Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Civil Rights Game

As an Astros hater, I sure picked a good night to go to the ballpark.

“I haven’t heard this place this loud in a long time,” said Robbie Grossman, who had the game-tying hit in the seventh inning, right before Jonathan Villar’s go-ahead double bounced into the home bullpen at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros haven’t had a win streak this long since July 27-Aug. 3, 2010, which shouldn’t come as a shock. Since May 11, they’re tied for the second-most wins across the majors, and their 15 wins this month are their most in May since tallying 17 in 2008.

The Astros didn’t even have a hit off Orioles starter and losing pitcher Miguel Gonzalez until the sixth inning, and nonetheless pulled it out.

And that was just the baseball.

l to r: George Foreman, Berry Gordy, James Brown.

Missing from this year's Beacon honorees was Dr. Maya Angelou, who passed just Wednesday.  She did record a video, shown on the stadium's big board, thanking Major League Baseball for the honor.  Her words ring so clearly in a week when Houston approved a non-discrimination ordinance, and in the 50th anniversary year of the 1964 Civl Rights Act, and the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision desegregating public schools, Brown v. Board of Education.

“There are none so blind as those who will not see. There are people who go through life burdened by ignorance because they refuse to see. When they do not recognize the truth that they belong to their community and their community belongs to them, it is because they refuse to see. When they do not accept their oneness with their fellow man and fellow woman, it is because they refuse to see. When they choose to live sheltered in their own personal universes, oblivious to the plights that face our brothers and sisters and their brothers and sisters, it is because they refuse to see to see what is in front of them.

“We have been through trying times. We have borne witness to many who felt that the establishment of superiority outweighed the need for human compassion, and yet somehow we have persevered. We have stood firm in the face of outrage. We have held tight to our dignity against a sea of strife. We have adhered to our convictions and our beliefs and the equality of all people. And all the truths we hold to be self evident have persevered. And it is to our great joy that we can say we have persevered.

“Our world today is in many ways better than it was 50 years ago and perhaps not as good as it will be 50 years from now. I pray that we will grow. But we must never lose sight of what is truly important. We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. In fact, it might be necessary to encounter the defeats so we can know just who we are."

Truly, to live one's life by those words is the real honor.

There was an awards luncheon, there was a roundtable discussion, there was baseball where the players wore throwback unis from the Negro Leagues.  Hell, even the local TV blackout was lifted (so I hope you watched it if you weren't there, because you know they'll be looking at the ratings).  The only damper on the evening was the rain, which canceled the postgame fireworks show.

If I never go to another game, I can be happy.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Price to change Greg Abbott's mind: $350K

And Republicans say he's a Christian.  A moral man.

In a surprise legal about-face, Attorney General Greg Abbott on Thursday ruled that state prison officials no longer have to tell the public where they obtain drugs used to execute condemned criminals.

Abbott's decision falls in line with other states that have sought to keep secret the source of their lethal drugs, to keep death-penalty opponents from pressuring suppliers to quit selling to execution chambers. His decision reversed three rulings since 2010 that had mandated the information about the suppliers be made public.

Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor in the state that operates the nation's busiest death chamber, said in his five-page decision that he was swayed to allow secrecy by a "threat assessment" from Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, that disclosure of details could endanger suppliers.

In arguing for the secrecy, officials with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which conducts the executions, insisted pharmacies supplying the drug pentobarbital used in executions could be subject to death threats if their identity was known -- an assertion an Associated Press investigation could not validate as true.

How's that old joke go?  "We already know what you are, now we're negotiating the selling price."  So I wonder if $350,000 is the MSRP, or if there's a little wiggle room.

Campaign contributions totaling $350,000 to Attorney General Greg Abbott from the owner of a Conroe compounding pharmacy drew criticism from a government-watchdog group on Friday, at a time when Abbott is involved in two issues with the lightly regulated pharmacies nationally: Tainted drugs and executions.

In a new report, Texans for Public Justice questioned the contributions by J. Richard "Richie" Ray, who heads Richie's Specialty Pharmacy. According to the report, Ray is Abbott's sixth largest campaign donor between January 2013 and January 2014 in his campaign to become Texas' next governor.

"The $350,000 that Ray gave Abbott in the past year catapults him from obscurity into the ranks of this year's Governor's Cup," the report states.

Let's review.

"For 350 large, I'll change my mind.  We ain't gonna tell no more about how we're killin' these killers, 'cause somebody mighta said they would kill us if we did.  'Cause killin' is wrong, but potential threats against us killers is wronger.  I'm pro-life, and don't you fergit it."

Last word to Mother Jones.

Given the massive conflicts between his current job and one of his biggest campaign contributors, Abbott can only hope that defense lawyers manage to drag out the legal battles over lethal injection long enough for him to get elected in November.

That's the perfect summary of the Abbott campaign's election strategy: stall.  Avoid all uncomfortable questions, duck the media, don't debate your opponent.  Stay hidden and out of sight as much as possible.

That's the only way Greg Abbott can get elected governor.  Because if enough people would ever learn the truth about him, he would have never been elected a single time.

Alameel taking someone's bad advice

David Alameel might be rich but he isn't very intelligent.  He got spanked when he asked for his money back from John Cornyn, and he loses the spin game here again.

A nationally known celebrity lawyer for U.S. Senate hopeful David Alameel is threatening to sue the campaign of Texas Republican John Cornyn, alleging that the U.S. Senate's No. 2 GOP lawmaker defamed the Democratic nominee by repeating "specious allegations" made in a decade-old sexual harassment case.

An attorney for Cornyn fired back in a letter this week, accusing Alameel of trying to "intimidate Texans from discussing his fitness for public office."

You're just playing into their hands here, Dr. Alameel.

In a letter demanding a retraction, Los Angeles attorney Martin Singer accused Cornyn's campaign of making "outrageous, false and defamatory" statements about the case, which was brought by four women who said they lost their jobs after complaining about sexual harassment by a supervisor in Alameel's dental clinics.

In a sign that Alameel can mount a well-funded challenge to the heavily favored Republican, the wealthy Dallas dental mogul has employed the high-profile lawyer that the New York Times once called a "guard dog to the stars" -- a reference to clients such as Charlie Sheen, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, as well as Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

I could excerpt more from the other side of the paywall, but it's going to be a long, hot summer and I sadly feel certain that Alameel is going to make even bigger mistakes than this, so I'll hold my fire for now.  Don't want to be an outcast at the TDP convention in a month.  Nobody's going to be inviting Dan McClung to any parties in Dallas, that's for sure.

Given the sensitivities involved, some analysts question why Alameel has chosen to breathe new life into the story by threatening a libel suit, particularly given the high legal threshold public figures must meet to prove slander.

