Wednesday, December 31, 2014

TPA's Texans of the Year: Frack Free Denton activists

From our presser...

Texas Progressive Alliance taps
Denton's "fracktivists" Texans of the Year

In one of the organization's more closely contested votes, the Texas Progressive Alliance -- the state's consortium of liberal blogs and bloggers -- named Frack Free Denton and its diverse group of activists 2014's Texans of the Year.

"The biggest win for progressives in the Lone Star State on Election Night happened in Denton, Texas," said Charles Kuffner, president of the Alliance.  "The people showed the powerful who is still in charge.  No matter that the Texas Railroad Commission or the state's Legislature may try to undo the will of Denton's Republican, Democratic, and independent voters; for one day in November of 2014, those North Texans came together and said, 'No more. No more polluting our air and water and poisoning our children for profit without accountability'.  The people together spoke, and they were heard."

There were also three Honorable Mentions for the coveted award.  Finishing a close second: the medical staff of Dallas Presbyterian Hospital, who were at the front lines of the nation's Ebola crisis, notably Dr. Kent Brantley and nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, who all contracted the virus and lived to tell about it.  In addition, two other large groups of Texans on either side of the political spectrum were selected: the 33% of Texans who turned out to vote in last month's midterm elections, predominantly Caucasian male Republican voters; and the Democratic volunteer army of deputy voter registrars, blockwalkers, and those who spent long hours on their phones calling prospective voters to urge them to cast their ballots.

"To the victors go the spoils, someone famous once said," noted Kuffner, in reference to the GOP base vote.  "But no one worked any harder than the folks in their precincts, neighborhoods, counties, and across the state to turn back the tide, at least a bit," he added.

The TPA's member bloggers salute all the Texans who were nominated this year, which included several candidates, some elected officials, and other activist groups.

In terms of recognizing the standout newsmakers, what you have seen from other blogs recently does reflect the discussions we had this year, and that they were a little more, shall we say, spirited than usual.  Typically this is a pretty easy choice to come to consensus on; 2014 was, as we all know, exceptional.  And not in the cheeriest of definitions.  But the city of Denton's residents were the noteworthy positive exception.

Christi Craddick in particular stands in defiance, as do the Big Gasholes, and the Lege will likely make every effort to roll back the drilling embargo early next year (thanks, Phil King and ALEC!), so the war isn't over.  But a significant battle was won, with far-reaching ramifications inside and outside Texas.

Hats off to the fractivists.

The roots and evolution of municipal police departments

More to it than you thought.  From A Brief History of Slavery and the Origins of American Policing, written by Dr. Victor E. Kappeler.  Bold emphasis is mine.

The birth and development of the American police can be traced to a multitude of historical, legal and political-economic conditions. The institution of slavery and the control of minorities, however, were two of the more formidable historic features of American society shaping early policing. Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behaviors of minorities. For example, New England settlers appointed Indian Constables to police Native Americans (National Constable Association, 1995), the St. Louis police were founded to protect residents from Native Americans in that frontier city, and many southern police departments began as slave patrols. In 1704, the colony of Carolina developed the nation's first slave patrol. Slave patrols helped to maintain the economic order and to assist the wealthy landowners in recovering and punishing slaves who essentially were considered property.

Policing was not the only social institution enmeshed in slavery. Slavery was fully institutionalized in the American economic and legal order with laws being enacted at both the state and national divisions of government. Virginia, for example, enacted more than 130 slave statutes between 1689 and 1865. Slavery and the abuse of people of color, however, was not merely a southern affair as many have been taught to believe. Connecticut, New York and other colonies enacted laws to criminalize and control slaves. Congress also passed fugitive Slave Laws, laws allowing the detention and return of escaped slaves, in 1793 and 1850. As Turner, Giacopassi and Vandiver (2006:186) remark, “the literature clearly establishes that a legally sanctioned law enforcement system existed in America before the Civil War for the express purpose of controlling the slave population and protecting the interests of slave owners. The similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement.” 

You should also keep in mind that the Second Amendment was ratified in order to preserve the South's slave patrols, whitewashed with use of the word "militias", and specifically to secure the Commonwealth of Virginia's support.  And that Texas is one of just seven states in the Union that doesn't allow open carry (yet) because they did not want the slaves shooting back at the guys in white hoods.

So when Joan Walsh points out that the NYPD's racial problems extend back to the '60's, you can now point out to her that it goes back a lot farther than that. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

W's Fifth Circuit judges to rule on abortion, more diverse trio on gay marriage

Nice draw, if you're a conservative extremist.

The latest review of Texas's tough new abortion law will be conducted next week by a trio of federal judges who have been largely supportive of the law in the past, according to case assignments revealed Monday.

A hearing the same week on the constitutionality of the state's same-sex marriage ban, on the other hand, will get a more unpredictable bench.

The random selections will force opponents of the abortion law and same-sex marriage ban to hope for a long-shot victory, said Edward Sherman, a Tulane University Law School professor who has followed the court for years.

"It's a pretty conservative lineup," Sherman said. "If political ideology is still at the heart of both of these issues, I would expect pro-defendant decisions."

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Jennifer Walker Elrod and Catharina Haynes, who both voted earlier this year to uphold the abortion law, known as House Bill 2, will join Judge Edward Prado on the panel that next Wednesday will hear oral arguments on the latest challenge from abortion providers, the court announced.

All three were appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush.

There will be more variety on the panel slated to hear the same-sex marriage case next Friday, with Judge James Graves Jr., a President Barack Obama appointee, serving alongside Judges Jerry E. Smith and Patrick Higginbotham, who were both appointed by President Ronald Reagan.

The Dallas News has more on Higginbotham, who might be the swing vote.

Once considered solidly conservative, Higginbotham has irritated some conservatives with his rulings critical of Texas judges’ handling of death-penalty cases and a recent decision in which he wrote an opinion upholding the University of Texas’ race-conscious admission policy.

In 1976, former President Gerald Ford, a Republican, selected Higginbotham to serve as federal district judge in Dallas. Higginbotham moved up to the appellate court six years later, amid speculation he was Supreme Court material.

The talk has faded. Higginbotham, 76, is on senior status.

“He’s probably right in the middle of that court and well-regarded,” (University of Richmond law professor Carl) Tobias said. “It’s just hard to know where he might be on this issue.”

Lone Star Q  has more, linking to the Wikis of the judges on the gay marriage case.  Let's take note of Higginbotham's reveal.

Last summer, Higginbotham told The Texas Lawbook’s Mark Curriden that the New Orleans court has shifted considerably to the conservative side during his 32 years as a member.

“When I joined the 5th Circuit, I may have been the court’s most conservative judge,” he said. “Now, I’m probably left of center, even though I don’t think I’ve changed my views at all.”

Not exactly breaking news, just potent for its candor.

Both cases will make their way to the Supremes irrespective of how the appellates decide them, so we'll note for the record that predicting their outcomes -- perhaps predicting the outcome in the gay marriage case, I should say -- will be 2015's first legal parlor game.

Monday, December 29, 2014

One last Wrangle before 2015 gets here

The Texas Progressive Alliance is making the usual New Year's resolutions to exercise more and eat less as brings you the last blog roundup of 2014.

Off the Kuff stays on top of all of the legislative special elections that are going on.

Libby Shaw republished a diary she posted last year on Texas Kaos on Daily Kos in order to remind us about what happens in a state with so little oversight. GOP Texas: Where state funded cancer research can become a slush fund for politicians.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson points out that there's no telling what will happen in the next legislative session, but some think it won't be so bad. Don't buy it: Let's Not Get Ahead Of Ourselves.

The blood lust of the Texas Republicans will not be sated with just five doses of execution drugs available. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders what Greg Abbott will do.

Some recent national conversations seem to reinforce the premise that an independent progressive movement might be valuable to affect the kind of change that would attract the vast majority of non-voting Americans. What it might look like and where to get started remain the primary hurdles. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs found some justification in his efforts to work within and without the Democratic Party simultaneously.

Neil at All People Have Value said we have the right to elect liberals to public office in big cities without the police rebelling and undermining the democratically elected choice of the people.  All People Have Value is part of

Uncle O'Grimacy at McBlogger, in a post-election spurt of frequent blogging, catalogued the butthurt of Battleground Texas.

Egberto Willlies pounced on a truth inconveniently uttered by Sunday Talking Head Chuck Todd.

Bluedaze would really like to know exactly who Chris Faulkner of Breitling Energy is.

And the Lewisville Texas Journal has the city's answers to questions about Ferguson Plaza.


And here's some great posts from other blogs across Texas.

Grits for Breakfast has a question for incoming Bexar County DA Nico Lahood about post-conviction case reviews.

TransGriot updated the (still-delayed) status of Houston Metro's newest light rail lines.

jobsanger thinks it's bad news that six of the most powerful eleven committees in the House of Representatives will be chaired by Texas Republicans.

Texas Politics reports that the TXGOP won't be moving their primary from March 1 in order to create a "Super Southern Tuesday" primary with six other Dixie Republican strongholds.

Socratic Gadfly bids a hasty lumbago to Rick Perry.

The Dallas Morning Views makes the case for a national child day-care system.

Texas Observer Radio has an interview with founder Ronnie Duggar.

Fascist Dyke Motors tells a story about faith.

Unfair Park posted that Flower Mound's "Year of the Bible" was a flop.

Texas Vox warns that too many Americans underestimate the effect of climate change on their health.

SciGuy tells the tale of retrieving the Orion spacecraft from the Atlantic Ocean after splashdown, as related by someone who was there for the Apollo spacecraft in the 1970s.

Ten-year-old Hadi Tameez explains the allure of Minecraft to us old folks.

Former Texan Elise Hu shares what she has learned about miscarriages.

The Great God Pan Is Dead recapped all the art books he read in 2014.

Juanita Jean has some fun at the expense of people who use Glenn Beck and Ron Paul as their financial advisors.

Last, Free Press Houston has the account of the hideous cyberstalking of Houston's anti-police abuse and First Amendment activist, Evan Carroll.