Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Do not "require" a student to take a useless class!!!!

Here's a late rant.

I bet some of you feel the same way right now. ;)

Why are students required to take a government course in college even though they want nothing to do with politics? I understand that the state of Texas wants us to be informed and wants us to be able to make good political decisions but for most college students, government and the other required courses are just a waste of time and money. Most students do not care about these classes. They don't want to invest a whole semester studying and preparing for finals over a class that they do not need. Students go to college in order to obtain a degree in their chosen field, not to pay money to take ridiculous courses that are just reviewing what they learned in high school. As a student I want to learn as much as I can about the career that I have chosen, not take classes I do not like or classes that do not pertain to my major. Taking unneeded classes honestly just adds more stress to a college student. They are focusing and stressing about these classes instead of taking that energy and putting it towards a class they actually need. The classes should be a students choice. If they want to take a government class, let them take one. If they want to take a learning strategies class, let them take one. If they want to take an art appreciation class, let them take one. Do not "require" a student to take a useless class.

I guess the most I can say is that one day - perhaps - you might want to offer an opinion about a political matter to a group of people and it might be helpful to have it based on a working understanding of the political system. You might even decide to vote one day. An understanding of what exactly you are voting for - and the role it plays in a governing system - helps.

Keep in mind that a lot of other interests in society count on non-participation of others in order to get their way.

It's almost over.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Area congressional rep Kevin Brady elected Ways and Means chairman

This is a bit dated, but its added to illustrate some key points for 2305 students regarding Congress. Paul Ryan's election to be House Speaker created the vacancy. It is reported the Ryan pushed for Brady to replace him.

A few odds and ends about Brady, his selection and his goals.

- Rep. Kevin Brady Gains Edge to Become House Ways and Means Chairman.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R., Texas) will likely become the next chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee after winning an intraparty contest Wednesday. Mr. Brady beat Rep. Pat Tiberi of Ohio in a vote of the House Republicans’ steering committee, a group where new House Speaker Paul Ryan had outsize sway to select his successor as Ways and Means chairman. The choice must be ratified by the full Republican conference, which is set to meet Thursday morning. Mr. Brady will become one of the party’s leading voices on tax, trade and health policy. He said in a statement that he wanted to implement a “pro-growth agenda” for the country.

- A veteran Texas lawmaker is about to become one of the most powerful members of Congress.

The House's newest and perhaps most powerful committee chairman is a 60-year-old Texas Republican who began life in a family of stalwart Democrats from South Dakota and lost his father at age 12 in a courtroom shooting. Rep. Kevin Brady, whose bulldog-looks belie a softer manner, took the helm of the Ways and Means Committee last week. That puts the 19-year House veteran at the forefront of key issues Congress will tackle heading into the 2016 election year, including taxes, trade and benefit programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Brady's Chamber of Commerce career before entering Congress molded a mainstream conservative viewpoint, yet he is well regarded by harder-line conservatives.

- House Ways and Means shuffles subcommittees.

The House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday completed a subcommittee shuffle that was needed after Rep. Paul Ryan left the chairmanship for the speaker's office. New Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) announced the changes that includes adding Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) and adjusts the names and sizes of several subcommittees. "These Republican subcommittee chairs and members will play a crucial role in taking real steps toward fixing our country’s broken tax code, reining in the IRS, reforming the nation’s welfare programs, expanding trade, replacing the Affordable Care Act and saving Social Security and Medicare for the long term," Brady said in a statement.

- Texas Republican ready to tackle ‘broken tax code

A year ago, when former House Speaker John Boehner was asked about prospects for a sweeping new Republican tax reform plan, he answered with a laugh.
“Ah Jesus,” he said.
That plan, cutting tax rates and stripping away many of the special interest loopholes that riddle the U.S. tax code, still languishes in Congress, one of the many legislative victims of Washington gridlock. Now, under Speaker Paul Ryan, the job falls to Texas Republican Kevin Brady, the newly-installed chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, where all tax legislation begins. Sitting at a conference table recently in his office as the new chairman, Brady promised a “strong pro-growth agenda” whose chief goal would be “fixing the broken tax code.”

Monday, November 23, 2015

This is awesome

From 538:

- The Perfect Republican Stump Speech.

We asked former Republican speechwriter Barton Swaim to write a ​totally pandering stump speech for an imaginary GOP presidential candidate — one who ​espouses only positions that a majority of Republicans agree with. ​Here’s the speech he wrote, including notes to explain his phrasing, behind-the-scenes pro tips on appealing to Republican voters and the data he used to decide which positions to take.

The Politics of Fear

- Why the Politics of Fear Will Never Go Away.

From the Washington Post: In Paris’s wake, a changed presidential contest — and electorate

We discussed the likelihood of this last week and what this means for the viability of the outsider candidates.

- Click here for the story.
One week after the terrorist attacks in Paris, Diane Lochocki drove with her boyfriend from New York to the New Hampshire State House. Ben Carson was filing for the presidential primary, and Lochocki, 78, wanted to see him. It was time for a new president, one who actually took the threat of radical Islam seriously.
“Terrorists are insidious people,” Lochocki said. “Your neighbor could be one and you wouldn’t know. I feel we should close our borders until we get the rest of the world under control. If that’s inhumane, then I’m inhumane. You think what you want.”
The attacks that killed 130 and injured more than 350 in France’s capital Nov. 13 changed the 2016 contest for president — by changing what voters worried about.
Across the country, among both Republicans and Democrats, have come pronouncements of anger and fear not seen after the terrorist attacks in London or Madrid — or even, in some ways, after Sept. 11, 2001. Suspicion of Muslims and intolerance of refugees have exploded; so has criticism of President Obama’s handling of the terror threat.
A Suffolk University-Boston Globe poll Saturday confirmed it, with 42 percent of likely voters in New Hampshire’s upcoming GOP primary calling terrorism and national security the country’s most important issues. Before Paris, they’d worried most about the economy.

Is there a right to education in the United States? Part Two

This builds off the post below. Below are a variety of posts related to the - alleged - right to education.

- Why there isn’t a constitutional right to an education.
- The Status of the “Right to Education” in the United States.
- Why Doesn't the Constitution Guarantee the Right to Education?
U.S. Education Law: Is the Right to Education in the U.S. in compliance with International Human Rights Standards?
- Education and the Constitution.
The Federal Right to an Adequate Education.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Is there a right to education in the United States? Part One

According the Supreme Court, in its decision in a case from Texas, no.

The case was San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez.

For background on it:

- Wikipedia: San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez.
- TSHA: San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez.
- Oyez: San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez.

For the actual decision click here.

Oyez has details of the case:

Facts of the case: In addition to being funded through a state-funded program designed to establish a minimum educational threshold in every school, Texas public elementary and secondary schools rely on local property taxes for supplemental revenue. The San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD), acting on behalf of students whose families reside in poor districts, challenged this funding scheme by arguing that it underprivileged such students because their schools lacked the vast property tax base that other districts utilized. The reliance on assessable property, SAISD claimed, caused severe inter-district disparities in per-pupil expenditures.
Question: Did Texas' public education finance system violate the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause by failing to distribute funding equally among its school districts?
No. The Court refused to examine the system with strict scrutiny since there is no fundamental right to education in the Constitution and since the system did not systematically discriminate against all poor people in Texas. Given the similarities between Texas' system and those in other states, it was clear to the Court that the funding scheme was not "so irrational as to be invidiously discriminatory." Justice Powell argued that on the question of wealth and education, "the Equal Protection Clause does not require absolute equality or precisely equal advantages."

From the Houston Chronicle: City of Refugees: How Houston became a resettlement magnet

Another indicator that there may be conflict between the city of Houston and the state of Texas regarding refugee settlement.

