Category Archives: Cultura

The Voting Problems

It’s safe to say that local Republicans didn’t mind the voting problems at locations which opened late or were short-staffed at the beginning of Election Day. When supplies were running low at some locations, though, all of a sudden they wanted to be a protected class. So goes the hypocrisy of the Republican Party. It’s all about them–especially when they lose.

Don’t worry, Rethugs, I was almost a victim of those damn printers, too. (Did you hear that HC Elections was counting emergency ballots yesterday?)

I voted on the first day, being the responsible kind of voter who fears dying between Day 1 of early voting and Election Day and not having my vote counted. Though the polling location (Tracy Gee Center) was busy and the configuration of the room between check-in and voting was backwards, I got through that process. Unfortunately, when it came to pushing in the 2nd ballot sheet into the printer, it jammed. Badly! The first couple of lines printed before it skewed badly and injured the paper.

I immediately called up a poll worker who literally had to pull the sheet out, had me put my name on yellow sticky on the ballot while he found a supervisor. I stayed at my polling station, hoping that my vote wasn’t lost. Thankfully, a supervisor brought a new sheet, the poll worker ran it through, and the 2nd page was printed. Finally, both sheets went through the scanner and I was done, placing the I VOTED sticker on my mask. Yes, I still mask.

Anyway, voters need to check their paper print-outs to ensure everything printed out. We have these “paper trails” that were demanded by people for a reason. I thought the paper trail was going to be cash register receipt of my choices for ME, but so much for that.

Thanks to the good folks who committed to working for Harris County Elections for ensuring my vote counted.

Now, the staffing shortages and paper shortages do need to be addressed. The paper trail part is state-mandated now, so, maybe more staff to run a q-tip with alcohol on the rubber thingies that pull the ballot paper in are needed. I don’t know. You got paid people for that. But more paper kept in accessible secure locations or something!

But is this a blatant, purposeful violation of ones voting rights? It’s an inconvenience for sure, but we have 782 voting locations on Election Day that a voter can vote at. At least in my neighborhood, from Tracy Gee I could go down the street to one of the Chinese Cultural centers off Corporate to vote. A little further and I have the Alief ISD polling station. The options were plentiful. We just haven’t gotten people out of the mentality that they don’t have to vote JUST in their neighborhood.

The options were also plentiful for people who somehow didn’t pay attention to all the TV attack ads and mail reminding them that there was an election–early voting and Election Day–yet decided to give up when the one location they went to didn’t open up on time. Or didn’t realize it until they got a text that election day was extended by an hour (to vote on a provisional ballot that may or may not be counted).

Now, some might say, “How Republican of you, Stace, to have these thoughts.” But there were two million people in downtown sweating it out (and stinking it up) for the Astros a day before, I figure driving a few miles to a polling location wouldn’t be that big a deal. Maybe I’m just experiencing less faith in humanity. I wonder why.

Is there voter suppression? Of poor and ethnic folks? Hell yeah. Which is why we have early voting for two weeks, a late night of early voting, a weekend of early voting, and 782 locations to vote at on Election Day.

Do folks still have issues getting to vote? Of course! Especially by mail. The Republicans have improved their voter suppression tactics to include racist mailings to go along with their racist policies that make people give up on democracy. Gerrymandering is voter suppression, too. But given the fact that 9 million people in Texas (a million or so here in Houston) didn’t show up to vote, it’s safe to say that a lot of folks just weren’t giving a shit and for a whole lot of reasons. And that’s a whole other discussion to have, but other than forced voting, I’m not sure what a good solution is.

I’m proud to be the son of Tacho and Flora who instilled in me a love of voting and participating in the political process. And believe me, I went through a phase this summer of wondering if I should even bother, but that subsided when I saw all of the lies and misinformation by Fascist Mack and MagaMealer and “Judicial Fairness PAC.” But I guess 9 million others in Texas don’t want to be like me.

Needless to say, Republicans, your rights were not violated. Inconvenienced? Sure. And the rights of Democrats at those voting locations, too, but you didn’t seem to care about them. But there is a lot of that going on, mostly because of Republican policies.

