Friday, October 30, 2020

Texas isn't a red state. It's an oppressed state. And Proof by Steve Hofstetter that Greg Abbott is Sabotaging Democracy

I'll have to update the meme to encourage folks to vote in 2022. In the meantime, I encourage all to scroll down and view this 2021 Youtube video by Steve Hofstetter below that proves that Texas Governor Greg Abbott is sabotaging democracy. 

Some of the more helpful advice and information that will help you is put out by the League of Women Voters. You can also follow them on Twitter @LWVTexas 

Laura Yeager is my favorite Texas Mom and dear friend mobilizing Texans around the vote. You can follow her on Twitter at: @LoloSube

Additional good resources going forward are Texas Educators Vote that you can follow on Twitter at: @TxEdVote@TeachTheVote, and Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) @SuVotoEsSuVoz. The election takes place on November 8, 2022. 

BallotPedia is also a helpful resource for knowing who is running for office
in the next election, including Beto O'Rourke who is challenging Greg 
Abbott for governor.

Have your voice heard with your vote. Su voto es su voz!
Let's get this homophobic, misogynistic, gun-loving, self-serving republican
party out of power this November!

-Angela Valenzuela

#TxEd #TxLege #Vote #Vote2022 #VoteBlue2022 #EndGunViolenceNow


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Giffords Invests Big to Flip Control & Secure a Majority in Texas State House Willing to take Action on Gun Safety

Thanks to the Giffords PAC for doing this. Check out the resources they provide:
We need more people in policy to address gun policy. This impacts us directly at UT and in all of colleges and universities statewide. I applaud my colleague, Dr. Pat Somers,​ for being a leading researcher and voice at our university on gun policy.

-Angela Valenzuela

 October 28, 2020
CONTACT: Jason Phelps,

Giffords Invests Big to Flip Control & Secure a Majority in Texas State House Willing to take Action on Gun Safety  

Giffords supports the Texas House Democratic Committee with $300,000 while investing another $100,00 in candidates and efforts to turn out voters while proving gun safety is a winning issue in the Lonestar State

Washington, DC  Giffords PAC, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, has invested $300,000 to support the Texas House Democratic Committee’s effort to flip control of the chamber and achieve a gun safety majority. The initiative comes on top of another $100,000 to support candidates up and down the ballot, boost efforts to turn out voters, and fund polling with Latino Victory Project showing Latinx voters care about gun violence.  

“Despite the horrific mass shootings in El Paso and Midland-Odessa in 2019, the Texas legislature offered only thoughts and prayers, with zero action” said Peter Ambler, Giffords Executive Director. “Rather than prioritizing the safety of communities, Republicans in Texas have cowered at the feet of the gun lobby. Texas voters are ready for change. Giffords is proud to support gun safety champions up and down the ballot who have the courage to act.”

Texas currently earns an “F” on the Giffords Law Center Annual Gun Law Scorecard because of its failure to enact commonsense solutions such as requiring background checks on all gun sales, enacting an extreme risk protection order law, and strengthening laws that restrict access to firearms by domestic abusers.

After decisive wins in the Virginia State Legislative races a year ago, Giffords PAC turned its attention to states, including Texas, long seen as off-limits for gun safety. Now, thanks to changing demographics and long-term attitudinal shifts, candidates up and down the ballot are running and winning on promises to take action on gun safety. Especially in the vote-rich suburbs of Houston and Dallas, democratic state house candidates recognize that gun safety has become a key issue for swing voters. 

Examples of how house candidates are embracing gun safety can be seen here and here. One mailer, paid for by the Dallas County Democratic Party, attacks Republican incumbent Morgan Meyers for his unpopular, extreme stances on guns in schools and on college campuses. In contrast the other mailer, from Democractic incumbent Ana-Maria Ramos, promises to protect families by supporting universal background checks, banning high capacity magazines, and keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. 

While focusing on breakthroughs in the state house, Giffords PAC also made backing MJ Hegar for Senate a priority, endorsing her ahead of the Democratic Senate primary. The group held a number of events for Hegar, including a discussion as part of the Senate Road to Background Checks Tour where she explained how she’d fight to protect Texans from gun violence in the Senate. Additional investments went to Workers Alliance and Corazón de la Frontera PAC for Get Out the Vote efforts geared toward turning out voters in communities of color. 

The effort in the Senate race builds on a successful campaign in 2018 by Giffords PAC to support gun safety champions running for Congress. In one of the defining campaigns of the cycle for Giffords PAC, they spent $1.1 million on a campaign against then-Congressman John Culberson. The ads showed Culberson siding with the NRA while Houston kids suffer through lockdowns and active shooter drills. 