- Click here for the story.
According to U.N. data, between 2010 and 2014, the U.S. alone resettled 71 percent of all refugees.
Out of every 1,000 resettled U.N. refugees, more than 700 come to America. Though all 50 states accept some refugees, 75 of those 700 find their way to Texas, according to U.S. State Department numbers. And more of those will come to the Houston area than to anywhere else in Texas: The state health services department reports that nearly 40 30 percent of Texas' refugees land in Harris County.
This means that Harris County alone welcomes about 30 of every 1,000 refugees that the U.N. resettles anywhere in the world — more than any other American city, and more than most other nations. If Houston were a country, it would rank fourth in the world for refugee resettlement.
A trend stands out in Harris County refugee data. The vast majority of Houston's refugees came from warm climates: Cuba, Iraq, Congo and Somalia. But the resettlement agencies don't place people based on a preference for a hot, steamy climate.
. . . Houston has been a major resettlement area for Vietnamese refugees and immigrants since the fall of South Vietnam in 1975. But since then, the city's heavy in-flow of refugees has been defined by the absence of a predominant nationality.
"Oh, Houston is diverse," Al Sudani said, ticking off major refugee communities: "Bosnians, Russian Jews, Afghanis, Iraqis, Congolese, Rwandese, Somalis, Iranian minorities, Burmese, Bhutanese." Harris County welcomed refugees from 40 different countries in fiscal year 2014, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

For more:

- Immigrants from around the world are transforming Houston.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Easy to see this one coming

We discussed this possibility in class. While governors are resistant to refugees coming to their states, many mayors are not. This creates an opportunity for conflict since there's little doubt that governors will try to limit the ability of mayors in their state to do so. And they may have the tools and authority to do so.

Here two stories on the subject:

- From CityLab: Governors Don't Want Syrian Refugees. Mayors Are Asking for Even More.
- From CNN: Mayors strike back against governors in refugee fight.
Democratic mayors across the country are clashing with mostly Republican governors who say their states shouldn't accept Syrian refugees.
More than half -- 31 -- of the nation's governors, most of the Republicans, say they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their states. The final say on allowing refugees into the country falls with the federal government, though governors can slow down the process and make placing and aiding refugees more difficult.
"It sends a horrible message to the world. It means we're turning our backs on the people who are the victims of terrorism," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday. "We're not going to turn our backs on children and families. It's not the American way. It's certainly not the New York City way."
While New York has said it would accept refugees, nearby New Jersey -- under the leadership of 2016 Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie -- has said it won't.
"I cannot allow New Jersey to participate in any program that will result in Syrian refugees -- any one of whom could be connected to terrorism -- being placed in our State," Christie wrote in a letter to Obama.

Christie on refugees: Not even 5-year-old orphans
And similar conflicts are rippling across the country.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott said Florida is not willing to accept Syrian refugees, but Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, Florida's capital, told CNN Wednesday his city will continue to be a safe place for refugees.
"I believe strongly that we cannot turn our backs on the refugee community in their time of greatest need," he said. "The U.S. vetting process for refugees is extremely rigorous, extensive, and comprehensive, and allows us to aid those that pose no threat to our country. Gov. Scott's stance is driven by divisive politics."

From Slate: Donald Trump Is Actually a Moderate Republican - That’s why he’s winning.

The author argues that despite the bluster Trumps positions are not only moderate, they more closely fit the positions that most of the Republican base holds.

- Click here for the story.

When it’s time to vote, Republicans usually choose an “establishment” candidate to lead their party: George H.W. Bush in 1988, Bob Dole in 1996, George W. Bush in 2000, John McCain in 2008, and Mitt Romney in 2012. 
Part of that is the strength of the people who raise money and push for specific policies, but part of it is the strength of establishment picks. These candidates fit a profile. They stand at the center of their parties with ties to the three “legs” of the modern GOP: social conservatives, national security conservatives, and anti-tax conservatives. They’re not always strong with every group, but they are—or they become—acceptable through the course of the primary. They may not hold moderate positions, but they sound moderate and appeal to ordinary American voters. 
That candidate, or a version of that candidate, exists in the 2016 Republican primary. It’s Jeb Bush, it’s Sen. Marco Rubio, it’s Gov. John Kasich—it’s even Gov. Chris Christie. But they aren’t the leaders of the race. They aren’t even close. The leader is Donald Trump, a real estate mogul turned reality TV star turned nativist agitator.

Here's part of the speech

From Vox: Read Bernie Sanders's speech on democratic socialism in the United States

Its has been decades since a viable candidate identified as a democratic socialist. This is long enough for our understanding of the term to have slipped.

Sanders tried to clear the record. Vox provides his prepared remarks for a recent speech on the subject.

- Click here for it.

So let me define for you, simply and straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me. It builds on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans. And it builds on what Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that; "This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor." It builds on the success of many other countries around the world that have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of their working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.
Democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy. Democratic socialism means that we must reform a political system in America today which is not only grossly unfair but, in many respects, corrupt.

From the Washington Post: Two Clintons. 41 Years. $3 Billion.

This fits with previous discussions about money in politics. Both Bill and Hillary have made and cultivated powerful, wealthy friends. If you want to win high office - or to some degree any office - this is a requirement.

- Click here for the story.

Over four decades of public life, Bill and Hillary Clinton have built an unrivaled global network of donors while pioneering fundraising techniques that have transformed modern politics and paved the way for them to potentially become the first husband and wife to win the White House.

The grand total raised for all of their political campaigns and their family’s charitable foundation reaches at least $3 billion, according to a Washington Post investigation.
Their fundraising haul, which began with $178,000 that Bill Clinton raised for his long-shot 1974 congressional bid, is on track to expand substantially with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 White House run, which has already drawn $110 million in support.

Friday, November 20, 2015

From Vox: Woodrow Wilson was extremely racist — even by the standards of his time

This is a pretty effective hit job on Wilson, but I add it here mostly to illustrate a point we've gone over in class. That the Democratic Party - as we tend to forget - originated as the party of the South and was protective of first slavery and then segregation. Wilson was the first southerner elected to the White House after the end of the Civil War and re-segregated a number of federal agencies. Things would change when the next Democrat - FDR - was elected to the presidency, but this gives you an idea of how tight the relationship between the South and the Democratic Party was at that time, and how much it revolved around race.

- Click here for the article.
Easily the worst part of Wilson's record as president was his overseeing of the resegregation of multiple agencies of the federal government, which had been surprisingly integrated as a result of Reconstruction decades earlier. At an April 11, 1913, Cabinet meeting, Postmaster General Albert Burleson argued for segregating the Railway Mail Service. He took exception to the fact that workers shared glasses, towels, and washrooms. Wilson offered no objection to Burleson's plan for segregation, saying that he "wished the matter adjusted in a way to make the least friction."
Both Burleson and Treasury Secretary William McAdoo took Wilson's comments as authorization to segregate. The Department of Treasury and Post Office Department both introduced screened-off workspaces, separate lunchrooms, and separate bathrooms. In a1913 open letter to Wilson, W.E.B. DuBois — who had supported Wilson in the 1912 election before being disenchanted by his segregation policies — wrote of "one colored clerk who could not actually be segregated on account of the nature of his work [and who] consequently had a cage built around him to separate him from his white companions of many years." That's right: Black people who couldn't, logistically, be segregated were put in literal cages.
Outright dismissals were also common. Upon taking office, Wilson himself fired 15 out of 17 black supervisors in the federal service and replaced them with white people. After the Treasury and Post Office began segregating, many black workers were let go. The head of the Internal Revenue division in Georgia fired all his black employees, saying, "There are no government positions for Negroes in the South. A Negro's place in the corn field." To enable hiring discrimination going forward, in 1914 the federal government began requiring photographs on job applications.