"I can make no sense whatsoever of Alameel's attempt at smearing his opponent for using (court) filed sexual harassment-related information -- whatever their outcome," said veteran Texas Democratic strategist Daniel McClung. "There is not a chance in hell that subject would not be revisited in a U.S. Senate campaign, and using one's own resources to assure it remains in the public eye is not what I would consider a wise political tactic."

The re-airing of the women's 2003 lawsuit also comes at a delicate time for the Texas Democratic Party, which has staked its comeback hopes on mobilizing women and minorities. Alameel will be on the same Democratic ticket in November as gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis, who endorsed him in the primary against Rogers.

Still waiting for a Lone Star Project/Matt Angle e-mail explaining this to me.

Texas Democrats really struck out on their US Senate choices this year.  But don't blame me; I voted for Maxey Scherr.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Some more thoughts on political courage

After my short rant added to the bottom of last evening's post about who has stones on Houston's city council and who doesn't (not surprisingly, the ones that don't are mostly men and mostly white, but the one thing they all have in common is 'conservative'), I thought it valuable to connect that observation with the state of play in Texas five months away from our statewide elections.

Doing the right thing is, as bluntly as it needs to be said, what conservative Republicans just don't understand about governing.  There is no 'my way or the highway' attitude that produces good governance.  From Ted Cruz to Dan Patrick and at every bus stop on their route, Texas stands again at a precipice.   We're conducting the nation's most dangerous political experiment, and it's about to blow up the laboratory.

The real problem, as we know, is that the 95% of Texans who couldn't be bothered to participate in selecting the state's leaders in 2014 are going to suffer the worst effects of the explosion and meltdown.  They don't seem to care though, so why should we?

Because it is critical that someone care, that's why.  If all around you there are men making comfortable livings from carbon extraction who deny the effects of their work on the planet's climate, it takes courage to stand up and say, "we need to stop doing that".  And work toward alternatives.

This is why there remains significant activist opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, even though tar sands oil is already being refined now in Houston and Port Arthur (because the oil was shipped by rail from Alberta to Cushing, and is now flowing through the southern leg of the pipeline to the refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast).  Even though transporting tar sands oil by pipeline is probably safer than shipping it by rail.  The part that the majority of the polled public doesn't understand is that no matter how many jobs KXL creates, it's not worth it.  There are no jobs on a dead planet.

You cannot whine about the federal debt's deleterious effects on the lives of your children and grandchildren and simultaneously deny global warming.  That is moronic.

If the Earth's 'Goldilocks zone' only has a few hundred years left, if we have passed the tipping point for halting the collapse of the Arctic ice shelf and the corresponding rise in sea levels and monster hurricanes and tornados and drought, then the easiest out would be to say, 'it's gonna happen anyway, I'll just pray for God's help and make as much money as I can as we go down the tubes".  There is nothing strong, or bold, or courageous about that option.

It takes actual courage to for someone to sign a petition banning fracking in their community when their neighbors are all cashing out (and moving out).  It takes political fortitude to vote your conscience over your political longevity, and most certainly over your bank account.

As we continue to learn, however, conservatives have mostly squashed their consciences.  "We oppose Medicaid expansion on principle even though millions of people will die because of it."  "Round 'em all up and send 'em back because they're moochers and freeloaders".   (Notice I left out the racist parts.)

This is the opposite of courage, as nearly everybody understands.  In fact it's just garden variety fear and xenophobia, stimulated by ignorance, amplified by its own arrogance.  And as we already know, fear is one of the primary voters of human behavior.

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering, as some wise whatever-he-was once said.  That's where Texas is, and where it digs itself deeper.  Unless some relatively small number of Texans who care enough can find the will and the courage to change it.

The Thomas Piketty affair

If you haven't been following the action -- Thomas Piketty's book Capital in the Twenty-First Century has roiled the country and even the world with its conclusions about wealth and inequality as well as its suggested remedies, the Financial Times has responded calling bullshit, their claims of manipulated economic data have been mostly dismissed -- then Matt Bai's five-minute primer is a great place to catch up.

The Economist also has a decent four-paragraph summary of the book and the responses to it.

Krugman if you want to go longer and deeper.

If I wanted to hold Hillary Clinton to account in 2016 for anything at all, it would be "raise taxes in the first two years of your first term, when you have a Democratic majority".  That assumes we all survive the revolution that breaks out when the Republicans begin impeaching Obama in 2015 after they retake the Senate.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Houston's ERO approved by city council on 11-6 vote

ThinkProgress was first, Tweeting out their story moments after the vote was final.

After many hours of testimony from over 200 speakers, the Houston City Council voted 11-6 to approve the Equal Rights Ordinance, which creates nondiscrimination protections for many classes, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Houston was one of the only large cities in the country that had no municipal nondiscrimination policy.

It was not without exchanged threats of electoral retaliation, ridiculous statements by those in opposition, and many other dramatic and absurd moments.

During the debate, supporters of the bill spoke to alliances across groups, noting how the ordinance would protect following identity classifications: sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, and pregnancy. Opponents argued that the protections would impose on religious beliefs, forcing individuals to violate their own religious beliefs by serving, as an example, a marrying same-sex couple. They also asked that the ordinance be put to a city-wide vote instead of being approved by the Council.

CM Michael Kubosh -- whom I recently praised as a reasonable man -- reverted to social conservative form.  He backtracked on his statement that God had placed him on council to vote against the ordinance, he declared his ignorance on the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity, and generally disgraced himself.  He was one of the six 'no' votes.  The remaining five dissenters were Brenda Stardig, Dave Martin, Oliver Pennington, Jack Christie, and in the day's most shameful profile in cowardice, Dwight Boykins.

I'll add some other reactions in later updates.

Update:  Boykins, the lone Democrat among the noes, used the two-week hiatus to let the African American pastors and their shared constituents scare him away from voting for equality.  By contrast, council members Jerry Davis and Larry Green were steadfast in turning back the forces of hate.  Both men said their re-election bids would be heartily challenged if they voted in favor of the ordinance; Davis quoted Malcolm X, while Green noted there are some things "bigger than myself".

These men get it.  You're elected to public office to serve all of the people, and not just the will of the majority of those who voted for you.  If doing the right thing means you lose the next election, that's how politics works sometimes.

What courage is required to vote 'no' on another person's civil rights?  To vote against a city ordinance that says we won't treat some people as less human than we do others?  When the only semi-rational justification boils down to "I'm afraid I might burn in hell"?

Yesterday at City Hall was nut-cutting time for a few people, and they didn't pass the test.

Update: Hair Balls recorded some of the reactions outside council chambers, which were about as Fellini-esque as it gets.  Not just in Houston, but anywhere in the world.

Democrats gird for November

Texas has seen some pretty big waves in midterm election years, and the results from last night portend a continuation of the historical trend.  But Texas Democrats, no strangers to wilderness wandering over the past twenty years, may yet find a pony at the bottom of the pile.  At least if you can buy in to Ken Herman.

