Monday, July 30, 2018

The Weekly Wrangle

With less than a hundred days remaining before the November election, the Texas Progressive Alliance's blog posts and related news took note of the temperature rising on statewide candidates and debates -- or lack thereof.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs watched as Ted Cruz suddenly flinched, probably at his sagging internal polling numbers, and acquiesced to five debates with his surging challenger, Beto O'Rourke.

Socratic Gadfly gives his snarky lowdown on the proposed Cruz-O'Rourke face-offs.

Justin Miller at the Texas Observer sees Democratic lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Mike Collier with a problem: Dan Patrick ain't taking his bait.  The following excerpt reveals the reasons:

Patrick’s unwillingness to debate Collier is the calculation of an incumbent on his heels. Recall that Patrick debated his Democratic opponent, Leticia Van de Putte, in 2014 and even debated then-San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro over immigration policy, just for fun. Now, he has a lot to lose and little to gain from having to defend his anti-trans bathroom crusade on TV for potentially millions to see. With a huge incumbency advantage and an inherently favorable electorate, he has absolutely no incentive to engage with Collier on anything. Property taxes might be soaring around the state, but Patrick’s betting there’s nary a normal Texan who’d directly associate that with his record as lieutenant governor— and he’d prefer to keep it that way, for good reason. Patrick has blamed local officials for rising property taxes, passed toothless relief bills that don’t do anything, all while avoiding the real problem: the GOP’s endless anti-tax fervor has made it so that the state doesn’t have enough money to fund public education and other services.

Meanwhile, the TSTA Blog is not surprised by the lite gov's intransigence on making schools safer.

Both Patrick and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller were urged to stop ignoring their challengers and debate them by the Houston Chronicle's editorial board, but the Dallas News has a more pragmatic view of the likelihood of downballot debates (tldr; slim and none, and Slim just left town).  TXAG Ken Paxton has been notably duplicitous about squaring off with Justin Nelson.

Progrexas borrows the story from the TexTrib about Dem ag commish candidate Kim Olson's tribulations while serving in Iraq.

The Los Angeles Times reported on the allegations against Olson in 2006, and she discusses the episode at length in her memoir, “Iraq and Back.” But until the Austin American-Statesman published a story about the investigation earlier this month, the ignominious end to Olson’s military career had not figured in the race for agriculture commissioner.

(The AAS piece is the long read, and highly recommended.)

Every single post from last week at Grits for Breakfast also comes with a 'recommended reading' checkmark, but highlighted for the Wrangle is this take in Scott Henson's weekly roundup about the $7 million legal fight AG Paxton has waged to prevent air conditioning TDCJ facilities for the oldest and most ill of the state's incarcerated.

Ty Clevenger at Lawflog notes that some members of the Texas federal judiciary seem to be involved in a #MeToo moment.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is investigating three San Antonio bankruptcy judges in response to allegations that they covered up sexual misconduct by the former court clerk and permitted retaliation against a whistleblower, according to records provided by a former employee.

Durrel Douglas at Houston Justice tells us about #ProjectOrange, which has as its goal to register a thousand people to vote who are behind bars.

Jonathan Tilove at First Reading sees the ongoing litigation against Alex Jones as an existential moment for fake news

Cary Clack at the Texas Observer implores Greg Abbott to do the right thing and remove that dishonest Confederate plaque from the Capitol.

Harvey Kronberg's Quorum Report has news about the TRS vote last week.

The board of the Texas Retirement System has reduced its assumed rate of return on its investments, adding another $1.7 billion liability to its pension fund.

The vote, an outcome of the pension fund’s most recent five-year experience study, lowers the rate of investment returns from 8 percent to a more realistic 7.25 percent, which mirrors recent economic outlooks. The decision, which has been discussed for a number of months, was no surprise to either teacher groups or the Texas Retired Teachers Association.

“The burden is now on the Texas legislature to step up and provide the necessary funding ... and give educators peace of mind that they will not face cuts in their pensions.”

Neil at You Must Act Right Now took part in a protest at the home of an owner of the location of the proposed baby jail in Houston.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston borrows a talking point from the GOP and condemns the use of the word "socialist".  (He's old; he doesn't get the new kids on the Democratic bloc.)

