06.09.14

The Biennial GOP Platform Changes

Posted in Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Commentary at 12:00 pm by wcnews

I have to admit I paid very little attention to the Texas GOP convention in Forth Worth.   But what little I have seen or heard since it was over two things stand out.  One is that the Texas GOP is now owned by Ted Cruz and Dan Patrick. The other is that they’ve made some changes to their platform, particularly around the issues of immigration and LGBT, Backs to the Future?.

The “Texas Solution,” the much-touted effort from the Republican Party of Texas to move toward acceptance of some kind of immigration reform, is dead. The measure, which was written into the party platform in 2012 and called for an expanded guest worker program, had been watered down in the convention’s drafting process—but it was replaced wholesale on the convention floor by hard-line immigration language that spells the end, for now, of one of the state party’s highest-profile dalliances with reform.

The new language emphasizes cracking down on immigration, calls for the end of in-state tuition as well as a raft of other measures, and waters down the guest worker provisions into almost total insignificance. “Once the borders are verifiably secure,” the plank reads, “and E-Verify system use is fully enforced, [the party calls for] creation of a visa classification for non-specialty industries which have determined actual and persistent labor shortages.”

The Republican Party now has, effectively, the immigration platform it had in 2010, the peak tea party year. It’s a remarkable reversal for several reasons. The Texas Solution’s inclusion in the party platform in 2012 was highly contentious among delegates at the time, but it was just as highly touted by party elders who wanted to show the GOP was evolving on an issue central to the future of a state with an increasing number of Hispanic voters—and a continuing need for a steady supply of labor.

[...]

Consider also that it’s 2014. The new Republican Party of Texas platform endorses what’s known as “reparative therapy,” the practice of training LGBT people to “convert” to heterosexuality. The platform committees dropped some archaic anti-gay language, but added a provision recognizing the “the value of counseling which offers reparative therapy and treatment to patients who are seeking escape from the homosexual lifestyle.”

Delegates who objected to the language wrote amendments attempting to alter it, but they never got a chance to introduce them on the floor. Debate over the platform was ended after five hours, and pro-gay Republicans were out of luck.

“I want every Republican elected. I’m here today trying to get Republicans elected,” said Rudy Oeftering, a vice president of the Texas Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP group that had been banned from having a booth at the convention’s trade shows. But he admonished reporters on the convention floor to keep focus on the plank, even if the state party didn’t feel like talking about it.

“Every reporter should be asking every Republican candidate if they believe in reparative therapy. If they believe that homosexuality is a choice,” he said. “If you’re going to put language like this in the platform to drive away voters, then every Republican candidate should be accountable for what’s in the platform. The platform itself says that every candidate needs to take a position on this.”

That the GOP’s base, which continues to lurch further and further to the right, made this decision on it’s platform shouldn’t surprise anyone. This is, more a less, what happens every two years. The GOP in Texas goes more extreme with their platform and they continue to win BIG in Texas. So why in the world would they even think of dialing this back? It should be easy to see where I’m going with this.

The only way they will change their platform is if they start losing BIG. Otherwise it’s only likely to get more extreme two years from now. Until the Texans who are affected the most by this extreme platform that neglects the needs of poor, working and middle class Texans decide it’s time for a change, this will continue.

Texpatriate has more.

TPA Blog Round Up (June 9, 2014)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 8:25 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance will never forget what happened on Normandy Beach 70 years ago as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff wants to know who stands with Harris County Republican Party Chair Jared Woodfill as he whips up opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

Letters from Texas pens a moving obituary to Annie’s List Executive Director Grace Garcia, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident last week.

Bay Area Houston highlights the Texas Tea Party platform concerning divorce.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos upon returning from an overseas vacation, is not in the least surprised to learn the Texas GOP has gotten even crazier . Desperate times must call for desperate measures. Texas GOP: Welcome to the Funny Farm. The time for change is long overdue.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme sees Texas republicans go full on hate for gays and Latinos. We see who you really are.

