Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The two things that will keep Bernie Sanders from the Democratic nomination (part one of two)

(Before I get to Supreme Court decisions from last week -- good overall,  but "pro-life" conservatives still get to keep their hazardous chemicals; the ones they like to inject into condemned prisoners, and the ones they want us all to keep breathing -- this post, drafted a week ago, needs to get published before the march of time updates the topic.  To the premise in the headline, then...)

One of the two things, to the surprise of many I'm sure, will not be the questionable intelligence of the average American voter.  They seem to be coming to the realization that Democratic socialism is, in fact, what they believe; they just didn't know it was called that.

There will be some Red scaring going on.  It just won't be coming from Republicans, unless and until -- my keyboard to the FSM's ears -- Sanders upends Hillary Clinton's all-but-sure-thing and wins the Democratic nomination.
The two significant hurdles he must overcome to do so are practical and procedural.

1. He must begin to draw minority voters to his campaign and message.  He cannot win the primary, much less the general, if Latino and African American voters don't begin to peel away from Clinton.  This is her greatest strength; the two largest minority Democratic voting blocs know her and love her.  In this post a few days ago, I linked to the suggestions that Sanders is not experienced in making appeals to voters of color; Vermont is, after all, 94% Caucasian.  In recent days he has played up his own 'son of immigrants' story, he's always had the right position on their economic concerns, and his appeals are getting a fair hearing and a receptive audience in places like Nevada.  But black voters do not, for the most part, know him nearly as well as they do Clinton.  That may be changing.

Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is already enjoying success that few could have predicted. Bernie is a big deal. Well, OK, if you’re a white progressive he’s a big deal.
Otherwise, you may have no idea who he is, according to reporting (last week) in the New York Times. The Times‘ Patrick Healy and Jonathan Martin write that “black voters have shown little interest in [Sanders]” and that “[e]ven his own campaign advisers acknowledge that Mr. Sanders is virtually unknown to many African-Americans, an enormously important Democratic constituency.”

But as his presidential campaign gains altitude and attention, Sanders may be on the way to securing the most difficult black progressive endorsement there is: the blessing of Professor Cornel West, one of America’s leading public intellectuals. Celebrity is rare in American academe, but the eccentric West (along with MIT’s Noam Chomsky) is something of a superstar scholar. He’s our Slavoj Žižek, but with far better hair and a sense of fashion.

Speaking with Grit TV’s Laura Flanders in early June, the black academic icon was asked by the host if he will be supporting the increasingly popular candidate for president.

“I love brother Bernie,” West replied. “He tells the truth about Wall Street. He really does.”

There's plenty more there about West's numerous and harsh objections to Obama, his lack of enthusiasm for Sanders's not speaking forcefully enough about the plight of Palestinians in Gaza (the red flag for American Jews of both liberal and conservative inclinations), the distinctions between neoliberalism, actual liberalism, democratic socialism, and the like.  With all of that said and read, West could be the black symbol of economic and social justice authority that Sanders needs.

Though he’s become something of a pariah in black academic circles, West is still a captivating and rousing speaker and Sanders could perhaps use West on the campaign trail. He might not be someone Sanders brings along in Iowa or New Hampshire, but once the campaign trail swings south and to the cosmopolitan coasts, West might be a valuable voice in places Sanders’ unpolished, heavily Brooklynite earnestness doesn’t work as well. And Sanders could be the candidate West thought he was getting in Obama.

There's also the recent endorsement by rapper Killer Mike of Sanders, an encouraging development.  Bottom line reading today: Sanders simply cannot win the Democratic nomination without attracting significantly more minority voters than he currently does.  Update (7/8): Others are picking up on this.   

But even if that happens...

2. The Democratic party insiders/super delegates/elected officials must be driven back from rigging the game in Hillary Clinton's favor.  Bernie has essentially no institutional support -- not a single Washington Democratic elected official has endorsed him -- at the moment.  And the institution is likely to harden against his presidential bid as he gains additional traction.

Update (7/8): No one should operate under the remotest of illusions that, as long as Sanders is building momentum toward the Democratic nomination, his supporters will consider any "what if he doesn't make it" options.  And 'Democratic institution' -- as Gaius Publius at Down with Tyranny carefully dissects -- includes the corporate media, particularly the New York Times.

The clearest example of the ramifications of being an actual outsider in the run for the presidency isn't the extreme party disunity in 1972, nor the retooling of the nominating process after George McGovern was swamped by Nixon that year.  Even when Eugene McCarthy was crowded out in '68, there were so many other dynamics in play that McCarthy as stand-in for the slain RFK was ultimately usurped -- not by Vice President Hubert Humphrey, the ultimate nominee who had avoided the states' party primaries altogether -- but by McGovern himself at that memorable Chicago convention.

Go all the way back to 1944 -- when Henry Wallace was pushed out of the vice-presidency, replaced by Harry Truman in smoke-filled room negotiations -- and reacquaint yourself with how the corporate interests of the Democratic Party react when they feel threatened, and then hope history doesn't repeat itself.  As it did more recently with the TPP trade bills' back-and-forth, down-and-then-up votes.

The Wobblies had it right, more than a hundred years ago.

Here's more from the NYT on what Sanders needs to do to win, and here's HuffPo's Bob Cesca with five "nearly impossible" challenges.  He counts fundraising first.  You should already know how I feel about that; you definitely know how Bernie Sanders feels about it.

In Part Two: What should US progressives do if Sanders falls short of the Democratic nomination and subsequently endorses Clinton, as he has promised to do?  Should we fall in... or fall out?

