Thursday, January 05, 2017

Scattershooting DC, the EC, and the inauguration

-- Some folks are still in denial.

More than 50 Electoral College members who voted for Donald Trump were ineligible to serve as presidential electors because they did not live in the congressional districts they represented or held elective office in states legally barring dual officeholders.

That stunning finding is among the conclusions of an extensive 1,000-plus page legal briefing prepared by a bipartisan nationwide legal team for members of Congress who are being urged to object to certifying the 2016 Electoral College results on Friday.

“Trump’s ascension to the presidency is completely illegitimate,” said Ryan Clayton of Americans Take Action, who is promoting the effort. “It’s not just Russians hacking our democracy. It’s not just voter suppression at unprecedented levels. It is also [that] there are Republicans illegally casting ballots in the Electoral College, and in a sufficient number that the results of the Electoral College proceedings are illegitimate as well.”

With the College's vote set to be affirmed by Congress tomorrow -- Wisconsin still hasn't finished -- I don't see this changing the result any more than I did the recount (speaking of that, read this).

Update: Still one more last-gasp attempt to stop Trump.

Protests in the nation's capital can be a high good time, but if you're planning on going this year, you'll have to face off with the very worst of the MAGAmericans, like these dudes, who are warming up by fighting among themselves.

-- Anti-Inauguration Day protests, mostly of the quieter and more passive-aggressive variety and held in or close to your city, are IMO a much more effective way in this post-truth era we've entered to demonstrate non-compliance with the Trump World Order.  Charles Blow helps out with some suggestions.  He smartly advises against mere resistance.

Exclaiming your resistance, while necessary, is insufficient. Resistance is a negative position. While negativity in the face of this menace is justified and admirable, negativity alone is a fractional response. As with most things in a fully articulated life, balance is required. You need to augment your outrage with actions that are affirming, behaviors that reinforce principles and values.

When politics seem out of your control, remember that community and culture are very much in your control. We help shape the world we inhabit every day. A life is a collection of thousands of decisions, large and small, made every day. Make those decisions with purpose and conviction, especially for Jan. 20.

The point is not necessarily to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, but rather to deprive it of oxygen and eyeballs; to plant a flag of resistance firmly at the opening gate. This doesn’t mean that people won’t attend or watch. They will. But every station that carries it, as many will, should feel the impact of your absence.

Start by taking, or arranging to take, the day off and attend something that lets you avoid the broadcast of the inaugural and get creative from there.  As referenced previously, a general strike on January 20th would be an excellent idea.

-- Black Lives Matter has worked.  (Pay attention, but give no credence to, conservative trending topics this morning.  These daily eruptions, stoked by the likes of Breitbart and Daily Caller, are only intended to keep the hate fires burning.)

The number of unarmed black men shot and killed by police in the U.S. last year was less than half the total for 2015, according to one database, suggesting that due to nationwide protests, better training or other factors, what the media has called “a national crisis” could be abating.

Police used fatal force on 16 unarmed black men in 2016, according to a Washington Post database. That is down from the 36 unarmed black men police had killed in 2015. Police used fatal force on one unarmed black woman in 2016 and two in 2015.

Separating the real news from the fake outrage is going to be tougher in 2017; resolve to to make the effort anyway.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Some affirmation of Democrats as 'Brainiacs'

It's no so much affirming what I awarded them as it is supporting evidence.  Let's begin with 'blue state guy'/globetrotting teevee food king/raconteur Anthony Bourdain, dressing 'em down.

“The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we’re seeing now,” Bourdain said in an interview with Reason magazine.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in gun-country, God-fearing America,” Bourdain continued. “There are a hell of a lot of nice people out there, who are doing what everyone else in this world is trying to do: the best they can to get by and take care of themselves and the people they love. When we deny them their basic humanity and legitimacy of their views, however different they may be than ours, when we mock them at every turn and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good.”


Bourdain, who is a New York City native and an outspoken critic of the president-elect, said he thinks “the rise of authoritarianism” is a “global trend and one that should be of concern to everyone.” Still, he argued, the belittling or dismissive attitudes of his peers toward Trump’s supporters is counterproductive.

