Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The State of the State Of Texas - 2013

Yesterday, Governor Rick Perry gave his 7th State of the State address outlining his priorities for the state of Texas. Left out of the list of Republican priorities that Perry outlined in his 45-minute address are the legislative priorities being pressed by Democrats in the Texas Senate and House.

Progress Texas recently published a brief on the major issues concerning Texans and the 83rd Texas Legislature - clicking on the links take you straight to that issue:
  1. Budget and Taxes: Investing in Our Future
  2. Expanding Medicaid: 231,000 Jobs by 2016
  3. The Battle to Save Public Schools
  4. Family Planning Cuts Run Deep
  5. Water for a Rainy Day
  6. LGBT and the Fight for Equality
  7. The Voting Rights Act Still Matters

Gov. Rick Perry gives his 7th State of the State address.

Texas Democratic legislators respond to Gov. Perry's 7th State of the State address.
Democratic priorities include plans to fix the state's business tax, end what they called accounting gimmicks to make the state's books appear balanced, making improvements to infrastructure and to restore funding to the Women's Health Program.

One House Democrat said the governor painted an unrealistic picture of the state. "Not sure what parallel universe Gov. Perry is living in, but it's not the same one as the people in my district," said Rep. Naomi Gonzalez, D-El Paso. "We need to restore money to education and health care."

Two years ago, Perry declared there would be "no sacred cows" immune to deep budget cuts as the state struggled with a $27 billion budget deficit amid an economy still feeling the effects of The Great Recession. Lawmakers responded by passing deep cuts across-the-board, including slashing $5.4 billion from public schools and billions more from state Health and Human Services programs. (Gov. Rick Perry's State of the State Speech - 2011)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Democrats Launch Plan To Turn Texas Blue

Politico: National Democrats are taking steps to create a large-scale independent group aimed at turning traditionally conservative Texas into a prime electoral battleground, crafting a new initiative to identify and mobilize progressive voters in the rapidly-changing state, strategists familiar with the plans told POLITICO.

The organization, dubbed “Battleground Texas,” plans to engage the state’s rapidly growing Latino population, as well as African-American voters and other Democratic-leaning constituencies that have been underrepresented at the ballot box in recent cycles. Two sources said the contemplated budget would run into the tens of millions of dollars over several years - a project Democrats hope has enough heft to help turn what has long been an electoral pipe dream into reality.

At the center of the effort is Jeremy Bird, formerly the national field director for President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, who was in Austin last week to confer with local Democrats about the project.

In a statement to POLITICO, Bird said the group would be “a grass-roots organization that will make Texas a battleground state by treating it like one.”
“With its diversity and size, Texas should always be a battleground state where local elections are vigorously contested and anyone who wants to be our commander in chief has to compete and show they reflect Texas values.

Yet for far too long, the state’s political leaders, both in Austin and in Washington, D.C., have failed to stand for Texans,” said Bird, who recently founded a consulting firm, 270 Strategies. “Over the next several years, Battleground Texas will focus on expanding the electorate by registering more voters — and as importantly, by mobilizing Texans who are already registered voters but who have not been engaged in the democratic process.”

Read the full story @ Politico


Jon Stewart Reveals Paul Ryan As A Taker, Not A Maker

In his Inaugural Address, Pres. Barack Obama's gave an unapologetic defense of America's social safety net program and refuted Paul Ryan's often repeated charge that Social Security recipients are "takers not makers."  In interviews on conservative media channels this week, Paul Ryan questioned the President's choice of rhetorical devices as a "straw-man" and denied ever making the "takers vs. makers" claim. But by weaving together comments Paul Ryan made on the presidential election trail last year about entitlements and "takers vs. makers," as well as citing the former VP nominee's own experience with government assistance, Stewart cheekily "proves" in the final seconds of his commentary that Obama plagiarized Ryan in his inauguration speech.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Obama's Reference Of American Equality And Fellowship

Particular passages from President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address strike a cord within most Americans for the promise of equality and fellowship that inspires the spirit of America —
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

"Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed."

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”
Many younger Americans, who were not alive to witness or do not know of the events at places called at Stonewall, Selma, and Seneca Falls, may not fully appreciate the President’s references to those places.

