Monday, December 22, 2014

Lanier's legacy

I'm not joining the chorus of others in mourning the recent passing of former Houston mayor Bob Lanier.  He was certainly a man who made himself very wealthy as a real estate speculator (if you can call knowing where the highways were going to be built and then buying land there 'speculating').  And he spread that wealth around amongst his buddies, quietly tipping them off to potential deals.  That would be called 'insider trading' if someone investing in the stock market did it.  Used to be a crime, don't know if it still is.  If it is, a mostly white Harris County grand jury isn't likely to indict anyway.

Lanier set the standard for how Houston is now governed: of, by, and for the developers.  And in the early '90's, those guys didn't cotton to the idea of a monorail for mass transit -- no matter what the voters of Houston said -- so when Lanier decided to challenge five-term mayor Kathy Whitmire (after she had fired him from Metro), the race wasn't even close.  She came in third, and Lanier bested Sylvester Turner 53-47 in the runoff, with the city split precisely along racial lines.  Oh, and now we have term limits for Houston municipal offices.

Lanier took his 1991 election to run City Hall as a mandate to kill the monorail, and he diverted the money into road projects (surprise!) and large numbers of new police officers.  Though he angered suburbanites by annexing Kingwood, many locals were forgiving, bestowing plaudits on Lanier for the subsequent drop in crime in Houston as a result of the change in policy direction.  The fact is that crime fell dramatically all across the United States during Lanier's tenure as mayor -- which coincided with the Clinton White House years -- and that drop was due to an extensive variety of social and economic factors, not just more cops on the streets.

It's worth footnoting that there is academic disagreement on precisely which causes may have produced the most effect.  And for the record, one of them wasn't Bill Clinton's economy, stupid.  Crime has continued to fall, worldwide, even as the economy has both worsened and improved over the past twenty years.

Bob Lanier rode the non-partisan nature of Houston's municipal elections as far as anyone has.  He was the kind of conservative, pro-business, law-and-order Democrat that Republicans could love.  A neoliberal, in other words.  Annise Parker has carried on much of this fine Bayou City tradition.  A handful of 2015 mayoral wannabes from both sides of the so-called aisle are already lined up in the same queue.  I've identified some of them, but you're smart enough to know who they are without my reminding you.  The Ds and Rs behind their name mean absolutely nothing in the context of how we do City Hall elections, and that's how Houstonians have (apparently) always wanted it.  As we should know from recent history, all these armadillos bumping around in the middle of the road produces voter turnout in the low double digits.

So let's give Bob Lanier praise for shrewdly becoming a very rich man based on insider information.  And setting a local governmental standard that so many of Houston's 1%, uncontent with just being wealthy, now strive for.  And maybe a few nice parks in town.  And that's about it.

Three Shopping Days Left Wrangle

With the passage of the winter solstice, the Texas Progressive Alliance hopes that all your days are getting merrier and brighter as they bring you this week's holiday roundup.


Off the Kuff looks at the pro-discrimination bills that Republicans will be pushing in the Legislature next year.

Libby Shaw, writing for Texas Kaos and Daily Kos, insists that Texas will continue to have foxes guarding the public hen houses as long as the Republican culture of kleptocracy and crony capitalism persists. Texas investigates Medicaid fraud detection firm for corruption.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is proud of Corpus Christi police chief Floyd Simpson for disciplining officers for use of excessive force. When officers act inappropriately, all too often there are no consequences.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson points out that as oil prices plummet, we're reminded of Texas oil busts past and the reality of the so-called "Texas Miracle". It looks like things are about to change.

Houston's city council gave a $17 million sloppy kiss to Valero as a Christmas present, and city attorney David Feldman left a flaming bag of poo on Mayor Annise Parker's doorstep. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has suddenly realized that 2015's municipal elections can't come soon enough.

Neil at All People Have Value wrote about peace with Cuba. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Texas Leftist takes a look at the rapid growth of the Houston Area Pastor Council. If Houstonians think think the fight over the Equal Rights Ordinance is over, they better think again. One of the country's most powerful hate groups is now in our back yard.

Bluedaze observes that the impact of fracking was glossed over at the Eagle Ford Shale Legislative Caucus meeting.

Some thoughts on Viernes from Stace at Dos Centavos included Valero's Christmas bonus.

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

Juanita Jean got in some snark on Texas A&M, Rick Perry, and the building to be named after him just before they called the whole thing off.

