Saturday, November 30, 2013

Not the News

-- Share this article, add something like "Obama 2016!" when you post it, and then stand back and watch heads explode.

-- Texas boy tasered by officer after breaking up school fight, remains in a coma:

A high school student suffered a brain injury and remains in a medically-induced coma after a Texas sheriff’s deputy tasered him without cause following a skirmish in a school hallway, the boy’s mother claims in court.

Maria Acosta has sued Bastrop County, its school district and Randy McMillan, a Bastrop County sheriff’s officer and school resource officer, according to Courthouse News.

Noe Nino de Rivera, Acosta’s son, suffered a “severe brain hemorrhage” when McMillan Tasered him after the boy, known as N.N., had intervened to halt a fight between two females at Cedar Creek High School on Wednesday, November 20, Acosta claims in a federal lawsuit.

[...]

McMillan and another security officer arrived to break up the fight upon being called by school officials. Acosta says her son “diffused the situation” by the time they arrived on the scene.

McMillan told N.N. to step away, and he did so with his hands raised, but McMillan tasered him nevertheless, Acosta alleges.

Immobilized by the Taser, N.N. fell and struck his head on the floor, at which point McMillan handcuffed the unconscious boy, 17.

[...]

Acosta says the deputy officer was never in harm, and that the defendants allowed him to work at Cedar Creek High School even after he Tasered another student a year ago. That history created a “foreseeable danger” that led to N.N.’s injuries, she says.

According to the Sheriff's Office, McMillan has never received complaints for using excessive force, and he's never been disciplined for using excessive force.

I would have said 'I have nothing to add' to this story, except for those last two sentences. The Bastrop County sheriff's deputy had Tasered a student previously, and the department's official response was that he has never received any complaints, nor been disciplined, for excessive force.

Now then... I'm speechless.

-- Do racism, conservatism, and low I.Q. go hand in hand?

I believe we all know the answer to this question already. But it's nice to see some empirical data... even if it will be rejected by those most in need of it.

-- Diebold charged with bribery, falsifying documents in a 'worldwide pattern of criminal conduct':

One of the world's largest ATM manufacturers and, formerly, one of the largest manufacturers of electronic voting systems, has been indicted by federal prosecutors for bribery and falsification of documents.

The charges represent only the latest in a long series of criminal and/or unethical misconduct by Diebold, Inc. and their executives over the past decade.

According to Cleveland's Plain Dealer, a U.S. Attorney says the latest charges are in response to "a worldwide pattern of criminal conduct" by the company...

They won't face any jail time, however, because they are a corporation. And you are not.

-- Something else everyone knew already.  Except for a few souls who watch Fox News (sic).

-- Rooting for failure.

It’s hard to remember a time when a major political party and its media arm were so actively rooting for fellow Americans to lose. When the first attempt by the United States to launch a satellite into orbit, in 1957, ended in disaster, did Democrats start to cheer, and unify to stop a space program in its infancy? Or, when Medicare got off to a confusing start, did Republicans of the mid-1960s wrap their entire political future around a campaign to deny government-run health care to the elderly? 

Of course not. But for the entirety of the Obama era, Republicans have consistently been cheerleaders for failure. They rooted for the economic recovery to sputter, for gas prices to spike, the job market to crater, the rescue of the American automobile industry to fall apart. 

I get it. This organized schadenfreude goes back to the dawn of Obama’s presidency, when Rush Limbaugh, later joined by Senator Mitch McConnell, said their No. 1 goal was for the president to fail. A CNN poll in 2010 found 61 percent of Republicans hoping Obama would fail (versus only 27 percent among all Americans). 

This is all that the mission of Republicans and conservatives is to accomplish.  Their constant complaining, refusal to live by the law of the land, and perpetual obstruction are harming the United States of America.  Eventually their inability to win an election outside the South and a few western outposts may convince them to change tactics, but in the meantime there will need to be another vote taken in Congress to continue funding the federal government on January 15, 2014.  What's the early line on how that might go?

Honestly, at this point, it would be best for the nation if the GOP keeps contracting until there's barely anything left of it but fond memories.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Still digesting

So how did your mixture of tryptophan, alcohol, and relatives go yesterday?


By all indications, Walmart's Black Thanksgiving is going just as badly as you might expect.


Just be thankful you aren't relying on food stamps -- or the generosity of Republicans -- to have a happy holiday season.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The pope is not a liberal, Sarah Palin

He is a full-blown socialist.  Maybe even an anti-capitalist.

Pope Francis has taken aim at capitalism as "a new tyranny" and is urging world leaders to step up their efforts against poverty and inequality, saying "thou shall not kill" the economy. Francis calls on rich people to share their wealth.

The existing financial system that fuels the unequal distribution of wealth and violence must be changed, the Pope warned.

"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?" Pope Francis asked an audience at the Vatican.

The global economic crisis, which has gripped much of Europe and America, has the Pope asking how countries can function, or realize their full economic potential, if they are weighed down by the debts of capitalism.

“A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules,” the 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, said. 


I love this guy!

Now if you really want to have some fun with it, tell your Drudge-reading, O'Reilly-watching, Limbaugh-listening relative what John Fugelsang said to Ed Schultz last night...

“I think you might just want to blow their minds, Ed, and say that back at the first Thanksgiving, when the Wampanoag fed the Pilgrims, they didn’t know it, but they had just invented socialism for undocumented immigrants,” Fugelsang said. “Then they’ll spend the rest of the night trying to process that.”

[...]

“You can also point out that under Obamacare, we are now making people buy a corporation’s private product — it’s pretty much the opposite of socialism,” Fugelsang argued. “What we have now is socialism; when uninsured people go to an emergency room, and the local taxpayer has to pick up the tab. ‘Hey, right-wing Uncle Larry, why are you defending the socialist status quo?’ That’ll freak them out.”

Happy Turkey Day!

Update: Crooks and Liars assembles some of the right-wing outrage.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tryin' to get in the spirit of the season ovah heah

First: thanks to Juanita Jean for ruining my appetite for Big Bird tomorrow.


