Friday, June 30, 2017

A bad week to be a Russian conspiracy theorist

-- Or maybe just a member of the mainstream media.

(Ed note: A thoughtful reader pointed out that the 'toon previously appearing in this space was produced by a recently-defunct Houston neo-Nazi/alt-right/white supremacist/whatever they are calling themselves this week; not an endorsement I intended to make.  Hope everyone got their screenshot.  I've replaced it with this one.)

CNN was forced to apologize after retracting a story on its website that a Russian bank linked to a close ally of President Trump was under Senate investigation. Three high-ranking journalists at the network resigned.

Also the NYT themselves.

On (June 29), the Times appended a correction to a June 25 article that had repeated the false claim, which has been used by Democrats and the mainstream media for months to brush aside any doubts about the foundation of the Russia-gate scandal and portray President Trump as delusional for doubting what all 17 intelligence agencies supposedly knew to be true.

In the Times’ White House Memo of June 25, correspondent Maggie Haberman mocked Trump for “still refus[ing] to acknowledge a basic fact agreed upon by 17 American intelligence agencies that he now oversees: Russia orchestrated the attacks, and did it to help get him elected.”

However, (yesterday), the Times – while leaving most of Haberman’s ridicule of Trump in place – noted in a correction that the relevant intelligence “assessment was made by four intelligence agencies — the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency. The assessment was not approved by all 17 organizations in the American intelligence community.”

Four outta 17 ain't bad, some people say.

The Times’ grudging correction was vindication for some Russia-gate skeptics who had questioned the claim of a full-scale intelligence assessment, which would usually take the form of a National Intelligence Estimate (or NIE), a product that seeks out the views of the entire Intelligence Community and includes dissents.

Remarkably, some of us knew this already.  Like several weeks ago.  Of course, you have to be willing to believe the words of James Clapper under oath, which is a tenuous proposition on its best day, but then again ... what good does it do him to lie about a procedure that refutes his own premise?

The reality of a more narrowly based Russia-gate assessment was admitted in May by President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan in sworn congressional testimony.

Clapper testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8 that the Russia-hacking claim came from a “special intelligence community assessment” (or ICA) produced by selected analysts from the CIA, NSA and FBI, “a coordinated product from three agencies – CIA, NSA, and the FBI – not all 17 components of the intelligence community,” the former DNI said.

Clapper further acknowledged that the analysts who produced the Jan. 6 assessment on alleged Russian hacking were “hand-picked” from the CIA, FBI and NSA.

Yet, as any intelligence expert will tell you, if you “hand-pick” the analysts, you are really hand-picking the conclusion. For instance, if the analysts were known to be hard-liners on Russia or supporters of Hillary Clinton, they could be expected to deliver the one-sided report that they did.

Maybe it's time to put down the Stolichnaya, Hillbots.

-- It's also been a bad week to be Nancy Pelosi.  Her detractors and her supporters raise reasonable doubts -- and defenses -- of her tenure as a party leader.  This commentary by Michael Tracey of The Young Turks, this piece by Matt Yglecias at Vox, and this one by Kathryn Pearson at MarketWatch all make both sides of the case.

I don't think Pelosi should go; maybe the voters in her district will make the decision for her in next year's primary.  She should come correct on single payer, as that is trending toward the defining issue for the 2018 cycle.  But no change in leadership of Congress seems imminent, and that's a good thing as she contrasts well with Trump's extreme chauvinism, coming into full, stinking bloom like a corpse flower (a development noted beyond his wildly inappropriate remarks about Mika Brzezinski).

But the early calls against the minority leader came mostly from Democrats in the wake of their most recent special Congressional election failure, so it's important to note that the GOP's generational demonization of Democrats -- Pelosi is only the latest foil -- is so effective at this point that even Democrats now buy into it pretty quickly.

-- It also wasn't such a grand week to be Sylvester Turner, in a post forthcoming shortly for more Independence Day reading.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Weekly Wrangle

With this week's blog post roundup, the Texas Progressive Alliance thinks that a lack of compassion -- "hypoempathy?" -- should be both covered and treated despite being a pre-existing condition.

Off the Kuff introduces the Democratic candidates in SD10 who hope to recapture Wendy Davis' former seat.

In the wake of a fourth consecutive loss for Democrats in Congressional special elections this year, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs assembled some of the pundits who performed Wednesday morning quarterbacking.

SocraticGadfly tells environmentalists to stop buying eXXXon's PR crap about supporting a carbon tax.

Texas Vox reports on the effort to make Austin carbon-free by 2030.

Ted at jobsanger thinks Democrats should stop blaming Nancy Pelosi for their troubles.

The Lewisville Texan Journal has a moving story on the local art contest winner who dramatized and honored victims of some of the nation's mass shootings.

Neil at All People Have Value appreciates all people working to oppose the Bannon/Trump agenda.  APHV is part of

And Harold Cook provides the press release that at least 20 members of the Legislature could use about now, in response to Texas Monthly's 'Best' and 'Worst' listing.


More news and blog posts from around Texas!

The San Antonio Current summarizes the legal case against the anti-sanctuary cities law, SB4, with opening arguments this morning.

Could Travis County's STAR-vote technology be the answer to election hacking?  Isabelle Soto at Burkablog explains.

