Beto O’Rourke Speaks Out on Border Situation

Photo: Congressman Cuellar

News that Republicans (and some Democrats) are having a freak-out over children escaping poverty and violence in Central America and heading to the US isn’t anything new. Hillary Clinton and other Dems had a freak-out during 2014’s unaccompanied minor influx, while posturing for elected positions, even going so far as calling for more immigration courts to speed up deportations.

That said, one possible candidate for Texas Governor, Beto O’Rourke, has been chiming in on the issue responding to current guv Greg Abbott’s bigoted tirades blaming unaccompanied children for increases in COVID-19 and whatever other things may develop from his anti-masking policies and Texas’ re-opening.

The false premise that immigrants would make the pandemic worse was used by Trump (and now Biden) to immediately expel asylum seekers at the border.

This caused a spike in attempts, as the same people tried multiple times to cross (e.g. one person could count for 10+ encounters).

Apples to apples, the number of unique individuals attempting to come to this country is similar to what we saw during this same period in 2019 (for my Republican friends & media who are absolutely losing their shit right now, this is when Donald Trump was in the White House).

What could we do to make it better?

Stop using Title 42– Lawfully process asylum requests.

– Free families & children from immigration detention

– Add independent immigration judges

– Re-write our immigration laws

– Prioritize the Americas in our foreign policy.

Beto on Facebook

Beto hit on the last one on the list last week in another comprehensive post and it is something that I’ve been writing about for decades. The US needs a whole different policy in Latin America. One that does not buttress corrupt and violent right-wing regimes (and does not assist them with coups and election interference) which mistreat and kill the poor and indigenous who continually elect left-wing (read: socialist) administrations.

Fact: Without “leftist” poor, black, brown, and indigenous people, Biden would not be in office. So, what’s the deal?

Anyway, as Beto stated:

This region that we are connected to physically, culturally & through our families is always an afterthought at best in our foreign policy, a priority only when there is perceived crisis.

We will not address the underlying issues that cause so many to come here if we do not work with the people, NGOs & governments of these countries. That should include working to repair the damage caused in part by U.S. policies and a commitment to change those policies. Our involvement in Central America’s civil wars led to death & devastation that is still felt in the region today.

And U.S. drug demand & drug war have helped hollow out civil society in these countries, contributing to government corruption & horrific gang violence.

Our failure to act in the face of the science and consequences of climate change has produced devastating storms and droughts that make it a challenge for many to feed themselves and survive in communities throughout Central America.

Beto on Facebook 3/17/2021

These kind of ideas coming from Beto aren’t new, but they have consistently caused think-tank types in the area of Latin American policy to clench up their hind sides and to embolden current policy. It is a discussion that needs to be demanded of the Biden administration and right now is the best time to do it.

Meanwhile, the shocked reactions to the current edition of huddled masses needs to stop and the work needs to begin.

Also, Beto O’Rourke seems to be the only Texas Democrat giving a damn about which direction we should be going on this issue.

The Witch Hunt of Dr. Gokal Must End

While local authorities reward bad street racing behavior by giving them a place to “practice,” the local DAs office continues their witch hunt of Dr. Hasan Gokal, a doctor employed by Harris County who was accused of stealing one vial of COVID-19 vaccine, while doing everything possible to avoid it being wasted.

While the state’s top authority for doctors has found no evidence of wrongdoing, the DA is still going to present a case to a grand jury despite a judge dropping the charges for lack of evidence.

The March 9th letter stated Gokal “appeared to have administered doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to patients that were properly consented, in the eligible patient category, and they were given doses that would have otherwise been wasted.”

KHOU 3/16/2021

Further, Dr. Gokal did the proper reporting of the administration of the vaccine and he didn’t gain any benefit from it. It wasn’t some vast vax steal conspiracy to make money. We already have local hospitals and clinics charging people for what is supposed to be a free vaccine and they aren’t being investigated by the DA.

Why does the DA continue this fruitless cause?

Of course, we’re talking about the same DA who dropped all charges against deputy Shauna Thompson for murdering John Hernandez at a Denny’s in East Harris County a few years ago with the excuse that, despite video evidence that Hernandez was suffocated by Thompson and her husband, there wasn’t enough evidence to convict her. It would seem this Doc’s case lacks any evidence, other than we have a doctor–a public servant–doing his job of making sure the vaccine was not wasted.

Earlier this year, our County Judge reported on wasted vaccine and has even made other groups (teachers) a priority to ensure that vials of vaccine do not go to waste. So, not wasting vaccine is a good thing and trending, apparently.

It was also reported that one box of vaccine was wasted when it fell off a table at a vax location. So, yes, mistakes happen at vax locations, but Gokal’s case was all about not wasting vaccine and making sure it went to the right people.

