With Section 5 out of the way, when it comes to voter suppression, everything is possible

Posted in Bad Government Republicans, Elections, Had Enough Yet? at 10:55 am by wcnews

Texas at this moment is solidly Republican. Let’s say that Wendy Davis runs for governor and loses, but she comes scary close, as far as the Texas GOP is concerned, (47-48%). She has coattails and the GOP majority in The Lege shrinks. There’s an upsurge in turnout of Democratic leaning voters and Texas is beginning to look like a true battleground state.

To see what might happen in a scenario like this all we have to do is look at what’s going on in North Carolina. North Carolina went for Obama in 2008 and Romney in 2012. A true battleground state, that is now solidly in GOP hands. And they’re going to do everything possible, legal or not, to make sure it stays in GOP hands. Here’s an intro to what’s happening from Rachel Maddow.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

They’re also working to dismantle public education too.  It’s not hard to see that happening in Texas in 2015 if Greg Abbott is elected Governor.

North Carolina Republicans clearly think they’re going to get away with this. For the record, it is blatantly illegal. Blatantly unconstitutional. It has been since the 1970s. Since 1979 when this U.S. Supreme Court ruled that students, in fact, have the constitutional right to register to vote and to vote where they go to school. That case began at another historically black college at Prairie View A&M in Texas. The county didn’t want to let the black students vote there either. The Supreme Court intervened and said Texas had to let them vote. This is not a subtle gray areas in the law kind of thing. This is as clear as it gets. Republicans in North Carolina are doing it anyway. Right now. This week. Until somebody stops North Carolina Republicans from what they are doing, it is 1979 all over again. Or i guess 1964 all over again? Maybe earlier. The Republican governor of North Carolina Pat McCrory has his approval ratings in the toilet. He’s paying the price for the whiplash radical turn the state has taken under his Republican leadership. But it is not one man it’s clear now. It’s a statewide plan and statewide effort. The more you look at what Republicans are doing in North Carolina right now, the more it makes sense why Democrats and African-American voters have been getting arrested by the dozens, by the hundreds, week after week trying to get rest of the country to notice the kind of radicalism that is going on there now.

These are the kinds of laws Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) used to stop before they got started. Lawmakers knew these kinds of laws would never make it past Section 5. But now that Section 5 is gone it’s a free-for-all on election law. Especially in Southern states where the GOP controls all branches of the government like Texas. The laws can still be challenged in court, but Section 5 kept them from being implemented until they were reviewed.

The one issue with what Maddow said was that Gov. McCrory is paying the price with his poll numbers. That’s all part of the plan. He’s not concerned about his reelection right now, he’s in his first year. Other governors like Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Rick Scott in Florida have similarly had their poll numbers tank, and Walker survived a recall. Our own Rick Perry has never had great poll numbers but he always survived. The only way to end this is to work hard and defeat candidates like them at the ballot box, while we still can.

Ari Berman of The Nation sums up the new North Carolina voter suppression law this way.

Late last night, the North Carolina legislature passed the country’s worst voter suppression law after only three days of debate. Rick Hasen of Election Law Blog called it “the most sweeping anti-voter law in at least decades” The bill mandates strict voter ID to cast a ballot (no student IDs, no public employee IDs, etc.), even though 318,000 registered voters lack the narrow forms of acceptable ID according to the state’s own numbers and there have been no recorded prosecutions of voter impersonation in the past decade. The bill cuts the number of early voting days by a week, even though 56 percent of North Carolinians voted early in 2012. The bill eliminates same-day voter registration during the early voting period, even though 96,000 people used it during the general election in 2012 and states that have adopted the convenient reform have the highest voter turnout in the country. African-Americans are 23 percent of registered voters in the state, but made up 28 percent of early voters in 2012, 33 percent of those who used same-day registration and 34 percent of those without state-issued ID.

And that’s just the start of it. In short, the bill eliminates practically everything that encourages people to vote in North Carolina, replaced by unnecessary and burdensome new restrictions. At the same time, the bill expands the influence of unregulated corporate influence in state elections. Just what our democracy needs—more money and less voting!

