Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Trump's State of the Union

Maybe he'll speak some French since it's Fat Tuesday.

Lawmakers, investors and the American public want President Donald Trump to provide some much-desired clarity on his policy agenda with his first address to Congress on Tuesday.
Six weeks into his presidency, Trump is under increasing pressure to answer core questions about how he’ll deliver on his promises to bring fundamental change to U.S. health-care policy, the tax system, defense spending and immigration. Explanations have been elusive so far, and his prime-time speech could determine whether markets -- and voters -- believe Trump has a firm handle on his job.

He doesn't.  He does seem to have a tight grasp on the nether regions of 229 Republicans in the House of Representatives, though.

Trump sought to provide some answers on how his proposed budget would pay for a 10 percent increase in spending on defense without cutting “entitlement” programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which make up about two-thirds of the $4 trillion federal budget, in an interview with Fox News that aired Tuesday.

“I think the money is going to come from a revved-up economy,” Trump said. The U.S. gross domestic product will be “a little more than 1 percent and if I can get that up to 3 and maybe more that’s a whole different ballgame,” he said.

Yay trickle down!  Trump and the GOP have hit the wall on the first turn trying to yank Americans' healthcare insurance out from under them, however.

Trump has shown signs of breaking from congressional Republicans on Obamacare. Governors meeting in Washington on Saturday were presented with an analysis of a House Republican repeal bill that suggested many people may lose their insurance under the measure and states would lose billions of dollars. Trump has previously vowed that no one would lose their coverage.

There are divisions among congressional Republicans over whether a replacement plan should subsidize insurance, and if so how generously and how to finance such a policy. Trump may use his speech to push one side to compromise, particularly since it’s clear he’s getting impatient.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the National Governors Association, said Trump asked Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price when a bill would be proposed during a meeting Monday with the governors group. Price told Trump a bill would be delivered in three or four weeks.

“Trump said, ‘I want it in two.’ Or something like that,” McAuliffe said.

Who knew this could be so complicated?  Not Trump.

In reality, I think that literally anyone who has ever worked on health care policy at the state or federal level could have told Trump that. If Trump wanted to stick to his usual aversion to experienced public servants, he alternatively could have asked anyone who’s worked in the private health insurance or hospital industries, and they would have told him that it’s complicated. 

It was a weird, somewhat inconsequential thing to say. However immediately after, Trump gave us a good example of how his general lack of knowledge of policy issues really matters. 

Referring to his own enthusiasm for tax reform, Trump explained, “I can’t do it until we do health care, because we have to know what the health care is going to cost and — statutorily — that’s the way it is. So for those people who say, ‘oh, gee, I wish we could do the tax first,’ it just doesn’t work that way. I would like to do the tax first.” 

Trump is wrong about this. There is no statutory requirement for him to do health care before he works on tax reform. What’s at issue is simply Paul Ryan’s legislative strategy. Ryan wants to pass a tax reform plan with a party-line vote, which means he needs to use the budget reconciliation process to avoid a Senate filibuster. 

America is not going to be winning more wars with a Commander-in-Chief this dense.

Monday, February 27, 2017

HCDP chair race update

There was a good crowd by all appearances at yesterday's forum, but there was scant social media coverage -- even of the cheerleading variety -- that I could find.  Only one declared candidate appears to have skipped the event (Rob Collier).

L to R: Johnathan Miller, Lillie Schechter, Chris Spellmon, DeWayne Lark, Dominique Davis, Keryl Douglas, and Eartha Jean Johnson speak at the Harris County Democratic Party's forum for chair candidates, Sunday, Feb. 26. Photo by Ken Olive (above) and Kingwood Area Democrats (below). Moderator Sherrie Matula stands behind candidates below.

These two Tweets were the most informative from my perspective:

Kuff's had a few interviews, and Aubrey Taylor has posted some bios.  That's all I got on this race, with a week to go before the election.  Anybody got any links, comments, etc. to share?

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is ready to laizzes les bons temps rouler with this week's blog post roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at the bill to modify Texas' voter ID law and sees a bit of reality acceptance by the Republicans.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos notes that we have three equal branches of government and a free press.  So far the POTUS has attacked the judiciary and has declared war on the media.  The legislative branch that should be holding the POTUS accountable looks the other way.  Meanwhile, the Russians...

SocraticGadfly takes a look at both Democratic Party post-election issues and Green Party discussion group comments, and issues his political ideas wish list for 2018 and beyond.

Easter Lemming Liberal News reports that because of slow action by Harris County and the City of Pasadena, information on election locations and hours and even district boundaries are -- so far -- available only on mayoral candidate Pat Van Houte's Facebook page Pat4Pasadena and her Pat4Pasadena.com website.  (Gary Denton works for Pat Van Houte's campaign as well as blogging as Easter Lemming.)

Bexar County commissioners have voted to oppose the transport of high-level nuclear waste through their county in response to ongoing developments associated with the expansion of the repository in Andrews, according to Texas Vox.

It was a big weekend for the Democrats as Tom Perez prevailed (barely) over Keith Ellison for the chairmanship of the DNC, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs takes a look at what's next for the Donks.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme contributes to the ACLU to protect us against Republicans going after voters; harassing those who signed an affidavit in the last election and trying to send them to jail before the next one.

Neil at All People Have Value attended a protest at a Houston country club calling upon cowardly Houston Congressperson John Culberson to have an open town hall meeting rather than just speaking to invited Republicans.  APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

The Lewisville Texan Journal explains to its readers why it won't report on the partisan affiliations of the city's municipal candidates.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston blogs about the failure of Texas electricity deregulation in 'The Power to Lose'.

TXsharon at Bluedaze takes note of Frackmaster Chris Faulkner's arrest on felony charges.

And Stace at Dos Centavos applauds the decision of Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who ended the county's participation in the immigration directive known as 287(g).


More Texas progressive news!

Juan Lozano at the AP, via The Statesman, reports on how missing accounts of police shootings are driving legislative changes to the law (and the record-keeping of the shootings).

