01.27.15

Conservative Snake Oil

Posted in Commentary at 11:28 am by wcnews

snakeoilimage

Via Media Matters, The Conservative Movement Is Infected With Scams.

Politico‘s Ken Vogel today examined how “the conservative movement has been plagued by an explosion of PACs that critics say exist mostly to pad the pockets of the consultants who run them.” Media Matters has similarly found that conservative media is infected with scams, touting cancer “cures,” dubious financial companies, reverse mortgages, and fringe penny stocks.

Vogel noted the financial stakes of the proliferation of these shady groups:

A POLITICO analysis of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission covering the 2014 cycle found that 33 PACs that court small donors with tea party-oriented email and direct-mail appeals raised $43 million — 74 percent of which came from small donors. The PACs spent only $3 million on ads and contributions to boost the long-shot candidates often touted in the appeals, compared to $39.5 million on operating expenses, including $6 million to firms owned or managed by the operatives who run the PACs. POLITICO’s list is not all-inclusive, and some conservatives fret that it’s almost impossible to identify all the groups that are out there, let alone to rein them in.

Vogel explained that Fox News contributor and influential conservative activist Erick Erickson is a frequent critic of these dubious PACs, yet the email list bearing his website has nonetheless promoted some of their efforts. Erickson told Vogel he does not control who rents his list, “and it horrifies me that the list sometimes get rented to some of these guys.”

This is nothing new. As Rick Perlstein pointed out years ago the non-existent line between pundit and charlatan has been part of conservatism for a long time, The Long Con.

Here’s the information in question: “If you have shied away from profiting from the immense promise of stem cells to treat disease because of moral concern over extracting stem cells from fetal tissue, pay close attention. You can now invest with a clear conscience. An Israeli entrepreneur, Zami Aberman, has discovered ‘an oilfield in the placenta.’ His little company, Pluristem Life Systems (OTCBB: PLRS) has made a discovery which is potentially more valuable than Prudhoe Bay.”

Davidson concluded by proposing the lucky investor purchase a position of 83,000 shares of PLRS for the low, low price of twelve cents each. If you act now, Davidson explained, your $10,000 outlay “could bring you a profit of more than a quarter of a million dollars.”

Not long after I let the magic of the placenta-based oilfield sink in, I got another pitch, this one courtesy of the webmasters handling the Human Events mailing list and headed “The Trouble with Get-Rich-Quick Schemes.” Perhaps I’m a little gullible myself; for a couple of seconds, I believed the esteemed Reagan-era policy handbook might be sending out a useful consumer advisory to its readers, an investigative guide to the phony get-rich-quick schemes caroming around the right-leaning opinion-sphere. But that hasty assumption proved sadly mistaken, presuming as it did that the proprietors of outfits like Human Events respect their readers. Instead, this was a come-on for something called “INSTANT INTERNET INCOME”—the chance at last to “put an end to your financial worries . . . permanently erase your debts . . . pay cash for the things you want . . . create a secure, enjoyable retirement for yourself . . . give your family the abundant lifestyle they so richly deserve.”

Back in our great-grandparents’ day, the peddlers of such miracle cures and get-rich-quick schemes were known as snake-oil salesmen. You don’t see stuff like this much in mainstream culture any more; it hardly seems possible such déclassé effronteries could get anywhere in a society with a high school completion rate of 90 percent. But tenders of a 23-Cent Heart Miracle seem to work just fine on the readers of the magazine where Ann Coulter began her journalistic ascent in the late nineties by pimping the notion that liberals are all gullible rubes. In an alternate universe where Coulter would be capable of rational self-reflection, it would be fascinating to ask her what she thinks about, say, the layout of HumanEvents.com on the day it featured an article headlined “Ideas Will Drive Conservatives’ Revival.” Two inches beneath that bold pronouncement, a box headed “Health News” included the headlines “Reverse Crippling Arthritis in 2 Days,” “Clear Clogged Arteries Safely & Easily—without drugs, without surgery, and without a radical diet,” and “High Blood Pressure Cured in 3 Minutes . . . Drop Measurement 60 Points.” It would be interesting, that is, to ask Coulter about the reflex of lying that’s now sutured into the modern conservative movement’s DNA—and to get her candid assessment of why conservative leaders treat their constituents like suckers.

