Friday, December 28, 2012

What's The Procedure To Replace Our Committeewoman?

James White
Senate District 8 December Newsletter 
by Senatorial District 8 Committeeman James White

The main topics for this month are the SDEC TDP Election Debrief Meeting held earlier this month in Austin and SD8 Committeewoman Replacement Procedures.

Saturday, December 8, the SDEC met in an informal session to discuss election results, where we are, and what we can do. It was more than that, to me it seemed like one of our more information dense meetings. I learned a lot about what happened and what we are wanting to execute on going forward.

Let me give credit first to SD9 Committeeman Michael McPhail who takes real-time facebook notes of the SDEC meetings. Go "friend" him.  We all won't be at the top of the ticket. And I don't know about you, but I'm not interested in having the pox of 2010 revisited upon me.

December SDEC Meeting
Chairman Hinojosa said if we do what we've always done we'll get our butts kicked. I doubt many of you reading this would disagree.

We must put together a statewide structure, we must expand into the rural areas, we must run everywhere. That's me summarizing this and, well, I'm strongly agreeing. We may not have a Howard Dean 50 state opportunity but with work and showcasing our Democratic principles, we can get a 254 county strategy.

We also heard Darlene Ewing, Dallas County Democratic Party Chair, speak, along with Tarrant, and Bexar county chairs. Darlene gave me, indirectly (and I'm positive she wasn't thinking of me at all) a shoutout when she said there are Democrats everywhere in Dallas County, even in Far North Dallas. Yes, she said, there is even a Democratic club in Far North Dallas. Well, that would be the club I'm president of, The Far North Dallas Democrats and you can find us on FaceBook at Far North Dallas Democrats. I'll take the kind word even if it isn't directed at me because Darlene is a successful Democratic County chair and I - and we - can learn a lot from her.

I don't want to fill this news letter up with the minutiae of the event, but I have to say, the information content in this meeting was great. If you want to know more, let me know!

What's The Procedure To Replace Our Committeewoman?

SD8 Committeewoman Linda Magid will leave us this month and move to Bexar County, Texas.  I've been looking up the procedure for mid-cycle replacement of our committeewoman. At the SDEC meeting someone approached me and was fairly emphatic about another procedure that I did not think was correct, so I've researched it. This person perhaps astutely pointed out that I might need "help with complex ideas", so if you agree about that, then proceed with caution. What I believe to be the procedure is based on my questions and research, but the ultimate determination is made by the TDP - so with that proviso and warning, here is what I believe will happen. (TDP RULES CAN BE FOUND HERE. [pdf that opens in googledocs])

"When a vacancy occurs on the SDEC, the vacancy shall be filled by the majority vote of the members of the SDEC. The new member shall be an eligible person of the same sex and from the same senatorial district as the vacating member. The Senatorial District Committee of the affected district shall meet to nominate a person for such position. The State Chair shall mail written notice of the meeting to consider such nomination to the members of the Senatorial District Committee and, if known, the Chair of the affected district’s Senatorial District Caucus at the last State Convention, at least two weeks prior to the meeting. The Committee shall report its nominee to the SDEC. A vacancy shall be filled no later than the next meeting of the SDEC following written notice of the vacancy by at least five weeks."
What I take from this paragraph is:
  1. The majority of the SDEC has to vote for the replacement.
  2. It must be, in this case, a female who resides in SD8.
  3. The Senatorial District Committee of the affected district nominates a person for the position.
  4. Some time constraints spelled out.
That is all pretty straightforward EXCEPT for the "Senatorial District Committee". What is that? Ah, that definition can be found in TDP rules, too:

"For a senatorial district made up of more than one county or parts of more than one county, the District Committee’s membership shall include the County Chair of each county wholly contained within that district and one District Committee member elected from among their number by each group of Precinct Chairs within a portion of a county included in such senatorial district. The District Committee thus formed shall elect its own Chair. The District Committee member so elected by the group (or committee) of Precinct Chairs (from only part of a county included in such a multi-county district) shall be and act also as Chair of such group or committee of Precinct Chairs. (Texas Election Code §171.054)"
What I take from this paragraph is:
  1. The COUNTY CHAIRS are NOT automatically members of the "Senatorial District Committee" in certain Senatorial District mappings such as Senatorial District 8 (re: 'shall include the County Chair of each county wholly contained'.)  Neither Dallas NOR Collin counties are wholly contained in Senatorial District 8. 
  2. Each county shall elect its own "Senatorial District Committee" representative from the COUNTY PRECINCT CHAIRS who are in Senatorial District 8 of each respective county.  
  3. The Senatorial District Committee, once formed and officially notified of the SDEC vacancy by the TDP State Chair, then meets to recommend a person to the SDEC to fill the vacancy. 
SO I've asked others and I've asked party officials and I've heard nothing to disabuse me of my interpretation up to this point. As I see it, Collin precinct chairs within SD8 will elect ONE person and Dallas precinct chairs within SD8 will elect ONE person and that shall constitute the SENATE DISTRICT COMMITTEE.

