Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Women's March: Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar join Kamala Harris and Liz Warren

The 2019 Women's March this Saturday may have been abandoned by the DNC on account of perceived anti-Semitism (it still has plenty of sponsors, and the one in Houston is on; keep an eye on the weather), but the 2020 run is almost full.  Of the rumored, declared, and 'exploring' female presidential Democratic contenders kept track of by Axios, all have moved to the starting blocks.

And all have promptly undergone preliminary vetting, Gabbard the most of all.  This post will focus on her; the other women I will put in one post (my thoughts on Warren are here) later this week.  Let me throw up a few links -- no pun -- and sprinkle in some opinion.

Vox: How she went from rising star to pariah -- and then presidential candidate

Zack Beauchamp's history is the best place to begin if you're still learning about the Congresswoman.  Here's a few excerpts.

On paper, Gabbard is the perfect Democratic candidate. She is an Iraq War veteran who vocally criticized American wars, an outspoken economic progressive, and the first Hindu member of Congress. After her 2012 election victory, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called her an “emerging star”; MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow predicted that “she is on the fast track to being very famous.”

You've probably heard about her anti-LGBTQ family upbringing.

Despite her conservative social views — she also opposed abortion — Gabbard was a Democrat, albeit not one likely to succeed on the national stage. But in 2004, Gabbard deployed to the Middle East for her National Guard unit, serving as a combat medic in Iraq and a counterterrorism trainer in Kuwait.

This was, according to Gabbard, a transformative experience. During her 2012 campaign for an open seat in the US House, Gabbard supported both same-sex marriage and abortion rights. She explained her change of heart in a December 2011 blog post on her campaign site. It’s worth reading her statement at length ...

Take a moment and consider that.  Continuing:

Gabbard made a name for herself during the 2012 campaign as a Democrat to watch. The strength of her campaign — she won an upset primary victory after initially trailing by 50 points — and her compelling personal background caught the eye of national Democrats pretty early. That summer, Pelosi tapped her for a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention.

She effectively moved beyond her controversial stands on social issues, situating herself as an economic progressive and critic of the Bush-era wars in the Middle East. The latter was particularly important, as she grounded her anti-war arguments in her personal experience witnessing the cost of war. This immunized her from the “soft on terrorism” charges so many Democrats were terrified to court, making her a powerful critic of “nation building” and “wars of choice.”

Another famous biracial Hawaiian politician, President Barack Obama, endorsed her congressional run. After her victory, Gabbard was given one of five vice-chairmanships of the Democratic National Committee, a sign of the party’s faith in her.

From there, it's been all downhill for Tulsi and establishment Democrats.  First, she consistently put herself on the wrong side of the Obama administration in the War on Terra.  That wasn't a bad thing at first ...until she undermined her 'anti-war' reputation.

As early as January 2015, she started going on every cable channel that would have her — including Fox News — and bashing Obama’s policy on terrorism. She sounded indistinguishable from a Republican presidential candidate.

“What is so frustrating ... is that our administration refuses to recognize who our enemy is,” she said in a January 2015 interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “And unless and until that happens, then it’s impossible to come up with a strategy to defeat that enemy. We have to recognize that this is about radical Islam.”

Ah yes, 'radical Islam'.  You'd best go get the full context that follows.

The term is not analytically precise, not necessary for designing a strategy against specific groups like ISIS, and insulting to the vast majority of Muslims around the world. President George W. Bush’s counterterrorism team refused to use it for precisely these reasons.

Yet this was the hill that Gabbard had chosen to die on. Time and time again, she went after the Obama administration for its refusal to say “radical Islam,” each time pushing herself away from the party mainstream.

This overwhelming focus on the threat from terrorism culminated in what’s now her most infamous policy position: quasi-support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the dictator responsible for the outbreak of the Syrian civil war and the conflict’s worst atrocities.

Gabbard argued, along with a small minority of foreign policy analysts, that the best way to defeat ISIS in Syria was for the US to align itself with Assad’s regime. Gabbard argued that the US should cut funding to the rebels fighting Assad, even sponsoring a bill in Congress to cut off US support. In the fall of 2015, when Russia began its bombing campaign in Syria, Gabbard celebrated it as a win for counter-terrorism.

This scorched her.  But she kept going.

Gabbard’s pro-Assad behavior only escalated as her time in Congress went on. In January 2017, she traveled to Syria and went to meet with Assad personally, blindsiding the Democratic leadership in Congress. After returning to the US, she went on CNN and parroted the regime’s line that there was “no difference” between the mainstream anti-Assad rebels and ISIS.

When Assad’s forces used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians in April 2017, Gabbard said she was “skeptical” that Assad was responsible, aligning herself with conspiracy theorists against both US intelligence and the overwhelming majority of independent experts.

The “radical Islam” and Syria debacles doubly damned Gabbard. To the leadership, they showed her to be disloyal; to the party’s policy experts and rank-and-file, they revealed her to be someone who had worrying affinities with Syria and Russia.

