Tuesday, December 11, 2018

#SD6 seats Alvarado


It was remarkable how fast the city's best-connected neoliberal could spin it.

The Republican was over-praised by her fellow traveler -- natch -- but spoiled the goodwill quickly by complaining of ... *yawn* voter fraud.

Alvarado's reputation as the Bluest of Dogs didn't damage her prospects at all.  She did, after all, give Sylvia Garcia a close run for the money almost six years ago when Mario Gallegos passed away, so in general terms the La Raza in the East End like to reward the Latina whose turn it is.  You also have to tip your cap to Carol's machine, headed up by her sister, the chair of SD-6, who pulled out all the stops.  (You may recall that Patrona Yolanda, a staunch Hillarian, vindictively punished a Bernie Sanders delegate to the 2016 state convention.)

Here's the cautionary tale for Democrats.

So much cleaner and revealing than Kuffner's eye-glazing spreadsheet graphs.

Update: Isn't bipartisanship hawt?

The special election to fill Alvarado's seat in the Texas House needs to happen in the next 20 days, so it remains to be seen whether Greg Abbott will call the voters of HD-145 back to the polls between Christmas and New Year's.  If he does, that means we can't retire the #FireStanStanart hashtag yet.

Let's all hope Diane Trautman gets to supervise her first election in January.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Weekly Wrangle

In bringing you this week's round-up of the best blog posts and news from the left of Texas last week, the Texas Progressive Alliance understands the value of standing fast for -- and not compromising, or negotiating -- progressive principles.

l to r: Alvarado, Hernandez, Mia Mundy (D), Martha Fierro (R)

The special election to fill the #SD6 vacancy left when Sylvia Garcia was elected to Congress in November concludes tomorrow, but is widely expected to feature a runoff between the two Democratic state representatives vying for the job (among four candidates).  Ana Hernandez, this blog's endorsee, and Carol Alvarado have the short odds to move on to a head-to-head matchup for the right to go to Austin for a seat in the upper chamber; the loser will return to the Texas House.

The state legislature is still Republican but a fresh moderate breeze might be blowing through the Pink Dome, writes Ross Ramsey at the Texas Tribune.  Whether it's a case of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" or not remains to be seen next year.  In another preview of the forthcoming legislative session by Ramsey and republished at Progrexas, freshmen lawmakers are about to find out exactly what they won.

Texas Vox takes a first look at the environmental bills filed for the 86th Lege.

The TSTA Blog reminds us that funding public schools is the state's responsibility.

Andy Canales explores how Latin@ schools are performing, particularly those in the RGV.  (Since 2005, there’s been an increase of 800,000 Latino students in Texas.  Their success -- or lack thereof -- will influence the future of our state.)

Texas Standard links to the sickening report in the Austin American Statesman about the 3000+ cases of abuse and neglect in children's day care centers, many of them unlicensed.  The worst news was that nearly 900 kids have died over the past ten years.

Tony Plohetski and Sean Collins Walsh are members of the team investigating an alarming series of incidents at Texas day care centers, and what the state is and isn’t doing to respond to allegations of abuse, poor conditions and child deaths. The Statesman series is called “Unwatched.”

After a state district judge issued a temporary restraining order halting the implementation of the voter-approved 'pay parity' proposal, Houston attorney (and mayoral candidate) Tony Buzbee offered to mediate the dispute between the city and the firefighters.  That drew a quick 'no comment' from the incumbent mayor Sylvester Turner, who was recently praised for his ability to reach across the aisle in Texas Monthly's 'Power' issue.

By these and other appearances, Turner again reveals himself as enjoying the working company of Republicans more than that of rank-and-file labor, a Democratic constituency.  This is one of the hallmarks of neoliberalism, which this blogger deems to have been a failure for Democrats, through and through.  (More to be blogged later.)

Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson made a rare public appearance at a Houston fundraiser for MD Anderson, and made news when he talked about some of his conversations with the president in a dialogue with retired CBS correspondent Bob Schieffer.

"So often, the president would say here's what I want to do and here's how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can't do it that way. It violates the law," Tillerson said.

