Monday, December 28, 2015

Who Turned My Blue State Red?

By Alec MacGillis, ProPublica

It is one of the central political puzzles of our time: Parts of the country that depend on the safety-net programs supported by Democrats are increasingly voting for Republicans who favor shredding that net.

In his successful bid for the Senate in 2010, the libertarian Rand Paul railed against “inter-generational welfare” and said that “the culture of dependency on government destroys people’s spirits,” yet racked up winning margins in eastern Kentucky, a former Democratic stronghold that is heavily dependent on public benefits.

Last year, Paul R. LePage, the fiercely anti-welfare Republican governor of Maine, was re-elected despite a highly erratic first term — with strong support in struggling towns where many rely on public assistance.

And in November 2015, Kentucky elected as governor a conservative Republican who had vowed to largely undo the Medicaid expansion that had given the state the country’s largest decrease in the uninsured under Obamacare, with roughly one in 10 residents gaining coverage.

It’s enough to give Democrats the willies as they contemplate a map where the red keeps seeping outward, confining them to ever narrower redoubts of blue. The temptation for coastal liberals is to shake their heads over those godforsaken white-working-class provincials who are voting against their own interests.

But this reaction misses the complexity of the political dynamic that’s taken hold in these parts of the country. It misdiagnoses the Democratic Party’s growing conundrum with working-class white voters. And it also keeps us from fully grasping what’s going on in communities where conditions have deteriorated to the point where researchers have detected alarming trends in their mortality rates.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

How Democrats Could Win The U.S. House

Whoever wins the White House in 2016, it’s an article of faith among political pundents that not much will change in the House, where Republicans have a seeming lock on the majority.

It’s true the Democrats’ odds of flipping the 30 seats needed to win back the House of Representatives are not good. But the current polling leaders for the Republican presidential nomination are candidates almost perfectly designed to turn off Republican voters in the districts Democrats need to win to retake the House.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Hillary v. Bernie Polls And Sampling Frames

If the 2016 U.S. presidential election were held today, a sampling of all voters finds Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would win by a landslide over GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, according to a new poll released Tuesday by Quinnipiac University.

Voters favor Sanders over Trump 51 to 38 percent, giving Sanders the general election win by 13 points — nearly double Sanders' chief rival for the Democratic nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton would likewise beat Trump, but her margin of victory over Trump is seven points  47 to 40 percent. This suggests Sanders would attract some politically disaffected voters Clinton would not.

Columnist Brent Budowsky writes for The Hill:
If Sanders' margin held in a general election, Democrats would almost certainly regain control of the United States Senate and very possibly the House of Representatives.
It is high time and long overdue for television networks such as CNN to end their obsession with Trump and report the all-important fact that in most polls, both Hillary Clinton and Sanders would defeat Trump by landslide margins.
[....] It is noteworthy that in this Quinnipiac poll, Sanders runs so much stronger than Clinton against Trump.
Budowsky concludes, "analysts would be talking about a national political realignment and new progressive era in American history if an enlightened candidate such as Sanders would defeat a retrograde race-baiting candidate such as Trump by a potentially epic and historic margin."

Season's Greetings From DemBlogNews

We offer our readers a holiday treat with a video of Bob Dylan reading “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan hosted a satellite radio show, Theme Time Radio Hour, once a week for almost three years. For his 2006 Christmas broadcast, the show featured a wide variety of Christmas music with Dylan’s commentary.

Following the Dylan video, we offer a 1939 radio broadcast and then a 1935 British movie of  "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens.

Here is the 1939 Campbell Playhouse radio broadcast productions of "A Christmas Carol" featuring Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge.

Play starts at 3:00 minutes [MP3] - [Mercury Theatre Info]

Seymour Hicks plays the title role in the first sound version of the Dickens classic about the miser who's visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. This British import is notable for being the only adaptation of this story with an invisible Marley's Ghost and its Expressionistic cinematography. This is the uncut 78 minute version from the Internet Archive.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

DNC Penalizes Sanders Campaign For VAN Security Breach

On Thursday, December 17th at 11:47 p.m., the Washington Post broke a story reporting Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz had cut off presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign access to the DNC's master 50-state voter file managed for the DNC under a sole-source contract, by NGP VAN Inc., a private political data services vendor. Schultz accuses a VAN data base system expert working for the Sanders campaign of intentionally breaching VAN system security firewalls to gain access to Hillary Clintion’s campaign data about voters.

Chairwoman Schultz intentionally misrepresents the facts after the Sanders campaign VAN administrator stumbled upon and investigated a VAN software bug introduced Wednesday morning, December 16th, at approximately 10:40 AM, when NGP VAN, the company whose software hosts the Democratic National Committee’s voter file, installed a routine software update. The update introduced a bug that allowed members of Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaigns, among others, to filter the voter records they share using custom “scores” each campaign had independently tagged to those common voter records. Such custom scores tagged by individual campaigns are to be private to those campaigns, but the bug exposed that campaign specific scoring as public data to all VAN users. (about which more shortly).

Josh Uretsky was the Sanders campaign’s National Data Director who discovered NGP VAN had opened every candidate's campaign data for viewing by every other NGP VAN client user.

WaPo headlined its story, "DNC penalizes Sanders campaign for improper access of Clinton voter data," with a lead paragraph reporting,
"Officials with the Democratic National Committee have accused the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders of improperly accessing confidential voter information gathered by the rival campaign of Hillary Clinton, according to several party officials." The article's third paragraph said, "The discovery sparked alarm at the DNC, which promptly shut off the Sanders campaign’s access to the strategically crucial list of likely Democratic voters." The DNC had shut down access Wednesday morning.
That WaPo news headline replaced the day's headline story that Sen. Sanders received endorsements from the 700,000-member Communications Workers of America union, secured 88.9 percent of 270,000 votes cast in Democracy for America’s official endorsement poll, and received a record 2 million campaign contributions, with over $2 million raised in just 72 hours.

The initial Thursday night Washington Post story and all subsequent stories through the day Friday were clearly originally sourced from individuals at the DNC and NGP VAN. The frame of that sourced reporting - "Sanders campaign gained improper access to" and "breached" Clinton data - gives the impression Sanders campaign staffers with malice of forethought hacked system security to access Clinton campaign data. The DNC seemingly used that same framing language in notifying the Clinton campaign its data had been breach through four Sanders campaign VAN/VoteBuilder userids.

DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz, by taking the story public, stating to Washington Post reporters and other reporters she cut off Sanders campaign access to the DNC's voter information database, because Sanders' campaign staff had "improperly accessed confidential voter information of Hillary Clinton's campaign" and that "cutting the Sanders' campaign's access is the only way we can make sure we can protect our significant asset that is the voter file," Schultz instantly flipped Sanders' news momentum for the week, leading into the Saturday Democratic debate, from positive to negative.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Democratic Debate - December 19, 2015

You probably didn't watch the third Democratic presidential primary debate at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire Saturday night, hosted by ABC New correspondents Martha Raddatz and David Muir. Maybe you had something better to do on a Saturday night six days before Christmas. Maybe you went to a holiday party. Maybe you watched the New York Jets take on the Dallas Cowboys. Maybe you got some Christmas shopping done. Maybe you went to see "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Maybe you were so burned out with the political ranker over Democratic National Committee (DNC), Debbie Wasserman Schultz cutting off the Sanders campaign’s access to the campaign's NGP-VAN's voter information database, you just didn't feel like tuning in.

