Monday, August 06, 2018

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance blogs less about polling, fundraising, and the forthcoming November election and more about the social justice issues that are focusing our attention at this less-sweltering, less hurricane-threatened start to August.

Meanwhile, Harris County voters should not overlook the $2.5 billion dollar flood bond election, which has early voting beginning today Wednesday, August 8.

Here's the blog post and lefty news roundup.

In ordering the Trump administration to immediately begin locating immigrant parents and reuniting them with their children, a federal judge declared that the danger of creating "permanently orphaned children" will be "100% percent" the responsibility of the federal government.

Calls for a state investigation and to cease approving licenses for immigrant detention centers were made after a report that a toddler died after being released from a facility in South Texas, and allegations of sexual abuse of at least eight immigrant boys at centers in Arizona run by Southwest Key, the company that wants to open a "baby jail" in Houston.

Texas Standard wonders if Pope Francis' call to eliminate the death penalty will change any minds among Texas Catholics ... like Greg Abbott.

The Texas Observer has a report (.pdf) that shows that two-thirds of the state's high schools have failed to comply with a decades-old law to register their seniors to vote, leaving over 180,000 Texans off the voter rolls.  The problem is statewide, but concentrated in the Rio Grande Valley.  Texas Leftist has more.

At Texas Rural Voices, they understand that arming teachers is dangerous.  Yet they see it happening all over the state.

SocraticGadfly wonders why 25 House Dems and a Gang Greenish environmentalist group are recycling an old Ryan Zinke idea for new National Parks funding.

David Collins has some candid revelations about the state of mental wellness -- his and others'.

Pages of Victory defines his progressive and liberal terms.

The Militant reports that more than 500 people attended a July 24 screening of the new film “Santos Vive,” which documented the murder of 12 year-old Santos Rodriguez at the hands of a Dallas policeman on that day in 1973.

Officer Darrell Cain played Russian roulette with his gun, killing the handcuffed Rodriguez in the back of his patrol car.  Cain had arrested Santos and his brother David at their home, accusing them of stealing $8 from a soda machine at a local gas station.  Cain was convicted of “murder with malice” but served only half of a five-year sentence.  DNA tests conducted after the boy's death confirmed Santos was innocent of the burglary.

Alice Embree at The Rag Blog contributed her history to that of other '60's and'70's-era women activists in Austin in "Fight Like a Girl", featured in the recent edition of Life & Letters, a publication of the Liberal Arts College at the University of Texas.

Very Smart Brothas, one of the blogs at The Root, caught the mural in the Trinity Groves neighborhood of Dallas that depicts the Cowboys' Dak Prescott as being in 'The Sunken Place'.  (It was the quarterback's 'house Negro moment' in supporting his owner's and the NFL's position on national anthem protests that inspired artist Trey Wilder.)

And a Tom Waits song serves as muse for Harry Hamid's latest short work of mostly fiction.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Eric Holder for president?

Been wanting to do a post about his germinating presidential ambitions since before he came to Houston in June for an "intimate, high-dollar fundraiser".  It's been almost two weeks since he was on Colbert and pseudo-declared, and he's said so again.

Once again I shan't bury the lede: Holder is in a three-way tie for first in my sports book for the 2020 Dem nom, and here's a few reasons why.

1.  Holder should bring back the voters who sat out 2016.

2.  Black Democrats, especially those of a certain vintage, are simply disinclined to support candidates on the left like Bernie Sanders.  They are more religious and more conservative, and older African Americans as we know turn out for Democrats like it was an extension of Sunday morning church service (which 'Souls to the Polls' is, of course).  If you need evidence, see Doug Jones, Alabama.  But this piece from Briahna Joy Gray about the awakening political power of the black female vote, more specifically credited with carrying Jones to victory, is direct and a must-read.  One short excerpt:

Recall that the majority of black women under 35 cast their lot with Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Democratic primary, and about 26% of black Americans identify as independents. Moreover, young voters of color disproportionately chose to stay home in 2016 rather than vote for Hillary Clinton. 

Extending the premise in the last sentence: millennials, especially in Texas, may be getting louder but still aren't showing up on Election Day (at least in the primaries).

Before these digressions get too far, let's return to Holder.

3.  I can vividly recall being at my precinct convention in the spring of 2008, where there were almost 250 people gathered (when there have been less than 10 at every one before and since) and listened to my black neighbors close to my own age say that while they respected Barack Obama's bid for the nomination, they simply could not support it because they didn't think the country was ready for a black president.  Which was why they were caucusing for Hillary.  (You may recall that Sheila Jackson Lee was also an early Clinton supporter ten years ago.)  Meanwhile, all the young white kids in my precinct were caucusing for Obama, and in Texas Clinton won the primary but Obama won the caucuses, so they wound up splitting the delegates.  Which is part of the reason the Texas two-step no longer exists, but that's also a digression.

