Friday, August 31, 2012

And starring Clint Eastwood as Abe Simpson

It went from odd to surreal to hilarious to sad to just pathetic in ten minutes.

See, my Dad is Alzheimer's-ridden here at the end of his life, so I'm not given over to the great humor present in last night's talk by Mr. Gran Torino. I'll just point some of it out to the rest of you so that you can have a good time with it.

But this wasn't just funny. It was instructive of the quality of Mitt Romney's campaign. Just think of everything that had to happen to deliver us (last night)'s disaster:

  • Republicans started buzzing about their "secret guest" on Monday, if not earlier. That means they had four days to help Clint write a speech and, you know, vet it. They didn't.

  • They then spent four days building up the hype about their super duper awesome secret guest. A joke that it would be a zombie Reagan hologram soon got a life of its own, and rumors abounded that yes, it would be Reagan! But no matter what, Clint Eastwood was never going to live up to the hype. He's cool, but this is a political convention, not a Comedy Central roast. There was palpable letdown when he was announced.

  • Did they read Clint Eastwood's latest hits? Pro-gay marriage, pro-choice, cut and ad celebrating the auto bailout for the Super Bowl, and someone quoted as saying he didn't believe in the modern Republican Party. So if nothing else, it provided snark fodder all day.

  • Here's the big one -- the campaign obviously spent big bucks putting together a super effective and beautifully done biographical mini-documentary on Romney's early years. The guy has had a terrible job selling his personal story because he's got none. Some video director moved heaven and earth to make the guy seem almost compelling -- a great introduction to people who haven't been tuned in to the race until now. And ... they run it before the networks cut in. Sure, the folks at Fox and CSPAN saw it, but they already know whether they like Romney or not.

  • No one felt compelled to lend Clint a comb?

  • Bumping their pretty bio piece for Clint might have worked if the campaign knew what they were getting. He's a big star, a Hollywood legend. Convention ratings have been downright atrocious for this convention (40+ million saw Sarah Palin speak, 22 million saw Paul Ryan). Clearly, schedulers hoped that having a big time celebrity lead the coverage would keep people watching. But conventions are scripted for a reason. Or put another way, people aren't allowed to ad-lib because if they do ... well, you know.

At first, people tried to work out why the old mumbly guy was hearing voices in his head. But it wasn't his head, it was, uh the chair, which wasn't much better. But wait, this could turn out genuinely funny. It was, after all, Clinton Fucking Eastwood! So for about three minutes, it was debatable how things might turn out. But then it was no longer debatable, as minute after interminable minute passed no coherent point or end in sight and people remembered that Clint Fucking Eastwood isn't supposed to be funny! I mean, actual quote:

Do you just - you know - I know - people were wondering - you don’t - handle that OK.

Here's Politico's Tweet round-up.

Let me just say that this is very entertaining, but holy hell it is weird.— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) August 31, 2012

this is a disaster— Jon Ward (@jonward11) August 31, 2012

This alternates between brilliant and catastrophic train wreck.— Clara Jeffery (@ClaraJeffery) August 31, 2012

This is a perfect representation of the campaign: an old white man arguing with an imaginary Barack Obama.— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) August 31, 2012

And somehow he’s losing. RT @allisonkilkenny: This is utter insanity. CLINT EASTWOOD IS ARGUING WITH AN IMAGINARY OBAMA. #RNC— Jamison Foser (@jamisonfoser) August 31, 2012

A great actor and director isn’t doing much of either tonight. Needs a script badly.— Neil King (@NKingofDC) August 31, 2012

Facial expressions of many delegates at #RNC = bewilderment #GOP2012 #Eastwood— Luke Russert (@LukeRussert) August 31, 2012

It’s halftime in Clint Eastwood’s speech— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) August 31, 2012

The Fact Checkers are going to completely ignore this one.— LOLGOP (@LOLGOP) August 31, 2012

This may be even worse than “Changeling.”— daveweigel (@daveweigel) August 31, 2012

Clint, my hero, is coming across as sad and pathetic. He didn’t need to do this to himself. It’s unworthy of him.— Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) August 31, 2012

This seat’s taken. OFA.BO/c2gbfi,…— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 31, 2012

Clint Eastwood on the phone with Obama now: “It all went according to plan,sir.” #RNC #GOP2012— Chris Rock (@chrisrockoz) August 31, 2012

That was…weird.— S.E. Cupp (@secupp) August 31, 2012

The speech even inspired at least three parody accounts:

Make me firewood. NOW. PLEASE.— ClintEastwood’sChair (@EastwoodChair) August 31, 2012

Okay, I’m sick of taking this sitting down— Clint’s Empty Chair (@ClintsChair) August 31, 2012

The GOP built me.— Invisible Obama (@InvisibleObama) August 31, 2012

I'm not going to embed the video; it's just too painful, in that side-splitting kinda way. One last bit of poetry, also from Twitter.

Yesterday, upon a chair
Clint met a man who wasn’t there
How sad it is that Rowdy Yates
Has ended up as Orly Taitz 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Abbott loses again.

Or as Gabriel Escobar at the Dallas News clarifies... the Lege gave him an "impossible burden" of a legal case.

The latest humiliation was inflicted today, when a three-judge panel decisively ruled that the Voter ID law in Texas violated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Like the decision on redistricting earlier in the week, there was nothing ambiguous about this latest ruling. Texas had the burden of proving that its Voter ID -- the most restrictive in the nation -- did not adversely impact minorities.

It’s one thing to lose, it’s another to be trounced. The judges concluded that all the evidence presented by Texas was some combination of  “invalid, irrelevant and unreliable.”

"So you're sayin' there's a chance..."

... the blame lies squarely with the GOP majority in the legislature because they came up with a law that stood no chance under the Voting Rights Act.

Toward the end of the opinion, one of the attorneys for Texas is quoted as saying that the state faced an “impossible burden.” No doubt this was a reference to Section 5 of the act, which we all know is the real target of Abbott and others in the GOP.

Justice David Tatel, writing for the three-judge panel, uses this plaintive cry from our attorney to slam our legislature. “Texas lawyers,” Tatel observes, “have only their client to blame.”

Gosh, I wish I had written this.

Indeed, several states have Voter ID laws that have survived legal challenges. The one passed and approved in Georgia is especially relevant because, like Texas, it needed preclearance under the Voting Rights Act.

Here’s the difference. Georgia’s law by design makes Voter ID accessible to those who lack a driver’s license and other acceptable means of identification. First, the ID is free. Second, a broad range of personal identification can get you one, including a student card and even a paycheck.

Texas, by comparison, is designed to exclude voters, particularly those who are poor.  If you don’t have a valid ID, it will cost you at least $22 to get one. The list of acceptable documents to obtain an official ID is the most stringent around.  Most significantly, state-issued Voter ID’s are only available at DPS offices. As the judges heard during the trial -- and helpfully cited in the opinion -- 81 counties in Texas have no DPS office and an additional 34 are open two days a week or less.

