Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Brainiacs: The Democrats

I sort of telegraphed it, yes?

The cartoonists really get what the Hillbots still don't.  Beginning early in this presidential cycle -- actually in the summer of 2015, when I made my most accurate prediction -- the establishment Donkeys stubbornly refused self-examination of their move to crown Hillary Clinton, beginning in the early primaries and debates.  Democrats laughed and mocked the GOP as the Pachyderms' bizarre primary slowly produced Donald Trump as nominee.  Even as DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was finally forced out, resigning ahead of the party's convention after hacked emails revealed the committee had indeed been favoring Hillary over Bernie Sanders, they refused to think in any terms except their own inevitability.  DWS moved right over to honorary chair of the Clinton campaign, and her successor, Donna Brazile, was later revealed to have shared town hall questions with her pals inside the camp.

They also denigrated Sandernistas for saying the primary was "rigged".  This would come back to haunt them in November with their festering Russian obsession, a derangement syndrome showing no sign of playing itself out until late January at the earliest.  And maybe longer than that ...

Besides being a lousy establishment candidate running in a 'change' election cycle, the presumptive Madam President made unforced errors: failing to hold a press conference for more than nine months, attending an Adele concert two weeks before the election, but never managing to visit Wisconsin even once.  She made a severe miscalculation late, demanding SEIU activists stay in Iowa and not go to Michigan, a state she lost twice, the first time in a foreboding upset -- a polling one -- to Sanders.  This might have been the loudest alarm bell they never heard.

But if any external factor could be blamed for her defeat, it would have to be FBI director James Comey, who first cleared Clinton in the summer following a probe into her use of a private email server, then -- 11 days before the election -- wrote a letter to Congress that he had new information that led him to revisit that decision.  The "new information" was DNC emails on the personal computer of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner, the now ex-husband of Hillary's closest advisor, Huma Abedin.  Two days before voters went to the polls, Comey re-cleared Clinton.

Nate Silver said on the same day, November 6, that this cost Clinton 2-4 percentage points in the national polling, and since the aggregate of polls were in error by a similar margin, he evaluated in December that the Comey letter had the greatest effect on the presidential race.  Indeed, late-deciding voters in swing states broke heavily for Trump (here's your fake news on that) and in one of the more stunning reveals in post-2016 election analysis, more Republicans stayed true to their man than Democrats did their woman.  There was simply a vast overestimate of her popularity among voters -- perhaps also described as overstating the unpopularity of Trump -- and it was most clearly seen in the electoral crumbling of the Great Lakes states presumed to be her firewall: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.  Her popular vote victory of nearly three million votes over Trump exposed the superfluous waste of concentrated support in states like New York and California, and even urban cities and counties in blood-red states (like Houston and Harris County, which she carried by 12 percentage points).

Here's the lesson, repeated: nationally surveyed two-horse race polls do not pick presidents, and neither does the sum of all votes across the country.  Clinton and her supporters acted both arrogant and lackadaisical about her electoral strength due to the faulty polling, and continue to trumpet the popular vote after it as an excuse to refuse to accept reality.  As long as they remain stuck in this position, they won't be able to organize for 2018, a year with even greater electoral warning flags.

Against this backdrop, the DNC moves toward electing a new chair, which looks like a repeat of the primary battle: likely either US Rep. Keith Ellison, an African American Muslim and Sanders acolyte, or Obama's labor secretary Tomas Perez, the Clinton (or is it Obama?) faction's choice who was exposed in the hacked/leaked emails as a man willing to play the race card against Sanders in the primary.  The schism shows no sign of healing.  Update: The latest on Perez's shortcomings, essentially the same as Clinton's.

Beyond that course, the strategy for the neoliberals seems to be to TeaBag Trump right out of the gate, as the Tea Pees did to Obama in 2009.  That didn't work out so well for the Baggers in 2012, so they went harder right, morphing into the alt-right white nationalists who propelled Trump to victory in the boondocks ... and thus the nation.

The Sanders Democrats, for their part, responsibly declined to jump ship after his defeat and ongoing disrespect, as the vote tallies for the minor party candidates revealed.  There was much less leakage of votes away from Clinton than there was perceived there would be (although the polls got the numbers for the third parties mostly correct).  When the Greens' Jill Stein established a fund to pay for election recounts in the Midwestern states, it was primarily Democrats who opened their wallets and forked over millions of dollars for a last-ditch hope of changing the outcome.  The system batted away that challenge like a badminton shuttlecock.

So Sanders, via Ellison, tries again to take over a broken Democratic machine that relies on the Republican model in terms of money and corporate support, but without the ability to either fight in the trenches or appeal to the working class voters who were their base for decades.  And when they lose, they'll stay loyal, attempting to overhaul a calcified political party from within instead of moving a little to the left and doing something different.  The definition of insanity, part 937.

But an olive branch in this scathing rebuke is extended to congratulate the Harris County Democrats, who succeeded where virtually all other Democratic parties across the country failed in 2016: switch Republican voters over, turn out the vote among Latin@s, and otherwise grind out a big win in a formerly purple, 50-50 county.  They did what the national organization couldn't, and maybe they have some wisdom to share going forward.  Who they pick to replace Lane Lewis as county chair will make a lot of difference as to whether they can sustain the gains in 2018 and, in the big picture, help eject the Cheeto Tweeter from the Oval Office in 2020.

Democracy is counting on a knee-capped, divided, somewhat bitter and mostly clueless bunch of elitist Democrats who favored a strong defense and big banks at the expense of working men and women, and nobody ought to hold their breath waiting for them to figure out how to win in two years.  Four years from now ought to be easier, but that's an eon away in political terms.

