Monday, December 31, 2012

Last of the 2012 Wrangles

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year as it brings you this week's roundup.

The filing deadline has passed for the special election in SD06, and Off the Kuff discusses the eight candidates that have filed to run in that race.

Texas' budget decisions have always been made with what is best for corporations, big business, and the wealthy at the top of the list. WCNews at Eye on Williamson says it's time we had a budget in Texas that puts the people of Texas first.  

BossKitty at TruthHugger is relieved that this years is over: Good Riddance 2012.

The race to replace the late Sen. Mario Gallegos in the Texas Senate will have eight contestants. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs prognosticates.

Neil at Texas Liberal wrote about the silly Merry Christmas bill proposed by Texas state Rep. Dwayne Bohac. If Christmas and Jesus need a boost even here in Texas, then is it really Dwayne Bohac who will be coming to the rescue?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Eight for SD-6

Four Democrats, two Republicans, one Green, and one 'I'm not telling'.

Sylvia Garcia, Carol Alvarado, Joaquin Martinez, and real estate broker Susan Delgado (who ran third in the '08 general election as a Libertarian against Mario Gallegos) are the Ds. RW Bray and Dorothy Olmos are the Rs. Maria Selva is the G, and Rudy Reyes left the party affiliation space blank on his application.

As Charles has already pointed out, Selva has the wrong election date on her site*. Olmos needs to update her webpage for this contest (it shows her campaign for SBOE in the last cycle).

I would continue to handicap this contest with Garcia and Bray most likely to make a runoff. Garcia, for her aggressive out-of-the-gate effort and a million-dollar campaign budget; Bray for having been on SD-6 voters' ballot seven weeks ago and earning 29% in the process. That's not meant to discount the campaign of Alvarado, who has a puncher's chance against Garcia in this scrum for the second round. With 71% of Gallegos' re-election vote divided unequally among four, Bray challenged with a conservative Latina option for those so inclined, and Selva and Reyes (apparently) making an appeal to independents, the open primary will be difficult to predict.

Like all specials, this one will be about the ground game. Whoever can mobilize their supporters to turn out in 30 days will move on to February, where the Democrat is likely to prevail.


Alvarado declares for SD-6

Sylvia Garcia jumps in 

No Noriega(s) for SD-6 *with updates

Governor finally calls SD-6 special election 

Update: Charles thinks there will be a runoff between Alvarado and Garcia. I don't necessarily disagree with his premise as I interpret it -- that conservatives don't have much reason to turn out in the first round -- but I think some of RW Bray's support in November could have come from African-American Dems crossing over to vote for one of their own. A case can be made that twenty-nine percent of a protest vote against a deceased candidate is a good thing... or a bad thing. The bottom line is that SD-6 is solidly Democratic, and they'll either send a slightly conservative one (Garcia) or a more liberal one (Alvarado) to the Senate. If both make the runoff, it's going to get brutal.

*Now corrected.

Update II (Monday 12/31): Stace has Joaquin Martinez' snapshot of the ballot positions.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Salon's media hack list

They get a few wrong -- like the Atlantic, MSNBC, and Andy Borowitz -- but generally this assembly is definitive of why you should stop watching, reading, and listening. Here, let's check #4, the Sunday Talking Heads...

Every Sunday morning, the big four broadcast networks all air their FCC-mandated “public affairs” programming, which consists of a host (a white guy) interviewing the same dozen lawmakers, journalists and pundits in a rotating order. The lawmakers are usually not the most powerful members of Congress — often they’re somewhat marginal figures in terms of influence, in fact — and the pundits and journalists all generally share the same, or very similar, worldviews. The only people I actually know who watch these things do so out of professional obligation.

But people watch these shows. Millions of people. More people watch “Meet the Press” than “The Daily Show.” Most of those people are quite old, but it’s still the case that a significant portion of the American people are learning the contours of the great public debates of our time from David Gregory interviewing Lindsey Graham.

Maybe the DC police will bust Gregory for possession of a high-capacity magazine. The frying pan/fire progression means we'd probably get Luke Russert, however.

Press the Meat is only on in my house if Rachel Maddow makes the panel, which is too rarely. I only watch Facepalm the Nation because it comes on after CBS Sunday Morning, the only thing worth watching on Sunday mornings. This Weak with George Snuffleluffagus is simply hideous. I usually go back to Chris Hayes and Melissa Harris-Perry if I need to have some chattering in the background. MSNBC's breakfast television frequently has some intelligent conversation happening.

Number One on Salon's list is Politicko. That's dead solid perfect. Now you may be asking yourself, "what about Fox"? Well, Fox no longer qualifies as media.

I considered putting off my 2013 New Year's resolutions until 2014 (because I kinda feel like being an asshole for another year) but I am most certainly going to watch less of all the above, starting yesterday.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A slow boat to nowhere

If you haven't read this New York Magazine report of the National Review's post-election cruise, it's worth every bit of your time. Here's a few excerpts to whet your tastebuds.

The whole thing was white, and broken, that much was clear. A week after the presidential election, when the dreams of Republicans were dashed with President Barack Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney, we were snorkeling in the blue waters of the Caribbean. In the distance was a shipwreck. “You could make out the pieces of it,” said Ralph Reed, the right-wing political operator who had bolstered the Evangelical Christian vote for Romney. “It was deep and murky.”


The cruise, featuring the star columnists of William Buckley’s 57-year-old conservative biweekly, had been planned long in advance, and everybody had believed it would be a victory party. An ­e-mail from the magazine’s publisher arrived a few days before we embarked: “Do not despair or fret. At least not next week.”

Onboard the Nieuw Amsterdam, no one could follow his advice. “Who sent Obama here to destroy America?” a fiftysomething woman asked me one evening over dinner, as if it were a perfectly reasonable question. 

