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May 14th, 2017:

Weekend link dump for May 14

Naming and billboard-shaming the Congressfolk who sold off your Internet privacy.

I’m probably “Structure Neutral, Ingredient Purist” on the Sandwich Alignment Chart, but I’m still thinking about it.

We’re in no danger of running out of Game of Thrones content just yet.

“How can you tell phony drawings from real ones? There’s no easy way but here are some things to keep in mind…”

Way to outsmart the campaign hackers, Emmanuel Macron. Also, “hackers” is really the wrong word here, but until we come up with a pithier description of “foreign black-hat actors who steal intellectual property for the purposes of interfering in elections”, it’s the best we can do.

Nike’s quest to beat the two-hour marathon fell just short.

It’s all about the kleptocracy these days.

How To Spot Fascism Before It’s Too Late.

“At 97, Ben Ferencz is the last Nuremberg prosecutor alive and he has a far-reaching message for today’s world”.

“The Islamic State encouraged recruits in the United States to take advantage of laws that allow people to buy firearms without having to present identification or submit to background checks.”

“This points toward the real mistake the New York Times made. It’s not that they hired a climate skeptic. You can hardly avoid that among conservatives these days. The real mistake is that they imported the ethics of the Wall Street Journal editorial page.”

“As of 2013, 1.4 million people had top-secret clearance. Most of those people will not, and probably should not, ever be national security adviser.”

“Mr. Trump made restricting immigration, including for refugees fleeing violence, a central plank of his campaign. Yet, he seems O.K. with letting real estate moguls take advantage of a program that sells green cards. In this administration, the interests of the first family and its rich and powerful friends come first.”

“In the ten most populous states in the country, employers steal $8 billion a year from their employees simply by paying them less than the legally mandated minimum wage”.

“Researchers have been able to decipher half the mystery of the Marfa lights, but some things are still unexplained.”

“Ted Cruz was not ready for this hearing.” For a guy who’s supposed to be a world class ninja debater, he sure didn’t look good against Sally Yates.

RIP, Anne Morrissy Merick, television field producer who persuaded the Pentagon to overturn an edict that prevented women in the press corps from covering combat during the Vietnam War.

Donald Trump is finally getting the loser edit.

“This is why Rosenstein’s threat to resign rings hollow and indeed why I suspect he hasn’t resigned. What’s his argument? That he knowingly participated in the bad act and put his legal knowledge to work justifying it but is outraged that he’s being asked to take the blame?”

RIP, Yale Lary, NFL Hall of Famer and former Texas legislator.

Two more campaigns launched in CD07

Two from the inbox. First, from Tuesday:

Laura Moser

Laura Moser, writer and founder of the resistance tool Daily Action, formally launched her congressional campaign for District 7 at a happy hour on Monday in Houston, Texas.

“It’s time to send someone to Washington who knows how it works and wants to use that knowledge to serve the people of Houston — who actually cares about the people who live here,” Moser told the crowd.

In the aftermath of this year’s presidential election, Moser founded Daily Action, a text-messaging service that sends users an alert every weekday with a simple, curated action to resist the Trump agenda. Through Daily Action, over 250,000 subscribers have made over 778,000 calls totaling nearly 2.5 million minutes since its launch in mid-December. Moser’s experience organizing a mobile resistance inspired her to move back to Houston to engage directly in her hometown’s local politics.

“As Daily Action continued to grow, I couldn’t stop wondering what else I could do to fight the reckless, dangerous people who had taken charge of our country,” Moser said. “Making phone calls was great—but it would be even better if the people answering the phones were actually listening. In too many places around the country, including this one, that just wasn’t happening.”

Armed with the lessons afforded by her “close-up observation of DC dysfunction for the past eight years” and her on-the-ground organizing experience, Moser has come back home to Houston to fight for the people of District 7.

To learn more, you can follow Laura’s Facebook page here.

