Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Romney gets his groove back

Just the mental image of R-money getting his groove on is enough to make a person shudder, isn't it?

"We didn't win by a lot, but we won by enough, and that's all that counts," Romney told a crowd gathered at his victory party in Novi, Mich.

In Michigan, Romney held a 3 percent lead -- 41 percent to 38 percent over Rick Santorum -- with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Ron Paul received 12 percent of the vote and Newt Gingrich received 7 percent. In Arizona, with 90 percent of precincts reporting, Romney led with 47 percent, Santorum was in second with 27 percent, Gingrich third with 16 percent and Paul fourth with 8 percent.

Someone else also declared victory.

In an optimistic speech during which several news networks declared Romney the winner of Michigan, Santorum said, "A month ago they didn't know who we are, but they do now."

Oh, we've all known what you are for quite a long time now.

Though Arizona and Michigan have almost the same number of delegates, AZ was winner-take-all while MI awards proportionately. Thus R-money was going to have a good night even if he had lost the Wolverines. But the media spin has been all about him not surging, so last night's results are gold-star worthy.

Santorum, for his part, seems to recognize now where he went off the rails.

"We came to the backyard of one of my opponents, in a race where people said, 'You know, just ignore it, you're going to have no chance here.' And the people of Michigan looked into the hearts of the candidates, and all I have to say is, 'I love you back.'"

The crowd was enthusiastic, with one man shouting, "I love you," but there was a sad tone in the air that began even before they took the stage, as the theme song to the "The Natural" played.

Santorum mentioned his 93-year-old mother, something he hasn't in previous speeches, and he told the audience in what seemed to be a pitch to female voters who might feel put off by some of his previous comments about women in the workplace, that his mother made more money than his father.

So... his parents both went to "indoctrination mills". And then they went to work for the gubmint. Damned liberals. It gets worse, though; so did his wife, that horrible woman who had a partial birth abortion.

The former Pennsylvania senator also touted his wife's work experience, saying she was a "professional" as well, and thanked his daughter, Elizabeth, who has been on the campaign trail with him since the early days in Iowa.

"[Karen] worked as a nurse, but after we got married, she decided to walk away, yet didn't quit working. She was a mother, and also wrote two books," Santorum said, in what also seemed to be an appeal to female voters.

He spent most of his speech repeating the themes he does on the stump, including his mention of the Declaration of Independence, but this evening there was a twist on that, too.

"The men and women who signed that declaration wrote the final phrase, 'We pledge to each other our lives, our fortune, and our sacred honor," Santorum said.

There were no women who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Note to Santorum: work in some praise of Martha Washington and Abigail Adams. Try to avoid talking about Sally Hemings or Benjamin Franklin's various indiscretions.

By the way, Ron Paul isn't giving up either. Newt Gingrich just has Georgia on his mind at this point. All this, as you can imagine, is a bit tiring for some people.

"Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief and Romney gets a little momentum heading into next week, but it doesn't change much," Republican strategist Ron Bonjean said. "This is going to be a long, drawn-out marathon. It feels like a political death march."

That's not a sad trombone, that's a dirge.

Update: More "experts" -- in this case unemployed Republican political consultants -- rain on R-money's parade.

“A loss to Rick Santorum [in Michigan] would have been a shock to his heart, but he’s going into Super Tuesday with some blood on him,” said GOP strategist Dan Schnur, who is not aligned with any of the candidates.

“In order for Romney to get some kudos, he needs to win a state where there aren’t a lot of Mormons [Arizona] or Romneys [Michigan],” Schnur added.

That prize is Ohio, the key blue-collar battleground on the 10-state Super Tuesday slate — but it’s a state where Romney’s corporate raider background and elitist-sounding verbal stumbles will undoubtedly be used against him by his rivals.

“Has he regained that aura of inevitability? That’s an open question,” said GOP strategist Keith Appell of the bipartisan firm CRC Public Relations.

“He spent $4 million on attack ads in Michigan against a guy who didn't have the money to fight back,” added Appell, who is also not working for any of the candidates.

“This was supposed to be over after Romney won New Hampshire, then Nevada and Florida. But it isn't over. Maybe Super Tuesday voters won't be impressed by Romney winning his home state.”

That reads like hideously sour grapes considering the sources. Look at the total delegate counts after last night, and the number of delegates at stake next Tuesday, and note that all the Not-Romneys put together add up several delegates shy of Romney's current total. Even with many states selecting proportionately through the end of March (as well as several non-binding caucuses), at this point the Not-Romneys are contending for ego status, prime time speaking slots at the convention, and 2016.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Said in my best Steve Martin "The Jerk" imitation.

After a months-long set of legal battles spanning three courtrooms in two cities, Texas may finally have a set of interim redistricting maps that could keep the primary election on May 29.

The new maps, released by the San Antonio federal court today, appear to be nearly identical to the compromise maps negotiated between Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and the Latino Redistricting Task Force, which were rejected by other minority and Democratic groups.

Like that compromise, the court's congressional map would create two new minority congressional seats and preserves the Republican-dominated Legislature's decision to split Austin into five districts, likely forcing U.S. Rep Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, to run in a new, heavily Hispanic district that stretches from San Antonio to Austin.

Harvey K has links to the maps viewer and this "first blush":

(T)he blobs on the map would seem to show that the AG's compromise maps held up pretty well. On the Congressional plans, the fracturing of Travis County from the state's enacted map has been restored. That means for the interim map at least Lloyd Doggett is being forced to run against a San Antonio Democrat in the new CD 35. Also, the CD 33 in the DFW Metroplex that was drawn into the Abbott compromise map to favor a minority candidate remains in place.

On the House map, Ken Legler's HD 144 (Pasadena area) remains unchanged from Abbott's compromise map but the court made some changes to HD 137 (inc. Scott Hocheberg, retiring) and HD 149 (inc. Hubert Vo) in Harris County. Judges had warned in the status conference that Abbott's treatment of HD 137 had minority retrogression issues. Finally, it looks like the court made some adjustment to John Garza's HD 117 in Bexar County, another flashpoint from the status conference.

I'm back in Culberson's 7th Congressional, but still in Borris Miles' HD 146 and Rodney Ellis' Senate District 13. The Startlegram's Aman Batheja, on Twitter:

Joe Barton won't represent Cowboys Stadium under court-drawn cong. map. Ends up in new Dem-leaning Dist. 33.

Batheja also notes that Tarrant County remains as the Legislature drew it, with a minority district in which two Democratic statehouse incumbents are forced to contend.

With the exception of the hosing of Smokey Joe, these maps are the suck -- unless you're Greg Abbott. They were pushed out early by the judges in order to save a May election day, but as Nolan Hicks at the SAEN observes...

The May 29 primary could still be in jeopardy if any of the groups that sued appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to block the new maps.

More updates as they roll in.

Update I: Burnt Orange laments Travis County's 5-way split.

The 10th remains largely unchanged, the 21st narrows to a skinny swath of Central Austin, and the 17th (the green area on the map) reaches down from Burleson County to stick a finger into north Austin and Pflugerville, just below the Williamson County border. The bad news is that CD-25 now runs from East Austin to Western Travis County, and then all the way up to Tarrant, while the 35th encompasses eastern Travis County and skips alongside I-35 down to San Antonio.

