Tuesday, March 31, 2015

And just like that...

Another pretender to the GOP throne and his budding presidential aspirations explode on the launching pad.

Hoosier daddy now, Governor?

There was this article in the WaPo that said there were well over two dozen other states with similar legislation that nobody was protesting.  And then this other article that said, no, Indiana's isn't like those other state laws at all.

Thanks, Jeff Bezos!

We know these things are incubated here in the Lone Star State and then exported around the country like frozen chicken or beef or even antibiotic-resistant bacteria -- which, come to think, has far too many similarities to extreme conservatism.  But that's a digression.

Texas has no paternity claims to bigotry.  This is simply the latest chapter in America's long, unvarnished, let's-not-talk-about-that history.

We have to get through this stage in order to arrive at a place of greater, more widespread tolerance of others.  History has also shown us that some people are determined to be left behind in terms of evolution and progress.  My brother Neil is at a higher plane of self-actualization than me; I don't believe those folks have much value at all.

Update: And just like *snap* that... Pence backpedals.  Can it happen in Houston -- protests, backlash, and capitulation by the haters -- with the ERO?  We can only hope.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring is Springing Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance thinks even Ted Cruz deserves affordable health insurance as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff hears the death rattle of the anti-gay forces.

Harold Cook explains how the "school choice" scam works.

Horwitz at Texpatriate makes an early pick and endorses Sylvester Turner for mayor of Houston.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos is pleased to see the H-Town's daily newspaper called out Ted Cruz for being all about Ted, in The Houston Chronicle spanks Ted Cruz.

Houston's LyondellBasell refinery's management turned off an advance warning system near the front gates of the plant, where striking USW workers walk the picket line. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs says that if this is how they demonstrate their concerns for worker safety, it's no wonder they won't end a work stoppage despite the national settlement.

Neil at All People Have Value said you should make an effort with the people in your life as part of a complete outlook on life. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson: Bad things happen when a bunch of government haters try to run the government like a business. This is what happens when we turn government over to corporations.

Bluedaze logged all the Texas (and Oklahoma) frackquakes this past week.

Dos Centavos attended the Cesar Chavez parade in Houston's East End and posted several pictures from  the rally.

Bay Area Houston offers a guide to the Texas legislators who are stealing campaign donations and taxpayer money.


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

Nonsequiteuse analyzes Ted Cruz's font and logo choices.

Paradise in Hell examines the Supreme Court arguments about specialty license plates sporting the Confederate Battle Flag.

Grits for Breakfast hopes the state loses that specialty license plate case, though not for the same reason as the plaintiffs.

Socratic Gadfly updates on the developments surrounding oil prices, and takes another poke at Comptroller Glenn Hegar.

HOUequality provided the latest update on the HERO petitions trial, noting that it comes down to 8,500 signatures that the judge has ruled illegible.

Purple City thinks the legislative attempt to kill the private high speed rail line may not amount to much.

Better Texas Blog gamely stumps for Medicaid expansion.

The Texas Election Law Blog explains what recent SCOTUS decisions on voter ID and redistricting have to do with pending litigation over those issues here.

Raise Your Hand Texas testified against the voucher bills in the Senate.

And Fascist Dyke Motors has the second part of a family mystery, involving a talking tree and Charles Bronson.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Which do they despise more -- the gays or public schools?

It's sometimes hard for me to tell, but events this week did clarify things somewhat.  From Austin yesterday, under the headline "Open Season on Public Schools During Voucher Debate":

Like an obstinate weed that just won’t die, the debate over school vouchers returned to the Capitol for the 11th straight legislative session on Thursday.

With former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm and GOP mega-donor James Leininger on hand to testify in front of dozens of adamant voucher supporters, the hearing took on a carnival-like atmosphere at times.

Some voucher advocates, including Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), used Thursday’s hearing on a pair of school voucher bills to rail about the state of public schools.

“Today we have a monstrosity, a monopoly,” Campbell said. “It’s called public school.”

Not quite as goofy as Debbie Riddle's "pit of hell" remarks a few years ago, but the supply of conservative shrieking hyperbole is getting used up, after all.  Even Texas Freedom Network gets hate mail from these kinds of Christians.  There's some pushback, thankfully...

Pastor Kyle Henderson of First Baptist Church in Athens testified that voucher proponent’s attacks on public schools and teachers bothered him.

“I am stunned by the disdain expressed to public school teachers in this room,” Henderson said.

Joanna Sanchez, University of Texas education policy researcher and policy fellow for Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint), says that studies on vouchers and student outcomes don’t suggest they can improve student achievement on a large scale.

“The empirical evidence shows that vouchers lead to increased sorting of students by socioeconomic status, and does not support the claim that vouchers help disadvantaged children” Sanchez told the Observer.

Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) voiced perhaps the most vehement opposition to the bills.

“Isn’t this just a money grab by non-public schools?” Garca asked.

Carol Morgan called the proceedings "nine hours of the good, the bad, and the ugly".

But the assault on public education still pales in comparison to the full court press against all things LGBT.  There are some ups and downs as always; Ken Paxton went federal judge shopping and found another bargain, while Rep. Cecil Bell's legislation to penalize local officials for issuing marriage licenses might get gutted by the invisible hand of the free market.  The most significant developments, however, came not from Texas but out of Indiana.  For the summary, Mahablog.

(Yesterday) Indiana governor Mike Pence signed a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” into law that allows “any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.” It’s understood that the purpose of this is to give homophobe business owners license to discriminate against LGBT customers.

The Indianapolis-based Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) had already told Pence that if he signed the bill, the Disciples would cancel their next convention in Indianapolis and find another city.

Indianapolis is hosting the men's college basketball Final Four weekend after this one, and the NCAA did not pump-fake its response.

"The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement issued immediately after Pence signed the law. "We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.

"We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill,” the statement continued. “Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce."

Translation: no more Final Fours in Indy after next weekend.  Boom and thud.

Salesforce Marketing Group, Eli Lilly (headquarters in Indianapolis), and the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce also have expressed opposition to the bill.

Yeah.  About Salesforce.

Here’s what their CEO stated: “Today we are canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination. We are forced to dramatically reduce our investment in IN based on our employee’s & customer’s outrage over the Religious Freedom Bill.”