I'm going to continue to help organize something outside this shell of an allegedly liberal political party, but kudos to those who still think there's a rebellion to win within it.  Those folks will eventually be allies to those of us outside the castle walls, and how long it takes for them to come to their senses is the only remaining question.

Update: Down with Tyranny has a harsher evaluation.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Why I don't post much about Texas any more

Just a few of the latest reasons.

-- The three loons in contention for Secretary of the Department of Agriculture: Elsa Murano, Sid Miller, and Susan Combs (let me know in the comments if this Chron link and others below aren't giving you the full article).

Murano is a former president of TAMU, where she crossed swords with Rick Perry's buddy.

The Cuba-born Murano, a food safety expert who worked in the administration of President George W. Bush, is considered the least controversial of the three Texans, although she has rattled consumer advocates as well as top administrators in College Station.


Murano's more pressing political problem may be her short and stormy tenure at the helm of Texas A&M, where she clashed with then-Chancellor Mike McKinney, former chief of staff to Gov. Rick Perry, now Trump's choice for energy secretary.

Though Murano may have the heftiest food science resume among a slew of contenders in and out of Texas, her forced resignation after 18 months leading Texas A&M, Perry's alma mater, could make her an odd fit in the Trump White House.

Should I rehash the disadvantages of "romance novel/comptroller data breach" Combs and "Jesus shot/C-word/cupcake amnesty" Miller, in previous (and current) office?  No, I shouldn't.

The main reason I shouldn't is because it makes no difference as to whether these foul Texas Republicans get elected and re-elected.  The challenge may lie elsewhere, as Texas Democrats can't seem to come up with a way to defeat them.  It is no longer sensible to simply mock or deride or even point out their flaws as politicians and human beings without noting the vast ineptitude of their opposition.  See, in Texas we've been having to choose between Trump and Clinton in nearly every single statewide race for a couple of decades.  We keep waiting and hoping for the electorate to figure out which is the worst and then are shocked when they don't.  Logic and facts seems to be less and less useful in this regard.  The true fallacy of lesser evilism has been on display here in Deep-In-The-Hearta for a generation now; maybe there's a better choice beyond continuing to hold porcine singing lessons.

Here's more of the same, court room version.

A federal judge Wednesday ordered the Texas prison system to disclose the number of heat-related deaths among inmates statewide since 1990, sharply questioning why its lawyers had not provided the information sooner.

U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison gave the state 30 days to provide the details or face the consequences.

"We are not talking about how many widgets were sold out of a given factory," Ellison said during a hearing Wednesday in Houston. "We are talking about human lives, and I would be very distressed if the answer is the TDCJ does not even keep count of how many people died of heat-related illness."

What is there of value -- distress, disgust, outrage, snark, or otherwise -- to add to Judge Ellison's?  Here's more, tangentially, with respect to the Texas criminal "justice" (sic) system.

"Texas has the largest prison population of any state in the country. Nearly 145,000 are incarcerated, and a significant percentage of those are low-level offenders. People who are being held for violating parole or minor drug crimes," (Texas Association of Business President Bill) Hammond said. "Violent criminals, rapists and sexual offenders do belong in prison. However, there are some people whom we do not think belong in prison because of the cost."

Texas spends about $3 billion a year on prisons. Keeping someone behind bars costs about $50 a day, compared with $3 a day for supervised probation. With Texas lawmakers facing an $8 billion shortfall to maintain the current level of government services in 2018-2019, they need to find savings, and criminal justice is overdue for an overhaul.

Do you think posting a word like "good", or "wow", or something similar followed by an excerpt followed by an original sentence or two (generally containing the words 'see here for the background', with a link to some mention of the topic in the past), perhaps a paragraph of dishwater-flavored opinion, is making much of a difference in how Texans think about how they have been governed for the past twenty-five years?  Texas progressivism doesn't need more than one person on that beat.

Bill Hammond has been the solitary conservative in this state who has consistently tried to bridge the bipartisan divide in Austin by talking sense at Republican legislators, and you can see how successful he's been.  (Please don't assume that I'm giving Hammond credit for anything but a modicum of intelligence here.)

Hammond explained at an Austin news conference that it's not just about saving taxpayer money, though. It's about keeping nonviolent offenders employed and providing for their families while making restitution. Diversion programs and alternative sentencing can also force offenders to get treatment for drug addiction and mental health problems that underlie most crimes today.

"You are talking about individuals who are working, who are paying taxes, who are paying child support. They should be part of the community and part of the workforce instead of rotting in some prison at a high cost to taxpayers," Hammond said.

Indeed, this effort at rehabilitation is bipartisan.

Prison reform has long been a priority for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank in Austin. The group notes that politicians rely too much on incarceration, with one of every 100 American adults in prison today, compared with one in every 400 in 1970.

The group wants rehabilitation programs that reduce recidivism, such as mandatory job training, drug counseling and mental health care for the 7,000 Texans who are going to prison every year for simple drug possession.

The left-leaning Texas Criminal Justice Coalition couldn't agree more, calling for new ways to address possession of a controlled substance.

"There is no evidence that harsh penalties will discourage someone from continuing to use drugs, and therefore it is no surprise, then, that of the thousands of people who we send to state jail each year, 62 percent of them will be rearrested within three years," said Douglas Smith, a policy analyst with the group. "We can't arrest our way out of addiction."

We'd better stop there, as this gets way too deep for your average Trump voter/TeaBagger.  Appealing to the greater good in the souls of Lone Star conservatives only works if they're admonishing their lessers about the use of bootstraps.  If ill and impoverished Texans who have died because Rick Perry and Greg Abbott refused to expand Medicaid didn't graze their conscience, it's impossible to see how the lives of those incarcerated for drug "offenses" would.