“I want you to understand what this bill means to people,” said Representative Mickey Michaux (D-Durham), the longest-serving member of the North Carolina House and a veteran of the civil rights movement who grew up in the Jim Crow South. “We have fought for, died for and struggled for our right to vote. You can take these 57 pages of abomination and confine them to the streets of Hell for all eternity.”

Here are the details of everything bad about the ball, via North Carolina Policy Watch.

It’s not possible to understand how these laws can be justified outside the context of voter suppression. If there was massive voter fraud going on in Texas it’s obviously not hurting Republican candidates, since they hold all statewide offices. The only reason this is being pursued is that the future, as far as the GOP is concerned, looks bleak. Anything they can do to forestall that is therefore justified. And with Section 5 out of the way they now believe, when it comes to voter suppression, everything is possible.

Further Reading:
North Carolina’s Sweeping Voter Suppression Law Is Challenged in Court.
Inside the ‘ALEC Universe’.


There is nothing new under the wingnut sun

Posted in Around The Nation, Had Enough Yet?, Right Wing Lies at 11:23 am by wcnews

The title of this post is how Rick Perlstein ends his article Growing Up in the John Birch Society.

Claire Conner was about 13 years old when her parents handed her a John Birch Society membership form and told her, “You are old enough to take part in saving the nation.” For Claire that meant getting her dollar-a-month dues automatically subtracted from her allowance—and doing a whole lot of cringing.

The crux of the article is that while the Birchers may not be seen, they are still extremely active.

But it also bears a political argument we need to absorb. Explained Conner in Chicago, “The John Birch Society built the most effective, best-funded right-wing populist organization in the United States of America. Now, not all my friends on the left want to hear this. It’s so easy to say, ‘These people were crackpots.” But Robert Welch “was a brilliant man. That doesn’t mean he was correct about anything. But he was a brilliant man. And he loved to sell.” And what comes through strikingly in the book is that, even as Welch and his organization were excoriated, the stories they told, frequently through carefully disguised front groups with pleasant-sounding names—say, the one from the 1960s about how sexual education was teaching children how to be sexually promiscuous; or the one in the early 1990s promoting the impeachment of Bill Clinton—were sold quite effectively to the broader political culture. They achieved things.

We really, really don’t want to believe this. Even Claire Conner did not want to believe this. She writes, remembering the Kennedy assassination, blamed in the wider political culture as a product of just the sort of extremism Birchers were promoting, “the whole right wing is kaput. My parents and the Birchers just became ancient history.” Less than eight months later, of course, Barry Goldwater was the Republican presidential nominee. She writes of her conviction of how the miserable failures of the Bush years were “killing America’s appetite for right-wing Republicans.”

And yet now we have thirty states with Republican majorities, many of them veto-proof.

And at that point, in Chicago, Claire Conner concluded in thunder. “These people are at the point of changing our government. If you want to see how, look at Texas, look at Florida. Look at Ohio. Look at Wisconsin, for God’s sake—my state. Look at Michigan, for heaven’s sake: they think they elected a moderate, but they elected a right-wing radical. That’s how this game is played. They’re changing the policy. And the whole thing is so deep that when they vote them out of office, number one, half of them won’t be able to vote. And number two, we will have years of problems to fix…. We were so happy that we won the popular vote, but they’re buying the place….they’ve virtually stopped the government for five years.”

Claire Conner knows of what she speaks. She was there at the inception—as a sad-eyed, vulnerable adolescent—then watched as the machine was put together: a machine whose deceptively smooth surface has always only barely hid the corrosive ugliness and cunning anti-democratic cleverness underneath, convincing too many liberals, too many times, that the ugliness could not but fade away in the fulness of time—convincing them wrong. Read her, and listen well: there is nothing new under the wingnut sun.

The bolded part speaks to what’s been going on with voting rights, Bigotry for the right reasons, and the sequester, Sequestration Ushers In A Dark Age For Science In America.  And If those are reversed tomorrow, the ramifications are going to last for years. But this did not just come out of thin air.  It’s always been there, and as long as there’s billionaires like the Koch’s are willing to bankroll it, it always will be around.

It’s also why things like this will never end, The Real Reason for the GOP’s All-Out War on Obamacare.

