Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I sit with Colin Kaepernick

The advancement of civil rights in this nation requires protests of this very nature -- with something personal at risk of loss to the protester, like Ali, and MLK, and Malcolm X -- and compels by force of conscience people who look like me to stand, or sit, with them.


It's called the First Amendment.  There's a reason the Founders put it ahead of the Second one, after all, and if you're a Second Amendment person but not a First one, then you're an asshole.  But just so we're clear, let's be certain that we all understand that your right to complain about Kaepernick is included within his right to sit during the anthem.

Because we also know this has nothing to do with the First Amendment.


And now... let's all STFU about this trivial matter.  But before we do, let's give the #VeteransforKaepernick the last word.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance urges support for Louisiana flooding victims -- after all, it could be us next -- as it brings you this week's roundup.


Off the Kuff points out that at current levels of polling, Democratic statewide candidates in Texas have a legitimate shot at getting elected.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme knows Texas Republican racism, meanness and greed is behind the withholding of birth certificates to Hispanic children born in Texas.

Hearst's acquisition of nearly two dozen small newspapers circling the city of Houston points out one of the few bright spots in the industry, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs; the rise of community-based papers.

Socratic Gadfly, noting when all parties have "issues," defends Green Veep Ajamu Baraka from Swiftboating, while noting he opened himself to it by being a conspiracy theorist.

John at Bay Area Houston considers Texas House District 144 incumbent Gilbert Peña to be more stump than furniture.

Neil at All People Have Value, on walkabout in Cincinnati, posted a photo of a cicada on the door of the bar he was closing down.

And Stace at Dos Centavos eulogizes Latino music legend Juan Gabriel.

======================

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Schulenburg Forty-Eighter has some resources and events listed for those who wish to be active in opposing the fossil fuel industry's latest work-around for the stalled KXL pipeline.

Politifact Texas rates Sean Hannity's claim that "all of Texas is conservative, except for a little bit of Austin" as False.

The Urban Edge takes note of Houston's growing Muslim Latino community.

"Give and you shall receive", Texas politicians tell contributors, in a aggre-post at the revitalized PoliTex blog (at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram).

The Austin Chronicle posits nine reasons why Donald Trump came to Austin, and the Texas Observer's 19th "Texas Miracle" podcast talks cocks, Glocks, and Trump.

The Bloggess celebrates technology in parenting and friendship.

Grits for Breakfast calls for decarceration and closing prisons to reduce TDCJ's budget.

TFN Insider's guest post is from a Tyler rabbi, who writes about his -- and other non-Christian -- children's experience in the public schools, and the TSTA Blog reminds us that campus miracle workers can only do so much with limited resources.

And Better Texas Blog eulogizes Nelda Laney, wife of former statehouse Speaker Pete Laney.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Friday, August 26, 2016

Trump still flailing, campaign still failing

-- He cannot speak intelligently about his immigration plan's "softening".

Donald Trump on Thursday night insisted on CNN that his recent comments about immigration reflect a "hardening" of his stance, but the Republican nominee refused to directly answer questions about his position on deportation.

"I don’t think it’s a softening," Trump told CNN's Anderson Cooper when the host noted that Trump actually said there could be a "softening" of his policy on deportation. “I’ve had people say it’s a hardening, actually.”

Despite the fact that he does not demonstrate a working knowledge of his campaign's core issue, that response might have been TMI, given Trump's propensity for sexual entendre'.  (This list is only up to date through June; his most recent comment mentioned Hillary's celebrity support as "not very hot".  It does not appear as if he was referencing the male celebrities.  I can't wait to see what he says when someone tells him today is Women's Equality Day.  Oh, and thanks to Seth Meyers for the inspiration to write this paragraph.)

Update: PolitiFact actually fact-checked Trump's claim with barely any naughty tongue-in-cheek that I could discern or even infer (the definition of 'hot' they use is 'popular', and not 'sexy'), and found it to be Mostly False.

Throughout the interview, Cooper attempted to clarify Trump's stance on deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants, but with no success.

When he first asked Trump if he had a change of heart about deporting all undocumented immigrants, Trump launched into a rant about building a wall and said that he will give more details on his plan in a week. In addition to building a "great wall," Trump said he'll use "tunnel technology" and "all sorts of e-verify."

Trump reiterated that he will deport the "bad" undocumented immigrants, but suggested that he doesn't have much of a plan beyond that.

"After that, we’re going to see what happens," he said.

Trump dodged the question again when Cooper asked if there would be a path to legalization.

"You know it’s a process? You can’t take 11 at one time and just say, ‘Boom, you’re gone.’ We have to find where these people are," Trump said in response.