At some point, again, you have to ask: is trying to make progress worth the effort in Texas?  There's always hope, but how bright does that little candle flicker?

One very minor example of the point I'm trying to make here.

Wouldn't it be grand if that vision above became reality?  Yet the elected managers of this region -- this modern, forward-looking, wealthy metropolis, with all of its spectacular diversity of arts, culture, food, and more -- cannot seem to overcome the troglodytes among their base who would rather tear down a piece of history, a legacy symbol related to the past when we dreamed big and executed big.

Nothing, in my opinion, demonstrates the abject failure of Texas conservatism more than the Astrodome in its current condition.  It's a metaphor for the crumbling, abandoned, deteriorating waste that is a long-term consequence of Texas Republican governance, as far and wide and clearly as the eye can see.

And yet the Democratic Latina county commissioner in 2012 -- now state Sen. Sylvia Garcia -- who represented a redistricted precinct that was 52.5% Latin@ VAP but only 38% CVAP, was subsequently shoved off commissioners' court by the Anglo Republicans on the east side of Houston.  Dr. Reynaldo Guerra at Dos Centavos explained this clearly at the time.  He invoked another quaint relic of a bygone era which has been steadily eroded by the GOP, the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  (Aside: boy, do I miss that kind of blogging.)

Harris County Democrats -- who stood out across the country as a shining example of how to take back their courthouse in last month's election -- need to show the rest of Texas outside the urban city limits how to replicate the feat in two years at the statehouse.  And in the US Congress, when we will have evidence of the destructive force of Trump's presidency staring us all in the face.  I'll be watching and assessing the Democrats' performance, but I won't be helping them any more. I like to have more options than just Coke or Pepsi, and I'm going to see to making that happen for everybody who can bothered to do their civic duty on a regular basis and cast a ballot.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Brainiacs of 2016 on the way

This blog will award what was called 'Texan of the Year' as a TPA collaboration in years past, but since that doesn't happen any longer we'll change the name to "Brainiacs of 2016" and publish the winner(s) sometime before Sunday, the beginning of a fresh new year for Democrats to dread and the end of a true annus horribilis.

I'll go a little farther than another tired critique of Worst Texans (oddly enough, they're all Republicans), avoid a back-patting listicle of Best Stories, and kick up the acidity a notch from Daily Jackass honorees Chris Hooks, Misandry Angie, Jef Rouner, John Cobarruvias, Tessa Stuart and Brent Budowsky, Kris Banks and Allen Brain, and Barack Hussein Obama.  Oh, and everybody who said that a vote for Jill Stein was a vote for Trump.  Especially Matthew Rozsa and Dave Wasserman.

An early dishonorable mention goes to local Shrillbot Kim Frederick, still spewing venom all over her social media at Bernie Sanders and his supporters seven weeks after the Hillocaust.  If you want to understand why the Democrats are going to keep on losing, just take a look at her bilious slurs against progressive Democrats (and everybody who agrees with her).

While I finish up the roster, here's a little scattershooting a couple of trending topics.

-- Those crazy kids at Rice have cooked up a voting machine that may be hack-proof.

The drumbeat of election rigging and foreign hacking of voting machines have energized ongoing efforts to develop a new model of digital election equipment designed to produce instantly verifiable results and dual records for security.

Election experts say this emerging system, one of three publicly funded voting machine projects across the country, shows potential to help restore confidence in the country's election infrastructure, most of which hasn't been updated in more than a decade.


A prototype of the system, dubbed STAR Vote, sits in an engineering lab at Rice University, and bidding is open for manufacturers who want to produce it wholesale. Similar efforts to innovate voting systems are in the works in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

"County clerks in these jurisdictions are the rock stars of running elections," said Joe Kiniry, CEO of Free & Fair, an election systems supplier currently bidding on contracts to manufacture the designs of both Travis and Los Angeles counties. "If they have success in what they do, it will have, in my opinion, a massive impact on the whole U.S."

I saw no mention of Stan Stanart in this article.

Primarily, the team aimed for a digital system with easily verifiable results. So they devised a machine that records an electronic vote, then prints a copy of the paper ballot, which the voter examines then puts in a ballot box. If there are concerns about the accuracy of electronically tabulated results, they can be compared with a sampling of the paper ballots.

"It has a belt and suspender approach to verifiability and security," said Philip Stark, associate dean of the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, who collaborated on the design.

STAR Vote runs automatic audits, comparing a statistical sample of the paper ballots with the digital records to verify results. "The savings are just enormous over doing a recount," Stark said.

While other systems allow for comparison of precinct-level data, STAR Vote can compare paper ballots with individual voters' digital ballots, which are encrypted and posted online. Officials could take a small sample of printed ballots and compare them with digital results to conclude with high confidence that election results were correct.

I suppose my friend Brad Friedman will stick to the Luddite method he's championed for so long, and I'd like to observe some field test, logic-and-accuracy run-throughs before I can be convinced, but Wallach, have a large reservoir of trust established in this corner and I'd like to see what they have designed.

-- As someone who spent some time as a grief counselor with the Houston-based death conglomerate SCI, this has lots of appeal to me (and none for them).

Dennis White knew he was going to die soon, and he had a plan. The 63-year old Massachusetts man had a disease called progressive primary aphasia — a condition that slowly robbed him of cognitive function and made it difficult for him to speak. In planning his own funeral, he had seen a TED Talk by artist Jae Rhim Lee about her idea for a mushroom burial suit, and realized it was for him.

