Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Romney's path to the GOP nomination

... seems considerably more difficult today. And perhaps impossible.

He can't win the Iowa caucuses, now just a month away, and he may not win NH by much, or even at all. Then comes SC and FL.

But the larger point has more to do with whomever the Republicans select as their presidential standard-bearer, be it Romney or Newt Gingrich. A vital part of the conservative coalition, the Christian fundamentalists, increasingly have no candidate to turn to. Their Chosen One was Rick Perry, and he was replaced by Herman Cain as Flavor of the Month in October.

Personally my observation of the evangelicals is that they are less prone to bald-faced hypocrisy than the rest of the party. That translates into not 'forgiving a man who has repented his sins'. It seems that some can and some can't; they're divided. Never mind Romney's flip-floppery on every issue, it's Newt's nuanced positions on immigration and abortion that have them flummoxed.

For those who will never go to Mitt -- he's not a Christian, of course -- and who can't support Newt the Adulterer, it's a real quandary. The Tony Perkins/Richard Land caucus and its members have the potential to be the most disillusioned come next November. Just imagine how the Charismatics will react if the eventual nominee picks an anchor baby like Marco Rubio as a running mate.

Two hard-bitten conservatives on the ticket, likewise, alienates the "moderate" wing of the GOP, which has gone on the attack against Gingrich in recent days (note Karl Rove's consistent pimping of Romney on Fox News, to which even the likes of Michael Berry is reacting badly).

Either the Tea P is going to be very unhappy if Romney does stumble to the nom, or the establishment gets sour-pussed with the selection of Gingrich. Romney and a TeaBagger as V-P is nothing but a replay of McCain-Palin. Newt is NOT going to take a Jon Huntsman or Gary Johnson ... even though that would be a formidable matchup. He'll take a Latino/a and gamble that his softer immigration stance coupled with a brown token will win him Florida, New Mexico, Colorado, and some other blue-in-'08 states. This political calculus disregards the dampening effect a (for example) Gingrich-Rubio ticket would have in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina ...

And this is exactly the kind of division between conservative factions that not only makes it increasingly likely that Obama wins, and wins easily*, but also helps Democrats down the ballot. And it could present the Democratic Party with electoral opportunities in places they would not normally exist even in a presidential election season ... such as in the South.

Maybe even, heaven forfend, Texas.

* no discounts factored in for worsening economic conditions, terrorist attacks, bad reactions to natural disasters, or fresh scandals

Update: Additional reading.

Can social conservatives forgive Gingrich’s messy personal past? Note this article's focus on the gender gap between evangelical women and men with regard to forgiving the Speaker's sins.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Weekly First Frost Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance welcomes wearing a coat and gloves, condensing exhalation, and the opening of candidate filing season (SCOTUS willing) as it brings you this week's roundup.

Noted "redistricting analyst" Off the Kuff analyzed the new court-drawn Congressional map.

Lightseeker takes on the question of where OWS is now and what its future might hold. Check it out at Texas Kaos: OWS Meets Mass Democracy - The Need for a Narrative.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts on the recent failure (or was it?) of the so-called "supercommittee": Failure was a success.

Bay Area Houston wonders about Rep Joe Driver's felony and his $57,000 annual pension.

BossKitty at TruthHugger cannot stomach the ongoing civilian casualty toll in wars America propagates. Money talks, accountability walks. Quit electing politicians who answer to the military-industrial lobby and want to throw the rest of us under the bus: US and NATO Allies too sloppy for war.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is ashamed of the Texas Democratic Party. The only thing going for the party is that they're not Republicans.

Just one year ago, Texas Republicans were laughing all over themselves celebrating their super-majority in the House with the defections of Aaron Pena and Allan Ritter. They're not laughing any longer after two federal judges redrew the maps that erased all of their gains from 2010. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs notes that political fortunes can rise and fall just like the stock market, especially when pigs turn into hogs.

Neil at Texas Liberal noted that Occupy Houston published a newspaper. Occupy Houston and Occupy efforts across the nation are working hard and staying creative to make certain that the movement is here for the long haul.

WhosPlayin wrote about a Tea Party candidate for city council in Lewisville who is running on a platform of "rule of law" and "transparency", but who utterly failed at both in his campaign finance reports. But hey, at least this mistake is not as bad as his $56 million overstatement of the city's debt.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Texas GOP fruits of 2010 turn bitter

Texas Republicans in happier times.

Hard to believe that picture was taken just a year ago, isn't it?

That was the scene last December after the Red Tea Tide swept Republicans into a near-super majority in the Texas House, which Aaron Pena and Allan Ritter then gracelessly provided with their defections just days after the election.

Today, their grins have been turned into grimaces, their giddiness to dismay, their joy into depression.

Oh, they'll still be a majority in the statehouse (and nearly a super in the Texas Senate). All the new boundaries drawn by the three federal judges really do is restore Texas Democrats' electoral opportunities in 2012 to about the same 82-68 split that existed after 2008's election.

But the federal court's action -- specifically the majority of one Democrat and one Republican, both Latino -- virtually reverses the historic gains the TXGOP made in '10 ... which is why Aaron Pena is quitting, and why Greg Abbott is squalling like a colicky baby.

Earlier Friday, Abbott slammed changes proposed by the same federal panel to the congressional map in a legal filing, claiming the court overstepped its bounds. Abbott accused it of “undermining the democratic process.” [...]

“A court's job is to apply the law, not to make policy,” lawyers for the state wrote in their filing. “A federal court lacks constitutional authority to interfere with the expressed will of the state Legislature unless it is compelled to remedy a specific, identifiable violation of law.”

Abbott also said he would ask for the court to stay its congressional plan if it is not substantially changed.

If the judges refuse, Abbott said, he'll take the fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now let's get the opinion of a competent lawyer.

“You have to show irreparable harm, and it's really pretty hard to show irreparable harm in an election,” said Michael Li, an elections law expert who has been closely tracking the redistricting trial. “The state's argument is the same argument that Democrats tried to use in 2004,” which the Supreme Court rejected.

While anything's possible with the partisan and blatantly unethical conservatives on the SCOTUS, expect them to be slightly outnumbered by the remaining five prudent jurists on the basis of the precedent Li cites.

Look again at the photo at the top of this post.

Pena is out on his fat ass, Abbott (left, lower) continues to disgrace himself with woeful legal strategies, Rick Perry (rear, over Pena's shoulder) has of course shit his presidential bed, and Joe Straus (right) will draw another conservative challenge to his speakership -- but likely survive it. Only David Dewhurst (over Pena's other shoulder) still has a little light shining on his political prospects, and that may yet be endangered by the Teabagger insurgent Ted Cruz in March's primary for the US Senate.

