Friday, September 21, 2018

So what can Texas Democrats do to save 2018 before it's too late?

I don't think success is going to depend on more people like me holding their noses and voting for Democrats who are busy chasing disillusioned Republican crossovers.  I expect the black vote will be there for the Donks, more so than it was in 2016.  Not in cumulative, this being a midterm, but in percentage and intensity, partly driven by the castigation -- or remorse -- from sitting out the presidential election two years ago, and partly by circumstances of the past few years: #BlackLivesMatter (from Texans Sandra Bland in 2015 to Botham Jean this month), Colin Kaepernick's protest twisted out of context, efforts to end the practice of cash bail gaining steam because of the deaths it is causing, and similar issues of concern to POC.

And this.


Find them all here.

So that leaves one large, mostly untapped demographic.  The ones Democrats have been waiting on for several election cycles now.
Note this cartoon was first published in 2010.

-- Take this, from Rafael Medina, the Senior Media Coordinate at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and posted at Latino Rebels, to heart.

The 50th anniversary of Hispanic Heritage Month kicked off this week. It is a commemorative month during which the United States celebrates the diversity, heritage, and accomplishments of Hispanic and Latinx Americans.

The Hispanic and Latinx community that I know is vibrant and thriving; through our deeply embedded, rich histories and culture, and through a relentless faith in the American Dream, we keep our nation’s legacy as a beacon of opportunity for all who live. We drive the economy with our entrepreneurial talents, enrich the arts and humanities, and have had a lasting impact in defending the nation’s most cherished ideals, leading the way for social and political progress.

While it’s true that the Trump administration presents an exceptionally challenging moment, we are resilient, and our collective voice is powerful. And what better way to celebrate this great truth than to leverage our tremendous potential to influence policy by registering to vote? In the face of constant attacks, we cannot afford to leave our power on the table.

Donald Trump’s presidency is marked by attitudes and policies that disregard our contributions and dehumanize our communities. This was very clear from the day he announced his presidential bid, immediately characterizing Mexicans as criminals and rapists.

While still on the campaign trail, then-candidate Donald Trump repeatedly belittled congressmenjudges, and journalists of Latino descent. And after losing the popular vote, he falsely accused millions of people of voting illegally against him and even created a voter fraud commission that was later disbanded with nothing to show for it because he had no evidence of this.

All the while, Trump’s statements and policies have only become more inflammatory and racist under his benighted presidency.

Just ten days before the President proclaimed Hispanic Heritage Month last year, his administration announced plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, upending the lives and livelihood of more than 800,000 Dreamers. The Trump administration then decided to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for individuals from El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, resulting in the loss of status for 250,000 immigrants that have been living and working in the U.S. lawfully for approximately 20 years and are parents to more than 246,000 U.S.-born children. And although the administration may be hoping people will forget about its decision to take more than 2,600 children away from their parents at the southern border, today more than 400 children remain separated, including children under the age of 5. And in place of separating children, the administration last week issued a proposed rule that it hopes will allow it to incarcerate children with their parents indefinitely.

And we now know that Donald Trump manipulated the budget process to divert nearly $10 million in hurricane preparedness funds so that he could continue his racist abuse against immigrant families. This came only hours after saying the response to Hurricane María “was an incredible, unsung success,” and after it became public that his administration’s FEMA has approved only 75 out of 2,431 requests for funeral assistance from victims of María. Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his contempt for Puerto Ricans by claiming to the American public that María was not a “real catastrophe,” and lobbing rolls of paper towels as if he were shooting baskets, and as if they were sufficient to remedy the lack of real aid for which his administration was directly responsible. Since then, thousands of displaced Puerto Ricans have come to the mainland because of the administration’s criminally neglectful and morally corrupt response to María’s enormous devastation, and nearly 3000 American citizens in Puerto Rico died as a result—a figure that Trump shamefully questioned.

From immigration to Puerto Rico to criminal justice to voting rights, the Trump administration has acted in direct opposition to our shared interests. And while the Trump administration may continue to disregard our livelihood, vilify and dehumanize us, it will never diminish our self-worth. We are bigger and more determined than his callous indifference to our pain and suffering.

It’s time for a change in leadership.

This Hispanic Heritage Month, we will celebrate by reminding each other of all the elected officials who treated us like second-class citizens under Donald Trump’s watch and by making plans to vote only for those who have our best interests in mind.

It is our legacy of perseverance in the face of adversity, of fighting and securing success for our families and communities in the future, that we celebrate this and every Hispanic Heritage Month. And that legacy will live on.

That’s why, this cycle, we are seeing an unprecedented number of Latinos running for office. But this is not enough. If we do not register to vote, we will never be able to hold the Trump administration accountable.

National Voter Registration Day is September 25, and it’s the perfect opportunity to demand leaders who recognize our tremendous contributions to this nation. Our community deserves leaders who are firmly committed to supporting and fighting for policies that open doors for us to realize all our talents and succeed, treat us with respect and dignity, and carry on our legacy to build a brighter future.

Together, we will overcome the constant threats from Donald Trump and his allies.

Pa’lante.

It's true that Harris County's Latin@ turnout almost tripled over 2014 (based on surnames, which is a tenuous proposition; absent better measurements, the best we have), but that does not appear to be enough to crest the blue wave.  Democrats need RGV Latinxs in the worst way, and it's also true that there are unregistered Latinx voters in every corner of the state.  Texas is officially dead last in voter turnout and any path to victory starts with getting more people of every age and color and gender registered to vote.

