Category Archives: United States

Austin’s South By Southwest Gets Presidential

Long known for it’s natural beauty and idyllic setting in the Texas Hill Country, the state capital of Austin has been a favorite gathering place for many prominent music and arts festivals. The largest of them all is South By Southwest (SXSW)… over three decades strong.

In 2016 SXSW will enter a new level of prominence as it goes Presidential for the first time ever.

Here’s info via the SXSW official announcement, written by Hugh Forrest…

SXSW is honored to announce President Barack Obama will appear as part of a Keynote Conversation at SXSW Interactive on Friday, March 11 and First Lady Michelle Obama will be the opening Keynote at SXSW Music on Wednesday, March 16. This marks the first time in the 30-year history of SXSW that a sitting President and the First Lady have participated in the event.

On Friday, March 11, President Obama will sit down with Evan Smith, CEO / Editor in Chief of The Texas Tribune, for a conversation about civic engagement in the 21st Century before an audience of creators, early adopters and entrepreneurs who are defining the future of our connected lives. The President will call on the audience to apply their ideas and talents to make technology work for us – especially when it comes to tackling big challenges like increasing participation in the political process and fighting climate change.

[…]

On Wednesday, March 16, First Lady Michelle Obama comes to SXSW Music to discuss the Let Girls Learn initiative, which aims to break barriers for the 62 million girls around the world who are not in school today, more than half of whom are adolescent. The SXSW Music Conference brings the global music industry together and offers the perfect platform to celebrate Women’s History Month, as the First Lady provides her call to action to support girls’ education.

Texas may be a decidedly Red State, but the “blue dot” that is Austin is buzzing about the President and First Lady’s upcoming visit.  And from the tone of President Obama’s weekly address, the White House seems to be excited as well…

For more on the historic appearance at “South By”, check out coverage from The Texas Tribune.

Obama Tech

 

 

Music Musings: Sony Music Forges New Ground in Africa

On this February 29th and last day of Black History Month for the United States, it’s always important to take some time and celebrate the many contributions African-Americans have made in the country.  Certainly that rich legacy must include the many accomplishments of President Barack Obama, as his historic time in office nears its end.

But even as Americans look back at the Obama legacy, it’s also important to leap forward and see the ways this President has forged a path to the future.  The President and First Lady have worked very hard to strengthen ties with nations in Africa, and today’s news shows that the U.S. music industry may be following this lead. Here’s the news from Gil Kaufman of Billboard Biz

Sony Music announced last week that it is opening an office in Lagos, Nigeria, the first step towards establishing a footprint in a West African market that Adam Granite, Sony’s president of Northern/Eastern Europe & Africa, claims has huge growth potential.

“West Africa has a population of 340 million, and Nigeria alone has 150 million of that. It’s a very big country that has historically had a very large music market,” Granite said. In the ’70s, the nation had one of the largest music markets in the world, but piracy (analog then, digital now) has ravaged the music business, a situation Granite says is beginning to turn around, thanks to the expansion of the mobile market in region.

Sony and other majors haven’t traditionally had much, if any, market share in Africa. Until recently, the only way for most consumers to hear their product was either on the radio or through piracy. That’s one reason why Sony is in “very active discussions” with the Johannesburg-based mobile giant MTN Group’s Music+ streaming and download service, which will offer content to the service’s 2.5 million subscribers.

Rotimi Fawole, the head of business development for the four-year-old Africa-centric streaming and downloading service Spinlet, tells Billboard he is excited to have a major company in the country. “We expect that their efforts and promotions will lead to higher standards locally, not just with music production but also things like reporting, metadata, artist management, et cetera,” Fawole says. “Hopefully, they will set examples for local music companies to follow and the local industry should be the better for it in the long run.”

President Obama’s work to promote U.S. trade and investment in Africa is being done partly in an effort to catch up to China, which has worked to aggressively forge ties across the continent for over a decade now.  But one area which still remains relatively quiet?  The music industry.

As countries across the African continent experience a relative “gold rush” of technological and economic investment, it seems a very smart move by Sony to get in the game.  In an era of uncertainty for the established Western markets, the opportunities present as hundreds of millions of consumers lead themselves into the digital music age are exciting to say the least.  By following the President’s lead, it appears that Sony Music is doing something right.