Just when I thought I had gotten all the schadenfreude out of my system... they pull me back in.

After drinks, we moved to the Manhattan Dining Room, an elegant two-story restaurant at the ship’s stern, where we would meet each evening, tabled with a different assortment of cruisers, sometimes hosted by writers and pundits from the National Review. Kevin Hassett, a former economic adviser to Mitt Romney, hosted my table of eight that night, arriving in a bright-green golf shirt and rimless glasses. He announced that this would be a “family” conversation in which he was the moderator. 


Hassett, with an oddly cheerful, Oh-What-My-Country-Has-Done-Now mien, predicted economic doom under Obama, the most likely scenario being another Great Depression, which would make 2008 look like a joyride.

That prompted a tall, extremely tanned blonde named Kay, from Old Greenwich, Connecticut, to ask Hassett, the co-­author of the 1999 book Dow 36,000, “So what do we do with our money?”

He recommended investing in real estate in another country, maybe in Central America somewhere. A woman to Kay’s right wrinkled her nose: How about a Western country? “Okay, if Europe is what you want, go to Poland,” he said optimistically. “Go to Krakow, buy a house for $50,000, and it’s going to be like Paris in a few years.”

As we drained the Pinot Noir, Hassett gave his audience the insider’s view of the Romney campaign, describing how its election-monitoring software crashed on November 6 and Obama was probably behind it, “because those guys are so evil.”

The table grumbled in assent.

“The thing we have to understand is, these are people who don’t have any morals,” said Hassett. “They’ll do anything. I’m one of their No. 1 targets. I mean, they really want me bad.”

“Well, you’re safe on this ship!” said Bobbie boldly.

Then Hassett pivoted to the liberal media. “I actually think that Goebbels was more critical of Hitler than the New York Times is of Obama,” said Hassett, tucking into a piece of strudel. “I was in the middle of the fight against the propaganda, and I have stories like you wouldn’t believe. These people are so evil. They’re basically Fascists. It’s unbelievable.” 

Read the whole thing. They don't get it (and they're still mad about it), and they're not ever going to get it.

Monday, December 24, 2012

T'was-the-day-before Wrangle

... and all through the blogosphere, not a creature was stirring. So here's the roundup from the best of the Texas Progressive Alliance from last week.

Off the Kuff discusses where the redistricting and voter ID lawsuits stand with the Supreme Court.

BossKitty at TruthHugger enjoyed a fiery sunrise on Apocalypse Morning. But the Sunday morning talk shows laid the cat's ears back in anger; she has a few NRA Whack-A-Mole Questions.
WCNews at Eye on Williamson says that Rick Perry and the wingnuts' latest privatization scheme to be exposed is just the latest instance of the scam that's always been there for everyone to see.

The legal and moral justification for homophobia, as expressed by Father and Son Scalia, is relayed by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know that the odious Aaron Peña is an official sellout and Rick Perry is no longer universally loved by the Tea Party.

With Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina set to become the fifth Black post-reconstruction U.S. Senator, Neil at Texas Liberal posted photos and links about Mr. Scott and the four who came before him.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The legal and moral justification for homophobia

As related to us by the Scalias, Antonin and his son Paul. First, the father...

Now that the Supreme Court will be weighing in on the issue of same-sex marriage, the Justices’ biases on the basic principles of sexual orientation are under scrutiny — none perhaps moreso than Justice Antonin Scalia. Recently, he defended his comparison between homosexuality and murder, arguing simply that either can be morally condemned. He obtusely couldn’t understand why the gay Princeton student who asked the question wasn’t convinced by his response.

More on this exchange.

The quotations from Scalia opinions that so dismayed  Princeton freshman Duncan Hosie all referred to homosexual conduct. For example, in a 1996 case the majority of the court held that voters in Colorado had exhibited “animus” toward gays by making it impossible for the state or municipalities to pass laws protecting them from discrimination. Scalia responded: “I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible — murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals — and could exhibit even 'animus' toward such conduct."   In his dissent Scalia did refer to “homosexuals” (he assiduously avoided the word “gay” except in quoted material), but he used that term interchangeably with “those who engage in homosexual conduct.”

And what of the notion of "sexual orientation"? Scalia did acknowledge in his Colorado opinion that such a thing might exist. For example, he wrote that it was permissible for states to criminalize homosexual conduct  (as it was in 1996) "surely it is rational to deny special favor and protection to those with a self avowed tendency or desire to engage in the conduct. In the next sentence he suggests that "'homosexual-orientation' is an acceptable stand-in for homosexual conduct."

And now the son.

Insights into Scalia’s understanding of homosexuality (or lack thereof) can perhaps be found through his son, Rev. Paul Scalia, a Catholic priest in Arlington, Virginia. The younger Scalia has worked with the Church’s Courage ministry, which promotes “chastity” for gay Catholics using principles from ex-gay therapy. He has also spoken openly on the topic, and though he’s proven quite capable of reiterating the Church’s anti-gay teachings, a 2005 article reveals just how distorted the family’s view on homosexuality may be.

You need to go on over there, or you can click this link. Once you have taken in as much of that as you can stomach, continue here.

Contrast  the Scalias’ approach to this passage in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in the 2003 case of Lawrence vs. Texas, which overturned a Texas law against same-sex sodomy. Kennedy wrote:  “The case does involve two adults who, with full and mutual consent from each other, engaged in sexual practices common to a homosexual lifestyle. The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.” Some gay activists blanched at Kennedy’s use of the term “homosexual lifestyle,” but applauded his larger point: that what was at issue was the lives of gays and lesbians, not isolated sexual acts.

