Monday, July 15, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance knows that #SilenceEqualsCompliance, whether it is Republicans refusing to condemn the remarks of a racist president, or a House Speaker who won't adequately rise to the defense of the four Congresswomen to whom Trump's bigoted tirade was directed.

This is the early edition of last week's roundup of the best blog posts and lefty news from across the Lone Star State.  There will be more in an update later.

As the pre-announced #ICEraids in ten US cities, including Houston (but postponed in New Orleans due to Hurricane Barry) were scaled back due to mass protests, Dos Centavos kept an eye on what Houston officials are saying about them.  Texas Standard sees volunteers from across the state stepping up to address the humanitarian crisis  at the border.  And Better Texas Blog has the crazy idea that our state should treat asylum-seeking migrant families with respect and dignity.

Legal matters occupied Texas bloggers' and news reporters' thoughts this past week:

-- The Texas Tribune and Off the Kuff wrote about the Obamacare hearing at the Fifth Circuit.

-- The San Antonio Current posted about Ken Paxton's defeat in state court of parts of his 'sanctuary cities' lawsuit.  A couple of days later, a federal appeals court gave the Trump Administration a victory in a similar-but-different case.

-- In the state's capital city, the treatment of homeless persons has enraged Republicans.

An Austin City Council decision to rescind local prohibitions on sitting or sleeping in most public areas has kicked off a dispute between state and city leaders about the best way to handle homelessness in urban areas in Texas.

In the weeks since the policy was adopted, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has made multiple threats to pursue actions at the state level to overturn Austin’s decision.

The Travis County Republican Party expressed support for state intervention in a news release on Wednesday, titled: "Homeless given more rights than property owners under new camping policy."

That statement was rated False by Politifact Texas.

-- And SocraticGadfly says the most egregiously wrong ruling of this Supreme Court term was not the gerrymandering case, but seven justices -- including two liberals -- ruling against First Amendment religious freedoms.

Silas Allen at the Dallas Observer documented the increased recruiting efforts of white supremacists on Texas college campuses and around the country.

Houston Public Media compiled a list of the more than 70 Space City candidates for mayor and city council.  John Coby at Bay Area Houston is tracking campaign finance reports.

The Rivard Report commemorates 80 years of Planned Parenthood in San Antonio.

And Texans said goodbye to Ross Perot (founder of EDS Systems, originator of 'no pass, no play' policy in public schools, and the 'spoiler' for Bill Clinton in 1992, among other accomplishments) and Rip Torn (Artie, Zed, Judas, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and in real life Sissy Spacek's cousin, Geraldine Page's husband, Norman Mailer's assailant, and a few other things)  and Jim Bouton, Astro-for-two-seasons when his book Ball Four "scandalized" major league baseball, according to then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

Bouton used (the) knuckleball in 1969 with the expansion Seattle Pilots and the Houston Astros. All season long, he jotted down thoughts and stories whenever inspiration struck -- on air sickness bags, dry-cleaning bills, hotel stationery, all of it now held at the Library of Congress in Washington.

Teammates were suspicious but figured Bouton’s book would be a typically vanilla account by an athlete, not an open invitation for readers to look behind the sanctified walls of the clubhouse. Ballplayers, Bouton revealed, could be boozing, womanizing, pill-popping, ball-scuffing rascals -- overgrown teenagers, that is. But they could also be thoughtful, curious, sensitive and vulnerable.

In other words, they are human beings like the rest of us. Not so scandalous, really.

More forthcoming in the expanded edition of the Weekly Wrangle.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

So much has happened over the past seven days that I'm not certain I got it all posted here.  If you saw news that I missed, hit me up in the comments.

-- Many observers, including me (as you know if you've been following these Updates for awhile) see the race coalescing around a five-member top tier -- which Nate Silver has separated into two -- followed by a handful of second-level players; the kind of candidates whose fortunes can turn on debate performances, like our native sons Julián Castro and Beto O'Rourke, for example.

