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September 19, 2014      5:14 PM

Stanford: We are all Roger Goodell

From the left -- "So go ahead, America, let’s focus on the boorish, illegal, and sadistic behavior of the gladiators in the arena. Pay no mind that the Roman senate is perfectly happy to make a mockery of our democracy"

What if we held politicians to the same standards as football players? When football players break the law, Americans demand they be benched, cut, or suspended before they get due process, but when politicians are indicted they get to stick around, spending our money until a jury of their peers—there’s a terrifying thought—passes judgment. It’s possible that Americans have misplaced priorities.

Let’s get something straight: Getting cut from a football team is the least that should happen to those who punch women or whip children. I’m all for Americans declaring that violence against women and children is unacceptable and demanding justice. Delaying action to let the legal process play out is a moral dodge and a game for lawyers. We call balls and strikes on the field, and we should call right and wrong off the field.

So why are we so easygoing when politicians are indicted? When Rick Perry was indicted on two felony counts for abuse of office and coercion of a public official, suddenly he became the poster boy of the Republican-of-the-Month club, celebrated in Iowa and New Hampshire for standing up to those liberals in Austin, by gum and by God.

In New York, Rep. Michael Grimm got hit with a 20-count indictment related to his past business dealings, and he’s not only running for re-election in a swing district, but according to sources quoted by POLITICO, he’s winning.

And before you say, “Oh, but we’re unforgiving about the sex scandals,” take a look at Mark Sanford (R-Appalachian Trail) and his fellow congressman Scott DesJarlais, the Tennessee doctor who got a patient pregnant and then pressured her to have an abortion. Both are locks to return to congress—and in deeply red districts, at that.

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By Jason Stanford

September 16, 2014      4:01 PM

Bearse: D*#ates are a Necessary Evil

From the right: QR’s conservative columnist argues the low number of gubernatorial debates is sufficient. “I don’t know the right number of d*#ates, except it should be somewhere between 0 and the inane number conducted by the Republican presidential candidates of 2012.”

Is this not the most boring election cycle in modern memory? If it weren’t for Wendy Davis’ television ads where she says Greg Abbott is for rapists, cancer and standardized tests, we would all be comatose by now. The candidates for U.S. Senate, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and Comptroller are all in the witness protection program. Who knew Dan Patrick could be so quiet for so long?

We do have our first gubernatorial d*#bate this week. As a survivor of Perry for President 1.0, I still get Vietnam flashbacks whenever someone says the word d*#bate. I will always remember where I was when I witnessed those 49 seconds of terror…under my desk, looking for phone numbers for the Letterman producer. The other night, former Alabama QB Greg McElroy was broadcasting the Aggie game against the Little Sisters of the Poor, and said only three people can call him Gregory, and then proceeded to list four. I had a panic attack.

The conventional wisdom for the gubernatorial d*#ate is that Abbott just wants to get by without any damage. No harm, no foul means he wins. There is some truth to that, though I think that is an over-simplification. This is the first time millions of Texans will see the main candidates for governor in an unscripted setting – well, sort of. I mean, Wendy Davis will be so scripted to say the word “insider” whenever possible it could lead to alcohol poisoning if you turn it into a drinking game. But there is always something the candidates don’t prepare for, which allows us to see them think on their feet. The point is not whether they can name the president of Mexico or the neighboring state governors (One Tough Monogram could not), but how they handle the unexpected. What do they emote on television? Are they cool under fire, too hot, robotic, warm, or drunk like Kinky seemed?

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By Eric Bearse

September 12, 2014      4:39 PM

Stanford: Time for GOP to deal with Gohmert

From the left: "It’s time for Republicans to put Gohmert down in front of the cartoons with a juice box. We’ve got enough real problems in the world without making up fake ones."

There are a lot of offensive ways to observe 9/11. A yoga studio near DC offered a 20% off sale (“9 + 11 = 20% OFF!”), and a sex toy company soberly tweeted remembrance of “those lost, & honor those still fighting for freedom.” But the most off-putting way to remember the terrorist attacks on 9/11 was by Rep. Louie Gohmert, who thinks of Sep. 11 as the anniversary of Benghazi, or as he says it, “BENGHAZI!!”

