Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Gestapo in Denver

Not so secret a police state any longer.

Protesters at the Denver airport over the weekend were told by police that it was illegal to exercise “free speech without a permit.”

Denverite reported that over 200 people gathered at the Denver International Airport on Friday to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries. In video posted to YouTube, Police Commander Tony Lopez can be seen advising demonstrators that they are in violation of the law.

Stop doing anything that could be construed as free speech without a permit” ... Lopez warns in the video, which lacks context, that even carrying a copy of the U.S. Constitution was prohibited in the airport.

“I cannot carry the Constitution without a permit?” one protester asks.

“Correct,” the officer replies.

So we can surmise that the Denver police department was just following the orders of the Denver city council.  Fortunately none of the protestors were arrested.  Yet.

Monday Night Massacre

Rock and roll.


Trump went the full Nixon last night, after acting AG Sally Yates had instructed DOJ employees not to enforce his Muslim ban earlier in the afternoon.  The FNG, also an Obama appointee like Yates, promises to compel the executive order.  And then Trump followed up by replacing the ICE director with an underling without explanation.

This may be a moment of clarity for Senate Democrats, but they are already waffling on whether to support or oppose Trump's to-be-named-later-today SCOTUS pick, now widely rumored as his sister's appeals court bench teammate, Tom Hardiman.

But the real news about the Muslim ban may lie elsewhere.

For all the pyrotechnics at the Justice Department today, this may be the bigger story. There's been confusion over the last three days over whether Republicans on Capitol Hill were briefed, consulted or involved in writing President Trump's now infamous immigration executive order. The White House has said they were. Republicans on the Hill said the first they heard of it was in news reports.

Now we have an explanation.

According to this story in Politico, the White House worked with senior staffers on the House Judiciary Committee to draft the order. But those staffers, who work ultimately for Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), didn't tell their bosses. In other words, they secretly collaborated with White House staff without informing the members of Congress they work for. Indeed, the administration went so far as to have them sign non-disclosure agreements swearing them to secrecy!

This is quite simply unheard of.

To be clear, the executive works with Congress all the time to craft legislation. That's the President working with members of Congress, though much of the actual work is delegated to staff. All normal. It's congressional staff working for the executive without telling the members of Congress they work for which is the big deal.

More from Josh Marshall there on What It All Means.  But for sure, this is what shaking up Washington looks like, and House Republicans suddenly need to assess how they are going to react to getting the end-around from President Cheeto Hitler.  I'll bet they won't just lie there and take it the way Democrats do.

If Trump is going to be reined in, it's going to be Team Pachyderm that does the dirty work.  If he keeps piling up constitutional crises this fast ... well, impeachment in six months at least sounds a little more plausible.  And at this pace, who can predict what happens today, tomorrow, the rest of this week, and next?  We're all going to have to do more than pop and eat corn, that much is certain.

Update: Not getting the word about the ban beforehand includes James Mattis, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson, and GOP Sen. Bob Corker.  (Who knows, one of these men could possibly be a terrorist sympathizer.)

At least three top national security officials — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Rex Tillerson, who is awaiting confirmation to lead the State Department — have told associates they were not aware of details of the directive until around the time Trump signed it. Leading intelligence officials were also left largely in the dark, according to U.S. officials.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said that despite White House assurances that congressional leaders were consulted, he learned about the order in the media.

[...]

Mattis, who stood next to Trump during Friday’s signing ceremony, is said to be particularly incensed. A senior U.S. official said Mattis, along with Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford, was aware of the general concept of Trump’s order but not the details. Tillerson has told the president’s political advisers that he was baffled over not being consulted on the substance of the order.

Hoo boy.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance has a lot of blogging to do if it's going to make any Super Bowl parties this weekend.  Here's the roundup of the best of the lefty blog posts from last week.

Off the Kuff did an interview with Jessica Shortall of Texas Competes, one of the many groups that is fighting against Dan Patrick's anti-LGBT bathroom bill.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos reports that, true to Trumpian fashion, Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz avoid their constituents, going as far as to eject peaceful visitors from offices, locking them out, and calling the police.

SocraticGadfly takes a look at recent discussion about implicit bias, especially implicit racial bias, and believes it is indeed a valid concept, but at the same time has issues with testing for it.

Frustration at the weakness of Democrats -- in particular, Senate Democrats confirming Trump's cabinet appointees -- is spreading and growing stronger, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.


Neil at All People Have Value sent a letter to each of his Houston and Harris County elected Democrats -- from the school board on up -- asking them what role they will take in opposing Donald Trump.  Neil will be posting the replies at his blog as they are received. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

After a couple of months off, John Coby at Bay Area Houston gets back in the saddle with a couple of postings, one about the HCDP chair race and one about Trump.

Ted at jobsanger takes note of Trump's approval rating having gone underwater already.

The Lewisville Texan Journal would like to point out that a woman's place is in the House and the Senate.

Dos Centavos was at the rally asking Houston officials to overturn the 287(g) immigration policy. 

And Texas Leftist celebrates the return of a Houston radio station dedicated to classical music.

===========================

More news from across Texas!

Texas Monthly's Daily Post visits the two busiest airports in the state to look at how the immigration ban is going.

Additional 'peaceful protectors' are requested at tomorrow's Muslim Lobby Day at the Capitol, posts the Rag Blog.

UT and NFL football star Ricky Williams was harassed by police in Tyler, and the mayor there responded by offering his guest room the next time Williams visits, though Grits for Breakfast figures that offer would not be extended to other racially profiled black men.

Somervell County Salon begins her most recent Ruminations of the Easily Amused by noting US Judge Sam Sparks striking down the fetal burial law.

The Midland Reporter-Telegram had the story about the mosque in Victoria, a previous target of hate crimes, which burned to the ground over the weekend.

