Tuesday, April 07, 2020

The TexProgBlog Wrangle, Extra Edition

So much wrangled we needed another pen.  The first one, yesterday, is here.

From Angela Valenzuela of the Ed Equity, Politics, and Policy in Texas blog:

Late breaking COVID update just now in the Austin American-Statesman. Not covered, however, are the South Texas counties getting hit by COVID.  According to the Corpus Christi Caller Times and The Monitor out of McAllen, the virus is impacting the following cities: Mercedes, Mission, La Joya, McAllen, Donna, Alamo, and San Juan -- that is, in Hidalgo and Cameron County.

In my West Texas hometown of San Angelo, as of two days ago, 20 have it while many others are getting tested.

And from her link to the AAS:

More than 1,153 people are being treated for COVID-19 in Texas hospitals, an increase of more than 300 people from Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott said at a press conference Monday.


His latest news conference comes after the coronavirus’s death toll in Texas surpassed 100 over the weekend, rising to 140 fatalities Monday, according to the latest data from the Department of State Health Services. The daily count is a 13-person jump from Sunday and a 50-person increase from Friday.

More than 85,000 COVID-19 tests have been given in Texas, a 20% increase from the day prior, according to Abbott. Less than 10% of those have tested positive for the virus, he added.


Abbott for the first time on Friday revealed the number of ventilators — a life-saving device for critically ill patients — available for use statewide: 8,741. By Monday, more than 6,000 ventilators were available, but Abbott said 7,350 anesthesia machines with ventilators “could be used if needed.”

In its daily count Monday afternoon, Department of State Health Services reported 702 fresh cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The state’s total of known cases is 6,812, an increase of 464 cases from the day prior.

Now, 157 out of 254 Texas counties are reporting cases of the coronavirus.

Harris County has 1,395 cases, the most of any county. Dallas County follows with 1,112, and Travis County comes in third with 418, according to agency data.

Much of the Trans-Pecos region of West Texas and lower parts of the Panhandle still have no known cases of the coronavirus, according to the department’s data.

Here is an interactive dashboard from the Department of State Health Services (very cool), and here's some mapsThe Texas Signal has a few charts.  And here's more on the effects of the contagion in the RGV.

Those who are concerned about the spread of the virus in immigrant detention facilities at the border -- and in Houston -- have plenty to be worried about.

With respect to the incarcerated population in Houston and surrounding ...

The emotional burden of outlawing women's reproductive freedom is exacting a painful toll.

Domestic violence cases have seen one of the largest increases on the police blotter.  And the overt rage toward Asian Texans worsens.

Those with the least always seem to be hit the hardest.

And the state flexes its authoritarian muscle at the Sabine.

Meanwhile, Zoombombing troubles the more fortunate.

And the undercounting of us all means we will pay some price -- likely a heavy one -- for the pathogen through the next decade.

So it's important to find some bright spots among all these dark clouds, and I have a few here that I hope will help.

This story, from LareDOS, about the missing history of the Revilla Rebels, and specifically the Gutierrez de Lara brothers, provides us what public school texts do not: a pre-1836 Texas history that upends the TXSBOE's Anglo Saxon-slanted Sam Houston/Stephen F. Austin narrative.

Environment Texas gives links to explore nature online.

Clay Robison at the TSTA Blog prefers to trust the experts over the blowhards.  In that vein, Better Texas Blog highlights the role of policy in fighting hunger during a crisis.

Shari Biediger at the Rivard Report notes the surge in sales of baby chicks as egg prices have risen.

And The Bloggess wants you to remember you are not alone.

Monday, April 06, 2020

The Weekly Wrangle, Cabin Fever Edition

We're three weeks through (what we all hope will be) a 6.5 week lockdown, and some members of the Texas Progressive Alliance have been feeling a little claustrophobic, while others are sewing their own masks in preparation for a supply run.

By contrast, some of us have adjusted just fine.

Here are some of the best blog posts, Tweets and left-centered news collected from around the Great State over the past week.

The COVID-19 global pandemic is impacting our lives in many ways, and that was the focus of everyone's thoughts and reporting this past week.

Our good guvnah remains above the fray, keeping his social distance from us, fiddling while Texans in (Carthage, London, Athens, Paris, Florence, Geneva, Dublin ...) Roma and Rhome burn.

Federal funding from the recently passed legislation is on the way.

But the state's economic woes will last for a long time.

Among the many industries suffering through the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus, Lone Star print media is taking it on the chin.

“We’re f—— trying to keep the ship afloat in the apocalypse,” said Tim Rogers, the editor of D Magazine, which laid off fifteen employees last week, including editors, designers, sales people, and administrators; all remaining employees are taking salary cuts. Its freelance budget has been eliminated. San Antonio’s long-running alternative newspaper, the Current, laid off ten people and cut everyone else’s salaries. The Houston Press, which became a digital-only operation in 2017, instituted another round of pay cuts and slashed its freelance budget in half. Although it has so far avoided layoffs, the Austin Chronicle has temporarily gone from a weekly print publication to an every-other-week schedule. It has also reduced staff hours by ten to thirty hours per week. Southwest Magazine, the beloved in-flight magazine of Southwest Airlines, has closed for good.

