Thursday, July 03, 2014

Fifty years and one day ago

I am about to sign into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I want to take this occasion to talk to you about what that law means to every American.

One hundred and eighty-eight years ago this week a small band of valiant men began a long struggle for freedom. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor not only to found a nation, but to forge an ideal of freedom - not only for political independence, but for personal liberty - not only to eliminate foreign rule, but to establish the rule of justice in the affairs of men.

That struggle was a turning point in our history. Today in far corners of distant continents, the ideals of those American patriots still shape the struggles of men who hunger for freedom.

This is a proud triumph. Yet those who founded our country knew that freedom would be secure only if each generation fought to renew and enlarge its meaning. From the minutemen at Concord to the soldiers in Vietnam, each generation has been equal to that trust.

Americans of every race and color have died in battle to protect our freedom. Americans of every race and color have worked to build a nation of widening opportunities. Now our generation of Americans has been called on to continue the unending search for justice within our own borders.

We believe that all men are created equal. Yet many are denied equal treatment.

We believe that all men have certain unalienable rights. Yet many Americans do not enjoy those rights.

We believe that all men are entitled to the blessings of liberty. Yet millions are being deprived of those blessings - not because of their own failures, but because of the color of their skin.

The reasons are deeply embedded in history and tradition and the nature of man. We can understand - without rancor or hatred - how this all happened.

But it cannot continue. Our Constitution, the foundation of our Republic, forbids it. The principles of our freedom forbid it. Morality forbids it. And the law I will sign tonight forbids it.

-- President Lyndon Baines Johnson (7.2.1964).  And how we have progressed in the decades since.

Every time the federal government tried to solve the problem of minority voter disenfranchisement, Southern jurisdictions found new ways to resist. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 attempted to put some new protections in place, but these too were ineffective. The following year, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, which included Section 5. It was widely regarded as the most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever.

It made jurisdictions with a history of discriminating against minority voters demonstrate to the federal government that they weren’t undermining the voting rights of blacks with any new voting changes — anything from changing polling locations, to the ways jurisdictions were drawn, changing election dates, etc. However, in 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court gutted Section 5, and some of the jurisdictions previously under Section 5 (such as Texas) immediately announced that they intended to implement voting restrictions (like voter ID laws) that had been blocked up until that point.

-- Nicholas Espiritu, staff attorney, National Immigration Law Center

Much more here.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Ken Paxton, Greg Abbott, and Joe Straus

Looks like the TXGOP has a big problem on their hands.  LSP with the developments.

Republican attorney general nominee Ken Paxton has admitted he violated Texas securities regulations and been forced to pay a fine to the Texas State Securities Board. But that is not the end of Paxton’s legal problems. Ken Paxton’s actions are more than simply violations of the state securities rules—they are felonies under the Texas criminal code (Tex. Civ. Stat. Art. 581-29).

It is only a matter of time before Ken Paxton is prosecuted, convicted of felony securities fraud and facing a sentence of up to 10 years in prison (Tex. Penal Code Sec. 12.34).

More importantly, under Texas law, a convicted felon is ineligible to serve as attorney general (Tex. Elec. Code Sec. 141.001 (a)(4)).

Will he resign his place on the November ballot?  I doubt it.

Ken Paxton should do the honorable thing—immediately withdraw from the AG race, admit his felony violations and accept his punishment. But don’t count on that happening.

Ken Paxton has dug in and appears ready to take his party down with him.

Paxton’s Republican primary opponent, Dan Branch, spent weeks trying to get GOP primary voters—and the press—to focus on Paxton’s corrupt actions. It didn’t work. Paxton beat Branch easily on the strength of overwhelming Tea Party support.

Here are just a few quotes from Branch’s campaign warning about Ken Paxton:
  • “How can he be our state’s top law enforcement officer when he has a record of repeatedly violating our laws?” Dan Branch, TribTalk, 5/25/14   

Here's where Abbott and Straus come in.

As the GOP nominee for governor, Greg Abbott is the leader of his party. Abbott could either call on Paxton to resign his candidacy and urge prosecutors to move quickly against him—or somehow explain why Texas voters should elect an admitted criminal who is ineligible to serve as Texas AG.

Instead, Abbott has done neither. He has shrunk from the moment, refusing to even comment.

Abbott’s cowardice—and his reliance on the leadership of others—was most obvious last week when information surfaced that Texas House Speaker Joe Straus may be working with the Travis County DA to prosecute Paxton in time for his removal from the ballot. Sources inside the State Capitol have told the Lone Star Project that Straus representatives—and perhaps Straus himself—have met with Travis County prosecutors and urged quick action against Paxton.

There's probably some provision that allows the RPT's Senate district executive committee members to pick another person to be their nominee for attorney general, if Straus is successful in making Paxton go away.  If Paxton fights back, then it will get ugly in a hurry.

About the last thing the Republicans need is for this kind of family feud to go public, however.  So something may come of it, or something may not.  We'll just have to watch and see.

No matter what transpires, the headwinds for a GOP sweep in Texas just got a little stronger.