Greg Abbott appointed two Fort Worth-area legislators to manage the legislation addressing mail-in ballot fraud in the forthcoming special session.  Anna Tinsley at PoliTex has the details.

Dan Quinn at Texas Freedom Network reveals the cesspool of extremism and hate at Dr. Steven Hotze's Conservative Republicans of Texas website.

DBC Green Blog has some of Jill Stein's responses to the recent outpouring of vitriol against her and the Green Party, likely prompted by scrutiny of the Democrats' own failings.

Robert Rivard assesses outgoing San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor.

Michael Li describes the sleeper Texas partisan redistricting claim, though it won't be heard by the appeals court at this time.  And the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has the Associated Press analysis that "nearly four" Texas Congressional districts were won by Republicans because of gerrymandering than otherwise would have been the case.

Better Texas Blog reminds us that the Senate will not make the Trumpcare bill any less mean.

Glissette Santana at the Urban Edge wraps up a week of taking public transit around Houston for the first time.

And Beyond Bones weighs in on the "did T. rex have feathers?" debate.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Houston council joins #SB4 lawsuit on 10-6 vote

The good news -- beyond what's revealed in the headline -- includes the fact that no conservative had the stones to tag it (postponing the vote a week), and that the mayor cast his ballot in favor even though that's typically done (by rule of Roberts) only when there is a tie.  Jack Christie got up and left before the counting, marking him an abstention.

The noes were Greg Travis, Mike Knox, Michael Kubosh, Brenda Stardig, Dave Martin, and Steve Le.  All but Le were easily predictable.  The vote was purely and politically symbolic; the constitutionality of the law will be decided in the courts, and as Sophie Novack at Texas Monthly has shown, this is why the Legislature overreaches (on voter ID, on women's reproductive freedoms, and all the rest): it takes years for the judges to slap them down.

Let's join this topic to another; the pending decision by the Supreme Court of Texas as to the scheduling of Houston's municipal elections this year, or in two years.

As Charles pointed out yesterday, it's getting to be late in the game for city elections to happen in 2017.  What he didn't mention is that should the SCOTX rule on a writ of mandamus filed by Republican attorney and city council gadfly Eric Dick, on behalf of his client PP Bryant, then we may actually get those elections this year.  Or not.

The November 2015 voting cycle in Houston included one ballot result that surprised many: the decision to extend the term limits of city officials from three two-year terms to two four-year terms. The result was so unexpected, it immediately raised controversy, eyebrows, and the question, “Did the voters of the City of Houston actually mean to extend term limits?”

Phillip Paul Bryant filed a lawsuit to invalidate Proposition 2 because he believes the ballot language misled Houston voters. Annise Parker and the City of Houston have a rich history with misleading voters when it comes to ballot language. Indeed in 2015 alone, Texas Supreme Court has found that Annise Parker and the City of Houston have used inappropriate ballot language twice.

On November 3, 2015, registered voters of the City of Houston were asked to vote on several propositions, including a proposition extending term limits (“Proposition 2”). The ballot language for Proposition 2 reads:
  • (Relating to Term Limits for City Elective Office) Shall the City Charter of the City of Houston be amended to reduce the number of terms of elective offices to no more than two terms in the same office and limit the length for all terms of elective office to four years, beginning in January 2016; and provide for transition?
The voters of the City of Houston passed Proposition 2 on November 3, 2015.

Phillip Paul Bryant’s attorney argues that the language of Proposition 2 was misleading for several reasons:
  • The ballot language suggested that it would “limit” term length instead of extending it from two year terms to four year terms;
  • The ballot language read as if it was shortening the total amount of time an elected official could stay in office when it actually extended it from six years to a total of eight or ten years;
  • The ballot language omitted a chief feature of the proposition -  it suggested that it shortened the amount of times an elected official can serve to two terms when in fact there were hidden exceptions that unfairly benefited incumbents.
Indeed, Mayor Annise Parker literally said:
  • "There may have been some voter confusion out there. I don't know that they realized that they were giving council members more time in office.”
As further evidence that the City of Houston misled voters, the Houston Chronicle reported that the underlying ballot language was obscured:
  • “Political scientists were not convinced Tuesday's result was proof of radically shifting attitudes, however. The ballot language did not spell out the effect on incumbents or that the item would loosen the existing restrictions.
  • ‘It was ballot confusion or obfuscation,’ Texas Southern University political scientist Michael Adams said. ‘The way it was written, some people may have thought they were voting to limit the terms rather than extend them to two four- year terms.’
  • That take made sense to Rice University political scientist Bob Stein, who added, ‘Nobody reads the ballot when they walk in there. They don't have to read it to vote.’” 
In addition, Houston Public Media reported that the ballot language didn’t tell the whole truth:
  • “’When we informed voters that the adoption of the two four-year (terms) would take place immediately in 2016 and advantage incumbent council members, support swung the other way and it was a deficit of 17 points against,’ Stein said.
  • But that information was not in the ballot language. In fact, it didn’t even mention that it would actually extend term limits.” 
On June 2, 2016, a writ of mandamus was filed with the Texas Supreme Court asking them to invalidate Proposition 2. If you would like clarity as to whether Houston has municipality elections in 2017, please contact the Texas Supreme Court justices and encourage that they rule on the pending writ of mandamus. We are not asking for a specific ruling, we are only asking for a decision to be made so we know whether or not we have City of Houston elections in 2017. 