Hopkins County cattle rancher Karl Ebel is an East Texas Taoist philosopher preaching the gospel of preservation in Greensource DFW's latest installment of 'People and Prairies'.

The Texas Living Waters Project frets about the decline of the alligator gar.

The repeated spraying of both public visitors and winged migrants of a Hill Country refuge spotlights the dangers of uncareful pesticide usage, writes Monica Maeckle at the Rivard Report.

Chip Wells at Beyond Bones begins a series about lost or forgotten Houston sports history, starting with the baseball stadium that would not die (not the Astrodome, but close).

The Smithsonian has a fascinating reveal: according to recent artifact discoveries, there were people living in Texas pre-Clovis period.

Archaeologists have been hunting for signs of the first inhabitants of the Americas at an area known as the Gault Site outside Killeen, Texas, ever since anthropologists discovered signs of early human occupation there in 1929. However, due to poor management of the land, looting, and even a commercial pay-to-dig operation, over the years, many of the upper layers have become irreparably damaged.

Then, in 1999, the University of Texas at Austin leased the land and began academic excavations. Digging deeper, archaeologists found 2.6 million artifacts at the site, including many from the Clovis culture, once believed to be the first people to settle North America. But the latest discoveries to be unearthed at Gault are arguably the most exciting to date: unknown projectile points, which push back human occupation of the area at least 2,500 years before the Clovis civilization, reports Kevin Wheeler at the Texas Standard.

And Harry Hamid reveals more about his origins.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Ted Cruz blinks; five debates scheduled

A promising development for Bob.  Let's go to the best Tweets from #TXSEN yesterday, which trended nationally for awhile in the afternoon.

The paid politico POV (not unreasonable for once):

Open this 7-count thread from Gadfly for a snark-laden rundown on the topics the two men will be talking about.

And finally, the wagers are being offered:

As Gadfly and I covered in yesterday's comments, we think the over/under for Cruz's margin of victory is closer to 56-44, so Mackowiak, perpetually the conservative MAGAt, wants slightly more than 53-47 to take half a grand from Demo consultant Joe Householder above.  No bet.

What this debate schedule does -- or should do -- is put pressure on Dan Patrick and Sid Miller to get off their high horses.  Don't expect anything like sunlight or fair play from Ken Paxton or anybody else down the ballot, however.   Should O'Rourke show out well and Cruz falter a bit, especially if our Cuban Canadian representative in the upper federal chamber holds to his 5-appearance commitment, and if the spin doesn't overtake the truth ... O'Rourke's rising tide lifts all Democratic boats.

Most importantly, it's not so much as August yet and everybody is paying attention.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Beto O'Rourke and Lizzie P. Fletcher

Here are the steps in every statewide race in Texas for the past 20+ years:

1. Shiny new Democrat declares candidacy, promises the moon, trashes incumbent Republican
2. Media churns out glowing praise, hope by the truckload
3. Early polls show Democrat within striking distance
4. Democrats get whipped into a frenzy, talk trash, make bold predictions about "Blue Wave"
5. Every Republican wins by double digits
6. Democratic officials claim moral victory
7. Democrats deny ever predicting their candidate would win
8. Media and Democrats blame the electorate for low turnout, inability to understand what's at stake, "voting against their own self-interest"
9. Repeat in 4 years

It looks like we are at step 4. Right on schedule!

We could probably add a 4.5 for 2018: "Democrats throw unprecedented wads of cash at the Great (Mostly) White Hopes".

I will not bury the lede to save the reading time of those who don't agree, much less respect, my opinion regarding the state of play for Democrats in Texas (and elsewhere) in the coming midterm elections.  The truth stings, sometimes as painfully as a Portuguese man o' war in the Gulf of Mexico.

I won't be able to vote for either of the two federal office standard-bearers for the Donks in November because they simply do not represent my values, and because they are far too interested in trying to win by seeking the votes of Trump-soured, moderate (sic) Republicans.

