Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Earl W. Dorrell 1929 - 2013

That's my Dad, whom I have referenced here a time or two.

USN Seabees, 1947

In the past few weeks, complications from end-stage dementia worsened his suffering, and so his peaceful passage this morning is, truly, a blessing.

Date and age uncertain, but a little before the first one.

After he and my mother divorced when I was 16 years old, Dad went on to remarry a woman from his church, June Davis, who had her own children our ages -- we had all gone to school together -- and they traveled the country in their "fifth wheel" in retirement.  They also made a couple of trips overseas, one to the Holy Land.

My stepmother passed away peacefully at home in December of 2011, and after that my father and mother enjoyed a reconciliation.  They had lunch often and other visits to look at old photos and remember and laugh about the good times on several occasions over the past year-and-a-half.  Here's a photo we all took at Mom's 87th birthday celebration this past June.

Requiescat in pace, Pop.

Some personal updates

-- This Ben Hall business is not something I can post about as long as I am serving on the Early Voting Ballot Board. I have an opinion about it, of course, but I won't be sharing it.

-- Besides my electoral responsibilities, my father's health has taken a grave turn and so, as a consequence, you should anticipate light blogging here in the days ahead.

Thanks for everyone's good thoughts.

Federal judge rules Texas abortion restrictions unconstitutional, Abbott appeals - Update: And wins stay

It ain't over, though, until it gets to the 5th Circuit -- or the Supremes, and there's really no reason to celebrate.  First, today's developments and then the analysis.

Attorney General Greg Abbott has filed an appeal to Monday’s ruling striking down a key provision of Texas’s new abortion law, according to a new court filing in the case.

U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled Monday that a provision to require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals is unconstitutional.

Yeakel also partially blocked new restrictions on pregnancy-ending drugs, saying they “may not be enforced against any physician who determines, in appropriate medical judgment, to perform a medication-abortion using the off-label protocol for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.” New regulations for abortion-inducing drugs are set to kick in at midnight, except in cases when women have medical conditions that can make surgical abortion “extremely difficult or impossible,” according to the ruling.


Abbott filed the appeal about an hour after the ruling was made public Monday afternoon.

That he had it all ready to go tells you everything.

"The court upheld part of the law and enjoined part of the law," Abbott spokesman Lauren Bean said in a statement. "The State has already appealed the court’s ruling. We appreciate the trial court’s attention in this matter. As everyone – including the trial court judge – has acknowledged, this is a matter that will ultimately be resolved by the appellate courts or the U.S. Supreme Court."

Thanks, Captain Obvious Bean.  Now to the judge, GW Bush appointee Yeakel.  The excerpt below is from the second link at the top.

An equally important section of Yeakel’s opinion, however, offers less welcome news for women seeking abortions. In brief, the Food and Drug Administration approved a particular method of terminating a pregnancy via medication in 2000. Since then, doctors developed an alternative method that is endorsed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), but has not yet been approved by the FDA. This alternative method requires lower doses than the FDA-approved method, and it also enables the woman to make fewer visits to the doctor’s office. Notably, because one of the drugs used in medical abortions “triggers almost immediate bleeding and cramping,” the alternative method allows women to administer the drugs at home — rather than have to undergo the uncomfort caused by the drugs in an unfamiliar clinical setting.

Texas’ law permits doctors to prescribe the reduced doses used by the alternative method, but Yeakel reads the Texas law to “not allow the physician to follow the administration or route portions of the off-label protocol.” Among other things, this forces women into a cold clinical setting while they are enduring the effects of the abortion drugs.

Judge Yeakel, however, finds nothing constitutionally wrong with Texas forcing women to endure such unnecessary hardship in order to obtain an abortion. Quoting the Supreme Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Yeakel holds that “the incidental effect of making it more difficult or more expensive to procure an abortion cannot be enough to invalidate” the Texas law. When “reasonable alternative procedure[s]” are available, a state’s decision to ban one particular procedure is not unconstitutional, even if that is the least painful, least time-consuming or least demeaning procedure available to the woman. “Individuals do not have a constitutional right to a preferred medical option, so long as a safe, medically accepted, and actual alternative exists.”

So the upshot of Yeakel’s opinion is that Texas cannot ban abortion. Nor can they create entire swaths of their state where abortions are nearly impossible to obtain. But they can effectively punish women by making them endure unnecessary pain, hardship or invasiveness before they can exercise their right to choose. Should Yeakel’s decision stand, it is practically an invitation for lawmakers to impose needless pain on women seeking abortions.

This law is traveling a path to the SCOTUS, where they may strike down some of the freedoms granted in Roe v. Wade forty years ago.  That's what conservatives have been praying for all along.

But there's a long way to go before this legislation meets its fate and makes its history.  In the meantime, Texas voters -- along with those in the other states who suffer under Republican state governance -- can get started turning back the tide by voting out these goddamned Austin Republican misogynists in 2014.

(T)he Democrats must also begin to overcome GOP dominance of the state legislatures. 2020 is the crucial date. If the Democrats fail to retake a substantial number of these state chambers by then, the Republicans will be able to continue the 2011 gerrymandering in 2021. We can likely expect far more state conservative legislation against voting rights, reproductive rights, unions and more. Given the Tea Party's influence within the GOP and its many billionaire backers, gridlock could also continue in Congress — even if the Democrats win every presidential election or the Senate for years to come.

And it's going take a lot more people than this to get it done.

Update: Dahlia Lithwick, the country's pre-eminent Supreme Court observer IMO, points out that the ruling gives a victory to pro-choicers and a even minor one to pro-lifers, but settles nothing.  And disregard completely the spin of political consultants like these -- and the media that consults them, and the word-parsing that precedes and follows -- which is emanating like gas from a swamp.

Update (10/31): Happy Halloween...

