Category Archives: Texas Politics

Julian Castro Breezes Through Senate Confirmation

The Executive Branch of the United States government will soon be embodied with the with a new, uniquely Texan perspective.  San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro has now cleared the last hurdle to joining the Cabinet of the United States.  Here’s more from the Washington Post

Julian Castro, President Obama’s pick to lead the Housing and Urban Development Department, sailed through his Senate confirmation  Wednesday with a bipartisan vote of 71-26.

His twin brother Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and other members of the Texas congressional delegation watched the vote from the gallery.

“I’m proud of Julian and excited for our country,” Rep. Castro said in a statement after the vote.

Castro, the Latino mayor of San Antonio, had met with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in his DC office on Monday to discuss the housing market in Nevada, and on Tuesday Reid announced the Senate would vote to confirm him the next day.

It was not expected to be contentious. And it wasn’t.

Several Republicans offered Castro their blessing from the start, and his home state U.S. senator, John Cornyn, a Republican, gave him a warm introduction at his nomination hearing, saying Castro is an “example that the American dream is still very much alive.” Cornyn voted yes, while fellow Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, voted no.

With Senate confirmation behind him, Castro again lands on the national stage, becoming one of the most high-profile Hispanic Americans in all of government.  Besides racial diversity, the geographic diversity that the South Texas Mayor brings to Obama’s cabinet may prove just as beneficial.  One look at the President’s closest confidants reveals a group largely devoid of perspectives from the Southwest of the country.

Castro’s appointment has already caused a flurry of activity in San Antonio, as various City Council members and local elected officials vie to be his successor.  As for Julian himself, some time in Washington will definitely raise his national profile, but many also fear that it could extinguish any chances of a statewide candidacy back home.  I’m not so convinced of this.  For starters, the Texas that would vote Castro into office is not the same one that is voting today.  If he were to win statewide, it’s going to take a much more expanded and engaged electorate than exists now, so he’s depending on the 2014 Democrats to help with that.  Secondly, though it seems the Lone Star State will never warm to Obama now, memories are quite short once a politician leaves office, and someone else is in their place.  As long as Castro does good work in his endeavors, the future is wide open.

Off the Kuff has more.

 

‘Obama’s Katrina’? No, But…

A true crisis just the same.

If you’ve watched any American news outlet in the last 48 hours, you are probably aware that President Obama will be in the Lone Star State today for a very brief trip… appearing at two separate Democratic fundraisers.  The timing simply couldn’t be worse for the Commander-In-Chief, as things on the Texas Border seem to be anything but in command.  The Right-wing media has been hugely successful in exploiting the tough situation, as evidence on Neil Cavuto’s Fox News program

QUESTION: You say there’s an urgent humanitarian situation. Are you not at all concerned about the optics that the president can fly to Texas to raise political money, but he can’t go see this urgent humanitarian situation?

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We’re not worried about those optics, George, and that’s simply because the president is very aware of the situation that exists on the Southwest border.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Very aware, so he doesn’t need to see the border for himself.

That isn’t exactly flying with Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar from the fine state of Texas. He says the president is one step behind on this mess.

The congressman now joins me on the phone.

So, Congressman, by that, I take it you — you mean he should be seeing the border?

REP. HENRY CUELLAR, D-TEXAS: Well, I hope this doesn’t become President Obama’s Katrina moment.

I’m sure that President Bush thought the same thing, that he could just look at everything from up in the sky, and then he owned it after — for a long time. So, I hope this doesn’t become the Katrina moment for President Obama, saying that he doesn’t need to come to border.

He should come down. Not only Governor Perry has asked him to come down, but I know my colleagues Filemon Vela and Ruben Hinojosa invited him to come down. And I certainly would ask him to come in, even though I still think he is still one step behind.

But he should come down to the border to see exactly what is happening.

Will the current border crisis become Obama’s ‘Katrina moment’??  The simple answer is no.  These children aren’t being cared for in a way that is acceptable, but at least they are alive, and someone from our country is looking after them.  Millions of people starved, and thousands died during Hurricane Katrina due to poor planning of the Federal Disaster apparatus.

