This entry is adapted from my review of Drums of Autumn on Goodreads. From scanning other reviews there, it appears to me that a sizable percentage of Outlander series consumers hit the wall in the fourth volume. It's not an easy-breezy read, and it doesn't reward the reader sufficiently for the effort, says this non-reviewer. Most likely, I will plow through the remainder of the series, mostly on the strength of Diana Gabaldon's character depictions and development, and watch Season 4 when it drops in November.
One of the benefits of painstaking accuracy in historical fiction is the richness of the imagery that makes the reader feel there. One of the risks of painstaking accuracy in historical fiction is that the interest level of the plot may suffer in sacrifice to that accuracy.
Dr. Gabaldon's Drums of Autumn is big and sweeping enough to provide ample examples of both the benefit and the risk. Despite its size and scope, I don't have a lot more to say about it.
One downside of this large multi-volume saga, now that I'm four volumes in, is that I'm having trouble remembering what happened in which of the volumes. What, you mean I need to have my copy handy in order to review it, or risk moaning about a sub-optimal plot point that actually happens in Voyager? Do tell!
Presented without comment. I have some minor quibbles with Dixon's analysis, but I'm more interested in yours.
The Texas Progressive Alliance respects the sacrifice of those who have died serving their country on this day, but in the words of Redacted Tonight host Lee Camp, would prefer to...
(A)ctually respect the lives of our troops and human life in general (by demanding) an end to wars launched on false pretenses. Stop giving war profiteers endless airtime to spout propaganda. Ask why our government always has money for war but never for our homeless veterans.
These seem like simple requests and easy things for an allegedly peace-seeking nation—a nation that would have many fewer war dead to memorialize in the future—to accomplish.
Here's the roundup.
It's been less than a week since Texas primary runoff elections decided our November ballot, and RG Ratcliffe at Texas Monthly details the heavy losses in Lege races that the arch-conservatives at Empower Texans suffered, while Chris Hooks at the Texas Observer takes stock of the Texas Democrats' chances in 2018. (tl,dr: suboptimal.)
Jon Tilove at First Reading dives deep into the dynamics of the governor's race, with the answer to the question James Barragán at the DMN is asking--which candidate Latin@s choose--being based on 'no mercy' or 'no más'.
John Coby at Bay Area Houston profiles three of the Democrats he likes running in Houston's Clear Lake region, and David Collins analyzes the surprising margin of Lizzie Pannill Fletcher's win in CD-7, and cautions against possible false extrapolations from it. The Lewisville Texan Journal live-posted election results for their area, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs publishes the poll from the Lina Hidalgo campaign showing her leading incumbent Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.
In two of the most sickening developments yet in the War on Immigrants, an unarmed woman was shot and killed in Rio Bravo, Texas by a border patrol agent; the incident was videotaped and uploaded to social media, and USCBP changed their story about it. And with the news that HHS officials cannot account for the whereabouts of nearly 1500 immigrant children taken from their parents, placed in foster care, and are now missing, Somervell County Salon has a link to the Pew poll showing that those Americans who care the least about this are Christians.
Update: There is a problem with using the word "lost" here; it might even be a good thing that these children cannot be located by the government:
Although there are concerns that some undocumented children are trafficked or abused, the ORR claims (paywall) that 85% of kids are placed in the custody of family members.
In the wake of the Santa Fe high school murders, Greg Abbott held three conferences, out of which came 22 suggestions for Texas high schools to prevent the shootings of our children and teachers in the future. None of them were "common-sense gun safety legislation." Relative to reducing the number of doors in public schools to cut down on the number of deaths, Harry Hamid has some suggestions on the education of Dan Patrick.
In another takedown of the failure of the War on Drugs, Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast points out that making people too scared to call 911 when someone they know overdoses is not going to prevent overdose deaths.
As hurricane season 2018 begins, the after-effects of Harvey linger. Texas Standard reports that Fort Bend County commissioners will sue the Army Corp of Engineers over mistakes made in managing the water in that area's Baker reservoir that caused severe flooding. And Texas Vox read the US Chemical Safety Board's analysis that indicated the Arkema plant in Crosby was fully aware of the dangers of flooding prior to the hurricane.
SocraticGadfly reviews Amy Chozick's "Chasing Hillary" and one-stars it for several reasons to save you the trouble.
Jim Schutze at the Dallas Observer is bemused that the State Fair of Texas got billed over $1200 by their lawyers to read one of his columns.
Martha Mercado at The Rag Blog was there as the Poor People's Campaign came to Austin.
And Skip Hollandsworth tells us about Jeff Pike, Texas' own Tony Soprano.
