Sunday, July 5, 2015

Texas Republicans: Divorce Government From Marriage

Rather than accept the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that state bans on gay marriage are unconstitutional, Texas' social conservative Republicans want to transfer the authority to issue marriage licenses from county clerks to church clergy.

Texas State Representative David Simpson (R-Longview) is urging Gov. Abbott to declare a special session of the Texas Legislature to consider a bill to do exactly that.

Under Simpsons bill, couples would no longer go to the county clerks office to obtain their marriage license. Rather, they would go to their choice of church to ask the Priest, Pastor, Minister, Rabbi, etc. permission to obtain their marriage certificate. Rep. Simpson writes in an editorial in TribTalk,

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Bernie Sanders Draws Record Iowa Audience

The biggest Iowa crowd so far for any presidential candidate turned out on Friday night, July 3rd, in Council Bluffs, Iowa to hear Senator Bernie Sanders speak. At least 2,600 people filled the 2,300 chairs at the Mid-America Convention Center and stood at the rear of the convention hall.

The crowed cheered when he called for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. They applauded when he said it’s time to break up the big banks on Wall Street. They shouted approval when he credited Pope Francis for his call for bold action to prevent catastrophic climate change. They rose to their feet when he said the United States should join every other major country and provide health care as a right of citizenship.

The issues Senator Sanders talks about appear to resonate with voters, capturing their mood be the issue financial reform, income disparity, health care policy, jobs, affordable college education, expanding Social Security, foreign policy, economic policy, climate change, environmental protection -- even on the so-called wedge issues such as gay marriage, abortion etc – for the most part the majority of voters agree with Bernie:

Friday, July 3, 2015

Pres. Obama Speaks At University of Wisconsin

President Obama delivers remarks on the economy at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, WI. July 2, 2015.

President Barack Obama took a jab at the rapidly expanding field of GOP presidential candidates, comparing the 14 declared Republican hopefuls to “The Hunger Games.”
“They’re going to be making a whole bunch of stuff up, and when I say a lot of stuff, I mean a lot of stuff,” the President told the University of Wisconsin audience, Thursday.

“You know, we’ve got some healthy competition in the Democratic Party, but I’ve lost count on how many Republicans are running for this job. They’ll have enough for an actual ‘Hunger Games,'” Pres. Obama joked.
Pres. Obama then compared the “bus full” of candidates to your crazy “Uncle Harry” at Thanksgiving who says stuff “that makes no sense. You still love him,” the president said. “He’s still a member of your family. Right? But you’ve got to correct him. You don’t want to put him in charge of stuff.”

Pres. Obama compared the recent economic performance of Wisconsin under Mr. Walker with that of its neighbor Minnesota, where Democrats have been in charge. He pointed out that Minnesota had raised taxes on the wealthy, increased the minimum wage and expanded its Medicaid program to offer health insurance to more of the needy — none of which has happened in Wisconsin. Minnesota’s unemployment rate is lower, he said, and its median income is higher. “Minnesota’s winning this border battle,” Pres. Obama said.

Complaint Filed Against Tx AG Paxton For Same-Sex Marriage License Letter

Former State Representative and current Texas Democratic Party County Affairs Director Glen Maxey, Texas’ first openly gay legislator, filed a complaint against Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton with the State Bar Association.

The complaint comes after Attorney General Paxton issued an opinion in a letter on June 28th -- requested by Lt. Governor Dan Patrick -- advising Lt. Gov. Patrick that Texas County Clerks may — on religious grounds — ignore the U.S. Supreme Court's order that they must issue same-sex marriage licenses.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Solar Electric Production In U.S. Higher Than Estimated

Actual solar photovoltaic electricity production in the United States is 50% higher than previous estimates, according to new analysis by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and kWh Analytics.

All told, analysts found that solar energy systems in the U.S. generated 30.4 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity in the 12 months ending in March 2015. Three states - California, Arizona, and Hawaii – can now say that solar provides more than 5% of their total annual electricity demand. (

Use Of Public Funds For Private Schools Is UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Colorado’s Supreme Court struck down a private school voucher program that redirects to private schools public taxes dollars collected to fund public schools.

The New York Times reports:
The split decision to throw out the voucher program in Douglas County, Colorado’s third-largest school district, was a blow to conservative education advocates and those who want to redefine public education to funnel tax dollars directly to families who then choose the type of schooling they want for their children.

