Friday, November 30, 2012

Greg Abbott: Hurry up with our VRA challenge

Michael Li:

Lawyers for the Justice Department and intervenors in the Texas voter ID case told the court yesterday that the court should put off consideration of Texas’ claim that section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional until the Supreme Court decides the pending Shelby County v. Holder case next year.

That case involves a challenge to the statute by Shelby County, Alabama, contending that Congress acted without sufficient evidence in 2006 in extending section 5 coverage for another 25 years and that the formula for determining what states and sub-divisions are subject to section 5 is outdated.

Money shot:

The State of Texas disagreed and told the court that it should go ahead and decide the constitutional question being raised in the Texas case or otherwise its voter ID law “will be stuck in limbo until the end of the current Supreme Court term.” 

So it would seem to me that the Republicans in the Lege would be working on a revised Voter ID bill for 2013 -- a less onerous one, that comes closer to passing legal muster -- as a Plan B to an adverse ruling, except that the last sentence in the second excerpt suggests that the conservatives have all of their eggs rotting in one basket. Perhaps the timeline for a decision from the court is such that a Plan B could still be pulled out of a drawer in the coming session.

In a response to this question on his FB page, Li states: "there does not seem to be any major move to revisit the law".

This kind of 'all in' gamble by Greg Abbott, considering his track record with the feds, would surprise me... if I weren't already convinced of his stupidity. Then again, maybe it's the GOP legislators who are dumb. And the question becomes moot if we learn in the coming weeks that they are quietly working on something in case they lose in court.

But if Li is correct, and the court either denies Abbott's request or accepts it and rules against the state later, then without some alternative legislation offered in the coming session... Voter ID would be dead until 2015.

That would have to be the most favorable outcome for voting rights and democracy one could hope for. As always when it comes to the judges, the lawyers, the OAG, and the GOP in the Lege, we'll have to wait and see what develops.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Everyone needs someone to look down on

An excerpt from this observation from Joan Walsh.

It troubles me beyond reason that the face of the white GOP backlash is so frequently Irish Catholic: O’Reilly, Hannity, Pat Buchanan. Reading Kelly’s book again reminded me that everything racists say about African Americans was once said about my own people, and in the famine at least, with a deadly outcome.

To justify shutting down aid mid-famine, the London Times editorialized that it was to help the poor Irish themselves. “Alas, the Irish peasant has tasted of famine and found it good…the deity of his faith was the government…it was a religion that holds ‘Man shall not labor by the sweat of his brow.” Sounds like Bill O’Reilly, only more clever. “There are times when harshness is the greatest humanity.” The Times’ “chief proprietor,” John Walter, put it more crudely. The Irish were no more ready for self-government than “the blacks,” he said in Parliament (he was also a Tory MP).  ”The blacks have a proverb,” he explained. “‘If a nigger were not a nigger, the Irishman would be a nigger.’”

I am neither Irish nor Catholic.The contempt of Irish immigrants in the New World was well-played satirically by Daniel Day-Lewis in "Gangs of New York". (He's in another film currently where his character demonstrates a great deal more tolerance toward a different tribe of people.) Walsh's point is that history -- like science and logic and common sense -- is still lost on the right-wing and their bloviators.

We need conservatives to hurry up and begin to understand what's true and what's fiction. And that's about the kindest way that it can be said.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is rested and ready after the holiday weekend as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff notes that for the second election in a row, the city of Houston voted 61% for President Obama. Keep that in mind the next time someone tries to tell you that Texas is Austin surrounded by a bunch of Republicans.

Success for Democrats in Williamson County has been few and far between in recent years, and has only come through hard work. WCNews at Eye on Williamson points out that little has changed: It won't just happen...(continued).

Barack Obama's re-election to the presidency, just as his first election, is defined in large measure by the pathetic quality of his competition. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs observes that while Republicans have only themselves to blame for their circumstances, maybe it's time for the victors to help them work through their bitterness.  

BossKitty at TruthHugger believes it's time to instruct those we elected to legislate responsible actions and stop polluting America's water: Water – Supply and Demand, Cause and Effect.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that establishment Republicans hate their base. I can understand that.

Neil at Texas Liberal said that the table of self-respect is always set. The question is will people show up?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Walmart's low wages, every day

This comes a little late for those who are already out there busting doors, pepper-spraying their opponents, and otherwise celebrating the corporation's most wonderful time of the year.

A half century ago America’s largest private-sector employer was General Motors, whose full-time workers earned an average hourly wage of around $50, in today’s dollars, including health and pension benefits.

Today, America’s largest employer is Walmart, whose average employee earns $8.81 an hour. A third of Walmart’s employees work less than 28 hours per week and don’t qualify for benefits.

There are many reasons for the difference – including globalization and technological changes that have shrunk employment in American manufacturing while enlarging it in sectors involving personal services, such as retail.

But one reason, closely related to this seismic shift, is the decline of labor unions in the United States. In the 1950s, over a third of private-sector workers belonged to a union. Today fewer than 7 percent do. As a result, the typical American worker no longer has the bargaining clout to get a sizeable share of corporate profits.

It was not surprising to see all of the Khronically Konservative Kommenters blame the bakers' union for the demise of Hostess this past week. After all, a company's primary product being Type II diabetes and a management that awarded itself bonuses every time they put the operation into "a chapter", as Donald Trump once said, cannot possibly be responsible for its own failure.

If we still had a strong labor movement in this nation, I assert that people wouldn't be peeing into cups in order to acquire or even keep their jobs, and thus would not be demanding that poor people do the same in order to secure some meager welfare benefits.

Card-check. "Right-to-work" laws. Reagan -- a former union man himself -- busting the air traffic controllers' union. This triumph of capitalist pigs over common people goes all the way back to the Democratic National Convention of 1944, when the party bosses (like Houston's own Jesse Jones) installed Harry Truman over Henry Wallace as vice-presidential nominee. Watch Oliver Stone's "Untold History of the United States" for the story.