From the NYT: Court’s Free-Speech Expansion Has Far-Reaching Consequences

Here's commentary on the case discussed below - Reed v Town of Gilbert. It argues that the case will have a sweeping impact on any regulation of speech. Apparently the court expanded applicability of strict scrutiny - at least potentially - to many types of speech, including warning labels and the like. 

- Click here for the story.

It is not too early to identify the sleeper case of the last Supreme Court term. In an otherwise minor decision about a municipal sign ordinance, the court in June transformed the First Amendment.
Robert Post, the dean of Yale Law School and an authority on free speech, said the decision was so bold and so sweeping that the Supreme Court could not have thought through its consequences. The decision’s logic, he said, endangered all sorts of laws, including ones that regulate misleading advertising and professional malpractice.
“Effectively,” he said, “this would roll consumer protection back to the 19th century.”

Floyd Abrams, the prominent constitutional lawyer, called the decision a blockbuster and welcomed its expansion of First Amendment rights. The ruling, he said, “provides significantly enhanced protection for free speech while requiring a second look at the constitutionality of aspects of federal and state securities laws, the federal Communications Act and many others.”
Whether viewed with disbelief, alarm or triumph, there is little question that the decision, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, marks an important shift toward treating countless laws that regulate speech with exceptional skepticism.
Though just two months old, the decision has already required lower courts to strike down laws barring panhandling, automated phone calls and “ballot selfies.”

Thursday, November 19, 2015

From Oyez: Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona.

This is worth a look today. One of the free speech cases argued that last term of the Supreme Court.

- Click here for it.

Two items about the State Board of Education

Weeks after a Houston-area mother sparked an uproar over a caption in her son’s textbook that inaccurately described African slaves as “workers,” the State Board of Education tentatively approved several changes to its textbook adoption process.
However, the 15-member elected board on Wednesday narrowly rejected a proposal that would’ve given it the option of creating an expert panel for the sole purpose of identifying errors in textbooks.
The board, which oversees the textbook adoption process, voted 7-8 against an amendment proposed by its vice chairman, Thomas Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant who often clashes with more conservative Republican members.
Those members, including David Bradley of Beaumont and Geraldine Miller of Dallas, blasted Ratliff’s proposal Wednesday, saying it would send a signal that the current textbook adoption process isn't sound and unnecessarily add an additional layer of bureaucracy to the process.

2 -  SBOE: Trustees Can't Hire Just Anyone as Superintendent.

The State Board of Education on Wednesday rejected a rule change that would have allowed school boards to hire anyone they wanted as superintendent — even if the candidate had no public education experience — as long as they had some kind of post-baccalaureate degree and intended to pursue superintendent certification.

But the 15-member elected board still appears poised to drop a current requirement that would-be school district chiefs have classroom teaching experience. That's something representatives from several teacher groups said Wednesday was crucial to effectively running a school district.
The proposed rule change the board rejected on Wednesday, which was approved last month by the State Board for Educator Certification, contained two components.
One would have allowed people seeking superintendent certification to substitute three years of managerial experience in a public school district for a principal certificate, which requires two years of classroom experience. That means someone who had spent three years in an administrative role like chief financial officer could obtain superintendent certification.
The second, more controversial component of the rule change would have allowed anyone to become a superintendent without a principal certificate or managerial experience — at least for a three-year probationary period — if a school board hired them, they had a master’s, law or medical degree, and they planned to pursue superintendent certification.

From the Texas Tribune: Presidential Candidates Start to File for Texas Primary

And it begins, officially. Since Texas is a red state, the time between now and the March 1st primary will be the most exciting part of the presidential election for us.

- Click here for the story.

After months of talking up Texas' clout in the 2016 presidential race, the White House hopefuls are beginning to take their first formal step toward competing in the state's March 1 primary: getting on the ballot. The period to do so began Saturday and runs through Dec. 14.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, three Republican candidates had filed, according to the state GOP: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and billionaire Donald Trump. The campaign of Texas' favorite son, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, expects to get him on the ballot in the coming weeks.

Lucky for them, it's not too hard to compete in the Lone Star State. The Republican Party of Texas requires candidates to pay a $5,000 fee or gather 300 signatures from registered voters in each of 15 of Texas' 36 congressional districts. That's a much lower bar to clear than some other states. The filing fee for Republicans in South Carolina, for instance, is $40,000.

On the Democratic side, the process is even easier. Hopefuls have to pony up just $2,500 or produce 500 signatures to get on the Texas ballot.

For more:

- Texas Republican Party elections page.
- Do you want to run for office as a Democrat?
- Filing to run for office as a Green Party member.
- Libertarian links to candidate forms.

From the Texas Tribune: Ethics Commission Approves Pay Increase for Lawmakers

I completely missed this story in the spring. My bad.

- Click here for it.
The Texas Ethics Commission gave approval on Friday to a $40 increase in what lawmakers are given to cover daily expenses while in Austin, which amounts to a $5,600 increase in their pay over the course of the 140-day regular session.
Lawmakers are paid an annual salary of $7,200. In addition, they receive the per diem, which will be $190 a day, up from $150. Over the course of a regular legislative session, they will receive $26,600 for daily expenses. They also receive per diems during special sessions.
The ethics commission had originally proposed increasing the per diem to $210. But it revised that to $190 at the insistence of legislative leadership.
Under state law, increasing the per diem triggers an increase in the amount of money lobbyists can spend on meals for lawmakers before they have to submit a detailed report on the expense. The threshold for detailed reports is 60 percent of the per diem.
The vote on Friday increased that threshold from $90 to $114. Lobbyists would still have the ability to split meal tickets multiple ways to spend more on a lawmaker without triggering the reporting requirement.
House Administration Chairman Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, has filed legislation that would de-link the detailed reporting requirements from legislative per diems. Under his bill, that threshold would be set at $50.

And in other Texas Ethics Commission news ....

Here's a bit on an ongoing dispute it has had with a leader of an influential Tea Party affiliated activist. The Texas Ethics Commission thinks he's a lobbyist and should be subject to rules related to lobbying in the state. He disagrees.

- Click here for "Ethics commission wins at appeals court in lobbying case."

A state appeals court has ruled against a powerful conservative activist locked in a long-running legal feud with Texas’ campaign finance regulator, ordering a case that centers on a fine for breaking lobbying laws to be transferred to Travis County. 
Empower Texans President Michael Quinn Sullivan, an influential figure in tea party circles, was fined by the commission in July 2014 for not registering as a lobbyist after it found “evidence of direct communications intended to influence legislative action.”
He appealed in state district court. However, shortly after the fine was levied, Sullivan claimed Denton County as his primary residence in a move that allowed the legal challenge to play out in North Texas as opposed to Travis County.
The Fort Worth-based 2nd Court of Appeals issued a ruling Wednesday to overturn a lower court that had determined Sullivan was a resident of Denton County. The appeals court also ordered the case to be transferred to Travis County, which the court described as the “mandatory venue.”
In the roughly 15 months that the case has bounced around state courts, residency has emerged as a key issue in the case. The commission had long charged that Sullivan plotted to evade a state fine for breaking lobbying laws by claiming residency outside of traditionally liberal Travis County and taking his case up north, where it was dismissed by a judge in Denton earlier this year.
Sullivan’s lawyers, who argue that his actions never amounted to lobbying, said he had long-standing roots in North Texas before claiming Denton as his residence, including family ties and an Empower Texans office.
The three-judge panel at the appeals court rejected that, along with an affidavit Sullivan signed attesting to Denton residency, saying the argument “is nothing more than a legal conclusion unless it is supported by facts that establish such residence.”

For more:

- Wikipedia: Michael Quinn Sullivan.- Tribpedia: Michael Quinn Sullivan.
- Wikipedia: Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.
Appeals Court Backs Ethics Commission Over Activist.

