October 14, 2016

Bag it, Ken Paxton

The blog space is being turned over to a guest post this afternoon, in the wake of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton suing the city of Brownsville over its law on charging for plastic grocery bags.

By Robin Schneider
Texas Campaign for the Environment

State and national bag law advocates convened this week to defend bag ordinances in the wake of embattled Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit against Texas’ first local law against bag pollution in Brownsville. A range of organizations plan to assist as this issue lands in the lap of the Texas Supreme Court with the City of Laredo appealing a recent decision striking down that city’s bag law.

“The reasons for bag laws are as diverse as Texas,” said Robin Schneider, Executive Director of Texas Campaign for the Environment, who played a leading role in passing the Austin bag ordinance and successfully defeating attempts to pre-empt bag ordinances at the state legislature since 2009. “For the West Texas city of Fort Stockton it was the death of livestock that ingest ‘plastic tumbleweed’ and ruin the desert landscape getting caught on cactus and barbed wire, while on the coast it’s concern over sea turtles, plastic in the food chain and beach pollution.”

The benefits of local ordinances have been obvious. “As a resident of the Rio Grande Valley, I have seen the very positive effects of the Bag Ordinances in Laguna Vista, South Padre Island and especially Brownsville.  One would not recognize Brownsville today compared to 2010 when the city very wisely passed their bag law,” said Rob Nixon, Chairman of the Surfrider Foundation South Texas Chapter and Surfrider Foundation National Boardmember. “Attorney General Ken Paxton’s claim of the ‘buck a bag’ fee is disingenuous and not true.  If you need a plastic bag at one of only the seven retailers that got exemptions and implemented the fee, it is $1 for as many bags as you require for the purchase. That fee goes to a fund to clean up the bags that are dispersed from the exemptions,” he concluded.

As Texas groups organize into a statewide network, national bag advocates are also assisting. "State pre-emption of local plastic bag laws is an issue that has become much more prevalent nationally the last few years," said Jennie Romer, attorney and founder of plasticbaglaws.org. "What's unique about pre-emption disputes in Texas right now is that they're new fights about old laws: the provision that allegedly pre-empts local bag laws in Brownsville and Laredo has been on the books since 1993 and Brownsville's ordinance was adopted in 2009."

"Single-use plastic bags may seem convenient, but that is far outweighed by their impact—which is far-reaching and ubiquitous.  Every square inch of the planet is affected.  Legislation to reduce or eliminate the consumption of single-use bags has proven to be effective.” said Christopher Chin, Executive Director of the Center for Oceanic Awareness Research and Education (COARE).

Laredo’s bag ordinance came together with the help of students, business owners and city leaders in 2015. The Fourth Court of Appeals, based in San Antonio, overturned the ordinance in August of this year. "Doesn’t the state have anything better to do than to crush the will of the people and its locally elected officials, to suit just a few business interests?”asked Tricia Cortez, director of the Rio Grande International Study Center, and the primary advocate for the ordinance.  “Conservation of our environment, and the protection of local wildlife and precious tax dollars, is at the heart of these plastic bag ordinances.  Why should protecting the wallets of the plastic bag industry be considered more important than protecting the long-term health, financial well-being, and beauty of our cities? It’s a disgrace what is happening behind closed doors in Austin right now on this issue, that attempts to address a pervasive local and global problem in our communities,” Cortez concluded.

Wildlife groups including Sea Turtle Inc. and the Turtle Island Restoration Network are concerned about the impact of bag pollution on these iconic Texas animals. “Turtle Island Restoration Network has been working with Surfrider Foundation, Galveston Chapter for two years to educate our residents and visitors about the impact of single-use plastic bags on the marine environment. With our close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston and West Bay, there is a strong possibility for single-use bags to enter our waterway,” said Joanie Steinhaus, Turtle Island Restoration Network’s Program Director for the Gulf of Mexico.

Additionally, there are many cities that have not yet enacted ordinances but which have been exploring them for some time now. These communities are looking to protect their rights to protect their environment.

"The Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club has campaigned for the last three years for a bag ordinance in Fort Worth,” said Conservation Chair John MacFarlane. “We believe that an ordinance to phase out these single use bags will improve the aesthetic of Fort Worth, help to mitigate storm drain clogging, and will help save aquatic animals and terrestrial wildlife from a slow toxic death. Attorney General Ken Paxton should spend his time solving problems, not attacking good local policies that are protecting wildlife, livestock, water resources and the environment."

Many groups are coming together to support the legal efforts to defend bag pollution and to work at the Legislature in the 2017 session to address state law as well. These new threats have sparked the formation of a new network among advocates from across Texas with the input of national bag ordinance experts.

The Texas communities with bag ordinances on the books include: Brownsville, South Padre Island, Laguna Vista, Fort Stockton, Laredo, Austin, Freer, Sunset Valley, Kermit and Port Aransas.