But that's a digression. Later this morning at the new Walmart in Houston's Heights, and all across the nation, people will protest outside the stores, calling attention to the fact that Walmart earns $16 billion in profits annually yet pays its employees starvation wages (which is why so many of them are also on food stamps).

The most effective way to fix this, as the conservatives will attest, is through the free market. Don't buy anything today unless you're buying it from a locally owned business, preferably a mom-and-pop. And for God's sake, if you have to go to Walmart, join the real people outside asking the corporate people inside for a little better way of life.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Defined by the quality of the competition

It isn't meant to be mean to say that Barack Obama's legacy as a presidential candidate is tied in no small way to the quality -- more specifically the lack thereof -- of his two rivals, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

They have demonstrated their presidential mettle in recent days, as you are likely aware.

With conservatives still in grief-stricken denial about their loss and the reasons why, it would be merciful -- and simplistic -- to chalk 2012 up to their powerful ignorance and dishonesty. But it would be more accurate to observe that, while Obama's presidential campaigns have been transformative (his presidency, not so much), it is also correct that his two relative mandates to govern have not been met with gracious concession or even professional courtesy on the part of his adversaries.

McCain's slow-motion implosion has been going on for at least five years. His enablers -- like Steve Schmidt and more recently Joe Lieberman, for example -- have gradually excused themselves to a safer distance. Romney's delusional tumble from a perch believed by him and everyone around him to be his birthright has been more clinically fascinating to observe. The photo that surfaced on Reddit this week of the $250 million dollar man in a wrinkled shirt, with disheveled hair, pumping his own gas in La Jolla, reveals the depression brought on by the crushing reality of defeat.

It would be easy to keep on laughing if he didn't look so much like someone who needs to call a suicide hotline. While Mitt needs an intervention, the embittered McCain and the Republicans who are still seething and ranting need some help of their own. Greg in the comments of this post is evidence of this unhealthy anger. (He's sent me additional comments which won't appear. He's in a timeout lasting at least through the end of the year.)

I've had high school friends, others I've known for decades, click the unfriend button on Facebook because they couldn't stand to have finally figured out that I am a "librul". And that was well before November 6. Their moods must be wretched since the election results came in a couple of weeks ago.

I'm going to enjoy my turkey and dressing with several members of my extended family tomorrow, some of whom are as hard-boiled Republican as they come. I hope they can manage the few hours okay. It's got to be awful tough for some of them, still.

Anyway, help a few of these people -- you know who they are in your life -- along in their stages of grief by being a little nicer than you normally would. They might not yet be able to appreciate it, but they deserve it just the same. Their transition to something approaching calm is important for all of us.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving. And don't gloat. The time for mending fences is nigh.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"This Land is Mine"

Lyrics by Pat Boone, sung by Andy Williams, animation by Nina Paley.

As of this morning, Israel and Hamas cannot even agree on whether or not they, in fact, have a ceasefire in place.

I really don't care any more who started it or whose fault the latest contretemps is. These people need to stop fighting with each other.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Week Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff took a look at how Latinos voted in Texas and how Ted Cruz did in Harris County.  

BossKitty at TruthHugger learned a new word. NATECH describes how toxic materials mix together after disasters, in Hurricane Sandy, The NATECH Disaster.

Rick Perry and the Texas wing nuts are back at it again. WCNews at Eye on Williamson shows us that no matter the economic situation their game plan is the same -- cut government lower taxes on the wealthy, and the rest of us be damned: Perry and the wing nuts getting back to work.

Rick Perry and David Dewhurst are driving right past those red "Wrong Way" signs straight toward another legislative 'emergency' in search of a problem. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs observes that if peeing in a cup is suddenly such a high priority, perhaps the governor and lieutenant governor would like to go first.

Neil at Texas Liberal wrote about when it is best to thaw your Thanksgiving turkey in a post that also included a link to recipes for an all-veggie Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wrong Way: drug-testing welfare applicants

Leave it to Texas Republicans to drive right past those red signs, though.

Out of the more than 250 bills filed Monday, the first possible day to file legislation for the 83rd session, one measure — concerning drug testing for welfare applicants — is already drawing the support of the state’s top lawmakers and the criticism of civil liberties advocates.

Senate Bill 11 would require applicants to the Texas Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to undergo a drug test. If applicants fail the test, they would not be eligible to apply again for a full year, unless they attended a substance abuse treatment program. The bill was written by state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and several other Republican lawmakers.

“This will help prevent tax dollars from going into the pockets of drug abusers,” Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday at a news conference. He said that the goal of the bill is to "empower every Texan to reach their potential," because "being on drugs makes it harder to begin the journey to independence.”

More at the link makes for worthwhile reading, but let's present the rebuttal not mentioned by the Trib.

This program was implemented by the state of Florida and has been demonstrated to be cost-ineffective. In fact, the cost of the testing -- not including administrative costs -- far exceeds the savings realized on denial of benefits. Nor does the "threat" of drug testing result in fewer applications for aid, according to the Blog of Rights...

Despite the complete failure of this program to unearth anything other than the fact that there is no overwhelming drug problem amongst welfare applicants, the state of Florida continues to defend this law. And unfortunately, other states have followed Florida's ill-informed lead. Over 25 states introduced welfare drug testing legislation this year. You'd think that the court rulings and high costs might have logically stopped these bills, but they have not.

In these lean budgetary times, do conservatives actually want to implement a new invasive government program that wastes money we don't have?

They need to stop calling themselves fiscal conservatives if they do.

Just in case anyone was wondering, the correct governmental response is decriminalization of certain substances, followed by regulation and taxation. Once again the American people understand what its elected leaders are slow to figure out.

Imagine what effect this would have on the Mexican drug wars, for just one thing.

More from Christy Hoppe at the DMN. The argument against denying children assistance because of their parents' "violations" is laudable, but I just don't think an appeal to empathy is effective with the Republican hive mind.

Update: Grits...

