Saturday, April 18, 2015

Texas Lawmakers Say Frackers Can Drill In Homeowners' Backyards

A Texas House bill supported by energy companies that prevents cities and counties from regulating hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and other oil and gas drilling on their land was passed by the House legislators on Friday.

House Bill 40 by Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) passed on a 122-18 bipartisan House vote. The bill is widely seen as a response to a fracking ban passed by Denton voters last November. The Texas Oil and Gas Association, representing major energy companies, has sued Denton and has been lobbying lawmakers. Denton sits on a gas-rich shale formation that stretches across 24 counties in north Texas.

The bill, if passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Abbott, will overturn Denton’s fracking ban, Dallas’ drilling ordinance and place other cities’ ordinances into legal jeopardy.

Denton and other cities around Texas have been trying to literally keep fracking gas drillers out of homeowners' backyards and public school playgrounds.

Hydraulic fracturing is a process used in nine out of 10 natural gas wells in the United States, where millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to break apart the rock and release the gas. Scientists are worried that the chemicals used in fracturing may pose a threat either to underground aquifers or when waste fluids seep into lakes and public water supplies.

The rise in earthquakes as a result of fracking poses a massive problem for the oil and gas industry. The primary hydraulic fracturing drilling process does not foster earthquakes. Rather, the injection of waste water back into the ground that contributes to fault lines “slipping,” which results in heightened seismic activity.

Oklahoma has become the earthquake capital of the United States, surpassing even tremor-prone California. Oklahoma has averaged less than two earthquakes of a magnitude 3.0 or greater over the last 30 years. Shockingly, however, that rate has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2013, the state experienced 585 earthquakes with at least a 3.0 magnitude. If the current rate of earthquakes continues, Oklahoma could have 875 by the end of 2015.

Related:

State Preempts Municipal Control Over Gas Drilling

Friday, April 17, 2015

Republicans Vote Deficit Increase With Big Tax Giveaway

House Republicans voted Thursday to repeal the estate tax, a longtime priority of Republicans. Not wanting Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton to get too far ahead of them talking about policies that benefit working people, not the wealthy, Republicans talk like champions of the middle class, complaining bitterly about the wealthy benefiting almost exclusively from the recent economic recovery.

Not walking the walk of the talk they talk, House Republicans, en masse, voted for a $269 billion tax giveaway to the wealthiest 0.2% Americans. The House bill now moves to the Senate, where the Republican majority is eager to support it.

Under the plan, GOP lawmakers, who occasionally pretend to care about “fiscal responsibility,” would simply add the entire $269 billion cost to the deficit, leaving future generations to pay for a massive tax break for the hyper-wealthy.

At a time of rising economic inequality, House Republicans have prioritized a bill to make economic inequality worse on purpose. At a time in which much of Congress wants to make the deficit smaller, House Republicans have prioritized a bill to make the deficit much larger. At a time when prosperity is concentrated too heavily at the very top, House Republicans have prioritized a bill to deliver enormous benefits to multi-millionaires and billionaires – and no one else.

Asked to defend this, Republican House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters, confusing the facts, “The estate tax’s repeal is long overdue. Remember, all of this money that families have saved has all been taxed, much of it multiple times. Conservatives claim that the estate tax is a “death tax,” wrongly implying that the tax is paid when every American dies. In fact, the tax primarily is paid by estates of multi-millionaires and billionaires. The vast majority of deaths — 99.9% — do not trigger estate taxes today.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Preparing Big Data Social Media for Hillary

Bloomberg:

Meet the 21st-Century Political Alchemist Who’s Been Data-Mining for Hillary for the Past Two Years. The Bloomberg article gives a deep dive into the modern data-driven campaign with Obama veteran and Ready for Hillary senior strategist Mitch Stewart.

The 39-year-old Stewart has risen to the highest rank of Democratic operatives by thinking holistically about how those pieces of a modern campaign fit together, and how strategies and budgets need to change accordingly.

Read the full story at Bloomberg.com

Texas Photo I.D. Law Appeal Takes A Step Forward

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court has set April 28th as the date to hear oral arguments for the State of Texas' appeal of  U.S. Southern District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos' decision to block Texas' photo I.D. law. 