Contact Barrister Dick and he'll explain how to ask the Court to rule, and while you're there, order one of his Sixties-era T-shirts.

With respect once more to yesterday's vote on SB4: Turner didn't have to give Council a say.  He could have just exercised his authority, like mayors in all the other Texas metros (save Cowtown) did two weeks ago, as the regular legislative session ended and the bill outlawing sanctuary cities was signed into law by Greg Abbott.  Let's give Sly the benefit of the doubt and presume he was playing three-dimensional chess with those who would be running whenever elections are held, giving some bold Democrat somewhere ammunition to use against dem dat voted against joining the SB4 lawsuit.  In other words, against the conservatives who aim to replace Stardig and Christie, and also the conservatives seeking to replace the Democrats who voted 'aye' yesterday, all of whom are term-limited off Council: Jerry Davis, Ellen Cohen, Mike Laster, and Larry Green.  (Only Cohen's and Laster's seats appear so much as mildly vulnerable in this scenario, from my POV.)

So we wait now for the first hearing on the SB4 lawsuit, a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the law filed by the city of El Cenizo and to be heard by US Judge Orlando Garcia on Monday morning, June 26.  (More on the legal maneuvering from Gus Bova at the Observer.)  We'll watch how that matriculates through the courts, eventually up to the Fifth Circuit and perhaps the SCOTUS, while we also play a parlor game about who might file and where if the SCOTX rules favorably on holding Houston city council elections this year.

Seems boring as hell, so perhaps it will get a little more exciting as it plays out.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday Morning Quarterbacking

-- Democrats are now 0-4 in special election bids.

Democrats tried an inoffensive moderate message in Georgia. They ran a banjo-strumming populist in Montana. They called in the cavalry in South Carolina and tried to catch their foe sleeping through a long-shot in Kansas.

None of it worked.

In the special elections for House seats vacated by Republicans who wound up in President Donald Trump's Cabinet, Democrats went 0-for-4.

What follows there is the predictable gloating from Republicans and excuse-making from people like Kos.  Think Progress offers more of that 'better luck next time' for the Donkeys.

Some of us have lived through this before.  And some of us are so old that we can remember when a Blue Dog managed to win a special election in a deep red suburban Congressional district.  Does the name 'Nick Lampson' ring a bell?

-- "Most expensive race in House history cost $60 million — but there’s little evidence minds were changed".

For months, the district has been flooded with every kind of campaign advocacy imaginable: phone calls, mailers, television commercials, lawn signs and ads showing up on every online platform you can think of. Most households have been receiving multiple phone calls every day and multiple home visits from canvassers every week, and everyone has been exposed to more advertising than they can ever remember seeing. I counted 31 pieces of campaign related mail in just one week. Some residents are even getting campaign texts on their cell phones.

This is because of the astonishing amount of money spent on the race. A typical competitive House race sees a total of about US$5 million spent, and the previous record for the most expensive House race ever was $20 million. During the Georgia 6th special election, the two candidates together spent about $33 million, and outside groups added about another $27 million on top of that. That nearly $60 million total represents almost $100 for every man, woman and child who lives in the district. It is the most expensive U.S. House race in the country’s history.

What’s interesting is what all this money and activity did, and didn’t do.

-- Original: "Most expensive race in House history turns out nearly 58 percent of Georgia district’s voters".  (Interesting for those who don't click on links how the different headlines create an instant bias, isn't it?)

Democrats have some reason to be optimistic.

In the special election that took place in South Carolina’s 5th District on the same day as Georgia’s, Republican Ralph Norman received 51.1 percent of the vote in a district where Trump got 57.3 percent just five months earlier.

In April, Kansas Republican Ron Estes received 52.5 percent of the vote in a district where Trump got 60.4 percent.

In May, Montana Republican Greg Gianforte got 49.9 percent where Trump had won 56 percent.

And in a New York state legislative district where Trump won 60 percent of the vote, a republican candidate polled only 42 percent last month.

On the other hand, the Georgia 6th special election bucks that trend. The 10 Republicans collectively beat Trump’s district vote share of 48.3 percent by two points in the first round of voting, and Handel beat it by four points in the runoff.

Did all that caysh the DCCC and MoveOn and the rest of the Democratic establishment pour into southwest Atlanta motivate Republicans (in an R+21 district) as well as Democrats to vote?  Did they -- in what would be a stunning verdict against them and their strategy and tactics -- deliver a narrow victory for Karen Handel?  The SC outcome tells the tale (and so does No More Mister Nice Blog):

Here was Dave Wasserman of FiveThirtyEight not long before the race was called, on the site's live blog of today's two House special elections:

It’s ... legitimately possible that South Carolina’s result could wind up closer than Georgia’s, which would be astounding.
Here was Wasserman about an half hour before that:
If [Democrat Archie] Parnell loses South Carolina by 4 or 5 points, lots of Democratic activists will point fingers at the party’s hierarchy for not getting more involved.... But it’s possible that Parnell is doing well tonight because he wasn’t hyped, not despite it.
Parnell has also been declared a loser of his race -- but he lost by only 3.2 points in a deep-red district. Right now, Ossoff is trailing Republican Karen Handel by 5.2 points in a district that's also solidly red, but where Hillary Clinton made it a squeaker last November.

