Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Two-fer Tuesday Round-up from Far Left Texas


Twenty-twenty two is warming up as summer approaches and dreams of electoral sugarplums dance in a few heads.  Greg Abbott draws his first -- far from the last -- far-right primary challenger.


If the MAGAts don't split their vote among other freak-right foes with delusions of grandeur, then their strike at the king might not miss.  On the other hand, Scott Braddock observes that it will likely come down to a runoff.


I'll repeat my assertion that Governor Wheels only loses in 2022 to a Trumpist.  I doubt whether that will be Huffines, but there are plenty of other loonies in the bin with better bonafides and fewer marbles.  Maybe even somebody with more money than Huffines, for that matter.

Which is also the reason why I encouraged Progress Texas to stand up for their principles instead of being a flack for the Donkey nominee again.


Fat chance, I know.

The other candidate taking a leap yesterday is a centrist Democrat who wants to replace Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson in Congress.


Hamilton joins one of the best progressive Democrats in the country, already declared for this race but as usual not getting the free corporate media coverage.  I wonder why (not really; I know why, and have for a while now).


And Jacob Vaughn at the Dallas Observer has the Big D city council races you might want to know about.  It was kinda nice to lead off this post with something besides shitty Lege conduct, although they did not absolve themselves yesterday.


One big victory.


Progrexas links to the TexTrib's story about an alliance of state oil and environmental interests that blocked a bill that would've given a West Texas nuclear waste company a break on their fees.  And Luke Metzger for Environment Texas is counting down the days (25) left in the regular session with an update on where his organization's priorities lie.

I haven't posted anything about COVID in a long time, and all the links I've been saving have gone stale.  This story, below, is of concern for the most obvious of reasons: it's one thing to decide not to wear a mask or not get a shot; it's quite something else to attack the doctors who are safe-guarding the rest of us.


A spot of good news:


Topic de jour in The Big Greasy yesterday was the large Bengal on the loose in west Houston.  The story quickly got much weirder.


Just go read Miya Shay's other tweets.


Topical, in light of what is happening in Gaza.


Leftist and labor activists have been busy.


And the Screwston Anti-Fascist Committee kept George Floyd's crypt safe from potential vandals over the weekend.

Reid Hopkins, one of Jim Henley's former students, wrote a touching remembrance of his former teacher for the Houston Press.

Closing out today with one art and one lit tweet, courtesy Texas Monthly.

Monday, May 10, 2021

"I Can Almost See Sine Die" Wrangle


A tumultuous week last.


"The most conservative 48 hours in Texas history", Bud Kennedy at the Startlegram wrote.  And it still wasn't good enough for them.


At least Texas Democrats can muster a protest on the south steps of the Capitol, amirite?


Saturday was local and consent calendar day, and the mood was ...


Find the rare Texas Republican that gets the Pink Floyd reference.

Since these beans were hashed, smothered, fried and refried last week, I'll move on to some topics neglected; namely election and politics news developments.

The biggest enchilada left on the buffet for the Donks is the mayor's seat in Fort Worth.


In this Wrangle last week I posted that Austin had approved ranked choice voting for their city elections.  D Magazine says it's time for Dallas to do the same.  (Hey, Houston? San Antonio? Bueller?)

Serving notice to Joe Biden on his failures in South Texas are John-Michael Torres of La Unión, Norma Herrera of the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, and Roberto Lopez of the Texas Civil Rights Project, writing in the Rio Grande Guardian.  Nathan Newman in The Week points to a lifeline that the president could throw to El Paso and other blue cities in red states.

El Paso is being squeezed.

In 2019, the Texas state legislature passed SB2, which limits property tax increases to 3.5 percent per year. Meanwhile most of the city's budget is based on largely unfunded state mandates. And where the state in 2008 funded 45 percent of local education costs, that's been reduced to just 39 percent today.

So even before the COVID-19 crisis hit, "the wiggle room we have to spend on projects we think are important becomes smaller and smaller," observes El Paso County Commissioner David Stout.

A city similar in size to Boston and Washington, D.C., El Paso is politically a blue triangle at the far end of a sea of red in West Texas -- and Stout thinks politics plays a big role in the increasing limits on local spending: "The state legislature wants to stop local progressive policies from being put in place."

[...]