 Guess I'll have to stick to the ham.  Then again...


Here's some things on my wish list.

-- To drive my conservative family members crazy during Thanksgiving dinner, I'm going to pour all of the gravy onto my plate first, and then tell them it will eventually trickle down onto theirs.

-- To piss off the Fox News junkie across the street, the twinkly lights in our living room window are going to spell out SURRENDER, CHRISTMAS.

(Yes, these first two were plagiarized.)

-- I'm going to tip my servers double-time and a half tomorrow just to one-up Neil, and I will not go anywhere near a mall, a big box store, or an airport.  I will probably go to the last days of the Texas Renaissance Festival this weekend, and Dickens on the Strand next weekend.  And I heartily recommend that you do the same.  No amount of shopping, Christmas television specials, or Yuletide radio channels -- nothing -- is better for putting a person in the holiday spirit.


And there'll be more toons tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Cornyn won't be fooled

That Iran nuke deal is just a ruse. Fool us once...


Fool us twice....


We won't get fooled again, John, unlike those TeaBaggers who are still calling you RINO this week.

Congratulations! You are the biggest fool in Texas, outfooling the likes of Steve Stockman, Louie Gohmert, and yes, even Rick Perry. A "Mission Accomplished" banner for you!

Oops, one more.


Update: And still more, as only Twitterers can snark it, from BOR.

Beating Abbott now, and beating him in November

Winning lawsuits isn't really his strong suit, but Greg Abbott knows he cannot afford to lose this one to Wendy Davis.  And that has nothing to do with the taxpayer's money he's already spent fighting a losing battle.

"Loser pays" is what the law says.  The law Texas Republicans passed.  And Abbott, as we all know, is the state's biggest loser.

Lawyers who helped Sen. Wendy Davis beat back Republican-led efforts to retool her Tarrant County district urged a federal court Monday to award them hundreds of thousands of dollars spent fighting Attorney General Greg Abbott in the case. ...

In September, a federal court in San Antonio declared Davis a "prevailing" party and instructed her lawyers to file to recoup legal costs. Since then, the redistricting court fight over a state Senate map has centered on a request from Davis' lawyers and the League of United Latin American Citizens for more than $700,000 in total reimbursement.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last week rejected Abbott's initial request to block Davis' legal team from being awarded attorney fees. The case now gets bounced back to the court in San Antonio to decide how much, if anything, the state should pay back the Davis legal team.

Abbott lost at the Fifth Circuit.  Let that soak in for a minute.  The $700 large is really just pocket change in the grand scheme; the bragging rights are much more valuable.

Important note: The 5th Circuit did not rule on the merits, i.e. the substantive claims made for or against the fees, in the case. It basically told the state that its appeal is untimely and should come later — after the San Antonio court rules on the requested attorney fees (read the state’s brief here and Davis’ brief here).

A majority of the three-judge panel told the Texas attorney general that he was jumping the gun on his appeal.  "Go back home and wait for decision from the lower court, Skippy".  That is priceless.

Abbott’s legal team can file another appeal with the 5th Circuit if the San Antonio court awards fees to Davis’ lawyers. And Abbott’s office on Monday made clear that it plans to do just that if necessary.

“The 5th Circuit expressed no view on the merits of Davis’ request for attorneys’ fees or the district court’s designation of her as a prevailing party,” Abbott spokeswoman Lauren Bean said in a statement. “Those issues will be back in front of the 5th Circuit at a later date.”

In other words, 'we'll keep fighting and we'll keep losing'.  For some reason I am reminded here of the 43 votes taken in the US House of Representatives to repeal Obamacare, and since those were all failures, Plan B is to complain loudly about a glitchy website. 

All this conservative losing bodes well for 2014, don't you think?

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is thankful for many things, this week and every week, as we bring you the blog post roundup of the best of the left of Texas from last week.

Off the Kuff calls on Wendy Davis to make an issue out of Rick Perry's refusal to follow the Defense Department's directive on same sex benefits for National Guard members.

Texpatriate has special news this week, as Sophia announced in her Week in Review video that founder and editorial board member Noah M. Horwitz will be moving to Austin this January to continue his collegiate studies at the University of Texas and lead a new and exciting chapter for Texpatriate in the state capital.

Eye On Williamson is still blogging at our temporary home. Here's an update on what's happening with local candidate news, and Democratic efforts in Williamson County.

In her final term as Houston mayor, Annise Parker has begun enacting a progressive agenda, much to the surprised delight of PDiddie at Brains and Eggs. Same-sex spousal benefits for municipal employees, a wage theft ordinance, and legislation reining in payday lenders all came to fruition in the past week, signaling measurable progress for the Bayou City.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know that John Cornyn has a clear record of protecting rapists. Why? He also says stupid stuff about foreign policy.

Looking to move ahead to the rest of life, Neil at All People Have Value made a donation to Wendy Davis for Governor of Texas. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.

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

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

Concerned Citizens provides copies of all the documents in the lawsuit filed to overturn Texas' ban on same sex marriage.

TFN Insider celebrates a win for science education.

Mark Bennett debunks a claim about sex trafficking in Texas.

John Coby calls out the Young Conservatives of Texas for their racist "catch an illegal immigrant" game.

Better Texas Blog explains a pilot program to do something about student loan default in Texas.

The Texas Green Report brings word of the possible adoption of the International Energy Conservation code.

The Makeshift Academic applauds Houston's wage theft law.

BOR scoffs at Greg Abbott's claim that there were "no problems" with the voter ID law during this past election.

Yes To Texas makes us all feel old.

And finally, the TPA congratulates Juanita Jean on the birth of her first grandchild, and Lone Star Ma on the occasion of her daughter's first time casting a vote.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Steve Stockman's money problem

It's more of a disclosure problem.


Both as a candidate and as a congressman, Rep. Steve Stockman of Clear Lake has failed to make federally required disclosures about business affiliations that stretch from Texas to the British Virgin Islands, and has provided no details about the business he claims as his sole source of income.

Stockman returned to office in 2013 after 16 years away from Congress - crediting a low-budget, come-from-behind campaign to which he claimed to have lent more than $100,000 of his own money.

