Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The TexProgBlog Wrangle #VoteTexas edition *updates

This week's second post of the best of the left of Texas from last week provides some updates from the start of the runoff elections.  Update: TXElects.

Early voting continues for the July 14 primary runoff and special elections. Because of the inherent “lumpiness” of runoff elections across the state, meaningfully comparing turnout year-to-year is difficult. On top of that, the early voting period was extended by a week by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Voters will have 12 days – 11 in some counties who take Sunday off – to cast ballots in person instead of the usual five days. And on top of that, we anticipate a significant increase in absentee voting as many more voters requested ballots by mail than in recent years.

With all those caveats, nearly 123K people voted in the Democratic runoff in the 15 counties with the most registered voters through the first day (Monday), which is more than the Day 1 totals in 2016 and 2018 combined. The number of Democratic early voters is 65% above 2018 and 187% above 2016. These numbers include all mail ballots received up to and including Monday. Statewide Democratic turnout through Monday was 1% of registered voters. Three quarters of all votes cast through Monday by Democrats were by mail.

Around 53K Republicans cast ballots in person or by mail in those 15 counties by Monday. This is down slightly from 2018, solely because there are no Republican runoffs in Dallas and Williamson Cos., but 14% above 2016. Statewide Republican turnout through Monday was 0.6% of registered voters. Two thirds of all votes cast through Monday by Republicans were by mail.

Last night the two finalists who want to take on John Cornyn in November faced off.

Next we'll check in on "Republicans behaving badly".

Louie Gohmert reveals his IQ again for all to see.

Louie Gohmert spends ample time on the House floor not wearing a mask, often talking with aides and lawmakers at length while not maintaining a social distance. 
Asked why not, the 66-year-old Gohmert had an explanation that defied the science and the recommendations of leading public health experts. 
"I don't have the coronavirus, turns out as of yesterday I've never had it. But if I get it, you'll never see me without a mask," the conservative Texan told CNN Friday.

Told that health experts say that people who don't have symptoms may be carrying the virus and can unknowingly spread it to others, Gohmert responded: "But I keep being tested and I don't have it. So I'm not afraid of you, but if I get it I'll wear a mask."

“Their decision is completely baffling, it's reckless, it’s irresponsible,” (Abhi Rahman, a spokesperson for the Texas Democratic Party) said. “It shows you that they haven’t taken this thing seriously from day one. Houston is one of the biggest coronavirus hotspots right now, and they want to go there, they want to hold an in-person convention without requiring face masks, where they're gonna put even more people at risk, hospitality workers at risk ...”

The State Republican Executive Committee will decide at a meeting Thursday (July 2) whether to go forward with the state convention in person in Houston or go the online route, as the Texas Democratic Party did.

Noah Horwitz shares a term paper he once wrote about Greg Abbott, and Paradise in Hell has had his fill of Mike Pence, who made an appearance at a Dallas megachurch last Sunday.

Here's a few stories about the pandemic from different perspectives.

Two friends in Austin went to the same facility to be tested for the virus.

Their tests came back with the same result -- negative, allowing (their) trip to go ahead -- but the accompanying bills were quite different. The emergency room charged Harvey $199 in cash. LeBlanc, who paid with insurance, was charged $6,408.

A recent poll in Bexar County revealed stark differences in points of views about the current threat level of COVID-19 based on political party identification.

A recent surge in coronavirus cases has made San Antonio one of the nation’s hotspots, but respondents to the latest Bexar Facts/KSAT/Rivard Report poll differed on the severity of the pandemic – and what should be done to contain it – based on their political affiliation.

Fifty-two percent of the 616 respondents who identified as Republican maintained “the worst is over” regarding the impact of the coronavirus locally, and 61 percent said continued social distancing and business closures will cause unnecessary damage to the economy and residents’ lives. Only 14 percent of respondents who identified as Democrats thought the worst was over and 16 percent thought social distancing and business closures would cause unnecessary damage.

Seventy-eight percent of Democrat respondents believe the worst is yet to come. The nonpartisan poll was conducted online and via telephone from June 10-14, right before daily COVID-19 cases started spiking in Bexar County.

I still have enough Wrangled for a third post this week, focusing on Black Lives Matter and police abuse topics and an environmental round-up; it will appear at the end of the week, following the regularly-scheduled White House Update.  Let me close here with some of the pictures and stories from the past that I have enjoyed recently.

