Monday, October 14, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance could barely stay awake last night until just after midnight, then was too excited to sleep for a couple of hours.

With the Fall Classic just days away, the round-up of the best blog posts, Tweets, and lefty news from around and about our beloved Lone Star State keeps the baseball theme with Socratic Gadfly, who took note of the centennial of the Chicago Black Sox scandal and asked: did Shoeless Joe Jackson do it, along with his teammates?

(This is part 1 of a 3-part series.  Part 2 will look at whether other World Series were thrown, and Part 3 will examine the possibility of this happening today.)

The blood of Joshua Brown, the witness whose testimony helped convict Dallas police officer Amber Guyger in the murder of her neighbor, Botham Jean, was barely dry on the ground when a Fort Worth cop shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson in her home.

What is the appropriate response to these killings at this point?

Is there even an appropriate response at this point?

What would be -- would have been -- the response if all of these violently slain, innocent people had been white and wealthy?

Criminal justice, or a lack thereof, has been on the minds of others also.

And social justice as well.

As Neil Aquino would say, "Everything is connected", and the intersection of social and climate justice was readily apparent in a couple of Houston community hearings this past week.

And in more Texas climate news, LareDOS blogged about the amicus brief the Laredo city council filed in support of the lawsuit by Earthjustice and the Rio Grande International Study Center against Trump's emergency declaration in order to facilitate construction of his border wall.  Downwinders at Risk reports that the only public hearing in the entire country on Trump's rollback of EPA guidelines on methane emissions is scheduled to be held in Dallas this Thursday.  The last day to pre-register to speak is today.  Michaela Morris at Environment Texas watched a video (warning: graphic) of a sea turtle having a straw extracted from its nose, and became a recruit in the war on single-use plastics.

And we DO have some politics news for this edition of the Wrangle.

The Texas Signal reports that Brad Parscale, Trump's campaign manager,  will visit San Antonio (which just happens to be his home town) tomorrow, ahead of the Dallas rally.  Texas Monthly had a profile of the Mohawked, bearded Parscale a few weeks ago that makes for an interesting read.

Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer explained the unholy trinity of Pete Sessions, Rudy Giuliani, and Ukraine.  Texas Standard took note that the Ukrainian scandal has caught two Texans, Sessions and Rick Perry, in its ever-broadeing web.  Kuff reviewed the 30-day finance reports from the two Houston-area legislative special elections.  Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast was unimpressed by Greg Abbott's tough talk about homelessness in Austin.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs had his double edition of the Democratic presidential developments, with the latest on Bernie Sanders and his heart, and then the #EqualityTownHallTherese Odell at Foolish Watcher wrapped up another week of impeachment blogging.

And for some updates on Houston's local elections ...

In case you missed it:

One of the state's foremost election law and redistricting authorities, UT professor Steve Bickerstaff, passed away.

Thanks for reading this far.  I've a few light news Tweets to complete this lengthy Wrangle.

Désiré Nizigiyimana at the Rivard Report reminded that refugees from all countries are a big part of the Texas success story.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Twenty Twenty Update: #EqualityTownHall

Today is National Coming Out Day.  Yesterday was Mental Health Awareness Day.  Using the terminology of the times, there's some intersectionality of the two.  Hence, why us straighties should have watched at least some of last night.

Many (straight people) might assume that the big issues for LGBTQ Americans have mostly been solved, or at the least, aren’t pressing enough to warrant a national forum. But, as the Human Rights Campaign has pointed out, there are at least 11 million LGBTQ adults in the U.S., so this debate platform could be a game-changer this election cycle. And there is actually a full slate of pressing social issues that still plague the LGBTQ community and are begging to be addressed.

Even with same-sex marriage legalized, the U.S. military allowing lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members to serve openly [as well as] growing transgender visibility, there are plenty of LGBTQ people who live without a certain level of rights and access that others take for granted. For instance, Congress has failed for more than four decades to pass any basic anti-discrimination law for LGBTQ people, leading to the Supreme Court hearing three potentially landmark queer and transgender cases about job discrimination earlier this week. Meanwhile the Trump administration and its legion of right-wing judges, lobbyists, and supporters have ignited a full-on backlash to stop LGBTQ progress, including repealing policies that were precariously established to begin with, as Congress continued to fail to act (like plans to allow doctors to discriminate against transgenders, repealing transgender service in the military, and no longer defending LGBTQ people in federal discrimination lawsuits, to name a few).

Overall, the reality for LGBTQ Americans remains bleak: Queer youth homelessness has not gone away. Forced conversion therapy has not gone away. The inadequate patchwork of laws to ensure same-sex couples and LGBTQ parents can securely raise their children without incurring legal hurdles is only becoming more precarious. HIV is still a scourge among gay and bisexual men, especially those of color.

