Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Democrats winning and losing

-- First, a few more photos from the weekend, at the Capitol ...


... and here in H-Town:


And more pics at the Observer.

The rallies are powerful and enduring emotionally, but simply do not translate into electoral strength. Big turnouts for protests can be misleading, as Nate Silver reminds, and as Charles has noted, Wendy Davis and her filibuster produced a similarly large crowd of upset people over women's reproductive freedoms, and then Greg Abbott defeated her a year later with more white (but not black or brown) female votes than Davis was able to earn.   So it's fair to ask: where do the Dems go from here?  Bernie Sanders answered this question a few days after Hillary Clinton's upset defeat, but none of the 447 people who will be voting in this election seem to have heard it.

We can hope they don't go back to where they started two years ago, but in a glaring sign of chronic insanity, not a single DNC candidate running to replace DWS/Donna Brazile was willing to admit that the 2016 primary was rigged for Clinton.  Keith Ellison is as close to acceptable as it gets for actual progressives (not the alt-progs that comprise most of the party), and a lot of them are already stepping away from him because.... well, I suppose he just can't help himself.

In trying to woo the DNC delegates he needs to win the election, Ellison has reduced his criticism of Hillary Clinton and increased his smears of the Republican Party. He has endorsed a billionaire donor, Stephen Bittel, to become the Florida Democratic Party chair, and has announced that he will not be attending Trump’s Inauguration, which many commended. But what he failed to mention is that he will be meeting with billionaire donors instead at Clinton propagandist David Brock’s closed-door retreat. Though Ellison initially said he supported re-enacting a ban on lobbyists that former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz lifted in 2015 to help Hillary Clinton, he recently said he won’t unilaterally re-enact the ban but will put it to a vote for DNC members to decide. Many of the DNC members happen to be lobbyists.

Incidentally, only one candidate marched this past weekend.  All the rest huddled with David Brock instead.  I shouldn't have to point this out, but Republicans and Democrats are reduced to fighting over the crumbs from a couple of hundred American billionaire oligarchs, some of which hedge their losses by giving to both parties.  Another 'water is wet'-ism for the Blues: Trump did not get elected because he raised or spent the most money.

-- Kuff has kept tabs on the local D scene with updates to the Harris county chair contest, and the announcement of a bid for Congress by my neighbor, Deb Kerner.

Of the ten folks formally announced for the race, Art Pronin, Dominique Davis, and Lillie Schechter should be the front-runners.  This will again be a blacks vs. gays battle (an old storyline, and note that Keryl Douglas has come back for more of it) for control of the county party, so since Pronin still hasn't decided to run for certain, I would handicap it Davis and Schechter, not necessarily in that order, as early favorites.  DBC has a report on Johnathan Miller's appearance at the Houston Area Progressives meeting this week; he nails it from my perspective.

There are only a few hundred people voting in this election, too.

Kerner (her school trustee page has been updated) is popular with us southwest-siders, and unlike any of the recent challengers to John Culberson, has won a election before.   Keep in mind that Hillary Clinton narrowly carried CD7 over Trump in 2016, while Culberson pasted James Cargas by twelve points, his third consecutive defeat to the incumbent Congress critter.  Anybody that spares us from watching Cargas lose a fourth time is a good thing.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance won't be passing off any alternative facts in this week's roundup from the best blog posts and news stories of last week.


Off the Kuff stays on the bathroom beat.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos attended the women’'s march in Houston yesterday.  Meanwhile, in that spirit, she recalls the old Republican healthcare plan.  Remember the GOP healthcare plan? “Don’t get sick”.

Socratic Gadfly looks at the most recent Back the Blue support tool, and decries its flag desecration hypocrisy.

Neil at All People Have Value visited the segment of the Berlin Wall at Rice University that was defaced by graffiti supporting Donald Trump. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

The Irish bookmaker Paddy Power laid odds on Trump's shade of orange at the inauguration, but PDiddie at Brains and Eggs took some of their easier money.

Before leaving on a fishing trip, CouldBeTrue at South Texas Chisme sees a lot of harrassment and some tough times ahead for people who live on the border.

The Lewisville Texan Journal reports that over one hundred people are suing an emergency care facility there.

