Friday, March 30, 2012

Voter registrations In Harris County to be mediated today

A little meeting today over the Harris County tax assessor/collector's continuing efforts to thwart voter registrations.

Harris County officials have rejected far fewer would-be voters since 2008, but Democrats are demanding more proof that voter rolls are not being illegally suppressed -- particularly among Hispanics -- as another U.S. presidential election approaches. The two sides will meet in secret mediation Friday as Democratic officials seek assurances the county is following the terms of a 2009 settlement reached after the party challenged Harris County voter reviews in a federal lawsuit. The county's voter registrations have remained fairly flat at about 1.9 million since 2008 (emphasis mine), failing to keep pace with a boom in the eligible voting population. "Harris County continues to fall behind other large cities. Harris County rejects far too many applications and removes far too many eligible voters from the rolls," Chad Dunn, an attorney for the Democrats, told the Houston Chronicle.

Sumners has severely curtailed efforts to recruit and train deputy voter registrars as well. Sumners is in fact a tool of the King Street Vote Suppressing Thugs, about which much has been written here.

Sumners said he believes more applicants were rejected in 2008 primarily because a group of deputy voter registrars working for nonprofit groups turned in thousands of duplicate, illegible or incomplete applications. He said he hopes that the quality of applications in 2012 will improve under a new law requiring deputy registrars to complete mandatory training. But Dunn told the court that party leaders need more information to confirm applications are being reviewed as the settlement requires. U.S. District Court Judge Gray H. Miller, who oversees the settlement, ordered both sides to meet with a mediator Friday. If the dispute is not resolved, a hearing has been set next week.

Sumners, in the first sentence of the above graf, refers to Houston Votes, which as an offshoot of Texans Together conducted voter registration drives in minority neighborhoods prior to the 2010 election. Those efforts were effectively demonized by Sumners' predecessor Leo Vasquez, the KSP/True the Vote pasty gangsters, and pretty much every conservative media outlet they could find.

On and on it goes. Progressives encourage people to vote, conservatives restrict it. They only want their voters to vote. They cannot win if more people vote. That "center-right" urban legend is thus advanced. It is fallacy that conservatives represent the view of Texans and Americans when 50% of the population doesn't vote and hundreds of thousands more -- perhaps millions just in Texas -- are prevented from voting. Update: Big Fat Republican Bloggers have their own take.

But conservatives would go further if they could, restricting voting to taxpayers and/or landowners exclusively. That's where we're eventually headed, and Texas will lead the way.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Texas has had "fewer than five" voter impersonation cases

In the past three years. Via ThinkProgress, the San Antonio Express News' Gary Scharrer:

Fewer than five “illegal voting” complaints involving voter impersonations were filed with the Texas Attorney General's Office from the 2008 and 2010 general elections in which more than 13 million voters participated.

Less than 5 out of 13 million. Aren't those fairly close to the MegaMillions winning odds? As the e-Trade baby says, 'that's the same chance as getting mauled by a polar bear AND a regular bear at the same time'. So clearly there oughta be a law.

Texas has suffered from “multiple cases of voter fraud,” Gov. Rick Perry said in a recent FOX News interview, though the attorney general handled just 20 allegations of election law violations in the 2008 and 2010 elections. Most involved mail-in ballot or campaign finance violations, electioneering too close to a polling place or a voter blocked by an election worker.

The Texas attorney general's office did not give the outcome of the four illegal voting complaints that were filed. Only one remains pending, according to agency records.

Sen. Rodney Ellis nails it.

"(T)here are more UFO and Bigfoot sightings than documented cases of voter impersonation."

Meanwhile, back in reality...

The D.C. district court has set trial in Texas’ voter ID suit for July 9-13.

That’s nearly three weeks earlier than requested by the Justice Department and intervenors.

However, the court also directed that issues related to the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act be bifurcated from the main trial and said that those issues would “not be addressed unless the Court denies judicial preclearance of Senate Bill [14].”

Since that means that hearings on constitutional issues would take place only after a ruling on the preclearance claims (by definition some time after the July 13 end of trial), that would seem to make it less likely that the constitutional issues could be teed up in time to get them to the Supreme Court before the November elections.

So there's a strong possibility that we won't have to deal with this BS in this election cycle. Everyone should continue to train and inform as if we will, however. One last legal note about the most active vote suppressors in the nation, that little old band of patriots thugs who call Houston home.

“The Texas Democratic Party contends that the King Street Patriots made unlawful political contributions to the Texas Republican Party and various Republican candidates by training poll workers in cooperation with the Republican Party and its candidates and subsequently offering the watchers’ services only to the party and its candidates.” The group also held forums only for the Republican Party and its candidates.

The court split off the KSP’s constitutional complaints into a separate lawsuit and in an opinion issued today sided with Democrats, rejecting the constitutional claims. This will allow the Democrats’ clams to go forward.

Cutting the nuts off these feral hogs is a great first step toward resolving some of the vote suppression efforts in Texas and everywhere else.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is wearing a hoodie this week as it brings you the blog roundup.

Many groups and organizations provide guides telling you who to vote for. This year, Off the Kuff has a guide of who not to vote for in the 2012 Harris County Democratic primary.