Appalled by the attacks on POW Bowe Bergdahl’s father, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs barely noticed there was a Republican state convention going on. Has anyone asked Chris Busby about the “cure the gays” platform plank?

WCNews at Eye on Williamson shows that as usual, with any tax discussion in Texas, the main issue is not being discussed, Hegar And The “Cumbersome” Property Tax.

Neil at All People Have Value posted a history of the United States on his blog. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.

Horwitz at Texpatriate is frightened by the new Texas GOP platform.

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

Grits For Breakfast recounts yet another way in which rejecting Medicaid expansion is a poor fiscal decision for Texas.

The Lunch Tray finds a new way for those that want to roll back the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act to lie about their intentions.

Texas Election Law Blog connects the woes of the Postal Service to the ever increasing barriers to voting in Texas.

Keep Austin Wonky wants to focus on transit productivity over political prizes.

Texas Vox analyzes the impact of the new EPA regulations on Texas.

Red Headed Wolf salutes the leaders that worked to get the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance passed.

Burkablog catches the Texas Public Policy Foundation quietly backing away from a shameless lie they made about the budget last year.

Offcite eulogizes Father Rivers Patout, founding chaplain of the Houston International Seafarer?s Center.

BeyondBones concludes its retrospective on the Allied invasion of Normandy.

06.06.14

There is no left, just the middle and the right

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 8:41 am by wcnews

It’s my contention that there is no left in Texas politics.  There’s the middle – which consists of most elected Democrats and those running statewide.  Also in the middle is what used to be called liberal or moderate Republicans.  And then there’s the right, John Birchers, tea partiers, and the like.  There’s a pro-bidness middle and then an “I got mine you get your” right.  Those that don’t fit into either one of those categories are currently left out of the political process – no pun intended.

It’s hard to understand why the liberal Republicans still vote for the right wing candidates when it’s the pro-bidness Democrats that they’re more inline with.  They’re more inline with these Democrats on many social and economic issues then with the right wing these days.  On issues like  public and higher education, Medicaid expansion, infrastructure spending, even gender equality, LGBT rights, and abortion these Republicans likely agree more with Democrats these days then with the right.

All of this goes to show that when we’re fighting over whether to put the money taken from public education back, and not how do we fully fund public education, it’s proof that there is no left, just the middle and the right.  When we’re fighting over whether or not to expand Medicaid, and not take the money and use if to insure so many in Texas without health insurance, it’s proof that there is no left, just the middle and the right.  When all we talk about is tax cuts when so many are suffering, it’s proof that there is no left, just the middle and the right.  This could do on with roads, water, higher education, etc..

It’s not necessarily that the left is best, or has the best ideas.  But without a left everything gets skewed too far to the right.  What used to be the stance of the so-called Rockefeller Republicans is now, has been ceded to or taken up by the Democratic Party in Texas.  What used to the be the far right is now the base of the Republican Party. And what used to be the left in the days of FDR through LBJ no longer exists in the Texas’ political process.  The only way the left shows itself is likely in the large number of Texans that don’t show up to vote.

Minimum wage, a progressive state income tax, fully funded public education, re-regulation of higher education, taxes – not tolls and corporate giveaways – to pay for new roads and water, are issues that need to be part of the discussion again.  But until the people demand these things, no one will take up these causes with the constant tenacity that’s needed.

This TT article, Texas’ Shift From Blue to Red Informs 2014 Races, has some good reminders of how hard and long the struggle was for the GOP, the far right, to come to power in Texas.  Changing Texas to a state that once again takes care of the people over the powerful will take time.  It will take decades for voters to understand that not everything good has to make a profit.  That is, something doesn’t make money and helps people it’s still worth doing.

What Texas needs is politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren who will start pulling politics and policy back to the left.  Then once we have a functioning and viable left again in Texas we can get back to enacting policies that will help the people of Texas.  This is not going to change in 2014, or in one or two election cycles.  It must be a sustained effort over decades, there will be ups and downs, but it will change.  It must change.