Texas dailies are also feeling the pain. On March 30, national newspaper chain Gannett, which owns the Austin American-Statesman, announced company-wide furloughs and pay cuts. Newsroom employees making more than $38,000 a year will be required to take one week of unpaid leave each month in April, May, and June.

SocraticGadfly mourned another casualty of the pathogen, possibly fatal -- Texas icon Half Price Books -- and wondered if it can survive as even a shell while reminiscing about many years of shopping there.

But some businesses are adjusting quickly.

And the state's colleges and universities are helping, too.

To date the most severe rate of infections have occurred in Texas nursing homes.

And the ripple effects to our elections are being felt.

Texas has one of the most restrictive absentee ballot laws in the country. Even under ordinary circumstances, this means many Texans will have a tougher time casting a ballot than voters in most other states.

During a pandemic that could prevent millions of voters from venturing to the polls, however, Texas’s law could wind up disenfranchising much of the state.

The law only allows Texas voters to obtain an absentee ballot under a very limited list of circumstances. Voters may obtain an absentee ballot if they plan to be absent from their home county on Election Day, if they have a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents them from voting in person, if they are over the age of 65, or if they are jailed.

It is far from clear that a healthy person who remains at home to avoid contracting coronavirus may obtain an absentee ballot.

Texas Democratic Party v. Hughs, a lawsuit filed by the state Democratic Party, seeks to fix this law — or, at least, to interpret the law in a way that will ensure healthy people can still vote. But the lawsuit potentially faces an uphill battle in a state court system dominated by conservative judges.

All nine members of the state Supreme Court are Republicans, and Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a motion seeking to intervene in the lawsuit — a sign that he intends to resist efforts to prevent this law from disenfranchising voters.

The stakes in this case are astoundingly high. As Texas Democrats note in their complaint, voters are “now heavily discouraged” from even leaving their homes “by various government orders and are being discouraged in an enormous public education campaign.”

Even if the pandemic were to end by July 14, when the state plans to hold several runoff elections, “certain populations will feel the need and/or be required to continue social distancing.” Millions of voters could potentially be forced to choose between losing their right to vote and risking contracting a deadly disease.

Kuff looked at the potential for expanded vote by mail in November.

There'll be more on COVID-19 aftershocks in Part 2 of the Weekly Wrangle, coming later today or tomorrow morning.   Here's some news from the environmental circuit:

And even in the middle of a contagion pandemic, we need to keep an eye on the Gulf.

Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast provides an update on his health (it's good news), and Keri Blakinger sends him a post for his blog collating criminal justice developments.

And I'll close this early edition of the Wrangle with some lighter fare.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Race for the White House Update: Reality endorses Bernie, Blue MAGATs hide Biden

Tom Perez, CNN, and MSNBC have fashioned an alternate reality, however.

Let's start here.

The Democratic National Committee on Thursday, April 2 opted to push back the start of the national convention in Milwaukee from July 13 to August 17 amid increasing time constraints, not to mention public health issues, on the party over the coronavirus pandemic.

Now the Democratic convention will begin just a week before the Republican National Convention in Charlotte. That reverts the convention timing to the model that has been in place since the 2008 cycle.  2020 was to be a break in that one-week-apart model and a return to the month-apart model for national convention timing that had dominated the post-reform era. However, the coronavirus has changed those plans.

The five-week delay in the convention is consistent with the movement of primaries that has occurred on the state level in the wake of the outbreak. Among the states that have shifted delegate selection events back, they have moved on average almost 38 days, a little more than five weeks. The nearly equivalent move by the national convention will allow those states and others stuck between a rock and a hard place in completing their delegate selection in a timely and efficient manner ahead of the new convention's commencement.

What this leaves unanswered is how the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee will handle states that have moved beyond the June 9 deadline by which states are to have held their primaries and caucuses under DNC rules. The rules call for a 50 percent reduction in a state's delegation as a penalty. But the convention move signals even more that the party is more likely than not to grant some latitude to state parties on this front.

The Texas Democratic Party had previously said it would hold its state convention virtually.  Also prior to the DNC's announcement, New York's governor moved his state's primary to June 23rd, understanding the risk of loss of delegates.

Two things worth mentioning about the Empire State:

-- The polling is pretty stale.

-- "Loss of delegates" does not seem to apply to superdelegates.

With regard to next week's Wisconsin primary:

Ten of the 11 states with primary elections scheduled in April have postponed them. Wisconsin is going forward with its April 7 primary election after a federal judge declined to postpone it, saying it is not the “job of a federal district judge to act as a super health department for the state.” U.S. District Judge William Conley scolded attorneys representing the Republican-controlled General Assembly that it should have postponed the elections, saying that would have avoided what may be “a bad decision from the perspective of public health, and it could be excruciatingly bad.”

The Cheese Staters going to the polls next Tuesday is what Joe Biden wants; he's building a big lead in the late polling, just as he did exactly a month ago following the Great Obama Intervention and Centrist Consolidation.