So here's some unsolicited advice for all you people working hard to get your Democrats elected from a former Democratic precinct chair (in three different southwest Harris County precincts), the 2006 statewide coordinator for the David Van Os for Attorney General campaign, a former election judge on the Harris County Ballot Board, a volunteer on too many campaigns to remember and a financial contributor to even more, but since 2014 a gradually greater disillusioned Democrat, to the point of being a Harris Green Party member and supporter.  Take it for it's worth to you.

-- Note Stace's resentment as a clue and act on it; Latin@s are going to have to be begged to vote for Democrats.  So if you're a candidate, or working for a campaign, or just a precinct chair trying to turn out your neighborhood's vote, and up to the deadline to register to vote in the November election -- October 9, thirty days before Election Day -- start begging.  Statewide candidates and campaigns should take all the money they have and run ads on Spanish language media, beginning if possible with the Beto-Cruz debate this Friday night on Telemundo, TeleXitos, or any of the other the Spanish-language media outlets across the state broadcasting it (courtesy Mike McGuff).  The same goes for Lupe Valdez's debate with Greg Abbott on September 28th.  If all that can be afforded is a few radio spots in the RGV, then do that.

In the Houston media market, Telemundo was the highest-rated television station in the last reporting period among adults from sign-on to sign-off (somewhat on the strength of World Cup coverage) regardless of language spoken.  I have little doubt that the same is true of the local Spanish language broadcaster in every single MSA across the state.

-- Mobilize ground troops to register voters.  This event is a must for every campaign, statewide and local, in Houston.  HCDP has a million things you can attend this weekend, but if you're smart about it you'll go where the mostly non-voters are and not where your friends are going.  There'll be time to chat and brunch in about seven weeks.  Leave it all on the field or cry about it in November.

Get voter registrars in Fiesta stores, the local mercados, Catholic churches, the East End in Houston (and typically other Texas cities as well), the barrios in cities large and small, up and down Texas.  Hook up with another Latinx candidate -- or anybody who speaks Spanish, but a brown face is recommended -- and knock on doors.  NO phone calls, please.  A desire for worn out shoes and calloused knuckles are what's needed.

Once the registration deadline has passed, then it's all hands on deck for GOTV.  For the next 2.5 weeks, the electorate must be expanded.

It's now or never.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Some cold hard reality for Texas Dems

Tough day yesterday, with the Q poll showing the Zodiac Killer ahead of Beto by nine points, and then the stunning-not-so-stunning loss by Pete Gallego in the special election to replace convicted felon Carlos Uresti in west Texas.

SD-19's geographics are a close match to CD-23's, so this portends ominously for Gina Ortiz Jones against Will Hurd in 49 days.  She's the one wearing black on Gallego's left, at last night's wake victory party concession speech.


Lots of bragging by Team Pachyderm about the win.  It sets up the Texas Senate nicely in 2019 for a two-thirds majority to ram through their usual agenda of large piles of extremist elephant shit.  Texas Dems got outmaneuvered on the special election cycle (that's how Abbott rolls; he'll do it again to TX-6 as soon as Sylvia Garcia wakes up and submits her resignation in a way he feels is acceptable), and then were outspent and outhustled.


Gallego is a three-time loser and his political career is mercifully over, but hang this loss around the necks of Gilberto Hinojosa and Glen Maxey, who quite obviously didn't see it coming and/or didn't do nearly enough to stop it.  Oh, and maybe Bexar Democrats could stop fighting with each other long enough to mobilize turnout and win an election.  That's probably too much to ask for as well.

As for Beto ...

Quinnipiac polled likelies, which is a better barometer than 'registered', so this nine-point deficit is blacker than the usual dark cloud.  A week ago, however, Joshua Blank and Jim Henson at the Texas Politics Project -- they're the guys at UT that also do the Texas Tribune's polling -- busted Beto's axles with these numbers.

A series of recent articles focused on Republican concerns over Senator Ted Cruz's reelection chances has Democrats beaming, and national reporters falling all over themselves to get in front of the possible defeat of Cruz in deep red Texas. The attraction of the storyline for editors and reporters is obvious enough, and poll numbers showing low single-digit leads for Cruz provide a ready rationale for ever more breathless speculation on Beto O'Rourke's chances of pulling off an upset. But a look at recent election outcomes and some simple back-of-the-envelope math highlight just how unlikely an O'Rourke victory is in Texas.

While "unlikely" doesn't mean impossible – this is where we usually insert something about a "non-zero probabability" – the magnitude of the change in the patterns evident in recent Texas elections would have to be historic. If we consider recent midterm elections since 2010, the average Republican vote total has been 2,798,519 votes, which we can round to 2.8 million for simplicity. The average Democratic vote total in those races has been 1,846,459, which we can round up to 1.9 million (again, for simplicity). This means that Democrats, on average, have to make up approximately 900,000 votes to get in the range of a tie in Texas. What would this take? (The table below also includes presidential results from 2016, just to provide context, though those results are not factored into these averages).

Go look at the table at the link.  The bold emphasis next is mine.