The debate attracted only 6.71 million viewers, the lowest number so far for any 2016 debate organized by the DNC or the RNC. Saturday night’s debate was such a flop that it barely attracted one quarter of the viewership of the most watched Republican debate.

If you didn't watch it, you missed a good debate! In the third Democratic presidential primary debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Hillary Clinton quickly moved past the previous day's rancor over the DNC's handling of a campaign data exposure breach caused by data services company NGP-VAN switching off data privacy protocols between all the candidate's campaign data. The Democratic National Committee contracted with NGP-VAN to store and securely manage its voter data for Democratic candidates. NGP-VAN is run by Stu Trevelyan, a veteran of Pres. Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign "War Room" and then Pres. Clinton's Administration.

Saturday night's debate moved on to a pointed but polite and factual discussion of national security, Americans' heightened terrorism fears and the economy between Sen. Sanders, former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Watch the entire debate in this video, courtesy of ABC News:


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Who Is On 2016 Texas Primary Ballots

The Tuesday, March 1st, 2016 Texas primary election to nominate candidates from each political party for the Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 general election is less than one year distant. Twelve days of early voting begins on Tuesday, February 16, 2016, the first business day after Presidents' Day, just two months from now.

The 2016 primary election filing period ran from Saturday, November 14, 2015, through the filing deadline date of 6 p.m. Monday, December 14, 2015.

With the filing deadline past,Republican and Democratic Party precinct chairs of each county will meet during the coming days to approve their party's ballot and set the order of candidate names for contested office ballot positions.

Presidential Candidate Filings

Office Sought Ballot Name Party
-------------- -------------- -------
President/Vice-President Bernie Sanders DEM
President/Vice-President Calvis L. Hawes DEM
President/Vice-President Hillary Clinton DEM
President/Vice-President Keith Judd DEM
President/Vice-President Martin J. O'Malley DEM
President/Vice-President Roque "Rocky" De La Fuente DEM
President/Vice-President Star Locke DEM
President/Vice-President Willie L. Wilson DEM
President/Vice-President Ben Carson REP
President/Vice-President Carly Fiorina REP
President/Vice-President Chris Christie REP
President/Vice-President Donald J. Trump REP
President/Vice-President Elizabeth Gray REP
President/Vice-President Jeb Bush REP
President/Vice-President John R. Kasich REP
President/Vice-President Lindsey Graham REP
President/Vice-President Marco Rubio REP
President/Vice-President Mike Huckabee REP
President/Vice-President Rand Paul REP
President/Vice-President Rick Santorum REP
President/Vice-President Ted Cruz REP

Congressional Filings

Of the 36 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats currently hold 11 seats and Republicans hold 25 seats.  According to filing information on the Texas Secretary of State website, Democratic candidates filed in 28 of the 36 Congressional seats. No Democrat filed for congressional district 4, 5, 8, 11, 13, 19, 32, or 36, however, it is my understanding Democrats had intended to file in districts 4 and 5 -- filing information for 4 and 5 may not have yet been posted on the SOS website.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

GOP Debate Full Of Fear Mongering

The fifth GOP debate seemed even more chaotic and irrational than any prior GOP debate, with more yelling, bickering, and illogical talking points. Was it just me, or did others find it difficult to watch?

Nine candidates for the Republican nomination faced off in Las Vegas Tuesday night for the prime time debate on CNN, moderated by Wolf Blitzer, CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, and Salem Radio Network talk show host Hugh Hewitt.

Twitter's Government and Elections team tracked which 2016 presidential candidates gained the most Twitter followers during the debate. As with every prior Republican debate, the candidate who gained the most twitter followers wasn't a Republican, it was Bernie Sanders who gaining more Twitter followers Tuesday night. After Sanders, Donald Trump's twitter following increased the most, trailed by Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, according to Twitter. Poor Hillary Clinton, left out of all the action.

So many people followed Sanders on Twitter, one might argue the event intended to promote Republican Party issue positions was actually driving voters away from the GOP and to Sanders. As for prior GOP debates, Sanders live-tweeted his dissenting opinions to each Republican candidate's talking points throughout the event. Sanders tweeting his progressive policy positions in contrast to Republican talking points drew people to his twitter feed. As the Republican front-runner, Trump also gained more Twitter followers than did his opponents on stage, but Sanders was the top dog on social media on Tuesday. When someone outperforms Trump on Twitter, it's an important clue on the mood of voters - particularly younger voters.

The Republican candidates running for the White House spent much of Tuesday's CNN debate talking about ISIS and Islamic terrorism. (I won't identify them as presidential candidates, because they were anything but presidential in their debate.)

Other threats, including gun violence, climate change and domestic terror carried out by white extremists -- all of which kill more Americans at home than jihadists -- were ignored by both the moderators and candidates. If the Republican (and mainstream news media) strategy is to terrorize American voters about Islamic extremist terrorists and immigrants in general, Tuesday's debate was proof it's working. Americans see terrorism as the top issue facing the U.S.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

BlogTalkUSA: Eyes Wide Open / DemBlogTalk - 12/08/2015

Listen or download - MP3
Mike Collier, the 2014 Democratic candidate for Texas State Comptroller, joined co-hosts Michael Handley and Rheana Nevitt Piegols to talk about Texas' state budget and economy on Tuesday, December 8th @8:30pm cst.

The Texas miracle, long touted by Texas Republicans, is predicated on high oil prices, not low taxes. For years, Texas Republicans bragged low taxes and no regulation kept employment high and the state economy strong, while the rest of the country recovered from the 2008 housing bubble crash.

But it was Texas' deep pockets of crude oil selling at over $100 per barrel and high natural gas prices that was the "miracle" of Texas' economy.

Over the last week, the market price for West Texas Intermediate crude oil traded down steeply to the mid $30's per barrel, the lowest levels in more than six years.

Oil is under pressure amid speculation the record global oil glut will be prolonged after OPEC effectively abandoned its longtime strategy of limiting output to control prices at an early December meeting.

West Texas crude was trading over $100 per barrel in mid-2014.

Falling oil and gas prices already prompted Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar earlier this year to reduce his state revenue estimate, but more bad state budget news may be coming. Oil prices may go lower, yet.

Looking beyond Republican talking points, the Texas miracle already is more of a mirage. Texas did have 41 percent of all U.S. job growth from 2000 to 2013. But the state also has the 10th highest rate of low-wage jobs in the country. More than 31 percent of Texas jobs pay less than $24,000 per year — a wage that keeps families in poverty. That’s why Texas has cronic poverty and economic inequality. Texas ranks among the top 10 states for income inequality in the nation. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of people living in poverty jumped by 82 percent in Austin, 64 percent in Dallas, 46 percent in Houston and 36 percent in San Antonio.

Texas Republicans have kept taxes low by racking up debt over the last 12 years. Once you add in all the debt Texas keeps off the books, the state ranks third in the country among the states in outstanding debt at a level approaching $350 billion. For the last decade, the pension debt problem has been metastasizing out of view — off of state balance sheets and obscured by official figures that misrepresent the depth of the hole. The state’s pension debt in 2013 was approximately $244.1 billion, according to a by State Budget Solutions report. Add in $55.4 billion for retiree health care and $41.3 billion in bonds and other official debt.

Among the topics we'll talk about with Mike Collier beginning at 9:00pm is Texas State Auditor John Keel’s sudden resignation. His resignation will take effect just before the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report is issued. His departure may seem inconsequential, but it is worth taking notice of what might be behind his usually timed resignation, mid-audit.