To be clear, NMMNB blames the media.  Specifically the conservative media, which is certainly at the root of the problem for Democrats, but sadly not something they can overcome in the next 18 months with a certain generation of voters inculcated on Rush Limbaugh.

If Democrats actually did better in the race that didn't get national attention, I worry that it means Democrats struggle to overcome the relentless, 24/7/365 demonization of their party in the right-wing media, which is basically the mainstream media in much of white America. The South Carolina race was ignored by the rest of the country, which means that allegedly nasty nationwide Democrats were never a factor.

-- Josh Marshall has thoughts.  They're more cautiously optimistic for Team Blue's chances of taking back the House in 2018, but echo much of what's been said above.

-- Playing a different blame game, Matthew Sheffield at Salon points toward the GOP's late tactic in GA-6 in suggesting Ossoff's loss might in part be on Nancy Pelosi.

Thankfully, nobody that I can find has publicly accused the Russians for hacking the election.  Update: But others besides Brad Friedman and Greg Palast have picked up the hacked voting machines angle.

-- David Atkins at Washington Monthly thinks Dems should abandon the Romney Caucus and go back after the Obama voters who voted for Trump.  With aggressively populist and progressive politics and candidates.

In July of 2016, Senator Chuck Schumer made a statement that will go down as one of the greatest political miscalculations in modern history: “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.

This strategy undergirded every decision of the doomed Clinton campaign, from ignoring the white working class in her Rust Belt firewall, to chasing suburban Republican women in Missouri and the South. It is a strategy that establishment Democratic operatives continue to pursue to this day.
That same strategy may well have cost Democrats a House seat in last night’s special elections, where Democrat Jon Ossoff underperformed expectations in a loss in Georgia’s 6th district, while the more ideologically aggressive Democrat Archie Parnell dramatically overperformed expectations in a loss in South Carolina’s 5th.

The two districts in play last night that could not have better mirrored the dilemma facing Democrats over whether to pursue Trump-averse Republican suburban voters, or working class whites and Obama-Trump switchers. Georgia’s 6th District is full of the former: a traditionally heavy Republican district, it veered away from Donald Trump because its residents are less attuned to Trump’s economic populism and—it was believed—his appeals to bigotry. These are the very voters Clinton and Schumer salivated over, and the national Democratic Party pushed very hard for the seat, spending upwards of $5 million.

South Carolina’s 5th district is much more rural and hardscrabble, and was much more favorable to Trump. Establishment Democrats mostly ignored the race, spending no money there.
In GA-06, Jon Ossoff ran a deliberately anti-ideological campaign. Centrist think tank Third Way bragged that Ossoff used a “centrist message aimed at attracting disillusioned Republican voters.” South Carolina’s Parnell, despite his Goldman Sachs background, ran a much more hard-charging campaign of Democratic values.


The lesson of the special elections around the country is clear: Democratic House candidates can dramatically outperform Clinton in deep red rural areas by running ideological, populist campaigns rooted in progressive areas. Poorer working class voters who pulled the lever for Trump can be swayed back to the left in surprisingly large numbers—perhaps not enough to win in places like Kansas, Montana and South Carolina, but certainly in other more welcoming climes. Nor is there a need to subvert Democratic principles of social justice in order to accomplish this: none of the Democrats who overperformed Clinton’s numbers in these districts curried favor with bigots in order to accomplish it.

Don't look for most Congressional Democratic candidates running in 2018 to get it.  It would be great if some Green candidates would take this ball and run with it, but in Texas they have to get back on the ballot first.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

#GA6th special election today (and some digressions thereof)

It's been the Democrat's to lose, and it looks like he's going to lose it.

-- The polling starts to tip away:

-- The candidate's mistakes get amplified.

The night before the election, Jon Ossoff has banned a publication critical of his candidacy — the Free Beacon — from an event. That’s not OK! It’s not OK when Republicans do it, and it’s not OK when Democrats do it. Which is why it’s not OK that Karen Handel banned ThinkProgress from an event, either. Both of these candidates need 1) a refresher on The First Amendment, 2) thicker skin, and 3) to go to their rooms and sit in their shame. We expect this sort of thing from the GOP, but not from the Dems. Not cool, bro.

This was long after Ossoff outed himself as an opponent of single-payer, which makes him the kind of Democrat a lot of people who used to vote for Democrats can no longer vote for.

If he loses, it's all our fault, as we know if we just listen to the establishment.  That is, when it isn't Jill Stein's fault.  (This chronic obsession of the Donkeys compels me to make the previous link the subject of its own post in the very near future.)  But something fundamental is revealed here: Democrats seem to believe that it will be easier to convince Republicans to switch over than it would be to capture the votes they have lost, or the voters who don't.  Some of that premise is supported by this data.

