Monday, July 24, 2017

The Weekly Wrangle

With another mega-roundup of the best lefty blog posts and news from last week, the Texas Progressive Alliance wants to stress that it does not delete its old, and possibly contradictory, Tweets.

Off the Kuff notes the two Democratic candidates who have emerged so far to run for Governor.

SocraticGadfly looks at Mitch the Turtle's ongoing Senate manueverings on Trumpcare.

Texas Democrats who can't support Tom Wakely for governor may be stuck with having to draft Joe Straus, according to PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that Texas Republicans are all about encouraging polluters and not about the health and well-being of people.

Texas Leftist sees Ashley Smith making THE point about the bathroom bill debate in her selfie with Greg Abbott.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston posts the fundraising totals for the seven candidates in the running for CD-7, and the best news is that four-time perennial James Cargas is badly losing that race also.

Stace at Dos Centavos follows up on Harris County's stance on SB4, seeing county attorney Vince Ryan filing a brief against enforcement despite the commissioners' reticence to do the same.

Texas Vox is stumped by Abbott's anti-tree agenda.

With a vacancy in the Denton County district clerk's office, the Lewisville Texan Journal collects some of the candidate filings for the position.

jobsanger joins the question of what Puerto Rico should be going forward: state, nation, or territory?

Neil at All People Have Value promoted the half-year mark of the weekly protest at the Houston office of terrible Senator John Cornyn. APHV is part of


The San Antonio Current reports that in the aftermath of the tragedy discovered in an Alamo City Walmart parking lot -- where several people were found dead and others stricken by heat in the back of a semi-trailer -- it's worth underscoring what SAPD Chief William McManus said:

“This is not an isolated incident; this happens quite frequently," he told reporters. "Fortunately, we came across this one. Fortunately, you know, there are people who survived.”

The Texas Observer explains what a ban on abortion means for women with high-risk pregnancies.

The Rag Blog co-hosts authors Steve Early and Nick Licata on July 27 at Scholz Biergarten in Austin, who will speak about the progressive alliances in their respective cities (Richmond, CA and Seattle) ahead of the Local Progress conference in Austin's AT&T Center this weekend.

RG Ratcliffe at Burkablog reveals Greg Abbott's million dollar donor, which helps explain why he's veering his wheelchair ever more to the right.

 Houston Justice Coalition is back and ready to get to work building up and not tearing down.

Robert Rivard calls the bathroom bill a choice between social justice and discrimination, and PoliTex quotes some anonymous Texas Republicans in the Lege as saying they don't want to have to vote on the bill ... but are afraid they might have to.

Grits for Breakfast updates on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's latest court loss, requiring the state jail system to address the stifling heat inmates are forced to live in, and posits the next legal avenues.

DBC Green Blog took note of the racial strife that rose to the fore at the GPUS annual meeting earlier this month.

Better Texas Blog reminds us that the state relies an awful lot on local property taxes to fund our schools.

The Texas Election Law Blog flags a Rick Hasen editorial about the perils to our democracy.

Fort Bend ISD school board president Kristin Tassin explains how Greg Abbott's voucher plan hurts kids with disabilities.

And Keith Babberney at Trib Talk speaks for the trees.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Another shit week for Sylvester Turner

His prized recycling contract -- you know, the one where the city buys new recycled garbage trucks financed at 11%, instead of the under 2% it can loan itself -- got tagged (which means a vote on it is delayed for a week).

Update: The mayor decides to start all over.

Now tags really aren't that big a deal, though Jolanda Jones pissed Bill White off so badly in 2011 with her use of them that he endorsed Jack Christie against her (and Christie won, and was never dislodged from his at-large chair because Harris Democrats kept failing to coordinate an effective strategy to remove him).  In this case however it's Dave Martin we're talking about, who's one of the more pus-filled conservatives on city council.  Odious Republicans aside, Sly's created problems with too many Democrats on the horseshoe, as noted before.

But the mayor has significantly larger troubles with the city's firefighters.

Charles Kuffner had an expanded take on it yesterday, which is filled with all of the corporate and Democratic institutional concerns  -- and subtle threats -- you can think of (and some you probably didn't).  Here's one paragraph excerpted, but you should read his full screed.

Of the establishment groups that tend to get involved in city politics, the Greater Houston Partnership is all in on pension reform and spending restraint. I can’t see the Realtors opposing the Mayor on this, nor the GLBT Political Caucus, nor any Democratic-aligned groups. The one possible exception is labor, but this proposal would be bad for the police and the city workers. It’s not about a rising tide, it’s just shifting money to the firefighters from the rest of the city employees. Maybe labor backs this, maybe they don’t. The Chronicle will surely endorse a No vote. Who among the big endorsers will be with the firefighters?

Kuff was kind enough to publish my comment (as opposed to some other bloggers in our Alliance, who must think ignoring me is going to make me go away, LOL) and for the click-over-disinclined, it contains some of the points I make next.  To do him the courtesy of not continuing a back-and-forth there, or responding to the green-eyed gadflies -- NHNT, Paul Kubosh, Steve Houston; I'm looking at YOU -- who make his comment section their regular stop ... here you go.

Nancy Sims is correct, Campos is -- shockingly -- about half right, with respect to the 'bad blood' to be spilled -- and Kuff himself is just deep-in-the-weeds mistaken.

Warnings about the horrors of busted budgets, etc. fly right over the head of our Republican home-schooled and public education-gutted electorate.  But it's accurate to posit that scaring them with warnings about furloughing hundreds of policemen and women and firemen and women might tap into their lizard brains.  Is that an attack that Democrats want to launch, though?

Do Houston Democrats, their mayor leading the charge together with corporate interests and their deep-pocketed Republican contributors, really want to finance and spearhead a public castigation of working men and women -- fire fighters, mind you --  especially in the current political climate?  Somebody is surely going to make a case about the purported evils of public sector employee unions ... but is it one Democrats want to make?  When I read (on Facebook) the mayor's special assistant encouraging his friends not to sign the petition, and a high-ranking city official calling the petition-gatherers "liars" ... well, the city has already started losing the PR war.

This seems an extremely treacherous path, but if Mayor Turner and his staff want to continue making enemies of allies, it's no longer my business to try to stop them.  I can't see a win for him and them anywhere by taking the tack Kuffner and Campos suggest, but I could be wrong.  It seems kinda Trumpian to me, though.  On the other hand, maybe more Mitch McConnell.