At its core, the Republicans’ scorched-earth opposition to Obamacare has never been so much about “freedom” or “limited government” or any other right-wing ideological buzzword as it has been about political power, pure and simple. Now as for the past 20 years, Republicans have feared not that health care reform would fail the American people, but that it would succeed. Along with Social Security and Medicare, successful health care reform would provide the third and final pillar of Americans’ social safety net, all brought you by the Democratic Party. To put it another way, the GOP was never really concerned about a “government takeover of health care”, “rationing”, “the doctor-patient relationship” or mythical “death panels,” but that an American public grateful for access to health care could provide Democrats with an enduring majority for years to come.

The only way to stop it is to make sure that they’re marginalized to the minority as they were from FDR to Reagan. And it’s why Democrats must learn to fight, the right way, for Obamacare and other things that help the American people.

All of which leads back to how this all will play politically. Democrats can continue to stand behind the law’s general goals — expanding coverage to the uninsured; protecting consumers; reining in insurance industry abuse — while signaling a willingness to fix the law as we go along. Indeed, the expert in House races told me Dems must signal this flexibility or put themselves at risk. But he also notes that the GOP position — pushing for full repeal without proposing a meaningful alternative — is also risky, because it could make Republicans look unwilling to solve people’s problems, a potentially toxic position among less partisan voters.

Drew Altman, the president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has done sophisticated polling on Obamacare for years, agrees. Dems, he told me, “can stand on the benefits of the law, which are popular, and talk about improving the law. That’s a position which will be popular with the public.”

This isn’t to say Dems will win the battle over Obamacare. The law remains unpopular and implementation is a big unknown. Rather, the point is that the GOP position is not a clear winner either. Republicans know this, which is why they are claiming yet againthat they will roll out an alternative to Obamacare this fall. But herein lies the Obamacare Trap. If that effort crashes and burns under conservative criticism — as itdid last time — it will reveal yet again that Republicans simply have no vision for a meaningful role for government to play in fixing the health care system, whether it comes to the consumer protections that are being debated today or anywhere else.

The Birch wing of the GOP is showing too much right now and it’s hurting them. But it needs to be taken on by an alternative that offers what we once had between FDR and Reagan. A country that produced prosperity for its people. And that change won’t come without a struggle.

Further Reading:
ALEC’s Unwelcome Party in Chicago.
Why Is Inequality So Much Higher in the U.S. Than in France?
If You’re Wondering What’s Wrong With America, Look At These Four Charts.


Electing Democrats is the best revenge

Posted in 83rd Legislature, Around The State, Commentary, Cronyism, Had Enough Yet? at 1:05 pm by wcnews

As I was reading Texpatriate’s post on the Senate’s passage of HB 2, the omnibus abortion bill, Where do we go from here? What came to mind that was a take on the saying, “Living well is the best revenge”, that electing Democrats is the best revenge.

2. The Ballot Box
Since the first filibuster, I have seen a lot of my contemporaries, who couldn’t have cared less about politics just a few weeks ago, become involved and outspoken on the process. If this motivation and anger will translate to mobilized and dedicated voters on this issue, it will be a wonder for the Democratic Party. That is still an open-ended question at this point, however.

2014 will see all Statewide positions, roughly half of the State Senate and all 150 State Representatives seek re-election. If the Democrats do their jobs (a big if), we could have a meaningful impact.

3. Activist Lane
Remember, don’t get mad, get even. Or at least get involved. This whole controversy has propelled Wendy Davis into the national spotlight. As I have been arguing somewhat perpetually now since the filibuster, she truly needs to run for Governor, regardless of her feasibility as a winning candidate. Be the Democrats’ Barry Goldwater.

Find people riled up by this, and register them to vote. Get people involved with the local Democratic Party. And, my gosh, find some candidates for Statewide office next year. Wendy Davis is obvious, but there are so many others. Rodney Ellis, Jose Rodriguez, Leticia Van de Putte and Judith Zaffrini are among the talented Democratic Senators who are not up for re-election next year. Cecile Richards is a great possible candidate as well.

There was a huge rally at the end of the evening tonight, where Cecile Richards and Jessica Farrar led thousands of protesters from the Capitol down Congress Street. Stuff like that needs to continue happening.

