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Finally, a reason to look forward to Tax Day. On April 15, the Observer will unveil its web log, commonly known as a blog. It will focus on the wild and woolly last 45 days of the 79th Texas Legislature. Observer writers and editors will be following a number of different Lege stories on the blog located at tx1o.corn or texaslegislatureobserved.corn Come join us for an insider’s look at Texas politics. Dialogue FROM THE HEART As a transplanted Northeasterner who has lived in Texas for a number years and plans to stay, I can sympathize mightily with David Van Os \(“Communicating from the Heart;’ March crat, confirms that the gap \(gulf is Them in the Northeast as representatives of the National Democratic Party is real. But let’s be clear: The now very dangerous Right Wing of our country is the enemy. Let’s not split ourselves into enemy camps: the us vs. them of South vs. North, Heartland vs. decadent coasts, Real People vs. academic wimps, Blue Collar and rural vs. Urban vs. Suburban, even rich vs. poor. We need to describe The Right as a group with an extreme, rigid, inflexible ideology, as a group willing to use lies to support their very narrow interests, a group quite willing to sacrifice the well-being of the rest of us for their own purposes. We need to start describing Democrats and Progressives as non-ideological because we are principled, we have ethics, and we honor our Constitution. We sure need to disabuse people of the belief that the free enterprise system, especially as it is currently constituted by The Right, is somehow intrinsic to our American democracy and must be the basis for solutions to all our problems. I do think, as Van Os does, that we have to start with us here in Texas: We do have to challenge the tactics of the national party: It seems to live inside the box of contemporary marketing mania and can not see the reality for the glitz. And it was dreadful, immoral, to target only the battleground states. We do have to talk, and even more, listen to our neighbors. We need to be honest and we need to call lies lies. I don’t think that the “academic issues symposium” as “political message” is the problem. In fact, it should be part of the solution. Republican think tanks produce reams and reams of dazzling papers that pass as objective research and that make their way into politicians’ offices and the pages of newspapers and magazines and favored online sites. Spokesmen from these think tanks appear as neutral commentators on national news shows, not just on Fox, but CNN, our major networks and on increasingly right wing PBS. Right wing talk show hosts base rants on Right Wing think tank research. We need to use the abundant legitimate research available from academics, often in easy to understand form, to counter The Right. We also need to show why our research is honest and theirs isn’t. Which leads to the big problem of finding a way to talk to people. It’s continued on page 17 THE BLOG IS COMING! MARCH 18, 2005 FEATURES GETTING PLUCKED 6 How the poultry industry turns contract farmers into modern-day sharecroppers. by Dave Mann LISTEN TO THE PROPHET 10 State Demographer Steve Murdock says we have a choice about our future, if we act now by Jake Bernstein DEPARTMENTS DIALOGUE 2 EDITORIAL 3 Ideology versus Demography POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE 4 BAD BILLS 12 ANDREW WHEAT 13 Taylor -Made Election Law MOLLY IVINS 14 Matters of Indignation JIM HIGHTOWER 15 Good News, Bad News, You Lose BOOKS & CULTURE POETRY 21 by Joseph Capista A JAZZ MASTER’S 22 DIAMOND JUBILEE by Dave Oliphant THE BLOGGER FROM 24 PORT ARTHUR by Julie Ardery AFTERWORD 29 The Big Mystery by James Hoggard Cover Illustration by Doug Potter 2 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MARCH 18, 2005