Saturday, August 01, 2020

Week-ending Lone Star Round-up

Here's all the news that broke over the past few days, along with updates to Monday's and Tuesday's Wrangles, and a few things I couldn't fit in there from earlier.

Catching up on COVID, Louie Gohmert wasn't the only Republican diagnosed with the virus trying to board Air Force One with Trump to go to Midland and Odessa for the rally there this week.  Gohmert remains the stupidest, however.


Also receiving an award for Ignorant Texan of the Week is Dr. Stella "Alien DNA-Demon Sperm" Immanuel, whose 15 minutes of fame pegged out the meter.

A Houston doctor who praises hydroxychloroquine and says that face masks aren’t necessary to stop transmission of the highly contagious coronavirus has become a star on the right-wing internet, garnering tens of millions of views on Facebook on Monday alone. Donald Trump Jr. declared the video of Stella Immanuel a “must watch,” while Donald Trump himself retweeted the video.

Before Trump and his supporters embrace Immanuel’s medical expertise, though, they should consider other medical claims Immanuel has made—including those about alien DNA and the physical effects of having sex with witches and demons in your dreams. 

Immanuel, a pediatrician and a religious minister, has a history of making bizarre claims about medical topics and other issues. She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches. 

She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens.


In the interest of fairness, I'll concede that last claim of hers could be true.

About that Permian Basin visit:


Pretty sure they still get public radio in West Texas.


Masculinity can be toxic, I've read.  I will never believe the social and educational gains of having Texas schoolchildren return to the classroom is worth risking their lives and long-term health, or that of our state's teachers (or school bus drivers and custodians and cafeteria workers).  Just know that the wealthy have options that the rest of you don't.  I don't have any children or grandchildren in the state's school system but I do have a few nieces and nephews (and grands- of those).  Should I care as much as their parents and grandparents?  I don't really have a say or influence.  I certainly didn't think that disregard for the threat, or poor planning and execution -- much less the economy -- was a good excuse for sacrificing our seniors, like Dan Patrick.  (Nor the prisoners and immigrant detainees in our jails, but hey, maybe that's just me and a few other bleeding hearts.)


I wasn't elected to anything, and I sure didn't vote for any of these people who do think that.


Speaking of elections ...





Because of the resignation of Diane Trautman and the withdrawal of Andrea Duhon, there are now two Democratic nominee vacancies on the November 3, 2020 General Election ballot:

Harris County Clerk - Unexpired term, through 2022
Harris County Department of Education Trustee, Position 7, At-Large - Full term

Under state law, precinct chairs from each political party nominate a candidate to appear on the November ballot. HCDP precinct chairs will vote at a County Executive Committee (CEC) meeting to be held virtually (conducted by computer, rather than in-person) on Saturday, August 15, 2020, at 11:00 am.

Environmental updates include these developments.  First, from Juan Cole:

Ashton Nichols at The Dallas Morning News reports that ExxonMobil lost over $1 billion in the second quarter, up from a $600 million lost in the first. Year on year, its revenues are down 33% for the first half of this year. It has been forced to close down half its fracking rigs in the Permian Basin. In recent years, the company is responsible for 124 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually and it is one of the biggest polluters in the world, helping wreck the planet.

Nichols quoted senior vice president Neal Chapman as saying, “Absolute demand fell to levels we haven’t seen in nearly 20 years. We’ve never seen a decline with this magnitude and pace before, even relative to the historic periods of demand volatility following the global financial crisis as far back as the 1970s oil and energy crisis.”

Chevron did even worse, losing a whopping $8 billion.

[...]

This crisis is a foretaste of what is coming when electric cars take off in the consumer market, something that will happen through the 2020s.


As I have written before, I simply do not have the same amount of sympathy for these companies that I do for small businesses.  They haven't only failied to adapt; they have refused to, and have denied that their commerce is at the root of a more serious global pandemic than COVID-19.


ExxonMobil has known about the catastrophic effects of using its product for decades, and has spent tens of millions of dollars to muddy the waters and discourage people from giving up gasoline. It also engages in greenwashing, pretending to be working on renewable energy or the (non-existent) carbon capture, when in fact only 1% of its profits go toward such research. ExxonMobil executives and flacks are committing premeditated inter-generational genocide.