White had his death planning process filmed and turned into a short documentary. The Infinity Suit he chose is a hand-sewn shroud made of mushroom spores and other microorganisms that are supposed to aid in decomposition and neutralize toxins, according to Coeio, the company that makes the garment (which costs $1500).


White passed away in September and got his wish to be buried in the suit. Namrata Kollo, a partnerships manager with Coeio, says that planning ahead — the way White did — can help people make better decisions around their own death. "It not only eases the burden on them, but helps people think about the legacy they want to leave for the planet," she says. "With death, as much as possible, we'd like to become food of the planet and return nutrients."

People are now rethinking relationships with death and burials, from the ground up. It's part of a movement that reimagines humans' relationship with the earth, says Suzanne Kelly, author of "Greening Death: Reclaiming Burial Practices and Our Tie to the Earth."

Traditional burial and even cremation -- which has an enormously large carbon footprint -- is just not sustainable.  Certainly not as modeled for excessive profit by the United States' monopolistic death merchant, Service Corporation International (operating funeral homes and cemeteries around the world under the Dignity Memorial brand).

Kelly points out that before the 1830s, people celebrated and buried their dead without caskets, embalming or vaults, on family farms or in church graveyards. But a rise of urbanism collided with a fear of sanitation. "It was believed that if something smelled bad, it would make you sick," Kelly says. Reformers set their sights on cemeteries and banned them from town centers. Slowly, people became more distanced from dead bodies.

Today, the way we manage the dead isn't sustainable. Each year, 2.6 million people die in the United States, and most are buried in a cemetery or cremated, impacting land use and contributing to climate change. 

Go read the article and watch the video.  It's an eye-opener, but not for those who are squeamish about death or the deathcare industry (yes, that's its real name).

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Boxing Day Wrangle

 It's not as rough on Santa as you might think.

Off the Kuff looked at presidential voting results in two Congressional districts with an eye toward future elections.

Socratic Gadfly punctures bits of East Texas, and general Texas, historical mythology with a look at the history of Nacogdoches. (Part Two this coming Friday.)

Grits for Breakfast watched the video of Fort Worth police officer baiting, and then arresting, the woman who called 911, and wonders right alongside the police chief if it was rudeness or racism.

In a 24-hour period last Thursday, Trump managed a trifecta: antagonize US-Israeli relations, start a nuclear arms race with Russia, and knock Lockheed Martin around for a discount on F-35s by threatening to have Boeing build a 'modified F-18' in its place.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs says that if we don't get his Twitter account suspended, he's going to kill us all.

jobsanger reprints a FWST op-ed that points out that the Texas Lege still plans on defunding Planned Parenthood.

The Lewisville Texan Journal reported on the Texas Education Agency's final school ratings for the year, and quoted some administrators as calling them a crock.

South Texas Chisme says that in the wake of the Corpus Christi public water emergency last week, that city's manager says there's "a lot" of non-compliant users of city water.

Neil at All People Have Value took a picture of Houston's excellent Christmas Tree of Tires.  APHV is part of


And still more Texas news from a variety of contributors!

From space poop to Jupiter, the Houston Press recounted their ten best 2016 stories about NASA.

The Rivard Report spotlights on San Antonio's mental health care network, a national model.

The Longview News Journal exposes the East Texas judges who pay themselves a $25,000 bonus just for showing up for work.

The Texas Observer posts the worst of 2016's social media offerings from the likes of our elected 'representatives' such as Robert Morrow, Konni Burton, and Sid Miller.  Basically all of Sid Miller's Facebook timeline.

Equality Texas sees North Carolina buckling under the economic pressure of their 'bathroom bill', and watches as Texas charts a similar ill-fated course.

Ashton Woods at Strength in Numbers excoriates 'Pantsuit Nation' in his semi-regular series on intersectionality and the problematic white gaze.

And Houstonia has the Texas state park camping trips you need to book now.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Trump's 24 hours

It's going to be a long four years, people.

President-elect Donald Trump long ago earned a reputation for being unpredictable in his statements, but he outdid himself on Thursday.

In the span of just a few hours, Trump shook international relations by undercutting the Obama administration over a UN resolution on Israeli settlements, indicated he would ramp up nuclear competition with Russia and then jolted a major defense contractor -- and its shareholders -- by suggesting he would ask Boeing to replace a fighter jet being made by Lockheed Martin.

Here's the best response to that last eruption.

This is going to spoil my Festivus party.  Although we'll have a few extra grievances to air.

Jake Novak at CNBC suggests Trump's disrupting of the weapons procurement process is going to involve some bilateral back-scratching.

(T)he Air Force is starting the process of replacing America's Minuteman nuclear arsenal. More than 400 of those ICBMs, most built in the 1960s, now sit in missile silos across the U.S.

And, not coincidentally, the three companies bidding to get the replacement contract are Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin. Of course, the CEOs of Boeing and Lockheed just met with Trump in Florida yesterday. While Boeing came out of that meeting promising to keep the costs of replacing Air Force One below $4 billion, that's chickenfeed compared to the $60 billion to $86 billion estimated cost of replacing the Minuteman program.

Was some kind of quid pro quo discussed in Mar a Lago Wednesday? Perhaps we'll never know, but if Boeing gets the contract that will be a prevailing suspicion for years to come.

Is this what all those Trumpets meant when they said -- and voted -- for Trump to shake up Washington?  Did "shakeup" include World War III?  Of less concern: how are they going to structure a defense contract so that President Trump gets his kickback without the GSA finding out about it?  And what will the GOP Congress critters do when they find out?  Crap themselves or impeach?