“The self-congratulatory tone of the privileged left — just repeating and repeating and repeating the outrages of the opposition — this does not win hearts and minds,” Bourdain said. ...
He added, “We should be breaking bread with each other and finding common ground whenever possible. I fear that is not at all what we have done.”

And spot on with his crack across Bill Maher's overly large forehead.

Bourdain also criticized HBO political talk show host Bill Maher as "the worst of the smug, self-congratulatory left," hitting the show as a perfect example for why many Trump supporters were frustrated with liberals.

“It doesn’t change anyone’s opinions. It only solidifies them, and makes things worse for all of us,” Bourdain said.

But do take note of Field Negro's counterpoint about Bourdain's somewhat blithe ignorance of his own elitist white privilege.  Both men are accurate in their respective criticisms.

Update: Naomi Klein on how neoliberalism did them in, and First Draft with a more annoyed POV.

-- This piece by Todd Purdum at Politico on the conclusion of the Clinton era has some remarkable insights, including but not limited to the predictable critique that she did not connect with the working class.  Most thought it was for lack of caring; that was not the case.  Bold emphasis is mine.

It has long been a commonplace that Hillary Clinton’s retail political skills are not the equal of her husband’s, and her senior advisers would chafe this year when Bill Clinton pressed to campaign more aggressively in white working-class areas of the Great American Middle, arguing that such voters had been lost for good by the Democrats—or at least for this year, during which disappointment over Obama’s inability to deliver for them had congealed into support for Trump. The truth is that Hillary Clinton did recognize the problem, even if she was unable to translate her awareness into an effective campaign message that would appeal to working-class whites.

After all, it was in the same speech to the elite Manhattan fundraiser where Clinton dismissed half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables,” that she also said this, about the rest of his backers: “But the other basket—and I know this because I see friends from all over America here—people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from,” Clinton said. “They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different—they won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they’re in a dead end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.”

Still-grieving Hillbots have evidence for "the media failed" excuse here.  It most certainly did, but more so because of teevee's focus on every Trump utterance and because of shills like Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.  (Recall that they allowed him to phone in his interviews repeatedly in the primary season, something no other presidential candidate was allowed to do.)  But the premise that Hillary gave credence to the concerns of the eroding middle class went unsold -- and the record poorly corrected -- by the campaign, as evidenced above.  So in proper context, she had the right message, but she stopped emphasizing it.  Because Ada.  Or Big Data.  Or maybe it was the forecasting; the interpretation and translation by her operatives of that data.

Driven by data that persuasively suggested she could never credibly present herself as the embodiment of change, and persuaded that her best shot at winning lay in painting Trump as so unstable and unqualified as to be unfit for the presidency, Clinton set aside the broader themes that had helped her husband win the White House in the first place.

Yeah, that didn't work out too well.

-- Looking ahead: is following Robert Reich a good idea?  Like so many other scared Clinton supporters who scolded Bernie Sanders and then Jill Stein, his exhortations to get on the bandwagon worked, but that wasn't enough for her to win.  He regularly screwed the pooch in the run-up to the fall election, failing along with the rest of us to see what was happening in the Midwestern states, but he might not be wrong about a general strike on January 20th.  (I have thought that Democrats' protests against Trump to this point have been a colossal waste of time and energy.)

One of our writers has called for a national strike on Inauguration Day. You asked your Facebook friends what they thought of this idea. What do you think of it? 

I think it’s a good idea. I worry about demonstrations and “statements” as a substitute for action and organization, but sometimes demonstrations and statements can signal a mobilization that can have a real force and effect over time. If there is a chance that a general strike could catch on with a large cross-section of Americans, getting the attention of the major media and causing the Trump administration to see the extent of the opposition, that would be positive in terms of future organizing to resist Trumpism. But I’m unsure at this point whether it’s possible to get that kind of broad-based participation.

If Democrats take the populist route -- the progressive populist one, that is -- then they could redeem themselves in my eye.  I'm not counting on them, because the definition of New Democrats is the same as neoliberalism, which Purdum apparently does not know.

