Friday, July 31, 2015

Paxton may learn his fate today *update*

*UpdateMissed it by 24 hours.

Attorney General Ken Paxton is expected to surrender to authorities Monday following an indictment on multiple felony charges stemming from his involvement with a North Texas technology company accused of defrauding investors, according to multiple sources close to the case.

A Collin County grand jury issued the indictment against the first-term attorney general on Tuesday, two sources who had been briefed on the proceedings told the Chronicle on Saturday.

Original post: So if I were a betting man -- which I am -- I'm gambling there's going to be a document dump and a press conference in Collin County late this (Friday) afternoon.  I can't bet on whether it will contain good news or more bad news for our lazy-eyed attorney general, though.  Via Charles, who put his post up on Wednesday, the TO.

Is this the beginning of the end for Attorney General Ken Paxton? (Tuesday)’s confirmation by Dallas local news station WFAA that a grand jury was meeting at the Collin County Courthouse to hear evidence related to Paxton’s alleged violations of securities law marks a milestone in his legal troubles. The development has been anticipated by Paxton-watchers for nearly a year and a half, ever since Paxton admitted in writing to violating the state securities code by failing to disclose that he was being paid to route his legal clients into the hands of an investment manager with a troubled track record.

It’s unclear whether this was the first day the jury heard the Paxton case, or how long they’ll continue to meet. But the stakes are high for Paxton. Special prosecutors Brian Wice and Kent Schaffer recently won an order expanding their case from already-disclosed improprieties to a first-degree felony case. That means the amount of money involved exceeds $100,000, and it makes the episode that Paxton already disclosed look like peanuts.

You can read more there for the particulars about how the case was enlarged to a first-degree felony, though there aren't many since the prosecutors aren't telling the media, only the GJ for now.

It's been a long and winding road to this point, and that doesn't include last summer's political season, when Paxton's criminal admission was known but impacted his electoral prospects not at all.  He ultimately defeated his Democratic challenger last November, Sam Houston, by twenty percentage points.  For some additional background, Juanita Jean points out that Wice was one of the guys who helped Tom DeLay, back in the day.  So you could be excused for thinking that, like Rick Perry's one remaining indictment, the fix might be in.

That Paxton is in legal trouble can be attributed in part to the efforts of a watchdog group, and the determination of a local lawyer.

The public integrity unit within the Travis County district attorney’s office said it lacked jurisdiction and forwarded information to Dallas and Collin counties for lack of jurisdiction. Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk didn’t touch the case either, saying she was not aware of any alleged crimes being committed in the county.

That left Collin County, where Paxton’s friend and business partner, Greg Willis, is district attorney.

After receiving a complaint from Texans for Public Justice, Willis stepped aside and said that “appropriate investigation agencies, including the Texas Rangers,” should handle the allegations against Paxton.

“As soon as we saw what he signed with the State Securities Board, it was obvious that he was admitting to felony conduct,” said Craig McDonald, executive director for Texans for Public Justice. “If Greg Willis hadn’t stepped aside, this thing would have died.”

Meanwhile, Dallas lawyer and blogger Ty Clevenger took the extraordinary step of sending information about Paxton to members of a Collin County grand jury, including three from the same church. He said he also dropped off information to a grand jury member’s home. He got their names from Collin County officials by asking; in Dallas, Hawk declined to release the grand jury’s names.

Following that, sniping between Paxton's spokesman, Anthony Holm, and special prosecutors Wice and Schaffer.  I'll leave to you to click and read it.

It's been three weeks since nonsequiteuse asked the question.  Let's move on to the follow-up question, for no greater purpose than parlor game speculation.  If Paxton gets indicted, does Greg Abbott finally force him out in order to replace him with a hand-picked stooge?  And if so, who?

I'd like to hear more about this behind-the-scenes jockeying, but so far as I can tell, nothing's being said out loud.  For the record, Paxton crushed Dan Branch in the runoff last spring, and the fellow who came in third, Barry Smitherman, is extremist and dishonest enough himself to be a perfect fit after Paxton.  Smitherman's bloc of votes moved directly over to Paxton after the general election, so if Abbott needs to appease Tea Party animals, there's some red meat he could throw them.  But that's as far as I can go in terms of prognostication.

First we need to see Paxton shown the door, and that will only stand a chance if the Collin County grand jury returns an indictment or two.  And frankly I find that unlikely, despite the desperate screeching of Paxton's mouthpiece/flack, Holm.

Today could be the day we know something, either way.

Master Blaster runs Bartertown

At the start of his career, not long after he helped Richard Nixon win the 1968 election, Roger Ailes boasted to a reporter that television would one day replace the political party as the most powerful force in American politics. If there is any doubt that the Fox News founder has largely made that prediction come true, it should be erased by the panic that next week’s Fox debate is stoking inside the GOP.
In a year that features the largest primary field in modern history — not to mention Donald Trump as a front-runner — campaign strategists worry that Ailes's debate, which is likely to attract the biggest audience in cable-news history, could define the race more than five months before the first votes are cast.

Ailes has now made the the circus free to all comers.

Fox News is opening its 5 p.m. debate to all the announced Republican candidates who fail to make the cut for the Aug. 6 prime-time event, removing a requirement that participants reach at least 1 percent in polling.

The change amounts to an insurance policy for candidates who were in danger of being disqualified from the vital first debate based on low polls – Carly Fiorina, former New York Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

The announcement by Michael Clemente, Fox News Executive Vice President, News, means that all 16 announced candidates will qualify for Cleveland — either the 5 p.m. undercard, or the 9 p.m. main event.

The 9 p.m. debate will include the 10 candidates with the highest average in national polls, as determined by Fox News. The 5 p.m. forum will now include all the rest.

I'm already scheduled for a watch party next Thursday.  We're talking Super Bowl here, except nobody is waiting for the commercials.

Oh, and the people who run Fox News are geniuses. What did they get by instituting these caps (that they have now removed)? Not just constant appearances from the candidates themselves in their desperate quests for exposure, but now feedback in the form of actual money, too. Chris Christie is forking over 250-large to Fox News in ad revenue, for the purpose of securing a dais onstage during Donald Trump’s 90-minute monologue in Cleveland. He probably will not be the last candidate to make the last such purchase, and there will be more and more capped debates forthcoming.