Luckily for the residents of these localities, there's new hope for an escape. President Biden's American Rescue Plan and the revival of Congressional earmarks are giving local cities, particularly in red states, the first chance in a generation to creatively plan new local projects to demonstrate the possibilities of progressive government.

El Paso's Stout says since Texas "has preempted us so much and taken over our budget, the only way we can fund anything else is through money coming from the federal government."

Read on.  And the H-Town firefighters whipped Sylvester Turner again.  Long past time to throw in the towel and pay the men and women, Mr. Mayor.


Criminal and social justice and injustice news:


Which member of the Supreme Court said that racism is over in America?  I forget his name -- I think it rhymes with Juan Boberts -- but I hear he's supposed to be the swing moderate vote now.  He's probably not on Twitter anyway.


*heavy sigh*

How about some environmental updates?

Rachel Meidl at the Center for Energy Studies at Rice’s Baker Institute, writing in the HouChron, thinks that the Bayou City can become a leader in the circular plastics economySpace City Weather explains Houston's new climate normals.


Elon Musk is taking over both South Texas and Austin.


The RGV is putting up some resistance.



And the Austin Chronicle lampooned Musk last month.


Proclaiming "an end to a century's worth of frustration and a great day for the schoolchildren of Texas," Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law today (Thursday, April 1) Senate Bill 3236, authorizing the purchase of the entire city of Austin, excepting the Capitol Complex and University of Texas campus, by area Technoking Elon Musk, henceforth to also hold the title of "Iron Mayor."

That's a good one to transition to the remaining soother.  I'll have more as the Lege works their, uh, magic this week.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Mothers Day Weekend Collation from Far Left Texas


You should have already made arrangements to go see your mother, take her out for lunch or dinner, send her flowers, chocolates, or her favorite something.  If you haven't, you had certainly better call her.  This would be especially important if she is at the stage of life where her memory is receding.  If she is no longer with you, celebrate your memories of her.  And if any of that is too difficult or painful to do, then I wish you peace and strength to accept with grace the emotions you may be feeling.


The Texas Legislature closed out a very long yesterday early this morning, passing the contentious voting restrictions legislation in a party-line approval after truculent debate, procedural delays, and more incompetence by the gaffe-prone chair of the statehouse committee in charge.


Yesterday
All my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay

Unlike the Fab Four, I don't believe.


Dutton, a Houston Democrat, may be a little PO'ed because -- as the elections bills were being poured over by parliamentarians for hours on a point of order before the chamber moved on -- his bill regarding the takeover of certain (read: majority Black) HISD schools by the state was killed by a p.o.o. from Rep. Alma Allen, also of H-town.


Update:


*headdesk*


While TXGOP legislators are standing in solidarity, the House Democratic Caucus' fault lines are cracking wide open.


Most of these Blue Dogs are Latinos representing RGV districts, scared to death of losing to a Republican next year in the rising Red Tide coming to South Texas.  This is why TexDonks are in a world of hurt (among many other reasons, mostly of their own doing ... or not-doing).

Texans who will suffer most are those who have the least, as always.


Rural Texans will see their hospitals close, their doctors move away to make a better living, their loved ones get sick and die, and they will still vote a straight Republican ticket in 2022.  Even my well-endowed empathy has its limits for that amount of ignorance.

More bad at the Lege:


Pretty sure any random atheist knows there is no mention of guns in the Bible.  Not a good idea for a Christian to lie about what his god says.

Enough of this.  Moving on.


Something rich richer something poorer something.


And the environmental story of the week comes from Rolling Stone.


Abuse against female soldiers is not limited to Vanessa Guillen.


Austin has a homeless problem for a very good reason.


What percentage of 'close enough' to herd immunity will it take to protect our lives, health, and freedumbs?


Bless their hearts, Texas Democrats are fighting back with everything they have.  It's just that they don't have very much.


Kinda doubt the Gilley's folks are Democrats, but whatever; take the W where you can.  Here's a Mockery Moment.


Paxton has a lazy eye.  Ted Cruz has a lazy everything.


Sometimes these guys are funny; most of the time they are not.


Closing with the lighter side.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Hump Day Bad Lege Round-up


Today the Republican-controlled statehouse moved quickly to outlaw a woman's right to make her reproductive choices, and to criminalize the actions of those who would assist her in doing so.