Sorry, y'all, we Austinites are apparently incapable of handling the rigors of selecting a Congressman whose constituents are primarily in Austin. We need the rest of the surrounding region to do it for us. But good news, Austinites and Pflugervillans, because some of you are about to be represented by Republican Bill Flores! He will care a lot about your concerns. Not really. #sadtrombone

Update II: Matt Angle, Lone Star Project.

Most of the plaintiff groups who challenged the Republican congressional plan hoped for a better interim map. These hopes were undermined, however, when Congressman Henry Cuellar and one of the Latino plaintiff groups – the Latino Task Force – agreed to a compromise proposal that gave up at least three, and perhaps all four, of the additional Texas seats to the Republicans.

Next month, the Federal District Court in Washington, DC is expected to release its decision detailing all of the violations in the State’s originally enacted redistricting plan. Ultimately, the DC Court’s decision will guide the redrawing of new maps when the Legislature meets again in 2013.

Update III: Michael Li.

Buzz that the proposed reopened filing period will be Friday, March 2, through Tuesday, March 6 (which would be somewhat fitting since then the filing period would end on Super Tuesday - the date of the original Texas primary).

For now, everything appears to be on track for a May 29 primary and July 31 (or early August) runoff.

Last update: This DK diary has "full analysis", some of which is even accurate. BOR asks and then answers: "Who likes the way redistricting went? Almost no one, apparently."

Michigan today

A day of reckoning for the so-called front-runner.

On the eve of the unlikeliest showdown of a dumbfounding campaign year, the bitter Republican primary battle in Michigan has turned into an all-out class war.

Rick Santorum, flaunting the fieriest populism in years by a Republican presidential contender, is waging a determined challenge against Mitt Romney, heir to a Michigan political dynasty. Romney had once been expected to cruise to victory in the state his father governed, and that he won four years ago.

But Santorum was aiming for an upset that, as he says, would “shock” the Republican world. In the first industrial-state primary of 2012, he has cast himself as a fighter for working men and women against the “elites in society who think that they can manage your life better than you can.”

Ah, fiery is a good word to describe how things might end for Rmoney.

The class competition played out visibly Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, which was to have opened NASCAR’s season until rain forced a postponement.

Romney flew to Florida from Michigan and put on a public display of affinity, strolling the NASCAR pits in a bright red Daytona 500 jacket and blue jeans. At one point, he walked past a car emblazoned with Santorum’s campaign logo. (Out of public view, Romney also had a private breakfast with the billionaire founders of the auto racing operation and was introduced at a meeting of racing teams, corporate sponsors and celebrities.)

Yeah, the NASCAR thing turned out well.

And with Operation Hilarity adopted by the Frothy Mixture campaign and put into full effect, tonight's results will make for lively discussion among the talking heads.

As the GOP primary race comes down to the wire in Michigan, Rick Santorum’s campaign has a last trick up its sleeve.

The campaign has launched telephone robocalls throughout the state slamming rival Mitt Romney for opposing the auto industry bailout in late 2008 and early 2009, and urging Democrats to show up for Tuesday’s Republican primary and cast ballots for Santorum.

“Michigan Democrats can vote in the Republican primary on Tuesday. Why is it so important?” the voice on the call says. “Romney supported the bailouts for his Wall Street, billionaire buddies, but opposed the auto bailouts. That was a slap in the face to every Michigan worker, and we’re not going to let Romney get away with it.”

The call urges listeners to “send a loud message” to Romney by voting for Santorum, even though Santorum, too, opposed the auto industry bailout. It ends with the line: “This call is supported by hard-working Democratic men and women and paid for by Rick Santorum for president.”

Tune in to your favorite news channel this evening for all the fiery details.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance dressed in its finest evening attire, strolled down the red carpet as flashes blinked, and carried home the golden statue with this week's blog roundup.

Off the Kuff conducted interviews with Democratic Senate hopefuls Paul Sadler and Sean Hubbard.

BossKitty at TruthHugger is appalled at the disinformation and outright lies that the oil and gas industry pays advertisers and politicians to say in order to mislead voters. While some voters depend on mainstream media to be objective when reporting about drilling and injection consequences, others rely on their religious leaders to put a theological spin on their vote. So the result is The Earth is Flat and Fracking is Safe. BossKitty is also really alarmed at the infiltration of the US military by religious extremists: US Military Infiltrated By Christian Crusaders Desecrate Toward Apocalypse.

BlueBloggin is disgusted that Newt Gingrich has gotten away with condemning the president for not making excuses for the childish vandalism of Holy Books. Gingrich and other GOP candidates are pandering to the most extreme Dominionist element of people who call themselves Christian. Read more in GOP Presidential Candidate nut case, encourages Holy War.

As we wait for the Texas primary to be set, WCNews at Eye On Williamson reminds us that there's still time for candidates to enter races.

The long delay in determining the new redistricted parameters affects not only Democrats and Republicans but also the other political parties, who can't begin to collect petition signatures until after the primary elections. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has that and more third-party news in this update.

Bay Area Houston updates the saga of Michael Berry, the right wing talk show hypocrite caught in a gay bar.

Neil at Texas Liberal took a look at some homemade fliers for shows from back in his punk rock days, and was reminded yet again that taking action is up to each of us.

At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw warns us that if you are upset about rising gasoline prices, "whatever you do, don't ask a Republican politician to tell you the truth about why prices are increasing. For the party of right wing mullahs has socio-pathological issues with women's rights. The pre-historic neanderthal cave dwellers will just lie to you and blame the rising prices on Obama." Read the rest: GOP Scamming People on High Gas Prices.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme joins the chorus pf people pointing out that Texas Republicans really, really hate women.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Third party updates

I have previously published news about third parties and their presidential candidates here and here. At the risk of repeating myself...

My thoughts on the ineptitude of continuing to support all of the candidates of the leftish member of the two-party duopoly were posted here last week. My argument in favor of third parties is: what have you got to lose? If you're a Republican and the party nominates someone you can't support, your vote for a third party candidate, be it Libertarian or Constitution or some other is a message to the GOP to shape up. Likewise -- and particularly since this is Texas, where your presidential vote isn't going to matter anyway -- you can send a message to the Democrats to get their shit together.

That having been reiterated...

-- First, this from Ballot Access News reveals another delay in the Texas primary that is tipped by RPT chairman Steve Munisteri, and it has ramifications for third party petitioners:

For the last few weeks, virtually everyone who has been following the Texas redistricting trial has assumed that the Texas primary this year will be May 29. However, on February 24, the Texas Republican Party state chair issued a letter, warning that there is a possibility the primary won’t be held until June 26. Here is the letter. Thanks to TexasRedistricting blog for the link.

A June 26 primary would require a major revision to the state’s procedure for independent presidential candidates, because the independent presidential petition can’t begin to circulate until after the primary.

Munisteri's note is headlined "it's up to the courts". That's false. It's up to him and his party to take a settlement they don't like or wait for the courts to make a decision they won't like. If they settle, they can't sue on appeal, so they won't negotiate an agreement.

