Thursday, April 30, 2015

Don't feed the conservo-trolls, Abbott

Operation Jade Helm 15, ladies and gentlemen.

Greg Abbott's letter directing the Texas State Guard to monitor U.S. Army soldiers taking part in training exercises in Bastrop and other parts of the state drew widespread surprise and criticism from Austin to Washington on Wednesday as pundits and officials questioned what the governor was thinking.

While Abbott's aides played down the move as a normal step to tamp down some Bastrop residents' concerns that the military exercises presaged an invasion and a disarming of the populace by the federal government, some state lawmakers and even the White House were asking what Abbott was worried about.

"I have no idea what he's thinking," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in response to a reporter's question about Abbott's letter to the Texas Guard the day before.

I won't be able to say this very often, but I know what Abbott is thinking: throw the foamy-mouthed right wing freaks some red meat, or else Dan Patrick will, and that might eventually lead to a defeat in a Republican primary for Texas governor.  Glenn Smith had a better response.

"Abbott's pandering to paranoid, secessionist fools would be comical if it wasn't so costly and frightening," said Glenn Smith, director of Austin-based Progress Texas PAC, a Democratic Party group.

"Abbott has the state military confronting the U.S. military because some nut cases fear, what, armed U.S. takeover of Texas? Seriously? What next? Will Abbott call out the troops to protect us from alien abduction, abominable snowmen and Bigfoot, or should I say an invasion of Bigfeet? What will this bit of extremist theater cost Texas taxpayers? Abbott should tell us. Now."

You don't have to be a veterinarian to know what happens when you let rabies go unchecked.

Within hours after Abbott's directive was made public on Tuesday, online applause and protests heated up anew. Self-styled "patriot" group members suggested they may monitor the exercises on their own.

Abbott aides said the swirling issues and concerns were one reason he asked the Texas Guard to monitor the exercises, not any concern that any of the conspiracy theories may be valid.

"Governor Abbott deeply trusts and respects the United States military," said Amelia Chasse, Abbott's press secretary.


Bo Collier, 61, a retired environmental engineer who was among the protesters at the Bastrop meeting, said Abbott was spot on with his order.

"(Abbott) knows we can't trust anything Washington says," Collier said. "Think about this, sir: The federal government has militarized our police. They want to do away with the Second Amendment. I believe this is a step to gain intelligence for martial law at some point in the future. You may call me crazy, but just wait, the signs are there."

The signs do indeed say you're nuts, Bo.  Governor Abbott thanks you for standing (somewhere) near him at this time of "crisis".

Update: Story done gone national.  And there is one lonely Republican voice of reason (again).

In his letter to the governor, Todd Smith of Euless, who retired from public office in 2013, said he is "horrified that I have to choose between the possibility that my Governor actually believes this stuff and the possibility that my Governor doesn't have the backbone to stand up to those who do."

He said he wrote because the thought that the U.S. military would be a threat to Texas is "embarrassing" and it is important "to rational governance that thinking Republicans call you out on it."

"Is there ANYBODY who is going to stand up to this radical nonsense that is a cancer on our State and our Party?" Smith asked.

That would be 'no', Rep. Smith.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

This Week in Paradigm Shifts

-- After I bitched loudly about Texas House Democrats voting for HB 40 -- the bill that overturns Denton's ban on fracking and prevents other cities from doing the same -- a few Democrats let their conscience be their guide and changed their votes from aye to nay.  Specifically: Sylvester Turner, Dawnna Dukes, Jessica Farrar, Helen Giddings, Ruth Jones McClendon, and Ron Reynolds.  My representative, Borris Miles, made himself scarce (he was 'absent').  Freshmen representatives Diego Bernal and Marisa Marquez switched from a no and an absent to yes.  I have to think some money was involved.

But the most inexplicable flip-flop, no to yes, was Trey Martinez Fischer.  El Jefe stepped in some BS.  And it stinks.  Real bad.

Is it a paradigm shift or just bragging when legislators listen to constituents' complaints and change their vote?  Certainly neither in the case of the two rookie reps listed.

Speaking of money, the vote to roll back the state sales tax was unanimous.  Eye on Williamson questions why  Democrats just really don't want to distinguish themselves all that much from Republicans.  I don't ask myself that any longer.

Update: The Children's Defense Fund of Texas speaks for me (bold is theirs).

“The tax cuts passed today in the Texas House are irresponsible and shortsighted. Instead of offering Texas families pocket change and political rhetoric our elected leaders should be shoring up the foundation of our state’s future – its children.

“It is unacceptable that Texas still ranks among the bottom ten states in overall child well-being and state spending per resident, two indicators that are directly connected in that ‘you get what you don’t pay for.’ If you do the math, our top leaders appear to be more interested in prioritizing tax breaks for the wealthiest Texans and corporations than investing in the health and well-being of our children and families.

“We are further distressed that the House would consider such deep reductions to its revenue stream while our state is standing on the brink of a health care crisis. In the last 24 months, ten rural Texas hospitals have been forced to shut their doors because state leaders have chosen not to invest in our state’s health care systems by rejecting billions in available Medicaid funds to cover more of our state’s uninsured.

“These tax cuts are a solution in search of a problem. Texas already ranks in the bottom ten states in overall taxes paid by its people and businesses. Texans don't need lower taxes, we need wise investments in our future, and that future demands that we invest in children and families.”

-- In New York's Eleventh Congressional District, the Southern Brooklyn Democratic Club endorsed the Green candidate, James Lane, in the special election to be held next week to replace Republican Michael Grimm, who resigned after pleading guilty to tax evasion.  This club also previously endorsed the Greens' Howie Hawkins for governor of New York, over incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo.

Those are my kind of Democrats.  The sad part is that the only poll conducted in the race was a hypothetical in January, and it showed the Republican with 48%, 20 points more than the Democrat who declined to run.

Only a paradigm shift there if all Democrats get behind Lane.  Speaking of which...

-- Via Egberto Willies, Dan Aronson with "Changing the Conversation", and his first part is appropriately titled: "Defeating False Paradigms".  You start at the beginning...

Premise: The battle that rages between Democrat and Republican supporters is killing any chance of reclaiming a democracy that is of, by, and for The People – and both parties love it.

And I'll cut to the end.

