Monday, November 26, 2018

The Weekly Wrangle

Alongside the Cyber Monday roundup of lefty blog posts and news from a short week last, the Texas Progressive Alliance can't decide between turkey tetrazzini leftovers or turkey enchilada leftovers, so we're going out to rake the forest.

Lisa Gray at the Chron wrote a moving pre-obituary for Houston activist and civil rights icon Ray Hill last Tuesday, whose heart ultimately did give out on Saturday.

Update: Funeral services are scheduled for Sunday, December 2, on the steps of Houston City Hall.

The event will feature speakers, including former mayor Annise Parker, and six honorary pallbearers -- two felons, two police officers. and two Alcoholics Anonymous members.  But after, according to Hill's end-of-life caretaker Amy Morales, there's a free-for-all open mic in Hermann Square.

The passing of Houston Texans owner Bob McNair on Friday, and his complicated legacy as both philanthropist and Trump Republican, prompted this cogent Tweet from Evan Mintz of the Chronicle.

Reflecting on the 20th anniversary of the Transgender Day of Remembrance last Monday, Lou Weaver from Equality Texas pondered the resistance of the '-isms'.  And Texas Standard covered the US Department of Health's proposed changes to the definition of 'sex', observing the challenges added to being trans.

Early voting in the December 11th special election to replace US Representative-elect Sylvia Garcia in the Texas Senate begins today for voters in #SD6.  State Representative Carol Alvarado gets the endorsement of the Chron, three former Houston mayors, and several past and current elected officials, while state Representative Ana Hernandez has collected endorsements from Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, many of the labor unions, and the Area 5 Democrats club.

In ongoing Beto O'Rourke developments, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs adapted the opening line of Hamlet's soliloquy for his blog post title while predicting the now-former Congressman's political future, and Off the Kuff analyzed his performance in Harris County.

In more Election 2018 recaps, Mean Green Cougar Red had a few belated, shallow post-election thoughts.  Thankfully, David Collins had a deeper analysis, congratulating ranked-choice voting on its victory for Democrats in Maine, and waits to see if any of the Donkeys who saw their candidate win because of RCV will thank the Green Party for the idea.  (Don't hold your breath, Dave.  As with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez bringing the Green New Deal to the attention of the House Democratic Caucus as a way to begin to address the existential threat of climate change, Democrats who eventually get on board will find a way to take all the credit.)

Meanwhile in Deep-In-The-Hearta, the recent concern is less about the dangers of fossil fuels to human existence and more about the threats to the state's economy.

Many Texans may be paying attention to the stock market right now, as energy companies continue to lead a downward charge. In fact, the energy sector worldwide lost about $1 trillion in value during a 40-day period that began in early October, reports the Houston Chronicle. This means some energy companies may have a difficult time borrowing money, and hiring and retaining employees. For tens of thousands of Texans from Houston to West Texas, this impacts job security, retirement plans and confidence for buying homes, cars and holiday gifts.

James Osborne, energy reporter in the Houston Chronicle’s Washington bureau, says the market decline is simply due to plummeting oil prices.

“Production around the world has been pretty high lately,” Osborne says. “There’s a lot of expectation with Iran sanctions going back into place that oil would come off the market and it seems in some countries, producers were anticipating that and getting ready for it, but that hasn’t really happened. The Trump administration handed out a number of waivers to different countries so they could continue to import Iranian crude. There’s just a lot of oil on the market right now.”

Oil and gas companies have started to pump more oil out of the ground to maintain profits as supply grows and prices drop.

“That’s been the pattern again and again,” Osborne says. “When they get in these sort of situations they tend to get as much oil out of the ground as they can as long as they can. They’ve sort of been on shaky financial ground for a while, spending far more money than they’ve been taking in. They have been reigned in a bit by Wall Street lately. There was some concern that they were sort of overspending and could get themselves into a bubble situation.”

And the Texas Observer reports on how the Koch brothers' free-market utopia operates its refineries in Corpus Christi.

