October 20, 2014

GOP voter ID law gets crushed: Why Judge Richard Posner’s new opinion is so amazing

MONDAY, OCT 13, 2014 04:46 PM CDT


Conservative icon/federal judge changes mind on photo ID laws, issues blistering dissent against them. Read it here


GOP voter ID law gets crushed: Why Judge Richard Posner's new opinion is so amazingRichard Posner (Credit: Reuters/John Gress)

This post originally appeared on The BRAD BLOG.

If you read just one top-to-bottom dismantling of every supposed premise in support of disenfranchising Photo ID voting restrictions laws in your lifetime, let it be this one [PDF].

It is a dissent, released on Friday, written by Judge Richard Posner, the Reagan-appointed 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judge who was the one who approved the first such Photo ID law in the country (Indiana’s) back in 2008, in the landmark Crawford v. Marion County case which went all the way to the Supreme Court, where Posner’s ruling was affirmed.

If there was ever evidence that a jurist could change their mind upon review of additional subsequent evidence, this is it. If there was ever a concise and airtight case made against Photo ID laws and the threat they pose to our most basic right to vote, this is it. If there was ever a treatise revealing such laws for the blatantly partisan shell games that they are, this is it.

His dissent includes a devastating response to virtually every false and/or disingenuous rightwing argument/talking point ever put forth in support of Photo ID voting restrictions, describing them as “a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for the political party that does not control the state government.”

Posner is, by far, the most widely cited legal scholar of the 20th century, according to The Journal of Legal Studies. His opinions are closely read by the Supreme Court, where the battle over the legality and Constitutionality of Photo ID voting laws will almost certainly wind up at some point in the not too distant future. That’s just one of the reasons why this opinion is so important.

This opinion, written on behalf of five judges on the 7th Circuit, thoroughly disabuses such notions such as: these laws are meant to deal with a phantom voter fraud concern (“Out of 146 million registered voters, this is a ratio of one case of voter fraud for every 14.6 million eligible voters”); that evidence shows them to be little more than baldly partisan attempts to keep Democratic voters from voting (“conservative states try to make it difficult for people who are outside the mainstream…to vote”); that rightwing partisan outfits like True the Vote, which support such laws, present “evidence” of impersonation fraud that is “downright goofy, if not paranoid”; and the notion that even though there is virtually zero fraud that could even possibly be deterred by Photo ID restrictions, the fact that the public thinks there is, is a lousy reason to disenfranchise voters since there is no evidence that such laws actually increase public confidence in elections and, as new studies now reveal, such laws have indeed served to suppress turnout in states where they have been enacted.

There is far too much in it to appropriately encapsulate here for now. You just really need to take some time to read it in full. But it was written, largely, in response to the Appellate Court ruling last week by rightwing Judge Frank Easterbrook which contained one embarrassing falsehood and error after another, including the canards about Photo ID being required to board airplanes, open bank accounts, buy beer and guns, etc. We took apart just that one paragraph of Easterbrook’s ruling last week here, but Posner takes apart his colleague’s entire, error-riddled mess of a ruling in this response.

Amongst my favorite passages (and there are so many), this one [emphasis added]…

The panel is not troubled by the absence of evidence. It deems the supposed beneficial effect of photo ID requirements on public confidence in the electoral system “‘a legislative fact’-a proposition about the state of the world,” and asserts that “on matters of legislative fact, courts accept the findings of legislatures and judges of the lower courts must accept findings by the Supreme Court.” In so saying, the panel conjures up a fact-free cocoon in which to lodge the federal judiciary. As there is no evidence that voter impersonation fraud is a problem, how can the fact that a legislature says it’s a problem turn it into one? If the Wisconsin legislature says witches are a problem, shall Wisconsin courts be permitted to conduct witch trials? If the Supreme Court once thought that requiring photo identification increases public confidence in elections, and experience and academic study since shows that the Court was mistaken, do we do a favor to the Court-do we increase public confidence in elections-by making the mistake a premise of our decision? Pressed to its logical extreme the panel’s interpretation of and deference to legislative facts would require upholding a photo ID voter law even if it were uncontested that the law eliminated no fraud but did depress turnout significantly.

And this one…

There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud, if there is no actual danger of such fraud, and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.

And remember, once again, this is written by Richard Posner, the conservative Republican icon of a federal appellate court judge — the judge who wrote the opinion on behalf of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals approving of the first such Photo ID law in the country in 2008, the very case that rightwingers from Texas to Wisconsin now cite over and over (almost always incorrectly) in support of similar such laws — now, clearly admitting that he got the entire thing wrong.

One last point (for now): Our legal analyst Ernie Canning, who (along with me) will undoubtedly have much more to say on this dissent in upcoming days, suggests we award The BRAD BLOG’s almost-never-anymore-bestowed Intellectually Honest Conservative Award to Judge Posner. And so it shall be.

Now go read Posner’s dissent.

Investigative journalist and broadcaster Brad Friedman is the creator and publisher ofThe BRAD Blog. He has contributed to Mother Jones, The Guardian, Truthout, Huffington Post, The Trial Lawyer magazine and Editor & Publisher.


Abbott Cover-up Uncovered

Sep 29, 2014

Lone Star Project Report


Greg Abbott issued formal ruling that helped the Enterprise Fund conceal improper payments of nearly one-quarter billion dollars.

