abroad were strained. Our unity at home was tested.
These are the rough waters encountered during the course of one of America’s longest wars. Yet there has been one constant amidst those shifting tides. At every turn, America’s men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve. As Commander-in-Chief, I am proud of their service. Like all Americans, I am awed by their sacrifice, and by the sacrifices of their families.
The Americans who have served in Iraq completed every mission they were given. They defeated a regime that had terrorized its people. Together with Iraqis and coalition partners who made huge sacrifices of their own, our troops fought block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future. They shifted tactics to protect the Iraqi people; trained Iraqi Security Forces; and took out terrorist leaders. Because of our troops and civilians –and because of the resilience of the Iraqi people – Iraq has the opportunity to embrace a new destiny, even though many challenges remain.
So tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.
This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office. Last February, I announced a plan that would bring our combat brigades out of Iraq, while redoubling our efforts to strengthen Iraq’s Security Forces and support its government and people. That is what we have done. We have removed nearly 100,000 U.S. troops from Iraq.  We have closed or transferred hundreds of bases to the Iraqis. And we have moved millions of pieces of equipment out of Iraq.
This completes a transition to Iraqi responsibility for their own security. U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq’s cities last summer, and Iraqi forces have moved into the lead with considerable skill and commitment to their fellow citizens. Even as Iraq continues to suffer terrorist attacks, security incidents have been near the lowest on record since the war began. And Iraqi forces have taken the fight to al Qaeda, removing much of its leadership in Iraqi-led operations.
This year also saw Iraq hold credible elections that drew a strong turnout. A caretaker administration is in place as Iraqis form a government based on the results of that election. Tonight, I encourage Iraq’s leaders to move forward with a sense of urgency to form an inclusive government that is just, representative, and accountable to the Iraqi people. And when that government is in place, there should be no doubt: the Iraqi people will have a strong partner in the United States. Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq’s future is not.
Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission: advising and assisting Iraq’s Security Forces; supporting Iraqi troops in targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our civilians. Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year. As our military draws down, our dedicated civilians –diplomats, aid workers, and advisors –are moving into the lead to support Iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds ties with the region and the world. And that is a message that Vice President Biden is delivering to the Iraqi people through his visit there today.
This new approach reflects our long-term partnership with Iraq–one based upon mutual interests, and mutual respect. Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission. Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife. But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals. Iraqis are a proud people. They have rejected sectarian war, and they have no interest in endless destruction. They understand that, in the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets. Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders. What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.

Ending this war is not only in Iraq’s interest– it is in our own. The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people. We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home. We have persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people –a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization. Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it is time to turn the page.
As we do, I am mindful that the Iraq War has been a contentious issue at home. Here, too, it is time to turn the page. This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.
The greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences, and to learn from our experience as we confront the many challenges ahead. And no challenge is more essential to our security than our fight against al Qaeda.
Americans across the political spectrum supported the use of force against those who attacked us on 9/11. Now, as we approach our 10th year of combat in Afghanistan, there are those who are understandably asking tough questions about our mission there. But we must never lose sight of what’s at stake. As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists. And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense. In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders –and hundreds of Al Qaeda’s extremist allies–have been killed or captured around the world.
Within Afghanistan, I have ordered the deployment of additional troops who–under the command of General David Petraeus –are fighting to break the Taliban’s momentum. As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future. But, as was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. That’s why we are training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems. And, next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure. But make no mistake: this transition will begin – because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.
Indeed, one of the lessons of our effort in Iraq is that American influence around the world is not a function of military force alone. We must use all elements of our power –including our diplomacy, our economic strength, and the power of America’s example –to secure our interests and stand by our allies. And we must project a vision of the future that is based not just on our fears, but also on our hopes –a vision that recognizes the real dangers that exist around the world, but also the limitless possibility of our time.
Today, old adversaries are at peace, and emerging democracies are potential partners. New markets for our goods stretch from Asia to the Americas. A new push for peace in the Middle East will begin here tomorrow. Billions of young people want to move beyond the shackles of poverty and conflict. As the leader of the free world, America will do more than just defeat on the battlefield those who offer hatred and destruction –we will also lead among those who are willing to work together to expand freedom and opportunity for all people.

