Monday, April 08, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance congratulates the Baylor Lady Bears ...

... and gets its guns up for the Texas Tech Red Raiders in tonight's NCAA men's basketball final.

Here comes the round-up of the best blog posts and lefty news from across the Lone Star State from last week!

With seven weeks remaining in the regular legislative session, Texas lawmakers got down to business, with the House passing major public school finance reform including a raise for teachers.  The Senate decided that a few bigotry bills were more important.

In election-related news ...

The state Senate this week is expected take up Senate Bill 9, an omnibus election integrity bill by Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), who chaired an interim committee on election security. Broadly, the bill is the results of that committee’s work and would:

  • Require counties to use “auditable voting systems” that produce a paper record enabling a voter to verify their vote was cast as intended
  • Establish a “risk-limiting audit” pilot program to ensure electronic voting machines are counting votes accurately
  • Strengthen criminal and civil penalties for Election Code violations; and
  • Increase the certification requirements for people providing transportation and curb-side assistance to voters.

The bill passed the State Affairs committee on a 7-2 party-line vote on April 1. Individuals representing Tea Party and conservative interest groups such as Concerned Women for America, Direct Action Texas, True Texas Elections spoke in favor of the bill at a public hearing last month. Opponents included individuals representing the Texas Civil Rights Project, Disability Rights Texas, MALDEF, and the League of Women Voters.

CD17: Pflugerville IT manager Rick Kennedy reauthorized his campaign committee for a potential rematch against U.S. Rep. Bill Flores (R-Bryan), who defeated Kennedy, 56%-42%, last year.

CD21: Former Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth), the 2014 Democratic nominee for governor, said she will not challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R) and may instead challenge U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Austin). Davis said on a recent podcast that she would support U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) if he chose to run for U.S. Senate.

CCA: Houston attorney William Demond established a campaign committee for an unspecified seat on the Court of Criminal Appeals, likely as a Democrat. Judges Bert Richardson (CCA3), Kevin Yeary (CCA4) and David Newell (CCA9) -- all Republicans-- are on the ballot in 2020.

Down With Tyranny reports on a rumored primary challenge in TX-33, where state Rep. Ramón Romero may run against Cong. Marc Veasey.  Off the Kuff cheered the impending settlement of the lawsuit over that bogus SOS advisory about non-citizen voters.  Texas Standard found over a quarter-million Texans who experienced difficulties voting in the 2018 midterms.

Based on data (the Texas Civil Rights Project) collected, it identified five main barriers to casting a ballot in the state. They include voting machine malfunctions, non-compliance with voter registration law and inconvenient polling locations.

Law and Crime blogged about a federal judge in Austin who seems inclined to strike down the state's anti-BDS law.  Grits for Breakfast has a load of data about arrests for Class C misdemeanors.  The Texas Observer's Michael Barajas writes about improvements to the Sandra Bland Act.  And since hemp is no longer classified as a dangerous drug by the state of Texas, and as the Lege debates decriminalization, what exactly is legal and what isn't?  This piece in the Dallas News offers some answers and some clues to the future.

Even as another chemical plant in the Houston area exploded ...

... several climate activists went to Austin to testify about the #ITCDisaster.

KUT reports that a battle over renewable energy is brewing under the pink dome.

Before speaking at Rice University last Friday, Vice President Pence stopped by ICE offices in north Houston and tried to find a silver lining in Trump's about-face on shutting the border down.

“The president’s made it clear that if over the course of the next year, if Mexico fails to act we’ll begin by considering tariffs that we impose on cars that come into our country and our president will consider closing portions of southern border,” said Pence. 

Pence also praised ICE officers who arrested 284 employees at a technology repair company in the Dallas suburb of Allen on charges of working in the United States illegally.  No charges were announced for the employer.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs posted his regular weekly 2020 update, and SocraticGadfly showed why, as he sees it, that Pete Buttigieg is so bad a presidential candidate he could be called Beto LiteProgrexas blogs that Beto O'Rourke's charter schools problem isn't going away any time soon.

Dan Solomon at TM has the Croatian who finds art in James Harden's beard.

And Beyond Bones tells the tale of when beer saved the world.

Friday, April 05, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

Two more entered the race for the White House this week:  Rep. Tim Ryan ...

Ryan, who has represented the Youngstown and Akron areas of Ohio since 2003, had previously drawn national attention during a failed challenge against then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in the wake of the 2016 presidential election that left Democrats without any control across the government. 

and Rep. Eric Swalwell.

The California congressman and frequent cable news guest on all things related to President Donald Trump and Russia will announce his presidential plans in an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. But he won’t be running on Russia, or on the continuing fallout from the Mueller report and the Barr letter. Swalwell will center his campaign on gun control.

