Archive for June, 2010


Here in the States, we have theWall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act due to become law in about a week or so. Additionally, the EU is on track to do a much more thorough job of banking reform, including limits on up-front cash paid in bonuses to bankers.

It looks like we’re finally going to see a minimum modicum of reform in this area. That’s good news.

But then, I read stories about how large banks move money for drug cartels with impunity and I realize that we are nowhere near the level of reform that is needed to curb excess and criminal behavior in the financial world.

That’s why Arianna Huffington’s Move Your Money project (facebook group, official website) still appeals to me. The best way to stay a step ahead of the slow-to-arrive banking reform is to put your money in a local bank or credit union that won’t gamble with your savings or invent outrageous new fees to charge you.

It’s taken too long, but we finally have a few politicians willing to stand up to the banksters.

DISCLOSE Act is a good start

Today Congress passed the DISCLOSE Act, which I consider a good step toward transparency in the piles of money being thrown around in elections (unlimited amounts of money now, thanks to the recent, terrible “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision).

The rule exempting the NRA from the DISCLOSE Act is absolute crap. I think it’s shameful that it took such a large concession to pass this law.

The righties are all up in arms about free speech rights. Let’s be clear. We are talking about corporations and nonprofit organizations here, spending millions of dollars at a time. This is not free speech in the sense that a citizen understands or is capable of doing him or her self. (And how a “Constitutional originalist” can interpret the Constitution as protecting free speech in the form of money spent by a corporation is beyond me.)

The new law still lets these wealthy organizations make the speech they would like to make — they just have to identify themselves. “I’m BP CEO Tony Hayward and I approve this message,” might be the line that wraps up an anti-regulation commercial this Fall.

Learn more as Huffington Post summarizes different reactions to the DISCLOSE Act.

No creationism degrees in Texas

Well, there’s one governing body related to Texas education that the wingnuts have not taken over yet: the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board. Last week a District Court slapped down the appeal of The Institute for Creation Research (hilarious website), who wanted to offer a Master’s degree in “science education” after relocating from Santee, California to Dallas, most likely for tax reasons. You can read more about this decision at the always-excellent Bad Astronomy blog at Discover Magazine, including this gem from the District Court’s ruling:

Plaintiff is entirely unable to file a complaint which is not overly verbose, disjointed, incoherent, maundering, and full of irrelevant information.

Moral of the story: the radical right has not ruined ALL of Texas education yet.

What will they think of next? (Pt. 2)

By now you’ve probably heard bits and pieces of the 2010 GOP platform, including some well-deserved ridicule for their American Taliban views on criminalizing homosexuality. (Read here, here, or here if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

I want to examine the new TX GOP platform in more detail. Let’s look at the “Legislative Priorities” section at the end of the TX GOP platform (pp. 23-24):

Kill Public Education — Instead of fixing problem schools, the GOP would rather abandon them. They still want to use vouchers to put public money in private hands. And of course, they are still gloating about the State Board of Education’s rewriting of history and want to see more of it.

Criminal Justice — Mandatory minimum sentencing. Taking juries and elected judges out of the decision-making process as the GOP wants to do is unAmerican. They are so “tough on crime” that the mere thought of a judge making a downward departure or a jury deciding on reduced punishment makes them cringe. They also want to criminalize even the most minor drug offenses, and they want more prisons. The USA has the most prisons in the world, and Texas has the most prisons in the USA. We are already locking our people up at alarming rates, and those freedom-loving Republicans want to incarcerate more.

Free market water? — This one is bad, bad, bad. “Create a free market for water to help meet future demand.” “Use the relatively light-handed regulation of the oil and gas industry as a model for the state’s water market.” These are verbatim from their platform. I don’t understand this one at all. Do they want exploding water towers? $4.00 for a gallon of water? Unaccountable water table pollution? (Well, they fight for that one already.) The GOP wants a few large companies to get rich off of one of our most precious public resources: our water. Disgusting.

Privatize everything! — TX GOP wants to “expand the role of the private sector in delivering government services.” This is after at least a decade of scandals involving government contractors in Texas. Prisons (e.g. GEO Group), SCHIP, Medicaid (e.g. Evercare)… We might be able to solve our budget woes just by un-privatizing parts of our state government that have been handed over to crooked/incompetent private contractors, but the GOP is bankrolled by these contractors, so…

Tax hypocrisy! — As with mandatory sentancing, the TX GOP wants all kinds of controls and restrictions put in place about what taxes can be used for what, and how they can go up or down… except the gas tax, which they don’t ever want raised or indexed to anything. The GOP will bend over backwards for Big Oil.

Copy the bad Arizona law — TX GOP is ready to go whole hog on the “new Southern strategy” of demonizing immigrants. Nuff said already about this one.

The above points are not all of what’s in their legislative priorities, but these are enough for now. You can have a look yourself to see how bad it really is.

I’m getting pumped up about the TDP Convention this weekend down in Corpus Christi. My goal is to make it on to the Platform Committee this year and to produce another platform we can be proud of. Looking at the current and recent GOP Platforms has given me insight into what NOT to do, which is useful in itself.

Smokey Joe Barton and the GO(B)P

In case you missed it somehow, today Texas GOP Congressman “Smokey Joe” Barton apologized to the CEO of BP for the government’s “shakedown” of their finances.

