Monday, April 30, 2012

The Weekly Slow-Jam Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is slow-jamming this week's roundup.  

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme sees Republicans holding on to private power at the expense of children.

More Congressional candidate interviews from Off the Kuff, who has conversations with Marc Veasey, Ramiro Garza, and Anthony Troiani.  

BossKitty at TruthHugger takes a vacation from the sanitized, filtered, Hollywood marketing of political candidates and looks at the world, specifically the dramatic trial in Norway for a mass murderer has unified civilized Europeans who sang ... To Annoy The Monster.

The myth of the disgruntled Texas Republican: WCNews at Eye On Williamson says they're like a GOP Chupacabra; we always hear about them, but never actually see one. Deeply unhappy Republicans? Don't be so sure.

Greg Abbott and Susan Combs have both, in the past year, made the serious mistake of exposing millions of Texans to identity fraud by failing to safeguard their social security numbers. Both seek a promotion to higher office in 2014. Is there ANY amount of incompetence and malfeasance a Texas Republican can be guilty of and NOT get elected? PDiddie at Brains and Eggs doesn't have confidence that the answer is 'yes'.

BlueBloggin wants Americans to understand there is always more to sensational stories in the headlines: UpDated: What is Adrenarche and Why Are America's Services Sexually Immature.

 Libby Shaw nails it again over at TexasKaos. She explains why she is hoping 2012 is a "buyer's revenge" election, a judgement on the kiss-ups, brain dead zombies and other assorted creatures that got elected in 2010. See it here: Gov. Oops Grovels for Norquist While Houston Business Leader Kowtows to Perry.

Neil at Texas Liberal wrote about Dick Clark and Johnny Rotten.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

That old black magic

As practiced by Republicans on Democrats in Harris County. Some background likely is in order unless you are an HCDP insider.

An occasionally harsh muckraker myself, I admit that I often admire John Coby's wit, and certainly his self-deprecating admission of being full of it.

He let his outrage get the better of him here, however. Elaine Hubbard-Palmer used an excerpt from that post in an e-mail circulated through the D-MARS listserv, as well as Carl Whitmarsh's, with the headline "you people have five positions already", emphasizing some of the most undesirable responses to her candidacy against incumbent Judge Steven Kirkland (a close family friend, in the interests of full disclosure). Perhaps, Dear Reader, you have also read the story written by the Chronicle's Patti Kilday Hart I excerpted in this post which detailed the curious circumstances surrounding the recruitment efforts by Republicans of a primary opponent to Kirkland.

This contentiousness, and the instigators behind it, is mirrored in the contested primary for Harris County Chair between Lane Lewis (like Kirkland, a gay man) and Keryl Douglas (like Hubbard-Palmer, an African American woman). Forget the kerfuffle over the e-mail's digital autopsy; when you're a Democrat and a Kubosh shows up at your press conference to stand beside you in support, you know something is amiss.

In my recent Democratic Party experience, as well as my humble O, this is a recurring problem: oily Republican operatives mucking around in Democratic primaries -- as they are in the CD-07 primary between James Cargas and Lissa Squiers, as they did when Chris Bell ran for the Texas Senate 17th seat (remember Stephanie Simmons?), as they have done often in elections past.

Let's first establish that Judge Kirkland is a fine judge worthy of re-election. Let's also note that Ms. Hubbard-Palmer is certainly entitled to challenge him -- or anyone else -- in this or any other contest. It's the barely cloaked agendas of the puppeteers off stage that must be examined.

Driving wedges -- racial, sexual, what have you -- among Democrats is a successful strategy as long as Democrats allow Republicans to make it one. To be clear: differences of ideology are discussions that are vigorous, worthwhile, and worth having; the direction of the party, so to speak. Liberal and progressive Democrats and conservative ones -- so-called Blue Dogs, but they were also called Boll Weevils in another time -- are continually striving for control of the national agenda. Competition of ideologies are likewise part of the history of the TDP. As I am sure I have mentioned here a time or two before, one of the reasons John F. Kennedy came to Texas in November of 1963 was to mend a rift between Texas liberals (led by Sen. Ralph Yarborough) and Texas conservatives (led by Gov. John Connally).

So for Democratic fortunes, it's not that there are differences of opinion so much as what is at the heart of those differences. The truth is that Democrats just don't have the luxury of dividing into warring factions and still get themselves elected like Republicans can in Texas.

If Democrats refuse to acknowledge (or if they just don't care) that they are once again being -- indeed, have long been -- manipulated in this fashion, then that's certainly their prerogative. While there have been several prominent leaders, Rodney Ellis and Garnet Coleman among them, who have publicly decried these most recent efforts to divide, the sad history is that whoever prevails in primaries like these winds up being damaged goods in November. And that takes place in a county where it is difficult enough as it is for Democrats to get elected and re-elected.

The GOP seems on every level -- national, state, and local -- to be exploiting the worst of human instincts for political gain, from their non-stop racist diatribes against President Obama to the unrelenting assault on women's reproductive choices to this "let's start a fight between the blacks and the gays" business we are seeing in Harris County this cycle. I'm hoping Democrats can rise above the hate being fomented by outside agitators and nominate the most qualified individuals who best represent the values of the Democratic Party. And, most importantly, unite behind those nominees for the general election. Because if they can't, 2012 might wind up just as grim as 2010 was.

And that would be unspeakably bad for the county, bad for the state of Texas, and bad for the nation.

I simply have diminishing confidence with every passing day that this outcome is possible, however. So if I'm going to lose anyway, I'm going to lose with my progressive principles intact, which is why I'm actively supporting candidates of the Texas Green Party in 2012.

Because they don't allow themselves to be compromised by either money or bigotry.

Update: Neil has also posted about the Kirkland/Hubbard-Palmer unpleasantry.

Sunday Funnies, European -- or maybe American dog-style -- socialism edition

"Under Romney, dogs are given the freedom to feel the wind in their fur. But under Barack Obama, man's best friend has been forced into government-controlled vehicles..."

