Category Archives: 2020

Abbott and GOP Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds

The Maddog got mad at Trump and said a word or two. Abbott got mad at racist party chairs and wants them to resign. Suddenly, they get the hero worship as if words change anything.

James Mattis was at the forefront of pushing Trump’s military border deployment in support of the “remain in mexico” policy. When Mattis finally left, he went back to the board of directors of General Dynamics which has made billions of dollars off of the warehousing of children and mothers put into baby and family jails. Not to mention the whole war-complex. Where was the outrage, then?

Abbott and his ilk should enjoy the fruits of the labor put in by these racist party chairs. Thus far, party chairs in at least three counties have put out statements or memes that are pretty racist. That doesn’t shock me because that is what got them elected to their positions. And Abbott and his friends are in office because of these bigots.

Call it the KKK, the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, the Tea Party, MAGA, throughout GOP history, things have not changed and the GOP and everyone elected by them have prospered and enriched themselves because of them. Now, it’s a problem?

Here’s how I see it.

Too many people are attempting to find victory in a Republican Party that has forever shown its hate for color. Whether it’s racist comments, the defense of killer cops, domestic and foreign policy unfriendly to brown and black people, little brown kids in cages, or defending at its core a racist capitalist system from which they benefit, this is the GOP. The problem is that words don’t change anything. Firing a racist in a volunteer position doesn’t do anything to change racist systems.

As I’ve always said, Democrats need to stop wasting time trying to save the republican party for the sole reason that they want someone with whom to fight. Kinder, less racist systems are still racist systems. Let them destroy themselves. Besides, Democrats still have work to do, too.

Jackson: Reform Police Union Contracts

Candidate for Houston City Council District B, Tarsha Jackson, who is known as a community and criminal justice reform advocate, posted on her Facebook page what would seem like obvious solutions. At least where reforming an entire system should begin:

My heart is heavy over the constant murders of my Black Brothers and Sister at the hands of our public servants. Forgive me for not being impressed to see police chiefs and elected leaders standing in solidarity with protesters over the murder of our Brother George Floyd. We’ve seen this scene played out over and over again– BUT Until the Police union contracts are reformed, we will continue to witness our brothers and sisters civil and human rights violated by corrupt police officers.

In 2018, after the murder of our Brother Danny Ray Thomas, community members recommended the following NINE changes to Police Union Contracts to ensure accountability and to improve relations between HPD and the community. Our leaders have the power to make these changes today!

RECOMMENDED POLICE UNION CONTRACT CHANGES:

*Establish consideration of misconduct in promotions (Art. 19 Sec. 8): Officers with a history of misconduct should be subject to point deductions from the promotions formula. This will ensure that two otherwise similar promotion candidates can be fairly distinguished based on their prior misconduct.

*Eliminate technicalities and strengthen promotional bypass process (Art. 20) To the extent promotional bypass remains part of the promotions process (we believe it should be eliminated), then the process in this contract is particularly problematic. There should be no arbitrary time limit after which the Chief cannot apply a promotional bypass (delete Art. 20(4)). Once a candidate has been bypassed due to past disciplinary issues, that person should be pulled from the pool. The chief should not be required to bypass that same person over and over and face an appeal each time. The standard for review should be “valid reason” in accordance with normal standards in labor appeals law.

*Provide path to independent investigation (Art. 30 Sub (2), (4) and (7)): Under this contract, investigations must be conducted by Department personnel. State civil service law, by contrast, allows investigations to be conducted by any municipal employee. Houston can only move toward a process of independent civilian (nonsworn) investigation of police complaints if we alter this provision.

*Eliminate officer review of all evidence prior to making a statement: officers should be able to review only their own materials before making a statement, not the statements of everyone else involved and everyone’s video. Allowing the person under investigation to review all the evidence prior to making a statement is not a “best practice” in any circumstance and should not be a special privilege for police officers.

*Eliminate misconduct statute of limitations: After 180 days from the incident date, the most serious misconduct cannot be addressed at all due to an arbitrary “statute of limitations” clause. This is called the “180 day” rule and is a major problem. It should be eliminated. Serious misconduct should be sanctionable even if the Chief learns about it long after it occurred. If it cannot be eliminated, the time period should be lengthened to at least 365 days.