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Weekly Wrangle

As the Supreme Court prepares to release the last of its opinions this session -- including one on redistricting -- it's possible that we are at the start of a very ugly year for women's reproductive freedom.  The Texas Progressive Alliance hope the justices can do the right thing and stay the 5th Circuit's decision to shutter nearly all women's clinics in the Lone Star State while they deliberate the HB2 case... in the term that begins on the first Monday of next October.

Here's the blog post roundup...

Off the Kuff discusses the next steps for equality advocates.

Lightseeker at Texas Kaos shares personal stories about the heartbreaking impact of overt racism. And though he has come to hate prejudice and racism with a white hot passion, Lightseeker said the time has finally arrived for sharing the truth, change and healing. Time for Truth, Change and Healing is NOW.

Lost in the earth-shaking Supreme Court developments last week was a report from a former Harris County deputy sheriff that Adrian Garcia did not tell the truth when he said he did not know about the mentally ill jail inmate in a littered, feces-filled cell over a year ago. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs says it's a headache for the Houston mayoral contender, but shouldn't damage his prospects... unless things take a turn for the worse.

Stace at Dos Centavos looked at the first poll in Houston's mayor's race and found some interesting results.  And John Coby at Bay Area Houston made his predictions on who won't be the next mayor.

Socratic Gadfly notes that new polling from Yale shows that people concerned about global warming are NOT a minority, even in a red state like Texas, even to the point of supporting a carbon tax, and suggests there are political activism and outreach lessons to be learned.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson was not surprised by the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare. ACA, aka, Obamacare subsidies, upheld by SCOTUS.

Neil at All People Have Value said that the 14th Amendment -- cited this week by the Supreme Court to allow gay marriage -- is the product of blood and sacrifice. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

jobsanger had the Texas attorney general's decree that county clerks could refuse marriage licenses to gay couples based on their religious objections.

Texas Leftist is still trying to recover from this weekend's monumental Houston Pride celebration. Fair warning... What "turns up" must eventually come down.

And the Lewisville Texan Journal passed along the police blotter that indicated a city councilman had gotten busted for DWI over the weekend.


More posts from other Texas progressive blogs!

The Quintessential Curmudgeon, TFN Insider, and Trail Blazers all reported on Ken Paxton's legal opinion that Texas county clerks were OK to break the law and refuse to issue a marriage license if their religion told them not to.

Culturemap Houston talked to a Texas farmer who has come up with an ingenious and inexpensive solution to those itchy pests called chiggers that are thriving this summer.

The Rag Blog asks: whose race and/or gender is it, anyway?

Texas Vox wants you to know what's going to be different the next time you vote.

Scott Braddock adds up the success rate for getting bills passed for legislators who opposed Speaker Joe Straus.

Texas Watch responds to Rick Perry's claims about his record on health care.

BEYONDBones explains why we should eat bugs. No, really.

Juanita Jean updates us on the activities of one of Dan Patricks's citizen advisors.

The Lunch Tray says we all have a Sid Miller problem now.

The Texas Election Law Blog highlights a respected federal judge's change of heart on voter ID.

Better Texas Blog evaluates the legislative session.

Paradise in Hell bids an un-fond farewell to the ideals of the Confederacy.

Lone Star Ma addresses some of the crazy objections that have been made to the SCOTUS same-sex marriage decision.

Prairie Weather pointed out the self-limitations of the candidate named Clinton, and Fascist Dyke Motors scored an interview, entitled "I, Rodham".

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

#LoveWins, #Pride Toons

More on Sunday.

SCOTUS approves marriage equality, strikes down state bans in 5-4 vote

In order to form a more perfect Union...

Here's the opinion.  More reaction in updates here.

Amy Howe and others at SCOTUSblog:

The opinion seems to go out of its way not to state a standard of scrutiny. Instead, it says, "It is now clear that the challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality . . . Especially against a long history of disapproval of their relationships, this denial to same-sex couples of the right to marry works a grave and continuing harm. The imposition of this disability on gays and lesbians serves to disrespect and subordinate them. And the Equal Protection Clause, like the Due Process Clause, prohibits this unjustified infringement of the fundamental right to marry." That's page 22.

The Chief Justice has the principal dissent, which is 31 29 pages long. Toward the end of it, he says, "If you are among the many Americans--of whatever sexual orientation--who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today's decision. Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not Celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it."

From the concluding paragraph of the majority opinion: "No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. ... [The challengers] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

From the majority opinion, addressing the role of history in the constitutional analysis: "The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a character protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning."

Now-expected sneering contempt in the usage of the word 'pride' in Scalia's dissent.

(Scalia) leads off by saying that the decision is a "threat to American democracy." He concludes by saying that "Hubris is sometimes defined as o'erweening pride; and pride, we know, goeth before a fall ... With each decision of ours that takes from the People a question properly left to them -- with each decision that is unabashedly not based on law, but on the 'reasoned judgment' of a bare majority of this Court -- we move one step closer to our own impotence".

The majority bases its conclusion that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right on "four principles and traditions": (1) right to person choice in marriage is "inherent in the concept of individual autonomy"; (2) "two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals"; (3) marriage safeguards children and families; (4) marriage is a keystone to our social order. "The majority finds that these principles and traditions apply with equal force to same-sex couples."

Yes, Antonin Scalia is a toad, a troll, and an execrable human being.

Scalia's dissent has an awesome footnote on page 7 (note 22): he says, "If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie." He is not happy with Justice Kennedy.

(T)he majority opinion rejects the claim that marriage is about procreation, even while saying that protecting children of same-sex couples supports the Court's ruling: "This is not to say that the right to marry is less meaningful for those who do not or cannot have children. An ability, desire, or promise to procreate is not and has not been a prerequisite for a valid marriage in any State."

That's all I'll roll out from the live-blog. Here's some MSM coverage.  First, CNN:

In a landmark opinion, the Supreme Court ruled Friday that states cannot ban same-sex marriage, handing gay rights advocates their biggest victory yet.

