POSSIBLE TOPICS: Early Voting Starts on October 13; Political repercussions of RBG’s passing; So there’s an open seat on the Supreme Court – How do we deal with the institutional fallout?; America’s Plastic Hour Is Upon Us; Democracy is in decline around the world — and Trump is part of the problem; Supreme court: Democrats rally in bid to stop Trump filling Ginsburg’s seat; Houston Democrats to USPS leaders: Why are dozens of post offices rejecting voter materials?; Officers rewarded for use of force with steakhouse gift cards, former Williamson deputies say; Texas Supreme Court rules 3 Green Party candidates should be added back to November ballot; more.
This program was recorded on SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 20 at about 4:30 AM. Due to Covid-19, shows are being prerecorded beginning March 13th and until further notice. We miss our live call-in participants, and look forward to a time we can once again go live.
Thinkwing Radio with Mike Honig (@ThinkwingRadio), a listener call-in show airing live every Monday night from 3-4 PM (CT) on KPFT-FM 90.1 (Houston). My co-host and Editor is Andrew Ferguson.
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For the purposes of this show, I operate on two mottoes:
- An educated electorate is a prerequisite for a democracy.
- You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.
SIGNOFF QUOTE[s]: “At one point he [Trump] started to attack the press and I said, ‘You know, that is getting tired. Why are you doing this? You’re doing it over and over and it’s boring and it’s – it’s time to end that. You know, you’ve won the nomination and, uh, why do you keep hammering at this? And he [Trump] said, ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.’ He said that. So, put that in your head for a minute.” ~ Lesley Stahl (“Deadline Club”, May 21, 2018). Excerpt from “Kasie DC”, May 27, 2018
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This program was recorded EARLY on SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 20. If you call in, you will NOT be able to get on the air, so please do not call the call the show. We love our callers, but unfortunately live call-in is one of the casualties of COVID-19.
- “… [A]sk not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country!” ~ John F Kennedy, Inaugural speech, January 20, 1961
- The next election is the General Election on November 3rd, 2020
- VOTING FAQ – In Texas, Early Voting Starts October 13-thru-30!
- VOTETEXAS.GOV – Texas Voter Information
- Last Day to Apply for Ballot by Mail (Received, not Postmarked): October 23, 2020
- VOTING BY MAIL: INSTRUCTIONS
- HARRISVOTES.COM – Countywide Voting Centers, (Election Information Line (713) 755-6965), Harris County Clerk
- Make sure you are registered to vote!
- On the possibility that the courts make you eligible to vote by mail on Election Day due to the Covid-19 virus, make sure that you are ready with an application to mail in. These are available from HARRISVOTES.COM. Follow directions carefully.
- For personalized, nonpartisan voter guides and information, consider visiting VOTE.ORG. Ballotpedia.com and Texas League of Women Voters are also good places to get election info.
- If you are denied your right to vote any place at any time at any polling place for any reason, ask for (or demand) a provisional ballot rather than lose your vote.
- HARRISVOTES.COM – Countywide Voting Centers
- HARRIS CTY – IDENTIFICATION REQUIRED FOR VOTING: Do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain one of these IDs?
- Fill out a declaration at the polls describing a reasonable impediment to obtaining it, and show a copy or original of one of the following supporting forms of ID:
- A government document that shows your name and an address, including your voter registration certificate
- Current utility bill
- Bank statement
- Government check
- A certified domestic (from a U.S. state or territory) birth certificate or (b) a document confirming birth admissible in a court of law which establishes your identity (which may include a foreign birth document)
- HARRIS CTY – IDENTIFICATION REQUIRED FOR VOTING: Do not possess and cannot reasonably obtain one of these IDs?
- You may vote early by-mail if:
- You are registered to vote and meet one of the following criteria:
- Away from the county of residence on Election Day and during the early voting period;
- Sick or disabled;
- 65 years of age or older on Election Day; or
- Confined in jail, but eligible to vote.
- Make sure you are registered:
- Ann Harris Bennett, Tax Assessor-Collector & Voter Registrar
- CHECK REGISTRATION STATUS HERE
- CLICK How to register to vote in Texas
- Outside Texas, try Vote.org.
- CHECK REGISTRATION STATUS HERE
- The big story of the week: Ruth Bader Ginsberg has passed away and there’s an open seat on the Supreme Court. How do we deal with the institutional fallout? We’ll discuss that a little further into the show.
- Houston Democrats to USPS leaders: Why are dozens of post offices rejecting voter materials?; By Jasper Scherer and Gabrielle Banks | HOUSTONCHRONICLE.COM | Sep. 16, 2020 Updated: Sep. 16, 2020 3:32 p.m.
- Two Houston lawmakers have asked local United States Postal Service leaders to explain why dozens of post offices across the city are refusing to accept donations of voter registration applications, escalating a controversy with weeks left until the deadline to register.