I recently finished Robert Frank's Richistan, which provided the inspiration for this one. If you aren't familiar with the book, it's about the hermetically-sealed reality inhabited by today's ultrarich. Trust me, it's even worse than you think. Frank is far too blithe about political corruption, but otherwise the book is a fascinating read. Some of the people described are real pieces of work.

I don't wish to impugn the many good philanthropists out there. I'm talking about the jerks who spend their lives making things difficult for ordinary people, the suddenly feel a pang of noblesse oblige to "do good." Like, maybe if Mr. Aristopants didn't fight environmental laws to reduce cancer-causing pollutants, his money wouldn't be needed so much by that children's cancer camp. It is, like so many things, a cycle of absurdity.

Friday, April 27, 2012

More bitching from conservatives about guns from US in Mexico

This whine has perplexed me from Day One.

Mexico has asked the United States with help tracing the origin of nearly 70,000 weapons found at organized crime scenes there from 2007 to 2011 – guns it says are from the U.S., but in most cases, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was not able to figure out who first purchased the weapons at U.S. gun stores, let alone who might have then passed them on to gangsters.

Please go read this article and then this article for some background if you need it. I'd be amazed if you did considering how fast and furiously the Right has been yelling about it for months.

There must be roving underground bands of liberals buying automatic rifles by the boxcar load and selling them to the Mexican drug lords. It can't be right-wing gun nuts who are arming themselves for home defense, the coming race wars, or who want to just overthrow our own government (but only when there's a Democratic administration in place) committing these crimes, after all.

And all of these lifetime NRA members are screaming at the top of their lungs that Obama and Eric Holder ashould be held to account for having -- oops, not having -- tracked and traced all of this "free trade" export business. So he can shut it down.

Wouldn't they be just as upset at the threat to the 2nd Amendment if that had happened?

More importantly: where will the Libertarians get ganja for their glaucoma if Obama heeds their cries and goes through with all of this aggressive gun control? Don't they understand the president can't just legalize weed overnight with a snap of his fingers? He's got to work legislation through a conservative House and a Senate that requires 60 votes.

But you know what the real travesty is?  Medical marijuana patients will die by the thousands while the liberals in government figure out how to decriminalize, then tax and regulate the fatty. Forget Obamacare or women's health; we've got a more important problem here. Middle-aged, middle class suburbanites aren't getting their sedatives. This is obviously why they are so angry all the time about everything.

The bright spot, I suppose, is that some day they will all get to bitch about how high the taxes are on a pack of Marlboro joints.

It's like this, Republicans: you sell Mexico guns, they sell YOU dope. This is just pure capitalism. What are you people? Communists?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Sugar Land Skeeters will sting the Houston Astros

The buzz around town is real as the Skeeters take the field for the first time Thursday. The team has sold all 6,000 seats for the opener and for the next three games of the weekend series at the new ballpark at Hwy 6 and U.S. 90A, with lawn and standing room tickets available for the games Friday through Sunday.
For the season, the Skeeters have sold about three-fifths of the seating capacity for its 70 home dates, team spokesman Bryan Hodge said.

A mix of retirees and young families stopped by the park Wednesday to watch the Skeeters take batting practice and to buy a T-shirt or cap. The souvenir shop was not yet open, but parents could get assorted trinkets for signing up their children in the Buzz Brigade at the team's freshly painted front office.

Even with Major League Baseball's Astros a few miles away, several people say that something else is at work in the instant passion for the Skeeters. They say the team is a rallying point for the entire community, but also an affordable, family-oriented entertainment option close to home.

"Baseball, in general, is good, but minor league baseball is great," said Jennifer Marker, whose family purchased six season tickets when they became available 17 months ago. "It's about the atmosphere. It doesn't matter if the team wins as they do a good job putting on a show."

When I lived in Midland and worked for the Reporter-Telegram (from '88-'92) the newspaper purchased the best box seats in the house every season, right behind home plate. The handful of times I used them I saw players like Tim Salmon, Adam Kennedy Jim Edmonds, and other Angels on their way to the Show. There were Dizzy Bat races, Big Brothers and Sisters nights ... it was always a marvelous evening out. Going back a little further to when I lived in Beaumont in the mid-80's, the Texas League had a short-lived franchise there called the Golden Gators (affiliated with the San Diego Padres) and in their maiden season I watched Ozzie Guillen play shortstop, Joey Cora at second, and John Kruk at first.

Sugar Land officials had hoped to attract one of the Astros' minor league affiliates with the new stadium, just as the Dallas suburb of Frisco lured a farm club of the nearby Texas Rangers in 2003. Former Astros owner Drayton McLane however, rejected the idea, saying a team so close to Minute Maid Park would hurt his attendance.

Yet another reason why the Rangers are so much better than the Astros. Uncle Drayton's business acumen abandoned him in deciding not to affiliate with the Skeeters. And that decision further damaged Jim Crane, who paid a premium price to buy a Major League franchise with AAA minor league talent that is being forced to abandon 50 years of National League history next year.

But D-Mac, thinking short-term, knew he wasn't going to have to suffer the impact of encroachment by the SLS and it didn't affect the value of his sale anyway. So it probably wasn't so much a case of dementia on his part as it was him not giving a damn since he was cashing out.

Until the Astros start playing something resembling MLB -- I suppose they have a five-year plan or something  -- the Skeeters will flourish and the 'Stros will languish.

Houston's always had mosquitos, and we lost NASA, so I guess there's an analogy in there somewhere.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Greg Abbott duplicates a Susan Combs error

More than 13 million Texans had their SSNs left exposed to case lawyers working on the voter ID litigation. The Lone Star Project:

A legal brief filed by opponents of the Texas Voter Photo ID law reveals that Attorney General Greg Abbott exposed millions of Texas voters’ full Social Security numbers to possible theft and abuse.

The brief, filed Monday, April 23, 2012 states:

"...after vigorously fighting the production of data containing full Social Security numbers, Texas mistakenly produced to Intervenors data from the VR [voter registration] data base that contained full Social Security numbers." (Defendant-Intervenors’ Motion for Clarification of the Trial Schedule, 4/23/12, page seven.)