In its 20-page ruling, the appeals court panel acknowledged that the provision "may increase the cost of accessing an abortion provider and decrease the number of physicians available to perform abortions." However, the panel said that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that having "the incidental effect of making it more difficult or more expensive to procure an abortion cannot be enough to invalidate" a law that serves a valid purpose, "one not designed to strike at the right itself."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Harris County's swollen EV turnout

Early voting totals remain at historically high levels.  Whether this portends a wave election will have to wait for election day turnout, as both Kuff and Greg in the comments suggest that it's not liable to be as big as it may seem.  A bit from the end of that post is worth repeating.

Note the huge shift in 2008 to majority early voting, which has continued in the two subsequent elections. You may recall that this shift was perceived at the time to be a portent of things to come, which led to some irrationally exuberant predictions about final turnout. Turnout was up from the previous Presidential election, but not nearly as much as many of us thought it would be. The vast majority of the early voters were the old reliables, and the net effect was that by Election Day itself, we’d run short of people who still needed to vote.

Do I know this for sure? No, of course not. I do expect turnout will be up from 2011, but I don’t believe we’re seeing anything unexpected. One other piece of evidence I have for this belief comes from the analyses that Kyle Johnston does on the early vote rosters. Here’s the 2009 version, and the version from the first five days of 2013 EV. The first thing that stands out to me is that in 2009, 92% of the early vote overall was cast by people who had voted in at least 2 of the last 3 municipal election. For the first five EV days of 2013, it’s 90%. In other words, it’s the old reliables voting. They’re just voting earlier.

... Other useful tidbits from Johnston’s analysis is that so far about 70% of the total Harris County vote has come from City of Houston voters; in 2009, the figure was 72% for all early votes. In other words, non-Houston voting is up a smidge, perhaps thanks to the Astrodome, but not much. The racial breakdown of the vote has some people talking about runoff prospects in the Mayor’s race. I’ll just say that unlike city/county and past voting history, racial data is not directly available but must be derived inferentially. Doesn’t mean it’s inaccurate, just inexact.

As for Johnston, he might be accurate about the rest, but I just can't place any faith in his analysis -- in fact I wouldn't even call it that -- of guessing voters' ethnicity based on name.

Projecting that, and then their voting inclination, is frankly nothing but a SWAG.  Anecdotally there's all kinds of evidence that easily refutes the premise; my brother Neil Aquino is no Latino and city council candidate David Robinson isn't quite African American, for two examples.  My wife is Cuban but nothing about her name gives that away.  But the main problem with his data, as Johnston himself notes, is that redistricting changed ... well, pretty much everything.

Today, as early polls opened on the 12-hour cycle for the final week, we finally began to see the far-flung suburban areas (read: Republican) start to pick up the pace.  I am much more comfortable projecting voting patterns based on geography than anything else.

Voting in this year's municipal election is up, it may be way up, and whether that is behavior modification or something else is a question we'll just have to wait until the end of Election Day to answer.  The real news is that the photo ID requirement has possibly energized early turnout, and for that we may very well have Greg Abbott and the rest of the GOP to thank.

What a kick in the head that will be if it goes against them.

The Frightful Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance has its Halloween costume ready -- can you guess what it is? -- as it bring you this weeks' roundup.

Off the Kuff examines the recent R to D party switches in Bexar County.

Horwitz at Texpatriate discusses the recent shakeups in statewide races.

Two more Democrats announced their intentions to run statewide, for the US Senate and the lieutenant governorship, over the weekend. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has the details.

Eye On Williamson is still blogging at our temporary home. The corporate toll road experiment is not going well in Texas because TxDOT can't pave roads in South Texas, but they can erect signs, do marketing and subsidies, and provide welfare for a corporate toll road: The road to nowhere.

Looking to stay the right course on a new effort after 6 years writing Texas Liberal, Neil at All People Have Value updated his blog throughout the last week. All People Have Value is part of

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme updates one of the TPA's moldy oldies, Tom DeLay, and his latest effort to get to the engine of the Republican crazy train.


And here are some other Texas blog posts of interest.

Mark Bennett offers a "revenge porn" statute that might pass constitutional muster.

Grits for Breakfast asks if police shootings of mentally ill folks are on the rise.

The Makeshift Academic wrapped up a four-part analysis of the progressive nature of Obamacare taxation.

Nonsequiteuse wants to know why encouraging condom usage isn't compatible with the principles of demonstrating courtesy and encouraging responsible behavior.

The TSTA blog criticizes merit pay bonuses for teachers.

Texas Vox regrets a missed opportunity for cleaner air in Texas.

Jessica Luther reminds us that Wendy Davis was far from alone during her filibuster.

And Juanita Jean suggests a campaign slogan for Ted Nugent.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Funnies

Texas Dems pick up two more statewide candidates

At last night's Harris County Democratic fundraiser, the Johnson Rayburn Richards dinner, a young attorney from El Paso introduced herself as the forthcoming Democratic nominee for United States Senate from the Great State.

Her name is Maxey Scherr. You can learn more about her for now at her law firm's website (scroll down) where there's this video.

Scherr was escorted around in part by former US Senate Democratic nominee Barbara Radnofsky at last night's gala. Here's another picture of her with Meyerland Dem president Art Pronin.

Formal announcement and campaign promotion to follow shortly. The Dems will have another woman running at the top of the ticket, as Maria Luisa Alvarado -- the 2006 nominee -- has again thrown her hat into the ring for lieutenant governor.  She defeated two men in the primary that year (Gene Kelly and Ben Grant) but went on to lose to David Dewhurst to the tune of 58-37, with the Libertarian in the race pulling about 4%.