06.04.14

Hegar And The “Cumbersome” Property Tax

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Taxes at 12:55 pm by wcnews

As usual, with any tax discussion in Texas, the main issue is not being discussed.  We’ll start with this, Hegar: “I firmly believe the property tax is very cumbersome”.

“I firmly believe the property tax is very cumbersome,” Hegar said. “It’s very troubling for homeowners, for business owners…it’s unfair in how it’s applied across the board.”

But, the Katy state senator said it’s up to the Texas Legislature, not the comptroller’s office, to decide to amend the system.

Yes, there’s plenty of unfairness, especially when it comes to commercial and corporate tax breaks. It’s nice how he quickly pointed out that it’s someone else’s responsibility anyway. He’s currently in the Texas Legislature.

The real issue, of course, is the unequal, unfair, and insufficient tax system we have in Texas.  Our schools and higher education systems are under-funded.  Our health care, and safety net in Texas is at or near the bottom.  Our infrastructure is crumbling.

If, as Hegar says, the property tax is cumbersome, then there are ways to alleviate that.  But it’s not by eliminating it and raising the sales tax to 25%.  A more sane way to do it would be by have a balanced state tax system across three types, aka the three-legged stool.  The stool consists of three kinds of taxes – sales, property, and income.  Having all three allows each to be low, and in Hegar’s words, less cumbersome.

In Texas we are missing one leg of the stool and therefore it causes the other two to bear more or the burden, be more cumbersome.  The sales tax is the most regressive, (imposes a greater burden (relative to resources) on the poor than on the rich), of these three taxes, and the income tax the least regressive. Taking away the property tax and raising the sales tax would therefore raise taxes on poor and working Texans while lowering taxes on the rich.

In order for Texas to have a more equal, fair, and sufficient tax system to fund our state’s needs, we should be talking about an income tax and which would do all of that and allow for much lower property taxes.  Don’t worry, it’s not like anyone running for office, from either party, is going to propose anything like this.

06.02.14

TPA Blog Round Up (June 2, 2014)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 8:06 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance celebrates the passage of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff tries to figure out what the runoff results might mean for November.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos is disgusted by the low blow campaign tactics employed during this election cycle. Where are the issues? Texas GOP: No Blow is too Low. Bring on the Boats, Hoes and Abortion Barbie.

Letters from Texas contemplates the existential dilemma of Log Cabin Republicans.

Horwitz at Texpatriate laments the state of Texas after Dan Patrick moves one step closer to the Lieutenant Governor’s office.

How much does it cost for Greg Abbott to change his mind? PDiddie at Brains and Eggs is glad you asked! That’s on sale right now for $350,000, and if you buy before the end of the month, he might be flexible on the price.

After a landmark week in local politics, Texas Leftist shares the true importance of passing the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. It’s not just about preventing discrimination. HERO actually makes Houston a safer city as well.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson points out that Congressman John Carter (R-Round Rock) didn’t care about the problems at the VA until he thought he could score political points with them, Carter Knew About VA Problems Back In 2012.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders if your local paper was pushing the propaganda for the energy oligarchs. The Dallas Morning News, as well as others, did.

Neil at All People Have Value offered support to folks protesting against the huge wasteful amount of money being spent on World Cup soccer in Brazil while basic needs go unmet. Neil says the real money needs to go to everyday people and not only the well-connected few. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.

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

Nonsequiteuse relates a sadly too common tale of street harassment.

Grits worries about the high number of child abuse rulings that are subsequently overturned on appeal.

Todo Texas wonders who the next batch of rising Latino political stars in Texas will be once the Castro brothers go national.

Texas Vox notes the correlation between smart subsidies for solar energy and job growth.

The Lunch Tray pens a letter to Michelle Obama.

Texas Watch gives five things you need to do to get ready for hurricane season.

PTA Mom asserts that everything she needed to know about politics she learned from school board elections.