That's what drew Neera Tanden and Howard Dean's vitriol.  More from Salon.  Tulsi's benefit-of-the-doubt granted Assad isn't supported by the overwhelming evidence against the dictator, despite his vehement denials (and Putin's excuses for him).

These controversies unraveled the principal promise of Gabbard’s candidacy from a progressive point of view: that she’d be a consistent, effective anti-war voice.

It became clear that her position wasn’t that endless war was bad, but rather that wars for regime change should be replaced with a beefed-up war on terrorism. In addition to suggesting the US should intervene in Syria on the same side as a murderous dictator, she proposed a policy of US special forces raids around the world and even expressed a willingness to authorize torture of terrorism suspects if she were president. She referred to herself in one interview as a “dove” on regime change but a “hawk” on terrorism, neatly summarizing her actual positions.

'Nuance' on torture is a deal-breaker for me.  Let me wrap the Vox profile with this.

If Gabbard were estranged from the party leadership as a result of her views on terrorism, a full-on divorce came in 2016 when she became one of a handful of prominent Democrats to endorse Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. To do so, Gabbard resigned her position as vice-chair of the DNC, a hard break with the party that she claimed was motivated by reservations about Clinton’s foreign policy instincts.


Much like Gabbard’s postwar conversion on abortion and gay rights, this seems both plausible and politically savvy. Gabbard’s positioning on Syria and fights with the Obama administration had already alienated many people in the party’s more mainstream wing; courting the party’s insurgents seemed like a smart way to build a new base of national support.

In the years since, Gabbard has cultivated this relationship. She has endorsed a $15 minimum wage, Medicare-for-All, and the Green New Deal. When she faced a primary challenge in 2018, motivated in part by her Syria position, the pro-Sanders group Our Revolution endorsed her (as did actress Shailene Woodley, an Our Revolution board member). She has a vocal group of online fans from the so-called “anti-imperialist” left, a loose group of writers — like the anti-Israel gadfly Max Blumenthal — who share her position on Syria.

But on the whole, the left isn’t nearly as pro-Gabbard as you might think. Some of Gabbard’s harshest critics come not from the party mainstream, but rather the party’s left and democratic socialist flanks.

In 2017, the socialist publication Jacobin published a brutal takedown entitled “Tulsi Gabbard Is Not Your Friend,” focusing on dispelling the myth of Gabbard as an opponent of America’s wars abroad.

“Gabbard’s almost singular focus on the damage these wars inflict domestically, and her comparative lack of focus on the carnage they wreak in the countries under attack, is troubling,” Jacobin’s Branko Marcetic writes. “It is nationalism in anti-war garb, reinforcing instead of undercutting the toxic rhetoric that treats foreigners as less deserving of dignity than Americans.”

Reached via email, Marcetic told me that he believes many in the American left share his view of Gabbard.

“My sense is there’s a pretty big cohort of the Left that distrusts Gabbard,” he said. “Her anti-interventionism isn’t quite as peaceful as she makes it out to be.”

Just two weeks ago, the Intercept, a left-aligned anti-war outlet, published a deeply reported expose on Gabbard’s ties to Hindu nationalists. Gabbard has long supported Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an anti-Islam right-winger who had previously been barred from entering the US due to being personally implicated in deadly anti-Muslim riots. In turn, American Hindu supporters of Modi had become some of Gabbard’s biggest donors — including some disturbingly Islamophobic groups.

“Hindu-Americans have supported Gabbard since the start of her political career, and that support has increased substantially since Modi’s election, much of it coming from Hindu nationalists,” Soumya Shankar writes in the Intercept’s piece. “Dozens of Gabbard’s donors have either expressed strong sympathy with or have ties to the Sangh Parivar — a network of religious, political, paramilitary, and student groups that subscribe to the Hindu supremacist, exclusionary ideology known as Hindutva.”

Hitting pause: See yesterday's Tucker Carlson/Glenn Greenwald interview -- where the two agree that Tulsi is being maligned by the Washington establishment; never mind what else may be going on with her political positions -- if you need some more cognitive dissonance.

These attacks in the left press underscore how divisive a figure she is even among the party’s insurgent wing. It’s hard to see why a faction that was troubled by Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy record would be open to someone who had engaged in borderline Islamophobic rhetoric about “radical Islam,” called for escalations in the war on terrorism, and backed anti-Islam populists and dictators abroad.

What’s more, the Bernie camp has a candidate they’d obviously prefer to Gabbard: Bernie. If the senator from Vermont runs, as many expect, there’s no way his biggest fans in the party would pick Gabbard over him. There isn’t room for multiple left outsiders, and Sanders is just more popular and has far better name recognition.

And even if he doesn’t run, it’s not obvious that his supporters would automatically pick Gabbard over another progressive.

That's bingo on my card.  I'll wish Tulsi good luck but she won't be my second choice, or third, or ...