- U.S. Reps. Sylvia Garcia and Al Green, both Democrats from Houston, sent a letter Friday requesting a copy of any directives “specifically explaining on what grounds post offices reject donations of blank voter registrations.” They asked for a response by this Friday.
- The issue first came to light earlier this month when Garcia and Green, after touring the Postal Service’s north Houston processing and distribution center, said workers at 13Houston-area post offices had told volunteers from the League of Women Voters they could not bring voter registration cards into the facilities. …
- [T]he League of Women Voters — a century-old nonpartisan group — now says at least 51locations across the region rejected or discarded the materials, although staff at some sites said they would keep the cards behind the counter and provide them upon request. …
- Garcia and Green addressed their letter to Chenise LeDoux, the USPS’ Houston district manager, Corey Richards, the Houston postmaster, and Sandra Beridon, the Postal Service’s Houston manager of consumer and industry. Mayor Sylvester Turner last week sent a similar letter to Richards.
- A USPS spokeswoman last week said agency officials were aware of the mayor’s letter and “appreciate the concerns expressed,” but federal rules prohibit “depositing literature” on Postal Service premises.
- [S]pokeswoman, Kanickewa “ Nikki” Johnson, cited a provision of the Code of Federal Regulations — which lays out rules for federal agencies and departments — that bars the “depositing or posting of handbills, flyers, pamphlets, signs, posters, placards, or other literature” at the post office. …
- Garcia and Green, meanwhile, referred to federal law that defines voter registration agencies as “all offices in the States that provide public assistance.” At each agency, the law states, officials shall distribute voter registration forms and accept completed forms “for transmittal to the appropriate State election official.”
- “Voter registration applications can be displayed in the lobbies of postal facilities, or at least available upon request by postal customers, depending on the space available in each postal facility,” Garcia and Green wrote. “Therefore, it is concerning to us why some locations are turning away donations of voter registration cards from volunteers who are eager to facilitate their community members’ right to vote in our democratic elections.” …
- Officers rewarded for use of force with steakhouse gift cards, former Williamson deputies say; By Tony Plohetski (@tplohetski) | AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN | Posted Sep 17, 2020 at 3:06 PM
- Williamson County sheriff’s office leaders rewarded deputies who used force on the job with steakhouse gift cards, according to two former employees, one of whom made the admission to Texas Rangers investigating the agency’s aggressive tactics.
- Among the deputies who received gift cards to places such as Logan’s Roadhouse were J.J. Johnson and Zach Camden, the officers involved in the March 2019 death of Javier Ambler II. Officers used their Tasers on the Black 40-year-old father four times as he gasped that he had a heart condition and could not breathe.
- In a recorded interview with Texas Rangers, former deputy Christopher Pisa said Cmdr. Steve Deaton rewarded deputies he considered “WilCo badass.” …
- The revelation that top supervisors allegedly rewarded use of force provides a stunning insight into the suburban Austin department that seems to encourage violence, at least two law-enforcement experts said.
- Texas Supreme Court rules 3 Green Party candidates should be added back to November ballot – Democrats successfully sued last month to remove from the ballot the Green Party nominees for U.S. Senate, Railroad Commission and the 21st Congressional District. by Patrick Svitek and Alexa Ura | TEXASTRIBUNE.ORG | Sept. 15, 2020 Updated: 6 PM
- Days before the deadline to mail ballots to overseas and military voters, the Texas Supreme Court ordered three Green Party candidates to be restored to the November ballot after Democrats had successfully sued to remove them. …
- Last month, a state appeals court last month sided with the Democrats, who were seeking to kick the candidates off the ballot because they had not paid filing fees. The three candidates are David Collins for U.S. Senate, Katija “Kat” Gruene for Railroad Commission and Tom Wakely for the 21st Congressional District.
- The Texas Green Party appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court, which ruled Tuesday that the secretary of state “shall immediately take all necessary actions to ensure these candidates appear on the” November ballot. The Supreme Court did not give its rationale, but said a full opinion was forthcoming. …
- Tuesday’s ruling involves some of the state’s highest-profile races this fall. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is in a competitive reelection race against Democratic challenger MJ Hegar, while in the 21st District, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, faces a tough challenge from Wendy Davis, the 2014 gubernatorial nominee.
- Texas Supreme Court explains its Green Party ruling; By Chuck Lindell ( @chucklindell) | [AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN]STATESMAN.COM | Posted Sep 18, 2020 at 1:24 PM Updated Sep 18, 2020 at 3:31 PM
- Four days after ordering the names of three Green Party candidates to be restored on November ballots, the Texas Supreme Court issued an opinion Friday explaining its order, saying deadlines worked against the challenge by Democrats.
- The court, in an unsigned opinion with no justices recused, acknowledged that the Green candidates did not comply with a 2019 state law that requires minor party candidates to pay a filing fee or collect voter signatures.