The Texas Observer covered two protests, one in south Austin at the Texas Parks and Wildlife headquarters, against commission member Kelcy Warren (the owner of Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline company) and in San Marcos, where students of Texas State have been repeatedly intimidated by the long history of racial prejudice in that town.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, former state representative Kent Grusendorf has moved on from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Austin's most influential conservative thinktank.

The Texas Tribune covered the DNC chair candidates' appearance at the Future Forum, held at Texas Southern University on Saturday.

DBC Green Blog went to hear Code Pink activists Ann Wright and Medea Benjamin as they swung through Texas.

Rice University's Urban Edge blog has the story on the Texas Historical Commission's designation of the Astrodome as a state landmark, providing the defense against those who would rather tear it down than preserve it.


And CultureMap Houston collected some of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations from this past weekend.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

In the aftermath of Trump's Muslim ban

Kevin Drum has missed more often than he's made over the past year or so, but he strikes this one dead solid perfect.  Opening with an excerpt:

Harold Pollack on President Trump's immigration fiasco:

The President’s team had months to prepare this signature immigration initiative. And they produced...an amateurish, politically self-immolating effort that humiliated the country, provoked international retaliation, and failed to withstand the obvious federal court challenge on its very first day.

Given the despicable nature of this effort, I’m happy it has become a political fiasco. It also makes me wonder how the Trump administration will execute the basic functions of government. This astonishing failure reflects our new President’s contempt for the basic craft of government.

This sure seems to be the case. For the barely believable story of just how incompetent the whole exercise was, check out this CNN story. It will leave your jaw on the floor. And yet, there's also one tidbit that makes me wonder if the chaos attending the rollout was quite as unintended as we think:

Friday night, DHS arrived at the legal interpretation that the executive order restrictions applying to seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen — did not apply to people who with lawful permanent residence, generally referred to as green card holders.

The White House overruled that guidance overnight, according to officials familiar with the rollout. That order came from the President's inner circle, led by Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon. Their decision held that, on a case by case basis, DHS could allow green card holders to enter the US.

The decision to apply the executive order to green card holders, including those in transit, is almost insane. Whatever else he is, Steve Bannon is a smart guy, and he had to know that this would produce turmoil at airports around the country and widespread condemnation from the press.

Why would he do this?


I'll answer that (first, with respect to Trump): In addition to being a racist, a misogynist, and a sexual fetishist, our new president has now revealed himself to be a sadistUpdate: This is not hyperbole, not exaggeration.  Sadist.

"It’s working out very nicely,” (Trump) said on Saturday afternoon as he signed his latest batch of executive actions. “You see it in the airports.”

Bannon, for his part, is both Neo-Nazi and nihilist.


In cases like this, the smart money is usually on incompetence, not malice. But this looks more like deliberate malice to me. Bannon wanted turmoil and condemnation. He wanted this executive order to get as much publicity as possible. He wanted the ACLU involved. He thinks this will be a PR win.

Liberals think the same thing. All the protests, the court judgments, the press coverage: this is something that will make middle America understand just what Trump is really all about. And once they figure it out, they'll turn on him.

In other words, both sides think that maximum exposure is good for them. Liberals think middle America will be appalled at Trump's callousness. Bannon thinks middle America will be appalled that lefties and the elite media are taking the side of terrorists. After a week of skirmishes, this is finally a hill that both sides are willing to die for. Who's going to win?

This is indeed chaos theory as applied to governance.  While the media's attention was focused on the protests, Bannon was appointed to the National Security Council (along with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and chief of staff Reince Priebus), replacing the Director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

That is some kind of hubris.  I'd say we're now headed pell-mell toward both a civil war and a nuclear war -- remember, the North Koreans have been bragging about their new missile and restarting their reactor -- and the reaction from the Chinese seems to be "let's get it started".

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!  There may not be many more in our future!

Sunday Alternative Funnies

Saturday, January 28, 2017

People growing angrier at Democrats


An update at the end of this post on Trump's SCOTUS nominee, which is reportedly coming early next week, expanded on the frustration in some quarters with how Democrats -- mostly of the upper chamber variety -- have responded to the Trump agenda.   I wrote there I could have made that its own post; now it is.  A summary of reading since then:

-- Nathan Hevenstone, for one, is hyper-ventilating about Elizabeth Warren's tortured defense via Twitter of her vote to confirm Ben Carson as chief of HUD.

-- Angry Bear, for another, in regard to an old e-mail crime/coverup in the W administration that went unprosecuted by Obama's.

-- And Osita Nwanevu at Slate doubles down on irritation at the senators:

As anyone who has been awake for the past eight years should be well aware, the notion that the Republican Party will reward Democrats in the future for their deference now is utterly laughable.

So just what the hell is going on in the Senate?

Her answer: "The broader truth is this: the Democrats, unlike the Republican Party, haven’t a clue how to build and wield power."  And then publishes the names of all the Democrats who have voted 'aye' on Trump's nominees so far.  It is a remarkably disgraceful list, in particular those senators who occupy safe blue seats.  The most appalling of all is Bernie Sanders voting to confirm John Kelly as director of Homeland Security ...

... even though (Kelly) has pledged to go after sanctuary cities and declined to give a clear answer as to how he would deal with DREAMers(.)

Sanders' statement on his votes:

“We must vigorously defend DACA and the young people in that program. We must continue the fight for comprehensive immigration reform and a path toward citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. General (James) Mattis (who is now Secretary of Defense) and General Kelly may not be the nominees I would have preferred for the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, but in a Trump cabinet likely to be loaded up with right-wing extremists, all of whom I will oppose, I hope General Mattis and General Kelly will have a moderating influence on some of the racist and xenophobic views that President Trump advocated throughout the campaign. ..."