Socratic Gadfly noted that Thanksgiving Day was November 22 this year, and reminisced about a previous Thanksgiving anniversary visit to Dealey Plaza and other things Kennedy and Camelot.

Grits for Breakfast took the Houston Chronicle to the woodshed over its 'Distracted Driving' series.  It's a recurring theme, as Scott Henson was one of the few who critically examined the scandal behind the scandal of the Chron's firing of Austin bureau head Mike Ward over sources that could not be verified.

Andy Hailey at The WAWG Blog wants to know if, as a progressive, he is too extreme. 

Jeff Balke at the Houston Press identified five social media trends he didn't see coming.

Bryce Hannibal at the Rivard Report wants us to be more mindful of food waste.

Harry Hamid picks up his story again at 2 a.m.

And Julia Jones from Texas Monthly suggests a few places across Texas for you to celebrate the Christmas holidays.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

To Beto or Not to Beto *Update*

(Get 'em while they're hot if it's your thing.)

*Update, Monday 11/26.

"Amy and I made a decision not to rule anything out." 

O'Rourke's wife, Amy, said that the couple has not spoken with any political strategists, and said that the possibility of her husband running a presidential campaign was flattering and “scary.”

“To me that just seems like you have to give up so much,” she said, according to the Washington Post. “I don’t know if this is a line that I or we really want to cross.”

Asked if his position on 2020 is different than it was before the November election, when he said he would not run for president, O’Rourke said, “Yeah, yeah it is.


Original post:

Beto for president?

"I will not be a candidate for president in 2020," the El Paso congressman told MSNBC. "That's I think as definitive as those sentences get."

Let's take him at his word, despite the fact that he has already won the media/political consultant 2020 primary.  Recall that he hired none of the body politic's parasites despite his $70 million haul, $38 million of it in the third quarter.  He can't run for president and do that again.

Let's review his comments from the CNN town hall in late October, which to my reading addressed both potential future bids for public office (italic emphasis is mine).

When the question (of a 2020 presidential run) was put directly to O’Rourke during a CNN town hall last month in the Rio Grande Valley, a crowd made up mostly of young college students cheered wildly. O’Rourke’s response was purposely brief:

“The answer is no,” O’Rourke said, citing strains of public life on his wife and three young children. “It’s a definite no.”

Pressed by CNN host Dana Bash as to whether “no” meant “never,” O’Rourke seemed to put a potential expiration date on his promise not to run for president.

“Let me put it this way,” O’Rourke said, “I promise you, and most importantly to the people of Texas, that I will serve every single day of a six-year term in the United States Senate.”

Then, making a not-too-subtle comparison to (Ted) Cruz, who launched his White House bid half-way through his Senate term, O’Rourke added, “I won’t leave the state to go run for president.”

“If I don’t win,” the three-term congressman added, “we’re back in El Paso” — his home town.

Beyond what may have been campaign fatigue doing the talking, a presidential campaign runs on very different terms than a Senate one.  One example would be the opening shots fired by the now-eclipsed Castro twins, running to O'Rourke's right for the crossover Republican in the 2020 D primary vote.  Or something.

While party leaders were urging Democrats to remain focused on healthcare, taxes and other pocketbook issues, O’Rourke was calling to impeach Trump and abolish the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, putting him at odds with even would-be political allies.

“I know right now people think of ICE and they think of immigration and removal, but ICE also does things like enforcing human trafficking laws,” Rep. Joaquin Castro, another rising star in Texas’s Democratic circles, said in a recent interview. “We’re not going to just do away with all those other functions.”

(Sidebar: Both Castros, the Congresscritter quoted here and his brother, the one with the actual White House dreams, are no longer rising stars but stale, burnt toast.  Their overly-cautious x 10 approach to running for something statewide -- being too afraid of losing political viability by risking electoral defeat -- lost them their credibility with Texas Democrats tired of waiting around on them.  And their misreading of the political tea leaves of Team Donkey this year was a yuuuge opportunity cost; they waited so long for their Raza to turn out that they missed the bus.  Julian's meager political capital accrued as Obama's HUD secretary has expired, like the milk pushed to the back of the fridge.  Beto O'Rourke ran them both off the road and into the bar ditch, and they're still waiting for a tow truck.  The state's corporate media, the only thing keeping them inflated now, ought to be ready to move on in favor of some of the fresher, bolder flavors of the month.)