Salesforce is only a $4bn company, but it is an up-and-coming heavyweight in the tech industry. Having such a high-profile announcement from such a powerful player so quickly was a big surprise. Even if no one else openly joins them, their absence from trade shows, user groups and other activities is going to reverberate, creating pressure on other companies and hurting Indiana businesses.

Flanked by powerhouse Chicago on one side and the booming tech center of Columbus on the other, Indiana is a state that already struggles to compete in this lucrative, well-paid field. It is difficult to develop and retain technical talent and well-paid jobs there in the wake of a collapsed manufacturing base. Becoming a pioneer in discrimination is unlikely to help.

This is a Republican saying these things.

There seems to be a fundamental disconnect in Republican circles over the political value of gay-baiting. The environment changed very fast, and Republicans are not known for their speed of adaptation. Picking on gay people is no longer a winning political tactic. Even Jan Brewer recognizes this. Can we just accept this and move on?

As for the “religious exemptions,” you can’t possibly be serious. We’ve been here before. If the ability to persecute gay people is a central tenet of your religious faith, then your religious faith sucks. We all bear a Constitutional duty to preserve the basic rights of religions that suck, but only up to the point that your religion starts ruining other people’s lives. If you want to hold a job that serves the general public you will be expected not to act like an asshole, even if you think your religion commands it. Be an asshole in private where your right to be an asshole remains sacred.

Once more from the sportswriter Dan Wetzel at Yahoo.

The tide has turned. The young and more enlightened are rising up, which is why laws like this won't last 10 years; maybe not even five. This is the last gasp of open discrimination.

Soon enough everyone supporting these ideals of discrimination will be incredibly humiliated they ever did so, the way old timers hang their heads when asked about how they thought a segregated lunch counter for third graders was a just idea. Most will pretend they didn't agree with it in the first place. Shame will cause everyone to run from it.


Mike Pence isn't even a creative, trend-setting bigot. He's just a dense follower. Indiana is the 20th state with some kind of similar law – the kind that would never be allowed against any other group of humans. It's long past time they answer for it too.

This is the era where civil rights victories for gays and lesbians are sweeping the country; next month, the Supreme Court will consider whether to make legalized gay marriage the law of the land.

So use the momentum to right past wrongs. Pennsylvania, Texas, Illinois, Alabama, wherever else you want to do this, it's true the rest of America may not be able to change the law – time and young people will do that for you.

National organizations such as the NCAA and NFL sure can say that if you're not willing to do business with all of our customers, then we'll go and do business where they will.

After all, the best counter to these religious freedom measures has come from an Oklahoma representative named Emily Virgin.

She introduced an amendment in her state that would require a business that will refuses service to certain individuals to "post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites. The notice may refer to the person's religious beliefs, but shall state specifically which couples the business does not serve by referring to a refusal based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or race."
Essentially, it tells everyone your intentions, who you are and what you are about. That way the gay couple looking for a florist knows not to go inside … and the rest of the public who think you're an idiot can go find another florist, too.

Then the religious freedom florist will cling to a dwindling customer base until it goes out of business.

 The invisible hand of the free market just got a little more visible.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Where Ted Cruz (and his logo) really comes from

Seriously though, his icon looks really familiar.

It's most likely just a shoutout to the "world is on fire" religious fundamentalists.  The WaPo noted that it appears to be Pentecostal in origin.

Truth to tell, Ted Cruz isn't a candidate.  He's a strategy.

Whether he (and the entire Republican party, for that matter) is doing so intentionally or not, constantly forcing the political discourse to the farthest right makes a small compromise -- like a Scott Walker or a Jeb Bush -- look moderate by comparison.  Thus Ted Cruz enables his competitors to point at him and say, "See? At least I'm not THAT crazy."

Take the most extreme conservative position on an issue, move over half a step, call your new position 'centrist'.  It might be an accident... but it seems like the plan.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East, their world really is on fire.

To paraphrase Def Leppard: Armageddon it yet?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bicycling between City Hall and the Harris County family court

-- Kuff got ahead of Schleifer's Horseshoe this past week, catching Jack Christie's no-go for mayor and the At-Large ins and outs (Atlas Kerr in 3 throwing down against Kubosh, Jan Clark dropping out of 5).  Click here for more, but you really ought to be subscribing to the weekly e-mail newsletter by now.  Nobody is doing this beat any better than Teddy.  (He's linking to my questions for the Sheriff, so this is a bit of pimping myself out.  No response to those questions as yet.  It's early.)

Update (3/26): And Charles leads this morning with news on two Democrats jumping in to challenge Christie in AL5 and one controller candidate announcing his bid.

Sylvester Turner grand-opens at Minute Maid Park this weekend, Chris Bell has a big fundraiser set for April 1st (hope that's just a coincidence), and Stone Cold Steve Costello speaks to Harris Democrats tomorrow night.  Somebody get me a transcript of the fireworks, please?

-- Big Jolly busted the Republican judge who's Kickstarting her honeymoon.

I was contacted by a family law attorney that does business in Judge Alicia Franklin’s 311th District Court. The attorney complained that she felt pressured to give money to Judge Franklin for her upcoming honeymoon. Say what? Sure enough, Judge Franklin and her fiance', Doug York, have a website asking for contributions to pay for their honeymoon.


Folks, we aren’t talking about a couple of lovestruck teenagers that are starting a new life together and need a wedding shower or two. We are talking about two very successful attorneys and an elected district judge. Heck, Franklin received over $800,000 from Harris County taxpayers alone for appointed cases. Which reminds me, where again is Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson? It has been over six month since Greg Enos filed a criminal complaint against Judge Franklin (click here to read more about that complaint) and still NOTHING from the DA. NADA, ZIP, ZILCH.

Do you think the DA would have been silent if Judge Franklin had run as a Democrat? I surely don’t.
Franklin and York are obviously classless and tasteless. One attorney I talked to about this said that there is no way he would beg for money for a honeymoon – if he couldn’t take care of his new bride, she shouldn’t have married him.

That’s funny. But the bigger issue is a judge sitting behind a bench pressuring the attorneys in front of her to pay for her pleasure activities. And a DA that sits on her hands when a Republican is involved.

Nothing to add.  The comments at his OP are priceless.  I appreciate what Jolly does as the lone watchdog within his party to call out this sort of thing.  It's one thing for me to point it out, quite another when he does.

-- A La Porte cyclist was severely injured in a yet another hit-and-run between cars and bikers.  It's an epidemic locally.

