Thursday, July 30, 2015

Friends, Lay Down Your Weapons

With the constant drone of the media covering the 2016 presidential race, it is easy to see why it is at the front of so many people's minds. That said, this post is not about whether Bernie or Hillary is the better candidate. I'm also not going to discuss the individual actions of the overt clowns crowding the Republican Primary arena. Right now, I am worried about one thing.

I am most concerned that the displays of hateful rhetoric between supporters of Hillary and Bernie will damage any chance of us electing a highly-effective president. People have lost friends over these intensely heated debates. They've quit attending Democratic club meetings over them. They've tuned out and turned away from politics because so many of us seem to have trouble arguing for our candidate without personally attacking supporters of the opposition.

I'm writing today to implore everyone to lay down your weapons and start talking to each other like adult and rational human beings. Calling your fellow activists "stupid," "bots," or "undercover Republican trolls" only shuts down the conversations that we so desperately need right now. It effectively marginalizes your friend's feelings and current understanding of the political world. As an acting representative of your candidate in that conversation, you are also showing others how they will be treated if they disagree with you.

Whichever candidate wins the nomination will likely take President Obama's place as scapegoat for the (in)actions of a purposefully stagnant Congress and hyper-conservative state legislatures. While our attention is decidedly focused on the presidential race, the Tea Party is focused on winning local and state elections. Here in Texas, they control our capitol and the actions of our governor.

Meanwhile, we are so up-in-arms over this primary that few are actively searching for or considering running as a candidate in any of the races lower on the ballot. It's like we've collectively fallen for the myth that the United States President is somehow omniscient and omnipotent. In reality, no candidate& can successfully represent our interests if they are constantly shut down by Congress, and the president has little power at all over actions by the states. You might not be aware, but the majority of laws passed each session happen in our state legislatures.

You want laws which enhance the safeguards for gender pay equity, support LGBT and minority rights, and invest necessary funding into our roads, schools, and health care? Focus on changing the partisan demographics of your state's legislature. Organize and find candidates who will actively represent your ideals, and then work hard to make sure they can win in 2016.

Because the president sure as heck isn't omniscient and/or omnipotent, regardless what the conservative pundits and shock-jocks say. Our next president will need all the help they can get, which won't happen if we shun the next generation of activists and/or disregard the experience and knowledge of our elders and peers.

For that reason, I ask that you join me in pledging the following:
"I pledge to promote my chosen candidate in a positive manner, without the use of slander and/or profanity, and to support my stances when necessary with sources that are as unbiased as possible. I pledge to listen as much as I speak, to moderate the tone of my speech, and to apologize and disengage from debate when things get out of control. I pledge to find peace of mind through community service, exhibiting our party's ideals in direct actions and strengthening our shared future. I pledge to focus on state and local politics, and to seek out high-quality candidates to run in the next election."
If you agree with this and wish to publicly take the pledge, please comment below and share this post with your friends. Thank you.

Your friend,

Michael Messer
Friendly Neighborhood Democrats

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Evolving Role of Twitter and Facebook For News And Politics

Social media will be more crucial to 2016 candidates than past election cycles. A new study conducted by the Pew Research Center, in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, found voters rely more than ever on their favorite social media platform(s) to keep informed.

The study found 63 percent of users on each of the Facebook and Twitter social hubs consume most of their news on those sites. These numbers are on the rise from 2013, when 52 percent of Twitter users and 47 percent of Facebook users reported finding their news on the sites. The increase was seen across all age groups.

Politics was the most prevalent of all the news subjects that users reported they came across on social media and a growing roster of 2016 candidates are taking advantage in the shift in how people consume news. Many have wasted no time this election season establishing a social media presence.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Marco Rubio: Women's Right Of Privacy Decision "Egregiously Flawed"

GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) said the historic Roe v. Wade decision that "women have a right of privacy" to make personal reproductive decisions is “historically and egregiously flawed.” Rubio made the statement in a speech Friday before the National Right to Life Committee’s annual convention in New Orleans. Rubio promised he would fight to restrict women’s right of privacy to make personal decisions “at home and around the world.”

At the time Roe v. Wade was decided in 1972, most states, including Texas, severely restricted or banned the practice of abortion. Texas' law banned all abortions except those necessary to save the life of the mother.

In 1970, lawyers Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington brought a lawsuit on behalf of a pregnant woman, Dallas, Texas area resident Norma L. McCorvey ("Jane Roe"), claiming a Texas law criminalizing most abortions violated Roe's constitutional rights.

The lawsuit was filed against Henry Wade, Dallas Country District Attorney, in a Texas federal court. The federal court ruled Texas' law violated the U.S. Constitution. Wade appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which reviewed the case through 1971 and 1972.

In the 7-2 Roe v. Wade majority decision, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote, the Texas law banning abortion violated Jane Roe's constitutional right to privacy to make personal reproductive decisions concerning her own body.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Jeb Bush Says American Workers Must Work Longer Hours And Years

If you’re in the American middle class—or what’s left of it—here’s how you probably feel. You feel like you’re struggling harder than your parents did, working longer hours than ever before, and yet falling further and further behind. The reason you feel this way is because most of you truly are falling further behind. But during an interview with The New Hampshire Union-Leader editorial board, GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush said, "people need to work longer hours."
“My aspirations for the country, and I believe we can achieve it, is for 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see, which means we have to be a lot more productive. Workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we are going to get out of this rut that we’re in,”Bush said.
Wealthy GOP politicians want all of US to work harder, when they have hardly every spent an hour of work at hard labor. Jeb Bush wouldn't last an hour pouring asphalt in the hot sun, but some people do that all day.