The point -- so the logic goes -- is that America is ready for another black president to clean up everything that Trump has fucked up.  Not only that, but Trump, by trying to undo everything Obama did, has made it personal.  He is engendering a "blacklash" to Trump's 2016 "whitelash".

A reasonable enough premise.

To be clear, Holder would not be a Democrat I would vote for under any circumstance.  He could have prosecuted the banker gangsters in the wake of the Great Depression of 2008-09 despite whatever Obama wanted; the USAG has that independent discretion and authority (as Jeff Sessions and Trump are demonstrating).  In his post-Obama life Holder went to work for a tassel-loafered law firm, Covington Burley, whose clients include some of the worst corporations with a few of the biggest legal problems you can think of: Uber, Facebook, the NFL.  Yes, Eric Holder's law firm is actually defending the NFL's owners against Colin Kaepernick's lawsuit alleging their collusion/blackballing him from playing professional football in their league.

Another report has him going way too easy on the opioid manufacturer McKesson while he was the nation's top cop by exploiting his cozy relationship with their top attorney, who had previously worked at ... Covington Burley.

Some people might smell a quid pro quo somewhere in there.

But keep in mind that Democrats in 2020, no matter what happens in three months, are just gonna wanna win, and as Michael J. Fox said in a movie once, they'll crawl across the desert and drink the sand if they think they see an oasis -- even if it's a mirage.  The centrists combined with the black vote might be unstoppable irrespective of scandal, baggage, and misguided Obama nostalgia.  (He and Joe Biden both, for that matter.)  Still, I count at least two more strikes against Holder.

Holder has shown a tendency to play things safe politically. He has called the progressive push to eliminate the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency a “gift to Republicans” and is urging Democrats not to talk about impeachment on the midterm trail.

That last leaves him opposed to one of the very few people willing to spend tens of millions of his own dollars on Democratic infrastructure, Tom Steyer.  Here is the part where I echo Libby Watson at Splinter: Trust no billionaire.

Maybe—and this is just a thought—we shouldn’t have individual billionaires set the agenda for a political party, let alone one that’s supposed to represent working people (but doesn’t). A party run by billionaires, however good their intentions might be, will never do what needs to be done—like ending the existence of billionaires, just as a start.

So while it's possible Holder cannot withstand scrutiny of his record, stances, and ethical conduct, his fellow dark horses at this too-early stage are also flailing.  Wrecking both sides of her street, Elizabeth Warren outs herself as a capitalist.  Trump cannot wait to go all First Peoples on her, either.

Congressman Joaquin Castro, standing in for his brother, goes mealy-mouthed about ICE.  That's not helping Julian with their base, nor will it help any Latino who actually wants to be president (and not just vice-president) who stands off on this.  There is no raft of law-and-order Democrats -- forget "moderate" Republicans -- waiting to board this ship on a Donkey.

(The "Abolish ICE" political opportunity almost backfired on Democrats in Congress; they let the GOP instantly call their bluff.  But then they turned the tables on Paul Ryan,, so maybe the Donks are not as dumb as they seem.  Republicans are masters at inflaming their base with promises they cannot keep.  So it's important to realize that it goes like this: Democrats outside of Congress should be the ones summoning the meager amount of courage to pass the litmus test; Democratic hopefuls committed to chasing the mythical crossover Republican voter are the ones leaving the chant and the hashtag to the activists.  Julian Castro -- assuming his brother is speaking for him; I can't find the former HUD secretary on the record -- is the wrong one of those.)

Kirsten Gillibrand might have an Al Franken problem.  And not with just George Soros but with women, amazingly enough.  The depth and breadth of these objections shocked me, and are excerpted below.

Many of these donors said that either they were unhappy with Gillibrand or knew plenty of people who were. The 2020 race is still years away, but as donors start to shop around, her comments on Clinton and Franken could be a factor.

“I viewed it as self-serving, as opportunistic ― unforgivable in my view,” said Rosalind Fink, a New York donor. “Since then, I have not purposely attended any fundraiser where she was there. And there is absolutely no way I will support her.”

Fink said she condemned Franken’s behavior, but she believed the Senate should have investigated the allegations thoroughly before forcing him out.

“I think it was a big mistake,” said Irene Finel Honigman, another Clinton donor from New York, adding, “I was not that impressed with her to begin with. I think she certainly had potential, but as for many people, this kind of sealed the deal.”


Susie Tompkins Buell, a major Democratic Party donor who has championed female politicians, also said she was reconsidering her support for senators who called for Franken to resign.


Jill Farber Bramson, a Democratic donor and activist in Michigan, said she knew a number of women ― who tended to be older ― who were deeply disappointed when Gillibrand spoke out against Franken.

