Monday, April 15, 2013

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is settling in for another long hurricane season as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff offered his thoughts on the Battleground Texas kickoff meeting in Houston.  

WCNews at Eye on Williamson says the cheaters are winning: Wage theft in Texas.

Republicans have kind of a fetish thing going on with hangman's nooses, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has noticed.

At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw explains the 24/7 embrassment that Ted Carnival Cruz is by exploring his latest foray into the "outer limits" of sanity. Check it out: TX U.S. Senator Carnival Cruz Gets FiliBusted.

This week at McBlogger, we take a look at the state of transportation funding in the Legislature (with the help of the Texas Tribune) as well as a stunning turnaround for Governor Perry.


And here are some blog posts of interest from elsewhere in Texas.

Empower The Vote warns that the RNC is seeking to get out from under the consent decree that has limited their ability to engage in voter suppression.

Texas Clean Air Matters explains what ozone action days are all about.

Texas Watch reports on a poll that says Texas voters – across all geographic, partisan, and political lines – want stronger legal protections from rogue insurance companies.

Lone Star Ma reminds us that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Jeff Balke clues you in on how to be a journalist.

Jason Stanford mocks the idea that Big John Cornyn has been nudged even farther to the right by his junior Senate colleague.

Nonsequiteuse recaps the most gruesome moments from the testimony on the so-called "fetal pain" bill.

Equality Texas has some tips for homophobic lobbyists.

Juanita Jean wonders what Smokey Joe Barton is smoking.

Texpatriate is perplexed by the state Senate's passage of the drug testing for unemployment benefits bill.

And finally, BeyondBones sings the praises of the iguana that came to them after hitching a ride to the United States.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Republicans and hangman's nooses

Your first question might be "Why does the head of the Texas Railroad Commission -- the state agency responsible for monitoring the oil and gas industry -- have an opinion on a gun bill in the US Senate?", or "Why would it be treasonous and lynch-worthy to vote in favor of allowing debate on gun safety legislation?", but neither of those would be my first question.

My first and everlasting question remains: "WTF is it with Republicans and their noose fetish?", and my second question would be: Are they erotic asphyxiation freaks or what?

Here's the TexTrib.

Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman weighed in on the gun-control developments in Washington on Thursday, retweeting an image that showed a noose beside the names of Republican U.S. senators who had voted down a filibuster.

On Twitter, Smitherman re-posted an image and message from a user with the handle @PsychScriv, who had posted: “Make sure none of these people have seats in 2014.” The accompanying image showed a list of the 16 Republican senators whose vote had broken the filibuster that would have kept the gun-control bill off the U.S. Senate floor. A noose dangled beside the names, topped by a single word: “Treason.”

Smitherman added his own commentary, tweeting: "We are in trouble when these Rs side w/ Sen Reid." The list included Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Republican party's 2008 presidential nominee.

Texas Sharon at BlueDaze had it first (see the screen capture of the Tweet there), followed closely by Progress Texas.

"Barry Smitherman's reprehensible action is disturbing, disgusting, and has absolutely no place in our political discourse," said Matt Glazer, Executive Director of Progress Texas.

"To suggest that any American, let alone a U.S. Senator, deserves to be hung for a democratically cast vote is absolutely unacceptable." "A Senator's job is to debate, discuss and vote on issues of importance to our country. Obstructionism shouldn't be upheld as a priority option for doing the people's work, and when violent rhetoric and imagery is used as a tool of obstructionism, it has gone too far. Smitherman's actions call into question whether or not his job can and should be terminated.

"Progress Texas calls on Smitherman to immediately apologize, and for Governor Perry and all of Texas' Congressional delegation to admonish Smitherman for his deplorable action." 

It's fairly easy to muster the outrage on this one.

Long ago this blog broke the story of hangman's nooses in bosses' offices. A cursory Google search turns up all kinds of repetitive instances, including the prevalence of this sort of thing across the country.

Now before Matt and Greg stumble in to the comments and bluster that private and public supervisors aren't necessarily Republicans, let's establish that at least since Robert Byrd dropped out of the Klan (this shibboleth is a favorite of race-sensitive TeaBaggers, and by 'race-sensitive' I mean TeaBaggers who don't like being called out on their racism) and up through the David Duke-for-whatever years, one cannot intelligently call Klansmen Democrats. See Thurmond, Strom. And there was also this whole Southern Strategy thing that Richard Nixon developed as a result of LBJ's civil rights advances...

Anyway, Barry Smitherman. He's a Rick Perry crony from way back. But in terms of any state position for which the governor can make an appointment, though, who isn't? The sad part is that Smitherman won his election in 2012 with plenty of donations from oil and gas companies and without a Democratic opponent. You may also recall that Smitherman's middle-school-aged daughter -- and her junior-high-aged brother -- maxed out their federal contributions to Rick Perry's presidential campaign in 2011.

Barry Smitherman, among his many other faults, probably pays his children too much in allowance. Or something. But there's no doubt that he needs to find a real job, as the TRC simply doesn't execute the one job it has to any significant degree. From the Texas Observer...

