EVENT on 4/24/17: Future of Public Ed in the Era of DeVos

amunited

Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Greater Houston Chapter

invites you to our Annual Meeting and Panel Discussion 

The Future of Public Education in
the Era of Betsy DeVos

Featuring:  Richard Carranza, Supt., Houston ISD; Zeph Capo, President of HFT,  Dr. John Ogletree, Pastors for Texas Children

Moderated by Juliet Stipeche
Director of Education, Mayor’s Office, City of Houston
 
Monday, April 24, 2017
Reception and Annual Meeting – 6:30 pm
Panel Discussion – 7:15 pm
 
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston Event Center
3303 Main Street, Houston, Texas 
 
Event is free and open to the public          Free parking available
         RSVP appreciated:  americansunited.houstonchapter@gmail.com

 

 

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TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance really just wanted to celebrate the return of baseball as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff has a bunch of updates about various Texas voting rights-related lawsuits.

SocraticGadfly took note of the centennial of American entry into World War I and noted why, in detail, we never should have gotten involved.

The 59-Tomahawk Tweet Trump sent to Syria isn’t paying off in polling dividends just yet, according to PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value commented on the Republican access for all plan for basketball. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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

The TSTA Blog reminds us that private school vouchers remain a really bad idea.

Better Texas Blog gives us ten things to know about the House budget proposal.

Paradise in Hell has a few choice words for former Baylor basketball coach Dave Bliss.

Raise Your Hand Texas introduces us to Mr. Voucher III: The Frankenvoucher.

Lila Mankad explains why the Legislature should let cities regulate plastic bags if they choose to.

Michael Li has the latest updates in the Texas redistricting litigation.

DC Reviews: The Mavericks ~ Brand New Day

It is indeed a brand new day when The Mavericks release new music. The run-up to the release of Brand New Day included the release a few tunes to appease the fan-base, while ensuring that they didn’t give away the store as to what was to come.

Brand New Day is exactly what fans (old and new) ordered, as The Mavericks created a 10-track production that speaks to different feelings and different situations. Described as genre-bending, the band achieves such distinction on this album, while staying true to the Rockabily-Latin-Country-Americana sound that has solidified them as one of the most popular live acts in the country.

Raul Malo is ever the voice-master on every track, providing a strong voice that can go from tenor to baritone without much effort. Such is evident on the show-starter, Rolling Along, a tune about tough lives being cured by something medicinal. “What’s gonna happen is still gonna happen the one thing that you can count on, don’t fix what ain’t broken while Willie’s still smokin’, we’ll just keep rolling along.” The acordeon, banjo and fiddle make this countrified rancherita one that can easily be sung to around a campfire.

Brand New Day, which has already been getting played on various online services, is quite the love song. Just what is being loved is left up to you. A significant other or a country to which you emigrated or were born in that is in distress (because of some cheeto-lookin’ character, maybe?), the powerful lyrics make it known that whatever it is, it is worth fighting for it. “It’s more than a game I don’t want to lose, there’ll never be another like you.” Powerful.

Following is Easy As It Seems, a rockin’ tune  which has a similar feeling to the title track. With it’s descriptive lyrics, such as, “Take a look around you, it’s easy not to see, building walls between us doesn’t fix a thing, ignorance is blinding, they tell you that it’s bliss, they’ve been saying that for ages so will you answer this:  Do you want to get mean? Do you want to get cruel? Do you think it’s wise to be made the fool?”

What is currently my favorite tune is I Think of You. It has the all the ingredients–amazing musical elements (organ, acordeon, guitar, horns) and Raul Malo’s impeccable vocals. “I see your face lying beside me, and then the trace of  your kiss on my lips always reminds me:  Walks on the blvd, two lovers arm in arm lost in each others’ charms I think of you.” Max Abrams sax-abilities are, as always, noticeable throughout. But as the song heads toward the finish, it is Malo’s uplifting vocal that just brings it home.

Goodnight Waltz brings musical memories of historic waltzes of the past, while offering an uplifting feeling of the kind of love that is to come. The background vocalists sweeten the delivery, along with a beautiful sax solo.