QEPD: Harold Cook

Growing up as a political operative-wannabe, I always admired the work of Harold Cook; especially during the days of Ann Richards. As a college kid, had I known him then, I’d probably want to be “the next Harold Cook.” So, when I started Dos Centavos and joined a group of Texas political bloggers, I was sort of in awe (at least in an e-mail group) to be in a group that included Harold.

When we finally formally met, it was at St. Arnold’s Brewery during one of the Texas Dem Convention parties. Talk about a Texas-sized hug. He had so much knowledge of Texas Politics and was quite the strategist. But he also had a wit that was so sharp that whomever it was aimed at didn’t know who sliced them up until they’d bled out. So, he was one of my influences during this time of DosCentavos.net.

I was so saddened to hear of his untimely passing. Shocked. Mad. And then sad, again. How could he do this to us? Right? While our political conversations were always interesting, I always felt honored when he left a comment on a photo of one of my food creations, inviting himself or placing an order to deliver to his Western Headquarters. He’ll be missed by those who followed him on social media, for sure. To those who were closest to him, I know they’re going through a lot of emotions. My thoughts are with his family and friends. And Travis the Goofy Dog.

Regarding Letters From Texas (his website/blog) and why he included political satire with his expert analyses, he told Culture Map Austin in 2012, “I think many participants in the political process take themselves way too seriously.” He definitely lightened up Texas politics–at least for those who wanted to be in the thick of it.

Here’s Quorum Report’s statement from Harold’s Family:

Friends and family passed along this statement

Longtime political advisor and commentator Harold Cook died suddenly at his “Western Headquarters” in Marathon.

Not surprisingly, he made it to one last election day.

Harold’s first political job was serving as an aide to State Representative Debra Danburg. He went on working closely with Land Commissioner Gary Mauro, Texas Secretary of State John Hannah Jr.. and dozens of other elected officials and organizations.

Notably, Harold managed the 11 Democratic state senators who broke quorum in 2003 and held out for 46 days in Albuquerque.

Harold later became a featured commentator on Time Warner’s Capitol Tonight, often providing astute observations with an acidic wit.

Harold Lee Cook was born January 16, 1961 in Houston. He is survived by his beloved sister Martha and his loyal dog Travis. Services are pending.

Election 2022 Results

Congrats to County Judge Lina Hidalgo. She fought off an all-out attack from Fascist Mack, his millionaire buddies and his puppet of a candidate, consistently adding to her lead as the votes were counted throughout the night. Other Dems, including District Clerk Marilyn Burgess and County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth return to their jobs, and Dr. Carla Wyatt will take over as County Treasurer in January. Amy Hinojosa and Andrea Duhon return to the Harris County Dept of Education board, too.

We will have a new Pct. 4 County Commissioner as Lesley Briones pushed on through to defeat the no-show incumbent. With Judge Hidalgo and Commish Adrian Garcia earning re-election, Harris County Commissioner’s Court will now have four (4) Democrats–a supermajority that can ensure strong budgets and policies are passed whether GOPer Tom Ramsey shows up or not. Some say this isn’t a mandate, but after all the hate-mongering and money wasted by the other side, I think Harris County did achieve a strong mandate for progressive values and policies.

With all of the attack ads full of misinformation and fear-mongering against “Democrat Judges,” Dems lost a few judicial races, including 180th District Judge Dasean Jones. Of course, the local Dem DA assisted in the bail-related fear-mongering, so, I hope Judge Jones stays close and challenges the DA in 2024. There were several sitting judges who were “in the news” regarding bonds and releases, but it seems Republicans honed in on African-American judicial candidates because they are the ones that lost. The non-Black judges seemed to cruise into re-election. Just an observation.

That said, I’m surprised nothing was said about all the corporate money that was used to create the Republican “crime” message that attacked all of the judges. The money came from Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a very dead Sheldon Adelson’s Vegas gambling corporation, and other non-crime, non-law enforcement-related corporations. They were trying to buy civil court judges, people! They didn’t care about crime.