He put himself in this position.  Being asked questions he doesn't know the answer to should be familiar territory for him; certainly his being vague and defensive about the questions is old hat for the rest of us.  But his base isn't noticing the hypocrisy, and something on the order of 35-40% of the nation's voters like it just like that.  It's more than 50% of the voters in Texas and several other southern and mountain western states.

I'm so old I remember when people carried beach sandals, i.e. "flip-flops" to the Republican National Convention, and wore Band-Aids on their chins with purple hearts colored on them.  Either a lot of conservatives have died since 2004 or the nation's collective IQ has gone up a few points.  I'm guessing both, causatively, though some days it barely seems like it.

-- Trump's new campaign manager Steve Brietbart Bannon has been found to have been charged with domestic violence in the 1990s, and also to be currently registered to vote at a home which is both vacant and scheduled for demolition.  Perhaps we have at last found the infamous Voter Fraud Unicorn in Florida, the one that Greg Abbott and Ken Paxton have been so afraid of that also lives in disguise as a chupacabra in Texas.

If you're Trump's campaign manager, is taking millions of dollars from the Russians better or worse than being a voter fraudster who beats his wife?  I report, you decide ... because the Trumpets don't give a shit either way.

Here's what bad about Trump being so incompetent, and not just for the GOP but the nation: it leaves Hillary Clinton with no competition whatsoever, and that makes her an even lousier candidate than she already is.  She's been on cruise control to the White House since the convention, and not even her own foundation issues will likely slow her down much.

Does make great fodder for the cartoonists, though.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Clinton and Trump versus the media


Oh, they still go after each other with the most trite and dogmatic of broadsides, but now that they have a common enemy ... well, now they're friends, as the saying goes.


This week's kerfuffle centers around an Associated Press Tweet that the Clinton/Democratic pushback machine seems to have determined is some kind of existential threat.  Not the story the AP filed.  The Tweet teasing the story.

Vox, Think Progress, Daily Kos and others have all returned fire denigrating and discrediting the AP for a "false", "misleading", etc. premise.  In the Tweet, not the story.  The Tweet does appear to fail on the grounds of reasonable disagreements; the definition of "meetings" and some other verification.  AP's response was to batten down the hatches, defending the details in the story ... but not so much the Tweet itself.  The Clinton campaign demanded deletion of the Tweet; the AP told them essentially to pound sand.  Maha, with the bigger picture.

The inherent conflict is, of course, that she’s accused of using her position as Secretary of State to sell favors to foreign governments and corporations and friends who donated to the Foundation. And every time some more emails from somewhere trickle out, new accusations blossom in right-wing media.

So far, however, no one has been able to document a direct quid pro quo. But again, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a problem.

[...]

Bill announced that if Hillary is elected, the Foundation would stop taking donations from foreign governments. What I hadn’t realized was that it stopped taking money from foreign governments in 2009, when Hillary became Secretary of State. But it resumed taking such donations in February 2015, which was just about the time Hillary had locked up the presidential nomination with Democratic Party insiders and money backers.

And, anyway, the foreign governments thing isn’t the only problem. What about corporations like petroleum companies that might want to influence U.S. policy?

Why couldn’t they see that could be a problem? It’s similar to the situation with Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street speeches — why wouldn’t see have seen those might end up biting her? Why was she so determined to not release transcripts? People gripe that Clinton is owned by corporations, and this is why.

She’s gotten away with a lot this year through a combination of dishonest redirection (“Look! a Bernie Bro!”) and the fact that Donald Trump has been running the dumbest presidential campaign in U.S. history.  But when called upon to defend herself from legitimate questions and criticisms, time and time again she’s botched it.

I’ve lost track of the stories she’s given about the State Department emails, when a simple “I had a server set up that was more secure” would have sufficed, and even might have been true. More recently she tried to claim that she set up the private server on the advice of Colin Powell. Then Colin Powell denied this. Oops! On to the next excuse, I guess.

This 'pay to play' business, in whatever serious-or-not form it exists, really doesn't seem as big a deal as Rush Limbaugh's lesbian farmers, or any one of the dozen disjointed attacks on the media Donald Trump has launched -- this being the most recent one -- but because his camp is proving unable to alter the inexorable trend of this election and her camp is busy watching him self-destruct, they have resorted to having their minions look for new skirmishes to fight.


