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 His scheming fell short thanks to one abstention from Republican Travis Clardy and led to the bill being withdrawn, but it signals how contentious voting legislation has become.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.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Taco Tuesday, Hold the Roofie Wrangle

Texas suffers under many ailments, but one is not an overabundance of critical thinking.  Big Lies over inconvenient truths rule, man.

This was last Friday's news, which barely makes a ripple among the daily atrocities, it seems.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott dispatched a top aide to the ERCOT operations center on the night the grid operator made the controversial decision to leave electricity prices at maximum levels -- a move blamed for creating a multi-billion dollar mess.

Abbott has squarely placed the blame for the blackout boondoggle on ERCOT, which operates the power grid, and called for its CEO to resign right after the lights started coming back on across Texas on Thursday, Feb. 18. The ERCOT board eventually fired its CEO.

Unmentioned while Abbott was distancing himself from the power outage fiasco and railing against ERCOT on TV: a top energy policy adviser, Ryland Ramos, spent the previous night -- and into early Thursday morning -- at the agency’s operations center in Taylor, outside of Austin. That’s where ERCOT’s high-tech control room, handling the flow of power to most Texans, is located.

Also on hand at the previously undisclosed meeting were Public Utility Commission Chair DeAnn Walker, an Abbott appointee who later resigned under bipartisan pressure, along with representatives of four of the major electric transmission and distribution companies in Texas.

Ramos returned to the operations center Friday morning, February 19 -- right after the price cap was lifted -- and stayed there most of the day, according to ERCOT visitor logs obtained by Hearst Newspapers.

Abbott spokesman Mark Miner said neither the governor nor Ramos “were involved in any way” in the decision to keep prices at the maximum, which contributed to bankruptcies and billions in losses that will reverberate in the Texas economy for years to come. He said Abbott wanted Ramos at the operations center because he felt ERCOT was spewing “disinformation” about the crisis.

Just helping get the power back on.  Keeping those price surges under control.  Looking out for us while we froze, every step of the way.  I'm sure nobody was scream-blaming anybody for anything, regardless of what the Guvnuh was saying publicly and nevermind those heads that tumbled off the chopping block a few days later.

One thing Abbott loves is his money.  He likes to raise it, he likes to control it, he likes to hand it out to his friends and supporters.  What he doesn't like to do is spend it on anything having to do with the public good.  How would that help him at all?

With all the money Abbott has collected over the years, you'd think we -- maybe I should say 'they', since it wasn't my money -- could have gotten a little better government for their investment.  Wonder how Farris Wilks and Tim Dunn and Rich Kinder's heirs and some of those other billionaires are feeling these days about those millions wasted.  Oh well, easy come easy go.  As $60 oil reminds us, at their level money is fungible.  Like people.  Especially poor people, poor sick people, children, old folks, and Brown and Black people.  And women.  Besides, the Texas Freeze really didn't kill that many Texans, comparatively.

As long as none of our freedumbs get sacrificed, it's all good.

I'm far from Ms. Abrams' biggest fan, but when she speaks -- and acts -- on voter suppression, it comes from an unfortunate wealth of experience and knowledge.  Pay attention, Texas.

Or don't, I suppose.  Maybe that's a big part of the problem here.

It's probably time for me to move on to another topic.  More Republicans behaving badly?  There's one we haven't had enough of lately.

I'm trying to care about the TX-6 election.  It's just not registering.  Mostly because there are 23 candidates, and the latest poll shows the wife of the deceased GOP incumbent and the lady Blue Dog with the Spanish surname leading.  That sounds about right to me. *zzzz*

Here I will make space to add some Tweets that emphasize the real absurdity of what we are all going through with the Lege at the moment.

Amber Briggle is the parent of a trans child.

Yes, this one is satire, but I'd rather the first two were as well.

Two environmental updates; not at all greasy or smoky.

I don't understand why ATT and Kroger, two companies I subsidize entirely too much, keep showing up on my shit list.

 But there's good news ...

I'm not through with Lege business yet.  When they're not moving the bad bills as fast as they can, they're stalling the good ones.

Dade Phelan is a Trump/Patrick/Abbott shithole conservative, and I will keep saying it until everybody gets it.  But guess what?  If you're wondering how bad we have it in Texas, just realize there are plenty of influential Texas conservatives who think he's too liberal.