With this slate as it stands, Texas Dems are obviously going to mobilize the female vote, about which much has been written already.  If the turnout in Harris County for the municipal elections is any determinant, then the future looks bright (as high voter turnout is usually to the benefit of the Democrats).

Reaction to these developments from other quarters will be added to this post later.

Update: Here's the Alvarado campaign's press release.  Excerpt:

At Starbucks in Arlington earlier this week, Alvarado encouraged friends to continue collecting petition signatures for her. She stated that she will continue what she began in 2006. “I am determined that every citizen in Texas deserves the same thing – fairness, opportunity, good education, affordable healthcare, jobs that pay a decent wage and offer rewards for excellence. All Texans deserve a level playing field in the political process; to be heard by their elected representatives.”

She also stated that she "has never stopped working to engage the one million additional citizens who currently have not voted." Maria Luisa said: "These are the folks we must have for a Democrat to win a general election. I’m going after those who aren't at Democratic club meetings, who are not listed in the VAN with voting histories. I’m going for those who think their vote doesn't make enough difference for them to show up. I’m saying that every Texan is necessary for us to make our communities better and to improve things for everyone in Texas."

Friday, October 25, 2013

Riding your bike to the revolution

-- Critical Mass, the monthly flashmob on bicycles, is happening again this evening.  If you're not a fan of anarchy in action, then steer your car away from it.  Don't be like Ken Hoffman or even my friend Neil and whine about it.

It's just another component of the disruptor society we live in now.  Adapt.

-- There's some polling out that suggests that politicians are missing the boat on the issue that is at the forefront of Americans' minds...

If only the politicians would listen to the polls. Yes, you read that right. What is happening in Washington symbolizes a dangerous disconnect between the priorities of the voters and those of their elected leaders.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll this week found that 75 percent of all Americans consider the economy to be in “not so good” or “poor” condition. The 2 percent in the poll who pronounce the economy to be in “excellent” shape presumably work on Wall Street.
The voters get it. “I have done a lot of focus groups in the last few years,” says Republican strategist David Winston, who advises the House and Senate GOP leadership. “And there’s one number that people know — and that’s the unemployment rate. And they’re sophisticated about it. They know that the unemployment rate understates things because of people leaving the workforce.”

Every poll tells the same story about what animates voters. A mid-September CBS News/New York Times poll, conducted before the government shutdown, found that 34 percent of Americans call the economy and jobs “the most important problem facing this country today.” In contrast, only 8 percent highlighted health care and a paltry 6 percent singled out the budget deficit and the national debt.

...but apparently not Texans' minds, and certainly not in the minds of Houstonians

Political analysts said economic development is an important policy discussion, but a less useful political one. A recent poll showed 12 percent of voters chose jobs and the economy as the city's most important problem, behind crime, roads and traffic; two years ago, 43 percent chose jobs and the economy.

I would suggest, obviously, that this is because the Houston and Texas economy are booming.  This irony seems to be another part of the Lone Star disconnect previously mentioned.

-- Speaking of revolution...

The British left weekly New Statesman has taken a chance on an up-and-coming rogue editor, but the actor-comedian and newly welcomed progressive-minded firebrand Russell Brand seems so far to be a brilliant and elegant choice.

Tapped to guest-edit the magazine's 'Revolution' issue this week, Brand is making waves both for his feature-length essay on the topic but also with a televised interview that aired Wednesday night on the BBC with veteran Newsnight anchor Jeremy Paxman. In the ten-minute interview, the 38-year-old Brand points at the futility of voting in a corrupt democratic system determined to serve the interests of the ruling class and not only predicts, but guarantees, that the "disenfranchised, disillusioned underclass" created by the current economic and political system—both in the UK and worldwide—will rise up in popular revolution against the failings of the current corporate-controlled paradigm.

Paxman questioned why a comedian such as Brand, especially one who doesn't vote, should be trusted to offer his views on the political system.

"I don't get my authority from this preexisting paradigm which is quite narrow and only serves a few people," Russell responded, himself questioning why voting or not voting in a corrupt lopsided system should provide moral or intellectual authority. "I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity."

In response to Paxman asking if he saw any reason for hope, Brand jumped at the question "Yeah, totally. There's going to be a revolution. It's totally going to happen," he said. "I ain't got a flicker of doubt. This is the end—it's time to wake up."

Russell Brand is my kind of leftist.  However he rejects participating in the political system by not voting -- the premise being that voting lends an air of authenticity to a system too corrupt to change with just votes -- which I do not agree with.

Early voting results locally seem to suggest that a tide may be turning in this regard... yet another contradiction here in Deep-In-The-Hearta.

I think I need to pump up the tires on my bicycle.  You know, just in case.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

EV turnout in Harris County doubles

Here are the totals from Wednesday (October 23). For a listing of all early voting locations countywide and their hours of operation, click here.


So far, 27,628 people have voted in person or by mail. That compares to 11,280 through three days in 2011, 15,192 through three days in 2009, and 8,278 through three days in 2007.

Charles has covered this already, and these are significant increases in early voting numbers for a municipal election.  Both EVIP and mailed ballots are about two times what they were two years ago, and similarly above recent municipal cycles.

For an election season fairly devoid of significant developments (at least for me), this is impressive.  Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart thinks it's due to the extra attention the photo ID requirement received from the media.

"I also believe this campaign to notify people to bring their photo ID to the polls has actually raised the public awareness that there's an election."

That's as good a reason as any.  I cast my ballot Tuesday at one of the city's heaviest boxes, the Fiesta on Kirby, and there was no waitingPundits will try to divine some meaning from this data, but I'm comfortable watching the trend play out a bit more before hazarding a guess.  I will say that it does not look like a red wave election at this early point.

In the meantime, do your civic duty (and make sure you have your ID on you when you do).

Update (10/25): Day 4 totals are highest yet...