This mess is all owned by the Texas GOP.

-- The Greens won't have to fight for ballot access in Texas this cycle, and have gotten a great deal of publicity out of Roseanne Barr's declaration for that nomination. Though there are others contending -- the Green Party's Texas state convention is June 9-10 in San Antonio where they will select candidates for state office (candidates must still file but there is no primary voting as with the Rs and Ds), and the national convention is July 12-15 in Baltimore -- the presidential candidate getting the most positive attention is Dr. Jill Stein. The New York Times has posted two articles of late: "Five Questions for Jill Stein" last week, and "Who might run as a third-party candidate in 2012?", yesterday. This would be Dr. Stein's second challenge to Mitt Romney (if he achieves the GOP nomination, that is); she ran against him for Massachusetts governor in 2002.

-- That last NYT link above also mentions Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg as possible 3rd candidates, for what little that is worth. Aman Batheja at the FWST has a post detailing Trump's potential as the Make America Great Again party's presidential nominee in Texas, along with some extra third party news.

-- Americans Elect, the online effort to nominate a third-party candidate, is taking their game offline with a meetup next week in Austin. It requires an RSVP at their Facebook site (which sort of defeats the purpose of taking your game offline). I have previously detailed the worthlessness of this effort as a playtoy for the idle rich. Buddy Roemer, the former Louisiana governor who drew no interest as a contender for the Republican nomination, has announced he will seek the AE slot as well as that of the Reform Party. It's noteworthy that Roemer has a local supporter in Greg Wythe. Charles has more.

-- The Libertarians' highest profile candidate (if you don't count Ron Paul) is former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson. This article details his efforts to appeal to an unconventional voting bloc: marijuana users.

Johnson’s decision to campaign on legalizing marijuana was based on principle: He’s used it, he thinks it’s safer than booze, and he hates the drug war. It was also based on some hypothetical math: “100 million Americans have admitted to using marijuana,” Johnson told me two weeks before the Florida straw poll. “If they all gave me a dollar, that’s a hundred million bucks.”

In theory, it was a swell plan. In practice, Johnson has “done so many events with marijuana. So many marijuana events. Basically, nothing comes out of it other than for an enthusiasm for what I say. No money comes out of it.”

That’s not to say that marijuana policy reform advocates are broke, or cheap. Progressive Insurance founder Peter B. Lewis has donated half a million dollars this election cycle to Prop. 66, which would reform California’s onerous three-strikes law, and another $159,000 to the Drug Policy Alliance Network Committee. (Lewis’s deep pockets also made the Marijuana Policy Project what it is today.)

But what weed money there is, isn’t flowing to Johnson. So he’s going back to the basics: Cutting the size of government. [...]

Over dinner, I asked Johnson how to make that message...sexier.

“How do you?” he replied. “We talk about this all the time. That’s kind of the crux. It’s not a sexy message, but if we don’t cut Medicare by 43 percent, there’s not gonna be any Medicare.”

For some reason I think he ought to stick with the ganja issue.

-- Lastly, the party and candidate Democrats appear to fear more than the Greens in the 2012 cycle -- Justice Party nominee Rocky Anderson -- continues to plow ahead with ballot access success in states not named Texas.

Friday, February 24, 2012

"The last stage in any paranoid illness"

Matt Taibbi, always cogent, particularly so in this analysis of the Last Republican Debate of 2012.

(I)t was while watching the debate last night that it finally hit me: This is justice. What we have here are chickens coming home to roost. It's as if all of the American public's bad habits and perverse obsessions are all coming back to haunt Republican voters in this race: The lack of attention span, the constant demand for instant gratification, the abject hunger for negativity, the utter lack of backbone or constancy (we change our loyalties at the drop of a hat, all it takes is a clever TV ad): these things are all major factors in the spiraling Republican disaster.

Most importantly, though, the conservative passion for divisive, partisan, bomb-tossing politics is threatening to permanently cripple the Republican party. They long ago became more about pointing fingers than about ideology, and it's finally ruining them.

Really and truly, the old Republican moderates are going to be missed. George H. W. was one once upon a time, before the zealots blasted him on his support of Planned Parenthood, and then drove him out of office when he compromised on raising taxes. In the modern day, Dick Lugar of Indiana is now certain to be TeaBagged because he's been committing voter fraud for the past 35 years.

I will return to the subject of voter fraud at the end, after sampling Taibbi in the following.

Oh, sure, your average conservative will insist his belief system is based upon a passion for the free market and limited government, but that's mostly a cover story. Instead, the vast team-building exercise that has driven the broadcasts of people like Rush and Hannity and the talking heads on Fox for decades now has really been a kind of ongoing Quest for Orthodoxy, in which the team members congregate in front of the TV and the radio and share in the warm feeling of pointing the finger at people who aren't as American as they are, who lack their family values, who don’t share their All-American work ethic.

The finger-pointing game is a fun one to play, but it’s a little like drugs – you have to keep taking bigger and bigger doses in order to get the same high.

So it starts with a bunch of these people huddling together and saying to themselves, "We’re the real good Americans; our problems are caused by all those other people out there who don’t share our values." At that stage the real turn-on for the followers is the recognition that there are other like-minded people out there, and they don’t need blood orgies and war cries to keep the faith strong – bake sales and church retreats will do.

...(T)hey sit and wait for the return of a world where there was one breadwinner in the family, and no teen pregnancy or crime or poor people, and immigrants worked hard and didn't ask for welfare and had the decency to speak English – a world that never existed in reality, of course, but they're waiting for a return to it nonetheless.

The good old days. Happy Days. The Eisenhower years -- before those tacky things like the Voting Rights Act and the military/industrial complex. Back then they were only scared of the Russkies, the Bomb, and Black People.

Think Ron Paul in the South Carolina debate, when he said that in the '60s, "there was nobody out in the street suffering with no medical care." Paul also recalled that after World War II, 10 million soldiers came home and prospered without any kind of government aid at all – all they needed was a massive cut to the federal budget, and those soldiers just surfed on the resultant wave of economic progress.

"You know what the government did? They cut the budget by 60 percent," he said. "And everybody went back to work again, you didn't need any special programs."

Right – it wasn’t like they needed a G.I. Bill or anything. After all, people were different back then: They didn’t want or need welfare, or a health care program, or any of those things. At least, that’s not the way Paul remembered it.

That's all the early conservative movement was. It was just a heartfelt request that we go back to the good old days of America as these people remembered or imagined it. Of course the problem was we couldn't go back, not just because more than half the population (particularly the nonwhite, non-straight, non-male segment of the population) desperately didn't want to go back, but also because that America never existed and was therefore impossible to recreate.

Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and even Ronald Reagan -- who raised taxes and ran massive deficits that Bill Clinton cleaned up -- would all be to the left of today's Republican party, mostly as a result of this three-year-old phenomenon called the Tea Party. This condition is so acute, so diseased, so bad that none of the remaining Republican candidates wish to be described as moderate as George W. Bush, like Rick Santorum was last Wednesday. But back to Taibbi.

