Monday, June 30, 2014

#TDP14 wrap-up

Ted at jobsanger did a much better job of covering the just-concluded Texas Democratic Party convention than anybody.  He's promising some more.  Noah's post got eaten by the WordPress dog (sorry about that, dude).  I managed just a couple of posts about the race for chair.  The corporate media had a few accounts of the sparring between Ds and Rs, including the skirmish over the mean names they were calling each other.  Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins made the biggest news.  And Leticia Van de Putte's home video was indeed the highlight of the weekend.

Overall I found the convention to be the fairly stereotypical mashup of pep rally tempered by electoral reality, with a dollop of patron politics and plenty of irony.  If these folks are left-wing, much less a conspiracy of anything except how deep their throats are for the Democratic establishment, then my political dictionary has lost all meaning.  That may demonstrate more hypocrisy on their part than it does irony, but hey, I'm trying to be nice here.

And with the exception of a few Tweets about lip-syncing, Marco Rubio comparisons, fat jokes, and sage-burning, the winners -- those outside the convention floor of the SD caucuses, where Hinojosa backers twisted arms and intimidated their neighbors in order to lower RBVO's vote tally to the most miniscule level possible -- were gracious enough... if still passive-aggressive in their disrespect of the challenger.  Even this from Juanita Jean wasn't as gloatworthy as it might have been.  There's not anything particularly positive in dwelling on that small amount of negativity, though.

We had a couple of great evening meals as we always do, at Deep Sushi in Deep Ellum and at Bob's inside the Omni.  We spent some of Thursday afternoon after we hit town at the Sixth Floor Museum, well worth our time.  And I used three transportation services in Dallas; two cabs -- one Yellow, one blue (Executive), and one Uber X.  Those experiences reinforced the views I already held about the advantages and disadvantages of the competing services, and brightly illustrated the challenges both outfits have, especially in the days to come in H-Town as Council gets ready to hold that vote in one month.

We couldn't get a reservation at a decent hour three weeks in advance at Wolfgang Puck's, and we couldn't squeeze in a visit to W's library.  Alas, maybe next time.

We did Dallas, and Dallas did us, and it makes me more thankful that I live in Houston.

Update: Texpate's piece is up now, and Noah has several takes.  In order but not in total, the Thursday afternoon SDEC meeting (with which I wholeheartedly concur and upon which he elaborates further here), the race for the chair (with which I most certainly do not), and the party's platform plank on immigration and a concurrent opinion of Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia's enforcement of Secure Communities (which I am also in long and complete agreement with).   He's also dead on about David Alameel's and Mike Collier's Saturday convention speeches.

The post-TDP Convention Wrangle

As the warm glow of the Texas Democratic Party convention segues into the hot, hard summer work of turning Texas blue, the Texas Progressive Alliance has some of the best lefty blog posts from Dallas and around the state to help Democrats get motivated to make some of the necessary changes.

Off the Kuff urged everyone to look for inspiration in action, not candidates.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos reminisces about the Wendy Davis' filibuster last summer, and forthcoming change, in The People’s Filibuster, June 25, 2013

WCNews at Eye on Williamson points our that there is more than enough money to pay for what Texas needs. What's lacking is the political will: Surplus of Neglect.

Neil at All People Have Value added a page of clear and concise poems about everyday life to All People Have Value is part of

Texpatriate will not publish a convention recap before the roundup is sent out, because Wordpress has decided to corrupt 2500 words of meticulously researched and compiled Horwitz's opinions. Hopefully, he'll get to it soon. In the meantime, we would like to know which blogging software we can use that is not completely worthless.

The election to chair of the Texas Democratic Party was fairly anticlimactic. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs seemed to be the only blogger covering it (though it was Tweeted to great effect).


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

Socratic Gadfly recapped Greg Abbott's lousy week (and it was last Tuesday when he posted that).

The Texas Election Law Blog presents a long list of online resources for voters.

Todo Texas ponders the short term future of San Antonio as it navigates through some big changes.

Texas Clean Air Matters calls out PUC Chair Donna Nelson for her opposition to federal renewable energy tax credits.

Glasstire alerts us to a series of billboards that will be coming to I-10 that feature quotes from Gertrude Stein, because if there's one thing our highways could use a little more of, it's Gertrude Stein quotes.

The Texas Observer notes that like most bullies, Michael Quinn Sullivan is a lot more talk than action.

Unfair Park assures us that karma does in fact exist.

Beyond Bones does a little CSI: Cretaceous Era to discover who figured out that some dinosaurs had feathers.

Happy Fourth, everyone!

Drinking our own urine

Before I get to some thoughts about the TDP convention just passed, here's a few excerpts -- via BooTrib -- about the dystopic future we can expect here in our beloved Texas.

A long -- but not too long -- piece from Phillip Longman at Washington Monthly explores the myth of Rick Perry's "Texas Miracle".  A few grafs to whet your appetite.

Is Texas our future? The question got kicked around during the last presidential campaign when Texas Governor Rick Perry was briefly riding high. Everywhere Perry went he appealed to Republican primary voters by describing what he called the “Texas Miracle.” As Perry told conservative talk show host Glenn Beck, “Since June 2009, about 48 percent of all the jobs created in America were in Texas. Come add to it.” In his stump speech Perry would click off what he said were the four major reasons his state had come to lead the nation in job creation—without ever forgetting a one of them. They were, he said, low taxes, low regulation, tort reform, and “don’t spend all the money.”


(E)ven though Perry didn’t get to replace Barack Obama in the White House (in 2012), he has continued to boast about his Texas Miracle, including in radio ads that have caused an uproar everywhere they’ve aired across the country. “Building a business is tough, but I hear building a business in California is next to impossible,” Perry intones in one, before pitching California businesses to move to Texas. In another, he announces, “I have a word of advice for employers frustrated by Illinois’s shortsighted approach to business. You need to get out while there is still time. The escape route leads straight to Texas.”

When Perry launched a similar radio campaign attacking New York for excessive regulation and inviting its businesses to “Go Big in Texas,” he inspired the comedian Lewis Black to strike back with a “Don’t F*** with NY” video that aired on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. “You say we got too much regulation,” Black countercharged. “We’ve got Wall Street. They break the law for a living and never get punished.”


The idea that vast numbers of Americans are “voting with their feet” for liberty and prosperity by abandoning blue states and moving to Texas has become conservative gospel.


(R)est assured that Texas boosterism will loom large again in the next presidential election, and not just because Rick Perry is showing clear signs of another run at the White House. Texas has indeed outperformed the nation as a whole in job creation during the Obama years. And it has done so with a state government under the total control of ever-more-conservative Republicans, who now hold up that fact as validation of their whole economic agenda. Progressives, and everyone earnestly interested in improving the nation’s economic performance, need to confront all this Texas bragging and find out what, if anything, it proves.

"C'mon PDiddie, what about that 'drinking our own pee' part?"  You won't be glad you asked, young padawan.