The state’s Supreme Court ruled against the district’s voucher program, which was passed in 2011, saying it violated a plank of the State Constitution that explicitly prevents public money from going to schools “controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever.”
“This stark constitutional provision makes one thing clear,” Colorado chief justice Nancy E. Rice wrote in the court’s opinion. “A school district may not aid religious schools.” Americans United for Separation of Church and State notes that the U.S. Department of Education reports 76 percent of private schools have a religious affiliation, and more than 80 percent of students who attend private schools are enrolled in religious institutions. 

To read more about public school privatization in Texas, click Private School Vouchers Rob Public Schools.

Investigation of Texas Attorney General Paxton Going To Grand Jury

WFAA 8 News Dallas reports Texas Attorney General Paxton faces first-degree felony indictment.
The criminal investigation against Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has taken a more serious turn, with special prosecutors now planning to present a first-degree felony securities fraud case against him to a Collin County grand jury, News 8 has learned.

Special prosecutor Kent Schaffer told News 8 Wednesday afternoon that the Texas Rangers uncovered new evidence during the investigation that led to the securities fraud allegations against the sitting attorney general.

“The Rangers went out to investigate one thing, and they came back with information on something else,” Schaffer told News 8. “It’s turned into something different than when they started.”

Schaffer, a Houston criminal defense attorney, said the securities fraud allegations involve amounts well in excess of $100,000. He declined to comment specifics of the fraud allegations.

A first-degree felony conviction is punishable by up to life in prison.
From January 2013 until January 2015, Paxton represented Collin County in the Texas Senate, District 8, which includes most of the city of Plano in Collin County, and parts of surrounding Collin County cities, including Allen, Frisco, and McKinney. From 2003 to 2013, he represented Collin County in the Texas House of Representatives, District 70. Paxton practiced law in his McKinney law office during the years he served in the state legislature.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sen. Bernie Sanders Draws Record Audience In Wisconsin

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke before the largest crowd drawn by any candidate in 2016 at a rally in Madison, Wisconsin. Sanders announced at the beginning of his speech that they drew the most people to a rally of any candidate this year.

PoliticusUSA reported a record-breaking crowd of 10,000-13,000 filled the venue to capacity with an overflow crowd outside the venue. The Sanders campaign reports it received over 13,000 RSVPs for the event.

Veterans Memorial Coliseum holds 10,000 people inside, but the crowd was so large the audio of Sanders’ speech was piped outside to the people who  couldn't get in.

The event was live streamed on YouTube which drew more than 7,000 online viewers:

Sen. Bernie Sanders campaign Rally
Madison, Wisconsin, July 1, 2015

The Madison rally set the record for the largest crowd at a campaign event by a 2016 candidate in either party. Hillary Clinton’s rally in New York City drew 5,500, and no Republican has drawn an organic crowd that is close to the thousands Bernie Sanders consistently attracts on the campaign trail. Bernie Sanders’ economic message about inequality and the need to take the country back from the billionaires has resonated deeply with millions of Americans, and those voters are coming out by the thousands to support their candidate.

Photo credit Dan Merica

Those in the media who dismiss something happening among the nation's electorate should find a wake-up call in the Madison rally turnout, and Sander's regular strong turnout numbers for his campaign stops.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hillary Clinton at the 2015 U.S. Conference of Mayors

Hillary Clinton spoke at the 83rd Annual Meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors on the need to address systemic racism in the wake of the shooting in Charleston.

Why It's Okay for County Clerks to Quit Over Gay Marriage

When I hear about county clerks who have decided to quit over their bigoted objection to gay marriage, I don't find myself getting upset.

In Texas, County Clerks are elected and serve 4-year terms. They must be at least 18 years of age and they don't need a college degree. In cities with a population of 100,000 or more, their salaries range from $55,826 per year (Kaufman County) to $143,634 per year (Tarrant County).

Teachers in Kaufman County make $38,248 per year as a starting salary, and $44,361 per year after 10 years of experience. Teachers in Tarrant County make $41,083 per year starting out, and $50,272 after a decade of work.

Teachers can be, and often are, fired for publicly stating their positions on political and social matters. They can be fired for being seen by parents while having drinks after work. They can be fired for their students not performing well on the STAAR tests. For the most part, Texas teachers do not have contracts extending more than 1 year, which in reality is a contract binding them to the district rather than preventing the district from firing them.

