Monday, April 23, 2018

The Weekly Wrangle

With this week's lefty blog post roundup, the Texas Progressive Alliance won't be flying Southwest Airlines for awhile.  Not even for five grand in cash and another G in flight vouchers, thanks.

In that *ahem* spirit, Socratic Gadfly looked at Southwest's fatal engine blowout and sees it as a continuation of past bad practices

High Plains Public Radio reports -- and links to more in the Houston Chronicle ($) -- regarding the Texas gerrymandering lawsuit, with opening arguments before the Supreme Court this morning.  The Texas Observer posits that disgraced former Congressman Blake Farenthold was one of the undeserved beneficiaries of those goofy, and possibly illegal, maps.  And Alexa Ura of the TexTrib, at the SCOTUS today, has the explainer.  (Three weeks ago she reminded us why this 7-year-old-saga has everybody angry.)


To commemorate Earth Day, Texas Vox participated in EarthX in Dallas, with a seminar conducted by Public Citizen's David Arkush, called "Wake Up and Smell the Carbon!"

With the Ted Cruz-Beto O'Rourke faceoff taking center stage, Jonathan Tilove at the Austin Statesman's First Reading broke down some of Cruz's bellicose verbiageOff the Kuff analyzed that Quinnipiac poll, then scoffed at some of the more hysterical responses to it.  And Brains and Eggs recommended not betting on Beto this early.

Ted at jobsanger took the Q-poll's current affairs questions and bar-graphed them to reveal how Texas is s l o w l y changing into something a little less conservative.

 Ahead of Lewisville's municipal elections, the Texan Journal quantified the city's Power Voters.

In his weekly roundup of criminal justice news, Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast collates the reports about the undocumented necropolis discovered at the shuttered state prison facility in Fort Bend County.


Here's a postscript to the closure of TDCJ's Central Unit in Sugar Land, which long-time readers will recall was the first prison unit closed in the Lone Star State since the founding of the (Texan) Republic. When Fort Bend ISD began preparing a portion of the sight for a construction project, they began unearthing bodies. Lots of them -- 22 as of when this Houston Chronicle story was written. These were inmates from the convict leasing era and later who worked for the Imperial Sugar Company as de facto slave labor through the early part of the 20th century. A cemetery on the prison site included only white inmates' remains, which led activist Reginald Moore to believe that black prisoners were buried in unmarked sites elsewhere on the grounds. Turns out, he was right. See related, earlier coverage from Texas Monthly and commentary from Grits. MORE: The number of unmarked graves discovered is now 79!

DBC Green blog took down Egberto Willies for that tired binary logic we've come to expect from Democrats with their blinders strapped on too tight.  He also posted Scott McLarty performing the same bodyslam on Robert Reich (who used the word 'siphon', as if elections were zero-sum.  Reich is too smart for such weak logic).

Dan Solomon at Texas Monthly reports on the the defamation lawsuits threatening the media empire of bombastic Infowars host Alex Jones, and Danny Gallagher at the Dallas Observer sees that Glenn Beck's company is tumbling down around him.

In book releases, Bud Kennedy at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram interviews Lawrence Wright, the author of the acclaimed God Save Texas.  And Gregg Barrios at the Texas Observer profiles Jorge Ramos and his manifesto for journalistsExcerpt:

“If Trump was willing to eject a legal immigrant with a U.S. passport and a nationally broadcast television show from a press conference, he would have no problem expelling the more vulnerable immigrants from the country,” Ramos writes in his new book, Stranger: The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.

The morning after his ousting, Ramos’ fellow journalists criticized him. Politico’s Marc Caputo said Ramos was “explicitly advocating an agenda. Reporters can do this without being activists.”

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough accused him of trying to garner “15 minutes of fame. … pretending he was Walter Cronkite.” Former Guardian columnist (now Intercept editor) Glenn Greenwald, however, defended Ramos: “Jorge Ramos commits journalism and journalists attack him.”