The new (recycling) contract comes just hours before council members are set to vote on the plan that has been met with controversy. The city's housing and community affairs committee was scheduled to discuss the contract (this past) Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. in council chambers. Late Monday, members of that committee said the new contract wasn't available to them.

Directly to the source of the firemen's support is the fact they gathered over 50,000 signatures, vetted them for legitimacy, and submitted 32,000, more than enough to make the ballot and let the residents of Houston decide the matter.  At last glance there were 72 comments on my Nextdoor page about the petition, and all of them, save perhaps one, are effusively in support.  Kuff's retort is that Nextdoor might not be the best barometer of vox populi, citing his own Nextdoor page's remarks about the Heights wet/dry initiative (last year?), but he's comparing apples and coconuts in that regard.

The power brokers, institutions, establishment, etc. may be stacked against the firefighters, but they surely appear to have the people solidly with them.  Oh, and former city attorney David Feldman, so they do quite obviously have plenty of money.

(Aside to Chuck: it was a 9.5% increase offered by Turner, not 10.  At least according to the H-Town Chronic you excerpt every single day.  For somebody who loves their numbers so much it's a surprise to see you get an easy one like that wrong.  No bias intended, though, amirite?)

Some observers, like UH's poli-sci prof Brandon Rottinghaus, quoted at the end of the previous link, think Turner has endangered his police pension reforms -- already on November's ballot -- with his back-of-the-hand treatment of the firemen and their subsequent take-it-to-the-streets effort.  If there is to be a backlash against the mayor, that's where it will show up.  And if he loses both the pay equality and the pension reform initiative in the fall, he's left with having to carry out his threats of laying off hundreds of HPD and HFD and other city employees in order to balance his precious city budget.  That's no way to get re-elected, no matter when elections might be scheduled by the SCOTX.

I predict that the resolution to give firefighters a raise they deserve will pass resoundingly, and the mayor and his wretched staff and the motley collection of fools on city council better start thinking about how to deal with it.  They could wreck the entire city with their high-horse bullshit if the voters also choose to send a message by defeating the mayor's pension reform proposal, but there's bound to be a way for Turner to save himself from that fate without continuing to act like a petulant dictator threatening the media.

If approved, the new (recycling contract) elements, including curbside glass, wouldn't start until late 2018. The mayor hopes to have the full approval of the council by the end of the month.

In the meantime, (Ted Oberg at KTRK) spent months trying to get answers on the city's last effort at expanding recycling. The mayor and his team didn't like our persistence.

"If you attempt to bully me, you aren't going to get a good response," Turner said. "I am not going to be bullied by you."

Let's just see what happens going forward.  Good fucking Doorknob, I wish there was an organized progressive effort in this town to put up candidates -- Green, Blue, or Other -- challenging Turner and his neoliberal flacks on city council.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

It's time to smother KPFT with a pillow

What a mess.  Or as Tommy Lee Jones' character in No Country for Old Men said to his deputy as he surveyed the bodies strewn across the desert: "It'll do 'til the mess gets here."

KPFT's ongoing turbulent drama having been previously documented, your update here includes the latest from Bill Crosier -- the Pacifica executive board director who fired the 3-month-tenured station manager, Obidike Kamau, last week for failing to reach the objectives set forth in his first quarterly fundraising pledge drive.  Crosier finally broke his silence at midnight this morning with a series of Facebook postings explaining his position (unless you're FB friends with him, you may not be able to read them).  This came after HPD was called to the radio station's offices earlier this week as protesters against Kamau's termination had gathered outside, and after Crosier fired three more employees, claiming that the budget simply wouldn't support paying them any longer.

Remington Alessi's Facebook note blew up that rationale.  He published Crosier's open letter to a couple of his critics and then responded with this.

On the whole, the letter is probably a good example of why one should not hit ‘send’ when angry, as it bounces between pleading, justifications, and then explanations by Crosier that he was advised by his lawyers to not speak on the matter.

Crosier’s most recent statement, which appears more polished and comes after the later termination of other African American employees who supported Dr. Kamau, further muddies the water. Crosier claims that money was a key factor in all of the terminations, hinting that the station would be unable to meet financial obligations without terminating these employees.

It should be noted that during this time, under Crosier’s guidance, KPFT managed to continue paying a full salary and benefits to retired general manager Duane Bradley, which was one of several incidents that sparked KPFT’s board to open an investigation on Crosier for mishandling of funds.

What will he say next?

Perhaps Crosier has lined up some secret and deep-pocketed corporate benefactors for KPFT, who've never before been there for them in their time of need.  Or maybe he's getting ownership's balance sheet in order so they can sell the broadcasting licenses for the five Pacifica affiliates to the highest bidder.  It's not as if the parent company has been diving into a swimming pool filled with money, a la Scrooge McDuck, at any point recently.

David Courtney, former Green candidate for SD-17, said it best.

KPFT (Pacifica) was a very important part of my life.  On two occasions I had a regular program.  When I was growing up it was the only alternative to the homogenized, pro-militarist, pro-capitalist mainstream media.  It is therefore very distressing to see the difficulties that it is going through.

However the perennial failure to achieve financial goals is telling us something that many of us just do not want to hear:  KPFT is irrelevant; that is why it consistently fails to meet its fundraising goals.

The rise of the internet to become the main source of news and information has completely destroyed KPFT's raison d'etre.

We like to consider ourselves progressive.  Shouldn't this progressivism be extended to matters of technology?  Why are we clinging to an antiquated technology?  Perhaps it is time to bid it goodbye and move on.  It is not worth letting it become a divisive issue among progressives.

I agree completely, except for the fact that it's too late vis-à-vis a divisive issue among progressives, so-called progressives, people who call themselves progressive but in reality are only a little bit liberal on a few social issues, etc.

If, as Crosier has posted extensively on his own FB wall, it's all/just about the money, then he has poisoned the well, already running dry, of financial contributors.  Who's going to give even a dollar to perpetuate this continual dysfunction, save for the few people who -- quite astonishingly, from my point of view -- still support Crosier?

It's time to pull the plug on KPFT, literally and figuratively, and Crosier is accomplishing that, whether it was his intention or not.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tom Wakely for Governor

I have my candidate.  How about you?