It will be left for someone in the next generation to build a new New Democratic coalition, one that can somehow rise above prevailing identity politics (much as Clinton did) to forge an interracial coalition of working-class voters who can carry the big swing states in the heart of the country that count in the Electoral College, and not just rack up a big popular vote advantage in the coastal cities. Whether that candidate is now as unknown as Barack Obama was just four years before he won the White House, or is hiding in plain sight in Congress or a statehouse or in a business on Wall Street or Main Street, the task will be the same as Bill Clinton’s was 25 years ago: to persuade the Democratic Party to stop making the same mistakes over and over and expecting a different result.

If you read the piece all the way through you might detect the author's bias for a resurgent Democratic party that tacks further starboard, which would allegedly be toward the new center, somewhere between the neofascism coming into power later this month and the vanquished Blue Dog Clinton and her wing of the blue team.  Here's your 2018 clue: watch Senators Joe Manchin (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly (IN), Bob Casey (PA), and Jon Tester (MT) as to whether their influence in a tough re-election year compels them to try to push the Donkeys to the right.

I think that's another massive loser for them, but we'll see.

-- Finally, let's note that the Harris County Democrats sworn in yesterday are headed for a bright and sunny new year, but the 2017 municipal elections might be a real downer for everybody.  And let's excerpt Kuff with a good take on the landscape at the end of this morning's post; specifically the segment subheaded "The Elections We Could Have".  It's his usual hyper-local grist, intended for the H-Town insiders that eat this stuff for breakfast, so I'll translate it afterwards.

This is the one that is entirely contingent on the Supreme Court, which as we know has not hesitated to stick its collective nose in our electoral business. If the 2015 term limits referendum is thrown out for having insufficiently clear wording, then the people who will be the most affected are the Council members who are in their last terms: Brenda Stardig, Jerry Davis, Ellen Cohen, Mike Laster, Larry Green, and Jack Christie. Cohen’s District C and Laster’s District J represent challenges for Democrats, as Bill King carried both districts in the 2015 Mayoral runoff. The ideal District C candidate is in the Anne Clutterbuck-Ellen Cohen spectrum, while the low turnout District J will always be a bit of a wild card. Against that, Dems will have opportunities in both Christie’s At Large #5 and first-term CM Mike Knox’s AL #1, though as we have discussed before, cattle call races with lots of similarly-profiled Democrats have benefited Republican citywide candidates in the recent past. The ideal here is for a candidate who begins with a lot of backing to get in and largely hoover up all the support – think Melissa Noriega in 2007, or Amanda Edwards in 2015.

Kuff is on record as predicting the SCOTX will toss the referendum that changed council's term limits, approved by an uninformed electorate, so let's proceed as if that will be the case ... because if it isn't, nothing foreseen changes the makeup of Council in 2017.  Borrrring, even if an intra-party squabble erupts among black Democrats, the Latin@ caucuses, the HGLBTC, and maybe a few neoliberal millennials/trust fund babies over a county chair election held sometime soon among the precinct heads who will tap that person.

(How about some of you rumor-mongers keep me posted about this?  Anonymously and off the record, of course.  Most of my Democrat friends aren't any longer, so nobody tells me shit.)

Of the names listed first above, Stardig and Christie are the only Republicans, with Christie's the only seat to be contested on a city-wide ballot.  A TeaBagger/Trumpet like Helena Brown could again slip past the sensibilities of District A's voters, a GOP stronghold hideously gerrymandered on the north and west side of town.  Christie held on by the skin of his teeth in a couple of elections, helped in 2011 by former Mayor Bill White, who endorsed him over Jolanda Jones.  (Even Chris Bell thought that was ridiculous; click the link).  But Christie lucked out mostly because Houston Democrats ruined their chances to remove him by having several aspirants crowd into the AL#1 race and splitting their vote.  How many times must it be written?