Beto O'Rourke is Third Way, lies about his PAC money (more here), whines about Ted Cruz not debating him when he refused to debate his own primary opponents, and can't get on board with a universal health care plan even though he claims to support such.

LPF is pretty much the same centrist stooge, except that she's gone a little further in the wrong direction, demonstrating antipathy to the working class.

Let me be even more candid with respect to Texas Democratic challengers running against incumbent Republicans: if I could vote for Dayna Steele, or Mike Seigel, or Adrienne Bell, Sri Preston Kulkarni, Linsey Fagan, Vanessa Adia, Jana Sanchez, or Julie Oliver,  I would do so in a heartbeat.  I could even vote for MJ Hegar and Gina Ortiz Jones (it would be a tough chew-and-swallow choking down their military/CIA histories, but I think I could manage it) .  Not Colin Allred, though.  Nor, for that matter, Democrats running in open seats like Joe Kopser and Todd Litton.

Even if I did vote for O'Rourke and Fletcher, they would not represent me.  They would believe that their strategy of running to the right succeeded, and their government service would reflect being beholden to the afore-mentioned centrist, corporate Democrats, and even moreso their friends just a bit further to starboard.

Bob O'Rourke, gifted a shopping center in El Paso's barrio for his birthday by his parents, proceeded while on city council to push out the poor people and gentrify the area, raising the value of his property accordingly.  That's how you make City Hall work for you, by Gawd.

LPF is practically James Cargas with a vagina.

I'll keep an open mind about them (in case they pull a few progressive rabbits out of their pussy hats) right up to the opening of early voting in October, but today I'm taking a hard pass.  Good luck to both nevertheless.  If their strategy works they won't be missing my vote anyway.

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Weekly Wrangle

The duopoly cognitive dissonance has been in full flower lately.  As Trump becomes more unhinged, as the Bernie Sanders/Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wing of the Democratic Party ascends, the Old Guard feels more threatened, gets more paranoid, and moves closer toward former (?) Republicans like James Comey.  (Wasn't Comey the guy who did that thing with the letter that cost Hillary Clinton the election?)

Here's the Texas Progressive Alliance's roundup of blog posts and news from the week previous.

David Collins strongly advises those suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome and Russophobia to avoid watering the tree of liberty with hyperbole.

Socratic Gadfly offers detailed thoughts on Robert Mueller's indictment of the GRU 12 and what it does and does not say.

Somervell County Salon collects a few interesting bits and pieces about the hypocritical servility of John Bolton.

As debate season for the 2016 elections begins to take shape, the Texas Tribune reports that Lupe Valdez has agreed to debate Greg Abbott -- just not on the date that Abbott said he would debate her.  (Abbott, like Rick Perry before him, prefers gubernatorial face-offs that compete with "Friday Night Lights" ... so that few Texans are paying attention.)  Progress Texas notes that Ted Cruz is ducking a debate with Beto O'Rourke in the most Cruz-ish way imaginable.

State Sen. Don Huffines got into a contentious Twitter back-and-forth with state Rep. Poncho Nevarez over the Texas voter/photo ID law and left us with the impression that the harshest, most punitive law of its kind in the US doesn't go far enough.  This is why some observers have concluded that Texas isn't just a non-voting state; it's actively an anti-voter state.

As the week-long trial on the Texas fetal burial law wrapped up, the federal judge who will rule in the case gave indications of three things he will decide upon.

In news of the most ironic, Texas Department of Health employees will be working in a new environment after the building in which they have been located was found to have intolerable amounts of mold.

The Texas Observer reports that the Trump administration is unlawfully mistreating immigrant children at every stage of its detention system, according to new court filings.  Which is a vast understatement of the abuse they are suffering.

Seven Texas-based chambers of commerce, two pro-business consortiums and four prominent companies, including Southwest Airlines, filed a court brief asking a federal judge in Houston to reject Attorney General Ken Paxton's argument that the DACA program be ended.  They allege that damage to the Texas economy would amount to tens of thousands of jobs -- and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues -- that would be lost if DREAMers' work status were revoked.