Oh, and public school teachers typically have to have a college degree, and all the student loan debt that comes with it.

So when I hear about county clerks who have decided to quit over their bigoted objection to gay marriage, I don't find myself getting upset. I find myself smiling. Someone will be willing to step up and do the job. Heck, any 18-year-old is qualified.

Michael Messer
Friendly Neighborhood Democrats

Click to read more about the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Marriage Equality.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Fires At 6 Black Churches In 5 Southern States

Since nine people were killed in the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, allegedly by a 21-year-old white man tied to white supremacist groups, there have been a string of arson attacks on other black churches in the South.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, at least six predominantly black churches in four Southern states have been damaged or destroyed by fire in the past week. While some may have been accidental, at least three have been determined to be the result of arson.

Black churches have frequently been targets of violence. Since 1956, there have been by most counts about 100 incidents of shootings, bombings, arson, or vandalism against black churches. One particular incident stood out during the Civil Rights Movement, when four young girls were killed and 22 were injured at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. That, however, is likely a significant  under count.

Spikes in violence rise and fall with white supremacist rhetoric, with more than 30 black churches burned within 18 months in 1995 and 1996. That led to the passage of the Church Arson Prevention Act in 1996, which gave federal authorities more oversight of such crimes, increased sentencing, and reauthorized the Hate Crimes Statistics Act.

The Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston has its own long history of violence. It’s the oldest A.M.E. church in the South, dating back to 1791 when it was formed by free blacks and slaves. But in 1822, it was burned to the ground after one of its founders attempted to plan a slave revolt.

Listen to a NPR report: Investigators Probe Fires At 6 Black Churches In 5 Southern States

Friday, June 26, 2015

SCOTUS Strikes At Prison Industrial Complex Profits

The other SCOTUS decision handed down on Friday, June 26th, is on “three strikes incarceration sentencing minimums” for felons on their third conviction.

The Johnson v. United States case challenged the “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act, which mandates a 15-year sentence for any federal firearms offender with three prior (residual) convictions for a felony. This was the fifth time since 2007 that the Supreme Court had to issue an opinion on the constitutionality of the residual clause.

This case arises out of the Armed Career Criminal Act, which imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of fifteen years on a federal firearms offender who has three convictions for a felony. In the Johnson case, the government used the “residual clause' to enhance Samuel Johnson’s prison sentence because of a prior conviction of possession of a sawed off shotgun.

The question before the Court was whether possession of a sawed-off shotgun constitutes a felony. Johnson argued that he shouldn’t be subjected to a harsher sentence, because the definition of what was considered “violent” was unconstitutionally vague. SCOTUS agreed with Johnson and issued a 7-1 ruling in his favor.

President Obama Gives Eulogy at Clementa Pinckney Funeral Service

President Obama delivers a eulogy for state Senator Clementa Pinckney, who was one of nine victims in the June 17, 2015, shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.


Marriage Equality

UPDATE 11:00 PM July 1, 2015

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a ruling shortly before 5 p.m. on Wednesday finding that the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges overrides state laws and constitutional amendments limiting marriage to couples of one man and one woman.

The federal appeals court directed the district courts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas to issue final orders ending enforcement of the states’ respective bans on same-sex couples’ marriages. Part of the 5th Circuit's order for Texas in the case reads:
While this appeal was under submission, the Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges, No. 14-556, 2015 U.S. LEXIS 4250 (U.S. June 26, 2015). In summary, the Court declared that the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this lib- erty be denied to them. Baker v. Nelson [, 409 U.S. 810 (1972),] must be and now is overruled, and the State laws challenged by petitioners in these cases are now held invalid to the extent they exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.
UPDATED 4:20 PM Wednesday, July 1, 2015: The Texas Attorney General's office has conceded a separate legal challenge to the state's ban on same-sex marriage brought by two same-sex couples last year.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals took up the case in January, almost a year after U.S. District Judge Orlando L. Garcia of San Antonio ruled the state's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional because it “violates plaintiffs’ equal protection and due process rights.” The state's appeal to the 5th Circuit had been left pending.

Scott Keller, Texas' solicitor general, wrote in a letter to 5th Circuit Justices the appellate court should affirm Judge Garcia's ruling against Texas' ban on same-sex marriage. The letter responds to the appellate court's request that the state and plaintiffs advise the court on their planned next steps in the Texas case, after the higher's ruling.