Buddy Treybig, his bull neck burned the color of crawfish, steers his boat up the Lower Colorado, looking out the cabin for signs of life. There are birds on the staves of the dockside shore – herons and plovers and death-glare hawks – but Treybig isn't checking for them. Drum and sport fish promenade these waters, but Treybig isn't here for them, either. He's looking for fauna of the two-legged sort: other fishermen bound for Matagorda Bay, once the crown jewel of Texas estuaries. In the horn-of-plenty days a decade ago, so many vessels dragged its splendid reefs that fights would break out once the men got back to town – the locals trading punches with Vietnamese transplants and sometimes burning boats when things went squirrelly. Now there's no one but him in the channel; Treybig's rivals have either left for Louisiana or chained their fleets to the pier in Matagorda, too broke to buy the gas it takes to fish. "You'll see when we get up in the bay," mutters Treybig. "I'm the only one still dumb enough to do this."


Buddy hooks a left to the Intracoastal Waterway and takes the Mad Island cut to the Matagorda; there, the bay is forked by land, splitting into East and West Bay. Out on West Bay, it's eerily still, the raw morning cowled in February gloom, the prow of the Elaine Marie churning mud. Treybig and his deckhand, Erik Jacobson, lower their nets to the milky bottom to drag for oysters and shrimp.

"Used to be, you could make $100,000 a month [gross] just shrimping, never mind oysters," says Treybig, chomping the tip of a cigarillo into submission. "My hardest decision was going East or West Bay. Now the East Bay's dead and buried, and this one's dying right behind it."

For decades cool, fresh water flowed hundreds of miles south to these bays, released from the Colorado's main storage tanks, lakes Travis and Buchanan, above Austin. Once the river reached here, its fresh water mixed with salt water from the Gulf to create a glorious nursery for fin and shellfish, with just the right saline-and-oxygen mix to spawn endless supplies of hatchlings. En route to the Matagorda, the river watered the soil of south Texas' verdant rice fields, sustaining a $200-million-a-year industry; farm towns like Wharton, El Campo, and Bay City; and a dreamscape marshland for ducks, geese, and egrets – the largest winged migrations in the delta.

Then came the drought. The river's inflows shrank, and lakes Travis and Buchanan bottomed out as if someone had pulled the stopper. Three years ago, when they dipped to below 40 percent full, and rich homeowners saw their lakefronts slip 60 feet down dry cliffs, political heat was trained on the stewards of the river to cut off releases to downstream farmers. The board of directors of the Lower Colorado River Authority, who were empowered by the state to regulate releases, voted to stop flows to most of the growers, and allotted the bare minimum to the bays and estuaries – just enough to keep them alive until the rains returned. Instead, the river shrank, and for three springs running, those rice fields have stood fallow, putting all but a few farmers out of business. Meanwhile, water in the bay has turned brackish and sick, host to great swarms of parasites. Algae bloom in the shallows like stinkweed. Snails bind to oysters and suck the meat right out of them. An organism called dermo kills whatever the snails don't, and there's even a vicious bacteria that can eat the flesh off your arm.

"Don't fall in with an open cut," warns Treybig. "That shit gets on you, might have to chop off the limb."

I suppose I should at least mention the six-legged frogs.

"We've got quite a bunch of six-legged toads," says Phil Cook, a senior water expert who recently retired from Sierra Club Texas. "Bastrop's dirty secret is that it treats water for iron, but not estrogen and other drug compounds. That'd be way too expensive for their small system."

So you'll have to read all of that one, too, to see how it ties together.  The Texas Miracle is awash with rich folks -- corporate titans, bankers, oil and gas men, the lawyers for all of them, and the real estate developers in the cities (the blue cities, mind you) building massive corporate headquarters and apartments and upscale subdivisions as fast as they can -- while rural (red) Texas goes bust.  Here's Linda Curtis of Bastrop, who was instrumental in stopping the Trans-Texas Corridor a few years ago and is now fully engaged in the Water War, nailing 'em dead to rights.

In other states, progressive politicians could be called on to fight such stunts.

But in Texas, there is no opposition party. "Democrats are the same as Republicans here; they're all in bed with developers," says Linda Curtis, who runs the Texas League of Independent Voters, a coalition fighting the Keystone Pipeline and the ravages of sprawl on state resources. She says people like herself and her green-shoots cohort of hydrologists, lawyers, and Sierra Club types are the only ones fighting Perry's growth machine on behalf of small towns.

Through all the pom-pom waving and chanting this past weekend, it was almost hard to remember that yes, like Rachel Barrios-Van Os' bid to become state party chair, this battle feels depressingly quixotic.  Again.

A few more anecdotes from the po' folks in the boondocks.

(The author travels to) Bay City, where Chamber of Commerce executive director Mitch Thames gives me a guided tour of south Texas' post-water future. We drive to see Harley Savage, the 83-year-old foreman of a rice-farming clan that's been here since the 1820s.

"We're five generations, and my grandboys are willing, but this business is done by next year. Been through everything you could think of and came out of it OK, till Austin got so big it took our water."

Returning to Bay City, past shuttered stores that sold equipment and seed to farmers, we pay a call on Joe Crane, who runs a rice-drying plant and has 80 employees he calls family.

"Third year with no water – I've got no choice; we're looking at significant layoffs. Rice farming'll go east, to Mississippi and Tennessee, but we can't move east with it."

We meet Jonathan Fehmel, whose family has been spraying farms in this county since 1948. "We had 20 planes going from dawn to sundown, dusting thousands of acres a day. Now, it's only maybe 1,500 acres that still got water, and we've sold everything but our airstrip. We're trying to lease that, too, if you know someone."

That night, I sit with Treybig over a steak dinner, his mood as bloody as his ribeye.

"I'm up at four in the morning seven days a week, trying to catch enough to keep my oyster plant going, while the governor's out braggin' about the 'Texas Miracle.' We don't need more people, 'less they're bringin' some fuckin' water. What we need's a real miracle: two months of rain."

Well, our good Governor Oops can just send out another prayer request on official state stationery for precipitation.  That should make everything all right.

The good news for Texas Republicans is that even as Rick Perry gets on down the road, Greg Abbott -- always thinking ahead -- already has a deep well drilled at his Austin home to keep his lawn lush.  So, in keeping with a lifelong pattern, he's got his.  And if he can stop you from getting yours, he'll be even happier.

While you and your kids and grandkids drink your own recycled urine.

Some people think this is funny.  I'm not one.  As Booman says...

When Texans are all drinking their own pee, they better figure out how to get that estrogen out of it. Based on their record so far, their most likely solution will be to ban birth control and pray for the best.

Update: State Impact Texas lists five challenges to the looming Texas water crisis that might surprise you.

Related... Boom meets bust in Texas: Atop a sea of oil, poverty digs in

“Texas is not a good place to be poor, and there is little political appetite for change.”