Stockman failed to file a federal disclosure form during his candidacy in 2012 when he ran for the newly created District 36, which stretches east and north from Southeast Harris County, around Beaumont, and beyond to the Louisiana line.

Every other Texan in Congress, whether incumbent or freshman, filed a report in 2012.

The Chronicle previously revealed Stockman's, ah, interesting local campaign office in a story earlier this month.

The fire marshal and city building officials in Webster have ordered the emergency closure of an unorthodox campaign headquarters for Congressman Steve Stockman, citing multiple safety violations.

The headquarters had been housed since early 2012 in a former motorcycle shop along the Gulf Freeway. Campaign staffers and volunteers had been both working and sleeping there, even though the commercial building was considered unsafe for human habitation, according to Webster city records and an interview with assistant fire marshal Warren Chappell.

Officials found 14 fire code violations and ordered the office closed and its electricity shut off on Nov. 7, fire department records show. No one had obtained the necessary permit for the campaign to legally occupy the pale yellow two-story metal building along a feeder road on the freeway, wedged between a spa dealership and a strip mall, building department records show.

But he does have actual money problems, too.  The Chron had prior articles that detailed Stockman's perpetual campaign finance woes.

Rep. Steve Stockman has fired two congressional staffers after disclosures that both made prohibited contributions to his campaign.

The incident is the latest in a string of controversial episodes that have dogged Stockman's political campaigns over the past two decades.

The Clear Lake Repub­lican's campaign for Congress in Texas' 36th District has been notified of potential problems with its campaign finance filings in 2012 and 2013 approximately a dozen times, including apparently misreported donations, late or missing filings of required reports, and inaccuracies in certain filings.

Both this year and in the 1990s, his campaigns were investigated for issues relating to campaign materials made to look like newspapers. While the earlier complaints resulted in a settlement with the Federal Election Commission and a civil penalty, the most recent complaint was dismissed without enforcement action, the FEC announced Friday.

Stockman spokesman Donny Ferguson told the Chronicle Thursday that staffers Jason Posey and Thomas Dodd had been terminated. Posey had worked with Stockman since the mid-1990s, and was his 2013 campaign treasurer.

Stockman has never been anything but a goon and a goofball, and that goes all the way back to when he unseated Jack Brooks in 1994.  But the good folks of East Texas chose to 're-elect' him, as his 2012 campaign signs urged... and who is to argue with the will of the people?  Even if he hadn't ever represented much of the newly-drawn 36th Congressional District -- and even granting that this is, you know, the Appalachia of the Lone Star State -- they knew what they were getting.

Before the "librul media" whining gets too loud, those who vote in the 36th's Republican primary will need to come to some measure of good sense and stop repeating this mistake.  It's not like Stockman is a coke addict or anything -- as I wrote before, there's good dope and there's bad dopes -- but if this buffoon gets re-elected in 2014, then they own him... and every shitty thing that he does and is.

Hard to imagine East Texas lowering its reputation any further, but it is certainly possible.

Update: Gator in The Bayou wishes Stockman a happy birthday.

Sunday Funnies

"If John F. Kennedy were alive today he would be a conservative..." I agree. He'd be a zombie, with most of his brain missing, so yes he WOULD be a conservative.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Mayor Parker advances payday lending ordinance

Tipping my cap; she's off to a great start in pushing a progressive reform agenda in her final term with this.

"I had initially favored a Houston-specific measure, but decided that joining with other Texas cities in a united front on this issue is the best way to send a strong message to the Texas Legislature," said Mayor Parker. "Lenders deserve to make a profit on their investments, but not by charging astronomical interest rates to desperate consumers who have nowhere else to turn for emergency financial assistance. The statewide model I am recommending for approval by Houston City Council achieves this balance."

While making the announcement at Houston city hall on Friday, the mayor was surrounded by a broad coalition of community leaders who say they are concerned that these loans keep the most vulnerable trapped in a cycle of poverty.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player
Houston City Council will be briefed on the mayor's proposal on Dec. 4. The first opportunity for a vote will be on Dec. 11.
She keeps this up and and she'll go down as the best mayor in this city's long history.  More from Charles, Stace, and Noah.

Update: In case anybody was wondering about my about-face, this is why.

(Parker) brushed aside concerns about inviting a lawsuit, saying the city is sued daily, and did not finesse her message to the industry.

"They have said they will move outside the city limits of Houston, and I say: Don't let the door hit you on the way out," Parker said. "This is not about making a reasonable profit. This is about preying on vulnerable human beings and making an obscene profit."

That's called 'boom' and 'thud'.  Two hits: the mayor hitting the payday lenders, and the payday lenders hitting the ground.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Oswald acted alone

This I believe.

Like many others, I have played amateur detective in this fifty-year national obsession, more than most but much less than others.  And the more I have learned, the less convinced I am that there was an actual conspiracy.  Here's why...

The vast majority -- 98% -- of all of the documents collected by the Warren Commission have been declassified.  This occurred in 1997 and was prompted by questions raised in Oliver Stone's film 'JFK', which many Americans believe is more accurate than it actually is.  Two things stood out to me from this new data...

-- The "magic  bullet" is flattened on the tail and along one side ("compressed laterally" as the Wiki describes; fourth graf up from the bottom), thus not so magic as its reputation has long suggested.  More on the single bullet theory here if you want it.

-- Oswald was scored a 'sharpshooter' while a Marine in 1956, and a 'marksman' in 1959.  Do you know the distance at which a military sniper must qualify for those ratings with shots within the target?

200 yards.

Do you know how far away Kennedy was from the 6th floor of the Texas school book depository?

Between approximately 189 feet, or 63 yards (neck shot) and roughly 80 yards (head shot).

(Lots of people throw cold water on the postulate that Oswald was a crack shot, for whatever that may be worth to you.)

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

Oswald undoubtedly had conversations -- deranged rants is probably a better descriptor -- with people about killing Kennedy.  Did he have conversations about killing Kennedy with the Russian government, or the CIA in Mexico City, or people loosely associated with the Cuban government or anti-Castro Cubans in this country, or elements of organized crime?  Perhaps.  Was he a patsy, as he claimed?  I doubt it.  Useful idiot?  This fits better to me.

