Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Occupy Congress today, Occupy the Gulf next Monday, Dec. 12

Stay afraid, Frank Luntz.

Just a day after 31 Occupy D.C. protesters were arrested after a clash with police in McPherson Square, a similar kind of demonstration is setting up camp on the National Mall. 

Hundreds are expected to converge in Washington for a "Take Back the Capitol." On Monday demonstrators including members of OurDC, the unemployed, faith leaders, labor unions and others set up what they called "The People's Camp."

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) visited the camp. Referring to the Capitol, which she said has become overrun by Tea Party members, she told a crowd it was "time to take back the 'People's House' for the people."

Andrew Duke (C), Chief of Staff to Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-TX, tells members of Good Jobs, Great Houston and other progressive groups "occupying" Hensarling's office that the Representative will not be able to meet with them in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC, Dec. 6.

At the heart of the movement is a similar message to Occupy Wall Street. The group says it wants Congress and elected leaders to represent the 99 percent of every day Americans, instead of the wealthiest 1 percent.

Unlike the tent cities by the "Occupiers," those taking part in "Take Back the Capitol" will only work out of their units during the day. They plan to sleep in area churches at night.

The group has the following tentative plans for the week:

- Tuesday: Visit congressional offices
- Wednesday: Swarm lobbying offices on K Street
- Thursday: Speak-outs throughout the Capitol, national prayer vigil and a mass march on key congressional leaders
- Friday: Pack up and head home

Organizers say they will continue the movement at home, where they will continue to pressure their local lawmakers. 

Update: Neil has more, including an on-the scene-in-D.C. report from Houston city council candidate Amy Price.

Speaking of 'home':

In solidarity with Occupy Oakland, Occupy San Diego, Occupy LA, Occupy Portland, Occupy Tacoma, Occupy Seattle and other movements along the west coast of the United States that will shut down ports in their cities on December 12, the General Assembly of Dallas hereby declares:

On December 12, 2011, Occupy Dallas will assemble in Houston, TX.

The following message is from Occupy Oakland:

“On December 12, the occupy movements in different cities will stage mass mobilizations to march on the ports, create community pickets, and effectively shutdown the hubs of commerce, in the same fashion that Occupy Oakland shut down the Port of Oakland on November 2nd, the day of our general strike. The Oakland Port Shutdown was a historic and effective action, and the memory of that night on the port lives in the hearts of people across Oakland and around the country.”

In Houston, we will mobilize and stage a mass march by integrating Occupy Houston, Occupy Austin, Occupy San Marcos, Occupy San Antonio, Occupy Now and Occupy Texas.

We have made attempts at local demonstrations in an effort to spread awareness of the economic injustices affecting the 99%. These peaceful assemblies have been organized with the aim of petitioning our government for a redress of our grievances. On a national level, the response to our protest has often included excessive force and unnecessary violence perpetrated by police departments, with thousands of citizens unlawfully arrested.

Occupy Dallas would like to urge other movements in Texas and the surrounding states that wish to participate in the Occupy the Gulf Coast action to join with Occupy Houston before December 12.

Developing ...

Monday, December 05, 2011

Kristi Thibaut and Jolanda Jones for Houston City Council

A solid 14,000 Houstonians have voted early in person or by mail in the December 10 runoff election for Houston city council. My post isn't likely to move any molehills, much less mountains, with respect to turnout or endorsement influence. Here it is anyway.

Kristi Thibaut, At Large #2: Let's begin by pointing out that Thibaut's opponent, Pastor Andrew Burks, is not only following the Gene Locke "Republicans plus African Americans" electoral strategy but also has a few other, shall we say, non-traditional items in his background, including a second arrest for DWI in 2010. From the Chron's take on the race last week:

Andrew Burks Jr. is harder to pin down. He's a lifelong black Democrat who ran once for chairman of the county party, yet he scored an A on the Texas Conservative Review's questionnaire and had the publication's endorsement for the general election when there were 10 candidates in the running.

