Wednesday, November 06, 2019

On to December

Houston mayor: Sylvester Turner and Tony Buzbee.

Wearing his Marine jacket, rolling up his right sleeve so that his shark tattoo was visible, and appearing more than slightly intoxicated at his election night party, Buzbee would be a complete embarrassment if he were elected mayor of the nation's fourth-largest city.  He would be no more accountable to the electorate than Trump.

Continuing with additional Houston results:

I'll have some early predictions for the runoffs here later.

HD-148 (replacing Farrar):  With three precincts still out at 6:30 a.m., Anna Eastman (D, 20.3%) and Luis La Rotta (R, 15.8%).

Early prediction: Eastman will hold this seat for the Blues.

HD-28 (replacing Zerwas): Eliz Markowitz (D, 39%) and Gary Gates (R, 28%).

Early prediction: Since Markowitz was the only Democrat here, her share of the vote bodes ill for her flipping the seat.  Gates will be a lousy replacement for the principled John Zerwas.

HD-100: Unless a recount alters the outcome, the Democrats will select one of Lorraine Birabil and James Armstrong III or Daniel Clayton.

And all statewide propositions passed except for Prop 1.

Monday, November 04, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

With the week's round-up, the Texas Progressive Alliance thanks you for casting your ballot.

Tuesday is Election Day. Texas voters will decide the fates of 10 constitutional amendments, elect three new state representatives (or at least narrow the fields to two candidates per seat), elect local officials and settle other propositions and special elections.

Harris County early in-person and mail ballot voting will be released shortly after polls close at 7 p.m., but Election Day tallies will be delayed to the wee hours of Wednesday morning.  The Texas Secretary of State's requirement that all MBBs at polling places throughout the county must be physically transported to the central counting station -- rather than electronically transmitted remotely -- means a long wait deep into the night for the ('unofficial') final results, or you can just go to bed and read about who won and who lost right here.

About 800,000 Texans voted early statewide, accounting for 5% of registered voters. Roughly one out of every five early votes was cast in Harris County, where early turnout was 6.5%. Turnout in Dallas County was just south of 3%. Early turnout exceeded 10% in 19 of the state’s 254 counties, peaking at 28% in Deaf Smith County, where voters are considering a $36 million bond package for a new sheriff’s office and jail. Reported turnout was less than 1% in six counties. The lowest reported early turnout was in Starr County, where 0.3% of registered voters have cast ballots.

Early voting turnout in HD28 appears to be around 12% and around 10% in HD148. We do not have an estimate for HD100.

Regarding Houston' municipal elections, we know -- thanks to political consultant Keir Murray -- that the early vote turnout was about even with previous cycles, and that the voter demographic profile skews older, whiter, Democratic, and female.  I would posit that this is good news for Mayor Turner, Controller Brown, and the Democrats running for at-large seats.

Legal matters weighed heavily on Texas bloggers and lefty pundits last week.

Meredith Lawrence at the Dallas Observer, Eoin Higgins at Common Dreams, and Kuff looked at the lawsuit filed by Democratic groups over the new law banning temporary voting locations.  Ballot Access News reports that the Texas Democratic Party is also suing over the state law that dictates ballot order ...

On November 1, the Texas Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against the Texas law on order of candidates on the ballot. Miller v Hughs, w.d., 1:19cv-1071. It is assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel, a Bush Jr. appointee. Here is the Complaint.

The Texas law says that the top names on the general election ballot are the nominees of the party that won the last gubernatorial election. Thus Republicans have been listed first for over 24 years.

... and that a decision on an earlier suit regarding filing fees for minor parties might be imminent.

Although the lawsuit will be lengthy and covers many issues, there is likely to be a decision soon on whether to enjoin the new filing fees for convention parties. The 2019 legislature passed a bill that, for the first time, requires candidates of parties that nominate by convention to pay the same filing fees that primary candidates pay. That issue needs to be settled fast, because the fees or petitions in lieu of the fee are due very soon.