In a surprise, the Democrats did well in Tuesday’s Texas GOP runoffs. And, perhaps even more surprising, the Dems also managed not to screw up their own runoffs.

None of this, of course, means Democrats have much chance of winning much in November, but the runoffs showed that Republicans, swerving even further right (next up: fetal voting rights?) may give Dems a fighting chance in future years.

The Dems scored Repub runoff wins when GOP voters picked a lite guv candidate who some Republicans think may be mentally unstable and an attorney general candidate who recently confessed to breaking the law. And the Dems won their own U.S. Senate runoff by not nominating Kesha Rogers, a LaRouchie (look it up) who wants President Barack Obama impeached. Rogers lost to David Alameel, who’ll face GOP Sen. John Cornyn.

The Dems also did themselves a favor by nominating Jim Hogan, an unknown, for agriculture commissioner over Kinky Friedman, a known who, in a new twist on his tired political act, ran on a legalize-pot platform, perhaps not an issue Dems want lit up this year.

The only real surprise to me was Kinky falling down.  I can't stand the guy myself, but I thought I was in the minority on that.  Turns out I'm not.

There is this urban legend that swirls around Friedman like a cloud of stale cigar smoke: that he expands the electorate, brings conservative voters over with him to vote for other Democrats, and so on and so forth.  In the aftermath of Kinky's loss, John Coby was more than his usual cynical about the entertainer's participation, but when Friedman made a late campaign appearance at a Harris County Dems assembly a couple of weeks ago, he had them eating corn from his hand.  This account from a month ago in the Houston Press explains what he was working -- yes, legitimately campaigning -- to overcome.

(Kinky's campaign manager Cleve) Hattersley ascribes Friedman's poor showing in Harris County in March to a negative phone bank program guided by Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidate Leticia Van De Putte (which we noted in our previous reports).
"We know most of the negative votes in Houston were inspired by the anti-Kinky phone calls," says Hattersley. "So we expect a pretty big turnaround next time simply based on this."

Sorry, no cigar.  Might this be a tipoff to the strength of LVdP's grassroots organizing?  Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The Dems’ big win Tuesday was Houston state Sen. Dan Patrick’s defeat of three-term GOP Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Patrick is perfect for Dems who want to portray Republicans as way right of where many Texans live. He now faces Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio... Dems were helped by GOP efforts to tarnish Patrick, including Dewhurst TV ads. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a loser in the March GOP lite guv primary, pitched in by releasing 1980s medical records detailing Patrick’s mental health issues back then.

So either Van de Putte has the best shot at winning in November, or else it's Heartbreak Hotel again.  (It could be both, of course.)  We get to endure a little more bragging and lot more cockiness from the GOTP for another week, maybe two.

The next good show comes next week when the Texas GOP — fresh from putting the “fun” in “dysfunctional” — makes believe it’s one big, happy family at its state convention. That effort could be challenged by a potentially contentious presidential straw poll pitting Gov. Rick Perry vs. Sen. Ted Cruz, as well as Texas-raised Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Texas-born Jeb Bush. (You never can have too many Texans running for president.)

But before Dems get too good a laugh out of Tuesday’s outcomes, let’s remember this: the screaming Senate gallery mob that shouted down the GOP-controlled Senate’s first attempt to pass an abortion restriction bill in June 2013 helped boost Patrick, who used that night as an example of Dewhurst’s poor leadership.

Now the mobsters must deal with a reality they helped create: They’re going to get a lieutenant governor (Van de Putte) they’ll like a lot more or one (Patrick) they’ll like a lot less.

This is a pretty good view into the backstretch of the statewide political horse race.  Patrick versus Van de Putte is going to start sucking oxygen away from the rest of the field, most notably Davis versus Abbott.  For her part, the senator from Fort Worth has already thrown down the gauntlet in front of her Republican opposition (who will have to ask someone else to pick it up for him).

Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis’ camp wasted no time in trying to turn the nomination of Sen. Dan Patrick for lieutenant governor to her advantage.

Her campaign asked how soon Patrick will campaign with Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, her opponent for governor.

Patrick has often had incendiary rhetoric on immigration, seen as a drawback to  his party’s efforts to attract the growing Hispanic population – particularly since he faces a Latina nominated by the Democrats for lieutenant governor, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte.

Abbott has talked about wanting to reach out to Hispanics and to compete in areas including the Rio Grande Valley.

“When will Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick appear on stage together to highlight their shared values opposing equal pay for women when they do the same work as men, referring to our immigrant communities as the ‘third world’ and defending deep cuts to public schools that led to teacher layoffs and overcrowded classrooms?” Wendy Davis communications director Zac Petkanas asked Tuesday.

There are going to be some interesting storylines going forward even without Kinky and Kesha to kick around any more.  One will be Van de Putte's appeals to the moderates within the TXGOP.

“I know that David Dewhurst has had a tough campaign, but I never doubted his love of this state and his willingness to work across the aisle to put Texas first,” she said. “Dan Patrick, that’s another story. He’s a great entertainer, a great radio personality, but I never know if it’s the ‘theater Dan’ or the ‘real Dan’.”
Van de Putte made the comments at a San Antonio media availability after the Republican runoff was called for Patrick.

“With David Dewhurst and most of our leaders and most of the people who work in the Legislature, they don’t have hidden agendas. They care more about the report cards of our kids, instead of Dan Patrick, who cares more about the report cards that fringe groups give him. Where’s the real Dan? I don’t know. I don’t know who’s going to show up, but I’m going to be ready,” she said.

Beyond praising the now-defeated Dewhurst, Van de Putte’s remarks were tailored, it seemed, to try to appeal to Republicans disaffected by Patrick’s win in other ways, including explicit appeals to the business community, which has long been a bedrock for the GOP.

“Business leaders have told me time and time again that Dan Patrick infects us with a Washington-style politics of ‘my way or the highway,’ and that’s not what Senate does, that’s not what Texas government does, that’s not what our communities do,” she said, later adding: “It’s all about pragmatic governance and problem solving, not Washington-style bickering. You prioritize good public policy over politics.”

See recent statements by Bill Hammond and other pro-business, pro-growth Republicans -- here's one -- for more on this angle.  He is quite obviously no fan of Dan.

In a DKos thread yesterday previewing the Texas primary runoff races, I found several Kossacks proudly declaring their long voting history in the GOP primary.  The best example of battered spouse syndrome among Texas Democrats came from these two comments there.

I voted for Dewhurst. A Larouchie on the general election ballot would suck, but not nearly as much as having Dan Patrick holding the most powerful position in state government. That snake will make Rick Perry seem like a rational statesman.

I will not be be voting for the Dew in November however.

No you sure won't, buddy.  Neither will anybody else, of course.  And everybody in Texas knew that well in advance except for you.

I voted in the R primary too. Because, well, Democrats can't win in Texas. Everything is Gerrymandered to hell and back.