The Intercept details the long history of deportation scare tactics at the US-Mexico border.

Grist describes how Mardi Gras beads make a much bigger environmental mess than you might imagine.

The Texas Observer passes along the story about how the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court and the chair of the House Corrections Committee would like to see repeal the law that imprisons debtors of misdemeanor fines.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes about the bill in the Lege that would do away with Daylight Saving Time.

Insurance company profits are bigger in Texas, posts Texas Watch.

Somervell County Salon muses about First Amendment rights and recording the police.

The Rag Blog shares Cong. Lamar Smith's words about the unvarnished truth falling from the lips of President Trump.

Zachery Taylor wonders if the ongoing resistance protests signal overdue reform, or are just another Democratic Trojan horse.

And Ty Clevenger at Lawflog has news of former Dallas County DA Craig Watkins being sued for allegedly ordering the burglary of an H.L. Hunt heir's home.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

How Perez defeated Ellison, and what's next

Jonathan Easley at The Hill.

One vote.

That’s how close former Labor Secretary Tom Perez was to defeating Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) on the initial ballot and becoming the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the first contested race in more than a decade.

The hundreds of DNC members and liberal activists gathered inside the Atlanta Convention Center hall gasped when interim chairwoman Donna Brazile read the results. None of the candidates received a majority and there would have to be at least a second round of voting where anything could happen.

When Perez supporters gathered at a party at the Westin Hotel in downtown Atlanta on Friday night, they thought they had about 220 votes, which would have given them a majority. Instead, they clocked in at 213.5 in the first round — some Democrats abroad and from the territories only get half votes — with eight DNC members abstaining. That left the door open for Ellison, who was only 13 votes behind.

The narrow miss struck fear in the hearts of Perez supporters who were frustratingly close to victory.

Many DNC members had told the campaigns they could only count on their support through the first round of voting. After that, all bets were off, sending the whip operations for both campaigns into high gear. With fringe candidates dropping out and DNC members susceptible to flipping, there were more than enough votes free to shift to Ellison.

“I thought Ellison would win on the second ballot,” said one Perez supporter. “I have never been involved in something that intense.”

Ellison’s campaign was confident that they would pick up all 12 of the supporters from Idaho Democratic Party executive director Sally Boynton Brown, who bowed out after the first round but notably did not endorse any candidate.

Boynton Brown, who is in her early 40s, is a rising party star who fits the mold of a progressive. The conventional wisdom was that her supporters would back Ellison, who ran with the blessing of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “We’re going to win on the second ballot,” an Ellison campaign source said in a text. “Some folks didn’t vote in the first round and we’re getting all of Sally’s supporters.”

Perez’s allies weren’t just rattled — they were also angry.

Naturally.  Anger when their entitlement is threatened has been the Clinton Dems' knee-jerk response to everything for practically two years running.

Before the second vote, a text went out from Ellison’s campaign to DNC members claiming that South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who dropped out before the first vote, was casting his support to Ellison. “Keith is grateful to have the support of Mayor Buttigieg and we’re in a strong position to win on the next ballot,” the text said. “Can he count on your support?”

The problem: Buttigieg did not endorse anyone after dropping out.

One Ellison ally described the mistake as fog-of-war confusion. They quickly sent a follow-up text admitting the error. Instead, former DNC chairman Howard Dean — who was originally a Buttigieg supporter — announced he would be backing Ellison. Dean’s emailed endorsement included a parenthetical disclaimer: "This is real."

This contains an element of what may have been gaslighting the Ellison crew by Dean.  The Hill also reported Friday afternoon that Dean called Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer's endorsement of Ellison 'the kiss of death'.  (Juxtapose that against Alan Dershowitz's ugly threats to leave the party had Ellison prevailed.) 

Back to the neoliberal rage.

Perez’s supporters were irate, believing the Ellison camp was playing dirty. Some grumbled that if the Perez camp had made the same mistake, Ellison’s supporters would have never let them live it down.

“Such a double-standard,” one Democrat said.

As this drama unfolded, the whip operations on the convention hall floor had become infinitely more complicated.The campaigns were supposed to get lists of candidates everyone had voted, for but the DNC had to abandon its digital voting tools over fears the Wi-Fi would give out. They would go to the back-up plan of hand-counting paper ballots instead. That meant there wouldn’t be a master list of who voted for who.

“Total chaos,” one Democrat fumed.

You probably could have guessed that Gil Hinojosa was right in the middle of the action.

Still, the campaigns had their own lists of people they thought might be susceptible to flipping. On the Perez side, South Carolina Democratic chairman Jaime Harrison, Texas Democratic chairman Gilberto Hinojosa and DNC finance chairman Henry Muñoz III went to work whipping.

The Perez campaign was thrilled to have Harrison drop out of the race and join their side on Thursday, believing he brought at least a dozen votes. (But) they think Muñoz might have put them over the top. The finance chairman, who spends his weeks jetting across the country and raising millions of dollars from wealthy donors and celebrities from Miami to San Francisco, is among the most connected people at the DNC.

On the Ellison side, key labor leaders including Randi Weingarten and Stuart Applebaum, as well as Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), worked the floor.

The Perez operation won out. Ellison registered 200 votes — the exact same number he had in the first round.

Perez increased his count by 21.5 votes to 235 overall. That means he likely got most of Boynton Brown’s 12 and most of the eight members who abstained from voting in the first round, as well as at least a couple of former Ellison supporters.

In a show of unity, Perez immediately tapped Ellison as deputy chair, and everybody in the hall screamed and cried.  It was high drama, but it doesn't mean nearly as much as people think ... or are complaining about.  Those who supported Perez, or just opposed Ellison -- and vice versa -- are members of two distinct Democratic Parties: one of them can't win elections outside of safe districts and metropolitan areas, and the other can't quit the losing team.