Jim Henson and Joshua Blank at the Texas Politics Project analyze the October UT/Trib poll that shows plurality support for the Trump impeachment inquiry.  That poll also revealed the leaders for winning the Texas Democratic presidential primary next March, and the popularity of Senate contenders compared to John Cornyn.

In his weekly update of the 2020 race for the White House, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs covered the latest in the Congressional impeachment inquiry, Joe Biden's cash flow problems, Elizabeth Warren's Medicare for All funding proposal, and Bernie Sanders' resurgence, among all of the other candidates' latest developments.  C.D. Hooks, writing for Texas Monthly, bade farewell to Beto O'Rourke's presidential campaign.

SocraticGadfly wished a Happy Reformation Day from his other blog to some gun nutz for Luther, officially known as Armed Lutheran Radio and headquartered right here in Texas.

The state's electricity market drew some attention this past week.

And there was the usual bad behavior by fossil fuel companies.

Some horrifying statistics associated with the state's ongoing neglect of our children.

Sanford Nowlin at the San Antonio Current reported on the continuing fight over the Alamo City's paid sick leave ordinance.

With that, we'll close this Wrangle with some lighter news.

Therese Odell at Foolish Watcher thanked Washington Nationals fans for their appropriate greeting of Trump at the World Series.  Prior to Game 5, an anonymous Astros fan thanked D.C. for their hospitality by buying an ad in the Washington Post, and the Nationals and some of their fans purchased ads in the Houston Chronicle thanking the Astros and their fans after they won the Series.

Following the Texans' win in London over the Jacksonville Jaguars, quarterback Deshaun Watson attributed the successful healing of his kicked eye the previous Sunday to "them Popeye's spicy chicken sandwiches that I ate this week".

Pete Freedman at Central Track asks the important question: Was the founder of the city of Dallas, John Neely Bryan, a cephalopod?

And the TPA congratulates the Texas Tribune on its tenth anniversary.

Friday, November 01, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update *Updated

*Updates, including Warren's M4A plan and analyses as well as Beto's withdrawal and more, appear with leading bold text below.

The impeachment of Trump is coming to a boil.

The House of Representatives voted 232-196 Thursday morning to approve a resolution laying out how public impeachment hearings will be conducted on “whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its Constitutional power to impeach Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America.”

Americans are divided.

The poll finds that 49 percent of Americans say the president should be impeached and removed from office, while 47 percent say he should not. That finding is almost identical to support for impeachment in a poll by The Post and the Schar School taken earlier in October.

So are Texans.

Not quite half of Texas registered voters agree that “Congress is justified in conducting impeachment investigations into actions Donald Trump has taken while president,” according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Almost as many -- 42% -- disagree with that statement. Republican and Democratic voters are predictably partisan in their responses, while independent voters are more likely than not to say the investigations are merited: 46% agree, while 32% do not.

So as Trump says: "We'll see what happens".

In Joe Biden news:

-- Leading in the polling but lagging in fundraising, Uncle Joe has decided to start taking Super PAC money.  It's being organized by some of his best friends.

In an effort to revive Biden’s prospects, prominent supporters of the former vice president are mobilizing to establish a Super PAC, a bid that the Biden campaign appeared to endorse on Thursday, according to a report in Bloomberg. The move represents a reversal from earlier this year, when Biden rejected support from Super PACs, which can receive unlimited donations from corporations or individuals.

Though Biden has pledged not to take contributions from registered lobbyists, the prohibition appears not to apply to big-dollar organizers of his Super PAC. Among the individuals involved with the effort are several lobbyists for leading corporations and foreign governments.

Longtime Biden supporter Larry Rasky, one of the people involved with the big-money effort, is the founder of lobbying firm Rasky Partners, which is currently registered to lobby on behalf of Raytheon, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and the Republic of Azerbaijan, among other clients.

Steve Schale, a former Obama campaign strategist, is a registered state lobbyist with Cardenas Partners, a Florida lobbying firm founded by former Jeb Bush adviser Al Cardenas. Schale’s current client list includes the Florida Hospital Association, JetBlue Airways, State Farm Insurance, Walt Disney Parks, AT&T, and the Associated Industries of Florida.

