Monday, August 10, 2020

The Weekly Wrangle

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner blames his city's out-of-control coronavirus outbreak on Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to strip away his authority to deal with the pandemic.

Coronavirus cases skyrocketed in Houston in June and July -- reflecting a statewide trend -- after Abbott reopened the state's economy on May 1, ending one of the nation's shortest stay-home orders. And the governor issued executive orders prohibiting local officials from mandating masks and imposing fines for not complying.


In mid-June, Turner and several other Texas mayors joined forces to request that Abbott allow them to issue face mask mandates. The governor initially dismissed the idea; it took him two additional weeks to issue his own statewide mask-wearing order.


The mayor noted that more Houstonians contracted and died of coronavirus in July than in March, April, May, and June combined.

"That did not have to be," he said.

The first trials of a vaccine are now under way in Houston.  According to this report, they are still in need of (paid) volunteers.

Vox details how and why the coronavirus devastated the RGV.  And Socratic Gadfly read the TXGOP tea leaves and offered some early thoughts as to whether Greg Abbott will be primaried in 2022, and if so, by whom?

More stories about the fallout of COVID-19 ...

Space City Weather looks at what is now forecast to be a more active hurricane season.

Zeph Capo, writing for Reform Austin, argues against reopening schools without a robust plan to keep everyone safe.

I have something of a backlog of criminal justice links to post next.  Grits for Breakfast has been busy as always, with the report first filed by the Austin Chronicle on that city's 'Citizen Spying Program' and a test drive of the state's Criminal Court 'data dashboard'.  The San Antonio Report, formerly the Rivard Report, reviews Doug J.Swanson's book Cult of Glory: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers.

And just a couple of environmental updates: the Midland Reporter-Telegram says that the Texas Railroad Commission is soliciting public comment on flaring rule changesKeith Schneider at Circle of Blue warns that Texas and its developers always forget about drought during rainy times.

I saved politics and election news for last.

TXElects has a hypothesis about how the pandemic might affect the college vote.

One of the impacts COVID-19 may have on the general election is a potentially significant drop in turnout among college students. University of Texas interim president Jay Hartzell estimated roughly 40%-50% of the student body has opted for an online-only fall semester. While that does not necessarily mean they are not in Austin, or will not vote, it likely means far fewer of them will vote relative to two years ago.

Lower college-age turnout could impact close races across Texas, including potentially some at the statewide level. Younger voters tend to favor Democrats. Fewer of them voting likely hurts Democratic candidates.

For example, in 2018, we calculated that Rep. Erin Zwiener’s (D-Driftwood) margin in the eight precincts including and immediately adjacent to Texas State Univ. put her over the top. She lost the rest of the district.

The Texas Politics Project has the state presidential polls collated all in one place.  Michael Li shares a few charts to illustrate why the Lone Star State is finally competitive this year.

Progressives Everywhere writes about Sharon Hirsch in HD-66 and her plans to unseat Tea Party Republican Matt Shaheen.  Kuff did an interview with Sherrie Matula of the Sisters United Alliance, a grassroots effort to turn out low-propensity Democratic female voters.  Dos Centavos says that if Dems want to run up the score with Latino votes, they must sell the Biden Latino plan too, instead of just pointing fingers at Trump's racism.  Ray Levy-Uyeda at In These Times profiles the Latinx activist group Mijente, which seems to have the opposite POV of Stace.  And Maria Teresa Kumar also writes about Biden's Latino/a problems and offers advice on how he can fix it.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs just laughs at Donkeys who are cringing inside about being stuck with Biden, who gaffes every time he opens his mouth and can't really decide on a running mate.  Hey, you fucked around; now you're finding out.  And state Rep. Lyle Larson of San Antonio (HD-122) opined in the SAEN that it is is time to abolish the two-party system (!!).

In the aftermath of the explosion at the port of Beirut, Lebanon, James the History Teacher re-tells the story of the 1947 Texas City disaster, caused by improper storage and safeguarding of the same kind of fertilizer material.  And Dan Solomon at Texas Monthly introduces us to Curbside Larry, the library hero we didn't know we needed.

At the very bottom of Saturday's week-ending Wrangle, Michael Barnes mentioned that there was, indeed, a basement in the Alamo.  In celebration of the 35th anniversary of "Pee Wee's Big Adventure", News4SanAntonio followed Paul Reubens as he toured it.  No bike was found, though.

Biden's veep

“A week ago, I would’ve said it’s Kamala versus the field, then I would’ve said Karen Bass has it won. Now, I think it’s Susan or Kamala,” said one senior Democrat close to Biden and some of his top aides. He then paused and admitted he didn’t actually know much at all. “Who’s in the hunt? We have no idea how one through five goes.” He paused again. "We have no clue".