So, I guess Wendy Davis really was prophetic when she said this is only the beginning, and not the end. Don’t pout, don’t cry, don’t complain. What we need to do right now is to get to work. I will part with a line from an old Bob Dylan song that I find quite fitting for this evening.

“The loser now will be later to win, oh the times they are a-changin’”

No one should be under the illusion any longer that the Texas GOP will not implement it’s radical campaign rhetoric if given the chance. Or the illusion that this will just change some day in the future because of demographics. It will take sustained hard work over the course of years and there will be setbacks. Even once power is taken back it will take time. As this Ross Ramsey article shows, A Weak Governor System, With a Strong Governor, (via Kuff, Rick Perry will be with us for a long time).

It’s not the system that makes the governor strong or weak necessarily. It has to do with the person, and much more important, the length of time that person is in office. Becaue until the 1970’s the governor was only a two year term. And no one has ever been the Governor of Texas as long as Perry. Here’s what EOW wrote back in 2010 about Perry, We must end Perry’s unprecedented time as governor – he’s been in office too long.

Because of the staggered terms of boards and commissions it can take years for a governor to get their people in place and get control the bureaucracy. And Perry’s time in office is unprecedented. At the end of his current term Perry will have done something no Texas governor has ever done, serve two consecutive four year terms. He will have been in office a total of 10 consecutive years, which has allowed him to “burrow-in”, or imbed, his people into the bowles of state government as no other governor before.

That means it’s possible that there will still be Perry imbeds in office until 2020. And if Perry clone Gregg Abbott is elected the same kind of cronies will be there even longer.

That’s why it’s imperative the current momentum is used to create a movement for governmental change in Texas. While women’s rights and health issue are important, more issues must be included. Inequality, equal pay, equal rights, health care, education, etc.., must be included to make sure the movement can grow and endure.

Further Reading:
Stand With Texas Women: In Houston, a Rally Inspires and Energizes
When tampons are outlawed, only outlaws will have tampons
The battlefield shifts now
Texas’ New Abortion Bill Will Go to Court and Texas Women May WinAbortion Rights Are at a Crossroads: This Is NOT a Time to Lay Low – It Is Time for Massive Uncompromising Struggle!


The GOP gets personal

Posted in 83rd Legislature, Around The State, Had Enough Yet?, Special Session at 4:38 pm by wcnews

Perry and the wing nuts look like they’re coming unhinged.  That’s what happens when an enetitled group, that has been allowed to roam free for years, is finally having to deal with a competent and successful opposition, Sen. Davis: ‘Rick Perry’s statement is without dignity’.

Davis later responded to Perry’s comments.

“Rick Perry’s statement is without dignity and tarnishes the high office he holds,” she said. “They are small words that reflect a dark and negative point of view. Our governor should reflect our Texas values. Sadly, Gov. Perry fails that test.”

Even Republicans are realizing that it’s OK to call them our for their shameful rantings, Straus: Perry Crossed Line on Davis Comments.

“Disagreements over policy are important and they’re healthy, but when he crosses the line into the personal, then he damages himself and he damages the Republican Party,” Straus said.

Perry’s beeen making oops-worthy statements for a couple of years now.

Dewhurst must really be feeling the heat after his weak showing.  He’s taken to threatening to arrest members of the capitol press corps, Lt Gov David Dewhurst decides against arresting Texas media.

The problem for the GOP is that they are trying to hide their real intentions, (shutting down access to legal abortion), behind protecting women’s health.  Which is a solution in search of a problem.  It’s similar to voter ID, where they tried to hide their true intenion, (disinfranchising likely Democratic voters), behind  the non-existant problem of voter fraud.  They’re following a pattern.

They feel they need to hide their true intentions becauste while many people may believe abortion is wrong, they also know that making it too difficult to get a safe legal abortion may force women to take drastic measures.

State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) made the rounds of the Sunday shows today.  My favorite comment was the one asked by David Gregory on Meet The Press when he asked if she’s just delaying the inevitable.  She responded by saying, “I don’t thinks it’s every acceptable to concede the argument on incredilby important issues like this”.  And that’s the point even if this fight is lost, fighting for it is likley to bring those who have been sitting out into this and future fights.

The longer this fight goes on the better it is for the Democrats and worse it gets for the GOP.  The 2nd special session starts tomorrow.  Or as Kuff says, Time to lace up your Mizunos and head back to the Capitol.