The top four early-voting locations have been consistent (though swapping positions) through four days: Metropolitan Multi-Service Center on West Gray (478 in-person voters), followed by Trini Mendenhall Sosa Community Center in the Spring Branch area (325), Bayland Park Community Center in southwest Houston (321), and the Fiesta Mart at Kirby and the South Loop (301).

So far, 34,415 people have voted in person or by mail. That compares to 14,641 through four days in 2011, 18,578 through four days in 2009, and 11,206 through four days in 2007.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

No Joel Burns in the race to replace Wendy Davis

Fort Worth council member Joel Burns said today he won’t try to replace Wendy Davis in the Texas Senate.

“The mere prospect of serving in the Texas Senate is an incredible honor. And I am humbled that so many of you have entertained the prospect with me,” Burns said in a letter to supporters. “But in evaluating what I want to do next, I have come to the realization that I have the job I want — to serve the people of Fort Worth and Council District 9.”

Burns had been considered a top contender to replace Davis on the Democratic ticket. The open seat has already attracted several GOP contenders.

This is unfortunate, because the odds were long enough for Dems to hold the seat with the man who replaced Wendy Davis on Fort Worth city council choosing to follow her again. The Texas Senate's Republicans would hold* be one vote shy of a two-thirds majority in that chamber if they can capture SD-10.

Now Democrats must find a strong candidate or risk losing the seat. The Fort Worth-based district leans Republican.

“Some decisions are being made and we will have a strong candidate in the Senate District 10 race,” said Democratic strategist Matt Angle, who in 2008 helped recruit Davis for the seat.

I'm sure Angle will keep us informed as soon as he fleshes things out.  He's the kingmaker -- and queenmaker -- for the Texas Democratic Party at this point.

*Update: Texpate corrects my math in the comments.

Cornyn Tweets a little bigotry, draws a Latina challenger

Big John does the wrong thing on the wrong day.

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn is defending a social media post about President Obama's health care program that's drawing calls of racism and insensitivity:

"POTUS sez you can get O-care questions answered in 150 different languages - is English one of them?" 

Cornyn's press office defends this post as a legitimate policy question, but two Texas political experts say it is not.

"There are a lot of smart, useful questions that could be asked about the health care program. This is not one of them," said Cal Jillson, an SMU political science professor. "This is snide and demeaning. There's no reason for it."

No policy reason, maybe, but Jillson said there is a political reason.

"He's talking to the tea party,” Jillson said.

Never a good day to Tweet that out, but particularly not a good day to do so on the day you get a primary challenge from a Houston immigration attorney named Linda Vega.

During a Tuesday announcement five months ahead of the March primaries, Vega said she will push for limited government and the fight against excessive government spending.

“Washington, D.C., needs a red-state model on education and economic growth, that of low taxes and pro-business,” she said.

And she said there are "politicians from our own state who feel so entitled to their political position that one week they tell you they are for something, but the following week they are against the same thing they previously supported."

It sounds to me as if she slots in to his left, and not his right.

Her practice is focused on immigration and labor law, according to a biography on her campaign website. Vega is also a founding member of Latinos Ready to Vote, a conservative political advocacy group that promotes voter registration and participation among Latinos.

Vega describes herself as supportive of immigration reform but warns against a system that penalizes businesses.

"In Texas, we believe that the power comes from the individual, from hard work and the private sector," Vega said. "Small businesses are often the first start to the road of prosperity for many immigrants who come here in search of the American dream."

In her announcement, Vega said she admires Gov. Rick Perry. She has also previously lent her support to Attorney General Greg Abbott in his bid for governor, calling his outreach to the Latino community “positive conservatism.”

Frankly she would have made bigger news if she followed Judge Carlo Key's lead.  I'm not sure if Vega alone has what it takes to knock off Senator Box Turtle.  If a right-winger joins the fray then I think he stands a good chance of being pushed into a runoff.

If he ignores Vega, refuses to debate, Tweets out some more racism, then we might have something to talk about while we wait for a Democrat to decide to run.

Update: Big Jolly likes Vega's bid.  I still can't discern if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I do enjoy the way he cracks on "Cardboard" Cornyn.

What the problems really are

Like Greg, I have some election-related things to do that will preclude both the advocacy and the acidity of the blogging here for a few days.  I'll be dumping some links in (because I'll still have time to read), but alas, you'll have to draw your own conclusions.  Mostly.

How Obamacare Will Save The Federal Government $190 Billion

The only presidents who have reduced the debt in the past 68 years all happened to be Democrats, and they worked mostly with Democratic Congresses.  If the Tea Party were really concerned about deficits, they wouldn't be voting for Republicans.

Their complaints aren't actually about debt or deficits, as we all know.  We don't have a spending problem.  America is not going broke.

We're being robbed.

If Corporate Profits Are at an All-Time High, Why Are Corporate Taxes Near a 60-Year Low?

Business profits are escaping U.S. corporate income taxes in three big ways. First, business is literally moving away from the U.S., as multinational companies have expanded abroad. Second, large companies are wise to the tricks they can use to move income through foreign subsidiaries that avoid America's high statutory rate. Third, smaller companies are finding ways to avoid corporate taxes, altogether.

Tied together, right before our eyes, is the concern Americans -- but not Congress -- have about both jobs and deficits.  And if Republicans wanted to cut "entitlements" (sic), then they could make those same corporate buddies give everybody at the bottom a raise.

Half of Fast Food Workers Need Public Aid

Minimum Wage: Lowest in 50 Years

Paying working folks a livable wage helps everyone, but it's been nine years -- and nine Congressional pay raises -- since the minimum wage was last increased.

Thankfully, people are starting to wake up to the fact that the Congress is the problem.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A kinder, gentler bunch of TeaBaggers

And just in time for 2014 (and '16).

