Things To Do on Thanksgiving

Stay home!

Seriously, we should all stay home with those that reside within our household and be thankful that we’re still here. Call (or Zoom) those relatives you aren’t able to visit. Be safe.

According to Ready Harris, we’re still at Level 1 – Stay Home.

Level one signifies a severe and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 in Harris County, meaning outbreaks are present and worsening and that testing and contact tracing capacity is strained or exceeded. At this level, residents take action to minimize contacts with others wherever possible and avoid leaving home except for the most essential needs like going to the grocery store for food and medicine.  

Ready Harris

Take it seriously, please.

If you’re in need of a good pie recipe, check out the Karo Corn Syrup recipe. It’s so easy, it’ll mix in 5 minutes. Add a simple 9 inch pie crust from the store and you’re on your way to scarfing down your food plate just to get to dessert. (I add a splash of Maker’s Mark Whiskey to ther recipe just to make things interesting.)

I’m off to make the green bean casserole, cornbread dressing, and a pie. Happy Thanksgiving!

UPDATE on PECAN PIE:

Performing Artists Take Multiple Hits During COVID-19

Los Texmaniacs at Heights Theater, Christmas 2019

Writing and reading about Grammy-winning performer Max Baca’s fight with COVID-19 had me thinking about the multiple hits (health and financial) artists and performers are taking during the pandemic. An article in the San Antonio Report about Baca and other musician’s struggles really hit me with this reality.

During the pandemic, Baca took care in keeping himself safe–virtual concerts on Wednesdays to make a few bucks via Paypal donations, and mostly living off of his savings. Eight months later, with savings depleted, Baca hit the road again to pay the bills and ventured into danger.

Trump’s promises that the pandemic was a temporary thing that would disappear were outright lies that fed into a disinformation campaign to keep people confused and acting stupidly; but, the reality is that it is long-term, cutting into most performer’s ability to make money and pay their bills. And that included Baca’s band Los Texmaniacs.

After whittling down his life savings trying to stay afloat while the coronavirus pandemic brought his live performances to a grinding halt, Baca knew he needed to look outside of his hometown of San Antonio for gigs to pay the bills.

That desperation took the guitarist and vocalist to Lafayette, Louisiana, where he found a few paying gigs playing with a stripped-down version of his Grammy Award-winning band Los Texmaniacs.

“I still gotta pay my mortgage because there’s no such thing as a deferred payment” from his lender, Baca said, noting that all his bills were urgently coming due.

It was a decision that has now put his career in jeopardy.

San Antonio Report, 11/22/2020

Baca contracted COVID-19 and has spent almost a couple of weeks in ICU recovering.

Another reality is that federal CARES funds that helped many small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic were quite complicated for musicians and performers to apply for and receive. The competition was fierce for the funds, not to mention that they were limited. And Baca, unfortunately, did not receive any funding. Now, he’s fighting COVID-19, on top of no performances, no health insurance, and the extra $600 in unemployment payments about to end.

For many performers, the gigs are their livelihood, and we have seen a recent uptick in live performances at clubs and event centers around the state. And all of this during the current COVID-19 surge. Are these the next super-spreader events that we are not hearing about in the news?

Because that is the reality: Crowded performances mean more infections if CDC protocols are not followed. And it seems the maskless and easily offended by the CDC always win in Texas, thanks to Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick. Still, venues and performers have a responsibility to enforce CDC protocols, including testing before performances–even requiring it for attendees of these indoor events. There is very little (or none) of this happening.

Houston recently announced a program dedicated to helping musicians and music venues get through the pandemic. Musicians are eligible for up to $5000, while venues are eligible for $50,000 to $100,000 depending on budget size. Unfortunately, we’re only talking about $3,000,000. But it’s something.

Some bands have built a good infrastructure to continue despite COVID-19. Unfortunately, many of them did not have the ability (or maybe confidence) to create a strong virtual presence. Bands like The Mavericks have taken to pay-per-view concerts based on a loyal fan base willing to pay the virtual door fee. Intocable were one popular band that were able to do a mini-tour of outdoor parking lot concerts in various parts of the state to some success.

And there are others in the Tejano industry who have done Facebook Live gigs asking for donations. Unfortunately, virtual gigs don’t give a band the feel of a live show with an energetic crowd. Still, it’s an opportunity that some of these Tejano bands have not fully utilized and that fans have not fully appreciated (through good donations).