And Bob Ruggiero at the Houston Press has two book reviews on rock and roll: one about the Beatles, and one about the slow demise of Classic Rock, the aging Boomers' preferred genre'.

And with respect to Trump's border wall -- or maybe fence, Harry Hamid suggests that the details are best left to the imagination.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Don't Bet on Bob just yet

I thought I would wait until the squealing about fundraising and polling died down before raining on the parade.  (I should add that YouGov has been in the field polling Texas races for about two weeks, perhaps longer, right down to my -- that would be TX-07 -- Congressional tilt, and those results should hit the media any day now.)  As we know, Quinnipiac from earlier this week showed the Rafael-Robert contest within the poll's margin of error.
As others have pointed out, registered voters ≠ likely voters, and O'Rourke still needs to lift his name recognition, ultimately with the dreadfully expensive teevee advertising buy.  Other shortfalls are mentioned by Justin Miller at the Observer.

Though he’s done a good job of shoring up support among Democrats — and the poll shows he has a substantial advantage (51-37) among independent voters — it looks like most Texans still have no clue who this guy is.

The poll also reinforces the critique that he hasn’t done enough to reach out to Hispanic voters. In the Democratic primary, he failed to win a majority of votes in more than half of the state’s 32 border counties. The poll finds that his support among Hispanic voters is 51-33 percent, which is nowhere near as robust as it needs to be for him to pull off an upset.

I know a woman who could help him with his Latin@ outreach, but she's as perturbed as I am about one of recent votes.  You'll have to keep counting me in one of those two 1%s in the graph above.

Though it's Jim Newell at Slate that pops all the bubbles.

The gap between potential and likely voters in Texas is vast, and it’s particularly vast for the voters O’Rourke is relying on. Quinnipiac’s poll is weighted to the demographics in the state’s Census count, as is “protocol” for these early polls of registered voters, James Henson, director of the University of Texas–Austin’s Texas Politics Project, told me on Wednesday. That likely means that it over-counts Hispanic voters. Henson has seen this story before. “In Texas, Hispanic turnout -- and therefore Democratic turnout --is always lower than the weighted sample,” he said in an email. “It’s a standard dynamic here.”

The poll also showed noticeably liberal preferences among independents, even though Texas independents tend to be more right-leaning. Independents in Texas supported Trump over Clinton by 14 percentage points in 2016, according to exit polling, but the Quinnipiac poll found only 28 percent of independents in Texas approve of Trump compared to 64 percent who disapprove. Either that group is re-aligning fast, or a demographically weighted sample of registered voters isn’t giving a crisp preview of likely voter turnout in November.

“The particular confluence of voter turnout, state demographics, and party identification in Texas in recent history meant that Democrats at the top of the state ticket generally poll much better in April than they do in the vote count in November,” Henson said.

Texas political experts with whom I’ve discussed the race over the last few months -- regardless of their position on the political spectrum -- all express exasperation at the breathless coverage of O’Rourke’s bid, which treats his grass-roots campaign against Cruz almost as prophecy awaiting certain fulfillment.

The hype reached its first crescendo ahead of the March 6 primary. Early voting for Democrats had surged, especially in major metropolitan areas. In the top 10 most populous counties, early Democratic voting more than doubled while Republicans’ share increased only marginally.

But then Election Day came, and Republicans showed up. More than 1.5 million Republicans, or 10.12 percent of registered voters, voted in the Republican Senate primary, while just over 1 million, or 6.8 percent of registered voters, voted in the Democratic Senate primary.

This isn't even the worst news.  The worst is the reality: Texas is still baboon's-ass red.


The overhyped media coverage leading into the primary obscured the real gains Democrats might be making in the state. “If you strip away the unrealistic expectations, this will probably be a good cycle for the Democrats, one of the best they’ve had in a long time,” Henson said. “But it’s kind of hard to write a headline, to build a narrative, whether you’re a reporter or a Democratic fundraiser or candidate recruiter that says, ‘Democrats: Inching Back from Near Death.’ ”

And inching back from near death is a far cry from beating Ted Cruz.

[...]

