Friday, October 31, 2014

It's coming.

Later today.  Just want to factor in any late-breaking developments, like this one in Louisiana or this one -- and this underlying factor -- in Georgia.  Meanwhile....

-- The Notorious RBG was correct.

A Texas voter ID law considered to be one of the most restrictive in the country is doing exactly what Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned it would do: stopping Americans from voting.

A disabled woman in Travis County was turned away from voting because she couldn’t afford to pay her parking tickets. An IHOP dishwasher from Mercedes can’t afford the cost of getting a new birth certificate, which he would need to obtain the special photo ID card required for voting. A student at a historically black college in Marshall, who registered some of her fellow students to vote, won't be able to cast a ballot herself because her driver's license isn't from Texas and the state wouldn't accept her student identification card.
There are plenty of stories like this coming out of Texas in the early voting period leading up to Election Day. Texas' tough voter ID law, signed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011, requires voters to show one of seven types of photo identification. Concealed handgun licenses are allowed, but college student IDs are not, nor are driver’s licenses that have been expired for more than sixty days.

The law has been the subject of an extensive legal battle, with a federal court finding it unconstitutional earlier this month. But the Supreme Court then rejected an emergency request to put the law on hold for the upcoming election. Ginsburg authored a blistering dissent to that decision, calling the law an "unconstitutional poll tax.” The ruling marked the first time in 32 years that the Supreme Court allowed a law restricting voting rights to be implemented after a federal court ruled it unconstitutional for targeting minorities, according to SCOTUSblog.

The early voting period is still going on in Texas, but voters and election officials told The Huffington Post there have already been problems casting ballots due to the new restrictive measure. Under the law, Texans without acceptable forms of identification must go to a driver’s license office to get a voting card. In Austin, 45-year-old Eric Kennie, who hasn't set foot outside the state his whole life, couldn't get his card because the birth certificate he struggled to afford lists his mother's maiden name. In Houston, an election judge claims that a 93-year-old veteran was turned away from the polls because his driver's license had been expired for too long. Another 62-year-old woman told MSNBC that she was threatened with jail time when she went to obtain her voter ID because she was driving with a California license.

Dana DeBeauvoir, the clerk responsible for overseeing election conduct in Travis County, which has over one million people and includes the city of Austin, said she spoke this week to a 61-year-old disabled woman, Madeleine, who was “in tears” because she was turned away when she went to vote at a grocery store.

The low-income woman is on a payment plan with a court to pay off her parking tickets, DeBeauvoir said, and while she’s on the plan, her license is suspended. Now, Madeleine has to quickly get to a driver’s license office to get a voting card. Her disability qualifies her to vote by mail, but she missed that deadline because she didn’t know her license would be denied.

”She’s been voting every year since the day 18-year-olds got the right to vote, and now suddenly she finds out she’s lost her right to vote because of money,” DeBeauvoir said. “If she had money, she could just pay off the tickets [and] vote.” 

Poll tax, anyone? Greg Bueller?

-- I love it when Jon Stewart nails Democrats almost as much as when he skewers Republicans.

Jon Stewart kicked off The Daily Show‘s last night in Texas by addressing Democratic hopes that the red state is turning blue, which, well not to give anything away, but that’s probably not gonna happen. As Stewart put it, “Texas has been a conservative state since dinosaurs roamed it 6000 years ago.”

Stewart examined all the Republican candidates running for office who have proven to be solidly conservative, even gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, who wants both Bibles and guns taught in schools. Stewart proposed the Greg Abbott “Howdy Jesus Bang Bang Bible Academy” if he’s really serious about that.

Stewart had to conclude that Democrats trying to flip Texas over to their column are like straight dudes who convince themselves they can successfully hit on lesbian women and flip them.

Video.  No grill in Texas got hotter than the one in the Zach Theatre in Austin this past week.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Can't do that but I can do this

That thing yesterday I was going to do.  Can't yet.  While we wait for me to finish...

-- Georgia on my mind.

Voting rights advocates are considering legal options after a Georgia judge denied their lawsuit that would have compelled the state to add 40,000 newly registered voters to the rolls.

Judge Christopher Brasher said voters whose registration applications were lost may cast provisional ballots in next week's election. But he declined to force Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp and counties to ensure voting for the thousands of new voters. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the New Georgia Project, and the Georgia branch of the NAACP are weighing whether to appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.

"You've got a situation that was designed to wreak havoc on the elections office if a large number of provisional ballots are cast," Julie Houk, a senior special counsel with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights' voting rights project, told The Huffington Post Wednesday. She said provisional ballots are "not an adequate remedy" because "registered voters are entitled to cast a regular ballot."

Voting rights advocates said the judge's decision could potentially disenfranchise thousands of people, a disproportionate number of whom are minorities, and disrupt Georgia's high-profile races for U.S. Senate and governor.

