Friday, July 20, 2018

Friday Communist Manifestoon

Eight minutes of mashed-up favorites going back to the Forties, with narration by a "monotonous, God complex, Bond villain, psychotic".

(Russophobia 2.0 ain't got nuthin' on the original.)

Hat tip to Dandelion Salad.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Weekly Wrangle

This week's Texas Progressive Alliance roundup of lefty news and blog posts begin with two things that could happen that would improve the lives of Texans at large, and correspondingly Texas Democrats ... which is why they won't.

Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer sees one thing Texas Republicans could do that would give more than a million Texans some insurance coverage.

Despite their elected officials' position, the majority of Texans support Medicaid expansion, according to a June poll from the same group that published Friday's report, the Kaiser Family Foundation. Sixty-four percent of Texans, according to the poll, believe that the state should accept federal cash to expand the low-income insurance program, with the same percentage agreeing that the state is "not doing enough to help low-income Texas adults get health care."

As with automatic voter registration, Medicaid expansion is simply not going to happen without a substantial increase in public pressure on our lawmakers.

Some Republicans have used the specter of foreign hacking of digital voter registration databases as evidence that (automatic, online registration) would be too risky, even though the Texas secretary of state’s office has testified to the contrary. In May, a federal judge in San Antonio ordered Texas to allow drivers who are renewing their driver’s license online to also register to vote. The Texas Attorney’s General Office has appealed the decision, hoping the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will give a more favorable ruling.

State Senator José Menéndez, a San Antonio Democrat who filed an automatic voter registration bill in 2016, says resistance to voter expansion policies comes down to fear. “I think it’s about politicians who are afraid of more people getting involved in the process. They want to deal with the same people they always have.”

And there you have the reason why Democrats running for office in Texas feel they must chase Republican votes: because the size of the Lone Star electorate is so severely constricted by the monopoly political party in power that Texas Democrats' efforts to recruit new voters are a scattershot of short pisses into a stiff headwind.

Stimulating increased activity from registered but mostly inert, i.e. presidential election-year Democrats with policies and candidates that would support working-class men and women (and those living below that class) remains an elusive strategy for the paid political consultants advising campaigns that mostly rely on unpaid volunteers.  It's a Catch 22 spiral downward; as the population of the state grows, as Texas becomes more diverse -- in fact becomes a majority-minority state -- its electorate  isn't keeping up ... and its electeds are not representative of the people at large.

Relying on pollsters for some glimmer of hope for Texas Democratic candidates is probably a fool's errand, but that doesn't stop Kuff from reviewing the prognosticator projections for Texas' Congressional races.  Nor does it slow down Ted at jobsanger, who would simply have nothing to blog about if the political polling industry were to suddenly collapse under the weight of its illusions.  Like tea leaves and goat entrails, the guessing games that some people are paid to play for the masses are a charade that even the not-so-gullible enjoy watching.

In a few Capitol-related developments:

The Texas Moratorium Network reprints El Paso state representative Joe Moody's eloquent call for abolishing the death penalty in Texas.

The TSTA Blog suggests using the state's increased revenue on public education.

And Ross Ramsey at the TexTrib explains how Greg Abbott is cementing Rick Perry's legacy of consolidating power in the governor's office.

At the national NAACP convention in San Antonio last week, Brooklyn branch president Joy Williams explained why she would not date anyone who didn't vote.  CNN contributor Roland Martin went further.

" ... Because Trayvon Martin can’t, because Tamir Rice can’t, because Philando Castile can’t, because Laquan McDonald can’t,” Martin said, referencing black boys and men who were killed by police officers. “They can’t vote, but you can vote for the city manager who hires the police chief, you can vote for the [district attorney] who prosecutes the cop that killed them.”

Sanford Nowlin at the San Antonio Current frets about the sorry state of the Alamo City's media.

And several pieces of environmental news were blogged ...

Greensource DFW believes in the recent research that suggests there's a microscopic solution to the macroscopic plastic pollution problem.

Downwinders at Risk found the Clean Air Fund that time forgot.