Grits for Breakfast acknowledges a sad statistic: deaths of Texas detainees in the Department of Corrections skyrocketed after the Lege cut healthcare benefits in 2011.

Socratic Gadfly posted about the normalization of relations with Cuba, and the reaction from the Havana Ham, Ted Cruz.

Texas Watch introduces its Safe Texas agenda.

Dwight Silverman suggests that kids today will do just fine without "tech timeouts".

Andrea Grimes criticizes that Texas Monthly "Bum Steer Award" cover illustration of Wendy Davis.

The Texas Living Waters Project forecasts the 2015 oyster season in Galveston Bay.

Keep Austin Wonky summarizes the homestead exemption debate.

The Lunch Tray celebrates the exclusion of Chinese-processed chicken in school food and other child nutrition programs.

The Bloggess is running her annual Christmas gift and charity drive.

Fascist Dyke Motors teases her forthcoming novel, Vagilante Justice.

Swamplot revisits some of the old haunts and re-tells the tales of Fidel Castro's Houston-area gunrunner, Robert Ray McKeown.

Finally, and in the spirit of the season, we're including Republican blogger Big Jolly's call for a special prosecutor to investigate the vast corruption of Harris County GOP kingmaker Gary Polland.  If only Santa Claus could bring us this one gift...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

City attorney Feldman quits

This is a fairly large turd in a Christmas gift bag dropped on Mayor Parker's doorstep.  I suppose that's why she used such effusive praise in announcing his departure.

Sticking to the long-held practice of politicians releasing uncomfortable news on a Friday evening, Houston Mayor Annise Parker announced today that her top legal brain has tendered his resignation.

City Attorney David Feldman, who joined the Parker administration in 2010, will resign effective January 16, 2015, according to a release from Parker's office. "Dave has provided great legal counsel for me and the entire City of Houston since his arrival nearly five years ago," Parker said in a statement. "His legal acumen is unmatched. Without his assistance, we would not have been able to accomplish many of my administration's priorities. I wish him the best of luck as he begins this new phase of his professional life. He will be missed at my executive staff table."

Feldman became the second-highest compensated city attorney in the United States after he threatened to quit a year ago.  But it's never about the money, of course.

Feldman said he long had planned to leave by early 2015 but acknowledged the precise timing of his resignation was driven by the lawsuit against Parker's signature equal rights ordinance, set for trial Jan. 19. Conservative critics sued the city this summer after Feldman and Parker announced that the group's petition to force a referendum on the ordinance did not contain enough valid signatures. Opponents largely take issue with the rights extended to gay and transgender residents under the ordinance, which the City Council passed last May, banning discrimination among businesses that serve the public, private employers, in housing and in city employment and city contracting.

Feldman is a central figure in the suit. Opponents charge that he illegally inserted himself into the signature verification process when his office disqualified more than half of the 5,199 pages of signatures because of alleged notary errors. The suit contends that City Secretary Anna Russell, who originally counted enough signatures to verify the petition, should have been in charge of signature verification. 

I suppose we'll go ahead and buy the story that this helps both the former city attorney and the mayor in some shared-interests kind of way.  Time -- and the outcome of the HERO lawsuit -- will tell if that is true or if it is not.

Texpate seems to be in benign agreement that this isn't a good thing for Mayor Parker, but mostly from the 'lame duck' point of view.  I think that's an understatement, but we'll just have to wait and see.

Update: Texas Leftist speculates on what Feldman's leaving -- and the long-term impact of the I Stand Sunday rally last month -- means for HERO's future.

Year-end Houston council developments

-- Let's get the crap out of the way first.

A divided Houston City Council approved a tax break for Valero's eastside refinery on Wednesday that officials say will help the facility expand, despite concerns from some community leaders that residents had many unanswered questions about the agreement.

The deal means Valero's Manchester facility, the only refinery inside Houston city limits, will be considered outside the city boundaries for tax purposes. The rare move will let the energy giant pay lower fees than if it remained in the city and paid property taxes and, officials say, will ensure an $800 million expansion and the 25 permanent jobs that accompany it will happen here and not in Louisiana.

Manchester is the most polluted neighborhood in the city of Houston.  Allowing Valero to excuse themselves from the tax base for $17 million in exchange for 25 jobs is nothing short of an unconscionable act.

"There's absolutely no reason to jam this decision through the week before Christmas," said TOP executive director Ginny Goldman. "People deserve to have input, public dialogue and, more importantly, critical questions answered about a 15-year contract. Telling a community they should trust Valero, they should trust some lobbyist, they should trust political operatives at City Hall, doesn't fly for us."

