Monday, January 14, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas so-called Progressive Alliance had a very busy week watching the Lege get open for business again, a handful of Democratic presidential announcements and developments, and the usual mix of of issues, developments, and opinions inviting our comment.

Early voting begins today in two special elections for vacancies in the Texas House of Representatives.  There are eight candidates who have filed in HD-145 (Houston), including Democrats Melissa Noriega -- an Alliance favorite -- Christina Morales, and Republican Martha Fierro, and three in HD-79 (El Paso), including Democrats Art Fierro (no relation), Michiel Noe, and Republican Hans Sassenfeld.  More from TXElects, including this:

Morales’s campaign team includes consultants Marc Campos and Jaime Mercado, who helped guide Alvarado’s outright special election victory last month.

As the Texas Legislature began its 86th session, Lite Guvnuh Dan Patrick was nowhere in sight, having been summoned to Washington by Trump in advance of the president's dog and pony show at the southern border.  Upon returning to work he declared that the country didn't need a border wall that ran the full length of the Rio Grande, and that he told Trump to give Texas the money and the state would build it.

As if things couldn't get more stupid and venal, Ken Paxton joined a roundtable with John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and promptly lied his ass off.

And in a weird "watch me top this" lying game with Trump that reminded some of Vietnam, Patrick declared a belated victory in the 2017 session's bathroom wars.  Off the Kuff congratulated him.  Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer sees Trump and Patrick as a match made in heaven.

In a long-overdue and welcomed development, the state Preservation Board (comprised of Patrick, Governor Abbott, Speaker Dennis Bonnen, one state senator, one Texas House member, and one citizen) voted unanimously to remove a plaque in the Capitol which lied about the cause of both the Confederacy and the Civil War.

The Texas Lege has a brand-new LGBT caucus, thanks to Reps. (from r.) Celia Israel, Mary Gonzalez, Erin Zwiener, Jessica Gonzalez and Julie Johnson.

Raise your mug for Texas' craft breweries; they scored a win on opening day.

Grits for Breakfast gave the Lege a to-do list for criminal justice reform.  And in two round-ups of other CJ developments included the news that the new Harris County misdemeanor judges have dropped the appeal of the bail lawsuit their predecessors fought, and linked to The Appeal about the fallacy of "failure to appear".

Democrats deciding to run and thinking about running for president had a full week.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs went long and link-heavy on 2020 Democratic developments on Thursday, then updated that on Saturday.

In an expected declaration in San Antonio on Saturday morning, Julián Castro (don't forget the accent mark) made his bid official.

In a surprise announcement Friday night on CNN's Van Jones program, Tulsi Gabbard said she would form an exploratory committee and make a formal announcement "within the next week".  And while Bernie Sanders is still deciding whether to get in the race for the Dem nom, his supporters held more than 400 house parties across the country on Saturday afternoon urging him to do so.

All of this added to the speculation that had the supporters of Beto O'Rourke asking: "What are you waiting for, dude?"

O'Rourke barged into last year's Senate race almost laughably early, in March 2017, insisting he was a credible contender against the incumbent, Republican Ted Cruz, when almost no one nationally knew of O'Rourke.

Now he's doing almost anything to keep people paying attention to him without formally starting a presidential campaign for 2020. He's not expected to decide until next month at the earliest whether he's running.

These days, that counts as playing hard to get. Influential activists in Iowa and elsewhere are clamoring for him to get in the race while some potential rivals move their timelines earlier. So far, interest in O'Rourke has held after his near upset of Cruz, but for how much longer?

SocraticGadfly saw the names already making 2020 presidential announcements, along with the speculation about many others, and offered his initial oddsmaking take on Democratic candidates along with other assessment.

As the confirmation hearings for attorney-general designate William Barr get set to begin tomorrow, Texans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz will help him run the gauntlet of Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee seeking to draw attention to themselves and their 2020 presidential aspirations.  Watch Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and to a lesser extent Amy Klobuchar for signs as to whether Barr will have a rough time getting confirmed.  (The Senate's Republican numbers are in his favor, never mind the likes of Joe Manchin.)

Media news was huge and ominous: The Dallas Morning News laid off 43 employees, 20 in the newsroom, including some longtime journalists.

“Arts and entertainment sustained the heaviest cuts, among them Chris Vognar, who’d been a critic at the paper for 23 years; Dawn Burkes, a longtime entertainment writer and editor; Sara Frederick Burgos, editor for Guide; and Kelly Dearmore, who was hired as a part-time music critic in 2016,” wrote Teresa Gubbins in her dispatch at CultureMap Dallas. “News staffers include Jeff Mosier, an environment & energy writer; Tasha Tsiaperas, a sharp metro reporter; and Dianne Solis, who wrote about immigration. Longtime photographer Louis deLuca was also let go.”