The bill is designed to be challenged at the SCOTUS, in a direct threat to Roe v. Wade with the new conservative justices -- installed by a corrupt US Senate process and its former leader, Mitch McConnell -- standing by, ready to strike it down.

When the previous president outsourced judicial selection to the Federalist Society, everyone understood that McConnell's long game of blocking Obama's bench appointments had paid off.  And Senate Democratic leadership declined to pay it back, allowing Moscow Mitch to pack the courts, which included ram-rodding the abominable Amy Barrett onto the Supreme Court just a few weeks after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  Barrett's well-known beliefs on this issue is the linchpin.

Their scheme is coming to fruition.  There have been many players and many circumstances that got us to this point, but do not discount the subtle, conservative extremism of the still shiny-new Speaker of the Texas House, Dade Phelan.

A number of states have already passed six-week abortion bans, only to see them struck down -- including by conservative courts such as the Fifth Circuit, which last year threw out a Mississippi law banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. “All agree that cardiac activity can be detected well before the fetus is viable,” the court wrote, adding: “That dooms the law.” Under Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court held that women have the right to an abortion prior to the point of viability.

Pro-life groups in Texas are trying a different tack. SB8, as passed by the Senate, would leave enforcement to individuals by creating a private cause for action. Such a law might not pass constitutional muster, but it can’t be challenged via the same litigation strategy that has thwarted all the other statewide six-week bans passed to date.

“It’s legally clever in some ways,” conceded Blake Rocap, the legislative director for Avow, the nonprofit formerly known as NARAL Pro-Choice Texas.
This is Phelan's agenda.  His role -- appointing the chairs and members comprising the House committees who carry this water -- has been key.

That’s right: under SB8, anyone in the country could sue a Texan who “performs or induces an abortion in violation of this chapter” or who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance of an abortion” -- or, for that matter, who “intends to engage” in such conduct. [...] It would be absurd to be sued for such a thing, of course. But sillier lawsuits have been brought. And in addition to everything else -- and in stark contrast to the state’s general approach to frivolous lawsuits -- SB 8 would protect the litigants in such a situation, no matter how vindictive their motives or ridiculous their arguments: if you successfully defend yourself from such a lawsuit, you can’t even recoup your legal fees or other costs. [...] That may not be sufficient to thwart SB8’s passage in the House, or to prevent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott from signing it; he has declared abortion restrictions a priority for this session. Advocates are curious to see if it’s amended on the House floor -- and pessimistic about their chances of stopping the bill’s passage outright, given that the chamber is controlled by Republicans, more than 60 of whom have signed on as sponsors or cosponsors.

They will brag about this for years to come.  They will fund-raise on it.  They will gerrymander their seats so they can remain in Austin and Washington to do more and do worse, and they will restrict and suppress the votes of those who oppose them.

It's what they do.  Who's going to stop them?  Texas Democrats?


In other bad Lege news:


That's a great civics and First Amendment lesson for the kids, isn't it?


Update: The House permitless carry bill, HB1927, is being jammed through the Senate, courtesy Charles Schwertner, as I write this.


I don't have the tolerance for any more today.  I'll have a catch-up post on Friday.  I need to go long on the "calm-me-downs", previously assembled.

Republicans will rally, fund-raise this weekend to seal hold on Texas for 2022, '24


Wake me from this nightmare.


The event is this Friday.

The group of high-profile Republicans are set to appear May 7 at an Austin resort where each will be interviewed by members of the Texas congressional delegation, according to a schedule obtained by The Texas Tribune. The group includes Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida.

The event at the Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa (protest, anyone?) is being hosted by Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, and it is meant to serve as a show of appreciation to donors who raised millions of dollars last year for efforts to keep Texas red and register new GOP voters.

I don't suppose you noticed who's missing?


I hear Mango Hitler needs a running mate for 2024.  I'll go ahead and put down some early money on ^that^ being the ticket.

Take a moment if needed to purge your stomach of its contents.

Cornyn is set to be the delegation member who interviews Pence, while U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin will interview Pompeo, U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales of San Antonio will interview Rubio, U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Houston will interview DeSantis, Rep. August Pfluger of San Angelo will interview Cotton, Rep. Roger Williams of Austin will interview Rick Scott, Rep. Kevin Brady of The Woodlands will interview Tim Scott and Rep. Beth Van Duyne of Arlington will interview Christie.

