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So, you think Fox News Network is bad?

Yeah, me too. But at least they’re not this bad.

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Further signs that wacky Texas politicos are falling behind

Honestly, one of the few things Texas politics has had going for it in recent years is the laughs.

Which is why it totally disturbs me when there are clear signs that we are falling behind. Our home-grown wackjobs are increasingly not up to par these days.

Which is why I want you to meet Mark “Coonrippy” Brown. He’s running for governor of Tennessee (as a Republican, of course). He, like so many other Republicans, is concerned about our God-given Constitutional right to keep Rebekah, his pet raccoon. Apparently the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency took Rebekah away after she…um…did what raccoons do – attacked the chickens at the neighborhood high school. So he’s running for governor to right this wrong. They will pry his pet raccoon from his cold dead fingers.

No word yet on how ol’ Coonrippy plans to blame this on Obama, but I’m totally looking forward to it. There are even signs that Coonrippy’s catching on, since the morning The Daily Caller endorsed him.

If you’re not entertained yet, you’re almost dead to me, but I’ll give you one more chance: Coonrippy also makes videos. Here’s one of him during one of his favorite activities – showering with Rebekah The Chicken-killing Raccoon:

Texas politicos: tighten up your act, before it’s too late!

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Republican outreach to minority voters hits overdrive, seen as wildly successful

Nah, just kidding, the Republicans are totally in the ditch.

Here’s an example of why: right-wing Republican hero Phyllis Schlafly said last week that Latinos have too many children out of wedlock, and don’t understand the Bill of Rights or the concept of small government. She apparently said it in expressing her opinion that the Republican Party shouldn’t reach out to Latino voters at all.

Schlafly, the founder of Eagle Forum, is an undisputed leader in the National Republican Party. According to her bio, she’s played a major role in every Republican National Convention since 1952, and was elected as a delegate to eight of them, most recently in 2012. She ran for Congress as a Republican twice.

How important is she to Republicans? Glad you asked. The Republican-led Texas State Board of Education recently required that school children learn about her in future history textbooks. Imagine the thrill of Texas school children learning all about how stupid Schlafly thinks Latinos are.

Here’s the chapter and verse, excerpted from the rules the SBOE adopted in 2010:

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Gosh, it sounds like we’re really going to be improving public education, while the Republicans improve their political lot with Latino voters!

So, just to review, following the 2012 election, the Republicans paid big-time lip service to doing a better job of reaching out to minorities. One of the most important conservative leaders in the Republican Party – one so important that Republicans in Texas insisted she be featured in future history books – is bigoted against Latinos, and doesn’t mind explaining why.

That, my friends, is how Republican minority outreach efforts are going. Any questions?

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Meanwhile, in major league baseball news…

The news isn’t getting any better from Minute Maid Park.

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Revisited: the Second Worst Church In The World

Remember the Second Worst Church In The World, the Church of Corinth near Dallas, at which the church’s minister was arrested for attempted sexual performance of a child? Some in the congregation responded by believing that the accusations were nothing but an attack by Satan and silenced people who dared express any concern for the underaged victim.

Guess who meets monthly at that church? Go on – give it a shot.

Meet the Denton County Republican Party.

In fact, the county Republican Party evidently attracted Peggy Venable, the Texas director of Americans for Prosperity, as a guest speaker at last Thursday’s meeting at the church, which is the same location the pastor is accused of victimizing the child.

Americans for Prosperity was a big spender for Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, who embarrassed has fellow Republicans last year when he said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

This is all starting to make more sense to me now.

 

[h/t to blog reader Wayne]

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Irony of the week award

Rick Perry complained about “charlatans and peacocks.”

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The age of self-interested enlightenment: why Rob Portman is no hero

Remember when Dick Cheney declared he had no issues with gay rights – but only because his own daughter is a lesbian?

Remember when Sarah Palin angrily declared that using the word “retard” is wrong,  but only because her own child has Down’s Syndrome – even as she constantly and bitterly complained about all other “politically correct” language?

Rob Portman

Portman: represents his son really well

Now comes Republican Senator Rob Portman, who as a result of his son coming out, has reversed course and is now in favor of same-sex marriage.

Why do so many conservatives only choose to do the right thing when it’s their own immediate family on the line? Wouldn’t it be nice if our elected officials’ empathy extended to the people they claim to represent, instead of only coming to the more enlightened conclusion because of discrimination experienced by their immediate family?

I won’t begrudge anybody in the opposition who joins ranks with progressives in our causes. But at the same time, it’s not exactly “courage” because your own relatives are getting picked on – especially when it’s our elected representatives’ job to ensure that nobody they represent gets picked on.

