On Net Neutrality

POLITICO reports that the FCC commissioners have approved a controversial new plan that eviscerates the principle of net neutrality for websites and internet service providers. Net neutrality is the long-honored belief that the internet should not have a “fast lane,” that is to say that service providers should not be able to slow down service for a specific person or website. To premise is actually quite simple, as a completely deregulated internet would surely cause fasting internet for those who could pay more. This would obviously stifle innovation and hamper one of the best things of the internet: its inherent equality.

Like so many other items, when President Obama was first running for office, he was a vociferous supporter of net neutrality. Now that he is in office, of course, this sentiment has been defenestrated, so to speak. The FCC is guided by five commissioners, all of which were nominated by Obama. Of those, three are partisan Democrats and two are Republicans. The final vote in favor of the new rules gutting net neutrality was 3-2, you guessed it, along partisan lines. However, Republican opposition was due far more to a proposal to classifying broadband services as a utility, which has great implications for the overarching regulations.

Click here to see who supports Net Neutrality!

Fifth Circuit stays Campbell execution

The New York Times reports that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has stayed the execution of Robert Campbell, which was scheduled for this evening. As I wrote extensively over the weekend, Campbell’s case represents two distinct quandaries. First, the execution would be the first to occur following the horrendous butchery that occurred a couple of weeks ago in Oklahoma. Second, Campbell’s IQ is 69, below the line commonly designated for mental retardation. This is significant because the US Supreme Court ruled in 2002 (Atkins v. Virginia) that those will severe intellectual deficiencies may not legally be put to death.

The Federal Appeals Court declined to issue any sort of stay as a result of what I have called the “secret execution drugs.” This issue hails from the fact that the State of Texas recently started obtaining its death drug, pentobarbital, from secret compounding pharmacies, details of which have not even been disclosed to the attorneys of the condemned. Texas has, in all fairness, undergone two of these executions without a hitch. That being said, the issue over the condemned man’s mental faculties struck a chord with the Court.

Click here to read the full analysis!

TPA Roundup

Note: The opinions of the Texas Progressive Alliance or other blogs are not necessarily those of Texpatriate or its contributors.

The Texas Progressive Alliance says Bring Back Our Girls for this post-Mother’s Day roundup.

Off the Kuff takes a closer look at the competitive legislative races on the ballot this fall.

Horwitz at Texpatriate notes that, while there may be a Democrat now on the Court of Criminal Appeals, he is not doing anything of use to stop cruel and unusual punishment.

Continue reading

In re Campbell

There is man named Robert Campbell on Texas’ death row, who is scheduled for execution this upcoming Monday. He was convicted of an especially heinous 1991 robbery-rape-murder, for which he was given Texas’ ultimate penalty: death. Campbell has argued a number of objections since that time, explaining in part why he was languished on death row nearly in a state of limbo for so long. Namely, he has contended that he received inadequate counsel at trial. Anecdotally, his new attorneys point to the fact that his original defender was from Conroe, not Houston (where his trial took place), and only provided rudimentary petitions and appeals, stuff that could basically just be copied off the internet.

However, while litigating this issue, another can of worms, so to speak, arose. Campbell’s IQ, according to a recent test, is 69, far below the threshold for mental retardation. In the 2002 case of Atkins v. Virginia, the US Supreme Court ruled that those who have been explicitly defined by their state of mentally retarded. The intellectual handicaps are to be treated like youth or any other mitigating factor, in that it does not serve as evidence of being unable to comprehend the difference between right and wrong, but serve as a rationale to not levy the full punishment. The problem with this is that States can define mental retardation any way they so choose. Enter Campbell: with an IQ of 69. The problem is that the State contends this is not tantamount to the needed intellectual handicap for clemency.

Click here to see what the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled on this matter!

The Pratt scandal continues

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The scandal that lead to the downfall of former Family District Judge Denise Pratt now looks to have the capacity to negatively affect Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson. As the astute will recall, an attorney out of Galveston County by the name of Greg Enos, who last year was behind the scandal and eventual downfall of former Galveston County Court at Law Judge Christopher Dupuy, shepherded the complaints and eventual investigations into Pratt.

Pratt, who oversaw a broad array of family court matters, was accused of gross incompetence and misfeasance while in office. She allegedly deliberately backdated orders, unilaterally dismissed cases and covered up this negligence. The DA’s office investigated her once last year, but then no-billed her. After restarting the investigation earlier this year, Pratt promptly resigned and suspended her re-election campaign.

Now, the Houston Chronicle reports that this resignation was a direct quid-pro-quo for non-prosecution on the part of the DA’s office. Simply put, in exchange for Pratt’s voluntary removal from the judicial system, she would not face any further consequences. No justice for all the victims of Pratt’s terrible reign of incompetence and negligence.

Click here to read about Ogg’s statement, as well as Enos’!

Culberson goes on a racist rant

Roll Call magazine, a very trustworthy source, reports that Congressman John Culberson (R-Houston), my home representative, has gone on an appalling rant of breathtakingly offensive proportions. According to a House staffer who leaked the story, Congressman went off on an elevator ride in between meetings when he lamented the fact that museums were being built to commemorate African-Americans or Latinos. Per his reasoning, since there was no Federal Government memorial to Czech-Americans, it would be unfair to dedicate museums to drastically unappreciated and ignored portions of our history (this is a little inaccurate, as Texas itself is riddled with Czech museums, including one just down the road from his constituency). This reminds me of the oft-repeated, pseudo-racist claim that there should not be a Black History Month since there is no White History Month.