Trump would get very frustrated when they would have those conversations, he said.

Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer writes about Texas voter turnout in the 2018 election: much improved, but with a long way still to go.

Grits for Breakfast rephrases the question of whether not jailing people for failure (or inability) to pay the fines associated with Class C misdemeanors excuses the punishment of those crimes.

We're left to wonder: why is debt to the government somehow such a big deal that it warrants incarceration of those who cannot pay? Clearly, non-carceral methods are sufficient for these same judges to declare "justice" done if the beneficiary of court-declared debt is a person, not the government.

The government has created a double standard to benefit itself. Ethical qualms about the private sector excessively squeezing the poor are routinely ignored in the public sector when it comes to criminal-justice debt, particularly Class C misdemeanor traffic fines.


The use of incarceration to punish the poor for non-payment of traffic fines appears flat-out ironic when one considers that wealthier people are more likely to commit traffic offenses. So the class of folks facing the harshest punishments for Class C misdemeanors is also the least culpable. In a nation where 40 percent of the population, according to the Federal Reserve, cannot afford a surprise $400 bill without going into debt or selling something, that makes little sense.

There's nothing sacrosanct about debt to the government, certainly from the point of view of the debtor. From the perspective of the stone, it doesn't matter who wants to squeeze blood from it; none is forthcoming. 

Better Texas Blog warns of the dangers of short-term health insurance plans.

Paradise in Hell wants to see that Confederate plaque in the Capitol taken down now.

Zachery Taylor is concerned that the conspiracy theories have been overtaken by the absurdist mainstream media narratives.

David Collins joined the chorus of those calling for a halt to the canonization of GHW Bush.

The hunt for Bigfoot in Daingerfield State Park, 136 confiscated snakes in San Antonio, and revenge on a 12-foot alligator in Livingston top the Texas Observer's 'Strangest State' stories from December.

And Sir Elton John's farewell tour passed through Houston Saturday night (no fighting, all right?) and was a rollicking march through five decades of songs for all time.  Both Matthew Keever of the Press and Johnston Farrow of CultureMap documented the history.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Sunday Funnies

"Faster than a sinking stock market!  More powerful than many GM factories closing!  Able to incite an international trade war and crash the economy in a single bound!"

Backlash as more radio stations ban "Baby, It's Cold Outside" over lyrics

Monday, December 03, 2018

The Weekly Wrangle

In the spirit of not saying anything mean about someone when they pass on, the Texas Progressive Alliance stands agog at the hagiography surrounding the demise of the nation's 41st president, and wonders what the media will report when Trump finally dies.

Funeral services in Washington, Houston, and interment at College Station will occur all week.

SocraticGadfly takes a critical look at the public service of George H.W. Bush; then describes his visit to Tsarskoe Selo, where an ex-spook told him a conspiracy theory about why Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, eventually triggering Bush's Gulf War.

Tarrant County Republicans, still gasping for breath after being swamped in 2018's blue wave, seem intent on doubling down on their mistakes by whipping up a bad batch of Islamophobia ... just in time for Christmas.

Barack Obama, speaking at the 25th anniversary of Rice's Baker Institute, gave himself a pat on the back for not having anyone in his administration indicted for crimes.  He also reminded the crowd of wealthy philanthropists -- many of whom have no doubt made fortunes in the oil and gas business -- who was responsible for America becoming the world's largest producer of petroleum products.

“American energy production ... went up every year I was president. And ... suddenly America’s like the biggest oil producer, that was me, people,” eliciting cheers.

Fossil fuel's effects on climate change, meanwhile, remained the elephant in the room.

The surge of oil and gas flowing to the refineries along the Texas coast has produced a boom of construction projects ...

More than 80 plants, terminals, and other projects are in the works up and down the state’s Gulf Coast, from Port Arthur to Brownsville, according to a Center for Public Integrity and Texas Tribune review of corporate plans. Companies have been laying enough pipeline in Texas in the last several years to stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific three times over, more than 8,000 miles in all.

... while simultaneously straining local infrastructure and creating concerns about livability.