But count on the one Democratic Party to stumble on, dysfunctions intact and disconnected from a progressive caucus that keeps threatening to leave but, like a battered spouse, won't.  Talk of a third-party movement is just that; until the Sanders/Ellison faction suck it up and vote their hopes and not their fears, it won't ever be anything more than social media blather and fodder for Vox sentences.

It's all about the cash ...

[...]The Democrats have raised more money than ever and lost more seats than ever (1,000+ seats nationwide since 2009). They had an elaborate convention, beautifully crafted marketing, what was praised as the most sophisticated data operation to date and teams of veteran campaign strategists working in what was supposed to be the easiest Presidential race in recent history. But around 9:45pm ET on Nov 8, it was clear that the house of cards was on the verge of collapse. And that by the next day, the DNC would have to not just answer how they lost the Presidency and so many other races, but: Where did all that money go?

Former chair candidate and NH state Chairman Ray Buckley broke the news during the Phoenix DNC forum that as an executive member he had never seen the budget — -- and that most leaders at the DNC, as well as all of the members, had no idea where the record amount of money raised was being spent. When the DNC chair candidates debated over whether the party should accept lobbyist money (which was banned under Obama’s administration), Buckley stated “the question should not be about whether we need the lobbyist money, but rather where we’ve spent all this money we’ve raised.”


Several DNC members have privately disclosed that they received calls on behalf of Tom Perez from Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, a partner of Precision Strategies and former Executive Director of the DNC when the OFA was housed within it. Dillon is also a Co-Chair of the upcoming Unity Commission, forged out of the 2016 rules committee. The goal of the Unity Commission is to set the DNC’s new rules.

Members have repeatedly discussed the frustration with the conflicts of interests within the Democratic party. For Dillon — whose firm received $571,573 from HFA and $593,397 from the DNC, totaling almost $1.2 million — having a seat as a co-chair of the DNC’s rules committee, raises red flags.

One DNC member voting for Mayor Pete Buttigieg stated, “When a firm with a large contract with the DNC co-chairs the new rules committee and makes calls on behalf of a DNC candidate, you can’t help but wonder whether Perez’s interests lie with the DNC members or if he’s cut a deal to keep the contract with Precision.”

I'll stop there; you can go on without me.

I got no votes left in me for this breed of mule.

Update: In his first media appearance on yesterday morning's talking heads, Perez screwed the pooch.  "Mostly False".

Sunday Oscar-Winning Funnies

'Post-election stress disorder' sweeps the nation

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Big weekend on tap for Democrats *two updates

Both the locals and the nationals are choosing new leaders.  Let's look at the DNC race first, with the AP having already reported that Tom Perez is on the cusp of victory.

Last night's CNN debate (Twitter hash here) between the field was informative.

The 447 DNC members will vote during the party's meeting in Atlanta on Saturday, with as many rounds as required for a candidate to get 224 votes. The candidates will meet for a forum hosted by CNN on Wednesday night and spend the next several days wooing the state party chairs, longtime activists and donors who make up the voting members.

Even in the final days, the race remains highly volatile as DNC members try to determine which candidate could best lead a party with no formal hold on power in Washington and no unifying national leader after President Barack Obama's departure from the White House and Hillary Clinton's loss of the presidential election.

Update I: Jaime Harrison has withdrawn and thrown his support to Perez, which all but seals the deal for the former labor secretary and Clintonite.

So it appears that the progressives are going to be turned back again, and as with the primary skirmish last year, are threatening to bolt (again).  It would be nice if that would happen, but after spending half of 2015 and all of last year blogging about my expectations for it, I watched with grim face as Berniecrats slowly marched back into the fold, too scared of a Trump victory to risk a vote for Not Hillary even in Texas, where none of them mattered in the ashes of her polls-defying upset loss.

If I had more time to excerpt and comment at length on the following links, I'd do so.  Since I don't, I leave it to your reading and interpretation to decide if the Democratic Party will choose a path toward relevance or continue off into the weeds.  I'll simply say that no hope and not enough change among the blue sheep seems to be forthcoming.

-- Is the Democratic Party with the Resistance?  This weekend should tell us, says 350.org's Bill McKibben, in his endorsement of Keith Ellison.

-- If the Democrats won't take the risks, it's up to the people.  Duh.

-- Some thought-provoking 2016 autopsy from pollster Cornell Belcher, who IMO misuses the word 'progressive' but makes important points about race trumping gender.

-- The NYT asks if all this protesting is enabling Trump to some degree (maybe, but who really gives AF) and two takes on the activists and the PAC, We Will Replace You, targeting Blue Dogs in 2018 (important but also potentially self-defeating).

-- Using the word 'progressive' properly, DC Rutledge at HuffPo writes an open letter to Bernie Sanders, distilled as: at some point Pops, you've got to get off the D train.  I'm pretty sure it's already derailed, but maybe that's just me and a very small percentage of others.  If you make a move, however, you carry about 25-33% of the Democratic base with you.  So please hurry up and figure it out before this latest movement dies.

-- Some state party leaders think Obama's organizing arm is "some Grade A bullshit".  Heh.

Update II: two more things, one from Cait Johnstone trying to get a message through, and one from Matt Taibbi and his book "Insane Clown President".

"The maddening thing about the Democrats is that they refuse to see how easy they could have it. If the party threw its weight behind a truly populist platform, if it stood behind unions and prosecuted Wall Street criminals and stopped taking giant gobs of cash from every crooked transnational bank and job-exporting manufacturer in the world, they would win every election season in a landslide.
"But they won’t do that, because they don’t see what just happened this year as a message rising up from millions of voters. 

"Politicians are so used to viewing the electorate as a giant thing to be manipulated that no matter what happens at the ballot, they usually can only focus on the Washington-based characters they perceive to be pulling the strings.

"Through this lens, the uprising among Democratic voters this year wasn’t an organic expression of mass disgust, but wholly the fault of Bernie Sanders, who within the Beltway is viewed as an oddball amateur and radical who jumped the line. Nobody saw his campaign as an honest effort to restore power to voters, because nobody in the capital even knows what that is.

