Saturday, February 25, 2012

Third party updates

I have previously published news about third parties and their presidential candidates here and here. At the risk of repeating myself...

My thoughts on the ineptitude of continuing to support all of the candidates of the leftish member of the two-party duopoly were posted here last week. My argument in favor of third parties is: what have you got to lose? If you're a Republican and the party nominates someone you can't support, your vote for a third party candidate, be it Libertarian or Constitution or some other is a message to the GOP to shape up. Likewise -- and particularly since this is Texas, where your presidential vote isn't going to matter anyway -- you can send a message to the Democrats to get their shit together.

That having been reiterated...

-- First, this from Ballot Access News reveals another delay in the Texas primary that is tipped by RPT chairman Steve Munisteri, and it has ramifications for third party petitioners:

For the last few weeks, virtually everyone who has been following the Texas redistricting trial has assumed that the Texas primary this year will be May 29. However, on February 24, the Texas Republican Party state chair issued a letter, warning that there is a possibility the primary won’t be held until June 26. Here is the letter. Thanks to TexasRedistricting blog for the link.

A June 26 primary would require a major revision to the state’s procedure for independent presidential candidates, because the independent presidential petition can’t begin to circulate until after the primary.

Munisteri's note is headlined "it's up to the courts". That's false. It's up to him and his party to take a settlement they don't like or wait for the courts to make a decision they won't like. If they settle, they can't sue on appeal, so they won't negotiate an agreement.

This mess is all owned by the Texas GOP.

-- The Greens won't have to fight for ballot access in Texas this cycle, and have gotten a great deal of publicity out of Roseanne Barr's declaration for that nomination. Though there are others contending -- the Green Party's Texas state convention is June 9-10 in San Antonio where they will select candidates for state office (candidates must still file but there is no primary voting as with the Rs and Ds), and the national convention is July 12-15 in Baltimore -- the presidential candidate getting the most positive attention is Dr. Jill Stein. The New York Times has posted two articles of late: "Five Questions for Jill Stein" last week, and "Who might run as a third-party candidate in 2012?", yesterday. This would be Dr. Stein's second challenge to Mitt Romney (if he achieves the GOP nomination, that is); she ran against him for Massachusetts governor in 2002.

-- That last NYT link above also mentions Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg as possible 3rd candidates, for what little that is worth. Aman Batheja at the FWST has a post detailing Trump's potential as the Make America Great Again party's presidential nominee in Texas, along with some extra third party news.

-- Americans Elect, the online effort to nominate a third-party candidate, is taking their game offline with a meetup next week in Austin. It requires an RSVP at their Facebook site (which sort of defeats the purpose of taking your game offline). I have previously detailed the worthlessness of this effort as a playtoy for the idle rich. Buddy Roemer, the former Louisiana governor who drew no interest as a contender for the Republican nomination, has announced he will seek the AE slot as well as that of the Reform Party. It's noteworthy that Roemer has a local supporter in Greg Wythe. Charles has more.

-- The Libertarians' highest profile candidate (if you don't count Ron Paul) is former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson. This article details his efforts to appeal to an unconventional voting bloc: marijuana users.

Johnson’s decision to campaign on legalizing marijuana was based on principle: He’s used it, he thinks it’s safer than booze, and he hates the drug war. It was also based on some hypothetical math: “100 million Americans have admitted to using marijuana,” Johnson told me two weeks before the Florida straw poll. “If they all gave me a dollar, that’s a hundred million bucks.”

In theory, it was a swell plan. In practice, Johnson has “done so many events with marijuana. So many marijuana events. Basically, nothing comes out of it other than for an enthusiasm for what I say. No money comes out of it.”

That’s not to say that marijuana policy reform advocates are broke, or cheap. Progressive Insurance founder Peter B. Lewis has donated half a million dollars this election cycle to Prop. 66, which would reform California’s onerous three-strikes law, and another $159,000 to the Drug Policy Alliance Network Committee. (Lewis’s deep pockets also made the Marijuana Policy Project what it is today.)

But what weed money there is, isn’t flowing to Johnson. So he’s going back to the basics: Cutting the size of government. [...]

Over dinner, I asked Johnson how to make that message...sexier.

“How do you?” he replied. “We talk about this all the time. That’s kind of the crux. It’s not a sexy message, but if we don’t cut Medicare by 43 percent, there’s not gonna be any Medicare.”

For some reason I think he ought to stick with the ganja issue.