...(T)his is exactly the way the framers of our Constitution drew it up and not the way the process works today. George Washington fully understood the ways that political parties corrupt democracy. In his farewell address, he warned:

“They [political parties] serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community.”
This leads us to the understanding of why, if democracy is to work for everyone, we must unshackle our loyalties to party and ideology, and instead work to elect those who do what is in the best interest of The People, just as was intended. The question is; do the majority of Americans have the will and the willingness to make such a paradigm shift? The answer to this question, perhaps more than any other is likely to shape the next chapter in American history. Will it be more of the same, where those at the top extend their death grip on wealth and opportunity? Or will a more fair America, a more equal America, and a more decent America emerge? While it is quite likely that we will not see the rebirth of the American Dream, at least in our lifetimes, as Americans for Americans, we can do better — and we can do better right now.

The fork in the road is coming up fast.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bernie Sanders for President

No coronation, and hopefully no cakewalk for Clinton.  Vermont Public Radio:

VPR News has learned from several sources that Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will announce his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday.

Sanders will release a short statement on that day and then hold a major campaign kickoff in Vermont in several weeks.

We're about to see the separation of the Democrats from the progressives.  Last month, Bloomberg pointed out the small discrepancy in his message and actually getting elected: he's got to ask for money, and raise a lot of it, to be taken seriously in the media.

Much of Bernie Sanders' career is centered around his disgust for money in politics. He hates the fact of it, hates its effects, and, naturally, he has deep disdain for the process of raising it. The bigger the number, the more contempt he has. “I don’t do these fundraisers for $100,000 apiece or $10,000,” the Vermont senator, a self-described independent socialist, spat in his heavy Brooklyn accent during a recent speech to the National Press Club. “I don’t know anybody who has that kind of money!” His average contribution, he humble-bragged, is $45.

Now he’s thinking about running for president, in what is shaping up to be the most expensive election in history, likely exceeding 2012’s total of $2.6 billion. There is madness in Sanders’ crusade. But the madness itself is part of the method. Sanders aims to be the personification of the small but vocal movement trying to beat back the increasing political influence of millionaires and billionaires. The cornerstones of his stump speech: Wealth inequality is ruining the country. Climate change is real. And big money pollutes politics.

Supporting this mission will take, of course, money. His political advisers think he can be viewed as a legitimate candidate if he raises $50 million ahead of first-round primary contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Victories in any of those states, which he has already started visiting, would give him credibility as a real alternative to likely Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, the thinking goes, and knock loose enough financial support to get his candidacy into the bigger states. Admittedly, a lot has to go right for Sanders—or wrong for Clinton.

Read all of that piece.  Beyond the money conversation -- Socratic Gadfly doesn't like him much for many other reasons -- Sanders is... well, old.  Seventy-three years old (Clinton is 67).  He's also, as everyone knows, well to the left of where the Democratic Party has been since, oh maybe George McGovern or Hubert Humphrey.

In short, there's lots of reasons why he's a longshot.  But I'll support him as far as he goes and as long as he lasts, because his philosophy needs a public hearing, and it gives me an even greater opportunity to figure out just how far right the Democrats are going in 2016.  It's going to expose a lot of people who have been masquerading behind "progressive", misusing the word to advance their very not-progressive interests, and that absolutely needs to happen.

Actual progressives who have abandoned the centrist, corporate, conservative Democratic party might even re-enter the fray.  It could send a little shiver up the spine of a few hedge fund managers, some big CEOs, and more than a few state and local activists.  Get on board with what the Democratic party once stood for, before it veered right in the first Clinton administration... or stay on board with Hillary.

Can't think of party more in need of separating the stooges from the base.  The Republicans have been undergoing this exercise for six years, and it doesn't seem to be hurting them much, after all.

Update: More from Vox.

Update II: The HuffPo poll aggregate has Sanders trailing Clinton by 55 points.  In order, it's Hillary at 61, Warren at 12, Biden with 11, then Sanders at 6, O'Malley at just under 2, Jim Webb with 1, and Brian Schweitzer at 0.0.  No emails from Bold Progressives with the name 'Warren' in the subject line as yet.

Scattershooting the Lege and legal things

-- Kuff wrote the post I intended to write on the opening arguments at the Fifth Circuit on Texas' odious photo ID law.  Everything you need to know -- and the links you need to click on -- is there.  Update: Here's what I wrote last September about Texas and photo ID.

Update (4/29): And Hair Balls and the TexTrib were on the scene for the arguments.

-- People are excited about the SCOTUS hearings on the gay marriage cases, but frankly that's going to be as dramatic as falling down for Christianist doom-and-gloomers.  God would be real mad at them, and not LGBT people who want to get married... if there were actually a God, of course.  Here's six things you need to know about the case, and I've excerpted from the end of #5 and all of #6.

It’s impossible to know how any justice will vote, but here, as in so many areas, it seems highly likely that everything will turn on the vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy. And the plaintiffs have reason to be hopeful here: Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion in Windsor, as well as two important, earlier gay rights decisions -- one in 1996 and one in 2003.

6) When will we learn what the court has decided, and what are the potential decisions? What will the various outcomes actually mean in real terms?

SHAW: I’d guess we’ll know in the very last week of the term, perhaps even the very last day -- at the end of June. This is a hugely important decision, and it’ll come down to the wire.

I would guess Justice Roberts breaks with the conservative Catholic minority (in this case) and joins Kennedy and the liberal majority, making it 6-3.  As a private attorney almost twenty years ago, Roberts worked on a case advocating against discrimination based on sexual orientation.  And that case, Romer v. Evans, prevailed on a 6-3 SCOTUS vote (the dissenters were Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas).

It is all but a done deal.

UpdateA couple of court interpreters at today's arguments dramatically read some ominous tea leaves, but the TXGOP in the Lege is already plotting ways around approval.

-- State Sen. Kirk Watson's bills -- requiring disclosure by lawmakers of their wining and dining expenses by lobbyists -- suddenly woke from their slumber and started to move yesterday.

(Watson) had complained that he was beginning to hear the “death rattle” on Senate Bills 585 and 586 after they sat bottled up for several weeks in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

But he got a public hearing on Monday, and the committee voted the bills out unanimously.

“I’m real gratified,” Watson said. “It continues to move this conversation that needs to happen and is part of the governor’s goals for the session.” Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has said he wants to "dedicate this session to ethics reform."

We'll see what happens, but when there are so many bills dying in committee at this point of the session, it's nice to see some glimmer of hope for government accountability.  Update: Here's what I blogged previously about lobbyists' food and bar tabs.  Legislators already got a per-diem increase this session.

-- Here's what else is on Dan Patrick's and Joe Straus' priority list: The budget (good comparison chart between Senate and House versions here), state contract reform, education, energy and environment, ethics, guns, healthcare, immigration and border security (some are withering on the vine), tax cuts, transportation, and veterans' affairs.  Go to the first link and find your issue, the bills associated with it, and their status.