After a two-week trial hearing on the constitutionality of Texas' photo I.D. law conducted in September 2014, Judge Ramos struck down Texas' voter photo I.D. law with a 147-page opinion issued on October 9, 2014.

Judge Ramos found the law had been adopted “with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose,” created “an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote” and amounted to a poll tax.  Two days later, and less than two weeks before the start of early voting for the November 2014 gubernatorial election, Judge Ramos entered an injunction blocking the law.

Greg Abbott, the state attorney general for Texas and then Republican candidate for governor, immediately filed an emergency motion to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit asking that appellate court to stay Judge Ramos' final judgment pending appeal and asked for expedited consideration. The Fifth Circuit Court did stay Judge Ramos’s injunction saying, "We must consider this injunction in light of the Supreme Court’s hesitancy to allow such eleventh-hour judicial changes to election laws.

Plaintiffs in the District Court case immediately appealed the Fifth Circuit Court's decision with the Supreme Court. The brief filed with the Supreme Court said confusion at the polls was unlikely under Judge Ramos’s injunction. “Expanding the list of acceptable IDs will not disenfranchise any voter,” the brief said, “since the forms of ID acceptable under the old voter ID system include all forms of photo ID specified by” the 2011 law.

The Supreme Court upheld the appellate court's emergency stay against Judge Ramos’s injunction, allowing Texas to use its strict voter identification law in the November 2014 election.  The "emergency stay" blocking Judge Ramos' action to strike down Texas' photo voter ID law remains in place until the Fifth Circuit Court - and ultimately the Supreme Court - hear argument from the State of Texas and plaintiffs and rule on the case.

In the lead up to the April 28th oral argument date the Brennan Center will be releasing a series of stories from actual voters affected by the law in the 2014 general election. Click the link to read part one in the Brennan Center series.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Social Media Activist Seminar

This social media activist seminar, on Saturday, April 18th, at 9:00 a.m., Collin College, Frisco, will provide an introduction on how to effectively use social media to communicate with voters.

The seminar will include a general overview on using social media for voter outreach and activation and focus specifically on how to use Facebook.

We will cover tips and tricks on using social media for outreach and to welcome people to help spread the word about Democratic candidates and issue positions!

All activists, volunteers, precinct chairs, and anyone interested in helping elect democrats in 2016 and beyond are encouraged to attend!

Click to the Facebook events page for details and to tell us you are going to join us for this seminar.

‘Tea Party Patriot’ Realizes GOP Will Kill His Obamacare

A conservative video blogger with over a million views on YouTube said this week that he would likely vote for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton because he was terrified that a Republican president would take away his affordable health insurance.

James Webb, a 51-year-old YouTube Tea Party celebrity who devotes his “Hot Lead” channel to rightwing rants, revealed he is torn over which party to vote for in the 2016 election.

“And I’m serious because I asked myself, ‘Which party has helped me out the most in the last, I don’t know, 15 years, 20?’ And it was the Democrat [SIC] Party,” Webb lamented. “If it wasn’t for Obama and that Obamacare, I would still be working.”

“With Obamacare, I got to retire at age 50 because if it wasn’t for Obamacare, I would have had to work until I was 65 and get on Medicare because health insurance is expensive when you’ve got medical problems,” he continued.

“But you know, the Republican Party, they haven’t done nothing for me, man. Nothing,” he remarked. “So, I’m leaning toward voting for Hillary unless something major comes up.”

Web continues, “I don’t trust the Republicans anymore because they’re wanting to repeal the Obamacare. And I don’t want them to do that, man, because then I’ll have to go to work again. My life’s already planned out.”

“Just a tough decision,” Webb sighed. “I voted for Republicans for 32 years, I’m a charter member of my Tea Party Patriots chapter. I’m also a veteran of the U.S. Army under Reagan, when Reagan was in. That was great when Reagan was in there.”

“Things have changed. So unless the Republicans change with it, I’m probably going to have to swing my vote over toward Hillary.”