Scalia dissented in that case, too, arguing that Texas’ sodomy law “seeks to further the belief of its citizens that certain forms of sexual behavior are 'immoral and unacceptable' — the same interest furthered by criminal laws against fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality, and obscenity."

The conventional interpretation of  Scalia’s opinions in gay-rights cases is that he doesn’t like gays; but maybe the more accurate gloss is that he doesn’t believe they exist -- except when they are engaging in (or thinking about) "immoral and unacceptable" sexual acts.

And then finish at the original with this.

For the Scalias, moral condemnation of homosexuality is just assumed, and the consequences of that judgment are par for the course. The consequences of family rejection for LGBT youth have been thoroughly documented, but for these men, rejecting “homosexual inclination” takes priority. Rev. Scalia relies on genetic uncertainty to conclude that homosexuality is not a “fixed, inborn orientation,” even though science does not doubt that is exactly how sexual orientation presents, regardless of its causes. He seeks to reject people for something that is wholly part of who they are and how they will lead their lives, ignoring that such an approach unquestioningly deprives them of life’s most basic sources of happiness and support: a loving partner and the opportunity to raise a family.

The phenomenon of “coming out” only exists because a culture that shuns homosexuality has demanded gay invisibility. The concept of “gay pride” came about not as flamboyant flaunting, but to counter the expectation of “gay shame.” These unique aspects to gay identities reflect the consequences of condemnation, not an impetus for them. Moral condemnation is not inherent; in the court of law, it must be justified beyond tradition and religious belief. Unfortunately, it seems Justice Scalia is not interested in such intellectual justice.

So by my reading, homosexuality -- according to the Scalias -- is an 'urge', i.e. a choice; since it is a sin against God's law it is also a sin against man's; and no serious thinker can disagree with that. (It is worth noting that no less serious a thinker than Gore Vidal advanced a similar premise, albeit without the moral judgment.)

These religious interpretations, followed by constructing premises based upon the foundation of conservative Christian values -- dogma, in other words -- is what leads to less serious thinkers saying things like "Life is God's gift to women, and so by extension is a fertilized egg as byproduct of rape or incest."

When science is dismissed in favor of faith, the rationale for any argument collapses. But the comforting fallback for those less serious thinking folks is always some version of 'what does the Bible say'. This makes as much sense to me as watching one television news network, one which only reinforces your prevailing point of view, never engaging one in critical thinking, never prompting a question as to whether the thoughts involved might be misguided.

The very definition and practice of ignorance (and a few other things).

Sunday Funnies

"Today House Speaker John Boehner struck back with his plan to cut spending by demanding Obama come up with Boehner's plan to cut spending."

-- Stephen Colbert
"The U.S. Census Bureau says that by the year 2043 white people will be in the minority in the United States. By that time, the country will be 15 percent black, 31 percent Hispanic, and 1 percent Republican." 
-- Jay Leno

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The powerful delusions of Wayne LaPierre

As I suspected, he didn't disappoint. I'm now convinced that the head of the NRA couldn't pass a mental health background check to purchase a firearm.

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association will forever now be known as America’s maddest gunman.

 In style and substance, his performance Friday in delivering his organization’s response to the Newtown massacre revealed the obsessive, lunatic paranoia behind its worship of firearms.

A week after a gunman armed with an assault rifle murdered 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, and ever so shortly after the bells there tolled for the dead, LaPierre lashed out at everyone and everything but the weapons that were used to kill.

Still worse, in his arrogance and in his sense that terrible forces are out to get him, LaPierre was callous to the raw agony of the families of the slain. The hell with them — he made clear that he will fight to maintain the easy availability of assault weaponry of the kind that killed their kids.

He said at least four things that could easily be applied to himself and the NRA members and anybody else that agrees with him.

1. "[O]ur society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them."

2. "How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame — from a national media machine that rewards them with the wall-to-wall attention and sense of identity that they crave."

3. "There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people."

4. "Isn't fantasizing about killing people as away to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?"

Even people who grew up with guns -- a West Texas Girl, in this case -- understand what the problem is. The polling bears this out. Americans want calm, serious regulations on firearms. Hyperventilating about the second half of the Second Amendment is stunted psychologically and thus increasingly threatening and dangerous -- a description that sadly fits the Sandy Hook shooter, Adam Lanza.

Let's disregard the ludicrousness of LaPierre's call for armed guards in schools. Unless the NRA will be funding the mandate -- or Grover Norquist concedes a tax increase -- there's no money for it; we can't even afford enough teachers as it is (we're broke, remember?). Houston ISD already has police in schools here, and a small town in North Texas has been arming its teachers for the last five years. Columbine had an armed guard; it's obvious how effective that turned out to be. Evidence also indicates that children don't feel safe as a result and the crime deterrent is negligible.

That fever dream onstage yesterday was the result of a week spent in self-imposed isolation. LaPierre blamed everything he could think of (video games, Oliver Stone movies, the media) for the carnage in Newtown -- but not the mall shooting a few days before, and not the gun deaths since. We got an unwelcome glimpse into the mind of the man who has more Congresscritters by the short hairs than Norquist. The mind of a lunatic.

The only person's guns I want taken away right this instant are Wayne LaPierre's. He's clearly unstable.

Update: LaPierre a "lobbyist for mass murderers" and "a desperate, cornered rat".

Friday, December 21, 2012

And I feel fine.

My-Wayan Apocalypse

Cry it out, bitch.

In a stinging setback for Republican House Speaker John Boehner, a lack of support from inside his own party for his “fiscal cliff” fall-back plan forced him late Thursday to cancel a much-trumpeted vote on the measure.
“The House did not take up the tax measure today because it did not have sufficient support from our members to pass,” Boehner said in a written statement released after an emergency meeting of House Republicans.

