Wednesday, October 31, 2018

5th Annual Dia de los Muertos Block Party

This annual block party in the historic Houston community of Magnolia Park honors the neighborhood’s cultural heritage by hosting a fre  family-friendly celebration all can enjoy, highlighting the holiday of Dia de los Muertos and its traditions. In its fifth year, the party is going to be bigger and better than ever!
Enjoy these activities:

  • LISTEN to live music from local artists Los Skarnales, Zenteno Spirit, Sister Sister Y Los Misters, Mas Pulpo, mariachis, and more!
  • MEET & GREET internationally acclaimed artist Leo Tanguma, whose mural "The Rebirth of Our Nationality" at 5800 Canal St. has celebrated the East End's cultura for decades
  • LEARN about the rich history of the Magnolia Park neighborhood in the exhibit "Magnolia Park, Houston's First Barrio"
  • PARTICIPATE in traditional Dia de los Muertos altar-building and ofrendas-offering by bringing photocopies of loved ones you want to honor
  • SHOP gifts, clothes, and more, from over 60 local vendors including apparel from Magnolia Grown and handcrafted accessories and jewelry from Las Ofrendas
  • EAT amazing food from local restaurants including tacos, BBQ, desserts, more
  • TAKE PHOTOS with your friends in our photo booth and the lowriders on view, courtesy of the Houston chapter of Texas Lowrider Council

Concessions available for sale by cash or card, and services for concessions offered in English and Spanish. Block party area is accessible to people with limited mobility. No outside food, drink, or coolers allowed. Bring lawn and tailgating chairs!

The Facebook event page, with a short video. A longer video at YouTube of the Selena tribute singer, Jocelyn Gonzalez.  A schedule of the entertainment.

And the Diddies' participation, as part of Barrio Dogs' sponsorship, includes adding our Holly to their altar with the other perros who have gone over the Rainbow Bridge.

Working for better lives for Houston’s homeless animals is full of highs and lows. Finding loving homes for our furry friends is almost euphoric. Seeing them pass over the rainbow bridge after an amazing “adopted” life is bittersweet. We recently lost 2 beautiful former Barrio Dogs, Cleo and Holly. We will honor their lives this weekend at the 5th Annual Dia de los Muertos Block Party where we will have a special altar dedicated to our Barrio Dogs in heaven. Please come out and join us and take a look at our tribute.

Going to be an up-and-down kind of day.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Still Early Voting Wrangle

In breaking developments late last evening in the Texas House Speaker's contest, Rep. John Zerwas of Richmond -- probably the most moderate Republican in the unofficial race for the post -- announced his withdrawal.  Forty House Republicans declared their support for Angleton Republican Dennis Bonnen, who had previously told the Texas Tribune he wasn't running for the job.  There will be more news in the days ahead as Democrats are huddling today to determine their course.

And with that as an opener, the Texas Progressive Alliance wants you to be sure to encourage your like-minded friends to get to the polls this week since we know you've already voted yourself.

Ahead of the midterms, NPR notices that our indicted felon/state attorney general Ken Paxton gets busy chasing ghosts ramping up efforts to "combat voter fraud" (sic).

Voting experts say actual instances of fraudulent ballots knowingly cast are extremely rare, leading to accusations that the effort is intended to intimidate voters.

"I think it's all politically motivated," said Greg Westfall, a Texas lawyer currently representing a Hispanic woman who was charged this month with voter fraud. "If you look at the timing, that's what's breathtaking."


"The fact that there is this concerted effort in Texas to prosecute these cases to the full extent – particularly against people of color – is supremely troublesome," (Beth Stevens of the Texas Civil Rights Project) said. "And then we know what happens in Texas goes to the rest of the country as a model."

Zenén Jaimes Pérez, the communications director for the TxCRP, said the attorney general's own numbers show that his office was tackling an issue that wasn't a growing problem, as shown by the small number of cases in the many years before the crackdown.

"They have prosecuted an average of around 30 election violations since 2004," Pérez said in an email. "To be sure, the AG started the Election Integrity Initiative in without evidence of increasing elections violations," Pérez said.

Beto O'Rourke's plan to maximize the African American vote in H-Town hit high gear over the weekend, with Say Something appearances by musical artists at EV locations around town, the Souls to the Polls rallies, and other efforts accounted by Justin Miller at the Texas Observer.

Even as another 'Beto as Superman' mural was unveiled in Houston ...

... the first, in East Austin and mentioned in this 'scattershot' post from Brains and Eggs, was defaced by MAGA vandals shortly after it debuted.

Rogers’s mural has been defaced phrases like "El Paso gentrifier supports Israel" and "No hero” spray-painted onto the artwork in red and white.

Socratic Gadfly does some number-crunching on the early voting surge and offers a quick hot take on what it might mean for the Cruz-O'Rourke Senate race.

