Saturday, January 12, 2019

More 2020 updates

As this post was being written, Tulsi Gabbard announced her exploratory committee for the Democratic nomination.  Her candidacy will be hotly debated among progressives Democrats left and center.  More later in a separate post.

Since the topic is trending ...  See my first post from a few days ago here.

Let's mention the Republicans' Trump primary -- under way now -- along with the speculation as to whether it could even happen.  (With South Carolina publicly considering canceling their primary to shield Trump from challengers, I believe it won't.)  John Kasich is barking the loudest; Bob Corker, Jeff Flake, and apparently Ben Sasse are definite maybes.  Don't count on anybody getting any traction.  The deck is stacked against them.

That would seem to open the door for a high-profile independent bid, possibly regurgitating the Unity08/AmericansElect2012 -styled thing.  Evan McMullin's 2016 effort, financed by the anti-Trump PAC Better for America, managed to get on the ballot in 11 states as well as qualified write-in status in several others.  He and running mate Mindy Finn of Kingwood pulled over 731K votes, or 0.4% of the nation's total, which ran behind the Greens' Stein-Baraka (1.1%) and the Libertarians' Johnson-Weld (3.3%) tickets but certainly wasn't a bad showing for having declared in August of that year.

No noise on this waterfront I can detect yet, but the more you hear about "how far left" the Democrats have moved, and with Trump the assumed GOP standard-bearer ... there will be lots of corporate media-induced wailing for "sensible-center" shitholes.  Expect it.

Speaking of the Greens and the Libertarians, recent posts at Independent Political Report update both, candidates and speculation.  Outside of William Weld for the Libs, nothing very interesting.  No point in dwelling on this from a progressive perspective, since Texas Greens lost ballot access in 2016 and ongoing state party dysfunction precludes their regaining it in time for 2020.

On to the Democrats, the only story for the rest of the year -- and maybe the cycle -- to be reported here, unless something really unexpected happens with Trump or the others.


Axios has your comprehensive duopoly candidate tracker, listing as 'declared' Richard Ojeda, and twenty more 'possibles' including Sherrod Brown, Eric Swalwell, Andrew Gillum, Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bennet, Howard Schultz, Eric Garcetti, Terry McAuliffe, Michael Bloomberg, John Hickenlooper, Jeff Merkley, Steve Bullock, and Eric Holder among the names I didn't mention earlier.  Click over.  Those I bolded are the ones I think are the most serious, for various reasons but mostly on the combination of name recognition, electoral experience, and deep pockets.

Ojeda is the retired Army major, Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran, West Virginia state senator and 2018 Congressional candidate -- he lost to Republican Carol Miller, but improved Democratic numbers in WV-3 by 32 points and outperformed Hillary Clinton -- who was notorious for saying he had supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 D primary ... but Trump in the general election.

He now says he believes Trump is a fraud, but could not bring himself to back Clinton.

“I have been a Democrat ever since I registered to vote, and I’ll stay a Democrat, but that’s because of what the Democratic Party was supposed to be,” he told The Intercept. “The reason why the Democratic Party fell from grace is because they become nothing more than elitist. That was it. Goldman Sachs, that’s who they were. The Democratic Party is supposed to be the party that fights for the working class, and that’s exactly what I do. I will stand with unions wholeheartedly, and that’s the problem: the Democratic Party wants to say that, but their actions do not mirror that.”

I have no idea how this guy will do but he should be interesting as hell in the debates, especially if he's on stage with the likes of Bloomberg, Schultz, and/or John Delaney (see previous) -- any of whom could just as easily wind up on a centrist independent ticket with their respective abilities to self-fund.  Let's call it the American Plutocracy Party.

I agree with Lawyers, Guns and Money that Brown needs to stay in the Senate.

Here's FiveThirtyEight's first volume of what the TwentyTwentys said and did last week.

It's comprehensive -- from Beto's beard to Ojeda's resignation from his state Senate seat.

A few more related links:

-- 'Business' is a dirty word in the D primary:

Schultz, Bloomberg, Steyer
On Wednesday, billionaire California investor Tom Steyer announced that he’s decided against running for the Democratic presidential nomination. (He’ll instead continue his current project of funding aggressive, impeachment-oriented activism.) CNN’s Harry Enten subsequently noted that in a primary environment in which Democrats view a number of potential nominees very favorably, Steyer -- and other businessmen who were/are considering running -- are among the few who poll poorly. (Andrew Yang is an entrepreneur/venture capital guy; Howard Schultz was the CEO of Starbucks.)