-- Lastly, the party and candidate Democrats appear to fear more than the Greens in the 2012 cycle -- Justice Party nominee Rocky Anderson -- continues to plow ahead with ballot access success in states not named Texas.

Friday, February 24, 2012

"The last stage in any paranoid illness"

Matt Taibbi, always cogent, particularly so in this analysis of the Last Republican Debate of 2012.

(I)t was while watching the debate last night that it finally hit me: This is justice. What we have here are chickens coming home to roost. It's as if all of the American public's bad habits and perverse obsessions are all coming back to haunt Republican voters in this race: The lack of attention span, the constant demand for instant gratification, the abject hunger for negativity, the utter lack of backbone or constancy (we change our loyalties at the drop of a hat, all it takes is a clever TV ad): these things are all major factors in the spiraling Republican disaster.

Most importantly, though, the conservative passion for divisive, partisan, bomb-tossing politics is threatening to permanently cripple the Republican party. They long ago became more about pointing fingers than about ideology, and it's finally ruining them.

Really and truly, the old Republican moderates are going to be missed. George H. W. was one once upon a time, before the zealots blasted him on his support of Planned Parenthood, and then drove him out of office when he compromised on raising taxes. In the modern day, Dick Lugar of Indiana is now certain to be TeaBagged because he's been committing voter fraud for the past 35 years.

I will return to the subject of voter fraud at the end, after sampling Taibbi in the following.

Oh, sure, your average conservative will insist his belief system is based upon a passion for the free market and limited government, but that's mostly a cover story. Instead, the vast team-building exercise that has driven the broadcasts of people like Rush and Hannity and the talking heads on Fox for decades now has really been a kind of ongoing Quest for Orthodoxy, in which the team members congregate in front of the TV and the radio and share in the warm feeling of pointing the finger at people who aren't as American as they are, who lack their family values, who don’t share their All-American work ethic.

The finger-pointing game is a fun one to play, but it’s a little like drugs – you have to keep taking bigger and bigger doses in order to get the same high.

So it starts with a bunch of these people huddling together and saying to themselves, "We’re the real good Americans; our problems are caused by all those other people out there who don’t share our values." At that stage the real turn-on for the followers is the recognition that there are other like-minded people out there, and they don’t need blood orgies and war cries to keep the faith strong – bake sales and church retreats will do.

...(T)hey sit and wait for the return of a world where there was one breadwinner in the family, and no teen pregnancy or crime or poor people, and immigrants worked hard and didn't ask for welfare and had the decency to speak English – a world that never existed in reality, of course, but they're waiting for a return to it nonetheless.

The good old days. Happy Days. The Eisenhower years -- before those tacky things like the Voting Rights Act and the military/industrial complex. Back then they were only scared of the Russkies, the Bomb, and Black People.

Think Ron Paul in the South Carolina debate, when he said that in the '60s, "there was nobody out in the street suffering with no medical care." Paul also recalled that after World War II, 10 million soldiers came home and prospered without any kind of government aid at all – all they needed was a massive cut to the federal budget, and those soldiers just surfed on the resultant wave of economic progress.

"You know what the government did? They cut the budget by 60 percent," he said. "And everybody went back to work again, you didn't need any special programs."

Right – it wasn’t like they needed a G.I. Bill or anything. After all, people were different back then: They didn’t want or need welfare, or a health care program, or any of those things. At least, that’s not the way Paul remembered it.

That's all the early conservative movement was. It was just a heartfelt request that we go back to the good old days of America as these people remembered or imagined it. Of course the problem was we couldn't go back, not just because more than half the population (particularly the nonwhite, non-straight, non-male segment of the population) desperately didn't want to go back, but also because that America never existed and was therefore impossible to recreate.

Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and even Ronald Reagan -- who raised taxes and ran massive deficits that Bill Clinton cleaned up -- would all be to the left of today's Republican party, mostly as a result of this three-year-old phenomenon called the Tea Party. This condition is so acute, so diseased, so bad that none of the remaining Republican candidates wish to be described as moderate as George W. Bush, like Rick Santorum was last Wednesday. But back to Taibbi.

And when we didn’t go back to the good old days, this crowd got frustrated, and suddenly the message stopped being heartfelt and it got an edge to it.

The message went from, "We’re the real Americans; the others are the problem," to, "We’re the last line of defense; we hate those other people and they’re our enemies." Now it wasn’t just that the rest of us weren't getting with the program: Now we were also saboteurs, secretly or perhaps even openly conspiring with America’s enemies to prevent her return to the long-desired Days of Glory.