The voters in question were registered during a six-month drive by the nonpartisan New Georgia Project, led by state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D). The group submitted more than 86,000 applications, a majority from young voters of color registering to vote for the first time, along with another 20,000 or so from other groups. Abrams' group alleges that 40,000 of those applications are mysteriously missing from the state's official voter rolls, and that the state has not provided an explanation. 

Oh well.  At least it's not five hundred thousand Americans across ten states (which is nearly as many as the number of Texans, all by itself).  Try to keep this in mind: showing your ID when you vote protects your rights, but showing your ID when you want to buy a gun second-hand is a violation of your rights.

Count on seeing a lot more logic like this, and not too long after the election returns start rolling in next Tuesday evening.  I think my favorite one is going to be, "use it or lose it", with respect to your right to vote.  I don't think Texas Republicans are going to make that a bumper sticker or a campaign slogan, but nevertheless it's an accurate description of how they intend to "govern".  Stand by ladies, your rights to reproductive choice are next.  Use them, don't use them... you're losing them anyway.

Democrats just don't use fear as a motivator as well as the Republicans, as we know.  (Can't believe I wrote that in January.)

-- You know how conservatives always say "I don't understand why people can't get an ID to vote"?  Almost as often as they say "I'm not a scientist" when they deny climate change is happening, or "I'm not a gynocologist" when they pass laws forcing poor women to give birth?  Next time they do that, show them this.

Real people.  Real stories.  Pretty sure Republicans still won't understand.  Or care.

Four more years!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The battle for the US Senate *continued

As my Twitter feed to the right suggests, today is a good day to update the upper chamber predictions.  In fact there's already a poll result that contradicts the one I Tweeted a few minutes ago (it has Joni Ernst up four).  That race is going right down to the wire.  And this article notes that 2014, long touted as the Year of the Woman, may just be the Year of the Republican Woman.

Like Booman, I feel some historically extreme amount of uncertainty about my guesses this close to Election Day.  Be that as it may, I'll take some dart throws (sorry, Susan).   But I won't have time to finish my post for publication this morning; too much to do.  That update will appear in this space later this evening, after tonight's town hall on the high speed rail line transiting Texas from Dallas to Houston.

In the meantime, you can read the creeping depression of experts' interpretation of the turnout figures for Texas and Harris County, and also about the pro-marijuana decriminalization movement's newest public convert: Mayor Annise Parker.  I wonder if all of these new Republicans on the precipice of election will listen to their (very stoned) constituents and revisit the state's marijuana laws.

On second thought , I don't wonder about that all.  Like God's response to so many of his supporters' requests... sometimes the answer is no.

*Alas, still too much going on.  Soon, I promise.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

True the Vote loses another lawsuit

0 for 2 in court over the past month.

True the Vote, the Republican voter suppression movement, lost a round in its battle against the IRS yesterday when U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton dismissed its lawsuit against the IRS. True the Vote had claimed it had been targeted for greater IRS scrutiny due to its conservative point of view.
Judge Walton also dismissed a similar lawsuit brought by Linchpins of Liberty and 40 other groups. According to Forbes:
It’s important to understand that Judge Walton, a Presidential Bush nominee to the court, did not rule on the merits of the case. He didn’t decide that the IRS conduct was okay or that no harm was done. He ruled, rather, that procedurally, the case had nowhere to go. Since the plaintiffs in both instances could not prove ongoing harm – nor could they prove that there were not other remedies available – Judge Walton dismissed these cases.
A copy of the ruling is here.

However, True the Vote is continuing its vigilante tactics at voter suppression, emailing its supporters a call to arms, claiming "Elections will be stolen" on November 4.

James O'Keefe has beaten this dead horse over and over again.  The latest Republican talking point is that "photo IDs are free".  This is deliberately misleading.  Here's the evidence.

To get an EIC, (Eric) Kennie needs to be able to show the Texas department of public safety (DPS) other forms of documentation that satisfy them as to his identity. He presented them with his old personal ID card – issued by the DPS itself and with his photo on it – but because it is more than 60 days expired (it ran out in 2000) they didn’t accept it. Next he showed them an electricity bill, and after that a cable TV bill, but on each occasion they said it didn’t cut muster and turned him away.

Each trip to the DPS office involved taking three buses, a journey that can stretch to a couple of hours. Then he had to stand in line, waiting for up to a further three hours to be seen, before finally making another two-hour schlep home.

In one of his trips to the DPS last year they told him he needed to get hold of a copy of his birth certificate as the only remaining way he could meet the requirements and get his EIC. That meant going on yet another three-bus trek to the official records office in a different part of town.

The cost of acquiring a birth certificate in Texas is $23, which may not sound much but it is to Kennie. He is poor, like many of the up to 600,000 Texans caught in the current voter ID trap.

There's also a 93-year-old veteran in Houston who begs to differ with the state's definition of 'free'.

Now if you want to read a cogent argument in favor of voter photo ID, Mona Charon manages a few (through the fog of thinly disguised partisan ad hominem).  But the point remains that photo IDs required for voting should actually be free and unrestricted, unlike what the Texas law stipulates.  Which is why the Supreme Court will eventually strike it down, as even Republican election law attorneys understand.

