Sunday, July 20, 2014

Kos, Netroots Nation, and immigration

There were two interesting developments over the weekend at Netroots Nation, the annual confab of liberal Democrats (the fairest, if not the most accurate label) taking place this year in Detroit, Michigan.

The first one occurred last Thursday, when Joe Biden, one of the keynote speakers (Elizabeth Warren was the other) was heckled -- politely, but heckled nevertheless -- by a small group of pro-immigrant folks.  Egberto Willies was on the scene and filed this report.

It first started softly and progressively got louder. A group of attendees stood up in the front side of the room and started yelling ‘Stop deporting our families.’ The vice president did not get frazzled or perturbed.

“I respect your views and I share your views,” (Biden) said. “But let me take these issues one …” The hecklers continued for about a minute thereafter. They were then escorted out of the room peacefully.

“You should clap for those young people. …” (Biden) said. “Can you imagine the pain, the anxiety, coming home every day wondering whether or not your mother and father will still be there. Can you imagine. Can you imagine what it must feel like.”

After the interruption, (the vice president) resumed his speech.

The second was the reveal that the godfather of Netroots Nation and publisher of Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, will boycott the convention next year when it is scheduled to be held in Phoenix, AZ.  For that, Dave Weigel at Slate.

After last night's annual Netroots Nation pub quiz—a raucous party with in-jokes that go back years, probably exemplified by the team that brought a giant Burmese flag to protest a 2011 decision in favor use of the name "Myanmar"—I remarked to a friend from the Daily Kos that it would be fun to team up next year. Breaking news: That wouldn't happen. "It's in Phoenix, and Markos is boycotting Arizona." Meaning that Markos Moulitsas, whose Daily Kos blog spun off this annual event in 2006, would neither show up nor bring his team to the next host city.

Before I could ask Moulitsas about the decision, he went and explained himself on the blog. He vehemently disagreed with the "inherently divisive" decision of a board he did not belong to. (The conference was called Yearly Kos in 2006 and 2007, before Moulitsas recommended a broadening re-brand.)

I doubt the conference would decide to host the event in, say, Apartheid South Africa, in order to "take the fight to the enemy". If you think that analogy is absurd, it is, but only in terms of degree, not intent in the county that has consistently elected Sheriff Joe Arpaio since 1992. But if you want a less bombastic analogy, look to labor: Netroots Nation refuses to hold events in cities without union hotel and conference facilities. They're not "taking the fight" to non-unionized locations because we, as a movement, stand for the right of people to organize and we don't reward those places that deny those rights. It's the right call. Also, would the conference have been happy to stay in Arizona had Gov. Jan Brewer signed the virulently anti-gay SB 1062 earlier this year? Hard to see that happening.

Latinos deserve that same kind of respect.

In the short history of blogging and online activism, this is a BFD. Moulitsas' blog was the Petri dish for countless writers and campaigners; Moulitsas himself was an accidental icon of the 2004-2008 period when the press woke up to the "netroots." 

Yeah, it's a BFD all right.  Both developments are one more clue to Democrats running for political office this cycle, especially in places like Texas, to either get it together with actual support of the plight of Latinos without papers in this country, or forget about getting elected.  Period, end of story.  Let's clarify this some more.

"Glenn Beck is to the left of Barack Obama on child immigrants," said Chris Newman, legal director at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. "Obama never filed a civil rights challenge against Arizona's law. He is an accomplice to the civil rights violation in Arizona."

You won't grow the left-leaning electorate, you will not get the vote of Latinos already registered and voting, never mind those that are not, if you cannot come correct on this issue.  You damn sure don't get to call yourself 'progressive'.  Wendy Davis has already made this mistake in her focus to draw the mythical crossover voter, allegedly conservative-leaning independents and moderate Republicans.  This strategy of running to the right in the general election is a demonstrated, proven failing one for a Texas Democrat running for governor.  Some day that lesson may be learned, but it does not appear as if 2014 is going to be the year.  And to be fair, many Democrats do get it, and that will be to their advantage.  Stace at Two Cents:

With immigration-related stuff hot in the news, it’s good to see nationally recognized Democratic leaders take a lead in actually offering services and shelter, rather than become immigration “experts” and offer nothing. Obviously, Texas’ own Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins has done a great job. Governor Martin O’Malley of Maryland has done a great job of taking on the Obama administration’s express deportation policies, while trying to protect the children from Murrieta-type hate in his own state. Now, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is offering up his state to child refugees. I hope we find more of these unafraid Dems, especially in Texas.

Lest you think the nativist screaming on this issue represents a majority of opinion, please note that in McAllen yesterday, the advocates for humane treatment of migrants outnumbered the xenophobes 60 to 3 in their rally/counter rally.  Be sure and look at all the pictures and read the signs.

The Minority Vote

Unless the next poll for the Texas Tribune (in the field this past week, polling for governor, US senator, Congress, and social issues such as abortion) shows a significant tightening of the gubernatorial contest, no amount of money or where it comes from or the amount of spin it gets from both directions will matter.  We can shift our attention to other statewide and downballot races.  Or at least I can.

Sunday Funnies

Friday, July 18, 2014

Emmett says Dome park plan 'silly', but it isn't

Ed. note: This post has been updated throughout.

It's really all there is left to do, it just needs to be done the right way.  Jeff Balke at Hair Balls summarizes the situation well.

According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, County Judge Ed Emmett has no desire to see a recent plan put forth on the part of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Houston Texans put into place. The plan would demolish the "Eighth Wonder of the World" and replace it with an open green space and a Hall of Fame surrounded by a "fence" made of pieces of the existing Dome's structure. They even provided some nifty renderings including a Photoshopped ESPN set and hosts with the, let's call it an Astro Park, in the background, clearly hinting that a decision needs to be made quickly with the 2017 Super Bowl to be held at NRG Stadium.


Emmett called the idea "a silly plan" and even quipped that it would haunt him after he retires. Emmett no doubt remembers the one tarnish on former Mayor Bob Lanier's record allowing Bud Adams to move the Houston Oilers to Tennessee. Adams wanted to contribute half to a downtown retractible roof stadium (sound familiar) that would cost around $250 million. NRG Stadium cost nearly twice that with taxpayers footing the lion's share of the bill.

It has long been a foregone conclusion amongst many around town that both the Rodeo and the Texans have wanted to see the Astrodome demolished for years. The iconic structure is taking up a huge space in Reliant Park, impeding their ability to create space for their patrons. Most had believed the plan all along was to turn it into a parking structure so this green space concept is at least a step away from something so mundane and utilitarian.


So, while I'm with Emmett in his assessment, there is no question the hour is growing late. Like it or not, the Super Bowl coming here in 2017 puts a kind of stopwatch on the situation. No one wants a rotting Astrodome grimly resting next to NRG Stadium. Emmett wants to take another shot with the meeting space. The Texans and the Rodeo are opting for some strange memorial to a stadium that isn't yet gone. Virtually everyone agrees something radical must occur and the likely approach is demolition, but no one wants the Astrodome imploding on their watch.

Eventually, someone at some point will flinch. The question is who? The when is sooner than you think.

As I commented at Kuff's post, the area around the Dome is eminently walkable, even more so today than it was when we lived in the area (about 5 years ago).  I believe that fences, gates, and perimeter security as it exists should be modified to allow easy, free access to parkgoers, on foot and on wheels.  And I remain of the opinion that Ryan Slattery's plan, at gray2green, is the benchmark solution that would make the most people happy, if that plan were revised to include bi-level subterranean parking in the 35-foot below-grade depression over which the Dome sits (instead of the retention pond at the base of a conical decline, as pictured below).

That could be premium parking for event VIPs and anyone else who wants to get popped $25-$40 or more for a spot with the shortest walk.  (Jerry Jones allegedly charges $75 for close-in parking at AT&T Stadium.  And Beyonce'-Jay Z concertgoers locally are getting "surge priced" downtown this weekend for parking.)  Costs for construction of auto ramps, elevators, and stairs, not to mention a second level, perhaps consisting of those stackable or robotic parking mechanisms already in use in many cities, and a ceiling for the garage that would serve as a floor for the park -- overlaid with turf, much like the football stadium now -- need to be added to the $66 million already proposed.

The park itself would need a lot of shade in order for it to reach its full utilization, and for that you'd need a roof, in whole or in part.  The primary cost concerns remain unanticipated overruns for rehabilitating the structure and liability insurance (what if part of the roof or walls fell on people in high winds or a plain old SETX thunderstorm, to say nothing of a hurricane.  No one would, of course, be sheltered there in a hurricane, but repairs to damage might be too high to do anything but demolish and rebuild).

The HLSR and the Texans want something done in the least expensive way, with the least exposure to liability.  Emmett, the only decision-maker in opposition to the park plan -- the other four commissioners are supportive but noncommital -- wants an exhibit hall, but that's mostly because he is wary of the political consequences of authorizing demolition.  And that's despite public sentiment to do so was fairly much the majority in last fall's referendum, and may be creeping more in that direction... if the's overwhelmingly conservative commenters are any indication.  Emmett is insulated from immediate blowback no matter his choice; though he is up for re-election in November, it's only nominal challengers Ahmad Hassan (Democratic) and David Collins (Green) on the ballot against him.  Four years from now, after both the park's completion and the 2017 Super Bowl are in the rearview mirror?  Who the hell knows?