So ... Beto for Senate 2.0?  Wise guys have pointed out that all those yard signs had no date on them, after all.  I say look again at what he said about family.

(T)hose close to O’Rourke say his denials are sincere. The congressman spent the better part of the last two years away from his wife, Amy, and their three kids as he traveled the dusty backroads of Texas. A friend said the separation had weighed heavily on O’Rourke, particularly in the final weeks, and that he genuinely had no appetite or deep ambition to embark on a campaign that would take him away from his family for another two years.

In an emotional moment on his livestream as he raced around the state in search of the last few votes, O’Rourke spoke of how much he missed his wife. He said he was dreaming of the moment where he could just sit down with a cup of coffee with her in their backyard and not have to be anywhere. 

Those with the candles still lit for him will point to his thank-you email to supporters a few days after the election, about enjoying his family's company but "already miss(ing) the road".

So ...?

My humble O:

Beto 2018 was lightning in a bottle, a perfect storm.  The phenomenon of O'Rourke's fresh appeal and somewhat unique campaign (at least for Texas), combined with the almost universal disgust of his opponent, allowed him to leverage nationwide Obama-like free media coverage and force-multiply his fundraising to Bernie Sanders proportions.  Though he managed consistently close polling results throughout the year, he never had one by a credible source showing him in the lead.

As the race moved into the Indian summer homestretch, Cruz finally pulled together a serious effort to hold on to his seat, and the polls revealed his small lead growing.  Then ...

Trump came to Houston to stump for Cruz in a pep rally of what appeared to be immense proportions and intensity.  But it had the opposite effect on our Senate race; the Texas polls tightened, with Trump's national approval ratings tanking as Election Day came closer.  Then the swollen early turnout numbers started coming in, and gradually we learned that across every demographic, Democrats -- Latin@s, millennials, and women, especially suburban women who had previously voted GOP -- produced the same kind of surge (or backlash, if you prefer) that had given Republicans a boost from the Kavanaugh confirmation.  That outrage by liberals, which temporarily enhanced the fortunes of conservatives, petered out (sorry) because it did not happen late enough in the tempestuous '18 cycle.  Go to this TexTrib link for their take on the last few weeks (scroll to the 7th graf from the bottom if you don't want to read the whole thing).

I just don't think this scenario can be re-created for Beto, certainly not a Castro or anybody else in 2020.  Red rural Texas saved the day for Ted, as everyone knows.  Anybody taking on Cowboy John in two years has to run better, harder, faster, stronger, with even more than $70 million and maybe even some hired help plus get a few more lucky breaks than Beto did this year.  Awfully tall order.  Cornyn ain't Cruz and Trump might be in jail, ya know.

But Beto is telling his closest pals that everything is on the table, so there you have it.  I think he marks himself as Just Another Egotistical Politician if he does.  Run, that is.

With respect to 2020's White House sweepstakes: if Trump faces a primary challenge from John Kasich he probably still wins but goes into November two years from now even more of a wounded, snarling animal than he is now.  And that presumes Nancy Pelosi means what she says about impeachment, which sort of means Mueller has less than everybody believes.  Even if it's President Pence, Democrats should have a better than even shot at taking back the White House ... unless they nominate a geriatric milquetoast like Biden, or some identity politician working both sides of the street but sweeping up nothing, like Kamala Harris or Cory Booker.  I am not enthused about Liz Warren or Bernie any more, either.  They can't pull the centrists, moderates, Hillbots and assorted shitlibs in behind them to win.  Those POS would rather see Trump win again than vote for a progressive or a so-called socialist.

