Friday, June 16, 2017

Voting presents few options, mostly bad, and little confidence in the system

-- Read this post from David Collins regarding the Texas Green Party's internal strife at their annual meeting over the weekend in Corpus, then read titular matriarch kat gruene's spleen-venting about the same on her Facebook wall.

The dysfunction bled out into the open months ago (scroll down), when I tried to save the local chapter's lone minority executive member from a coup orchestrated by the Old Guard (and failed).  One of the county steering committee members who defeated me in the elections held that night has already stepped down.  Sadly, these folks can't organize their way out of a paper bag at a time when the Democratic Party is all but crashing and burning right alongside them.

Don't believe that?  Think 2018 is going to be a blue wave?  Read what Tom Wakely -- the Berniecrat who gave Lamar Smith the closest run for his money ever last November -- had to say, as published at Down With Tyranny, following the People's Summit in Chicago also last weekend.  Bold emphasis is mine.

The Summit, as far as I could ascertain, was heavily weighted to reforming the Democratic Party on the East Coast and West Coast. Very little was said about the rest of the country and what we should do in deep red states, like Texas, where I live. When I got a chance to button-hole Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal after she spoke at one of the working group sessions, "Transforming the Democratic Party," I asked her this question. What kind of strategy (should) those of us in deep red states use? Her response, "I don’t know, you have a better idea than I do as to what needs to be done."

I also spent a considerable amount of my time just mingling with people, introducing myself and listening to why they were at the Summit. I must have met and talked to a least 200 people over the course of the 2½-day event and this is what I came away with. Keeping in mind that I spoke to less than 5% of the attendees, maybe even less, without exception none of them was up to the task of transforming the Democratic Party. Every one of them wanted to form a 3rd party. Whether it was joining the Green Party or the People’s Party or forming a new party, it didn’t really seem to matter to any of them. What mattered to them was electing progressives to public office and they just didn’t see the Democratic Party willing to do that.

That general feeling, (that) spending the time and energy to transform the Democratic Party was a waste of time, seemed to be confirmed by my conversations with the individuals I met who had actually run for political office like me. All of us were inspired to run by Bernie Sanders last year and all of us had the same story to tell. The Democratic Party didn’t left a finger to support us. Those of us in red states all agreed, at least in the short-term, we needed to run progressive independents, like Bernie Sanders, instead of looking to the Democratic Party for institutional support.

Following up ...

Tom sent me a note yesterday telling me he had withdrawn as a candidate for 2018 for the seat occupied by Lamar Smith. It's a crowded race with lots of candidates, many of them pretty bad. We like Derrick Crowe. Tom has endorsed Rixi Melton. In 2016, Tom (did) something no one else has been able to do in over 30 years -- he managed to drop Lamar Smith's percentage vote total to 56.9%, the lowest of his career. In addition, Wakely’s campaign garnered more votes in 2016 than any Democrat in the State of Texas running against an incumbent congressional Republican.

There is no home for progressives in Texas -- or in the states that aren't in New England or on the west coast -- to go.  And the Democrats are counting on you to come slinking back, tails between your legs, and vote for the shitty neoliberals they nominate.  The next one up who fits this description is Jon Ossoff, who as it turns out is opposed to single-payer.  But because his opponent is Karen "I do not support a livable wage" Handel, the lesser of two piles of crap is all the voters of Georgia's 6th Congressional District get to pick between.  Phillips or Standard?  Your choice.

At this moment, there is no place for independent progressives in Texas to turn.

-- We can't let the week end without mentioning Russia and the election.  Naturally.

In North Texas:

Russian hackers took aim at Dallas County's Web servers, possibly trying to access voter registration rolls, before the November presidential election, officials said Wednesday.

"They didn't infiltrate our system," said Toni Pippins-Poole, the county's elections administrator. "They couldn't get in."