Every dark cloud has a silver lining, and the Progressive Forum's blog, written by Randall Morton, presents the capitalist opportunity in the midst of the crisis:

Let’s rouse the business opportunities at our feet. The next decade is an opportunity to generate a Houston renaissance by taking the most practical economic course. While still works in progress, post-industrial cities like Pittsburgh and Tulsa are proven examples of hope. This common-sense direction is also the path to solve our three major crises: Economic recovery, inequality, and climate. The pain of our current passage, the common suffering of rich and poor, the common suffering of politically right and left, are driving common support for dynamic business answers. The bottom line: Profitable investments toward renaissance and resilience are better than endless trillions for rescue. Let’s put our HAT on.

They'd better get after it because we're all running out of time.  And shit like this isn't the right way to fix anything.


I have a variety of social justice posts and Tweets.


Zachery Taylor blogs about how the mainstream media continues to overlook the murders of US veterans beyond Vanessa Guillen.  Which leads us to the latest news on the killing of Garrett Foster, the Austin BLM protestor gunned down last weekend.



Today is the first of the month, and that is creating a crisis for many Texans who are unable to pay their rent.  Once again, I'm not sure our state's leaders care.


As this post was set to publish, some sad news came over the Tweet feed
.

Sincerest condolences to Rep. Howard and her family.

Traces of Texas closes us out.

Friday, July 31, 2020

White House Update: When is the Election?

-- It will be held on the first Tuesday of November, just as the Constitution stipulates, just as it has been through world wars and depressions and pandemics in the past two hundred and almost-fifty years of the history of our Republic.

Trump's worries are not about mail ballots, as even the Republicans know.


Now if you like your conspiracy theories cooked well done and seasoned heavily to restrict third-party voting, Ted Millar at Liberal America has the recipe'.  My favorite -- there are several there -- is the Twelfth Amendment Stew, extra pickles.

In their Newsweek piece, How Trump Could Lose the Election–and Still Remain President,” CNBC founder Tom Rogers and former Senator Tim Wirth (D-CO) explain:

“This is how it happens, Biden wins. I don’t just mean the popular vote, he wins the key swing states, he wins the electoral college. President Trump says there’s been Chinese interference in the election. He’s been talking about Biden’s soft on China—China wanted Biden to win so he says a national emergency; the Chinese have intervened in the election.”

This is particularly ironic considering Trump’s former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, documents in his new book that Trump, during trade negotiations with China, pushed Chinese President Xi Jinping to agree to purchase American agricultural products as a means to bolster popularity with U.S. farmers to help with 2020 re-election prospects.

Tom Rogers adds:

“Just ten days ago [June 23] he [Trump] tweeted, he actually tweeted, ‘rigged 2020 election,’ millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries it will be the scandal of our times. so he’s laying the groundwork for this. So he does an investigation and [Attorney General Bill] Barr backs this up with all kinds of legal opinions about emergency powers that the president has.”

“Then what happens is it’s all geared towards December 14th. Why December 14th? Well, that’s the deadline when the electors of the states have to be chosen. Why is that key? Because that’s what the Supreme Court used in Bush v. Gore to cut off the Florida counting. They keep this national emergency investigation going through December 14th. Biden, of course, challenges this in the courts and says, ‘hey, we won these states, I want the electors that favored me named. The Supreme Court doesn’t throw the election to the Republicans as it did in 2000; instead it says, ‘look, there’s a deadline here.’ If they can’t be certified in these states because of this investigation going on, there’s a constitutional process for this.”

That constitutional process lies within the 12th amendment, which states:

“If no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.”

Republican are already running full-tilt voter suppression ahead of November.

All it takes is for only a couple of states -- say, Texas and Florida -- to cast some doubt over the election’s integrity for it to be tossed to the House of Representatives.

That may appear on the surface to be good news since Democrats hold the majority in the House.

But they won’t be the ones to certify the election.

Remember, the 12th amendment stipulates, “The votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote.”

With more Republican-controlled legislatures than Democratic, this means Trump can legitimately lose both the popular vote as he did four years ago and the electoral college, securing re-election.

There is already a precedent for this.

In the 1876 election that pitted Republican Rutherford B. Hayes against Democrat Samuel Tilden, Tilden clinched the popular vote but was one vote shy of the requisite electoral votes.

As Ohio Republican Congressman James Monroe (no relation to our fifth president) published in The Atlantic in October 1893, “The votes of Florida, Louisiana, Oregon, and South Carolina, with an aggregate of 22 electors” would decide the election.

That election happening in the midst of Reconstruction, federal soldiers occupied the three southern states.

Ku Klux Klan presence was also heavy in all four states.

Congressional Democrats claimed soldiers intimidated and suppressed the votes of Southern Democratic voters.

With the threat of re-igniting the Civil War that had only concluded 11 years before, Republicans and Democrats hammered out a backroom deal to hand the presidency to Hayes if he agreed to withdraw Union soldiers from the South.