And when we didn’t go back to the good old days, this crowd got frustrated, and suddenly the message stopped being heartfelt and it got an edge to it.

The message went from, "We’re the real Americans; the others are the problem," to, "We’re the last line of defense; we hate those other people and they’re our enemies." Now it wasn’t just that the rest of us weren't getting with the program: Now we were also saboteurs, secretly or perhaps even openly conspiring with America’s enemies to prevent her return to the long-desired Days of Glory.

"Obama is a Kenyan Muslim Socialist". "Deport all illegals". You get the picture.

In the Clinton years and the early Bush years we started to hear a lot of this stuff; that the people conservatives described as "liberals" were not, as we are in fact, normal people who believe in marriage and family and love their children just as much as conservatives do, but perverts who subscribe to a sort of religion of hedonism.

"Liberals' only remaining big issue is abortion because of their beloved sexual revolution," was the way Ann Coulter put it. "That's their cause – spreading anarchy and polymorphous perversity. Abortion permits that."

So they fought back, and a whole generation of more strident conservative politicians rose to fight the enemy at home, who conveniently during the '90s lived in the White House and occasionally practiced polymorphous perversity there.

Taibbi has a summary of the W years, but I just can't live through even a minute of that again. I'll prefer to skip the Gingrich/DeLay/Armey years also -- go back over and get this if you want it -- so fast-forward from about 1994 to 2008.

And when the unthinkable happened, and a black American with a Muslim-sounding name assumed the throne in the White House, now, suddenly, we started to hear that liberals were not only in league with terrorists, but somehow worse than terrorists.

"Terrorism? Yes. That’s not the big battle," said Minnesota Republican congressional candidate Allan Quist a few years ago. "The big battle is in D.C. with the radicals. They aren’t liberals. They are radicals. Obama, Pelosi, Walz: They’re not liberals, they’re radicals. They are destroying our country."

Try to notice how many times a conservative says or writes "destroying our country" or some close variation of that. Just for today, and make sure they aren't referring to the Russians, the Chinese, or even the Syrians or the Iranians.

See how many times you hear that mentioned. Just today.

(A)ll liberals, gays, Hispanic immigrants, atheists, Hollywood actors and/or musicians with political opinions, members of the media, members of Congress, TSA officials, animal lovers, union workers, state employees with pensions, Occupiers and other assorted unorthodox types had already long ago been rolled into the enemies list.

All of the associated language -- the code words and the dog whistles as well as the obvious, blatant bigotry and hate -- that accompany this demonization is designed to do what the Ku Klux Klan used to do in the old days: Harass, intimidate, threaten. Without all of that messy killing and lynching, of course.

Those days, the mythological good old days, were still thriving in the late 1950s -- where today's Republicans, as Taibbi has noted, would wish the country to return. At least that far back, if not farther.

Taibbi has much more of this history and ties it all together, right up to Ash Wednesday's GOP debate in Arizona. I'll leave it to you to finish there. Here I will make my point about conservative paranoia as it relates to Voter ID legislation, the mythical voter "fraud", and our local contingent of Patriots who are taking their crusade across the country.

Once upon a time in this great nation -- I'm so old I remember it -- we encouraged people to vote. Voter registration drives were held at storefronts, a voter registration card came in your welcome-wagon packet, and by golly there was regular refrain from officials of all kinds (even teachers!) that voting should be your priority as a citizen.

The current iteration of the Republican party, however, decided they couldn't have that, though; when more people vote, they lose (see: 2008, and its polar opposite, 2010). So as a matter of survival they are now doing everything they possibly can to suppress voting.

Black box voting -- the assembly and counting of ballots electronically by machines they own, distribute, and sell to municipalities, and are both corrupt and corruptible -- wasn't enough to stem the tide. They had to turn to legislation that would address a problem that does not exist to any significant degree: they call it voter "fraud". It's as rare as unicorns and pink elephants (in fact the most serious voter fraud conviction in history was recently committed by the Indiana secretary of state, a Republican) but the Voter ID laws still passed, as much on the Republican paranoia that Mickey Mouse had cast fifty ballots in every precinct in the nation as the strength of their electoral victories in 2010 in statehouses across the country.

Here in Texas, Attorney General Greg Abbott sent agents from his office to a little old lady's house in Fort Worth to investigate allegations of voter fraud. They even peered in her bathroom window just as she was getting out of the shower, but they still couldn't find any evidence of voter "fraud". Abbott could have found some if he had looked at a Republican state senator Brian Birdwell, who voted twice in the 2004 presidential election... but again, Abbott wasn't looking for wealthy white male voter fraud.

As a result of all this voter fraud that Republicans have committed -- so goes the pretzel logic -- Democrats must be doing more of it, so local Republicans established an organization called True the Vote. What's more, they have weaponized it for 2012. It was born here in Harris County, they held a national summit here in Houston last year, its aim to spread nationwide -- especially through these legislative voter/photo id actions -- is ongoing and strengthening. How this strategy is executed, essentially, is that white people show up at minority-majority precincts and do whatever they can think of to intimidate black and brown voters; taking pictures of them, peering over their shoulders as they cast their ballot, and other discriminatory and illegal actions.

They have a goal for 2012 to stop 50 persons per precinct across the country from voting (those Mickey Mouse votes). They think they can win back the White House if they are successful.

Ultimately the long-term goal is to have only the people of their choosing eligible to vote: aka wealthy white property owners. We used to refer to them as slave masters. In other words, when you hear the words 'follow' or 'restore' the Constitution, what they mean is the Constitution as the Founders intended in 1787 (Google 'Three-Fifths compromise'). Calling themselves 'Patriots', wearing tri-corner hats, US flag shirts and lapel pins -- their gang colors -- is all part of the mental illness as well.

So, to conclude a long post, if you like all of that and want more of it, you know who to vote for. And if you don't like any of that and don't vote, you're doing nothing but enabling the mental illness that consumes today's Republican party.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The local news/idiot roundup

As we mourn the passing of Rick Santorum's presidential campaign (by his own hand, or more accurately his lips and tongue), here's the week's crime/embarrassment report from Houston and Harris County.

The legal counsel for Harris County Judge Ed Emmett was free on bail Wednesday after he was accused of striking a woman at an impound lot with his car.

William Henderson's car was towed Tuesday from the CityCentre shopping complex along the Sam Houston Tollway near Interstate 10 and taken to an auto storage lot on Brittmore.

The criminal compliant filed against him that resulted in a misdemeanor deadly conduct charge states that he placed a woman at the impound lot in "imminent danger of serious bodily injury" by striking her with his car.

This white-on-white CityCentre vs Town & Country violence must stop (h/t to The World's Favorite Mexican in the comments).

The reappointment of a volunteer city board member erupted into a half-hour fracas at the City Council table on Wednesday that culminated with Councilwoman Helena Brown accusing Mayor Annise Parker of bullying her.

District A Councilwoman Brown tried to replace one of the mayor's appointees to the Spring Branch Management District, accusing him of "negative communications" that she did not detail. The board is appointed by the mayor and only confirmed by council. The mayor ruled Brown's request out of order.