Officials from the TDP have offered to help us and observe us so that things run smoothly and I've encouraged them to do so. Think about your choice! I believe that these positions and the energy someone might bring are important. DOUBLE CHECK me. I've provided a link to the rules and it's important that we understand them.

Michael Handley

Michael Handley runs the excellent Democratic Blog News. Here he is looking as dapper as ever at the SDEC meeting earlier this month.

If I looked like that I would not hear every morning, "Are you going out dressed like that?"

Now, in this interregnum, is your chance to break your habits, just a bit. Try new clubs and new events, both near you and not so near. I'm sure it would be worth it.

For example, there are several excellent Drinking Liberally Clubs near us.

Drinking Liberally Plano 
Living Liberally McKinney 
Drinking Liberally Addison 
Drinking Liberally Dallas

Subscribe to the Senate District 8 SDEC Committee-persons Newsletter

James White's SDEC page is
James White's SDEC  twitter feed is 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

African American Voter Turnout Likely Topped Anglo Voters

by Michael Handley

The rate of nationwide African American voter turnout remained high in 2012 and, for the first time, may have topped the rate for Anglo turnout, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

In 2008, the rate of African American voter turnout almost equaled that of Anglos, continuing a trend of a steady increase in African American turnout rates that began in 1996. This year, African American turnout seems very likely to have exceeded the Anglo level voting, partly because Anglo turnout appears to have dropped slightly.

Republicans took over swing state state legislatures as part of the 2010 mid-term tea party wave election. Those Republican-majority legislatures immediately adopted American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, model legislation designed to limit minority voter access to the polling booth by curtailing early voting days, voter registration activities and acceptable voter identification documents.

Many African American leaders said those laws would disproportionately hurt elderly, poor and minority voters and accused Republicans of running a campaign of “voter suppression.”

Republicans said those new laws were needed to combat voter fraud. In a few states, Republican legislative leaders explicitly said they hoped the measures would hurt Democratic candidates or reduce the “urban” vote.  ("Florida Republicans Admit Voter Suppression Agenda" and "The GOP’s Crime Against Voters")

Courts blocked some of those laws, and in the end Republican attempts to suppress minority voters may have backfired as African American organizations used “voter suppression” as a rallying cry to turn out the vote. The perception that Republicans were attempting to disenfranchise their vote strongly motivated many African Americans to get out the vote.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

School Choice - Privatizing Our Public Schools

by Michael Handley

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and State Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston), chair of the Senate Committee on Education, chose a private Catholic school as the backdrop to explain their education voucher scheme that they plan to push through the Republican controlled 2013 Texas legislative session.

The proposed Republican legislation would create a private school scholarship fund by offering businesses franchise tax breaks credits for paying into the private school voucher program.

Commenting on the Republican plan announced by Dewhurst and Patrick, Texas Democratic Party State Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said,
"Public education is the key that unlocks the American Dream for the vast majority of our children. And anything that threatens that is beyond unacceptable.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cell Phone Only Continues To Grow

by Michael Handley

Preliminary results from the January–June 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicate that the number of American homes cutting their landline telephone service in favor of cellular telephone service only continues to grow.

More than one-third of American homes (35.8%) had only cellular telephone service during the first half of 2012 — an increase of 1.8 percentage points since the second half of 2011.  In addition, nearly one of every six American homes (15.9%) received all or almost all calls on wireless telephones despite also having a landline telephone.  More than half of American households (51.7%) can now be contacted only by knowing the cell phone of someone living in that household.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Florida GOP Leaders Admit Suppressing Student Vote

Raw Story - The chairman of the Alachua County Republican Party told a newspaper this week that he and another prominent Florida Republican pushed for changes to the state’s provisional balloting system in order to suppress young and poor voters, many of whom are students or rent their residence.

The Miami Herald found that the law, sponsored by State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R) and supported by Alachua County GOP chairman Stafford Jones, eliminated the ability of poll workers to quickly check a statewide database of voters registered in counties other than where they’re casting a ballot.

The end result was a 25 percent spike in the use of provisional ballots, leading to more work for elections staff and much longer lines — all of which was by design, Jones told the Herald.

