Category Archives: 2020

People Modeling Behavior Of Their Leaders

Some people get it; others do not. And some outright refuse to get it!

Yes, when it comes down to it, protesting not being able to get haircuts, not wearing masks in public, lashing out at government officials who ask groups to practice social distancing, racist comments toward elected officials, hosting parties with large groups of people, all of these can easily be chalked up to being decisions made by irresponsible individuals (and mobs). But to not see elected officials as the source of which this behavior is modeled is short-sighted. Whether we’re in a pandemic or not. But since we are in a pandemic…

Whether it is Trump and Greg Abbott (and other Texas leaders) forcing open the states and businesses and cancelling the requirement of masks, or whether it is Trump playing down the importance of access to COVID-19 testing (access to testing means better contact tracing), or whether it is Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton doing everything they can to stop local elected officials from enforcing rules and stay-at-home orders designed to keep us safe from COVID-19, people see these leaders’ decisions, actions, and behaviors and feel they have permission to do as their leaders do or say. Thankfully, some leaders will fight back.

A hospital in South Texas was denying patients COVID-19 testing, so the local officials have taken over ER operations at the hospital to ensure everyone who needs a test gets one. Apparently, person denied a test was later found to be COVID-19 positive, but only after infecting nine others in the town. So, even hospitals are acting like their elected officials at the top.

But there are more of us who have stayed home these last two months, those who haven’t traveled across the state to visit relatives or have fun, those who wear masks (and gloves) every time they leave the house for needed activities, those that have accepted the danger of being in large groups–even if it means forgoing seeing close family members–and have stayed home or at least played it safe by practicing physical distancing.

We do this to protect everyone else and also our own selves. It’s the responsible thing to do.  And we model our behavior based on the advice of medical experts and the elected officials who take the experts’ advice seriously. And those who risk themselves by volunteering at food drives and PPE giveaways also model their behavior after elected officials who have taken the lead in trying to provide for their communities.

And I’m not naive to think that bad decisions aren’t made at the local level. This move toward outdoor graduations or physically distanced indoor ones could be a disaster in the making, and Dallas is doing the right thing by sticking to virtual graduations. I don’t even like this business of drive-in theaters or the idea of drive-in concerts. The opportunity for stupid decisions is just too huge. But all this is pushed by local leaders who are egged on by state leaders.

So, do not tell me this is not a political thing. Do not tell me that the electoral choices we make nowadays are not a choice between life and death. If the Attorney General, Greg Abbott and Trump want to decrease access to your right to vote during this pandemic, while doing everything to endanger your lives, guess what? It’s political! It’s about power. And it’s as political as buying your love (or silence) for $1200 (of your money) in exchange for corporations and contractors receiving billions of dollars in tax giveaways (of your money).

Now is not the time to be blissful in ones willful ignorance.

New Experiences in Cooking – Wings!

Well, after being suspicious of air fryers since their popularity came into our line of sight, I finally broke down and purchased one. Here I thought I was the last one to buy one, but I’m still seeing folks who have yet to jump into the pool.

I didn’t go fancy. Some of my friends show off their Ninja Foodis or their Cuisinart [insert model here]. I took the alternate route and bought a Gourmia air fryer, but it was the 7 quart one, which is bigger than the usual less than 6 quart one. I figured, if I didn’t like it, then, I wouldn’t feel so bad for spending 3 figures on what may be a fad. Well, thus far, it’s going quite well and it’s been worth the $75 (after coupon).

First of all, I must say to owners and not owners thinking of buying that YouTube is your friend. Well, any Google search result for “air fryer recipes” can be your friend. And you can either follow them or make changes to your liking along the way. The key is to get a good idea about temperature and time to cook. The rest is all about prepping to your liking.