Now if you will excuse me, I'm going to heat up some turkey and dressing leftovers to have with my heaping bowl of schadenfreude.

Update: Rachel, not as mean as she could be, points out that Democrats need to focus on what matters, and that is electing Democrats who will stand up for Democratic principles.

We see examples of people unwilling to fight for things that Democrats should be fighting for all too often and make no real effort to replace them with people who are willing to fight. We saw an instance of it just last week in the SDEC's prioritization of protecting Democratic incumbents over civil rights; a decision so short-sighted that it makes one wonder what value there is in a committee that is more concerned about the state of the Democratic Party today than the state of Texas for future generations.

As previously referenced, I will have something to say about that as soon as the warm glow of thankfulness wears off.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"If you want to make Joe Barton wet his pants ..."

" ... just mention Chet Edwards." -- Matt Angle

The three-judge panel gave Texas Democrats an early Christmas present in the form of revised Congressional maps, and there's a lot to be thankful for.

The new map will likely give Democrats 13 House seats in the state, up from the nine seats they currently hold. It is also an improvement from the 10 likely seats Democrats would have gotten from the districts into which the Republican map had packed their constituents. [...]

The big winner in this proposal is Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas): the GOP map had tossed him into a heavily Hispanic district stretching from his home in Austin down to San Antonio. The new map draws a safely Democratic but not overwhelmingly Hispanic Austin district.

Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco (R-Texas) has an uphill battle to win reelection in his newly drawn seat. Canseco won a Democratic-leaning, heavily Hispanic seat running from San Antonio along the border almost to El Paso, and Republicans had sought to shore him up. The new plan makes the seat even more Democratic and Hispanic than the seat he currently holds.

Democrats are also dominant in two of the four new districts the state has gotten because of its population growth: a heavily minority district in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and a new heavily Hispanic seat in South Texas.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) could also be potentially vulnerable, according to Democrats. His district remains GOP-leaning but would have given President Obama about 45 percent of its vote. One candidate they'd love to see run: Former Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas), who represented part of Barton's new district when he was in the statehouse years ago.

Sissy Farenthold's Republican grandson is a goner:

Say sayonara to Blake "Ducky Pajamas" Farenthold in CD-27, the Republican who knocked off Solomon Ortiz in 2010. The 27th district is now 80.6% Hispanic and went for Obama in 2008.

One of the four new districts, in the Metroplex, will certainly be blue:

Note that CD33 is now a majority-minority seat in Tarrant County -- BOR notes that State Rep. Marc Veasey, one of the plaintiffs and strong fighters in these suits, has already indicated his interest in running for it. He’s already got an opponent if so -- a press release from Fort Worth City Council member Kathleen Hicks that announced her entry into the CD33 sweepstakes, hit my inbox about ten minutes after the publication of the new map. PoliTex confirms both of these. One way or another, though, it sounds like sayonara to Roger Williams.

Paging Nick Lampson:

CD14 is on the Gulf coast and includes parts of Brazoria, Galveston and Jefferson Counties. The district was formerly represented by Ron Paul, who has announced he won't run for reelection. While President Obama won just 41.9 percent of the vote, downballot candidates like Sam Houston (Texas Supreme Court) won 47.3 percent of the vote. Much of this district was represented by former Democratic Congressman Nick Lampson.

See the maps here for the state and here from Greg for the Houston area. Kuffner and Burnt Orange and the LSP, all linked above, have greater detail from their various perspectives. Stace picked up AG Abbott's fresh glass of whine, the Statesman details the Doggett-Castro separation, and the TexTrib adds a little more.

Here's to a very Happy Thanksgiving for everyone who isn't a Republican. *clink*

Blogging giblets

Since Turkey Day came two days early for the Republicans, this year the Thanksgiving holiday is unofficially Festivus for the rest of us in November.

-- Tune out Black Friday and absolutely avoid its creeping back into Thanksgiving Day. If you must buy anything, buy it from a local merchant and not a corporation. That's an Occupy Wall Street objective even the most dense conservative ought to be able to understand.

-- I've written a scathing post on the cowardly actions of the Texas Democratic Party's Senate District Executive Committee, but I'm not going to put it up until next week (I'm trying to get in the holiday spirit). I may even temper its flames somewhat while it simmers. Nah, I probably won't.

-- I previously thought that Annise Parker was going to let HPD bust a move on Occupy Houston, but I don't think that any more. I believe now it is her strategy to allow officers to annoy the encampment with their obnoxious tarps-are-tents enforcement, hoping the protesters eventually get worn out and go away. This is likely what mayors in other cities are doing, taking a Thanksgiving week break and seeing if the weather -- cold, wet, or both -- will take care of their 'problem'. Pepper spray in the face just doesn't say Christmas, after all.

-- More after the holiday, somewhat regular posting on the weekend. Be nice to your Republican family members; most of them can't help it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy Thanksgiving as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff takes a look at the electoral opportunities of the new court-drawn legislative map.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson links to the results of a Texas AFT survey that the GOP's plan to defund public education is working as designed: Survey says....Texas public schools are in trouble.

Bay Area Houston shows that while Rick Perry incorrectly claims Obama calls Americans lazy, his major donors are writing op-eds calling Americans lazy.

BossKitty at TruthHugger writes about political marketers that target the uninformed and disinterested voter with spicy one liners to vote for their candidate. The season of disinformation is upon us again: National Treasures and American History on eBay And because the campaign gun debate is so twisted that the issue is totally missed: Lock and Load, Twist and Shoot.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know that Rick Perry's success story means food insecurity for you.

The Texas Republican overreach in both redistricting and photo ID got slapped down hard by the feds. And the corresponding whining was louder than any two alleycats fighting over a female. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs celebrated Good Friday twice this year.

nytexan at BlueBloggin is disgusted with the police brutality and right wing lies of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Every day that OWS continues, more and more lobbyists, corporate giants and wrong-headed politicians reveal just how in bed they are with each other. It also reveals how para-military the police have become: Police Brutality And Corporate Lies Will Not Stop Occupy Wall Street.

Libby Shaw gets us up to date with the onging diaster that is Rick Perry's presidental aspirations this week. Check it out at TexasKaos: Rick Perry's Multiple Train Wrecks.

Neil at Texas Liberal ran his yearly how-to-thaw-a-turkey post. The post also offers links to cooking up a veggie Thanksgiving as suggested by PETA. Neil hopes everybody has a nice and safe Thanksgiving.

McBlogger takes a look at some 'conservatives' whose relationship with the truth could best be described as 'flexible'.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Greg Abbott scolds himself

It was his strategy to bypass the DOJ and pre-clearance by going directly to court with the Republican redistricting overgrab. He thought the two GOP judges would be in their corner.

