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Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Do You Want To be On TV? I always wanted to be on TV, and this might just be my big chance. From Tbogg comes word that the “Republican Values" TV show is looking for volunteers to appear in a TV program. The 30 minute show, which will feature appearances by George Bush as well as the “wit and wisdom of Sean Hannity”, would include photos of the selected volunteers along with their answer to the question “Why I Am A Republican” (well, I guess it’s not a question, technically, but you get the drift). As an integral part of the TV show featuring the President, we show typical citizens, such as yourself explaining why they are Republicans and why Republican Values are American values and good for the success of our great country. On the TV show, your photo is prominently placed next to photos/video of President Bush--and the TV screen also showcases your name, your city, and your personal quote explaining why you are a Republican and why Republican Values are essential to the continued growth, prosperity, and success of America. Appearing on the Republican Values TV show is FREE. Tbogg is now running a contest where he’ll select the top 10 reasons that individuals send him as to “Why I Am A Republican”, and post them later in the week. To jump on the bandwagon, I’m including herein my own top 10 list: Why I Am A Republican: 10. Because I have always wanted to appear in an infomercial that is broadcast at 4:30 a.m. 9. Because my heart is a small, dark hole from which nothing, not even light or human emotion, can escape. 8. Because I think that Sean Hannity has either wit, or wisdom, or both. 7. Because sometimes it’s easier to just not have to think too much. 6. Because in America, hard work, individual initiative, and self-reliance allows someone like George W. Bush to rise from the gutter and achieve greatness. 5. Because I have absolutely no sense of irony. 4. Because I don’t believe in government handouts, unless they’re coming to me personally. 3. Because my conscience was surgically removed at a young age. 2. Because I’m convinced I’m as well off as all those folks I see on them TV shows. 1. Because I think that Blacks, Indians and other minorities have been getting a free ride in this country for the last 400 years.

posted by gunther at 2:50 PM Link

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Is Bush A Moron III: The Brit Hume Interview

Brit Hume interviewed Bush on Fox News this past Sunday. Probably the best summary of how it went can be found at Neal Pollack’s site, which included this assessment of one of Bush’s more insightful comments:

He later questioned the motivation of our enemies in this war on terror, and said, "What is necessary to defeat that sentiment that causes people to be suiciders and just kill innocent people for the sake of religion or a fake religion?"

Good question.

I’ve analyzed Bush’s portion of the transcript and found that his overall performance was a bit on the low side, even for him. The BRI showed a 75.5% reading ease score, and his comments were assessed at a grade level of 6.0. The BRI-2 index was .051, worse than for any of the three debate performances I posted last week. Some examples of his grammatical errors were:

And let him know that, you know, I'm doing good, don't worry about me.

I love to be with my family, but we are not pick up the phone chit-chat people that much.

Well, we've come out here -- you know, a lot of times, well, after I -- after I made the decision -- not made the decision -- told Tommy Franks and Don Rumsfeld that they had -- that they had the orders to move in on Operation Iraqi Freedom, I was in the Situation Room, and it was a dramatic moment.

I went to Walter Reed, was struck by the braveness -- bravery of our soldiers, and kind of got a quiet moment afterwards and prayed for them and their families.

Just convince the Palestinians if they want a Palestinian state, at least with American support, get an interlocutor that is truly committed to fighting terror.

And, you know, the sad thing is that we're really the only country in the world who says that.

My attitude is that when we put a youngster in harm's way, somebody who wears our nation's uniform in harm's way, he or she deserves the absolute best.

What is necessary to defeat that sentiment that causes people to be suiciders and just kill innocent people for the sake of religion or a fake religion?

And my judgment on that is the best way to do it is to spread freedom.

I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves.

Famed seal, that the eagle looks at the talon of the olive branch.

Regarding the last error, I should point out something. This particular error was flagged because it was identified by the spellchecker as a sentence fragment, i.e. not a valid whole sentence. But it actually contains another error that was not detected by the spellchecker. Notice that Bush refers to ‘the talon of the olive branch’. While this is correct from a grammatical point of view, it makes little sense in terms of what he was actually trying to say. To make it clear, read the whole passage:

BUSH: Right here. And, I'll show you something really interesting on this that I didn't realize was true until somebody pointed out to me the eagle looks at the talon with the arrows, and if you look at this seal...