More than 100 of Texas' 254 counties are now confirmed to be issuing or prepared to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The DMN has an interactive map of counties issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Glen Maxey, Texas Democratic Party Legislative Affairs Director, has been listing counties issuing licenses on his personal Facebook timeline – here.

UPDATED 3:30 PM Sunday, June 28, 2015

State Attorney General Ken Paxton tells County Clerks they may refuse — on religious grounds — to issue same-sex marriage licenses. As reported by the Dallas Morning News.

UPDATED 1:30 PM Friday,  June 26, 2015

As of 1:30 PM Friday, June 26, 2015 - The Office of Collin County Clerk says the County Clerk is currently seeking legal council on the question of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. They have no estimate on when they might reach a decision on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The official statement from the Collin County Clerk further states that if the decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses is reached, it may take some time to implement changes to computer data bases and systems and office procedures to be able to actually issue those licenses.

County Clerks across most Texas counties, today, offer a similar statement on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

10:45 AM Friday, June 26, 2015

The Supreme Court today ruled in favor of marriage equality when Justice Kennedy handed down the 5-4 majority opinion in the in the Obergefell v. Hodges same-sex marriage case. The ruling makes same-sex marriage immediately possible in all 50 states, even states like Texas that outlaw same-sex marriage in the state constitution.

When oral arguments were made before the Supreme Court Justices, Chief Justice John Roberts seemed surprised to find out religion and the First Amendment religious establishments clause in the U.S. Constitution have nothing to do with the legality of marriage.

Friendly Neighborhood Democrats

Who are the Friendly Neighborhood Democrats?

This is the most common question I have been asked since the Facebook page was created. The answer is simply, "Anyone who wants to help redefine the Democratic Party through direct advocacy." We are a loose-knit group of liberal and progressive activists who believe that action speaks louder than words.

What do the Friendly Neighborhood Democrats do?

We engage in local community service to actively demonstrate our values in a tangible way. We publicly brand these actions by wearing one of our inexpensive "Friendly Neighborhood Democrats" t-shirts.

When do the Friendly Neighborhood Democrats work?

We encourage you to find charities that are local to where you live and to offer assistance whenever possible. While we will have a monthly event posted on our Facebook page, we hope that you will take it upon yourself to find ways to be involved in your community.

Where do the proceeds from the t-shirts go (and where can I buy one)?

The money raised from the t-shirts goes to local charities, not the Democratic Party or any of its affiliates. You can purchase one by going to the link pinned to the top of the Friendly Neighborhood Democrats Facebook page.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Texas Young Democrats 2015 Convention - June 26-28

Join the Millennial Texas Young Democrats Convention in Austin this weekend - June 26-28 - for their 2015 Biennial Convention.

The America of the near future will look nothing like the America of the recent past. We see a generational transformations of our political and social values, our economic well-being, our family structure, our racial and ethnic identity, our gender norms, our religious affiliation, and our technology use.

Today’s Millennial Young Democrats are well-educated, tech savvy, underemployed twenty and thirty somethings at risk of becoming the first generation in American history to have a lower standard of living than their parents thanks to the conservative political agenda of the Republican Party over the last 35 years.

Millennials are the largest voting generation in American history. Born between 1979 and 1998, they are 95 million strong, compared to 78 million Baby Boomers. They are independent—politically, socially, and philosophically—and they are spearheading a period of sweeping change in America.

Click Here for more information on the Texas Young Democrats Convention in Austin this weekend - June 26-28 - for their 2015 Biennial Convention.

So You're a Texan for Hillary...

First and foremost, I want to thank you for your interest in politics. Believe it or not, it's a rare thing right now in our nation for people not only to care enough to vote, but to also research candidates and make an informed decision. With your help and a decent strategy, I believe we can turn the political tides in favor of a strong middle-class.

For those of you who have yet to determine which presidential candidate would best represent you, here is a link to a detailed questionnaire on Many of the questions have links for further information.

If after you take the quiz you find that Bernie Sanders is your best option, click here.

Alright. Now that you've decided on Hillary, let's go over five things you can do to help her win.

So You're a Texan for Bernie...