Juanita tells the best story ever about Pat Robertson and Saran Wrap.

And finally, BeyondBones commemorates the Normandy invasion on its 70th anniversary.

05.30.14

The Clippers, Capitol, Piketty, And Warren

Posted in Around The Nation, Commentary, Had Enough Yet?, Inequality at 12:12 pm by wcnews

I thought this was very informative, Why the Clippers are worth $2 billion. Especially reason number number 2.

2. After the lockout, NBA teams are more than toys for the rich

NBA owners absolutely crushed the players’ union in the 2011 lockout, cutting player salary by at least $280 million per year. Over the 10-year term of the new collective bargaining agreement, that comes out to a minimum of $2.8 billion in savings for the league’s owners, or an average of $93 million per team.

That’s a huge chunk of money. For teams already operating at healthy profits, it’s a massive boost to the bankroll. For teams breaking even, that creates a healthy positive margin. For the few teams who claimed to be losing money with the old deal, it makes the franchise a sustainable business.

Before 2011, the wealthy bought into the NBA often out of interest in the sport, to be seen courtside or to invest in a vehicle that would gain value in the long-term. But with the lockout deal, with all of those benefits still in place, NBA teams also become profit

Essentially since Capitol (the owners), screwed over the workers.  It’s an easy way for the already extremely wealthy to increase their wealth even more.

Cue Thomas Piketty, Why We’re in a New Gilded Age.

Piketty throws down the intellectual gauntlet right away, with his book’s very title: Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Are economists still allowed to talk like that?

It’s not just the obvious allusion to Marx that makes this title so startling. By invoking capital right from the beginning, Piketty breaks ranks with most modern discussions of inequality, and hearkens back to an older tradition.

The general presumption of most inequality researchers has been that earned income, usually salaries, is where all the action is, and that income from capital is neither important nor interesting. Piketty shows, however, that even today income from capital, not earnings, predominates at the top of the income distribution. He also shows that in the past—during Europe’s Belle Époque and, to a lesser extent, America’s Gilded Age—unequal ownership of assets, not unequal pay, was the prime driver of income disparities. And he argues that we’re on our way back to that kind of society. Nor is this casual speculation on his part. For all that Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a work of principled empiricism, it is very much driven by a theoretical frame that attempts to unify discussion of economic growth and the distribution of both income and wealth. Basically, Piketty sees economic history as the story of a race between capital accumulation and other factors driving growth, mainly population growth and technological progress.

To be sure, this is a race that can have no permanent victor: over the very long run, the stock of capital and total income must grow at roughly the same rate. But one side or the other can pull ahead for decades at a time. On the eve of World War I, Europe had accumulated capital worth six or seven times national income. Over the next four decades, however, a combination of physical destruction and the diversion of savings into war efforts cut that ratio in half. Capital accumulation resumed after World War II, but this was a period of spectacular economic growth—the Trente Glorieuses, or “Glorious Thirty” years; so the ratio of capital to income remained low. Since the 1970s, however, slowing growth has meant a rising capital ratio, so capital and wealth have been trending steadily back toward Belle Époque levels. And this accumulation of capital, says Piketty, will eventually recreate Belle Époque–style inequality unless opposed by progressive taxation. [Emphasis added]

In other words when billionaires can throw around money like it’s candy, and even screw over millionaire employees in the process, while so many suffer, it should be obvious that something’s out of whack.

There is someone take about it.  As Elizabeth Waren says, “the game is rigged”.

Throughout our history, powerful interests have tried to capture Washington and rig the system in their favor. From tax policy to retirement security, the voices of hard-working people get drowned out by powerful industries and well-financed front groups. Those with power fight to make sure that every rule tilts in their favor. Everyone else just gets left behind.

Just look at the big banks. They cheated American families, crashed the economy, got bailed out, and now the six biggest banks are 37 percent bigger than they were in 2008. They still swagger through Washington, blocking reforms and pushing around agencies. A kid gets caught with a few ounces of pot and goes to jail, but a big bank breaks the law on laundering drug money or manipulating currency, and no one even gets arrested. The game is rigged – and it’s not right!