Friday, June 27, 2014

Non-convention related Texas news

The Hispanic Caucus kerfuffle seems to have amounted to much ado about nothing, so before I dash off for an early supper and this evening's plenary, here's some Texas political news headlines and related excerpts.

-- Abbott senior campaign adviser Dave Carney compared Wendy Davis to Satan.  Because an Abbott intern comparing her to Hitler last month just wasn't bad enough.

This ain't the Texas anybody wants to live in, folks.  Maybe that's why Carney lives on his own private island (because he is so neighborly).

-- The very conservative opt-in polling outfit Politix has one going on the Texas governor's race, and at this moment it's Abbott 50, Davis 46, Other 4.  If I had to put down a bet today on the final numbers in November, that would very probably be them.   Feel free to go cast your ballot.

-- Obama has named three Texas federal judges in an apparent bridging of the impasse between he and Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.

If confirmed, U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman of San Antonio, Texarkana lawyer Robert Schroeder III, and Sherman Magistrate Judge Amos Mazzant III will all get lifetime jobs as U.S. district court judges.

Go read about them all, but take particular note of Pittman.

Pitman’s appointment would be “historic,” Tobias added, because he would be the first openly gay federal judge in the state.

Pitman is used to breaking ground. He became Texas’ first openly gay U.S. attorney, and one of the first anywhere. Before his appointment in 2011 as the top federal prosecutor for the Western District of Texas, he served as a magistrate judge.

Pitman, nominated for a seat in San Antonio, earned his law degree from the University of Texas. If confirmed by the Senate, he will take the bench formerly filled by W. Royal Furgeson Jr., dean of the University of North Texas Dallas College of Law that is set to open this fall.

Furgeson, reached Thursday night, called him “an outstanding choice. His career covers a wide range of experience. At every juncture, he has performed brilliantly. He works hard. He is very balanced and has excellent temperament. And he is a very decent, honorable and humble person.”

-- One step forward, one step back.  One of Houston's most virulently bigoted organizations is having a big Sunday church push to get the signatures necessary to place on the November ballot a repeal of Houston's equal rights ordinance.

An email from the far-right Houston Area Pastor Council today calls on pastors “to serve as the turning point in the anti-family tide” by using their churches this Sunday to collect signatures for a referendum overturning the city’s recently passed Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO).


Now the Houston Area Pastor Council, led by one of the city’s most vicious voices of hate, Dave Welch, hopes to repeal the HERO with a public vote. A signature campaign to put San Antonio’s new Nondiscrimination Ordinance up for a public referendum last year failed. The number of required petition signers is lower in Houston, however. Supporters of a November HERO referendum must submit their list of signers to the city by July 3.

I still think this would be a terrific development for Democratic turnout in November.  But remind me again why we aren't taxing churches?

-- Lastly, five things at the Texas Democratic convention that make Republicans crap their pants. Two...

3. Diverse groups of women
Every time a GOP leader mentions women’s issues it should automatically be followed by a foot in mouth emoticon.

4. Young People
It’s called the Grand OLD Party for a reason.

Hispanic Caucus in dispute over TDP chair developments

A few embedded Tweets are telling the tale, unfolding now.

Jonathan Tilove's report on TDP chair race between Hinojosa, Barrios-Van Os

You can read the whole thing, but here's the money shot.

Ronnie Dugger, founding editor of the Texas Observer, has endorsed Barrios-Van Os, as he did last time.

How can it be that the Texas Democratic Party of Sam Houston, Jimmy Allred, Ralph Yarborough, Henry B. Gonzalez, and Barbara Jordan has not won a single statewide office for the past 20 years? That fact and the resulting governing Republicans disgrace our state. I am happy to again endorse Rachel Barrios-Van Os as a candidate for chair of the Texas Democrats because we so gravely need real, serious, and combative democracy in Texas again. She and the incumbent chair should debate face to face on what to do for Texas now. On merely one issue, how can Perry, Abbott, Patrick, and the whole Texas Republican Party indecently and immorally prevent 1,000,000 poorer Texans from receiving life-and-death medical care that's already paid for by Texans' federal taxes, and we keep on letting them get away with it? As Henry B. Gonzalez cried out all one night from the floor of the Texas Senate, who speaks for the people? We need Democratic leaders who will fight for the real people again and I believe Rachel Barrios-Van Os is one of them.

That beats the crap out of Jim Hightower's endorsement of the chairman, for my money.

In an interview last week, she said decided to run again after attending the convention of Tejano Democrats earlier this year and hearing criticism of the state party for not working sufficiently hard to bring them to the table.

When I asked Othon Medina, chair of the Tejano Democrats, about that, he said that he wanted to defer too much comment until after his group caucuses today, but that, "Rachel is not that far off in her comments." But he also said that you'd "have to be blind not to see" that Hinojosa will be re-elected.

Fidel Acevedo, co-chair of the Progressive Hispanic Democrats, who ran for chair two years ago, said he's in Barrios Van-Os' corner for chair, but agreed that the party leadership has the convention pretty locked up.

"We go in there like a bunch of sheep and we come out of there like a bunch of goats," he said.

The Tejano Dems are in caucus as this is posted.

Nothing can stop me now

Live from Dallas

Just barely (alive, that is). Here's the view from my room at the Omni.

Really. And from the Sixth Floor Museum...

They don't want you taking pictures, so this was surreptitious. And Dealey Plaza.

Maybe some descriptions and accounts later; I understand ATT's WiFi is spotty and expensive. Follow the #TDP14 hashtag on Facebook and Twitter for more. Here's the advance from the local CBS affiliate, and here's the convention website with the schedules and speakers and whatnot.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Thank God for Mississippi

Senatah Thad Cochran of Mississipeh defeated his Tea Pahty challengah, Chris McDaniel, only by the grace of the Flying Spaghetti Monster... and black Democrats voting in the GOP primary.

And not only did Cochran survive, but he did so after an explicit and overt campaign to win the support of African American Democrats. You can see some of that work product below the fold, a campaign flyer headlined "The Tea Party intends to prevent blacks from voting on Tuesday." Conservatives flipped their lids, but the nastier their rhetoric, the more determined those black voters apparently became. And in the end, a white southern Republican was able to do what Democrats have such a hard time accomplishing: getting base Democrats to the polls. More seriously: African Americans respond to threats to their voting rights. Attempts to suppress the black vote in 2012 ended up goosing their participation. Cochran was clever to highlight the Tea Party hostility toward non-white voters.

They voted for what they thought was the least worst option.  Instead of strengthening the Democrats' hand with the nomination of the freakishly-extreme-even-for-a-TeaBagger McDaniel (who so far angrily refuses to concede) blacks voted for the lesser of two shitbirds, aka the devil they know.  The truth is that's really their only option.  Although African Americans comprise 37% of the Magnolia State's population  -- the largest of any state in the Union -- whites make up 59%, and over 50% of all Mississipians call themselves conservative.