First and foremost, I want to thank you for your interest in politics. Believe it or not, it's a rare thing right now in our nation for people not only to care enough to vote, but to also research candidates and make an informed decision. With your help and a decent strategy, I believe we can turn the political tides in favor of a strong middle-class.

For those of you who have yet to determine which presidential candidate would best represent you, here is a link to a detailed questionnaire on Many of the questions have links for further information.

If after you take the quiz you find that Hillary Clinton is your best option, click here.

Alright. Now that you've decided on Bernie, let's go over five things you can do to help him win.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

School Privatization Primer

Originally Published at Curmudgucation Blog by Peter Greene:

Every once in a while I try to take the many complicated and twisty threads, back up, and tie them into a bigger picture. Think of this as the kind of post you can share with people who don't read blogs about education every single day (no kidding-- there are such people, and they're too busy doing the work to spend time reading about doing the work).

There are many threads to the reformy movement in education, but perhaps the most predominant one is the push for privatization. Many folks look at education and they just see a gigantic pile of money that has previously gone untouched. To them, education is a multi-billion dollar industry that nobody is making real profit from.

Many of the aspects and features of what I'm about to lay out appeal to other sorts of folks for other sorts of reasons, but here is how they fit into the agenda of privatizers.

Step One: Create Failure

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

POTUS Does Podcast

President Obama talked for an hour on comedian Marc Maron’s WTF podcast program, episode 613, recorded live last Friday. President Barack Obama used the n-word during during the podcast discussion to make a point America continues to struggle with racism.

President Obama used the podcast format to have frank discussion of the issues as the nation examines the role racism played in a white supremacist killing nine African-Americans last week in a historically black church in Charleston.
"Racism, we are not cured of it. And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public," Obama said.

"That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior."

Marc Maron’s WTF podcast program, episode 613 - MP3

"I always tell young people, in particular, do not say that nothing has changed when it comes to race in America, unless you've lived through being a black man in the 1950s or '60s or '70s. It is incontrovertible that race relations have improved significantly during my lifetime and yours," Obama said. But he added that "the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination" exists in institutions and casts "a long shadow and that's still part of our DNA that's passed on."
Pres. Obama’s statement, that there is less American racism in 2015 than there was in 1965, is undoubtedly correct. Yet, last week, a white man walked into an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. He sat inside the congregation for an hour, as churchgoers engaged in Bible study. Then he announced to the African American congregants that they are “taking over our country,” and he opened fire, killing nine men and women. That young white man was moved to violence by reading racist writings on the Council of Conservative Citizens website and other racist organization websites that promote white primacy. While Jim Crow segregation can not today be openly practiced, the racist beliefs behind those once prevalent Jim Crow laws remains alive and common across the states of the old confederate south.

Monday, June 22, 2015

84th Texas Legislature Wrap Up

Update Monday, June 22, 2015 at 11:00 PM - Any bills that passed the Texas House and Senate this year and escaped Gov. Greg Abbott's veto pen are now law. (Bills vetoed by Gov. Abbott)

Lawmakers this year filed 11,332 bills and resolutions and managed to pass 5,535 of those submissions. Many of those 11,332 filings were duplicate bills and language of some of the filed bills that did not advance was added into related bills as amendments.

Under Texas law, the governor can sign or veto bills passed by the legislature, or let them become law after 20 days without his signature. The governor has until June 21st to act to veto bills passed in the last 10 days of the session. After that date bills automatically become law.

Election Law Bills Passed By The 2015 Texas Legislature

Updated Monday 06/22/15 at 10:00 p.m. The 2015 84th Texas Legislature regular session ended on Monday, June 1, 2015, the 140th day of the session. The following election related bills were passed and sent to Gov. Abbott to sign into law or veto. The governor had 20 days from June 1 to sign or veto bills passed by the legislature during the last 10 days of the session. Bills not already signed or vetoed by June 21, 2015 have become law with an effected date as noted by Last Action note.  Click the more jump.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pope Francis Issues Encyclical On Climate Change

Pope Francis today issued his anticipated 'Laudato Si' Encyclical (authoritative teaching document) on the environment and climate change, calling on Catholics worldwide to make safeguarding the environment and battling climate change an urgent and top priority of the 21st century.

Pope Francis says most climate change is caused by human activity and calls it one of the most important moral issues facing society. The Pope has repeated over recent months, "Creation is a gift from God, and we have a moral responsibility to be responsible stewards of that gift for all of humanity and all life our planet."