Texas voters escaped public release of their Social Security numbers only because of the vigilance of conscientious lawyers working against the Voter Photo ID bill. Rather than attach the files to documents circulated to other attorneys or expose them to access by the general public, opposing counsel immediately notified the AG’s office of the bungled release of private data. Abbott then, at the expense of Texas taxpayers, sent a courier to both New York and Washington, DC to retrieve the files. As the brief details:

"Intervenors immediately notified the State and, at the State’s request, Intervenors ceased all review of the VR data that had been provided, with the State sending a representative from Texas to collect the VR data disks personally." (Defendant-Intervenors’ Motion for Clarification of the Trial Schedule, 4/23/12, page seven.)

Similar to the situation almost exactly one year ago, where state comptroller Susan Combs left Texans' data exposed online, Abbott's office has demonstrated another glaring degree of sloppiness in the handling of sensitive information.

Abbott’s negligence constitutes one of the largest risks of public identity theft in recent memory. Last year, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs received bitter criticism for releasing the Social Security numbers of 3.5 million Texans. In this most recent case, had the files not been handled carefully and responsibly by legal counsel opposing Abbott, as many as 13 million Texas voters’ Social Security numbers could have been exposed to potential illegal misuse and identity theft.

This data breach was larger in terms of numbers and smaller in terms of whom it was exposed to, but that's no excuse whatsoever. Another mistake like this by the OAG on the heels of the Comptroller's shows the vast incompetence of our state's executive office-holders. Someone forgot to implement any controls that may have been discussed to protect citizens' data after last year's snafu.

Abbott and Combs want a promotion to higher public office in 2014, too. Have they earned it? Will Texans just overlook these massive errors and vote for them again?

Monday, April 23, 2012

The American Bandstand Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance honors the life of Dick Clark by bringing you a weekly roundup with a good beat that you can dance to.

Off the Kuff began a series of interviews with Congressional candidates in contested primary races, publishing conversations with Congressman Silvestre Reyes, state representative Pete Gallego, and former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez.

Republicans are talking like they want a race war. Either that, or they want to just kill all the liberals. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs documents last week's conservative verbal atrocities.  

BossKitty at TruthHugger has had enough of 2012 Zombie Voters.  

BlueBloggin wants American voters to understand that until they force honesty and accountability from the leaders they elect, they will become subjects to the Koch Brothers Machine versus American Destiny.

We do, in fact, have a revenue problem in Texas. But there are few of either party willing to admit it. WCNews at Eye On Williamson points that out in this post: Little human interest side notes.  

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme sees the republicans escalating its war on women.

At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw brings us up to date on what Governor Oops is up to, and it isn't pretty. Read Rick Perry Grovels for Norquist While His War On Women, Children and the Poor Continues.

Neil at Texas Liberal posted the newsletter of Occupy Wall Street: Houston. A strong effort is being made to reboot the Occupy effort in Houston, as OWSH is meeting on a regular basis and has a new Facebook page where you can join in and take part.

Stace at Dos Centavos tells us about a study which slams higher education in Texas. The post is basically an "I told you so!" about Texas' screwed-up priorities in pushing Tier 1 funding while leaving retention and graduation rates to suffer.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Republicans want a race war

How's that for incendiary? Let's go to the transcript.

Southern Baptist leaders will investigate whether their top ethicist and public policy director plagiarized racially charged remarks about the Trayvon Martin case that many say set back the denomination's efforts on racial reconciliation.

Richard Land, who leads the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention, was accused of lifting remarks for his radio show that accused Democrats and civil rights leaders of exploiting the case of the unarmed Florida teenager who was shot and killed by a volunteer neighborhood watchman. [...]

“They need the Travyon Martins to continue perpetuating their central myth: America is a racist and an evil nation. For them it’s always Selma Alabama circa 1965,” Land said on his radio program, speaking of civil rights activists.

Those comments, included in a partial transcript published by Baptist blogger and Baylor University Ph.D. student Aaron Weaver, were previously written by Washington Times columnist Jeffrey Kuhner.

Go read the comments at this Houston article if you think this is an isolated case. Pastor Land, apt readers here will recall, was one of the chief organizers of Rick Perry's Prayerpalooza in Reliant Stadium (which I infiltrated) last August.

This follows Mitt Romney's "Obama isn't working" campaign slogan rollout, which followed Michele Bachmann's mangled metaphor about gas prices. I actually take her at her word that she didn't think "tar baby" was racist, because she has repeatedly demonstrated that level of ignorance previously. Still, there are plenty of Republicans who caught both dog whistles.

And all that follows three-and-one-half years of "Kenyan", bone-through-the-nose cartoons, more recently 'Don't Re-Nig' bumper stickers... eh, you know all about it. But it's the ratcheting-up of the latest events surrounding the Trayvon Martin case that has things set to blow, IMO.

(Thank goodness I don't have to mention Ted Nugent, since his psychotic rant had nothing to do with race. He falls into Anders Breivik territory, which is a similar-yet-altogether-different category.)

State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman is almost like the OJ Simpson case with the race roles reversed. If Zimmerman skates, there's going to be a reaction similar to what happened in the wake of the acquittal of the LA police officers who beat the shit out of Rodney King in 1992. Bank it.

Ignore this kind of "put-the-blacks-in-their-place" talk at your -- and your nation's -- peril. These conservative bigots aren't going away even when they lose in November, and they certainly aren't backing off before then. We're stuck with them, as we have been throughout the last several hundred years. We need to figure out a way to better manage them before their xenophobia manifests itself once more into violence that spews all over the rest of us.

Okay then; now that I've filled you with fear and/or loathing, I'm off to the Houston International Festival. Have a great weekend everybody!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Still on the case of the mysterious rift

Not me. Patti Kilday Hart.

Houston attorney Debra Norris, who aspires to run for judge someday, received a tantalizing phone call from a local political consultant last October. The caller, Justin Jordan, told her that leaders in her neighborhood recommended her as a judicial candidate. Furthermore, he assured her if she ran against a particular incumbent, State District Judge Steven Kirkland, Houston attorney George Fleming would provide sufficient campaign contributions.

