The ABCs of the GOP: B is for…

BULLYING

As the American people, we vote for our government officials, and we elect them to go to Washington to work on our behalf. The primary responsibility of of Congress is to make the nation’s laws. But from the current philosophy of the GOP, you wouldn’t know this. Their primary objective in Washington is to defeat President Obama at all costs.

Since the day President Obama was elected, Republican lawmakers have decided to use tactics of belligerence to get what they want. Eventhough the 2008 election came with sweeping majorities in the House and Senate, the GOP already had a plan to shut down the government in place using the Senate Filibuster, and you better believe it worked. With Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress, the Senate became a place of ultimate gridlock. Billions of dollars of government assistance that could have kept people in their jobs, helped states at a time of their most dire need, and spurred further economic development were kept from the American people because of a greedy few in the Senate GOP. Bills such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Credit Card Holder’s Bill of Rights Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, and even the DREAM Act were all passed by the House of Representatives under Nancy Pelosi.

Yes, the United States of America came within one breath of passing the DREAM Act. On December 8th, 2010 the US House passed the bill on a 216-198 vote. But thanks to Senate Republicans, it DIED.

It’s one thing to vote against a bill on principle… if you disagree strongly with something becoming a law, that is what the Filibuster is for. But bullying is entirely different. Take the 2010 Filibuster of Barbara Milano Keenan… an Obama nominee to the Federal Court in Virginia. GOP members of the Senate filibustered her nomination for 5 months, and what was their objection? Absolutely nothing. No one spoke against her qualifications, no one gave any reason why they couldn’t vote for her. She was unanimously confirmed by the Senate after their cry-baby move. 99-0 confirmation vote. This is more than typical bullying, but was a complete WASTE of taxpayer money.

Basically, the tactic back then was to obstruct government (and the President) from being able to accomplish anything. This slowed our pace of recovery sharply and resulted in millions of public sector job losses, just to make President Obama and Democrats look bad. We’re still feeling the effects of this today. Here’s a graph showing the history of the filibuster. Notice how its use doubles right after Obama is elected…

But the bullying and belligerence hasn’t stopped yet.

Remember Richard Grenell, Mitt Romney’s openly gay Foriegn Policy Spokesman who resigned after mounting pressure from the Far Right? No doubt that he was forced from his position solely because he was gay. But here’s the question… Mr. Grenell didn’t appear out of thin air to the GOP. He comes with a long list of foriegn policy accomplishments, and was appointed by President George W. Bush to a United Nations advisory role. He served as a spokesperson to four U.N. Ambassadors. This man was a real asset to the Romney campaign, and has been a faithful member of the GOP, but he was bullied from his position. Funny how Grenell was a Bush appointment, yet no one staged a hell-fire protest against him at the time. Maybe because they didn’t care if W supported gay people? But for some reason, if Mitt Romney does anything outside of their comfort zone, it’s unacceptable.

I have no personal dislike of Mitt Romney. Truthfully, I don’t think he would be a bad President. But it’s not Romney we should fear, it’s all the bullies that get elected with him, and his inability to stand up to them. He is now the leader of the Republican Party, yet he shows no courage to combat the wild extreme hate and rage within it. Bryan Fischer… leader of the American Family Association and a legendary bigot… says it best:

“If Mitt Romney can be pushed around, intimidated, coerced, co-opted by a conservative radio talk show host in Middle America, then how is he going to stand up to the Chinese? How is he going to stand up to Putin? How is he going to stand up to North Korea if he can be pushed around by a yokel like me? I don’t think Romney is realizing the doubts that this begins to raise about his leadership.”

The Rick Grenell scenario should tell us all we need to know about the current GOP. The party continues to put their own self interests ahead of the American People, and will stop at nothing to bully their way into total control.

Houston: Sports City

This weekend, history is being made in the city of Houston. With the opening of BBVA Compass Stadium, professional soccer has a permanent home in the city. The 22,000-seat facility is soccer-specific, and joins an elite few stadiums of its kind in the United States. After 6 years, the Houston Dynamo’s gamble of moving to The Bayou City has paid out in a big way.