This is all happening, though, during two significant, intertwined demographic shifts that the Human Rights Campaign -- the nation's biggest LGBTQ rights organization -- is aiming to take advantage of, with this election cycle. More Americans identify as LGBTQ now than ever in history: a small but meaningful 4.5 percent of the population, according to a 2018 Gallup poll. And all of those people coming out have had a significant political impact on the people in their lives. HRC says a significant number of Democratic voters who are not queer-identified also want to know that the candidates they support will uphold the rights of their friends, coworkers, neighbors and family members who are LGBTQ. This means that candidates wanting to signal to voters that they know how to properly go beyond platitudes could stand to make a good showing at this second candidate forum on LGBTQ issues during this election cycle (the first was a joint effort between The Advocate magazine and GLAAD in September).

Not so long ago, you might have expected a bunch of these candidates to offer nothing but vague statements about ally-ship and equality, but the footprint of the Equality Vote, as the HRC is calling this group of LGBTQ voters and others who care about their rights, belies deeper political understanding on these issues. It’ll be an opportunity for establishment candidates like Joe Biden to show that he has a grasp of the more granular LGBTQ issues beyond marriage equality, of which he became a (perhaps inadvertent) trailblazer under the Obama administration in 2012. Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro has rarely missed a chance to mention marginalized LGBTQ people, particularly trans women of color; this could be a moment for him to further express his understanding. Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay major Democratic candidate for president, stands to share both personal experiences as he did at the end of the debate in September. Both he and Elizabeth Warren will likely also further define the LGBTQ platform he released Thursday before the event.

And voters will be listening. A wave of politically active Gen Z-ers will be entering the national electorate in 2020 -- and they are the most queer-identified generation in recent history. Following them are Millennials, who also carry a significant proportion of LGBTQ people and have helped define elections since President Obama won his presidency in 2008.

Prior to the forum, Dr. Sanjay Gupta spoke with Bernie Sanders at length about his heart condition, and at the end gave him a few minutes to talk about his lifelong commitment to equal rights.

Sanders, who was speaking from Burlington, apologized again for missing Thursday night's Democratic presidential town hall on LGBTQ issues ...

Asked about the pair of pending Supreme Court decisions related to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, Sanders promised, if elected, to do "everything that's humanly possible" to guarantee the protections at stake. He also argued that the "intent" of civil rights laws should be clear and include LGBTQ Americans.

"I'm very worried about the right wing in this country now using the argument of freedom of religion to force discrimination," Sanders said.

"We all believe in freedom of religion. We're all proud Americans, everybody has the right to practice their own religion. But we cannot now use the argument that it is my religious belief that, if you're gay, I will not sell you a cake," he said. "And it worries me very much that there is a strong movement trying to bring -- under the guise of freedom of religion -- racism, sexism, homophobia back into this country."

As to the forum's participants, we have winners, losers, and takeaways.

I'll let you read the details if you didn't see it, but you can probably guess that Mayor Pete and E-Liz Warren won the night, and that old Uncle Joe lost again.

Other winners included moderator Anderson Cooper and the protests of black trans women, who were respectfully heard.

Buttigieg’s town hall was interrupted early on by transgender protesters chanting, “Trans people are dying!” “Do something!” And “trans lives matter!” While some in the audience joined in on the chants, others tried to shout them down. Moderator Anderson Cooper did well to diffuse the situation.

“Let me just point out, there is a long and proud tradition and history in the gay and lesbian and transgender community of protest, and we applaud them for their protest,” he said. “And they’re absolutely right to be angry and upset at the lack of attention, particularly in the media on the lives of transgender [people of color]...” His inclusive message set the tone for an evening that saw several protests and interruptions.

The murder of of black trans women in Texas is virtually an epidemic at this time.

Biden, his record of pulling Obama to the left on gay marriage notwithstanding, managed to drive himself into the rhetorical ditch again.  And again.

What does 'homophobic' mean, again?

At least his eye didn't bleed.

Two other losers were moderator Chris Cuomo and his lame pronoun joke, and basically the entire lesbian community.

Not a single question was asked about policies specifically pertaining to lesbians. Meanwhile, bisexual and non-binary people got one question each.


The town hall was historic in that it brought together candidates for a nationally televised discussion on LGBTQ rights -- and yet lesbians were completely ignored. Every single candidate got a question about HIV transmission, which disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men and trans women, but organizers couldn’t find time for a single question on lesbian issues -- like the unique combination of misogyny and homophobia that leads to male violence against lesbians, or intimate partner violence within queer women’s relationships. It was a glaring oversight and a missed opportunity.