If the auditor of a major corporation were to resign abruptly mid-audit, the story would make headlines. Shareholders would want to know urgently whether the resignation had anything to do with bad accounting, fraud, or corruption inside the company.

But first up David Sanchez from the Sen. Bernie Sanders' Texas presidential campaign joins us for our weekly #‎feelthebern‬ update.

Republicans’ Coup de Grace On Voting Rights?

Last week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case called Evenwel v. Abbott. The case involves an issue of increasing importance to American politics: Congressional Redistricting. Hear the oral argument recording @  DemBlogNews: SCOTUS May Change How Congress Represents America

» The Voting News
It got to the Supreme Court because conservative litigators with a successful track record of fighting against the right to vote are trying to turn the logic of pro-voter rights decisions on their head. And it’s very possible that they may succeed again.

This most recent battle in the voting rights war involves two of the Warren Court’s most important decisions.
One of the tactics that state legislatures used to disenfranchise African-Americans before 1964 was to draw district lines (or refuse to revise them) in ways that left minority voters massively underrepresented.

In Alabama in 1964, for example, some counties included 40 times more people than others. In Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims, the Supreme Court held that such schemes were illegal.

States were required to adhere to a “one person, one vote” standard when apportioning their legislatures. Combined with robust enforcement of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, these landmark cases helped to end Jim Crow disenfranchisement schemes.
Perversely, the Evenwel v. Abbott lawsuit hopes to use these decisions to turn back the clock and dilute the representation of minority voters. The theory of the lawsuit is that Texas violated the Equal Protection Clause when it drew its district lines based on total population rather on the population of voters. The state, according to the theory, should only be able to conduct apportionment according to the number of eligible voters.

If adopted, the theory presents an obvious practical problem. Total population is measured with reasonable reliability by the Census. Eligible voters are much harder to measure, not least because the numbers change every election. (What should be counted — presidential election years? Off years? State elections? Some combination?) The discretion the measure would leave to legislators leaves the process open to more of the kind of manipulation that Reynolds v. Sims tried to minimize. Plus, it just seems illogical for a state’s representation in Congress to be based on total population, but its districts drawn by eligible voters.

Which brings us to the even bigger problem with the theory: In most cases, the effect of the rule change would be to over represent white voters and under represent minority voters. As Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick puts it, “if the plaintiffs win this appeal, power will shift markedly from urban voters to rural voters and to white and Republican districts over minority and Democratic ones.” To read the Equal Protection Clause to not merely permit but require the under representation of minority voters is, to say the least, perverse.

Full Article: Scott Lemieux - The Week: Republicans’ coup de grace on voting rights?.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Trump’s Hate Rhetoric Promotes Domestic Terrorism

A Las Vegas rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump turned ugly Monday night when multiple protesters interrupted Trump's speech.

According to reporters at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino event venue, the protesters appeared to be Black Lives Matter activists and gun control supporters.

As security guards remove a black man from the rally, someone in the audience yelled, “Light the motherfucker on fire!” MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin tweeted:
'Things shouted as Black Lives Matter protester dragged away at Trump rally:
"Kick his ass!"
"Shoot him!"
"Sieg Heil!"'
Of twenty-eight recent deadly attacks by homegrown US citizen terrorists, twenty of them were carried by right-wing extremists, including the mass shooting that killed nine at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

World Leaders Make Landmark Deal to Fight Climate Change

Leaders from more than 190 countries around the world forged an unprecedented agreement to begin to fight climate change driven by global warming. The "Paris Agreement" includes commitments to make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from individual countries and promises by wealthier nations to help poorer nations adapt to the damaging effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels.

The agreement sets a long-term goal of keeping the increase in the global temperature to "well below" 2°C degrees (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels and calls on countries to "pursue efforts" to limit the increase to 1.5°C. It adds that "parties aim to reach a global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible."

While the agreement marks a declaration of worldwide war on climate change, it leaves some key decisions on how to fight the war to the future. Those detail decisions are to made to achieve specified goals over the next 10 to 15 years. The agreement also establishes an unprecedented international legal basis for addressing climate issues. Within the agreement, nearly every country on Earth laid out its own plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change impacts. Although those individual plans are not legally binding, the core agreement itself is.

Less optimistic is the reality that the emissions-reduction pledges agreed to by participating countries only limit global warming to roughly 2.7°C (4.9°F), leaving substantial questions on how to fight the global war war on climate change. Michael Mann, director of Penn State University's Earth System Science Center, emphasizes the agreement is just "the beginning of a process. These global commitments "get us roughly half way" to where the world needs to be, Mann reportedly told HuffPost in an email."

Further, current research suggests that forces already set in motion — the melting of glaciers, the release of carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost — could unleash considerable impacts that this agreement is unable to prevent, even if full implemented.

In addition to the carbon cutting of this agreement, quite a lot of carbon capture by human-made devices and human-planted forests may be required. The most important thing to come out of the conference is an agreement to improve on these commitments substantially in the years ahead. (carbon capture video)

Monday, December 7, 2015

SCOTUS May Change How Congress Represents America

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday in a case that could cascade far-reaching changes in the way every election district in Texas — and every state in the nation — are drawn.

The case, Evenwel v. Abbott, challenges Texas’ current method for drawing the lines apportioning state Senate districts. Texas, and every state in the union, draws election districts so they are roughly equal in population. Even those who can't vote — children, non-citizens, and felons — get equal representation.

The plaintiffs in Evenwel v. Abbott, Sue Evenwel of Mount Pleasant and Edward Pfenninger of Montgomery County north of Houston, claim equal apportionment based on total population count, including children under the voting age, and particularly non-citizen immigrants, rather than just eligible voters — only adult citizens who aren't felons — leads to “gross malapportionment” of the value of their votes.

Because there are a larger number of potential "eligible voters" in Pfenninger's district than there are in Evenwel's district, Pfenninger says his vote counts for less. The case turns on the fundamental question about the role of elected representatives, asking whether they serve on behalf of everyone in their district or only those eligible to cast ballots. The share of non-citizens in the U.S. has grown from 2 percent in 1970 to 7 percent in 2013, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute in Washington. The portion of American born individuals who are under 18 years of age, and thus are not eligible voters, was 23.1 percent in 2014.

The person actually behind this case is Edward Blum, who has probably done more than anyone who does not sit on the Supreme Court to dismantle America’s civil rights laws. The pair of Texas Tea Party conservatives — Sue Evenwel and Ed Pfenninger — who filed the legal challenge to the way Texas draws its election district maps are working closely with Blum.

Karen Jacobs For Texas House of Representatives On BlogTalkUSA

Karen Jacobs, candidate for Texas state House of Representatives, District 33, joined me on BlogTalkUSA Eyes Wide Open: Democratic Blog Talk, to tell us about Hillary Clinton's November campaign stop at Mountain View College in Dallas, Texas. We also discuss with Karen her decision to run for the Texas House of Representatives.

Karen's well spoken knowledge on a range of state, national and international issues shows why I urge all my friends to support and vote for Karen. Karen has been active with the Rockwall County community and Democratic Party candidates, working hard to get out the vote for state, local, and 5th District Court of Appeals candidates. Karen is committed to providing practical solutions to real problems confronting all Texans today.

Jacob Limon, Texas Director for Bernie Sanders' Presidential Campaign, also drops by to give us a Report, during the last half of the program!