October 13, 2016

Alt-right antics nothing new — Bush, Rather and typewriters

The newest round of Clinton email leaks by Wikileaks does nothing to surprise me. It does confirm what many of us long suspected about her Goldman Sachs speeches, that she's a moderate (triangulator?) like Bill, and more.

Nor does the alt-rights spoofing of the actual leaks, complete to inventing fake Scribd transcripts, claiming that an actual racist email which may or may not have looped in John Podesta was sent by John Podesta (hey, alt-right techies, you're idiots indeed if you think sensible people will believe Podesta uses a ".nl" email address) and more.

Remember a dozen years ago, when Dan Rather appeared to finally have the goods on Shrub Bush's fake Air National Guard experience? Remember the alt-right then arose from sewers to try to throw shade on typewriter or word processor carriages, fonts, pitches, etc.? I mean, some already established alt-righters, or fellow travelers like Erick Erickson, actively promulgated this. Others like "Gateway Pundit" Jim Hoft, got their start off this.

Remember how CBS eventually showed it had no balls and threw Rather under the bus then pushed him out the door? And directly canned Mary Mapes to boot?

That's where we're at today, only a different form of damage control. The spoofing against Clinton is just covering The Donald's more grotesque sexism.

And, yes, I do blame CBS. (As well as, somewhat, Mapes, and to a lesser extent, Rather.)

Mapes should have exercised a higher degree of journalistic skepticism. Rather, once he became aware she had not done so, should have done so himself.

That said, these were NOT fireable (Mapes) or de facto fireable (Rather) offenses.

But, when CBS overreacted, the alt-right knew that it could nail more coonskins to the wall.

And today, then, when the alt-right does spoofing, it gives the MSM and Hillbots the semi-sized opening to claim that everything coming out of Wikileaks is fake.

So, to a degree, I blame CBS for the current election.

October 11, 2016

TX Progressives talk Trump

The Texas Progressive Alliance has never said anything like what Donald Trump said to Billy Bush when they thought no one was listening, not in a locker room and not anywhere else. No decent person says things like that because no decent person thinks like that or acts like that. What the TPA does say is in this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looked at turnout and voter registration patterns and what they might say about this year.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos shares an exposÈ as well as her own personal experiences to describe how Jim Crow continues to pervade the voter registration laws in Texas.  Jim Crow Actively Lurks in Texas. The Stateís Voter Registration Laws.

Socratic Gadfly looks back 150 years or so into Southern racial and class history and finds one key word — "mudsill" — that seems to explain much of the Trump voter phenomenon.

The Libertarian ticket seems to have hit their ceiling, and not just because Gary Johnson has short-term memory issues, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is glad that poverty is down in Texas, but food insecurity is still high.

Neil at All People Have Value discussed an interactive art work on the streets of Houston. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.


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

Lone Star Ma celebrates Texas Influenza Awareness Day.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman writes about the Sandra Bland Act bill that he intends to file next session.

Grits for Breakfast considers what we should teach teenagers about traffic stops.

The Texas Election Law Blog explains the vote-by-mail process, and what can go wrong with it.

Eileen Smith waded into the fetid swamp of Donald Trump's sexism, a couple of days before that swamp got even nastier.

Betsy Barre has a problem with the collective reaction to the Donald Trump "grab her in the p----" video.

October 10, 2016

Ruth Bader Ginsberg shows why "Oh the SCOTUS" can't change #VoteGreen

"Oh, the SCOTUS" is always the last ditch desperation line from Democrats worried that Hillary Clinton (or previous Democratic presidential candidates) might snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by losing votes to the Green Party.

I always respond that modern Democratic-nominated Supreme Court justices often aren't that liberal on that many issues.

And Ruth Bader Ginsberg, whom some call the "Notorius RBG," has just exemplified that again, as if her years-long bromance with Antonin Scalia didn't exemplify that enough.

She has called San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the National Anthem "dumb and disrespectful."
Of the athletes, Ginsburg said, "if they want to be stupid, there's no law that should be preventive. If they want to be arrogant, there's no law that prevents them from that. What I would do is strongly take issue with the point of view that they are expressing when they do that."
I'd actually call her take on the issue, as well as on flag burning — which Hillary Clinton wanted to selectively criminalize even after the SCOTUS said it was constitutional — "dumb and disrespectful." Disrespectful to Black Lives Matter. Disrespectful to the spirit of the First Amendment while giving lip service to its letter. Disrespectful to a minority when a member of an oft-oppressed minority herself. (If another Jew failed to stand for the National Anthem after we refused to, say, bomb the rail lines to Auschwitz in late 1944, or after we turned away the MS St. Louis in 1939, would she have called that "dumb and disrespectful"?

It's also clear that Ginsberg doesn't grasp the power, or the utility, of symbolic speech. Such speech has power precisely because it's disrespectful.

Her bromance with Nino Scalia also speaks volumes.

Three years later, The Nation does its own callout. Speaking of Scalia, the piece notes she did a cave to him on part of Bush v Gore.