A month ago, at the top of this (somewhat depressing, reality-driven) post about the current market value of voting, especially in our beloved Texas, I quoted Wakely's mention in the excellent (mostly progressive Democratic) blog Down With Tyranny and his successful (if you consider limiting Lamar Smith to just under 57%) effort to win a Central Texas seat in Congress last year.

Wakely is everything you'd expect in a seasoned white progressive populist.  He's a reincarnation of my old pal David Van Os, with less picante.  He's Bernie Sanders with a cowboy hat.  Like Bernie, he may eventually find a little traction among millennials, people of color, women, and others who want to see a different and better Texas, but without much in the way of a website at the moment (update: better website) or money flowing to his campaign he is likely going to be relegated to Green Party-like numbers.

That doesn't matter as far as I'm concerned.  Zack Lyke, who managed his campaign against Lamar Smith in TX-21, also ran John Courage's successful San Antonio city council effort.  So let's hope he does the same again for Wakely, at least until the candidate rises in the polls and the money starts rolling in and the thousand-dollar Italian-suited Democratic political consultants try to push him out.

Since Wakely has castigated the Democratic Party so harshly, I'm still thinking Democrats' only hope is to get behind a Draft Joe Straus effort.  But if they pick a Clintonite, I think it's going to be fun to watch how much farther than Wendy Davis that person falls.  Remember, no more straight ticket voting unless a court rules otherwise and the decision stands for next year  (see Update IV immediately below).  My humble O is that hurts Democrats electorally, but does not rise to the level of discrimination.  I'm not a judge, though.

Update IV (7/21, and time for a new post on this topic): Kuff's opinion about Wakely, to put it mildly, lacks enthusiasm for the candidate, knocking down Wakely's contention about being the highest vote-collector among Congressional Democratic challengers to Republican incumbents with some numbers from one of his trusty spreadsheets, and correcting me about when the voter ID law is to take effect.

Correction duly noted, but that first part seems a little "to-may-toe, to-mah-toe" to me.

Update: Oh looky here.  Jeffrey Payne, small business owner, is in a same-sex marriage so the Dallas Voice helped him out, but Stace doesn't think much of his language on the anti-sanctuary law, and the TDP and Kuff seem less than enthused.  Lacks a website, name recognition, money, donors, etc. like every other Democratic/Green/progressive independent candidate so there's that.

Update III (7/20): I now understand the Democrats' reticence to get behind (sorry) "International Mr. Leather" for Governor.

Update II: In response to my query as to party affiliation or lack thereof, Wakely tweeted the following back at me this morning.

Seems a little conflicted, and certainly his previous statements about Texas Democrats are going to be held against him, but as he says ... wait and see.

Wakely posted a fairly lengthy announcement at Down With Tyranny.  Here it is (bold emphasis is mine, with a few minor English-teacher-style corrections.  Hey, everybody needs a proof reader, including me).

My name is Tom Wakely and I am a candidate for Governor of Texas but before we get into that I’d like to tell you a story or two of how I came to the decision to run and why I am running.

My wife and I run a private care home for hospice patients in San Antonio. We offer them a place in our home to die. We have been doing this for a little over eight years now and we have helped 48 people to die with dignity and respect. My wife is from Mexico and she just became a US citizen this past spring. I was born in San Antonio and right after high school at the age of 17, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. After my discharge, I returned to San Antonio and soon found myself working with Cesar Chávez on the grape boycott campaign in Texas. I was very political active during the 70’s. But all my work, all my idealism, came crashing down in the fall of 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan as President. I was 27 years old. I was lost, bewildered, not sure what I should do or where I should do it. For the next few years, I was an aimless wanderer, traveling all over the country. I tried going back to college but it didn’t hold my interest. I became a stockbroker for a while but decided that wasn’t my thing. I flipped burgers for a few months, drove a cab, I even took a job on the Mississippi cleaning the inside of river barges. I eventually drifted back down to Texas with nothing more than a few bucks in my pocket. The political revolution that I had been so much a part of had failed and nothing I did or thought I wanted to do could fill the emptiness in my soul.

I was now 32 years old, alone and tired. I had just broken my right ankle in a stupid accident and as I lay in my hospital bed, thinking about my life, I had an epiphany. Of course, at the time, I didn’t understand it to be an epiphany, but it was. Anyway, I healed and after a few phone calls followed by a few interviews, I found myself back in the Midwest, enrolled at the Chicago Theological Seminary.

I mention this because it is relevant to why I am running for Governor of the State of Texas.

Now, you have to remember when I entered seminary in 1985, apartheid was still the political and social system in South Africa. I had been and was now again very active in the anti-apartheid movement, this time in Chicago. To my surprise my seminary had a relationship with a South African seminary and with Desmond Tutu. It worked like this. When it looked liked an ANC fighter, a college professor or a shopkeeper was about to be arrested and imprisoned by the authorities, they were immediately whisked away, enrolled in the South African seminary, then within a few days, they were in Chicago, in class with me. I became friends with all of them and still maintain that friendship with a few of them today.

These men taught me two very important life lessons. The first was don’t give up hope. Don’t let losing a battle discourage you. Keep on resisting. The second lesson was when a political opportunity presents itself, grab on to it as you may not get another chance. Which brings me to the question that everyone is asking me. Why in the hell are you running for Governor of Texas.

To answer that question, you need to understand Texas politics. Texas is not a red state; it is a no-vote state. In the 2014 general election that saw the rise of Greg Abbott and his tea-party brethren to power -- Abbott becoming Governor and Dan Patrick becoming Lt. Governor -- only 38% of our state’s registered voters voted. Abbott took 60% of the 38% which means he only received the support of 22% of the state’s registered voters. The Democratic candidate, Wendy Davis, did far worse. She only received 40% of the 38% which means just a little over 15% of the state’s registered voters supported her. This voting pattern has been fairly consistent and repeated over and over again for decades.

Something is terribly wrong here. Over 60% of my state’s registered voters are consistently not voting.

The result is that Texas is now controlled by a small minority of politically, socially and religiously conservative people and the Texas Democratic Party has no clue what to do about it, or if they do know what the problem is, they simply have chosen to ignore it. We all know there is still a hell of a lot of money to be made losing elections.