I won't excerpt Silver because you should read it all and also because for the first time this cycle, I believe he's got it mostly right.  As Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money blogged, I might also put Castro up with Cory Booker and not tied with Beto and Amy Klobuchar, based on the first debate and the fact that I doubt Bob has a comeback left in him, no matter what his new money man may be planning.

In order to emphasize my minor differences with the stat nerd formerly known as poblano, my top group is, in order and matching the most recent post-debate polling: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders.  In fifth, and almost on a tier by himself: Pete Buttigieg.  And then Booker and Castro.  And then the rest.

I'll profile the top seven after I get past some of these breaking developments.

-- Go deeper with that NBC/WJS poll here.  Again, if this is your bag, the datapoints and crosstabs are revealing.  I'll touch on some of them below in the frontrunner capsules.  If you like your polls aggregated and graphed, then RCP is the best source for that.   

Don't forget that these national horse race polls cannot accurately reflect the way we elect our presidents, by state Electoral College vote.  They are a product of the corporate media and the establishment, political consultant world in order to create a narrative, generate spin and momentum, manufacture consent (or dissent, as the case may be), etc.  We can't change this system without a bonafide revolution, one that starts by getting all the money out of our politics. /rant

-- As Eric Swalwell checked out, Tom Steyer checked in.  (I haven't seen any compelling reason to reference Joe Sestak to this point.  Have you?)  Here's nine things to know about Steyer besides his teevee ads urging Trump's impeachment, and a short interview he conducted with Rolling Stone.  He has also proposed national referenda voting, which is true democracy-style stuff.

It’s part of Steyer’s new structural reform plan, which also proposes fairly novel ideas like 12-year term limits on members of Congress, a national vote-by-mail system, public campaign financing, giving the Federal Elections Commission more teeth and different composition, and imposing independent redistricting commissions to tackle gerrymandering.

Swalwell barely made last month's debate, edging out Steve Bullock, who is probably the one who replaces him on the stage in Detroit at the end of this month.

-- Let's get to those second debate details:

(As of July 5), 21 candidates have passed a modest qualification threshold for the July debates, either hitting 1 percent in three qualifying polls or getting 65,000 donors. That’s one more candidate than the Democratic National Committee has said it will allow on stage across the two nights, meaning someone has to get cut.

The DNC’s tiebreakers prioritize candidates who hit both the polling and financial thresholds, followed by candidates who only have the polling benchmark, sorted by poll average, and then candidates who have hit only the donor mark.

Fourteen candidates have crossed both of the thresholds, according to a POLITICO analysis, virtually guaranteeing their spot on stage on either July 30 or July 31: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.

One of those 21 was Swalwell.  So Bullock has a lane to a podium; I'm not sure if he's worth it.

CNN put out the new rules for Rounds 3 and 4.

The upcoming Democratic presidential debates will feature opening and closing statements and two hours of debate time each night, representatives for more than 20 candidates competing in the primary were informed (earlier this week) by CNN.

CNN is airing the much-anticipated Democratic National Committee-sanctioned debates live from Detroit at 8 p.m. ET on July 30 and 31. Dana Bash, Don Lemon and Jake Tapper will serve together as the moderators for both debates.


The window to determine debate eligibility closes on July 16, and candidates will be informed the next day if they will be invited to participate in Detroit. On July 18, CNN will air a live draw to determine the specific candidate lineups for each debate night.

More at the link about colored lights and no 'show of hands' questions and penalties for interrupters (looking at you, Senator Gillibrand).

-- The biggest local news was that H-Town gets the third debate in September.  This might be our consolation prize for losing the DNC convention to Milwaukee.  Even with a culled field, we ought to see this event super-charging our municipal elections.  Let's just hope there isn't a hurricane.

Okay then ... on to the leaderboard.

1. (and still wilting) ... Joe Biden

He lost half of his support among African Americans after his geriatric debate performance.  Some speculated as to whether he has a hearing loss.

And yet ... he still leads the field, is still perceived to be the strongest opponent to Trump.  It does make you wonder about all those Teds out there.