On the whole, methinks Beto makes a better running mate for almost every other Democrat who would be president save Bernie or Biden.  And -- to allow them some redemption -- there might even be a place for a Castro with either of those in order to keep the Lone Star State's 38 electoral votes in play, forcing Repubs to play defense.  That might be the one thing that actually jeopardizes Cornyn; Beto or a Castro running against him while the other runs as veep.  That's a similar recipe to 2018's down-ballot blue wave, with the fortunes of those at the top of the ticket inconsequential to the success of the Congressionals, statehouse, and courthouse candidates.

Twenty-twenty is not just a presidential year and a census year but a year in which Texas will be electing a legislature that will be drawing the lines for three new Congressional districts, to be filled in 2022.  So more than just the usual 'most important election of our lifetime' will be at stake.

All of those US and Texas House seats that were barely won (and some that weren't) plus these Texas Senate chairs (scroll to line 36 to identify).  As far as the US Senate goes, there are only a handful of pickup shots for the Blues: Maine (Susan Collins), Colorado (Cory Gardner), maybe AZ, NC, IA.  They don't need many to flip the Senate, but they won't get John Cornyn's unless Texas gets another perfect storm.  Since we get 500-year storms every year now, I suppose it could happen.

Can O'Rourke do it his way again and get a different, better result in a presidential cycle?  Does he want to do it all over once more, just to be the guy that everybody else thanks for helping them get elected?  Can a Castro or Beto get picked veep, setting the table for the Senate nominee and positioning the Donks to flip the state blue just in time for redistricting?

Trump says: "we'll see what happens".  There's your very early line, courtesy me.

Sunday Thankful Funnies

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

More Turkey, Less Talking

Like every other MFer on the Internet, I'll have something to say about Beto O'Rourke running for President, or Senate -- or both in 2020 -- at some point before the holiday weekend is out.  Until then, enjoy your tryptophan coma.

Beware Black Friday at the Renaissance Festival...

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Pre-Turkey Day Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is grateful not to have to wrangle any actual turkeys for its holiday meal in this weather.  Wrangling these blog posts and news items -- not all of which are turkeys -- is difficult enough.

Off the Kuff looked at the results of the Congressional races to find some themes about what happened and what we can learn from them.

David Collins also did some Congressional Kuffnering, along with a TX-23 follow-up, and wants you to know that he is down with the MPP (which is not the Marijuana Policy Project).

Progrexas blogs that Texas Republicans and Democrats who barely won their Congressional and Lege contests in 2018 will be the top targets for their opposition in 2020.

Robert Garrett at the Dallas News documents the rapidly-concluded Texas House Speaker's contest and profiled the breakaway victor, Dennis Bonnen.

Texas Standard took note of the first bill filing day for the upcoming Texas legislative session (in January), seeing items regarding public school financing, property taxes, and marijuana policy changes among the flurry.

Better Texas Blog explains the spending cap that the Legislature adheres to.

Houston Justice, reporting from the NAACP Houston chapter's elections, saw the Old Guard prevail over the Young Turks (in the vernacular), a story the Chron and KPRC also had.

Bud Kennedy at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram noticed pastor Ed Young of Houston's Second Baptist Church (also losing CD-7 incumbent John Culberson's church) being so upset about Democratic gains in the wake of the midterms that he condemned the victors as "godless", a passing of judgment echoed by other so-called Christian leaders.

About one-fourth of Texas voters this month were white evangelical Christians. According to CNN’s exit poll, Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a faith-and-values Southern Baptist from Houston, won 81 percent of that vote.

The Catholic Diocese of Brownsville is taking the the Trump administration to court over the location of the proposed southern border wall passing through the historic La Lomita mission site.

Houston Legal has the details of the public reprimand issued by the State Bar of Texas against former Harris County GOP chairman/homophobe Jared Woodfill.

Nonsequiteuse urges Beto O'Rourke to take another run for the Senate in 2020.

Four Texas Libertarian candidates broke records for the number of votes received in the 2018 election, writes the Independent Political Report.