The measure, dubbed “Plan B,” would have let Bush-era tax cuts expire on income above $1 million annually, while extending them for everyone else. It appeared that Boehner faced a rebellion from conservatives opposed to any tax hike, while House Democrats starved the bill of their support, making passage impossible.

Dude's probably up to four packs a day. Fiscal Slip-n-Slide, here we come!

Boehner’s dramatic defeat cast fresh doubt on efforts to avert the “fiscal cliff” and spare Americans across-the-board income tax hikes come Jan. 1. Those increases, coupled with deep automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect the same day, could plunge the fragile economy into a new recession. Talks between the speaker and President Barack Obama were at a stalemate, according to aides on both sides.

After the cancellation of the vote, Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced on Twitter the House "has concluded legislative business for the week. The House will return after the Christmas holiday when needed."

Merry Christmas Happy Holidays, Republicans. Hope Santa drops a lump of coal in your stocking.

Update: Upon further review, this might be the rending asunder of the GOTP we've all been waiting for...

Plan B fiasco leaves GOP lost, divided, and weak
As a simple matter of arithmetic, if House Republicans aren't prepared to follow their own leadership and support a list of right-wing goodies, Boehner and the rest of the GOP leadership must realize that the road to 218 votes runs through the Democratic caucus -- if the Speaker can't pass a bill with his own side's support, he's going to need Nancy Pelosi's help.

Since Boehner has already deliberately blown up his talks with the White House, it will be very tough for the Speaker to give Obama a sheepish call, saying, "Maybe we can give this another shot?" The more likely scenario is that the president will have to quickly begin a very different set of discussions: finding a bill that can generate bipartisan support in the Senate, satisfies Pelosi and House Dems, and can generate the support of a couple dozen House Republicans.

All of this will have to happen, of course, over the course of about 10 days -- two of which are Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Last night, House GOP leaders also announced they're leaving town, possibly to return next week. After last night, there was no real point in them sticking around, anyway.

Scarborough chides fellow GOPers: ‘Extreme’ stances led to worst ‘disarray’ since Nixon resignation
“I want my Republican brothers and sisters who have taken exception to some of the things I’ve said over the past year about us going in the wrong direction as a party — offending swing voters, offending the middle class — I want you to look at those numbers and just breathe them in,” Scarborough said. The party is in a “sorry state,” he added.

He then went on to hit Republican leaders for their “complete, utter silence” on key issues following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He asked: Is this the party of assault weapons or lower taxes? Contraception wars or balanced budgets?

“This party has painted itself into an extreme corner by going down all these various rabbit trails that have nothing to do with our core of who we are as a party of small government,” Scarborough argued. “I can’t think of any time the Republican Party, my Republican Party, has been in such disarray — since 1974 after Richard Nixon resigned.”

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Can't decide what to be most mad about this week.

I'm not only referring to Obama's capitulation on Social Security, either. Socratic Gadfly has that topic well-managed. No, this...

We've covered how President Obama needs the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to justify detention powers he has used for the past four years, but there's another reason he needs it: drones.

At the heart of both issues is the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which gives the president authority "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those ... [who] aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 or harbored such organizations or persons."

Just go read it. But this development is equally pathetic.

Congress stripped a provision Tuesday from a defense bill that aimed to shield Americans from the possibility of being imprisoned indefinitely without trial by the military. The provision was replaced with a passage that appears to give citizens little protection from indefinite detention.

The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 was added by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), but there was no similar language in the version of the bill that passed the House, and it was dumped from the final bill released Tuesday after a conference committee from both chambers worked out a unified measure.

Maybe you got that email this morning from Feinstein asking for your help on the assault weapons ban? If you needed a coup de grace, here it is:

According to the new HuffPost/YouGov survey, only 25 percent of Americans said that torture of suspected terrorists who may know details about future attacks is never justified. Nineteen percent said it is always justified, 28 percent said it is sometimes justified, and 16 percent said it is rarely justified. The 41 percent of respondents who said torture is rarely or never justified are outnumbered by the 47 percent who said it is always or sometimes justified.

That "sometimes justified" number will go up after the public gets a few views of Zero Dark Thirty under its belt. Note how Feinstein gets mentioned again there.

So, to recap, my options for outrage are: a) Obama -- and Pelosi -- raising the eligibility age reducing benefits for Social Security; b) Obama signing off on NDAA so that he has legal justification for using drones on Americans; and c) Obama signing NDAA in order to have legal justification to indefinitely detain American citizens.

It would be simple to lament living in a state that already arms teachers at elementary schools, has a populace that chooses to fault Hollywood, video games, and/or the lack of prayer in public schools for shooting massacres -- instead of the obvious proliferation of assault weapons combined with the lowest expenditures in mental health treatment --, finds an easy rationalization for torture at the movies (Hollywood redeemed!), and has a state police force with no qualms about performing body cavity searches of women on the side of the road. But that would be a little too comfortable.

Maybe I'll just wait until the NRA holds its press conference tomorrow and see what fresh bullshit falls out of Wayne LaPierre's mouth. That might very well be the Conservative Douchbaggery of the Week.

Yeah, that's the ticket. I'll just watch Republicans play "Top THIS" for outrageous ignorance. You know that nobody is going to just let Louie Gohmert win for last Sunday.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fuck the NRA

You might think that “spokesman for the National Rifle Association” is the toughest job in PR. You might be wrong. At least once a year, and several times in bad years, reporters reach out to the NRA’s Andrew Arulanandam and ask him whether the gun lobby has anything to say about the latest massacre. Arulanandam says basically the same thing, every time.

After the April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech shootings that killed 32 people: “The NRA joins the entire country in expressing our deepest condolences to the families of Virginia Tech University and everyone else affected by this horrible tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families.”

