Monday, December 30, 2019

2019's Final Wrangle

The aggregation of the best of the left of, about, and from around Texas for the year -- and the decade -- is coming your way.

The latest Texas church shooting (there's a phrase that didn't exist ten years ago) occurred in the west Tarrant County community of White Settlement, where a gunman opened fire and was quickly dispatched by armed Sunday morning service attendants, but not before killing two parishioners of the West Freeway Church of Christ.

The Texas Tribune assembled some of its 2019 analysis on Texas shootings, the 2nd Amendment, and our good old Lege in action inaction.

Via Milt Policzer at Courthouse News:

Those of you who enjoy surrealism as much as I do may want to look at a somewhat frightening ruling by a Texas appeals court the other day. It seems that 13-year-olds and younger are now free to commit sexual assaults in Texas without punishment. They know not what they do.

If you’re in Texas or have to travel there, I strongly recommend avoiding anyone who looks young. The appeals court says because state legislators decided that kids can’t legally consent to sex, they also can’t consent to sex they force on someone else.

I’m guessing Texas legislators might have been surprised by this interpretation.

The result was that a case against a 13-year-old who molested a 12-year-old was dismissed with prejudice. There was a crime but no criminal.

Note to Texas prosecutors: Just charge kids with assault. They can probably consent to that.

The Texas House is heavily targeted by both Democrats and Republicans in a Census/redistricting election year.  Reform Austin runs down fifteen PACs -- ten Rs and 5 Ds -- focusing on the task of getting their tribe to a majority.  Not on their list is Beto O'Rourke's 'Powered by People', a new venture designed to do the same thing.  And the TexTrib projects the seats that may be in play.

Off the Kuff analyzes a poll released by the Eliz Markowitz campaign.  Reform Austin wants to remind HD28 constituents that healthcare is on their special election ballot.

Texas legislators have done an underwhelming job improving healthcare in the state. It’s time to elect officials that care enough about Texans to enact legitimate change. House District 28 has a runoff special election coming up January 28th. Residents of Fort Bend county will have the opportunity to vote for a representative they believe will advocate for vital healthcare reform in Texas.

In his last 2020 Democratic presidential primary update of 2019, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs takes note of the consensus of public opinion beginning to coalesce around the distinct possibility of a #PresidentSandersBonddad has a road map to a Democratic supermajority next November.

It's that listicle time of the year; Dos Centavos has his top ten posts, Somervell County Salon has her top 100, and Houston Strategies highlights his 2019 blogging.

The Texas Observer lists five stories about rural Texas you may have missed, along with its ten best longform readsThe Texas Tribune invites you to revisit some its best stories from the past year.

Houston's jobs market turns out not to have been as robust as earlier economic numbers were forecasting.  The Dallas Fed projects further weakness in the oilpatch for next year, slowing Greg Abbott's "Texas Miracle" bragging down and perhaps denting the political fortunes of Republicans from Trump all the way down the ballot.

Despite a wide variety of Lone Star ecological calamities in 2019, Environment Texas looks on the sunny side.  Grist posited about what ExxonMobil's win before the New York Supreme Court means for other climate lawsuits.

Grits for Breakfast posted his criminal justice round-up on Christmas Day, pointing out Governor Abbott's abdication of executive authority in issuing pardons.

All that Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, writing for Rewire News, wanted for Christmas was for Texans to be able to afford their abortions.

A range of emotional stories from the border merit inclusion.

Ending 2019's last Wrangle with a few lighter items ...

SocraticGadfly got out to Big Bend for the first time in more than eight years, and he shares photos and discusses changes; two additional parts will follow.

In Galveston, the state's official tall ship Elissa returns for limited day sailings for those who wish to experience the life of a 19th-century sailor.

Trainees will spend six hours aboard the 142-year-old ship learning how to navigate the vessel down the Galveston Channel. The $200 course provides hands-on and lecture learning throughout the trip, as well as a light lunch and refreshments.

Participants must be 10 years and older and participants ages 10-17 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Seven April 2020 dates are currently listed on the event website. Find all you need to know about the daysailing series here and find tickets here.

Find more information on the Galveston History Foundation and Texas Seaport Museum here.

Farewell to a pair of noteworthy artists.

And finally, two more compendiums from the year coming to a close.

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Last 2020 Update of 2019

Mainstream Democrats constantly argue that their party must move toward the center, the right, in order to win elections. Republicans never argue anything similar, yet win elections. Go figure.

