Monday, March 30, 2015

Tea Party A Republican Party Realignment, NOT An Insurgency

Talking Points Memo:

"To understand Cruz's role in 2016, one must recognize that the Tea Party in Washington today is a not an insurgency from below. It is a realignment within the Republican establishment that has committed the party to a position of extreme non-compromise. As Megyn Kelly pointed out yesterday, Ted Cruz has put himself at the vanguard of that strategy. The willingness to naysay, more than any policy position or connection to the conservative grassroots, is what distinguishes him from other Republican presidential hopefuls.

Let's remember: The Tea Party, more than an organization or even a movement, was a political moment. In early 2009, the person and the policy proposals of President Barack Obama galvanized grassroots conservatives. But, after the exceptionally unpopular President Bush left office, the Republican brand was toxic and the party leadership was in disarray. Encouraged by conservative media, rank-and-file Republicans built ad hoc local "Tea Party" groups to oppose the new president's agenda. There was plenty of room at the top for any Republican who could seize the "Tea Party" momentum.

At the national level, those who profited were rarely actual newcomers. Instead, longtime conservative insiders like Dick Armey and Jim DeMint became "Tea Party" leaders. Although the adoption of the Tea Party name and symbolism gave a sense of novelty to this intra-party realignment, there is nothing new about the rightmost wing of the Republican Party except its ever-increasing authority.

Today, we are reaping the candidates the Tea Party has sown. One of these is Ted Cruz, whose 2012 campaign received support from several major players in the Tea Party field, including Jim DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund and Dick Armey's Freedom Works, as well as other longtime funders of the far right, like the Club for Growth. These players aren't new, but their degree of power is; the Republican Party has been growing more conservative for decades, and the Tea Party was only the latest step in that direction."

The full story at Talking Points Memo:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Conversation

For generations, parents of black boys across the United States have rehearsed, dreaded and postponed “The Conversation.” But when their boys become teenagers, parents must choose whether or not to expose their sons to what it means to be a black man here.

To keep him safe, they may have to tell the child they love that he risks being targeted by the police, simply because of the color of his skin. How should parents impart this information, while maintaining their child’s pride and sense of self? How does one teach a child to face dangerous racism and ask him to emerge unscathed?

This Op-Doc video is the NYT's attempt to explore this quandary, by listening to a variety of parents and the different ways they handle these sensitive discussions. In bringing about more public awareness that these conversations exist, we hope that someday they won’t be necessary.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Activism Spurs Change on Campuses

Millennials are sometimes called the "Me" generation, but they are the "We" generation when issues of racism and police brutality captured national attention, young college students across the nation answered the call for a new wave of activists.

College students all across the nation used social media platforms to collectively call for justice in the name of unarmed teen Michael Brown when he was gunned down by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

Medical students launched #WhiteCoats4BlackLives following the death of unarmed Staten Island father Eric Garner, which sparked nationwide die-ins at universities like Duke and Yale. More recently, students at the University of Virginia became a united front after fellow student Martese Johnson became the latest Black victim of police brutality.

Despite claims that social media would rot their brains or lead to their demise, college students of all races have utilized the tools they have today and the power of their collective voices to create tangible changes and widespread movements and spark national discussions.


State Preempts Municipal Control Over Gas Drilling

On March 24, the Texas House of Representatives’ Energy Resources Committee passed a bill that would rescind the fracking ban in Denton and other efforts by local Texas municipalities to protect themselves from the oil and gas industry. Once language in the bill is finalized, the legislation will make its way to the full Texas Senate for a vote.

On March 23, hundreds turned up to speak out against State Rep. Drew Darby‘s (R - San Angelo) proposed House Bill 40 at a hearing in Austin that lasted more than eight hours. The committee has yet to vote on HB 40.  The Texas Senate Natural Resources  Economic Development Committee voted unanimously on March 24 to approve Senate Bill 1165.  SB 1165 is a bill with legislative language similar to HB 40 that also asserts the state’s preemptive right over local city control to regulate oil and gas development.

