Higher standard for death penalty

“…nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted” is still the only legislation about that we need to refer to with regard to the death penalty. Unfortunately, Texas still joins that small club of uncivilized states, like China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, in executing its own citizens. Perhaps this taint on my fine state could be mitigated ever so slightly by a new piece of legislation.

Senator Rodney Ellis has introduced SB1292 which would require DNA testing of all pertinent evidence in death penalty cases. There have been many examples of the wrong man being sentenced to death in Texas, and a few of them actually being executed. However, the case that stands out in my mind the most is Kerry Max Cook. Cook was a guest speaker at my High School during my senior year, and presented a vivid indictment of the justice system and just how perilously he came to death at the hands of my state. Even my more conservative friends agreed afterwards that Texas’s capital punishment should not be practiced. Cook spent 22 years on death row for a rape and murder he did not commit. He was finally exonerated partially as a result of DNA testing.

Ideally, Ellis’s bill would make sure this would never happen again, and it got some pretty high-profile support today from Greg Abbbott. I hope the bill passes, simply for the reason that it could reduce the number of executions.

Boykins does Social Networking right

Dwight Boykins, a candidate for District D, has really hit the ground running on Social Media. Today was one of those pleasant experiences where, simply by happenstance, I come across something I can write about, and I don’t have to go digging for it. I logged on my Facebook today to find this advertisement from his campaign:

I have four things to say about this. First, Lee Brown is his treasurer! Second, I really like that he having what looks to be a legitimately free, family-focused event for his kickoff, located in a Shopping Centre. This is very different from most local politicos these days, who have $250-a-plate kickoffs at restaurants. He is really trying to be a community candidate, and that is quite respectable. Third, he has a website, which is a development for me. His website can be reached –> here –> and will also be put onto my election tab soon enough. He also has a Twitter –> here –> which has 100 followers (more than Ben Hall). He has a Facebook page –> here –> with not quite so many likes.

For a City Council candidate to have such an awesome Social Media infrastructure this early is noteworthy, especially from a District candidate. He has also snatched up quite a few key endorsements from major politicos in the African-American community and beyond. Besides Mayor Brown, Boykins can claim the support of State Representative Borris Miles, former HISD Trustee Arthur Gaines, former City Councilmember Jew Don Boney, former District Judge Levi Benton (a Republican), HCC Trustee Michael Williams and HISD Trustee Paula Harris. Additionally, Sheriff Adrian Garcia and former Congressman Chris Bell support Boykins. Cassius belli, so do I.

On a completely unrelated note, I will be writing the Wikipedia articles entitled “Houston mayoral election, 2013” and “Houston elections, 2013” this next week. I may start redirecting people there to keep track of Websites, Social Media, Endorsements, etc. Also, I will be back in Houston next week!

Obama fans must realize dissent is needed

From my day job at The Justice. I’m going to take a lot of flak for this.

Last autumn I voted to re-elect President Obama and, when he was announced the winner on election night. I too was one of the hundreds of students giddy with joy, celebrating in the Shapiro Campus Center. Despite this, both before and during the election season, and now after the election and into Obama’s second term, I have made no secret of the fact that there are a number of issues in which I sharply disagree with the President—namely his positions on civil liberties issues and his weakness in negotiations. However, worse than any of Obama’s shortcomings, are the shortcomings of many of his supporters—specifically, those who are intolerant of dissent toward the President.

It has become almost political heresy to criticize Obama within most progressive circles. I have alienated colleagues, friends and family, simply by stating a way in which the President has failed to deliver on part of his election agenda.

Counter to what Fox News or other allegedly conservatively-biased news outlets would have you believe, this is not because Obama has instituted a cult of personality, instructing his supporters to worship him. Instead, the intolerance of dissent that has formed was spontaneously created because progressives are still naïvely waiting for their man on a white horse to lead them into the promised land.