Giffords released Public Policy Polling showing nearly 8 in 10 Texas voters support universal background checks. Over 60% of voters said that a candidate’s support for universal background checks laws made it more likely that they would vote for that candidate. Only 8% of those polled said they would more likely vote for the candidate who opposed background checks.  

Together with Latino Victory Project, Giffords also released new polling showing that 3 out of 4 Latinos in Texas support strong gun safety legislation. Giffords and Latino Victory Project also teamed up last year for a bus tour, ¡YA BASTA! Latinos Rise Against Gun Violence and Hate, beginning in El Paso and stopping in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.

Related Resources:


Giffords PAC works to reduce gun violence and save lives by empowering voters with information and supporting candidates who will fight for safer gun laws.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Polls, late campaign activity suggest Republican dominance in Texas could be at risk

"A Biden win in Texas would be a political earthquake in American politics."

We so need this considering our Trumpian leadership.

-Angela Valenzuela

#2020Election #Vote2020

Polls, late campaign activity suggest Republican dominance in Texas could be at risk

With a week to go until Election Day, the race for Texas' Electoral College votes appears closer than it has been in decades.


Voters cast their ballots during early voting at Taylor City Hall. Credit:Amna Ijaz/The Texas Tribune

Joe Biden’s campaign will be running television ads in El Paso, San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth heading into Election Day. The Democratic nominee for vice president, Kamala Harris, is planning a visit to Texas during the homestretch of the campaign. And polls show the Biden-Harris ticket within striking distance — and, in some surveys, ahead — in the traditionally Republican state.

Texas may still not be among the top priorities of either party’s presidential nominee in 2020 — and President Donald Trump might still be the favorite here. But the activity in the final days of this year’s presidential election suggests that, for the first time in decades, Texas is not a foregone conclusion. Democrats are at least in the running here in races for the presidency, U.S. Senate and numerous seats down-ballot.

“It’s really exciting. We see the amazing turnout numbers here in Harris County, but it’s not just here,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “It’s Fort Bend, it’s Denton and Hays, too. I don’t think it’s just demographic changes, but people rejecting the leadership that’s currently in the White House. We saw this already in 2018, and we’re just building on that.”

Trump won Texas by 9 percentage points in 2016 — and that was the smallest margin of victory for a Republican since 1996. But few, if any, polls are showing that kind of margin right now.

The latest survey from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune, released Oct. 9, gave Trump a 5-point lead over Biden in the state. A Quinnipiac University poll last week showed a tie; a Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler poll released Sunday showed Biden up 2 points, and a New York Times/Siena College poll on Monday gave Trump a 4-point lead. Another nonpartisan Texas poll released Monday, from the Hobby School for Public Affairs at the University of Houston, gave Trump a 5-point lead.

Overall, RealClearPolitics’ polling average hovers at a 3.2-point advantage for Trump.

A Biden win in Texas would be a political earthquake in American politics. The last Democrat to win the state’s Electoral College votes was Jimmy Carter in 1976. It’s unlikely Texas would be the tipping point that handed Biden the White House — most agree a Texas win would be accompanied by a Biden landslide across the country. But it would end the decadeslong Republican dominance in the nation’s most populous red state.

In another sign of the competitiveness here, billionaire Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday indicated he would use his super PAC, Independence USA, to fund $15 million worth of statewide ads in both Texas and Ohio. A spokesman for Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, said the decision came after his team polled multiple states and came away convinced that Texas and Ohio were prime pickup opportunities.

Trump’s campaign and his allies insist that Republicans’ grip on the state hasn’t loosened. Over the weekend, campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh and former Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, also the former governor of Texas, told supporters on a press call that Trump would not visit Texas before Election Day.

“The president is going to win Texas,” Murtaugh told a reporter in response to a question about Trump’s plans for the state. “The president will be focusing his time and travel and energy on the states that will decide the election.”

In a separate statement to The Texas Tribune, Trump Victory spokesperson Samantha Cotten said the campaign’s “top notch ground game can’t be matched by Biden’s 11th hour effort.”

“While our volunteers are making millions of voter contacts and sharing President Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda, Biden is campaigning on decimating the energy industry. It’s safe to say President Trump is poised to win Texas,” Cotten said.

Biden himself hasn’t made a formal visit to the state. But the number of people going to the polls has been a major source of optimism for Democrats.

