Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Do you have the proper ID to vote in November?

Because you're going to need it, no matter what happens in court.

The trial in Corpus Christi started on Tuesday is called Veasey v. Perry, and it is being held in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Proponents of voter ID laws argue they are needed to prevent voter fraud and they aren’t intrusive or discriminatory; opponents claim voter ID laws discriminate because the laws require minorities to go through difficult steps to obtain an ID and the burden is a modern-day equivalent of the dreaded poll tax.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos is hearing arguments in the current case, and the judge’s could also set a precedent where Texas is put back on the pre-clearance list, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Shelby County case in 2013.

There are many Houstonians of low socio-economic background -- many of them African American -- without proper ID, according to this map (courtesy Houston Press, click to enlarge or go to the original at the link).

And as we know -- either first-hand four years ago, or second-hand more recently -- the Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, considers voter registration in poor neighborhoods of Harris County to be a criminal offense, worthy of requiring SWAT teams to enforce, confiscate, and destroy records.

Is your license current (as in not expired)?  Does it show your current address?  You can fix this online (which beats waiting in line, offline).  No driver's license, or need help securing an ID?

Free voter IDs are offered by the state, though one third of Texas' 254 counties do not have Department of Public Safety stations that can provide the cards, and opponents say voters must still pay for copies of birth certificates or other documents to obtain the ID.

Battleground Texas can help you with that.

 You might be eligible for a mail-in ballot, which would make an ID unnecessary.  Instructions to request one in your home county are here.

NOW is the time to make certain you don't encounter some kind of holdup, especially if you vote on Election Day, because there is very little time to fix any problems at that time.

Get it done, and then help your neighbors, especially if they are older and less well-off.  Everybody needs to cast a ballot in this election in order to affect change -- even in the slightest way -- the decades-long, one-party monolithic rulership in Texas.

Update: Socratic Gadfly reminds rich, white Republicans that the only ID they will need at the polling place is their checkbook.

More Updates: The Brennan Center has a report from the courtroom on the trial, and the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus asks Michael Berry's wife for more mobile voter ID stations.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

It's all football and politics from now on

And you won't find much football around here.

Kuff and Texpatriate and Texas Leftist are all doing candidate Q&As... and I will do a few myself.  My blogging compadres' recent efforts are worth repeating.

-- Kim Ogg for Harris County District Attorney.  Even Big Jolly agrees she is the best woman for the job.  This is a no-brainer, y'all.

-- Texpate presents the latest of a handful of questionnaires from candidates; they include John Whitmire (incumbent Democratic state senator, District 15), Sam Houston (Democrat for Texas attorney general) and Green Party candidates Kenneth Kendrick (Texas agriculture commissioner) and David Collins (Harris County Judge).  All four -- but in particular, Kendrick -- are on my 'strongly recommended' list.

-- Socratic Gadfly introduces the Texas gubernatorial candidates with his characteristic snarkiness. He saves the harshest criticism for the stealth candidacy of Brandon Parmer.  You might recall that at his party's state convention in March, Parmer failed to show up... and nobody knew where he might be.

This one isn't a brainer, either.

The GPUS also has posted a list of its candidates running for office across the country, but for some reason lists only one Texas challenger, John Tunmire, who is running in Wendy Davis's old Senate district.  I love the Greens and what they stand for, but sometimes their level of competence really tries my patience.

-- Burnt Orange Report's Joseph Vogas updated that blog's candidates tracker using the official status from the TXSOS.  He included this fascinating tidbit.

Among the final changes made, Ben E. Mendoza has filed as an independent in House District 77 against Democratic State Representative Marisa Marquez and and Paul Ingmundson has filed as a Green against Democrat Mike Villareal in House District 123. These two filings mean Democrats Marquez and Villareal are no longer unopposed. This is especially important in the case of Villareal who has said he plans to resign from office to run for Mayor of San Antonio. Villareal plans to resign as soon as the general election is over in early November. Had Villareal resigned earlier this month, Green candidate Ingmundson would be running unopposed and would win by default. 

The Green Party of Texas almost -- by happenstance it would seem, although my guess is Rep. Villarreal (note the spelling, Joseph) did make some calculations to prevent it -- had its first statehouse representative.