In the wake of the murders committed in Houston by a parolee who had removed his ankle monitor, Grits for Breakfast (and HPD chief Art Acevedo) asked the questions that challenged the conventional wisdom: are ankle monitors making anybody safer?

The discovery of human remains in Fort Bend County -- likely slaves and prisoners who worked on the sugar plantations there in the late 1800s -- made national and international news ... but was not news to one local activist.

Neil at We Must Act Right Now posted about confrontation and civility in our politics and society.

Harry Hamid sees something missing from her writing.

And The Rag Blog -- and Threadgill's World Headquarters in Austin -- invites you to Thorne Dreyer's birthday party on August 1.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Friday Communist Manifestoon

Eight minutes of mashed-up favorites going back to the Forties, with narration by a "monotonous, God complex, Bond villain, psychotic".

(Russophobia 2.0 ain't got nuthin' on the original.)

Hat tip to Dandelion Salad.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Weekly Wrangle

This week's Texas Progressive Alliance roundup of lefty news and blog posts begin with two things that could happen that would improve the lives of Texans at large, and correspondingly Texas Democrats ... which is why they won't.

Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer sees one thing Texas Republicans could do that would give more than a million Texans some insurance coverage.

Despite their elected officials' position, the majority of Texans support Medicaid expansion, according to a June poll from the same group that published Friday's report, the Kaiser Family Foundation. Sixty-four percent of Texans, according to the poll, believe that the state should accept federal cash to expand the low-income insurance program, with the same percentage agreeing that the state is "not doing enough to help low-income Texas adults get health care."

As with automatic voter registration, Medicaid expansion is simply not going to happen without a substantial increase in public pressure on our lawmakers.

Some Republicans have used the specter of foreign hacking of digital voter registration databases as evidence that (automatic, online registration) would be too risky, even though the Texas secretary of state’s office has testified to the contrary. In May, a federal judge in San Antonio ordered Texas to allow drivers who are renewing their driver’s license online to also register to vote. The Texas Attorney’s General Office has appealed the decision, hoping the conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will give a more favorable ruling.

State Senator José Menéndez, a San Antonio Democrat who filed an automatic voter registration bill in 2016, says resistance to voter expansion policies comes down to fear. “I think it’s about politicians who are afraid of more people getting involved in the process. They want to deal with the same people they always have.”

And there you have the reason why Democrats running for office in Texas feel they must chase Republican votes: because the size of the Lone Star electorate is so severely constricted by the monopoly political party in power that Texas Democrats' efforts to recruit new voters are a scattershot of short pisses into a stiff headwind.

Stimulating increased activity from registered but mostly inert, i.e. presidential election-year Democrats with policies and candidates that would support working-class men and women (and those living below that class) remains an elusive strategy for the paid political consultants advising campaigns that mostly rely on unpaid volunteers.  It's a Catch 22 spiral downward; as the population of the state grows, as Texas becomes more diverse -- in fact becomes a majority-minority state -- its electorate  isn't keeping up ... and its electeds are not representative of the people at large.

Relying on pollsters for some glimmer of hope for Texas Democratic candidates is probably a fool's errand, but that doesn't stop Kuff from reviewing the prognosticator projections for Texas' Congressional races.  Nor does it slow down Ted at jobsanger, who would simply have nothing to blog about if the political polling industry were to suddenly collapse under the weight of its illusions.  Like tea leaves and goat entrails, the guessing games that some people are paid to play for the masses are a charade that even the not-so-gullible enjoy watching.

In a few Capitol-related developments:

The Texas Moratorium Network reprints El Paso state representative Joe Moody's eloquent call for abolishing the death penalty in Texas.

The TSTA Blog suggests using the state's increased revenue on public education.

And Ross Ramsey at the TexTrib explains how Greg Abbott is cementing Rick Perry's legacy of consolidating power in the governor's office.

At the national NAACP convention in San Antonio last week, Brooklyn branch president Joy Williams explained why she would not date anyone who didn't vote.  CNN contributor Roland Martin went further.

" ... Because Trayvon Martin can’t, because Tamir Rice can’t, because Philando Castile can’t, because Laquan McDonald can’t,” Martin said, referencing black boys and men who were killed by police officers. “They can’t vote, but you can vote for the city manager who hires the police chief, you can vote for the [district attorney] who prosecutes the cop that killed them.”