Most of the non-touchy/feely conversations this past week were about Charles Kuffner's favorite topic: campaign finance reports.

Money alone can’t win an election; look no further than Beto O’Rourke’s Senate defeat in Texas last November for evidence of that. But an influx of cash can set the tone in the early days of a national campaign, as candidates jet across the country in an effort to make an impression in early-voting states.

In that respect, the numbers revealed this week by O’Rourke, Sens. Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg made an early impact as each demonstrated the fundraising strength they’ll need for an seemingly endless campaign. But even more revealing could be the numbers made public by candidates who have -- so far -- stayed mum. Meager fundraising may prompt questions about the viability of their campaigns in a field that now boasts 17.

I think there's more than that.  Let's see what some of them were doing last week ...

Stacey Abrams

In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday, Abrams said that a decision on her political future could come as late as this fall, explaining that she is first examining a run for Senate to determine if it is “the right job that I need to hold.”

We won't count her for now.

Michael Bennet

Bennet revealed this week that he has prostate cancer -- a diagnosis he said he received just as he reached a decision to run for president. The Colorado senator told the Colorado Independent that he still intends to run, provided he is cancer-free following surgery next week.

“I’m too busy to really sit back and think about it,” Bennet said. “And that’s probably the best thing.”

This weekend, the senator visits New Hampshire and holds events in Nashua, Concord, Exeter and Dover.

Get well soon, Senator.

Joe Biden

Biden and his team spent much of the weekend responding to claims that he made several women uncomfortable by inappropriately touching them or invading their personal space.

In a video the former vice president tweeted on Wednesday, he said that he has used physical touch as a way of demonstrating that he cares and is listening, but will now change his behavior.

“Social norms are changing. I understand that, and I’ve heard what these women are saying,” Biden said “Politics to me has always been about making connections, but I will be more mindful about respecting personal space in the future. That’s my responsibility and I will meet it.”

On Friday, Biden is scheduled to speak at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Construction and Maintenance Conference in Washington.

This development merits a separate post, forthcoming.

Cory Booker

A leaked recording of Booker saying that he and the president of AIPAC "text back and forth like teenagers" was another brick in the wall between the New Jersey senator and his so-called progressivism.

In a closed-door meeting with activists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on ,  presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., spoke about working closely with the organization and his desire to create a “unified voice from Congress” against the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, or BDS.

Booker spoke to AIPAC members from New Jersey at the organization’s annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., a gathering of thousands of activists from around the country, culminating in a lobbying effort on Capitol Hill. Booker’s appearance came at a contentious time; last week, the progressive advocacy group MoveOn called on 2020 candidates to skip the conference, and at least five of the Democrats declined to attend.

Booker’s remarks, some of which were first reported by the Jerusalem Post, did not appear on a schedule of on-the-record events for journalists covering the conference. The Intercept obtained a 35-minute audio recording of the session from a conference attendee and is publishing the recording in full here.

AIPAC did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A spokesperson for Booker reviewed a transcript of the audio and confirmed that it matched what was said, but declined to comment further.

Booker began his remarks by thanking AIPAC president Mort Fridman for his “leadership and his friendship,” telling the crowd that he and Fridman “talk often” and “text message back and forth like teenagers.”

Pete Buttigieg
Thursday morning, Buttigieg released a video inviting supporters to join him for an event next weekend in his native South Bend, Indiana-- widely expected to be the official kick-off of his presidential campaign. He launched his exploratory committee in January.

In a subsequent appearance on “Good Morning America,” Buttigieg defended his ongoing criticisms of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, arguing “we do need to call out hypocrisy when we see it … but we need to be factual and we need to be honest and we do, in resolving all of this disagreement, need to be decent as well.”

Buttigieg raised $7 million in the year’s first quarter, he announced Monday.

On Friday and Saturday, the South Bend mayor stops in Manchester and Concord, New Hampshire, respectively, for events, and on Sunday he is scheduled to headline the LGBTQ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in Washington.

Socratic Gadfly has posted the definitive takedown of Mayor Pete's faux progressivism.

Julian Castro
In a blog post Monday, Castro called for a pathway to citizenship for young, undocumented immigrants, arguing that they “aren’t a threat to national security” and that “migration shouldn’t be a criminal justice issue.”

He expanded on the topic of immigration Tuesday night on MSNBC, saying that the U.S. “should decriminalize people that are coming here and go back to the way we were treating it before 2004 -- as a civil matter.”

“We need to end detention. I don’t think we should be putting people in cages,” Castro said. “We need to increase the number of refugees we are letting into this country.”