HUME: Now, this is a...

BUSH: Famed seal, that the eagle looks at the talon of the olive branch.

HUME: Now, this rug, and there have been a series of them in here, this is one of your...

BUSH: Laura designed this rug. She designed this rug.

But it's interesting that the eagle looks at the talon of the olive branch on this presidential seal. On this one, he looks at the talon of the arrow, so something happened between Franklin Roosevelt and me, and what happened was, Harry Truman said, we'll look at peace not at war, after World War II. So the eagle looks -- and of course, you've got to make sure you got plenty of arrows, so when you look at peace you leave a lot of presence...

What he seems to want to say is ‘the talon holding the olive branch’, or ‘the talon holding the arrows’. However he keeps saying ‘the talon of…’, which is just bizarre. This kind of language should give him bonus points, but the BRI-2 measure doesn’t reflect this type of error, since it is not caught by the spellchecker. Thus if anything the indexes here underestimate how poorly he actually speaks.

As a final aside, I also analyzed Brit Hume’s performance, and it was pretty dismal: reading ease of 81.9%, grade level 4.5, BRI-2 = .051. However in fairness these numbers largely reflect the simplified language employed when you are mostly just asking a lot of questions. I’ll be keeping an eye on his performance in the future, however…

posted by gunther at 12:50 PM Link

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Justin Timberlake: A Public menace I suppose there’s a moral to this story. I just don’t what it is. A Winston man told police he crashed his car after a bee flew into his mouth while he was singing along with Justin Timberlake's song "Rock Your Body" on the radio. Douglas County Sheriff's spokeswoman Pam Frank said John L. Nunes, 19, was trying to get rid of the bee or yellowjacket when his car hit a tree. "I kind of panicked and went off the road," Nunes said Wednesday. His car went down a 15-foot embankment. He was taken by ambulance to Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg. "I had to get a stitch in my tongue, and I got a gash on my left ankle," Nunes said. The tongue injury was from his teeth, not the bee, he said. Actually, if I was listening to a Justin Timberlake song on my car radio, I’d crash into a tree intentionally.

posted by gunther at 4:03 PM Link

Monday, September 15, 2003

Is Bush A Moron II: Analysis of the 2000 Debates

I recently introduced a continuing project to analyze George W. Bush’s speech patterns in order to address the question of whether he is or is not a moron. More precisely, what I hope to accomplish is an objective analysis of Bush’s speaking ability and style, and either verification or refutation of the hypothesis that he has some difficulty in this area. The first posting on this topic introduced the basic methods I’ll be using, which consists of using three separate measures of readability and grammaticality. The procedure works as follows:

1. Take a representative sample of public speech that has been transcribed (the longer the better). Off-the-cuff, unprepared speech is needed, since prepared speeches read from a teleprompter allow for fewer errors and are invariably written by someone else besides the speaker. Press conferences are an example of the type of sources used.

2. Copy the transcribed speech into MS Word and then run a spelling and grammar check.

3. The spelling and grammar check provide two indexes of readability. The first is the Flesch Reading Ease Score, which ranges from 0 to 100, and reflects a rough estimate of the percentage of the reading public that should be able to understand the passage as written. Although meant for written material, I’m using it as a proxy measure of how easy the speech is for the average person to understand -- higher numbers representing more simple, easy to understand speech. The second measure provided is the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score, which rates text on a U.S. grade school level. For example, a passage of text with a score of 8.0 means that an eighth grader would be able to understand it. Again, while intended for written passages, my assumption is that lower grade level ratings for transcribed speech correspond to simpler, less complex speech patterns. Together, these two measures constitute the BRI, or Bush Readability Index.

4. A third measure is also calculated, based on the number and type of grammatical errors occurring in the sample. This BRI-2 index is calculated by counting the number of grammatical errors, including unidentifiable words (“misunderestimated”, “suiciders”), lack of subject-verb agreement, and misuse of that vs. which. This count is then divided by the total number of sentences in the sample. Higher ratios indicate less grammatical speech.