My first trek was a batch of wings I had been dreaming of since I’ve been avoiding restaurants. After buying and nuking and eating the pre-flavored, over-salted and over-sugared frozen hot wings for so long, I was in the mood for something closer to my favorite wings place. Unfortunately, my grocery store only had the huge bag of frozen wings and not fresh ones. So, I settled for the frozen ones. The result was pretty awesome.

Tacho’s Come Fly With Me Hot Wings

  • Thaw the wings (I made 12)
    • Wash and pat dry the wings
  • Prepare the seasoning
    • Salt/Pepper
    • Tony Chachere’s cajun seasoning
    • Trader Joe’s 21-Seasoning Salute (any multi-seasoning)
  • Combine wings and seasoning ensuring wings are fully covered
    • Let the seasoned wings rest in fridge for an hour
  • Spray air fryer pan/crisper with canola oil
  • Pre-heat air fryer at 390 degrees for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Spray the wings with canola oil (helps them crisp on the outside).
  • Place wings in the air fryer–leave space in between them to ensure air circulates around them.
  • Set at 400 degrees and cook for 15 minutes.
    • At 10 minutes, using silicone tongs, turn them over
    • After the next 5 minutes, check the temperature with a meat thermometer which should be at 165 degrees. If not, a little more time will do.
    • Are they crispy enough? If not, another 2 to 3 minutes will do the trick for that.

Of course, naked wings can be boring. So, I put together a hot sauce that you can use as a dip or to make an entire batch of hot wings.

  • In a ramekin or saucepan, melt some butter (a pat or two, respectively).
  • Add your favorite hot sauce, generously
  • Salt/Tony Chachere’s to taste
  • Mix It!
  • Nuke it for 30 seconds to a minute or heat in sauce pan
  • Use as a dip or slather the wings in it–your choice
    • Others slather then put them back in the fryer for a few minutes. Your choice!

Side Dish:  Slice a Russet potato (chip slices). Put them in water and drain to clean off starch. Season with TJs 21-Seasoning Salute, Salt/Pepper. Spray air fryer pan with canola oil. Spray potatoes with canola oil. Place potatoes in the air fryer. 400 degrees for 5 minutes, then shake the pan or flip the chips on the other side and fry for another 3 to 5 minutes. A mix of crispy outside, soft inside chips that you can also dip in the wing sauce! Or ketchup. Or ketchup mixed with hot sauce.

That’s my quick recipe for wings.  They go great with reruns of NBA and MLB on ESPN.

 

COVID19 in a Small South Texas Town

Here is your daily reminder that Greg Abbott and the Republicans are awful, evil people.

I just saw a Facebook live press conference of the leaders of my hometown/county reporting 4 COVID19 cases. The school district has shut down its food distribution program because of a positive test result. As they try to get ahead of it with contact tracing, medical care, quarantine, and providing the people with the latest information, they are basically fighting against Greg Abbott’s lack of concern for poor and struggling communities.

These elected leaders are urging people to stay home, use masks, stop traveling out of the town (which is difficult for those with medical appointments in Laredo or San Antonio), keep out-of-town relatives from visiting (some cases were apparently traced back to a traveler), and continue to follow CDC guidelines. The worry in their voices was palpable.

Good people are reporting get-togethers of 10 or more people out of concern for themselves and others. The townspeople, my friends and relatives, are worried and they are doing what they can, which is commendable considering that Texas leadership is purposely failing Texans.

My community has a lot of health issues and an aging population that is at risk. It doesn’t help when local leaders are trying to protect their communities, yet, Greg Abbott just shirks his responsibilities and shows us he just doesn’t care and offers up conflicting rants and misinformation on Fox News, while being lauded by the Trump administration.

My little town and county have around 7,000 and 12,000 people, respectively. I live in a metro area of 7 million and our local leaders struggle with bad Texas leadership, too. And the fear and worry are strong here, too.

My hometown and county is among the poorest in the nation and heavily uninsured. If one can’t afford to travel 10 miles to the next town’s hospital for COVID19 testing, they must wait for a monthly mobile testing unit that opens for eight hours for one day. The fear is only compounded by the wait.