But apparently discrimination is fine and dandy with some elected officials, until the people being discriminated against are the ones who live in their house.

You want to see political courage? You’ll have to wait for a conservative to take an inconvenient policy path when it’s based only on their commitment to his constituents, instead of on behalf of members of his own immediate family.

If you want to see your government do great things on behalf of people ill-equipped to do so for themselves, it requires government’s ability to empathize with others’ situations. Because, after all, if the people getting picked on were the ones in power, they wouldn’t need the assist. Government doing the right thing requires that those running it maintain an ability to imagine the lives of those whom government serves, whether it comports with officials’ personal experiences or not. Their failure to empathize is one key reason governments continually expect people to live their lives in ways those people cannot possibly imagine, or for which they are ill-equipped.

Welcome, Senator Portman, to the side that wants everybody to have the opportunities you want your own son to have. It would be nice if you could convince some of your colleagues to join us as well, if only for the seemingly-trivial purpose of granting the the same rights and opportunities to people they don’t know. You know – their constituents. The ones who hired them. The ones who need them. The ones whose fathers don’t happen to be members of the United State Senate.

Now, if only a Republican member of Congress’ offspring would come out poor. Or come out sick without health insurance. Or come out under-educated. Or come out the victim of violent crime. Or come out laid off. Or come out elderly. Or come out foreclosed on. Maybe Congress would really accomplish some stuff then. Meanwhile, if the only rights political leaders are willing to protect are the rights of their own immediate family members, they should go home where they belong.

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Sh*t John Cornyn heard in a bar

Pity poor John Cornyn, the so-called “senior” Senator from Texas.

Following Ted Cruz’ surprise victory in last year’s elections for Texas’ other US Senate seat, Cornyn has been brown-nosing Cruz and every other right-wing wacko he can find, prior to having to face Republican primary voters in his own re-election next year. He undoubtedly fears that he’ll be pasted with the dreaded “establishment Republican” label and lose to somebody far more wacky than him. That’s exactly what happened to Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, the heavy favorite to win last year, until he got pasted with the “establishment Republican” label and lost to the far-wackier Cruz.

So as post-2012 election Republicans nation-wide take stock in their party and make course corrections, Texas’s own proud native son’s course correction? Go nuts. His specific objective is to be just slightly more nuts than Cruz – a difficult task, given that Cruz’s objective is to be just slightly more nuts than Joe McCarthy.

Cornyn’s latest effort on that front is to claim, via Twitter a couple of weeks ago, that a “friend” told him that 300 people per night are crossing the border on his property:

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Let’s do the math. 300 people per night would be 109,500 people per year. Oh hell, let’s give the immigrants Christmas and Easter off, and call it an even 108,900 folks. That’s more people than the total population of Round Rock, Wichita Falls, or Odessa. And they’ve all been sneaking in undetected by all, in one spot, except for Senator Cornyn’s “friend.”

The people who actually do this for a living say it’s ridiculous, and Cornyn steadfastly refuses to identify his “friend.” At this point, it might be a fair question to inquire as to whether Cornyn feels like he actually has a friend. One would hope he at least has a faithful dog.

This would all be pretty funny except that this ain’t some back-bencher Louie Gohmert nutcase deal: John Cornyn is the number two Republican leader in the United State Senate. This is what passes for the upper echelon of the national Republican leadership, folks.

Forget about how Texans should demand more out of their elected grown-ups – how ’bout if the National Republicans demand better from their own leadership? When it it going to occur to thinking Republicans – and there are plenty – that the people at the very top of their political food chain are acting like morons, and in turn are making non-tea party Republican-leaning voters nation-wide look like idiots for having supported them?

Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, Senator. And here’s the truth:

— the number of people we are catching as they cross the border has decreased dramatically, a measure which even Republican agree means fewer are crossing in the first place

— the number of people we’re deporting is at an all-time high – a lot higher than under the Bush administration, or Clinton before Bush

— the percentage of border real estate under “operational control” has been dramatically increasing, not decreasing, by an average of about 126 miles per year since 2005

— the number of border patrol officers has more than doubled, from about 10,000 to 21,000, between 2004 and 2012. And those of us who hang out in the border region can see it – you can’t hardly swing a dead cat around there without slapping some hapless border patrol guy.

Senator Cornyn is fully capable of being part of solutions, and as the number two Republican in the Senate, one who think he would be. He should opt for that, instead of trying too hard to avoid getting picked last on the Republican schoolyard kickball team by repeating stories he hears in bars and continuing to be part of the hyper-partisan fear-mongering blather machine.