The Latin-tinged rock tune, Damned (If You Do) basically describes life, and even love. “Your heart tells you yes, your mind tells you no, you can’t seem to find, which way you want to go, the moment before you let yourself go, you’ll laugh just to think you’ll do it even though…you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

I Will Be Yours is an Elvis-esque romantic tango with a horn-heavy background that will keep folks swaying. “If you surrender to love so tender, until forever, I will be yours.” Fortunately, it takes a Malo-type to deliver it.  The mariachi-esque trumpets really give the tune the Latinoness it needed to make it quite special. Ride With Me is a bluesy traveling tune that takes you cross-country, while Malo once again proves his chops are unmatched.

The story behind I Wish You Well is one that grabbed me having lost a loved one recently. Written by Malo for his father as he was drifting to his end, the song describes the only thing a son who has done everything for his father can say: “Now you lie before me like a star that fell, oh, I wish you well.” Yes, it’s a tear-jerker, especially if you have, or are about to, lose someone.

The Mavericks picked quite an anthemic end to the album with the country-heavy tune, For The Ages. An ode to long-lasting love, the tune is given some power with some choir-heavy background vocals.

The Mavericks brought out the usual elements to record these tunes live in the Studio, with the help of producer Niko Bolas. They added other instruments to sweeten the music and even give it that extra power to keep the listener wanting more. What is even more evident is the freedom to be creative which comes with releasing an album on their own Mono Mundo Recordings. Although their comeback albums also had that feeling, Brand New Day seems more relaxed and has a fun-filled groove to it.

The Mavericks are:  Raul Malo, Paul Deakin, Jerry Dale McFadden, and Eddie Perez, along with the Fantastic Four, which include acordeonista Michael Guerra, and saxmaster Max Abrams.

Add it to your collection and do attend one or two of their shows. I’ll be in New Braunfels for the April 29 show (which includes Los Lonely Boys and The Last Bandoleros), and The Mavericks will be in Houston in early June at HOB Houston.

 

 

 

La Fiebre Rocks Proof Rooftop

Proof Rooftop Bar and Blackhorse Limo offered up some free live music last night with Pasadena’s own, La Fiebre.

Well known and loved by fans since their heyday 90s, the band has not lost its touch. Musically styled after the rock bands we all grew up with, the style pushes through on their biggest Tejano hits through guitar riffs and tough bass lines coupled with horn and accordion playing that can blow one away.

Should I even provide a song list? Solo Un Sueno, Eres Mi Primer Amor, Labios de Cereza, Siempre, Si Manana Viene O No, El Amor Se Acaba, the list went on. But the crowd response to Borracho de Besos was something special. Equally awesome was their recent hit, Ni El TIempo Podra.

Proof was the perfect location for a mellow crowd who loves Tejano music.  And I would suggest to Proof that they start a Tejano music series. Some of us enjoy coming out to Midtown only to find out that it’s not “$9 beer night.”

Opening band, Grupo Vital, provided an excellent set of covers. Their set-ending rendition of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ was something we all needed since we were all singing along.

La Fiebre is:

Vocals– J. Angel Cantu / Accordian & Keyboards– Julian Gonzalez / Trumpet & Sax– Jonas Flores / Drums & Percussion– Gene Luna / Bass Guitar–Joe Reynosa / Trumpet, Sax & Keyboard– Luis Ayala / Lead Guitar & Backing Vocals–Rudy Rocha.

 

 

 

Texas: Stop SB4!

While some people talk old tax returns, here’s a little something Texas liberals can do to stop hate in their own state.

stopsb4

I’ve been told this is futile. Of course, I’m told by people who think CheetoDude is actually going to get impeached. Anyway, do something, people!

DC Reviews: Joe Posada ~ Zapatos En La Mano

joeposadaJoe Posada, San Antonio’s Jazz and Tejano saxmaster, returns with a full-length production, Zapatos En La Mano, under his own Baby Dude Records. Posada continues to showcase his songwriting skills in this 10-tune album recorded at V-Music with production and arrangements by Grammy winning Gilbert Velasquez.

Posada assembled some of the Alamo city’s best session musicians, including Chente Barrera-Drums; Henry Brun-Percussion; Juanito Castillo-Squeezebox; Chris Guerrero-Keys; Eddy Perez-Bajo Sexto and Bass; Andrew Bergman-Upright Bass; and Gilbert Velasquez-Guitars. Joe Posada, Jr. backs him up on Cafecito De Tus Ojos.