Over the past 4 months I have talked to literally thousands of non-voters all across the state and asked them why they didn’t vote and they all have told me basically the same thing: they don’t vote because they know the Republican Party doesn’t care about them or their family and the Democratic Party has abandoned them. That is the reason why over 60% of our state is not voting: they know that neither party cares about the working men and women of this state. To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, Texas cannot survive morally or economically much longer when so few have so much and so many have so little.

I entered a 2016 Congressional race here in Texas on the heels of Bernie’s bid to secure the Democratic Party nomination for President. I ran as an economic populist on a strong bold progressive agenda against 30-year Republican incumbent Lamar Smith, the Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. While we lost that race, we did manage to secure a few moral victories. We received more votes than any candidate who had ever run against Smith; we managed to drop Smith’s percentage of the vote total to its lowest level ever -- 56.9% -- and our campaign received more votes than any Democrat in the State of Texas running against a incumbent Republican member of Congress. And we did all that with no institutional support from the Texas Democratic Party and with very little money -- a tad over $70,000, which included a $15,000 loan I made to my campaign.

Like my old ANC friends from seminary said, when a political opportunity presents itself, grab on to it as you may not get another chance. Well, the political opportunity in Texas is now. Governor Greg Abbott’s attacks on labor, on women, on refugees and immigrants, on Hispanics and other minorities, on the LBGTQ community, on the poor in our state, on our environment and on our great cities, needs to be responded to with the most forceful weapon we have at our disposal - the ballot box.

I am entering this race for Governor not because I want to but because I have to. When I was in seminary I learned about Martin Niemöller, the Lutheran minister who was an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and who spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps. He summed up perfectly my feelings and why I am running for Texas Governor. Niemöller said: “First they went after the Communists, and I did not stand up, because I was not a Communist. Then they went after the homosexual and infirm, and I did not stand up, because I was neither. Then they went after the Jews, and I did not stand up, because I was not a Jew. Then they went after the Catholics, and I did not stand up, because I was Protestant. Finally, they went after me, and there was no one left to stand up for me.”

As far as I am concerned, the defining principles of the 2018 Texas Governor’s race are moral issues: respect for the dignity of everyone living in Texas; respect for the dignity of work and the rights of workers; the call to family and to community; the rights and responsibilities of all Texans; a preferential option for the poor in our state; valuing our fellow Texans and respecting who they are as individuals; and caring for God’s creation -- the air, water and land.

As I mentioned above, with only a little more than 22% of the state’s registered voters supporting Governor Abbott and his tea party brethren, I again have to ask myself why are over 60% of our state’s registered voters not voting. The answer I believe to why so many Texans are not voting is because no serious candidate for Governor has ever talked to them about income inequality. Well, I intend to talk to the 60% about income inequality in our state. Look, Texas has the world’s 12th-largest economy but we rank 8th among the states as far as income inequality goes. San Antonio, the 7th largest city in the country, my home, ranks # 1 in income inequality. If we are serious about reducing income inequality in Texas we need to make it easier for people to join a union, not harder, and that is why I support repealing our state’s right to work laws. I also support raising Texas’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. It’s a start.

I will also talk to the 60% about how a person can be a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment and at the same time support common sense stuff like background checks at gun shows. Advocating for gun violence prevention programs is in no way, no how, inconsistent with being a 2nd Amendment supporter.

I will attempt to explain to the 60% why abolishing the death penalty in our state makes sense. Look, I understand if someone killed a friend or family member of mine, I would want vengeance as surely as the next man would. But I refuse to give that power to the state. Texas has already executed at least 2 innocent men over the past decade. A mistake that can’t be undone. If you look at the death penalty strictly from an economic perspective, the death penalty system is much more expensive than sentencing inmates to life imprisonment. The cost for sentencing a person to life costs the Texas taxpayer about $700,000 vs. sentencing someone to death, including court appeals, can easily run over $2 million. Besides, nothing could be worse than spending your life in an 8’ x 6’ cell.

I also want to reach out to the 60% and ask them a simple question: does your child or grandchild have asthma. I will point to the fact that Bexar County, home to San Antonio, leads the state in the number of children hospitalized for asthma. I will tell them that Texas is the number one source of oil and gas methane pollution in the country. I will tell them that is why I want to ban fracking and flaring in our state. I will also tell them we can create tens of thousands of new jobs by moving our state from a fossil fuel economy to a renewal energy economy.

Today, like in many states, the number one issue is rising personal property taxes to fund our public school systems. So, I want to know why Governor Abbott is not supporting a proposal by a colleague of his to abolish school property taxes altogether and find new revenue streams. Well, I think it is a great idea and among the dedicated revenue streams I see available to us are scrapping my state’s complicated franchise tax system and replacing it with a business income tax. I also support the legalization and taxation of marijuana in Texas. The revenue from both sources would put a serious dent in the funds needed to make Texas public schools number one in the nation and at the same time lowering the personal property taxes that so many of us are suffering to pay each year. (Side note here, last year, my wife and I had to pay our tax bill with a credit card.)

I want everyone to know I am running for Governor because I want to make Texas Great. After decades of abuse, the women and children of our state need someone to stand up for them. When I see so many Texans hurt and killed by senseless gun violence, they need someone to stand up for them. When I see racist legislation like the anti-sanctuary city bill SB 4 signed into law by Governor Abbott and his support of Lt. Governor’s Dan Patrick’s effort to regulate bathroom use by transgender people in public buildings, I cringe with fear. Fear of the words that Martin Niemöller spoke so long ago: ‘Finally, they went after me, and there was no one left to stand up for me.”

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Straus for governor?

At the end of this Jon Tilove/First Reading blog post, he speculates that the Speaker of the Texas House might be the only person who can defeat Greg Abbott in 2018.

[...] Joe Straus could conceivably run for governor or lieutenant governor in 2018, and win.

He just can’t do it as a Republican, because he would never survive a Republican primary. But he could do it as an independent in which the Democrats, who really have no prospects of winning for either governor or lieutenant governor next year, simply stand down.

Straus would run as an independent – in the name of saving Texas and his Grand Old Party from the extremists – pick up most of the Democratic vote, and win just enough of the independent and Republican vote to defeat Abbott or Patrick who would be in the unnatural position of having to pivot to the center.