Oddly, the blackest, poorest and most federally-dependent state in America is also the most conservative state, according to a Gallup poll taken earlier this year. With a 50.5 percent conservative self-identification rate, Mississippi is the first state to surpass the 50 percent barrier in the three years the poll has been in existence. [...]

The reality in Mississippi poses a major obstacle for any Democratic and black candidate running statewide in this reddest of red states. In the 2008 presidential election, John McCain won Mississippi with 56.5 percent of the vote, to Obama’s 42.7 percent.

Ahem.  No wonder it's also the birthplace of the blues.  But Kos, the omniscient Democrat, still thinks Travis Childers (the Democrat in the fall contest for the US Senate) has a chance.

So what now? Clearly, (party) Democrats were hoping for a McDaniels victory to put Mississippi in play this November. Cochran's surprising victory changes that calculus. But this is a reshaped political landscape. Base conservatives are furious with Cochran. He's a traitor to their cause. Sure, Democratic nominee Travis Childers voted for Nancy Pelosi in the House, but Cochran won with the support of black voters. They're livid.

They're already talking of a write-in campaign on behalf of McDaniels. And right now, they're so angry that they'd rather walk across flaming broken glass than pull the lever for Cochran in November. The big question is: will that anger survive all the way through November? Aside from that Pelosi thing, Childers should offer little to scare conservatives. He's all but one of them. And if those black voters who turn out today turn out in November, and the conservative base sits things out, then who knows, we've got a race after all.

Ah, no.  Sorry.  Just no.

But it will be fun reading what Catherine Englebrecht of True the Vote has to say in the coming days.  Her crews were on the Delta scene trying to stop what happened from happening.  Once again, Catherine was looking for voter fraud in all the wrong places.

Update: More on what was learned from Booman.  And more freakout from Limbaugh and Palin and Drudge and Erickson, and many, many more.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

HERO continuing skirmishes could influence 2014 election

Especially if Jared Woodfill & company succeed in getting a resolution on the November ballot.

Time is running short for opponents of Houston’s recently passed equal rights ordinance, which supporters call HERO, to gather signatures on a petition to try to overturn it. Opponents led by longtime – and now former because he was recently ousted – Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill are working to turn in at least 17,000 signatures of Houston residents by next Monday. If they can do that and the signatures are verified, the issue will be on track to cause all kinds of additional heat in Houston with potential statewide implications.

On the surface, this would seem to be a classic liberal versus conservative argument playing out at the local level. But one possible statewide consequence has do with Woodfill’s role in the fight coupled with speculation that he’d like to be the next Republican Party of Texas chairman. Meantime, the placement of what’s been framed as a gay-rights issue on the November ballot could be used by Democrats to push their voters to the polls in the state’s largest city during a non-presidential year.

The conservative Christians want to use it to energize their base turnout, but since Republicans are all running against the evil Obama already, I predict that there's no greater gain to be had for them.  In fact I believe it will boost the fortunes of those who stood and fought for equality. 

Woodfill and others ominously call it a “sexual predator act.” As he and other opponents put it on this website: “It will by government decree open thousands of women’s restrooms, showers and girls locker rooms in the city to biological males! Predators and peepers can use it as cover to violate our women and children!”

Now working alongside Steve Hotze’s Conservative Republicans of Texas, Woodfill told Quorum Report on Monday that his group is confident they’ll have enough signatures in time to meet the deadline. “We can't afford to wait. Lives are at risk," Woodfill said. “It’s about the safety of our wives and daughters and kids.”

Woodfill declined to comment on growing speculation that he may be using the issue to position himself as the “conservative choice” for the next chairman of the Texas Republican Party. He stepped down as Harris County Chairman earlier this month after losing to challenger Paul Simpson. Voters in Houston could be forgiven, though, for not noticing Woodfill is no longer chairman given the amount of email blasts he is still sending out regularly about the ordinance. “This isn’t about anybody’s personality,” Woodfill said. “This is about the issue.”

I just can't see anything that could be better for increasing turnout among liberals and progressives than this.  It would in fact be a godsend.

And wouldn't that just be hilarious.

Another loss in court for Abbott

Judge Dietz will stay on the school finance case.

State District Judge John Dietz will remain the presiding judge in the long-running Texas school finance case after a motion by the attorney general to oust him was rejected on Monday.

State Judge David Peeples of San Antonio dismissed allegations that Dietz engaged in improper communications with attorneys for school districts suing the state. At a hearing on Friday, lawyers for the attorney general’s office said Dietz exchanged multiple e-mails and coached school district attorneys while he was working on his final judgment in the lawsuit.

“The circumstances shown by the evidence do not justify recusal (removal),” Judge Peeples said in his order. He added that the evidence indicated the state had agreed to the “ex parte” communications.

“This court emphatically rejects any suggestion that Judge Dietz intentionally or knowingly engaged in ex parte discussions without thinking that (all) the parties had agreed to allow this,” he said in his nine-page ruling.

It is common practice in civil suits for a judge to receive input from attorneys on the prevailing side in writing a final judgment in the case.

Dietz is now expected to resume work on his estimated 350-page decision on whether the current Texas school finance system is constitutional.

Quorum Report picks up on the mocking tone Judge Peeples used in denying the state of Texas' request.

In his brief opinion sent to lawyers and media alike (late Monday evening), Peeples opined that correspondence indicated the state clearly understood the communication between Dietz and plaintiff attorneys, even if the state didn’t recognize the extent of that communication. The extent Dietz’s procedure might be considered rare, if not possibly unique, but it did not meet the legal threshold for impartiality.

“The State knew that the ISD plaintiffs would be drafting proposed (findings of fact and conclusions of law) and sending them to the court,” Peeples wrote in his opinion released tonight. “Submissions from a prevailing party cannot be expected to be neutral and dispassionate, especially in a case like this one. It seems implicit that this procedure contemplated some feedback in each direction, some back-and-forth discussion. All parties must have understood that there would be some give and take, such as: “Let’s keep A, omit B, and modify C. Why do you suggest D? E seems better, but I am interested in your explanation for preferring D.” Is it the better practice to be explicit when deviating from usual procedures? Absolutely! But, as said above, the inquiry in this recusal proceeding is not best practices but whether a judge’s impartiality can be reasonably questioned.”

Greg Abbott is a shit lawyer, and apparently he hires other shitty lawyers to work in the OAG.  Having to argue a losing case is one thing.  Having an extreme partisan political bias in arguing a losing case is another; being wildly incompetent is something else further.  He's not stupid so much as he is obstinate about thinking he's right when he's so wrong.  (I grant that some people might consider that stupid.)

It just never ceases to amaze me that Abbott can repeatedly demonstrate his lack of understanding about the law, about legal strategy, about essentially everything necessary to conduct oneself as a competent attorney and never be held to account for it.  It's not greatly different from the massive ineptitude demonstrated by other nominees on the Texas Republican ballot, like Glenn Hegar and Sid Miller and so forth.  But it seems as if the mission of Republicans all across the country is to govern in the least effective manner possible... in order to demonstrate how useless government can be.

