Friday, May 27, 2011

Texas’ Wild Tea Party

The Nation - Villarreal and his Democratic colleagues [in the Texas House of Representatives] protested in vain [in early April] as the House passed perhaps the most radical state budget bill in US history.

[The Texas Legislature — which Molly Ivins aptly called “the national laboratory for bad government” — infused with Tea Party zeal to eliminate government after the 2010 election,] voted to balance the ledger without raising revenues, axing $23 billion from current spending levels—about one-fourth of the state’s current spending, and some of the deepest cuts contemplated anywhere in the country.

Spending cuts to public schools, already among the nation’s most poorly funded, could mean some 100,000 teacher layoffs, pre-K programs decimated and schools closed. Huge cuts to Medicaid could push an estimated 60,000 senior citizens out of their nursing homes. “We’re already as a state fiftieth in per capita spending,” said another young San Antonio Democrat, Representative Joaquin Castro. “So you’ve got to ask yourself…at what point is this budget akin to asking an anorexic person to lose more weight?”

The fiscal crisis caught most Texans unawares. For the better part of a decade, they’d had their collective egos puffed up by BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, The Economist and CNBC proclaiming Texas as the economic miracle of the nation. Governor Rick Perry, a friend and disciple of Grover Norquist, had just won re-election by extolling the wonders wrought by tax-cutting, deregulation and the aggressive courting of jobs from higher-tax states like California, Michigan and Illinois.

[For the last decade] Perry has been the chief mad scientist in Texas’ bad-government lab, seizing every opportunity to gut social spending, pander to the culture-warriors and enrich his high-rolling corporate sponsors. In 2003, with a conservative legislature feloniously purchased by Tom DeLay and associates, Perry led a revolution to deregulate, privatize and tort-reform nearly everything. “Texas is open for business,” his campaign happily proclaimed when the dust had settled.

Three years later, with the lawmakers deadlocked over a school finance plan that would somehow meet State Supreme Court standards, Perry engineered a massive “tax swap,” slashing property taxes and replacing them with a modest business tax that left the state with a $5[-$7] billion annual “structural deficit” going forward—and a handy excuse to keep cutting programs to make budgets balance.

This year, when the massive debt was announced, Perry’s right-wing allies could not contain their glee. “The bottom line is there are no excuses now,” exclaimed Republican Senator Dan Patrick, a talk-radio host and founder of the Tea Party Caucus. “It’s a perfect storm, in a positive way, for conservatism.” In his inaugural speech, David Dewhurst, three-term lieutenant governor, turned it into a cheer: “We pronounce the word C-R-I-S-I-S as ‘opportunity.’”

Dan Patrick and David Dewhurst were referring to the "Starving the beast" strategy. This is a fiscal-political strategy adopted by American conservatives in the 1970's to create or increase existing budget deficits via tax cuts to force future cuts and eventual privatization of Medicare, Social Security, Public Education and every other public service.

Texas has long been as politically and culturally influential as California. If that’s not often recognized, it’s for a valid reason: the influence Texas exercises pulls other states backward. “People used to say that the future happens first in California,” Krugman writes, “but these days what happens in Texas is probably a better omen. And what we’re seeing right now is a future that doesn’t work.”

Read the full story at The Nation.

Voter Photo ID Requirement To Vote in Texas

Click here for current article with current list of links

Update Friday May 27, 2011 @ 11:30am

Governor Rick Perry (R) signed SB14 into law this morning requiring voters to present unexpired government issued photo identification to qualify to vote in Texas elections. Photo IDs must be current or must have expired within the last 60 days. They include:
  • Texas DPS driver’s license or personal identification card,
  • Personal identification card called an “election identification certificate;”
  • US passport;
  • US military ID;
  • Texas concealed weapons license; and
  • US citizenship papers containing a photo.
For those who have none of these unexpired government issued photo IDs the law contains a provision that requires the Texas Driver's License Bureau to issue special "election identification certificates" free of charge to citizens. Of course, a person seeking a free "election identification certificate" at the Driver's License Bureau must present a their birth certificate. The election identification certificates will have an expiration date for people under 70 years of age, suggesting that voters who acquire and use this ID to vote will have to renew the identification certificate just as driver's licenses are renewed. Voters age 70 and older will not have to renew their election identification certificate.

The original version of SB14 passed last January exempted voters age 70 and older from the photo ID requirement, but the House version passed in March stripped the senior photo ID exemption from the bill. The election identification certificate expiration exemption for voters age 70 and older is a compromise reached in joint committee to resolve differences between the Senate and House version of the bill. Voters age 70 and older must present photo identification to election clerks, just like everyone else.

Voters who show up to polls with only their voter registration cards will be allowed to vote a provisional ballot, but then they must present a photo ID in person at the office of their county's election authority within six days, or their provisional ballot will not be counted.

NPR: Voter ID Debate.
Voter education efforts will begin in fall 2011, but photo ID requirements will not take effect until January 1, 2012.