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Weekly EV Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes that worsening virus statistics as a result of the striking ineptitude on the part of our elected officials were not -- again -- topic de jour for the roundup of blog posts and Tweets and news from around and about Deep-In-The-Hearta ... but it is what it is.

Circumstances took a dramatic turn for the worse last week.

And our so-called leaders continue to lie about it.

The most damaging reveal came from the doctors at the Texas Medical Center.

(Gov. Greg) Abbott had expressed displeasure to hospital executives with negative headlines about ICU capacity, sources familiar with the talks said. Abbott spokesman John Wittman said any insinuation that the governor suggested the executives publish less data is false.

It's not just the state's largest cities that are overwhelmed.

Far west Texas is simply not a place you want to be if you need medical care.

The Chron's Zach Despart also reports that Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is in self-quarantine after being exposed to the coronavirus by a staffer who tested positive.

Moving on to election news, you can go vote this week (if you're feeling lucky).

Willie Nelson and several other special Lone Star guests are raising cash for Joe Biden in a virtual concert later today.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs sees Biden sleepwalking to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in his latest White House Update.  G. Elliott Morris threw some cold water on the positive polling for Biden in Texas. (*ahem* a little ahead of you, dude.)

Kuff blogged about the latest state polls, and SocraticGadfly looked at Howie Hawkins clinching the Green Party nomination and the various haters who still don't like it or him.  With respect to runoff election developments, Grits for Breakfast points out that Rep. Eddie Rodriguez has a tall hill to climb against his SD-14 opponent, former Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, in overcoming his missing vote on the Sandra Bland bill when he was in the Lege.

In H-Town, the most recent city council meeting was flooded with peaceful protests to the city's law enforcement reform initiatives.

DosCentavos is not a fan of the latest attempt at police reform by committeeTransform Houston outlines their objections to Sylvester Turner's task force on cop reform.  And Mario Bravo at the San Antonio-based Rivard Report calls on elected officials to lead.  And almost a month after the Dallas PD attacked BLM protesters in that city, the rallies go on.

For the past 27 days, dozens of protesters have gathered at City Hall and marched through the streets of downtown and Uptown in a show of solidarity against police violence and systemic racism. Yesterday evening was no different. Nor was the evening before that.

This Monday marked three weeks since we last saw police become violent toward the protesters, when they kettled and detained 674 peaceful marchers on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge after they shot smoke or tear gas—that’s still unclear—and fired “less lethal” munitions at them.

Democracy Now! interviewed Brandon Saenz, the Dallas protester who lost an eye after DPD shot him with one of those “less lethal” projectiles.  Grits has a lot more from Space City and Big D and also Austin, plus a police union's bitching about working the protests, ridding our schools of cops, and #BlueLeaks in his lengthy CJ round-up.

There's much more Wrangled, including some important environmental developments -- look for another post this week -- but we'll stop here for now with a couple of lighter pieces.

Jim Schutze, formerly of the Dallas Observer, will have a column in D Magazine.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Friday, June 26, 2020

Race for the White House Update: Sleepwalking to 1600 Pennsylvania

Go back to sleep, Joe.  We'll call you.

The waiting is the hardest part

The Democratic National Convention Committee announced Wednesday that the "Convention Across America" will be "anchored in Milwaukee," moved from the arena where the Bucks play to a smaller convention center downtown.

"[S]tate delegations should not plan to travel to Milwaukee and should plan to conduct their official convention business remotely," the DNCC said.

There goes my yellow-vested vacation in Wisconsin.  They're blaming the plague, but it's a convenient excuse to avoid a historical repeat of what happened in Chicago in 1968: "the police are there to preserve disorder".

As with every other moment this cycle has produced for him, Biden went soft on cop reform.

And the climate again.

The vast majority of the uncritically thinking electorate cares nothing about what he says or does; he's not Trump, and that's all that matters.

Is that really going to be enough in the fall?

Before you declare Biden the winner, remember his lead is not insurmountable. Polls closer to November could very well show a race that is tightening. At this point in the 1988 cycle, Michael Dukakis led nationally by almost 5 points, and in 2000, George W. Bush was up by nearly 8 points. But Dukakis ended up losing by nearly 8 points in November while Bush narrowly lost the popular vote. 

