Monday, December 24, 2018

T'was The Day Before Wrangle

The Texas kinda-sorta Progressive Alliance celebrated Festivus yesterday and the airing of grievances, but still has a few problems with you people.  And now you're going to hear about it.

(The very condensed 'Seinfeld' episode, from 1997.)

Here's the blog post and lefty news roundup from the next to-last week of 2018.

In the span of seven days, Beto O'Rourke went from expanding his statewide cult of personality from sea to shining sea to exploding on the 2020 launching pad, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs, in a post originally motivated by two hilarious takes about Bernie Sanders from Bay Area Blue Dog John Coby.  But it was a takedown by David Sirota at Capital and Main of Beto's voting record that did the most damage to the erstwhile Congressman's reputation as a "progressive", and that in turn spawned an article about a "war" on O'Rourke being waged by "Berniebros".  The geek fighting didn't just carry on all weekend on Twitter, it again ruptured the 2016 fault lines between the center of the Democratic Party and the left.

"I think (last) week can be understood as a kind of turning point, where — for the first time really — millions of Americans are seeing pieces that look underneath the superficial gloss of projections onto Beto," said Norman Solomon, who was a delegate for Sanders at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

"What we’re seeing is someone who’s a big step up for red-state Texas statewide and actually a big step down for where the majority of Democrats are nationwide. ... If we buy the Beto package, we’re gonna have buyer’s remorse later on."

David Collins was ahead of everybody else on this, blogging last Tuesday that these New Democrats are nothing but kinder, gentler Republicans.

As the Year of the Blue Wave closes out, there are still two empty seats in the Texas House that need to be filled with special elections.  They'll be held after the 86th Legislative Session begins.

Off the Kuff noticed the latest bit of (some small handful of Texas political number nerds' fascination with) small counties' vote totals.

T'is the season for listicles, and the Texas Observer kicks it off with the six stories about rural Texas you should read, and the six Texas political players who lost power this past year.  Texas Monthly serves up their twenty most-read stories, their 22 favorite long reads, and their 15 best Tex-Mex bites across the Great State.  Grits for Breakfast has the six takeaways for national criminal justice reform supporters -- and the three for conservative state lawmakers -- from the First Step Act passed by Congress last week.

Almost swamped in the latest tsunami of hysterical "The Russians Hacked Meddled in the Election" accounts: Jim Schutze at the Dallas Observer calmly points out that Fake News, aka Advertising, has always been with us, and it's always been our responsibility not to be duped by it.

Tell me this. Recently I looked at the website of a prominent Dallas consulting firm and noticed they have a social media specialist on their staff who “guides paid social strategy … working with clients to generate content that educates, motivates and empowers target audiences to act in ways that benefit … clients.”

So how is that different from the Russians?


Fake news, I gather, is stuff that is somewhat not totally true maybe, purveyed deliberately by people who know it is not totally true maybe but who purvey it anyway in order to get a certain reaction out of the people who read it.

Or, as it used to be called in the days of dinosaur media, advertising. We charged big money for that. We wish we could again.

Before Russian trolls, before Google, before the internet, even before computers, I was told every morning by a breakfast food box that I could become a professional baseball player by eating Kellogg's Corn Flakes. I looked up the box yesterday on Google. It had a picture of a boy wearing a necktie and a newsboy cap about to swing a bat.

The box said, “This boy knows. He keeps his ‘eye on the ball.’ He’s the kind of boy that eats Kellogg’s. He likes the taste, the realness of these flakes.” I can now tell you without fear of contradiction that, in my own case anyway, that was fake news.

Texas Standard explains what the end of the Medicaid waiver means for the state's healthcare: the impacts of the loss of an average of $3 billion per year over the last decade, assisting the 11 million Texans who are of highest risk and greatest need, must be communicated to Texas legislators.

The Texans challenging the Affordable Care Act have no legal standing, posits Nicholas Bagley at The Atlantic, who is a law professor at the University of Michigan.  (Emphasis is mine.)

And so, the red states (who sued, led by TX AG Ken Paxton, in Judge Reed O'Connor's federal court) added new plaintiffs: two self-employed Texans, John Nantz and Neill Hurley, who say they have to pay higher prices for insurance because of Obamacare. They may be right about that. If the law were wiped from the books, insurers could refuse to sell insurance to sick people. That would allow insurers to charge healthy people less for their coverage.

But freewheeling complaints about the Affordable Care Act aren’t enough to give Nantz and Hurley standing, any more than they’d be enough for the red states. “Standing is not dispensed in gross,” as the Supreme Court has said. To have standing to sue, Nantz and Hurley have to show that the individual mandate caused them some kind of injury.

And they can’t do that. Remember, the entire basis for this lawsuit is that Congress, in 2017, repealed the tax penalty for going without coverage. That means Nantz and Hurley are free to buy insurance, or free not to. The individual mandate doesn’t force them to do a damn thing.

In a changing of the guard at Equality Texas, Chuck Smith steps aside after 15 years at the helm of the state's largest LGBTQ rights organization, passing the torch to Samantha Smoot.

Smoot brings 20 years of experience leading citizen advocacy campaigns to the Equality Texas organization. She has served as Political Director of both the Planned Parenthood Federation for America and the Human Rights Campaign, as well as the Executive Director for Texas Freedom Network. More recently, she has fought to support citizen groups and political leaders as they build more inclusive democracies through her work in the Middle East and North Africa, West Africa, and Eurasia with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

Ty Clevenger at Lawflog took note of the aggressive, and perhaps defamatory, tone of an email that the executive director of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission sent to one of the agency's critics, defending its top enforcement officer from corruption charges.

Any conversation about stopping violence in our society before it begins -- such as with the ending of corporal punishment in schools -- is absent from the corporate media, blogs Zachery Taylor.

Texas Vox summarizes coverage of the changing face of energy in the state: cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable as the transition away from fossil fuels proceeds (slowly, but inexorably).

Downwinders at Risk thanks activists for mobilizing opposition to the Estrada Concrete plants in south Dallas (near Paul Quinn College), forcing the permit approval hearing at City Hall to be rescheduled for January.

The Rag Blog mourns the passing of yet another 1960s-era Austin "radical" and one of its founders, Dennis Fitzgerald.

SocraticGadfly, influenced by his reading of a new bio of Ronald Reagan, posted the first of what will be several counterfactual history blog posts — what if Reagan, not Goldwater had somehow run in 1964? (Click the "counterfactual history" tag for similar writing by him.)

In Houston barbecue news, Katie Watkins at Houston Public Media reports that Burns BBQ in Acres Homes now has a mural on the outside wall that features the establishment's late founder, along with twice-a-guest Anthony Bourdain.  And the story of Blood Brothers BBQ getting their brick-and mortar-location opened in Bellaire, and the backstory of how the business got started, was posted by Mai Pham at the Houston Press.

Millard Fillmore's Bathtub has a couple of questions about the origins of Christmas.

And in one of the most fascinating Tweet threads of 2018, Kari Blakinger of the Houston Chronicle writes about how she got off heroin while spending Christmas in jail.

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