*Prevent appropriate disciplinary action from being overturned on appeal: Under this contract, when an officer appeals his sanction the burden of proof is on the Chief, and the proof includes 1. the truth of the charges and 2. that a just cause exists for the specific discipline imposed. Instead the burden should be on the officer to prove that the discipline was not reasonable. And, while clearly the charges should always be true, the second clause requires the Chief to prove, in a side by side test with other cases, that this particular suspension length had “just cause.” This is likely to result in discipline being routinely overturned or reduced. Council should request from the Department a summary of every suspension in the past five years, whether it was appealed, and what was the outcome of the appeal (overturned, upheld, or partially overturned with a lesser discipline).

*Never expunge records of past misconduct or even suspected past misconduct (Art. 31(10)): Police generally oppose efforts by the public to expunge criminal records (even of minor violations) because they say even an arrest on a subsequently dismissed charge might prove important to a criminal investigation later. This same reasoning should apply to all records of all officer misconduct. Nothing should be expunged, and all past history should be available to the Chief for review when a new incident occurs.

*Exculpatory evidence of an officer’s history of misconduct should be a public court document: (Art. 31(12)) This contract creates an unnecessary burden on the courts and attorneys by requiring special legal protections (secrecy) for misconduct information that must be handed over to the defense in a criminal trial. Under the Michael Morton Act, the prosecutor MUST give the defense information about the arresting officer’s history of misconduct if it is exculpatory. The contract should specifically exclude evidence provided to the defense under the Michael Morton Act from 143.089g personnel file protections. The process for providing such evidence to the prosecutor and the defense should be straight forward and then once provided to both parties in the case it should be subsequently posted to a website.

*Limit supervisory interventions and never reduce discipline to a supervisory intervention (Art. 32): Supervisory interventions are not discipline and do not create a disciplinary record, even if they may indicate other problems. Several items should be considered for removal from this supervisory intervention list: improper ticket/citation, improper or untimely response to a call, discourtesy to citizens, refusal to identify self including removal/obscuring/failure to wear name badge; abusive language, disrespect for fellow officers, unauthorized ride-alongs. Further, in no case should more serious discipline be reduced to a “supervisory intervention” because this will also eliminate the record of an officer’s prior misconduct.

Stop It With The Hero Worship

Too many people are going through this need for heroes. Everyone is a hero nowadays. I’m fine with farm workers (who feed us) and medical personnel (who have been fighting the COVID19 battle), but when it comes to talking heads and media hounds, I draw the line.

I thought the most annoying example was the Great White Hype Hope syndrome that many liberals are going through during the pandemic. Fauci, Cuomo, and even Newsom. (And I like Newsom.) They are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and in a Trump climate, but it’s nothing special that requires sainthood. As much as I defend and compliment our Latina County Judge, the same goes for her. They are doing their jobs despite the policies of the Abbotts and Trumps.

Then, George Lloyd was murdered and it became Jacob Frey and Gov Walz in Minnesota. Then it became any cop or police chief who joined a march or gave a symbolic kneel. Tear-filled speeches and symbolic gestures seem to grab and calm people; unfortunately, it only allows for more inaction. Distract and divert.

They’ve all made some pretty awful decisions, though. As far as big city mayors and police chiefs go, they literally attacked peaceful protesters (and reporters) with plastic bullets, tear gas, and horses. They were quick to blame the outsider, but I haven’t seen any of the white supremacists who are getting blamed being shot, gassed, or trampled. And when the sister of cop-murdered Houstonian Joe Campos Torres also gets arrested here in Houston, well, one wonders if something else is going at HPD.

Locally, Art Acevedo and local elected officials who have been elected and re-elected have had plenty of opportunity to push for criminal justice and policing reforms. Acevedo throws out some good lines and good hugs on camera, but where are the changes? Certainly, the death and police violence continues locally despite one of his underlings mouthing off on TV that Lloyd’s murder was in Minnesota and not here, so why protest here? As if Houstonians had no other reason to protest.

At the county level, there have been attempts at criminal justice and bail reform thanks to Judge Hidalgo, Commissioners Ellis and Garcia, and Sheriff Gonzalez. Unfortunately, they are stopped by Republicans at all levels. But they still try.

This is a conversation that must lead to actual effort and actual change and it must be had at all levels. We can’t take the attitude that if the votes aren’t there, then we must wait. If one doesn’t even try to change public opinion from the pulpit in which the voters placed them, then why even have them there?

But people buy into the hero worship because someone gives out a good image. We all want to feel the warm and fuzzies during a scary time. But, there comes a time when someone seen as a leader needs to act. And policing reforms need to happen. They’ve needed to happen since the promises began after the 1992 Rodney King beating. They’ve needed to happen throughout the history of the United States.