More broadly, though, consider what’s happening here. A candidate who will not have that much official campaign money is having to make a national ad buy on Fox News in the middle of summer 2015. What are his other options? He could play with power tools like another oxygen-deprived candidate, Rand Paul, has been doing. He could subject himself to embarrassing questions with any media outlet who’ll take him, like Rick Santorum. He could deploy the famous campaign move of pretending to stop campaigning, as Bobby Jindal has done. He could pick a fight with Donald Trump, or make a point of not picking a fight with Donald Trump.

Live television at its most riveting.

Even inside Fox, some are awed that a presidential race is being influenced by a television channel. “Crazy stuff,” another personality told me, “you have a TV executive deciding who is in — and out — of a debate!”

A train wreck, crashing into a 17-car freeway pileup.  I hope we have plenty of snacks.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Did Nazi that coming

Is there any Republican anywhere that understands what Godwin's Law means?

The Iran nuclear deal does NOT portend 1930s Germany, and Obama is not Neville Chamberlain.  Mike Huckabee's "ovens" comment is, truly, both ridiculous and sad.  (Even the Israeli ambassador to the US says so.)  Planned Parenthood's health services for women are not like the Holocaust.  But it is accurate to say that the Republican primary voting electorate is torn between those who believe Obama is Hitler, and actual fans of Hitler.

WARNING: This is about to get really gross, really fast.

Genuine conservatives are fending off attacks from Trump’s very pro-white fans who label their opponents “cuckservatives,” which Buzzfeed‘s Joseph Bernstein describes as “portmanteau” of “cuckold,” a hard core porn genre in which “passive white husbands watch their wives have sex with black men,” and “conservative,” a soft core porn genre where people vote against their own interests.

I don't know if those links are SFW or not, because I did not click on them.  At all.

Republicans have long trafficked in color-blind tropes that seek to reverse the gains of the civil rights movements and label all government good as welfare that only helps “them.” Being confronted by the dredges of the Internet and the flies Trump’s sort of rhetoric attracts terrifies even them — especially because they see Trump as a leftist in disguise.

The Gross Old Patriarchs like to think they're turning the tables on Democrats when they say it was a Republican who freed the slaves, that Robert Byrd was a Klucker, and so on like that.  This indicates a misunderstanding and a conflation with what was acknowledged to be the party of conservatives and the party of liberals 150 years ago, and how they switched places over the decades.

Republicans like to point out that their representatives voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in larger percentages than Democrats, who delivered most of the votes along with the signature of president. This is because the vote was largely regional. Southerners generally opposed civil rights the way they opposed Reconstruction. And just as Republicans paid a cost for being identified as the party of black people in the late 19th century, Democrats saw the end of their national majority before the conclusion of the 20th century.

From Reagan Democrats to Republicans to the Tea Party, all in one generation.  If you take it in context, it's a remarkably swift transformation.

Trump’s rhetoric only differs from most Republicans in degrees. While he suggests all undocumented immigrants are criminals, Rick Perry offers a more conservative 80 percent. And the party at large now backs mass deportations of 11 million people, because nothing says smaller government like round-ups and trains filled with human cargo.

The Confederate flag, the swastika, and now even the Gadsden flag and the Holy Bible are the symbols of the continuing devolution of predominantly Southern white -- and, let's tell the truth, some black -- conservatives.  When a wealthy African American pastor aligns himself with the meanest homophobes he can find while running to be the mayor of the nation's fourth largest city, it's difficult to believe he's got any love in his heart for strangers in a strange land, or the poor.  In case you need a refresher course, this article at Media Matters details what we're in for over the next 90 or so days, and the national implications.

This isn't going to be mitigated, or smoothed over, or negotiated away any time soon.  Either compassion, justice, and tolerance will win, or they will lose.  The battle happens every first Tuesday in November, every single year.

Gird up.

Update: On and on it goes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Those Planned Parenthood videos

Their purpose is to gross you out.

Many people get sickened and disgusted when they sneeze out a blood clot, or when the doctor pulls a hairy orange pebble from their ear, or when the orthopedist starts explaining the process by which he will attach a cadaver's ligament to your knee to replace the one you snapped.  Forget a vivid description of removing a tumor from your bowel or the cardiac surgeon's process of tearing out a blood vessel from your thigh to reroute the clogged ones around your heart.

For years, abortion opponents have relied on graphic descriptions and bloody imagery to make their case against legal abortion. By focusing on the fetuses, rather than on the women who seek to end a pregnancy for their own personal or financial reasons, the anti-choice movement can successfully stoke outrage over the moral implications of a medical procedure that falls squarely in a gray area for most Americans.


It makes sense that this works. Despite the anti-choice movement’s characterization of abortion as a black-and-white issue, it’s quite possible to both support legal abortion rights and believe that pregnant women are carrying unborn children. Even Americans who believe that abortion should be legal may be squeamish about the nature of the medical procedure, and feel uncomfortable with graphic depictions of fetal tissue.  

As far as I am concerned, this is the only news being made.

On Monday evening, Planned Parenthood announced that they had notified, separately, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of a recent hack into their information systems by an allegedly separate pro-life activist group has announced the hack and its intention to post internal email from the non-profit women’s healthcare provider.

On Friday, California state attorney general, and senatorial candidate, Kamala Harris also announced her preliminary investigation into whether the Center for Medical Progress has broken any state laws in its work against Planned Parenthood.

The Center for Medical Progress has yet to release its tax filings, so details remain unclear as to from where and whom the Center for Medical Progress, which has non-profit status, has received its funding and the way in which it has allocated those funds. 
New polling released today from Hart Research Associates on behalf of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF) found that 64 percent of voters — and 72 percent of Independents — do not agree with Congressional action to immediately end all government funding for Planned Parenthood. Furthermore, 58 percent of voters say that they would support a candidate who favors continued funding for Planned Parenthood over one who wishes to defund the women’s healthcare provider and 57 percent of voters say they are skeptical of Republican motivations behind the Congressional investigations of Planned Parenthood, believing the investigations are being used to further a specific political agenda.