... (S)tate leaders begin to pursue yet another policy likely to reinforce the politically toxic meme that Republicans are at war with women (and in this case their young children). If the Governor and Lt. Governor's goal is to help dissuade TANF recipients from drug use, eliminating their benefits is counterproductive. If they have some other goal, maybe they should just drop it before we have another round of embarrassing court decisions slapping down Texas policy once again. 

And Rep. Joe Deshotel, via The Bayou...

“Senate Bill 11 is both fiscally and morally irresponsible. Its even more egregious that it comes at a time of slow economic recovery and while Texas has almost twice the national average of uninsured children. It would violate personal privacy, ignore the presumption of innocence, and continue the Legislature’s expansion of government into our personal lives.”

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance congratulates President Obama on his re-election as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff has his initial analysis of the 2012 election returns.  

WCNews at Eye on Williamson tells us now that the election is over, it's time to get to work: It won't just happen - The Democratic demographic myth in Texas.

BossKitty at TruthHugger is tickled that the corporate takeover failed to win the White House.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders why John Cornyn, the rapist enabler, keeps doubling down on bad ideas?

Carol Alvarado and Sylvia Garcia are squaring off to replace Mario Gallegos in the Texas Senate. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs says it will be a clash of the Houston titans (and the elite falling in to support them).

Neil at Texas Liberal took a ride to Galveston for a walk on the beach on the day after the election. The second Obama term will be nothing but lazy days on the beach for the coalition of moochers that elected him for a new term.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Texas House speaker politics begins

Two excerpts; the first is from a source I usually don't read, much less quote.

RedState has uncovered never-before-seen, profanity-laden e-mails between senior staff and legislative lieutenants of Texas’ liberal GOP House Speaker Joe Straus demonstrating disrespect for, and even hostility towards, grassroots activists and conservative lawmakers.

Tea party activists are called “idiots,” allies of U.S. Rep. Joe Barton are called “mother f***ers,” and decorated U.S. Marine and State Rep. Van Taylor is dismissed as “stupid,” by a top Straus political strategist.

The truth is occasionally brutal, and more frequently when the truth concerns the far right extremists in the Texas Legislature. Let's move on with the unbiased accounts of recent developments.

House Speaker Joe Straus' bid for a third term as leader of the 150-member state House may not come as quickly or as easily as he had anticipated.

The San Antonio Republican finds himself caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place: His re-election path is complicated by a challenge from the hard conservative wing of his own GOP, combined with growing unease among some Democratic legislators upset with how Straus handled last year's redistricting and other issues affecting minorities.

Straus faces a challenge from Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, who is drawing support from tea party Republicans, FreedomWorks and some of the chamber's more conservative members.

There's a good bit more at that link if you want to know the players, the agendas, and the portent of future developments.

I'm not going to be into this so much because it's fairly predictable, just like two years ago.

Joe Straus is going to walk the line, before the session opens in January and after, between letting the Tea Freaks run wild a bit and then reigning them in, in order to quell the grumbling from the minority.

Straus is not going to be re-elected without all the votes from the 55-member Democratic minority delegation. The Democrats, for their part, don't have any leverage beyond their bloc. With all the Ds, Straus needs just 21 of the remaining 95 Repubs to earn back the big chair. None of the Blue team are going to vote -- nor should they -- for a reactionary like Bryan Hughes. So Straus will throw a few bones to the Dems (ie committee chairmanships, prioritizing the scheduling of bills and the like) to keep their whining to a minimum, and he'll do the same for the lunatics in his own caucus. He'll guide the session alternating between a fairly loose hand and a fairly firm one, keeping what's left of the moderate coalition of Republican representatives the most happy.

He'll tell both sides what they want to hear. They'll press for more and he'll say he can't because of those weirdos on the other end of the spectrum. Both contingents will complain, privately and publicly, just as they are now.

And Straus will get re-elected speaker. The rest is all kabuki. So when Harvey Kronberg fills up your inbox from now until the middle of January with all of the various machinations, just know that it's all posturing and preening. On both sides.

Once the session opens and the speaker takes the gavel, the conservatives will reassert themsleves in governance. There might be another redistricting sqabble. There will certainly be the same fights over funding, especially for women's health care and public education and so forth. In fact, the item that will be of most interest is the advance -- or lack thereof -- of immigration reform in Texas.

(Rep. Ana) Hernandez Luna is still upset that GOP leaders stopped debate on an immigration-related bill last session before Democrats could present all their amendments. She responded with an emotional personal privilege speech describing her fear as a child that one of her undocumented immigrant parents would not return from a shopping trip because of detection and deportation.

There may yet be some House Republicans that can come to a more sober understanding of tolerance on the issue in the wake of their electoral shellacking nationally. Rick Perry was attacked for being a moderate on immigration by Mitt Romney while he was still a presidential contender, you may recall. David Dewhurst won't have a two-thirds majority in the Senate, and now neither will Straus. So with some prodding from the top, a little temperance of the stridence of the Tea Party may come due (once they concede the speaker's contest, that is).

Then again, perhaps not. This is still Texas, after all.

(FWIW this might be an area in which rank-and-file Democrats can have some sway with their Republican representatives in the statehouse. An e-mail or phone call to their offices about supporting appropriate legislative action on immigration could make the difference between a bill getting passed and one dying in committee at the end of the session next spring. Just two cents' worth of advice to liberal and progressive activists.)

In my opinion, how the topic gets discussed and whether a bill clears the lower chamber will be the most-watched development in next year's legislative session.

Update: Big Jolly agrees, for different reasons.

Sunday Funnies

Hoping for a lot more change this time around, Mr. President.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Sylvia Garcia jumps in

And corrals a few endorsements from state legislators. Folloing via e-mail this morning.

Houston community advocate and longtime public servant Sylvia Garcia announced today she will run in the coming special election to represent Texas Senate District 6.

I'll skip the "why I'm running" blather and get to the hot stuff.