Houston’s preeminent tea party group, King Street Patriots, and its spinoff True The Vote, had big plans for last November’s election. After making a splash in the 2010 midterm elections by dispatching teams of suburban poll-watchers into inner-city Houston neighborhoods, they planned to significantly up the ante by organizing one million poll-watchers nationwide.

As former Observer-er Abby Rapoport reported for the American Prospect in October, True The Vote’s actual poll-watcher force would fall far short of that milestone.

They've lost nothing in terms of enthusiasm, however.  Just read this about Ted Cruz's victory lap at KSP HQ last night, and then go look at the pictures.  Make no mistake: Houston and Harris County are once again Ground Zero for the success or failure of their agenda.

“Make no mistake, there was fraud.” That’s how Catherine Engelbrecht, who heads both groups, helped explain what happened at King Street’s post-election recap (back in January).
Conservative groups across the country are soul-searching and charting new courses after this election, and King Street Patriots and True The Vote are no different. As Engelbrecht stressed from the stage (in January), that course runs back through Houston.

“People think, ‘Oh, Texas is a red state.’ Texas is not a red state, Texas is a purple state,” Engelbrecht said. “If you don’t think Harris County can, in the next election cycle, flop all of Texas—they can.”

Yes, across town the liberals were busy balancing things out last night with their own events: Wendy Davis' brain spoke in Meyerland to a hundred, and there was an even larger turnout at the early vote rally hosted by the International Caucus of Mayor Annise Parker's steering committee.  Slightly different demographics at each event, you will note.

Go read the rest of the article excerpted, and don't overlook that this meeting took place a few days after Obama was inaugurated for his second term.  The KSP has been making these plans since the first of the year.

Engelbrecht conceded the plan might sound a little out-there. “You sit back and think, ‘Holy moly, they have lost their minds, talking to prostitutes and drug [dealers],’” she said, but she asked her fellow Patriots to trust her. ”We’re just gonna start helping in the community and it will turn things around.”

To handle this new plan—itself a resuscitation of the group’s dormant “Citizen Patriot Response,” or CPR, program—King Street has tapped another friend of the program, anarchist-turned-tea-partier Brandon Darby. Darby explained his plans to “take a small area of Harris County, probably close by,” and “begin to work with them, and get our communities…involved in their communities.”

You better go read it (again, hopefully). And then read this, about how Texas is busily trying to disenfranchise the most crucial demographic Wendy Davis needs in order to be elected governor.

There are several ways for this voter ID law to royally complicate a woman's ability to cast her ballot. What if she celebrates her wedding in late October or even in the first few days of November? Yes, she could submit an absentee ballot, but who thinks of that in the days leading up to her wedding? And what about women who have a tough work and family schedule? Do those women really have the time to track down original documents? That's before we even talk about the $20 fee, which can feel like a lot of money to someone struggling to pay her bills, or a woman fresh out of school.

We're just going to say it: These additions to voter ID laws in Texas seem to specifically target women, especially young women, busy moms, and those living close to the poverty level. And these are precisely the women who may be voting for changes in Texas that likely run counter to what the men (and it was pretty much all men) who passed this voter ID law—such as supporting Wendy Davis' run for governor. So much for the idea that the support surrounding Davis' marathon filibuster might encourage the Texas legislature to do some soul searching about women's rights.

Ted Cruz, the King Street Patriots, all of the Republicans running for statewide office next year, and the rest of the worst conservatives in the USA are going to keep expanding their reality and vision of Texas... or the rest of us are going to replace it, and them.  The battle is being fought right now, house to house.  The winner is still to be determined.

But if you want an early clue as to how things might go, watch the results of the District A Houston city council race.  Helena Brown's bid for re-election could be a tea leaf with some tiny writing on it.

Update: Claude Bitner in the comment section doesn't think women with different names on their IDs should be a problem, but a Texas district judge found out otherwise today.

It's Our Dometown

The one thing about this season's election I have been able to get enthusiastic about.

If you want to see the advocacy video it's here, and you might be able to pop in on the Dome Mobile, but this five minutes' worth of cornball, history, and Springsteen ripoff is really the best.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bexar Co. Republican judge switches to Democrats

By itself, not much of a thing.  If it is the beginning of a statewide wave...

County Court at Law Judge Carlo Key.

“The Republican brand of pettiness, bigotry and ideological character assassination can no longer be tolerated in Texas,” the release states. “As the smallest minds continue to make the loudest noise in the Republican Party, true leaders will be driven by their principles and values to become Texas Democrats.”

Joe Straus, nominal head of Texas Republicans in the county, isn't concerned and even took a shot at the way Texas elects its judges.  He could be right; he could be wrong.  It all depends on whether this sort of thing becomes a trend.

As previously indicated, either the TXGOP is going to keep creating the world they have in mind for Texas, or the rest of us will introduce them to the real one.

The Weekly EV Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is old enough to remember when everyone who ran for public office did so on a premise of making it work better.  Below, this week's roundup of the best from the Lone Star State's lefty blogs.

The TPA also reminds Texas voters that early voting begins this morning in many places around the state, and don't forget to bring your photo ID.

Off the Kuff assesses the state of Houston's elections going into early voting.

Texpatriate endorses Annise Parker for re-election as mayor of Houston.

Eye On Williamson has a temporary home at this revised link, and responds to a recent TIME article says that Texas may be the future for the US. It will only happen if we let it: Why Texas doesn't have to be our future.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is really ashamed that all Texas Republicans voted to keep our government shutdown and to default on our debts. Don't forget that it was Pete Sessions who sealed this shutdown with a pernicious rule change. Shame indeed.

There's a disconnect between the power and influence of Ted Cruz and the Tea Party in Texas, and in the rest of the country. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs observes that this dichotomy is going to affect everything that happens between now and this time next year, and they'll either create their reality... or suffer the effects of actual reality.