In a statement, Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said, “Today’s poll shows much of what we already knew: that defunding Planned Parenthood is a losing proposition not just for the millions of men and women who come through Planned Parenthood’s doors every day, but also with voters who don’t want to see their politicians focused on restricting lifesaving care….The anti-abortion extremists behind these videos don’t have any credibility with the American people, and neither do the politicians behind these political attacks against women’s health and the care Planned Parenthood provides.”

And then there's Texas.

Buoyed by the release of undercover Planned Parenthood videos, a few dozen anti-abortion activists gathered Tuesday at the Texas Capitol called on Texas lawmakers to defund Planned Parenthood.

Dubbed the #WomenBetrayed rally, supporters cheered as Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, read statements from Texas officials, including Governor Greg Abbott and Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, who have called for an investigation into Planned Parenthood. The rally preceded a Senate Health and Human Services Committee meeting on Wednesday, which Republican lawmakers called to investigate the fetal donation practices of the group’s Texas abortion facilities.

I stand with Planned ParenthoodJoin me.  Tell your Senators and Congressmen AND your state representatives as well to stop the witchhunt.  After all, birth control and sex education prevents many more abortions than smear campaigns and gotcha videos.

More from Andrea Grimes at RH Reality Check.


An investigative hearing that many Capitol observers described as bizarre ended with a bang Wednesday when members of the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee called state officials back to the witness stand to ask whether they’d lied during testimony given just hours before.

Specifically, Department of State Health Services assistant commissioner Kathy Perkins was asked to respond to Abby Johnson, a former employee of Planned Parenthood and current full-time anti-abortion activist who claimed under oath that HHSC always gave abortion clinics advance notice of inspections, which would be a felony.

The answer was “no.”

It was perhaps a fittingly strange close to the tense and wandering four-and-a-half hour hearing which had a specific goal that remained unclear throughout.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hillary Clinton's climate goals

They're getting raked over the coals.

Brad Friedman:

"It's so polarized between the parties that Hillary can say anything she wants," (environmental journalist David) Roberts tells me about her plan to add half a billion solar panels to the nation's grid by 2021. "But, as long as the House is in Republican hands they are foursquare against any of this --- any clean energy, any efficiency, anything that restrains fossil fuel in any way...If we're being honest with ourselves, what she's capable of doing is what the Presidency can do without legislative help."


If you want a presidential candidate who supports a carbon tax and vociferously opposes the Keystone pipeline, you should vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders.

If you want a presidential candidate who has thought through how to best communicate to swing voters how a clean energy-fueled America will help, not hurt, economic growth, Hillary Clinton is probably your best bet.

In conjunction with an announcement of her renewable energy strategy, Clinton released the three-minute climate ad “Stand for Reality.”

We can’t fully analyze her program because what she has unveiled so far is only a portion of her overall plan. Vox’s Brad Plumer says, “We’ll need to see more detail” before knowing if her policies are sufficient to meet her goals. The New Republic’s Rebecca Leber notes Clinton still avoids taking clear stands on matters that have divided Democrats: “Keystone XL pipeline, tar sands oil extraction, natural gas, fracking, and Arctic drilling.”

Those who dislike the evasion and want firm pledges to keep as much fossil fuel in the ground as possible will naturally gravitate toward Sanders. Those who don’t mind clever politicking when navigating sticky subjects will be more partial to Clinton.

Among my many issues with the future Madam President is that she will simply not ever be the change we need to have in order to save us from ourselves.  Hers will be a caretaker administration, not a transforming one.  This was among the reasons she was defeated for the nomination seven years ago. (The difference -- and the problem -- is that Barack Obama turned out to be a minimalist transformer himself.)

But her refusal to abnegate KXL, her Wall Street coziness, her perpetual dissembling on her e-mail, and even the botched NYT story about her e-mail are together not as objectionable as one of the very few things she is unequivocal about: her stated preference for war on Iran.

As a presidential candidate you simply do not use the words "if I am president, we will attack Iran" in 2008, and in 2015 soften your rhetoric with words like "existential threat", and not be forced to back those words up at some point.  I say that point will occur sometime in 2017.

And if you think that's progressive, I have a used dictionary to give you.  Post your mailing address in the comments.

Scattershooting mayoral and controller candidates

I took some days off around the weekend so blogging time is short.  Go read some of these.

-- Via Charles, David Ortez was at the the Houston mayorals' get-together with TOP and SEIU last Saturday and things got lively.  Ben Hall was missing again, for fairly obvious reasons this time, and Chris Bell was not there, so that left Adrian Garcia, Bill King, Marty McVey, and Sylvester Turner.  Demetria Smith, the only woman in the race, was added after some opening outbursts.  Essentially she is not going to let Hall corner the black anti-HERO vote.

Smith took the opportunity to be a demagogue when she claimed that HERO would allow grown men to go into the bathroom behind your little girl. A small minority of the audience cheered for her response. McVey gave the best response when he said, “I am not black, but I will stand for black rights. I am not gay, but I will stand for gay rights. I am not an immigrant, but I will stand for immigrant rights.” The crowd applauded his response. 

Read Smith's FB page, linked at her name above, for complaints about how she has been excluded from some participation.

-- Also via Charles, a controller candidates' finance report summary.  Kuff is sussing out the details, spending a lot of time on this reporting.  I've snarked on him in the past, but this is really the data those few of us who care are interested in.  It just confirms to me that Carroll Robinson is a jerk.

More later.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is girding its loins for the coming culture wars against some very formidable opponents.  You know, the ones who think God is on their side.  Raise your shield; here comes the roundup of blog posts from last week.

Off the Kuff decries the Supreme Court ruling that will force a vote on whether or not to repeal Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance.

Harold Cook explains why the Republicans won't nominate Donald Trump, but won't be able to escape him, either.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos never ceases to be amazed by our former governor's serial hypocrisy. Have you no decency, Rick Perry?

Socratic Gadfly talks about the Dunning-Kruger effect and why many people think their local race relations are much better than national race relations.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that many people in South Texas do not have clean drinking water. This should be a scandal, but, as Donald Trump has amply explained, Texas Latinos are nothing but piñatas to republicans.

nonsequiteuse issues a call to arms for defenders of Planned Parenthood -- and the surreptitious videos they recorded of executives discussing fetal tissue donation -- to appear in Austin this week at a Senate committee hearing, intended to address the issue with yet more reproductive choice restrictions.