Dos Centavos notices that there are no vendidos in Trump's cabinet.

Easter Lemming Liberal News, now on Facebook and Twitter, reports Pat Van Houte is running for mayor of Pasadena, Texas.  She opposed the redistricting that was just ruled illegal.

And jobsanger dissects Trump's promise of 25 million new jobs (hint: it won't happen no matter how much 'alternative math' gets employed).

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

More Texas news!

Robin Paoli and Aimee Mobley Turney explain why they marched on Saturday.

Harris County may have more Latinos voting than previously counted, relays the Urban Edge.

David Collins at DBC Green Blog observes that the Harris County Democratic Party needs more precinct chairpersons (and more progressives, a different problem).

Allen Young traveled from rural Massachusetts to Austin to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Rag, the iconoclastic underground newspaper that carries on today as The Rag Blog.

A Texas House Republican from Fredericksburg, Kyle Biedermann, sent out a highly questionable survey about Sharia law just prior to convening a 'Homeland Security Summit' in Austin this week.  The Houston Press quotes the head of Houston's Council on American-Islamic Relations as suggesting it's a fishing expedition.

 Protestors at Texas Muslim lobby day, two years ago.

G. W. Schulz at the Texas Observer shares the lessons he has learned from hustling in the new gig economy.

Luis Hestres wonders what Trump's election will mean for digital freedom of speech.

Equality Texas is tracking the pro- and anti-LGBT bills in the Legislature.

The Texas Election Law Blog analyzes the Pasadena redistricting decision.

The Lunch Tray says goodbye to Michelle Obama.

The Bloggess did what she could to help you get through last week.

And conservative Democratic political consultant Colin Strother advises us to hold on tight.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Hell Toupee, But We Shall Overcomb


But...

Trump protests get rowdy

DisruptJ20 is my kinda people.  Wish I were younger and healthier and I'd be there with 'em.


Six police officers were injured and 217 protesters arrested Friday after a morning of peaceful protests and coordinated disruptions of Donald Trump's inauguration ceremony gave way to ugly street clashes in downtown Washington.

At least two DC police officers and one other person were taken to the hospital after run-ins with protesters, DC Fire Spokesman Vito Maggiolo told CNN. Acting DC Police Chief Peter Newsham said the officers' injuries were considered minor and not life threatening.

Bursts of chaos erupted on 12th and K streets as black-clad "antifascist" protesters smashed storefronts and bus stops, hammered out the windows of a limousine and eventually launched rocks at a phalanx of police lined up in an eastbound crosswalk. Officers responded by launching smoke and flash-bang devices, which could be heard from blocks away, into the street to disperse the crowds.

"Pepper spray and other control devices were used to control the criminal actors and protect persons and property," police said.

Anti-Trump protests also broke out Friday in US cities, including New York, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago and Portland, Oregon. Authorities in Seattle say one person was in critical condition at a hospital with a gunshot wound. Demonstrations also took place overseas in Hong Kong, Berlin and London.


In case you were wondering, there's going to be a lot more of this.  (Watch how AG-designate Sessions handles it.  He's already got Justice backing off from voter/photo ID lawsuits.  Update: More in depth on that from ProPublica.)

I won't expect too many people who voted for Hillary Clinton to be a part of this action; today's Women's March is more their speed.  "The pussy grabs back" is today's campaign chant.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the United States and around the world are set to join marches Saturday to raise awareness of women's rights and other civil rights they fear could be under threat under Donald Trump's presidency.

The key focus of the day will be the Women's March on Washington, which organizers say could attract a quarter of a million participants.

The march, which began with a modest Facebook call in the aftermath of the election, has grown in to what could be one of the larger political demonstrations ever seen in DC.


But there are also more than 600 "sister marches" planned around the country, with some of the biggest expected in Boston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

And women and men in cities around the world -- including Sydney, Hong Kong, London and Paris -- are also marching in solidarity and in opposition to the values they think President Trump represents.

And all across Texas, as posted yesterday.