Well, Democrats haven’t elected anyone statewide for over 25 years, and that reality continues. South Texas continues to add to Republicans’ bottom line, and anything over 35-40 % of the vote in those counties will keep the GOP strong statewide–even as suburban areas “liberalize.” Whether it’s “moderate” Democrats who fail to do anything about educating the South Texas public about progressive issues, Christian fundamentalism that creeps into politics, or South Texas voters falling for right-wing hate-mongering as if they aren’t included in the attacks, it’s a problem. A message problem for Democrats.

Thankfully, at the local level Democrats are still in charge in most of South Texas–even Starr County. It is gerrymandering that ensured right-wing victories in CD-15 and CD-23. There’s a lot to unpack and discuss about South Texas, but as long as Nancy Pelosi feels the need to help sell-outs like Henry Cuellar during Democratic Primaries, the party pendejadas will continue.

Bexar County had a good night, as did Travis County and Dallas County. For some reason, Republicans targeted Harris County, finding and exploiting weaknesses in our bottom line. Fortunately, they ran mediocre (yet well-funded) candidates with awful puppeteers (Fascist Mack, Steve Hotze, etc.) and exploited crime victims in creating a fear-based message. Democratic activists were still successful in the ground game, despite the daily vitriol on TV. Kudos to them. [Travis County Note: Good luck to Celia Israel as she moves on to a Mayoral run-off, and to Jose Velasquez in Austin City Council District 3 run-off.]

While Dem faithful seem to have adopted Greg Abbott’s “it could’ve been worse” line after the results were finally posted, given results in other urban areas of the state which were strong for Democrats, perhaps something needs to be discussed. The activism is working, but the media response to right-wing lies leaves much to be desired. Also, it might help reminding voters how great our elected officials are–at least those that are great. But, hey, we won!

Anyway, Dems have some work to do for 2024, including having a cleaner, more meaningful slate that runs together and supports itself from top to bottom. Of course, this is also something to think about for the 2023 local elections as we remember who, from those in the running for Mayor and Council, stood up for our Democratic slate and who did not.

And somebody educate the local newsreaders about the political and election process before they go on TV. The overdramatization of the last eight ballot boxes was quite annoying.

Kuff has more. And I thought I was the only one making hand gestures at homes with Mealer signs.

Today is Election Day 2022!

Well, it all comes down to today. If you haven’t voted early, then please get it done today!

  • Find your sample ballot by clicking here.
  • Find a polling location anywhere in Harris County by clicking here.
  • VOTE FOR ALL OF THE DEMOCRATS

Here are some truths.

Vote to Re-Elect Judge Lina Hidalgo. She has served us well through disasters, a pandemic, and especially through the day-to-day affairs of the County. She shows up for work, which cannot be said about Republican commissioners, like Jack Cagle and Tom Ramsey. If you want our county services left intact, if you want the Sheriff funded, and if you want to ensure our medical services still exist next year, then we must keep the Democratic majority. And that means re-electing Judge Hidalgo and electing Lesley Briones for Pct 4 Commissioner.

The local furniture guy does not support the best interests of the people of Harris County. He puts on a good show, but he falls short of caring for anything that doesn’t get him a tax dodge or hedge his business risks, like betting on the Astros to pay for all of “free” furniture. He’s a tax-dodging, MAGA-supporting, election-denying gambling addict, and Alex Mealer doesn’t fall far from those descriptors. Don’t tolerate whiny Republicans who will gamble away your rights and your own livelihood to enrich themselves.

And what about “Democrat Judges”? They have served us well, ensuring fairness and justice in the criminal and civil courts. The money for all of those anti-Democrat Judge ads is coming from a a few donors who do not care about your safety. Corporate groups like Texans for Lawsuit Reform (they have nothing to do with crime), Las Vegas Sands Company (which probably gets a lot of money from at least one local gambling addict, Trinity Equity Partners, Don McGill Toyota, and some other millionaires who don’t care about your safety, but care about buying civil court judges for their own benefit and that of their rich buddies. Vote for the Democrats if you want your best interests guarded.

We need Beto O’Rourke, Rochelle Garza and the Democrats at the top of the ballot to end the political career of Greg Abbott, Ken Paxton and the rest of the Republicans who threaten our livelihoods everyday. So, vote accordingly.