Still to come: Senators Kamala (pronounced like 'Pamela'), Kirsten, Amy, and one for the boys next week, Sherrod Brown.  For now enjoy this 'top ten' by Mehdi Hasan of the Intercept, which is kind of a joke and kind of truth at the same time.

I'm not counting on Oprah, or her pal Marianne Williamson (who'd be better off running Green) as being serious contenders.  Nevertheless, MW has "something" scheduled for the end of this month.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas so-called Progressive Alliance had a very busy week watching the Lege get open for business again, a handful of Democratic presidential announcements and developments, and the usual mix of of issues, developments, and opinions inviting our comment.

Early voting begins today in two special elections for vacancies in the Texas House of Representatives.  There are eight candidates who have filed in HD-145 (Houston), including Democrats Melissa Noriega -- an Alliance favorite -- Christina Morales, and Republican Martha Fierro, and three in HD-79 (El Paso), including Democrats Art Fierro (no relation), Michiel Noe, and Republican Hans Sassenfeld.  More from TXElects, including this:

Morales’s campaign team includes consultants Marc Campos and Jaime Mercado, who helped guide Alvarado’s outright special election victory last month.

As the Texas Legislature began its 86th session, Lite Guvnuh Dan Patrick was nowhere in sight, having been summoned to Washington by Trump in advance of the president's dog and pony show at the southern border.  Upon returning to work he declared that the country didn't need a border wall that ran the full length of the Rio Grande, and that he told Trump to give Texas the money and the state would build it.

As if things couldn't get more stupid and venal, Ken Paxton joined a roundtable with John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and promptly lied his ass off.

And in a weird "watch me top this" lying game with Trump that reminded some of Vietnam, Patrick declared a belated victory in the 2017 session's bathroom wars.  Off the Kuff congratulated him.  Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer sees Trump and Patrick as a match made in heaven.

In a long-overdue and welcomed development, the state Preservation Board (comprised of Patrick, Governor Abbott, Speaker Dennis Bonnen, one state senator, one Texas House member, and one citizen) voted unanimously to remove a plaque in the Capitol which lied about the cause of both the Confederacy and the Civil War.

The Texas Lege has a brand-new LGBT caucus, thanks to Reps. (from r.) Celia Israel, Mary Gonzalez, Erin Zwiener, Jessica Gonzalez and Julie Johnson.

Raise your mug for Texas' craft breweries; they scored a win on opening day.

Grits for Breakfast gave the Lege a to-do list for criminal justice reform.  And in two round-ups of other CJ developments included the news that the new Harris County misdemeanor judges have dropped the appeal of the bail lawsuit their predecessors fought, and linked to The Appeal about the fallacy of "failure to appear".

Democrats deciding to run and thinking about running for president had a full week.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs went long and link-heavy on 2020 Democratic developments on Thursday, then updated that on Saturday.

In an expected declaration in San Antonio on Saturday morning, Julián Castro (don't forget the accent mark) made his bid official.

In a surprise announcement Friday night on CNN's Van Jones program, Tulsi Gabbard said she would form an exploratory committee and make a formal announcement "within the next week".  And while Bernie Sanders is still deciding whether to get in the race for the Dem nom, his supporters held more than 400 house parties across the country on Saturday afternoon urging him to do so.

All of this added to the speculation that had the supporters of Beto O'Rourke asking: "What are you waiting for, dude?"

O'Rourke barged into last year's Senate race almost laughably early, in March 2017, insisting he was a credible contender against the incumbent, Republican Ted Cruz, when almost no one nationally knew of O'Rourke.

Now he's doing almost anything to keep people paying attention to him without formally starting a presidential campaign for 2020. He's not expected to decide until next month at the earliest whether he's running.

These days, that counts as playing hard to get. Influential activists in Iowa and elsewhere are clamoring for him to get in the race while some potential rivals move their timelines earlier. So far, interest in O'Rourke has held after his near upset of Cruz, but for how much longer?

SocraticGadfly saw the names already making 2020 presidential announcements, along with the speculation about many others, and offered his initial oddsmaking take on Democratic candidates along with other assessment.

As the confirmation hearings for attorney-general designate William Barr get set to begin tomorrow, Texans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz will help him run the gauntlet of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee seeking to draw attention to themselves and their 2020 presidential aspirations.  Watch Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and to a lesser extent Amy Klobuchar for signs as to whether Barr will have a rough time getting confirmed.  (The Senate's Republican numbers are in his favor, never mind the likes of Joe Manchin.)

Media news was huge and ominous: The Dallas Morning News laid off 43 employees, 20 in the newsroom, including some longtime journalists.

“Arts and entertainment sustained the heaviest cuts, among them Chris Vognar, who’d been a critic at the paper for 23 years; Dawn Burkes, a longtime entertainment writer and editor; Sara Frederick Burgos, editor for Guide; and Kelly Dearmore, who was hired as a part-time music critic in 2016,” wrote Teresa Gubbins in her dispatch at CultureMap Dallas. “News staffers include Jeff Mosier, an environment & energy writer; Tasha Tsiaperas, a sharp metro reporter; and Dianne Solis, who wrote about immigration. Longtime photographer Louis deLuca was also let go.”


The story attributed the need to a decline in print revenue from advertising, which has been bigger than the drop in circulation revenue. The company says it is focusing on digital subscriptions. A.H. Belo is a publicly traded company, and its fourth-quarter financial reports are due soon. Revenue declined nearly 19 percent in the first three quarters of 2018, and the company’s loss jumped to $5.58 million from $2.66 million the prior year.

As word got out, some began to dissect the latest travails of Dallas’ daily paper. One pointed out a recent stock buy by the hedge fund Minerva, while Matt Pierce, a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, pointed out that corporate leadership had gotten “some nice raises in recent years.

More from D Magazine.

Talking Biz News reports the News will no longer run a standalone print business section, with the exception of its Sunday edition. Business coverage will otherwise fold into Metro. Further details to be announced in a DMN column on Wednesday, says TBN.

Texas Monthly named veteran journalist Dan Goodgame as its new editor-in-chief, and scored an interview with ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on the band's 50th anniversary.

A few days after New Year’s, Gibbons left Austin for Houston to join bandmates Dusty Hill and Frank Beard to rehearse for the band’s first-ever residency in Las Vegas—an eight-show series at The Venetian that runs through early February. The Vegas gigs are the first real acknowledgment of the band’s 50th anniversary for 2019. Indeed, short of the first few singles and tours, it’s been what Gibbons describes as the “same three guys, same three chords” for a half-century.

“Someone asked recently, ‘How did you three guys manage to stay together for longer than most marriages?’” Gibbons says. “Two words come to mind: separate buses. It’s made it all go all right. It’s a good team.”

Stace at Dos Centavos started the New Year off busy, providing context to the recent prison release of La Raza Unida Party's Ramsey Muñiz, reviewing the new Little Joe video San Antonio, posting twice about the border boondoggle, and again regarding a Houston city council candidate's 2019 campaign.  He also got his endorsement of Julián Castro out of the way early ('mano, you forgot the accent mark):

As attacks on Julian Castro will escalate, we will be hearing more about other 2020 prospects. Whether it’s Kamala Harris’ jailing of poor moms because of their kid’s truancy; Klobuchar’s selling out on border wall; Joe Biden being, well,  Joe Biden; and the list will go on, Democrats will get to choose among candidates who have some bad marks. I just want to say ahead of time that criticism should not be thrown only at Julian Castro.

Texas Leftist finally closed up shop at the blog and invites his fans to listen to his Ingressive Voices Podcast.

David Collins sees Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shaking up Washington in the best possible way: driving Republicans insane and making establishment Democrats mad.

Wayne Dolcefino filed another complaint against Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, alleging non-disclosure of public records.

Tarrant County's GOP vice-chairman survived getting removed from his post by the party because he is Muslim, accounts Texas Standard.  However, as John Coby at Bay Area Houston laughed, this means that the Republicans in one of Texas' largest cities are only 25% religious bigots.

State Representative Erin Zwiener has a guest column for the Texas Observer, asking us to take sexual misconduct seriously.

Pages of Victory blogged about two walls, one at the border and the one that keeps men from treating women as equal people and partners.

Miao Zhang, a junior at Rice University and recent intern with Public Citizen, guest-blogged at Texas Vox about metal recycling in Houston's Fifth Ward.

The financial plight of the Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon -- the best little museum in the state, according to the Texas Observer -- is perilous.

Dan Solomon at Texas Monthly sees that Marfa is now famous enough to be mocked by The Simpsons.

Last, after CBS Sunday Morning featured the Green Book, a directory of African American-friendly businesses for black travelers in the Jim Crow era (that spawned the hit movie of the same name)...

"It was after the Depression, before the war, when the auto culture was really burgeoning, and there were more jobs for black people," said cultural historian Candacy Taylor, whose book about "The Green Book" will be published this fall. "By the '40s, the second wave of the Great Migration was underway, and so you had 1.5 million black people leaving the South during that time."

At risk if they owned nice cars. Taylor told the story of her stepfather's family being stopped and relying on a tried-and-true subterfuge for avoiding trouble: "His dad worked for the railroad, had a good job. And his mother was sitting in the front seat. So, the sheriff comes to the door and says, you know, 'Who's this car? Where are you going? Who are these people with you?' And his father says, you know, 'This is my employer's car.' And he looked to his wife. And he said, 'And she's the maid. And this is her son.'

"And then the next question was, 'Well. where's your hat?' Meaning the chauffeur's hat. And he said, 'It's hanging right in the back, officer.'"