Background on the Abbott/Perry Texas Enterprise Fund Scandal
  • In 2013, Senator Wendy Davis passed legislation requiring that the TEF be audited.  That audit was recently completed.  The audit revealed that nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in taxpayer grant money was given to businesses that never provided the proper documentation or, in many cases, did not even formally apply for the grants.
  • The TEF was proposed by Rick Perry and established in 2003 to direct taxpayer funds to businesses that apply and provide proper assurances that the money will benefit and help stimulate the Texas economy, ideally by creating jobs.
  • The TEF is run by Rick Perry appointees.  Grants are supposed to be approved by the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker.
  • Greg Abbott, as state attorney general, has oversight responsibilities and is supposed to assure that payments are made properly and that those who receive payments improperly are investigated, prosecuted and the funds recovered.
  • A state audit revealed that nearly a quarter of a billion dollars (over $222 million) in Texas taxpayer funds controlled by the Texas Enterprise Fund were transferred to businesses and corporations without proper review and, in most cases, without an application for the funds being submitted.

Over the last 72 hours the controversy regarding improper payments made by the Texas Enterprise Fund has become a full-blown scandal encompassing Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott.

News reports now detail that Greg Abbott was engaged in a cover-up to prevent the discovery that nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in taxpayer money kept within the Texas Enterprise Fund was funneled to businesses without proper review and, in most cases, without even a formal application being submitted.  Abbott himself has taken more than $1.4 million in campaign contributions from those who have received improper payments from the Texas Enterprise Fund.

To put the Abbott/Perry Texas Enterprise cover-up into perspective, it is a massive defrauding of Texas taxpayers.  This Abbott/Perry corporate welfare scam is no different than corrupt bureaucrats conspiring to give over $200 million in food stamps to people who never applied or proved they met the qualifications for taxpayer assistance.

The newspaper stories are clear enough, but to lay the scandal out simply, here’s what happened:

  1. As attorney general, Greg Abbott has a responsibility to assure that payments of taxpayer funds like those authorized by the Texas Enterprise Fund are made properly and in compliance with the law.
  2. Ignoring his oversight responsibilities, Greg Abbott has never inspected payments approved by the Texas Enterprise Fund, nor has he ever investigated or recovered Texas Enterprise Fund funds improperly obtained.
  3. The most recent newspaper accounts reveal that Abbott not only ignored Texas Enterprise Fund improper payments, he helped cover them up.  Abbott issued a formal ruling allowing the Texas Enterprise Fund to withhold from public scrutiny non-existent applications and other related documents submitted by businesses and corporations receiving taxpayer grants.  Abbott’s ruling allowed the Enterprise Fund and businesses to conceal the fact that applications and other related documents did not exist.
  4. In order to properly rule on whether or not a state agency can withhold documents, Abbott’s office should examine the documents requested.  In light of this, it is clear that Greg Abbott knew the applications and other documents that should have been submitted to the Texas Enterprise Fund did not exist.  Abbott’s ruling then prevented the media or the public from discovering this fact and thus the improper payments to remain concealed.

Bottom Line

Greg Abbott was a full and willing participant in covering up nearly a quarter billion dollars in improper payments of Texas taxpayer funds.  Abbott himself has received over $1.4 million in campaign contributions from those that received improper payments from the Texas Enterprise Fund.

Read more: http://lonestarproject.net/abbott-cover-uncovered#ixzz3ErjwxJV5

Red States that refuse to expand Medicaid Expansion to Obamacare falling behind


September 29, 2014 by Egberto Willies

The numbers are starting to trickle in. If one wonders why Republicans are not talking much about the Affordable Care Act, it is because it is working. They cannot use it as a failed experiment because millions are being helped.

Red States Falling behind for refusing Medicaid Expansion to Obamacare


What is most sad is that Republicans’ fixation on trying to get the portions of Obamacare they control to fail is hurting their own citizens. It is costing their hospitals and businesses money. The numbers reflect that reality.

One must ask why these Red States continue to vote for Republicans who cause them financial andhealth harm. There is already ample data that shows that Red States are more dependent on government. Yet Red State Republicans fight an increase in minimum wage which would take many out of poverty even as it improves the economy for most.

We do get the government we elect. We do get the government we deserve. Those who vote for politicians that maintain these anti middle class building policies are in fact at fault for their condition.

This report published last week revealed  the following as stated by the HHS press office.

A report released today by the Department of Health and Human Services projects that hospitals will save $5.7 billion this year in uncompensated care costs because of the Affordable Care Act, with states that have expanded Medicaid seeing about 74 percent of the total savings nationally compared to states that have not expanded Medicaid.

For over a decade prior to the Affordable Care Act, the percentage of the American population that was uninsured had been growing steadily.  But with the significant expansion of coverage under the health care law through the Health Insurance Marketplace and Medicaid, the uninsurance rate is at historic lows.  As a result, the volume of uncompensated care provided in hospitals and emergency departments has fallen substantially in the last year, particularly in Medicaid expansion states.

“Hospitals have long been on the front lines of caring for the uninsured, who often cannot pay the full costs of their care,” said HHS Secretary M. Sylvia Burwell. “Today’s news is good for families, businesses, and taxpayers alike.  It’s yet another example of how the Affordable Care Act is working in terms of affordability, access, and quality.”