[As an aside, readers are recommended to check out this site, which presents Flesch Reading Ease scores and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level scores for every presidential inaugural address ever given. Some interesting findings are highlighted in this document, such as how Grade Level scores have declined since the onset of the mass-media era. Up to the time of Teddy Roosevelt, virtually every inaugural address was rated at a grade 12 level. Since then there has been a fairly systematic decline, to the point where now the average Grade Level hovers somewhere between 8 and 9. In terms of Reading Ease, those scores have generally tracked in the same manner, i.e. the typical inaugural address rated at between 30% and 40% until around the turn of the century, and is now typically in the 60% range. Interestingly, the inaugural address given by Bush 1 (the current President’s father) holds the all time record for having the highest Reading Ease score (77%) and the lowest Grade Level score (grade 6.1).]

My initial posting included a few representative examples where the BRI and BRI-2 analyses were applied to samples of Bush’s speaking, as well as samples from Howard Dean and Bill Clinton. For example, a compilation of Bushisms taken from a website featuring a list of such errors found that when his most egregious speech examples are used, Bush has BRI ratings of 66%, equivalent to grade level 7.9, and a BRI-2 rating of .172. In contrast, an example taken from a recent Bush press conference showed him with BRI ratings of 71% (grade 6.6) and BRI-2 of .053. This and the scores given to interviews with Howard Dean and Bill Clinton are presented below:

Bush 1: 66%, grade 7.9, .172
Bush 2: 71%, grade 6.6, .053
Dean: 70%, grade 7.5, .027
Clinton: 68%, grade 8.7, .000

Thus Reading Ease measure didn’t seem to show any particular pattern, and the grade level was somewhat interesting (in that it showed Clinton’s interview as having the highest grade level equivalent), it was the BRI-2 measure that best distinguished among the four samples. The poorest rating went to the sample of Bush errors, the best to Bill Clinton, and Bush lagged behind Dean even when in “normal” speech mode.

Today’s posting includes the results of an analysis of the dialogue between Bush and Al Gore during the three presidential debates in 2000. The comments made by both Bush and Gore in response to questions, and in response to each other’s statements, were analyzed using the procedures described above.

Debate 1

This was the infamous “lock box” debate, where Gore repeatedly used this metaphor to criticize Bush’s proposals regarding the privatization of Social Security. This strategy was subsequently ridiculed mercilessly on Saturday Night Live, to the point where Gore’s staffers reportedly made him watch it as an example of what not to do in future debates. Gore also sighed a lot when Bush said something particularly bothersome, and generally appeared obnoxious and condescending.

Bush, for his part, got a lot of mileage out of the phrase “fuzzy math” when criticizing Gore, but this phrase did not quite have the comic utility as “lock box”. Bush used the phrase four times (Gore mentioned “lock box” six times). The debate also featured an instance where Bush, when responding to an answer by Gore, apparently forgot what question had been asked:

Well, I've been standing up to big Hollywood, big trial lawyers -- what was the question? It was about emergencies, wasn't it?

The findings for the BRI and BRI-2 indices for debate one were:

Bush: grade level 7.3, reading ease 69.6%, BRI-2 = .046

Gore: grade level 9.1, reading ease 64.3, BRI-2 = .012

Gore had Bush beat on all three measure, using more complex language and having fewer grammatical errors. Some examples of Bush’s grammatical errors included in the BRI-2 index were:

”There's no preventing medicines.”

“There's no drug therapies.”

“Surely we can fight off these laws that will encourage to -- to allow doctors to take the lives of our seniors.”

“There's differences.”

“Well, the first is -- the difference is -- there is no new accountability measures in Vice President Gore's plan.”

“And so, I don't know the man well, but I've been disappointed about how he and his administration has conducted the fundraising affairs.”

Debate 2

The second debate featured a more low key, reserved (chastened?) Al Gore, with none of the sighing and eye-rolling so prominent in the first debate. No mention of “lock boxes’, either. The sit-down format used in the debate worked against the kind of confrontational, argumentative style that both had used in the first debate, which had the candidates standing at separate podiums. Both candidates were fairly restrained and did not engage in attacks to the extent that they had in the first debate. Debate 2 also included this passage from Bush, which should be engraved in stone somewhere:

It really depends upon how our nation conducts itself in foreign policy. If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation but strong, they'll welcome us. And our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that's why we've got to be humble and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom.