This case lacks any semblance of criminality and it needs to end to save this good Doc’s career and livelihood. Let’s not waste a needed doctor by trying to score some cheap points for a junior prosecutor’s win-loss record.

Durbin Doubts Biden Immigration Plan Can Pass

I was surprised to see an article in which the US Senate’s top immigration reform pusher, Senator Dick Durbin, has deemed President Biden’s immigration reform bill as unlikely to be passed. Durbin does suggest that a peacemeal approach be taken, and various bills regarding undocumented farm worker citizenship and the usual DREAM Act have been discussed.

“I think Speaker Pelosi has discovered she doesn’t have the support for a comprehensive bill in the House,” Durbin said. “And I think that indicates where it is in the Senate as well.”

Biden has proposed a plan that would provide a pathway to citizenship for roughly 11 million people living illegally in the U.S., would bolster assistance to Central American countries and would ease immigration for people fleeing violence. Republicans declared the proposal, which did not include any added resources to secure the border, dead on arrival.

Bloomberg, 3/15/2021

Blaming the current surge on the border by children fleeing violence and poverty for not supporting immigration reform is the weakest excuse I have ever heard; however, the Republicans are doing a job of blaming Democrats for something that isn’t a new thing. And Democrats are doing their usual best to avoid a debate–the fight that is needed to educate the public. In this case, blaming children (victims) is pretty sick.

Congressional Republicans and Texas Governor Greg Abbott have seized the moment to place blame on “the other” while the Biden administration and a Democratic Senate and House have been left with the job of addressing COVID-19 and all the crises that go with that, the day to day governance of the nation, and the issues brought on by crappy US policies on Latin America.

After the wreckage that was left at Homeland Security by Trump, which includes the uncontrolled bad behavior of the Border Patrol and their union, a purposely broken asylum system, and an inhumane immigration and detention system, the Biden administration has been left with quite a job that must be done as crises continue. And without Republican cooperation.

Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas has stated that much is being done with “great speed” to address the issues that were worsened by Trump. However, these issues have been around for a long time and have been worsened by both sides of the aisle for decades. Unless root causes of migration (right-wing regime corruption, poverty and violence) are addressed, there is not much that can be done that will not include some semblance of inhumanity on our side of Trump’s border wall, be it kiddie jails in the middle of nowhere or the treatment of migrants at the border and elsewhere, or continued buttressing of right-wing zealots in Central and South America.

The Biden administration is attempting some more humane ideas, including ending the Trump administration detention trap of family members who would pick up (or claim) an unaccompanied minor. They have also called in FEMA to address the processing of the unaccompanied minors, which I hope means professional administrators and paper pushers and not your usual two-finger, law enforcement-type typists. Whatever gets these kids out of the freezer-like environment of immigration warehouses faster and efficiently.

As I’ve always said about immigration reform, it’s all about the fight. Republicans thrive on hate and there are a few Democrats who do so, as well. Democrats must go it alone, and that means putting the screws to “moderates” who will render a majority useless if left unchecked.

Houston Needs A Reformer at HPD

George Floyd

Art Acevedo is going to beachier pastures. Miami hired him because of the “national profile” he created for himself by hugging on BLM protesters on camera while his underlings arrested various protesters for no particular reason. Unfortunately, those that prefer symbolism to action ate it up and only helped Acevedo’s popularity. As Texas Monthly reported, the hero myth is real.

While the murder of George Floyd gave a national profile to the need for police reform and improved police-race relations for which Houston could have been an example, Acevedo took the opportunity to attack judges and activists who supported and worked toward police and bail reform. His tough talk laced with crocodile tears made for great centrism and avoidance of the problems faced in our communities. He’s perfect for Florida.

Frankly, with Acevedo gone, Houston has an opportunity to hire a police chief who will have the guts to take on the cops union and join forces with leaders who support police and bail reform. Police and bail reform should be a national priority that requires more action, and a lot less hugs and weightless platitudes for the cameras.

That’s really all that needs to be said. Also, he probably decided he couldn’t beat Matthew McConaughey.

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance gave up bewaring the Ides of March for Lent as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff examines a recent poll that shows good approval numbers for President Biden in Texas, but also for Greg Abbott and some of his priority legislation.

SocraticGadfly talks about the winter storm kabuki theater under the Pink Dome.

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

Amanda Marcotte observes how Republicans are flailing in response to the American Rescue Act.

MrsAstrosCounty details how her miscarriages that resulted from ectopic pregnancies are officially counted as “abortions” in her medical record.

David Beard offers three potential explanations for the shift in Latino voter preferences towards Trump in 2020.

The Texas Living Waters Project warns that Texas’ aging water infrastructure is another vulnerability highlighted by the big freeze of 2021.

Houstonia looks back on the year in COVID.

Don’t Be A Maskhole!