In 2006, then-Dallas Mayor Laura Miller teamed up with Houston Mayor Bill White and organized a coalition of Texas local governments to oppose the “fast-track” permitting of a dozen new coal plants Governor Rick Perry was pushing.

15 North Texas cities, Houston, and McLennan County (Waco) established the “Texas Clean Air Cities Coalition” to fund a legal team and the technical expertise needed to take on not only the big utility companies, but Perry and the State of Texas as well.

But before the battles could begin, a settlement was reached that cancelled all but one of the coal plants. The approximately $500,000 raised by the Coalition to wage clean air war was not needed now. Instead of reimbursing the separate contributors, it was kept in total by the Coalition, possibly because it had already been budgeted to “protect Texas air.”

And there it has sat ever since. With each new election cycle, the number of local elected officials who knew about the fund got smaller and smaller, until there was hardly any institutional memory of the Coalition or its half-million dollar fund left at all.

Offcite becomes the latest blog to take the "Toxic Tour" of east Houston neighborhoods (Manchester) and small communities (Galena Park), still living under the oppressive yoke of some of the worst refinery pollution in the United States.  In Corpus Christi, Naveena Sadasivam at the Texas Observer reports that the minority neighborhood of Hillcrest is finally getting some relief, though not from the cessation of the fouling of their air and water by the petrochem giants there, and with some mixed feelings about leaving.

Grits for Breakfast chides liberals in and out of Congress for allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good with respect to the FIRST-STEP criminal justice reform bill.

Renaming his blog, Neil at You Need To Act Right Now detailed some steps he is taking to defeat Trump and his associated wickedness. 

SocraticGadfly talked about how the latest animal research seems to partially refute some ideas of Elizabeth Loftus' claims about how memory can operate.

Last, Elise Hu bids adieu to her house in Austin. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sunday Funnies

Everything he says and does is really quite atrocious

During the hearing, immigration judge John Richardson said he was “embarrassed” to ask the child if he understood the proceedings.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Operation Shock and Kavanaugh

Go on to Parts Three (Gideon v. Wainwright), Four (Griswold v. Connecticut), and Five (Boerne v. Flores) at the links.

For those with short attention spans, the TLDR can be summarized as follows: in Griswold, Wikipedia notes famed liberal jurist William O. Douglas doing what conservatives have come to loathe: interpret the Constitution for the current times rather than "following" it as the Founders (and those who amended it in later years) wrote and -- they believe -- intended it to mean.  The term they favor is 'strict constructionism'.

Although the Bill of Rights does not explicitly mention "privacy", Justice William O. Douglas wrote for the majority that the right was to be found in the "penumbras" and "emanations" of other constitutional protections, such as the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amendment. Douglas wrote, "Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship." Justice Arthur Goldberg wrote a concurring opinion in which he used the Ninth Amendment in support of the Supreme Court's ruling. Justice Byron White and Justice John Marshall Harlan II wrote concurring opinions in which they argued that privacy is protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  

For those non-attorneys and law students reading here, Griswold was the precedent for many other cases ... including Roe v. Wade.

So as disclaimer, I'm not a lawyer or a law student so I'm certainly not teaching or interpreting law here; just trying to understand the motivations and rationales of those that are.  Former Senator and member of the Judiciary Committee Al Franken has some questions he would ask the nominee if he were still serving; perhaps some of his once-peers might take them up in September, when Chair Grassley indicates confirmation hearings might begin.  Mitch McConnell has indicated the full Senate will vote before October ... just as we all begin to focus on the midterm elections, which might influence turnout to some degree.  On both sides.  (Understatement?)

Monday, July 09, 2018

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance won't be watching tonight's "Trump: The Supreme Court Justice" reality teevee show, but will be Tweeting and blogging about it in the days and weeks to come.

Here's the lefty blog post and news from around the Lone Star State.

Listicles were popular this week past; Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer has five reasons why Ken Paxton is the luckiest son of a bitch politician in the state.