A good starting point is one of the underlying assumption of many assessments of O'Rourke's chances: the potential migration of votes from the expected GOP vote either to O'Rourke or to the Texas army of the non-voting. The most recently released poll, as of this writing, showed 15 percent of likely Republican voters saying that they'll cast a vote for O'Rourke. According to a few different analytic approaches using University of Texas / Texas Tribune polling data of registered voters, as well as Texas Lyceum data of registered and likely voters, the size of the poll of potential Republican cross-over voters is probably closer to 6 percent. This estimate is drawn from current polling, which almost certainly reflects a different underlying population than the likely electorate once general election voting begins, so the size and magnitude of the shift in this data may or may not emerge in actual voting. But assuming just for the sake of this exercise that O'Rourke has or will convince 15 percent of Republican voters to cast a vote for him (which would be quite impressive), we can subtract those votes from the average Republican vote total and add them to the average Democratic vote total, resulting in 420,000 votes shifting to the O'Rourke column. This would cut his likely deficit to 480,000 votes.* While this 15 percent estimate seems high given the context (and divergence of) the polling data, it tests the outer limits for one of the clear concerns of Republicans in Texas and elsewhere: the possibility of either a lack of enthusiasm or outright discontent leading to an increase in Republican non-voting among usually reliable midterm voters.

In addition to discontent with Cruz amongst Republicans, O'Rourke would also have to turn out Democrats at significantly higher rates than normal. So let's assume, again for the sake of argument, that Democratic turnout increases by 20 percent, which would add another 380,000 votes to O'Rourke's total. Even under this optimistic scenario, combined with the outer-bound estimate of Republican defections, this surge in turnout would only result in a decrease in the overall expected gap between O'Rourke and Cruz to 100,000 votes – a little more than 3.5 percent under our rough turnout assumption – still in Cruz's favor.

This simple, back-of-the-envelope calculation using incredibly optimistic expectations (if you're a Democrat) about the electorate shows why, when experts are asked about O'Rourke's chances at toppling Cruz, they are so cautious in feeding the hype. Even under extremely rosy circumstances, O'Rourke needs BOTH a momentous shift in voter sentiment, AND a momentous shift in Democratic turnout: possible, but still not probable.

Given the trend lines revealed last night, some anecdotal evidence like this from RG Ratcliffe at Texas Monthly, and our election in Texas may be over before the voting begins.  (Aside to Frances at Crooks and Liars: No, this is not how Beto will win Texas.  GOP crossovers are not enough.  He needs engorged voter turnout, most of it from Latinxs, and he is probably not going to get it.)

Guess we'll wait for Kuff to lengthily excerpt something tomorrow the Houston Chronicle published this morning on both these topics.  This is all he's good for today on the SD-19 result, though he expressed confidence yesterday morning about the outcome, which looks laughable in hindsight.  In the meantime, Gilbert Garcia for the SAEN breaks down how Flores won.

He's also mocked out the latest NYT poll result for TX-23 -- Hurd 51, Ortiz Jones 43 -- which likewise appears almost ridiculous now in the morning after the SD-19 debacle.  Maybe it's a good thing he has nothing to say yet about the Q poll.

(Lately I'm just embarrassed for that guy and his blog.)

Texas Democrats need to use these two items as a serious wake-up call for November.  Can they get their act together and salvage some wins before the GOP breaks the Blue Wave completely here?

Not looking too hot this morning.

Update: Shortly after this was posted, a Reuters/Ipsos poll was released showing Beto with a two-point lead over Cruz among likely voters.  Somebody has to be an outlier; maybe both.  An 11-point swing between two typically highly-regarded pollsters, taken back-to-back, is patently absurd.  This is the sort of thing that makes me question the validity of polling science altogether.  Look for heavy spin -- translation: fundraising emails in your inbox.  FWIW, Reuters has Greg Abbott leading Lupe Valdez 50-41, matching his smallest lead to date.  So this is either grand news for Team Donkey (only English speakers were polled) or there's some false hope being generated.  I report, you decide.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Texas Dems I'll be voting for


The National Rifle Association has endorsed the state's top law enforcement official, who because of his felony indictments cannot own any guns himself.  Ken Paxton is the nuttiest of gun nuts anyway, declaring after the shooting at the church in Sutherland Springs that if more parishioners had been packing, fewer of 'em would have been sent to Heaven early.

Ken Paxton -- and 19 other GOP state AGs -- are asking the federal courts to end the pre-existing conditions acceptability requirement for Obamacare.  Ken Paxton's ultimate goal is to kill Obamacare altogether, and he is actually succeeding in doing so piecemeal.

Obamacare is on Paxton's list of ten things he despises (so are debates).  Paxton, with his lazy eye and slow drawl, is a caricature of a Texas Christian conservative gone badder than any cartoon villain: corrupt, venal, stupid, and built to stay that way.

Justin Nelson, his Democratic opponent, is by contrast solid and well-qualified and has done the hard work of getting publicity without a lot to show for it (although what he has earned has been very favorable).  I could pick a couple of nits over the use of 'access' to health care' on his website, maybe his clerking for Justice O'Connor back in the day, but those are minor enough for me to let slide.

We need Paxton removed, and we can't count on the Texas courts to do it for us.

============

State Comptroller Glenn Hegar hasn't written any steamy novels or left state websites unsecured for hackers to run wild and free like his predecessor Susan Combs, but I'm still voting for Joi Chevalier in the statewide race that has gotten the least attention of any this cycle.  This puts me in agreement with Ted at jobsanger, which is a rare thing.

Democratic Land Commissioner challenger Miguel Suazo just secured the endorsement of Jerry Patterson, the former GOP LC who gave up the job four years ago to run in the scrum of the LG primary.  Incumbent George Pee Bush has alienated more conservatives than just Patterson with his screwball Alamo business despite winning the March primary over "Hogleg".  (Chris Elam, mentioned in the TM link, used to blog from Sugar Land under the title 'Safety for Dummies', which he scrubbed off the Web long ago.  A devoted Tom DeLay acolyte back in the day, it seems as if Elam's mentors have all let him down.  Somebody should ask him where his support goes these days, if one can't tell from where he's drawing a paycheck.)