Projections from today’s report suggest that hospitals in states that have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act will see greater savings than hospitals in states that have not expanded Medicaid. Hospitals in states that have expanded Medicaid are projected to save up to $4.2 billion, which makes up about 74 percent of the total savings nationally this year.  Hospitals in states that have opted not to expand Medicaid are projected to save up to $1.5 billion this year, and which is only 26 percent of the total savings nationally.

Medicaid expansion continues to help an unprecedented number of Americans access health coverage, many for the very first time.  According to a recent report, as of July, nearly 8 million additional individuals are now enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), compared to before open enrollment in the Marketplace began in October 2013.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, states have new opportunities to expand Medicaid coverage to individuals with family incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level (generally $31,322 for a family of four in 2013). This expansion includes non-elderly adults without dependent children, who have not previously been eligible for Medicaid in most states. Twenty-eight states, including the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Kingwood Area Democrat VP Judith Kirkeeide featured in Houston Chronicle


September 27, 2014 by EW Leave a Comment

Judith Kirkeeide

Judith Kirkeeide

Judith Kirkeeide, Kingwood Area Democrat Vice  President was featured in the Houston Chronicle recently. Judith is an inspiration to us all. Her  dedication to the Kingwood Area Democrats is unparalleled. She can always be counted on behind the scenes and leading by example.

We are proud that she has been duly recognized by  our community. We are sure that Judith has much more give to this community.

Judith Kirkeeide

Rick Perry might go away for a long, long time: What even the liberal media isn’t reporting about his indictment

WEDNESDAY, SEP 3, 2014 05:15 PM CDT


New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today brush felony charges aside. They’re not telling you everything


Rick Perry might go away for a long, long time: What even the liberal media isn't reporting about his indictmentRick Perry (Credit: Travis County Sheriff’s Office)

At least in 2012, Rick Perry realized he’d forgotten the name of the federal department he wanted to abolish.  But when it comes to the charges he’s just been indicted for, he’s certain of what they are. “Bribery,” he said in New Hampshire recently — but he’s wrong. It’s not exactly a strong position to start from if you’re going to loudly proclaim your innocence.  At least he’s got one thing right: “I don’t really understand the details,” he added.

In that, Perry is far from alone.  Few, if any, of his high-profile defenders, either left or right, seem to understand much more than he does. Still, you don’t have to be a lawyer to at least have some idea of what’s being charged.  The indictment is online for anyone to read, and it’s not that hard to understand — one count for abuse of official capacity, the other for coercion of a public official. Yet few in the national media seem to have figured that out.

Glenn W. Smith is director of the Progress Texas PAC, so he knows a thing or two about the Lone Star state.  He was also part of George Lakoff’s Rockridge Institute, so he’s got a broader intellectual perspective as well — just the combination one would want for a perspective on what’s going on here.

“It was very clear to me that some of the pundits-at-a-distance based their initial opinions on two false assumptions,” Smith said, via email, “1) That the Perry indictments were the product of a nest of angry but unsophisticated Austin liberals; 2) That it was a governor’s constitutional power of the veto that was being challenged.”

There are other major points of misinformation, as we’ll soon see, but these two do seem to be most central. Smith continued:

Now, here is how a journalist’s mind should work (think of a police reporter or any reporter engaged by necessity with daily human messiness). In this instance, faced with the facts that not one but two Republican judges failed to dismiss the criminal complaint against Perry and that an accomplished, conservative special prosecutor had overseen the grand jury indictment, a street-level reporter would think, “There must be more to the game that’s afoot than the Perry narrative wants me to believe.”

Lacunae are the guiding lights of golden age journalism. This is the practice that leads to “scoops.” It is exactly why Woodward and Bernstein’s youthful beat experience allowed them to get and keep the lead on Watergate reporting. Their instincts told them there had to be more to the story and they followed their instincts.

Smith’s point is spot on — if you can first spot the holes. Unfortunately, most of the national media seems totally unaware that there are holes in Perry’s narrative. The sharp divide between national and state-level coverage was highlighted in a critical overview at Media Matters, by veteran reporter Joe Strupp (“Texas Journalists Urge National Press to Take Perry Case More Seriously”).

“A very clear divide has arisen in coverage of the Perry indictments,” Strupp told Salon, “with the local Texas media giving the case what appears to be the attention it deserves, and noting it’s a valid complaint to at least review and take to trial, given that the grand jury made the decision that it did, while national press or most of the national press is brushing it off to politics, and some kind of perceived payback against Perry.”

As examples of the latter, Strupp’s Media Matters piece cited a high-profile sample:

The New York Times editorial board speculated that it “appears to be the product of an overzealous prosecution.” Liberal New York magazine reporter Jonathan Chait labeled the indictment “unbelievably ridiculous.” A USA Today editorial dubbed it a “flimsy indictment,” while The Wall Street Journal called it “prosecutorial abuse for partisan purposes.”

But Strupp also talked with a number of Texas journalists who painted a very different picture, including Jeff Cohen, of the Houston Chronicle, and Keven Ann Willey, of the Dallas Morning News, the state’s two largest dailies, both of which have editorialized in support of seeing the investigation proceed:

The Chronicle wrote that the indictments “suggest that the longest-serving governor in Texas history has grown too accustomed to getting his way when it comes to making sure that virtually every key position in state government is occupied by a Perry loyalist.” The Morning News editorial board stated: “It’s in every Texan’s best interests for the charges against Perry, whatever your view of them, to traverse the entire judicial system as impartially as possible.”