5. Straight-ticket voting is here to clean up Paxton's mess.

According to the Texas Tribune's latest polling, Paxton faces the toughest race of any Texas Republican, leading challenger Justin Nelson by just one point, 32-31. Paxton's advantage is likely larger than that, however, because Texas still has straight-ticket voting for the 2018 election.

Incumbent Texas Gov. Greg Abbott leads Lupe Valdez by 12 points in the same poll, so about a quarter of those voting for Abbott would have to split their tickets and seek out Nelson's name on the bottom in order for him to defeat Paxton. In 2020, Texas voters will have to vote in each of the state's races individually, leveling the playing field in down-ballot races.

Independence Day activities were washed out in Houston.  (Don't miss the video at this link.)

You're excused from feeling a bit paranoid about the weather on holidays in Southeast Texas based on recent history (and also exempt from ridicule for considering Tax Day a holiday).  With "weather panic" apparently the new normal in the Bayou City, Jeff Balke at the Houston Press points out five things Houstonians do during heavy rain events despite being warned not to.

(Please read the first one.  If you're the person who blames government officials for seventy years of poor decision-making every time this happens but continues to vote to re-elect them, their friends, and their staffers when they retire ... why don't you just move to Mexico?  Or somewhere else there isn't a hundred-year flood once a quarter?)

The March for Our Lives tour stopped in H-Town yesterday, featuring as speakers a few of the young men and women who survived the Parkland high school shooting.  A couple of hundred supporters gathered to voice support, while about one-fourth that number of gun nuts protested loudly across the street.  See more at the #RoadToChange hashtag.

The weekly roundup of criminal justice news at Grits for Breakfast includes this piece of news (bold emphasis Brains'):

Grits has been saying for months that the opiod epidemic in Texas is overstated compared to the problem of meth addiction and overdoses, and that hysteria over fentanyl is largely unwarranted here because the drug does not mix with the relatively impure black-tar heroin common in Texas and California markets. So I was not suprised to see Snopes rule that the fentanyl-soaked flyers touted by the Harris County Sheriff's Office as causing the hospitalization of a deputy was a bogus story.

Though HCSO said "field tests" indicated fentanyl on the flyers, lab tests confirmed that was false. Laughably, HCSO said in a statement, "The Sheriff’s Office is also working to verify that deputies have access to the most reliable field testing kits available." Faulty field tests used by law enforcement in Harris County have been responsible for hundreds of false convictions, so don't hold your breath.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston calls out Dan Patrick's bad math on metal detectors.

Bonddad suggests there are some easy-to-understand motivations underlying the Republicans' daily rabid attacks, led by Trump, as it relates to their strategy for winning in November.  Speaking of the fall elections, Off the Kuff made more comparisons to 2014 on relative levels of enthusiasm and candidate fundraising.

Gus Bova at the Texas Observer reveals that the Trump administration's own figures show that 'zero tolerance' immigration enforcement did not work.  In fact it only succeeded in making it much more difficult for those seeking asylum to comply with the law.

Dos Centavos takes (apparently generic, mostly unidentified) Democrats to task over their timorousness regarding the call to abolish ICE.

Equality Texas is hosting town hall meetings on the ramifications of the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court decision in Dallas, Waco, San Antonio, and Houston next week.

Downwinders at Risk passes along the public notice from the Dallas City Council's public hearing on the proposed regional air quality monitoring network, scheduled for late August.

Bruce Melton at The Rag Blog reports on yet another environmental calamity: Alaskan permafrost has flipped from carbon sink to carbon source; it is now melting so fast that it's emitting more greenhouse gas than it formerly stored.

The Spanish language newspaper La Prensa, which closed suddenly earlier this summer, has been reborn in print (and online soon).  The San Antonio Current has the story.

Vanessa Eichler at Rivard Report argues that inadequate funding remains the biggest problem in Texas public education.

David Collins has the details on the latest Texas Green Party PR disasterUpdate: Which, as it turns out, happens to have been bogus.

Millard Fillmore's Bathtub compares its namesake to the current White House occupant and finds similarities only in their respective failures.

SocraticGadfly suggests ways to either improve on the current shootout method or reduce them in World Cup games.