You know, the joke goes: "Government is broken! Elect me and I'll break it into smaller pieces".

It has a whiff of anarchy about it.

Update: More on Abbott's continuing misfortunes from Socratic Gadfly.  And the fallout from the ruling, via the Austin Chronicle.

It's far from good news for Abbott. The generous interpretation is that, as attorney general, he has been stuck with defending a piece of legislation and a funding situation. Now he is the Republican contender for governor, and so his first act in the mansion could be handing court-mandated instructions to the new legislature to create a new system and properly fund it. He may still appeal Peeple's ruling, and even if Dietz stays on the case, Abbott could also appeal any ruling to the Texas Supreme Court. But this is not necessarily the kind of issue that he wants hanging over his head during an election cycle.

On the other hand, it could well be good news for his opponent, Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. She actually rose to prominence in Democratic circles, not through her 2013 reproductive rights filibuster, but her 2011 fight against the Shapiro-Eissler compromise. She has already called on Abbott to end the state's challenge to the lawsuits. Today she applauded Peeple's ruling, saying that "every day, Abbott is proving he's more interested in working for his political insider friends than protecting Texas public schools, and his request to remove Dietz shows just how far he'll go to protect those interests."

Monday, June 23, 2014

The pre-TDP Convention Wrangle

Today is my mother's 88th birthday, and we celebrated it yesterday with her. Which is why I didn't post that yesterday, four years ago, in a Fort Worth Star-Telegram poll (don't you wish newspapers hadn't given up polling?) Bill White was tied -- that's right; dead even -- with Rick Perry, at 43%, in the 2010 race for Texas governor.

My brother Neil has the link to the FWST (which is dead now) and you can sense the enthusiasm he felt for change in Texas at the time.  It remains to be seen, of course, whether Texans will remain cynical about Wendy Davis' chances -- portending another Red Tea Tide, as happened four years ago -- or whether she can rise against that, and the prevailing historical undercurrents, in just over four months.

The Texas Democratic Party convenes in Dallas beginning Thursday and continuing through Saturday, and I'll provide reports from the scene (as will many others).   Here's the roundup of the best from the Texas Progressive Alliance's blogs from last week.

Off the Kuff sets a standard for success for Democrats in the fall elections.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos is not in the least bit surprised to learn Texas Republican politicians are playing red meat politics with the Texas/Mexico border crisis. The Texas GOP: Now it's IMMIGEDDON.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson on the Texas corporate toll road headed for a state bailout: I Hate To Say I Told You So...But.

Bay Area Houston has a picture of the face of the Texas Tea Party.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has a roundup of news from the Rio Grande "boarder".

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme knows that the Texas Republicans are anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic. And they lie about it.

Neil at All People Have Value speculated about the meaning of a Texas license plate he saw with both the Don't Tread On Me Flag & the word "Glock" on the plate. All People Have Value is part of

It's a scenario that is almost unimaginable as a parent. The joyous day comes when your twin babies are born, and after welcoming them into the world, and caring for the young ones every minute, a court invalidates your biological rights to your precious kids. It may sound like a nightmare scenario, but Texas Leftist has discovered one Fort Worth gay couple that is enduring that pain right now.


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

The Texas Election Law Blog criticizes a state law that allows for elections featuring unopposed candidates to be cancelled.

Offcite declares that now is the time to save the ecosystems ringing Houston.

TransGriot reviews the next steps in the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance fight.

Denise Romano documents the cost of lies about the Affordable Care Act.

Lone Star Q examines a bizarre pro-diversity campaign by the Metroplex Republicans that nobody else seems to know anything about.

Socratic Gadfly reports on the Texas drought and how it's affecting the Brazos river.

The Inanity of Sanity notes the anniversary of Wendy Davis' filibuster for women's reproductive freedom, and TFN Insider has the overview of Fight Back Texas, the site that collected the oral histories of the participants.

State Impact Texas has the news that a federal judge has approved the landmark $3 million judgment against a fracking company, by a family made ill from the process.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The "boarders"

That misspelling by too many pathetic conservatives is, sadly, now a haunting description of the current situation in South Texas.  And the proposed responses to the humanitarian crisis are getting more shrill.  Ted Cruz is squealing, Dan Patrick is shrieking... but fortunately for us all, Greg Abbott is still in hiding and Rick Perry is busy cleaning something off his new shoes (no boots for him anymore).

State Sen. Dan Patrick the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, joined some of his conservative colleagues on Tuesday in calling for “immediate action” to address the surge of undocumented immigrants crossing into Texas.

“The Texas Department of Public Safety has indicated that sustained operations along our southern border will require $1.3 million per week," Patrick said in a statement. "I am calling on the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House to immediately allocate $1.3 million a week in emergency spending for the rest of the year for added border security through Texas law enforcement."

That's a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.

There is going to be a horde of armed folks showing up with guns to play soldier. I can't think of a more dangerous situation. The border is a dangerous place to begin with. A surge only makes it worse.

Rick Perry should return to Texas and address this problem. A letter signed by state leaders in support of a surge is not a fix. An armed vigilante force is not a fix. A letter from the tea party is not a fix. I'm not sure that there is a fix, but this plan isn't it. There is no doubt that the situation on the border is serious. It is both a humanitarian and a demographic crisis. But it can't be fixed by politicians playing politics during an election season in an attempt to throw red meat to the base.

Rick Perry won't be fixing it, won't even be trying to.  Neither will Greg Abbott or Dan Patrick, of course.  It is, in fact, something that Barack Obama needs to take action upon.  More than likely, however, it's going to be a problem that Hillary Clinton -- together with Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte -- will have to address when they all are elected.  Hopefully.

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, Patrick’s opponent in the race for lieutenant governor, said that “partisan politics and fear-mongering” would not solve the problem at the border and called on federal lawmakers to turn their attention to what she said is the driving force behind the exodus.

“Washington must tackle the root causes of this crisis: weak governments, entrenched poverty and the growing power of violent criminal actors in Central America,” she said in a statement. “Texans have a long tradition of looking after our neighbors in times of need. These too are children of God. State and federal government should follow suit, and partner with our faith-based organizations, nonprofits, food banks, and health providers to help these children.”

ICE, as we know, is overwhelmed.  They are staying busy shipping migrants to Arizona and flying them back to their home nations, and still they come, fleeing the economic injustices in Central America that have left them sick and starving.  Even burying those who have died in transit has now become an American disgrace.

And, though he earns a share, you cannot blame it all on Obama.