For this election, whether or not the law is working as intended seems to be the $64,000 question.  Update: FWIW, Greg Wythe's numbers show some reasons to be pessimistic.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fear the Vote Wrangle

Early voting in-person across the state of Texas for the 2014 midterm elections concludes this Friday... on Halloween.  The Texas Progressive Alliance reminds you that -- no matter how scary it is -- if you want to complain about politics for the next two years, then you have to vote.  Here's the roundup of the best of the Texas lefty blogs from last week.

Off the Kuff published an index to all his interviews and judicial Q&As for the 2014 cycle.

Libby Shaw, writing for Texas Kaos and Daily Kos, is not going to be quiet about the blatantly discriminatory ID poll tax law: Texas voter photo ID Law disenfranchises 600,000 to 744,980 American citizens.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson: Proposition 1 will do little if anything to address the neglect of Texas roads for last 20-plus years. Is it worth voting for? Probably not, but it's likely to pass anyway. Proposition 1: The Least They Could Do.  And in similar fashion, Bay Area Houston says you're voting for continued incompetence if you vote yes on Prop. 1.

A very powerful statute designed to short-circuit the anti-First Amendment SLAPP suits filed in Texas is explained in this post at PDiddie's Brains and Eggs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme urges you to vote and support not just women's health, but the health care of all Texans.

Neil at All People Have Value offered his 2014 ballot for elections in Texas and Harris County.  APHV is one of many interesting pages to see at

Texpatriate reminds you not to be stupid; don't vote a straight ticket.


And here's some more great Texas blog posts.

Grits for Breakfast wants to know how Greg Abbott and Joe Straus plan to pay for both highway repair and border security without raising taxes or siphoning more money from the Rainy Day Fund.

Socratic Gadfly shares some thoughts on the Texas high-speed rail line planned near his Central Texas neighborhood, and Hair Balls has more about the public meetings taking place this week along the proposed routes.

Trail Blazers spotted Ken Paxton on the campaign trail -- an oddity all by itself -- but it was the joke about Wendy Davis going to hell that got the headline... and had 'em rolling at the GOP event in Frisco.  Video here.

Lone Star Q asks: how should the LGBTQ community respond to the massive hate rally planned this Sunday in Houston?

After dumping a bunch of money into a dozen Iowa Congressional races last week, Texas Politics reports that Rick Perry's PAC has moved on to New Hampshire to make it rain for Republicans there.  You don't think he's scratching any backs and hoping for some payback in 2016, do you?

New York is better prepared to handle an Ebola outbreak and Dallas is the reason, according to the Dallas Morning Views.

Fascist Dyke Motors confessed her sins to the Thing in the Tree.

Last, -- not a Texas blog but we're making an exception here -- has a review of all the teams and divisions in the NBA as the professional basketball season tips off Tuesday night.  Oh, and something a little hedgey about their US Senate prognostication also.

Friday, October 24, 2014

SLAPP suits (and how to counterpunch them)

The author of the following gave me permission to reprint it in its entirety. It's written in the styling of legal briefings, with occasional pauses for footnotes.  Several bloggers in Texas have been SLAPPed in years past, with the occasional unfortunate outcome.

There's a Q&A at the end with respect to the recent defamation suit brought -- and won -- by conservative icon David Barton against two Democrats SBOE who ran for the State Board of Education, Rebecca Bell-Metereau and Judy Jennings.


From holiday yard decorations criticizing a neighbor to Internet restaurant reviews, free speech is under attack in the courts in our increasingly litigious society like never before.  Frivolous lawsuits designed to chill expression of criticism have reached such a fever pitch that 28 states have now adopted “anti-SLAPP” statutes designed to protect speakers from such suits, and a new national statute has been proposed in Congress. The relatively new Texas “anti-SLAPP” statute is the most powerful speech protection statute ever adopted in any jurisdiction so far. Whether your business’s revenues dropped because of an Internet attack by a competitor or you were sued by a business whose services you criticized on a blog, the Texas anti-SLAPP statute is something you need to know about.

Defamation in the Internet Age—Have You Been SLAPP-ed?©

In 2006, 83-year-old Alaska Senator Ted Stevens famously described the Internet as “a series of tubes.”1 Although the late senator is still fodder for television comics, warp-speed changes in ubiquitous electronic media have left even members of the Facebook Generation struggling to keep up. Electronic speech in e-mail, blogs, Twitter, and “Yelp!” reviews pervades our lives like a virus. Even in our sleep, Internet speech affects what we wear and eat, what we think, how world leaders make decisions, and even who those leaders are. Barack Obama’s 2008 election is attributed to his superior use of electronic media.2 Disturbingly, the gruesome knife-beheadings of American journalists by taunting ISIS terrorists is also likely attributable to their certainty that viral transmission of the grotesque videos on You-Tube would give them planetary shock value. There always seems to be a serpent in the Garden.