Texas Voter Photo ID Summary

Effective Dates (Pending U.S. Dept. of Justice clearance)
Starting September 1, 2011 the Secretary of State, and the voter registrar of each county shall provide notice of the ID requirements for voting in each language in which voter registration materials are available. Required government issued photo identification must be presented to polling place election clerks for all elections occurring after January 1, 2012.

Photo IDs Permitted

All IDs must be unexpired or expired no earlier than 60 days before the election. Acceptable identification includes:
  • A driver’s license, election ID certificate, or personal ID card issued to the person by the Department of Public Safety (i.e., an election certificate issued to a person 70 years or older does not expire);
  • U.S. military ID card that contains the person's photograph;
  • U.S. citizenship certificate issued to the voter with their photograph;
  • U.S. passport; or
  • A license to carry a concealed handgun.
*Student IDs are not accepted in Texas for purposes of identification for voting.

Exceptions Available

A person may obtain an exemption from the ID requirement on the basis of disability if they produce a statement in a form determined by the SOS that the applicant does not have any of the prescribed forms of identification, and they have an:
  • U.S.S.S.A. determination of disability, or
  • U.S.V.A. disability rating of 50%.
Affidavit Alternative

A voter without a photo ID may cast a provisional ballot, which will count if she signs an affidavit attesting to the fact that she:
  • has a religious objection to being photographed, or
  • does not have an ID as a result of a natural disaster declared by the U.S. President or Texas’ Governor no earlier than 45 days before the election and that disaster caused the inability to access the voter’s ID.
The affidavit may be signed at the time the provisional ballot is cast or at the time the voter appears before the voter registrar within 6 days following the election to have the provisional ballot counted.

Early/Absentee Voting ID Requirements

The photo ID requirement does not apply to absentee voting, including early voting by mail. Photo ID requirements apply to all in-person or curbside early voting.

Free IDs

Texas will issue an Election Identification Certificate (EIC) to persons who do not have another qualifying ID for purposes of voting. The applicant must present a voter registration card or register to vote at the time of applying for an EIC. There is no fee for an initial or duplicate EIC.

Public Education Requirements

The Secretary of State, and the voter registrar of each county that maintains a website, shall provide notice of the ID requirements for voting in each language in which voter registration materials are available. The Secretary of State shall prescribe the wording of the notice to be included on the websites, and shall also conduct a statewide effort to educate voters regarding the identification requirements for voting. The county clerk of each county shall post in a prominent location at the clerk’s office a physical copy of ID information in each language in which voter registration materials are available.

For additional information to "Conventional Wisdom v. The Facts On Voter Photo ID Law" and click "Read more »"

Friday, May 20, 2011

GOP Starting To Duck Spotlight of Citizen Journalists

The premier political story of the past few months has been the Republican plan to dismantle Medicare and the resulting voter backlash. In town halls across the country, voters are expressing their anger at the GOP priorities of ending Medicare, extending tax breaks for the wealthy, and protecting subsidies for oil companies.

Citizen journalists have attended those town halls and recorded video of that voter backlash on smartphones. Those citizen journalists then published their reports, with video, on the Internet, allowing others who couldn’t attend in person to see the event. Those videos have often been picked up and broadcast by national cable news outlets. The GOP does not like the exposure because it puts a lie to their claim that they are doing only what the people elected them to do.

TDP Video Chronicles Headlines From Around Texas

The Texas Democratic Party today released a new video in its continuing "GOP Price Tag" series that chronicles recent headlines from print and broadcast media outlets around Texas. The headlines chronicled in the video include the following:

“The Texas GOP Chose to Decimate Our Educational System” - $9.8 Billion Cut From Public Schools - Texas Tribune

Starving the Government Beast

The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann
"Starving the beast" is a fiscal-political strategy adopted by American conservatives in the 1970's to create or increase existing budget deficits via tax cuts to force future cuts and eventual privatization of Medicare, Social Security, Public Education and every other public service. [see Forbes and the video left.]

Paul Krugman, columnist for The New York Times: For readers who don't know what I'm talking about: Ever since Ronald Reagan, the GOP has been run by people who want a much smaller government.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fighting Climate Change Through Innovative Initiatives

Actual Climate Scientists Rap
Huffingtonpost: Floods and droughts may be the "new normal" and sea levels may be rising faster than previously thought, but the younger generation isn’t willing to accept these climate change consequences for their future.

As the grownups duke it out in Washington, kids take action with visible results, proving they may be more capable than adults in fighting man-made climate change.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Plano City Council Place 7 Runoff Election - June 18, 2011

Plano voters reelected two incumbents and elected one newcomer to the Plano City Council in the May 14, 2011 election, while a fourth race for Place 7 will be decided in a runoff election on Saturday June 18th. Early voting starts Monday June 6th. All Plano City residents registered to vote in Collin Co. may vote in this election.

Pat Miner, André Davidson and Jim Duggan were clear winners, but Greg Myer and Pat Gallagher will head into a June 18 runoff election for Council Place 7, since no Place 7 candidate received 50 percent of the votes.

