Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Texas AFT Survey Shows Destructive Budget Cuts Hitting Students and Teachers Hard

A recent Texas AFT web survey of more than 3,500 teachers, school employees and parents reveals the extent to which our schools are experiencing widespread layoffs, cuts to key programs and services, larger class sizes, and stressful conditions for teaching and learning—all related to the $5.4 billion in state budget cuts enacted this year.

In addition to quantifying some of the impacts, teachers and other school employees consistently commented on significantly lower morale from lack of resources to teach schoolchildren, and from longer work hours, more duties, increased paperwork, bullying by administrators, reduced planning time and lack of learning materials and supplies.

“The numbers reported for layoffs and larger class sizes confirm the direct impact on classroom instruction,” said Linda Bridges, Texas AFT president. “Our teachers are doing their best to mitigate the damage of these cuts, but it’s disturbing to hear comments on how much less time they have—both in giving students the personal attention they need to succeed and in preparing for their classes, grading papers and trying to meet the expectations for achievement on the more rigorous STAAR exam this spring. It’s as if the state gave schools a higher bar to hurdle this year, then dug a deep ditch in front of it.”

Some 92 percent of respondents noted layoffs in their district, with a large percentage reporting loss of teachers (85 percent) and teacher assistants (79 percent).

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Democrats Pin Their U.S. Senate Hopes on Women

If you want a sign of the gender gap in American politics, look no further than both parties' Senate recruitment efforts. Democrats have accomplished the rare feat of convincing more women than men to run in leading Senate races next year, include the six women up for reelection.

Democrats believe their A-list of candidates, despite many of their outspoken liberal views, is uniquely positioned to drive the income-inequality message that party strategists believe will be pivotal. However, that bets that biography trumps ideology in 2012.


The video captures Elizabeth Warren passionately refuting the Republication Party's meme that the Democratic policy that everyone should pay their fair share of taxes amounts to “class warfare” against the wealthy.

Of the eight open or Republican-held seats Democrats are aggressively contesting, there's a good chance that a woman will end up as the standard-bearer in at least half.

Democrats' path to holding the Senate winds through Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, Rep. Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Rep. Shelley Berkley in Nevada, and, potentially, Rep. Mazie Hirono in Hawaii.

Party officials also are hoping former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp can pull off an upset in Republican-friendly North Dakota.

Republicans have landed prominent women candidates too, with former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle and former New Mexico Rep. Heather Wilson best positioned for victory next year. But their A-list roster isn't nearly as deep as the Democrats'.

Read the full story @ The Atlantic

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Buyer's Remorse For The Tea Party

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press: Since the 2010 midterm elections, the Tea Party has not only lost support nationwide, but also in the congressional districts represented by members of the House Tea Party Caucus. And a year out from the Republican landslide Nov. 2010 election, the image of the Republican Party has declined even more sharply in these Teapublican-controlled districts than across the country at large, according to the latest Pew Research Center survey, conducted Nov. 9-14.

People in those Teapublican districts now agree with the Tea Party by far slimmer margins than they did in 2010 -- just 27 percent to 22 percent.

A year ago, in the wake of the sweeping GOP gains in the midterm elections, the balance of opinion was just the opposite: 27% agreed and 22% disagreed with the Tea Party. At both points, more than half offered no opinion.

Throughout the 2010 election cycle, agreement with the Tea Party far outweighed disagreement in the 60 House districts represented by members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus. But as is the case nationwide, support has now decreased significantly over the past year; now about as many people living in Tea Party districts disagree (23%) as agree (25%) with the Tea Party.

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Gallup: Democrats More Liberal, Less White Than In 2008

In many respects, the demographic profile of Democrats nationwide is similar to what it was in 2008, according to a new Gallup poll, although Democrats have become somewhat less white and more liberal than the party that nominated Barack Obama as its presidential candidate that year.

As a group, Democrats are more likely than average to be women, less likely to be religious or married, much less likely to be conservative, and much more likely to be liberal than the U.S. population as a whole. Democrats remain decidedly more female on average than the national population, with little significant change in this pattern over the last three years. This contrasts with the male skew in the Republican Party rank-and-file.

Perhaps the most significant change in the composition of Democrats between 2008 and today is the two-point increase, from 35% to 37%, in the percentage describing their political views as "liberal."