The big news this week is that the corporate media has finally discovered something the rest of us have known all along.

Now begins the time when we will see the unhinged ad hominem smears and attacks on Sanders come into full fruition.  The comparisons of the UK's election, and Jeremy Corbyn's losing to Boris Johnson, was the early skirmishing.

"Hey, it worked over there; let's try those lies over here.  Oh wait, Bernie is Jewish?  Well, that'll be a bit of a heavier lift."

More to blog on this later.  Moving on for now.

For Democrats who believe money is the most important political variable, who don't know or don't care that the private prison industry is just indentured servitude, where the prisoners are paid slave wages ... Bloomer is your guy.  Congratulations.  Business as usual.

Like Trump, Mike Bloomberg can't be bought.  But for those Democrats looking for an after-Christmas bargain, you can still get Pete Buttigieg for a big discount.

You have to be pretty oblivious to his craven hypocrisy to still be supporting this little fellow after his overexposure the past couple of weeks.

Which may be why Andrew Yang has been easing up to fourth lately.  Where does he grow from here is his big question.  If Warren and Biden keep slipping, I suppose we will find out.

Old Joe seems to be acknowledging that he has a family problem.

If Biden is nominated, 2020 will be rerun of 2016.  It will be nothing but scandals and epithets and vitriol and venomous spew between the two factions.  And Trump will win.

But at least some Democrats want to focus on the primary issue.

A court ruling last week putting the Affordable Care Act further in jeopardy may provide the opening Democrats have been waiting for to regain the upper hand on health care against Republicans in 2020.

At the most recent Democratic presidential debate, candidates largely avoided discussing the lawsuit or Republicans’ years-long efforts to dismantle Obamacare, and instead continued their intra-party battle over Medicare for All.

But Senate Democrats, Democratic candidates and outside groups backing them immediately jumped on the news of the federal appeals court ruling -- blasting out ads and statements reminding voters of Republicans’ votes to repeal the 2010 health care law, support the lawsuit and confirm the judges who may bring about Obamacare’s demise.

“I think it’s an opportunity to reset with the new year to remind people that there’s a very real threat to tens of millions of Americans," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said in an interview. "We Democrats are always striving to improve the system, but, at a minimum, the American people expect us to protect what they already have."

It's more than possible -- likely, IMO -- that the Democrats cannot do anything to prevent Obamacare from being dismantled by the SCOTUS.  Which is why every single Democrat running for Congress needs to be asked: "What will you fight for if Obamacare is struck down?"

Ask this question now, before you vote in the March primary.  Again, I believe the only acceptable answer is Medicare For All.  Anything less means that sick Americans will die because of the cost considerations of insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, doctors, hospitals, medical collection agencies, and all of the rest of our glorious healthcare capitalists who value profits over people.  The politicians who are fine with that are the problem.

Robert Reich Paul Krugman talked with Ezra Klein at Vox recently, and while much of this interview is cringeworthy because of its intellectual investment in political calculus, Reich at least made a salient point about acting first on healthcare as opposed to climate change.  There's a smorgasbord for thought there, plenty to buy into and plenty to reject outright.

Closing this Update with more embedded Tweets and a Libertarian news item at the end.

And IPR passes along the holiday message from Vermin Supreme, who's running for the Libertarian nomination for president: "I dream of a world of holidays without cages" (it appears to be the same message he posted in 2018).

Monday, December 23, 2019

The Festivus TexProg Wrangle

Christmas Eve Eve is a time of panic for shoppers who've procrastinated (pro tip: a gift card from Kroger earns you gas points), the start of a long holiday week certain to be filled with high caloric lack-of-activity, and the much-anticipated airing of grievances.

Here comes your round-up of the best of the left from around and about Deep-In-The-Hearta for the next-to-last week of the decade.

First we have some political posts (the Alliance is foremost about politics, after all).

David Collins updates the list of Texas Green Party 2020 candidates Kuff published three interviews with SBOE candidates: Michelle Palmer, Kimberly McLeod, and Debra KernerJohn Coby wraps up the Houston elections.  And Stace at Dos Centavos posts about a Harris County judicial filing controversy.

And statehouse Republicans will make every effort to continue the legacy of ultraconservative oligarchy in Austin.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs caught up his Democratic presidential primary updates with four posts leading up to, and then after, the sixth debate last Thursday.

DC politicos like Chuck Schumer want to keep chasing the Republicans being left behind by the careening Right; the DSCC chose to endorse the Libertarian who voted in the GOP primary in 2016 for US Senate, to the outrage of ... well, pretty much everybody.