Neil at All People Have Value moves forward with his blog and website. All People Have Value is part of

Libby Shaw over at TexasKaos finds it helpful to think of Ted Cruz and his Tea Party allies as part of a John Belushi-like approach to politics. Check out: Ted Cruz and his Texas Tea Party Animal House Shutdown.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Grits for Breakfast eulogizes Ruby Cole Session, whose son Timothy Cole died in a Texas prison after his wrongful rape conviction before he was posthumously pardoned.

AzulTX points out that undocumented immigrants make significant contributions to the US economy.

Socratic Gadfly records that Greg Abbott sued Obama, went home, and lost 2 out of 3.

Prairie Weather notes that for some, Ted Cruz --  like alcohol and drugs -- can be addictive.

BlueDaze has some recent photos from the Eagle Ford Shale.

Greg Wythe takes a deeper look at the use of text messages in local campaigns.

Egberto Willies has the sneak preview of Move to Amend's new mini-doc, "Legalize Democracy".

The Texas Green Report endorses Proposition 6, the water infrastructure fund amendment.

Offcite shows what truly open streets would look like.

Progress Texas urges a vote against Pasadena's regressive city council redistricting scheme.

jobsanger has some truth from a Republican.

Finally, all of us at the TPA wish Karl-Thomas Musselman the very best in his future endeavors as he concludes his tenure with the Burnt Orange Report after ten productive and excellent years.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Lone Star Disconnect

First, Jim Forsyth of Reuters.

"After two months in Washington, it's great to be back in America," Cruz joked in speaking to a crowd of about 750 people in a packed downtown San Antonio hotel ballroom.

Cruz was greeted with an eight-minute standing ovation in an appearance organized by the Texas Federation of Republican Women. People in attendance, many of them wearing red to show their support for keeping Texas a conservative-leaning state, lined up to greet him.

Taking notice of the dichotomy locally are Stewart Powell and Rachel Jackson at the Chronic.

The 26 Republican members of Texas' House and Senate delegation on Capitol Hill expect to face no political price for uniformly voting against the hard-won congressional compromise that temporarily ended the stalemate without changing Obamacare.

Cruz, in particular, doesn't seem to care about the national criticism.

"Given the choice between being reviled in Washington, D.C., and appreciated in Texas -- or reviled in Texas and appreciated in Washington -- I would take the former 100 out of 100 times," Cruz said on Friday.

More from Patty Hart.

"Elected officials and candidates don't gravitate to individuals who hurt them politically," said (Republican political bullshit artist Matt) Mackowiak. "If they are all gravitating toward Cruz, it's in their political interest to do so."

If you can't get over the firewall to read the rest, just be grateful.  Back to the first Chronicle article for a little more.

"There is just a different political culture here," says James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas. "There is a strain of independent self-reliance and self-identity that political leaders can draw upon."

Polls show far more Texans believe Texas is heading in the right direction than most Americans believe the nation is on the right track. Such differing political outlooks show no sign of easing.
"The Texas Republican delegation is united in our determination to cut federal spending and stop the rapid expansion of our national debt," says Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston. "The rest of the country has a lot to learn from Texas."

We're going to find out over the course of the next two months (the 2014 filing period) if the Democrats will pick up this gauntlet.  Here's what's not helping: the fellow who ran against Culbertson in 2008 -- and has come the closest to unseating him over the past twelve years -- is sounding out a capitulation strategy.

What do y'all Dems think about voting in the Republican primary so we can get some moderate R's in there and replace some of these crazy Tea party nuts?

I've excoriated Michael Skelly so many times for running to the right in his bid that even I'm tired of being reminded of it.  Thankfully there are some commenting on his Facebook wall who are calling him on the carpet for his Stockholm Syndrome. But this is another demonstration of the defeatism zeitgeist of Texas politics among those who call themselves "moderate".

It's also evident in the polling that reveals that Americans are finally ready for a third political party... but sadly, they think it needs to lie somewhere between the Democrats and the Republicans.

Fail.  That's not how revolutions organically occur; just look at the TeaPees.  But back to Texas being like a whole other (far too conservative) country.

There's a few things that are capable of reversing this generational trend, and Battleground Texas is working on the most important one.  Having a candidate willing to stand up and fight in the face of long odds comes in a close second.  A few subroutines, a little good luck, and some mistakes by the opposition figure into the algorithm.

But the best thing Democrats can do for themselves is smash this loser's mentality.  It's going to have to happen among the electorate first, bubble up to the leaders and potential candidates, and then show up in the polling data well before the media notices and reports on it.

Otherwise they'll just write pathetic horseshit like this, and then follow that up with this.

A political party in the minority everywhere else in the United States outside the South and a few mountain states, ignorant of reality, science, and facts, and oblivious to its own internal destruction is ripe for the plucking.  It says more about the party that keeps losing to them if they can't capitalize on these fundamental weaknesses.

Because if they can't break through -- and soon -- Texas is going to take down the nation with it.

Sunday Cruzin' Funnies

Saturday, October 19, 2013


-- After ten years at Burnt Orange Report, Karl-Thomas Musselman moves on to whatever's next.  Godspeed to a great blogger and even better progressive.

-- Eye on Williamson has suffered some server issues in recent weeks and has temporarily relocated to here.  Here's their latest, contradicting TIME's recent article: Why Texas doesn't have to be our future.

-- Rest in peace, Bum Phillips.  As some of you know, I grew up in the Golden Triangle, attended Lamar, and my dad worked in the same old Magnolia/Mobil/ExxonMobil refinery in Beaumont that Bum did (so did I, for one summer).  Bum's legacy in the southeastern-most corner of Texas is even bigger there than it is here in Houston.  And it is inextricably linked with the Astrodome's.