Progrexas carries the piece from the TexTrib about how the statewide judicial candidates will win or lose solely on the basis of their party affiliation.

If anyone is poised to spoil (yet another GOP) sweep, it’s R.K. Sandill, a long-serving Democratic district judge in Harris County who’s consistently outraised his opponent, Justice John Devine. In addition to an impressive cash-on-hand tally, an endorsement from the Houston Chronicle and victories in the Houston Bar Association and Texas Bar Association polls, Sandill faces perhaps the most controversial incumbent on the high court. Before being elected to the high court in 2012, Devine was sued for displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. Devine has also boasted publicly that he was arrested 37 times protesting outside abortion clinics.

See also this post at Brains and Eggs for the 'vulnerable, least discussed' Republican -- Presiding Judge Sharon "Killer" Keller of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals -- if the blue wave crests high enough on November 6.

Rewire writes about how a federal court in Texas -- Judge Reed O'Connor's in the Northern District -- will shape the legal fight under way over transgender rights.

Brandon Formby at the Texas Tribune describes the collision of rural and urban values as the high speed rail line between Houston and Dallas continues to move ahead.

Think Progress has details on far-right activists and militia groups headed to the southern border to stop the caravan of Honduran migrants (that are still a thousand miles away).

Earlier (last) week, the U.S. Border Patrol warned landowners in Texas that they could expect “possible armed civilians” on their property because of the news about the caravan. The exact details of when and where the militia would deploy are unclear, but one militia leader told the Associated Press that they would have upwards of 100 members guarding the Mexico-Texas border.

David Collins added some thoughts to Nick Cooper's (he's the drummer for local band Free Radicals) about the border wall.

Stace at Dos Centavos reflected on his weekend of politics y cultura.

The TSTA Blog resorts to begging teachers to support public education at the ballot box.

Texas Standard updates the story of the city of Houston's legal tussle with Southwest Key, the operators of a proposed child detention facility on the northeast side, in reporting that the city has rejected a settlement offer from the company.

A political sign opposing Prop 2 -- the Houston firefighters' pay parity proposal -- was tastelessly posted at the vacant site where five died and thirteen were injured fighting a terrible motel fire just a few years ago.  Fox26's Greg Groogan captured the reactions of HFD union head Marty Lancton and Mayor Sylvester Turner.

"I don't know how you walk up here and see five flags flying, the thin red line and the 13 that were injured and not understand that this is not the place to show your disdain and your vindictiveness toward Houston Firefighters," said Lancton.


At City Hall, Mayor Sylvester Turner, who is bankrolling the PAC and leading the fight against pay parity, stopped short of an apology.

"I don't know who put it there. I'm just saying whoever put it there, it's important to be respectful and not just of places, but family members as well," said Turner.

Stephen Willeford, the Sutherland Springs "good guy with a gun", is profiled by Michael J. Mooney in Texas Monthly.

Dallas City Hall has stonewalled a pair of open records requests by Downwinders at Risk regarding a mysterious clean air fund and a Joppa polluter.

Jim Schutze at the Dallas Observer thinks it's great that a rec center was renamed for Santos Rodriguez, the boy who was killed by a Dallas policeman in 1973 (updated by the Militant in this Wrangle from August).

Sanford Nowlin at the San Antonio Current reminds us that some Christians do support progressive liberal ideas and politics.

CultureMap Houston describes how 'Old Spanish Trail', aka old Highway 90 connecting El Paso, San Antonio, and Houston and built over hundred years ago missed its intended history ... but created a new one that's now old enough for us to celebrate all its own, particularly in the Alamo City.

Grits came to Houston and took in a Contemporary Arts Museum collaboration by artists about the justice system (highly recommended).

Both CNBC and The Verge covered the news about the Sam's Club in Dallas which will be a cashier-less operation, similar to the five (so far) Amazon Go stores in Seattle and Chicago.

And Harry Hamid went out for a bottle of wine at midnight, took in the 'Trose scene, and got ready to tell another story.

Overflow to Monday Funnies

The Weekly Wrangle will appear, as it did last week, later today.

(click on the smaller ones for a clearer and larger view) 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday Frightful Funnies

See, you just can't let the monsters scare ya too much.

"Squirrel Hill"

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The latest on the latest

Regarding the #MAGAbomber: briefly a Seminole (no), mentally disturbed (momentarily plausible if you believe Trumpism is a mental disorder, though no professional diagnosis exists), but ultimately just an angry Southern white male who got ripped off on his house and then foreclosed on by Steve Mnuchin's bank during the Great Depression ten years ago.

Cesar Sayoc, the Donald Trump-loving Floridian who was taken into custody in relation to pipe bombs mailed to prominent Democrats, was foreclosed on in 2009 by a bank whose principal owner and chair is now Trump’s treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin.

