Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The battle for control of the US Senate

Sorry, Dr. Alameel, you won't be mentioned in this post, or in any conversations going forward about the topic.

Many pundits, politicos, and prognosticators are giving the edge to the GOP for a flip this fall in the Congress' upper chamber.  I'm not one of them, and not for partisan reasons.  I have believed for some time now that there is some amount of unmeasured, unpolled support for candidates across the country who favor actual progressive populism, including women's issues such as reproductive choice and raises in the minimum wage, not to mention the revulsion of the policies and conduct of Republicans in general and Tea Party Republicans in particular.  And I also think that female candidates are somewhat uniquely positioned to take advantage of that.  And I have two recent data points that support this premise.

-- The first is the result from yesterday's Georgia Republican Senate primary, where former Dollar General Store chief David Perdue vanquished Rep. Jack Kingston for the right to face Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn in November's contest to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

Despite Kingston having the stamp of approval from the Tea Party and the US Chamber of Commerce (the most disparate of bedfellows among conservative factions) and the fact that nearly all polling showed Kingston leading comfortably -- the last one taken just a week ago gave him a widening 7-point margin -- Perdue prevailed by a slim 51-49 margin.  (That's still Eric Cantor-ish.)  And Perdue won despite declaring his support for tax increases, in the home stretch of the GOP primary two months ago, a fact his conservative opponents repeatedly hammered him with in both the primary and runoff campaigns.

Even Digby thought that Perdue was dead after that.

This is more than the usual significant: a Republican candidate deviated sharply from longstanding Republican orthodoxy, and finished first in a crowded primary and then won his runoff.  In Georgia.

Perdue's autumn opponent, Nunn, also a relative of previous Peach State electeds, currently holds a 5-6 point lead in the recent polls.  In Georgia.

Are Republicans really in this much trouble in their bid to take back the US Senate?  Well, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell certainly is, and his challenger, Allison Grimes, seems well-positioned for the shades-of-Tom-Daschle upset.  And we could go on from there about female Democrats -- and male ones too -- either holding their own in unlikely places or showing uncharacteristic strength in their races.

-- The second data point comes from a source I am usually in vehement disagreement with: a pair of very establishment Democrats who are among the highest paid consultants in the nation.

Look at the most competitive US Senate seats up for grabs in 2014, and you might be surprised that they are, in fact, competitive.

Of the 12 states in which there is so far no likely winner, eight are traditionally conservative. Mitt Romney won those states in 2012 – six by double digits.

But according to Democracy Corps, a political nonprofit formed by Democratic strategists James Carville and Stanley Greenberg in 1999, their polling indicates that the Democratic candidates are not that far behind.

The group points to what it says is a spillover effect of the House GOP’s record-low favorability rating as the main reason that the Democratic Senate candidates in the 12 states are within striking distance.

And the group has advice for how the Democratic candidates can close the remaining gap with their opponents: Rebrand their message to unmarried women, an undermobilized electorate.

“Unmarried women comprise about a quarter of the electorate, so they have a lot of sway in terms of determining who is and who is not elected,” says Page Gardner, founder and president of the nonprofit Voter Participation Center, a research-driven non-profit seeking to increase the political participation of historically under-represented groups. According to Ms. Gardner, the changing views of women in the 12 states result in significant shifts in polling results.

Read on there.

It's accurate to point out that this same demographic is the low-hanging fruit for the Wendy Davis campaign, and she will certainly harvest it.  I have previously underscored my concerns about her actions that degrade critical electoral support among Latinos, however, and Texas is still Texas and not Georgia.  Unless I am gravely mistaken -- always a possibility, and I would be delighted to be wrong about this -- she has already committed a fatal error by lining up alongside our Full Metal Jackass governor on the border.

Even as Greg Abbott demonstrates new depths of corruption, she is unable to capitalize.

But this post is about the US Senate.  Which, as of today, will very probably remain under Harry Reid's control.  That would be a good thing for Barack Obama, as he would not have to deal with an impeachment proceeding in his final two years in office.  (That doesn't mean the president should keep attending fundraisers as Palestinian civilians are slaughtered, and a humanitarian crisis in South Texas continues.  Optics and all that.)

