Wednesday, March 31, 2021

'Election Integrity' extends to Judge Hidalgo, too

Not just the Republicans at the Lege, mind you.

We're not speaking of voter suppression today, but actual election integrity, a problem that many people think the new voting machines purchased by the Harris County commissioners have solved.  I don't think so, Judge Lina Hidalgo.

What were those concerns again?

That's a thirteen-count thread -- here's the unroll -- and it's pretty alarming.  Note in the replies there the experts who express misgivings, and the local activist who lobbied Commissioners Court in vain prior to the county's $54 million buy.  I asked Brad Friedman of BradBlog to weigh in; he is, to my experience, one of the nation's pre-eminent experts in the field of what we used to call black box voting, a topic he's covered -- and one detailed by many others -- for 20 years.

Uh oh. What about local authority Dan Wallach, of Rice University?  He's expressed no concerns that I can find about the Hart InterCivic Verity Duo, this new tech from the same vendor which supplied our old e-Slates with the scrolling wheel.  Wallach testified last week (.pdf) before the Texas Senate's State Affairs committee about election security; he writes at Medium, his Twitter page contains more geeks talking voting tech, and he's been published frequently, including by Zach Despart of the Houston Chronicle in October of last year about this topic.

My interpretation of his recent remarks is: "these latest machines are better than what Harris County had before, but that's not saying much". (Professor Wallach, if you read this and I have you mistaken, please feel free to correct me.)

Of course if Judge Hidalgo, or Elections Aministrator Isabel Longoria, or whoever monitors the Twitter accounts of Harris Votes or Hart InterCivic had wanted to respond to my concerns, they could have done so already.  Maybe they're all too busy to do so.  Maybe they have their Twitter notifications turned off.  Maybe I'm just a lowly blogger who isn't worthy of a response.  Maybe they didn't know about these issues (that doesn't fly for Hart); maybe they just don't give a shit.  We don't know, because nobody has said anything.

Somehow I expected more from a public servant whom I have voted for, donated to, and praised on these pages as a "rising star in the Democratic Party".

At any rate, if you want to take a look at how the new voting machines work, Judge Hidalgo and John Coby have a preview.

As for me, I'm voting by mail.  With an actual hand-marked paper ballot.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Taco Tuesday Wrangle from Far Left Texas

Here in H-Town, we'll also be celebrating World Taco Day tomorrow.

Efforting today to get everything I can into two posts; this early edition and another later today tomorrow morning.  *heavy sigh*  Opening with some of the less-than-usual subjects to clear out my Texas Republicans Behaving Badly file.

This toon commemorates the bastardizing of Toby Keith's "Beer for my Horses" by Rep. Chip Roy, who tried to normalize lynching as an excuse for the way AAPI Americans have been treated since the pandemic began ... a story about two weeks old.  Roy has had almost as much trouble with 'old sayings in Texas' as did GW Bush.  Stupid is as stupid does.

If you haven't read this yet, please do so.

About a week after the March 10th order went into effect, I was working a closing shift with two other young women. A man came in with a mask on but pulled it down to order. My 18-year-old coworker asked him nicely to keep his mask up. He pulled the mask down farther, and she asked him again. He went off the rails: "I am a 40-year-old man, I can scratch my nose if I want to. Give me your manager's phone number. I don't think he's going to be impressed with your attitude. I was going to give a tip to you and your friends, but your attitude just lost it." And on and on until he finally left.

My co-workers and I were shaken. If we had asked him to leave, he might have gotten more agitated. If my other co-worker or I had stepped in, he might have seen it as a threat and the situation might have escalated. We had heard about violent, even fatal attacks on customer service workers who were trying to enforce mask policies. Despite all the signage on our doors and our manager's policy to not serve those without masks, we still had to sweetly listen while this man berated a young woman less than half his age who is working to pay her way through college. We felt completely helpless.

While leaving the decision up to businesses and "individuals" sounds like a very Texan way to handle a global health crisis, it's not protecting Texans.

Thanks again, Greg Abbott.

Here's a few legislative updates to yesterday posted in non-chronological order.