Investigators say that the cyclist was traveling northbound on 2400 Sens in La Porte and was hit from behind by a Ford F-150 this weekend, as KHOU details. The truck fled the scene shortly after, leaving the biker lying in the street with life-threatening injuries.


This accident's a reminder of the dangers bike lovers continue to face on the area's streets from hit-and-run drivers. An alarming number of cyclist injuries and deaths led Houston Mayor Annise Parker to take initiative on the issue last May. The mayor donated $2,500 from BikeHouston to Crime Stoppers of Houston in an attempt to reduce the number of biker deaths and draw attention to the problem.

Crime Stoppers tips helped the Houston police solve the case of the infamous hit and run that killed cyclist Chelsea Norman, who was run down pedaling home from work at the Montrose Whole Foods. On the other hand, unresolved accidents remain throughout Harris County.

Houstonians complain about traffic, potholes, the tax money needed to fix both, and then pile into their pickups, run down bicyclists, and flee the scene of the crime.  What's wrong with this picture besides everything?

The only thing these jerks aren't bitching about is gas prices.

Now me personally, I wouldn't ride my bike in La Porte just due to the quality of the air.  But I never ride on a street with moderate traffic because of the likelihood of this sort of thing happening.  And that's the concern of others who might ditch their gas-powered four-wheelers for two and pedal power.

"The key here is that physical separation, which makes cyclists feel more comfortable, that their space is defined," Payne said. "When you're on a bike route you're right out there with the traffic. The whole objective here for Houston is to develop infrastructure that makes people feel comfortable, safe and encourages them to get out of their houses and out of their cars and use their bicycles both for recreation and for transportation."

Yeah, that's the key all right.  It might be a nice place to start if we could stop seeing everyone -- including cyclists -- complain when the city DOES put some bike lanes in.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Houston refinery shuts off emergency alert system in response to striking USW demands for safety

H-Town's LyondellBasell refinery workers remain among the last of the United Steelworkers union members who have been waiting to go back to work following a national settlement of their strike almost two weeks ago.  Negotiations began again yesterday after a week-long "cooling off" period that the company requested.

Representatives from USW District 227 and LyondellBasell were in the middle of negotiating on (March 14) when the company officials got up and left the room, (USW negotiator Joshua) Lege says. At the request of the company a federal mediator has been involved in the local negotiations from the start. Everyone assumed they were taking a break until the federal mediator came back and told the USW local reps that LyondellBasell's people were leaving and said they needed a "cooling off" period, Lege says.

"We're cooled. We've been cooled down for the last 40 or 50 days on strike, and for the first 30 they wouldn't talk to us at all," Lege says. "This is really turning into a pressure cooker because they won't negotiate with us. They honestly want to break us. They aren't a union company and they don't want a union out there and we believe they're afraid some other sites will start organizing if we get a fair contract here."

But the real news is what's been going on inside that plant over the past few weeks.  Here's Remington Alessi's account from The Anti-Media.

“If something goes wrong at the plant, the guy who saved the company a few bucks on safety equipment still goes home in a nice Cadillac, and I go home in a box,” said Joshua Lege, a striking worker when discussing the disconnect between executives and rank and file employees.

Ordinarily, discussing corporate disregard for safety is heavily discouraged by company policy, but the strike has given employees unusual amounts of media attention. As a result, employees have been able to shed light on what really happens behind the gates of oil refineries, and that reality is quite frightening.

The Emergency Notification System, or ENS, at Houston’s 700-acre LyondellBasell refinery is a warning system installed to notify workers of medical emergencies, fires, and vapor releases. In practice, this is meant to put emergency workers on alert and give anyone nearby the opportunity to protect themselves from potentially hazardous chemical vapors.

The ENS is also how strikers were able to keep track of the significantly increased rate of medical incidents when LyondellBasell brought in untrained workers to replace strikers. For example, a neglected compressor failed and necessitated the flaring off of unidentified chemicals on February 16, 2015.

A USW striker watches as Houston's LyondellBasell refinery flares off
dangerous chemicals after a compressor failed at the plant last month

Flaring is the common and unclean practice of burning off flammable chemicals when pipes and equipment are overpressurized, usually the result of hardware failure. According to refinery workers, if you see a large and sustained flare coming from a refinery, it typically means that repair crews are having a rough day and that you may want to avoid breathing in.

Essentially, the refinery has become much more dangerous in the hands of untrained workers.


In order to reduce the likelihood of striking employees continuing to report incidents, LyondellBasell recently implemented a new policy. ENS speakers near the front gate where picketers stand were disabled. Though they can still be heard far off in the distance, the notifications are too far off for picketers to identify whether or not they indicate the release of dangerous vapors.

In addition to protecting LyondellBasell’s public image, this can seriously endanger strikers and the nearby community, as vapor clouds can travel for miles before dissipating, and often contain hazardous carcinogens. LyondellBasell has managed to find ways to threaten the health and safety of employees even after they’ve left the plant, because if (or more likely when) the plant feels the need to flare dangerous chemicals, picketers can expect to be gassed without warning just like protestors in Ferguson.

Here, demonstrated, is precisely the reason why the USW went on strike in the first place.  It's not as if DuPont La Porte's recent accident that claimed the lives of four workers, or the former BP/now Marathon facility in Texas City a decade ago which killed 15 are aberrations in the nature of petrochemical operations.  No surprise then that Marathon is also a holdout in the national settlement agreement, known as the "pattern".

Meanwhile, Marathon's Texas City plant is nowhere near a local deal, to the point that a federal negotiator has been brought in to help work things out, according to Reuters. USW spokeswoman Lynn Hancock says that she's not sure if Marathon has even presented the national pattern agreement to the local USW group, also District 13-1.

It's not entirely a surprise that things are rough with the Marathon talks. While some local unions, like the Shell Deer Park arm of District 13-1, actually worked out most of the details on local contracts months ago, Marathon and the Texas City union workers were at odds going into the strike, something noted by (USW chief Lee) Medley and every other local union rep we've talked with over the past few weeks. USW is laying the current holdup at the company's door. "The company refuses to offer the pattern unencumbered," W.E. Sanders, sub-director for USW District 13, which covers Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, explained to Reuters. "The company clearly knows its obligations under the pattern."