"In the rules of palace intrigue, Sanders only made sense as a kind of self-centered huckster who made a failed play for power. And the narrative will be that with him out of the picture, the crisis is over. No person, no problem.

"This inability to grasp that the problem is bigger than Bernie Sanders is a huge red flag. As  (Paul) Thacker puts it, the theme of this election year was widespread anger toward both parties, and both the Trump craziness and the near-miss with Sanders should have served as a warning. “The Democrats should be worried they’re next,” he says. 

Finally, the pathetic TDP chair weighed in with a Captain Obvious understatement yesterday (that would be 2/23, or first posting without updates) which turned laughable and ridiculous within 24 hours, in the context of the Harrison withdrawal/Perez endorsement (Update I above) which he surely knew was coming.  On my observation, this kind of deception, misdirection, obfuscation, etc. is a consistent habit of Gil's.  The only thing he seems to have mastered.

"Nobody really knows what's going to happen on Saturday," said Texas Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, who's backing Perez.

Hinojosa, as I have blogged repeatedly, is anathema to the prospect of Democratic fortunes in the Lone Star State and the most obvious walking, talking symbol of Donkey incompetence found anywhere in the country.  His support of Perez reflects a continuation of the patron neoliberal model which Hillary Clinton and every statewide candidate from Wendy Davis to Jim Hogan has ridden to defeat in years past.  It's the definition of insanity, an executable program in the TDP, and it's been going on since Bill White was the chair in the '80's.

Texas Democrats should be looking to the Harris County example from 2016, a solid set of wins pulled off by their outgoing chairman, Lane Lewis, who is to be succeeded in a vote by county precinct chairs on March 5.  There is a forum for candidates also this weekend.  Andrew Cockburn at Harper's has written the most glowing account, in "Texas is The Future":

Ask anyone who was present at Hillary Clinton’s presumptive victory celebration on November 8 and they will tell you of the stunned silence, broken only by sobs, that settled across the vast glass enclosure of the Javits Center in Manhattan. Upstairs, in the suite where the candidate was closeted with her family and associates, the trauma was even more intense. As one attendee later reported to me, it featured the “full range of human emotions: screams, shock, fainting. Bill moved immediately to blame.” The former president, I was told, singled out campaign manager Robby Mook: “ ‘We should have fired that asshole months ago!’ It was awful.”

This funereal atmosphere was replicated wherever Democrats were gathered across the nation — with one instructive exception. In the Heights neighborhood of Houston, hundreds of revelers thronged bars along Studewood Street late into the night. “Any Houston Democrat who was anybody was there,” Doug Miller, a local reporter, told me later. “I looked up at the TV screens on the walls, I could see the whole country turning red, but everyone there seemed happy!”

The reason was simple. Unlike the rest of the country, Houston Democrats had a full-scale Republican rout to celebrate. The party had swept the polls in Harris County, the vast region encompassing Houston, arguably the nation’s most diverse city (as locals never tire of repeating). With 4.5 million inhabitants, the county is more populous than half the states in America. Now Harris voters had elected a Democratic district attorney — a very powerful post in Texas law enforcement — for the first time in thirty-six years. The Democrats had also captured almost every other slot on the ballot, including the tax assessor’s office, which oversees voter registration: a crucial win in an age of Republican voter suppression.

Furthermore, these local victories carried over to the top of the ticket. Though it probably did little to lighten the mood in the Javits Center, Hillary Clinton trounced Donald Trump by more than 160,000 votes in a county that Barack Obama had carried by fewer than a thousand in 2012. While others in the defeated party were subsiding into melancholy, hand-wringing, and consolatory tales of Russian hackers, the county’s newly elected sheriff, former Houston police sergeant Ed Gonzalez, was assuring supporters that he would defy any orders to round up undocumented immigrants. Across the street, the new D.A., Kim Ogg, promised her exuberant audience a progressive agenda: “We’re going to have a system that doesn’t oppress the poor.”

Voter endorsement of such progressive positions, well to the left of anything Clinton promoted during her message-lite campaign, was all the more dramatic in this reddest of red states. The prospect of life under an administration populated with avaricious plutocrats, xenophobes, and religious fanatics may chill the blood of countless Americans, but Texans have been living in such conditions for decades. Pertinent examples abound, not least the unremitting legislative assaults on Texan women, the latest being a proposed rule requiring that fetal tissue from abortions or miscarriages be expensively interred or cremated. Add to that cash-starved public schools, cuts in services for disabled children, record-breaking numbers of uninsured, lack of compensation for injured workers, the wholesale gutting of environmental regulations, soaring inequality, hostility to immigrants, and multiple restrictions on voting rights. Texas may therefore serve as an example of what could be in store for the rest of us. “The Texas Republicans have done a good job on voter suppression,” Craig Varoga, a Democratic political consultant and veteran of many election battles across the state, told me gloomily. “Now you’re going to see the same thing happening nationally, with the blessing of the Department of Justice.”

Read on from there.  The author spotlights the sheriff and DA's races, where Ed Gonzalez and Kim Ogg ran on actual liberal policies against hapless Republican incumbent opponents, and gives kudos to the Texas Organizing Project for turning out the vote.  These are election strategies that can be duplicated here again and elsewhere across the state.  If Lillie Schechter or Dominique Davis is elected, then I suspect either one of those women has the chops to keep the roll going.  If some pretender like Rob Collier or Keryl Douglas gets in, something tells me the momentum will be endangered.  Twenty-eighteen is going to be a rough enough cycle for the Blues without committing the usual unforced errors.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Blogging less and enjoying it more

At least through the end of tax season.

Trump's had a quiet week so far, don't you think?  Outside of the continuing developments surrounding Russians named Felix Sater, this piece about the James Comey letter and its ensuing debacle may spark some discussion.

The Texas Lege has been getting a little busier, however.  My go-to source remains Quorum Report's Daily Buzz; even if you can't read the full story about the rural high-speed rail pushback (setting up a confrontation between Trump's stated priority and the hicks that rule this state), or the $11 trillion in financial interests standing up to Dan Patrick's Not Free to Pee bill, or Dan Patrick being a jerk in other ways, Harvey's crew is always first with the news that breaks.