The Bidens' tax returns revealed them to be multi-millionaires in just two years after they left Washington.  A similar development didn't affect Bernie (though his income was much lower) and I suspect this will have no impact on Uncle Joe's standing.  In an interview earlier this week Biden claimed that Kamala Harris taking him to the mat in the first debate over busing was something "the American people didn't buy".  That's false, as plainly evidenced in the polling.   If he had said 'old, white, Catholic, conservative Democratic-voting Americans', he'd have been correct.

If Joe flops again in Detroit, there are two women ready to grab the lead.

2. Elizabeth Warren

First, Warren is scooping up some of the voters that Biden is losing, not just Harris.  Second, Warren and Biden have some history as antagonists that is a simmering pot, waiting to boil over.  Watch CNN's debate draw (on July 17 18 at 7 p.m. Central), because if the two of them wind up going on the same night, this will be the story.  Warren also criticized, albeit very delicately, her relationship with the Obama administration when she created the CFPB but was passed over as its first director, prior to being elected senator.   From The Nation:

“But it is the case that I see a government that increasingly works for a thinner and thinner slice at the top and leaves everyone else behind. Until we take that on and break the stranglehold that the obscenely rich and powerful hold over our country, we can’t straighten out much of anything else.”

(Author Joan Walsh) noted that she had worked in Obama’s administration for a while and that, for all the good he did, he didn’t break that stranglehold, either. Why? She paused. “I tangled publicly with the administration over trade and over the regulation of big banks. Tim Geithner and I” -- here she chuckled -- “had battles that spilled onto the public stage.” In (Warren's book) A Fighting Chance, she laments, “The president chose his team, and the president’s team chose Wall Street.” But now she defended Obama, arguing simply, “Barack Obama stood up for the consumer agency when a lot of folks in his administration didn’t want to, when others were willing to throw it under the bus.”

Warren is the only front-runner appearing at Netroots Nation this weekend.  The Washington Times' take is a pretty funny read.

One last thing about voters of color: it was four years ago at Markos Moulitsas' annual gathering of high-income, expensively educated, overly centrist white liberals when Black Lives Matter activists stormed a stage where Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley were speaking, and chanted "Say Her Name", just days after Sandra Bland had died in the custody of the Waller County Sheriff's Department.  And O'Malley said, "All lives matter."

Warren is probably better prepared for a demonstration, just in case.

3. Kamala Harris

I still think Kamala is not doing anything with her pin of Biden at the first debate.  She did get that nice polling bump, but she has walked back her position on busing, and her waffle on Medicare For All is just ridiculous.  That was last week's news, though, and I just don't have much of anything that seems relevant reported about her for this week, except for Chris Cillizza and Harry Enten's ass-munching and this, which has received extremely little attention.

I'm with Caity Johnstone: I believe Harris is an oligarch's wet dream.

4. Bernie Sanders

Plenty of haters still want to write him off.  As regards his poll numbers, I feel that his base is under-represented in the sampling.  Here's a few statistics that don't get reported much by the corporate media that lead me to that premise.

And this Tweet encapsulates my full contempt of campaign finance reporting.

With respect to polling that matters -- early primary states -- Bernie and Warren are neck-and-neck in New Hampshire.  This will be the fish-or-cut bait moment for one of them ... depending on Iowa's results previously and South Carolina's polling.

5. Pete Buttigieg

His standing among black voters even in South Bend, Indiana now obvious to all, Mayo Pete released his 'Douglass Plan' to fight racial discrimination in the US.  And Change Research -- a pollster with a C+ record as scored by -- has Boot Edge Edge suddenly leading Iowa by seven points.  Feels like an outlier, but should he pull off this upset, it truly scrambles the race.  (What does Biden do if he loses both early states?  The same thing Kamala does: push all in on South Carolina.)

Still don't see anything for Buttigieg but strategic influencer in 2020, but, you know, shit can happen.

6. Cory Booker, Julian Castro

The second debate at the end of this month gives both a fresh chance to score some points on those ahead of them.  Between now and then, they have a chance to improve on their standings.  Castro went to Milwaukee for the LULAC convention where he joined Beto, Bernie, and Warren as they spoke to delegates, televised by Univision last night.