The 5-4 ruling had Justice Anthony Kennedy writing for the majority with the four liberal justices. Each of the four conservative justices wrote their own dissent.

The far-reaching decision settles one of the major civil rights fights of this era -- one that has rapidly evolved in the minds of the American pubic and its leaders, including President Barack Obama. He struggled publicly with the issue and ultimately embraced same-sex marriage in the months before his 2012 re-election.

"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family," Kennedy wrote. "In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were."

In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia blasted the Court's "threat to American democracy."

"The substance of today's decree is not of immense personal importance to me," he wrote. "But what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today's judicial Putsch." 

This dude needs his medication.

Final Update: From Slate, the last paragraph in Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion.

Former deputy claims Garcia knew of county jail abuse

While we wait to see if the Supreme Court makes history again on June 26 (about an hour or so from this posting) let's excerpt, link, and comment on Adrian Garcia's latest headache.

When former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia said he was kept in the dark by his top deputies about a mentally ill inmate found in a trash-filled, feces-littered cell, he was not telling the truth, according to an exclusive ABC-13 interview with Garcia's former chief deputy.

The interview with former Chief Deputy Fred Brown, who oversaw jail operations under Garcia, casts doubts on Garcia's claims that he never knew about the deplorable conditions inmate Terry Goodwin was kept in until Ted Oberg Investigates began asking questions about Goodwin in September 2014.

As late as April 24, 2015 Garcia said he knew "nothing" about Goodwin's condition before questions by ABC-13.

"What I know today is nothing that I can recall," he said in an April 24 press conference. "Not to that magnitude."

So the timing of these allegations is a little suspect, seeing as how the first poll in the mayor's race, released a couple of days ago, had Garcia in a statistical tie with Sylvester Turner.

But Brown told ABC-13 that he informed Garcia about Goodwin in October 2013, just days after a jail compliance team found that the inmate had been left in a cell for weeks. When jailers opened his cell door, Goodwin was found wearing a tattered orange jail uniform and surrounded by swarms of bugs. The compliance team took photos of Goodwin and the fetid cell.

Brown also said he showed Garcia those photos of Goodwin.

"I said, 'Sheriff, look at this,'" Brown said in a recent interview. "I told him about it. I showed him the pictures. He saw the pictures. We were in the executive conference room. He went through the pictures and looked at them."

When asked if Garcia was telling the truth in his steady and consistent denials that he knew nothing of the incident before ABC-13 broke the story on September 29, 2014, Brown was blunt in his reply.

"No he's not," Brown said. "No he's not."

Ted Oberg is as solid an investigative reporter as they come.  I'm sure he did due diligence on the veracity of Brown's claims.  The question is whether Brown is as credible as he seems in calling Garcia a liar.

Garcia launched a criminal investigation after the story broke, and ultimately called in the Harris County District Attorney, the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department to probe the incident. Brown's narrative also raise questions if Garcia waited until the Goodwin incident became public to begin acting on it.

Ultimately, two jail detention officers were indicted in April for felony tampering with a government document after they allegedly signed off on cell checks that Goodwin was in good condition, officials said. Garcia fired those two, as well as four others. In addition, he disciplined dozens other jail workers and forced Brown to retire.

What do you see or sense that seems off?

Garcia declined a request for an on-camera interview, but on Thursday maintained he had no knowledge of Goodwin's conditions until September 2014.

"When I first found out about the condition of Terry Goodwin's cell last September, I was furious," Garcia said in an emailed statement. "I took decisive action. I launched an investigation, and as a result of that investigation, I fired and disciplined those responsible. I immediately issued orders to put procedures in place to see to it that something like this would never happen again and never be tolerated.

"Had I known earlier, I would have acted earlier with the same strong and responsible actions the record shows I took when I was informed. I will always take responsibility and act rapidly to deal with problems."

There's more from Brown at the link, including the fact that his memory was a little fuzzy on what he did or didn't show and/or tell the sheriff.  I see this as probably hardening the support of Garcia's backers; he doesn't lose many votes unless something comes out that verifies Brown's somewhat shifting recollection, or if there's more bad news behind another curtain.

Keep in mind, however, that 50% of those polled said they were undecided about whom to support. What remains to be seen is whether they choose to hold this development against Garcia, or not.

As regular readers here already know, I haven't been -- and won't be -- a supporter of Garcia's, from the beginning to the end of the municipal election cycle, for reasons that have nothing to do with this matter.  Garcia simply isn't my kind of Democrat, and I think there are more qualified individuals to lead the city.

In the long run, this affair won't damage him much at all.  Unless it gets worse, naturally.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Supreme Court upholds Obamacare subsidies in 6-3 vote

Somebody predicted that.

The Supreme Court spared a key part of President Barack Obama’s signature law in a 6-3 decision Thursday, ruling that the federal government may continue to subsidize health insurance in the dozens of states that did not set up their own exchanges. 

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who expressed deep reservations when the case was argued about whether striking down the subsidies would coerce states into establishing their own exchanges, joined the court’s four liberals and Chief Justice John Roberts to uphold the subsidies. Roberts, who was the object of immense conservative blowback after he joined the court’s liberals three years ago to uphold the law’s individual mandate, again wrote the majority opinion in support of the Obama administration position.

The law’s challengers argued that four words in the statute — “established by the state” — meant that only people who bought insurance from exchanges in the handful of states that set up their own marketplaces would be eligible for tax credits and other government assistance. The government countered that the clear intent of the law was to provide the subsidies for all lower-income Americans who sought coverage. 

More than 6 million people would have lost those subsidies if the court had ruled against the government, which experts said would lead to skyrocketing premiums and even a potential “death spiral” that could have dealt a mortal blow to Obamacare. The White House insisted in the days leading up to the decision that Obama felt he had nothing to fear because the government’s case was strong. But they are no doubt breathing a sigh of relief. 