While the Official State Bigot (Greg Abbott) is whining and blaming “the other” down in South Texas, his followers today begin to shirk their responsibilities and exercise their right to kill others as the Texas mask mandate no longer exists and Texas businesses have permission to open back up to 100% capacity in the middle of a pandemic that very much continues.

Regarding Abbott’s whining at the border, I remind all that people migrate from Central America because of the poverty and violence in their home countries. It doesn’t help that US policy in Latin America is a joke–no matter what party is in charge. Biden has proposed some ideas, but any assistance for those countries likely will come with rules–like whom they should elect as their leaders, instead of whom the poor and indigenous elect. And that’s a whole other debate. The US has only worsened the root causes of migration, whether in the form of political, military, or commercial intervention, and usually all forms at once. Abbott supports those policies, he just whines about how Biden deals with the effects of those policies because he longs to be the next Trump. The effects have always been the same, no matter who is in power, because the root causes remain in effect.

Meanwhile, we still have COVID-19 to address and Greg Abbott has been a complete failure in this regard. Thanks to the Biden administration, the vaccines are slowly increasing, as is access to them. The Democrats will finally pass a COVID-19 relief package that will bring the US closer to a safer re-opening (for most), if not normality. And this is Biden’s fault–I’ll give him that much credit. But I also see it as just simply doing the job that is demanded by the people.

Abbott’s and his followers tactics are all for the purposes of delaying whatever progress can be achieved while there are other challenges that must be addressed by the Biden administration–like immigration reform. The Republicans have always run on a delay and deny playbook when they are not in power (and a few “moderate” Dems have always helped them with that). Democrats should act like they have all the power in the world and make the changes that need to be made. Screw bipartisanship!

Anyway, MASK-UP! Practice physical distancing when out and about. Stay away from gatherings. Wash hands. And follow the CDC for the latest opportunities that may help open things up safely. Moreover, IGNORE Greg Abbott!

Los Blogs de Tejas – TPA Round-Up

The Texas Progressive Alliance prefers the old-fashioned “talk nonstop” filibuster to what we have now as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff advises you to be more mad at the Public Utility Commission.

Dos Centavos tells us about his successful vaccination experience.

SocraticGadfly offers his suggestions for people to fill those vacant “unaffiliated” board positions on ERCOT.

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

G. Elliott Morris notes the corrosive effect of a misinformed public on democracy and governance.

Texans for Public Justice documents Greg Abbott’s reliance on funding from the energy industry.

The Texas Living Waters Project urges the Legislature to use the current legislative session to address the long-running water infrastructure challenges laid bare by Winter Storm Uri.

Jeff Balke lists eight emergency preparedness items you might want to have on hand.

Robert Rivard is firm about the need to continue taking the pandemic seriously.

Matt Mohn shows how Joe Biden would have done under the 2004 Tom DeLay re-redistricting.

Abbott’s Trumpian Response to “Neanderthal Thinking”

Greg Abbott doesn’t enjoy being challenged by President Joe Biden nor the media as was evidenced in his freak-out on a KPRC interview yesterday. The freak-out continued on Twitter (see image).

With Texans, the Feds, Texas city leaders, the Texas business community, and the medical community incensed at Abbott’s idiotic decisions to rescind a mask mandate and open up Texas business 100%, Abbott took the usual route Republicans take when challenged: Racism.

It did not take long for Greg Abbott to go full-Trump by blaming immigrants for COVID-19, even after his failed attempts at keeping open and reopening Texas have caused more death and infection. But Abbott’s reaction only shows his sinister and evil intentions to enrich big business while the rest of the state suffers, not only with COVID-19, but with misinformation and bigotry.

Let’s face it, we don’t need to be reminded that Brown (and Black) folks have always been blamed and scapegoated since Texas was founded. The playbook is pretty old and it’s gotten old. Really old.

In a twist, CNN is reporting that while Abbott makes up stories about immigrants spreading COVID-19 thanks to Biden, the reality is that Abbott is stalling efforts to have the Biden administration provide COVID-19 testing for immigrants and mitigation prior to release.

DHS has already set plans in motion to use Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to support community efforts to test, isolate and quarantine migrants released from Border Patrol custody, the official told CNN. But the grant money needs to be approved by the state before it can be distributed to border communities. CNN previously reported plans were underway to use FEMA funds to help localities acquire tests. As of Wednesday, Texas had not yet provided a response to the administration since engaging with the Department of Homeland Security.

CNN 3/4/21

Anyway, this post is just a reminder that Greg Abbott is a bigot who will continually scapegoat “the other” for his own political gain. Actually, this bit of news shouldn’t be a surprise. The surprise is that there are still idiots out there (even Dems) who will keep this guy in office, even when given a clear choice.

Abbott Signs Death Warrant on Texas

We’ve already talked about Greg Abbott’s intentional failures, but he has decided that Texas’ failures are a political opportunity for himself.