Brown was attempting to replace Victor Alvarez, whose garage apartment was a campaign headquarters for former District A Councilwoman Brenda Stardig, whom Brown defeated in December. The mayor's campaign donated money and staff to Stardig's campaign in hopes of staving off the challenge from Brown.

This cat fight might go on for the next two years. As with the previous, my excerpt doesn't do justice to the drama. Click over and read it all.

And as we cover the spectrum of bad behavior from right to right/left to left...

Jim Sharp, a judge on one of Houston's two courts of appeals, has been barred from working on any criminal cases from Brazoria County because of allegations that he tried to use his position to skirt the law for a friend's 15-year-old daughter who was arrested for shoplifting.

Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne accused the judge of attempting to use his influence to improperly demand the juvenile's release in January, according to court records. The documents allege that Sharp sent inappropriate texts and profane voice messages to county employees, a state district judge and a Brazoria County commissioner.

"You guys are a bunch of backwoods hillbillies that use screwed-up methods in dealing with children, and I can promise you this: Things are about to change in Brazoria County," Sharp said to a juvenile detention center director over the phone, court records show. "I am a judge in the Court of Appeals. I have authority over your judges along with every other judge in 10 counties in this area."

On Tuesday, Sharp released an apology though attorney Brian Wice.

"Justice Sharp was deeply concerned that this little girl was seemingly in limbo at the juvenile detention facility while her mother was waiting in the parking lot for her release," according to the prepared statement.

"As a result of his concern, Justice Sharp said some things that he should not have said, and for which he now apologizes."

The desk Sharp is posing on in the photo above was the centerpiece of another contentious tempest under the newly-renovated county courthouse dome just five months ago. In another remarkable demonstration of self-destructive behavior on tape, Sharp also snarked on the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010 -- six weeks before the election -- calling her a "labor boss" (video at the link still works; go listen to the judge's comments for yourself).

Congratulations Justice Sharp. You have chased every last one of your friends away. Except maybe for the 15-year-old shoplifter's mother.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A make-or-break night for R-Money and Frothy Mixture

The debate (comes) as yet another pivot point approached in a campaign that already has had more than its share of them. With a decision by Romney, Santorum and Paul to pull out of another joint event that had been set for Atlanta, there were indications this debate could be the last.

What a shame if that holds true. Nothing that I can recall in 40 years of observing politics has so clearly exposed the worst of a political party and its presidential candidates to so stark and shocking a degree as these Republican debates.

Plus it's been the best reality teevee ever.

(T)he big question in tonight's debate will be whether and how Rick Santorum addresses questions about his religious agenda—particular his warning about Satan's attack on America. That might make Republicans uncomfortable, but this is the party they created, and it's not like Mitt Romney hasn't been doing it too.

As ABC's Rick Klein notes, today is Ash Wednesday. Santorum has been wearing ash on his forehead today, although Newt Gingrich hasn't. I suspect Santorum won't wear it during the debate, but it would be a striking visual if he were to do so.

Mitt Romney hopes to put his tax plan at the center of the debate, but his back-to-back gaffes (saying that cutting spending hurts the economy, and using the language of Occupy Wall Street to describe his tax plan), could haunt him.

While Arizona -- and Super Tuesday's bonanza of primaries -- are also at stake, it's all about Michigan for the twin front-runners. Whichever man wins the Wolverine State gets the most momentum and the most media buzz. Romney simply cannot afford to lose one of his many 'home' states, and Santorum will fade away if he fails to finish at least an Iowa-like second.

While some public polls show a close race in Arizona, Romney's campaign seems confident of winning the state's primary next week, so much so that it hasn't aired any television commercials to date.

But the former Massachusetts governor faces an unexpectedly strong challenge in his home state of Michigan, where Santorum is hoping to spring an upset. Santorum's candidacy has rebounded in the two weeks since he won caucuses in Minnesota, Colorado and a non-binding primary in Missouri on the same day.

The result is a multimillion-dollar barrage of television commercials in Michigan in which the candidates and their allies swap accusations in hopes of tipping the race.

A victory in Michigan -- no matter who claims it -- would also provide momentum for the 10 primaries and caucuses a week later on Super Tuesday. In all, 518 Republican National Convention delegates are at stake between Feb. 28 and March 6, three times the number awarded in the states that have voted since the beginning of the year. It takes 1,144 to win the nomination.

The only reason it is still close is because Gingrich continues to split the 'Not Romney' vote. As Harold Cook observes:

(I)t wouldn't surprise me if Romney calls Gingrich every night, promising him the VP slot if he stays in, and Santorum calls Gingrich every night, promising the same slot if he withdraws.

Which man speed-dials Gingrich the most over the next week -- or two -- depends on what happens tonight, and at the Michigan polls next Tuesday.

Update (Thursday morning):

Maybe it was the fact that the candidates were forced to sit in an odd, uncomfortable configuration. Or, maybe it was that after twenty of these debates, these four candidates are just really tired of the routine. Or, maybe it was the Arizona sun that sapped the candidates of the energy and verve they have shown in previous debates.

Whatever it was, this final - maybe - GOP primary debate was not a particularly strong one for any candidate. It generated a lot of light, but very little heat. And, it did produce one sure loser: Rick Santorum.


Whatever momentum Santorum had came to a screeching halt in tonight's debate. Romney lured Santorum time and again into defending his record in Washington. And, Santorum took the bait - responding to his attacks with process arguments and Washington gobbleygook speak.

Example: Romney attacks Santorum for his record on earmarks and Congress' voracious appetite for spending. Santorum's response: "What happened the - the 12 years I was in the United States Senate, we went from the debt to GDP ratio, which is now over 100 percent. When I came to the Senate it was 68 percent of GDP. When I left the Senate it was 64 percent of GDP."

Um, what?

Instead of turning Romney's attacks into an opportunity to get on the offense and back on message, Santorum spent his time explaining - and explaining - and explaining.

Santorum has spent the last couple of weeks portraying himself as an outsider. He undid all of that work in tonight's debate.

Have the gas companies fracked themselves over?

Profits for the biggest U.S. energy producers including Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) are poised to decline the most since the financial meltdown of 2008-09 as the drilling technique known as fracking collapses natural gas prices.

Exxon and Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CHK), which today reports 2011 earnings, will see net income in 2012 slide about 8 percent and 10 percent, respectively, according to the mean of analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That would be the biggest drop since 2009 for the companies, the largest U.S. gas producers.

While higher global demand for transportation fuels has driven up crude prices 32 percent since 2009, the domestic gas glut is pinching earnings for producers even as it pushes the U.S. toward energy independence. Especially hurt are Chesapeake and ConocoPhillips (COP), which amassed gas assets before the full impact of fracking on supply growth was apparent, said Michael McMahon, a managing director for energy investments at Pine Brook Partners LLC, a private equity firm in New York.

“Fracking has opened up vast areas of development on a scale that’s practically overwhelming for the industry,” said William Dutcher, president of Dutcher and Co., an Oklahoma City- based operator of 1,300 oil and gas wells.