-- The ridiculous amount of money being spent in this contest -- over $26 million, the most expensive Congressional election ever -- should demonstrate clearly that campaign finance reporting only means something to professional political whores consultants and those who crave access to them.  But it won't.  What it will demonstrate to those who are running for office in 2018: toe the neoliberal line and they'll make it rain for you.  Step outside the orthodoxy and they won't.  And Ossoff's strategy, ladies and gentlemen, is what passes for Democrat orthodoxy, especially in the purple-hued suburbs; you know, the places where Rahm Emanuel and Mike Collier say they have to win.

Bucking the left, Ossoff said in an interview that he would not support raising income taxes, even for the wealthy, and opposed “any move” toward a single-payer health care system. Attacked by Republicans for his ties to national liberals, Ossoff said he had not yet given “an ounce of thought” to whether he would vote for Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, in a future ballot for speaker.

Not going to be down with these kind of Democrats personally.

And I'm not of the opinion that unity for its own sake is going to work out well, particularly with people like Joy Reid at the megaphone.  It's long past time for Bernie Sanders to take the hint and split away from the Blues, but he understands that's what he'll go down in history as: a divider and not a uniter or even a revolutionary.  He's unlikely to live, in vigor and and in health, long enough to see the fruits of an electoral harvest a people's party may produce in the elections to come.

So he soldiers on within a system he does not care for, to the scorn of those who have no intention of modifying their behavior based on his urging.  Because that is the lesser of two evils done to his legacy.  Must be very unsatisfying.

I don't hold the respect I once did for Sanders because of his compromising on defense spending -- Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report pulls no punches, calling Sanders an 'imperialist pig' over his war lust -- guns, and even women's reproductive freedom as a means to an electoral end himself, but his lack of courage to do anything beyond simply criticize Trump and the Democrats, and not take the action the country needs at this time, has sort of sealed the deal for me.  Without me, that is.

-- It may all be moot for Ossoff the Blue Dog anyway, if Brad Friedman's latest tale of electronic machine voting woe is accurate.

In advance of Tuesday's (special election), Politico Magazine's Kim Zetter offers an absolutely chilling bombshell of a report headlined "Will the Georgia Special Election Get Hacked?"  She reports that gigabytes of unsecured data -- including passwords for e-voting system central tabulators, voter registration databases and much more -- were kept on a wholly unsecured web server, potentially for years, at Kennesaw State University's Center for Election Systems.

-- Are we still more concerned about the Russians hacking elections than we are about votes being suppressed via photo ID?  If so, why?

-- A bright spot: in the next Supreme Court term, perhaps we'll be able to get these asinine gerrymanders addressed.  This Slate piece by Mark Joseph Stern cogently reveals Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote the Democrats are hoping for, as well as the connection to the two First Amendment cases the SCOTUS decided yesterday.  It's an intriguing legal argument for those of you who enjoy that sort of thing.

But a favorable decision next year by the Supremes ordering redrawn maps probably won't be implemented until the 2019 Texas legislative session, too late for some of these Lone Star so-called libruls clogging themselves into the 2018 March primary in hopes of being the Chosen One, by both the voters and the DNC/DCCC/D$CC.

Enduring that mediocrity fortunately seems like a lifetime away.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance celebrates the 152nd anniversary of Juneteenth with this week's lefty blog post roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at the latest approval ratings in Texas for Donald Trump.

SocraticGadfly takes a much more extensive look at universal basic income, finding it one tool — one nice tool, yes — but only one in a full arsenal of what working Americans need.

Maybe he's just a little crazy from the heat and a slowly-forming tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico, but PDiddie at Brains and Eggs arrived at the conclusion that voting might not be making enough of a difference in our country's future direction.

Grits for Breakfast applauds Samantha Bee's takedown of junk forensic science.

El Jefe at the Beauty Salon links to that Rolling Stone piece, and refers to the prevailing condition as the "disaster of the Democratic Party".

jobsanger passes along the statistic that there is no state in the Union in which a person earning minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom apartment.

State Reps. Ron Simmons and Pat Fallon held a town hall meeting in Lewisville and answered pre-submitted questions about abortion, sanctuary cities, and GOP legislative priorities, as detailed in the Texan-Journal.

Neil at All People Have Value asked for citizens to consider in advance their response if Trump fires special counsel Robert Mueller. APHV is part of


More news items from around the Lone Star State!

The Tribune shared their most recent survey results of Texans who were asked about immigration laws and bathroom bills.  Deep partisan splits were revealed.

Even as Quorum Report saw the Texas Parent PAC holding open rehearsals for a challenger to Dan Patrick, the Austin Statesman was on the scene as Mike Collier became just the second Democrat to announce for a statewide office in 2018.

The San Antonio Express News opines about the demise of one-punch straight-ticket voting in requiring the electorate to exercise preparation and forethought ahead of casting their ballot.

RG Ratcliffe at Burkablog strapped on his helmet to report from the front lines of the battle Greg Abbott is waging on your local government.

The Beaumont Enterprise, via the Associated Press, took note of the Texas companies who have jobs they cannot fill because of immigration fears.

The Somervell County Salon passes along news on her former state representative and now state agriculture commissioner Sid Miller's latest foible: fined by the Ethics Commission for violating campaign finance laws.

Sen. Kirk Watson invites Greg Abbott to take a deep whiff of Austin.

Paradise in Hell finds the transcript to that Trump cabinet meeting.