That effort must begin within our own borders. Throughout our history, America has been willing to bear the burden of promoting liberty and human dignity overseas, understanding its link to our own liberty and security. But we have also understood that our nation’s strength and influence abroad must be firmly anchored in our prosperity at home. And the bedrock of that prosperity must be a growing middle class.
Unfortunately, over the last decade, we have not done what is necessary to shore up the foundation of our own prosperity. We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform. As a result, too many middle class families find themselves working harder for less, while our nation’s long-term competitiveness is put at risk.
And so at this moment, as we wind down the war in Iraq, we must tackle those challenges at home with as much energy, and grit, and sense of common purpose as our men and women in uniform who have served abroad. They have met every test that they faced. Now, it is our turn. Now, it is our responsibility to honor them by coming together, all of us, and working to secure the dream that so many generations have fought for –the dream that a better life awaits anyone who is willing to work for it and reach for it.
Our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work. To strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve, and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global economy. We must jumpstart industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil. We must unleash the innovation that allows new products to roll off our assembly lines, and nurture the ideas that spring from our entrepreneurs. This will be difficult. But in the days to come, it must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as President.
Part of that responsibility is making sure that we honor our commitments to those who have served our country with such valor. As long as I am President, we will maintain the finest fighting force that the world has ever known, and do whatever it takes to serve our veterans as well as they have served us. This is a sacred trust. That is why we have already made one of the largest increases in funding for veterans in decades. We are treating the signature wounds of today’s wars post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, while providing the health care and benefits that all of our veterans have earned. And we are funding a post-9/11 GI Bill that helps our veterans and their families pursue the dream of a college education. Just as the GI Bill helped those who fought World War II- including my grandfather- become the backbone of our middle class, so today’s servicemen and women must have the chance to apply their gifts to expand the American economy. Because part of ending a war responsibly is standing by those who have fought it.
Two weeks ago, America’s final combat brigade in Iraq –the Army’s Fourth Stryker Brigade –journeyed home in the pre-dawn darkness. Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of vehicles made the trip from Baghdad, the last of them passing into Kuwait in the early morning hours. Over seven years before, American troops and coalition partners had fought their way across similar highways, but this time no shots were fired. It was just a convoy of brave Americans, making their way home.

Of course, the soldiers left much behind. Some were teenagers when the war began. Many have served multiple tours of duty, far from their families who bore a heroic burden of their own, enduring the absence of a husband’s embrace or a mother’s kiss. Most painfully, since the war began fifty-five members of the Fourth Stryker Brigade made the ultimate sacrifice –part of over 4,400 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq. As one staff sergeant said, “I know that to my brothers in arms who fought and died, this day would probably mean a lot.”
Those Americans gave their lives for the values that have lived in the hearts of our people for over two centuries. Along with nearly 1.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq, they fought in a faraway place for people they never knew. They stared into the darkest of human creations –war –and helped the Iraqi people seek the light of peace.
In an age without surrender ceremonies, we must earn victory through the success of our partners and the strength of our own nation. Every American who serves joins an unbroken line of heroes that stretches from Lexington to Gettysburg; from Iwo Jima to Inchon; from Khe Sanh to Kandahar – Americans who have fought to see that the lives of our children are better than our own. Our troops are the steel in our ship of state. And though our nation may be travelling through rough waters, they give us confidence that our course is true, and that beyond the pre-dawn darkness, better days lie ahead.
Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America, and all who serve her.

###

State Representative Hosts Veterans Benefits Fair
August 31, 2010

(Houston, TX)  State Representative Kristi Thibaut (D-Houston) will host a Veterans Benefits Fair on Wednesday, September 1st, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Alief HCC Auditorium located at 2811 Hayes Road.  Representatives from the Texas Veterans Land Board (TVLB), the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) and local universities will be on hand to present information and answer questions regarding benefits available to veterans and their families. 

“I am grateful to the men and women who have served our country in the armed forces, as well as to their families who support them during service,” Thibaut said. “I am proud to sponsor an event to give something back to those who have given so much.”

 For more information on the Veterans Benefits Fair, please contact Jennifer Brader at (512) 463-0514.

 Who:                                     State Representative Kristi Thibaut

 What:                                   Veterans Benefits Fair 

When:                                  Wednesday, September 1, 2010

                                                6:00 p.m. — 7:00 p.m. 

Where:                                Alief HCC Auditorium

                                                2811 Hayes Road

                                                Houston, TX 77082 

Email:                                   Kristi.Thibaut@house.state.tx.us

New Billboard Asks: “Still A Virgin?”
August 31, 2010

Never mind what your answer is to the  question – ” Still A Virgin?” – I want to know how you feel about the billboard which is on full display at a location in Southwest Houston, near Highway 59 and 610.

I saw it as I was driving to work, and stopped to take a picture and write  down the toll-free phone number.

After getting permission to call from work (story research) I dialed the number and followed the instructions.  Basically all I heard was a man’s voice telling  me to press 1 if “you’re still a virgin” or press another number if  “you’re friends with a virgin.”  Later on I was encouraged to find someone to help me lose my virginity.  Hmm, ok.