After the town hall, viewers were asked to declare their favorite.  The only Latino in the race came in fourth out of four.

Harsh.  Jim Schutze at the Dallas Observer also delivered his blistering critique of Castro's tenure at HUD, and Branko Marcetic of In These Times reposted his neoliberal record as San Antonio mayor.  This is what happens when the media suddenly perceives you as having a realistic chance of winning.  Castro has always been too centrist for me, but I keep thinking he's going to break through at some point.  The #Destino2020 poll, Internet-based though it is, can't be too encouraging.

I couldn't find anything newsworthy or noteworthy to post here about Booker.  He's not coasting but he's not grabbing any headlines, either.  Treading water in sixth place out of more than 20 isn't bad at this stage, but Booker is another guy I thought would be doing a little better.

7. Beto O'Rourke 

Like Biden, I'd like to see him go away, but we're stuck with him for awhile longer.  I just don't have anything left to to say about O'Rourke, good or bad, that hasn't already been said.  I think that with both Chris Bell and Royce West's (pending) entry into the race against Cornyn, all that is left to him is to endorse one of the two runoff participants -- which I will mark today as West and Sema Hernandez -- at some point next spring or summer.  Maybe the winner of the presidential nomination taps him as running mate and makes Texas really competitive for next year.

Couple more things worth mentioning:

-- Howie Hawkins is leading a Green Party charge for ballot access across the country.

Related: Texas Greens joined Texas Libertarians in a lawsuit against the high filing fees -- and short signature-gathering period -- that the Legislature mandated when it granted them ballot access in 2020 by lowering the percentages in past elections for qualification.  Gadfly has the press release.

-- Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, who quit the GOP on July 4th because Trump is a lunatic and Pelosi won't impeach him, won't rule out a presidential bid.  The Libertarians would soil themselves if he would run under their flag, but he seems to have other plans.

In an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, he did not rule out a rumoured run for the White House.

“I believe that I have to use my skills, my public influence, where it serves the country best,” he said. “And I believe I have to defend the constitution in whatever way works best.”

Such a campaign from the right could complicate Trump’s hopes of re-election in 2020. On CNN, Amash defended his role as a founder of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, a key support bloc for the president on which many place much of the blame for deadlock in Congress.

Amash also said he believed he could win re-election as an independent.

The most likely Libertarian nominee IMO today would be John McAfee.  If Amash runs only in Michigan, he ruins Trump's re-election chances.

-- A really excellent development:

Six states plan to use ranked choice voting (RCV) for their 2020 Democratic primaries or caucuses, including for all early voters in Iowa and Nevada, and all voters in Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas and Wyoming. These states will adapt RCV to Democratic Party rules: last-place candidates will be eliminated and backers of those candidates will have their vote count toward their next choice until all remaining candidates are above the 15 percent vote threshold to win delegates.

State parties made this change because they realize allowing voters to rank their choices -- especially in a crowded field that includes many experienced and well-funded candidates -- makes everyone’s vote more powerful. RCV has the additional advantage of putting an end to vote splitting, the problem of “spoilers” and even the possibility of a nominee who lacks majority support inside the party.

It’s a bold move, and it comes at a time when many presidential candidates including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bennet, William Weld, Andrew Yang, Seth Moulton and Beto O’Rourke have indicated they support RCV.

Iowa and Nevada will also do caucus by phone.

Democrats in the early presidential contest states of Iowa and Nevada will be able to cast their votes over the telephone instead of showing up at their states' traditional neighborhood caucus meetings next February, according to plans unveiled by the state parties.

The tele-caucus systems, the result of a mandate from the Democratic National Committee, are aimed at opening the local-level political gatherings to more people, especially evening shift-workers and people with disabilities, whom critics of the caucuses have long said are blocked from the process.

*whew*  That's it.  What do you have for me?