The Cruz campaign sees Texas as rigidly red with few persuadables among likely voters.

“Basically every quarter, we score the voter file … using predictive analytics and a series of algorithms we built out over the state of Texas going back to 2012,” Cruz’s pollster, Chris Wilson, told me in an interview shortly after the primary. “And every quarter, the file is more Republican than it was the prior quarter.”

To give you a sense of the granularity through which the Cruz campaign is looking at the data and targeting voters accordingly, Wilson, who’s also the pollster for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, shared a figure with me.

“I’ve already built out the models for the fall, the general election,” he said. “And I can tell you that as of today, there are exactly 2,068,746 voters in Texas that do not currently plan to vote, but if they did vote, would vote for Greg Abbott. And they’d vote Republican.”

In order to win, O’Rourke needs to accelerate one aspect of very recent Texas political history—Republicans’ weakening in major metropolitan areas—and defy the low-turnout trends that have doomed other recent, initially optimistic efforts to “turn Texas blue.”

For the former, as Henson put it, O’Rourke needs to “hasten the decay” in the “inner suburban rings where there are some signs of the decay of previous Republican advantages.” That decay, he says, is probably “slightly more prosperous minority voters that you want to get to vote,” along with swaying “upper-middle-class Latinos that are voting Republican.”

I asked him about another demographic that Democrats are always eager to predict as a just-around-the-corner en masse defection from Donald Trump’s GOP: Republican women. Henson shared with me some recent polling results of Republican women that showed only 29 percent of them had a favorable opinion of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and that a plurality felt the recent attention towards sexual harassment was leading to the unfair treatment of men. Similarly, only 17 percent viewed the #MeToo movement favorably.

“Republican women are not very persuadable,” Henson said.

I am of the opinion that -- other than Ted Cruz, of course -- the TexTrib's Evan Smith is the biggest prima donna in the Lone Star State.  That doesn't make him wrong.

“I believe there are probably enough people who identify as Democrats or progressives in Texas that if they all turned out to vote, you’d have competitive elections,” Evan Smith said in the Vox interview. “And if I were 6 foot, 8 inches, I’d be playing basketball for the New York Knicks.”

Also this from Smith:


You may have already seen in the Q-poll data that Texas voters won't be casting their ballots as a referendum on Trump. If you didn't, here you go.

President Trump will not be an important factor in their U.S. Senate vote, 43 percent of Texas voters say, while 26 percent say their vote will be more to express support for Trump and 27 percent say their vote will be more to express opposition.

Finally there's the money, and I'm not talking about the PACs O'Rourke claims he doesn't use (a poor prevarication) and the ones Cruz will have coming to his rescue if the race actually does show close later in the year.  Greg Abbott is leading both Average White Guy and Lupe Valdez by a comfortable margin and sits on a $45 million wad, with more at his fingertips to rake in.  If Lyin' Ted is actually in trouble, Abbott will shoot that wad all over the state's broadcast media to ... you know, turn out the baboons.  More bad news: Ted is running scared, so he's scaring the base and pandering to Trump.  This is what happened when Texas Democrats cackled with glee about the March early voting numbers.  The TXGOP is like sheep, or lemmings, or cattle; spook 'em and they stampede.

The TDP could always hire a duck to follow Ted around, I suppose.

The over/under for the US Senate race, IMO, remains 60-40 Cruz.  Democrats would be wise to focus on the Lite Guv race -- Big Jolly thinks there's some GOP persuadables there, FWIW -- or the Ag Commissioner's race (why isn't Kim Olson mentioned anywhere?  Ever?)

If the Texas Democratic ticket goes with Blue Dogs O'Rourke, Whiter Than White, Mike Collier, Justin Nelson ... where's your progressive base vote going to be?  Where's the African American and Latin@ turnout going to be?  To that question, I just don't think Joi Chevalier, Miguel Suazo, Roman McAllen, and the truly outstanding and diverse statewide judicials are enough to get it done.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Rest in Peace, Quaker Oats


(Oh come on; Glenn Beck started it.)