“I have worked with Sylvia to improve the availability of health care in East Harris County,” said Representative Ana Hernandez Luna (Dist. 143). “She understands the issues, has the ability to work with others to achieve the goal, and the passion and energy to stay in the fight until the battle is won.”
"Sylvia has never stopped working for us," said House Democratic Caucus Leader Jessica Farrar. "Serving as a social worker, attorney, city controller and county commissioner has provided her broad experience and solid relationships at all levels of governent. She is well equipped to fight against the special interests in Austin putting people first. Sylvia's priorities of education, healthcare, and jobs are what strengthen families most."
“You can trust Sylvia Garcia to say what she’ll do and do what she says,” said State Representative Armando Walle (Dist. 140). “Throughout her years of public service you have always been able to count on Sylvia’s word.  She has the intellect, honesty, maturity professionalism and integrity we want in our representative in the Texas Senate. Someone our children can be proud of”.
"Make no mistake, Rick Perry and his cronies are not going to give up their disrespectful opposition to our President," said Representative Garnet Coleman (Dist. 147).  “They may have lost the election, but our community knows Perry will keep fighting our President's efforts to improve our schools and health care. We need Sylvia Garcia to stand with us."

The significance of these endorsees is that they are all people who have worked alongside Carol Alvarado in the Texas House. Coleman's endorsement specifically suggests that no high profile African American is likely to get in. (Yes, I'm saying neither Jarvis Johnson nor RW Bray can be considered high-profile.)  Anybody else who enters the fray will be by definition second-tier, with only the hope of making the runoff on the basis of Alvarado and Garcia splitting the 70% the late Mario Gallegos just earned last Tuesday.

Roland Garcia is likewise a high-profile 'get', as he was Mayor Annise Parker's money man going back to her first bid for mayor in 2009. (Her last re-election bid is also on the 2013 calendar; there's plenty of time for Garcia to do both campaigns.)

Political consultant Robert Jara is probably the person running Garcia's campaign. Anybody would be an upgrade over Marc Campos, who is working for Alvarado. Fresh off his latest loss in the SBOE race just concluded, Campos is going to remind us every day about knowing how to win and getting things done... when he's not watching the Astros, that is.

Expect to see the Democratic establishment (i.e. plutocrats) line up behind Garcia. They all owe her, including everybody who had a fundraiser hosted by her in the past cycle. If you like the VIPs picking your next Senator, then there will be plenty of them offering their opinion.

Fortunately the people will be doing the voting. And in a low-turnout special and runoff, I just don't see Garcia's track record -- the only incumbent county commissioner in over a generation to lose -- as a plus with the voters (as opposed to the insiders).

So Garcia had better raise a pot full of money.

Update: The Chron's report lists Alvarado's supporters...

Alvarado's backers include state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston; Controller Ron Green; former mayors Bill White and Lee Brown and Council members James Rodriguez, C.O. Bradford and Oliver Pennington. 

So the elites are choosing sides and squaring off after all. And this tidbit...

Former state representative and 2008 U.S. Senate candidate Rick Noriega confirmed Friday that he is considering entering the race but that it is too early for anyone to be declaring candidacy. It is too soon after Gallegos's death and unclear when a special election might even occur, he said.

"We have a lifelong interest in what happens in this community, so we're going to keep our powder dry," Noriega said when asked if he is running. "We're going to see how this process unfolds without making any commitment." 

Alvarado ran for and won the seat in 2008 that both Noreigas -- Rick and wife Melissa, term-limited from Houston City Council next year -- held in the Texas House for ten years. Melissa was appointed to the Texas Legislature while Rick served a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2004 and 5.

Republicans deluded themselves in 2012

It wasn't cocky confidence, or braggadocio or even hubris. It wasn't just Dick Morris. Or Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh. It wasn't only the Khronically Konservative Kommenters predicting a landslide for Mitt Romney, or even the douchey right-wing blogs.

It wasn't Karl Rove by himself, even though he wanted to recreate Election 2000 by forcing Fox to walk back its call of Ohio for Obama, a little after 10 p.m. Tuesday night -- stalling Romney's concession for a couple of hours -- as he remained convinced that "tha math" had the Republican in the White House when reality did not.

It was also Romney himself and his running mate Paul Ryan, their campaign staff, and most curiously of all, their pollsters. They were all convinced they were going to win -- and by as large a margin as they lost.

Romney advisers are telling CBS News that there wasn't one person on the Romney campaign who saw the loss coming, and the GOP presidential candidate was "shellshocked" by the results. Here's what they have to say:
  • "We went into the evening confident we had a good path to victory... I don't think there was one person who saw this coming." 
  • "There's nothing worse than when you think you're going to win, and you don't... It was like a sucker punch." 
  • Romney "was shellshocked." 
    The CBS story indicates that the Romney team even bought into the "unskewed polls" theory, believing that the polls dramatically underestimated Republican turnout and overestimated Democratic enthusiasm.

    This report comes after other indications that the Romney campaign was disregarding polling data. On election night, the Romney campaign told the press it didn't have a concession speech prepared. Karl Rove went against Fox News and questioned whether Ohio was going to Obama, contradicting overwhelming electoral analysis. And Wednesday, Romney's website briefly displayed a page indicating he had won the presidency before it was taken down. 

    Well, that explains why they were campaigning in Pennsylvania on the day before Election Day, anyway.

    This is much worse than Fox or or Newsmax or Michelle Malkin telling people Romney was going to win. When even the Republican nominee and their campaign believed the lies... well, this is mental illness territory, folks.

    Republicans down to the last man and woman are suffering a self-inflicted information disadvantage, and while I will shed not even a crocodile tear over what it means for the GOP, the truth is (another pesky fact) that their delusional behavior is harming the nation.

    And not just because it reveals the entire conservative "logic" trail: that if truth is inconvenient, invent your own. It explains why climate change isn't occurring -- or isn't influenced by our energy policies. It provides a rationale for rape being God's gift to women and that massive voter fraud is happening and tax cuts create jobs and pretty much everything else they believe to be true, which isn't.