Monday, July 08, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance fondly recalls the story of Washington crossing the Jersey Turnpike to surprise the British at the Battle of Newark Airport as it brings you this week's roundup.

With ten White House hopefuls converging on the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston last Friday for the NEA national convention, it was a reminder that Harris County is going to be pivotal to Democrats' hopes of flipping the state and the nation in 2020.

The surge in fundraising (from Houstonians) mirrors what has happened at the ballot box. In 2004, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry lost Harris County by more than 100,000 votes. Four years later, Barack Obama won Houston by just over 19,000 votes. Even though she lost the state, Hillary Clinton won Harris County by 161,000 votes in 2016. Last year, in his U.S. Senate race, O’Rourke won Harris County by over 200,000 votes.

The dramatic shift of Harris County from a red county to blue is a major reason some politicians and pollsters are wondering if Texas is close to turning blue. According to a Quinnipiac University survey of Texas in early June, President Donald Trump trailed Biden by four percentage points. The president had 44 percent of the vote compared to Biden's 48 percent.

Texas also plays a big role in the Democratic primaries. After the traditional first four states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina) vote in February 2020, Texas will be next up, along with 14 other states voting on Super Tuesday, March 3. If those first four states haven’t decided the race, Texas and its haul of delegates will put those who have been cultivating Harris County votes in a prime position.

Egberto Willies was on the scene and got a quick minute with Liz Warren, also posting the full video of her remarks at her town hall on the campus of the University of Houston later that day.  The Texas Signal noted that many of the presidential candidates used Betsy DeVos as a punching bag to loud applause.  Stace at Dos Centavos was impressed by Julián Castro's talk at HCDP's speaker series a week ago.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs updated his regular Friday 2020 Donkey post on Saturday to include the candidates who spoke at the #EssenceFestival in New Orleans.  And  Progress Texas also picked out its top ten moments from the two Democratic presidential debates.

From the state capital, Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast is amused by the accidental decriminalization of pot by the Lege.  Karil Blakinger of the Houston Chronic, via Texas Standard, also explains why officials will have a difficult time prosecuting cases.  The Statesman profiles former Greg Abbott lickspittle David Hodge, who is now in the (very lucrative) Austin lobbying business.  And Better Texas Blog tracks Ken Paxton's legal attack on Obamacare, with opening court salvos beginning Tuesday morning.

The migrant crisis at the southern border prompted nationwide protests to #CloseTheCamps, and David Collins was on location outside John Cornyn's River Oaks-area Houston office, where protestors stormed the streets.

Christopher Hooks, writing for Texas Monthly, decries the purposeless cruelty of our immigrant detention policies.  And Ross Ramsey at the TexTrib, via Progrexas, points out the obvious regarding the reason our Republicans in charge show no interest in solving the problem.

(Sometimes it's hard to believe the senior senator from Texas is such an ignorant hypocrite; thankfully he reminds us on a frequent basis.)

The destiny of south Dallas may be written, according to Jim Schutze at the Observer, by two people -- new mayor Eric Johnson and old kingmaker Ray Hunt -- and one thing: the bullet train, aka Texas Central Railway.  And Juan Pablo Garnham at the TexTrib explains why the homeless population in Dallas is increasing while Houston's is going down.

Following up on climate news reported in last week's Wrangle, Amal Ahmed at the Texas Observer writes about the court decision against Taiwanese chemical giant Formosa Plastics and their "enormous" Lavaca Bay-area 'nurdle' pollution.

Off the Kuff follows the off-again, on-again census citizenship question litigation.

Socratic Gadfly says regarding some actions of the so-called "antifa" that violence is not the answer.

Therese Odell at Foolish Watcher catches up on the E. Jean Carroll accusation.

Charles L. Watson with Texas Rural Voices reports that lawmakers may consider lowering the legal blood alcohol content limit in order to reduce the nearly 1,000 drunken driving-related fatalities across the state every year.

Monica Roberts at Transgriot rewrites Frederick Douglass' speech about the meaning of the Fourth of July for black trans Americans.

Leah Binkovitz at Urban Edge has the numbers on cyclist and pedestrian deaths around the country.