Ben Hall and Steven Hotze, Ben Hall and Dave Wilson... a lot of prayers got answered for the Houston bigots and homophobes when the Texas Supreme Court ordered the City of Houston to either repeal its equal rights ordinance or put it on the November ballot. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs knows that we don't need another HERO referendum, but we're going to get one anyway.  And ...

... Texas Leftist led the reporting when the news broke last Friday about the SCOTX decision on Houston's ERO, and John Coby at Bay Area Houston added up the Heroes and Zeroes.

Bluedaze observes the international movement to establish that hydraulic fracturing needs to be held accountable in a court of law for human rights abuses.

With football season fast approaching in Texas, Neil at All People Have Value posted about the NFL's refusal to allow Junior Seau's family to speak at his Hall of Fame induction as Seau's family sues the NFL over his terrible head injuries. Football is unsafe to play at any level. APHV is part of


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

The Texas Election Law Blog tries to clear up some confusion about resignations and vacancies.

Carol Morgan notes that this is the summer of (Bernie) Sanders.

Ex-pat Texan Elise Hu-Stiles documents what it's like to live and have children in Seoul, South Korea.

The TSTA Blog wishes our state leadership cared as much about schools as teachers, parents, and charities do.

Scott Vogel, editor of Houstonia, has some choice words for a couple of readers who objected to an ad showing a multi-racial family.

Tamara Tabo examines the problems of jail surveillance cameras.

Paradise in Hell knows that Texas is great in spite of Rick Perry, not because of him.

Eric Berger geeks out over the pictures from Pluto.

Grits for Breakfast tries to distill some lessons from the Sandra Bland tragedy.

Lawflog writes about Peacock Baptist Ken Paxton.

Zachery D. Taylor offers the premise that John McCain really isn't a war hero.

And Fascist Dyke Motors is having to deal with those "slippery slope" people.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The NFL, and Roger Goodell, is a bad joke

My brother-from-another-mother Neil has already made mention of it, so these latest embarrassments are only shocking to those not inured to the Sunday afternoon gladiator competition that invigorates so many Americans every fall.

Junior Seau's Hall of Fame enshrinement went from awkward and sad to really messy with the release of a New York Times story on Friday afternoon.

According to the Times, Seau's family will not be allowed to speak at his Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony. Only a video will be played for Seau, who committed suicide in 2012. The Pro Football Hall of Fame told the Times that's the policy for deceased inductees, that there will be no speech for someone on their behalf.

Seau -- pronounced SayOw, ironically enough -- shot himself in the chest and left a note saying he wanted his brain studied for possible signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.  The NFL has previously acknowledged that many of the sport's participants over the decades have had their lives ruined by playing it, and agreed to pay a massive sum to the NFLPA (the players' union) in order to make reparations.

But with this blackout of the Seau family's desires to participate in their patriarch's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the NFL is essentially playing the old "if we don't talk about it, it's not really happening" game.  That's the same one the NRA plays every time there's a mass shooting, and the same one many people play when it comes to the latest about Caitlyn Jenner.

Then there's the league's not-insignificant gambling problem.

This past week, reported that a search of public documents revealed examples of NFL lawyers making the claim in legal proceedings over the past 12 years that gambling on sports is a game of skill, not chance. That sounds like no small thing, a technical difference, but it's also a crucial one.

If sports gambling is legally determined to remain a game of chance, then it will remain illegal. But if it is found to be a game of skill, as NFL lawyers have claimed, then it has a path to being legalized. So why is the NFL, which ostensibly hates gambling and all its sordidness, making this claim?

"The NFL used to argue that gambling would screw up the integrity of the game,'' said Arnie Wexler, a compulsive gambling counselor who is a former compulsive gambler himself. "This whole country is turning into a gambling state and the NFL can just smell the money. It's all about the money.

"They just want a piece of the action. Where's the integrity? The hypocrisy has been going on for years; now they just have the balls to be more upfront about it.''

ShockedIsayshocked.  Meanwhile, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is also choking on Deflate-gate.

One month has passed since Tom Brady's appeal hearing in deflate-gate. One month and Roger Goodell still hasn't announced a decision.

Nothing. No upholding the suspension. No reversing the suspension. No lightening of the suspension. This isn't a Supreme Court case. This isn't complicated. It shouldn't take a month of leaving a player hung out to dry, as the biggest storyline going into the start of training camp remains an overblown, self-inflicted soap opera from last season.
One month and Goodell still can't figure out what to do, which somehow isn't really all that surprising since if he knew what to do in the first place the entire story would have been snuffed out in a day or so – or however long it took the NFL to figure out it has no idea, let alone any actual proof, that the footballs at the AFC title game were even all that deflated.

The Washington Post is reporting some owners are trying to figure out how the NFL commissioner can come out of this appearing "credible and looking like he's dealing from a position of strength." They might try encouraging him to just rule on the evidence rather than go with that pipe dream, but whatever.

Meanwhile, ProFootballTalk reports that a "small group of influential owners" are pushing Goodell to uphold the suspension, so it's nice to see some lobbying of the commissioner by rival teams who didn't participate in the disciplinary process.

It's not a coincidence that Brady and the NFL Players Association are left to do their own saber rattling in the media, claiming they'll sue everyone and everything if the New England Patriots quarterback isn't exonerated.

There are three rings to this circus.

Like so many other American boys and men, I have played football and eagerly watched it played at the high school, collegiate, and professional levels ever since I was knee-high to a high knee.  Loved almost every minute of it.

But that's going to have to stop now.  I cannot continue to enable the bad behavior of the worst socialists in the United States.  You may be thinking, "But Perry! YOU'RE a socialist yourself!  Why wouldn't you support your comrades?"

The answer, obviously, is that it's just the expenses of their publicly financed stadia, and many (not all) of their other costs of doing business, that are socialized.  Their profits are privatized.  Only when they are sued, and the plaintiffs win, do some of their profits get nationalized.