    Whose stock responses to things that are true that they don't like include "I don't believe it; it must be the liberal media". "These damned liberals are all brainwashed in college and just want free stuff".

    How do you work together with a group of people who supply their own fallacies as arguments? Who refuse to accept science, reason and logic? Who become irritated, outraged, aggressively hostile when presented with clinical factual data?

    Lithium? Haldol? Thorazine?

    I'm completely serious.

    We're about to have another one of those discussions about how much taxes are going to be and will government spend it on guns or butter. And the Republicans are already digging in their heels.

    And because conservatives are continuing to act so irrationally, is the president going to have to compromise because they won't (sign of weakness and all). Is Obama going to have to agree once more to cuts in Medicare and Social Security in order to wrangle a tax increase out of John Boehner?

    Shouldn't mentally challenged people -- particularly people contriving their own mental challenges -- be on their meds before they resume normal activities of daily living?

    That's all I'm asking. And I'm not kidding.

    Update: Booman with the "stupid or evil" question. He says 'both'. (See? I'm much nicer than him.) And Politico explains the epic fail of the ORCA vote-tracking project.

    Update II: Thanks for all the feedback, everyone. David Frum: "Republicans have been fleeced, exploited, and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex"...

    Brutally candid assessment, and from a Republican yet. Still, this might be too factual for conservatives to understand.

    "Because the followers, the donors and the activists are so mistaken about the nature of the problems the country faces...just a simple question, and I went to Tea Party rallies and asked this question, have taxes gone up or down in recent years? They can't answer this question."

    Wednesday, November 07, 2012

    Alvarado declares for SD-6

    An aggressive move, probably to deter Sylvia Garcia (or at least make her pause).

    The morning after his posthumous victory party, the late state Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, got his dying wish when his choice to succeed him announced her intention to seek the seat he held since 1994.

    State Rep. Carol Alvarado, who was re-elected to her House seat without opposition Tuesday, announced her candidacy for the Senate seat in an email Wednesday.

    Gallegos posthumously won re-election against Republican challenger R.W. Bray. His victory means that Gov. Rick Perry will have to call a special election to determine who will represent the voters in Senate District 6.

    Here's the link to my prior speculation.

    Alvarado's campaign will be managed by Marc Campos, who is -- in a word -- shit. But Alvarado shines like the sun, and so does her future. She can overcome the selection of a lousy campaign operative. Especially if she can successfully claim the mantle of inheritance and inevitability.

    Alvarado is expected to formally announce her candidacy at an event with members of Gallegos' family on Monday.

    I don't think this move clears the field for Alvarado, but that is certainly their (her and Campos') intention. Garcia has been unemployed so long and is holding so many IOUs that I just don't think she sits it out. I also expect Jarvis Johnson to enter this contest, and there will likely be Green and Libertarian candidates as well, since it is an open primary.

    No rest for the wicked.

    Update: The African American TeaBagger who lost to the dead guy earlier this week is going to take another shot at the race. Hey, he got about 30 percent, and if Democrats split between two or more candidates, he could make the runoff. That's his story at least, and I'm sure he'll stick to it.

    More Good, Bad, and Ugly


    -- Harris County bond proposals all passed with flying colors. In the midst of the caterwauling about being broke, it's heartening to know that some conservative voters understand the need for progress.

    -- Barack Obama appears to have carried Harris County by two votes. Out of almost 1.2 million cast. There are still provisionals and a few mailed stragglers to be counted, so the outcome of which party controls elections in two years is still to be determined. We're split right down the middle here, folks.

    I suppose somebody might choose to blame their losing on one of the two third parties.

    -- Texas House Dems gained seven seats in the Lege, with Craig Eiland holding on to retain his Galveston-area seat. Gene Wu is the brightest star in that freshman class of 2013.

    -- County Attorney Vince Ryan turned back Crazy Bob Talton 51.5-48.5. Maybe that stripper donation business cost him. Sheriff Adrian Garcia's race was closer (53-45) than it should have been, and not because of Remington Alessi (2%). Dr. Diane Trautman beat the Republican incumbent to claim a win for Harris County School Trustee.

    -- Harris County Democratic incumbent judges Al Bennett, Larry Weiman, Kyle Carter, RK Sandhill, Michael Gomez, Jaclanel McFarland, Mike Engelhart, Robert Schaeffer, Alexandra Smoots-Hogan, Ruben Guerrero, David Mendoza, and Maria Jackson were all returned to the bench. Elaine Palmer, who defeated Judge Steven Kirkland in the May primary, also was elected.

    D incumbents Josefina Rendon, Shawna Reagin, Randy Roll, Herb Ritchie, Erica Graham, and Damon Crenshaw and challengers Tracy Good, Donna Roth, Vivian King, and Mack McInnis all fell short.

    All of these contests were decided by 3 percentage points or less, mostly on the strength of straight ticket voting. But the undervotes also played a large part in the demise of the Dems who lost. Apparently 60-70,000 voters who did not vote straight party didn't make it down the ballot to their races.

    -- The two unopposed (by any Democrat) Greens on the statewide ballot, Josh Wendel running for TRC and Charles Waterbury for SCOTX, earned 10% in Harris County and 8% across Texas. Other Greens in downballot races performed to this level in statehouse races: David Courtney (SD-17, no Dem running) got 9%, Chris Christal (SD-26, against Dem incumbent Leticia Van De Putte) got 6%. Matthew Britt, the only candidate running against the odious Phil King in HD-61, gathered 11%. Herb Gonzales ran against a Dem incumbent in HD-124 and picked up 15%. Closer to home, Art Browning got nearly 10% as the sole challenger to Allen Fletcher. And Henry Cooper ran hard against Jessica Farrar, getting 14%.

    These are foundational numbers for the Texas Green Party, and can be built upon in the future.