So I don't -- I don't think they ought to look at us in any way other than what we are.

We're a freedom-loving nation. And if we're an arrogant nation, they'll view us that way, but if we're a humble nation, they'll respect us.

Also this:

Well -- I don't think so. I think what we need to do is convince people who live in the lands they live in to build the nations. Maybe I'm missing something here. I mean, we're going to have kind of a nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not. Our military is meant to fight and win war; that's what it's meant to do. And when it gets overextended, morale drops.

Finally, on the topic of racial profiling, Bush had this to say:

And secondly, there is other forms of racial profiling that goes on in America. Arab Americans are racially profiled in what's called "secret evidence." People are stopped. And we've got to do something about that. My friend, Senator Spencer Abraham of Michigan, is pushing a law to make sure that, you know, Arab Americans are treated with respect.

But enough irony for now. What were the numbers? The BRI and BRI-2 scores for the second debate were as follows:

Bush: grade level 7.1, reading ease 71.6%, BRI-2 = .034

Gore: grade level 8.1, reading ease 69.4, BRI-2 = .015

A more respectable showing for Bush, but he still lagged behind Gore on all measures. Some examples of Bush’s errors:

”I also understands that an administration is not one person,…”

“So we gotta be guarded in our generosity.”

“But we don't know -- there's no inspectors now in Iraq.”

“Curriculum that works and phonics needs to be an integral part of our reading curriculum.”

“And that was a smart move, because there's gas reserves up there.”

Debate 3

The third and final debate used a town hall type format, with both candidates seated on stools and answering questions from the audience. The town hall format was one that Gore had a lot of experience with. As senator he had held many town hall meetings and was in the habit of taking questions from the audience after delivering speeches. This same format also proved disastrous for Bush’s father when he was running for re-election against Clinton, after he famously glanced at his wrist watch in the middle of the debate. That one-second faux pas probably destroyed whatever chance the elder Bush had of getting a second term. Prior to the third debate much of the talk from pundits focused on how important it would be for Bush II to avoid making this type of mistake.

As expected, the format led to a more contentious atmosphere, with the candidates occasionally interrupting and speaking over one another. Gore in particular was more aggressive than in the second debate, perhaps believing that he had overreacted to the criticism he received for his histrionics in debate number one. He carried this aggressiveness almost to the point of physical intimidation, striding the stage and on two occasions hovering on the edge of Bush’s “personal space” while the latter was answering a question. This didn’t appear to rattle Bush, although it did seem to surprise him.

CNN - Domination of the sparring area, according to some Gore advisors, could be compared to how a president has to conduct himself in negotiations with a strong partisan or international foe.

"They weren't tactics," said Gore Campaign Chairman Bill Daley, "What it was, was somebody showing they could be in command of an evening, and therefore be commander-in-chief."

Gore also repeatedly broke the debate rules by questioning Bush directly. On one occasion, when pushed by Gore to answer whether he supported affirmative action, Bush complained to moderator Jim Lehrer that Gore was breaking the rules by directly questioning him. All in all, Gore seemed to be trying to create the impression that he was the serious candidate, the natural leader, and that Bush was someone he was not going to defer to as he had in the second debate. Twice, Gore made a point of explicitly drawing a contrast between what he said would happen under Bush, versus himself, and gave viewers a choice, vote for that guy or vote for me:

Look, this isn't about Governor Bush, it's not about me. It is about you, and I want to come back to something I said before. If you want somebody who believes that we were better off eight years ago than we are now, and that we ought to go back to the kind of policies that we had back then, emphasizing tax cuts mainly for the wealthy, here is your man [Pointing]. If you want somebody who will fight for you and who will fight to have middle class tax cuts, then I am your man.

Bush for the most part tried to paint Gore as a big-spending liberal who would waste taxpayer’s money. He was sometimes vague on details of his proposals, and at one point introduced the term “affirmative access” when pressed by Gore on his view of affirmative action. The index measures for the third debate were as follows:

Bush: grade level 6.5, reading ease 77.2%, BRI-2 = .039

Gore: grade level 8.2, reading ease 67.4, BRI-2 = .018

Once again, in all three categories Bush came out behind Gore. His speech was rated at a lower grade level, it was less complex, and he made still made more grammatical errors than Gore. Some examples were:

“The number of uninsured have now gone up, for the past seven years.”