(T)he Democratic Senate Campaign Committee endorsed former U.S. House candidate MJ Hegar in her bid to run against Republican incumbent Senator John Cornyn. The decision to back Hegar -- who is running in a crowded, diverse field -- strikes at the heart of an intra-party debate: how to run (and win) in red states on the brink of political realignment.

The endorsement drew swift backlash from Hegar’s fellow candidates, who condemned the national party’s Senate campaign arm. Although the committee has played primary favorites in other priority Senate races, many people in Texas politics were surprised that it waded into a race more than three months out. “We had no idea that was going to happen,” said Abhi Rahman, the communications director for the Texas Democratic Party, which is running a multimillion-dollar operation aimed at defeating Cornyn.

Lite Guv Dan Patrick and Commissioner of Land George Pee Bush kicked off their Festivuties a few days early.

Lone Star political podcasts are all the rage these days.

A smattering of posts about the homeless at Christmastime always seem to tug at the heartstrings (not Greg Abbott's, but Texans who actually have hearts).

There are some environmental justice -- mostly injustice -- developments to report.

This Wrangle caught several Tweets about immigration and border news and opinions.

SocraticGadfly, with background on Muenster teacher-relationship conviction and other such cases, talks about how issues of philosophy play out in the courts.

Thanks for reading this elongated-for-Festivus Wrangle.  Wrapping it up and putting a bow on it with a few lighter items.

The Webb County Heritage Foundation will celebrate the 180th anniversary of the declaration of the Republic of the Rio Grande with a cocktail reception on January 11, 2020 in the historic capitol building of that independent nation -- the Republic of the Rio Grande Museum at 1005 Zaragoza St. in Laredo.

The San Antonio Current provides solid advice about tamales.

The Bloggess is starting a book club.

Friday, December 20, 2019

BootEdgeEdge gets speed-bagged

Triple-teamed in the wine cave.

Pummeled like a piñata.

(you can make this video full-screen)

The very best of these scrums was pulled off by PBS and the Politico dude with the bad haircut, and while the mods weren't great -- Bernie Sanders schooled Amna Nawaz in intersectionality -- they were head-and-shoulders better than the morons at CNN and the neoliberal clown show that MSNBC has so far managed.

Seven debaters onstage is the right number.  It enables the lower-tier, i.e. Klobuchar, Yang, Steyer, to have time to make points and be heard.  Those first two capitalized; the billionaire didn't.

Amy Minnesota Nice had a very good night, but when she mentioned Trump's awful judicial appointments in the third hour, I was reminded that ...

And if Biden wins a debate because he's "lucid", Dishrag help us all.

Did anyone notice that in the final question, the women asked for forgiveness while men used the opportunity to shill their books? (Not all men, yes yes, but, you know, three.)

Yes, I noticed.  And I strongly approved of Warren's suggestion to boycott (a revealingly gendered word) the question.

DK's Marrissa Higgins rounded up nearly every Tweet response from the seven candidates to questions posed last night.  Alternet's Cody Fenwick via Raw Story has the seven best moments.  CNN's Chris Cillizza gets everything wrong.  Vox's aggregate of analysts got the losers right and the winners wrong.  It makes you wonder if they were even watching the same channel.

There were no questions about Jeremy Corbyn/"soshulizm"/last week's UK election and whatever ramifications it may portend for ours in 2020.  I haven't collected these hundred or so links for nothin', so I'll get around to that eventually.  Hopefully before the year is out.

As for the next debate ...

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The 2020 Update, Part 3: #DemDebate6

I have run out of time for an assembly of opinions on the ramifications of Labour/JeremyCorbyn's shellacking last Friday on the state of play for Bernard and Elizabeth.  I expect a question on the matter this evening, so I'll work that into tomorrow's postgame analysis.

We have one billionaire debating tonight and one not, as you may have noticed if your teevee has been on recently.

Michael Bloomberg has reportedly dropped more than $8 billion total on philanthropy throughout his life, and hundreds of millions more on key influence points around the Democratic Party.

The Washington Post reports that the billionaire and former New York City mayor has spent massive chunks of his approximately $55 billion net worth on groups that shape Democratic politics, even long before he entered the race for president and gave more than $600,000 to the party in recent weeks.

The Post notes that Bloomberg's status as a top donor to interest groups like Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood and the League of Conservation Voters, in addition to his massive donations to other political committees and key lawmakers, underscore his deep-rooted connections to those who decide the Democratic nomination he has entered the running for.

