Thursday, April 14, 2016

If he can make it there...

... then anywhere, you know.  (And so can she.)

And now, after competing press releases and months of negotiations, the two Democratic presidential candidates have their chance to show which one of them is ready to make it all the way to the White House.
A political subway series, if you will, ladies and gentlemen. Two (sort of) New Yorkers battle it out on the debate stage again just days before the Empire State votes on Tuesday, April 19. 

ABC's five things to watch for this evening include the skills of one-upsmanship (without being too nasty), Round Two of the 'qualified' spat, Wall Street connections and how they might be linked to terrorism, and fracking and momentum.

Let's read the latest from the NYT's First Draft:

Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont will hold a debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, hosted by CNN and NY1. Their contest has become increasingly nasty, although it is genteel compared with the Republicans. But they are clearly sick of each other and tired of hiding it. Mr. Sanders has struggled in New York amid tough questions, and he has been tripped up on issues related to Israel. The borough is home to a large Orthodox Jewish population, a fact that might come up.
Brooklyn is also home to a large African-American population. Mrs. Clinton received a lukewarm response at a National Action Network conference hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton on Wednesday as she dealt with fallout from a racially hued joke during a skit on Saturday with Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York. 

Oh yeah, there might be something racial that gets discussed.  Fun.

I'll be filling up the Tweet feed on the right with the smarts and snark of others mostly, so if you don't do Twitter but want some (ten-to thirty-second delayed) play-by-play, I'll be there for you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Clinton, Sanders, and the Empire State

We might get back around to who's qualified and who's not by Thursday, but if we don't there's still plenty of topics upon which the Democratic Party's race for the presidency is going to be decided, on the debate stage or off.  One is that the NY primary is closed, which aids Hillary Clinton and hinders Bernie Sanders since the election data has demonstrated his strength among indys, who would have had to register as a D weeks ago in order to vote next week (as Donald Trump's children glaringly reminded us).  That helps us understand why Clinton has taken to questioning Sanders' Democratic bonafides; she's speaking to a New York electorate that votes in that primary consistently, and not so much for the Zephyr Teachouts on the ballot.

And despite her (and her husband's) by-now-typical collection of verbal malaprops, Clinton maintains a solid polling lead in New York.  Also in spite of her waffling on the death penalty, as well as some historical and damning evidence that black folk have been taken for a ride downtown in the back of the squad car for the past twenty-two years courtesy of the Clintons -- long before social media's scrutiny of summary executions by paranoid, trigger-happy LEO became a thing -- that support base is still standing by their woman.

This is best explained in the context of why Bernie Sanders has been unable to erode her support by Salim Muwakkil at In These Times.  Go read the whole thing; the following has three links you should also check out.

Many are perplexed by what they consider black Americans’ perverse allegiance to Clinton. Michelle Alexander, author of the highly influential The New Jim Crow, for example, argued in a widely discussed Nation essay that Clinton is undeserving of black support. Alexander notes that the Clintons “presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history.”
Others are not so perplexed. Glen Ford, executive editor of Black Agenda Report, argues that black people “tune Sanders out, because their main purpose for voting in national elections is to keep the White Man’s Party, the Republicans, out of the White House, and believe Clinton has a better shot.”
I think Ford is on target, and although he bemoans this tendency, it’s one that’s been honed by centuries of hard-earned experience. New York Times columnist Charles Blow calls it “functional pragmatism.”

Alexander, Ford, Blow, and other black intelligentsia (some would call 'elite') including Dr. Cornel West, radio show host Tavis Smiley, rapper Killer Mike, author Ta-Nehisi Coates, Hollywood- connected activists Spike Lee, Sidney Poitier, Danny Glover and others -- have made the case for Sanders over Clinton, but their 'bookish, boutique' support, as Muwakkil calls it, doesn't resonate with the African American working class that votes in droves for Democrats, mostly establishment ones.  There is no 'gospel accent' (again, Muwakkil's term).  It helps to apply Rev. Al Sharpton to this label, and note that while he had a sit-down with Bernie two months ago, he's also been critical.  Sharpton's blessing may be the key to victory for one or the other; so far he's not giving it up.