Karen also spoke on Texas' Public Radio Network. Click this link to listen:

Jacobs visiting with Korean War veteran Hubert Howard and Vivian Joe

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Texas Democrats Vote Ballot Referenda For March 1st Primary Ballot

At a meeting in Austin on Saturday, December 5th, the Texas Democratic Party's Executive Committee approved a set of 6 ballot referenda for the public to vote on during the March 1, 2016 Democratic Primary.

Texas Democrats ballot referenda address economic security and prosperity for all, fair criminal justice reform, climate change, restoring the Voting Rights Act, fixing our broken immigration system, and opposing campus carry. Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa issued the following statement:
“Texas Democrats are the champions of middle-class and working families across our great state. Our set of thoughtful ballot referenda prove that we believe in growing opportunity for all. I am proud that our state executive committee has put forth a set of solutions that deal with the everyday lives of Texas families.

"Democrats are focused on kitchen table issues and solutions that promote economic expansion and protect our families. Fighting for real opportunity for everyone, not just for the sons and daughters of the well-to-do, makes us the true pro-growth, pro-family, pro-worker, pro-business party.

“While Republicans are considering whether or not to put an un-American, unpatriotic Texas secession proposal on their ballot, Texas Democrats are having a substantive conversation about the solutions that are going to improve the daily lives of Texas families.
2016 Democratic Party Ballot Referenda:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Presidential Candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders At Georgetown University

November 19, 2015 – Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking at Georgetown University to explain the term ‘democratic socialist.’ The talk, which took place in the university’s historic Gaston Hall, was sponsored by the university’s newly created Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service at the McCourt School of Public Policy. Sen. Sanders begins speaking at time index 11:00.
Sanders explained many reforms - like Social Security and banking regulations to safeguard American's savings accounts - instituted in the Roosevelt administration were called "socialistic" in some way or another. They have in fact, become the "fabric of our nation" and the "foundation of the middle class," he said. He focused on FDR's January 11, 1994, “Second Bill of Rights” speech in which Roosevelt said every person should have a right to a useful, adequately paid job, a decent home, adequate medical care, a decent education, adequate protections from the economic problems caused by old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.

Transcript of the "prepared" speech - without his numerous extemporaneous additions.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Democrats Offer Real Leadship Choices For President

Democrats offer America real leadership choices that have everything to do with temperament, personality, and a realistic view of America and the world. In stark contrast to the Republican held a few days earlier on Fox News, Democrats had another interesting, policy-oriented civil debate. Full video below the fold.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

New Polls Give Bernie Sanders Landslides Wins Over Trump And Bush

Western Illinois University has conducted a mock poll for every presidential election since 1975 with 100% accuracy for predicting the winner.

The poll first accurately predict Jimmy Carter’s 1976 upset victory in their 1975 mock election. The 2007 poll accurately predicted Barack Obama’s presidential win in 2008, and in 2011, his narrower 2012 reelection win, after the same system had been used to astonishingly predict every presidential election over the last 40 years.

The WIU mock election, in which thousands of students from multiple schools form parties and caucuses and play out a small-scale election over the course of several days, has  Bernie Sanders beating Hillary Clinton in 22 out of 26 primary states; Hillary Clinton survives past Super Tuesday, but loses out before the month of March is concluded.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

New Bernie Sanders Campaign Ad

The presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., announced Sunday it will air its first campaign ads on television in Iowa and New Hampshire starting Tuesday. Sanders' campaign is spending $2 million to air the ads, the same amount that the campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic nomination, spent on her first campaign ads.

Clinton's ads have been airing since early August. In the months since then, her campaign has spent an additional $4 million on ads in Iowa and New Hampshire.

In a statement, Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said, "This ad marks the next phase of this campaign. We're bringing that message directly to the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire."

Second ad aired:

Memo To Democrats: It's Still The Economy Stupid!

"The economy, stupid" is the reminder message Bill Clinton's campaign strategist James Carville coined for his successful 1992 presidential campaign against sitting president George H. W. Bush. Carville's original phrase was meant for the internal audience of Clinton's campaign workers as one of the three messages to focus on, the other two messages being "Change vs. more of the same" and "Don't forget health care."

Most Democrats are on track to tell American voters President Obama returned the American economy to health, as the reason to vote Democrats into office in 2016.

Many American voters don't feel better off after seven years of a Democrat in the White House. Many may not only reject the "Obama made the economy better" campaign message, they may blame him for their feeling of economic insecurity.

NYTimes: Amid the global economic turmoil and seesawing markets, millions of Americans have one overriding question: When will my pay increase arrive? The nation’s unemployment rate has fallen substantially since the end of the Great Recession, sliding to 5.1 percent from 10 percent in 2009, but wages haven’t accelerated upward, as many had expected.

In fact, the labor market is a lot softer than a 5.1 percent jobless rate would indicate. For one thing, the percentage of Americans who are working has fallen considerably since the recession began. This disappearance of several million workers — as labor force dropouts they are not factored into the jobless rate — has meant continued labor market weakness, which goes far to explain why wage increases remain so elusive. End of story, many economists say.
Read the full story at the NYTimes:

Monday, October 19, 2015

2015 Texas Constitutional Amendments

Resolutions proposing changes to the state constitution must be approved by at least two-thirds of the members of both the Texas House and the Texas Senate. Texas voters then have the opportunity to approve the amendments with a majority vote. The following identifies proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution to appear on the November 3 ballot. This article on constitutional amendment resolutions approved by the 84th Texas Legislature was originally published when the 84th Legislature adjourned on June 1, 2015, and was updated on June 17, 2015 when the Texas Secretary of State published the proposition order for the constitutional amendment ballot:

Voter Registration and I.D. Requirements

by Michael Handley

CLICK HERE To go to information on the December 2015 renewal mailing of 2016-17 Voter Registration Certificates, and to stay current on the status of Texas' voter photo ID law in the federal courts.

VOTER REGISTRATION 2014-15 -- You MUST be registered to vote in the county in which you currently reside, and have a currently dated government issued photo I.D., to vote in any Texas election. You must be registered, or have mailed your registration application to be postmarked, no later than midnight of  the thirtieth day before the election date. And you must present I.D. at the polling place to vote in person.
NOTE: On Wednesday, August 5, 2015, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans unanimously agreed with U.S. Southern District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos' October 2014 finding that Texas’ SB14 photo voter ID law has a discriminatory effect on black and Latino voters, and therefore violates section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Fifth Circuit did not throw out the SB14 law entirely.

The three-judge appellate court panel remanded the case back to Judge Ramos with an order to fashion a specific legal remedy that recognizes legislators' declared interest to preventing voter fraud in passing the SB14 law. The voter ID law remains in effect, as of October 19, 2015, pending action by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Required voter I.D. is listed below.
Every registered Texas voter should have received their new 2014-15 orange Voter Registration Card (VRC), mailed during the first part of January 2014, or within thirty days after you submitted your registration application. If you asked to register to vote while updating your driver's license with the Texas DPS, and you never received a VRC, your registration application may not have been processed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Blog Talking The Democratic Presidential Debate

We invite you to Blog Talk the first Democratic Primary Debate with us Tuesday, October 13, 2015, at 9:30pm CT.

We will be LIVE with BlogTalkUSA Eyes Wide Open Post Debate Roundtable discussion immediately following the first Democratic Presidential Primary Debate and we want YOU to join us!