Congress Sends Medicare "Doc Fix" Bill To Pres. Obama

Tuesday night, Congress overwhelmingly passed a $214 billion bill to reform the way the Medicare program pays doctors. President Obama congratulated both chambers of Congress on passing the legislation by 392-37 in the House and 92-8 in the Senate, saying in a statement that he will be “proud to sign it into law.”

Passage of this major piece of legislation is regarded by all sides as a “historic move” and the perhaps the “biggest legislative accomplishment of the year” for the 114th Congress, which has so far been crippled by gridlock, mostly with internal factions of the Republican members of Congress.

2016 Political Web Ad Explosion

The 2016 presidential election may become the first election where more campaign advertising dollars are spent for social media and other web ads than for newspaper ads, direct mail, or telemarketing. If predictions are correct, web advertising spending pegged at almost $1 billion will be second after television/cable advertising spending.

In a Reuters report released Tuesday, online political advertising is projected to quadruple by 2016.

Predictions for 2016 show online advertising will consume only 8 percent of media budgets, or $955 million. But the growth is substantially up from $270 million in 2014 and just $14 million in 2010.

The main decision point for social media and other web ads is which voters will see what ads. Candidates have more tools than ever to micro target specific specific type of message specific types of voters.

Web ad targeting works like this: First, partisan data firms, like i360 and Data Trust on the right and Catalist and TargetSmart on the left, compile detailed analytic databases with demographic and geographical information on about 190 million registered voters.

Next, digital targeting firms like DSPolitical, CampaignGrid, and Targeted Victory, relate voter data to commercially available data like Internet tracking histories and real estate and tax records.For example: That, allows a Democratic candidate to display targeted web ads to voters in Dallas who had typed “climate change” into Google or typed “Democrat” in their Facebook profile.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Republicans Plan To Cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

Speaking in the early 2016 primary state of New Hampshire, want-to-be president New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced his intention to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Christie's plan largely follows the Republican Party's standard script to cut and eventually privatize those social programs. Christie's main points include:
  1. Raising full benefit retirement age from 66 to 69 - Christie wants to raise the retirement age to 69. He would gradually implement this change starting in 2022 and increase the retirement age by 2 months each year until it reaches 69. After that it would be indexed to gains in longevity.
  2. Raising early retirement from 62 to 64 - Christie proposes raising the early retirement age at a similar pace - raising it by 2 months per year beginning in 2022 until it reaches 64 from the current level of 62.
  3. Eliminate all Social Security benefits for those with income over $200,000, with a sliding reduction for those who have income between $80,000-$199,999. This would end Social Security as we know it, effectively converting it from a plan of universal social insurance to a welfare program that would be more vulnerable to further cuts. The strength of Social Security rests on a simple principle: Everyone pays in; everyone receives benefits.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hillary Clinton Officially Announces

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially announced her intention to seek the 2016 Democratic nomination for president on Sunday, ending speculation over her plans to pursue the Oval Office.

Clinton announced she is officially seeking the Democratic nomination to become the 45th President of the United States of America, via an email to supporters from top aide John Podesta, as CNBC reported.
The news came via an email to party stalwarts from John Podesta, a top Clinton adviser and a loyalist, who said Clinton would soon embark on a tour in Iowa.
Do not listen to anyone who tells you that partisan gridlock, the rightward-lean of the Democratic party, or Hillary’s centrism add up to there being no difference between political parties or between candidates: it matters very much to the future of this country who the next president will be!

Clinton’s campaign website, HillaryClinton.com, has just gone live with her first campaign ad placed at the top.


Friday, April 10, 2015

2016 Mobile Social Media Campaigns

As Hillary Clinton prepares to officially announce her Presidential campaign on Sunday, and want-to-be-president Republicans rush to announce their presidential campaigns, roughly two out of every three American adults, or 64 percent, own a smartphone, according to a recent report from Pew Research Center.

In the summer of 2014, smartphones and tablets accounted for 60 percent of Americans’ digital (social) media time, according to comScore. Sixty-eight percent of current smartphone owners use their phone to follow along with breaking news events, according to the Pew report. Just over 40% of voters ages 30-49 used their cell phone to follow 2014 election news, up from 15% in 2010.