Now if we could get some vampires to actually crash a Ted Cruz fundraiser at the W library... why, we would have a true moral victory in Texas.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rick Perry's border surge

"I will not stand idly by while our citizens are under assault and little children from Central America are detained in squalor," Perry said at a briefing in Austin. "The price of inaction is too high for Texans to pay."

Perry's move came just hours after the White House announced that the number of unaccompanied minors arriving at the border is dropping – from 355 per day in June to 150 in early July, according to spokesman Josh Earnest.

Earnest said the reasons for the drop remain unclear, but suggested the administration's efforts "to work with Central American leaders to publicize the dangers of the journey" have contributed significantly.

Perry on Monday acknowledged the drop in the new arrivals in recent weeks, but he offered a different theory for the trend, saying it was a "clear indication" that local, state and federal law enforcement efforts are working.

I'm already dizzy from the spin. The governor finally took this action after the president refused his request to do so.  The difference between the two?  When Obama does it uses federal dollars; when Perry does it, it's Texas money that pays for it.  And it's going to cost us $5 million a week.  And then there are the legality questions.

Perry’s move could also run into constitutional problems. The Constitution’s Supremacy Clause prohibits states from interfering with areas of regulation that have been preempted by the federal government, and the U.S. Supreme Court has already invalidated provisions of state law that seek to legislate on immigration reform. Washington and Lee University law professor Margaret Hu told ThinkProgress this provision could suffer similar constitutional problems, particularly because it interferes with national security and Department of Homeland Security policies also.

Perry’s announcement comes several days after several House of Representatives members introduced a resolution calling on Perry and several other governors in border states to send National Guard troops to the border. The resolution “recognizes, supports, and defends the Constitutional authority” of these governors to send troops to the border, and “urges” them to immediately deploy troops. But this, too, raises constitutional flags.

The resolution also commits to covering the cost of the troops — estimated to be $5 million per week just in Texas. The state is already spending $1.3 million on a state-funded border surge.

I guess we're not broke after all.  A bit more from Kimberly Reeves at Quorum Report.

Perry deflected criticism of his executive order to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the border this afternoon, shifting the focus from deportee children from war-torn countries to drug traffickers and criminal opportunists crossing the Texas border to commit hundreds of thousands of crimes over the last 6 years.

News of Perry’s decision to deploy the National Guard troops to assist the Department of Public Safety in the ongoing effort called Operation Strong Safety leaked out over the weekend, giving critics enough time to question the how, why and how useful the National Guard would be at the state’s southern border.

Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, called for support along the border last month with emergency funds, but he balked at the use of additional law enforcement in The Monitor over the weekend.

“They (cartels) are taking advantage of the situation,” Hinojosa told The Monitor. “But our local law enforcement from the sheriff’s offices of the different counties to the different police departments are taking care of the situation. This is a civil matter, not a military matter. What we need is more resources to hire more deputies, hire more Border Patrol. These are young people, just families coming across. They’re not armed. They’re not carrying weapons.”

For her part, Wendy Davis wishes some law enforcement officers could have been mobilized, so that some of those children could be arrested.

(Davis) responded to Perry’s announcement by calling for a different border surge—adding more sheriff’s deputies to the region.

Davis reiterated her demand last month that Perry convene an emergency legislative session to deploy the deputies.

“If the federal government won't act, Texas must and will. However, we should be deploying additional deputy sheriffs to the border like local law enforcement is calling for, rather than Texas National Guard units who aren't even authorized to make arrests,” she said in a statement following Perry’s briefing.

Okay then.  I have already posted my opinion about Davis' mistakes with regard to the border crisis, so this doesn't surprise me in the least.  Hope she gets a whole lot of Republican votes out of it, because she'll need them to replace the Democratic ones she's going to lose.

One last observation about the money it's costing us for this show of bravado force.

The National Guard deployment — added to the DPS surge — will bring the price tag of troopers on the border to about $5 million per week, the memo said. And the funding source for the effort remains unclear.

“It is not clear where the money will come from in the budget,” the memo states, adding that Perry's office has said the money will come from “non-critical” areas, such as health care or transportation.