Seneca Falls — The Seneca Falls Convention—held on July 19-20, 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York—was a gathering organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton in conjunction with a group of radical Quakers displeased with the state of women’s rights in the United States. The event is widely considered to be the start of the women’s rights movement in the United States.

Selma — A series of three protest marches that took place during the month of March, 1965 in Selma, Alabama, that forever altered the public’s perception of the Civil Rights movement, mobilized President Lyndon Johnson and quickly led to the introduction and passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Stonewall­ — The event that is widely regarded as “the opening shot” in the gay rights movement in the United States took place early in the morning of June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar located in the Greenwich Village section of New York City.

Click here to read the details of events at those places @ Forbes.

Women's Right Of Choice Turns 40

by Michael Handley

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.  On January 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision, Roe v. Wade, recognizing the constitutional right to privacy and a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health care decisions. At the time Roe was decided, most states severely restricted or banned the practice of abortion.

Seven in ten Americans support the historic Roe decision, according to just out NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and a recent Pew Research study found that 63 percent of Americans support the Roe decision.

The decision ruled unconstitutional a Texas state law that banned abortions except to save the life of the mother. The Court ruled that the states were forbidden from outlawing or regulating any aspect of abortion performed during the first trimester of pregnancy, could only enact abortion regulations reasonably related to maternal health in the second and third trimesters, and could enact abortion laws protecting the life of the fetus only in the third trimester. Even then, an exception had to be made to protect the life of the mother.

Monday, January 21, 2013

President Obama's Progressive Inauguration Speech

President Obama's inauguration speech centered on a declaration of our country's progressive values and historic journey toward a more just society that includes women's rights, racial equality, gay rights, and immigrant rights  — progressive values that Obama campaigned on to win the 2012 Presidential election.

"Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts," Obama declared.   "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law."

"Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote."

"Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country."

As the former Republican vice presidential candidate and Ayn Rand aficionado Paul Ryan sat listening, Obama delivered a strong rebuke to the Ayn Radian theories that inspires conservative movement's ideology about society's "takers" and "makers":

"The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great."

Pres. Obama offered a strong a defense of the New Deal programs that protect the poor and elderly from disaster--through government spending:

"But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn."

Pres. Obama delivered a strong statement about the threat of climate change –  that America must lead the transition to renewable energy, because "failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."

There was the hopeful statement that "enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war." 

Pres. Obama offered a poignant vision of a progressive possibility: "We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else."

President Obama’s reelection was the electoral equivalent of a progressive exclamation point. Obama not only won 8 of the original 10 battleground states (winning: CO, FL, IA, NH, NM, NV, OH, VA; losing: IN and NC), but also earned a whopping 332 electoral votes. Beyond the headlines, consider for a moment the underlying dynamics of this win: Democrats have now won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections. Democrats topped Republicans by 1.2 million votes cast for House candidates in 2012 — meaning that the American people preferred progressive Democrats over Republicans by nearly a full percentage point of the total vote.  In the popular presidential vote Pres. Obama received 65,899,660 (51.1%) votes to Romney's 60,929,152 (47.2%) votes.

Clearly, America is a center left nation! 

Prepared text for Pres. Obama's second inaugural speech:

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pregnant Women Stripped Of Rights

A new study shows hundreds of women in the United States have been arrested, forced to undergo unwanted medical procedures, and locked up in jails or psychiatric institutions because they were pregnant.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women found 413 cases when pregnant women were deprived of their physical liberty between 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, and 2005.

At least 250 more interventions have taken place since then. In one case, a court ordered a critically ill woman in Washington, D.C., to undergo a C-section against her will. Neither she nor the baby survived. In another case, a judge in Ohio kept a woman imprisoned to prevent her from having an abortion.

Lynn Paltrow, founder and executive director of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, is interviewed on Democracy Now

In her video interview Paltrow said, "We've had cases where lawyers have been appointed for a fetus before the woman herself, who's been locked up, ever gets a lawyer. We've had cases where they've ordered a procedure over women's religious objections, and one court said, pregnant women of course have a right to religious freedom -- unless it interferes with what we believe is best for the fetus or embryo."

