Archive for October 2013

Texas Voter I.D. Requirements

October 30, 2013

There has been much discussion and press lately about new voter registration requirements across the nation. The major issue has to do with picture I.D.s and making sure that your name on the photo identification card matches your name on Votethe  registration rolls. Many see these requirements as an attempt to suppress those who would typically vote Democratic – women and minorities, in particular – from voting.

Below is some important registration and voting information for those who live and vote in Texas. It was found in an article entitled Wendy David Held Up Due To New Voter Suppression Law.

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“As long as the names are substantially similar, all a voter will have to do is initial to affirm he or she is the same person who is registered” said Secretary Steen. “Poll workers have been trained to account for names that might be substantially similar but not an exact match  a number of circumstances including the use of nicknames, suffixes, and changes of name due to marriage or divorce.”

“A voter without an approved form of photo ID will have the option to vote provisionally” said Secretary Steen. “A provisional voter will then have until the sixth day from Election Day to go to the county voter registrar to present an approved ID.”

“Many Texans already have an approved form of photo ID. The seven forms of approved ID are:

– Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)

– Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS

– Texas personal identification card issued by DPS

– Texas concealed handgun license issued by DPS

– United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph

– United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph

– United States passport

With the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the identification must be current or have expired no more than 60 days before being presented at the polling place. For more information about voting in Texas, including the requirements of photo ID, visit www.VoteTexas.gov.”

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Please remember that voting is a Right that is guaranteed to you by the United States Constitution. It is a Privilege. And, it is our Responsibility to vote.

The upcoming elections in Texas and the Mid-Term elections in 2014 are extremely critical to Texas and the Nation. Be sure to register to vote and make sure that your papers are correct. Get educated. Vote.

If you are challenged by poll workers about your identity when you go to vote, ask for a provisional ballot to vote. Do not leave the polling place without voting your beliefs and conviction.

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Wendy Davis Is An Advocate For Texas Public Education

October 29, 2013

In June, Wendy Davis, Texas State Democratic Senator from Ft. Worth, made national news when she conducted an eleven hour filibuster to prevent the passage of a bill that would close all but five abortion clinics in the State of Texas. While she was successful in  preventing a vote during that session of the State legislature, the bill eventually did pass in a special session that was called the next day by Governor Rick Perry.

Because of her filibuster, Wendy has become known primarily as a pro-choice advocate and campaigner. But, Wendy, who announced her candidacy for governor of Texas in September, represents and stands for much more than women’s rights. She is also a strong advocate for the education of Texas children and our state public school system.

Below is a great article that addresses Wendy’s record on education in the Texas House of Representatives as well as some of the public recognition she has received for her work for Texas education. The article also shares some about Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Texas governor, and his record on education, which is, by-the-way, virtually non-existent.

The article was written by Kim Burdett and published in the October 28, 2013 edition of the “educate for Texas” blog.

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PTA Mom Asks: Are You Sure You Really Know Wendy Davis?

educate for Texas :: Kim Burkett :: October 28, 2013

Guilty pleasure confession: I watch reality television. There, I said it. The Amazing Race, Survivor, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills – I’ve burned brain cells watching them all. Yet despite my well-earned status as reality television connoisseur, no amount of TV backbiting or acrimony I’ve seen can prepare me for Texas’ 2014 gubernatorial campaign season upon us.

While Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) only announced her run for Texas governor earlier this month, the silly season of gubernatorial politics had begun months ago. (Quick recap: Davis gained worldwide attention this summer as the 83rd Texas legislature considered Senate Bill 5, an omnibus abortion restriction bill that dramatically reduces the number of abortion facilities in the state of Texas. More than 180,000 viewers tuned in to watch the ultimate reality TV show as Davis fought the bill for nearly 12 hours. It was the filibuster heard round the world and it catapulted the senator from Fort Worth into the national limelight and into the race for our next governor.)

Since then, Senator Davis has been labeled “baby killer,” “abortion Barbie,” ”retarded Barbie,” and other smears. Some have even resorted to using social media to launch death threats against the senator. As the attacks mount, it quickly becomes clear that many Texans seem to have no idea who Wendy Davis really is.

Okay, so you’ve heard about her stand for women’s health issues. You watched the filibuster. You saw the pink sneakers. You may have even seen the Texas Monthly cover featuring Senator Davis or maybe the Vogue magazine spread.  But aside from the legislative circus and shenanigans you saw this summer, what else do you know? Are you familiar with Senator Davis’ record? There is more to Wendy Davis than this summer’s filibuster. Are you sure you really know her?