Oil output from U.S. fields including in shale rock is at a nine-year high and gas production hasn’t been this robust in almost four decades, Energy Department figures show.

“Shale has driven the gas price down to where it’s creating economic hardship for producers, especially those that made acquisitions in 2006 and 2007, when gas was so expensive,” Dutcher said.

Oil is touching $105 dollars a barrel because of unpredictable nuclear outcomes in Iran, gasoline prices are forecast to be $4 -- or even $5 -- a gallon by May, and yet the tar sands crude everyone wants to ship by pipeline from Canada to Houston and Port Arthur for refining will be sold to China because the US doesn't need it. We're drill, baby, drilling everywhere ... and it turns out the drillers are losing money because of it.

This might be the one thing that stops -- or at least slows down -- fracking in its tracks: the same capitalist pig-faced greed that drove them wild in the beginning is now bleeding them white.

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of vampires.

Update: Still wondering why gasoline prices in this country are rising when demand is dropping? It's not demand in China; it's the speculators.

While tension over Iran has ratcheted up over the last few months, the price of oil and gasoline has leaped far beyond conventional supply and demand variables. Financial speculators are piling into the market, torquing the Iranian fear factor into ever-higher prices.

"Speculation is now part of the DNA of oil prices. You cannot separate the two anymore. There is no demarcation," said Fadel Gheit, a 30-year veteran of energy markets and an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. "I still remain convinced oil prices are inflated."


What should the price of oil be if left to conventional supply and demand market fundamentals? Canada's the largest supplier of imported oil to the United States, which now actually produces more than half of the oil it consumes. Production and delivery costs for a barrel of oil from Canada are about $75 a barrel. The market-fundamentals cost for a barrel of oil is in that ballpark; above that, speculation sets the prices.

"It's as simple as that," said Gheit, who has testified before Congress and called for regulatory limits on speculation in commodities markets.

Historically, financial speculators accounted for about 30 percent of oil trading in commodity markets, while producers and end users made up about 70 percent. Today it's almost the reverse.

You should of course also laugh out loud when some dumbass conservatives blame Obama. If Republicans were concerned about high gas prices then they would say something to their oil buddies about them.

But they would rather screw America in hopes of winning an election.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Last Week in Gay Conservative Hypocrites

Try to keep focused on the fact that it's not the homosexuality, it's the hypocrisy.

Here's how the story broke in Arizona last Thursday:

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu — who became the face of Arizona border security nationally after he started stridently opposing illegal immigration — threatened his Mexican ex-lover with deportation when the man refused to promise never to disclose their years-long relationship, the former boyfriend and his lawyer tell New Times.

The latest of the alleged threats were made through Babeu's personal attorney, who's also running the sheriff's campaign for Congress in District 4, the ex-lover says.

Babeu, obviously of French descent, was not just forced out of the closet but also his post as Arizona state co-chair of the Mitt Romney for President campaign. He remains a Republican candidate for Congress in the race to replace Gabby Giffords, as well as his position as county sheriff.

Let's review: it's OK to be gay, it's OK to keep running for Congress, it's OK to that you don't have to quit your job over a sex scandal that's really a massive abuse of power, but you HAVE to quit your position as head of Arizonans for Romney.

Got it. After all, it's not as if he was Tweeting pictures of himself to women other than his wife. If he had been doing that, he would have to resign from Congress.

Here's last week's local version of 'It's OK to be gay and abuse minorities, as long as it's just verbal abuse on conservative talk radio'.

"I do like 'em big, but not TOO big."

Security camera footage from a well-known gay bar has played a key role in a hit-and-run investigation of a former Houston City Councilman, who is now a conservative talk show host, Local 2 Investigates reported on Wednesday (February 16).

A Houston man reported to police that KTRH talk show host Michael Berry plowed his SUV into another car outside T.C.'s Show Baron Converse near Fairview in the Montrose area about 11 p.m. on January 31st.

Tuderia Bennett, of Galena Park, told Houston police that he was working as a bouncer at the front door during a popular cross-dressing 'drag show' that was going on inside the club. He watched the crash happen and told police he rushed up to the car after impact and got a good look at Berry behind the wheel.

"I said, 'That's definitely the guy.' For sure, 100 percent," said Bennett.

Bennett wrote down the license number from the car that he said caused more than $1,500 in damage to his car. Then, when HPD officers traced that license tag to Berry, the victim said he had no doubt it was him.

HPD and the Harris County district attorney's office are apparently still deciding whether to files charges against Berry for hit-and-run.

A police source familiar with the investigation into a hit-and-run accident linked to former city councilman and radio talk show host Michael Berry said Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland is upset with the handling of the high-profile probe and is expected to order an internal affairs inquiry.

Berry has not been charged over the Jan. 31 accident, but HPD's crash report identified a car registered to him as the vehicle suspected in the crash. The owner of the car that was struck said Berry backed into his vehicle outside a gay bar in Montrose.

Berry maintains silence on this matter -- despite showing up for his talk show on KTRH since the story broke -- on advice from his attorney Dick DeGuerin (also French). Who is probably charging Berry much, much more than the cost of the damages to the bouncer's car.

Is it possible that an entire political party is made up of frauds? These two news items must just be coincidental. Aren't they?

Update (emphasis mine):

Houston radio host Michael Berry spoke out against allegations that he was involved in a hit-and-run accident outside of a gay night club, slamming the media and saying he has been treated like “a member of Al Qaeda.”

Berry opened his KTRH radio show about the topic this morning and said the allegations against him were overblown and inaccurate. He said KPRC Local 2 reported the story last Wednesday to help boost its ratings during sweeps week.

“Was it a cover up?” Berry questioned. “No, it was a smear campaign. Channel 2, I’ve got my sights on you... You can smear my name without me but I’m not going down without a fight.”


Berry railed on the media and defended himself against gay activist groups who called into his program to criticize him. Berry said he has never spoken ill of gay people on his program and has instead spoken out against other conservative talk show hosts that make homophobic comments.

“Saying 'gay bar' and 'conservative talk show host' is too awesome for a news station to pass up because conservatives hate gays — or so we are told,” he said. “The only thing worse than a celebrity who gets it too easy is one who gets it too hard.”

You can't make this shit up.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance will never be able to say the word "surge" again with a straight face as it brings you this week's roundup.

Texas Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones resigned her position to run in the GOP primary for SD25 after finally coming to the realization that her argument that we can't really know where the capital of Texas is located was completely lame. Off the Kuff provides the commentary.

BossKitty at TruthHugger is really getting worried at how America's religious culture and the GOP are pushing America backwards into the previous century with barbaric personal intrusions. Virile GOP: American Women Are Property Again and Population Control, Climate Change and Zealots describe how these are taking place.

Nothing will change with school finance in Texas until we change our elected officials. That's what WCNews at Eye On Williamson tells us in this post: We must "Re-Fund" public education in Texas.

Neil at Texas Liberal wrote about Houston right-wing talk show host and former Houston city councilmember Michael Berry. Mr. Berry is alleged to have been involved in a hit-and-run incident outside a Houston gay bar. In the recent past, Mr. Berry has said things relating to gay people that did not seem very nice.

