Thursday, July 09, 2020

Lone Star Round Up: #CancelCulture comes for TXGOP-Con

Mayor Sylvester Turner exercised the nuclear option in stopping the RPT's state convention from becoming a super-spreader event in Space City next week.  Printers at the legal offices of conservative attorneys are whirring continuously as they churn out the lawsuits.


It's for their own good; they just don't get it.  Or refuse to.

A follow-up to a news item appearing in Monday's Wrangle:

I have an abundance of social justice pieces for this post.  Let me begin with the sad closing of the case of Vanessa Guillen; marches were held over the long holiday weekend last, and then crime investigators made the announcement everyone feared.

Sexual abuse and harassment of women detained by police officers -- a longtime and under-reported crime -- has become more blatant during the BLM protests.

LGBTQ community leaders have led the fight for Black Lives Matter in Houston.

In Denton -- not the most liberal bastion in the state -- community organizers have called for justice for Darius Tarver and the defunding of the city's police department.  The 20-year-old UNT student died in police custody in January.  His story is all too familiar by now.

Two environmental updates: first, the Permian Highway pipeline may suffer the same fate as the Keystone Xl and the Dakota Access pipelines.

Kinder Morgan’s 430-mile Permian Highway Pipeline faces a maze of litigation, and the legal action against other pipelines around the U.S. could have ripple effects in Texas.

Before I get to some election news ... we know that many of Trump's relatives and friends are on the dole as the CARES Act money was passed out, but a few Democrats also got caught with their hands in Uncle Sam's cookie jar.

The pre-eminent Texas Democratic election law attorney for two generations passed away over the Independence Day weekend.

And these to end the week.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

White House Update: Duck, Tucker! plus: Mary T's book, Greens convene, and Jo J's Boogaloo

Finally some lively topics.

-- In what could be a 2024 preview, "deeply silly" Tucker Carlson and rising vice-presidential hopeful Sen. Tammy Duckworth have been exchanging pleasantries over her patriotism and valor.

Their squabble isn't worth rehashing, but it opens the door for me to posit a few things:

1. Biden must not be thrilled with Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren as the finalists whom the media and online pundits have winnowed for him.  Otherwise he's just stringing people along.

2. Drawing out the veepstakes is thus growing unseemly, even if Old Joe did say it would be August before he decided.  Susan Rice, the Dems' version of Condi Rice -- whom Biden would choose if he could get away with it -- does not have the charisma or political experience for the job.  And now that Mayor Bottoms have tested positive for the virus, she's probably on the outside looking in.

3. If we really want to start playing 2024 already, then the betting opens with Pence, Tom Cotton, and Marco Rubio.  Can't think of any "moderate" that might wish to be flogged publicly just to find out his party isn't where he thought it would be post-Trump.

-- For a candidate I keep hearing is the most progressive evah, there sure are a lot of Republicans jumping on his bandwagon.

Can't say I have any love for the Lincoln Project either.

-- Is it trite to say that Trump is having another 'worst week ever'?

From the psychoanalysis (she IS one, as it turns out) of his upbringing to reports of his paying a classmate to take his SAT exams, it's a scathing expose'.  It's easy to understand why he fought its publication.  Then again, when you redefine "draining the swamp" as "pushing your snout into the government trough with all your swine friends", maybe you don't care what people think.

Tom Friedman suggests some debate rules for Biden that make sense.

“First, Biden should declare that he will take part in a debate only if Trump releases his tax returns for 2016 through 2018. ... No more gifting Trump something he can attack while hiding his own questionable finances.”

“And second, Biden should insist that a real-time fact-checking team approved by both candidates be hired by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates -- and that 10 minutes before the scheduled conclusion of the debate this team report on any misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies either candidate had uttered. That way no one in that massive television audience can go away easily misled.”

-- That brings me, I suppose, to Kanye West.

He sat for an interview with Forbes in order to sound as serious as possible.  His platform?