And second, from Thursday:

Lizzie Fletcher

Houston lawyer Lizzie Pannill Fletcher announced today that she will run for Texas’ 7th Congressional District seat, pledging to build on her history of advocating for Houstonians and focusing on real solutions to their shared challenges. If elected, Fletcher would be the first woman to represent the district, which has been represented by Republican Congressman John Culberson since 2001.

“Every day, I work for real Houstonians, with real problems, who need real solutions – not platitudes, theories, or empty promises,” said Fletcher. “I have been talking to Houstonians from across the district, and they agree it is time to replace John Culberson in Congress with someone who represents the Houston we all know: a city that welcomes newcomers from around the world, that prides itself on scientific discovery, that serves as a hub for innovation, and that takes care of its neighbors. We need a partner in Washington who will listen to us and who will fight for us.”

A fifth-generation Houstonian, Fletcher is a partner at Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C. (AZA), a Houston-based law firm with a formidable track record. Fletcher has been recognized by attorneys across the country as one of the Best Lawyers in America for commercial litigation and has been included on the 2016 Texas Super Lawyers list and the 2012-2016 Texas Rising Stars lists.

Fletcher said her priorities if elected would be upholding the rule of law by holding President Donald Trump accountable, making government more responsive to the people it serves, and addressing Houston’s critical infrastructure needs, especially transportation.

“John Culberson has not only failed to fight for us – he has actively worked against us, voting time and again to block transportation and infrastructure funding we need,” said Fletcher. “That failure is apparent now more than ever as he prioritizes politics over people by voting 100 percent of the time with President Trump.”

In addition to her work fighting for her clients, Fletcher co-founded Planned Parenthood Young Leaders and currently serves on the boards of Writers in the Schools (WITS) and Open Dance Project, which empower young Houstonians to express themselves. As a volunteer lawyer, she interviewed stakeholders as part of Texas Appleseed’s effort to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.

Fletcher graduated from Kenyon College in 1997, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and from the School of Law at The College of William & Mary in Virginia in 2006, where she was Editor-in-Chief of the William and Mary Law Review.

Fletcher and her husband Scott live in the district where they enjoy taking advantage of all Houston has to offer and spending time with their family and friends.

In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton narrowly carried the 7th district, which includes western parts of central Houston and a portion of western Harris County.

Learn more about Lizzie and her candidacy at www.LizzieFletcher.com

Moser and Fletcher were mentioned in my earlier post about the already-crowded field in CD07. They hadn’t officially announced anything at that time, but now they have and they join a field that includes Jason Westin, Alex Triantaphyllis, Debra Kerner, Joshua Butler, and James Cargas. I’m a little tired just typing that list out.

So that’s seven Democratic candidates for a longtime Republican seat. If you’re thinking that’s a lot of candidates, I’m thinking the same thing. Here are a few more things I’m thinking:

– I have to assume the DCCC’s interest in CD07 is driving not just the size of the field but also the early rush to the starting line. There hasn’t been national focus on CD07 since 2008, and probably not any time in recent memory before then. It’s a rare opportunity, and with Congressional campaigns being expensive, the promise of this kind of help is attractive.

– That said, 2018 ought to be a very different campaign than 2008 was. Michael Skelley was a good candidate who ran a strong race that generally outperformed other Democrats in the district, but he ran a very old school “centrist” campaign that sought out crossover voters. He took a swipe at MoveOn after some ginned-up controversy over a crowdsourced at contest they ran (I don’t remember the details because the whole thing is too stupid to waste brain cells on) that lost him some support among liberals and I doubt gained him much among Republicans. I’d like to think any and all of the candidates in this race would avoid that kind of misstep on the grounds that Democratic voters today will have no patience for that nonsense and any campaign adviser who counseled such an action would be committing malpractice. Still, with seven candidates vying for a spot on the ballot, there will be some effort made to differentiate themselves, and there is room for people to stake out the “moderate” end of the spectrum. We’ll see who ends up where.

