Friday, January 13, 2012

Texas Tea Time this weekend (and more minority reports)

The last time our loudest, whitest, most bigoted friends had a get-together it was at the LaMarque dog track to sing the praises of the Pizza Man. This Saturday they're drawing straws to let Rick Perry win something. Or maybe Ron Paul. Big Daddy Cain will be there again.

Former Texas Congressman Dick Armey, former presidential candidate Herman Cain and the Republican candidates hoping to succeed U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison are among the prominent names scheduled to speak to a weekend gathering of tea partiers at Minute Maid Park.

Sponsored by a coalition of Houston-area tea party groups, the Saddle Up Straw Poll gives attendees the opportunity to express their preferences in the presidential race, congressional races and Texas legislative races. About 1,000 people are expected to attend the two-day event. Voters must have a valid Texas ID.

"The goal is not to steer people towards one candidate or another, or promote only the Texas candidates Perry and Paul, or to promote a 'tea party' candidate, but to host a poll that more likely reflects the actual Republican primary voters," said event spokeswoman Felicia Cravens in a statement on the website Full Metal Patriot.

At least they're no longer pretending to be anything but Republicans. That's a good first step toward self-awareness. Most relevant items needed for this meetup:

Voters must have a valid Texas ID.


Tickets at the door are $75.

Speaking of Texas Republican Senate candidates:

Major Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate knocked heads Thursday night in a debate that was more lively than the presidential forums that have become a TV mainstay.

Several candidates threw verbal punches at Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the frontrunner. The guy in the back in the polls, Magnolia funeral home director Glenn Addison, turned out to be the evening's crowd pleaser, though.

None of the candidates had any immediately apparent campaign-altering gaffes. Most of the jabs were between Dewhurst, Ted Cruz and Tom Leppert, who've been in the race the longest and who were raising significant amounts of money in the last reports. Craig James, the fifth man on stage, got into the race in December — he actually made his formal announcement earlier on the day of the debate — and hasn't yet reported his campaign finances.

Sponsored by Mucous -- because it's cold and flu season, after all -- the race to replace "Texas' most popular politician" is as freaky as you would expect.

James: "I believe in the 2nd Amendment. I've got a pistol and a shotgun between my mattresses." 

A person would certainly need two mattresses if he chose to sleep on a shotgun. More like this...

• Dewhurst opens: Obama trampling on our God-given rights. "I want to go to Washington and cut spending."

• Cruz says he will throw his body in front of a train to stop Obamacare.

• Leppert: A flat tax is an opportunity to expand the base... the tax code has more words than the Holy Bible.

• Addison says he wants to kill the EPA; calls it a "job-killer." Now taking on China and "spineless, wussy senators" who won't react. 

More live-blogging of last night's debate here. Just can't wait for the next one. How about some more stupid and crazy?

Preaching a conservative message is a better way to connect with the growing U.S. Hispanic community than to mention the Republican Party by name, the nation's first Hispanic tea party group president said at an Austin forum on Thursday.

"Whenever the word 'Republican' is used, it was almost like an automatic wall that falls," George Rodriguez, president of the San Antonio Tea Party, said at a conference organized by the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation. "Yet when we used the word 'conservative,' people were more responsive."

Got that, TeaBags? In order to woo Latinos, don't say 'Republican', say 'conservative'. That's your victory strategy. And don't wear your furry elephant head with the long trunk, wear your white hooded sheet. They'll never recognize you. It's like camoflage.

I wonder if the Tea Party has any plans for Monday? 

Update: There is also a separate straw poll being conducted via text from your cellphone.

In order to help Texans have a voice in the presidential primary process, Saddle Up Texas organizers have created a free text poll to accompany the in-person straw poll at the Saddle Up Texas Straw Poll event this weekend. ...

The poll will also include the same races featured on the ballot for voters at the Saddle Up Texas event. Text options include the U.S. Senate race, U.S. House races, Texas Senate races and Texas House races. Voters will not be charged for voting in the text poll, and will only be allowed to vote using phones with Texas area codes, and may vote only once in each race.

The Saddle Up Texas Straw Poll text option will be available from noon Thursday, January 12th to 2 p.m. Saturday, January 14th. Instructions for voting in the straw poll are available at

I have just cast my ballot. =)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Republicans activate self-destruction sequence

Three-minute version:

28-minute version:

When you have both Newt Gingrich (with a generous assist from his casino billionaire BFF Sheldon Adelson) AND Rick Perry calling Mitt Romney a vulture capitalist, the Republican nominee in 2012 -- be it Romney or "Not" -- is already in quicksand up to his waist.

Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have both gone on the attack against Governor Oops for using OWS language against the front-runner. Gingrich, in his elegantly duplicitous style, blames Obama for his attacks on Romney. This is the big tent of the GOP collapsing under the weight of its own hypocrisy. An amazing sight, really.

I have mostly been of the mind that that Republicans would start falling in line like they always do, the Not-Romneys re-indoctrinating themselves into a hive mind of Not-Obamas. That, of course, could still happen. Romney's squeaker in Iowa, landslide in New Hampshire, and formidable lead in South Carolina strongly suggest he will be the nominee. But the probability percentage started moving down a week ago as the conservative infighting went public, and as these developments designed to influence Palmetto State voters continue to evolve, the long-term damage is deep and probably mortal. Whomever emerges from this dirigible explosion is simply going to be too wounded to win in November. And the worse it gets for that person, the more likely it is that Obama will coast to re-election -- with the usual conditions of no unforeseen crises (like a war with Iran, for example) or self-inflicted wounds -- and I am more convinced than ever that Ron Paul is going to have a larger say in the matter. Even Jim DeMint thinks so. Paul draws voters from every point on the political spectrum, particularly younger voters and the military. His acolytes see him as the agent of radical change they believe the country is in need of. I still cannot see Dr. No as the GOP nominee but he is Ross Perot-level viable as a third party candidate already.

Frankly though, to me it looks like it's time for party activists with a US Senate election in their state -- or a close contest in the US House -- to start concentrating on those races.

Monday, January 09, 2012

SCOTUS hears arguments about TX redistricting, leaves us guessing

Allow me to cut to the chase: the Texas primary election date (now April 3, previously March 6) is likely going to be shifted to later in the year again.

Well aware that it must act swiftly, the Supreme Court on Monday pondered two simple ways and one considerably more complex way to let Texas go forward with its 2012 elections for state legislature and Congress, but left open the possibility that Texas’ present election calendar might have to be stretched out.  In a 68-minute argument on three redistricting cases from the Lone Star State, the Justices eagerly explored specific solutions to an unusually tangled controversy, and got into the counting of days open for them to act.

The simplest plan was to let Texas do what it wants -- use the redistricting maps its state legislature drew earlier this year, unchanged. But only Justice Antonin Scalia seemed eager to embrace that approach. The next most simple plan, and one that seemed likely to get at least grudging support from the two legal combatants, was to let Texas use any part of its maps that have not been specifically challenged in court, and then require it to bear the burden of proving that the other parts were valid, too, before it can use those parts. It was an idea floated late in the argument by the junior Justice, Elena Kagan.

Justice Anthony Kennedy's idea, ominously predicted here, is to ignore Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Potentially more complex was an idea put forth by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, to take completely out of this case any consideration of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and confine it to direct questions of what parts of the Texas plan violate Section 2 of that Act, violate the Constitution, or violate one-person/one-vote guarantees. So far, that plan would put the next step up to a federal District Court in San Antonio, whose “interim” maps are under challenge...

What Kennedy appeared to be suggesting was that the San Antonio court — the only lower court whose action so far is now before the Justices — should confine itself to Section 2 and leave the Section 5 dispute to the Washington court. He did concede at one point, however, that there were potential complications with that, because the Washington court also had before it, in addition to Section 5 challenges, some challenges under Section 2 and the Constitution. As Kennedy mused over the thought, he said, almost inaudibly, “That doesn’t work.”

Moving down a little further in the article, there is this:

After several of the Court’s more liberal Justices had said, in questioning Clement, that Section 5 barred Texas from using its legislature’s plans until they had gained clearance in the Washington court, Justice Scalia commented to the federal government’s lawyer that ‘that is not an absolute rule.” Allowing Texas to use its own maps, the Justice said, would be a “reasonable exception to a non-absolute rule” about the priority of Section 5′s clearance requirements. There was no indication that any other Justice picked up on that notion.

While the federal lawyer, Principal Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan, was making his argument, Justice Kennedy said “the problem with this case” was that the San Antonio court was dealing with “a Section 2 suit,” and yet “Section 5 is driving it.” Section 5, Kennedy went on, puts some states “at a tremendous disadvantage” as they try to defend themselves against a Section 2 lawsuit while they are simultaneously trying to get clearance for their election changes under Section 5. “Why,” Kennedy wondered, “should Section 5 take precedent in a Section 2 suit.”