The documents used to enact the foreclosure were signed by a prominent robo-signer and seemingly backdated. Nonetheless, the evidence was good enough for the famously inattentive Florida foreclosure courts to wave the case through. Years later, Sayoc became a supporter of Trump, who came into office and appointed a treasury secretary who ran the bank that snatched Sayoc’s house.


In yet another irony, (billionaire Democratic donor and first pipe bomb target George) Soros was one of the investors in the bank that executed the foreclosure on Sayoc’s home.

Details quickly emerged about Sayoc and his apparent devotion to Trump. He drove a van covered in pro-Trump messages. He apparently hadn’t registered to vote until March 2016, pulled off the sidelines by Trump’s messaging. He was a “celebrity” at “Make American Great Again” rallies and protests in South Florida.

Earlier in his life, Sayoc went through a difficult period, and the experience intersects with people allied with his political idol — and some on the other side as well.

I'll leave the rest at that top link to your leisure-time reading.

Sayoc had to declare bankruptcy in 2012, move in with his mother.  That is, when he wasn't living in his van.  The one the FBI hauled off yesterday.

-- Let's not forget to marvel once more at the deftness (or maybe it's daftness) of the conservative agitprop.  Republicans moved the Overton window all the way around to the other side of the house in less than 12 hours -- on the strength of the White House press secretary's statement, mind you -- from #FalseFlags and #FakeBombs to Bernie Sanders, Congressional softball practice shootings, and false equivalencies.  Let's catch this Verge excerpt at the point where Sayoc's exceptional social media trolling becomes the narrative.  (Note that the article was written before confirmation of Sayoc as the pipe bomb mailer, and as such hasn't caught up with the Bernie diversion yet.)

One researcher, Jonathan Albright, counted the number of times that Sayoc replied on Twitter to celebrities and figures with a meme about a Parkland shooting survivor being a “crisis actor” paid by George Soros: 59.

It’s a disturbing irony. Because as authorities continued to discover new mail-bomb targets on Friday, the right wing flooded media channels with suggestions that the bombs themselves were part of a Democratic hoax. It’s a toxic circle: Man falsely enraged by crisis actors allegedly sends bombs; conservative media falsely describes bomb targets as crisis actors.

In a Twitter thread, Albright chronicled how conservatives were able to reach a much wider audience with their hoax claims on Instagram, using various features of the platform. The right wing adopted the hashtag #Soros to share many of these memes, and Instagram helpfully organized the most-engaged posts algorithmically. It auto-populated suggested searches for anyone who began to search for Soros: “soros caravan,” “soros bomb,” “soros jew,” all of which could lead users to further misinformation.

Instagram search results also auto-populated with a bunch of obviously fake Soros accounts, although many of them appear to have been taken down overnight.

On Twitter, a similar phenomenon played out, as Blake Montgomery charted at BuzzFeed. Hashtags, as usual, raced ahead of the truth:

But people on Twitter, including right-wing commentators with name recognition like Ann Coulter, James Woods, and Candace Owens, tweeted that the devices, described as being similar to pipe bombs, were a scheme concocted by Democrats to boost sympathy and turnout before the midterm elections in November. However, there is no evidence to support their claims. And neither the identity nor political affiliation of the perpetrators are known.

Still, #FAKEBOMBSCARE, #FakeBombs, and #FalseFlag — all dedicated to the conspiracy theory — trended alongside #BombScare. Many used #BombScare to tweet the theory as well, but the hashtag itself is not blatantly false like the others. #MAGABOMBER, a hashtag devoted to the idea that the bomber was a right-winger attacking the president’s nemeses, also trended, again with no proof.

In part, this is a now-old story about how social media spreads misinformation in the immediate wake of the crisis. But if Sayoc is indeed the bomber, and these social media accounts belong to him, it suggests something even more disturbing: a person steeped in conservative media, radicalized into violent action — at the same time the same echo chamber, all evidence to the contrary, dismisses a series of attempted assassinations as a hoax.

The platforms have their part to play in reducing the polarization that now consumes us. But as Albright wrote earlier in the week, in a piece about how a false meme spread alleging that Soros had funded the caravan of refugees coming to America, the infrastructure that promotes this misinformation is quite powerful. Whatever captures our attention, if we simply stare at it long enough, becomes real.

-- As to Trump ... well, he's whining about lost momentum for the GOP in the looming midterms.

The would-be terrorist who failed to harm CNN and George Soros did succeed at one thing: ruining President Donald Trump’s week.

Trump had hoped to capitalize on growing Republican enthusiasm in the final weeks of the midterm campaign — stoking fears of a Central American migrant caravan and hoping his Thursday unveiling of a plan to lower prescription drug prices would hold the news media’s attention heading into the weekend.

But even Trump can’t shape the media narrative to his will amid an attempt at mass political assassination and a nationwide manhunt.