If anybody wanted to understand what's actually behind this latest Clinton scandal-not-a-scandal, David Sirota does the heavy lifting, and Jonathan Turley reminds us that the Obama administration stonewalled and slow-walked the FOIA request for three years.  But most of the responses have been along the very predictable lines of "Republicans do it too", "this is how politics works", and "she did nothing illegal".  In sum, the same excuses her lickspittles have always rejoined every time there was an ethical short-circuit on her part.  There was one creative and effective pushback, however: going after "it looks bad".  Or "optics as scandal", as the author coins it.  'The Clinton Rules' is a phrase you're going to be hearing a lot more of from David Brock's Correct the Record squads criticizing media, social and mainstream, who report on the Clintons.

Update: In an overzealous defense of Clinton, Nancy LeTourneau -- the 'optics as scandal' writer linked above -- has gone after Sirota in a very misdirected and personal attack.

Sigh.  Nobody seems to connect the purpose of Bernie Sanders's campaign and his -- oops, Our Revolution to any of this.  'Politics as usual' is pretty much the reason why so many people have and are opting out, for crine out loud.  But even Sanders has not found himself immune (as so many of his diehard believers would be shocked to learn) to the political vagaries of selling out to the status quo, as the stories preceding his -- oops, Our Revolution's kickoff last night demonstrated.

Yeah, revolution -- particularly when someone isn't exactly committed to it -- is hard work.  And especially so when it is compromised by something that smells like dead fish lying in the sun on the dock of your new lakefront summer home.  And that stench ain't optics.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Community newspapers rise

Something I've wanted to blog about for awhile, and with the silliest portion of the political silly season full upon us, now seems like a good time.  First, the business news as press release from last month, with as much of its own-horn-tooting as I could excise ...


Hearst (on July 29) announced that it has acquired the Houston Community Newspapers & Media Group from 1013 Star Communications. [...]

Houston Community Newspapers is a media group serving more than 25 local communities surrounding Houston’s greater metropolitan area with a total weekly print distribution of more than 520,000 and a digital reach of over 4 million per month to suburban Houston’s most appealing residential and business markets.

The acquisition furthers Hearst Newspapers’ reach into the Houston suburbs ...

The Houston Community Newspapers serves residents in Conroe, The Woodlands, Magnolia, Tomball, Spring, Cypress, Humble, Kingwood, Atascocita, Lake Houston, Cleveland, Dayton, Friendswood, Pearland, Pasadena, the Bay Area, Deer Park, Memorial, River Oaks, Bellaire, Katy and Sugar Land, among other communities in those areas.

Included in the acquisition are the Conroe Courier (daily) and the following 23 weeklies:

Blah blah blah.

The only area of the newspaper business that has shown growth in recent years are these smallest of the country's print publications, whose advertising revenues have not been as severely poached as have been the woolly mammoths like the Chron, and the medium- and smaller-circulation dailies like the Beaumont, Laredo, and Midland papers Hearst has owned since the mid-80's.

I read a statistic a couple years ago (which I don't feel like re-verifying this morning) that observed that the ad revenues for Google -- at something in excess of seven billion dollars annually -- was as much money as all the newspapers in the United States had collected that year.  Today we know Facebook has surpassed that mark while Google commanded $30 billion in 2014.  So in context you can see why the newspaper business has been so hammered.  Texas Monthly with the big picture:

The Greater Houston metropolitan area comprises eight counties spread across nearly 9,000 square miles, an area larger than New Jersey, with a population of around 6 million people. If it were a country, Houston would have the world’s thirtieth-largest economy. Covering such a vast metropolis has long proved a Sisyphean challenge to the city’s single major daily newspaper: the Houston Chronicle.

But help may be on its way to the Chronicle’s beleaguered newsroom. Last week the paper’s parent company, the Hearst Corporation, announced its acquisition of the Houston Community Newspapers and Media Group (HCN), a collection of 23 weeklies and one daily newspaper, the Conroe Courier.

With names like the Katy Rancher, the Atascocita Observer, and the Bay Area Citizen, the two dozen newspapers are intended to bolster the Chronicle’s suburban coverage, a goal that has historically been more honored in the breach than the observance. When Nancy Barnes moved to Houston three years ago to become the Chronicle’s editor-in-chief, she was shocked at how little attention the paper was paying to the city’s suburbs.

“It was just unbelievable to me—when I got here we did not have a single full-time reporter in the suburbs,” she said. Although the Chronicle now has a half dozen reporters focused on the suburbs, and ten regional weekly inserts, Barnes remained dissatisfied with the paper’s efforts. “It’s been impossible for me to get as many people out into the Houston metro region as I need, because we have six million people here. Every town has had enormous growth—there are 100,000 people in Pearland alone.”