Strupp also spoke with Morning News columnist Wayne Slater: “Many reporters in Texas know Perry and are much more familiar with the details in this case, the fact that these are Republicans investigating this and that Perry has a history of hardball politics in forcing people out,” Slater said. “This is a much more nuanced story than some in the Beltway understand.”

Indeed, a recent post by Slater, “Why the conventional wisdom in the Rick Perry indictment story might be incomplete,” led early Perry defender David Axelrod to tweetthat it was “worth reading” notwithstanding his first impressions.

Key points that Slater and others (including Rachel Maddow, in an Aug. 26 installment of “Debunction Junction”) have raised include:

1)  The indictment was not brought by the Tavis County DA. Nor were any other Democrats involved. It’s worth quoting at length from Smith at the Texas Tribune:

Not a single Democratic official was involved at any point in the process, except to recuse him or herself. That’s what the victim of Perry’s “offers,” Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, did. So did District Judge Julie Kocurek.

Kocurek referred the criminal complaint to Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield, a Republican and Perry appointee. Stubblefield could have dismissed the complaint. Instead, he assigned it to Judge Bert Richardson, also a Republican. He, too, could have dismissed the complaint. Instead, he appointed conservative, well-respected former federal prosecutor McCrum as special prosecutor. Republican U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison once recommended McCrum for the job of U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas. McCrum could have dismissed the complaint. Instead, he took it to a grand jury.

2)  The indictment is not an attack on the governor’s right to veto, any more than a bribery charge would be, if Perry were accused of having vetoed a bill in return for a bribe. As Rachel Maddow put it, covering the story the day it broke, “You may have the constitutional right to vote, for example; you don’t have the constitutional right to sellyour vote.”

3)  Perry’s purported motivation — outrage over Lehmberg’s DWI violation and conviction — was not matched in two other cases where GOP district attorneys were convicted. Nor has he offered any rational explanation why a DWI violation — particularly after rehab — should be seen as so uniquely heinous. Another key Perry talking point has been that “In Texas we settle things with elections.” Why not this time, then?

4)  Perry did have a prima facie political motivation to go after Lehmberg: Her office was investigating corruption involving Perry cronies at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas at the time he sought to force her out, and replace her with his own appointee.

5)  The indictment of Perry is not about the “criminalization of politics” — a rhetorical framework that dates back to at least Richard Nixon. As Smith told Salon:

The very term is profoundly disturbing because its real meaning is, “We are the law so it is logically impossible for us to violate it.” Political insiders — from politicians to those who work or used to work for them — know full well that politics now is little more than institutionalized bribery. How do even well-meaning players cope with that psychologically? They have to set their/our political practices outside the reach of the law.

A good parallel is seen in popular culture presentations of Mob life, in which the wives, sons, daughters of mobsters are willfully blind to the source of their wealth. Anyone who wants to turn on the lights becomes a snitch who wants to “criminalize” their everyday lives.

Of course, none of the above proves that Perry necessarily was guilty. That’s what trials are for. But it does tell us that Perry’s media defense has no relation to known facts, so why should he get the benefit of the doubt in matters where the facts remain unclear? Why shouldn’t a press, whose job it is to be skeptical and hold the powerful accountable, look at Perry like any other politician charged with a crime?  Why is there such a gap between the national media and the Texas press?

Strupp isn’t sure. He only knows the gap is there. “I don’t know if this is just laziness on the part of the national press side, or, as one person put it to me, ‘a rush to judgment,’ because they want to make it a political story more than possibly a criminal story, but there’s definitely a divide, and it seems like the mistake is being made at the national level, because they are not looking at the facts enough.”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has reached the same conclusion. Maddow, you’ll recall, wasone of the first to pay attention to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s money scandals, which now have him standing trial. She was also ahead of the curve in national coverage of Bridgegate. In these and other stories Maddow gave on-air credit to local reporters for bringing the stories to light, and for sticking with them in the face of pushback, so it was hardly surprising that she took the same line in discussing the Perry indictments and how they were being treated.

First off, Maddow set up the out-of-state/in-state divide in a familiar, clear-cut manner (video/transcript):

Rick Perry thinks the felony indictment thing is no barrier to running for president right now. The national media, including the Beltway media, conservative media, and much of the liberal media as well has settled on common wisdom now that the indictment really isn’t that big a deal for Rick Perry, that it will have no problem beating the charges. Maybe it will even help him run for president somehow.

But you know what, in Texas the grand jury that indicted him is pushing back on that now, pushing back on it hard saying they took their responsibilities seriously and these indictments indicate a serious and solid case against governor. Texas papers like the Dallas Morning News are editorializing, hey, not so fast, this case is for real, it deserves a real hearing.

In the segment, Maddow interviewed Wayne Slater, discussing some of the major misconceptions floating around, and in conclusion she reemphasized the importance of local reporting in no uncertain terms:

MADDOW: I will say — as people look at Rick Perry as a potential 2016 contender. You know, he’s taking this New Hampshire trip tomorrow, people talk about this indictment. If you’re thinking about looking at whether or not Rick Perry is a viable 2016 contender and thinking about looking at these indictments as part of that, get behind the pay wall, right? Pay for subscriptions to the Texas publication of your choice. Start reading Texas papers on this. The coverage is like reading it from Mars when you compare stuff that`s being written in Washington.