Why I don't subscribe to The Nation

I read some of The Nation's broader socio-political pieces. But, when it comes to actual candidates, and actual politics, and ...

Actual political parties ...

I refuse to give it my dinero.


Because it refuses to give third parties the time of day.

The mag's Hillary Clinton endorsement is laughable. And laughably wrong.

After a hat tip to Bernie Sanders, the first 40 percent or so is an explicit acknowledgment of lesser-evilism and an admission that it's the primary reason for the Clinton endorsement.

It's ended with the traditional left side of the duopoly's "Oh, the SCOTUS" cry. That is, of course, a cry that ignores that Supreme Court justices consider more than two hot-button social issues and that, on labor rights, financial issues beyond Citizens United, and more, Democrat-appointed justices, while "liberal" in general in the American sense, have each, from time to time, missed the boat on specific issues in specific rulings. (It also ignores that Hillary Clinton's own sense of civil liberties is so warped she wanted to criminalize flag-burning even after the Johnson ruling.)

The mag really stumbles, though, when it claims a positive case can be made for Clinton, not just fear and lesser-eviilism.

First, we have:
And while we may disagree with some of her solutions, Clinton has been a forceful advocate of health-care reform since her husband’s administration.
Note how the lack of “single-payer” as part of alleged reforms is ignored? Note how the fact that Hillarycare is little different than Obamacare is ignored?

But now she seeks the presidency as a supporter of action to address climate change, criminal-justice reform, LGBTQ equality, respect for immigrants, debt-free public higher education, the expansion of Social Security, a public option to challenge health-care profiteering, and a great big hike in the minimum wage.
OK, let's deconstruct.

Dems on climate change are like Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Yes, Republicans are worse, claiming Rome's not burning. But, in terms of necessary actions, a difference that makes no difference is no difference.

As I've said before, the Paris accords, being voluntary, are aspirational bullshit. Carbon tax + carbon tariff is the only real answer. And, this ignores Clinton's support of fracking.

LGBTQ equality? Like Bill, on things like DOMA, she was against it before she was for it. Debt-free public higher ed? Where has she mentioned that?

A public option, getting back to health care? Where? When? Don't believe I've heard that.

Great big hike in the minimum wage? Only under Bernie pressure, and like TPP, soon to be disavowed. (This sets aside that $15/hr is too high an increase in “flyover America.”)

Meanwhile, on foreign policy, The Nation self-deludes that it can push Clinton left, after giving a partial, but incomplete and turd-polished laundry list of her warhawking:
Even as we endorse her, we understand that it will be incumbent on us to challenge President Clinton to break her hawkish habits and move toward a new and progressive realism.
Yeah, right. These are positions she's held for 20 years.

And, thanks to Wikileaks giving us notes about her Goddam Sachs speeches, we also know:
1. She wants to cut Social Security
2.  Per that same link, she thinks Wall Street should regulate itself
3. Also per that same link, is an avowed hypocrite, saying politicians should have a "public position" and a "private position" on issues
4. Opposes single payer
5. Officially declares herself a "moderate"

You still support her, Nation folks?

Finally, The Nation moves on to throwing Jill Stein under the bus. (After giving the Green Party zero space in the mag for four years:
And while we share many of the views that Stein has advanced, her cause has not been helped by the Green Party’s reluctance, or inability, to seek, share, and build power, with all the messy compromise this often entails. Instead of the patient—and Sisyphean—task of building an authentic grassroots alternative, the Greens offer a top-down vehicle for protest.
First, this is a strawman in several ways.

Dems, as well as Republicans, at the level of statehouses, have killed fusion slate and candidate laws over the past 20 years. So, the refusal to compromise starts with the duopoly.

As for “ building an authentic grassroots alternative,” the Greens have had local candidates — and gotten them elected — for nearly 20 years.

Finally, The Nation says that “ 2016 is not an ordinary election.” We've heard that bullshit every four years this century. Back of the bus bullshit.

And, comes from a mag that's been tepid on true, radical campaign finance reform, let alone constitutional reforms like electing some House candidates from a "national list" and more.

The Nation, 20 years ago, helped me move beyond my parents' Republicanism, but I've since moved beyond, maybe well beyond, it.

Hey, Katha Pollit? The times HAVE changed and you moved in the wrong direction. At best, your mag in general has stayed static and failed to move in the right direction.

October 09, 2016

Scorecard: MSM 2, Assange 1/2

Whatever "October surprise" Julian Assange has in store for Hillary Clinton has probably already been torpedoed out of the water by the dual anti-Trump leaks last week.

The $900-million plus tax write off would have been big enough by itself. But, the crude misogyny recordings finished the deal, especially coming out the same time that Assange started his leak of John Podesta emails, within a larger leak of Hillary Clinton emails.

So, per Ted Rall: Assange is an idiot.

Or, per Sean Connery: Just like a Wikileaker!

Sorry, Assange, you blew it.

And, you have to know you're fighting the MSM. So, per Rall, you better get your A game going now.

Unless you have a massive leak, it's too late for the second debate.