(Small government  at work, or hardly working).

The Texas legislature -- did I say it was dominated by the GOP? -- tabled or defeated amendments that would have greatly expanded access. A sign of how important this weighed on the case? All the measures are listed in the opinion. “Put another way,” Tatel concludes, “if counsel faced an ‘impossible burden,’ it was because of the law Texas enacted -- nothing more, nothing less.”

This court ruling is so devastating that the attorneys who lost the case would likely be fired immediately if they were privately employed. But they will of course toil on... on the public dole.

I am not certain that the lawyers who serve in -- as well as those who only give advice to -- the Republican party in the statehouse will make themselves heard in next year's legislative session. That's provided they have the fortitude to even suggest to the most intransigent among conservative lawmakers what it is about a Photo ID law that would pass legal muster.

I expect nothing more than continuing efforts to suppress and disenfranchise poor and minority voters. I believe the one thing Republicans understand is that they cannot win elections -- even in Texas -- without doing so.

Is Ted Cruz legitimately 'Hispanic'?

And more to the point: is that a fair or even respectable inquiry? The chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, who is of Mexican descent, apparently thinks so.

"This is a guy who didn't claim he was Hispanic any time before he won the primary," (Gilberto) Hinojosa said, adding that Cruz was born in Canada (although it is not a requirement to be born in the United States to run for U.S. Senate).

"He's half-Cuban, and he made point of saying he's half-Cuban and his mom was German-American, was born in Canada. Interesting for a 'birther' and a guy supported by 'birthers,'" Hinojosa said, referring to people who question whether President Obama was born in the United States.

The Cruz campaign has previously said Cruz's mother is actually Irish-Italian.

Hinojosa also criticized Cruz for not using his full name, and even questioning Cruz's heritage.
"If I was named 'Rafael Cruz,' I would be proud to use that name," Hinojosa said. "The guy has denied his own Hispanic heritage, if he is a Hispanic."

When asked if he really thinks Cruz is not Hispanic, Hinojosa said: "Well, I mean, you know you are what you believe you are, right?"

As the fight for Texas Hispanic voters literally gets into name-calling, Republicans at the convention say Latinos should like the GOP message of conservative family values, improving the economy, and creating jobs.

"Hispanic Texas, come home to your values and come home to the Republican Party," said State Rep. Aaron Pena (R-Edinburg). "We're all conservatives right now."

Hispanic voters, however, typically strongly favor Democrats, who point out that Cruz is against the DREAM Act and education cuts affecting Hispanic students.

To keep it that they way, they take issue with not only Cruz's positions, but of him as a person.
"It doesn't matter what your last name is," Hinojosa said. "It matters what you do for a community and what you believe in."

There was a time in the recent past when I would have favored this aggressive, no-holds-barred approach from my TDP chairman. But this seems too close to the "Obama is a Kenyan' stuff for my comfort.

I've been using 'Latino' instead of 'Hispanic' in my own efforts to reflect cultural sensitivity, as 'Hispanic' is regarded as a 1970-census-constructed label, which suggests a Caucasian origination. But this from the NYT usage and style blog demonstrates that there is some degree of division among the community itself.

Q. How do Hispanics themselves feel about the labels “Hispanic” and “Latino”?

A. The labels are not universally embraced by the community that has been labeled. A 2006 survey by the Pew Hispanic Center found that 48% of Latino adults generally describe themselves by their country of origin first; 26% generally use the terms Latino or Hispanic first; and 24% generally call themselves American on first reference. As for a preference between “Hispanic” and “Latino”, a 2008 Center survey found that 36% of respondents prefer the term “Hispanic,” 21% prefer the term “Latino” and the rest have no preference.

But back to the point: can a Mexican American properly accuse a half-Cuban born in Canada of not being Hispanic?

You may recall that I am married to a Cuban -- born in Cuba, and emigrated as a toddler, acquired her US citizenship the requisite seven years later -- so I have familiarity with the resentment some Latinos feel toward Cubans. I have observed this arises from two things:

1. Cubans don't ever call themselves Hispanic or Latino. They are Cuban. Period.

2. Cubans get much more preferential treatment by the US government as a result of the wet foot/dry foot immigration policy that has existed for decades. This generates the most contempt from other Latinos.

So once again, back to the question: is this, to paraphrase Todd Akin, legitimate? Or is it racist? Or something in between? Personally I lean toward the latter, but I'd like to hear what you have to say. Leave a response in the comments, please.

Update: To illustrate my disgust with this tactic, Romney surrogate John Sununu has repeatedly insinuated that Obama is un-American, yet he himself was born in Cuba, to a Palestinian father and a Salvadoran mother. As much as I believe in fighting fire with fire when it comes to Republican prevaricators, there are still some things that are out of bounds. This heritage smearing is one.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Texas redistricting violates VRA, is also discriminatory

Let's go first with the LSP.

After months of deliberation, a three-judge Federal District Court panel in Washington, DC has ruled that the redistricting maps adopted by the Texas Legislature last year violate the US Voting Rights Act. The Court determined that Texas Republican leaders enacted maps that reduced the opportunity for minority voters in Texas to elect their candidates of choice AND the Court ruled that the Legislature used a process that was intentionally discriminatory in adopting the Congressional and State Senate maps.

A copy of the Court’s decision can be seen here.

The election in November will proceed as scheduled under the court-drawn interim maps ordered earlier this year. However, the DC Court’s ruling means that the maps passed by the Legislature in 2011 cannot be used for any election going forward. The current court-drawn interim Congressional, State Senate and State House maps will serve as the benchmark for determining minority voter opportunity. In effect, if the Legislature chooses to redraw the three maps next year, they cannot revert to their previously enacted maps but must start over using the court-drawn interim maps as a baseline.

Matt Angle also added...

The Court’s decision is a damning indictment of Rick Perry and other Texas Republican leaders who, in a cynical attempt to hold on to power, engaged in intentional discrimination against Texas Latino and African American voters.

Every fair-minded Texan familiar with the details of redistricting knew Republican leaders were violating the law. Greg Abbott and Texas Republican will stop at nothing to hold power – even if it means spending millions in Texans hard-earned tax dollars to defend illegal discriminatory redistricting plans. I’m sure he’s burning up more tax dollars as we speak.

Yes, Abbott plans to appeal the case to the US Supreme Court... naturally. More analysis from Michael Li.

* Opinion appears to be a sweeping win for DOJ and groups opposing the state’s redistricting maps. Unanimous except (1) that Judge Griffith dissents with respect to finding of retrogression in treatment of CD-25 (the current Lloyd Doggett seat) and (2) that Judge Collyer did not join in the portion of the opinion relating to retrogression in the congressional map as a whole.

