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Saturday, August 02, 2008

This Could Happen to You

Imagine this scene at an airport as you fly back from that blogging conference in the Bahamas:
Man in Black with a Badge: "Excuse me , ma'am, but I need you to give me your laptop."

US Citizen: "I'm sorry?"

MIB: "It's a matter of Homeland Security. Pursuant to DHS regulations, we are detaining your laptop indefinitely. Also, after we look at your personal and business files, we may have to send your computer to one of our corporate partners to analyze any of your encrypted financial or medical data."

US C: "What!?! Am I being accused of a crime? Do you think I'm a terrorist or something?"

MIB: "No, ma'am. Not at this point, at least. Relax, we're the federal government. If you're innocent, you have nothing to worry about."

US C: "But you're keeping my laptop?"

MIB: "Yes, ma'am."

US C: "When will I get it back?"

MIB: "I'm sorry, ma'am, but that's classified."

US C: "I'm so putting this on my blog."

MIB: "What's a blog? We made need to detain it...."
This might seem far fetched, but according to US Department of Homeland Security rules, federal border agents may detain and analyze any computers being carried into the country, regardless of whether the equipment belongs to a US citizen or a foreign national. No reasonable or probable cause is necessary, there is apparently no time limit on how long your property may be held in government custody, and the agents may transfer your property to other agencies and/or private entities. Oh, and the rule doesn't just cover laptops, but any device that is capable of storing data - iPods, cell phones, flash drives, etc....

Seriously! I'm not making this up! All I have to say is, to quote Ben Franklin:
They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.
Wake up America!

Hat Tip: amuse
Filed Under: Geeky Yak; Political Yak
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Friday, August 01, 2008

Noriega Holds Online Townhall This Afternoon

FYI - US Senate candidate Rick Noriega is holding a live, online townhall meeting this afternoon at 1:30pm CDT.

Update: Well, looks like there were a few bugs in Noriega's first virtual townhall. Some of the comments in the chat were pretty funny though. He'll be in Austin next week - in person, not a virtual campaign stop.

Filed Under: Political Yak
Hat Tip: Postcards from the Lege (via Twitter)
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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Would You Vote for a Computer Illiterate President?

Anna Quindlen has an interesting column in next week's Newsweek magazine, entitled The Techie in Chief. She draws some historical references to President Abraham Lincoln's understanding and use of cutting-edge technology (specifically, the telegraph) during the Civil War. She throws in a comment form the National Security Agency following 9/11, that the US is "behind the curve in keeping up with the global telecommunications revolution"and then poses a fascinating question:
The terrorists have laptops in their hideouts. Can America afford to have a leader who is just learning how to use one?
Senator John McCain admits that he doesn't use email, doesn't go online and is computer illiterate. I'm sure he has aides that are quite adept with their Blackberries and such, but beyond that does he have a firm grasp on the transformative nature of current tech? Does he understand the cultural, economic, and yes, security, issues inherent in such a broad-based communications mediums as the Internet?

Experience, at least in part, shapes our understanding. Our world is changing. Would McCain be at a disadvantage in some future situation because he doesn't have that personal experience and depth of knowledge of tech? Perhaps.... It's something I'll have to cogitate on. What do you think?

Filed Under: Geeky Yak; Political Yak
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hicthing A Ride with the School Board

I spent last weekend attending the Texas PTA Summer Leadership Conference at the Austin Convention Center. Nearly 4000 people attended, participating in hundreds of workshops on topics ranging from nutrition to PTA tax filings.

I focused on a program presented by Strong Fathers for increasing dads' participation in schools. Some good stuff!

Saturday evening I ended up getting a ride back to Round Rock with Chad Chadwell, the newly-appointed member of the Round Rock ISD Board of Trustees. We had a pleasant talk during the 40-minute ride, discussing how and why he became involved in the school system's bond study committee and was eventually selected to serve out former trustee Diana Maldonado's term on the school board.

With two kids in elementary school, I look forward to meeting with him again, and the other school board members, as I get more involved in the local political scene.

Oh, and thanks again for the ride, Mr. Chadwell!

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Can You Hear Me Now?

Blogging hasn't been a priority lately (life happens), but as I glance through my recent stats I get this wistful feeling... thinking back to a year or two ago when Political Yak had a fair draw, for a local political site. It even rated as one of the top ten political blogs in Maryland.

We've come a long way, baby.... Just not in the right direction, blogging-wise.

Some people feel blogging may be in decline, but I can't help but feel that there is still a niche to be filled by smaller, local sites. Especially when it comes to politics.

I left my comfort zone (in more ways than one) when my family was transplanted from suburban Maryland (my home for 20+ years) to Texas a little over a year ago. Texas politics is definitely different! The most obvious difference is the dominant party affiliations, but beyond that, the actual political and governmental structures are also whole other animal. I'm still trying to get to know my way around, politically speaking (geographically, too).

Texas has a lot of wide open spaces... room enough for a Texas version of the Political Yak? If you've just stumbled across my little corner of the blogosphere, what would you like to see from a Round Rock-based political blog?

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mmmm! Beer... Cars!

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert - RIP

I knew Tim Russert only though the screen of my television, having spent many a Sunday watching him in his element on Meet the Press, but I was stunned and saddened when I heard the news this afternoon that he had died suddenly of an apparent heart attack.

