Category Archives: United States

The Green Party Brings Its Mission to Houston

Even as it continues to urbanize and become increasingly diverse, it’s doubtful that anyone familiar with American politics considers Texas to be a harbinger of Progressivism.  Thanks to many factors like voter suppression and mis-education, the Lone Star state is expected to once again skew Conservative for the upcoming election.

Though the constraints of America’s often challenging two-party system would want voters to think otherwise, the terms “Progressive” and “Conservative” do not belong to exclusively to Democrats or Republicans.  In fact 2016’s two major party candidates are causing many American voters to look outside of the traditional “big tent” status quo.

This week, a major player in a Progressive politics is taking over Houston, as Mihir Zaveri of the Houston Chronicle reports…

The odds seem long for the Green Party of the United States. In a presidential election, it never has won more than 2.7 percent of the popular vote.

Right now, its presumptive candidate is slated to be on the ballot in only two dozen states.

Still, members say the November election could provide a unique opportunity for the progressive party, now in its fourth decade, to capture voters who will not vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump.

That will be one of the central themes as the Green Party kicks off its three-day national convention Thursday at the University of Houston, where delegates are expected for the second straight election cycle to nominate Jill Stein, a Lexington, Mass., physician, author and environmental advocate, for president.

“I think we’re trying to take advantage of something this year,” said party spokesman Scott McLarty. “That is the widespread realization by a lot of people, among non-voters, among independents, and, interestingly this year, among a lot of Democrats and Republicans, that the two-party status quo is failing us.”

It’s been something of a ‘Powerhouse’ Political year for the University of Houston, whom not only welcomes the Green Party this week, but also played host to a Republican Debate earlier this year.

Spoiler Alert:  at this point it is unlikely that Dr. Jill Stein, or her running mate Ajamu Baraka will win this years election.  At present, they have reached the General Election ballot in 24 states and the District of Columbia.  But that situation in the Presidential race doesn’t discount the real successes that its membership has garnered elsewhere.   The party currently has 134 elected officials serving in 15 states, including Arkansas, Mississippi, and yes, Texas.

Per the schedule of events, convention activities begin today August 4th, with the highlights of Keynote speaker Dr. Cornel West, the roll call of states, and the official Presidential Candidate nomination and acceptance all slated for August 6th.  There’s even a special welcome for Bernie Sanders supporters.

Will the Green Party’s mission be advanced by their time in Houston?  At this point it is uncertain.  But Texas Leftist plans to find out.  Look for more Green Party Convention coverage right here.

Green Party Houston

Before We Freak Out Over the Iran Deal “Ransom”

Because it is Wednesday, or well any day of the week, Donald Trump is on the attack.  But at least today, he’s distracted from his previous mission of belittling a brave American Gold Star family.

After this SHOCKING Wall Street Journal article, Republican Party Leader (now known on this blog as the ReTRUMPlican Party) Donald Trump, Senator Marco Rubio,  and other ReTRUMPlicans are outraged over what some call a “ransom payment” of $400 million to Iran for American hostages released at the close of the Obama Administrations historic Iran Nuclear Deal. But a quick search of information should reveal that this simply not the case.  When the deal was implemented, President Obama may not have revealed exact numbers, but he did disclose the nature of the payment and why the United States government chose to settle it at the same time as the deal.  But hey, don’t take my word for it. Let’s hear directly from the President (check the 8:30 min mark)…

The third piece of [the Iran Deal] involved the United States and Iran resolving a financial dispute that dated back more than three decades.  Since 1981, after our nations severed diplomatic relations, we’ve worked through an international tribunal to resolve various claims between our countries.  The United States and Iran are now settling a long-standing Iranian government claim against the U.S. government.  Iran will be returned its own funds, including appropriate interest, but much less than the amount sought.  For the United States, this settlement could save us billions of dollars that could have been pursued by Iran so there was no sense in dragging [this claim] out.  With the nuclear deal done, and prisoners released, the time was right to resolve this dispute as well.