Asked about community concerns, Mayor Annise Parker quickly noted that Valero informed Gallegos of the deal months ago.

[...]

Gallegos said after the meeting that he was "disappointed" in the mayor's comments, noting (city economic development czar Andy) Icken's staff had been negotiating the deal for a year and a half, long before he joined the council last January. Gallegos said he did not organize community meetings because Valero officials assured him they had cleared their plans with neighbors.

[...]

"I asked had they gone out to the community and notified the community, and they said yes," Gallegos said. "That's what brought my concern, is that according to the individuals that came to public session yesterday, they said they were not aware of this."

Houston attorney Beto Cardenas, who represented Valero in the talks, said the company began public outreach efforts related to its expansion plans many months ago but did not begin negotiating with city officials until June.

Looks like somebody's lying, don't it?  TOP had the best response.


Some of those are running for mayor, aren't they?  Many are certainly running for re-election.  Let's make sure this bad choice on their part does not go overlooked.

-- Speaking of city council elections, and as Charles and Noah and Stace and Wayne have all previously noted, Democratic county chair Lane Lewis is in for an at-large city council seat.  Lewis is a hard worker and a consensus-builder.  He's the fellow who put me on the Harris County Early Voting Ballot Board, a not-so-subtle move to keep me inside the tent pissing out instead of the other way around.  I have a lot of respect for everything he's done as county chair, particularly as an early doubter after he took over for Gerry Birnberg.

Jenifer Rene Pool and whomever else who has jumped early into AL1 are going to have to rethink those plans.

To answer a question that my fellow blogmeisters don't seem to know the answer to: the reason that all those folks started scrambling for AL1 is because it's an open seat held -- since 1998 -- by a Caucasian.  Look it up.  AL4 (Bradford, term-limited like AL1's Costello) is very quietly considered the black seat.  Since 1984, those holding the position include Anthony Hall, Sheila Jackson Lee, John W. Peavy Jr., Ronald Green, and Bradford.  And while it is accurate that Chris Bell and Michael Berry both held AL4 between 1997 and 2003, that should tell all you need to know about the African American community's lingering animosity toward both men.

It helps to have black friends who are willing to speak candidly and off the record to a pinkish-pale middle-aged white guy.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Scattershooting

... while we wait for the Republicans to figure out how to blame the plummeting price of oil on Obama.  That Rick Perry has the dumbest luck, don't he?

-- Farewell to "Stephen Colbert".  He was the very best.  Thank Jeebus he's immortal.

-- Run, Carly, run!  I think she might be to the left of Michelle Bachman, which means she'll be out right after the Iowa caucuses.

-- The super-lobbyists prepare to square off in Austin over Tesla's bid to sell cars here.

Locked in a brawl with auto dealers, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is unleashing some of the most powerful lobbyists and consultants in the state to persuade lawmakers to make it easier for his company to sell electric cars in Texas.

Ahead of the legislative session, Musk has assembled an all-star team of politically well connected forces at the Capitol - almost all entrenched with top Republican leaders - to lay the groundwork for a full Tesla blitz come January.

[...]

"Tesla is going to move in force to bring significant resources to this debate this session," said state Rep. Jason Villalba, a Dallas Republican who last session supported the electric-auto maker's push. "You're going to see a lot of pressure on these young new members in the Legislature, a lot of movement on the floor and the backrooms to get people convinced this a good deal for Texas."

This is Clash of the Titans stuff, y'all.

"They tried to use the giga­factory as leverage to get their foot in the door, but the gigafactory was never coming to Texas," said Bill Wolters, president of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association. "I can't imagine what kind of tale they can spin."

Tesla's main opposition stems from Wolters' auto dealer trade group, which over decades has gained political clout, and deep-pocketed franchise owners who are also big campaign contributors.

Take B.J. "Red" McCombs, for example. He owns San Antonio dealerships and has described the state's franchise dealer law "as sacred as Paul's letter to the Corinthians." He donated $35,000 to Gov.-elect Greg Abbott last cycle.

Houston's Dan Friedkin, who chairs Gulf States Toyota, alone gave $350,000 to Abbott and another $150,000 to Lt. Gov-elect Dan Patrick this past cycle, state records show. Separately, political action committees for the dealer trade group and Gulf States Toyota have combined to give more than $360,000 to dozens of elected officials since 2013.

And collectively, the state's auto dealers employ an even larger army of lobbyists at the Capitol, and they've pegged Tesla's cause as enemy No. 1 for the upcoming session.