The history of that movement echoes with the sonorous names of long-dead Austrian economists, of indefatigable door-knocking cadres, of soaring perorations on a nation finally poised to realize its rendezvous with destiny. Search high and low, however, and there’s no mention of oilfields in the placenta. Nor anything about, say, the massive intersection between the culture of “network” or “multilevel” marketing—where ordinary folks try to get rich via pyramid schemes that leave their neighbors holding the bag—and the institutions of both evangelical Christianity and Mitt Romney’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And yet this stuff is as important to understanding the conservative ascendancy as are the internecine organizational and ideological struggles that make up its official history—if not, indeed, more so. The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began. [Emphasis added]

Those tactics gelled in the seventies—though they were rooted, like all things right-wing and infrastructural, in the movement that led to Barry Goldwater’s presidential nomination in 1964. In 1961 Richard Viguerie, a kid from Houston whose heroes, he once told me, were “the two Macs”—Joe McCarthy and General Douglas MacArthur—took a job as executive director for the conservative student group Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). The organization was itself something of a con, a front for the ideological ambitions of the grownups running National Review. And fittingly enough, the middle-aged man who ran the operation, Marvin Liebman, was something of a P. T. Barnum figure, famous on the right for selling the claim that he had amassed no less than a million signatures on petitions opposing the People’s Republic of China’s entry into the United Nations. (He said they were in a warehouse in New Jersey. No one ever saw the warehouse.) The first thing Liebman told Viguerie was that YAF had two thousand paid members but that in public, he should always claim there were twenty-five thousand. (Viguerie told me this personally. I found no evidence he saw anything to be ashamed of.) And the first thing that Liebman showed Viguerie was the automated “Robotype” machine he used to send out automated fundraising pitches. Viguerie’s eyes widened; he had found his life’s calling.

Following the Goldwater defeat, Viguerie went into business for himself. He famously visited the Clerk of the House of Representatives, where the identities of those who donated fifty dollars or more to a presidential campaign then by law reposed. First alone, and then with a small army of “Kelly Girls” (as he put it to me in 1996), he started copying down the names and addresses in longhand until some nervous bureaucrat told him to cease and desist.

By then, though, it was too late: Viguerie had captured some 12,500 addresses of the most ardent right-wingers in the nation. “And that list,” he wrote in his 2004 book, America’s Right Turn: How Conservatives Used New and Alternative Media to Take Over America, “was my treasure trove, as good as the gold bricks deposited at Fort Knox, as I started The Viguerie Company and began raising money for conservative clients.”

Fort Knox: an interesting image. Isn’t that what proverbial con men are always claiming to sell?

The lists got bigger, the technology better (“Where are my names?” he nervously asked, studying the surface of the first computer tape containing his trove): twenty-five million names by 1980, destination for some one hundred million mail pieces a year, dispatched by some three hundred employees in boiler rooms running twenty-four hours a day. The Viguerie Company’s marketing genius was that as it continued metastasizing, it remained, in financial terms, a hermetic positive feedback loop. It brought the message of the New Right to the masses, but it kept nearly all the revenue streams locked down in Viguerie’s proprietary control. Here was a key to the hustle: typically, only 10 to 15 percent of the haul went to the intended beneficiaries. The rest went back to Viguerie’s company. In one too-perfect example, Viguerie raised $802,028 for a client seeking to distribute Bibles in Asia—who paid $889,255 for the service.

In other words, “There’s gold in them thar hills!” It’s obvious the snake oil sellers believe that if these folks are gullible enough to buy the conservative ideology they’ll buy anything.  Cue John Stuart Mill.

..I did not mean to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it. (Public and Parliamentary Speeches, 31 May 1866, pp. 85-86.)