Last week, CNBC ran a piece reporting that New York senator and maybe-2020 candidate Kirsten Gillibrand had reached out to potential presidential campaign donors on Wall Street. The piece was immediately circulated by prominent leftists on Twitter -- and was perceived as so potentially dangerous by Gillibrand that she responded directly to one of those critics with a list of her tough-on-finance bonafides. As New York’s Eric Levitz notes, Gillibrand and other potential 2020 Dem candidates who’ve gotten big finance industry donations in the past have spent the past two years endorsing as many ambitious, leftist policy ideas as possible in what seem like attempts to distance themselves from the more big business–friendly parts of their voting records. Gillibrand, who was once described in Politico as a “go-to advocate for the financial services industry,” has gotten behind Bernie Sanders’ proposal to tax all securities transactions. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker famously took the pharmaceutical lobby’s side on a bill involving prescription-drug importation; he now supports a single-payer health care bill.

You get the picture.

-- Here's a Twitter feed for "Elizabeth Warren" with all of the most recent news, 'attacks' (sic), and opinion/snark-related Tweets.  What's kind of cool is that yours is going to look different than mine because you follow different people than me.  If you're not on Twitter, you'll get more of the straight news, like WaPo and Politico.

-- Kamala Harris was on Colbert, said "she might" run for prez, is gutted vetted as her side of the story regarding the 2012 settlement for bad mortgages in California -- the cause of the Great Depression in 2008 -- gets spun back over her.  It's long, a bit in the financial weeds, and a very bad look for the junior Cali senator.  On top of her bumpy (well-hidden; look for the graf with David Sirota mentioned) record (scroll to the end, past the puffery) as a prosecutor, I have trouble seeing how she gets to the nomination.  Tough-on-crime and easy-on-banks Democrats pretending to be progressives doesn't sound like the winning ticket to me.

But identity politics Democrats are swooning anyway, seeing Obama in a dress.

-- Yes, if you you watched Liz Warren cracking open and swigging from a Michelob Ultra in her kitchen while Beto got his teeth cleaned this past week, you fell prey to this cycle's Instagram Live My Life/Campaign trend.  It sucks.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Back to the future: 2020's latest news

It's been over six months since Blue Dog Ted turned down easy money in my proposed wager between his lap dog, Joe Biden, and my man Bernie Sanders.  The national conversation is still mostly centered around those two old white guys, although our Texas boy Beto moved in and up in the polling, and Liz Warren is occupying portside Democrats' attention with her first-out-of-the-gate exploratory announcement.  We should have Julian Castro to kick around by Saturday.  There's also Kamala Harris waiting in the wings; this account says she'll kick off on MLK Day, January 21.  She'll benefit greatly from a California primary that comes very early on the calendar.

Quietly organizing under the radar are Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand.  A mash of stale reruns like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton are trying to draw attention to themselves, and there are a few very long shots in early: WA Gov. Jay Inslee, (signature issue: climate change); Andrew Wang (the UBI candidate), and Maryland Congressman John Delaney, the extremely wealthy centrist.  He's been running since last July; has staffed up for -- and scheduled meet-and-greets next week in -- New Hampshire, and is capable of pouring millions of his own dollars into his bid.

Here's a few headlines, Tweets, and assorted other thought-provokers I've collected over the past several days, along with some of my usual salty opinions.

Warren's been most talked-about, so she gets to lead off.

-- Start with the TexTrib's profile from 2016, about how her decade teaching at UT Law influenced her (if you haven't read it already).  I found it seminal.  It suggests to me that she will have some network of support in Keep-It-Weird that competes with the Berners.

Warren is the progressive Democrat that establishment Democrats prefer over Sanders, who is still being smeared by orthodox Donkeys because he gets elected as an independent.  This is its own purity test, as thinking people clearly get.  Those who squeal "Vote Blue No Matter Who" will have to put up or shut up in 2020 if Bernie wins the nom.  History reminds us that the PUMAs failed in 2008 where the Sandernistas did not in 2016.

Daily Kos kicked off their every-two-weeks straw poll and the inaugural gave Liz a big win.

Let's note a few things for the record: Kos has been a vituperative gasbag against Sanders for a long time now.  The author of this Tweet is also the co-author of this piece.  And the DK straw poll is an Internet poll, which didn't stop Nate Silver from performing an act of seppuku.

So much credibility lost in such a short period of time.

A lot of people think Warren and Sanders are competing for the same voters, but that's lazy and uncareful.  She ain't him in her own words.  This Tweet thread was instructive as an academic exercise if you're into that.

More on those differences from Jacobin.

As for my M4A litmus test ... well, Warren is a capitalist, a believer in markets, like she said above.  She also said in autumn 2017 that she supported Sanders' Medicare for All bill, "but until we get there"... six months later (as in last March) introduced her own bill strengthening the ACA instead.  That was of course prior to the recent decision by a federal judge here in Texas that struck down Obamacare.  Her position ten months ago -- there is no clarity on her presidential website -- is best explained by Daniel Callahan at STAT.