(T)he only way to tackle root causes is for Washington to stop meddling in other countries’ affairs -- political and economic. The influx of kids mostly comes from El Salvador, Honduras, Belize, and Guatemala; all countries whose governments are or have historically been supported by the U.S. because they elected whom the U.S. wanted (or placed in power by coup), as our friends at Latino Rebels remind us. The Central American Free Trade Agreement and meddling in these countries’ elections has certainly taken its toll to the point where cash-rich criminal enterprises easily yield power. And let’s not forget that some of these right-wing governments are quite oppressive, as well, particularly toward the poor. What do you think is the socio-economic status of the kids coming over? So, if these governments are weak, we can definitely point to US Latin American policy as a root cause.

As things stand, there is a crisis and it’s growing. With 90,000 kids expected to come over and be apprehended by the end of 2014, facilities and manpower are already busting at the seams. As we heard recently, the Border Patrol was complaining about doing diaper duty and babysitting. If only the DPS dollars were for humanitarian aid, rather than a weak attempt at border militarization. Because all of this just seems to be another dose of Republican theater -- $40 million worth of bad theater.

Even Bill Clinton -- as far back as 2010, mind you -- has come to the realization that these free trade pacts turned out badly for everybody involved.  And for the record, Hillary needs to quickly get to the same public understanding about her role in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  The children streaming across the Rio Grande have exposed the naked greed and corruption associated with politicians of both parties currying favor with the diversified global conglomerates.

As bad as it is, our free-trade, cheap-foreign-labor Democrats still ain't got nuthin' on Republicans.

The chickens of NAFTA and CAFTA are coming home to roost.  And if we the people don't stop it, the TPP will eventually produce the same economic disparity and dislocation.  It's going to take much more critical thinking to apply some remedies to our hemispheric economy than a police surge at the Texas border can fix.

And let's establish that Republicans just are not capable of that much deep thought.

Update: Rick Perry writes a sternly worded letter.  I seem to recall television commercials from 2002, 2006, and 2010 suggesting Rick Perry was capable of taking more action about immigration than just writing a letter.  Conservatives, you've been played.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Another round of bad news for Republicans

-- Wendy Davis defeats Greg Abbott... again.  She won a lower court decision in her redistricting case, which meant he had to pay her legal fees.  He contested that, and not only lost but got slapped by the federal judge, Rosemary Collyer.  Emphasis mine.

This matter presents a case study in how not to respond to a motion for attorney fees and costs. At issue is whether defendant-intervenors, who prevailed in Voting Rights Act litigation before a three-judge panel, may recoup attorney fees and costs even though the Supreme Court vacated that opinion in light of the Supreme Court’s subsequent decision in a different lawsuit that declared a section of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. A quick search of the Federal Reporter reveals the complexity of this narrow question. Yet, rather than engage the fee applicants, Plaintiff Texas basically ignores the arguments supporting an award of fees and costs. In a three-page filing entitled “Advisory,” Texas trumpets the Supreme Court’s decision, expresses indignation at having to respond at all, and presumes that the motion for attorney fees is so frivolous that Texas need not provide further briefing in opposition unless requested. Such an opposition is insufficient in this jurisdiction. Circuit precedent and the Local Rules of this Court provide that the failure to respond to an opposing party’s arguments results in waiver as to the unaddressed contentions, and the Court finds that Texas’s “Advisory” presents no opposition on the applicable law. Accordingly, the Court will award the requested fees and costs.

What a splendidly crappy lawyer Greg Abbott is.  The whole thing, if you're into that.

-- TXGOP chair Steve Munisteri backs slowly away from the reparative therapy plank in his party's platform.

Munisteri, who won re-election as chairman during the convention in Fort Worth, told Texas Public Radio this week he doesn’t think it’s possible to convert someone from homosexual to heterosexual through therapy.

“And I just make the point for anybody that thinks that may be the possibility: Do they think they can take a straight person to a psychiatrist and turn them gay?” Munisteri said.

Yeah... no.  You broke that shit, you own it. Update: Wonkette.

-- A majority of Americans, between 57% and 67% depending on how the question is asked, support the Obama administration's new EPA guidelines meant to throttle power plant pollution.  A majority of TeaBaggers -- 74% -- do not.  Of course, they are out of step with the country on Common Core, and immigration, and pretty much everything else, so is this really news?

The only reason they think they're the majority is because they're the only ones voting.  Then again... is that their fault?


Reading this is like reliving it.  It's a powerful testament to everyone who pushed back against the radical right last summer.  Here's just a few examples of the ludicrousness and the triumph -- and the defeat -- among the many unforgettable moments.

I was sitting on the fourth floor with a bunch of people around a table and someone tweeted at me, “They took my tampons.” And I was like, “Oh, you’re funny.” So I tweeted to all the people, “Has anyone else experienced this?” I started tweeting trying to crowd source info, walked downstairs and found a DPS guy and asked, “Are you taking tampons?” And he said, “Yes, we are.”

When I said, “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be heard over the male colleagues in the room,” it was out of pure anger and frustration. I raised my hand. I spoke out, and the gallery heard me. The press table heard me. But my mic was purposefully turned off — as I learned later, all the Democrats mics were turned off.

That question encapsulated so much of what I had been feeling — all of my frustration at the system, at Republican lawmakers who were smugly ignoring the stories that Wendy Davis was reading, at lawmakers playing Candy Crush on their smartphones instead of paying attention.

Everyone erupted. We all did that collectively as the people of Texas. We defeated legislation in the most grassroots way you can defeat legislation.

We yelled. It was hours, weeks, years worth of frustration at being told to be quiet, being ignored, being patronized with claims that this bill was for "women's safety" when anyone who's been paying attention knows that the opposite is true--all coming out in one long, cathartic roar of frustration.

We were shouting so loudly by the end of the night that the building shook. I mean, it's a granite building.

I was three stories down under some pretty thick limestone, and you could feel the building move from the sub-basement. It was incredible.

The thing about the filibuster, and the entire performance of the filibuster, is that it wasn’t politics and it wasn’t theater. It was sports. It was an endurance test. It was the best sporting event I’d ever been to, because it was a contest to see who could endure and who could come up with the right play at the right time.

It was more like watching a fixed fight.

And the main players, drawing the battle lines today (and to November).

“We are fighting to keep Austin politicians like Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick from getting between a woman and her doctor by eliminating crucial health services like life-saving cancer screenings and making abortion illegal in the case of rape and incest,” Davis said.

Van de Putte attended her father’s funeral on the day of the filibuster and returned to the Capitol that night.

“June 25, 2013 marks the end of the time that this Legislature can work in a vacuum. The people spoke up. It was the people’s filibuster. And with all my heart, I know they are going to show up at the ballot box in November,” Van de Putte said. 

We all certainly hope so.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Barrios-Van Os vs. Hinojosa

And something about patrón politics.  From the inbox, from the challenger.

I'm fighting for a Texas Democratic Party that is a party of the people, not a party of insider deals and anti-democratic machine politics. We have to be a true party of the people to inspire a majority of Texas voters to cast their votes for our candidates.