After the Feb. 14, 2008, shootings at Northern Illinois University that killed six: “We think it is poor form for a politician or a special interest group to try to push a legislative agenda on the back of any tragedy. Now is the time for the Northern Illinois University community to grieve and to heal. We believe there is adequate time down the road to debate policy and politics."
After the April 3, 2009, massacre at a Binghamton, N.Y., immigration center that killed 13: “Now is not the time to debate politics or discuss policy. It's time for the families and communities to grieve.”

After the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting spree that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed six: “At this time, anything other than prayers for the victims and their families would be inappropriate.”
After the July 20, 2012, massacre at an Aurora, Colo., theater that left 12 dead and 58 wounded: “We believe that now is the time for families to grieve and for the community to heal. There will be an appropriate time down the road to engage in political and policy discussions.”

The “appropriate time” never arrives. It’s an ingenious communications strategy, one that removes the NRA from stories about the latest national outrages. When the outrage fades, the NRA returns in full flush. Just a week before the Newtown, Conn., shootings, Arulanandam told a reporter that the NRA was “planning for the worst” and had “told people to plan for gun bans and a Supreme Court stacked with anti-gun judges.”

So the NRA says publicly "pray for the victims" ...and privately whispers to its members: "Obama's gon' come fer yer guns". What bravery.

Clue to the clueless: when even NRA members like Joe Manchin and Joe Scarborough say that it's time... it's time.

Sadly, the White House is still pussy-footing around.

When asked at Monday's press briefing about the gun lobby's influence on potential action, White House spokesman Jay Carney responded, without specifically mentioning that lobby, "I think we all recognize that this is a complex problem and there are obstacles to taking action coming from a variety of places. What the president hopes is that everyone steps back and looks at the situation that has to be addressed and thinks broadly and thoughtfully about how we can move forward."

Jay Carney, you will recall, parroted the NRA's "now is not the time" line in the immediate wake of the tragedy.  With fiscal incline talks at a delicate point, I doubt whether Obama is going to be using his bully pulpit half as effectively as James Dobson. Even after Gabby Giffords was nearly killed -- as several others were, including a member of her staff, a 9-year-old girl, and a federal judge -- the DOJ did not follow through on tightening up the loopholes associated with background checks because the 2012 election was coming.

The Giffords massacre happened in early 2011, almost two years before last month... and in the wake of the Tea Party shellacking in 2010. So there was no courage to be summoned for gun control no matter what.

That's despite the fact that much of the worst gun carnage in this country has occurred on Obama's watch. From this fascinating list of twelve, here's #4: of the 11 deadliest shootings in the US, five have happened since 2007. And that doesn’t include last Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. The death toll stands at 28, including the shooter and his mother, making it the second-deadliest mass shooting in US history.

And the NRA responds by taking its Facebook page down. Their response to Newtown -- just like their fellow travelers at Fox and elsewhere across the country -- is to hunker down. Ride the storm out. Wait to fight another day.

Fuck all of these cowardly so-called leaders. Every last one of them that refuses to take action to stop this bloodshed. If Australia can do it, why can't we?

Are the people of this great nation as worthy of brave politicians as the Aussies, or not?

The NRA is a pasty-faced domestic terror network -- you can't call them a cell when their cells are all over the country --  operating out in the open and thoroughly corrupting our legislative process. They need to be classified as domestic terrorists, and they need to be prosecuted as such.

Too bad nobody has the stones to do that, though.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance sends its deepest condolences to the people of Newtown as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff says that the voters have done a pretty good job of imposing term limits on the Legislature.  

BossKitty at TruthHugger asks when is enough enough? What is it with sick white boys?

Governor "Fetal Pain" finally called the special election in SD-6, and some candidates jumped in and some are staying out. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has the latest.

It's unlikely that the candidate of the"middle of the road" business/corporate interests for Texas House Speaker, aka Joe Straus, will lose. But Democrats should have some fun with the contest anyway: In race for Speaker, Democrats should stir the pot, says WCNews at Eye on Williamson.  

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme was surprised to find out that RedState hates Texans for Lawsuit Reform, too.

Neil at Texas Liberal wrote about the real St. Nicholas. He might have had a hard time in Texas as he was against the death penalty.

You can end Rick Perry's land grab.

As mentioned previously by BlueDaze...

Every twelve years, most Texas state agencies undergo a process called the sunset review, during which the public can weigh in on the performance of the agencies under review.

The Texas agency tasked with pipeline oversight -- the Texas Railroad Commission -- is currently under review, and Tar Sands Blockade is calling upon the Sunset Advisory Commission to demand the 83rd Texas Legislature provide immediate relief to property owners who have been bullied and defrauded by TransCanada and other pipeline companies through the Railroad Commission’s nonexistent oversight.

Tar Sands Blockade is collecting signatories to our statement below regarding Eminent Domain Abuse and Tar Sands Fraud to deliver them in person to the Sunset Advisory Commission’s Public Testimony hearing on Wednesday, December 19 in Austin, TX.

Please sign on to the following statement by filling out the short form here

Because as it stands, Rick Perry is coming after your land. The last time it was a giant toll road, this time it's a dirty-fuel pipeline, next time it will be one of those or maybe something else.

But he's coming for it. Unless you stop him, and you don't need a gun to do so.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Now is not the time.

It's too soon since the assassination of Abraham Lincoln to have a rational discussion about gun control in this country.

(H/T to Top Conservative Cat)

Please note that Nick Anderson's cartoon below was drawn almost two years ago. Here is his most recent, in response to yesterday's atrocity.

