Monday, July 31, 2017

Scattershooting Karun Sreerama, Stan Stanart, Russian hacks, and Trump's shitty week

-- The drama surrounding the public works director of the city of Houston (Mayor Sylvester Turner's personal choice) has been resolved.  After being outed as a tool of the FBI for the third of three payoffs to convicted felon and HCC board member Chris Oliver -- who is still serving we the people, it should be noted -- Karun Sreerama is no longer.

Karun Sreerama is out as director of the city of Houston's Department of Public Works and Engineering following revelations that he made payments to a Houston Community College trustee who has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes.


Oliver pleaded guilty to bribery in connection with accepting the more recent payments totaling $12,000, court records show, and in exchange the acting U.S. attorney agreed to dismiss the separate extortion charge tied to Sreerama's earlier payments totaling $77,143.

Sreerama's attorney Chip Lewis said federal authorities directed Sreerama to pay Oliver the $12,000 in 2015 and 2016 after confronting Sreerama about his earlier, independent payments to the trustee. "What he was doing was created, directed and funded by the FBI," Lewis said. "Karun was a cooperating witness as a result of being a victim of Oliver's scheme."

That's an artful deflection, isn't it?

As Lewis described the payments, the first two were made because Oliver claimed he was going through a costly divorce, and then claimed he needed funds to complete the process of adopting a child. Both payments were presented as loans and were not repaid. The third payment took the form of an exorbitant fee Oliver charged after his company cleaned the parking lot at Sreerama's business.

"By the time we get to the third payment and he hadn't been repaid the loans, Karun became worried that saying, 'No, no I've got somebody who already does the cleaning, etc.' could adversely affect his position down the road," Lewis said.

Federal authorities confronted Sreerama in March 2015, a year and a half after he made that final payment, and asked for his cooperation in their investigation, Lewis said.

Two months later -- at the FBI's behest, Lewis said -- Sreerama began a series of meetings with Oliver that lasted through May 2016.

Oliver repeatedly asked if Sreerama was working for law enforcement in their initial May 2015 meeting, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Leuchtmann said during Oliver's re-arraignment. Oliver took the first envelope of $2,500 cash from Sreerama days later, and by their July meeting, he'd passed Sreerama a list of all HCC contracts.

Sreerama decided by November 2015 to bid on a pest control project. Oliver later said he continued to delay votes to convince the board to vote on the basis of value, not price, to give Sreerama's company a shot, Leuchtmann said.

Lewis said Sreerama's payments to Oliver during this period "were authorized, provided and directed to be delivered by the federal government." Meanwhile, Sreerama's likely appointment as Houston's Public Works director became a subject of open speculation at City Hall.

Turner finally tapped Sreerama to lead the city's largest department in March, tasking him with managing all city streets, drainage, water and sewer systems on a $2.1 billion annual budget. Sreerama did not tell the mayor or other city officials during the vetting process about his involvement in the federal case, Lewis said.

"The FBI had asked him not to reveal it to anybody," Lewis said, adding that Sreerama called Turner about the case three weeks ago, after he learned it was set to be unsealed the next day.

Just your run-of-the-mill graft/corruption/city hall quid pro quo deal, about which the mayor has plausible deniability of any knowledge or involvement.  Happens every day in cities large and small, all across the land, 99% of them go undiscovered by the law.  Nothing to see here.

We're stuck with Turner and his lickspittles down on Bagby until 2019, so there will be plenty of time for this to disappear down the memory hole.  This makes some members of the Democratic establishment very relieved, so there's that.

-- Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart and Rice University professor Dan Wallach got into a very public pissing contest over the security, or lack thereof, associated with the county's voting machines.  The original article's headline contained the words "Russian hackers" and has been edited by the Chronic to tone down the hysteria, and Wallach made a glaring error by describing the Hart InterCivic e-Slates as running on Microsoft 2000, which has been struck through and corrected to 'Microsoft 7'.

Stanart eventually posted a retort to Wallach, of which you can read the newspaper's account at this link.  It's more CYA by the county's lousiest, most incompetent elected official.

Stanart looks like more than the usual putz in light of this news from DEF CON -- the conference of hackers that takes place annually, this year in Vegas -- and note some disturbing developments contained within a couple of the links that follow.  I've highlighted them in bold.

We already knew U.S. voting systems had security flaws ― the federal government put that nail in the coffin when it repeatedly confirmed that Russian hackers breached systems in at least 21 states during the election last year.
But on Friday, hackers stateside showed us just how easily some of the electronic voting machines can be cracked.
Those who attended DEF CON, a 25-year-old hacking convention held in Las Vegas, were given physical and remote access to voting machines procured from eBay and government auctions.
Within about 90 minutes, they’d exploited weak and outdated security measures to gain full access, The Register first reported. Some physically broke down the machines to reveal their vulnerabilities, while others gained remote access or showed that external ports found on some could be used to upload malicious software. 

None of these accounts mention Hart's e-Slates, in use for over a decade here, but I'm not inclined to take this as good news.

“Without question, our voting systems are weak and susceptible. Thanks to the contributions of the hacker community today, we’ve uncovered even more about exactly how,” Jake Braun, who reportedly came up with the idea for the challenge, told The Register.
“The scary thing is we also know that our foreign adversaries ― including Russia, North Korea, Iran ― possess the capabilities to hack them too, in the process undermining principles of democracy and threatening our national security.”
Some of the machines were reportedly outdated and not used in today’s elections, and attendees said that their various intrusions would have been detected and logged by officials.
But detection is a far cry from interception.
In June, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security official again confirmed that Russian hackers were not only “attempting” to gain access to voting systems, they succeeded in at least 21 states and stole undisclosed information. The FBI detected the tampering last year ― though no evidence of changing vote numbers has been found ― but the Obama administration delayed reporting the breaches until Oct. 7, according to the Los Angeles Times.

So this would be an account of Russians hacking the election that I have never read before, and I would be compelled to say that I was wrong all this time; the Russians did perform hacks of significant magnitude into our election systems, even if the proviso that "no evidence of changing results was found" is inserted.

But when I click on those bold links above, I find no data that supports the claims of this HuffPo writer, Andy Campbell.  He has quite obviously jumped to the wrong conclusion.  Read the links for yourself.  Here are some excerpts; read the entire post at both links.