You're released from yesterday's media blackout to tune in to the demonstrations if you can't do anything more, but keep avoiding teevee coverage of President Twitler wherever possible. Concentrations of Trump, televised, is how we got here in the first place.  Don't continue to enable a media that wants to treat this administration as normal.   And punch a Nazi every chance you get.  Zero tolerance for fascism is a great way to resist.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Resistance today

I would have preferred calling it a general strike, and Ted Rall has been merciless in his criticism, but this is the effort and today is the day.


Not limited to DC.  Texas events:

Austin

Friday, January 20
One Resistance: More Info
J20 UT Student Walkout: More Info
LGBTQ Human Rights Rally: More Info
Saturday, January 21
Women's March on Austin: More Info

Corpus Christi

Friday, January 20
Solidarity and Resistance Rally: More Info

Dallas

Friday, January 20
NTX Resistance: More Info
#J20 Dallas Anti-Trump March: More Info
Saturday, January 21
Dallas Women's March and Mega Phone Bank: More Info

Denton

Saturday, January 21
Women's Rally on Denton Square: More Info

El Paso

Saturday, January 21
Somos Una + We Are One: More Info
Women's March on the Border: More Info

Fort Worth

Saturday, January 21
Fort Worth Women's March: More Info

Houston

Friday, January 20
Bridges Not Walls Rally: More Info
We Belong: Houstonians of Muslim Descent Dissent: More Info
Saturday, January 21
Houston Women's March: More Info

McKinney

Friday, January 20
No Mandate March: More Info

Rio Grande Valley

Saturday, January 21
RGV for Reproductive Rights, McAllen: More Info
Women's March, Brownsville: More Info

San Antonio

Saturday, January 21
SA Women March Against Hate: More Info

Waco

Friday, January 20
United Against Trump, Inaugural Protest: More Info

Let's make sure everyone hears us.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Paddy Power lays odds on Trump's shade of orange for tomorrow

I mentioned a few days ago that Twitler's chances of being impeached in the next six months were too short for my liking, but these bets are ... creative.  I'll give you my wagers at the end.  From the e-inbox:

(19 January 2017) History will be made tomorrow, as Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.

Mischievous bookmaker Paddy Power have priced up a variety of specials for the Washington event – including what colour the new President will be at his inauguration. The bookie makes lighter tones Tiger’s Eye and Deep Saffron its 6/1 favourites with Mango Tango leading the chasing pack at 7/1. Further down in the betting is Vivid Tangelo and Cool Copper at 8/1 while Mahogany props up the betting at 18/1.

Paddy Power are also betting on what will be the first Trump-ism uttered by the tycoon during his speech. Perhaps unsurprisingly, ‘Make America Great Again’ is the favourite (2/1), while ‘Fake News’ (11/1), ‘Vladimir Putin’ (12/1)), and ‘Brexit’ (16/1) are also solid contenders. There are also a host of wildcard options included in the betting, such as ‘I think, therefore I am’ (33/1), ‘I have a dream’ (40/1), ‘You’re fired!’ (50/1), and ‘Nigel Farage’ (40/1).

And Farage is also prominent in the market for which celebrities will be in attendance. The UKIP leader is a short price to be at the inauguration (2/1). Noted supporter Kanye West (3/1), madcap wrestler Hulk Hogan (3/1) and Dennis Rodman (10/3) are also in contention – as well as loud-mouth pal Piers Morgan (12/1).

However, the party could be short-lived – with the bookie offering odds of 4/1 that Trump is impeached within six months of his presidency.

Féilim Mac An Iomaire, a spokesperson for Paddy Power, said: “Donald Trump’s election led to our biggest political payout in our history and we very much doubt that he’s done with upsetting the odds just yet. His inauguration will be watched all around the world and we make it 6/1 for the States to follow up its first-ever black President with its first-ever deep saffron Commander and Chief. (sic)”

Trump’s Inauguration Skin Colour

6/1 Tiger’s Eye

6/1 Deep Saffron

7/1 Mango Tango

8/1 Cinnamon

8/1 Heat Wave

8/1 Cool Copper

8/1 Vivid Tangelo

9/1 Carrot

10/1 Persimmon

10/1 Pumpkin

12/1 Burnt Orange

18/1 Mahogany


What Phrase Will Trump Use First?