In just 2017 and 2018, the Post reported that Bloomberg's family foundation spent more than $900 million on causes like environmental groups and Planned Parenthood.

Bloomberg also targeted donations to counter-act groups that are popular among conservatives, including the National Rifle Association. The Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and Action Fund drew about $63 million in 2017, with Bloomberg as the largest donor of an undisclosed amount, according to the Post.

Bloomberg's spending has already made headlines in the race to 2020, as he dropped $30 million in November on a series of 60-second ads that will run next week in at least 29 states, according to The New York Times.

The massive funds stand in stark contrast to the first ad for his campaign, which was released when he announced his run on November 24. In it, Bloomberg is painted as a champion of working Americans and the middle class, emphasizing how different he is from Trump, a fellow New York business magnate.

The Post reported that Bloomberg has taken to addressing the outward similarities between he and Trump and not being shy to reference his wealth.

"I realize some people will say, 'Do we really want a general election between two New York billionaires?' To which I say, 'Who's the other one?" Bloomberg joked an address to members of the Texas Democratic Party, according to the Post. "If ever there was someone who is all hat and no cattle, it is Donald Trump."

Bloomey hasn't just bankrolled causes; he's bailing out the party, at the state level as well as nationally.  He's dropped wads on minority voter registration efforts in five states already, including Texas.  Now that's a big deal for anybody who's been around these parts long enough to remember when those herding the Donkeys in Austin were forced to beg for donations just to keep the lights on in the offices.  I'm so old I can recall when Fred Baron and Steve Mostyn -- Jeebus rest their souls -- were being counted on to save Lone Star Democrats from bankruptcy.

And Bloomer's strategy with his massive ad buys and no individual contributors lets he, alone, shape his message, pick up the earned media (all the chattering class ever wants to do is talk about fundraising), and avoid having to answer sticky questions in the debates, like why did you become a Democrat just last year, and what about stop-and-frisk and your women problem and your journalism censoring and such.

His largesse has collected him support from Texas armadillos like Gilberto Hinojosa and Dallas County DP Chair Carol Donovan.  Most everyone understands that Bloomberg is in because Joe Biden has one foot in the assisted living facility and the other foot on a banana peel.

Tom Steyer, speaking tonight -- and rumored to be targeting the front-runners who have no "bidness experience" -- doesn't have Bloomboy's bucks nor his political background.  Still somewhat the same challenges as Moneybags Mike, though.

Tom Steyer has self-funded $83.6 million so far on advertising for his campaign. Such spending has allowed Steyer to squeak his way into Thursday’s debate by achieving the national polling threshold mandated by the DNC.

Steyer’s policies, however, have clearly not resonated with Americans enough, as he’s also found himself stuck at 4 per cent.

And it's a four-person race, with some suggesting it's about to be two.  Biden's Palmetto State firewall is cracking, and if he's seeping African American support there ... well, that's why Buttigieg and Klobuchar and the billionaires are hanging around.

I'll skip Yang and Tulsi and whoever is left, onstage and off.  I don't believe I've ever included the thoughts of the WaPo's Jennifer Rubin in this blog, so here's a first.

And there's more.

This is blind-hog-finds-masting-of-acorns stuff.  Conservatives are starting to get it; Donkey centrists are as usual slow on the uptake.

Conservative commentator Johnny Burtka argued Tuesday that Sen. Bernie Sanders is best equipped to take on President Trump on the debate stage.

“Bernie clearly has the pugnacity,” Burtka, executive director for The American Conservative magazine, told Hill.TV. “He’s the only one that I think could ultimately take on Donald Trump on the debate stage.”

Maybe the Bernie Blackout has ended.

2. Bernie Sanders: Don't call it a comeback! Actually, do. Because the Vermont senator, who was sidelined earlier this fall by a heart attack, has emerged from that health scare with a new momentum -- especially among liberals. Sanders' poll numbers are up both nationally and in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Plus: Sanders ended September with more than $30 million left to spend on the race, meaning he is going to be in this race for a long time. (Previous ranking: 4)

Watching and Tweeting tonight, and blogging the aftermath tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The 2020 Update, Part 2

Let me finish up with Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg before moving on.

To paraphrase Obama, don't bother hoping; "nothing would fundamentally change" for the fossil fuel companies or climate change if Biden stumbles into the White House.

Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, the Biden campaign’s national co-chair, has one of the most pro-oil and gas industry voting records among all congressional Democrats.