Russian hackers targeted 21 U.S. states’ election systems in last year’s presidential race, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security official told Congress on (June 21, 2017).

'Targeted' is not the same thing as 'hacked'.  And this from the second bold link above, dated late September of last year ...

There have been hacking attempts on election systems in more than 20 states — far more than had been previously acknowledged — a senior Department of Homeland Security official told NBC News on (September 28, 2016).

The "attempted intrusions" targeted online systems like registration databases, and not the actual voting or tabulation machines that will be used on Election Day and are not tied to the Internet. The DHS official described much of the activity as “people poking at the systems to see if they are vulnerable.”

Once more, in bold.

Only two successful breaches have been disclosed, both of online voter registration databases, in Illinois and Arizona over the summer.

While those two hacks were linked to hackers in Russia, the DHS official did not say who was responsible for the other failed attempts, noting that "we're still doing a lot of forensics."

Almost a month ago -- on July 5 -- I wrote and linked to pieces in Vox and in Bloomberg that revealed hacking in attempts in 39 states, and one breach of voter registration data in Illinois.  Two weeks before that, I linked to the report in the FWST about hacking attempts in Dallas County, and on June 2, compiled an extensive listing of the various attempts by the Russkies to influence the election to that point in time, most of which did not make even passing mention of hacking or hacking attempts.

I have followed the story extensively.  I have blogged about it exhaustively.  I still cannot find anywhere in the public domain -- save the mentions of voter database breaches in Illinois, and now Arizona above -- evidence that the Russians hacked anything of significance.  People like Mr. Campbell above do themselves, their publisher, and Democrats at large a great disservice by continuing to promote this false narrative.  It's fake news of the most destructive kind, because those of us that know it's a lie are being driven further away from the Democratic party and its candidates every time the lie gets repeated.  Maybe some day I'll be wrong about the Russians hacking the 2016 election, but that day hasn't arrived yet.

And perhaps Clinton Democrats already intuitively get that the Russian bullshit is a scam of their own invention, which could explain why they've ramped up their insane hatred for an even more implausible, yet always convenient scapegoat: Jill Stein and the Greens.

-- If Democrats wanted to bring Trump down and not themselves, then they'd focus more on the real Russian scandal.  The one Robert Mueller is working on.

Since Election Day, President Trump’s businesses have sold at least 30 luxury condos and oceanfront lots for about $33 million. That includes millions of dollars in properties to secretive shell companies, which can hide the identities of buyers or partners involved in the deals, a USA TODAY investigation has found.

Now, details of some of those deals and other transactions by Trump's family business could be unmasked as special counsel Robert Mueller expands his inquiry into election-meddling by Russia and whether Trump's campaign colluded.

Federal investigators are expected to delve into records revealing some of the President’s most closely guarded secrets, including how much money he makes, who he does business with and how reliant he is on wealthy, politically-connected foreigners.

A half-dozen experts contacted by USA TODAY said they expect Mueller and his team to pursue everything from Trump’s income tax returns to the bank records underlying his companies’ real estate transactions in a quest to identify people who have financial relationships with the President and his business and political associates.

If Mueller gets fired by someone not named Jeff Sessions soon, the pending departures associated with Trump's shuffling the deck chairs his staff on his Titanic ego in the White House, to say nothing of the rats Republicans in Congress jumping off ...

... or even the overdue exodus of his base voters ...

 ... will accelerate as we move closer to the midterms.  But those fallout effects haven't yet taken into account his wink-and-a-nod approval to escalated police brutality ...

... his Tweeted transgender military service ban (that is not official until it is communicated through the conventional means) ...

... and the flaming bag of poo set alight on his own front step.


Those will all pale in comparison to the Nixonian conflagration of terminating the special prosecutor investigating his Russian business affairs.

The worst is yet to come.

Update: Just a couple of hours after I posted, Scaramouche is shitcanned in favor of General John Kelly, who moves over from the Department of Homeland Security.  Kelly is, for a general, quite the Trump stooge. No rumors floated yet about his replacement at DHS.  Seems like a bad time for that post to be vacant, with all this hacking going on and a war with North Korea about to break out.

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance agrees with Anderson Cooper that 'who had the worst week in Washington' last week was a tough call among five worthy contestants.

Off the Kuff looks at July campaign finance reports for Democratic Congressional challengers.

SocraticGadfly, looking over the battle to (apparently) kill Trumpcare, notes that insurers were only temporary allies, not friends of America, and remain bloodsucking leeches who are part of why true national health care in America needs a British-style NHS.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme calls out the so-called pro-life Texas Republicans for drastically increasing the maternal death rate. Now they are going for more deaths.

Democrats appear to be suffering another severe outbreak of Jill Stein Derangement Syndrome, reports PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

The Texas Tribune reveals Cong. Lamar Smith and Randy Weber complaining to the Department of Treasury that Russia is funding a massive, back channel, disinformation campaign -- aka fake news -- against America.  Just not the one you may have thought.

Ted at jobsanger observes today as  Black Women's Equal Pay Day.

Neil at All People Have Value called upon all people to show up and fight back. APHV is part of

The Mom of No, writing at the Lewisville Texan Journal, takes a vacation but not before becoming the Mom of Everything Must Be Sparkling Clean in This House.

And the Rivard Report was on hand as more than 350 San Antonians gathered at the historic San Fernando Cathedral and lit ten candles for ten migrants who perished in the back of tractor trailer truck, found in a Walmart parking lot.


More Texas lefty blog posts and news!

Dan Solomon at Texas Monthly has the latest update from the FBI on the state's most dangerous cities, and there are a few surprises.

Grits for Breakfast finds AG Ken Paxton as perhaps the most unlikely Fourth Amendment advocate imaginable, but apparently only when a Second Amendment right was at stake.

The Texas Living Waters Project highlights the activism of Janice Bezanson, who advocates for wise water use over the construction of reservoirs.

The Texas Observer documents Greg Abbott's Texas Tree Chainsaw Massacre.

The TSTA Blog is not impressed with the Senate's "fake" pay raise for teachers.

Transgriot wants to hear more black voices in the coverage of the bathroom bill, and Equality Texas urges pushback on Greg Abbott's arm-twisting to make Republicans sign on to them.