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Women - Married And Single - Key Democratic Voters In 2012

The Voter Participation Center

One year out from the 2012 election and new quantitative and qualitative research makes it very clear – next year will be very different from 2008, when Democrats captured the White House, gained seven U.S. Senate seats and the majority, and expanded their control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Today, key progressive supporters are disengaged and unenthusiastic. The results of focus groups conducted by The Voter Participation Center (VPC), Democracy Corps and Finding Common Ground to explore common values among people of color, youth, affluent suburban voters and unmarried women, confirm the wide enthusiasm gap between Republicans and Democrats found in recent surveys. According to Gallup, 39 percent of Republicans describe themselves as “extremely enthusiastic” about the 2012 elections; just 18 percent of Democrats do.

A just-released memo drilling down on the attitudes of the unmarried women who participated in the common values focus groups, Re-Energizing Unmarried Women explains, “Unmarried women – who make up more than a quarter of America’s voting-eligible population – today feel disengaged and alienated from politics and that threatens their participation in the next election. The perceived failure of the new president to fulfill a key campaign promise — to change Washington — leaves these unmarried women detached from both parties and politics in general.”

According to the memo, “These women stand by the President for the most part, but are in a far different place than they were in 2008. As one woman memorably noted, she will vote for the President, but will not put his bumper sticker back on her car this year.”

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Texas Democratic Party Needs A New Direction

State Rep. Aaron Peña, from Hidalgo County in South Texas, after serving five terms in the Texas House, announced last last week that he's not seeking re-election to a sixth term.

Peña, who had been a long time conservative Democrat, switched to the Republican party last November, just weeks after being re-elected to office as a Democrat. Peña's switch gave the GOP a super majority of 101 members in the 150-member House for the 2011 legislative session. As a thank you from the Republican controlled legislature, Peña's district was gerrymandered redistricted to include a majority of Republican-friendly voters.

But after the panel of three federal judges in San Antonio on Wednesday ordered un-gerrymandered election maps for the 2012 election, Pena said he just couldn't win in his district running as a Republican. Peña is the 23rd incumbent in the House to decide not to seek another term of office. (Mean Rachel has an interesting blog post on Peña's withdrawal)

Peña is not first and probably not the last in a long line of erstwhile conservative Democrats to abandon the Democratic Party for the Republican Party. Rick Perry switched affiliation from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party more than 20 years ago. Millions of erstwhile conservative Democrats - politicos and voters alike - have switched party allegiance to become Republicans over the past 20 years.

Today, the Texas Democratic Party finds itself in a state of near disarray - deserted by erstwhile conservative Democrats, unable to field new candidates who can win elections, and unable to attract donations to fund party operations. Both houses of the state legislature have large majorities of Republican, and there hasn't been a Democrat elected to a statewide office for the last 18 years. It's not because members of the Republican Party of Texas vastly outnumber members of the Texas Democratic Party (TDP) in the state -- they don't. The parties have roughly equal membership.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell's ThanksgivingThanksgiving is a time when many Americans pause to be grateful for all we have. In the current economic downturn when the gap between rich and poor is at the highest level since the Great Depression, millions of our neighbors, including many families with children, are struggling hard to count their blessings.

Last year, 17.2 million households in the United States were food insecure, the highest level on record, as the Great Recession continued to wreak havoc on families across the country. Of those 17.2 million households, 3.9 million included children. On Thanksgiving Day, here’s a look at hunger in America, as millions of Americans struggle to get enough to eat in the wake of the economic crisis.

Hunger in Texas is a growing problem, even as Republicans clamor to scrap federal programs such as Social Security and food stamps that have helped keep food insecurity from becoming worse. Over the past three years, an average of 18.8 percent of Texas households couldn't get enough food to meet their needs, at least at times, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest review, released Wednesday. That was the second-highest percentage of any state, with only Mississippi, at 19.4 percent, looking worse.

Dallas County has about 450,000 people who have unsteady access to food, or 19 percent of its population. In Collin County, there are about 100,000 such folks (and a rate of 14 percent), while in Denton County, the 15-percent rate equates to about 90,000 people. Gov. Perry has recently been highly critical of the very food stamp program that has helped his state’s poorest residents get enough to eat. Perry calls the size of the food stamp program a “testament to widespread misery” — instead of an essential aid that’s keeping Texan families alive.

While Gov. Rick Perry touts his "Texas Miracle" record as he seeks the GOP presidential nomination, he ignores the fact that Texas has the second-highest number of households in the U.S. that are do not have enough food to put on the table - on Thanksgiving Day, or any other day of the year.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why Is Congress So Dysfunctional?

by Lois Beckett - ProPublica, Nov. 23, 2011

Congress’ approval ratings are abysmal, and the failure of the congressional “super committee” to find a compromise on reducing the national debt has set off a new round of recriminations.