One would figure than in a Democratic majority city, with a Democratic majority city council that Houston PD would make the changes. Unfortunately, it would seem that kowtowing to the police union takes precedent over charges of police brutality. In reality, there is a dire need for leadership. The type of leadership that doesn’t only ask for the badges of bad cops, but that takes them away.

That we don’t have leadership at the top of the United States and Texas is obvious. But that doesn’t mean those who are on our side of the issue at other levels shrivel up and die and leave the rest of us to die. And certainly, diverting and distracting the people by making media-savvy moves is not a solution.

If your elected officials and law enforcement leaders aren’t in a room at this moment discussing how they will stop the law enforcement kill culture, change policing methods, enact real citizen review boards, reform a racist criminal justice system, and end a racist mass incarceration system, then, all the talk is just bullshit.

 

Need To De-Stress? New Tejano Music Will Help!

There’s upheaval in the world. And we’re still in a pandemic that has caused all sorts of financial and personal stress. I find solace in listening to music and my music of choice is Tejano.

The Tejano music industry, like the rest of the industry, has been hit hard by the pandemic. There’ve been cancellations that have turned into small and big livestream events. I’m glad to see that some of my musician friends are still surviving, even if it is one livestream at a time with studio work thrown in there in between. But it has not been easy.

Other artists haven’t been able to do much in the form of livestreams. Logistically and technically it can be tough. But others have released some live material digitally.

In 2020, the Tejano music world was celebrating the return of icon, Joe Lopez y El Grupo Mazz. The pandemic abruptly stopped the tour bus, but lucky fans are getting to enjoy a live album recorded during Lopez’s recent Freedom Tour. And it’s a well-recorded live album!

Lopez goes through his string of hits seamlessly with the newest rendition of MAZZ, featuring Bam Bam Ramos on Keys/Squeeze, Danny Rodriguez on Bass, Aaron Holler on Drums, Joaquin Cura on guitar, and Alberto Gonzalez on percussion. It’s a keeper and enough to keep fans excited about the post-COVID19 return.

The legendary Little Joe y La Familia also released a new live album, Better Than Ever. It’s one of a string of live albums Little Joe has released throughout his career. Recorded at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi for a LJ birthday celebration, the band goes through a playlist of classics as only La Familia could.

And Bobby Pulido also released Live in Las Vegas. The album was recorded during the Tejano Music Convention and features his dad, Roberto Pulido, and Emilio’s brother, Raulito Navaira as they pay tribute to musicos who have left this world. Those hits, along with the standard Bobby Pulido playlist of hits make for a great live album with strong production values.

So, if you’re in need of live music, there are options. And luckily, some bands have been able to put their live shows on tape.

Even during a pandemic and social upheaval, nuestra cultura y music vive! And it’s keeping many of us going, too.

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance has a nervous eye on those post-reopening projections as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff has the latest updates in the various vote-by-mail lawsuits.

SocraticGadfly offers his take on the documentary-based last chapter in the life of “Roe,” that is, Norma Jean McCorvey.

DosCentavos tells us that Joe Biden had Latino problems last week, too. But they are fixable.

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

Better Texas Blog calls for rebuilding child care.

Grits for Breakfast doesn’t understand the budget priorities being given to TDCJ.

Sanford Nowlin finds Greg Abbott fibbing about how Texas handles COVID testing data.

Juanita finds proof that only the good die young.

The Texas Signal wonders if migration from other states will be what finally turns Texas blue.

Just Another Kill For The LE Trophy Case

Whatever the media is showing on your TVs really are not the final words of George Floyd, murdered by law enforcement at the age of 46.

Among George’s last words, as a cop’s knee pressed into his neck for nine minutes, were, “Mama, Mama.”

That was before the sounds coming out of him became agonizing moans. And that was before he was flopped onto a stretcher, his neck snapping before the cop (obviously not an EMT tech) grabbed hold of his head so it would stop flopping around as he was placed on the stretcher before he was placed in the ambulance. (He probably remembered he was on camera.)

George Floyd is another black person in an ever-growing long line of victims of police brutality and state-sanctioned murder. He joins names like Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown. As George is connected to Houston, one should also remember names like John Hernandez and Nicolas Chavez who were killed by local law enforcement.

These cop-lead murders happen so often, that it is easy to become desensitized to them. Even when there is video. One has a choice to become numb to reality or allow emotions to take over. But one doesn’t experience the depths of humanity until you see a person calling out for his mother at the hands of a murderer.