– We may scoff an Skelley’s strategy now, but it’s important to remember that in 2008 there were still a lot of Democrats winning in heavily Republican districts, mostly long-term incumbents who were being re-elected perhaps more out of habit by then than anything else. Former US Rep. Chet Edwards was headed for a third win in his DeLay-gerrymandered district, for instance. All of those people got wiped out in 2010, and examples of candidates of either party winning in districts that have a majority from the other party are much rarer these days.

– Another key difference is that 2008 was a Presidential year, so turnout was already going to be maximized. That’s another reason why it made sense for Skelley to hunt for potential ticket-splitters. 2018 is an off year, and as we well know, solving the Democratic turnout problem is the huge pressing question of our time. For a variety of reasons, it seems likely Democratic turnout will be better next year than we have seen in an off-year in a long time, but the first priority for whoever wins this nomination – and all other Dems running against Republican incumbents – will be to get Democratic Presidential year voters out to the polls. There’s literally no crossover strategy that can work without getting sufficient base turnout first. I mean, this is easily a 60-40 seat in 2014 conditions. If we’re not boosting the base level, we don’t have any shot at this. It’s as simple as that.

– Overall, I’m really impressed with the quality of the candidates running, and I’m excited to see so many newcomers and people younger than I am. I don’t envy the Democrats of CD07 the choice they will have to make, in March and again in May for the runoff. I’d like to remind all of the candidates that whatever happens, this doesn’t have to be an end if you are not the one that gets to challenge Culberson. There will be other opportunities in other years. Anyone who runs a positive campaign that energizes people without tearing down their fellow candidates will surely find further opportunities open to them.

Harris County bail order halted

Very late in the day on Friday.

A federal appeals court granted Harris County a last-minute reprieve Friday in a contentious civil rights lawsuit, calling a temporary halt to a judge’s order that would have altered the way cash bail is handled for hundreds of people jailed on misdemeanor charges.

In an order posted after the courthouse closed Friday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the request of the county’s teams of lawyers to stop the order – set to take effect Monday – until the appeals court can further review the matter.

A three-judge panel of the court notes the temporary halt to the order was issued “in light of the lack of time before the district court’s injunction will take effect and in order to allow full consideration of the following motions and any responses thereto.”

First Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard said the ruling will give the court time to fully consider the issues.

“The county attorney is pleased that the 5th Circuit has granted the stay to give us more time to work toward a settlement that is in the interest of all the people of Harris County,” he said late Friday. “They said, ‘Let’s just stop a minute.'”

Neal Manne, who is among the lawyers representing the inmates, said he respects the temporary ruling.

“We have great confidence that Judge Rosenthal’s decision and injunction will eventually be upheld,” he said.

Criminal Court at Law Judge Darrell Jordan – who was the only judge who did not want to appeal the decision – was disappointed with the appeals court decision.

“I don’t know why we’re still fighting this,” he said. “Millions of dollars of Harris County money is going to be wasted.”

As you know, I agree entirely with that sentiment. I had also drafted and prepared a longer post on Friday on the assumption that the Fifth Circuit would not halt Judge Rosenthal’s order. I saw this story before I went to bed and took this post off the schedule for yesterday, swearing under my breath about the late change. In the interest of not throwing away what I had already written, I’ve got that post beneath the fold. This is what I would have run if the Fifth Circuit hadn’t intervened. I have faith that once they do have a hearing they will reverse themselves, but until then we wait.

(more…)

SB4 is what you get when you vote for Greg Abbott

This is me, shaking my head.

Duque, who is Latina and Catholic, represents two constituencies Abbott courted during his campaign. The same constituencies strongly opposed the sanctuary cities ban, which Abbott made an emergency item in January and championed throughout the legislative session.

Now, his crusade may have cost him the support of some Latinos and Catholics, who are promising to oppose Abbott when he runs for re-election next year.