But BBVA Compass is more than just the latest shiny pro-sports facility. It marks the 3rd stadium to come to downtown Houston, joining Minute Maid Park and Toyota Center. This type of planning is a true analomy for most American cities of today, as many professional teams (especially those in more auto-centric cities like Houston) build out in the city’s suburbs.

Houston’s facilities are not only in the urban core of the city, but are also in the core of a well-established transit network. Fans coming to the new stadium can arrive by bus, train or by their car. For citizens that may not have a car, professional soccer is a viable entertainment option for them, along with all of Houston’s other major sports franchises. The same cannot be said for FC Dallas fans, whose Frisco facility is 28 miles from downtown, and only reachable by car. Though I’m not aware of any significant study showing likely soccer fans that would use public transit, it’s reasonable to make the connection that more options could equate to more ticket sales.

So now, more than ever before, Downtown Houston is the hub of pro-sports in Southeast Texas. As alternative energy, sustainability, and regional mobility become increasingly important to American life, Houston is showing that it can be a real game-changer.

So GO DYNAMO!! And Go Houston!

(photo credit: brijonmang on HAIF)

Obama SUPPORTS Same Sex Marriage… No more dithering!!

So there you have it. Can a clearer party line ever be drawn? Mitt Romney caves to the pressure of Right-wing extremists and lets an openly gay staffer be forced from his campaign. But today in an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, President Obama drops this soundbite…

Full disclosure… we knew it was coming. You could tell from previous answers he’s had on the subject, but I must say that it is a real joy and relief to hear this before the election. If for some reason the President loses to Romney, at least now he will be able to say that he did what he could for ALL Americans.

And just so we’re clear and you know who to vote for in November, this is the official Republican Party Response from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus (via Talking Points Memo):

““While President Obama has played politics on this issue, the Republican Party and our presumptive nominee Mitt Romney have been clear. We support maintaining marriage between one man and one woman and would oppose any attempts to change that,”

So one political party has rapidly expanding support for marriage equality, and one says NO and wants to keep things exactly how they are. Notice he didn’t say, ‘this should be left up to states to decide’. He didn’t let Mitt Romney speak for himself. He said Gay marriage is wrong, and ALL Republicans share in this view. You can’t draw a more CLEAR distinction than that.

It’s called COURAGE folks. If you love someone, you love them for who they are. Even if you don’t agree with their lifestyle choices, you defend their rights as citizens of this country. On behalf of me and everyone else who has had to suffer in the fight for GLBT equality, I want to thank President Obama for being a good man, and supporting marriage rights for all Americans.

The ABCs of the GOP: A is for….

AUSTERITY

Even if you haven’t followed the news lately, you know one thing for sure about our country… record job losses have left over 9 million Americans out of work, and our unemployment rate stands today above 8 percent. It has touched every one of our lives in some way. Chances are that you either lost your job or know someone that has. In short, things ain’t what they used to be. Somehow though, amongst all of the devastation, the facts of who lost these jobs, and why they were lost seem to be continually lost in the shuffle. In order to understand and hopefully avoid this cycle, we need to be reminded of what is going on.

This Recession was born from corruption, fraud and bad investments within the Private Sector. Remember the Collateralized Debt Obligations, Mortgage-Backed Securities and all of the other crazy, phony things that were being sold on Wall Street? Remember the mortgages that were being sold to unsuspecting families where their payments would TRIPLE overnight, and when they fell behind on their loans, they were thrown to the street in foreclosure? Remember the Bernie Madoff, R. Allen Stanford, robosigners and all of the other corporate giants that turned out to be nothing more than common crooks that were robbing Peter to pay Paul? Remember DHL, Circuit City, the Sharper Image and all the other companies that closed up shop and put their ENTIRE workforce on unemployment? Yeah, that was the Recession… 4 million jobs were lost in the private sector.

But what about the other 5 million jobs? Where did those come from?? State and local governments have slashed positions left and right since 2009. Teachers, firefighters, police, state and city parks systems… virturally every city in America also lost public workers due to this Recession. This of course was everywhere, and by no means can it be confined to the GOP.