I don't think Texas Democrats, with at least two candidates mentioned and one running full tilt already, would be willing to quit on the Lite Gov race at this juncture.  But nobody wants to take on Hot Wheels and his $41 million; consequently I find a Straus indy gubernatorial bid a highly plausible scenario ... at least here at the start of the special session.

Joe Straus and his band of Democrats and moderate Republicans, frankly, is the reason why we didn't get an anti-sanctuary law two (or four) years ago.  Straus,, is the reason why we don't already have an anti-transgender bathroom law in this state.  Joe Straus is -- reach for your butthurt ointment, Donks -- as much a Democrat as Sylvester Turner is, for Pete Laney's sake.  If we're going to have anything resembling two political parties in Texas in the foreseeable future, they're going to be comprised of this kind of cobbled-together Straus House Caucus, and the Right Wing Freaks.

If Straus can beat Patrick and Abbott over the next thirty days -- perhaps even if he can't -- his political future might very well lie elsewhere than on the House dais, wielding the gavel.  It's sure not going to be on Pennsylvania Avenue; that's a bad joke.

In the Mansion, he can veto any and all of the BS legislation that Patrick and the next House Speaker, who will without question be selected by Tim Dunn and Mucus, pass up his way.  It strikes me as the best plan available if sane leadership is your goal.

(Boy, have we lowered the bar over the past twenty-five years.  I suppose that's what happens when you cut funding for public education down to the bone.)

Monday, July 17, 2017

KPFT's turmoil is a microcosm of the left's dysfunction in Texas

Texas Democrats can't find anybody willing to be slaughtered by Greg Abbott in 2018 (and that person will surely be slaughtered).  Texas Greens can't decide whether to even try to collect signatures for ballot access despite the handful of vacancies the Democrats will leave open for them to reach 5% (and access for 2020; Gadfly has already warned them this would demonstrate unacceptable weakness).

Update: Chris Hooks, though, is pumped -- pumped! -- about the Blues' 2018 prospects.  He's the same Jackass he's been since last year.  He has me muted on Twitter (told me so!) and probably doesn't read this blog, so I doubt whether he's capable of figuring it out.  All that matters that he gets paid to churn out the same drivel every two years, changing the names to protect the guilty.

And the smartest decision I have made in the past decade-plus of progressive activism was to avoid entreaties to engage in the local Pacifica radio station's politics like it was the bubonic plague.  Which it has been for its entire existence.  Alyson Ward at the Chronic (sorry to have to link to it; getting off the dope is going to have to be gradual):

Since its founding in 1970, the left-leaning Houston radio station has been bombed by the Ku Klux Klan, shot at, and has struggled to raise operating funds from its listeners. On Friday, the station boiled over yet again.

After less than three months on the job, Obidike Kamau, the station's interim general manager, was fired Friday morning by the acting head of Pacifica, the national foundation that owns KPFT, sparking a protest march by Houston staffers, board members and volunteers.

About 35 protesters gathered outside the station's Montrose headquarters Friday evening to support Kamau and demand his reinstatement.

Many of those mentioned in this article are friends of mine.  Some are Democrats, like Geoff Berg; some are nominally so (voting and participating in Donkey politics as a defensive measure, as Chris Ladd describes in his thoughtful piece here),  several are active to some degree with the Harris County Green Party, and another bloc of Democratic Socialists, Socialists, Communists, and unaffiliated independent progressives likely comprise most of the remainder of KPFT's supporters.

Kamau's dismissal came from Bill Crosier, the interim executive director of the Pacifica Foundation, which owns KPFT and four other noncommercial stations.

The California-based foundation is in serious debt — to the tune of $7 million — and has been sued by creditors across the country. On top of the money woes, Pacifica has been plagued by infighting and politics, inspiring media blogger Ken Mills to call it "public media's most embarrassing, dysfunctional and disappointing organization."

Crosier, who lives in Houston, was brought on early this year to help get all of Pacifica back on track. He said he didn't expect Kamau to turn KPFT around in 90 days, "but we at least need to get a plan for turning it around. ... We essentially don't have a plan yet."

All day at the station, Kamau's colleagues and supporters gathered to show solidarity — and to comb over KPFT's bylaws, looking for a way to nullify the firing.  By Friday evening, protesters were armed with signs and speeches that suggested race played a role in the firing of Kamau, who is African-American.

Crosier "calls himself a progressive, but he acts like Donald Trump," said DeWayne Lark, past president of the local station board.

Kamau's vocal supporters include Audel, the station's interim development director. (Yes, he's interim, too. The station is "so disorganized, half the major positions seem to be interim," he said).

"At a minimum, (Crosier) was extremely sneaky in how he handled it," Audel said. The board of directors was "completely blindsided."

Crosier acknowledged the dissent on the staff and admitted that the station's no stranger to controversy. "It's been like that at KPFT ever since I've been involved," he said. "I like to say KPFT attracts frustrated people."

More evidence of turmoil: At a meeting Wednesday night, the KPFT board heard and approved a motion to investigate Crosier. The motion listed several accusations that boil down to divisive management and mishandling of station funds. Friday's protesters called Kamau's firing "a retaliation" for that motion.

That's only the beginning of the station's problems, Audel said. "Let's be honest: KPFT, in a lot of ways, has been a laughingstock for a long time."

The station's programming has been solid, Audel said, but "businesswise, it's the Keystone Cops."

Crosier has appointed Larry Winters, a longtime KPFT deejay, to replace Kamau as interim general manager. But he said he's "open to negotiations" with Kamau's supporters. That might mean reinstating Kamau, he said, or arranging for Kamau and Winters to share the role.

"If they can come up with a plan, I'll be happy to reconsider."

Apparently not, as the spouse of one of the radio station's program hosts relates on Facebook.  Most of the dirty laundry aired there.  Benjamin Craft-Rendon:

The firing of Dr. Obidike Kamau from 90.1 FM KPFT Houston when he's spent his 3 months on the job trying to lower costs while maintaining morale among programmers seems like an infuriatingly bad call.

Three people tagged Crosier's personal page with their thoughts on his move: Rachel Clark ...