The main point that both Strupp and Maddow were making is neither a new nor an original one. Most of the local reporters in Texas would echo it, and local reporters have most likely been saying as much since the East Eden Times filed its first reports on the Fall. (“Apples?  There weren’t any apples. They were pomegranates!”) But the specific dynamics of today’s media require a bit more precision, and that precision was provided by the Atlantic’s James Fallows in his 1996 book, “Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy.” As I read him, he was describing precisely this same sort of disconnect, between the painstaking, locally grounded, fact-based foundations of journalism, and much more facile, simplified, conflict-centered conventions of corporate journalism in our time, which have proven both less costly to produce, and more lucrative in attracting an audience. So I contacted Fallows to ask if he thought this was an accurate description of what was going on in this instance.

“I used to live in Austin and was aware of some of the twist and turns of the local politics there,” Fallows said.  “I haven’t myself followed enough of the local coverage to know exactly what’s going on, but your basic premise I certainly agree with. And actually, it’s a fact that because, precisely because, most national reporters would not have covered, would not be familiar with these kinds of Texas angles, you fit it into the only bed that you as Procrustes have—‘What does this mean for the next election?’ Because there is no development you can’t fit into that plot line.”

Given the much wider background of gubernatorial corruption and scandal that I reported on recently, there was another master narrative available, I pointed out, and Fallows concurred, then dug deeper into why campaign narrative held such appeal. “I agree. It’s a really interesting point,” he said.  “I think the reason that people would generally just be drawn to the campaign narrative theme is you can’t be proven wrong,” since it’s always framed in terms of an ongoing flux. “It’s like sports talk radio,” Fallows added. “There is not any way that you can ever get in trouble for any of that, so it’s the kind of natural thing you want to talk about, and you can’t be wrong. So that’s my cynical interpretation.”

There is, however, another dimension to this story: the reaction of the Democratic establishment.  Writing here at Salon on Aug. 25, Michael Lind presented the situation as follows:

The indictment of Rick Perry on felony charges by a Texas grand jury has revealed a split among left-of-center Americans, dividing progressives and Democrats who think the indictment is dubious or worse from others who defend it.  The first category includes the New York Times editorial board, Clinton adviser David Axelrod, progressive pundits Jonathan Chait and Matthew Yglesias, Ian Millhiser at the Center for American Progress,Alan Dershowitz and many others, along with yours truly.

Prominent center-left individuals who support the indictment are … well, they aren’t easy to find.  To be sure, there are lots of hyperpartisan trolls who hide their identities behind juvenile screen names in comments sections and accuse those of us on the center-left who have raised doubts about the indictment of being shills for Rick Perry or secret conservatives….

Lind seems to have missed Rachel Maddow. He’s also missed the fact that the Democratic establishment has been horribly wrong before, also with criticism being led by “hyperpartisan trolls.” Remember the Iraq War? Endorsed in Senate votes by John Kerry and Hillary Clinton?

Given this relatively recent history, it’s a very odd way to begin laying out his argument. In response to the argument that Republicans were intimately involved in the process that led to Perry’s indictment, Lind purports to show how the Whitewater investigation can be similarly portrayed as nonpartisan. This is not an argument about facts, but about appearances — or at least potential appearances.

Lind does have a very valid point buried in his article: Getting Perry indicted is not a magic bullet for turning Texas blue. But who ever said that it was? After all, everyone knows that Perry’s already leaving office.  Lind links this with a much less impressive point — that it will only embolden Republicans to bring trumped-up charges against Democratic governors.  This would be an excellent point, if Republican operatives had time machines. How else to explain their successful 2006 conviction of Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, which a bipartisan group of over 100 former attorney generals argued against in a recent Supreme Court amicus brief?

In the broader sense, Lind is on to something — as Yale law professor Jack Balkin argued in a 1995 paper, populism and progressivism can be seen as broad traditions, encompassing fundamental visions of what democracy means, giving direction to constitutional interpretations, and profoundly influencing our sense of what it means to be an American citizen.  At one point, Balkin wrote:

[I]mplicit in the progressivist diagnosis and the progressivist framing of issues is a nascent distrust and critique of popular culture coupled with a call for the state to remedy or at least counteract its deficiencies.

To the extent that Lind, in turn, distrusts this distrust, he and I are on the same side. The fight against corruption has always been one of the hallmarks of progressivism, and those fighting corruption in Texas have discernible roots in that tradition — as one can glean from his article — while Lind’s roots lie with populism. So, if what he’s really arguing for is a renewed primacy of populist concerns, then I would stand with him, especially in Texas.

But populists also have an anti-corruption tradition of their own, so I’m not at all sure there’s a sensible necessary connection here. Moreover, since one of Lind’s greatest concerns is how Republicans can co-opt anti-corruption prosecution strategies, he must also acknowledge how thoroughly right-wing co-optations of populism have already succeeded, both in Texas, and all across America.

Which is why it really is best to keep focused on the facts. Let’s hear them first; only then can we have informed opinions.

Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulHRosenberg.




America – He’s Your President for Goodness Sake!

By William Thomas

There was a time not so long ago when Americans, regardless of their political stripes, rallied round their president. Once elected, the man who won the White House was no longer viewed as a republican or democrat, but the President of the United States. The oath of office was taken, the wagons were circled around the country’s borders and it was America versus the rest of the world with the president of all the people at the helm.