    -- That said, the Libertarian Party of Texas approximately doubled the numbers of the Greens across the state. They have a better idea about how to secure continuous ballot access, running someone everywhere. They pose a greater long-term threat to Texas Republicans than do Texas Democrats, in my humble O.

    (This last barely qualifies as good, in case you were wondering.)


    As mentioned last night, Texas Democrats have at least ten points of ground to make up with the electorate statewide. Keith Hampton's 55-41 defeat to Sharon Keller is particularly bitter. The appeals court wins were concentrated in the San Antonio-based 4th district, and the winners had Latino surnames. The two Harris County CCA, First and Fourteenth, saw Democratic challengers like Nile Copeland and Barbara Gardner lose by 5 to 7 points (53-46). Justice is still red as a baboon's behind in the Lone Star State.

    -- Jill Stein got three-tenths of one percent of the Texas electorate. Disappointing to say the least. Gary Johnson got almost four times as much and that's underperforming for him compared to the rest of the country. I'll have more to say about this in the coming days.

    -- Ann Harris Bennett lost her race for tax assessor/collector by 2,400 votes out of over 1.1 million total. There were almost 49,000 undervotes in that tilt.


    There's some, but I'll hold it until later.

    Charles Kuffner's wrap from last night covered a lot of this ground, and South Texas Chisme excerpts the Brownsville Herald's executive summary graf.

    More added to this post as responses and analysis trickle out today.

    The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

    The Good:

    -- After a contentious couple of hours -- during which Karl Rove attempted to get Fox News to rescind its call of Ohio and the subsequent re-election of President Obama -- Mitt Romney conceded just before midnight, Central time. The electoral college turned almost exactly as I projected two weeks ago. The only exception would be Florida, which is leaning to Obama.

    -- In the US Senate: Chris Murphy, (CT), Sherrod Brown (OH), Joe Donnelly (IN), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Claire McCaskill (MO), Angus King (ME), Tim Kaine (VA), Tammy Baldwin (WI), and Martin Heinrich (NM) represent a significant progressive upgrade, and an upper chamber shaping up as 53-47 if Jon Tester in MT hangs on, a net gain of two for the Blue team.

    As The Great Orange Satan summarized, over the past two election cycles...

    7:32 PM PT: Teabaggers have now cost Republicans Senate seats in Missouri, Indiana, Colorado, Delaware, and Nevada.

    Those five seats would've given the GOP the majority.

    -- In the US House: Tammy Duckworth (IL), Alan Grayson (FL), Beto O'Rourke (TX-16), Pete Gallego (TX-23), and maybe even the fellow running against Michele Bachmann -- we'll see in the morning -- clean up some trash in the Congress. Update: Nope, but just barely.

    -- Wendy Davis prevails in her state Senate race. In the Texas House, Joe Moody (HD-78), Mary Ann Perez (HD-144), Phillip Cortez (HD-117), and Abel Herrero (HD-34) represent Democratic flips.

    The Bad:

    -- The winning margin in statewide Texas races is still in the neighborhood of 55-41, with Romney and Ted Cruz performing slightly over than that and the Republican statewide judicials slightly under.

    -- Ann Johnson came up well short of Sarah Davis in HD-134, 55-45.

    The Ugly:

    -- Randy Weber over Nick Lampson in CD-14, Steve Stockman over Max Martin in CD-36.

    I'll have more tomorrow.

    Tuesday, November 06, 2012

    These toons close at 7 p.m. this evening

    Obama 303, Romney 235 and last-minute details

    -- The only changes from October 23 are giving the two remaining tossups, CO and NH, to the President. Here's what the map will look like later on this evening. This site has it the same. So does this one. Or you can go with Dick Morris' version. If you're on LSD.

    -- Senate prognostications are gelling around a pickup of one to three seats for Democrats. Nobody is predicting the House changes hands. Republicans will feel justified in continuing obstruction if the President doesn't win the nationwide popular vote. They will obstruct anyway, naturally.

    -- Outside of Harris County, the two Congressional races most worth following are Nick Lampson's and Pete Gallego's. I never mentioned them before because I focused on the county and statewides here, but if there's a small blue wave as in '08, they will be carried into office. Hope that happens; they'll both be outstanding Congressmen as compared with their counterparts.

    Here again -- if anyone still needs some progressive bipartisan suggestions -- are the Brainy Endorsements, Part I for federal and statewide races, and Part II for the statehouse and the courthouse. Thanks to Neil Aquino at Texas Liberal for linking to them frequently as well. Update: Charles has a good aggregation of late breaking local news to note, none of which is duplicated here.

    Speaking of Harris County... the news gets better. I am not attributing this source for confidentiality, but am excerpting his e-mail.

    The numbers (from Harris County VAN data, of EV and mail ballots)  look quite good -- especially if our people voted Straight-D or at least went through the ballot and if VAN correctly scored people as Democrat vs. Republican.  The "hard" and "soft" Democrats accounted for 43.9%, the "hard" and "soft" Republicans accounted for 30.6%, and the "non-partisans" accounted for 25.5% of the early voting/mail-in ballots.  The Democrats outvoted the Republicans by nearly 100,000 and there are not enough Republican voters left in Harris County who haven't voted (~70,000) to make up the difference.

    And if this news doesn't soothe you, then -- as the therapist suggested here -- practice your breathing exercises, draw a hot bath, have a Xanax and a glass of wine, and read Nate Silver again. Reality has a pronounced liberal bias.

    -- I would like to see Jill Stein get to 3% in Texas and 5% nationally. That last number will qualify the GP's presidential nominee for federal matching funds in 2016, an important and historical milestone. Five percent for any statewide Green earns the party ballot access again in two years, and I think that's assured.

    -- Also can't wait to see what effect Libertarians have on a few races locally, in Texas, and across the country. When the GOP melts down after their losses hit them, it could spell the end of the Republican Party as anything except a fringe far-right movement, and the Libertarians stand to benefit the most. Oh well, I suppose some moderate Republicans might become Democrats, too. A consolidation of conservative corporatists in the mushy middle.