Some polling is out this week: Americans are worried about war but still favor support for the NATO alliance.  And the TexTrib surveyed Texans and finds that Republicans love their president and everybody likes their weed, and even Obamacare if it went by another name.  But they don't care about where people do their business in public even if they support (scroll down) the bathroom bill's intentions, and they still despise Ill Eagles.  Way to go once again, Texas Democrats!  We obviously need more independents in this state.

Most poll respondents — 54 percent — said Texans should use the public restrooms based on their birth gender, while 31 percent said they should base their choice on their gender identities.

Note also that Governor Hell on Wheels hasn't stimulated much interest for his constitutional convention.  Some of this poll's takeaways are actually positive; let's hope it doesn't hold to the typical track record of the TexTrib in specific and the recent history of polling generally.

Much more but out of time.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance will light a scented candle outside IKEA in solidarity with the confused people of Sweden as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff thinks that many opportunities to make gains in 2018 will exist for Texas Democrats, and they should plan accordingly.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos is amused by the Republicans hiding from their constituents. No wonder. The GOP has been serving the interests of billionaires and oligarchs for decades, both domestic and Russian, apparently. No Republicans, we are not about to move on. This is more dangerous than Watergate.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston supports Lillie Schechter for Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party.

The last few months have been perplexing as we try to figure out life on the Trump train. UGH. But as Texas Leftist points out, some things are slowly coming into focus. After seeming to be free from consequences, we're finally seeing that the president and his administration can be held accountable for their actions.

SocraticGadfly, on hearing about the death of Norma Jean McCorvey of Roe v. Wade fame, offers an extended take on her, the plaintiff in a simultaneous suit, and the state of abortion in America today.

Shadetree psychologist PDiddie at Brains and Eggs diagnoses President Trump as in desperate need of an intervention.

Easter Lemming Liberal News showcases Pat Van Houte's grassroots campaign (website) for Pasadena mayor, which relies on small donations and prohibits donations from city contractors.

The Lewisville Texan Journal reports that a city council candidate in that city updated her website after being confronted with accusations of plagiarism.

Texas Vox was on the scene at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission public hearings in west Texas as local residents gave officials an earful about proposed changes to storing waste out there.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme warns that the disrespect the Republicans show the US Constitution is only getting worse. Now they want to actually write their hate and kleptocracy into the document itself.

Neil at All People Have Value made note of the climate change art exhibit made by the construction crew on Memorial Drive in Houston. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.


More news from across Texas!

RG Ratcliffe's weekly roundup at Burkablog spotlights sex trafficking, a discussion about race in context with Black/Blue/All Lives Matter, and a voter fraud unicorn.

Texas Observer photographer Ray Whitehouse met Vaughan Neville, a conservative activist known on social media as the Man Spot, at the third annual Texas Firearms Festival held last October in Liberty Hill.

The Man Spot, aka Vaughan Neville, photographed by Ray Whitehouse at the Texas Observer

Jonathan Tilove at the AAS blog First Reading celebrates The Rag's long history of politics and weirdness in Austin.

Grits for Breakfast explains why indigent defense costs have risen as crime has declined.

The Texas Election Law Blog analyzes two election-related bills that have been filed in the Lege, and the Texas Freedom Network explains that other bills intend to redefine 'religious freedom' as being able to use religion to discriminate.

Paradise in Hell notes that Trump is now 0.00002% closer to proving his claims about election fraud, and Somervell County Salon sees Trump's "fake news" as just another name for gossip -- in which he also engages.

In the latest Chronicles of an Angry Black Queer, Ashton P. Woods at Strength in Numbers calls out the racism and mediocrity of the white LGBTQ community.

Raj Mankad wants to see multiple approaches taken to make Houston streets safer.

Julie Rovner takes a deep dive into four GOP talking points on health care.

Better Texas Blog describes how the commissioner of Texas education re-interpreted a statute in order to give $100 million in homestead exemptions to already-wealthy homeowners in already-rich school districts.  

Raise Your Hand Texas explains why voucher advocates are becoming irritable.

And Eater Houston notes that several Houston restaurants will be raising money for the ACLU in support of their immigrant employees.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Democrats can't muster votes to stop Pruitt

A fourth bad week for President Barking Yam could have been worse.  It wasn't a foregone conclusion that the Okie AG who sued the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of oil companies -- fourteen times -- was to be confirmed as head of the EPA.  But Senate Democrats fell down again on the way to preventing the GOP from drowning government in the bathtub.

The U.S. Senate (yesterday) afternoon confirmed President Trump’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, even as he faces a new court order.

An Oklahoma district court judge Thursday ordered Pruitt, the state’s former attorney general, to turn over thousands of communications with major coal, oil and gas companies from his time in office.

The nonprofit watchdog Center for Media and Democracy had requested the public records two years ago, and the judge ruled there had been an “unreasonable” delay in responding to the request, demanding that Pruitt comply by the end of the day Monday.

The Senate confirmed his nomination 52-46 (Friday) afternoon, even after Democratic senators expressed outrage overnight that Republicans were going ahead as scheduled despite the judge’s ruling.

One Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who had said she would vote no before Thursday’s news of the court ruling, held to her vow to vote against Pruitt today. Another, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., skipped the vote, as did Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.

But two Democrats -- Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia – voted for the controversial nominee, giving him the votes he needed.

Maybe those emails will matter to someone next week, as we wave goodbye to the cow leaving the barn.  If this was the strongest response the Sierra Club could manage, I'm not hopeful for the resistance.

Am the only one embarrassed by this demonstration of professional activism?  This is where your donations go, folks.  Let's all sign more petitions so that Cornyn and Cruz and Culberson have enough toilet paper to wipe their asses with.  Update: On the other hand, it could be worse.