He was wildly wrong, and now he's bitching about the outcome.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office on Friday slammed an interim redistricting map proposed by a three-judge panel in San Antonio, saying the federal jurists overstepped their bounds in redrawing House and Senate district lines that could cost Republicans a half-dozen seats next year.

"Contrary to (a) basic principle of federalism, the proposed interim redistricting plan consistently overturns the Legislature's will where no probability of a legal wrong has been identified," Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, said in a statement.

The three-judge panel had to create the interim maps for the 2012 election because a trial in Washington, D.C., on whether the redistricting plans approved by the Texas Legislature this year conform to the U.S. Voting Rights Act will not take place until after candidates have to file for office.

Greg Abbott's view of the law is so warped that it consistently makes him a laughingstock.

Update: Burka.

Republican sources tell me that there is disgruntlement toward the attorney general among Republican House members. Their gripe is: The attorney general’s office had a “lackadaisical” attitude toward the case; or, alternatively, “Abbott didn’t have his A team on this.”

Abbott’s ballyhooed strategy was an attempt to win the case through forum-shopping. The AG’s legal team thought they had figured out how to wire around the Obama Justice Department, which was to choose the option of taking the case before a three-judge federal court in the District of Columbia and bypass a trial by moving for summary judgment on all the maps in controversy. The problem is, the two Bush appointees on the panel didn’t take a partisan position. [...]

One unexpected problem Abbott encountered at the San Antonio trial is that one of his own expert witness–John Alford, a political science professor at Rice University– went south on him. Alford testified that he would have done things differently from the Legislature’s congressional redistricting map that Abbott was defending...

I didn't realize how fundamentally incompetent and corrupt the man was until I worked on the campaign of the man who ran against him in 2006. Of all of the profoundly ignorant, nakedly raw partisan schmucks running the state of Texas -- from Rick Perry, John Cornyn, David Dewhurst, Kay Bailey, and David Dewhurst trickling all the way down to Susan Combs, Jerry Patterson, and Todd Staples -- Greg Abbott is the worst. And the most dangerous.

You can be certain that Abbott will do everything he can to subvert the will of the federal court which slapped away his party's overzealous gambit for permanent super-majority status.

On the other hand, one of the conservative cabal's junior partner in Houston, Paul Bettencourt, gets it. Almost:

"I don't think the Democratic Party could have hoped to have a plan drawn like this if they controlled had been able to participate in any meaningful way at the Legislature," said Paul Bettencourt, a former executive with the state Republican Party and former Harris County tax assessor.

Fixed it for ya, Quitter. That's pretty much what I said yesterday.

This will be how the statewide Republicans will run their campaigns in 2012: completely against Washington D.C., much like Rick Perry conducted his 2010 re-election. 'EEEvil, evil feds want to tell Texans how to live', blah blah blah. Dewhurst is already doing it. The "Obama/socialist,DemocRAT" rants will only get louder.

That tea is weak. And stale.

The Republican party declares that 'government doesn't work' and then demonstrates its premise on a daily basis. No jobs bill. No budget deal. No tax increases. No, no, all the time no.

No voting without your photo id, no pensions for anybody unless we can let Wall Street get their hands on it, no money for schools and teachers, no money for Planned Parenthood's birth preventive education.

And you get even more 'No' if your skin is brown, you are female, homosexual, and/or you're not a Christian.

But there's plenty of tax breaks for oil and gas companies who foul the environment and lots of great deals for crony capitalists. The better friend you are of Rick Perry's, or the more money you can give to Republicans, the better off you will be. It's the classic example of the 1% waging war on the 99%.

And the only reason to keep the focus on abortion and gay rights is to keep the ignorant and the poverty-stricken distracted. Distraction is, in fact, the primary tool in their toolbox. A president misleads America about the costs to get a prescription drug bill passed, paying off Big Pharma cronies to the tune of $1 trillion dollars? Republicans snooze. President exaggerates intelligence to fool Americans into going to war against Iraq, costing 4,800 American soldiers' lives and over $800 billion? GOP snores, snorts, and rolls over.

President accelerates a loan guarantee to Solyndra, loan goes bad costing $500 million? The tried-and-true faux outrage erupts.

You like this? Want more of it? Keep voting for these vile Republicans.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Texas Republican overreach slapped down hard by feds

The maps drawn for the 2012 elections by the three-judge panel are a huge win, and in some cases are eye-popping.

Democrats could gain a half-dozen seats in the Texas House under an interim redistricting map a federal court released Thursday. [...]

The biggest changes in the proposed Texas House map, which was endorsed by two of the three judges meeting in San Antonio, appear to be focused in the Houston area and could cost the Republicans as many as three seats. Rep. Beverly Woolley's district was largely combined into Rep. Jim Murphy's, Rep. Ken Legler's reconfigured district is heavily Hispanic and Rep. Sarah Davis' new district was won in 2008 by President Barack Obama.

The two judges would also give Democratic state Reps. Hubert Vo and Scott Hochberg districts to run in, undoing the Legislature's combination of their districts. The U.S. Department of Justice said in a legal filing that combining the two districts violated the Voting Rights Act because it would reduce opportunities for minority representation.

Several Republicans got paired. Harvey K:

Under the House map proposed by the San Antonio judges, 12 districts will pair incumbents -- all Republican on Republican contests with the exception of two districts pairing an R with a D. No Democrats are paired in the interim map. It should also be noted that several incumbents on this list have either announced they are not running for re-election or running for a different office.

HD 2: Cain (R), Flynn (R)

HD 21: Hamilton (R), White (R)

HD 32: Hunter (R), Morrison (R)

HD 33: Scott (R), Torres (R)

HD 69: Hardcastle (R), Lyne (R)

HD 80: Aliseda (R), King, T. (D)

HD 85: Chisum (R), Landtroop (R)

HD 91: Hancock (R), Nash (R)

HD 109: Anderson, R. (R), Giddings (D)

HD 113: Burkett (R), Driver (R)

HD 114: Hartnett (R), Sheets (R)

HD 133: Murphy (R), Woolley (R)

Meanwile, here are the open House districts under the proposed interim House map:

HD 3, HD 14, HD 30, HD 35, HD 43, HD 57, HD 68, HD 88, HD 93, HD 101, HD 106, HD 107 and HD 136

Warrne Chisum is running for Railroad Commissioner, Will Hartnett and Beverly Woolley are retiring, and Joe Driver caught a felony indictment, so this isn't as bad as it looks at first blush for the Repugs.

More from Greg:

Some particulars of interest: Woolley’s old district (she’s retiring) is essentially folded into Jim Murphy’s. Scott (Hochberg) and Hubert (Vo) each have their own district. (Ken) Legler is toast. (Dwayne) Bohac would go another decade with a bullseye on his back. And HD134 (Sarah Davis) got bluer on the Obama numbers, so it looks like that one could come back to the D column. HD136 is outsourced to Waller County, so it’s a 24-district map for the county.