With four days of early voting still ahead, the percentage of Texas registered voters who had already cast ballots on Monday was poised to surpass the entire share of people who voted early in 2016. Given that Texans have six extra days of early voting this year and because some voters’ habits might have shifted due to the pandemic, it’s hard to conclude what that will mean for overall turnout. But Democrats were optimistic, especially since the raw number of votes cast was shattering records in the state’s fast-growing suburban areas, which have traditionally voted Republican but which trended more blue in the 2018 midterm elections.

“Turnout is completely unprecedented, and you better bet that the folks who are turning out are not turning out to keep the status quo,” Hidalgo said.

The shifting politics of the suburbs — and Trump’s declining popularity there — has also threatened Republicans’ hold on their state House majority and several congressional seats long held by GOP members.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, finds himself at the center of a reelection race that has heated up considerably in recent weeks. His Democratic opponent, MJ Hegar, has handily outpaced him in fundraising since the summer, and national outside groups are making a late, eight-figure financial play to defeat him.

While polls continue to give Cornyn an advantage over Hegar, the senator is prepared for a much closer contest than his last reelection bid, which he won by 27 points.

“I think it’ll be single digits” this time, Cornyn said in a Dallas TV interview Sunday.

Even beyond the presidential and U.S. Senate races, some statewide races are drawing increasing attention. Chrysta Castañeda, the Democratic nominee for railroad commissioner, announced Monday that she had received $2.6 million in donations from Bloomberg, a remarkable amount for an office that rarely attracts political interest from outside Texas. The all-GOP Railroad Commission regulates Texas’ oil and gas industry.

And even if Trump wins Texas, a margin smaller than his 2016 one could cause a significant ripple down-ballot.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting 10 GOP-held seats across the state, while its Republican counterpart is working to win back the two seats it lost in 2018, those currently held by Democratic Reps. Colin Allred of Dallas and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher of Houston. With a week left, though, the most hotly contested races are four where the GOP is on defense: the races for the 21st District, where Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, is running for reelection; the 22nd District, where Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, is retiring; the 23rd District, where Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, is also vacating the seat; and the 24th District, where another retirement is happening with Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell.

But even beyond that core battlefield, some seats once considered stretches for Democrats appear increasingly competitive. Case in point: the 3rd Congressional District, currently held by Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano. Trump won the suburban Dallas district by 14 points in 2016, but U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, carried it by only 3 in 2018 and the latest Democratic polling has Biden winning it by double digits, with Taylor in a tight race against Democratic challenger Lulu Seikaly.

In a sign of how much of a liability Democrats believe Trump is in the district these days, Seikaly is airing TV ads that explicitly tie the incumbent to the president, particularly on his coronavirus response. Seikaly’s latest TV ad shows a man inside his garage reacting with disbelief at Trump’s suggestion earlier this year that people may inject themselves with disinfectants to fight the virus.

“For us, at least, Van Taylor has been such a proponent of Donald Trump … so for these voters who are abandoning the president, that is what we’ve been doing with our ads, our mail, our digital,” Seikaly said in an interview. “We need them to know Van Taylor is just a Donald Trumper.”

Taylor, for his part, is airing commercials that avoid any mention of Trump, opening with an attack on “Liberal Lulu Seikaly” before touting a Dallas Morning News story that labeled him “Mr. Bipartisan.”

The biggest down-ballot prize for Democrats, though, is the Texas House. Democrats are nine seats away from the majority after picking up 12 seats two years ago — and Republicans acknowledge that even if Trump carries the state, even if Cornyn wins reelection, the House is still very much in play.

Austin Chambers, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, said in an interview Monday that the Texas House battle will be a “dogfight that’s gonna be close all the way until the end.” He expressed confidence that Republicans will ultimately prevail but said the RSLC has spent about $9 million to defend the majority in Texas “and we don’t plan to slow down any time soon.”

Asked for the biggest challenge the RSLC faces in the homestretch, Chambers pointed to “all of the out-of-state Democratic money flooding in.”

“We’ve got better candidates, we’ve got better campaigns, we’ve certainly got a better message,” Chambers said. “We’ve got to make sure they don’t outshout us and outgun us.”

Democrats are certainly trying their best. On Monday, the Texas House Democratic Committee announced its latest fundraising haul: $4.5 million over roughly the past month, or more than eight times what it raised during the same period last election cycle.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin, The New York Times and the University of Houston's Hobby School of Public Affairs have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

CDC Reduces Consecutive Minutes Of COVID-19 Exposure Needed To Be A 'Close Contact'

Here's the new definition: "The CDC now defines a close contact as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period." However, this is described as simply a report, meaning that it's preliminary.