Though mobile usage is highest among younger Americans, news consumption is quickly catching on even among older smartphone owners, as "four-in-ten smartphone owners ages 65 and older use their phone at least occasionally to keep up with breaking news.

Last summer, 58 percent of American adults owned a smartphone, up from just 35 percent of adults in the spring of 2011. Given how fast the migration to mobile is trending, it’s a safe bet America's digital (social) media time is even larger today, and will be yet larger by November Election Day 2016.

Who Uses What Social Media

Pew Research Center

A survey conducted by Pew Research Center finds Facebook remains by far the most popular social media site.

While Facebook user growth has slowed, the level of user engagement with the platform has increased. Other platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn saw significant user growth over the past year in the proportion of online adults who now use their sites.

The results in this report are based on American adults who use the internet. Other key findings:
While Facebook remains the most popular social media site, its overall growth has slowed and other sites continue to see increases in users.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Civil War Isn't Over

Today marks 150 years since General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his forces to Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army on April 9, 1865.

Yet, conservative southern states of the old confederate south reject ‘Obamacare’ because they don’t need the federal government messing with their states rights.

Of course, conservative southern states of the old confederate south are some of the most dependent on federal government funds in the country.

Mississippi, for example, gets around $3 in subsidies from the federal government for every $1 they pay the federal government in taxes. South Carolina gets $7.87 back for every $1 it sends in. Yes, that means states of the old confederate south are subsidized by those evil, Northern Yankee Aggressors.

Seriously, the questions at the heart of the war still occupy the nation.  “It is easy to proclaim all souls equal in the sight of God,” wrote James Baldwin in 1956 as the Civil Rights Movement took hold in America; “it is hard to make men equal on earth in the sight of men.” Philosophically and theologically, claims of human equality are as old as human civilization. The struggles for genuine equality of rights, of equality before law, and equality of opportunity continues to this day.

The profoundly sacred and legal journey toward equality before the law, and God, is not likely to arrive at a destination, rather its a long, grinding journey of human striving. Equality is inevitably a process of change balanced against individual rights, self-interests, material interests, and a diversity of definitions for “liberty.” The civil war over these issues will never truly be resolved.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Voter Turnout Changes Ferguson Mo

Independent Voter

Voters in the City of Ferguson, Missouri turned out in record numbers for city council elections Tuesday night. Nearly 30 percent of registered voters went to the polls, almost doubling the turnout of the last city election. The increase in turnout resulted in historic changes in the composition of the city council.

Before the elections, Ferguson, which is over two-thirds African-American, had only one black representative on the 6-person city council. After the ballots were counted Tuesday, two black candidates, Ella Jones and Wesley Bell, were elected to two seats formerly held by white members, marking the first time in Ferguson’s history that black members represent half of the city council.

The election comes one month after the Justice Department released a report detailing a broad pattern of racist police activity in the city’s police department, a claim many Ferguson citizens made in the wake of last year’s police shooting of Michael Brown.

To many in the city and in the national media, the Ferguson city elections represented a test as to whether the traumatic events of 2014 could turn voter apathy and drive citizens to the polls. The results of Tuesday’s election answered that test with a resounding call for change in the way the city leadership was comprised.

The new council will now have to navigate how to address the issues raised in the Justice Department’s report — a report that prompted the resignation of the police chief, the city manager, and a municipal judge whose fines on predominantly poor citizens acted as a source of revenue for the city.

Citizen Journalism For Justice And Democrocy

A white South Carolina police officer was arrested and charged with murder Tuesday after a video showed him fatally shooting a fleeing, unarmed black man in the back.

The video shows North Charleston Police Officer Michael T. Slager, 33, firing his service weapon eight times at 50-year-old Walter Scott, who was fleeing the officer after an alleged confrontation on Saturday during a routine traffic stop for a broken tail lamp.

The initial traffic stop itself may have been illegal. South Carolina Code only requires one working tail lamp. Automobiles are not required to meet inspection to a tag renewal. Some have speculated that it was Scott, a black man driving a Mercedez Benz, who drew the officer’s suspicion. Of more than 22,000 traffic stops in 2014 in North Charleston, 16,730 (76%) involved African Americans, much higher ratio than the city's 47 percent black residents. Two-thirds of stops that failed to produce a ticket or arrest involved black drivers.

