Saturday, November 29, 2014

How to avoid being a jackass about Ferguson

Allan Uthman, in full.

One unpleasant side effect of the unrest in Ferguson MO, and now spreading across the country, is that a lot of white people are making giant asses of themselves on social media. Amazingly, none of them are racist, as they will tell you, but that’s how they’re coming across for some reason. For these people and those poor souls who care for them, here are a few pointers on how to avoid being a huge jackass. You’re welcome, America! Let’s start with an easy one:

  • If you find yourself using the word “animals” in a non-zoological context, try punching yourself in the face repeatedly until the impulse subsides.

  • If you think it makes sense to judge an entire community or race based on what a few people have done, please turn yourself in for your part in whatever recent crimes white people committed in your area.

  • If you feel a desire to blame the media for the simple act of covering the story, because if they didn’t, then people wouldn’t be mad, because they wouldn’t know what happened, try to understand that this makes you a proponent of censorship and that if anyone needs to shut the hell up it’s you.

  • If you find yourself repeating the details of the accused murderer’s story as if it were the definitive version of the events in question, you are probably stupid. Try to keep this in mind. Even racists know enough not to trust any random white guy with a clear motivation to lie.

  • If you think this was an acquittal based on a thorough examination of evidence, please make an attempt to learn what a grand jury does and how it is not a trial. Also look up how many grand juries don’t indict. Never mind; I’ll tell you: like, none. Seriously, 11 out of 162,000.

  • If you found Officer Wilson’s statement that he “felt like a 5-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan” compelling, consider that Wilson is Brown’s height, nearly his weight, and that he is a goddamn trained police officer, and that you were subconsciously wondering why he didn’t just say “gorilla.”

  • If you’re tempted to wonder aloud why the media didn’t cover some other shooting in which the victim was white and the assailant black, stop for a moment and remember that the shooter WAS NOT A COP and there is therefore no equivalence. Also, please don’t mention that whites didn’t riot over the OJ Simpson verdict, because OJ Simpson is arguably the first black guy who ever got away with murder and again, there is no equivalence there, you idiot. Then also try to recognize that it is you who is putting the situation in terms of race and only race. Then shut up.

  • If you were led to believe erroneous reports that wildly exaggerated Officer Wilson’s injuries, and yet still rely on the same sources of information that just lied to you, you need to acknowledge that you’re not primarily interested in the truth. But then again, why would you start being honest with yourself now?

Prosecutorial misconduct certainly; most likely corruption.  A police officer without the courage or even the decency necessary for the job, now a millionaire as a result of his fame in conservative circles.  There's more than enough wrong with this fresh stain on America's moral conscience to last for a generation.

But we know it's just going to keep on happening.  Until they can be convinced to stop it.

What do you suppose it will take to do that?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The death throes of white privilege

"This country values property rights over people."

And it begins not with black rage against cops, but white rage against progress.

When we look back on what happened in Ferguson, Mo., during the summer of 2014, it will be easy to think of it as yet one more episode of black rage ignited by yet another police killing of an unarmed African American male. But that has it precisely backward. What we’ve actually seen is the latest outbreak of white rage. Sure, it is cloaked in the niceties of law and order, but it is rage nonetheless.

Protests and looting naturally capture attention. But the real rage smolders in meetings where officials redraw precincts to dilute African American voting strength or seek to slash the government payrolls that have long served as sources of black employment. It goes virtually unnoticed, however, because white rage doesn’t have to take to the streets and face rubber bullets to be heard. Instead, white rage carries an aura of respectability and has access to the courts, police, legislatures and governors, who cast its efforts as noble, though they are actually driven by the most ignoble motivations.

The post-Civil War period, Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts of the 1960s, the ascension of Barack Obama to the presidency.  Everyone thought this nation would improve after those things happened, but they didn't; things got worse instead.  And everybody knows why that is.

So when you think of Ferguson, don’t just think of black resentment at a criminal justice system that allows a white police officer to put six bullets into an unarmed black teen. Consider the economic dislocation of black America. Remember a Florida judge instructing a jury to focus only on the moment when George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin interacted, thus transforming a 17-year-old, unarmed kid into a big, scary black guy, while the grown man who stalked him through the neighborhood with a loaded gun becomes a victim. Remember the assault on the Voting Rights Act. Look at Connick v. Thompson, a partisan 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2011 that ruled it was legal for a city prosecutor’s staff to hide evidence that exonerated a black man who was rotting on death row for 14 years. And think of a recent study by Stanford University psychology researchers concluding that, when white people were told that black Americans are incarcerated in numbers far beyond their proportion of the population, “they reported being more afraid of crime and more likely to support the kinds of punitive policies that exacerbate the racial disparities,” such as three-strikes or stop-and-frisk laws.

A friend of mine wrote this.

"America is witnessing the death throes of white privilege. It's not going to be pretty -- it's been the operating principle of this continent for four centuries. The indigenous people and the imported labor and their descendants have been exceedingly polite up to this point, considering what they've endured. To my fellow Caucasians, I suggest you don't try to rub it in."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"A system cannot fail..."

"... those it was never meant to protect." -- W.E. B. DuBois

Just remember, as the mass media focuses on property damage, that this response is about something far more serious.

Police, dressed like soldiers, prepare to liberate a used car sales office.

"There's clearly a license for violence against minorities, specifically blacks," said Mike Arnold, 38, a teacher. "It happens all the time. Something's got to be done about it. Hopefully this will be a turning point."

Darren Wilson testified before the grand jury (highly unusual), auditioned television reporters for interviews, and got married -- to another Ferguson police officer -- prior to last night's decision.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pre-Turkey Day Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance knows that even in a bad political year it has plenty to be thankful for as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff highlights Texas for Marriage, a new grassroots group whose goal is to bring marriage equality to our state.

Libby Shaw, writing for Texas Kaos as well as for Daily Kos, is not surprised to know Greg Abbott has jumped on the Obama bashing bandwagon on immigration. Funny how the actual lawless ones try to pin their sins on the POTUS. Greg Abbott's reaction to immigration? The usual. TX Dems are not giving up.