Intrigued, she met both Jordan and political consultant Bethel Nathan, whom Jordan identified as his former employer, at a Starbucks. Their message to her was "we have funding, we're looking for the right candidate and you are it." Though she was "flattered," Norris said she decided against the race. "I talked to other people and everything I learned is that he (Kirkland) is an outstanding judge."

The story provides important context as the May 29 Democratic primary approaches. Kirkland, a Democrat first elected in 2008, finds himself battling a well-funded opponent, Elaine Hubbard-Palmer. In her last financial report, her sole contributions, totaling $35,000, came from Fleming's law firm or the political action committee he funds. 

Do go read the rest. Attorney Fleming is both coy and oily about his intentions regarding his challenge to Kirkland. Two prominent Democrats get it (my emphasis is in bold):

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, fears the inter-party fight will ultimately harm Democratic unity. He notes that Jordan has publicly worked for Republican candidates and causes. And Fleming, he said, "minces no words when it comes to Steve and his desire to defeat him." The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Ken Shortreed in the November election.

At the time of the deadline for her January campaign contribution report, Palmer had received $35,000 in contributions from two sources: $7,000 from the Fleming law firm and $28,000 from a political action committee named Texans for Good Leaders. Fleming, it turns out, is the chief contributor to Texans for Good Leaders: He dropped the group a $25,000 check on Dec. 14 - the day before it wrote Palmer a check for $23,000.

The size of those contributions exceeded the limits of Texas' Judicial Fairness Act. As a result, the Texas Ethics Commission issued an order permitting all candidates to raise unlimited funds

"Oh well, somebody broke the law, so we'll just let everybody break the law." See, that's how it works in Texas politics.Try that at the bank today and see what happens. Update: Don't everybody test the theory at once.

That's small consolation to Kirkland, who said he expects to raise and spend $150,000 to remain competitive with Palmer. She's been running radio ads and sending expensive direct mail pieces across the county. "A countywide race in a contested primary is expensive," he noted.

I could not reach Jordan or Nathan, but Jordan's Linked-In profile mentions Republican affiliations, and says he is an employee of Bethel Nathan Communications. Harris County Democratic Chairman Gerry Birnberg sees the Kirkland-Palmer race as disheartening on two levels. It is sapping limited resources. And it demonstrates the inherent flaws in the election of judges.

Unlimited campaign contributions allow individuals to "get rid of a judge" because they have a "personal stake," Birnberg noted. "Welcome to the election of judges."

We will never have representative government until we get the money out of our politics. One way to begin to slow down the gravy train of corruption is to stop evaluating candidates on the basis of how much money they can raise.

Another way is to support candidates and parties who support the separation of corporate and state.

At least it was nice not to have to mention Kirkland's sexuality or Hubbard-Palmer's race, wasn't it?

Update: John is a little more coarse and one-sided.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is happy to contribute its fair share towards the maintenance of our great nation as it brings you this week's roundup.  

TruthHugger is appalled that the same old lies keep working on Americans. Whatever happened to "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it" (George Santayana). BossKitty has a ringside seat to watch Mother Nature bite the ass of clueless politicians, and is so grateful that God has different plans for Rick Santorum.  

BlueBloggin is very skeptical that the enforcement efforts of the Texas Ethics Commission will actually work: Texas Wants Ethics? ROFL 

Planned Parenthood gives Texas a taste of its own litigious medicine. Off the Kuff has the details.

The lies we've been told for the last 40 years are simply not true. We can't have it all and low taxes. WCNews at Eye On Williamson points out that taxes are the solution.

The Harris County Democratic Party's dirty laundry spilled out of the basket and blew all over the neighborhood this past week. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs spent some time wrangling it, but finally... uh... tossed in the towel.  

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants everyone to know that the batsh*t crazy states have higher rates of teen pregnancies. Republicans ARE waging war on against women.

Neil at Texas Liberal posted about a petition drive in Houston to put two anti-immigrant ballot issues up for a vote in 2012.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Harris County Democrats' rift between blacks, gays boils over

This is another reason why I had to take off my Crips gang colors.

A political whodunit, in the most unlikely of races, is creating chaos and divisiveness in the Harris County Democratic Party. Or perhaps I should say it is creating more than the usual chaos and divisiveness that exists like a constant low-grade fever (on a good day) throughout Democratic Party operations every­where in Texas these days.
Monday afternoon, a mysterious electronic message blew up in Houston political circles, purportedly sent by a Rev. Willie Howard on behalf of attorney Keryl Douglas' campaign for chairperson of the Harris County Democratic Party.
Douglas, who is African-American, is challenging interim chairman Lane Lewis, who is openly gay - a fact that the probably fictitious Rev. Howard finds disturbing.
The purported pastor claims to be organizing African-American ministers to support Douglas because "her opponent is openly Gay and has already told supporters behind closed doors that the Democratic Party will endorse a Gay Marriage agenda in November … If the gays take over we are poised to lose everything we have worked for during President Obama's historic win. The Republicans will rally their troops behind a united front of making sure this push for same sex marriage is defeated."
The enigmatic email closes with a particularly offensive observation:
"How will Democrats look electing a man who sales (sic) perfume for a living and lays up with another man?"

So if you are a member of the Whitmarsh listserv, you already know all about this. Likewise if you've read Kuffner or Stace. Digital trails have been sluiced out to track the offensive message as coming directly from the Douglas campaign, Douglas held a presser to deny all, the progressive Democracy for Houston club has called for her to quit the race, on and on like that. Kilday Hart for the coup de grace:

Will a wedge be driven between Harris County's African-American and gay communities? Unfortunately for Democrats, there's another local primary race indicating the answer is yes. State District Judge Steven Kirkland of the 214th District Court is being challenged by an African-American attorney, Elaine Hubbard Palmer. Stay tuned for more on that race.

But once again, we can thank Democratic politics for our daily dose of comedy and tragedy. Comedy, because any plot to de-stabilize the local party seems on its face unnecessary. And tragic, since two communities that have both faced insidious discrimination are being pitted against each other.