Suazo has made hay with Bush also fumbling Harvey relief, but the young Democrat has an "all of the above" energy strategy which doesn't particularly suit me.  It would be awfully difficult for a Texas land commissioner to stand against the fossil fuel companies and expect to get elected.  He favors wind and solar and renewables, so I'll swallow hard and click the box beside his name.

Roman McAllen is running against incumbent Republican Christi Craddick, daughter of former Texas House Speaker Tom, for Railroad Commissioner.

A governing body for the state's oil and gas interests -- shockingly, fewer 5% of Texans even know that much about it -- where cronyism and corruption is the rule, McAllen stands out for his blunt talk about the truths associated with the Railroad Commission.  He's been endorsed by the Sierra Club and Our Revolution ETX.  Let's see if we can get just one vote out of three on the TXRRC that isn't bought and paid for by O&G.

====================

One more, separate post.

The Weekly Wrangle

September 16 was Mexican Independence Day, according to Millard Fillmore's Bathtub, so the Texas Progressive Alliance hopes all Texans were able to proudly fly their flags yesterday.  Here comes the blog post and lefty news roundup from a busy week passed.


A US Border Patrol supervisor was arrested in Laredo for the murders of four women in what officials are calling "serial killings".

Authorities issue more search warrants as the investigation into the murder of Botham Jean by a Dallas police officer continue.  Experts are disagreeing on the credibility of the officer involved.

The Texas SBOE chooses to remember the Alamo's heroes, but ignore the historical contributions of Helen Keller and Hillary Clinton.

Houston's ABC affiliate KTRK reports the Cajun Navy has headed toward the Carolinas to utilize experience gained during Harvey to help out the victims of Florence.


Southwest Key, the company that wants to house immigrant children in a facility in downtown Houston, has sued the city claiming that the permitting process required to open it has been an "improper political exercise" that has been "motivated by hostility" toward federal immigration law.

And Texas Monthly's Bob Moore has the story about Tornillo's tent city for unaccompanied immigrant children doubling its capacity.


As we barrel toward our first US Senate debate this Friday night, the latest developments in the race between Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke include:

-- Cruz mailing out campaign solicitations marked "Official Travis County Summons".  State legislator Gene Wu says that's a violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

-- SocraticGadfly wondering why states' rights wingnuts like Cruz can't talk more about the truly overlooked Ninth Amendment and less about the un-overlooked Tenth Amendment, especially in judicial confirmation hearings.

-- And Sanford Nowlin at the San Antonio Current taking the measure of O'Rourke.

Off the Kuff published interviews with Congressional candidates Steven David (CD-8, incumbent Brady) and Adrienne Bell (CD- 14, incumbent Weber).

David Collins wonders if voters actually care about foreign policy positions when assessing Congressional candidates, and Zachery Taylor asks if oligarchy is creating another wave of fake progressives (and if so, for what purpose).

Grits for Breakfast collates some criminal justice reform implications associated with a few of the fall Texas Senate races.  Texas Public Radio covers the last days before the special election for SD-19 between Bill Flores and Pete Gallego.  And the Texas Tribune reports that Texas Republicans are worried their supermajority in the upper chamber will be lost.

Raise Your Hand Texas reads between the lines of the Texas Education Agency's budget request.

Save Buffalo Bayou thinks the recent 'A' given Galveston Bay's water quality is misleading.

Texas Vox separates energy subsidy myth from fact.

BeyondBones catalogs what the devastating fire at the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro means to the world.

Kevin Curtin at the Austin Chronicle says goodbye to the iconic Threadgill's World Headquarters.

Stace at Dos Centavos wrote about an old friend's biography, which won a major literary award.

And Harry Hamid found a life away from blogging, but doesn't feel like he's through blogging.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

#VoteBlueNoMatterWho? #NoCanDo

#AnyBlueJustWon'tDo for me.


As DWT posted a few weeks ago, it's almost nostril-pinching time for some.

Beto, as many of you know, is on Colbert tonight.  Panties and money will be thrown.  Update: Keep your clicker close, because Ted Cruz has bought ad time during the show.  What a likeable guy.

As I mentioned last week, he will have enough caysh to win.  Lack of name recognition should be no excuse for his losing, either.  That leaves only one thing: Latin@ turnoutSeveral media outlets have already mentioned it as key to Bob's victory, so I'll just point you to Stace, who -- as referenced in Monday's Wrangle -- seems to be using the recent NALEO poll for excusing low turnout well in advance of the election.  Let's hope I'm just misunderstanding him, but ...

... frankly, if Trump and ICE and separating children from their parents and holding kids in cages, and policies like this, and Democrats like Lupe Valdez and Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar and Lina Hidalgo and Adrian Garcia and a shit-ton of others on the ballot aren't enough to motivate turnout, then maybe turnout is impervious to motivation.  Exactly how much fucking worse must it get for La Raza in this country before they do something about it?

If I remember history rightly, black people have been tortured, murdered, lynched, dragged, burned, and hanged just for trying to vote.  And then they were poll-taxed.  And they're still pretty well kept from voting by any means Republicans deem necessary to this day.  Maybe I have a blind spot, but I just don't recall Latinxs having to put up with as much bullshit through the years as that.

If Latin@s (and maybe this should be read as 'Mexicans') are waiting for their engraved invitation to a banquet where all of their wishes, hopes, and dreams will be granted ahead of their citizen participation in selecting our leaders ... then somebody needs to take them aside and explain that politics doesn't work that way.