Paradise in Hell has some sage words about highway driving.

And Katie Walsh sets the record straight about the authenticity of Tex-Mex.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Stein Derangement Syndrome

There are 41 names included in the document requests sent to Donald Trump Jr.’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, and Paul Manafort’s lawyer, Reginald Brown, by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The requests include communications involving many individuals known to be ensnared in the Russia investigation, from President Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But while this roster of characters would have made for a fine John Le Carré novel, one name included therein immediately attracted online speculation: that of former Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein.

This is the article that sealed it for me.  I'll never be a Democratic party member ever again, and I'll find myself hard-pressed to vote for Democrats (even temperate judicial candidates who wave the pom poms and cheer on their teammates) in the future.  But because the only other alternative is more messed up than this, there will be an enormous number of undervotes on my ballot in elections to come.  That's sure going to suck, isn't it?  When you stop 'voting to block', so to speak, you're not left with many people to vote for.

There's been a long piece outlining the dysfunction of the Green Party in draft status for almost a month, but David Collins did a better job, and Gadfly had his take, not all of which I agree with -- he doesn't care for Stein and David Cobb too much, and I do, for openers -- but it's good enough to fill in some of the blanks from an outsider perspective (Collins is the insider, I am the former insider).  The topic of intra-Green squabbling is, however, clearly not of interest to most people; I had difficulty making the effort to put thoughts on the screen, and not because I didn't have any.  And not because they weren't strong thoughts, either.

It's worth repeating my premise that Texas has the worst Republicans in the country because it also has the lamest, weakest, worst Democrats.  (Greg Abbott campaigns against Nancy Pelosi and California because of this.)  By extension, Texas Democrats have their own little dog to kick, and it's Texas Greens.  This analogy extends, generally, to the nation at large.  When Democrats are feeling particularly bad about themselves, or need to feel better by being petty, mean, and vindictive toward others ... the Greens, from Ralph Nader to Jill Stein, are always there for them.

What, exactly, Stein has to do with Trump Jr.’s meeting last summer with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya is unclear, as the Senate Judiciary Committee provided no context for its demands, which are to be honored by August 2. A request for an explanation to Stein’s former campaign manager remains unanswered at this time. And though she is active on Twitter, Stein has made no acknowledgement on that social media network of her name’s appearance in the Trump Jr. inquest.

None of this, of course, prevented some on Twitter from rejoicing at the prospect, however unfounded, that Stein was herself the subject of investigation. The glee is premature but understandable. (sic) Stein’s self-righteousness (sic) exasperated many supporters of Hillary Clinton, as did her portrayal of Clinton as effectively no better a choice for true liberals than Donald Trump. Some have blamed Stein for “spoiling” the election (sic), doing for Clinton what her fellow progressive Ralph Nader had done 17 years before for Al Gore. Her demand for a recount—a demand for which she reaped $7 million in donations—struck some as a pointless publicity ploy.

Author's insertions of 'I know better than this' should suffice for those who've read this blog in the past, and maybe later I'll go dig out the links to myself that re-explain it to those that need it.  Let's take the 'pointless political ploy' part and debunk that.  I can assure you that the vast majority of the money Stein raised for the recount -- over $2 million in 24 hours, almost $7 million in a week -- came from the very same Clinton-voting Democrats who hold her in such aggressive contempt (and did so before, for that matter).  I read their posts declaring they donated on various social media fora, and I looked at the financial reports.  News coverage at the time was demonstrative of the fact that the effort was no "ploy".  As a contributor at Bradblog, I saw and read the daily posts there as the recount effort was hindered, blocked, and finally halted ... by mostly Democratic election officials and judges in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

These are also the same people who have smeared her with the false accusation about winking, nodding, playing footsie with, or otherwise giving tacit support to the anti-vax community.  Because that's what a person with a Harvard magna cum laude medical degree -- and 25 years of practicing and teaching medicine -- does, after all.

That’s all to say that, as the curiosity about her involvement with the Russia investigation plainly demonstrates, there remains remarkable ill will toward Stein and her role in the 2016 presidential campaign.

The questions about Stein’s ties to Russia are not new. They stem from a single photograph of Stein’s trip to Moscow in 2015. The image shows her dining at a table with Putin and Michael Flynn, the disgraced Trump adviser at the heart of the Russia probe.

Stein had never made any attempts to hide her trip to Russia or its purported intentions. “After this meeting I am more sure than ever that the ideas I'm bringing into the presidential race will allow the US and Russia to work together to address problems that would otherwise be intractable,” Stein said of the meeting on her campaign website.

More recently, she has defended herself against accusations that she was somehow involved in a joint effort with the Trump campaign and its Russian comrades to smear Clinton. When, last month, CNN’s Michael Smerconish asked Stein why she’d attended the dinner with Putin, she responded by deflecting blame. (sic)

“That picture didn’t start to circulate until long after the election,” Stein said, adding a little later: “It’s funny, Michael, you have to ask why is that picture kicking up a storm right now? I think it’s very related to the fact that the Democrats are looking for someone to blame.”

It is laugh-out-loud hilarious for a Democrat to accuse someone else (anybody else in the whole wide world) of 'deflecting blame'.

The political cartoonists get it, have always gotten it.

It’s unclear if members of the Senate Judiciary Committee know something of a previously undisclosed Stein "backchannel" to the Trump campaign or are simply reaching out to anyone who had contact with Russian officials during the presidential race. Whatever the case, her surprising cameo in the Trump Jr. letter gave some on Twitter occasion to rejoice.

And we'll stop there with that.  When Caitlyn Johnstone -- an Australian, so she can be excused, I suppose -- suggests "the left" should perform some outreach to the right, it's clear to me that she does not get that the left needs to perform some outreach to itself.

The fact is that Democrats hate the left more than they hate the right.

Their hatred is most evident when people who are truly on the left dare to make the case for political change. When Al Gore and Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost presidential races in the Electoral College, Democratic Party scorn was directed solely at the Green Party and their voters. In both elections there were far more instances of registered Democrats voting for George W. Bush and Donald Trump respectively. One would think that they would be marked for condemnation.

Instead the Democrats show their true colors, excusing and placating the turncoats in order to make the case for “lesser evil” neo-liberalism and imperialism.