That's not the socialist model I subscribe to.  I may elaborate on my own views about this at a later time, but for now it's important that I wean myself away from these brutal, Hunger Games capitalists -- note that I include the players in this indictment; they have willingly traded their health for gobs of money -- and boycott the sport.

If I don't, then their scrambled brains, mangled legs, feet, arms, and hands are not just on Roger Goodell and the NFL's team owners, but also on me.  And I don't want that.

Sunday Funnies

Thia toon by by Steve Sack of the Minneapolis Star Tribune appeared last Wednesday, the day before the Louisiana theater shooting.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Rick Perry gets halfway to the clear

We just shouldn't be surprised.

One of two felony indictments against former Texas Gov. Rick Perry was tossed out Friday, giving the Republican presidential candidate a potentially huge legal victory in the face of flagging polling numbers for the 2016 race.

The 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin sided with Perry's pricy legal team, stating in a 96-page ruling that the charge of coercion of a public servant constituted a violation of the former governor's free speech rights.

Perry, who left office in January, was indicted last August on the coercion charge and a separate charge of abuse of official power, which wasn't affected by the ruling.

For now, he'll still have to face the abuse of power charge — which could tie him up in court and eat into valuable on-the-ground campaigning time in the midst of his White House run. But Perry's lead attorney, Tony Buzbee, downplayed the future significance of the case, just as his client has for months, saying it will have "no impact whatsoever" on the campaign.

"One down, one to go," Buzbee said at a Houston news conference. "The court today threw out what we believe to be the greater of the two charges." He added that the abuse of power charge is "hanging by a thread."

Thanks goes to Justice Bob Pemberton, who declined to recuse himself from the case despite the glaring conflicts of interest.  I also had a conversation in a podcast with Brad Friedman of Bradblog about the indictments and their chances back in May.

Michael McCrum, the San Antonio-based special prosecutor leading the case, has long maintained it deserves to go to trial. He said he wasn't certain whether he'd appeal Friday's ruling since it affects an underlying statue that will impact many cases, not just Perry's.

"Obviously we're ready to proceed to trial on the other count," McCrum said, though he noted he doesn't yet know when such a trial would begin because Perry can appeal the abuse of power charge to the Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas' highest criminal court. With that court on summer recess, doing so is "going to cause an extended delay," he said.

Buzbee remains confident he can spring Goodhair.

Buzbee said he considers the remaining charge nothing more than a misdemeanor and said the Court of Criminal Appeals "will throw it out on its face." The abuse of official capacity nonetheless has a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison, while the voided coercion charge carried a 10-year maximum sentence.

I don't see a conviction sticking, I really don't even see a trial even happening anytime soon because of the possible appeal to the CCA, as McCrum mentions.  There are simply too many Republicans who have Rick Perry's back.

See DFW CBS and the Christian Science Monitor for additional insight, including the ramifications on his presidential bid.  And again Charles with more and many links to others.

We don't need another HERO referendum *Update*

But we will get one anyway.

The saga over a Houston city law that protects LGBT people from discrimination just took a sudden turn. The Texas Supreme Court intervened in the court fight over the effort to repeal the initiative, ordering that the Houston City Council must either repeal HERO on its own or allow it to be challenged at the ballot in the next election. Either way, the city can no longer enforce it.


According to the Court, all that mattered is that the City Secretary initially certified the referendum. It doesn’t matter what was discovered later about the validity of those signatures, or even the fact that the Secretary later acknowledged the flaws that were found. “The Charter requires the City Secretary to ‘certify’ her findings, and the only findings she expressly certified were her own,” the Court explained. It’s as simple as “no takesie-backsies.”

That's legal crapola, but SOP for nine Republicans on the SCOTX (I always enjoy typing that anagram because it rhymes with "Kotex", which is exactly what the Texas Supreme Court is).

It’s unclear if there is any remedy for LGBT advocates, particularly given the ample evidence that there actually were not sufficient signatures. This included video evidence that the petitioners were well aware of the rules they broke that should have invalidated the signatures they collected, evidence of possibly forged signatures, and a jury’s ruling that the valid signatures just did not add up.

Brad Pritchett, who runs the HOUequality site that has defended HERO throughout this process, told ThinkProgress, “The certification has been boiled down to ink on the page. If someone turned in 20,000 forged signatures, this ruling says that as long as there are 20,000 on that page, it counts. No other certification necessary.”

The city is still reviewing its options, but will likely allow the ballot initiative to advance rather than repeal it. Pritchett is optimistic that, particularly given all that it has endured so far, “If HERO is on the ballot this November, there is no doubt that Houstonians will do the right thing and reaffirm the need for HERO once again.”

Pritchett recently left the Harris County Democratic Party to take a job with the ACLU of Texas.  His husband is Noel Freeman, the former chair of the HGLBT Caucus.  I believe he's correct that a ballot up-or-down vote will favor the proponents.  The good news is that the issue should boost turnout for municipal elections just four months away that heretofore have not been generating much in the way of news coverage.

As for the political English (i.e. cue ball spin) I see Chris Bell gaining some advantage over Sylvester Turner, who has been a latecomer to the human rights issues of LBGTQ people.  Update: Towelroad details Turner's bumpy history, including the old rumors of his being homosexual himself.  But the community doesn't seem to be holding any of his past against him, and he has packed the Caucus with over six dozen purchased memberships in advance of the endorsement vote.

Former congressman Chris Bell has been actively encouraging supporters to join and show up for the August meeting, while City Councilman Stephen Costello has pursued what his campaign described as a "low-key effort" to get people to join the caucus' ranks.

Turner, on the other hand, opted to write the group a $3,040 check two weeks ago - enough for at least 76 memberships, according to spokeswoman Sue Davis.

"It's something that's done every year," Davis said.

Not to this extent, Ms. Davis (as we will see in the next excerpt).

Does HERO hate get goosed?  Does this development help Ben Hall, or is Bill King going to try to seize back the mantle of Anti-HERO Crusader?  As referenced in the previous excerpt, it probably doesn't do much for Stephen Costello, despite one of his backers being the afore-mentioned Mr. Freeman.

