Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Happy to be wrong

About the New Yawk showdown.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have agreed to debate in Brooklyn on Thursday April 14, according to reps for the two campaigns. The debate will be hosted by CNN and NY1 and will be held at the Brooklyn Navy Yard at 9 p.m. ET.
The announcement comes after a week of back-and-forth between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns as they tried to negotiate a day and time for a debate in New York ahead of the state’s primary on April 19.

I didn't think it was going to happen, and after all the vitriol that has been spewed from the Clinton camp, I felt pretty good about that bet right through to Opening Day yesterday. 

Over the weekend, the Clinton campaign accused the Sanders campaign of playing “games” over the debate schedule and for rejecting three possible dates that they had offered, including April 14.
On Monday the two campaigns finally reached an agreement.
“Brooklyn. April 14. It's on.” Clinton national press secretary Brian Fallon tweeted ...
The Sanders campaign -- which moved a rally they had scheduled for that night -- confirmed the debate too, but not without taking a not so subtle shot at Clinton.
"Fortunately, we were able to move a major New York City rally scheduled for April 14 to the night before,” Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs said. "We hope the debate will be worth the inconvenience for thousands of New Yorkers who were planning to attend our rally on Thursday but will have to change their schedules to accommodate Secretary Clinton’s jam-packed, high-dollar, coast-to-coast schedule of fundraisers all over the country.”

Facts may be snarky but they are not attacks, Clintoneers. 

More truth: Sanders needs to win Wisconsin today by a much larger margin that he currently leads in the polling, and then he must win New York in two weeks and Pennsylvania the week after that (4/26; Clinton +27.5) in likewise fashion, or the ice just keeps getting thinner for him.

... There was a time when Hillary Clinton held commanding leads in Wisconsin, but the most recent polling shows Bernie Sanders with a small but steady lead heading into today’s voting. And Wisconsin certainly fits the profile of a state that would favor Sanders – he’s run very well in the industrial Midwest, the state has high concentrations of white liberals and college students, and it’s an open primary. For Sanders these are all good signs: he keeps beating Hillary in big states that are critical to Democratic victory in November, and a Wisconsin win would provide another boost in momentum.
But, again, the critical problem he just can’t seem to solve is the delegate math. It’s not enough for Sanders just to win Wisconsin; he has to blow Hillary out of the water to put any sort of significant dent in her delegate lead. A finish that tracks with his two-point lead in the polling average won’t do him much good, given that Democrats award delegates proportionally ...
He’ll need a strong showing in Wisconsin because the next big delegate prizes on the Democratic calendar – New York and Pennsylvania – appear to be strong territory for Clinton. Setting aside the elaborate and exotic delegate-gaming strategies, the only hope for a Sanders victory rests on posting big upset victories in states that are solidly pro-Clinton. To the extent that that is possible, it can only happen if Sanders scores blowouts in pro-Bernie states like Wisconsin.

I will repeat that the poisonous remarks from Clintonoids are not likely to be so easily forgotten as they have been in presidential cycles past (and particularly so when it depends on what the definition of words like 'Democrat' or 'all my adult life' are).  Maybe I'm wrong about that, too, but either way I still see the lady standing on the Capitol steps taking the oath of office next January 20th ... because #NeverTrump and #NeverCruz are pretty potent things.

Speaking of those two guys, the right-wing news coming out of the Cheese State is that not only will Lyin' Ted slow the Orangutan's roll, but that Scott Walker is at the center of Cruz's comeback.

... as bad as (his presidential campaign) was, Walker made two intelligent choices as a candidate that are coming into play as his state votes today for the Republican presidential nominee:
The first was that Walker quit the race early – he recognized very quickly that he had no chance at winning the White House, and so he folded up shop in late September and went back to Wisconsin to tend to his political affairs at home. Walker’s second smart move was to recognize the threat posed by Donald Trump to his party and call for the other candidates to unite to stop him. Nobody listened then, but now Walker has the state GOP behind him as part of a unified effort to elevate Ted Cruz over Trump, and it seems to be working – going into today’s voting, Cruz is leading Trump in the polls and poised to put a large dent in Trump’s delegate lead. Wisconsin was a bad state for Trump to begin with, given its demographic make-up, and the candidate has done himself no favors recently, so Cruz and Walker are positioned to deliver a stinging blow to Trump.

Ted's in much the same boat as Bernie, needing to score big wins in forthcoming contests in order to make a persuasive case for himself as standard-bearer.