After being told how very embarrassing his remarks were, Smokey Joe apologized for his apology. But by now the nation has seen his (and the GOP’s) true colors. The GOP should be apologizing to citizens of the gulf coast for allowing a culture of deregulation to permeate the offshore drilling industry in pursuit of the bottom line above all else.

Lastly, because we could use it, this site is good for a laugh:

Joe Barton Would Like to Apologize

TDP Chair Race: Meet the Candidates

Texas Tribune has interviews up with the two candidates for Texas Democratic Party Chair:

Boyd Richie (incumbent)
Michael Barnes (challenger)

Boyd Richie has a campaign website up, and Michael Barnes has a campaign website as well.

I support Boyd Richie, because I have seen how the Party has grown under his (and Betty’s!) leadership. If nothing else, putting the VAN — the TDP’s statewide voter history database — in our hands qualifies him as a success. I look forward to listening to what Michael Barnes has to say at the TDP Convention in a couple weeks, but it’s going to take a very compelling argument to convince me to switch my support from Boyd.

Discovering Tim Wise

I just discovered anti-racism crusader Tim Wise. This guy is amazing — able to articulate the history of white privilege / white resentment very clearly.

So, I want to share. Check out this youtube video of him speaking, cued to a point that is immediately interesting and relevant. He exposes the (sometimes) subtle racism in the messages blasted by the likes of Limbaugh and Beck as well as the real problem of racism in our time: its institutional nature. These days, we don’t observe individuals willing to articulate a blatantly racist message (aside from far-right talk radio hosts), but we do have institutions set up to perpetuate white privilege.

And remember: “The race card is the two of diamonds.”

Texas GOP Funds Green Party Candidate — Illegally?

On Thursday the Texas Democratic Party announced that it asked a State District Judge to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the certification of Green Party candidates. It’s very likely that laws were broken by out-of-state Republican operatives.

Today Lone Star Project connects the dots between Perry and the Republican group paying for the Green Party ballot signatures.

I hope the Green Party does the right thing and rejects the poisoned “gift” of 92,000 signatures paid for — possibly illegally — by GOP operatives. At $4 a signature, which is supposedly the rate that petition-gatherers were paid, we are talking about a serious investment from GOP operatives to pull votes away from Bill White.


Lone Star Project connects the dots between Perry and the Republican group paying for the Green Party ballot signatures

News 8 Austin (Commentary - Harvey Kronberg) - On the Agenda: Mysterious out-of-state money poisons Texas elections

Dallas Morning News - TrailBlazers blog - Mystery money and Texas politics

Dallas Morning News - Bid to put a Green in Texas governor race may be illegal, expert says

Dallas Morning News - Editorial

What will they think of next? (Pt. 1)

June is Party convention season in Texas. Coming up this weekend is the Texas Republican Party convention in Dallas. I wait with great anticipation for this year’s Texas Republican Party Platform. I have never been disappointed by the entertainment value contained in the sheer lunacy of what real Texas Republicans would really want to do if they really ran the world.

So, in honor of the unique nuttiness that is the Texas GOP, we will be taking a look back at some of the greatest hits from recent Texas Republican Party Platforms. Today: the 2004 TX GOP Platform (you can download a pdf of it and play along at home).

Abolish the IRS
Page 17 of their ‘04 platform calls for abolishing the IRS and repealing the 16th Amendment. They want to eliminate personal income tax, inheritance tax, gift tax, capital gains tax, corporate income tax, and payroll tax — to be replaced with… (dun dun dun) a national sales tax!

And while they’re abolishing things…
…why not also eliminate the Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms, the Surgeon General, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Departments of: Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Education, Commerce and Labor… as well as the National Endowment for the Arts and Public Broadcasting System for good measure (Page 19).

Purity test!
GOP candidates should say that they support the platform or not receive any funding from the Texas GOP. Charming! (Page 7)

Let clergy influence elections
The ‘04 GOP Platform basically says churches should be able to say whatever they what about whatever they want and not risk their tax-exempt status. “Vote for our guy or go to hell!” (Page 4)

“We reaffirm belief in the fundamental constitutional right of an individual to use property without governmental interference.”
“We oppose the Endangered Species Act.”
“We believe that groundwater is an absolute, vested right of the landowner.” (Page 2)

Regulations? Naw…
“We believe that the future of our country depends upon a strong and vibrant public sector unencumbered by excessive government regulation.” (Preamble) — In other words: let’s not bother to protect consumers, investors, workers, or the environment and see what happens.

Essentially, the thing reads like one of Mister Con’s rants. There are many more gems that I have left out. Feel free to have a look around and post what surprised you the most in the comments.


A Houston Chronicle article today gives some good background regarding the coming showdown between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), now led by actual environmentalists, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which is basically a consulting arm of Texas energy companies. At stake is our air quality in Texas. The primary mechanism being debated is the flex permit, which allows energy companies to pollute beyond Federally allowed limits at certain facilities as long as their overall pollution onsite is within some acceptable limit.

With a recent debacle about air quality not being reported correctly to the City of Fort Worth and the revolving door between TCEQ members and the energy companies they are supposed to regulate, the TCEQ is suffering from a real image problem.

This showdown will also play into the Governor’s race, with Bill White on the side of environmental responsibility and Rick Perry on the side of laissez faire industry.

It’s nearly high noon, and the new Sheriff is in town.

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