Even if it won’t be a Katrina moment as Congressman Cuellar so irresponsibly suggests, it’s still a crisis… one of the longest-running humanitarian crises in U.S. history.  We should not downplay how serious these issues are, nor should we try and use them to score political points that way Rick Perry and Congressional Republicans are doing.  Instead of securing the border with faux militias that are nothing more than trigger-happy domestic terrorists, we should be ‘securing the border’ by making it a refuge for children and families in dire need.  The legality of why they are here can be sorted out later, but the first thing we do as a country is to provide safety, in every case.  Each one of these families has an entirely different situation, and the only way to do justice here is to talk to them all and find out why there are here, then take the appropriate legal action.

Does it ‘look bad’ for the President to be coming to Texas for fundraisers, and not taking time to personally view the situation in South Texas?  On that point I have to agree with Republicans… yes it does.  A better outcome would be for Obama to change his schedule and see what’s going on first hand.  But unlike the GOP, Obama is at least willing to DO something about the crisis and about immigration reform.  They are the ones that have blocked legislation at every turn.  They are the ones that are protesting children in buses and crying for no amnesty.  If not for Republican obstruction, Comprehensive Immigration Reform would already be law in the United States.  All of these people that are demanding the optics of seeing the President on the border, when are you going to help him actually DO something on the border?  The White House has already asked Congress for $3.7 billion dollars of aid for the region.  If Congress agrees that we should send the money, then they need to pass a law.  If they disagree and think there is a better solution, then they need to speak up and put that solution on the table.

 

Texoblogosphere: Week of July 6th

The Texas Progressive Alliance has been driving around asking about incendiary chemicals as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff reports on the petitions turned in by opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance to require a repeal referendum on the ballot in November, and the determination of the ordinance’s backers to defend it against such efforts.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos is sick and disgusted to report another chemical explosion like that in West, TX last year is a strong possibility. Why? Because Greg Abbott has a Koch problem. Greg Abbott has a Koch problem. Why Texas residents are essentially powerless.

WCNews at Eye on Williamson shows that Greg Abbott’s chemical problems makes clear that the, GOP In Texas Is Corporate-Owned.

While PDiddie at Brains and Eggs finds a great deal to be enthusiastic about in recent developments for the Blue team’s chances in November, it’s not all peaches and cream for Texas Democrats.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme knows Greg Abbott loves profits for his cronies over worker safety and Blake Farenthold loves cronies so much he’s eased up a tensy bit on the usual republican Hispanic bashing. It’s oligarchy first for the GOP.

The Supreme Court ruling giving Hobby Lobby the right to deny contraception health services was a surprise to many Americans. But given how ecstatic Greg Abbott was about the decision, Texas Leftist is left to wonder just what surprises he’d have if elected Governor. Would Abbott try to ban birth control in Texas??

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

Paul Kennedy and many other defense attorneys in Harris County protested the actions of a criminal court judge that was “encouraging” defendants to do their business before him without being represented by a lawyer.

Texas Election Law Blog analyzes True The Vote’s ability to intervene in the Thad Cochran/Chris McDaniel election dispute.

Texas Clean Air Matters celebrates the recent SCOTUS ruling that confirmed the EPA’s authority to address climate pollution.

Greg Wythe shows us what signing in on Election Day may look like in the near future.

SciGuy reassures us that we are not likely to be eaten by a shark.

The Bloggess researched fireworks options so you don’t have to.

And finally, Lowering the Bar isn’t a Texas blog, but as a legal humor blog targeting Greg Abbott for his pathetic performance in the redistricting legal fee dispute with Wendy Davis, they’re welcome to be in this week’s review.

Davis BLASTS Abbott For Shrouding Dangerous Chemical Locales

Texas Attorney General Greg Just “Drive Around” Abbott may have ceded some serious ground to State Senator Wendy Davis in the race for Governor, as the Fort Worth Democrat is hitting back against his seedy decision to keep dangerous chemical stockpiles secret from citizens.  Here’s the scoop from Bill Hanna of the Fort Worth Star Telegram

Kicking off a weeklong trip around Texas on Tuesday, state Sen. Wendy Davis continued to attack her GOP opponent in the governor’s race, Attorney General Greg Abbott, for blocking release of information about where hazardous chemicals are stored.

Davis, D-Fort Worth, is criticizing an attorney general’s opinion that says the Texas Department of State Health Services doesn’t have to release information about reports that show where dangerous chemicals are stored statewide.

The public’s right to know where hazardous chemicals are stored has become an issue since the April 17, 2013, explosion that killed 15 people at the fertlizer plant in West.