Do you think any of this is going to be good for Democrats in the May 29th primary elections, this rending of two key constituencies asunder? (The good intentions of African-American Democrats like Egberto Willies who spoke out against the e-mail aside, of course.) What about any lingering implications for November? If it's any consolation, Big Jolly reports that the Harris County Republicans are an even bigger clusterfuck.

Can you think of a better time to send a message to the two-party duopoly by voting for some Greens (or for that matter, Libertarians)?

A contest for Texas Democratic Party chair

As some Democrats prepare to bid a fond farewell to Mr. Potato Head (I will simply say "don't let the door hit ya where the Good Lord splitcha"), the race to replace him heats up. My colleague Ted at jobsanger has already noted the development:

My name is Rachel Barrios-Van Os, and I'm a candidate for State Chair of the Texas Democratic Party. I am running for this office for each and every Democrat and future Democrat to come because we need real leadership and we need to start fighting to win.
It's a sad day knowing that our Democracy is on the line everyday while the Republicans are in power. We have to start fighting harder, we have to fight for our rights and as your new Chairwoman, I promise that I will fight for you.

It has been way too long since the Democrats have rallied together for a statewide victory. I believe I have the progressive vision, integrity, experience and energy that it's going to take to do just that.
I am the loving wife of three-time statewide Democratic candidate David Van Os, and a mother of four beautiful children: Jay, Kay Cee,  Leya and Maya. I have been an activist for the Democratic Party my entire voting life. In my favorite Democratic Party moment in life, I was an active volunteer that helped during the 1980's to bring Ann Richards to victory. I became a Union Member in 1980 nad have always stayed active in the labor movement. I was campaign manager and treasurer for David Van Os, twice for Texas Supreme Court (1998 and 2004), and for Attorney General (2006). I was a candidate for Bexar County Clerk (2010).
During the 2006 Attorney General run, I felt like we needed to do something different  because I didn't think that the party could help us, so I recommended to David that we go to each and every courthouse (all 254 County Courthouses) in the state of Texas and give stump speeches from the steps of the courthouse and we did it. We took the campaign to the people and I believe that 's how we should start doing things again. The people/voting citizens do not feel connected to the Democratic Party anymore and so they choose to stay home.
Well it's time to change that and I'm here to offer my leadership, I'm ready, willing and able. 
Currently, I am the administrator, bookkeeper and litigation assistant for a law firm representing labor unions and civil rights. I wear many hats, but I always make sure that the job gets done. When I'm elected to be your next State Party Chair, I will make myself available to work full-time in the office of the Texas Democratic Party. I'm ready to start the job as your next State Party Chair immediately.
Regarding the state of the Party, I believe that something is very wrong when we cannot get one statewide candidate elected into office since 1994. Let's not wait another 18 years to start winning; let's make it happen now. I'm ready to take on that challenge.

Her opponent is Gilberto Hinojosa, generally regarded (until now) as the heir apparent. A third candidate, Fidel Acevedo, awaits confirmation of his candidacy because it may not have been filed in time to meet the deadline.

Barrios-Van Os is, as Ted states, the true progressive in the race (although Acevedo has bonafides as well). Hinojosa is -- probably -- the conservative establishment's choice. Thus we have set up the classic liberal-wing-versus-conservative-faction battle once again. I don't have as much invested in the contest as I would have in years past. I just don't consider myself a member of the Blue tribe any more, mostly because of internecine squabbles like this. But if anyone can turn the TDP back from the right and more toward the left, where it belongs, it's RBVO.  

Buena fortuna, Rachel (from a safe distance away, sadly).

Sunday Funnies

BREAKING NEWS: With his campaign rapidly dying, Newt Gingrich chooses to divorce it. Sources say he had already begun seeing the Mitt Romney campaign on the side.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Of dressage horses and working women

Isn't it remarkable how the Right can contrive an outrage out of thin air?

Ann Romney fought back Thursday against a Democrat who suggested she’s no economic expert because she “hasn’t worked a day in her life.” Raising the five Romney sons, she said, was such a full-time job that her husband, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, considered it more important than his work as the family breadwinner. “He would say, `My job is temporary…Your job is a forever job that’s going to bring forever happiness,” Ann Romney told Fox News, wading into a multimedia furor over comments by Democratic consultant Hilary Rosen. “Mitt respects women that make those different choices.”

Rosen apologized to Ann Romney later Thursday for her “poorly chosen” words. “As a mom I know that raising children is the hardest job there is,” Rosen said in a statement. “As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen.” “In response to Mitt Romney on the campaign trail referring to his wife as a better person to answer questions about women than he is, I was discussing his poor record on the plight of women’s financial struggles,” Rosen said.

First lady Michelle Obama, a working mother of two, even jumped into the fray with this tweet: “Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected. – mo.” 

Sometimes you just have to marvel at the ability of conservatives to hold onto each other and march and kick like that, all in perfect synchronicity.

For the record, Ann Romney -- stay-at-home mother of five boys (work if there ever was any for sure) -- rides Austrian Warmbloods, a dressage horse. And makes sure you use the French pronunciation of the word. That would be 'dress-SAHJ', rhymes with 'massage'.

Dressage is a sport of seven-figure horses and four-figure saddles. The monthly boarding costs are more than most people's rent. Asked how many dressage horses she owns, Mrs. Romney laughed. "Mitt doesn't even know the answer to that," she said. "I'm not going to tell you!"

Just your average stay-at-home mom, trying to juggle raising five boys, keep track of the help -- nannies, maids, butlers, chefs, gardeners, and the handlers, trainers, and veterinarians responsible for the stabling of her several $100,000-each horses at their four or five houses across the country -- and work in time for a ride every now and then.

However does she manage?

Mitt, however, rides a Missouri Foxtrotter... which of course makes him a man of the people. Cue Fanfare for the Common Man.

Would anyone like more whine?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fifty years ago, and a hundred years ago

Fifty years ago yesterday, the Houston Colt .45s began major league baseball play in a rickety old stadium at the northwest corner of what is now called the Reliant Park complex (approximately where the Holiday Inn now sits).