Sidebar: When I lived in St Pete, Florida in 1992, I researched the Tampa gangster of Cuban descent, Santo Trafficante, who seemed as if he might be the link between the nebulous "parties with motive" most often mentioned... along with the CIA and the military/generals/MIC.  I had a personal connection for this interest: my wife's older brother -- born in Cuba like her, and emigrated to the US in 1961 as a teenager with the rest of her family -- had been shot to death by Tampa police in 1976 while running guns for some disjointed segments of the Mafia (essentially petty hoodlums who knew mobsters) and we were caught up with pursuing clues about that.  Nothing significant came of it.

Despite whatever "encouragement" he might have received, did Oswald act alone when he shot the president?  Almost certainly.  And I would not have said that even five years ago, mostly on the basis of an afternoon-long conversation at a Beaumont crawfish boil with Zack Shelton, the retired FBI agent who runs this website.

There's a lot there, much of it probably new to the average conspiracy theorist, so don't go in without a full glass and maybe something to eat.

The subscription channel Reelz has a series running this month called "JFK: The Smoking Gun" and it's fun, particularly if you like the various medical forensics angles like the dispute over the autopsy photos and Kennedy's missing brain and things like that.

And if you have a spare hour-and-a-half, watch Executive Action, the 1973 flick with Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, Will Geer, and several other character actors you'll recognize.  It follows the line that the CIA did it, and that is the only conspiracy theory that hasn't been properly debunked.



But the Warren Commission's conclusion is based on things that can no longer be reasonably disputed, namely...

-- The shots which killed Kennedy -- and wounded Texas Governor John Connally -- were fired from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository building.

-- They were fired from a rifle owned by Lee Harvey Oswald; Oswald worked in the school book depository, and carried with him to work on the day of the assassination a wrapped package he described as "curtain rods".

-- Oswald's fingerprints and palmprints were found on boxes in the location of the shooting (the TXSBD sixth-floor window) and his palmprint was found on the barrel of the rifle.

Conspiracy theorists are good at raising doubts about various portions of the Warren Commission account, but are also fairly poor at suggesting plausible alternatives to it.

I'm of the mind that a bonafide conspiracy exists today only in a few feverish minds (lots of people have reasonable enough doubts, but that just wouldn't be enough to acquit Oswald in a trial -- and away we go with the Ruby conspiracy theory).  And the main reason I can't ride in that car any more is that, if anyone actually had inside, verifiable information that there was a conspiracy of any kind... they would have cashed in by spilling the beans in a million-dollar tell-all book years ago.

People crave conspiracy theories and where one does not exist, one will be fabricated. Just look what happened with CBS and Benghazi.

Update: Socratic Gadfly, from the comments, has the best conspiracy theories.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Senate filibuster nuked

I really didn't think Harry Reid had it in him, but he did.

The Senate approved a historic rules change on Thursday by eliminating the use of the filibuster on all presidential nominees except those to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In doing so, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) invoked the long-threatened ‘nuclear option,’ meaning he called for a vote to change the Senate rules by a simple majority vote. It passed, 52 to 48. Three Democrats voted against changing the rules — Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

The unprecedented rules change means that President Barack Obama’s judicial and executive branch nominees no longer need to clear a 60-vote threshold to reach the Senate floor and get an up-or-down vote.

Both parties threatened to change the rules in recent years — but Reid said he felt compelled to finally pull the trigger after what he described as unprecedented use of the filibuster on Obama’s judicial picks, namely three blocked judges to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

One picture says it all.


Let's roll.

Houston council passes wage theft ordinance, mayor expands benefits to same-sex spouses

A busy and remarkable day yesterday in H-Town.

The city of Houston will offer health and life insurance benefits to all spouses of legally married employees, including same-sex couples, despite a voter-approved 2001 charter amendment that had banned the practice, Mayor Annise Parker announced Wednesday.

Parker's action relied on a legal opinion from City Attorney David Feldman that cited the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act this year, federal agencies' subsequent decisions to recognize legal same-sex marriages and other relevant case law.

"Based on the right to equal protection under the law, it is unconstitutional for the city to continue to deny benefits to the same-sex spouses of our employees who are legally married," Parker said. "This change is not only the legal thing to do, it is the right, just and fair thing to do."

[...]

Texas' own Defense of Marriage Act remains in force, Feldman and Parker said, but they said actions on the federal level supersede it and that the law is unconstitutional.

Better late than never, certainly. Sometimes little things (like elections) get in the way of big things. And yes, this a BFD. So is this.

Houston City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt an ordinance aimed at deterring companies from stealing workers' wages and ensuring the city does not hire firms that do, though supporters acknowledged the measure's limited reach.

The seemingly easy vote masked months of lobbying and negotiations among Mayor Annise Parker's administration, council members, workers rights groups and business organizations. The item was pulled from last week's agenda for some final tweaks in talks with lobbyists for builders, contractors, restaurateurs, building owners and hotel operators.

In the end, all sides pronounced the passage a positive step, or at least said they could live with it.

Isn't it sweet that the wage thieves said "they could live with it"?

Laura Perez-Boston, director of the nonprofit Faith and Justice Worker Center, flooded the chamber with supporters each time the item came up, citing statistics: 100 daily wage theft complaints in the Houston area; $750 million in local wages lost annually to the practice.

"It's certainly not everything we would want, but I do think it is a substantial step in the right direction," she said. 

It's a start... just like giving spousal benefits to all married city employees.  And it's important to acknowledge our elected officials for doing the right thing.  Progress -- even when it is long overdue and a half-measure to boot -- is good.

Who knows what we might accomplish next?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

One in three Houston-area gas pumps is a ripoff

This is what happens after twenty years of Republican rule at the statewide level.

(Houston CBS affiliate KHOU's investigative reporters) analyzed state inspection records and discovered that in the last two years nearly one in three gas station inspections in our region ended in a failing grade.

In all, that represented 1,667 different gas stations ....