Yes.  Especially in statewide races. *facepalm*

It gets worse: one of the last comments there was someone asking which of Pete Gallego's opponents they should vote for.  With Democrats like these, no one should ever have to wonder again what is wrong with Texas.

Republicans -- like those two I quoted above -- outnumbered Dems 4-1 in voting in the runoff elections across the state.  Battleground Texas' job seemingly got a lot tougher.  Democrats need to find lots of fresh, hopefully enthusiastic voters in order to turn back the coming red tide, but they also need some of their so-called supporters to wise up and stop shooting each other in their respective feet.

I don't even know where to begin to address that problem.

Tea Party roars in Texas

Reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Losing ground elsewhere in the U.S., the tea party emerged from Texas' primary runoffs mightier than ever in the nation's biggest conservative stronghold, sacking Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and ousting a 91-year-old congressman who was seeking one final term.

But Congressman Ralph Hall, the oldest-ever member of the U.S. House, was swept away by the latest wave of Republican insurgency that is now poised to have the muscle in the Legislature to make good on promises to push the state even further to the right on immigration, abortion, gun rights and spending.

The tea party's keystone victory was state Sen. Dan Patrick, a fiery conservative radio talk show host, who denied Dewhurst a fourth term by a 2-to-1 margin and then began his general election candidacy by unabashedly pledging to shove aside outnumbered Democrats come 2015.

"Some Democrats said they want me to be the nominee. Well they got me, and I'm coming," Patrick told supporters at his victory party in Houston.

He added: "Salute the tea party of Texas!"

You get one finger. Oh okay, double rods.

"This election means we're going into November with a very strong ticket with candidates elected by the most conservative voter base in the nation and a team that can articulate the issues the way Texans want them to be," he said. "We're going to sweep the ticket in November. This was a change election. Voters wanted a strong conservative policy in this state, and they've chosen bold conservative leaders to keep Texas moving ahead."

I can't argue with anything he said, except for that 'moving ahead' part at the very end.  That is not the direction Texas will be heading if Patrick's predictions come to pass.  Some of the reporting outside Texas reads as if it is stricken with horror.

Although, as the Dallas Morning News pointed out, Texas is ranked 47th in per capita spending and 48th in taxation compared to every other state, many of the Tea Party candidates ran on the platform that spending was out of control thanks to "establishment" Republicans, and promised substantial cuts to spending. The Morning News summed up the state's Tea Party position as, essentially, "to shut down the border, to stop or even impeach President Barack Obama and to fight for gun owners to be able to carry their weapons openly and anywhere." Patrick, for example, repeatedly referred to undocumented immigration as an "illegal invasion," angering many Latino political leaders in the state. In case you still think the Morning News's description is a bit much, Patrick's first campaign ad tagline was simply, "Secure the border, fight Obama." 

Hey baby, this is Texas.  You'll never top this place for crazy.  Here's a little more shock and awe from Chris Matthews, Wayne Slater, and Robert Costa from yesterday, early evening.

Tuesday's Republican runoffs settled nominations for four major offices and nearly a dozen statehouse seats. In the GOP campaign for attorney general between two state legislators, tea party-backed Ken Paxton beat Dan Branch, who is a member of the House leadership team.

Sid Miller won the nod for agriculture commissioner over his former colleague in the Legislature, Tommy Merritt, whom he accused of being too moderate.

Patrick overcame misrepresentations of the severity of his mental illness.  Paxton survived allegations of corruption and incompetence that made even seasoned political observers gasp.  Sid Miller ... well, Sid Miller thinks abortion should be regulated by the Texas Department of Agriculture.  What else would you have expected from a guy who drags his racehorses behind his pickup truck, and has Ted Nugent as his campaign treasurer?

To be precise, not all of the worst conservatives in the world were winners last night.  T.J. Fabby, running for a north Texas statehouse seat, drew more than his fair share of unfavorable national media attention and lost his runoff.  But he was in the minority.

As the results rolled in and the AP and the TexTrib began calling races -- as early as 7:40 pm for Patrick over Dewhurst, with polls still open in El Paso -- social media began seeing reports of hail falling in the Austin area.

I read no accounts of frogs or locusts.  But snakes?  Yes.  Lots of snakes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Patrick, Paxton, Alameel, and... Hogan

Early returns show those four leading their races by wide margins.

Ryan Sitton is on the way to defeating the only statewide Tea Partier losing tonight, Wayne Christian, in the GOP runoff for the Texas Railroad Commission.

In the days to come, political analysts will try to explain how the Railroad Commission race became the only high profile Republican runoff in which the supposed Tea Party favorite lost. Jim Malewitz at the Texas Tribune notes that Sitton outspent Christian. Sitton appeared to be the favorite of the oil and gas industry. He had numerous personal endorsements from industry leaders and some established Republican figures (although more money and endorsements didn’t seem to help some other candidates the runoffs).

Sitton will now face Democrat Steve Brown and Libertarian Mark Miller in the general election.

"Sonogram" Sid Miller is beating Tommy Merritt for Republican ag commissioner by a 55-45 margin.

In the race to replace Steve Stockman in CD-36, Woodville dentist Brian Babin leads Tea Party-preferred Ben Streusand also by 55-45 (2% of precincts reporting).

Ralph Hall, the nation's oldest and longest-serving Congressman, became the first in the nation to lose his primary.  Like Dewhurst and many others, he got TeaBagged.

The Texas Tribune called the GOP lite gov race for Patrick at 7:40 p.m.  His lead then was more than 100,000 votes, 63-36% and climbing.

With a bit more than 3% of the state's precincts reporting, Jim Hogan -- no campaign, no donations -- is defeating Kinky Friedman to be the Democratic nominee for agriculture commissioner, 56-44.

Despite no advertising efforts, no website and only one campaign trip to meet with reporters in Austin, Hogan,a former dairy farm operator and current insurance agent, received 4,310 more votes than Friedman in March, making him the front-runner in tonight’s Democratic runoff.

Hogan has no campaign manager or staff and has received no campaign contributions.

Emails obtained by The Dallas Morning News in January revealed the Friedman campaign considered offering Hogan a meeting with Willie Nelson to entice him to drop out of the March primary. The offer was never presented to Hogan, and Friedman said both he and Nelson had no knowledge of the plan.

Shortly after 8 pm, the AP called the race for Hogan.

David Alameel is crushing Kesha Rogers, 72-28, for the right to be crushed by John Cornyn in November.

More postings in the morning.

SCOTUS decisions today, with more shortly

Ahead of the early results from the Texas primaries today -- here's another summary in advance of all the action across the state -- the Supreme Court released their judgments in a few cases, with more in the offing.

As the Supreme Court heads towards the stretch run in June, two significant cases about President Barack Obama’s policies remain unsettled.

