Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Barrios-Van Os vs. Hinojosa

And something about patrón politics.  From the inbox, from the challenger.

I'm fighting for a Texas Democratic Party that is a party of the people, not a party of insider deals and anti-democratic machine politics. We have to be a true party of the people to inspire a majority of Texas voters to cast their votes for our candidates.

One example of what I'm fighting against occurred when Glen Maxey, a full-time paid Party staff member entitled Director of County Affairs, emailed a resolution to county and senate district party leaders before the county and senate district conventions asking the conventions to endorse Gilberto Hinojosa's candidacy for re-election as state party chair. As a full-time party staff member Mr. Maxey should adhere to strict neutrality in internal party elections, but that is not the case under the administration of Chair Hinojosa, who sees nothing wrong with using the party machinery as a personal political machine. When I was growing up in the Southside of San Antonio this is what people called patrón politics, and they didn't like it.

And now Mr. Hinojosa has sent all the convention delegates an email claiming that various senate districts have endorsed him, obviously intending to make the delegates think their votes have already been decided. But you have a free right to cast your delegate vote however you choose. Nobody can instruct any delegate how to vote at the Texas Democratic Party Convention, as Unit Rule voting is strictly forbidden by Texas Democratic Party Rules, Article IV, Section 4.e.: "The use of the unit rule or the practice of instructing delegations shall not be permitted at any level of the convention process."

When Mr. Maxey, on behalf of Mr. Hinojosa, asked senate district and county conventions to pass pre-emptive resolutions endorsing Mr. Hinojosa for re-election, the filing deadline to run for party chair was still in the future and I was still weighing the very serious decision of whether to run. When I saw this crude anti-democratic action coming from the state party leadership I decided I had to take a stand, because I have learned from spending my adult life as a grassroots activist this is the kind of thing that turns people away from politics. The simple fact is that our party itself must be a true model of democracy if we hope to make more people feel welcome in order to broaden our political base of support to win Texas back.

This is a fairly prominent point B-VO is making, in an alleged "Year of the Woman" in Texas politics.  And the most-clicked post in this blog's twelve-year history is about Gilberto Hinojosa.  I'll leave you to your current interpretations of that old news.

Eight years ago, in Fort Worth, Glen Maxey was the outsider running for TDP chair.  After Charlie Urbina-Jones and Kesha Rogers (!!) were eliminated in the first round, Maxey was the last man standing against Boyd Richie.  Richie had assumed the chairmanship ahead of the convention in an SDEC vote when Charles Soechting resigned early.  Maxey fell about 150 votes short in the runoff, with 46.5%.  Even worse, the Progressive Populist Caucus -- at that time one of the largest in the party, now defunct -- endorsed Richie, to the rage of some of us.

I blogged so much about the worthlessness of Richie as chair over the years that I didn't have the stomach to go pull them all out of the archives... but did get this one anyway, just for you.  When Richie resigned early a couple of years ago, the SDEC picked Hinojosa to be the chairman-in-waiting.  And Maxey is now the insider, trying to rig the game for the establishment incumbent.

See how this goes?  Patrón politics.

Party chair elections usually are not much more than a tempest in a teapot, and Barrios-Van Os lost to Hinojosa once already, two years ago.  So she has a long and tough row to hoe, even laying aside his multiple endorsements and inexorable incumbency.

The thing you really need to understand is that if the Texas Democratic Party were like the Republican Party of Texas, RBVO would have been elected two years ago in a landslide.  She's the base of the party, not the establishment.  She's from the Democratic wing, not the other corporate, conservative one.  So Texas Democrats are just the opposite of Texas Republicans in more ways than the obvious ones.

Whereas the base of the RPT -- the Tea Party -- exercises its clout over things like the platform, scares the nominees of the party into toeing their lines on immigration and the like... the base of the TDP is marginalized and dismissed.  The TeaBaggers may be insane, but they're still calling the shots, and the so-called sane Republicans cannot slow them down.  It's a testament to the power of voting: it doesn't matter how nuts you are, if you outyell and outwork everybody else, you can win.

If you really want to understand why we can't have nice things in Texas... this is it.  This.

This sort of bullshit is why progress always makes Texas its very last stop.  If you can't have liberal Democrats in the Texas Democratic Party, you can't have an effective Democratic Party in Texas.  The results speak for themselves.  Texas Democrats have spent decades trying to be Republican Lite, with nothing to show for it.  Harry Truman said it best.

A revision on the definition of insanity, courtesy Dr. Wayne Dyer, is that if you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten.  Texas Democrats, I'm looking at you.

More Bad News for Republicans

It's not just Greg Abbott's unfortunate developments today, though he does bat leadoff.