Essentials for driving in and out of the Jim Crow South: A chauffeur's hat, and the Green Book. "The 'Green Book' was like a Bible. You did not leave home without it," said Alice Clay Broadwater, who was a teacher traveling with her lawyer-husband and small children between Boston and the South. She relied on the book.

"Black travelers in those days, in the '50s, had to carry the Green Book if they needed to stay overnight someplace, or if they wanted to know where they could eat," Broadwater said.

... Swamplot gathered the Tweets from Urban Edge's Leah Binkovitz and the piece by the Chron's Craig Hlavaty that featured the diners, motels, and more that were listed in Houston.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

More 2020 updates

As this post was being written, Tulsi Gabbard announced her exploratory committee for the Democratic nomination.  Her candidacy will be hotly debated among progressives Democrats left and center.  More later in a separate post.

Since the topic is trending ...  See my first post from a few days ago here.

Let's mention the Republicans' Trump primary -- under way now -- along with the speculation as to whether it could even happen.  (With South Carolina publicly considering canceling their primary to shield Trump from challengers, I believe it won't.)  John Kasich is barking the loudest; Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, and apparently Ben Sasse are definite maybes.  Don't count on anybody getting any traction.  The deck is stacked against them.

That would seem to open the door for a high-profile independent bid, possibly regurgitating the Unity08/AmericansElect2012 -styled thing.  Evan McMullin's 2016 effort, financed by the anti-Trump PAC Better for America, managed to get on the ballot in 11 states as well as qualified write-in status in several others.  He and running mate Mindy Finn of Kingwood pulled over 731K votes, or 0.4% of the nation's total, which ran behind the Greens' Stein-Baraka (1.1%) and the Libertarians' Johnson-Weld (3.3%) tickets but certainly wasn't a bad showing for having declared in August of that year.

No noise on this waterfront I can detect yet, but the more you hear about "how far left" the Democrats have moved, and with Trump the assumed GOP standard-bearer ... there will be lots of corporate media-induced wailing for "sensible-center" shitholes.  Expect it.

Speaking of the Greens and the Libertarians, recent posts at Independent Political Report update both, candidates and speculation.  Outside of William Weld for the Libs, nothing very interesting.  No point in dwelling on this from a progressive perspective, since Texas Greens lost ballot access in 2016 and ongoing state party dysfunction precludes their regaining it in time for 2020.

On to the Democrats, the only story for the rest of the year -- and maybe the cycle -- to be reported here, unless something really unexpected happens with Trump or the others.


Axios has your comprehensive duopoly candidate tracker, listing as 'declared' Richard Ojeda, and twenty more 'possibles' including Sherrod Brown, Eric Swalwell, Andrew Gillum, Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bennet, Howard Schultz, Eric Garcetti, Terry McAuliffe, Michael Bloomberg, John Hickenlooper, Jeff Merkley, Steve Bullock, and Eric Holder among the names I didn't mention earlier.  Click over.  Those I bolded are the ones I think are the most serious, for various reasons but mostly on the combination of name recognition, electoral experience, and deep pockets.

Ojeda is the retired Army major, Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran, West Virginia state senator and 2018 Congressional candidate -- he lost to Republican Carol Miller, but improved Democratic numbers in WV-3 by 32 points and outperformed Hillary Clinton -- who was notorious for saying he had supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 D primary ... but Trump in the general election.

He now says he believes Trump is a fraud, but could not bring himself to back Clinton.

“I have been a Democrat ever since I registered to vote, and I’ll stay a Democrat, but that’s because of what the Democratic Party was supposed to be,” he told The Intercept. “The reason why the Democratic Party fell from grace is because they become nothing more than elitist. That was it. Goldman Sachs, that’s who they were. The Democratic Party is supposed to be the party that fights for the working class, and that’s exactly what I do. I will stand with unions wholeheartedly, and that’s the problem: the Democratic Party wants to say that, but their actions do not mirror that.”

I have no idea how this guy will do but he should be interesting as hell in the debates, especially if he's on stage with the likes of Bloomberg, Schultz, and/or John Delaney (see previous) -- any of whom could just as easily wind up on a centrist independent ticket with their respective abilities to self-fund.  Let's call it the American Plutocracy Party.

I agree with Lawyers, Guns and Money that Brown needs to stay in the Senate.

Here's FiveThirtyEight's first volume of what the TwentyTwentys said and did last week.

It's comprehensive -- from Beto's beard to Ojeda's resignation from his state Senate seat.

A few more related links:

-- 'Business' is a dirty word in the D primary:

Schultz, Bloomberg, Steyer
On Wednesday, billionaire California investor Tom Steyer announced that he’s decided against running for the Democratic presidential nomination. (He’ll instead continue his current project of funding aggressive, impeachment-oriented activism.) CNN’s Harry Enten subsequently noted that in a primary environment in which Democrats view a number of potential nominees very favorably, Steyer -- and other businessmen who were/are considering running -- are among the few who poll poorly. (Andrew Yang is an entrepreneur/venture capital guy; Howard Schultz was the CEO of Starbucks.)