If this were a just world in which a person was judged by his merits and rose in life accordingly, Louie Gohmert would be relegated to writing the sorts of letters to the editor that are never published. He is a cranky man who needs no tin foil to achieve flights of self-assured delusion. He should be mowing lawns for a living and attending John Birch meetings in the evenings. But he’s from East Texas, so he’s a congressman.

It’s guys like Gohmert who have earned congress record-low approval ratings, lower even than colonoscopies, head lice, and root canals. Of course, liberals have their crazies, too. Go to any precinct meeting, and you’ll encounter earnest activists in bedazzled sweatshirts who will insist that George W. Bush allowed 9/11 to happen so that he could invade Iraq so Halliburton could get the oil to make Dick Cheney wealthier. But we don’t elect these people to congress.

Republican primary voters have decided to treat the United States House of Representatives like a tea party meeting and have turned the gavel over to folks like Gohmert, who believe—despite all documented evidence to the contrary—there remain legitimate questions about the president’s birthplace.

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By Jason Stanford

September 10, 2014      3:55 PM

Grusendorf: Judge Dietz Erred –- Money alone is no solution

Supremes overturned him on two of three major conclusions in 2006 and are likely to do so again

Having sat through the both of the recent school finance trials I gained great respect for the intellect of Judge Dietz.  However, he gravely missed the mark in his recent school finance ruling.  The likelihood of his decision standing on appeal is slim.  Just as the Texas Supreme Court ignored most of his findings of fact in the last round of school finance litigation, they will likely do so again.

In 2006 the high court overturned Judge Dietz on both big issues -adequacy and equity.  They only allowed districts a minor victory on the state property tax issue thereby enabling them to recover legal fees.  The Texas Supreme Court refused to tell the legislature they had to spend more money on education.

On February 4, 2013 Judge Dietz said from the bench that he and I come from the opposite ends of the political spectrum.  Since I’m very conservative, the Judge obviously considers himself to be very liberal.  Having heard all the same evidence as the Judge, I have a very different interpretation of the evidence in this case.  In my opinion, the state presented a compelling case on both the adequacy and equity issues.  Further, from my perspective the evidence was overwhelming regarding the efficiency issue –which the Judge refused to give serious consideration.

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By Kent Grusendorf

September 9, 2014      4:14 PM

Bearse: Wordplay

From the right: Language frames debate; enhances chances of success or failure

I am fascinated by the use of language in politics. The framing of issues often determines the winner of a debate at the outset.

Take the issue of abortion. The reason Wendy Davis has never recovered politically from her abortion filibuster is she fought on turf where she couldn’t win. Outside of San Francisco and New York, most Americans oppose late-term abortions. In winning the public relations battle at the time -- becoming the national darling of the leftist intelligentsia -- she set herself up to lose the political war. She was arguing on the wrong turf.

Perhaps we know more today than we did back then, after the revelation about her own heartbreaking experiences. What would have offered a more compelling reason at the time of the filibuster – the trauma of whether to give birth to a child with a severe brain abnormality -- was shelved for an ideological argument. Which brings us to an important rule: while people can argue with your politics or ideology, they can’t argue with your own personal experience.

Rule #2 seems to be men can’t take part in the debate about abortion. The fact every man has passed through the female uterus apparently gives us no standing. But I’m not here to argue about abortion. I’m interested in the framing, and the words used by both sides.

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By Eric Bearse

September 5, 2014      1:01 PM

Stanford: The craziest congressional candidate in America

From the Left: Our liberal columnist argues that the absolute weirdest thing a candidate could do is point to Sen. Ted Cruz as a model of how to govern

All politics is local, and sometimes it’s loco. In Texas, our most abundant resource is ludicrous politicians (see also: Gohmert, Louie), but as much as it pains me to admit it, the craziest congressional candidate this year comes from California where Carl DeMaio is in a tight race to become the latest lunatic in the asylum we all call Congress.