Although I write about this because I worry, I can also say that I am not surprised by what Trump and Abbott are doing. I’m more pissed off at those who made an electoral choice to keep Abbott by either voting for him or “not voting” for the Latina Democrat because she didn’t “sound” like the leader they wanted (“sounds” like coded language, there) and they guessed Abbott wasn’t that bad. One can argue about not voting period. Hey, I get it. After decades of fighting for candidates, I can say that I’m pretty cynical about most that I simply do not identify with.

But in times like these, how our elected officials respond has everything to do with politics. It’s the difference between one State Representative who uses his contacts to gain access to masks and PPE to distribute to those in need versus a US Senator from Texas who just wants a haircut and makes a show of it. It’s the difference between small town leaders going on Facebook Live to practically beg people to put the people’s safety first versus a Governor who uses TV to whine about leaders who put the people’s safety first. And it’s the difference between a County Judge and a District Judge who make decisions based on facts versus Republicans who make decisions based on profit and hate. Voting matters!

Did You Hear Rick Treviño’s Cinco de Mayo Song?

When I saw that Rick Treviño had a new single called Cinco de Mayo, I immediately thought, “What the heck is he doing?”

I immediately went to memories of Little Joe’s Dieciseis de Septiembre which I first thought was hokey back in the 90s, but I accept more now because of issues regarding Chicano culture and identity that I like to research.

Trevino’s Cinco de Mayo starts off a little hokier speaking to the usual drinking and partying ID that the holiday has. But he manages to deliver a message if you listen closely, as well as a strong piano and horn samba sound.

“I keep serving up Jose Cuervo and calling the Gringo mi amigo. Everyone’s saying, “Que pasa” and singing La Bamba.”

Uh, did he just do some reverse stereotyping that I enjoy sarcastically doing? If so, Right On!

Anyway, he adds:

“Maybe just for today, leave the border alone. Today don’t send anyone home. It’s Cinco de Mayo.”

Did he just make a pro-migrant political pronouncement?

OK, Rick. I’m liking this tune more as I give it more listens. Whatever the intent, great message. Listen to it on YouTube.

No doubt, Trevino has been on swing of cultural pride in his music. Plus, there are collabs he’s done with greats, such as Los Super Seven, Ruben Ramos, as well as being produced by Raul Malo on some recent albums, among other projects.  So, his creativity is understandable and way different from his Nashville-produced early work.

Last year, with Los Texmaniacs, and then Trevino with Flaco Jimenez, released a single called I Am A Mexican. The tune is about a Mexican’s love for the adopted country that shows its dislike for him on a daily basis. It’s poignant, yet, quite sharp. And it gets quite the response when he performs it live.

Another tune is Cowboys Like Me, with which many can identify with it’s intro lyric, “My granddaddies daddy crossed the Rio Grande, trying to find a better life than what he had…” It’s one of my favorites as my yard had a chain-linked fence, and I loved using my unloaded BB rifle to play “cowboys” in the backyard with friends. (Listen to it to get it.)

Anyway, enjoy the tunes. I’m looking forward to the new album. And if someone whines about it, tell them, “It’s about identity, pendejo!”

Gracias, Rick!

Cinco de Mayo

I Am A Mexican

Cowboys Like Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes everyone has a galactically great Star Wars Day as it brings you this epoch’s roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at that poll from PPP showing Joe Biden with a one point lead over Donald Trump in Texas.

Dos Centavos shares his tortilla recipe.

SocraticGadfly looked at some common coronavirus conspiracy thinking and how it shows the “horseshoe theory” is sometimes true.

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

Better Texas Blog urges us to protect immigrants as they power our economy.

Eater Dallas explains the dangers of reopening for small restaurants.

Ken Hoffman finds that Hobby Airport is as empty as you’d expect right now.

Juanita checks in on Mother Pence.