2/1 Make America Great Again

7/2 Islamic Terrorism

11/2 Russia

9/1 Twitter

9/1 Nuclear Weapons

11/1 Fake News

12/1 Mexican Wall

12/1 Vladimir Putin

14/1 North Korea

16/1 Brexit

33/1 I think, therefore I am

40/1 I have a dream

40/1 Nigel Farage

50/1 You’re fired!

500/1 Golden Shower



Who Will Be In Attendance?

3/1 Kanye West

3/1 Hulk Hogan

10/3 Dennis Rodman

10/3 Mike Tyson

6/1 Jon Voight

12/1 Piers Morgan

16/1 Arnold Schwarzenegger

33/1 Meryl Streep

40/1 Kim Kardashian

50/1 Bernie Sanders

66/1 Lady Gaga

100/1 Bruce Springsteen

200/1 Bono



Golden couple specials

11/2 Trump to wear a golden tie

9/1 Melania to wear a golden dress



Presidential Betting Specials

4/1 Trump to be impeached in first six months of Presidency

14/1 To have an actual golden shower installed in the White House

16/1 To be dumped by Melania in 2017

500/1 To paint the entire White House gold

I'm not taking any of the skin tones; too subjective.  Remember that television distorts, and my teevee's color settings are probably different than the Irishmen's.  But two-to-one on MAGA is as sure a moneymaker as they come.  I'd again pass on the rest of those phrases in this speech (but the SOTU, even a year from now?  Alas, a different sport).

Take that 6/1 on Jon Voight and walk to the bank.  Update: Hope you got your bet in; a quick $300 bucks here.  Bernie Sanders at 50-1 is easy money, too (scroll to the bottom there; this is where PP fails on handicapping US politics.  Hope they don't read this blog).  Skip the rest.

I'm serious here.

Scattershooting the state budget, the potty bill, and a few Democrats

-- The Texas House and Senate have submitted their preliminary budgets, and they're billions of dollars apart.  The Statesman says over $5 billion after the wash, the TexTrib and the Chron are going with $8 billion.  This is illustrative of the dilemma facing those of us who want to better understand these things; details are scant on some of the largest expenditures, but it's enough to conclude that state services are going to get a lot worse.  One bright spot I can find is that the House does not declare the economic stabilization account, aka rainy day funds, untouchable.

... Rep. Drew Darby, a San Angelo Republican and House budget expert, hinted that his colleagues would consider tapping the state's Rainy Day Fund, which holds more than $10 billion.

"It was designed to accommodate these times that we're in right now," Darby said of the fund at a panel discussion at a conference hosted by the Texas Association of Business. "It has been raided and reduced to near zero three times in the past."

This is more open-minded thinking than I can recall seeing, particularly from members of the Texas House, and suggests that their influence will be greater than the Senate's, which has gone too far right to be of much service to any proud Texan.


-- Related to that premise, Joe Straus is going to push on Greg Abbott to take his side -- and not Piss Lord Dan Patrick's -- on the bathroom bill.  Bold emphasis mine.

House Speaker Joe Straus, R- San Antonio, was wary of the Senate’s “bathroom bill” during a speech at the Texas Association of Business conference on Wednesday, sharing his personal opinion that Senate Bill 6 could result in economic troubles.

“There’s been a lot of work put into our state’s economic success,” Straus said. “Contrary to popular myth, it is not a miracle. We want to continue that success and we want Texas to keep attracting the best and the brightest. One way to maintain our economic edge is to send the right signals about who we are.”

The speaker also appeared to be interested in getting a real stance on the issue from Gov. Greg Abbott, saying “the governor’s opinion on this can make a big difference too.”

“If you are concerned, and I know many of you are, now is the time to speak up,” Straus said, addressing conference attendees.

I say we all try to knock the guy in the wheelchair off that fence he's straddling.

-- In under-reported Texas developments:

A state district judge in Austin has taken the next step in dissolving the American Phoenix Foundation, the group that 'terrorized' members of the Legislature last session by secretly, then not-so-secretly, filming them at the Texas Capitol and elsewhere in Austin.

Former state Sen. Dan Shelley has been appointed as receiver to take over and dissolve the foundation, which has been described by its founder Joe Basel as “defunct.”

(Many QR readers may remember that Sen. Shelley served in both chambers and was legislative liaison to the legislature for both governors George W. Bush and Rick Perry.)