BossKitty at TruthHugger is angry that Republicans are all about manipulating personal liberties and imposing their specific religious rules on America, while allowing a real crisis to get worse: GOP Candidates Ignore Water Crisis, Prefer Religious Culture Crisis. On top of imposing their narrow religious interpretations to the general public, Republicans want a dumber America: Corporate Religion, Corporate Education and the Mental Devolution of America.

BlueBloggin sees that Trashing Texas Is BIG Money For Republican Donors and Rick Perry.

We've moved so far to the right, as a state and a country, it's hard to see how we move back. WCNews at Eye On Williamson points out that A Budget for All is the place to start.

At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw explains the Texas version of the Republican assault on women. Check out Rick Perry's and the Texas GOP Unrelenting War on Women.

Annise Parker is quite possibly the best mayor Houstonians could have ever hoped for, if you consider her actions from a moderate Republican point of view. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs breaks it down.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme knows Republicans just pretend to like the troops. Words are cheap, just like them.

Neil at Texas Liberal continued to focus on the fact that the Texas forced sonogram law is state-mandated rape. In the week ahead Neil will post a letter he co-authored asking Amnesty International to come to Texas to investigate this human rights abuse.

Bay Area Houston comments on the GOPs' 'Don't Re-Nig' bumper sticker.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

More Sunday Funnies (Etch A Sketch edition)

Greg Abbott tries to obstruct both DOJ and justice itself

The Austin American Statesman, via Socratic Gadfly.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott this week asked a federal court in Washington to prevent 12 state lawmakers from giving depositions in the state's voter identification case.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which is facing off against Abbott's office in a case to allow Texas' voter ID law to go into effect, has asked to depose — or question under oath — the author of the voter ID bill, Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay; its House sponsor, Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring; and other lawmakers.

In addition to deposing lawmakers, the Justice Department is seeking copies of written communications among members of the Legislature, communications between legislators and staffers and communications between legislators and their constituents.

Abbott's rationale?

The filing says, "If litigants can depose individual legislators and traipse through every communication of those legislators simply by alleging that a state law was enacted with an impermissible purpose, then state lawmakers will be chilled from engaging in the communications necessary to perform their jobs properly."

SG's take:

Anybody else in Texas mouthed bullshit like that and Abbott would call it obstruction of justice.

I don't have anything to add to that.

Sunday Funnies, "Stand Your Ground" edition

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Parker backs off her ordinance outlawing sharing

Mayor Annise Parker on Tuesday canceled a scheduled vote to regulate the feeding of homeless people in Houston following an outcry from people and groups that the proposed rules would criminalize simple acts of charity.

The rules had caused a fury from the moment they were introduced early this month. On Tuesday, the backlash continued as dozens of speakers criticized the regulations at City Council's public session. A coalition that included clergy, a tea party activist, a longtime property rights advocate, an immigrants rights leader and volunteers who feed the homeless held a news conference behind City Hall to criticize what they said were the rules' infringement on religious and personal liberties.

"To be told when and where and what time we can feed people goes directly against our creator. When the spirit moves us to go ahead and feed people, to check with the city first before we can go ahead and do that (is unacceptable). We're really opposed to this ordinance," said Manuel Sanchez, outreach director at Ecclesia Church in Montrose.

So there's a few Bible verses that address this: "I was hungry and you fed me", etc. I don't want to go all Godly about it though. I just want to note something that I have been considering for awhile about what motivates our mayor to take up all these conservative causes.

From my observation it appears Mayor Parker is imbued with that good old "pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps" mentality. I perceive that she is one of those people who feels as if the fruits of her success are the direct result of her having worked hard for them (no luck, favoritism, or charity was ever involved) and correspondingly those whom she perceives as not working very hard, or hard enough, draw no sympathy from her.

This would explain why she 'nudged' those lazy, filthy Occupants out of Tranquility Park; it's why she would choose to aggressively over-regulate feeding homeless people much like Republicans have passed laws restricting voting because they think there's voting fraud.

In her public attempts to sell the changes to city ordinance, Parker had spoken of the need to protect the homeless against food-borne illness, but had no data to indicate it was a persistent problem. She emphasized that it would promote coordination of charities so that several groups would not converge at a park by chance and have to throw out food for lack of takers.

Just as Republicans would take the route of hyper-regulating women's reproductive choice out of legal existence, so Mayor Parker believes that if you make things harder to get, the people who need them will move along and look elsewhere for them.

It helps us understand why she would rather terminate the employment of park workers and garbage collectors -- and essentially refuse to fund the pensions of firemen -- than raise taxes to address the city's budget deficit.

It reminds me of the time in college when I first heard this band play this song.

Hard times in the land of plenty;
Some got it all and the rest
ain't got any.

The difference these days, of course, is that the "some" don't want "the rest" to have any. And they want to make certain they don't get any.

Really and truly, I am of the mind that Annise Parker is one of the best, most moderate Republican mayors this city could ever hope for.

Yeah, both sides do it

I'm looking forward to whatever false equivalency conservatives can manufacture after yesterday.

At least two fire bombs were thrown at the Fort Worth office of state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) on Tuesday night, according to the Star Telegram. [...]

“It’s unfortunate when things like this happen in the public arena,” she said. “It reminds us of how important it is for us to remain very civil in our discourse and to work not to foment this kind of anger in our community as we discuss things that are challenges that we all face and care about.”