  • He’s running for president in 2020 under a new banner -- the Birthday Party -- with guidance from Elon Musk and an obscure vice presidential candidate he’s already chosen. “Like anything I’ve ever done in my life,” says West, “I’m doing to win.”
  • He no longer supports President Trump. “I am taking the red hat off, with this interview.”
  • He’s ok with siphoning off Black votes from the Democratic nominee, thus helping Trump. “I’m not denying it, I just told you. To say that the Black vote is Democratic is a form of racism and white supremacy.”
  • He’s never voted in his life.
  • He was sick with Covid-19 in February.
  • He’s suspicious of a coronavirus vaccine, terming vaccines “the mark of the beast.”
  • He believes “Planned Parenthoods have been placed inside cities by white supremacists to do the Devil’s work.”
  • He envisions a White House organizational model based on the secret country of Wakanda in Black Panther.

As you could have guessed, this has Biden Bros crapping themselves.

The best the Donkeys could manage were comparisons to ... Jill Stein.

Joe Biden could do something about this himself, of course.  He simply can't.

Nothing will fundamentally change, after all.

-- David Collins reprinted the GPUS press release -- with speakers and schedule information -- for their upcoming convention this weekend.

-- Libertarian presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen may or may not have a Boogaloo problem.  IPR provides a summary:

The Guardian today published an article from Jason Wilson reporting on 2020 Libertarian presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen’s appearance on “Roads to Liberty” podcast, which Wilson claims is associated with the “Boogaloo” movement.  “Boogaloo” is the right wing codename for a second civil war.  Supporters of the movement want to bring about civil war either for racial or anti-government purposes.

Wilson connects one of those asking questions on the podcast, named “Squid,” to a Facebook group he says is “strewn with memes that reference insurrectionary violence, and appear to invoke white nationalist and neo-Nazi imagery and subject matter.”  Squid asks Jorgensen about “boogaloo” on the podcast but she does not seem to know much about it.

If you enjoy mindless digressions, the comments there go off to Nowheresville celebrating Ringo Starr's 80th birthday ("Back Off, Boogaloo").

-- And cryptocurrency entrepreneur Brock Pierce joined Kanye in the presidential indy lane.  He has the same ballot access hurdles as West and anyone else who might join the race this late in the cycle.

Monday, July 06, 2020

The Weekly "Trouble in Bayou City" Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is masked up and staying at home again, but still delivers the best of the left from around and about our Great State free of charge, every Monday.

Time to make this 'flatten the curve' thing real again.

Yesterday the elected officials of two of the state's largest metro areas appeared on the Sunday talk shows and appealed for help.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler told CNN’s "State of the Union" Sunday that he wants Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, to return control of his city to the local government as its hospitals face a potential crisis. “If we don’t change the trajectory, then I am within two weeks of having our hospitals overrun,” Adler, a Democrat, said. “And in our ICUs, I could be 10 days away from that.”

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo:

"(A)s long as we’re doing as little as possible and hoping for the best, we’re always going to be chasing this thing. We’re always going to be behind and the virus will always outrun us." "And so, what we need right now is to do what works, which is a stay home order. We don’t have room to experiment. We don’t have room for incrementalism, we’re seeing these kinds of numbers, nor should we wait for all the hospital beds to fill and all these people to die, before we take drastic action."

The governor has -- from his point of view -- bigger problems than Texans dying by the hundreds because of his rush to save the economy.  Bud Kennedy at the Startlegram saw it coming.

With Texas trending purple under an unsteady White House, Abbott can shelter downballot Republicans in November and keep his state from swinging the election to Democrat Joe Biden.

Yet a Texas Republican faction has been unmasked as the Hate Abbott Club.

“(Abbott) has shown us exactly who he is, a traitor to liberty and our constitution,” state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, wrote on Twitter Friday.

Just because barroom mingling and margaritas aren’t a safe combo right now?

And because Texans need to wear face coverings?

In a June 19 letter, Stickland and state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, called mask mandates “tyranny.”

(I wonder what they think about businesses requiring shoes or shirts.)

Even the Fort Worth Republican Women, once a moderate club but now using social media to promote an outlandish fringe conspiracy, seemed outraged that Republican county commissioners would require scarves, bandannas or masks.

“You need to call (Judge Glen Whitley),” the club posted on Facebook and Twitter, launching a phone and email campaign against Republican commissioners the name of “limited government, life and liberty.”

The club also published a tweet Friday tagging its support for the QAnon online conspiracy fantasy.


“We don’t like government overreach,” said the Tarrant County Republican Party chairman, Rick Barnes of Keller.