But it isn’t just the big banks. Look at the choices the Federal government makes: Our college kids are getting crushed by student loan debt. We need to rebuild our roads and bridges and upgrade our power grids. We need more investment in medical research and scientific research. But instead of building a future, this country is bleeding billions of dollars in tax loopholes and subsidies that go to rich and profitable corporations. Many Fortune 500 companies, profitable companies, pay zero in taxes. Billionaires get so many tax loopholes that they pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. But they have lobbyists – and their Republican friends – to protect every loophole and every privilege. The game is rigged – and it’s not right!

Or take a look at what’s happening with trade deals.

For big corporations, trade agreement time is like Christmas morning. They can get special gifts they could never pass through Congress out in public. Because it’s a trade deal, the negotiations are secret and the big corporations can do their work behind closed doors. We’ve seen what happens here at home when our trading partners around the world are allowed to ignore workers rights and environmental rules. From what I hear, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, telecom, big polluters, and outsourcers are all salivating at the chance to rig the upcoming trade deals in their favor.

Why are trade deals secret? I’ve heard the supporters of these deals actually say that they have to be secret because if the American people knew what was going on, they would be opposed. Think about that. Real people – people whose jobs are at stake, small business owners who don’t want to compete with overseas companies that dump their waste in rivers and hire workers for a dollar a day – those people, those people without an army of lobbyists – would be opposed. I believe that if people across this country would be opposed to a particular trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not happen.

The tilt in the playing field is everywhere. When conservatives talk about opportunity, they mean opportunities for the rich to get richer, for the powerful to get more powerful. They don’t mean opportunities for a young person facing $100,000 in student loan debt to start a life, for someone out of work to get back on his feet, for someone who worked hard all her life to retire with dignity.

The game is rigged. The rich and the powerful have lobbyists, lobbyists and lawyers and plenty of friends in Congress. Everyone else, not so much.

Now we can whine about it. We can whimper. Or we can fight back. Me? I’m fighting back.

This is a fight over economics, over privilege, over power. But deep down, this is a fight over values. Conservatives and their powerful friends will continue to be guided by their age-old principle: “I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.”

But we’re guided by principle, too. It’s a simple idea: We all do better when we work together and invest in our future.

We know that the economy grows when hard-working families have the opportunity to improve their lives. We know that the country gets stronger when we invest in helping people succeed. We know that our lives improve when we care for our neighbors and help build a future not just for some of our kids – but for all of our kids.

These are progressive values. These are America’s values.

These values play out every day. These values are what we’re willing to fight for.

We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we’re willing to fight for it.

We believe no one should work full-time and live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage – and we’re willing to fight for it.

We believe people should retire with dignity, and that means strengthening Social Security – and we’re willing to fight for it.

We believe that a kid should have a chance to go to college without getting crushed by debt – and we’re willing to fight for it.

We believe workers have a right to come together, to bargain together and to rebuild America’s middle class – and we’re willing to fight for it.

We believe in equal pay for equal work – and we’re willing to fight for it.

We believe equal means equal, and that’s true in the workplace and in marriage, true for all our families – and we’re winning that fight right now.

We – the people – decide the future of this country.

These are our shared values. And we are willing to fight for them.

This is our fight!

Amen sister!

Carter Knew About VA Problems Back In 2012

Posted in Around The Nation at 10:37 am by wcnews

Via the KDH News, Temple VA problems in 2012 report.

Though a local congressman is crying “cover-up” regarding the current VA scandal, a 2-year-old report highlighted the problems now coming to light at the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center in Temple.

Both U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, are listed as recipients of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General report dated January 2012.

[...]

Carter’s office said the 2012 report was generated as a result of his inquiry to the VA because of constituents who brought issues to his attention.