State inspectors found problems with (one station's) pumps three different times since the beginning of November, 2011.  According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, in one case a pump charged $1.28 before delivering any gas.

I've blogged about this since 2010, when Hank Gilbert challenged Todd Staples for ag commissioner.  Seven years later, the problem has only gotten worse.  Now Staples wants a promotion to lieutenant governor in 2014.

I'm sure this institutionalized incompetence is only because the agriculture commission is just understaffed due to cutbacks passed in Austin.  After all, since we can't afford any state parks, and the only roads being built are toll roads, everybody's got to tighten their belt.  Right?

If an operator is determined to be intentionally ripping off customers, TDA will turn its findings over the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

How many of these has Greg Abbott's office prosecuted?  Fewer than the number of statistically insignificant voter "fraud" cases, I would guess.  This is the hallmark of Coathanger Ken's legacy: ignore actual fraud, pursue the monster-under-your-bed fears of the right-wing primary voter.

This is the kind of bad government conservatives should be complaining about.  Instead their response is to run ever more conservative candidates against their previous darlings.  That's not going to fix anything.

Instead of waiting for the TXGOP to figure out that they're part of the problem, let's vote for some solutions instead.  And let's encourage those who aren't voting in off-presidential year elections that it is vital that they start doing so.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The week's best toon

And it's only Tuesday.

Eeeny, meeny, miney, mo

Catch a n----r by the toe
If he hollers, make him pay
$50 dollars every day.

Everybody remember that one?  Lorenzo Garcia does.

Garcia is the Young Conservative of Texas who made the Internet blow up yesterday with his latest demonstration of the urgent need for sensitivity training.  'Latest', because he was the proud organizer of the affirmative action bake sale just a couple of months ago.

Here's a picture of Garcia with his mentor.


Neither of those guys need to crouch down for a picture. They're both already as low as a snake's ass in a wagon rut.

But Abbott, not to be outdone by a mere college undergraduate, thought of something nasty to say about "liberals" in his disavowal of Garcia's immigrant hunt.

“Conservatives should not stoop to the level of liberals, whose shenanigans at the Texas Capitol this summer, including chants of ‘hail Satan’ during Senator Davis’ filibuster to allow abortions after five months, did nothing but sidetrack the Texas Legislature.”

Well you did stoop, General.  You threw yourself out of your wheelchair and crawled on the ground, like some creature out of Leviticus, right under the limbo bar.

This is another "oops" for the Abbott campaign, no matter how much they wail and gnash their teeth.  And it's going to cost him a few extra million dollars in Spanish language media just to try to get the stain out.

I said not so long ago that Wendy Davis would need a boatload of cash, a little good luck, and some unforced errors from Greg Abbott to pull out a win next year. The Attorney General is certainly holding up his end so far.

Update
: YCT cancels the event. Everybody is in full retreat.

Update II: As a final self-inflicted coup de grĂ¢ce, Lorenzo Garcia attributed a quotation from Emiliano Zapata to some unidentified Founding Father.

The irony is so sinfully rich.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Weekly Wrangle

The thoughts and prayers of the Texas Progressive Alliance are with the people of the Phillippines as we bring you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at the numbers in the Astrodome referendum in Harris County to see what went wrong.

Horwitz at Texpatriate discusses and compares the (all Republican) candidates for Texas' two high courts.

Eye On Williamson is still blogging at our temporary home. There's much that is being lost in the hyperventilating over the mistake-riddled rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ACA. Part of which is EMTALA and our cruel health care system in Texas.

The Keystone XL pipeline is dead, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs. Oh, it probably needs a stake through its heart to stay dead, but it isn't going to be a big deal for a very long time... and maybe forever.

Everyone is focused on the odious Ted Cruz while CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know that John Cornyn is every bit as despicable. Cornyn is using the disgraced James O'Keefe to take away people's access to ACA help.

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

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

Grits for Breakfast informs us that "One out of Five Known Exonerations is for a Crime that Never Happened".

Texas Vox highlights construction problems with the Keystone XL southern segment.

The Makeshift Academic tracks Medicaid enrollment resulting from the Affordable Care Act.

The TSTA Blog wants to know why Greg Abbott is not making education a priority in his campaign.

Juanita Jean passes along the rumor that Tom DeLay wants to run for Congress again.

And finally, if you don't know who Justin Lookadoo is or why a bunch of Richardson High School students started calling him #Lookadouche on Twitter, then TFN Insider, Hair Balls, Forrest Wilder, TM Daily Post, Word of a Woman, BOR, and Nonsequiteuse explain what you missed.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Socialist elected to Seattle's city council

Bravo, I say.  Bravo.

Seattle City Council candidate Kshama Sawant, a “Socialist Alternative” insurgent, has unseated four-term incumbent Richard Conlin, with the latest batch of mail-in ballots nearly tripling Sawant’s lead to 1,148 votes.

A year ago, Sawant was running against the Legislature’s most powerful Democrat, House Speaker Frank Chopp, charging that the “Democratic Party-majority government” had slashed billions from education programs while bestowing tax exemptions on “rich corporations.”

Hm. Sounds familiar.

While the Occupy Seattle organizer is about to occupy an office in the council chambers, ballots are still being counted in several close races.  One big ballot measure is still hanging, while other contests appear narrowly decided.

The $15-an-hour minimum wage proposal in SeaTac, already under legal challenge, leads by exactly 53 votes.  The margin was cushioned by 12 votes in Thursday’s count.

The proposal for taxpayer-financed elections in Seattle, Proposition 1, has climbed in the late vote count.  Unlike Sawant — who overcame a 6,193-vote election night deficit — Prop. 1 hasn’t quite climbed enough.  The “No” side still has a lead of 2,656 votes.

"Taxpayer-financed elections" is code for getting the money out of politics.  Repealing Citizens United and Moving to Amend as a city ordinance.  But pause for a moment and let that sink in: taxpayer-financed elections aren't quite as popular in Seattle as the Socialist about to be sworn in.