The lead-off single, Tres Opciones, is quite the tune with Posada’s sax and Castillo’s accordion playing off of each other. Joe effectively uses his vocal range to deliver this ranchera. Que Cosas Hizo Dios is a follow-up ranchera which delivers its message with some powerful phrases, like, “que chulada de mujer.” I must admit, I’ve been using that kind of lingo, lately. Odiame is a standard Joe Posada ranchera–sax-heavy and very danceable–with a message to a well-replaced ex.

Posada and Velasquez seem to enjoy chord progressions throughout the album, but they are really noticeable on Palabra De Hombre, a romantic ballad given extra power with some sax and guitar solos and fills. Daring to be different, Hermosura De Mujer gives listeners a bit of bossa nova which, along with Posada’s flute, proves his versatility. Posada throws in a sexy sax instrumental, Nunca Digas Nunca–great when in need of a romantic background.

Posada dares to be different, as always, and it is very noticeable with Zapatos En La Mano‘s jazzy opening toward a solid ranchera Tejana. The tune’s lyrics are written with a little barrio lingo, while proclaiming his rightful place with the subject, despite her late-night antics. Valga La Pena is bolstered by Velasquez’s guitar throughout the song, while the powerful lyrics tell it like it is:  “Si voy a perder el orgullo sera por alguien que valga la pena.” Cafecito De Tus Ojos can easily become ones favorite tune, with its boot-stomping melody, fun lyrics sung by Joe and Joe, Jr., and its bajo sexto and accordion combos.

One of my favorite tunes on the album is El Secreto, a sweet accordion-heavy bolero, with its beautiful lyrics, “Con todo mi respeto, le cuento mi secreto, que por toda eternidad, yo la voy a amar.”

Zapatos En La Mano offers up a much needed Tejano music fix that needs to become part of the daily playlist. Posada offers up some cool tunes that will have you singing in the car and humming them at inopportune times. That’s when you know it’s good music.

I was lucky to catch Joe Posada’s Trio at the River Walk’s 507 Lounge and they’re there every weekend. But I’d sure like to catch the full band playing a couple of hard-core Tejano sets, particularly some of these new tunes. Joe Posada is one of the most respected saxophonists in the music industry and the fact that he continues to grace us with some amazing Tejano music shows his commitment to keeping La Onda strong and relevant.

One may purchase Zapatos En La Mano at JoePosada.com.

 

Sheriff Gonzalez Ends 287(g)

trumpfamilycrossing950As the Trump regime continues its onslaught against Mexicans and other Latinos, immigrant and citizen, with a steroid-laden immigrant hunting plan, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office under Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has ended its 287(g) agreement with ICE, citing a burden on resources and the need to place resources out in the field.

The withdrawal of the sheriff’s deputies will still allow ICE officials to come to the jail and screen jail inmates to determine their immigration status and the county will hold them for deportation if requested, Gonzalez said.

The sheriff said serious overcrowding in the county jail complex, where staff shortages have hiked overtime costs to $1 million every two weeks, has forced him to deploy his ICE-trained deputies elsewhere. He said his decision was not political “but an issue of resources,” explaining the deputies may also be assigned to help improve clearance rates of major crimes or ad to the patrol division.

“After thoughtful consideration, I’ve decided to opt out of the voluntary 287(g) program,” said Gonzalez, who sent ICE officials notification of his decision Tuesday. “We’ll still be cooperating with local, state and federal authorities as we always have, we just won’t have our manpower resources inside the jail doing that.”

The thing about local jails is that they’ve usually had the ability to report immigration detainers  that pop up on the national database so that ICE can pick up folks at their own discretion and with their own use of resources (other than local jailers). 287(g), which was always a voluntary program, used local resources to exclusively work on increasing deportation numbers in quicker fashion, including low-grade offenders who were not targets for deportation.

Of course, this was evident during the Obama era which broke deportation records, and counties like Harris and Arizona’s Maricopa were among the leaders in helping increase deportation numbers, while Congress did nothing to fix a broken immigration system. It wasted resources and was purely a political tool for whomever was in office at any level. Let’s face it, it became part of Obama’s push for “comprehensive immigration reform” as a possible dealmaker to offer Republicans. It didn’t work, obviously. Because it was in place, it also caused stress for good elected officials who wanted to rid their agencies of the flawed program, but had to deal with threats from right-wing elected officials.