There doesn’t seem to be much of a solution and as long as COVID-19 surges, there will be an eventual shutdown–or more limits on attendance. It is easy to tell these bands and venues that they have a responsibility to keep people from attending super-spreader events, but somewhere along the way, musicians were left to fend for themselves with little to no help. Thus, some are back on the road with no CDC compliance and a fan base that feels invincible to the disease (until they find out they aren’t). It’s a vicious circle.

While the HEROES Act passed by the Democratic US House sits in limbo because of a vindictive Republican US Senate and President, at the very least the $600 of extra unemployment benefits must be extended beyond Christmas. A better solution would be for Republicans and Trump to get off their asses and pass/sign a HEROES Act that takes care of gig-to-gig performers and artists whose talents have always been taken for granted.

Wear a mask. Wash hands. Stay home. And if you must work or be out and about, wear a mask, wash hands, and physically distance yourself from people outside of your home circle.

UPDATE: Los Texmaniacs report that Max Baca is now recovering at home. This is great news!

DC Wishes Max Baca of Los Texmaniacs a Speedy Recovery

Max, Me, Josh

After Los Texmaniacs reported that their leader Max Baca had contracted COVID-19, I was really worried. Sure, he’s a Grammy winner and an accomplished bajo sexto player, but he’s also a really nice guy and always willing to have a conversation about his craft so people like me can write about it for posterity. Thankfully, good people like Hector Saldana at the Witliff Center at Texas State University kept us posted on his own FB feed after actually speaking to Max.

Last night, there was a bit of relief when Texas Public Radio posted an interview transcript which described what Baca has gone through over the last couple of weeks. Yes, it was pretty scary.

At this writing, Baca’s been in the ICU for a grueling 10 days. He says when he was admitted, his blood oxygen level was critically low. Healthy lungs keep blood at about 95%.

Max Baca: “I got here and my oxygen level was 70%. And so now due to the breathing exercises that they have me do and then they have the therapy and treatments have been able to breath 95, maybe 97 on my own.”

As a measure of how sick he got, he spent several days on a ventilator.

Max Baca: “I was on for a little bit, for three days. But thank God (now) I’m able to talk and I’m able to breathe. And you know, thank God for the medical facilities and all the doctors and nurses and everybody has some blood transfusions, things that other patients have made it (through COVID-19), was able to help me out with that a little bit.”

“And also, you know, it’s kind of sad here in the E.R. You just hear people coughing and coughing all around you. And then all of a sudden they stop coughing and then they roll them out on the bed with a blanket over the face because they didn’t make it.”

Texas Public Radio, Nov 20, 2020

¡Hijole, que susto!

Here’s hoping the worst is over and that Max heads home soon to fully recover and rest after this ordeal.

This is just a reminder that COVID-19 is real. I’ve seen a lot of musician friends head back on the road for shows, since the work provides for their families. Some practice safety protocols, others not so much. The crowds at these shows don’t seem to care much about masks, though. As much as I love live music, I’m fine watching a livestream from home and I’m even happier to give a donation through their paypals, venmos, etc.

Whether you’re a musician or a fan: Wear a multi-ply mask! Wash hands! Stay home! And if you really need to be out and about (or working) practice safety protocols to take away any opportunity to get infected.

UPDATE 11/23/2020 – Los Texmaniacs report that Max Baca is now recovering at home. Great news!

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance has submitted its claim for Dan Patrick’s million dollars as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff has an early look at some election data.

SocraticGadfly talks forthrightly about how COVID made Biden president and probably not much else.

DosCentavos reminds Dems that the election is over and that continued fighting with the “radical left” only damages the 2020 Biden coalition kept together by dollar store scotch tape.

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

Bill Kelly recalls a time when Republicans respected the will of the voters.

Sri Kulkarni analyzes his defeat in CD22.

Rick Casey finds reason for optimism.

Texas Monthly introduces us to Rice University’s COVID Community Court.

Paradise in Hell interprets the Trump defense fund grift.

Juanita sensed a disturbance in the Force.

Dr. Varon: Next Six Weeks Will Be A Dark Period

Dr. Joseph Varon of the United Memorial Medical Center, who has done a lot of good work hunting and fighting COVID-19 in underinsured and ethnic communities of Houston, stated in a recent interview with TVV in Miami that the next six weeks may be a dark period in Texas’ big cities.

Citing what is called “covid fatigue,” Varon states that people are letting down their guard as they tire of hearing about the disease, which is the reason for the uptick in infections. Varon points out that while people ignore the disease in order to have their fun, the disease is not ignoring the people.