Suddenly President Barack Obama, with the potential to become an exceptional president has become the glaring exception to that unwritten, patriotic rule.

Four days before President Obama’s inauguration, before he officially took charge of the American government, Rush Limbaugh boasted publicly that he hoped the president would fail. Of course, when the president fails the country flounders. Wishing harm upon your country in order to further your own narrow political views is selfish, sinister and a tad treasonous as well.

Subsequently, during his State of the Union address, which is pretty much a pep rally for America, an unknown congressional representative from South Carolina, later identified as Joe Wilson, stopped the show when he called the President of the United States a liar. The president showed great restraint in ignoring this unprecedented insult and carried on with his speech. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was so stunned by the slur, she forgot to jump to her feet while clapping wildly, 30 or 40 times after that.

Last spring, President Obama took his wife Michelle to see a play in New York City and republicans attacked him over the cost of security for the excursion. The president can’t take his wife out to dinner and a show without being scrutinized by the political opposition? As history has proven, a president in a theatre without adequate security is a tragically bad idea.

Remember: “Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”

At some point, the treatment of President Obama went from offensive to ugly and then to downright dangerous.

The health-care debate, which looked more like extreme fighting in a mud pit than a national dialogue, revealed a very vulgar side of America. President Obama’s face appeared on protest signs white-faced and blood-mouthed in a satanic clown image. In other tasteless portrayals, people who disagreed with his position distorted his face to look like Hitler complete with mustache and swastika.

Odd, that burning the flag makes Americans crazy, but depicting the president as a clown and a maniacal fascist is accepted as part of the new rude America.

Maligning the image of the leader of the free world is one thing, putting the president’s life in peril is quite another. More than once, men with guns were videotaped at the health-care rallies where the president spoke. Again, history shows that letting men with guns get within range of a president has not served America well in the past.

And still the “birthers” are out there claiming Barack Obama was not born in the United States, although public documentation proves otherwise. Hawaii is definitely part of the United States, but the Panama Canal Zone where his electoral opponent Senator John McCain was born? Nobody’s sure.

Last month, a 44-year-old woman in Buffalo was quite taken by President Obama when she met him in a chicken wing restaurant called Duff’s. Did she say something about a pleasure and an honour to meet the man or utter encouraging words for the difficult job he is doing? No. Quote: “You’re a hottie with a smokin’ little body.”

Lady, that was the President of the United States you were addressing, not one of the Jonas Brothers! He’s your president for goodness sakes, not the guy driving the Zamboni at “Monster Trucks On Ice.” Maybe next it’ll be, “Take Your President To A Topless Bar Day.”

In President Barack Obama, Americans have a charismatic leader with a good and honest heart. Unlike his predecessor, he’s a very intelligent leader. And unlike that president’s predecessor, he’s a highly moral man.

In President Obama, Americans have the real deal, the whole package and a leader that citizens of almost every country around the world look to with great envy. Given the opportunity, Canadians would trade our leader, hell, most of our leaders for Obama in a heartbeat.

What America has in Obama is a head of state with vitality and insight and youth. Think about it, Barack Obama is a young Nelson Mandela. Mandela was the face of change and charity for all of Africa but he was too old to make it happen. The great things Obama might do for America and the world could go on for decades after he’s out of office.

America, you know not what you have.

The man is being challenged unfairly, characterized with vulgarity and treated with the kind of deep disrespect to which no previous president was subjected. It’s like the day after electing the first black man to be president, thereby electrifying the world with hope and joy, Americans sobered up and decided the bad old days were better.

President Obama may fail but it will not be a Richard Nixon default fraught with larceny and lies. President Obama, given a fair chance, will surely succeed but his triumph will never come with a Bill Clinton caveat – “if only he’d got control of that zipper.”

Please. Give the man a fair, fighting chance. This incivility toward the leader who won over Americans and gave hope to billions of people around the world that their lives could be enhanced by his example, just naturally has to stop.

Believe me, when Americans drive by the White House and see a sign on the lawn that reads: “No shirt. No shoes. No service,” they’ll realize this new national rudeness has gone way, way too far.


Court Exposes Abbott’s Contempt for Public Schools

Statement on School Finance Court Ruling


Court Exposes Abbott’s Contempt for Public Schools

Statement from Lone Star Project Director Matt Angle

The term “deadbeat” is used to describe adults who don’t fulfill their obligation to kids. Greg Abbott’s failure to fulfill his responsibility to help provide a good public education to Texas kids makes him the state’s biggest deadbeat.
It’s been clear for a long time that real insight into Greg Abbott’s views and principles is gained only at the courthouse. Today’s decision that the Texas school financing system is unconstitutional is a clear judgment on the false priorities and values of Greg Abbott and throws a harsh light on his contempt for our public schools.
Greg Abbott has spent millions of dollars in taxpayer money to protect a broken system and fight against – instead of for –Texas kids and parents.
The decision that Texas’ public school financing system is so broken that it no longer meets basic constitutional requirements comes as no surprise. More than 600 school districts representing kids, parents, teachers and administrators laid out a compelling case that Texas kids are being denied the educational opportunities they deserve.
The extent to which Greg Abbott has fought against Texas public school parents and kids in order to protect a broken system is appalling.
Again and again, Abbott has sided with voucher boosters and private school profiteers over the best interests of all Texans.
This ruling offers Texas voters yet another chance to see clearly where Greg Abbott’s priorities really are – not with the people, but with his insider friends.