“It didn’t get the kind of coverage it should have,” Trump complained on Friday, speaking of his prescription drug proposal. “We’re competing with this story that took place, our law enforcement’s done such a good job, so maybe that can start to disappear rapidly.”

For Trump, the story could not have appeared at a worse time. “The pendulum was swinging back toward the Republicans thanks to the migrant caravan story,” a person close to Trump said. “This story definitely interrupts that positive news cycle for them [and] most definitely favors the Democrats politically.”

One former Trump administration official said the White House is expecting wall-to-wall coverage of the bombing story for three to four more days.

Trump had already vented his frustration on Friday morning, tweeting, “Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this ‘Bomb’ stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows - news not talking politics. Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!”

What’s worse, Trump’s allies had been speculating without evidence that the failed bombings — which exclusively targeted Trump antagonists — were actually part of a “false flag” leftist plot to make Republicans look unhinged.


The prospect of right-wing political violence muddies an argument made by Trump and other Republican leaders in recent weeks, ever since demonstrations against Brett Kavanaugh created images of impassioned protesters over-running the Capitol: that Democrats are the party of mob rule, and Republicans the party of law and order.

A former senior White House official predicted right-wing political violence would now become a top campaign issue. “The Democrats now have a message going into Election Day,” the former official said.

Only if they can figure out how to use it to their advantage.  For some reason I'm getting an image of a group of chimpanzees trying to fuck a football.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Spooky early voting updates

-- From Grits, from Monday afternoon (should have made it into the Wrangle), under the subheadline "The least-discussed vulnerable Republican on the ballot".

Grits does not expect Beto O'Rourke to win. But if he were to pull off the upset, many other dominos could fall in succession as a result, with at least three Republican senators, Texas' Attorney General, and potentially even the Lt. Governor at risk. Another race likely to flip if Dem turnout goes that high is Presiding Judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Incumbent Sharon Keller won her primary with only 52% of the vote, and CCA races have consistently been among the lowest vote-getters over the years among Republican statewide officials. There is no Libertarian in the race, so the Democrat, Maria Jackson, should get all the anti-incumbent vote. If, on election night, the US Senate race at the top of the ticket is competitive, or heaven forbid, Beto pulls an upset, check down the ballot for this race; it may flip, too.

Statewide judicial contests are vital to tilting Texas away from one-party rule.  If you cannot vote for a Republican or a Democrat, these races are the only ones where I would endorse -- half-heartedly -- your voting for a Libertarian where there is one running.

I am long on record as being in full-throated support of all of the Democrats running for judge, from the top of your ballot to the bottom, in whatever county you may reside.  And two ballots from my household were cast that way on Monday morning.  With one exception: Harris County Probate Court #4.  The Chronicle op-ed board agrees with me; don't vote for the Democrat (I undervoted because I don't vote GOP no matter what).

-- A straight-ticket vote in Harris County leaves some races undervoted.  If that's your intention, fine.  Just be sure you check it carefully before you hit the red 'cast ballot' button on your e-Slate.

Voters are reporting odd problems on both the Republican and Democratic side of straight-party voting in Texas.

Mickey Blake was one of the voters in those early voting lines in Houston earlier this week.

"I hit straight Democratic ticket," Blake said.

She says she expected all Democrats to come up on her screen, especially Rep. Beto O'Rourke, but when she got to the last screen to review her choices, she noticed a problem.

"It's all Democratic except for Ted Cruz was checked," Blake said. So she backed up and did it again. And again. "I tried it a third time and the same thing happened," she said.

The same thing happened to Cordell Hosea in Fort Bend County.

"When I got to the end, I just so happened that I glanced at the screen, I saw Ted Cruz was selected as my senator," Hosea said.

He too voted straight ticket Democrat.

But hey, it's a bipartisan issue.  Voters 'on both sides', according to our Greg Abbott-appointed state elections administrator -- his name is Rolando Pablos, for Ted Oberg's information -- are to 'blame'.

But it's not just a Democrat problem. Voters who select straight-party Republican unselect Sen. Cruz and wind up voting for no one. Either way, officials say it's a rare issue that happens, but not to everyone.

It's popped up across Texas often enough for the Secretary of State to put up a statewide advisory on Monday to every Texas election advisor.

The Secretary of State calls it 'operator error.'

Nope.  Not in Fort Bend County, anyway. (bold is mine)

"We've heard from voters over a number of elections about this," said Ft. Bend County Election Administrator John Oldham.

Oldham says it's a problem he's seen for years.

He even told the Secretary of State about it years ago and it's still happening.

"It's not a glitch, it's a user-induced problem that comes from the type of system that we have," Oldham said. "I think both sides could be equally hurt."

It's unclear how widespread it is.

"As long as you don't hit the red button to cast, then you can get some assistance from the poll watchers," Hosea said.