“Greg Abbott is obviously doing everything he can to try to undo a mess he has made,” Davis said. “But let’s make no mistake about it: What Greg Abbott has ruled is that families do not deserve to know where these dangerous chemicals are stored.

In a statement released before Davis’ appearance, the Abbott campaign said he was simply applying the law.

“Greg Abbott did not change any law or policy, he applied the Texas Homeland Security Act, which prevents state agencies from releasing information that could be used by terrorists to build bombs or to target certain facilities,” the Abbott campaign said.

Before the ruling, the state health agency released the information regularly. Davis noted that other states, including Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, make the information available.

If she is elected governor, Davis said, she would make the disclosure of dangerous chemicals an emergency legislative item that must be addressed in the first 60 days of the 2015 session.

“The community has a right to know about where these dangerous chemicals are stored,” Davis said. “And for decades, even after the passage of that particular law, Greg Abbott continued to stand for transparency but he has reversed course on that. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the connection between his course reversal.”

Davis was referring to donations of more than $75,000 to Abbot’s campaign from interests connected to Koch Industries.

The Koch brothers, Charles and David, have developed fundraising networks that back Republican candidates and are expected to spend millions to help Republicans reclaim control of the U.S. Senate. Koch Industries has a fertilizer division, Koch Fertilizer LLC.

“Mr. Abbott is not working for you,” Davis said.

Abbott has been under intense criticism as of late, both for the decision, and some unfortunate comments he made when questioned by the media about why Texas don’t deserve to know what dangers are in their neighborhood.  Here’s that piece of the puzzle from the Texas Tribune

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, under fire for blocking public access to state records documenting the location of dangerous chemicals, said Texans still have a right to find out where the substances are stored — as long as they know which companies to ask.

“You know where they are if you drive around,” Abbott told reporters Tuesday. “You can ask every facility whether or not they have chemicals or not. You can ask them if they do, and they can tell you, well, we do have chemicals or we don’t have chemicals, and if they do, they tell which ones they have.”

No one knows for sure why Greg Just “Drive Around” Abbott suddenly became so obsessed with the Texas Homeland Security Act that he had to issue a ridiculously narrow ruling and keep millions of Texans in the dark.  But as Rachel Maddow implied last night on her program, the timing of this decision seems all too convenient to a recent meeting between Abbott and Chase Koch, heir apparent to Koch Industries.

Davis is spot on to attack Abbott for such an atrocious ruling.  With chemical and materials industries being such a huge part of the Texas economy, there’s no telling how many millions of people are potentially at risk of an explosion like the one in the town of West.  Reading directly from Greg Just “Drive Around” Abbott’s website, you’d think he shares the belief that all Texans deserve transparency in their government…

An open government is the bedrock of a free society. For decades, Texas has had some of the strongest open government laws in the nation – laws ensure that Texans can know what their government is doing and how their government makes the decisions that affect their lives.

If Abbott in fact believes it, then he better start practicing what he preaches.  Otherwise, that talking point is going to explode all over his hypocritical face.

But when it does, I’ll be happy to drive around with him and search for answers.

(photo credit:  Burnt Orange Report)

 

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/07/08/5956540/davis-attacks-abbott-for-blocking.html#storylink=cpy

 

The Immigration Fight: Protesting Children??

For those that were around an American television in the year 2000, it’s quite possible you remember the name Elian Gonzalez… a little boy from Cuba that was the center of a massive international custody fight.  He originally came to the US by boat and his mother actually died en route to get to Florida.  When the six year-old Elian arrived here, he was greeted by a group of angry protesters that told him to turn around and go back to where he came from.

If you remember the story, you’ll also remember that the above is incorrect.  Because Elian was from Cuba (and yes, in part because his story made national news), he was not treated the way that so many undocumented people entering the United States have been treated.  Instead, the United States treated him as a refugee from the malicious Cuban government, and he was taken to family members in Florida.  Elian resided in the country all the way through a vicious court battle which eventually had him sent back to his native land (In case you’re curious, Elian Gonzalez is now all grown up and a faithful devotee of Fidel Castro).

This illustrates one sad truth of the United States immigration system… it’s completely unfair.  Elian, like many undocumented Cubans that have ventured to this country before him, was deemed a refugee thanks to the shaky relations between the two governments.  He was not locked away in a holding cell, and he was not met by screams from protesters.    But for the undocumented children on U.S. soil today, that’s exactly what they have faced.  As Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee said this weekend, we should not be berating people simply trying to flee from danger.  Here’s more from the Houston Chronicle

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee on Sunday called upon charitable and faith organizations to help the tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children who are pouring across the Texas border.