So yeah… no exact numbers given at the time, but there were no secrets regarding this cash payment.  And to the Wall Street Journal’s credit, they do represent the Administration’s facts regarding the deal.  But of course, we can count on ReTRUMPlican Senator Tom Cotton to ignore the facts at hand, and accuse the Obama Administration of yet another thing they simply didn’t do.

Before freaking out about some ransom, can we try looking at the FACTS first??

Obama Iran Deal

DNC 2016: Hill’s Song United

Just one week ago, as the Republicans finished up their big show in Cleveland, things didn’t look so great for the DNC.  Thanks to the well-timed work of Wikileaks and its exiled founder Julian Assange, the Democratic Party became embroiled in scandal just as their historic Convention was about to begin.  The DNC leaks provided a litany of embarrassing, salacious details of the Party’s backdoor politics, and even uncovered evidence of party favoritism, which caused immediate anger among Bernie Sanders’ most ardent supporters.  Though the emails have yet to show a true coordinated effort of malice, the embarrassment was more than enough to oust DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz just hours before she planned to take the stage.  Indeed, last weekend, many feared that the Democratic Party and presumptive nominee for President Hillary Clinton, were done.

But even through those difficulties, the Democratic National Convention got under way.  Here’s more from Ron Elving of NPR

The first afternoon, the Sanders forces were in full cry — booing every mention of Clinton’s name. There seemed to be little prospect for peace, and many opportunities for disruption and chaos.

[…]

These reactions overestimated the importance and power of the DNC, which was important in many ways, but far from critical, in determining who voted or how. Still, the WikiLeaks release served to confirm the suspicion that party rules and party rulers were somehow overruling the popular will of the people.

It was obvious that the DNC controversies fed into a Rules Committee decision to reduce the future numbers of superdelegates (elected officials and party leaders who are uncommitted participants in the nominating convention and may vote their own conscience). In 2020, such delegates will be reduced from 720 to 250.

But negotiations were going forward even then. Sanders’ people were talking, and there were delegation leaders willing to work overtime to heal wounds. Sanders himself, having already formally conceded, intervened to urge his delegates to show respect, if only to preserve the gains they had made as a movement.

But even as Democrats worked overtime to mend fences with bruised Sanders supporters within the Convention hall, they worked just as hard to produce a show for the ages for those watching at home.  From the powerful sincerity of Michelle Obama on the first night, to the personal touch of FGOTUS— First Gentleman of the United States– nominee  Bill Clinton on the second, to the each speaker at the DNC had a very specific goal for their dual audience… show the party is united with its nominee Hillary Clinton.

Intermingled with some of the country’s most prominent politicians were the speakers whose persuasive power could not be denied… those everyday Americans who got up in front of their country and spoke their truth.  Geneva Reed-Veal (mother of Sandra Bland}, Sybrina Fulton (mother of Trayvon Martin) and other Mothers of the Movement took the stage to represent Black Lives Matter– a phrase barely even uttered at the RNC.  The incredible speech of Khizr Khan, a Muslim-American father whose son, Humayun Khan, was an American captain who sacrificed his life to save other American troops in Iraq. brought the crowd to its feet in a rousing show of support.

If anything at the DNC can be claimed as a true success, it starts with the involvement of these real Americans, and the ever-powerful strains of sincerity that they delivered on stage.  They reminded Americans that this year’s election really does matter.

By the time Hillary Clinton took the stage in the final speech, the true work of the Convention was done.  From a turbulent beginning, the 2016 Democratic National Convention rose from the controversy and persevered.  But thankfully, Clinton wasn’t satisfied with simply the work of others.  She may not have provided the soaring oratory of President Obama, but she did give a speech that was patriotic, and policy-specific (something we’ve yet to see from Mr. Trump).  NPR even did an excellent fact-check of Hillary Clinton’s address.  For anyone worried about holding the Democratic nominee accountable, you can start keeping tabs.