“I don't know if you have to be a paperwork filler-outer, but most of it's because of the federal government.”

“You bet there's things that government can do.”

“I would greatly expand character education funding so that public schools will teach children values, values which have stood the test of time.”

“A judicious use of the military which well help keep the peace.”

“Some of the hardest moments since I've been the governor of the state of Texas is to deal with those cases.”

“It's who you trust, government or people.”

The average performance for the three debate series was:

Overall Performance, Bush: grade level 6.9, reading ease 72.8%, BRI-2 = .040

Overall Performance, Gore: grade level 8.5, reading ease 67.0, BRI-2 = .015

Bush’s speaking was almost two full grade levels below that of Gore and he committed almost three times as many simple grammatical errors when speaking. The general consensus in polls conducted after the debates, was that Gore had proven himself a better communicator than Bush. However given the negative press Gore received throughout the campaign, this may have helped reinforce a view of Bush as an “average Joe”, someone most voters could relate to, and thus helped him rather than hurt him. Bush committed no major gaffes and gave himself a chance of winning the election with a steady if less than articulate series of performances.

posted by gunther at 7:56 PM Link

Thursday, September 04, 2003

From The ‘Disgusting Stories To Start the Day Off With’ Department… Salon reports this story from AP that should put everyone into a good mood: Around 2,000 baboon noses were found packed in an abandoned suitcase at Amsterdam airport when they started to stink, officials said Wednesday. Dutch customs police made the gruesome discovery last week and turned the case over to the Agriculture Ministry's Inspection Service, which said it had several leads that may help it track down the culprits. Baboons are protected under international law. "We assume these animals were killed, and we have to prevent something like this from happening again," spokesman Louis Steens said. He said the noses had been destroyed. The noses -- around 66 pounds worth -- were en route from Lagos, Nigeria, to the United States and are believed to have been meant to be eaten or used in traditional medicine by immigrants. "It is known that many inhabitants of Asian and African countries ascribe beneficial properties to these medicines and use them for that reason," the Inspection Service said in a statement. “We assume these animals were killed?!?!” That has to rate as the understatement of the week.