Obama has continued most of police-state policies of the previous Bush administration, such as the continued use of Guantanamo Bay and the USA PATRIOT Act. Orwellian measures, such as ubiquitous wiretaps and surveillance, have been extended from George W. Bush’s presidency. In addition, Obama has added a few authoritative measures of his own, such as the recent Defense department appropriations act, which gives the right to indefinitely detain American citizens, and the notorious drone program. However, Obama, when running for president in 2008, never actually claimed to be against these sorts of measures. Obama voted to renew the Patriot Act while in the Senate in 2005, and voted to extend blatantly unconstitutional National Security Agency Wiretaps in 2008.

However, progressives and other Democrats still flocked to support him, seeing Obama through his lens of hope and change, as an inspirational figure, rather than the fallible politician he is.

Yet if one dares to criticize the President for continuing these policies and legislation that, historically, have had no place in the Democratic Party, they are unfairly called out by fellow progressives for splitting the party. For example, when Senator Rand Paul recently filibustered President Obama’s nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, only one Senate Democrat, Oregon Senator RonWyden, publically came to his support.

Senator Wyden was not punished by his party in any direct way; his influence on powerful Senate Committees was not diminished. However, the 54 other Senate Democrats, many of which have otherwise friendly records in Civil Liberties, were painfully silent, out of fear of publicly rebuking Obama. The frightening zeal that has developed among many of Obama’s supporters is eerily reminiscent of President Bush’s frequent charges of “us vs. them.” As Television host Bill Maher said in 2009, when discussing this very problem, “I like Obama too, [but] let’s not make it a religion.” Indeed, many of Obama’s supporters have developed an almost cult-like reverence for the man, seeing his actions as infallible and his errors are nonexistent. Last year, former Democratic Representative Arthur Davis even commented upon this phenomenon, remarking in a Politico.comop-ed that “the Obama camp looks ominously like a cult of personality that tolerates no dissent.”

However, this is not actually Obama’s fault. He simply has a set of political views, which he did not especially hide when running for office, and is now implementing his agenda based on those views. Just as how Republicans measure up their current politicians to Ronald Reagan like a yard stick, as some sort of perfect conservative demagogue, I fear that progressives will do the same with Obama.

Progressives are wrong to see Obama as anything more than he is: a fallible politician.

In our country, dissent should be celebrated, even from sources usually in agreement with each other. The Democratic Party’s internal debates and divisions in the 20th century are what brought the current centre-left party of today into existence. Unwavering support of any politician is wrong, and it is disquieting to see that some progressives seem to care more about an individual person than the policies they supposedly stand for.

Tea Party leader is legitimately a Neo-Nazi

The Trib is reporting on an excruciatingly disturbing development. James Ives, President of the Fort Bend County Tea Party, is a Neo-Nazi. No, this isn’t my daily hyperbole, this is serious. “As recently as 2003, [Ives] had a very different title: director of propaganda for the American Fascist Party,” the article states.

Evidently, he was the hate group’s fourth in command. He also appeared in a Neo-Nazi campaign ad, where he was spotted wearing a Nazi uniform. The article continues to state that Ives commented on a Fascist-themed forum that the ascent of Hitlerism in the United States was “our spirit, our calling,” and he allegedly complimented the reign of terror of Benito Mussolini.

Perhaps most disturbing was how many otherwise renowned politicians defended Ives involvement with the Nazis. Debra Medina, the Tea Party darling who ran for Governor in 2010, defended Ives. She told the Tribune, “Even with the best intentions — and I can speak from my own experience — you can be judged by those who work around you and are supportive of you.” Personally, I find that pretty creepy. Fortunately, some cooler heads prevailed. Dan Patrick strongly condemned Ives. He called the Neo-Nazi affiliation “very disturbing,”  and mentioned that his radio station would stop allowing Ives to host his Tea Party show.