The HCN papers, which have a total print distribution of 520,000 and a digital reach of 4 million pageviews per month, will finally give the Chronicle (circulation 860,000, digital reach of 134 million pageviews) the resources to match its mission as the city’s paper of record, she said. Over the next few months, the Chronicle will replace its own regional inserts with the newly acquired papers. 

One hundred thirty four million unique clicks a month averages out to about four and one-half million a day.  I am made to understand that the Chron by itself manages three million of those hits daily, which would be a factor of about three to six times their printed circulation.  That reach could be leveraged into a pretty vast, lucrative, and effective ad buy, especially if you want to attract new (which is to say lost long ago) cash flow streams like national (coupons) and political advertising.

It is the news gathering that will make the most difference long term, as Chron editor Barnes mentions above and details at the link.  The weekly town criers and village newses have a depth of reader and subscriber loyalty that essentially does not exist in any other medium; they're the only ones who publish Friday night high school football stories, to use one example, which is something every parent or grandparent who has a kid playing wants to read.  And at least until my generation makes way for the next one, that will hold.

More significantly -- and for the benefit of a recent graduate looking for a job -- is that Barnes is demonstrating a lot of influence with her New York shot-calling bosses, and if you're a young journalist who wants to make a career in the news business, or someone who wants a very fulfilling sales job, you could certainly do worse than attaching yourself to a company and a person who can see over the horizon and capitalize on market and industry trends.

So the next time you find yourself grumbling as you pick up one of those little papers in your driveway or on your lawn, take a minute and open it and read a few pages.  You might find yourself surprised at what you've been missing.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance welcomes Donald Trump to Austin this week with a collective raspberry as it presents the best Texas lefty blog posts from last week.


Off the Kuff examines which legislative races could get interesting if the poll numbers get closer in Texas.

Socratic Gadfly looks at Hillary Clinton naming Ken Salazar as her proposed transition head, and shows his long history of anti-environmental stances go far beyond the fracking that many first noticed.

Texas Republicans' war on women has cost hundreds of mothers their lives. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know that this is no joke and no exaggeration.

The US Senate looks ripe to flip from red to blue, says PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Texas Vox reposts the Texas Energy Report article referencing Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton's response to Public Citizen's comments about the agency's competence as part of its sunset review.

Neil at All People Have Value has freshened the look of his blog and updated the "Pictures I Have Taken" pages.

John at Bay Area Houston has the latest news from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is that a public comment period is open on their proposal to ban pre-dispute arbitration clauses in consumer financial contracts.

Feeling scammed by a Houston Cadillac dealership, Egberto Willies sought and found relief from a small local auto repair shop.

The city of Lewisville is accepting applications for its next poet laureate, reports the Texan-Journal.

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More Texas blog posts!

Honorary Texas blog-for-a-week Heat Street covered the "White Lives Matter" rally outside Houston's NAACP headquarters in the Third Ward.

Better Texas Blog examines the impact of fewer insurers in the Obamacare market.

Texas Election Law Blog took note of the state law that limited interpreters at polling places biting the dust.

Texas Moratorium Network reported the latest regarding Jeff Wood and the efforts of his family to halt his execution.

Grits for Breakfast wonders how much money the state could save if arrests for petty misdemeanors were eliminated.

Pages of Victory has the latest on the Political Revolution, with Bernie Sanders' announcement details this week.

And via CultureMap Houston, A Night with Janis Joplin starring Kacee Clanton is now performing through September 18 at the Alley Theatre.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

2017 US Senate: D-52, R-48

Still basking in the glow of last night's Green Town Hall on CNN, and not ready yet to crown another Jackass O'Day, let's check in for the first time this cycle on the latest US Senate projections.

Not burying the lede: it's a very tight contest.  Electoral-vote.com, my personal favorite, and Election Projection both give the GOP 51 states for a slim margin to hold control.  The difference in methodology is that E-v.com doesn't have any toss-ups; they jut throw the states up daily based on the very latest polling.  (Only if a poll shows a tie do they acknowledge that in their revised projection.)  They also count the Senate's two independents, Bernie Sanders and Angus King, as Democrats because that's who they caucus with.  So today they rate it 51-49 while E-P has it a more accurate 51-47-2.

Update (8/19): Note how E-v.com changes day-to-day.

Larry Sabato has it tied 47-apiece, with 6 states -- NV, IN, OH, PA, NH, and FL -- going either way.  Charlie Cook thinks it's 47-45 Republicans, with 8 tossups.

Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight.com has projections from early June that give the Ds "three to four seats", and they need four to wrest the majority away from the Republicans (on the increasingly-safe assumption that Hillary Clinton is the new president).  His latest report, still two weeks old, is more encouraging as the polling suggests that a few Senate Republican candidates are in danger of being caught in Trump's undertow.