Kyle Shelton and Yujie Hu at the Urban Edge identify what makes some intersections dangerous.

Lone Star Ma suggests an old school tactic for pressuring lawmakers on Trumpcare.

And Houstonia scooped the traditional media with news of the birth of Beyonce's twins.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Voting presents few options, mostly bad, and little confidence in the system

-- Read this post from David Collins regarding the Texas Green Party's internal strife at their annual meeting over the weekend in Corpus, then read titular matriarch kat gruene's spleen-venting about the same on her Facebook wall.

The dysfunction bled out into the open months ago (scroll down), when I tried to save the local chapter's lone minority executive member from a coup orchestrated by the Old Guard (and failed).  One of the county steering committee members who defeated me in the elections held that night has already stepped down.  Sadly, these folks can't organize their way out of a paper bag at a time when the Democratic Party is all but crashing and burning right alongside them.

Don't believe that?  Think 2018 is going to be a blue wave?  Read what Tom Wakely -- the Berniecrat who gave Lamar Smith the closest run for his money ever last November -- had to say, as published at Down With Tyranny, following the People's Summit in Chicago also last weekend.  Bold emphasis is mine.

The Summit, as far as I could ascertain, was heavily weighted to reforming the Democratic Party on the East Coast and West Coast. Very little was said about the rest of the country and what we should do in deep red states, like Texas, where I live. When I got a chance to button-hole Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal after she spoke at one of the working group sessions, "Transforming the Democratic Party," I asked her this question. What kind of strategy (should) those of us in deep red states use? Her response, "I don’t know, you have a better idea than I do as to what needs to be done."

I also spent a considerable amount of my time just mingling with people, introducing myself and listening to why they were at the Summit. I must have met and talked to a least 200 people over the course of the 2½-day event and this is what I came away with. Keeping in mind that I spoke to less than 5% of the attendees, maybe even less, without exception none of them was up to the task of transforming the Democratic Party. Every one of them wanted to form a 3rd party. Whether it was joining the Green Party or the People’s Party or forming a new party, it didn’t really seem to matter to any of them. What mattered to them was electing progressives to public office and they just didn’t see the Democratic Party willing to do that.

That general feeling, (that) spending the time and energy to transform the Democratic Party was a waste of time, seemed to be confirmed by my conversations with the individuals I met who had actually run for political office like me. All of us were inspired to run by Bernie Sanders last year and all of us had the same story to tell. The Democratic Party didn’t left a finger to support us. Those of us in red states all agreed, at least in the short-term, we needed to run progressive independents, like Bernie Sanders, instead of looking to the Democratic Party for institutional support.

Following up ...

Tom sent me a note yesterday telling me he had withdrawn as a candidate for 2018 for the seat occupied by Lamar Smith. It's a crowded race with lots of candidates, many of them pretty bad. We like Derrick Crowe. Tom has endorsed Rixi Melton. In 2016, Tom (did) something no one else has been able to do in over 30 years -- he managed to drop Lamar Smith's percentage vote total to 56.9%, the lowest of his career. In addition, Wakely’s campaign garnered more votes in 2016 than any Democrat in the State of Texas running against an incumbent congressional Republican.

There is no home for progressives in Texas -- or in the states that aren't in New England or on the west coast -- to go.  And the Democrats are counting on you to come slinking back, tails between your legs, and vote for the shitty neoliberals they nominate.  The next one up who fits this description is Jon Ossoff, who as it turns out is opposed to single-payer.  But because his opponent is Karen "I do not support a livable wage" Handel, the lesser of two piles of crap is all the voters of Georgia's 6th Congressional District get to pick between.  Phillips or Standard?  Your choice.

At this moment, there is no place for independent progressives in Texas to turn.

-- We can't let the week end without mentioning Russia and the election.  Naturally.

In North Texas:

Russian hackers took aim at Dallas County's Web servers, possibly trying to access voter registration rolls, before the November presidential election, officials said Wednesday.

"They didn't infiltrate our system," said Toni Pippins-Poole, the county's elections administrator. "They couldn't get in."

If the hackers had been able to manipulate or delete the county's registered voter database -- which contains names, dates of birth and addresses for 1.3 million voters -- that could have caused chaos on Election Day, said Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

It's unclear whether Russians targeted other Texas counties. Collin and Tarrant county officials said they found no such attempts.

This fits with everything I have read and understand, with a handful of exceptions.

Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.

In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.

Have you taken your Valium?  Given it time to kick in?  You'll be okay even if it hasn't.

One of the mysteries about the 2016 presidential election is why Russian intelligence, after gaining access to state and local systems, didn’t try to disrupt the vote. One possibility is that the American warning (coming directly from Obama) was effective. Another former senior U.S. official, who asked for anonymity to discuss the classified U.S. probe into pre-election hacking, said a more likely explanation is that several months of hacking failed to give the attackers the access they needed to master America’s disparate voting systems spread across more than 7,000 local jurisdictions.


In early July 2016, a contractor who works two or three days a week at the (illinois) state board of elections detected unauthorized data leaving the network, according to Ken Menzel, general counsel for the Illinois board of elections. The hackers had gained access to the state’s voter database, which contained information such as names, dates of birth, genders, driver’s licenses and partial Social Security numbers on 15 million people, half of whom were active voters. As many as 90,000 records were ultimately compromised.