The American Fascist Party, or “AFP” (I really need to come up with a new abbreviation for my American Foreign Policy class), is a far-right organization that is more grassroots than legitimate political party. It didn’t run candidates last year, it just endorsed Ron Paul. But this organization is very bad news. I mean, we already knew the King Street Patriots were Klansmen, but it is a shock that this Tea Party group was run by a Neo-Nazi.

Gay sorta-marriage in Houston!

Yesterday, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on W. Alabama, the church affiliated with the school I went to for Junior High School, observed a milestone. The Chronicle reports that the church officiated male couples and female couples in same-sex “ceremonies” (it would have been an actual marriage ceremony if the bigoted Legislators and voters of this state hadn’t approved Amendment 2 all those years back). These ceremonies blessed the couples with the full weight and endorsement of the Episcopal Church.

Episcopalians, along with Quakers, Unitarians and Jews (minus the minuscule Orthodox population) support same sex marriage with the full backing of their religious bodies. Thus, when Republicans and soft Republicans say that gay marriage is against all religions and violates their religious liberty, they’re lying. It’s just against their small-minded reactionary views. If your religion tells you that your number one moral priority is to deny too people who love each other the right to be happy, specifically in a secular and civil affair, then you’re doing religion wrong. But that’s my little high-horse rant of the day.

Evidently, St. Stephen’s missed out on the title of the first such ceremony in Texas to another Episcopal Church in Austin, which held their ceremony last month. I could have sworn that a Synagogue in Dallas had done a same sex blessing a few years back, but I might have been mistaken.  If certain polling is right, the day may come sooner rather than later in which these blessings will be full marriages.

Much ado about Algebra II

The Chronicle reports that Senator Dan Patrick has a new education bill that would eliminate the requirement for High School students to take Algebra II in order to graduate. SB3 would make vocational and technical training much easier for High Schoolers, eliminating the requirement of some higher-level classes, including Algebra II. The opponents of Patrick’s bill [rightly] say that it waters down academic standards and will further diminish the declining education of the average Texan.

I took Algebra II in the 10th grade (not too many years ago), and, for what it’s worth, hate does not even begin to describe how much disdain I felt towards this concept of mathematics–though Pre-Calculus/Trigonometry was probably worse. However, I understand that it is absolutely necessary in order to be a functional member of society. As little as I use advanced math at this point in my life, I find it useful that I had to develop the logic to do so. Plus, I really can’t see myself doing very well on the SATs if I didn’t know advanced Algebra.

This is probably a little far-fetched, but it also distresses me to see Republicans attempt to dismantle the education system. Without an effective one, social mobility will just be a relic of the past. Perhaps that is Senator Patrick’s goal.

Mayoral update

I’ve been saying it for a while that Bill King, the former Mayor of Kemah, would run for Mayor of Houston this year, against Mayor Parker. Hell, I even listed him among my Mayoral candidates. But I think I was wrong, very wrong, about Mr King’s candidacy.

You see, recently, King started writing op-ed pieces for the Chronicle. I expressed my doubt that an opinion writer could have a political future in this city last December, and I still stand by that statement. In fact, it looks like King has doubled down on this position recently. I believe as of late, King has become an official columnist with the paper, and has advertised quite prominently as such on his facebook page. Accordingly, it looks like Bill King WILL NOT be running for Mayor.

I will be taking down his name from the Mayoral election tab soon enough. This is just one of those illusions I keep having, despite most of the facts rooting against me. To be fair, most bloggers have these delusions. Kuff has an ongoing “figment of his imagination,” as he calls it, about thinking Henry Cisneros will be running for Governor. But enough about how I, yet again, failed at predicting the future. This newfound reality gives us the opportunity to examine an odd new political map.

The Mayoral election now consists of two heavyweights, Parker and Hall, who are headed for an epic showdown of showdowns this November. Then there are the two lightweights: James Noteware, a Republican nobody, and; Don Cook, the perennial Green candidate. Amanda Ulman or one of her fellow comrades will probably also throw their red hat in the ring. But that leaves two major questions left unanswered. First, who will the Republican be? Second, will there be a Hispanic candidate, and, if there is, who?

