January 13, 2018

Beto O'Rourke hits Northeast Texas (updated)

As I called him to friend Brains, the "Kennedy brother by an El Paso mother," riffing on some talk about him, in the inside-the-Mopac type media, came to Northeast Texas Wednesday afternoon.

Beto ORourke

This is my blogging opinion take on him; for the news angle at one of his stops (to which I will reference), go here.

That said, let's dive in.

First, he does seem to be a bit of a squish on health care. His answer to a question on the issue was to talk about "universal health care" then say single-payer is "one way there." Now you know why he's not a co-sponsor of HB 676, which I guess needs a new primary sponsor with John Conyers and his sexual harassment payout skedaddling Congress.

Sema Hernandez in the primary is running specifically on this as one of her main campaign issues. (She also notes that he voted for Trump's military budget and hasn't backed House bills for special wage increases for tipped employees or to make college free for all low- and middle-income students.)

Second, and also referenced in that news story, was a fair amount of "bipartisanship" talk. To talk that you want Trump to succeed unless it's in the country's best interest means we have to trust your judgment, without an issue-by-issue spell-out of what issues will draw your opposition. In general, bipartisanship, American style, sucks. It's another reason I wish we had multiparty parliamentary democracy.

Third, I noted in the story that he doesn't take PAC money. I didn't quote his comment on not taking corporate money — because candidates can't accept direct contributions from corporations anyway. PolitiFact notes he has taken moderate amounts of PAC money in the past, and has still taken "conduit PAC" money in this campaign.

ActualFlatticus of Twitter infamy also donated to conduit PAC Act Blue. As I said about his donations, why an individual donor doesn't just donate to a candidate, I don't know, other than trying to hide specific targets of donations.

That said, there are pluses to the campaign.

First is that he's getting out there.

By the time you read this, he will have visited at least 180 of Texas' 254 counties in the past several months. That's more than many Dems running for either senator or governor in the Pointy Abandoned Object State™. It's almost certainly the most of anybody since Victor Morales in 1996 on the Senate side. There's more about that in the news story, specifically related to Morales' main primary opponent, Jim Chapman.

Over that time period, looking at just John Cornyn and Booger Ted Cruz runs on the GOP side, with Kay Bailey Cheerleader Hutchison's higher popularity, the Dems have had marginally better senatorial than gubernatorial candidates, but not by lot.

Ron Kirk had a Metroplex popularity base in John Sharp's 2002 alleged dream team list, but struggled to move left from being a known Shrub Bush supporter. (Fittingly, he accompanied past GOP voter Tony Sanchez, who ran for governor, and Sharp himself, a Republican in all but name today, running for lite guv.) Rick Noriega in 2008 was OK. David Alameel in 2014 was another ConservaDem/Republican in drag. Noriega was the only one to have run for office before, and state rep in a relatively safe district isn't a big deal.

O'Rourke knocked off ConservaDem Silvestre Reyes to get his House seat. He has an appetite for campaigning. He's genial and charismatic.

He may be a squish, but almost certainly less of one — on different issues — than Wendy Davis for gov in 2014. (Also, she was running for a state office, he for a federal one.) He has no ethical baggage, either. Assuming he gets the nomination, Democrats could do worse. For example, I'd take him over either of the Castro brothers, I think.

Some are now knocking Beto for proposing a year of universal service for high school graduates. I'm not saying it's perfect, and I'm not saying that having it in place — if it were truly universal and immediately post-high school — would lessen American warmongering by threatening to get rich kids shot. But, a number of Dems proposed it shortly after the Iraq War bogged down, in part for such reasons. And, many European countries have such a system. So, on that issue, I'm not joining the knockers. That said, Stace notes that there will be class-based issues of fairness that could be  problem.

Also, at least to the face of Tucker Carlson, Beto is not a squish on immigration-related issues.

In short? I'd vote Hernandez in the primaries, but accept O'Rourke in the general.

See this long profile of O'Rourke in the new Texas Monthly for more.

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Update: Brains disagrees with my vote ideas, saying he'll undervote the general if it's Beto, or "Bob," to note his actual first name. I jokingly called him a "Kennedy brother by an El Paso mother," but, per Brains' well-researched piece, he might be "John Kerry's brother by an El Paso mother," minus the military service.

I'm still not totally ready to move off my vote pivot, but that's more food for thought.

I still don't think the "universal service" idea of Beto-Bob (there, NOW he sounds Texan) is necessarily a bad deal. It could be, but it ain't necessarily so. And, it's been  used as a bit of a gotcha. I actually find the fact that Beto-Bob has already backed off it more disconcerting than the idea itself.

