Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Crappy prisons

So I read Hali's blog about a man named Marvin Wilson who was executed despite the fact that he was found mentally incapacitated. The blog continues to call for a reformation of the way Texas uses the death penalty, and says that currently it's use is a little out of control. Even though Wilson's case might be a little iffy, I can definitely agree with the fact that as a state, Texas favors the death penalty way more than it should. But, excessive executions are just symptoms of a fairly crappy prison system. Rick Perry heavily supported the privitization of state prisons, turning state institutions into privately run and owned corporations who specialize in keeping criminals locked up. These prisons get paid by the Texas government for each criminal they hold. This turns criminals, who are in fact people no matter how deranged, into a commodity. Money is made from keeping criminals in prison. The whole notion of rehabilitation has been completely lost, and this system doesn't really give an imprisoned criminal any other choice but to stay a criminal. This dehumanization of prisoners, along with the vicious cycle that keeps them behind bars, makes the death penalty a little easier for Texans to handle ethically, simply because in Texas, once you're a criminal you're always a criminal. And let's not forget how much tax money is being wasted paying room and board for prisoners that are doomed to be forever part of the justice system. In my opinion, fix the prison system first, and create a platform to call for death penalty reformation after. Maybe education incentives are the way to go, offering sentences of degree requirements instead of hard time. Maybe the state needs to fund some additional research. Either way, Texas prisons are criminal factories, creating the general public opinion that criminals are not people, and should just be executed. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Let's talk about Romney's running mate

Lets talk about Mitt Romney's running mate. For those of you who don't know, Paul Ryan has been named as the next "vice president of the United States," and Ryan couldn't be more "excited and honored to join [Mitt] as [his] running mate." At 42, Ryan is definitely younger than Romney, and I think voters can relate a little bit more to the guy. Personality is certainly something the Romney campaign could use a little more of. Ryan has a family, is famous for his affinity for extreme fitness, and is the author of a very a drastic and conservative budget plan that is very popular among conservative legislators. Honestly, this guy should be running for president. He's marketable and smart, and just when I thought it would be impossible to include a "cool" conservative in the Republican presidential campaign, some very smart campaign coordinator tracked this guy down and introduced him to Romney. To me, Paul Ryan is the anti-Obama, and the conservative poster boy could be a deadly weapon against the Democratic campaign. Romney has been pretty good at alienating conservative voters, partly because of his identity (mormon, cold, doesn't drink) but mostly because he seems so fake and rehearsed in public. Ryan's attitude, down to earth conservatism, and confident smile are all things Romney is lacking. If the Republicans are smart, they'll give Ryan as much face time as they possibly can, letting him say the things that Romney has been saying, just in a much more cool and relatable way. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

You're gonna have to go through me first

I hate Steve Jobs quotes. Don't get me wrong, I think Apple is an awesome company, mainly because of how Jobs ran it, but to be honest I think he was kind of an asshole. You're opinion, however is definitely something I can agree with. Critical thinking is critical (haha) in public education, including the questioning of traditional values and beliefs that go along with it. It seemed like in your blog post that you were making it out as if the GOP's platform was directly attacking "Higher Order Thinking Skills." The Republican party openly admitted that the inclusion of this specific text was a mistake, so it's hard to say that they are in fact openly against teaching kids how to think for themselves. The interesting part, and something that the GOP can't deny, is that they were at least considering making this anti-thinking stance an official part of their platform. This would make sense, as the conservative ideology prefers to keep things traditional, and critically questioning traditional, parent-taught values doesn't really mesh well with Texas Republicans that lean far to the right. However, the GOP knows that actually stating this in something as official and concrete as their political platform would drive away more moderate conservatives, aka the people that decide elections. So here's my deduced insight into the Texas Republican Party: A) They accidentally included a section in their official platform that states an intention to eliminate critical thinking in publican school curriculum, B) They openly stated that this was an accident and that the Republican Party does not in fact want to critical thinking in schools, C) In my head this means that the Texas GOP does in fact want to strip kids of the right to think for themselves, they just don't want to tell anybody else about it because they know how crazy that sounds. This actually kind of scares me. So it's up to you and I Mindy to keep progressivist thinking in schools. Just because Republicans are too scared to openly attack it now, doesn't mean they won't try in the future. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Democrats, here's your chance