-Angela Valenzuela

CDC Reduces Consecutive Minutes Of COVID-19 Exposure Needed To Be A 'Close Contact'

October 21, 20207:46 PM ET

by Rob Stein | NPR

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has broadened the definition of what it means to be a "close contact" of a person with COVID-19.

Previous language defined a close contact as someone who spent at least 15 minutes within 6 feet of a person with a confirmed case.

The CDC now defines a close contact as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

People who are considered close contacts are supposed to quarantine and get tested for the coronavirus.

In a study published Wednesday, the CDC and Vermont health officials found that multiple short exposures to people confirmed to have COVID-19 led to transmission of the virus.

During a contact tracing investigation detailed in the study, it was discovered that the coronavirus was transmitted to a correctional facility employee who interacted with individuals later found to be positive for the coronavirus. The employee had 22 interactions totaling 17 minutes during an eight-hour shift.

Some of the employee's contacts with those later found to have COVID-19 occurred when the individuals who were positive for the coronavirus were not wearing face masks. The CDC says the finding "highlights again the importance of wearing face masks to prevent transmission."

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Epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health told NPR in an email that the new definition "captures most of the instances where there would be transmission but doesn't vastly expand the number."

The change will "mostly impact workplaces, schools and other places where people spend all day together off and on," according to Caitlin Rivers, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She says it does have "the potential to significantly increase the number of people who are asked to quarantine."

Crystal Watson, another Johns Hopkins researcher, agrees.

"This will mean a big change for public health when it comes to contact tracing and for the public generally in trying to avoid exposure," she wrote in an email to NPR.

"The earlier standard for a significant exposure was somewhat artificial, but the purpose was to provide a target for contact tracers so that they would identify the contacts who were most at risk of infection," Watson said. "Now, contact tracing will become even more difficult because it will probably mean a much higher number of contacts per case on average."

Watson added that she was "a bit surprised that the CDC would change its definition based on one case study, especially because the case study doesn't seem to definitively show that the corrections officer was infected through these brief encounters."

"I would love to hear more from CDC about their reasoning for the change in definition, and how they would advise that public health change their operations going forward," Watson wrote.

Jeffrey Engel, senior adviser for the COVID-19 response for the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, said he doubted most health departments would have the resources to do the kind of detailed case investigations needed to identify people who have accumulated 15 minutes of exposure through multiple encounters.

"Detailed case investigations occur rarely and close contact determinations are estimated by busy staff," Engel told NPR by email.

The Vermont case does provide new insight as to how the virus can spread, which will be helpful "going into the fall and winter," according to William Hanage of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

But because the new definition is based on just one case report, it shouldn't cause undue alarm, according to Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

"It is just a report, so I don't want to read into it too much or alarm people," Plescia wrote in an email. "Ultimately, if infection after short interactions were widespread we would see much higher infection rates."

NPR's Rob Stein contributed to this report. 


Monday, October 26, 2020

Foods of the Americas: Amaranth, the Outlaw Grain, by Chola Con Chelo

Fascinating read on how it came to be that a food so nutritious to Mesoamerican peoples could be so dangerous that it was outlawed, especially since it helped form the "near-perfect core" of their diet. I think that all of the reasons provided below are mutually consistent in explaining why it was banned, particularly considering the end-goal of weakening native peoples so that they could be conquered and colonized.

If you've not tasted it, it's delicious. You find it in some cereals in some stores. I like it in my smoothies. I've eaten it in mole in Mexico, too. I was not aware of any of these aspects of its history, however, that I indeed find intriguing. 

-Angela Valenzuela

Foods of the Americas: Amaranth, the Outlaw Grain

By Chola con Chelo | Nov. 18, 2017

Huaútli is the Aztec name for a plant so important to the people, it was banned by the invading Spanish Empire led by Hernán Cortez and the Catholic Church in 1519.

Today huaútli is most commonly known as amaranth, a super-food gaining worldwide recognition as a high-protein plant edible that could easily figure into the solution for world hunger. Although not considered a grain, the tiny amaranth seeds contain eight to nine grams of protein in a one cup serving, offering a nutritionally complete plant food that has all the essential amino acids needed by the human body, without gluten.