"The appointment of a receiver is an extraordinary remedy applied only because Joe Basel abused a nonprofit as if it were his personal play thing," said Steve Bresnen, the veteran lobbyist who filed suit to bring the finances of the Phoenix Foundation into the light.

Scott Braddock, the author of this excerpt, is simply a terrible writer -- too many quote marks and far too much inappropriate capitalization -- so I took the liberty to edit him above in that regard.  But to his credit, he appears to be the only reporter who covered this story.  It was ten days ago that the court squashed American Phoenix to death, and my Google machine shows no other stories about it.

-- As I posted earlier last week, memes are fun, get a lot of action on social media, and are rarely fact-checked.  But the fact-checkers make their their own mistakes, too.  It's getting more difficult to discern fake news from non-fake news, and the best thing you can do is to set your BS detector to 'highest', and wait for the autopsy results.

I remain of the opinion that Cory Booker is a POS neoliberal.

-- Tom Perez also still sucks.

(Outgoing) Labor Secretary Tom Perez, one of the leading candidates for chair of the Democratic National Committee, has stumbled in recent days when asked about his position on money in politics.

Asked at a DNC forum in Phoenix last Saturday whether he will “revive President Obama’s ban on corporate donations to the DNC” and a ban on appointing lobbyists as party leaders, Perez demurred.

“It’s actually not that simple a question,” Perez responded, adding that such a move might have “unintended consequences.” Perez argued that such a ban might impact “union members who are lobbyists,” though the question explicitly only addressed corporate lobbyists.

Speaking to the Huffington Post, Perez has refused to clarify his position on resurrecting President Obama’s ban on lobbyist donations to the DNC, which was overturned by former DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., during Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency.

The only firm restriction on special-interest money Perez has announced is that he will not accept lobbyist donations for his own campaign committee formed to support his bid for DNC chair. But even this position has come under question.

The Intercept recently obtained a fundraiser invite for Team Tom, Perez’s DNC chair campaign committee, for an event on January 26 in Washington, D.C. The event invite clearly prohibits lobbyist money, but the host committee — the individuals sponsoring the event — included several federally registered lobbyists and individuals working in the lobbying industry ...

Read on if you like, but I'm done.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Obama frees Manning

Also Hoss Cartwright and Willie McCovey, but it's Chelsea that we're most grateful for.

President Obama on Tuesday commuted all but four months of the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the Army intelligence analyst convicted of a 2010 leak that revealed American military and diplomatic activities across the world, disrupted Mr. Obama’s administration and brought global prominence to WikiLeaks, the recipient of those disclosures.

The decision by Mr. Obama rescued Ms. Manning, who twice tried to kill herself last year, from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at the men’s military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. She has been jailed for nearly seven years, and her 35-year sentence was by far the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction.

Under the terms of the commutation announced by the White House on Tuesday, Ms. Manning is set to be freed on May 17 of this year rather than in 2045. A senior administration official said the 120-day delay was part of a standard transition period for commutations to time served, and was designed to allow for such steps as finding a place for Ms. Manning to live after her release.

The commutation also relieved the Defense Department of the difficult responsibility of Ms. Manning’s incarceration as she pushes for treatment for her gender dysphoria, including sex reassignment surgery, that the military has no experience providing.

There will be no such grace for Edward Snowden.

A number of groups have called on President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden, who is currently living in Russia under threat of US espionage charges. Thus far, the president has declined to do so, citing the absence of an active court hearing on Snowden’s charges. “I can't pardon somebody who hasn't gone before a court and presented themselves,” Obama told Der Spiegel in November.

Speaking to the Times after the order, a White House spokesman affirmed the earlier statements, drawing a stark distinction between Manning and Snowden. “Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” the spokesperson said.

And we wait for Julian Assange, who said via Wikileaks Tweet just a few days ago that he would turn himself over for extradition if Manning were freed.  Update: Not happening

This piece helps us understand why Obama was moved to grant clemency.

"The quality of mercy is not strained; it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven," Portia famously tells Shylock, who is demanding a pound of flesh from her friend Antonio in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. "It is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. 'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown."