Varon also states that if the people do not change their ways of visiting restaurants, going to concerts and gatherings, etc., it is expected that by February, 2021, there will be over 500,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States. Over 20,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Texas, thus far.

The doctor states that a big challenge in fighting COVID-19 is the information and disinformation that people get from various sources, which has led to confusion. I’ll add that certainly the outgoing occupant of the White House has made the fight more difficult. Varon adds that Texans seem to think that they are above COVID-19 and any restrictions and shut-downs because, well, we’re Texas and we prefer freedom over safety and wellness. He’s not wrong about some of these freedom-promoting idiots, which unfortunately include Texas’ governor and lt. governor.

Anyway, we must listen to the experts, like Dr. Varon, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Hotez, and the CDC. We must continue to mask-up, stay away from large gatherings, wash hands, and stay put!

IN OTHER NEWS…

Since, I’m a huge Tejano music fan, I follow a lot of the bands and happenings in the genre. Recently, I’ve noticed more concerts occurring around the state. I’ve also noticed some legendary musicians and performers announcing they’ve contracted COVID-19 while exposing other musicians. Who knows what’s happening within the crowds as there is no physical distancing and very few masks in the photos I’ve seen. The concerts need to stop. I know the livelihood of performers has been threatened and affected, but thumbing one’s nose at reality is not a long-term solution.

Los Blogs de Tejas: TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance congratulates President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff had some initial thoughts and observations about the election.

SocraticGadfly takes his first look at what the St. Louis Cardinals might do and probably will do this offseason.

DosCentavos gives us his take on the Texas Latino vote and how Dems missed an important issue in South Texas.

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

Sara Cress sums up her experience running the super popular Harris County Clerk Twitter feed.

Ed Espinoza presents his notes on the election.

Elise Hu recaps her Election Night.

Therese Odell leaned into the Veep comparisons while things were still up in the air.

Grits for Breakfast evaluates the state of criminal justice reform after the election.

Traces of Texas has an amazing photo of the Astrodome.

And A NYC Latina Shall Piss Them Off…Again!

Well, you have to hand it to the Democratic Party. They’ll hand-pick their candidates, helicopter in operatives who have no understanding of the areas in which they campaign, spend millions of dollars on a mediocre message and advertising (and media consultants), lose, and then blame Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez for losing.

The insult-fest I’ve seen on social media from people who think of themselves as “progressive” toward AOC is no different than the original one from 2018 when she first won and gained more media attention because of her positions than the same old boring Dems to which we’ve grown accustomed to losing. It’s pretty annoying, actually.

If the Party’s fave hand-picked Democrats went down in flames, the Party needs to look inward to find blame and not toward representatives who have shot some energy into the Party nationally. Senator Bernie Sanders reminded us of some progressive efforts that were quite victorious across the country.

Does all of this progressivism count as a national wave? Of course not. But AOC or Bernie do not deserve the blame for those who lost if progressive change is coming to other parts of the country. These individual issues, though, had support–even bipartisan support. Ultimately, if candidates lost, it was probably their individual messaging and weak positions that didn’t catch on. Or, maybe it was that some of these districts liked a balance between sanity and insanity and they split their votes.

Kuff pointed out how Joe Biden carried districts in Harris County that Democratic candidates lost. No doubt, this will be something that will be studied–especially as redistricting happens during 2021 for the 2022 election. But seeking the easiest target for blame gets us nowhere as a Party.

For now, keep celebrating that a flailing coalition that was kept together with scotch tape still got a win. Commit to pushing for progressive change in the first 100 days of the Biden Administration. And stop trying to save the Republican Party by trying to become Republican Lite, again.

In other words, keep building and buy stickier tape for the coalition.

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance urges you to vote if you haven’t already as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff summarized the record breaking early voting in Harris County.

SocraticGadfly provided some updates on coronavirus-related boycotts and semi-boycotts of stores.

DosCentavos posts Dr. Varon’s answer as to why COVID numbers are increasing: Stupidity.

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

Therese Odell fortifies herself in advance of Election Day.

Steve Salyer had his faith in humanity restored by working at a drive-through voting location.

John Coby calls out the Harris County GOP for hosting a super-spreader event.

Paradise in Hell does a little time traveling.

Lew Moorman worries about the cost side of inequality.

Peter Holley meets a few of the people who voted after midnight in Harris County.