Abbott, who himself has not ruled out a 2024 White House bid, is expected to speak but may have to stick around the Texas Capitol, where the biennial legislative session is in its final weeks.

The big-name Republicans are using the Texas trip to also disperse across the state to fundraise for Take Back the House Texas 2022, a joint fundraising committee made up of the campaigns of the Texas GOP congressmen who had the closest races last year, according to a source familiar with their plans but not authorized to discuss them on the record. Pence will raise money for the committee Thursday in Austin, while Cotton will be in Fort Worth a day earlier. There will also be fundraisers Thursday with Pompeo in Houston, Rubio in San Antonio, and Tim Scott and Chris Christie in Dallas.

This is a full-court press right from the jump, and Texas Democrats, pantsed less than a week ago in local elections from the Rio Grande to the Sabine to the Red, are unlikely to have their drawers off the floor in time for anything approaching an effective response.

At this point only a vaccine-resistant COVID variant or a giant meteor is going to save us.  I just don't believe that Matthew McConaghey or Beto O'Rourke have what it takes, but somebody please ... make it stop.

I'll have a regular Hump Day Round-up, with all the regular horrors, later today.

Monday, May 03, 2021

The Losers' Wrangle from Far Left Texas *w/updates


Congratulations to Texas Democrats, who sunk to a new electoral low over the weekend.



Democrats hoping for some encouraging signs in Texas did not find any on Saturday in a special election to fill a vacant congressional seat. Instead, they found themselves locked out of a runoff that will now see two Republicans battle for the seat in northern Texas.

Democrats who needed a strong turnout to be competitive did not get one. They were hoping for signs of weakness in the Republican brand because of the state’s disastrous response to the brutal winter storm in February or any signs of weariness with Trump, but they did not see that, either.


That didn't stop Our Revolution Texas and Gilberto Hinojosa from trying to spin a sow's ear into a silk purse.  Nobody was taking that ride, except maybe Chuckles Kuffner.  It's truly comical reading what he blogs before an election and what he writes after it when the Donks get skunked.  Hey, I get it; it's hard out here for a blue pimp in Tejas.  But for us recovering Democrats, well, hate to say I toldja so, but...


Update: Sanchez weighs in.


As Weigel further observed ...

"Lowest cost per vote of any candidate who engaged in fundraising" - I mean, that’s as good as winning

Marjorie Taylor Greene, the expert on everything MAGA, also tried to warn y'all.  I don't blame ya for not paying attention to her, though.  Update: And as sure as the sun came up on the east coast of Florida this morning, Trump took credit for Susan Wright's win.  TXElects says he deserves it.  And Living Blue in TX excoriated Arlington Dems for not turning out to vote.

In other Saturday election developments, liberals and liberal causes fared no better elsewhere in the state.


Andrea Grimes, writing for the Texas Observer, ruefully points out that even if the Lone Star State did turn blue, there would remain some uncomfortable truths to confront.  Don't worry, Andrea; it ain't hapnin' for quite a while longer.

There was a bright spot for Dems in Cowtown.


Update: And also a ballot initiative in Austin that cleared voter approval: ranked choice voting.

There were several more despicable attempts to move the extremist agenda through the Lege last week; here's just a few beyond the Briscoe Cain debacle.


And with RoofieGate quickly handled in typical Hillco most-influential-lobbying-firm way, the latest expose' from women who have to work in these conditions hits with a soft thud.


Oil is up; the Comptroller told us Monday afternoon that tax collections are booming; it's bidness as usual.  God Bless Red Texas.  (The rest of you poor bastards can suffocate.)

Socratic Gadfly saw a mix of hypocrisy, unconstitutionality, and pander bear-ing from Texas Senate Legiscritters.  Reform Austin -- they have really done the best work covering the session -- asks the right question: what happens if Medicaid does not get expanded?  Hint: hope you don't live in the boondocks and get sick.


Update:


As vice chairman of the House Calendars Committee, which helps decide the legislation that will make it to the House floor, Speaker Pro Tempore Joe Moody, D-El Paso, said Democrats' best chance in years of expanding Medicaid likely will not pass this legislative session.