There are tons of candidates running around with their crazypants falling down about their ankles. There’s the one in Illinois who blames tornadoes on gay rights. And preacher Jodi Hice, who will represent a rural Georgia district, thinks homosexuality “enslaves” gays and lesbians. It’s usually the “blame the gays” with these folks, which might get folks to talking if they weren’t such good Christians.

DeMaio is not a fringe candidate, and he’s running in one of the few swing districts in the country, this one located in San Diego. The incumbent, Scott Peters, is one of the 10 most-vulnerable congressmen in the country largely because, well, he’s a Democrat, and his voters can’t be counted on to show up. The Rothenberg Political Report calls this race a true “toss-up,” which means the campaigns, parties, and super PACs will probably spend more than $3 million on this one race before Election Day.

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By Jason Stanford

September 4, 2014      2:21 PM

Scheberle: Dietz ruling is about more than money for schools, it's about making college readiness the North Star

Senior Vice President of the Austin Chamber of Commerce argues that Dietz’s decision should spur policymakers to work toward greater college readiness

Last Thursday, Travis County State District Judge John Dietz ruled "college and career readiness is now the operational expectation of the Texas school system....Student performance measures show that the Texas educational system has fallen short."  Because the Legislature and Texas Education Agency do not make "suitable provision" for this "general diffusion of knowledge," Judge Dietz ruled that Texas violates Article 7, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution.

As the case moves through the likely appeals, I cannot determine whether the trial court decision will be overturned.  I'm not a lawyer.  But as a business representative on education policy issues for 15 years who sees that 62% of current local open jobs require at least an associate degree, I urge leaders and taxpayers to make legislative and administrative changes which will meet the Dietz standard for general diffusion of knowledge: college readiness.

In state law, the purpose of the Texas curriculum is to "prepare and enable all students to continue to learn in post-secondary educational, training and employment settings."

Judge Dietz points to Chapter 39 of the Texas Education Code that the level of preparation students must attain in English language arts and mathematics courses should prepare them "to enroll and succeed, without remediation, in an entry-level general education course for credit in that same content area for a baccalaureate degree or associate degree program."

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By Drew Scheberle

September 2, 2014      3:54 PM

Bearse: Silly Season

From the Right: QR's conservative columnist argues Sen. Davis has made the classic Tony Sanchez mistake of going negative way too early instead of attacking in the fall from a position of greater strength.

Lock up the women and children, election season is upon us. With Labor Day behind us, we begin the nine-week sprint to Election Day. Or as most Texans consider it, a marathon of horror flicks disguised as political ads. Only Wendy Davis started it early, successfully raising her own negatives with an ad that should have received an NC-17 rating.

Coming soon to a mailbox near you are smarmy looking felons on a playground (if Republicans produce it, they will be white guys so Democrats can’t play the race card.) You will see babies crying. Seasoned citizens with an angry scowl. Political opponents with crazed eyes like the Uzo Aduba character in “Orange is the New Black.” By November 4 you will think you are choosing between crooks and communists. Or both.

Advertising has become so targeted that campaigns can buy satellite time that targets the individual home regardless of what channel you are watching. If you want to be stalked on the Internet wherever you go, keep your cookies on, enable Location Services on your iPhone and back up your private photos to iCloud. If you’re confused, ask your grandchildren.

But if you needed a reminder that the silly season is upon us, look at the coverage of Guard personnel supposedly starving on duty. Wendy Davis actually found a reason to campaign in the Rio Grande Valley, filling goodie bags for soldiers.

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By Eric Bearse

August 31, 2014      11:04 AM

Stanford: Perry gets his photo ops while National Guard begs for food

From the left: "It’s a cliché to work “oops” into any story about Rick Perry, but shouldn’t it tell us something that the word always fits so well

Texas has a new refugee crisis on the border, and this time it’s not a bunch of kids. When Rick Perry deployed the National Guard to the border, he remembered to go on Fox News, pose with assault weapons, and brag to Republicans in Iowa. But he forgot to make sure that our National Guardsmen and women got paid and were fed. Now they are turning to food banks to eat, underscoring how Perry’s big fake invasion of south Texas is really just a political put-up job.