Downwinders at Risk blogs about San Antonio and Houston moving forward with new regional air monitoring networks, while Dallas does not.

TPA charter member Sharon Wilson, now the Texas coordinator for Earthworks, is still fighting the good fight against fracking in the Permian Basin.

Wilson, an outspoken anti-fracking activist, has advocated for better regulations to rein in the fracking industry, which utilizes horizontal drilling and fluid injections to crack open shale to release oil and gas trapped inside. But she no longer believes regulations are the answer because state and federal governments aren’t prepared to enforce them. “The only way to save the planet from climate change is to stop fracking now.”

Socratic Gadfly remembers the centenary of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  Along with indulging in counterfactual history, he says people should stop romancing war in general.

Paradise in Hell tells you more than you cared to know about Trumpy Bear.

Dan Solomon at Texas Monthly is happy that Austin did not get Amazon's HQ2.

Harry Hamid's brother cut his first record album.  And Travis Scott's 'Astroworld' music festival defied the trend, collecting a huge and enthusiastic crowd despite uncooperative weather.  The rap celebration of the long-gone-but-warmly-remembered theme park capped a breakout year for Scott, who made his star shine in 2018 as much as did Beto O'Rourke.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The 2018 Post Mortem Wrangle

Everybody's got an opinion the week after the landslide, and the Texas Progressive Alliance rounds up the best (and worst) of them in a ride around the Texblogosphere to celebrate the Democrats' big wins -- and mourn the losses -- from last Tuesday.

It's also the day following the Armistice Centenary, or the celebration of the ending of WWI, a hundred years ago.  As Caitlin Johnstone noted, the best way to thank veterans for their service is to not make any more of them.

This synopsis of the US Senate race -- from January of 2017 to last Tuesday -- by Patrick Svitek and Abby Livingston of the Texas Tribune is the best ten-minute read on how the most important election in Texas unfolded.

RG Ratcliffe at Texas Monthly corrected the knobs at Politico about O'Rourke's shunning the use of political consultants as a reason why he lost.  RG also had the best morning-after quick takes.

Beto's extremely long coattails for a losing candidate were the focus of many stories: Tarrant County turning purple, Fort Bend and Hays turning blue, the appellate courts flipping, the sweeps in Harris and Dallas Counties.

And as several media outlets predicted going back to September, the cult of Beto grows larger with his defeat as 'O'Rourke 2020' trial balloons are being floated all over the country.
While early voting was under way, Politico also took the liberty of introducing us to the next Ted Cruz, aka Lamar Smith's successor in TX-21, Chip Roy.

Jeff Balke at the Houston Press wants to know if Lizzie Fletcher will do for METROrail what John Culberson refused to do.

There will be another chance for voters in Harris County's East End to cast a ballot before the end of the year: the special election to fill the state Senate seat relinquished by US Rep.-elect Sylvia Garcia was quickly set by Governor Abbott for December 11.  Two statehouse representatives, Carol Alvarado and Ana Hernandez, announced their intentions to run for SD-6 way back in March (after Garcia won her CD-29 primary).

A handful of old TPA friends were on the ballot last week: Trey Martinez Fischer goes back to the Lege to represent HD-116, but Nick Lampson came up short in his bid to unseat party-switcher Jeff Branick as Jefferson County Judge.  And the Alliance salutes former blogger KT Musselman on his election as Justice of the Peace in Williamson County.

Socratic Gadfly had a three-part election wrap. First, a look at general hot takes, trends, and issues from various races. Second, he observed that conservative writers at centrist political mags were getting out the long knives for Beto, maybe in fear of a 2020 presidential run. Third, noting successful Democratic Socialists of America campaigns, he wondered if they would stay true to ideals once in office and other issues; above all, the use of the word "socialist."

Grits for Breakfast examined the 2018 results through his criminal justice reform lens.  Scott Henson followed that up with a wrangle of more CJ news, leading off with a profile of Harris County's Judge-elect, Lina Hidalgo, and her reform platform.