One senator on the super committee, Democrat Max Baucus of Montana, told the Washington Post, “We’re at a time in American history where everybody's afraid — afraid of losing their job — to move toward the center. A deadline is insufficient. You’ve got to have people who are willing to move.”

Decrying partisanship is almost as old as the republic itself. But long-time observers of Congress say that Congress has actually taken a turn for the worse—more gridlock, more grandstanding, less compromise to get things done.

Old rules are being used in newly aggressive, partisan ways, and routine Congressional activities have become politicized—most notably, the vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. Once a nonissue, the debt ceiling vote brought the nation to the brink of default.

Read the full story @ ProPublica

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

GOP Forced To Defend Bush Tax Cuts And Massive Military Spending In 2012

The so-called "supercommittee," a bipartisan group of legislators, that was supposed to reach an agreement on how to reduce future deficits has failed.

This failure thrusts the much-contested Bush tax cuts and U.S. military spending, which has almost doubled to roughly $700 billion since 2001, into the forefront of next year’s presidential campaign.

Why was the supercommittee doomed to fail? Mainly because the gulf between the Democratic and Republican parties is so wide.

Republicans believe that the $2.5 trillion in tax cuts Pres. Bush enacted from 2001-2007 aren't enough. Republicans believe additional tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, further slashing to all government spending, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and further increases to military spending will reduce the federal deficit and create jobs. The negotiating position of Republicans on the supercommittee was that Democrats must agree to privatize Medicare, or there could be no budget deal.

Democrats see that the trillions of dollars of tax cuts already given to corporations and the wealthy, plus the increase of annual military spending from $379 billion to roughly $700 billion over the past decade has created the massive federal deficit and it's time to abandon that failed Republican ideology.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders: Deficits Were Caused Mainly By Big Tax Cuts For The Wealthy

Here is something we all can agree on: Federal deficits are a serious problem.

Here is something no one seriously disputes: Today's big deficits were caused mainly by big tax cuts for the wealthy, two unpaid-for wars, a horrible recession caused by Wall Street greed, and an expensive prescription drug program rigged to favor pharmaceutical companies.


Sen. Bernie Sanders

Here is something we should not agree to do: Cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

There is surprisingly broad consensus among Americans (except inside the corporate-dominated D.C. beltway) on what to do about deficits.

In poll after poll, strong majorities favor making the wealthiest Americans, who, in many cases, have never had it so good, share the sacrifice and pay a little more in taxes. Increasing taxes on the wealthy is overwhelmingly supported by Democrats and independents.

A majority of Republicans and people in the Tea Party movement also support taxing millionaires to help bring down deficits. Even many millionaires say they should be paying higher taxes. At a time when many profitable corporations pay nothing in federal income taxes, there also is widespread support for closing corporate tax loopholes. Taking a hard look at mushrooming defense spending also enjoys widespread support.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Court Proposes Interim State House And Senate Redistricting Maps

The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio proposed new State House and Senate district maps late Thursday and asked for comment by the end of the day Friday.

To read the court's orders for their proposed maps click - State House and State Senate. To see the maps noted in the court orders go to DistrictViewer website operated by the Texas House and look for House maps under "Exhibits for Perez et al" and Senate maps under "Exhibits for Davis v. Perry."

The court intends to have new U.S. congressional and legislative maps in place for Texas on the Monday after Thanksgiving -- the court-set date when candidates for the Texas House and Senate and for the state’s 36 congressional seats will officially start filing for a place on their respective party's primary ballot. The filing period ends at the end of the day on Dec. 15th.

Effectively, when filing closes on Dec. 15 primary races in more than half of the districts will be over because a large number of incumbents won’t draw serious opposition within their respective party.

For the remaining contested primary races, the people who represent those districts will effectively be chosen in March, in the party primary elections. That is because even the court-drawn political districts will remain toxic to candidates from one party or the other.

Nearly two-thirds of the districts are configured to be problematic for anyone other than Republicans to win given the historically low voting turnout among Hispanic and African-American communities. Few Democrats will step up to run in districts where Democratic voters never turnout to vote.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pew: Obama Approval Ticks Up, Bests All Challengers Nationally

A Pew Research Center for the People & the Press poll shows that with much of the recent political focus on the ever-changing flavor of the month Republican presidential front runner, Barack Obama’s job rating has improved over the past month. While a majority of Americans (52%) continue to hold a favorable personal opinion of Pres. Obama, this is not the case for his main GOP rivals.

Among the leading GOP candidates, none is viewed favorably on balance. Slightly more have an unfavorable opinion of Mitt Romney (42%) than a favorable opinion (36%), and the balance of opinion toward Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry is even more negative.