Not all of us, sweet child. 


Cillizza, blind hog, 5 acorns.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

EOW* Lone Star Wrangle

*EOW -- Eye on Williamson -- was the name of a fine TPA blog managed by a fellow, or fellows, who blogged under WC News and Dem Bones a decade ago.  Brian also served on the SDEC for a brief period of time before moving to Seattle for employment with Microsoft (IIRC).  EOW  -- in this post's title the acronym means "End of Week" -- is one of a bushelful of Texas lefty blogs that have gone kaput over the past ten or so years.  BOR, Burnt Orange Report, is another.  Its founders also moved on to bigger and better things: KT Musselman is now a justice of the peace in Williamson County; Phillip Martin works at Progress Texas and for the Texas House Democratic Caucus; and Matt Glazer, well, has done a whole bunch of important things.

My point is that as independent media comes full circle in terms of its importance to and influence on the dialogue in the public square, I'm looking for more Texas voices to include here: vlogs, podcasts, tweeting, writings on Medium and Substack, what have you.  All I ask is that they be intelligent, consistent in producing content, and original (promoting Democrats and Democratic campaigns is overtilled acreage, y'all.  They also have to have an RSS feed that Blogger can detect so that they show up in the right-hand column, of course.)  Keep sending me your tips, but please also send your favorite sources so I can add them to the blogroll and include them in this biweekly round-up.

Opening today with the optimism brimming among the Donkey herd.  Patrick Svitek and Abby Livingston for the TexTrib compile snapshots of the state of play for a few of the spotlight dances.

I'll add some of my thoughts to theirs (the kind you won't read anywhere else, you know).

-- TX24: Candace Valenzuela won her runoff in the Democratic primary and will face Irving mayor Beth Van Duyne.  Republicans have long controlled this Tarrant Count region, but the polling shows it slipping away from them.

-- TX21: The incumbent, former Ted Cruz flack Chip Roy, squares off with Democratic darling Wendy Davis, and recent polling shows a tight race.  The progressive alternative in this contest is also a former gubernatorial candidate, Tom Wakely, who's running under the Green banner.

TX22: After Troy Nehls emerged from the muddy, bloody GOP runoff with Kathaleen Wall, he scraped his website of references to Trump.  That's because he's up against the Democrat who nearly defeated the retiring Congressman (Pete Olson) two years ago, Sri Preston Kulkarni.  Few places in America reflect the changing demographics and politics of America's suburbs better than this Sugar Land district, which was represented by Tom DeLay just a few years ago.

TX10: Mike Seigel is back for another shot at Michael McCaul.  He's the most progressive Democrat in this class, and as you might have guessed, the DCCC is staying away again.  Texas' electeds are treating him better, though, and he came close enough in '18 -- five points in a district Beto O'Rourke won by .1 of a percentage point -- that a presidential turnout might get him over the hump.

TX2: Dems think they have a shot at knocking off Dan Crenshaw, the media favorite who lives to scratch on "libruls" and "Communists" and other so-called ee-vils.  Sima Ladjevardian is a solid establishment candidate but Crenshaw has a national following and the fundraising to back it up.  This district was surgically gerrymandered to cancel Montrose and other inner Houston Democrats with bumfuck East Texas Republicans, and IMO the only thing that will excise Crenshaw is a redraw in 2022 by a Democratic statehouse at the Lege.  I'd like to be wrong.

TX31: After MJ Hegar chose to challenge John Cornyn instead of taking a rematch with John Carter, Christine Mann, the runner-up in 2018, stepped up again.  But she lost the runoff to Donna Imam, another progressive whiz kid whom the DCCC has avoided.  With a small war chest and some bruised intraparty feelings locally, Imam has a tall hill to climb.

TX7: Lizzie Fletcher's challenger Wesley Hunt was diagnosed with COVID-19 as tried to board Air Force One last week, alongside Louie Gohmert and Donald Trump.  Fletcher is the neoliberal poster child: Pelosi sycophant, loves fossil fuels and war toys, hates Medicare for All.  I didn't vote for her in 2018 and I won't vote for her again this November.  She should still win.

TX32: Colin Allred is Lizzie Fletcher's brain in the body of a Dallas Cowboys linebacker.  They vote exactly the same way.  This is classic old school, Martin Frost/Matt Angle Texas Democrat machine politics.  It's also the reason why Joe Biden narrowly won the Texas primary after Obama told all the other shitlibs to drop out and fall in line behind him.  The whining about "soshulism", even from seemingly progressive Democrats like Sylvia Garcia, was at fever pitch that first weekend in March, and Obama heard their cries and answered their prayers.

Hey, it might win one more time, if the polls are right.  Later today, in Sulphur Springs ...

More on state Congressional races later.  Here's a bit on the Cornyn-Hegar matchup (Dems are optimistic but I am not).