 * Court finds that the State of Texas failed to show an absence of discriminatory purpose in the redrawing of SD-10. The court, however, rejects the contention that SD-10 is an ability to elect district since Wendy Davis was the only minority-preferred candidate to win the district and “a single victory is not the more exacting evidence needed for a coalition district.” 

And it gets deeper in the legal weeds from there.

The SCOTUS won't rule on the case until next summer, and it's hard to guess whether the Lege takes this up again in January 2013. They probably can't get anything they want past the courts, and the only thing that is likely to change their tack is if a Justice Department has an attorney general appointed by a President Romney.

I wouldn't count on that.

Update: More from BOR and DBN. And this from Socratic Gadfly:

Beyond that, the loser is the Texas taxpayer, whom the Texas GOP falsely claims to love. Because of this ruling, if it stands, next year's Legislature will have to start over from ground zero. The interim maps cannot be used as a starting point. And, the GOP is probably likely to try to get away with something again, especially if Romney is elected. So, we'll waste more taxpayer money on more court battles, more state redistricting experts, etc.

Brainy Endorsements: David Courtney

David Courtney is the Green nominee standing against Republican incumbent state Sen. Joan Huffman for SD-17. There is no Democrat running; there is a Libertarian on the ballot. Here's an interview that the Indo-American Times published back in March, when Courtney announced.

Why have you decided to work with the Green Party?

Because both of the major parties are playing the same game. They are pandering to money and not responding to the needs of the people. Since they are both playing the same game, the voters could jump back and forth between the Democrats and the Republicans forever and never see the needed reforms.

What reforms need to be made?

There are larger structural problems and there are smaller partisan ones.

What are the larger issues?

The fundamental problem is that we have a political system which responds to money and not to people. Therefore we cannot really consider the US to be any form of democracy. It is a plutocracy, that is to say a country which is “ruled by the wealthy.” The nature of the American plutocracy is staggering. It is a staggeringly small percentage of the population which controls the lion’s share of the wealth of this country. The political structure in turn is answerable only to this miniscule percentage of the population. It is time for the people to stand up and say, “Enough is enough!”

If elected, do you think that you could change this system?

No single individual could do that. But when the “pigs are at the trough,” I can do everything in my power to make it a little less palatable for them. I can be the eyes and ears of the people and make noise when things are not right. Hopefully more of the public will also stand up, and en masse we can make the necessary changes. Reform never comes from the top down, it must always come from the bottom up.

What about the smaller issues?

There are numerous ones. These include education, infrastructure and all of the usual things that politicians talk about.

However there is one thing in particular that should be of concern to the readers of this paper. The mood in Austin, especially under the Republicans is amazingly anti-immigrant. Let us take an example from my Republican opponent Joan Huffman. She was co-sponsor of an amendment to a recent education bill (Senate Bill 1581), which would prohibit any institution of higher education from extending in-state tuition rates to non-US citizen.

Think about what this means. We all know people who have been here for 10 years or more under H1 visas and green cards who would have been forced to send their children to college only by paying the outrageous out of state tuition. They would have to do this even though they lived here legally for years and paid into the system with their taxes. This is just one example but it is very typical of the anti-immigrant sentiments of the Republican dominated state Senate in Austin.

Courtney is, as you may have surmised, a lot like me. A disaffected former Democrat and even a member of the now-defunct Progressive Populist Caucus, Courtney was overcome by his disenchantment with corporate Democrats a little earlier than me. Along with the rightward shift and the crippling culture of defeatism, it was conservaDems like Chris Bell and Barbara Radnofsky that chased him away; I was still of the opinion at the time (2005-10) that those two could make a progressive difference if they got elected.

Silly me...

A balkanization of the Democrats -- particularly at the senate district officer level -- as various people set up their little fiefdoms and refused to cooperate for any common goal, was a frustration we both shared as well. That may be on the verge of change, as the old guard has passed the torch to two former PPC members, my friends Tom Gederberg and Sarah Gonzales, the newly elected chair and secretary of SD-17. But by the time I saw Bell line up with the other establishment lemmings in support of James Cargas in the CD-07 primary in May, along with a few other of my other so-called progressive pals, I had already logged myself out of the Crips.

Courtney and his wife are both accomplished Indian musicians. One of their music videos won a Worldfest award last year. They teach music to many students and have performed across the world.

Here's a brief video of Courtney introducing himself and a few political priorities.

Between Huffman's relative obscurity as a back-bencher and go-alonger with the lunatic fringe in the Texas Senate, and a competent Libertarian challenger, who knows? With a little Democratic help at the polling place, Courtney has a chance to show respectably in the fall election. And if he does, perhaps Democrats will be encouraged enough to submit their own challenge.

Four years from now.

Meanwhile, there is a fine progressive option in 2012 in David Courtney.

Brainy Endorsements so far include...

Nile Copeland for the First Court of Appeals
Alfred and GC Molison for HD 131 and SBOE, respectively
Henry Cooper for HD 148
Keith Hampton for Presiding Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Barbara Gardner for the Fourteenth Court of Appeals
Don Cook for Congress, 22nd District
Max Martin for Congress, 36th District
Remington Alessi for Harris County Sheriff
Ann Harris Bennett for Harris County Tax Assessor/Collector

Brainy Endorsements: Ann Harris Bennett

In 2010, Harris County voters had the opportunity to elect Ann Harris Bennett to the office of County Clerk. Given the cartoon aspects of the performance of the extreme conservative who let the Red Tea Tide carry him in two years ago, there is now buyer's remorse even on the part of Harris County Republicans, who turned out his clown car sidekick in the county tax assessor's office, Don Sumners.

Bennett will be the Democrats' nominee for tax assessor/collector in 2012, and the other options... well, aren't.

Former Houston city councilman Mike Sullivan represents "proven conservative values", according to what proven conservative dipshits like Paul Bettencourt say.

Former tax assessor Paul Bettencourt said the ousting of incumbents such as Sumners and District Attorney Pat Lykos showed GOP voters want candidates that have “more conservative perceptions of how the office should be run,” adding voters clearly identified “job performance issues.”

There is no such thing as being more conservative than Don Sumners. There isn't one inch of space to his right. You can stop trying to wedge yourself in there (and please stop talking about how being conservative is a good thing, while you're at it).

“I think that I represented conservative values on Houston City Council, I represented conservative values on Humble ISD board of trustees, and my long history in the party and track record have proven attractive to Republican voters,” (Sullivan) said...

Enough. We have all had enough -- too much, actually -- of 'conservative' in Harris county government. It's time for some balance.