Further Reading:
Filibuster Drama Shows Side of Texas Rarely Seen.
Wendy Davis says Rick Perry talks small government but likes big government when to his political advantage.


It’s getting hot in here

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Had Enough Yet? at 3:56 pm by wcnews

Scotus had a big week:

Fisher v. University of Texas – in plain English.

Shelby County v. Holder, the end of preclearance in the Voting Rights Act – in plain English.

United States v. Windsor, aka the end of DOMA – in plain English.

There was huge political goings-on in Texas:

The rise of Wendy Davis – What the future may hold for Wendy Davis.

The end of David Dewhurst’s political career – For Dewhurst, a Critical Failure With a Large Audience.

Another oops by Rick Perry – Perry v. Davis. Round 1.

Texas Rush wants to move up – Patrick is in for Lite Gov.

The President gave a speech on climate change – Seeking More Presidential Action, Less Rhetoric, on Warming.

It’s been a huge news week.  Three historic (not all in a good way), SCOTUS decisions. (This one was under the radar, A Legal Blow to Sustainable Development).

It’s hard to say anything new about what went on in the Texas Senate on Tuesday into Wednesday morning.  Democrats in Texas certainly hope this is a seminal moment in Texas politics.  But I hope every Texan knows now that the GOP in Texas can no longer be moderated.  They will do everything they say.  People in this state can no longer blow off voting and believe the GOP won’t go forward with it’s extreme agenda.  And if Texans have finally awakened to the seriousness of the Texas GOP’s extremism, then so be it, better late then never.  But the only way to end the extremism is to vote the extremists out.

I would like nothing more then to see Wendy Davis make a run for Texas Governor.  Democrats need to take a chance, with a quality candidate sooner, rather then later, to see where they really stand.  If she will have the ability to fundraise nationally, and even internationally, and have a movement of the people behind her there’s no telling what might happen.  Not to mention the havoc a new electorate could wreak on Republicans up and down the ballot in Texas in 2014.  But without a movement and financial support there is no chance.

Rick Perry showing himself as an idiot and Dewhurst looking weak are just par for the Texas political course.  But a right wing crazy like Texas Rush trying to take advantage of that weakness shouldn’t shock anyone or, as Kuff says (see above), scare anyone anymore.  Especially after the idiocy of Jody Laubenberg.  But it can still get worse if the people don’t act.

As the Summer weather heated up this week so did the news.


A sad day in the United States

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Elections, Had Enough Yet? at 5:15 pm by wcnews

While Chief Justice John Roberts is right that “our country has changed”, the South hasn’t. As the recent NYT article shows. Here’s the last paragraph of Roberts opinion, via TPM, Supreme Court Guts The Voting Rights Act.

“Our decision in no way affects the permanent, nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in §2. We issue no holding on §5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “Such a formula is an initial prerequisite to a determination that exceptional conditions still exist justifying such an ‘extraordinary departure from the traditional course of relations between the States and the Federal Government.’ … Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

The dissent was bitter, Justice Ginsburg Slams Supreme Court’s ‘Hubris’ In Fiery Dissent On Voting Rights Act.

“The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective,” she wrote. “The Court appears to believe that the VRA’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that preclear­ance is no longer needed. … With that belief, and the argument derived from it, history repeats itself.”

One irony is that the reason the changes have occurred in voting is only because of the VRA and preclearance. Without it voting will become much harder for many until we finally make voting a right in the United States of America.Please sign the petition to join Daily Kos, Color of Change, and a growing movement to pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing and protecting the freedom to vote for all.

The state of Texas has wasted no time in moving it’s voter disenfranchisement plan forward, Photo ID now required for voting in Texas.

Further Reading:
Brains and Eggs, John Roberts: “Our country has changed”.
TXRedistricting, Supreme Court strikes down section 5 coverage formula – the impact for Texas.


Our political system must change

Posted in Around The Nation, Had Enough Yet?, Money In Politics at 2:19 pm by wcnews

It’s not the people we elect but the political system they’re are elected into that is our problem. And until that’s fixed the problems of the American people cannot and will not be fixed. That’s the takeaway fromthis must watch video or Lawrence Lessig on Bill Moyers & Company this week.