Call (347) 855-8118 to listen LIVE, share your opinions, or join the discussion!

(We will delay our regular Tuesday "Eyes Wide Open" BlogTalkUSA radio program to start at the conclusion of the debate.)

Archive of selected Talking The Talk On Internet Talk Radio

Texas Replaces So. Carolina As Post New Hampshire Make or Break Primary

Updated Tuesday, October 13, 2016 @ 8:22 AM.

As usual, media political pundits are applying what they remember from past primary schedules to the 2016 primary schedule. So they are focused on the South Carolina primary being the big swing decision factor for 2016. But 2016 is different and Texas, not South Carolina, is the big prize primary, after Iowa and New Hampshire.

In 2008, Iowa Democrats caucused on January 3rd. The 2008 New Hampshire primary followed on Jan. 8, with South Carolina Democrats voting on Jan. 26th and Florida Democrats voting on Jan. 29th. That made SC and FL the key post NH swing decision stories in 2008, leading into the 23 state and territory primaries and caucuses held on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5th.

Another 13 states held their primaries and caucuses during February 2008. Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island held their primary on Tuesday, March 4, 2008.

The 2016 primary season kicks off a month later than in 2008.  Iowa precinct caucuses will allocate 46 pledged delegates on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016 and the New Hampshire primary will allocate 24 pledged delegates on Tuesday, Feb. 9th.

Texas primary early voting starts on Tuesday, February 16, 2016 and runs through Friday, February 26, 2016. The 2016 South Carolina Democratic Primary date is currently set for Saturday, Feb 27th, the day after Texas early voting concludes. Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina will allocate 121 pledged presidential delegates.

Texas is the big post Iowa and New Hampshire prize on Super Tuesday with Texas Democrats selecting 237 delegates, including super delegates, for largest single delegate count of any state up to and including the other super Tuesday states.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

‘Level the Playing Field’ Democratic Strategy

In May the Roosevelt Institute released its Rewriting the Rules economic agenda crafted by Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. Since the report's well publicized release, the Roosevelt Institute partnered with Democracy Corps to determine whether its Rewriting the Rules analysis and recommendations translate to political policy messaging objectives.

The public policy research conducted through this partnership tests policies Roosevelt Institute economists believe would re-balance the economy by producing broadly shared economic growth. This research finds the public embraces a 'Level the Playing Field' policy agenda, and rejects the conservative ‘Trickle Down’ economic agenda.

‘Level the Playing Field’ progressive messaging, is electorally compelling. It gets a stronger and more intense response than conservative ‘Trickle Down’ messaging. It leads the disengaged to be more engaged, particularly audiences of the newly emerging 21st century American majority. It also produces much stronger results than Democratic main-stream identity issue messaging strategy - that is silent on inequality.

'Level the Playing Field' progressive messaging seeks an economy that works to stop the toxic influence of corporate money, and seeks to level the playing field for all so we can build and strengthen the middle class by restoring the American promise of equality and opportunity. Level the Playing Field messaging performs dramatically better than traditional Democratic identity politics messaging with self-identified Democrats and, the critical swing group, white working class voters. It is more motivating for Millennials, and it performs equally well with independents.

The final and most important result is the re-engagement of the disengaged. At the end of the survey, the big ideological debate, the bold policies, and competing progressive and conservative messages energized the emerging 21st century American Electorate of racial minorities, unmarried women and Millennials who could comprise 55 percent of the voters in 2016 - if they are motivated to turnout to vote.

Public Now Rejects Trickle-Down Economics, Seeks Inclusive Growth

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Obama's Campaign Guru Calls Bernie Sanders' Campaign A Phenomenon

David Axelrod tweets that Bernie Sanders' appearance at his University of Chicago Institute of Politics alma mater is a phenomenon.
Got a first-hand look at the @BernieSanders phenomenon today @UChiPolitics. 2,000 in hall. 500 in overflow. And 2500 couldn't get in. —  David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) September 28, 2015
David Axelrod was the Chief Strategist for Barack Obama's presidential campaigns, which created the same kind of phenomenon as Bernie's campaign.

Bernie Sander speaks at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics - YouTube

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Blackmail Caucus, a.k.a. The GOP

Robert Reich, NYTimes OpEd:  John Boehner was a terrible, very bad, no good speaker of the House. Under his leadership, Republicans pursued an unprecedented strategy of scorched-earth obstructionism, which did immense damage to the economy and undermined America’s credibility around the world. Still, things could have been worse. And under his successor they almost surely will be worse. Bad as Mr. Boehner was, he was just a symptom of the underlying malady, the madness that has consumed his party.

Read the full OpEd at

Sunday, September 27, 2015

After Hearing Pope, Speaker Boehner Says GOP Is Party Of False Prophets

House Speaker John Boehner abruptly announced his resignation Friday, shutting down a Tea Party drive to oust the nation’s highest-ranking Republican.House Tea Party Republicans unhappy over Boehner's refusal to shut down government over yet another budget-based Tea Party minority power play to force their will on the majority.

House Tea Party Republicans were organizing a formal challenge maneuver against the speaker not used for over 100 years. Boehner's resignation means the long brewing battle for the soul of the party is over: the Republican Party now is the Tea Party.

In his first one-on-one interview since his resignation announcement, Speaker Boehner appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday, blasted Tea Party Republicans as “false prophets” who “whip people into a frenzy” to make legislative demands that “are never going to happen.”
Asked if his critics on the right are unrealistic, Boehner exclaimed, “Absolutely they’re unrealistic!”

“The Bible says, beware of false prophets. And there are people out there spreading, you know, noise about how much can get done,” Boehner said. “We got groups here in town, members of the House and Senate here in town, who whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things they know — they know! — are never going to happen,” he added.

“Our founders [who wrote our constitution defining our system of government] didn’t want some parliamentary system where if you won the majority you got to do whatever you wanted,” he added. “They wanted this long, slow process. And so change comes slowly. And obviously too slowly for some.”
John Boehner, a devout Catholic, abruptly and unexpectedly stepped down as Speaker of the House one day after he listened to Pope Francis' address to Congress. Boehner broke down in tears as he heard Pope Francis speak of the duty of conscience for those in positions of power and authority to serve the common man and woman.  With Boehner alluding members of his Republican caucus are "false prophets" on CBS’ Face the Nation, one wonders if he had a revelation or crisis of conscience that he could no long serve an immoral political party, upon hearing Pope Francis' words.

The House of Representatives is supposed to be the most direct reflection of the people, all the people, and the driving force of policy change. It’s where the work of the common man and woman is supposed to get done. Looking back at Boehner’s tenure as speaker, we can only conclude that either that mission is no longer possible or he was not the man for the job — and perhaps both. Somewhere inside John Boehner’s conscience there must persist some awareness that the United States Congress is supposed to serve a higher purpose. By all accounts Boehner is a decent guy. Perhaps listening to the Pope, Boehner had a revelation he could no long serve the morally bankrupt Republican ideology.

The Ohio Republican also declared on CBS’ Face the Nation that there won’t be a government shutdown this week, though he’s “sure” it will take Democratic votes to pass a temporary funding extension. “I don’t want to leave my successor a dirty barn. I want to clean the barn up a little bit before the next person gets there,” he quipped.