With #SCOTUSBlock, Senate GOP Ignores Constitution, Discredits Scalia Legacy

To the nation’s Conservative movement, he will always be a legendary figure held in the highest regard.  To the nation’s Liberals, he may very well have been the bane of their existence.  But no matter one’s opinion of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s notorious views, it’s a safe bet that he always managed to provoke a strong and immediate reaction.  This was perhaps the Justice’s greatest strength.  If you were on the fence about a particular issue, Scalia knew how to make you choose a side.

At the heart of those controversial views was the rigid principle of Textualism.  Here are the Justice’s own words on textualism from a 2012 PBS interview

I have been very much devoted to textualism and to that branch of textualism that’s called originalism. That is, you not only use the text, but you give the text the meaning it had when it was adopted by the Congress, or by the people, if it’s a constitutional provision.

Although I have written a lot of opinions on the subject and spoken on the subject, and even written on the subject, I have never done hit in the depth that this book does.

The book is in two parts. one is — expresses, you know, my philosophy of judging and Bryan’s philosophy of judging. And the second part is a how-to-do-it part. Assuming you are a textualist, how do you go about doing it?

The process is not novel. I didn’t make it up. It shows that it is historically what American judges did, what English judges did. And it’s the other modes of interpretation that are novel and have to justify themselves.

So that was Justice Scalia’s firm belief, and the cornerstone of his judicial legacy.  But that legacy, which Conservatives say that they hold near and dear to their hearts, is currently being dishonored by the Senate Majority.  Just today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated that there would “be no hearings” for any Supreme Court nominee that President Obama would put forward.

Washington (CNN) In an unprecedented move, Senate Republicans vowed to deny holding confirmation hearings for President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee — even promising to deny meeting privately with whomever the President picks.

The historic move outraged Democrats and injected Supreme Court politics into the center of an already tense battle for the White House.

“I don’t know how many times we need to keep saying this: The Judiciary Committee has unanimously recommended to me that there be no hearing. I’ve said repeatedly and I’m now confident that my conference agrees that this decision ought to be made by the next president, whoever is elected,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.

So here’s the problem with the Senate GOP’s attitude.  Barack Hussein Obama is still the President of the United States.  His term does not end for another 331 days, and a new President will not be sworn in until January 20th, 2017.  Given the immense caseload and important decisions that must be made by the court, 1 year is far too much time for the American People to have to wait for another Supreme Court Justice to be confirmed.

Directly from the White House, here’s what the Constitution says about the President’s duties…

[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate,shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

Basically, the President is planning to do his job, while the Republican-controlled Senate (in which each Senator gets paid  $174,000 /year, in case you forgot) has publicly stated that it has no intention of doing its job.

If you or I decided one day, that we just didn’t want to work for a minimum of 331 days, what are the chances that we would even HAVE a job on January 20th??

Senator McConnell and his Republican friends are completely out of line this time.  If you don’t like the President’s nominee, reject them.  That is the Senate’s responsibility.  If they don’t want to confirm another Supreme Court Justice during President Obama’s remaining time in office, they don’t have to!  But what MUST do is hold hearings, give that person an up or down vote, and be ready to explain to the American People WHY they were not confirmed.  This should be a no-brainer for these many experienced Senators.  And if they can’t find the time to do their jobs, maybe the American People should find someone else that can.

And as for that $174k a piece that we’re shelling out??  Doesn’t seem very “Conservative” to pay people for NOT working.  Texas Leftist wonders what Senator McConnell and the rest of the GOP think on that.

End the #SCOTUSBlock!!

Senate

 

MLK’s Dream in 2016

On this 2016 commemoration day for the Reverend Marting Luther King Jr., an assessment of his Dream can be most clearly found in a voice from the past.

The poem Harlem by Langston Hughes…

 

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

 

Though his writings pre-date King and the American Civil Rights movement by a generation, their message still rings clear into the 21st Century. Much progress has been made, but Americans are now living in a time where the rights that we treasure are slowly slipping away. The only way to stop this is to get involved and work for the rights of all.