Oldham tells us he recalls the problems for at least six years and says he's talked to the Secretary of State more than once about the problem. It has not been fixed aside from signs provided by the Secretary of State to warn voters to check their selections.

Oldham also said he was able to replicate the issue in his offices after multiple attempts.

"I'm really disappointed with the State of Texas," Hosea told us.

Sam Taylor, at the Texas Secretary of State's office, tells 13 Investigates the problem is "user error" and not something their office could fix. Taylor suggests a vendor could or should handle any upgrades, but the state has not asked vendors to do so.

Oldham and another election expert tell 13 Investigates that in some states, pop up screens warn straight ticket voters if they purposely or accidentally select a candidate of the other party. Texas has no such electronic warning.

Oldham in Fort Bend County told us it is most likely caused by voters simultaneously twisting the selection dial and pushing the enter button. It may not even be purposeful, but done by voters in a rush who don't realize they are still interacting with both.

That's why the SoS is calling it user error.  Expect some "Democrats too dumb to vote" comments from the #FakeBombs Republicans.

Brad Friedman is on it.  Stan Stanart is not.  Vote for Diane Trautman.

-- The TexTrib's last poll before the election is not good news for Team Donkey.

... but in TX07, everybody appears to be in a dead heat, according to the Upshot.

I believe LPF can pull this one out if EV stays strong next week.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

#MAGAbomber, #FalseFlag, #FakeBombs

Twitter is where all the breaking news action continues to be, especially if you don't want to be spoon-fed the headlines from the teevee talking heads.  But it's important to avoid -- i.e., mute or block -- the trolls and cyberbullies.  Your personal data isn't going to be stolen and if you employ a good adblocker you won't see any spam.  Last I checked, only about 15% of the general pop had an account, so it's still somewhat of an insider's track.  Mrs. Diddie is telling me things every morning she's watching reported that I read last night.  Stay ahead of the curve.

But you also need to be able to recognize satire from serious, and disinformation, propaganda, and #FakeNews -- real fake news -- from truth.  And some good folks, like Buzzfeed here, don't enjoy having to separate the wheat from the chaff.

So with that ... I spent a little time yesterday morning false-flagging the false-flaggers.

They're still hard at work this morning, though.

More funny like that here.

The usual suspects were first out of the gate; Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage, followed closely by John Bolton butt buddy Frank Gaffney, and then MAGATwitter went rabid with it and eventually Fox News started working in the magic words, going from 'sympathy vote' to guests to Tucker Carlson laughing about the pipe sent to George Soros.

Oh yeah, the most powerful Democrat of them all, the man who was first on the mailing list, also got featured in a House GOP attack ad two days after the bomb at his home was discovered.

Ted Cruz, true to form, piled on. (video there)

(MSNBC's Chuck) Todd brought up the breaking news to the Texas senator, who claimed that the bombs were part of a Democrat scheme while blaming the media for focusing too much on Donald Trump.

“The media always focuses on the president,” Cruz said. “There are too many Democratic politicians that are actively encouraging this.”

The GOP appears to be terrified of the surging early sympathy vote.  That counter-prop machine the vast right-wing groupthink can deploy at a moment's notice is truly something to behold.  The Democrats quite obviously have neither the skill nor the will to fight like this in the realm of social media opinion-shaping.  Perhaps if they're not too scared of being shot or blown up they can manage their very own anti-Kavanaugh bump at the ballot box anyway.  #BumpVotesNotBumpStocks?  There's another weaponized boogeyman under the conservatives' collective bed, however; the swelling #MigrantCaravan of Hondurans headed for the southern border, slated to arrive on Election Day (according to Fox's Stuart Varney), ready to vote illegally.

Oh wait, I got Varney wrong; he thinks that's "working FOR the president".

Yes, it's certainly hard to keep track of the daily conservative conspiracy theory.

Meanwhile, the NRA's Dana Loesch reminds you to take your gun(s) to the poll(s).  To protect yourself from all of these #AngryMob progressives... interrupting your meal at a public restaurant.

Trump said something about all of this last night, but it was about 'media hostility'.

In scripted remarks at a Wednesday night rally in Wisconsin, the president vowed to catch the perpetrator, while calling on the media to end "constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories".

(Trump) also called for more civility in public life, saying: "Those engaged in the political arena must stop treating political opponents as being morally defective.

"No one should carelessly compare political opponents to historic villains, which is done often."

However, the president made no specific reference to the intended recipients of the packages.

Obviously he didn't like the Hitler and Mussolini references.  Thanks for clearing that up, Creepy Porn President.  That should be helpful in calming everybody down.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Texas EV scattershots

-- This poll has Congressman WhataBeto trailing Senator Serpent Covered in Vaseline by four percentage points, 50-46, with the MoE at 4.  No crosstabs at the link.  The Lib, Neal Dikeman, polled 2% and 2% are undecided.