Twice Phillips’ Oilers battled the Pittsburgh Steelers for a berth in the Super Bowl, and both times they came up short. After each loss, they were welcomed home by more than 40,000 cheering fans at the Astrodome, inspiring one of the most famous quotations in the history of Texas sports.

“One year ago we knocked on the door. This year we beat on the door,” Phillips said after the 1980 title-game loss. “Next year we’re gonna kick the sumbitch in.”


Of the first of the two mammoth Dome pep rallies, Phillips said, “Don’t forget all those people standing along the road when we were driving in. There must have been a hundred thousand of them out there. And we’d lost the damned game. I’ll take that memory to my grave.”

Have I mentioned that I am voting to save the Astrodome?

-- Speaking of voting, here's a good site, compliments of ProgressTexas, that will help you make sure you have everything squared away in order to cast your ballot, beginning Monday morning at a location near you.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sam Houston for Texas Attorney General

Matt Angle telegraphed it last week, and the Texas Democrat who earned the most votes statewide in 2008 confirmed it yesterday.  Careful parsing by the folks at First Reading reveals the distinction in the assertion.

This is very artfully done. When I first read this I assumed it meant that Houston ran ahead of President Obama in Texas. In fact, he did get a slightly higher percentage of the vote - 45.88 percent to 43.68 for Obama. But his vote total - 3,525,141, lagged ever-so-slightly behind Obama's 3,528,633. But Angle's statement is perfectly accurate because Houston did win more votes than any other "Texas Democratic candidate," because neither Barack Obama nor Joe Biden is a Texan.

Houston is light years ahead of the three stooges in the GOP primary scrambling to replace Wheelchair Coathanger Ken.  This blog has already pulled the curtain away from Barry Smitherman many times, and yesterday Dan "Curly" Branch stepped up to make his case.

State Rep. Dan Branch announced Thursday his proposal to create a Voter Fraud Task Force if elected as Attorney General.

“I have a clear plan to attack voter fraud in Texas,” Branch, R-Dallas, said in a press release.
Branch said the task force would:
  •  ”closely monitor the activities of groups that would seek to subvert ballot integrity
  •  appoint a Special Counsel devoted to exposing and prosecuting any instance of voter fraud, and
  •  aggressively defend the landmark Texas voter ID law from the Obama Administration’s spurious attempt to invalidate it.”

Well, he has been getting out-kooked, after all.  At least Don Quixote could find a windmill to tilt.

It's now Ken Paxton's turn to do or say something ridiculously ignorant.  We shouldn't have to wait very long.

A pre-EV perspective

-- Charles delivers a good one here. Well worth reading (even with the perpetual underlying premise that more money means 'best chance of getting elected').  Thank goodness he and Texas Leftist and Texpatriate have worked this beat, because I haven't had the heart.  I'll add some predictions, though...

-- Mayor Parker wins without a runoff.  As best as I can tell, Ben Hall has already folded his tent.

-- I'll go out on a limb and say that city controller Ron Green loses a squeaker to the Republican, Bill Frazer.

-- Michael Kubosh and one of either Rogene Calvert or Jenifer Rene Pool in the runoff for AL3.  I can't seem to find many incumbents to vote for in city council races, except for my district representative, Larry Green.  I know I won't be voting for Stephen Costello or C.O. Bradford or Jack Christie.  That much is certainUpdate: Of course I am voting for James Horwitz.

-- I am voting for the Dome.

And I expect it to pass.

This is still the most lackluster election cycle in memory.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The last word on the shutdown

What the shutdown cost:

“The bottom line is the government shutdown has hurt the U.S. economy,” Standard & Poor’s said in a statement. “In September, we expected 3 percent annualized growth in the fourth quarter because we thought politicians would have learned from 2011 and taken steps to avoid things like a government shutdown and the possibility of a sovereign default. Since our forecast didn’t hold, we now have to lower our fourth-quarter growth estimate to closer to 2 percent.”

Moody’s Analytics reported a similar number Wednesday, saying by the end of the day the shutdown will  cause a $23 billion hit to U.S. GDP or $1.4375 billion per day.

-- $3.1 billion in lost government services. Although furloughed workers will get their back pay,  taxpayers won’t see the products.  (Source: I.H.S.)

--  According to the U.S. Travel Association:  There has been $152 million per day in all spending related to travel lost because of the shutdown. As many as 450,000 American workers supported by travel may be affected.

--  According to the National Park Service: They welcome more than 700,000 people per day usually in October and visitors spend an estimated $32 million per day impact in communities near national parks and contribute $76 million each day to the national economy.  Those revenues were lost.

--  According to Destination D.C., the official tourism corporation of D.C.: There is a 9 percent decrease in hotel occupancy from the last week in September before the shutdown to the first week of October during the shutdown. This year, hotel occupancy was down 74.4 percent for the week Sept. 29 to Oct. 5 compared to the 2012 numbers. (Source: Smith Travel Research, Inc.) In 2012, an estimated $6.2 billion of visitor spending supported more than 75,300 jobs.

What the shutdown's lost revenue could have paid for:

The topline figure may not take many other costs into account, such as loans that didn’t go out from the Small Business Administration, permits that got held up, and the loss of billions in tax revenue. Plus the government could still get a downgrade on its credit, which could ding business and consumer confidence and bring about more costs.

The shutdown was just the latest budget crisis that has been costly to the economy. A recent report found that the uncertainty created by fights over funding the government and raising the debt ceiling that have cropped up since 2010 has cost the economy nearly a million jobs

Ted Cruz:

"It was an incredible victory." 