Kennedy did not seem content with Srinivasan’s suggestion that, when a state was covered by Section 2, “it can’t help but drive” what a court like the San Antonio court can do even though that court had no authority to rule on the Section 5 aspect of a state election plan.

Section 5 of the VRA, also known as pre-clearance by the DOJ of proposed maps by certain states due to their history of voting rights abuses, is eventually going to get struck down by this Court. Perhaps not in this case, perhaps it will only be frayed a bit around the edges, but its day with the executioner is coming. The signs seem clear enough to me, but most on-hand observers -- particularly the ones who are lawyers, unlike me -- seem more upbeat; the only thing coming out of today's hearing that they agree on is that the state's primary elections are probably moving to later in 2012, perhaps May at this point.

That's OK with me; they used to be in May for years before Texas tried to get in the Super Tuesday sweepstakes.

One more thing...

Because the Court has been told that new maps must be in place by February 1, if the presently scheduled April 3 primary is to go forward, the Justices are expected to act quickly, though on no specifically known timetable. It is conceivable that they could issue a fairly brief order, with an explanation to come in a later opinion. Both of the two District Courts involved in the Texas cases have taken that very approach. However, if the outcome the Supreme Court chooses is to include new guidance for the San Antonio court, that presumably could not await the preparation of a later opinion.

And one last thing specific to Section 5 from Harvey Kronberg:

In one of the weekend talking head shows, Attorney General Greg Abbott lead with a core argument in challenging the Voting Rights Act. He said there was a fundamental shift because Texas Republicans were electing Hispanics.

His comments were part of his explanation about the arguments before the United States Supreme Court this afternoon which some see as a possible vehicle for overturning key elements of the VRA.

But General Abbott’s argument was misleading. The Voting Rights Act is less about election outcomes than it is election inputs.

The Voting Rights Act is about enabling African Americans and Latinos to impact the outcome of elections as communities of interest -- not guaranteeing a proportional quota of brown and black faces in a legislative body.

The VRA is intended to prevent the bank shot disenfranchisement of minorities that results by splintering their communities into politically neutered entities.

Harvey is, as always, correct.

Update: Republican lawyer and blogger Robert Miller has his take.

Update II: And some additional insight from HK.

Several justices queried counsel on both sides of the case on whether pushing back the primary date further into the spring or early summer would pose a problem. At one point, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked Jose Garza, who presented oral arguments for the plaintiffs challenging the Texas maps, a detailed set of questions on how late could a decision be handed down to have a late June primary (my emphasis). The last Presidential primary this year is June 26. After doing some back of the envelope math, they seemed to agree that late March would be the latest possible date for establishing interim maps.

Late March? The primary is currently scheduled for April 3. This part makes no sense to me. And a ray of light:

Many court observers in recent days have speculated on whether Supreme Court justices hostile to the pre-clearance section of the Voting Rights Act would seize on this case to make a further statement on the section’s viability. But Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to take such speculation off the table when he pointedly interrupted Garza to state that the VRA’s constitutionality wasn’t at issue today.

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance thinks that watching football this past weekend -- in particular the Houston Texans' victory over the Cincinnati Bengals -- was a much better use of your time than watching the 388th and 389th Repubican presidential debates. Here's this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff discusses the state's appeal of the injunction granted against the horrible sonogram law.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the fact that our politics can't be fixed until the money is taken out of our political process: It's the money.

The case against the Texas Republicans' redistricting argument (beginning before the SCOTUS on January 9) rests almost entirely on two generations of legal precedent. And with a Court that has indicated an interest in eviscerating the Voting Rights Act, precedent doesn't mean diddly, either. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs elaborates.

BossKitty at TruthHugger has had enough of the religious bullying by the 2012 Republican presidential candidates, specifically Rick Santorum. Why do we need a Jesus candidate?

At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw explains why Romney's "job creator" lies are, well ... lies. Check it out: Mitt Romney: A Job Killer, Not Creator.

From Bay Area Houston: The Texas Ethics Commission, Jerry Eversole, and the GOP. Texas sized embarrassments.

BlueBloggin sees the consequences of not paying attention when corporate-funded American politicians make it easy to break environmental rules, ruin natural resources and not be held accountable to the human victims.

Neil at Texas Liberal noted a certificate he received in the mail from the Department of Veterans Affairs that noted his recently deceased father's military service. Neil's dad, a Korean War combat veteran, would have been glad that the certificate was signed by Barack Obama and not by a draft-dodging liar like George W. Bush.