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Journal Archives

Biden, in public and private, tiptoes toward a 2020 run

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Vice President Joe Biden is tiptoeing toward a potential run in 2020, even broaching the possibility during a recent gathering of longtime foreign policy aides.

Huddled in his newly opened office steps from the U.S. Capitol, Biden began a planning meeting for his new diplomacy center by addressing the elephant in the room. He said he was keeping his 2020 options open, considering it a real possibility. He insisted he had made no decision, and didn't need to yet, according to five people who either attended the meeting or were briefed on it by those who did.

Biden also expressed interest in bringing those in the room onto his team if he decides to launch a campaign. At the same time, he gave them an out: There would be no hard feelings if they decided they were content in their current roles outside of government, said the people, who demanded anonymity to discuss a private meeting.

The political world has long tried to game out Biden's plans for 2020. After all, he came close to running last time only to see President Donald Trump pull off a victory that many Democrats openly suggest wouldn't have happened had he, not Hillary Clinton, been their nominee. Several people came away from the meeting with the impression that if no strong Democratic candidate emerges in the next year or so, Biden would feel strongly compelled to run.

Read more: https://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/politics/article/Biden-in-public-and-private-tiptoes-toward-a-12622033.php

Atheist group accuses Beaumont of promoting religion with decals

A national atheist organization that advocates the separation of church and state has accused the City of Beaumont of promoting religion by adding "In God We Trust" decals to city emergency vehicles, citing comments made by council members about religious motives.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote in a letter to the City Council this month that "declaring that the entire city trusts in God unequivocally conflicts with the beliefs of many of its residents."

The foundation said a "concerned city employee who objects to being compelled the display the phrase on their work vehicle" contacted them about the council's decision.

Council members decided at a Jan. 30 meeting to add the decals with the national motto to the city's 185 police, fire and EMS vehicles.

In the letter, Foundation lawyer Madeline Ziegler pointed to comments made by Ward 4 council member Robin Mouton, who proposed the decals, and at-large member Get Williams-Wright, who supported them, as evidence that they have religious reasons for the decision.

Read more: https://www.beaumontenterprise.com/news/article/Atheist-group-accuses-Beaumont-of-promoting-12617688.php

Refugio County courthouse planning begins amid short funding after Hurricane Harvey

REFUGIO – A grant of up to $30,000 from the Texas Historical Commission will fund a feasibility study to determine the best way to restore the 1919 Refugio County Courthouse, severely damaged by Hurricane Harvey on Aug. 25 last year.

The courthouse, designed by San Antonio architect Atlee B. Ayres, is Texas Renaissance style and is constructed of brick. Two additions to the original courthouse added in the 1950s have altered the appearance of the structure.

The hurricane knocked out more than 30 historic windows, created a mold problem and damaged the integrity of the structure.

“This was an emergency grant that requires no match,” said County Judge Bobby Blaschke.

“It’s primarily for planning work,” he said.

Read more and view photo of the building:

Democratic Candidates For Texas Governor Debate in San Antonio

Early voting in Texas’ primary elections begins Feb. 20, and the Democratic candidates for governor are making their rounds across the state.

Six candidates debated in San Antonio on Tuesday about school finance, healthcare and economic development. There are nine Democrats running, including a former sheriff, a former suburban mayor and a business owner. At San Antonio’s main library, about 200 people gathered to hear the debate.

One of the questions Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina asked was about healthcare: “Healthcare is a major concern to all Texas. Where do you stand on the Affordable Care Act?”

Dallas businessman Jeffrey Payne answered first. He owns five businesses, including a gay nightclub. Payne said the ACA needs repairing.

“We tweak it. We make it better. You come out with a program like the ACA, of course it’s going to have to be tweaked. We knew that going in. It wasn’t going to be perfect but instead the Republicans just want to scrap it and put more people on the uninsured list,” he said, adding that he leans more toward Medicare for all or single payer system.