Responding to the humanitarian crisis, Perry called up the National Guard and ordered them to the Rio Grande Valley to help deter drug smugglers. In a much-touted foreign policy speech, he even warned that ISIS may very well have snuck over the border to kill us all.

And while he’s been getting a lot of attention he forgot about the troops he deployed. The guardsmen and women have been in the Valley since August 11 and won’t get their first paychecks until after Labor Day. Now our troops need to eat, so they’re turning to local charities set up to help the residents of one of the poorest areas in the United States.

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By Jason Stanford

August 26, 2014      5:18 PM

Bearse: Bra burners

From the right: QR's conservative columnist argues that Texas journalists are twisting themselves into pretzels to make the Perry indictment seem more legitimate than it is

Have you tried driving on Congress Avenue in downtown Austin lately? No longer can you travel in the right lane, because that’s for buses and bikers. In the left lane, proceed at your own risk. If you get stuck behind a left turner, good luck getting back into the middle lane, because we have now jammed 80 percent of the traffic into that one middle lane. For those turning right, you have to dart over to the right lane in last-minute fashion instead of doing it with the flow of traffic blocks earlier – all so buses and bikers get their own lane.  

This is what happens when we elect social engineers. A generation ago, they were burning bras. Now they are banning bags. And if they could ban the combustible engine they would do that too. I am just hoping that the forces behind the city’s Prop 1 don’t defeat the statewide Prop 1 due to voter confusion about which one was put on the ballot by the nanny state caliphate.

Remember when the Ron Paulites came up with the idea of Paulville, where like-minded libertarians could live together in Hudspeth County? I think we ought to do the same with the Austin City Council. Put it on TV and call it, “Survivor: Goofy Edition.” Let them experiment with their social engineering schemes without hurting the rest of us. They can have their own trolley line, buses ¼ full, and bike lanes known also as car lanes. I am willing to give them Native American reservation status, so they can assemble peacefully and smoke peyote without the cops touching them. Let them legalize pot, and give out tax credits for soy milk and vegan products. They can even form their own unarmed police force.

We have not only elected a generation of hippies, but their children who grew up in the hippie commune. And apparently we sent a bunch of them to journalism school too.

I can only laugh at some in the Texas press, horrified that for the only time in Gov. Rick Perry’s life, the New York Times editorial page has agreed with him. And Alan Dershowitz and David Axelrod too. After a couple days of nationwide denunciation of the indictment of Governor Perry, some in the Texas press are working overtime to turn the narrative. They are disgusted that the big feet have weighed in so ignorant of the facts. They have called the special prosecutor a Republican when he was nominated by Obama and signed off on by Lloyd Doggett. They have ignored a story about a grand jury member attending the Texas Democratic Convention while she was empanelled, and posting a picture where she attended an event with a key witness. They want readers to think there really might be merit to the indictment, if you only knew as much as they do.

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By Eric Bearse

August 22, 2014      11:28 AM

Stanford: The resurrection of Rick Perry

From the left: Is there resurrection after indictments?

Not since Superman has a fella made such a big impression when he took off his eyeglasses. Turns out, the sexy new specs were a disguise all along. This is the Rick Perry we thought we were getting in 2012 when we left him for dead. But he’s back, baby, and if he can keep it up he just might be change Republicans can believe in.

We should have known better. The doddering fool who made goo-goo faces at maple syrup in New Hampshire and who couldn’t count to three in Iowa was not the bully who accused both Tony Sanchez and Bill White of complicity in the murders of law enforcement officers. Watching Perry get whipsawed by the children of a lesser God was like seeing your abusive stepfather get laid out by a dad in Dockers at a PTA meeting. After “oops,” we thought maybe the old guy had lost it. If he had not been wearing special orthopedics instead of his usual boots we would not have believed he knew how to tie his shoes.