What I find profound (as the unenlightened middle-aged white guy) is this.

The significance of these ideological nuances made a brief appearance during a debate in Flint, Michigan, when Sanders’ response to a question about his “racial blind spots” implied that only black people live in “ghettos” and that most black people were poor.
It was a minor verbal gaffe that was likely the product of debate exhaustion. But it was a gaffe that might also be characterized as a “Marxian slip,” in that a bit of Bernie’s worldview slipped out. Specifically, his conflation of black America with the lumpenproletariat, a Marxist-Leninist conceit widely held during the days of the Black Panther Party, the time of Sanders’ ideological formation, but one that can elide the specificities of racial oppression and the subtleties of class divisions in the black community.
It was indeed a slip for Sanders. He’s been trying hard to update his rhetoric to be more attentive to issues of white supremacy. He effectively incorporated an early encounter with Black Lives Matter protesters into a more inclusive campaign platform.
But his gaffe also played into an ongoing squabble among progressives about the role of race in the class struggle (or the role of class in the racial struggle). That disagreement has been debated rancorously for the better part of a century now. And despite the historic campaign Bernie Sanders has run in this election, we still don’t seem any closer to resolving it.

I had to Google some of those words to get the full meaning.  I didn't when I read D. R. Tucker in Washington Monthly a couple of weeks ago: that blacks just aren't so keen on Bernie's message of upending the system because they have long sought a seat at the table within the system.  A piece of the pie, as The Jeffersons soundtrack sang about.

In all likelihood, most African-American voters reject Sanders because they reject the tenets of democratic socialism, preferring a more effectively regulated capitalism as a solution to the country’s woes. Sanders’s call for a “political revolution” is one most African-American voters do not hear. They don’t want to overthrow the current system; they just want more fairness in the current system.


It is this ethos—the creed of the African-American striver—that fuels black opposition to democratic socialism. Most black voters would agree with Sanders that the system is rigged; they’d specifically point out that the system has been rigged against African-Americans since 1619. Yet most African-Americans do not wish for the system to be destroyed: they wish for the system to be un-rigged, to be made fair, to be made whole.


Most African-Americans believe in capitalism, and praise those who have overcome the obstacles of racism to succeed in a capitalist system. They do not believe that capitalism and racism are inextricably linked; they believe it is possible to reduce bias without having to shift towards democratic socialism. In other words, Sanders’s core message—his linking of racism and other social “-isms” to capitalism—is one most African-American voters have zero affinity for.

Bernie's win in Michigan pointed to the class distinctions between Southern African Americans (low wages, no unions) and Midwestern ones (unions and high wages) as part of the reason why he won there and lost badly to Clinton in the South.  Reasonable enough, but not as thorough as Muwakkil and Tucker.

Last summer I wrote about the two reasons Bernie wouldn't win the nomination: minority voters and superdelegates.  So all of this helps me better understand why, exactly, that forecast is coming into tighter focus.  I'll hold off on another prediction until after Thursday night's debate, but absent something earth-quaking the nom is still Hillary's to lose.  And she could still lose it.

Update (4/14) More from Nina Turner.

Monday, April 11, 2016

SEC charges Paxton with stock fraud

Civil charges (which means a fine), not criminal, as with the state jail felonies he's been facing.  In fact there's only a few new details to add to this embarrassment.

U.S. regulators charged Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Monday for his alleged role in a stock scam that defrauded investors in a Texas-based technology company called Servergy Inc.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused the company and former Chief Executive Officer William Mapp of selling private stock while misleading investors about the energy efficiency of its sole product, and accused Paxton of working to raise investor funds for the company without disclosing his commissions.

The SEC's civil case followed a related criminal case against Paxton for securities fraud. Last year, a Texas state grand jury indicted Paxton for his alleged role in a scheme to mislead investors.

Let's skip over to the Chron for this:

The complaint alleges that Paxton told the SEC that he intended to pay for the shares and even offered to pay $100,000 to Mapp during a meeting at a Dairy Queen in McKinney, Texas.
According to Paxton, Mapp then said, "I can't take your money. God doesn't want me to take your money." So Paxton took the shares as a gift.