01.26.15

TPA Blog Round Up (January 26, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 9:08 am by wcnews

Well more than two thirds of the Texas Progressive Alliance thinks this legislative session is off to an inauspicious start as we bring you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff reviewed the state of play in the Mayor’s races in Houston and San Antonio.

light seeker at Texas Kaos writes a thought provoking article about how we can create a more inclusive prosperity and save democracy at the same time. The Great Progressivism Debate, Part 2.

The latest developments in the Houston mayoral contest posted by by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs had Adrian Garcia dropping hints and Chris Bell throwing his hat in.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is tired of Henry Cuellar acting like a crony capitalist Republican. Why can’t Cuellar represent his constituents?

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The 2/3rds in the Texas Senate is gone…oh well. That’s what happens when 60 percent of 30 percent “govern” our state.

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

Grits for Breakfast interviews Jeff Blackburn of the Innocence Project of Texas.

Texas Vox warns about the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA) that Congress recently passed.

Dwight Silverman documents a year of living without cable.

Concerned Citizens contemplates the meaning of the MLK Day march and the #ReclaimMLK movement.

SciGuy has five can’t-miss space events for 2015.

The Lunch Tray concludes that new Ag Commissioner Sid Miller is being deliberately dishonest in his “cupcake amnesty” proclamations.

Minding Houston explains the current state of mental health funding in Texas.

Lisa Falkenberg pens the second-worst poem ever about the end of Rick Perry’s reign as Governor.

01.19.15

TPA Blog Round Up (January 19, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 9:06 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance commemorates the life of Martin Luther King Jr. today and welcomes any progress on moving his Dream closer to reality.

Off the Kuff offers some thoughts on emphasizing local elections for the next cycle or two.

lightseeker, back from his sabbatical at Texas Kaos, re-examines the state of the Democratic Party and the need for and challenges to grow its voter base, in The Great Progressivism Debate, Part I.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson grimaces at the taste of the rotten fruit of one party rule in Texas. See the corruption inherent in the system?

Texas Leftist kicked off his coverage of the 84th Legislative Session with a new blog series. Big Government Texas is a catalogue of the endless hypocrisy demonstrated by Texas’ TEApublican CONservative leaders. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the series.

Texas Republicans clearly love their cronies’ profits more than they care about the safety of our workers. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme mourns along with those missing an actual fighter for workers and Texas children.

Handicapping the race for Houston mayor this early in the cycle is a dirty job, but PDiddie at Brains and Eggs did it anyway.

Bluedaze asks North Texans to make their voices heard at the EPA public hearing in Arlington on the proposed guidelines for controlling ozone.

Neil at All People Have Value — perhaps suffering a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder — ruefully observes that since nobody voted in 2014, nobody really cares about what happens in Austin in 2015.

Texpate made a prediction about this summer’s Supreme Court decision on marriage equality.

Dos Centavos wants to remind everyone that there is, again, no Tejano band playing on Go Tejano Day at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

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

TFN Insider and Texas Watch join in bidding Rick Perry a very fond “Adios, mofo”.

Christopher Hooks at the Texas Observer details the unannounced reasons why Leticia Van de Putte is running for mayor of San Antonio.

Juanita Jean explains what “local control” really means.

The Lunch Tray highlights Ag Commissioner Sid Miller’s grandstanding on “cupcake amnesty”.

Better Texas Blog lays out its legislative priorities.

CeCe Cox wants rationality to win out over fear-mongering in Plano.

Bill Kelly of Mental Health America of Greater Houston has his maiden blog post up, welcoming the Texas Lege back into session.  Minding Houston will be an advocate for policy supporting the mental health care system in Texas.

Grits for Breakfast shares a SAEN op-ed that implores the Lege to comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act by raising the age of criminal culpability.

Lone Star Ma bemoans the STAAR requirements.

Newsdesk eulogizes Linda Bridges, president of the American Federation of Teachers chapter in Texas, who died unexpectedly last week.

Socratic Gadfly shares his best blog posts of 2014.

Fascist Dyke Motors has the second part of what’s inside your head.