Burks is endorsed by the (Harris) county Republican Party. Despite a claim on his Web site that he is endorsed by a former At-Large 5 candidate Laurie Robinson, she said she has not endorsed him.


Burks said he cannot remember how many times he has run for office. Chronicle research indicates this is his 12th run for public office and his seventh for a council seat. He also has run for state representative, Congress, county school board and party chairman. Two years ago, he took incumbent Sue Lovell to a runoff. Lovell, who is term-limited, endorses Thibaut.


Burks was under house arrest for 40 days last year following his second DWI conviction. Burks said he had not been drinking nor driving, but that he had been prescribed improper medication at a Veterans Affairs facility, where he was in a parked car at the time of his arrest.

Charles expands:

As a point of comparison, here’s the 2009 runoff overview story. The reason Burks has been endorsed by the GOP despite his “lifelong Democrat” status is likely because he welcomed the endorsement of Steven Hotze in the 2009 runoff. There are plenty of reasons not to vote for Andrew Burks, but that one would be sufficient for me. Beyond that, I just don’t know what to make of the guy. Like Griff, the impression I get is of a guy who’s running to run, not because he has some idea of what he wants to do if he wins. His finance reports are a mess, and he says ridiculous things – in that 2009 story, he talks about a “conspiracy of silence” that he can’t articulate. None of this is to say that he can’t win – he can, and he might. I just don’t know what we’ll get if he does.

The reason Burks might win is that he's black, and because another African American, Jolanda Jones, is also in an At Large runoff. Burks and Jones are as far apart philosophically as Jones and her runoff opponent Jack Christie, but for some voters, sadly, that won't matter. Also driving African American voters to the polls on December 10 is a runoff in District B between Alvin Byrd and Jerry Davis, and Republicans are getting boosted by District A's runoff between far-right incumbent Brenda Stardig and her farthest-right challenger Helena Brown.

Neil has more on Burks' bald-faced duplicity.

It's embarrassing that Burks even made it into the runoff with so many other qualified candidates, including a more qualified African American woman, Roz Shorter. It will be even more embarrassing if he wins.

Thibaut, by contrast, is honest, hard-working, and progressive. She was my co-endorsement last month out of ten challengers for the seat. She deserves to be elected. Burks does not. Simple as that.

Jolanda Jones, At Large #5: Again, a simple choice made even easier by Christie's smear mailer, which arrived in my mailbox on the day after Thanksgiving and even quoted Texas Liberal's Neil Aquino from the post in which he endorsed Jones. Hard to twist someone's words any tighter than that. That's the Republican way, though.

My fear is that the fate of Jones and Thibaut are somewhat linked. Either Democrats and progressives will get themselves to the poll to vote for them, or they'll get overcome by guaranteed GOP turnout. As for Thibaut, there's a double negative: there won't be many tickets split Thibaut/Christie, but likely to be many that go Burks/Jones.

As in the general election, I can offer no endorsement in District B, and because the only Democrat running in District A did not make that runoff, I can easily decline choosing between Stardig and Brown ... unlike Mayor Parker.

Update: Bob Ryan, the sensible Republican who ran in AL#5 against Christie and Jones, endorses the councilwoman for re-election.

“While I may not agree with all of Councilmember Jones’ positions, she is one of the few at City Hall that will stand up for the downtrodden, even when it’s one against fourteen.”

Ryan and Chris Bell trump the hell out of Bill White and Peter Brown IMO.

The cowardice of the Texas Democratic Party (or how I turned Bluish-Green)

This is the post some of you have been asking me about. Casual political observers uninterested in the inside-baseball nature of internecine state party politics can skip to the end if you want the larger message.