So.  Hope for a moderating influence overcomes the hypocrisy of his votes contradicting his 'vigorous' beliefs.  Wish I could be as hopeful.  Of greater encouragement, though, is the remarkable legal interpretation that Trump's anti-Muslim immigration policy -- poorly disguised as an anti-refugee executive order -- crashes on the rocky shoals of Justice Samuel Alito's vaguely worded anti-abortion decrees, also known as SCOTUS majority opinions.  So there's that.

And according to Al Franken, we should take solace that all Senate Democrats will oppose Betsy DeVos for education secretary, even Joe Lieberman Manchin.  I'll believe it when I see it.

For readers attending or watching the livestream of today's DNC Future Forum, keep all of this in mind as you hear the candidates discuss their views, policies, and plans of action.

Update: What Bill Maher said.

Friday, January 27, 2017

DNC candidates come to H-Town

They probably won't have time for any Super Bowl parties.  As a follow-up to Tuesday's post that had some thoughts on this election, I'm kinda surprised there's not more local news or even blogging about this gathering.

There will be 11 people at a DNC forum in Houston Saturday, including a new batch of lesser-known candidates.

Here's more about the event, from an e-mail by soon-to-be-former HCDP chairman, Lane Lewis.

The DNC Future Forum will be a full-day affair, with a break for lunch. The morning portion will feature opening remarks by DNC Chair Donna Brazile, Reverend Dr. William Barber, II of North Carolina, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa. There will be a polling presentation by Maria Teresa Kumar representing Voto Latino. The candidate forums, moderated by Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune, will take place during the afternoon portion of the day.

The forum will be open to the press and the public and will be livestreamed as well. Click here to access the livestream link. 

Now that the Boston Globe's lede has been exhumed, note that the reporter, James Pindell, is forecasting gloom, and maybe doom, for Dems.

Following GOP victories in the 2016 elections, Democrats have descended to their lowest levels of power in Washington, D.C., and capitals across the country since the Hoover administration. And with the Clintons and Obamas exiting the stage, there is no natural leader to take the party forward.

Unfortunately for Democrats, the race for Democratic National Committee chairman — one of the party’s most powerful open posts in D.C. — is unlikely to give much clarity to their conundrum. The DNC chairman’s race features no clear front-runner and, so far, little debate about the soul and direction of the party.

For the first time in a dozen years, there is an open race to run the party [...]

The DNC chairman’s election will be held in late February in Atlanta, and it’s really anyone’s guess who will win. Party members anticipate several rounds of ballots, during which deals will be made between the candidates until someone wins a majority.


Keith Ellison and Tom Perez, re-litigating the 2016 primary with the same hissing animosity from the Hillbots toward the Sandernistas, yaddayaddayadda.

(W)ith the Clinton/Sanders divide in the race, no candidate has been able to lock up enough votes to win. Both Ellison and Perez have endorsements from unions, governors, mayors, and senators ...

But (Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) and other high-profile endorsers are not among the DNC’s 447 voting members — nearly half of whom are state Democratic chairs and vice chairs. The rest are mostly longtime party activists from nearly every state. Not even Bill or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama gets a vote.

“Endorsements don’t mean anything unless they are from voting members,” said Elaine Kamarck, an at-large DNC voting member who is backing Perez. “I don’t think anyone has a really good read on this race right now.”

According to internal counts from three of the campaigns, roughly 150 members have committed to a candidate — and the rest of the votes are up for grabs. 

My state senator Borris Miles is hosting a reception this evening for Ellison at his cigar bar, Our Legends.  (You might need your invite for this; while it opens occasionally for political events, it is private membership only.)  Claude Cummings of the CWA has endorsed Ellison as well.  Update: Bobby Cervantes at the Chron sees Miles' predecessor and now Harris commissioner, Rodney Ellis, former Bayou City Mayor Annise Parker, and a handful of others falling in behind Perez.  This is a good litmus test for real (Dem) progs versus alt-progs.

Once more, you can sign up to attend this forum at the Granville M. Sawyer Auditorium on the campus of Texas Southern University tomorrow -- note as indicated at the top, it lasts all day but the candidates won't be appearing until after lunch -- at this link.  No charge but you must RSVP, and seating is first come, first served.  It'll probably be a full house.

In addition to Ellison and Perez, the field includes Sally Boynton Brown, the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party; Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind.; Jehmu Greene, a Fox News analyst; Raymond Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party; and Jaime Harrison, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

That field is nothing if not diverse. Among the candidates are an African-American man, an African-American woman, an African-American who is Muslim, a white woman, a Hispanic man, and two gay white men.

[...]

“It is important that we don’t try to control the chaos,” Brown said.

Let's hear for it chaos, everybody!

Who do you think El Patron de la Partido Democratico de Tejas is supporting?  Probably has nothing to do with la raza.  I've given ol' Gil a bad time for a long time, and he has honestly earned every bit of it (to say nothing of the ill repute he's dishonestly earned).

As a former Democrat, I have no horse in this race.  But my space is reserved and I'll be live-Tweeting the proceedings.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Trump's Supreme Court nominee

In an alternative universe where Democrats have a spine or at least a Senate majority, they might be able to do what the Republicans did in 2016 and block a nominee, especially since they can't stop any of Trump's appalling cabinet of conservative extremists.  Very, very low odds of that happening in actual reality, so let's take a look at who might get tapped next week.  President Twitler apparently has his selection narrowed down to three white male federal appeals court justices, all of them W. Bush appointees and all millionaires.

L to R: William Pryor, Neil Gorsuch, Thomas Hardiman

Those reportedly on Trump’s short list to fill a vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia are all federal appellate judges: Judge Neil Gorsuch of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Hardiman, based in Pittsburgh, and 11th U.S. Circuit Court Judge William Pryor, who works in Birmingham, Alabama.