As the statues of them in Germany would suggest, I consider all three to be heroes and patriots of the first order to democracy and free speech.


The demonstration of those things should recognize no border and encounter no governmental interference or punishment, nor threat of, in their expression.  As we begin a new administration in this country which places little value in transparency and perhaps even less in truth, both our rights and our courage to use them will be tested.  Our first chance to do so is this Friday, all day and everywhere.

Betsy DeVos: worse than we thought

"Dodges Questions" seemed to be the most common description.

-- On campus sexual assault guidelines (also referred to as Title IX) she was noncommittal.

The guidance, which expanded gender discrimination protections on campus to sexual assault and sexual violence survivors, requires every school to have an established internal procedure to handle allegations of sexual harassment and sexual violence. It also says that every time a complaint is filed the school must promptly investigate it, independent of whether or not the crime is reported to the police.

When asked about the guidance by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), DeVos said that she was aware of many “conflicting ideas and opinions around that guidance.”

Much to the chagrin of the survivors in the audience, when further pressed about whether or not she would commit to upholding the guidance, DeVos hedged.

“It would be premature for me to do that today,” she told Casey.

Why in the world would that be?

DeVos has a documented history of donating money to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a group that has opposed legislation aimed at preventing campus sexual assault and even provides legal counsel to students under investigation for sexual assault.

And, to perhaps state the obvious, she also feels comfortable serving under President-elect Donald Trump, who has been accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment many times and even infamously bragged on tape about sexually assaulting women. Later in the hearing, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) asked DeVos specifically about that Access Hollywood tape, and DeVos confirmed that if Trump performed the actions he bragged about — kissing and groping women without their consent — in a school setting, she would consider it sexual assault.

Yeah, on the same day Trump was sued by one of his former Apprentices for calling her a liar about his sexual advances toward her.  That's a tangent we'll leave for another day.

-- DeVos may have dodged the tough questions, but she was also wrong on the easy ones.

Sen. Al Franken asked DeVos to explain her thinking on whether test scores should be used to measure students’ proficiency or their growth. That’s an important, and basic, difference because it affects how schools are labeled as succeeding or failing.

But DeVos had no idea what Franken was talking about.

“I think if I am understanding your question correctly around proficiency, I would correlate it to competency and mastery, so each student according to the advancements they are making in each subject area,” she said to Franken. 

“That’s growth,” Franken retorted, correctly. “That’s not proficiency.” By the time DeVos understood Franken’s question, she had no time left to answer. 

This wasn’t just a matter of mixing up some jargon. DeVos’s response, as well as her reactions to similar questions about the basics of federal education policy, suggested she knows little about what the department she hopes to lead actually does.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the committee chairman responsible for shepherding DeVos past these hazards, has severely limited the questioning.  Because the more you get to know her, the less you're going to like her.  The same holds true of her financial disclosures, which were incomplete at the time of this hearing.

(T)he fact that Democrats are protesting that their questions were cut short and that they're still waiting for DeVos to clear her required ethics review feeds into their larger narrative that Republicans are ramming through Trump’s nominees without properly vetting them.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer complained on the Senate floor that the DeVos hearing is “a mockery of the process.”

“They're afraid what the public will hear,” Schumer said. “They're afraid who these nominees represent.”

-- Then there's the outright lies.

Having no experience in public education (DeVos is a conservative billionaire who sends her children to religious private schools), it was up to her to at least prove she was prepared. She wasn’t. And she fell flat on her face in a cringe-worthy session that even Republicans struggled to defend.

At one of her lowest points, DeVos found herself defending Trump’s plan to allow guns in schools by suggesting that they are sometimes used to defend children from grizzly bears.

“I will refer back to Senator (Mike) Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wyoming ... I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.”

No. No there aren’t.

As Mic.com reported, a Wyoming teacher was adamant that it is not school policy to keep guns on the premises to fend off bears.

Audra Morrow, a teacher at Wyoming’s Valley Elementary School from 2004 to 2006, explained to Mic that no guns were necessary to ward off ursids, and that the fence and bear spray were “absolutely” sufficient measures on their own.

“No firearms in our schools!” Morrow wrote. “We do have bear spray but have never had a problem that would require using it.”