Boehner’s difficulties with tea party conservatives — first elected in a huge 83-person freshman class in 2010 and whose ranks grew in 2014—has been a challenge throughout his speakership. Tea party congressmen pushed Washington partisanship to levels unseen in recent decades, shutting down the government and refusing to raise the government’s debt ceiling to advance causes they believe mainstream conservatives had long ignored. They demanded confrontation on shutting down Obamacare, cutting federal spending and most recently ending all federal aid for women’s health services at Planned Parenthood which also provides abortions.

House Speaker John Boehner's sudden resignation Friday "signals that the crazies have taken over the party," New York Republican Peter King said Friday. “I think it signals the crazies have taken over the party, taken over to the party that you can remove a speaker of the House who’s second in line to be president, a constitutional officer in the middle of his term with no allegations of impropriety, a person who’s honest and doing his job. This has never happened before in our country," King said in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash on Friday afternoon. "He could have stayed on.”

Boehner's decision to resign is "like throwing raw meat" to more extreme factions of the caucus who are trying to "hijack and blackmail the party," King said. "They’re not going to see it as a gesture of peace, they’re going to just look for more."

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spoke on Friday about the resignation of Republican House Speaker John Boehner and the implications. Sanders said Boehner was “unable to control” the Republican party and that his resignation could leave the GOP in a more chaotic state. “It appears that even a very conservative speaker like John Boehner is unable to control the extreme right-wing drift of Republicans in the House,” said Sanders. “Without Boehner, it may get even worse.”

Whoever ends up being the new Speaker he will likely be a tea party darling. The new tea party Speaker will continue the strategy of 100% obstruction against the Obama agenda, but now it’ll be done with more verbato and brinksmanship. The new Speaker will pull more political stunts, and invoke more extremist rhetoric that turns off everyone but its own far-end base. He’ll also be less political adept, meaning that even as the republican role dissolves into stuntcasting over the next year and a half, Obama will be in a position to muscle even more of his agenda through side doors.

Moderate and undecided voters tend to ignore ideology and instead vote for whichever party has the appearance of propriety or whichever candidate has the appearance of class. The Republican Party about to fall entirely into the hands of tea party extremists who care less about the future of the party than they do about carrying out their faux-revolution in the form of holding office and refusing to govern. Voters undecided who to vote for in 2016 are about have clear preview of what the nation would be like with Tea Party President and Tea Party controlled congress.

Until now, John Boehner was really the only half-sane Republican leader in Congress keeping the GOP out of the controlling hands of Tea Party lawmakers. The angry and misspelled comments from right-wingers who lashed out at him for not pressing the Tea Party agenda hard enough for their liking are an indication of the coming extremist control of the House Boehner struggled to hold back. Speaker John Boehner’s departure will now allow the fringe elements to finally take over, and hasten the demise of the GOP as a national party. It hasn’t been a question of if, but when, and now the Tea Party will hain full control of Congress – they’re already targeting Mitch McConnell in the Senate as their next victim.

John Boehner was: Anti-choice; Anti-environment; Anti-sensible-gun-laws; Anti-gay; Anti-education; Anti-veteran; Anti-first-amendment; and Anti-privacy. The fact that today’s Republican Party doesn’t think he’s conservative enough should scare the hell out of you.

The Dark Truth Of John Boehner's Resignation"
Pope Francis Addresses Congress

Iran Nuclear Deal Ticking Bomb For Republicans

The Iran nuclear deal is a ticking bomb for Republicans on Election Day, November 2016. It's why they are desperate to block it. An election prediction model that has never been wrong forecasts the Democratic presidential nominee will win the 2016 election in a landslide, if Iranian economic sanctions are lifted.

Moody’s Analytics’ election forecaster, which uses oil and gas prices as a key determinant, has accurately predicted the outcome of every presidential election from 1980-2012.   The model forecasts whether or not the incumbent party will maintain control over the White House. Its latest finding shows Democrats winning almost as strongly as President Obama did in 2012:
Our Moody’s Analytics election model now predicts a Democratic electoral landslide in the 2016 presidential vote. A small change in the forecast data in August has swung the outcome from the statistical tie predicted in July, to a razor-edge ballot outcome that nevertheless gives the incumbent party 326 electoral votes to the Republican challenger’s 212.
The Moody’s model also uses housing prices, the state of the economy, and presidential approval, in addition to the key determinate of oil and gas prices, in predicting election outcome.

There's a huge surplus of oil in the world, stemming from both buoyant world production supply and stagnate demand, likely to leave crude oil and gasoline prices at low levels not seen in decades, through election day 2016.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pope Delivers Pointed Address On Greed, Power, And The Climate At UN

Pope Francis spoke before the United Nations General Assembly Friday morning, articulating an urgent call to address the world’s many interconnected problems, especially economic inequality, climate change, and war. Pope Francis’ speech to the General Assembly may have addressed similar themes as his address to Congress on Thursday, but the tone was an indictment of the U.N.’s failure to fulfill its mission.

Read the story at Think Progress

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pope Francis Addresses Congress

Pope Francis is in DC today addressing Congress. Here are his remarks, as prepared for delivery.

Mr. Vice-President, Mr. Speaker, Honorable Members of Congress,
Dear Friends,

I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in "the land of the free and the home of the brave". I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Real ID Law: Passport Required for US Interstate Travel

Driver’s licenses issued by states not compliant with Real ID will soon not be accepted for people boarding domestic commercial flights, or to get past the front door of your local local Social Security office, or other federal buildings.

Starting in 2016, travelers from the states of New York, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and the American Samoa will not be able to use their driver’s licenses as ID to board domestic flights because those states are “non-compliant” with the security standards outlined in the Real ID Act of 2005, which the U.S. government has been slowly implementing for the past decade.

On May 11, 2005, President Bush signed into law the Emergency Supplemental Appropriation for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005 (H.R. 1268, P.L. 109-13), which included the “Real ID Act of 2005.” The Real ID Act of 2005 mandates that all fifty states must follow specific security, authentication, and issuance regulations, administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in issuing driver's license and personal identification cards. In 2006, DHS estimated the cost of implementation at $23.1 billion over 10 years, of which $14 billion are costs to states.

To be compliant with the Real ID federal law, a state must require applicants for first time driver's license or ID card issuance, and renewal of driver's license and ID issuance for those issued before the state implemented Real ID procedures, to prove five items of fact (full legal name, birth date, citizenship or immigration status, social security number, and proof of permanent residence address of at least 30 days) in person at their state driver's license office. Title II of the Real ID law lists these documents as satisfying the items of fact requirements:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Biden: Run for President May Not Be “Feasible”

In an exclusive interview with Father Matt Malone, S.J., editor in chief of America, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. discusses his thoughts on Pope Francis, as well as his Catholic faith, his upbringing, his public life and private sorrow, and his thinking about a possible presidential campaign.

Although Biden stresses he hasn’t yet made a decision, he acknowledges he “may not get there in time to make it feasible.”
"It's just not there yet and it may not get there in time to make it feasible to be able to run and succeed, because there are certain windows that will close," Biden said. "But if that's it, that's it. It's not like I can rush it."
With the first Democratic presidential debate just a few weeks away, Biden is clearly aware his window of opportunity is closing. It’s not clear what he sees as the deadline, though he could be thinking of the October 13th debate in particular or the pressures of organizing to file to have his name placed on prime ballots in 50 states, plus DC and U.S. territories. Those filing windows start in early November and begin to close in early December.