Senator Davis, still on the rise as one of the most powerful progressive women in Texas -- and thus of greatest danger to Texas Republicans -- honorably takes the high ground here. But we all know there aren't any Republican offices getting fire-bombed, or Republican Congresswomen shot in the head at townhalls outside of supermarkets.

Even Republican women refuse to understand the War on Women has become an actual shooting and bombing war.

We're way, waaay past the point of being able to expect a reasonable outcome just by telling people to tone down their rhetoric.

Texas Liberal and TruthHugger each have a similar take from a different POV, but as Off the Kuff noted a couple of weeks ago, it's time to go on offense. These are our wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers under bombardment, and those of us who care about them have to stand up and fight for them.

Update: Whoops, missed. I neglected to anticipate that the most extreme of Republicans, aka HouChron commenters, would rush to construct a frame -- as they did with the assassin Jared Loughner -- that the arsonist was a crazy liberal. I'll try not to make that mistake again. 

'Conservatives preach personal responsibility but never actually take any'.  Check.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance has a spring in its step as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff wrote about the forthcoming end of the Women's Health Program in Texas.

John Coby ay Bay Area Houston finds a press release from Austin: "Texas Governor Rick Perry calls for reforms to men's prostate exams".

The US Department of Justice refused preclearance on the Texas GOP's Voter ID law this week. WCNews at Eye On Williamson calls it a victory for voting rights in Texas.

BossKitty at TruthHugger is Guilty of being a Woman in Republican Theocracy.

The Green Party of Texas fielded 56 candidates for federal, state, and local offices, and because the Texas Democratic Party did not in two statewide races, the Greens are virtually assured of ballot access in 2014. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has the news.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to know -- amid all the talk of the Republicans' war against women -- why a judge let a man convicted of sexually assaulting a relative for years got probation?

At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw explains why Rick Perry is No Mighty Mouse . It seems Texas' contribution to the War on Women does not include Governor Oops playing the hero. Check it out.

The more BlueBloggin listens to Rick Santorum and Grover Norquist, the more they believe that America is at risk of losing its elder generation: Republican Formula, America's Elderly Reap The Whirlwind.

Neil at Texas Liberal wrote about a number of posts this week about how the Texas forced sonogram law is state-mandated rape. In one of these posts Neil discussed the three Texas state Senate Democrats who voted for this law, and about just why this law is state-mandated rape. It is up to each of us to work hard to oppose and repeal this cruel law.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Slightly Funnier Sunday Funnies

(You really should click on this one to read it all.)

Still feeling a little cranky

For a variety of reasons.

-- Texas school districts cut 25,000 jobs after budget cuts:

"I'm hoping the Legislature will see there's hard data showing that, yes, districts are making some good decisions in terms of efficiencies," said Bob Sanborn, president of Children at Risk, a Houston-based nonprofit that analyzed the state figures. "But the Legislature should be very worried that in the haste to be more efficient we are cutting our future out from under us."

In the greater Houston area, districts reduced their workforce by 5 percent - with 7,655 fewer employees overall, including nearly 3,300 fewer teachers.

Democrats' silver lining: There at least won't be a super-majority of Republicans in the Lege come next session. Republicans' silver lining:

"The cuts weren't as bad as they could have been," said Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, who chairs the House Education Committee.

-- Obama to celebrate (part of) Keystone pipeline next week:

Under fire for painfully high gas prices, President Barack Obama next week is scheduled to head to Cushing, Oklahoma, to highlight his support for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline -- well, part of it, anyway.

The Obama administration blocked the overall project, which was to carry oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, on environmental grounds. But it also endorsed plans to build the section of the pipeline that is to stretch from Cushing to the Gulf, which analysts say will help ease a bottleneck and get more oil -- and therefore ultimately more gas -- to market.

This plus the rumors of tapping the strategic oil reserves just reinforces the false narrative that tight supply of feedstock is forcing up the price per gallon. It is not; it IS market speculation and the declining number of refineries in the US that are keeping pump prices on the rise. Gasoline consumption in the United States has fallen off a cliff, and not just recently, either. (There is a case to be made for both austerity and lower economic activity -- also known as 'recession' -- as the causes of the decline in demand, and this author makes it.)

But hey, there's a presidential election coming -- not to mention a war with Iran -- and pandering by Democrats has been in short supply.

All perception and very little reality involved in this equation.

-- But by all means, let's focus on the things that really matter.

A stump speech delivered Friday night by Rick Santorum to a crowd of about 2,000 at Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, IL., was interrupted 15 minutes in by shouts of "Mic check! Mr. Santorum! Mr. Santorum!" ("mic check" is a familiar Occupy Wall Street battle cry) -- followed by the sight of two men kissing passionately in the stands. The crowd responded with loud booing and chants of "USA! USA!" as the kissers, identified by The Palatine Patch as Timothy Tross and Ben Clifford, were ejected from the venue.

Asked by the Patch if the kiss was a "public display of affection or merely a symbolic act," Tross replied, "I don’t think the message should be about what my sexuality is. It’s the message that he’s saying about sexuality that matters.”

The crowd chanted "USA, USA". Here again I am reminded of the words of Sinclair Lewis (who, as has often happened in the retelling of history, never actually uttered or wrote those words).