It's time for some common sense. Pamela Crawford at Style:

Ms. Bennett, a native Texan, is no stranger to the county system. She served as court coordinator for 14 ½ years in the 55th and 152nd Civil District Courts for both Republican and Democratic judges in court administration. She also was a 12-year legal secretary for plaintiff and insurance defense law firms in Houston working primarily in tort litigation. Her background with the courts and law firms indicates she understands how integrity, transparency and accountability are a crucial part of a daily routine. Her legal experience tells me she understands how to manage technology andr documents. As an attorney, I appreciate that she clearly understands how the legal process works.

Via Stace, Bennett's press release in the wake of Sumners' breakdown in mailing voter registration cards last spring...

“Harris County seems to have been the testing ground for vote suppression tactics used against minorities and that cannot continue. Restoring faith in the integrity of the voter registration process will be a priority of my campaign and my administration when elected...”.

And from Bennett's website:

It’s been almost fifty years since passage of the Voting Rights Act and yet, from voter registration irregularities to illegal redistricting plans, we too often continue to see examples of the need for the legal protections afforded under the Voting Rights Act. While I could not be more thankful for those protections, I intend to end the questionable practices of the past and restore faith among Harris County voters in the voter registration process. The voter registration process should be simple, secure, accessible and most of all, it should never leave citizens questioning its integrity.

There is also a Libertarian in this contest, but he seems to be running an invisible campaign. All I could find was this Meetup profile.  Maybe Democrats should e-mail him or call him -- see the first link in this paragraph -- and ask when he's going to get started campaigning.

Once again, as clear a choice as it comes on your Harris County ballot. Let's get it correct, not right, this time.

Earlier Brainy Endorsements:

Nile Copeland for the First Court of Appeals
Alfred and GC Molison for HD 131 and SBOE, respectively
Henry Cooper for HD 148
Keith Hampton for Presiding Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Barbara Gardner for the Fourteenth Court of Appeals
Don Cook for Congress, 22nd District
Max Martin for Congress, 36th District
Remington Alessi for Harris County Sheriff

Monday, August 27, 2012

Brainy Endorsements: Remington Alessi

Remington Alessi is the Green candidate running for Harris County Sheriff, against incumbent Democrat Adrian Garcia and Republican Louis Guthrie. There is no Libertarian candidate.

Alessi is the Green most likely to strike fear into the hearts of Democrats, as he is running a, shall we understate, unconventional campaign that provides a striking contrast to typical law enforcement candidates like Garcia and Guthrie.

As both a new activist and a cynic, I have little trust for politicians and despise their hypocrisy. Justice is important to me, and I believe that justice goes beyond retribution – justice is fair, understanding, and humane. We need a system that more accurately reflects that reality, and I feel that the Harris County Sheriff's Office is a good place to start. My education and expertise makes me a qualified choice, because where I lack experience as a beat cop arresting people, I am uniquely aware of macroscopic law enforcement issues that my opponents are ill-equipped to address or even recognize. Refocusing the HCSO to better reflect an institution of justice and public service is central to the needs of the people of Houston.

I will let you go read his issues page that includes thought-provoking positions on the influence of the private prison industry on public policy; the squandering of law enforcement resources in prosecuting vice crimes; the actual tax contributions of undocumented workers; bringing law enforcement out of the Dark Ages and the need for better mental health services as a response to crime; and transforming prison-to-work programs.

Two recent news items, this one from Scot Henson at Grits on private prisons, and this one from the Chron on state Sen. John Whitmire's evolving views on incarcerating prostitutes, reinforce Alessi's positions.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the issues section, along with a few videos of Alessi speaking about some topics of the day in various fora.

I propose that the HCSO no longer dedicate law enforcement personnel to enforcing (marijuana) possession laws. We have far too many more pressing problems on our plate to be wasting resources on perpetuating policies that are no more reasonable than those that were responsible for the prohibition of alcohol nearly a century ago. This is doubly so when we consider the glaring problem of budget crises that currently plague all levels of government.

On the topic of vice crimes, prostitution bears mention. Obviously many people have moral issues with prostitution. But then, the fifth commandment instructs believers to honor their father and mother, and we don't lock people up for failing to adhere to that. Going beyond traditional moral issues, we still have to ask ourselves about the practicality of enforcing either of these issues. Judging from the fact that making prostitution illegal has done nothing to stop it, we should ask whether or not it is worth our time when we simultaneously are in a position of limited resources and other issues like human trafficking come into play.

The first video is from a recent Houston City Council meeting where Alessi spoke on the homeless-food sharing ordinance.

Due to the defunding of state and local mental health institutions during the past decade, approximately one quarter of the Harris County Jail's nearly 12,000 inmates require mental health services, and of those, roughly ninety percent have been placed in the Harris County Jail have been placed there before.

This is a glaring problem, and requires that the HCSO meaningfully address this issue by creating more humane conditions for these individuals who have been abandoned by society. The cruel and inhumane treatment of those least among us is, at its heart, a moral issue, but financial issues should be considered as well in the spirit of pragmatism. Valuable resources are dedicated to this policy of criminalizing the mentally ill, and the Harris County Jail's eleven full time psychiatrists are laughably understaffed and unequipped to provide proper care to inmates with mental health needs.

Here Alessi spoke about unions, and strikes, following one of the street actions associated with the recently-concluded Houston janitors' strike (Alessi's remarks begin at about the 1:45 mark).

I've previously mentioned in passing -- in my endorsement post for Henry Cooper against another Democratic incumbent, Jessica Farrar -- the disagreements I have with Sheriff Garcia. His vigorous support of a bad Obama Administration immigrant policy, Secure Communities, is at the head of the list. Describing himself proudly as having evolved into a conservative in terms of its enforcement would, of course, be another.

That last is just more of the bullshit I am sick to death of: your typical Democrat thinking that acting like a Republican is going to get Republicans to vote for him. It's not going to work any better for Garcia than it did for Tony Sanchez in 2002, or Bill White in 2008, or James Cargas in 2012.

Meanwhile, the actual Republican in the contest, Louis Guthrie, is nothing but a joke.

Guthrie, who now works for the Liberty County Sheriff's Office, received four letters of reprimand and two suspensions during his tenure with Harris County. He caused two traffic accidents, loaded his weapon with improper ammunition at an off-duty job and pressed a prisoner about his allegiance to the Nation of Islam, according to sheriff's office records.

He was suspended one day in 2002 for engaging in "horseplay" with two other deputies at a training exercise. He was also suspended 15 days, which was reduced to 12 on appeal, and ordered to anger management counseling after he used excessive force with a man he was escorting from a bar at closing time while on an off-duty job.

Guthrie's termination stemmed from a July 2008 incident at a car wash in Humble, where his wife alleged $17 had been stolen from her car. The May 2009 termination letter states Guthrie, who was off-duty, arrived at the business driving his cruiser and in uniform. He blocked the entrance to the car wash and circled part of the facility in crime scene tape, then detained the employees and took their driver's licenses to check for warrants. Some of these decisions may have been illegal acts of official oppression, the letter states.