Even more impressive is a just-below 50-50 district in Fort Bend County that’s over 30% Asian. Beyond that, I’ve seen at least a couple of WD40 districts that might be regained. No time to get into Dallas, but I’m hearing three seats from there could come back.

And Wendy Davis gets her Senate district back.

All three judges agreed on what changes to make the Texas Senate map, essentially restoring the district represented by Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, to the configuration it had when she ran for election in 2008.

The redistricting plan transformed Davis' district, which was seen as heavily competitive, into a Republican-dominated district.

Frankly, I'm slack-jawed over these changes. If the Texas House had included Democrats in the cartographic process during the last session, the D's could not have done themselves this much good.

And Photo ID skids out of the turn and slams into the wall, bursting into flames:

The Texas voter ID law, one of Gov. Rick Perry's top priorities during the 2011 Legislature, has been stalled by the U.S. Justice Department, which is insisting on demographic information about voters that state election officials say is virtually impossible to provide.

Texas Republicans expressed dismay Thursday after Justice Department officials said they need voter information about race and ethnicity before they can approve the controversial law, which is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2012.

The ruling raises the possibility that the law will not be in place by the March 6 primary.

Information that Texas election officials have provided "is incomplete and does not enable us to determine that the proposed changes have neither the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language group (required under the Voting Rights Act)," T. Christian Herren Jr., chief of the Justice Department's Voting Section, said in a Wednesday letter to Texas elections director Ann McGeehan.

Cue the whining.

The requested information will be virtually impossible to gather, said state Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, House sponsor of the voter ID bill, SB 14.

"I am disappointed," she said. "I don't know that the Secretary of State can provide the information in the format that they want. I am not sure that we will be able to satisfy them. I think it's ridiculous."

World's tiniest violin playing beside the River of Tears and all that.

"I am pleased that DOJ is asking the probative questions, which indicates they suspect the real issue is voter suppression," (state Sen. Rodney) Ellis said.

That's MY Senator. More in brief from TPM. Charles' rejoinder is best:

It’s amusing that the DOJ slapped down the SOS again the same week that Republican State Rep. Patricia Harless, who had said that the DOJ’s initial request for more data was “reasonable” and that the SOS should be able to respond quickly, published a lame pro-voter ID op-ed that essentially boiled down to “it won’t suppress as many votes as the critics say” and “it polls well”. I mean, Free Ice Cream Day would probably poll well, too, but that doesn’t mean it would be good public policy. Notably, Harless snuck in a bit about how voter ID would protect us from “fraud”, but nowhere in her piece did she document any actual examples of fraud that voter ID would protect us from. We all know the reason for that, of course, but then Harless can’t exactly come out and admit that the actual purpose of voter ID is to make it harder for some people to vote, as that might sound scary. But a discriminatory law by any other name would still discriminate.

Good Friday, everybody.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy Dallas got their turn last night

Here is a compilation of minute-by-minute updates from the Occupy Dallas encampment as scores of Dallas police officers moved in late Wednesday and early Thursday to evict the protest group. There was no violence and 18 protesters were arrested.

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 17

4:05a Dallas police arrested 18 Occupy Dallas protesters during the overnight sweep to close the organization's campground near City Hall. Dallas police planned a 10 a.m. news conference to discuss the operation. - Jason Whitely, WFAA

1:49a The police sweep of the Occupy Dallas campground appears to be complete. The peaceful operation took about 45 minutes. Many police officers are now leaving, but dozens will remain through the night.

Entire live-blog here, in reverse chronological order.

Same MO: middle of the night, media restricted, hyper-aggressive use of force.

I'm guessing that it's only a matter of time before Occupy Houston gets the police state treatment. HPD is just waiting on Annise Parker's authorization. And if this were happening in Libya, or Egypt, then people like John McCain would be imploring the United States government to intervene militarily.

Today is a day of action in New York, Houston, and around the nation. Even as Occupy comes in for criticism from previously sympathetic circles, the movement expands.

We are at a necessary evolution point in the Occupy movement. I say "necessary" for two reasons: one, because of the hard truth that cities around the nation simply cannot tolerate camping as a form of free speech, thus necessitating a response to "putting tents up" that is increasingly relying on tear gas, riot gear, and mass arrests.

Two, because they aren't listening. The government, Wall Street, the media: they simply aren't listening yet. Most press coverage revolves around which cities beat the holy hell out of which protestors on any given day or which senior citizen posed such a damn threat to the riot-gear-laden police that they needed to be pepper sprayed, but the underlying messages of income inequality, corporate corruption and a captured government are, unsurprisingly, still being stonewalled.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg (and other mayors around the country) doesn't want people camping in his park anymore. Fine, then: he will push the protests into taking another form. That's probably good for the movement, and probably going to be worse for him.

You cannot evict an idea whose time has come.

"When the mayor — and a mayor who's a billionaire, by the way — sends a police force to guard Wall Street and use force against peaceful protesters, that plays right into the hands of this movement's narrative," (Fordham University sociology professor Heather) Gautney said.

Only a small part

... of what's twirling around in there.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

De-Occupy efforts by cities will only grow the movement


Dorli Rainey, 84, reacts after being hit with pepper spray during an Occupy Seattle protest on Tuesday.

Over the past ten days, more than a dozen cities have moved to evict "Occupy" protesters from city parks and other public spaces. As was the case in last night's move in New York City, each of the police actions shares a number of characteristics. And according to one Justice official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.

This is another reason why the Democratic Party won't see any benefit from attempting to co-opt the Occupy movement.

The FBI has so far failed to respond to requests for an official response, and of the 14 local police agencies contacted in the past 24 hours, all have declined to respond to questions on this issue.

But in a recent interview with the BBC," Oakland Mayor Jean Quan mentioned she was on a conference call just before the recent wave of crackdowns began.

"I was recently on a conference call of 18 cities who had the same situation, where what had started as a political movement and a political encampment ended up being an encampment that was no longer in control of the people who started them."

I'm certain that every mayor in the nation, from Michael Bloomberg to Annise Parker, is thinking that Jean Quan is a real dumbass. Among the concerns that coordination is designed to address is the 'criminal element'.

Don't set a midnight deadline to evict Occupy Wall Street protesters — it will only give a crowd of demonstrators time to form. Don't set ultimatums because it will encourage violent protesters to break it. Fence off the parks after an eviction so protesters can't reoccupy it.

As concerns over safety and sanitation grew at the encampments over the last month, officials from nearly 40 cities turned to each other on conference calls, sharing what worked and what hasn't as they grappled with the leaderless movement.

 A media blackout is also part of the coordinated strategy.