For Sheriff Gonzalez, who also recently provided a statement against Senate Bill 4, the so-called anti-sanctuary city bill currently in the Texas House, he will have to deal with the ire of right-wingers like Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and some of the members of the Harris County Commissioner’s Court. Gonzalez, though, has the right idea. His decision is all about resources and public safety, while the Republican and Trump plans are all about fear and hate. And that should be the narrative of this debate.

This decision has been a long time in coming. This blogger had quite a few debates with the previous Democratic Sheriff Adrian Garcia about 287(g). And his Republican replacement was pretty much useless on the issue. Unfortunately, the Trump regime is hell-bent on hunting Mexicans and others. And even a lack of 287(g) will still leave an open door for Trump and his immigrant hunters at local jails. Add SB4, if Texas House Speaker Straus allows it to move forward, and local law enforcement could still be a part of the terror.

What people must understand is that we are in a whole different era. The same “bipartisan” rules no longer apply. Given Trump’s attitude, not even civil discussion. The right-wing, anti-immigrant members of Congress and state elected officials we dealt with in the past now have a leader to do everything they’ve ever wanted. And Republicans (and Democrats) who simply sit back and say nothing are just as bad, or worse, than those we’re dealing with today. Hate is hate. It cannot be defended.

The political implications are enormous, though. And 2018 is right around the corner. Republicans are useless, but Democrats still could rebuild into something with a spine, especially on immigration, detention, and deportation issues. It’s the one issue that they’ve felt useful for campaigns, as if they were actually going to attract bigoted votes in gubernatorial elections (2014). Instead, it demoralizes voters–base voters. Even voters like me, lifelong Dems, who have felt a need to skip around candidates during the last decade because they’ll say something stupid on immigration, or on child refugees from Central America, feel disconnected with the Democrats. Something’s gotta give.

For now, though, things seem ominous, even with a victory like ridding Harris County of 287(g) (Kudos to United We Dream-Houston). Trump’s new immigrant hunting plan expands the targets to include many more undocumented immigrants than the Obama era. Whether Trump sends out deportation forces or not, the fear is unsettling and certainly destabilizes communities and local economies. The Republican intent has never been about public safety, but about hate.

It’s time for ALL to fight back, and for the fight not to be left only to the immigrants under attack. Stand for all!

 

 

 

Democratic Reaction to Passing of SB4

trumpfamilycrossing950

These Lawbreakers First!

The Texas Senate passed the committee substitute to Senate Bill 4 on Tuesday night. The bill would stop funding state and local government entities who do not federalize themselves for immigrant hunting duties. As reported by Nacho Aguilar at the Texas Trib:

Senate Bill 4, filed by state Sen. Charles Perry, would punish local and state government entities and college campuses that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials or enforce immigration laws. Wednesday’s vote was 20-10 along party lines, with state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, absent. Rodriguez was present a day earlier, when the Senate tentatively approved it on a 20-11 vote.

The bill would also punish local governments if their law enforcement agencies fail to honor requests, known as detainers, from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to hand over immigrants in custody for possible deportation. Entities in violation would be stripped of state grant funding and also be subject to civil fines. Department heads could also be subject to criminal prosecution if they violate the provisions of the bill. The bill doesn’t apply to victims of or witnesses to crimes, public schools or hospital districts.

Perry added some steroids to the bill.

Perry amended his bill Tuesday to add tough civil and criminal penalties for entities that don’t comply with the bill’s provisions. One amendment would make a department head whose agency violates the provisions of SB 4 subject to criminal prosecution in the form of a class A misdemeanor. Another added a provision that would subject the local agency to civil penalties, including a fine at least $1,000 for the first offense and $25,000 for each subsequent violation.

The bill now goes to the Texas House for consideration, amendments, etc. Hopefully, House Speaker Joe Straus doesn’t decide to waste state resources, including those to defend from legal challenges. One can hope, right?

Senate Democrats responded:

 

State Senator Jose Rodriguez of El Paso: “It is clear to me that this is not about public safety. It is about sending a message that immigrants, whether they are legal permanent residents waiting for citizenship, undocumented migrants seeking to join their families, or refugees looking for a chance at a better life, are not welcome.”