You may recall that Houston had both a Socialist and a Green running for mayor earlier this month, but they didn't fare quite so well as Council Member-elect Sawant (about 1% apiece).  My feeling -- well, my hope anyway -- is that continuing to offer alternatives to left-leaning Houstonians, Texans, and Americans is, at best and as this is written today, a tool to pull the Democratic Party back to the port side of the political equation, and if Democrats keep doing things like this then the trend will be inexorable.  You won't hear about it in the mainstream media, though.

Well, you'll hear some about it.



What a breath of fresh, pine-scented air.

This qualifies as bonafide progress. Honestly I thought cities like Berkeley and Portland would have been at the lead, but some will say that the Left Coast is all the same anyway.   Republicans in California, Oregon, and Washington must feel even more hopeless than Texas Democrats did in 2002.

My opinion is that this is the most effective answer to both the Tea Party and the creeping conservatism among establishment Dems; an actual progressive movement outside the center-left that threatens it just enough to make them see the error of their corporate ways... and change them.   It could be so much more with a groundswell of actual populism, here in Texas and across the country, but there are just barely audible rumblings about that.  I thought that was much closer to a real thing in 2006, but the election results that year proved me wrong.  And that was three years -- a political eon -- before the Tea Party birthed itself out of the raging spittle against "RINO" John McCain ... and the nation's first black president, Barack Obama.  (It continues today, of course, in the unrelenting assault on public health insurance known as the ACA.)

Read a little of this...

According a recent Gallup poll, Democrats and Republicans have reached an all-time low in public opinion--only 26 percent of Americans believe the two mainstream parties do "an adequate job of representing the American people." Some 60 percent said there was a need for a third major party.

In Seattle, where the Democrats predominate, this discontent translated into heavy press interest in Sawant. She won an endorsement from The Stranger before her strong showing in the August primary election--the alt-weekly wrote in an article headlined 'The Case for Kshama Sawant': "Sawant offers voters a detailed policy agenda, backed up by a coherent economic critique and a sound strategy for moving the political debate in a leftward direction."

After coming in a close second in August, Sawant continued to pick up broad support, including a small group of 'Democrats for Sawant' -- -a stark symbol of the bitterness with the incumbent Conlin, who has a long record of pandering to business interests....

As a socialist challenger in a liberal city against a Democratic opponent, Sawant was able to avoid one of the key difficulties that third party candidates typically face: the so-called spoiler effect. Without a Republican in the election, the Democrat Conlin wasn't able to browbeat his party's much more liberal base into supporting him as a 'lesser evil'.

More Greens and more Socialists on the ballot, please, in 2014.  Voters want -- and democracy needs -- more than two corporate-controlled options.

Update: Kshama Sawant talks to Salon.

President Obama told the Business Roundtable – speaking of “the capitalist class” – in his first term that he’s an “ardent believer in the free market,” and that he sees three roles for government: to create rules for a level playing field; to provide things that individuals can’t do for themselves; and to provide a social safety net. What do you make of that kind of politics?

First of all, I think Obama is being quite honest … he believes in capitalism. And so for people to have the faith that he is going to really fight against those ideas … there is no basis in reality for that …

I would say that the “free market” is basically free for the super-wealthy, and extremely un-free for the rest of us. Because they dictate the terms. And so this idea that the free market can generate conditions where social programs can thrive and a level playing field can be created — it is an oxymoron. Because what the capitalist market does – and that’s what they call the “free market” – is that if you are a big player, like one of the oil companies, then you are in the best position to consolidate your wealth even further … One of the systematic, statistical realities under capitalism is intergenerational transmission of wealth and intergenerational transmissions of poverty …

I often ask my students, “What do you think is the best way of making money under capitalism?” They often give me interesting answers, like maybe [creating] an app for an iPhone … I tell them, “Look, the best way of making money under capitalism is to have money in the first place” …

You also hear people saying, well, it’s “crony capitalism” or it’s “disaster capitalism” or some other capitalism. Well, the fact is, you know, they’re all dancing around [that] this is capitalism …

It’s not built into the system that the goal is to ensure that socially responsible life is possible. The goal is to maximize profits for those who already have wealth …

The reality is that capitalism rewards the biggest corporations and it tends toward monopoly. That is what capitalism is.

Every time you hear some pathetic conservative say "BrockObamaizaSoshulist", remember that -- as of this post -- the stock market has reached several consecutive days of record highs, and gasoline is $2.79 a gallon in Houston. So Obama is obviously a very crappy socialist.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Keystone XL pipeline is dead.

Most likely, anyway.  This piece from Paul Ausick at 24/7 Wall St. is worth reading.

The Keystone XL pipeline will not be built. And while the environmentalist arguments against the pipeline had a significant impact in delaying construction of Keystone XL, the primary reason it will not be built is because it really isn’t needed any longer.

The market, as the Libertarians always say, decides.  And the market has moved away from KXL.  I'm going to emphasis some in the following paragraphs.

In its Drilling Productivity Report issued Friday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that crude production from the Bakken shale play in North Dakota and Montana will top 1 million barrels a day in December. The Keystone XL has been designed to transport 830,000 barrels a day from Alberta to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, with some capacity devoted to crude from the Bakken region. However, the delay in getting construction started has obviated the need for the pipeline as rail transport has filled the need for getting Bakken production to refineries on all three U.S. coasts.

You are not hearing from Gulf Coast refineries that they need more crude because they already have all they can profitably refine. If Keystone XL were to be built, that crude would very likely be re-exported. Politically, using the entire breadth of the U.S. to transport Canadian crude to foreign markets will be a very hard sell.

Close followers of the battle around KXL knew that this nasty tar sands oil was never going to contribute to national security, but to the bottom lines of a handful of major and minor oil and pipeline companies, such as TransCanada, Total (they have a refinery in Port Arthur, TX) and ConocoPhillips, Shell, and Valero.

The argument over the number of jobs created by the Keystone XL’s construction no longer carries much weight either. During the two-year construction period, a total of about 8,000 to 10,000 full-time jobs would have been created and then disappeared. The economic boost to towns along the route would have been significant, but that was a more important issue two or three years ago than it is now.