There are a number of demographic changes happening in Texas today, and although this source uses data from earlier on in the decade, the numbers shown illustrate a changing political landscape in the state. One fact that most people are aware of, as it was widely publicized by network news, is that Texas recently became a majority-minority state in 2004, meaning that white Texan are outnumbered by the minority population. The states population is growing twice as fast as the national average, something that is expected to continue for the next 40 years as people flood into the expanding urban areas of the state. Hispanics occupy the fastest growing demographic slot in both the national and state-wide census, growing by 10.9 percent in Texas between 2000 and 2006 to settle in as 35.7 percent of the total state population in 2006. Here we have a rapidly expanding urban population, which constitutes a significant growth in the lower and middle class population, with a majority of the urban growth being made up of Hispanics. Texas is changing fast, and will continue to change well into the foreseeable future, and as this happens the Democratic presence in the state has an opportunity to make a very important political move. State Representatives Trey Fischer and Ana Luna, both Mexican-American Democrats, recently unveiled the One Texas political action committee, a PAC focussed on organizing Hispanic voters in Texas. This move is centered around the Hispanic population of Texas, and focuses on the population's visibility in the legislature and is also an attempt to rebut the Republican party's attempts at appealing to Texas Hispanics. Fischer and Hernandez understand what's going on; Hispanic voters in Texas are the fastest growing political force in the nation, and now is the time for political organization and mobilization to set this force in the right direction. However it doesn't need to stop with Hispanic voters. Gaining the Hispanic vote would give the Democratic party the soap-box it needs in Texas to preach to the low income, urban dwelling families that typically vote left, which in turn gives the party more sway in converting historically right voters in rural areas. This is the party's chance to take advantage of a historically red state with a rapidly changing demographic that gives them the edge, and if they approach the situation in the right way, we could be looking at a state that's more purple than anything within the next couple of decades. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The threat of Romney's running mate

In her July 9 post regarding the possibility of Mitt Romney choosing a woman as his running mate, Rachel Farris points out the fact that in a political battle where voters are choosing between the lesser of two evils, "people generally don't spend too much time deliberating over gender." Although Farris is speaking to a liberal audience here, her experience in media and public relations adheres to the validity of her comments on the mindset of conservative voters. She points out the fact that if you are going to vote for Romney, "you were never and would never consider voting for Obama." Farris doesn't think that a female running mate will have a major impact on Romney's votes, but I disagree with her. As a Mormon, Romney is having trouble gaining the support of conservative Christians who wouldn't normally think twice about voting Republican, and this move might appeal enough to the more progressive members of this demographic to keep them from voting for Obama. Here's Farris' blog.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Kids and Crime

Scott Henson, political blogger and columnist for the Austin American Statesman, writes in his July 19 column, "How is it that Austin police continue to arrest hundreds of people on petty drug charges…but neighborhood groups still complain about underpolicing?" As a resident of Central East Austin, Henson experiences the problems associated with drugs and crime on a daily basis. He's writing to Austinians, and perhaps the Austin police department itself, offering up his contextual observations of the drug trade in his neighborhood. According to Henson, increasing the number of drug related arrests hasn't worked to rude crime on the Eastside, and assaults and burglaries occur despite these arrests. He recognizes that the bottom tier, and backbone, of petty criminals is made up of the children of incarcerated parents, and that it is these kids that should be receiving all the attention, not necessarily the possessors of drugs. I work in the Eastside of Austin, and I've seen a lot of what Henson talks about. The police departments policy towards drugs isn't working to reduce crime, and seem to be treating to symptoms and not the cause. Henson's points of view goes a little deeper, and his suggestion of focussing on these at-risk kids has the potential to make more of an impact on Eastside crime than the current policy does. Here's the column.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bipartisan Bullshit

Getting Along

What I liked most about about the Forth Worth Star Telegram's editorial supporting David Dewhurst in the Republican runoff for the US senate is the fact that despite the article's right-winged stance, it acknowledges the lack of cooperation happening between the two parties in US legislation, even going as far to place the blame on Republican legislators. 

The Right Stuff

The article begins by condemning voters for supporting senators with no experience, who easily fall prey to the bipartisan peer-pressure of non-cooperation. The editorial introduces Dewhurst as a former CIA agent and self-made millionaire, somebody who knows how to get things done and doesn't let anybody of either party keep him from is legislative duty of compromise. I don't agree with any of the bills Dewhurst has helped pass, in fact I strongly disagree with most of them, but I appreciate the fact that this guy knows what needs to happen in order for democracy to work properly. Here's the editorial.