Musk has hired all Republicans, even Rick Perry cronies, to form an irresistible disruptor force against the immovable car dealer objects.  This battle against the most entrenched status quo in the state ain't got nothin' on the craft brewery-beer distributor skirmish or the Uber-taxicab dustup.  It's going to make Middle Earth look like a grade school playground.  Here's your game program, stars highlighted, maybe they'll get numbers on their backs later.

This year alone, Tesla's added several marquee names to its lobby roster: Mike Toomey, one of Gov. Rick Perry's most trusted confidants; Neal "Buddy" Jones, a former lawmaker and the co-founder of a prominent Austin lobby shop; Craig Chick, a former senior policy adviser for House Speaker Joe Straus; and Adam Goldman, whose brother is a state lawmaker.

Karen Steakley, an ex-deputy legislative director for Perry, also recently signed on as the company's first in-house lobbyist in Texas, according to state records.

During the Legislature's off season, team Tesla started putting together a coalition of lawmakers, business groups and conservative organizations supportive of the electric-auto maker's cause, said Ted Delisi, an Austin consultant with ties to Perry who is providing "strategy" for Tesla.

Delisi added that the company is also in discussions with Allen Blakemore, a chief strategist for Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick's campaign. Blakemore did not return a request for comment.

"We want folks that have a far reach," Delisi said of the team Tesla is assembling.  (Emphasis is mine.)

State data shows the company is seeking inroads in other areas, too. Back in March, a Tesla lobbyist paid $4,000 to host four legislative staffers at a conservative organization's forum on economic freedom. And last month, lawmakers were invited to a Tesla VIP reception when Formula One held races in Austin.

The best goddamned m'f'n government money can buy, no matter how much it costs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Viva la relaciones normalizadas

There will be conservative blowback, and things like unrestricted travel will need to be approved by a Republican Congress (a tall order), but the breaking news is grand.

The United States will restore diplomatic relations it severed with Cuba more than 50 years ago, a major policy shift ending decades of hostile ties with the communist-ruled island, President Barack Obama said on Wednesday.

Announcing the end of what he called a "rigid" policy of isolation of Cuba that had been ineffective, Obama said the United States would move toward normal ties and would open an embassy in Cuba.

Obama discussed the changes with Cuban President Raul Castro on Tuesday in a nearly hour-long telephone call. Castro spoke in Cuba as Obama made his announcement on a policy shift made possible by the release of American Alan Gross, 65, who had been imprisoned in Cuba for five years.

Cuba is also releasing an intelligence agent who spied for the United States and was held for nearly 20 years, and the United States in return freed three Cuban intelligence agents held in the United States.

More on Alan Gross and the other men released today.  Both Pope Francis and the nation of Canada are to be commended for their extraordinary diplomatic efforts in this regard, which include keeping an 18-month-long secret.  Regular readers here will know that my wife is Cuban, in fact was born there and emigrated with her now-deceased father and mother in 1961.  So we will plan a trip soon to see her hometown of Matanzas, its neighborhoods, and perhaps meet some relatives she has never known.

2016 oligarchy update

-- Jeb Bush goes exploring.  He announced on Facebook, where some derided the quantity of his 'likes' and 'shares'.  This is the state of our political discourse today.  I'm revolted; how about you?

A majority of Americans polled would prefer he just go straight to painting portraits and landscapes.

-- Hillary Clinton is against torture, says black lives matter. Tough positions to take, all things consideredIn Houston tomorrow you can actually greet the Ready for Hillary bus -- not the candidate, mind you, but her transportation -- and get a free poster or a bumper sticker.  Isn't this exciting?

Glenn Greenwald speaks for me.

Having someone who is the brother of one former president and the son of another run against the wife of still another former president would be sweetly illustrative of all sorts of degraded and illusory aspects of American life, from meritocracy to class mobility. That one of those two families exploited its vast wealth to obtain political power, while the other exploited its political power to obtain vast wealth, makes it more illustrative still: of the virtually complete merger between political and economic power, of the fundamentally oligarchical framework that drives American political life.

Then there are their similar constituencies: what Politico termed “money men” instantly celebrated Jeb Bush’s likely candidacy, while the same publication noted just last month how Wall Street has long been unable to contain its collective glee over a likely Hillary Clinton presidency. The two ruling families have, unsurprisingly, developed a movingly warm relationship befitting their position: the matriarch of the Bush family (former First Lady Barbara) has described the Clinton patriarch (former President Bill) as a virtual family member, noting that her son, George W., affectionately calls his predecessor “my brother by another mother.”