And in answer to my question, Vogas pointed out that the Texas Tribune's 2014 brackets are incorrect, as none of the independent candidates they show running for governor and lieutenant governor have qualified for the ballot.  So BOR's is the definitive list.

Got more scoop, rumor, innuendo, gossip, slime, scuttlebutt?  Little birds whispering words on the street into your ear?  Send it my way: PDiddie at gmail dot com.

Monday, September 01, 2014

The turbulent origins of organized labor, and of Labor Day

Peter Rachleff, via Nick Cooper at Free Press Houston with the history lesson.  Embedded hyperlinks are mine.

Monday, September 1, will mark the 120th celebration of  Labor Day as a legal, national holiday. What is the history of the Labor Day holiday? It had a turbulent, complicated beginning. Understanding more about this can help us to rethink the significance of this holiday today.

American labor in 1894 was a volatile force. The industrial revolution had radically transformed work, replacing skilled labor with machines, and giving birth to two powerful new institutions: factories and corporations. The economy had been rocked by deep depressions -- 1873-1878; 1883-1886; 1893-1896 -- when millions lost their jobs and millions more experienced wage cuts. Massive numbers of immigrants -- an average of half a million a year between 1880 and WWI -- arrived and applied for the low paid, dangerous unskilled jobs that were available. After the brief experiment in political and economic democracy called “Reconstruction” (1867-1877), the four million freed slaves, their descendants, and their northern relatives found themselves stripped of their newly-won rights, from the ballot box and the workplace to the school room and public transportation. Women’s suffrage advocates, who had hoped that the ending of slavery would quickly be followed by the extension of voting (and other) rights to women, were deeply disappointed. None of these developments took place without a struggle, and there were strikes, protests, marches, and rallies continuously in the last decades of the century.

Most people know something of the more recent labor-management clashes of the titans, thanks to the legacy of Jimmy Hoffa.  That's only the most recent half of the history.

In the summer of 1877, a strike against wage cuts (for many, their third reduction since 1873) among railroad workers from Martinsburg, West Virginia, to St. Louis and Chicago. Tens of thousands, from highly skilled engineers to largely black and immigrant track-layers, struck. In some places, strikers fought with other workers, who were desperate enough to cross picket lines. When several state militias were called out to protect the strikebreakers, violent clashes ensued and there were deaths on both sides. In some places, militia members refused to fire on workers and they put down their weapons and joined the protestors. For 45 days, the nation’s rail traffic, the heart of its transportation system, was disrupted.

While the railroad strike did not succeed, it had planted new ideas about organizing and strategy among workers. In the 1880s, as the economy recovered, a new labor organization, called the Knights of Labor, swept the country. It took in the unskilled as well as the skilled, immigrants as well as native born, women as well as men, and black as well as white. Its motto was “An Injury to One is the Concern of All,” and, in many communities, its members actually practiced what they preached.

Entirely a populist movement, without discrimination... except against those who would subjugate them for their own avarice.

Activists in the Knights, frustrated with long hours (many workers toiled twelve-hour days), low pay, little political voice, and general social disregard, hatched a radical new idea: that all workers should strike on May 1, 1886, for a universal eight-hour day, and that none would return to work until all had achieved the new standard. This dramatic, unified action would not only bring them the demands they wanted, it would transform their relationships with each other across the country, and it would change the ways they were perceived by the dominant culture. A lot was at stake. Three hundred forty thousand people walked off their jobs on May 1, and their numbers grew each day.

This struggle came to a climax at the country’s largest factory: the McCormick Harvester Works in Chicago. There, Knights of Labor activists used rallies and picket lines at the plant gates to appeal to all the workers, especially the newly hired immigrants in the unskilled jobs, to join the great strike. On May 4, the Chicago police moved in, accused the union leaders of holding rallies without a permit, and ordered the crowd to disperse. Someone threw a bomb into the ranks of the police, who in turn opened fire on the crowd. Seven police and four strikers died, and many more people were injured. The leaders of the strike were arrested and put on trial for murder. Eight were convicted; four of them were hanged. This repression sent a chill through the new labor movement, but it also made martyrs out of the strike leaders, and it made May 1st a labor holiday throughout the world, including parts of the United States.