Note in this last video that Alessi reports some positive response from Libertarians for his campaign.

Here is Alessi's Facebook page and his Twitter feed. It's pretty obvious to me that outside of blind red-and-blue partisan voters, the choice for Harris County Sheriff could not be more clear.

Prior Brainy Endorsements have included the following:

Nile Copeland for the First Court of Appeals
Alfred and GC Molison for HD 131 and SBOE, respectively
Henry Cooper for HD 148
Keith Hampton for Presiding Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Barbara Gardner for the Fourteenth Court of Appeals
Don Cook for Congress, 22nd District
Max Martin for Congress, 36th District

The Big Wind Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is ready for the big winds of swirling moist air -- both of them -- coming from the general direction of Tampa as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff published interviews with Congressman Gene Green and Congressional candidate Jim Dougherty.  

BossKitty at TruthHugger was interrupted while researching the abomination of H.R. 1096: Sanctity of Life Act of 2011, Questions and Permutations, to comment on the recent shootings in New York: Do You Feel Better It Wasn’t Terrorism? Then came the sad news that Neil Armstrong escaped the bonds of earth for the last time: He Stopped The World On July 20, 1969.

The GOP's answer for everything is trickle-down. WCNews at Eye on Williamson on the latest on transportation's Forgotten Mission: Texas' trickle-down transportation policy.

The legal action by the Harris County Democratic Party to remove DA nominee Lloyd Oliver from the November ballot places the rest of the party's candidates in an unfortunate and unnecessary quandary, posits PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at Texas Liberal discussed litter in Houston bayous. This post also featured the famous crying Indian anti-litter PSA from the 70's.  

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme knows that the Romney/Ryan racist welfare ads and jokes are par for the course for the republicans who built that d*mn fence as a monument to racism and fear.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Brainy Endorsements: Max Martin

Max Martin won the Democratic Party's primary to represent Texans in the 36th Congressional District (after clicking, zoom and drag to see a closer view of the map). It includes the Southeast Texas counties of Orange, Newton, Jasper, Tyler, Hardin, Polk, Liberty, Chambers, and the eastern part of Harris, including the Houston suburbs of Clear Lake and Baytown. It is a new district, one of the four awarded to Texas as a result of the state's growth after the decennial census of 2010.

The Republicans nominated Louie Gohmert's kissin' cousin, Steve Stockman. He was TeaBaggin' before it was cool. Though Stockman served a single term and hasn't been in Congress since 1997, he posted signs during the Republican runoff that said "Re-elect Congressman Stockman". Republicans are as wary of the guy as everybody else, despite the fact that his returning to Washington is considered all but a foregone conclusion.

There is also a Libertarian candidate, Michael "MKC" Cole. He has a compelling life story, and presents a good option for those conservatives in the district who are intelligent enough not to vote a straight R ballot.

But Martin is by far the best choice, and here's a few reasons why, from his FB postings.

"Max at the Planned Parenthood rally the Monday following the AIDS walk (8/17/12). Ask the keynote speakers Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green what they think about Democrats campaigning for Libertarians. That's me under the "c" in care."

A bit on tax policy:

The real problem isn’t these numbers, it’s the hidden ones. The .1%, like Mitt Romney, who have migrated their incomes to total capital gains. They pay a top rate of 15% and nothing towards the social security system or Medicare/Medicaid. To make thing even worse, they want to reduce that 15% to 0%. You know, for the “Job Creators”. Give me a break! We will never balance the budget without an income system that requires everyone, out of poverty, to pay, and to pay progressively more the more they earn. That’s the way it was for the 70 years before 1986 and that’s the way it should be now.

He supports the 2nd Amendment, Planned Parenthood, and the Occupy movement. He was also one of the only Democrats on the ballot who spoke in favor of Lissa Squiers, when she was under assault from the James Cargas/Hector Carreno slime machine. Here's what he wrote after that pathetic, fawning, not to mention plagiarized-from-Cargas-himself endorsement...

Regarding The Houston Chronicle’s endorsement of James Cargas for U.S. House of Representatives in the Texas 7th district, posted in the editorial section on Friday, July 20, 2012, I feel compelled to disagree with several aspects of the writer’s assumptions. I have been in contact with Lissa Squiers on a steady basis over the last few months and find her to be a formidable opponent to upset the obstructionist incumbent, John Culberson. From her blue collar background, to her family commitment in raising children in the public school system, to her drive to propel herself to earn an MBA from the University of Houston, Lissa has exhibited a tireless ability to set goals and make them happen.

The author states, “Lissa Squiers’ approach of taking the strongest position possible and unapologetically charging forward” as a reason to not consider her for the position for which she seeks, when in effect it is the foundation for which the Democratic Party is standing proud in support of the needs of the many over the wants of the few. This article seems to think what the Democratic Party needs is more Republican thinking candidates. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lissa Squires has fought long and hard for herself and her family and she’ll do the same for the citizens of the 7th district.

Yes she would have, Max, but at least the voters of the 36th have a chance to elect you.

To be sure, most of the Democrats in places like Orange County and Hardin County have given up and flipped parties. The communities are in strong support of Keystone XL. There are precious few East Texans that haven't drunk the Tea, and if the Libertarian manages some success in leeching support from Stockman, there might be a chance for Martin to prevail. A slim one for sure, but as a retired aviator Martin understands that flying is all about throwing yourself at the ground from extreme heights at high velocity... and consistently missing.

Show some support for sanity and a few progressive values if you live in East Texas. Or even if you don't. Because the last thing we need in Washington right now is Steve Stockman 2.0.

Update: Charles Kuffner has his audio interview with Martin up.

Previous Brainy Endorsements include...

Nile Copeland for the First Court of Appeals
Alfred and GC Molison for HD 131 and SBOE, respectively
Henry Cooper for HD 148
Keith Hampton for Presiding Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Barbara Gardner for the Fourteenth Court of Appeals
Don Cook for Congress, 22nd District

Sunday Legitimately Funnies

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The quandary of Lloyd Oliver for Democrats on the ballot

His lawsuit to remain on the ballot has the potential to be destructive for the Harris County Democratic Party's candidates and their November prospects.

On Friday, Houston attorney Lloyd Oliver filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the Harris County Democratic Party's attempts to oust him from the ticket.

"They're not going to put any candidate on the ballot. They just shut the whole thing down," Oliver said.

The lawyer called the move an attempt by party officials to disenfranchise voters.

"They are the elite of the Democratic Party. They trump the voters and that's wrong," Oliver said.

I mentioned earlier in the week that I didn't think this would damage races down ballot, but I have to rethink that. I see no percentage in Democratic candidates, especially judicial candidates, supporting Lewis and Martin Birnberg in this petty vendetta. Unless they -- those on the ballot and not in the backroom -- opt to distance themselves quickly from it.