Oh yeah, that kind of thing has been portrayed in romanticized versions of war–the fresh-faced white kid with his guts shot out calling out for his mom. But this is real life. And it’s the “good guys” who are doing the killing.

But it’s the “good guys” who have all the defenses in the world. Whether it’s some puffed up media-savvy police chief, or some loud-mouth, annoying cops union rep, they will defend their  bad apples until they can’t. Until there’s video that is compelling enough to make them do something. Or at the very least, makes them shut their mouths.

But even when the people respond and protest, it is the same cops who allow white supremacists to protest with high-powered weapons at our government buildings who then tear-gas and respond violently to black and brown protesters who are simply petitioning government for a redress of grievances. And their own trade media defends law enforcement and makes them out to be the victims to the delight of racists and law and order types. Because, obviously, it’s the dead who are the bad guys.

I am pretty much at the end of my trust threshold when it comes to law enforcement. Even if I do have friends and relatives in law enforcement. Whenever I hear someone running for sheriff or someone wanting to be a leader in government over law enforcement I want to hear about how they are going to change the culture of law enforcement. How they are going to stop the killing for no reason of black and brown people.

And then I want to see them do it. The usual brown-nosing for police union endorsements doesn’t give me much hope at this point. One who wants to lead needs to lead the way for change. It is that simple.

 

 

 

 

Re-Living History

I noticed some Tejano music nighclubs are getting ready to re-open. It’s too damn soon! I even read that Grupo Intocable, one of my favorites, is going to have a “drive-in” concert out in the boonies in Poteet, TX on my birthday. They all say CDC guidelines will be followed, but do you trust people to follow? And what can these places do to enforce them? The federal and state government won’t even enforce it. No, thanks! Stay home.

I saw the lifted tweet-turned-meme below and decided to rewrite it in modern day Vato. Enjoy!


Lots of raza in the club waiting for the Hometown Boys to take the stage. I’m out here in my car watching the scene like I look at the marranitos being made at the panaderia, but chale, I ain’t going in. I can drink a six pack at home and not get the ‘rona. ~ 2020 Rewrite in Vato speak.

Joe Biden and Latinos

credit: Alamy

This last week was not a good one regarding Latino support for Joe Biden–at least in online media. An article in Politico shows various activists calling the Biden campaign out for their lack of outreach, or lack of a game plan to excite the Latino electorate. Even the LA Times had something on Latinos and Biden.

Joe Biden won the primary in spite of, not because of, his efforts to turn out Latinos. Two months later, Hispanic leaders are waiting on his campaign to deliver on its promises to do more.

In interviews, more than 20 Latino political operatives, lawmakers, and activists said they don’t see a game plan from Biden to marshal Hispanic voters effectively in the fall. They said there’s little evidence the campaign is devoting the resources or hiring the staff that task will require — all the more crucial during a pandemic, when reaching and mobilizing Latino voters through in-person canvassing is nearly impossible.

Throughout the Primary season, the Latino political players were backing one of the many in the running. Personally, I began with Julian Castro before jumping back on the Bernie wagon. The players, though, were mostly “anyone but Bernie” even settling on Biden because he wasn’t Bernie.

Anyway, Latino Democratic voters, those with whom the DNC, DCCC, and DSCC are usually out of touch and disconnected, were supporting Bernie in many states. So obvious was this support for Bernie that Biden didn’t even campaign for the Latino vote during the Primary. I mean, if there was a time that Democrats were hoping for low Latino turnout, it seems like it was during this last Primary. It’s not that we Berniestas only like Tio Bernie because he exists, it was that he took the issues that we poll strongest on seriously:  Education, Jobs, Health Care, and immigration and deportation reform. Biden defending the Obama deportation record didn’t help his Primary cause among Latinos who actually pay attention. Of course, he now calls 3,000,000 deportations a “big mistake.” Good move.

Well, we know the result. Joe Biden wins and deals are made to ensure representation of Bernie supporters at the National Convention and on Biden’s campaign. The policy of appeasement was definitely in play so the whole unity thing can be sold to all involved. As an avid voter, I’m fine with those efforts, as long as the rank-and-file stop insulting Bernie supporters over 2016 (still!). But statistics show Latinos are not avid voters and need to be reached out to because they can see right through the bullshit in politics. To the point where half of us stay home during a presidential year.

Of course, a good look at the recently released list of issues advisors to Biden shows most brown people are on the immigration plank, and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez as the only brown face on the climate panel. Otherwise, it’s slim pickings, if any at all, when it comes to Latinos. Even I know at least one brown person capable of being on each issues group, so, why aren’t they on these lists?