At first glance this would look like good news, but note that GSA Strategies is affiliated with Citizens United, and both are, shall we say, "progressive" outfits.  So there's a leetle bias.

Except for this one, there's been no fresh polling for nearly two weeks.  Update: As this was posted, the TexTrib via Progrexas has Reuters/Ipsos/UVA's latest, showing Cruz by 5, which is an increase of three points over their survey a month ago.  

Real Clear Politics (without the influence of either of the above yet) has the rolling 30-day average at Cruz +7.  Texas Politics Project (Blank and Henson at UT, also for the TexTrib) has history back to April, but the song remains the same.

#TrumpRally and #EarlyVoteTexas should be influencing actual vote counts now, but we can keep divining tea leaves and interpreting cabrito entrails until Election Day.  Just keep in mind that the polls could be as wrong as they were in 2016.

-- O'Rourke gets an assist from the Librul Media in the form of a town hall with Tweety.

MSNBC host Chris Matthews is coming to the University of Houston next week to interview U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke for his “Hardball College Tour” special.

Matthews announced during his Tuesday night broadcast that he plans to record an hour-long interview with Sen. Ted Cruz's Democratic opponent a week before the November election on Oct. 30 at Cullen Performance Hall.

After Matthews' on-air announcement, tickets were made available through the school’s website. Doors open at 4:30 p.m. while the taping begins at 6 p.m., the site reads. Attendees are prohibited from bringing “promotional or political affiliation displays.”

And another pop culture merger for the Democrat.

Artist Chris Rogers has been at work on the mural for weeks, according to progress documented on his Instagram, but he put the finishing touches on it just as early voting began in the state.

The mural, located in East Austin, features O’Rourke, a rising Democratic star, standing in front of a Texas flag with his shirt unbuttoned to reveal a “B” emblem, reminiscent of Superman’s “S.”

“Out of the darkness comes the light,” Rogers wrote of the mural, which is entitled “Beto For Texas.”

Rogers said that the mural took 40 hours to paint, according to Austin Monthly.

I thought Election 2018 was going to be all about Texas Latin@s and Lupe Valdez, but I'm going to be wrong about that, of course.  As Beto goes, so go Texas Democrats, as we all know now.

-- You should check this fellow's Twitter bio and then read the numbers here.

Ryan's Tweet here indicates that a lot of people who don't usually vote in midterms are voting -- almost 30% of those who have already cast an early ballot.  After just two days.  The TexTrib has raw numbers for Harris and Dallas Counties.

I don't underscore Harris just because I live and vote here or because it's the largest county in Texas, blahblah.  It represents about a fifth of all the Democratic votes cast in the state.  And you may have read that new voter registrations here shattered records.  So the reports this week of hour-long waits at EV locations in Harris County -- and for that matter, across Texas -- could be something the polls are missing.  But this NBC account says "hold on there, blue wave" (emphasis mine):

Republican-affiliated voters have outpaced Democratic-affiliated voters in early voting in seven closely watched states, according to data provided by TargetSmart and independently analyzed by the NBC News Data Analytics Lab.

GOP-affiliated voters have surpassed Democratic-affiliated ones in early voting in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, Tennessee and Texas, the data showed.


In Texas, 53 percent of early voters had a Republican affiliation, compared with 43 percent who had a Democratic affiliation and 4 percent who were not affiliated with either party.


Women voters have outpaced men voters so far in ... Texas (59 percent to 41 percent), (and) urban voters have outpaced rural and suburban voters in Arizona and Texas.

Here is the important qualifier to this data.

As of Oct. 22, over 5 million votes have been cast early or absentee in the 2018 midterm elections nationwide.

This piece, dated Monday 10/22 and helpfully time-stamped at 2:49 p.m. (probably EST) does not include any in-person votes for Texas.  That is to say: these are all mail (aka 'absentee') ballots, and party affiliation is reflected (at least in Harris) by efforts of those at the county party level who push to identify and augment those numbers during the voter registration period.  You may recall that Harris County Republicans used to have a big advantage in this regard, but Harris Democrats have considerably whittled that down.

Update: Local political consultant Mustafa Tameez expanded on the problems with the TargetSmart data in his Tweet linked here.

So while there may be considerations for other states in the article to be concerned about w/r/t to "Blue Wave", Lone Star worries are overblown, to this reporter's POV.  At this time.

-- Perhaps you noticed that Michael Avenatti quietly canceled his Texas anti-Trump counter-rally.  (Avenatti's Tweet about doing so, and at least two mentions by TexTrib reporters that I bookmarked, have also disappeared.)  Perhaps you noticed that he's been keeping a (somewhat) lower profile for the past week or so, since his client lost her defamation lawsuit against Trump.