Power concedes nothing without a demand, said Frederick Douglass.  And the way that looks, hermanos y hermanas, is: first you show up, then you demand.  Your demand correspondingly includes withholding your future support if your prior demands are not met.  Maybe try something different besides doing nothing this year, see what happens.

On the bright side for Beto, my shero Sema is on board.


She's made a pragmatic political calculation here, to Gadfly's irritation.  She plans on challenging Cornyn in 2020, and there's simply no way that her harsh criticisms of the Democratic Party establishment -- published as an op-ed in the Chronic in late July-- would be forgiven if she did what I'm doing and went "bah-fungoo" at O'Rourke.

I'm gonna cut her some slack.  Part of this is inherently being DSA; if you're running on their ballot line, you're inside their party.  You are expected to fall in line in November.  She may have simply given in to Beto's most obvious charm: his empathy.  He listens well.

Let's also be clear that Poop Cruz, whoever it is Tweeting for him, his comms team generally, and the Texas GOP at large are the gifts that keep on giving to O'Rourke.  They are doing everything they possibly can to lose this race for the Zodiac Killer.  Beto has also been blessed with the most favorable media coverage ever.  For the life of me I cannot understand how he dances through these continuously blooming meadows of lilies, gilded and not.


There's no reason he should get special recognition for this.  He's already sworn off corporate money and PAC money (allegedly), right?  I find plaudits from McKibben here the equivalent of whooping for a 7-year old who successfully completes his first unattended poop, or a 14-year old who has managed to tie both his shoelaces.  It's very typical of the Congressman's national media coverage.  Read all of this, with the excerpt being the last sentence.

If O’Rourke really does have a chance to win this November, then he’s going to have to prove to be the political rock star all those profiles keep making him out to be. 

No Beto for me, but Mrs. Diddie will give him a vote.  Same for Elizabeth Fletcher (why does a corporate attorney go by such a childish, childhood name?), whom I find charisma-impaired on top of her more recent Labor Day hypocrisy.


Wasn't exactly her firm's position in 2016.  (Your vehement protests against personal characterization as a janitors' union buster have been duly noted, Lizzie.)

Her vanquished primary opponent, Laura Moser, has been graceful and hard-working in support of Ds of all stripes since March.  Both Sema and Laura are just better Democrats than me. 

While Moser would be more accurately called a Berniecrat and Sema DSA, I personally am more of a hybrid when you consider my affinity for the Greens, or any independent candidate running to the left of the Donks.  I like DSA and their inside strategy, but I'm also more than willing to part company when certain right-leaning Democrats -- Henry Cuellar, anyone?  Bueller?  -- fall too far outside tolerance limits, as they do for me with Beto and Lizzie.  YMMV, and this is not what the vast majority of Texas Democrats are accustomed to doing, as we all know.

I have a few more Dems I won't be voting for, and a list of those that I will, which may surprise some of you reading this far.  I'll try to get that posted before the weekend.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance observes that honesty is no longer a required attribute for Republican judicial nominees, but apparently that simply does not matter to Republican Senators.

Not.  A.  Single.  One.


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

Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who shot Botham Shem Jean in his apartment -- erroneously thinking she was entering her own -- has finally been arrested on manslaughter charges after a few days' delay, attributed to the Texas Rangers' assumption of the investigation from the DPD.

Texas Standard reports that a federal judge buried the fetal remains law passed by the Lege last year, but the case will be appealed to the country's most conservative appellate court, the Fifth Circuit.  And it's on to the SCOTUS, with Brett Kavanaugh sitting in judgment, should it lose there.  Consider the bill a zombie, resting for awhile before it rises and walks again.

Influence Texas and Texans for Public Justice announced the release of Influence TX OS, an open source app providing campaign finance and voting records of Texas state politicians.  This is a very valuable and insightful tool for those who wish to hold elected officials accountable for their political donations.  For example: why did "good Democrat" Gene Wu take $7,500 from one of the world's greediest people, Alice Walton?  (He has -- so far -- refused to answer me.)

Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke both revved up their Senate campaigns with rallies in Harris County, the state's largest and most purple.


“Whatever you’re doing do, please do more of it,” O’Rourke told supporters packed in to the Houston Stampede Event Center, a 12-mile drive from where Cruz first campaigned Saturday in the area. “Not a single one of us wants to wake up with anything other than a hangover from celebrating a victory on the 7th of November."

Harris County — home to the state's most populous city, Houston — has long been regarded as a battleground in Texas politics, though it swung solidly Democratic in the 2016 presidential election, when Hillary Clinton routed Donald Trump there by 12 points. The county previously delivered much closer margins in statewide elections, including Cruz's 2-point win there over Democratic opponent Paul Sadler in 2012.

Off the Kuff published an interview with Mike Collier, Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor.

Stace at Dos Centavos interprets a recent poll as saying that neither Democrats nor Republicans want the Latin@ vote, which appears to be excusing low 2018 turnout in advance for the critical election demographic.

By contrast, the AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) voting bloc is feeling energized by the candidacy of CD-22 Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni in Fort Bend County.

For years, the Texas Democratic Party has bet its future on an imminent, but never-quite-materializing demographic destiny. Eventually, the thinking goes, the rapidly growing Latino population would exercise their political muscle, turning Texas blue. But that hasn’t happened. Meanwhile, Asian Americans are another rapidly growing, low-turnout demographic in the state. As a small, relatively conservative, highly fragmented voting bloc, they’ve attracted far less attention from Democratic operatives. But Asians have undergone a massive political realignment to the left and they could hold the key to Democratic gains in the diversifying purple suburbs of Texas. At least that’s Kulkarni’s bet.