As for him being a squish of some sort on single-payer? Well, if it is truly universal, in that everybody in the country, no ifs, ands or buts, has coverage, that's the rock-bottom starting point. A lot of the other developed counties that have national health care have co-pays, after all, and some people bashing Beto-Bob on this may not be aware of that. No, it's not ideal, and it's not close to gov candidate Tom Wakely's idea of a Texas NHS. But, if it is universal coverage, that's the baseline.

Per Wiki, many of those other countries have what is called two-tier care. Part of that second tier, with Denmark France and Germany countries mentioned by name, is for private insurance to cover the cost of copays. And, yes, that's deliberately boldfaced. Many countries with national health care use a two-tier system like that. Government insurance covers all basic medical and surgical needs. You buy private care for elective and experimental surgery and other things.

People need to look at the details of how universal health care works in these other developed countries, and is funded, in general. If you're poor, copays, etc., are usually paid by the government, kind of like Medicaid. But, if you're middle-class, in most the developed world? No, you need to have your own wallet open. Not a lot, maybe. But you need to have your own wallet open.

I went into this in much detail when I called out the groupies of Actual Flatticus and his toady, ShirtLost DumbShit Zack Haller, for being sketch on the details themselves.

And, if you're citing "Medicare for all" as your national health insurance model, you need to note that the actual Medicare program requires you to have your wallet open if you're middle class.

As for people bashing Beto-Bob for wanting national health care to be useable at for-profit hospitals? You folks are either ignorant or willfully obtuse if you think nonprofit hospitals are significantly different from for-profits, because they ain't.

Thirty seconds of Googling found me not one but two Pro Publica pieces with in-depth coverage of major ethical wrongs of nonprofit hospitals.

If you want a true British NHS, as I do, fine. But stop falsely claiming that, within the current hospital system, nonprofits are somehow enlightened. For that matter, per Wiki, a few extra quid and bob will get you extra service even in an NHS hospital.

The NFL of concussion likes and Kaepernick hating is a nonprofit, for doorknob's sake.

Another issue is that "no copays" people may not be talking about cost controls. I sure don't want a no-copays national health care that still costs more than twice as much to treat a person as other developed nations.

Finally, given that the current Medicare covers things like chiropractic, we need to make sure the government isn't paying for alt-medicine or pseudo-medicine.

January 11, 2018

#TxPolitics on the issues — Wakely, Valdez, Richards for gov

Here's my first summary of position stances of the actual and possible progressive candidates of note in this year's Texas governor's race, with Democrat Lupe Valdez, Democrat Tom Wakely and Green (pending party achieving ballot access) Jan Richards.


The sharp eye will note a few things.

One, at least a sharp Green eye will note, is that Richards still needs to flesh out a few positions.

The other, that anybody with two brain cells will note, is that Valdez currently stands for nothing.

As noted, these come from campaign websites or Richards' GP page. Don't believe me? Look for yourself.

Valdez's website is nothing but a giant campaign contribution solicitation at this point.

Maybe this is how Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa and other TDP honchos advised her to run — on nothing but a story and a name.

That just might work if it gets her a runoff vs ConservaDem Andrew White. But, what if it's her and Wakely in that runoff?

Or, what if people who don't get to hear a brief soundbite from a short in time, packed in candidates forum like that in San Angelo, don't hear anything. or read anything, to sell them on her, and she doesn't even make a runoff?

Hey, Lupe? If you or your handlers update your website, I'll update this chart.

If not? I'll keep reposting it. (I'll edit fonts and font sizes as necessary, now that I know more how it fills out.

Brains offers a bigger picture "Resistance vs. Revolution" as part of a series, with a first-post overview, including a good butt-kicking for Andrew White.

January 10, 2018

#TheResistance loves it some #Oprah2020
I do not, nor Zuck the Huck; #NeverOprah

I know, I know, I'm a bit late to the social media party, but I wanted to fire a blunderbuss at the whole idea of celebrity Democratic candidates for president and not just Oprah Winfrey.

OK, in the last six months, three celebrities of various sorts have been getting talked up by Democrats of some sort as 2020 presidential candidates.

The latest? Oprah Winfrey after her Golden Globes appearance.

This would be the same Oprah who has a borderline quack, Dr. Mehmet Oz, as a regular show member. And, Dems? Per your bashing of her, he's definitely more of a medical quack than Dr. Jill Stein.

And I haven't even mentioned notorious antivaxxer Jenny McCarthy.

She also has Dr. Phil McGraw, who had "professional ethics" problems His dad, also a counselor, was censured for the normal reasons a psychological counselor might get into ethical trouble. Think #MeToo.

Other than that, she's simply vacuous on a number of issues. Not dumb, necessarily, but no trail.

Her solution for problems in general is New Age positivity. Nope, that doesn't really work, especially when that's just of the quackery she promotes. Or promoting the warmongering of Shrub Bush. (Besides that link, she had him and his memoir on in 2010.)