In all, there are 10 major case decisions yet to be announced, and just five announcement days officially on the Court’s calendar. But in past years, the Court has added extra decision days as needed.

On Tuesday morning, the Court announced four new opinions, but missing from the list were two major ones that will affect the Obama administration.

The Court has already announced decisions this term about prayers at public government meetings, affirmative action programs, and financing federal political campaigns. Among the other big decisions remaining are two that relate to White House policy. Here is a rundown of the major cases...

Detail on the cases involving Obama's recess appointments, the Hobby Lobby 'religious freedom' to deny employees birth control, and others pending can be found at that link.  There were two decisions handed down earlier today; one was about whether states can execute the mentally deficient.

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that states must look beyond an intelligence test score in borderline cases of mental disability to determine whether a death row inmate is eligible to be executed.

The justices said in a 5-4 decision that Florida and a handful of other states cannot rely solely on an IQ score above 70 to bar an inmate from claiming mental disability. Justice Anthony Kennedy said for the court that IQ tests have a margin of error, and those inmates whose scores fall within the margin must be allowed to present other evidence of mental disability.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, swingin' again.

Kennedy said states must give inmates the chance to present evidence of mental disability in borderline cases.

"The states are laboratories for experimentation, but those experiments may not deny the basic dignity the Constitution protects," Kennedy said in an opinion that was joined by the court's four more liberal justices.

You might recall the recent Texas death row inmate whose execution was stayed by the Fifth CCA just a couple of weeks ago for this very reason.  Neither Texas nor the Fifth Circuit is renowned for their compassion in this regard, so it seems the laws prohibiting states from killing the retarded is holding firm.  Local attorney Paul Kennedy's blog actively follows the developments around death penalty cases; among them recently, the Missouri death sentence which was postponed in the wake of the botched Oklahoma state execution.

The other decision announced today was a free speech case.  For that, Socratic Gadfly -- under the header 'SCOTUS further guts the First Amendment' -- and those goddamned "free speech zones" that W used to corral protestors at his re-election convention.

This time, all nine justices were involved, ruling that, in 2004, the Secret Service didn't violate the First Amendment when it moved demonstrators rallying against President George W. Bush further away from him than pro-Bush demonstrators.

Here's the full ruling, which describes exactly why the Secret Service violated the most overlooked part of the First Amendment, the right to assembly:
When the President made a last-minute decision to have dinner at the outdoor patio area of the Jacksonville Inn’s restaurant before resuming the drive to the cottage, the protesters moved to an area in front of the Inn, which placed them within weapons range of the President. The supporters remained in their original location, where a two-story building blocked sight of, and weapons access to, the patio. At the direction of two Secret Service agents responsible for the President’s security, petitioners here (the agents), local police cleared the area where the protesters had gathered, eventually moving them two blocks away to a street beyond weapons reach of the President. The agents did not require the guests already inside the Inn to leave, stay clear of the patio, or go through a security screening.
And, that's the discrimination part. It assumes that nobody in the restaurant would be a protestor. It also assumes that protestors, as a group, would be more likely to be disposed to violence than the general population. And said ideas run throughout the ruling.

Gadfly excoriates the liberal wing of the Court for following along down this slippery slope.

He is correct; the First and the Fourth (protecting against unreasonable searches and seizures -- such as your online activity and what's on your smartphone) and other constitutional civil liberties that were trashed by the Bush administration are now being codified by Bush's Supreme Court appointees.  And Obama's.

That is a revolting development.

I sure hope neither he nor I are on that list that Glenn Greenwald is going to make public soon.  Because if we aren't already, we may get added to it in short order.

Two votes today *oops

*Corrections below reflect the HERO vote is actually Wednesday. -- PD.

The one today at your precinct polling place, and the one to be taken tomorrow by Houston city council on the city's non-discrimination ordinance.

Only about 15 percent of the state’s 13.6 million registered voters cast ballots in the Democratic and Republican primaries in March, and turnout is expected to be even lower on Tuesday. Just over 2 percent of voters in the 15 largest counties were casting ballots in early voting that started last Monday, according to the secretary of state’s office.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Texas remains the reddest of the red.  It could be different -- a whole lot different -- and even Dan Patrick gets it.

Now then, about that HERO.

"This amendment is more than just bathroom crap that has been thrown around by our opponents for the last several weeks. It is about the human rights of all Houstonians, not just for the few," (Monica) Roberts said.

(Mayor Annise) Parker already has enough votes around the council table to pass the ordinance and expects it to go through (today). ...

"It is my life that is being discussed," Parker said. "And while we can say around this council chamber that it applies to the range of protected groups, and it does, and it is right and appropriate that the City of Houston finally acknowledges a local ordinance that respects African-Americans and Hispanics and those of different religions, the debate is about me. The debate is about two gay men at this table. It is very intensely personal."

So there's a little extra civic duty necessary to execute today* and tomorrow, for those who have not already done so.  It's a great weather day in Houston to do it, too, especially if you're a duck.

Update: Someone asked me for predictions, so I will say tonight's victors (it's hard for me to call them 'winners") will be Patrick, Paxton, Sid Miller, David Alameel, and Kinky.  Oh, and Ralph Hall goes down in flames, the only Congressional incumbent in the nation to lose his primary so far, and the Houston NDO passes with the same five dissenting votes as two weeks ago.

The incumbent members of Congress have an 11% approval rating and a 100% renomination record as of this morning.  What's wrong with this picture?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Dan Patrick lied about his mental illness

And those lies are revealed in Big Jolly's post hereUpdate: For the predictable firestorm in the comments section, go read the original.

So much for that withering "Hillary has brain damage" line of attack (Greg).  I mean, she'll just lie about it, the media won't press her on it, and she still gets elected president in 2016.  Pssst: I'm channeling the conservative hive mind here.

And yes, this development is still not bad enough to sway the deep thinkers among Harris County and Lone Star Republican primary voters, many of whom have cast ballots by mail already, and the rest waiting to do so tomorrow in person.  As Morgan Smith at the TexTrib has noted, the most extreme of Texas conservatives on the GOP primary runoff ballot seem to have weathered the storms of controversy surrounding them, and appear poised to claim victory tomorrow evening.

As previously pondered with respect to both Patrick and Greg Abbott, will these right-off-a-cliff moves have any greater effect among the Texas general electorate in November?

Well?  Will they?

Memorial Day Wrangle

Along with the solemn remembrance of our nation's fallen soldiers today, the Texas Progressive Alliance mourns the victims of yet another senseless mass shooting in California.  Today is a good one for quiet contemplation -- perhaps more than usual -- of a country, indeed a planet, that we may be failing to improve for our children and grandchildren.

Here are the blog posts from last week.

Off the Kuff laments the continued dumbing down of the Texas Senate.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos is not the least bit surprised to learn Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Joe Barton and other Texas GOP routinely read statements and recite agendas that are handed to them by Koch Inc.: Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Joe Barton, other GOP Serve as shills for the Koch Brothers.

CoudBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know that Texas Republicans treat seniors like used toilet paper.

Greg Abbott broke lots of bad news about himself last week, but as PDiddie at Brains and Eggs ruefully noted, none of it really seems to matter. The attorney general will just hide from the media for a few days until the dark clouds blow over, while the TXGOP will blame the "librul media".

Horwitz at Texpatriate recaps his experience with the early voting process.

Neil at All People Have Value put in another solid week of quality blogging about a variety of topics both political and otherwise.  All People Have Value is part of


And here's some good reading from other Texas blogs.

jobsanger fears it might be Groundhog Day for Texas Democrats.

Socratic Gadfly warns small Texas towns to be wary of the Texas Public Policy Foundation bearing gifts.

The Inanity of Sanity had a Twitter chat with the Midland woman who paid for the "Abortion Barbie" posters that greeted Wendy Davis in California last week.

Fascist Dyke Motors (formerly Lesbians in My Soup!) has an introductory post about the Sock at the Beginning of the Universe.  In one of the final posts at LiMS, she reminisced about 3400 Montrose.

Egberto Willies added some thoughts to Michael Moore's treatise about the shootings at UC Santa Barbara.

Finally, Houston Matters talks with one of the local pit bull rescue operations about bringing their dogs together with veterans to help them cope with PTSD.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Weekend Funnies

Texas doesn't vote until Tuesday, you see...

And be sure and cast your ballot in Tuesday's primary runoff election... even if it's a vote for 'none of the above'.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Astros suck in more than just the obvious ways

The word is out among MLB players: the Houston Astros blow goats.  It's still more of a whisper campaign, but former Astros and other players are starting to speak up.

The Astros have become one of baseball's most progressive franchises as they try to rebuild and avoid a fourth consecutive 100-loss season.

But general manager Jeff Luhnow's radical approach to on-field changes and business decisions has created at least pockets of internal discontent and a potential reputation problem throughout baseball.

"They are definitely the outcast of major league baseball right now, and it's kind of frustrating for everyone else to have to watch it," said former Astros pitcher Bud Norris, now with the Orioles. "When you talk to agents, when you talk to other players and you talk amongst the league, yeah, there's going to be some opinions about it, and they're not always pretty."

The criticism, through interviews with more than 20 players, coaches, agents and others, comes in two parts:

On the field, the Astros shift their defenders into unusual positions to counteract hitter tendencies more than any other team, including in the minor leagues. They schedule minor league starting pitchers on an altered and fluctuating rotation schedules, what they call a "modified tandem" system, a development strategy unique in baseball.

Off the field, the Astros are said to handle contract negotiations and the timing of player promotions with a dehumanizing, analytics-based approach detected by some across their operation.

The central question is how much criticism should be inherent to their process and how much should signal trouble in a game where word of mouth spreads quickly?

There's a good deal more, but it's behind the Chron's paywall.  Shame, because it's one of the more interesting investigative pieces they have done in awhile.  (That's only meant to be a little harsh, considering they published the "Bulletproof" HPD expose', including the reveal of the Harris County shooting simulation that is meant to influence grand jurors to the POV of cops who murder, and the recent series about NASA, "Adrift", by Eric Berger.  The Chron's doing some good journalism, but they're hiding their lights under a bushel, still hoping people will pay something for it.  Good luck with that; it's a blog topic for another time.)

"If you look at every organization, I think the trend is going toward sheer statistical-driven analysis, and I think that (the Astros) are certainly on the front lines of that," said former Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie, now with the A's. "Baseball is kind of going through this tectonic shift, and there are people out there banging on tables saying, 'This is not the way the game's supposed to be played or evaluated.' But from a business standpoint, I get it.

"It is a purely statistical analysis. I think you can't have that approach and expect to have good personal relations. That seems like a hard balance to strike, when you're judging someone strictly on numbers and nothing else, and I'm not talking about whether it's a good guy or a bad guy. But there are certain intangibles, and the perception is the numbers are trying to drive out (the importance of) those intangibles."

Ohhhh, so it's a numbers game. 

They've been bad at the major league level for long enough -- with 106-, 107- and 111-loss seasons in the last three years -- that even the television show Jeopardy mocked them this winter. They're one of the lowest spending teams in baseball, and their cable network is in bankruptcy.

Luhnow's tenure in St. Louis as vice president for scouting and player development was marked by an approach that often caused a sense of acrimony in an organization pulled between analytics and traditional methods even though many of his draft picks have played essential roles in the Cardinals' current run of success, which includes a World Series title in 2011 and another World Series appearance last year.

Winning begets winning, and the opposite is also true.  Growing up as a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, I figured Jim Crane understood that much.  Obviously that Cardinal connection was a factor in hiring Luhnow.  Fours years in, though, and the trajectory is still steeply down.  Some would say tailspin.  Or maybe freefall.

When players are promoted to the majors, they need not be paid more than the standard minimum salary of $500,000. Once in the majors, a player's service time clock begins, which will eventually determine when he is eligible for salary arbitration (three years, or two-plus in some special cases) and free agency (six years) – both vehicles for bigger paydays.

The Astros have benefited from making contract offers to young players at low rates and holding back players in the minors for service-time reasons.

Last year, Jose Altuve, signed a guaranteed four-year, $12.5 million deal (that the Astros can extend to six years) that made him even more valuable than his statistics alone - players who are not only productive, but inexpensive are the game's most valuable commodity.

Top prospect George Springer, who was promoted to the Astros after the season started, isn't eligible for free agency until he's 30 after the team delayed his move to the majors. The Astros said service time wasn't a factor in a timing that could potentially save them millions.

The Astros saved themselves money. But the question is whether the Astros handle these matters in a way that fosters confidence, and how much they should care about that perception in a business worth half a billion dollars based on a core product of 25 players.

"Players are people, but the Astros view them purely as property that can be evaluated through a computer program or a rigid set of criteria," one player agent said, echoing others. "They plug players into it to see what makes sense from a development or contractual perspective and it does not engender a lot of goodwill in the player or agent community.

"They wield service time like a sword (in contract extension negotiations) and basically tell a player, 'this is what you are worth to us, take it or leave it.'"

The long term adverse consequence is the organization's reputation, a value for which there is no tangible metric.  Many -- I would say most -- players would like to spend their careers with a single team even if that meant they didn't reach for a ring (see Bagwell, Biggio).  But this commoditization of labor means that the talented free agents won't come to play for Houston even if they were offered big bucks, which of course they aren't.  And the future stars the Astros grow on the farm -- Springer, Jon Singleton, etc. -- won't hang around.  And I don't blame them.

Springer had an offer last year the Chronicle was told was worth about $7 million guaranteed with the potential to earn more. The Astros, too, have made third baseman Matt Dominguez an offer worth $14.5 million for five years, plus two options, and outfielder Robbie Grossman received at least one similar offer, $13.5 million for six years plus two options, a person familiar with the offers said.