For more background: Charles Kuffner interviewed Hidalgo before the election, and here's a profile and slideshow the Chronicle ran this week. Also related, from the Texas Observer: "The midterms triggered a seismic shift in Harris County courts."

Law and Crime talked to State District Judge-elect Franklin Bynum, one of three DSA members elected in Harris County.

Harris County's new Clerk, Diane Trautman, has plans to replace the county's antiquated eSlate voting machines with new ones that provide a paper trail.  The problem, as always, will be finding the money to do so.

Even as Texas House Republicans begin to consolidate support for Rep. Dennis Bonnen as Speaker, a larger Democratic minority will hopefully push the lower chamber -- and the Lege overall -- more toward the political center.

David Collins has three posts on the progressive POV of the election results, all linked at Part I, while Sanford Nowlin at the San Antonio Current has a thirty-second take on how Democrats of a progressive bent hope to build on 2018.

Off the Kuff had some fun with the Harris County Republican Party and its ridiculous whining about straight-ticket voting.

Funnier still were the accusations of 'Communist' by HCGOP leaders against a losing county commissioner candidate.  Jef Rouner at the HP:

The idea that Penny Shaw, who ran against (incumbent Republican Jack) Cagle, is a Communist appears to be a right-wing conspiracy theory. There is no evidence that Shaw, a Democrat, is a member of the Communist Party of Texas. The idea seems to be based on Shaw's attendance at events the Houston Communist Party attends, such as the state Democratic convention this past summer. Sources "proving" her link to communism are either broken or do not actually contain the quotes that some alt-wiki authors contend they do.

In the lousiest political take/least progressive category, we have Blue Dog Democrat consultant Colin Strother making the case for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 2.0.  Sample:

Unlike many politicians, Pelosi doesn’t have an ego.


Therese Odell at Foolish Watcher vents about the Saturday Night Live/Dan Crenshaw apology.

Paradise in Hell interprets the presidential appointment-making process.

And Harry Hamid is in a time machine at the end of the hall.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday Funnies

(as always, click it to big it)

"How were you feeling last Wednesday morning?"
(More answers to this question here.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The hangover

Not mine, yours.  Or maybe it's theirs.  Those guys -- pardon me, women -- on the other side who beat your team.  They're the ones waking up this morning celebrating victory ... and agonizing about defeat at the same time.

The duopoly does make for simple analogies.

Can we say the blue wave rose up in the cities, swept out to the suburbs and exurbs, but crashed into the crimson dikes in the boondocks?  Yes we can, at least in Deep-In-The-Hearta.

Never forget that rural Texas is where the baboons with their swollen asses all live.  And vote.

They kept Texas red.

After the early and mail ballots were reported and most of the GOP statewide slate (save Governor More Powerful Than Putin) found themselves in much tighter races than has historically been the case -- at least for a generation -- some of my good neighbors assembled just down the road at the Redneck Country Club surely put down their nachos, went to the bathroom, and vomited.

Things improved within the hour, so maybe they didn't go home and turn in early.

That is, as long as they didn't care too much about John Culberson (or Pete Sessions or Konnie Burton or Matt Rinaldi) or any of their judicial pals at the many Harris County Courthouses.

We already know they didn't care too much about Ed Emmett, after all.

Commissioners Court has a blue majority this morning, with Lina Hidalgo and Adrian Garcia replacing Hunker Down and -- in what had to feel like some pretty sweet payback for Senator US Rep. Sylvia -- Jack Morman.

Stan Stanart finally got fired, so did Chris Daniel and Orlando Garcia and every single judge, despite the pleadings of the Houston Chronicle's op-eds.  (The midterms used to be the last refuge for Republican judges; it was always presidential cycles where they washed out before.)  Let's see if Harris Democrats can hold their monopoly for a few years, and more importantly bring some justice -- like ending cash bail -- with it.  Poor Gary Polland just lost half a million bucks' worth of income.

More later.