The Russiagate phenomenon makes Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein an even bigger target. Stein visited Russia in 2015 and attended the RT network’s anniversary dinner. She was seated at the same table with Vladimir Putin, although the two never spoke. This simple act is now being included among the flimsy so-called evidence that the Russian government interfered in the election. The war party is an important part of the duopoly and leading Democrats are reveling in their opportunity to make political hay.

With all of the other excuses they could use for losing an election they should have won handily, blaming Jill Stein is, frankly, unhinged.  The self-examination and remediation needs to come from within Team Jackass, and by all appearances they haven't learned a goddamned fucking thing from 2016.  I'll put on my "sexist AND racist" flak jacket now, for when I eventually have to start criticizing the next Chosen One, Kamala Harris, who is following in Hillary Clinton's footsteps all the way to the Hamptons for fundraisers.  Already.

The Democrats are a lost cause; hopelessly lost, without a clue as to how clueless their latest rebranding is.  And this shit isn't funny.  It's the reason we have Justice Neil Gorsuch instead of Justice Merrick Garland, for one small thing.  Imagine being so weak that Mitch McConnell can kick your ass every single day, even as a dying John McCain kicks his.

They could, of course, seize the initiative and run on single-payer, but even those hideous California Democrats Greg Abbott complains about can't get on board with that, and when a Republican senator proposed it as an amendment to the repeal of Obamacare last night, Bernie Sanders convinced Schumer and company that the move was a trap.

(T)he amendment was meant to expose ideological differences among the Democratic party and its supporters — and distract from efforts to stop the repeal of Obamacare.


Fifty-seven Senators voted against the amendment, while 43 voted simply “present.” Four Democrats voted against the amendment: Senators Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Jon Tester of Montana.  

That's four-for-four on senators up for re-election in 2018 in states Trump won in 2016.  If I weren't so nauseated thinking about shitty Blue Dogs, I'd Google up some polling about the popularity of Obamacare and single-payer in their states.  Instead I'll just send up the chant for their campaigns: "We're not stupid! We're not stupid!"

No.  Just no.  Not today, not next year, not in 2020.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Trump to Sessions: "You're fired (sort of)"

Makes you kinda wish our wee attorney general would file a complaint under the EEOC against an abusive boss who created a hostile working environment, doesn't it?

In a twist none of us saw coming, President Trump has now declared war not on Iran or North Korea (that’s probably being held back for sweeps week), but rather on his own attorney general.

After ramping up his criticism of Jeff Sessions in the past week, going as far as to say he wouldn’t have appointed the former Alabama senator had he known that Sessions would recuse himself from the investigation into Trump’s Russian contacts, Trump took his case to Twitter, which is how you can always tell this president is serious about something.

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!” Trump tweeted. A word spelled out in all capital letters is how you know this president is really serious about something.

A reminder to those who have noticed how Trump's consistent and over-arching demand from subordinates has been loyalty: no one has been more loyal to this president, right from the jump, than Sessions, and this is what he's earned for it.

Sessions was the first senator to embrace Trump when he joined the campaign just after the South Carolina primary, at a crucial moment. But his symbolic value to Trump ran deeper than that.

A culturally conservative lawman in the tradition of the old, segregationist South, Sessions embodied a powerful, nostalgic current in Southern Republican politics. When he stepped up to a podium in Alabama, just before Super Tuesday, and acknowledged that “we don’t get everything we want” in a candidate while embracing Trump, he sent a signal that religious Southerners could trust a coarse New York billionaire to hold the line against immigrants and liberal chauvinists.

Sessions took the “Make America Great Again” slogan that Trump slapped on a hat and gave it meaning in parts of the country where Trump could easily have seen the nomination slip away.

Later, when a lot of Trump’s allies distanced themselves from the man overheard deriding women on a hot mic, there was Sessions on the Sunday shows and in the debate spin rooms, uncompromisingly vouching for the candidate’s inner morality.

Now here’s Trump talking to the Wall Street Journal this week: “When they say he endorsed me, I went to Alabama. I had 40,000 people. … He looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, ‘What do I have to lose?’ And he endorsed me. So it’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement.”

Oh. So I guess it’s like that.

Before some haughty neoliberal wants to say I'm being sympathetic to our Confederate General Beauregard Sessions, let me point out that anybody else Trump appoints to be the nation's top lawman -- such as Rudy Giuliani or Ted Cruz -- would not a) recuse from the Russian investigation, thus be in place to stonewall or derail it; and b) would be Robert Mueller's new boss, which is to say that Mueller wouldn't be special prosecutor for very long after the FNG's swearing-in.

(Here) is the larger lesson of Trump’s public breach with Sessions. Once again, the guy who held himself out on TV as the world’s toughest and most successful CEO turns out to be, in real life, a surprisingly whiny and ineffectual manager.

I mean, Trump has now publicly charged that his own attorney general — the seventh public servant in the line of succession to the presidency — is weak, delinquent in his duties and damaging to the institution of the presidency. If that’s even partly true, the American legal system is in grave peril.

So what does the blustery president do, this guy whose catchphrase, “You’re fired!,” catapulted him to national celebrity?

He complains. He tweets. He talks smack and waits for someone else to act, like a high school kid too scared to break up with his girlfriend.

So because Trump is quite literally so weak a man that he cannot actually fire Sessions ... he wants to see if he can make him quit.  (Sessions says he ain't quittin', FWIW.)  It's left the experienced hands in the DOJ reeling.

Mr. President, you chose this AG. He reports only to you. If he’s so terrible for the country, then man up and find the stones to fire him.

That’s what TV Donald Trump would have done. But this Trump we have now — the one with a real job in the real world — seems paralyzed by insecurity. He wants other people to make the tough calls.

Sessions can’t stay in his job for long — that seems clear enough. Trump wants an AG who will move to shut down the independent counsel, and somewhere out there is a legal scholar craven enough to do it. (Look up “Bork, Robert” in your history book.)

It’s only a question now of whether Sessions can stomach the abuse long enough to get himself pushed aside, or whether he’ll do Trump’s bidding one last time and ultimately stand down.

I don't suppose anybody reading this has ever had a boss like this, have you?  I've only had a few myself, but they weren't overall quite this bad.