The Texas Signal compares Greg Abbott’s approval bump to those of other governors.

INBOX: Harris County Tax Office COVID-19 Resources

Here’s a note from Ann Harris Bennett, our Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar.

I just wanted to remind you that due to the “Stay at Home Work Safe” order, the Tax Assessor-Collector and Voter Registrar office continues to be closed for in-person transactions; however, we continue to work hard for you and the residents of Harris County.

All three divisions (VehicleProperty Tax and Voter Registration) continue to process everything online and via mail.

>> Vehicle Registration
Note: Governor Abbott granted a temporary extension to obtain initial registration, renewal of registration, and renewal of a permanent disabled parking placard.

Online renewal registrations.
Questions: autotdmv@hctx.net.

>> Harris County Property Taxes 
In hopes to help ease property owners’ burdens during this critical time, I have announced a three-month extension of all 12-month delinquent property tax payments.

Questions and payments over the phone at 713-274-2273

In addition, the office will be conducting virtual property tax workshops to help you learn: how the property tax system works, how exemptions save you money, how to protest your property taxes, how your property taxes are calculated and options for avoiding delinquent taxes. Our first workshop was last Tuesday, and it was a complete success. Stay tune for our next virtual workshop

>> Voter Registration
While VDVR trainings and in-person voter registrations are on hold, we are encouraging folks to use our online services to register to vote and/or to update their voting registration address.

1. You can fill out an application online, print it and mail it

OR

2. You can request a pre-postaged paid application.

For more information, we have created a COVID19 list of FAQs for all three divisions to help you complete your necessary transactions while the Tax Office is closed.

TX Progressive Alliance Round-Up

I’ve been neglecting my friends. I need to change that. So. here’s the TPA Round-UP highlighting last-week’s big posts.


The Texas Progressive Alliance has treated this week’s roundup with Clorox and UV radiation.

Off the Kuff looks at the ways that local election officials are trying to prepare for the July and November elections.

Dos Centavos is making tortillas, as we all should be right now.

SocraticGadfly had a trio of posts for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The first, complete with photos, looked at the past 50 years of wildlife preservation efforts — the good, the bad, the ugly. The second said that King Hubbert was correct, using the parameters he did of rational, profitable exploration, that the US hit Peak Oil in 1970. The third, per the Daniel Day-Lewis movie, said there will continue to be blood for oil.

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

Ilyse Hogue points out how the pro-coronavirus protesters are trying to hijack pro-choice language.

Andrew Wheat explains how rightwing oligarch Tim Dunn loves the “nanny state” when it benefits his bottom line.

The Bloggess takes you on a creepy tour of her house.

Paradise in Hell deconstructs the Trumpian snake oil show.

Gavin Rogers wants us to remember our most vulnerable neighbors.

Grits for Breakfast interprets the state Supreme Court ruling on the Abbott executive order on bail.

Stephen Young answers your questions about how oil can cost less than nothing.

State Rep. Gene Wu on COVID19 Situation

Here’s a note my State Rep. Gene Wu posted on Facebook providing an update regarding the COVID19 (Coronavirus) health emergency. It’s got all the right information and links. Thanks, Rep.!

Friends,

The COVID19 situation in Houston is rapidly changing and uncertain. My staff and I wanted to take this opportunity to share resources with you so that you and your family can stay up to date with current and official information from the City of Houston, Harris County, and the US Center for Disease Control.

Both Harris County and the City of Houston have issued emergency health declarations – you may have already heard that the remainder of Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo will be cancelled as a preventative measure.

Schools and businesses are expected to remain open during this emergency management period, but as the situation is quickly evolving, I urge to you use these official resources to make sure that you are receiving the most accurate and up to date information.