He did.

He was made president, thus ending Reconstruction.

Judging how this primary season has gone, it isn’t inconceivable for Republican-controlled states to revive the “three-to-five million illegal voters” lie Trump screamed about in 2016.


My, how I enjoy single sentences as separate paragraphs.  They really add a dramatic flair that the content seems to lack.  Have I spent too many pixels on this?  In other postponement news ...

(Trump's) campaign has frozen a majority of its TV spending less than 100 days before the 2020 election. A campaign official said the demotion of former campaign manager Brad Parscale has led them to start a “review” and “fine-tuning” of their re-election strategy.

“With the leadership change in the campaign, there’s understandably a review and fine-tuning of the campaign’s strategy. We’ll be back on the air shortly, even more forcefully exposing Joe Biden as a puppet of the radical left-wing,” a Trump campaign official told NBC News.


Sometimes it's difficult to judge which of Trump's minion's lies are the most ridiculous, but today I'll go with that last one, particularly since ...

-- ... word broke that the DNC voted down a Medicare for All plank in the party platform, insisted upon by a group of Bernie delegates.  (Update: And also getting the corporate money out.)


The very next tweet in that thread lists all the votes.  My response here is very easy.


-- Speaking of wasted votes, let's congratulate Zachary Wolf at CNN, this week's Daily Jackass, who delivered a third-grade teacher's scold of anyone who colors outside the two-party lines.


As you should be able to predict, the response was swift and merciless.


David Collins also got in a retort to last week's Jackass, One 'f' Rouner.

-- Word on the street is that Joementia is going to choose a running mate next week.  The front-runner is Kamala, followed by Susan Rice.  Val Demings and a name I've not seen previously advanced, California Cong. Karen Bass, appear on the finalists list.  Of these -- of all of those under consideration, in fact -- Bass is far and away the most progressive, so I'll be stunned if she winds up on the ticket with Old Joe.

Update: Welp ... maybe I blogged too soon.  Not about the 'stunned' part; Bass seems to have gaffed her way out of consideration.

Harris has perhaps encountered the last white water on her river to the White House.


This could be performative to throw everybody off, but I'll bet a little more on the KHive.  You really don't want to stir up those murder hornets, trust me.

Update: Behind the scenes, Chris Dodd and others in Biden's closest circle -- his wife Jill, his sister Valerie Biden Owens -- are knifing Kamala.  This news really leaves the front-runner status up in the air, unless you believe Susan Rice has the inside track (I don't).

-- Speaking of more interesting veep selections:


-- Trump's visit to the Permian Basin, his new Demon Sperm doctor, and his back-up plan for rigging the Census to screw over states with large immigrant populations like Texas and California are all items I'll put in the week-ending Lone Star wrap, coming later today or tomorrow.

-- I mentioned in the lead to last week's WH Update that we shouldn't be talking about Kanye West any more.  Kat Tenbarge and Connor Perrett at Business Insider make the point that if you're going to talk about him, mention his mental health issues.

His wife traveled to their Wyoming ranch to have a heart-to-heart with him.  It doesn't appear to have gone very well for their marriage.

-- Finally, while I hope that he does, I doubt that Herman Cain is going to be resting in peace.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Lone Star Round-up catches COVID

TPA's second Wrangle this week lassos the coronavirus (news, finally).

Update: Devastating.



But first, a digression; The free-range political implication-chickens have come home to roost for the South's "Puttin' Bidness First and Lives Second" governors, of which ours isn't even the worst.


Abbott is managing his balancing act, even as the Allen West/Dan Patrick posse ride tall in the saddle and sight him in for '22.  His still-rich friends in the Trump Disillusionment Caucus have built him a big beautiful wall made of cold, hard cash to keep the barbarians outside the gate.

The same cannot be said for 2020 downballot Texas Republicans.


Fun!

Not so for all of those suffering mightily from the TXGOP's fuckups.


I simply cannot muster the same amount of sympathy for the state's fossil fuel industry as can Justin Miller at the Texas Observer.  YMMV.


Yeah, yeah bankruptcies houston economy blah blah state budget shortfall blah blah cuts to essential services blah blah especially for poorest Texans blah.

Almost nine billion in the Rainy Day Fund (double the estimated shortfall).  Ten billion annually for Medicaid expansion waiting to be claimed.  A Lege that won't legalize (and thus tax) weed or casino gambling, for openers.  It ain't the state's money people want to cry about; it's theirs.  At core, they simply cannot accept change.

Texas families, children, their mental health, and their right to live in their communities without being poisoned are always going to be more important to me than some roughneck or landman or corrosion engineer's livelihood.