Read that as Medicaid and highway construction.

I just exhausted my week's ration of outrage.

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance isn't ready for the hottest part of summer as it brings you the roundup of the best of lefty Texas blogs from last week.

Off the Kuff looks at Travis County's design for a new kind of voting machine, one that will add security, ease of use, and an honest to goodness paper receipt.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson, Democrats running for office in Texas should make every Republican answer about Greg Abbott's "drive around" remark about explosive chemical storage in their neighborhoods: Abbott hemmed in by the GOP's ideology.

As the federal trial over Texas redistricting began, a series of GOP e-mails outlining their anti-Latino mapping strategy was revealed. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs observes that the ooutcome won't be known for months, and the decision won't affect the 2014 midterm elections, but the case for the Republicans looks very grim.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants everyone to know that the Texas Tribune exposes Dan Patrick as a liar and Leticia Van de Putte as a truth-teller.

Stace at Dos Centavos handed out a few bouquets and also had some brickbats for Texas and national leaders on immigration reform.

In the wake of Denton City Council's failure to ban fracking, TXsharon at BlueDaze kept up the pressure by remobilizing her community for the November ballot referendum.  She also noted the Russian connections between the frackers (and the anti-frackers).

The Lewisville Texan Journal posted his local roundup of news and views, starting with the worsening Texas drought.

Texas (more like Rick Perry, Greg Abbott and Republicans) did not accept the Medicaid expansion, leaving millions of Texas' poorest families without healthcare options. But as Texas Leftist discovered, there are over 800,000 Texans that qualify for Medicaid and CHIP under current policy and just don't know to sign up. Even as we fight for expansion, helping these families is something that can be done right now.

Egberto Willies attended Netroots Nation and had a few posts on some of the highlights, including Joe Biden's keynote speech.

Neil at All People of Value took the Wendy Davis campaign to task for having nothing on its website about immigration reform.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Joe the Pleb at Burnt Orange Report posted the rescheduling of Open Carry Texas' march through Houston's Fifth Ward for August 16th.  That's going to be almost as incendiary as concealed chemical storage caches.

Greg Abbott gave Socratic Gadfly one more reason not to go to the movies, and suggested everyone text the attorney general and GOP gubernatorial candidate a different F-word than "Freedom" to him.

Lone Star Q notes that only six Texas mayors have signed on to the national bipartisan coalition Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, and none from North Texas.

Bay Area Houston connected the dots between Greg Abbott and state representatives Gary Elkins and Vicki Truitt on payday lending "reform" in the Texas Lege.

Lone Star Ma is busy block-walking for Wendy.

The Texas Election Law Blog highlights a few issues with the Comptroller's webpage on the relative level of debt financing of counties, cities, school districts, and special law districts.

The Lunch Tray reminds us that summer camp is another opportunity for kids to get loaded up with junk food.

Grits for Breakfast wants to know why DPS is doing a full set of fingerprints for every drivers license renewal, even though the Lege has not authorized that.

And finally, the TPA congratulates Andrea Grimes on her new gig as "State of the Media" columnist for the Texas Observer.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Kos, Netroots Nation, and immigration

There were two interesting developments over the weekend at Netroots Nation, the annual confab of liberal Democrats (the fairest, if not the most accurate label) taking place this year in Detroit, Michigan.

The first one occurred last Thursday, when Joe Biden, one of the keynote speakers (Elizabeth Warren was the other) was heckled -- politely, but heckled nevertheless -- by a small group of pro-immigrant folks.  Egberto Willies was on the scene and filed this report.

It first started softly and progressively got louder. A group of attendees stood up in the front side of the room and started yelling ‘Stop deporting our families.’ The vice president did not get frazzled or perturbed.

“I respect your views and I share your views,” (Biden) said. “But let me take these issues one …” The hecklers continued for about a minute thereafter. They were then escorted out of the room peacefully.

“You should clap for those young people. …” (Biden) said. “Can you imagine the pain, the anxiety, coming home every day wondering whether or not your mother and father will still be there. Can you imagine. Can you imagine what it must feel like.”