You know what Mom said about not having anything nice to say about someone, so here's Bar in her own words.  I'm sure you will recognize them.

-- Inside the Astrodome following Hurricane Katrina, 2005

"Almost everyone I've talked to said we're going to move to Houston. What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by all the hospitality. And so many of the peoples in the arena here, you know, they're underprivileged anyway, so this -- this (waves arm; chuckles slightly) is working very well for them." 

-- About her son's decision banning television cameras from showing flag-draped caskets carrying US soldiers killed in Iraq returning home, 2003:

"But why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it’s gonna happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Or, I mean, it’s, it’s not relevant. So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

-- Her opinion of Geraldine Ferraro, running mate of Walter Mondale, in 1984:

"That $4 million -- I can’t say it, but it rhymes with rich."

This piece, published in 2007 (the author passed a year earlier, so it would have been compiled from 2005 and earlier) details several anonymous accounts of the fear she struck in the hearts of many staff, media, friends, and others.  And if you think any of what I have posted here is mean, or rude, or inappropriate, or untimely, you might read what the denizens of Breitbart are saying (don't worry; this link doesn't go to Breitbart).

And I certainly wasn't as snarky as this.  Excerpt:

Eyewitnesses say they saw Mrs. Bush having a great time for many hours. Her number in line was then called, and Mrs. Bush went into an office to meet with her timeshare consultant. Mrs. Bush was last seen headed toward the Mothers of War Criminals wing of a lovely apartment overlooking a beautiful, fiery lake.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Weekly Wrangle

Even as missiles flew into Syria, Trump attorney Michael Cohen was raided by the FBI (precipitating a tense political drama that may yet result in a Nixonian 'Saturday Night Massacre', version 2.0), Paul Ryan abruptly quit his job, Mark Zuckerberg testified before Senate and House Congressional committees -- whose members demonstrated a laughable degree of technological cluelessness -- and James Comey released an explosive book about his dealings with Trump ... there was other news of importance happening around the Lone Star State, and the Texas Progressive Alliance's blog roundup has it here for you.  Set aside your double nothingburger with extra nothing and read some non-fake news.
Following up on developments reported in last week's Wrangle, the NRCC is starting to freak out about losing deep-red House districts in the November midterms.  Down With Tyranny begins with the latest on Texas 27 ...

(Last)Thursday evening the Houston Chronicle reported that when Blake Farenthold slithered out of Congress last week, he did so without repaying the $84,000 he stole from the taxpayers to cover up the charges that he had sexually harassed a female staffer. He had promised he would repay the stolen funds -- and he's a multimillionaire. The GOP-led House Ethics Committee is demanding he pay back the money, as are (retiring) Speaker Paul Ryan and NRCC chair Steve Stivers. His very gerrymandered district (TX-27) has a PVI of R+13 and gave Trump a 60.1% to 36.5% win over Hillary. But this is precisely the kind of district the NRCC is starting to worry about. Two Republicans are locked in deadly runoff combat for the nomination, Bech Bruun and Michael Cloud. (Two Democrats, Roy Barrera and Eric Holguin, are in their own primary runoff for the seat.) As of the February 14 FEC reporting deadline, neither Bruun nor Cloud was in good shape for what could turn into a competitive race. Bruun has $84,497 in his campaign account and Cloud has only $12,127. Holguin had only $2,413 and Barrera had nothing at all.

... and wraps up with Texas 36.

No one imagined Republicans in deep red districts like Virginia Foxx (NC-05), Trey Hollingsworth (IN-09), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Peter Cook (CA-08), Devin Nunes (CA-22) and Brian Babin (TX-36) could be on slippery ice but all 6 and dozens of others in red, red districts are.

[...]

Dayna Steele is urging progressives outside of (TX-36) to adopt a red district. "So many of you are in districts that would elect a Democrat even if no one was running. Find the reddest district in your state or find the reddest district in the country or find the reddest district in Texas, like mine. Adopt a candidate in a red district and do everything you can for them, like call banking and fundraising (which is virtual now). You can adopt me here."