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DOJ Tells Texas It's Still Waiting For Requested Data On Voter Photo ID

The U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) Civil Rights Division Voting Section Chief T. Christian Herren Jr. informed the Texas Secretary of State’s office that it has yet to provide the information the USDOJ requested at the end of September.

In a letter issued Wednesday, Herren informed the Texas Director of Elections, Ann McGeehan, that without the requested information the USDOJ is unable to determine if the voter photo ID law will “have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.” The USDOJ must make that determination before the law may be implemented.

The letter from Herren restarts the 60 day clock on when the USDOJ has to make a decision about whether the law, which means the Jan 1, 2012 scheduled date of implementation is now jeopardy. If Texas does not return the requested information by Jan. 16, 2012, the USDOJ could reject Texas application for preclearance of SB14. Texas, then, would likely appeal the rejection through the courts.

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GOP Plans To Raise Middle Class Taxes By Eliminating Itemized Deductions

Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who serves on the 12-member debt super congress committee described a $290 billion Republican super congress committee debt reduction plan that limit deductions for mortgage interest, charitable donations and state and local taxes while taxing for the first employer-provided health benefits. The Republican plan would also cut the top income tax rate for the wealthiest people from 35 percent to 28 percent, and drop the bottom tax rate from 10 percent to 8 percent. Progressive Democrats point out that such big reductions in top tax rates would result in large tax cuts for the rich, which would be paid for by eliminating tax breaks that primarily benefit the middle class.

The Occupy movement is a protest of policies that have given the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans 42 percent of the nation's wealth and tremendous political power over the last three decades, while the remaining 99 percent of American workers have seen their incomes decline and political power wane.

When the Supreme Court ruled in its "Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission" decision that the government may not ban political spending by corporations, it equated corporate money to personal free speech. The 1% who control corporations are now combining the "free speech" power of their corporation's treasuries with their personal wealth to buy media Ads, hire lobbyists and fund their choice of political candidates.

The only free speech option left to the other 99% of American citizens is to exercise their first amendment right to petition government by coming together in such places in such numbers that they demand the political voice the other 1% can simply buy with a stroke of a pen in their checkbook.
Meanwhile, the Congressional super congress committee only has one week left to come up with a plan that will cut more than $1 trillion from the federal deficit. A deficit created largely by massive millionaire tax cuts President Bush pushed through congress during the eight years he held the White House.

Republicans are opposed to raising revenues by raising taxes, even on the wealthiest Americans, who have seen their taxes dramatically cut over the past 14 years.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Republicans Want Personhood Amendment To U.S. Constitution

Republicans in the U.S. Congress and Republican presidential candidates want a federal Personhood Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that directly parallels the Mississippi Personhood Ballot Initiative 26 state constitutional amendment.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

The New Progressive Movement

The New York Times

Occupy Wall Street and its allied movements around the country are more than a walk in the park. They are most likely the start of a new era in America.

Historians have noted that American politics moves in long swings. We are at the end of the 30-year Reagan era, a period that has culminated in soaring income for the top 1 percent and crushing unemployment or income stagnation for much of the rest.

The overarching challenge of the coming years is to restore prosperity and power for the 99 percent.

Thirty years ago, a newly elected Ronald Reagan made a fateful judgment: “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” Taxes for the rich were slashed, as were outlays on public services and investments as a share of national income. Only the military and a few big transfer programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ benefits were exempted from the squeeze.

Reagan’s was a fateful misdiagnosis. He completely overlooked the real issue — the rise of global competition in the information age — and fought a bogeyman, the government. Decades on, America pays the price of that misdiagnosis, with a nation singularly unprepared to face the global economic, energy and environmental challenges of our time.

Washington still channels Reaganomics. The federal budget for nonsecurity discretionary outlays — categories like highways and rail, education, job training, research and development, the judiciary, NASA, environmental protection, energy, the I.R.S. and more — was cut from more than 5 percent of gross domestic product at the end of the 1970s to around half of that today. With the budget caps enacted in the August agreement, domestic discretionary spending would decline to less than 2 percent of G.D.P. by the end of the decade, according to the White House. Government would die by fiscal asphyxiation.

Read the full article @ The New York Times

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Republicans View Gov't Alternative Energy Investments as Unnecessary

Public support for increased federal funding on research into alternative energy technology, including solar technology, has decreased substantially since the early months of the Obama administration, with nearly all the decline coming from Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post, conducted Nov. 3-6 among 1,005 adults, finds that overall, 68% of the public favors increasing federal funding for research on wind, solar and hydrogen energy technology while 26% are opposed. From 2006 through early 2009, roughly 80% supported increased federal funding for alternative energy research.