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Scandal-ridden Texas cancer agency is offensive

On last week’s “Capital Tonight” show on YNN Austin, the subject of the criminal investigations of CPRIT, the Texas cancer agency, was front and center. Here’s my take.

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So, the election didn’t go your way?

You have my deepest sympathies. As a Democrat in Texas, I have considerable experience knowing how you must feel.

However, after the reality of it sinks in, you just have to move on, in a grown-up way.

Examples of some really grown-up things you could do in order to help you with your grieving process might be to push for secession and move away from the U.S. or relocate to a bunker and stock up on guns and ammo and express hatred for Democrats (including divorcing your spouse if he or she is one), and quit your job if your boss supports Obama, and crap on your Obama-voting neighbor’s yard, and fire your Democratic clients, and boycott businesses accepting government assistance for families, and spit at people and call them communist pigs, and and just in general have a good ol’ time comparing people to Nazis.

Yeah, that’ll probably do the trick. I bet you feel better already.

 

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Election analysis: it wasn’t the demographics, it’s what Republicans did with ‘em

Republicans, I am not without my sympathies. As a Texas Democrat, I’ve been there. Hell, I live there.

The Republican Party simply cannot ignore—or worse, pick on, scapegoat, or otherwise rhetorically molest—entire swathes of the electorate all year, and then expect them to have collective amnesia, forgive all that, jump in the car and show up late at night on command, just because Republicans texted a booty call.

In politics, as in life, if you’re making enemies faster than you’re making friends, you’re doing it wrong. In the face of undeniable demographic and voting behavior shifts that have added to the clout of women and amplified the influence of minorities, too many Republican nominees said and did too many stupid things. They were richly punished for it.

It’s not hard to understand how it could happen. Republican candidates have understandably, over the past several election cycles, developed an absolute terror of their own primary voters. As Mr. Romney himself learned, the things you must say to win a Republican primary these days are nothing short of amazing. And the only thing worse than a candidate like Romney, who was faking it, are the Tea Party-fueled candidates—like Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana—who weren’t.

We Texans are used to this sort of thing. Since Democrats haven’t won a statewide election since 1994, when this year’s college freshmen were born, statewide Republicans well understand that all one must do to win public office around here is win their primary. And so, not irrationally, the only voters Republican candidates in Texas have effectively communicated with in recent years are their own primary voters. Too often they’ve done so by appealing to the worst instincts of the party faithful. The scapegoats in that narrative have included women, students, minorities, gay Americans, and disaffected Anglos. Sure, it’s been more than enough to win statewide elections. But it doesn’t grow a political party. Over time, in fact, it shrinks one.

“But what about our prize Latino, Ted Cruz?!” Republicans screech. Mighty good spin, but not only was Mr. Cruz not elected by Latino voters, last night’s results show that he didn’t even appeal to Latino voters in the slightest. Cruz was effectively elected by a tiny slice of the most right-wing, and Anglo, Texans: those who vote in Republican primary runoff elections. And in last night’s general, opposed only by a candidate who couldn’t have raised enough money to compete if he’d been given a gun, a ski mask, and a list of 7-11’s, Cruz got pounded in many of the counties controlled by Latino voters. Mr. Cruz was elected last night for only one reason: he wasn’t the Democrat in the race. That’s not exactly hero material, nor is it a path forward for a political party attracting fewer and fewer voters among the fastest-growing demographic in the state.

Wendy Davis’ win in the state senate race in Fort Worth represents another case in which Republicans are holding themselves back. Even though the federal courts had little trouble wrapping their heads around the intentional discrimination, as courts termed it, in the Republican-drawn redistricting maps, Republicans have been unwilling to acknowledge it. To be sure, Senator Davis is a great candidate, and she undoubtedly gets her fair share of independent voters. But minorities control the outcome of elections in that district, and this is the second election in which Davis has proved it by attracting virtually all of their votes, and winning. Yet best I can tell, Republicans made little effort, and no headway, in attracting minority support there.

It would be one thing if electoral results like these had been engineered by a Democratic Party so brilliant that they successfully attracted the coalition of women, minorities, working families, and disaffected Anglos with whom they won nationally last night. But I bluntly doubt we’re that brilliant. My strong suspicion is that Democrats won based on a coalition of voters that Republicans effectively offended and forced out.

Let me say that again, because Republicans should ponder it: Democrats didn’t so much create their winning coalition, as much as Republicans repelled the coalition with which Democrats won.

And therein also lies Texas Democrats’ greatest challenge looking forward. It’s not as if we’ve been doing a bang-up job statewide of working to attract those voters; underfunding in recent years has prevented the Democratic Party from doing so, to say nothing of the poor choices of various better-funded statewide Democrats. And it’s not as if any group anywhere is genetically predisposed to vote Democratic, or to show up and vote at all. Rather, it has mainly been the Republican Party’s focus on communicating only with its own primary voters which has alienated women and minority voters in the state and, at best, prevented Republicans from making inroads with them.