The Dark Side of Free Speech Is Nothing New

Some argue the Founding Fathers would never have condoned First Amendment protection for Hustler Magazine’s ad parody of Jerry Falwell confessing that his first time having sex was with his own mother, drunk in an outhouse.3 They are wrong. The right to speak hurtfully about public figures was used by the Founding Fathers themselves with relish—on each other. In the election of 1800, a political opponent wrote that president John Adams was “old, querulous, bald, blind, crippled, [and] toothless.”4 An operative hired by Adams’ opponent Thomas Jefferson added:

John Adams is a hideous hermaphroditical character with neither the force
and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.5

Adams then called Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a halfbreed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

Speech can comfort the afflicted as well as afflict the comfortable. It was ever so. Jerry Falwell was not the first stuffed shirt to be deflated in the media. He will not be the last. Only the media are constantly changing.

1 “[T]he Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck.
It’s a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled,
when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into
that tube enormous amounts of material.” Singel, Ryan; Poulsen, Kevin (June 29, 2006) “Your
Own Personal Internet,”, last accessed August 31, 2014. [Emphasis added.]
2 See Stirland, Sarah Lai, (November 4, 2008) “Propelled by Internet, Obama Wins the
Presidency,”, last accessed August 31, 2014.
3 The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed a jury award in favor of the muchadmired
minister, declaring Hustler’s ad parody to be protected speech about a public figure.
Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46, 48 (1988).
4 McCullough, David, John Adams, p. 500, quoting a letter from Abigail Adams.
5 Swint, Kerwin, “Founding Fathers’ Dirty Campaign,” CNN Living, August 22, 2008.

Modern Legal Problems of Free Speech and Defamation

In the 20th century, courts sometimes struggled with the boundaries of First Amendment protection in ways that looked sadly comical even at the time. After Potter Stewart famously wrote that he could not define pornography but, “I know it when I see it,”6 the U.S. Supreme Court met in the basement for awkward movie nights, watching the improbable escapades of Lesbian Nymphomaniacs and other films to decide if they contained “redeeming social value.” Subtly mocking Stewart, law clerks would sometimes cry out in the darkness, “I can see it!” John Marshall Harlan was nearly blind at the time and could not see the films, so Thurgood Marshall gleefully narrated the clips for him.7

In the 21st century, the law of defamation is no longer in flux, but a new species of legal predator has evolved from the Internet’s DNA and now quietly swims the electronic seas in search of prey. The web’s free access, unprecedented reach, and the extraordinary ability of its users to speak anonymously have created a torrential flood of electronic speech on an endless variety of topics. Anonymity removes inhibitions that traditional social standards may impose in other contexts, so Internet rhetoric may be coarser, meaner, and more hyperbolic. However, it is no less constitutionally protected. In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court wrote:

Through the use of chat rooms, any person with a phone line can
become a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could
from any soapbox. Through the use of Web pages, mail exploders,
and newsgroups, the same individual can become a pamphleteer.8

When an Internet “pamphleteer” reaches millions of people with a singleTweet” or blog posting, he risks offending far more people than a town crier walking near Boston’s Old North Church in 1776. Like Jerry Falwell after reading that his mother “looked better than a Baptist whore with a $100 donation,” angry targets of vulgar Internet mockery and denunciation may sue the Tweeters and bloggers for it—especially if the targets are wealthy and powerful. Thus, the giant Internet-spawned shark of which free-speechifiers are now a plentiful supply of victims is called a “SLAPP suit,” an acronym for “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.” It has turned the waters red with blood.

6 Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 197 (1964) regarding possible obscenity in The Lovers.
7 Tribe, Laurence, and Matz, Joshua, “Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the
Constitution,” ch. 4.
8 Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844, 870 (1997).

What is a SLAPP Suit?

A SLAPP suit is brought not because the plaintiff seeks compensation for an injury, but to chill the exercise of free speech—by exploiting the speaker’s fear of having to defend even a frivolous suit. Often no attempt is ever made to serve the defendant with process (which would trigger duties on the plaintiff’s part). Of course, the pleadings are usually sent to the defendant informally so he knows he has been sued. Often “emergency” injunctive relief is sought even before the defendants learn the suit has been filed.9 Sometimes multiple SLAPP-suits are filed simultaneously in different courts—by the same plaintiff making the same allegations against the same defendants.

A typical SLAPP suit alleges that the defendant’s Internet comments have defamed him and intentionally inflicted emotional distress, but angry plaintiffs may also claim business disparagement, tortious interference, fraud, conspiracy, and even “harassment” and “electronic stalking.” The fact that a claim is not a recognized civil cause of action does not deter a SLAPP-suit plaintiff—he desires to create fear, not survive appellate review. And SLAPP suits are not limited to electronic speech. There are even cases based on speech in Halloween decorations—quarreling neighbors who decided to mock each other on fake front yard tombstones literally made a “federal case” out of the free-speech ramifications of their comical public barbs.10 (The speech was protected.) 
Plaintiffs often drop their SLAPP suits when a defense lawyer appears, skittling into the woodwork like roaches when a light is turned on. Even though this technically does not purge the offender’s violation of pleading rules, judges hesitate to punish a litigant who appears to have repented his sins and "reformed". Of course, by that time, the damage is done. The defendant has paid a lawyer to defend, but is deprived of his day in court. After the SLAPP-er is sure he has escaped harm, he simply re-files in a different court, and begins the process anew.  Like a Texas 'possum "playing dead", he simply bides his time before calmly resuming his SLAPP-ing ways.