Immigration reporting took the lead in many Texas news sources.  First, Leif Riegstad at Texas Monthly reports that ICE will stop releasing pregnant women from immigrant detention facilities in order to comply with a Trump administration directive issued last week.

ICE’s detention facilities are notorious for offering poor health services to detainees. The facilities are often kept so cold that aluminum coated blankets are given to detainees and immigrants have begun calling the facilities hielera, which means cooler in Spanish. Twelve detainees died in ICE custody in 2017, the deadliest year since 2009. One hundred seventy-nine people have died in ICE detention since 2003. Report after report from immigrants’ rights watchdog groups have been critical of ICE’s ability to provide health care to detainees. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General conducted surprise investigations of five detention facilities across the country, and found “significant issues” in four of those facilities, including poorly documented medical record keeping, dirty or insufficient hygienic supplies, and long waits to receive medical care for detainees suffering from painful conditions, like infected teeth and an injured knee.

Stace at Dos Centavos gets harsh at some unidentified elected and activist Democrats for being passively supportive of Trump's -- and Obama's -- immigration crackdown, and suggests he might be more specific about who before the runoff elections in May.  Ed Darrell at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub posts a Tweet link to the NYT story about the myth of the criminal immigrant.  And Houston Public Media reports on a new project to offer legal defense to immigrants facing deportation getting under way in the Bayou City.


Gus Bova at The Texas Observer exposes the charade of Greg Abbott's pandering to his conservative base by adding some hysteria to the call-up of the National Guard to the Rio Grande border, and Chellis Glendinning at The Rag Blog talks to an indocumentado about how he comes and goes, recording the stories he tells about the experience.

News Taco reports that the state Board of Education finally approved a curriculum for Mexican American studies, but it won't be called that because one Caucasian board member objects to, quote, "hyphenated Americanism".

 Off the Kuff casts a skeptical eye at a lawsuit filed against Dallas County claiming that white voters are being discriminated against.  Jim Schutze at the Dallas Observer has an opinion on CPPP's report on inequality in Dallas, alleging that it might be a failure of leadership as well as a lack of will to do anything to rectify it.  And Edgar Walters at the Texas Tribune writes about the ten-year stall in Galveston public housing reconstruction after Hurricane Ike; "our own form of apartheid", one activist says.

Neil at All People Have Value wrote an open letter to Democratic Party leaders about the need for an assertive response to any effort by Trump to curtail the Mueller investigation.

Midlothian rancher Sue Pope and her group Downwinders at Risk made the last contribution from the pollution reduction fund bearing her name -- created as a result of litigation against a DFW cement company -- to special needs education programs in her local school district.

Better Texas Blog criticizes the latest farm bill coming out of Congress, calling it flawed and suggesting it won't help feed Texas families.

Grits for Breakfast has a modest proposal for Texas counties that complain about the cost of indigent defense.

Mark Bennett explains why -- as with driving, sending an email, or retiring for the evening -- you should never argue while angry.

Pages of Victory reprints an article from the Ghion Journal about war, the wealthy, and the ideology  of death.

At the Texas Green Party's annual convention in Houston, new state officers including co-chair Joy Davis and treasurer Alfred Molison were elected, and party business was conducted as efforts to achieve 2018 ballot access continued.

In sporting news, SocraticGadfly wonders if Kawhi Leonard has already played his last game for the Spurs, and "Cablanasian" Sean Pendergast at the Houston Press sees Houston Texan players stepping up their Dez Bryant recruiting efforts.  And Mike McGuff made it inside the Astrodome for one last look around before the underground parking lot construction work begins.

And Harry Hamid reminds you that your personal online data is as secure with him as it is with Mark Zuckerberg, and wants you to answer a few questions to demonstrate it.

Monday, April 09, 2018

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance will pay for Ted Cruz's DNA test ... that is, if he is willing to undergo one.  His response to the Austin woman who inquired if he would appears to be 'no comment' ...