Even as the United States Senate in the 114th Congress looks to be one of the most freakishly conservative in almost a hundred years, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs reminds everyone that -- two years from now -- nearly half of that Republican majority has to be defended, and many of those seats are in blue states. So maybe Democrats can work on building turnout then...?

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is furious over Greg Abbott's plan to take money away from projects that promote the general welfare. What does Abbott want to do with our money? Harass Mexicans and hurt the image of the Rio Grande Valley.

Easter Lemming Liberal News noted a Pants on Fire ruling from PolitiFact. Not their rating over an Obama statement on the XL pipeline but Easter Lemming's rating of PolitiFact's lie.

The Lewisville Texan Journal reported on the 3.3 magnitude earthquake that shook Irving. And Bluedaze, having reported on many of these, has a few comments also.

Texpatriate responded to the president's executive order on immigration.

Eye on Williamson had the news about the second resignation of the county's elections administrator.


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

Trail Blazers covered megachurch hate pastor John Hagee's speech to the largest Christian Zionist organization in the US, where he declared that President Obama is an anti-Semite.

Socratic Gadfly observed that Obama's immigration plans lays bare all the fears of the birthers.

The Texas Election Law Blog gently criticizes three less-than-stellar arguments from the week's news.

The Rivard Report highlights Texas' achievements in renewable energy.

The TSTA Blog reminds us that vouchers are a bad answer for education.

Newsdesk reviews Ted Cruz's "politics as prop comedy" act on net neutrality and other Internet issues.

Grits for Breakfast is busy analyzing pre-filed criminal justice bills.

Texas Clean Air Matters calls out ERCOT for missing the big picture on clean energy.

Better Texas Blog reminds us that immigrants drive Texas' economic success.

Concerned Citizens surveys the now much more interesting San Antonio mayoral landscape.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Saturday Shorts

This is why people don't believe me when I tell them I've lived in Texas all of my life (except for a calendar year in Florida).  Putting mine on again as the weather warms a little, and posting them here because the time to blog is still too tight.

-- Ted Cruz understands the philosophy of the great Roman orators about as clearly as he comprehends net neutrality.  That, or he's a fraud.  I think it's both.

To adapt Cicero’s “Against Catiline” to his contemporary context, Cruz tweaked and replaced many of Cicero’s words and phrases. The speech becomes more disturbing when one considers the words Cruz writes over—what classical scholars and papyrologists call palimpsests. For the well-trained reader, lurking beneath Cruz’s already inflammatory words are suggestions that Obama, Cruz’s modern-day Catiline, “should long ago have been led to execution,” marks members of the Senate for death, and seeks “to destroy the whole world with fire and slaughter.” Dangerous words indeed.

Let’s return to that line about Obama openly desiring “to destroy the Constitution and this Republic.” Cruz positions himself as the defender of the Constitution, the state, and—by extension in our American context—democracy. But Cicero was no proponent of popular sovereignty. In “On the Republic (De re publica),” Cicero describes the lower classes as “insane” and very explicitly blames the decline of Athenian power on its democracy. Through his spokesperson Scipio, Cicero offers that “these democratic pleaders do not understand the nature or importance of a well–constituted aristocracy.” Cicero vehemently advocates for maintaining a rigid class system and for restricting the access of the lower classes to the political process. Cicero allied himself with the “Optimates” (“Best Men”), who wished to preserve the aristocracy’s power by limiting the powers of popular assemblies.

Is Cicero really the best symbol to defend our Constitution? The next time Senator Cruz feels inspired to deliver a public reading on the Senate floor, he might be on safer ground if he returns to reciting Dr. Seuss.

-- HPD or NSA?  How about neither one?

A recent report by Jace Larson at KPRC-TV confirmed the long-speculated but unestablished practice of HPD using technology that can spy on cellphones without needing a warrant. The device in question, called a StingRay, mimics a cellphone tower and tricks phones into connecting through it. This allows police to look at the metadata from any nearby cellphone, like who you call or text and where you travel throughout the day. And without a warrant, there is little way to stop police from looking at innocent bystanders alongside suspected criminals.

Our police department has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on hardware, software and training from Harris Corporation, which makes the StingRay device. HPD has asked for an additional $80 million in funds for its already-bloated budget; over the last decade HPD has seen its budget grow from $468 million to $722 million, and that doesn't include the cost of the crime lab and neighborhood protection departments. Meanwhile, HPD has actually lost more than 100 officers in that time.

City Hall needs to ask whether HPD is blowing its budget on these sorts of constitutionally questionable practices. Only two local police departments in Texas -- Houston and Fort Worth -- have these cellphone trackers, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Why does Houston find this technology necessary to fight crime and not, say, Dallas or San Antonio? Easy access to military hardware has folks worried about the militarization of police, but now it seems we need to worry about the police acting like the National Security Agency, as well. Like small town officers running around in tanks, HPD has yet to provide evidence that its gadgets add any value to police work besides threatening the civilians they're supposed to protect.

Texas' own Court of Criminal Appeals has held that citizens should have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of their cellphones. HPD's technological trickery shouldn't be a loophole to the Fourth Amendment.

Dozens of Texas legislators cosponsored a bill last session to end this sort of warrantless wiretapping, but it never made it to the governor's desk. The next legislative session is just around the corner, so tell your elected officials to guarantee that our 21st century police don't get to act like it is 1984. 

-- Speaking of spying, here's one really simple way to stop it.

Water, water everywhere and not a drop for the premier National Security Agency data collection center—if one conservative lawmaker gets his way.

Not only is Utah the second driest state in the nation, it’s also home to the largest NSA data collection facility. Located in the Salt Lake City suburb Bluffdale, the Utah Data Center guzzles up to 1 million gallons of water each day to cool its computers, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Cutting off the NSA’s water supply could effectively throw a wrench into the agency’s work collecting domestic phone and email records—and that’s just what Republican state Rep. Marc Roberts wants to do. His bill would force the city to “refuse material support or assistance to any federal data collection and surveillance agency.” That would mean no more cheap water to aid mass domestic spying, a regular practice unveiled by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year.

-- The assholishness of Uber is still news.

Uber is part of an increasing trend towards the casualisation of labour. This means fewer full time jobs, uncertain hours, less income, and less regulation. Recruiting a workforce from the sharing economy is a way companies can shift significant costs from themselves to employees, and to society more broadly.