Should we encounter a 'water landing', your seat cushions may be used as a flotation device.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Scattershooting Electors and Obama's pardons

-- In hopefully the last epic fail of the Hillbots (at least for 2016) it looks like they succeeded in getting Electors to be faithless.  To Hillary Clinton.

More photos from the Chron here
While there was a lot of buzz about faithless Republican electors dumping Trump, it turns out that more Democratic electors dumped Clinton.  Specifically, two Republican Texas electors voted for candidates other than Trump:  one voted for John Kasich and one voted for Ron Paul.

I relish the irony of Ron Paul having earned more EC votes -- well, vote -- than Gary Johnson.  And anything that angers Greg Abbott would delight me, no matter what it was.

But four Democratic electors voted for candidates other than Hillary Clinton:

Only eight of 12 Democratic electors in Washington cast their votes for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who won the state in November. In an act of symbolic protest, three electors voted for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and one cast a vote for Faith Spotted Eagle, a Native American elder from South Dakota.

It’s the first time in four decades that any Washington electors have broken from the state’s popular vote for president.

Emphasis theirs.  Three Washington state Democratic Electors, pledged to Her, appear to have conspired to vote for a Republican who refused to run for the office and was never seriously considered for it by the Republicans.  You can't make this stuff up.  If there's hope for abolishing the Electoral College -- and there isn't very much IMHO -- it has a little seed germinating in the aftermath of this impotent act of defiance.

Democrats that choose Tom Perez over Keith Ellison will extend the losing streak in 2018.  That's my early bet, and I'm bookmarking me for future gloating.

-- I believe Barack Obama's acts of clemency -- more than the previous eleven presidents combined, 50 times the number of his most recent predecessor, George Walker Bush -- are the very best thing he has done as president of the United States.

Just weeks before leaving office, President Obama on Monday issued 78 pardons and commuted the sentences of 153 prisoners, extending his acts of clemency to a total of 1,324 individuals, by far the largest use of the presidential power to show mercy in the nation’s history.

Of the 231 people who received a pardon or a reduced sentence from Obama, virtually all had been serving sentences under tough anti-drug laws, including those convicted of low-level, nonviolent crimes like possession of cocaine.

Those who received pardons had completed their sentences and are, in the words of Neil Eggleston, the White House counsel, now leading “a productive and law-abiding post-conviction life, including by contributing to the community in a meaningful way.” The pardons wipe away any legal liabilities from a conviction.

I stepped away from this president in 2009, when he did not show any commitment to getting the legislation passed that has long borne his name.  I was incensed by his replacing the torture of the Bush administration with unadjudicated assassination of suspected terrorists by drone, a legacy of fomenting the very thing he pledged to eradicate.  This legacy will live on long after him.  Not just after he leaves office, but after he is dead and gone.

However ...

The president has said he has been motivated to exercise his clemency power by a belief that the sentencing system in the United States was used to lock up minor criminals — often minorities — for excessively long periods of time.

At the end of 2015, as he commuted the sentences of 95 federal prisoners, Obama said it was “another step forward in upholding our ideals of justice and fairness” and added that “if we can show at the federal level that we can be smart on crime, more cost effective, more just, more proportionate, then we can set a trend for other states to follow as well. And that’s our hope.

Tens of thousands of inmates, mostly young African-American or Hispanic men, were locked up in the effort to combat drug violence during the past three decades. Many of those men were sentenced under federal guidelines that required them to serve decades or longer in prison.

During the past several years, a bipartisan coalition emerged to overhaul that system. The unlikely allies included conservatives like Charles G. and David H. Koch, the billionaire brothers, and the Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy organization with close connections to Hillary Clinton.

But hopes for a legislative deal to overhaul the nation’s sentencing system failed to materialize during the bitter 2016 presidential campaign. That left Obama with one option: to use his clemency power case by case.

Emphasis above is mine.  I applaud this action and I hope the president will pardon more individuals before he leaves office.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Week-Before-Xmas Wrangle

With the last weekly blog post roundup before Christmas, the Texas Progressive Alliance would like to enlist in the annual 'War' on Christmas, but can't find a recruiting station.

Off the Kuff analyzed Fort Bend election results with an eye on 2018.

Socratic Gadfly looked at the ongoing post-election Wikileaks fallout, and addressed issues about what constitutes both journalism and democratic process, along with side issues about elitism.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is tired of Texas Republicans harassing and humiliating women and the poor. Fake abortion requirements and drug testing of benefit recipients serve no other purpose than to make Texas white nationalists feel superior.

Neil at All People Have Value said it is a mistake to follow the bright lights while ignoring the abyss beyond. APHV is part of

jobsanger points out the irony that a relative of LBJ, US Rep. Sam Johnson of Texas, has already introduced legislation to make Social Security less secure for retirees.

With Rick Perry and Rex Tillerson tapped to join Trump's cabinet, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs found the two Texans too oily for his taste.

The Lewisville Texan Journal writes about falling into, and rising out of, homelessness in that city.

The Houston Press takes note of one of the first items on new Harris County DA Kim Ogg's agenda: fire a whole bunch of staff.

And Politifact Texas names Fake News as the Lie of the Year.


And here's more from other Texas blogs and news outlets!

The Texas Election Law Blog shares some thoughts on today's Electoral College vote.

Chris Hooks at the Texas Observer went to see the five candidates running for DNC chair, who all spoke in Austin this past Saturday.

The FWST presents episode 18 of 'Titletown, TX', also known as Aledo, as their high school football team pursues its sixth state championship in eight seasons.

BOR looks at the coming legislative attack on Texas unions.

Adam Tutor suggests giving the gift of non-profit support this holiday season.

Better Texas Blog highlights income inequality in Texas.