Why is it that conservatives don't believe that restricting handguns will deter killing, but restricting abortion will deter abortions? (H/T)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Governor finally calls SD-6 special election

For Saturday, January 26, with the filing deadline on December 27 and the early voting period from January 9-22, per Harvey. The Chron reveals another contestant...

A fourth potential candidate, Rodolfo "Rudy" Reyes, said he intends to announce his candidacy on Friday.

That embedded link tells little about Reyes, but a cursory Google search turns up his website and curriculum vitae including a stint on the League City council. Reyes has no obvious political party affiliation that I can find. I suspicion he is a Democrat, which is going to make it even more likely that RW Bray -- who got 30% of the vote against Mario Gallegos a month ago -- and one of Sylvia Garcia, Carol Alvarado, Reyes, and Maria Selva make it to a runoff election. Tea Party Republican Bray may well lead the primary field, but there's no chance he wins a runoff.

Garcia laments in her response to this news that the seat will be vacant for "10% of the session", but I don't understand her math. It seems more like two months, or roughly a third of the 2013 legislative session (a runoff election can't occur, by my calendar, before the end of February or first of March).

That's a legitimate concern with the Senate having one less Democratic vote, giving Republicans a two-thirds majority. So until someone gets sworn in, the Senate can pass whatever it likes -- vouchers, "fetal pain", etc. That one vote (previously regarded as Wendy Davis of Fort Worth) barely kept the 2011 session from being more egregious than it already was.

If you wondered why Rick Perry slow-walked this, that's why.

Susan Rice, John Kerry, and Chuck Hagel

Rice withdraws.

"If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly—to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities," Rice wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama, NBC News first reported.

Good. The hell with that crony capitalist.

But the new Secretary of State won't be John Kerry, and not because Democrats don't want Scott Brown 2.0. It's probably because Kerry would be unlikely to sign off on Keystone XL.

“No senator since Al Gore knows as much about the science and diplomacy of climate change as Kerry,” said David Goldwyn, an international energy consultant who served as Clinton’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs. “He would not only put climate change in the top five issues he raises with every country, but he would probably rethink our entire diplomatic approach to the issue.”

When I saw Kerry speak here in 2007 on his book tour for This Moment on Earth, it was obvious that he gets it with respect to climate change. He and Obama do not agree that "all of the above" is necessary for what is no longer being called energy independence but energy security.

Nope, the FNG is going to be ... another Republican. Because, you know, Democrats are doves and shit.

Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has emerged as the leading candidate to become Obama’s next Secretary of Defense and may be nominated as soon as this month, according to two people familiar with the matter. 


Update: Yes, I know the difference between Defense and State... and yes, conflated the two here. But since John Kerry is going to get the job, and he's the guy I wanted all along... I still win. But I'll leave the following grafs in so you can read them and and know that I occasionally get something wrong. Hey, you already know not to believe everything you read on the internet, right?


So what if Obama looks like a pussy? No, seriously. I don't care how weak Obama appears, as if he folded to the conservative attacks on Rice or how much the Republicans gloat about it. The bad part is that Hagel is no friend of the environment.

To me, this deal has always been more about KXL and less about who might be best with their diplomatic skills to keep us out of another war. Hagel is a small bone to throw to the rabid-dog GOP who will look like hypocrites if they oppose one of their own.

Oh, wait...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Putting the 'con' in conservative

I thought I was over being fascinated with the blindingly ignorant state that is today's conservative specifically, and conservatism in general. I was mistaken.

For Democrats, the 2012 presidential campaign has produced some delicious ironies. For starters, Mitt Romney's share of the final vote will come in at a memorable 47 percent, the same figure he used to disparage half the electorate as self-described "victims" bought off by "free stuff" and "gifts" from President Obama.
But for pure schadenfreude, nothing approaches the cosmic payback of the Republicans' self-delusion on Election Day. That is, while most polling analysts predicted a comfortable Electoral College triumph for Barack Obama on Nov. 6, by all indications Team Romney and the GOP brain trust truly believed their own cooked-up numbers. That's what makes their subsequent shock and awe at Romney's crushing defeat all the more fitting. Because after years of slandering President Obama and misleading voters with myths about taxes, debt, health care, Iraq and so much else, on Election Day Republicans duped only themselves.

What follows is a not-too-lengthy treatise on the self-delusion, also known as the 'bubble', that burst on the night of November 6, 2012. (Personally, I prefer Reality Derangement Syndrome, because it's quite obvious that they have not learned anything from their beating.)

Yes, we know all this, and we're also aware that the corporate media mostly ignored the story of the lies and the cons and the scams the GOP perpetrated on the nation as well as itself, but that's still a story all its own.

"I can't recall a campaign where I've seen more lying going on -- and it wasn't symmetric," said (Norman) Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who's been tracking Congress with Mann since 1978.
Democrats were hardly innocent, he said, "but it seemed pretty clear to me that the Republican campaign was just far more over the top."
Lies from Republicans generally and standard bearer Mitt Romney in particular weren't limited to the occasional TV ads, either; the party's most central campaign principles -- that federal spending doesn't create jobs, that reducing taxes on the rich could create jobs and lower the deficit -- willfully disregarded the truth.
"It's the great unreported big story of American politics," Ornstein said. "If voters are going to be able to hold accountable political figures, they've got to know what's going on ... And if the story that you're telling repeatedly is that they're all to blame -- they're all equally to blame -- then you're really doing a disservice to voters, and not doing what journalism is supposed to do."

So what's really new here? Why, it's the realization that the Republicans really are only in it for the money, even when the scam is being run on their own. That -- going all the way back to folks like Richard Viguerie and Ralph Reed and especially Pat Robertson -- the conservative movement has never actually been about running government but owning a profitable franchise based on fleecing the gullible. And the most gullible have in recent years trended toward the older, the poorly informed... in other words, the average Fox viewer.

