Monday, December 31, 2018

2018's last Wrangle

The rest of the Texas Fauxgressive Alliance decided to take the week off from rounding up the best of the lefty blog posts and news (except for those who may be using some or all of this one).  To augment the missing, you'll find some great year-end listicles, including this video from Turner Classic Movies with the compendium of actors, directors, screenwriters, and others we lost from the year just about to pass into the history books.

In another obituary, almost overlooked from early November, Will Pitt of Truthout wrote the eulogy for Buzzflash, one of this blogger's very first finds on the InnerToobs that both enabled sanity in a GWB-world gone mad, and inspired the creation of Brains and Eggs.

The big Texas story closing out 2018 was the series of incidents where hundreds of migrants detained by ICE were summarily -- and initially without promised warning to relief agencies -- dumped at bus stations and parks in El Paso.

The callous and inhumane actions by the Trump administration to provoke yet another immigration crisis were met head-on by volunteers and agencies, who quickly mobilized after social and corporate media hit red alert.

Naveena Sadasivam at the Texas Observer wrote about the weird Texas weather extremes -- heat, cold, drought, floods -- we experienced this past year.  And the climate denier sitting in his wheelchair in the Governor's Mansion.

At a press conference announcing the release of the report, Abbott responded to a reporter’s question about climate change by saying he’s not a scientist and that it is “impossible for [him] to answer that question.”

The majority of Americans aren’t scientists, but surveys show they still believe climate change is occurring. All it’d take Abbott is to look at the extreme weather events happening in his state and listen to those in his own administration.

Texas Vox also comments on Abbott's Hurricane Harvey report, entitled 'Eye of the Storm', pointing out areas of disagreement and/or recommending stronger action (like acknowledging climate change, for starters).

Continuing another tradition abandoned by the TPA, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs picked Co-Texans of the Year: Beto O'Rourke and Travis Scott.

Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer collects the most ridiculous social media posts from Texas pols (spoiler: Sid Miller could have been this entire list all by himself).

Harris County prosecutors are predicting a surge of drunk driving incidents due to the extended New Year's holiday weekend, writes Jay R. Jordan at the Chronicle.

"This is an unbelievable crisis that we're facing," Vehicular Crimes Division Chief Sean Teare said on Wednesday. "We lead the nation, year-in, year-out in fatalities on our roadways, specifically attributable to DWI. We're not anywhere near the size of Los Angeles or New York, and we're not as big as Chicago – and we blow them away every year. It's inexplicable."

Zachery Taylor blogged that truth is a fungible commodity at corporations like Shell, ExxonMobil, Johnson & Johnson, Wells Fargo, and by extension Wall Street and the media.

Current Affairs had the 25 worst headlines of 2018 (their #12, Politico's "Biden Should Run With Romney on a Unity Ticket", was my personal #1).  Not linking it, but the summary is aces.

There is no more appealing ticket than Joe Biden and Mitt Romney, argues a former Republican policy adviser currently working for the Biden Institute Policy Advisory Board. What America wants is the down-home bonhomie of a 76 year old who gets handsy with little girls and has total contempt for struggling millennials, plus the awkward stiffness of a milquetoast also-ran who once tied a dog to the roof of his car and gives off a vibe “like the guy who fired your dad.” Their bipartisan slogan will be: “Centrism! It Just Makes Sense, You Whiny Poors.”

Tanvi Misra at CityLab exposed the business model behimd the explosion of dollar stores in rural communities.

It has become an increasingly common story: A dollar store opens up in an economically depressed area with scarce healthy and affordable food options, sometimes with the help of local tax incentives. It advertises hard-to-beat low prices but it offers little in terms of fresh produce and nutritious items—further trapping residents in a cycle of poverty and ill-health.

A recent research brief by the Institute of Local Self Reliance (ILSR), a nonprofit supporting local economies, sheds light on the massive growth of this budget enterprise. Since 2001, outlets of Dollar General and Dollar Tree (which bought Family Dollar in 2015) have grown from 20,000 to 30,000 in number. Though these “small-box” retailers carry only a limited stock of prepared foods, they’re now feeding more people than grocery chains like Whole Foods, which has around 400-plus outlets in the country. In fact, the number of dollar-store outlets nationwide exceeds that of Walmart and McDonalds put together—and they’re still growing at a breakneck pace. That, ILSR says, is bad news.

“While dollar stores sometimes fill a need in cash-strapped communities, growing evidence suggests these stores are not merely a byproduct of economic distress,” the authors of the brief write. “They’re a cause of it.”

Dollar stores have succeeded in part by capitalizing on a series of powerful economic and social forces—white flight, the recent recession, the so-called “retail apocalypse”—all of which have opened up gaping holes in food access. But while dollar stores might not be causing these inequalities per se, they appear to be perpetuating them. The savings they claim to offer shoppers in the communities they move to makes them, in some ways, a little poorer.

Grits for Breakfast has the top ten Texas criminal justice stories, and Popular Resistance has the top 25 censored news items (going back into 2017 a bit) including the report about county sheriffs along the border using iris technology to fill a new database, lending to existing concerns about racial profiling and loss of privacy in public places.

Right Wing Watch summarized the year in false prophecies and failed predictions: red election waves, weather wipeouts, mass arrests of pedophiles, coups by leftists, and on and on.  VICE had the seven wildest scams and scandals of the year that didn't involve Trump.  And DeSmogBlog revealed Big Oil's attempts to show that fracking is actually making money (it isn't).

In January, The Wall Street Journal touted the prospect of frackers finally making “real money … for the first time” this year. “Shale drillers are heeding growing calls from investors who have chastened the companies for pumping ever more oil and gas even as they incur losses doing so,” oil and energy reporter Bradley Olson wrote.

Olson's story quoted an energy asset manager making the (always) ill-fated prediction about the oil and gas industry that this time will be different.

"Is this time going to be different? I think yes, a little bit," said energy asset manager Will Riley. “Companies will look to increase growth a little, but at a more moderate pace.”

Despite this early optimism, Bloomberg noted in February that even the Permian Basin — “America's hottest oilfield” — faced “hidden pitfalls” that could “hamstring” the industry.

They were right. Those pitfalls turned out to be the ugly reality of the fracking industry's finances.

And this time was not different.

The Week offered the 5 biggest scientific breakthroughs of 2018, and the Pew Research Center had 18 striking findings from the year just past, including this one.

About six-in-ten women in the U.S. (59%) say they have been sexually harassed. Women with at least some college education are far more likely than those with less education to say they have experienced harassment. Non-Hispanic white women are also more likely than women in other racial and ethnic groups to cite such experiences. Around a quarter of men (27%) say they have been sexually harassed.

The stark reality of race and incarceration was once more detailed by KERA via Texas Standard.

If you’re a black man in America, you’re five times as likely to go to state prison as a white man. Latinos and African Americans make up one-third of the U.S. population; they make up two-thirds of the prison population.

Millard Fillmore's Bathtub highlights -- pun intended -- the anniversary of Bright Idea Day, December 31st, 1879; the day Thomas Edison demonstrated for the public a working light bulb in Times Square, New York.

And Pages of Victory has a poem about some other kinds of Christmas.

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