-- Three conservatives tout credentials in GOP race to succeed Ron Paul. "Three right-wing freaks work to out-batshit crazy each other in race to lose to Nick Lampson in November". There, fixed it for ya.

The amazing thing to me is that article doesn't even mention Steve Stockman. He's obviously too old-school kooky to make the cut.

-- The fat guy that broke the explosive story about the atrocities at Apple's Foxconn factory in China fabricated the worst of it out of whole cloth. So he disserved everyone, but particularly Apple, the legitimate concerns of exploited labor, and even journalism.

-- It's not just Goldman Sachs that is corrupt and evil to the core but also Chase. Like any of this is a surprise at this point.

-- Still feeling chipper after all my Debbie Downer? Let me know how you feel after you read this.

As bacteria evolve to evade antibiotics, common infections could become deadly, according to Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization.

Speaking at a conference in Copenhagen, Chan said antibiotic resistance could bring about "the end of modern medicine as we know it."

"We are losing our first-line antimicrobials," she said Wednesday in her keynote address at the conference on combating antimicrobial resistance. "Replacement treatments are more costly, more toxic, need much longer durations of treatment, and may require treatment in intensive care units."

Chan said hospitals have become "hotbeds for highly-resistant pathogens" like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, "increasing the risk that hospitalization kills instead of cures."

Indeed, diseases that were once curable, such as tuberculosis, are becoming harder and more expensive to treat.

Chan said treatment of  multidrug resistant tuberculosis was "extremely complicated, typically requiring two years of medication with toxic and expensive medicines, some of which are in constant short supply. Even with the best of care, only slightly more than 50 percent of these patients will be cured."

Antibiotic-resistant strains of salmonella, E. coli, and gonorrhea have also been discovered.

"Some experts say we are moving back to the pre-antibiotic era. No. This will be a post-antibiotic era. In terms of new replacement antibiotics, the pipeline is virtually dry," said Chan. "A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child's scratched knee could once again kill."

I had a great-relative (great-grandmother, great grandaunt, I am uncertain) who died about a hundred years ago because she squeezed a pimple on her face and it became infected. We're headed back to those good old days. And it's not even the Republicans' fault this time.

Hey, I'll post some more Funnies later. That ought to make us feel better.

Sunday Funnies, 'War is Hell' edition

Friday, March 16, 2012

Greens likely to remain ballot-qualified in Texas after 2012

Ballot Access News (bold emphasis is mine):

Texas parties remain ballot-qualified in presidential election years if they poll at least 5% for any partisan statewide race. This year in Texas, the following statewide offices are up: President, U.S. Senate, Railroad Commission full term, Railroad Commission short term, Justice of the Supreme Court seat 2, Justice of the Supreme Court seat 4, Justice of the Supreme Court seat 6, Presiding Judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals, Judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals seat 7, Judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals seat 8. That is ten offices.

No Democrat filed to run for five of those offices. Whenever there is a partisan election in which only one of the two major parties runs anyone, any minor party nominee on the ballot in that election typically polls at least 5%. Because the Libertarians and Greens do have candidates in some of the statewide offices with no Democrat running, it is quite likely that each of those parties will meet the vote test in 2012.


Posts for which the Green Party has a candidate, but the Democratic Party does not, are Railroad Commission short term, and Justice of the Supreme Court seat 4. Libertarians have a candidate in all the statewide races.

Let's repeat that for emphasis: no Democrat filed to run against Supreme Court Justice (and once-alleged arsonist) David Medina, the weakest possible candidate on the ballot. Really, how stupid is that? Even the Libertarians manage to have a candidate file for every single office.

And after fielding the most qualified Railroad Commission candidate by far in 2010, only Dale Henry -- who ran in 2008 -- filed for TRC in '12, and he chose to run against a well-funded Rick Perry crony instead of an open seat.

Democrats really don't need to be wondering why they can't win a statewide office when they're not even seriously trying to. And they don't need to be blaming anybody but themselves for that.

Update: Neil has more.

Republican Douchebags of the Week

Too many to limit it just to the Great State.

-- Rick Santorum instructs Puerto Rico to speak English in order to become a state. There is no federal law requiring this. Though 30 states have passed laws declaring such. Including Mississippi and Kansas, but not Texas.

-- Speaking of Mississippi, Kansas, and Puerto Ricans: at the NCAA tournament yesterday, the Southern Miss band chanted "where's your green card" at a Kansas State Puerto Rican player during their first-round game. Puerto Ricans are born US citizens just like the folks in Mississippi. Though if we had to pick between the two, that would be easy and fast. (Two words: J-Lo's booty.)

-- Let me simply say once again that I despise Greg Abbott with the heat of a thousand suns and leave it at that.

-- Arizona's own version of the Blunt Amendment declares that birth control is not a good enough reason for women to be taking contraceptives.

Women in Arizona trying to get reimbursed for birth control drugs through their employer-provided health plan could be required to prove that they are taking it for a medical reason such as acne, rather than to prevent pregnancy.

A bill nearing passage in the Republican-led Legislature allows all employers, not just religious institutions, to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage when doing so would violate their religious or moral beliefs.

Keep on digging that hole, GOP.

-- Not content to condemn only women for what he perceives as their sexual depravity, Rick Santorum declares War on Pornography.