State Sen. Jose Rodriguez: Ted Cruz’s big lie about the border


State Sen. Jose Rodriguez for Trib Talk

POSTED: 12:36 PM MDT Aug 22, 2014 UPDATED: 12:43 PM MDT Aug 22, 2014

Ted Cruz


While Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz compete for the conservative tough talker award, they share something in common other than their apparent ambitions to be the 45th president — they’re among the leading proponents of the Big Lie about immigration and border security.

The Big Lie is a political technique in which misrepresentations, omissions and sometimes outright falsities are repeated so many times that they become conventional wisdom.

In a recent Texas Tribune opinion piece, for instance, Cruz weaves a tapestry of small lies and half-truths into a full-cloth fabrication about immigration and the border.

Cruz claims the president and his supporters are not willing to debate the issue. Yet he conveniently ignores the fact that the U.S. Senate, with bipartisan support, passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill last year.

Cruz then turns to the term that far-right politicians and anti-immigrant groups like NumbersUSA use to stifle debate: amnesty. He also argues that the president and Democrats are willingly damaging our country’s safety and security.

Cruz inaccurately conflates immigration with national security and characterizes border communities as a looming threat. This is the heart of the Big Lie. Nothing could be further from the truth, and it ultimately hurts border communities like the ones I represent.

As a representative of Texas, which does more business with Mexico than any other state, Cruz should, and probably does, know better. But he is committed to stifling debate, going so far as to hold the economic livelihood of our Texas border communities hostage to do so.

What we should be discussing is improving the infrastructure that facilitates billions of dollars in trade and travel, and reforming an immigration system that is not up to the task of handling the complex realities of 21st century migration.

But instead of constructive solutions, Cruz resorts to rhetorical tactics that harm the communities he represents as a U.S. senator. 

He further distorts the truth when he blames the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program for luring refugees on a dangerous journey north. This is a convenient partisan dodge, but a U.N. refugee agency survey, the most comprehensive review available, overwhelmingly found that children are fleeing the chaos of rape and murder, not seeking benefits under U.S. immigration policies.

It’s outrageous that Cruz would claim concern for these children while advocating for a change in the law that would make it harder for them to access the political asylum process and make it easier to send them back to the horrors from which they fled. That’s not what we should be doing. Just last week, the Los Angeles Timesreported that five to 10 of the 42 dead children at one Honduran morgue had been deported back to that country from the U.S.

Meanwhile, Cruz has the unmitigated gall to say that “immigrants deserve a system in which they will be welcomed to the United States safely and with dignity.” I couldn’t agree more, but it’s hard to believe his sincerity when every attempt to do so — including the bipartisan Senate bill, which included unprecedented "border security" provisions — has been thwarted by Cruz and his allies, too many of whom demonize the very immigrants whom Cruz claims to welcome.

Whether it’s Cruz’s latest comments or Perry continuing to mislead about the facts on which he’s basing his decision to spend $17 million a month of Texas taxpayer dollars on the border that could instead be going to our schools or roads, it all adds up to one thing: When it comes to immigration policy and telling the truth about the border, all they have is a Big Lie.

Texans deserve better.

Read more from TribTalk at http://tribtalk.org/

The NRA Pissed Off the Wrong Nerd Genius




Billionaire Michael Bloomberg already had the gun lobby in his sights. Now Bill Gates is donating $1 million for universal background checks—and there’s more where that came from.

Somewhere in a large glass tower in Northern Virginia, there’s a guy who runs guns with a French name having a bad day. With good reason.

It was reported Monday that Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder and incredibly wealthy guy, and with his wife, Melinda, have given $1 million to Initiative 594 in Washington state. The ballot initiative, if passed by voters on November 4 (and it currently enjoys overwhelming support), will require universal background checks for all firearm purchases in the state.

Gates is only the latest Washington billionaire to give to the effort, with original Amazon investor Nick Hanauer providing crucial early funding, and more recently upping his overall donation to $1.4 million. Additionally, Gates’s Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, has provided $500,000 for the cause.

But Gates’s fame brings more attention and further legitimizes the initiative in a way that almost nobody else could. Once the Gates Foundation made it a priority to combat malaria around the world in 2000, it brought down deaths due to the insect-borne disease by 20 percent in 11 years, saving the lives of 1 million African children in the process.

Gates has the ability to grab headlines and make an issue go viral with the constant media coverage he receives, and the financial ability, if he wins, to fund similar efforts around the country. His involvement could be the answer to the public health crisis that makes American children 93 percent of those murdered in the 26 high-income countries around the world.

Meanwhile, the NRA has…Chuck Norris, doing its “Trigger The Vote” Campaign. An actor, in the sense that he showed up in films, who was last seen round-housing Vietnamese extras in B-movies in the ’80s, back when he was only pushing 50. In more recent times, the more Methuselah-esque-appearing Norris has spent his time warning us of 1,000 years of darkness if President Obama is reelected. (He was. Boo!)

That, in short, is why the guy with the French-sounding name, National Rifle Association head honcho Wayne LaPierre, is probably somewhere drowning his sorrows in his Pernod. Because Gates’ involvement in this issue is just about the last thing LaPierre needs.