Heavy (petrochemical) industry pumps out greenhouse gases warming the climate, upping the risks of powerful storms that in turn endanger those same facilities and everything around them. Harvey, which dumped more rain than any other U.S. storm on record, damaged hundreds of thousands of homes in Texas last year, killed at least 68 people and, particularly around Houston, sparked industrial spills, air pollution, and explosions.

How long will it be before we elect leaders that understand you cannot breathe or drink money?

Early voting in the #SD6 special election to replace US Rep.-elect Sylvia Garcia in the Texas Senate continues this week.  Pathetically low turnout to date suggests that the winner -- or the two runoff finalists -- will be the campaign(s) that can most effectively turn out just a small base of supporters.

Off the Kuff did a deep dive into straight ticket voting from the 2018 election.  (Straight ticket voting was eliminated by the Lege for the 2020 election.)

Jim Schutze at the Dallas Observer thinks the 2019 race for mayor of Big D is too boring and suggests a few potential candidates who ought to jump in.

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton is celebrating the 8-year prison sentence of a woman convicted of accidentally voting illegally.

Although Paxton has presented (Rosa Maria) Ortega’s conduct as evidence that voter fraud is a genuine problem in Texas, her case bears no resemblance to the paranoid myth of immigrants covertly swinging elections. Ortega is a lawful permanent resident who was brought to the United States as a baby. She has a sixth-grade education and did not know that she could not legally vote. In October 2014, she sent a voter-registration application to the Tarrant County Elections Administration, in which she indicated that she was not a citizen. When the office sent her a rejection letter, she called to ask why. An employee, Delores Stevens, explained that Ortega had checked the “No” box for citizenship and could not register unless she checked “Yes.” Ortega mailed in a new application, this time checking the “Yes” box to indicate U.S. citizenship.

The office was fully aware of the discrepancies between her two applications. It still registered her to vote.

In his weekly aggregation of criminal justice news, Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast takes note of the indictment on murder charges of the Dallas police officer who shot and killed Botham Jean in his apartment.  And also advances the premeire, on HBO this evening, of the documentary of the life and death of Sandra Bland.  (Here's a review from the SAEN.)

Progrexas sees the Trump administration looking admiringly at Texas as a model for its criminal justice reform bill.

The Texas Observer reports new revelations about the source of the drugs used in Texas executions -- specifically a small compounding pharmacy nestled in-between West University and Bellaire in Houston -- underscoring the risks of a capital punishment process shrouded in state secrecy.

In inspections by state regulators, Greenpark has been cited for 48 violations over the past eight years, according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News. The violations included keeping out-of-date drugs in stock, using improper procedures to prepare IV solutions, and inadequate cleaning of hands and gloves.

HPM says that Harris County officials plan to fix the area's floodplain maps with new topographic and predictive rainfall data.  The end result will likely be that more people's homes will be mapped into the floodplains.

Ty Clevenger at Lawflog files suit against the Texas DPS, alleging corruption and cronyism.

David Collins carefully explains the concept of dichotomism to the chronic sufferers of acute binary thought disorder.  (It's easily cured; no medication necessary.)

Raise Your Hand Texas lists the five things needed in any school finance plan.

Texas Vox gives courage to the cautious Capital Metro leaders, showing them that Austin is indeed ready for a mass transit plan.

The Texas Standard has details about the Tyler Loop.  Not a transportation story but a new media one, and perhaps a model for small-town newspapers that need help filling their investigative-reporting gaps.

The Austin Chronicle has the news about Jim Hightower's syndicator balking at his recent column critical of hedge funds that own newspapers, like Gatehouse Media and Digital First Media.

The Rivard Report laments San Antonio's 20th-century mindset for urban planning and design.

Therese Odell at Foolish Watcher is all over the 60 Minutes report on the damage caused by family separations.

Julien Gomez, opining for the Chron in the wake of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, implores allies of the trans and nonbinary community to speak out.

Harry Hamid writes about the new emperor.

And Sarah Martinez at the San Antonio Current has important Buc-ee's restroom news.