2022 Early Voting Begins Monday 10/24

Today is the first day of Early Voting for the 2022 General Election. Here’s the important info:

FIND YOUR SAMPLE BALLOT HERE

FIND YOUR EARLY VOTING LOCATION HERE Or Print a PDF EV Location Sheet

VOTE EARLY! VOTE FOR ALL OF THE DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES! And vote for all of the Harris County Bond Propositions!

This is a very important election from the top to the bottom of the ballot. Vote in every race.

Personally, though, I’ll be skipping over Democrats who failed to endorse our County Judge Lina Hidalgo. Kudos to Mayoral candidate Chris Hollins for pointing out that one particular Democratic officeholder who has failed to endorse a couple of Latina candidates.

QEPD: Ramsey Muñiz

I was saddened to hear of the passing of the first Chicano to run for Texas Governor under the banner of La Raza Unida Party, Ramiro (Ramsey) Muñiz. In 1972, he garnered 6% of the vote, almost causing the defeat of right-wing Democrat Dolph Briscoe. He helped change the face of Texas politics, though, the struggle continues.

Charismatic, politically savvy, and quite the motivator, Muñiz was a Baylor-educated Lawyer and Chicano political superstar who headed up a statewide ballot for one of the most locally effective third parties in Texas whose purpose was not only representation, but progressive policies that would benefit Chicanos all over Texas.

In 2018, I posted about his decades as a political prisoner, which came to an end with a compassionate release. I rank him up there with Leonard Peltier (still imprisoned)–an activist not liked by the federal government, no matter who was in charge. Muñiz resided at Leavenworth, a military prison, after multiple drug convictions with which most end up in a lower security prison. Family and friends, though, kept up the fight to achieve his release. Unfortunately, it took major illnesses for him to be released. Thankfully, he lasted another few years, still gave his speeches, still provided advice to activists, and was able to die with dignity and with his family.

For more on Mr. Muñiz, click here.

For a sample of his speeches:

The Latin Grammys Tejano Noms Are Out

The LG Tejano noms release day is always one in which I expect to see bands whose music I’ve never heard. This was not one of those days.

The nominees include a Mexico-based Tejano band, the niece of a legend (Emilio) who has taken control of her career to achieve success, a vocalist originally produced by Abraham Quintanilla who has grown up in the industry to become a powerful singer, a band of professional working musicians who work in various projects but come together for a new album, and the son of a Tejano music legend who is making his way to that status himself.

Some good music was nominated this year in the Tejano music category. I’m glad to see that two talented young women were nominated, too. Both of have taken the reins of their careers and have explored new directions to achieve their creations.

Here are some samples from the nominated albums.

El Plan – Despreciado.

Grupo Alamo – Camino Al Progreso

Isabel Marie – Una Ilusion

Destiny Navaira – Dime Como Se Siente

Bobby Pulido – Para Que Baile Mi Gente

TexTrib: One Last Reunion of La Raza Unida Party

When I heard that there would be another (and maybe final) reunion of La Raza Unida Party in San Antonio, I was saddened that I would not be able to make it. Thanks to Alexa Ura at the Trib, we have a lengthy report on the confab and even some history to remind folks about a liberal third political party that made a difference during the 70s, while pissing off Democrats and making Chicanos a more serious target of GOTV.

They were once deemed radicals on the front lines of the fight for Chicano rights in Texas. On this cloudy Thursday so many decades later, the visitors of the University of Texas at San Antonio’s downtown campus were mostly septuagenarians. They arrived from South and Central Texas or made the trek from other parts of the country to revisit a brief but significant chapter of Texas history when legions of Latinos and Latinas banded together in pursuit of political empowerment.

Out of the fight against institutionalized racism and injustices came La Raza Unida Party, a regional political apparatus that for a few years grew large enough to offer Texans a third political party. The party won local elections, made political organizers out of marginalized Texans and brought scores of new voters into the electoral fold.

I always like to say that I was born into a Raza Unida family. Yes, my parents were stalwart Democrats who finally had enough of Dem Party shenanigans that kept Chicanos and Chicanas from elected office through racist voter suppression and supported a third party that was successful locally.