Dems and TX Latinos in 2020

Here are my thoughts, mostly based on general chisme gathered from actually speaking to South Texans the last few days. I say it this way because too many experts are either freaking out or pushing things aside. But it’s a conversation that must be had, and not 8 days before the next election.

I was hoping Kuff would have some numbers on what occurred in Latino counties in Texas and Harris County, and he came through. Much like many folks looking at numbers, Kuff doesn’t know what happened with this contraction of Latino Democratic support. Or, in other words, why so many South Texas Mexicans went for El Cheeto.

Like I said, I have no solutions to offer. Plenty of smart people have plenty of ideas, and quite a few of them were raising issues before the election. Might be a good idea to listen to them. All I’m saying is that whatever happened here, it wasn’t what we wanted. If we want to avoid a repeat, we better get to work.

Elsewhere, the Dem experts will now say that, given Miami-Dade County’s result, “Latinos are not a monolith.” Well, duh!

All one has to look at are socioeconomic numbers by individual groups, geography, among other demographics to know that there can’t be one message for Latinos, but it must be one that is as coherent as possible. Every Latino group has its own set of issues, no different than suburban and rural whites. The problem is that consultants will hone in on one particular group in their quest to win a state (Florida) with a message that isn’t believable for whatever reason, while ignoring the other groups in other parts of the country who then become an easy target for disinformation.

In my opinion, Democrats wasted a lot of resources on Florida’s non-Mexican Latinos, trying to convince them that Democrats are not socialist supporters of long-dead Latin American presidents. (The DNC ran radio ads saying as much in 2016, too, and I predicted this would occur again with a Biden candidacy supported by neoliberals and war-mongering republicans.) It wasn’t effective in 2016, either.

Meanwhile, other Latino areas of the country were simply taken for granted, particularly those voters who don’t often vote and may have formed opinions based on disinformation because they haven’t been engaged effectively by Democrats. Latino outreach by community groups may be the difference in Arizona and Georgia and could serve as an example of a possible solution. The work that JOLT and TOP did in Texas made a difference, but it is work that needs more investment to reach more people in Texas.

As JOLT’s Antonio Arellano mentions in the Tweets mentioned by Kuff, 500,000 more Latinos in Texas voted for the first time. Perhaps a good survey of these folks would give us some much needed information for the future.

Taking a look at South Texas Mexicans, we saw a move toward Trump and republicans that many did not expect. The Republican “fracking” attack against Biden (along with the usual republican culture war) worked and it cost Dems an opportunity to win back Congressional District 23 and almost lost State Senate District 19. Campos agrees. Another case of Trump disinformation finding an audience. The argument that Trump was a disaster on COVID-19 was not going to be enough.

Fracking companies (and the local businesses that benefit from fracking) are a big employer (and sponsor of cultural events) in South and West Texas. These workers didn’t care about the effects of fracking on the environment or any coming of green jobs in the future. They cared about their jobs now and were duped into believing that Biden would be the cause of their financial demise.

Fracking and oil and gas drilling has been suffering for a while in South Texas, and local businesses have been hit already with the original contraction, and that had more to do with market conditions than anything else. But for money-grubbing drilling companies, it’s easier to blame the Dems than go into a discussion of their own bad business practices or of how the market works.

On top of this, Trump offered the bigots amongst us the freedom to blame and show their hate toward immigrants, Black Lives Matter, the poor, gays, women, etc. In other words, the freedom to use their screwed up versions of Christianity and their weird fantasy of rugged individualism as a weapon toward others. Trump is no different than the asshole bullies some of us had to deal with growing up. Perhaps this was the “sleeping giant:” Bullies who finally had their say in a world that was too kind to those they have bullied. Just a thought. The culture wars are alive and well in all demographics–just look at the 55% of white people who voted for Trump.

Something to point out is that these South Texas Mexican Trump supporters aren’t as wealthy or even as middle class as the middle to upper-class Latin Americans (Cuban, Venezuelan) in Miami-Dade who continually build wealth and political power and spread it among their own. I grew up with some of these South Texas types and their parents were migrant farm workers and worked at the local cannery, just like mine. Since it was seasonal work, their parents were at the food stamp and government cheese line, just like mine. Some just want to forget from where they came.

Many in this younger generation took jobs in the oil field and in all the businesses that benefit from it. With the oil business doing its own contraction even with Republicans in power, the benefits of NAFTA no longer helping businesses thrive, and even agri-jobs going by the wayside because of cheaper migrant labor, there is a big swath of people whose livelihoods are often threatened and always searching for someone to blame. COVID-19 didn’t help. But, no one is bothering to talk to them or promising something better. You get a loud-mouth playing the blame-game on TV, it’s obvious that people respond to it all over the country. “Divide and Conquer” is still an effective republican messaging tool.