Ok wait, that last part is only half-right. According to The Nation, Red states have seen the swiftest and deepest of these austere cuts… much more than their blue-state counterparts. Even as states like Texas continue to have increasing (and sometimes alarming) demand for more teachers and more public services, they are ignoring the needs of Texans and cutting government Employees at every opportunity. Even as private sector growth began to heal, these jobs didn’t (and can’t) come back until state government takes real action to CREATE them.

Public sector work continues to be slashed and burned even to this day, and hasn’t begun to recover. But Private sector jobs continue to rebound, and are now in the 14th month of continuous employment growth. In fact according to this chart from the Center for American Progress, Private sector employment hit a “milestone” last month. We have now gained 4 million jobs within the Private sector… that puts us back at 0. Exciting? No, of course not. But it’s very important to understand.

Government austerity continues to plague our state and local legislatures, and is now dragging on our hopes for national recovery. Some people think this is a good thing, but seeing as it’s teachers, police, firefighters and government workers that are getting cut, these job losses have a significant effect on our community. Larger class sizes means a tougher time educating our children. Fewer police means less people out there risking their lives to keep us safe. Austerity has consequences, and if the United States truly doesn’t want to end up like Europe, we need to stop the bleed while we have the chance.

So please… say no to GOP-led AUSTERITY.

(Today marks 26 weeks until the Presidential election. I intend to post each week until then.)

UPDATE: Even Catholic Bishops are opposed to the hyper-austerity within the Ryan Budget, calling the cuts “immoral”…

“The Catholic bishops of the United States recognize the serious deficits our country faces, and we acknowledge that Congress must make difficult decisions about how to allocate burdens and sacrifices and balance resources and needs,” Blaire wrote. “However, deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility efforts must protect and not undermine the needs of poor and vulnerable people. The proposed cuts to programs in the budget reconciliation fail this basic moral test.”

The bishop, speaking for the entire conference, the official body representing Vatican in the United States, urged politicians to “ensure all policies meet the moral criteria established by the Catholic bishops of the United States to create a circle of protection around programs that serve poor and vulnerable people and communities:”

As a nation with many faith believers, shouldn’t we take this seriously??

Europe’s Newest Monarch Is…

You thought I was going to say Duchess Kate right?? Nope, it’s actually Francois Hollande, the recent President-elect of France. He has defeated Nicolas Sarkozy by a 3% margin, and is the first Socialist President to take the reigns of France in over 20 years. But here’s an interesting little tidbit of history. The President of France is also the only “elected monarch” on earth. By becoming President, Hollande also becomes Co-Prince of the tiny country of Andorra. Granted, he wasn’t elected by the Andorran people… they don’t get to vote, but he didn’t inherit the throne from anyone either. So as he has to deal with public accountability, huge economic issues and turbulent European relations in La Repubublique, at least Hollande can find solace in the absolute rule of Andorra when needed. Must be nice.

So he is Co-Prince… that implies that there is another Prince out there somewhere?? Yes the other Co-Prince of Andorra is actually Bishop Joan Enric Vives i Sicília. The Spanish Bishop of Urgell rules the tiny Principality alongside the French President. It must be interesting to live in a country governed by two monarchs, but neither of them live in the country.

In any case, Monsieur Hollande has a lot more to do now than pour through interesting European trivia facts. Better leave that up to the bloggers.

Texas Senate Debate… Democrats included

Something quite unexpected and welcome occurred during last night’s Texas Senate debate. Titled “Conversation with the Candidates” it was produced and Co-Sponsored by Houston Public Media and the Texas Tribune.

For the first time since 2006, the state of Texas had a major political debate in which both Democrats and Republicans were present. Sure the Democrats were outnumbered 4 to 2, but at least both viewpoints were there and were voiced. This was a huge “win” for Texas Democrats even if one of their candidates doesn’t win the seat.