"(A) plan within (a 90-day) time frame would not have buy-in or be rooted in collegiality and in the spirit of collaboration. At best, creating such a plan would result in compliance, lack of energy, and programmers, staff, and volunteers, 'going through the motions'. Obidike understands this and had dedicated the last three months to changing the culture at KPFT. He set about having backyard parties on a regular basis once again to build community and raise funds. He also hosted the first two programmer meetings in years, and there was an energy and passion among programmers as well as a new transparency from staff and leadership that I don't think I have ever witnessed in my 17 years of being connected to the station.
Not only did Bill Crosier fail to take any of this into consideration in his seemingly unilateral decision, he also completely failed to acknowledge that Obidike was the first person of color appointed as station manager in KPFT's 40-plus year history. These blind spots are coupled with his ignorance of organizational leadership research that cites, under ideal circumstances, it takes three to five years to turn an organization around, with staff and community buy-in and a cohesive culture being key influential factors. I am not speaking as a representative for Houston IndyMedia, but rather as a volunteer who has been connected to this station since moving to Houston in 2000."

Ted Weisgal (founder of Houston's now-former Leisure Learning Unlimited):

"I had hoped wisdom prevailed but overnight (July 15-16) the interim executive director of the Pacifica Foundation, parent of KPFT, withdrew his offer to leave in place Dr. Obidike Kamau as general manager of KPFT. Many people including myself maintain that Mr. Crosier never had the right to remove Dr. Kamau in the first place because Crosier failed to follow protocols/the bylaws. Crosier, the INTERIM ED, says the bylaws don't apply here because Dr. Kamau was INTERIM. What rules do apply?
Crosier placed himself firmly behind the microphone during almost every early morning minute of the recent failed pledge drive and droned on and on while few people gave. I asked to be given an opportunity to pitch and only one morning was I granted, though briefly, that opportunity. I wanted to tell people the truth, that the drive was doing poorly. I was told not to. That was a bad strategy, they said. And now it's being used as grounds to fire Dr. Kamau. 

This is hypocrisy. When black people are denied the right to vote, it's called racist. When they aren't given a fair chance to do a job... there's no way around it: that act by Bill Crosier is racist too. This is about the survival and strengthening of KPFT as a progressive voice for the Texas Gulf Coast.

And Remington Alessi, more vehement about the racial aspect. 

The firing of Obidike Kamau from KPFT is the epitome of what people complain about when talking about white liberal racism. Hordes of safety pin- and rainbow-decorated white people are coming out to defend their friend, Bill Crosier, even if it means ignoring, gaslighting, and trolling the black folks who are explaining what a basic form of racism this whole fiasco is.

Crosier is my friend, but I'll be damned if I'll make excuses for this racist garbage. And shame on any of you white folks who do make excuses for it. I have a long memory, and so do plenty of other folks, so don't think we'll forget where you stand.

Crosier is also my friend of long standing, but he completely screwed the pooch here.  Tone deaf to both his white privilege and the demonstration of it to the listener community, unresponsive and then saying one thing and doing another after the move before retreating back into his bunker, Crosier created a Category 5 shitstorm that he should not be allowed to weather as an authority with Pacifica.  What he did wasn't just racist and incompetent but ridiculously stupid.

The larger point to be made is that in my relatively long activist experience, what all degrees of "The Left" seem to do best is fight almost constantly with each other -- and not just Hillary/Bernie-type shit, either -- which leaves no energy to accomplish anything of substance against the real political opposition.  The Democrats do it, the Greens do it, and the mishmash of progressives at KPFT have done it for decades as well.  There's an example in the field to be learned from -- an ecumenical movement toward a single goal, as it were -- but Houston's progressives are still busy tearing everything down to the slab.

It's the sort of backbiting and infighting that makes people new to the organizations (young people, non- or infrequent voters and activists in the case of political parties, volunteers and financial supporters in the case of KPFT) run screaming in the opposite direction.  Even those who've been active for a long period get burned out and withdraw, as David Collins has recently attested.

There's got to be a better way, people.

Update: Collins expands on my take with his own, as someone more involved than I with both the Green Party and KPFT in recent years.

Update II: If you'd like to learn more from the source about the Richmond Progressive Alliance (referenced and linked above), Steve Early is appearing in Austin later this month as part of a Rag Blog event, also hosted by Austin's DSA chapter and others, and will join the Local Progress conference there that weekend.

The Special Weekly Wrangle

As the Texas Legislature is poised to reconvene for its special bathroom session, the Texas Progressive Alliance has the mega-blog post roundup from last week and also wants to know where it can buy one of those "Sunset and Sign, Die" pins.

Off the Kuff highlights a spate of LGBT candidates running for office in the near future.

SocraticGadfly tells any Texas Greens who are thinking of skipping 2018 in working to restore party-line ballot access to stop entertaining such thoughts because next year will be a good opportunity.

Got any Democrats in mind to run for governor in 2018? Drop a line to the TDP if you do, says PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Stace at Dos Centavos watched as the Harris County commissioners pollo'ed out on joining the lawsuit against the anti-sanctuary law.

Grits for Breakfast examines what police reform looks like from the conservative (specifically the representative from Empower Texans) perspective.

Texas Vox posts some of the videos of the Center for Nonprofit Studies at Austin Community College's series of “civil” discussions of the significant social issues Austin is facing, entitled Civil Society.

CouldBeTrue at South Texas Chisme notices that the war on immigrants is taking a toll on the shrimping industry.

The Texan Journal reports that a federal judge has denied the request of a Title IX plaintiff for a new trial, after a jury found the Lewisville ISD not guilty.  The case will be appealed to the Fifth Circuit.

jobsanger links to a New Republic piece on Trump and Russia, quoting 'Deep Throat' of Watergate infamy: "Follow the money."

McBlogger laughs at the religious left's attempts to gain relevance.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston thinks we really need a bathroom bill.

Neil at All People Have Value attended the Medicare For All town hall sponsored by the Bernie Sanders/Our Revolution group and also by Houston socialist organizations. APHV is part of


More Lone Star lefty blog posts and news!

The Rivard Report says it's Greg Abbott's special session and the rest of us are just livin' in it, but San Antonio lawmakers have other ideas.

PoliTex reports on Abbott's prolific use of social media, particularly Facebook Live, as he kicked off his re-election campaign last Friday.

Melissa del Bosque at the Texas Observer has the story on Trump's southern border wall already taking shape, running through an environmentally sensitive South Texas wildlife refuge.