Former caucus president Noel Freeman, a Costello supporter, said campaigns also purchased or sponsored memberships during his tenure, though not enough to sway the outcome of the endorsement process.

"I never saw an endorsement vote that was so close that (it) would have made a difference," he said, adding that he never saw a campaign purchase more than 45 memberships during his tenure from 2011 to 2013.

We'll also have to watch how this goes with the At-Large city council posts.  AL-1, for example, has Democratic County chair Lane Lewis -- you may recall that a former Texas blogger, to his discredit, demanded and others as well suggested Lewis' resignation -- squaring off with Tom McCasland, who is supported by a large contingent of the most conservative Houston Democrats that I know.  So far he's all about mobility (though there's this Tweet from yesterday).

Charles has more and more linkage to other reactions.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Latest poll shows top ten GOP contenders for first debate

Just two weeks before the first Republican presidential candidate debate and the latest from Pew Public Policy Polling shows the top ten -- the only ones who get in -- as these:

Trump 19%
Walker 17
Bush 12
Carson 10
Rubio 10
Huckabee 8
4% each for Cruz, Fiorina, and Paul
3 each for Christie and this week's entrant, Kasich.

That's eleven, with Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum at 2%, outside looking in.  Jim Gilmore (who?), Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki all have 1%.

This ABC/WaPo from Monday only ranks nine, in this order: Trump, Walker, Bush, Huckabee, Rubio, Paul, Carson, Cruz, and Perry.

Establishment Republicans are already cringing in agony at the thought of a debate where Trump's mouth turns into a flamethrower directed at everybody else on stage with him.  Thus, I'm pulling for former governor Goodhair and Glasses to make the cut, because he's been the only Rethug willing to rumble with The Donald over Ill Eagles.  Speaking of trolls, the leader is in Laredo today -- completely surrounded by gobs of various law enforcement officers -- to tour the border.

"I've been invited by the border patrols, and they want to honor me actually, and thousands and thousands of them, because I'm speaking up," Trump said Wednesday on Fox News. "I may never see you again, but we're going to do it."


“I hope he can find the border because I’m not sure he’s ever been there before," Perry said.

No mention of Greg Abbott joining him, as he did with Walker four months ago.

The dynamic with Ted Cruz forswearing 'Republican-on-Republican violence' in refusing to criticize Trump is your basic Cruz-styled political calculation: he plans to sweep up the Bigot Caucus when Trump eventually quits the race (and hopefully runs as a third-party protest).

Donald Trump says the chances that he will launch a third-party White House run will “absolutely” increase if the Republican National Committee is unfair to him during the 2016 primary season.

“The RNC has not been supportive. They were always supportive when I was a contributor. I was their fair-haired boy,” the business mogul told The Hill in a 40-minute interview from his Manhattan office at Trump Tower on Wednesday. “The RNC has been, I think, very foolish.”

Pressed on whether he would run as a third-party candidate if he fails to clinch the GOP nomination, Trump said that “so many people want me to, if I don’t win.”

“I’ll have to see how I’m being treated by the Republicans,” Trump said. “Absolutely, if they’re not fair, that would be a factor.”

Primary season is so much fun, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ben Hall and Dave Wilson

As with Ben Hall and Steven Hotze last week, a "butthole buddies" joke right about now would just be too easy.

On Tuesday HOUequality posted a photo of Ben Hall's signature on the anti-HERO petition. "If someone is running to represent all Houstonians (in fact Mr.Hall's campaign slogan has been 'Ben Hall for All') how can they add their name to a petition designed to divide and denigrate transgender Houstonians?" the post asked. (We called over to Hall's campaign headquarters and a Hall volunteer confirmed that Hall definitely signed it.) HOUequality has promised that there will be more of these disclosures coming this week. 

Ben Hall is NOT for all.  I thought that was conspicuous two years ago when he challenged Annise Parker and got drubbed, and was insincere about his homophobia on numerous occasions.

He doesn't really give a shit what you think if you're homosexual, or if you support the civil rights of homosexual people in all of society.  That's a fairly large constituency to write off in Houston.  Worse yet, it is the wrong side of history now, and a definite regression from his last run, where he either couched or concealed his antipathy better.  At this point Hall has probably stolen the anti-HERO vote away from Bill King, who kinda needed it in order to make the runoff.

You have a pastor running on a campaign of hate, with several other pastors lined up behind him.  I just don't think that's what Jesus would do... but I'm an atheist, so what  do I know?

I suppose there are enough Christian conservative gay-bashing men and women, of all creeds and colors, in both the Democratic and Republican parties, that Hall can get to his polled three percent.  But at this point, if Ben Hall gets more votes than Marty McVey, it will be an embarrassment.  Not to McVey, but to the entire city of Houston.

Updates to posts on Sandra Bland, Bernie Sanders, etc.

-- The dashcam video of Bland's arrest, released yesterday by the DPS, appears to have been edited.  There's also this, about good ol' Waller County.

In 2008 the Houston Chronicle detailed how local cemeteries were still segregated. There were black cemeteries and white cemeteries and those were the rules. When one Waller County justice of the peace, DeWayne Charleston, attempted to bury the body of a brutally slain white woman in a black cemetery, his plea was overturned by Waller County Judge Owen Ralston. Ralston said it cost too much, saving taxpayers more than $400. The Jane Doe, whose body was never claimed after a year, was eventually buried in a privately owned and operated white cemetery.

According to the Chronicle, a county resident of Hempstead sued the city for failing to maintain its black cemeteries. That lawsuit was successful. In 2007 the city of Hempstead’s police chief, Glenn Smith, was suspended after being accused of racism.

A little further back, in 2004, black residents rejoiced when District Attorney Oliver Kitzman stepped down after an alleged “reign of terror” centered around discrimination, the Los Angeles Times reported. Black leaders reportedly accused Kitzman and other white officials of targeting and harassing residents based on race, a claim that was denied. Black leaders in Waller in 2004 claimed that they were subject to crude intimidation, such as rocks being thrown through house windows and police cars often passing slowly by the homes of black “troublemakers.” Black residents also complained about alleged plots to suppress the black vote.

According to the 2013 census data, Waller County’s population of 45,484 was 70.5 percent white and a mere 25.8 percent black.

