Monday, June 01, 2020

The Weekly TexProgBlog Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is Zooming the TDP convention.

In creating an event for nearly 12,000 delegates that heads into full public swing from Monday to Saturday of next week, Texas Democrats believe they have created a template for a national party that might have to make some or all of its August nominating convention, now scheduled for Milwaukee, virtual. 
“We really believe that we are designing something that is going to make our party stronger, make our party more accessible, allowing more people to participate in the convention and learn about who Texas Democrats are, what we’re fighting for and using the technology that we have to pave that way for the future,” said Brittany Switzer, the party’s senior brand director who led the effort with Hannah Roe Beck, the party’s convention director.

This link should let you jump the Statesman's paywall.  Lone Star Republicans will be convening in Houston in person next month.

“We have been developing plans to safely move forward with a spaced-out convention,” Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey told the American-Statesman on Tuesday, referring to a gathering of about 7,500 now planned for July 13-18 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. 
He said the event will observe appropriate social distancing and respect for face masks even though they won’t be mandated, something anathema to party activists. 
“We are confident we will continue to lead the way in showing how we can safely reopen Texas,” said Dickey, also expressing confidence that Gov. Greg Abbott will give the OK for a convention that may serve as trial run for the GOP National Convention Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte, N.C.

More from the TexTrib via Progrexas.

The timing of the convention also comes as the country continues to be gripped by protests over the death of George Floyd, the black Minnesota man who died after he was pinned to the ground by a white police officer using his knee. The party made a number of last-minute changes to its convention as a result, scheduling a moment of silence for Floyd during the Monday kickoff, giving more prominent speaking time to those who can speak to racial justice and adding a panel discussion Monday that features several black leaders. Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, is set to participate in a separate panel two days later.

With just a bit more on the NeoAmerican Revolution manifesting here in Deep-In-The-Hearta ...

Milton "Big Pokey" Powell, a friend of George Floyd's, called for police to be held truly accountable when they commit violence against civilians.  DosCentavos implored local leaders to change law enforcement culture after the murder of Floyd, and others killed in recent weeksGrits for Breakfast despaired at the lack of progress in police reform.  And blogging in the abstract, Socratic Gadfly explained how issues of the duopoly and lesser evilism extend to the Supreme Court, when one looks outside the lens of reproductive choice and sexual choice rights, and especially when one looks through the lens of criminal justice issues and minorities.

Kuff unpacked the convoluted Supreme Court ruling in the state's vote-by-mail lawsuit.  Michael Li at the Brennan Center offered a similar analysis in a 9-count Tweet thread.

Chris Chu de Leon writes for the Texas Signal about how Bernie Sanders changed Texas.

Dan Solomon at Texas Monthly illustrated how the Electoral College diminishes the Lone Star State's political power.  (There's actually an easy fix.)

And for some election-related developments ...

Living Blue in Texas blogged about the most important November elections that nobody is talking about: the four Texas Supreme Court races.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities, Austin's liberal think tank, has repurposed.

The Southeast Texas Record provides us two legal updates.

After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) Food Management Partners -- based in San Antonio, Texas – has paid $1.3 million to 3,000 employees for violations of the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). WHD found the restaurant management company -- which does business as Hometown Buffet, Old Country Buffet, Ryan’s, and other brands in the U.S. -- missed payroll in March 2020, and by doing so, failed to pay required minimum wage and overtime wages to 3,000 employees at more than 75 locations.

Last week, the Harris County Commissioners Court appointed attorney Christopher Hollins as interim county clerk -- a move that seemingly created a conflict of interest for both the county and its new employee.
In July, the commissioners court voted to hire the Hollins Law Group, as well as three other firms, on a contingent-fee basis to represent the county in a lawsuit alleging it overpaid for insulin due to a price-fixing scheme. 
And while municipalities hiring outside counsel is nothing new, the Texas Local Government Code, however, does prohibit counties from paying salaried officers fees for work performed outside of their regular duties. 
Houston attorney Mark McCaig unearthed the contract Hollins signed with Harris County, posting the details on a blog at Big Jolly Times.

This Wrangle, indeed this blog, relies heavily on Tweets, as regular readers know.  So while there are plenty of complaints being lodged against social media these days, the junior senator from our Great State does not have a valid one.

But Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer does.

One environmental news update.

And one notable passing.

