Monday, February 24, 2020

The Weekly Wrangle (and the pens are full)

So much going on across our Great State this week: the conclusion of early primary voting, Fat Tuesday (and then Ash Wednesday for Catholics), and the Houston Rodeo kicking off Thursday with its World Championship Bar-B-Que Contest.  The Texas Progressive Alliance encourages you to get out and do some of everything -- but especially vote -- this week.

To begin, TXElects.

Early voting for the March 3 primary election continues through February 28.

Turnout continues to be brisk for a primary election but dwarfed by a general election. Through Saturday, Republican turnout in the 15 counties with the most registered voters remains at a record pace, running 6% ahead of the 2016 pace. It will likely fall behind the record pace for the first week because last Monday was a holiday, meaning the first week of early voting had just six days.

Democratic turnout in those counties is lagging farther behind the record pace set in 2008, but it remains the second-highest volume in the Top 15 counties for a Democratic primary. It is, however, 55% ahead of the 2016 pace.

The number of Democratic early voters in those counties leads the number of Republicans, 254K to 215K.

Update (Tuesday, 2/25): TXElects also has some analysis of polling results released by UH's Hobby School on Monday.

Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are tied as the top two choices of “likely Democratic primary voters”, according to a new University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs survey (PDF). Biden (22.5%) and Sanders (22.1%) are followed by Elizabeth Warren (18%), Michael Bloomberg (13%), Pete Buttigieg (12%) and Amy Klobuchar (7%).

Sanders was the top choice for 30% of Hispanic/Latino respondents, his best showing among any ethnic group. Biden was the top choice of 46% of African Americans, more than triple the support of any other candidate. Anglo voters were closely divided among Warren (21%), Sanders (21%), Buttigieg (16%), Biden (15%), Bloomberg (13%) and Klobuchar (11%).

Unsurprisingly, Sanders fared best among voters born after 1996 with 44%, more than double Buttigieg’s 21%. Biden (31%) and Bloomberg (26%) fared the best among voters born before 1946.
Sanders fared best in the border region with 29% but trailed Biden (33%) there. That Sanders is under 30% in the border region is probably good news for U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo), who is facing a Sanders-endorsed progressive primary challenger. Sanders received 25% of the vote head-to-head against Hillary Clinton in CD28 in the 2016 primary.

Our beloved Texas felt the Bern all weekend.   From El Paso to San Antonio to Houston to Austin, large crowds gathered and cheered the Democratic front-runner as he proclaimed victory in the Nevada caucuses, predicted a win here, and declared that his progressive populist movement was going all the way to the White House in November.

“This state, maybe more than any other state, has the possibility of transforming this country,” said Sanders, speaking Sunday to more than 6,600 rally-goers in the Fertitta Center (on the campus of the University of Houston).

More Bern in the Weekly 2020 Update, in time for tomorrow night's South Carolina debate.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs had a pair of pre- and post-Las Vegas debate posts.  Juanita Jean at the Beauty Shop seemed happy about the debate.  And with Yang dropping out and Tulsi taking up the Basic Income drumbeat, SocraticGadfly again looked at libertarian vs non-libertarian versions of BI, and then dove into discussions just how we should define the "gig economy" and at whom different versions of BI might be targeting.

Unfortunately some of our Texas Congresscritters -- mostly those of the Blue-Dog-in-a-swing-district variety -- aren't getting onboard the Bern Train yet.

In response to Bernie's and AOC's bill to ban fracking:

Fletch just lost my vote again.

“Our candidates are going to spend their entire time distancing themselves from the nominee” if it’s Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren, said Colin Strother, a Texas-based Democratic strategist, who sees fracking as one of several issues where progressive and moderate Democrats are divided.

Strother is advising Henry Cuellar, who got fluffed by Nancy Pelosi this past weekend.

Cisneros has been endorsed by Sanders and Warren and Julian Castro and three members of The Squad and the Texas AFL-CIO, SEIU, AFSCME, CWA, AFT, the Texas Organizing Project, Working Families Party, and dozens of others.  TX-28 is far and away the most captivating primary race in the whole state.  Strother lives and dies by polling so don't expect him to mention this one.  The generational (and ideological) divide in the electorate, mentioned there, is showing up in the candidates running for office.  Reform Austin has that story.

There was a debate among the Democrats running for US Senate at the University of North Texas over the weekend ...

... but unlike the debate broadcast by KVUE and other TEGNA stations across the state last Thursday night, several of those on your ballot failed to show up.

Meanwhile the race took a turn for the vicious.

And the idiotic.

This on the heels of Bell bragging about being "certified progressive" (sic) by Progress Texas, a topic previously mauled to death on this site.

In last week's Wrangle, this blogger ranted about misuse of the word 'progressive'.  This week, both Gadfly and Jaime Abeytia picked up on that with rants of their own.   

To be clear: Bell thinks you're so stupid you'll keep falling for this ongoing shtick of his.

This blogger will deliver a promised state-of-the-race post on the D primary scrum to face Cornyn, complete with the latest developments (as soon as the latest developments chill for an instant).

State Sen. Kirk Watson abruptly resigned his seat in the upper chamber of the Texas Legislature in order to become dean of the University of Houston's Hobby School of Public Affairs.  His unexpected departure set Pink Dome tongues wagging about who might jump into a special election to replace him, and so far the biggest news is those who have declined to do so.

Kuff made some predictions about the primaries (that is, if you define "it's really hard to say", "Again, who knows?", and "I'm totally guessing" as predictions).  Paige Weaver at the Dallas Observer questions whether Dallas County is ready for Election Day, with its new voting machines to be implemented.  And Raise Your Hand Texas released its first poll about public education.