It's nut-cutting time with about five weeks to go to Sine Die, on June 1.

Monday, April 27, 2015

"Mercy Killers"

Other performances scheduled in Austin and Fort Worth in May.

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance really hopes that Blue Bell can recover as it brings you the blog post roundup from last week.

Off the Kuff cheered on the latest effort by the federal government to force the state of Texas to expand Medicaid already.

Libby Shaw, at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos wants voters to know that voting for mean and stupid people, or not voting at all, has consequences, because Texas' refusal to expand Medicaid may Result in higher premiums for the insured.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson: The "big three" had a breakfast brouhaha this week and Dan Patrick got his feelings hurt. Hurt Feelings and Thin Skin - Session's Getting Good.

Socratic Gadfly listed three numbers to remember — 67, 3, $10 — in 2016 elections.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme noticed a few cases of Texas law officers allegedly acting inappropriately here and here. These cases should be rare, not a daily occurrence.

Even the lawyer who argued -- and won -- the Citizens United case at the Supreme Court five years ago thinks our political system is broken.  But his solutions for it involve removing even more of what remains of the tattered restrictions on financial contributions, and if you want to know the specifics, "you'll have to pay him for that".  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs knows that this kind of mercenary political adviser is as large a part of the problem as the money itself.

Neil at All People Have Value says it seems there are more reasons than ever for people and corporations to break and ignore our laws. All People Have Value is part of

Texas Vox points out that the polluter protection bill is headed for a vote in the Texas House. 

Nonsequiteuse wants you to watch the video, or read the transcript, of Rep. Jessica Farrar's declaration that she will not yield while Republicans deny Texans human rights and dignity.

Early voting begins today in Lewisville's municipal elections, reports the Texan-Journal, and Stace at Dos Centavos reports on the Alief bond initiative and the special election for AISD 4.

And jobsanger shoots down ten of the NRA's pro-gun myths.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

"Mercy Killers", a one-man play about a moving love story and a fearless look at health care in America, comes to Texas this month and next.  Michael Milligan’s blue collar “Joe” is forced to re-examine his red state ideals as he faces wrenching choices in the care of his beloved wife.  The Rag Blog has details on the Austin performance, and there are three shows scheduled in Houston at the end of this week.

Somervell County Salon reminds her former state representative, Ag Commissioner Sid Miller, that not everyone in Texas wants their children to be unhealthy little fatties.

Carol Morgan observes that when the Tea Party's ignorance aligns itself with power in the Texas Lege, you get a session full of gun bills, restrictions on women's health, tax cuts, vouchers, and more tax cuts.

Randy Bear, recently relocated to Arkansas, explains how that state managed to avoid Indiana-ing itself.

The Texas Election Law Blog calls for executive action to mitigate the damage being done to voting rights by the Supreme Court.

Lone Star Q knocks Sen. Donna Campbell for an amazingly hypocritical Facebook status update.

The TSTA Blog says a voucher bill is a voucher bill no matter what its proponents want to call it.

Raise Your Hand Texas presented its testimony against said voucher bill.

Paradise In Hell wonders if the "Texas Miracle" was based on anything other than high oil prices.

Better Texas Blog explains just what the federal government's threat to discontinue the uncompensated care waiver unless Texas expands Medicaid is all about.

Equality Texas urges the city of San Antonio to take seriously the task of enforcing its non-discrimination ordinance.

Diary of a Mad Trial Lawyer asks: are we a Christian nation if it is a crime to help people and pets?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Green Party's Altgelt wins Laredo council at-large seat

George Altgelt was the Texas Green Party's nominee for statewide judicial office in 2014.  Last August, he sponsored a petition to have the sitting Laredo city council at-large 7 representative, Jorge Vera, recalled.  The petition was certified and Vera was removed from office by the voters last November.  (Vera pleaded guilty to charges of drug possession and filing a false police report in February of this year.)

Altgelt and a few others ran for the vacant seat in the special election in March.  He defeated a Latino challenger Hector Patiño yesterday in the runoff, 58-42.  *Update: Altgelt's mother is Latina, so insinuation on my part -- or inference by the reader -- that the contest was a Caucasian versus a Latino is regrettable.

This news is obviously quite remarkable on several levels.  Most interesting to me from a macro perspective is the flourishing of the Green Party in Laredo over the past few years.  There's something going on down there -- what it is ain't exactly clear to me yet -- and portends some nascent (a word I've used a lot lately) hope for progressive change in Texas.

The Texas Green Party holds its 2015 statewide meeting in June, in Tarrant County.

Sunday Funnies, free trade edition

Who's buying and who's selling?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Texas justice strikes again

If it was a teevee show script, it would be laughed out of development.  Not even House of Cards would consider it because it's so ridiculous.  But it is government business as usual in Texas.

... Justice Bob Pemberton has worked for the former governor, representing him in court as his deputy general counsel. After that job, Perry appointed him to the Third Court of Appeals, which is now considering a request from Perry's lawyers to dismiss the abuse-of-power charges against him.

Pemberton also clerked for Tom Phillips, the retired chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court who is now on Perry's defense team. Pemberton's website features a photo of him being sworn in by Phillips — "his friend, supporter, and former boss." 

In addition to once working for Perry, being appointed by Perry and having clerked for one of Perry's current lawyers, Pemberton has been a political supporter of the former governor. Pemberton chipped in $1,000 for Perry's 2002 re-election campaign, according to state records.

No rational mind could come up with a scenario so absurd and call it 'justice'.

Judges are bound to have some connection to Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, but Pemberton's relation is beyond the pale, according to some good-government experts.

"That court has always acted in a partisan manner, but in this case, Justice Pemberton should definitely recuse himself," said Craig McDonald, head of Texans for Public Justice, a liberal-leaning watchdog group responsible for the complaint that led to Perry's indictment. "There should definitely be a recusal." 

According to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, a judge must recuse himself or herself in any proceed in which "the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

Pemberton did not respond to return a call and email Friday afternoon, and a court representative said he could not comment on the situation. In an email, Perry attorney Tony Buzbee rejected the need for Pemberton recuse himself. 

"Is it a conflict that our trial judge used to be supervised by the special prosecutor and that the trial judge then appointed the special prosecutor? I do not think it is a conflict or a story," Buzbee said.

Buzbee has, as he continues to reveal, gone way past his ethical expiration date also.

Judge Bert Richardson, who is now on the Court of Criminal Appeals, continues to oversee the Perry case. He was appointed after Travis County judges recused themselves from hearing the case. He appointed Mike McCrum as special prosecutor. McCrum used to supervise Richardson when the two worked at the U.S. attorney's office in San Antonio.