Check out the historic address below…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNEIQ8olnro

So finally, after two long and raucous weeks, the table is set for America’s two main political parties.  And for the Democrats, the song now belongs to Hillary.  Let’s hope that chorus grows through November and on to January.

Hill Song

In 2016, An “Historic” RNC Convention

Right, Left or Center, at least one aspect of this week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio can certainly be agreed upon… it was a fascinating series of events.

At its most basic level, we can all be thankful that the convention was successful– there were no major acts of violence or dangerous disruption, and hopefully everyone that participated will have a safe a journey home.  Whether one agrees with the politics or not, all Americans can be proud that this year’s RNC was kept safe.

But of course, being safe and feeling safe are often two very different emotions.  As Elle Magazine’s Melissa Harris-Perry shares, the RNC didn’t

Every night this week in Cleveland, the energy has waned as the hour progressed. By the time media left the Arena at 11 p.m., the building was only half full. Tonight was different. Mr Trump’s speech brought delegates and their energy to a late night crescendo. Chants we heard all week increased in fervor, volume, intensity, and frequency—” Build that wall!” “Lock her Up!” “U-S-A!”

The police presence we experienced all week was more visible than ever.

It occurred to me 30 minutes into Mr. Trump’s speech that when he finished we would be facing the classic problem of large venue events, say, concerts for example: everyone was going to leave at the same time. This would be the first time all week when we would all be streaming out at ounce. Trump supporters, fearing immigrants and criminals and hoarse from chanting about walls and locks would be in tight quarters with the liberal media liars. Team Trump is stoked by the discourse of the speech.

Keep in mind, RNCers had just undergone a week of hotel induced sleeplessness, long meetings, late nights, and cocktail parties. Then, throw in the protestors we would all have to pass as we left the zone of the arena.

Suddenly I was viscerally afraid.

Compared to any other Republican National Convention in recent memory, and certainly in the 21st century, 2016 seemed one for the books in terms of blatant vitriol, at least the kind that was caught on camera.  It’s also true that Ms. Perry’s identity as an African-American woman proved to be much more the exception than the rule for this year’s RNC.  Per The Washington Post, of the 2,472 convention delegates in attendance, just 18 of those were African-American… an historic low not seen in nearly century.  And of course, this is against the backdrop of country which is more diverse than ever before.  All season long, the Trump organization and the GOP have boasted about the monumental “growth” of the party… more primary voters than ever before, and historic voter registration numbers.  That may be true, but it isn’t the same growth that is occurring in the rest of America.

Even the moments that could be considered true “brights spots” contained noticeable shade. Peter Thiel, Billionaire businessman and believed to be the first ever openly gay male to speak at a National GOP Convention gave a rousing speech showing himself proud to be gay and a Republican.  But in virtually the same breath, he also throws transgender Americans under the bus by undervaluing their most fundamental rights.  To his question, “who cares?” about bathrooms??  The same people which shared that room with him and worked tirelessly to repeal Pro-Equality legislation certainly do.  Indeed it must be nice to be a Billionaire who also happens to be gay.

But thanks to some careful, and historic planning by Fairness USA, some of Thiel’s hateful messaging was countered. The groundbreaking TV ad, which debuted on Fox News, allows the American public to finally see the Transgender equality issue from the other side.  In my opinion, this is the kind of history which is long overdue.

So as Texas Leftist predicted one year ago, RNC 2016 is now in the books, and Donald Trump has claimed his place as the Retrumplican…  err I mean Republican Party’s new leader.  Between you and me, the DNC 2016 can’t come fast enough.

RNC

Terrorist Trump??

Just when things start looking up for the GOP Presumptive Nominee, we all remember that even Hillary’s sloppy email practices cannot save Donald Trump from, well… Donald Trump.

Here’s the story from Nick Visser of the Huffington Post

Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee for the Republican presidential nomination, once again lauded deposed Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein during a campaign stop.

Speaking at a rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Tuesday evening, Trump praised what he said was Hussein’s innate ability to kill terrorists “so good.” While it’s not the first time he’s mentioned the former leader, this time Trump elaborated that he appreciated Hussein’s authoritarian take on civil liberties.