Last week, CNBC ran a piece reporting that New York senator and maybe-2020 candidate Kirsten Gillibrand had reached out to potential presidential campaign donors on Wall Street. The piece was immediately circulated by prominent leftists on Twitter -- and was perceived as so potentially dangerous by Gillibrand that she responded directly to one of those critics with a list of her tough-on-finance bonafides. As New York’s Eric Levitz notes, Gillibrand and other potential 2020 Dem candidates who’ve gotten big finance industry donations in the past have spent the past two years endorsing as many ambitious, leftist policy ideas as possible in what seem like attempts to distance themselves from the more big business–friendly parts of their voting records. Gillibrand, who was once described in Politico as a “go-to advocate for the financial services industry,” has gotten behind Bernie Sanders’ proposal to tax all securities transactions. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker famously took the pharmaceutical lobby’s side on a bill involving prescription-drug importation; he now supports a single-payer health care bill.

You get the picture.

-- Here's a Twitter feed for "Elizabeth Warren" with all of the most recent news, 'attacks' (sic), and opinion/snark-related Tweets.  What's kind of cool is that yours is going to look different than mine because you follow different people than me.  If you're not on Twitter, you'll get more of the straight news, like WaPo and Politico.

-- Kamala Harris was on Colbert, said "she might" run for prez, is gutted vetted as her side of the story regarding the 2012 settlement for bad mortgages in California -- the cause of the Great Depression in 2008 -- gets spun back over her.  It's long, a bit in the financial weeds, and a very bad look for the junior Cali senator.  On top of her bumpy (well-hidden; look for the graf with David Sirota mentioned) record (scroll to the end, past the puffery) as a prosecutor, I have trouble seeing how she gets to the nomination.  Tough-on-crime and easy-on-banks Democrats pretending to be progressives doesn't sound like the winning ticket to me.

But identity politics Democrats are swooning anyway, seeing Obama in a dress.

-- Yes, if you you watched Liz Warren cracking open and swigging from a Michelob Ultra in her kitchen while Beto got his teeth cleaned this past week, you fell prey to this cycle's Instagram Live My Life/Campaign trend.  It sucks.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Back to the future: 2020's latest news

It's been over six months since Blue Dog Ted turned down easy money in my proposed wager between his lap dog, Joe Biden, and my man Bernie Sanders.  The national conversation is still mostly centered around those two old white guys, although our Texas boy Beto moved in and up in the polling, and Liz Warren is occupying portside Democrats' attention with her first-out-of-the-gate exploratory announcement.  We should have Julian Castro to kick around by Saturday.  There's also Kamala Harris waiting in the wings; this account says she'll kick off on MLK Day, January 21.  She'll benefit greatly from a California primary that comes very early on the calendar.

Quietly organizing under the radar are Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand.  A mash of stale reruns like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton are trying to draw attention to themselves, and there are a few very long shots in early: WA Gov. Jay Inslee, (signature issue: climate change); Andrew Wang (the UBI candidate), and Maryland Congressman John Delaney, the extremely wealthy centrist.  He's been running since last July; has staffed up for -- and scheduled meet-and-greets next week in -- New Hampshire, and is capable of pouring millions of his own dollars into his bid.

Here's a few headlines, Tweets, and assorted other thought-provokers I've collected over the past several days, along with some of my usual salty opinions.

Warren's been most talked-about, so she gets to lead off.

-- Start with the TexTrib's profile from 2016, about how her decade teaching at UT Law influenced her (if you haven't read it already).  I found it seminal.  It suggests to me that she will have some network of support in Keep-It-Weird that competes with the Berners.

Warren is the progressive Democrat that establishment Democrats prefer over Sanders, who is still being smeared by orthodox Donkeys because he gets elected as an independent.  This is its own purity test, as thinking people clearly get.  Those who squeal "Vote Blue No Matter Who" will have to put up or shut up in 2020 if Bernie wins the nom.  History reminds us that the PUMAs failed in 2008 where the Sandernistas did not in 2016.

Daily Kos kicked off their every-two-weeks straw poll and the inaugural gave Liz a big win.

Let's note a few things for the record: Kos has been a vituperative gasbag against Sanders for a long time now.  The author of this Tweet is also the co-author of this piece.  And the DK straw poll is an Internet poll, which didn't stop Nate Silver from performing an act of seppuku.

So much credibility lost in such a short period of time.

A lot of people think Warren and Sanders are competing for the same voters, but that's lazy and uncareful.  She ain't him in her own words.  This Tweet thread was instructive as an academic exercise if you're into that.

More on those differences from Jacobin.

As for my M4A litmus test ... well, Warren is a capitalist, a believer in markets, like she said above.  She also said in autumn 2017 that she supported Sanders' Medicare for All bill, "but until we get there"... six months later (as in last March) introduced her own bill strengthening the ACA instead.  That was of course prior to the recent decision by a federal judge here in Texas that struck down Obamacare.  Her position ten months ago -- there is no clarity on her presidential website -- is best explained by Daniel Callahan at STAT.