Here’s something that should be carefully considered by Texas parents and educators as they weigh their vote – Wendy Davis is a well-known and proven champion of public education. Senator Davis is quick to tell of the positive impact public education had on her life and has made it one of her key policy interests.  As a PTA Mom I’m quite familiar with Senator Davis’ work for public education. Let me tell you some things I know about Senator Davis that have absolutely nothing to do with abortion:

  • In September Texas PTA honored Senator Davis as one of only ten recipients of their Legislative Honor Roll recognition for her “outstanding work to strengthen and protect Texas public schools.” Texas PTA president Karen Slay called Senator Davis “a trusted friend to Texas PTA and a courageous defender of Texas children and their families.”
  • Did you know this summer’s filibuster wasn’t Senator Davis’ first? In 2011 Wendy Davis filibustered to defend public schools from $5.4 billion in budget cuts. Since that filibuster, we’ve learned those cuts were unnecessary due to faulty projections by the state comptroller.  While the cuts were still made (leaving new students unfunded for the first time since World War II), Senator Davis stood up for Texas public schools when few others did.
  • Likely as retribution for that 2011 filibuster, Senator Davis was removed from her position on the Senate Education Committee. But Davis showed up any way. By crashing the education committee meetings in 2013, she was an integral and vocal participant in fighting against Senator Dan Patrick’s (R-Houston) voucher scheme to funnel tax dollars from public schools to private schools. (That ill-conceived and unpopular bill ultimately died.)
  • She also helped collaborate and compromise to shape Patrick’s seemingly ALEC-based charter school bill, which began as a strange attempt to sell off taxpayer-owned school facilities to charter school management companies for the cost of $1 and to completely eliminate the cap on charter schools. Through bi-partisan compromise, Davis and members of the Senate Education Committee turned that bill into more palatable and productive legislation.
  • While the vast majority of her colleagues voted to pass a Senate budget in 2013 that only restored a paltry $1.5 billion to Texas schools (still reeling from the previous session’s historic cuts), Senator Davis was one of only two senators that voted against it. Recognizing that funding was available and that a court had just ruled public education funding unconstitutionally inadequate, Senator Davis stood in the distinct minority arguing that the legislature hadn’t done enough to restore funding to public schools.
  • In the 83rd legislature, Senator Davis was also influential in legislation that reduces the number of standardized tests; audits Texas’ testing contractor, Pearson, for accountability; helps students in foster care transition within public schools; and provides children of active duty military families flexibility in regards to school attendance requirements.

In the interest of equal time, let’s also look at Senator Davis’ gubernatorial competitor, Attorney General Greg Abbott.  Where does Attorney General Abbott stand on public education? I have no idea.

Interestingly, education isn’t listed as an issue on his campaign website. According to his website, Abbott’s focus seems to be protecting the 2nd amendment, reining in the EPA, and defending “traditional values.” Sadly the nearly 160-year old Texas tradition of public education doesn’t appear to be one of the values he’s trying to defend.

Perhaps Attorney General Abbott doesn’t recognize public education as an important issue to Texans. (I guess he’s not familiar with this recent Texas Lyceum poll that showed Texans identify education as the top issue facing the state.) Or perhaps he believes in the lawsuit his office is defending against the 600-some school districts that have sued the state; his office contending that despite being 49th in the nation in education investment that Texas is doing an adequate job in providing for its schools. (In the attorney general’s defense, it’s in his job description to defend the state of Texas.)

But without a voting record to look at and with education missing as one of his key campaign issues, it’s difficult to discern Greg Abbott’s opinions on public education policy – or if he even has any. There have been some clichéd mentions of “education reform” thrown into a few stump speeches and ambiguous talk of “outputs,” but no real policy discussion you can evaluate when considering the candidate.

While I look forward to hearing more from candidate Abbott about his thoughts on public education, his lack of attention to education policy is disconcerting. Texas has just spent more than a decade under leadership disinterested in public education, willing to let it wither and die from chronic underfunding, anxious to sell it off to private interests, and quick to prostitute it to Big Testing. This leadership void has taken its toll on our public schools and Texas students. And it will ultimately take a toll on our businesses and economic development. Can we afford another decade of negligence to the education system that will produce the future workforce for our growing state? That’s a decision you should consider when voting in 2014.