The former Housing and Urban Development secretary will hold a rally in Los Angeles on Saturday.

This is a good policy statement by Castro, and it's the issue he should have the most credibility on.  If he's right that his vote is being undersampled in the polling, then if he makes to next March, he could be a force.  But if he can't raise money and he can't get on the debate stages, then it's all moot.

Which reminds me:

The second 2020 Democratic primary debate will be held in Detroit on July 30 and 31, the Democratic National Committee announced Tuesday.

The debate, which CNN will broadcast, will be in the battleground state of Michigan, which Democrats lost in 2016 to President Donald Trump. There will be a total of 12 presidential primary debates during the 2020 cycle.

The DNC last week announced that the first primary debate would be held in Miami on June 26 and 27, and be broadcast on NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo. Miami was in the running to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention, which instead went to Milwaukee.

As with the first debate, the lineup for the two-night event will be chosen at random and announced at a later date. To qualify for a spot on the debate stage, candidates must draw the support of 1 percent or more of those surveyed in at least three polls, or receive donations from at least 65,000 individual donors and a minimum of 200 individual donors per state in at least 20 states, the DNC announced in February.

Tulsi Gabbard

In a video posted to her Twitter page, the Hawaii congresswoman criticized Trump’s decision to allow American companies to engage in nuclear-related work with Saudi Arabia, calling the move “mind-blowing and inexplicable.”
 “President Trump needs to answer this question: How does it serve our interests to help Saudi Arabia develop nuclear weapons?” she said. “It doesn’t.”

This indeed was an unsettling development that seemed to fly underneath all of the "he said/she said" bullshit about inappropriate touching.

Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand, who continues to receive questions about her role as the first U.S. senator to call for former Sen. Al Franken’s resignation in late 2017 over sexual misconduct allegations, took a stance similar to that of nearly every other presidential candidate in the wake of the accusations of inappropriate touching against Biden.
 “If Vice President Biden becomes a candidate, this is a topic he’ll have to engage on further,” Gillibrand said in a statement.

Later, during an MSNBC appearance, she said that “voters will have to decide.”

This weekend, the New York senator visits New Hampshire for events in Dover, Laconia and Concord.

Gillibrand caught too much blowback for her role in Franken's removal and doesn't want to make the same mistake twice.

Kamala Harris

Harris raised $12 million from 218,000 individual contributions in the first quarter of 2019, her campaign announced Monday, touting that 98% of contributions were less than $100 and $6 million of the total came via online fundraising where the average contribution was $28.
 Next week, the California senator campaigns in Iowa on Wednesday and Thursday, with a focus on her recently unveiled proposal to raise teacher salaries nationwide.

John Hickenlooper

In a Politico Magazine profile last weekend, Hickenlooper discussed the challenge of running as an “extreme moderate,” explaining that his background as a scientist taught him not to “jump to snap judgments” on issues.
 “You try to make sure you get all the facts, and think it through, then make better decisions,” he said.
Friday, the former Colorado governor has an event in Montgomery, Alabama and this weekend, he is scheduled to meet with survivors of the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina church shooting and will also make stops in Okatie and Charleston.

Jay Inslee

The Washington governor released 12 years worth of tax returns earlier this week, with his 2018 version showing that he and his wife earned just over $200,000 and paid nearly $30,000 in federal taxes.
 Inslee, who has made climate change the centerpiece of his presidential campaign, testified before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee Wednesday where he expressed concern about the consequences of global warming and criticized the Trump administration’s rollback of environmental regulations.

Amy Klobuchar

Klobuchar posted 12 years of tax returns to her website Monday, revealing that she and her husband made $300,000 in 2017, the most recent year disclosed, and paid about $62,000.
 Last weekend, the Minnesota senator visited Iowa, where she spoke about her $1 trillion infrastructure plan, while touring areas devastated by recent flooding. At a rural issues forum, she argued that it was “important to have a candidate from the Midwest who can talk about these Midwestern issues.

She earlier told a group in southwestern Iowa that she was “really focused on improving access to the internet in rural areas and small towns” and “want[ed] kids who grow up in small towns to be able to stay here, and they can’t do that without the internet.”

Tax returns are going to become an issue for Bernie Sanders, as the mob of #NeverBernies keeps clamoring for his.

Beto O’Rourke

O’Rourke raised $9.4 million in the first 18 days of his campaign, he announced Wednesday, a total that resulted from 218,000 contributions, with an average of $43 donated.
 At the National Action Conference convention on Wednesday, the former Texas congressman discussed the legalization of marijuana as a criminal justice reform issue and an end to both the cash-bail system and for-profit prisons. He added that, as president, he would sign a bill proposed by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, creating a commission to study reparations.