This author’s last SLAPP-suit defense before adoption of the new statute discussed below was a two-year odyssey for the individual bloggers ending in the Texas Supreme Court. Although successful, the victory was Pyrrhic. There was no vehicle for the clients to recover their $250,000.00 in attorney’s fees from the soundly-rebuked plaintiff. See In re Does 1 and 2, 337 S.W.3d 832 (Tex. 2011) (orig. proceeding). But all this changed in 2011.

9 Called “ex parte” relief, such injunctions often operate as illegal, content-related prior
restraints on speech, but are granted by busy judges anyway because the other side is not present
in court to argue against them.
10 Purtell v. Mason, 527 F.3d 613 (7th Cir. 2008); see also Salama v. Deaton, 10-CA-00310 (Fla.
13th Cir. Ct.).

What You Can Do Now If You Get SLAPP-ed

By 2011 when In re Does 1 and 2 was decided, the use of SLAPP suits to squelch public criticism had reached such a fever pitch in Texas that the Legislature adopted the Citizens Participation Act (“TCPA”) by a unanimous vote in both houses. To date, 28 other states and the District of Columbia have also adopted anti-SLAPP statutes. At just over three years old, the TCPA is only a toddler, but it is performing under appellate review like an Olympic gold medal gymnast. Decisions under the TCPA are exploding out of the courts of appeals like popcorn kernels in a microwave—in part because of the statute’s provision allowing immediate, accelerated appeal of any trial court decision that allows a SLAPP suit to continue.

In a brief this firm filed in a TCPA case in August 2014, we cited fifteen TCPA appeals decided within just the previous twelve months—and several of those had come down only weeks before. No other statute or issue has generated this volume of decisional law in so short a period. It appears no appellate court has yet reversed a trial court for dismissing a SLAPP suit—they have all either upheld dismissal or reversed the trial court for failure to dismiss. The Texas statute may be the most powerful anti-SLAPP statute yet enacted in any jurisdiction. Here are seven reasons why. The TCPA:

(i) Requires dismissal of the suit on the defendant’s motion unless the
plaintiff brings forth “clear and specific evidence” of each element
of each cause of action pled—even non-defamation claims.
(ii) Automatically stays discovery—usually the most expensive stage of
a case.
(iii) Requires the court to hold a hearing on the defendant’s motion to
dismiss within 60 days—light-speed by juridical standards.
(iv) Requires the court to rule on the defendant’s motion to dismiss
within 30 days of the hearing—curing the common scourge of a
court’s passively denying relief by simply never making a ruling.
(v) Mandates not only an award of the defendant’s attorney’s fees but
also sanctions “sufficient to deter the filing of similar actions.”
(vi) Flings the doors of the appellate courthouse wide open if the trial
court fails to rule and allows a rare “interlocutory” appeal—which is
also given precedence over all other appeals.
(vii) Requires courts to “liberally construe” the TCPA to “fully
effectuate” its purpose and intent.

In one of this firm’s cases presently on appeal, we are asking for $1 million in sanctions for our client—a higher amount than any court has awarded to date, but one we believe justified under the unique facts of that case. Perhaps more importantly, briefing in that case was completed only in early October, the case was orally argued on October 21, 2014, and the case is now ripe for a decision in the court of appeals.

If you get SLAPP-ed in Texas, look down. Thanks to the TCPA, you are already wearing the ruby slippers that have the power to whisk you away from the land of witches, judges, and legal bills more quickly than you may think. Like Dorothy, you just didn’t know it.

(Jeffrey L. Dorrell is a board-certified civil trial specialist in First Amendment law
who has represented SLAPP-suit defendants in cases from the trial court to the
Texas Supreme Court. He can be contacted at


Q.  In light of the recent defamation litigation won by David Barton against two Democratic candidates for the SBOE, would you agree with the lawyer cited in this article that the statute needs to be strengthened?

A.  "Jennings v. Wallbuilders was decided under a version of the Citizens Participation Act that was amended by the Legislature—in direct response to the Wallbuilders case—just four months later to prevent what happened to the SLAPP-suit victims in that case from ever happening again. Unfortunately, the amendment could not help the victims of the Wallbuilders SLAPP suit after the fact. Under the amended version of the statute as it has existed since 2013, the outcome would likely have been much different."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Parking these things for the time being

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

News I can't opine about and trends I cannot detect

-- As a reminder, news reports such as this one and this one are the kind of things that I won't be blogging about while I'm serving on the EVBB.  Or this one.