“When I first started, I was told not to bother with the Asian-American vote because they don’t turn out,” Kulkarni told the Observer. “Well, I said, maybe that’s because you’re not reaching out to them.”

Better Texas Blog gives a state budget update.

Pages of Victory quotes the HouChron in asking again: did Harvey makes us all sick?  There are indeed still more questions than answers.

SocraticGadfly observed that Glenn Greenwald is getting close to "Deep State" conspiracy theory talk on the Trump Administration on things like the "anonymous" op-ed.

David Collins takes down the piety of Nike -- not the protest of Colin Kaepernick, just their making money off of it -- in "Das Kaepital", a barbed commentary pointed at end-stage capitalism.

G. Elliott Morris discusses the current odds of a U.S. House flip by the Dems.

Texas Freedom Network points out that the SBOE is getting ready to write -- or rewrite -- history again, in the form of approving public school textbook curricula this week.

Juanita Jean at the Beauty Shop always believed that the Trump inaugural photos had been doctored.

The Great God Pan Is Dead reviews some Soviet avant-garde art.

Texas Monthly's Doyin Oyenyi writes about a (somewhat elusive) Guy Fieri meme that mocks Austin's envy of Houston's food scene.  *Update: Meme now shown in link and below.


And Sarah Martinez at the San Antonio Current has important Whataburger news.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Beto still rising


Post-Labor Day ads are allegedly shifting into high gear; thank Jeebus I have that crap blocked online and don't watch any teevee channels where I would be subjected to it.

Beto's Ellen appearance (two short videos there; you should watch them) got swamped by Trump's meltdown over Bob Woodward's book and the Kavanaugh hearings.  I thought he would get more mileage out of that; maybe he is, or will.  Debates seem to be on the backburner.  Maybe that will also change next week.  This week I'm of the opinion that O'Rourke is going to have all the money he needs in order to win, so he might not have to debate Cruz, who could score too many points against him in a Jimmy Kimmel, one-on-one, hoops challenge kind of way.  The Zodiac Killer could -- theoretically -- snuff the rising star with just a few well-placed shots, puns intended.

Let the skirmishes play out on Twitter, with Avenatti's publicity-hawking rally countering Trump's and the crowd-funded billboards featuring poorly-aged Trump Tweets and such.  Playing Mr. Nice Guy, staying above the fray, is a winning strategy.  So far.

But I still can't see a path to casting a ballot for him no matter what the polls say or how close the race gets.  I'm forced to undervote the US Senate race, as Alyson Kennedy did not qualify even as a write-in.  I reached out to the Dallas SWP last week for comment; no response at post time.

That leaves Bob, Ted, and a Libertarian (TexTrib's list matches the one at the SOS website).  I'm taking a hard pass on all of that.

Monday, September 03, 2018

The Labor Day Wrangle

To honor the struggle of the American (and global) worker, this week's aggregation of blog posts and left-leaning political news is interspersed with a few collections of the history of and forecasts for labor in our late (end?) - stage capitalist system.

The Wrangle opens with the latest tropical storm developments in the Gulf of Mexico.

So what does this mean for Texas? Unless Gordon unexpectedly tracks more westward toward the Texas coast, the biggest question for our region is the extent of rainfall. If the storm holds to the forecast track, Houston is probably looking at something on the order of 1 to 4 inches of rain from this coming Thursday through next weekend. If the storm moves a bit more westward, and then slows down over Texas, we could see quite a bit more than that. But for now, most available forecast modeling indicates rain totals toward the lower end.

As the president likes to say: "we'll see what happens".

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US Senate race developments included Ted Cruz finally getting worried about Beto O'Rourke's challenge, so much so that he got down on his hands and knees and asked Trump for help.  And Trump obliged, which prompted an immediate response from both Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg and Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti.


I am excited to announce that I will be leading a large resistance rally in Texas at the exact same time of Trump’s, details tba,” (Avenatti) tweeted. “All groups are welcome to join. We must fight fire with fire and we must send a message that we will fight to make America America again.”

Beto's appearance on Ellen DeGeneres' teevee talk show is scheduled this weekThe Texas Observer's Justin Miller followed O'Rourke and some of his volunteers down at the border as he worked to shore up his weakest flank, Latin@s.  There was a disturbing reveal among the mostly positive spin and news.

It’s hard to convince unlikely voters to vote when they don’t answer the door. For the 45 minutes I tagged along, (TX-16 Democratic nominee and presumptive successor to O'Rourke in Congress Veronica) knocked on about a dozen doors and got answers at only one or two. She’d leave a handwritten note, hoping that might help.

Tagging along with Escobar is Sergio Mora, a former Webb County Democratic Party chair. The enthusiastic crowd at last night’s event makes him think change just might be afoot in Laredo. But is there any other evidence that voters are unusually fired up. He shrugs. “That’s the big experiment this cycle.”

One El Paso volunteer tells me that most people who answered their doors in Laredo had never heard of O’Rourke and many had no intention of voting.

This sounds unfortunately familiar; in TX-07, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher apparently has the same problem, as told by The Atlantic's Elaina Plott.

Leoneo Torres is 20 years old, Hispanic, and a registered Democrat. Born and raised in Gulfton, he now works at Galaxy Auto Insurance. The stores lining the Orchard Green strip mall are advertised almost entirely in Spanish, save for an African deli. Torres told me he’s one of the few fluent English speakers in the area.