Kindly note that none of this has anything to do with climate change concerns, low oil and gas prices threatening the so-called Texas Miracle, or wages and benefits for workers at risk every day on their job, as much so as any police officer or fire fighter.  It's about plant safety; nothing more, nothing less.

Neglect and incompetence is one thing; malfeasance bordering on psychopathy is quite another.  Criminal prosecutors understand the distinctions between manslaughter and premeditated murder.  And so do lowly hardhats who gamble with their life and health at their workplace for the enhanced value benefiting fossil fuel profiteers.

Public pressure must be brought to bear on companies who willfully and maliciously threaten not just their employees, but those who simply live near their plant operations.  And not just the people residing in closest proximity, either.  In a just world, businessmen should not have to be compelled by shame, by law, or by threat of punishment to do what is right and proper, but that's not the world we live in today.

We can continue to allow the greed of corporations to threaten our lives, our health, and our safety, or we can fight back.  Make no mistake; it's going to have to be a fight.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance roots for underdogs even to the detriment of its own brackets as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff argues against having a state spending cap, much less making it tighter.

Libby Shaw, writing for Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos, makes a solid case as to Why The Right is so Wrong given the last few weeks of national political events.

The Poop Cruz is now boarding and ready to set sail, announces PDiddie at Brains and Eggs. Or is that 'shove off'?

Neil at All People Have Value saw the real spirit of Texas at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

The Lewsiville Texan Journal posts the schedule of townhall meetings along the corridor of the I-35 express project, between Denton County and Dallas County.

Egberto Willies passed along the crackdown by CA Gov. Jerry Brown -- whose state has about a year's worth of water remaining -- on Ted Cruz for his climate change denial.

Bluedaze issues the marching orders to Austin and the Texas Lege in order to save your city from being fracked.

And Texas Vox points out that despite Gov. Abbott's call for ethics reform, the legislature is poised to vote on the "Corrupt Incumbent Official Indemnification Act" today.


The Independent Political Report links to the Longview (TX) News-Journal regarding the Gregg County Libertarian Party, and their hosting of Rep. David Simpson discussing his pro-marijuana legalization bill.

Grits for Breakfast takes note of the Texas state bar's accusations of misconduct against the prosecutor of Cameron Todd Willingham, in his roundup of criminal justice stories from last week.

Concerned Citizens wants to hear voices of support for San Antonio mayoral candidates.

Socratic Gadfly asked state legislators: "Replace the business franchise tax with what?"

Somervell County Salon begged Democrats to please give her someone to vote for besides Hillary Clinton.

The Rag Blog mourns the passing of Austin activist/street vendor Charlie Saulsberry.

Carol Morgan wryly observes that March Madness in the state's capital has nothing to do with college basketball (particularly when all Texas teams were eliminated on the first day of the NCAA tournament).

Better Texas Blog calls the latest effort to restrict spending in the Legislature a really bad idea.

Michael Barajas says to stop calling Houston a "sanctuary city".

Texas Clean Air Matters rounds up the energy, water, and climate bills in the 84th Legislature.

The Texas Election Law Blog highlights systemic issues documented in Battleground Texas' post-election report.

Free Press Houston, reporting from SXSW, has a movie review of the documentary Disaster Playground, about real efforts to deal with the potential calamity of an asteroid hitting the Earth.

Finally, Isiah Carey's Factor links to his video on what you should know before you donate to crowd-funding appeals.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Poop Cruz now boarding, ready to set sail

Or is it shove off?

Sen. Ted Cruz plans to announce Monday that he will run for president of the United States, according to his senior advisers, accelerating his already rapid three-year rise from a tea party insurgent in Texas into a divisive political force in Washington.

Cruz, scheduled to speak Monday at a convocation ceremony at Liberty University in Virginia, will not form an exploratory committee but rather launch a presidential bid outright, said advisers with direct knowledge of his plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made yet. They say he is done exploring and is now ready to become the first Republican presidential candidate.

Over the course of the primary campaign, Cruz will aim to raise between $40 million and $50 million, according to advisers, and dominate with the same tea party voters who supported his underdog senate campaign in 2012.

Since the Republican nominee is likely to need something closer to half a b-b-billion dollars to make 2016's run credible -- and Cruz cannot get to that number; even Sheldon Adelson thinks he's too crazy to be the nominee -- there's another agenda here, and Teddy Schleifer reveals it.

But the key to victory, Cruz advisers believe, is to be the second choice of enough voters in the party's libertarian and social conservative wings to cobble together a coalition to defeat the chosen candidate of the Republican establishment.

A floor fight at the national convention.  There's the really fun part, y'all.  Can you imagine the hilarity -- I used that word purposely -- when their arguments turn into gunfights?  Predicted headline: "Shootout at the RNC Convention". You heard it here first.

Todd Gillman at the Dallas News got out just ahead of Teddy, but without confirming it.  Thus the 'if' leading this analysis.

If Cruz does launch his campaign at Liberty, it would reflect the degree to which he is pinning his hopes on support from the Christian right. He also has strong ties to tea partiers, and has pitched himself as a full-spectrum conservative, able to appeal to those seeking a fiscal conservative and muscular foreign policy.

He wouldn’t be the only one. Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum also will rely on evangelicals as they vie to survive long enough to face the victor from the party’s so-called establishment wing. Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and son and brother of presidents, has a huge fund-raising edge, though at this early stage, many voters favor Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Polling that appears around this time next week should be divined for its effect on the front-Walker as much as what it tells us about Cruz, who has bumped around the bottom of the polls conducted to this point.

I just can't wait for the fireworks.  And the gunfire.  And the explosions.

Update: More from Crooks and Liars.

Sunday Funnies

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Scattershooting things I'm reading

-- 2016 will be the Meerkat election.

So today, or maybe yesterday, is the day that Meerkat officially became the social media tool of the 2016 presidential election. The iPhone application, which allows Twitter users to stream live video footage to their followers, debuted at South By Southwest last week and has now firmly caught on with politicians and political reporters. It's not just the kids. Jeb Bush is meerkating. Dan Balz is meerkating. This is happening.

Dan Pfeiffer, the former senior Obama aide, was in Austin for South By Southwest this year and was quite smitten: "Everywhere I have gone here at South by Southwest... people are talking about Meerkat. And if that same discussion is not happening at every media outlet and presidential campaign around the country, they are making a huge mistake," he wrote on Wednesday. "If 2004 was about Meetup, 2008 was about Facebook, and 2012 was about Twitter, 2016 is going to be about Meerkat (or something just like it)."

