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School “choice:” how to get away with robbery

Here’s the playbook:

1. Starve neighborhood public schools of necessary funding, claiming that it’s to avoid tax increases due to a gloomy comptroller’s revenue estimate that was dead wrong, under the logic that since throwing money at schools won’t make ‘em better, taking the money away won’t hurt a thing.

2. When public schools have to lay off teachers, increase class sizes, and lessen individual attention to students because you slashed their budgets, express surprise and bitterly complain that the public schools aren’t doing their jobs, and proclaim that parents need a way for their precious snowflakes to escape failing schools. Say and do anything you can to make sure parents are as dissatisfied as possible with their neighborhood public school, creating a demand for private education that parents can’t afford. Conveniently ignore the fact that if money in schools didn’t matter, that private school tuition wouldn’t be so expensive.

3. The tax money saved by cutting public school budgets? Make some of it available as school vouchers, to help parents pay for private school tuition. Attempt to hide the fact that they’re vouchers by creating nifty new slogan, perhaps something like “school choice.” Either way, it’s handing over public tax money to private entities – either with no oversight (which, oops, ain’t “conservative”) or with oversight (which, oops, the private schools won’t want).

4. Those private schools? Some of ‘em are owned and operated by the buddies of the folks in charge who cut neighborhood public school funding in the first place. Tah-dah! You just stole people’s hard-earned money, and put it in the pockets of your buddies! You win!! Drinks all around!

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An important message from the Texas Department of Massive Denial

These two tweets appeared adjacent to each other on my twitter feed earlier this morning:

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Geographically-impaired Tea Party member’s brain explodes

If the birthers’ old, tired narrative had been accurate – that Obama was born in Kenya to a mother from Kansas – that would have put Obama’s eligibility to be President exactly where it currently stands with Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada to a mother from the U.S.

Because of the birther narrative, Tea Party members howled during the Presidential election that Obama wasn’t eligible to be President, but there’s no evidence that the Cruz situation is so much as raising their eyebrows.

But never fear: a Tea Party member has an explanation for why they’re not upset about the Cruz situation:

Canada is not really foreign soil.”

You just can’t make this stuff up.

The Tea Party member was unavailable for further comment, as she quickly mounted her dinosaur and rushed off to a meeting of the “Global Warming Is A Lie” lecture, which she was just briefing stopping by, to avoid being late to that night’s book burning.

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What passes for “conservatism” around here is amazing

Those clever rocket surgeons down at the Department of Transportation are proceeding with their plans to turn what used to be perfectly serviceable paved state highways into gravel roads, and reduce the speed limits down accordingly.

The problem is the oilpatch trucks. They’re heavy, and there’s a bunch of ‘em. In areas where the oil bidness is booming, the trucks have ruined the roads, the roads are dangerous, and they need repair immediately. I can think of worse problems to have, given that the energy boom is also great for the Texas economy and creates jobs and all.

But TxDoT – the transporation folks – are dead broke, and claim they don’t have the money to repave the roads. That’s because the Republicans in charge around here have starved all of state gu’mint so they can go to their Tea Party meetings, smile real big, and tell ‘em how they starved gu’mint. That’s after they bash Obama for a while.

But here’s one teeny weenie little problem: what happens after they un-pave a road and gravel it? They’ll reduce the speed limit, from the current 70-75 down to 30 or 35 mph. Do you think for a minute that a trucker having to drive a hundred miles or more down that road isn’t going to look for an alternate route – which is still paved and at the higher speed limit – to make up all that lost time? For commercial truck traffic, time is literally money.

Of course they will. And in many cases, they’ll figure out an alternate route. It may take them far out of their way, but when the speed limit differential – 40 miles per hour difference – is that high, they can go far out of their way and still save a little time.

So now, what used to be one ruined road TxDoT won’t fix will become two ruined roads TxDoT won’t fix — both for the exact same traffic.

Now how the hell is that “conservative”? Just asking.