The changes to Florida’s voting laws ahead of the 2012 presidential election were just one front in a national vote suppression campaign by Republicans who claimed to be concerned about supposedly rampant “voter fraud.” Studies show, however, that the type of in-person voter fraud these laws would guard against is incredibly rare, and there’s no evidence to support the conclusion that any U.S. election has been swayed by such tactics.

Raw Story (


Monday, December 17, 2012

Texas Now Serves Fewer Family Planning - Spending More On Less

In the last legislative session, Texas lawmakers cut the state's family planning budget by two-thirds, a loss of around $73.6 million over the next two years. The reason behind this, naturally, was that "family planning" is clearly a secret code word for "abortion."
"Of course this is a war on birth control and abortions and everything," Representative Wayne Christian told the Texas Tribune. "That's what family planning is supposed to be about."
Now, the Department of State Health Services has released new documents showing how the new, lean, highly efficient family planning budget is working for the state. Or not working. Those documents show that the program is now serving almost 128,000 fewer people, while spending more money per patient.

Jordan Smith at the Austin Chronicle was the first to lay out the new program's flaws . She points to a memo sent to the State Health Services Council by the Department of State Health Services. The memo, which we've posted below, shows that in 2012, the family planning budget served 75,160 people, at a cost of $236.54 each. Last year, before the cuts went into effect, the family planning money served 202,968 people, and cost $205.93 per patient.

In other words, the cost per patient has climbed by 15 percent, while the number of people served has nosedived by 63 percent. (A DSHS spokesperson told the Chronicle that's due to "infrastructure costs," and that the situation should "resolve itself over time.")

In the new funding structure, family planning money is going first to entities known as federally qualified healthcare centers, which are primary care community health clinics. There are 69 of them in Texas, according to DSHS, operating at around 300 sites.

But FQHCS aren't specifically set up to provide family planning services, and, as the Texas Observer points out they have struggled to cope with the influx of new patients. Outside of the new family planning money, many also continue to have serious budgetary issues of their own.

Read the the full story @ Dallas Observer

Bill Moyers Essay: Living Under The Gun

In a web-exclusive video essay, Bill Moyers says Friday's deadly shooting in Colorado is yet another tragic indication that our society -- and too many of our politicians -- covet guns more than common sense or life itself. The National Rifle Association in particular, Bill says, “has turned the Second Amendment of the Constitution into a cruel and deadly hoax.”

Bill Moyers Essay: Living Under the Gun from 

Mental Illness And Guns

It can be argued that Pres. Reagan bears some responsibility for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, committed by a mentally ill gunman. Pres. Reagan promoted the near total collapse of publicly funded care for the mentally ill.

Government's primary responsibility is the protection of the citizens it represents through collective defense. This is true of government at every level. Government is meant to protect us from enemies that we can not possibly be expected to individually protect ourselves against. That collective defense can take the form of gun ownership regulation, at least comparable to the regulation applied to owning and operating motor vehicles.

That collective defense can also take the form of care for those in our society who are mentally ill.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

U.S. AG Says Voter Registration Should Be Automatic

Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday that U.S. election officials should register eligible voters automatically and take steps to reduce the long lines Americans encountered in national elections on Nov. 6.

In a speech in Boston, Holder became the highest-ranking official to call for voting changes since President Barack Obama expressed exasperation with the hours-long lines during his re-election victory speech last night.
“Modern technology provides ways to address many of the problems that impede the efficient administration of elections,” Holder said.
Registering to vote is a necessary step to be eligible to cast a ballot in almost every U.S. state, and some jurisdictions require the paperwork weeks before Election Day.  The United States has a patchwork election system, relying on local officials in 3,141 counties across the 50 states and the District of Columbia to the define laws and manage the bureaucratic process used to register voters.   This does not include U.S. Commonwealths and territories with what are generally county equivalents.

Holder said the current system was needlessly complex and riddled with mistakes, resulting in 60 million adult U.S. citizens not being eligible to cast a ballot in the 2008 presidential election because they had not filed the right paperwork.  

In Texas, voters must be registered to vote 30 days before election day, and re-register when they move.  All the registration paperwork is handled at both the county and state levels, and sometimes across Texas' Secretary of  State and Department of Motor Vehicles (DPS) state agencies.

Because of the  Broken (DPS) Texas Motor Voter Registration Process many people who thought they re-registered when they change their driver's license after moving from one Texas county to another found they were not properly re-registered by their visit to the DPS office or website. These voters thought they had filed the right voter registration paperwork, but one of the state agencies seemingly mishandled or lost it. These harried voters were forced to travel to their county's main election office to vote a limited ballot during early voting or vote a provisional ballot at their polling location on election day, and many of those provisional ballots were likely not accepted for counting.