This weekend, O’Rourke makes his second trip to Iowa as a presidential candidate for 11 events across the state Friday through Sunday.

Bernie Sanders

In the 40 days from the launch of his campaign through the end of March, Sanders raised over $18 million, the largest sum among candidates who have revealed their first quarter fundraising totals. Aides to the senator told reporters Tuesday that the total came from 900,000 individual donations, with an average donation of $20 and that 99.5% of donations were $100 or less.
 Sanders’ campaign put out a call to its claimed 1 million volunteers to host events on April 27, as it launches its organizing program.

The senator will spend the forthcoming weekend in Iowa, with events in Davenport on Friday, Muscatine, Burlington and Fairfield on Saturday and Oskaloosa and Malcolm on Sunday.

Elizabeth Warren

Warren captured headlines with the announcement of the Corporate Executive Accountability Act, her plan to hold company leaders liable for their firms’ potential misdeeds. Violations could lead to punishments including multiple years in prison.
 On Thursday, the Massachusetts senator sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general calling for an investigation into access to Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club, in the wake of an arrest of a Chinese woman who allegedly bypassed security at the club in late March.

Yet another disturbing news item that got lost in the crap of Trump's Tweets and threats about border shutdowns and the Obamacare repeal-and-replace that wasn't this week.

Andrew Yang

Yang raised $1.7 million in less than two months across February and March, his campaign announced Tuesday, with 99% of donations arriving in denominations less than $200 and an average donation of less than $18. The campaign added that over $250,000 was raised in the last four days of March.

The entrepreneur released an ambitious travel schedule for the month ahead, with events taking him to New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., Georgia, California, Nevada and Iowa before then end of April.

Thanks again to Adam Kelsey at ABC News and for about 90% of this post.

Monday, April 01, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance suffers fools happily today (but only today).

Yesterday it marked the Transgender Day of Visibility with its many LGBTQ allies.

Lou Weaver at Equality Texas celebrated while the Texas Freedom Network has a call to action regarding Texas Lege bills hostile to LGBTQ employment protections.

Beto O'Rourke formally began his run for the White House in El Paso on Saturday, and then Houston at Texas Southern University, and ended the day at the Capitol.

The Texas Tribune asked -- and answered -- the question of whether O'Rourke broke his pledge not to take fossil fuel contributions.

In other election-related developments ...

Voter registration: Thursday is the deadline to register to vote for the May 4 uniform election.

SD13: Houston commercial financier William Booher established a campaign committee for a potential challenge of Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston) as a Republican.

CD14: Pearland educator Adrienne Bell re-authorized her campaign committee for a potential rematch against U.S. Rep. Randy Weber (R-Pearland). Bell raised more than $200K for her 2018 race, which she lost, 59%-39%.

CD20: Former Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) is considering a run for the seat expected to be vacated by U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio), who is expected to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R).

Mission: The 13th Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that ordered a new mayoral election, which will let stand Armando O’Caña’s June 2018 runoff victory over incumbent Beto Salinas. In October 2018, District Judge Bonner Dorsey found clear and convincing evidence that at least 158 illegal votes were cast in the runoff, one more than the final margin of 157 votes. Dorsey ordered a new election but stayed his decision pending appeal. Salinas is expected to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.

Charles Kuffner analyzed the state's House districts from 2018's election results in order to find a way toward a Dem majority in 2020, and Daniel Cohen, writing at Egberto Willie's blog, calls for full engagement in the Pearland ISD elections next month.

Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer picks out the best, the worst, and the 'other' from the Dallas Morning News' voter guide.

Border and immigration news once again took over the Texas headlines last week.  After two accounts in last Monday's Wrangle reported that inland border checkpoints were closing and detention facilities were full due to an influx of migrants, the issue exploded nationally after photos of migrants crowded into an Aushwitz-styled enclosure under an El Paso bridge were published.

Trump declared he would cut off financial aid to three Latin American countries and threatened to close the border with Mexico to stem the tide.

In a follow-up to last week's news regarding the fire at Deer Park's ITC facility ...

Socratic Gadfly looks at criticism of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from both her right and her left and analyzes what's legitimate and what's not.

Grits for Breakfast posts the ways you can get thrown in jail for a traffic ticket.

Better Texas Blog wants to end surprise medical bills.

Bonddad insists that the Mueller report did not find 'no collusion'.

Latino Rebels catches up with Librotraficante Tony Diaz in Houston.

And Houston Strategies reports that Mayor Sylvester Turner and the city's firefighters have reached a Prop B compromise ... just in time for April Fools Day.