And Harry Hamid can kinda sorta relate to the Thai-boys-soccer-team-that's-trapped-in-the-cave's dilemma.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018


14 year-old girl assures Trump she wasn't really using her reproductive freedom yet anyway

"It’s every little girl's dream to be forced into being a breeding sow, and if I can be forced to carry my future rapist's baby to term, even better!"

These 11 companies control the sale of every consumable for Independence Day ... except for the fireworks, which are almost entirely made in China

Imagine what the Founding Fathers, most of whom opposed anything that reeked of monopoly, would think if they could see how a few companies profit in the name of their nation’s founding. Certainly it would disappoint Thomas Jefferson, who once opined, "The benefit even of limited monopolies is too doubtful to be opposed to that of their general suppression."

Monday, July 02, 2018

The Firecracker Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance congratulates Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on their election victories, and has high hopes that Texas can elect progressives of their kind in the very near future.

Also ... when you're firing bottle rockets and Roman candles at each other this Wednesday, be careful not to shoot your eye out.

Here's the blog post and lefty news roundup from the week just passed.

Thousands protested at the Capitol in Austin at hundreds of rallies across Texas and the nation against Trump's immigration policy that separates children from their parents.

As the immigration crisis -- not a crisis at all, according to South Texas ranchers -- morphs into a national one, even ICE investigation supervisors want to disassociate themselves from child detention and deportation.  Paris Johnson at the Houston Press reminds us that the US has a long, ugly history of separating minority children from their families.

The US Supreme Court rulings in favor of Trump's Muslim travel ban, the gerrymandering by Texas Republicans, and the Janus decision against public sector unions made news, but it was Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement that abruptly focused Democrats and liberals on their failures in 2016 -- not just Hillary Clinton's in November, but Barack Obama's and the Senate Democrats' spineless inability to force a vote on Merrick Garland -- and in predictable fashion they blamed everyone but themselves (not just Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein in this go-around, but Susan Sarandon).  Satire is most wicked when it is closest to the truth.

SocraticGadfly talked about the Supreme Court travel ban ruling, along with a bit about the other rulings of last week, and then analyzed Anthony Kennedy's career after he announced his retirement. He'll have a couple of additional Court posts in days and weeks ahead.

In politico news, Carlos Uresti went to prison, a freshly-scented Republican douchebag won a special election to replace the bloated, foul-smelling one previously inhabiting #TX27 for a couple of months, and Pages of Victory demonstrates how you should handle a Republican canvasser who comes knocking at your door.

Off the Kuff took a closer look at the UT/Trib June poll and thinks he found some good news for Democrats that the pollsters overlooked.

In his weekly compendium of criminal justice developments, Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast blogged about the federal judge's ruling in Harris County's bail case, the outgoing DA in McClennan County (Waco) firing one of his assistants for cooperating with the FBI, and the DPS conflating traffic stops and immigration enforcement.

The Associated Press (via the HouChron) described in detail the course provided for Texas educators that teaches them how to shoot back at school shooters.  A pro-gun rally last weekend in Santa Fe, the site of the high school murders just over a month ago, was notable for its anemic turnout.

News about the media was news; Jon Tilove at the Statesman chronicled the life of one of the Annapolis Capital-Gazette's journalists who was shot and killed at the newspaper's office by excerpting some of his columns (and adding his thoughts).  And Texas Standard wonders why social media bosses are meeting with GOP leaders.

Somervell County Salon wrote about an anti-SLAPP case that prevailed at the Texas Supreme Court.

Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer covered the million-gallon sewage spill at White Rock Lake.

John Nielson-Gammon at the Texas Living Waters Project would like to see more of that old-fashioned variety in our summer weather.

Keep Austin Wonky wants city-owned land to maximize residents' happiness (whatever that means).

David Collins remembers Harlan Ellison, the noted sci-fi-author who passed away last week.

Harry Hamid notices how angry everyone is, but is working to avoid being that way.

And Dan Solomon at Texas Monthly bids adieu to the UT-adjacent location of Conan's Pizza.