In his encyclical message to the world’s 5,000 Catholic bishops and 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis makes clear, unlike previous encyclicals, his message is directed to everyone, regardless of religion.
"Faced with the global deterioration of the environment, I want to address every person who inhabits this planet," the pontif writes. "In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home."
The pontiff calls for an ethical and economic revolution to prevent catastrophic climate change and growing inequality. The pontiff lays out his case that humanity’s exploitation of the planet’s resources has crossed the Earth’s natural carrying boundaries, and the world faces ruin without a revolution in hearts and minds of humanity:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The National Gold Depository of Texas

In a move that harkens back to the Civil War Era "Confederate Dollar" monetary system created by rebellious confederate southern states, just before the shooting started, Texas Governor Greg Abbott last week signed House Bill 483 to establish a state gold bullion depository.  The gold depository will be administered by the Office of the Comptroller.

The gold bullion depository created by HB483 will serve as the custodian, guardian and administrator of bullion that may be transferred to or otherwise acquired by the State of Texas.

Governor Abbott issued the following statement about the bill he signed:
“Today I signed HB 483 to provide a secure facility for the State of Texas, state agencies and Texas citizens to store gold bullion and other precious metals. With the passage of this bill, the Texas Bullion Depository will become the first state-level facility of its kind in the nation, increasing the security and stability of our gold reserves and keeping taxpayer funds from leaving Texas to pay for fees to store gold in facilities outside our state."
Sponsors intend for Texas to repatriate $1 billion of gold bullion from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s vault in lower Manhattan to Texas, preparing for the U.S. currency collapse and financial Armageddon (or secessionist revolution) conservatives are convinced is just around the corner. (One of the problems with this, of course, is that Texas has no gold on deposit in any federal reserve, nor in Fort Knox. There is also the inconvient fact that Texas falls under the Federal Reserve of Dallas, not New York, so any such request would be filed with their local Reserve branch.)

The Secret

Political awareness
Will at times to you bestow
A sense of purpose, bold and bright
And with it you must show
That working with each other
We can watch our nation grow
That all our lives are sacred
And as such it's apropos
To organize and make allies
So we can overthrow
Those small of heart who make an art
Of selling status quo
When we stand up all together
We will end their puppet show

Friday, June 12, 2015

Behind the Mask: North Texans for Natural Gas

It's another beautiful day here in North Texas. The skies are a soft baby blue. Tufts of puffy, white clouds hang innocent against the haze of the Dallas skyline. Moments like this, a man might forget the recent and malicious deluge and the upcoming week of predicted thunderstorms. The lakes are full and glistening, and an abundance of storks search for fish in newly formed ponds. Joggers and their dogs move slow and sure through nearby trails, taking in the verdant foliage. The air is...

(cough... hack... wheeze...)


You see, here in North Texas we live on what is known as the Barnett Shale. Underneath us is an incredibly large amount of fossil fuels in the form of oil and gas. Corporations have been drilling here as far back as 1981, and they aren't too keen on stopping anytime soon.

The recent decision by Denton's voters to restrict the possibility of future leases caught the industry off guard, mostly because it had spent a great deal of money bribing, fooling, and outright threatening the city. After the fracking ban was passed, Big O&G didn't waste more than a day before suing the city and lining the pockets of our state legislators to pass HB 40, which "gave exclusive jurisdiction over the oil and gas industry to the state government, prohibiting local oil and gas-related ordinances, initiatives and regulations."

So the story pretty much goes like this: Big O&G discovers a wealth of oil and gas under North Texans' feet and start drilling. After decades, scientists discover that the drilling is bad for the environment. The people decide they value breathing more than the pittance Big O&G gives them in royalties. Big O&G buys the legislature and the people are silenced.

But wait. There's more.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Koch Bros and GOP At War Over Voter Data

The Republican National Committee’s data arm last year called it a “historic” occasion when it struck a deal to share voter information with the Koch brothers’ rapidly expanding political empire. Oops... Read the story at Yahoo

What was once a staid, mainstream political party full of Rotary Club businessmen, hard-scrabble farmers and pillars of America’s communities has become a boisterous bunch of rebellious revolutionaries. The origin story of how this came to pass is well documented in histories like Rick Perlstein’s “Before the Storm” “Nixonland” and “The Invisible Bridge,” which (among other things) trace the spirit that rose out of the rubble of the 1964 debacle of the Goldwater campaign and grew into the movement that has dominated American politics for over 30 years.