Financial profiles of each appear there.  The favorite seems to be Gorsuch.  Edith Roberts at SCOTUSblog adds some linkage.

At Bloomberg, Greg Stohr reports that “the president is a week away from nominating someone who would become a core member of the court’s conservative wing,” and that each of “four appellate judges in contention for the slot, including front-runners Neil Gorsuch and Thomas Hardiman, would fit neatly into the ideological mold of the man they would succeed, the late Justice Antonin Scalia.” In The National Law Journal (subscription or registration required), Tony Mauro reports that Gorsuch is “no fan of class actions,” having “criticized what he viewed as baseless litigation by shareholder classes,” and that he is “not big on agency deference either.” At PrawfsBlawg, Richard Re discusses recent remarks by Gorsuch in which the judge stressed the importance of the federal judicial oath, asserting that whoever “the nominee turns out to be, I hope that the resulting confirmation hearings spend some time exploring what it means to do ‘equal right to the poor and to the rich.’”

The son of Reagan's EPA director Anne Gorsuch Burford receives the early and favorable media vetting.  This excerpt from Ariane de Vogue of CNN digs deeper into his judicial philosophy.

Gorsuch, 49, has been on the radar of some judicial conservatives for some time. He has long been a favorite of legal thinkers at the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.

Conservatives welcome his opinions on religious liberty. For instance, he has sided with closely held corporations who argued that the so called contraceptive mandate violated their religious beliefs. In another opinion, he challenged the notion that courts should defer to administrative agencies when they interpret the law. It may seem like a dry legal issue but it is central to many conservatives, including Justice Clarence Thomas.

"Judge Gorsuch has been a stern critic of a fixture of the Supreme Court's administrative law jurisprudence -- the idea that, where a federal agency is enforcing an ambiguous statute, courts should defer to how the agency understands the statute even if the courts read it differently," said Stephen I. Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court contributor and professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law.

"If he were to form part of a majority to scale back that principle, it would be a major sea change in the relationship between the executive branch and the courts, and one that would likely impose significant new constraints on the scope of federal regulatory authority on all topics -- from immigration and criminal law enforcement to environmental protection, consumer product safety, and drug regulation," Vladeck said.

"His position on this is more extreme than Justice Scalia," said Dan Goldberg of the progressive Alliance for Justice. "It would be hard to overstate the damage it would cause this nation and the American people."

Pryor is super-freak right; his hearings for the post he currently holds were contentious.

Pryor, 54, was subject to a years-long fight when Bush appointed him to the 11th Circuit, not least because of statements that Roe v. Wade is "the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law," and that it has "led to the slaughter of millions of innocent unborn children." He also purposely rescheduled a family trip to Disney World to avoid attending during "Gay Day", and as attorney general of Alabama wrote an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold laws banning gay sex.

Despite that extensive social conservative pedigree, some conservatives are reportedly pushing against Pryor as a pick because of a pro–transgender rights ruling he made in 2011.

With all of the left and some of the right disapproving of Pryor, Mitch McConnell and Mike Pence may be whispering to Trump that a Senate fight over this guy is one they could easily lose.  There are fuller profiles of all three at this Vox link, and more like that from Politico.  Minority Leader Schumer has promised a hard line on any nominee, but he was with the Senate delegation that met with Trump on Tuesday to discuss his choice, a group which included Charles Grassley and Diane Feinstein, the ranking members of the Judiciary committee.

I'd say the options for Democrats are limited to stalling a confirmation as long as possible.

Updates:  The odds may have moved.

Trump is now focused on another judge with a working-class background: Thomas Hardiman. As a former attorney, Hardiman has been less vocal about his personal views.
“Our role as judges is to interpret the law,” Hardiman said.

Still on the now very short list for the current vacancy is federal appeals judge Neil Gorsuch. But with Justice Anthony Kennedy likely to retire soon, Gorsuch could become a leading favorite for Mr. Trump’s second nomination.

And Trump favors employing the nuclear option to get his pick confirmed, if that's what it takes.

(Trump) would favor Senate Republicans changing voting rules to allow a simple majority of the Senate to approve his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court if Democrats block his choice, he said in an interview airing on Thursday.

“I would. We have obstructionists,” Trump told Fox News, referring to possible use of the so-called nuclear option that would overturn Senate rules requiring 60 votes to overcome a procedural hurdle, or filibuster, for Supreme Court nominees.

There are currently 52 Republican senators in the 100-seat chamber.

[...]

Assuming all 52 Senate Republicans back Trump's nominee, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would either need to lure eight Democrats to his side or change the rules and ban the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations.

Last, in what could have been a blog post all its own, Ryan Cooper at The Week excoriates Senate Democrats for their timidity to this point in opposing Trump's cabinet picks.

Senate Democrats are ... the first target of liberal outrage, since they have to vote on Trump's cabinet nominees. They don't control the chamber, so it mostly doesn't matter in substantive terms how they vote — but it's still a powerful symbolic act. (Though they could have come close to picking off the wretched Mike Pompeo as CIA director, since Rand Paul voted against him.)

But not a single Democratic senator has voted against every nominee, as Paul Blest points out. Only Kirsten Gillibrand and Tom Udall have come close, voting against five of six. Six other caucus members have voted against four of six: Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Richard Blumenthal, Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden, and Elizabeth Warren. On the other hand, fully 14 Democrats had voted for all six of Trump's nominees — and some of those in safe blue states, like Dianne Feinstein (California), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island), and Chuck Schumer (New York) — who is also the Minority Leader.

[...]