US Center for Disease Control:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html

City of Houston Health Department :

https://www.houstontx.gov/health/Epidemiology/2019-nCoV.html

Harris County Health:

http://publichealth.harriscountytx.gov/Resources/2019-Novel-Coronavirus

If you have specific questions please contact:

For Harris County Residents:

Harris County Public Health (HCPH) – Updates regarding Public Health

www.hcphtx.org\COVID-19

www.ReadyHarris.org

(832) 927-7575 – 9AM – 7PM

Harris Health System

www.harrishealth.org

Ask-My-Nurse – Call line for everyday clinical-related questions

(713) 634-1110 – 9AM – 7PM

For City of Houston Residents:

Houston Health Department

www.HoustonHealth.org

www.HoustonEmergency.org

(832) 393-4220 – 9AM – 7PM, M-F, 9AM – 3PM on Sat.

For Fort Bend County Residents:

Fort Bend County Health & Human Services

www.fbchealth.org/ncov

(281) 633-7795 -8AM – 5PM, M-F

Please remember to practice safe hygiene and avoid contact with large groups if you have recently traveled internationally.

My office is here for you if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Gene

The Ghost of HD142

Full Disclosure:  I haven’t worked on a campaign in six years, but I still like to do my internet sleuthing when it comes to campaigns and candidates. No doubt, HD142 caught my eye because I knew there would be a concerted effort to oust incumbent State Rep. Harold Dutton. I was a little surprised to see the name Natasha Ruiz on the ballot back in late December. I’d never heard the name in local politics, and after finding no information on her, I figured it was just another inexperienced candidate with no idea what she was doing. If the candidate remains a ghost, then whomever created her knew exactly what they were doing.

Miya Shay of ABC13 has been on the story, finding all the Texas Ethics Commission paperwork, the filing documents at the local Democratic Party HQ, and checking on addresses and knocking on doors. She even found copies of the currency paid to HCDP ($750 CASH). And nothing. A previous story found that Natasha Demming (whom answered the call from the newsfolks based on the phone number on the docs) is a truck driver in Colorado who had no idea why she was on the ballot. My only question:  Candidates need to also file a financial disclosure form with the Texas Ethics Commission; was any filed? They are no longer posted online, but can be requested with an open records request. If that exists, wow! They’re really good at creating people from thin air in this age of ID requirements. (The notary at HCDP stated the person had an ID.) If not, then it really may be a ghost! Either way, they’re good! [Or as Kuff states, maybe Demming is lying.]

The weirdest part is that Ruiz garnered 20% of the vote! No campaign, no rallies, no direct mail, no robocalls, no signs. It was a 4-person race and the incumbent was forced into a run-off. No telling if the ghost was not on the ballot if there would still be one today. I’m thinking there would still be one. But, who knows? I’ve heard of “low-information voters” but “no information”?

Anyway, this is potentially embarrassing all around. If something happened, who did it? Was it the Russians, again? Was it those opposing the incumbent? Those supporting him? An inside job? Too many questions, for sure. And they’re being asked, or else I wouldn’t be writing them.

Of course, if everything is in order, then anyone can put themselves on the ballot and sit back and watch the dumpster fire that this can become.

Kuff has more.

2020 Dem Primary Results – Harris County

Well, the #StaceSlate did well, but we did end up with some heartbreaking losses and six or so run-offs.

First of all, congrats to my friend Judge Julia Maldonado of the 507th District Court. The family court judge overcame a couple of opponents, including one endorsed by the local fish wrap. But that’s OK, people realized that Maldonado is a good jurist and a great Democrat who serves the community well.

Also, to Natalia Cornelio, whom I wrote about after I met her, who defeated the incumbent quite handily. She worked her way to victory by forming a strong coalition based on the need to defeat an incumbent unfriendly to bail reform. And that’s a good thing.

And Judge Leslie Briones, appointed to the County Court At Law #4 bench after an accidental resignation, defeated the previous occupant. I guess she didn’t need to use the #NeverQuits hashtag I suggested because it seems the voters REALLY like her. Congrats, Laredo!