The TSTA Blog calls Greg Abbott "clueless" on special education needs.

Murray Newman eulogizes longtime Harris County courthouse figure Rick Johnson.

And the Salon of Somervell County has some big plans for 2017.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Too Oily

Finally there's some news about Texas that is bloggable.  As usual, it's something Republican and excessively awful.

The tapping of Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, and Secretary of Energy-designate Rick Perry (a Dancing With the Stars contestant) truly suggests -- as many others have long ago noticed -- that Trump is just trolling us all now.

Rick Perry for the Department of Energy? Perry will be running an organization he doesn’t even think should exist. By that logic, I should be the CEO of Citigroup. Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, for Secretary of State? Negotiating a peace treaty requires a different skill set than getting a permit to drill in the Black Sea.

The New York Times published a thoughtful op-ed by physicist Lawrence M. Krauss noting that the current energy secretary is also a physicist (a Nobel Prize-winning one) and outlining a number of critical issues facing the department. It was headlined, “Rick Perry is the Wrong Choice for Energy Secretary.”

The wrong choice? It’s hard to view these nominations as anything but the deliberate mockery of their departments, and of government itself.

Trump is filling a vacancy previously occupied by two nuclear scientists with Rick Perry, a guy who failed chemistry at Texas A&M.  He did earn a D in a course named Meats, however.  It is worth noting that the DOE has more to do these days with regulating nuclear energy than it does fossil fuels.  Which leaves very little room for mistakes of the cerebral variety.

As with the EPA-head-to-be, these people are no friends of the Earth.

Perry comes across as a likable goofball, but make no mistake: He’ll do a lot of harm in his new role. He’s very close to the oil and gas industry, and he denies the reality of climate change. In addition to steering energy policy, he’ll also be in charge of our nuclear stockpile and responsible for major counter-terrorism efforts.

Worried yet?

After living through and blogging about Perry's terms as governor -- his cronyism, his corruption, his re-election in 2006 with 39% of the vote, the persistent rumors of him being firmly in the closet, his indictments, his skating past his indictments, his Lordapolooza at Reliant/NRG stadium, his inability to find the vagina on an anatomical doll (the 2nd-most clicked post in this blog's fourteen-year history), his outrage at cartoon explosions as opposed to actual ones (in West, TX; the 5th-highest clicked post here) his cuddling a small bottle of maple syrup -- what is there left for me to say about him?

This: assuming there's a United States left after Trump starts WWIII with China, Rick Perry is going to hear God telling him to run for president again some day, and he might just be smart enough to have learned from his mistakes.  For the sake of a God I will never believe in, I hope I'm dead before I see Rick Perry elected president of the US.  Surely there's at least one more shitty neoliberal Democrat that can get in between him and Trump, yes?  No?

As for Tillerson, he's unlikely to survive the confirmation process, with John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Tony Perkins all lined up against him.

(Tillerson) made his career by trading with Russia and was now-famously awarded the Kremlin’s “Order of Friendship.”

Even some Republicans are worried about him. “Based upon his extensive business dealings with the Putin government and his opposition of efforts to impose sanctions on the Russian government,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, “there are many questions which must be answered.”

These Republicans don’t mention ExxonMobil’s suppression of scientific data that showed carbon fuels contributed to harmful climate change. For decades it denied that its own products were harming the planet. ExxonMobil spent more than $30 million on think tanks that denied the reality of climate change, despite its own groundbreaking but secret research from the 1970s onward that proved the opposite.

To be fair, Tillerson originally supported Jeb Bush for president, which means the fossil-fuel tycoon isn’t always opposed to “low-energy” alternatives.

Mwahahaha.  If your primary objection to the man is that he turned the Boy Scouts gay, you might just be the most unhinged Christian extremist in the country.

“Trump calls Rex a 'world class player and deal-maker,' but if these are the kinds of deals Tillerson makes — sending dollars to an abortion business that's just been referred for criminal prosecution and risking the well-being of young boys under his charge in an attempt to placate radical homosexual activists — then who knows what sort of 'diplomacy' he would champion at DOS?” Perkins wrote on the Family Research Council’s website, where he serves as president.

Update: Some "hey, it could be worse" than Tillerson from Vox.  There have been many poor choices made by this president-elect to date; it's hard to pick a 'worst'.  But these two Texans are absolutely in the top five.

Trump’s appointees constitute an ‘anti-government,’ to use Eugene Robinson’s resonant phrase. But let’s be clear about what that really means: Trump’s appointees will lead institutions whose functions they fundamentally oppose.

Tillerson has displayed no interest in diplomacy. Rick Perry is the ultimate ‘anti-government’ appointee. His desire to extinguish his new department is matched only by his ability to forget that it even exists. Neither seems to value government’s role in balancing public and private interests.

Trump isn’t just making “wrong choices” for these jobs. He’s displaying his contempt for the positions themselves. He’s showing himself and his friends just how much he can get away with.

Those of us who can see Trump for who he is should stop acting as if he’s unique. His pitch is as stale as an old carny’s. His con is as dated as three-card monte.

Trump voters don’t seem to have figured out yet that they’re being trolled and scammed. They will. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time - not when the world falls into chaos and the air turns dark with poison.