Republicans mounted total procedural obstruction to Democrats and President Obama, and it only worsened as his presidency passed. The goal, as then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in 2010, was to "deny President Obama a second term." They filibustered nearly every bill, even ones that would go through 100-0, simply to gum up the calendar and eat up precious floor time. They filibustered nearly every judicial nominee (until Senate Democrats scaled back the filibuster), to keep liberals out of the courts — and last year, when Antonin Scalia died, Senate Republicans refused to even consider Obama's Supreme Court nominee for an entire year, in hopes that Trump would be able to fill the seat. That has literally never happened before.

This has been a nihilistic, will-to-power struggle for years now, and obviously so. Republicans now control the whole government due to happenstance and the idiotic Electoral College, but they're not moderating their policies to the slightest degree out of some sense of decorum. Instead, they're going to ram through their agenda as fast as possible, and try their utmost to disenfranchise enough liberals and rig the election procedures such that America becomes a permanent one-party state.

Harsher than most anything I've written.

It only takes one party to start a fight, and when you're already in one compromise is a guaranteed way to lose. Ordinary Democrats are finally seeing this truth, as shown by the gigantic marches all over the country during inauguration weekend, and later ones in Philadelphia and New York against Trump's anti-Muslim policies. Not even a week into his presidency and Trump is already facing massive unrest.

Elected Democrats are going to need to ditch their usual cringing, timid, compromising ways if they want to have a chance at a political career in the future. Even fairly milquetoast liberals are crying out for some sort of firebrand to lead a ferocious, determined resistance. If, say, Tom Udall or Kirsten Gillibrand can realize this, their national profile will quickly grow.

But those who vote for Jeff Sessions to become attorney general might face a primary challenge instead.

So let it be done.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Our alt-facts president

Enabled by his alt-facts press secretary.  Bold mine.

Sean Spicer has shed new light on the concept of "alternative facts," a widely-panned concept introduced by his colleague Kellyanne Conway to defend his seemingly inaccurate inauguration attendee numbers.
According to the White House press secretary, his usage of "alternative facts" is much ado about nothing: In fact, he says, its similar to a meteorologist who incorrectly predicts the weather.
"The press was trying to make it seem like we were ignoring the facts," Spicer told Fox News' Sean Hannity during an interview that aired Tuesday night. "The facts are, sometimes when you look at a situation, in the same way that you can look at a weather report. One weather report comes out and says it's going to be cloudy and another says it’s going to be light rain. No one lied to you, it just means you interpreted the data in a way that you felt got you to a conclusion."
Spicer claimed, "We weren’t by any means trying to mislead anyone. We asked for a set of facts, we thought that the group [which provided subway ridership figures] and the facts that we were given at that time were accurate. Like anything else, it's not alternative facts. There’s sometimes you can watch two different stations and get two different weather reports. That doesn’t mean that the station was lying to you. And the press made it look like we were ignoring the facts. " 

Weather reports aren't facts; they're forecasts.  Predictions.  Sort of like polls.  The weather, like the size of a crowd, is a fact afterwards and not before.  Spicer could have said "Trump's inauguration will be the biggest of all time" the day before the event, and some people would have nodded in agreement while others laughed him off as a braggart.  You can't run around telling people it rained yesterday when it didn't without looking like a moron or an asshole.

The trouble with analogies like this is that we'll have to deal with people who say "It rained at my house" next.  But alt-facts are the world we live in now, so make the necessary adjustments.

In our fresh new environment, ill Eagles cost Trump the popular vote.  And we can't have governmental agencies talking about climate change, or releasing data about unemployment or jobs when they contradict the president's strongly-held belief.  This is truthiness taken to its most petulant extreme.  But Democrats in the Senate already understand they're going to have to pick their battles, and if a nominee is just dense and unqualified, that's not as bad as dangerous and malignant.  Lesser of two evils, you see.


If making America Great Again means more jobs for robots that are themselves manufactured in China, then so be it.  It's up to us to figure out an alternatively factual way to understand it.

Here's one: Robots can't build border walls, so there's going to be some number of jobs -- millions! Yuuuge! -- for Americans that Mexicans won't do (or take away from them, or be shipped overseas).  See how easy this is?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Democrats winning and losing

-- First, a few more photos from the weekend, at the Capitol ...


... and here in H-Town:


And more pics at the Observer.

The rallies are powerful and enduring emotionally, but simply do not translate into electoral strength. Big turnouts for protests can be misleading, as Nate Silver reminds, and as Charles has noted, Wendy Davis and her filibuster produced a similarly large crowd of upset people over women's reproductive freedoms, and then Greg Abbott defeated her a year later with more white (but not black or brown) female votes than Davis was able to earn.  So it's fair to ask: where do the Dems go from here?  Bernie Sanders answered this question a few days after Hillary Clinton's upset defeat, but none of the 447 people who will be voting in this election seem to have heard it.

We can hope they don't go back to where they started two years ago, but in a glaring sign of chronic insanity, not a single DNC candidate running to replace DWS/Donna Brazile was willing to admit that the 2016 primary was rigged for Clinton.  Keith Ellison is as close to acceptable as it gets for actual progressives (not the alt-progs that comprise most of the party), and a lot of them are already stepping away from him because.... well, I suppose he just can't help himself.

In trying to woo the DNC delegates he needs to win the election, Ellison has reduced his criticism of Hillary Clinton and increased his smears of the Republican Party. He has endorsed a billionaire donor, Stephen Bittel, to become the Florida Democratic Party chair, and has announced that he will not be attending Trump’s Inauguration, which many commended. But what he failed to mention is that he will be meeting with billionaire donors instead at Clinton propagandist David Brock’s closed-door retreat. Though Ellison initially said he supported re-enacting a ban on lobbyists that former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz lifted in 2015 to help Hillary Clinton, he recently said he won’t unilaterally re-enact the ban but will put it to a vote for DNC members to decide. Many of the DNC members happen to be lobbyists.