New Yorkers awoke to front-page stories and photographs in both the New York Post and the New York Daily News. Coverage by the two papers was supportive of the mayor and the police actions but disparaging toward the protesters. An AlterNet reporter, arriving on the scene at 1:30am, shortly after the raid began, could get nowhere near Zuccotti Park due to police barricades (and was subjected to pepper spray while attempting to report on events). How did the friendly reporters gain their access? Was there advance coordination to allow certain media outlets access and block the rest? Why was press access restricted? Were some reporters' credentials confiscated? How will reports of unwarranted force on the part of police toward the press be addressed?

More on the constitutional implications of Mayor Bloomberg's actions here. Calling tarps that shield food and medicine from the weather a 'tent', which is 'illegal', appears to be part of the coordinated strategy.

A dispute over what constitutes a tent led to the arrest of an Occupy Houston protester Tuesday at a downtown encampment at Tranquility Park, members of the group said.

They said several Houston police officers came to the park about 2:30 p.m., ordering them to remove tarps that were covering tables.

Occupy Houston members said the tarps were only brought out because of Tuesday afternoon's rain.

Protesters said police told them that placing tarps across tables — even as a temporary measure to protect supplies from the rain — made it a prohibited tent.

Some of the protesters questioned the timing of the decision to send Houston police into Tranquility Park on Tuesday.

"They waited until it was raining when they knew everything was going to get damaged," Diedrich Holgate said.

In New York, police took knives and slashed the heavy-duty Army tents that OWS had brought in to shield demonstrators from the bitter winter on its way.

So besides exasperation, why are coordinated attacks occurring on Occupy encampments now?

(T)he timing's very interesting -- and, for some people, very convenient. The nation's expecting a deficit package from the undemocratic super committee, anticipating another possible free trade deal, and waiting to see whether Wall Street will go unpunished for its foreclosure crime wave. All that makes this a very good time for dissident voices to suddenly disappear.

Go to that link to read more about the coming Catfood Super Committee's austerity bargain, the Free Trade with Asia deal going down right now, and the Obama DOJ's immunity-from-prosecution agreement with the Wall Street gangstas. Probably a good time not to have angry people in the streets already when those things come down.

Or so they think.

The one good thing about the violent responses from police departments trying to put down the Occupy movement is that they will fail. Just as those same government crackdowns failed throughout the Middle East.

Violence against peaceful protestors brings even more people into the movement. This is the hydra of revolution; cut off one head and two more sprout. The more they try to knock it down, the stronger it will grow.

Occupy has already grown past the point where repression will stop it. The only thing that will stop the movement now is for those in power to address the issues that the people demand.

Monday, November 14, 2011

License plates and dog whistles *updates and responses*

(This post originally appeared last August, and was OSD's rejoinder to Progress Texas' effort to prevent the Confederate license plate design from being offered among the options for vanity plates in the state. In light of the defeat of the proposal, I present Mark Corcoran of Progress Texas' response, received today via e-mail.)

We took (Open Source Dem's) criticism seriously because we believe that online actions, when done right and properly combined with earned media strategies and offline actions, can be extremely effective.

Over the last few months we collected 25,000+ petitions signatures and had 5,000+ people directly contact the TxDMV opposing the Confederate flag proposal, generating hundres of earned media stories. Last Thursday, the TxDMV unanimously voted down the Confederate license plate after previously being tied 4 - 4.

Johnny Walker, a board member who switched his vote from yes to no said - “I listened to the comments, the feelings and emotions of people before the board and what they think is best for the state.”

We understand that other organizations have given online organizing a bad name. We don't do actions to simply grow an email list. All of our actions have a purpose and goal - some are long term, some are short term.

Open Source Dem's original post from August 11 follows.

===========

Texas has privatized production and distribution of license plates. There is already a “Bonnie Blue Flag” vanity plate reminiscent, notably, of battle ensigns favored by Confederate regiments from Texas:

Description: cid:image004.png@01CC4187.6FB2C900

I do not know if neo-Confederate yahoos understand this and use the existing Texas plate as a signaling (or fund-raising) device. Most KKK and Aryan brotherhood types prefer the “Southern Cross” (figuring in the design discussed below) to the “Hardee Pattern” device (above).


More important may be the “T for Texas” series of plates. I think these may be a Tea Party, True the Vote, or Christianist signal. It may be used to raise funds not just for Rick Perry cronies but for a battery of far-right political organizations. The new license plate regime seems to be a multi-level marketing arrangement, probably not just outrageous but actually illegal.

Description: http://www.myplates.com/Images/Plates/PLPB202

Tacit communication -- dog whistles -- are a salient part of the "politics as war" practiced by the far right. This is very effective relative to the brain-dead Methodism of our state party, including Progress Texas' attempt to emulate the right-wing outrage machine in order to raise money. The Texas Democratic Party and its partners, allies, whatever in Austin are breaking any semblance of message discipline and cranking out "pink noise" with no coherence or effect at all. This is consuming precious resources on make-work for hangers-on in Austin and generating spam.

Fake petitions and non-binding referenda signal political weakness and indecision to potential Democratic voters, something else to waste their time and money. This is stupid on steroids.

(Ed. note: This is what OSD is referring to in the previous.)

Pink noise and a mish-mash of campaign finance and non-profit enterprise are really dangerous in the hands of people with little proficiency in anything but bipartisan cronyism.

BIRGing and CORFing (but not with our politicos)


A crowd of Penn State students in school sweatshirts huddled together near an old university building to listen to a call for unity, healing and peace. They wiped away tears, rested their heads on friends' shoulders and reflected on a week that stained the place many of them see as a second home.

"We are what makes the university thrive," said T.J. Bard, student body president, the day after his peers rioted in the streets to defend the firing of coach Joe Paterno. "And we are the ones who must restore glory to Penn State."

Why them? What happened on their campus wasn't their fault. Most didn't even know Joe Paterno, Jerry Sandusky and Matt McQueary. Usually in society, when something as horrific as child molestation happens, people around the alleged perpetrators cut all ties. They reject. So why not protest Sandusky preying upon children instead of rioting against the board for firing a football coach? Why not feel satisfaction in the punishment of an old guard that collectively made serious leadership errors, rather than oppose the rightful dissolution of a system that protected evil?

"If they were completely objective, they would say, 'These people did something terrible and I can't support them, I cannot be in their corner.'" says Dr. Don Forsyth, a psychology professor specializing in group dynamics at the University of Richmond. "But they aren't objective."

I've been amused by this oddity of "We won", "we're going to the championship game", "we are the champions" for a long, long time. The (fairly recent ) phenomenon of wearing jerseys to the game -- or to the bar to watch the game on teevee -- feeds into the ego-stroke.