Sanford Nowlin at the San Antonio Current frets about the sorry state of the Alamo City's media.

And several pieces of environmental news were blogged ...

Greensource DFW believes in the recent research that suggests there's a microscopic solution to the macroscopic plastic pollution problem.

Downwinders at Risk found the Clean Air Fund that time forgot.

In 2006, then-Dallas Mayor Laura Miller teamed up with Houston Mayor Bill White and organized a coalition of Texas local governments to oppose the “fast-track” permitting of a dozen new coal plants Governor Rick Perry was pushing.

15 North Texas cities, Houston, and McLennan County (Waco) established the “Texas Clean Air Cities Coalition” to fund a legal team and the technical expertise needed to take on not only the big utility companies, but Perry and the State of Texas as well.

But before the battles could begin, a settlement was reached that cancelled all but one of the coal plants. The approximately $500,000 raised by the Coalition to wage clean air war was not needed now. Instead of reimbursing the separate contributors, it was kept in total by the Coalition, possibly because it had already been budgeted to “protect Texas air.”

And there it has sat ever since. With each new election cycle, the number of local elected officials who knew about the fund got smaller and smaller, until there was hardly any institutional memory of the Coalition or its half-million dollar fund left at all.

Offcite becomes the latest blog to take the "Toxic Tour" of east Houston neighborhoods (Manchester) and small communities (Galena Park), still living under the oppressive yoke of some of the worst refinery pollution in the United States.  In Corpus Christi, Naveena Sadasivam at the Texas Observer reports that the minority neighborhood of Hillcrest is finally getting some relief, though not from the cessation of the fouling of their air and water by the petrochem giants there, and with some mixed feelings about leaving.

Grits for Breakfast chides liberals in and out of Congress for allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good with respect to the FIRST-STEP criminal justice reform bill.

Renaming his blog, Neil at You Need To Act Right Now detailed some steps he is taking to defeat Trump and his associated wickedness. 

SocraticGadfly talked about how the latest animal research seems to partially refute some ideas of Elizabeth Loftus' claims about how memory can operate.

Last, Elise Hu bids adieu to her house in Austin. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Sunday Funnies

Everything he says and does is really quite atrocious

During the hearing, immigration judge John Richardson said he was “embarrassed” to ask the child if he understood the proceedings.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Operation Shock and Kavanaugh

Go on to Parts Three (Gideon v. Wainwright), Four (Griswold v. Connecticut), and Five (Boerne v. Flores) at the links.

For those with short attention spans, the TLDR can be summarized as follows: in Griswold, Wikipedia notes famed liberal jurist William O. Douglas doing what conservatives have come to loathe: interpret the Constitution for the current times rather than "following" it as the Founders (and those who amended it in later years) wrote and -- they believe -- intended it to mean.  The term they favor is 'strict constructionism'.

Although the Bill of Rights does not explicitly mention "privacy", Justice William O. Douglas wrote for the majority that the right was to be found in the "penumbras" and "emanations" of other constitutional protections, such as the self-incrimination clause of the Fifth Amendment. Douglas wrote, "Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship." Justice Arthur Goldberg wrote a concurring opinion in which he used the Ninth Amendment in support of the Supreme Court's ruling. Justice Byron White and Justice John Marshall Harlan II wrote concurring opinions in which they argued that privacy is protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.  

For those non-attorneys and law students reading here, Griswold was the precedent for many other cases ... including Roe v. Wade.

So as disclaimer, I'm not a lawyer or a law student so I'm certainly not teaching or interpreting law here; just trying to understand the motivations and rationales of those that are.  Former Senator and member of the Judiciary Committee Al Franken has some questions he would ask the nominee if he were still serving; perhaps some of his once-peers might take them up in September, when Chair Grassley indicates confirmation hearings might begin.  Mitch McConnell has indicated the full Senate will vote before October ... just as we all begin to focus on the midterm elections, which might influence turnout to some degree.  On both sides.  (Understatement?)