And it seems there are many others besides me who notice and are pointing out the glaring and disparate inequalities.

 
I got plenty more -- environmental updates and other election developments -- but I'll wrap today's Wrangle with the lighter side.

The San Antone Current reports on the plight of the Kerrville Folk Festival, which is soliciting donations to stay afloat after canceling its 2020 event.

Monday, July 27, 2020

The TexProgBlog Wrangle: Fascism Rising

The round-up of blog posts and Tweets and links to news from the best of the left of, about, and around Deep-In-The-Hearta begins today with reports of Trump's fascist supporters surging in Austin, Tyler, and Weatherford over the weekend.


Shell Seas, blogging at Living Blue in Texas, has more.

In northeast Texas the Democratic challenger to Louie Gohmert tried to hold a rally to protest Louie's latest effort to cancel the Democratic Party.  Hank Gilbert was shouted down by Republicans who scared off most of his supporters, then fought with the few who remained.


Gilbert's Twitter feed has three links to East Texas media accounts of the skirmish, all with video.

And from the state capital, Saturday night:


I'll save the political and corona-related posts for a later Wrangle (most of the pandemic-related ones I've been holding are too dated to use anyway; last week's news ages pretty fast these days).  Here I'll keep going with the theme of lives lost and threatened due to the spread of corporatism, militarism, and fascism in our still-beloved Texas.


And last:


Much more Wrangled -- and to be posted -- shortly.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

White House Update: Leave Kanye Alone

-- He really needs to spend more time in his basement.

Kim Kardashian West has shared a message about her husband Kanye West and mental health.

In an Instagram Stories post on Wednesday, Kardashian West acknowledged that West has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and said it's "incredibly complicated and painful" for many to understand.

It's not easy to have empathy for a man who has been given every single material thing life could possibly offer ... who also seems to be trying very hard to throw it all away.  So we'll hope everything turns out okay for him, he gets the help he needs, takes his meds, and never hear any more about his presidential aspirations ever again.

-- I'd very much like to say the same of Joe Biden.  But part of his strategy, as we know, is to stay quiet and out of sight, and for reasons so painfully obvious by now you can almost predict them.



This is one of those off-the-cuff gaffes Biden is renowned for.  His staff -- in this case, the obnoxious Symone Sanders -- nearly always gets to clean up his mess.  Bless their shitty, dark little hearts; they can't stop him.  They've kept him from wandering off camera, (now you know why he's always sitting down) but they can't do anything about him wandering off script, and that's on his good days, when the Aricept is working.

-- Still, 'Muricans trust Old Joe's cognition more than do Trump's, and with damn good reason.


And this is the man with the nuclear codes.


Yeah, he's leaving.  Like it or not, wants to or not.  It's just a crine-ass shame Biden will be the one replacing him, for however long that happens to be.  Yes, we're all on tenterhooks for another week or so.  Still no promises as to whether a woman of color is the choice, either.

“I am not committed to naming any but the people I have named, and among them are four Black women. So that decision is underway right now. And by the way, Black women have supported me my entire career. You all act like all of the sudden there was an epiphany in South Carolina.”

[...]

“We have gone through about four candidates so far in the two-hour vetting, and we will get all the vetting done of all the candidates, and then I am going to narrow the list, and then I will have personal discussions with each of the candidates who are left,” Biden said.

He has indicated that he expects to name a running mate around Aug. 1, which is next week.


Getting a little bored of this game, personally.  I just don't think it's him making the final call.

-- So while I have Tweeted more than enough this week about Trump's fascism in Portland, it's creeping into other cities now.  This will be the worst, most dangerous legacy of this president.


It's not, naturally, the only destabilization effort Trump is making.  I have zero doubt he would like to get an actual war started in order to declare himself an actual wartime president ...


... especially since he's gotten bored with the coronavirus wars that he and the Republican governors have so abjectly lost.

Update: The convention celebration he moved from Charlotte to Jacksonville, FL because North Carolina was restricting indoor gatherings?  Yeah, he had to cancel that because Florida is aflame with the 'rona.  Or maybe because of this.

-- All this cheery news might make a person feel that it would be really important to vote for Biden as the only realistic option to eject Trump from the White House. 

That would be a hard NO from me.


Whole lotta BS lately about how great Biden's climate plan is.


Congratulations to Jef Rouner; he's the the first "Daily Jackass" of 2020.  It's almost like a record skipping on Joe Biden's turntable.


-- I should wrap this up with some thoughts about John Kasich speaking at the convention.


Not the Unity Strategy I can get on board with.