-- Hide the children from their schoolbooks.

Christian conservatives win, children lose: Texas textbooks will teach public school students that the Founding Fathers based the Constitution on the Bible, and the American system of democracy was inspired by Moses.

On Friday the Republican-controlled Texas State Board of Education voted along party lines 10-5 to approve the biased and inaccurate textbooks. The vote signals a victory for Christian conservatives in Texas, and a disappointing defeat for historical accuracy and the education of innocent children.

The textbooks were written to align with instructional standards that the Board of Education approved back in 2010 with the explicit intention of forcing social studies teaching to adhere to a conservative Christian agenda. The standards require teachers to emphasize America’s so called “Christian heritage.”

In essence, Christian conservatives in Texas have successfully forced a false historical narrative into public school textbooks that portray Moses as an influence on the Constitution and the Old Testament as the root of democracy.

Critics called the whole process into question after publishers posted a number of last-minute changes to the textbooks yesterday, leaving board members and observers without time to figure out exactly what was in the approved texts.

According to reports, scholars did not have an opportunity to review and comment on the numerous changes publishers have submitted since the last public hearing. Some of those changes appeared to have been negotiated with state board members behind closed doors.

You have to tip your hat to the tenacious patience of the Godniks and Jeebus freaks; they pursued a long-term strategy of taking over the SBOE and it's paying off at last for them.   On the other hand, the Romans probably had the right idea re: lions and Christians.

It's time like this when I wish Obama had the resolve to do to the Talibaptists what he's doing once more to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Friday, November 21, 2014

'Pass a bill'

In a move that infuriated his Republican critics and drew unspecified pledges to counter it, Obama said nearly all undocumented people living in the country for more than five years and who have a child who is a US citizen or legal permanent resident can apply for a three-year work authorization.

The president also broadened the program he launched in 2012 that provides temporary residency to young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before the age of 16.

"There are actions I have the legal authority to take as president -- the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me -- that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just," Obama said in a 15-minute speech broadcast from the White House.

The order will affect about 44 percent of the 11.3 million people -- mostly from Mexico and Central America -- living in the United States illegally and doing menial jobs that most Americans snub.

"Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?" he asked.

But he quickly stressed that the sweeping order, the most comprehensive immigration step in years, "does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive.

"Only Congress can do that," he added. "All we're saying is we're not going to deport you."

Obama's executive order shifts US policy from a dragnet approach to all illegal immigrants to a focus on deporting convicted felons and those who pose a danger to society.


"If you're a criminal, you'll be deported. If you plan to enter the US illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up," he said.

Not really seeing why the Republicans are so mad about this.

"To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: pass a bill." [...] "I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary."

Update: Thank goodness; an explainer.

And what are their alternatives? Impotent rage? A government shutdown? A slow-moving lawsuit? A disastrous impeachment effort? A solemn vow that whatever damage Obama does to the constitutional order, Republicans will double it when they retake the White House? All of these are likelier to wound the GOP than Obama. None of these are likely to benefit the party in 2016. And none of them solve the underlying problem.

Nor does continued confusion around immigration help Republicans. Just ask Mitt Romney, who tried to split the difference between restrictionists and reformers by endorsing "self-deportation". That worked well enough that Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee, came out after the election to make clear that "it's not our party's position." But that's only because his party doesn't have a position.

That, really, is Obama's advantage right now. Even if you think he's going too far, he at least wants to solve the problem. Republicans don't seem to want to do anything except stop Obama from solving the problem. That's not a winning position. More to the point, it's not a responsible one.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Who's having the worst week?

-- Bill Cosby or Uber?  I say it's a tie.  Vote in the comments if you like.

-- I am refusing to pay much attention to 2016 presidential jockeying, but if you're not like me and want a much-too-early tell for what the GOP is in store for, then here are two articles you can read today.  A prominent local Republican I had lunch with post-election indicated that former governors are at the top of his list, and named Scott Walker specifically.

Jim Webb announced (that he's just, you know, exploring) yesterday.  Because there is a huge unrepresented constituency to the right of Hillary Clinton that the Democrats will need in order to hold the White House in 2016: conservative suburban, exurban, and rural white males who favor the military above all else.

That might be sarcasm; you decide.  Now you know why I ain't paying much attention.

-- The media keep making themselves the story.  This is really getting stale.

-- Leticia Van de Putte will run for mayor of San Antonio, spoiling the hopes of former state Rep. Mike Villarreal, who's already resigned his seat in the Texas House.  It also sets off a scrum for her Texas Senate chair; running first in speculative replacements is TMF.  There's a special election scheduled three weeks from now to replace Jethro Bodine Glenn Hegar in SD-BFE, and taking the early lead there is state representative Lois Kochwhore Kolkhorst.  (Sorry, that was mean.)  Can she out-crook this guySome country gal is already running for K's House seat.

Update (10/22): Turns out Villarreal did not resign, technically (see his letter saying he will 'decline to assume the office').  As QR notes, he may be able re-assume his place in the Texas House.  He's saying he will not, FWIW.  But another GOP House member has quit to work for Archie Bunker Sid Miller at Ag, so there will be one more HD special election called at some point.

Now you know why I haven't posted about the makeup of the next Lege yet.  Not much left in the way of breaking news; far right moves farther right, same as with our Washington representation.  Plenty of time to take a look at that, probably after Thanksgiving and maybe after all these special elections.

-- Ben Hall is running for mayor of Houston once more, and has gotten busy destroying his credibility all over again.  I thought rich people were supposed to be smart.

I got nothing else.  Still recovering from the latest (and extremely powerful) version of The Crud, and still need to close out my books for 2014.  Talk amongst yourselves in the comments.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

While we wait

... for Obama to bust his move on immigration reform, a few leaks begin to trickle.

President Barack Obama is poised to give relief from deportation to millions of undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or of permanent legal residents, according to a source familiar with White House deliberations.

Obama has promised to lay out the details of an executive order on immigration. The action could come as early as this week.

The source, who asked not to be identified, said some details were not yet available on which parents of citizens or permanent residents would be included. The Obama administration, the source said, had been looking at options including those parents who have been living in the United States for five years or 10 years.