(Warren) has proposed an alternative plan. She judges that a single-payer plan would be difficult to get through Congress and concedes that private insurance will have to continue. But that insurance would “have to be at least as good and priced as reasonably as the coverage provided by our public health care programs.” The obvious advantage of her plan is that it aims to build upon and improve the embattled Affordable Care Act, likely making it easier to get through Congress than a single-payer plan. Warren’s plan would benefit from the strong gain in public support for the ACA over the past couple of years despite assaults on it by President Trump and other Republicans.

Too mealy-mouthed for me.  She's gonna hafta take a mulligan.

-- Lots has already been posted about the "war" on Beto by the "Berniebros", its own double smear.  I summarized it in the Xmas Eve Wrangle.

In the span of seven days, Beto O'Rourke went from expanding his statewide cult of personality from sea to shining sea to exploding on the 2020 launching pad, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs, in a post originally motivated by two hilarious takes about Bernie Sanders from Bay Area Blue Dog John Coby.  But it was a takedown by David Sirota at Capital and Main of Beto's voting record that did the most damage to the erstwhile Congressman's reputation as a "progressive", and that in turn spawned an article about a "war" on O'Rourke being waged by "Berniebros".  The geek fighting didn't just carry on all weekend on Twitter, it again ruptured the 2016 fault lines between the center of the Democratic Party and the left. 

Give the shitlibs credit for rapidly counter-attacking, especially when you consider that examining the Congressman's voting record does not constitute a "war" by any stretch of the definition of the word.  As was said repeatedly in 2015 and '16 regarding Hillary Clinton's long public service history, facts are not attacks.  For fuck's sake, vacation in Yemen soon, you fucking neoliberal fuckwads.

Undeterred, Tina Nguyen at Vanity Fair throws more gas on that fire.  She opens with the premise that the GOP will use the data that Sirota, et. al. have published about Beto for themselves, as advanced by The Hill.  Somehow I find it difficult to believe that Trump, or any of his potential primary challengers, could make a credible case for criticizing O'Rourke for taking money from oil & gas industry executives.  Just ridiculous.

Maybe I need to turn off my hypocrisy sensor.  Is it a common practice at this point in the presidential election cycle for Republican political consultants to share mud with their Democratic professional advisor "friends", where that might benefit the Dem's clients and help the GOP overall (by, say, hurting Beto with the Sanders/Inslee/anyDemocratwhosupportsclimateaction caucus)?

Or do they sell it to them?  Capitalism, you know.  And how does the invisible hand of the free market set a price for that commodity?  Berning questions.

-- Bern Notice: six of these are in the Houston area, two in DFW and San Antone, five in Austin, and one each in Abilene, Waco, Bastrop, Luling, and Temple.  I'm attending the one at AxelradSema Hernandez, challenging John Cornyn in 2020, is the organizer.  For people who would rather work on revolution than mere resistance, this is the place for you.  As I see it, that's the role of the Democratic Socialists as well (but YMMV and I could just be wrong since I don't attend the local chapter's meetings due to my various handicaps.)  With the implosion of the Texas Green Party, I remain a Bernie or Buster.  He's got his faults; he's a rural state gun supporter and also a Defense Department grifter for Vermont, but he's better on BDS than anybody else, especially Warren.  They both have a bit of a complicated relationship with the Pentagon, but they're both also saying and doing things that are breaking new ground in Democratic foreign policy.

Brian Hanley has listed 20 reasons why Bernie is the only one who can beat Trump in 2020.  I agree.  If the Democrats nominate anybody else, Trump will be re-elected and everybody can blame us all over again.  I just don't GAF any more.

-- Read everything in this hot 2020 take but especially the excerpt below.  It's certainly true that there are far too many trolls online -- no matter your social medium of choice -- who will make the next almost-two years somewhat intolerable for all of us.  Clean up your own feeds and timelines; use 'mute', 'ignore', 'block', and 'report' to your advantage.

Will there be assholes online getting in circular arguments and making inappropriate personal attacks on the integrity and intelligence of anyone who supports the wrong candidate(s)? Of course! There always will be assholes. Always, always, always. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that there are always going to be some big assholes in the mix. But we don’t have to let online wankers define the discourse around what is shaping up as the most ideologically significant Democratic primary in at least a generation. All we need to do is pay attention to what the candidates themselves are talking about and remember that social media apps come with a mute button

-- And let's not let the vile corporate media and their 'he said, she said', 'soandso' slams 'what'shisface' on Rachel/Hannity, "Entertainment Tonight"/"A Current Affair"/TMZ panel of political experts masquerading as news reporting BS fuck this up again, either.  When they show Trump saying 'Pocahontas', you turn them off.  When they show a video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing, don't you click on it.  If Beto's head appears Photoshopped onto the nude body of a male stripper ... well, try not to click on that, okay?