And two Houston authors have new novels out that are set in the Bayou City: Mike Freedman's King of the Mississippi and Pete Vonder Haar's Lucky Town.  Put both on your summer reading list.

Friday, July 05, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

*Updates throughout.

I am as full of polls as Joey Chestnut is -- or was -- with hot dogs, so this Update is light on that news until they calm down.  Looking ahead, today and this weekend, let's see what the names on everybody's leaderboard are up to.

-- Biden was on CNN this morning crapping on AOC, and everything else 'soshulist'.

Former Vice President Joe Biden expressed deep skepticism of the leftward tilt of the Democratic Party in an exclusive interview with CNN airing Friday.

Biden, speaking with CNN's Chris Cuomo in Des Moines, Iowa, suggested that Medicare for All is irrational, argued that the majority of Democrats are "center left" not "way left," and said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, while "brilliant" and "bright," did not represent Democrats who can win a general election in a competitive district or state.

The interview made clear that Biden, who is facing criticism from the left of the party amid an increasingly contentious Democratic primary, does not feel the need to sway to the left to capture the party's base and, instead, hopes to set himself apart by embracing his moderation.

Biden backed up that confidence by pointing to the 2018 midterm elections, where a host of swing districts were won by more moderate Democrats.

-- Ten candidates are in Houston today for the NEA forum.

-- Elizabeth Warren is having a town hall afterwards this evening at UH, her alma mater, and my state rep, Shawn Thierry, is moderating.

-- Kamala Harris is carrying on her feud with Biden about busing, now a week old, and oddly keeps walking back (i.e., flip-flopping) her position on it, as she has done w/r/t M4A.

^^This is a Twitter thread you should read all of.

Her repeated inability to stand for something without wavering is a chronic problem for the California senator, and by my view is squandering her debate momentum.  She has the charisma and the debate chops down pat, but there are indications that black female voters don't really trust her.

-- This reflects Mayo Pete's hard ceiling as well.  No matter how much money he raises, he won't get on the ticket -- top or bottom, no pun intended -- because of his inexperience and his problems with African Americans.  What he will be is one of the Democratic nominee's most valuable assets, in terms of fundraising and getting out the vote for the demographics with which he is so popular.  He might be the Donkeys' most valuable kingmaker this cycle.

Speaking of shoring up bonafides with the black community ... Buttigieg, Harris, a "reeling Beto O'Rourke" (I believe that was the word I used) and Cory Booker will all be speaking at the Essence Festival in New Orleans on Saturday afternoon.

-- So many in the media have tried to write Bernie off despite the evidence that contradicts their premature reports of his political demise.

-- Marianne Williamson made lemonade out of the lemons virtually everyone on social media and late night teevee squeezed on her.

She also clapped back at Vogue for leaving her out of the picture of Democratic women running for president by Photoshopping herself in.

-- And some Green Party developments, which Gadfly has already mentioned and were first reported on IPR, document internal strife over the inordinate preference shown Howie Hawkins by the GPUS.

David Collins had blogged just a few days prior:

... GPUS is not showing any pronounced preference for a particular candidate. Howie Hawkins, the many-time candidate for Governor of New York, may have the nationwide name recognition, but Dario Hunter and Ian Schlakman have strong followings, especially among young Greens.

(Hawkins and Hunter both spoke at the Texas Green Party state meeting last month.)

While the bickering rings of Hillary Clinton's minions denying Bernie Sanders the 2016 Dem nom, it's obvious to this observer that intra-party politics -- irrespective of party -- is riven with these Hatfield & McCoy feuds.  It's not dissimilar from what's happening locally.

More on the latest next Friday!

Monday, July 01, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a happy Trump-free Independence Day as it brings you this week's roundup of the best blog posts and lefty news about and around the state!

The continuing horror of Trump's concentration camps at the southern border was magnified by the drownings of a 20-year-old Salvadoran father, Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez, and his 2-year-old daughter, Angie Valeria.  A memorial vigil was held last evening in McAllen and also Brownsville's Hope Park, about a mile from where their bodies were discovered on the banks of the Rio Grande.