There would have been no murder charges if a citizen reporter had not used his cell phone to video record North Charleston Officer Michael Slager shooting the 50-year-old unarmed black man, in the back, as many as eight times.

What if there had been no video? What if the incident had just been a situation where another unarmed black man was killed and the police officer wrote in his report, ‘this black man is dangerous,’  ‘he grabbed my taser,’ ‘I was afraid for my life,’ and ‘I had to shoot him to protect my life.’
But the video, taken by a citizen reporter, gives witness to such a police report.

The concept of citizen journalism (also known as "democratic" journalism) is based upon citizens playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information.

The proliferation of smartphones and social media empowers citizen reporters to take video while giving rolling commentary on live events, which they can immediately post and tweet online. Armed with smart video phones, and first-person accounts, citizen journalists are now capturing major news events and spreading the word by posting information on social media networks, blogs, and personal websites.

Citizen journalism has significantly created new opportunities and changed mainstream media in different ways. Citizen journalism has proven itself to be an effective part of news reporting and an asset to journalists and editors. As traditional newsrooms become more constrained by fewer and fewer staff reporters due to wave after wave of budget cuts, the availability of citizen journalist created content is an increasingly important source of news leads for mainstream news organizations.

Not only is citizen journalism effective for its immediacy but also people are telling their stories, where they live. When people who have known poverty, misfortune or injustice first-hand are authors of news, the world represented in the news expands and changes. A white South Carolina police officer arrested and charged with murder because a citizen reporter recorded video of him fatally shooting a fleeing unarmed black man in the back is yet another example of how digital technology can expand democracy.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Tea Party A Republican Party Realignment, NOT An Insurgency

Talking Points Memo:

"To understand Cruz's role in 2016, one must recognize that the Tea Party in Washington today is a not an insurgency from below. It is a realignment within the Republican establishment that has committed the party to a position of extreme non-compromise. As Megyn Kelly pointed out yesterday, Ted Cruz has put himself at the vanguard of that strategy. The willingness to naysay, more than any policy position or connection to the conservative grassroots, is what distinguishes him from other Republican presidential hopefuls.

Let's remember: The Tea Party, more than an organization or even a movement, was a political moment. In early 2009, the person and the policy proposals of President Barack Obama galvanized grassroots conservatives. But, after the exceptionally unpopular President Bush left office, the Republican brand was toxic and the party leadership was in disarray. Encouraged by conservative media, rank-and-file Republicans built ad hoc local "Tea Party" groups to oppose the new president's agenda. There was plenty of room at the top for any Republican who could seize the "Tea Party" momentum.

At the national level, those who profited were rarely actual newcomers. Instead, longtime conservative insiders like Dick Armey and Jim DeMint became "Tea Party" leaders. Although the adoption of the Tea Party name and symbolism gave a sense of novelty to this intra-party realignment, there is nothing new about the rightmost wing of the Republican Party except its ever-increasing authority.

Today, we are reaping the candidates the Tea Party has sown. One of these is Ted Cruz, whose 2012 campaign received support from several major players in the Tea Party field, including Jim DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund and Dick Armey's Freedom Works, as well as other longtime funders of the far right, like the Club for Growth. These players aren't new, but their degree of power is; the Republican Party has been growing more conservative for decades, and the Tea Party was only the latest step in that direction."

The full story at Talking Points Memo:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Conversation

NYTimes.com

For generations, parents of black boys across the United States have rehearsed, dreaded and postponed “The Conversation.” But when their boys become teenagers, parents must choose whether or not to expose their sons to what it means to be a black man here.

To keep him safe, they may have to tell the child they love that he risks being targeted by the police, simply because of the color of his skin. How should parents impart this information, while maintaining their child’s pride and sense of self? How does one teach a child to face dangerous racism and ask him to emerge unscathed?

This Op-Doc video is the NYT's attempt to explore this quandary, by listening to a variety of parents and the different ways they handle these sensitive discussions. In bringing about more public awareness that these conversations exist, we hope that someday they won’t be necessary.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Activism Spurs Change on Campuses

Millennials are sometimes called the "Me" generation, but they are the "We" generation when issues of racism and police brutality captured national attention, young college students across the nation answered the call for a new wave of activists.