“He says one thing, but does another,” Duque said. “I think this is a moment for the next generation of Latinos to come out and vote and elect someone who will be really honest.”

During Abbott’s State of the State Address in late January, he pointed out a guest in the audience, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Abbott thanked DiNardo for his support on issues, such as abortion, that he fights on partly because of his Catholic faith.

But Abbott hasn’t publicly responded to DiNardo and other Texas bishops who oppose the sanctuary cities ban. The Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement two weeks ago saying its members were “disappointed” in the bill passed by the House and signed by Abbott.

“Immigration law should be enforced in a way that is targeted, proportional and humane,” DiNardo said in that statement. “This bill does not meet the standard.”

On Friday, the Texas bishops joined a chorus of other advocacy groups asking Abbott to veto the bill. Sunday night, as churchgoers were wrapping up their days of worship, Abbott signed the sanctuary cities ban during a Facebook Live video stream. Some Catholics took that as an affront.

“I’m shocked that the Governor chose to sign this anti-Latino, anti-immigrant, ‘Show Me Your Papers’ bill today on a day of worship,” Rep. Cesar Blanco, D-El Paso, said in a statement. “While many Hispanics and immigrants are attending mass, the Governor is signing a bill that will profile these people and tear apart their families.”

Here’s a letter signed by a large number of faith leaders denouncing SB4, which will have no more effect on Abbott than a letter signed by Hollywood celebrities. You’ve heard the term “cafeteria Catholic”, which refers to people who pick and choose which part of the dogma they adhere to? It’s often used derisively to describe pro-choice Catholics, but by any reasonable definition, it fits Greg Abbott to a T. He’s right there on banning abortion and discriminating against the gays, but one matters like immigration, refugees, economic and environmental justice and on and on, he’s no more devout than any Christmas-and-Easter-only churchgoer. Like the people who pray in public, he wants to make sure you know how super-duper pious he is.

And look, it’s not like he’s ever made any secret of his support of “sanctuary cities” legislation. If you thought otherwise, you probably also thought Donald Trump wasn’t going to take away your health insurance. All I can say now is I hope you’ve finally figured it out.

Dowd declines to run for Senate

Not a surprise.

Not Ted Cruz

Matthew Dowd, a political commentator and former strategist for George W. Bush, announced Wednesday that he will not challenge U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in 2018.

Dowd had been considering an independent run against Cruz, who is up for a second term. Dowd said this year that he had been encouraged by prominent members of both parties to take on Cruz.

“I’ve decided the best use of my voice is not putting myself in that position and running for that office in that way,” Dowd said in an interview with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith. “I think the best use of my most authentic voice and where my life is and what I want to do is in a different manner rather than running for office.”

Dowd was still critical of Cruz, saying he has been focused on higher office since being elected Texas’ junior senator in 2012. “Republicans in Iowa feel more represented by Ted Cruz than people in Texas,” Dowd said.

See here for the background. With all due respect to Matthew Dowd, I never took this seriously because it takes a lot of petition signatures to get on the ballot as an independent in Texas. Specifically, you need one percent of the total vote received by all candidates for governor in the most recent gubernatorial general election, which for the 2014 election would mean over 471,000 signatures, in a fairly short period of time from people who didn’t vote in either primary or primary runoff. That takes a lot of resources – money and/or volunteers – and most people can’t do that. Maybe Dowd could have, but that was his barrier to entry. It would have been interesting to have him on the ballot, and it would have made it easier to beat Cruz had he been there, but it would have been a surprise to see him there.

(Note: this was all before the possibility of John Cornyn’s Senate seeat being vacated came up. Special elections are not the same as primaries, as they are non-partisan. I don’t think you need anything more than a filing fee to jump in, which is why the field in 1993 for the seat Kay Bailey Hutchison eventually won was so crowded. As such, Dowd could get into that race if he wanted to without any difficulty. I have no idea if that holds any interest for him, if such a race were to happen, I just wanted to note this for the record.)