The safeguards are in place to prevent a problem that rarely, if ever occurs, largely because few people are willing to risk felony charges to influence an election, Holder said.
“You can’t get groups of sufficient numbers of people that are willing to face that possibility and try to influence an election, which is why in-person voter fraud simply doesn’t exist to the extent that some on the right have said that it does,” Holder told a crowd of several hundred at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.

By coordinating existing databases, the government could register “every eligible voter in America” and ensure that registration does not lapse after moving to a new home, Holder said.

Holder, also recommended that polling places should have an adequate number of voting machines and be open for additional days — a challenge because thousands of local officials make those decisions independently.  Holder also suggested that Election Day should be moved to a weekend.
“We should rethink this whole notion that voting only occurs on Tuesday, which is an agricultural notion from way back,” Holder said. “Why not have voting on weekends?”

An overhaul would likely require approval from Congress, a significant obstacle because of the view by many Republicans that easing registration requirements could increase voter fraud. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on “the state of the right to vote” on Dec. 19.

Full text of Holder’s remarks.

Search For Muslim Bias In Texas Schools, Finds Only Christian Bias

Think Progress: A bizarre chain email sent to district and school board officials in the Dallas area this October titled “IRVING ISD INDOCTRINATING ISLAM” inspired a recent investigation of “Islamic bias” in the district’s curriculum. Only Christian bias found.

Despite the outlandish claims, the district requested that an official from the organization that created the curriculum to respond. The results of a 72-page investigation done by the organization were not surprising: there’s a Christian bias in schools, not a Muslim one.

The official told the board that a bias toward Islam didn’t exist, even mentioning that “she hired a ‘very socially and fiscally conservative’ former social studies teacher who ‘watches Glenn Beck on a regular basis’ to seek out any Islamic bias in CSCOPE [the curriculum].” She “asked her to look for anything she would consider the least bit controversial.”

The Dallas Morning News has the details of an investigation that mentioned “every religious reference in the CSCOPE curriculum, from kindergarten to high school”:
  • Christianity got twice as much attention in the curriculum as any other religion. Islam was a distant second.
  • The Red Crescent and Boston Tea Party reference mentioned in the email were nowhere in CSCOPE’s curriculum, although they may have been in the past.
  • If there was any Islamic bias in CSCOPE it was “bias against radical Islam.”
This isn’t the first time Texas has debated the perceived presence of too much Islam in its school books. In 2010, the Texas Board of Education banned any books that “paint Islam in too favorable of a light.”  The reasoning was head-scratching: “the resolution adopted Friday cites ‘politically-correct whitewashes of Islamic culture and stigmas on Christian civilization’ in current textbooks and warns that ‘more such discriminatory treatment of religion may occur as Middle Easterners buy into the US public school textbook oligopoly.’”

A Texas based civil liberties advocate said at the time that “the members who voted for this resolution were solely interested in playing on fear and bigotry in order to pit Christians against Muslims.”

Full story @ Think Progress

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tax The Rich: An Animated Fairy Tale

Tax the Rich: An animated fairy tale, is narrated by Ed Asner, with animation by Mike Konopacki. Written and directed by Fred Glass for the California Federation of Teachers. An 8 minute video about how we arrived at this moment of poorly funded public services and widening economic inequality. Things go downhill in a happy and prosperous land after the rich decide they don't want to pay taxes anymore. They tell the people that there is no alternative, but the people aren't so sure. This land bears a startling resemblance to our land.

Hat tip to my friend D Karen Wilkerson.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

President Obama's #My2k Twitter Live Chat

Behind the scenes look at President Obama on a Twitter (#My2k) live chat from the Roosevelt room of the White House. President Obama connected directly with Americans via Twitter on Monday, where he answered questions about extending middle class tax cuts.

During the live Twitter Q&A, the President addressed the need for a balanced approach to reduce the deficit, the ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations, and even weighed in with his predictions for Chicago sports teams from the White House Twitter account. During the conversation, the hashtag #My2k was used more than 31,000 times and trended nationally on Twitter throughout the chat.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Guiding Principles On Fiscal Cliff Negotiations With Republicans

Author, Berkeley professor, and Clinton-era Secretary of Labor Robert Reich lays out the what, why and how of the Fiscal "Cliff", the showdown in Congress that Republicans created to demand painful cuts in vital domestic programs in exchange for raising taxes on the top 2%. Guiding Principles On Fiscal Cliff Negotiations With Republicans