See, Democrats are obviously one thing, and democracy is another quite different one.

You would like to see the members of the Democratic Party always supporting democratic principles, but the fact is that doesn't always occur. It's part (a small part) of why I cannot call myself a Democrat any longer. I can and will heartily support many Democratic candidates, but I will no longer fall blindly in line behind a party's orthodoxy. It has simply produced too much cognitive dissonance for me.

Most Americans agree with me, by the way. Since about half of all residents of this great nation do not vote in any election, it would stand to reason that they don't hold either major political party in high regard. Since about 40% of the remaining half of our countrymen vote for the Bloods, and about 40% vote for the Crips, that leaves a solid 10% of voters -- or 5% of all Americans -- who report themselves as "undecided" for the two gangs to fight over. That percentage, again very roughly, is approximately the amount of support minor parties like the Greens and Libertarians and Independents have generally shared in presidential elections past (only Ross Perot and George Wallace in my lifetime have been exceptions to this rule).

The daily skirmishes in that battle -- more tit-for-tat in my humble O -- is what the traditional media reports, via several outlets, on a 24-hour basis. Here is today's example.

It gets worse for democracy, as we know. Because of the Electoral College, that 10% of registered/likely uncommitted voters is scattered throughout a dozen or so "battleground" states, which is why the two Corporate Parties must raise and spend vast sums of money to pay for Corporate Media advertising in order to sway this small number of lowly-informed "undecideds".

Most Democrats and Republicans are, at this stage of the cycle -- about 60 days before the start of early voting, and about 75 days before Election Day -- turning their focus away from persuasion and toward mobilization. 'Get Out the Vote', as it is called. 'Let's get more of our people to the polls because there are going to be a lot of those nasty  _______ voting, and we've got to overcome that'.

The methodology of GOTV differs a bit between Republicans and Democrats; the GOP wants to keep their base in a perpetual state of fear and loathing while simultaneously making efforts to ensure that fewer folks get to cast a ballot, particularly those with a little extra pigmentation in their skin. Whereas Democrats want more people to vote, on the theory that many non-voters will vote Democrat... if they can be convinced to get up and go do it. In 2012 this premise is particularly valid.

A digression, but a necessary one to illustrate my point.

Fort Bend and Texas Democratic Party officials have disavowed two-time Congressional nominee Kesha Rogers, but none of them have tried to remove her from the ballot (yet). Way back in 2010 when this uncomfortable situation arose the first time, I assembled a few views in this post, the most eloquent by my friend, occasional co-poster, and former SDEC committeeman John Behrman.

One is left with the supposition that ignoring Rogers' call for Obama's impeachment -- while taking legal action against Oliver's favorable remark about DA Pat Lykos -- is just garden variety hypocrisy and not a decision made on any racial and/or gender considerations of the two candidates.

Ultimately the Dems are going to have to mitigate this away in some fashion (just as they did their legal efforts to keep the Texas Green Party off the ballot in 2010). If they lose it, Oliver has made them look incompetent; if they succeed, they appear wildly and discriminatorily undemocratic. In the short term it grows increasingly likely that this effort will cost them votes... and contests they might otherwise win in an Obama-turnout-swollen year.They cannot afford that.

Many undercurrents have trended in their favor lately: the inept Romney campaign; the choice of the controversial Paul Ryan as running mate; the policy positions of the top of the ticket that motivate seniors, women, and minorities, particularly Latinos, to support the Dems are just a few. The vast extremism of Texas TeaBaggers, from Ted Cruz and throughout the Congressional and statehouses races, has never been more apparent.

But this obnoxious, internecine squabbling turns off voters -- especially voters of the undecided, uncommitted variety -- to a tremendous degree. The Democrats look like childish siblings fighting over a trinket when they do things like this. And for a political party that is already on life support in Texas, it is just plain ridiculous, not to mention foolish.

This is to say nothing of the nonsensical choice to leave the District Attorney's race empty. Since they are meeting in county convention this morning, the assembly of precinct chairs could, if they were in agreement to do so, select another DA nominee.

All of this leaves Harris County Democratic candidates in an unpleasant quandary. Either they publicly disavow the actions of their party's chair and previous chair to arbitrarily remove a duly elected nominee -- one of their ticketmates -- over a technicality, or they try to ignore it (not a good option either, since silence is consent). I don't consider that publicly announcing support for Oliver against local party leaders is really an option.

Unless this matter resolves itself fairly quickly in time to smooth over the unpleasantries, other Democrats are going have to run away, hard, from this ill-conceived legal action on the part of Birnberg, Lewis, and Dunn, or else they stand to be tarred with the same broad brush.

That would be the brush with the oligarchic paint on it. Low-information, low-participation voters get this even when they have no idea what an oligarchy is.

Update: Charles very cautiously -- and maybe only slightly -- agrees. I also checked to see if there was any news made at yesterday's Harris County Democratic convention, but it looks as if the activities were limited to boosting morale.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Brainy endorsements: Don Cook

The people of Congressional District 22 have some powerfully poor options on their ballot (as usual). There's the incumbent, Pete Olson, the heir to the legacy of Tom DeLay. Even the Tea P's are down on him. There's the Democratic nominee for the second consecutive cycle, Kesha Rogers, a legend all by herself.

There's also a Libertarian. You have to register at his webpage in order to read his candidate bio (most of the other pages do not require it). I didn't, because I value my freedom.

And then there's the only rational choice, Don Cook.

Cook has presented himself for public office as a Green candidate a few times over the years. As Charles Kuffner noted in his 2011 interview when Cook ran for an at-large city council position (he gathered 18% of the vote), Cook also ran for Harris County Clerk in 2010 -- don't we wish right about now he was in that office? -- and city council as well in 2009.

Some people use the label "perennial candidate" as a pejorative; I'm not one of them. I think people -- especially people who are not lawyers, not wealthy business people, not born into privilege -- are exactly the kind of people who ought to be running for office. And those who are willing to do so, at great expense to themselves and their families, at a time when almost 50% of Americans cannot be bothered to carry themselves to the polls on Election Day, are to be commended.

Cook's Congressional run focuses on the economy (a national work program in the style of the Green New Deal), terrorism (fewer wars mean less of it), immigration (easing restrictions would result in less of it being illegal), and an emphasis on women's reproductive freedom and pay equality. But as a retired parole officer, he understands the prison-to-poverty cycle better than most. He most recently spoke out against the violence and abuses of power being demonstrated by municipal police departments across the country, and the Houston Police Department specifically. As Cook explains...

The issue of civilian review of police might be questioned as relevant to national politics, but throughout the country police crime is happening.  You could even say it is happening all over the world.  Last week police killed 34 striking mine workers in South Africa, for example.  Everyone needs to be held accountable to the people.  After all, even bankers, when left unaccountable, will lie, cheat, steal, and crash the economy as they did four years ago.  Let's hold the police accountable.