Trail Blazers takes note of the Dallas DREAMer invited to sit in the First Lady’s box at the State of the Union address tomorrow night.

Finally, the TPA wishes Paul Burka all the best as he begins the next chapter of his life.

01.13.15

The 84th Begins

Posted in 84th Legislature, Around The State, Commentary, Uncategorized at 9:14 pm by wcnews

Going into this legislative session there’s little hope of anything good coming out of it for those most in need of some good in Texas.  Mainly poor, working and middle class Texans – and in that order.  Maybe I’ll be surprised with such low expectations.

A day where another right wing politician tried to make a name for himself, so he can make a run for higher office in the near future, takes aim at the House Speaker and loses, by A LOT.

Next week we get to hear from our state’s new Governor and Lt. Gov, and what they have in store for us.

It’s obvious that tax breaks will take precedence over everything else.  That’s what they ran on, and that’s what 60% of the 30% who showed up to vote, voted for.

There was talk of bipartisanship and working together on the first day of the legislative session.  There will be working, but no much bipartisanship.  The working together will be between those with the money, and their elected officials who allow taxpayer money to flow to them.

Maybe I’ve seen and been through too many of these.

01.12.15

TPA Blog Round Up (January 12, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 2:02 pm by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance is girding its loins for what is likely to be an ugly legislative session as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff highlights the ongoing voting rights dispute in Pasadena by showing how fallacious the city’s argument for changing to a hybrid At Large/district model for its City Council is.

Libby Shaw writing for Texas Kaosand Daily Kos has heard whispers about the possibility of accepting federally expanded Medicaid in Texas. She wonders how can this be sold to far right wingers like Dan Patrick and the tea party ultra conservatives? If expanded will Medicaid be called Jesus Care or Koch Care?

As the 84th Texas Legislature prepares to convene, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs says, “Kansas-sippi here we come!”

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants to know what the difference is between Henry Cuellar and the Republicans who kiss Wall Street ass-ets? Really? Is there any difference?

Neil at Neil Aquino.com likes how the 1976 Walter Matthau movie Bad News Bears takes a swipe at liberalism.

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

Juanita is delighted by the “Louie Gohmert for Speaker” story.

Durrell Douglas tells Oprah why their movement will have no “leaders”.

Unfair Park is not a fan of the Jerry Jones-Chris Christie bromance.

The Lunch Tray interviews USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon.

Texans Together examines the elements of an effective pre-K program.

The TSTA blog reminds the Legislature that its obligation is to public, not private, education.

Better Texas Blog has a cheat sheet for the biennial revenue estimate.

Texas Vox is looking for people to work with Public Citizen for the legislative session.

01.08.15

TPA Blog Round Up (Week of January 5, 2014)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 11:54 am by wcnews

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. Battleground Texas: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. There may still be hope for Battleground Texas in Texas. But the strategy will must change, 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 instead. Neil says the work of freedom is up to each of us. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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

Juanita 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.

01.02.15

All About The Base

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Organizing at 10:41 am by wcnews

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A couple of days ago the Texas Observer posted a big article on the trials and tribulations of Battleground Texas, and their relationship with the Texas Democratic Party.  It’s an understatement to say that the 2014 election didn’t turnout the way either groups had hoped.  The article, Losing Ground, asks the question – What’s going to happen to Battleground Texas?

The gist the article is that Battleground Texas and Texas Democrats – state and local parties – did not work together and often worked against each other. And too much time was spent trying to woo moderates and non voters while the base of the party was largely neglected.

There were problems from the very start.

As dozens of conversations with individuals associated with the party, local Democratic groups, campaigns and other progressive organizations make clear, Battleground Texas had a major part—though definitely not the only one—in contributing to Democrats’ terrible showing in November. The group, they argue, made critical and avoidable mistakes that cost candidates up and down the ticket.

Many were reluctant to talk on the record, for fear of poisoning relationships and discouraging the Democratic base. Some are still hopeful that Battleground can find a way to contribute to the coalition’s efforts in 2016 and 2018.

