Wikipedia, Reddit go dark in solidarity against SOPA

Wednesday January 18th may be the only day my website will get more traffic than Wikipedia but let this post show my solidarity against the Stop Online Piracy Act. For more on what that is view this LA Times story. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-internet-shutdown-20120118,0,5284397.story

Just know this is a good time to start paying attention. Its a great example of how speaking out makes a difference and proof that Congress really does listen when “citizens unite”.

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Rick Perry Agrees to ‘Conversation’ on Fracking in Texas

Its a pretty safe bet from a Texan’s point of view that fracking has a promising future in our state. The practice has, as Governor Perry states, “been used for years” in Texas. Its also clear judging by recent news stories and a controversial study by the EPA that the federal government has every intention of regulating the practice.  Texas and its current governor in particular have had a rocky relationship with federal regulators. Earlier this year the EPA threatened to take away the TCEQ’s ability to grant ‘flexible’ permits to refineries citing non-compliance with the Clean Air Act. The TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality), is Texas’ own environmental regulating body.

When it comes to the fracking method of natural gas extraction most of the national attention has been focused in more heavily populated areas where average citizens are more likely to come into direct contact with the industry.  In this shrinking window, Texas has an opportunity to show the EPA and other federal regulators that we can set the standard for appropriate state regulation and avoid expensive off-sets that could derive from a different set of federal standards.

When the head of our State makes comments like, “this is a fear tactic that the left is using and the environmental community is using” and refers to coverage of the EPA’s study as “stories that do not scientifically hold up”, it actually hurts our case that we are prepared to take on the challenge and address the tough issues that effect or energy security and the public trust. On the bright side his first line was, “We can have this conversation”, and I think that’s a good place to start.

Rick Perry on Fracking and Groundwater

Texas Redistricting and The Silent Minority

I have been following the Texas redistricting lawsuit quite closely and I’m appalled every time I read a new article by a national publication that doesn’t contain a quote from an elected official who occupies an African-American opportunity district. The general public would naturally believe that because the Democratic Party is arguing the case for the Voting Rights Act that it is carrying the water for its African-American base, but this is not necessarily the case. I don’t blame the media in this case, but those who represent the silent minority, with the understanding that they do see this as a serious issue but for various reasons lack a consensus to take a particular public position.

I feel privileged to have a close enough relationship to members and other significant players to get the inside perspective and legal arguments that are being shaped and therefore will err on the side of not divulging sensitive information of the pending cases. But I think it’s safe to say that this will be a landmark ruling on how the courts view protections afforded to “protected classes” under the Voting Rights Act. The main issue at hand is the effect of replacing “African-American opportunity districts” with “minority opportunity districts.” If the Voting Rights Act was passed to grant African-Americans, as well as other individual minority groups, the ability to “elect representatives of their choice,” what happens when, say, a historically African-American district becomes a majority non-African-American minority district? This is the inevitable case for African-American representatives – especially in Texas. Will the future see all non-Anglos packed into “minority” districts without regard to any particular minority’s ability to elect a representative of their choice, be they black, Hispanic or Asian? It appears if the Texas attorney general gets his way, this will be the effect. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in Austin Tuesday expressed concern over a couple of issues regarding minority voting rights. He warned that voter identification laws may not pass muster and that Hispanic growth must be properly recognized by any new maps, but to my knowledge made no reference to how African-Americans specifically may be affected.

The worst thing that could happen may not be African-Americans losing their protected status, but that African-American and Hispanic leaders allow the Republican Party to systematically make electing candidates more difficult for their constituencies while exploiting a wedge between these two groups – who despite deserving their own individual protections, are still stronger when they act together.

Deshotel, political director for Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, is a managing member of the public relations firm BGP Strategies. He has more than a decade’s experience in Texas politics.