After the interruption, (the vice president) resumed his speech.

The second was the reveal that the godfather of Netroots Nation and publisher of Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, will boycott the convention next year when it is scheduled to be held in Phoenix, AZ.  For that, Dave Weigel at Slate.

After last night's annual Netroots Nation pub quiz—a raucous party with in-jokes that go back years, probably exemplified by the team that brought a giant Burmese flag to protest a 2011 decision in favor use of the name "Myanmar"—I remarked to a friend from the Daily Kos that it would be fun to team up next year. Breaking news: That wouldn't happen. "It's in Phoenix, and Markos is boycotting Arizona." Meaning that Markos Moulitsas, whose Daily Kos blog spun off this annual event in 2006, would neither show up nor bring his team to the next host city.

Before I could ask Moulitsas about the decision, he went and explained himself on the blog. He vehemently disagreed with the "inherently divisive" decision of a board he did not belong to. (The conference was called Yearly Kos in 2006 and 2007, before Moulitsas recommended a broadening re-brand.)

I doubt the conference would decide to host the event in, say, Apartheid South Africa, in order to "take the fight to the enemy". If you think that analogy is absurd, it is, but only in terms of degree, not intent in the county that has consistently elected Sheriff Joe Arpaio since 1992. But if you want a less bombastic analogy, look to labor: Netroots Nation refuses to hold events in cities without union hotel and conference facilities. They're not "taking the fight" to non-unionized locations because we, as a movement, stand for the right of people to organize and we don't reward those places that deny those rights. It's the right call. Also, would the conference have been happy to stay in Arizona had Gov. Jan Brewer signed the virulently anti-gay SB 1062 earlier this year? Hard to see that happening.

Latinos deserve that same kind of respect.

In the short history of blogging and online activism, this is a BFD. Moulitsas' blog was the Petri dish for countless writers and campaigners; Moulitsas himself was an accidental icon of the 2004-2008 period when the press woke up to the "netroots." 

Yeah, it's a BFD all right.  Both developments are one more clue to Democrats running for political office this cycle, especially in places like Texas, to either get it together with actual support of the plight of Latinos without papers in this country, or forget about getting elected.  Period, end of story.  Let's clarify this some more.

"Glenn Beck is to the left of Barack Obama on child immigrants," said Chris Newman, legal director at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. "Obama never filed a civil rights challenge against Arizona's law. He is an accomplice to the civil rights violation in Arizona."

You won't grow the left-leaning electorate, you will not get the vote of Latinos already registered and voting, never mind those that are not, if you cannot come correct on this issue.  You damn sure don't get to call yourself 'progressive'.  Wendy Davis has already made this mistake in her focus to draw the mythical crossover voter, allegedly conservative-leaning independents and moderate Republicans.  This strategy of running to the right in the general election is a demonstrated, proven failing one for a Texas Democrat running for governor.  Some day that lesson may be learned, but it does not appear as if 2014 is going to be the year.  And to be fair, many Democrats do get it, and that will be to their advantage.  Stace at Two Cents:

With immigration-related stuff hot in the news, it’s good to see nationally recognized Democratic leaders take a lead in actually offering services and shelter, rather than become immigration “experts” and offer nothing. Obviously, Texas’ own Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has done a great job. Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland has done a great job of taking on the Obama administration’s express deportation policies, while trying to protect the children from Murrieta-type hate in his own state. Now, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is offering up his state to child refugees. I hope we find more of these unafraid Dems, especially in Texas.

Lest you think the nativist screaming on this issue represents a majority of opinion, please note that in McAllen yesterday, the advocates for humane treatment of migrants outnumbered the xenophobes 60 to 3 in their rally/counter rally.  Be sure and look at all the pictures and read the signs.

The Minority Vote

Unless the next poll for the Texas Tribune (in the field this past week, polling for governor, US senator, Congress, and social issues such as abortion) shows a significant tightening of the gubernatorial contest, no amount of money or where it comes from or the amount of spin it gets from both directions will matter.  We can shift our attention to other statewide and downballot races.  Or at least I can.

Sunday Funnies

Friday, July 18, 2014

Emmett says Dome park plan 'silly', but it isn't

Ed. note: This post has been updated throughout.