University of North Texas political science professor Kimi King predicted more pressure on Abbott as the coronavirus pandemic continues leading up to Trump’s Aug. 27 acceptance speech in Jacksonville, Fla.

She wrote by email that “there will be more heat, not less,” on Abbott.

“The governor at this point is in a no-win situation; he only supported local enforcement of masks because of the growing crisis in several counties.”

Let's roll with some more of this, via Business Insider.

Denton County, Texas, Sheriff Tracy Murphree said he would not enforce Abbott's mandate, calling it an "executive order not a law," ABC 13 reported.

"A week ago they were carrying signs that said F*** the police, and demanding police be defunded," Murphree wrote on Facebook. "They were ignoring the Denton curfew order and blocked city streets. Now those same people are mad at me for refusing to enforce the mask mandate issued by the governor. Their hypocrisy is mind blowing."

Gene DeForest, a constable in Montgomery County, Texas, wrote that the language of Abbott's order "strips law enforcement of the necessary tools to enforce compliance with the law."

"This order includes specific language prohibiting law enforcement from detaining, arresting, or confining to jail as a means to enforce the order," he wrote in a post to Facebook.

As ABC 13 first noted, the Montgomery County sheriff's office said it would not be writing tickets to people in violation of the governor's order. According to a statement released by county sheriff Rand Henderson, calls about violations will only be dispatched if a person is not wearing a face mask inside of a business and they create a "disturbance" by refusing to leave the business.

A lawsuit filed Friday by several members of the Houston GOP and two business owners sought a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction against Abbott's order, calling it an "invasion of liberty" and arguing its existence was unconstitutional, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Nacogdoches County Sheriff Jason Bridges said it was impossible to track repeat offenders because his officers wouldn't "keeping a database of people who are wearing a mask and who are not" because it did not have the "time or energy" to do so, according to ABC 13.

In a tweet, Joe Gamaldi, president of the Houston Police Officers' Union, called the order a "draconian mask law."

The Ector County GOP voted to censure Abbott (!) and state Sen. Charles Perry joined a group of House Republicans in calling for a special session.

The party executive committee in Ector County, home to Odessa, passed the censure resolution 10-1, with one abstention and three voting members who were not present, according to the chairperson, Tisha Crow. She said she was among those who supported the resolution, which accuses Abbott of violating five party principles related to his exercise of executive power during the pandemic.

While the resolution asks that delegates to the state convention later this month consider — and affirm — Ector County’s action, Crow said consideration is “not guaranteed,” and one precinct chair, Aubrey Mayberry, said the resolution “doesn’t have any teeth” for now — but that it was important to send a message about what they consider Abbott’s overreach.

Mayberry, who voted for the resolution, said he was working with precinct chairs in other Texas counties to get similar resolutions passed ahead of the convention.

Perry wrote Saturday on Facebook that he is “deeply concerned about the unilateral power being used with no end in sight.”

“This is why I urge Governor Abbott to convene a special session to allow the legislature to pass legislation and hold hearings regarding the COVID-19 response,” Perry said. “It should not be the sole responsibility of one person to manage all of the issues related to a disaster that has no end in sight.”

There's gonna be trouble in Bayou City ("that's 'Trouble with a capital T") in two weeks.  Even Dan Patrick thinks it's a bad idea, but he's coming to town anyway.  And exactly how sick do you think COVID will make the RPT by November?

That's my segue into this week's collection of "Texas Conservatives Behaving Badly".  "Grandmas for Biden" can get it right sometimes!

Okay then. This IS a political blog; should drop in some political posts.

Here's the link to that Capitol Inside piece mentioned above.  DosCentavos' early voting experience was quick, yet harrowing. The moral of the story...don't leave until you click "CAST BALLOT."

An under-the radar development:

John Cornyn sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee (an oxymoron no matter which way you turn it to look at it).

Kuff has two more polls to analyze.  Bonddad cautiously forecasts the favorable Biden polling pointing to a Democratic flip for the Senate.  SocraticGadfly had two third-party items of note: first, he said RIP to Mimi Soltysik, 2016 SPUSA presidential nominee.  Second, he called out losing Green Party candidate Dario Hunter for "going there" with identity politics and other things.  David Collins is a delegate to the Greens' national convention this weekend, and is both excited and trepidatious about it.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs also blogged about the Thirds -- as in Howie Hawkins and Mark Charles -- but not Kanye West or Brock Pierce.