You never hear "we lost", or "we choked", it's always "they".

What's happening to the students in Happy Valley is a common psychological phenomenon. The rest of the country watches the students and thinks they're missing the point. But in the students' minds, the story is happening to them. After all, "We are Penn State."

Social psychologists use two terms: BIRGing and CORFing -- Basking in Reflected Glory and Cutting off Reflected Failure. In the first, fans of a football team, for example, want to identify with the players' success. Decked out in team gear, they'll say, "We had a great win. We were awesome," when in reality the fans had no part in the win. Cutting off Reflected Failure happens when a team makes a mistake or loses, and fans blame it on an external factor to distance themselves from the defeat. "The refs were biased. The weather's bad." The true blame doesn't lie with the team.

"This is clearly a case of collective identity," says Dr. Forsyth of the Penn State reaction. "Students leave home, leave their family and they want to identify with their school. Their school has always been a place of tradition and honor, and that has been tarnished. So when they lose that identity, they panic."

And the cognitive dissonance gets worse.

Many students see JoePa as a victim, and their strong identity with him means they feel like victims, too. So they blame the media or the legal system. Is it a coincidence that the only real material damage from the riots was an overturned TV news truck? Respected ESPN reporter Tom Farrey said he was hit by a rock.

Most of us can't truly relate to the most important part of this story; the part that really has nothing to do with football. The part with the kids whose lives have never and will never be the same after such abuse from adults they were supposed to be able to trust. The part with the parents who couldn't save their children from sexual predators. But when you're 18 or 19 years old in State College, football is what you see everywhere around you and abuse (and the victims' faces) are hidden.


"Football runs the social life, it's all about football," Forsyth says. "It's the major source of everything that happens there.

"The actual crimes are very distant from them."

That atmosphere, thankfully, did change fairly quickly ... by gametime Saturday.

Student leaders came together to support victims of sexual abuse by wearing blue ribbons to Saturday's game and selling T-shirts to raise money for the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Prevent Child Abuse America Organization. PSU and Nebraska students joined in prayer before the game.

Not fast enough for some, though. The judge who ordered Jerry Sandusky released on unsecured bail turns out to be a volunteer in the Second Mile charity. And here's where the conversation pivots to politics.

I’m 31, an Iraq war veteran, a Penn State graduate, a Catholic, a native of State College, acquaintance of Jerry Sandusky’s, and a product of his Second Mile foundation.

And I have fully lost faith in the leadership of my parents’ generation.

That's a handful of institutions that have failed his generation right there.

Think of the world our parents’ generation inherited. They inherited a country of boundless economic prosperity and the highest admiration overseas, produced by the hands of their mothers and fathers. They were safe. For most, they were endowed opportunities to succeed, to prosper, and build on their parents’ work.

For those of us in our 20s and early 30s, this is not the world we are inheriting.

We looked to Washington to lead us after September 11th. I remember telling my college roommates, in a spate of emotion, that I was thinking of enlisting in the military in the days after the attacks. I expected legions of us -- at the orders of our leader -- to do the same. But nobody asked us. Instead we were told to go shopping. 
 
The times following September 11th called for leadership, not reckless, gluttonous tax cuts. But our leaders then, as now, seemed more concerned with flattery. Then -House Majority Leader and now-convicted felon Tom Delay told us, “nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes.” Not exactly Churchillian stuff.

Those of us who did enlist were ordered into Iraq on the promise of being “greeted as liberators,” in the words of our then-vice president. Several thousand of us are dead from that false promise.

We looked for leadership from our churches, and were told to fight not poverty or injustice, but gay marriage. In the Catholic Church, we were told to blame the media, not the abusive priests, not the bishops, not the Vatican, for making us feel that our church has failed us in its sex abuse scandal and cover-up.

Our parents’ generation has balked at the tough decisions required to preserve our country’s sacred entitlements, leaving us to clean up the mess. They let the infrastructure built with their fathers’ hands crumble like a stale cookie. They downgraded our nation’s credit rating. They seem content to hand us a debt exceeding the size of our entire economy, rather than brave a fight against the fortunate and entrenched interests on K Street and Wall Street.

Now we are asking for jobs and are being told we aren’t good enough, to the tune of 3.3 million unemployed workers between the ages of 25 and 34.
 
This failure of a generation is as true in the halls of Congress as it is at Penn State.

With the 60 Minutes report last night that Your Congress has been trading stocks on insider information (which is illegal everywhere else in the country) you can only arrive at one conclusion: it's time to clean house.

And with the police crackdowns on Occupy encampments in Portland and Oakland last night and this morning, is there anybody still wondering what that is all about?


That would have been last week, of course. Next chance comes next year.

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progrogressive Alliance is beginning to think fond thoughts of cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and, um, something else it can't quite recall -- oops! -- as it brings you this week's blog roundup.

Off the Kuff took a tour of Houston elections from the 1990s to see how they compared to more modern matchups.

Following Rick Perry's latest gaffes, Letters From Texas explains why the governor has become such a hopeless band nerd that the crazy girl who can't get a prom date pities him.

Darth Politico commemorates Veterans Day with a discussion about the history of red tape and veterans benefits. Emphasis on 'red'.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson points out that Republicans in Texas are boxed in. They know know taxes must be raised to run our state's government, but can't bring themselves to say it, much less do it: Texas GOP's cowardice.

On the same night Houston Mayor Annise Parker celebrated barely being re-elected, a few blocks away the HPD arrested seven Occupy Houstonians for refusing to move a tarp which the police called a tent. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs doesn't think that's a great way to start a second term ... unless she plans on again representing the 1%, that is.

BossKitty at TruthHugger sees another disappointing campaign season. Inundated with Republican this and Tea Party that, BossKitty is embarrassed by what we are hearing in the post Republican Whack-a-Mole Misses the Point. Some economic guru is writing the script for each candidate to spout as the only way to get back on track, because it is always Obama's fault. We all know it was Obama's fault even before he was born. But some of the solutions totally miss the big picture.

Bay Area Houston is remembering on Veterans Day on how we continue to screw our vets.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that BP wants the government to hide data while celebrating the end of its cleanup responsibility. This week: crony capitalists 2, regular citizens 0.

Lightseeker at TexasKaos gives a brief summary of the GOP voter suppression campaign gearing up for 2012. Check it out: Voter Suppression Update 2011.

Neil at Texas Liberal attended an Occupy Houston press conference about OH participants arrested by Houston police for covering up electrical equipment with a tarp during a rainstorm. If only Occupy efforts across the nation had the same First Amendment protections as large anonymous corporate political donations enjoy under the Citizens United case.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Let's really honor them this year

Let's bring them home, give them jobs, take care of their medical needs, and above all only put them at risk when it's absolutely necessary.