- That law, however, did not set a deadline to pay the filing fee, the ruling stated.
- Without a deadline, Green Party leaders had no legal duty to declare the three candidates ineligible despite an Aug. 19 order to do so by the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals, Friday’s ruling said.
- In addition, the 3rd Court’s order was invalid because it didn’t give the Green candidates a chance to pay the fee, the Supreme Court said, citing its 2006 ruling that established “a presumption against removing parties from the ballot” over mistakes that could be corrected.
- Under Texas law, Aug. 21 was the last day to declare a candidate ineligible for the November ballot, which meant that the Green candidates had two days to pay the fee and become eligible to run, the court said.
- What’s more, the court said, now that the Aug. 21 deadline has passed, Democrats have missed out on the opportunity to seek a proper court order to declare the Greens ineligible to run.
- Abhi Rahman, spokesman for the Texas Democratic Party, criticized the court ruling for creating a Catch-22 that gave Democrats no chance to succeed in challenging the Greens. …
- All eight justices on the [Texas] Supreme Court are Republicans, and the one vacancy on the court was held by a GOP member who recently retired. …
- The big story of the week: Ruth Bader Ginsberg has passed away, and in just a tiny piece of the political repercussions of RBG’s passing, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn indicate support for confirming a new Supreme Court justice before the election – If the U.S. Senate confirms a nominee of President Donald Trump, it could secure a conservative influence on the high court for a generation. by Abby Livingston | TEXASTRIBUNE.ORG |Sept. 18, 2020, 18 hours ago
- … Both men also made clear that confirming her replacement either in the 45 days before Election Day or before the next inauguration was immediately on their minds. Four years ago, both men strongly opposed confirming Merrick Garland, the nominee proposed by President Barack Obama as a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia died more than eight months before the 2016 presidential election. …
- No race will feel the consequences on the scale of Cornyn’s bid for a fourth term. His [Democratic] challenger … MJ Hegar, criticized him Friday for tweeting McConnell’s quote about voting on a Trump nominee. “It took @JohnCornyn less than two minutes to fall in line with Mitch McConnell. The Supreme Court is on the ballot,” she tweeted.
- Supreme court: Democrats rally in bid to stop Trump filling Ginsburg’s seat; By Lauren Gambino (@laurenegambino) | THEGUARDIAN.COM | Sun 20 Sep 2020 01.00 EDT, Last modified on Sun 20 Sep 2020 01.03 EDT
- President, McConnell and Graham: nomination will proceed
- Senate minority leader Schumer: ‘Nothing is off the table’
- Opinion: Democrats can still have the last laugh
- With control of every branch of government now in the balance, liberal groups are redoubling their efforts, pressuring Senate Democrats to deploy every tactic possible to stop Trump seating a third justice.
- Democratic fury has been building ever since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, when McConnell made the unprecedented decision not to consider Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, arguing it was too close to a presidential election. …
- “Let me be clear,” the minority leader, Chuck Schumer, told Senate Democrats in a conference call on Saturday, according to a source. “If Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans move forward with this, then nothing is off the table for next year.” …
- Ed Markey was perhaps the first member of the Senate to suggest retaliating by expanding the court.
- “Mitch McConnell set the precedent,” the Massachusetts Democrat said on Twitter. “No supreme court vacancies filled in an election year. If he violates it, when Democrats control the Senate in the next Congress we must abolish the filibuster and expand the supreme court.”
- In a statement following [Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s] death, Obama warned that McConnell risked damaging the court.
- So there’s an open seat on the Supreme Court. How do we deal with the institutional fallout? There are ways, but they all have potential long-term repercussions. That will be a topic of discussion a little later in the show
- Change the makeup of the Senate. Sound crazy? Here’s how
- Make DC and Puerto Rico states. Add 4 senators and several representatives to balance Red states’ power in Congress and the electoral college.
- Expand the number of justices in SCOTUS to counterbalance McConnell’s railroading of the courts. There’s no law that says you can’t, and it’s been done – and attempted – before.
- 2.1 Size of the court – Wikipedia
- Congress, which initially established a six-member Supreme Court
- an 1801 act which would have reduced the size of the court to five
- an 1802 act promptly negated the 1801 act, legally restoring the court’s size to six members
- Congress added justices to correspond with the growing number of judicial circuits: seven in 1807, nine in 1837, and ten in 1863.
- In 1866, at the behest of Chief Justice Chase and in an attempt to limit the power of Andrew Johnson, Congress passed an act providing that the next three justices to retire would not be replaced, which would thin the bench to seven justices by attrition.
- In 1869, however, the Circuit Judges Act returned the number of justices to nine, where it has since remained.
- End the filibuster. (An unfortunate necessity and almost reality.)