If this happens, the 2016 election would vividly underscore how the American political class functions: by dynasty, plutocracy, fundamental alignment of interests masquerading as deep ideological divisions, and political power translating into vast private wealth and back again. The educative value would be undeniable: somewhat like how the torture report did, it would rub everyone’s noses in exactly those truths they are most eager to avoid acknowledging.

And those first in line to save us from this are Ted Cruz and (not) Elizabeth Warren.

Exceptional!

A bit more pagan Christmas than years past

Yesterday Mrs. Diddie finally had the surgery she's been putting off for over a year: both medial and lateral menisci (yes, that's the plural of meniscus, or meniscal cartilage) repaired with some debridement of the patella.  She was originally diagnosed as having osteoarthritis and a bone spur, but that proved to be incorrect.  She had to change doctors after that one recommended knee replacement.

I have simultaneously been fighting with my diabetes meds again for about the past six to eight weeks, and that made being the primary caregiver for my wife's day surgery more difficult.  After the election and my ballot board duties were completed in early November, I went back on a class of drug comparable to Invokana (which I had used during the first three months of this year).  It similarly played havoc with the Meneire's Disease I suffer from: dizziness, nausea, sometimes severe vertigo, occasional sudden onset of these symptoms.  But the worst is the exceptionally loud tinnitus, which drowns everything else out.  So I have essentially been in 'read-only' mode for about a month.

All this pretty well wrecked our holidays, that's for sure.  So we're not joining the family for any celebrations, probably not even dining out, certainly not cooking anything, and ain't putting up no Christmas tree.  We've only done a small table-top tree in years past and exchanged small remembrance-type gifts.  As DINKs we've had Christmas every day for decades anyway.  Not feeling too sorry for ourselves, despite how pitiful the above may come off.

But you didn't click in here to read a bunch of whining so let's get to the usual stuff.

-- Charles continues his yeoman's work covering the various special elections as the Lege keeps on playing musical chairs.  He saved me having to finish my unabridged, turgid, still-in-draft-status post with this one paragraph.

Assuming Speaker Straus maintains the tradition of not voting, the magic number is fifty, as in fifty votes in the House are needed to prevent any of these travesties from making it to your 2015 ballot. There are 52 Democrats in the House, plus one officially LGBT-approved Republican, so there are three votes to spare, assuming no other Republicans can be persuaded to vote against these. We know that there are four current House Dems that voted for the anti-gay marriage amendment of 2005. One of them, Rep. Richard Raymond, has since stated his support for marriage equality. Another, Rep. Ryan Guillen, may be persuadable. The current position of the others, Reps. Joe Pickett and Tracy King, are unknown. Barring any absences or scheduling shenanigans, we can handle three defections without needing to get another R on board. This is the key.

(Yes, eleven votes in the Senate can also stop the madness. Unfortunately, one of those votes belongs to Eddie Lucio. I’d rather take my chances in the House.)

That nails it.  Thanks for saving me some time, Chuck!

-- There's also good stuff about the 2015 Houston mayor's race there.  Texpate as well with more council-business-related posts of late.  Here's my two cents' worth.

*When Republicans say they don't like CM Steven Costello because of the drainage fee passed a couple of years ago (the most extreme among them now call him Rain Tax Man), you should believe that animosity is real.  He won't be the guy that Democrats and Republicans in a non-partisan municipal race all get behind.  Neither will Bill King, and neither will Chris Bell.  These gentlemen will all spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising, consultants' fees, direct mail, and all of the rest only to find themselves outside the runoff looking in by the time spring blooms again.

*Dave Wilson may be able to coalesce some Rainbow Hate caucus of miserable social conservatives and pastors black, brown, and white, but that still won't be enough to get Ben Hall into the runoff.

*Adrian Garcia is going to be making a big mistake if he runs for mayor next year.  He will irritate Democrats by handing the sheriff's office over to Ed Emmett and the Republican county commissioners to name his replacement, and by virtue of his proud conservative declarations and solid support of the now-eliminated Secure Communities program, has split his pants wide open straddling the partisan fence.  This has been documented most recently in the comments to this post, and in two posts from four years ago, this one and this one. (Scroll down to the last few grafs in both.)  He's been the dictionary definition of DINO for a long time now.