    The Texas iteration of Republicanism might be poised to exert itself nationally, given its strength here. Lone Star conservatives are under the impression they are doing everything right, and could decide to try to take over. That's a delicious recipe for electoral disaster, as the TeaBaggers -- from Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell in 2010 to Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin in 2012 -- have repeatedly demonstrated. Hope that happens, too.

    -- Nick Anderson and Jeff Greenfield speak for me: "Hey undecided voters, how about you just sit this one out":

    It’s a plea directed to those of you who are still uncertain about which way to vote. And it’s as simple as it is heartfelt: Stay home.


    The overwhelmingly likely reason (you're still undecided) is this: You have the reasoning power of a baked potato.

    OK, I grant that you may be of the small minority of concerned citizens who are genuinely torn and who have not yet evaluated the relative worth of health care reform notions, the vagaries of the tax proposals or the respective approaches to the increasing power of the renminbi.

    But I wouldn’t bet a nickel on it.

    The odds are you’ve just been too busy obsessing about the misfortunes of the Kardashians, or the quality of your ringtone, to spend any time thinking about who might be the better president.

    Well, that’s your right. Unlike the Australians, we don’t compel people to vote, and it would likely be a First Amendment violation if we tried. A refusal to vote can be seen as a statement that the electoral system is rigged, meaningless or so thoroughly corrupt as to deserve contempt. (“I never vote,” one citizen said long ago. “It only encourages them.”)

    Kris G, I'm looking at you.

    Men and women in my lifetime have died fighting for the right to vote: people like James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were murdered while registering black voters in Mississippi in 1964, and Viola Liuzzo, who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in 1965 during the Selma march for voting rights. In these days of early voting, we’ve seen people waiting in line for hours to exercise the franchise. Countless others, who have never had to fight for it, have spent real time either trying to decide how to cast their vote or donating their time to persuading others.

    So if you’re one of those folks who have stayed utterly disengaged through all of this, do the honorable thing: Honor those for whom the vote really matters by staying home.

    You’ll be doing yourself—and the country—a favor.

    No shit.

    Monday, November 05, 2012

    The Weekly Wrangle

    The Texas Progressive Alliance marks the end of another long election season with a reminder to cast your ballot tomorrow -- or to call your neighbor and remind them to do so -- as it brings you this week's roundup of the best of the left of Texas from last week.

    Off the Kuff asks whether Texas Latinos are like Latinos elsewhere ... or not.

    Harris County is a swing county based on the numbers from the experts, and whomever can get those who haven't voted early to the polls on Tuesday will likely eke out a very close win... if PDiddie at Brains and Eggs (and the two experts) can be believed.  

    BossKitty at TruthHugger could not resist the significance of eye-opening events reinforcing climate change discussions along the east coast of the United States: URGENT: Impending Health Crisis After Sandy. And maybe the Tea-Publican mantra about "entitlements" can be redefined now: “Evil” Entitlements Soar As Hurricane Sandy Redraws America’s Map.  

    WCNews at Eye on Williamson says the problem with education is not how we finance it, it's poverty, in Poverty and Public Education.

    CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders why it is that when mail-in ballots are so heavy, voters must be reassured that they will be delivered regardless of postage.

    Neil at Texas Liberal wrote that Texas House District 134 Republican incumbent Sarah Davis is a Tea Party extremist. Neil sure hopes that Ms. Davis will lose this Tuesday to Democrat Ann Johnson.

    Day-before developments

    -- and Drudge riled up the local True the Vote pasty thugs with this.

    Friday afternoon at an early polling place located at 6719 W. Montgomery Road in Houston, NAACP members were seen advocating for President Barack Obama according to volunteer poll watchers on location at the time.

    According to Eve Rockford, a poll watcher trained by voter integrity group True the Vote, three NAACP members showed up to the 139 precinct location with 50 cases of bottled water and began handing bottles out to people standing in line. While wearing NAACP labeled clothing, members were "stirring the crowd" and talking to voters about flying to Ohio to promote President Barack Obama.

    The Houston Chronicle reported the following on Sunday.

    A disturbance at the busy Acres Homes early voting location Friday night was related to representatives of the NAACP protesting long wait times for disabled voters, county officials said Sunday.

    An article on the website, linked on the widely read Drudge Report, stated that people wearing NAACP shirts "took over" the Acres Homes polling place, electioneering and voicing support for President Barack Obama while poll workers "did nothing."

    Assistant County Attorney Doug Ray disputed that account.

     "It wasn't like they were taking control of the place. It wasn't like we did nothing about it. That's just not true at all," Ray said. 

    You can read more about the he said/she said bullshit at the link (and don't miss the comments). Here's Rep. Sylvester Turner's account, via Carl Whitmarsh's e-list.

    On Friday, the last day of early polling, I received several calls from people at the Acres Homes Multi-Service Center that seniors and disabled persons who were not physically able to walk and stand in the voting line and who requested a portable voting machine be brought to their cars were told to go to another voting location or come inside because the clerks were too busy. I had my chief of staff call the Secretary of State's office for them to advise those persons at the Acres Home Multii-service Center that the law required them to offer curb-side service to those persons unable to come inside to vote. Once I got there, I was also told that poll watchers with True the Vote raised complaints about persons wearing NAACP shirts being inside the polls giving people water and assisting those elderly persons who did come inside. The True the Vote poll watchers argued that the NAACP was a political organization that endorsed candidates and demanded that they remove or cover up their shirts.

    Those of you familiar with the NAACP know that it has never endorsed political candidates and neither were the persons at the center advocating for any candidate or party. These so-called poll watchers also had problems with me being outside talking to voters. True the Vote is a political entity with a political agenda who has trained individuals to come into areas like Acres Homes, in my district, to attempt to intimidate and harass voters be they young or old.