College students all across the nation used social media platforms to collectively call for justice in the name of unarmed teen Michael Brown when he was gunned down by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

Medical students launched #WhiteCoats4BlackLives following the death of unarmed Staten Island father Eric Garner, which sparked nationwide die-ins at universities like Duke and Yale. More recently, students at the University of Virginia became a united front after fellow student Martese Johnson became the latest Black victim of police brutality.

Despite claims that social media would rot their brains or lead to their demise, college students of all races have utilized the tools they have today and the power of their collective voices to create tangible changes and widespread movements and spark national discussions.

more...

State Preempts Municipal Control Over Gas Drilling

On March 24, the Texas House of Representatives’ Energy Resources Committee passed a bill that would rescind the fracking ban in Denton and other efforts by local Texas municipalities to protect themselves from the oil and gas industry. Once language in the bill is finalized, the legislation will make its way to the full Texas Senate for a vote.

On March 23, hundreds turned up to speak out against State Rep. Drew Darby‘s (R - San Angelo) proposed House Bill 40 at a hearing in Austin that lasted more than eight hours. The committee has yet to vote on HB 40.  The Texas Senate Natural Resources  Economic Development Committee voted unanimously on March 24 to approve Senate Bill 1165.  SB 1165 is a bill with legislative language similar to HB 40 that also asserts the state’s preemptive right over local city control to regulate oil and gas development.

For over a decade, more than 300 cities have come up with their own ordinances to do things how they see fit within their city limits, a right the Texas constitution grants to cities. The bill would be retroactive making it impossible to enforce all local ordinances created in the last decade in more than 300 cities, according to the Texas Municipal League.

Read the full story at Desmogblog.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rag Radio: The Rise of Authoritarian Plutocracy in the U.S.

Progressive populist writer and radio commentator Jim Hightower was Thorne Dreyer's March 6, 2015, Rag Radio guest.

Thorne and Jim discussed issues raised in Jim's article, "What Occupy, the Climate March and #BlackLivesMatter have in common -- and why that should inspire us all,"  about the rise of an "authoritarian plutocracy" in the United States.


Jim Hightower was twice elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner, and has for years been a major force on the populist left.

Monday, March 23, 2015

SCOTUS Upholds Wisconsin Voter I.D. Law

by Michael Handley

The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected a challenge to Wisconsin's voter photo identification law. The Court's decision, today, to affirm Wisconsin's voter photo identification law, may foretell the Court's eventual decision on Texas' voter ID law.

On Friday, U.S. Supreme Court Justices discussed whether to hear a challenge to Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law, which a federal appeals court upheld last fall.  The law was briefly in effect for the February 2012 Wisconsin primary election, but it has been blocked by court action since then.

A federal district judge in Milwaukee, Lynn Adelman, declared the law unconstitutional in a decision last April and blocked enforcement of the law.

In October, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit overturned Adelman's decision, but the U.S. Supreme Court immediately stayed the 7th Circuit's order that Wisconsin could enforce the law.

The law has remained on hold while plaintiffs appealed the 7th Circuit's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ACLU filed a motion in January to the U.S. Supreme Court appealing the 7th U.S. Circuit Court’s ruling, but the Supreme Court today declined to accept the ACLU appeal.

The Supreme Court’s decision today clears the way for Wisconsin to enforce its voter photo identification law.

The challenge to the Wisconsin law is the first of the current round of cases to reach the Supreme Court after a full trial and appellate review, including the appellate process for the Texas voter ID case Veasey v. Abbott.  The Wisconsin law is similar to, but slightly less restrictive than, the Texas' voter I.D. law.

Ted Cruz Announces for President

Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced on twitter Sunday night that he will run for president of the United States. It has been barely three years since Cruz ascended to the political stage as a Texas tea party insurgent, toppling then Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst for the state’s Republican U.S. Senate nomination in the July 2012 primary runoff election.
Dewhurst, owner of an energy company, dominated Cruz 3-1 in campaign donations, raising more than $33 million. But super PAC and other outside spending on "soft" media buys increases the total money spent by or for Dewhurst to $39.5 million. Cruz's campaign raised just $10.2 million with pro-Cruz groups adding an estimated $8 million more in soft spending.