If this PTA Mom blog sounds like a love letter to Wendy Davis – well, frankly, it is. I love the fact that Senator Davis proudly and vocally supports public schools and Texas students at this strange time in our state history when few lawmakers are willing to make such a stand.  I love the fact that Senator Davis is one of the few Texas legislators willing to uphold her oath to support the Texas Constitution, including Article 7, Section 1 which declares that a public system of education is the responsibility of our legislature. I love the fact that Senator Davis recognizes the importance of my child’s education and is willing to battle special interests and lawmaking ideologues on his behalf. I love the fact that Wendy Davis is a living example of and poster child for the opportunities that public education can offer Texas students.  I love the fact that Wendy Davis is “a trusted friend” to Texas PTA.

Personally, that’s all this PTA Mom needs to hear.

Wealth Inequality in America

October 22, 2013

We have heard about the growing income inequality gap in the United States. This video puts the facts out on the table for you to see.

The rich keep getting richer, and the poor keep getting … well, how low can you go?

Government Shutdown Of Bathrooms

October 15, 2013

The government shutdown is about to enter its third week. It is having devastating effects on our nation, our people, and our economy. It has not only resulted in the “furloughing” of 800,000 federal workers and the closing of national parks and monuments, it has closed bathrooms on Main Street America.

Bathroon Shutdown

This past weekend my family and I attended an extended-family event in Hot Springs, Arkansas. On Sunday, my sons and I went for a walk in the tourist downtown area of the city. At one point during the afternoon I needed to take a restroom break. After following a sign on the street that pointed to a public men’s room, I was surprised to discover that it was closed. The two signs above were posted on the restroom doors.

The Koch Brothers’ “Samson Option”

October 11, 2013

The Koch Brothers’ “Samson Option”
Robert Parry – Consortium News – October 9, 2013

[This is one of two articles that I read this week that address a right-wing plutocratic agenda to “rule America” even if it “reduce(s) the country to economic rubble through fiscal crisis and a premeditated financial collapse.” I typically do not do this on my blog, but I have posted the article in its entirety.]

Exclusive: The fiscal crisis in Washington is not simply a threat to economic and government stability, as serious as that is. It is a premeditated scheme to carve out a new constitutional structure that gives the Koch Brothers and other right-wing billionaires the power to void the democratic process, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The Koch Brothers and other right-wing billionaires who provoked the government shutdown and now are angling for an  even more devastating credit default see themselves as the people who deserve to rule the United States without interference from lesser citizens, especially those with darker-colored skin.

Their “masters of the universe” world view is that they or their daddies or their daddies’ daddies were the ones who “built America” and, thus, it’s their right to tear down the remarkable edifice of U.S. law, politics and economics created over the past two-plus centuries — if the country’s less-deserving inhabitants insist on raising taxes on the rich to fund programs benefiting the poor and the middle class.

That is what we’re watching now, what might be called the Koch Brothers’ “Samson Option,” pulling down the temple to destroy their enemies even if doing so is also destructive to them and their fortunes.

Charles and David Koch and other right-wing billionaires and near-billionaires are blind with anger after wasting millions of dollars on Mitt Romney, Karl Rove and the Republican Party in a failed attempt to defeat Barack Obama, the Democrats and health-care reform. These were the guys who smirked knowingly when Romney sneered at “the 47 percent” of Americans who receive some government help; they got snappish when Obama called them “fat cats”; they demanded the honorific title of “job creators.”

Then, they had to sit in their plush party rooms waiting to celebrate Romney’s victory only to be frustrated by a coalition of voters led by African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and young urban whites who are comfortable in a more diverse country.

Despite all the money and electoral tricks, the Koch Brothers and friends failed to block the reelection of the first African-American president; they watched the Democrats defy the odds and retain the Senate; and they barely managed to hold onto a slender Republican House “majority” through aggressive gerrymandering and other anti-democratic anomalies that overcame the GOP’s loss in the popular vote of about 1½ million ballots.

To make matters worse, these rich white guys had to listen to endless commentary about the coming demographic changes and the need for Republicans to improve their image with racial and ethnic minorities. Through a blinding rage, the Right’s billionaires plotted revenge.

Plotting Obama’s Downfall

Of course, many pragmatic rich folk understand how the extraordinary U.S. system – built by the sweat and ingenuity of countless “average Americans” and protected by the blood of heroic common citizens – has made their fortunes possible. These patriotic multi-millionaires cringe at the spectacle of a U.S. government shutdown and panic at the thought of defaulting on U.S. debt.

But the right-wing billionaires and their political front groups welcome the current chaos. Indeed, they began planning today’s fiscal crisis as soon as their stunning defeat of last November sank in. Rather than behave as a loyal opposition, the Right started plotting soon after Obama took the oath of office a second time, as the New York Times reported:

“Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.

“Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed ‘blueprint to defunding Obamacare,’ signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups. It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government. …

“To many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known. …

“Groups like Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are all immersed in the fight, as is Club for Growth, a business-backed nonprofit organization. Some, like Generation Opportunity and Young Americans for Liberty, both aimed at young adults, are upstarts. Heritage Action is new, too, founded in 2010 to advance the policy prescriptions of its sister group, the Heritage Foundation.

“The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort. A group linked to the Kochs, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, disbursed more than $200 million last year to nonprofit organizations involved in the fight. Included was $5 million to Generation Opportunity, which created a buzz last month with an Internet advertisement showing a menacing Uncle Sam figure popping up between a woman’s legs during a gynecological exam.”

The Right also has relied on its well-financed propaganda machine to obscure for millions of Americans what is actually underway in Washington. The curtain on that was lifted briefly on Sunday with the recognition that the Democrats agreed to the budget terms demanded by House Speaker John Boehner, who then double-crossed them.

On TV interview shows, Boehner conceded that he had struck a deal with the Democrats in which the Senate would accept the lower House budget figures, which included the so-called “sequester” cuts, in exchange for passage of a continuing resolution to keep the government going.

Reneging on a Deal

As the Times reported, “the speaker acknowledged that in July he had gone to the Senate majority leader, Senator Harry Reid … and offered to have the House pass a clean financing resolution. [Boehner’s] proposal would have set spending levels $70 billion lower than Democrats wanted, but would have no contentious add-ons like changing the health-care law. Democrats accepted, but they say Mr. Boehner then reneged under pressure from Tea Party conservatives.”

So, Boehner had laid out terms for a deal that the Democrats disliked but agreed to accept, only to see Boehner pocket their major concession, tack on a host of new demands including stopping health-care reform, and then berating them with the “talking point” that it was the Democrats who wouldn’t negotiate.

There was also the point that House Republicans had refused for six months to appoint members of a conference committee to hammer out budget differences between the House and Senate.

If not for the powerful right-wing media which continues to repeat the “Democrats won’t negotiate” mantra, the American public would have no doubt who provoked the current crisis. But what’s even more significant is what this right-wing strategy means to the future of American democracy.

The position of the Koch Brothers and other right-wing plutocrats is that democracy itself is the problem. It’s bad enough that they have to listen to views that they disagree with; they certainly shouldn’t have to sit back and watch these lesser beings elect leaders and enact policies that involve raising taxes on the rich to provide benefits to other Americans.

While reflective of “free-market” extremism, this right-wing view also has a racial component, since the Right’s billionaires have relied on Tea Party foot soldiers to fight these political wars – and many of those white populist right-wingers are attracted by neo-Confederate ideology, i.e. the supposed “rights” of states to ignore federal mandates, especially those designed to help blacks, Hispanics and other minorities.

“States’ rights” have had a long and grim history in the United States, touted from the early years of the Republic as necessary to defend slavery, then leading to the Civil War and to a near-century of Jim Crow racial segregation.

After the civil rights movement of the 1960s, opportunistic Republicans, such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, saw their chance to snatch the South by playing to white resentment against integration. So, they played up their commitment to “states’ rights” and were rewarded by switching the Deep South from the Democrats to the GOP.

Danger of Fair Elections

Today, however, the Right fears that the nation’s demographic changes could mean that fair elections would end frequently with the selection of candidates who favor stronger federal action to address problems confronting the nation and the world, from the economic risk posed by the concentration of wealth in the top one percent to the existential threat posed by global warming.

An energetic federal government is needed to address these challenges. If the Great American Middle Class is to survive, Congress will have to raise taxes on the rich and invest that money in national infrastructure, cutting-edge research, affordable education, expanded health care and other domestic programs. If global warming is to be slowed and eventually reversed, the federal government must move quickly to reduce carbon dioxide and other emissions while revamping the U.S. energy system.

But the Right wants to prevent such government activism. So, it has developed strategies to give more weight to the votes of white Republicans and less weight to the votes of blacks, Hispanics and other groups that tend to go Democratic. That’s why organizations supported by the Koch Brothers and other right-wing billionaires have backed Republican efforts to impose strict voter ID laws, reduce voting hours and aggressively gerrymander congressional districts to lump Democratic votes in one while ensuring solid Republican majorities in others.

The Right is implementing a strategy as old as the southern poll tax and literacy tests for blacks, i.e. the need to negate post-Civil War amendments that guaranteed equal rights under the law and the right to vote regardless of the color of a person’s skin.