You have to watch the following segment from Rachel Maddow to pull it all together.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The only peoples' lives the conservative elite have ever wanted to help improve is their own, even -- perhaps especially -- at the expense of their political base. Disaster capitalism is practiced on their own kind, with efforts likely to intensify in the wake of their November shellacking. Even the industry that is cancer research is not immune to the maximization of profit for one's cronies.

The con jobs are prevalent and rapacious; the coming Texas legislative initiative to privatize public education -- coordinated by Dan Patrick and Michael Williams -- looks like child's play in comparison. Well, almost.

There will simply be no end to the greed and corruption of Republicans and conservatives using government for their own personal financial gain until enough people who vote for them begin to either wise up... or die off.

That, after all, is what's happening with the opponents of gay marriage and marijuana decriminalization, so there's hope for the future.

Update: Eye on Williamson with more, including some historical perspective on the phenomenon of conservative chain email fever dreams, running right up to the present day. Those bizarre conspiracy theories your uncle forwards you? A proud legacy that goes all the way back to the time when it was mostly dirty jokes that filled up your inbox.

Monday, December 10, 2012

No Noriega(s) for SD-6 *updated

The Colonel has opted out.

Rick Noriega, the former East Side state representative and 2008 Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator, has announced he will not seek the District 6 state senate seat left vacant by the posthumous reelection of Mario Gallegos.

In a letter dated Saturday, Noriega writes that after discussing the opportunity with his family, “the time is not right to take on this race, and the fundraising needed, for the Noriega family.” His wife, Melissa Noriega, is serving her final term on Houston City Council.

Though Noriega did not join the battle between former Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia and State Rep. Carol Alvarado, he did not refrain from commenting on the tone of the campaign. (Republican R.W. Bray, who took 29 percent of the November vote, also is running again.) 

I'll excerpt a smaller bit of Noriega's letter than the Chron did.

Senate District 6 needs leadership, not a bitter battle for a plum elected office. You, as leaders, need to challenge the candidates to rise above self interest and put forth plans that create real change, real opportunity in SD6. 

That's a most interesting challenge. It could be in response to Marc Campos, who has a poll from Bob Stein at Rice indicating his client, Carol Alvarado, is leading a head-to-head matchup with a certain former Harris County commissioner. I'm hearing that there's a lot of back-channel rumor mongering and sniping, but haven't heard any directly.

Update (Tuesday 12/11): So much for that. Despite Noriega's call for civility, the gloves are off. Garcia fired this salvo and Alvarado promptly threw this counterpunch.

Charles had this letter last Friday Saturday, and Robert Miller weighed in today with his prediction on the date of the special election: Saturday, January 26. We'll see if the governor goes along.

There is also a Green candidate running in the special: Maria Selva, who stood against US Rep. Gene Green of CD-29 in the last cycle and garnered just under 9%.

I lunched Friday before last with Sylvia Garcia and her team and a few other bloggers and will have a post about that later. Big Jolly and Stace have some additional thoughts that include the word 'negative'.

More developments to follow in the next few weeks.

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is waiting for Rick Perry to call the special election in SD-6 as it brings you this week's roundup.

Even though the economy in Texas has improved, the next legislative session will be very similar to the last. WCNews at Eye on Williamson has this take: Thoughts on the upcoming session.  

BossKitty at TruthHugger knows Texas is still among the United States of America ... until further notice. The DOHA COP-18 Conference established a legally-binding plan for combating global warming. The big players, the US (including Texas), the EU and China accepted the agreement with varying degrees of reservation. They have stopped short of accepting responsibility for damage caused by climate change: Reluctance and Reality at DOHA Climate Change Conference.

 Off the Kuff notes the next step of the redistricting lawsuit has begun.

The legacy of Jack Brooks, who served southeast Texas in Congress for 42 years, is remembered by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.  

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know that the oligarchs have brought their propaganda outfit 'Fix the Debt' to Texas.

Neil at Texas Liberal noted that Houston mayor Annise Parker is forwarding possible incidents of misconduct by Houston police officers to the federal government for review. This oversight is welcome, as there have been a number of recent cases of Houston police either shooting or using significant levels of force on unarmed persons.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sunday Funnies

"A lot of dissension among conservatives. One of the leaders of the Tea Party has resigned after a major split in the movement. The Tea Party is now divided between angry whites and even angrier whites."
-- Conan O'Brien

Chris Cilizza on NBC News: "To vote for anything that is even perceived to be granting the U.N. power [like this United Nations Disabilities Treaty] is a dangerous game for a Republican senator, because the U.N. is so unpopular among the Republican base."

Jon Stewart: "It's official: Republicans hate the United Nations more than they like helping people in wheelchairs."
-- The Daily Show

"You've been warned, Harry Reid! Take away Mitch McConnell's filibuster and he will strike back by obstructing everything you do! Or let him keep the filibuster so he can obstruct everything you do!" 
 -- Stephen Colbert

Friday, December 07, 2012

The fiscal slope and you

First of all, it ain't no cliff.

But it might feel like a brick wall, especially for the working poor. This story by Tom Abrahams at ABC-13 does a good job of explaining things in layman's terms.

It means some Texans could pay as much as 44 percent of their income in taxes, and it could come from the four elements of the fiscal cliff:

  • The Medicare tax, which affects mostly wealthier taxpayers
  • The payroll tax, which affects everyone
  • The AMT, which impacts most taxpayers
  • The Bush cuts, which are set to expire


The Tax Policy Center says the increase ranges from a few hundred dollars for the working poor to thousands for the so-called middle class. The White House estimates here in Texas, 8.7 million middle-income earners will see an average increase of about $2,200.