As The Intercept has reported, despite Biden’s promise to reject lobbyist money, his campaign launched with a fundraiser hosted at the home of Comcast’s chief lobbyist, and his political action committee has a long record of accepting lobbyist cash.

Rasky, Schale, and the Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Rasky Partners lists a number of successful client campaigns on its website, touting efforts to win congressional support for banks and defense contractors. Disclosures show that the firm was previously retained for communications services to the Education Finance Council, a lobby group for student loan companies.


Bernard Schwartz, a wealthy financier who has organized dinners with prominent centrist Democrats in order to prevent Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., from gaining the Democratic nomination, is reportedly in talks to fund the new Super PAC. Schwartz is known for deep-pocketed donations. In 2016 alone, Schwartz, through his foundation, gave $1 million to Third Way, a centrist group backed by corporate donors that has vigorously opposed Medicare for All and other ideas centered on tackling economic inequality.

-- And his surrogates are already telling us that Biden is likely to be defeated, badly, in Iowa.

Joe Biden risks a humiliating third- or fourth-place finish in Iowa early next year, according to nearly a dozen senior Democrats in the state who attribute the prospect to what they see as a poorly organized operation that has failed to engage with voters and party leaders.

With fewer than 100 days until the Feb. 3 caucuses, Biden is failing to spend the time with small groups of voters and party officials that Iowans expect and his campaign’s outreach has been largely ineffective, according to 11 senior Democrats in the state. That could send Biden to a crippling loss behind Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg, who have highly organized campaigns in Iowa, said the Democrats, most of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly about the campaign.

Warren has been having her own troubles since the debate.

-- Why isn't she more popular in Massachusetts?

A very good explainer of her rise to the Senate in the Bay State.

-- Warren's ambiguity on healthcare comes with some side effects:

"I was a little surprised recently that she came out in favor of a Medicare for All plan," said Tom McGarity, who taught law school with Warren at the University of Texas in the early 1980s and is a fan of her candidacy. "My guess is as the campaign continues, she'll refine that to some extent."

"It's a very expensive proposition, and it's not well defined. One thing about Liz is, at least politically, usually before she comes out with something ... she defines it better," he added.

The Warren campaign has not responded to questions about whether she could eventually compromise on the issue.

It is not uncommon to meet die-hard Warren supporters who are lukewarm about Medicare for All.

Recent polling from NPR member station WBUR finds that Warren is the most popular candidate in her home state of Massachusetts, but her idea of Medicare for All is not. "Medicare for All Who Want It" is a more popular option.

"I'm not sure that Medicare for All is the correct answer. I think a hybrid is perhaps a better answer," said Kimberly Winick, a former law school research assistant for Elizabeth Warren and a strong supporter of Warren's candidacy.


"I also know down the road if it becomes implausible, impractical, impossible to do those things, she'll consider alternatives," (Winick) said. "And she will think clearly about alternatives, she won't pretend facts don't exist."

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid espoused a similar thinking recently in a podcast interview with David Axelrod, a former strategist for President Obama. Reid, in an attempt to defend Warren from criticism that she's "too far left," gave the impression that Warren is not as committed to Medicare for All as she has suggested.

He said he advised Warren that strengthening Obamacare is the best plan for now, and a public option is "as good as Medicare for all, anyways."

"That's not what she's saying though," Axelrod responded.

"You give her some time," Reid said. "I think she's not in love with that, you'll wait and see how that all turns out."

"So you think she's more pragmatic?" Axelrod asked.

"Oh, I know she's pragmatic, just wait," Reid insisted.

But pragmatism is not what Warren has been selling on the campaign trail. She often ends her stump speech with a promise to "dream big" and "fight hard."

It's not clear how much wiggle room -- if any -- Warren has on the substance of Medicare for All. But health care consultant Chris Jennings thinks she has a little bit more negotiating space than some of her rivals.