Two weeks ago the Senate District Executive Committee of the Texas Democratic Party met in quarterly plenary session and cast some votes for resolutions to be placed on the March 2012 primary ballot. Those resolutions included the adoption of casino gambling in Texas (which was the only one the SDEC approved), support of marriage equality, abolishment of the death penalty, decriminalization of marijuana, and passage of the DREAM Act. You may read Karl-Thomas Musselman's live-blog of the session here for background and discussion prior to the voting. Most of you who have made it to this point are likely quite familiar with the proceedings, so I'll skip the details. As more backstory, I used to attend these meetings regularly and even live-blogged them myself a time or two before the rise of Twitter made such efforts obsolete. I long ago tired of the meetings, observing them as a glorified kaffeklatsche for retirees, sycophants, starfuckers, and budding politicos who were mostly uninterested in actually advancing Democratic policies or even helping Democrats get elected. It became apparent that election to the SDEC was more of a resume' enhancement or a legacy-burnishing or some similar ego stroke to the individual committee person; most of whom are in their dotage, some of the younger ones in a quest for actual political office.

That's not to say that the SDEC is entirely useless. Just mostly. What they are entirely is irrelevant (thanks for that observation to my friend Tom G).

A little historical digression is in order.

Feuding between the liberal and conservative wings of the Democratic Party is as old as the hills. It's why Strom Thurmond ran as a Dixiecrat for President in 1948. It's one of the reasons why John F. Kennedy came to Texas in November of 1963; to mitigate the quarreling between Gov. John Connally (another Democrat better remembered as a Republican these days) and Sen. Ralph Yarborough (an actual progressive). Many of these squabbles had their roots in civil rights. Here's an excerpt from Thurmond's Wiki page:

In 1948, President Harry S. Truman desegregated the U.S. Army, proposed the creation of a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission, supported the elimination of state poll taxes, and supported drafting federal anti-lynching laws. Thurmond became a candidate for President of the United States on the third party ticket of the States' Rights Democratic Party (aka Dixiecrats). It split from the national Democrats over what was perceived as federal intervention in the segregation practices of the Southern states, which, among other issues, had largely disfranchised most blacks and many poor whites by constitutional amendments and electoral requirements from 1890 to 1910. Thurmond carried four states and received 39 electoral votes. One 1948 speech, met with cheers by supporters, included the following (audio at the link above):

I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there's not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigger race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.

Continuing on the timeline and moving back to Texas, Yarborough -- the most progressive politician ever elected in Texas IMHO (RIP Jim Mattox and Oscar Mauzy and Ann Richards) -- was defeated by a conservative Democrat named Lloyd Bentsen in 1970. Bentsen a conservative, you say, with mouth agape?

The campaign came in the wake of Yarborough's politically hazardous votes in favor of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and his opposition to the Vietnam War. Bentsen made Yarborough's opposition to the war a major issue. His television advertising featured video images of rioting in the streets at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, implying that Yarborough was associated with the rioters. While this strategy was successful in defeating Yarborough, it caused long-term damage to Bentsen's relationship with liberals in his party.

Bentsen's campaign and his reputation as a conservative Democrat served to alienate him not only from supporters of Ralph Yarborough, but from prominent national liberals as well. Indeed, during the 1970 Senate race, the Keynesian economist John Kenneth Galbraith endorsed George H. W. Bush, arguing that if Bentsen were elected to the Senate, he would invariably become the face of a new, more conservative Texas Democratic Party and that the long-term interests of Texas liberalism demanded Bentsen's defeat. Nevertheless, later that year, Bentsen went on to win the general election when he was pitted against Congressman and future President George H. W. Bush. On election night, Bentsen beat Bush convincingly.

Closer to modern times, in 2006 and with a slate of populist statewide Democratic candidates almost unmatched in Texas Democratic Party history (mostly because none of the conservative, establishment Dems wanted to risk losing) a group of us like-minded progressives set out to transform the SDEC by electing some of our own and others screened by our group to the committee. That effort got sabotaged by several turncoats whom we supported. Yes, we progressives got played by a bunch of schemers who about-faced on their progressive not-so-bonafides. Among the evidence was their support for Boyd Richie, a small-town conservative as chairman of the TDP. And making sure he got re-elected in subsequent years and so on.