On March 2, the day some celebrate “Texas independence day,” Greg Abbott chose to show off Texas’ fake rugged independence and individualism by rescinding an order to comply with CDC mask guidelines and opening up the state to 100% capacity. Abbott always talks tough, but the numbers show he is more than willing to sacrifice Texans for his political career.

Abbott shot off opposite numbers during his campaign rally-slash-presser to make his case. In other words, instead of deaths and infections, he stated how many people had gotten better after contracting COVID-19 as an exhibit to prove why he needed to rescind the mandates. Plus, Abbott seems to think that with a miniscule amount of Texans having been vaccinated, that we are in the clear. The reality is that over 2 million Texans have been infected, with over half being people of color. Over 42,000 Texans have died with 60% being Brown and Black.

Because of a botched fight to control COVID-19, a too late effort by Trump and Abbott to enact mask and protocol mandates, and a botched vaccine roll-out while Trump was in office, the economy of the nation and Texas has tanked. Perhaps controlling the virus through earlier efforts could have lessened the economic toll, but what has actually happened is the opposite. Now, Abbott uses the background of a Mexican restaurant in Lubbock to show off a business willing to go along with 100% capacity to save itself, but not its customers. Thankfully, many small businesses are still requiring masks to enter. Unfortunately, Texas corporate hero HEB is only “urging” customers to mask up.

All that said, those who follow Abbott (and Trump, still) are plainly stupid or heartless or both. They live off of that feeling of faux independence and rugged individualism that has been written in the history books, yet are the first to whine when disaster strikes and blood is left in their hands. As some celebrate Texas, we must all realize how far this state has not come and how many people have been willfully killed through bad public policy since its inception.

And then we must ask,’ Who’s in charge?” And rid ourselves of stupidity and willful ineptitude.

My Vax Experience – Part 1

I got lucky on Thursday evening when the Houston Health Department opened up some slots for shots–the COVID-19 vaccine. I was quite surprised when I clicked the link and lo and behold, a page actually opened up that allowed me to sign up. Why was I surprised? Because, most times, the slots filled up within a few minutes. I felt quite lucky. So, I signed up and moments later received confirmation of my appointment for Friday morning.

With paperwork in hand, I drove over to the HHDs vax facility at Bayou City Events Center on Knight Road. Thankfully, I got in line early and made it into the parking lot within 15 minutes. (HPD and COH Mobility did a great job!) Another 15 minutes later, the staff in the lot had scanned the QR code on my printed-out email, checked me in, and I parked in a great space.

The first stop just inside the door was with the temp-taking guy who also wrapped your wrist with a green band. Then I was led into a room and told to go to a station. The nice woman at the station looked over my paperwork and a minute later, I was sent to another room–the main ballroom–where there were numerous nurses stations. I went to where I was pointed, sat with the nurse, answered a few questions, and a minute later, I was already sitting in the ballroom waiting for 15 minutes to make sure I didn’t grow fangs or have some reaction. One nurse walked by and even checked on me–I’m that special. Then, I was on my way.

I must say that the HHD staff and volunteers are running a tight ship. Along with great intake and nursing staff members, maintenance staff was on top of keeping things clean and sanitized. A lot of sanitizer was available and the bathrooms were clean. Also, I’d never been to this facility, but if anyone ever has an event and needs a DJ (when all this is over), give me a call. I offer great rates and great music!

Did it hurt? It was an injection through the muscle. You’ll feel something. Hours later, my upper arm felt sore, yet, no fangs grew out of me and the Russians have not tried to communicate with me. It’ll be different for everyone, I’m sure. I hear the 2nd dose is doozier, but I’m alright with that if it gets us closer to some sort of herd immunity.

My hope is that we get to a point very soon where we don’t need a race to the needle by way of a computer. Accessibility is as important as the community education that helps convince people to get inoculated, but more important is actual availability at-large. Also very important is the need to take the shots to the community members who are not able to drive to a location. As CM Letitia Plummer stated on Friday, while the FEMA vax site is a great thing, we must address accessibility for those who do not have access to an automobile.

Obviously, there is still a lot to be done. Out local leaders are doing their part and President Biden’s visit today provided some assurance that things are happening, including more vaccine production. But Congress must still pass the COVID-19 bill to ensure the supplies needed to provide the vaccines are purchased.

Well, that’s my experience. I will say that my stress levels are much lower now. Missing out on some of the vaccine sign-ups was indeed stressful. Now, I wait a month for dose #2. Hope you get your doses, as well.

On a more serious note, I cannot help but think about all of those whom we’ve lost. It didn’t have to happen. Of the 500K+, we’ve all known a few. My family has lost relatives and long-time family friends. The least we can do is get vaccinated ASAP so we can continue living and serving in the name of all of those humans.

Mask up, keep distancing, wash hands, and get your shot when you can!