Probably can't replace him via recess appointment (remember, Obama tried that and the SCOTUS shot him down).  This week's latest constitutional crisis wasn't, of course, enough for President Orangutan; he had to throw in a few insults at the Republican senators who so far haven't managed to repeal Obamacare, regale the Boy Scouts with a bawdy tale about a rich man's yacht party, declare transgendered soldiers unfit for duty,  and ... I must be missing a few things.

Even as news breaks this morning that Scaramooch is trying to push Reince Priebus out -- demanding he prove that he is not the White House leaker -- we have to wonder how this president and this administration would handle a real crisis, such as an incident involving North Korea.  I'm concerned they would behave as poorly as they have with these manufactured ones.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Weekly Wrangle

With another mega-roundup of the best lefty blog posts and news from last week, the Texas Progressive Alliance wants to stress that it does not delete its old, and possibly contradictory, Tweets.

Off the Kuff notes the two Democratic candidates who have emerged so far to run for Governor.

SocraticGadfly looks at Mitch the Turtle's ongoing Senate manueverings on Trumpcare.

Texas Democrats who can't support Tom Wakely for governor may be stuck with having to draft Joe Straus, according to PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that Texas Republicans are all about encouraging polluters and not about the health and well-being of people.

Texas Leftist sees Ashley Smith making THE point about the bathroom bill debate in her selfie with Greg Abbott.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston posts the fundraising totals for the seven candidates in the running for CD-7, and the best news is that four-time perennial James Cargas is badly losing that race also.

Stace at Dos Centavos follows up on Harris County's stance on SB4, seeing county attorney Vince Ryan filing a brief against enforcement despite the commissioners' reticence to do the same.

Texas Vox is stumped by Abbott's anti-tree agenda.

With a vacancy in the Denton County district clerk's office, the Lewisville Texan Journal collects some of the candidate filings for the position.

jobsanger joins the question of what Puerto Rico should be going forward: state, nation, or territory?

Neil at All People Have Value promoted the half-year mark of the weekly protest at the Houston office of terrible Senator John Cornyn. APHV is part of


The San Antonio Current reports that in the aftermath of the tragedy discovered in an Alamo City Walmart parking lot -- where several people were found dead and others stricken by heat in the back of a semi-trailer -- it's worth underscoring what SAPD Chief William McManus said:

“This is not an isolated incident; this happens quite frequently," he told reporters. "Fortunately, we came across this one. Fortunately, you know, there are people who survived.”

The Texas Observer explains what a ban on abortion means for women with high-risk pregnancies.

The Rag Blog co-hosts authors Steve Early and Nick Licata on July 27 at Scholz Biergarten in Austin, who will speak about the progressive alliances in their respective cities (Richmond, CA and Seattle) ahead of the Local Progress conference in Austin's AT&T Center this weekend.

RG Ratcliffe at Burkablog reveals Greg Abbott's million dollar donor, which helps explain why he's veering his wheelchair ever more to the right.

 Houston Justice Coalition is back and ready to get to work building up and not tearing down.

Robert Rivard calls the bathroom bill a choice between social justice and discrimination, and PoliTex quotes some anonymous Texas Republicans in the Lege as saying they don't want to have to vote on the bill ... but are afraid they might have to.

Grits for Breakfast updates on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's latest court loss, requiring the state jail system to address the stifling heat inmates are forced to live in, and posits the next legal avenues.

DBC Green Blog took note of the racial strife that rose to the fore at the GPUS annual meeting earlier this month.

Better Texas Blog reminds us that the state relies an awful lot on local property taxes to fund our schools.

The Texas Election Law Blog flags a Rick Hasen editorial about the perils to our democracy.

Fort Bend ISD school board president Kristin Tassin explains how Greg Abbott's voucher plan hurts kids with disabilities.

And Keith Babberney at Trib Talk speaks for the trees.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Another shit week for Sylvester Turner

His prized recycling contract -- you know, the one where the city buys new recycled garbage trucks financed at 11%, instead of the under 2% it can loan itself -- got tagged (which means a vote on it is delayed for a week).

Update: The mayor decides to start all over.

Now tags really aren't that big a deal, though Jolanda Jones pissed Bill White off so badly in 2011 with her use of them that he endorsed Jack Christie against her (and Christie won, and was never dislodged from his at-large chair because Harris Democrats kept failing to coordinate an effective strategy to remove him).  In this case however it's Dave Martin we're talking about, who's one of the more pus-filled conservatives on city council.  Odious Republicans aside, Sly's created problems with too many Democrats on the horseshoe, as noted before.

But the mayor has significantly larger troubles with the city's firefighters.

Charles Kuffner had an expanded take on it yesterday, which is filled with all of the corporate and Democratic institutional concerns  -- and subtle threats -- you can think of (and some you probably didn't).  Here's one paragraph excerpted, but you should read his full screed.

Of the establishment groups that tend to get involved in city politics, the Greater Houston Partnership is all in on pension reform and spending restraint. I can’t see the Realtors opposing the Mayor on this, nor the GLBT Political Caucus, nor any Democratic-aligned groups. The one possible exception is labor, but this proposal would be bad for the police and the city workers. It’s not about a rising tide, it’s just shifting money to the firefighters from the rest of the city employees. Maybe labor backs this, maybe they don’t. The Chronicle will surely endorse a No vote. Who among the big endorsers will be with the firefighters?

Kuff was kind enough to publish my comment (as opposed to some other bloggers in our Alliance, who must think ignoring me is going to make me go away, LOL) and for the click-over-disinclined, it contains some of the points I make next.  To do him the courtesy of not continuing a back-and-forth there, or responding to the green-eyed gadflies -- NHNT, Paul Kubosh, Steve Houston; I'm looking at YOU -- who make his comment section their regular stop ... here you go.

Nancy Sims is correct, Campos is -- shockingly -- about half right, with respect to the 'bad blood' to be spilled -- and Kuff himself is just deep-in-the-weeds mistaken.

Warnings about the horrors of busted budgets, etc. fly right over the head of our Republican home-schooled and public education-gutted electorate.  But it's accurate to posit that scaring them with warnings about furloughing hundreds of policemen and women and firemen and women might tap into their lizard brains.  Is that an attack that Democrats want to launch, though?

