Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Best GOP wedge issue ever, and they can't do a thing with it

Chris Ladd, GOPLifer.

Republicans are being handed the kind of wedge issue that comes along once in a generation and they are utterly oblivious to the gift. The last great Democratic Party constituency, African-Americans, is pitted against the party’s last great organizational bulwark, public employee unions. The waves of protests over police brutality that ignited nationwide over the killing of Michael Brown have focused on race. Protestors so far have failed to appreciate why police, like so many other public employees, are consistently shielded from accountability to the people they serve.

No one seems to have thought to combine the protests over an unaccountable police force with the protests by some of the same people in some of the very same neighborhoods, over the failure to provide a decent public education to poor and minority communities. Both problems have the same root cause – unions that shield their members from accountability.

This nails it, but the lack of accountability is powerfully enabled by the grand jury system.  This does not happen to the degree that it actually does happen without well-connected, wealthy, white conservative grand jurors.  It also doesn't explain why police officers are predominantly Republican voters, and police unions now predominantly endorse Republican candidates in Texas and elsewhere, but let's not quibble.  Especially with this.

All of the major officials involved in the Ferguson case, from the Governor down to the local DA are Democrats. The officials investigating the Tamir Rice case in Cleveland (keep an eye on that one) are Democrats. Only in the Staten Island case are there any Republicans in decision-making roles.

Debates over urban access to effective public safety or effective public education are exclusively intraparty fights among Democrats. Despite the black community’s importance as a Democratic voting bloc, African-Americans always lose that fight with the unions. Every. Single. Time.

When the Democratic Party is faced with a conflict between a public employee union and a black urban population desperate to gain access to the public services that union is supposed to deliver, the union wins. This is the civil rights logjam that has blocked black communities from access to the prosperity that they deserve. Republicans do not own this problem and they should not help perpetuate it.

Unions provide workers with higher incomes and job security. They impose costs not only in wages, but in inertia, making it difficult for a unionized industry to adapt to changing conditions and serve its customers. A union collectivizes power, but along the way it also collectivizes accountability, creating an inherent incentive toward mediocrity and shielding the worst actors from the consequences of their actions. It is very hard to fire a worker who is protected by a union.

In four paragraphs, you've got the trouble with LEO accountability, the trouble with unions (notwithstanding the many valuable things accomplished for middle-class Americans), and the trouble with the Democratic Party (too indistinguishable from the Republicans in too many ways) gutted, filleted, and laid bare.  And it gets worse for Democrats from here.

In an old-fashioned labor union for coalminers or steel workers, the costs of a union are born by wealthy capital owners. The benefits flow to lower income workers who otherwise have little access to power and limited opportunities to support their families. That’s an outdated vision of a union’s mission which died a long time ago.

Now turn those conditions around. What happens when the beneficiaries of the union are college educated, white professionals and the people bearing the cost of unionization are politically powerless and economically exploited? Try to fire an incompetent or crooked police officer and watch what happens.

An institution that collectivizes the benefits and accountability of factory workers imposes some moderate, but generally tolerable costs. An institution that collectivizes the pay and accountability of police officers gets people killed.

African-Americans and other low-income, under-represented constituencies find themselves on the losing end of a carefully structured racket. More-affluent white citizens can flee to suburbs that have been structured to limit the power of public employee unions. Smaller municipalities and school districts combined with well-connected, well-educated voting population help level the playing field for white suburbanites with money. Meanwhile back in the city center, those most in need of public services to enable upward mobility find themselves at the mercy of institutions with far more political muscle than they can match.

And now, the reveal (well, half of it anyway).

This is an historic opening for Republicans to profit by doing the right thing. We could defend the basic civil rights of an oppressed community. Along the way we could we undermine a policy we generally loathe, mandatory unionization of public employees. In the process we would further our goal to broaden the opportunity for all to seize opportunities in a market economy. 


We haven’t been able to recognize, much less exploit this opportunity due to some very serious problems we are unlikely to address.

That's right; I almost forgot.  You're Republicans.

Louisiana Republican Congressman Steve Scalise made news over the holidays when his deep, old ties to white supremacist organizations surfaced. This is important because it is the rest of the story.

We are all supposed to pretend that the Republicans won the South because Southerners coincidentally discovered some fresh interest in low taxes and “liberty” at the same time that the Federal government started enforcing Civil Rights legislation. It’s a lie and everyone knows it’s a lie, but it has taken on a Santa Claus quality as a sort of public myth necessary to maintain the basic legitimacy of our political order.

This is so perfectly demonstrated in the Twitter back-and-forth I had with Greg Aydt over the past weekend, and it is a lie he has worked hard, long hours to perpetuate.  It even came up in a conversation Bill O'Reilly had with David Duke.  But let's not quibble with that, either.