Since April 2009, there has been a 30-point decline in the percentage of Republicans and Republican leaners supporting more federal funding for research into alternative energy technologies. Currently, 53% favor this policy, down from 82% in April 2009. There has been little change in opinions among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Currently, 83% of Democrats favor increased funding for research into alternative energy technologies.

Two-thirds (68%) of Democrats and Democratic leaners say government investment in new energy is necessary. Most Republicans and GOP leaners (59%) say businesses will produce technology without government investment.

Support for government funding for alternative energy research has fallen since 2009, but this policy continues to draw more support than other ways to address America’s supply. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) favor more oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters and the same percentage favors allowing more mining and drilling on federally owned land.

More Americans continue to oppose (53%) than favor (39%) promoting the increased use of nuclear power. Only about four-in-ten (38%) favor government subsidies for ethanol production as a policy for addressing the U.S. energy supply. Nearly half (48%) oppose ethanol subsidies.

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Greenhouse Gases Continues to Climb

NOAA's updated Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI), which measures the direct climate influence of many greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, shows a continued steady upward trend that began with the Industrial Revolution of the 1880s.


NOAA's Annual Greenhouse Gas Index is a gauge of the climate warming influence of greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere by human activities. The heating effect of additional greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased by 29 percent since 1990. (NOAA)

Started in 2004, the AGGI jumped 6 percent in 2010 reaching 1.29 — a figure far worse than what climate scientists predicted four years ago. Half of the increase is attributable to China and the United States. That means that by the end of 2010 the combined heating effect of long-lived greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere by human activities has increased by 29 percent since 1990, the "index" year used as a baseline for comparison.

"The increasing amounts of long-lived greenhouse gases in our atmosphere indicate that climate change is an issue society will be dealing with for a long time," said Jim Butler, director of the Global Monitoring Division of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. "Climate warming has the potential to affect most aspects of society, including water supplies, agriculture, ecosystems and economies. NOAA will continue to monitor these gases into the future to further understand the impacts on our planet."

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Point Of No Return For Climate Changing Greenhouse Gases

Washington Post: Based on everything we know about climate science, the basic game plan is that if we want to limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (so as not to risk the most dangerous and unpredictable impacts), we’ll need to prevent the amount of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere from rising above roughly 450 parts per million. Currently, we’re at about 392 parts per million. So we’ve got some wiggle room, right? Actually, no...

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Global Warming Driving Extreme Weather

For a world already weary of weather catastrophes, the latest warning from top climate scientists paints a grim future: More floods, more heat waves, more droughts and greater costs to deal with them.

A draft summary of an international scientific report obtained by The Associated Press says the extremes caused by global warming could eventually grow so severe that some locations become "increasingly marginal as places to live."

The report from the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change marks a change in climate science, from focusing on subtle shifts in average temperatures to concentrating on the harder-to-analyze freak events that grab headlines, hurt economies and kill people.

"The extremes are a really noticeable aspect of climate change," said Jerry Meehl, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "I think people realize that the extremes are where we are going to see a lot of the impacts of climate change."

The report says scientists are "virtually certain" — 99 percent — that the world will have more extreme spells of heat and fewer of cold. Heat waves could peak as much as 5 degrees hotter by mid-century and even 9 degrees hotter by the end of the century.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Election Day Polling Locations in Collin Co.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 8, 2011, Texans will vote on ten amendments to the Texas State Constitution, plus local propositions, as may have been authorized by municipalities. Collin County is again taking part in the "Voting Center" pilot program with the Secretary of State. This program allows any voter registered in the Collin County to vote at any polling place through out the county, not just the precinct where they are registered.

Several cities in Collin Co. have authorized "special election" ballot propositions for their respective jurisdictions. Check the appropriate sample ballot style for your election precinct to see if your city has a "special election" proposition on your ballot. Don't know your precinct number? Find out how to locate your precinct number by clicking here.

Click here for information on the ten amendments to the Texas State Constitution.

Click here for November 8, 2011 Election Day Polling Locations in Collin Co.

Click here for background on Plano's Nov. 8 "Special Election" ballot propositions.

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Want More People to Vote? Put More Information Online

Tomorrow is a big day in Ohio, where voters are expected to defeat a ballot measure called Issue 2 and, in so doing, overturn legislation that severely curtails the collective bargaining rights of public-sector employees. If they can figure out where to go to vote.