Though the report is public, his office never produced a news release that year on the matter, because “constituents who contacted our office did not authorize us to share their information,” his office said.

“Most importantly, Congressman Carter’s intent was to solve these problems for veterans and put them first, not gain political points in the media.

“We feel as though our efforts indeed brought on the leadership change at the Temple VA,” said Taylor Gilliam, spokesman for Carter.

The Herald was unable to confirm with Meyer what leadership change.

[...]

Carter’s Democratic opponent in November’s election, Army Reserve Capt. Louie Minor, called attention Thursday to the congressman’s receipt of the 2012 report because he said “it is imperative for veterans and constituents to be aware that John Carter had prior knowledge of these issues at the Temple VA.”

“It is disgraceful to use my fellow veterans to attack President (Barack) Obama and the administration when John Carter should be held equally liable,” Minor said.

Carter’s office said the cover-up he referenced Thursday was the “current situation.”

The Temple VA facility is just one of many VA health care centers to come under fire in recent months for altering veterans’ desired appointment dates to meet wait-time goals.

If Congressman Carter had perused this back then maybe the Temple VA wouldn’t be in this situation right now? The issue is that no one is doing right by our veterans. Hopefully sanity will reign soon, like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).

05.29.14

Don’t Be Surprised When They Ruin It

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 2:08 pm by wcnews

This line from the end of an HChron Op-Ed following yesterday’s election sums up pretty well where we stand.

With an angry, anti-government tea party rampant in Texas, with moderate Republicans in retreat and with Democrats still confined to the porch (figuratively and otherwise), it’s hard to be optimistic about state government and its capacity to address Texas’ needs in the near future.

The party that’s been demagoguing government for decades now has it on the ropes. They don’t believe in government, they think it’s evil and the cause of all our problems. Don’t be surprised when they ruin it.

05.28.14

One Election Closer

Posted in 2014 Primary, Around The State at 3:07 pm by wcnews

I wish every Democrat in the Texas House would drop their support of Joe Straus for Speaker. And I wish they would throw their support behind the House equivalent of Dan Patrick. Who would that be….David Simpson? I truly believe that is the quickest way for the Democrats in Texas to become relevant again.

Maybe four years of right wing rule in Texas can break this fever. One of my contentions has always been that most of what used to be the Republican Party in Texas liked to talk a good game, but when it got down to it really didn’t want to cut the legs out from under government. Now we’re going to find out if that’s true. Because these guys that are likely to be running Texas over the next four years are planning to do just that.

We’re one election closer to Democrats winning statewide again. PDiddie and Kuff have more.

TPA Blog Round Up (May 28, 2014)

Posted in Around The State, Commentary at 10:07 am by wcnews

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day as it brings you this holiday week roundup.

Off the Kuff laments the continued dumbing down of the Texas Senate.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos is not in the least bit surprised to learn Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Joe Barton and other Texas GOP routinely read statements and recite agendas that are handed to them by the Koch Inc. Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Joe Barton, other GOP Serve as Shills for the Koch Brothers.

Greg Abbott broke lots of bad news about himself last week, but as PDiddie at Brains and Eggs ruefully noted, none of it really seems to matter. The attorney general will just hide from the media for a few days until the dark clouds blow over, while the TXGOP will blame the “librul media”.

CoudBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know that Texas Republicans treat seniors like used tissue paper.

Horwitz at Texpatriate recaps his experience with the early voting process.

Neil at All People Have Value put in another solid week of quality blogging about a variety of topics both political and otherwise. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.

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

The Lunch Tray provides a few simple steps to help #SaveSchoolLunch.

Texas Watch calls on the Legislature to adopt some basic rules to help prevent another disaster like the one in West.

OffCite explores the politics of place names in one of Houston’s oldest neighborhoods.

SciGuy wonders what will happen if the US loses access to the International Space Station.

Newsdesk analyzes the debate about debates.

Very Very Urban deconstructs the Republican attempt to direct food aid only to rural children.

TransGriot clears up some confusion about the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

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