None of the players accepted. Luhnow has a policy of commenting on contracts only if a deal is finalized.
Astros prospect Jon Singleton is in situation akin to Springer's as he is still in the minors while the big-league team is in need of offense at first base. Singleton's agency declined comment when asked if the Astros slugging first baseman had been offered a contract extension.

What if these players signed deals? Would Grossman still be in the majors? He was demoted just two weeks into the season. Would Springer have been here earlier? No one can prove anything, ultimately, but for a budget-conscious team such as the Astros, the team's critics say yes.

One last word.

If a young Astros player or his agent feels mistreated today or is just turned off by the organization's actions, why would he stick around on a hometown discount in the future, or stick around at all if comparable opportunities exist elsewhere?

Players in every organization rely on relationships formed at all levels of the game to help them. Everybody talks, and no one's a fool.

"Everything is seen," Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said. "There's nothing that's missed. Baseball, any sport, any business, word of mouth is good."

Or bad.

In my humble O, Jim Crane is apparently not quite rich enough to be a baseball owner, or else he's just squeezing all the possible juice out of the lemon he bought.  Keep in mind that he took a couple of runs at ownership before finally getting the 'Stros, and his failures in closing the deal had only a little to do with his sullied reputation as a bigot and a war profiteer, one he has worked overtime to amend.

He was only able to finally purchase a major league baseball team -- on his fourth attempt -- that was gutted in order to reduce its selling price, and discounted further because it was humiliatingly compelled to change leagues for the sake of numerical 'balance'.  This trashed the team's 50-year legacy as a National franchise, insulting the fan base even before the minor leaguers took the major league field for the first time.  Yes, MLB screwed Crane over, but he's made plenty of big mistakes himself: the payroll-expense-slashing, the Uber-like surge pricing for key homestand matchups, the Comcast debacle.

But candidly, these really aren't mistakes.  From a profit standpoint, he's the best in baseball.

Jim Crane is running the Astros as if it were a McDonald's: severely underpay your employees, offer a substandard product, keep cutting costs until they scream.  Even McDonald's is beginning to understand how bad that business model is.

I don't have much sympathy left for the atrocious example of raw greed and brute capitalism that is the Houston Astros, but I'm still going to watch the Civil Rights Game next week in the club section, my second game this year... and probably my last.  Point being, I would be attending 20 or 25 games a season if they weren't so lousy.  Inside and out, through and through.

They have worked very hard to earn my disrespect, and it will take years for them to re-earn my loyalty, if ever.  Frankly they are a disgrace to the city of Houston at this point, and not just major league baseball.

Related: So what happens to the Astros if they lose their fans?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Abbott's bad news week got a little worse

It seems like the GOP was just wringing their hands and clucking their tongues last week about a low blow against Dan Patrick.  Was that just last week?!

I think they got a little upset about it, got more determined that it was going to propel Patrick to victory, too.  Didn't they say that?

A poster depicting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis as “Abortion Barbie” was unveiled in Los Angeles on Thursday in advance of her Hollywood fundraiser and bankrolled by a conservative Midland woman.

Kathryn Stuard told the San Antonio Express-News she donated an undisclosed amount to conservative street artist “Sabo” to create the posters, which portray Davis' face over a semi-naked Barbie doll with an exposed fetus in the womb.

The posters say: “Hollywood welcomes Abortion Barbie Wendy Davis” and have large pair of scissors next to the doll.


Davis is in Hollywood for a fundraiser hosted by celebrities such as director Steven Spielberg in Southern California.

How many votes do they think this tactic switched from Davis to Abbott?  And how many new Republican voters do they think they recruited?

By contrast, how many more Democrats -- in Texas, California, and elsewhere --  are going to write a check to Davis, or make some phone calls, maybe even pitch in on a voter registration drive or a block walk, and then get their sisters and daughters and granddaughters to the poll in November?  When otherwise they might not?

This might be a good thing.  And not for Greg Abbott.  So I kinda hope he ignores the calls to denounce this artist and this supporter and does his usual thing: clam up, hide from the media, wait for the storm to blow over -- like Ted Nugent and Charles Murray and CPRIT and all the rest, in other words.

Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, and don't get too sunburned, singe your fingers on the barbecue grill, or get overheated talking about this development with your neighbors. You know, the ones who don't usually vote.

Update: The World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon also has a few things you can do.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Greg Abbott's Bad News of the Week

He makes headlines twice; this one is for dirty money.

A report released by Texans for Public Justice today revealed that Attorney General Greg Abbott took in $85,000 in campaign cash from two brothers who were convicted this month of massive civil securities fraud.  The Wyly brothers could be on the hook for $550 million for what SEC called "an elaborate sham system."

From the report:

Fruits of this investment fraud appear to have trickled down to Texas politicians. The two Wyly brothers contributed $1,247,543 to state PACs and politicians from 2000 through 2009, money that overwhelmingly benefited the GOP.

Unfortunately—considering Greg Abbott’s own record of corruption and insider dealing—it comes as no surprise that Abbott would count the Wyly brothers among his cronies.

(If you haven't been following the trial of Charles and the late Sam Wyly, then catch up here.  It's just run-of-the-mill Lone Star 1%-er corruption, but every time some of these white collar crooks get busted, more strings get pulled and their politicians fall out.)

And this one is for vote suppression.

As the Waco Tribune reports, 92-year old Ruby Barber has tried, but has so far failed, to obtain one of those so-called “free” photo IDs from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), now that one is required for her to cast her legal vote this year, as she has for decades, until now, without a problem.

Barber’s story is heartbreaking and maddening but, unfortunately, probably not entirely rare. The DOJ estimated, based on the state’s supplied data when the federal agency blocked the law in 2012, “the total number of registered voters [in Texas] who lack a driver’s license or personal identification card issued by DPS could range from 603,892 to 795,955.”

Barber’s driver’s license expired in 2010 and she’s now having difficulty locating “her nearly century-old birth certificate that she’d need to obtain a voter ID under a new state law.” As the New York Daily News reports, the details of Barber’s story and her fight to try and cast her vote are simply absurd.

It's shaping up to be a long hot summer for the man on wheels.  Is it really a surprise that Greg Abbott only wants to debate Wendy Davis twice?  There's no way he could get elected if Texans understood how truly terrible a human being he is.

Even just the small number of Texans who have ID and only an occasional voting habit.  Even the Texans that vote at all -- those who are smart enough to comprehend the depth of Greg Abbott's corruption -- are still enough Texans to keep him out of the governor's office.  Republicans are blind to it, but no one else.  And they're the minority... but only if enough of the casual-political-interest Texans see the light and take hold of the reins.

To be continued, from now until early November.