Despite representing a low-lying Louisiana district that could be one of the areas in the U.S. most immediately impacted by climate change, Richmond has voted reliably in favor of expanding production and exports of natural gas and oil. [...] In 2015, Richmond was one of 28 House Democrats to vote in favor of approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which will transport crude oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast. Last year, he voted in favor of a bill from Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) that would undermine the environmental review process for natural gas pipelines by stating that all pipelines that transport 0.14 billion cubic feet per day or less should be immediately approved.

Richmond, a member of the moderate New Democrat Coalition, has voted in favor of many Republican bills opposed by environmentalists over the years, including Rep. Markwayne Mullin’s (R-Okla.) bill to exempt cross-border pipelines from environmental review, Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) bill to reverse the crude oil export ban, Rep. Doc Hastings’ (R-Wash.) bill to expand offshore drilling, and Rep. David McKinley’s (R-W.V.) bill to block the Environment Protection Agency from regulating the disposal of toxic coal ash.

In 2011, Richmond signed a letter from Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) calling on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to expedite approval of the Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana, a project of Cheniere Energy, the natural gas company where Heather Zichal -- Biden's climate adviser -- would become a board member.

Sad Old Joe's "No Malarkey" Iowa bus tour was in fact full of more malarkey than could be measured with modern technology, most of it spewing from Biden's own piehole.  Thankfully he kept reminding those present they could vote for someone else.

And it looks as if #WineCavePete may have shifted his demographic strategy to a lighter shade of brownBuena suerte, pal.

Still to come in Part 3: Bernie, Bloomberg, and the rest ahead of tomorrow night's showdown. 

Monday, December 16, 2019

The Weekly 2020 Update, Part 1: #DemDebate, Buttigieg, and Biden

An exceptionally long update this week, and scheduled for last Friday, gets split up with so much to cover and so many late-breaking developments.

There is to be a debate this Thursday, with just these on stage.

Tulsi Gabbard decided she wasn't going to play even before the checkered flag came down.  (You might remember that she threatened to do this before the last debate, then changed her mind.)  Cory Booker joins her, and Julián Castro, on the sidelines.  Andrew Yang's last-minute qualification only slightly ameliorated the #DebatesSoWhite issue.

Cory Booker asked his fellow contenders to sign a letter requesting the Democratic National Committee to make its debate qualification rules less exclusionary, BuzzFeed News reported.

“All seven participants in next week’s debate, as well as Julián Castro, who also has not qualified, have signed the letter.”

But Politico notes the DNC is pushing back.

The debate -- or its location, at least -- is up in the air, though, because the debaters will respect striking food service employees.

All seven of the Democratic presidential candidates who qualified for next week’s debate at Loyola Marymount University in California have said they refuse to cross the picket line resulting from a culinary worker strike at the university. [...] This puts the Democratic National Committee in the tough position. Sodexo, the company that employs the campus’ culinary workers, is in negotiations with the union that represents them, Unite Here Local 11.

“We had hoped that workers would have a contract with wages and affordable health insurance before the debate next week,” the union said in a statement. “Instead, workers will be picketing when the candidates come to campus.”

The DNC, through spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa, said on Friday that its chairman Tom Perez “would absolutely not cross a picket line and would never expect our candidates to either,” adding that the DNC is “working with all stakeholders to find an acceptable resolution.”

Assuming the debate happens ... those relegated to watching the festivities with the rest of us have been fireworks-starters in past debates, so who could initiate the sparring?  We might look to the escalating feud between Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg for a flashpoint.

#WallStreetPete has really caught the heat lately for his McKinsey ties, what they are revealing about his work there, his smirky, dodgy responses about being the big corporate donor/bundler money magnet in the race, and more.  A sampling of recent Tweets:

That was a brief snark break.

This was BootEdgeEdge's week, all week.

Can you stand some more, Pete stans?   Can he stand some more?

Just a couple more living horses to beat here.

#MerlotWithTheMayo #PinotWithPete #SauvignonBlancAndWhiteBread #DontSpareTheDough


Everybody understands that Buttigieg and his 6% polling is hanging around in this race because of Joe Biden's pending psychological breakdown.

Yes, even sitting Republicans are trying to convince Joe -- and Pete -- that post-election partisanship is a pipe dream.  "Pie in the sky", I believe some would say.

Oh well.  There are many who are encouraged by the outcome of last Friday's UK elections with respect to centrism's chances next year.  Or maybe it's leftism's chances.

To be continued in Part 2.