On Wednesday, the parties in the case were notified that three judges had been tapped to hear the appeal: Justices Scott Field, Scott David Puryear and Pemberton.

Where have we heard Puryear's name mentioned previously? Oh yeah, he and Pemberton sat on the three-judge panel that dismissed Tom Delay's money-laundering conviction, telling us that the definition of "campaign funds" does not include checks.

Perry's lawyers are working to persuade the appeals court to dismiss the indictment against the former governor, who was indicted last year on charges he abused his office and coerced a public servant. Perry's attorneys are seeking to reverse a decision in January by Richardson to let the case proceed.

Perry's lawyers have also filed a separate request to Richardson to quash the indictment, which was amended by prosecutors.

The fix is in again, folks.  This is what you get when you vote for people because they have an R behind their name.  And also what you get when you don't bother to vote at all.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A really bad week for Sheriff Garcia

Your basic hope-nobody's-looking Friday afternoon dump (pun unintended).

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia on Friday fired six jailers and suspended 29 other employees after an investigation into deplorable conditions in one cell where a mentally ill inmate was left unattended for weeks.

The action on Friday comes three weeks after two detention officer sergeants were indicted in the case involving the care of Terry Goodwin, who was surrounded by bug-infested food containers and a feces-clogged toilet.

The suspensions range from one day to 10. One chief deputy is also expected to resign and another top staffer will be demoted.


Civilian employees Ricky D. Pickens-Wilson and John Figaroa are alleged to have signed off on a cell check form, lying about the decrepit condition of Goodwin's cell. They could face two to 10 years in jail and fines up to $10,000.

Yet this charge focuses on the cover-up, not the crime itself. Where's the indictment for neglect or lawsuit for cruel and unusual punishment? No one said that jail should be the Four Seasons, but the pictures and descriptions of Goodwin's cell paint a portrait of a Sheriff's Department lacking in oversight.

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia has said that he hopes this incident doesn't tarnish the good work of honest detention employees. But this isn't merely an issue of bad actors or rogue agents. Our jail system suffers from regular problems of poor inmate treatment.

One Harris County inmate died in 2014 after being forcibly removed from his cell, warning that he was going to pass out. Eight sheriff employees avoided any indictment for criminal wrongdoing.

In 2012, a 72-year-old mentally ill inmate died after a detention officer punched him in the face and left him bleeding in his cell. A deputy and two detention officers were fired as a result. Garcia even fired two deputies in 2010 who were receiving sexual favors from female inmates in exchange for cigarettes and soft drinks.

Hmm. Were those smokes and Cokes purchased in the jail's commissary for inmates, thereby paying for the consultant who's saving so many of our tax dollars?   Some might call that a 'win-win'.  (Not me, but somebody.)

Members of the Sheriff's Office command staff have done a fine job avoiding responsibility for Goodwin's treatment. Even when the facts came to public knowledge more than a year after the incident, Garcia could only seem to respond with a press conference, sputtering about how "damn mad" he was. Yet the sheriff still has failed to explain how we have a system where someone is locked in a rotting cell for months and nobody in charge notices.

Two men working in the Harris County Jail will face charges, as they should.

But law enforcement leaders need to get out of their default mode that says this is only a few rogue employees. There is a stench in the air and we might as well be covering it up with orange rinds and toilet paper.

I don't see how Garcia can run for mayor at this point and reasonably expect to be elected.

Update: More from the Houston Press.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Adrian Garcia's no-bid consultant, and Costello and Turner's Koch fight *Updated*

The Houston city political beat has gone fallow for the most part with the departure of the Chron's Teddy Schleifer.  Sources say there's a new reporter on the way, so we'll keep a look out.  In the meantime...

-- There's been a bit of scandal in Austin about no-bid contracts; now it looks as if something fishy (or maybe ramen noodly) has also been going on down at the Harris County sheriff's office.  More on this story from Ted Oberg at KTRK this evening, and I'll update tomorrow morning if anything actually breaks news.

Sheriff Adrian Garcia gave a consulting firm a no-bid contract worth more than a $1,000 per day.

To date, the firm's been paid $1.7 million from profits on the inmate commissary at the Harris County Jail. The consultant and the sheriff say the deal has saved taxpayers millions and that the consultant is worth every penny.

Ted Oberg investigates the deal and asks why if so much money has been saved why the sheriff's budget continues to expand.

Stace rolled out first, made the pasta connection, and has the sheriff's presser proclaiming the arrangement to be a grand bargain for Harris county taxpayers.

One thing I noticed from ABC13’s teaser is that the money paid to the consultant comes from profits from the jail commissary. So, that means that the overpriced ramen noodles, cupcakes, sodas, and other items bought by the inmates is paying for it. That’s a lot of ramen noodles eaten and no tax dollars wasted, at least at first glance.

I have to wonder if there’s a story to this. I would think the bigger story is that the price of ramen noodles is too damn high. Either that, or it’s sweeps week for the local news.

Smoke?  Fire?  We'll have to watch tonight and see.

Update: A little of both.  The consultant is question is former Jefferson County Judge Carl Griffith, who was defeated in the Democratic primary in March of 2006 -- a bit of retribution exacted by the voters in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita -- but also under a swirl of controversy surrounding the construction of Ford Park, Beaumont's convention and fair facility, and (you guessed it) questionable contracts awarded.

Griffith probably gained the most notoriety in late 2005 when, frustrated by the all-too-typical sluggish federal response to Gulf Coast hurricanes, he told an assembly to seize supplies at gunpoint if they thought they needed to.

With homes smashed, trees and power lines downed and a looming shortage of food and water, one official even threatened to take federal relief supplies by force, if necessary.

"If you have enough policemen to take it from them, take it," Jefferson County Judge Carl Griffith said Monday during a meeting of city and county officials.

The best source of ten-year-old reports online for the black clouds that followed Judge Griffith at the time is Operation Kleinwatch, which regularly reports on the screwy antics of one Philip Klein, an over-the-top conservative blogger, gun nut, private investigator, and legal gadfly.  Klein has been a foe to Griffith over the years.

So while Sheriff Garcia sings the praises of Griffith and his saving the taxpayers a fat wad...

Garcia said that the consultant, Griffith Moseley Johnson & Associates, headed by former Jefferson County Sheriff and County Judge Carl Griffith, has paid for itself and then some.

"He's a benefit to the taxpayer," Garcia said of Griffith. "I think they've done a phenomenal job. With the expertise, the breadth of experience. I think it's worth the investment."