“You know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good,” Trump said. “They didn’t read them the rights, they didn’t talk. They were a terrorist, it was over.”

Some may view this clip as a simple statement of fact.  Trump is correct that under an authoritarian regime, few people have to sit around wondering about the Civil Liberties implications of murder.  So yes, Saddam Hussein did indeed kill terrorists in a highly efficient manner.

But here’s the problem… Hussein killed lots of other people with efficiency as well, including millions of innocent Iraqi citizens. They did not ‘read them rights’ because under a dictatorship, they didn’t have rights.  For Trump to laud Hussein’s method of handling terrorism, we must also realize that it is an endorsement of “shoot first, ask later”.  If you’re going to endorse such things on the campaign trail, does that mean that all of our rights get thrown out the window the day ‘Terrorist Trump’ is sworn in?

Most Americans probably don’t want to find out.

Trump Hussein

 

Sent: Hillary Clinton Will NOT Face Charges Over Emails

After years of swirling controversy and thousands of hours worth of Press coverage, it appears that one of 2016’s most prominent political ‘scandals’ has finally met its end.

You know… the one about Hillary Clinton’s emails.

If you haven’t been paying attention, here’s the general run-down. Throughout her time in the Senate, Clinton used a personal email, and ran the servers from her home.  As odd as this may sound to those of us in the Tech generation, it is a surprisingly common practice for high-level members of Congress to use personal email.

When she became Secretary of State in 2009, she continued to use her personal email and maintain the servers from her home, and no one in the upper echelons of government corrected her at the time.  We must emphasize the term continued here, because for 8 years as a United States Senator, she used her private email account to no objection. This wasn’t some malicious move made the second she ascended to the office at State. Framed in context, it is possible to see the reasoning here.

But that doesn’t mean the reasoning was correct. As Secretary of State, part of the job is to have involved interactions with foreign governments, including many folks that the United States would deem as “untrustworthy actors”.  If one assumes that a personal server is less secure than those run by the federal government, any electronic communications with said actors carry a great deal of risk.  This is what FBI Director James Comey made crystal clear as he announced the results of the agency’s exhaustive investigation into the email saga.  From the full transcript of his statement via The Washington Post…

Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

For example, seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation. In addition to this highly sensitive information, we also found information that was properly classified as Secret by the U.S. Intelligence Community at the time it was discussed on e-mail (that is, excluding the later “up-classified” e-mails).

None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government — or even with a commercial service like Gmail.

[…]

In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.

With all the evidence present, it’s clear that the standards for what most people consider ‘best practices’ of electronic communication were not met.  But were these failings attributed exclusively to Clinton, or were they at issue in previous administrations?  According to a House Oversight Committee Report confirming widespread use of personal emails among Clinton’s predecessors, Condoleezza Rice claims that she used a .gov account, but the State Department was unable to produce conclusive records from her time in the office. Colin Powell, like Clinton, admits to having used a personal email account.  Only since Secretary John Kerry has there even been an expectation that Secretaries of State use a government email account.  In the wake of these results, it’s important to weigh Clinton’s actions within this context.  If she followed the lead set by previous office holders, why are her actions being singled out as exceptional?  Is the FBI willing to bring charges up against Secretaries Powell and Rice??  Onky if they run for President, I guess.

Surprisingly enough, there is a bright side to this controversy.  Unlike several other GOP-led attempts to destroy Democratic rivals, at least the time and money spent on this one yielded some concrete results.  Hillary Clinton’s email practices were a problem, and now she, and the whole federal government will be much less careless with their electronic records.

In any event, the message has been sent.

HRC1

‘Civil Death’: SCOTUS Eviscerates Fourth Amendment, Validates Police Profiling

The Supreme Court may not be complete, but that doesn’t mean they are any less capable of causing a firestorm.  In what seems to be an incredibly short-sighted decision, a major pillar of the United States Constitution has been all but gutted.  Here’s the information from the New York Times editorial board…

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government — or that’s how it works in theory, anyway.