-- Yes, domestic violence is an epidemic.  Has been for... ever.

The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766. That's nearly double the amount of casualties lost during war.

Women are much more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence with 85 percent of domestic abuse victims being women and 15 percent men. Too many women have been held captive by domestic violence -- whether through physical abuse, financial abuse, emotional abuse or a combination of all three.

We are inundated with news stories about domestic violence , from athletes beating their significant others in public elevators or in their own homes to celebrities publicly abusing their girlfriends. This problem is not one that will go away quickly or quietly.

As Domestic Violence Awareness Month comes to an end, discussions about intimate partner abuse and its horrible repercussions should not. In an attempt to illustrate the gravity of abuse all genders (but largely women) face in the U.S., we rounded up 30 statistics on domestic violence. 

I had to take my anti-nausea medication, but I got through the entire article.

-- More photos of our national moral stain are on the way.

A federal judge ruled on Friday that the U.S. government must release photographs showing the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and other sites.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Manhattan ruled that his order would not take effect for 60 days to give the U.S. Department of Defense time to decide whether to appeal.

The order is a victory for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit against the government in 2004 seeking the release of the photographs.

"The photos are crucial to the public record," ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said in a news release. "They're the best evidence of what took place in the military's detention centers, and their disclosure would help the public better understand the implications of some of the Bush administration's policies."

The Department of Defense did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

There are more than 2000 of these pictures, which means the ones we have seen before amount to less than one-tenth of the total.  And that's just the evidence of torture and abuse that was photographically documented.

US war criminals are still on the loose.

-- Bernie Sanders, who will make a "campaign" appearance in Austin on the last day of March, will offer to amend the Republican budget, calling for an income tax surcharge on the wealthiest among us -- millionaires -- in order to finance increases in defense spending and the next military aggression (read: Iran).

The “war tax” will be one of the first Sanders will introduce during the vote-a-rama next week. During the back-to-back votes, senators are allowed to submit an unlimited amount of amendments.

“The Republicans took us into protracted wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — and ran up our national debt by trillions because they chose not to pay for those wars. Instead, they put the cost of those wars on our national credit card,” Sanders said in a statement Friday.


“Wars are enormously expensive, not only in terms of human life and suffering, but in terms of the budget. If the Republicans want another war in the Mideast, they are going to have to tell the American people how much it will cost them and how it will be paid for,” he said. 

You want a war, Louie?  Your credit is declined.  Cash in advance.

-- A Wisconsin federal judge has overturned the law there that requires doctors performing abortions to have hospital admitting privileges.  You may recall that in Texas, it's law now and remains so by virtue of the 5th Circuit.  So we have another American freedom -- that of a woman's right to choose whether or not she will give birth -- on its way, eventually, to the Supreme Court.

AMERICA FUCK YEAH! doesn't just apply to guns, after all.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The other Garcia running for mayor

Chuy, in Chicago.  From the evening of February 24th, after he made the runoff against the incumbent, Rahm Emanuel.

We the people have spoken. Not the people with the money and the power and the connections. Not the giant corporations.

The big-money special interests. The hedge funds...who poured tens of millions of dollars into the mayor's campaign. They've had their say for too long. But today, the rest of us had something to say.

We've got six weeks of hard work ahead of us -- and believe me, these big-money interests are going to throw everything they got at us. They run this town and they're not gonna give up easy. But we're gonna fight...we're gonna win.

When Garcia's campaign manager was asked how his candidate could be outspent 12-1 and still force a runoff, he replied, "Money can't buy you love."

During his first term as Chicago mayor, Emanuel privatized some public schools and closed others, went hammer-and-tong after teachers, appointed his cronies to boards and commissions, and essentially declared war on all things -- people and ideas -- progressive.  This is his history: while he was chief of staff in Obama's White House, Emanuel was credited ("discredited" is a better word, IMO) with killing the public option for healthcare reform.

As a city alderman, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia fought so hard against Chicago's machine politics that then-Mayor Richard M. Daley made kicking him off the city council a top political priority. The same sort of thing -- making enemies of powerful interests -- happened when he served in Springfield, IL as a state senator.  As a Cook County commissioner, he helped balance their mess of a budget while lowering taxes.  He has aligned himself with those who hold to account the 1% and the corporations who buy our politicians and muck up our political system.

On both sides of the aisle.

Night before last, on St. Paddy's, the two men had a debate.  This account makes it seem as if the moderator -- a fixture in Chicago journalism -- was the winner.

Without any doubt, the winner of the first one-on-one debate between Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his challenger, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, was its oh-no-you-don’t moderator, Carol Marin. Setting aside the near-historic sight of a 66-year-old woman on television, the TV and print news veteran won the night by brooking a minimum of blah-blah, and jumping in front of various filibusters: “Let’s go back four years,’’ Emanuel began, when asked how to close the Chicago Public Schools’ billion-dollar deficit. “No, let’s not,’’ Marin said crisply.

As she isn’t on the ballot, though, in the city’s April 7 mayoral runoff, voters must choose between an insurgent who’s been cast as such a sweet guy he might have a marshmallow center, and a famously profane incumbent who has lost support over crime, school closings, and revenue-producing red-light traffic cameras.

Sounds like it was great fun.  It's still steeply uphill for the challenger, though.

The fact that there even is a runoff has humbled Emanuel and embarrassed the president he served as chief of staff in their own town. It has excited those Chicagoans who’d love to see the city elect its first Hispanic mayor, and secretly pleased even some who see Garcia’s run as quixotic, but aren’t what you’d call heartbroken to watch their sometimes abrasive mayor have to work for his reelection against an opponent with a fraction of the funds and name recognition.

A recent Chicago Tribune poll showed Emanuel leading his challenger, 51 to 37, but Garcia supporters are hoping that turnout by those too turned-off to come out for the original vote on Feb. 24, when few thought Garcia had a chance, will swing the runoff his way. If yard signs are any indication, Garcia will do well in the president’s old neighborhood, Hyde Park.

Go finish up; it's well-written.

There are so many parallels to Houston's Garcia, and so many polar opposites between the two that it's hard to measure them with modern technology.  One example: Chuy is running against those terrible red-light cameras -- a Republican peeve a few years ago in H-Town, you will recall -- the removal of which would blow an even bigger hole in Chicago's budget than they already have.