Democratic county officials maneuvered to try to keep Raza Unida candidates off the ballots, and issues arose with the ballot petitions the nascent party submitted. Left off the ballot in three of the four targeted counties, organizers decided to run write-in campaigns for some candidates.

Doing so forced them to confront the far reach of the state’s discrimination. Illiteracy rates were high among the area’s Mexican Americans who had not been afforded an education, and some local officials vowed to continue barring interpreters at the polls even though federal courts said they must be allowed.

In Crystal City, organizers gathered with voters in parks to walk them through the process of casting ballots. In English and Spanish, they helped voters inspect sample ballots so they could learn to measure the spaces between entries and know where candidates’ names should be written. Then, they helped them memorize how to write out the names.

When voters arrived at the polls, they faced intimidation, illegal literacy tests and ballots intentionally printed with races in a different order. Some ballots were tossed based on misspellings even though state law allowed election workers to use their best judgment to accept a voter’s intentions.

Just one of the party’s 16 candidates won. Still, they amassed on average nearly 40% of the vote, according to the retelling in “United We Win.”

In fact, my Mom’s brother, Jose Serna was among the first Chicanos elected under RUP as Zavala County Sheriff after having organized farm workers and townspeople along with his wife, Olivia. Sheriff Serna was also one of the candidates who earned a majority of votes as a write-in candidate, but was disqualified because of different spellings of his name. When Democrats took over later, he was re-elected as a Democrat.

In the 1960s, Black and Latino people walked a tightrope between oppression and possibility.

Some were coming of age after a lifetime in segregated schools. The social mobility education could offer was mired in everyday inequities. In Texas, racist teachers regularly insulted Mexican American students relegated to rundown schools that often lacked air conditioning. Students were shunned, or even abused, for speaking Spanish. Too many did not graduate high school. Too few made it to college, and the cycles repeated year after year.

Politically, Latino Texans battled for even a sliver of power. It hadn’t been that long since Mexican Americans attempting to vote faced violence and brutality often carried out by the Texas Rangers or were shut out by “white primaries.” Hispanic veterans returning from the Vietnam War found the state’s white power structure marginalizing them by instituting poll taxes and banning interpreters who could help Spanish-speaking or illiterate voters cast ballots.

Some Mexican Americans were from families that had been in Texas longer than it had been a state; others were the children of migrant farmworkers eager to form part of their communities. All were consigned to second-class citizenship.

As Greg Abbott and Republicans nationally continue their bigoted attitudes and practices toward brown people, that feeling of second-class citizenship is still in effect, unfortunately. It gets worse when Democrats, even when they have a majority in Washington, DC, fail to do anything about it.

Still, ingrained in many of us who grew up in the time, is the feeling that the fight must continue, “La Lucha Sigue.” But for so many in Democratic circles, this is a history they try to avoid while pretending to be “woke” about Chicanos and trying to earn their vote. Ultimately, if a political party sells the right message to the voters, they will respond. But it better be done with the same “ganas” that brought out voters during this historic time of empowerment and agitation.

“It was women and families that brought the agenda into the party,” said Martha Cotera, a librarian by trade who moved to Crystal City with her husband so they could moonlight as organizers. “The issues of the platform and the values are all reflective of the needs of a multigenerational group of people because if you bring the whole family in, you’re going to bring in several generations.”

NSF Grant to TXST Will Count Border Bodies

Since I’m an SWT alum, what happens at my alma mater interests me. Having a sibling who graduated with a degree from their Anthropology department adds to the interest. So, when I saw that the National Science Foundation gave a $1 Million to TXST Anthro and other departments it was good news to hear.

A large, but unknown number of migrants die every year trying to enter the United States along the U.S.-Mexico border. There is no accurate count because there are no central databases documenting migrant deaths. As a result, national authorities, policymakers, and public health officials don’t know how many migrants are dying or how policies can curb migrant mortality.

Texas State University recently received a $1 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help document and share this important data and fill the gap.