HB17 is a bad bill, according to Luke Metzger at Environment Texas, who says it makes the state less secure from electrical blackouts, like what happened with Winter Storm Uri.  Metzger also has a list of the best and worst bills his organization is supporting. (More eco-news in the next Wrangle.)

There's my segue to the aggregation of BLM, social justice, and 'cops behaving badly' stories.  This rally, below, was yesterday.

Darius TarverIsrael IglesiasBotham JeanJavier Ambler.  And Mike Ramos.  Say their names.  As you watch the trial of Derek Chauvin this week, keep in mind that these are not isolated cases.  Police killing POC for minor offenses, or no offense at all -- and not killing extremist white men who've slain multiple people, often POC, with guns -- is an American epidemic.  It will require the full urgency of white men and women to make it stop.

Environmental news and a few of the more uplifting stories, including what I intend to be a regular feature, art and the arts, will be in this afternoon/evening tomorrow's Wrangle.  Closing here with some Texans we say goodbye to.

And the passing of Don Bankston, husband of "Juanita Jean", also an associate judge and the former Fort Bend County Democratic party chairman, is a loss that reverberates throughout southeast Texas politics.  My most sincere condolences to Susan, their sons, and her extended family.

Monday, March 29, 2021

The Weekly Wrangle from Far Left Texas

The Lege is holding many hearings on various bills this morning, and there's a lot of play-by-play under the hashtag.

The Dallas Observer warns of the threat to voters with disabilities in the Legislature's vote suppression bills. Ballot Access News reports that state Rep. Phil King's HB1848 would allow the governor, lieutenant governor, and House speaker to change the date of the 2022 primaries, in case census data needed for redistricting is too late for the state to hold its regularly-scheduled March primary. They could choose a date as late as July 1, 2022.

Moving the (primary elections) to a later date would have big consequences for ballot access petitioning in 2022. Petitions for independent candidates and new parties can’t begin until after the primary.

Lots and lots more for tomrrow morning, including updates to the above, some criminal justice news, and more Republicans behaving badly, but today -- tonight, this is the evening update -- let's relish the mockery of Ted Cruz's latest stunts at the border.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Friday Lone Star Leftist Roundup

-- Texas Democrats are playing defense at the Lege on voting rights, abortion rights, and trans rights; Texas Republicans are on offense in the Valley on ... well, pretty much everything.

Cosplay is fun, won't get the job done.

I am shocked, shockedIsayshocked, that the Pachys are outworking the Donkeys.  Twenty twenty-two is going to be a red wave of epic proportions, and Gilberto Hinojosa will never see it coming.  In the meantime, Lillie Schechter -- chair of the Harris County Democrats -- will be hosting a fundraiser spotlighting Nancy Pelosi or Hillary Clinton for the tenth time.  Not even the Mithoffs have enough money to buy her a clue.

If only there were a political party that was actually for the people ...

Sidebar: To be serious, Greg Abbott has a ridiculous amount of stamina for a guy who has been in a wheelchair for nearly 37 years.  He also keeps himself in remarkably good condition; virtually all of the wheelchair users I know IRL carry some extra weight around the midsection; Abbott does not.  We've seen the campaign videos of his night-time workouts rolling up the ramps of parking garages in Austin, but he also must exercise a lot of discipline in his calorie intake to stay as slim as he is.

See?  I'm capable of the occasional compliment.  His commitment to physical health is commendable, but it doesn't change the fact that he is a self-loathing sociopath.  And mark "Hell No, Beto" as next year's campaign slogan.

-- Abbott's trying to boost the state's economy just in time to get re-elected, but ripping everybody's mask off has convention planners around the country saying, "thanks, but no thanks" to Austin.

If the Guvnah loses, it will only be in the GOP primary.  TexDems should focus on lower-hanging fruit, and to my thinking that would be Ken Paxton, who is simply another one of those cops who thinks he's above the law.  Either Joe Jaworski or Lee Merritt are more than capable enough to eject him.