    Tuesday is the final day to vote. I am asking voters in Acres Homes and across Harris County to exercise your democratic right to vote and not allow anyone to intimidate or prevent you from voting. 

    And so it goes...

    Update: Isiah Carey reports that the HCGOP has filed suit. This should be as much fun as Gerry Birnberg's attempt to get Lloyd Oliver off the Harris County ballot.

    -- Mailed ballots are likely to be 2012's hanging chads.

    Sloppy signatures on mail-in ballots might prove to be the hanging chads of the 2012 election.
    As Republicans and Democrats raise alarms about potential voter fraud and voter suppression, mail-in ballots have boomed as an uncontroversial form of convenient, inexpensive voting.

    In the critical swing states of Ohio and Florida, more than a fifth of voters chose the mail-in option 2010. In Colorado, another battleground, the number was nearly two-thirds.
    But there may be controversy to come. For a variety of reasons, mail-in ballots are much more likely to be rejected than conventional, in-person votes.

    With the razor-close presidential election Tuesday between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney potentially riding on a few tens of thousands of votes in a handful of states, the election could be decided by election officials' judgments about mail-in ballot signatures.

    "You would worry that in Florida, in particular, the new hanging chad becomes whether you count this absentee ballot or not based on whether the signature is right," said Charles Stewart III, co-director of the Voting Technology Project and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor.

    I have a personal account about this to share.

    I was appointed by the Harris County Green Party to serve on the Early Voting Ballot Board last month, but the presiding judge (a Democrat) had me (and other Greens) removed in a parliamentary procedure. He called a vote on our fitness to serve based on the fact that we voted in the Democratic primary. When the County Clerk informed him that the Texas Election Code deemed that procedure illegal, the presiding judge resorted to having us dismissed because there "wasn't enough work for us to be needed".

    You may recall that I mentioned Charles Kuffner's (and the County Clerk's) numbers here for Harris County mailed ballots: a total in excess of 66,000, almost 14,000 more than in 2008. That's as of last Friday; more are arriving in the mail over the weekend, today, and tomorrow. The ballot board's charge is to have these all counted by Election Day. Some ballots arrive afterwards and are added in the final canvass, but all votes arriving before ED must be counted by ED.

    Normally an EVBB judge like myself would be bound by oath not to reveal deliberations of the board like this. The reason I am writing about it is because the presiding judge neglected to have me sworn in.

    I'll have more to say about this in the future, but it's going to have to wind its way through a handful of lawyers first.

    -- On a last and lighter note, here's a slideshow of some of the memes of the 2012 campaign. They left several out IMHO so it's hard to pick a favorite among these, but I'll go with this...

    Sunday, November 04, 2012

    Johnson, Stein, Goode, and Anderson debate tonight

    The candidates from four political parties – Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Jill Stein (Green), Virgil Goode (Constitution) and Rocky Anderson (Justice) – will meet for a two-hour debate on Sunday, November 4, 6:30 p.m. CDT in Washington, DC.

    The debate will be moderated by Ralph Nader, and will focus on subjects and issues that have largely been ignored or avoided, as they are too controversial, by the 2012 Republican and Democratic presidential candidates.

    The mere mention of Ralph Nader should set blue partisans to grinding their teeth. You are invited to stop doing that.

    Watch this debate tonight on the Green Party's streaming channel, or below.

    Watch live streaming video from greenpartyus at

    You may also watch Stein and Johnson again tomorrow night, Monday November 5, at the Free and Debate, beginning at 8 p.m. Central time, at Free and Equal's website, Free Speech TV, Stitcher, Orion Radio Network,Yes Magazine, NextNewsNetwork, RT America’s YouTube channel, American Free Press, and UK-based Reciva Internet Radio. Political correspondents gathered in advance of that debate (7 p.m. Central) for discussion include Thom Hartmann, Sam Seder, and others.

    Update: Watch the Stein-Johnson debate from Monday night below.

    Closing Argument Funnies


    Harris County, you sexy in purple. Charles gets to go first...

    I have the in person total at 700,216, the total that was on the daily record of early voting that Kim sends out. In 2008, the in person total was 678,312, so the in person early vote total was 3.2% higher this year. There were also 66,310 mail ballots returned out of 92,290 sent (71.8% return rate) versus 52,502 ballots returned out of 76,187 mailed in 2008 (68.9% return rate).

    Remember that Democrats usually perform batter at in-person turnout while Republicans get more mailed ballots.

    What does this mean for final turnout? In 2008, a bit less than 62% of all ballots were cast as of the end of early voting. If the exact same percentage of ballots were cast early or via mail this year, final turnout will be over 1.24 million – 1,246,819, to be ridiculously precise. 

    That will still be a little higher than 2008. Everyone remembers how 2008 turned out locally, right? Now Greg...

    Based on every available metric I’m seeing, the opening bell for Harris County should be as close as close gets. That will take into consideration both Early In-Person and Mail-In ballots. It almost goes without saying that this comes down to how successful each side is on E-Day. Almost, because in 2008, it was over by this time.


    Whether you believe E-Day bodes well for you depends on whether you think the new normal will look like 2008, when Dems banked two-thirds of their vote before Election Day … or just about every year prior to 2008, when Dems typically got a little bit of a boost on E-Day.

    By all appearances, the GOP did a better job this cycle of catching up and even surpassing Dems in EV GOTV. But for all that improvement, the game is still essentially tied going into the 9th inning. 

    I read this as cautious optimism on the part of these two go-to-guys for this sort of thing. But it's still tight as a tick, and if all of these Obama supporters will stop calling Ohio and start calling their neighbors in their respective precincts and Texas House districts, everyone will be happy on Wednesday morning. Particularly Harris County judicial candidates.

    For the past couple of months I have received three e-mails a day from Barack Obama asking me for $3. On Friday I cleaned about eight messages to that effect out of the in-box, and went to dinner. When I got home 2 1/2 hours later, I had four more.

    I am more than ready for that pan-handling, stalking bullshit to stop.