Do Houston Democrats, their mayor leading the charge together with corporate interests and their deep-pocketed Republican contributors, really want to finance and spearhead a public castigation of working men and women -- fire fighters, mind you --  especially in the current political climate?  Somebody is surely going to make a case about the purported evils of public sector employee unions ... but is it one Democrats want to make?  When I read (on Facebook) the mayor's special assistant encouraging his friends not to sign the petition, and a high-ranking city official calling the petition-gatherers "liars" ... well, the city has already started losing the PR war.

This seems an extremely treacherous path, but if Mayor Turner and his staff want to continue making enemies of allies, it's no longer my business to try to stop them.  I can't see a win for him and them anywhere by taking the tack Kuffner and Campos suggest, but I could be wrong.  It seems kinda Trumpian to me, though.  On the other hand, maybe more Mitch McConnell.

The new (recycling) contract comes just hours before council members are set to vote on the plan that has been met with controversy. The city's housing and community affairs committee was scheduled to discuss the contract (this past) Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in council chambers. Late Monday, members of that committee said the new contract wasn't available to them.

Directly to the source of the firemen's support is the fact they gathered over 50,000 signatures, vetted them for legitimacy, and submitted 32,000, more than enough to make the ballot and let the residents of Houston decide the matter.  At last glance there were 72 comments on my Nextdoor page about the petition, and all of them, save perhaps one, are effusively in support.  Kuff's retort is that Nextdoor might not be the best barometer of vox populi, citing his own Nextdoor page's remarks about the Heights wet/dry initiative (last year?), but he's comparing apples and coconuts in that regard.

The power brokers, institutions, establishment, etc. may be stacked against the firefighters, but they surely appear to have the people solidly with them.  Oh, and former city attorney David Feldman, so they do quite obviously have plenty of money.

(Aside to Chuck: it was a 9.5% increase offered by Turner, not 10.  At least according to the H-Town Chronic you excerpt every single day.  For somebody who loves their numbers so much it's a surprise to see you get an easy one like that wrong.  No bias intended, though, amirite?)

Some observers, like UH's poli-sci prof Brandon Rottinghaus, quoted at the end of the previous link, think Turner has endangered his police pension reforms -- already on November's ballot -- with his back-of-the-hand treatment of the firemen and their subsequent take-it-to-the-streets effort.  If there is to be a backlash against the mayor, that's where it will show up.  And if he loses both the pay equality and the pension reform initiative in the fall, he's left with having to carry out his threats of laying off hundreds of HPD and HFD and other city employees in order to balance his precious city budget.  That's no way to get re-elected, no matter when elections might be scheduled by the SCOTX.

I predict that the resolution to give firefighters a raise they deserve will pass resoundingly, and the mayor and his wretched staff and the motley collection of fools on city council better start thinking about how to deal with it.  They could wreck the entire city with their high-horse bullshit if the voters also choose to send a message by defeating the mayor's pension reform proposal, but there's bound to be a way for Turner to save himself from that fate without continuing to act like a petulant dictator threatening the media.

If approved, the new (recycling contract) elements, including curbside glass, wouldn't start until late 2018. The mayor hopes to have the full approval of the council by the end of the month.

In the meantime, (Ted Oberg at KTRK) spent months trying to get answers on the city's last effort at expanding recycling. The mayor and his team didn't like our persistence.

"If you attempt to bully me, you aren't going to get a good response," Turner said. "I am not going to be bullied by you."

Let's just see what happens going forward.  Good fucking Doorknob, I wish there was an organized progressive effort in this town to put up candidates -- Green, Blue, or Other -- challenging Turner and his neoliberal flacks on city council.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

It's time to smother KPFT with a pillow

What a mess.  Or as Tommy Lee Jones' character in No Country for Old Men said to his deputy as he surveyed the bodies strewn across the desert: "It'll do 'til the mess gets here."

KPFT's ongoing turbulent drama having been previously documented, your update here includes the latest from Bill Crosier -- the Pacifica executive board director who fired the 3-month-tenured station manager, Obidike Kamau, last week for failing to reach the objectives set forth in his first quarterly fundraising pledge drive.  Crosier finally broke his silence at midnight this morning with a series of Facebook postings explaining his position (unless you're FB friends with him, you may not be able to read them).  This came after HPD was called to the radio station's offices earlier this week as protesters against Kamau's termination had gathered outside, and after Crosier fired three more employees, claiming that the budget simply wouldn't support paying them any longer.

Remington Alessi's Facebook note blew up that rationale.  He published Crosier's open letter to a couple of his critics and then responded with this.

On the whole, the letter is probably a good example of why one should not hit ‘send’ when angry, as it bounces between pleading, justifications, and then explanations by Crosier that he was advised by his lawyers to not speak on the matter.

Crosier’s most recent statement, which appears more polished and comes after the later termination of other African American employees who supported Dr. Kamau, further muddies the water. Crosier claims that money was a key factor in all of the terminations, hinting that the station would be unable to meet financial obligations without terminating these employees.

It should be noted that during this time, under Crosier’s guidance, KPFT managed to continue paying a full salary and benefits to retired general manager Duane Bradley, which was one of several incidents that sparked KPFT’s board to open an investigation on Crosier for mishandling of funds.

What will he say next?

Perhaps Crosier has lined up some secret and deep-pocketed corporate benefactors for KPFT, who've never before been there for them in their time of need.  Or maybe he's getting ownership's balance sheet in order so they can sell the broadcasting licenses for the five Pacifica affiliates to the highest bidder.  It's not as if the parent company has been diving into a swimming pool filled with money, a la Scrooge McDuck, at any point recently.

David Courtney, former Green candidate for SD-17, said it best.

KPFT (Pacifica) was a very important part of my life.  On two occasions I had a regular program.  When I was growing up it was the only alternative to the homogenized, pro-militarist, pro-capitalist mainstream media.  It is therefore very distressing to see the difficulties that it is going through.

However the perennial failure to achieve financial goals is telling us something that many of us just do not want to hear:  KPFT is irrelevant; that is why it consistently fails to meet its fundraising goals.

The rise of the internet to become the main source of news and information has completely destroyed KPFT's raison d'etre.

We like to consider ourselves progressive.  Shouldn't this progressivism be extended to matters of technology?  Why are we clinging to an antiquated technology?  Perhaps it is time to bid it goodbye and move on.  It is not worth letting it become a divisive issue among progressives.