The Lord's name invoked over BeltBusters, fries, and shakes at DQ as the dirty deal went down.  That's what I like about Texas.  More from the Houston Press:

Paxton's connection to Servergy has been one of the most intriguing details about the AG's current legal woes. Before his indictment on state securities fraud charges last summer, the SEC had already accused Servergy of lying to investors by falsely claiming its data servers had already been sold to huge companies, like Amazon and Freescale. The SEC claims Servergy even lied to investors about the very servers the company was selling, falsely claiming the machines required 80 percent less cooling, energy and space than others on the market.

According to a press release announcing federal charges against Paxton and others, the SEC claims former Servergy CEO William Mapp sold millions of dollars in company stock by exaggerating his product's merits. As for Amazon's supposed interest in the company's servers, the press release states: "In reality, an Amazon employee had merely contacted Servergy because he wanted to test the product in his free time for personal use."

And last, this.

Bill Miller, a longtime Austin consultant who has represented politicians under investigation and facing criminal charges, said he expects Monday's federal charges will only make Paxton "lock down for the long haul. He will not step down."
"The feds are straight-up business in cases like this," Miller said. "They don't care whether he's attorney general or not, and they're going to press ahead with their case – and you can expect him to fight it," he said. "In a case like this, once you're there – like he is now – he's going to tough it out to the end."

Paxton is relying on the same Lone Star justice that saw Rick Perry skate on his indictments, which is that the courts in Texas are overwhelmingly Republican-elected and thus deliver their own unique interpretations of the law.  Republican voters picked Paxton in the runoff two springs ago over Dan Branch -- who was endorsed by W Bush -- despite his having already confessed to his crimes, mostly because (and here I have to make an educated guess about the rationale formed in the mind of the typical Republican primary runoff voter) of Paxton's personal relationship with Ted Cruz Jesus Christ.

After all, if you're only accountable for your sins on the day you stand before your god, who is the GOP base to judge you?

The Weekly Wrangle

No members of the Texas Progressive Alliance can be found in the Panama Papers, but there are some salacious blog posts in this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff warns about the likelihood of North Carolina-style anti-equality legislation being put forth in next year's Legislature.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos believes the GOP deserves its bigoted presidential frontrunners. 50+ years of an ugly dog whistling Southern Strategy reaps the worst among us. The Republican Party and its bigoted frontrunners. The devil made them do it.

Ken Paxton, under indictment for fraud, hired another theocrat on the public dime. CouldBeTrue at South Texas Chisme doesn't think much of his family values.

Socratic Gadfly takes a look at Bernie Sanders, presidential politician.

One of the topics later this week in the New York Democratic presidential debate will surely be qualifications to be president, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

jobsanger calls 'BernieBros' the TeaBaggers of the left, and Bay Area Houston goes after Sanders' "quote-unquote".

Egberto Willies wonders if the Dem primary is on the verge of implosion, like the GOP's.

Neil at All People Have Value said that while we discuss the anti-gay legislation in North Carolina and Mississippi, we should recall that Houston voters repealed our human rights ordinance just a few months ago. APHV is part of

And the Lewisville Texan Journal eulogizes former mayor Gene Carey.


And here are more posts from the Texas blogosphere.

In a truly horrible account, Trail Blazers points how badly 4-year-old Leiliana Wright needed Dallas CPS, and how it failed at every turn.

Grits for Breakfast updates on legislation in California and Texas regarding 'junk science writs'.

Prairie Weather is struck with a realization while reading Robert Kaiser's The Disaster of Richard Nixon: maybe this is how the Republicans can appear to get away with 'it'.

Idiotprogrammer has some e-publishing updates you might be interested in.

Ashton Woods at Strength in Numbers clears up a few misconceptions.

Better Texas Blog argues that sales tax holidays are not good for consumers.

The Lunch Tray gives a meal delivery service a try.

Paradise in Hell looks forward to being able to discriminate against numerous of his fellow citizens who have raised his holy ire.

The TSTA Blog bemoans the effect of ideology on public education.

The Makeshift Academic examines cost sharing and access to health care.

The Urban Edge defends the maligned urban freeway.

And Pages of Victory tells some stories about hitchhiking and train-jumping.