Let's establish that Rahmbo, an internationally renowned asshole, is likely to return to office.  A vote for Emanuel would represent not just a vote for crony capitalistic scorched-earth politicos, but a vote for continuing and extending the CIA-modeled police state tactics that have been revealed in the Windy City, and on display in too many other municipal police departments around the country.

Update: Another Garcia from Chicago, cartoonist Eric J.

A narrow loss for Emanuel would represent a nascent progressive revolution of sorts.  And the media would rush to project ramifications large and small for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

So let's at least hope that our mayoral tilt is as fun as the one they're having in That Toddlin' Town.  And finally, let's watch closely to see if the Bayou City's Garcia can be as successful -- so far -- as Chicago's.  Maybe even return to his Democratic roots a little (if he can't actually be progressive, in other words) for the sake of politics and elections.  Wouldn't that be something to see.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An open letter to, and some questions for, Adrian Garcia

Congratulations on your (alleged) decision to run for mayor of Houston.  And hey, sorry about posting that false start a month ago.  Once you do declare, I know that many will cheer, and some will complain; I will do neither.  I have not made up my mind who I might vote for and support, but I am fairly certain today that it will not be you in the general election this fall.  No hard feelings, best of luck in your bid for office.

As a public service to inform the 10-15% of Houston voters who will be participating in November's municipal elections, I respectfully request your response to the following questions.  You may comment here or e-mail me; I would ask that your responses be in writing and on the record.  At this time it is unnecessary for you or one of your advisers to call me, as I have a hearing impediment that has rendered telephone call conversations all but worthless.  (That hopefully changes in the near future, but for the present time I'm in read-only mode.)

You may respond on your own timetable, as I understand and appreciate the fact that you must resign your position as Sheriff of Harris County once you officially announce your mayoral campaign, and that conversations about that might force your resignation sooner than you would wish.  The ramifications of giving up your office to seek another is its own story, which isn't necessary to discuss at this time.  But speaking of that...

-- May I ask how you will support your family while you run for mayor?  Giving up your day job isn't so difficult for your extravagantly wealthy competitors for mayor; those that aren't wildly rich can continue with their law firms or engineering firms or brokerage firms in a reduced capacity, and little or no reduced compensation.

That's not the case with you, unless there's something I don't know.  As far as I can tell, you're a working Joe much like 99% of Houston's residents.  As an HPD beat cop, city councilman, and now the county's top law enforcement officer -- jobs that pay well, but don't exactly put you on Easy Street -- it looks like you've been making ends meet, maybe a little better.  But can you afford not having a paycheck for six or seven months?  Also regarding money, you're not going into the contest with a large campaign warchest, and absolutely not in comparison to others already hosting lavish fundraisers and the like.  So by all appearances you'll be running a fairly populist campaign, at least as compared to half a dozen other mayoral hopefuls.  That's something I admire and have respect for, if you know anything about what I have written here over the past decade.

If you're not going to be "funemployed" while you bid for chief at City Hall, do you have a job lined up?  Is someone going to hire you -- I'll speculate "security consultant" at 10-12K monthly -- that expects some return on their investment if you get elected mayor?  And perhaps most importantly: do you think it's appropriate for you to disclose to the voters any or all of these details?

-- May I ask about your political affiliation?  I realize you have been elected as a Democrat a couple of times now, and am also quite familiar with the non-partisan nature of Houston municipal elections and the perils of "jungle" elections.  Your previous statements -- the ones where you refer to yourself as 'getting more conservative as you have gotten older' -- coupled with your support of the now-defunct Secure Communities program (much more of a Republican priority than a Democratic one) would suggest that if you still consider yourself a Democrat, you appear to be a very, very conservative one, sort of in the mold of one of your loudest supporters and Rick Perry's attorney of record, Tony Buzbee.  By the way: is Buzbee still a Democrat or has he become a Republican?  Or, as with so many other Houston One-Percenters... does he work and play on both sides of the street?

-- What is your plan associated with the expectation that Latinos will need to turn out in historic numbers to elect you, as you said a few months ago?  I realize it's the goal, and every effort will be expended to do that, but why do you think you'll be able to re-write the record books in this regard?  What makes you more special than, say, Tony Sanchez in 2002, or Maria Luisa Alvarado in 2006, or Linda Chavez-Thompson in 2010, or Leticia Van de Putte in 2014?  Lots of Democratic hopes and dreams have been dashed on the shoals of 'increased Latino voter turnout' for many years now.  Even Ruy Teixeira, who co-authored that 2004 book that said it was all but inevitable -- and then offered another promising tea leaf again in 2013, while diversifying his "diversity" message to economic issues -- was, like all Democrats, forced to eat a large serving of crow while sitting in the wreckage of 2014.

Every Democrat in Texas, and maybe the nation, would like to know what the secret is for increasing Latino turnout beyond having a Latino surname.  (And nobody wants to hire Marc Campos just to learn if he is full of shit about knowing the secret, or not.)

So precisely what -- or as close to 'precise' as you are comfortable revealing -- are you planning to do in order to make history?

I'm sure I'll have more questions once you declare, but one thing I won't do much of is criticize your decision to hand the sheriff's office back to a Republican, or point out some of the office's shortcomings or deficiencies under your administration.  There will be plenty of others who will choose to do that.  I'll also not harp on your lack of college degree.  I have blogged in the recent past that was a deal-breaker for me, just as it would be if I were a Republican considering a vote for Scott Walker.  But I'm going to mute that criticism, even though there are many reasons why conservatives hate college and Democrats value education, as the Texas Lege is demonstrating once again.

In the meantime, I will wait patiently for your responses, to me personally or to the Houston electorate generally.  Again, good luck to you with your campaign.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

City Hall goings-on: pensions, agendas, and scuttlebutt

Update: Multiple sources confirm this evening that county sheriff Adrian Garcia will enter the race for mayor, possibly within the next month.

Original post (with updates throughout):

 -- To review: The tension surrounding the city of Houston's negotiations with its firefighters over pension obligations culminated with an agreement a couple of weeks ago.  That was viewed as half a loaf by some of the Republicans on Council.  There was a brief tussle between Rep. Sylvester Turner -- who boosted his cred by brokering the deal -- and the Houston Chronicle editorial board over the value and impact of those efforts.