RH Reality Check: Conservatives like to complain about judicial activism, which generally means, a judge issued a decision which they don’t like. I have grown to hate the term because it is used so frequently that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. Still, there are few alternative phrases that accurately describe the Alabama Supreme Court’s decision in the consolidated cases of Amanda Kimbrough and Hope Ankrom. Amanda and Hope are two women who were swept up in the Alabama judiciary’s zeal to promote an anti-choice personhood agenda at the expense of pregnant women, by redefining the word “child” in Alabama’s chemical endangerment statute, so that it now applies to pregnant women who use any amount of controlled substances, whether prescribed by a doctor or not.  Read the full article @ RH Reality Check.

This news comes on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision on the right to abortion -- a right that has been under siege ever since.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Roe v. Wade at 40: Most Oppose Overturning SCOTUS Decision

As the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision approaches, the public remains opposed to overturning the historic ruling on abortion, according to a new Pew Research study. The court's Roe v. Wade decision established a woman’s constitutional right to abortion at least in the first three months of pregnancy.

During the 112th Congress, Republicans introduced several bills to outlaw abortion.  One of those bills proposed a Personhood Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would overturn the Roe v. Wade decision. As Mother Jones reported, the Personhood amendment would outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, domestic violence and life-threatening ectopic pregnancies. In addition, this change to the Constitution would criminalize in-vitro fertilization and common birth control methods, including birth control pills and IUD's.  (More: The Republican War on Women and Justice Scalia: Women Have No Constitutional Right to Abortion and Contraception.

The Pew study shows that Republicans are out of step with the American public on this "pro choice" issue.  Decades after the Supreme Court rendered its decision, on Jan. 22, 1973,  more than six-in-ten (63%) say they would not like to see the Roe v. Wade decision overturned. Only about three-in-ten (29%) would like to see the ruling overturned. These opinions are little changed from surveys conducted 10 and 20 years ago.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 9-13 among 1,502 adults, finds that abortion is viewed as a less important issue than in the past. Currently, 53% say abortion “is not that important compared to other issues,” up from 48% in 2009 and 32% in 2006. The percentage viewing abortion as a “critical issue facing the country” fell from 28% in 2006 to 15% in 2009 and now stands at 18 percent.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

WMD: Weapons Of Mass Destruction And Common Sense

Baltimore Sun: The past few days, we've been wowed in the network news that since the Newtown, Conn. shootings, the NRA has recruited 100,000 new members. Impressive! Until you look at a few real statistics. The number of NRA supporters is being touted as 4.2 million. I looked up the U.S. Census figures. The nation's 2012 population was 311,591,917. Those under 18 comprised 23.7 percent or 73,847,284. That means the total U.S. adult population is 237,744,633. If 4.2 million of those adults are members of the NRA, that means that 233,544,633 adults are not members of the NRA. That is, 98.2 percent of all U.S. adults choose not to join the National Rifle Association. Now, what I want to know is how many members of Congress are beholden to the NRA when it represents fewer than 2 percent of adult Americans?, The Rachel Maddow Show
David and Francine Wheeler, who lost their six year old son Ben
at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT last month:

MLK Day 2013

On this day in 1929 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born. 

On Saturday January 19, 2013, beginning at 8:00 a.m., Collin College will again host the Dr. Martin Luther King Day Leadership Power Breakfast at Collin College Spring Creek Campus Living Legends Conference Center.

The Power/Community Unity Walk event  at 11:00 a.m follows the breakfast starting. The walk assembles at the north parking lot of the Parker Road DART station (2600 Archerwood) and will involve Collin College students and staff as well as community members. 

A Plano City Hall Program begins at 12:00 p.m., immediately following the Unity Walk, in the Plano Municipal Building Council Chambers, 1520 K Ave, Plano, TX 75074.  Keynote Speaker is Dale Long, noted Community Leader and organizer, 2007 Clifford P. Norman National Award winner for local board participation from Big Brothers and Sisters of America.  Enjoy the MLK All-Community Choir in a musical tribute to Dr. King on Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 7:00 PM at the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, 920 E. 14th St., Plano, TX 75074.