One example of what I'm fighting against occurred when Glen Maxey, a full-time paid Party staff member entitled Director of County Affairs, emailed a resolution to county and senate district party leaders before the county and senate district conventions asking the conventions to endorse Gilberto Hinojosa's candidacy for re-election as state party chair. As a full-time party staff member Mr. Maxey should adhere to strict neutrality in internal party elections, but that is not the case under the administration of Chair Hinojosa, who sees nothing wrong with using the party machinery as a personal political machine. When I was growing up in the Southside of San Antonio this is what people called patrón politics, and they didn't like it.

And now Mr. Hinojosa has sent all the convention delegates an email claiming that various senate districts have endorsed him, obviously intending to make the delegates think their votes have already been decided. But you have a free right to cast your delegate vote however you choose. Nobody can instruct any delegate how to vote at the Texas Democratic Party Convention, as Unit Rule voting is strictly forbidden by Texas Democratic Party Rules, Article IV, Section 4.e.: "The use of the unit rule or the practice of instructing delegations shall not be permitted at any level of the convention process."

When Mr. Maxey, on behalf of Mr. Hinojosa, asked senate district and county conventions to pass pre-emptive resolutions endorsing Mr. Hinojosa for re-election, the filing deadline to run for party chair was still in the future and I was still weighing the very serious decision of whether to run. When I saw this crude anti-democratic action coming from the state party leadership I decided I had to take a stand, because I have learned from spending my adult life as a grassroots activist this is the kind of thing that turns people away from politics. The simple fact is that our party itself must be a true model of democracy if we hope to make more people feel welcome in order to broaden our political base of support to win Texas back.

This is a fairly prominent point B-VO is making, in an alleged "Year of the Woman" in Texas politics.  And the most-clicked post in this blog's twelve-year history is about Gilberto Hinojosa.  I'll leave you to your current interpretations of that old news.

Eight years ago, in Fort Worth, Glen Maxey was the outsider running for TDP chair.  After Charlie Urbina-Jones and Kesha Rogers (!!) were eliminated in the first round, Maxey was the last man standing against Boyd Richie.  Richie had assumed the chairmanship ahead of the convention in an SDEC vote when Charles Soechting resigned early.  Maxey fell about 150 votes short in the runoff, with 46.5%.  Even worse, the Progressive Populist Caucus -- at that time one of the largest in the party, now defunct -- endorsed Richie, to the rage of some of us.

I blogged so much about the worthlessness of Richie as chair over the years that I didn't have the stomach to go pull them all out of the archives... but did get this one anyway, just for you.  When Richie resigned early a couple of years ago, the SDEC picked Hinojosa to be the chairman-in-waiting.  And Maxey is now the insider, trying to rig the game for the establishment incumbent.

See how this goes?  Patrón politics.

Party chair elections usually are not much more than a tempest in a teapot, and Barrios-Van Os lost to Hinojosa once already, two years ago.  So she has a long and tough row to hoe, even laying aside his multiple endorsements and inexorable incumbency.

The thing you really need to understand is that if the Texas Democratic Party were like the Republican Party of Texas, RBVO would have been elected two years ago in a landslide.  She's the base of the party, not the establishment.  She's from the Democratic wing, not the other corporate, conservative one.  So Texas Democrats are just the opposite of Texas Republicans in more ways than the obvious ones.

Whereas the base of the RPT -- the Tea Party -- exercises its clout over things like the platform, scares the nominees of the party into toeing their lines on immigration and the like... the base of the TDP is marginalized and dismissed.  The TeaBaggers may be insane, but they're still calling the shots, and the so-called sane Republicans cannot slow them down.  It's a testament to the power of voting: it doesn't matter how nuts you are, if you outyell and outwork everybody else, you can win.

If you really want to understand why we can't have nice things in Texas... this is it.  This.

This sort of bullshit is why progress always makes Texas its very last stop.  If you can't have liberal Democrats in the Texas Democratic Party, you can't have an effective Democratic Party in Texas.  The results speak for themselves.  Texas Democrats have spent decades trying to be Republican Lite, with nothing to show for it.  Harry Truman said it best.

A revision on the definition of insanity, courtesy Dr. Wayne Dyer, is that if you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten.  Texas Democrats, I'm looking at you.

More Bad News for Republicans

It's not just Greg Abbott's unfortunate developments today, though he does bat leadoff.

In May 2009, a former assistant attorney general in Greg Abbott’s office sued the Office of the Attorney General in Dallas County court, claiming she’d been fired for refusing to lie under oath about a Dallas County judge. Five years later, the Dallas-based Fifth Court of Appeals has ruled that Ginger Weatherspoon can go forward with her lawsuit.

The AG’s office has spent years trying to get the suit tossed, claiming, among other things, that Weatherspoon didn’t make a “good faith” effort to blow the whistle to the right links in the chain of command. A three-justice panel disagreed, and issued an opinion Monday written by Justice David Evans that said Dallas County Judge Martin Hoffman did the right thing last year when he refused to grant the AG’s office its request for summary judgment.

Weatherspoon’s initial filing in 2009 garnered media attention because of its explosive content: She claimed she refused to sign a “false affidavit” filled with “a number of misrepresentations and mischaracterizations” about David Hanschen, who, at the time, was a Dallas County family court judge involved in a pretty nasty tussle with the Abbott’s office over child support.

If Texas were any other state, if this much relentless corrupt behavior was coming to light about anybody else other than Abbott... that candidate would be electoral toast.

-- Rick Perry, on his way out the door to California in retirement, is doing his best to see that Lone Star Democrats have a fighting chance in November.  The headline: "Why Rick Perry's remarks on gays could sour Texas on Tesla"...

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has made a career out of visiting, recruiting, and relocating businesses from California to Texas. But as the state’s GOP continues to push further and further to the right of the political spectrum, could the state’s ultra-conservative stance hurt recruitment from a progressive state?

First came the Texas Republican Party platform that said homosexuality is a choice and endorsed therapy aimed at “curing” people of being gay – a therapy banned in California.

Then, while on a company recruitment trip – one specifically aimed at enticing California based car maker Tesla to build a factory in Texas – Gov. Perry told a group of businesspeople that homosexuality was like alcoholism: whether or not you feel compelled to do something, you have the ability not to act on your urges.

“I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic. But I have the desire not to do that. And I look at homosexual issue as the same way,” Perry said. (Watch a video of Perry’s response.)

Reporters in the room for the event say people in the crowd gasped after hearing Perry’s statement. The governor took plenty of criticism over the weekend for his comparison, leading up to a testy exchange with CNBC “Squawk Box” co-anchor Joe Kernen Monday morning.

Republicans really don't get how backward and ignorant this sort of thing looks to people elsewhere.  The rest of the article "devil-advocates' that it's not so bad, but that isn't at all the case.  People outside of Texas who aren't conservative -- that is to say, the vast majority of Americans -- are completely appalled at these social developments.  And that's before the topic changes to guns, or women's reproductive rights.