Segregated cemeteries.

I think what has really changed over the last couple of years, and perhaps starting with Michael Brown's murder-by-cop in Ferguson, Missouri, is that black people in America just aren't going to put up with being treated like this by the police any longer.  Certainly America's police haven't changed any over that time.

-- What I said three weeks ago about Bernie Sanders needing to work for African American and Latino votes?  Attendees at his Houston event last Sunday said it was as diverse an audience as they had seen at any Obama event from eight years ago.  That may be accurate (I was unable to attend, and it's just not apparent from the hundreds of photos I have seen), but it's not being reflected in his polling.

"I haven't seen him engaging the black community. Nor am I hearing any chatter about him," said Rick Wade, Obama for America's African-American vote director. "Black voters don't know him."

A June CNN/ORC poll showed just 2% of black Democrats supporting Sanders, a figure that has remained unchanged since February. Among non-white voters overall, Sanders polls at 9% compared to Hillary Clinton's 61%.

That's no path to the White House, no matter how correct he is, has been, or speaks.

"Black lives, of course, matter. I spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights and for dignity," Sanders said. "But if you don't want me to be here, that's OK. I don't want to out-scream people."


Sanders re-emerged later that evening for a short speech at a private fundraiser for the Latino Victory Project, an advocacy group led by major Democratic donors that focuses on Latino outreach, where he, again, took questions about race.

But instead of adopting the defensive stance from that morning, Sanders' tone changed. He appeared humble, and asked questions of the activists gathered about how he could better pursue and talk about policies to combat racial injustice.

"I want some help on this. I'm being very honest," Sanders said. "I want some ideas, as somebody who was arrested 50 years ago fighting for civil rights trying to desegregate schools in Chicago, who spent his whole life fighting against racism, I want your ideas. What do you think we can do? What can we do?"


"I wish I could tell you I had a magical formula for how to end racism. It's gone on in this country for before it was America," Sanders said. "Let me just say this, because I'm older than you: You're impatient, and you should be impatient. But if we were standing here 30 years ago and somebody said, 'You know, I think in 2008, the United States of America will elect an African-American president,' you know what people in this room would've said? They would've said, 'You are crazy. That will never happen because America has too much racist baggage.' But it happened. So, I guess you're right to be impatient, but we have made progress in this country. Not enough."

'Not enough' progress.  By all of us.  But specific to this blog post, probably not enough progress for Sanders to capture enough black votes to win the Democratic nomination over the course of the next 6-9 months.

I'll ask again: what are (mostly) white progressives going to do when the reality finally settles in?  Fall in line behind Hillary Clinton, fall out (as in 'not vote'), or take a third path?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Houston controller candidates forum

It's been five long months since I blogged about the city's head beancounter race.  A few of the wannabes got together for a debate in my neck of the woods at the end of last week.

Perpetually overshadowed in Houston's strong-mayor form of government that affords the controller no policy-making power, many past city controllers were known for using the post as a bully pulpit to criticize mayoral policy, and later a launching pad for higher office.

Earlier this year, the five declared controller candidates indicated they would depart from this mold.
However, that tone shifted at a forum in Sunnyside, where three of the candidates addressed a predominantly African-American crowd gathered at a neighborhood community center.

"It's the second-highest elected official in city government, and it needs to be independent to provide a check and balance on the office in power," said former City Councilman Jew Don Boney, who went on to say the controller must not be an ally or lapdog to the mayor.

I like JD Boney because he tells it like it is.

Still, Boney stressed the controller ought not approach the role bureaucratically.

"This is not an election for the chief bookkeeper of Houston," Boney said. "We hire CPAs."

Bill Frazer, 2013 controller runner-up, who touts himself as the only certified public accountant in the race, was not in attendance. Former Houston Community College board member Carroll Robinson also missed the bulk of the forum, walking in during closing remarks.

Meanwhile, deputy controller Chris Brown edged closer to the idea of a controller at odds with the mayor, albeit more gingerly.

Brown said the relationship between mayor and controller should depend on the state of the city's fiscal affairs.

"In times of great surplus, where there's a lot of money, I think the mayor and the controller should be adversaries, because that's the time when the mayor's gonna say, 'Hey, we've got tons of money. Let's just go spend it,' " Brown said.

"But," he added, "I think in the times when we have difficult financial problems, there needs to be more of a concerted effort to work together to solve the financial problems in the city."

With the city facing a $126 million deficit, Brown's remarks suggest his approach to the job would likely be similar to that of Controller Ron Green, who has not had a combative relationship with Mayor Annise Parker.

Let's set the table before moving forward: Brown is both one of the city's #2 men in the controller's office, and the son of former city councilman and mayoral candidate Peter Brown, aka Mr. Anne Sclumberger.  So you can safely assume without even looking at one of the far-too-many blog posts about campaign finance reports that Brown the Younger will have the 'resources to compete'.  Said resources did not help Brown the Elder in 2009 attain a runoff with Annise Parker, for the record.

Robinson is part of the Bethel Nathan/Hector Carreno mafia, whose players have consistently disgraced themselves in local politics for way too long.

Frazer, the only Republican in the race, forced the corrupted incumbent controller Green into a runoff two years ago.  He didn't show up at this forum because -- as the first excerpt above pointed out -- it was held in Sunnyside, almost in my own backyard and a predominantly African American and Democratic neighborhood.  Frazer's not counting on any votes from this side of town.  It's possible that if Democrats turn out at their usual low-to-mid-teen percentages in the fall, he could win without a runoff.  Finally...

Former Metro board member Dwight Jefferson was of a similar mind.

"I think that the mayor and the controller should work as equals," said Jefferson, who previously described the controller's job as ministerial. He said city leadership should work together to "ensure the best outcome for the city."

Jefferson was appointed a state district court judge by then-Gov. George W. Bush in the mid-'90's, ran and won in 1996 as a Republican (scroll almost to the end), but since 2010 has a Democratic primary voting history (scroll all the way to the bottom and then back up just a little).  Also read this for some interesting coalitions and alliances from twenty years ago.  Despite Brown's 11-year tenure at City Hall, Jefferson might still be the best man for the job, but both men also could be too unfamiliar to voters; Brown's deputy controller post and Jefferson's Metro board job are appointed ones.