If the hackers had been able to manipulate or delete the county's registered voter database -- which contains names, dates of birth and addresses for 1.3 million voters -- that could have caused chaos on Election Day, said Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

It's unclear whether Russians targeted other Texas counties. Collin and Tarrant county officials said they found no such attempts.

This fits with everything I have read and understand, with a handful of exceptions.

Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.

In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.

Have you taken your Valium?  Given it time to kick in?  You'll be okay even if it hasn't.

One of the mysteries about the 2016 presidential election is why Russian intelligence, after gaining access to state and local systems, didn’t try to disrupt the vote. One possibility is that the American warning (coming directly from Obama) was effective. Another former senior U.S. official, who asked for anonymity to discuss the classified U.S. probe into pre-election hacking, said a more likely explanation is that several months of hacking failed to give the attackers the access they needed to master America’s disparate voting systems spread across more than 7,000 local jurisdictions.


In early July 2016, a contractor who works two or three days a week at the (illinois) state board of elections detected unauthorized data leaving the network, according to Ken Menzel, general counsel for the Illinois board of elections. The hackers had gained access to the state’s voter database, which contained information such as names, dates of birth, genders, driver’s licenses and partial Social Security numbers on 15 million people, half of whom were active voters. As many as 90,000 records were ultimately compromised.

But even if the entire database had been deleted, it might not have affected the election, according to Menzel. Counties upload records to the state, not the other way around, and no data moves from the database back to the counties, which run the elections. The hackers had no way of knowing that when they attacked the state database, Menzel said.


Thirty-seven states reported finding traces of the hackers in various systems, according to one of the people familiar with the probe. In two others -- Florida and California -- those traces were found in systems run by a private contractor managing critical election systems.

(An NSA document reportedly leaked by Reality Winner, the 25-year-old government contract worker arrested last week, identifies the Florida contractor as VR Systems, which makes an electronic voter identification system used by poll workers.)

In Illinois, investigators also found evidence that the hackers tried but failed to alter or delete some information in the database, an attempt that wasn’t previously reported. That suggested more than a mere spying mission and potentially a test run for a disruptive attack, according to the people familiar with the continuing U.S. counterintelligence inquiry.

So ... it's not the last election you need to concern yourself with; it's the next one.  Do you think President Mango Chaos is going to do anything to establish confidence in our election integrity in 2018, or 2020?

There's lots more at Bloomberg if this sort of thing obsesses you.  Brad Friedman points to a Politico piece that suggests some chicanery is looming in the Georgia 6th special election due to that state's pathetically weak voting infrastructure.

I have just about reached the point where I have decided that voting simply isn't worth the effort, which would put me in with a majority of Americans.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Weekly Wrangle

With this week's lefty blog post roundup, the Texas Progressive Alliance is hoping to squeeze in a vacation before the start of the special legislative session.

Off the Kuff looks at Republican fear of a redistricting ruling and considers the best case scenarios.

Yuge news broke every day last week but PDiddie at Brains and Eggs only had time to blog a few paragraphs about all of it.

Ted at jobsanger marks the anniversary of the Orlando Pulse nightclub tragedy, and observes that it was not just the largest mass shooting in the nation's long bloody history of those, nor only the worst terrorist attack since 9/11, but remains a failure to confront the source of our country's greatest ongoing carnage: a lack of courage to appropriately close the loopholes in gun purchase laws.

High Plains Blogger would remind us that the White House is no place for on-the-job training.

Texas Freedom Network says "Don't let the door hit ya on the way out" to longtime SBOE lunatic David Bradley.

Greg Abbott has mistaken the odor of high percentages of incarceration in the counties north of Travis for 'freedom', writes Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast.

The counter-protesters at the "March Against Sharia" at the Capitol over the weekend far outnumbered those who organized the demonstration against the monsters under their bed the alleged influence of Islamic law in America.  Gus Bova at the Texas Observer filed a report and posted pictures.