"Obama is a Kenyan Muslim Socialist". "Deport all illegals". You get the picture.

In the Clinton years and the early Bush years we started to hear a lot of this stuff; that the people conservatives described as "liberals" were not, as we are in fact, normal people who believe in marriage and family and love their children just as much as conservatives do, but perverts who subscribe to a sort of religion of hedonism.

"Liberals' only remaining big issue is abortion because of their beloved sexual revolution," was the way Ann Coulter put it. "That's their cause – spreading anarchy and polymorphous perversity. Abortion permits that."

So they fought back, and a whole generation of more strident conservative politicians rose to fight the enemy at home, who conveniently during the '90s lived in the White House and occasionally practiced polymorphous perversity there.

Taibbi has a summary of the W years, but I just can't live through even a minute of that again. I'll prefer to skip the Gingrich/DeLay/Armey years also -- go back over and get this if you want it -- so fast-forward from about 1994 to 2008.

And when the unthinkable happened, and a black American with a Muslim-sounding name assumed the throne in the White House, now, suddenly, we started to hear that liberals were not only in league with terrorists, but somehow worse than terrorists.

"Terrorism? Yes. That’s not the big battle," said Minnesota Republican congressional candidate Allan Quist a few years ago. "The big battle is in D.C. with the radicals. They aren’t liberals. They are radicals. Obama, Pelosi, Walz: They’re not liberals, they’re radicals. They are destroying our country."

Try to notice how many times a conservative says or writes "destroying our country" or some close variation of that. Just for today, and make sure they aren't referring to the Russians, the Chinese, or even the Syrians or the Iranians.

See how many times you hear that mentioned. Just today.

(A)ll liberals, gays, Hispanic immigrants, atheists, Hollywood actors and/or musicians with political opinions, members of the media, members of Congress, TSA officials, animal lovers, union workers, state employees with pensions, Occupiers and other assorted unorthodox types had already long ago been rolled into the enemies list.

All of the associated language -- the code words and the dog whistles as well as the obvious, blatant bigotry and hate -- that accompany this demonization is designed to do what the Ku Klux Klan used to do in the old days: Harass, intimidate, threaten. Without all of that messy killing and lynching, of course.

Those days, the mythological good old days, were still thriving in the late 1950s -- where today's Republicans, as Taibbi has noted, would wish the country to return. At least that far back, if not farther.

Taibbi has much more of this history and ties it all together, right up to Ash Wednesday's GOP debate in Arizona. I'll leave it to you to finish there. Here I will make my point about conservative paranoia as it relates to Voter ID legislation, the mythical voter "fraud", and our local contingent of Patriots who are taking their crusade across the country.

Once upon a time in this great nation -- I'm so old I remember it -- we encouraged people to vote. Voter registration drives were held at storefronts, a voter registration card came in your welcome-wagon packet, and by golly there was regular refrain from officials of all kinds (even teachers!) that voting should be your priority as a citizen.

The current iteration of the Republican party, however, decided they couldn't have that, though; when more people vote, they lose (see: 2008, and its polar opposite, 2010). So as a matter of survival they are now doing everything they possibly can to suppress voting.

Black box voting -- the assembly and counting of ballots electronically by machines they own, distribute, and sell to municipalities, and are both corrupt and corruptible -- wasn't enough to stem the tide. They had to turn to legislation that would address a problem that does not exist to any significant degree: they call it voter "fraud". It's as rare as unicorns and pink elephants (in fact the most serious voter fraud conviction in history was recently committed by the Indiana secretary of state, a Republican) but the Voter ID laws still passed, as much on the Republican paranoia that Mickey Mouse had cast fifty ballots in every precinct in the nation as the strength of their electoral victories in 2010 in statehouses across the country.

Here in Texas, Attorney General Greg Abbott sent agents from his office to a little old lady's house in Fort Worth to investigate allegations of voter fraud. They even peered in her bathroom window just as she was getting out of the shower, but they still couldn't find any evidence of voter "fraud". Abbott could have found some if he had looked at a Republican state senator Brian Birdwell, who voted twice in the 2004 presidential election... but again, Abbott wasn't looking for wealthy white male voter fraud.