He voted for the first time in 2016, casting his ballot at the community center nearby for Hillary Clinton and every other Democrat down ticket. He’s active on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and said he and his friends talk often about Cruz challenger Beto O’Rourke. Most recently, they shared with each other a video of O’Rourke skateboarding in a Whataburger parking lot. He’s excited to vote in November, he said: “This is about the next six years for our state, you know? It’s a big deal.”
So he was surprised when I mentioned Fletcher’s name. “Who did you say? Elizabeth?” he asked. He turned to his computer and began Googling. He clicked on her campaign page. “Oh, cool,” he said. “She’s a Democrat.”

“I mean, yeah, I’ll look into her, but this is the first I’ve heard of her. Kind of weird, right? I wonder if she’s planning on coming around here,” he said, and shrugged. “I guess we’ll see.”
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The Pullman Strike of 1894 (via Dandelion Salad)



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SocraticGadfly de-hagiographied -- de-hagiographed? -- the appalling spectacle that was the state funeral of John McCain.

A federal judge gave Ken Paxton and a handful of other extremist state attorneys general a legal victory over Obamacare.

The Internal Revenue Service could hand Texas more than $300 million after a federal court in North Texas ruled that the federal government improperly charged a handful of states millions in state Medicaid program fees that help fund the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

[...]

States shouldn’t count on a victory just yet, said William Sage, the James R. Dougherty Chair for Faculty Excellence at the University of Texas School of Law and professor of surgery and perioperative care at Dell Medical School.

“It’s really important to point out the irony of winning $300 million back from the federal government for Medicaid, when Texas turned down $100 billion from the federal government for Medicaid,” he said.

Meanwhile, Texas and Wisconsin lawyers are set to argue in court Wednesday that Obamacare should be declared unconstitutional, according to Paxton’s office.

And a year after Harvey, the Houston Chronicle reports that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is finally starting to do its job.

Two petroleum tanks located in a sprawling terminal along Buffalo Bayou in Galena Park, 8 miles (13 kilometers) southeast of downtown Houston, first sprung leaks on Aug. 31 of last year when the tanks shifted on their foundations during days of heavy rainfall during Harvey, according to documents and a statement from Magellan.

Those broken-down tanks spilled gasoline and ultimately spawned a leak that lasted for more than 12 days and created more than 2 million pounds (0.91 million kilograms) of air pollution — the storm's largest pollution incident, the Houston Chronicle reported.

But it took another 295 days before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality sent its first notice of enforcement to that company — Magellan Terminal Holdings LP's Galena Park Terminal — on July 6, state records show.

The Houston Chronicle and The Associated Press teamed up in March to describe the impact of 100 major releases and hazardous waste spills that socked Houston alone — most of which were under-reported and went without investigation for months as state and federal agencies scrambled to react to the environmental damage that accompanied Harvey's floods.

Harris County pollution control officials so far have cited eight of the biggest Harvey-related polluters, including the Magellan terminal. They sent out most notices only days after the series was published, records show.

State environmental proceeded more slowly. This week, TCEQ spokesman Brian McGovern said the agency has issued notices of enforcement to 68 Harvey polluters.

About 14 of those notices went to refineries and chemical plants, according to a list provided by McGovern. At least five of those industrial polluters were specifically cited for Harvey-related violations, but others received notices for pollution problems that predated or followed the storm, records show.

Most of the state's Harvey-related enforcement actions came after April 6, when Gov. Greg Abbott lifted a 7-month-long emergency order that had suspended most of the state's environmental reporting rules, according to lists provided by the state.

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The WSWS gives an update on the progress -- and regress -- of unions, particularly striking teachers, on this holiday.

Labor Day 2018 is being celebrated today in the United States and Canada. As is the case every year, the day will be marked in the US with a few demonstrations organized by the AFL-CIO, where union officials and Democratic Party politicians deliver empty and hypocritical speeches. This year, however, Labor Day takes place amidst a resurgence of class struggle that is bringing workers into ever more direct conflict with the corporatist and anti-working class trade unions.

With public schools reopening, teachers are renewing their fight for substantial wage improvements and increased funding for public education. In the state of Washington, where in 2013 Democratic Governor Jay Inslee oversaw the largest corporate tax cut in US history—$8.7 billion for aircraft and defense giant Boeing—teachers have walked out in several districts. Despite efforts by the unions to shut down the struggles, there are increasing demands from rank-and-file educators for a statewide strike.

Last week, teachers in Los Angeles voted by 98 percent to authorize a strike in the nation’s second-largest school district, with 640,000 students and over 33,000 teachers. In Detroit, teachers and parents are livid over high levels of lead and copper in drinking water, just two years after Detroit teachers waged a series of wildcat sickouts over decaying schools and underfunded classrooms. The school district has been forced to shut off water to all the city’s schools.

In the states where teachers waged statewide walkouts earlier this year, none of the issues motivating the strikes have been resolved. In Arizona, the state Supreme Court just threw off the ballot a tax initiative, called Invest in Education, which would have raised income taxes by a meager 3 to 4 percentage points on individuals and households earning more than $250,000. The unions, the Democrats and their affiliated organizations promoted the initiative as the solution to the funding crisis when they conspired to shut down the six-day strike by 60,000 Arizona teachers last May. In the end, however, the ruling class would not countenance the slightest incursion on its moneymaking operations.

More:

The trade unions have worked systematically to prevent strikes and, if unable, to quickly isolate these struggles and sell them out.