While that was going on, state Rep. Jim Murphy (a Republican from the affluent west side of town) managed to Bigfoot the pact with a legislative counter-proposal that Houston's municipal conservative coalition rallied behind.

Then a week ago, the pension showdown escalated when some of the more impudent members of council -- most of which are not trying to call attention to their mayoral election campaigns, mind you -- used an obscure procedure to call a meeting for last Friday and air their views.

(T)he symbolism of the meeting is more significant than any action that could be taken, given that the group will simply consider registering support for or opposition to the pension deal.

Regardless, Parker's liaison to council, William-Paul Thomas, said he will work against a quorum. Parker had said she would not put the deal to a council vote because it does not call for the expenditure of city funds.

That is what happened: C.O. Bradford, the wheelman in this caper, got overly authoritative and two of the more liberal council members stood up and walked away, denying the rebels their right to vote or send a message or whatever.

Near the end of Friday's meeting, Councilman David Robinson moved to delay the vote to "facilitate broader discussion" and consider the impact of several related bills being filed in Austin. Councilman C.O. Bradford, chairing the meeting, ruled that action out of order because he felt it was important to send lawmakers a message before the deadline to file bills, and a delay would render the vote moot.

Robinson then gathered his papers and left the dais, joined by Councilwoman Ellen Cohen, breaking the quorum needed to vote.

This revealed some agendas, hidden and otherwise.

One: WTF was C.O. Bradford doing running this show?  Is he bidding for political office in 2016, or currying favor with the right-wing again?  Or both?

Two: While "Stone Cold" Steve Costello and Oliver "Twisted" Pennington were out of sight at City Hall last week,  they weren't silent about Murphy's Proposed Law undercutting the city's pension agreement with the firemen.  From Teddy Schleifer's "Horseshoe" this week (which I keep telling you to subscribe to):

Costello and Pennington came out quickly in support of the Murphy bill, with Costello saying he “played a role in crafting this bill.” The Greater Houston Partnership encouraged Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to support the local control bill, calling the compromise agreement “more patchwork.” Read the letter.

Local control is a good thing, especially when Greg Abbott is against it.  So as Ted pointed out...

(Murphy’s bill) would give all cities in Texas the ability to negotiate directly with their pension boards, which has long been an ambition of Mayor Annise Parker.

Parker is now in the awkward position of not actively lobbying for a bill she has sought: “Best of luck,” a Parker spokeswoman said.

The problem here is when you ask Dan Patrick to weigh in on anything, because he's going to hide some rattlesnakes in it somewhere.  Nobody wants Patrick, or Paul Bettencourt for that matter, appointing themselves quasi-mayor of Houston and all else they survey.  Makes your skin crawl, doesn't it?  All they really want to do is undermine Mayor Parker.  That's all this is about, no matter what else gets said or done.  Parker Derangement Syndrome.

The hell with Patrick, Bettencourt, the GHP and Bradford and all of these other conservative poopy heads.  Get elected mayor or pound sand.

-- Pothole King Bill is also jousting with Stone Cold over what he derisively refers to as the rain tax.  Teddy S, once again.

NAME-DROP: King on Stephen Costello to KRIV’s Greg Groogan on drainage fee: “I heard Councilman Costello say on the radio the other day that people just need to be patient for six or seven years and the money will be there, but excuse me if I am skeptical that the money will really be there.” Full interview. 
NOT BACKING DOWN: Costello, for his part, forcefully defended the drainage fee and ReBuild Houston at his campaign launch last week. Keep your eyes on this King-Costello battle for the middle.

“Make no mistake: While this was a big step in the right direction, it was also just the start," Costello told supporters. "All you have to do is try to navigate your way through the neighborhood around potholes and daily traffic backups in your own neighborhood to know that this is not good enough." 

King has got to take votes away from Costello to have a chance at beating both he and Pennington to make the runoff.  So yes, watch how they spar with each other.  Only one of those three will be left standing after the first Tuesday in November.  And Pennington's wrapping up the "true conservative" caucus.

-- Via Schleifer and 'Horseshoe' once more: is anybody else a little ashamed by the fact that LVDP -- running for San Antonio mayor -- is fundraising in Houston?  On the other hand, just imagine how much of this outside-the-box money-grubbing you might see if there were real, actual limits on campaign contributions.  Tin-cupping and panhandling worse than at your local Walmart's parking lot.  Bake sales and American flag invoices might do the trick, too.  "Cupcakes for Costello!"  "Buy a churro, support Adrian Garcia!"

At least these guys would be able to show some small donor support.  That is Costello's real problem: he can't find anything to sell in River Oaks that they want to buy for less than $1000.  No support behind that dude except for the very, very rich.  Look at his campaign finance reports.  (This might be the only time I ever write those words.)

With a hard, low spending cap -- one Charles might be able to support -- all those buttons, stickers, pens and pencils, rulers, combs, etc. would cost you a dollar.  Hell, they want to get a $5 'donation' from you now for a bumper sticker and a yard sign, so why not?  If Obama can ask you to chip in three bucks, why can't the candidates who are unable to write themselves a check, or collect 250 large in one night -- or both -- do so?  It would give the non-1% contenders a shot, at least.

Attorney Sean Roberts, another potential candidate, tells the Chronicle: “I expect to make a decision before the end of the month.”

It sure wouldn't restore any grace to our political process, but it's still a better option than letting the wealthy buy them all off.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Texas Republican legislators might get something right

But it's still embarrassing to read this account of the hearing given to the bill in the statehouse committee that would do away with straight-ticket voting.

Texas is one of only 10 states still doing straight-ticket voting but a North Texas legislator is hoping to change that.

At a hearing today, Rep. Ron Simmons (R-Carrollton) told the Elections Committee that doing away with such an option here would lead to a more informed voter and improve turnout in non-partisan ballot measure.

“The purpose of this bill is to increase the number of Republican elected officials thought out the state of Texas,” he halfway joked. “However I do believe the added benefit will be a more educated voter.”

But Glenn Maxey, of the Texas Democratic Party, said such a move could discourage voters.

“People are going to be standing in line for hours and hours because it’s going to take people not 10 minutes to vote but a half hour to do that kind of marking,” he said.