Lost in the avalanche of police brutality against police brutality protests, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic meltdown is the occasional bright spot: bipartisan cooperation to celebrate the beginning of PRIDE Month.

Let's wrap this Wrangle with another happy thing you and your family can do: Have a fun day of picking fruits, vegetables and flowers at this Houston-area farm

'Comes The Revolution' Wrangle

Don't you know
They're talkin' about a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
While they're standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in the unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

Don't you know
They're talkin' 'bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
Poor people gonna rise up
And get their share
Poor people gonna rise up
And take what's theirs

But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out
Don't you know it's gonna be
All right, all right, all right

2 am, bars were closing
Heard the news on channel 4
and The TV anchor tried to say
What she thought really happened today

But words are dangerous like the gun
Takes away a mother's son
A lot of people have had enough
Just waiting for this time to come

Ohhh, gonna be a riot
Ohhh, gonna be a riot in the streets tonight
Gonna be a riot in the streets tonight
Gonna be a riot in the streets tonight
Gonna be a riot tonight

More Wrangling on the way.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Race for the White House Update: The revolution gets televised

-- And the teevee reporters get arrested.

-- And quickly released after a phone call from CNN's Jeff Zucker to MN Gov. Tim Walz.

-- Meanwhile, Trump is losing what little remains of his sanity over Twitter tagging his lies and celebrating threats of violence.  Someone surely told him that his executive order does not trump (pun intended) the First Amendment, but when did he ever care about the Constitution?

Jeez, it's too bad the Democrats can't impeach him.

-- That brings us to Joe (and Bernie, briefly).

Yes, this a difficult moment for the nation, in a variety of the most understated ways.

Did you miss the farting episode?

I should probably put my resources into more important stories.

-- Enough of those pesky questions for now.  What's happening in the veepstakes?

Uh oh. That's not good.

Probably means about as much as a 75-1 longshot dropping out before Derby Day.

Tough week for everybody.  It may get a little better next week, as Texas Democrats host Biden and nearly all of his former contending rivals at their virtual convention.  I'll have a post on that shortly.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is wearing a mask while watching the coronavirus dashboard for signs of an increase (or decrease) in infections as a result of the state's continuing re-opening.

In a 14-count thread, the TexTrib boils down the differences between those who are wearing facemasks and those who are refusing to.

Andrew Schneider at HPM writes that there is also a political chasm -- and a racial one -- over the expansion of voting by mail in Harris County.  Little Guv Dan Patrick illustrates the distinction.

“There is no reason -- capital N, capital O -- no reason that anyone under 65 should be able to say I am afraid to go vote,” Patrick, a Republican, said in an interview with Fox News. “Have they been to a grocery store? Have they been to Walmart? Have they been to Lowe’s? Have they been to Home Depot? Have they been anywhere? Have they been afraid to go out of their house? This is a scam by the Democrats to steal the election.”

Dan Quinn at the Texas Freedom Network also saw race and politics in the state's Republican leaders’ sorry response to COVID-19.

Here's a smattering of additional pandemic-related developments.

-- Texas leads the nation in the spread of the coronavirus

Sanford Nowlin at the San Antonio Current also found Greg Abbott fibbing about how Texas handles COVID testing data.  And the governor released a PSA urging Texans to wear a mask -- without showing him wearing one.

-- Houston's mayor Sylvester Turner is concerned about three potential hotspots in the nation's fourth-largest city: homeless shelters, jails, and nursing homes.

-- And Living Blue in Texas discovered that the state is outsourcing contact tracing to a company that also developed an election canvassing app.

Kuff has the latest in the various vote-by-mail lawsuits. 

A couple of Lone Star Republicans got big promotions from Trump last week.

The Senate on (May 19) confirmed a conservative Texas lawyer nominated by President Trump to the Federal Election Commission, restoring a voting quorum on the agency for the first time since August amid a mounting backlog of complaints and requests for guidance in an election year.

James E. “Trey” Trainor III, an Austin-based election law attorney, has pushed for less regulation of money in politics and opposed efforts to require politically active nonprofit organizations to disclose their donors. He previously advised the Republican National Committee and Trump during the 2016 election.

The party-line confirmation of Trainor ends the longest period in the agency’s history without a quorum, giving the panel the four votes necessary to regulate and enforce federal campaign finance laws.

With Trainor, the commission is again equally divided ideologically, which could resume the FEC’s practice of often deadlocking on alleged elections violations. Two vacancies remain on the panel, and it is unclear when the Senate will take action to fill them.