A picture is worth a thousand words but actions speak louder than that.

At the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month

In the eleventh year.



Stand with Occupy Houston and the 99% on 11/11/11 for a peaceful student walkout and celebration of global resistance at Tranquility Park!

We call on University of Houston students to meet in front of the library building at 11:00am. At 11:30am we march to Tranquility Park in downtown Houston for a day of solidarity and celebration of global protest movements. The festivities start at 2:00pm in the park!

From 2:00pm to 5:00pm we’re holding discussion circles in the park. All topics are up for chat, but we plan to discuss:
  • health care
  • the homeless
  • taking care of our veterans
  • spirituality in collective movements
  • occupation ideology

Don’t limit yourself to these! Tighten your thinking caps and lets talk about the issues that drive our movement. At 5:00pm we’ll open it up and celebrate art and poetry. We’ll have an open mic, so come on out and rap, sing, or perform. [...]

11/11/11 is a national day of solidarity, and we welcome everyone! We are the 99% and we are finally making our voices heard!

On Friday, November 11, 2011, the City of Houston will show support of our Armed Forces as we celebrate the 13th Annual Houston Salutes American Heroes Veterans Day Commemoration and Parade.
The ceremony begins at 10:00 a.m. on the steps of City Hall. The American Heroes Parade will follow at 11:30 a.m.

Free parking in the Theater District Parking Garage from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. (.pdf)

2011 Event Press Release (.html)

11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. AT&T Veterans Job Fair ... The job fair booths are free for hiring companies. Please contact Susan Bono at susan.bono@houstontx.gov.

11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. Walgreens Veterans Health Fair

Friday Brain Fart Funnies

Hey, y'all ... two outta three ain't bad. Cut the guy some slack.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Adios MoFo

The good news for Rick Perry is that everyone will probably stop talking about his bizarre New Hampshire speech now. The bad news is: He created an even more cringe-inducing YouTube moment at Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate — one that probably represents the most embarrassing public slip-up in what has been a campaign full of them for Perry.

My first impression was -- seriously -- that it wasn't that bad. I laughed at him ... but I laugh at him all the time. Frankly I thought that Herman Cain's "Princess Nancy" was much, much worse.

Apparently, Perry’s Intrade value — which wasn’t that high to begin with, thanks in large part to all of the poor debate performances that preceded this — cratered in the few minutes after this exchange. This really has the potential to be the flub that will define all of Perry’s flubs. [...]

... When the debate ended, the host of CNBC’s wrap-up show called it a disastrous moment that will be replayed for years to come. He asked his guest, Larry Kudlow, if it’s a candidacy-killer for Perry. “I’m afraid it is,” Kudlow replied, calling it “a devastating gaffe.”

Later, Michele Bachmann appeared and said that she and the rest of the GOP candidates all feel sorry for Perry. That’s what it’s come to for the Texan: Three months after jumping into the GOP race and surging to a commanding lead, he’s now being pitied by Michele Bachmann. The real suspense around Perry now may simply be whether he bothers to stick around until Iowa.

New Hampshire's effort was manic, unscripted, and made Rick Perry actually seem gay, in public and for what I presume is the only time ever caught on camera.

This was just a garden variety brain fart.

But hey, whatever ends this for everybody I can get down with.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Houston council candidates on hallucinogens

In their own words. Chris Carmona, who got doubled up by Melissa Noriega 55 -26 yesterday, posted this on her Facebook wall:

"congratulations melissa. this has been a fun experience. i look forward to working closely with you over the next two years to make it all the more easier to transition into the seat in 2013. congratulations! "

Not a single capitalized letter. Impressive.

Louis Molnar, who garnered almost 11% in his AL4 bid against Amy Price (21%) and C.O. Bradford (68%):

Thank you to everyone who supported me in this race. It was a tremendous win! What a ride! I now hold a new title: Hon. (Ret.) Louis Molnar and am off to my next set of challenges. Stay tuned! :)

Molnar, whom everyone has presumed to be Latino all this time, turns out to be Hungarian. When he says "I come from an immigrant family," he means his family came over the Canadian border.

And one blogger:

Mayoral Margin. Given the review done in the previous post, I’m willing to up my margin and say that Annise Parker goes over 60% today. If I were bolder in my guesstimating, I might even suggest 65%. We’ll see soon enough how close to accurate that is.

Whew. Yes, we did. The online poll came closer. (Teasing the big man. His progs are usually better than mine, which is why I stopped making any.)

And one elected official. This is more TeaBagger psychosis than it is pharmaceutically-induced mania:

Stanart: aside from turnout, election day went smoothly

"Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?"

Elections usually DO go smoothly when only ONE out of every ten registered voters shows up to vote, you moron. Maybe if you stopped making sure every single piece of paper distributed to election judges gets your name printed in BOLD on it, your office could correct misinformation in election manuals instead of having to print 4 pages of corrections. Stop wasting OUR taxpayer money on YOUR mistakes, STAN STANART.

I could continue with additional insanity, but it's a beautiful day and I'm going to spend some of it outside.

Fifty point eight percent (and ten)

Against token opposition, Parker barely avoided a runoff. With all votes counted, the incumbent mayor garnered 50.8 percent of the vote over five underfunded and little-known challengers despite spending more than $2.3 million. Her predecessor, Bill White, won 86 percent of the vote in his last race for mayor in 2007.

Parker actually received fewer than 50 percent of the votes cast on Election Day but she rolled up greater tallies in early voting and absentee ballots cast.

A little humility might go a long way for the Mayor as she continues to "fix things" in her second term.

In her first term, Mayor Annise Parker consolidated departments, laid off city workers, raised fees, negotiated labor contracts with all three city employee unions, undertook historic designation of several neighborhoods over the opposition of those rallying around property rights, redrew the city’s political map, pushed for the addition of two Council seats and implemented two controversial voter-approved propositions to turn off the city’s red-light cameras and start charging a monthly drainage fee.

Upon winning a second term Tuesday, she said the work isn’t done.

“I’m going to continue to tackle every tough problem that I can find and fix things,” Parker told the Chronicle at her Election Night headquarters at Union Station.

If she can get some workers hired to begin projects funded by the drainage fee -- which had an "Against" slate in yesterday's races that was miserably defeated -- then she will do better in '13.

But this news last night is an inauspicious beginning: while Parker partied, seven Occupy Houston participants were arrested (three more were detained and then released) for refusing to move a tarp.

At approximately 11:00 PM, HPD arrested 10 Occupy Houston participants as a result of a dispute over a tarp being used to protect equipment belonging to Occupy Houston from inclement weather.