"America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography," Santorum's official website reads. "Pornography is toxic to marriages and relationships. It contributes to misogyny and violence against women. It is a contributing factor to prostitution and sex trafficking."

The former Pennsylvania senator states that, "as a parent, I am concerned about the widespread distribution of illegal obscene pornography and its profound effects on our culture."

Santorum criticized the Obama administration for turning "a blind eye ... to the scourge of pornography" and for refusing to enforce obscenity laws.

"If elected President, I will appoint an Attorney General who will do so," Santorum writes. "While the Obama Department of Justice seems to favor pornographers over children and families, that will change under a Santorum Administration."

There goes the middle-aged Republican angry white male vote. What's left for him to lose? Not Texas. He's surging here.

My gay friends have to be right: there is a freak inside this guy just crying to be let out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Texas Greens post 56 candidates for state and local offices

Update: This list is official and up to date, with a few candidates having withdrawn their names from the ballot.

20 candidates in Bexar, 16 in Harris, 20 more across Texas, from Justice of the Peace and Constable to President of the United States. Here's the full list (.pdf) from the Green Party of Texas website. Following I'll list the statewide candidates and those running for Congress in Harris County, as well as state representatives and county offices. I expect to individually profile each of these leading up to November. Hyperlinks associated with specific candidates provide additional information. The Harris County Green Party site details the timing of county and senate district conventions, where elections for contested offices will occur.

US Senate (no incumbent): David B. Collins and Victoria Ann Zabaras, both of Houston

US Representative, District 2 (Ted Poe, incumbent): Mark A. Roberts
District 7 (John Culberson, incumbent): Lance Findley
District 9 (Al Green, incumbent): Vanessa Foster
District 22 (Pete Olson, incumbent): Don Cook
District 29 (Gene Green, incumbent): Maria Selva

Texas Supreme Court, Place 4 (David Medina, incumbent): Charles E. Waterbury
Place 6: (Nathan Hecht, incumbent): Jim Chisholm

Texas Railroad Commission, Place 1 (no incumbent): Chris Kennedy
Place 2 (Barry Smitherman, incumbent): Josh Wendel

Texas Senate, District 17 (Joan Huffman, incumbent): David Courtney
District 26 (Leticia Van de Putte, incumbent): Chris Christal

Texas State Board of Education, District 5 (Ken Mercer, incumbent): Irene Meyer Scharf
District 6 (Terri Leo, incumbent): G C Molison

Texas House of Representatives, District 130 (Allen Fletcher, incumbent): Art Browning
District 131 (Alma Allen, incumbent): Alfred Molison, Jr.
District 147 (Garnet Coleman, incumbent): Deb Shafto
District 148 (Jessica Farrar, incumbent): Henry Cooper

Harris County Sheriff (Adrian Garcia, incumbent): Remington Alessi
Harris County Constable, Precinct 1 ( incumbent): Carlos Villalobos

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Photo ID remains Republicans' Holy Grail

You have likely heard the good news.

(T)he Department of Justice told Texas that its new law to make voting harder cannot stand. The bulk of it is that by requiring voters to show photo ID they never had to show before, Texas could disenfranchise between 603,892 to 795,955 people, a disproportionate number of them Hispanic.

As you know, or can imagine, this has again enraged the conservative hive mind that believes golden chalices and unicorns not only exist but are widespread and rampant across the country. CNN, with the liberally biased facts:

"We note that the state's submission did not include evidence of significant in-person voter impersonation not already addressed by the state's existing laws," said Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general.

Wayne Slater:

Several years ago, Abbott announced there was an "epidemic" of voter fraud in Texas and he launched an investigation. But his investigation and subsequent prosecutions failed to confirm any such epidemic. Abbott found 26 cases to prosecute -- all against Democrats, all but one against blacks or Hispanics. Of those, two-thirds were technical violations in which voters were eligible, votes were properly cast and no vote was changed. None of the cases would have been affected by the voter ID requirement.

Waist deep in the Big Muddy and the damn fool says 'press on'.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who expected the federal government's rejection, said late last week he plans to forge ahead with the lawsuit he filed last month to have the bill implemented immediately. The Justice Department has until April 9 to respond to the lawsuit.

This will undoubtedly be on the agenda at the next national convention of Vote-Suppressing Thugs -- err, True the Vote Douchebags, to be held next month in Houston.

I'd like to say I'm looking forward to attending, but really I'm not.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is busy building unbustible brackets as it brings you this week's roundup.

Is there finally about to be an uprising against the legislative hostility towards women we've seen so much of lately? Off the Kuff sure hopes so.

BossKitty at TruthHugger discovered with minimal effort that any group using the words God, Christian, or Jesus has a free ride with the right wing media. Why is accountability off the table if you use those specific words? Rush Limbaugh, blinded by hatred for anything Obama, leaped before he looked at the facts ... and casually acted surprised when the truth was revealed, in Limbaugh Endorsed Christian Cannibals.

BlueBloggin was thrilled that the recent solar activity was only a light show. But because scientists warn that 2012 will experience more frequent solar events, why are the 2012 candidates ignoring this science? Updated: What is a CME and Why Should Presidential Candidates Care.

The Republicans opened a new front in the culture wars in Houston last week, when Pastor Steve Riggle of Grace Community Church suddenly opened fire on Mayor Annise Parker's right to have an opinion on gay marriage. PDiddie of Brains and Eggs has a dispatch from the front line.