Read more: http://tpr.org/post/2018-primaries-democratic-candidates-texas-governor-debate-san-antonio

The Far-Right is Staging an Ouster of Moderate Republicans in the Panhandle. Will Incumbents Outlast

The Far-Right is Staging an Ouster of Moderate Republicans in the Panhandle. Will Incumbents Outlast the Attack?

Scotty Simpson, the owner of a farming irrigation supply store in the Texas Panhandle town of Morton, is back on his soapbox. Mind, this is a literal soapbox. Simpson is known around Morton for his fevered sermons on Jesus and conservatism, spontaneous diatribes he often unleashes on customers, friends and others who pass through his store — so much so that a carpenter friend built him a soapbox to stand on. Simpson, who is 5’5″ with tidily combed gray hair, now uses it liberally, though he wouldn’t use that word. It’s primary season and all he wants to talk about is voting out the Panhandle’s Republican elected officials he considers far, far too liberal.

One morning in late January, Simpson is railing against Representative Ken King and Senator Kel Seliger, the Republican state legislators who represent this dusty farming community of 2,000 about an hour west of Lubbock.

“Anyone who votes with the Democrats doesn’t represent me,” Simpson says as a big-screen TV affixed to a post in the middle of the room flashes Fox News headlines. He takes particular issue with King’s refusal last session to support a controversial amendment that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks, even in instances of severe fetal abnormalities. “Ken King is so far off the far side. I just can’t trust anything about him. You just can’t kill late-term babies — that has to be my bottom line today.” As for Seliger, Simpson thinks he’s been disloyal to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, the demagogic leader of the Senate. King and Seliger are two “of the most liberal Republicans” in the statehouse, he says.

Both of the lawmakers, along with Amarillo Representative Four Price, have drawn primary challenges from zealous right-wingers who say the current crop of Panhandle politicians isn’t conservative enough to pass Republican muster. The challengers are generally following a playbook developed by Empower Texans, a right-wing enforcement group that targets what it considers establishment Republicans: claim that you are unequivocally conservative and that the other guy is basically a Democrat, all the while vilifying bipartisanship and accusing your opponent of being a big-government patsy who’s soft on abortion. Simpson, along with the customers and workers who mill around inside the business that morning, say they’re sold.

Read more: https://www.texasobserver.org/far-right-staging-ouster-moderate-republicans-panhandle-will-incumbents-outlast-attack/

Prison By Any Other Name

In early September 2015, guards fanned out across Texas with orders to round up about 200 men, rousing some from bed as early as 3 a.m. and demanding they stuff whatever they wanted to keep into black Hefty bags.

The men weren’t hard to find. They’d all completed lengthy prison sentences for sex crimes. The state calls them “sexually violent predators,” men required not only to publicly register their whereabouts but also to participate in a court-ordered monitoring and treatment program meant to cure them of “behavior abnormalities” and safely integrate them back into society after they’ve done their penance. At the time of the roundup, most were living in boarding homes and halfway houses.

Jason Schoenfeld, who was staying at a Fort Worth halfway house at the time, made a frantic phone call to his friend John, a fellow veteran. John, who’s retired and old enough to be Schoenfeld’s father, met the 46-year-old Gulf War veteran while volunteering at the Fort Worth VA hospital. John taught Schoenfeld breathing techniques to calm his nerves during an exercise class he’d volunteered to lead at the VA; records show the VA gave Schoenfeld a 30 percent disability rating for post-traumatic stress disorder after his combat service. John eventually grew fond of Schoenfeld and wanted to help him, even after learning his new friend had served an 18-year prison sentence for aggravated sexual assault of a child.

John says he heard desperation in Schoenfeld’s voice as he asked whether John could come grab his stuff before it ended up in a dumpster. “It was clear he didn’t have anybody else,” John told me. He says Schoenfeld looked confused to the point of tears when John and his wife arrived at the halfway house. “We didn’t even know what city he was going to,” John says. Schoenfeld gave him two bulging garbage bags; John now stores them in his home.

Read more: https://www.texasobserver.org/a-prison-by-any-other-name/

Teens Arrested For Threats Against Fort Bend County Schools

Fort Bent County Sheriff’s Office said two teenagers accused in separate incidents of making threats through social media to harm people at two Fort Bend County Schools have been arrested.