Each letter of LGBTQ has its own unique concerns, and all have been overlooked and marginalized (to put it too kindly) in our society.  Without question, covering all the bases in this ground-breaking forum would be a difficult task.  As we are forced to say often about social progress: this was a big first step .... and there is still a long way to go.

Amy Klobuchar and Beto O'Rourke condemned conversion therapy, saying it should be illegal and describing it as torture.  Beto also declared that he would remove the tax-exempt status of churches that oppose same-sex marriage.  Cory Booker waffled on that question.  (Booker otherwise met with approval on questions like dropping the FDA ban on blood donations from gay men.)  Castro called for his successor at HUD, Ben Carson, to resign over Carson's recent "big hairy men" remarks.

In what I would characterize as a moonshot declaration, Kamala Harris said she would eradicate AIDS within a generation.  And from the WTF department, Tom Steyer seemed stunned to learn that half of all transgender youth attempt suicide.  Read more about these takeaways here.

Let's wrap this rascal of an Update with this.

This would be a stunt on Major Gabbard's part.  She would do better, quite obviously, to call out the rigging from the Ohio podium she barely earned, and perhaps -- with this cry for attention -- she has enabled a question from a debate moderator next week to do exactly that.  With twelve candidates on stage and talk time extremely short ... if she doesn't get asked about it, she'll have to break it open on somebody's head.

Hopefully Warren's.

Houston cools off but elections stay hot

Before I get to my regular Friday presidential Update, here's some recent H-Town political news that I don't have to fill next Monday's Wrangle with.

-- Not content to jack with Austin's mayor over the homeless, our legless, gutless governor also wants to bully Sylvester Turner over Harvey funding.  This is Abbott kicking -- err, piling on the HTX honcho in the election-season beatdown that Bill King and Tony Buzbee have been administering.

Abbott needs a hobby during the legislative off-season that doesn't involve shaking down the wealthiest, worst conservatives in the world for six-figure checks.  Any suggestions?

-- Debate night here in Big Greasy.

The 7 p.m. debate will take place at the Morris Cultural Arts Center at Houston Baptist University and air live on KPRC and Telemundo.

Four candidates have confirmed their attendance: Dwight Boykins, Tony Buzbee, Bill King and Sylvester Turner.

To qualify, candidates must have exceeded $50,000 in total political contributions, as reported in official campaign finance reports filed with the city no later than Oct. 7. All candidates who met that requirement were invited to participate.

That left out Sue Lovell ... and all of the rest.  This is the John Cobarruvias method of determining candidate viability, to which I do not subscribe.

-- There was also a debate earlier this week.

-- Speaking of qualifiers, some city council candidates have issues.

You really should click over and read this if you're voting.  Those with the glaring residency fails include Michelle Bolton (District A), Jeremy Darby (D), Anthony Dolcefino (AL4), Van Huynh (F), and George Zoes (also A).  The felons on the ballot are Cynthia Bailey (D), Derrick Broze (mayor), Brad Batteau (AL5), and Ralph Garcia (also AL5).  I found Nelvin Adriatico's explanation of residency acceptable, but YMMV, as it might in each case.

-- Houston Firefighters endorsed just two incumbents, Greg Travis and Michael Kubosh, both Republicans.  In fact their list is heavily weighted with conservatives.  The union passed on giving any of the folks running in B, I, K, or AL1 a thumb's up.

The union has boots on the ground working precincts for their mayoral choice, Dwight Boykins.  And extending their squabble with Turner, 3000 of their rank and file signed a petition declaring 'no confidence' in the fire chief, Sam Peña (who reports only to the mayor).

-- The uncertainty surrounding the state's possible assumption of HISD administration is clouding the local school board races.

This November could bring four new faces to the embattled Houston school board. But candidates are finding uncertainty about the board’s future is one of their biggest challenges on the campaign trail.

Judith Cruz, who is running against board president Diana Davila in District 8, said that as she visits with voters, she’s often asked if there will even be elections because of the looming threat of a state takeover of the Houston Independent School District.

“The question keeps coming up even though I keep addressing it and I feel like others are, but there’s still so many unknowns and it just seems such weird timing to have elections if the state is going to come in,” Cruz said.

It’s widely expected that Texas’ Education Commissioner Mike Morath will replace the elected Houston school board with outside managers either because of poor academic performance at Wheatley High School, which recently received its seventh consecutive failing rating, or because of the board’s behavior and potential violations of state law and its own rules, as alleged in a preliminary state investigation.

-- Last, the conversation over METRO's $3.5 billion bond issue boils down to the usual conservative "no more debt" versus liberal "necessary improvements" back-and-forth.  (I wish good ol' Open Source Dem was around with a 'bond lawyers' take.)