Dr. Alberto Giordano and Dr. Nick Herrmann are co-leading the project entitled Migrant Mortality Mapping Portal Project (M3P2). Giordano is a professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies whose prior work on historical geographic information systems (GIS) includes studies on the Holocaust and other genocides. Herrmann is a professor in the Department of Anthropology whose prior work in forensic anthropology and geospatial studied eastern Mediterranean bioarcheology.

The three-year NSF project has two parts. First, the team will collect and organize big data on migrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border from various sources—from law enforcement reports to newspaper articles. Then, the team will develop a publicly accessible website where the data can be downloaded and explored with tools that the team will develop for exploring the data. Students will have opportunities to participate as research assistants in both areas. A post-doctoral researcher and doctoral and graduate research assistants will help the team with collecting and standardizing the data and designing and maintaining the database and tool.

No doubt, SWT’s work in body ID and the growth of their body farm research put them on the map to earn this grant and recognition. I have no doubt that it will be good work and a great contribution to society.

When the database is complete, more lives lost at the border will be counted, more stories recovered, more families reunited and more humanity regained.

That said, it is sad that the Feds would need to fund such a program. The fact of the matter is that if a Democratic President, House, and Senate had prioritized immigration reform and reformed its border enforcement policies instead of bolstering them, perhaps we wouldn’t need to match dead bodies to broken families. According to law enforcement on the border, bodies are found almost every day.

Some of the deaths are also due to migrants taking more and more risks to evade detection by federal authorities, he says. People are crossing the tumultuous Rio Grande, walking through dangerous ranchlands in the record Texas heat and paying the ultimate price, the sheriff adds.

It’s something immigration rights advocates have warned about as the latest tragic trend: people being forced to take increasingly risky paths due to mix of border policies that have made it more difficult for migrants to seek refuge in the US.

So many migrants, including children, who have attempted to cross the US southern border have died in this region that the forensic pathologist serving the area says 2022 is on pace to become the deadliest year on record in recent memory.   

Whether it’s the Border Patrol, Secretary Mayorkas and President Biden, or Greg Abbott, nothing has been done to actually save people from imminent death as their policies force migrants to change paths to get to this side. Paths which are more dangerous, treacherous, and deadly. Paths that walls, armed enforcement, and federalized local cops make more dangerous, thus, causing death.

Yes, kudos to NSF for funding this important work. But it further exhibits how broken our government is when it comes to people escaping violence and poverty. At least people who are south of us.

Another Influx in The News

Credit: Texas Tribune

Hitting the news, and just in time for campaign season, is news that there is another migrant “influx” happening at the moment. It shouldn’t be a surprise. We’ve known since early in the summer that it was going to happen. Title 42’s end certainly will be a contributing factor. That said, what about the children?

Back in May, reports began about an influx of unaccompanied children expected to arrive soon. A friend of mine in South Texas told me about all of these job openings put out by a government contractor. It’s the same contractor who ran (or hired for) the kiddie jail in Carrizo Springs during Trump’s reign, Deployed Services, Inc. (Ominous name, huh?)

Well, Joe Biden is using the same facility and same awful contractors. The difference is that the agency doling out the cash is Health and Human Services. Still, buildings with a fenced perimeter is pretty prison-y for kids. And with the feds preparing as many as 19,000 beds for migrant kids escaping violence and poverty, well, there will be a lot of money to be made in small-town, lacking jobs, South Texas and other places. And the contractors will make a pretty government penny, too. Billions of pennies.

Meanwhile, Greg Abbott is running a campaign on the “failures” of the Biden administration on migration issues by causing more problems in other states with his human trafficking buses. But it makes for a great attack ad later in October. (Once the annoying re-intro ads stop.)

You get a boondoggle! You get a boondoggle! Everyone gets a boondoggle!

There’s enough blame all-around for what is a human rights crisis. A Democratic majority in the House and Senate who have failed to pass immigration reform is tops on my list. One can certainly blame Republicans, but Democrats are in charge. Instead, one party avoids the issue to save a few anti-immigrant Dems and the bigoted Republicans use it for all it’s worth to win in November.

And who suffers? Children and migrants who just want to get away from violence and poverty.