Republicans now control Congress, something that eluded us across most of the 20th century. Almost half of that majority comes from Dixie. Sixty percent of it comes from places that failed to outlaw slavery prior to Lincoln. None of it comes from a major urban area. The party isn’t going to do anything substantive about Steve Scalise because it lacks the leverage to free itself from white supremacist ideology. And that brings us back to our problem.

There are too few Republicans who possess even the most distant understanding of the concerns of the black community to even recognize the shape of this opportunity. And if they did, it would be monumentally difficult to muster a core political bloc inside the GOP that cared. For Republicans, white supremacy will not pay the bills forever. Somehow the party will have to find a broader base on which to build a political appeal. Despite the sugar-high of the 2014 election, the clock is ticking and the outlook is miserable.

An opportunity exists and there are a few Republicans in the North with some potential to tackle it. New Gov. Bruce Rauner in Illinois could be particularly well-positioned to win on this issue if he has the insight to even recognize it. That remains to be seen. Most Republicans seem content to respond to this historic political opening by keeping their backs turned.

Like Ladd, like Grits, I see an opportunity squandered by the GOP.

Indeed, pandering by Democrats to police unions is the main reason significant criminal-justice reform didn't begin in Texas until Republicans took over the Legislature in 2003 for the first time since Reconstruction. While Dems were in charge, police unions had virtual veto power on criminal justice bills, whereas Republicans feel little need to pander to them.

Grits doubts Republican pols will seize the opportunity Ladd identifies, in part because the party contains too many elderly ex-Dixiecrats who flipped sides in the Reagan era and have little interest in civil rights or appealing to black constituents. But it's absolutely correct that the GOP has been presented with a "once in a generation" opportunity if its leaders possess the boldness and foresight to seize upon it.  

They just can't hide the hoods, white sheets, and burning crosses fast enough to capitalize on it.  There's going to have to be a massive die-off among the Republican base before they can manage to moderate themselves enough to attract more than one Mia Love.

Reaching out to African Americans -- while undercutting the stranglehold the Democratic Party has on municipal unions -- is really Scalise they could do.  But they won't, because they can't.  It's just too much cognitive dissonance for their lizard brains to process.

This week in police abuse news, Texas style

*As this post was composed, two more NYPD officers have been shot, and are expected to survive. Their two assailants escaped on foot.

It's hard out there for a cop, as we all know.  Life on the thin blue line and all that.  Some make it hard on themselves, however.  Our local version of Bad Cops on Parade has us in Victoria, near Corpus Christi, as the 23 year-old policeman who Tasered a 76 year-old man -- twice -- for having an expired inspection sticker has been terminated.  From his job, I mean.

Victoria Police Chief Jeff Craig placed Robinson on administrative leave and ordered two separate investigations: a criminal investigation conducted by the Texas Rangers and an internal administrative investigation conducted by the Victoria Police Department's Internal Affairs Division.

This follows on the heels of three other Victoria cops who punched and kicked a woman, resulting in black eyes and broken ribs, then arrested her for "vulgar language".

Mary Frances Jones told the Victoria Advocate that the three police officers woke her up early in the morning on Dec. 22, 2013 over reports that a truck that she had purchased the day before had been seen driving in a local creek.

Jones said that she had been unaware at the time that her sons borrowed the truck while she was sleeping. After officers claimed that she was lying about owning the truck, Jones said she tried to go back inside her home, and that’s when they forced her to the ground.

She's suing the VPD for assault and false arrest.

Medical records will support Jones had two black eyes for two months and was put on a ventilator after she was diagnosed with pneumonia due to her broken ribs. She's visited the hospital about six times since her arrest, Jones said.

The lawsuit claims the officers used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment and its "reasonableness" standard and falsely arrested and imprisoned Jones.

Gale, of San Antonio, said he took on the case because he thought it had merit.

"I think the police, while they're trained in the concepts of law enforcement, they are not trained in regards to the application of them," he said. "When you express your opinion in any form or fashion with any kind of words and walk away from them, that's a sign of disrespect. ... It's completely and utterly constitutional to walk away from somebody. They're just going to make you pay the price. That's concerning. This is not a police state."

What we are fast approaching in the United States today is not just a loss of respect for police but outright disrespect.  And they have brought it upon themselves.

Read this account from Remington Alessi of Houston, as he led the HPD on a wild goose chase around the Galleria parking lot in a protest last month against police abuse.  There are thousands of recent examples of law enforcement overreaction much worse than this of course, and not just in Ferguson or New York or Chicago or Los Angeles or even Victoria, Texas.  There will be more incidents today, and tomorrow, and the next.