SocraticGadfly, channeling Greg Palast's smarter brother, Greg AtLast, talks about Trump v Comey, and how too much Putin Did It conspiracy thinking got Reality Winner arrested, as well as how the Comey testimony was kind of a nothingburger.

The Lewisville Texan Journal offers some tips for those moments when you might encounter wild critters in an urban environment.

The Rag Blog hosts "Demand the Impossible!" with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn next week in Austin.  Sponsors of the event include the Austin chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Neil at All People Have Value blogged that the city of Houston offers hurricane preparedness guides in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and Arabic.  APHV is part of


More Texas news and blog posts from around the state!

Wedding bells and jail cells marked the end of the regular session for some Texas legislators, notes Anna Tinsley at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Politex blog.

This past weekend's Green Party state convention in Corpus Christi marks a turning point for the party's legitimacy in Texas politics, and David Collins detailed how that is, came to be, and goes forward.

Catherine Hunter at Progrexas lists ten bonafide progressive Democrats who're running for office across the Lone Star State in 2018.

The Houston Communist Party posted video from the Nina Turner Show, starring Bernie Sanders (the People's Summit, also this past weekend).

Sanford Levinson at Rivard Report argues that nobody really knows what "sincerely held religious beliefs" are.

Lize Burr at Burnt Orange Report tries to make sense of the special session agenda.

Jay Leeson at Burkablog wonders why so many state senators want to serve Dan Patrick's interests instead of their constituents'.

Andrew Edmonson, in an essay for the Houston Chronicle, thinks Pride parades should return to their protest-march roots.

Paradise in Hell has a modest proposal for Greg Abbott.

Durrel Douglas at Houston Justice provides a way to help the family of Johnny Hernandez, the man who died from a chokehold by a Harris County deputy's husband after an altercation outside a Denny's.

To spotlight the Republic of Texas motorcycle rally this past weekend, All Ablog Austin posted the ten best rides through Central Texas.

And Harry Hamid considers the axolotl.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Scattershooting a week's worth of broken news

About six or so draft status posts need to be condensed to a sentence or two each.  Okay, a paragraph or two.

-- Sylvester Turner is simply weak, folks.  After a dozen Texas cities quickly declared they would legally enjoin the state of Texas from enforcing the sanctuary cities ban, the rest of us have been waiting for Mayor Sly to bust his move.  It's a question Stace at Dos has asked three times now -- in his best passive-aggressive voice -- and finally, after the newspaper of local record along with dozens of immigrants rights activists called him out for his recalcitrance, Turner finally said he'd put it on council's agenda in a couple of weeks.  And the mayor's lickspittles on social media all declared victory in one voice.

One CM was heard to say that Turner was still afraid of alienating Republicans in the Lege, even after securing the much-ballyhooed pension reform legislation, which has already been signed by Helen Wheels Abbott, and for which Turner held an instant self-congratulatory press conference.  So what future is he so scared of?  Yes, the fireman are going to fight back a little harder, but if the mayor were really sly he'd just kick that can down the road like all the mayors before him have done. 

If you have nine Democrats out of fifteen CMs, you shouldn't need extra time to whip votes.  But as I have said time and time again, Houston's Democrats are really moderate Republicans in disguise.  Turner's long history in the Lege taught him when to kneel to conservative complaints and when to ignore liberal ones.  And until someone pays Marc Campos to share his secret to turning out the Latinx vote, none of that is going to change.  So hey, maybe this weakness isn't all on the mayor.

And maybe he's just sitting tight, waiting for the courts to take care of it.  That's still not leadership.

-- Dan Patrick forced a special session by getting the Freedom Caucus to kill the sunset bill.

As a key deadline to pass bills out of the Texas House approached last month, a small group of ultra-conservative legislators ensured the demise of a measure that would have prevented the shuttering of several state agencies. In a text message to a lobbyist, Rep. Kyle Biedermann, a member of the self-styled House Freedom Caucus, said Patrick called the group and asked them to stall long enough to keep the bill from passing.