• The teacher unions have rushed to settle a dispute in Seattle, the largest school district in the state of Washington, in an effort to prevent a statewide walkout. The teacher strikes in the spring were not initiated by the unions but emerged through a rebellion of rank-and-file educators against them.

• After the labor agreement covering 31,000 workers at US Steel and ArcelorMittal expired Saturday, the United Steelworkers union has forced workers to remain on the job despite the demand for historic rollbacks by the highly profitable companies.

• A month after the July 31 expiration of the contracts covering 230,000 workers at United Parcel Service, the Teamsters has defied the overwhelming strike mandate by workers and is trying to push through a contract introducing lower wages and part-time conditions for package delivery drivers, along with poverty-level wages for warehouse workers.

• The Communications Workers of America has kept 7,000 AT&T workers on the job months after the expiration of their contracts.

• After Fiat Chrysler workers voted overwhelmingly to strike the company’s transmission operations in Kokomo, Indiana, the United Auto Workers has kept them on the job. The UAW has been exposed as a direct arm of corporate management, accepting millions of dollars in exchange for its role in pushing though historic concessions on auto workers.

The actions of the trade unions are the expression of what they are. Over the past four decades, the unions, based on their defense of capitalism and the nation-state system, have been transformed into cheap labor contractors and police agencies over the working class. They exist not to organize opposition to the dictates of the ruling class, but to prevent this opposition.

During the Janus v. AFSCME case, attorneys for the public sector unions repeatedly told the Supreme Court justices that agency fees—the equivalent of union dues for public sector workers who opt out of union membership—was the “tradeoff for no strikes.” That is, the state-sponsored, automatic deduction of a portion of workers wages was the payment for ensuring that workers do not rebel against the conditions imposed on them.

More recently, a spokesman for the New York State United Teachers told the Albany Times Union that the Taylor Law, which bars strikes by public sector employees, “has worked effectively for more than 40 years” in “keeping the peace” and should not be overturned.
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Bonddad writes about Trump's base of white evangelicals, and how they rationalize against all hypocrisy that the ends justify the means.

It's fairly clear that the justification that evangelicals have for supporting Trump is that no matter how vile he is personally, no matter how many laws and norms he flouts, he is being used by God to do God's work.

This is the same rationalization used by conservatives like Mitch McConnell, who only care about a conservative judiciary: a Supreme Court Justice such as Brett Kavanaugh, who would overturn Roe v. Wade, prevaricating about doing so in order to be confirmed, is just doing God's work ... by saving the lives of aborted babies.

Off the Kuff notes the motion by the plaintiffs in the Texas redistricting lawsuit to bring the state back under preclearance for its discrimination in map-drawing.

David Collins' two Twit bits spurred commentary about ranked choice voting and another progressive gone neoliberal.

And Harry Hamid writes something sublime about her new favorite musicians.

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Worker self-determination is more common in countries with lower income inequality. In other words, when workers have more of a say, the profits their hands and minds produce are better apportioned. Germany and Scandinavian countries like Finland and Norway are examples. But it’s also true next door in Canada. There, legislation provides more protections for unions, enlarging numbers and giving labor organizations more impact. Nearly 30 percent of Canadian workers belong to unions. In Denmark, Sweden and Finland, it’s more than 60 percent.

In the United States, it’s 10.7 percent, near the bottom among developed nations, despite a survey released last week that found 62 percent of Americans approve of unions. The difference between those two numbers shows how much U.S. legislation obstructs unionization.

Germany, one of the world’s most successful capitalist nations, and some other European countries have embraced a democratized corporate model in which workers are routinely and systematically engaged in governance through works councils and membership on corporate boards of directors. Germany has required since 1976 that workers elect half of the members of the boards of directors of corporations with more than 2,000 employees. In this model of corporate co-determination, workers are partners, not inputs.

Works councils are employee-elected boards that consult with management on workplace issues. German companies began establishing them in the late 1800s. The government mandated them for all medium and large companies during World War I. The Nazis, of course, shut them down, but corporations restored them after the war.

This system works well for German workers. They make about $10 an hour more than their U.S. counterparts. Government debt and income inequality both are lower there than in the United States. Manufacturing has thrived in Germany while it has waned in the United States. And German workers don’t have to worry about health insurance because they were the first to launch what would become universal health care. Life expectancy is longer in Germany.

As might be expected with corporate boards populated by workers, German CEOs are paid less than American CEOs, and German companies place less weight on short-term profits and more on worker concerns like job security.


Putting labor back in Labor Day Weekend


Definitions: The Proletariat (Gaither Stewart)

The antiwar speech that jailed Eugene V. Debs for 10+ years (video and transcript)


Plutocracy I: Political Repression in the U.S.A.
Plutocracy II: Solidarity Forever
Plutocracy III: Class War


Democracy Against Capitalism: Markets

The separation of the political and economic spheres has given private interests the dominant position in the lives of workers. They control the hours worked, the nature of the work, the kinds of things that are produced. This control arises through the property relations established and enforced by the state. With the sanction of the state, these private interests have the power to decide people’s income and whether they are allowed to earn an income at all. We even see private interests setting limits on the speech and assembly rights of individuals. Private interests have the power to limit health care benefits, vacations, and childbirth leave, just to name a few. Legislation to assert the interests of workers is routinely defeated, and when not defeated, is always watered down, in the name of efficiency or of profit, or of the absolute rights of people/corporate entities to the property they control.

Why Unions Still Matter, on Labor Day and Always