Too dramatic?  You'd better hope so.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Recount 2016 dies quietly, and a way forward

With Michigan's recount ended by federal by court order last Friday (despite some severe irregularities), the conclusion and subsequent certification of Wisconsin's vote, and the scolding rejection by a federal judge of the recounting in Pennsylvania this past Monday, the 2016 presidential election is to be finally determined by the Electors meeting in College on December 19.  There's some question as to how that might turn out, about which you've likely heard.  Don't get your hopes up is all I'm sayin'.  Jill Stein announced day before yesterday that any funds remaining from her effort would be donated to "groups dedicated to election reform and voting rights".  There are election lawyers disturbed by the outcomes of the erstwhile recounting, and there are bloggers happy/not happy about it, and the strife it caused within the Greens themselves.  Gadfly did his post-mortem a month ago; David Collins' is a week old, taking stock of the ending and looking ahead.

Jeffrey Koterba, above, perhaps speaks for the Greens on the other side of the internal divide from me.  Since the GP has not demonstrated they can raise large amounts of money from a donor base in small amounts (as both Stein and Bernie Sanders proved is possible, but only if you cater to Democrats' whims) then they're not going to grow.

I supported the recount and Jill Stein, still do and will going forward because, as blogged three weeks ago, I'm not so much of a purist as some.  I believe that with a shrinking electorate (Texas will be an exception, as I'll show in the next paragraphs) and thanks to the combined efforts of people like Trump's eventual Supreme Court nominee, Greg Abbott, Catherine Englebrecht, Kris Kobach, and many others -- the fastest way to greater relevance for US Greens (as blogged a month ago) is going to be to convince former Democrats like me, and more significantly some electeds, to come over and bring some of their professional campaign skills and tools with them.

The scale of the task remains massive: here in the Lone Star, Greens nearly tripled their share of the presidential vote in 2016 over 2012, but that translated into just 71,558 votes, or 0.80% (compared to 24,657 and 0.31%).  As you might already know, the next Green who bids for statewide office -- on the party line that must be secured via petition following the 2018 major party primaries -- must capture 5% of the statewide vote in order to hold that line in 2020.  That's easily done if the Texas Democrats fail to run in all the races, and impossible if they do not.

Using the same TXSoS numbers as above, and at the link here, the Texas electorate grew over the past four years from 7.993 to 8.969 million voters, or a 12% increase.  But despite the most favorable climate for third party growth in at least sixteen years, Jill Stein's share managed just a bit more than a 2.5% gain.  With an assumption that there will be another million Texans voting four years from now, and in order to reach 5% of that projected ten million voters in 2020, the next Green presidential candidate would have to earn -- not siphon -- 500,000 votes in Texas just to keep ballot access for the party in the 2022 midterm elections.

That's simply not going to happen absent a full collapse of the national Democrats, an extinction event long overdue but certainly more possible than it was on November 7, 2016.  Waiting for that Godot, however -- as the Democrats have helpfully demonstrated with the mythical Latino surge voter -- is folly.  If in the short term the DNC chooses soon-to-be-ex-Labor Secretary Tom Perez as chair instead of Sanders-supported Keith Ellison, there will be more erosion from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.  How much, quantifiably, can best be answered today with the words "not much" and "not enough".  All you need to do is look at Sanders' 33% share of the Democratic primary vote last spring to see that the Sandernistas in Texas were dutifully sheperded onto the Clinton bandwagon in time for November.

So as left-leaning bitter-enders agitate for something resembling reform with hopes the Democrats can engineer at least a White House comeback, the rest of us continue to endure the status quo: full GOP control, with Texas (and many other states, mind you) statewide races determined in the GOP primary and not the general, a state Democratic party apparatus moribund, unfunded, and at less than a 40% share and sinking.  Twenty-eighteen stands woefully small chances of moving that needle.

And as long as Texas Democrats can employ a recruiter like Cliff Walker and judicial candidates like Betsy Johnson, they can keep their finger in the dyke and prevent less than one percent of their potential vote leaking out to the Greens.  I say 'potential' because this is what Democrats believe: Green votes all belong to them, and no facts seem able to crack that shibboleth.  Maybe some day, but Team Donkey remains content to sell shit sandwiches as hope and change for the foreseeable future.

A pretty dim view of US progressivism generally and Texas particularly, irrespective of your being blue, green, or red, but an accurate one.  There is now a model for progressive populist activism, including electoral gains, but it will be necessary for those of us on the left to stop fighting with each other and work together, across party and even left-ideological lines.  A tall order, but at least there's some evidence it can be accomplished.

" ... I think the success of the Richmond Progressive Alliance as an electoral force really is due to the fact that it has taken an exceptionally ecumenical approach. It has welcomed people who are left-leaning Democrats, who are independents, who are registered members of third party like the California Greens or the California Peace and Freedom Party. There are members of different socialist groups. But it’s a broad charge, and under the banner of a local progressive movement, people have agreed to set aside disagreements that they or the organizations they belong to nationally might have about some issues in the interest of getting things done in a kind of united front at the local level. And that’s, as I’m sure you know, not characteristic left behavior in this country. Too often, people can’t get beyond their petty factional squabbles and ideological differences and [corroborate rather than compete]. So creating that kind of united front and kind of rebranding as the Richmond Progressive Alliance and welcoming people with different views and organizational affiliations on a left-liberal spectrum was really important."

More at the link from Steve Early, quoted above, and his book.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Russians came *updates

And did ... something.  Precisely what is a matter even the CIA and FBI cannot agree upon.

With fairly conclusive evidence that something electronic, computer-related, was done by some folks in Russia, it remains circumstantial that the Russian government was actually directing those efforts (the FBI's mandate being what can be proved in a court of law, as we saw with the original decision of theirs not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for sloppy handling of her electronic mail).  This despite the fact that the Russian government seems delighted with the appearance (the CIA's conclusion, which underscores how that agency weights inference) of their having played some role -- something to do with -- electing Donald Trump president.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the CIA, has not endorsed their conclusion either.