One of the best parts is when he describes his plan for what he calls a “money bomb“:

BILL MOYERS: You have been putting forward a great big idea that you think might make a significant difference in this and radically change the system. It’s called the money bomb.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: It, yeah, well, right, the money bomb is a mechanism for creating the political power that we need to force this change. The change is not such a huge change relative to what other states, even what New York is thinking about right now, just changing the way you fund elections. But the money bomb is let’s figure out how much it would cost in the next two election cycles to win enough seats in the United States Congress to guarantee we get this change.

You know, I don’t know what that number is, but we’re hiring a group to calculate that number let’s say it’s a half a billion dollars. So then let’s go around to 50 billionaires and say to them, “Okay, we want you to write, we want you to promise in Kickstarter-like way, that if we find 49 other people to write a check for that number over 50, you will write a check for that same amount.”

So whether it’s a $10 million check or a $50 million check, I don’t know what the number is going be, but commit to us that you do that. So that by the end of this we’ve got a super PAC with the power to end all super PACs.

It would be for the purpose of electing representatives and a president committed to, we’d identify the package of reform they’ve got to promise. So you go into a district and you say, “Okay fine if this congressperson is not committed to that, we’re going to take that congressperson off, take that congressperson–”

BILL MOYERS: You’re going to punish him for not supporting reform?

LAWRENCE LESSIG: Right. Now, of course, you had Jonathan Soros on your show and Jonathan Soros gave us the pilot that demonstrated how powerful this idea could be. Soros ran a little super PAC called Friends of Democracy. They targeted eight seats. They spent about $2.5 million, not a lot of money, and seven of those eight seats flipped in the way they wanted it to flip.

They made money in politics the issue and in seven of those eight seats people came out and said, “Fine, that’s right. This guy is corrupt in our view and we’re going totake him out.” Now, if you in 2014 went from eight seats to 80 seats and you won even 50 of those 80 seats on the basis of money in the politics so if you had $50 million in 2014 and you won 50 of those seats, that would terrify the United States Congress.

So when you came back in 2016 there would be a lot of people who would all of a sudden magically have become reformers in this fight and we would have a real chance to get a Congress committed to in 2017 their very first bill being the bill to enact the change that gives us a reason once again to have confidence in the system. Now, it’s a huge fight.

And the reason that money bomb has gotta be so big is that the closer we get and the closer that K Street realizes that we might actually have a chance of winning, they’re going to create all sorts of pushback. Because if we win lobbyists don’t go away. We need lobbyists. Lobbyists are an important part of our system. But the value of lobbying services gets cut in half, right, because they are no longer the fundraiser-lobbyist. They are just somebody, a policy wonk giving a good idea about what they want. So you know, as John Edwards used to say when we used to quote John Edwards, there’s all the difference in the world —

BILL MOYERS: The former John Edwards.

LAWRENCE LESSIG: –yeah. There’s all the difference in the world between a lawyer making an argument to a jury and a lawyer handing out $100 bills to the jurors. And our lobbying system doesn’t understand that difference.

Lessig’s plan cannot succeed without an involved populace and politicians that are accountable to the people and not just the wealthy and corporations like we have now. We’ve all let our democratic muscles atrophy, it’s long past time we started working them our again. This is a great place to start. More at Rootstrikers, Three easy asks.


It’s messy and needs to get messier

Posted in Around The Nation, Had Enough Yet? at 3:57 pm by wcnews

The American people and their branch of government are the only ones that can force this to change.  No single person and no single party.  But the people working together.  And I don’t know if our country can act in that manner anymore.

Here’s an excerpt from Glenn Greenald on Democracy Now today.

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, on Thursday, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein told reporters in the Senate gallery that the government’s top-secret court order to obtain phone records on millions of Americans is, quote, “lawful.”

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: As far as I know, this is the exact three-month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years. This renewal is carried out by the FISA court under the business records section of the PATRIOT Act, therefore it is lawful.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Senator Dianne Feinstein. Glenn Greenwald?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, first of all, the fact that something is lawful doesn’t mean that it isn’t dangerous or tyrannical or wrong. You can enact laws that endorse tyrannical behavior. And there’s no question, if you look at what the government has done, from the PATRIOT Act, the Protect America Act, the Military Commissions Act and the FISA Amendments Act, that’s exactly what the war on terror has been about.