A few years later the team's owner changed their name and moved inside a new ballpark a short distance away. Yesterday was also the 50th anniversary of the opening of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, to accommodate a team that had moved out west from Brooklyn a few years earlier. In those days the park was often called Chavez Ravine after the geological formation that was there long before the field, and Sandy Koufax wrote about pitching there -- and the advantage the twilight gave him in the early innings over the hitters -- in one of the first baseball books I read as a kid.

Oh yeah, there was one other brand-new NL team taking the field that year.

I thought I would summarize for this posting, though, the legacy of the man who turned the Colt .45s into the Astros, built a ball field for them to play in that was called the Eighth Wonder of the World, and who accomplished a great deal as both mayor of Houston and Harris County Judge, and whose 100th birthday is celebrated this week: Roy Hofheinz.

Few politicians have shaped our area as much as Hofheinz, who was born 100 years ago (yesterday) in Beaumont. Sure, we all remember the Astrodome, the Astros, the Astrodomain and its surrounding environs, but his mark on this region isn’t limited to what rose out of the southwest Houston prairie in the 1960s.

Not many reading this were alive to remember Hofheinz’s controversial stint as Houston mayor in the 1950s. Even fewer alive today can recall his fast climb from state legislator to Harris County judge, which began in the 1930s.

During Hofheinz’s tenure as mayor, the city saw the completion of several public works projects: Memorial Drive and the Elysian Viaduct provided a fast way to get a growing number of residents out of downtown Houston, a new terminal at Houston International Airport was completed, and the Sam Houston Coliseum and Music Hall underwent renovations.

“He was one of the white progressives that helped change Houston from a Deep South, racially conservative community” to a more progressive town that reflected its growing minority community, said University of Houston political science professor Richard Murray.

For example, Hofheinz oversaw the removal of “white” and “colored” signs over water fountains on city property. Moves like that, that Hofheinz and other civic and political leaders put forward in the 1950s, set Houston apart from other Southern cities during the civil rights struggle.

Here's a excerpt from a biography of Hofheinz, entitled "The Grand Huckster", by Edgar Ray.

Black community leaders asked him to desegregate libraries in Houston. He agreed, but first he called in representatives of press, radio, and television and asked that they hold off any news about the upcoming change until librarians could determine how the mixing of races in their buildings would work. When word finally got around that black children and adults were going to “white libraries,” a woman, prominent in Houston society, complained to the mayor: “I won’t let my children sit by black children at the library,” she angrily told Hofheinz. “I don’t know what they’d catch!” Hofheinz solemnly replied, “Maybe tolerance.”

My first thought upon reading that was to point out to our current mayor what a progressive looks like. A brave one. A proud one. One never afraid to do the right thing, no matter who among the wealthy and powerful the doing of the right thing happened to anger.

As the Astrodome rots into ruin while today's elected officials dither, it is painfully obvious that this city, this county, this state, and even this entire nation cry out loud for visionary leaders like Hofheinz. I just hope there are some out there somewhere.

Monday, April 09, 2012

The post-Easter Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is still looking for a few of the eggs the children did not find as it brings you this week's blog roundup.

Want to know where your preferred legislative candidates stand on the important issue of beer freedom in Texas? Off the Kuff tells you how you can find out.  

TruthHugger is disgusted with the candidate for the most corrupt Texas Governor list: Rick Perry Fairy Tales For Money Must Go, and that is a long list.  

BlueBloggin sympathizes with voting Texans who cannot believe their governor is saying oops... Rick Perry Makes Texas Look Stupid, Again.

Libby Shaw reports that our lying Repug leaders continue to do what they do best -- mislead the low information voter with their straight up lies. Check it out at TexasKaos -- Lt. Governor Dewhurst Earns F- in Math, A+ in Pants on Fire.

The Democratic primary for CD-7 is getting a little bitter. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs reprinted an e-mail he received about James Cargas' seedy oil and gas connections, and got a vitriolic defense in response from Hector Carreno of the Cargas campaign.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that the Republicans are getting a twofer: killing higher education and shifting tax burdens to students.  

WCNews at Eye On Williamson shows that the "Texas Model" isn't all it's cracked up to be: low wages, poverty, wrecked safety net, crumbling infrastructure, while the rich prosper.

Without forgetting that the Texas forced sonogram is state-mandated rape, Neil at Texas Liberal posted on competing shorelines in Galveston. There is so much to see in everyday life. (Neil will soon be posting again to remind us that the Texas forced sonogram law is state-mandated rape)

Sunday, April 08, 2012

CD-07 Dem primary gets contentious

Happy Zombie Jesus Christ Day. Hope you got your eggs in a row early.

The Democratic primary for CD-07 has taken a turn for the worse in recent days, with this e-mail I received some days ago from someone I do not know named Laura Nicol and titled "Insider Track: James Cargas’ Journey from DoE Intern to Energy Lobbyist to Democratic Candidate for US Congress". I will reprint her story in full, add bold emphasis to the names of the various parties she cites, and follow it with the response from the Cargas campaign.

Hector Carreno is a power broker in both senses of the word. Professionally, he is an energy aggregator. That is actually less important than what he seems to control through his business contacts. He knows people… and lots of them owe him favors. As “The Godfather” illustrated, that isn’t always a good thing.

Here’s how Carreno works…

 In February of 2002, Hector Carreno’s company, PowerSol, was written up by the Houston Press in an article that called the company “Little Enron.” <1> They don’t produce any energy themselves; they contract with Reliant to manage other minority firms for a 25% cut of the contracts; great work if you can get it! Carreno cobbled PowerSol together from Enron energy experts and city politicos (including Mayor Brown’s ex chief of staff Jay Aiyer). A few weeks after incorporation, they won a 12% share of the city contract with Reliant Energy as a minority contractor, before they had even been certified by the city’s affirmative action program. Shortly after the award, city councilman Gabe Vasquez paid a $14,000 consulting fee from his campaign funds to PowerSol officer Frank McCune, his own ex-chief of staff. Some council members were dismayed when they realized how well connected their new vendor’s officers were. Mayor Brown’s Hispanic outreach director, Marc Campos, called PowerSol a blatant attempt to cash in on political connections. We normally call that influence peddling!