"ODNI is not arguing that the agency (CIA) is wrong, only that they can't prove intent," said one of the three U.S. officials. "Of course they can't, absent agents in on the decision-making in Moscow."

Two other parties could not agree, either: Jill Stein,, associated with the presidential recount effort and the Pennsylvania federal judge who asserted, in stopping the recount in that state yesterday, that her claim of 'foreign interference' was something that "border(ed) on the irrational".  Not particularly unusual when you are aware that even the Green Party's steering committee did not want to go forward with the recounting (but for reasons unrelated to alleged hacking).  And beyond the rationality or lack thereof associated with the Russian business, US District Judge Paul S. Diamond strongly denounced the recount effort despite glaring evidence that Pennsylvania has probably the most fucked-up election machines -- not to mention election laws -- in a nation chock full of the same.  But before I digress to the ending of the recount that occurred yesterday (the subject of a future post) let's finish with the Russians.

This 'something' that some Russians did with their computers lends itself to a broad range of -- to use Judge Diamond's word -- irrational conclusions, as Trump himself and more recently Keith Olbermann have demonstrated.  FTR I believe both of these men are as crazy as shithouse rats.

There are additional minor questions, such as whether or not the Russians 'hacked' the election by staging a barrage of 'fake news' that, in more subtle and thus immeasurable detail, swayed the electorate to Trump.  And even whether it was a leak, and not a hack.

Personally I remain disinclined to believe that the Russians hacked anything but John Podesta's and some RNC official's email.  Julian Assange -- or the Russians -- did indeed post RNC emails online, in August and despite recent reports to the contrary, so the suggestion that someone was attempting to push the election one way or another doesn't hold water.  But the fact remains that it was the content of the DNC emails that were damaging, although I can buy the counter-argument that they revealed precisely what the DNC and Hillary Clinton were already known to be: corrupt.  Rigging a primary in her favor despite her obvious and politically fatal flaws as a candidate.

That failure is on the Clinton Democrats.  Alone.  If you want it said a little nicer, read this.

Update: Don't feel bad if you still don't understand; not even Obama gets it.

“What is it about our political ecosystem, what is it about the state of our democracy where the leaks of what were frankly not very interesting emails that didn’t have any explosive information in them [...] ended up being an obsession, and the fact that the Russians were doing this was not an obsession?”

Update II: Despite new and ominous revelations, there still appears to be some disconnect between 'the Russians did it' and 'why did you write that in an e-mail'.

Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a key Clinton supporter, recalls walking into the busy Clinton transition offices, humiliated to see her face on television screens as pundits discussed a leaked email in which she had called Mrs. Clinton’s instincts “suboptimal.”

“It was just a sucker punch to the gut every day,” Ms. Tanden said. “It was the worst professional experience of my life.”

Update III: More 'the Russians came all over the RNC, too" from The Smoking Gun, and this from Ann Althouse about how John Podesta originally got phished is priceless.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Weekly Wrangle

With this week's blog post roundup, the Texas Progressive Alliance can remember a time when Republicans thought Russian meddling in our affairs was a bad thing.

Off the Kuff notes that businesses have calculated the cost of Dan Patrick's bathroom bill, but wonders if they have calculated the cost of Dan Patrick.  And Libby Shaw at Daily Kos is grateful to a Houston Chronicle business reporter for exposing Patrick’s rationale for his bathroom obsession. Practicing bigotry to mask fiscal and ethical failures. How we can expose this malpractice?

Socratic Gadfly looks at Trump's so-called "generals' cabinet," and suggests some additional generals, and CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is also alarmed over Trump's military cabinet choices. This is how a junta starts. He did promise regime change.

The December 7th anniversary nobody in Southeast Texas wants to commemorate was shared by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Dos Centavos applauds Houston's mayor, Sylvester Turner, signing the letter supporting the DACA policy and hosting an event organized by TOP this morning declaring Houston a 'welcoming city'.

The Lewisville city council reviews its legislative priorities as the 86th session approaches, and local control is going to take a hit, according to Rep. Burt Solomons and the Texan-Journal.

Bonddad's -- also known as New Deal Democrat -- weekly economic forecast spotlights a developing negative trifecta of gasoline usage, rising interest rates and the US dollar's volatility.

Neil at All People Have Value said Oakland warehouse fire victims used alienation to create rather than to attack. APHV is part of


And here's more news from around Texas.

The Great God Pan Is Dead contemplates fire codes and art spaces in the wake of the tragedy in Oakland.

Leah Binkovitz takes note of the potential common ground between incoming HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Houston mayor Turner.

After arrests made in the wake of anti-Trump protests, the Houston Press sees that the ACLU of Texas will be sending legal teams to monitor the cops at future Houston protests.

Grits for Breakfast observes that asset forfeiture to the government now takes more money from people than burglars, and the number of heroin deaths has surpassed gun homicides.  (Can't blame Donald Trump for either of those, can we?)

Lone Star Ma calls for action to help the women and children released from family detention centers.

Naveena Sadasivam talks to retiring environmental lobbyist Tom "Smitty" Smith.

Juanita Jean gets mad about the latest governmental intrusion into uteruses.

The Lunch Tray notes the likely demise of the pending Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR).

Better Texas Blog highlights how much Texas will lose if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

And The Dallas News reports that the Killeen ISD has gotten themselves in hot water over a showing poster from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Lame Ass Funnies

Lots of excuses.  Similar musings to the toon below from bzemsky at Daily Kos (but no mention of blame there for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, thankfully).

Lots of 'still not getting it' ...

Some communication breakdowns ...

Populism indeed was defeated, switched out for fascism.  But help, in the form of high mounds of daily manure, is on the way.