Better Texas Blog keeps digging into how bad Trumpcare would be for our state.

Juanita Jean has some fun with a Republican neighbor.

Paradise in Hell wonders what town hall meetings Ted Cruz goes to, and High Plains Blogger sees "Lyin' Ted", of 2016 GOP primary fame, making a comeback.

DBC Green Blog previewed CD-36 Green Congressional candidate Hal Ridley Jr.'s event in Clear Lake over the past weekend.

Chris Ladd at Political Orphans is here to remind us, as a former 'GOPLifer', that Democrats are not going to save us from Trump and extremist Republicans. 

Michael Li demonstrates how easy it is to draw minority opportunity districts in Deep-In-The-Hearta, and Gabriella Dunn at Burkablog documents the many requests for Texas voter data.

Somervell County Salon carefully documents a recent appellate court case in North Carolina that found that county commissioners cannot say a prayer before their meetings.

Ashton P. Woods at Strength !n Numbers asks: is loving a black man a revolutionary act?

And Harry Hamid retells a children's tale as "Gabble, Rabble, and Ross".

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Chronic cans their best asset

Nick Anderson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist at the Houston Chronicle, must update his resume' to 'formerly' at the Houston Chronicle.

Always the class act, here are his parting words:

I have an unfortunate announcement: Today is my last day at The Houston Chronicle. My position was eliminated. Much has been written about the reduction of staff editorial cartoonists at newspapers (along with print journalists in general) and today, the odds caught up with me. Ironically, thanks to social media, my cartoons are seen more widely than ever.

One cartoon I posted during the heat of the presidential election campaign last year was shared around 550,000 times on Facebook alone, and those were just the ones I could track. I was at a wedding in New York around that time. The woman sitting next to me asked me what I did for a living. I told her, and she said, "Oh, I saw your cartoon on Facebook today." She pulled out her phone and there it was. Thanks to the internet and social media, the reach of editorial cartoons has never been greater.

While the internet and social media help spread my work widely, they also have made it harder for anyone in the news business to make a living. I was able to drive significant traffic to my employer's web site at times, but not on the same scale as the Facebook traffic. And traffic alone isn't enough anymore. Newspapers are moving to a subscriber/paywall model. Unfortunately, the powers that be decided a full-time cartoonist was not going to be a part of that model.

I've had a good run, and I'm grateful to been a political cartoonist for so long. I've been extremely fortunate in my professional career. I really want to thank my readers for their encouragement, comments, and feedback. Even the insults and disagreements have been appreciated.

But you're not rid of me yet. I'm still syndicated with The Washington Post Writers Group. I’ll continue to draw 3 to 4 cartoons a week for the foreseeable future and, hopefully, for many years to come. Meanwhile, please feel free to let me know of any opportunities that you think would be a good fit, inside or outside of journalism.

One last note: I called our Human Resources department earlier this year to see about getting more vacation time -- be careful what you wish for...

As you may know, the Chronic is owned by Hearst, which long ago employed yours truly as an advertising executive.  I prepared budgets for three of their smaller newspapers at a time (mid- to late Eighties) when they were running profit margins between 30 and 40%.  Newspapers don't make that kind of money any more, but they don't lose money unless they're going head-to-head in a single market, which is how joint operating agreements came into being back in my day and before.  Even those legal and political machinations don't make enough cash for their corporate overlords any longer, and many of the weaker papers have died or gone paperless, like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (which Hearst also owns).

The Chronic has laid off staff a few times over the past ten years, sold their downtown office for its high real estate value, watched costly talent like Ken Hoffman bail out for objecting to the paywall model, and now has eliminated the last reason for reading that newspaper.  Truly the best thing they had going, in their last-gasp quest to maintain what is probably only a 10 or 15% profit margin.  Their Austin/Lege coverage has face-planted, their DC bureau is invisible; it's like they've given up on reporting in exchange for photo slideshows on the free site.  I find it embarrassing to have watched the paper fall so far as the result of the decisions made by their consistently weak and excessively staffed management.  There's at least three times the number of managers that there was thirty years ago.  For what?  To do what?  Drive the business further into the ground?

Positively disgraceful.  My subscription has already been canceled.  Nick Anderson will be just fine, but the Houston Chronicle is sinking faster than Hillary Clinton's poll numbers on the day before Election Day.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Starring Sylvester Turner as Donald Trump

And several of the Democrats on city council as Republicans (you pick which ones) in Congress.

Karun Sreerama (l), Chris Oliver (r)

Houston's public works director will vacate his post temporarily following revelations that he made unlawful payments to a Houston Community College trustee now awaiting sentencing on a federal bribery charge.

Karun Sreerama paid $77,143 to longtime HCC trustee Chris Oliver in three installments between late 2010 and mid-2013, when Sreerama owned a private engineering firm. Federal authorities say Oliver was leveraging his power to influence the awarding of HCC business contracts.

Wait for it ...

Mayor Sylvester Turner said (on July 12) he was unaware of the criminal case or Sreerama's involvement prior to this week. Turner added that he spoke with the public works director during a "brief telephone call" before placing him on paid administrative leave.

"I am taking this action so that I may thoroughly review the information to make sure there are no further related implications for the city and him," Turner said in a written statement. "It is against everyone's best interest for a public servant to have to operate under a cloud."

The mayor, who is traveling in Europe on city business, added, "I continue to have confidence in Karun and look forward to his return."

Wait for it ...

City Council members widely praised the mayor's decision to place Sreerama on leave, but largely were reticent to say whether they thought he ought to remain as director of the city's largest department, with a $2.1 billion budget.

"At this time, I can't say one way or the other," said Councilman Larry Green, who chairs the council committee that reviews public works issues.

Wait ... for ... it ...

Over the years, Sreerama has been a prolific political donor, predominantly to Democrats, and was a key supporter of Turner's 2015 mayoral bid. His family contributed a combined $20,000 to Turner's runoff campaign. He also has contributed to the campaigns of seven of the 16 sitting council members: Green, Ellen Cohen, Amanda Edwards, Brenda Stardig (a Republican), David Robinson, Jack Christie (also a Republican), and Jerry Davis.