... it's also true that he hired a consultant who carries a lot of baggage (that has almost fallen down the memory hole).

Update II: More here from Oberg and KTRK.

(Oberg) examined the contract and found that it's unclear exactly how much the taxpayers have been saved because of Griffith's work. The savings numbers the sheriff's office provided to ABC-13 in interviews and via email have wide variations.

Indeed, in a recent interview, estimates of the cost savings escalated continuously, with Garcia at one point claiming a savings of $60 million because of Griffith's work. Minutes later, Griffith said he saved the county $100 million. And then, after a few more minutes, the saving claim hit $112 million.

In an email to ABC-13 after the interview, the sheriff's communications staff calculated the savings at $123 million.

When asked to clarify the wildly fluctuating savings estimates, sheriff's officials provided an analysis of jail cost reductions with no dollar figure attached to it.

-- Stone Cold Steve Costello fired back at Sylvester Turner's calling him a Koch whore.  This is from the council member's e-mail this morning, under the subject line "Here come the attacks!"

As you can see from the email excerpt below, my opponent for Houston Mayor, State Representative Sylvester Turner (D-Houston), is already on the attack. As a career politician, it’s not surprising that he is using the same stale argument that his peers in Austin and Washington, D.C. have unsuccessfully used over the last two years. All it's gotten them is gridlock, and I'm not interested in playing those kinds of games.

Here's what Turner's page says (it includes the first sentence in the last paragraph below, from Turner in an e-mail to his supporters, that Costello references above):

Welcome the Koch brothers to Houston. Koch-funded groups are running ads on the radio this week attacking Mayor Annise Parker and me.

Our supposed transgression? We worked together to provide $70 million dollars of budget relief to the City of Houston. We took the first step toward pension reform by breaking a years-long stalemate between the city government and our firefighters.


I need your support today because one of my opponents, Stephen Costello, has hired the senior strategist for Scott Walker, a.k.a. the “King of Koch-World,” to run his campaign for mayor. So it’s no surprise that he too has attacked Mayor Parker and me...

Way back in January, Schleifer's bio of Costello consultant David Polyansky included this:

Polyansky consults for Republican candidates across the country, most recently advising new Iowa U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst and now working with possible 2016 presidential candidate Scott Walker.

Honestly, the weird part isn't that Costello has a hired gun with a winning track record who rolls with the Kochs.  It's the two former Annise Parker people -- Ward Curtin and James Cardona -- working for Costello that baffles the hell out of me.

This is what gives Costello carte blanche to say he's running a bipartisan campaign in a non-partisan race.  Either that, or these political consultants are the real prostitutes.

Which do you think it could be?

Why is everybody always picking on Dan Patrick, and get your guns up

-- I'd like to say "because he is retarded," but that's no longer socially acceptable.

Once in the breakfast, Patrick and Straus began arguing over the House not moving on Patrick’s agenda bills, while Straus was critical of the Senate action on the border security bill. At that point, Abbott interjected his displeasure with the letter attacking the pre-k bill that he supported.

With Abbott and Straus coming at him, Patrick declared that he was tired of them “picking on me.” 

Take out the papers and the trash, dipshit.

-- Did Jonathan Stickland hoodwink everyone and get a no-gun-license-needed open carry bill passed through the Texas House?

Instead of open carry, Texas just went wide open.

Anybody openly packing a handgun is no longer a police concern, at least not under an amendment passed 133-10 Monday by the Texas House.

See somebody with a gun? Don’t bother dialing 911.

That’s right. Under House Bill 910, police are barred from asking anyone “whether a person possesses a handgun license.” Maybe even regardless of age.

Look, passing open carry wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. The idea was just to let nearly 1 million Texans with concealed-handgun licenses choose where they holster a gun.

But this amendment is a very big deal. If nobody ever has to worry about being stopped to show a license, that’s closer to the unlicensed-carry freedom promoted by Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford.

“Where do you think they got the idea?” Stickland asked slyly Tuesday. That was after a leader of the Dallas-based Come and Take It Texas open-carry group wrote on social media: “We unintentionally just got unlicensed open carry.”

"Former fetus" Stickland, uncharacteristically, gave all the glory to others.

Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, and Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, jointly offered the amendment, saying they meant to deter police harassment.

(On Wednesday, Stickland wrote on Twitter: “To be clear @MattRinaldiTX and Rep. Dutton should receive all the credit.” On Facebook, he wrote that he did not mean the amendment was his.)

Does Greg Abbott actually sign a bill like this?  (No odds yet.)  Does it pass the Texas Senate?  (Easily, I would venture.)  Does it get marked up -- or down -- in bicameral conference?  (That's a possibility.  How strong, I wouldn't guess at this point.)  Nice going again for Harold Dutton.

It's getting really stupid in Austin, and the worst is yet to come.

Update:  From Chris Hooks at the Observer, more on the simmering feud between the Texas triumvirate, and via the governor's own Tweet stream, what Abbott has been up to this month.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day Toons

Barely a tree to hug in view.

Ted at jobsanger also has some good polling news, and links to some of the myths surrounding climate change.  Here's just one.

Myth #6: I'm just one person — I can't make much of a difference.

FACT: Our lifestyle decisions control a shocking 75% of emissions in the U.S. If we all improved the energy efficiency of our homes by just 10%, it would be the equivalent of taking some 25 million cars off the road! And as voters, we control a portion of the other 25%. Check out the nonprofit Citizens' Climate Lobby, which can help you write letters to Congress in support of Earth-friendly legislation.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

84th Texas Lege: just as bad as we thought it would be

-- The Senate passed school vouchers.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has championed school voucher legislation since he entered the Senate in 2007, comparing the effort to the civil rights struggle. After numerous defeats during past sessions, Patrick’s voucher crusade came a step closer to reality today as the Senate passed Senate Bill 4, by Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood).

The bill passed 18-12 on mostly partisan lines. Only one Democrat voted for the bill, Sen. Eddie Lucio (R-Brownsville), while two Republicans voted against it, Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) and Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville).

Taylor’s bill would create scholarships for mostly low-income students to attend private and religious schools. Under the measure, private businesses would receive a tax credit for funding the scholarships. The bill is similar to one proposed by Patrick in 2013, which died in committee.

“This is not a voucher bill,” Taylor said during the debate.

And I'm a NASA astronaut.

-- The House strips the Public Integrity Unit away from the Travis DA's office.

The Texas House voted 94-51 Monday to give initial approval to a stripped-down bill that would remove public corruption cases from Travis County’s Public Integrity Unit.  Final House approval is expected Tuesday.