-- Briscoe Cain, "parliamentary guru", had a super bad day at his bill hearing yesterday.  Thanks to RG Ratcliffe for pointing it out.

I thought you had to be at least 15 years old to run for the statehouse.

-- Winter Storm Uri has officially killed more Texans than Hurricane Harvey.  Damn those evil RussiansSocratic Gadfly also blogged about the Texas Freeze kabuki theater under the Dome.

-- Harris County's new voting machines have a paper trail!  Too bad they're still shit.

I had lots more for this Roundup but my disgust in documenting the atrocities has again overwhelmed my desire to do so.  Breaking it off here to head into what will hopefully be another glorious weekend of college basketball, spring training baseball, all-I-can-eat crawfish and everything else that makes spring in Houston the best time of the year.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Hump Day Tex-Left Aggregation

Not to be conflated with aggravation (which could easily occur, considering all of these bad actors and their corresponding acts).

Their junior partners in dastardliness, Austin branch, strove to keep up.

It's been a very busy week at the Lege; their spring break was canceled by Winter Storm Uri and so lawmakers had no choice but to dig in on their heavy workload.  These stories suggest that we might all be better off if they had not.

RA also reports that the push to make Texas a "2nd Amendment Sanctuary" continues unabated in the wake of the Boulder, CO and Atlanta spa killings.

Texas House Bill 19 proposes to change liability laws concerning trucking companies, those who are involved in 18-wheeler accidents, and the lawsuits that result.

I would imagine that The Texas Hammer and The Texas Bulldog -- among their cohorts at TTLA -- are going to work hard to defeat this legislation.

There are new police chiefs in Austin (interim) and Houston (permanent).  Let's expect there NOT to be the same old problems.

Kim Ogg is indeed one of the very worst Democrats in Harris County.  But reformers who ran against her last year were handily defeated, because she has the HGLBT Caucus in her corner.  If John Whitmire is successful in courting their favor in his presumptive bid for H-Town mayor in 2022 2023, then the race is over before it begins, as Kuffner finally noted yesterday (remember what I said last week about him fawning over this news?  All I got wrong was the timing of his post).

There is no f'n way I will vote for Whitmire for mayor.  I'm sick to death of old white centrist Democrats running anything, and I'm especially tired of watching emasculated Lege Democrats think the mayor's office would be a great retirement gig.

To that end (sort of), one Latino Democrat in the Valley reads the writing on the wall, and one Black Dem in North Texas throws in against Ken Paxton.

He joins Galveston legal eagle Joe Jaworski in that primary.  Moving on to some climate headlines:

And since I have plenty more for a Friday Roundup, I'll close this Aggregation with a few stories that commemorate and celebrate.

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Ketchup Wrangle from Far Left Texas

Last week I said I would post a Great State update on Tuesday and delivered on Wednesday, followed by another promised on Thursday, which was not posted then, nor Friday, nor Saturday.  As my old former blogging friend Neil Aquino used to say, "either you run the blog or the blog runs you."  The lovely spring weather and all of the coming-out events last week took precedence over following up on our miserable political representation.  If you got outside over the course of the past several days then you know exactly what I mean.

“It’s overwhelming because we just jumped back into everything so quickly. Everyone is asking you to come do this or come do that but, at the end of the day, I’m just happy to see my friends and everybody having a good time being out and about.”

Everywhere I went people had shed their masks, were enjoying the sun and each other's company, were dressed up and made up, and living with a sense of things returning to normal after a year of hiding indoors at home, scared of invisible bugs, washing our hands until they're cracked dry, and wearing sweat pants and no underwear.

Maybe that last was just me.  Not paying attention -- whether it be to COVID safety protocols or to ongoing misbehavior at the Lege -- can have a steep price.

"Election integrity", i.e. voter suppression, is how we got started this time last weekGovernor Wheels stayed busy and on point with his hypocrisy, as you know.

He and Dade Phelan did manage to cut off Dan Patrick and SB2142 at the knees, which may or may not be a win for Texans.  The session still has a long way to go, and there will be lots of things these people won't be doing anything about.