-- Accounts of Texas voter turnout are varying, from one end of the spectrum (gloom and doom) to the other (cautious enthusiasm).  The smartest people I know with regard to this are Charles Kuffner and Greg Wythe, and they both say it's still to early to divine an end result.  Maybe by this weekend -- or after -- we'll be able to discern a pattern.

-- So the next time you hear someone say that IDs are "free", show them this.

Does everyone understand now why Judge Gonzales Ramos ruled it an unconstitutional poll tax?

Monday, October 20, 2014

The P Slate: Top down

Got it done just in time... except for today's early voters.  Those people had their minds made up anyway.  First, let's note -- and follow -- the advice of the Waco Herald Tribune's editorial board.

While the Trib has elected not to make candidate endorsements in the 2014 general election, we do have three recommendations: If you’re registered to vote, then do so — but only if you’re informed, which is our second recommendation. If you have not studied the candidates and the issues, take time to learn about both or do this republic a favor and just skip the electoral process.

Finally, only a putz votes straight-ticket. We haven’t seen a slate of party candidates yet, Republican or Democrat, that didn’t have some turkeys on it. And if you think voting straight-ticket ensures that one party’s nominees meet certain qualities, think again. Right here in McLennan County, we’ve seen straight-ticket voting put some absolutely incompetent people into offices of responsibility. When that happens, you’re to blame because you voted for them out of party loyalty, not merit or civic regard.

That is so perfect.  You can find some red and blue in the picks at Texpatriate, a mostly blue slate at Texas Leftist and nonsequiteuse, and a mostly Green one at Socratic Gadfly.


US Senate: Emily "Spicy Brown" Sanchez, Green.  Sorry Democrats, but I can't vote for a pro-life Catholic who also financially supports pregnancy crisis centers in his hometown.  David Alameel has also admitted that this year is a test run for a bid against Ted Cruz in 2018.  No freaking thanks.

Sanchez spoke via Sype to Harris County Greens at their candidate forum in September and made a surpise appearance at the season's fundraiser for her ticketmates, Kenneth Kendrick (Ag Commissioner) and Martina Salinas (Railroad Commissioner).  She made an instant impression talking to both groups.  She's committed and earnest.  She represents the future of Texas Greens: hard-working middle class people with a sense of justice, which is to say a proper outrage at injustices.  I am delighted to be counted a supporter.

US House of Representatives (in my case, the Seventh Congressional District).  Everybody already knows how I feel about this race.  Nothing has changed.  I think I'm going to vote for the Libertarian as a the best protest to John Culberson that can be mustered.

In other districts in the Houston area, Mark Roberts in CD-2 (G) and Niko Letsos (D) have run low-profile campaigns against the incumbent, Ted Poe.  They're both worthy alternatives.  (Neil and I wrote more extensively about Roberts in his first bid for this office two years ago.)  In CD-18, Green Remington Alessi's campaign against Sheila Jackson Lee, similarly, hasn't reached the level of his bid for Harris County Sheriff two years ago.  Democrat Tawana Cadien's second shot at ousting Rep. Michael McCaul in CD-10 is likewise under the radar.  And in CD-22, Democrat Frank Briscoe tests the Fort Bend County waters to see if they're purple enough yet to wash out the incumbent Repub, Pete Olson.

In Southeast Texas, the race to replace Steve Stockman in CD-36 has Libertarian-turned-Democrat Michael Cole of Orange and Green Hal J. Ridley Jr. of Bridge City bidding to upset the prohibitively favored Republican, Brian Babin of Woodville.  Ridley's been invisible; Cole was interviewed on Daily Kos, here.  In CD-14, incumbent Randy Weber of Pearland, really growing into his Tea Freak clothes, has Democratic challenger Donald Brown of Beaumont to fend off.  Brown has the HLGBT Caucus stamp of approval.

In other urban areas of Texas, there's a Green candidate running where no Democrat is, in CD-21 (Antonio Diaz versus Lamar Smith) and where no Republican is, in CD-28 (Michael Cary against Henry Cuellar).  So progressives in San Antonio and the RGV have options.  And in the Metroplex, Democrat David Cozad has run a spirited campaign against Smokey Joe Barton.

But short of something that is equal parts unforeseeable and miraculous, the only contested Congressional race in the Lone Star State is between Congressman Pete Gallego and GOPer Will Hurd in the far west Texas district that stretches from Big Bend to El Paso.  Gallego was once pretty progressive when in the statehouse in Austin, but he's moderated quite bit to hang on to his Congressional seat.  Still, we need no more Republicans in Congress, and Gallego should be returned to Washington.

The statewide executive offices and high courts

Governor: Wendy Davis.  Big surprise, huh?  I and everyone else have written enough about this race that the choice is as obvious as can be.

Lt. Governor: Leticia Van de Putte.  I wanted to find a reason to support Chandra Courtney; she and her husband David (also a Green candidate running for SD-17) are solid people, but the urgency to avoid having Lonesome Rhodes Dan Patrick elected to the state's most powerful position is just too great.  I'm voting for VDP and hoping enough moderate Republicans have come to their senses that we can avoid an apocalypse.