The number of bear attacks in North America is 3 deaths per year -- none on school grounds. By contrast, there were over 200 school shootings in the United States in the last 3 years. Bears aren’t the problem, but the right to bear arms may be.

It’s important to remember that DeVos’s comment isn’t just a gaffe, it was a deliberate response meant to justify an unjustifiable position. Having no legitimate defense of Trump’s dangerous plan to remove gun-free zones on day one of his presidency, she fabricated bear attacks.

Appointing people to cabinet level positions who have no experience whatsover in the field is apparently what 'shaking up Washington' looks like.  But as Bernie Sanders pointed out, DeVos' main qualifications for the job are that she and her family have donated somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million to Republican candidates.

“My question is, and I don’t mean to be rude, but do you think if you were not a multi-billionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of dollars of contributions to the Republican Party, that you would be sitting here today?”

She says yes; the rest of us doubt it.  DeVos is correct, though about her political contributions.

“My family is the biggest contributor of soft money to the Republican National Committee,” she wrote in Roll Call in 1997. “I have decided to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect something in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Trump's odds of impeachment and extra scattershooting

-- Short bets on Trump being removed from office involuntarily.

As we roll toward January 20, the bookmakers have also started leaning toward impeachment. The British-based gambling company Ladbrokes Coral opened shortly after the election in November with 3-1 odds that Trump wouldn't complete his term. By November 22 the odds were down to 9-4, according to the International Business Times. Now they're 50-50 that he won't make it through.

Paddy Power, an Irish bookmaker, is even less circumspect about Trump's future in the Oval Office. Right now the company is offering 8-1 odds that Trump will not make it six months (that's about twice the odds they gave Obama getting through his first six months), according to Salon. Now Paddy Power is offering 4-1 odds that Trump will be impeached before he completes his term. (It's worth keeping in mind both that Paddy Power is known for making adventurous bets about everything from endangered species to American politics, and that the bookmaker ended up having to pay out a lot of money when Hillary Clinton lost the election in November, meaning the bookmaker isn't infallible.)

As a disclosure, I am a Paddy Power gambler of low frequency, and while you will miss often, when you hit, it's usually big.  I wouldn't wager a dime betting on Trump's impeachment by this Congress, however, no matter how bad he gets.  Now if you gave me these odds on his resigning from office before his first term is through -- or for that matter, not running for a second term -- then I'd be all over that action.

Trump is a 'thrill of the chase' kinda guy, not so much the kill.  He's going to get tired of the daily grind quickly; he didn't start this charade to serve the public.  Washington is not going to be shaken up all that much as his base vote thinks.  If he can't make money the way he's used to, he'll have to subsist on the delight of terrorizing American corporate CEOs, and that also has limited utility after awhile.  Six months?  I'm betting against.  Four years?  I'm betting heavily in favor.  As a matter of my opinion, he's probably out no later than early 2019, a scant two years from now, so that Mike Pence can organize a run for the White House.  And if the Democrats keep on making the same mistakes -- such as overestimating the value of the DNC with a neoliberal at the helm -- Pence could win in 2020, while having an even larger Congressional majority to work with.  I can see his campaign slogan now: "Trump without the Bull(ying)".

But I'm the guy who thought Hillary Clinton would serve two terms and then Julian Castro would serve two after her, so WTF do I know?

-- Betsy DeVos, who wants to bring God to our public schools -- and vice versa -- faces her Senate panel today.

... (I)n a 2001 interview for "The Gathering," a group focused on advancing Christian faith through philanthropy, she and her husband offered a rare public glimpse of their views. Asked whether Christian schools should continue to rely on philanthropic dollars—rather than pushing for taxpayer money through vouchers—Betsy DeVos replied: "There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…[versus] what is currently being spent every year on education in this country…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God's Kingdom."

It's not just her Dominionism, her Ben Carson-ish lack of experience, and her massive political contributions that are questionable; she has controversies galore swirling about her.  Hope the coals of Hell are stoked white hot for this grilling.


-- The protests, and the number of protestors, are going to outnumber the people celebrating the new president at his inauguration.