From the San Antonio Express-News: Texas ‘dark money’ rule set for court fight ahead of primaries

Texas has a history of not only allowing money to flow freely through the political system, but secretly. Efforts are being made to change that, but there are similar efforts to derail those attempts. Here's the latest on that battle. Notice that everything is bogged down in the courts.

- Click here for the article.
Texas’ controversial “dark money” regulation, intended to bring some anonymous political spending out of the shadows, is facing renewed pressure from politically active nonprofits ahead of the 2016 election cycle.
Two groups are waging separate lawsuits against the Texas Ethics Commission to strike down the rule in an attempt to allow all 501(c)(4) nonprofits to continue keeping their donors secret during the upcoming state primaries in March — and beyond.
Meanwhile, the commission, aware that a federal judge will have the final word, has been working for months to amend the rule by tweaking what some of its members have described as “potential weaknesses” that could be exposed in court. The state’s top campaign finance regulator has even admitted that he’s not sure the rule will withstand scrutiny of a federal judge.
At issue: When and how the state can determine that a 501(c)(4) nonprofit should be regulated like a political action committee, which is required to disclose its sources of money.
501(c)(4) nonprofits are allowed to spend money in an election independent of candidates and do not have to reveal who is funding the efforts.
The commission last year passed a rule that would trigger PAC status and disclosure requirements for a politically active nonprofit if more than 25 percent of their total contributions or expenditures in a calendar year are used for electioneering.
The groups suing have said that Texas is trying to label them as PACs when their main purpose is not to support or oppose candidates. They’ve argued in court documents that the rule could impose a “chill” on their future election activity.
Both lawsuits were filed more than a year ago, but there’s been little action in either case.

For more:

- Ethics commission sets sights on ‘campaign in a box
- Analysis: It's Not Bribery Unless They Say It's Bribery.

Printz v United States

The story in the previous post mentioned this Supreme Court case and suggested it provided precedence for state officials to not have to follow federal laws. The case involved the 
Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, also known as the Brady Bill that mandated background checks on gun purchases, along with a five day waiting period. It was to be implemented by local officials, which is what led to the conflict. Does the national government have jurisdiction over local officials? The Supreme Court said no.

For detail:

- Wikipedia: Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.
- Wikipedia: Printz v United States.
- Oyez: Printz v United States.

Here's detail from Oyez:

Facts of the case
The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (Brady Bill) required "local chief law enforcement officers" (CLEOs) to perform background-checks on prospective handgun purchasers, until such time as the Attorney General establishes a federal system for this purpose. County sheriffs Jay Printz and Richard Mack, separately challenged the constitutionality of this interim provision of the Brady Bill on behalf of CLEOs in Montana and Arizona respectively. In both cases District Courts found the background-checks unconstitutional, but ruled that since this requirement was severable from the rest of the Brady Bill a voluntary background-check system could remain. On appeal from the Ninth Circuit's ruling that the interim background-check provisions were constitutional, the Supreme Court granted certiorari and consolidated the two cases deciding this one along with Mack v. United States.
Using the Necessary and Proper Clause of Article I as justification, can Congress temporarily require state CLEOs to regulate handgun purchases by performing those duties called for by the Brady Bill's handgun applicant background-checks?
No. The Court constructed its opinion on the old principle that state legislatures are not subject to federal direction. The Court explained that while Congress may require the federal government to regulate commerce directly, in this case by performing background-checks on applicants for handgun ownership, the Necessary and Proper Clause does not empower it to compel state CLEOs to fulfill its federal tasks for it - even temporarily. The Court added that the Brady Bill could not require CLEOs to perform the related tasks of disposing of handgun-application forms or notifying certain applicants of the reasons for their refusal in writing, since the Brady Bill reserved such duties only for those CLEO's who voluntarily accepted them.

For some real fancy readin': Can Congress Regulate Firearms?: Printz v. UnitedStates and the Intersection of the CommerceClause, the Tenth Amendment, and the SecondAmendment.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

From TribTalk: Texas' rejection of Syrian refugees backed by law

The author is a member of the Texas Legislature and he points out that a court decision from a while back regarding the Brady Bill allows state officials to not follow certain federal laws. So though Syrian refugees cannot be prevented from coming into Texas, the national government cannot compel the state to provide services.

At least that's the current thinking on the subject. There's bound to be push back. And I wonder what happens if a city decides to provide services. If the state will try to intervene.

- Click here for the story.

From the Texas Tribune: Ahead of 2017 Session, Straus Issues Directives for House

The Texas House Speaker weighs in on what should be on the agenda of the 85th session.

- Click here for the story.
Fourteen months ahead of the next legislative session, House SpeakerJoe Straus issued more than 150 interim charges Wednesday, directing committees to study a diverse list of topics such as the effectiveness of the state's role in border security and the effect of the plummeting cost of oil on the local economy.
“The next legislative session is more than a year away, but the work of that session starts now,” Straus said. “While these assignments cover a wide variety of issues, they focus on three core priorities: supporting private-sector growth, creating opportunity through education and continuing to make government more transparent and accountable.”
Two school finance-related charges are among those Straus assigned to the House Public Education Committee: examining the Cost of Education Index, a long-outdated system of weights the state uses to determine how much to fund schools per student, and evaluating school districts' local debt and demand for facilities.

- Click here for the speakers official statement: Interim Committee Charges.

How have the Paris attacks impacted public opinion on terrorism?

I'll elaborate later.

- Gallup Poll: Gallup Review: U.S. Public Opinion on Terrorism.
- Texas Tribune: UT/TT Poll: Texans Say Immigration, Terror Are Greatest Threats to U.S.

From FP: Citing Paris Attack, CIA Director Criticizes Surveillance Reform Efforts

The Paris attacks will almost certainly have an impact on surveillance policy. The revelation that massive amounts of private data were collected, stored and analyzed led to backlash against it, but the fact that they are designed - primarily - to determine whether attacks are being planned might lead to a backlash against the backlash.

Consider this part of the agenda setting part of the public policy process, or policy evaluation, or some connection between the two.

- Click here for the article.
CIA Director John Brennan said Monday he suspects the Islamic State is currently working on more terrorist plots against the West following Friday’s attack in Paris that killed at least 129 people and injured hundreds more. He also criticized new privacy protections enacted after Edward Snowden’s disclosures about U.S. government surveillance practices.
“I would anticipate that this is not the only operation ISIL has in the pipeline,” Brennan told a crowd at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It’s not going to content itself with violence inside of the Syrian and Iraqi borders.”
Brennan’s remarks come on the heels of a new Islamic State video released Monday proclaiming all countries playing a role in air strikes against the group in Iraq and Syria would be a target. The video specifically pinpointed Washington as in its crosshairs.
“We swear that we will strike America at its center in Washington,” says a man in the video, which surfaced on a site the Islamic State uses to post its messages. The authenticity of the video could not be immediately verified.
In his remarks, Brennan said the attacks should serve as a “wake-up call” for those misrepresenting what intelligence services do to protect innocent civilians. He cited “a number of unauthorized disclosures, and a lot of handwringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists.”
He added that “policy” and “legal” actions that have since been taken now “make our ability collectively, internationally, to find these terrorists much more challenging.” In June, President Barack Obama signed into law legislation reforming a government surveillance program that vacuumed up millions of Americans’ telephone records. Passage of the USA Freedom Act was the result of a compromise between privacy advocates and the intelligence community.
Brennan’s remarks immediately sparked criticisms from civil liberties advocates who have fought for greater privacy protections from government surveillance and now fear the Paris attacks could roll them back.

From Wikipedia: Threatening the President of the United States

A nice section detailing where the line between free speech and a threat is drawn, notably as it pertains to the president.