After googling this goofy billboard, I learned that it is part of a public relations blitz for a new movie featuring Will Ferrell called “The Virginity Hit.”

Bravo on getting people’s attention, but I think the billboard is tacky 🙂

Bill White calls for term limits
August 31, 2010

Today,  Bill White, former Houston mayor and democratic candidate for governor, is calling for gubernatorial term limits as he challenges Governor Rick Perry for the top job in Texas.

Perry is currently the state’s longest-serving governor, having spent ten years in the office.  If he wins in November, he’ll serve another four years.  He’s never mentioned how long he plans to keep running for office.

White is touting his plan as a “solution to excessive centralization and special interest power in Austin.”   

Senator Kay Bailey  Hutchison had a similar message when she was running against Governor Rick Perry in the republican primary

In a media statement White said, “Texas needs term limits to avoid excessive centralization of power in Austin and the use of power by special interests to entrench a governor in office,” said Bill White, in supporting a referendum on whether to limit the governor to two four-year terms.  

“Perry’s use of board appointees as a political fundraising machine demonstrates the need for term limits, which are in effect for the governors of 37 out of 50 states,” said White.  

“The public deserves to know from Rick Perry, not some spokesperson, whether he supports or opposes term limits for governor, and whether he supports letting voters decide,” said White.

It didn’t take long for Rick Perry’s campaign to respond to White’s call for term limits. Perry’s spokesman Mark Miner called White a “hypocrite” and said White has flip-flopped on his position from a statement made to the media in November 2009:


From the Texas Tribune:

In November, amid Hutchison’s call and the ongoing discussion in Houston, the Tribune asked White about the concept of term limits. “Voters always have the right to limit the term of an elected official by voting them out of office, but some believe that there is a reasonable feeling that incumbents become too entrenched and lose accountability,” he said. “Voters should take into account that experienced elected officials are often in a better position to hold bureaucracies accountable, against their [voters’] desire to make the political process more competitive with term limits.”

(SOURCE: “Bill White Calls for Gubernatorial Term Limits,” Texas Tribune, 8/31/10, http://www.texastribune.org/texas-politics/2010-texas-governors-race/bill-white-gubernatorial-term-limits/)


“It is unfortunate that Bill White doesn’t trust the people of Texas,” said Texans for Rick Perry spokesman Mark Miner. “
Just last November Bill White was against term limits, but now in a desperate attempt to save his struggling campaign he is proposing term limits. The people of Texas want a leader, not someone who wakes up in the morning and argues with the mirror about which way the political wind is blowing. Governor Perry has been consistent in believing Texans should determine who they want to serve in public office.”

Harris County Election Woes – Should The DOJ Get Involved?
August 30, 2010

On Monday, the Harris County Commissioners Court authorized $13.5 million for use by the Harris County Clerk to purchase new voting machines before November’s election.

It’s an important move because the county’s  voting equipment was destroyed in a fire last Friday. Beverly Kaufman said her office will also ask other counties in Texas to send e-slates to Harris County. Her office will also print paper ballots as backup.

But some democratic state lawmakers have sent a letter to Eric Holder, the Attorney General of  the United States asking the DOJ to oversee the development of new plans for conducting the election.

I’ve printed the entire letter below:

The Honorable Eric Holder

Attorney General of the United States

Mr. Tom Perez

Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530-0001

 Dear Attorney General Holder,

Last Friday, August 27, 2010, a fire in a Houston warehouse destroyed nearly all of Harris County’s electronic voting machines.  This dreadful event, occurring 51 days before the start of early voting in Texas, could have terrible implications for Harris County voters if not handled correctly.

We are writing to request your office use its authority under the Voting Rights Act to assist and oversee the development of new plans for conducting the upcoming elections in Harris County in order to ensure that the plans that are implemented will adequately protect the voting rights of racial and language minorities.  Our constituents represent the vast majority of African American, Latino, and Vietnamese voters in the county, and as you know, Harris County is one of the most diverse and most populous counties in the nation.

While we are heartened by the stated intention of local officials in Harris County and across the state to conduct a fair and open election in November, we are concerned that some of the options for conducting the election could have an adverse impact on voter participation, especially in communities of color.  The fire itself was devastating, but that devastation should not be compounded by the adoption and implementation of objectionable practices in order to make up for the loss of voting equipment in the fire.  In recent elections, there have been controversial actions on the part of Harris County officials that administer and oversee voter registrations and elections. We ask your assistance in avoiding any such practices to ensure that every one of our constituents is able to participate fully in the November elections.