While Democrats benefitted from it last night—even in Texas—they’d be well-advised to learn how to stand on their own two feet with those voters, before Republicans crack the code.

(note: a version of this piece appeared originally in TexasMonthly.com)

Update: a companion piece to this one, guest-written by Jeff Rotkoff, is here.

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In a post-racial America, the Voting Rights Act is no longer needed.

Don’t you agree?

 

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Occupy Wall Street update

Great news: they’ve raised more than $300,000!

Not so great news: I hope their heads don’t explode trying to figure out where to deposit it.

This has been your Occupy Wall Street update.

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Top ten list of ignorant politicians

Not a surprise: Sarah Palin is on the list.

A disturbing surprise: Sarah Palin is number 4 on the list.

A huge surprise: nobody from Texas is on the list.

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Your money now belongs to the state, but don’t worry – it’s not a tax

Somebody tell me what I’m missing.

Today, Lt. Governor Dewhurst will appoint a subcommittee led by Senator Robert Duncan to look at “non-tax revenue” sources to help balance the budget. I know you haven’t read this anywhere because the Republicans in charge are pretending it doesn’t exist, but we have this small matter of this teeny tiny microscopic $27,000,000,000.00 budget shortfall. But don’t worry, we’re not like California (we’re worse).

So, I wondered, what exactly is “non-tax revenue”? Presumably, under the definition I’ve been able to derive from listening to Republicans discuss it, is money or other assets the state has squirreled away in various places, currently out of reach of budget writers trying to make ends meet. Also, they say fees will also be a part of the discussion of this subcommittee. Presumably, they won’t be reducing any.

Don’t buy into the spin – they’re playing with words again.

With the exception of some admittedly-vast real estate holdings we inherited when we beat Mexico in a quaint little war that produced some dandy songs, several iconic old buildings, and at couple of bad movies, and the income and interest earned on that real estate and other interest income, unless I’m missing something, every dime the state of Texas now holds is money that once belonged to you, and now belongs to them. How is that “non-tax?”

If you used to own it, and Texas government made you hand it over, it’s a tax.

Just because you already handed it over, probably for some unrelated, and quite possibly very noble, purpose, and the state didn’t spend it for the purpose they promised you they would, doesn’t mean it’s not a tax. We call that a lie, and we don’t even accept behavior like that from our own children.

And the state has been lying to Texans for a very long time on all those “fees.” They call them “fees,” you see, to avoid using the word “tax,” but if you’re the guy being charged the fee, I bet it feels just like a tax to you, doesn’t it?

Here’s how they lie: they create a tax, and tell Texans that they’re collecting it for a specific purpose, which sounds hunky-dorey to the public, so they very quickly go back to sleep. The public pays this tax month after month, year after year, without even noticing, hidden in your phone bill or utility bill or paid by a business that passes it through to you. The state collects the money for years and years, spending little or nothing of it on what they promised you they would. The result are special funds held by the state worth hundreds of millions of dollars, which they use to certify the budget, so they can pretend to be fiscally responsible.

I’m sure it started out innocently enough, to get out of what budget writers believed at the time to be a short-term cash crunch. But like most drug use, it has gotten completely out of hand, until now, the little fibs have become huge lies.

Now they want to call it “non-tax revenue.” But what that really means is, they already collected the money from you, and have for years. It was a tax then, but now that they have the money, they’d rather pretend they just found it in the street somehow.

I actually believe that this “non-tax revenue subcommittee” move might be a step in the right direction for making ends meet in this immediate budget crisis. After all, teachers need to teach, doctors need to doc, potholes need to be filled, that sort of thing. It costs money to serve Texans, and they’ll have to get it from somewhere. Better to sweep it out of those useless special funds than to make public education a luxury or throw grandma out of the nursing home. Cuts alone won’t get ‘em to $27,000,000,000.00.

But, like a drug problem, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. And until legislators admit they have a problem – that they’ve been misleading taxpayers for years, using financial shell games to cover up the structural deficit – they’ll only continue to play this problem forward.

This may be the very worst time for state budget writers to solve these huge problems, because the solutions cost money they don’t have. But it is the perfect time to absolutely insist that they lay out the plan for how the Republicans in charge will stop lying to taxpayers about their money. If legislators with conscience fail to insist on it now, they’re missing a huge opportunity to get Texas back on track financially.

How is that not the true conservative view? What am I missing?

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