But even if the entire database had been deleted, it might not have affected the election, according to Menzel. Counties upload records to the state, not the other way around, and no data moves from the database back to the counties, which run the elections. The hackers had no way of knowing that when they attacked the state database, Menzel said.


Thirty-seven states reported finding traces of the hackers in various systems, according to one of the people familiar with the probe. In two others -- Florida and California -- those traces were found in systems run by a private contractor managing critical election systems.

(An NSA document reportedly leaked by Reality Winner, the 25-year-old government contract worker arrested last week, identifies the Florida contractor as VR Systems, which makes an electronic voter identification system used by poll workers.)

In Illinois, investigators also found evidence that the hackers tried but failed to alter or delete some information in the database, an attempt that wasn’t previously reported. That suggested more than a mere spying mission and potentially a test run for a disruptive attack, according to the people familiar with the continuing U.S. counterintelligence inquiry.

So ... it's not the last election you need to concern yourself with; it's the next one.  Do you think President Mango Chaos is going to do anything to establish confidence in our election integrity in 2018, or 2020?

There's lots more at Bloomberg if this sort of thing obsesses you.  Brad Friedman points to a Politico piece that suggests some chicanery is looming in the Georgia 6th special election due to that state's pathetically weak voting infrastructure.

I have just about reached the point where I have decided that voting simply isn't worth the effort, which would put me in with a majority of Americans.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Weekly Wrangle

With this week's lefty blog post roundup, the Texas Progressive Alliance is hoping to squeeze in a vacation before the start of the special legislative session.

Off the Kuff looks at Republican fear of a redistricting ruling and considers the best case scenarios.

Yuge news broke every day last week but PDiddie at Brains and Eggs only had time to blog a few paragraphs about all of it.

Ted at jobsanger marks the anniversary of the Orlando Pulse nightclub tragedy, and observes that it was not just the largest mass shooting in the nation's long bloody history of those, nor only the worst terrorist attack since 9/11, but remains a failure to confront the source of our country's greatest ongoing carnage: a lack of courage to appropriately close the loopholes in gun purchase laws.

High Plains Blogger would remind us that the White House is no place for on-the-job training.

Texas Freedom Network says "Don't let the door hit ya on the way out" to longtime SBOE lunatic David Bradley.

Greg Abbott has mistaken the odor of high percentages of incarceration in the counties north of Travis for 'freedom', writes Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast.

The counter-protesters at the "March Against Sharia" at the Capitol over the weekend far outnumbered those who organized the demonstration against the monsters under their bed the alleged influence of Islamic law in America.  Gus Bova at the Texas Observer filed a report and posted pictures.

SocraticGadfly, channeling Greg Palast's smarter brother, Greg AtLast, talks about Trump v Comey, and how too much Putin Did It conspiracy thinking got Reality Winner arrested, as well as how the Comey testimony was kind of a nothingburger.

The Lewisville Texan Journal offers some tips for those moments when you might encounter wild critters in an urban environment.

The Rag Blog hosts "Demand the Impossible!" with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn next week in Austin.  Sponsors of the event include the Austin chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Neil at All People Have Value blogged that the city of Houston offers hurricane preparedness guides in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and Arabic.  APHV is part of


More Texas news and blog posts from around the state!

Wedding bells and jail cells marked the end of the regular session for some Texas legislators, notes Anna Tinsley at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Politex blog.

This past weekend's Green Party state convention in Corpus Christi marks a turning point for the party's legitimacy in Texas politics, and David Collins detailed how that is, came to be, and goes forward.

Catherine Hunter at Progrexas lists ten bonafide progressive Democrats who're running for office across the Lone Star State in 2018.

The Houston Communist Party posted video from the Nina Turner Show, starring Bernie Sanders (the People's Summit, also this past weekend).

Sanford Levinson at Rivard Report argues that nobody really knows what "sincerely held religious beliefs" are.

Lize Burr at Burnt Orange Report tries to make sense of the special session agenda.

Jay Leeson at Burkablog wonders why so many state senators want to serve Dan Patrick's interests instead of their constituents'.

Andrew Edmonson, in an essay for the Houston Chronicle, thinks Pride parades should return to their protest-march roots.

Paradise in Hell has a modest proposal for Greg Abbott.

Durrel Douglas at Houston Justice provides a way to help the family of Johnny Hernandez, the man who died from a chokehold by a Harris County deputy's husband after an altercation outside a Denny's.

To spotlight the Republic of Texas motorcycle rally this past weekend, All Ablog Austin posted the ten best rides through Central Texas.

And Harry Hamid considers the axolotl.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Scattershooting a week's worth of broken news

About six or so draft status posts need to be condensed to a sentence or two each.  Okay, a paragraph or two.

-- Sylvester Turner is simply weak, folks.  After a dozen Texas cities quickly declared they would legally enjoin the state of Texas from enforcing the sanctuary cities ban, the rest of us have been waiting for Mayor Sly to bust his move.  It's a question Stace at Dos has asked three times now -- in his best passive-aggressive voice -- and finally, after the newspaper of local record along with dozens of immigrants rights activists called him out for his recalcitrance, Turner finally said he'd put it on council's agenda in a couple of weeks.  And the mayor's lickspittles on social media all declared victory in one voice.