(Warren) has proposed an alternative plan. She judges that a single-payer plan would be difficult to get through Congress and concedes that private insurance will have to continue. But that insurance would “have to be at least as good and priced as reasonably as the coverage provided by our public health care programs.” The obvious advantage of her plan is that it aims to build upon and improve the embattled Affordable Care Act, likely making it easier to get through Congress than a single-payer plan. Warren’s plan would benefit from the strong gain in public support for the ACA over the past couple of years despite assaults on it by President Trump and other Republicans.

Too mealy-mouthed for me.  She's gonna hafta take a mulligan.

-- Lots has already been posted about the "war" on Beto by the "Berniebros", its own double smear.  I summarized it in the Xmas Eve Wrangle.

In the span of seven days, Beto O'Rourke went from expanding his statewide cult of personality from sea to shining sea to exploding on the 2020 launching pad, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs, in a post originally motivated by two hilarious takes about Bernie Sanders from Bay Area Blue Dog John Coby.  But it was a takedown by David Sirota at Capital and Main of Beto's voting record that did the most damage to the erstwhile Congressman's reputation as a "progressive", and that in turn spawned an article about a "war" on O'Rourke being waged by "Berniebros".  The geek fighting didn't just carry on all weekend on Twitter, it again ruptured the 2016 fault lines between the center of the Democratic Party and the left. 

Give the shitlibs credit for rapidly counter-attacking, especially when you consider that examining the Congressman's voting record does not constitute a "war" by any stretch of the definition of the word.  As was said repeatedly in 2015 and '16 regarding Hillary Clinton's long public service history, facts are not attacks.  For fuck's sake, vacation in Yemen soon, you fucking neoliberal fuckwads.

Undeterred, Tina Nguyen at Vanity Fair throws more gas on that fire.  She opens with the premise that the GOP will use the data that Sirota, et. al. have published about Beto for themselves, as advanced by The Hill.  Somehow I find it difficult to believe that Trump, or any of his potential primary challengers, could make a credible case for criticizing O'Rourke for taking money from oil & gas industry executives.  Just ridiculous.

Maybe I need to turn off my hypocrisy sensor.  Is it a common practice at this point in the presidential election cycle for Republican political consultants to share mud with their Democratic professional advisor "friends", where that might benefit the Dem's clients and help the GOP overall (by, say, hurting Beto with the Sanders/Inslee/anyDemocratwhosupportsclimateaction caucus)?

Or do they sell it to them?  Capitalism, you know.  And how does the invisible hand of the free market set a price for that commodity?  Berning questions.

-- Bern Notice: six of these are in the Houston area, two in DFW and San Antone, five in Austin, and one each in Abilene, Waco, Bastrop, Luling, and Temple.  I'm attending the one at AxelradSema Hernandez, challenging John Cornyn in 2020, is the organizer.  For people who would rather work on revolution than mere resistance, this is the place for you.  As I see it, that's the role of the Democratic Socialists as well (but YMMV and I could just be wrong since I don't attend the local chapter's meetings due to my various handicaps.)  With the implosion of the Texas Green Party, I remain a Bernie or Buster.  He's got his faults; he's a rural state gun supporter and also a Defense Department grifter for Vermont, but he's better on BDS than anybody else, especially Warren.  They both have a bit of a complicated relationship with the Pentagon, but they're both also saying and doing things that are breaking new ground in Democratic foreign policy.

Brian Hanley has listed 20 reasons why Bernie is the only one who can beat Trump in 2020.  I agree.  If the Democrats nominate anybody else, Trump will be re-elected and everybody can blame us all over again.  I just don't GAF any more.

-- Read everything in this hot 2020 take but especially the excerpt below.  It's certainly true that there are far too many trolls online -- no matter your social medium of choice -- who will make the next almost-two years somewhat intolerable for all of us.  Clean up your own feeds and timelines; use 'mute', 'ignore', 'block', and 'report' to your advantage.

Will there be assholes online getting in circular arguments and making inappropriate personal attacks on the integrity and intelligence of anyone who supports the wrong candidate(s)? Of course! There always will be assholes. Always, always, always. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that there are always going to be some big assholes in the mix. But we don’t have to let online wankers define the discourse around what is shaping up as the most ideologically significant Democratic primary in at least a generation. All we need to do is pay attention to what the candidates themselves are talking about and remember that social media apps come with a mute button

-- And let's not let the vile corporate media and their 'he said, she said', 'soandso' slams 'what'shisface' on Rachel/Hannity, "Entertainment Tonight"/"A Current Affair"/TMZ panel of political experts masquerading as news reporting BS fuck this up again, either.  When they show Trump saying 'Pocahontas', you turn them off.  When they show a video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing, don't you click on it.  If Beto's head appears Photoshopped onto the nude body of a male stripper ... well, try not to click on that, okay?

Matt Taibbi, from his book Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus.