In May 2009, a former assistant attorney general in Greg Abbott’s office sued the Office of the Attorney General in Dallas County court, claiming she’d been fired for refusing to lie under oath about a Dallas County judge. Five years later, the Dallas-based Fifth Court of Appeals has ruled that Ginger Weatherspoon can go forward with her lawsuit.

The AG’s office has spent years trying to get the suit tossed, claiming, among other things, that Weatherspoon didn’t make a “good faith” effort to blow the whistle to the right links in the chain of command. A three-justice panel disagreed, and issued an opinion Monday written by Justice David Evans that said Dallas County Judge Martin Hoffman did the right thing last year when he refused to grant the AG’s office its request for summary judgment.

Weatherspoon’s initial filing in 2009 garnered media attention because of its explosive content: She claimed she refused to sign a “false affidavit” filled with “a number of misrepresentations and mischaracterizations” about David Hanschen, who, at the time, was a Dallas County family court judge involved in a pretty nasty tussle with the Abbott’s office over child support.

If Texas were any other state, if this much relentless corrupt behavior was coming to light about anybody else other than Abbott... that candidate would be electoral toast.

-- Rick Perry, on his way out the door to California in retirement, is doing his best to see that Lone Star Democrats have a fighting chance in November.  The headline: "Why Rick Perry's remarks on gays could sour Texas on Tesla"...

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has made a career out of visiting, recruiting, and relocating businesses from California to Texas. But as the state’s GOP continues to push further and further to the right of the political spectrum, could the state’s ultra-conservative stance hurt recruitment from a progressive state?

First came the Texas Republican Party platform that said homosexuality is a choice and endorsed therapy aimed at “curing” people of being gay – a therapy banned in California.

Then, while on a company recruitment trip – one specifically aimed at enticing California based car maker Tesla to build a factory in Texas – Gov. Perry told a group of businesspeople that homosexuality was like alcoholism: whether or not you feel compelled to do something, you have the ability not to act on your urges.

“I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic. But I have the desire not to do that. And I look at homosexual issue as the same way,” Perry said. (Watch a video of Perry’s response.)

Reporters in the room for the event say people in the crowd gasped after hearing Perry’s statement. The governor took plenty of criticism over the weekend for his comparison, leading up to a testy exchange with CNBC “Squawk Box” co-anchor Joe Kernen Monday morning.

Republicans really don't get how backward and ignorant this sort of thing looks to people elsewhere.  The rest of the article "devil-advocates' that it's not so bad, but that isn't at all the case.  People outside of Texas who aren't conservative -- that is to say, the vast majority of Americans -- are completely appalled at these social developments.  And that's before the topic changes to guns, or women's reproductive rights.

The Texas economy will bust again as soon as oil does.  Don't think it won't.  And the extended opportunities to diversify it will have been squandered by two decades of religious conservative dominance.  Casino gambling, marijuana decriminalization and then legalization... all blocked by the fundies.  Texas has managed alternate energy diversification to the extent that even the oil barons are making a play, which is how you can tell that Big Oil doesn't rule here like you think.

It's Big God that's the problem.  And that's exclusively a Republican problem (that they in turn make a problem for all of the rest of Texas).

-- Another right-wing talking point explodes in their faces: it was, in fact, a YouTube that prompted the Benghazi attack.

-- Last, our local conservo-blogmeister Big Jolly seems distressed about the seeming inevitability (I warned you about that) of GOP electoral shoe-ins while he advocates a vote for Leticia Van de Putte in this post.

Folks, get ready for Lt. Gov. Patrick. This is how he operates, throwing money and government at the “crisis” of the day. No long term planning because he has no core belief in small government conservatism. No collaboration with the Feds to find out what they are doing. Just Dan being Dan. Of course, he does have an opponent in November.

I suppose he's going to have to spend a lot of time denying that's what he meant.

I'm willing to keep this "Bad News Pachyderms" series going as long as they do.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Why we need to wring the money out of our politics

Digby, at Salon.

...Whenever a powerful member of the party leadership retires or goes down to defeat, the rest of the members lose a very important resource: money. And lots of it.  The way these people ascend in partisan politics isn’t through their “beliefs” or any kind of ideological purity, it’s through their ability to raise money from big donors and industry and their strategic sense of how best to spread it around. (Eric) Cantor may have been a jerk — everyone says so.  But he was the majority leader because he had bought partisan loyalty over the years from being in bed with big money and judiciously spreading it around.

Heavy sigh.

But it isn’t just money. It’s also organization. As Robert Costa reported last Friday, McCarthy had it in spades. Not that he built it himself, mind you. He inherited the chief of staff of the most ruthlessly effective House majority leader in GOP history:

McCarthy’s office — led by chief of staff Tim Berry, who served in the same role for former House majority leader Tom Delay (R-Tex.) — methodically built their count with a numerical ranking system that DeLay had mastered. That gave McCarthy critical intelligence on who might need extra attention. And McCarthy’s top deputy whips weren’t his closest friends, but rather committee chairmen, a sign he understood how best to reach members — through their bosses.