“They had always really liked Kirsten Gillibrand very much,” she said. “They really respected her. ... They were just devastated that she pushed, they felt, all too hard and all too soon to have him resign.”

(You should read the full HuffPo piece for the context, including the many powerful Democratic female donors who defend Gillibrand.)

At Netroots Nation over in NOLA this weekend, a surge of ballot-stuffing centrists have propelled ... wait for it ... Terry McAuliffe into the lead over Bernie Sanders for their Crowdpac-sponsored straw poll for the 2020 presidential nom.  Kamala Harris is now third, with Joe Biden fourth and Warren fifth.  The rest, including those I've already mentioned above trail far behind.  As Kuffner says, 'it's a data point', but as usual, you can flush it after reading it.

Mark it Sanders, Biden, and Holder as the three front-runners with 2.25 years to go.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Alyson Kennedy for US Senator, Texas

Found someone I can vote for at the top of my November ballot.

“We invite workers and youth to join us knocking on doors in cities, towns and farming areas, discussing how we can rebuild the labor movement and forge the unity that is necessary for us to fight effectively,” said Alyson Kennedy, candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas. “We will join workers’ picket lines, fights to defend abortion rights, actions demanding prosecution of killer cops and protests against deportations, calling for amnesty for undocumented immigrants.”

Kennedy's name will not appear on the Texas ballot; she will be a qualified write-in, according to the statement from the Socialist Workers Party, via The Militant.  Hat tip Ballot Access News.

I would say that the SWP, being Trotskyite in origin and leaning today (though that is contentious internally; click for more) is somewhat to the left of where I find myself these days.  But the views of the candidate and the party are coming closer to mine than the centrist corporate Democrats holding a death grip on the Donkey Party.

Kennedy was the SWP's presidential nominee in 2016.  Here's an interview from then.

And another where she speaks about women's reproductive freedoms.  More:

She was among the first wave of women who broke the barriers that coal bosses used to exclude women from underground mining jobs. She has been part of numerous United Mine Workers union battles in the coalfields, from West Virginia to Alabama to Utah. From 2003 to 2006, she was among those in the front ranks of a union-organizing battle at the Co-Op coal mine outside Huntington, Utah. The miners there, a majority (of them) immigrants from Mexico, fought for UMW representation to win safe working conditions, an end to abuse by the bosses, and improved wages.

Kennedy joined the teachers on strike in Oklahoma this spring — part of a wave of battles across the country —  and the July 12 rally in Columbus, Ohio, where more than 10,000 union miners, Teamsters, bakery workers and others rallied to demand that the government fund their pensions.

If you recall, the Texas AFL-CIO hesitated in January to give Bob O'Rourke their endorsement.

Explaining the decision not to make an endorsement in the Senate contest, (AFL-CIO President Rick) Levy also said some members "had significant concerns about the congressman's commitment to fighting for working people and, unfortunately, he wasn't at the convention to address any of those concerns."
One of those concerns was likely O'Rourke's support in 2015 for allowing then-President Barack Obama to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement with 11 Pacific Rim countries. It was vocally opposed by labor unions — including the Texas AFL-CIO — who believed it would threaten American jobs. 

Ultimately the union caved, you know, because "not Ted Cruz".  O'Rourke gave one of his typical double-speak explanations for his TPP vote.

O'Rourke stood by his vote to give Obama so-called trade promotion authority, saying the choice was to let the Democratic president negotiate the deal or let it fall to Republican committee chairmen in the House. He noted it did not mean that he supported the trade deal itself, about which he said he still has "some outstanding concerns" regarding its impact on his El Paso-based district.

In other words, he was for it before he was against it.  

Obama's full-court press for TPP failed, but it succeeded in alienating union rank-and-file (because of the bitter aftertaste of Bill Clinton's NAFTA), and labor's resentment can reasonably be implicated as the primary cause of Hillary Clinton's defeat in the three Rust Belt "firewall" states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.  This was no unforeseen upset; in July of 2016, over two years ago, the threat was on high alert.

That's a far bigger deal than Russian meddling on Facebook and Twitter.  It's probably a bigger deal than "misogyny", generalized.  It's probably even a bigger deal than the voter suppression we know about in Wisconsin and in Michigan (Vox's evidence disputes this).  Update: So does Carl Beijer.

(T)he case that Russian intervention was decisive ultimately depends not on anything we can see in the data, but on completely unsubstantiated theories about what's going on inside of the data, buried beneath an massive avalanche of statistical noise, bad polling, underdetermination, and pure fantasy.

It  was -- and is -- most certainly a greater factor than voting for a non-duopoly candidate.

And I like it better than simply undervoting the US Senate race.  I'm looking forward to seeing Ms. Kennedy swing through Houston.