So we indulged his attempt at redemption, told him he looked cool in his new black-rimmed eyewear even though he kiiiinda looked like a guy who was a little too old to be rolling up to the club, bless his heart. He traveled the country, staying out of our way as we focused on the campaign to replace him. Perry’s feeble war of words with California Gov. Jerry Brown seemed more like an audition for HBO’s VEEP than a prelude to an actual run for the presidency. It all felt like a long goodbye.

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By Jason Stanford

August 20, 2014      10:17 AM

Simpson: Proud of vote to keep PIU in Travis County DA's office instead of moving it to the AG's office

“It perplexes me that the same people who are decrying the actions of the Ethics Commission are also questioning the votes of members who opposed granting the Commission an unconstitutional task.”

Since Governor Perry’s indictment by a Travis County grand jury, I have received inquiries as to why I voted against an amendment that was intended to move the Public Integrity Unit (PIU) from the Travis County District Attorney’s Office to the Office of Attorney General. When I was first elected to the Legislature, I was advised to do the right thing and then explain it. Here is the explanation:

During the 83rd Legislature the District Attorney for Travis County was arrested for drunk driving and exhibited reprehensible behavior. In many cultures the public shame of such actions would result in an official’s voluntary resignation. There is however, no mechanism for the legislature to force the resignation of a locally elected official who has lost the public’s trust. That did not stop members of the legislature from trying.

Senate Bill 219, a bill which dealt with the Texas Ethics Commission and was vetoed by the Governor, presented the opportunity for a political statement through an amendment to “transfer the duties and responsibilities of the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County district attorney’s office to the office of the attorney general.”

The problem with the amendment was that the PIU is merely an organizational division within the office of the District Attorney. Travis County like the other 253 counties in the State, derive their authority to prosecute criminal violations from the Texas Constitution. The Attorney General has no such authority and the amendment would not have conferred it to him. Only a constitutional amendment can do so.

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By David Simpson

August 19, 2014      4:12 PM

Bearse:The Petty and the Partisan

Against backdrop of Perry indictments, some Republicans turn guns inward and others savor gamemanship

Let’s start with the most serious: the runaway grand jury and the prosecution of politics. The indictment of Governor Rick Perry late Friday has been the talk of the town, in fact the nation (note: the governor remains a client of mine). In the first 72 hours people of all political stripes have rallied to the governor’s side, decrying the criminalization of politics and an indictment based on what experts deem to be a weak case.

The prosecution has created a sort of alternative reality: that the veto itself was not the crime, but instead the alleged warning given ahead of time. So, no case could be made if the governor struck $7.5 million from the Public Integrity Unit out of the blue, but if he tried to give District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg the chance to step down in order to salvage the integrity of the unit, and therefore it’s funding, it is alleged to be a crime.

We don’t resolve our political differences by indictment, but by elections. One can disagree with the governor’s policy decision, but to deem his veto an abuse of power, and pursue charges against him for it, is ironically its own form of abuse of power.

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By Eric Bearse

August 15, 2014      2:17 PM

Stanford: Perry not getting second chance at first impression

From the left -- no fresh look from national press as Perry tries to re-brand himself

Al Gore never claimed he invented the Internet. Sarah Palin never said she could see Russia from her house. And when Dan Quayle visited Latin America, he never wished he had studied “Latin harder in school so I could converse with those people"—but they might as well have.

 Once the national media decides on a narrative, it is nearly impossible for a politician to get a rewrite. That’s what’s happening to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is begging for another crack at the role of a lifetime. Unfortunately, the press has decided that he’s just not what they’re looking for because he blew his last audition so badly. Perry would not concede this point on a return trip to the Iowa State Fair.

“I'm not saying it was necessarily bad. Life is about having experiences you can grow from. I had one in 2011 and 2012,” he said. “Being prepared physically, mentally, and intellectually is very, very important if you’re going to be running for the President of the United States.”