(Not familiar with critical race theory?  It's not the boogeyman.  Tangentially, expect some long and long-winded bloviating on this topic from Gadfly shortly, if he hasn't posted about it already.  You know he's the expert on everything.)

Gerrymandering will be hot, but not until the special session, commencing sometime this summer (or perhaps fall), and it's worth boning up on now.

Fun to look forward to.  I've run long here again so I'll save the rest -- criminal and social justice posts and assorted what-not -- for tomorrow or the next day.  Here's the "calm down" portion.

You a fan of beer and bicycle riding?

ACL posted Denny Freeman's obituary.

Monday, April 26, 2021

The Monday Wrangle from Far Left Texas

Recent developments among members of the Texas Legislature -- and those who lobby them -- compel me to open this edition of the collation of leftist views from around the Lone Star State with 'Republicans Behaving Badly', and this time it's not about Tweets or even shitty bills.

Meanwhile, one of the heads of the prominent Austin lobbying firm HillCo Partners wrote in a Sunday email to state lawmakers that the group had hired outside legal counsel and “a respected former law enforcement official” to launch an internal investigation into the matter.

“If facts come to light that anyone associated with HillCo partners had any involvement with such conduct, that person will be immediately terminated,” HillCo co-founder Buddy Jones wrote, adding that the firm would also cooperate with the DPS investigation. [...] Later Sunday, Bill Miller, the other HillCo co-founder, told the Tribune that the firm had been “tipped off” that one of its employees "is a person of interest" in the DPS investigation.

HillCo has been the most influential Republican-based lobbying firm for over twenty years.  (Some might take issue with "Republican", so just replace the word with "corporate" if you're 'some'.)  And maybe you're 'today' years old, hearing the names Buddy Jones and Bill Miller as two of the most powerful people in Texas politics.  That's okay; these guys prefer working in the shadows.

Miller is the public face and spokesman for HillCo Partners, and former legislator Neal T. “Buddy” Jones is the lead lobbyist (they co-founded HillCo in 1998). The firm’s clients include the City of Dallas, the public employee pension funds in Dallas and Houston, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Houston Astros, as well as various interests of Koch Industries. At (71) Miller remains a central figure in Texas politics -- so central, in fact, that it’s not easy to narrow down just what he’s up to. He seemingly has a hand in just about everything.


Texas Monthly once observed of Miller that “nobody knows exactly what he does, but they know he does it very well.” Officially, he’s a lobbyist and consultant, but that doesn’t really cover it. He’s also an adviser, a soothsayer, a pundit, and a sage. Perhaps he’s best described as a fixer: someone who generally makes the lives of public officials easier.

Journalists love Miller because he is politically insightful and gives good quotes. Politicians like him because he gives consummate back-scratching. His most infamous favor came in 2004, when he arranged for then-House Speaker Tom Craddick, a devout Catholic, to have an audience with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. Before that, Miller employed Rick Perry’s wife, Anita, as a consultant, when the future governor was the agriculture commissioner, and Miller then helped her land a job with political economist Ray Perryman. “I’m happy to do favors. I’m happy to be helpful. That is what I like to do,” Miller once told the Houston Chronicle.

Some of the links embedded above go to stories filed in 2017, but if you think anything's changed since then -- in Austin, at HillCo, at the Lege -- maybe you had better talk to some of the women who've been working there.

Update: Jeramy Kitchen at Texas Scorecard names the accused.

A few years ago my state senator, Borris Miles, was at the center of a sexual harassment scandal under the Pink Dome.  He was by no means the only legislator involved.  Miles gives every indication that he's learned better, and the voters of SD-13 have returned him to the Capitol to serve them.  But the climate, as Rep. Minjarez notes, remains the same.  And I honestly do not know what it will take to change it at this point, short of outlawing bad actors.  I really hope that happens, but Speaker Phelan and Lite Guv Patrick aren't likely to suddenly show up as men who advocate for the needed reforms.  And if the Lege follows through on blocking cities and counties from lobbying them, expect a lawsuit on First Amendment (i.e., Citizens United) precedent.  That would of course be far from the only bills eventually passed that will have to withstand a SCOTUS challenge.

Moving on to Rep. Dan Huberty, also a so-called leader in the Texas House.

We've officially reached that point in the session that when you're a Tex-Pach and Mucus has you in his crosshairs, you know you're in deep shit.