Furthermore, Culberson sarcastically stated that a museum honoring the struggles of women in this country could be “OK” if only because “it’s important for little girls.” The comments appalled the staffer, who quickly called into Roll Call remaining anonymous. He was appalled that such a narrow worldview would be advanced by such a man as Culberson, a public servant who has been entrusted to represent all of his constituents.

Click here to read the full implications, including comments by his opponent!

“Check your privilege”

This issue has gotten quite a bit of traction lately. Ever since a freshman named Tal Fortgang published an op-ed in a B-level Princeton publication on the topic, everyone and their uncle has been talking about this issue. Simply put, the underlying issue is the phrase “check your privilege” and Fortgang’s indignation at being referred to with the epithet. Fortgang went on a painful rant about how his ancestors faced adversity, worked hard and gave him a better life. Therefore, he concluded, he had “checked his privilege” and was satisfied by his findings. Of course, Fortgang fundamentally misunderstood the meaning of this entire convention, but its true meaning opens up a whole other can of words.

Privilege, as it is currently understood in left-leaning polite society, means those who has received some comparable advantage in their life. If, like me, one is White, male, straight and comes from a financially stable family, one undoubtedly has received some extra boosts in the race of life. Only the truly naive would deny that much. My biggest issue with this topic is the nomenclature; at its core, I hate the word “privilege” in some of the denotations it is used in. Additionally, more radical adherents to this philosophy lose track of the real point of this exercise, advocating equality of opportunity. The radicals instead advocate for equality of outcome, but I’ll get to that.

Click here to read more!

A Lehmberg-gate update

The Houston Chronicle infuses yet another detail into the ongoing saga about Rick Perry, Rosemary Lehmberg and the grand jury. If you are unfamiliar, you have come to the right place! Let me bring everyone up to speed in the next few paragraphs.

Rosemary Lehmberg is the District County of Travis County, where Austin (the State capital) is. By virtue of housing the seat of government, this specific DA’s office has unparalleled power to investigate State officials through an office known as the Public Integrity Unit. This group is funded both through local funds and state funds, thus making Lehmberg arguably the most powerful elected Democrat in the State of Texas. Needless to say, the PIU has always been a thorn in the side of the (all Republican) statewide officials.

Then, early last year, Lehmberg got a DWI. To answer your question, it was certainly as bad as you’re thinking. She was belligerent, had an open handle of vodka in the passenger seat, and blew twice the legal limit on an intoxalyzer. Needless to say, most people were pretty outraged and demanded her resignation. The partisan problem with this, however, is that Governor Perry would appoint Lehmberg’s replacement until a special election (her term is not up until January of 2017). Accordingly, a bit of a tense situation built up between the two officeholders.

Please click here to read more!

NDO Public Session held

I climbed the steps of City Hall today for the first time in a couple months. I did not have a surplus of time, so I only got to peak my head into the very beginning of the public session. For those unfamiliar, the City Council is required by law to listen to members of the public on agenda and non-agenda items weekly. Anyone in the city may call the City Secretary and receive at least 60 seconds of speaking time before the Council. This week, the discussion centered unanimously around the non-discrimination ordinance being considered by the Council, which I have written about extensively in the past. In short, the ordinance codifies existing Federal regulations against discrimination into local law, as well as expand them to protect both sexual orientation and gender identity.

There were over 80 speakers on this ordinance, with over 4/5ths of them being supportive thereof. Elected officials, such as State Senator John Whitmire, Sheriff Adrian Garcia, State Representative Garnet Coleman and State Representative Carol Alvarado lent their support in person. Other elected officials, such as State Senator Rodney Ellis, State Senator Sylvia Garcia and State Representative Sylvester Turner, have also been quite supportive, but did not make an appearance in person. Another who did, however, was former Congressman Chris Bell, a likely Mayoral candidate in 2015 (along with Turner and, possibly, Garcia). A number of other stalwarts in the community spoke up today, though perhaps my favorite speaker was Sissy Farenthold. Simply put, she was Ann Richards before there was Ann Richards, serving at one time as the only female member of the Legislature and coming heartbreakingly close to winning the Democratic nomination for Governor in the 1970s.

Click here to read about more supporters, opponents, and the Councilmembers’ reactions!

Summer plans

Some of us will be working in Houston, some going abroad, but however this group will disperse, we will continue striving to bring Houston & Texas political news and commentary. At this time, however, we would like to discuss two specific political opportunities undertaken by members of this board.

First, George Bailey, the Bostonian of the Editorial Board (& a native Houstonian) has accepted a summer position in the office of Senator Ted Cruz, in Washington D.C. Accordingly, at this time George will refrain from writing anything on Sen. Cruz, and will abstain from any pertinent editorials on those subjects.

Second, Noah M. Horwitz, who is spending an extended summer in Houston this year, has accepted an offer to work on public relations and marketing issues with the Clifford Group. Some of these issues may be hot-button political topics that otherwise would receive coverage on Texpatriate. Accordingly, Noah will not write on any topics he is consulting on and will abstain from editorials on those topics as well.