It's really all there is left to do, it just needs to be done the right way.  Jeff Balke at Hair Balls summarizes the situation well.

According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, County Judge Ed Emmett has no desire to see a recent plan put forth on the part of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Houston Texans put into place. The plan would demolish the "Eighth Wonder of the World" and replace it with an open green space and a Hall of Fame surrounded by a "fence" made of pieces of the existing Dome's structure. They even provided some nifty renderings including a Photoshopped ESPN set and hosts with the, let's call it an Astro Park, in the background, clearly hinting that a decision needs to be made quickly with the 2017 Super Bowl to be held at NRG Stadium.


Emmett called the idea "a silly plan" and even quipped that it would haunt him after he retires. Emmett no doubt remembers the one tarnish on former Mayor Bob Lanier's record allowing Bud Adams to move the Houston Oilers to Tennessee. Adams wanted to contribute half to a downtown retractible roof stadium (sound familiar) that would cost around $250 million. NRG Stadium cost nearly twice that with taxpayers footing the lion's share of the bill.

It has long been a foregone conclusion amongst many around town that both the Rodeo and the Texans have wanted to see the Astrodome demolished for years. The iconic structure is taking up a huge space in Reliant Park, impeding their ability to create space for their patrons. Most had believed the plan all along was to turn it into a parking structure so this green space concept is at least a step away from something so mundane and utilitarian.


So, while I'm with Emmett in his assessment, there is no question the hour is growing late. Like it or not, the Super Bowl coming here in 2017 puts a kind of stopwatch on the situation. No one wants a rotting Astrodome grimly resting next to NRG Stadium. Emmett wants to take another shot with the meeting space. The Texans and the Rodeo are opting for some strange memorial to a stadium that isn't yet gone. Virtually everyone agrees something radical must occur and the likely approach is demolition, but no one wants the Astrodome imploding on their watch.

Eventually, someone at some point will flinch. The question is who? The when is sooner than you think.

As I commented at Kuff's post, the area around the Dome is eminently walkable, even more so today than it was when we lived in the area (about 5 years ago).  I believe that fences, gates, and perimeter security as it exists should be modified to allow easy, free access to parkgoers, on foot and on wheels.  And I remain of the opinion that Ryan Slattery's plan, at gray2green, is the benchmark solution that would make the most people happy, if that plan were revised to include bi-level subterranean parking in the 35-foot below-grade depression over which the Dome sits (instead of the retention pond at the base of a conical decline, as pictured below).

That could be premium parking for event VIPs and anyone else who wants to get popped $25-$40 or more for a spot with the shortest walk.  (Jerry Jones allegedly charges $75 for close-in parking at AT&T Stadium.  And Beyonce'-Jay Z concertgoers locally are getting "surge priced" downtown this weekend for parking.)  Costs for construction of auto ramps, elevators, and stairs, not to mention a second level, perhaps consisting of those stackable or robotic parking mechanisms already in use in many cities, and a ceiling for the garage that would serve as a floor for the park -- overlaid with turf, much like the football stadium now -- need to be added to the $66 million already proposed.

The park itself would need a lot of shade in order for it to reach its full utilization, and for that you'd need a roof, in whole or in part.  The primary cost concerns remain unanticipated overruns for rehabilitating the structure and liability insurance (what if part of the roof or walls fell on people in high winds or a plain old SETX thunderstorm, to say nothing of a hurricane.  No one would, of course, be sheltered there in a hurricane, but repairs to damage might be too high to do anything but demolish and rebuild).

The HLSR and the Texans want something done in the least expensive way, with the least exposure to liability.  Emmett, the only decision-maker in opposition to the park plan -- the other four commissioners are supportive but noncommital -- wants an exhibit hall, but that's mostly because he is wary of the political consequences of authorizing demolition.  And that's despite public sentiment to do so was fairly much the majority in last fall's referendum, and may be creeping more in that direction... if the's overwhelmingly conservative commenters are any indication.  Emmett is insulated from immediate blowback no matter his choice; though he is up for re-election in November, it's only nominal challengers Ahmad Hassan (Democratic) and David Collins (Green) on the ballot against him.  Four years from now, after both the park's completion and the 2017 Super Bowl are in the rearview mirror?  Who the hell knows?