In a state where property rights are considered to be on par with the right to breathe, pipeline companies can seize private land by invoking the power of eminent domain. ... (C)ommon carrier status, which means the company is carrying competitors’ products as well as its own to serve the public good, grants companies the right to take land without getting landowners’ consent. ...

In Texas, there is currently no process to verify whether a company is actually carrying competitors’ products. All a company has to do is check a box on its permit application to the Texas Railroad Commission.

The commission doesn’t have the authority to ensure the company can claim the status. It does not ask for evidence or otherwise monitor the pipeline. This leaves the door open for companies that want the power of eminent domain free to do so without any oversight. The practice has resulted in a number of lawsuits across the state. Landowners who feel their land was taken unfairly (and sometimes without notice), have sued pipeline companies, and in at least one case the courts have determined that some pipeline companies “game the permitting process” to get eminent domain powers.

Yes, Barry Smitherman is a TeaBagging douchewad... but really, what Texas Republican isn't? It's really just a matter of degree, despite the smackdowns the freshman crop of crazy in the Lege keep taking at the hands of their elders. Ultimately, Republicans exactly like Smitherman are what Texas is, elects, and deserves, at least until Battleground Texas starts making a difference.

Or the Republicans in Texas come out from under the ether. I hope I live long enough to get to see one or the other (or both).

Update: Smitherman has apologized. Aware of both the media attention Smitherman's Tweet received and a desire to out-Gohmert Joe Barton from earlier this week, Steve Stockman has come up with a new bumper sticker slogan. He means 'fetuses' of course, but they don't have fingers. Or central nervous systems, or brains, or eyes.  "Babies", in other words (using Stockman's vocabulary).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A few guns, some butter

The week before the tax deadline is always the busiest for me. Here we go with some snips...

“We want to make sure … (chained CPI) is dead on arrival,” Democracy for American chairman Jim Dean told ABC News.

Dean’s organization is one of the many progressive groups that are part of the coalition to deliver the petition to the White House. Dean said that although he and his organization appreciate the president’s “forceful leadership” on issues like gun violence prevention, the CPI proposal is one that has caused them to be extremely disappointed in him.

“People understand that we are not getting everything out of this person,” Dean said. “This was never our way or the highway — even when he was elected in 2008. He’s crossed a line here.”

That was not unpleasant.

Look, it's time to end this ridiculous charade. The White House is proposing what's in the White House budget because that's what the White House wants. They'll fight just as hard to cut Social Security as they will for any of its other provisions. And that's because the White House, let's just face facts, isn't on the side of the American people. They should simply come out and speak with conviction: They don't give a shit about Social Security or anybody who is on it because they want a balanced budget with low taxes. That's the only explanation for passing another $3.4 trillion round of Bush Tax Cuts while cutting Social Security.

Chain, chain, chained...

They know it’s a loser and yet they persist.  That’s nothing I or most Democrats voted for in 2012.  There is a potential “right” way for chained CPI to be done, but there are so many caveats that it could never be done right in our current political system.

The truly stupid part is that we’re talking about debt when we’re still in a massive unemployment crisis. With the 78th anniversary of the WPA this week, that should remind us that we should be talking about jobs and not the deficit. 

Seriously, WTF?

But as always Obama negotiated against himself, made concessions without corresponding Republican ones, became the only elected official in Washington, D.C., to put Social Security benefits cuts in a formal proposal (thus owning them), and then ... what?

Republicans dismissed everything out of hand, progressive groups went to war against the White House, Congressional Democrats distanced themselves from the proposal save for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (ever the loyal lieutenant), and seniors certainly weren't impressed.

If Obama's goal was to look weak and isolate himself, generating bipartisan scorn and ridicule while giving Republicans a chance to claim Democrats want to cut Social Security during 2014 elections, then sure, mission accomplished.

If he actually thought he was accomplishing something useful, however ... the mind reels.

Maybe Democrats could stop quarreling about whether Obama is a putz or not, and perhaps get Hillary Clinton on the record about where she stands on chained CPI. I'm guessing that she won't hold a presser put up a YouTube coming out in favor.

Okay, enough of that.

-- Look, somebody borrowed my headline. Meh. It's not like I had it trade-marked or anything.

-- Maybe some action on the gun safety bill today or tomorrow.

The U.S. Senate will take up gun control starting on Thursday, with a filibuster from Republicans the first order of business before weeks of debates over background checks and other measures begin.

Majority Leader Harry Reid had asked for a compromise on background checks from two senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, by Tuesday night. Manchin and Toomey will announce the bipartisan deal on Wednesday morning.

The approval of at least eight Republicans is crucial because Reid will need 60 votes in the Senate on Thursday to have a successful cloture vote to avoid a filibuster. So far, eight Republican senators say they will not vote to support a filibuster.

A group of Republican senators including Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Jim Inhofe have said they will filibuster “any legislation that infringe[s] on the American people’s constitutional right to bear arms.” 

Carnival Cruz canceled his presser this morning, whatever that means.

Back to work.