Santorum -- the man, not the substance -- is surging, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs gathers the evidence.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know that Nueces County Republicans screwed with redistricting, too.

Ken Judkins' column at the Lewisville Texan Journal asks: Why are otherwise good people so uncivil when it comes to politics?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Surging Santorum Roundup

Two new polls show Santorum leading Romney in Michigan:

A loss in Michigan would be disastrous for the Romney campaign. Romney was born in Michigan, and his father was governor of the state for six years. In 2008 Romney won the Michigan primary by nine points against Senator John McCain (R-AZ), even though McCain later went on to win the Republican nomination. Given all these facts, Michigan should be a very strong state for the Romney campaign. Instead, Romney seems to have actually lost some of his support from 2008, and now is threatened by a Santorum campaign that has not even spent a lot of money in the state, yet.

Santorum may not have to spend as much money as would otherwise be necessary because of all the free media he's getting. One teevee ad is getting lots of circulation because it astoundingly shows him getting pummeled, paintball style, by a brown frothy mixture.

There's a fun bit of psychoanalysis at the link. Snark aside, the spot does a good job of making Romney look like the jerk he is without stooping to Romney's level of nastiness.

Santorum's corresponding rise in the polling nationally is making journalists question whether this latest surge might last.

Until his victories in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, many supposed experts viewed Santorum’s campaign as a curiosity or ignored it completely. Now things have completely turned around. The newspapers and political sites are full of articles treating Santorum as a credible contender. I’ve even written one myself. Last week, I pointed out that his message of social conservatism and economic populism clearly resonates with large parts of the Republican base, and also with some independents and Reagan Democrats.

All the evidence suggests that Santorum’s campaign still has real momentum. According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, which was released (February 14), he is now leading Romney nationally among Republican primary voters by thirty per cent to twenty-seven per cent—a statistical tie. This finding follows two more national surveys released on Monday, which produced very similar results. The latest Gallup tracking poll had Romney leading by thirty-two per cent to thirty per cent; a poll from the Pew Research Center showed Santorum edging Romney by thirty per cent to twenty-eight per cent.

The response from both Mitt R-Money and Republicans in general to the Santorum Surge seems to be a stunned, mumbled 'WTF'.

Still, some Republicans are warning Mitt not to do to Rick what he did to Newt.

... National Review's editors accused Romney of "trying to win the nomination by pulverizing his rivals," adding that "his attacks on Santorum have been lame, perhaps because they are patently insincere." Richard Land, an evangelical conservative leader who hasn't endorsed a candidate, said Romney would be making a terrible mistake to go nuclear on Santorum. "Santorum’s a much more likable figure and a much harder figure to demonize than Newt Gingrich was," Land told Politico. "If he does that, there’ll be a backlash." And Byron York reports that late last week a group of conservatives at CPAC informed Romney that he should abandon his attack-dog strategy against Santorum.

And as you might have guessed, all this conservative discombobulation leaves Democrats with a wonderful opportunity to make mischief of the type Republicans know well.

It's time for us to take an active role in the GOP nomination process. That's right, it's time for those of us who live in open primary and caucus states—Michigan, North Dakota, Vermont and Tennessee in the next three weeks—to head out and cast a vote for Rick Santorum.

Why would we do such a crazy thing? Lots of great reasons!

Republican turnout has sucked, and appears to be getting worse by the contest. Unlike the 2008 Democratic primaries, which helped President Barack Obama and the Democrats to build a national organization, the GOP is an organizational disaster, with waning voter interest. That means that it takes fewer votes to have an impact than if Republican turnout was maxed out.

Several of the contests have produced razor-thin margins of victory. Rick Santorum won Iowa by 34 votes, Mitt Romney "won" Maine by 194 votes. It won't take many of us to swing contests the way we want them to swing.

The longer this GOP primary drags on, the better the numbers for Team Blue. Not only is President Barack Obama rising in comparison to the clowns in the GOP field, but GOP intensity is down—which would have repercussions all the way down the ballot.

The longer this thing drags out, the more unpopular the Republican presidential pretenders become. Just look at Mitt Romney's trajectory, which followed Herman Cain's trajectory, and Newt Gingrich's trajectory, and Michelle Bachmann's trajectory, and so on.

Rick Santorum will inevitably follow the same path once he gets properly vetted. Mitt Romney has been unable to stem the bleeding despite his tens of millions. Just imagine Santorum, with the far more radical record and a continued inability to raise real money.

I couldn't care less who wins the GOP nomination at this point because it doesn't matter. The Republicans running for president have, from the beginning, ritually self-immolated one by one. For its part, the Texas GOP has so screwed everything up -- from the redistricting mess to the next edition of the massacre of public education -- that the only people who believe what they say are the Fox-informed ... which pathetically remains a voting majority in this state. (Texas is in fact so hopeless that the kind of outrage being demonstrated in various media sources over proposed transvaginal ultrasound mandates in Virginia is something we have put in our rearview mirror, thanks to the 9th Circuit.)

Honestly, there's not much to do but sit back and watch as the freaks in the circus try to put up the Big Top ... and not choke on my popcorn laughing.

Update: Choking on my popcorn laughing. Santorum's billionaire benefactor Foster Friess, today:

And this contraceptive thing, my gosh, it’s such inexpensive. Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Redistricting skirmishes continue... among the GOP *updates*

Even as the judges ordered the parties in the Texas redistricting lawsuit to make a deal -- demanding they work late on Valentine's Day, for Jeebus' sake -- the Republicans continued feuding among themselves.

Jared Woodfill, chairman of the Harris County Republican Party, has stirred up a squabble around the GOP dinner table with an e-mail he sent out Saturday that, in essence, gigged Attorney General Greg Abbott and state party chairman Steve Munisteri for being wimpy about redistricting. (“Wimpy” is [Houston Chronicle reporter Joe Holley's] word, not Woodfill’s, who in a couple of conversations [Holley] had with him emphasized that he was trying to be polite, despite his consternation.)

What got Woodfill going was Munisteri’s willingness to go along with a map Abbott produced that would cost Harris County Republicans two seats in the state House. “Local Republicans feel like we’re being sold out,” Woodfill told me.

His Saturday e-mail — “a respectful e-mail,” he called it — urged Harris County Republicans to contact Munisteri and Abbott to register their objections to the map. “Unfortunately, my reasonable request has been met with finger-pointing, reassigning blame and simply passing the buck,” he wrote in a subsequent e-mail Monday morning.

By Monday afternoon, things had gotten testier. “This thing has blown up into a war,” he said over the phone.

A 'war'. Casualties include paper cuts and carpal tunnel injuries.

What flaming douchenozzles these people are.

We’ve worked to long and too hard for this to happen,” said Woodfill, who also said he had received hundreds of e-mails in support of his no-surrender stance. Paul Betancourt, Dr. Steven Hotze, Allen Blakemore and other conservative stalwarts were urging him on, he said.