The exchange went viral; even Ted Rall got in on the action.

More from around the left of Texas coming your way!

Eric Bradner at CNN's recent account of the Texas Seventh Congressional runoff leads with the observation that Democrats across the country are paying close attention.  Brains and Eggs posted the latest on CD-7 (anecdotally; with a wish that he might be mistaken) and the special election for the vacancy on Houston City Council, District K (and a caution for the next representative).

Disgraced Congressman Blake Farenthold abruptly resigned late last Friday afternoon, but still has not refunded taxpayers the $84,000 he used to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit from his former communications director.  Patrick Svitek at the TexTrib notes that scheduling a special election to replace him has a few considerations for Greg Abbott.


Meanwhile, Svitek took note of Speaker Paul Ryan dragging his purse through Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and Corpus Christi, collecting four million bucks for Team Ryan's PAC, and the Trib's Abby Livingston saw the GOP runoff for Farenthold's seat tightening.  (The Democrats in CD-27's May 22 runoff are Eric Holguin and Raul 'Roy' Barrera.)

Off the Kuff noted that Texas lost another federal lawsuit about voting rights.

Socratic Gadfly, seeing the latest anti-Palestinian violence by Israelis, looks at myth vs. reality in a major piece of Jewish history.

Jef Rouner writes in the Houston Press about the urgent need white men have for gun control.

The Population Research Bureau found that white men over the age of 65 are almost three times more likely to die by their own hands as the general population. Middle aged white people, both men and women, are seeing increased mortality rates even as other groups are seeing down turns. Suicides are becoming more common, especially in men in this group, as are substance abuse problems, which a lecturer joked to me recently was “suicide on the installment plan.”

Coinciding with this rise of suicides in aging white male populations is the increase in gun buying. Men on average possess twice as many guns as women, and whites statistically outnumber all other ethnicities in America. The reasons behind both rising gun ownership and dangerous levels of despair in white men go hand in hand; economic anxiety, a feeling of lost power and agency, and fear of a country experiencing great demographical change. Guns and white men blues are making for a fatal cocktail that thousands of Americans are slamming down every year with horrific results.

White men desperately need gun control right now, and they can’t get it because the movers and shakers in the pro-gun debate have successfully overshadowed the idea of safety with oppression and disarmament. Meanwhile, gun manufacturers and pop media continue to market the gun as a virility-enhancing problem-solver, and white men in distress are eating it up.

The Lewisville Texan Journal covered the announcement that the city, together with Farmer's Branch, Carrollton, and the waste disposal company Republic Services, have agreed to combine two landfills into one giant 832-acre garbage dump spanning the Elm Fork of the Trinity River.

The Texas Standard talks to Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who doesn't think Trump's tariffs are a big deal for Texas farmers, but does think that restricting H-2A and H-2B visas (for foreign workers, ag and non-ag) are.

*Cheerleader Alert* After more than a generation of one-party dominance, it’s tough for any Texas Democrat to predict what a winning statewide campaign would actually look like.  But if Texas Leftist had to take guess, it would come pretty close to the Beto O’Rourke campaign thus far.  After a massive fundraising haul, Beto is showing that he means business in this race.  And speaking of winning, more great news for Texas’ classical music community as the Houston Chamber Choir receives a very prestigious national honor. /pom poms

Stace at Dos Centavos writes about Tex-Mex Grammy winners Los Texmaniacs' new album, Cruzando Borders, which will touch on border and Mexican American themes.  It's quite timely during this era of Trumpismo. 

Stan Spinner, Lindy McGee, and Julie Boom in the Texas Tribune's TribTalk urge Texans to not politicize vaccinations, Better Texas Blog explains why a property-tax-for-sales-tax swap is a bad idea, and Deborah Beck at the Rivard Report urges elected leaders to have in-person meetings with their constituents.

Elise Hu remembers her first mentor and his warning about Sinclair Broadcasting, and Therese Odell at Foolish Watcher grapples with the politics of Roseanne.