Introducing the Voting Information Project
Pew Charitable Trust

Forty-three percent of all voters under the age of 45 will look first for voting information online, according to new poll numbers from the Voting Info Project.

The Project is backed by the Pew Center on the States and a bipartisan team including people from the progressive New Organizing Institute and the Republican-leaning online communications firm Engage.

In addition, 57 percent of currently registered voters said they would look up what was on their ballot before voting, according to the project's poll results.

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The Generation Gap And The 2012 Election

Not since 1972 has generation played such a significant role in voter preferences as it has in recent elections. In the last four national elections, generational differences have mattered more than they have in decades. According to the exit polls, younger people have voted substantially more Democratic than other age groups in each election since 2004, while older voters have cast more ballots for Republican candidates in each election since 2006.

The latest national polls suggest this pattern may well continue in 2012. Millennial generation voters are inclined to back Barack Obama for reelection by a wide margin in a matchup against Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate who has run the strongest against Obama in many polls. By contrast, Silent generation voters are solidly behind Romney.

In between the youngest and the oldest voters are the Baby Boom generation and Generation X. Both groups are less supportive of Obama than they were in 2008 and are now on the fence with respect to a second term for the president.

One of the largest factors driving the current generation gap is the arrival of diverse and Democratic-oriented Millennials. Shaped by the politics and conditions of the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies, this group holds liberal attitudes on most social and governmental issues.

Read the full story at Pew Research...

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Record Number Of Americans In Poverty As Wealth Gap Grows

According to new figures released by U.S. Census Bureau, 49.1 million — or 16 percent — of Americans are now living below the poverty line. The numbers are an increase from 2010, when the previous record was at 46.2 million (16 percent). Americans 65 or older had the biggest jump in poverty, hitting 15.9 percent from the previous total of 9 percent.

The poverty rate isn’t the only economic figure setting an unwanted record, as the wealth gap between old and young Americans has also reached its widest ever. A typical U.S. household headed by a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times greater than the average household headed by someone under 35, according to the Pew Research Center.

Those figures also include 37 percent of younger households with a net worth of zero or less, a demographic that has doubled since 1984.

Pew Research Center: Rising Gap in Economic Well-Being

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Obama Tops GOP Foes

One year out before President Barack Obama faces voters in his bid for re-election, he encounters an American public that remains deeply pessimistic about the state of the country and its economy, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. (PDF)

Nearly three-quarters of respondents believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction; just 25 percent think the U.S. economy will improve in the next 12 months; and a solid majority says the country is experiencing the start of a long-term decline.

Those attitudes have helped shape their opinions of the president, with majorities disapproving of his overall job performance and his economic handling, and with nearly 75 percent saying that the Obama administration has fallen short of their expectations on the economy and improving oversight of Wall Street and the banks.

Yet despite those views, Obama continues to run ahead of the Republican presidential front-runners in hypothetical general-election match ups — leading former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by six points and former businessman Herman Cain by 15 points.

Just how grim and negative is it? The poll asked respondents to give a single word or short phrase to best describe how they feel about where things stand in the country. Some of the answers:

  • “We are in the dump.”
  • “Very unstable.”
  • “We’re in the gutter.”
  • “Very challenging.”

Overall, 58 percent of these responses are negative, 33 percent are neutral and just 9 percent are positive.

What’s more, a combined 76 percent agree with the statement that the current economic structure of the country is out of balance and favors a small proportion of the rich over the rest of the country, and that America needs to reduce the power of the banks and corporations. That number includes 62 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of Tea Party supporters who agree with the statement. And 53 percent agree with the statement that the national debt must be cut significantly by reducing spending and the size of government.

Read the full story at msnbc.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

New Redistricting Maps And Candidate Filing Deadlines For 2012

TxRedistricting.org: Proposed order on election deadlines

Thursday evening, Chad Dunn, counsel for the Texas Democratic Party, submitted a proposal for adjusting election filing deadlines in light of the not yet complete process of drawing interim legislative maps. Dunn indicated in a footnote that the proposal had been worked on by both the parties.

Under the proposal submitted by Dunn:

  • The candidate filing period would run from November 28 to December 15 (rather than November 12 to December 12).
  • The requirement that a candidate for the state house or state senate live in his or her district for one year before November 6, 2012 would be modified to only require that the candidate have lived in the district from December 15, 2011 through November 6, 2012.
  • Counties would be given until December 13 to redraw precinct boundaries.
  • The ballot order draw in each county would remain December 20.