"Her fan base, her voters, will give her more credit for trying to go as far as she possibly can on this issue, and then when, and if, she has to trim it back a bit, she'll have more room for compromise than many other candidates will," said Jennings. "And I say that because she's viewed as a fighter, she won't compromise just to compromise, she'll compromise to get something done."

There is no room for compromise on Medicare for All.  Every one of these so-called experts understands the concept of risk pools.  It works in a very similar way to herd immunization.  You simply cannot avoid the implementation of a drastic improvement for all people because you are too cowardly to face the potential political consequences.  It's as stupid as saying "it costs too much", or "how will we pay for it".  Bernie Sanders did it right.

Any compromise in Medicare for All means people will continue to die and go bankrupt because they cannot afford medical treatment.

Update: Warren's plan to pay for M4A, released this morning and as this post was published, is a hit with leading activist Ady Barkan.  It certainly blows up the doubters quoted above.

In my opinion, a ten-year transition period is too long.  I prefer Bernie's 2-4 year conversion.

Update: And others have analyzed her plan and found it falling short.

Lambert Strether of Corrente via Naked Capitalism:

Krugman and CAP are, of course, fair game. But criticizing Ady Barkan -- has Joe Biden met with him yet? -- is a bit like kicking a puppy. So let me say gently that Warren’s “plan”-- how I hate that “plan” has become politically charged -- is hardly a “codex of wisdom,” and that Sanders’ approach to the “pay for” issue lacks disadvantages that Warren’s plan has, and has advantages that Warren’s plan lacks. So I’ll skip the hot takes (Ezra Klein, Politico, Yglesias) and jump right to Warren: “Ending the Stranglehold of Health Care Costs on American Families“. 

Deep economics dive follows.  Also Matt Bruenig at Jacobin.

-- The 'Wall Street is afraid of Warren' myth is blown up.

Warren is a longtime critic of the financial industry, and she has made her fair share of enemies among some of its major players. There has been a litany of stories in recent months -- including one I wrote -- quoting finance executives and bankers on how disastrous they believe a Warren presidency would be: Deciding between Donald Trump and Warren is a “decision between sickness and death.” Major Wall Street Democratic donors will sit the election out. Warren is the one candidate who is “toxic for the business community.”

But not everyone on Wall Street hates her. In fact, there are plenty of people who believe the idea of Warren in the White House sounds pretty good. And it’s not a grudging acceptance of her worldview but instead genuine support for it.


I spoke with more than three dozen people from across the financial sector -- professionals who work at hedge funds, big banks, and private equity funds, in asset management, financial advice, investment banking, trading, research, and compliance -- who support Warren’s presidential bid. They know if she lands in the White House that may make their jobs a bit different, their companies a little less lucrative, or mean they’ll pay more in taxes. And they think that’s great. They support Warren because of her policies, not in spite of them.

Warren is Bernie-lite.  Everybody knows it.  Especially those of us who support Tio Bernie.

-- But it's Boot EdgeEdge who's been the worst on the topic of healthcare.

Responding to criticism of his vague health care policies in early 2018, Buttigieg “declared” on Twitter that, “Most affirmatively and indubitably, unto the ages…I do favor Medicare for All.”

Later, as he entered the Democratic presidential primary, he landed on a kind of compromise: a single-player option he likes to call “Medicare for All Who Want It” that lets him show support for those frustrated by the high costs and substandard results of the American health care system while preserving the profit-driven forces that have contributed to that system.

Now, as he continues to promote his plan, which critics call “Medicare for Some,” he’s taken an antagonistic approach to true Medicare for All, as proposed in the Medicare for All Act, and to his opponents who support it: Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), who “wrote the damn bill,” and frontrunner Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is cosponsoring and continues to support it.

In a new digital video ad from Buttigieg’s campaign, corporate consultant and former Facebook executive Joe Lockhart says, “Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren believe that we have to force ourselves into Medicare for All, where private insurance is abolished.” Lockhart cofounded Glover Park Group, a corporate consulting and lobbying firm with current and recent clients in the health sector including ​Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Horizon Therapeutics, Intuitive Surgical, and Sanofi U.S.