More on the Ratcliffe confirmation and the vacancy in Congress it leaves behind from TXElects.

(Ratcliffe's) eventual resignation will leave the CD4 seat vacant until at least January because Gov. Greg Abbott is not expected to order a special election. Ratcliffe is the Republican Party’s nominee for the general election ballot. An August 8 meeting of the CD4 Congressional District Executive Committee has been scheduled to select a replacement Republican nominee for the general election ballot, if they can.

Jason Ross, Ratcliffe’s former district director, and Rockwall council member Trace Johannesen are actively seeking the seat. Former congressional candidates Floyd McLendon, who lost the CD32 primary to Genevieve Collins, and T.C. Manning, who unsuccessfully sought the party’s nomination to challenge U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston), are believed to be considering the “race.” Any replacement nominee is highly likely to serve in the next Congress. CD4 was 22 points redder than the state as a whole in 2018 and is trending redder.

Unless there is no replacement nominee, in which case Ratcliffe’s name must either remain on the ballot or, if he withdraws, no Republican would be on the ballot except as a write-in candidate, as happened in CD22 in 2006. If Ratcliffe won the general election, a special election would be needed to fill his vacant seat.

Section 145.036, Election Code provides that a political party may make a replacement nomination “only if” any of three circumstances apply.

Here's more Texas Congressional runoff news:

And the race for the White House warmed up as Joe Biden put his foot in his mouth again.  Several Texas bloggers are making their picks: The Rag Blog's David P. Hamilton will go Green while two of his counterparts, Alice Embree and Jay D. Jurie, are Ridin' with Biden.  DosCentavos noted that Joe had Latino problems last week, too, but thinks they're fixable.  And Jeremy Wallace at the SAEN believes the Trump-Biden contest in Deep-In-The-Hearta will be the closest in decades.

SocraticGadfly offered his take on the documentary-based last chapter in the life of 'Jane Roe', aka Norma Jean McCorvey.

As Texas Democrats get ready for their online state convention this week, the TXGOP plans to meet the old-fashioned way next month.

And a couple of Democrats also got new jobs this past week.

Here's a pair of environmental news stories.

And Downwinders at Risk asks for help from Dallas activists at tomorrow's city council meeting.

We have more activism to report!

And Edinburg Politics posted a lovely remembrance of Lloyd Criss, who passed away earlier this month.

Rep. Lloyd Criss, D-Galveston, a longtime and former state lawmaker who helped champion the labor movement including helping secure rights for farmworkers, addresses a joint session of the Texas Legislature in this image taken in the mid-1980s on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives. Also in this photograph, seated from left, are Texas Speaker of the House Gib Lewis, D-Ft. Worth; U.S. Speaker of the House Jim Wright, D-Ft. Worth; Gov. Bill Clements and his wife Rita.

Let's wrap a long Wrangle with some of the lighter fare.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Race for the White House Update: #YouAintBlack, Amy

The leaking of names is probably designed to gauge public opinion.  If Twitter is any indication (and it is, although not as much as people on Twitter think it is) then Amy is ... well, as appetizing as baloney on rice cake, extra mayo.

That would still taste better than poached infant.

With the food metaphors going from bland to amoral, Joementia surely has better options on the assisted-living facility's menu.  Markos Mealymouth thinks so.

Of the four morning line favorites -- Klob, Kamala, Gretchen Whitmer, and Stacey Abrams, in that order IMO -- Liz Warren isn't even a longshot to pop.  No matter how hard she sells out.

There are many other names to be vetted and Biden won't be choosing until July, so we'll have more of this sturm-und-drang for another six weeks or so.  Unless something unforeseen, like Joe not waking up from his nap or something, changes the DNC's plans.

-- The possibility of that happening is more likely than Trump putting on a facemask for the cameras.  Oh wait ...

-- Biden hit a little turbulence when Latinxs started griping about being ignored again.  But in the most rapid response from the campaign observed to date, they added César Chávez's granddaughter to the staff.  Stace offered advice to the campaign, so we'll watch and wait to see if they take it.  Here in Deep-in-the-Hearta, Biden's squad at the forthcoming Texas Democratic Party convention two weekends hence is led by former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, and Patron/Chairman Gil Hinojosa has Tom Perez's ear.  Then there's former Berner Chuck Rocha, who moved over to assist.  I have every belief that Biden's team is capable of doing what needs to be done in asking for the Latinx vote; the question, as always, will be how the community answers.