As far as money goes, the Rodeo and the Texans are simply going to have to cough up the cash to make most of anything happen.  If Emmett acquiesces to their plans for a park and gives them the parking revenue, then he ought to be able to commit to some flat figure of existing county funds  -- no bonds, thus no public referendum -- that is well under half of what is currently proposed for remodeling.  And then he should bill the two tenants for the rest.  With easy credit terms for them to pay off the note, if need be.

For the simplest math, let's assume the renovations increase the price tag to $100 million, and the three parties each chip in a third.  Do the Texans have a spare $33.3 million lying around?  Of course they do; they sign star players for much more than that every year.  Does the Rodeo have a spare $33.3 million?  Sure looks to me like they do (and I doubt they'd have to cut back on any scholarships for the kids, either).  Does the county have a spare $33.3 million to kick in?  Even if they have to spread it over a two-year construction time period, I think the answer is 'yes'.

Am I missing anything here?

To get a handle on the potential parking revenue, how many cars can be parked in the nine-acre footprint of the Dome, on two levels?  This site says 172 cars per acre, for a total of 1,548 parking spaces per level.  Thus, the most conservative estimate of additional annual parking revenue is $500K apiece for the Rodeo and the Texans (25 bucks a car for 2000 cars x 10 days, 8 regular season home games and two pre-season ones).  The Rodeo has perhaps 15 or more dates, the unit price for parking could easily be more and so could the number of cars, bringing the windfall well above $1 million a year.  Each.

As for the Dome being converted into a hotel/casino... that will NEVER happen as long as Talibaptist Republicans rule in the Lege.  And a Governor Greg Abbott would veto it even if Hell caught a polar vortex blizzard and a bill did pass legalizing casino gambling in Texas.  How do I know this?  I point you back to this post about campaign finance reports, and this sentence from Wayne Slater's story within it.

Abbott’s largest out-of-state contribution was $50,000 from the Chickasaw Nation political committee, which operates casinos in Oklahoma.

If there actually are any quivering independent voters who like to play slots, blackjack, craps, or Texas Hold 'Em, and are still looking for a(nother) reason not to vote Republican... there you go.

Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, and Rand Paul

I suppose Cruz has just chosen to be a coconut.  That's the only explanation that makes sense here.

Blaming a recent surge in young border-crossers on the president, Sen. Ted Cruz waded into the crisis Thursday with a bill to reverse a 2012 order protecting child migrants from deportation.

“The staggering conditions that children are being subjected to are a direct result of the amnesty that President Obama illegally and unilaterally enacted in 2012, which caused the number of unaccompanied minors to skyrocket,” Cruz said. “The only way to stop the border crisis is to stop President Obama’s amnesty.”

'Amnesty', as we know, is Republican code for 'deport 'em all'.

Cruz wants to link Obama’s $3.7 billion funding request to the deferred action order. Other Republicans say they’ll block funding for a border response without changes to a 2008 law that lets Central American children remain in the country for years pending resolution of their immigration cases.

Blah blah blah.  Carnival Poop Cruz could very likely be deported back to Canada under his own guidelines, but since he has renounced his citizenship, perhaps he and his father just ought to be sent on back to Cuba instead.

The fact that nobody is going to get to Rafael's right in the 2016 GOP presidential primary is what's at play here, and the recent polling showing Rand Paul leading everybody is also the reason why Rick Perry chose to go after Paul earlier this week, calling him an isolationist.

"As a veteran, and as a governor who has supported Texas National Guard deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, I can understand the emotions behind isolationism. Many people are tired of war, and the urge to pull back is a natural, human reaction," Perry began his piece in the Washington Post. "Unfortunately, we live in a world where isolationist policies would only endanger our national security even further."

"That's why it's disheartening to hear fellow Republicans, such as Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), suggest that our nation should ignore what's happening in Iraq."

That drew a sharp elbow from Paul.

"Apparently his new glasses haven't altered his perception of the world, or allowed him to see it any more clearly," wrote Paul.