Pharmaceutical, health insurance, and hospital industry donors have flocked to Mayor Pete all year. As of mid-2019, he was second only to Donald Trump in overall campaign cash from donors in the health sector. Among Democratic candidates, he was second to former Vice President Joe Biden in terms of pharmaceutical and health insurance donations.

This guy makes me vomit.

Black voters will abandon the Democratic Party in droves if he is anywhere near the ticket.

-- As Kamala Harris has slumped, her voters have migrated to Warren.

Harris has cut staff, slashed the salaries of those still on the payroll, and is restructuring what remains of her sinking campaign.

-- Tulsi Gabbard has not only survived the Hillary Clinton attacks, she has thrived.

Hillary Clinton’s suggestion this past week that Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is being “groomed” by Russians to act as a spoiler in the 2020 race may have had the opposite effect of what the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee intended: It’s elevated Gabbard’s candidacy and may have inspired even more ardent interest in her campaign among Clinton critics.

On Saturday, Gabbard found fans among the many Clinton skeptics across Iowa, where Clinton barely won the 2016 Democratic caucuses against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“What is this horrible thing that Hillary said about you?” one person asked Gabbard at a house party in West Branch.

Gabbard turned me into a critic with her off-the-wall positions over the past few months, but I'm even less a fan of Barack Obama, and Gabbard's "can't we all just be nice to each other" bit in support of Obama's finger-wagging of those that are 'woke' has worsened my opinion of her.

And let me remind everyone: Obama sucks.

-- Amy Klobuchar, shithole Bill Maher's favorite, is also an extremist.

-- Julián Castro made his number, so he'll stay in.

-- Update: But Beto will not.

After all I have blogged about him over the past couple of years, very little of it positive, his campaign deserves a more appropriate farewell from this corner.

O'Rourke found his voice after the carnage in his home town.  He took courageous stands, was harshly criticized for them, gave effusive praise to his competitors like Bernie and Tulsi, and in these last few months revealed himself as a man of great character.

He says he will not bid for the US Senate against John Cornyn, and despite his track record of saying he won't run for things (like president, for example) and then doing so, I'll take him at his word.  I would, however, anticipate that he would be the challenger to Greg Abbott for governor in 2022.

-- Update: Green Party front-runner Howie Hawkins secured the nomination of the Socialist Party USA.  Here's the Indy Pol Report's post, and a Q&A with Hawkins and his campaign team.

-- And as reported in last week's Update, Don Blankenship has made his Constitution Party presidential bid official.

-- I saved the best for last.

John Harwood: You identify as a democratic socialist. You got the endorsement of Representative Ocasio-Cortez over the weekend. How far do you think you can take the United States of America toward democratic socialism?

Bernie Sanders: It depends on what we mean by democratic socialism. What I am trying to do, in many ways, is pick up where Franklin Delano Roosevelt left off. In a not widely publicized State of The Union speech he gave in 1944, this is what he said in so many words: “We have political rights. You have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion. All of that’s great, but what we don’t have are guaranteed economic rights.”

So you could vote, but you also have the privilege of sleeping out on the street. You can protest, but you also have the freedom to work 60 or 70 hours a week at starvation wages. You have the freedom not to have health insurance, not to be able to send your kids to college. What I’m trying to do in this campaign is say that economic rights must be considered as human rights.

John Harwood: Do you also embrace the part of FDR that said adversaries hate me and I welcome their hatred?

Bernie Sanders: Absolutely. You can judge a person by the friends they have. You can judge a candidate for president by the enemies they have.

There was a guy who was head of Third Way, the corporate wing of the Democratic Party. He said, “Bernie Sanders is an existential threat to the Democratic Party.” I agree with him. I am. I want to convert the Democratic Party, to break its dependency on big money and corporate interests, and make it a party of working-class people, of young people, of all people who believe in justice.