#BlackLivesMatter #EveryLifeMatters

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Is Texas Governor Greg Abbott Working With ISIS?

Is Texas Governor Greg Abbott working with ISIS?

Enquiring minds want to know.

If Liberals had a ‘Fox News equivalent’ media network, this would be a likely question asked during the news cycle this week.  The Governor of our nation’s 2nd most populous and 2nd most diverse state may not say outright that he’s working for ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) directly, but given his recent decision on those fleeing violence caused by the hate group, he may as well be on the payroll.

Here’s the story from Alexa Ura of the Texas Tribune

A day after about half of the country’s governors promised to block Syrian refugees from resettling in their states, religious and nonprofit leaders warned those governors that their actions could separate families and cause irreparable damage to public sentiment toward refugees.

“To close the door on resettling Syrian refugees would be nothing less than signing a death warrant for tens of thousands of families fleeing for their lives,” Linda Hartke, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said during a press call Tuesday. “If ISIS had hoped that their attacks in Paris would provoke the U.S. and its allies in reacting with small-minded panic, some governors are helping them get their wish.”

Following terrorist attacks in Paris that were linked with the Islamic State, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Monday that the state would not allow Syrian refugees to be resettled in Texas. Leaders of refugee resettlement nonprofits argued on Tuesday that the actions of Abbott and governors across the country could create challenges to reuniting families that were separated as they fled their home country or during the refugee screening process, particularly in Texas which has seen some of the highest numbers of Syrian refugees.

[…]

In a letter to President Barack Obama Monday, Abbott said he would direct the Texas Health & Human Services Commission’s Refugee Resettlement Program “to not participate in the resettlement of any Syrian refugees in the State of Texas.”

“Given the tragic attacks in Paris and the threats we have already seen, Texas cannot participate in any program that will result in Syrian refugees — any one of whom could be connected to terrorism — being resettled in Texas,” Abbott wrote.

 As alluded in the above, ISIS leaders are counting on the very Anti-Islmaic, Anti-Syrian attitudes that Governor Abbott is displaying here.  Syria is a country of nearly 23 million people… a few million behind Texas.  Even if the estimated number of ISIS militants across the world is above 200,000, that would still be less than one percent of the population in Syria alone.  And when compared against the world’s population of 1.6 Billion Muslims, the radical beliefs of ISIS compare to any other hate group associated with major world religions.

Even suggesting that ISIS is somehow representative of all Syrians or all Muslims is basically like saying that David Koresh and the Branch Davidians are representative of all Texas Christians. Punishing refugees at the expense of a few bad actors is a painful, false representation used to stoke fear and gain political points at the expense of making our state and nation less safe.  But that is exactly what our state’s top elected official has done.

The effects of such careless politics are long-lasting, especially in today’s world of fast-flowing, information.  At some point, we have to realize that the things we say and do now are connected to our future.  Take one Timothy McVeigh for example, who was so angry at the government for their treatment of Koresh that he killed 168 innocent Americans in the Oklahoma City Bombing. Nobody had to sneak him into the country to do that.

Be assured that everything Abbott suggests is not based in fact.  For starters, he likely has no legal basis to deny refugees entry into the state, unless he’s planning on secession and rapid building of a wall to keep all Americans out.  If anyone has to even wonder about the vetting process for the very few refugees that America would even accept, check out this quick clip from ThinkProgress.  Who’s going to go on a two year waiting list, be subject to extensive background checks, questioning, immense government scrutiny and commit copious financial resources they may not even have just to come to the U.S. and commit a heinous crime?

 

So please Governor, would you please stop helping ISIS to achieve its goals?  If you love Texas, do what’s best for Texas, not what’s best for YOU.

HERO Election Results: Welcome to ‘HATE Town’?

So about last night.  Katherine Driessen of the Houston Chronicle has the formal wrap-up…

Houston voters soundly rejected the city’s embattled equal rights ordinance Tuesday in one of the most heated local political contests in recent memory that drew national scrutiny and sparked months of impassioned back-and-forth about social issues, particularly transgender rights.