Google Haymarket Affair for more on the carnage.  And note once again the comparisons to the present day: police brutality associated with the protection of large companies against the working class, who sought only fairness for their labor.

Among railroad workers, employed by the country’s largest corporations, labeled “robber barons” by the newspapers, a new organization, the American Railway Union, led by a charismatic speaker, Eugene V. Debs, gathered all railroad workers together into one industrial union. In April 1894, facing the kind of wage cuts which had spurred the 1877 upheaval, ARU members struck James J. Hill’s Great Northern Railroad. This conflict led to a showdown in Saint Paul, MN where a striker, Charlie Luth, was shot and killed by a strikebreaker outside an East Side boardinghouse. Charles Pillsbury, head of the huge flour milling company, called Hill and Debs together and mediated a settlement, in which Hill rescinded the 10% wage cut he had imposed. Railroad workers around the country were inspired -- and sprang into action.

In June, the workers who built Pullman (sleeping) cars in a Chicago suburb called “Pullman” (a company town in which the employer owned the houses, picked the police, and controlled the schools and stores) rebelled when their wages were cut 25% but their rents were not reduced. They sent word to Debs and asked to join the ARU. Debs welcomed them in, and then called on railroad workers across the country to boycott Pullman cars; that is, refuse to move any train which had a Pullman car in it. Some 125,000 railroad workers joined what was in effect a nationwide railroad strike. President Grover Cleveland called out the National Guard to police the railroad yards and the roundhouses, but they could not force the strikers to return to work. Pullman’s corporate attorney, Richard Olney, the former Attorney General of the United States, went to court for a federal injunction ordering an end to the strike. The grounds? The strikers were interfering with the shipment of the nation’s mail! (Most trains had not only Pullman cars but also U.S. mail cars.) The federal judge issued the court order -- the first ever federal injunction against a strike -- and ordered Debs to call off the strike. When Debs refused, the judge found him in contempt and sent him to prison, where he spent the next eighteen months. In a matter of days, the strikers went back to work.

Debs became a Socialist while he was incarcerated, and ran for president of the United States five times, the last in 1920 from a different jail cell (he was imprisoned that time for refusing to be conscripted for WWI).  He received almost one million votes that year, 3.4% of the total cast.  That remains the high-water mark for Socialist presidential candidates in the United States ... not counting, you know, Barack Obama.

It was within this context that President Cleveland asked Congress to pass legislation (which he signed in 1894) making the first Monday in September “Labor Day.” With one hand, he allowed the country’s greatest labor leader to sit in a prison cell, while, with the other, he created a national holiday celebrating labor. Cleveland was also careful to direct workers’ celebration away from May 1st, which had become an international labor day. He took his cue from the New York City Central Labor Union, which had been celebrating an early September “Labor Day” since 1882. A number of other city and state labor organizations had followed this example. They stayed away from the May 1st date because it had been so badly tainted by the anti-radical backlash that swept over the country and the labor movement in the late 1880s. And so early September seemed an acceptable option to the president, his advisors, and the political establishment.

There's more, but to bring things forward to within the past 25 years...

Over the next century, the vitality of Labor Day ebbed and flowed with the overall energy and life of the labor movement. After a rather quiet 1920s, Labor Day revived in the 1930s and 1940s only to fade in significance in the 1950s and 1960s. In the tumultuous 1980s and early 1990s, stimulated by PATCO, Hormel, Staley, Caterpillar, the Chicago and Detroit newspapers, and the struggle against the North American Free Trade Agreement, not just picnics and parades, but also expressions of solidarity and militancy became widespread once again. These patterns were as apparent in Saint Paul as they were anywhere else.

Everything old is new again.  It was Harry Truman who said, "the only thing new in this world is the history that you don't know."  So very true.

Update: More from John Nichols at The Nation on the alarming notion that labor rights are also civil rights.

When the United States occupied Japan after World War II, General Douglas MacArthur and his aides encouraged the country to adopt a constitution designed to assure that Hideki Tojo’s militarized autocracy would be replaced with democracy. Fully aware that workers and their unions had a role to play in shaping the new Japan, they included language that explicitly recognized that “the right of workers to organize and to bargain and act collectively is guaranteed.”