Early estimates back in December suggested that Donald Trump’s inauguration would be attended by around 800,000 people, less than half of the 1.8 million people who attended Obama’s first inauguration (in fact, it’s less than the one million people who attended Obama’s second Inauguration). Trump can subtract at least another 18 people from that number, representing the Congressional leaders who refuse to attend the inauguration (including John Lewis).

However, Trump may not even fetch the 800K originally expected. We won’t know official numbers until we actually see them, but we do know that the main spot for the parking of buses in D.C. for inaugural events is RFK Stadium. There, only 200 charter buses have asked for permits on inauguration day. Compare that to the 1,200 bus permits requested for the Women’s March on January 21st. Right now, it’s possible that the protest march actually outdraws the inauguration. Comparatively speaking, Obama’s first inauguration had 3,000 charter bus permit requests, or 15x more than Trump’s inauguration. Obama also had 10 Inaugural balls compared to the three scheduled for Trump.

However, outside of the inaugural events on Friday, the city could see could see even bigger numbers than 800,000 expected to attend Trump’s inauguration, because some expect that demonstrators will add as much as 750K to the total. Hundreds of thousands of protesters are expected in other cities across the nation on Saturday.

It's going to be a big fucking deal this weekend.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The MLK Day Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance joins in the celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today ...


... and ruefully observes that resistance for its own sake over the next four years may be futile.


Off the Kuff thinks that the fight over Dan Patrick's bathroom bill could cause a real and lasting schism between Texas businesses and the Texas GOP.

Dan Patrick and Donald Trump both managed to make news from a certain urological perspective, blogged PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme sees the Texas Republican lawmakers on Trump's front lines in the war against our constitution and freedom of the press, while Socratic Gadfly takes note of the opening bell of the Texas Legislature and gets snarky about the first day's events.

Grits for Breakfast has another hideous criminal justice statistic: most TDCJ sexual assault victims are housed in a small number of units, and most are re-victimized by staff there.

Camp Toyahvale at Balmorhea is the scene of a new effort to stop fracking in Texas, and the resisters there have rejuvenated Txsharon at Bluedaze's activist heart.

Ted at jobsanger graphs a poll that shows the public approves of insurance subsidies (like the ones in the ACA) and also a public option (which was not).

The Lewisville Texan Journal's Christina Ulsh reviewed PROOF, a fascinating yet macabre tale of one Texas family by its last surviving member.

Dos Centavos previews two bands performing on Go Tejano Day at Rodeo Houston.

Neil at All People Have Value said that the work of opposing Trump is up to each of us. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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More news from around Texas!

Politifact Texas found President-elect Trump's Tweets about Rep. John Lewis' Congressional district "mostly false".

Popehat points out that Texas cops -- specifically a former Harris County Sheriff's deputy -- put the "best" in bestiality. (NSFW)

The Dallas Observer highlights the legal strategy behind the latest anti-abortion bill filed in the Lege, and the Midland Reporter-Telegram (no bastion of liberalism) sees Texas with a big black eye over the so-called 'bathroom bill'.

Better Texas Blog reminds us that the ACA repeal would mean a lot less mental health coverage for Texans.

The Election Law Blog links to Texas AP bureau chief Manny Fernandez in the NYT about the VRA's perhaps-final effort (given AG-designate Jeff Sessions' views) to fix voting rights in Pasadena.

Truthout was on the scene in Big Bend country, more precisely Presidio County, where indigenous American water protectors have halted work on another Energy Transfer Partners (of DAPL repute) fracked-gas pipeline.

In Port Aransas, Naveena Sadasivam of the Texas Observer wrote about a former felon who convinced a federal agency -- and the Texas General Land Office -- to fast-track a barge mooring facility in an ecologically sensitive area.

Kevin Nix argues that the place to look for child predators is online.

Therese Odell recoils in horror from Trump's press conference.

The Lunch Tray shows how the restaurant industry failed to keep its promise to clean up kids' menus.

Juanita Jean "celebrates" the return of Yachting Randy Neugebauer.

Jonathan Coopersmith evaluates President Obama's legacy in science, technology and innovation.

Jerry Seinfeld opened the glittering new Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land to rave reviews of both his clean-cut comedy and the brand new facility, writes CultureMap Houston.

And Pages of Victory surveys the state of his back yard, post-freeze.