In January of 2007, Illumina Energy (the new name of PowerSol) un-registered James Cargas as a power marketer and replaced him with Hector Carreno. The contact addresses and phone numbers remained the same, although the email address changed.

Why swap out Cargas? Because it was time for him to go to work for the city, advising them on who to buy power from. Let’s see, a power broker hires you for awhile, then sends you off to advise city hall on buying what he sells. How convenient! He might get some business in return; just a little favor, you know. Could be, could be.

This year James Cargas is running for US Congress in Texas District 7. He started running rather late in the season, without warning, forcing his friends to choose whether to abandon prior endorsements. A few of his organizational endorsements were clouded by procedural gimmicks. At some events, Cargas has appeared ill or upset. Is this run perhaps NOT his own idea? Did somebody make Cargas an offer he couldn’t refuse? If Carreno is behind this, what favors would he expect from a business partner in Congress?


How did Cargas get linked to Carreno this way? We have to roll back the calendar to introduce a pivotal player to the story; Emil Pena. Pena is a lifelong lobbyist; he’s good at it and has an impressive list of clients. He has lobbied for beer, cigarette, oil, and gas companies. But he made his name in the energy arena. He participated in the energy regulator/lobbyist revolving door, while also funneling money from energy companies to candidates they’d like to buy. This was noted by Texans for Public Justice in their report on PACs active in the 2000 election cycle, in a sidebar titled Stealth PAC. <2>

Pena ran the Emil Interests PAC in 1998 as a money conduit from TransTexas Gas Corp CEO Jack Stanley to Texas candidates, including John Cornyn for Attorney General. In 1999, Emil Pena was an energy lobbyist for 6 clients, including Enron. In 2000, Pena became Deputy Energy Assistant in the Clinton administration. He changed his PAC’s name to Government Interests. Despite donations reported by Cornyn & others in 2000, the PAC never reported activity or fund sources, which violates state law. The PAC’s treasurer in 2000 was Richard Bianchi, previously general counsel of TransTexas. By the way, Bianchi is infamous for switching from Democrat to Republican immediately upon winning election to the bench in 2008.

Pena appears to have become acquainted with Cargas when they were both working in the DoE's Office of Fossil Energy in 2000. Generation Power, Inc was created by Pena in 2001, with Bianchi as Regulatory Rep and Cargas as General Counsel. In 2006, Cargas is listed as Treasurer for Pena's disgraced PAC, and both he and Pena are listed as officers in Carreno's company Illumina Energy. They have become a team, shuffling company names, officer titles, and industry roles as needed.


 Since 2008, James Cargas has worked for the City of Houston, as their energy advisor. However, he continues to use advocacy groups and local clubs to push his insider agenda.

Cargas is a past Deputy Director of the North American Energy Standards Board, and is still a member. At a recent meeting, Emil Pena presented the idea that “system safety” might apply to shale gas, and explained how it could be implemented quickly. Now, as a lobbyist for oil companies, this advice probably seems quite reasonable to Pena: profits first, safety later … as PR damage control, maybe? For his part, Cargas proudly claims his involvement in NAESB, and seems perfectly content with their worldview. This is far from the “public service” attitude I expect in a city employee!

Cargas is also on the Board of the Energy Bar Association, where he basically says “alternative energy will not happen in Texas, due to existing regulations”. <3> One might interpret this as “don’t bother trying to compete with my partners; we’ve got the market sewed up.” Again, not the attitude I would hope for from someone advising the city on energy purchases, but all I could expect from an energy trading insider.


James Cargas deserves to lumped with his partners, Carreno and Pena: fossil fuel fans, shills for Big Oil & Gas, profiting off pushing their poisonous products, pinching OUR pennies for their pockets. No law against any of that … this is America, after all. But is this who we want making the law of the land, our land, our water, our air? No! Cargas is undeserving of our respect, much less a Democrat’s endorsement or vote.

 === === === === === === === ==

<1>  Carreno’s PowerSol wins city contract, gets 25% cut of all subcontracts; 2 officers are city insiders. 2002
<2> Pena’s Stealth PAC with Bianchi. 2000
<3> (page 3) Cargas says it’s tough to implement alternative energy in TX, due to pricing regulations.

I reached out to the Cargas campaign for comment, and here in full (except as noted* at the very end) is the response I received from Hector Carreno.

In a recent blog written by Laura Nicol’s I was mention as a “power broker in both senses of the word”. I am flattered by Ms. Nicol’s statement, but I’d like to point out the truth that escaped her attack on me and my good friend James Cargas.
First, I am not now or ever have been and energy aggregator. Second, in the Houston Press article of 2002 that Ms. Nicol’s refers to, she fails to mentions that myself and former business associate had just finished working on the campaign of Orlando Sanchez for Mayor, in 2001. So her argument that we won a contract because we have political connects is totally incorrect since the person we were attempting to defeat was the incumbent Mayor. We won the contact because we had a better proposal. Third, Ms. Nicol’s should be better informed to understand that power marketer do not generate power, they sell power. I am sure that she would be surprised to find out that most companies selling power in Texas do not own the power plants. I should also point out that the Brown Administration used their political clout to try to kill the contract. Fourth, Mr. Cargas decision to run for Congress was his, and he certainly is not doing it for personal gain. I was excited when I found out he filed. He will make a great Congressman.
As to her point that former Council Member Gabe Vasquez paid my business partner $14,000 after we were awarded the contract, I am not sure what point she was trying to make. The facts are that the former Council Member owed us the funds for running his re-election campaign.
As to the partnership of Illumina Energy, ever single statement she made was totally incorrect. Illumina was set up as a minority-owned company seeking to compete with the majors and pass the savings on to its government and minority customers.
In her reference to Mr. Emil Peña, his PAC and other business interest, I once again think she should get her facts correct before she continues to make false clams.
The final innuendo in Ms. Nicol’s blog is what do I and Emil Peña expect to receive when James Cargas is elected to Congress. I can only speak to what I expect and that is to have James Cargas represent the interest of all residents of District 7, to work hard for all Texans and to conduct himself in a professional manor (sic) – just as he has done in his prior public service positions.
Ms. Nicol’s end (sic) her fantasy story with asking her limited readers not to vote for James Cargas to be the Democratic challenger against the incumbent GOP Tea Party Member. In the America I live in, we have the right to say and vote for whomever we want. In the America I live in, everyone has the right to their own opinions – every incorrect ones. In the America I live in, we all have the freedom to choose who we support.
James Cargas has worked hard his entire life and has been working with Democratic elected officals (sic) since he was 14 years old. Why do you attack him for working in the oil and gas industry, as if that was something he should ashamed of? Doesn’t Ms. Nicol’s husband work for one of those alleged big bad oil service companies? Isn’t Houston the Energy Capital of the World? Are we not proud of Houston?
Ms. Nicol, I am proud to support James Cargas for Congress and I am proud to call him my friend. Stop spreading misinformation and innuendos – get all your facts correct. Your tactics remind me of something I would have expect (sic) from Governor Sarah Palin or Senator Joe McCarthy not from a so-called Democratic activist. I guess you must be very proud of the candidate you are supporting to create such lies for her.