Around 17 million people have gained coverage from the law, according to a Rand Corp. study, and a recent poll shows that for the first time since it passed, more Americans approve of the law than disapprove.
The case had put Republicans in an awkward spot. Publicly, over the last few weeks, Republican lawmakers expressed their hope in news conferences and speeches that the Supreme Court would rule against the government. But privately, aides conceded that the politics of victory would be more complicated than defeat. 

The Republican-led Congress would have been under pressure to come up with at least a temporary fix for the more than 6 million people who would most likely lose their insurance, contorting itself into the odd position of extending subsidies while still opposing the law. (At least one Senate Republican wrote a bill that would temporarily extend the subsidies while phasing out the individual mandate, which would eventually kill the law.) If the Republican majority had just let the subsidies lapse, they’d be faced with angry constituents who just lost coverage and a Democratic PR assault highlighting the most heart-wrenching cases of people who lost their insurance. 

Now, things will most likely return to the status quo — in which Republicans threaten to dismantle the president’s signature legislative achievement but do not actually take concrete steps to take health care coverage away from people. 

The chief justice is definitely getting a Republican primary challenge now.

Chief Justice John Roberts again voted with his liberal colleagues in support of the law. Roberts also was the key vote to uphold the law in 2012. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a dissenter in 2012, was part of the majority on Thursday.

"Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them," Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

In a dissent he summarized from the bench, Justice Antonin Scalia said, "We should start calling this law SCOTUScare."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pride celebrations, SCOTUS marriage equality judgment on collision course

-- Tomorrow (perhaps).

Houston Pride Week culminates with the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration featuring a day-long festival and a nighttime parade [...] With the Supreme Court expecting to rule on legality of same sex marriages any day now, could there be extra reason to celebrate this weekend? If so, expect this event to be one of the biggest in Houston's history.

Could be a deliriously happy time this Saturday, or it could be a party tinged with remorseful resolve.  I'm betting on the former.

-- While I'm prognosticating on Supreme Court rulings, I also have growing confidence that the justices are not going to strike down Obamacare subsidies.  This is one reason why.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision any day now in a case that could severely damage healthcare reform in America, in a challenge that famously focuses on four words in the law.

During oral arguments in March, Justice Elena Kagan asked a clever question, which drew laughter, in an apparent attempt to explain why four words in one section of the law shouldn't be read literally.

The case will determine whether the US can keep subsidizing health insurance for people in the roughly three dozen states where insurance exchanges are run by the federal government.

One part of the law specifically says the federal government can establish insurance exchanges on behalf of the state, but another section says people buying insurance through exchanges "established by the state" get subsidies. The law's opponents contend this means that those buying insurance through exchanges set up by the federal government don't get subsidies.

Since Kagan's question goes a little deeper into the weeds than this good explainer of where we find ourselves today, I'll let you click over and read it.  Here's the even better reason why I think O-Care remains standing.

Kagan was not the only justice who had tough questions for the lawyer opposing Obamacare. Justice Anthony Kennedy, a key swing vote on the court, said during oral arguments he saw a "serious Constitutional" issue with the position taken by the latest opponents of the ACA.

Here's Kennedy's problem: Under the interpretation put forth by the law's opponents, states will effectively be coerced into setting up their own exchanges if they want their citizens to have insurance.

"If that's Kennedy's view of the case, there's almost no chance that the challengers can win," UCLA constitutional law professor Adam Winkler told Business Insider.

I'll say 6-3 in both case decisions, because I think that the Chief Justice does not want to be on the wrong side of history -- that is to say, with Scalia, Thomas, and Alito -- on either one.

As I did earlier in the week, I'll be watching the SCOTUSblog and the Twitter feed for the instant developments Thursday morning, posting here and Tweeting along with everybody else as the verdicts roll out.  Here is some detail about the seven cases remaining to be decided.  Beyond that, there's also this, breaking late this afternoon...

Justice Antonin Scalia, setting the stage for prompt Supreme Court action on the enforcement of a Texas abortion law, on Wednesday told Texas to reply by 4 p.m. Friday on whether that law should be put on hold temporarily.  Abortion clinics and doctors in the state have asked the Court, through Scalia, to delay the law’s effect until the Justices act on an appeal they will file later.

Scalia acted a day after the postponement was sought, with the clinics and doctors noting that swift action was necessary because the two key provisions of the state law are due to go into effect next Wednesday.  Scalia has the authority to act on his own, but he probably will share the issue with his colleagues, as he did in October when the Court dealt with the Texas case at a preliminary stage.

So we should know more about the fate of Texas women's health clinics, also shortly.

The Supreme Court is likely to finish its current term early next week. Although it is likely to take some action on the delay request by then, it will not act on the coming appeal until next fall, because of its summer recess.

First Houston mayoral poll shows Turner, Garcia tied at lead

Some other surprises here as well.

Sylvester Turner and Adrian Garcia have emerged as the clear front-runners in the first independent poll before the election that will determine Houston's next mayor.

The KHOU – Houston Public Media Poll indicates a clear divide between two tiers of candidates, with Turner and Garcia well ahead of all other contenders to take charge at Houston City Hall after the term-limited Mayor Annise Parker leaves office at the end of this year.

Turner, the longtime state representative making his third run for mayor, leads the pack with 16 percent of surveyed likely voters. Garcia, the former Harris County sheriff, comes in second at 12 percent.

The rest of the candidates in the poll drop into single digits. Chris Bell, the former congressman making his second run for mayor, won the support of 8 percent of surveyed voters.  Both Ben Hall, the former city attorney making his second mayoral run, and former Kemah mayor Bill King, stand at 3 percent. City Councilman Stephen Costello stands at 2 percent.