Incidentally, only one candidate marched this past weekend.  All the rest huddled with David Brock instead.  I shouldn't have to point this out, but Republicans and Democrats are reduced to fighting over the crumbs from a couple of hundred American billionaire oligarchs, some of which hedge their losses by giving to both parties.  Another 'water is wet'-ism for the Blues: Trump did not get elected because he raised or spent the most money.

-- Kuff has kept tabs on the local D scene with updates to the Harris county chair contest, and the announcement of a bid for Congress by my neighbor, Deb Kerner.

Of the ten folks formally announced (so to speak) for the race, Art Pronin, Dominique Davis, and Lillie Schechter should be the front-runners.  This will again be a blacks vs. gays battle (an old storyline, and note that Keryl Douglas has come back for more of it) for control of the county party, so since Pronin still hasn't decided to run for certain, I would handicap it Davis and Schechter, not necessarily in that order, as early favorites.  DBC has a report on Johnathan Miller's appearance at the Houston Area Progressives meeting this week; he nails it from my perspective.

There are only a few hundred people voting in this election, too.

Kerner (her school trustee page has been updated) is popular with us southwest-siders, and unlike any of the recent challengers to John Culberson, has won an election before.  Keep in mind that Hillary Clinton narrowly carried CD7 over Trump in 2016, while Culberson pasted James Cargas by twelve points, his third consecutive defeat to the incumbent Congress critter.  Anybody that spares us from watching Cargas lose a fourth time is a good thing.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance won't be passing off any alternative facts in this week's roundup from the best blog posts and news stories of last week.


Off the Kuff stays on the bathroom beat.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos attended the women’'s march in Houston yesterday.  Meanwhile, in that spirit, she recalls the old Republican healthcare plan.  Remember the GOP healthcare plan? “Don’t get sick”.

Socratic Gadfly looks at the most recent Back the Blue support tool, and decries its flag desecration hypocrisy.

Neil at All People Have Value visited the segment of the Berlin Wall at Rice University that was defaced by graffiti supporting Donald Trump. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

The Irish bookmaker Paddy Power laid odds on Trump's shade of orange at the inauguration, but PDiddie at Brains and Eggs took some of their easier money.

Before leaving on a fishing trip, CouldBeTrue at South Texas Chisme sees a lot of harrassment and some tough times ahead for people who live on the border.

The Lewisville Texan Journal reports that over one hundred people are suing an emergency care facility there.

Dos Centavos notices that there are no vendidos in Trump's cabinet.

Easter Lemming Liberal News, now on Facebook and Twitter, reports Pat Van Houte is running for mayor of Pasadena, Texas.  She opposed the redistricting that was just ruled illegal.

And jobsanger dissects Trump's promise of 25 million new jobs (hint: it won't happen no matter how much 'alternative math' gets employed).

======================

More Texas news!

Robin Paoli and Aimee Mobley Turney explain why they marched on Saturday.

Harris County may have more Latinos voting than previously counted, relays the Urban Edge.

David Collins at DBC Green Blog observes that the Harris County Democratic Party needs more precinct chairpersons (and more progressives, a different problem).

Allen Young traveled from rural Massachusetts to Austin to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Rag, the iconoclastic underground newspaper that carries on today as The Rag Blog.

A Texas House Republican from Fredericksburg, Kyle Biedermann, sent out a highly questionable survey about Sharia law just prior to convening a 'Homeland Security Summit' in Austin this week.  The Houston Press quotes the head of Houston's Council on American-Islamic Relations as suggesting it's a fishing expedition.

 Protestors at Texas Muslim lobby day, two years ago.

G. W. Schulz at the Texas Observer shares the lessons he has learned from hustling in the new gig economy.

Luis Hestres wonders what Trump's election will mean for digital freedom of speech.

Equality Texas is tracking the pro- and anti-LGBT bills in the Legislature.

The Texas Election Law Blog analyzes the Pasadena redistricting decision.

The Lunch Tray says goodbye to Michelle Obama.

The Bloggess did what she could to help you get through last week.

And conservative Democratic political consultant Colin Strother advises us to hold on tight.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Hell Toupee, But We Shall Overcomb


But...

Trump protests get rowdy

DisruptJ20 is my kinda people.  Wish I were younger and healthier and I'd be there with 'em.


Six police officers were injured and 217 protesters arrested Friday after a morning of peaceful protests and coordinated disruptions of Donald Trump's inauguration ceremony gave way to ugly street clashes in downtown Washington.

At least two DC police officers and one other person were taken to the hospital after run-ins with protesters, DC Fire Spokesman Vito Maggiolo told CNN. Acting DC Police Chief Peter Newsham said the officers' injuries were considered minor and not life threatening.

Bursts of chaos erupted on 12th and K streets as black-clad "antifascist" protesters smashed storefronts and bus stops, hammered out the windows of a limousine and eventually launched rocks at a phalanx of police lined up in an eastbound crosswalk. Officers responded by launching smoke and flash-bang devices, which could be heard from blocks away, into the street to disperse the crowds.

"Pepper spray and other control devices were used to control the criminal actors and protect persons and property," police said.

Anti-Trump protests also broke out Friday in US cities, including New York, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago and Portland, Oregon. Authorities in Seattle say one person was in critical condition at a hospital with a gunshot wound. Demonstrations also took place overseas in Hong Kong, Berlin and London.


In case you were wondering, there's going to be a lot more of this.  (Watch how AG-designate Sessions handles it.  He's already got Justice backing off from voter/photo ID lawsuits.  Update: More in depth on that from ProPublica.)