And huge congrats to my friend Ann Bennett on a decisive victory to remain the Democratic candidate for Tax Assessor-Collector. She’s been an effective officeholder, has improved customer service throughout the county, and is a champion for voter registration. I look forward to her re-election in November.

Of course, I was saddened to see my good friend Judge Larry Weiman defeated. I’ve supported Weiman since he first entered the political atmosphere in 2006–when it was still slightly unpopular to be a Democrat. Two years later, he, along with a great group of Democrats, defeated the Republicans in office. He was definitely a trendsetter, considering he didn’t take money from lawyers who had cases in the 80th District. Unfortunately, and I’ve stated this many times, it’s gotten a lot easier to win as a Democrat in Harris County, so, even the best jurist on the bench can be targeted for defeat in the Primary for no reason whatsoever, other than, because they can. Some long-time judges won’t be as targeted if they are great fundraisers and spread the wealth (protection money?), but some who don’t feel the need be part of the kingmaking class (like Weiman) will be easy targets. And it’ll happen more often, unfortunately, which will ultimately lead to calls for “balanced courts” once November rolls around.

My other friend, Judge Steven Kirkland, was also defeated. He has had a target on him throughout his political career. He was defeated previously thru homophobia and hate, and now, because they could (or maybe both). He is a good jurist, but it’s gotten easier to overlook effectiveness, issues, etc. I’m of the opinion that it could happen to anyone. And it will.

I’m not quite at the point where I would prefer politically appointed, rather than elected, judges, but some hybrid, revolving, based-on-experience track might be nice.

THE RUN-OFFS

It looks like State Senator Royce West snuck into a run-off for US Senate against Washington DC favorite/funded MJ Hegar. I think Christina Tzintzun Ramirez would have done better in South Texas if “Mama” hadn’t been on the ballot. (And did I see Little Joe doing a web ad/vid for “Mama”?) Anyway, #MyChoiceIsRoyce in this one. His experience and a track record of not stepping back from a fight is what we need on the ballot.

Fellow Crystal Citian Roberto Alonzo also made the run-off for Texas Railroad Commissioner. Having served in the Texas Lege for 20 years has given him actual experience in making laws and regulation. Frankly, I think that’s better than being a part of an industry that has shielded itself from all political liability and financial/environmental responsibility. If ever we needed an “outsider,” on the RRC, it is now. Roberto provides that option.

Also, I’m a South Texas Mexican. I’ve had a lot of tios, primos, friends, and probably a few enemies called “Beto” way before the white guy from El Paso came around. So, if you make it about names, realize you sound a little racist. Because I’m getting sick and tired of that crap. (That one was for my late union steward Tio Beto, who also went by Bob to appease those who couldn’t say Beto.)

In the County Commissioner Pct 3 race, Diana Martinez Alexander was the top vote-getter and is in the run-off. Alexander, with little money, but a lot of shoe leather, community-oriented campaigning, and heart earned more votes than her run-off competitor who came in with hundreds of thousands of dollars, glossy direct mailers, consultants, and the support of well-known connected types. It’s a clear choice for me, because, as my momma used to say, “tienes que tener modo con la gente” and Alexander is a great people person who will run a people-centered commissioner’s office while also standing up for our values and needs as a community.

NOT ON MY BALLOT

Congrats to Penny Morales Shaw on making the run-off for Texas House District 148. I think the primary showed that special elections suck and people are still not in voting mode when they happen. Plus, when you throw republinuts into the mix, it just sucks more. Hopefully, voters stay in voting mode for the run-off. Hopefully, voters will get more than the usual arguments of “I was way ahead of the pack” versus “59% of the people don’t want my opponent” and break down the issues that matter. There are differences in this one.

These are just a few of the run-offs on my radar. The run-off is scheduled for late May, so get ready for those picnic grade paper plate placemats (full page glossy direct mail pieces) to start arriving. A few text messages, too. And lots of calls.