A million years ago, Campos mentioned some anonymous Hispanic politician who was thinking of running for Mayor. Kuff had no idea what he was talking about. If you believe that, in light of that, I would still know anything about it, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you. As for the Republican, I have no inklings about any candidates other than King. For some reason, back in my December post, I mentioned the prospect of conservatives nominating someone like Paul Bettencourt. I have no idea where I got this from. Absolutely no idea. Essentially, the there is a huge opening for a Conservative to run for Mayor at this point. Just probably not big enough for a conservative candidate to win.

In re Term Limits

I forgot to post this earlier, for some reason. The Texas Tribune had an article about a week ago about term limits. Evidently, there are two competing proposals. The first, submitted by Senator Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler), would only apply to Statewide officials and limit them to two terms (eight years). The second, submitted by Representative Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio), applies to everyone and limits officeholders to six legislative sessions (12 years), which would mean 6 terms for Legislators and three terms for statewide officials. Neither of these proposals would take effect until after 2014.

Personally, my thoughts on term limits are as such: they should apply to executives, but not legislators. Executive term limits make sense, they stop too much stagnation at the top. But legislative limits do not make sense, as they eliminate seniority systems in bodies, and sometimes cause otherwise unpopular incumbents to be re-elected because it would be understood they’d be out soon anyways. A good example of this would be in the Houston City Council. It’s not a coincidence that since the advent of term limits, the amounts of incumbents losing races has significantly declined.

3/14 tidbits

It’s times like these that I’m happy I didn’t follow my friends to UT. The Texas Tribune is reporting that a myriad of bills that, in one way or another, ease the restrictions put upon carrying a loaded firearm on a college campus. The bills will most likely pass the legislature if Senate Democrats don’t put up some special types of obstruction to kill the legislation. I think everyone knows where I stand on such a stupid idea.

In other news, Naomi Gonzalez, an El Paso State Rep, was arrested on DWI charges. For those of y’all who remember, Rep. Gonzalez was the one who got expelled from a County Party meeting for being cordial to a Republican, in an action that I strongly condemned.

In re Drug testing welfare/unemployment

It’s been a sound byte of the Right since Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House: if we could only kick all the druggies off of government assistance (e.g, Welfare and Unemployment) we could save bundles of money. The Chron is reporting that about a hearing on a bill in the lege to do exactly that.

There are a pair of bills that would require drug testing the applicants to TANF (Welfare) as well as unemployment insurance. The Welfare bill, SB 11, was introduced by Senator Jane Nelson, a Metroplex Republican. The Unemployment bill, SB 21, was introduced by Senator Tommy Williams, a Republican from The Woodlands. Recently, the hearing was held on the unemployment bill. Wendy Davis, in her continuing awesomeness, shored up the opposition to the bill.

Davis’ main concern was that it would be an unneeded, added stigma to those needing government assistance. Davis has special insight into this concern, once being dependent upon welfare and unemployment herself. Williams, meanwhile is a wealthy banker who doesn’t quite have much first-hand experience into being poor or requiring government assistance. But anyways….

For what it’s worth, I am opposed to both of these bills, but not for the reasons some on the left are for. I personally have no problems with kicking people off of welfare or unemployment if they are druggies who are squandering the money. Receiving free cash from the government is not an alienable right. But, like a Voter ID Act, these acts are a solution to a problem that really doesn’t exist. We should learn from the horrible experience the State of Florida had in attempting a very similar law.

In the Florida example, roughly 1 in 50 welfare recipients failed the program. The cost of all those drug tests, however, added up. The end result was that the State lost money. A similar conclusion will most likely appear in Texas if this law goes through. Also, the bills are evidently a violation of the 4th amendment, though I may not completely agree with that. Essentially, whether you think these bills are right or wrong, it is a waste of money to go through with them, and I hope the Legislature may come together to stop a waste of money.