If Chuck Schumer could enforce caucus discipline the way that Mitch McConnell can, Trump would be looking for some other lousy white guy to dismantle the nation's regulations keeping our air, water, and groundwater protected from avaricious corporations.  But Donnelly, Heitkamp, and Manchin are all Blue Dogs in solid red states (+18 Trump in 2016) running for re-election in 2018, so they have a hall pass to keep voting like Republicans for another two years in hopes they can hang on and avoid letting the Democrats slip into superminority status.

Here is some solace for those who scowl at their monitor or phone/tablet screen every time I slap the Donkeys: Amy Davidson at the New Yorker cuts spineless Ds a little slack with sharp points about why Pruitt is also our nation's spineless Republican problem: nobody from starboard dares stand up to Cheetolini (except a few, like Collins and McCain, and then only on the rare occasion).  A caution to those who prefer their reading at junior-high level and with short paragraphs: this isn't the excerpt you're looking for.

There are two answers to the question of why Republicans rushed Pruitt through, not mutually exclusive. One is that this is just another instance of something that has been seen repeatedly in the weeks since Donald Trump took office: the Republicans’ floppy pose of deference to Trump. They have let him do what he wants, for the most part, unless a shocking “Oprah” tape from the past comes back to haunt an already unfit nominee. (As William Finnegan has written, in that case, involving Andrew Puzder, the failed Labor Secretary nominee, the tape only stopped the senators when combined with his illegal household help and his crudely expressed disdain for working Americans.) They hadn’t stood up to Trump on his executive order barring entry to people from seven countries and to all refugees, despite the direct risk it posed to many residents of red states, not to mention to the Constitution. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan hadn’t managed to say much more than that “regrettably, the rollout was confusing,” as if he might have erased the insult to American values with a PowerPoint presentation and a can-do smile. Their hurt speeches on Friday morning about how the Democrats didn’t respect Trump’s choices came less than twenty-four hours after their President spoke casually about blowing Russian boats out of the water; accused his opponents of staging fake anti-Semitic attacks; questioned the legitimacy of the electoral system, the courts, and the media; and asked a black journalist, April Ryan, if the legislators in the Congressional Black Caucus were “friends” of hers, and if she could maybe set them up with a meeting with him.

This is a weak answer, in part because of what is at stake: not only America’s air and water and its children’s health but the future of the planet. Pruitt is so shameless a choice that former E.P.A. employees who have served under Presidents from both parties sent a letter to the Senate expressing concern about his appointment, noting his demonstrated lack of interest in enforcing environmental laws, his stance on climate change, and his failure to demonstrate that he would “put the public’s welfare ahead of private interests.”

Then again, why would this Republican Party want to block Pruitt? This is the other answer: the senators pushed him through because they wanted to, for their own non-Trump reasons. He is, in many ways, more typical of where many congressional Republicans stand than Trump is, though Pruitt might express his views more crudely and with fewer circumlocutions than some. His ties to industry are, in many cases, their ties to industry, too. (Jane Mayer has covered the influence of the Koch brothers, for example, in this regard.) When Ryan talks about dismantling the regulatory state, he is not far from Pruitt. Indeed, when asked about the influence of human activity on climate change, Ryan has said that he just didn’t know what it all added up to, “and I don’t think science does, either.” In a statement that Ryan issued in December, 2009, he accused certain scientists who did recognize the effect of using “statistical tricks to distort their findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.” He added that any rules restricting American industry in the name of fighting climate change would be a “tough sell” in Wisconsin, “where much of the state is buried under snow.” Similarly, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, tends to deal with climate change by saying that he is not a scientist. In the opportunistic calculations of the congressional Republicans, Pruitt may not even count as a price they have to pay, or a Trumpian burden to bear. To the contrary: he is their reward.

If fascism is going to keep flourishing in America, it will be wrapped in the sturdy embrace of pretty much every Republican, along with a handful of lily-livered conservative Democrats.  At some point, somebody (who is not already) has to say and do the things that begin to peel away Hair Furor's Congressional support.  His own words and actions don't seem to be having much effect yet.

Update: Down With Tyranny sees Susan Collins fighting judo with Democrats.  I thought martial arts were to be used in countering stronger opponents, so maybe this is more three-dimensional chess.  Some Democrat was allegedly good at that once upon a time. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

The president needs an intervention

That press conference yesterday ...

President Donald Trump launched an extraordinary denunciation Thursday of his critics, complaining he inherited a "mess" and slamming stories that his campaign was constantly in contact with Russia as "fake news."

Trump held court during a news conference that lasted an hour and fifteen minutes, carving out a stunning moment in modern American political history. He displayed a sense of anger and grievance rarely vented by a President in public -- let alone one who has been in office for just four weeks.

"I have never seen more dishonest media, frankly than the political media," Trump said, later slamming leaks to the press from the intelligence community -- some of which led to the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn.

"The leaks are real. The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake," Trump said.

While it was a marked contrast with the normal dynamics of a presidential news conference, the East Room show was vintage Trump. He touted his own poll numbers, victory over Hillary Clinton and discussed cable TV ratings and panel discussions.

"I'm here again to take my message straight to the people. As you know, our administration inherited many problems across government and across the economy. To be honest, I inherited a mess. It's a mess. At home and abroad, a mess."

That was the kind of message -- directed at large numbers of voters disgruntled with the performance of Washington's political establishment and delivered in a plainspoken, unvarnished manner -- that helped Trump win the presidency against all odds.

But his manner is also likely to offend or alarm other voters and may do little to alleviate skepticism towards Trump among political elites in Washington. Trump in fact predicted how his animated and unorthodox news conference will be interpreted in the press.

"Tomorrow, they will say: 'Donald Trump rants and raves at the press,'" Trump said. "I'm not ranting and raving. I'm just telling you. You know, you're dishonest people. But -- but I'm not ranting and raving. I love this. I'm having a good time doing it."