House Bill 1690 was amended on the House floor to apply solely to corruption allegations against elected or appointed state officials, who would be investigated by the Texas Rangers and prosecuted, if the allegations are confirmed, in the official’s home county.

House members adopted an amendment dropping state employees from home-county prosecution, keeping the status quo that would keep those cases in the county where a crime occurred — typically Travis County, where most state employees work.

State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, joined Democrats in arguing that home-county prosecution would create a special privilege, and a “home-court advantage” for state officials that is not available to other Texans.

“I just want to plead with you that you not create, with this bill, a specially protected class,” Simpson said. “I urge you not to treat yourself better than the constituents who you serve.”

Another lonely Republican voice of reason silenced under the crimson wave.  But at least they didn't let Lazy Eye escape unscathed.

Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, won approval of a provision potentially affecting Paxton. It would require a local prosecutor who currently or in the past has had “a financial or other business relationship” with the target of a probe to ask the judge to let him be recused “for good cause.” If the judge approved, the hometown prosecutor would be considered disqualified, Turner’s amendment says.

As he explained the amendment, Turner did not mention Paxton or Willis or their offices. Bill author Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, accepted the amendment, which passed on a voice vote.

Last year, Paxton, then a state senator from McKinney, admitted breaking a securities law. He submitted himself to the wisdom of the Texas State Securities Board, which made him pay a $1,000 fine. The case wouldn’t go away, though.

It will be awhile before we know if that grand jury is a runaway or a whitewash.

Update (from a couple of days ago):

(On April 20) Public Integrity Unit director Gregg Cox rejected DPS director Steve McCraw’s request for the investigation of the agency’s alleged “no bid contract” to be resumed.

(Cox said): “It is very timely that you should choose now to write me a letter pointing out that there is no other agency in state government that is equipped to investigate allegations concerning your department."

As Cox noted at the time, Governor Rick Perry’s veto of the funding for the Public Integrity Unit effectively killed the investigation into an agency run by a Perry appointee and long time ally.

-- Open carry is almost a done deal.

After turning back last-minute attempts to let city voters opt out, the Texas House gave final approval Monday to legislation allowing gun owners with concealed weapons licenses to carry their side arms openly.

House Bill 910, by Rep. Larry Phillips, R- Sherman, passed on third reading 101-42. Similar legislation has already passed the Senate, and Gov. Greg Abbott has promised to sign open carry legislation. Minor differences in the bills will most likely be ironed out in conference committee before the measure is forwarded to Abbott's desk.

Nothing could possibly go wrong, with either the bill itself or Texans' reaction to it once it is in force.  nonsequiteuse with the best response.

We don’t have reliable statistics, of course, about gun violence, because the National Rifle Association has spent buckets of money lobbying against any attempt to do so, but I appeal to your common sense and lived experience.

When was the last time you were in the grocery store, delicately testing avocados to find the one that would be ripe in time for dinner, when you had to drop everything and squeeze off a couple of rounds because someone was threatening the lady at the cantaloupe display?

When was the last time you were sitting at home with friends, watching a movie, when you had to shoot someone who kicked in the door to your kitchen?

When was the last time you were at a museum and had to hide behind a full-scale model of a dinosaur while bringing down a nefarious character with a single shot to the heart from your snub-nosed whatever who had just grabbed a rare opal and a screaming 6-month-old from the Hall of Gems?

Are you always tense thinking about the gun battles that ensue every time you go to the bank to cash a check?

No,  you are not.

The best way to fight back on this one is with your wallet and not your Glock.  If you are in the grocery store, or a restaurant, or any other place of business and see someone openly carrying a firearm, leave immediately.  Leave your basket in the aisle, walk the check (call them back and tell them you'll return and pay as soon as the guys/gals with guns leave).

Let's allow the invisible hand of the free market -- our free hand, the one not holding a weapon -- decide whether we should transact business in a "politely armed" society... or not.

-- Finally, Texas draws the same warning from Uncle Sam that he gave Florida on Medicaid: take the free money we're giving you to expand access to healthcare for the poor, or lose it... and more.  Via Burka -- with the scolding -- National Journal.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicated to Texas officials Thursday that whether the state expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would factor into the renewal of a multibillion-dollar Medicaid funding stream next year, according to state officials.

Federal officials requested a call with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, during which they outlined their position, Linda Edwards Gockel, a spokeswoman for the Texas health agency, said in an email to National Journal.

The call came the same day that Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he would sue the Obama administration, accusing CMS of pushing the state to expand Medicaid by leveraging $1 billion in federal Medicaid funding, which is up for renewal this summer and helps cover some uncompensated care.

The TexTrib gets a little deeper in the weeds, but the choice is clear: forfeit almost $4 billion for being obstinate, or receive $9 billion to swallow your bitter partisan pride.  With hundreds of thousands of Texans' lives hanging in the balance, to say nothing of the ancillary economic benefits, maybe we should send Greg Abbott a bottle of water to wash it down.

Hard times in the land of plenty

-- Baker Hughes increases their oilpatch layoffs to 10,500.  Halliburton cuts 9,000.  Schlumberger slices another 11,000.  The freshly-unemployed will be blaming Obama at some point.

-- Blue Bell is recalling ALL of its ice cream products in the United States, because it cannot pinpoint the origin of the listeria outbreak in its supply chain.

Brenham-based Blue Bell Creameries is pulling all of its products from the shelves after more ice cream samples tested positive for a life-threatening bacterial infection.

The voluntary decision, announced Monday, is the latest and most sweeping development to plague the Texas business icon since a recall last month, the first in the company's 108-year history.

It came after an "enhanced sampling program" that found half-gallon containers of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream produced on March 17 and March 27 contained the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, company officials said.


The latest tests mean the company had several positive tests for listeria in different plants.  On Monday, company officials said they "cannot say with certainty" how listeria was introduced into their plants.

This is the sort of disaster that usually devastates a company.  Blue Bell has indeed been a Lone Star staple almost all of my life, but what happens to them from here is likely either bankruptcy or acquisition by another food conglomerate for pennies on the dollar.

Houston and Houstonians are in for a world of hurt in the months ahead.

Scattershooting some worthwhile Houston events

Over the past few days, some of my blog brethren have worked a couple of things that tend toward making a difference.  Their efforts deserve additional mention.

-- I couldn't attend yesterday's luncheon, but Brother Neil was present for California attorney general (and likely successor to Barbara Boxer's seat in the US Senate) Kamala Harris' speech to Annie's List at the Westin Galleria.  He has a few reports about it on his FB page.