Matt Taibbi, from his book Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus.

“Elections are about a lot of things, but at the highest level, they’re about money,” Taibbi writes. “The people who sponsor election campaigns, who pay hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the candidates’ charter jets and TV ads and 25-piece marching banks, those people have concrete needs. They want tax breaks, federal contracts, regulatory relief, cheap financing, free security for shipping lanes, anti-trust waivers and dozens of other things.”

And Chris Hedges, in this Truthdig piece entitled "The Election Circus Begins".

“The corporate media ignores issues and policies, since there is little genuine disagreement among the candidates, and presents the race as a beauty contest. The fundamental question the press asks is not what do the candidates stand for but whom do the voters like.”

The only way we'll avoid Idiocracy again is if we don't pay for idiocy.  Don't give them the clicks, ratings, subscriptions, or eyeballs.  Set your adblocker to 'vaporize'.  Block the social media trackers (the latest version of Firefox is doing this now).  And for the love of Dishrag, get off Facebook and use DuckDuckGo and not Google.

-- Debates begin in June, with six this year and six next.  We'll have a clearer picture about who's in, out, up, down, sideways, and every other direction between now and then.  I'm still of the opinion that Beto and Castro are in it not to win it but to be picked veep, and before Christmas comes around again one of those is better-than-even-odds to drop out and file to run against John Cornyn.

Monday, January 07, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Not-As-Progressive-As-It-Could-Be Alliance welcomes the Texas Legislature back to work this week, as the 86th Legislative Session opens under the pink dome tomorrow.

The Corpus Christi Caller lists a few things we can expect; Juan Carlos Huerta tells Texas Standard that he's seeing less far-right legislation being filed early.  The Dallas News wonders if lawmakers can deliver on a property tax cut.  The funding of public education and addressing a new goal, accepted by Governor Abbott, of providing Texans health care coverage that would eventually replace Obamacare, present enormous fiscal challenges for the biennium.

To that end, Better Texas Blog will cover state Comptroller Jethro Bodine Glenn Hegar's revenue estimate, scheduled for 10 a.m. this morning, as numbers and promises begin to come into focus.  Ross Ramsey at the TexTrib, via Progrexas, says that fortunately for the Lege, voters just aren't that into the state budget.  On more positive news, Grits for Breakfast sees prospects for marijuana decriminalization as quite bright.  (Forget about a potential tax revenue stream from cannabis legalization, however.)

After the governor attacked and threatened HISD in the wake of their turning down a partnership with a private entity to manage some of the district's legacy African American schools, Texas Vox came out in strong support of their decision not to charter public schools.

In the state's longest-running snarkathon -- predating the Internet by decades! -- Texas Monthly has 2018's Bum Steer Awards, their annual list of "humanity's most ridiculous and idiotic endeavors".  Alex Jones came in first (as if no one could have predicted that).

Texas Leftist kept us current on the #JazmineBarnes murder case with a couple of updates prior to the arrest of two suspects.

Daniel Williams shares his research on the effect of ballot length on voter turnout.

Off the Kuff took a closer look at how the candidates for Harris County offices *zzzzzzz* ...

Somervell County Salon provides an update on a local anti-SLAPP lawsuit that has won a second time at the Texas Supreme Court.

Continuing its focus on rural Texas, the Observer sees Panhandle towns that are thriving because of their immigrant populations.

Jim Schutze at the Dallas Observer thinks city council in Big D is getting it both right and wrong about poverty and crime.

San Antonio native Carol Burnett received a new Golden Globe, named after her, at last night's annual celebrity awards presentation for film and television, reports the Current.  The list of winners is here, courtesy Buzzfeed.

BeyondBones shares a piece of Houston TV history.

The Travel Channel's Andrew Zimmern returned to Houston to eat again at some of his favorite restaurants, including Chinatown's Crawfish and Noodles.  There he demonstrated an odd affinity for crunching on the mudbugs' heads.  There's video at CultureMap.

SocraticGadfly made a New Year's resolution for other people: stop reading self-help books and the late-stage capitalism they're predicated on.

Elise Hu presents her New Year's resolutions.

The Texas Living Waters Project has New Year's resolutions for all of us on water conservation.

Harry Hamid celebrates a few early milestones in the New Year.

David Collins' winter travel itinerary included Leakey, Castroville, Marfa, Terlingua, Kerrville, Fredericksburg, and Luckenbach.

The Texas Tribune's 2016 bio of Elizabeth Warren's decade in Texas made a reappearance as she announced her exploration for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

Maria Eugenia Guerra at LareDOS profiles Yến Bạch Nguyễn, among the first of the Vietnamese immigrants who came to South Texas in 1975, and the lives they built there.

And Texas Monthly saluted RG Ratcliffe, a Texas political legend for our time, on his retirement.  Sorry about what Trump is doing to your 401k, RG.