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By Jason Stanford

August 12, 2014      1:30 PM

Bearse: Self-Imposed Chaos

From the Right: QR’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse argues that President Obama has overreacted to the Bush legacy in such a way that puts the world at risk

Sunni terrorists under the banner of ISIL or ISIS are running around the Iraqi countryside beheading and crucifying men, women and children who don’t renounce their Christian Faith, and currently threatening massacre of our Kurdish Allies in the north. How did we get here, and do you care?

Some would observe that America cannot intervene every time atrocity raises its evil head. I would agree. But America can and should intervene when it created the conditions for such atrocity and when unchecked evil threatens our own existence. In other words, when it is in our national interests to militarily engage the enemy, we must do so.

A series of events led to the rapidly growing threat posed by ISIL fanatics. First, President Obama’s withdrawal of American troops was dictated by his campaign calendar. It was more important to him to say he ended a war than to end a war properly. You can blame President Bush all you want for the initial invasion, but we should not forget that the difficulties of 2006 and 2007 had been largely overcome. America needed to leave a contingency force to ensure a proper long-term transition to the Iraqi Army. It did not.

Now the president is engaging in revisionist history, saying it was an Iraqi decision to not establish a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), enabling a small American presence. So he ended the war, except the Iraqis ended the war. The fact is that he proposed dwindling the American presence from 20,000 troops to 5,000, leaving Malaki with a political problem: asking the Iraqi Parliament to approve a SOFA when the juice wasn’t necessarily worth the squeeze. Yet, today we have sent hundreds of American military advisors to Iraq without the approval of the Iraqi Parliament. It’s all a semantic charade for a President who refuses to admit he botched the withdrawal.

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By Eric Bearse

August 8, 2014      1:38 PM

Stanford: US needs Truth & Reconciliation

From the left -- US could draw a lesson from South African transition from apartheid to a black majority, starting with agreement "on an evidence based version of reality"

Men might be from Mars and women from Venus, but at least we’re in the same solar system. When it comes to politics, liberals and conservatives can’t agree on what the problems are much less solutions. We can blame the politicians for not making progress on the big issues of our time, but until Americans share a common truth about what those issues are we won’t move an inch.

An AP poll found that 74% of Americans had no confidence in the federal government’s ability to tackle our biggest problems, but the fault lies not with the politicians but the idiots who elect them. We have met the enemy, and boy howdy is he us.

Take global warming. Liberals—and virtually the entire scientific community—agree that human activity is changing the climate in dangerous ways. Conservatives, such as Louisiana state Rep. Lenar Whitney, claim that it is “greatest deception in the history of mankind.” This isn’t a fight over where to set the thermostat. This is a fight over whether there is a thermostat.

Conservatives believed government spending was holding our economy back. Others, such as liberal economist Paul Krugman, argued that we needed a bigger stimulus to replace the hole left by a cautious and wounded private sector. Krugman has a Nobel Prize in economic, and conservatives had talking points, but who are you going to believe?

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By Jason Stanford

August 5, 2014      4:36 PM

Bearse: Unity, Not Purity

From the right -- "A certain degree of zaniness has taken our party captive."

How would you like to be Vice President for six years, and still be 50 points behind in the race for your party’s nomination for the presidency? And to a candidate who has no professional record of accomplishment? Dick Cheney scowled his way to approval ratings below 20 percent, and still had a better shot at the presidency in 2008, without even being a candidate, than Joe Biden has in 2016.

The only time people notice Joe Biden is when he screws up – such as when he outed the president on gay marriage before the president was ready to admit where he really stood on gay marriage. Biden has taken to eccentric behavior in response to his fear of political abandonment, skinny dipping in front of the Secret Service agents charged with protecting his life. How lonely must be life at the Naval Observatory. He touches the Anointed One’s Cloak and gets political leprosy. It’s hard being Joe Biden.