“Elections are about a lot of things, but at the highest level, they’re about money,” Taibbi writes. “The people who sponsor election campaigns, who pay hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the candidates’ charter jets and TV ads and 25-piece marching banks, those people have concrete needs. They want tax breaks, federal contracts, regulatory relief, cheap financing, free security for shipping lanes, anti-trust waivers and dozens of other things.”

And Chris Hedges, in this Truthdig piece entitled "The Election Circus Begins".

“The corporate media ignores issues and policies, since there is little genuine disagreement among the candidates, and presents the race as a beauty contest. The fundamental question the press asks is not what do the candidates stand for but whom do the voters like.”

The only way we'll avoid Idiocracy again is if we don't pay for idiocy.  Don't give them the clicks, ratings, subscriptions, or eyeballs.  Set your adblocker to 'vaporize'.  Block the social media trackers (the latest version of Firefox is doing this now).  And for the love of Dishrag, get off Facebook and use DuckDuckGo and not Google.

-- Debates begin in June, with six this year and six next.  We'll have a clearer picture about who's in, out, up, down, sideways, and every other direction between now and then.  I'm still of the opinion that Beto and Castro are in it not to win it but to be picked veep, and before Christmas comes around again one of those is better-than-even-odds to drop out and file to run against John Cornyn.

Monday, January 07, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Not-As-Progressive-As-It-Could-Be Alliance welcomes the Texas Legislature back to work this week, as the 86th Legislative Session opens under the pink dome tomorrow.

The Corpus Christi Caller lists a few things we can expect; Juan Carlos Huerta tells Texas Standard that he's seeing less far-right legislation being filed early.  The Dallas News wonders if lawmakers can deliver on a property tax cut.  The funding of public education and addressing a new goal, accepted by Governor Abbott, of providing Texans health care coverage that would eventually replace Obamacare, present enormous fiscal challenges for the biennium.

To that end, Better Texas Blog will cover state Comptroller Jethro Bodine Glenn Hegar's revenue estimate, scheduled for 10 a.m. this morning, as numbers and promises begin to come into focus.  Ross Ramsey at the TexTrib, via Progrexas, says that fortunately for the Lege, voters just aren't that into the state budget.  On more positive news, Grits for Breakfast sees prospects for marijuana decriminalization as quite bright.  (Forget about a potential tax revenue stream from cannabis legalization, however.)

After the governor attacked and threatened HISD in the wake of their turning down a partnership with a private entity to manage some of the district's legacy African American schools, Texas Vox came out in strong support of their decision not to charter public schools.

In the state's longest-running snarkathon -- predating the Internet by decades! -- Texas Monthly has 2018's Bum Steer Awards, their annual list of "humanity's most ridiculous and idiotic endeavors".  Alex Jones came in first (as if no one could have predicted that).

Texas Leftist kept us current on the #JazmineBarnes murder case with a couple of updates prior to the arrest of two suspects.

Daniel Williams shares his research on the effect of ballot length on voter turnout.

Off the Kuff took a closer look at how the candidates for Harris County offices *zzzzzzz* ...

Somervell County Salon provides an update on a local anti-SLAPP lawsuit that has won a second time at the Texas Supreme Court.

Continuing its focus on rural Texas, the Observer sees Panhandle towns that are thriving because of their immigrant populations.

Jim Schutze at the Dallas Observer thinks city council in Big D is getting it both right and wrong about poverty and crime.

San Antonio native Carol Burnett received a new Golden Globe, named after her, at last night's annual celebrity awards presentation for film and television, reports the Current.  The list of winners is here, courtesy Buzzfeed.

BeyondBones shares a piece of Houston TV history.

The Travel Channel's Andrew Zimmern returned to Houston to eat again at some of his favorite restaurants, including Chinatown's Crawfish and Noodles.  There he demonstrated an odd affinity for crunching on the mudbugs' heads.  There's video at CultureMap.

SocraticGadfly made a New Year's resolution for other people: stop reading self-help books and the late-stage capitalism they're predicated on.

Elise Hu presents her New Year's resolutions.

The Texas Living Waters Project has New Year's resolutions for all of us on water conservation.

Harry Hamid celebrates a few early milestones in the New Year.

David Collins' winter travel itinerary included Leakey, Castroville, Marfa, Terlingua, Kerrville, Fredericksburg, and Luckenbach.

The Texas Tribune's 2016 bio of Elizabeth Warren's decade in Texas made a reappearance as she announced her exploration for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

Maria Eugenia Guerra at LareDOS profiles Yến Bạch Nguyễn, among the first of the Vietnamese immigrants who came to South Texas in 1975, and the lives they built there.

And Texas Monthly saluted RG Ratcliffe, a Texas political legend for our time, on his retirement.  Sorry about what Trump is doing to your 401k, RG.