I can't and won't support his candidacy for mayor, and in fact will work hard against it.  He's the lousiest kind of Blue Dog that our new political reality -- 'bipartisan compromise' is what this bitter gruel tastes like -- seems to breed.  But let me also candidly say that if he quits as sheriff and runs for mayor despite my and Sylvia Garcia's discouragement, he still probably gets into a runoff with Sylvester Turner.

Those are the two favorites as of today in my humble O, and you can probably determine which candidate I value the most.  Turner has been rock-solid as a state legislator for several years, and as best I can tell at this stage is clearly the best choice to succeed Annise Parker.

*The mayor and council are supposed to make a decision on the recycling measure known as 'One Bin For All' before the end of the year.  I oppose that measure, and courtesy the Texas Campaign for the Environment, here's why.

(Houston) received five proposals for a facility in June that would mix trash and recycling into the same bin; it would then potentially gasify or incinerate whatever cannot be recycled. Some of the biggest waste companies in the country have said the technology simply does not work, and just last week the National Recycling Coalition issued a statement against programs like the one Houston is considering:

NRC urges communities to implement best practices for the separate collection of recyclables. Recycling programs must be designed to minimize contamination in consideration of the needs of upstream users. In conjunction with source reduction, reuse, and composting, the recycling of valuable materials for their highest and best use is essential to a sustainable environmental, energy, and economic future.

Did you know that the City only collects 10% of the trash generated in Houston? The proposal currently under consideration misses the big picture –that’s why we support a plan crafted with public input from neighborhood groups, apartment dwellers, environmental justice representatives as well as recycling and compost experts. Other cities have implemented policies that make it possible to recycle at home, work and play – so can Houston. Such a plan would not only be good for the environment; increased recycling and composting would create thousands of good-paying, sustainable jobs.

Austin, DallasSan Antonio for example are implementing strategic plans to reduce waste and increase recycling. Cities like Los Angeles have devised innovative solutions to problems posed for large, complex urban areas like Houston. No single facility will solve our waste problems. We need a plan crafted with public input to ensure we sustainably reduce waste in Houston through education, incentives and effective programs that protect the health and safety of our community.

Join me if you like and sign the petition opposing One Bin for All and moving toward Zero Waste with an expanded Single Stream.

Something obligatory about 2016's presidential jostling and elbowing coming shortly.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Week Before Xmas Wrangle


And for the record: No, using X in Christmas is not a secularization attempt.  The Texas Progressive Alliance has chosen to return fire in the War on Xmas this year as it brings you the best of the lefty Texas blogs from last week.

Off the Kuff says that the actual election results do not support exit polls that claim Greg Abbott received 44% of the Latino vote.

Libby Shaw, writing for Texas Kaos and Daily Kos, is not the least bit surprised to learn that two Texas oil and gas regulators got fired for doing their jobs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is calling for Court of Appeals Justice Nora Longoria to resign.  How can she be a judge when she got very special treatment in getting her DUI dismissed?

The Bible verses that contain the words "the poor will be with you always" do not mean what Rick Perry thinks they mean, says PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.  And not what many other Christians think they mean, either.

jobsanger has the results of a Rasmussen poll that asked the question: "Is Christmas a holiday for Jesus, Santa, or neither?"

EgbertoWilles points out that conservative radio talker Laura Ingraham has arrived at the same conclusion many non-voting Americans have: that the two major parties are too much alike.  Especially when it comes to the money flooding into both of them.

Texas Leftist noted that Judge Orlando Garcia declined to lift his stay in the case prohibiting gay marriages in Texas, likely because he was concerned that the Fifth Circuit would overrule it.

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

Texans Together considers the way forward on campaign finance reform.

Candice Bernd feels railroaded by the Railroad Commission in Denton.

Texas Politics notes that Rick Perry has asked to give a farewell address to the Texas Legislature when it reconvenes next month.  (We'd rather he just say "Adios, MoFos" and get on down the road.)

Socratic Gadfly mocked the ACLU's executive director calling for the pardons of Bush administration officials who authorized and engaged in torture.

The TSTA Blog reminds us that education is only a priority if it is funded like one.

Natalie San Luis offers a lesson in how not to do public relations.

SciGuy laments the budget cuts that will make it that much harder for NASA to get to Mars.

The Lunch Tray explains what the "cromnibus" spending bill means for school lunches.

Concerned Citizens bemoans the process that San Antonio's city council followed in passing restrictive regulations on Uber, Lyft, and other transit network companies.

And last, the TPA congratulates the Texas Observer on its 60th anniversary.