- Click here for the entry

Threatening the President of the United States is aclass E felony under United States Code Title 18, Section 871. It consists of knowingly and willfully mailing or otherwise making "any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States". The United States Secret Service investigates suspected violations of this law and monitors those who have a history of threatening the President. Threatening the President is considered apolitical offense.Aliens who commit this crime can be deported.
Because the offense consists of pure speech, the courts have issued rulings attempting to balance the government's interest in protecting the President with free speech rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. According to the book Stalking, Threatening, and Attacking Public Figures, "Hundreds of celebrity howlers threaten the President of the United States every year, sometimes because they disagree with his policies, but more often just because he is the President."
The prototype for Section 871 was the English Treason Act 1351, which made it a crime to "compass or imagine" the death of the King. Convictions under 18 U.S.C. § 871 have been sustained for declaring that "President Wilson ought to be killed. It is a wonder some one has not done it already. If I had an opportunity, I would do it myself."; and for declaring that "Wilson is a wooden-headed son of a bitch. I wish Wilson was in hell, and if I had the power I would put him there." In a later era, a conviction was sustained for displaying posters urging passersby to "hang [President]Roosevelt".
There has been some controversy among the federal appellate courts as to how the term "willfully" should be interpreted. Traditional legal interpretations of the term are reflected by Black's Law Dictionary‍ '​s definition, which includes descriptions such as "malicious, done with evil intent, or with a bad motive or purpose," but most courts have adopted a more easily proven standard. For instance, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that a threat was knowingly made if the maker comprehended the meaning of the words uttered by him. It was willingly made, if in addition to comprehending the meaning of his words, the maker voluntarily and intentionally uttered them as a declaration of apparent determination to carry them into execution. According to the U.S. Attorney's Manual, "Of the individuals who come to the Secret Service's attention as creating a possible danger to one of their protectees, approximately 75 percent are mentally ill."

For more:

- The Secret Agents Who Stake Out the Ugliest Corners of the Internet.
- When is an online threat illegal and when is it free speech?

For discussion - campus free speech safe zones

This would have made  great subject for a weekly written assignment - as long as it didn't traumatize anyone of course. Is freedom "from" speech a valid concern?

From the Economist.

- Trigger-unhappy: Student “safety” has become a real threat to free speech on campus.
FOR an hour or two on a foggy morning last December, some students at the University of Iowa (UI) mistook one of their professors, Serhat Tanyolacar, for a fan of the Ku Klux Klan. Mr Tanyolacar had placed a canvas effigy based on Klan robes, screen-printed with news cuttings about racial violence, on the Pentacrest, the university’s historic heart. The effigy had a camera in its hood to record public reactions.
The reaction among some black students was to fear for their safety, and that is not surprising. What is more of a puzzle—for anyone outside American academia, at least—is that students and UI bosses continued denouncing Mr Tanyolacar for threatening campus safety even after the misunderstanding was cleared up. In vain did the Turkish-born academic explain that he is a “social-political artist”, using Klan imagery to provoke debate about racism. Under pressure from angry students, university chiefs issued two separate apologies. The first expressed regret that students had been exposed to a “deeply offensive” artwork, adding that there is no room for “divisive” speech at UI. The second apologised for taking too long to remove a display which had “terrorised” black students and locals, thereby failing to ensure that all students, faculty, staff and visitors felt “respected and safe”. An unhappy Mr Tanyolacar feels abandoned by the university. He left Iowa earlier this month, when his visiting fellowship came to an end, and has suspended his teaching career.
A crucial word in this tale is “safe”. Campus activists have stretched the meaning of safety from an important but second-order concern—shielding students from serious harm—to a defining ambition for any well-run academy. From town-sized public universities to tiny liberal-arts colleges, students have declared and administrators accepted that teachers or visiting speakers should aim for a psychologically safe learning environment, avoiding ideas or imagery that might prove distressing.

From Saint Louis University: Safe Zone Frequently Asked Questions.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

From Governing: The End of Political Polling?

This has been foreseen for a while, but changes in technology might finally doom the traditional use of phones to measure public opinion. They're just getting things wrong too often.

- Click here for the article.
It's a problem all over. England, Greece and Israel all held elections this year with outcomes that turned out to be a surprise -- if you had believed the polls. Pollsters in Canada, however, did better last month.
The list of problems is long. Fewer and fewer people have landlines. Buying lists of cellphone numbers, which are harder to target by geographic area, is more expensive for pollsters. Getting people to answer the phone and stay on the line to answer questions is increasingly difficult. Meanwhile, pollsters haven't yet figured out how best to reliably gauge opinion through online surveys.
"People don't want to talk because they don't know who's going to use that information," said Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida. "You almost have to be partisan to get business, and to keep business, you have to favor one party."
There's added scrutiny for pollsters in general, with more criticism coming from social media and election forecasters whenever they get things wrong. Increasingly, pollsters are nervous when their own numbers appear to be at variance with what their peers are showing.
"Pollsters seem to be increasingly engaging in something called poll herding: a tendency to either re-weight an outlying poll to fall in line witih other pollsters, or to fail to publish outlying polls altogether," elections analyst Sean Trende wrote in Politico. "In 2014 alone we saw evidence that PPP, Rasmussen Reports, Gravis Marketing and Hampton University all refused to release polls."

For 2305 tomorrow - two recent Supreme Court free speech cases

1 - Elonis v U.S.

Does a conviction of threatening another person under 18 U. S. C. §875(c) require proof of the defendant's subjective intent to threaten?

- Oyez: Elonis v U.S.
- ScotusBlog:  Elonis v U.S.
- Wikipedia: Elonis v U.S.

2 - Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc.

1. Do specialty license plates constitute government speech that is immune from any requirement of viewpoint neutrality?

2. Does preventing the confederate flag from appearing on license plates constitute viewpoint discrimination?

- Oyez: Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc..
- ScotusBlog: Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc.
- Wikipedia: Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc.

The Supreme Court on the president's foreign policy powers

This is from the majority decision in Hines v. Davidowitz.

That the supremacy of the national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution, was pointed out by the authors of The Federalist in 1787, and has since been given continuous recognition by this Court. When the national government by treaty or statute has established rules and regulations touching the rights, privileges, obligations or burdens of aliens as such, the treaty or statute is the supreme law of the land. No state can add to or take from the force and effect of such treaty or statute, for Article 6 of the Constitution provides that "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding." The Federal Government, representing as it does the collective interests of the forty-eight states, is entrusted with full and exclusive responsibility for the conduct of affairs with foreign sovereignties. "For local interests the several States of the Union exist, but for national purposes, embracing our relations with foreign nations, we are but one people, one nation, one power."

From Oyez: Arizona v. United States

This - as far as I can see - is the most recent decision related to immigration policy heard by the Supreme Court. It's being used to challenge the ability of governors to prevent Syrian refugees from settling in their states.

- Click here for the case.
Facts of the case

On April 23, 2010, the Arizona State Legislature passed S.B. 1070; Governor Jan Brewer signed the bill into law. On July 6, 2010, the United States sought to stop the enforcement of S.B. 1070 in federal district court before the law could take effect. The district court did not enjoin the entire act, but it did enjoin four provisions. The court enjoined provisions that (1) created a state-law crime for being unlawfully present in the United States, (2) created a state-law crime for working or seeking work while not authorized to do so, (3) required state and local officers to verify the citizenship or alien status of anyone who was lawfully arrested or detained, and (4) authorized warrantless arrests of aliens believed to be removable from the United States.
Arizona appealed the district court's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The appellate court affirmed the district court's decision, holding that the United States had shown that federal law likely preempted: (a) the creation of a state-crime for violation of federal registration laws, (b) the creation of a state-crime for work by unauthorized aliens, (c) the requirement to verify citizenship of all detained persons, and (d) the authorization for police officers to effect warrantless arrests based on probable cause of removability from the United States. Arizona appealed the court's decision. 

Do the federal immigration laws preclude Arizona's efforts at cooperative law enforcement and preempt the four provisions of S.B. 1070 on their face?