Anecdotally, a South Texas friend mentioned that some of these drilling-related businesses were helping Trump along by threatening jobs if they didn’t show support for Trump. It wouldn’t surprise me, if true. Farmers and the businesses that benefited from them would force Mexican American employees to vote their way in the days before the Chicano civil rights movement. This crap still happens and it is a lot easier in South Texas.

Another anecdote: A friend sent me a pic of a family I know with a Trump flag waving from their trailer house porch (like the one in the meme) and I remember them being poorer than dirt, on the free lunch program at school when we were younger, but now, they’re republicans. And, then, I remember the days before, during, and after the civil rights movement also had their own rendition of sell-outs and wannabes who didn’t care for anyone but themselves. It happens in all demographics.

Still, Biden was winning many South Texas counties, as Kuff’s data shows, but not at the usually strong rate to which Dems are accustomed and rely on without much effort. In my own area of birth, Biden was averaging in the 60s. Down toward the Rio Grande Valley, it was in the 50s. Zapata County, on the border where some fight Trump’s border wall and the median income is $26K, went 53% for Trump. Some say it was a blip and it won’t happen again, but, I’m not so sure.

Kuff mentioned how base Democratic districts didn’t turnout as well as suburban districts in Harris County. No doubt, work and money has been poured into those formerly bright red districts that went ignored when I first arrived to Houston 20 years ago. Perhaps that’s a solution for the base Dem districts and South Texas?

Still, in places like Harris County, local election numbers guy Hector de Leon reminds us that 66% of Latino voters in Harris County do not reside in traditionally Latino areas. So, the work of effectively targeting Latinos needs to happen everywhere. But the messaging needs to match the needs of specific areas. Too much work? Too expensive? I’ll remember that next time Democrats fund ineffective non-Latino candidates in 60-40 GOP districts.

Anyway, we are still waiting for Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and North Carolina–states with their own Latino organizing efforts who are definitely a part of the final outcome.

Countywide Dems Sweep Harris County and Other Big Wins

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Obviously, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania early/mail votes still need to be counted in the Presidential race, so, we should get news about that soon enough. But Harris County Democrats had some big wins last night.

  • Ann Johnson defeated incumbent Sarah Davis to become the next State Representative, District 134. I took issue with Planned Parenthood’s support of Davis, who supported Republican anti-immigrant policies. I’m pretty sure Ann Johnson will represent on all issues. Hopefully, so will Planned Parenthood in the future.
  • Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher is re-elected! I’m glad my sis in Cypress has good and responsive representation for another couple of years. No doubt, Fletcher needed to overcome a lot of attacks from a mediocre, yet well-funded, candidate.
  • Israel Garcia declared victory over the incumbent Justice of the Peace, Pct 5-1 and the numbers show he was headed toward victory. Congrats to Israel. He ran an impressive primary campaign and worked to win this race. He will serve us well.
  • A Democratic Court. Democrats swept all countywide judicial seats with anywhere from 52 to 55% of the vote. Among my fave winners were Judges Julia Maldonado and Michael Gomez, along with new Judge-elect Natalia Cornelio who posted among the stronger numbers.
  • Sheriff Ed Gonzalez will return for another term after earning around 57% of the vote. In other words, Harris County really likes him as he was the top vote-getter at last look.
  • Ann Harris Bennett returns for another term as Tax Assessor-Collector. She’s done a great job in the post and customer service at TA-C locations has greatly improved. I wasn’t happy about voter registration duties being taken away from her office as her commitment was quite obvious, but I know she’ll still serve Harris County well.

There were other victories among the Dems. including Teneshia Hudspeth for County Clerk and Christian Menefee for County Attorney. They will serve us well. Check out the scores.

There were also some heartbreaking losses, including incumbent State Rep. Gina Callani in HD132, as well as Akilah Bacy in HD138 and Natali Hurtado in HD126. All ran great campaigns with great ads, but Republicans were able to use scare tactics and bigoted ads to keep those seats red.

That’s all I have for now. There is much to talk about regarding Texas, especially the ground that Dems lost in South Texas. As I posted on FB last night, if one wants to run statewide, they better start helping rebuild the Dem base in South Texas starting today. But that’s for the next blog post.