Tom and his minions learned something from trying to kill cockroaches, obviously.  It's also now clear that we will never completely extinguish the children of The Hammer.  But back to the new-boss-same-as-the-old-boss.

Kevin McCarthy has been planning this ascension since the beginning of his political career. He’s an establishment man all the way, and in the establishment, money talks. (In fact, money’s “speech” has even got constitutional protection.) It’s how power is built and it’s not exclusive to the Republicans. Democrats do it exactly the same way.

I'd like to say 'duh' but there are still too many voters who don't understand this.  And when I say voters, I mean Democratic ones.  You know... the people who have nominated Jim Hogan this year, and in years past, Grady Yarbrough and Gene Kelly and the like.  Voting in midterm elections, especially in Texas, is a minority report, so you have to imagine that the majority -- non-voters -- just doesn't think enough about this sort of thing to care.

Weekend after next, Texas Democrats meet in plenary session in Big D to caucus and rally their partisans for a fall faceoff in which they remain decided underdogs.  I'll be among them as both reporter and delegate.  Unless, you know, somebody holding a grudge about my Green participation decides to try to strip my credential.  I don't expect that to happen, but stranger things and all that.  Still, it'll be nice to have a long weekend in another growing bastion of blue in the Lone Star State.  Dallas County elected a lesbian sheriff before Houston elected a lesbian mayor, after all.

There are Democrats who are suspicious of my midterm election year conversion, just as there are Greens who think I've sold out for access.  Here's how I rationalize it: until the liberal political party devoid of corporate influence can at least grow strong enough as an electoral threat to pull the Democrats back from the right, I -- we -- have to play in the sandbox as it is constructed.  And that does NOT mean trying to raise as much money as the GOP.  It does mean that we need to plug into Move to Amend, and support the infrastructure and local efforts to reduce and ultimately end the corrupting influence of caysh in the body politic.  In terms of minimal impact greater than nothing, some intensification of this movement in Texas sends a message to that toad Ted Cruz.

Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, Tim Berry, and yes, Greg Abbott should be all the evidence you need to see that change is long overdue.

Update: Or perhaps we could just tell our Congresscritters to enforce the Tillman Act of 1907.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Greg Abbott's Bad News This Week

If Texas were any place else in the Union, there's no way a guy so profoundly corrupt would be leading in the polls.

Families who live and work near hazardous chemical facilities no longer have access to information about the type or amount of dangerous toxics in their community. According to a report by WFAA-TV, Greg Abbott recently issued a legal opinion barring the disclosure of such information despite federal law permitting disclosure and longstanding state practice to make that information available to anyone who requests it.

Abbott’s decision reflects an about-face from proclamations made by other state leaders to beef up disclosure of chemical facilities in the wake of last year’s disastrous explosion of an ammonium nitrate storage facility in West, Texas.

Why do you suppose he wants corporations to be able to keep that a secret?

The ruling by Abbott says the locations of explosive and toxic chemicals must be kept confidential because of security concerns. The ruling states that information ”is more than likely to assist in the construction or assembly of an explosive weapon or a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapon of mass destruction.”

But Tommy Muska, the Mayor of the town of West, where last year’s tragedy struck, believes there is greater danger in withholding the locations of potentially dangerous chemicals from the public. He hopes the state can find some middle ground that will keep the public informed.

“They’re worried it could get into the wrong hands,” he says. “I strongly feel, though, that the public, the 99 percent of good people out there, have a right to know what’s in their backyard.”

He can always roll away and hide for a few days until the dust settles.  Speaking just for myself, I don't trust Greg Abbott to keep me safe from domestic terrorists... or the companies they own that contribute to his campaign.  Like these Wilks brothers.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) dodged the question last week of whether he agrees with his party's support for "reparative therapy," a process purported to change the sexual orientation of gay people. But campaign records show the gubernatorial candidate has been flying around on a private plane donated by two billionaires who help fund the "ex-gay" movement.

Texas fracking tycoons Dan and Farris Wilks have given Abbott a combined total of more than $30,000 worth of in-kind donations this year for the use of a private plane. The Wilks' charitable trust, The Thirteen Foundation, has contributed nearly $3 million to groups that promote gay conversion therapy, a discredited pseudo-medical practice meant to change people's sexual orientation from gay to straight. The foundation also donates millions to anti-abortion and conservative religious groups.

Abbott's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The Texas Republican Party endorsed reparative therapy in its platform this year and asserted that homosexuality is not "an acceptable alternative lifestyle." 

The Wilkses are frackers AND homophobes.  A Teabagging two-fer!

How foul does Greg Abbott have to stink before Texans decide they've had enough?