Joe Biden is polling at around twenty percent among Democratic presidential candidates, despite not being a declared candidate, meaning he has some built in support. Nationally, Biden polls behind Hillary Clinton by roughly a two-to-one margin, and he is even with or trails Bernie Sanders, depending on the poll.  But Biden seems to be a person at peace with the idea the end of his political career serving in elected office may have arrived -- as Biden said, “If that’s it, that’s it.”

The America Media interview was conducted on September 17, 2015 in Washington, D.C. The following video highlights parts of Father Malone's interview with Biden. The full half-hour video can be viewed at here.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Taxes, Tests, and Trumpisms

"We need to control the admission of new low-earning workers in order to... help schools and communities falling behind." - Source, Donald J. Trump's Presidential Campaign Website

As I was volunteering at the Collin County Democratic Party booth during this last weekend's Plano Balloon Festival, I was joined in conversation with a fair vendor and Scott Coleman, one of our Democratic candidates for Texas State Representative, District 67.
We discussed a myriad of topics, and at one point touched on public education. We briefly touched on the revolting amount of money ($13 billion) and time (45 days) spent each year on the STAAR test, even though studies have demonstrated its inadequacy as an instructional tool. After that, the vendor mentioned her belief that the failure of our schools is due to the significant number of migrants who do not pay taxes into the system.
Throughout my time as a public education advocate, this idea has been put forth on a normal basis as an "unassailable fact."

But is it really the truth?

To figure that out, it is necessary to understand a few simple facts about public school finance in Texas. First, every district's budget consists of three revenue streams; Federal (via income taxes), State (via sales taxes), and Local (via property taxes). The state and local portion of the budget are approximately 45% each, and the federal portion is 10% or less.

Some immigrants are undocumented and are not currently paying federal income taxes, but all of them pay property taxes (through rent) and sales taxes (on goods and services). Technically, that means they pay about 90% of the same tax as the rest of us.

But what about that other 10%?

As I have stated in prior posts, the STAAR test is an unfunded federal mandate, on which we have wasted upwards of $13 billion per year with no positive results. A simple solution is to eliminate the STAAR test entirely. Yes, the federal government might hold back their measly $6 billion in funding, but we can use the other $7 billion to decrease class sizes. Freeing up 45 days of the school year for actual instruction would sure go a long way to mitigating the effects of the growing poverty on educational attainment.

Without the test, we all pay the same taxes into our school system, eliminating the argument that immigrants are the reason for our schools' failure and refocusing public ire where it belongs, the Texas Legislature. We've allowed them to scapegoat citizens of Hispanic descent for far too long. The fear of migrants is an antiquated tool used most often by charlatans on the right, like Trump, to defund and privatize key social services. The only way to address this fear is through the liberal application of knowledge.

Please join me in calling our representatives in Austin (and any upcoming candidates) to eliminate standardized testing in Texas public schools.

Your friend (and ally),

Michael Messer
Friendly Neighborhood Democrats

Friday, September 18, 2015

JEB!: Bro President Bush Kept Us - Safe?

During the GOP's September presidential debate last week, Jeb Bush said his brother, President George W. Bush, kept us safe:
Jeb said: “You know what? As it relates to my brother, there is one thing I know for sure, he kept us safe.

I don’t know if you remember, Donald. You remember the rubble?

You remember the firefighter with his arms around it? He sent a clear signal that the United States would be strong and fight Islamic terrorism and he did keep us safe.”
News flash for Jeb: The worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor occurred on his brother's watch and he is responsible for the pile of rubble that had been the World Trade Towers.  He is also responsible for the rubble at the Pentagon and the deaths of the courageous passengers and crew of United Flight 93 on 9/11.

If Jeb Bush wants to continue using his brother as an example of why he should be president, the American people need to be reminded of exactly what happened during those years and the resulting consequences that we are continuing to deal with, including the fact that 9/11 happened under Bush’s watch, which is the exact opposite of keeping us safe.

Here are some more news flashes for Jeb:
  • The worst Economic Recession Crash since the 1928 Great Depression Crash, stoked by Republican ideology of unregulated banking and financial markets, occurred on his brother's watch in 2008. 
  • The worst flooding disaster of a great American city, New Orleans, occurred on his brother's watch in 2006.
  • Bush-Cheney administration falsely represented intelligence related to Iraq's supposed WMD program and Saddam's alleged links to Al Qaeda as an excuse to start a 10 year long war in Iraq that claimed the lives of nearly 4,500 service men and women and sent home over 32,000 wounded soldiers - not counting PTSD wounds. 
  • George Bush sped up climate change with an energy policy written in secret by VP Dick Cheney and representatives of the Oil industry. 
President George W. Bush kept us safe on 9/11?

What I Didn't Know About Bernie...

I'm going to start this post off with an admission of guilt. I was watching friends debate back and forth this morning about the possibility of a Republican win next November and the pros and cons of the two leading candidates on the Democratic side. Inevitably, the conversation devolved into ad hominem attacks and bold statements like "the Old Grumpy Guy" cannot possibly win. When one friend mentioned that Senator Sanders has been highly attractive to young voters, another friend asked the following:
"What has he accomplished while in the senate for our country? What bill of his has passed EVER? Why are you such a supporter with no data?"
Upon reading that, I realized that I had really never researched the long-term legislative efficacy of either Senator Clinton or Sanders. My face flushed red with guilt, and my head hung low in shame. He wasn't directing his ire my way, but his words had struck a chord. After a few moments of silent personal admonishment for ignoring this glaringly important piece of information in my candidate research, I decided now was the time.

It was time for me to find out the truth about Senator Sanders.

(Photo courtesy of
One of the most common critiques of Senator Sanders as a presidential candidate is that his combative nature would severely hinder any hope of him actually passing any legislation based on his ideas. Supporters of Senator Clinton have often stated that while he was fighting with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, she was busy passing legislation.

(Photo courtesy of

So I did a little digging in the database to find out more, and what I found was nothing less than astonishing.

Throughout almost a decade in Congress, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton either sponsored or cosponsored over 2,160 bills in policy areas spanning from Health and International Affairs to Housing & Community Development. After a great deal of hard work, negotiation and compromise, 77 of those bills found their way to the president's desk and became law.

Then I looked up Bernie.

As a member of Congress from 1991 all the way through 2014 (over two decades!!!) he only sponsored or cosponsored a measly 5,292 bills. All of that fighting with Democrats and Republicans must have really hurt his efforts, because out of those, only 206 were signed into law.

Wait a second. That can't be right...

If we were to divide the number of bills they successfully turned into laws by the number of years they were in office...

(Mashes Keys on Calculator...)

Senator Clinton                          Senator Sanders
7.7 successful bills/year              8.5 successful bills/year

Well, gee whiz, Wally. Do you mean to tell me that the Independent Senator from Vermont with all of those crazy ideas about income inequality and social justice passed more legislation not only across his entire congressional career but also per year??? Next you'll be telling me that democratic socialism doesn't mean the end of capitalism and that the vast majority of programs that our parents relied on to earn their way into the middle class are quickly being defunded and privatized at the expense of future generations.

Yeah, Beav. That's what we're telling you.

Special thanks today to my friend, George, whose attempt to paint all supporters of Senator Sanders' candidacy as blind supporters led me to finally do the research I should have done so many months ago. I couldn't have done it without you, buddy.

Your friend,

Michael Messer
Friendly Neighborhood Democrats

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Why Bernie's Lack of Superdelegates is a Good Thing

Recent articles have touted Secretary Clinton's endorsements from Super-delegates as another indicator of why she is guaranteed to win the Democratic Party nomination next year.