But at least Joe Biden can say he is in power. Republicans would rather purify their ranks to permanent minority status than build a coalition to run the country. The Reagan Majority is a thing of the past. Many of those Reagan Democrats are Republican now, or dead. We’re still losing ground across the country. I bought into the Republican meme that all the polls were oversampling Democrats based on 2008 data. I thought Romney was going to win. Election night was a bitter pill to swallow. We not only lost, but lost every battleground state.

What Reagan achieved was jarring. He won over Democratic constituencies, including 40 percent of union voters. He brought together budget hawks and national security hawks. He ushered in a new era of evangelical involvement, and won over social conservatives concerned about abortion. He built a constituency of disparate parts under one party tent. We have been fraying ever since.

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By Eric Bearse

August 1, 2014      2:21 PM

Stanford: Obama's secret diplomatic victories

From the left-- The most important Obama foreign policy wins you never heard

I get it. When foreigners challenge America, we want our President to scream bloody murder and then send in the Marines to make sure it happens. Forget about talking softly. Go straight for the big stick. By contrast, diplomacy looks weak, like some tin-pot dictator from a nothing-burger country is pushing us around. But in case anyone cares to notice, the world may be falling apart, but Barack Obama has put together a string of surprising diplomatic victories.

The extension of the negotiating window with Iran came and went with little notice. The nuclear freeze in Iran should be a big deal. Thanks to our negotiations and economic sanctions, Iran has diluted its highly enriched uranium, agreed to in-person inspections and video surveillance, and ceased work on its heavy water plutonium reactor. But this progress is less well known than some state secrets, a mystery not just to Americans at large but most political insiders as well.

Another recent—and oddly secret—diplomatic victory took place in Syria. Of course, with Syria in the middle of a civil war, it looks like the country’s main export is bad news. And when Obama leveraged Russia’s relationship with Syria to broker a deal to get rid of the latter’s chemical weapons, Republicans said Vladimir Putin made Obama look weak.

A funny thing happened on the way to the GOP’s deification of Putin: While Syrians were busy shooting each other, the country’s last supplies of chemical weapons—600 metric tons of it—left Syria on a Danish ship under the supervision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. This is probably the best news you’ve never heard.

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By Jason Stanford

August 1, 2014      8:04 AM

Greenfield: As women's clinics close, state Medicaid costs will increase

"This increased number of births will result in Medicaid expenditures increasing by around $250 million a year after HB 2 is fully implemented."

A recent study from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TPEP) at the University of Texas reported that passage of House Bill 2 (HB2) by the Texas Legislature in 2013 resulted in reducing abortions by 9,200.  While some women may find out-of-state sites to have an abortion, we should expect additional births in Texas.  These additional births will have an impact on state finances.

As shown in Chart #1, more than 55 percent of the births in the state in 2010 were paid for by Medicaid.  In fiscal year 2010, the Medicaid program spent $2.6 billion to cover the delivery of 221,000 babies, at an average cost of $11,600, each.

By projecting the proportion of births that will be covered by Medicaid and the increase in delivery costs, one can derive an estimate of the impact HB 2 has and will have on state finances.  Should the current trend continue, the proportion of births in the state covered by Medicaid will be around 60 percent in 2014.  Average cost per Medicaid beneficiary increased by 5.4 percent per year between 2004 and 2010.  Had this rate of increase continued, the average cost per Medicaid covered birth in 2014 would be around $14,000 per beneficiary.

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By Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D.

July 29, 2014      2:08 PM

Bearse: Conventional Wisdom and Henri, Le Chat Noir

From the Right: QR’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse argues the best name the Democrats have on this year’s ballot is Jim Hogan because he’s the un-candidate: “If Hogan pulls this off, his campaign will be studied for decades. And Wendy Davis’ campaign will be studied for ten minutes.”

The definition of conventional wisdom is that which has yet to be proven wrong. For instance, conventional wisdom says a lot of Republicans will vote for Senator Leticia Van De Putte for lieutenant governor because they dislike Dan Patrick. It is said to be conventional wisdom in Austin, which means it was promulgated in a bar and made it to a blog. From there, it took a life of its own; a meme that rings true until proven false. In other words, until November.