I don't remember when I first starting watching Russert on Meet the Press, but I do recall cringing, in 1992, as he deftly tore into Ross Perot - the first presidential campaign I ever worked on. Even though my candidate had performed badly, from that moment on, if there was a TV around and political news in the making, I would search out the local NBC station to see what Russert had to say. He was extrordinarily good at what he did, and obviously loved politics.

Just over a week ago I was watching MSNBC's coverage as Obama clinched the Democratic nomination with his primary win in Montana. The anchors, commentators and pundits were going on about the significance of the evening's political news, and when they turned to Russert, he said, with that big grin and a twinkle in his eye, "I wish I were teaching a high school history class tomorrow."

My thoughts and prayers go out to Russert's family and friends. Tim Russert, you will be fondly remembered and sorely missed, especially this election year.


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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Democratic Primary Cliff Notes

A video recap of the entire 2008 Democratic Primary season... in 8 minutes:

Hat Tip: Clicked
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Friday, June 06, 2008

$45,000,000,000,000 Energy Revolution

The International Energy Agency has released a report suggesting a plan to halve carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 in a massive effort to create a more sustainable energy market and stave off the potentially devastating effects of global warming. Scientists estimate that such an endeavor would cost just over 1% of worldwide GDP, or $45 trillion.

This morning Rush Limbaugh ridiculed the plan as a part of a liberal effort to increase taxes. Apparently Rush would prefer an alternative plan calling for everyone to stick their heads in the sand.... We might not survive, but at least it would keep the liberals out of his wallet.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Grassroots Good; Lobbyists Bad

It looks like Senator Barack Obama hasn't wasted any time in taking charge of the Democratic Party apparatus in DC. In a move seen as supportive of the DNC's 50-State organizing strategy, Obama has decided to keep Governor Howard Dean on as party chairman. He also dispatched one of his top strategists to the Dem HQ and has barred the DNC from accepting contributions from lobbyists and PACs.

Nice start for the soon-to-be nominee!

What do you say Senator McCain? Ready to cut those lobbyist ties?

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Yes We Can... Finally!!!


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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dr Forgione to Retire

Dr. Pat Forgione, the longtime Austin ISD Superintendent, announced his retirement today.

Forgione has been superintendent for nearly 10 years, and will be stepping down just as the state begins a review of the Texas public school accountability system. It'll be interesting, at least to those of us with school-aged kids, to see which candidates emerge to replace Forgione, and what issues arise during the ensuing debate.

Over the past few months, I've been meeting with a number of parents, teachers, principals and others in both the Austin and Round Rock ISDs. Anectdotally, there seems to be a lot of anger and anxiety regarding standardized testing, the overall testing culture, dropout rates, parental involvement and, at the most basic level, whether the school sysyems are effectively preparing our students for college and/or living wage jobs in the "new" economy.

I've heard that a third of central texas 9th graders will never graduate from high school. Of those that do graduate and go on to college, half will have to take remedial courses because they don't have the skills necessary for standard freshman classes. We can do better than that!

What education issues are most important to you and your family? What pressures do you feel as a parent, teacher or administrator? What do want to see the new superintendent tackle?

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Latest Texas Poll Shows Clinton, Obama About Even

The latest Texas poll numbers, released today from CNN/Opinion Research, show Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama running neck-and-neck with just a few short weeks before the 4 March primary. The numbers:
Clinton - 50%
Obama - 48%
On the GOP side:
McCain - 55%
Huckabee - 32%
Paul - 11%
The MOE was 4.5%. So, do these numbers suggest Clinton might eke out a slim victory in the Lone Star State? Or will Obama continue his winning streak? Which candidate will get more voters to actually cast their ballots and caucus on election day? It's, obviously, too close to call at this point.

Hat Tip: The Page
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Friday, February 15, 2008

New Texas Presidential Polls Differ

I just stumbled across the new Texas Credit Union League Poll of Texas Primary Voters, which offers a different take than the most recent ARG data (which I posted earlier today).

Here's the Democratic data from TCUL:
Clinton - 49%
Obama - 41%
And for the GOP:
McCain - 45%
Huckabee - 41%
Paul - 6%
ARG shows Obama ahead, while TCUL has Clinton in the lead. Both polls were released in the last day or two, and both were based on very recent data (within the past week). Why the difference?

It looks like the TCUL poll reached voters identified specifically as Democratic party members, while the ARG data targeted voters who were likely to vote in the Democratic primary, regardless of their current party affiliation. The results appear to suggest that Obama is picking up significant support from Republican and independent voters who plan to cross party lines and vote on the Democratic ballot come 4 March.

What's your take on these dueling polls? Will Obama's crossover appeal hold on election day?

Related Posts:
New Texas Poll Numbers (3 February)
(Another) New Texas Poll Released (15 February)

Hat Tip: Postcards
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(Another) New Texas Poll Released

ARG released the results of a new Texas presidential primary preferences poll this morning. This is the first poll I've seen since the IRV poll I mentioned back on 3 February, and the first one that shows Barack Obama leading Hillary Clinton. Evidence of Obamamentum hitting the Lone Star State?

Here's the breakdown for the Democratic race:
Obama - 48%
Clinton - 42%
Someone Else - 3%
Undecided - 7%
And for the Republicans:
McCain - 42%
Huckabee - 36%
Paul - 11%
Someone Else - 2%
Undecided - 9%
Interesting stuff and exciting times for us political junkies! Your thoughts?

UPDATE: Yet another poll released today, with different results.

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