The Texas Tribune has a dedicated page for agencies who are assisting migrant families.

After Bank of America chose to get out of the private prison/detention center business, John Cornyn thought it would be a good idea to threaten to switch his accounts.

Yes, Texas can and will do better than Cornyn.

Several reports in the this week's Wrangle examine how last week's SCOTUS decisions on gerrymandering and the census citizenship question might affect the Great State.

The Supreme Court has ruled that federal courts have no role to play in blocking partisan gerrymandering. Texas Republican lawmakers could see this as an opportunity to redraw district lines in their favor, according to experts.

Drawing political boundaries to favor one race over another is against the law. But in Texas, the distinction between racial and partisan gerrymandering is often blurry.

“Sometimes the defense of the Texas Legislature has been that we did the redistricting not based on race, which is clearly unconstitutional, but we did it for partisanship reasons,” Charles 'Rocky' Rhodes of South Texas College of Law-Houston told Houston Matters. “We didn’t discriminate against Latinos because they’re Latinos. We discriminated against them because they vote Democratic rather than Republican.”

In the past, majority lawmakers of either party have been furtive about trying to draw district lines in their own favor. GOP lawmakers could prove much louder and more open about doing so in the next round of redistricting, according to Joseph Fishkin, who teaches law at the University of Texas at Austin.

"And the reason they’re going to do that," Fishkin said, "is that they are hoping that by proclaiming loudly that they engaged in partisan gerrymandering, they’re hoping that will insulate them from charges of racial gerrymandering, which the Supreme Court is still going to police."

More on the Lege's redistricting committees from TXElects.

Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) will serve as chair, and Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen) will be vice chair. The Republican members are Sens. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway), Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton), Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), Angela Paxton (R-McKinney) and Charles Perry (R-Lubbock). Democrats on the panel are Sens. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston), Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville), Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio), Kirk Watson (D-Austin), Royce West (D-Dallas) and John Whitmire (D-Houston).

Meanwhile, the House Redistricting Committee released a tentative schedule for 28 interim hearings around the state over a one-year period:

  • Austin, September 10
  • San Antonio, September 12
  • Fort Worth, October 9
  • Dallas, October 10

And ...

The court put a proposed citizenship question for the 2020 Census on hold, ordering the U.S. Department of Commerce to provide a clearer explanation of why the question is necessary.

Research has shown the question drives down the response rate from minority groups and immigrants, which could cost Texas federal funding.

Luis Figueroa, the policy director for the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities, said the economic loss of federal funds could be as much as 8%. “That would be absolutely devastating to the Texas economy, to our representation, to businesses investing in Texas. So this is why I say the stakes couldn’t be higher,” Figueroa said.

An undercount in Texas could also lead to the loss of a congressional seat.

Eric Benson at Texas Monthly writes that the Supreme Court's decision on the citizenship question helps the Lone Star State, but that the real work lies ahead.  And Kuff has two updates on the census question lawsuit.

In the briefest of Lege news, former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus announced the formation of yet another political action committee aimed, presumably, at electing thoughtful, moderate conservatives (sic) like himself to state office.  And Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer says "See ya!" to Cockroach Jonathan Stickland.

SocraticGadfly, having read the story about Jerry Falwell Jr., wonders if Trump/Cohen have nekkid pix of Robert Jeffress.

A federal judge ruled against Formosa Plastics and their Lavaca Bay-area plant, saying that it was in "enormous" violation of both its state-issued permits and the federal Clean Water Act, and that the TCEQ had either been unwilling or unable to bring them into compliance.

Houston's municipal elections gained two new high-profile candidates, as former At Large CM Sue Lovell declared she would enter the race for mayor, and a second member of the Geto Boys joined the rapper formerly known as Scarface in a bid for a seat on city council.  And the Texas Signal reported on Dwight Boykins' faux pas regarding his unsolicited advice to teenage girls.