Together with corn, beans and chia, amaranth was a key part of the near-perfect core diet of Mesoamerican Indian civilizations, and a tribute item demanded by the Aztecs. But the invading conquerors prohibited its cultivation and consumption calling it an ungodly pagan food, something full of sin. So for hundreds of years under the rule of Spain, amaranth all but disappeared from the face of the earth except in the highlands of Oaxaca and to the south among the Mayan people where its cultivation most probably began some 10,000 years ago.

Amaranth was a primary crop not only important as food, but central to the spiritual and ritual life of Mesoamerican indigenous civilizations; its precious seeds and leaves were nutritious and therapeutic; it was an offering to the gods as well as the ingredient used by midwives to bathe newborn babies; it was mixed into a paste and transformed into miniature reproductions of the child’s future attributes: a bow, an arrow, the hunter’s instruments; or perhaps a flower or an animal spirit-guide. Amaranth was not only food and medicine for the body it was also valued as a divine plant.

Prized as a gourmet food, amaranth was traditionally prepared like corn: cooked, popped or ground into a flour masa for tortillastamales and atolli (atole), a traditional hot beverage.

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Atolli or Atole, a traditional Mexican hot beverage, can be made of amaranth

But more importantly, it was used in religious rituals offered to certain deities, as a dish called tzoali, a delicacy of popped amaranth and sweet magüey blue agave syrup or honey, mixed together and shaped. Today those same tzoali are called alegrías and can be found in bakeries and stores throughout Mexico and in the Southwestern United States, or anywhere Mexican culture and cuisine flourish.

Today tzoali are called ‘alegrías’, meaning joy or happiness

Yet when Spain invaded the Americas, they soon criminalized the cultivation of amaranth, as they did with the quinoa plant in South America. In doing so they banned the cultivation of one the world’s best sources of plant protein. The Spanish Empire imposed the most cruel and uncompromising punishments for growing huaútli, including cutting off the hands of those who dared to plant it.

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Cutting off the hands of those who dared to plant it

So why did this beautiful nutritious and mystical plant elicit such a savage response from the invaders? This atrocity was most likely triggered by the importance of amaranth both in the people’s diet and in their spiritual life, a plant rightly held in high esteem.

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Chalchiutlicue, Aztec Goddess of Waters and Purifier of Newborn Babies

Upon their arrival, the Catholic priests were horrified to find that amaranth was considered a deity and used in religious ceremonial rituals. It was consumed and mixed, according to some sources, with the blood of people who were sacrificed, and was perhaps a tad too close to the religious ceremonial ritual of the holy Eucharist, the Catholic ritual that consecrates the body and blood of Christ and is also eaten. But the Eucharist is of course not considered savagery by the church. To the contrary, it is considered a blessed sacrament.

Mexica Aztec Warriors ate amaranth

As many scholars have noted, amaranth was an important part of the diet of warriors as well as a sacred plant that came into the cross-hairs of the Church’s war against paganism. So the more likely truth is that the criminalization of amaranth was both a military strategy intended to weaken the Aztec people allowing for an easier conquest. It was also a brutal tactic used by Catholic Church to eliminate any practices or evidence of an indigenous religion.

Like all warriors, the Mexica Eagle Guild Warriors ate amaranth and were responsible for fighting off and killing about 80% of the Spanish invaders who died in battle, despite their iron swords and their use of horses and dogs as weapons of war. So it was urgent for the Empire and the Church to weaken and crush the masses of people and their warriors by any

means necessary.

Despite its near extinction, today’s amaranth, the hardy survivor huaútli, can be found in contemporary cooking from granola to pancakes and is once again taking it’s place as an important plant food in defiance of its illicit past.

Diverse varieties of amaranth were cultivated all the way to the lands of the Inca people in the South American Andes, where it is consumed to this day. High in protein and the essential amino acid, lysine, amaranth found its way to Europe and is even consumed in India where it is known as rajeera, or the king’s grain.

How ironic that this offering of forbidden toasted amaranth seeds, held together by the sweetness of agave nectar and honey, made round in the shape of the sun and the circle of life, should survive to be called alegría, happiness or joy. No blood this time. Plenty of that was spilled by the Spanish invaders.

From Mesoamerica to East of The L.A. River, from street vendors to neighborhood mercados, bakeries and marketas you will find amaranth sold as the popular treat called alegría, the Spanish word for happiness or joy.

WRITTEN BY María Elena Gaitán (Chola Con Cello) writes about her obsessions, musings and rants from the heart of the universe, East of the Los Angeles River. This is first in a series about the global contribution, politics and cultural impact of Pre-Columbian foods. Thank you for following.