The first Census numbers have been compiled and released; here's a summary of reactions from earlier this afternoon.

This evening's update is late arriving so I'll save everything I have -- election, COVID, social justice, environmental updates, and some of my artistic soothers for tomorrow.  Here's a few scattershots to tide you over until then.

Kuff joined me in deriding that ridiculous Abbott/McConaughey poll, which could have told us something about 2022 but failed to do so.  Socratic Gadfly also echoed my Earth Day post, blogging about the ecosocialist Earth Day to May Day framing by the Green Party of what a real Green New Deal entails.

(No, I don't mind linking to TPA blogs who don't link to me any more.  I've never had a problem linking to blogs or bloggers that I happen to have minor -- or for that matter, major -- disagreements with.  That's for small-minded, petty people.)

Grits for Breakfast reminded that under current Texas law, a police officer has to be fired twice before they can have their law enforcement license revoked.  John Hryhorchuk at Texas 2036 explained what's holding up federal stimulus money for Texas public schools.  And Jef Rouner for Reform Austin gave a legislative marijuana bill update.

Closing today as we began.

Last: a voice from Dallas goes silent.

Lots more coming.

Friday, April 23, 2021

EOW Wrangle from Far Left Texas

A bit more than a month until Sine Die, and we're ready for this legislative session to be over.

Poor Garnet Coleman got gaslit.  Of course, so did all of the rest of us who thought Medicaid expansion had enough votes to pass.  I'ma go ahead and blame Dade Phelan.  You can't tell me he didn't lean on those turncoats.  In other Lege business, there were some good things that happened.

Sorry, bitches.  You're still the Ridiculous Party.  Sometimes, though, even the Donks can find a way to shit their bed a little faster.

I did a piece for Earth Day yesterday ICYMI, and the only party whose candidates will get my vote in 2022 without reservation.  The Greens are mobilizing from yesterday to May Day for their issues, local candidates this year, and statewides in 2022.

There has never been a greater urgency for their cause.  Please help by volunteering, donating, or just voting for them.

More election news, and then I'll get back to environmental updates.

Don't let the assholes win in Austin, y'all.  Because there's bigger assholes than Greg Abbott that want his job, and I'm not talking about Matthew McConaghey or Sid Miller.

Read this thread from John Arnold, the Enron billionaire and hedge fund operator, about how he sees the long-term financial prospects of fossil fuel companies changing.

Yesterday a new green project kicked off here in H-Town, and it has the support of the oil and gas companies, Rice University, and a few other corporate and national and local big shots.

Maybe this can be a good thing.  The trends are certainly promising

Some of these I'll take with a grain of salt, much as I do Joe Biden's promises, declarations, etc.

Yeah, I just had to get that in there.  Here's some social justice items.

And a couple of COVID updates.

Here's some developments on cannabis in Texas.  Perhaps drafting off the Green Party's "Earth Day to May Day" (above), Willie Nelson has declared this same period "holy".

I doubt that it's a coordinated campaign, but "Go Green" in whatever fashion suits you is a sentiment I can heartily endorse.

And in case that gave you the munchies, I have some links to share on the topic of La comida Mexicana.

I was turned down by eleven banks before I finally got a loan. Every loan officer I talked to told me the same thing: “Oh, we did a restaurant loan back in 1952 and we lost our ass. We’re never doing that again.” Finally the president of one bank did it because he liked me. He liked the ideas and thought it would be good for the bank—they had a lot of minority depositors but hadn’t made any minority loans. So I got an SBA loan for $100,000, plus I had $500 from selling all my musical instruments and equipment from the band I had been in. [...] I found a carpet place selling shag carpet pieces in different colors and we put those in the cantina. When tortilla chips fell on the carpet, we used garden rakes to get them out. Then we took the cardboard tubes from the carpet rolls, cut them in half lengthwise, and painted them to look like weathered Mexican roof tiles. [...] Mariano’s was the most expensive Mexican restaurant in Dallas when it opened. Customers would tell me, “When we go to El Chico or El Fenix, we take the kids and go early. When we go to Mariano’s, we get a babysitter, we have frozen margaritas in the cantina, an elegant dinner in the dining room, and then we go back to the cantina for flaming coffee or after-dinner drinks.” We helped break the image of cheap Mexican food in Dallas.

And some art and literature links to soothe for the weekend.

Here's an excerpt from Goodreads.