Now you may be thinking “2006? That can’t possibly be true. We had a Gubernatorial election in 2010… Rick Perry vs. Bill White.” Bill White and Rick Perry only participated in Primary debates, but there was never a debate in the General Election. Had Perry debated White, we may have been spared the abysmal performances he gave us in the 2012 Primary Election cycle. You know what they say… Practice makes perfect, right?

As divided as those viewpoints were at times, last night’s debate was quite respectful among the candidates. The presumed GOP front-runner David Dewhurst spent most of his time attacking The President saying that real economic improvement couldn’t occur until we “send Barack Obama back to Chicago, get a good, conservative Republican in the White House that will follow a stable, predictable course.”

Dewhurst also spent much of his time touting his accomplishments along side Rick Perry. Though, it’s fair to say that Texas is no longer under a surplus and education and health care costs for our state continue to surge out of control. He apparently thought it was a record worth sharing.

Ted Cruz spent most of the evening going after Dewhurst for harsh campaign ads, and name-dropping all of the Washington insight he’s built up as an Attrorney arguing before the Supreme Court. Not a whole host of solutions.

It was clear from the debate that former NFL-player Craig James had no prior political experiences. Between living off of mayo sandwiches, fear of “hurting our lizards” during natural gas fracking, and his invaluable life lessons on the goat ranch, his other pie-in-the-sky answers left this viewer non-plussed. He calls for lowering corporate tax rates to 0 percent, and then somehow jobs and business will simply flood our shores. He’s not ready for Prime Time yet.

Among the GOP contenders, the most capable candidate to handle real problems of everyday Texans was former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert. Even if you don’t agree with his positions, you have to respect him for presenting logical solutions to our state and our nation’s issues. He presented his views with a clarity and poise that wasn’t present in the other Republican candidates. That’s not an endorsement… just a recognition.

The best surprise of the debate was a 31 year-old Dallas business owner named Sean Hubbard. A clear, unapologetic Liberal who stands up for his values, but also presented the logic skills that are so desperately needed in Washington right now. When asked about the future possibility of drought in Texas, he say that “We should be investing now in Deselination plants.” A solution that no other candidate (and most in our state government) have even considered. Though mostly in agreement with his Democratic opponent Paul Sadler, Hubbard maintained a more concise, prominent and straight-forward presence among the group. When discussing Women’s Rights, Hubbard said that it’s “an embarrassment” and stated that “women are more than capable of making their own decisions about their bodies and their health.” He even revealed that for a time his wife used the services of Planned Parenthood “not for abortions, but for cancer screenings”.

After two long hours, my endorsement would have to go to Sean Hubbard for his clarity of thought, innovative solutions and strength of viewpoint. The Honorable Mention would go to Tom Leppert, because even if I didn’t agree with his positions, the willingness to search for real solutions instead of just saying no.

Here’s a link to the full debate. Watch for yourself and form your own opinion.

Houston’s new Downtown Hotel! and why we need it

So plans for the long-rumored Convention Center Hotel have finally taken lift-off. Just weeks away from the May 12th opening of BBVA Compass stadium, Downtown Houston is about to be buzzing again with some big news. Houston First Corp. is in the final stages of selecting a Development team for a new Convention Center Hotel. The new hotel would be at least 1,000 rooms with a climate-controlled connection to the George R. Brown Convention Center. According to Houston First, this planned hotel project isn’t the last either with a clear intention to have 4 hotels surround the Convention Center.

So some would ask… why do we need another Downtown Hotel?? More rooms close to the Convention Center means bigger conventions can come to downtown. It also means more conventions overall, as it decreases the wait time for attendees to have to wait on hotel rooms (checking in/checking out). Downtown Houston is still at a massive lack for hotels rooms in downtown when compared to other cities. At present, Houston is about 2,000 hotels rooms shy of what is expected near a major Convention Center, when compared to other cites.

Convention visitors is just one main piece of the puzzle though. With the addition of BBVA Compass Stdium this month (set to open May 12th), Downtown Houston will gain a 3rd major venue for sports events, large-scale concerts and private functions. The city is getting to a point where for some event weekends, downtown hotel space becomes crucially crowded.

Kudos to Houston First Corp. for seeing this growing need.

A Voice for the Rest of Texas