The San Antonio three-judge federal court panel adjudicating a Texas redistricting lawsuit signed a court order on Friday Nov. 4, 2011 to change 2012 election filing deadlines, in light of the not yet completed process of drawing interim redistricting maps. Here's the new deadline schedule:

November 28: Candidate filing period opens (had been November 12).

December 10: If an officeholder whose term is not up in 2012 resigns on or before this day, the office will be included on the March 2012 primary ballot (had been December 7).

December 13: Deadline for adjustments to precinct boundaries as a result of new legislative lines (was October 1).

December 15 @ 6 p.m.: Last day to candidate filing (had been December 12).

December 16: Last day a candidate can withdraw and have his or her name omitted from the primary ballot. A candidate who dies or is declared ineligible by this day also will be omitted from the primary ballot (had been December 13).

December 19: Last day to file for an unexpired term (unchanged). Also deadline for state chairs to deliver lists of statewide candidates and candidates for multi county offices to county chairs (had been December 16).

December 20: Ballot order draw in each county (unchanged).

December 22: Deadline for state and county chairs to deliver candidate lists to appropriate election officials (unchanged).

January 13: County election officials must send out new voter registration certificates by this date.

March 6: Democratic and Republican primaries (unchanged).

The Texas congressional map drawn by Republicans is almost certain to be thrown out for the next election, costing them a few seats in the House and increasing Democrats’ opportunities to try to retake control of the chamber next fall. The map needs to be approved by the federal government because of Texas’s history of racial discrimination, and members of a three-judge federal panel indicated at a Wednesday hearing that they will not allow it to go into effect immediately.

This will trigger a temporary court-drawn map in Texas that will not be nearly as favorable to the Republicans. “For Congress, that cheats us out of three seats,” one Republican was overheard griping to another after the hearing.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

War On Terror "Real I.D." Driver's License Federal Law Meets State Voter Photo I.D.

You probably heard about 96-year-old Dorothy Cooper who couldn't get a free voter photo ID card at a Tennessee Driver Service Center in October. Tennessee has a voter photo ID law nearly identical to Texas' new ID law. Cooper never had a driver's license so she had to get a "free" voter photo ID card to vote in future elections. Even though she had a birth certificate and other ID the Driver Service Center wouldn't issue an ID card because she didn't have her marriage certificate.

Perhaps you've heard about a 93-year-old Tennessee woman, Thelma Mitchell, who cleaned the state Capitol for 30 years, including the governor’s office and who won’t be able to vote for the first time in decades because she also couldn't get a "free" voter photo ID card at a Tennessee Driver Service Center. Ms. Mitchell was even accused of being an undocumented immigrant because she couldn’t produce a birth certificate:

Mitchell, who was delivered by a midwife in Alabama in 1918, has never had a birth certificate. But when she told that to a drivers’ license clerk, he suggested she might be an illegal immigrant.
Maybe you've heard about a 84-year-old Brokaw, Wisconsin woman, Ruthelle Frank, who won’t be able to vote for the first time in decades because she also couldn't get a "free" voter photo ID card at a Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles. Born after a difficult birth at her home in 1927, Frank never received an official birth certificate. Without her birth certificate, she can’t secure the state ID card that the new voter photo law requires. The state Register of Deeds in Madison has a record of her birth, but the attending physician at Frank’s birth misspelled her maiden name, so the name on her state recorded birth record does not match the name given on Frank's other identity documents.

The Tennessee and Wisconsin Departments of Motor Vehicles were following requirements of the federal Real ID Act of 2005, which is mandated to take effect in all 50 states by January 2013. After January 2013 even young women across the U.S., who already have a driver's license, may face the same ID road block as 96 year old Dorothy Cooper.

After the commercial airliner attacks of September 11, 2001 the federal government implemented a "war on terror" photo driver's license "Real ID" law, with regulatory oversight given to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Federal Real ID law mandates state driver's license and personal ID card issuance regulations that require U.S. citizens to present a state certified birth certificate and other identifying documents in order to obtain or renew their license or ID card after January 2013.

The Federal Real ID law has transformed state issued driver's licenses into a de facto national photo identity card that is required to board commercially operated airline flights, conduct official business with federal agencies, apply for Social Security, and increasingly, to vote.

The Real ID driver's license law was enacted in 2005, when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, as a response to the fact that several of the 19 foreign hijackers on 9/11 had obtained state driver’s licenses. Many states are now applying the federally mandated anti-terror photo "Real ID" law to voters by enacting voter photo ID laws.

Last May Governor Rick Perry (R) signed SB14 into law requiring voters to present a limited selection of unexpired government issued photo identification to qualify to vote in Texas elections. The most widely held photo ID on that short list of voter photo identification documents is the Texas driver's license.