There will be plenty of blame to go around if Joe loses to Trump, and brown people won't get as much as they have in years past.

Update: This is a stunningly poor way to consolidate his strongest support group.  The fallout from a remark this incredibly dumb bears watching in the coming days, and it may give one of the African American women a better chance at being the veep.

Update, 5/24:

-- With Justin Amash dropping out, the Libertarian nomination turns into a scrum.  You can watch this weekend (I will be, but not live-Tweeting it).

Anything is possible, I suppose.  John Stossel moderated the final debates last night; you can find a link to theYouTubes here.

IPR has also posted several messages from Lib candidates to delegates in recent days.

Update, 5/24:

-- The Peace and Freedom Party nominated Gloria La Riva and Leonard Peltier -- also the nominees for the PSL (Party for Socialism and Liberation) -- for president and vice president.

-- Jump on Howie Hawkins' call tonight.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

TexProgBlog Wrangle, Tuesday edition

The Texas Progressive Alliance gives a virtual salute to the class of 2020 as it brings you this week's roundup of the best of the Lone Star left from last week.

Today we'll open with a breaking development in the Harris County clerk replacement selection story.

With GOP officials fearful of a blue November wave, AG Ken Paxton continues to lead the charge against voting, particularly in the state's metropolitan areas.

As the US Senate contest heats up, John Cornyn's propensity to mimic Trump's bad habit of nicknaming opponents quickly comes back to haunt him.

And David Collins has the very latest on the status of the Texas Green Party's candidates and the lawsuit that will settle the issue of whether they -- and the Texas Libertarian Party's candidates -- will have to pay filing fees to appear on the November ballot.

Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast has a criminal justice news roundup.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. at the TexTrib via Progrexas reports that the Texas Workforce Commission had planned to modernize its outdated computer system, but then the pandemic struck.

Mary Lou Ketchum, a substitute teacher in San Antonio, has been calling the Texas Workforce Commission for six weeks and still hasn’t been able to talk to a representative.

Ketchum, 59, filed a claim in early April and was denied, but she thought she’d be eligible for unemployment benefits under the federal coronavirus relief bill, which extends unemployment eligibility to part-time workers. After appealing the decision, she said she is still waiting to hear back.

She said the commission’s website is “primitive” and outdated. Pages load extremely slowly, and whenever she uses the backspace key, the system logs her out, she said.

“It definitely has put a strain on me,” Ketchum said. “I went to the food bank -- I never thought I’d ever have to do that.”

A couple of ecological news updates: The Texas Living Waters Project interprets a SCOTUS decision having to do with the Clean Water Act.

And more reporting about the lives of working people.

And some notable passings with Texas connections.

A 1994 interview with Little Richard in the HouChron allowed him to reminisce about his early years playing in Houston.

He credits Houston's robust R&B scene in the early 1950s as his starting point.

"We played on Lyons Avenue at a club called the Club Matinee," Richard said. "We had a quartet called the Tempo Toppers, and I was the lead singer."

Even in those early days, Little Richard's appearance was as much of a box-office draw as his music.

"Everybody would come to see me because I wore this wild hair, and my complexion was reddish. I think they thought I was an Indian or something. They would pack the club. Houston was really beautiful back then," he said. "I remember the Shamrock Hotel."

In a recent Bayou City History column reprinted from 1955, Sig Byrd recalled the music scene -- and more -- on Lyons Avenue.

Under the branding-iron Texas sun, the corner of Lyons and Hill, Times Square of the Bloody Fifth (Ward), drowses and stirs and drowses again. But let the sun go down behind the Lewis Undertaking Parlor -- “You overtake him, honey; I’ll undertake him” -- and the corner comes alive. It becomes Pearl Harbor, heart of the city to the people who named this town Heavenly Houston.

Pearl Harbor, named that by a weary homicide detective who once had to investigate, in one night, 11 killings in a radius of one block from Lyons and Hill.

By eight bells, Pearl Harbor is a revolving stage, a spectacle that has to be seen to be believed. But you can’t go there at night. Or you can, but you won’t. You can hear it though. Each workday night at 8, Henry Atlas, owner of the Atlas Radio and Record Shop, corner Lyons and Hill, sits down at a broadcasting console in his store. Through a corner of plate glass he can watch the languid tumult of the dusty night unfold in at least three dimensions, while he produces a marvelous radio program called Jive Session.