But I would just defer to two senators who are her colleagues, who are named Ron Wyden and Mark Udall. They have—are good Democrats. They have spent two years now running around trying to get people to listen to them as they’ve been saying, “Look, what the Obama administration is doing in interpreting the PATRIOT Act is so radical and so distorted and warped that Americans will be stunned to learn” — that’s their words — “what is being done in the name of these legal theories, these secret legal theories, in terms of the powers the Obama administration has claimed for itself in how it can spy on Americans.”

When the PATRIOT Act was enacted—and you can go back and look at the debates, as I’ve done this week—nobody thought, even opponents of the PATRIOT Act, that it would ever be used to enable the government to gather up everybody’s telephone records and communication records without regard to whether they’ve done anything wrong. The idea of the PATRIOT Act was that when the government suspects somebody of being involved in terrorism or serious crimes, the standard of proof is lowered for them to be able to get these documents. But the idea that the PATRIOT Act enables bulk collection, mass collection of the records of hundreds of millions of Americans, so that the government can store that and know what it is that we’re doing at all times, even when there’s no reason to believe that we’ve done anything wrong, that is ludicrous, and Democratic senators are the ones saying that it has nothing to do with that law. [Emphasis added]

The PATRIOT Act has become the the definition of a “slipper slope“.

The problems with this are many.  And the only way this will stop is if the people of America demand it stops.  Unfortunately our elected leaders and the corporations that bankroll them know that too, and they’re going to work hard to make sure that the people don’t come together and demand this stops.

As John Nichols reminds us it is up to Congress to change this.

Some senators think that’s acceptable. Indeed, Senator Lindsay Graham, R-SC, has declared himself “glad” that the National Security Agency is obtaining the phone records of millions of Verizon customers. And key Democrats, such as Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, D-California, have adopted a “what’s-the-big-deal?” stance that says the spying is old news that senators should have been aware of.

But many of the sharpest and most engaged members of the chamber are rejecting that assessment. Among those stepping up today were Democrats and Republicans who have histories of expressing concern about abuses of privacy rights. In the House, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Michigan Democrat John Conyers, Jr., and the ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler, and the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, Virginia Democrat Robert C. “Bobby” Scott moved fast to declare: “The recent revelation that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has approved the blanket and ongoing collection of telephone records — including those of everyday Americans with absolutely no ties to terrorism — is highly problematic and reveals serious flaws in the scope and application of the USA PATRIOT Act. We believe this type of program is far too broad and is inconsistent with our Nation’s founding principles. We cannot defeat terrorism by compromising our commitment to our civil rights and liberties.”


With the latest revelation, Congress has an opportunity to do what [Russ] Feingold begged the House and especially the Senate to do from 2001 on: provide meaningful oversight and real checks and balances on surveillance initiatives that are clearly at odds with a Fourth Amendment protection that says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

Feingold warned us five years ago that Congress, through its inaction and its explicit authorizations of unchecked surveillance in the Patriot Act and rewrites of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, ushered in “one of the greatest intrusions, potentially, on the rights of Americans protected under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution in the history of our country.”

Ideally, the pair of former senators who once expressed deep concerns about abuses of privacy rights and now serve as president and vice president would take the lead in addressing abuses.

But it is an understanding that the executive branch rarely surrenders authority that had been ceded to it that led the founders to separate the powers of the federal government. They wanted to assure that, when the executive branch did not act properly, the legislative branch could step up.

It is time for Congress to recognize that Feingold was right in his warning. The potential for for intrusions on the rights of Americans protected under the Fourth Amendment has been realized.

And it must be addressed by a Congress that understands and embraces its role as a defender of the Constitution to which every member swears an oath.

Further Reading:
Rick Perlstein adds his perspective, The NSA Doppleganger.
What You Should Know About the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).
Obama Says No One Is Listening To Your Phone Calls. ‘Trust Me!’.
Trust the professionals. They’ll strike the right balance.
ProPublica has this, Mass Surveillance in America: A Timeline of Loosening Laws and Practices.