You might recall he and his campaign made this same request of Floridians, who are now among the worst sufferers of the contagion.

Yes, the Republican governor of the Sunshine State might be a bigger idiot than Greg Abbott, refusing to close the beaches and having dawdled about a stay-at-home order.  There was no good reason for Biden to join him, just as there isn't one for him to stand with Wisconsin Republicans gaming the system and screwing over their electorate.

How bad is Wisconsin's vote going to be?  This bad.

Wisconsin is planning to hold an election next Tuesday, April 7, which will include the state’s Democratic presidential primary race and an election for a seat on the state Supreme Court. It plans to hold this election despite the fact that (Gov. Tony) Evers, a Democrat, issued a stay-at-home order a week ago to help slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The state anticipated a huge shortage of poll workers prior to Evers’s decision to call up the National Guard. In Milwaukee, which typically has 180 polling places open on an election day, city officials expected that they would only have enough workers to keep 10 to 12 sites open. More than 100 of the state’s municipalities reported that they lacked enough regular poll workers to staff even one polling place.

Even with the National Guard working the polls, the state’s attorney general’s office predicts that “the assistance of the National Guard will not satisfy all of the current staffing needs.”

So what's clear is that Team Biden is hoping to throw a knockout punch to Bernie Sanders with the tally next week, whatever it may be.

CNN, MSNBC, and the NYT have been very helpful in this effort.

If all you do is watch teevee news, you wouldn't know any #MeToo controversy even exists.  You would know that the Cuomo brothers have their own reality show, and it apparently is a huge ratings hit.  Just like Trump's daily press briefings pep rallies.

(I haven't watched either one.  I just read the reviews.)

But we do know that Joe has promised women a couple of things -- black women specifically there in that second one -- and Jim Clyburn, widely regarded as Biden's lifesaver, could hold him to it.  We know that he has consulted Obama about his VP pick, and that he might "reportedly soon embrace key planks" of a progressive agenda.  This after Nancy Letourneau's solemn declaration that Biden is already much more progressive than 'one' would think.

I call malarkey.

I can agree that Biden's choice of running mate is very likely to follow him into the Oval Office sooner than later, and I believe he owes Black voters too much to not pick a Stacy Abrams or a Kamala Harris.  (Harris can probably name her price: veep or Justice.)  But he doesn't want to box himself in, which is why you see Amy Klobuchar and Gretchen Whitmer being floated.

The two Midwesterners shore up a geographically weak spot.  But they don't do shit for the South, which means that Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama is DOA.  And a white woman with a bad prosecutor's record might scratch open a scab with Af-Am voters.

Whoever he chooses, Biden is still going to lack the money, the voter enthusiasm, and the Bernie Caucus to defeat Trump.

And in spite of media false narratives, manufactured consent, and just plain obnoxious behavior by agents provocateur like Whoopi Goldberg and Alyssa Milano, Bernie has even more rationale to remain in the hunt in this Brave New COVID-19 World than he did BC.

While Biden went into seclusion for a week, and upon emerging stated that his home had finally been wired for high-speed Internet, Bernie was hosting teleconferences and raising money for coronavirus charities.  The feeble old lecher -- that's being gracious; to tell the truth Biden is both senile and a rapist -- still doesn't support Medicare for All after 10 million Americans have lost their jobs in the past week.  Which means they have no insurance coverage in the midst of a contagion.  And won't be able to afford COBRA, since many of them were living paycheck to paycheck anyway.  And since the stimulus checks are still weeks away, and completely inadequate to boot ...

The crisis is laying bare the brutality of an economy organized around production for the sake of profit and not human need. The logic that the free market knows best can be seen in the prioritization of affordability in health care as millions careen toward economic ruin. It is seen in the ways that states have been thrown into frantic competition with one another for personal protective equipment and ventilators -- the equipment goes to whichever state can pay the most. It can be seen in the still criminally slow and inefficient and inconsistent testing for the virus. It is found in the multi-billion-dollar bailout of the airline industry, alongside nickel-and-dime means tests to determine which people might be eligible to receive ridiculously inadequate public assistance.

The argument for resuming a viable social-welfare state is about not only attending to the immediate needs of tens of millions of people but also re├źstablishing social connectivity, collective responsibility, and a sense of common purpose, if not common wealth. In an unrelenting and unemotional way, COVID-19 is demonstrating the vastness of our human connection and mutuality.

Our collectivity must be borne out in public policies that repair the friable welfare infrastructure that threatens to collapse beneath our social weight. A society that allows hundreds of thousands of home health-care workers to labor without health insurance, that keeps school buildings open so that black and brown children can eat and be sheltered, that allows millionaires to stow their wealth in empty apartments while homeless families navigate the streets, that threatens eviction and loan defaults while hundreds of millions are mandated to stay inside to suppress the virus, is bewildering in its incoherence and inhumanity.

-- Mike Bloomberg docked the final paychecks of the people he fired for the taxes he paid on the iPhones and Apple Macs he gave them.

That dude is a class act.

Posts in the works about election security (inspired by the HBO doc Kill Chain) and also the media meltdown as a result of COVID19, a topic Brad Friedman has beaten me to.