Glen Maxey is a man I used to have much respect for.  But after his shenanigans at the TDP's state convention last June, that all went out the window.  The point he is making here is that it's a tremendous inconvenience for Democratic voters to drag themselves to a polling place now, and this bill will discourage them further.  Horrors.  That's pathetic, but this is even worse.

Bill Fairbrother, of the Texas Republican County Chairman Association, said cost is a concern.

“Think of all the additional machines, clerks, polling places … That instead of being able to click one box to take care of those races, you have to go back and choose on average 25 separate races,” he said.

Perfectly ignorant.  There's no extra cost because there are no extra machines, clerks, or polling places needed.  None whatsoever.  There may be lines of voters waiting in GOP primaries, but not anywhere else, I can assure you.  I've voted early in every election and worked a dozen different polls around the city of Houston on Election Day, sometimes two or three in one day, for ten years now.  Only a few early voters, on weekends typically, at a handful of urban locations have to stand on queue for ten minutes.  (The one exception was the presidential election, primary and general, in 2008.)  At least Maxey's argument -- that it would take people more time to vote -- makes sense.

However, both Maxey and Fairbrother noted that within their parties, there was division as those in more rural areas favored the bill.

Ah.  Some small measure of bipartisan support for something at the Texas Legislature at last.

Meanwhile, independent voters testified in favor of the bill saying that if 40 other states have figured it out, surely Texas could too.

The committee took no action on the bill leaving it pending.  Dallas’ Jason Villalba filed a similar bill to eliminate straight-party voting in the state’s larger counties

If eliminating straight-ticket voting helps the GOP, as Rep. Simmons attests (joking or not), can Texas Democrats sue for voter disenfranchisement?  Because theirs are too lazy and/or stupid to mark a ballot 25 times -- or 50 and more in Harris County -- as opposed to once?

I'd hate to hear Chad Dunn have to argue that one before a judge.

Public Integrity Unit pulled away from Travis County DA

And placed in the Texas attorney general's office.  The bill -- SB 10 -- passed out of committee with all Repugs in favor and all Dems opposed.

Voting along party lines, the Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday voted to recommend the full Senate approve a proposal to move the state’s public corruption watchdog out of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.

For the better part of an hour, Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, defended her bill while Democrats picked it apart and testimony was offered suggesting it would make public corruption much more difficult to prosecute. Somewhat emphatically, Huffman said she’s not carrying the legislation on behalf of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Gov. Greg Abbott or anyone else. This is her bill alone, Huffman said.

As written, the bill aims to move the prosecution of an officeholder to that official’s home county instead of Austin when they are formally accused of abusing their power. Huffman explained that under her revised version of this, the District Attorney in the official’s home county could be removed from a case if there was a potential conflict of interest.

Craig McDonald of Texans for Public Justice interprets it a little differently.

“SB 10 is a politicians dream, a virtual get-out-of-jail-free card for public officials. SB 10 creates a special legal system reserved for politicians only -- a system designed to end corruption prosecutions, not pursue them.

The bill is another attack on local control by big government Republicans. It strips all county district attorneys of their traditional power to prosecute corruption within their own jurisdictions. It transfers that power directly to the Attorney General.

Senator Huffman claims her bill will “restore public confidence” in corruption investigations and then hands those cases to a partisan attorney general, himself under a cloud of corruption allegations. In fact, punishing a corrupt politician under SB 10 requires the unanimous approval of the attorney general, the Texas Rangers, a state judge AND a district or county attorney SB 10 will likely breed more corruption by advertising the fact that there is no functioning deterrent.”

The TXGOP is only doing what the (historically low number of) 2014 voters elected them to do: cement one-party rule in Texas, as conservative as you can stand.

They haven't determined exactly how much we can stand yet, but that's on the docket.

Texas Senate Republicans pass open carry

20-11, a pair of numbers we can get used to seeing much more often.

Licensed Texans would be allowed to openly carry handguns in a shoulder or belt holster – like the Old West – under legislation tentatively approved by the Senate Monday after emotional debate that sharply divided Democrats and Republicans.

The measure by Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, would join Texas with most other states in authorizing open carry of handguns – as long as the person has a state handgun license. Currently about 826,000 Texans have a concealed handgun license, nearly 3 percent of the state’s population.

The bill, approved on a 20-11 straight party-line vote, would be effective on Jan. 1, 2016. Texans can already carry long guns, like rifles, openly.

They called it a debate before the vote, but everybody had their minds made up long ago.  The Republicans, naturally, could not dare vote against it and survive a primary challenge next year.

Regarding concerns that many Texans will be fearful of people openly displaying guns in public places like parks, Estes suggested they should “get help somewhere.”

Senate Democrats tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to soften its impact. Among those were proposals to require annual background checks for license holders, more handgun training for licensees and retention clips on all holsters used to carry handguns. Most amendments were tabled on partisan 20-11 votes.

Democrats also claimed to have the support of the law enforcement community in Texas, which mostly testified in opposition to the bill at an earlier public hearing.


“Have you thought about the dangers you will expose to the men and woman who make up law enforcement in our state?” asked Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston.

Logic failed.  These are Republicans, after all.

(Sen. Royce) West also pressed Estes to name any law enforcement agencies or leaders who support his open carry proposal. “If none testified in favor, would you still move forward on this bill?” he asked, suggesting there was a good reason marshals and sheriffs in the Old West required cowboys to hang up their guns when coming into town.

The Republican tide on the open carry measure was aided by a change in Senate rules this session that reduced the number of votes needed to bring a bill up for debate. Instead of the previous two-thirds margin that was needed in the past (21 votes), the required margin is now three-fifths, or 19 votes. Republican currently hold 20 seats in the 31-member chamber.

One party rule.  But we knew this session was going to go down like this weeks ago.  One amendment that did pass seemingly will keep the Wild, Wild West off campus.  That bill is to be "debated" tomorrow.

One amendment that was adopted, by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, exempted college campuses from the open carry measure.

Texas law presently bans carrying concealed weapons while you're at an institution of higher learning, but SB 11 would allow it.  So that means -- once all this shit gets passed -- you'd have to hide your gun and holster once you get to college.  I think.

Then again, maybe the Senate Repubs will resolve any differences they may have between the bills and each other -- because they're the only ones that matter -- in a shootout on the Senate floor.  I think I'll mosey on down to the saloon and have me a shot of red eye to celebrate.  Before the shootin' starts.