And it is the responsibility of those whose job is "to serve and protect" to discontinue rapidly escalating interactions with the public into beatings, Taserings, and shootings.  Or else these situations are just going to keep occurring with more frequency.

The police are NOT supposed to make things worse when they arrive on the scene.  Thankfully a new generation of Houston activists has made improving these instances for better outcomes their cause.  Part of the reform effort must include the grand jury system, as far too many cases of excessive use of deadly force by LEO are no-billed.

These are all good steps in the right direction, but now -- as in right now -- it's on the cops to figure out their part in lessening public tensions.  So far, they are failing at that effort also.

Monday, January 05, 2015

The insurrectionists in the House

The various campaigns to unseat John Boehner as House Speaker are -- as most all Republican threats, but notably internal ones -- blustery and meaningless.

"Boehner will be reelected overwhelmingly. There is no precedent in the history of the House of a Speaker's party exceeding expectations in the election and then dumping its Speaker," (GOP consultant John) Feehery told CBS News. "All of these guys who are complaining about Boehner have nothing to lose because the Speaker has made clear there will be no retribution. So he is giving them a free shot."

You know that old saw 'if you strike the king you must kill the king'?  Well, Louie Gohmert and his ilk can't strike a match.  This time the frothing goons of the Tea Party won't get any red meat.  Apparently they won't even get any crumbs.

You've been had again, 'Baggers.


Reps. Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma, Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, Steve King, R-Iowa, Dave Brat, R-Virginia, Marlin Stuztman, R-Ohio, Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky, and Walter Jones, R-North Carolina, round out the nine members who have publicly said they plan to vote against Boehner. Bridenstine is calling the group the "gang of nine." Some of these members like Yoho and Massie voted against Boehner for the speaker's job in 2013. Brat is the newest voice in this bunch -- he upset then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a special election late last year and appears eager to hang on to his his rabble-rouser reputation.

Yoho and Bridenstine both voted for Cantor for speaker in 2013. Massie was the sole vote for Justin Amash, R-Michigan; Gohmert voted for then-Florida Congressman Allen West; Jones voted for former comptroller general and fiscal responsibility advocate David Walker. Stutzman is particularly aggrieved about the misunderstanding over his switched shutdown vote, and King is upset over immigration.

"Hold on to your asparagus and keep an eye out for terror babies".

Update (1/7): After coasting to re-election, the Orange Man takes his revenge.  Feehery was wrong about something after all.

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is still waiting for someone to invent the hoverboard as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff published special election candidate interviews with Diego Bernal, Trey Martinez-Fischer, and Ty McDonald.

Libby Shaw, writing for Texas Kaos and Daily Kos learned important lessons from her volunteer work with Battleground Texas: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson says there may still be hope for Battleground Texas. But the strategy will have to change. It's all about the base.

Police departments all over the country have deep roots in slavery and racism, as PDiddie at Brains and Eggs reminded.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders why the Port of Brownsville is so dismissive of the Sierra Club opinion on liquefied natural gas terminals. Don't they care about the health of the people and the environment?

Neil at All People Have Value said policymakers on both sides of the aisle knew years ago that automation and changing facts threatened blue collar jobs. Yet instead of helping everyday people, public policy was geared towards the rich. Neil says the work of freedom is up to each of us. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Texpatriate asks, "What's next for Texas Democrats?" and answers: "give up".

Dos Centavos wants to know why there aren't a couple more issues Wendy Davis should take back.

McBlogger also piles on Davis for backtracking on open carry.

Bluedaze notes two more Texas earthquakes in Irving and in Snyder.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Anti-Media reported on HPD's fruitless and prohibitively expensive efforts to stifle a single anti-police abuse activist.

Socratic Gadfly picked a Person of the Year, and guesses that you won't know his name.

The WAWG Blog explains how income inequality is much worse than we think.

Juanita Jean challenged us to come up with a title for Ted Cruz's book.

LGBTQ Insider has a caveat about the FDA's change in policy towards gay men donating blood.

Unfair Park previews the Fifth Circuit court hearing on the same sex marriage appeal.

Texans Together reviews the San Jacinto River Coalition's accomplishments for 2014.

Nancy Sims tells the story of her transitioning daughter and her own unconditional love for her.

The Bloggess pens an open letter to the Girl Scouts.

Jonathan Guajardo asks new Bexar County DA Nico LaHood for a serious inquiry into the case of Cameron Redus, a UIW student who was fatally shot by a UIW police officer outside his apartment off campus.

Scott Braddock calls 2014 the year of Tom DeLay's permanent Republican majority.

Fascist Dyke Motors is putting her best foot forward in the New Year.

Finally, Texas Politics has the story of the worst Cialis commercial ever the group hug in the Dallas Cowboys' owner's box.