The decision leaves Houston the only major city in Texas and one of the few nationwide without some form of a nondiscrimination law. It also marks the third time Houston voters have rejected protections or benefits for gay residents, as they did in 1985 and 2001.

The equal rights ordinance, known by its acronym HERO, would have extended local protections against discrimination to 15 groups, ranging from veterans to pregnant women to gay and transgender residents, with the latter proving the biggest flashpoint for conservative opponents of the law. In recent weeks, the contest played out on a national stage, drawing comments from the White House and top state officials as well as media attention from a slew of top outlets.

Critics pinned their campaign on the controversial claim that the law would allow men dressed as women, including sexual predators, to enter women’s restrooms. Opponents’ most talked-about ad featured a man bursting into a bathroom stall occupied by a young girl as ominous music played in the background.

So that’s what happened.  And here’s what you need to remember, whether you live in Houston, or somewhere else in the United States of America…

Houston , Texas is a city of 2.3 million people.  Of that robust and rapidly growing number, 1 million Houstonians are eligible to vote.

Just over 1/4th of those 1 million Houstonians showed up to vote on the Proposition 1 issue.  15.7 percent of those eligible to vote in Houston rejected HERO, and 10 percent of voters wanted to uphold it.  And getting over 1/4th turnout for an off/off-year election is considered “historically high”.

Voter Apathy folks… the struggle is real.

As was pointed out in an earlier post, even this 25.7 percent doesn’t give the best gauge of what our city actually thinks about HERO, as over half of those showing up were in the 65 or older demographic.  Voters aged 18 to 24 came in at under 2 percent of the electorate, and when combined with those 25 to 34, the two groups were still under 10 percent.   At age 59, Mayor Annise Parker herself isn’t even in the age demographic that basically made this decision.   We saw some things in 2014 that were very similar.

And by the way… many Houstonians in that 65 and up  bracket did support equality, so we definitely don’t want assume the values of everyone.  But the demographic information is important to know.

Far from being “haters”, what we had here were a lot of good-hearted, mostly Senior Citizen folks that saw egregious TV ads and reacted as to them as many would expect.  Given those facts and the very long history of equality measures being defeated when put up for a popular vote, last night’s result seems less of a surprise.

To the titular question… Houston has absolutely NOT turned into ‘Hate Town’.  More like “we’re not ready” town, and “we were the latest forced to endure the embarrassment of an equality popular vote” town.  

Until we figure out how to increase Civic Engagement for Houston, Texas and across the country, we’re going to deal with elections where good ideas and candidates are defeated by misinformation and malice.  So before we battle for a new vote, maybe it’s time to double and triple the education effort.

 

Texas Leftist 2015 Endorsements

Here’s the Full List of Endorsements for the 2015 Houston Municipal Elections.  The Hyperlinks take you to the full-length endorsement page.  For more information on the candidates, check out the Questionnaire Responses, and be sure to also visit Off the Kuff’s 2015 Elections Page.

 

Houston Mayor
Sylvester Turner

Houston City Controller
Chris Brown

Houston City Council
At-Large Races
Position 1: Tom McCasland
Position 2: David Robinson
Position 3: Doug Peterson
Position 4 Amanda Edwards
Position 5: Philippe Nassif

District Races
District A: Brenda Stardig
District B: Jerry Davis
District C: Ellen Cohen
District D: unopposed (Dwight Boykins)
District E: unopposed (Dave Martin)
District F: Richard Nguyen
District G: Greg Travis
District H: Roland Chavez
District I: Robert Gallegos
Distrcit J: Mike Laster
District K: unopposed (Larry Green)

City of Houston Proposition 1:  Y-E-S!!!!
City of Houston Proposition 2:  No endorsement

 

And just to say one more time…

Like Dallas, Austin, Ft. Worth, New Orleans, hundreds of other cities and 17 states across the county, all Houstonians deserve to live in a city that does not condone discrimination.  Please vote yes to uphold the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.  Don’t believe the lies!!

Early Voting runs now until October 30th, and Election Day is November 4th.

HUEfest Mural

Photo credit:  Gary Paul Smith from Flickr