The headline says it all: GPTX did not get the required number of petition signatures. That just means that it's time to begin getting the infrastructure in place for a successful petition drive in 2020.
If you signed it this year, thank you. If you voted in a primary and thus could sign it, please consider NOT voting in a primary in 2020. And spread the word.
Wednesday I did promise a piece on the Fletcher-Moser primary runoff in TX-7, but I don't really have a lot to say about the race itself. The result was unexpected more because of Lizzie Pannill Fletcher's 2-1 margin of victory than because she actually won it: 67.08% for Fletcher, 32.92% for Laura Moser. Considering that they received about 29% and 24% respectively in the seven-way first round, this looks like a case of the other candidates' supporters voting for Anyone But Moser.
While the Democrats' runoff for the gubernatorial nomination split 3% of the registered voters statewide, about 4.26% of registered voters in District 7 turned out to choose between Fletcher and Moser. In March the figure was about twice that. So congratulations to Ms. Fletcher for amassing 11,000-plus votes Tuesday. She'll need a lot more than that to knock off nine-term incumbent John Culberson.
I had no dog in the TX-7 primary fight, having neither lived nor worked in TX-7 since the early '00s, Culberson's first term. However, I have many friends and acquaintances who do live and vote there, and, Congressional districts being drawn as they are in Harris County, I travel through portions of it frequently. This race illustrated and exemplified for me what I call the Phenomenon of False Extrapolation: the notion that you can construct the bigger picture on an issue from experiences in your own little slice of the world.
In the Greater West University area, where I might occasionally travel on two wheels or four, yard signs for Moser seemed to far outnumber those for Fletcher during the past two months. Various media outlets, including some truly progressive websites, churned out profiles of the race that made it seem much closer. The progressive articles cast Moser as the aggrieved party in the conflict, playing up the angle of how the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee published opposition research to thwart Moser just before the March primary.
The nationwide attention Moser received after the DCCC story broke did not translate into sufficient vote support in May any more than all the yard signs in West U, Southside Place, Southampton, and Upper Kirby. There is so much more to TX-7 than the parts that Rice University professors and aging bohemians call home. There's also a whole lot of Far West Houston and Spring Branch and Cypress-Fairbanks, where I don't travel much.
But while we're talking about false extrapolations, some habitual Democrats got all enthused about how the primary turnout in Texas was about as even for the two corporate parties as it's been since Republicans ran the table in 1994. In TX-7, about 34,000 turned out to vote in the March Democratic Primary, compared to about 40,000 on the Republican side. Compare that to the equivalent figures in 2014: about 7,000 (to choose between three-time nominee James Cargas and relative unknown Lissa Squiers—and oh yeah, for Governor etc.) and 38,000, respectively.
So obvs, there's a Democratic renaissance brewing in TX-7, right? You know, the district that has sent Republicans to Washington since the 1960s? And Fletcher may ride the Blue Wave right to the US Capitol?
Cool your jets, Democratic friends. Remember that Texas has open primaries. We don't know how many Republicans crossed party lines to vote in the Democratic Primary, regardless of which candidate they most wanted to see Culberson beat. By the same token, we don't know how many nominal Democrats voted in the Republican primary in an attempt to thwart Culberson.
Even in these extraordinary times, you cannot look at 34,000 versus 40,000 and conclude that Fletcher will draw 46% of the vote in November, let alone defeat the Republican incumbent. Unlike yesterday's prediction about the gubernatorial contest, I'm not ready to declare the TX-7 race over, because I'm actually hoping that Fletcher will make a lot of noise in the next five months and show the world what a weenie Culberson is. But Culberson has not hitched his wagon to the Trump Train, so he does not engender the kind of revulsion that Trump does. The Republican establishment will circle the wagons around the weenie and carry him comfortably to a tenth term.
The only statewide primary runoff race decided yesterday in Texas was the Democratic primary race for Governor. After more than a million voters spread their votes among nine candidates in March, fewer than half a million came back for Round Two, or less than 3% of the nearly 16 million registered voters in this state. Ultimately, about 1.5% of registered voters in Texas came out to nominate Lupe Valdez to run against Greg Abbott.
Oh joy. Participatory democracy FTW.
I looked into the numbers for the Congressional races on both sides—especially the Democrats vying to knock off John Culberson in CD-7 in a primary race that drew national attention—but I'll leave that for a later post.