A top Obama aide is scheduled to have lunch with Senate Democrats on Thursday on Capitol Hill. White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, who will discuss the state of the economy and the post-election legislative agenda, is likely to be pressed on the immigration issue in the closed-door luncheon.

On Monday, in an interview with Univision, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said that Obama should move on immigration "now."

Obama is expected to take actions to allow some undocumented people to live here at least temporarily without the threat of deportation and to hold jobs in the United States. Obama's executive order could also include further border security steps, according to sources. Obama is expected to stress that he wants to focus efforts on deportations of illegal residents with serious criminal backgrounds.

He might be waiting on the Ferguson grand jury's decision regarding the indictment of Michael Brown's murderer.  If he is, then the immigration news will take a back seat for a few days.

Update: He's not waiting much longer.  It makes sense that he would do it in the evening for primetime TV cameras.  (As opposed to the Ferguson grand jury matter, which will almost certainly be announced in the early hours of some morning, as far from nightfall as they can manage.)

... for Missouri to explode, and engulf the rest of the nation.

A St. Louis suburb that faced weeks of sometimes violent protests following August's fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman remained on edge on Wednesday as it waited to learn if the officer would face charges.

A grand jury has been meeting for nearly three months, considering whether to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, an incident that laid bare long-simmering racial tensions in the mostly black city.

There's been some taunting going on as well.

Some of Wilson's supporters have been almost agitating for a showdown. One raised money to purchase a billboard with the slogan, "Pants Up, Don't Loot," playing off the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" rallying cry of Ferguson protesters. A Missouri chapter of the KKK threatened "lethal force" against protesters.

It's no exaggeration that the rest of the country is nearly as tense as Ferguson.  Not joking.

... to see how many more Texans will have to die from exploding or leaking toxic chemicals before Republicans and those who vote for them start demand some accountability.

On Saturday morning, four workers died at a DuPont chemical plant that manufactures the pesticide Lannate in La Porte, Texas after a leak of the poisonous gas methyl mercaptan. A fifth was hospitalized but later released. The plant hasn’t been visited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 2007.

Such a deadly accident without an explosion or fire is unusual, according to the Wall Street Journal.


The plant is also out of compliance with hazardous waste management and air emissions standards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to records reviewed by the Wall Street Journal. The agency brought formal enforcement actions against it for violations in 2012 and 2014, resulting in $117,375 in penalties. DuPont is also in discussions with the EPA and Justice Department about these issues at the La Porte plant, which began after a 2008 inspection.

And over the last five years, the plant was cited for violating state law at least two dozen times by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, according to a review of state records by the Texas Tribune, for failures related to performing routine safety inspections, keeping equipment in working order, and preventing pollution leaks. Most recently, it released 36,500 pounds of sulfur dioxide over the course of three hours in September, well above the allowed limit, and in August last year it leaked 40 pounds of chlorine. Some of the more serious citations resulted in fines of a few thousand dollars.

Too bad the families of the dead La Porte DuPont employees didn't drive around and ask.

... for Uber to suffer some blowback for being the world's latest, greatest corporate assholes.  It's got to happen sooner or later, right?


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Senate votes tonight on Keystone, NSA reforms

-- Approval of the Keystone XL pipeline falls one vote short of cloture -- 59-41 -- just minutes ago.

After six days of political wrangling and vote-whipping, the Senate failed to pass a bill on Tuesday forcing authorization of the Keystone XL pipeline, dashing hopes of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) to add the vote to her list of accomplishments heading into a tough runoff election.

Fifty-nine senators voted for the bill, one short of the 60 needed to clear a filibuster. Fourteen Democrats joined all the Senate Republicans in voting for the bill, which was cosponsored by Landrieu and John Hoeven (R-N.D.). The House passed companion legislation on Friday from Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Landrieu's opponent in the runoff election.

Landrieu said going into Tuesday's debate that it was "one of the first debates I've been in in eight years where the outcome is uncertain." She added, however, that she went into the debate "knowing in my heart we have 60 votes. I hope we've got the courage that supports that."

But that last vote never materialized.

The Landrieu Rescue Gambit is very likely also a failure.  The new Senate will take up the measure again in 2015, with an eye toward 67 votes... the number needed to override a presidential veto.

Update: Here are the 14 Democrats who voted 'aye'.

Mark Begich (Alaska)
Michael Bennet (Colorado)
Tom Carper (Delaware)
Bob Casey (Pennsylvania)
Joe Donnelly (Indiana)
Kay Hagan (North Carolina)
Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota)
Mary Landrieu (Louisiana)
Joe Manchin (West Virginia)
Claire McCaskill (Missouri)
Mark Pryor (Arkansas)
Jon Tester (Montana)
John Walsh (Montana)
Mark Warner (Virginia)

Begich, Hagan, Pryor, Walsh, and probably Landrieu won't be in the Senate next year, replaced by Republicans whose no votes don't add to the tally.  Republicans in 2015 who will switch Democratic yes votes include Ernst of Iowa, Gardner of Colorado, Rounds of South Dakota, and Capito of West Virginia.  Meaning they still don't have 67, but that won't slow them down any.

"If you look at new Congress, you can count four more (GOP seats) right away, and there may be others," Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, the lead sponsor of the bill, said after the 59-41 vote Tuesday. "You can see we're well over 60."

Hoeven acknowledged that Republicans would need 67 votes to override a veto, but said one possibility is to include Keystone in a larger energy package that may not prompt a veto threat.

Update (11/19): Or Obama could cut a deal with Republicans.

President Barack Obama might be open to using the Keystone pipeline as leverage with Republicans if they cooperate on other aspects of his long-stalled domestic agenda, such as investing in infrastructure, closing tax loopholes or reducing carbon emissions.

After years of fighting over TransCanada's crude oil pipeline from Canada, a Keystone deal is not entirely out of the question, sources inside the administration and others close to the White House told Reuters on Tuesday.

-- The Senate will also decide tonight how much spying on Americans -- and to what extent -- will continue happening.  Vox:

The original version of the USA Freedom Act, introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) in October 2013, had a number of provisions on the wish lists of civil liberties groups. But by the time the legislation was approved by the House of Representatives in May 2014, it had been watered down so much that leading civil liberties groups opposed it.