I agree completely, except for the fact that it's too late vis-à-vis a divisive issue among progressives, so-called progressives, people who call themselves progressive but in reality are only a little bit liberal on a few social issues, etc.

If, as Crosier has posted extensively on his own FB wall, it's all/just about the money, then he has poisoned the well, already running dry, of financial contributors.  Who's going to give even a dollar to perpetuate this continual dysfunction, save for the few people who -- quite astonishingly, from my point of view -- still support Crosier?

It's time to pull the plug on KPFT, literally and figuratively, and Crosier is accomplishing that, whether it was his intention or not.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tom Wakely for Governor

I have my candidate.  How about you?

A month ago, at the top of this (somewhat depressing, reality-driven) post about the current market value of voting, especially in our beloved Texas, I quoted Wakely's mention in the excellent (mostly progressive Democratic) blog Down With Tyranny and his successful (if you consider limiting Lamar Smith to just under 57%) effort to win a Central Texas seat in Congress last year.

Wakely is everything you'd expect in a seasoned white progressive populist.  He's a reincarnation of my old pal David Van Os, with less picante.  He's Bernie Sanders with a cowboy hat.  Like Bernie, he may eventually find a little traction among millennials, people of color, women, and others who want to see a different and better Texas, but without much in the way of a website at the moment (update: better website) or money flowing to his campaign he is likely going to be relegated to Green Party-like numbers.

That doesn't matter as far as I'm concerned.  Zack Lyke, who managed his campaign against Lamar Smith in TX-21, also ran John Courage's successful San Antonio city council effort.  So let's hope he does the same again for Wakely, at least until the candidate rises in the polls and the money starts rolling in and the thousand-dollar Italian-suited Democratic political consultants try to push him out.

Since Wakely has castigated the Democratic Party so harshly, I'm still thinking Democrats' only hope is to get behind a Draft Joe Straus effort.  But if they pick a Clintonite, I think it's going to be fun to watch how much farther than Wendy Davis that person falls.  Remember, no more straight ticket voting unless a court rules otherwise and the decision stands for next year  (see Update IV immediately below).  My humble O is that hurts Democrats electorally, but does not rise to the level of discrimination.  I'm not a judge, though.

Update IV (7/21, and time for a new post on this topic): Kuff's opinion about Wakely, to put it mildly, lacks enthusiasm for the candidate, knocking down Wakely's contention about being the highest vote-collector among Congressional Democratic challengers to Republican incumbents with some numbers from one of his trusty spreadsheets, and correcting me about when the voter ID law eliminating straight-ticket voting is to take effect.

Correction duly noted, but that first part seems a little "to-may-toe, to-mah-toe" to me.

Update: Oh looky here.  Jeffrey Payne, small business owner, is in a same-sex marriage so the Dallas Voice helped him out, but Stace doesn't think much of his language on the anti-sanctuary law, and the TDP and Kuff seem less than enthused.  Lacks a website, name recognition, money, donors, etc. like every other Democratic/Green/progressive independent candidate so there's that.

Update III (7/20): I now understand the Democrats' reticence to get behind (sorry) "International Mr. Leather" for Governor.

Update II: In response to my query as to party affiliation or lack thereof, Wakely tweeted the following back at me this morning.

Seems a little conflicted, and certainly his previous statements about Texas Democrats are going to be held against him, but as he says ... wait and see.

Wakely posted a fairly lengthy announcement at Down With Tyranny.  Here it is (bold emphasis is mine, with a few minor English-teacher-style corrections.  Hey, everybody needs a proof reader, including me).

My name is Tom Wakely and I am a candidate for Governor of Texas but before we get into that I’d like to tell you a story or two of how I came to the decision to run and why I am running.

My wife and I run a private care home for hospice patients in San Antonio. We offer them a place in our home to die. We have been doing this for a little over eight years now and we have helped 48 people to die with dignity and respect. My wife is from Mexico and she just became a US citizen this past spring. I was born in San Antonio and right after high school at the age of 17, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. After my discharge, I returned to San Antonio and soon found myself working with Cesar Chávez on the grape boycott campaign in Texas. I was very political active during the 70’s. But all my work, all my idealism, came crashing down in the fall of 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan as President. I was 27 years old. I was lost, bewildered, not sure what I should do or where I should do it. For the next few years, I was an aimless wanderer, traveling all over the country. I tried going back to college but it didn’t hold my interest. I became a stockbroker for a while but decided that wasn’t my thing. I flipped burgers for a few months, drove a cab, I even took a job on the Mississippi cleaning the inside of river barges. I eventually drifted back down to Texas with nothing more than a few bucks in my pocket. The political revolution that I had been so much a part of had failed and nothing I did or thought I wanted to do could fill the emptiness in my soul.

I was now 32 years old, alone and tired. I had just broken my right ankle in a stupid accident and as I lay in my hospital bed, thinking about my life, I had an epiphany. Of course, at the time, I didn’t understand it to be an epiphany, but it was. Anyway, I healed and after a few phone calls followed by a few interviews, I found myself back in the Midwest, enrolled at the Chicago Theological Seminary.

I mention this because it is relevant to why I am running for Governor of the State of Texas.

Now, you have to remember when I entered seminary in 1985, apartheid was still the political and social system in South Africa. I had been and was now again very active in the anti-apartheid movement, this time in Chicago. To my surprise my seminary had a relationship with a South African seminary and with Desmond Tutu. It worked like this. When it looked liked an ANC fighter, a college professor or a shopkeeper was about to be arrested and imprisoned by the authorities, they were immediately whisked away, enrolled in the South African seminary, then within a few days, they were in Chicago, in class with me. I became friends with all of them and still maintain that friendship with a few of them today.

These men taught me two very important life lessons. The first was don’t give up hope. Don’t let losing a battle discourage you. Keep on resisting. The second lesson was when a political opportunity presents itself, grab on to it as you may not get another chance. Which brings me to the question that everyone is asking me. Why in the hell are you running for Governor of Texas.