State Senator Borris Miles of Houston: “As a former police officer, I know that relationships with communities and police are essential to ensure public safety. I was proud to stand against this measure and vote no. Now, the bill will go to the Texas House of Representatives and I encourage my colleagues there to carefully consider the impact this bill would have on our communities and Texas.”

State Senator Kirk Watson of Austin:  “I love our state. But Texas has a sad, sinful, stained legacy of mistreating people who don’t look like me. This bill and this vote write another ugly chapter in that history.”

 

 

I Guess That’s Why They Call It Marketing

84-lumber-1-e1486347383327Ever since January 20, or maybe November 8, Americans have been trying to find meaning or hope in just about anything. And the Super Bowl was definitely in play.

The anti-Trumpistas were rooting for Atlanta. Hope was sought out from Coca-Cola, AirBNB, and even Audi regarding various issues. Hell, Gaga blew the roof off (or at least opened the roof ) of NRG Stadium. Then there was Journey84, the 5 minute 45 second ad by 84Lumber.

The shorter TV edition was poignant, showing a mother and daughter on a journey to the United States to seek something. For sure, they were escaping something, too. Soon after, there was internet chisme about Fox Sports not allowing parts of the ad or more of the ad. Some thought of the business ramifications of a corporation using this kind of ad on a hot topic. Then one finds the entire ad on YouTube (if the Journey84 site wasn’t working) and then you get a clearer picture.

No doubt, with Trump’s policies, emotions are high, especially on the pro-migrant side. People are marching and protesting policies. So, as the long-ad runs, one is really getting into it. Then as the journey continues, the mother and daughter run into Trump’s wall. A little bit more and there are two beautiful wood doors (wood available at 84Lumber, for sure). For me, it brought a quick memory of the Trump narrative.

But as a consolation, which we suppose counts as a new policy proposal, Trump said he would build a “big beautiful door” in the wall to let in legal immigrants.

No surprise, 84Lumber was attacked by Republicans and white supremacists for letting the door open to migrants. Brown-colored migrants. The 84Lumber’s PR machine began to work. And it sounded like the tried-and-true right-wing narrative where they take a solid opposition to “illegal” immigration and support “legal” immigration, without much of plan of action to fix the “legal” immigration system. And they certainly aren’t for cartels!

See a mother & daughter’s symbolic journey toward becoming legal American citizens.

So, apparently, the beautiful doors stand for US Citizenship and Immigration Services? (You know, where the “back of the line” everyone talks about is?)

The ad campaign would have been more sincere if it had exhibited what the “legal” immigration system looks like today. Decades long backlogs and slow processing times and increased fees in large part are what make the “back of the line” Republican narrative a lie. And with Trump’s policies of walls and deportations, I don’t think the Trump-supportive CEO of 84Lumber really cares about anything regarding migrants. It’s all about their bottom line and their recruitment policies.

But, wow, was that a good ad, right?

There’s a reason corporations spend $5 million for 30 seconds of airtime on Super Bowl Sunday, and it’s not to change bad public policies. If that were the intent, they’d give the money to ACLU, Planned Parenthood, MALDEF, etc. It’s about a return on their investment and nothing else. And if they do it by capturing your heart and mind, and you’re OK with no change in public policy for the better, well, they got you.

Of course, I’m not sure playing both sides of the issue is smart business. It could be that they just wasted $5 million.

 

 

Inbox: Super Bowl Sunday #HoustonResists Rally

houstonresistance_flyer

Just got this in the inbox and I consider it a must attend event.

Alliance in Action will host a rally and march on Super Bowl Sunday (February 5, 2017) at noon in Hermann Park (corner of Fannin & Cambridge).

Rally will start with speakers at the Dillidiiae art instillation and then a peaceful march to NRG Park – location of the Super Bowl – along sidewalks and public right of ways around 1:00 pm.

As of February 4th, our rally speakers are:

  • US Rep. Al Green (TX-9)
  • Lane Lewis, Harris County Democratic Party Chair
  • Amy Zachmeyer, Democratic Socialists of America – Houston Committee
  • Ashton Woods- Black Lives Matter
  • Luis Lopez, DREAMer
  • Hannah Phalenberg, NARAL Pro Choice Texas
  • Rev. James Caldwell
  • James Cargas, Frm TX-7 Congressional Candidate
  • TBD, ACLU of Texas

Further updates will be posted to the Facebook event page.

Definitely a rally in which multiple issues will be addressed.