In re Gun Control

The Houston Chronicle has a cover story today about the President’s urge to move forward with gun control legislation. As always, the cynic in me has a few things to say:

1. The right has already won
It  took a plethora of massacres for anything to even be brought up. Tucson, Virginia Tech, Aurora. Whenever this happened, the liberals and centrists of the country declined to even talk about gun control. It was only after over a dozen kindergarden-aged children were murdered, that anything was even brought up.

2. The NRA is too powerful
The NRA is like Grover Norquist when it comes to the GOP (or, you could say, a Teacher’s Union to the Democrats). In addition to the 45 GOP Senators, it might as well control Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Pryor (D-AK), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Max Baucus (D-MT), & Jon Tester (D-MT). So 54 Senators, in all.

3. It is unconstitutional
In 2008, the Supreme Court held that banning handguns was a violation of the second amendment. Additionally, in 2010, it reaffirmed this ruling. The two cases (DC v. Heller; McDonald v. Chicago) may be the most powerful evidence yet that any effort towards gun control is futile.

In defense of a Democratic District Attorney

I voted for Mike Anderson. It pained me, and my father threatened to stop talking to me because of it, but I could not bear the thought of someone like Lloyd Wayne Oliver becoming DA, even more than I could not bear the thought of someone like Anderson becoming DA.

I expected most of my (Democratic/Liberal) friends & colleagues to come to a similar decision, albeit as painfully as I did. However, while most did, in fact, vote for the Republican candidate, the rationale was absolutely appalling. Far too many of my contemporaries, who otherwise vote liberally, have been duped into this folly of believing a District Attorney is about exacting punishment and revenge, and therefore it is perfect for the GOP. The DA is not about punishment, it is about equity and fairness.

In England, there once existed an institution named the Court of Chancery. Its main purpose was to be an equitable companion to the aloofness and harshness of Common Law. While the Court of Chancery did not, per se, deal with much of the same material as a  District Attorney would deal with, the concept was still, in my opinion, pretty much the same.

Great Britain, once upon a time used these equitable remedies to straighten out the de facto injustices caused by their legal system, both in criminal and civil cases. Today, in the United States, we have things like punitive damages and (with the exception of moron Texas) no loser-pay laws in litigation, meaning the courthouse doors are open to everyone. Finally, we have the modern District Attorney.

Again, I am familiar with the history of the law, and know that the District Attorney, in its modern day prosecutorial role, is not intended to be an equitable figure, but that is what has occurred. I realize, in many ways, the prime function of the DA is to persuade juries to the side of the State, but that does not mean the DA is a figure of the vigilante mobs, elected on promises of exacting retaliation “for the victims” or “for justice“. Rather, like just about everything else in our common law system, the position is about the accused, and not the attacked.

The District Attorney, in its modern embodiment, is invaluable in cuing plea deals, and deciding exactly which course of action to take on a case. Thus, the idea of “prosecutorial discretion.” For example, even though a [first time] DWI is considered a Class B Misdemeanor in Texas, and the punishment is 180 days in jail, many defendants can get off without doing any jail time, and some can even see their records expunged after the completion of a pseudo-probationary program (the DIVERT program, a creation of Ms. Lykos).

The DA, in this capacity, is the arbiter of equity. The law is cold, black & white, and aloof. But the DA, who is human, should be warm, grey, and involved. If extenuating circumstances are involved, the penalty will often be mitigated. This is why a lunatic who murders a police officer, and a woman who strangles her abusive husband in his sleep, are not charged with the same crime, even though it may seem the law would warrant such action. It is the same reason Jean Valjean’s petty larceny does not warrant the same penalty as post-Hurricane electronic store looters.

Therefore, my heart cries when I find my otherwise-liberal friends talking about how they want a “hard on crime”, “law & order” DA, but will stick with Democratic Judges. In fact, it is this type of cross-ticket voting that kept Bradford out of the office to begin with. The DA is not, and most definitely should not, be a bully pulpit for modern day public punishment. It should be the keepers of equity in an otherwise inequitable system. One in which first time offenders may be channeled into probationary programs instead of being locked up like hardened criminals, in which drug addicts may be treated for their disease, rather than punished for their infraction.

Politicians should be the true retaliatory figures, and the true “law and order” types. For they are the ones who write the laws. If the public truly wishes for blood, than the legislatures would be the ones to stiffen the penalties. As the keepers of the grey in a black & white world, the DA should not be seen as the inquisitor.

Yes, I voted for Anderson, but if given another option, I wouldn’t have. For the DA is not about punishment, it is about protection.

12/19 tidbits

There is a story going around about Dr Ben Hall, the sort-of official challenger to Mayor Parker next year, about his high profile lunch with Martin Luther King III. The article discusses that Hall is an official candidate, though I have yet to find him actually speak the words, “I am running,” or any variation thereof.

Also, the Chronicle is reporting that Jerry Patterson is thinking about endorsing a measure to close the gun show loophole. I guess he should kiss his Lieutenant Governor aspirations goodbye…

From the weekend

I apologize for the extended absence, especially with all the news stories that have occurred since. Whenever I would see the newspaper, with its headlines of recent, I would become too despondent to go on reading. But there have been quite a lot of things that have happened.

First and foremost, BEN HALL IS RUNNING FOR MAYOR. Yes, we will be having an exciting race this year.

Second, there is a date for the Special Election. Saturday, January 26th (2013).

Third, George Greanias is stepping down from his CEO position.

Fourth, Ronald Green is toast.

Fifth, Terry Grier is going to be in office a lot longer.

All in all, I could write a novel on this stuff, but I’d rather keep up on the breaking news. Pretty soon, I’ll be starting a new tab about 2013 candidates.