The picture the sources paint is more or less the same: Apart from a few counties and local races, rancor and dysfunction overtook relationships among organizations that should have been working together. Battleground was opaque in its dealings, shied from making firm commitments, negotiated with a heavy hand and was coy about its long-term goals.

One word crops up in conversations over and over: “arrogance.” A senior Texas Democrat, characterizing Battleground’s ability to manage relationships with organizations inside the Democratic coalition, put it more forcefully: “The Obama guys were never any good at politics.”

Local organizers offer diverse and specific critiques of the group’s strategy on the ground: In big cities like Dallas and Houston, Battleground used turnout models that were far too optimistic about the number of Democratic voters that would come to the polls with little prodding. In South Texas, they say, an unfamiliarity with Hispanic communities frequently tripped up the group’s organizers. In other large cities and counties, Battleground often ended up competing with well-established local parties for control of resources, such as money and volunteers.

In public statements, the Battleground’s leaders talk about the 2014 election as a speed bump—an opportunity to learn lessons before they move forward with the long-term mission. In private, the organization’s representatives have been in an apologetic mode. Time to reset, they say. But many Democrats are not swayed by conciliatory talk. Even though both sides publicly sing a song of unity, in private Battleground finds itself in a power struggle with other Democrats, many of whom want to see the party strengthened internally and fear the influence and leverage of outside groups.

Some observers wonder if Battleground’s days are numbered.

“It was doomed from the very beginning,” says one senior Democratic consultant. “It was a machine that could never have succeeded, and cannot, I think, succeed going forward.”

Others think Battleground is preparing to attach itself to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign apparatus. The bad blood and differing opinions have set off a behind-the-scenes competition for the three things that make modern campaigns tick: volunteers, money and data.

After reading the article it became apparent there is a way for Battleground to not only survive but for them, along with the Texas Democratic Party, to thrive.

Battleground is more of a candidate driven type of organization, with it’s roots in getting Obama elected twice. They’re more adept at trying to mobilize non-voters and swaying swing voters for a particular candidate. Where the party does the work of standing up for Democratic principles and getting the Democratic base to the polls.

Certainly many times their goals will overlap, but sometimes they won’t. But it would seem they will almost always be working toward the same end of getting Democrats elected. And in 2014 maybe they we’re both focused to much on candidates and the base was neglected.

Which is summed up pretty good here.

In effect, Battleground aims to become a sort of shadow party. The Texas Democratic Party has precinct chairs; Battleground has “neighborhood team leaders.”As happened in Corpus Christi, the group and the state party sometimes found themselves duplicating each other’s efforts this cycle, while competing for some of the same volunteers and donors. But where the party elects its leaders, Battleground is essentially a for-profit organization. Chris Young, the political director of the Harris County Democratic Party, told the Houston Chronicle after the election that Battleground’s approach represented a “privatization of the political system.”

Many people associated with the Texas Democratic Party want to build up the party’s capabilities, not create a whole new one. “If we want to get serious about party building, infrastructure investment belongs in the party itself,” says Gins.

Gins led one of the few Democratic groups to have a relatively successful working relationship with Battleground this cycle, but still argues that strengthening the party should be the coalition’s first goal. “If we want Democratic candidates to be viable in the long term, then the Democratic Party needs to be strong and responsible for building the base.”

There are many other groups that work with candidates and alongside the Democratic Party in Texas. Annie’s List, Planned Parenthood, Progress Texas, and the Texas Organizing Project to name a few. It would seem that a relationship along those lines can be worked out between the TDP and BGTX.

The GOP in Texas cannot be beaten by one entity alone.  And they’ve grown strong with many organizations working alongside the Texas GOP.   If they’re to be beaten it’s going to take a concerted effort, by many groups, over years and even decades. Egos and personal agendas will have to be put aside at times and sacrifices will have to be made. It won’t be easy and whether or not Battleground Texas is viable the work still must be done.

There’s much more in the article, so be sure to read the whole thing.  It’s something to think about as we head into a 2015 legislative session that’s likely to be a rough one for anyone on the left.