The Texas economy will bust again as soon as oil does.  Don't think it won't.  And the extended opportunities to diversify it will have been squandered by two decades of religious conservative dominance.  Casino gambling, marijuana decriminalization and then legalization... all blocked by the fundies.  Texas has managed alternate energy diversification to the extent that even the oil barons are making a play, which is how you can tell that Big Oil doesn't rule here like you think.

It's Big God that's the problem.  And that's exclusively a Republican problem (that they in turn make a problem for all of the rest of Texas).

-- Another right-wing talking point explodes in their faces: it was, in fact, a YouTube that prompted the Benghazi attack.

-- Last, our local conservo-blogmeister Big Jolly seems distressed about the seeming inevitability (I warned you about that) of GOP electoral shoe-ins while he advocates a vote for Leticia Van de Putte in this post.

Folks, get ready for Lt. Gov. Patrick. This is how he operates, throwing money and government at the “crisis” of the day. No long term planning because he has no core belief in small government conservatism. No collaboration with the Feds to find out what they are doing. Just Dan being Dan. Of course, he does have an opponent in November.

I suppose he's going to have to spend a lot of time denying that's what he meant.

I'm willing to keep this "Bad News Pachyderms" series going as long as they do.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Why we need to wring the money out of our politics

Digby, at Salon.

...Whenever a powerful member of the party leadership retires or goes down to defeat, the rest of the members lose a very important resource: money. And lots of it.  The way these people ascend in partisan politics isn’t through their “beliefs” or any kind of ideological purity, it’s through their ability to raise money from big donors and industry and their strategic sense of how best to spread it around. (Eric) Cantor may have been a jerk — everyone says so.  But he was the majority leader because he had bought partisan loyalty over the years from being in bed with big money and judiciously spreading it around.

Heavy sigh.

But it isn’t just money. It’s also organization. As Robert Costa reported last Friday, McCarthy had it in spades. Not that he built it himself, mind you. He inherited the chief of staff of the most ruthlessly effective House majority leader in GOP history:

McCarthy’s office — led by chief of staff Tim Berry, who served in the same role for former House majority leader Tom Delay (R-Tex.) — methodically built their count with a numerical ranking system that DeLay had mastered. That gave McCarthy critical intelligence on who might need extra attention. And McCarthy’s top deputy whips weren’t his closest friends, but rather committee chairmen, a sign he understood how best to reach members — through their bosses.

Tom and his minions learned something from trying to kill cockroaches, obviously.  It's also now clear that we will never completely extinguish the children of The Hammer.  But back to the new-boss-same-as-the-old-boss.

Kevin McCarthy has been planning this ascension since the beginning of his political career. He’s an establishment man all the way, and in the establishment, money talks. (In fact, money’s “speech” has even got constitutional protection.) It’s how power is built and it’s not exclusive to the Republicans. Democrats do it exactly the same way.

I'd like to say 'duh' but there are still too many voters who don't understand this.  And when I say voters, I mean Democratic ones.  You know... the people who have nominated Jim Hogan this year, and in years past, Grady Yarbrough and Gene Kelly and the like.  Voting in midterm elections, especially in Texas, is a minority report, so you have to imagine that the majority -- non-voters -- just doesn't think enough about this sort of thing to care.

Weekend after next, Texas Democrats meet in plenary session in Big D to caucus and rally their partisans for a fall faceoff in which they remain decided underdogs.  I'll be among them as both reporter and delegate.  Unless, you know, somebody holding a grudge about my Green participation decides to try to strip my credential.  I don't expect that to happen, but stranger things and all that.  Still, it'll be nice to have a long weekend in another growing bastion of blue in the Lone Star State.  Dallas County elected a lesbian sheriff before Houston elected a lesbian mayor, after all.

There are Democrats who are suspicious of my midterm election year conversion, just as there are Greens who think I've sold out for access.  Here's how I rationalize it: until the liberal political party devoid of corporate influence can at least grow strong enough as an electoral threat to pull the Democrats back from the right, I -- we -- have to play in the sandbox as it is constructed.  And that does NOT mean trying to raise as much money as the GOP.  It does mean that we need to plug into Move to Amend, and support the infrastructure and local efforts to reduce and ultimately end the corrupting influence of caysh in the body politic.  In terms of minimal impact greater than nothing, some intensification of this movement in Texas sends a message to that toad Ted Cruz.

Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Tim Berry, and yes, Greg Abbott should be all the evidence you need to see that change is long overdue.

Update: Or perhaps we could just tell our Congresscritters to enforce the Tillman Act of 1907.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Greg Abbott's Bad News This Week

If Texas were any place else in the Union, there's no way a guy so profoundly corrupt would be leading in the polls.

Families who live and work near hazardous chemical facilities no longer have access to information about the type or amount of dangerous toxics in their community. According to a report by WFAA-TV, Greg Abbott recently issued a legal opinion barring the disclosure of such information despite federal law permitting disclosure and longstanding state practice to make that information available to anyone who requests it.

Abbott’s decision reflects an about-face from proclamations made by other state leaders to beef up disclosure of chemical facilities in the wake of last year’s disastrous explosion of an ammonium nitrate storage facility in West, Texas.

Why do you suppose he wants corporations to be able to keep that a secret?

The ruling by Abbott says the locations of explosive and toxic chemicals must be kept confidential because of security concerns. The ruling states that information ”is more than likely to assist in the construction or assembly of an explosive weapon or a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapon of mass destruction.”

But Tommy Muska, the Mayor of the town of West, where last year’s tragedy struck, believes there is greater danger in withholding the locations of potentially dangerous chemicals from the public. He hopes the state can find some middle ground that will keep the public informed.

“They’re worried it could get into the wrong hands,” he says. “I strongly feel, though, that the public, the 99 percent of good people out there, have a right to know what’s in their backyard.”

He can always roll away and hide for a few days until the dust settles.  Speaking just for myself, I don't trust Greg Abbott to keep me safe from domestic terrorists... or the companies they own that contribute to his campaign.  Like these Wilks brothers.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) dodged the question last week of whether he agrees with his party's support for "reparative therapy," a process purported to change the sexual orientation of gay people. But campaign records show the gubernatorial candidate has been flying around on a private plane donated by two billionaires who help fund the "ex-gay" movement.

Texas fracking tycoons Dan and Farris Wilks have given Abbott a combined total of more than $30,000 worth of in-kind donations this year for the use of a private plane. The Wilks' charitable trust, The Thirteen Foundation, has contributed nearly $3 million to groups that promote gay conversion therapy, a discredited pseudo-medical practice meant to change people's sexual orientation from gay to straight. The foundation also donates millions to anti-abortion and conservative religious groups.

Abbott's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The Texas Republican Party endorsed reparative therapy in its platform this year and asserted that homosexuality is not "an acceptable alternative lifestyle." 

The Wilkses are frackers AND homophobes.  A Teabagging two-fer!

How foul does Greg Abbott have to stink before Texans decide they've had enough?