Is Rick Perry Gay? New Book by Gay Former Colleague Seeks Answer

Head Figure Head: The Search for the Hidden Life of Rick Perry is a book released today by Glen Maxey a former openly gay Texas Legislator from Austin who served with Rick Perry in the Texas House. I first met Glen when he was a state Rep. and my father’s desk mate (also a state Rep.).  According to Glen he was contacted about the topic by a national reporter last summer. He then decided to take up the search for answers. What he found can now be instantly downloaded onto your Kindle while you await the hard copy.

Rumors abound about the Governor’s sexuality. There were rumors that many believe led to Texas Secretary of State stepping down. This was the one Texas Democrats, capitol insiders and other close observers thought might grow legs but nothing above ground or ‘out’ in the open ever surfaced. There was however a “support rally” in front of the Governor’s mansion with supporters wielding signs that read “Its Ok to be Gay!”. Most people in Austin probably remember earlier this year when a known political gadfly published the now infamous full page “Have you ever had sex with Rick Perry?” ad in the Austin Chronicle.

Earlier this year the presidential hopeful reassured evangelicals there is ‘nothing in my life that will embarrass you’. Coming straight (no pun intended) off his ‘Strong’ ad where he makes an appeal to evangelicals. The outrage that ‘gays can serve openly in the military’ certainly begs the question, can a gay serve openly as Texas Governor?

via Amazon.com: Head Figure Head: The Search for the Hidden Life of Rick Perry eBook: Glen Maxey: Kindle Store.

Clearly the world (wide web) wants to know.

Ron Paul can upset Newt but what about the Iowa Caucus?


It only takes one click to “get the picture” of the current state of Rick Perry’s presidential campaign: www.RickPerry.com. Yep, its that bad. Even his own state’s Republican Congressional delegation have failed to endorse him.

On the other hand there’s the owner of Rick Perry.com who happens to be another politician from Texas with the initials RP.  Looking at the latest polling its very possible Ron Paul could upset the Iowa Caucus. Unlike Newt he has a ground game of enthusiastic supporters.  He has thus so far also avoided the rise and fall of the other candidates and surely in no small part because the mainstream media has largely ignored him as a legitimate candidate.

Still a long shot I don’t expect Ron Paul to win the nomination but by the end of the Republican nominating process I think we will see a large opening for a 3rd party candidate in the general election.  Ron Paul hasn’t ruled out the possibility of being that person and neither has Donald Trump (fingers crossed).  One thing is certain- Ron Paul he is always on message and in this case that’s not good for Newt.

In Austin, Small Business is Big Business -everyday

On November 26th you can make a huge impact by shopping small on ‘Small Business Saturday’…one purchase, one purchase is all it takes. -From American Express’ ‘Small Business Saturday’ campaign

Americans, especially Austinites, have an affinity for entrepreneurs and the character small businesses bring to the community, which is why it is no surprise that one of the largest credit card companies in the world is behind “Small Business Saturday“. This Saturday will be the 2nd annual and it comes at a low point in Americans’ confidence in our financial system and in the midst of the Occupy Wall St. movement that was in great part inspired by that same lack of confidence. Despite the progressive nature of Austin the Occupy movement hasn’t been particularly headline worthy or boisterous. One reason for this is Austin has weathered the recession better than most major US cities despite its large gap in wealth disparity. But why? In the words of current Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, “small business is big business in Austin”. I think its safe to attribute Austin’s economic success to its commitment to community and pre-Occupy movements like the famed Keep Austin Weird that surfaced as a response to perceptions of over-commercialization and chain-ifacation of the city.  They had clearly tapped into something, a 2003 study published in the Austin Chronicle on the effects of a new Border’s bookstore next to locals Book People and Waterloo Records found, “each dollar spent at the local stores would generate three times as much Austin economic activity as would a dollar spent at Borders”. That Borders was never built. The bottom line is Austin is a place people want to live, spend their money and as a result businesses in touch with this community know the importance of reinvesting back into the city. In other words the citizens, aka taxpayers and consumers demand that money be reinvested here.