It's a little harder to gauge the total Republican turnout, due to the lack of a statewide race on that side. However, according to the current figures, 158,708 cast votes in runoffs for six Congressional seats; 73,088 in seven State House races. You can't just add those totals together, since there may have been some overlapping jurisdictions. Turnout in those Congressional elections ranged from almost 44,000 is CD-5 (East Dallas and points southeast) to just over 2,000 in CD-29 (some heavily LatinX portions of Harris County where Republicans are rare as hen's teeth).
Rest assured that this is not another blog entry about sucky turnout figures and the virtues of Instant Runoff Voting. We've done plenty of those. Nor is it about former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez apparent lack of political acumen since she announced her candidacy. LatinX and LGBT groups gave her a long look, found that there was no there there, and endorsed conserva-Dem Andrew White instead (the one PDiddie refers to as "Average White Guy").
Please, for the love of all that's good in this world:
In the matter of the Santa Fe High School shooting, current reports indicate yet another alienated suburban white kid on a mission to kill himself and take some teachers and classmates along. But not only did he fail to kill himself, the Galveston County Sheriff's Deputies didn't finish the job for him, even after he shot and wounded one of them. (Yes, little Santa Fe, Texas, has grown into a suburban municipality.)
I suppose we can be grateful that this incident did not involve an AR-15, so there will be no inane online debates between "Ban all assault weapons now!" and "The AR is not an assault weapon, duh!" I suppose we can be grateful that the deputies didn't add to the carnage by killing Dimitrios Pagourtzis, and hopeful that law enforcement can show similar restraint when, say, they catch a young black man jaywalking.
The Texas Progressive Alliance weeps for the families of the Santa Fe victims, the latest in America's ongoing carnage of gun violence and the predictable aftermath of excuse-making and inaction by our bought-and-paid-for lawmakers.
The tweet above appeared late yesterday afternoon, as I stopped for a tofu banh mi en route to BikeHouston's annual Ride of Silence. As of this morning, Fight for the Future hasn't even had time to redo its website in celebration of the Senate vote.
Amazingly, Senate Democrats held the line, even the Blue Dogs. A few Republicans joined them: Susan Collins of Maine, John Kennedy of Louisiana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska apparently had constituents who spoke up loudly and clearly enough to drown out their corporate sugar daddies. Here's the report from The Hill.
Despite the victory, FFTF is still running its Red Alert campaign, in which dbcgreentx.net is still participating. The Senate vote does not end the FCC's rollback of Net Neutrality provisions. Both houses of Congress have to pass the same resolution to overturn that rollback. Republicans hold 235 seats to the Democrats' 193 (with 7 seats currently vacant). As The Hill's article notes:
The bill will have a much harder time in the House, where Democrats would need 25 Republicans to cross the aisle and join a discharge petition in order to bring it up for a vote.
So concerned Netizens will need to lean on a lot more House members to close the gap, plus prevent Democratic Reps from wandering off the proverbial ranch. Net Neutrality is a consistent hit, with astronomical majorities favoring it in poll after poll. Let's see whether FFTF and related organizations can nettle enough of them into making some phone calls.
Yesterday morning, when I wanted to post this, the Weebly Blog Editor wasn't loading, so I opted for putting it on Facebook instead. Since then, I see that Caitlin Johnstone has posted something in the same numbered list format in response to the latest news from Israel/Palestine.
I didn't really do much research or fact-checking for this, so it emerged as a series of impressions based on the larger historical context than a point-by-point analysis of a situation that has me responding from emotion and moral repugnance rather than the dry facts. However, e morally repugnant fact is that the US continues to support governments that kill civilians and nonviolent protesters within and beyond their borders because the US—our purported beacon of democracy, liberty, and justice—HAS ALSO BEEN KILLING CIVILIANS AND NONVIOLENT PROTESTERS WITHIN AND BEYOND ITS BORDERS FOR-FUCKING-EVER. It's how we roll.
To paraphrase Mr. Orwell, Oceania is at war with humanity in the name of profit. Oceania has always been at war with humanity in the name of profit.
In his Weekly Wrangle posted today, PDiddie buried the lead. He states, quite correctly, that the Texas Women's Voices Project from Texas Monthly is a must-read. But he says so at the bottom of the list. So I'm moving it to the top. These 24 first-person stories, from Texas women of diverse backgrounds in a variety of fields, may not be Pulitzer-level stuff; also, it's arguable whether it (or anything from TM) belongs in an aggregation of progressive blog posts. But this collection is an example of TM at its most vital and ground-breaking.
It comes as no surprise at all (to me, anyway) that novelist Sandra Cisneros brings up one of the most important points, especially in relation to all things #MeToo:
The most important thing about this whole #MeToo movement is to have people listen. We don’t do very much of it in this age, as a country. Compassionate, present listening is an extraordinary medicine.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.