For the over 109 million Americans in full-time jobs, work weeks often are longer than the 40-hour standard. According to a Gallup poll conducted last year, full-time salaried employees reported working an average of 47 hours a week, without overtime compensation. Many salaried employees are forced by their bosses to work 60 to 70 hours a week for a 40 hour based salary.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Is Our Nation's Breadbasket Contaminated?

I read a report from Bloomberg this morning which detailed the fracking industry's problem with wastewater in California. Anybody else concerned that they are selling wastewater to farmers in the state where the vast majority of our vegetables grow?

"In central California’s San Joaquin Valley, Chevron piped almost 8 billion gallons of treated wastewater to almond and pistachio farmers last year. California Resources Corp., the state’s biggest oil producer, plans to quadruple the water it sells to growers, Chief Executive Officer Todd Stevens told investors at an April conference."

I understand that the farmers are desperate for water, but how in the world is this not an insane idea? According to a study done by the Environmental Working Group, fracking wastewater is a "toxic stew of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm."

"In 2014, the first year of California’s groundbreaking fracking disclosure program, more than a dozen hazardous chemicals and metals as well as radiation were detected in the wastewater, some at average levels that are hundreds or thousands of times higher than the state’s drinking water standards or public health goals."

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Investigation of Texas Attorney General Paxton Going To Grand Jury

UPDATED - Wednesday, July 8, 2015 1:30 PM - Texas Tribune Reports:
The name of Attorney General Ken Paxton, facing potential indictment by special prosecutors in Collin County for first-degree felony securities fraud, has surfaced in a federal probe of a company in which he is an investor.

The investigation, first reported late Tuesday by The Associated Press, centers on whether McKinney-based Servergy defrauded investors with false claims about the sales of its data servers and their technological capabilities. According to court filings by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company is suspected of "potential misstatements" about having pre-orders for the servers from the online retailer Amazon and the semiconductor giant Freescale — and in assertions that the product needed up to 80 percent less cooling, energy and space compared with other servers on the market.

Paxton's email address appears with about 70 other contacts in one list of search terms in a subpoena of Servergy from the SEC. His name is also included in an October 2014 letter from Servergy to the SEC describing the search terms used to produce the documents the company turned over in response to a subpoena.

Texas Public Radio -  MP3 - Tx AG Paxton’s Legal Challenges Grow
Original Post Thursday, July 2, 2015 2:00 AM

WFAA 8 News Dallas reports Texas Attorney General Paxton faces first-degree felony indictment.

What Texas Should Learn From Greece

The Lone Star State is world-renowned for its pride, and with good reason. We have what is arguably some of the world's best food, a heritage chock-full of eccentric and successful individualists, and a land rich with resources. In the minds of many, Texans are a special mixture of luck and self-determination, stubborn as the long-horned cattle raised on our farms, and as kind as a cool breeze on a hot summer's day.

Texas is also well-known for its anti-tax approach to big business. Whether a tax-free weekend to temporarily boost sales, franchise tax breaks to corporations, or the tax break granted to the fracking industry, our legislators are overtly keen on cutting taxes. With one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, you might assume that this approach has obviously worked.

But here's the thing. While our unemployment rate is low, our poverty and uninsured rates are incredibly high. Our schools are overcrowded, emergency services are overburdened, and our roads are literally crumbling before our eyes. The infrastructure we have depended on for so many decades is falling apart, and thanks to our elected officials, we don't seem to have the funds necessary to fix it.

Unlike the federal government, our state's ability to provide necessary services to our people is dependent upon the amount of taxes raised. Much like Greece and the euro, Texas does not have the ability to create its own currency. In 2011, as Greece was cutting funding for education and closed or merged over 1,000 schools, our elected officials were cutting $5.4 billion from our state's anemic public education budget.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Sen. Sanders Draws 9,000 To Campaign Stop In Portland, Maine

Addressing yet another record crowd -- this one at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine, with an estimated 8,000 people attending -- Sen. Bernie Sanders suggested why he draws record audiences at every campaign stop.
"The answer, I think, is pretty obvious," Sanders told his overflow audience. "From Maine to California ... the American people understand that establishment politics and establishment economics are not working for the middle class."
In recent weeks, Sanders has drawn 13,000 people to Madison, Wis.; more than 5,000 to Denver, and about 3,000 to Minneapolis. On Friday, he also attracted more than 2,500 people to Council Bluffs, Iowa -- record turnout so far for the 2016 cycle in the nation's first presidential caucus state. A portion of the Council Bluffs audience came from just across the river in Omaha, Neb. (UPDATE: Late report is Cross Insurance Arena was filled to capacity. Seating areas they had not planned to use had to be opened to accommodate all who filed into to venue. The arena seats up to 9,500 for concerts, which is the configuration finally used.)

In an hour-long address that was streamed live on YouTube, he promised his audience that he would bring about "real change" if elected president. That includes raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, making college tuition-free and guaranteeing workers family leave, vacation time and paid sick time. And it would mean higher taxes for corporations and the wealthy.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Texas Republicans: Divorce Government From Marriage

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

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

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

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Bernie Sanders Draws Record Iowa Audience

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

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

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

Friday, July 3, 2015

Pres. Obama Speaks At University of Wisconsin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Solar Electric Production In U.S. Higher Than Estimated

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

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

Use Of Public Funds For Private Schools Is UNCONSTITUTIONAL

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sen. Bernie Sanders Draws Record Audience In Wisconsin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit Dan Merica

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