Update (8/19): Enten's piece from 8/16, titled "GOP's chances of holding Senate following Trump downhill" eluded me, but reinforces his and (and my) premise.

Several of the links above profile the specific state races and link to polling and such.  I'm not ready to get that granular; there'll be plenty of time in September for things to flesh out a little more clearly in many of the states where it's close now.  Ohio is going right down to the wire in both the White House and Senate contests anyway.

Your interactive toy is at 270towin.com, and here's my best guess today: D-52, R-48 with NV staying blue and WI, IL, IN, PA, NH, and NC flipping blue mostly on the strength of Clinton's surge in the swing states, and AZ, MO, OH, and FL remaining red.  (Wisconsin's and North Carolina's Dems should also benefit a couple of percentage points from the court-ordered relaxation of their restrictive voter/photo ID laws, as is the case in Texas ... subject to last-gasp litigation outcomes.)


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

The real people's mandate for President Clinton will be if she has a blue Senate and a blue House to work with, as Barack Obama did in his first two years.  The crisis exacerbated by one of the nation's five largest health insurers removing itself from the state-mandated Obamacare exchanges suggests a simple fix: the public option.  But history tells us that Clinton will not fight any domestic battle she cannot be assured of winning.

Excessive gerrymandering means a Democratically-controlled House still looks just out of reach.  But due to the Trump Train's derailment, Dems are dreaming big.  Good on 'em for that, but some swift and direct action will be necessary if their dreams come true.

A public option is one thing that could make me feel encouraged about Clinton's first term.  The other would be more diplomacy and peace and a lot less war.  (I probably shouldn't dream too big.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Stein rises, knives come out

The reason the smear got called out early is because the smear, sadly, got traction.   CNN, hosting tonight's town hall with the Green Party ticket, had to do the responsible journalistic job and report on it and the other silly attacks listed there.  But if this is the best Jill Stein's detractors -- most of them being the crappiest of conservative corporate Democrats, mind you -- can do, it's a pretty weak case against voting for her ... except in the vanishing number of swing states.  Which Texas will not be (sorry, Charlie).

What we see here with the 'cranks' and 'kooks' business is the logic dictating that Hillary just might need that 2% to carry Texas, so we'd better beat harder on the Greens.  (Two percent is about six times the amount that Stein drew here four years ago.  Democrats have a better shot at peeling off Harambe's 2%, or Deez Nutz's 3%.  I'm just saying.)

Downballot digression: throughout the Lone Star State we see the lousiest of the lousy who show on our ballots representing both sides of the conventional aisle, as we believe and as we know.  It took them over a dozen years and a few election cycles, but the TDP finally figured out that if they just fill up the all the lines, the ignorance of straight-party voting would enable them to stand the best chance of knocking the Greens off the ballot and absorb what is left of the actual left in Texas into their collective.  Consequently you have a circumstance this cycle where an appellate court candidate who is all but invisible makes a stand against the Green who got the most statewide votes two years ago, 10.45% (without a D opponent).  Neither of the two women -- Betsy Johnson (D) and Judith Sanders-Castro (G) -- are exactly favored in their respective bids for the Texas Criminal Appeals Court against Scott Walker.  No, not that one.

Scott Walker, the failed presidential candidate and Wisconsin governor, wasn't on the (Texas GOP primary) ballot. But Dallas-based criminal defense attorney Scott Walker is vying for a seat on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The Republican barely campaigned before the March primary. His opponents weren't even sure he was running, and he didn't give any interviews. But he still dominated the first round of voting, winning 41 percent in the four-person race. Many credit that to his recognizable name; voters who make it that far down the ballot sometimes pick a name that sounds familiar. But Walker sees it differently. He told The Texas Tribune (after he won the runoff in May) that he spent "a lot of time praying about this election."

“I believe God heard my prayers," he said. 

Glowree Be!


So watch the CNN town hall tonight whether you have an open mind about an alternative to "lesser evils" or not, livestream or in the company of others, follow the Twitter feed -- look for a hashtag like #GreenTownHall or something similar -- and laugh at the putzy snark attempts by Democrats who can only win something every four years (fortunately for them it's the big enchilada; you know, "SCOTUS" and all that), then try to imagine what it would be like electing a female president who would stave off our looming environmental apocalypse, stopped our country's all-but-endless wars, eliminated student debt by telling the Big Banks to eat it, and advanced a jobs program based on an update of FDR's New Deal.  Then ask yourself how crazy that would really be.

Why, it's almost as crazy as this.