For over a decade, more than 300 cities have come up with their own ordinances to do things how they see fit within their city limits, a right the Texas constitution grants to cities. The bill would be retroactive making it impossible to enforce all local ordinances created in the last decade in more than 300 cities, according to the Texas Municipal League.

Read the full story at

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rag Radio: The Rise of Authoritarian Plutocracy in the U.S.

Progressive populist writer and radio commentator Jim Hightower was Thorne Dreyer's March 6, 2015, Rag Radio guest.

Thorne and Jim discussed issues raised in Jim's article, "What Occupy, the Climate March and #BlackLivesMatter have in common -- and why that should inspire us all,"  about the rise of an "authoritarian plutocracy" in the United States.

Jim Hightower was twice elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner, and has for years been a major force on the populist left.

Monday, March 23, 2015

SCOTUS Upholds Wisconsin Voter I.D. Law

by Michael Handley

The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected a challenge to Wisconsin's voter photo identification law. The Court's decision, today, to affirm Wisconsin's voter photo identification law, may foretell the Court's eventual decision on Texas' voter ID law.

On Friday, U.S. Supreme Court Justices discussed whether to hear a challenge to Wisconsin’s strict voter ID law, which a federal appeals court upheld last fall.  The law was briefly in effect for the February 2012 Wisconsin primary election, but it has been blocked by court action since then.

A federal district judge in Milwaukee, Lynn Adelman, declared the law unconstitutional in a decision last April and blocked enforcement of the law.

In October, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit overturned Adelman's decision, but the U.S. Supreme Court immediately stayed the 7th Circuit's order that Wisconsin could enforce the law.

The law has remained on hold while plaintiffs appealed the 7th Circuit's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ACLU filed a motion in January to the U.S. Supreme Court appealing the 7th U.S. Circuit Court’s ruling, but the Supreme Court today declined to accept the ACLU appeal.

The Supreme Court’s decision today clears the way for Wisconsin to enforce its voter photo identification law.

The challenge to the Wisconsin law is the first of the current round of cases to reach the Supreme Court after a full trial and appellate review, including the appellate process for the Texas voter ID case Veasey v. Abbott.  The Wisconsin law is similar to, but slightly less restrictive than, the Texas' voter I.D. law.

Ted Cruz Announces for President

Texas Senator Ted Cruz announced on twitter Sunday night that he will run for president of the United States. It has been barely three years since Cruz ascended to the political stage as a Texas tea party insurgent, toppling then Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst for the state’s Republican U.S. Senate nomination in the July 2012 primary runoff election.
Dewhurst, owner of an energy company, dominated Cruz 3-1 in campaign donations, raising more than $33 million. But super PAC and other outside spending on "soft" media buys increases the total money spent by or for Dewhurst to $39.5 million. Cruz's campaign raised just $10.2 million with pro-Cruz groups adding an estimated $8 million more in soft spending.

Dewhurst had more than a 2-1 advantage in campaign spending, used largely for old media advertising buys. And still, Tea Party favorite and former Texas solicitor general Cruz shellacked Dewhurst 55 percent to 45 percent. What happened to the old math of campaign spending in the 2012 Texas GOP primary? As they proved with big 2010 mid-term election Tea Party candidate wins, Tea Party groups have learned how to use the Internet communication channels to motivate voters and get out the vote. Candidate Cruz and his campaign staff have also proven to they understand how use Internet and mobile strategies and tactics to win elections.   

Cruz's announcement companion video
Cruz went on to win the 2012 general election beating his Democratic opponent by an overwhelming margin of 56 percent to 41 percent. Cruz was the first (Cuban) Hispanic to be elected to the U.S. Senate in the state. He must have won a substantial percentage of Hispanic voters and political independents, as well as conservative Democrats, to accumulate that statewide percentage among Texas voters in a presidential election year.

Nixon's Vietnam Treason

The new release of extended versions of Nixon's papers now confirms this long-standing belief, usually dismissed as a "conspiracy theory" by Republican conservatives. Now it has been substantiated by none other than right-wing columnist George Will.