From Vox: Governors can’t keep out refugees. But they can make their lives miserable.

A bit more on the dividing line between the national and states governments regarding refugee policy.

- Click here for the article.

The 27 states that have declared they won't admit Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris terror attacks can't actually prevent refugees from entering their territory. But they can make it much harder for them to learn English or get jobs.

From the CRS: Refugee Admissions and Resettlement Policy

This seem to be as good as any place to find an outline of US refugee policy.

- Click here for the analysis.

Here's the summary:

A refugee is a person fleeing his or her country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Typically, the annual number of refugees that can be admitted into the United States, known as the refugee ceiling, and the allocation of these numbers by region are set by the President after consultation with Congress at the start of each fiscal year. For FY2015, the worldwide refugee ceiling is 70,000, with 68,000 admissions numbers allocated among the regions of the world and 2,000 numbers comprising an unallocated reserve. An unallocated reserve is to be used if, and where, a need develops for refugee slots in excess of the allocated numbers. The FY2015 regional allocations are, as follows: Africa (17,000), East Asia (13,000), Europe and Central Asia (1,000), Latin America/Caribbean (4,000), and Near East/South Asia (33,000). 
Overseas processing of refugees is conducted through a system of three priorities for admission. Priority 1 comprises cases involving persons facing compelling security concerns. Priority 2 comprises cases involving persons from specific groups of special humanitarian concern to the United States (e.g., Iranian religious minorities). Priority 3 comprises family reunification cases involving close relatives of persons admitted as refugees or granted asylum.
Special legislative provisions make it easier for members of certain groups to obtain refugee status. The “Lautenberg Amendment,” which was first enacted in 1989, allows certain former Soviet and Indochinese nationals to qualify for refugee status based on their membership in a protected category with a credible fear of persecution. In 2004, Congress amended the Lautenberg Amendment to add the “Specter Amendment,” which requires the designation of categories of Iranian religious minorities whose cases are to be adjudicated under the Lautenberg Amendment’s reduced evidentiary standard. Subsequent laws extended the Lautenberg Amendment, as amended by the Specter Amendment. Most recently, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015 (P.L. 113-235) extends the Lautenberg Amendment through September 30, 2015.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (HHS/ORR) administers an initial transitional assistance program for temporarily dependent refugees, Cuban/Haitian entrants, and others. The FY2015 appropriation for refugee and entrant assistance in P.L. 113-235 is $1,559,884,000.

Public Education: The Next 5 Years

A couple items for 2306 from the Texas Tribune

- Texas Delegation Raises, Shares Big Money.

With the Dec. 14 candidate filing deadline looming ahead of the March 1 primary, Texans in Congress recently showed their fundraising prowess — or lack thereof — through third-quarter reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. And a closer look at those records shows which incumbents appear to be confident or possibly anxious about their re-election bids.

Starr: "Little Doubt" Baylor Will Opt Out of Campus Carry.

Baylor University President and Chancellor Ken Starr said Monday that he has "little doubt" that the private institution will opt out of the state's new campus carry law when it goes into effect next year. During a daylong Texas Tribune symposium on higher education at Baylor, Starr said he thinks allowing concealed handgun licensees to carry their guns on campus is unwise.

A tale of two maps: state positions on Syrian refugees and the 2012 presidential vote.


- source.

Can state governors refuse Syrian Immigrants?

There seems to be a bit of confusion on this, but apparently the answer is no with the qualifier that states can make the resettlement process very difficult.

The most thorough look at the issue seem to be this item from Think Progress:

- No, State Governors Can’t Refuse To Accept Syrian Refugees.

It refers to supreme court cases and federal laws I'll make the subject of separate posts, but the basic point seems to be that immigration policy is a nation - not a state - policy and governors cannot interfere with it. Governors are responding by claiming this is a public safety issue, which they do have jurisdiction over. And of course there's the political dimension I'll leave to the side for now.

Here's more on the specific subject.

- U.S. governors don’t have power to refuse refugees access to their states.
- States cannot refuse refugees, but they can make it difficult.

From the Texas Tribune: Abbott: Texas to Block Syrian Refugee Resettlement

The governor joins a couple dozen others - mostly Republican - around the nation opposing a national plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Whether they can legally prevent their resettlement remains unclear.

- Click here for the story.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that Texas would refuse Syrian refugees after a terrorist attack in Paris killed more than 120 people.
"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 in a letter to President Barack Obama.
Cynthia Leigh, an immigration attorney in Austin, said advocates for refugees “deplore this sort of announcement.” But Leigh said Abbott’s move was likely legal because resettlement policies are at the discretion of local communities.
Asked if individual states were allowed to bar Syrian refugees from being resettled, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, "I don't have an answer for you. I think our lawyers are looking into that."

Abbott's announcement made Texas the third state to declare it would block Syrian refugees from resettling. The governors of Michigan and Alabama said Sunday that they would similarly prevent such resettlement in their states. Other states followed suit on Monday.
In his letter, Abbott said ISIS posed a “very real” risk to Texas, referencing an attack last year in Garland where a security guard was wounded after being shot outside a Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest. ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack.
In a similar statement on Monday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick commended the governor's actions.

"We adhere to Judeo-Christian principles and stand ready to help those in need, but not at the expense of the safety and security of our own people," Patrick said.

House Speaker Joe Straus on Monday took a more nuanced position, saying he agreed with Abbott’s “concern” and that refugees needed “thorough background reviews” in order to be placed in Texas.
“I share Gov. Abbott's concern that relocating refugees to Texas without thorough background reviews compromises our security,” Straus said in an emailed statement. “Our highest priority as a state has been and should continue to be the safety of all Texans.”

For more:

- Growing number of states refuse refugees.
- More than half the nation's governors say Syrian refugees not welcome.
- Here's a map of every state refusing to accept Syrian refugees.
- President Obama Slams GOP Candidates Over Refusing to Accept Syrian Refugees.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Fake smile of the day

Netanyahu pelosi


From the Texas Tribune: Analysis: A Test of the Two Republican Parties in Texas

A look at the internal dynamics of the current Republican Party in Texas.

- Click here for it

Candidate filing is underway and guess what, Captain Obvious? Almost everything that’s competitive in Texas races will come to a head in the March primary and not in the November general election.
That said, recent polling shows that not only are there strong factional differences between Tea Party and non-Tea Party Republicans, but also that the anti-establishment types are a sizable part of the Texas GOP.
The latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll asked Texans which primary they’d be voting in; 50 percent said Republican and 35 percent said Democrat. It also asked how they would vote in a congressional race if there were candidates from the Republican, Democratic and Tea Parties. Once again, 35 percent chose the Democrats. The Republican number dropped to 22 percent, and the Tea Party got 17 percent. The percentage of “don’t know” responses rose, too.

Would you like to run for office next year?

If so you - and you want to run as a Democrat or Republican - you have one month to file to be on the ballot.

If you want more info click on these, both from the office of the Texas Secretary of State:

- Important 2016 Election Dates.
- Important Dates for the Party Conventions, Primary Elections and General Election.

From the NYT: In Presidential Campaign, It’s Now Terrorism, Not Taxes

The Paris attacks have influence the presidential race.

- Click here for the story.