Oliver has been reprimanded (!!!) by his colleagues on the community college board, but further action such as removal from office awaits ... something more serious and external than his pleading guilty to felony bribery charges, I suppose.  Sentencing, perhaps?  Sreerama awaits Turner's return from Europe for additional judgement, if any.  The mayor pro tem doesn't think it's a big deal.

Cohen said she could see Sreerama resuming his leadership role with the city.

"As far as I'm concerned with the information I have to date, I believe that he's in a position, once everything is discussed, to continue to do a credible job," Cohen said.

No.  Just no.  Even Marc Campos gets it, and he can't find his asshole without using a mirror.  Oliver should have been gone long ago, and Sreerama should follow him right out the door, along with his firm being barred from receiving further municipal contracts for an extended period of time.

It's almost as if these people know they're not going to be standing for re-election for a long time -- if ever again -- and are grabbing all the money they can, with both hands, while the grabbing's good.

Now do you understand why Houston's Democrats strike me as the kind of thing we used to refer to as moderate Republicans?

Friday Scattershots: Beto's 2, Abbott's 34, and the special session

Normally I leave the fundraising reporting to those that groove on it.  But occasionally it's newsworthy, and this is one of those times.

-- Beto O'Rourke out-raised Ted Cruz, and he did it without PAC money, or big donors, or out-of-staters, like that Blue Dog loser Jon Ossoff.  He merits kudos from The Intercept for his Bernie Sanders-style fundraising, also his (finally) unqualified support for single payer.  Let's pick out just a little of Ryan Grim's piece for consideration.

He is far from the centrist mold that power brokers in Washington might recruit to run for Senate in Texas, but then again, power brokers in Washington don’t spend much time thinking about running for Senate in Texas.

But the way O’Rourke is raising money changes the game. The El Paso congressman does not have much in the way of a national fundraising network, has refused corporate PAC money, and is known among his colleagues to be a less-than-enthusiastic fundraiser. That’s the kind of lawmaker who often had little future in Washington — but exactly the kind many grassroots Democrats would like to see rise. The type of person who is good at spending hours a day with doctors, bankers, lawyers and other professionals who can write four and five-figure checks is a) probably not hard-wired to be a conviction politician and b) vulnerable to have their politics diluted just by virtue of the conversations they’re having day in and day out.

Former Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Va., said that spending so much time on the phone fundraising winds up creating “an enormous anti-populist element, particularly for Dems, who are most likely to be hearing from people who can write at least a $500 check. They may be liberal, quite liberal in fact, but are also more likely to consider the deficit a bigger crisis than the lack of jobs.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Greg Abbott announces for re-election today with gobs of money in the bank and no challengers.

His lips are ready to smooch the backsides of the big check-writers.

Despite criticism, Abbott remains a popular figure among Republicans statewide and has a campaign kitty that will be daunting to any potential challengers. He had more than $34 million in his campaign account in January, and that number is expected to grow when new fundraising totals are announced shortly.

Let's just go ahead and acknowledge that we're not going to be rid of Helen Wheels until he decides to run for president.  And since he can do so and remain governor after losing a White House bid, perhaps not even then.

If the special session does not go his way, will it damage him politically?  I think the opposite, candidly.  First, note that Texas is already losing commerce to other states for the first time in over a decade (that's at least two oil slumps ago, not counting the current one) and if he and Dan Patrick ram through the bathroom bill, that will hurt the state's reputation for a welcoming bidness climate even further.  But it is the capitalist titans inside and outside Texas that are going to have to make him pay the price for his governmental intrusion and over-reach into our private lives: in corporate or branch relocations reconsidered, in conventions and events like the Final Four canceled, and in their reduced, or embargoed, or eliminated campaign contributions to him.

To the GOP base, though, he'll be martyred on a toilet in a transgender-friendly restroom.  He'll have fended off the primary challenge from Lite Guv Goeb, and he'll have the Christian Soldiers marching onward as to war for him.  He wins by losing (if he loses, and Joe Straus has to be feeling pretty lonely these days).

-- Did the Russians try to hack Harris County's elections website?  Stan Stanart's IT guy isn't saying yes, isn't saying no.

Despite widespread alarm over the breadth of Russian cyber attacks on state and local election systems last year, including revelations of Dallas County being targeted, Harris County officials are refusing to say whether hackers similarly took aim at the nation's third-largest county.

Releasing information on whether Harris County election systems saw attacks from Russian hackers would threaten the county's cyber security by emboldening hackers to further target local systems, county officials said this week.

The county's argument was dismissed by experts, who said the secrecy is unnecessary, and could actually downplay the seriousness of the threat and the resources needed to combat it.

So ... 'don't ask, don't tell, maybe it will go away' seems to be the strategy.  This strikes me as pluperfect Stanart.  Did you know that a number of voters greater than one out of every four say they are considering not voting because of fears of the elections being hacked?

More than a quarter of recently polled registered voters say they will consider not casting ballots in future U.S. elections because of hacking concerns, with 27 percent saying they may stay home from the polls when the 2018 midterm elections roll around.

That number could mark a challenge during the midterms, with the possibility of as many as 58.8 million of the more than 200 million eligible voters choosing to stay home, according cybersecurity firm Carbon Black. The June survey of 5,000 people found a lower level of confidence in the overall voting process compared to data collected prior to most recent presidential election.

This is what Democratic paranoia hath wrought.  So in a perverse way, maybe Stanart's office is on to something.  We certainly don't need any more vote suppression efforts, especially not those borne out of Clinton Democrats' fever dreams.

There has been a lot of Moscow-on-the-Potomac to digest this week.  Maha has a good summary, including that McClatchy piece that Gadfly has already skewered.  But her lede is slightly buried.

To those who are certain the Trump/Russians stole the 2016 election, I would like to point out that if the Clinton campaign hadn’t been so brain dead, there would have been fewer vulnerabilities to exploit. Ultimately, it was Clinton’s election to lose, and she lost it. She might very well have lost it had the Russians done nothing at all. Historians will probably be arguing the point for the rest of eternity. But this is about something bigger than who won the election.

Yes it is.  More on that later.

-- I also have some thoughts coming on the dispute between Caitlyn Johnstone and Yoav Litvin (and some who have responded ahead of me) over the potential direction and alliances of the Green Party, specifically David Cobb's role in said, in the middle of it all.  BTW, the Greens' national meeting is happening right now in Newark, NJ.