The Texas Secretary of State (SOS) reports that 605,576 registered Texas voters do not appear to have a Texas driver’s license or personal ID card. The SOS report reveals that in 27 of Texas' 254 counties, at least 10 percent of the registered voters might be unable to cast ballots. In Presidio County in Southwest Texas as many as 25.9% of registered voters might not have the required photo ID, which will block as many as 1,313 out of the 5,066 registered voters in that county from casting ballots in any election.

New photo ID laws for voting will be in effect for the first time for the 2012 election in five states -- Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin. Those five states have a combined citizen voting age population of just under 29 million. The Brennan Center for Justice issued a report estimating that the newly enacted Real ID voting laws in those five states "could make it significantly harder for 3.2 million (11 percent) of those potential voters who do not already have government issued photo ID. With 18.8 million voting age citizens in Texas, as counted by the 2010 U.S. census, as many as 2.1 million (11 percent) voting age citizens in Texas do not hold a Texas driver’s license, personal ID card or other government issued photo ID document.

Even Texas voters who already hold a Texas driver's license may find it challenging to renew their driver's license when the federal "Real ID" law takes effect on January 15, 2013.

What is the federally mandated anti-terror photo "Real ID" law?

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mississippians Vote To Outlaw Birth Control Pills

This blog has published several articles over the last three years stating that social conservative Republicans have been trying to again criminalize contraceptives every since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized contraceptive use in 1965. Now this from Think Progress...

Personhood USA Confirms That Mississippi Abortion Ban Would Outlaw Birth Control Pills

Next Tuesday, Mississippians will go to the polls to decide on Initiative 26, a personhood amendment to the state constitution that defines a person as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.” Personhood amendments represent an extreme reach into a family’s privacy, essentially criminalizing abortion and potentially outlawing common forms of birth control.

Right-wing supporters of Mississippi’s personhood amendment, however, decry the fact that the bill will ban birth control as “scare tactics.” “It’s an outright lie that Initiative 26 would ban birth control pills,” said American Family Association Executive Director Brad Prewitt. “Stopping a pregnancy is not the issue; ending a pregnancy is.” Unfortunately for proponents, the Personhood movement spokesman Walter Hoye stated the opposite on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show. As the Florida Independent reports, when asked if there were any restrictions on birth control in the amendment, Hoye answered “no…well, yes,” adding, “any birth control that ends the life of a human being will be impacted by this measure,” including the pill:

HOYE: Any birth control that ends the life of a human being will be impacted by this measure.

REHM: So that would then include the IUD [intra-uterine device]. What about the birth control pill?

HOYE: If that falls into the same category, yes.

REHM: So you’re saying that the birth control pill could be considered as taking the life of a human being?

HOYE: I’m saying that once the egg and the oocyte come together and you have that single-celled embryo, at that point you have human life, you’ve got a human being and we’re taking the life of a human being with some forms of birth control and if birth control falls into that category, yes I am.

The “profoundly ambiguous” language of the amendment will affect more than just birth control. Because fertilization can be defined as either the sperm’s penetration of the egg or, as Hoye suggests, when the embryo is formed even before implantation in the uterus, the amendment could ban “forms of birth control, stem cell derivation and the destruction of embryos created though in vitro fertilization (IVF).”

Indeed, as Personhood USA President Keith Mason stated outright, “it would ban some current practices of IVF” because he sees it as “the creation of 30 or 60 embryos and then picking through them to see which ones are most likely boys or girls, or basically looking at the ones you want to give life to and destroying the rest.”

Be it an outright attack on a constitutionally protected procedure, on a woman’s personal right to prevent pregnancy, or even on a couples chance to have a child, supporters and opponents agree that Mississippi’s personhood amendment is a far-reaching blow to a woman’s — and family’s — reproductive rights.

The Birth Control Solution

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The Men Behind The War On Women

Huffington Post: A group of men with no real background in law or medicine, but blessed with a strong personal interest in women’s bodies, have quietly influenced all of the major anti-abortion legislation over the past several years. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops may be one of the quietest, yet most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill, with political allies that have enabled them to roll back decades of law and precedent in reproductive rights of women.

Over the past two years the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has launched one of the most extreme assaults on women's choice the U.S. has seen in decades. Republicans voted twice to slash federal family planning funds for low-income women, moved to prevent women from using their own money to buy insurance plans that cover abortion, introduced legislation that would force women to have ultrasounds before receiving an abortion and, most recently, passed a bill that will allow hospitals to refuse to perform emergency abortions for women with life-threatening pregnancy complications.

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