So, in July, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced his own version of the USA Freedom Act in the Senate. It is less radical than the original USA Freedom Act, but places more limits on the NSA than the legislation approved by the House.

Debate over the USA Freedom Act has focused on the best way to rein in bulk collection of Americans' phone records. The Senate version of the legislation requires any collection of phone records to focus on a suitably narrow "selector" — a search term that identifies an individual, phone line, or other specific entity.

The Senate bill would also take some other steps to make the NSA's activities more transparent and accountable. Right now, when the government asks the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to approve surveillance activities, there is no one around to present opposing arguments. The Senate bill would change that by creating several new positions for public advocates who could participate in FISC proceedings.

The bill would also require the government to disclose significant FISC opinions (though the government could decline to publish them if it decides doing so would damage national security) and to publish detailed statistics about the extent of domestic spying activities.

Here's the most interesting part; who stands against the legislation and why.

Advocates at both extremes of the surveillance debate oppose the bill. From the pro-surveillance side, former NSA director Michael Hayden and former attorney general Michael Mukasey recently blasted the bill as "NSA Reform That Only ISIS Could Love." At the opposite end of the political spectrum, some hard-core civil libertarians are opposing the bill for being too soft on the NSA.

Interestingly, Kentucky's two Republican Senators, Rand Paul and majority leader Mitch McConnell, oppose the bill for opposite reasons. Paul thinks it doesn't go far enough, while McConnell believes it ties the NSA's hands too much. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), the top Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, agrees with McConnell.

The bill will need 60 votes to overcome an expected filibuster.

More there about how the various amendments to be offered might strengthen or weaken the bill.  I'll update here with the final vote later tonight (or tomorrow morning if they go on all night).


The Senate on Tuesday blocked a bill to end bulk collection of American phone records by the National Security Agency, dealing a blow to President Barack Obama's primary proposal to rein in domestic surveillance.

The 58-42 vote was two short of the 60 needed to proceed with debate. Voting was largely along party lines, with most Democrats supporting the bill and most Republicans voting against it. The Republican-controlled House had previously passed its own NSA bill.

The legislation would have ended the NSA's collection of domestic calling records, instead requiring the agency to obtain a court order each time it wanted to analyze the records in terrorism cases, and query records held by the telephone companies. In many cases the companies store the records for 18 months.

The revelation that the spying agency had been collecting and storing domestic phone records since shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was among the most significant by Edward Snowden, a former agency network administrator who turned over secret NSA documents to journalists. The agency collects only so-called metadata — numbers called, not names — and not the content of conversations. But the specter of the intelligence agency holding domestic calling records was deeply disquieting to many Americans.

The bill had drawn support from technology companies and civil liberties activists. Its failure means there has been little in the way of policy changes as a result of Snowden's disclosures.

What the US Senate will look like next year

I was hoping someone else would write this and save me the trouble of finishing it, but since I haven't seen anything better, I'll go ahead with mine.  Most of the excerpts below came from three sources: this piece at the Daily Beast, this article at the New York Times, and this report from USA Today.

The important thing to bear in mind is that Republicans did not make the Todd Akin/Sharron Angle/Christine O'Donnell mistakes of years past.  Either that or the low turnout favored the freakishly right to such an advanced degree that it did not matter.  And the other thing to note is that the blue wave is coming in 2016; 24 Senate seats up for re-election in two years have to be defended by Republicans, some of them in blue states like Marco Rubio of Florida and Rob Portman of Ohio (both have said they will not run for re-election to the US Senate if they decide to bid for the White House), Mark Kirk of Illinois, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.  More on that good news for Dems/bad news for Repubs in 2016 here and here.


Alaska -- Incumbent Democrat Mark Begich has finally conceded to R Dan Sullivan.  This was the Republicans' latest flip, making their total of those eight (so far, as we wait for the runoff in Louisiana).

(Sullivan) was backed early by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads. His pedigree includes an undergraduate degree from Harvard, two stints in the second Bush administration and tenures as Alaska’s attorney general and commissioner of natural resources.

When his campaign needed a jolt this year, he called in a favor from one of the most recognizable figures in the Republican Party: Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state. Ms. Rice agreed to film an ad in which she looked straight into the camera and said, “America needs Dan Sullivan.”

Arkansas -- In one of the Senate races that was lost in the week before Election Day, Republican Tom Cotton defeated incumbent D David Pryor.

When Cotton takes his oath of office, he will become the youngest U.S. senator.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred while Cotton was in his final year at Harvard Law School, causing him to rethink his future. The sixth-generation Arkansan clerked for a U.S. Court of Appeals judge and worked in private law practice before deciding to enlist in the U.S. Army. Cotton told Politico he delayed his Army enlistment because he made a commitment to the federal judge and needed to pay off his student loans.

Cotton eventually served five years in the Army and completed two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning a Bronze Star among other commendations. Military groups say Cotton is one of the first Iraq War veterans to be elected to the U.S. Senate. [...]

Cotton tied Pryor, the last Democrat in the Arkansas congressional delegation, to President Obama throughout the Senate race and highlighted his opponent's support of the Affordable Care Act. [...]

The Republican's campaign spots also featured his drill sergeant and parents, who previously voted for Democrats such as Pryor and his father, David, a former Arkansas governor and U.S. senator.

"But like so many Arkansans, they realized that Barack Obama and the Obama Democrats don't reflect the old conservative Democrats that they knew and grew up with," Cotton told Real Clear Politics about his parents.

Here's what conservative radio talker Steve Deace is saying about him (and Iowa's Joni Ernst and Nebraska's Ben Sasse).

“What I heard from conservatives I talked to around the country during the election was ‘Who is going to go there and help out [Sen. Ted] Cruz and [Sen. Mike] Lee? Who is going to help out the wacko birds?’” said Deace, referring to the derisive term Sen. John McCain once used to describe Cruz that conservatives now wear as a badge of honor. “Our expectation is that [Ernst, Cotton and Sasse] are going to join the ranks of the wacko birds. That’s our expectation.”