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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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State of the Union speech drinking game

As a service to you, the crap-reading public, we here at Letters From Texas Worldwide H.Q. herein present this year’s State of the Union Speech Drinking Game.

When Obama mentions jobs, the economy, or manufacturing: 0.5 shot

drinking gameFor every camera cut-away to an undocumented immigrant in audience: 0.5 shot

For a glimpse of John McCain dozing off: 2 shots

For when you see Ted Nugent scowling: 1.5 shot

For when you see Ted Nugent drawing a weapon: 1 shot

For when you see Ted Nugent escorted out of the Gallery: 2 shots

In case you read a stupid tweet from Steve Stockman: 1 shot

In case  you see that a reporter retweets said stupid tweet from Steve Stockman: 1 shot

If protestor is forcibly removed from House Gallery (besides Ted Nugent): 2 shots

If you see Justice Scalia looking all “I hate me some Obama”: 1 shot

For every person with whom you’re watching who compliments Michelle Obama’s outfit: 1.5 shots

If Louie Gohmert hollers something crazy: 1 shot

When Obama mentions “Afghanistan” or “Korea”: 0.5 shot

For every 5 seconds on camera Sheila Jackson-Lee nabs: 0.5 shot

When the expression on Speaker Boehner’s face may indicate that he has acid reflux: 1 shot

When the expression on Speaker Boehner’s face may indicate that he’s had some work done: 1 shot

When the expression on Speaker Boehner’s face may indicate that he’s had some work done by a taxidermist: 1 shot

This has been your Letters From Texas State of the Union Speech Drinking Game. View responsibly.

Update: apparently, even Marco Rubio played the Letters From Texas State of the Union Drinking Game:

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You know how conservatives always complain about people not saying the Pledge of Allegiance?

Yeah, well, that’s before they saw this one coming.


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Attention Texas Republicans

Have a nice day.

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Voter I.D. laws: the untold story revealed

File this one under “typos that make just as much sense.”

Texas State Representative Larry Gonzales was recently interviewed by a Republican website, and was asked about the photo voter ID issue this session. Part of his answer:

…we fundamentally believe that it’s about making sure that every vote legitimately counts and that your vote isn’t cancelled out by a flatulent vote.

You heard it here first. Farting voters are the real problem. Mr. Gonzales had no immediate reaction to the idea of scratch-and-sniff voter registration cards.

Think I’m kidding? Here’s the screen shot from the full transcript of the interview on the site, which, tragically, will be corrected as soon as they notice it:

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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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Paul Ryan: when Fox News says you’re lying…

you’re lying.

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I just KNEW there was a logical explanation for Todd Akin

This explains everything.


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How to destroy your campaign in 30 seconds or less: violate the “dog whistle” code

Meet Todd Akin of Missouri, the Republican Senate nominee. He’s the guy other Republicans across the country were depending on to give Republicans the majority in the U.S. Senate. Until he said this:

The scariest part isn’t that Akin was making up his own science, although that’s scary enough. The scariest part isn’t that he inadvertently demonstrated the extent to which Tea Party Republicans have nothing but disdain for women, their health, and their fundamental rights, although that, too, is utterly terrifying.

The scariest part is that Akin did not in any way misunderstand the question. He understood the question perfectly, and he answered very sincerely and articulately, with an answer he clearly believes. He answered it with made-up facts that don’t exist, demonstrating a very sincerely-held attitude that shouldn’t exist, which lays bare an attitude about women which should not stand.

Republicans across the country spent the rest of the news cycle yesterday disavowing Akin (particularly difficult for Paul Ryan, who has — oopsie! —  praised him in the past). But they’re not disavowing Akin because he violated a fundamental value Republicans hold. It’s because he articulated one – but got caught doing it.

There’s a very good reason that “Republican dog whistle” is a political term of art. The term is used when Republican candidates say things specifically calculated to signal to Republican activists, in a way deniable to everybody else, that the candidate is with ‘em on issues that they can’t get caught admitting to in public. Akin’s unforgivable sin, in the minds of his fellow Republican leadership, is that he didn’t use the dog whistle – the command only the dogs can hear – to call the dogs. Instead, he shouted the command where everybody could hear it.