So, no! Per somebody else, we know how celeb candidates have fared in the past. (Meanwhile, TheResistance is already claiming its unfair to say Oprah is just like Trump when the closest wording to that has been "Oprah is another celebrity billionaire, just like Trump," which is totally true.)

Second has been Mark Zuckerberg.

That would be a person whose business has admitted to manipulating customers psyches, spying on them, booting customers it doesn't like and violating federal housing laws on the advertisements it accepts. He's also a manipulator of loophole-ridden California state law on public benefit charities.

Of course, that's not that different than Barack Obama, a quasi-celebrity when elected. His campaign invented digitally targeted ads, his administration increased Bush's spying on Americans and prosecution of leakers, and violated housing ethics in forcing homeowners to bear almost all the housing market's pain after the Great Recession.

Zuckerberg's solution, otherwise? Use more Facebook!

Third has been Mark Cuban.

First problem is that he's a tech-neoliberal type, just like Dear Leader. Second is that he's currently a Republican! Third is that, other than being a Republican, we know even less about his ideas for the country than Winfrey's or Zuckerberg's.

Even worse for the left-liberal or Berniecrat portion of the crowd? All three are multi-billionaires. In essence, this is a call for a return to feudalism, or an oligarchic riff on elective monarchy like the Holy Roman Empire.

Beyond that, things don't look better.

Otherwise, you have some Democrats talking up Joe Biden, who would be gerontocrat for sure, turning 78 shortly after election day 2020. Berniecrats continue to push his name for re-election, despite him being older than Biden, the Sanders Institute being the latest proof yet he's just another Democrat, and the possibility that his wife might be indicted before then. Others mention Kristen Gillibrand, a self-reinventor so over the top she makes Hillary Clinton look like she has an actual core.

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That said, the fascination with celebrity is nothing new, and goes back before the modern entertainment world.

For such a peace-loving nation, the country has elected multiple war hero presidents.
1. George Washington
2. Andrew Jackson
3. Zachary Taylor
4. Ulysses S. Grant
5. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
This ignores the raft of post-Civil War presidents who had lesser roles (Garfield was elected to Congress in media res!), Poppy Bush's World War II experience, and one special case which I'll treat below.

It's hard to grade Washington as the first president, but let's call him and Ike both "above average," while noting Washington's slave-ownership and Eisenhower's racist ideas and go-slow stance on civil rights.

Jackson was organized and efficient, but below average for ethics issues such as Indian removal and racism.

Taylor, despite occasional rehab attempts, was one of the worst presidents in history. Despite Ron Chernow's attempt to rehab him, I'll keep Grant as one of the worst presidents in history, too.

Theodore Roosevelt is a quasi-war hero. He certainly let himself be marketed as one. And, he got there by being an action-adventure hero, at least to his social class back east. And, while he did a lot for the environment, his racism, his personalization of trust-busting, and his cluelessness on banking rank him a notch or more below the top.

We've elected a couple of other quasi-celebrity presidents, though, too.

I'm speaking of Jack Kennedy and Barack Obama, both of whom did little in the Senate other than being photogenic.

So, by that count, we've got eight quasi-celebrity presidents. Nine if you want to slip Reagan in. Ten if you're counting the current occupant of the White House.

Ten out of 45? That's 22 percent. Not totally un-American now is it?

I mean, look at the fetish of British royal-watching in America. Same thing. Helps if the royal, like Diana, is photogenic.

Of the military prezzies? Well, Ike looked like your dad or granddad. But give Washington modern teeth and a modern hairstyle and he'd buff up. Jackson would have "tubercular chic" or something reasonably attractive, plus the "mystery" angle of carrying a bullet inside. Other than being a bit on the short side, Grant would be OK. Taylor would be the only real camera-breaker. TR?

Gad ... can you imagine Teddy Roosevelt with a Twitter account?

January 09, 2018

TX Progressives have first #txlege primary prognostications

The Texas Progressive Alliance knows where the really big buttons are as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff gave his initial impressions of the primary ballot.


With so many candidates on the Primary Ballot, It’s easy to understand how some Texas Democrats might still be in a state of shock.  But in the face of a VERY good problem, TLCQ 2018 is up and ready to go, so please check it out and look for responses to come in soon.

Neil at All People Have Value noted that Trump was making a case for street protests against corrupt government in his tweets about demonstrations in Iran. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Dos Centavos wonders if Trump can get some Latin@ votes in his corner by doing anything for Dreamers, especially with Beto O'Rourke's visit to Northeast Texas over Democrat inaction so far.

Lewisville Texan Journal profiles civil rights activist and Vietnam Vet Willie Hudspeth in his run for Denton County judge.

David Bruce Collins ponders quality vs quantity in this year’s Democratic Congressional race filings.

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

G. Elliott Morris gives five numbers that frame where the 2018 Congressional elections stand.

Mike Snyder wants to consider the question of how Houston should grow post-Harvey.

