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.

Read More...

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.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Selma and Texas' Discriminatory Voter I.D. Law

by Michael Handley

Thousands gathered with President Obama this weekend at Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, site of Selma’s “Bloody Sunday” march on March 7, 1965.

They gathered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a brutal police assault on civil rights demonstrators that spurred the passage of the Voting Rights Act in August 1965. In 1963, only 156 of 15,000 eligible black voters in Selma, Alabama, were registered to vote.

The federal government filed four lawsuits against Alabama county registrars between 1963 and 1965, but the number of black registered voters only increased from 156 to 383 during that time. The federal government couldn’t keep up with the pace and intensity of voter suppression with existing laws.

The Voting Rights Act,  signed by President Johnson in August 1965, ended the blight of voting discrimination in places like Selma by eliminating the literacy tests and poll taxes that prevented so many people from voting. (VRA)

The Selma of yesteryear is reminiscent of the current situation in Texas, where one of the nation's most restrictive voter photo ID laws remains enforce.  This restrictive and discriminatory law has been twice blocked by federal courts finding it to be a discriminatory poll tax, but it has been twice revived by the Supreme Court. The law remains enforce today, but the struggle for voting rights continues.  Read on...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Voter Registration and I.D. Requirements

A by Michael Handley

VOTER REGISTRATION -- You MUST be registered to vote in the county in which you currently reside, and have a currently dated government issued photo I.D., to vote in any Texas election. You must be registered, or have mailed your registration application to be postmarked, no later than midnight of  the thirtieth day before the election date.

Every registered Texas voter should have received their new 2014-15 orange Voter Registration Card (VRC), mailed during the first part of January 2014, or within thirty days after you submitted your registration application. If you asked to register to vote while updating your driver's license with the Texas DPS, and you never received a VRC, your registration application may not have been processed.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Charting 2014 Collin County Turnout

by Michael Handley

Over all, the national turnout was 36.3 percent; only the 1942 federal election had a lower participation rate at 33.9 percent. The reasons are likely voter apathy and negative perceptions of both political parties. Republicans ran a single-theme negative campaign against President Obama, and Democrats were unwilling to campaign on how much the national economy has improved or to point out significant achievements of Democratic policies over the six years of Obama's presidency.

Neither party gave voters an affirmative reason to show up at the polls so Millennials didn't bother to votesingle women were a little less pro-Democratic than usual, and the racial divide among voters remains stark. One number stands out above all others: 64 percent of older white men voted Republican. It's the "widest GOP advantage in this group in data since 1984," according to ABC News.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Historically Low 2014 Voter Turnout - Why?

General election voter turnout for the 2014 midterms was the lowest it's been in any election cycle since World War II, according to the United States Election Project. Just 36.4 percent of the voting-eligible population cast ballots on November 4, 2014.

The last time voter turnout was so low during a midterm cycle was in 1942, when only 33.9 percent of eligible voters cast ballots. Like many, I'm asking the question - why did only 36.4 percent of potential voters bother to vote in the 2014 midterm election? Obviously, those voters didn't have a good enough reason to take the trouble to vote.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Texas' Voter I.D. Law Found Discriminatory

After a two-week trial hearing conducted in September 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales 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.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a six-page  dissent to the court’s order saying the court’s action “risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.” Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the dissent.  Justice Ginsburg wrote, the law “may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification. A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic.” Justice Ginsburg added that, “racial discrimination in elections in Texas is no mere historical artifact.”

The "emergency stay" blocking Judge Ramos' action to strike down Texas' photo voter ID law will remain in place while the State of Texas appeals Ramos' ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court - and ultimately the Supreme Court - for a final determine.