Its ideology became a matter of faith-based adherence to abstract principles about “freedom” and “small government” even as the Republican Party made a devil’s bargain with both the religious right, which sought to enforce “family values,” and the military industrial complex, which grew to gargantuan proportions under both parties. These alliances were strategic moves by the Party elders seeking a winning governing coalition and it worked beautifully for decades. They formed a strong “conservative” identity out of this coalition, while demonizing the identity of liberalism to such an extent that liberals were forced to abandon it altogether and adopt another name to describe themselves.

Meanwhile, the party banked on overweening victimization among its mainly white, resentful voters in the wake of the revolution in law and culture that began in the 1960s with civil rights for minorities and the economic and social changes that sent women pouring into the workplace and changing the traditional organization of family and home. This too worked very well for quite some time. Fear, anger and resentment of everything from racial integration to middle class stagnation to imaginary foreign threats became intrinsic to the Republican identity.

All of this was of great benefit to the Republican party’s electoral success and the message discipline within the echo chamber of their partisan media ensured that the ideology among the various strands of the Republican coalition held together in what sounded like a coherent program. But it never really was coherent.

Freedom and small government are often in conflict with social conservatism which seeks to enshrine its religious values into law. Small government and low taxes are in conflict with an imperial foreign policy and national security establishment that demands vast sums of money and requires that much of it be spent in secret. Essentially the three legs of the GOP bar stool have always been in tension.

The party started to lose its bearings as long ago, as in the ’90s when it took on the self-righteousness of a religious crusade with its unwillingness to accept the legitimacy of a Democratic president.

Read the rest of the story at

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Decline of US House Elections Incumbency Advantage

Republicans enjoy a long-standing structural advantage in the distribution of partisans across districts, so this trend has strengthened their grip on the House even as they have become less competitive in contests for the presidency.

With little fanfare, the electoral advantage enjoyed by US representatives has fallen over the past several elections to levels not seen since the 1950s. The incumbency advantage has diminished in conjunction with an increase in party loyalty, straight-ticket voting, and president-centered electoral nationalization, products of the widening and increasingly coherent partisan divisions in the American electorate.

Consequently, House incumbents now have a much harder time retaining districts that lean toward the rival party. Democrats had been the main beneficiaries of the denationalization of electoral politics that had enabled the incumbency advantage to grow, and they have thus been the main victims of the reemergence of a more party-centered electoral process.

Gary Jacobson in the Journal of Politics: Here is the abstract:

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Right To Use Birth Control Turns 50

Today, June 7th, is the 50th anniversary of Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 Supreme Court case that made obtaining birth control no longer a crime for married couples. Single women still had to wait another seven years, and for another Supreme Court case, for the right to buy contraceptives. Ninety-eight percent of all American women report using birth control during their lifetime.

Many people do not remember the purchase and use of birth control products, and even literature about birth control options, even by married couples, was against the law in many states until 1965. There are those who have worked for the last 50 years to reverse the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court finding that American women have a fundamental right of privacy in their reproductive decisions. That right includes making family planning decisions and the right to learn about and use birth control contraceptives.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

84th Texas Ledgislature 2016-17 Biennium Budget

The Texas House and Senate approved a $209.4 billion compromise 2016-17 biennium state budget on the last Friday of the 84th Texas Legislature, before adjourning on Monday, June 1, 2015, the 140th day of the session.

The House approved the House Bill 1 joint conference committee compromise budget on a 115-33 vote, after the Senate earlier on Friday had approved HB1 on a 30-1 vote. The budget doubles spending to $800 million for border security and gives businesses and homeowners a $3.8 billion in tax cut.

HB1 is currently on Gov. Greg Abbott's desk awaiting his action. Under Texas law, the governor can sign HB1 as is, veto it entirely, single out any line-item expenditures he doesn't like and veto them, or let it become law after 20 days without his signature. The governor has 20 days from June 1 to act on any bills that pass in the last 10 days of the session.

Most Republican lawmakers are congratulating themselves for passing a "conservative 2016-17 budget" that leaves billions of dollars on the table, spending only $106.6 billion of $113 billion in available state revenue and leaves untouched about $11.1 billion in the state’s rainy day fund.