Bernie Sanders dispensed with the threat from the Islamic State in two sentences at the start of the Democratic debate before abruptly pivoting to the dangers of a “rigged economy.” Ben Carsonstruggled to answer a simple question on Sunday about how he would form a coalition to fight the militant group. And Marco Rubio, after pushing out a new video about the “clash of civilizations,” revamped his plans for an important Monday appearance before a group of executives on the assumption that terrorism, not tax rates, would be their most pressing concern.
The assault on Paris has thrust national security to the heart of the presidential race, forcing candidates to scramble and possibly prompting voters to reconsider their flirtations with unconventional candidates and to take a more sober measure of who is prepared to serve as commander in chief.
Until now, the campaign, when it did not descend into insult comedy on Twitter or become mired in biographical disputes, was focused on a subtler sort of threat to the country’s way of life: economic and racial inequality, for Democrats, and a less-defined fury about a loss of America’s identity, for Republicans. But the bloodshed in the heart of Paris posed concrete questions about how the contenders would respond to an urgent and seemingly metastasizing threat.
For more:

Republican Candidates Urge Aggressive Response After Paris Attacks NOV. 14, 2015

From Governing: The Sometimes Sad State of Voter Registration in America

For 2306's look at voter registration across the state. Not all states seem intent on making it easier to register.

- Click here for the link.

The United States takes great pride in being one of the largest and longest running modern democracies in the world. Yet when it comes to having a good voter registration system, we have a long way to go.
Today’s voter registration systems vary widely in terms of quality and effectiveness from state to state, according to a recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice. A dozen states still use paper forms to register voters, making their systems costly to run and prone to errors. The states that do use technology differ in how they use computers to register voters, often making the system less effective than it could be.
Until Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, citizens had to seek out the necessary forms to register. The “Motor Voter” law, as it came to be called, made the process easier by putting the forms at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and requiring agency personnel to ask drivers if they wanted to register. But many countries -- including Australia, Chile, France, Germany and Sweden -- make it easier than that to sign up with automatic voter registration.
Two states -- Oregon and California --recently passed laws to automatically register people to vote when they get or renew their license at the DMV -- unless they opt out. But just this week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a presidential candidate, vetoed a bill to enact automatic voter registration in his state. At least 15 other states, the District of Columbia and Congress have proposed similar legislation.
Though the push for automatic voter registration is just getting started, online voter registration has taken off in recent years. In 2010, 17 states were registering voters online. In 2015, that number has grown to more than 35 states -- though New Jersey isn't one of them because Christie also vetoed online voter registration.

More from the same source:

Online Registration Helped Increase California’s Youth Vote
Which States Could Adopt Automatic Voter Registration Next?
States Push to Make Voting More Convenient
Christie Rejects Automatic and Online Voter Registration
Welfare Agencies Are Failing to Help Poor People Vote

From Esquire: Two U.S. States Might Lower the Drinking Age to 18

Who says the future's not bright?

- Click here for the story.
Voters in California could soon decide whether to lower the state's drinking age from 21, while lawmakers in Minnesota will consider bills making it legal for 18, 19, and 20-year-olds to drink in bars and restaurants.
A 1984 law established the national drinking as 21, with the federal government telling states it would withhold highway funding if they didn't abide. But Phyllis Kahn, a longtime state rep in Minnesota, believes a provision in Obamacare now makes states immune from that threat, according to the Pioneer Press, a Minnesota newspaper.

This inspired Kahn to introduce two bills addressing the legal age: One would lower the drinking age in bars and restaurants to 18; the other would allow people under 21 to drink in bars and restaurants if they are with a parent, guardian, or spouse of legal age. (Kahn prefers the first bill, the Pioneer Press said.)
The idea is to adopt a European mindset, the Pioneer Press reported, teaching young people how to drink responsibility in a social setting. They wouldn't be able to buy booze in liquor stores until age 21.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

From the Texas Tribune: Black Lives Matter Searches for Its Next Step

For out upcoming look at interest groups in 2306. Can this movement actually have an impact on public policy in Texas?

- Click here for it.
Though the next Texas legislative session is more than a year away, movement activists want to get in on the conversation early as lawmakers begin interim studies of criminal justice issues. In October, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick charged Senate committees with studying police and jail safety before the 2017 legislative session. Last week, Texas House Speaker Joe Strausannounced similar directions to his chamber.
The studies, in part, reflect reactions to the July hanging death of Sandra Bland in the Waller County Jail after her arrest during a traffic stop. Questions surrounding Bland's death — and other widely reported cases of police mistreatment of blacks — have opened a door for change through which Texas Black Lives Matter activists hope to pass.

Nationwide, Black Lives Matter wants Congress to pass legislation establishing a use-of-force standard, creating a national database of killings and serious injuries by police, ending police militarization and enacting the End Racial Profiling Act of 2015.

On the state and local levels, the organization wants all police interactions recorded, police forces to look like the communities they serve and mental health professionals to be first responders in crisis situations. They also want spitting, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and other "harmless offenses" decriminalized.

The Austin chapter, Haule said, is pushing five policy demands that it hopes to secure statewide.
- Mandatory investigation of police officers accused of misconduct that are seen through to completion even if the officer quits, is fired or transfers to another department or agency.Independent bodies with subpoena power to conduct the investigations and issue recommendations to local district attorneys.
- Compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, a federal law that created standards for safety in state prisons. Texas did not comply with the law under former Gov. Rick Perry, but Gov. Greg Abbott told the U.S. Attorney General earlier this year that the state will start complying.
- Programs and policies that treat drug addiction as a public health issue instead of simply criminalizing behavior.
- Ending the use of solitary confinement in prison as punishment.
- Demands for police accountability beat at the heart of the Black Lives Matter agenda — and spark some of the sharpest criticism of the group.
All jurisdictions need independent citizen review boards with power to investigate complaints against law enforcement free from conflicts of interest, Haule said.

Two campuses rule on campus carry

- Texas State Issues Recommended Campus Carry Rules.

In recommending how Texas State University should comply with a new state campus carry law, a task force says it shouldn’t provide storage for handguns but should ban the guns from places where students are counseled or children come to campus.
The suggestions, which were issued this week, won't immediately go into effect. University President Denise Trauth is seeking input on the proposals, which need the Texas State University System Board of Regents’ approval. That probably won’t happen until the spring. The law doesn't go into effect until Aug. 1.
The university has called three public forums for next week to discuss the ideas.

- TCU Opts Out of Campus Carry.

Students at Texas Christian University still won't be able to carry their guns on campus next year, the university announced Friday.

The Fort Worth private school's board of trustees voted to opt out of the state's new campus carry law, which allows students with concealed handgun licenses to carry their guns on campus. The law applies to all public universities but allows private colleges to decide whether they want to follow it.

Universities across the state have been hosting forums and gathering public input on the issue. TCU's faculty senate passed a resolution in October opposing allowing guns at their school. But some students asked administrators to opt in. Gun rights advocates held a rally on campus expressing support for the law.

“It was quite clear that no matter which side of the issue each person felt was best, all cared deeply about the safety of the community," Kathy Cavins-Tull, TCU's vice chancellor for student affairs, said in a statement announcing the decision.

So far, most private schools have expressed a preference for opting out.

Some random items related to the Paris attacks

For 2305 these come at a fortuitous moment since we're taking a look at foreign policy in class.

General info:

- Vox: Paris attacks: what we know.
- Vox: The 7 Biggest Myths about ISIS.
- Vox: 18 things about ISIS you need to know.

Here's some political background.

From NPR: U.S. Political Reaction To Paris Attacks Split Along Party Lines.

In the wake of controversy of any kind, even terrorist attacks, U.S. politics is never far behind. The American political response — from President Obama to the candidates vying to replace him — in the hours following the Paris attacks has been unsurprisingly split along party lines.
What is interesting, however, is that Democrats, who are set to debate Saturday night, have kept their responses generally to thoughts and prayers — with little in the way of policy prescriptions.
That's understandable, given that a Democrat currently controls the White House and the candidates wouldn't want to appear to undermine the current president of their own party, especially on matters of foreign affairs. But they will be pressed on foreign policy and national security as a result of the attacks at the outset of Saturday night's debate, according to a source with knowledge of debate preparations.
Republicans, on the other hand, are issuing lots of policy specifics and ratcheting up rhetoric, intimating that what's being done — and been done in the past seven years by President Obama — to keep the country safe is not enough. They are calling for an increased U.S. footprint in the Middle East, including "boots on the ground," a halting of plans to increase the numbers of Syrian refugees to the U.S., and an increase in the role of the National Security Agency in surveillance and intelligence-gathering capabilities.