D Magazine asked both Governor Abbott and Mayor Johnson to stop sharing that Dallas Morning News wrong-headed editorial about bail reform.

Bail reform is not about freeing violent criminals. No one is saying that. But the Dallas Morning Newseditorial board can’t help but conflate the two. The editorial that ran last week has been shared by our governor and our mayor. And it’s wrong. It puts the rash of violence at the feet of District Attorney John Creuzot, who has advocated for bail reform and pushed for policies that rethink how we try individuals accused of minor crimes.

To the News’ opinion writers, it’s Creuzot’s fault that violent criminals are being given a low bond and released. In reality, Creuzot doesn’t set bond. Magistrates and judges do, and when they let a violent criminal off with a low bond -- which we heard about last week -- that’s their decision, and it has absolutely nothing to do with bail reform. Creuzot even wants a prosecutor present during arraignments to help bring context to inform the judge’s decision about bail. That doesn’t get mentioned in the News’ editorial.

Houston attorney and political gadfly Eric Dick and two others are being threatened with legal action by Spring Branch residents for soliciting lawsuits from victims of the Watson Grinding explosion in their neighborhood last month.

“Tex Christopher, Billy Bray (an insurance agent), and Eric Dick are hosting a series of informational town hall meetings for residents who suffered from the Watson explosion,” the post states. “The previous town hall meetings have been well attended and received.”

In an effort to encourage attendance, Christopher, who doesn’t live in the community, purportedly sent out thousands of unsolicited text messages.

The actions of Christopher, Bray and Dick have sparked a movement of sorts, as a website ( has been launched asking locals to join a lawsuit against the three individuals.

“In order to stop what is a clear abuse of our community, we are preparing to file a class-action lawsuit against Christopher, Dick, and Bray, in order to hold them accountable for their dubious actions and protect vulnerable disaster victims from being potentially taken advantage of by predators,” the site reads.

With a side-eye look at the Right, Sean O'Neal at Texas Monthly sees Ted Cruz's pro-choice side, and the Texas Signal finds the latest contender for Worst (Would-be) Congressman.

Here's a few environmental news developments:

-- The Permian Basin is producing more natural gas and condensate than it is oil and profits for oil companies, writes Justin Mikulka at DeSmogBlog.

As oil prices plummet, oil bankruptcies mount, and investors shun the shale industry, America’s top oil field -- the Permian shale that straddles Texas and New Mexico -- faces many new challenges that make profits appear more elusive than ever for the financially failing shale oil industry.

Many of those problems can be traced to two issues for the Permian Basin: The quality of its oil and the sheer volume of natural gas coming from its oil wells.

The latter issue comes as natural gas fetches record low prices in both U.S. and global markets. Prices for natural gas in Texas are often negative -- meaning oil producers have to pay someone to take their natural gas, or, without any infrastructure to capture and process it, they burn (flare) or vent (directly release) the gas.

As DeSmog has detailed, much of the best oil-producing shale in the Permian already has been drilled and fracked over the past decade. And so operators have moved on to drill in less productive areas, one of which is the Delaware sub-basin of the Permian ... As a Bloomberg Wire story reported in December, “in recent years investments have shifted to the Delaware, where output is much gassier than in the historic Midland portion of the Permian.”

-- Tankers by road and rail from North Carolina are bringing a potentially cancer-causing chemical  named GenX to Deer Park each month.

In picturesque North Carolina, along the seemingly pristine Cape Fear River, a chemical company called Chemours was caught discharging an industrial byproduct called GenX and it showed up in the drinking water. Now, that chemical is being brought to Texas ... GenX is the trade name of perfluoro-2-propoxypropanoic acid, which is used to make Teflon, fast food wrappers and other products. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, animal studies have shown health effects in the kidney, blood, immune system, developing fetuses and especially in the liver following oral exposure. The data are suggestive of cancer.

Since June 2017 Chemours began capturing the wastewater that included the GenX. Then, starting the week of Nov. 13, 2017, the company began arranging to have the wastewater transported by tanker truck and rail for disposal in Deer Park, Texas. Specifically, it’s being sent to Texas Molecular for deep-well injection. Texas Molecular is a Class1 Deep Well. Since 2017, the company has commissioned an average of 10 tanker trucks a day to haul away the wastewater for offsite disposal, according to the Chemours plant manager.

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich has spoken numerous times about the dangers of GenX. In August 2017, she appeared at a town hall meeting in North Carolina.

Recently, Brockovich was in Houston for a town hall meeting to discuss a different matter. KPRC 2 asked Brockovich about Chemours’ plan to dispose of the GenX through deep well injection.

“Well that could be a problem... tanks deteriorate, bottoms rust, they break open. We don’t know it and we wind up with another massive groundwater contamination,” Brockovich said.


“Texas Molecular is not required to have a specific approval or public hearing for deep well disposal of GenX waste, because this waste stream is covered under the listing of industrial wastes authorized to be injected in its three UIC Class I permits,” according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

And with some lighter news items, we'll wrap up this week.

Here's ten places in Houston to celebrate Mardi Gras tomorrow, and here's where you can eat fish on Fridays for Lent.  If bluebonnets are more your thing than mudbugs or tilapia, then everything's coming up roses (so to speak).

And the TPA wishes Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast a fast and full recovery.

Norma Zenteno was one of this blogger's heroes, performing many times for her brother and sister-in-law's canine rescue operation, Barrio Dogs.  Our precious little Holly was saved by them.

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