There will be more later in the week -- there always is -- but for now I'll close on these.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Sunday 'Statuesque' Funnies

Trump revealed in his speech at Mount Rushmore an executive order that will establish a
"National Garden of American Heroes," which he described as "a vast outdoor park
that will feature the statues of the greatest Americans who ever lived."

Friday, July 03, 2020

Friday Lone Star Round Up: Reds have the Blues, #MaskUpTexas, die from COVID or by HPD, etc.

Let's begin with something other than the latest broken news.

Larry Sabato offers more enthusiasm for Congressional Donkey hopefuls in the fall, presented as a frantically waved caution flag and a blaring red alert.

Tellingly, of 18 Texas polls in the RealClearPolitics database matching Biden against Trump dating back to early last year, Trump has never led by more than seven points -- in a state he won by nine in 2016. It seems reasonable to assume that Trump is going to do worse in Texas than four years ago, particularly if his currently gloomy numbers in national surveys and state-level polls elsewhere do not improve.

In an average of the most recent polls, Trump leads by two points in Texas. In 2018, Sen. Ted Cruz won re-election over then-Rep. Beto O’Rourke by 2.6 points. If Trump were to win Texas by a similar margin this November, the congressional district-level results probably would look a lot like the Cruz-O’Rourke race. Those results are shown in Map 1 (see larger version at original link).

Cruz carried 18 districts to O’Rourke’s 16. That includes the 11 districts the Democrats already held in Texas going into the 2018 election, as well as the two additional ones where they beat GOP incumbents (TX-7 and TX-32) and three additional districts that Republicans still hold. Those are TX-23, an open swing seat stretching from San Antonio to El Paso; Rep. Michael McCaul’s TX-10, an Austin-to-Houston seat; and TX-24, another open seat in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.

TX-23 is competitive primarily because it’s two-thirds Hispanic, and it already leans to the Democrats in our ratings. TX-10 and TX-24 better fit the suburban mold: both have significantly higher levels of four-year college attainment than the national average (particularly TX-24), and Republican incumbents in both seats nearly lost to unheralded Democratic challengers in 2018.

Cruz won the remaining districts, but several of them were close: TX-2, TX-3, TX-6, TX-21, TX-22, TX-25, and TX-31 all voted for Cruz by margins ranging from 0.1 points (TX-21) to 5.1 (TX-25). These districts all have at least average and often significantly higher-than-average levels of four-year college attainment, and they all are racially diverse.

In other words, these districts share some characteristics of those that have moved toward the Democrats recently, even though they remain right of center.

This is all a long preamble to an alarming possibility for Republicans: If Biden were to actually carry Texas, he might carry many or even all of these districts in the process. In a time when ticket-splitting is less common than in previous eras of American politics (though hardly extinct), that could exert some real pressure on Republicans in these districts.

We already have several of these districts included in our House ratings (see Table 2 at original). But we are moving four additional ones from Safe Republican to Likely Republican: Reps. Dan Crenshaw (TX-2), Van Taylor (TX-3), Ron Wright (TX-6), and Roger Williams (TX-25). They join Rep. John Carter (TX-31) in the Likely Republican category.

To be clear, we don’t really see any of them in immediate danger, and they certainly can and probably will run ahead of Trump in their districts, just like they all ran ahead of Cruz in 2018 (they also likely will have the kind of resource edges that can help make this happen). The same can be said of Sen. John Cornyn at the statewide level, who appears to be doing better than Trump in polls (although that may not last in the end).

Trump’s Texas sag in 2016 didn’t immediately imperil any Texas Republican U.S. House members, except for retiring Rep. Will Hurd in the perpetually swingy TX-23; it took the 2018 midterm, when Trump’s unpopularity led to big House losses for Republicans, to make many of these districts much more competitive. So it’s possible that Biden could do really well, but not have strong enough coattails in these and other similar kinds of districts. We also still like Trump’s chances in Texas, despite the close polls.

However, if that changes -- and if Biden wins the state without much ticket-splitting -- there could be some unpleasant surprises down the ballot for Republicans in Texas. That could also include control of the Texas state House of Representatives, which might be in play if things get bad enough for Republicans this November.