I'll be voting for the Green, David Collins.

In East Texas statehouse races:

I have a lot more to get to in this Wrangle.  It seems Texas Republicans are having things go from bad to worse for themselves, and quickly.

"My professional advice as a financial consultant would be to sell me everything you have for a dollar, except that I already own you."  It should be noted that this is still gallows humor.

There's a point at which Republicans' efforts to demonstrate that government doesn't work becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy just isn't funny.  We reached that point many years ago.

Moving on to the latest environmental news ...

Save Buffalo Bayou reprints an op-ed from Amanda Fuller and Jordan Macha that ran in the Houston Chronicle regarding the urgency of converting Harris County's flood mitigation from concrete ditches and paved-over prairies to something more nature-based.

Missing your hemp headlines?

Eater Houston lists their favorite spots to pick up CBD-infused drinks, smoothies, and ice cream-style treats.  Cooling off and chilling out sounds like a great idea.

The Rivard Report is up to Episode Eleven in their 'Cabeza de Vaca' series; the latest entitled "Faith the Size of a Pecan".

I told you I had a lot to get to.  We're almost at the end.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

White House Update: "Are You a Junkie?"

This Update ought to be all about Trump.  Both Facebook and Twitter punished him for shitposting on the coronavirus, operatives of his are busily helping Kanye get on the ballot in swing states like Ohio and Wisconsin*, and now he wants to accept the GOP nomination from the White House, questionable legally but unquestionably unethical.

Those ought to be the most important stories of the week, as the incumbent's re-election chances swirl the drain and the August heat bears down like COVID on a senior's heaving chest.  Like the hot breath of a nasty landlord clamoring for the rent (and the late fees).  Like the stress of a pile of dunning letters and a full inbox of messages from bill collectors.  And like watching the Congress and the White House squabble over a bit of relief from them.

But instead we got more Joementia, opening the door of his basement and yelling at those kids in the press to get offa his lawn.

I suppose you read the news that he's still trying to make up his mind about a running mate.

IIRC Biden would have picked Amy Klobuchar back in May, after Obama cleared the field for his nomination.  But then George Floyd was murdered, and the nation's mood shifted, and while Joe kept saying he would put a Black woman on the Supreme Court, he made no such promise about veep.  Finally Amy removed herself from consideration, making it obvious what he should do (I expect we'll read in one of those TIME magazine-styled inside-the-campaign reveals a year or two from now that Jill Biden and Valerie Owens Biden leaned on Klobuchar to do that).

So here we are three months later, with the Kossacks who groveled for Warren left at the altar, Kamala twisting in the wind while Joe drools a little over Susan Rice, and Karen Bass blowing up on the launch pad of Scientology.  Tammy Duckworth is the best longshot, but I still expect the KHive to make it happen for their shero.

Instead of things like this being the top story ...

... this is.

Instead of this ...

... this.

And then there's this.

No, Bernie. This isn't good enough to get me to vote for your friend Joe, or any other Democrat.  
Update: There seems to be no humiliation Sanders will not endure for the sake of keeping his status in the Democratic Party and the Senate secure; reports indicate that he will share the stage with John Kasich, speaking together on one of the first nights of the (virtual) convention, in some pathetic display of broad unity and coalition assembly.

Hard pass.
David Collins -- your most progressive option in the Texas Senate race -- wrote a Tweet thread everybody should read.  He's gentler than I.

And Walter Bragman, an excellent point.

I am weary of this.

Here's our Daily Jackass: Chris Wright, posting at OpEd News.

A few words about Kanye.

Amid various reports that Republican and Trump-affiliated political operatives are trying to get Kanye West onto various state ballots for November’s presidential election, the billionaire rap superstar indicated, in an interview by text today, that he was in fact running to siphon votes from the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden.

Asked about that directly, West said that rather than running for president, he was “walking,” quickly adding that he was “walking . . . to win.”

When it was pointed out that he actually can’t win in 2020 -- that he won’t be on enough ballots to yield 270 electoral votes, and that a write-in campaign isn’t feasible --and thus was serving as a spoiler, West replied: “I’m not going to argue with you. Jesus is King.”


-- The tickets representing the Party for Socialism and Liberation, also the Peace and Freedom Party (Gloria La Riva is the presidential nominee) have replaced Leonard Peltier, due to his declining health, with Sunil Freeman as its veep.  The parties' nominees will appear on the ballot in California, New Mexico, and a few other states.

-- The Alliance Party (Rocque de la Fuente/Darcy Richardson) has a campaign and ballot access update.  Richardson was recently interviewed, along with the Prohibition Party's Billy Joe Parker (click on the link just for his mugshot) and Tiara Lusk of the Life and Liberty Party, by WikiNews.