A roundup of right-wing madness

-- While we wait for God's Army of Homophobes, Houston chapter to finish collecting their signatures, be reminded that this should be a fortuitous development with regard to Harris County blue turnout.  The HGLBT Caucus mobilizes like nobody else can, and certainly not the Houston Area Pastor's Council.  Things could get really exciting around the polling places in November.  And don't forget that the corporate media locally has not been liberal in their coverage of the NDO's passage, and with a second chance in the fall, need to be pressured to get the reporting correct.

-- Speaking of hard-boiled conservatives who can't give it up, those angry Mississippi TeaBaggers are still fuming and plotting revenge for losing to Thad Cochran and the black Dems there who helped him win his primary.

-- Fox News keeps doing its part to fan the flames of racial and gender strife.  This dude managed to insult African Americans and women in a single slur.

“I call them the Beyoncé voters: the single ladies,” Watters said. “Obama won single ladies by 76 percent last time, and made up about a quarter of the electorate. They depend on government because they’re not depending on their husbands. They need contraception, health care, and they love to talk about equal pay.”

Those moochers just won't stay in their place, will they?

-- Maine Gov. Paul LePage is vigorously denying that he discussed lynching Democrats with domestic terrorists.  He can't deny he held multiple meetings with them.

Talking Points Memo published on Monday an excerpt from author Mike Tipping's new book, in which he details how LePage engaged with members of the Constitutional Coalition, which is affiliated with the Sovereign Citizen movement. Members of the organization believe the government is planning an attack on Christian Americans by collecting firearms, that it runs mind-control operations and that it was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

LePage reportedly met with members of the group eight times from January through September of 2013.

Tipping, who works for the Maine People’s Alliance, a progressive advocacy group, wrote that when the coalition's members met with LePage they discussed arresting and executing state House Speaker Mark Eves (D) and Senate President Justin Alfond (D) for treason and violating the U.S. Constitution.

Sure hope those radical Mainers don't make their way down here.

-- Back in Texas, Lege Republicans are already objecting to the first bill floated for next January that will address chemical safety regulations in the wake of the West explosion. 

"It seems like we're out there with a power grab," Republican state Rep. Dan Flynn said.


Immediate pushback from GOP lawmakers on the panel signaled how tough it could be to push substantial changes through the Republican-controlled Legislature next year. They broadly called the first draft "overkill" and openly wondered how small fertilizer plant operators could afford to meet new regulations.

Was 'overkill' the proper word to use here?  State Impact Texas has a little more, including some of the back-and-forth between Flynn and Joe Pickett, who will introduce the bill early next year.

Greg Abbott helpfully offers instructions on how to circumvent his hiding the data about where in your neighborhood the explosive chemicals are stored.

Addressing reporters at a separate event Tuesday, Abbott said official confidentiality can help stop potential terrorists. But he also called the ruling a "win-win" since "every single person in the state" can learn about "chemicals stored in any plant."

"You know where they are if you drive around," Abbott said of chemical facilities. "You can ask every facility whether or not they have chemicals."

Davis spokesman Zac Petkanas said, "The only thing more outrageous than Greg Abbott keeping the location of chemical facilities secret is telling Texas parents they literally need to go door to door in order to find out if their child's school is in the blast radius of dangerous explosives."

Easy, Zac.  I'm sure these companies won't mind the public streaming in to their offices to ask that question, and I'm sure their public representatives will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when asked.  My problem here is that Abbott just informed the state's terrorist cells how to find the information they seek to plot our destruction.

Why does Greg Abbott hate America?

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

There's a simple solution to Hobby Lobby

Women should simply incorporate their uteri, and then the GOP would let them do whatever they like.  Or perhaps we could have passed single-payer and avoided all of this in the first place.

The conservative justices on the SCROTUS made yesterday many things -- historical, ominous, enraging are all appropriate adjectives -- but it was also a lot livelier on social media, and all of those instant developments will hopefully reignite a women's rights movement in Texas that will burn until November.  We will just have to wait a bit to see about that.  As for reducing abortions.... no.  Of course not.  Limiting women's ability to obtain contraceptives INCREASES abortions, and if you make legal ones more difficult to obtain, women will have dangerous, life-threatening ones.  What's happening in South Texas right now is proof of that.

Facts can't frack the Republican mind, however.

So we'll just have to see who can win an election in four months.

Update: Texas Leftist wonders whether Greg Abbott would ban contraceptives -- that is to say, ask the Lege to pass a bill doing so next January, after he is elected governor.

My answer, also posted at Wayne's blog, is: Yes.  And not just contraceptives, but abortions entirely.  Perhaps after 20 weeks, perhaps sooner, but in all cases... including rape, incest, and even if the fetus endangers the mother's life.  All you have to do is read what he has already said.

Last January, on the eve of a rally by politically influential abortion opponents, a quote attributed to Abbott in The Austin American Statesman indicated he believed there should be no exceptions in anti-abortion legislation.

“If you really are pro-life, you are thinking about the life of the child,” Abbott was quoted as saying. “And once you start putting exceptions into that, you’re saying that there are certain children who really are not worthy of life.”

Greg Abbott is precisely the kind of shitty lawyer/conservative extremist with a massive ego who would think he could go all the way to the SCROTUS with that law challenged, and win.

Which would set up his bid for the US presidency in 2020 quite nicely.