He made Greg Abbott his bitch, and he goat-fucked every single Texas House Republican moderate in the 2018 GOP primary.  Texas Democrats won't be able to to do anything but cry over it; it's all on the Straus Caucus to stop them.  In the special and in next year's elections.

This is among the many reasons why I'm retiring to New Mexico in a few years.

-- James Comey has again gone from being the guy who threw the election to Trump to the guy who's going to get Trump thrown out of the White House.  To hear Democrats tell it.
Some heard bombshells; sounded like eggshells to me.  The actual reveal was Comey having his buddy leak the memo that kneecapped Trump a couple of days before his testimony.  Edward Snowden said it best.

-- It was tantalizing...

Russian intelligence agents hacked a US voting systems manufacturer in the weeks leading up to last year’s presidential election, according to the Intercept, citing what it said was a highly classified National Security Agency (NSA) report.

The revelation coincided with the arrest of Reality Leigh Winner, 25, a federal contractor from Augusta, Georgia, who was charged with removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet.

The hacking of senior Democrats’ email accounts during the campaign has been well chronicled, but vote-counting was thought to have been unaffected, despite concerted Russian efforts to penetrate it.

Russian military intelligence carried out a cyber-attack on at least one US voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than a hundred local election officials days before the poll, the Intercept reported ...

The NSA report makes clear that, despite recent denials by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, the NSA is convinced that the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) was responsible for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

But ...

The intelligence assessment acknowledges that there is still a great deal of uncertainty over how successful the Russian operatives were and does not reach a conclusion about whether it affected the outcome of the election, in which Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton hinged on three closely contested states.

But ...

But the suggestion that Russian hackers may gained at least a foothold in electronic voting systems is likely to add even more pressure to special counsel and congressional investigations. The Obama administration maintained that it took preventive measures to successfully guard against breaches of the systems in all 50 states.

Someone in position to know says it's worse than is being reported.

"I don't believe they got into changing actual voting outcomes," Virginia Sen. Mark Warner said in an interview. "But the extent of the attacks is much broader than has been reported so far." He said he was pushing intelligence agencies to declassify the names of those states hit to help put electoral systems on notice before the midterm voting in 2018.

I'm again hearing eggshells.

A leaked analysis containing none of the raw data being analyzed in that analysis does not come even remotely close to being the sort of hard evidence that those of us who are skeptical of your conspiracy theory would require. For the many, many reasons listed in the debunkery compendium, nothing but hard evidence will suffice.

The fact is, we’ve already seen analysis reports from intelligence agencies on the alleged Russian election meddling, like this one by the DHS and the FBI in December, and this one by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in January, and like the Intercept’s NSA leak those didn’t contain any raw intelligence either.


Additionally, the NSA was literally just shown to have been dead wrong about Russia meddling in the French election.  [...] For weeks establishment outlets were reporting as unquestionable fact that Russia was known to have hacked French electoral infrastructure, citing NSA chief Michael Rogers’ confident proclamation that NSA surveillance had “watched” this happen. 

In an even stranger development, Wikileaks and Glenn Greenwald are suddenly no longer BFF because of the burning by The Intercept of whistleblower Reality Winner.

-- UK PM Theresa May miscalculated like a Texas GOP boss (well, hopefully), and now she has to go harder right with her coalition.  There was also a remarkably hostile rift opened among Middle Eastern nations, a couple more terrorist attacks, and some other things that slid down the memory hole faster than shit through a goose.  It's not all about Trump, after all.

You all caught up now?

Just one week ago, it was back channels, broken climate accords, and covfefe.  Those were the days.

I din't even have time to opine about Kathy Griffin (Go, girl) or Bill Maher (STFU).

Too much and too fast for me to document on a timely basis.  Taking another break after the Funnies and the Wrangle; any updates after Monday morning will appear in the Twitter feed.