Here is Cook's op-ed on the topic, recently submitted to (but not published by) the Houston Chronicle. 

The story "Shootings by HPD on upswing," (Sunday, July 29, 2012), reports an increase in the number of killings by police through July 25th compared to 2011: Fourteen shootings, eight deaths this year, versus eight shootings, five deaths last year.

It’s worth explaining. The sample size is small, as one HPD apologist noted. Police spokespeople (who are neither scientists or statisticians), however, should not refer to this data as "cyclical." Put more accurately, the incidents might be chance, or random clustering. Time, and a large sampling, will reveal if these incidents represent a disturbing trend in an already disturbing situation.

We would have to look for periodicity over a longer time period to argue the existence of some sort of cycle. And if a cycle of HPD shootings does exist, merely noting it in no way explains it. Cycles indicate the presence of underlying causes, which may or may not be known.

Whether or not these shootings are cyclical or random they are troubling. We must take action to ensure that they are appropriately investigated. We must deal with them to make certain that no self-perpetuating, vicious cycle exists. Houstonians need and demand a culture of transparency.

Because of the built-in lack of transparency in our criminal justice system, many groups and individuals cry out for a civilian review board for HPD, one with subpoena powers. The Black Justice Coalition has been circulating a petition for a ballot initiative to create such a board.

The Mayor has established a 21-member Independent Police Oversight Board, but it lacks subpoena power. Without subpoena power, the IPOB has no teeth. Other cities, including Dallas, have civilian review boards with subpoena power. There is more than sufficient justification for improving civilian oversight of HPD.

Lame-duck DA, and former HPD officer, Pat Lykos notes that in 19 of 24 shootings of civilians by the police, the civilian had some sort of weapon—not necessarily a gun or knife. As civilians we find it disturbing that, upon further investigation, in 5 out of 24 such cases, the victim had no weapon or object that could be considered a weapon. Moreover, we must not forget cases of police officers convicted of excessive use of force, sexual assaults, and other criminal acts.

We do not argue that police authorities in Harris County are especially evil or corrupt, but they are human. And humans are imperfect.

DA Lykos' unsatisfying response to calls for public accountability is a weak counter-accusation of slander, and that misses the point. Expecting blind trust of her office is a mistake. Given the secrecy of grand jury proceedings and the very few police shootings that proceed to trial, concerns that the DA's office and the police might be "working hand-in-hand" is not slander. It is a response to a lack both of public information and public official accountability.

The overwhelming number of "no-bills" of HPD officer shootings of civilians—when the standard joke in this country is that any competent DA can indict a ham sandwich—makes it imperative that the public have access to the sworn facts of each incident. We believe the best way to do this is with a civilian review board with subpoena powers. We are not making accusations against the DA's office; as matters stand, we don't have enough information for accusations.

The DA is correct when she says that attacking police officers attacks society as a whole. But systematically ignoring, denying, or hiding civil-rights violations by police officers is also an attack on society. Let's find out what is going on.  Let's have accountability.

Don Cook is the best reason yet for the citizens of the 22nd Congressional District not to vote a straight Democratic ticket. But I will be offering a few more in the coming days and weeks.

Previous Brainy Endorsements...

Nile Copeland for the First Court of Appeals
Alfred and GC Molison for HD 131 and SBOE, respectively
Henry Cooper for HD 148
Keith Hampton for Presiding Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Barbara Gardner for the Fourteenth Court of Appeals

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bad week for the local Democrats *updates

First, the city controller stepped in it big time. Then his wife, the justice of the peace, showed up in some of the questionable dealings with the same swindler. Then the former head of the HCDP -- who seems to be having a little trouble transitioning into retirement -- filed a complaint against the voters' pick for District Attorney, trying to get him off the November slate. (The fact is that Lloyd Oliver is a jackass... and not just the four-legged variety.) Today my own first-term city councilman seems to be in hot water over a missing million bucks from the non-profit he ran before being elected a year ago.

But the biggest loss is the retirement of Judge Kevin Fine.

State District Judge Kevin Fine, who triggered controversy in 2010 when he said the death penalty was unconstitutional, announced Tuesday he is resigning from the bench effective immediately.

The Democrat elected in 2008 made headlines and earned the scorn of Republicans, including Gov. Rick Perry, when he declared the death penalty unconstitutional during a routine hearing. That ruling was later reversed, and Fine's continued efforts to see the issue re-litigated in his Houston courtroom came to naught.

The judge, a recovering cocaine addict who ran his first campaign touting his experience with addiction, did not seek re-election this year.

Republicans won't ever understand why it was of a great value to have Judge Fine on the bench. They will just look at two things: "anti-death penalty" and "recovering cocaine addict" and close their minds.

Fine represented people who have been rejected by the system having a voice on the bench. The poor, the disadvantaged, the people most of the rest of us don't want to look at or think about. Not the lazy, not the born-into-privilege, not the "boot-strappers", as conservatives like to say. But the unlucky.

That was very much a minority caucus on the Harris County bench. I for one will miss him a great deal. There are some excellent judges and judicial candidates on the Harris County ticket, but none with Fine's life experience.

As for Controller Green and Judge Green, they are heavily damaged by their own hand. I suspect, as with Marc Campos, that they will draw challengers from among the Blue gang the next time they face the voters (for the controller, that's coming up next year).

Not as fast as Lloyd Oliver's, however.

With only a Republican -- former city councilman Mike Anderson, no stranger to scandal himself -- and a James-Cargas-ish Democrat to choose from, my recommendation in this race is likely to be 'neither'. Further, I believe that Murray assigns Oliver too much weight here...

Any candidate who proudly boasts of his three indictments and then advocates for boxing lessons for domestic violence victims adds an anchor to what many political analysts believe is a sinking ship when it comes to the local Dems' chances in Harris County this year.

I doubt it. Harris County voters simply aren't that well-informed. The judicials can disavow Oliver with confidence.

It will be amusing to see if Lloyd finds himself in the position of having to run against both Anderson and the Democrats. The ultimate outsider. Might be a barrel of laughs.

Update: But it ain't gonna happen. For now, anyway.

The Harris County Democratic Party Wednesday took district attorney candidate Lloyd Oliver's name off the ballot, deciding to go forward without a candidate in November's general election.

Chad Dunn, the attorney for the party confirmed the decision by Harris County Democratic Party Chairman Lane Lewis to sustain a complaint filed by Gerry Birnberg, the former party chair, that Oliver endorsed the sitting district attorney, Republican Pat Lykos.

Birnberg said in his complaint that Oliver told the Houston Chronicle in May that Lykos was such a good candidate that she "would have gotten my vote."

Oliver, a perennial candidate in both Republican and Democratic primaries, said he will fight to stay on the ballot, including appealing to state party officials and, if he loses there, suing in federal court to stay on the ballot.