Frontloading HQ appears to be doing an Electoral College update on a daily basis now, so I'll dispense with mine for the foreseeable future, unless I think there's reason enough for my insights to be worth contrasting to the statewide polling, moving averages, yadda yadda.

That leaves the veepstakes as the only parlor game left to play.  Perry Bacon at 538 has the exhaustive compendium, but it seems to me the choice among the four reported finalists is already down to Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren.  And while some (mostly white) people think Warren has a good case electorally, I just don't see that happening.

Biden could pick a Black woman he feels more comfortable with -- bad pun on Carville intended -- but Kamala is going as hard after the job as she can.  It's actually kind of shameful.

In any other year, this pandering might be considered ridiculous and awful by a vast majority of the American electorate.  Not in 2020, though.

-- Trump had another really bad week, beginning in Tulsa last Saturday.

Click to the Tweet thread if the WSJ isn't letting you jump the paywall.  The Supreme Court slapped him around a bit, too.  Probably don't need to mention the polling again.  He was, remarkably, back to his bubbly old self last night with Sean Hannity.

Nice haircut.  Next time have them take some off the top.

-- Howie Hawkins will be the Green Party's nominee.

The Greens' national meeting and presidential nominating convention, also virtual in a few weeks, will give you the opportunity to find out what they're all about.

Bernie Sanders was the compromise.

-- Mark Charles' independent campaign remains low-profile but is gathering momentum.

-- Last, WikiNews via Indy Poli Report has interview transcripts with the Constitution (William Mohr), Libertarian (Spike Cohen), and Green (Angela Walker) vice-presidential nominees.

Monday, June 22, 2020

TexProgBlog Wrangle II: BLM, Juneteenth, and the 'rona

This edition begins with the latest on the societal upheavals produced by the COVID19 pandemic, and the realization that the police aren't exactly serving and protecting Americans unless they have a noticeable lack of skin pigmentation.

Last week, and as posted earlier today, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff deciphered Governor Greg Abbott's puzzle about requiring masks in the state's local jurisdictions.  Wolff quickly ordered San Antonio and surrounding communities' businesses to command the wearing of face coverings in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  Other Texas metros followed suit.

Greg Abbott's presser this afternoon wasn't quite a Category 5 disaster, but he earns a 4 on the basis of continued weak leadership.

At least he didn't say we should be cutting back on testing.  That may be happening anyway.

Here's some news for those who may need it.

Making the segue with these next Tweets:

Perhaps it's best to begin this round-up of the most recent police brutality and abuse developments back where it all began: H-Town.

The depth and scope of HPD Chief Art Acevedo's -- and by extension, Mayor Sylvester Turner's -- problems in this regard have not yet seen the full light of day.

The cases of Chavez and the Harding Street raid, which claimed two lives, begin to converge as the various investigations keep pulling on different strings.  This next Tweet from Keri Blakinger below drops you into the middle of a thread, so if you want the backstory that has transpired over the past few months, links in surrounding Tweets will take you to it.

Recall that Mayor Turner's response to calls for defunding HPD took him in the opposite direction, and that his only gesture to date has been a decree forbidding chokeholds.

"Chokeholds outlawed; problem solved!".  Wanna take another shot, Mr. Mayor or nah?

Turner would rather stand -- or sit -- with Ted Cruz and John Cornyn.

Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast, whose writing has led the efforts for actual, accountable, law enforcement justice in Texas, has this brief blog post from this Saturday past.

Viewed broadly, America finds itself essentially at the bottom of a thirty-year crime decline. But as police have had less crime to respond to, their budgets and staffing have ballooned, reported Politico (last) week.

Police officials routinely tell the public that cutting their budgets would make us less safe. This is true even at agencies that had their budgets increase and saw crime rise.

Indeed, have you ever noticed that, when it comes to police budgets, there's no version of reality that would justify reduced funding?

If crime is going up, we're told we need more officers to address it.

If crime goes down, it's attributed to past budget increases and we're told cutting budgets would reverse progress.

The whole process resembles a self licking ice cream cone. To hear the police chiefs and city managers tell it, there apparently is no situation that justifies applying budget scrutiny to these agencies.