"There's two tiers of candidates," said Bob Stein, the KHOU political analyst and Rice University political scientist who designed the poll. "If you had to pick a runoff match-up, it would have to be Turner and Garcia. And I don't think that comes as any surprise."

Turner, Garcia and Bell share a distinct advantage over the other candidates because their names have repeatedly appeared on Houston ballots for more than a decade.

Stein's a bit more officious even than his usual in terms of confidence in polling that reveals 50% of likely voters are undecided.  In the breakdown -- compared with my sense of the race -- Garcia's support is much stronger than I would have guessed in a sample of 47% Democrats... and 51% of those Caucasian.  (Click on the tabs to see these figures).  And his strength isn't due to an oversampling of Latinos; the poll breaks over half white, 27% black, and 8% Latino among likely voters, which historically is probably an accurate reflection of the electorate in real life.  (Hopefully Charles will provide some context in the next day or two regarding this.  Update: And he does.)  What I draw from those numbers, at the very least, is that Garcia's got a lot more Caucasian backers than I thought.

And while the reason that the Republican candidates are polling so low does have to do with name recognition, it's also because there are just 19% of likely voters identifying as GOP in this survey.  That's way, way off.  Stein's demographics have 26% of likely voters calling themselves independent.  Even if some of those are just embarrassed Republicans, there's still something wrong here with the nearly invisible support for King, Costello, and Hall.  Their combined total among likelies is just 8%.

I don't think so.  Put those two results together and you have to conclude that a bunch of white Republicans in this survey are favoring Sylvester Turner or Adrian Garcia for mayor.  Do you really think that's the case?

What may come as a surprise in this poll is the number of voters who've already chosen their candidate.

A little more than four months before Election Day, half of all likely voters told pollsters they had already made up their minds.

"The people who stay and vote tend to be disproportionately older, Anglo, Democratic, educated homeowners," Stein said. "These are experienced people who are doing just what they've done before: Voting for Adrian Garcia and Sylvester Turner."

This fairly absolute certainty among those polled might be the biggest surprise.

"It's worth noting that among voters who told us who they were supporting -- had picked a candidate -- over half told us they could not vote for any other candidate," Stein said.

The poll conducted between May 20 and June 21 surveyed 500 voters who had cast ballots in at least two of the last three Houston city elections. The margin of error is 4.5-percent. "These are voters who clearly have picked their candidates," Stein said. "And there's a high probability that well over half of them aren't moving. And they're not moving even in the runoff election."

I'm having a little trouble with that premise as well: half of the likely electorate (that has made a choice at all, mind you) has one guy in mind, and their mind isn't going to change?  Especially this far away from Election Day?  Dubious.

Questions about the polling data and/or methodology aside, my main takeaway is that Adrian Garcia may not need 'historic turnout' from his community after all.

The poll also contains some bad news for Astrodome supporters; 61% don't want any taxpayer money involved in whatever may come of its repurposing.  And 50% still say that transportation matters -- a combination of congestion, bad roads, and public transit -- are the city's greatest challenges, far ahead of crime (10%), flooding (8%), and a mish-mash of 17 other concerns totaling 32%, or an average of about 2% each.

So our first data point for November's election provides us with some great  kaffe-klatching, maybe some revealing developments, but a few cautions.   Who's next and when?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Trouble in Texas Tea Party Paradise

The squalling babies didn't get everything they wanted.

Texas can sometimes feel like tea party heaven — the land of Ted Cruz, where the Legislature is packed with hard-right devotees and the governor himself heeds fringe fears about possible federal plots to seize the state.

But with so much power comes pressure, and the Texas Legislature's tea party leaders are struggling to deliver on their most conservative promises. After the legislative session that ended this month, movement activists were openly unhappy with the results and have targeted a few onetime favorite lawmakers for possible retribution.

"It's a truth in advertising issue," said JoAnn Fleming, a state tea party leader who heads Grassroots America — We the People. "There are some that will likely pay a political price for caving on what they said they would do."

Lege retirements offer plenty of opportunities for the freaks to move ahead.

The Texas tea party network is the nation's strongest, with four dozen major conservative groups representing thousands of active members. Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature and the state Senate is run by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a former, often fire-breathing conservative talk radio host. About a third of the 31 senators are strong tea party voices, while nearly 25 of the Texas House's 150 members are conservative grass-roots favorites.

But except for limiting government and slashing state spending, the groups often don't agree on much. And their agendas sometimes compete with each other.

While some tea party leaders focus on strengthening Texas' ban on gay marriage, tightening immigration policies or fending off the potential imposition of Sharia law, others see a greater threat in mandatory vaccines, red light cameras or smart electrical meters. Still others place a high priority on gun and private property rights.

And some of them think the US Army is going to take over Texas and round them up and put them in underground tunnels under abandoned Walmarts.  This is what happens when you continually cut public education; you get Idiocracy.

Rep. Dan Flynn's bill exempting Texas from daylight saving time was sidelined amid concerns that refusing to roll back the clocks could leave Texans choosing between church and watching Dallas Cowboys games on fall Sundays. Also dropped was Sen. Donna Campbell's proposal banning the Alamo from falling under the control of the United Nations.

The backlash was greatest over lawmakers' failure to repeal Texas' 2001 law offering in-state tuition to some college students in the country illegally, to pass school vouchers or block an expansion of pre-kindergarten programs.

These effing morons vote.  In large numbers.

Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, a longtime tea party organizer in suburban Dallas, voted to re-elect as House Speaker Straus, a San Antonio Republican whom conservative activists consider too moderate.

"He slapped us in the face," said Julie McCarty, president of the NE Tarrant Tea Party, which is recruiting a primary challenger to run against Capriglione.