I won't expect too many people who voted for Hillary Clinton to be a part of this action; today's Women's March is more their speed.  "The pussy grabs back" is today's campaign chant.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States and around the world are set to join marches Saturday to raise awareness of women's rights and other civil rights they fear could be under threat under Donald Trump's presidency.

The key focus of the day will be the Women's March on Washington, which organizers say could attract a quarter of a million participants.

The march, which began with a modest Facebook call in the aftermath of the election, has grown in to what could be one of the larger political demonstrations ever seen in DC.


But there are also more than 600 "sister marches" planned around the country, with some of the biggest expected in Boston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

And women and men in cities around the world -- including Sydney, Hong Kong, London and Paris -- are also marching in solidarity and in opposition to the values they think President Trump represents.

And all across Texas, as posted yesterday.

You're released from yesterday's media blackout to tune in to the demonstrations if you can't do anything more, but keep avoiding teevee coverage of President Twitler wherever possible. Concentrations of Trump, televised, is how we got here in the first place.  Don't continue to enable a media that wants to treat this administration as normal.   And punch a Nazi every chance you get.  Zero tolerance for fascism is a great way to resist.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Resistance today

I would have preferred calling it a general strike, and Ted Rall has been merciless in his criticism, but this is the effort and today is the day.


Not limited to DC.  Texas events:

Austin

Friday, January 20
One Resistance: More Info
J20 UT Student Walkout: More Info
LGBTQ Human Rights Rally: More Info
Saturday, January 21
Women's March on Austin: More Info

Corpus Christi

Friday, January 20
Solidarity and Resistance Rally: More Info

Dallas

Friday, January 20
NTX Resistance: More Info
#J20 Dallas Anti-Trump March: More Info
Saturday, January 21
Dallas Women's March and Mega Phone Bank: More Info

Denton

Saturday, January 21
Women's Rally on Denton Square: More Info

El Paso

Saturday, January 21
Somos Una + We Are One: More Info
Women's March on the Border: More Info

Fort Worth

Saturday, January 21
Fort Worth Women's March: More Info

Houston

Friday, January 20
Bridges Not Walls Rally: More Info
We Belong: Houstonians of Muslim Descent Dissent: More Info
Saturday, January 21
Houston Women's March: More Info

McKinney

Friday, January 20
No Mandate March: More Info

Rio Grande Valley

Saturday, January 21
RGV for Reproductive Rights, McAllen: More Info
Women's March, Brownsville: More Info

San Antonio

Saturday, January 21
SA Women March Against Hate: More Info

Waco

Friday, January 20
United Against Trump, Inaugural Protest: More Info

Let's make sure everyone hears us.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Paddy Power lays odds on Trump's shade of orange for tomorrow

I mentioned a few days ago that Twitler's chances of being impeached in the next six months were too short for my liking, but these bets are ... creative.  I'll give you my wagers at the end.  From the e-inbox:

(19 January 2017) History will be made tomorrow, as Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.

Mischievous bookmaker Paddy Power have priced up a variety of specials for the Washington event – including what colour the new President will be at his inauguration. The bookie makes lighter tones Tiger’s Eye and Deep Saffron its 6/1 favourites with Mango Tango leading the chasing pack at 7/1. Further down in the betting is Vivid Tangelo and Cool Copper at 8/1 while Mahogany props up the betting at 18/1.

Paddy Power are also betting on what will be the first Trump-ism uttered by the tycoon during his speech. Perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘Make America Great Again’ is the favourite (2/1), while ‘Fake News’ (11/1), ‘Vladimir Putin’ (12/1)), and ‘Brexit’ (16/1) are also solid contenders. There are also a host of wildcard options included in the betting, such as ‘I think, therefore I am’ (33/1), ‘I have a dream’ (40/1), ‘You’re fired!’ (50/1), and ‘Nigel Farage’ (40/1).

And Farage is also prominent in the market for which celebrities will be in attendance. The UKIP leader is a short price to be at the inauguration (2/1). Noted supporter Kanye West (3/1), madcap wrestler Hulk Hogan (3/1) and Dennis Rodman (10/3) are also in contention – as well as loud-mouth pal Piers Morgan (12/1).

However, the party could be short-lived – with the bookie offering odds of 4/1 that Trump is impeached within six months of his presidency.

FĂ©ilim Mac An Iomaire, a spokesperson for Paddy Power, said: “Donald Trump’s election led to our biggest political payout in our history and we very much doubt that he’s done with upsetting the odds just yet. His inauguration will be watched all around the world and we make it 6/1 for the States to follow up its first-ever black President with its first-ever deep saffron Commander and Chief. (sic)”

Trump’s Inauguration Skin Colour

6/1 Tiger’s Eye

6/1 Deep Saffron

7/1 Mango Tango

8/1 Cinnamon

8/1 Heat Wave

8/1 Cool Copper

8/1 Vivid Tangelo

9/1 Carrot

10/1 Persimmon

10/1 Pumpkin

12/1 Burnt Orange

18/1 Mahogany


What Phrase Will Trump Use First?

2/1 Make America Great Again

7/2 Islamic Terrorism

11/2 Russia

9/1 Twitter

9/1 Nuclear Weapons

11/1 Fake News

12/1 Mexican Wall

12/1 Vladimir Putin

14/1 North Korea

16/1 Brexit

33/1 I think, therefore I am

40/1 I have a dream

40/1 Nigel Farage

50/1 You’re fired!

500/1 Golden Shower



Who Will Be In Attendance?