Deace and his listeners won’t be the only ones looking to the trio to for results. So will conservative donors. The Senate Conservatives Fund and its affiliate Senate Conservatives Action, for example, plowed millions into the Iowa, Nebraska and Arkansas races. Ernst received nearly $450,000 in bundled contributions and $475,000 in independent expenditures from the groups for her race. Sasse got $487,000 in bundled contributions and more than $835,000 in outside expenditures in his GOP primary. Cotton picked up about $200,000 in bundled SCF money and saw more than $500,000 in outside SCF money in his race against Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor.

Another major conservative group, Club for Growth Action, poured more than $800,000 into Cotton’s race against Pryor, about $500,000 against Sasse’s primary opponents, and another $297,151 and $186,587 in bundled donations for Cotton and Sasse, respectively.

Colorado -- Cory Gardner beat incumbent D Mark Udall.  The loud objection one Democratic contributor had to Udall's emphasis on women's issues was, in the 20-20 hindsight post-election analysis affords, unfortunately the wrong issue to key on.

The race focused intensely on women's reproductive rights, with the Udall campaign highlighting Gardner's support for personhood legislation, which would provide a fertilized egg the same protections as a person, effectively making abortion illegal, as well as birth control under some interpretations of the legislation.

But Gardner recanted his support for such legislation early in the campaign. "The fact that it restricts contraception, it was not the right position," Gardner told The Denver Post in March. "I've learned to listen. I don't get everything right the first time."

Gardner went on to tout his new support for over-the-counter access to birth control. "I believe the pill ought to be available over the counter, around the clock, without a prescription. Cheaper and easier for you," he said in one ad.

Iowa -- Joni Ernst, R-Batshit Hog Castrator, defeated Bruce Braley and is replacing liberal lion Tom Harkin, which is probably the greatest lurch to the right that can be measured with modern technology.  Forget Braley's own epic failures; Harkin screwed up twice in the last days of this campaign.  Once was when he refused to allow the campaign warchest he had remaining to be used to help Braley, and the other was when he compared Ernst to Taylor Swift (for which he had to apologize).  Way to go out with a whimper, Tom.

Montana -- In one of the least surprising results on Election Night, the Big Sky State sent a Republican to replace Max Baucus.  From the time he left the Senate to become ambassador to China, Democrats knew they would have a hard time holding the seat.  Then the appointed placeholder, Lt. Gov. John Walsh, was discovered having fudged his resume', and what was already a long shot shifted into the loss column in August.  Rep. Steve Daines moves across the Rotunda; here's what the NYT wrote about him.

On social issues, Daines opposes abortion, same-sex marriage and funding of Planned Parenthood. He favors replacing the federal Affordable Care Act, and Common Core education standards, with "Montana based solutions.''

But in his Senate campaign, Daines focused on his support for the state's coal, oil and timber industries. In his single term in the House, Daines pushed for expanded logging in federal forest land and supported the Keystone oil pipeline.

Decrying what he calls the Obama administration's "war on coal,'' he opposes increased environmental regulation of the coal industry, supports a continued tax break for coal production on native American lands, and supports an environmentally controversial port in Washington state for the export of Montana coal.

North Carolina -- Incumbent Dem Kay Hagan could not hold on in the Red Wave, losing to Tea Party-proud Thom Tillis.

Tillis promoted his conservative credentials during the campaign. Stressing his experience in the business world, Tillis said he would help bring tax-cutting, regulation-reducing, "pro-growth policies" to the national economy.

Hagan led in polls for most of the race, but Tillis rallied amid attacks on the Obama administration.

The campaign was among the harshest of the election year, featuring millions of dollars of negative ads.

South Dakota -- It was believed that an independent challenger, former Republican Sen. Larry Pressler, would throw this race to the Dems and their nominee, Rick Weiland.  That was too hopeful.  Former Gov. Mike Rounds easily bested those two to replace retiring Dem Sen. Tim Johnson.

The 60-year-old Rounds has been winning elections in South Dakota for more than 20 years. He served two terms as governor from 2003 through 2011. Before that, he was elected to five terms in the South Dakota state Senate, where he served as majority leader for six years.


Rounds called for reining in the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to reduce global warming emissions, eliminating the U.S. Department of Education, and repealing and replacing Obamacare.

"I think big government is the biggest challenge we've got, and we want big government out of South Dakota," he said during a debate.

West Virginia -- The no-doubter among the flippers was here, where Shelley Moore-Capito was never seriously contested to replace Dem Jay Rockefeller.  Capito actually comes off as the most moderate of newly-elected Republicans in the US Senate.

Capito shattered a glass ceiling in politics with her election as the first woman to represent West Virginia in the U.S. Senate.

Capito, 60, defeated Democrat Natalie Tennant, West Virginia's secretary of State. She is also the first West Virginia Republican elected to the Senate since the late 1950s.


In the House, Capito serves as chairwoman of a House panel on financial institutions and consumer credit that has broad sway over the sweeping Dodd-Frank banking law. Her panel has worked to enhance oversight of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that was created under the law that has given Wall Street fits.

The West Virginia race never got on the political radar, in part because of Capito's pragmatic approach in a state that has Democrats serving as governor and in the other U.S. Senate seat. She is popular among House colleagues in both parties and a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership, a moderate group that works with Democrats on fiscal issues.


Georgia  -- Believed to be the strongest pickup opportunity for Democrats, Georgia fell away from Michelle Nunn in the closing days.  David Perdue will go to Washington to replace Saxby Chambliss.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution wrote that Perdue is "known on Wall Street as a turnaround specialist who helps revive brands and reap rewards for investors," and he campaigned as a job creator who knows how to help businesses thrive.

But that background also became a flashpoint in the Senate race when Politico uncovered a 2005 deposition in which Perdue acknowledged that he had spent "most of my career" outsourcing work to Asia. The deposition was in a dispute over a company a North Carolina textile firm called Pillowtex that Perdue had run briefly and that closed shortly after he left in 2003. Opponents attacked him for the loss of 8,000 jobs there.

But Perdue was able to focus the Senate race on Obama, and repeatedly warned that Nunn would simply be a "rubber stamp" for Obama's policies.

Perdue's business background has made him wealthy, and he will become one of the 50 richest members of Congress upon his arrival in Washington.

Kansas -- Also thought to be a Democratic flip shot, the Jayhawk State's race wasn't all that close, as incumbent Pat Roberts prevailed over independent Greg Orman, 53-42.