[UPDATE]: Saw this after I posted. Kuff on the Observer article, On BGTX, Wendy Davis, and the future.

12.29.14

TPA Blog Round Up (December 28, 2014)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Uncategorized at 11:22 am by wcnews

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 effect 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 NeilAquino.com.

Uncle O’Grimacy at McBlogger, in a post-election spurt of frequent posting, 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.

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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.

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

12.28.14

Let’s Not Get Ahead Of Ourselves

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Uncategorized at 2:43 pm by wcnews

There is an effort afoot in Texas to make the case that the GOP may not govern as extreme as they campaigned.  So much so that they may even be open to expanding Medicaid in Texas.  And that Democrats may be able to accomplish something in 2015.  Both of those ideas should be taken with a grain of salt.

There are two articles in particular today, Democrats see glimmer of hope in Legislature despite numbers and Medicaid expansion supporters see sliver of hope in Abbott.

In the first article some seem to believe that Democrats involvement in legislative battles means there’s some glimmer of hope for them getting things accomplished in the upcoming legislative session.

Some Democrats take heart in the fact that two of their top priorities – education and transportation – also are among Gov.-elect Greg Abbott’s targets. Since beating Democrat Wendy Davis on Election Day, Abbott has been vocal about the need for bipartisanship to carry out his agenda.

“What he’s been saying is encouraging, and I take him at his word,” said state Rep. Chris Turner of Fort Worth, who managed Davis’ campaign and chairs the House Democratic Caucus. “To the extent he and other Republicans want to focus on education and transportation and other core issues like that, I think they’ll find that Democrats are ready and willing to work together and find solutions.”

Longtime Democratic consultant Harold Cook said it is not all doom and gloom for his party’s legislators, explaining they should feel heartened by the senior staff announced so far by Gov.-elect Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick. Calling the officials “certified grown-ups” and “honest brokers” with bipartisan credentials in Austin, Cook said they should offer a sliver of hope to Democrats worried about this session.

“Let’s face it, a lot of Democrats are not going to agree with the ideological stuff. That happened on Election Day,” Cook said. “What you can deal with is whether your voice is heard and whether your view is considered.”

Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said Democrats in recent years have proven adept at doing just that.

“They’ve been very smart and savvy about cutting deals and holding the line when they could,” said Rottinghaus, citing efforts to slow down the legislative process with amendments and points of order. “To be honest, Republicans sometimes bit off more than they can chew.”

Although their party suffered losses up and down the ballot in November, Democratic incumbents still are keeping watch for what they view as GOP overreach. Among the likely partisan battles: the potential repeal of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, a move that Patrick supports but about which Abbott has been less vocal.

If leadership pursues a repeal, Turner predicted some Republicans would join Democrats to fight the move. He expressed hope the talk of rolling back the Texas DREAM Act is just that – one of a number of “things said in campaigns that don’t turn into actual policy.”

While that sounds good it doesn’t really mean anything.  The agenda will be set from an extreme right wing perspective.  And the GOP could care less about any Democratic priorities.  Any “bipartisan solutions” on education and transportation will only make Democrats complicit in the final GOP outcome(s).  Which will still be bad, if only less so, with Democratic involvement.

There’s little if anything good for Democrats that comes out of Democrats being involved in right wing policies. Most people don’t believe in the extreme outcomes the GOP wants.  But, as has been covered ad nauseam since the election, most people don’t vote. It has not served Democrats in Texas well over the recent past to play along with GOP legislation. It’s unlikely that Democrats will benefit by being party to the GOP’s agenda.

Not to worry, it’s not like Democrats are knocking down my door asking for suggestions.  I’m pretty much inline with PDiddie, An independent progressive movement.