As a result of all this voter fraud that Republicans have committed -- so goes the pretzel logic -- Democrats must be doing more of it, so local Republicans established an organization called True the Vote. What's more, they have weaponized it for 2012. It was born here in Harris County, they held a national summit here in Houston last year, its aim to spread nationwide -- especially through these legislative voter/photo id actions -- is ongoing and strengthening. How this strategy is executed, essentially, is that white people show up at minority-majority precincts and do whatever they can think of to intimidate black and brown voters; taking pictures of them, peering over their shoulders as they cast their ballot, and other discriminatory and illegal actions.

They have a goal for 2012 to stop 50 persons per precinct across the country from voting (those Mickey Mouse votes). They think they can win back the White House if they are successful.

Ultimately the long-term goal is to have only the people of their choosing eligible to vote: aka wealthy white property owners. We used to refer to them as slave masters. In other words, when you hear the words 'follow' or 'restore' the Constitution, what they mean is the Constitution as the Founders intended in 1787 (Google 'Three-Fifths compromise'). Calling themselves 'Patriots', wearing tri-corner hats, US flag shirts and lapel pins -- their gang colors -- is all part of the mental illness as well.

So, to conclude a long post, if you like all of that and want more of it, you know who to vote for. And if you don't like any of that and don't vote, you're doing nothing but enabling the mental illness that consumes today's Republican party.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The local news/idiot roundup

As we mourn the passing of Rick Santorum's presidential campaign (by his own hand, or more accurately his lips and tongue), here's the week's crime/embarrassment report from Houston and Harris County.

The legal counsel for Harris County Judge Ed Emmett was free on bail Wednesday after he was accused of striking a woman at an impound lot with his car.

William Henderson's car was towed Tuesday from the CityCentre shopping complex along the Sam Houston Tollway near Interstate 10 and taken to an auto storage lot on Brittmore.

The criminal compliant filed against him that resulted in a misdemeanor deadly conduct charge states that he placed a woman at the impound lot in "imminent danger of serious bodily injury" by striking her with his car.

This white-on-white CityCentre vs Town & Country violence must stop (h/t to The World's Favorite Mexican in the comments).

The reappointment of a volunteer city board member erupted into a half-hour fracas at the City Council table on Wednesday that culminated with Councilwoman Helena Brown accusing Mayor Annise Parker of bullying her.

District A Councilwoman Brown tried to replace one of the mayor's appointees to the Spring Branch Management District, accusing him of "negative communications" that she did not detail. The board is appointed by the mayor and only confirmed by council. The mayor ruled Brown's request out of order.

Brown was attempting to replace Victor Alvarez, whose garage apartment was a campaign headquarters for former District A Councilwoman Brenda Stardig, whom Brown defeated in December. The mayor's campaign donated money and staff to Stardig's campaign in hopes of staving off the challenge from Brown.

This cat fight might go on for the next two years. As with the previous, my excerpt doesn't do justice to the drama. Click over and read it all.

And as we cover the spectrum of bad behavior from right to right/left to left...

Jim Sharp, a judge on one of Houston's two courts of appeals, has been barred from working on any criminal cases from Brazoria County because of allegations that he tried to use his position to skirt the law for a friend's 15-year-old daughter who was arrested for shoplifting.

Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne accused the judge of attempting to use his influence to improperly demand the juvenile's release in January, according to court records. The documents allege that Sharp sent inappropriate texts and profane voice messages to county employees, a state district judge and a Brazoria County commissioner.

"You guys are a bunch of backwoods hillbillies that use screwed-up methods in dealing with children, and I can promise you this: Things are about to change in Brazoria County," Sharp said to a juvenile detention center director over the phone, court records show. "I am a judge in the Court of Appeals. I have authority over your judges along with every other judge in 10 counties in this area."

On Tuesday, Sharp released an apology though attorney Brian Wice.

"Justice Sharp was deeply concerned that this little girl was seemingly in limbo at the juvenile detention facility while her mother was waiting in the parking lot for her release," according to the prepared statement.

"As a result of his concern, Justice Sharp said some things that he should not have said, and for which he now apologizes."

The desk Sharp is posing on in the photo above was the centerpiece of another contentious tempest under the newly-renovated county courthouse dome just five months ago. In another remarkable demonstration of self-destructive behavior on tape, Sharp also snarked on the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in 2010 -- six weeks before the election -- calling her a "labor boss" (video at the link still works; go listen to the judge's comments for yourself).

Congratulations Justice Sharp. You have chased every last one of your friends away. Except maybe for the 15-year-old shoplifter's mother.