To answer that question, you need to understand Texas politics. Texas is not a red state; it is a no-vote state. In the 2014 general election that saw the rise of Greg Abbott and his tea-party brethren to power -- Abbott becoming Governor and Dan Patrick becoming Lt. Governor -- only 38% of our state’s registered voters voted. Abbott took 60% of the 38% which means he only received the support of 22% of the state’s registered voters. The Democratic candidate, Wendy Davis, did far worse. She only received 40% of the 38% which means just a little over 15% of the state’s registered voters supported her. This voting pattern has been fairly consistent and repeated over and over again for decades.

Something is terribly wrong here. Over 60% of my state’s registered voters are consistently not voting.

The result is that Texas is now controlled by a small minority of politically, socially and religiously conservative people and the Texas Democratic Party has no clue what to do about it, or if they do know what the problem is, they simply have chosen to ignore it. We all know there is still a hell of a lot of money to be made losing elections.

Over the past 4 months I have talked to literally thousands of non-voters all across the state and asked them why they didn’t vote and they all have told me basically the same thing: they don’t vote because they know the Republican Party doesn’t care about them or their family and the Democratic Party has abandoned them. That is the reason why over 60% of our state is not voting: they know that neither party cares about the working men and women of this state. To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, Texas cannot survive morally or economically much longer when so few have so much and so many have so little.

I entered a 2016 Congressional race here in Texas on the heels of Bernie’s bid to secure the Democratic Party nomination for President. I ran as an economic populist on a strong bold progressive agenda against 30-year Republican incumbent Lamar Smith, the Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. While we lost that race, we did manage to secure a few moral victories. We received more votes than any candidate who had ever run against Smith; we managed to drop Smith’s percentage of the vote total to its lowest level ever -- 56.9% -- and our campaign received more votes than any Democrat in the State of Texas running against a incumbent Republican member of Congress. And we did all that with no institutional support from the Texas Democratic Party and with very little money -- a tad over $70,000, which included a $15,000 loan I made to my campaign.

Like my old ANC friends from seminary said, when a political opportunity presents itself, grab on to it as you may not get another chance. Well, the political opportunity in Texas is now. Governor Greg Abbott’s attacks on labor, on women, on refugees and immigrants, on Hispanics and other minorities, on the LBGTQ community, on the poor in our state, on our environment and on our great cities, needs to be responded to with the most forceful weapon we have at our disposal - the ballot box.

I am entering this race for Governor not because I want to but because I have to. When I was in seminary I learned about Martin Niemöller, the Lutheran minister who was an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and who spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. He summed up perfectly my feelings and why I am running for Texas Governor. Niemöller said: “First they went after the Communists, and I did not stand up, because I was not a Communist. Then they went after the homosexual and infirm, and I did not stand up, because I was neither. Then they went after the Jews, and I did not stand up, because I was not a Jew. Then they went after the Catholics, and I did not stand up, because I was Protestant. Finally, they went after me, and there was no one left to stand up for me.”

As far as I am concerned, the defining principles of the 2018 Texas Governor’s race are moral issues: respect for the dignity of everyone living in Texas; respect for the dignity of work and the rights of workers; the call to family and to community; the rights and responsibilities of all Texans; a preferential option for the poor in our state; valuing our fellow Texans and respecting who they are as individuals; and caring for God’s creation -- the air, water and land.

As I mentioned above, with only a little more than 22% of the state’s registered voters supporting Governor Abbott and his tea party brethren, I again have to ask myself why are over 60% of our state’s registered voters not voting. The answer I believe to why so many Texans are not voting is because no serious candidate for Governor has ever talked to them about income inequality. Well, I intend to talk to the 60% about income inequality in our state. Look, Texas has the world’s 12th-largest economy but we rank 8th among the states as far as income inequality goes. San Antonio, the 7th largest city in the country, my home, ranks # 1 in income inequality. If we are serious about reducing income inequality in Texas we need to make it easier for people to join a union, not harder, and that is why I support repealing our state’s right to work laws. I also support raising Texas’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. It’s a start.

I will also talk to the 60% about how a person can be a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment and at the same time support common sense stuff like background checks at gun shows. Advocating for gun violence prevention programs is in no way, no how, inconsistent with being a 2nd Amendment supporter.

I will attempt to explain to the 60% why abolishing the death penalty in our state makes sense. Look, I understand if someone killed a friend or family member of mine, I would want vengeance as surely as the next man would. But I refuse to give that power to the state. Texas has already executed at least 2 innocent men over the past decade. A mistake that can’t be undone. If you look at the death penalty strictly from an economic perspective, the death penalty system is much more expensive than sentencing inmates to life imprisonment. The cost for sentencing a person to life costs the Texas taxpayer about $700,000 vs. sentencing someone to death, including court appeals, can easily run over $2 million. Besides, nothing could be worse than spending your life in an 8’ x 6’ cell.

I also want to reach out to the 60% and ask them a simple question: does your child or grandchild have asthma. I will point to the fact that Bexar County, home to San Antonio, leads the state in the number of children hospitalized for asthma. I will tell them that Texas is the number one source of oil and gas methane pollution in the country. I will tell them that is why I want to ban fracking and flaring in our state. I will also tell them we can create tens of thousands of new jobs by moving our state from a fossil fuel economy to a renewal energy economy.

Today, like in many states, the number one issue is rising personal property taxes to fund our public school systems. So, I want to know why Governor Abbott is not supporting a proposal by a colleague of his to abolish school property taxes altogether and find new revenue streams. Well, I think it is a great idea and among the dedicated revenue streams I see available to us are scrapping my state’s complicated franchise tax system and replacing it with a business income tax. I also support the legalization and taxation of marijuana in Texas. The revenue from both sources would put a serious dent in the funds needed to make Texas public schools number one in the nation and at the same time lowering the personal property taxes that so many of us are suffering to pay each year. (Side note here, last year, my wife and I had to pay our tax bill with a credit card.)

I want everyone to know I am running for Governor because I want to make Texas Great. After decades of abuse, the women and children of our state need someone to stand up for them. When I see so many Texans hurt and killed by senseless gun violence, they need someone to stand up for them. When I see racist legislation like the anti-sanctuary city bill SB 4 signed into law by Governor Abbott and his support of Lt. Governor’s Dan Patrick’s effort to regulate bathroom use by transgender people in public buildings, I cringe with fear. Fear of the words that Martin Niemöller spoke so long ago: ‘Finally, they went after me, and there was no one left to stand up for me.”