An editorial that makes no sense

Posted in 83rd Legislature, Around The State, Had Enough Yet?, The Budget, The Lege at 10:31 am by wcnews

This is a ludicrous editorial, Texas Dems hold water money hostage for school funding. Let me get this straight, we’re supposed to believe that the Democrats – who are in the minority in both houses and hold no statewide office – are responsible for holding up the water bill? I call BS.

State Rep. Lon Burnam, a Fort Worth Democrat, and I have a simmering disagreement over the House’s failure to finance a 50-year water plan. Burnam and other Democrats say they won’t give up water funding until they get school funding in trade.


The money for water infrastructure and more is available in the state’s almost $12 billion rainy-day fund. The idea is to put that much in a revolving fund to help entities across the state sell bonds for water projects. Burnam and others are blocking the way.

“House Democrats believe Texas should first restore the $5.4 billion cut from public education before spending money from the Rainy Day Fund for other issues,” Burnam and Rep. Chris Turner wrote in a letter to the editor published last week. “And since a drawdown from the Rainy Day Fund requires the support of two-thirds of the House, the minority party has more leverage than usual — and we intend to use that leverage to help our schoolchildren.”

I say the Dems are wrong. I don’t blame them for their tactics, but it’s not smart to use rainy-day fund money to pay for ongoing operation of schools.

Rainy-day money should be used either in a crisis or in one-time allocations to pay for things that won’t have to be paid for over and over again. If it’s used to help restore the $5.4 billion cut from schools two years ago, that same hole will have to be filled again when the Legislature meets in 2015, and again in 2017, and again in 2019, and so forth.

Burnam and others have told me it’s worth the risk that they’ll be able to come back in two years and find more stable funding. I don’t buy that.

Texas has the money this year to adequately and properly fund schools. If lawmakers choose not to do that, or if their definition of adequate funding differs from what educators or others might say, that’s their responsibility.

But it shouldn’t come from the rainy-day fund, and it shouldn’t block passage of the proposed one-time funding for water infrastructure.

So the Democrats want a deal to vote for the using the RDF to pay for water. Which begs the question, why does the GOP need the Democrats at all?  Well, it’s because too many of their members don’t want to spend any money from the RDF, and their earlier scheme to fund water out of GR (General Revenue) failed.  Here’s the answer, if the entire GOP caucus in the House (95 members) was for using $2 billion from the RDF to fund water, it’s entirely likely they could peel of 5 – 10 Democrats and get it passed. But the GOP is so far away from that getting all 95 R’s that they need many more Democrats then that.

And in politics, often times, to get someone to get to yes there needs to be compromise. So it’s looks totally “parisan hackish” to blame the powerless minority, when the powerful majority can’t even keep itself in check. Why is it that the Democrats are to blame and the ones that have to compromise their principals to pass Republican legislation? It makes no sense.

The blame for this lies directly with the tea party representatives, aka Perry and the wing nuts, and the voters that elected them.  They are the hostage takers. Again, we have $12 billion in reserves, even with another bad budget estimate from the Comptroller, and huge needs for water, transportation, public transportation, and health care.  And we’re being lead to believe that the best thing for our state is to leave that money alone, continue to neglect our priorities, and continue in the same downward spiral.  Again I call BS.


The wrath from the tea party

Posted in 83rd Legislature, Around The State, Had Enough Yet?, The Lege, Transportation at 1:08 pm by wcnews

Why can’t we have funding for transportation in Texas?  Or public education?  Or health care and Medicaid expansion?  Or higher education?  Or water?  Or the many other things that we need in this state?  The DMN’s Transportation Blog sums it up pretty well.

Transportation lobbyists say they have been counting votes on the bill and believe they have enough commitments of support. At the same time, there is the possibility that some of these “supporters” are privately telling Speaker Joe Straus that they don’t want to have to vote on a fee increase and would be grateful if the bill died in Calendars.

For the tea party, a fee increase is no different than a tax increase, and supporting one could be political suicide for some GOP members.

Many Republicans fear the wrath from the tea party right more than they value support from the business community, and Texas business has been nothing if not foursquare behind better funding of roads. Let the transportation system crumble under the stampede of new Texans, and the Texas miracle evaporates. [Emphasis added]

Yes the scorecard rules their world.

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