For too long we've been told by our elected leaders that our government will be better if we sell it to the highest bidder. WCNews at Eye On Williamson reminds us that only the people can make it stop: Outsourcing at A&M, a microcosm.

Neil at Texas Liberal wrote about the Texas forced sonogram law, and about how this law is state-mandated rape. The facts are going to prevail on this issue. People in Texas, across the nation, and across the world are going to see that Texas has passed a law mandating the rape of some its citizens.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that the Nueces County Republicans are just as dirty as the Republicans in the legislature with regard to their redistricting methods.

At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw gets up to date with the war on women and on voters in Texas GOP Policies Flog Poor Women, Health Care and Voter's Rights.

At the Lewisville Texan Journal, Ken Judkins points out that Mitt Romney may have won Super Tuesday but he failed a leadership test.

Bay Area Houston wonders about Judge Sharon "Killer" Keller's $100,000 ethics fine.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Three to challenge Culberson in Democratic primary

With her filing today at HCDP headquarters, 2010 write-in Congressional District 7 candidate Lissa Squiers joins Phillip Andrews and James Cargas in a May 29th showdown for the right to face incumbent John Culberson in November (there will also be a Libertarian and a Green on the ballot in this contest).

Squiers is the progressive in this primary battle. She's an officer in TDW and has performed a litany of volunteer activities, including the start-up All Kids Alliance (see more here), and as mentioned before was so irritated that no challenger stepped forward in the last cycle to challenge Culberson that she ultimately did so herself as a write-in. (The Texas Political Almanac on CD-7 has maps and is up to date through 2010). Here's her campaign video from that match:

Andrews had "Blue Dog" in bold at the top of his website until recently and is president and CEO of a company that, to my examination, does the same thing as Blackwater. Cargas (that's Greek, not Latino) is a well-connected -- very well-connected -- oil and gas attorney. Additionally, two of my bloghermanos have declared support in the race: lightseeker at Texas Kaos for Squiers, Stace at Dos Centavos for Cargas. Both Cargas and Squiers have earned the AFL-CIO endorsement for the primary.

Having been drawn -- through the festering Republican redistricting morass -- first into Sheila Jackson Lee's 18th and then Al Green's 9th before being returned to the 7th, this race is, as it has been in the past, of personal interest.

Primaries are for picking your favorite among the challengers in a single party, and if you read here to any degree you know I usually support either the most progressive candidate or the underdog. In Squiers' case that's likely both, especially where campaign funds are concerned. I burned out long ago on evaluating the strength of Democratic candidates based on their fundraising prowess. That only serves to feed a broken model of paid consultants telling Democrats how to win and continually losing, and it's a particularly bad idea if you believe money is corrupting our democracy (see: Citizens United).

So attend her signing this evening at HCDP HQ at 5 p.m and then join her at Tecate on Ella from 5:30 to 7 and see if she fits your profile as grassroots progressive. She certainly fits mine.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Still no Mittmentum

Romney increasingly is nothing more than an indifferent default option for Republicans.

As ABC News' Gary Langer has noted: "In all seven states holding primaries Tuesday night combined, 61 percent of voters picked either electability or experience as the top attribute they were looking for in a candidate - and 51 percent of them supported Romney. His challenge is that a sizable remaining chunk of the GOP electorate, 36 percent across these seven states, picked a different attribute as more important - either the candidate with 'strong moral character' or the 'true conservative.' And among these true believers, Romney's support plummeted to just 17 percent. Forty-six percent instead voted for Santorum, 20 percent Paul, 16 percent Gingrich."

Texas might have gone a long way toward settling this thing -- or not -- had our elections taken place with the others yesterday. Food for thought.

But while Romney desperately wants to close the book on the 2012 GOP primary, his opponents are ready to simply start another chapter.

Santorum may have come up short in Ohio, but he's likely to rack up wins next week in Kansas, Alabama, and Mississippi.

All three states have an electoral make-up that looks much more like Tennessee and Oklahoma - two states Santorum easily carried Tuesday night - than they do Ohio or Massachusetts.

For example, in 2008, evangelical voters made up 77 percent of the vote in Alabama and 69 percent of the vote in Mississippi.

R-money cannot get credit for anything; he spends $8 million in Ohio versus Frothy's $1.8, ekes out a win, and still loses the media spin game. He has a huge delegate lead -- Santorum in fact did not complete the necessary paperwork to be awarded the GOP electors from Ohio at the national convention that he earned -- so the popular vote "win" serves only as narrative that Mitt is weak. That's a lose-lose for Republicans.

The real news came out of northern Ohio: Dennis Kucinich was defeated in the Democratic primary.

Veteran Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur defeated longtime Washington colleague Dennis Kucinich Tuesday in a bruising Ohio showdown made necessary by a newly drawn congressional map.

She will face the winner of the Republican primary -- Samuel "Joe" Wurzelbacher, who became known as "Joe the Plumber" during the 2008 presidential campaign -- in November.

I'll miss Dennis: maybe he'll run again for president on an independent or third-party ticket. What if he went Green, or Justice Party, or even spotted up for the Americans Elect ticket?

Oh what fun it is to ride. jobsanger has more.