Shipments of petroleum and petroleum products by rail in the United States are up 33.6% year-over-year through last week. A total of nearly 607,000 carloads of crude and refined products have been shipped by rail in the U.S. this year, and more rail terminals are being constructed every day to accommodate booming production from the Bakken.

Environmentalists must turn their focus to safety issues with rail shipments of oil, as well as keeping the pressure on frackers to clean up their act.  The nation's pre-eminent fracking watchdog is none other than the Texas Progressive Alliance's own TXsharon at BlueDaze. As for the Big Gas Mafia, they are already advancing the premise of "national security".  Read this now; the title is "There Would Be No Iranian Nuclear Talks If Not for Fracking".

A political fight over the Keystone XL simply will not happen. The president does not need another battle, and his political opponents are running out of allies. Furthermore, Obama can score some big points with environmental voters for the next Democratic presidential nominee by rejecting the pipeline. There is no upside for any national politician or political party to go down with the Keystone XL ship.

[...]

Once the Keystone XL is officially pronounced dead, the environmentalists will proclaim victory and will use the victory to redouble their efforts to cut dependence on fossil fuels. That is a long-run issue, and as Americans become better acquainted with the effects of climate change, demand for fossil fuel will continue to fall.

[...] The refiners no longer need or want the oil, environmentalists never wanted the pipeline in the first place and President Obama can focus on getting his health care program working.

Bloomberg says "redundant", but I think 'comatose' is more accurate.  The Keystone XL pipeline is on life support and somebody will eventually pull the plug on it.  And it won't be Obama or even the Tar Sands Blockaders, but TransCanada itself.  There's some ironic justice in there somewhere.

On to the next.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

LVDP is in for LG

For anyone who needs an introduction, here's Wayne Slater.

San Antonio Sen. Leticia Van de Putte will serve notice this week that she is running for lieutenant governor as a Democrat, according to a person close the decision. As such, Van de Putte is expected to join Sen. Wendy Davis atop a Democratic ticket that will showcase two women vying to be their party’s highest-ranking statewide officeholders. Van de Putte is a pharmacist who served in the Texas House and has been in the Texas Senate since 1999. In 2002 she became the chair of the Senate Hispanic Caucus and has become nationally recognized as a Hispanic leader.


Davis catapulted to national attention with an 11-hour filibuster against an abortion-restriction bill in June. As Republican lawmakers suspended Davis’ filibuster, Van de Putte challenged the decision of the GOP to bend Senate rules in order to end the marathon talkathon. When the Republican lieutenant governor failed to recognize Van de Putte to speak from the floor of the Senate, she said: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” The question brought abortion-rights supporters that filled the Senate gallery to their feet, effectively ending Senate business as the special legislative session came to a close.


Strategists say the addition of Van de Putte, a Latina with substantial political experience, could help mobilize Hispanic voters the Democratic Party needs if it hopes to break two decades of GOP political dominance in the state.

A Latina pharmacist with political wisdom. That's as good as it gets for the issues around which the 2014 statewide elections will turn.

Now if Democrats can convince someone like Rodney Ellis or Royce West (no offense intended to Maxey Scherr or Michael Fjetland, who announced yesterday) to run against John Corndog, they've got a real shot at toppling the Republican dominance in this state.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"When Texas is purple, there will be no more Republican presidents"

That's Roger Simon -- not a liberal -- quoting an unnamed "immigration expert".  Everybody understands this premise; even Republicans.  A dominant vocal minority in that party, however, just don't seem to care.

Government shutdowns and Obamacare fits are a walk in the park compared to the damage they are doing to themselves.

Comprehensive immigration reform is the turning point for the Republican Party as we know it today -- actually about five or six years ago, B. P. (Before Palin).  Either they will split themselves in half -- Whigs and Nativists, let's call them -- or some sense will seep into the skulls of the rebels.  Don't count on the latter.

Read all of Simon, but the best is last.

The expert also said that if comprehensive immigration reform is dead in this Congress — and it looks like it could very well be — it could pass in an election year or even by a lame-duck Congress. Obama has said he will sign any bill that includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million.

This could be his (second-term) legacy and, ironically, the only hope the Republicans have to be more than a whites-only party, rowing against a demographic tide.

“If the Republicans decided to pass it,” Obama said Friday of immigration reform, “it would be to their political advantage to do it.”

The Republicans in the House could continue to hold out and hope for a Republican White House in 2016. But every election they delay immigration reform puts the White House further from their grasp.

Oh yeah, for a while longer the rural parts of Texas will keep the state hard red longer than almost anywhere else, along with a few other stubborn Southern pockets. The battle for the soul of the GOP was lost long ago (I'm pretty sure it died sometime during Ronald Reagan's era), but the two warring factions will keep fighting over the carcass a while longer. Whoever emerges victorious hasn't actually won much; half of a once-major party.  The other half limps away madder than hell.

Rest in pieces, I say.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Texas has the worst conservatives in the country, Part II

I don't want to make it a recurring series, but if they keep showing their asses like this...

-- Wendy Davis redefines 'pro-life', enrages anti-choicers.

This one is fairly simple.  If you're pro-guns (people die), pro-war (people die), pro-death penalty (people die for revenge), anti-welfare (poor children die), and anti-health care (people of all walks of life die slowly, but too soon)... then you're pro-death.

So hurry up and die already, you assholes.

-- Speaking of gun nuts...


(Last) Saturday, nearly 40 armed men, women, and children waited outside a Dallas - area restaurant to protest a membership meeting for the state chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a gun safety advocacy group formed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

According to a spokeswoman for Moms Demand Action (MDA), the moms were inside the Blue Mesa Grill when members of Open Carry Texas (OCT) — an open carry advocacy group — “pull[ed] up in the parking lot and start[ed] getting guns out of their trunks.” The group then waited in the parking lot for the four MDA members to come out. The spokeswoman said that the restaurant manager did not want to call 911, for fear of “inciting a riot” and waited for the gun advocates to leave. The group moved to a nearby Hooters after approximately two hours. 