Neil at All People Have Value attended, as he does each week, the John Cornyn Houston office protest.  In other Captain Obvious blog posts, Ted at jobsanger has some monochromatic polling bars that reveal (!) that blacks and whites differ sharply on issues of race.

And Harry Hamid, a blind priest, and a first-year medical student have a free-wheeling discussion/argument out in the front yard.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Sunday Funnies

I for one will not welcome our new robotic overlords.  To update the call to arms for the working class: "Seize the means of automation!"












Tuesday, April 03, 2018

The latest on CD-7 and District K

-- Yesterday, in the midst of Monday afternoon business, a knock came at the door, and the wife, working from home and stricken with an upper respiratory infection, yelled out a salutation.  It was a blockwalker for Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, who as it happens also had the first mailer in the #TX07 runoff between she and Laura Moser drop in our box later that same day.


After the visitor identified himself and Mrs. Diddie declared our support for Moser, the caller asked (if he could ask) why.  My wife said, "because Fletcher is too corporate".

That evening, as I retrieved said advertising piece and the rest of the post from the mailbox, I noticed that the neighbor two doors down had a 'Lizzie' yard sign out in front.  This neighbor had not previously committed last month to a candidate lawnwise, so this was a conversion of sorts for Team Fletch.  It also marks the strategy for the March 7 front-runner: go into your opponent's area of strength, and do so strong.

Ours is a working-class neighborhood adjacent to Meyerland.  I haven't bothered to check the precinct tallies but my guess is that Moser did well in my part of town (her grandmother was the first female director of the city's Jewish community center, and the daughter of a rabbi from Congregation Adath Emeth, now part of the United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston, a nearby branch of which was recently forced to close and be demolished after repetitive flooding; another Harvey victim).  Ms. Pannill Fletcher is really more of a West University/Bellaire/Memorial kind of Democrat, with her law pedigree and slightly more conservative POV.

This is a long way of saying that if I had to place my wager today, I would bet that LPF is likely to prevail in the runoff on May 22.  Team Moser: your work is cut out for you.

-- It turns out to be more than the normal crying shame that Houston City Council member Larry Green died prematurely ... because he died of a drug overdose.  His drug usage was perhaps something more than the usual recreational, too.  This development stains his glowing posthumous reputation and plays to a regrettable stereotype.  As with the resignation of JP Hilary Green -- the lurid drug and sex stories that came out a year ago about her, about her acrimonious divorce with ex-husband and former city comptroller Ronald Green -- and combined with the accusations and charges against Lege members Ron Reynolds and Borris Miles, Houston black Democrats are now compelled to make certain they get CM Green's replacement (and Judge Green's, whenever that occurs, by a vote of precinct chairs in Harris County) correct.

This new elected official must prove worthy of carrying a heavier burden to hold himself, or herself, far beyond any reproach.

To that end, the special election for the vacant District K seat -- a .pdf map can be seen here -- to be held on Saturday, May 5, with an abbreviated early voting period beginning April 23 through May 1, has nine contendersOf those I would surmise that Larry Blackmon, Pat Frazier, and Martha Castex-Tatum would be the three with the highest name recognition, the campaigns making the strongest effort, and the most likely of two to move on to a runoff.  I'll be following Ashton Woods' lead here, and unless I hear differently from him I will take it that he is supporting Castex-Tatum.

Monday, April 02, 2018

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is packing some extra antihistamines in addition to bringing you the best of the left of Texas from last week.

US Senate candidates Beto O'Rourke and Sema Hernandez met for the first time in the wake of the Democratic primary almost a month ago, and Geoff Campbell interviewed Hernandez afterwards for Progressive Army.  The face-to-face seemed more than a little stand-offish, but O'Rourke appears to have won Hernandez's vote -- if not her endorsement -- in the 2018 general election.  Video courtesy Holos Media on Twitter.


Socratic Gadfly has an update to a previous post on what clearly appears to be a weird triangle in Marlin between Houston real estate "flippers," a former VA hospital building, and the General Land Office and P. Bush.