-- Are we all in agreement, finally, that Russiagate was bullshit?


-- Rest in peace, Michael Brooks.

Monday, July 20, 2020

The Weekly Fa versus Antifa Wrangle *with updates*

Update: I'm having a little trouble keeping up with everything that's happening this week, so a fresh Wrangle and a White house Update are still in the works.  Keep an eye on my Twitter feed to the right ---> for the very latest.

Along with the best of the left from around our Great State over the past several days, the Texas Progressive Alliance wishes we were on the ramparts of democracy with the Portland Moms.


We'll open with the Pachyderms; the Republican Party of Texas elected a new leader.


The TXGOP's convention went virtual at the end of last week after Houston's mayor, Sylvester Turner, shut them down due to the COVID-19 outbreak inflaming the city.  But federal judge Lynn Hughes overrode Turner's authority to block them from meeting in person, and then a hastily-assembled Fifth Circuit panel overturned Hughes.  The Repubs chose to go on with their conclave online, but encountered technical difficulties of all kinds; unforced errors as well as DDS attacks.  They still have some unfinished party business remaining -- for a second convention.

West's victory is also a win for the Dan Patrick/Trump wing.  It assures that their candidates on the 2020 ballot must align with the president or face scorn and retribution, a tactic that will surely cost them votes in the suburbs of the state's major metros.  Whether that can be offset by ginning up turnout in rural strongholds -- and places like Midland/Odessa, the deepest portions of East Texas, exurban counties such as Montgomery, Williamson, Hays, Denton, and Collin -- is the electoral battle all of us pundits will be watching over the next 3.5 months.

Looking past November -- and if Trump is not blown out here in the Lone Star State -- all of this grumbling from the base suggests there will be a significant primary challenge to Governor Greg Abbott from his right.  I would be inclined to believe that Abbott has enough money and political savvy to win easily, probably against anyone except Dan Patrick, whom he currently leads by more than 2-1 in fundraising dollars.  Would Patrick vacate the state's most powerful post in order to take a shot at Abbott?  That's a very interesting question, isn't it?

Update: It's not worth speculating (to me) at this time whether Beto or one of the Castro brothers deigns to challenge Abbott in 2022.  Either should be strong enough and have enough support to get the job done, after Lupe Valdez -- who had neither -- ran better than expected in 2018.

I have enough COVID-19 posts for its own Wrangle, which will appear later.  Sticking to politics ...


Kuff had the goods on two more polls of Texas.  Ted Cruz warned his brethren that this year is indeed going to be a race.  And Jeremy Blackman breaks down Greg Abbott's strategy for staying above the fray even as he gets pulled down into it: stick to the local news.


SD14 special: Former Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt remains below 50% following the release of what we expect to be final unofficial results from Travis and Bastrop Cos. Eckhardt sits at 49.75%, which puts her in a runoff against Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, who finished with 33.9% of the vote.


Go to the link for more on this quirk of the Texas Election Code.


Some environmental posts:

Downwinders at Risk seems encouraged by the opportunity for real reform in the wake of the departure of Dallas' director of environmental quality.  Save Buffalo Bayou blogs about a Plastic Free July.  Rebecca Elliott writes for the WSJ that this -- right here -- is what it looks like when a Texas oil boom goes bust.  And Gadfly called out Texas Monthly for naively accepting at face value the "poor me" story of a major fracking company's head.

Update: DISD has asked DaR to help re-write their environmental policies.

Some NBA players and alumni keep track of current events ...


... and some apparently don't.


Grits for Breakfast sees the coming sunset review of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement as an opportunity to limit police forces in the state.  Victoria Guerrero at Progress Texas examined the data that concluded that many county district attorneys are under-prosecuting abusive cops.

Black Restaurant Week ended on Sunday -- there are still many who need your support -- and the eagerly-anticipated Houston Restaurant Weeks begins shortly.

This year the motto "Dine Out and Do Good" has been revised to "Take Out and Do Good."  One dollar from each meal purchased will be donated to the Houston Food Bank.  The donation amount is smaller than in past years, but it allows more establishments to participate and helps support workers in the hard-hit restaurant industry.

HRW founder Cleverley Stone passed away earlier this year.  Her daughter, Katie, is continuing the fundraiser in her name.  Houston Restaurant Weeks will run from Aug. 1 to Sept. 7.

Shari Biedinger at The Rivard Report attended the 50th anniversary re-enactment of the Great Brackenridge Park Train Robbery. 


Last, here's a Twitter thread that details some of the internal thoughts of residents of various Texas cities that strikes this Texan as stereotypical and maybe not so funny.  YMMV.