Redistricting looms for 2021; at the very least, Republicans who currently control state government in Texas may have to dramatically re-draw the map to shore up incumbents whose safe seats have eroded over the course of the decade while also accommodating a few new House seats because of Texas’ explosive growth. For Republicans, their gerrymander after the last census (albeit blunted a little by judicial intervention) made practical political sense, but demographic changes and coalition shifts pushed 20 of the 36 districts to vote more Democratic than the state in the 2018 Senate race.

FWIW I counted the word "Republican", Republicans", or "GOP" in the paragraphs below the map 15 times -- not including named individuals -- compared to four times for the words Democrats or Democratic.  Just in case you weren't familiar with Sabato's bias.  The fear is real and palpable among our Great State Pachyderms, as several of the allegedly smart Congress critters (Pete Olson?) got out early while the gettin' was good.

After the State Republican Executive Committee voted last night, by a 2-1 margin, to proceed with convening in person -- in Houston in two weeks -- the Texas Medical Association withdrew their sponsorship.  It's okay, though; the GOP delegates will be wearing the armor of God.  Which means masks, according to Sylvester Turner ...

... unless Greg Abbott caves again to the right-wing freaks and overrules him.

The game to watch now, all the way into 2022, is the Patrick Anti-Mask Caucus versus the Abbott Tightrope Act.  How easy is it to keep your balance on a razor's edge in a wheelchair?  Probably depends on how much money you can raise.

Okay, that's enough conservative stupidity for the week.

Here is an update on the tragic murder of Army soldier Vanessa Guillen.

Here's some environmental Tweets, embedded in the graf following.  This category has been overshadowed by the more pressing daily topics.  I like this one to open, from across the pond.

If it weren't for government handouts, friends like Ted Cruz shielding them from "harmful legislation" and assorted other favors, it might be time to nationalize the industry and then tax it until it is small enough to drown in a bathtub.  But it's hard to get a true picture of the value of these companies.  They could be so overvalued and poorly managed it might not be worth it to the taxpayers.

Sharon Wilson at Earthworks follows up on Total's plans to frack Arlington, Downwinders at Risk identifies Dallas' air monitoring policy as 'CYA', Big D activists want the city to move 'Shingle Mountain', and Texas Environmental News, the very best aggregator for this topic, brings word of the United Steelworkers' lawsuit against the EPA.

The United Steelworkers, the largest U.S. industrial union, filed a suit in federal court to reverse the weakening of a safety rule implemented during the Obama administration. The Chemical Disaster Rule aimed to reduce risks and improve safety at chemical plants.

The Chemical Disaster Rule set stricter requirements in place for chemical plants. The measure followed an explosion in 2013 in a West, Texas fertilizer plant that killed 15 people, including 12 firefighters. The blast injured many more and damaged more than 500 homes.

In January 2017, before President Donald Trump assumed office, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced several changes to risk management plans companies submit to the EPA. These included requiring more analysis of a company's safety technology, more third-party audits, incident investigation analyses and stricter emergency preparedness mandates.

After President Trump took office, a coalition of chemical and energy industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council and American Petroleum Institute, submitted a petition to the EPA to delay and reconsider the Obama-era amendments.

The new rule, finalized in November 2019, eased requirements that chemical plant owners consider safer alternatives to various technologies, obtain third-party audits to verify compliance with accident prevention rules, conduct root cause analyses following incidents, and disclose certain information to communities about their operations. The new rule also delayed the dates of implementation of provisions on coordination with local emergency services and emergency situation exercises.

The new rule comes two years after the EPA sought to suspend the rule. In March 2018, a federal judge reinstated the rule.

Pandemic next.

This story became news after her Tweets went *ahem* viral.

Police department abuse and incompetence is the stench of the week.

We're about to close out a very busy week and head into a long weekend, with the realization that many Americans do not celebrate it in the same way as Anglos, and with few places to go without risk of contracting the plague.

Allen Young in The Rag Blog remembers an image from his childhood -- an obscure moment from 1951 at the United Nations -- that underscores the long US history of racial injustice.

Marking the passing of a renowned Latino author:

And finally ... beaches on Galveston Island are closed this holiday weekend, so read about a time when you would have also feared for your life if you went there.