Dewhurst had more than a 2-1 advantage in campaign spending, used largely for old media advertising buys. And still, Tea Party favorite and former Texas solicitor general Cruz shellacked Dewhurst 55 percent to 45 percent. What happened to the old math of campaign spending in the 2012 Texas GOP primary? As they proved with big 2010 mid-term election Tea Party candidate wins, Tea Party groups have learned how to use the Internet communication channels to motivate voters and get out the vote. Candidate Cruz and his campaign staff have also proven to they understand how use Internet and mobile strategies and tactics to win elections.   

Cruz's announcement companion video
Cruz went on to win the 2012 general election beating his Democratic opponent by an overwhelming margin of 56 percent to 41 percent. Cruz was the first (Cuban) Hispanic to be elected to the U.S. Senate in the state. He must have won a substantial percentage of Hispanic voters and political independents, as well as conservative Democrats, to accumulate that statewide percentage among Texas voters in a presidential election year.

Nixon's Vietnam Treason

The new release of extended versions of Nixon's papers now confirms this long-standing belief, usually dismissed as a "conspiracy theory" by Republican conservatives. Now it has been substantiated by none other than right-wing columnist George Will.

Nixon's newly revealed records show for certain that in 1968, as a presidential candidate, he ordered Anna Chennault, his liaison to the South Vietnam government, to persuade them to refuse a cease-fire being brokered by President Lyndon Johnson.

Nixon's interference with these negotiations violated President John Adams's 1797 Logan Act, banning private citizens from intruding into official government negotiations with a foreign nation.

Published as the 40th Anniversary of Nixon's resignation approaches, Will's column confirms that Nixon feared public disclosure of his role in sabotaging the 1968 Vietnam peace talks. Will says Nixon established a "plumbers unit" to stop potential leaks of information that might damage him, including documentation that he believed was held by the Brookings Institute, a liberal think tank. The Plumbers' later break-in at the Democratic National Committee led to the Watergate scandal that brought Nixon down.

Nixon's sabotage of the Vietnam peace talks was confirmed by transcripts of FBI wiretaps. On November 2, 1968, LBJ received an FBI report saying Chernnault told the South Vietnamese ambassador that "she had received a message from her boss: saying the Vietnamese should "hold on, we are gonna win."

As Will confirms, Vietnamese did "hold on," the war proceeded and Nixon did win, changing forever the face of American politics—with the shadow of treason permanently embedded in its DNA.

Read the full story at Common Dreams

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Five Signs Of America'sTransformation

Put together our 1% elections controlled by a small group of billionaires who preselect our candidates by deciding who will get their money, the privatization of our government, the de-legitimization of Congress and the presidency, as well as the empowerment of the national security state and the U.S. military, and add in the demobilization of the American public (in the name of protecting us from terrorism), and you see the American political system is being transformed - not in a good way.

Full article at Alternet.org...

Civil War Issues Unresolved


In acknowledgment of the 150th anniversary of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, the theme of the Supreme Court Historical Society's 2015 four part Leon Silverman lecture series is “The Supreme Court and Reconstruction.”

On April 9, 1865 Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his beleaguered Confederate forces to Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army.  Lee's army, after the fall of Richmond and Petersburg, had been attempting to escape to the west so that he could link up with another Confederate army under Joseph E. Johnston.

Unfortunately for the Army of Northern Virginia, the fast moving Union Army of the Potomac positioned itself to cut off Lee's bedraggled army as it moved towards Lynchburg, Virginia.

At the Battle of Sailor's Creek on April 6, 1865, it was becoming clear that the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was dissolving. Rather than pursue a path of more bloodshed, Grant reached out to Lee asking for his surrender on April 7, 1865.  Lee, still not ready to surrender, continued to hold a dialog with his nemesis Grant while holding out hope that he could escape the growing Union stranglehold.  Only after his defeats at Appomattox Station on April 8, 1865, where critical supplies were captured, and Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865 did Lee finally accept Grant's surrender terms.