There’s a piano waiting behind the console, in case live talent drops in. Among the vocalists and musicians who have appeared live on Jive Session are Duke Ellington, Ivory Joe Hunter, Earl Hines, Johnny Hodges, Buster Cartwright, the Ward Singers, the Soul Steerers, the Pilgrim Travelers, the Angelics, the Clouds of Joy and the Stars of Harmony.

Lyons and Jensen, October 1956

“This is Henry Atlas speaking from the word-famous corner of Lyons and Hill. Dig me with a boogie beat and let the good times roll.”
Henry is a white man who loves the people of the Bloody Fifth. And they love him. He spins a biscuit on one of two turntables. Ray Charles singing “I Got a Woman All the Way Across Town.”
The music goes round and round. It comes out of a loudspeaker on the corner, over the cart of Oscar the peanut vendor, echoing against the walls of the Busy Bee Barbershop and a gumbo house. The Atlas Jive Session comes out of speakers all over town via Radio Morales, KLVL, 1480 kilocycles. And when the show begins the characters of the Ward drift down to the Harbor.

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Weekly "Hey, Bartender!" Wrangle

This late edition of the Texas Progressive Alliance's blog post and Tweet and lefty news round-up from around and about our Great State leads off with the governor's latest edicts on opening for bidness again.  The health and welfare of Texans?  Not so much.

And today Greg Abbott rolled on ahead, announcing that the state bars of Texas -- not that one -- would now be allowed by his dictatorial fiat to throw open their doors and let the whiskey rivers flow ... but only for 25% of their seated capacity.

Other restrictions don't make it sound as if Friday night is going to be a lot of fun.

Still, somebody buy Louie a drink, and pour it on his head if he won't take it.

DosCentavos reminded us that Texans are modeling their leaders' behaviors as Texas continues to reopen amid COVID19.

We'll go longer in tomorrow's Wrangle.  Here's a few items to tide us over until then.

Kuff had the latest in the lawsuit over voting by mail.

In his regular weekly White House sweepstakes update, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs blogged about the 'Bernie Blackout' documentary airing on VICE, Joe Biden's campaign issues, and the Greens' Howie Hawkins picking up steam.  Indy Mark Charles also called out the corporate media.

In a timely post, SocraticGadfly said this year's Democratic vice presidential nomination is the most important since 1944

And the field is set for the special election to fill the vacancy in the state Senate, left by Kirk Watson's departure to the world of academia.

Here's the summary from Cassandra Pollock at the TexTrib.

Some Texas businesses prepare to say goodbye ...

... while some get ready to say, 'hello'.

Now is the perfect time to get off the public electric grid and convert your home to solar energy, writes Luke Metzger at Environment Texas.

After advocating for solar energy for twenty years, I finally pulled the trigger and put solar panels on our home this spring. Solar prices have declined 60% in the last decade and financing our system meant my family didn’t have to pay any money out of pocket. The pandemic meant the timing was even better than I had anticipated.

Amid all the social upheaval, I feel more secure knowing I'm producing my own power. With utility workers declared “essential”, there thankfully hasn’t been any major disruption in service. But even when utilities are fully staffed, a couple of downed power lines can leave thousands of people without power and cause large human and economic consequences. Homes and buildings with enough solar energy and energy storage capacity installed may be able to keep their own lights on during and immediately after outages.

With my new rooftop panels, I’m also saving money on my energy bill at a time when we’re using a lot more electricity working and schooling from home (and with our A/C about to be working real hard). According to Energy Sage, the average Texan who goes solar would save a net of $13,000 over 20 years. And by installing solar panels, consumers protect themselves from the unpredictable swings and spikes in utility electricity costs. Solar panels also help reduce demand on the grid, which can lower electricity rates for all customers. 

As an environmentalist, I’m happy to do my part to reduce air pollution as COVID-19, a respiratory disease, rages. Research shows people living in areas with polluted air having a higher chance of dying from the disease. Austin, with 108 days of elevated particle pollution in 2018, is unfortunately one of those areas. But replacing coal- and gas-fired power plants with solar energy reduces the particle emissions that harm our health, while cutting the pollution fueling global warming (which itself is helping spread dangerous infectious diseases).

Astros fans mourned the passing of another great player from their past.

And we'll close with a Tweet from Traces of Texas.

A lot more Wrangle in Tuesday's edition!