Paul continued: "With 60,000 foreign children streaming across the Texas border, I am surprised Governor Perry has apparently still found time to mischaracterize and attack my foreign policy."

Kaboom.  Perry just found himself back in South Texas with a bruised backside.

Paul will find appeal to what now might be called the middle, or maybe the Goldilocks zone, in the GOP: not too hot (Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum), not too cold (Chris Christie, Jeb Bush)... juuust right (a crowded field itself, with Perry, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker).  You gotta be crazy, but not too crazy.  Throw the animals just enough red meat to keep 'em satisfied, not so much that they think they're actually in charge of anything.  It's still way too early to divine anything of importance in this early jockeying, but that won't keep anybody from trying.

I would rather focus on the election that happens in 3 1/2 months, because the potential for better -- or worse -- leadership for Texas, the United States Senate, an equal rights ordinance in Houston, and a fracking ban in Denton are all significantly more important issues to all Texans than who might or might not run for president in 2016.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Johnny Winter 1944 - 2014

"Every now and then I know it's kinda hard to tell,
but I'm still alive and well."

"Still Alive and Well", 1973

Alas, no longer. with the news.

Blues legend Johnny Winter has died at the age of 70. The news was first reported by American Blues Scene and Jenda Derringer, wife of Winter's former bandmate Rick Derringer. Jenda wrote on Facebook: "Johnny passed early this morning in Zurich, Switzerland." She added: "He was not in good health and was very frail and weak."

More from

Born in Beaumont, Texas in 1944, Winter remained active in music for over five decades, earning acclaim as both a guitarist and record producer. His big break came while opening a show for Mike Bloomfield in 1968. Winter’s performance that evening caught the eye of Columbia Records, who quickly signed him to a contract. He was given a $600,000 advance, the largest one ever received at that time.

In the years that followed, Winter would release nearly 20 albums. He was praised for his high-energy performances and elaborate chops, leading to seven Grammy nominations and a nod as the 63rd best guitarist ever by Rolling Stone.

In addition to his solo work, Winter produced three Muddy Waters albums — 1977′s Hard Again, 1978′s I’m Ready, and 1981′s King Bee – as well as 1979′s Muddy “Mississippi” Waters – Live. Winter’s efforts as a producer earned him three Grammy Awards.

Winter is known for being an original performer at Woodstock ’69. He’s also brother of fellow music legend Edgar Winter.

Here's ten minutes' worth of that performance at Yasgur's Farm in upstate New York, the same summer I spent at Scout camp in deep East Texas as a Tenderfoot.

Most casual music fans knew him only as the brother of Edgar, who had the radio hit Frankenstein in 1972, the year before I entered high school.  So Johnny and his screaming blues guitar was just a little ahead of my formative years... but I caught up quickly.  There would be conflicting opinions on which album to get if you could only get one, but for me it would have to be Captured Live!, which mostly covered classics and came out in my senior year.  I still have the 8-track, in a case in my closet.

Like so many Texas artists of his genre -- the ones from my corner of Southeast Texas alone include ZZ Top, Janis Joplin, Lightnin' Hopkins, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Johnny Copeland, and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown -- never mind elsewhere-Texans Buddy Holly, T-Bone Walker, Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughn, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and on and on -- he came to be recognized as a virtuoso of his craft.

A bit more from Blabbermouth.

Speaking to last month, Winter said: "When I was about 12, I knew I wanted to be a musician. The blues had so much emotion and so much feeling; if you don't have that, you're not going to be good at it."

Asked if there was anything left for him to accomplish, Winter said: "I've never won a Grammy on my own — I'd like to do that. The ones I've got have been with Muddy. I've been nominated a lot of times but never won."

Regarding what he would like his legacy to be, Winter said: "I just hope I’m remembered as a good blues musician."

Dude, you made it.   Long ago.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Texas Confederate license plates and other detritus

-- The latest developments (off again, on again, appeal again by Greg Abbott) in the Lone Star State's bid to reject the distribution of a vanity license plate commemorating our, ah, "Southern heritage" made me search the archives for the lively discussion between irregular poster Open Source Dem and conservative former blogger nee gadfly commenter Matt Bramanti.  It includes a rejoinder from former Progress Texas honcho Mark Corcoran, relating to OSD's criticism of them at the time.