Media reports have suggested that county election officials are considering the consolidation of the 739 polling stations planned for Election Day in Harris County.  Improper consolidation of polling places can have the effect of discouraging turnout.  In some previous elections, precinct consolidation based on population and turnout levels has resulted in the closing of neighborhood polls in minority precincts in urban districts, which poses a distinct problem for less mobile voters. Additionally, the presence of fewer voting machines in fewer locations creates longer lines, which further discourages voting.  Removing neighborhood voting locations and fostering conditions for longer lines must be avoided to prevent suppression of minority voters.  Further, adequate notification of changes in polling place locations must be given to communities.

While we are fortunate that no individuals were harmed in the fire, we must work together to ensure that the voting rights of Harris County residents do not become the real victim of the fire.  Thank you for your attention to this matter, please do not hesitate to contact us should we be of any assistance to your office in this endeavor.

Sincerely,

Representative Garnet Coleman

Representative Carol Alvarado

Representative Al Edwards

Representative Ana Hernandez

Representative Kristi Thibaut

Representative Sylvester Turner

Representative Hubert Vo

Senator Rodney Ellis

Representative Alma Allen

Representative Ellen Cohen

Representative Jessica Farrar

Representative Scott Hochberg

Representative Senfronia Thompson

Representative Armando Walle

Senator Mario Gallegos

Senator John Whitmire

THE CITY OF GALVESTON WANTS TO HEAR FROM ITS RESIDENTS!
August 30, 2010

At Series of Neighborhood Meetings Kicking Off this Week, Residents to be Asked

“How Would You Make Your Neighborhood a Better Place to Live?”

 WHO:    City of Galveston residents, City of Galveston Planning Department, representatives from CDM, the firm hired to prepare

a master neighborhoods plan that will address quality of life and current and future community needs, such as business

development, housing and transportation and services for people with disabilities.

 

WHAT:     As part of the City of Galveston’s Long-Term Hurricane Ike Recovery Plan, meetings will be held in 18 Galveston neighborhood

 areas, starting tomorrow. At each meeting, residents will be asked for their input about what changes they would like to their

 neighborhood, such as the addition of a community park, safer sidewalks, more places to shop and better transportation. The

 residents’ input will be used to create the master neighborhoods plan.

        WHERE AND WHEN:  Residents can click on www.cityofgalvestonrecovers.org for more information, including a

  list of meeting locations and dates.

Join Constable Davis for Coffee and Conversation
August 30, 2010

Fort Bend Constable Ruben Davis is hosting his annual  Community Prayer  Breakfast on Saturday, September 4, 2010,  beginning at 8:30 a.m.

The event will be held at the Quail Run Community Center, located at 16, 748 Quail Park Drive in Missouri City.

The guest minister will be Pastor Remus Wright who is the Senior Pastor of  Fountain of  Praise.

The breakfast is  free but you should rsvp: 832-444-5354  or 281-437-7500.

The Mayor Meets The Fonz
August 30, 2010

Thanks to Terence O’Neill, with the city of Houston, for giving me permission to post this picture.

Over the weekend, Mayor Annise Parker and Henry Winkler, best known as  “Fonzie or The Fonz” from the TV sitcom Happy Days”,  met for the first time.

The actor, director, producer and author was in Houston participating in a disabilities forum.

He was staying at Hotel ZaZa where Mayor Parker and her partner Kathy Hubbard happened to be attending the Greater Houston Partnership’s World Trade Soiree.

Bill White for Governor Campaign Recruits A Veteran Political Player
August 29, 2010

The Bill White campaign for governor of  Texas is getting an experienced political operative to help the former Houston Mayor defeat Governor Rick Perry.

I ran into William Paul Thomas Saturday night at the Greater Houston Partnership World Trade Soiree.  He confirmed to 2 On The Beat that he is joining the campaign through election day in November.

Thomas plans to take a sixty day leave of absence from his job as chief  of staff for Houston city council member Sue Lovell.

He wouldn’t provide specifics about his role when I asked him to describe his responsibilities.  He told me that he would to defer to the campaign to make the announcement.

I assume that he  is going to help White  create some excitement and bolster election day turnout in African-American communities across Texas.

I’ve heard grumblings from many Democrats that White is  taking  African-American voters for granted.  

Some are also upset that he doesn’t have a prominent African-American on his campaign staff. 

If  White doesn’t give African-Americans a reason to vote for him in November, many will stay home, and  he’ll have a tough time defeating Rick Perry.

Thomas is a political campaign veteran and he has worked on staff for  U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Senator Rodney Ellis, in addition  to his current job at city hall.