“I think we’re losing an opportunity there, and I think it would certainly help. It would be good for Texas. It would be good for business to expand healthcare in Texas," he said on Sunday’s Inside Texas Politics. "Failing to do that for another session is certainly something we will walk away shaking our heads about."


Yeah, the governor may be ignorant about the bill but it's more likely he is just lying about it.  SB7 prohibits early voting after 9 p.m., which would mean fewer voting hours in many counties that allow voting later, like Harris County for one.  And it fails to codify the extra week of early voting that the state had in 2020, so there will be fewer days of early voting in 2022 than last year.

In early takes on redistricting, Kuff noted the state falling short of projections in getting only two more congressional districts from the 2020 census apportionment.  David Beard also looked at how the early census numbers might affect future congressional elections.

Let me not slight the actual progress made last week under the Pink Dome.


Reform Austin celebrated the rare good bill in the Lege.  And the Austin Chronicle reported on an organized legal pushback against the latest wave of anti-choice bills.

May Day -- the international celebration of workers -- on Saturday last was cheered by ExxonMobil's refinery in Beaumont locking out their 600+ Steelworkers union employees.  Right on the heels of their $2.7 billion first-quarter profit announcement.  There is no greed like Big Oil greed.


With more of the latest Tex Trib polling to be Tweeted out today, along with a few of the usual suspects behaving badly, some COVID, environmental, criminal, and social justice posts still in the hopper, I'll pause here and save all that for later.  Here's some of the lighter fare to close.

Texas Highways gives us 24 hours in the life of Buc-ee's.

Friday, April 30, 2021

"Briscoe Cain is His Name"* Week-Ending Wrangle


And Cain is what he raised yesterday at the state capital.

(Yesterday afternoon, self-described 'parliamentary guru') Rep. Briscoe Cain, the chair of the House Elections Committee made an unexpected move when he tried to replace the Senate’s priority voting bill with his own. His scheming fell short thanks to one abstention from Republican Travis Clardy and led to the bill being withdrawn, but it signals how contentious voting legislation has become.

Update 8:50 pm, April 29: The House Elections Committee passed SB 7 on a party-line vote 5-4 late Thursday night. In a committee substitute, Chairman Cain replaced the text of SB 7 with his bill, HB 6, and then proceeded without a public hearing because he argued the text of the substitute already received a hearing two weeks ago. Despite claims by Cain and Speaker Dade Phelan that the House priority voting restriction bill is very different from SB 7, they used this maneuver to move the Governor’s emergency item on election integrity faster as the session enters its final month. It also allows the two chambers to negotiate what they like (known as "conference committee") in each of their omnibus voting restriction bills to send to the Governor’s desk.

Before voting it out of committee, Democrats tried to add amendments to prevent intimidation by poll watchers and voter assistants’ mistakes from being criminalized and to collect data on the disparate racial impact of penalties in SB 7 and AG investigations opened from them. All were voted down also on party lines.

The outrage from the afternoon move couldn't even catch up to the evening's. That's how fast this House is working under Speaker Phelan's lead. Expect more of the same on the rest of their agenda.


And RoofieGate was quickly swept under the rug.


Yeah, they just don't give a shit what anybody thinks (unless you're voting in their primary election, that is). Speaking of elections, there's several happening around the state happening tomorrow, and one in the Fort Worth area for the Congressional vacancy. There should be a runoff in that one.


Some Texas Democrats were giddy, some more practical after Biden's speech Wednesday night, and the announcements previously that two Texans are heading to Washington to serve the president.


Not all good news for Team Donkey, though.


With respect to Gonzalez and ICE, I've already done all the pushing back on Twitter I'll be doing for now. Will wait to see what he does before commenting further, but don't have much in the way of expectations on reforms. ACAB.


I'll dedicate the rest of this post to catching up on topics I've neglected for awhile, so first up: environmental news.


Your takeaway from the poll below? Eleven percent of self-identified Texas Democrats either do not think -- or are unsure -- that climate change is happening.


'Not as bad as the TXGOP' is a bar too low, y'all. Do better.


And yes, we still have to fight our legislators to stop rewarding the oil companies and punishing the greens for trying to fix things.


A few COVID updates:


And some criminal and social justice developments.


I'll wrap this Wrangle with the latest from Boca Chica, or Starbase, or whatever they're calling it.


And a few soothers.


*With all apologies to Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson.