Monday, April 06, 2015

The Weekly Wrangle

With Easter eggs collected, baskets and fake plastic grass all put up, and stuffed bunnies and lawn crosses ready to be stowed away, the Texas Progressive Alliance hopes that our state can learn the lesson of the Indiana debacle.

Here's the round-up of lefty blog posts from last week.

Off the Kuff compared Greg Abbott's performance in heavily Latino districts to that of Rick Perry in 2010.

Libby Shaw, writing for Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos, is absolutely stunned to learn Texas elected a crook as its top cop. Not. The Texas attorney general is an "admitted law breaker".

Socratic Gadfly wrote about the DPS' stupid disciplining of trooper Billy Spears.

Nonsequiteuse explains to Rep. Stuart Spitzer -- the Kaufman Republican who bragged about his sexual history on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives during debate on a budget amendment -- that virginity and abstinence aren't the same thing, and neither will protect a person from all methods of HIV transmission.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston has the rewrite of Greg Abbott's press release on Indiana's RFRA.

Bluedaze noted that Rep. Drew Darby and the authors of HB 140, the bill intended to allow the state to overrule city ordinances regulating fracking, told an inconvenient truth.

Dos Centavos commends Durrel Douglas, a candidate for Houston city council who opposes SB185 (the "show us your papers" bill in the Texas Lege) and has urged Council's involvement.  That's well ahead of any mayoral candidate to date.

A conversation between Sen. Elizabeth Warren and JPMorganChase CEO Jamie Dimon from 2013 provides a clue as to what's wrong with everything, according to PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value said look at things you see in everyday life because they are interesting, and use as few words as you can. APHV is part of


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas bloggers.

Grits for Breakfast rounds up news stories about the failure of the latest "border surge".

Unfair Park watched the Dallas mayoral debate, and observed that voters seem to be hip to the Trinity Toll Road con.

Better Texas Blog explains how lower oil prices would affect the state's finances.

Texas Vox calls for strengthening the Texas state senate bill aimed at combating government corruption.

The Quintessential Curmudgeon called out the Amarillo Globe News for its hypocrisy.

Carol Morgan blogged about "potty parity" and other useless bills at the Lege.

Joe Cutbirth wants Texas to stand tall for equality.

Elizabeth Rose saw the signs of discrimination in the Deep South as a child, and she sees them today in Indiana.

RG Ratcliffe rounds up a week of Texas political scandal.

And Houston Matters, in today's radio program, will discuss changing attitudes about football and East Texas church arsons.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Scattershooting contempt

-- The Texas Lege and its budget debate has been just a little too much for me to endure.  Charles has posted and aggregated in full, so if you want to get today's revulsion out of the way early, he's there for you.  Of particular disgust would be the account in the TexTrib regarding the exchange between state Rep. Stuart Spitzer and everybody else, as the Texas House discussed whether his amendment to move $3 million in funding for HIV and STD prevention programs to abstinence-only education was a good idea.  It passed 97-37, which is practically a party-line vote, so that must mean the answer is 'yes' if you're Republican and 'no' if you're a Democrat.

Oh, and RG Ratcliffe has some biography of Dr./Deacon Spitzer.  Yes, he's a surgeon.

The theocracy is strong with this one.  Everybody understood on the night of the first Tuesday of last November that things were going to be just as bad as you could imagine, and Stuart Spitzer is even more terrible than that.  This is "why waste my beautiful mind" territory, and yes, it can get worse.  There's two more months of this legislative session to go.  They're just getting warmed up.

Update: nonsequiteuse makes up for the contempt I can't bear.

-- Much like the Israeli-Palestinian question, I have deferred picking a side in the GMO debate.  My buddy Gadfly thinks it's Luddism to deny or condemn the science -- so does Neil deGrasse Tyson -- but then I read about Monsanto's "discredit bureau", and ask myself why a company producing a safe product would need a such a thing, or have a team of social media activists countering negative GMO data online, or prefer that people eating that food not have it labeled as such.  All of which may suggest the reason the company needs so many lobbyists... even a former lobbyist named Hillary Clinton.

It reminds me of the way the Texas Commission on (Reducing) Environmental Quality is designed to operate.  It's not just Monsanto, of course; Nestle' does this too.  And many other conglomerated food companies, which also are growing larger themselves.

There's a not-insignificant body of evidence that suggests there's a better way.  I wonder if NDG might address some of those specifics.

So since it's all about profit and capitalism anyway, my free market principle is that an apple that won't turn brown might be a wonderful thing, I'm just not willing to pay more for it.  On the other hand, since they're already charging me more for an organic one...

-- What if oil doesn't make a comeback?  This has greater ramifications than just Texas Comptroller Jethro Bodine's tit in a wringer.  The author of that piece concludes with the answer "unlikely" to the question proposed.   So does this analyst.  So does Boone Pickens.  The consensus among the bulls seems to be 70-80 dollar oil by the end of the year, and maybe even this quarter.

For Houston and Texas' sake, they had better be right.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

What's wrong with everything

Elizabeth Warren versus Jaime Dimon, from 2013.

A meeting between Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Jamie Dimon deteriorated almost immediately after the JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO visited the recently elected senator and consumer advocate at her Capitol Hill office in 2013.

In a new afterword for the release of the paperback version of her book A Fighting Chance, Warren recalls that the tenor of the conversation between the two policy adversaries soured when Dimon complained about financial regulations that she has supported:

When the conversation turned to financial regulation and Dimon began complaining about all the burdensome rules his bank had to follow, I finally interrupted. I was polite, but definite. No, I didn’t think the biggest banks were overregulated. In fact, I couldn’t believe he was complaining about regulatory constraints less than a year after his bank had lost billions in the infamous London Whale high-risk trading episode. I said I thought the banks were still taking on too much risk and that they seemed to believe the taxpayers would bail them out -- again -- if something went wrong.

Our exchange heated up quickly. By the time we got to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we weren’t quite shouting, but we were definitely raising our voices. At this point -- early in 2013 -- Rich Cordray was still serving as director of the consumer agency under a recess appointment; he hadn’t yet been confirmed by the Senate, which meant that the agency was vulnerable to legal challenges over its work. Dimon told me what he thought it would take to get Congress to confirm a director, terms that included gutting the agency’s power to regulate banks like his. By this point I was furious. Dodd-Frank had created default provisions that would automatically go into effect if there was no confirmed director, and his bank was almost certainly not in compliance with the those rules. I told him that if that happened, “I think you guys are breaking the law.”

Suddenly Dimon got quiet. He leaned back and slowly smiled. “So hit me with a fine. We can afford it.”

As Warren noted in a 2014 Senate Banking Committee hearing, Dimon was proved correct: Though his bank was forced to pay $20 billion in fines, he still received a significant raise at the end of 2013.

Now, banks like JPMorgan are directing their anger toward Warren, threatening to withhold campaign donations to her fellow Senate Democrats in protest of her advocacy for Wall Street accountability and greater oversight and regulation of financial services institutions.

Bing, bam, and boom.

I would expect that Chuck Schumer, the next Senate minority majority leader, is going to have to rein Warren in or knuckle under to Dimon -- or both -- sooner than later.  In a different world (hell, even in a different country) things could, and did, go... differently.

Prosecute bankers?!  ShockedIsay.  Would politicians actually go after lobbyists who bribe them?  And not with fines but with handcuffs?  Not even with slaps on the wrist in the Texas Legislature, as we already know, but -- God forbid -- in Congress?

The banks' confidence in their ability to get away with something that smells like bribery is such that they appear to have telegraphed their quid pro quo offer to a major wire service. But even that understates how broken our system has become. Washington pundits are preoccupied with the question of whether the banks' threat to withhold contributions will impact the pending presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. No one seems to wonder whether it's a problem if the banks, as they appear to, have bought the system.

Our system has become so broken that those participating in it can ignore corruption when it is staring them right in the face. Or worse, they are just waiting to profit from it themselves.

Get. The Money. Out. Of The System.

At Easter season, during Holy Week, as Passover seders are scheduled... even an atheist knows that Jesus said, "Love one another..." and still beat bankers with a whip.