Here I'll shift focus for this first Wrangle to the more positive and happy things happening.  Reform Austin posts "Good Bill Hunting", a semi-regular series that finds the silver lining under the Dome, this week focusing on Rep. James Talarico's $70K teacher salary bill.

And with lots on all the usual topics in the funnel, I'm wrapping here with more of the feel-good before posting the snark, the bad behavior, and the just plain atrocious later.  Whenever (but soon).

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Sunday "Everyday Madness" Funnies

Nick Anderson, who founded Counterpoint, was interviewed by Houstonia Magazine about his cartooning career post-newspapers: "(A)rtists from all political leanings are providing takes on today’s biggest headlines as contributors. Of the 18 satirists, ten -- like Anderson -- saw their jobs cut. It’s too soon to know if Counterpoint will hit it big (at the moment it has more than 170,000 subscribers), but if it does this could be a way to ensure that his art form doesn’t just die out."

Please support their work if you possibly can.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Wednesday Tex-Leftist Assemblage *updates

Post promised yesterday, delivered today!  Just like Paul DeJoy's USPS.

Seriously, Offline gets in the way of Online at times, and when the plumber called to say he was free to make repairs sooner than I had anticipated, I dropped everything except the laptop and made time for him.  Update: A few things once again interfered with extending this post earlier.  More and latest finally appears below.

Life comes at ya fast, and who would understand that better than the newly unemployed Arthur D'Andrea.

He was Greg Abbott's last remaining commissioner.  Now he (we) has none.  You may ask yourself: "How did I (we) get here?"

Ah yes, the invisible hand of the free market.  The hand that Dan Patrick has decided he would like to cut off at the wrist.

House Speaker Dade Phelan doesn't care for this much guv'ment meddlin', and declared so instantly after Patrick rammed his 'fix' through the Senate.

Shortly after that, Phelan said his chamber would ignore the Senate's bill.  Little Dan's reaction was predictable.  But he also upped the ante, demanding Abbott pressure Phelan to take up his legislation (technically, it's not dead until Saturday).

Update: Things were somewhat calmer in Austin today at the Big 3's breakfast.

But not so much at Abbott's next stop in Dallas.

Governor Hell on Wheels.  No exaggeration.

I'm leaving up these hot takes from the close Lege watchers about #SB2142.

This post's most significant updates concern HPD honcho Art Acevedo heading east for Miami's top job, and several developments around that, including the surprise from Mimi Swartz at the end.

Nice way to say adios, Chief.  Schaefer Edwards at the Houston Press delivered yet another expose' of Acevedo, including the reminder that El Jefe de Policia is a self-confessed RINO.  So what I mentioned yesterday about his political future being in the Sunshine State was no joke.  And what John Whitmire let slip today seems to confirm that Acevedo has been planning his escape from H-Town for a while now.

First of all, a hard 'NO' on Whitmire.  Second: expect a bootlicking post from Charles Kuffner tomorrow morning about what wonderful news this is.  He's been thick as a brick on Acevedo for years; I have no expectation of him catching a clue now.  Kuff is a big part of the reason I don't use the word 'progressive' to describe anybody but Democrats like Joe Biden.

This updated Assemblage is too late as it is, and there's a green beer with my name on it waiting, so I'll stop here and save everything I'm still holding for tomorrow.  Not too early, though.

Until then, enjoy the flowers and the bagpipes.

Monday, March 15, 2021

The Far Left (Bracketville, Texas) Wrangle *updates

First we have to play word games with Greg Abbott and his Lege capos.

They talked specifically about SB7.  Here's more about the press conference this morning, the hastily-arranged protest, and the legislation.

Just another of his Grand Diversions, one that caters to the "Stop the Steal" Caucus in the TXGOP, which he'll need next year to fend off a challenge from Sid Miller ... or Dan Patrick.

After the freeze, Patrick said the head of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas should go, along with Abbott’s three appointees at the PUC. All but (Arthur) D’Andrea are now gone, evidence that the lieutenant governor has taken some control of the situation.

That’s a political move, whether that was his aim or not. Patrick is exerting his powers at the expense of the governor, a member of the same party — albeit of a different wing of the GOP — who has been both an ally and an adversary since the two men were elected to their current posts in 2014.

I had discounted Patrick as a gubernatorial contender as recently as last Friday.  But you just can't blow off Dan shoveling sand underneath Greg's wheels.  I still think Patrick knows he really does have the best job in Austin, bar none, and also wouldn't mind having some greenhorn like Miller or Allen West in the Governor's Mansion to groom as opposed to the wily and wealthy Abbott.

Yes, it's that bad here in Deep-In-The Hearta.  Somebody like that could win.  I'll have more on Abbott's presser this afternoon.  Update:

Texas is either at the top of the wave or the bottom of the trough as it relates to COVID:

Where we go from here -- down or back up -- will be determined by our collective personal actions, and not by anything the state government says or does.

And Houstonia Magazine looked back on the year in COVID.

I have a ton of criminal justice news.  Here's just a smattering; more tomorrow.

Absolutely spot on by Barajas here.  When Acevedo came to Houston from Austin, he carried the heavy baggage associated with how three APD undercover detectives infiltrated the capital city's OWS protesters, who in late 2011 staged a protest at the Port of Houston and were arrested for 'felony possession of a criminal instrument', which were "dragon sleeves" that the cops made for them.  That's called entrapment.  Acevedo is fairly masterful at gaslighting; he marched with BLM protesters this past year in downtown H-Town, then disappeared just as his SWAT team moved in.  Art Acevedo is a bad cop pulling off a long con as a good cop.  He's been doing it for at least a decade.  I sure hope he doesn't run for political office in Florida as a Republican.  He'll be swept in.

It's no wonder, though, that he's getting out just as Sly Turner is winding down his time as mayor.  Acevedo and Turner are two bedbugs in a rug when it comes to law and order.

Keeps the Abbott/Adler heat off Turner, I suppose.

Tribune of the People also covered this story.  And Grits for Breakfast mentions "bootlicking public officials as a barrier to police reform".  Whooda thunk? 

I have still more 'cops behaving badly' for tomorrow; for now we'll move along to the humanitarian crisis at the southern border.

El Paso Matters reports that an ICE facility there has frequently violated rules for handling sick detainees, according to legal activists.  All of these wretched things have motivated some Congressional Democrats to demand the Biden administration make some changes, but so far there's only been a few milquetoast words from Homeland Security Dirctor Mayorkas.  I wonder if this calamity will eventually put a dent in Biden's popularity ratings.

I'll hold other Lege news for later.  Here's the environmental update.

CNBC says that the flaring message is getting through.

For many oil producers in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico, the shutdown put upstream and downstream operations in a squeeze. Downstream, multiple refining operations flared during shutdowns, releasing air pollutants from processing units. Upstream, as oil drilling came back online, there was risk of needing to flare or halt oil production in the field until the broader energy market, including refining and utility generation, stabilized. Indeed, satellite imagery showed increased flaring at oil and gas production sites in the Permian Basin did take place, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

But at Occidental, a choice was made to shut down some operations.

“There were a couple of plants that had difficulty coming back online,” Occidental’s CEO Vicki Hollub said during a recent CNBC Evolve event focused on energy innovation. “We could have put our production back online and just flared the gas. We chose not to do that. We left the production shut down because we didn’t want to flare.”

And the Texas Living Waters Project warned that the state's aging water infrastructure is another vulnerability highlighted by Winter Storm Uri.

I got some hoops.

There was a time when men's college basketball in the Lone Star State wasn't such a big deal.  But that was before Guy V. Lewis and Billy Tubbs and Pat Foster (and a few others, like Don Haskins).  Nowadays it's all about Kelvin Sampson and Shaka Smart and Scott Drew and Chris Beard (and a few others).

This is the week, the best time of the year, to take the afternoon off and day-drink, eat crawfish (or Irish stew), watch the March Madness or spring training baseball.  I plan on doing some of all of that.

Just make sure you observe the holiday properly.

And to close out:

More tomorrow, hopefully not this long.