Not electing Glen Maxey TDP chair in 2006 was, in retrospect, another pivotal turning point missed; one more opportunity lost to move the TDP back from the right and more toward the left. To draw the distinction between the two parties clearly enough that the lowest of low-information voters could understand: that only one party was interested in helping the little guys and not the fat cats (or as we say today, the 99% and not the 1%, messaging the Occupy movement has helpfully provided).

Except that the Texas Democratic Party, as represented by the majority of the members of the SDEC, really aren't interested in doing that. Not if you're homosexual, or Latino, and rarely and only occasionally if you're African-American. Not so much if you oppose the death penalty, believe that marijuana should be decriminalized, or refuse to participate in the demonization of the economic refugees of our southern neighbor, or even enable their children to attend college as the residents of Texas and US citizens that they are.

The vast majority of the SDEC in short are moral cowards. They are too scared of Republican backlash against rural and conservative Democratic office-holders and candidates to stand up for the principles of social justice that the party platform has continually espoused. In other words they talk good and walk lousy.

When the game is on the line, the Texas Democratic Party's so-called leaders turn tail and run into the locker room to take a dump, missing the game-changing play on purpose. Because they are too afraid to risk losing, they keep losing. And they just don't seem to get that.

Now to be clear, it's easy to support progressive Democrats; I just organized a meeting yesterday in Houston for one. It's not so easy -- and growing increasingly difficult -- to support a party, and some of its candidates, who aren't.

This kind of institutionalized timidity just drives me farther and farther away from the Democratic Party as a 'member of the tribe'. Which is why it's a good thing there's a political party on the ballot in 2012 that stands for something and is willing to stand up for it when push comes to shove.

I encourage Texas progressives and independents who feel as disgusted with those Texas Democrats who refuse to go on record supporting progressive values to consider supporting a party and its candidates who will. Supporting Green Party candidates is, at this point, perhaps the last chance that progressives will ever have in order to get the Democratic Party's attention with respect to making progress in Texas. In the proper direction, not the right one.

Related reading:

jobsanger: Texas Democratic Leaders Vote to Have No Beliefs

Juanita Jean -- whose husband serves on the SDEC and voted in favor of all of the resolutions: The Resolutions (UPDATED) (REUPDATED)

Mean Rachel: What Texas Democrats Can Learn From Aaron Pena

Collin County Democratic Blog News: The Texas Democratic Party Needs a New Direction. Besides its other cogent observations and suggestions, this post has an excellent summary of the history of the conservatives in the Texas Democratic Party.

The Weekly Wrangle

As it brings you this week's blog round-up, the Texas Progressive Alliance thinks that if Herman Cain had just married all those women, he could be where Newt Gingrich is today.

Off the Kuff provides a little perspective about redistricting and the political outcome of the ongoing litigation over it.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson says it's time for a new direction for the Texas Democratic Party: A tremendous opportunity to create a new Democratic Party in Texas.

McBlogger says that Judge Jed Rakoff threw a big wrench into the sweetheart deals some of the banks have been getting from the SEC.

Bay Area Houston has the information if you want to contact the judge about state representative Joe Driver's sentencing.

Refinish69 at Doing My Part for the Left has a few suggestions since The Holiday Season is Here!

BossKitty at TruthHugger is more comfortable with crop circles than the Frankenstein-like Tea Party the Koch Brothers created: Why the Tea Party is like a Crop Circle.

At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw summaries the choices presented by the Republican presidental hopefuls in An OOPS, a Serial Flipper Flopper, Adulterers, a Sourpuss and a Scared Spin Doctor. It would be funnier if it weren't all true.

Mitt Romney's path to the GOP nomination got considerably rockier in the past week, and that was before Herman Cain failed to deliver in 30 minutes or less. The rise of Newt Gingrich is however a dilemma for conservative fundamentalist Christians, as PDiddie at Brains and Eggs observes. Can they get behind a nominee who believes that marriage should only be between a man and a woman who does not have cancer?

Neil at Texas Liberal took a walk along some railroad tracks in Houston. On his walk, Neil encountered both solid and metaphorical aspects of life.