Already, the NRA has shown its disdain for anyone with the guts and resources to take on its political cartel of legally bribed legislators around the country. It was used to having the field to itself financially in the 2000s, until along came New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. After seeing his constituents and police force victimized by lax gun laws out of state, lobbied for by the NRA, he decided it was time to do something.

The now former mayor’s activism had led to the ire of LaPierre & Company, who’ve just released a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign blasting Bloomberg, replete with his supposed sneering at “flyover country” in between the coasts. Which LaPierre clearly doesn’t do while receiving his million-dollar-plus compensation in the wealthy Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Ironically, it was in Virginia where Bloomberg’s organization, Everytown for Gun Safety, had one of its biggest victories, when it elected a governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in 2013. None of whom thought a 12-year old should be able to open-carry an Uzi in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, because of, you know, freedom. Suddenly those who agree with the 90 percent of the country who support universal background checks had access to similar, if not greater, financial resources than those who pledged their allegiance to an arms dealer-funded front group.

Bloomberg is worth $33 billion, but if that’s not enough, Gates is worth well over two times that amount. Who knows, with that kind of dough, maybe even measures that “only” enjoy 56 percent support like bans on assault weapons and/or high-capacity magazines could pass via direct voting by uncorrupted American citizens. Or perhaps state legislators and members of Congress who bend easily to the will of these Lords of War could be swapped out for those who live in a closer neighborhood to the best interests of the American populace.

Likely the NRA will try to do to Gates what it has attempted to do to Bloomberg for a few years now, and seek to make this fight about him and not its right-wing radicalism in the service of avarice. He’s a billionaire trying to influence our political process, after all, unlike Manhattan resident David Koch, who along with his brother Charles has polluted our political process to no end, including funding the NRA.

Sure, in an ideal world big money wouldn’t play such an outsize role in our elections, such as this hugely important ballot initiative in Washington state. But that’s not what the NRA wants. It just wants its big money still to be all that decides the outcome, and it isn’t. Which is why Wayne LaPierre’s having a bad day.

Study Shows the Madness of States Refusing to Expand Medicaid


August 14, 2014

by Joshua Holland

Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during The Family Leadership Summit, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the Family Leadership Summit, Aug. 9, 2014, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

This week, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institutereleased a study showing that the 24 states that have refused to expand theirMedicaid programs under theAffordable Care Act will miss out on $423 billion in federal health care dollars through 2022.

Under the law, the federal government picks up all of the costs of the expansion through the first three years, and then its share gradually drops to 90 percent.

At The New Republic, Jonathan Cohn has put together an interactive map that shows how much each state is set to lose. For example, Texas, which leads the nation in its rate of uninsured (at 24 percent in 2012), and has faced draconian cuts to health care spending, will lose almost $66 billion. Florida, tied for the country’s third highest rate of uninsured, will lose a similar amount. Georgia, sixth in uninsured, will lose almost $34 billion, and North Carolina stands to miss out on around $40 billion.

The citizens of these states are paying for the Affordable Care Act — with the wealthiest paying a surcharge on both high incomes and investments. Yet the politicians who represent them are steadfast in their refusal to expand coverage for their constituents.

The economic and human costs of conservatives’ ideological crusade against the Affordable Care Act is difficult to overstate. These states aren’t just rejecting an opportunity to expand coverage; Obamacare assumed that expanding Medicaid would dramatically reduce the number of uninsured patients showing up at emergency rooms for treatment they couldn’t afford, so it cut funding for hospitals that treat large numbers of these patients. Without those federal dollars coming in, a number of hospitals that serve low-income populations in refusing states have already been shuttered. According to the Urban Institutestudy, “these 24 states are also slated to lose a $167.8 billion (31 percent) boost in Medicaid funding that was originally intended to offset major cuts to theirMedicare and Medicaid reimbursement.”

Other studies suggest that refusing to expand Medicaid will drive up premiums for private insurance, and result in somewhere between 5,700 and 17,000 preventable deaths each year in those states that hold out.

What’s more, as we pointed out back in April, an unintended consequence of the Supreme Court’s decision to allow states to opt-out of the expansion is that it’s widening the gap between “red” and “blue” states. It’s long been the case that state budgets reflect very different priorities — blue states tend to spend far more, on average, on health care, education and antipoverty programs than red states — and those differences are becoming sharper at a time when an unprecedented number of statehouses are entirely under the control of one party or another. Federal grants for Medicaid, food stamps and a host of otherprograms smooth out those differences to a degree. The Medicaid expansion would have done a lot to harmonize health policies for the poor — in many states, single people without children are ineligible for Medicaid no matter how low their incomes — but that divide will only grow wider if those 24 states continue to hold out.

The question is whether they will. Soon after the Supreme Court allowed states to opt out, the conventional wisdom held that with the amounts of money at stake, even the reddest of red states would eventually expand their Medicaid programs. That’s been true in some cases — Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a stalwart conservative, has been engaged in a vicious fight with members of her own party over the issue — and so far has come out on top. But many of the states that need those federal dollars the most continue to resist.

Forbes reports that “pressure is building on states to go along with the expansion of Medicaid benefits under the Affordable Care Act as new studies and financial reports from health care companies point out stark differences between states treating more poor Americans and those that aren’t.” Hospitals and other providers are lobbying lawmakers hard. But it remains to be seen if those efforts result in common sense prevailing over “small government” ideology.