Nixon's newly revealed records show for certain that in 1968, as a presidential candidate, he ordered Anna Chennault, his liaison to the South Vietnam government, to persuade them to refuse a cease-fire being brokered by President Lyndon Johnson.

Nixon's interference with these negotiations violated President John Adams's 1797 Logan Act, banning private citizens from intruding into official government negotiations with a foreign nation.

Published as the 40th Anniversary of Nixon's resignation approaches, Will's column confirms that Nixon feared public disclosure of his role in sabotaging the 1968 Vietnam peace talks. Will says Nixon established a "plumbers unit" to stop potential leaks of information that might damage him, including documentation that he believed was held by the Brookings Institute, a liberal think tank. The Plumbers' later break-in at the Democratic National Committee led to the Watergate scandal that brought Nixon down.

Nixon's sabotage of the Vietnam peace talks was confirmed by transcripts of FBI wiretaps. On November 2, 1968, LBJ received an FBI report saying Chernnault told the South Vietnamese ambassador that "she had received a message from her boss: saying the Vietnamese should "hold on, we are gonna win."

As Will confirms, Vietnamese did "hold on," the war proceeded and Nixon did win, changing forever the face of American politics—with the shadow of treason permanently embedded in its DNA.

Read the full story at Common Dreams

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Five Signs Of America'sTransformation

Put together our 1% elections controlled by a small group of billionaires who preselect our candidates by deciding who will get their money, the privatization of our government, the de-legitimization of Congress and the presidency, as well as the empowerment of the national security state and the U.S. military, and add in the demobilization of the American public (in the name of protecting us from terrorism), and you see the American political system is being transformed - not in a good way.

Full article at

Civil War Issues Unresolved

In acknowledgment of the 150th anniversary of the Confederate surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, the theme of the Supreme Court Historical Society's 2015 four part Leon Silverman lecture series is “The Supreme Court and Reconstruction.”

On April 9, 1865 Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his beleaguered Confederate forces to Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army.  Lee's army, after the fall of Richmond and Petersburg, had been attempting to escape to the west so that he could link up with another Confederate army under Joseph E. Johnston.

Unfortunately for the Army of Northern Virginia, the fast moving Union Army of the Potomac positioned itself to cut off Lee's bedraggled army as it moved towards Lynchburg, Virginia.

At the Battle of Sailor's Creek on April 6, 1865, it was becoming clear that the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was dissolving. Rather than pursue a path of more bloodshed, Grant reached out to Lee asking for his surrender on April 7, 1865.  Lee, still not ready to surrender, continued to hold a dialog with his nemesis Grant while holding out hope that he could escape the growing Union stranglehold.  Only after his defeats at Appomattox Station on April 8, 1865, where critical supplies were captured, and Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865 did Lee finally accept Grant's surrender terms.

To end the fighting was an enormously consequential action. But equally consequential was that the war ended without a peace treaty. Five days after Lee surrendered, President Lincoln was assassinated and his vision of Reconstruction, including dissolving the entire leadership of the Confederacy and extending suffrage to at least some black men, died.

On March 11, the Supreme Court Historical Society presented the first installment of this year’s Leon Silverman Lecture Series with Michael A. Ross, Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland as the guest speaker.  Ross began his talk at the historical point when Lincoln was succeeded by Vice President Andrew Johnson, a Democrat from Tennessee – the last state to join the Confederacy.

A month into his presidency, Johnson had extended “sweeping amnesty” to southerners. Although few groups – including high-ranking Confederate Army officials, war criminals, and the planter class – were not given amnesty, they could still ask Johnson for a personal pardon, which he liberally bestowed over 7,000 times. Ultimately,  very few white southerners were disenfranchised. As for extending the franchise to blacks, Johnson famously declared that the United States ”is a country for white men, and by God, as long as I am president, it shall be a government for white men.”


Click here to read about Ross' remarks, reported by SCOTUSblog...

C-SPAN Videos - Leon Silverman Lecture Series