December 14th 2012

I was going to write about the election date being set for the Special Election in SD06, but I can’t.

I was going to write about the Rodeo buying Astroworld and the implications it has for the dome, but I can’t.

I was going to write about the Federal Government’s decision to not go after pot states, but I can’t.

I was going to write about Avigdor Lieberman resigning in Israel, but I can’t.

I was going to write an impassioned plea for gun control, but I can’t.

I was just going to write about my condolences and such, but I still can’t.

I can’t bring myself to write about anything, I can’t bring myself to even watch the news, it literally churns my stomach. Kindergardeners, 5 years old. I am in Logan Airport right now, and almost without a warning, the Christmas Carols have stopped. The scene went from “the happiest time of the year” to absolute, total, utter gloom and despondence.

Roy Morales is in

As of about 9:00 A.M. this morning, Roy Morales, the conservative perennial candidate, officially announced his intention to run for the Houston City Council, at-large 3, in 2013. The seat, of course, is currently held by Councilmember Noriega, who Morales first ran against in 2007. In 2013, Noriega will be term-limited. Morales posted on his facebook page this morning:

I am pleased to announce that I am a candidate for Houston City Council – At Large Position 3 for next year’s election. I ask for your support.

Roy Morales
Lt Col, USAF (Ret)

Morales is, by my calculations, the first candidate to officially declare for an at-large seat.

The state of the Mayoral election

A few days after the general election, Dr Ben Hall went and ruined everyone’s post-election fun by making a “big announcement” about the next election cycle. He said he was considering a run for Mayor and would be making a final decision “very soon.” Trouble is, about five weeks have gone by and I still don’t see any announcement or any announcements about Hall whatsoever. So, without further delay, let me personally pontificate my views about the state of the race. Parker is obviously running for re-election, and she might even have made a formal announcement. Hall is MIA about his intentions, and Bill King is quiet, but that is expected.

Parker is, in my opinion, significantly more popular today than she was in 2011. This is because there is no longer as much talk on furloughs and painful austerity in the budget. Parker has really solidified the “intelligentsia left,” with only a few options for defeat. Ben Hall would usurp a chunk of the African-American left’s vote, whereas Bill King could take the smaller, but still formidable, Republican vote. But there are quite a few problems with this. First, the Houston Democratic establishment should realize that a difference in skin colour is not a reason to challenge a candidate, especially if it could cause a candidate of a different party or ideology to take the office. Sylvester Turner and Chris Bell should not be role models for Dr Hall.

This leaves the Republican, Bill King. Houston has not had a Republican Mayor since 1982. We haven’t had a Republican Mayor for so long that none of the former ones are even still living. So this would be quite a hurdle for King to accomplish. I have a few problems with King’s possible candidacy, and he has a few other ones as well. First, I don’t like the idea of someone being Mayor of two different cities, unless one had annexed or merged with the other, and last I checked, Kemah was still its own town. Second, King has made a habit of writing op-eds for the Chronicle. Bad idea. The conventional wisdom is that politicians should never open their mouths more than they have to. Mainly because he has attempted to cast himself as a pragmatic moderate. This does not ring well with the far-right that now dominates the GOP, especially in Texas. I remember, in particular, that he took a stand against Voter IDs. This opinion piece prompted livid, bitter responses from the Tea Party, with the most common denominator in the comment section being, “I won’t vote for you,” though usually with more obscenity.

Bill King may end up not being the candidate of the right. If the right nominates someone more extreme like, say, Paul Bettencourt, they will be resigned to do about as well as Roy Morales. Ben Hall might not even run. If there is one thing this previous year has taught me, it is that elections are unpredictable. I went into election night thinking Romney would win, and we all know what happened (and by how much). Parker could get elected by a landslide, she could lose. To quote Plato, “I know that I know nothing.”

Speaker’s race shakeup

Bryan Hughes, the Mineola Rep who was leading the valiant charge against Speaker Straus has dropped out of the running. In his place ha some David Simpson, a Vanderbilt-educated State Rep from the Lubbock area. The Chronicle has the story.

Simpson, it seems to me, is one of those “we need a Christian Conservative” people. His press release included a plethora of references to prayer, consulting with the divine, and God, and his website includes a Statement of Faith, whatever that is.

To me, whenever a politician brings up religion like this in a populist manner, it makes me a little nervous. Indeed, though I am always resistant to use the religion card, it seems to me that there is not another good reason for the far-right’s hatred of Speaker Straus. Yes, he doesn’t openly advocate hating Democrats, but he has brought up (and passed) some pretty extreme, controversial legislation, including Voter IDs. You sure didn’t see that happening when Craddick was in charge.

Noriega to NOT run

There are a few circumstances that have severely mitigated how well and time-sensitive I have been writing recently. Between Hanukkah and Final Exams, I do not have much extra time, which means I am quite late with this one, so my apologies.

Off the Kuff is reporting that Rick Noriega will not run in the special election for SD06, which has yet to be called. This announcement leaves Sylvia Garcia and Carol Alvarado as the only remaining Democratic candidates in the heavily liberal district. Also, that “poll” that Councilmember Rodriguez was talking about, I could never find it, though I heard it was released by Bob Stein at Rice, who tends to be somewhat accurate.

There’s polling, maybe

Councilmember James Rodriguez posted something on his personal facebook not too long ago

Latest poll in SD 6 race: Alvarado 42% Garcia 34%. Way 2 go Carol

So, in addition to being able to put Rodriguez firmly in the Alvarado column, it raises the suspicion that there is actually a poll out there. Comments on his status asking for a link have not been responded to as of now. I will probably just update this page when I have more info.