To end the fighting was an enormously consequential action. But equally consequential was that the war ended without a peace treaty. Five days after Lee surrendered, President Lincoln was assassinated and his vision of Reconstruction, including dissolving the entire leadership of the Confederacy and extending suffrage to at least some black men, died.

On March 11, the Supreme Court Historical Society presented the first installment of this year’s Leon Silverman Lecture Series with Michael A. Ross, Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland as the guest speaker.  Ross began his talk at the historical point when Lincoln was succeeded by Vice President Andrew Johnson, a Democrat from Tennessee – the last state to join the Confederacy.

A month into his presidency, Johnson had extended “sweeping amnesty” to southerners. Although few groups – including high-ranking Confederate Army officials, war criminals, and the planter class – were not given amnesty, they could still ask Johnson for a personal pardon, which he liberally bestowed over 7,000 times. Ultimately,  very few white southerners were disenfranchised. As for extending the franchise to blacks, Johnson famously declared that the United States ”is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am president, it shall be a government for white men.”

Click here to read about Ross' remarks, reported by SCOTUSblog...

C-SPAN Videos - Leon Silverman Lecture Series

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Republicans To Kill Medicaid

A centerpiece of the House and Senate Republican budgets is a plan to take away health care from 14.3-20.5 million Americans.

House and Senate Republicans plan to use two steps to take away health care from tens of millions of Americans. Step one is the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Step two is the conversion of Medicaid funding into a block grant.

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Local Elections Matter

When Denton's voters approved a ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) last November, it served as a testament that grassroots concerns about urban drilling could not be ignored.That is, until the Texas Legislature convened.

Two bills will be heard in the House Energy Resources Committee next Monday, March 23 that have the effect of muting the voices of those residents...and possibly yours as well.

HB 40 retroactively reverses Denton's fracking ban and prevents local governments from regulating most oil and gas operations. Similarly, HB 539 is designed to discourage local regulation of urban drilling.

Don't let Austin silence your voice, and impose their will over that of local voters!!

If you can't attend Monday's hearing (State Capitol, E2.010), my friends at Earthworks created this tool to allow you to tell that committee you oppose these bills.

Steve Brown

Running For Elected Office In 2016

The Tuesday, March 1st, 2016 Texas primary election to nominate candidates from each political party for the Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 general election is less than one year distant. Each political party's nominee candidates must file an application with their respective party's county or state chairperson to have their name placed on the party's primary ballot.

The 2016 primary election filing period runs from Monday, November 16, 2015 through the filing deadline date of  6 p.m. Monday, December 14, 2015. An application for the office of precinct chair may be filed from the 90th day before the date of the regular filing deadline - Monday, September 21, 2015. (Texas election code Sec. 172.023, if not changed during the 2015 legislative session.)

List of offices:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Wall Street Bonuses Twice Combined Earnings of All Americans

Institute for Policy Studies

The $28.5 billion in bonuses doled out to 167,800 Wall Street employees is double the annual pay for all 1,007,000 Americans who work full-time at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Wall Street bonuses rose 3 percent last year, despite a 4.5 percent decline in industry profits. The size of the bonus pool was 27% higher than in 2009, the last time Congress increased the minimum wage.

These annual bonuses are an extra reward on top of base salaries in the securities industry, which averaged $190,970 in 2013.

To put these figures in perspective, we’ve compared the Wall Street payout to low-wage workers’ earnings. We’ve also calculated how much more of a national economic boost would be gained if similar sums were funneled into the pockets of the millions of workers on the bottom end of the pay scale.

More... Wall Street Bonuses v. Minimum Wage Earners

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Threat to Social Security & Medicare Grows

According the The Hill newspaper, Senate Republicans and moderate conservative Democrats are looking at crafting a renewed attack on middle-class Social Security and Medicare earned benefits under the so-called “Grand Bargain” banner.

With Republicans now in control of the US Senate, "Wall Street Senators" of both parties are again attempting to revive misguided actions promoted in the flawed Bowles-Simpson deficit commission report of December 2010. Senators Erskin Bowles and Alan Simpson, were forced to issue their own report after they couldn’t get enough support from Senators of either party serving on the commission they chaired.