The strongest argument for a progressive movement, independent or third-party, remains that the two corporate political parties are still essentially one; half of the duopoly is just meaner and more cruel than the other.  Do ya really think the disparity between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush makes up enough of a difference to motivate the 2/3rds of Americans who did not vote in 2014 to storm the ramparts supporting one or the other?  Is the Democratic slogan going to again consist of “we’re not perfect but they’re nuts”?  I can already hear the complaining from low information voters about their 2016 choices.  We can either sit around and watch those people as they sit out yet another election, or give them some real options.  Whether they decide to choose is still up to them, of course; many won’t.  Some folks will watch teevee no matter what gets televised, even if it happens to be a revolution.  But there are still many left-leaning, working-class Americans waiting to be motivated again, as they were by Occupy, as they were at the Texas Capitol in the summer of 2013, as there are now against the worst and continuing examples of racialized police abuse and criminal justice applied as an elitist commodity.

If the Democratic Party is salvageable it must come from the outside. My issue with the Democratic Party is almost entirely with it’s abandonment of a New Deal style economic policies. The Democrats are no longer seen as the party of the people, and that’s whey they’re having so much trouble getting people to turn out to vote for them.

Hopes of the GOP not governing as cruelly as they campaigned, and the Democrats being able to get a few scraps from Straus and Abbott doesn’t inspire me, and certainly won’t inspire anyone else.  And, as far as Medicaid expansion goes, there’s no chance as long as Dan Patrick has a gavel.

To be sure, the odds of any form of expansion start out as slim in a Legislature that is expected to be one of the most conservative in recent memory. The Senate, in particular, is expected to pursue an agenda supported by the tea party under the leadership of Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick.

A spokesman for Patrick, who staunchly opposes the health care law, did not return a message seeking comment.

One of his allies, Sen.-elect Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, said he does not think there is an appetite for any compromise for expansion, particularly because a case about challenging the Affordable Care Act is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court said it would hear oral arguments in March about the constitutionality of subsidies for consumers who purchase health insurance through the law’s federal marketplace.

If I was running an independent movement I would start with the issues of unfairness and inequality. That would start with raising wages and a progressive state income tax at the top of the list. There’s no easier way to help families by increasing wages. And no better way to target unfairness then with a progressive state income tax.

But nothing will happen to address the needs for poor, working, and middle class Texans until we force the political system to address our needs. And that can’t happen in the current political environment.  Which is why the change must come from the outside.

12.22.14

TPA Blog Round Up (December 22, 2015)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 8:18 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes that all your days are merry and bright as they bring you this week’s holiday roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at the pro-discrimination bills that Republicans will be pushing in the Legislature next year.

Libby Shaw writing for Texas Kaos and Daily Kos insists that Texas will continue to have foxes guarding the public hen houses as long as the Republican culture of kleptocracy and crony capitalism persists. Texas Investigates Medicaid Fraud Detection Firm for Corruption.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is proud of Corpus Christi Police Chief, Floyd Simpson, for disciplining officers for use of excessive force. When officers act inappropriately, all too often there are no consequences.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. As oil prices plummet we’re reminded of Texas oil busts past, and the reality of the so-called “Texas Miracle”, It Looks Like Things Are About To Change.

Houston’s city council gave a $17 million sloppy kiss to Valero as a Christmas present, and city attorney David Feldman left a flaming bag of poo on Mayor Annise Parker’s doorstep. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has suddenly realized that 2015’s municipal elections can’t come soon enough.

Neil at All People Have Value wrote about peace with Cuba. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Texas Leftist takes a look at the rapid growth of the Houston Area Pastor Council. If Houstonians think think the fight over the Equal Rights Ordinance is over, they better think again. One of the country’s most powerful hate groups is now in our back yard.

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

Texas Watch introduces its Safe Texas agenda.

Dwight Silverman suggests that kids today will do just fine without “tech timeouts”.

Andrea Grimes criticizes that Texas Monthly “Bum Steer Award” cover illustration of Wendy Davis.

The Texas Living Waters Project forecasts the 2015 oyster season in Galveston Bay.

Keep Austin Wonky summarizes the homestead exemption debate.

The Lunch Tray celebrates the exclusion of Chinese-processed chicken in school food and other child nutrition programs.

The Bloggess is running her annual Christmas gift and charity drive.

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