Attorney General: Sam HoustonEvery newspaper in the state of Texas isn't wrong.

Comptroller of Public AccountsMike Collier.  Though I consider Deb Shafto one of my friends, and as Gadfly has pointed out, Collier says all the wrong things in trying to attract conservatives and moderate independents, it is just too dangerous for Texas to risk electing Jethro Bodine to statewide office.

Agriculture Commissioner: Kenneth Kendrick.  It was easy enough to scratch Sid Miller Archie Bunker and Jim Hogan Junior Samples, but Kendrick would have stood above the crowd even if the Republicans and Democrats had managed to nominate respectable candidates.  As the whistleblower in the Peanut Corporation of America killings, no one has done more for Texans already in the cause of social justice.  And unless you smoke a whole lot of dope, there's no coherent excuse for voting for the Libertarian, either. (Kendrick supports decriminalization as well.)

Kendrick is by far the best reason on the ballot for both Democrats and Republicans to split their straight tickets.

Land Commissioner: John Cook.  Here I also gave serious consideration to Valerie Alessi (married to Remington).  Alessi was nominated at the Green Party's state convention in March to replace another candidate who withdrew.  Except for some good responses to questions posed in the Houston League of Women Voters Guide, Alessi's campaign has been low-profile.  Cook was a progressive mayor of El Paso and gets my support.  Please, no more Bushes.

Texas Railroad Commission: Steve Brown (D) or Martina Salinas (G).  Honestly, I still can't choose between them.  They're both as good as it gets for their respective parties.

Texas Supreme Court, Place 1: Bill Moody (D).  Incumbent Republican Nathan Hecht remains under a cloud of ethical violations.  Republicans: your best choice in this race is the Libertarian, Tom Oxford.

Texas Supreme Court, Place 6: Lawrence Meyers.  The state's longest-serving Court of Criminal Appeals judge, Meyers switched parties and became a Democrat last year to bid for the SCOTX against Rick Perry appointee Jeff Brown.

Texas Supreme Court, Place 7Gina Benavides (D).  Serving the 13th Court of Appeals since 2006, Benavides has earned some endorsements over the incumbent Republican, Jeff Boyd.  Charles Waterbury of the Green Party is also well-qualified for this office.

Texas Supreme Court, Place 8: Jim Chisholm (G).  No Democrat ran for this seat on the state's highest court, and Democrats that fail to split their straight tickets will miss an opportunity to vote for this very qualified, progressive jurist.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3Bert Richardson (R), John Granberg (D), or Mark Bennett (L).  Richardson, as regular readers here will already know, is the judge who appointed the special prosecutor that brought felony indictments against Rick Perry.  Normally I might vote for the Democrat, Granberg, but he is young and unseasoned.  Bennett is a blogger and local lawyer I have crossed paths with.

I might flip a coin.  Or this might be the only Republican I vote for.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 4: Judith Sanders Castro (G).

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 9: George Altgelt (G).

There's no Democratic candidate in either of these two races.  If you're voting a straight D ticket, you're leaving a lot of votes blank.  As the WHT said at the top... don't be a putz.

Harris County races to come will have to wait until later.

Early Voting Wrangle

"Voting freshens your breath, whitens your teeth, and improves your sex life." -- Molly Ivins

It may even make you immune to Ebola, I've heard.  But only if you are not a Republican.  In which case... you're catching that shit for sure.  The Texas Progressive Alliance reminds you that EARLY VOTING HAS BEGUN as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff published an interview with John Cook, the Democratic nominee for Land Commissioner.

Libby Shaw, writing for Texas Kaos and Daily Kos is sickened by the "corporations are people" Supreme Court for allowing Greg Abbott to disenfranchise 600,000 Texans of their right to vote: TXGOP, Greg Abbott stand by discrimination and disenfranchisement.

Two special days in the blogosphere last week: Blog Action Day for inequality was a global initiative, and Texas blogs dropped a money bomb for Wendy Davis. PDiddie at Brains Eggs has details on both.

After this week's big announcement, Texas Leftist is left to wonder... Did the Dallas Morning News editorial board incorporate facts into its endorsement process for governor? If so, maybe this week's decision for Greg Abbott would have gone the other way. Clearly the DMN ed board should've taken a few minutes to read their own paper.

Republican racism revealed in TWIA emails about storm damage to Brownsville ISD property. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme encourages everyone in South Texas to go vote. You can stop the racism. VOTE!

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson had two campaign ads worth checking out: Must See TV - Great Ads from Mike Collier and Sam Houston.

Neil at All People Have Value wrote about things he is doing to make a difference in the 2014 elections in Texas. Neil says you can make a difference as well. APHV is one of many interesting things to see at

Texpatriate mixes it up with their endorsements in statewide races: George P. Bush for land commissioner, Sam Houston for Attorney General, and Mike Collier for Comptroller.