Back here I speculated (doubtfully; scroll to the end) about whether local deep-pocketed Democrats attending his Harris County Dem money bag drag would mention his responsibility -- ascribed accurately or falsely -- for the Kavanaugh bump Republicans seem to be enjoying.  That fundraiser, on 10/16, happened the day after DNC chair Tom Perez was also in town helping the HCDP with some cheerleading, a geographically proximal coincidence that largely escaped public notice.

I should have put two and two together.  Two being Harris County judicial kingmakers Gerry Birnberg and Dave Matthiesen, who together with Perez -- and let's say, for purposes of rounding, at least one other Houston legal eagle who wrote a $2500 check for VIP entry -- very likely cornered Avenatti and asked him to please freeze it.  For the sake of the downballot, you know.

Check Avenatti's Tweet feed above, scroll back in time to about the 16th and then forward, see if you think he heard a message somebody sent him.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

I would pay to see that fight

Greg Abbott v. Vlad Putin, in a leg-wrestling contest as part of a decathlon of 'World's Most Powerful Dictator' events.  On pay-per-view.  What should the Vegas line should be?

At a rally on Monday night, the governor of Texas declared himself 'more powerful' than Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Greg Abbott was warming up the crowd for President Donald Trump at the Toyota Center in Houston when he bragged that his state's economy is the tenth-biggest economy on the planet.

"By comparison, the Texas economy is larger than Canada -- it's larger than Australia. And get this, the Texas economy is even larger than the economy of Russia," the Republican governor told the crowd.

"That makes me more powerful than Putin!" he boasted to applause.

You might be forgiven if you thought this was going to be a rally for 'Beautiful Ted' Cruz.

Now perhaps General Abbott and his Army were simply volunteering for service in the War on Russian voter electoral fraud.  In Trump's one-hour and eighteen-minute address to the faithful last evening -- Senator White Castle only spoke for thirteen minutes; your clearest tell he was an afterthought -- Our Greatest President Ever did not mention scrapping the intermediate nuclear missile treaty that is provoking tension with his Kremlin BFF (or so both Fox and  Democrats keep telling us.  He did repeat some fake news about a middle class tax cut before Election Day.)

But I don't want to digress from our Dear Paraplegic Leader's boast.

Let's give the Guv some credit for maintaining an ideal body weight and trim figure after all these years off his feet.  Isn't it remarkable how many calories a man can burn being a total sociopath?  He might not have been nimble enough to avoid being struck by a falling tree when he was young, but in the decades since, he's carefully watched his diet and has no discernible middle-age paunch.  I would hazard a guess that's without being able to do any sit-ups.  I'll also bet that he can take a body blow from the Russian Bear if they decide to spar a few rounds.

Who do you think wins in a 90-second lightning round fundraising competition?  We can ask Charles Kuffner to be the judge of the campaign finance reports.

Probably no distance running, but a 50-yard dash/roll could be interesting.  Gymnastics, like those Olympic rings or parallel bars, or better yet, monkey bars.  A hand over hand climb gives Abbott too much of an edge, I suspect.

A pandering-to-your-millionaires faceoff would be close.  Call it Plutocratic Pugilistics.  Separate from the Money Chase above, this contest would be determined by how much you could promise to do in exchange for a government position ("Tap That Crony") or a relaxation of regulations, rather than a monetary donation.  The minimum acceptable standard would have to be Trump's own recent world record; his awarding of the South African ambassadorship to Mar-a-Lago member and handbag designer Lana Marks sets a pretty high bar for Abbott and Putin to clear.

I can't handicap this match.  Who gets home field advantage?  Is it a best of five, or seven?

This could be the almost-ultimate Battle of the Ages.  Armageddon, Jr.  World War 2.5, televised on Fox, emceed by President Reality TV, for all the Nationalist marbles.  Sponsored by the NRA (they have large and equal bets on both sides), the Southern Baptist Convention, and Super Poli-Grip.

These people will buy and swallow anything.

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Early Voting Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance encourages you to go get your vote on this week, before the lines get any longer.

Numbers will be trickling in from all over the state later today, but for now we are getting reports of very long lines for casting ballots even at polling places that have traditionally been more like ghost towns on the first day of early vote.

All over Texas –- in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, The Valley, Lubbock, etc. – wait times are 30 minutes to an hour at traditionally empty polling places. Some Texas House members down in San Antonio and elsewhere told us they’ve been getting calls from constituents complaining of long wait times.

Long lines are also reported in big suburban counties like Williamson, Fort Bend, Montgomery, Collin, and Denton. Those places, it is worth noting, saw some of the biggest surges in Democratic turnout during the primary this year.

Indeed, that was this blogger's experience.

And then there's this:

Meanwhile, the MAGAts swarmed the Toyota Center in downtown Houston, hoping to get inside to see President Reality TV Show, Governor Hell on Wheels, Lite Gov. Dan Patrick (in Hiding), and Senator Rafael "Tough as Taffy" Cruz.