The Occupy movement on the other hand hasn’t made a lot of specific demands but it has been asking citizens to fire their banks and hire a local Credit Union. I guess there aren’t many local credit card companies, but I wonder if anyone on the American Express marketing team realized the irony in possibly tapping into some of this same sentiment? It recalls the Capital One commercials that feature Alec Baldwin after he personally expressed opposition to bank bailouts in his Op-Ed on the Occupy Wall Street movement. (Capital One Financial Group received 4 billion in bailout funds)

I have been saying for a while now that the only way we can kick the dust off our economy is by exercising some demand-side economics. Whatever discretionary spending we have left we must use it to strengthen our local economies and invest in those who are invested in us- small businesses that are tied to the community.  For decades we have supported major brands that were once local and American but now after years of stagnating wages, record corporate profits and outsourcing jobs we must recognize our role in this process that has done lasting damage to our economy’s ability to sustain growth. We can point to the top at those who are still profiting from the current system or we can start to change it, one purchase at a time. In general, encouraging communities to support and invest in themselves is what the “Small Business Saturday” campaign is about, with one crucial flaw- its only one day. But, is it a coincidence that American Express filmed the commercial for Small Business Saturday in Austin, TX? I think not.

What Referendum? How America voted on Constitutional Amendments Nov. 8th 2011

There may be a few political and cultural insights we can take away from odd-yeared elections but in many cases the news media looks for a referendum in each decision made by the public. I would argue that extremely low turnouts and awkwardly-worded Amendments can not be seen as an accurate bellwether for future elections in most cases. The exception are highly publicized or partisan initiatives. Though even in those cases the implications of any referendum can’t mean much past a state’s borders.  In Ohio, Democrats and unions are celebrating victory over Issue 2 and collective bargaining rights as a referendum on Republican Governor Kasich, while the right are claiming Ohioan’s rejection of a healthcare mandate as a referendum on Obama. In conservative Mississippi voters predictably supported “Voter ID” legislation and limits on eminent domain while rejecting an Amendment that would have established that life begins at conception. In Maine, voters opted to allow same day voter registration but also turned down two opportunities to expand gambling to pay for government services.

It seems the commonality that runs through these results (if we must indeed prescribe a referendum) is that while American’s may not have all the answers they are increasing skeptical that government is up to the challenge of fixing out problems.

More commentary on specific ballot initiatives:

In MIssissippi:

1 Definition of Personhood rejected by 57%. Even Republican Governor Hailey Barbour said he had issues with the language. It had no exception for rape or incest and would have effectively reversed Roe V. Wade in the state.  A group from Colorado who failed to get it passed there brought the referendum to Mississippi because it is considered the “most pro-life” state.

2 Voter ID which voters passed favorably with 62%.  Mississippi is now 1 of 8 states including Texas that require Photo ID to vote. This issue has a lot of room to grow as a ballot initiative, especially in battleground states where the legislature may not pass this type of legislation. One neutralizing proposition the left (or Democrats) could propose is one that passed tonight in Maine – same day voter registration. There is no excuse why voters can not walk into any voting booth on election day in their state and cast a ballot.

Texans voted on 10 Constitutional Amendments last night and showed little support for anything that sounded like an expansion of government.

Prop 1: Prop 1 Tax exemption for surviving spouse of veteran passed favorably with 82%. Not surprising Texas has a lot of veterans and a strong history of supporting the military.

Prop 3: Issue bonds to finance education loans to students passed less favorably with 55%. Interesting since student loan debt has become an issue with the Occupy Wall St. movement.

Prop 4: Prop 4 Permit county to issue bonds for development Rejected with 57%. Texans voting to reject government spending, even for development.

Prop 6: Prop 6 Gen Land Office distribute revenue for public education pass favorably with 60%. Texans vote shows they value education but their legislators have not found a way to properly fund it.

Herman Cain: Teflon Pizza Don or Mr. Magoo of GOP

I have been wanting to move past “politics of the day” to discuss what I think are more relevant issues in the bigger picture but I continue to be fascinated by Herman Cain and what his story means to the 2012 race.