Neil is often more hopeful about things than I find myself these days.  A real port in the storm.

-- Last Saturday morning, Stace MC'd the Kingwood Democrats event with several local politicos appearing and raising funds for the club.  Houston mayoral candidates Sylvester Turner and Marty McVey, along with city council challengers Lane Lewis, Durrel Douglas, Laurie Robinson and dozens more all said a few words.  You've got have a lot of faith to be a Democrat in Kingwood, let me tell ya, and those folks have been going strong now for a decade or more.  A few pictures.

-- Over at the Meyerland Democratic Club last night, my friends Art Pronin, CJ Yeoman, Jill Moffitt, and Silvia Gederberg were all re-elected as officers, and their program featured environmental attorney Terry O'Rourke, who -- among many noteworthy accomplishments on his CV -- served the Carter administration, ran for Texas Railroad Commission in 1976, and currently is special counsel to county attorney Vince Ryan on environmental law issues.  (We've had a few, you know.)

Fighting the good fight and keeping the faith is an important function in these challenging times.  My hat's off to all these folks for doing the heavy lifting during the political offseason, and preparing for the campaigns to come.

Even the attorney who won Citizens United at the SCOTUS thinks the system is broken

James Bopp.  The problem is that his ideas for fixing it don't sound much like improvement.

Bopp: You have to have as few rules as possible, and those rules need to be vigorously enforced. If they are not enforced, they are pointless.

Center for Public Integrity: Do you think the number of people trying to game the system has increased in recent years?

Bopp: No, there are always corrupt people, and they will always try to game the system. The more rules there are, the more opportunities they have to do that … This is the reason the Soviet Union collapsed — because of all the rules on the economy that people were flaunting with black markets and bribes and everything [else] to get around all these rules. And, of course, the response by the Communists — just as the response by campaign finance reformers — always is more rules.

Ah, we're Communists now.

Center for Public Integrity: How would the 2016 presidential race be different if candidates could accept unlimited amounts of money or higher amounts of money?

Bopp: They wouldn’t need to set up six or eight different organizations to raise money. They would have one … [Now] your last option is a candidate committee because it is the one that has the most severe contribution limits of all the potential options.


Center for Public Integrity: What sort of boundaries or lines do those groups have to worry about?

Bopp: Each has their own unique set of rules, and you just have to make sure that you follow those. It’s a very complex dance now ... And it requires very sophisticated legal advice. It advantages the rich and the sophisticated, but all these rules always do. The more rules, the more money it takes, the more sophistication it takes to navigate them.

Center for Public Integrity: Is there a level of anonymous money in the process that would be concerning to you?

Bopp: It’s really pretty hard to get anonymous money effectively into a campaign … I am concerned about the system generally right now because it has been distorted, and it has been rendered so non-transparent and non-accountable.

Center for Public Integrity: What about political spending by so-called “social welfare” nonprofits that are organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code — where it’s unclear where the money is coming from?

Bopp: If it’s a (c)(4), you’ve got to spend half your money on activity that has nothing to do with the election. If your intent is to affect the election, half of the money is wasted. And not very many people are willing to waste half of their money.

Center for Public Integrity: Looking at the current landscape, some regulators have proposed restricting the political activities of certain nonprofits.

Bopp: If the current [vehicles] are attacked so that [their effectiveness and utility] goes down, then other ones will be used … There are organizations that I have already thought of that haven’t yet been utilized very much.

Center for Public Integrity: Like what?

Bopp: You’ve got to pay me for that. But there are several that I’ve already figured out how to utilize if that becomes necessary.

"You've got to pay me for that".

Center for Public Integrity: In your mind, how long until the entire system reaches a tipping point?

Bopp: We have reached the tipping point! It’s utterly unaccountable and non-transparent. And it’s all because the rules have made them so … This is a downward spiral until the whole system collapses, which it is very close to. The effects of contribution limits have so distorted the system that we have almost zero accountability and transparency.

Yeah, we're through the looking glass all right.  Bopp appears to believe that there are still too many laws governing campaign finance reform.

If that's true, then yes, I'm a Communist, and the revolution is coming a lot slower than I would like.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance solemnly honors three anniversaries: the fifth year after BP's offshore well Macondo exploded, which resulted in the nation's worst oil spill disaster; the Oklahoma City federal building bombing -- and its victims -- on its 20th; and the 70th annual acknowledgement of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald

Here is this week's roundup of the best Texas lefty blog posts from last week.

Off the Kuff celebrated the city of Houston's victory in court against the petition effort to force a referendum on repealing the city's equal rights ordinance.

Libby Shaw, blogging at both at Texas Kaos and Daily Kos, wonders what a progressive Democratic grassroots activist is to do when her party's leaders turn tail and side against their constituents: Les Miserables: Texas Political Donors and Voters Bought Lemons.

Nonsequiteuse suspects it would be safer to go to the grocery store and more crowded on election day if Democrats would put down their guns and move slowly to the left.

Socratic Gadfly combines his being a history buff with being an aficionado of classical music and poetry to note how Lincoln's death has been commemorated in the arts, on the sesquicentennial of his assassination.

There's a new "Dirty Thirty" in Austin, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs pulls back the curtain on the so-called Texas House Democrats who voted with the Republicans to overturn municipal fracking bans. Surprise: it's all about the money, specifically campaign contributions from oil and gas companies.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson: It's always funny when the media tries to figure out why the GOP can't come up with a "fantastic scheme for all that cash", when cutting is all you know.

Neil at All People Have Value wrote about the $2000 ticket a San Antonio chef was given for feeding the homeless in violation of a law prohibiting the feeding of the homeless. These laws are evil. Houston has such a law. APHV is part of

Texas Leftist noted (a few weeks back, but who's counting) on the recent designation of Interstate 69, renumbering the former US 59 through Houston and Harris County, and the economic impact expected.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme was extremely disappointed to hear Leticia Van de Putte used a fundamental Republican talking point to blow off non-discrimination ordinances. I want my money back from her lieutenant governor's race.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

HOUEquality has more on the judge's verdict that the anti-HERO contingent failed to collect enough signature to force a ballot referendum, and Bluedaze has more on the oil money greasing the palms of the members of the Texas Lege, reflected in the HB 40 vote which overturned fracking bans in Texas cities.

Paradise in Hell marvels at the hatefulness of Steven Hotze.

Scott Braddock chides the Legislature for its inaction on the problem of misclassifying employees.

Texas Watch issues a call to action against a bill that would weaken insurance policyholder protections.