Police confronted one of the Occupy Houston participants about the placement of a tarp in Tranquility Park and requested its removal. The participant refused to remove the tarp on the grounds that it was necessary to protect equipment vital to the participants’ well-being. The participant discussed the matter with officers over a period of approximately 20 minutes, during which time HPD presence at the occupation site escalated dramatically, reaching a total of 27 officers and 19 police cruisers.

After failing to reach a resolution, police insisted that an arrest would be made if the tarp were not removed. The aforementioned participant remained steadfast in his position and 5 additional Occupy Houston participants indicated their willingness to be arrested on these terms as well. HPD then proceeded to arrest the participants and confiscate the tarp and other equipment belonging to the occupiers.

Four additional Occupy Houston participants were detained during the course of the arrests. Three individuals who were filming the event were detained for jaywalking after attempting to cross Walker St. at Bagby, where a police cruiser was obstructing the crosswalk. Another participant was arrested while requesting the name and badge number of one of the arresting officers. Three of the detained persons were released after a period of time, while the remaining 7 participants were booked into the municipal jail facility located on Lubbock. Video of the arrests may be viewed at Occupy Houston’s YouTube channel.

This confrontation occurred about two hours after Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee addressed the general assembly. An Iraq War veteran, Shaun Crump, was among those arrested.

Not a good way to start, Mayor Parker.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A little tighter than everyone thought

I read some anti-incumbent anger into the closer-than-expected election results this evening.

Mayor Annise Parker leads her five rivals with 95 percent of Harris County precincts reporting (and all Fort Bend County precincts reporting; there is a tiny bit of Houston over the border) but her support has fallen from 52.76 percent in early-voting results to 50.94 percent now.

Though it appears unlikely, Parker would be faced into a runoff if her total ends below 50 percent; that would be a rare event for an incumbent mayor, particular one without any well-financed challengers.

Most close observers considered Parker a prohibitive favorite in the absence of a well-funded or well-known challenger among the five candidates who ran against her. [...]

A poll last month showed Parker with the lowest approval rating of any Houston mayor in decades, and only 37 percent of respondents said they would vote for her.

The Council races were a mixed bag of close and not-so-close. The tight ones:

With 838 of 885 Harris County precincts reporting, most incumbents are clear winners in Houston City Council elections.

+ District A (near northwest) is one exception. There, challenger Helena Brown leads incumbent Brenda Stardig 46.9 to 41.3 percent.

+ The crowded District B race (northeast and far north) is headed to a runoff, with Alvin Byrd leading at 25.1 percent, followed by Jerry Davis at 24.4 percent and Kathy Blueford-Daniels at 18 percent. Byrd is an aide to incumbent Jarvis Johnson, who is termed out.

+ Former state representative Ellen Cohen leads in District C (Montrose, Heights and other nearby neighborhoods) with 54.2 percent of the vote, having dominated fund-raising in the contest. She is trailed by Brian Cweren at 27.3 percent.

+ In At-Large 1, incumbent Stephen Costello was leading with 51.2 percent of the vote, followed by Scott Boates at 22.4 percent and Don Cook at 18.1 percent.

+ The 10-candidate race for At-Large 2 is still blurry. Perennial candidate Andrew Burks leads with 17.2 percent of the vote, followed by former state representative Kristi Thibaut at 15.8 percent, Elizabeth Perez at 14.2 percent and former planning commissioner David Robinson at 11.9 percent.

+ In At-Large 3, incumbent Melissa Noriega was leading with 55.8 percent of the vote, followed by Chris Carmona at 26.1 percent and J. Brad Batteau at 18.1 percent.

+ In At-Large 5, controversial incumbent Councilwoman Jolanda Jones looks set for her third straight runoff. She faces two strong contenders, chiropractor Jack Christie (who nearly defeated her two years ago) and regulatory compliance expert Laurie Robinson. Jones leads with 38.9 percent, followed by Christie at 32.7 percent and Robinson at 19.9 percent.

Stardig is going to be Teabagged next month. Cohen posts incumbent-like numbers in winning her election. Costello barely avoids a run-off. JoJo and Christie square off against each other in December, again, same as in '09.

The race for AL2 has the biggest surprise of the evening, with perennial candidate Burks leading the ten-person field, and Thibaut making the run-off against him.

“I just went and got me my favorite cigar,” Andrew Burks said when asked for his reaction to leading in early voting in the 10-candidate At-Large 2 race.

This is, by Burks’ count, his fifth race for a council seat. He took At-Large 2 incumbent Sue Lovell to a runoff two years ago. [...]

Burks also bought advertising in the Texas Conservative Review, whose endorsement he secured, and radio station KCOH.

The not-tight ones:

+ Incumbent Wanda Adams will hold her District D (south and southeast) seat, now leading challenger Larry McKinzie 81.7 to 18.3 percent.

+ Incumbent Mike Sullivan is unopposed in District E (Clear Lake and Kingwood).

+ In District F (southwest), incumbent Al Hoang also looks likely to avoid a runoff. He leads at 56 percent, trailed by Peter “Lyn” Rene at 26 percent and Hoc Thai Nguyen at 18 percent.

+ In District G (west), incumbent Oliver Pennington will top Clyde Bryan. Pennington leads 76.8 to 23.2 percent.

+ In District H (near north), incumbent Ed Gonzalez will beat Patricia Rodriguez. Gonzalez leads 68.2 to 31.8 percent.

+ In District I (East End and downtown), incumbent James Rodriguez will top Leticia Ablaza. He leads 64.5 to 35.5 percent.

+ In District J, (southwest) — newly formed based on the city’s growth according to 2010 Census data and crafted by Hispanic leaders as a “hard-earned” Latino opportunity district — non-Latino Mike Laster will win. Laster leads with 67.3 percent of the vote, with his closest challenger, Criselda Romero, at 21.7 percent.

+ In District K, (south-southwest) the second district added in response to 2010 Census data, Larry Green will win. He leads with 65.1 percent, trailed by Pat Frazier at 25.8 percent.

+ In At-Large 4, incumbent C.O. Bradford, a former police chief, will retain his seat. He leads with 67.9 percent, trailed by Amy Price at 21 percent.

While there is plenty to be happy about as it relates to Laster and Green, it's a disappointment that Hoang and Bradford will return to council. Bradford in particular seems to be demonstrating some Teflon ability with respect to the myriad of scandals with his fingerprints on them and the lack of any big hits that struck Parker, Costello, Stardig, and to a lesser extent Noriega.

Bradford will be first in line to challenge Parker in 2013 for mayor, and will attempt to reassemble the Gene Locke coalition of African-Americans and Republicans to take her out. I'm guessing the HGLBT Caucus won't be endorsing him then, but Dr. Hotze certainly will.

The odious Manuel Rodriguez survived his self-inflicted homophobia wounds, getting re-elected to the HISD board by 24 votes. The worst result by far.

More analysis tomorrow.