As stated by Jonathan Bernstein in his August 28th op-ed for BloombergView,
"Super-delegates were added in the 1980s for two reasons. One was practical: It was the only way to ensure that those party leaders could get to the convention, at least as delegates. The other was political: Democrats were concerned that their new system didn’t place enough weight on electability, and believed a larger voice for politicians and formal party leaders would tilt the nomination in that direction."
There is at least one reason why Senator Sanders has not received as many Super-delegate endorsements, which I would like to briefly elaborate upon here.

Super-delegates consist of United States Senators, Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Governors, and national Democratic Party leaders. When making the decision regarding their endorsement for president, their primary consideration is the amount of money a candidate can raise throughout the campaign. It's been noted as the deciding factor in 91% of Congressional elections, and Bernie Sanders has overtly made it his campaign's policy to reject campaign financing from corporations. Overall, for Super-delegates it's a safe bet.

That said, the reason most Super-delegates have endorsed Hillary is the same reason Bernie is gaining in the polls. It's not that Sanders supporters hate Clinton. In fact, the recent "Des Moines Register poll of Iowa Democrats revealed that 96% of Sen. Sanders’ supporters are not anti-Clinton. Only 2% of Sanders supporters are doing so because they are anti-Clinton." They just want to elect a president who actively calls for the end of unregulated campaign financing which has definitively biased the legislative and budgetary outputs of Congress and state legislatures.

Your Friend & Ally,

Michael Messer
Friendly Neighborhood Democrats

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Talking The Talk On Internet Talk Radio

In early June this year I teamed up with cohost Rheana Piegols to broadcast our "Eyes Wide Open" progressive talk program on BlogTalkUSA Radio every Tuesday evening 8:30 PM to 11:30 PM CDT.

We've had a few interesting guests on our program lately who have given us some very interesting views on Texas and national politics. Here are four program podcast recordings we hope you take the time to enjoy.

This week on BlogTalkUSA Radio, "Eyes Wide Open" program cohosts Michael Handley and Rheana Piegols welcome fellow Texan and dedicated public servant, Mike Collier. In 2014 Mike threw his hat into the ring to run for Texas Comptroller.

After the election, Mike embarked on a 2015 Texas "listen tour" talking Democrats across Texas for Texas Democratic Party Chair, Gilberto Hinojosa. Mike shares his experiences with Texas politics and his thoughts on the issues and candidates for the Texas and National Election in 2016!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Of Professors & Prisons

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)

You might not recognize the name, but it is “the largest private corrections company in the United States.” Have you seen the third season of Orange is the New Black? CCA is the real-life version of the corporation that takes over management at Litchfield Penitentiary and cuts down on cost in overtly stupid ways. It’s a multi-billion dollar behemoth, recognized for its extensive lobbying efforts at the federal level to boost immigrant detention, and in states like Texas to ensure that drug laws remain strict.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Why do #BlackLivesMatter?

I dropped my 7-month old baby son off at daycare this morning. Before I left I watched for a moment as he slowly crawled on the mat toward the only other baby in the room. The other boy was black, with curly hair and inquisitive eyes that followed me for a while as I spoke with the early morning teacher, a wonderful Indian woman who adores my son. After handing off all the bottles, diapers, wipes, and changes of clothes, I turned to find both children locked in a deep gaze. My son was wobbling back and forth on his knees as the other boy lounged in one of the bouncers.

My son's face cracked wide open with a dimpled smile. Babies aren't born racist.

Babies aren't born racists, but over their lives they come to perceive differences and learn biases which will shape the way they interact with the world. Some of those biases will come from their parents. Others might come from their friends or the media they watch.

It's been a little over one year since the death of Michael Brown, and in that time, "nearly 30 unarmed black men were killed in police shootings," including Tamir Rice, a 12-year old boy. We've seen the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, bringing with it an incredibly important conversation. With every death our people grow weary and cynical. We desperately need open dialogue that promotes meaningful and significant action.

Radio and talk-show pundits loudly adulate trigger-happy vigilantes for what they consider to be righteous justice. They tell minorities that if they don't want to be killed, they shouldn't act up.

"Innocent until proven guilty (in a court of law)" is beyond them.

Gnashing their teeth over the music and culture of the recently deceased, they purposefully ignore and marginalize the overt and entrenched injustices faced daily by almost anyone who isn't white. Pointing at the president, they proclaim that racism is dead while scapegoating various minorities for everything from increased drug use to the decline of public schools.

They are paid well to promote these ideas. To tell us that we, as "upstanding, hardworking, and white" citizens, shouldn't care about what happens to people of color.

They are paid to sell that line of thought by billionaires and corporations which gain profits through highly unethical machinations of law in both Congress and our state legislatures. They tell us to focus on the fraud and abuse of the welfare system instead of questioning how "liar's loans" were targeted primarily toward poor ethnic communities before the 2008 crash. They swamp the airwaves with fear over immigrants while promoting the defunding and privatization of our schools, starting with those in predominantly black and Hispanic areas. They attack African American and Hispanic single mothers hoping that we will ignore for-profit prisons full of fathers thanks to officials elected with corporate money. We are told that the poor have chosen to be poor while they are inundated with advertisements on every corner for payday loans with ridiculous interest rates. They tell us that they should just go to college, but unaccredited for-profit universities with huge ad budgets made billions in student loans which often end in default because those degrees are worthless.

They keep us divided with these prejudices and conquer us all by spreading fear and ignorance. Subjugating huge portions of our population to a minimum-wage (aka, "starvation wage") existence, without much hope of betterment, has effectively decimated the American Dream. In 2013, a study found that the United States came in last in economic mobility amongst the 13 rich nations in the OECD. In layman's terms, that means that in America, if you are born poor, you are likely to be poor your entire life. If you are born wealthy...

So why do #BlackLivesMatter?

Black lives matter because they are people, and by ignoring the manner in which they have been treated by our economic and justice systems, we have created a trap for ourselves. With our eyes shut, our government defunded their schools, and we remained blind to the negative effect it had on our own children. As their pleas for justice fall on deaf ears, we subsidize a for-profit prison industry that charges us twice as much for an inmate than what we currently pay for a student. Without speaking up for a living wage and for all workers and gender pay equity, we sacrifice our future earnings to pay for the effects of starvation wages used to bolster profits.

President Lincoln said it best:
"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free... It will become all one thing or all the other."
He was speaking about the states in our union which allowed slavery and those which didn't, and it was a prescient statement about what was to come almost two centuries later. As middle-class and poor children are forced to take on more and more student debt, we have become a nation of indentured servants. Nominal wages have declined for decades, making it harder to pay back that debt, and laws have been passed to prevent them from being dissolved via bankruptcy. Companies now use credit checks in the hiring process, a practice which demonstrably favors the wealthy. Usury has been revived in states like Texas, where loan sharks received Governor Abbott's stamp of approval to charge up to 1,000 percent interest.

We ignore the treatment of black people by the justice system at our own peril, for when finally feel the financial noose tighten around our own necks, our protests will be cut short. When peaceful white members of Occupy Wall Street were maced, tased, beaten, shot with rubber bullets, and killed, some black people could be heard welcoming them to the club. We may never understand how centuries of such treatment has impacted their lives and their families, but some of us are starting to awaken to the shared reality of our future.

Your Friend & Ally,

Michael Messer
Friendly Neighborhood Democrats