Boney likely has the strongest constituency; he needs good field work to make the runoff.  Frankly I don't see any advantage for Robinson here despite being an elected community college board official; as befits the usual tactics of his godfathers Nathan and Carreno (scroll down about halfway; fraud is this family's affair), he could be in the race only to split the black vote enough for Frazer to sneak in.  Brown is the only white Democrat in the race, and the only one who can spend whatever.

Depending on who you think the next mayor will be, and on what these men consider the relationship between the mayor's office and the controller's office is supposed to be -- amicable or adversarial -- your choices for both jobs might be influenced by that careful consideration.  For example, if you think Sylvester Turner or Adrian Garcia is most likely Houston's next mayor, then Frazer as controller will be a very predictable pain in their ass.  And if you like Republicans Stephen Costello or Bill King, then a Democrat in the controller's office with some heft behind him, like Boney, will create a similar dynamic.  Jefferson is the most likely to go along and get along with the next mayor no matter who it is.  You might prefer a check-and-balance, you might like it better if everybody plays nice.  Up to you.

As far as Houston's budgeting for the coming biennium is concerned, between the revenue cap and the price of oil, we're likely looking at some hard times and difficult decisions.  So, friends or not, the next mayor and controller have their work cut out for them.

Politically, all of these Democrats together have to hold Frazer under 50%, and then the chosen one must run hard as hell in the runoff.  No bets taken yet.

Sandra Bland's death, and Obama, Holder, and Lynch

Michael Wolfe, City of Hempstead Mayor, left, Frank Jackson, City of Prairie View Mayor, and Lois Kolkhorst, Texas State Senator, listen as Elton Mathis, Waller County District Attorney, right, speaks to the media at the Waller County Courthouse Friday, July 17, 2015, in Hempstead.

Frankly, the looks of disbelief on the faces of the two men on the left, and the look of concern on the woman's face (almost exclusively associated with her political career) tell you pretty much everything you need to know about this latest unconscionable death of a black person in police custody.

Waller County District Attorney, Elton Mathis, left, and Waller County Judge Trey Duhon, center, listen as Waller County Sheriff R. Glenn Smith speaks to the media Thursday, July 16, 2015, in Waller.

Waller County voted 58.33% for Mitt Romney in 2012, a little above the Republican's sweep of the state with 57.17%.  Perhaps the only thing holding it under 70% was the vote coming out of the precincts around Prairie View A&M, where Sandy Bland was about to start her new job at her alma mater.  Now that the official version of her arrest after being stopped for not signaling a lane change has been debunked by the DPS itself, it's imperative that a proper investigation determine exactly how she came to die in that jail cell.  It looks like even Waller County officials realize the importance of that.

If I were a black man in this country, especially after what has happened in Ferguson and Baltimore and Cleveland and Staten Island and everywhere else it has happened just over the past couple of years, I wouldn't be protesting with a sign outside the Waller County Courthouse or shouting down presidential contenders (admiringly peaceful but terribly unfocused and misdirected), I'd probably be rioting in the streets until some cop shot me down.

This shit has got to stop.  And the people best equipped to have stopped it, a long time ago, are the president, the former attorney general, and the current one.  Of course we know that Eric Holder has finally gone back from whence he came; the law firm that lobbied for the country's largest banks.  And that Loretta Lynch is opposed even to marijuana decriminalization, so I wouldn't expect to see much initiative from them despite being people of color, and especially since we haven't see much of anything to speak of to this point.

So that leaves Obama, for at least another year-and-one-half, to do something besides give a speech.  "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon" just isn't going to cut it any longer.

And people of color shouldn't expect Martin O'Malley or Bernie Sanders to be able to solve this dilemma in a two-minute answer on a Saturday afternoon in a forum (though their words and deeds are important to get on the record) and they absolutely shouldn't consider Hillary Clinton's response sufficient, having had 48 hours and several staff members prepare her Facebook comment.  That's the equivalent of the two boys in the class getting a pop quiz, and the star female pupil getting the test to take home over the weekend.

If anybody thinks any of these people can do much besides be a bully from the pulpit until late January of 2017, that person needs a bucket of ice water over their head... and then again in the face.

The best place to start is with your own city's police chief, county prosecutor, and on up from there: mayor, state representative, state senator.  Before someone dies in your neighborhood or community.  Even a Repuke like Lois Kolkhorst needs to to feel the heat.  She's got her game face on; somebody take her on (at the ballot box).

"Dismantling structural racism in this country" needs to be on the fast track, like now.

Update: More from Isiah Carey.  And from Kuff (7/22).

Monday, July 20, 2015

Berning down the house

Dallas and Houston both fell into a Berning ring of fire yesterday.

(Sanders) implored his supporters to ask their Republican friends, families and co-workers if it makes sense to grant huge tax breaks for the rich while cutting spending on health care programs and federal student aid.

"Our job is to reach out to our Republican brothers and sisters, working-class people and middle class people, and get their heads right," Sanders said to a boisterous crowd of 5,200 people at UH's Hofheinz Pavilion.

"Today this is a conservative Republican state, but that doesn't mean it will be tomorrow."

Sanders brought his progressive message to Texas and rallied supporters by attacking Wall Street greed and income inequality. "Politics should be about improving the lives of our people," he said.

The Vermont senator's biggest applause of the night came when he vowed to help make college tuition free.

"Taxpayers bailed out Wall Street when they needed it, now it's Wall Street's turn to help out the middle class."

"One of the problems that exists in American politics today, in my view, is that the Democratic Party has conceded half of the states in the country at the national level, and that's wrong," Sanders, a Vermont Independent running as a Democrat, said during a rally at a downtown Dallas hotel.

Several hours later at a similar event in Houston, he sharpened his advice for Democrats, saying the "simple truth is that you cannot be a national political party which claims to represent working families and low-income people and turn your back on some of the poorest states in America."

"If we are serious about change in America, we can't just do it in blue states," he declared earlier in Dallas, emphasizing the need for a "50-state strategy" that leaves no voter in the dark.

A live-blog from a Daily Kossack who was in attendance.