Indeed, both the right-wing media defending Flynn, and multiple anecdotal accounts from those who witnessed the reaction of average-Joe conservatives to yesterday's stunt indicate the consensus is of the "Give 'em hell, Donald" variety.  This is what shaking up Washington looks like to them.  It's wearing out some of the establishment GOP, which could be a good thing.

"The people that love him will love him more, the people that hate him will hate him more and the people in the middle probably will look at it the way that we look at in Congress, which is that's just the new normal. That's just the s*** that happens. I don't know how else to manage it," said one Republican lawmaker after Trump's press conference. "We're just trying to manage this s***."

Good luck with that.  We'll wait to see how the new comms guy helps out, and maybe we won't be blowing Russian ships out of the water off the coast of Delaware after all.  Nuclear holocaust would be like no other, you know.  Trump's electoral college victory wasn't the largest since Reagan, and Hillary didn't give any uranium to the Russians, either.

Some of his greatest hits beyond "real leaks are fake news" -- do you remember when he declared he loved Wikileaks? -- included saying he did not ask Flynn to talk sanctions with Russia, but was glad Flynn did, even though he fired him for doing it.  Which is exactly as warped as it sounds.

Without his wife or young son in the White House as a calming influence, with none of the lickspittles around him willing or capable to tell him to tone down his asshole CEO act, and with Trump himself operating under the delusion that the president is not to be questioned or criticized about anything he says or does, it's obvious that his temperament isn't going to be improving any time soon.  So strap in, and hope Russia or North Korea or China don't decide now would be a great time to insert more chaos into his world.  Our world.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Three scattershots at Trump and the Dems

-- Putz-der taps out; that makes two this week, with more surely on the way.  Since these come in three, who might be next?  Breitbart wants it to be Rinse Penis but Steve Bannon is shooting that down (jaw-drop emoticon here).  Hard for me to predict, but as a gambling man I'm betting on both James Mattis at 17/2 and Rex Tillerson at 6/1.  Neither man has the political ambitions that most of the rest of Trump's sycophants have.  Kellyanne Conjob is going to burn out sooner than any of them, but even that may take awhile (as in 3-6 months).

Word to the neoliberals who think there's something to gain electorally from simply being a social media activist of the revolution: you might be less of a Trump rebel and more a tool of the Republican wing of the Democratic party.  This was evidenced again last evening, as Susan Sarandon spoke some truth to power on Chris Hayes' MSDNC program and was promptly and roundly criticized as an elitist for doing so.

One. More. Time: if you aren't mad at Hillary Clinton's stooges within the DNC gaming the primary for her and against Bernie Sanders -- and you're blaming Sarandon or anybody else on the left for President Trump -- then you're part of the deep-rooted, severe problem with the Democrats and not the solution.  Do keep it up, please; we need a progressive political party in this country and we'll get it, one way or another, long run or short run.  This hastens that day.

We'll go meme now.

-- Get to know Carter Page, another ulcer on our body politic first formed and then emerged from the colon of Jeff Sessions to help Trump make America great again, similar to Stephen Miller.

These creeps behind the throne are the real danger.  Trump is circling the wagons with more plutocrats, so the threat of additional chaos and anarchy remains high.

-- When Trump, Bannon, the conservatives who have whined incessantly about the "librul lamestream media", and even douchebags like Piers Morgan say that the press is the bigger enemy to them (<<-- this is the most important link in this post) than the Democrats ... they are correct.  Your elected, establishment Donkeys are mules; incapable of fighting back dispositionally, unable to wield power effectively, and because of their eroded legislative numbers, only able to offer token resistance.  It's the people protesting in the streets, clogging up the voice mail boxes and Congressional offices, and yes, the Jake Tappers and Jim Acostas doing the heavy lifting in this resistance.  And it's working; their subscription figures are making a (albeit minor) comeback.  Make sure you find and read everything David Ignatius is writing, for one example.

Quarreling over whose fault it might be that Hillary Clinton snatched defeat from the jaws of victory actually helps Trump.  If you want to see the Democrats claw their way back to some real, actual resistance in two years or four, you should stop doing that.  But I'm more than fine with it if you can't.  Susan Sarandon is spot on when she says everybody is awake now.  Except, that is, for Joe Manchin, Gilberto Hinojosa, (see if you can guess what's wrong with that headline) and far too many Hillbots and Blue Dogs.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Fourth Reich is already crumbling

-- I was wrong to compare Kellyanne Conjob to Joseph Goebbels last week.  Stephen Miller is, after his appearance on last Sunday's Talking Heads, quite obviously the High Minister of Propaganda.

"Will not be questioned".  What a joker.  He must have been referring to Maurice, the pompatus of love, and not President Pussygrabber.

Conjob has her own multiple issues as a serial liar, utter fraud, and just one more white supremacist in a White House full of them.  Contrary to erroneous reporting, however, Trump did not unfollow her on Twitter.  Having exhausted her credibility with the media, is another apology forthcoming or will she be fired resign shortly, as with Michael Flynn?  Morning line favors more twisting in the wind.

-- Of greater concern inside 1600 Pennsylvania is the NSA director's forced exit after his extensive conversations with Russian officials before he was confirmed were revealed, and his subsequent lies to VP Mike Pence about them.  "The Russians" thus reasserts its dominance in the storm of black clouds hanging over Trump.  Matt Taibbi wrote over a month ago-- a week before the inauguration -- that it was past time to find out if the president is being blackmailed by the Kremlin.  (Taibbi got it right about Russia's so-called hacking of the 2016 election, too, ICYMI).  Most Congressional Republicans weren't seeing the need for an investigation; that is, until yesterday.  When the scales have fallen from John Cornyn's eyes, you know it's a problem.  As you might expect, Big John's already holding his bucket of whitewash.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters it's "highly likely" the Senate intelligence committee will investigate the retired army lieutenant general in the aftermath of his Monday resignation.

"I think the fundamental question for us is what is our involvement in it, and who ought to look at it," the Kentucky Republican said. "And the intelligence committee is already looking at Russian involvement in our election."