The TSTA Blog urges teachers to be the voting bloc some legislators fear they can be.

The Texas Living Waters Project talks to Dr. Andrew Sansom about his freshwater environmental activism.

Lone Star Ma shared her New Year's resolutions.

Jordan Maney wants to make San Antonio a more welcoming place for young black artists and innovators.

The Current notes that Trump’s 2016 campaign digital media officer has an invite from Dianne Feinstein to talk to the Senate Intell Comm over alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The Texas Trib describes how the rent-to-own industry can bring you up on criminal charges.

BurkaBlog got some Texas mayors to talk about acting ICE director Thomas Homan’s lock ‘em up threat over sanctuary cities. 

January 08, 2018

Is latest hope for Marlin, Texas, fading again?
With #txlege related pondering

The Marlin VA hospital in its glory days, or near them. The shuttered facility
was purchased earlier this year on a promise of being re-opened while being
re-purposed for other veterans-related needs, yet nothing has happened so far.
Photo by Waco Tribune/Rod Aydelotte
I had heard a few weeks ago that the old Veterans Administration hospital in Marlin, shuttered for a decade or so, was being reopened.

I wasn't aware that the state of Texas had finally sold this, let alone that it was being reopened.

Well, per various news stories, the idea that Marlin may be returning to an Eisenhower-era or earlier golden age (for white people, at least) seem to be fading more and more. Perhaps the most recent hope shouldn't have been so spit-polished in the first place.

The dream seemed to have hit high tide 18 months or so ago, when Houston's Sterling Real Estate Development made noises about buying both the old VA hospital AND the iconic Falls Hotel (No. 8 Hilton Hotel by date of opening) with the idea of redeveloping the old mineral waters and baths.

Well, it eventually opted to buy just the VA. But its plans to open a portion of that — 30 beds — itself remains behind schedule and drawing more scrutiny.

When former Marlin mayor Elizabeth Nelson, who will gold-plate as well as spit-polish about anything she can in trying to find a positive attitude, and is on a Marlin board representing Sterling's plans, starts making noise in public, you know something isn't right. Or certainly seems that way.

According to SRED subsidiary Operation ReLaunch, a vehicle created just for this, at least part of the VA was already supposed to be reopened months ago. And, that's ALL that's on the website. The website is set up for more, but that's ALL it has.

A Houston newspaper friend didn't have any additional details to report.

And, searching for "Sterling Real Estate Development" only returns one page of Google hits, and they're not all for that company, even. Also, none of the listings on that one page of hits is a company website for the parent company, vs. that single Operation ReLaunch page. Somebody's flying under the radar, and it looks like the state of Texas was so tired of a white elephant that it got rid of it, no matter what.

I find it more interesting yet that NONE of the news stories I have read mention ANY "principals" in SRED. Not a person from the company is quoted by name, or even indirectly quoted by name, in a single story. Nor is any reference made to why the state, along with state Rep. Kyle Kacal and state Sen. Brian Birdwell, made the decision to sell to this particular entity.

And that's not all on the news coverage or lack of.

Looking at both the Waco Trib and KWTX-TV, which has been the main teevee outlet on the situation, besides no names and no coments from SRED folks, we're missing the following:
1. What price did the Texas General Land Office sell the building for? (This is a state agency; if nobody told you at the time, it's time for an Open Records Act request.)
2. What was the asking price at the time? (That may not be on any record, but somebody may talk.)
3. Does the Falls County Appraisal District have an appraised value for the site, both now that it's private property, but also when the state owned it?
4. If there's a significant difference between 1 and 2, above all, and maybe 1 and 3, why?
5. If something pans out on 4, how much did either state Rep. Kyle Kacal or state Sen. Brian Birdwell facilitate this price drop?
6. Related to 5, if you get names of principals at SRED, have any of those names made some campaign contributions? Had any lobbying-type visits to state House or Senate committees on which one or the other of those two gentlemen serve? FYI, Birdwell served this past Lege as chair of the Select Committee on State Real Property Data Collection; I'm sure this committee has interactions with the GLO. Sounds like a place to start right there. He was also on the Senate's State Affairs Committee.

Ditto on these talking points if anybody from the Houston Chronicle picks up a thread on this due to the Houston-based nature of SRED.

The local paper in Marlin? It's behind a paywall, but since it hasn't even had a full-time, on-site editor for several months, probably has nothing on this.

And, no, I'm not being cynical. I'm just being properly skeptical on all of this.

People in Marlin have been critical of Chris Martinez for not doing more with the hotel. But maybe the reason the deal with the developer fell through is that he did more due diligence or exercised more scrutiny.

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I've contacted folks from both the non-Marlin papers, and the TV station, mentioned above. We'll see what, if anything, results.