Today’s right-wing strategy follows the thinking of urbane conservative William F. Buckley, who explained in 1957 – when Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders were agitating for enforcement of post-Civil War provisions – that “The white community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically.”

Now the Buckley doctrine is being applied nationwide. But the problem for the Right is that even with all the voter suppression and shorter voting hours creating nightmarish lines especially in minority neighborhoods, the American people still reelected Barack Obama and favored Democrats over Republicans for Congress.

Thanks to gerrymandering and other anti-democratic moves, the Right still has a tenuous foothold through its control of the House and can count on the Senate GOP minority to filibuster nearly everything.

However, for the Right to have the power to implement policies of its choice, a new strategy was needed. It surfaced first in 2011 with the threat to default on the nation’s debt, which coerced President Obama into accepting severe cuts in federal spending, called the “sequester.”

Now, in 2013, the Republican Right has doubled down on that strategy, merging a government shutdown with an impending credit default in an effort to extort more concessions from Obama and the Democrats. But the larger goal is to create a new constitutional structure in which the Right, regardless of its minority status, gets to dictate what the federal government can and cannot do.

To make this strategy work, however, requires a readiness to play Samson and to pull down the temple on your enemies as well as yourself. That appears to be the extreme option that the Koch Brothers and their fellow right-wing billionaires have chosen. If they can’t rule America, they will reduce the country to economic rubble through a fiscal crisis and a premeditated financial collapse.

Then, perhaps out of the rubble, a chastened American people will emerge to accept their subordinate position in this new plutocratic structure. In the future, they will know better than to do something that the Koch Brothers and their right-wing friends don’t like.

All that stuff about a government of the people, by the people and for the people will finally have perished from the earth.  [For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “America’s Government by Extortion.”]

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The second article I read this week was A Federal Budget Crisis Months in the Planning. It was written by Sheryl Stolberg and published in The New York Times on October 5, 2013.

Progressive Change In Texas

October 8, 2013

Wendy Davis, Texas Democratic Senator from Fort Worth, declared her candidacy for Governor of Texas on October 3, 2013.

Vote for Progressive change in Texas. Wendy Davis.

Wendy Davis For Governor Of Texas

October 7, 2013

In June, Wendy Davis, Texas State Democratic Senator from the Ft. Worth area, made national news when she conducted an eleven hour filibuster to prevent the passage of a bill that would close all but five abortion clinics in the State of Texas. While she was successful in  preventing a vote during that session of the State legislature, the bill eventually did pass in a special session that was called the next day by Governor Rick Perry.

Despite the eventual passage of the closure bill, Wendy’s filibuster brought her national acclaim. What propelled her into the national wendy davisspotlight was her tenacity and the fact that she took a stand, literally, for her beliefs. Political pundits and Sunday morning news show panelists immediately began to speculate about Wendy and her future in Texas politics.

People spoke of Wendy as the Democratic party’s natural candidate for the governor’s house in 2014. On Wednesday, October 3, Wendy ended all speculation when she declared her candidacy for governor of the State of Texas.

It is said that Wendy’s run for the governor’s office will be extremely difficult. She will be running against Rick Perry’s heir apparent, the state’s current Attorney General. It has been reported that the Attorney General already has $10 million in his “campaign chest.” Wendy only has about $1 million at this time. And, Texas is a very Red state that has not had a Democratic governor since 1995 (Ann Richards, 1991-1995).

But, I believe that are several factors that are in Wendy’s favor. The first is that Republicans have been in the governor’s office in Texas since 1995 and many in our state are ready for a change. A second reason is that the nation’s Great Recession, the current government shutdown, the arrogance of the Republicans in Congress, and the attack on public workers, unions, and safety nets that we have seen and are seeing in many states that have Republican governors have made us extremely discontented with and wary of Republicans in state legislatures and assemblies. And third, there is a tremendous progressive movement sweeping across America and there are many in Texas who are being swept up in it.

So, as 2014 approaches and gubernatorial campaigns begin to ramp up, Wendy Davis and those who support her are beginning to build her campaign chest, develop her platform, and strategize her campaign.

I am excited about Davis’ run for the governor’s office in the Lone Star State. I believe our state is ready for new, progressive leadership. I am ready for our state to change colors, Red to Blue.

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See the following links for more information about Wendy Davis and her campaign for governor of the State of Texas.

Famous For Filibuster, Wendy Davis To Run For Texas Governor

Why Wendy Davis May Be Texas’s Next Governor, Despite Conventional Wisdom

Battleground Texas