As with the ongoing conflagration in the Middle East, I'm not taking any sides here.  I think vanity plates are fallen fruit for the state coffers, with rubes ripe for fleecing giving the state their money for nothing.  It seems to be more stupid than buying a hundred dollars' worth of lottery tickets, but the P.T. Barnum rule is in effect here.

Update: Socratic Gadfly with some related thoughts, and also Constitution Daily.

-- Hillary Clinton thinks that offices with fewer corners would be a good thing.

To the dismay of Jon Stewart, Hillary Clinton did not make her big announcement on "The Daily Show" on Tuesday.

The comedian and talk show host opened his interview with the former secretary of state and possible presidential candidate by praising her memoir, "Hard Choices," before pivoting to the question Clinton is asked everywhere she goes.

"It's an incredibly complex and well-reasoned and eyewitness view," Stewart said of the book. "I think I speak for everybody when I say no one cares. They just want to know if you're running for president. Are you?"

"I was going to make an announcement, but I saw ... you kind of spoiled it," Clinton replied. "So I have to reconsider where I go do it."

Stewart then rephrased his question, and asked if she would like to work in an office that has corners.

"You know, I think that the world is so complicated, the fewer corners that you can have, the better," Clinton said to applause from the studio audience.

So coy.

-- Some Democrats seem determined to push Elizabeth Warren in, despite her specific declinations.  This is silly season for this sort of thing, folks.  And this phase is going to last all the way into the middle of next year -- through the current election cycle, through the holidays, and well into the next session of the Texas Legislature.

This mentality is the reason that there are Irish betting services accepting wagers on the British Open in 2015.  And Las Vegas sports books taking bids on next January's Super Bowl champion.

It's still more pointless than trying to handicap next spring's Kentucky Derby, and the contestants are all less attractive.  If you want to play a game like this AND have some influence on changing the political system as it exists today, then work on convincing Bernie Sanders to run -- as either a Democrat or a Green.  Your choice.  You already have my opinion in this regard.  Sanders is a much better option (we need Warren in the Senate as bank watchdog), with a much greater likelihood of success (in influencing the system, not winning).

-- Speaking of banksters: Citigroup paid a $7 billion fine to the US government, and a few other injured parties, for their 2008 Mortgage Meltdown crimes.  That also bought them the right to say that they did nothing wrong.  They wanted to settle at $5 billion, Uncle Sam said ten, and like a couple of used car salesmen, they met in the middle.  When Citigroup announced higher-than-expected earnings as a result of the better deal they got on the fine, their stock went up dramatically, and so did the rest of the market.

The Corleone family ain't got nothin' on them.

-- One toon (there are so many good ones already this week that I'm having trouble winnowing the field):

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Lots of campaign finance reports news today

None of which will be reported in this space.

Money is the root of all political evil, and no one has made that cliche' more obvious in this cycle than Greg Abbott and the brothers Koch.  Even the reporting on who raised how much from whom and how they spent it is insipid.  Here's proof of that from Wayne Slater.

Texas has no limits on political fundraising, and the SCOTUS is doing their dead-level best to see to it that the United States becomes more like us.  The only thing a campaign finance report should tell anyone is who the biggest crooks are.

So if you want to put yourself through your washing machine's spin cycle, knock yourself out.  I'm going to do what I can to keep assisting the Move to Amend folks in wringing the goddamned cash out of the system.

Because if every politician got the same (small) amount of public funds for their campaigns, you'd suddenly see a lot more responsiveness and honesty from your politicians.  Because then they would have to compete in the arena of ideas.  That would be anathema to a charlatan like Greg Abbott.  And Dan Patrick.  And on down the right-hand side.

Perhaps even the media would be able to cover political races in such a way that the candidates' words and deeds would be reported without its own bias and corrosive influence.  Because then the attack ads would be gone from the airwaves.

But until that day comes, they're all just going to keep feeding you vomit.  So the least we can do is not be good dogs and continue to eat it, okay?