The more media declares his candidacy over the better he does with the Republican base. Fox News and other establishment conservatives have come to his defense in light of sexual harassment allegations and joined his refrain of a “high-tech” lynching. They are comparing his case to Clarence Thomas and contrasting him with Bill Clinton but there is no evidence yet that this was leaked by Democratic opposition  research.

I would think the media would be tired of ‘misunderestimating’ Herman Cain and give him a little credit even his fortunes seemed to be guided by some strange Mr. Magoo-like quality. The same day headlines were supposed to derail his campaign he posted the best fundraising day so far. In addition Gallup published this poll that shows Cain as the only candidate to increase his favorability rating. Will the media learn its lesson or can Cain continue to defy the odds?

There have been major developments this week since I published this. Rick Perry has been accused by the Cain campaign of leaking sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain.

And this video masterpiece..well maybe not masterpiece but I made it before Cain actually accused Perry:

 

Is Herman Cain’s loss Rick Perry’s gain?

UPDATE 11/3/2011 4pm:

A new Rasmussen poll taken after the leak of sexual allegations shows Herman Cain actually taking the lead over Romney. Rick Perry doubles his numbers to 8% while Bachmann, Huntsman and Santorum bottom out. It appears Perry drew his support from the later candidates and Cain seems to be holding his own. Its also not clear if voters believe Rick Perry had any part in the leak as the Cain campaign contends.

Troubling headlines of sexual harassment allegations about Herman Cain beg the question -What happens if the Cain bubble does burst?

If Romney continues to waffle around 25% whoever is the beneficiary of a thinning field will have a real chance to tip the scale as we get closer to the early primaries. Could this be Perry’s window to reemerge? Time has yet to tell what effect Perry’s flat tax proposal will have on the race but it has received praise and ridicule from the usual suspects as this is not a new idea. Just recently it was given the thumbs up by Grover Norquist, a conservative thought leader with Club for Growth who pledges to hold inadequately conservative politicians accountable. In an election year that seems to be anything but typical and has bread strong anti-establishment sentiment, it is difficult to know what “leaders” will truly be the bellwether for 2012.

Taken from TexasTribune.org

On the same day of reckoning for Cain the Texas Tribune published a poll that shows Herman Cain edging out Governor Rick Perry in the Texas primary. Jim Henson, UT professor and co-director of the poll, stated in the article that Cain’s most significant lead was among “conservative voters”. Interestingly though while Perry led Cain in most urban areas, Cain lead Perry in Austin where voters know him well. This does not bode well (at least in Texas) for the theory that Perry would be the obvious beneficiary of a Cain collapse. Nationally though, this could be where money’s role becomes more important. If Bachmann and the like heed growing calls to exit the race this opens the door for Perry or another (Newt?) to gain a fresh head of steam. Even with his mass of cash reserves Perry will have to make stronger and more convincing public appearances. His resent consideration of nixing future debates, which may have worked from the outset, probably comes far too late after a series of disappointing outings.

Also, headlining on Gawker is not the way you want your campaign to go viral. Governor Perry delivered a “passionate” speech over the weekend also included a complete dismissal of Herman Cain as a real candidate. “I love Herman, is he the best? I have fun with him, he is a great and interesting guy. And, thank you Herman for helping to pay for the event tonight.” If this Rick Perry had come out first and he avoided the debates altogether who knows if this would be a different race. But, perhaps at this point he should bother to take Cain a little more seriously. The media can make this mistake, but Rick Perry can’t afford too.

There have been major developments this week since I published this. Rick Perry has been accused by the Cain campaign of leaking sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain.

And this video masterpiece..well maybe not masterpiece but it was made before Cain actually accused Perry:

Interesting note: Ron Paul doesn’t completely rule out the possibility of a 3rd party run even before the first primary ballot has been cast. Could he be setting the right up to get Nadered?

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