Monday, March 05, 2012

GOP opens new front in culture wars in Houston

After Mayor Parker announced her support last week of a resolution (signed by more than 70 other mayors across the USA) supporting same-sex marriage, the pastor of a Houston megachurch was quick to condemn.

Pastor Steve Riggle of Grace Community Church, site of next month's county Republican Party convention, sent a letter to Parker late last month calling for her to resign if she will not stand down on gay marriage. He spent nearly an hour Sunday expounding on his feelings during his 10 a.m. sermon to roughly 3,000 congregants.

"Respectfully, if you cannot uphold the Texas Constitution, then you should do the honorable thing and step down," Riggle told his congregation, who responded with the first of numerous ovations.

"When you speak for us as the mayor of Houston, when the people of Houston have overwhelmingly expressed their will and you speak about this issue without their expressed will, I do have a problem with that," he continued.
Pastor Riggle, with
minority representatives
all behind him in the shot

Let's get caught up here if you're unfamiliar.

Mayor Annise Parker's determination to be known as a competent leader who happens to be lesbian is being challenged by political opponents promulgating the idea that she's becoming a gay activist to the detriment of the city.

In the first two months of her second term, Parker helped deliver a call by mayors nationwide for the legalization of same-sex marriage, proclaimed Valentine's Day as Freedom to Marry Day in Houston and said on cable radio that President Barack Obama needs to "evolve" toward support of marriage equality.

Emboldened by Parker's poor showing in November in which she barely avoided a runoff and by the victories by two opponents of gay marriage who became the first challengers to unseat City Council incumbents in 12 years, social conservatives have gone on the attack. They accuse Parker of reneging on a campaign promise to put the city first and social issues advocacy second, and they charge her with violating the Texas Constitution by advocating for a change to it.

"What they're saying is, 'We smell blood,'" said Rice University political science professor Bob Stein, whose wife previously served as Parker's agenda director.

Let's also refresh our memory about Pastor Riggle's complaint: in 2005 Texas codified wedding discrimination into the state Constitution.

Even the Houston Chronicle's cadre of mostly conservative commenters has gone on the offensive, demanding that Graceless Community Church give up its tax-exempt status. All of them, I presume, from the local drainage assessment to federal taxes on their income. For most of those folks it seems to be less about the US Constitution's First Amendment or DOMA and more about separation of church and state... which, some are quick to point out, isn't actually in the Constitution. I wonder if they will feel more strongly, or less, when they learn that the church is hosting the 2012 Harris County Republican Party convention. (Even though that information is in the lead graf, the CCC* -- or KKK, as I have commonly referred to them -- typically don't read the articles in the paper, they just knee-jerk a reaction to the headline in the comment box.)

Pastor Riggle wants Mayor Parker to either shut up about gay marriage or resign her office. That's an unreasonable demand. As Charles has noted, everybody has the right to voice their opinion, especially when it is both a legal minority and a moral imperative.

Pastor Riggle is just ginning up extra outrage among the TaliBaptists -- as if any more were possible or even needed -- to turn out the vote for Republicans in '12. Like the rest of the ultra-conservative flock, he misses the fact that these Christian jihads against gay marriage, abortion, and more recently contraception have the same mobilizing effect on his opposition.

I have evolved to be no great fan of Mayor Parker's for a variety of reasons, but this sort of thing will always bring me to her defense. Parker's style and policies associated with governing are separate from her support of any cause she chooses; as separate as the one between church and state ought to be. For his part, Riggle is just following the lead of Rick Warren and James Dobson and Richard Land and Tony Perkins, who followed Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell before them, in a long-con game. Keep the sheep nervous, before and after the shearing.

Remarkably, many non-social conservatives are jumping that fence now.

*Chronically Conservative Commenters.

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance would never have made the mistake of advertising on the Rush Limbaugh show in the first place as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff connects the Republican war on women's health to the 2012 legislative elections in Texas.

BossKitty at TruthHugger has decided that the Devil is in the words spewing from the mouth of GOP wannabe Rick Santorum, who says that "suffering is good".

BlueBloggin thinks that Planet of the Apes escapee Rush "Rusty" Hudson Limbaugh III should be handed over to the Amazon Women on the Moon and hits him below the belt.

The truce in the redistricting skirmishes last week produced lots of controversial results, and also one which cheered the hearts of non-Democrats and Republicans relating to third-party and independent candidates. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has elaboration.

Let there be no doubt; the health care system in Texas is a mess. WCNews at Eye On Williamson has the details in this post: By almost any measure, Texas has one of the worst health care systems in the nation.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes another Texas university raises tuition and the Santorum Republicans smile. Why not? Only the rich should go to college in GOPland.

Neil at Texas Liberal was in Cincinnati this week. Neil's blog has a number of photos and observations from his trip.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Sunday Funnies

"Gas prices are so high that Mitt Romney's wife can only afford to drive one Cadillac."
-- Jay Leno

“Rick, I'm sorry that hearing that JFK speech on religion makes you throw up. But if it makes you feel any better, if JFK were alive today, knowing you were running for President would make him shit his pants.” -- Jon Stewart

"Newt Gingrich said we should use covert operations to assassinate Iran's nuclear scientists. Gingrich also said the key to covert operations is announcing them on the campaign trail." -- Conan O'Brien

Friday, March 02, 2012

As Friday Filing Week begins...