Again, Biden has made efforts to appease the Latino electorate regarding immigration and economic issues, but if these articles about engagement and outreach are already coming out, then something needs to change. And perhaps it is.

I will add that this week’s appointment of Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Cesar’s granddaughter, is a nice gesture. But when the campaign states in the next paragraph that their targets include Florida, all I see coming are a repeat of 2016’s bad and ineffective radio ads comparing Trump to a dead Venezuelan President whose domestic policies were closer to what is in the Democratic platform. It’s no different than the red-baiting of Bernie Sanders during the Primary in Florida because he gave an honest summing up of the Cuban Revolution. It might get you a few votes in Florida, but the rest of Latinodom in the US is going to see right through it, thus, making outreach ineffective. In other words, you better do better than Florida if we want to win state houses and local races across the country.

When the Castro Brothers can be counted among those of us who aren’t excited about Joe Biden, well, that says a lot. I expect a lot of Demsplaining and whitesplaining about this, but maybe the Party should be listening. For a change. Even after the popular brown folk in the Party fall in line.

The pandemic obviously has hurt all campaigns. But it seems that even with the profiteering and willful misconduct occurring at the White House and in republican-led state governments, Democrats and Biden aren’t hitting back as hard as they should. Locally-elected Dems are struggling in these situations and we need a national voice to hit back.

I think voters, Latinos especially, would feel the warm and fuzzies a lot more if our champion actually championed. No, we’re not expecting him to run unmasked into a rally of thousands to cheerlead in the midst (or mist) of a COVID19 cloud. But talk to us. And tell the world what Biden wants to do that is different than what the current orange trainwreck offers America. Simply pointing out what Trump is doing wrong or badly will just be a repeat of 2016–a free ad for Trump. Voters need to hear solutions to the problems Trump has caused. Voters need hope. I know I do!

The results of this pandemic are telling us that Latinos are taking a huge hit–healthwise (COVID19-wise) and economically. Latinos have lost more jobs and the number of uninsured continues to rise in the Latino community (20%). And these numbers don’t even consider the undocumented community, which has its own challenges (made worse by Trump). It’s hard to get someone excited about voting when someone you know or to whom you are related is affected in one way or another by the pandemic and the options are Trump or Not Trump. Again, I’m not talking about voters like me, but the other half who get disinterested really fast.

For some of us, getting rid of Trump may be enough, but a lot more effort is needed to ensure this happens in a big way and that means talking solutions. I’m pretty sure Latinos want to support the Biden way of getting things done. And I guess we just want to hear more about what he wants to get done. Or, Biden could name a Latina, like Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham as the VP nominee and he’d be golden.

Naming Amy Klobuchar, though, would be quite underwhelming.

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance gives a virtual salute to the Class of 2020 as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff has the latest developments in the state lawsuit over voting by mail.

DosCentavos reminds us that Texans are modeling their leaders’ behaviors as Texas continues to reopen amid COVID19.

SocraticGadfly said this year’s Democratic vice presidential nomination is the most important since 1944.

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

Stephen Young highlights that great Obamacare cheerleader, Sen. John Cornyn.

Paradise in Hell turns his Trump Translator Machine on again.

The Texas Living Waters Project interprets a SCOTUS decision having to do with the Clean Water Act.

Christopher Hooks wonders why Ken Paxton hates vote by mail so much.

Sanford Nowlin shows a study that warns 4 million Texans could lost health insurance as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jeff Balke reminds us that hurricane season is still a thing that happens.

Christopher Hollins Named Interim County Clerk

Late last night, I got the message that the Harris County Commissioner’s Court appointed local lawyer and Texas Democratic Party Finance Chair Christopher Hollins to serve as interim Harris County Clerk.

The court voted 3-2 along party lines to approve Hollins. Five public speakers urged court members to choose Teneshia Hudspeth, Trautman’s chief deputy. County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said Hollins’ pledge to serve only on an interim basis factored in their decision.

So, it will be up to the Party’s precinct chairs to select someone to be the nominee on the November 2020 ballot. Let the games begin.

Hollins, though, seems like candidate material. He served the Obama administration’s Office of Presidential Personnel as a legal intern before embarking on his career. No doubt, he has some Democratic bonafides considering his current position in the Party.

After navigating the local Party website, I finally found out how to find my precinct chair. Unfortunately, they want all my information before telling me who publicly signed up to run for the office (or got appointed later). Anyway, if you want to lobby your precinct chair, I guess this is how you can start.