Speaking to reporters, the second-ranking Republican senator was blunt in his assessment of whether the Senate should investigate Flynn.

"Yes," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

He did not say, however, whether Flynn should testify before the Senate.

"I think it's symbolic of somebody with a distinguished military career making a bad mistake," Cornyn said.

Better keep your Senate offices on communication lockdown the rest of the month, John.

Some GOP senators like Bob Corker get it; some, like Rand Paul, don't.  Just to correct Senators Turtle and Box Turtle, the fundamental question comes from the Watergate era: What did the president know, and when did he know it?  We already knew that Trump and several of his cabinet have deep and long-standing Kremlin commercial ties, and don't forget that Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign adviser, was forced out of that role last August over his own Russian business affairs.  Trump was briefed on Flynn's Logan Act-indiscretions on January 26, but Pence didn't find out until two weeks later, reading it in the newspaper.  Perhaps this is just a case of plausible deniability for when Pence assumes the presidency after Trump is impeached (or, more likely, compelled to resign).

So was Flynn acting on his own, or did Trump tell him to call Moscow?  That's the high crime and misdemeanor question that needs to be answered.

-- While your corn pops, and as I have recommended previously, go make ya some easy money from across the pond.  The Emerald Islanders are at it again.

Members of Donald Trump’s administration with questionable links to Vladimir Putin could start to emerge like Russian dolls, after the shock resignation of national security advisor Michael Flynn.

Irish bookmakers Paddy Power make it 5/1 that the President is officially accused of Russian collusion on the back of the Flynn scandal.

To illustrate the point, the bookie has today released an advert showing just how close the US and Russia are (attached).

Online, the bookmaker has more than 100 betting specials on Trump, due to extraordinary demand from its customers. Including a range of Russian themed bets that punters are Putin money on.


  • Trump to have a Russian airport named after him (12/1)
  • The President to holiday in Russia every year of his term (33/1)
  • Trump and Putin to receive a joint Nobel Peace Prize (66/1)
  • And the businessman-turned-leader to sell Alaska back to the Russians (100/1).

Féilim Mac An Iomaire, spokesperson for Paddy Power, said: “There was me worrying about 2017 having no major sporting event – I just need to tune into the Trump Show, which is on daily, on Fake News shows everywhere. We’ve been "Russian" out various markets on the President ever since his election – at this rate, we might have to build a whole new website just for him. We’ve a shower of golden bets on Trump, to take the edge off the reality of his reign.”

Trump and Russia
2/1         Trump to be impeached
5/1         Trump to be officially accused of Russian collusion
7/1         Trump to accidentally refer to Putin as ‘Vlad’ in a press conference
12/1       Trump to have a Russian airport named after him
33/1       Trump to holiday in Russia every year of his Presidency
66/1       Trump and Putin to receive joint Nobel Peace Prize
100/1     Trump to sell Alaska back to the Russians

Next member of Trump administration to resign
9/2         Jeff Sessions
6/1         Rex Tillerson
6/1         Betsy DeVos
17/2       James Mathis
10/1       Rick Perry
10/1       Ben Carson
10/1       Elaine Chao
10/1       Ryan Zinke
10/1       Sonny Perdue

For the full list of Trump and Russia betting markets, visit.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance declares that the number of the counting shall be three (to zero) as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looked at the Congressional seats the DCCC says it will target in 2018.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos exposes the craven hypocrisy of Texas Senator John Cornyn.  No, Sen. Cornyn, we did not overwhelm your offices because we are sore losers.

SocraticGadfly takes a look at a biennial Texas Legislature tradition — peddling seemingly unconstitutional bills. This year, silencing non-duopoly voters and other vote disenfranchisement is in the crosshairs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme heard Stephen Miller and Jason Chaffetz. Texas Republicans, like the Trump apparatchiks and GOP operatives in other legislative bodies, are going after voting rights with a vengeance.

Three years, eleventh months, and one more week just like the past three, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value posted a picture he took of diverse and excellent citizens of Houston protesting against Trump's travel ban. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Dos Centavos collects reactions from Democrats in the state Senate to SB4 (the sanctuary cities bill).

Bonddad reiterates that while Trump is not imploding, the resistance against his administration is vast and intense, the sort of things that wave elections in midterm years are made of.

jobsanger finds a Gallup poll that says the public believes that Trump has damaged the country's standing in the world.

Candidates for Lewisville city council and school board are busy filing for election, reports the Texan Journal.

And Texas Vox covers the debate over expanding West Texas' nuclear waste facilities.  Public hearings are scheduled this week in Hobbs, NM and Andrews, TX.


The Austin American Statesman reports that US Cong. Joaquin Castro will make a decision about challenging Ted Cruz in eight weeks, and discloses that his brother Julián will not challenge Greg Abbott in 2018.

Free Press Houston is hosting a town hall forum this week on protecting marginalized communities during the Trump years.  (No political party recruiting, please.)

Cort McMurray's heart goes out to poor John Cornyn for having to deal with all those pesky constituents.

Grits for Breakfast is lately peeking at Washington DC through a palmed face.

The San Antonio Express News make the most persuasive case in favor of eliminating straight party ticket voting.

The Midland Reporter Telegram picks up the Fort Worth Star Telegram's report on Texas being #1 in wind power generation, but there are challenges looming.

Lone Star Ma calls on us to make contacting our elected officials part of a daily routine, and Texans Together offers some practical advice for doing so.

Therese Odell rounds up the anti-Trump Super Bowl highlights, and Equality Texas points out that both God (faith leaders from diverse religions) and Football (aka the NFL) are warning Texas not to discriminate over bathrooms.

The TSTA Blog explains how the Texas Senate's budget cuts funding for public schools.

Bakeyah Nelson implores Ben Carson to "first do no harm" at HUD.

Somervell County Salon remembers a time when the biggest concern about a grifter in the White House was Sarah Palin getting reimbursed by the RNC for a fancy bra.

And Pages of Victory resurrects an old 1940's classic, "Der Fuehrer's Face".