"I can't believe the state party chairman would be in the same boat as those two goobers," Oliver said. "And I guarantee that I'll do what I have to do to get a federal injunction."

My opinion? This is going to turn out badly, and not necessarily for Lloyd Oliver.

Update: And it gets worse for Ronald and Hilary Green.

Houston contractor Dwayne Jordon, a five-time felon, has remained free on bond since 2009 though he's admitted his role in a major Houston real estate scam and appears to have used his court-granted freedom to continue to cheat consumers, businesses and banks in Harris, Montgomery and San Jacinto counties, according to civil suits, criminal records and officials and victims interviewed by the Chronicle.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Brainy endorsements: Barbara Gardner

Like Nile Copeland, Barbara Gardner is running for the the Texas Court of Appeals, but in the Fourteenth, which also serves Harris and other surrounding counties. She will contend in Place 3 against a fresh-faced and very recent Rick Perry appointee. (The local conservatives seem right proud of him.)

I know Gardner for her work as the president of the Harris County chapter of the Texas Democratic Women, as she invited me and several other local bloggers to participate in a lively panel discussion last year.

Excerpting from the Harris County Democratic Party's profile...

Ms. Gardner is a champion of “persons’ rights.” Growing up in East Texas, early on she was somewhat of a front-runner for women’s rights, which she has always vigorously supported. [...] When she learned that the Harris County chapter of the Texas Democratic Women had fallen into an inactive state, Ms. Gardner single-handedly revived the Harris County chapter of this fine organization. The “TDWHarris” chapter is now thriving under Ms. Gardner’s leadership.

When she learned that there were 10 openings on the 1st and 14th Courts of Appeals, and that there is an opportunity in 2012 to have a majority of Democrats on both courts, she decided to run for Hon. John Anderson’s bench, who (retired) from the 14th Court of Appeals. While this is a huge challenge since the race covers 10 counties, most of which are dominated by Republicans, it is the very type of task that motivates Ms. Gardner. There is a great opportunity at stake to create more balance on the courts.

Here's Gardner in her own words.

Gardner takes the "have fun while you kick ass" approach -- in the style of the indomitable Molly Ivins -- as seriously as possible.

"So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”

Gardner is hosting a "Fun Fundraiser" on August 31st at the Black Finn; to the left is the flyer with all the details. Earlier this month she hosted a similar event, also with singer/guitarist Clory Martin, at Numbers.

Now how many other judicial candidates can you name that have held campaign events at one of Houston's most famous metal/punk/alternative bars?

That all but itself would be enough to qualify for my endorsement, but Barbara Gardner obviously represents a great deal more than just extraordinary judicial temperament, in the way that progressives might define it.

Go to Gardner's Facebook page to keep up with her campaign, and follow her on Twitter.

The past week's Brainy Endorsements have included...

Nile Copeland for the First Court of Appeals
Alfred and GC Molison for HD 131 and SBOE, respectively
Henry Cooper for HD 148
Keith Hampton for Presiding Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

More to come.

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is still recuperating from the sales-tax-free weekend as it brings you this week's roundup.

 Off the Kuff has an analysis of the Democratic legislative target list for 2012.  

BossKitty at TruthHugger keeps waiting for any candidate to stop mudslinging long enough to help Americans navigate the stresses caused by natural climate changes. America, the wasteful, can't seem to find a candidate brave enough to do anything but collect rewards from the same industries trashing America's natural resources. America is consumed by Greed, Denial and Bad Water. Our transportation infrastructure is being neglected and will only cost more in the long run.  

WCNews at Eye on Williamson also writes that the cost of neglect keeps rising.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs began his November endorsements early, with a couple of Democrats -- Nile Copeland and Keith Hampton -- and a few Greens: Alfred and GC Molison and Henry Cooper.

Guess what Tom DeLay is up to?  CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know The Hammer is now lobbying on sex trafficking.

Neil at Texas Liberal took the opportunity offered by the dumb comments about rape made by Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri to remind folks that state-mandated rape is the law of the land in Texas with the forced sonogram legislation, and that three Texas state Senate Democrats played a role in passing the forced sonogram law.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Brainy endorsements: Keith Hampton

Keith Hampton is the Democrat running for Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. His opponent is the most reprehensible Republican serving in the entire judicial system in Texas, Sharon "Killer" Keller. There is no Libertarian or Green on the November ballot. In Hampton's own words, here is one sentence about the incumbent.

(Keller) is the judge who shut the courthouse doors promptly at 5PM to a death-sentenced inmate, and agreed that poor people aren’t entitled to lawyers who remain awake during trial

Keller tried to get Hampton removed from the ballot by challenging his petition signatures, but that effort failed. Hampton has outraised Keller over 60 to 1 in the most recent fundraising period. When Hampton ran for the CCA in 2010, he received broad bipartisan support, and that is once again the case in 2012. We have previously seen what happens when Republicans publicly reject Republican judges who betray the public trust.

Here's Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast, outlining the pitch-perfect strategy Hampton must pursue if he is to win.

Judge Keller, the self-styled, "pro-prosecution" judge, has so much baggage coming in it'd be hard to know where to attack first. The findings of facts against her by the Commission on Judicial Conduct were damning and provide ample fodder for campaign attacks. (Her punishment was overturned as illegal but the findings of fact on the merits remained untouched in a circus-like tragi-comedy that embarrassed the court and the state.) Keller was also fined by the Ethics Commission $100,000 for failing to disclose a vast web of financial entanglements. (See the ruling [pdf].)

Even more than those dark moments, though, many of her opinions and dissents contain jaw-dropping pro-government assumptions that could be mined for anti-populist material that would make any good Tea-Party type cringe. Just as Governor Perry's greatest political achievement has been to maximize power over state agencies through appointments of political allies, creating a (relatively) strong executive where Texas historically had a weak one, Judge Keller's principal achievement as the CCA's Presiding Judge has been to oversee (and arguably principally author) an expansionist accumulation of government power by law enforcement and prosecutors over nearly two decades. A comprehensive vetting of her opinions by a campaign researcher would yield lots of attack fodder. But (Hampton) must undertake that work, then use the information to construct and deliver political attacks: That's the piece that I'm not sure is going to happen, though there's still time.

Most recently, the state of Texas executed a man whose IQ of 61 defined him as retarded. Though the United States Supreme Court has ruled that mentally incapacitated people are not to be executed, Sharon Keller -- and Antonin Scalia -- made sure he was put to death anyway.

Keith Hampton is the only sane option for Democrats, Greens, Libertarians, and Republicans. Period, end of story.

Hampton has a Facebook page, and here's his Twitter feed. Do what you can: volunteer, donate, advocate. We can't begin to change much in Texas until we rid our government of fiends like Sharon Keller.