The story attributed the need to a decline in print revenue from advertising, which has been bigger than the drop in circulation revenue. The company says it is focusing on digital subscriptions. A.H. Belo is a publicly traded company, and its fourth-quarter financial reports are due soon. Revenue declined nearly 19 percent in the first three quarters of 2018, and the company’s loss jumped to $5.58 million from $2.66 million the prior year.

As word got out, some began to dissect the latest travails of Dallas’ daily paper. One pointed out a recent stock buy by the hedge fund Minerva, while Matt Pierce, a reporter with the Los Angeles Times, pointed out that corporate leadership had gotten “some nice raises in recent years.

More from D Magazine.

Talking Biz News reports the News will no longer run a standalone print business section, with the exception of its Sunday edition. Business coverage will otherwise fold into Metro. Further details to be announced in a DMN column on Wednesday, says TBN.

Texas Monthly named veteran journalist Dan Goodgame as its new editor-in-chief, and scored an interview with ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on the band's 50th anniversary.

A few days after New Year’s, Gibbons left Austin for Houston to join bandmates Dusty Hill and Frank Beard to rehearse for the band’s first-ever residency in Las Vegas—an eight-show series at The Venetian that runs through early February. The Vegas gigs are the first real acknowledgment of the band’s 50th anniversary for 2019. Indeed, short of the first few singles and tours, it’s been what Gibbons describes as the “same three guys, same three chords” for a half-century.

“Someone asked recently, ‘How did you three guys manage to stay together for longer than most marriages?’” Gibbons says. “Two words come to mind: separate buses. It’s made it all go all right. It’s a good team.”

Stace at Dos Centavos started the New Year off busy, providing context to the recent prison release of La Raza Unida Party's Ramsey Muñiz, reviewing the new Little Joe video San Antonio, posting twice about the border boondoggle, and again regarding a Houston city council candidate's 2019 campaign.  He also got his endorsement of Julián Castro out of the way early ('mano, you forgot the accent mark):

As attacks on Julian Castro will escalate, we will be hearing more about other 2020 prospects. Whether it’s Kamala Harris’ jailing of poor moms because of their kid’s truancy; Klobuchar’s selling out on border wall; Joe Biden being, well,  Joe Biden; and the list will go on, Democrats will get to choose among candidates who have some bad marks. I just want to say ahead of time that criticism should not be thrown only at Julian Castro.

Texas Leftist finally closed up shop at the blog and invites his fans to listen to his Ingressive Voices Podcast.

David Collins sees Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shaking up Washington in the best possible way: driving Republicans insane and making establishment Democrats mad.

Wayne Dolcefino filed another complaint against Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, alleging non-disclosure of public records.

Tarrant County's GOP vice-chairman survived getting removed from his post by the party because he is Muslim, accounts Texas Standard.  However, as John Coby at Bay Area Houston laughed, this means that the Republicans in one of Texas' largest cities are only 25% religious bigots.

State Representative Erin Zwiener has a guest column for the Texas Observer, asking us to take sexual misconduct seriously.

Pages of Victory blogged about two walls, one at the border and the one that keeps men from treating women as equal people and partners.

Miao Zhang, a junior at Rice University and recent intern with Public Citizen, guest-blogged at Texas Vox about metal recycling in Houston's Fifth Ward.

The financial plight of the Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon -- the best little museum in the state, according to the Texas Observer -- is perilous.

Dan Solomon at Texas Monthly sees that Marfa is now famous enough to be mocked by The Simpsons.

Last, after CBS Sunday Morning featured the Green Book, a directory of African American-friendly businesses for black travelers in the Jim Crow era (that spawned the hit movie of the same name)...

"It was after the Depression, before the war, when the auto culture was really burgeoning, and there were more jobs for black people," said cultural historian Candacy Taylor, whose book about "The Green Book" will be published this fall. "By the '40s, the second wave of the Great Migration was underway, and so you had 1.5 million black people leaving the South during that time."

At risk if they owned nice cars. Taylor told the story of her stepfather's family being stopped and relying on a tried-and-true subterfuge for avoiding trouble: "His dad worked for the railroad, had a good job. And his mother was sitting in the front seat. So, the sheriff comes to the door and says, you know, 'Who's this car? Where are you going? Who are these people with you?' And his father says, you know, 'This is my employer's car.' And he looked to his wife. And he said, 'And she's the maid. And this is her son.'

"And then the next question was, 'Well. where's your hat?' Meaning the chauffeur's hat. And he said, 'It's hanging right in the back, officer.'"

Essentials for driving in and out of the Jim Crow South: A chauffeur's hat, and the Green Book. "The 'Green Book' was like a Bible. You did not leave home without it," said Alice Clay Broadwater, who was a teacher traveling with her lawyer-husband and small children between Boston and the South. She relied on the book.

"Black travelers in those days, in the '50s, had to carry the Green Book if they needed to stay overnight someplace, or if they wanted to know where they could eat," Broadwater said.

... Swamplot gathered the Tweets from Urban Edge's Leah Binkovitz and the piece by the Chron's Craig Hlavaty that featured the diners, motels, and more that were listed in Houston.

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