Kentucky -- Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was thought to be vulnerable to a challenge from Alison Lundergan Grimes, but in hindsight she ran one of the weaker campaigns in the cycle.  Playing nearly constant dodgeball from Obama, Grimes got nailed too many times and lost 56-41.

Nebraska -- Ben Sasse, mentioned briefly above in the Arkansas excerpt, takes over from retiring Sen. Mike Johanns.  More on Sasse...

Sasse, 42, served in George W. Bush's administration in different roles with the Justice and Homeland Security departments, before doing a stint as an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services. For a short time, Sasse was also chief of staff to Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.


As a college wrestler, Sasse's secret weapon was to head butt his opponents. He has no feeling where he has a long scar on top of his forehead, the result of falling off a hayloft as a child. The Washington Post reports that injury allowed Sasse to excel with his wrestling specialty.  [...]  His primary victory in May over two rivals was considered a big win for Tea Party groups and conservatives such as Sarah Palin and Sen. Ted Cruz.

Oklahoma -- US Rep. James Lankford will replace ailing Tom Coburn from the Sooner State.

Lankford first became involved in politics in 2009, when he resigned from his position as director of the Falls Creek Christian youth summer camp to run for Congress, claiming God was "calling" him to do so. With the help of social media, Christian grassroots support and a financial advantage, he was elected to the seat vacated by Mary Fallin, who ran for governor, in 2010, beating his Democratic opponent with 63% of the vote.

Once in the House, Lankford earned a reputation as a hardworking conservative, ranked by the National Journal as the 76th most conservative House member in 2014. Serving on the House Committees on Budget and Oversight & Government Reform, Lankford was elected chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee following his reelection in 2012.

On the campaign trail, the Baptist minister took a stand against federal debt, vowing to stop deficit spending. Rather than play up his accomplishments in Congress, Lankford looked to paint himself as a citizen legislator, much like Coburn.

Michigan -- Gay Peters is the lone Democratic freshman in the Class of 2014.

When U.S. Sen. Carl Levin announced in early 2013 that he wouldn't run for a seventh term this year, it was immediately apparent to anyone who follows politics in Michigan that Gary Peters was the Democrat most likely to succeed him.

Wonkish and bespectacled, Peters, 55, is a congressman from Bloomfield Township in Detroit's wealthy northern suburbs. He has been on an impressive string of political victories since wresting a Republican-controlled district from Rep. Joe Knollenberg in 2008.

In 2010, he barely beat back the Republican wave to keep his seat. Then, in 2012, after Republicans tried to force him out by placing him in a district with a senior Democrat, Peters instead stepped into a neighboring district in Detroit proper, winning easily. He became the first white to represent the city in Congress in decades.


Throughout his political career, Peters has counted on support from traditional Democratic sources – especially unions. But he has also worked to forge an independent identity in Congress, co-sponsoring bills with Republicans, including one that would crack down on duplicative spending in the federal government, and breaking with his party on some key votes.

"In the Senate," he said, "I will continue to focus on working with members of both parties to overcome gridlock and identify practical solutions."

You might have noticed that there is a very specific intention among many of these Senators-elect to get something done, and not grandstand or demagogue.  We'll watch closely to see if those were just campaign slogans.

I have a US House version of this post in draft status, and a similar one on the Texas Legislature (House and Senate) that needs some polishing.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance anticipates major developments ahead as President Obama reveals -- maybe --  his immigration reform initiatives.  The grand jury investigating the Michael Brown shooting will release its findings also.  And the US Senate is expected to vote on the Keystone XL pipeline.  There will be lots to blog about this week as we bring you the best from last week in this roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at some pro- and anti-equality bills that were pre-filed for the 2015 Legislature.

Libby Shaw, writing for Texas Kaos and for Daily Kos, notes that although the Republican voter suppression efforts had its intended effect of keeping so many of us away from the polls, Texas Democrats share some of the blame for voter apathy: Voter Suppression did the trick in Texas.

Evidence from around the country emerged in the wake of the 2014 election drubbing that change is going to have to come to the Democratic Party from both within and without. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs understood early on that if they cannot regain relevance in midterm elections, then we are all destined to ride the partisan see-saw every two years... and let gridlock reign.

Social media has been great at blowing up narratives generated from Republican think tanks and published in mainstream newspapers, magazines and TV shows. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to help: No, the new set of Republicans in Congress aren't less crazy and more pragmatic than Todd Akin or Sharron Angle.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson has one more go on some post-election commentary: Williamson Democrats, Battleground Texas, and the way forward.

Neil at All People Have Value said that there is not very much to say. APHV is part of

Texas Leftist offers an insider's view of Battleground Texas... what went right, what went wrong and how the organization moves forward from here. Square one?? Get to know Texas, and don't mess with what already works.

Easter Lemming, in one of his rare and even popular posts outside of Facebook, covers a Republican blogger who shows how the Republican victories of 2014 set them up for defeat in 2016. There is a Democratic state firewall that would be almost impossible for Republicans to breach to get the presidency and the only question is how many seats will the GOP lose in the Senate and House. Easter Lemming now mainly posts on his Easter Lemming News Facebook page.

Texpatriate took note of some of the changes in the Texas Senate, and Bluedaze reports that Frack Free Denton moves forward even as the lawsuits against the successful ballot referendum start to pile up.


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

Concerned Citizens scouts out the San Antonio mayoral race.

Lone Star Q has a surprising report about Westboro Baptist's involvement in the recent Houston anti-gay protests.

Nonsequiteuse examines the cult of Mommy and the cult of the fetus.

Unfair Park wants to know why Ted Cruz wants to slow down their Netxflix streaming.

Texas Watch is hiring.

Juanita Jean relates the worst Veterans' Day story ever.

Scott Braddock documents a teabagger slap fight in North Texas.

Fred Lewis sums up the evidence that wasn't presented at the San Jacinto waste pits trial.

And Trail Blazers says that the divisions among the Tea Party Caucus in the Texas Legislature highlight what is expected to be a fairly routine election of the Speaker, Joe Straus.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Frostbite Friday

Did you cover up your plants and bring the dogs inside last night?  It looks like it might warm up fast.  I'm clear of my election duties as of yesterday afternoon, but closing out my fiscal year means that time to blog at some length remains limited.