The war on women is alive and well in America, stoked by Tea Party fires. But it’s not just a war on women. If you listen closely, the dog whistles are everywhere. When Rick Perry toys around with “secession” talk without taking a particular position, and talks endlessly of “states rights,” it’s a dog whistle, intended to remind his voters that he shares their values, in the context of That Other Time when Southern governors openly discussed secession and states rights.

When Tea Party activists persist in their accusations that Barack Obama was really born in Kenya…or is really a secret Muslim, that’s a dog whistle, meant to signal to their fellow travelers that the President of the United States should be defined by his race, which you may have noticed is not White.

They have dog whistles for women. They have dog whistles for minorities. They have dog whistles for gays. They have dog whistles for the poor, and the elderly, and the undereducated. And all those dog whistles together are meant to create for their voters a clear picture that everybody who isn’t just like you is a threat, and they merit your fear, your anger, and your opposition.

Todd Akin went over the line – he laid it bare yesterday – and he will be punished for it by his fellow Republicans. Which fellow Republicans will punish him? Why, it’s the funders – a group that has its own dog whistle term-of-art: “the job creators.” They get their own especially-complimentary dog whistle, as well they should. They’ve been paying for the research and development of all the other dog whistles. And not by coincidence, their own special dog whistle creates for themselves the rare exception to the above rule: “no, we’re not like you, but we are not to be feared and loathed like the others – we are to be admired…we are your beloved benevolent dictators.

And it is in this context that Republicans are currently accusing Democrats of dividing the country. The field of psychology calls this “projection,” a condition in which one projects one’s own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings onto someone else.

Projection is why Republican candidates lodge complaints about Democrats’ “angry rhetoric.” Let that sink in: Republicans are complaining about Democrats’ angry rhetoric. The people who question the President’s very birth and his citizenship, question almost everybody’s patriotism, question war heroes’ combat records, and throw around the words “socialism” and “un-American” and “Godless” and who wage wars against the rights of women, minorities, and LGBT Americans, and who characterize as lies things which have been proven by science – THOSE are the people who are complaining that the Democrats are playing too rough.

Dog whistles indeed.

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Mitt Romney’s craptacular July leads to Ryan-tastic August

Let’s face it: whether you detest Mitt Romney or like Mitt Romney (or are pretending to), odds are that you agree with me that he had an absolutely craptacular July. Only on the fundraising front did he do well. He fared poorly on all other fronts, and it showed in the polling. Here’s what I said about it last week, the day before he picked Paul Ryan to be his running mate:

It is especially in that context why you might be able to imagine that Romney’s VP pick of “the Medicare-killing dude,” as he is known in Florida, would be seen as a gloriously Jesus-blessed wondrous game-changer by the lunatic fringe Romney still hadn’t closed the deal with. Ryan’s pick is clear indication that Mittens still hadn’t closed the deal with base voters, and was obviously desperate to do so prior to the Republican National Convention. That’s when the Republican base all gets in the same room, with way too many witnesses with cameras, to behave badly.

I listened to Maddow last night on satelite radio while driving through a vast expanse of West Texas wasteland yesterday, and I think she was quoting one of the writers on her blog when she got it just right: there are three kinds of Vice Presidential running mate picks: August picks, November picks, and January picks. The January picks are the Vice Presidents who can help you run the country once you’re elected, and are the best kind. The November picks are the ones who can help you win the election, and those are the most common kind. But the August picks are the ones who can only help you get through your miserable party National Convention with your ass still intact, and without excessive bite marks.

Paul Ryan is an August pick. In fact, Paul Ryan is an “August, and I’m sick of explaining why I’m not releasing my tax returns” pick.

But speaking of tax returns, Mr. Ryan undoubtedly had to turn in years worth of ‘em to the Romney campaign for vetting purposes. I wonder if the Romney campaign will release them. Awkward moment alert.


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