Democratic incumbents Davis, Cohen, Laster, and Green (my council member) represent mostly identity politics-centered seats on council, with Davis (District B) and Green (District K) in predominantly black districts.  Laster (District J), the attorney who worked in former HCDP chairman Gerry Birnberg's law office before joining city administration, has had GLBT bloc support in past races and the Caucus may be making arrangements behind the scene to hold that voice at the horseshoe on Bagby, but I'd be more likely to bet on a Latin@ or even Asian Democrat making a bid.  Mayor Pro-Tem Cohen -- as Kuff points out in comparing her to Clutterbuck -- sits in the professional moderate swing seat, District C, containing the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city.  (Before I was moved into K, I voted in C.)  Save for District I's Robert Gallegos, who's also notable for being a gay candidate not endorsed by the GLBT Caucus in his first run, Houston has no progressive members on city council; among the socially liberal, they're all heartily pro-business Democrats, as was most recently revealed in this article about recent Super Bowl real estate developments.  Mayor Turner in fact seems to favor a policing effort to run the homeless out of town, or at least downtown in time for the big game.

Until the state's highest court issues a ruling, all the consultants and their respective candidates are in Purgatory, their fundraising stuck on something close to zero, with the runts of the intellectual litter such as Marc Campos bereft of a life save "drinking fine champagne, eating delicious cheese" and talking hot-stove league baseball.

He censors himself when he types the word 'sucked'.  Is that a curse word in any language?  Somebody please buy this elitist putz a blowjob and tell him it won't suck.

Monday, January 02, 2017

A 2017 Wrangle of 2016 progressive Texan news

Democrats are going to need a better plan than this toon represents.  The week's blog post roundup gathers the best from last week to start your 2017 off on the right (left) foot.

Off the Kuff pointed to Brazoria County as a potential and necessary opportunity for Greater Houston Democrats going forward.

Socratic Gadfly takes a look at Cozy Bear, Fancy Bear, et al, and while rejecting Trump's flippancy, expresses skepticism toward the mainstream narrative.

Texas Republicans expose themselves by making the lives of women, children, and prisoners as miserable as possible. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme sees Donald Trump is not the only white nationalist.

The Brainiacs of 2016, formerly the TPA's Texan of the Year and awarded solely by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs, are The Democrats.

The Apache oil company's "generosity" and speaking with forked tongue caught up with them in regard to their fracking plans in Balmorhea, as detailed by Txsharon at Bluedaze.

In a welcome relief from charting polls and stockpiling objections to Trump, jobsanger posts a survey of the most dangerous drivers in the United States, and finds Texas is tied for first -- or worst -- with Louisiana.

Neil at All People Have Value took a picture of train tracks at a Houston light rail station.  APHV is part of

Dos Centavos listed his top-trafficked posts for the year.

And in Lewisville, vandals shot through a homeowner's windows and knocked the head off of his front-yard Santa Claus, reports the Texan-Journal.


More of the best of the left of Texas from the end of last year!

Leah Binkovitz at the Urban Edge has a rundown of the bills that have been filed to date for the coming legislative session (opening on January 10).  And Ross Ramsey at the Texas Tribune perceives that Austin and Washington out of sync in the early transitioning.

The Houston Press follows up on the Blue Bell ice cream company's continuing troubles with listeria, speaking with a food safety litigator who suggests the company is foolishly requesting of federal authorities that they be allowed to abandon the stringent -- and expensive -- poisonous bacteria testing imposed after previous tragedies.

Grits for Breakfast says the top criminal justice story in Texas -- and possibly the United States -- from last year is easy to spot, but the rest are more obscure.

The Hearne city attorney abruptly resigned last week, and Lawflog says 'good riddance'.

Members of Austin Jewish Voice for Peace held an ecumenical Chanukah vigil at the Capitol, and the The Rag Blog has the photos and story.

The Bloggess eulogized Carrie Fisher as an inspiration to people who struggle with mental illness.

Lone Star Ma urged people to email the Chemical Safety Board.

The Great God Pan Is Dead highlighted the art that moved him in the past year.

Swamplot presented its annual awards for real estate in Houston.

And 2016 was the year that Pages of Victory decided had weaned him off the Democrats.