-- Yesterday Gadfly took exception with my characterization in this post of the climate pact between China and the US as a 'game-changer'.  I still think it is, and there's plenty of reasons to be a doubter (of my premise, not climate change).  Bill McKibben of in particular has several good reasons to be both encouraged and discouraged here.  I'm optimistic about the agreement being a difference-maker, and I'm capable of holding two competing thoughts in my head (and so should you).

--  From the people who complain when all schoolchildren get a trophy...

State Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, introduced a new bill Thursday to change the way Michigan's electoral college votes are allocated. Under the new bill, the presidential winner of the state's popular vote would get at least 9 of the state's 16 electoral votes. The winner would receive an additional electoral vote for every 1.5% above the 50% vote mark. For instance, if the winner got 51.5% of the statewide vote, they would get 10 of the state's 16 electoral votes. If they won 53% of the statewide vote they'd get 11 electoral votes.

The rest of the electoral votes would go to the second place finisher.

The new bill is markedly different than Lund's last bill that would have awarded the votes based on congressional district. If that scenario were in place in 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would have gotten the majority of the state's electoral votes even though he lost badly to President Barack Obama in the state's popular vote.

Similar efforts in blue states that just elected Republican majorities in their statehouses will be under way shortly.  Yes, midterm elections have long-term consequences.

-- Had a fun discussion that began yesterday on a local politico's Facebook wall about the question I asked at the top of this post about the political consultants that threw Wendy Davis under the bus.  If you can't see that because of privacy settings then I'll summarize:  a majority of Texas Democratic professional (sic) advisers responding there don't really want to go on record as favoring or opposing the repeal of Citizens United.  It should be obvious why they don't, but they certainly don't want to say so.  This conversation has a few well-worn paths; I expected someone to use the phrase "unilateral disarmament" by now as a defense.  So they're just a little late or they're ignoring my call-out.  No big deal; they can take it up with JFK or Greenberg Quinlan Rosser if they choose.

Of course it's not only the consultant class but also the corporate media who stand against, because of the millions in television advertising they would lose as a result.  So don't expect your local teevee reporters to cover developments like the annual negative reviews about attack ads (that, shockingly, suppress voter turnout), nor should you expect the lazy/overworked newspaper accounts about the latest ad on YouTube (continuing their downward spiral by giving away what they could potentially collect a fee for), etc. and so on ad nauseum.

If you're one of the 81% of Americans who do want to have CU -- and, consequently, the vast majority of the leeches on our political system known as paid political handlers -- go away, then sign on here.

Update: More political-operative-leaked email bullshit here.

-- Texpatriate and Kuffner have comprehensive posts about early legislative filings in Austin.  Of note is Sen. Donna Campbell's rerun at codifying more discrimination against the LGBTQ community.  What are the odds that it passes next year?  I'd say they are good.

Carol Morgan with more...

Less than a week has passed since Texas voters granted approval to the institutional craziness of Texas’ newest political extremists. If I could quit laughing long enough, I just might set my hair on fire. These days, I seem to alternate between laughing and crying.

Just for amusement, head over to the bill-filing frenzy, a list of the priorities of our incoming 85th Legislature.
The long list of perfectly useless bills filed by Amarillo’s Four Price caught my eye right away. There were 31 of them: Proclamations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day and TWO commemorative Ronald Reagan days. Did he get these ideas from a Hallmark store or John Frullo?

One rep wants to repeal Dodd-Frank. Maybe he needs some civics remediation from one of the 12,000 teachers he laid off two years ago.


Texas Representative Mark Keough (who’s both a car salesman and a preacher) declares that there’s no separation of church and state, so he’s pushing for guns in church.

Now there’s talk from everyone, including Dan Patrick and the new governor, that voters gave them a mandate to cut property taxes and the business franchise tax (or just do away with both of them), just as Texas is facing answers to the problem of school funding. And more rumors about drug testing for anyone on public assistance or unemployment.

Crazy talk, anyone?

Thanks Carol, but I've already had my share.

-- Last, Rick Perry's 15-member appointed medical board AND Greg Abbott's Secretary of State-designate believe and recommend that Medicaid should be expanded in Texas.  Kuff also had the link to the TexTrib about the financial leverage the feds have in forcing the state to comply.  That would qualify as progress if it happened.  And the sooner it happens, the more lives of poor sick Texans might be saved.  Or extended.  Or improved.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thank goodness we have people to explain it for us

EVBB for me concludes (perhaps) today, and we'll get back to the hard stuff as soon as it does.

-- Voter turnout lowest in 72 years; Texas last.  How much worse could it be if nobody hired political consultants who stabbed their paying customers in the back like this?  How much worse could it get if nobody hired political consultants at all?

The next time you go to a meeting where a political consultant is the guest speaker, and he/she is analyzing election results, ask them just one question: do you support overturning Citizens United?

If you want to understand why people don't vote, it's right in front of your eyes.  Just not his.

-- Oh, and there's this also.

In a move that mirrors their failed midterm election strategy, Senate Democrats are trying save Sen. Mary Landrieu’s job by voting on approval of the Keystone XL pipeline next week.

The Senate will vote (next week) on whether or not to greenlight construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. 

Even TransCanada has already moved on, for cripe's sake.

The vote on the Keystone XL pipeline is an attempt to save Mary Landrieu’s job. Landrieu still needs five Democrats to join her in supporting the bill, or it will fail next week. The problem with the vote is that it is an obvious betrayal of the values that Democrats have been championing for years. With their majority gone in January, Harry Reid is allowing a vote on a bill that he has refused to bring to the floor for years.

There probably are five Senate Dems who will vote for it.  If it passes, will Obama sign it or veto it?  I think it would be interesting to see what he does, particularly in the wake of the game-changing climate accord this week with the Chinese.  But how this helps Landrieu in any way is one of the more cynical gambits the Democrats have pulled on their base in a long, long time.

I suppose they think those rubes in Louisiana can't see through it.

Update: Joan Walsh nails it.

-- As we wait for the Ferguson grand jury's verdict on whether or not to indict the policeman who shot Michael Brown, it appears that things have a good chance to be worse than the last time.

Yeah, that's all the greatest country in the world needs right now: more racial violence.