Truly epic conservative fail

Your linkage for the above:

"An obvious disaster for the GOP"

"House Republicans are the clear losers"

"Humiliating failure"


"Disaster ... Debacle"

"This party is going nuts"

"Republicans have to understand that we have lost this battle"

"We really did go too far. We screwed up"

"Speaker Pelosi Part 2: Opening Jan. 5, 2015"

More surrender roundup here if you need it, want it, like it, have to have it.  A few more developments from late last night worth mentioning....

Senate Conservatives Fund hits McConnell for getting 'Kentucky Kickback' in Senate deal

Ten Takeaways from the Great GOP Cave-in

Ted Cruz admits budget standoff was all about building fundraising lists

No Texas Republican votes to reopen US government or avoid default 

Then there's the actual satire.

Cruz: "The Dream of keeping poor people from seeing a doctor must never die"

His eyes welling up with tears, Sen. Cruz said, “I embarked on this crusade with a simple goal: to keep affordable health care out of the reach of ordinary, hard-working Americans. And while this battle was lost, that dream—that precious, cherished dream—will live on.”

Reflecting on the government shutdown and near-default that almost touched off a global financial apocalypse, Sen. Cruz said, “We’ll give it another try in a few weeks.”

Sen. Cruz’s closest ally, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) also spoke reverently of the shutdown, calling it “the most expensive Civil War re-enactment in history.”

“Unfortunately, once again, the wrong side won,” he said.

Over in the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) congratulated his colleagues on the deal to resolve the shutdown, telling reporters, “This proves that when we work together, we can come up with a totally unsatisfactory solution to a completely unnecessary crisis.”

With fail this epic, it's hilarious (or maybe just pathetic) to find there are Teabaggers this morning -- sober, I must presume -- who still think they are winners.  And still support the Speaker, even as they voted 'no' in perfect lockstep last night.

I have to say that this madness among conservatives leaves me astounded.  They're already talking about shutting it down again in a few months.

Is it possible that the Democrats could screw up such a gold-plated gift?  I suppose so, but on the morning after this capitulation by the seditionists in the House of Representatives, it certainly smells like their goose is cooked.  Burned to a crisp, even.

I'd rather see them snapped back to reality in a little over year, and not much sooner than that.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

T'was the day before Defaultmas...

...and all through the House,
not a creature was stirring.
Not even a louse.

This is going to be a busy week for the cartoonists, and there are so many good ones already that I need to get a few posted before Sunday.

A new Gallup poll shows 60 percent of Americans think the Democratic and Republican parties have done a poor job of representing the people during the government shutdown.  They think a third major party is needed.

Blog Action Day: Human Rights

Here's what we're doing today.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is where the conversation begins. Here's some history, examples of violations, and some additional dimension and focus.

Among the participating partners of #BlogActionDay, Amnesty International is at the forefront of the consciousness of this topic in the USA and the world. This post on the scourge of human trafficking in Houston is my most recent contribution to the discussion. Also my brother Neil is making a financial contribution to Amnesty Int'l every time the Houston mayoral campaigns of Annise Parker and Ben Hall send out an e-mail attacking one another, a noble if too-active public shaming.

There's lots of places to join the conversation. Feel free to pick one.

#BAD2013 #OCT16 #Humanrights

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Steve Stockman is still a dope

When Kinky announced for ag commissioner and highlighted the ganja as his primo issue, I predicted that there wouldn't be any Republicans who would ask him not to bogart.  (This definition, not that one.)  My mistake: I overlooked former homeless person -- I prefer this term over 'vagrant' -- and once-jailed-on-a-drug-charge-himself Congressman Steve Stockman.

But even when blind hogs occasionally find acorns, they're still blind... and they remain swine.

Texas Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, has recently backed a bill to require federal officials to comply with state marijuana laws, which was introduced in April and has since garnered support from Congressmen on both sides of the aisle.

The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act of 2013, introduced by California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican, would bar federal drug enforcement agents from penalizing any person abiding by the marijuana laws in their own state.

The law “shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws” — that is, people who are in compliance with their state laws regarding possession, manufacture or use of marijuana will not be subjected to federal penalties.

That's the rub here: Texas is the second worst of these United States in which to get busted for pot.

On an annual basis, no state arrests and criminally prosecutes more of its citizens for pot than does Texas. Marijuana arrests comprise over half of all annual arrests in the Lone Star State. It is easy to see why. In 2009, more than 97 percent of all Texas marijuana arrests — over 77,000 people — were for possession only. Those convicted face up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine, even upon a first conviction.

Despite Texas’ dubious distinction as the #1 pot prosecuting state in America, police and lawmakers have little interest in exploring alternatives. In 2007, Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation (HB 2391) into law granting police the option of issuing a summons in lieu of an arrest in minor marijuana possession cases. Yet aside from police in Austin, long considered to be the state’s lone bastion of liberalism, law enforcement have continued to fervently make arrests in even the most trivial of pot cases.

In 2011, Houston Democrat Harold Dutton introduced House Bill 458, which sought to reduce penalties for the adult possession of one ounce or less of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not exceeding $500 and no criminal record. Within weeks, over 2,500 Texans contacted their House members in support of the measure. Nonetheless, House lawmakers refused to even consider bringing the measure to a vote. 

You can guess why, can't you?  One word: it starts with an R and ends with 'douchebags'.

Stockman's signing on to this federal legislation does absolutely nothing to advance the cause of marijuana decriminalization -- not to mention fracturing the prison pipeline -- in Texas.  That's why it's perfect for a duplicitous sack of shit like him to support.

So while it may be perceived in some quarters that grass could be a bipartisan issue, the truth once more is that the only way things like this are ever going to change is if people simply stop voting for Republicans running for statewide office.

And if you're one of those people who likes to get stoned but doesn't like to vote, you might want to be the first on your block to change that habit.

Update: More Grits. And also The Defense Rests.