... here's a summary of things I'm reading that have nothing to do with Texas politics.

-- Obama to Israel, Iran: "As president of the United States, I don't bluff".

At the White House on Monday, President Obama will seek to persuade the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to postpone whatever plans he may have to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities in the coming months. Obama will argue that under his leadership, the United States "has Israel's back," and that he will order the U.S. military to destroy Iran's nuclear program if economic sanctions fail to compel Tehran to shelve its nuclear ambitions.

-- 'Man sues Google over Street View urination photo, says it has made him a laughingstock.' And if you haven't seen the compilations of some of these street-view photos, here's a good one. Just don't be eating or drinking anything when you click over or else you'll need a new computer.

-- Obama waives rule allowing indefinite military detention of Americans. This would be in regard to the fairly nefarious NDAA legislation he signed last year. Money graf:

Advocates for liberties will likely find the new rules for implementing reassuring, at least while President Obama is in office. But one of their big complaints with his signing of the law is that his policies only last so long as he is in office, and they will likely step up attempts to repeal it.

-- 25 people who Tweeted that Obama had Breitbart assassinated. This is pretty much all I will have to say on this topic.

-- 'Silence Gun: Strange weapon of the future immediately quiets you, whether you like it or not'. Between this thing and this law, the era of the public protest is drawing to a close.

The gun operates based on the concept of delayed auditory feedback. An attached microphone picks up the sound being made by the target and plays it back 0.2 seconds later. The effect is incredibly confusing to the human brain, making it all but impossible to talk or hold a conversation. The device doesn't cause the person it's being used on any physical harm — it simply messes with their head.

When the human brain hears its own speech perfectly in sync during normal speech, it easily processes the input and allows you to largely ignore the sound of your own voice. However, by offsetting the response just a bit, the brain hears your mouth speaking as well as the strange echo effect produced by the gun. This unusual combination is confusing enough to effectively shut down the part of your brain responsible for managing speech, and you fall immediately silent.

-- Speaking of guns, the Texas Department of Public Safety now has its own navy: six speedboats with multiple machine guns each patrolling the Rio Grande.

The 34-foot-long boats, each powered by three, 300-horsepower outboard engines, will have bulletproof plating and six machine guns apiece, not unlike the river patrol boats the U.S. Navy used during the Vietnam War.

The Lewsiville Texan Journal has video. The Texas Observer observes...

So is DPS going to start blazing away at women and children crossing illegally on inner tubes? Do they need six machine guns to nail some dope smugglers crossing kilos of marijuana? Also, the area of Falcon Lake where (DPS trooper) David Hartley was allegedly killed was on the Mexican side of the lake. DPS can't patrol in Mexico.

Ah, but who cares -- have you seen the bad-ass machine guns?

-- Our oceans are acidifying rapidly.

The world's oceans are turning acidic at what could be the fastest pace of any time in the past 300 million years, even more rapidly than during a monster emission of planet-warming carbon 56 million years ago, scientists said on Thursday.


Quickly acidifying seawater eats away at coral reefs, which provide habitat for other animals and plants, and makes it harder for mussels and oysters to form protective shells. It can also interfere with small organisms that feed commercial fish like salmon.

The phenomenon has been a top concern of Jane Lubchenco, the head of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who has conducted demonstrations about acidification during hearings in the U.S. Congress.

Oceans get more acidic when more carbon gets into the atmosphere. In pre-industrial times, that occurred periodically in natural pulses of carbon that also pushed up global temperatures, the scientists wrote.

Damn those elitist snob scientists and their gloom-and-doom. Let's just pretend it's not happening.

-- Speaking of oceans, seventy years ago the USS Houston went to a watery grave in the Pacific after being shelled by a Japanese fleet near Jakarta, Indonesia. Two of its surviving sailors, now in their 90's, were in Houston yesterday to commemorate the anniversary. Both men survived not only the sinking but also three years in Japanese internment, where they participated in constructing the actual "Bridge on the River Kwai".

-- OK, OK. One Houston political mention. "Montrose, here's your new Congressman: Ted Poe."

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Redistricting settlements change ballot access for minor parties, indy candidates

With the maps settled, there are numerous developments regarding the timing of Texas primary elections, who is eligible to run, and what requirements and stipulations are changing. But to me, this is the most remarkable development, if these interpretations are clear (and yes, legal translations are still to come).

On February 29, the Texas Republican Party and Texas Democratic Party submitted a joint proposal to the 3-judge U.S. District Court that is hearing the redistricting case. The two parties advocate these policies for minor party and independent candidate ballot access for 2012:

1. Petitions for newly-qualifying parties, and for independent candidates for President, and independent candidates for all other office, will be due June 29.

2. No primary screen-out will exist in 2012 for these petitions.

These ideas represent a huge improvement for ballot access compared to the statutory law.

Michael Li with more:

The order also addressed independent candidates by changing the deadline for such candidates to file applications for a spot on the ballot to June 29, 2012 and waiving provisions of the Texas Election Code that invalidated signatures collected for independent candidates if they were collected before the date of the Texas primary.

Here is a copy of the order. Jim Riley's comment has elaboration.

This opens a new world of possibility for third parties, their candidates, and independents (which, if you have been following me lately, is my new cause). More parties, more choices, more democracy. Anything that threatens the old way of doing things is something I am all in favor of.