The question is whether it will be enough to do real damage to Trump’s push for the nomination. For the #NeverTrump types, Wisconsin is a critical part of the plan to deny Trump the nomination outright. The margin in Wisconsin matters, given how the state apportions its 42 delegates – 18 delegates go to the statewide winner, while the winner of each of the state’s congressional districts gets three. It’s conceivable that Cruz could shut out Trump or limit him to just a handful of delegates, which would force Trump to make them up in later contests. Right now, for the #NeverTrump faithful, it’s all about making Trump’s delegate math as difficult as possible, keeping him from reaching the 1,237-delegate threshold to win outright, and hoping that someone else will prevail in a contested convention.

Ah, that brokered convention.  Since GOP delegates are released from their commitment after the first round, it's almost a certainty today that the nomination will be negotiated.  And making that deal looks like poor odds for The Donald, even if he tries to buy them or bribe them.

The question remains whether this scenario is good for Ted or not.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said (last month) that he would be OK with a "contested convention," but not a "brokered convention."
The two terms have become prominent in political buzz as it grows increasingly likely that no candidate will claim an outright majority of delegates before the GOP convention in July. In that case, delegates would re-vote to pick a winner.
Cruz previously has asserted that a brokered convention would prompt a voter "revolt," but he told Fox's Megyn Kelly at a town hall interview in Raleigh, North Carolina that, "a contested convention is a different thing."
So, what's the difference? According to Jeff Engle, director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University, "In a contested convention, no one shows up with all the delegates they need (to win the nomination). In a brokered convention, people begin cutting deals."
In other words, the delegates supporting third- and fourth-place candidates would have to choose which of the top two candidates to support in a contested convention.

Ted's not lying here; like Hillary he's just using flexible definitions of words.  Both Mr. T and Havana Ted are worried about a Paul Ryan nomination from a floor fight, but it's more possible in my humble O that a Trump/Cruz ticket comes out of that, since Ted holds most of the face cards.

...in the event that Trump fails to lock down the Republican nomination by June 7, it will be Cruz’s turn to deal a high-stakes hand of Texas Hold-Em. If he cannot put together three of a kind with Kasich and Rubio, he’ll get his share of the pot by pairing up with Trump.

Good times.

Monday, April 04, 2016

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance's favorite week of the year -- the NCAA national championship game coinciding with MLB's opening day, and other sporting events on tap through the weekend -- has us buying some peanuts and Cracker Jack as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at the potential redistricting effects of Texas' continued population boom.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos discovers that Trump's presidential candidacy is proof that the GOP is, in reality, a Neo-Confederate Party. The Dixiecrats are still in charge: The Bigoted Party of Jesus, Bait and Switch Deserves its Devils.

Lawyers figured out how to monitor late payments from insurance companies. Who's at fault? The people who found the problem? Nope. The lawyers. According to the people who are paying late. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme knows we live in an oligarchy.

Socratic Gadfly found yet more reason last week to be disappointed with Rachel Maddow.

In developments in the special election to fill the vacancy on Harris County commissioners' court, PDiddie at Brains & Eggs notes that interim appointee Gene Locke has broken his word and decided to run for the job, and state Sen. Rodney Ellis and his long career as a municipal bond lawyer has come under scrutiny.

Egberto Willies posted pictures and video from the National Endowment for the Humanities forum on inequality, hosted at Lone Star College's Center for Civic Engagement.

Texas Vox blogs about the Democracy Awakening event in two weeks, with details about the Austin and Dallas rallies.

Neil at All People Have Value said that even worse than Trump's comments on punishing women who have an abortion, is the fact that in Texas women seeking an abortion are subject to the state-mandated rape of the forced sonogram law. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

And Dos Centavos reviews Stefani Montiel and her latest release, La Dueña.


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

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill attended the Final Four in Houston this past weekend and picked the perfect day to dine al fresco, according to Culturemap Houston.

The Houston Press has the news that DuPont will shut down the LaPorte facility where four workers lost their lives in a 2014 gas leak.

Chuck Smith decries the current wave of discriminatory politics.

The Lunch Tray is not loving McDonald's latest attempt to get into schools.

Tamara Tabo explains why the Planned Parenthood video fraudsters really did break the law.

Austin Eater reports that the gas station used as the set for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s barbecue restaurant will soon be opened as a "horror barbecue resort".

Abby Johnston wades into the sweet tea debate.

And Pages of Victory retells a WWII battle story -- the kind that occurred between soldiers and officers -- in Wilkerson's Tank.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Harris County Commissioner's race updates: Locke in, Ellis' bond deals

Gene Locke lied finally and publicly changes his mind about running for the job to which he was appointed 'interim'.  Here's what he said on January 22nd.