posted by gunther at 9:33 AM Link

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Proposition 12 Update: What Is The Lyceum Association? TV ads in support of Proposition 12 have started to run in a few local markets. Anti-12 ads are also airing, although to this point I haven’t seen any. The Pro-12 ad features two doctors described as family physicians. Dr. Dr. Antonio Falcon is described as a family physician from Rio Grande City, and is co-chair of Yes on 12. The second physician is Dr. Evelyn Tobias-Merrill from Corpus Christi. In the ad, she says that while she has never been sued, she has been forced to give up her practice because of rising medical liability insurance costs. Dr. Tobias-Merrill was also a featured speaker at a rally held last week at Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi in support of proposition 12. Besides Governor Rick Perry, a number of doctors supportive of the measure were heard from, including Tobias-Merrill. When Dr. Evelyn Tobias-Merrill's insurance rates rose 300 percent, she was forced to leave a local family practice position she had been building for four years. "My premium had already been going up every year, and I was already maxed out on what I could afford to pay," …"As a family practice doctor, I have a wonderful relationship with my patients," Tobias-Merrill said. "I have very, very dear patients, and I'm just brokenhearted. This newspaper article goes on to mention that Dr. Tobias-Merrill happens to be married to Rick Merrill, who is president and CEO of Driscoll Children’s Hospital. This fact is not mentioned in the TV ads supporting Prop 12. I somehow think that viewers of those ads might, just possibly, feel somewhat differently about her sob story if they knew this rather trivial detail about her personal background. Which, I suspect, is why it wasn’t mentioned. Dr. Tobias-Merrill is also a past (2001) member of the board of directors of something called the Texas Lyceum Association. This group is described on its website as follows: The Texas Lyceum Association, Inc., is a non-profit, non-partisan, statewide organization whose purpose is to identify and develop the next generation of top leadership in the State of Texas; to educate its Directors by identifying and exploring the interrelationships of the major issues facing Texas and bring a better understanding of these issues to the state’s key decision makers; and to promote an appreciation of the responsibilities of stewardship of the values, traditions, and resources of Texas. …The Texas Lyceum is an organization of people that are active, diverse, and motivated to make a positive difference in our state. We are proud of our membership and alumni, and the difference they have and will continue to make on a daily basis not only at the municipal, regional, and state level, but at the national and occasionally international level as well. describes the Lyceum Association as an exclusive nonprofit group founded in Dallas in 1980 as a networking system for political heavyweights and wannabees. Although the Lyceum Association appears to be ostensibly non-partisan, the list of alumni mentioned includes a high preponderance of Republicans, including G.W. Bush, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Rick Perry, and Bobby Eberle (who is President and CEO of GOPUSA). This fact alone is probably not too surprising; this is Texas, after all, and any organization or group that focuses on public policy issues is going to inevitably have a lot or Republicans involved in it. What is harder to discern is whether the relative lack of Democratic names in this list reflects the relatively weak statewide strength of the Democrats in recent years, or a decidedly conservative bias on the part of this organization. If the latter, then it is questionable whether someone like Tobias-Merrill should be acting as a spokesman for Proposition 12. Indeed, even if the Lyceum Association is as nonpartisan as some of its rhetoric declares it to be, it clearly is an organization for “activists”, i.e., people who desire to have some influence on public policy. Given this, it’s clear that Dr. Tobias-Merrill is not simply a poor family doctor with a gripe against the current malpractice rates. To borrow the Lyceum Association’s own words, she is someone who is active, …and motivated to make a positive difference in our state. In other words, she may very well have an agenda, which the TV spots do a good job of hiding. Perhaps, you might say, I’m being too harsh on the good doctor. Her involvement with the Lyceum Association may be due to a keen interest in children’s issues, or the tourism industry, or the condition of the aviation industry in Texas, each of which have been the focus of the Lyceum Association’s attention in the recent past (or will be in future meetings). I checked up some more, and found the following list of individuals on one of the Lyceum Associations own publications, describing some prominent alumni. Remember, this is the list that the Lyceum Association itself puts on one of its websites. Already mentioned were the Lyceum’s connections to Bush, Hutchison, Perry, and Eberle. While the list of alumni includes some Democrats, many of those who are included should give anyone the creeps: Dan Morales Former State Attorney General: Morales was the highest ranking Latino, ever in the state of Texas, serving as Attorney General from 1991-1999. Morales went on endorse Rick Perry in the general election after Perry appointed Morales to his anti-crime commission. But that wasn't good enough for Morales. He endorsed David Dewhurst for Lt. governor, too. Now he’s in jail. Roger Wallace U.S. Commerce Department: Liaison to Mexico and U.S. businesses and recipient of El Raza Tomato Award for courageous substitutions for one's boss (Bob Mossbacher). Considered as candidate for ambassador to Mexico under Bush. Fred McClure Legislative Assistant to President George H. W. Bush: Last seen acting as spokesman for computer companies in legal actions against the movie industry. French Hill -- U.S. Treasury Department: Served Senator John Tower as legislative aide on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee from 1982 to 1984, and as chief legislative assistant during his tenure as chairman of the Subcommittee on Housing and Urban Affairs (1983-1984). Robert Estrada Former Appointment Secretary to President Bush Leonard Spearman Former Appointment Secretary to President Bush Pete Geren U.S. Representative: Pete Geren is a former U.S. Congressman and currently serves as a President Bush appointee to the Pentagon. Brother is a republican Congressman. Ashley Smith State Representative: Smith has had extensive experience in legislative affairs through his work as an attorney with the Hutcheson and Grundy law firm, and served as a representative with the state legislature from 1980 to 1994. Since 2001, Smith has served as senior advisor to Gov. Rick Perry, who appointed Smith chairman of the Governor’s Council on Science and Biotechnology Development that same year. John Sharp: Former State Comptroller: Democratic Lieutenant governor candidate, fall 2002 Lena Guerrero Former Railroad Commissioner: Lost her position on the railroad commission when it was revealed she’d lied about having a college degree. Recently hired by Phillip Morris to lobby the Texas Legislature on tobacco issues. Rob Mosbacher Former Head of Department of Health and Welfare for State of Texas: Republican, former candidate for mayor of Houston, Mosbacher is the son of Bush I’s former Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher. Lyndon Olson Former Commissioner of Insurance and Ambassador to Sweden: 1997, Lyndon Olson, Jr. was nominated by President Clinton to be Ambassador to Sweden and went on to serve in this capacity. Ambassador Olson previously served as president and chief executive officer of Travelers Insurance Holdings, Inc., and the Associated Madison Companies, Inc. He has served as president of the National Group Corporation, and he has also been president and chief executive officer of the National Group Insurance Company. Democrat. Jim Huffhines Former Appointment Secretary to Gov. Clements (Republican) Tommy Loeffler Railroad Commissioner, Former U.S. Congressman: Ex-Congressman Tom Loeffler is a revolving-door lobbyist close to two Bush administration scandals. After Bush appointed him to the University or Texas Board of Regents, Loeffler joined the scandal-plagued board overseeing UT endowment funds. His firm then delivered a lobbying coup, getting Bush’s Board of health to kill off proposed rules to restrict sales of a ephedrine-based diet remedies linked to eight Texas deaths. The Center for Public Integrity ranked Loeffler’s firm as Bush’s No. 10 “career patron,” with the Loefflers delivering more than half of this cash. Loeffler seemed predestined for special-interest lobbying. An ’84 Public Citizen survey found that he voted with consumers in just one out of 40 key votes—Congress’ worst voting record. Loeffler also topped a list of five members of Congress whose campaigns received illegal corporate money from Vernon Savings & Loan, which failed at a taxpayer cost of $1.3 billion. Now granted, this isn’t an all-inclusive list of past or present Lyceum directors or members. But these are the ones highlighted on the organization’s website. The group certainly appears to be well connected politically, leaning Republican, with a certain quota of both sleazy characters and some respectable but essentially conservative types. Here’s some more, from a Houston Chronicle article of this past January: Like Bush, [Chris] Bell is a member of the Texas Lyceum Association, an exclusive nonprofit group based in Dallas that is evolving into a fruitful networking system for those rising in the ranks of federal and state government. Aimed at identifying and grooming the next generation of leaders, Texas Lyceum was founded in 1980, but only in the past few years has it started seeing members in significant numbers taking top spots in government and the private sector. Throughout the Bush administration and Congress, Lyceum alumni of both parties fill key posts. Many connected with the organization tout the relationships formed through the group as a major advantage of membership. Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is a Lyceum alumna, as is James Glotfelty, a senior policy analyst at the Department of Energy who was a policy adviser to Bush in the governor's office. "A lot of the contacts I had at Lyceum were people I worked with in the governor's office, and most of the people I knew from Lyceum came up here to Washington when he became president," Glotfelty said. State government also is salted with Lyceum members, starting at the top with Gov. Rick Perry and including several members of the Texas Legislature. Lyceum members in the Bush administration include Margaret Spellings, Bush's chief domestic policy adviser; and Clark Kent Ervin, inspector general of the State Department, who was recently nominated by Bush to serve in the same job at the much larger Department of Homeland Security. In terms of prominence and influence, Texas Lyceum is only beginning to emerge as a force in government and politics, owing much of its newfound status to the presence of a Texan and alumnus in the White House. OK, should the public care if Dr. Tobias-Merrill, star of the Pro-12 TV ads, is or was a member of this organization? In the interests of full disclosure, I think yes. The good doctor has every right to appear in any political action ad she chooses. However it’s rather misleading to introduce her merely as a family practitioner who has had problems due to malpractice insurance rates. She may well have had such problems; I have no way of verifying or contradicting this claim. However it can be reasonably argued that someone whose husband is a top executive in the health care system, and who has a history of membership in an organization that is viewed as a ”networking system for political heavyweights and wannabees” (see above), may well have other motives for publicly arguing in support of this policy. At the very least, the public should be able to know about these connections when considering the merits of any arguments she makes in regards to Proposition 12.

posted by gunther at 11:35 PM Link