- Indict a past sitting President and bring him to trial? Good the justice, but what if prosecuting political opponents becomes ‘a thing’?
- Change the makeup of the Senate. Sound crazy? Here’s how
- Democracy is in decline around the world — and Trump is part of the problem; By Ishaan Tharoor | WASHINGTONPOST.COM | March 4, 2020 at 11:00 p.m. CST
- For the 14th year in a row, a major annual report on the health of global democracy warned of its decline. In its survey evaluating 195 countries and 15 territories, Freedom House, a nongovernmental, nonpartisan advocacy organization established in 1941, found that political freedoms and civil liberties across the world are backsliding more often than they are improving.
- “Democracy and pluralism are under assault,” read the opening sentence of its report, written by Sarah Repucci. “Dictators are toiling to stamp out the last vestiges of domestic dissent and spread their harmful influence to new corners of the world.” …
- President Trump is a key part of this story. Freedom House’s report, titled “A Leaderless Struggle for Democracy,” highlighted the “pressure” Trump is exerting “on electoral integrity, judicial independence, and safeguards against corruption” in the United States. Also of note is “the decline in fair and equal treatment of refugees and asylum seekers” under Trump’s watch — something that is “worrisome for a country that takes pride in its traditional role as a beacon for the oppressed.”
- Indeed, America’s waning desire to be an example on the world stage worries Freedom House all the more. “Even if the U.S. remains very free, its rhetoric can have outsize effects beyond America’s borders,” Michael Abramowitz, the president of Freedom House, told Today’s WorldView. He cited, in particular, the numerous foreign governments that have appropriated Trump’s attacks on the “fake news” media into policies or legislation that have criminalized or suppressed free speech in their countries. …
- Freedom House was scathing in its assessment of India’s Hindu nationalist ruling party under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Its “alarming departures from democratic norms” led to the biggest score decline among major democracies ranked in the report.
- There’s evidence that a broader illiberal shift is at play. A Pew Research Center study, carried out in 34 countries and published last week, found mixed commitment or enthusiasm about democracy among citizens living in democratic societies. In India and Israel, both under illiberal nationalist governments, a significantly smaller proportion of respondents believed freedom of speech was “very important” in their societies compared with five years ago, when the equivalent poll was conducted.
- But it’s not all grim tidings. The past year was marked by a wave of pro-democracy movements and political ferment, with protesters from Hong Kong to the Middle East to South America demanding greater freedoms and better governance.
- “The interests in freedom, the cause of democracy, are not Western implants,” said Abramowitz. “It’s a sign that even autocrats have to be responsive to the interests of the people.”
- America’s Plastic Hour Is Upon Us – The country is at a low point. But we may be on the cusp of an era of radical reform that repairs our broken democracy. Story by George Packer | THEATLANTIC.COM | October 2020 Issue
- “There are in history what you could call ‘plastic hours,’” the philosopher Gershom Scholem once said. “Namely, crucial moments when it is possible to act. If you move then, something happens.” In such moments, an ossified social order suddenly turns pliable, prolonged stasis gives way to motion, and people dare to hope. Plastic hours are rare. They require the right alignment of public opinion, political power, and events—usually a crisis. They depend on social mobilization and leadership. They can come and go unnoticed or wasted. Nothing happens unless you move. …Beneath the dreary furor of the partisan wars, most Americans agree on fundamental issues facing the country. …
- … The readiness, the demand for action, is new.What explains it? Nearly four years of a corrupt, bigoted, and inept president who betrayed his promise to champion ordinary Americans. The arrival of an influential new generation, the Millennials, who grew up with failed wars, weakened institutions, and blighted economic prospects, making them both more cynical and more utopian than their parents. Collective ills that go untreated year after year, so bone-deep and chronic that we assume they’re permanent—from income inequality, feckless government, and police abuse to a shredded social fabric and a poisonous public discourse that verges on national cognitive decline. Then, this year, a series of crises that seemed to come out of nowhere, like a flurry of sucker punches, but that arose straight from those ills and exposed the failures of American society to the world. …
- Eventually, the country will need a sane and healthy Republican Party. But for any kind of national renewal to take place, the Republicans must first suffer a crushing defeat in November. A Democratic administration and Congress must quickly pass bold legislation for economic relief, job creation, social protections, and voting rights. But a new era won’t arrive like a pendulum that swings according to the laws of physics. It will take more than the triumph of a candidate, a party, or even a sweeping agenda. The obstacles are greater than just politics, and so is the opportunity. Our collapse is so complete that the field lies open—the philosophical questions brought on by despair allow us to reimagine what kind of country we can be. The familiar narratives are used up; the dried-out words stick in our mouths. For change to endure, for national shame to become pride, we need a radical agenda with a patriotic spirit. We have to revive the one thing that has ever held together this sprawling, multiplicitous country: democratic faith. …