It's of great concern that there has been an outbreak of hangings of men of color lately, most of which have been deemed 'suicide' by investigating police officers.

I. do not. believe. that these men. are lynching. themselves.

Shifting to the history of Juneteenth, long but not widely known in Texas and even less so throughout the rest of the country (read: Caucasian America), the commemoration of the freeing of slaves announced in Galveston 155 years ago -- and two years after the Emancipation Proclamation -- is receiving highlighted emphasis in our national awakening.

Even less is known -- or acknowledged -- about the role of the fabled Texas Rangers in cleansing South Texas of the brown people who lived there before the whites arrived.

DaLyah Jones wrote in the Texas Observer about how much the Black Lives Matter rallies in East Texas meant for those of us who grew up there.

Even as things change, there remains a contingent who resist.

So as I often do here at the end of these posts, here's a couple of items to make us  -- well, me -- feel a little better.

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance does not speak in riddles when it brings you its weekly roundup of the best blog posts, Tweets, and lefty news from across the Great State.

Stories with the latest COVID 19 updates, Juneteenth celebrations, Black Lives Matter rallies, police and municipal government responses, and the disturbing backlash from the extremist right will be curated in a separate post appearing later.  This Wrangle brings developments on TXGOP foibles, the latest election news, environmental accounts, and some lighter-side items to help keep us sane in these trying times.

Governor Helen Wheels kicks us off.

Robert Rivard at his self-titled Report saluted Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff for calling Greg Abbott's bluff on face masks.  SocraticGadfly saw it (complete with quote-Photoshopping) as Gov. Strangeabbott having coronavirus blood on his hands.

Even the goons at EmpT thought Abbott lost his colostomy bag shit.

Abbott is taking his cues from Trump when it comes to dealing with the media.

Look for some live-Tweeting of this presser today (upper right-hand column) and an update as part of tomorrow's -- potentially third this week -- Wrangle.

Kuff enjoyed a bit of schadenfreude at the expense of the good folks at Empower Texans.  The Texas Signal, meanwhile, giggled at the spectacle of Ted Cruz whining about Sesame Street.

Texans (many Texans, that is) joined with all Americans -- well, most Americans -- in celebrating two significant Supreme Court decisions last week.

Continuing to mark Pride Month, Equality Texas introduces us to Elia Chinó, the founder of the Fundación Latinoamericana de Acción Social, Inc. (FLAS).

DosCentavos put the SCOTUS DACA decision into perspective.  The Dallas Observer reported on the celebrations by immigration activists over the ruling.  And Texas Rising Leaders, a project of the Texas Freedom Network, expressed relief.

Early voting in Texas begins a week from today for the July runoff elections.

The Texas Tribune writes about Joe Biden's polling in the Lone Star State, speculating that even if he doesn't win, a close contest could reshape our politics for the next decade -- think: majority in the Texas House, redistricting, etc.  Bonddad Blog did an Electoral College map that reflected all the current state polls to predict an outcome.  By contrast, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs, in his weekly White House Update, is skeptical of the early surveys, and Biden's chances here.  But in a more positive take reflecting on the TexTrib's premise, Progressives Everywhere blogged about an under-reported Dallas-area race (HD108) where Joanna Cattanach is taking on Morgan Meyer.

The evolution of racial thought and consideration in the US and Texas seems to be favoring Royce West (and others) as he appears to build momentum in the US Senate runoff.

That's even as Texas Republicans prepare to go to war with each other.

Here's a few state ecological stories from last week.

More on that from GristD Magazine picked up on an account via social media about a chemical spill in a tributary of White Rock Lake.  There is some good news: Houston is investing in nature-based infrastructure for some its bayous and waterways, according to Environment Texas.  And Save Buffalo Bayou is sponsoring an environmental forum between the two Harris County Commissioner Precinct 3 Democrats in the runoff.

Precinct 3 includes Buffalo Bayou west of Loop 610 and many tributaries, as well as other major streams like Cypress and Little Cypress creeks, part of Spring Creek and Brays Bayou, the federal flood-control reservoirs, Addicks and Barker; and much of the Katy Prairie. It also includes parts of Memorial, Spring Branch, Bellaire, West University, and more.

The west-northwest area of the county, once farm and ranch land, has been under heavy development pressure for many years, with resulting controversies over requirements for stormwater detention and preservation of the native prairie.