In one incident, a 14-year-old student sent a message on Snapchat Friday morning indicating he was going to shoot Billy Baines Middle School in Missouri City.

In the other incident, a 15-year-old is accused of sending a message Friday afternoon through Snapchat that contained an image of students fleeing the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The student claimed the same would happen at Harmony School in Katy.

The sheriff’s office said the students were each charged with making a terroristic threat, a felony.

Read more: https://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/articles/news/2018/02/17/268594/teens-arrested-for-threats-against-fort-bend-county-schools/

Man Wearing 'F*ck Trump' Shirt Gets Kicked Out of Texas Restaurant

Andy Ternay, a bearded blacksmith from Garland, went to brunch on Sunday wearing a shirt displaying the words, “Fuck Trump.” Employees at First Watch in Richardson, TX asked him to leave and someone even called the police. That same day, Ternay made a post on his Facebook account that went viral.

Ternay begins his long account of the meal that wasn’t meant to be with the words, “Adventuresome morning today!”

The post includes a photo of Ternay wearing the shirt at a table with a menu in hand. The front of it displays the words, “FUCK TRUMP AND FUCK YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.” This is the same phrase Karen Fonseca had on her bumper sticker. Another photo shows the back of Ternay’s shirt, which has an image of an obscene hand gesture involving the middle finger. It also displays the words, “FUCK THE RACIST ALT-RIGHT.”

Ternay explains that a manager told him “customers were distressed by his shirt and that children might see it.” Ternay responded by letting “her know that explaining ‘grab ‘em by the pussy’ and golden showers to my daughter was equally unpleasant.”

Read more: http://www.houstonpress.com/news/texas-restaurant-boots-a-man-wearing-a-f-ck-trump-t-shirt-10208549

Ag Commissioner Sid Miller Writes Touching Black History Month Remembrance of Jefferson Davis

Sid Miller (R) has done it again. Over the weekend, the Texas agriculture commissioner, not content with comparing the release of sensitive intelligence information to freeing slaves, posted a glowing tribute to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, smack in the middle of Black History Month.

The commissioner, best described as a cross between the Marlboro man, a revival preacher and a racist email forward, notes that "On this day in 1861, Jefferson Davis, a former U.S. senator from Mississippi who served as U.S. secretary of war in the 1850s, receives word he has been selected president of the new Confederate States of America. Delegates atthe [sic] Confederacy’s constitutional convention in Montgomery, Alabama, chose him for the job."

Miller then goes on to weave a yarn about Davis nobly leaving his slave-staffed plantation, Brierfield, where he was "pruning rose bushes with his wife Varina," to take a job that he felt may be too difficult.

"He could see the difficulties involved in launching the new nation," Miller writes, before quoting Davis. "Upon my weary heart was showered smiles, plaudits, and flowers, but beyond them I saw troubles innumerable. We are without machinery, without means, and threatened by powerful opposition but I do not despond and will not shrink from the task before me.”

Read more: http://www.dallasobserver.com/news/texas-ag-commissioner-sid-miller-praises-jefferson-davis-on-facebook-10363458

Plano Will Address Council Member's Anti-Muslim Facebook Post at Sunday Council Meeting

The Plano City Council will debate council member Tom Harrison's fate at noon Sunday after repeated calls from Plano's mayor that Harrison resign.

On Tuesday night, Harrison reposted an anti-Muslim video on his Facebook page. The video, created by an organization called Joined Hands Across America for Trump, shows purportedly Muslim children engaged in prayer and asks President Donald Trump to keep Islam out of America's public schools.

At Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere annual state of the city address Thursday night, he called for Harrison's resignation for the second time.

"We have policies that are clear about nondiscrimination so that everyone in our city really feels at home," LaRosiliere said, echoing his statements from a Wednesday afternoon news conference. "When that post came out, it was inappropriate, and it was not in line with who we are."

Read more: http://www.dallasobserver.com/news/plano-protests-anti-muslim-council-member-10379905
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