Look, I know some insiders will vote for Van De Putte. Some may even call themselves Republicans. Or scoundrels. Or lobbyists. And this protest vote will change the overall total by 0.0001 percent. In other words, she will win Travis County even bigger. The problem is the other 253 counties.

And the sad irony for Democrats is they have long assumed Hispanics will vote in large numbers for Hispanic Democrats. Because that is just what Hispanics do. It’s conventional wisdom. But what if her name is Belgian? Or Dutch? Or Flemish?

My name is English. But I am most closely aligned with the Finns in terms of bloodlines. Well, and Germans and the crazy Dutch too. But if I ever ran for office, I would not win the Finnish colonies with a name like Bearse. Too many vowels for the Finns. The Finns would stay home. I would lose.

The best Democratic name on the ballot is not Davis, Van De Putte or even Sam Houston (that sounds too much like one of those crackpots who actually changed his name to be famous instead of making his name famous.) The best name is Hogan. He is the ultimate un-candidate. He is better than Cola. He is Un-Cola.

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By Eric Bearse

July 24, 2014      10:40 AM

Stanford: Phil King's problem with prosecutors

From the left--King's has history with Public Integrity which is looking at a criminal complaint filed against him

Ethics enforcement in Texas is so relaxed that you really have to put your back into corruption to draw the interest of prosecutors. You can launder corporate money, like Tom DeLay did. You can take bribes, like one judge named Angus McGinty did when he exchanged favorable rulings for car repairs. That fella made life easier for prosecutors when they found a text message he sent to the person bribing him that read, “I’m a whore for money.”

Or you can do something with more creativity, more flair. Sometimes it takes a guy like state Rep. Phil King to really make a statement by making it a policy not to disclose in-kind gifts. According to Assistant District Attorney Rob Drummond, the Travis County Public Integrity Unit has received a criminal complaint and is “reviewing it to determine whether to open a criminal investigation.”

In June, Denton resident Aaron Renaud filed a complaint with the Public Integrity Unit that largely covered the same ground that Betty Richie covered with her ethics complaint against Tom Craddick in May. Both Renaud and Ritchie allege that Rep. Tom Craddick funneled $25,000 into his daughter’s Railroad Commission campaign by giving it to Phil King who gave it to the Dallas-Fort Worth Conservative Voters PAC to do turnout for Christi Craddick in North Texas. Concealing a contribution in this way is a no-no, but King messed up when he didn’t disclose the contribution from Tom Craddick until after Ritchie filed her complaint, but that’s probably not enough to draw a look from prosecutors.

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By Jason Stanford

July 22, 2014      3:27 PM

Bearse: Rethinking Rick Perry

From the right: The maturing of Perry as national personality is more than just repackaging

I am loathe to make predictions about politics – especially about elections more than two years away. Ask me who the Republican nominee for president will be, and I will say, “ask me in August, 2016.” Ask me who the Democratic nominee will be, and it is tempting to go with the presumptive favorite Hillary Clinton, but in this case I will take the field. She’s like California Chrome before the Belmont, only there has been no Kentucky Derby or Preakness where she enters the race on a winning streak.

I think Democrats will figure out their nomination is worth fighting for, not a coronation because “it’s my turn.” Look how well that message worked for Senator Hutchison’s gubernatorial bid in 2010.

I don’t know what my old boss, Rick Perry, will do. I don’t know if he will run, or ride off into the sunset. But if he runs, we may very well look back on this period as his “training montage,” like in the movie “Rocky.” Rocky hit the gym, Perry hit the books, and they both began the transformation from street fighter to contender.

First, you have to look at the political backdrop. We have a president who won’t even acknowledge that the crisis at the border is worthy of a visit. Imagine if President George W Bush did a fundraiser in Shreveport and didn’t adjust his schedule to see New Orleans right after Katrina had hit. This is the group that likes government solutions. Why can’t they come up with any?

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By Eric Bearse