Then there's Rep. David Simpson, owner of an East Texas timber company and religious publishing house, who became a tea party hero in 2011 for his attempts to criminalize "excessive touching" during airport security pat-downs. He's now running for state Senate but acknowledges he risked a challenge by arguing for legalizing marijuana, saying it's God's creation.

"I think there's some who will never vote for me again," Simpson said.

Keep in mind that Simpson does not appear on either the 'Best' or 'Worst' list of Texas legislators this session just past, and that his carrying the "treat it like tomatoes" weed bill was hailed by liberals and conservatives alike.  Just not certain conservatives.

We're through the looking glass here in Texas, folks, and only increasing the vote against these lunatics is going to save the Republic.

Update: If you need some additional verification of how far off the rails we've gone, check Michael Quinn Sullivan's Empower Texans ratings, in which he scores gay marriage goofball Cecil Bell at just a 74, Debbie Riddle a 65, and the highest-rated Democrat, Tracy King, at 48... four points below Sarah Davis at 52.  You have to laugh to keep from crying.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Costello getting flooded out of mayor's race *Updated w/press conference details*

Charles also has this topic covered for you; as is custom here, I speculate on what the political after-effects may be.  First, Rebecca Elliott with the latest.

When the most conservative candidate in the Houston mayor's race dropped out two months ago, the battle to win over right-leaning voters became a two-man show: former Kemah Mayor Bill King versus City Councilman Stephen Costello.

Both candidates bill themselves as moderate fiscal conservatives chiefly concerned about the city's finances - pensions in particular - and, by all accounts, neither is an ideal choice for the far right.

Nonetheless, support among local Republicans has begun to coalesce around King, who has taken a hard line against ReBuild Houston, the city's controversial streets and drainage program.

Now, with Houston recovering from severe flooding and the state Supreme Court ruling against the city in a lawsuit over ReBuild, program mastermind Costello only looks to be in trouble.

"The timing of this couldn't be worse for Costello," said Rice University political scientist Bob Stein, adding that King now has a window to break through.

I would swear somebody said something precisely like this a week ago.

As for Costello and King, political observers say either could make it into a runoff, but that it would require one of them falling out of the running. Otherwise, they likely split the conservative vote, leaving neither with enough support to make it past November.

Broadly speaking, Costello and King's campaigns are similar, their top issues the same: pension reform, public safety and road repairs.

Their policy positions do diverge in two key areas: pension reform and infrastructure funding.

While they both have identified Houston's rising pension costs as a primary concern, Costello, who chairs the city's budget and fiscal affairs committee, is a proponent of a modified defined benefit plan in which city employees would continue to receive a set pension. King wants to switch to a defined contribution model for new hires.

However, it is more difficult to engage potential voters on pensions than take photos of potholes, and a recent string of storms has only intensified the candidates' obsession with the condition of Houston's roads.

Yes, the worm has turned against Costello in this regard.

(Costello)'s support of the drainage fee has put him in a tough spot with some on the right.

"For him to say he's conservative, I don't see it. I don't see it at all," said Joe Slovacek, co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the ReBuild lawsuit and a member of the conservative Houston Realty Business Coalition and C Club.

For conservatives, Slovacek said, "There's no other choice but Bill King."

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Houston Republican who led the effort to sue the city over ReBuild, said King has staked out the strongest position of those in the field.

Bettencourt's brother co-chairs King's campaign.

Pretty clear where this is going, isn't it?

Houston's chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies offered Costello an early endorsement in March, referencing his "first-hand" knowledge of how to fix Houston's streets.

Even so, local engineer Truman Edminster said doubts remain.

"There's a certain amount of reservation about 'Can he really make it over the top? Can he really make it into the runoff?'" Edminster said.

Houston Democrats would greatly prefer that Costello and King split the conservative vote, because that could mean a runoff between two Ds.  But with Costello faltering this early, your handicapping for this race today is Sylvester Turner, Bill King, and one of Chris Bell and Adrian Garcia with enough potential remaining to push himself in and one of those top two out of a runoff.  And since the Latinos in San Antonio couldn't get Leticia Van de Putte over the hump, I cannot see "the community turning out in historic numbers" for the former sheriff.

With about 4.5 months to go, I'll place a bet today on Turner to win (with a plurality, not a majority), King to place, and Bell to show.  But there's still plenty of track left to run.

Update: Chris Bell held a press conference yesterday to call for an outside investigation into the severe flooding in the Meyerland area.  (Bell's own home took in three feet of water.)  The nearly-$2 billion ongoing project to remediate Brays Bayou through the southwest part of the city, in the wake of Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, apparently saved much of the Texas Medical Center this go-round.  But the construction work has been implicated in the West Loop/South Loop corner flood damage due to long delays.  Councilman Larry Green first pointed the finger at the lack of progress as a culprit in the floods.

TexTrib poll has Clinton and Cruz leading

-- Something for good ol' Ted to keep crowing about.

The picture is much clearer in the Democratic primary, where Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady, had the support of 53 percent of registered voters planning to vote in the Democratic primary next year. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont was next, at 15 percent, followed by Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, with 8 percent.

“Hillary Clinton is still an almost prohibitive favorite, but with Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden in the news for different reasons and with the primaries getting closer, we see a little bit of movement,” Henson said. “I wouldn’t say it’s anything for Clinton to worry about.”

Even if the support for all other candidates is combined, Shaw said, Clinton still holds a strong hand. “It would take a bunch of stuff to happen to beat her,” he said. One of the other candidates would have to become a “credible alternative,” he said, and Clinton would have to run into trouble.

This is status quo since the beginning (whenever the beginning was, that is).  I will point out that while Sanders is gathering momentum in many states -- even in this Texas poll he's tripled his support since February, for example -- he is struggling with Latino and African American voters.