The Houston Democrat said a federal emergency should be declared to handle what she called a humanitarian crisis.

“These unaccompanied children are not America’s enemy,” said Jackson Lee, who spent three days touring detention centers turned into makeshift shelters that are overflowing with children in the Rio Grande Valley.

[…]

“It would not be humane to put these children on planes and buses to ship them back. They could be killed by the cartels and gangs at home. They are not a security threat to us,” Jackson Lee said. “What mother would not send their children here if they were told they had to join the gang or be shot to death?”

The congresswoman told of seeing “frightened children who just want to be comforted” at the shelters, stressing America has always received those who fled persecution.

Her comments come against a backdrop of rising tension this week in places like Murrieta, Calif., where protesters turned away three busloads of immigrants that rolled into their town. Efforts to set up a detention center there were thwarted, and the undocumented immigrants were relocated to San Diego.

As Jackson Lee states, this is a humanitarian crisis, not a national security threat.  Many of these children and families are fleeing unspeakable crimes in their homeland, including massive gang violence, murder and rape.

In a recent article, Diane Washington Valdez of the El Paso Times reported just how pervasive child sex trafficking is in the neighboring city of Juarez, Mexico…

Juárez is one of the Mexican cities where child-sex tourism persists, according to a U.S. State Department report on international human trafficking released Friday in Washington, D.C.

“Child sex tourism persists in Mexico, especially in tourist areas such as Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, and Cancun, and in northern border cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez,” the report said. “Many child sex tourists are from the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, though some are Mexican citizens.”

John Martin, director of Paso Del Norte Center of Hope, which assists human and sex-trafficking victims, said he’s learned from researchers that Anapra is one of four areas in the Juárez region where sex with children is available.

“Reportedly, people can get sex with a child for $5,” Martin said.

For all of those angry protesters demanding children go back to where they came from, are they also ok with them being sold into slavery or used as pawns for a gangland war? Do they want them sent back, even if it means a death sentence??

To those that complain about how the United States cannot afford to care for people fleeing imminent danger, they should also be asking how we can afford tax give-aways to massive corporations, or how we can afford to spend trillions of dollars nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Protecting the lives of people within our borders, documented or not, should be a priority over trying to “force Americanization” of places not even in the same hemisphere.

And therein lies another inherent problem with the immigration fight… some that are against comprehensive immigration reform don’t feel that certain lives warrant the same need for protection as others.   Here’s what Bud Kennedy of the Ft. Worth Star Telegram had to say regarding a right-wing Facebook page…

 if you read the “Protect” delegates’ convention Facebook page, they reprinted this Thursday from a California restrictionist group protesting at Murrieta, Calif.:

“Americans are not breeding while ‘the bronze master race is.’ … We will die out and they will win.”

There you have it. A major Texas Republican faction that just successfully rewrote the platform is publishing warnings about Central American child detainees arriving as part of an “agenda” for a “bronze master race.”

It’s not about legal or illegal.  It’s about bronze.

The Protect page has 932 followers, including several Tarrant County Republican precinct chairs and party officers. It does not identify an author, editor or administrator.

According to the Protect Texas page, at least some of those protesting the children in Murrieta are concerned about much more than just what papers they possess.  Sounds familiar to a previous post discussing the unspoken fears that many on the right have about America’s future. At least they used to be unspoken.

No matter what one’s political views, we should all feel ashamed that innocent children would be treated with such disdain.  Whether they have 50 press cameras on them like Elian or zero, these children are in need right now, and the least we can do is help them.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/07/05/5950561/on-child-bashing-republican-facebook.html?storylink=addthis#.U7hy2dxjdW4.twitter&rh=1#storylink=cpy

 

 

(photo credit:  KTLA)

Texoblogosphere: Week of June 30th

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a safe and happy Fourth of July as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff urged everyone to look for inspiration in action, not candidates.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos reminisces about the People’s Filibuster of 2013 and forthcoming change. The People’s Filibuster, June 25, 2013

WCNews at Eye on Williamson points our that there is more than enough money to pay for what Texas needs. What’s lacking is the political will, Surplus of Neglect.