"It could be your Catholic school tuition's payment for your child, so it's not a small amount of money," said Joe Birkhofer, a partner at Legacy Asset Management.

Birkhofer says the part of the cliff that impacts everyone is the expiring Bush tax cuts. "People in the lowest tax bracket, 10 percent, will go to 15 percent. And people in the highest tax bracket will go from 35 percent to 39.6 percent," Birkhofer said. At just 3 percent a year, that's the equivalent of no less than a tank of gas every two weeks.

"I don't think that's fair to pay 3 percent more. We all can't afford three percent more," Houston taxpayer Judy Madison said.

Then everyone can tack on another 2 percent -- the amount of the payroll tax holiday which, ends this year. It's money that goes to Social Security and Medicare.

"The problem is the money needs to go back into Social Security and Medicare, and there's not a lot of support on either side of Congress to make that tax holiday stay," Birkhofer said. Add that 2 percent to the pile, and you've lost money for your electricity bill every month.

 "And I don't have a lot of confidence that both sides are really eager to fix the problem," Houston taxpayer David Gaw said.

Then there's the alternative minimum tax, or the AMT, which needs adjusting every year or it costs millions of taxpayers millions of dollars. "It strips away deductions so that your tax rate is higher," Birkhofer said. Throw those away, and there go your groceries every week.

"I'm worried not about 3 to 5 percent but more about 10 to 15 percent," Houston taxpayer Christopher Barron said. 

Obama and the Democrats seem content to let the Republicans push the country off the cliff down the hill, as polling indicates the GOP gets most of the blame. Boehner is under pressure again from his right to stand his ground.

Informal polling suggests many Americans still aren't paying much attention, despite Abrahams' man-on-the-street interviews above. That is likely to change suddenly, when the first payday after the New Year takes the hit. People who aren't getting paychecks, of course -- that would be the very rich and the very poor -- won't notice much.

For vastly different reasons.

Washington legalizes weed and gay marriage

Scenes from a revolution.

At around 1:30am, Larry Duncan, 56, left, and Randy Shepherd, 48, from North Bend, Wash. got their marriage license. The two plan to wed on December 9th, the first day it is possible for them to wed in a church in Washington State. They have been together for 11 years. Originally from Dallas, Texas, they moved here 7 years ago because it's more gay friendly. Randy is a computer programer and Larry is a retired psychology nurse.

How long do you think it will be before Texas catches up?

Update: Charles thinks it will be a long time for one of the two.

Update II: Man- and woman-on-the-street interviews reveal some Texans' responses. One sample...
A lot of people’s lives in that state just got a whole lot better. Makes me sick.
-- Gillian Manifold, systems analyst

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Jack Brooks 1922 - 2012

Jack Brooks, an irascible, cigar-chomping former Texas congressman who over 42 years defied fellow Southerners to support civil rights, investigated abuses by Presidents Nixon and Reagan and repeatedly attacked government waste, down to the cost of wrenches, died on Tuesday night in Beaumont, Texas. He was 89.

This was my congressman, for as long as I can remember, growing up. In actuality he wasn't; we lived in the district next door, and my brother served as a page in DC for our actual representative, John Dowdy, in the late '60's. But even Charlie Wilson -- who succeeded Dowdy, and certainly in Wilson's early political career -- paled in comparison to Brooks. When I was in college in the late '70's, my fraternity hosted him as guest speaker. Long before I was a Democratic activist, I was a huge fan of Jack Brooks.

Brooks ascended to the legislative pantheon under the tutelage of two legendary Texas Democrats, House Speaker Sam Rayburn and Lyndon B. Johnson, both as a senator and as president, and became a swashbuckling Texas character in his own right. His politics were pro-labor, pro-gun, fiercely partisan and boldly unapologetic, particularly when it came to funneling federal funds to his East Texas district.

He played a supporting role in one of the most famous news photographs of the 20th century, that of President Johnson being sworn in as president on Air Force One in Dallas after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. Brooks, who had been in the presidential motorcade, stands behind Jacqueline Kennedy.

He had run Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign in his district, where Kennedy won by 40,000 votes. In October 1963, he was the only one of nine Southerners on the judiciary committee to vote for the Kennedy administration’s civil rights bill. When President Johnson took up the bill after Kennedy’s murder, Mr. Brooks was one of 11 out of 92 Southerners to vote for it on the House floor in 1964. 

Brooks was ousted from Congress in 1994, by Steve Stockman, among other reasons because he voted in favor of a crime bill that restricted sales of assault rifles. That's a story all its own; go back to the NYT link to read it.

This video of Lamar University history professor Robert Robertson compresses into a couple of minutes the legacy of Jack Brooks and his witness to the history of the Kennedy assassination and the civil rights movement.

If there were still any fighting Democrats around like Jack Brooks, I might not be a Green today.

Update: The Bayou...

This was back in…September.  I’m pretty sure.  September of 1992.  It was hotter than Hell that day.

Bill Clinton was running for president and he sent Senator Al Gore, his running mate, down here to Beaumont for a rally at Lamar University.

Both of the candidates were good-looking and Southern.


The youngest men I would remember in the White House after all of the “old men” who followed Nixon.  Something about all of them seemed so stiff and artificial.  Especially Reagan with his hair dye and Hollywood glitz.

Poor Senator Gore was sweating like a pig.  He kept wiping at his brow with a handkerchief and he finally had to take his jacket off.

Gore was introduced by the giants of Southeast Texas politics.  Carl Parker, Charlie Wilson and Jack Brooks.  He didn’t hold a candle to them.  The ‘wonkishness’ that became more exaggerated as he moved up in politics and got older was evident.  He was boring.  But who wouldn’t be after such a grand display local of wit and charm.