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

nonsequiteuse has her voting recommendations, which include a Green for agriculture commissioner.

Dan Solomon speaks from personal experience when he says that the Wendy Davis wheelchair ad shines a long-overdue light on the devastating effect tort "reform" has had on victims of medical malpractice.

The Inanity of Sanity has Part II of 'Abbott Disses the Disabled'.

The Lunch Tray keeps fighting the fight for healthier school lunches and snacks.

Grits for Breakfast calls on Texas jails to opt out of the Secure Communities program.

Texas Vox documents the big heat waves of 2013.

Socratic Gadfly was pleasantly surprised by the SCOTUS ruling that overturned the Fifth Circuit order allowing HB2 to go into effect pending appeals.

Helen Philpot would like for someone to explain to Greg Abbott where babies come from.

LGBTQ Insider compares Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott's positions on LGBTQ issues.

Andrea Grimes has the GIF-based explanation of the HB2 timeline that you've been waiting for.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

SCOTUS says use your ID, and other election developments

The last word for now (meaning this election).

The Supreme Court said Saturday that Texas can use its controversial new voter identification law for the November election.

A majority of the justices rejected an emergency request from the Justice Department and civil rights groups to prohibit the state from requiring voters to produce certain forms of photo identification in order to cast ballots. Three justices dissented.

The law was struck down by a federal judge last week, but a federal appeals court had put that ruling on hold. The judge found that roughly 600,000 voters, many of them black or Latino, could be turned away at the polls because they lack acceptable identification. Early voting in Texas begins Monday.

The Supreme Court's order was unsigned, as it typically is in these situations. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, saying they would have left the district court decision in place.

The repercussions will be forthcoming.  Battleground Texas seems to have accomplished its task in adding a few hundred thousand Texans to the voter rolls.  The job now is to turn those folks out.

There will be some polling results to follow shortly, from YouGov directly and indirectly via the TexTrib/UT, perhaps as early as today or tomorrow but more likely Monday.  Unless they show some tightening of the races at the top of the ballot, I can't predict anything but a result that is woefully similar to 2002 and 2006 and 2010.  Harris County Democrats will be grinding out the GOTV efforts to hold onto their seats at the courthouse... and perhaps flip the DA and the County Clerk.

The EVBB for me begins Tuesday; at that time I'll go dark with respect to election commentary on the statewide and county ballot.  I hope to have everything I need to say said by then anyway. I will still be blogging here about politics -- probably have something on that pig castrator from Iowa, along with other US Senate developments -- but I'll take the edge off to remain in compliance with my oath as an election judge.  Same goes for Twitter and Facebook postings.  We'll mellow out with a little pumpkin spice whatever for a few weeks.

May blog about the World Series.  My buddy Gadfly's Cardinals got excused; I was hoping for a full orange and black Fall Classic myself.  That is, after the Angels and Dodgers got eliminated.

-- Greg Abbott's Twitter town hall yesterday blew up in his face, and it was, as Hair Balls accounts, laugh-out-loud hilarious.  Be sure and click on the #AskAbbott hashtag.

-- Wendy Davis lost the Dallas News endorsement but earned the Houston Chronicle's.  These simply don't mean as much as they used to, but let's be quick to point out that we still need newspapers badly in this underinformed and misled media environment.  Oh, and you can't paper-train a puppy with a blog.

Update: Some of my blog hermanos took exception to the DMN's endorsement of Abbott.  It takes a lot to drive Charles to scatological descriptions.  But I thought the Observer had the best takedown.

Elect Davis, and GOPers will be so mad they won’t cooperate on anything, just like what happened when Barack Obama took office. This is a really beautiful encapsulation of some of the most depressing features of American politics right now—a reminder that we do government primarily these days by hostage-taking, in contravention of the ostensible norms of representative government. It’s also an assertion that the hostage-takers should win, and a demonstration of why they will keep winning. It’s monumentally demoralizing. But applied to the Texas context, is it right?

What would a Gov. Davis look like? Well, she would probably have little influence over the Legislature. Assume Davis wins and so does Patrick—Davis would be able to get hardly any of her legislative priorities through. Patrick would be preparing to run against her in 2018, and his Senate would kill or mangle almost anything that bore her personal stamp. But Davis would have a veto which would prevent Patrick’s worst bills and initiatives from getting through.

But the Morning News endorsement anticipates something worse—that the conservative Legislature seizes the levers of state government and goes to war against Davis, refuses to budge on any issue, refuses to put together a budget, refuses to consider new and important legislation, until its demands are met and Davis effectively surrenders. In effect, if the people of the state elect Davis to lead them, conservatives in the Legislature—probably led by Patrick—will take Texas hostage.

So the Morning News’ instinct is to reward the hostage-taker, pay the ransom, and keep the state safely gripped by one-party rule. On the one hand, it feels like a pretty bleak misperception of how small-r republican government is supposed to work. It’s especially odd because the endorsement urges Abbott to be “a moderating influence” for his party—a bit like a liberal urging his radical-left friends to “work inside the system.”