Jeff Balke at the Houston Press accepts the reality of the I-45 reroute and expansion in Houston, while Tory Gattis at Houston Strategies collected a few more opinion/analysis pieces on the project and offered his own thoughts.

Lone Star Q reports on Harris County adding non-discrimination and anti-harassment policies for its LGBTQ employees.

NASA builds for the future by breaking ground on a spaceport and celebrates its past with the recreation of the Apollo Mission Control room, marking the 50th anniversary later this month of the moon landing.  More photos from Ars Technica.

Bellaire HS alumna and Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson became an Internet meme sensation as well as fodder for the late night TV comedians (scroll to the end).  Beto O'Rourke and Julián Castro carried on their squabble over immigration, begun in last Wednesday's debate, to dueling rallies in Austin and separate appearances at border detention facilities.  There seems to be a rivalry developing between them as to who is 'the' Texan, and who is 'the other' Texan.

From Steve Rossignol and The Socialist, the official publication of the Socialist Party USA, comes more about the history of socialism in Texas: 'Operative 100', the snitch who maimed the movement.

Joe Nick Patoski at Texas Monthly eulogizes state historian Lonn Taylor.

And Harry Hamid aggregates his posts so far in his battle against cancer.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update, post-debate edition

This one won't be another 'who won, who lost' post that you've surely consumed enough of.  My top ten ranking follows, but it's even more loose than usual because of the fallout from Kamala's third flip-flop on eliminating private insurance companies, Uncle Joe's explanatory presser yesterday afternoon, Beto and Julián's dueling parties in Austin last night, and a lot more shit that will happen today and tomorrow before we get some actual polling on Monday ... that we can promptly throw out the Overton window.

1. Elizabeth Warren

It's a shame for Bernie that she stole them all from him, watered 'em down a little in that capitalistic kinda way, and is pawning them off as originals to gullible Donkeys.

Bernie Lite won't fly.  Berners will accept no substitutes.  And if she can't find a satisfactory answer to the Pocahontas insult, Trump will thump her should she ultimately wind up the nominee.

2. Kamala Harris

While the Birtherism Hydra has raised its foul multi-heads once more against her, the Cop Rocket is falling back to Earth based on her own gaffes and not a false racist smear.

3. Bernie Sanders

Bernie was the same guy he always is Thursday night -- the same guy he has been for fifty freaking years -- and that guy lifts his supporters and enrages those who oppose him.  I have an ominous feeling that the establishment powers are gathering strength to again prevent him from winning the nomination.  I'm #Resisting the paranoia, but the coincidences are too many to ignore.

I really don't want to be right about this.  Things will end badly for everyone if I am.  It is still confounding to me that the Democratic Party cannot execute democracy within their party.

4. Pete Buttigieg

Mayor Pete's debate performance was sound enough for his base to stay in love with, and solicited enough empathy for his racial screw-ups that he won't lose any ground.  In fact, there's already chatter about a Kamala-Pete ticket (heavy fucking sigh).

5. Julián Castro, Cory Booker

JMO but I think that these two winners from Fight Night One have some wind at their backs, enough so that I rate their medium-range prospects ahead of ...

7. Joe Biden

8. Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand

Fair enough performances for both, but not good enough to move up.  Gillibrand lost some style points on others' scorecards for interrupting a lot.

10. Everybody else.

Beto is canceled.  I honestly thought it would be the laughingly ignorant war tax that would end his campaign, but Castro killed it quicker and more mercifully.  Bennet and Swalwell had a few moments but really don't need to be on the stage in July.  Hickenlooper, Delaney, and Ryan can just stop the charade, please.

Inslee was a little too "I'm on the only one on this stage" for Amy K, who deservedly slapped him down on women's reproductive rights.  He's very much on the razor's edge.

I'd like for Tulsi to hang around for her value in pissing off the centrists, and de Blasio (hasta la victoria, siempre!) for comedic worth.  Yang and his Gang are going to continue to be a pain in the neck for some time.

That leaves "Cosmic Sorceress" Marianne Williamson.

Just watch the first two minutes.  That's all I ask.