3/1 Kanye West

3/1 Hulk Hogan

10/3 Dennis Rodman

10/3 Mike Tyson

6/1 Jon Voight

12/1 Piers Morgan

16/1 Arnold Schwarzenegger

33/1 Meryl Streep

40/1 Kim Kardashian

50/1 Bernie Sanders

66/1 Lady Gaga

100/1 Bruce Springsteen

200/1 Bono



Golden couple specials

11/2 Trump to wear a golden tie

9/1 Melania to wear a golden dress



Presidential Betting Specials

4/1 Trump to be impeached in first six months of Presidency

14/1 To have an actual golden shower installed in the White House

16/1 To be dumped by Melania in 2017

500/1 To paint the entire White House gold

I'm not taking any of the skin tones; too subjective.  Remember that television distorts, and my teevee's color settings are probably different than the Irishmen's.  But two-to-one on MAGA is as sure a moneymaker as they come.  I'd again pass on the rest of those phrases in this speech (but the SOTU, even a year from now?  Alas, a different sport).

Take that 6/1 on Jon Voight and walk to the bank.  Update: Hope you got your bet in; a quick $300 bucks here.  Bernie Sanders at 50-1 is easy money, too (scroll to the bottom there; this is where PP fails on handicapping US politics.  Hope they don't read this blog).  Skip the rest.

I'm serious here.

Scattershooting the state budget, the potty bill, and a few Democrats

-- The Texas House and Senate have submitted their preliminary budgets, and they're billions of dollars apart.  The Statesman says over $5 billion after the wash, the TexTrib and the Chron are going with $8 billion.  This is illustrative of the dilemma facing those of us who want to better understand these things; details are scant on some of the largest expenditures, but it's enough to conclude that state services are going to get a lot worse.  One bright spot I can find is that the House does not declare the economic stabilization account, aka rainy day funds, untouchable.

... Rep. Drew Darby, a San Angelo Republican and House budget expert, hinted that his colleagues would consider tapping the state's Rainy Day Fund, which holds more than $10 billion.

"It was designed to accommodate these times that we're in right now," Darby said of the fund at a panel discussion at a conference hosted by the Texas Association of Business. "It has been raided and reduced to near zero three times in the past."

This is more open-minded thinking than I can recall seeing, particularly from members of the Texas House, and suggests that their influence will be greater than the Senate's, which has gone too far right to be of much service to any proud Texan.


-- Related to that premise, Joe Straus is going to push on Greg Abbott to take his side -- and not Piss Lord Dan Patrick's -- on the bathroom bill.  Bold emphasis mine.

House Speaker Joe Straus, R- San Antonio, was wary of the Senate’s “bathroom bill” during a speech at the Texas Association of Business conference on Wednesday, sharing his personal opinion that Senate Bill 6 could result in economic troubles.

“There’s been a lot of work put into our state’s economic success,” Straus said. “Contrary to popular myth, it is not a miracle. We want to continue that success and we want Texas to keep attracting the best and the brightest. One way to maintain our economic edge is to send the right signals about who we are.”

The speaker also appeared to be interested in getting a real stance on the issue from Gov. Greg Abbott, saying “the governor’s opinion on this can make a big difference too.”

“If you are concerned, and I know many of you are, now is the time to speak up,” Straus said, addressing conference attendees.

I say we all try to knock the guy in the wheelchair off that fence he's straddling.

-- In under-reported Texas developments:

A state district judge in Austin has taken the next step in dissolving the American Phoenix Foundation, the group that 'terrorized' members of the Legislature last session by secretly, then not-so-secretly, filming them at the Texas Capitol and elsewhere in Austin.

Former state Sen. Dan Shelley has been appointed as receiver to take over and dissolve the foundation, which has been described by its founder Joe Basel as “defunct.”

(Many QR readers may remember that Sen. Shelley served in both chambers and was legislative liaison to the legislature for both governors George W. Bush and Rick Perry.)

"The appointment of a receiver is an extraordinary remedy applied only because Joe Basel abused a nonprofit as if it were his personal play thing," said Steve Bresnen, the veteran lobbyist who filed suit to bring the finances of the Phoenix Foundation into the light.

Scott Braddock, the author of this excerpt, is simply a terrible writer -- too many quote marks and far too much inappropriate capitalization -- so I took the liberty to edit him above in that regard.  But to his credit, he appears to be the only reporter who covered this story.  It was ten days ago that the court squashed American Phoenix to death, and my Google machine shows no other stories about it.

-- As I posted earlier last week, memes are fun, get a lot of action on social media, and are rarely fact-checked.  But the fact-checkers make their their own mistakes, too.  It's getting more difficult to discern fake news from non-fake news, and the best thing you can do is to set your BS detector to 'highest', and wait for the autopsy results.

I remain of the opinion that Cory Booker is a POS neoliberal.

-- Tom Perez also still sucks.

(Outgoing) Labor Secretary Tom Perez, one of the leading candidates for chair of the Democratic National Committee, has stumbled in recent days when asked about his position on money in politics.

Asked at a DNC forum in Phoenix last Saturday whether he will “revive President Obama’s ban on corporate donations to the DNC” and a ban on appointing lobbyists as party leaders, Perez demurred.

“It’s actually not that simple a question,” Perez responded, adding that such a move might have “unintended consequences.” Perez argued that such a ban might impact “union members who are lobbyists,” though the question explicitly only addressed corporate lobbyists.

Speaking to the Huffington Post, Perez has refused to clarify his position on resurrecting President Obama’s ban on lobbyist donations to the DNC, which was overturned by former DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., during Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency.

The only firm restriction on special-interest money Perez has announced is that he will not accept lobbyist donations for his own campaign committee formed to support his bid for DNC chair. But even this position has come under question.

The Intercept recently obtained a fundraiser invite for Team Tom, Perez’s DNC chair campaign committee, for an event on January 26 in Washington, D.C. The event invite clearly prohibits lobbyist money, but the host committee — the individuals sponsoring the event — included several federally registered lobbyists and individuals working in the lobbying industry ...

Read on if you like, but I'm done.