Here's a few of the best of the lefty blog posts and news from last week ...

Abby Livingston at the TexTrib asked the $64,000 question: Will Trump's Houston rally for Cruz motivate Republicans -- or Democrats?

SocraticGadfly, collating and expanding on several previous posts and Twitter interactions, explained why he plans to undervote the U.S. Senate race.

Stace at Dos Centavos got what he wanted in a Beto O'Rourke immigration ad.  In fact, Beto hit Cruz pretty hard.

In covering the final debate between the two US Senate combatants, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs saw Whataburger defeat White Castle in a split decision.  And Juanita Jean at the World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon named her favorite moment from the Cruz-O'Rourke debate.

Forrest Wilder at the Texas Observer will be looking to see if Lupe Valdez's performance against Greg Abbott is a good test of the strength of the 'Beto effect'.

Off the Kuff published an interview with Kim Olson, the Democratic candidate for Ag Commissioner.

Grassroots organization Houston Justice Coalition's board voted unanimously to support Proposition B, the Space City firefighters' pay parity proposal.

Grits for Breakfast has an election season podcast posted, and within that some excerpts from the Dallas County DA's debate. 

The late Anthony Bourdain visited Marfa and Big Bend in some of the last 'Parts Unknown' stops, and asked residents there about the border wall.

Texas Vox finds meaning in organizing after reading the IPCC (climate change) report.

Five death row exonerees were photographed in front of the Texas Governor's Mansion following the March to Abolish the Death Penalty last Saturday, courtesy the Texas Moratorium Network.

Better Texas Blog wrote about the staggering unfairness of the state tax system.

Millard Fillmore's Bathtub posted about Scout campfires and their role in the BSA's Order of the Arrow program.

David Collins reviewed The Fiery Cross, the fifth of Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" novels.

And Harry Hamid has part 617 of the further adventures of George Soros.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Holly Dorrell, 2008 -2018

 Her kidneys were failing, and we ended her suffering yesterday morning.

She came to us in January of 2012 via the wonderful people at Barrio Dogs (please foster, adopt, or contribute), after they were able to rescue her from a pile of boxes in front of an East End house that had burned.  She was waiting for her people to come back, but they weren't.

They had tried several times to catch her, luring her with food; in retrospect, knowing her as the most food-motivated dog ever, it seemed incredible that multiple capture attempts were needed.  They had documented the effort on their Facebook page over the course of several days, which is how I came to decide that I/we would like to get involved.  This period of time, right around Christmas 2011 -- thus her name -- was frightfully cold, with temps dropping into the low 20's over consecutive nights.  When they finally managed to get her, they took her directly to the vet and determined she was high-positive for heartworms.  The doctor told them she might not have survived another cold night.  She's the only dog I ever heard of that had to have two shots; one to kill the adult heartworms, and another shot 30 days later to kill the microfilaria, or the baby heartworms born when the parents die.

We were going to just foster her, but became known in the parlance as 'foster failures'.

When she first came to live with us, she curled up on the welcome mat just inside the front door.  I encouraged her to get on the ottoman in the den, and eventually she made herself at home on any piece of furniture she chose, without reprimand.  Mostly she stayed or slept wherever I was.  She was my dog; she liked everybody, there were no strangers to her, but she preferred men.  And especially me.  (All of my other dogs like my wife's company better.)

She had a joie de vivre unlike any dog I ever owned.  She would sometimes just jump out of sheer pleasure.  Not at a person but up in the air, when nobody (but me) was watching.  And she verbalized her joy; barking twice when I asked if she wanted to "peedle", or if she was ready for breakfast or supper.  'Car ride' elicited a stream of excited yips and warblings from the time we reached for her collar all the way to returning home.  She was so constantly loud on the rides it was stress-inducing.  If Mrs. Diddie and I began a conversation at the dining room table, Holly would invariably join us, climbing up on a chair as if to listen better.  Similarly, when we boarded our pack at the kennel upon leaving town, the staff invariably adored her little chatterings while she took to the handlers, especially the guys, charming them all.

A few weeks ago she strained something in her back jumping from the bed to the floor, and we gave her some meds prescribed by the vet, which helped her pain.  But within a couple of weeks she began to lose her appetite and became listless; she stopped speaking at all.  Blood tests confirmed the worst, and we chose not to prolong her misery.

My family had many dogs throughout my life growing up, and one or two as a boy that were mine, close to me.  But after I left home for college, and until we got our first puppy about thirteen years ago, a span of about thirty years passed between my canine ownership periods.

I was hoping that by writing this post, I would get to some healing place.  Not yet.  My heart remains shattered by her departure.  The Bible says that dogs cannot go to heaven, which only reinforces my atheism.  As Will Rogers said: "If all dogs DON'T go to heaven, I want to go where they went."

Me too, Will, and I sure hope my little Holly is waiting there for me.