Ethan Couch -- he was the Brains and Eggs' 2015 Texan of the Year for being responsible (a thinly relative term when referring to Couch) for the word 'affluenza' -- is leaving jail this morning and beginning his ten-year-probationary sentence.  Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer has the details.  Also blogged here a couple of weeks before Couch's award: a disease associated with affluenza is ... gulliblemia.

Talking Points Memo checks in from the federal courthouse in Houston with a report on Steve Stockman's fraud trial, and seems astounded that everything is bigger in Texas, doubly so when it's crimes committed by Texas Republicans.  (Meanwhile, Texans thought everyone knew this already.)

The Texas Standard speaks to the Dallas News' Lauren McGaughey (paywall) about the state's Sunset Advisory Commission describing mental health care oversight among the three agencies charged with that task as being in "severe operational dysfunction".

Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast tips Texas reporters to some news that just might have a Pulitzer hiding in it somewhere.

In the New York Times last week (March 29), former Austin Statesman editor Richard Oppell authored an article that could resonate throughout Texas indigent defense systems, as it describes a practice that's widespread, not remotely limited to the judge or attorney in Galveston at the center of the story. Here's the heart of the allegations ...

(click on the paywalled NYT link above)

Grits has heard similar stories from defense attorneys for as long as I've paid attention to the Texas justice system, including attorneys stiffed not just for time worked but also for investigators' fees or even forensic services.

Which brings me to this observation for Texas-based reporters: This is a national story which can be localized. This isn't the only Texas jurisdiction, by any stretch, in which judges reduced pay requests from lawyers as excessive when they tried to put on a zealous defense. There are also stories out there of lawyers losing out on appointments because judges considered them a tad too zealous. Attorneys who make a living representing indigent clients must routinely take on caseloads well beyond bar-association-recommended guidelines in order to pay for a mortgage, middle-class lifestyle, and law-school debts. This story explains why, and it's not just happening in Galveston.

So, for my reporter friends on the local courthouse beat: There's a courthouse paper trail on cases where judges reduce attorneys' fees, which a local attorney who takes indigent cases or the court coordinator can help you identify. Then, one simply calls up the attorneys to ask why they requested the additional pay. Follow up with calls to the judges in question to get their side of the story; the county judge so s/he can lodge a complaint about unfunded mandates from the state; then make a call to indigent defense experts like the Texas Fair Defense Project or Civil Rights Corps (the two nonprofits that sued over Harris County's unconstitutional bail practices), and you've just localized a national story.

The Lewisville Texan Journal took note of a local election where residents were asked to support or oppose giving themselves a $100 check ... but nobody bothered to vote.  Really; 0% turnout.

Voting ended Saturday for a city referendum, which would cut a $100 check for each resident of Lewisville due to a budgeting error at City Hall. Not one person voted in the election though, causing a standstill among city officials.

“If I’m being honest, we don’t really know what to do,” City Manager Donna Barron said. “We don’t have anything in the city charter to address something like this.”

A Fort Bend county commissioner wants the Lege to consider exempting the Texas Open Meetings Act for emergencies, but Christopher Collins at the Texas Observer asks if that's just another excuse to kill laws that force government to conduct itself transparently.

David Collins attended a recent Socialist Alternative meeting in Houston, where former Greenwatch host and political candidate Brian Harrison spoke about gun violence (not control).

Houston Justice wants to see more African American representation on the Bayou City's commissions and boards, and blogs about how action on that might look.

The Rag Blog's Alice Embree writes about a Chilean student who presented a paper in Paris about protests against Salvador Allende in the '60's and '70's, and used the Austin underground newspaper's digital archives for research.


Another poll bar-graphed by Ted at jobsanger leaves him puzzled as to the conservative political leanings of the Baby Boomer generation.

And both Houston Public Media and Texas Leftist covered the Bean Art War that erupted into a series of putdowns, crackbacks, and other sick burns between Chi-Town and H-Town.  (Few seemed to notice that the artist considers them 'clouds' and not beans.)

Sunday, April 01, 2018