Texas Clean Air Matters is on the lookout for the legislators who are seeking to gut local control.

Better Texas Blog explains how the Aycock school finance bill would increase inequity among the highest and lowest wealth districts.

The Rag Blog has an account of a visit to an immigrant family detention center in Karnes City.

Liprap's Lament declares that her Texmudgeonly attitude is melting a little after a tour inside the Astrodome with her son.

Fascist Dyke Motors, blogging from a downtown train, almost had to use Kim's watermelon gun on a man who accosted her.

Isiah Carey reports on the customer appreciation party a Houston bail bondsman threw for his customers and supporters.  Something about that is just hilarious.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Today's edition of the Destructive Influence of Money in Politics

Yesterday I took down the the spineless, two-faced Democrats in the Texas Lege who couldn't say no to the Fossil Fuel Mafia and their money.  We know that even as oil and gas companies lay off thousands in the midst of the most severe market correction in decades, and try to break the labor unions at their refineries, the CEOs get multi-million dollar raises.  This perverted way of "doing business" is all just another day at the office, and not exclusive to Houston's greasy, ivory downtown towers.  Here's a few more of the latest examples of the in-your-face corruption rampant among the oligarchy (I prefer to call it fascism, but that's just me).

-- Teddy Schleifer, the best the Houston Chronicle had at local political coverage (no disrespect intended to Mike Morris), has been snapped up by CNN Politics.  Their gain is our loss.  Best to Teddy, and don't be a stranger, dude.  Jeremy Desel, another local news standout, gives in and crosses over to do PR for NRG.  In the vein of diminished and corporately compromised political coverage, we're left with the TexTrib (a bad joke, I know).  But they did do us the service of providing this latest Texas presidential political consultant scorecard.  So kudos to Abby Livingston and Annie Daniel for that.

-- "Hacked Sony Emails Show Major Democrat-Turned-Lobbyist Urging Support for Republicans".  The co-author of Dodd-Frank, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act --  legislation that is being gutted even as this is written by Dodd's successors -- reveals his true self.

As head of the movie industry lobbying group Motion Picture Association of America, Chris Dodd—a former Democratic senator and self-styled champion for working families—urged film executives to give financial support to Republican campaigns for election to Congress.

“[W]hile loyalty to a person and/or party is admirable,” Dodd wrote in an email that was among those hacked from Sony, “we also need to be smarter about being supportive of those who are and will be in positions to make decisions that affect this industry.”

What's that whine I keep hearing from Democrats about their being different from Republicans?  More from The Intercept.

Dodd chose not to run for reelection to his Senate seat in 2010, after revelations that he had received a special discount mortgage from Countrywide’s “VIP program.” During his time in Congress, Dodd was a senior member of the Banking Committee, a position that oversaw mortgage lenders.

As he retired, he told the public he would not become a lobbyist — though he soon signed up for the job as the movie industry’s top lobbyist, a gig compensated at over $3.2 million a year.

Dodd’s call for Democratic-leaning movie industry titans to give money to Republicans reveals a simple truth in American politics: Though pundits regularly complain about a bitter partisan divide, those with power and money can simply buy support from both parties. Indeed, the tech industry and much of the movie industry have come together on many major issues concerning intellectual property and privacy, from trade agreements to new cyber surveillance legislation — with strong bipartisan support in Congress.

To think that I once seriously considered supporting Dodd for president in 2008 makes me ill.

-- Alan Grayson on Democracy Now! regarding the dude who flew his gyrocopter to the DC Capitol carrying a message.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressman Grayson, I assume you heard the story of the gyrocopter that landed on the White House lawn [Capitol lawn]. This mailman named Doug Hughes, basically a flying bicycle, landed on the lawn. He expected to be blown out of the air. But he said he was doing this for campaign finance reform. He had a letter to every member of Congress. I want to ask you, how much does the money that is going to your fellow Democrats and Republicans determine their support for TPP?

REP. ALAN GRAYSON: That’s right. I’m the only member of the House of Representatives who raised most of his campaign funds in the last election from small contributions of less than $200. Thousands of people came to our website,, and made contributions. I am one—one—out of 435. On the other side of the building, over at the U.S. Senate, there’s only one member of the U.S. Senate who raised most of his campaign from some small contributions. That’s Bernie Sanders, who you heard earlier in this broadcast. That tells you something. In fact, to a large degree, in both parties, because of the absence of campaign finance reform, the place is bought and paid for. And the only question is: Do the members stay bought? That’s what the corporate lobbyists stay up late at night wondering about: Is that member going to stay bought?

Now, I was actually in the courtroom when this disastrous Citizens United decision was decided five years ago. Mitch McConnell was two seats to my left. We were the only public officials who were in the courtroom. Mitch McConnell was the happiest I have ever seen him that day. He was literally chortling when the decision was rendered. And I said on MSNBC that night five years ago that if we do nothing, you can kiss this country goodbye. Well, pucker up, because right now the millionaires and the billionaires and the multinational corporations are calling the shots with whatever they want in TPP, whatever they want in fast track—more generally, whatever they want. They get the bailouts. They get the tax breaks. They get the so-called deregulation. They get what they want here because they get what they pay for.

--  An excerpt from the letters Doug Hughes was carrying.

The various mechanisms which funnel money to candidates and congress-persons are complex. It happens before they are elected, while they are in office and after they leave Congress. Fortunately, a solution to corruption is not complicated. All the proposals are built around either reform legislation or a Constitutional Amendment. Actually, we need both — a constitutional amendment and legislation.

There will be discussion about the structure and details of reform. As I see it, campaign finance reform is the cornerstone of building an honest Congress. Erect a wall of separation between our elected officials and big money. This you must do — or your replacement will do. A corporation is not 'people' and no individual should be allowed to spend hundreds of millions to 'influence' an election. That much money is a megaphone which drowns out the voices of 'We the People.' Next, a retired member of Congress has a lifelong obligation to avoid the appearance of impropriety. That almost half the retired members of Congress work as lobbyists and make millions of dollars per year smells like bribery, however legal. It must end. Pass real campaign finance reform and prohibit even the appearance of payola after retirement and you will be part of a Congress I can respect.

The states have the power to pass a Constitutional Amendment without Congress — and we will. You in Congress will likely embrace the change just to survive, because liberals and conservatives won’t settle for less than democracy.

Read the entire letter.  He wrote one for each member of Congress.

I don't think it's anything to get yourself killed over -- or even kill yourself over -- but it's apparent to me that the day is coming when it might have to be.  If our leaders keep failing us.

Peaceful revolution or something less so.  It's up to them.