"His name recognition in the Latino community is somewhere in between zero and extremely low," said Matt Barreto, a pollster who focuses on Latino voters. "And you're not going to win an election without Latino support."

Nonwhite voters make up a third or more of the turnout in Democratic primaries in most states, according to exit polls. Sanders, who represents a state that is 94% white, has little experience campaigning for minority votes. That will pose a challenge as he travels to more-diverse early-voting states like Nevada, home to a large Latino population, and South Carolina, where African Americans make up roughly half of Democratic primary voters.

"If your only significant constituency is older white voters, that'll be good in Iowa and New Hampshire, but when you hit Nevada and South Carolina you're in another world," said Democratic strategist Bill Carrick. "If you're going to be the nominee, you're going to have to do pretty well among Latino, African American voters, women, single women and millennials. That's the challenge for Bernie Sanders — to become more than a niche candidate and become a candidate with a broad coalition of support."

That's pretty much the hill he must climb.  Update: More on Sanders' pale white dilemma from the Fiscal Times.

-- My personal opinion of Ted Cruz leading in Texas is: LMAO.

(Wisconsin Gov. Scott) Walker was running neck-and-neck with Cruz in February, when his entry into the race was making daily news, but the Texans’ home-field advantage is showing again. Cruz had the support of 20 percent of registered voters, followed by Perry at 12 percent, Walker at 10 percent, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 8 percent and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 7 percent.

Poll co-director Daron Shaw, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin, said the results reflect a “native son effect” in Texas that boosts the performance of candidates who are from here in comparison with their showings in national polls.

“I was just sort of assuming that Texas was a microcosm of national politics, but that turns out not to be the case,” he said.

Ha Ha. Never assume anything about Texas Republicans short of the stupidest and the worst.

“If you’re Ted Cruz, even if you get clobbered in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, you have no incentive to get out, because of the early Texas primary.”

That's Jim Henson, who also helps conduct this poll, with your takeaway.

The Weekly Wrangle

The thoughts and prayers of the Texas Progressive Alliance are with the families and friends of the victims of the horrible shooting in Charleston as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at the latest developments in the ongoing investigation against AG Ken Paxton.

Letters from Texas advises Capitol staffers how to respond to the Texas Monthly Best and Worst Legislators list.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos -- and contributing to Daily Kos -- spanks the GOP for its craven use of dog whistles and thinly veiled racism. Come and Take the Truth About Playing the Race Card, GOP.

Will the outcome of Houston's mayoral race be similar to San Antonio's -- abysmal turnout, two Democrats in a runoff, one going after Republican votes in order to win? PDiddie at Brains and Eggs would prefer almost any other scenario besides that one.

Moving towards offering an accessible and comprehensive way to view all of life, Neil at All People Have Value added a page of pictures he has taken out in everyday life to his website. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Socratic Gadfly says that, although the symbolism of the Confederate flag is offensive, the First Amendment protects offensiveness, and the Supreme Court got it wrong in ruling Texas can ban Sons of Confederate Veterans vanity plates.

TXsharon at Bluedaze has the report that fracking wastewater is responsible for earthquakes throughout North Texas.

With municipal elections looming large in the background, Texas Leftist tried to keep up with the intense political theater that was this year's Houston city budget"... the last ever of the Annise Parker mayoralty.

jobsanger notes the recent study that indicates most American guns are not fired in defense or in self-defense.

And Egberto Willies also states the obvious: white culture needs to self-examine.


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

Prairie Weather makes the simple observation that it is not domestic terrorism if only African Americans are killed.

Trail Blazers indicates that the next area of contention regarding open carry of firearms in Texas will be over signs posted in businesses saying 'no guns allowed'.

The TSTA Blog has plenty of reasons to fear a Scott Walker presidency.

Better Texas Blog measures the impact in Texas of an adverse SCOTUS decision in King v. Burwell.

Juanita Jean marvels at the story about Texas' own Fort Knox.

Texas Vox calls on the CFPB to end forced arbitration.

The Lunch Tray bemoans Ag Commissioner Sid Miller's decision to lift a decade-old ban on deep fat fryers in schools, ironically done as part of an initiative to fight childhood obesity.

Fascist Dyke Motors presents instructions on how to build a horse.

And finally, the TPA congratulates Scott Henson of Grits for Breakfast on his new gig as Executive Director of the Innocence Project of Texas.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday Funnies, Identity Crises edition

White is the new Black...

When it's not killing it, that is.

People may think they're born Democrats or Republicans, but keep in mind Hillary Clinton was once a Goldwater Girl before she swung over to Eugene McCarthy in 1968.

Yes, for most of us it's a choice. Just like our hairstyle.

Believe what you choose...

... just don't be Fox News-stupid about it.

And for Pete's sake, keep it private.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The hidden history of Juneteenth

The historical origins of Juneteenth are clear. On June 19, 1865, U.S. Major General Gordon Granger, newly arrived with 1,800 men in Texas, ordered that “all slaves are free” in Texas and that there would be an “absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves.” The idea that any such proclamation would still need to be issued in June 1865 – two months after the surrender at Appomattox - forces us to rethink how and when slavery and the Civil War really ended. And in turn it helps us recognize Juneteenth as not just a bookend to the Civil War but as a celebration and commemoration of the epic struggles of emancipation and Reconstruction.

By June 19, 1865, it had been more than two years since President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, almost five months since Congress passed the 13th Amendment, and more than two months since General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate army at Appomattox Court House. So why did Granger need to act to end slavery?