Update: And it just got worse for him.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Wrong foreign policy scandal opportunity, GOP

Benghazi is not ever going to amount to anything except a molehill on Fox News for Republicans, and even they seem to finally understand this.  And it's not because they are beginning to comprehend the hypocrisy associated with their MIA outrage at the thirteen attacks and over sixty deaths at American embassies on George W. Bush's watch.

The real blunder they have made is that if they had wanted to tar Obama with a actual scandal, they could have gone after this.

Amid a deadly backlash again vaccinations and a resurgence of polio in Pakistan, the White House has promised that the CIA will never again use an immunization campaign as a tool of spycraft.


The Central Intelligence Agency had enlisted a Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, to collect intelligence under the guise of an immunization effort in the city of Abbottabad as part of planning for the high-risk May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound there.

The agency aimed to confirm intelligence that bin Laden was at the compound by comparing DNA obtained from children living there to a sample from the fugitive al-Qaida chief’s late sister, the Guardian newspaper reported in July 2011.

Even before those revelations, the Taliban in Pakistan had already opposed Western-backed vaccination campaigns, claiming that they were secret efforts to sterilize Muslim children. But the CIA’s actions helped fuel an armed backlash against immunization workers, reportedly killing 56 people between December 2012 and May 2014. The victims include not just medical workers but police officers assigned to guard them.
Another result of the CIA’s actions was to lead many Pakistani parents to forgo vaccinations for ailments like polio. The crippling and sometimes fatal illness has no known cure – but there are several safe and effective vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Of the 77 documented new cases of polio worldwide in calendar year 2014, 61 were in Pakistan, mostly from the remote and restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) region, which serves as a Taliban stronghold.

Maybe it's that presidents just aren't interested in reigning in the CIA.  Maybe they simply are unable to, or are fearful of repercussions if they attempt (a la JFK conspiracy theory).  But that's a separate quandary from "how do we make Obama look bad on this".

Irrespective of the glamorous drama of the CIA analyst's life in shows like '24' and 'Homeland', it's not all guns and bombs, as the disclosure of Valerie Wilson Plame's secret agent double life revealed.  Being deployed by State in a foreign country is both boring and exciting at the same time, dangerous and monotonous simultaneously.  It comes with mostly intrinsic rewards in exchange for the elevated risk of being violently killed.  Update (5/22): Please note the distinction I should have more clearly made between a diplomat and a spy.  And an ambassador's risk of violent death varies by nation, with Caroline Kennedy's risk being exponentially less than Christopher Stevens'.

If Republicans had chosen this vaccination scandal instead of Benghazi, then it certainly follows that they would have had to condemn the CIA.  More problematically IMO, they would have been forced to express sympathy for little brown children dying of an easily eradicable disease... because American security interests in Pakistan were more important.

And it's difficult to care about poor children in Pakistan when you don't care about poor children in America, or even in your own state.  At least Republicans are consistent, in other words.  Mean, sorry, and stupid, but consistent.  Oh well, suppressing the vote and sustaining the Obamacare outrage seems to be working for them, so why should they worry too much about 2014?

Dan Patrick's CHL

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who has sought to raise voters’ apprehensions about Sen. Dan Patrick’s past mental health problems, on Monday sought to snare Patrick in a trap. But Patrick, who is leading the race for lieutenant governor, once again eluded Patterson’s grasp.

Patterson, chief author of the state’s 1995 concealed handgun license law, said that when Patrick applied for a conceal-carry license, he had to disclose his two stays in Houston psychiatric hospitals in the 1980s and obtain a doctor’s seal of approval to be carrying a gun.

Patterson called on Patrick to let the Department of Public Safety release his application for a concealed handgun license, so reporters can see if Patrick complied with the law.

Patrick spokesman Allen Blakemore, though, said Patrick is “definitely not” going to ask DPS to do that.

There's much more.

I have nearly no doubt that Patrick is going to prevail in the runoff, and I wonder if the various questions raised about his fitness to hold the state's most important office might be of greater concern to general election voters than they have been to those who vote in Republican primaries.  Most everyone I have talked to (who are not GOP, that is) seems a little conflicted about these developments.  The DMN's Rodger Jones defines the dilemma.

When Patrick’s defenders cried  foul against Patterson, did they really think the information doesn’t belong in the public domain? Because it does, since people want to know who their top elected leaders really are.

The fact that it came from Patterson may help Patrick in the long run. His defenders hope and pray the release backfires on Dewhurst and wins Patrick some sympathy votes if he plays a good enough victim.

And that just might happen. This newspaper had been a Patrick detractor, and now we’ve risen up to join his defenders, in a sense. In a very reluctant sense. Our editorial voice is hollering at Jerry Patterson for doing something that our own news department probably would have done if our newspaper had first crack at the information.

I suppose we'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Weekly Early Voting Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance celebrates the ten-year anniversary of same sex marriages in America -- which, at last report, was still standing -- and reminds you to vote in your political party of choice's primary runoff elections this week, as it bring you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff highlights another report on how commercial property owners get to pay a lot less in property taxes than the rest of us do.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos cringed when she read the New York Times front page story about Texas and its fixation on death: Confronted on Execution, Texas Proudly Says It Kills Efficiently. Considering Texas has turned down federally expanded Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act, Libby discloses the Texas GOP's dance with the Grim Reaper: Rick Perry, Greg Abbott Argue for Killing.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is wondering what the outside audit of ES&S voting machine results in Hidalgo County will show.

Houston's social conservatives shrieked and wailed as city council appeared poised to pass a non-discrimination ordinance, and succeeded in getting it delayed for a week. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs believes that justice delayed is justice denied.

Bay Area Houston is wondering why anyone is surprised about Dan Patrick's mental health issues.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson says the people of Texas want roads and new transportation options, what they don't need is another slogan. No More "Texas Solutions", please.

Horwitz at Texpatriate is concerned over Mayor Julian Castro's nomination to a Cabinet position, worrying it may spell doom for a later run for governor.


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

Socratic Gadfly chronicles another recent failure of newspapers in the digital age: ageism.

Juanita Jean celebrates some local race results.

The Texas Green Report cheers another win by the EPA in court.

Lone Star Ma wished us all a Happy Children's Book Week.

The Lunch Tray is sorry to say she saw the efforts to scale back the hard-won school food gains of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act coming.

The Texican welcomes our robot insect overlords.

Texas Election Law documents another way that voter ID is disenfranchising people.

Transgriot calls out a Houston radio station for spreading misinformation about the non-discrimination ordinance and the transgender community.

Texas Watch wants local authorities to be able to hold polluters accountable.

Grits for Breakfast explores the implications of Rick Perry refusing to comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

Behind Frenemy Lines connects a few dots on Michael Williams, Greg Abbott, and a lavish party thrown by a lobbyist.

Very Very Urban recounts a long list of "new Republicans" and explains why they were all just the same old thing.