What is the Obama Doctrine? Part 2

I posted an item with this title in April, click here for it.

Here are a few updates on it:

The Curse of the Obama Doctrine.
- The Obama doctrine: Barack Obama’s foreign-policy goal in his second term: to avoid costly entanglements.
- Time: The ‘Obama Doctrine’ Echoes Kennedy and Nixon.

As always, the relevant Wikipedia page is worth looking at, click here for it.

This NYT editorial seems to summarize it well.

- Click here for Obama’s Doctrine of Restraint.

One way to define Barack Obama’s foreign policy is as a Doctrine of Restraint. It is clear, not least to the Kremlin, that this president is skeptical of the efficacy of military force, wary of foreign interventions that may become long-term commitments, convinced the era of American-imposed solutions is over, and inclined to see the United States as less an indispensable power than an indispensable partner. He has, in effect, been talking down American power.
President Vladimir Putin has seized on this profound foreign policy shift in the White House. He has probed where he could, most conspicuously in Ukraine, and now in Syria. Obama may call this a form of Russian weakness. He may mock Putin’s forays as distractions from a plummeting Russian economy. But the fact remains that Putin has reasserted Russian power in the vacuum created by American retrenchment and appears determined to shape the outcome in Syria using means that Obama has chosen never to deploy. For Putin, it’s clear where the weakness lies: in the White House.
Russia’s Syrian foray may be overreach. It may fall into the category of the “stupid stuff” (read reckless intervention) Obama shuns. Quagmires can be Russian, too. But for now the initiative appears to lie in the Kremlin, with the White House as reactive power. Not since the end of the Cold War a quarter-century ago has Russia been as assertive or Washington as acquiescent.
Obama’s Doctrine of Restraint reflects circumstance and temperament. He was elected to lead a nation exhausted by the two longest and most expensive wars in its history. Iraq and Afghanistan consumed trillions without yielding victory. His priority was domestic: first recovery from the 2008 meltdown and then a more equitable and inclusive society. The real pivot was not to Asia but to home.
Besides, American power in the 21st century could not be what it was in the 20th, not with the Chinese economy quintupling in size since 1990. The president was intellectually persuaded of the need to redefine America’s foreign-policy heft in an interconnected world of more equal powers, and temperamentally inclined to prudence and diplomacy over force. Republican obstructionism and the politicization of foreign policy in a polarized Washington did not help him. American power, in his view, might still be dominant but could no longer be determinant.
As Obama put it to The New Republic in 2013, “I am more mindful probably than most of not only our incredible strengths and capabilities, but also our limitations.”

The ______ Doctrine

As we will discuss in class, foreign policy is dominated by the executive branch far more that any other area of public policy. This has been the case since the beginning of the nation and was one of the factors leading to the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. Foreign policy was weak under the Articles of Confederation.

In a previous post - click here for it - I provided a list of the various "doctrines" that have been developed over history. This is likely incomplete, but it provides a look at how the nation's orientation towards the world has changed over time. Notice that these doctrines become common after WW2 and the positioning of the US as a major player in world affairs.

1823: Monroe Doctrine
1842: Tyler Doctrine.
1904: Roosevelt Corollary.
1932: Stimson Doctrine
1933: Good Neighbor policy.
1947: Truman Doctrine
1957: Eisenhower Doctrine
1961: Kennedy Doctrine
1965: Johnson Doctrine
1969: Nixon Doctrine
1980: Carter Doctrine
1981: Kirkpatrick Doctrine
1984: Weinberger Doctrine
1985: Reagan Doctrine
1990: Powell Doctrine
1999: Clinton Doctrine
2002: Bush Doctrine
2002: Rumsfeld Doctrine

Some highlights:

Monroe Doctrine: "The Monroe Doctrine was a U.S. foreign policy regarding domination of the American continent in 1823. It stated that further efforts by European nations to colonize land or interfere with states in North or South America would be viewed as acts of aggression, requiring U.S. intervention."

Roosevelt Corollary: ". . . the United States will intervene in conflicts between European countries and Latin American countries to enforce legitimate claims of the European powers, rather than having the Europeans press their claims directly."

Stimson Doctrine: ". . . a policy of the United States federal government, enunciated in a note of January 7, 1932, to Japan and China, of non-recognition of international territorial changes that were executed by force."

Good Neighbor policy: "The policy's main principle was that of non-intervention and non-interference in the domestic affairs of Latin America. It also reinforced the idea that the United States would be a “good neighbor” and engage in reciprocal exchanges with Latin American countries."

Truman Doctrine: ". . . an American foreign policy to stop Soviet imperialism during the Cold War. It was announced to Congress by President Harry S. Trumanon March 12, 1947 when he pledged to contain Soviet threats to Greece and Turkey. No American military force was involved; instead Congress appropriated a free gift of financial aid to support the economies and the militaries of Greece and Turkey.

Eisenhower Doctrine: ". . . a Middle Eastern country could request American economic assistance or aid from U.S. military forces if it was being threatened by armed aggression from another state. Eisenhower singled out the Soviet threat in his doctrine."

Kennedy Doctrine:  " . . . support for the containment of Communism and the reversal of Communist progress in the Western Hemisphere."

Johnson Doctrine: ". . . , domestic revolution in the Western Hemisphere would no longer be a local matter when "the object is the establishment of a Communist dictatorship"

Nixon Doctrine: ". . . the United States would assist in the defense and developments of allies and friends," but would not "undertake all the defense of the free nations of the world." This doctrine meant that each ally nation was in charge of its own security in general, but the United States would act as a nuclear umbrella when requested."

Carter Doctrine: ". . . the United States would use military force if necessary to defend its national interests in the Persian Gulf."

Kirkpatrick Doctrine: "The doctrine was used to justify the U.S. foreign policy of supporting Third World anti-communist dictatorships during the Cold War. . . . Kirkpatrick claimed that states in the Soviet bloc and other Communist states were totalitarian regimes, while pro-Western dictatorships were authoritarian ones. According to Kirkpatrick, totalitarian regimes were more stable and self-perpetuating than authoritarian regimes, and thus had a greater propensity to influence neighboring states."

Weinberger Doctrine: ". . . a list of points governing when the United States could commit troops in military engagements. The doctrine was . . . an outgrowth of the collective lessons learned from the Vietnam War and the desire of the U.S. government to avoid such quagmires in the future."

Reagan Doctrine: ". . . the United States provided overt and covert aid to anti-communist guerrillas and resistance movements in an effort to "roll back" Soviet-backed communist governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The doctrine was designed to diminish Soviet influence in these regions as part of the administration's overall Cold War strategy."

Powell Doctrine: " . . . based in large part on the Weinberger Doctrine . . . The doctrine emphasizes U.S. national security interests, overwhelming strike capabilities with an emphasis on ground forces, and widespread public support."

Clinton Doctrine: It contains "three foreign policy priorities: "updating and restructuring American military and security capabilities, elevating the role of economics in international affairs, and promoting democracy abroad."

Bush Doctrine: " . . . a phrase used to describe various related foreign policy principles . . .  'unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty and rejecting the Kyoto protocol.' After 9/11 the phrase described the policy that the United States had the right to secure itself against countries that harbor or give aid to terrorist groups, which was used to justify the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan."

Rumsfeld Doctrine: " . . . seeks to increase force readiness and decrease the amount of supply required to maintain forces, by reducing the number in a theater. The basic tenets of this military strategy are: High-technology combat systems, Reliance on air forces, and Small, nimble ground forces."

Appraisals of the "Obama Doctrine" to follow.