One CM was heard to say that Turner was still afraid of alienating Republicans in the Lege, even after securing the much-ballyhooed pension reform legislation, which has already been signed by Helen Wheels Abbott, and for which Turner held an instant self-congratulatory press conference.  So what future is he so scared of?  Yes, the fireman are going to fight back a little harder, but if the mayor were really sly he'd just kick that can down the road like all the mayors before him have done. 

If you have nine Democrats out of fifteen CMs, you shouldn't need extra time to whip votes.  But as I have said time and time again, Houston's Democrats are really moderate Republicans in disguise.  Turner's long history in the Lege taught him when to kneel to conservative complaints and when to ignore liberal ones.  And until someone pays Marc Campos to share his secret to turning out the Latinx vote, none of that is going to change.  So hey, maybe this weakness isn't all on the mayor.

And maybe he's just sitting tight, waiting for the courts to take care of it.  That's still not leadership.

-- Dan Patrick forced a special session by getting the Freedom Caucus to kill the sunset bill.

As a key deadline to pass bills out of the Texas House approached last month, a small group of ultra-conservative legislators ensured the demise of a measure that would have prevented the shuttering of several state agencies. In a text message to a lobbyist, Rep. Kyle Biedermann, a member of the self-styled House Freedom Caucus, said Patrick called the group and asked them to stall long enough to keep the bill from passing.

He made Greg Abbott his bitch, and he goat-fucked every single Texas House Republican moderate in the 2018 GOP primary.  Texas Democrats won't be able to to do anything but cry over it; it's all on the Straus Caucus to stop them.  In the special and in next year's elections.

This is among the many reasons why I'm retiring to New Mexico in a few years.

-- James Comey has again gone from being the guy who threw the election to Trump to the guy who's going to get Trump thrown out of the White House.  To hear Democrats tell it.
Some heard bombshells; sounded like eggshells to me.  The actual reveal was Comey having his buddy leak the memo that kneecapped Trump a couple of days before his testimony.  Edward Snowden said it best.

-- It was tantalizing...

Russian intelligence agents hacked a US voting systems manufacturer in the weeks leading up to last year’s presidential election, according to the Intercept, citing what it said was a highly classified National Security Agency (NSA) report.

The revelation coincided with the arrest of Reality Leigh Winner, 25, a federal contractor from Augusta, Georgia, who was charged with removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet.

The hacking of senior Democrats’ email accounts during the campaign has been well chronicled, but vote-counting was thought to have been unaffected, despite concerted Russian efforts to penetrate it.

Russian military intelligence carried out a cyber-attack on at least one US voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than a hundred local election officials days before the poll, the Intercept reported ...

The NSA report makes clear that, despite recent denials by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, the NSA is convinced that the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) was responsible for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

But ...

The intelligence assessment acknowledges that there is still a great deal of uncertainty over how successful the Russian operatives were and does not reach a conclusion about whether it affected the outcome of the election, in which Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton hinged on three closely contested states.

But ...

But the suggestion that Russian hackers may gained at least a foothold in electronic voting systems is likely to add even more pressure to special counsel and congressional investigations. The Obama administration maintained that it took preventive measures to successfully guard against breaches of the systems in all 50 states.

Someone in position to know says it's worse than is being reported.

"I don't believe they got into changing actual voting outcomes," Virginia Sen. Mark Warner said in an interview. "But the extent of the attacks is much broader than has been reported so far." He said he was pushing intelligence agencies to declassify the names of those states hit to help put electoral systems on notice before the midterm voting in 2018.

I'm again hearing eggshells.

A leaked analysis containing none of the raw data being analyzed in that analysis does not come even remotely close to being the sort of hard evidence that those of us who are skeptical of your conspiracy theory would require. For the many, many reasons listed in the debunkery compendium, nothing but hard evidence will suffice.

The fact is, we’ve already seen analysis reports from intelligence agencies on the alleged Russian election meddling, like this one by the DHS and the FBI in December, and this one by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in January, and like the Intercept’s NSA leak those didn’t contain any raw intelligence either.


Additionally, the NSA was literally just shown to have been dead wrong about Russia meddling in the French election.  [...] For weeks establishment outlets were reporting as unquestionable fact that Russia was known to have hacked French electoral infrastructure, citing NSA chief Michael Rogers’ confident proclamation that NSA surveillance had “watched” this happen. 

In an even stranger development, Wikileaks and Glenn Greenwald are suddenly no longer BFF because of the burning by The Intercept of whistleblower Reality Winner.

-- UK PM Theresa May miscalculated like a Texas GOP boss (well, hopefully), and now she has to go harder right with her coalition.  There was also a remarkably hostile rift opened among Middle Eastern nations, a couple more terrorist attacks, and some other things that slid down the memory hole faster than shit through a goose.  It's not all about Trump, after all.

You all caught up now?

Just one week ago, it was back channels, broken climate accords, and covfefe.  Those were the days.

I din't even have time to opine about Kathy Griffin (Go, girl) or Bill Maher (STFU).

Too much and too fast for me to document on a timely basis.  Taking another break after the Funnies and the Wrangle; any updates after Monday morning will appear in the Twitter feed.