National Day of Service activities will take place around the area on Saturday afternoon. Collin College students and staff will be a part of rebuilding trails at local centers or restoring, cleaning, stocking and moving furniture in partnership with the City of Plano and Habitat for Humanity. Four years ago President Obama started the National Day of Service, a day to honor the life of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and continue the lifelong commitment to service our community. On January 19th, 2013 President Obama is asking all citizens to participate in a tradition his family started in 2009, and spend the day doing service work in communities across the country. You can volunteer on Saturday, January 19th by clicking to the National Day of Service webpage.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Building Democratic Base Capacity

by Michael Handley

Targeted GOTV programs in the 8 to 12 weeks before Election Day are essential. The problem Democrats face is that candidates and activists don't know the names, addresses, (cell) phone numbers, email addresses and social media site hubs of enough Democratic leaning people to target for positive GOTV contact in this 8-12 weeks to poll anything close to 50.1% of the vote.

The Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, was the decisive 2012 winner of this consistently red state.  Romney rolled up 57 percent (4,555,799) of the 2012 vote compared to Obama’s 41 percent (3,294,440) of the vote. Romney won Texas by 1,261,359 votes this year.

This year, Obama won 50 percent or more of the vote in seven of Texas' fifteen largest counties -- see chart at bottom of this post.  In the last three presidential year general elections, the nine largest counties made up between 53-54 percent of the total vote: Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar, Travis, Collin, Denton, Fort Bend and El Paso.

In 2012, these nine counties represent 54 percent (4,330,888) of the total vote(7,965,384) in Texas. In these nine counties, 59 percent of the 7.27 million registered voters turned out to vote for one of the presidential candidates, but only 40% of the 10.7 million eligible voting age persons living in those counties voted.

In the Nov. 2012 election, Pres. Obama's performance in Collin County declined on both raw vote count and vote spread, while Romney's performance (196,000)  improved over McCain's 2008 vote count and percentage wins. In 2008, Pres. Obama polled 209,047 (37%) votes in Collin Co., but only 101,000 (32%) votes in 2012.

There are now nearly 465,000 registered voters in Collin Co. out of an estimated voting age population (VAP) of about 700,000 people.

The chart below shows that a very high percentage of the most conservative Republican portion of the VAP (age 50 and older) voted in 2012, while a high percentage of younger registered Collin Co. residents did not vote.  About 166,000 of already registered young voters didn't vote. Another large portion of  younger Collin Co. residents (under age 50) aren't even registered.  About 207,000 Collin Co. of mostly younger residents were not registered to vote for the November 2012 election.

President Obama polled only 32 percent of the 2012 vote because a very low portion of the most progressive Democratic leaning potion of the electorate (age 39 and younger) did not vote.  Where Democrats did win across Texas it was because larger percentages of younger voters voted.

In a 2012 national exit poll, 59 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds said government should be doing more to solve problems. Just 37 percent thought government was doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals. That is basically the reverse of the sentiment among seniors: just 35 percent of this age group thought government should be doing more, compared to 58 percent who thought government is doing too much.

Assuming younger Collin Co. voters carry the same views as those in the rest of America, getting more younger voters to the polls must be a key strategy for Democratic candidates.  There is currently no way to urge younger voters to get out and vote because the party leanings of individuals in younger age cohorts have not been identified through canvassing programs, and they have no primary election voting history to indicate party affiliation. (click picture to enlarge)

Even if party-related organizations and candidates could identify those potential young voters, the only way to make contact with them is by knocking on their front door. That is because that part of the electorate has a cell phone mostly lifestyle and no voter information data base contains their cell number, email address, or social media site preferences.

Democrats have about 93 weeks until early voting starts for the Nov 2014 election. Activists at the county and neighborhood levels must work every week to identify every Dem leaning voting age citizen, documenting their contact and demographic info. As Democratic leaning people are identified, county level organizations must plan and execute programs that build relationships with those people to make them an active part of the Democratic base.

Those programs must be designed to invite that disconnected part of the electorate to participate in regular conversations at house and town hall meetings, and on social media.  Democrats must do old fashioned base building work, and learn how to combine Internet and mobile communication with those traditional community organizing activities to accomplish that mission.