In practice, though, court decisions over several decades have created so many exceptions to this constitutional principle as to render it effectively meaningless in many real-world situations.

On Monday, the Supreme Court further weakened the Fourth Amendment by making it even easier for law enforcement to evade its requirement that stops be based on reasonable suspicion. The justices ruled 5 to 3 that a police officer’s illegal stop of a man on the street did not prevent evidence obtained from a search connected to that stop to be used against him.

The case, Utah v. Strieff, started when the police in Salt Lake City got an anonymous tip of drug activity at a house. An officer monitoring the house became suspicious at the number of people he saw entering and leaving. When one of those people, Edward Strieff, left to walk to a nearby convenience store, the officer stopped him and asked for his identification. A routine check revealed that Mr. Strieff had an outstanding “small traffic warrant.” The officer arrested him based on that earlier warrant, searched him and found drugs in his pockets.

The State of Utah agreed that the initial stop was illegal, because it was not based on reasonable, individual suspicion that Mr. Strieff was doing anything wrong. Instead, the state argued that the discovery of the valid warrant — after the illegal stop — got around the Fourth amendment violation.

The Utah Supreme Court rightly rejected this argument, but that decision was overturned in a majority opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas. The officer’s lack of any specific suspicion of Mr. Strieff, Justice Thomas wrote, was a result of “good-faith mistakes.” The illegal stop was, at worst, “an isolated instance of negligence.”

So basically, police can suspect anything they want about an individual, and use that information as an excuse to detain them, check for warrants, and then quite possibly disrupt the entirety of their life.  And I suppose if one has never been profiled by the police, and never had any reason to think that they would be, this judgement seems rather sensible.  It’s not like police officers ever make mistakes, or use their judgement in an unfair way, right?

It’s important to note here that this was a 5 to 3 decision by the court, with Justices Clarence Thomas (who wrote the majority opinion), Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito in the majority.  The three dissenters?  Justices Elena Kagen, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

So at least on the face of it, gender appears to be a factor.  But let’s spend a brief moment to also discuss the court’s only true racial minority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  Remember during her confirmation, the whole firestorm around being “Wise Latina“?  In her dissenting opinion to this case, that wisdom shines through like never before.  Directly from Justice Sotomayor’s dissent

The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong. If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay, courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting you on the warrant. Because the Fourth Amendment should prohibit, not permit, such misconduct, I dissent.

[…]

The officer’s control over you does not end with the stop. If the officer chooses, he may handcuff you and take you to jail for doing nothing more than speeding, jaywalking, or “driving [your] pickup truck . . . with [your] 3-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter . . . without [your] seatbelt fastened.” Atwater v. Lago Vista, 532 U. S. 318, 323–324 (2001). At the jail, he can fingerprint you, swab DNA from the inside of your mouth, and force you to “shower with a delousing agent” while you “lift [your] tongue, hold out [your] arms, turn around, and lift [your] genitals.” Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington, 566 U. S. ___, ___–___ (2012) (slip op., at 2–3); Maryland v. King, 569 U. S. ___, ___ (2013) (slip op., at 28). Even if you are innocent, you will now join the 65 million Americans with an arrest record and experience the “civil death” of discrimination by employers, landlords, and whoever else conducts a background check.

By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged. We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. See L. Guinier & G. Torres, The Miner’s Canary 274–283 (2002). They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but.

What Justice Sotomayor says here can hardly be improved upon.  It’s a shame that our nation’s Supreme Court has cleared the way for the “Civil Death” of millions of Americans, and the 4th Amendment of our Constitution.  Sadly, the only ones who can affect this ruling are Congress, and it is far from a major election issue.  Let’s hope others learn the truth of this ruling, and soon.  But in the midst of such an atrocious oversight, at least those Americans most prone to police profiling had a few voices on the court to speak the truth.

Sotomayor