“Any map which costs Harris County Republicans at least two seats is unacceptable,” Woodfill repeated. “Let’s continue the fight and let the San Antonio three-judge panel do what they will. If they refuse to accept the Supreme Court mandate, then we will appeal again. However, if we accept a compromised deal with the wild-eyed left, then we lose our right to appeal. Remember, we will have to live with these lines for the next 10 years, so we must get them right now. Then we can be about the business of defeating the Democrats in November.”

Ah, the real enemy is exposed. Exterminate the vermin using as much poison as you can pour on it. Grab your sprayers and charge into battle against the liberal pestilence with all the intensity and overblown rhetoric -- and success -- of Tom DeLay Pest Control, Inc.

That is, as soon as you can stop washing each other in your respective toxins.

Back in the real world, Michael Li summarizes where we are after yesterday.

-- A primary in April is history. There's no time left to pull it off. I reached this conclusion two weeks ago; it's nice to see everyone else catching up.

-- So is a split primary. (Texas is of course broke, so there's no money to pay for multiple elections.)

-- The primary may not be held until May 29 ... or June 26. (See Update II below.) Quoting Li:

Although a May 29 primary appeared to be the most likely fallback date, Judge Rodriguez suggested during the questioning that a June 26 primary would allow the court to wait for a ruling from the D.C. court. (A position supported by Congressman Joe Barton and several of the redistricting plaintiffs.)

-- State party conventions will proceed as scheduled on the second week of June -- because to move them would forfeit deposits in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for convention space and the blocs of hotel rooms reserved by the two political parties for convention-goers. Precinct conventions, usually held on the evening of the primary election, may now be held at the Senate District conventions ... which themselves may wind up at the state conventions.

There's another hearing with the litigants before the judges today. There may be some agreement that comes out of it -- since all they're arguing over is a few districts -- or there may not.

At this point, almost nobody who isn't a politico really cares. And see, that's the problem.

Update (1:30 p.m.):

Groups involved in the redistricting battle reached a deal Tuesday with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for a compromise state Senate map for the 2012 election.

However, little progress appears to have been made toward reaching a deal on maps for the Texas House or congressional seats, as the second day of a key redistricting hearing continues.

The compromise settles the dispute over how the state redrew Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis' Fort Worth district, returning the county to the shape it had before the whole redistricting process began, said Matt Angle, an longtime Democratic strategist and adviser to Davis in her redistricting suit.

Update II (2:00 p.m.):

First it was in March, then it was in April, and now Texas' primary elections have been delayed until at least May 29 as the state's redistricting battle rages on, a San Antonio court ordered Wednesday.

The ruling came after two days of hearings at which a deal was reached for a compromise Texas Senate map; however, the groups suing the state and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott have not been able to reach a similar deal for the Texas House or congressional seats.

“It appears based on all the things that are going on here that it is extremely unlikely there will be a primary in April or for that matter before May 29,” said Judge Jerry Smith.

“Based on the discussion we just had with the political parties, we asked that they start working on an election schedule.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's, you crazy in love kids

And starring Greg Abbott as Constipation

Only two things are certain in the Texas redistricting cluster: there will eventually be some elections this year, and Greg Abbott is the source of all the problems.

Rather than inch closer to a resolution over the weekend, both sides may have dug in their heels further. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told the court that one deal-breaker is carving up the district currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, which would in turn help make Republicans more electable in heavily Democratic Travis County.

Abbott wrote in a filing Monday that while his office was reviewing new proposals to other changes on the map. But he also acknowledged that Doggett's district alone could prevent any chance of a breakthrough.

"The State cannot compromise on this district and that may prevent a global compromise on the Congressional map," Abbott wrote.

There's no legal justification for him to insist on shattering Travis County into five pieces, but who still believes the Attorney General of Texas knows anything about the law anyway? Particularly since he's suffering from a ten-year-old case of Doggett Derangement Syndrome?

Rather than going to the Justice Department, which had been standard practice, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott took the fight to federal court, entering largely uncharted legal territory.

“It's very unusual for a state to just sue” for preclearance, said Michael Li, an elections lawyer in Dallas who has covered the legal saga extensively on

Abbott pursued the high-risk legal strategy to get the Republican-dominated maps approved, he said. “Had it worked, it would have been brilliant,” Li said.

The aggressive stance was necessary because the Legislature's maps heavily favored Republicans. Under those maps, three of Texas' four new congressional seats were drawn in Anglo-dominated areas, even though minority population groups accounted for about 90 percent of the state's population growth.

Because of that, Democrats and minority groups quickly filed lawsuits, challenging the maps in the San Antonio federal court. [...]

Doggett managed to survive the 2003 Tom DeLay-backed redistricting that transformed his Austin-centric district into one that stretched from the capital city all the way to the Rio Grande Valley.

“Lloyd Doggett has been a thorn in their side for years and years,” said Harold Cook, a longtime Democratic consultant. “He is their one piece of unfinished business from 2003.”

Republicans tried again in 2011. The maps passed by the Legislature carved Austin into five different congressional districts, drawing Doggett into a heavily Hispanic district that stretched from San Antonio to Austin. State Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio, also was eyeing the district, setting the stage for a tough primary fight. But delays in the preclearance trial in Washington forced the San Antonio court to draw a set of interim maps in an attempt to preserve the March 6 primary.

That congressional map restored much of Doggett's old district, icing the primary fight -- but the U.S. Supreme Court then threw out the interim maps. Doggett has continued to campaign in San Antonio, in case “the Perrymandered map” becomes law.

The entire process, he said, has been “really outrageous.”

The real problem for Texas Republicans isn't the jacked-up maps or even the stonewalling by the OAG; it's the inevitable separation of the primary elections down the ballot from the presidential.

A delayed primary is seen as a boon to challengers, especially in the U.S. Senate race, because they have more time to boost name identification and raise money.

Based on recent polling, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is the prohibitive favorite in the GOP race, Cook said, “but if I was his campaign manager, I would worry a little bit. If the election was held today and you'd win, you want the election held today. Every day that goes by introduces a little more uncertainty.”

A split primary could add even more pressure on Dewhurst.

There's no question that holding the presidential primary first, then the Senate race later, would benefit tea party candidates like Ted Cruz, Houston lobbyist Robert D. Miller said. The second primary almost certainly would suffer from lower voter turnout -- and those that do come out are more ideological.

“The later it is, the better it is for Ted Cruz,” Miller said.

Without even factoring in the diminishing country-wide enthusiasm, fewer Lone Star conservatives are going make it out for two different elections, the scheduling of which is still to be determined. Greg Abbott is going to disenfranchise Texas Republicans from having any meaningful say in who their presidential nominee is, just like he's screwed the pooch with his hare-brained legal strategies in pursuing a conservative super-majority in the state and national legislatures.

(Why am I concerned about Republican disenfranchisement? Hey, I'm an empathetic guy that way.)

His hubris means they will lose even bigger than they would under normal circumstances. Greg Abbott, in short, is the Kareem Jackson of the RPT. Every time he takes the field, you know it's bad and going to get worse.

But honestly, he reminds me more of the Colon Lady on that TV commercial.

You Republicans need to keep these failures of his in mind when Abbott runs for governor in 2014.

Update: Charles has a bit more to say about relevance and Texas Republican presidential primaries.