(At the end*, Mr. Carreno added the e-mail address from Ms. Nicol as well as his own. I have deleted those as the only part of his response I edited.)

I previously posted my endorsement of Lissa Squiers in the CD-7 Dem primary. I leave it to you to decide if Ms Nicol's article has merit for consideration for the voters of Congressional District 7, likewise if Mr. Carreno's defense serves as appropriate rebuttal. You know where I stand.

Easter Sunday Funnies

The Supreme Court says corporations are people. The Supreme Court also says that people can be strip-searched for any reason whatsoever. Therefore, corporations can now be strip-searched for any reason whatsoever. Let's start with…*Snaps on latex glove*…oh, how 'bout Koch Industries. -- "Bill in Portland Maine"

Monday, April 02, 2012

The Easter Week Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is boiling eggs and stocking up on pastel-colored dyes as it brings you this week's roundup.

 Off the Kuff reminds you that there is only one Democrat running in CD22.  

TruthHugger sees danger when disconnected and medicated American voters make the critical election decisions that impacts the future of our country and the planet: American Voters On Drugs: Their BUY-ological Political Weapon. And BossKitty thinks that Earthlings have lost their mothership.

BlueBloggin reviews the deceptions of Affordable Health Care.  

WCNews at Eye On Williamson has a few thoughts on the 2012 primary in Williamson County.

Keith Olbermann and Sarah Tressler were just two of many journalists who parted company with their employers last week, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs noted the transitions without commenting on the similarities of their circumstances.
CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know that Lamar Smith is a rapist enabler like fellow Republican John Cornyn.

At TexasKaos, lightseeker explains the high price of "Cheap Righteousness". A preview, it really isn't cheap at all.

Neil at Texas Liberal posted a letter he co-wrote to Amnesty International asking for AI to come to Texas to consider the forced sonogram law. This law is state-mandated rape. Neil has been posting on this issue in recent weeks, and will continue this focus in the days ahead.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Not so Funnies, wearing hoodies

"A hooded sweatshirt can make an innocent teen look like a criminal. Just like a suit and glasses can make Geraldo Rivera look like a journalist." -- Stephen Colbert

Keith Olbermann and Sarah Tressler come and go

Heavy sigh.

Keith Olbermann has been fired by Current TV, the network announced Friday. He will be replaced by former New York governor and CNN host Eliot Spitzer.

Olbermann had hosted "Countdown," which he brought from MSNBC after his exit there, since June. His short tenure began with fanfare, but ended, as many of Olbermann's previous jobs have, with deep acrimony on both sides.

Spitzer, who had his own short-lived stint as the host of "Parker Spitzer" (later called "In The Arena") on CNN, began hosting his show, "Viewpoints," immediately on Friday night. He made no mention of Olbermann or his somewhat unusual arrival to the post at the top of the show.

The news of Olbermann's termination was first reported by the New York Times' Brian Stelter. A source told Politico that Olbermann was fired for breach of contract, saying that he had "sabotaged" the network. Howard Kurtz reported that Olbermann had begun refusing to toss to other peoples' shows or appear in advertisements with them.

The feud went public in January and never calmed down. He'll be on the Late Show on Tuesday to tell his version. So where does he go now? My guess is his own webcast-by-subscription. More from the New York Mag and Mediaite, and this from The Daily Beast:

But in the short term, Olbermann and Gore will do battle in court. If the first shots fired are any indication, it’s likely to be messy and brutal. In the absence of any other ratings drivers, perhaps Current might consider broadcasting the proceedings in prime time.

Tressler, the Houston Chronicle society-writer-by-day/stripper-by-night whose story went national after her 2nd gig was discovered by the Chronicle heads, has a few things to say in advance (no doubt) of her tell-all.

Good Morning America flew her to New York and she spoke about her experience. Two things we did not know that we learned in the intro: 1) Houston is "a city famous for big oil, big spenders and genteel Southern living" (say whaaat?) and 2) the Chron is "one of the country's most prestigious newspapers." We also learned an actual important thing, one we'd been highly curious about: Had Tressler told anyone at the Chron about her semi-publicly blogging about her stripping, including putting pictures of herself out there? When asked, Tressler giggled a bit and said no, she hadn't told anyone.
video platform video management video solutions video player

The Jane Dough takes up her cause.

Though it would have demonstrated good form on Tressler’s part to notify the Chron of her other work, if anything to give higher-ups a sense of her availability and schedule, the other staffers have no business expressing outrage over another employee’s side gig. She’s clearly trying to earn more money, and, as Connelly suggested, perhaps score a book deal of some sort. But Jezebel nicely points out that this is a major goal of most scribes, particularly those in nonfiction writing.

As you may have noted, I feel a little bit for both parties and their somewhat-voluntarily-unemployed statuses. And I expect both Olbermann and Tressler to land on their feet. I leave it to you to make any observations you choose in the comments.

Sunday Funnies, Supremely Disgusting edition

"The Supreme Court isn't handing down its Obamacare verdict until late June, as it takes that long for Clarence Thomas' wife to write his opinion for him." -- John Fugelsang