Asked if he intended to run for the post in November, Locke said, "My intention is to go back to the practice of law and enjoy my family,." (sic)

Never-corrected punctuation error Chron's.  Here's what he told the Chron a month later, a few days after Carl Whitmarsh outed him on Facebook.

Locke said he has not made a final decision, but his statement signals a shift for the former city attorney, who previously said he intended to return to his job as a lawyer and spend time with his family after the end of the current term in December.

It also would conflict with County Judge Ed Emmett's previously stated desire to appoint a caretaker commissioner who would not seek the job beyond Dec. 31.

"It's the number of people who I respect that are asking me to consider it," Locke said. ...

He declined to name those asking him to run and said he needs to talk to his family about it. He did not give a timetable for when he would make a decision.

You can find oodles and oodles of blogging about his bid to become mayor in 2009 and the subsequent bitter runoff that year with Annise Parker.  (I received a telephone call intimating physical violence to me during that period as I wrote about Locke.)

Parker defeated him and his African American/Republican coalition of smear merchants and homophobes and hate-mongers in founding her legacy as Houston's CEO.  But that conservative coalition of hate prevailed in the HERO campaign last year, and we see those efforts being duplicated now in North Carolina.  Ashton Woods, who also blogs at Strength in Numbers, summarizes my objection to Locke's candidacy in less than 140 characters.

All of this would be of interest to me as a constituent of Locke's and formerly one of the 130 Democratic precinct chairs who will vote for him -- or one of the other politicos seeking the office -- in an election to be held at the Democratic county executive meeting in June.  But as my disinterest in local politics has swollen, I just haven't taken it as blogworthy ... until the Chron took note of Rodney Ellis' lucrative bond lawyering over the recent decades, and the various ethical dilemmas one can find oneself tangled in (if ethics is ever a concern, that is).

Over the past 26 years, state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, has voted to confirm gubernatorial appointments to the Lower Colorado River Authority, a powerful electric utility in Central Texas. During the same time, financial firms he either owned, worked for, or owned stock in have profited handsomely by helping underwrite $3.7 billion in bonds sold by the authority.


... (B)ecause of Texas' lax ethics law, much less is known about Ellis' equally impressive career in the lucrative government bond business, which repeatedly has placed him in a position to exercise authority over local governments and public agencies whose bond proceeds were being used to pay Ellis' firms. His dual role as lawmaker and bond underwriter has left him straddling the line between politics, municipal finance and public policy, raising questions about potential or actual conflicts of interest, or the appearance of conflicts.

You should probably go read the whole piece -- you know, if you're interested in this sort of thing -- but here's one more excerpt.

Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen, a nonprofit watchdog group, has watched Ellis in action from the start of his legislative career. During that time, Ellis has taken the lead on ethics issues, from requiring more disclosure to overhauling how judicial campaigns are financed, Smith said.
"There's the good Rodney and the bad Rodney. The good Rodney knows what needs to be done, but he also has made a lot of money off of connections, knowing who to talk to, and selling bonds," Smith said.
On several occasions, Ellis has defended his work in public finance by noting that legislators receive only $7,200 a year in salary. Ellis said in 2013 that he wouldn't run for Congress because he couldn't take a pay cut. Congressmen are paid $174,000 a year.

Here it might be important to remind everyone that a county commissioner's salary is currently -- as of two years ago -- $165,900 annually plus a $550/month auto allowance (that some commissioners take and some don't).  So since this number appears to be in the range of a Congresscritter's jack, you might ask yourself, or Senator Ellis: what has changed about Senator Ellis' financial stipulations for accepting a new job?

Do you think he'd be willing to disclose his tax returns so that the public can help him assess whether he's being market-appropriately compensated for his work?

I'm guessing without asking anybody that it's the side jobs that county commissioners get paid for that appeal to Ellis, and I don't mean the high-dollar commissions for bond lawyers (since those will have to go away for him, see story).  The most polite way of referring to this income is campaign contributions, and here you might be reminded that the dearly departed El Franco Lee left behind a campaign war chest of $4 million, despite not having either a Democratic or Republican challenger for decades.  Questionable ethics seem to be the standard among state senators as we know, and that's why several of the also-rans in the commissioner's race -- you can find their names in some of the links above -- will focus their attention on replacing Ellis in Austin as soon as they lose this very special election.

Because even though the stated pay grade is poverty-level, some of these guys are becoming millionaires while serving the public interest.  And that apparently is fingerling potatoes compared to what a county commissioner can grift earn.

Indeed, the best democracy money can buy.

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