As far as money goes, the Rodeo and the Texans are simply going to have to cough up the cash to make most of anything happen.  If Emmett acquiesces to their plans for a park and gives them the parking revenue, then he ought to be able to commit to some flat figure of existing county funds  -- no bonds, thus no public referendum -- that is well under half of what is currently proposed for remodeling.  And then he should bill the two tenants for the rest.  With easy credit terms for them to pay off the note, if need be.

For the simplest math, let's assume the renovations increase the price tag to $100 million, and the three parties each chip in a third.  Do the Texans have a spare $33.3 million lying around?  Of course they do; they sign star players for much more than that every year.  Does the Rodeo have a spare $33.3 million?  Sure looks to me like they do (and I doubt they'd have to cut back on any scholarships for the kids, either).  Does the county have a spare $33.3 million to kick in?  Even if they have to spread it over a two-year construction time period, I think the answer is 'yes'.

Am I missing anything here?

To get a handle on the potential parking revenue, how many cars can be parked in the nine-acre footprint of the Dome, on two levels?  This site says 172 cars per acre, for a total of 1,548 parking spaces per level.  Thus, the most conservative estimate of additional annual parking revenue is $500K apiece for the Rodeo and the Texans (25 bucks a car for 2000 cars x 10 days, 8 regular season home games and two pre-season ones).  The Rodeo has perhaps 15 or more dates, the unit price for parking could easily be more and so could the number of cars, bringing the windfall well above $1 million a year.  Each.

As for the Dome being converted into a hotel/casino... that will NEVER happen as long as Talibaptist Republicans rule in the Lege.  And a Governor Greg Abbott would veto it even if Hell caught a polar vortex blizzard and a bill did pass legalizing casino gambling in Texas.  How do I know this?  I point you back to this post about campaign finance reports, and this sentence from Wayne Slater's story within it.

Abbott’s largest out-of-state contribution was $50,000 from the Chickasaw Nation political committee, which operates casinos in Oklahoma.

If there actually are any quivering independent voters who like to play slots, blackjack, craps, or Texas Hold 'Em, and are still looking for a(nother) reason not to vote Republican... there you go.

Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, and Rand Paul

I suppose Cruz has just chosen to be a coconut.  That's the only explanation that makes sense here.

Blaming a recent surge in young border-crossers on the president, Sen. Ted Cruz waded into the crisis Thursday with a bill to reverse a 2012 order protecting child migrants from deportation.

“The staggering conditions that children are being subjected to are a direct result of the amnesty that President Obama illegally and unilaterally enacted in 2012, which caused the number of unaccompanied minors to skyrocket,” Cruz said. “The only way to stop the border crisis is to stop President Obama’s amnesty.”

'Amnesty', as we know, is Republican code for 'deport 'em all'.

Cruz wants to link Obama’s $3.7 billion funding request to the deferred action order. Other Republicans say they’ll block funding for a border response without changes to a 2008 law that lets Central American children remain in the country for years pending resolution of their immigration cases.

Blah blah blah.  Carnival Poop Cruz could very likely be deported back to Canada under his own guidelines, but since he has renounced his citizenship, perhaps he and his father just ought to be sent on back to Cuba instead.

The fact that nobody is going to get to Rafael's right in the 2016 GOP presidential primary is what's at play here, and the recent polling showing Rand Paul leading everybody is also the reason why Rick Perry chose to go after Paul earlier this week, calling him an isolationist.

"As a veteran, and as a governor who has supported Texas National Guard deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, I can understand the emotions behind isolationism. Many people are tired of war, and the urge to pull back is a natural, human reaction," Perry began his piece in the Washington Post. "Unfortunately, we live in a world where isolationist policies would only endanger our national security even further."

"That's why it's disheartening to hear fellow Republicans, such as Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), suggest that our nation should ignore what's happening in Iraq."

That drew a sharp elbow from Paul.

"Apparently his new glasses haven't altered his perception of the world, or allowed him to see it any more clearly," wrote Paul.

Paul continued: "With 60,000 foreign children streaming across the Texas border, I am surprised Governor Perry has apparently still found time to mischaracterize and attack my foreign policy."

Kaboom.  Perry just found himself back in South Texas with a bruised backside.

Paul will find appeal to what now might be called the middle, or maybe the Goldilocks zone, in the GOP: not too hot (Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum), not too cold (Chris Christie, Jeb Bush)... juuust right (a crowded field itself, with Perry, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker).  You gotta be crazy, but not too crazy.  Throw the animals just enough red meat to keep 'em satisfied, not so much that they think they're actually in charge of anything.  It's still way too early to divine anything of importance in this early jockeying, but that won't keep anybody from trying.

I would rather focus on the election that happens in 3 1/2 months, because the potential for better -- or worse -- leadership for Texas, the United States Senate, an equal rights ordinance in Houston, and a fracking ban in Denton are all significantly more important issues to all Texans than who might or might not run for president in 2016.