Four women having lunch, with 40 lunatics ourtside -- some crouched in firing position -- and a restaurant manager scared so shitless that he won't call the cops.  And this...

"The group then moved to a nearby Hooters after approximately two hours."

Yep, that's a group of Texas Republicans, all right.

Update: This photo, taken at nearly the same moment from another angle, suggests that this group was posing for a picture and not preparing to fire on the restaurant.  It doesn't absolve these thugs from anything, IMO.

-- Texas school tosses 6th grader’s breakfast in trash after he can’t pay 30 cents for it:

A Texas school is standing by its policy after cafeteria workers threw a sixth grader’s breakfast in the trash when they realized his account was short 30 cents.

Jennifer Castilleja told KTRK that she offered to come to the school Wednesday morning and pay for the breakfast but Barber Middle School in Dickinson ISD refused to feed her 12-year-old unless it got the money first. As a part of the reduced meal program, Castilleja’s son pays only 30 cents for each breakfast, but his account had run out of money.

“My son called me and asked me if I could bring him some money because they took his breakfast from him and he needed money for breakfast,” she recalled.

“I said, ‘Well, I’m on my way, I’ll pay for it,’” Castilleja told the school. “And she said no, I would have to bring some money before he could have breakfast.”

“There were kids all around him. I think he may have been a little embarrassed and upset and, of course, hungry.”

Dickinson is a pathetic little town between Houston and Galveston, in case anybody was wondering.  Other fun things happen there, too.

-- White guy wins election after pretending to be black.  And not just any old nasty Republican bigot either, but Dave Wilson.

An electrician best known for mailing homophobic fliers to thousands of Houston voters attacking the city’s lesbian mayor narrowly won an election to the Houston Community College Board of Trustees after he misled voters into believing that he is African American. Dave Wilson defeated longtime incumbent Bruce Austin, who actually is black, in an overwhelmingly African American district.

Wilson’s campaign fliers were filled with black faces that he admits to simply pulling off of websites, along with captions such as “Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson.” Another flier announces that he was “Endorsed by Ron Wilson,” which is the name of an African American former state representative. Only by reading the fine print will voters discover that the “Ron Wilson” who actually endorsed Dave is his cousin. The cousin lives in Iowa.

I'll take the blame for this one.  I refused to blog about educational races in this cycle, and thus, Wilson got away with his scam.  I fully believe that this could have made up the 26-vote difference.

I'm probably a little too hopeful about the impact this blog is having, to say nothing about the intelligence of those Texans who manage to vote, and our democracy in general.  Taking responsibility is what Republicans want more people to do, however, and in this case a little naivete' feels better than the deep cynicism that would just be too easy to sink into.

-- Texans 'volunteer' to take women to their clinic appointments, take them to church instead.


Repeated for emphasis.

Please share this email far and wide among Christian groups. Cicada.collective.ntx@gmail.com
It's the email address being used by a group backed by Fund Texas Women and Lilith Fund looking for volunteers to shuttle TX women around for their abortion appointments. Consider volunteering yourself. I'm not suggeting you actually take a woman to an abortion clinic but it's a wonderful opportunity to minister to an abortion minded woman for an hour while you DON'T take her to her clinic. And hey if you can't change her mind by the time she gets out of your car and realizes she is at a church and not the clinic she's missed her appointment anyway

Is kidnapping -- a felony offense,  mind you -- really what Jesus would do? Really?!

-- Finally, what would a "worst Texas conservatives" post be without Greg Abbott.

With what has been described as the worst drought in recorded history punishing parts of Texas, Attorney General Greg Abbott found a way to keep watering his yard without risking fines or incurring huge monthly bills: He drilled his own well.

Now his lawn is green, and there are no pesky city watering restrictions to worry about.
He is not alone. Abbott, the leading 2014 candidate for Texas governor, has joined an exclusive and growing list of Austin residents. That list includes Ben Crenshaw, the golfing legend, and Mack Brown, the University of Texas football coach — residents who are coping with the drought and rising water bills by procuring their own private water supply underneath their land.

But the trend is worrying city leaders and environmentalists, who fear that the rise in well drilling in rapidly growing Austin will negatively affect limited groundwater supplies, reduce the flow into rivers and discourage conservation.

“To me it’s just unconscionable. It’s a total disregard for the resource,” said Andrew Sansom, executive director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. “What we should be doing is reducing our consumption of water.”

'Unconscionable' has been a word used to accurately describe Greg Abbott for a long time now.  But I like nosequiteuse's analogy better. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Veterans' Day Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance honors the service of America's veterans as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff analyzed the favorable poll and the unfavorable poll that came out last week.

Texpatriate, while happy that Mayor Annise Parker was re-elected, laments nonetheless that Ben Hall ran one of the worst campaigns in history against her.

Eye On Williamson is still blogging at our temporary home. What kind of message to Democrats need to run on in the Lone Star State? Good question; here are some thoughts on a Democratic message in Texas.

Two polls released last week had good and bad news for Wendy Davis, but it was when President Obama came to Dallas that things got both better and worse for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs broke it down.

People are getting poorer and poorer, just as Republicans and their backers wanted. No one knows poverty more than Brownsville and McAllen. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme says "Lets vow to elect Democrats in 2014".

With such anemic turnout, the 2013 elections were mostly a success. But some issues did still arise, and Texas Leftist was able to share a thorough account of one. If mass confusion is a goal of the Texas voter ID law, then I'd say it's working very well.

With Veterans' Day here, Neil at All People Have Value offered a brief account of views regarding war held by the late Korean War veteran Tony Aquino. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.

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

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

Greg Wythe gives the unvarnished view of how the new voter ID law actually works in practice.

Grits for Breakfast calls for the implementation of the "Barney Fife Rule" in the McLennan County DA's office.

John Coby has some advice for future candidates.

Better Texas tells the rest of the story on those health insurance cancellations.

Juanita Jean is seeking help getting some non-binding referenda on the Democratic primary ballot.

And finally, this isn't a blog post, but a petition calling on Ted Cruz to give up his own federally subsidized health care plan, or work to support affordable healthcare coverage for all Americans.  It definitely deserves a place here.