When the United States occupied Germany after World War II, General Dwight David Eisenhower and his aides urged the Germans to write a constitution that would assure that Adolf Hitler’s fascism was replaced with muscular democracy. Recognizing that workers would need to organize and make their voices heard in the new nation, the Germans included a provision that explicitly declared: “The right to form associations to safeguard and improve working and economic conditions shall be guaranteed to every individual and to every occupation or profession. Agreements that restrict or seek to impair this right shall be null and void; measures directed to this end shall be unlawful.”

When former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the International Commission on Human Rights, which drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that would in 1948 be adopted by the United Nations as a global covenant, Roosevelt and the drafters included a guarantee that “everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”

For generations, Americans accepted the basic premise that labor rights are human rights. When this country counseled other countries on how to forge civil and democratic societies, Americans explained that the right to organize a trade union—and to have that trade union engage in collective bargaining as an equal partner with corporations and government agencies—had to be protected.

Now, with those rights under assault in America, it is wise, indeed, to recommit to the American ideal that working people must have a right to organize and to make their voices heard in a free and open society. As the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said fifty years ago:
History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them.

The Labor Day Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance asks you to thank a union member for your long weekend -- and your paid vacation, and your health and retirement benefits -- as it brings you the best of the left of Texas from last week.

Like many people, Off the Kuff was cheered by the ruling in the school finance lawsuit.

The TXGOP had a really lousy week, and it only got worse for Greg Abbott as the Labor Day holiday weekend began. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs doesn't wonder why the attorney general is running away from debating Wendy Davis, because he can't say 'no comment' when asked about his many scandals in a debate.

Libby Shaw, now posting at Daily Kos, also observed that last week was not a particularly good one for Republican lawmakers and Greg Abbott.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson: the economy in Texas has never been miraculous. Bleeding the people dry while stockpiling cash is no miracle: Neglect and Greed.

Make no mistake, Republicans are waging a war against public education. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is glad that the Texas Constitution is standing in their way.

Texas Leftist applauds the Leticia Van de Putte campaign for catching Dan Patrick in a bald-faced lie. He cannot hide from the 2011 education cuts. Plus, we reveal the true reasoning behind Greg Abbott's 'Debate and Switch'.

Neil at Blog About Our Failing Money-Owned American Political System wondered why Leticia Van de Putte would look the other way at vocal supporters of her campaign who voted for the state-mandated rape of the forced sonogram law. BAOFMOAPS is one of several pages at

McBlogger had a short take on Rick Perry's deleted Tweet.

Harold Cook answers his own question:  Does the Perry indictment bring CPRIT back into play in the governor's race?

Egberto Willies thanks President Obama for NOT having a strategy on ISIS/ISIL.


And here's more from other blogs across the state.

Instead of having less campaign advertising on his teevee, jobsanger wishes he had more.

nonsequiteuse reminds everyone to vote if they can and to raise hell if you are blocked or otherwise prohibited from doing so.

Socratic Gadfly wryly notes that Greg Abbott just doesn't stand for very much at all.

The Texas Observer caught Rick Perry's latest "Oops": the 'lavatories of democracy', while cartoonist Ben Sargent solves the GOP’s Latino outreach problem.

Bluedaze has the news about the Earth Wind and Fire Energy Summit coming to Dallas, and Texas Vox reports on the historic clean energy plan adopted by the city of Austin.

Better Texas Blog breaks down the Texas public school finance ruling.

SciGuy reports on NASA's next step -- from design to construction -- in sending men to Mars, and State Impact Texas hopes that a budding private space industry in Texas will stabilize Midland/Odessa's boom-and-bust economy.

Beyond Bones has everything you need to know about sharks but were afraid to ask.

Nancy Sims examines the feminism of Beyonce'.

Newsdesk introduces us to the widely discredited “expert” who coached the state’s witnesses in the HB2 lawsuit.

The Lunch Tray asks if using junk food tactics to sell vegetables to kids is a good idea or not.

And finally, TransGriot has some Labor Day tidings, and the TPA congratulates The Great God Pan Is Dead for its fifth blog anniversary.