Myer, an information technology project manager, drew 40.3 percent of the vote and Gallagher, a retired executive and Addison police officer, received 36.7 percent. Myer, who ran unsuccessfully for the position in 2008, knocked on thousands of doors and was bolstered by an endorsement from the influential Collin County Association of Realtors. Gallagher, a virtual unknown in Plano politics before this year, did surprisingly well. The third person in the Place 7 race, Mark Greer, a businessman who has been active in civic affairs, ran a distant third with 23 percent of the vote.

Early voting for the Saturday June 18th runoff election between Gallagher and Myer for Council Place 7 is scheduled to run from Monday June 6th through Tuesday June 14th.

Sun Mon 6/6
Tue 6/7
Wed 6/8
Thur 6/9
Fri 6/10
Sat 6/11
Sun Mon 6/13
Tue 6/14
Wed Thur Fri Sat 6/18

The usual early voting locations around the City of Plano will be open. The major exception is that Davis Library rather than Christ United Methodist Church will be the substitute location for Carpenter Rec Center, since the Rec Ctr remains close for renovation until Aug. 2011.

Full location information and sample ballots for the June 18th special election will be posted on the Collin Co. Elections website a few days after Plano holds the "Drawing for Ballot Placement" on Thursday May 19, 2011.

League of Women Voters of Plano/Collin County Voters Guide - Plano City Council

Early Voting Locations for McKinney and Plano City Runoff Elections
Collin County Elections
(Main Early Voting Location)
2010 Redbud Blvd, Suite 102 McKinney
Christopher A. Parr Library 6200 Windhaven Pkwy. Plano
Collin College - Central Park Campus 2200 W University Dr McKinney
Collin College - Spring Creek Campus 2800 East Spring Creek Plano
Haggard Library 2501 Coit Rd Plano
Harrington Library 1501 18th Street Plano
Maribelle M. Davis Library 7501-B Independence Parkway Plano
McKinney Fire Station #5 6600 W. Virginia Parkway McKinney
McKinney Performing Arts Center 111 N. Tennessee St McKinney
Plano ISD Administration Center 2700 West 15th Street Plano

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Collin Co. Election Results - May 14, 2011

May 14, 2011 Combined Election Day & Early Ballots - Accumulated Totals:

Did you know that the 2010 US Census reported a voting age population of 557,664 persons in Collin Co? Did you further know that the Collin County Elections Registrar reported 439,740 Registered Voters in Collin Co for the May 14, 2011 local elections? If every one of those 557,664 voting age persons are US Citizens, which they likely are not, there are 117,924 possible Collin Co voters who are not registered to vote. That makes the county's voter registration rate close to 80 percent. That registration rate may be closer to 90% depending on how may of those non-registered voting age people are not US Citizens and therefore not qualified to vote. The problem in Collin Co is not registering new voters - it is more about figuring out how to get already registered voters out to vote.

Registered Voters 439,740 - Votes Cast 35,917 (8.17%) Num. Precinct Reporting 100%
Mayor - Allen

Steve Terrell
2185 85.52%
Blake Beidleman
370 14.48%

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Survey Report: With the economy still struggling and the nation involved in multiple military operations overseas, the public's political mood is fractious. In this environment, many political attitudes have become more doctrinaire at both ends of the ideological spectrum, a polarization that reflects the current atmosphere in Washington.

Yet at the same time, a growing number of Americans are choosing not to identify with either political party, and the center of the political spectrum is increasingly diverse. Rather than being moderate, many of these independents hold extremely strong ideological positions on issues such as the role of government, immigration, the environment and social issues. But they combine these views in ways that defy liberal or conservative orthodoxy.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Osama Bin Laden Dead, Pres. Obama Announces

Huffington Post: Osama Bin Laden is dead, President Obama announced Sunday night, in a televised address to the nation. His death was the result of a U.S. operation launched today in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden was tracked by U.S. intelligence agencies to a mansion in an affluent neighborhood 35 miles north of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. After a firefight, a small team of American forces killed bin Laden and took possession of his body, the president said.

President Obama announces that Osama bin Laden has been killed.


President Obama Skewers Trump At The Correspondents' Dinner

President Barack Obama had some fun with would-be Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump Saturday after taking weeks of Trump's birther attacks. "No one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than 'the Donald,'" Obama said, referring to Trump's claims the same day that he was responsible for solving the issue.

With Trump in attendance, Obama used the White House Correspondents' Association annual dinner to mock the reality TV star's presidential ambitions, joking that the billionaire businessman could bring change to the White House, transforming it from a stately mansion into a tacky casino with a whirlpool in the garden. The president said Trump has shown the acumen of a future president, from firing Gary Busey on a recent episode of "Celebrity Apprentice" to focusing so much time on conspiracy theories about Obama's birthplace.

Trump chuckled at some of the earlier jokes, but was seemingly less amused as comedian Seth Meyers picked up where Pres. Obama left off. "Donald Trump often talks about running as a Republican, which is surprising," said the Saturday Night Live actor, entrusted with providing some of the comedy for the evening. "I just assumed he was running as a joke." Trump stared icily at Meyers as he continued to criticize the real estate tycoon.

Pres. Obama Speaking

Seth Meyers Speaking