Nature-based approaches to reducing flood risk—prairie grasses and wetlands, trees, parks, ponds, and gardens—slow rain runoff and absorb stormwater before it even enters and overwhelms our natural (green) and built (gray) drainage systems.  Green flood management is the most practical, beneficial, and cost-effective method of reducing flood risk.

For these reasons, local environmental groups are sponsoring an online forum with the Democratic candidates vying to take the place of retiring Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack, a Republican who has represented Precinct 3 since 1989.

The forum, which takes place online June 24 from 7 to 8 p.m., will focus on environmental issues. Advance registration for this event is required. To sign up go here.

The Democratic candidates are Diana Alexander, an educator, and Michael Moore, former chief of staff under Houston Mayor Bill White. The runoff election is July 14, with early voting starting on Monday, June 29 and running through Friday, July 10.

The winner will face Republican candidate Tom Ramsey in the general election on Nov. 3.  Ramsey is a four-term mayor of tiny Spring Valley Village in west Houston, a civil engineer and until 2015, senior vice-president of Klotz and Associates, now RPS Group, a major contractor with Harris County and the Harris County Flood Control District.

Can you believe this is only half of what's been Wrangled from last week?  I've got coronavirus -- stories, that is -- and lots of racial justice/injustice news collated to post later (probably tomorrow, I'm guessing, but check back anyway for updates).

Here's some softer fare to close out.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Race for the White House Update: Trump gets booked

By John Bolton and by his niece, Mary.

President Donald Trump “pleaded” with China’s Xi Jinping during a 2019 summit to help his reelection prospects, according to a scathing new book by former Trump adviser John Bolton that accuses the president of being driven by political calculations when making national security decisions.

Odd how Bolton appears (I've only read an excerpt and some reviews) not to have mentioned some of these things when he was questioned under oath by impeachment managers and attorneys.

Don't know about yours, but my summer reading list is full.

And the hits just keep on comin'.

Now we're in Putin/Kim territory (as if we weren't previously).  With all this depressing news, you can kinda understand why Trump needs a rally right about now.

Masks optional, hand sanitizer available, social distancing not required.

That's the most I've blogged about Shitler in months.  It's been better for my mental health to have muted his Tweets, ignored the most hysterical of Resistance members who lose their minds on a daily basis over him, and generally just avoided getting triggered by his ignorance, his cruelty, his malignant narcissism, his sociopathy, and all the rest.  I spent eight years being mad at Bush Jr., after all, and decided the day after Election Day 2016 that I wasn't going to relive that again.  To be clear: Trump is a symptom of a broken political system.  There are simply no excuses for Hillary Clinton to have lost to him, no matter how many she has made or have been made for her.

And if you should happen to agree that Trump is the product of a dysfunctional America, then you must agree that Joe Biden has been one of the architects of it.

Why can't somebody sneak "I support Medicare for All" onto Joe's teleprompter?

Personally, I blame Obama.

But Joe has had plenty of enablers and gaslighters.

Still he is on his way to a landslide victory.  Not Trump; Biden.

That's Josh Putnam's map.  Here's mine as of today.

Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

Yes, I'm of the opinion that Joe is going to make it too close, and that the polling will be as unsound and unpredictable as ever.  There's lots of concerns about voter suppression, faulty voting machines, whether people will be able to vote by mail because of the virus, whether the counties can handle the massive flow of mail ballots regardless, etc.

And if you're voting blue, you're really voting for the person Biden selects as running mate.  That woman is going to be the president of the United States sooner than later.  The public polls remain very favorable to Elizabeth Warren.

Follow the 7-count thread to the link for more.  I'm still thinking Kamala, but reports indicate Val Demings and Keisha Bottoms have moved up into the top four.  Update: Amy pulls the plug, and endorses ... anybody but Warren.  Maybe Joe could still do better.

Doesn't matter to me anyway.  Whoever loses has a base that won't accept the result; Texas won't be close unless it's a landslide, and I'll be voting Green or indy no matter what.

"B-B-B-But the Supreme Court!"

Notoriously bad, Ruth.  "B-B-B-But a vote for ________ is a vote for Trump!"

As it happens, there is but one man standing between Trump and a second term.  And his name is ...