Neil at All People Have Value added a page of clear and concise poems about everyday life to NeilAquino.com. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.

Texpatriate will not publish a convention recap before the roundup is sent out, because WordPress has decided to corrupt 2500 words of meticulously researched and compiled Horwitz’s opinions. Hopefully, he’ll get to it by Sunday. In the meantime, we would like to know which blogging software we can use that is not completely worthless.

The election to chair of the Texas Democratic Party was fairly anticlimactic. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs seemed to be the only blogger covering it (though it was Tweeted to great effect).

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

The Texas Election Law Blog presents a long list of online resources for voters.

Todo Texas ponders the short term future of San Antonio as it navigates through some big changes.

Texas Clean Air Matters calls out PUC Chair Donna Nelson for her opposition to federal renewable energy tax credits.

Glasstire alerts us to a series of billboards that will be coming to I-10 that feature quotes from Gertrude Stein, because if there’s one thing our highways could use a little more of, it’s Gertrude Stein quotes.

The Observer notes that like most bullies, Michael Quinn Sullivan is a lot more talk than action.

Unfair Park assures us that karma does in fact exist.

Beyond Bones does a little CSI: Cretaceous Era to discover who figured out that some dinosaurs had feathers.

Why A HERO Referendum Could Be Good for Houston And Texas

After years of planning, a slew of phone calls, repeated trips to City Hall, organizer trainings, exhaustive blog posts and countless closed-door meetings with Council Members, citizens finally found a voice when the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was passed on May 28th.  The new law instituted an historic new level of protections for all Houstonians, and for many was a cause for celebration.

But today, after being dealt what in their view was an affront to their values, the opposition to HERO struck back, turning in 50,000 petition signatures to City Hall (pending verification by City Secretary Anna Russell).  If at least 17,000 of them are verified as residents of the city, then the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance will be placed on the November ballot, and could even be voted down.  Supporters of HERO will have to work even harder to thwart the litany of lies, and convince voters to keep this critical law on the books.

The referendum is going to be hard work, but it could actually end up being very good, not only for Houston Progressives, but for Progressive causes across Texas.  Here are the reasons why.

For starters, Houston is ready for the referendum.  Long before a non-discrimination bill came before Council, supporting organizations have been preparing for the possibility of a city-wide vote.  The campaign to defend the ordinance is well under way, and has already engaged a broad coalition of organizations and elected officials.  You can learn more about the Equal Rights Committee at the Equal Rights Houston website.

Secondly, as a city-specific referendum, the math is on HERO’s side.  The opposition is asking voters to repeal a law that their elected representatives passed.  In general, that’s tough to do.  But that vote also occurs only in the city of Houston… the same electorate that sent Mayor Parker to office three times in a row.  In every past election, similar argument’s about Parker’s “evil LGBT agenda” have been waged against her, and they have never won.  After seeing Houstonians through a recession, and 4 years of record job growth and prosperity that other cities in the nation only dream of, are Houston voters really going to get enraged enough to vote this down?

As Houstonians like the talented Christopher Busby prove, Equal Rights should NOT be a Democratic or a Republican issue.  Sad though it is, the fight for HERO has become politicized, with most of the opposition’s coalition being Republican (again, not all but most).  Because of this, a referendum will likely serve as a motivator for Democrats to vote in Houston and Harris County.  It could even stand to boost turnout for Democratic candidates.  Again as mentioned in the above, this is specifically the city of Houston, whose electorate has already proven that they vote on the Progressive side.  This assumption could be wrong, but barring some smoking gun to move the issue, it’s not likely.  Giving Houston’s Democrats another big reason to get out the vote is sure to have statewide implications.

Finally, the opposition is built on lies and misconceptions about the law.  The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance isn’t a mystery anymore. It’s a real law, and is available on the city’s website for any and all to read.   Even for the people that are confused, they can go to the link above and actually read the ordinance.  The Mayor said it best in today’s press conference…

“It is illegal today, it will be illegal tomorrow, it will be legal after HERO for a man to go into a woman’s bathroom.”

Like the childhood legend of monsters under the bed, fear dissipates when mom or dad flips the light on.  HERO has been brought to light, and there’s NOTHING scary about it.

There’s still a possibility that the petitions could be invalidated, but for now, it’s time to plan as though the referendum is going on.  HERO needs some heroes again, and I strongly suspect that they are on the way.