To answer that question, we have to look back at slavery, the Civil War, and Texas’ peculiar place in both histories. During the Civil War, white planters forcibly moved tens of thousands of slaves to Texas, hoping to keep them in bondage and away from the U.S. Army. Even after Lee surrendered, Confederate Texans dreamed of sustaining the rebel cause there. Only on June 2, 1865, after the state’s rebel governor had already fled to Mexico, did Confederate Lieutenant General Edmund Kirby Smith agree to surrender the state. For more than two weeks, chaos reigned as people looted the state treasury, and no one was certain who was in charge.

In that chaos, many African-Americans fled, some across the river in Mexico, a less-remembered pathway to freedom in the decades before the Civil War. Others launched strikes or refused to work. But in a state where whites outnumbered slaves more than two-to-one, planters and ranchers did everything in their power to sustain slavery wherever they could.

Granger’s arrival on June 19 marked the first effective intervention of the United States in Texas on the side of ending slavery. So when Granger issued his proclamation in Galveston, it was no abstract or symbolic statement against slavery and rebellion; he was striking a blow against slavery itself in the place where it remained most firmly entrenched in June 1865.

But what did Granger’s proclamation mean? One oft-told myth has it that Texans simply did not know that slavery had ended. What Granger brought, in this telling, was good news. But if we listen to the words of someone like Felix Haywood, a slave in Texas during the Civil War, we see that this was not so. “We knowed what was goin’ on in [the war] all the time,” Haywood later remembered. At emancipation, “We all felt like heroes and nobody had made us that way but ourselves.”

If Haywood and other enslaved people knew about the Emancipation Proclamation, what exactly did the events of June 19, 1865 mean? Here we face a key forgotten reality about the end of the Civil War and slavery that has been shrouded in the mythology of Appomattox. The internecine conflict and the institution of slavery could not and did not end neatly at Appomattox or on Galveston Island. Ending slavery was not simply a matter of issuing pronouncements. It was a matter of forcing rebels to obey the law. To a very real extent, the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment amounted to promissory notes of freedom. The real on-the-ground work of ending slavery and defending the rudiments of liberty was done by the freedpeople in collaboration with and often backed by the force of the US Army.

Juneteenth celebration in Austin, Texas, on June 19, 1900

Granger’s proclamation may not have brought news of emancipation but it did carry this crucial promise of force. Within weeks, fifty thousand U.S. troops flooded into the state in a late-arriving occupation. These soldiers were needed because planters would not give up on slavery. In October 1865, months after the June orders, white Texans in some regions “still claim and control [slaves] as property, and in two or three instances recently bought and sold them,” according to one report. To sustain slavery, some planters systematically murdered rebellious African-Americans to try to frighten the rest into submission. A report by the Texas constitutional convention claimed that between 1865 and 1868, white Texans killed almost 400 black people; black Texans, the report claimed, killed 10 whites. Other planters hoped to hold onto slavery in one form or another until they could overturn the Emancipation Proclamation in court.

Against this resistance, the Army turned to force. In a largely forgotten or misunderstood occupation, the Army spread more than 40 outposts across Texas to teach rebels “the idea of law as an irresistible power to which all must bow.” Freedpeople, as Haywood’s quote reminds us, did not need the Army to teach them about freedom; they needed the Army to teach planters the futility of trying to sustain slavery.

Much more here.  And here's a list of Juneteenth celebrations and activities in the Houston and Galveston area.  Seems like a great day to burn a Confederate flag, doesn't it?

Friday, June 19, 2015

After Charleston

-- As Jon Stewart painfully pointed out: "We won't do jackshit."  He's correct.  For Obama's part, he seems to be tired of talking about the rampant and senseless mass shootings in this country, but he's not offering to actually do anything about it.  "Calling upon Congress to enact gun legislation" is limp and toothless.  His has been a bullied pulpit in more ways than the fourteen times he's had to speak about gun violence during his 6-and-one-half years in office.

-- Remember that time John Roberts said there was not enough racism in the South to need the Voting Rights Act any longer?  Yeah, tens of thousands of gun deaths every year across America and and one, sometimes two cases of voter fraud.  Which one do we need more laws to protect us from?  Particularly in the South, where the GOP is losing elections so badly.  Or maybe New Jersey.

-- The gun nuts are already after the 'gun-free' zones of South Carolina's churches.

The report that knocks down this asinine 'good guy with gun stops bad guy with gun' horseshit was recently in the news.

According to the study, gun owners committed 259 justifiable homicides compared to 8,342 criminal homicides in 2012, the most recent year data was available.

That means gun owners are 32 times more likely to kill someone without cause than to act in self-defense, the study reasoned.

“We hope legislators in every state will stop believing the self-defense myth and look at the facts,” says Julia Wyman, executive director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence. “Guns do not make our families or communities safer.”

-- The Confederate flag, which flies over the South Carolina capital of Columbia, will not be lowered to half-staff like the others flying there.  Because it can't be -- it's fixed to the top of the pole -- and because it takes a vote of the legislature to lower it.  So despite the murder of one of its members, that flag is flying higher over the statehouse than the US flag today.  And that really says everything you need to know about the South.

-- Republicans are either demagoguing the issue or avoiding it altogether.  It's not about race, it's not about guns, it's not about thugs or even domestic terrorists when they're white; it's about an attack on faith.  It was religious persecution that occurred inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Stay classy, you God-fearing assholes.

-- While all that happened, the US House quickly and quietly passed the fast track trade authorization bill that was defeated just last week.  Last month the Senate did precisely the same thing.

Twenty-eight House Democrats pushed it over the finish line in a 218-208 vote.  Here are their names; they include Texans Rubén Hinojosa, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Henry Cuellar, and Beto O'Rourke.  Also DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

Another 46 Democrats also voted to repeal a key portion of Obamacare yesterday.

Now do we understand why we can't have nice things in this wonderful country when so many of the alleged left party are actually right-wing?