No Shit, Wayne

My dad says this any time one of us states the obvious in a self-important fashion.

He’s quoting A. R. “Babe” Schwartz, a beloved former state senator and representative in the Texas legislature.

Another senator, Wayne Connally, had stepped up to the mic to share his insight on the issue of the day. As so often happens when members of a legislative body convene, Connally’s point of view had already been adequately, and even thoroughly, represented. But, as so often happens when members of a legislative body convene, this did not stop Sen. Connally from launching into a lengthy explanation that essentially amounted to “me, too.”

“No shit, Wayne,” was Sen. Schwartz’s reply.

Fewer and fewer among us remember the bad old days filled with good old boys running the legislature like a men’s club fueled by bourbon, beef, and blondes.

We’ve exchanged them, it seems, for the bad new days filled with people intent upon dragging us back to that cliché-driven past.

People like Wayne Slater.

Earlier this year, the Dallas Morning News special correspondent for the early 1960s penned a hit piece that amplified what had been, to that point, a scurrilous whisper campaign. Wendy Davis was a bad mother and even her own children say so. She didn’t live in a trailer long enough to say she lived in a trailer, and she might have been separated, but not technically divorced, so was she really, really a single mother? Her second husband helped her pay for law school, after which she dropped him like he was hot. But maybe she was hot, amirite? Plus, claimed a source who opted for anonymity so he/she could give “an honest assessment,” she was ambitious.

A gold-digging, ambitious divorcée?

Andrea Grimes, Jessica Luther, and other journalists took Slater to task for the lazy sexism at work in his article.

We’ve since encountered a steady parade of bedraggled sexist tropes. She looks like a Barbie. Her hair used to be one color, now it is another. Has she had work done? Can Wendy Davis, lady politician, have it all? (No shit, that was pretty much the headline.)

Wayne Slater, at least, had taken a break.

I was awake early Sunday, expecting some real news, when this 6 a.m. tweet came across my feed:

Allow me to summarize for you:

  • Wendy Davis used to serve on Ft. Worth City Council.
  • She asked for guidance to be sure she did not run afoul of ethics laws.
  • There were a few instances that were judgment calls, maybe, in some people’s opinion, as far as being a little uncomfortable, but everyone knew about them, and they’ve never amounted to anything. As in, no one ever filed a complaint or launched an investigation, even when it would have been politically expedient to do so.
  • Repeat: her opponents accused her of using politics to benefit her business affairs, but no one ever sanctioned her for doing so, in a state that isn’t afraid to impose ethics sanctions (cf. Rick Perry and Ken Paxton).
  • Now, she’s running for governor, so we’re “breaking” this story.

The story, being old non-news, did not garner nearly enough clicks.

To make their juice worth the squeeze, they called in the big gun, Wayne Slater, who obliged by stringing together some sentences that still didn’t really amount to much:

  • She questioned the accuracy of the numbers in the report.
  • They stuck by their numbers, although their source said their number might have been too low (i.e., not accurate), and she’s sticking by hers.
  • She got a salary when she worked with the family business she ran with her husband.
  • She worked while she was on city council, as do most politicians who serve in elected office in Texas, since their salaries are not, alone, a living wage.
  • She got a share of the community property when they divorced. As does just about anyone divorcing in Texas.
  • Two employees who did not manage her and were not parties to her business or personal relationship with her then-husband said she sure didn’t come to the office much. Considering her job was largely client cultivation and networking, it is unclear why anyone would have expected her to be in the office much, but Wayne didn’t ask that question.

Why was this even a story?

Let’s call it what it was—another excuse for Wayne Slater to clutch his pearls and remind everyone that she was divorced. To frame her as an unethical gold-digger for having the audacity, and ambition, to accept a salary, avoid being brought up on or sanctioned for ethics violations, and to receive a share of community property when she and her husband divorced.

That’s shit, Wayne. Chickenshit, even.

Senator Wayne Connally is no longer with us.

I’m sure Babe Schwartz would agree that we should not speak ill of the dead when there’s so much ill to speak of the living.

I humbly propose we re-purpose no shit, Wayne, and give it a new meaning for a new era.

Whenever a journalist goes for the lazy, sexist tropes when writing about a female candidate …

Whenever a female politician’s past marriages and divorce decrees are subjected to exegetical examination while those of male candidates go unparsed …

Whenever a woman in office is judged on her  perceived level of womanly attainment instead of her legislative record, while the legislative records of their male counterparts go unchallenged …

… we should answer, in one voice, no shit, Wayne.

No. Shit.

No more. None.

Enough, Wayne. You’ve stepped up to the mic before, and we know what you’re going to say.

Enough with stringing together a bunch of gender-driven slurs and innuendos and calling it journalism, or even commentary.

Enough with trying to revive scandals that weren’t even scandals the first time they came across the news cycle, just because you can’t find a legitimate reason to criticize a candidate’s legislative record or policy.

Because, you see, we know what would happen if you did.

If you spoke about Wendy Davis’s legislative record advocating for reform and regulation of the predatory lending market, you would have to acknowledge that Republican candidate for governor Greg Abbott can turn that industry on like a tap when he needs to fund his campaign.

If you spoke about Wendy Davis’s relentless focus on restoring multi-billion dollar cuts to the public education budget, you would have to acknowledge that Republican candidate for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick not only voted for those cuts, but that is campaign is pants-on-fire lying by claiming he lead the fight to restore the funds.

If you spoke about all of the times Wendy Davis played by the rules and didn’t do anything that violated any ethical canons, you would have to acknowledge that Ken Paxton, Republican candidate for attorney general, admitted to the elements of a third degree felony and waived his right to appeal this finding of securities fraud.

The Republican men running for office have essentially given a resounding no comment every time they have been asked to debate, or in many instances, even speak to editorial boards. Dan Patrick is hiking the Appalachian Trail, as far as anyone can tell, because he certainly isn’t showing up anywhere on the campaign trail.

Wendy Davis, meanwhile, has campaign exhaustively, talked with everyone and anyone, knocking on doors and making phone calls and bringing her heart, soul, and policy record to the table.

The next time, Wayne, you are tempted to write about anything other than that, stop.

The next time, Wayne, you get the itch to evaluate her on perceived level of adherence to a scale of womanhood that you got out of a 1962 copy of Ladies Home Journal, remember your new directive before your finger hunts or pecks one single letter.

No shit, Wayne. Texans deserve better.

Posted in good grief, politics, Texas | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Three Ways to Help Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte Win Even if You Don’t Vote in Texas

If you don’t live in Texas, and aren’t alive in Texas, you can’t vote in Texas, despite what you may have assumed from the ballot box 13 incident back in ’48.

To those Texans living outside the state, our Texpatriates and all who love the mystique but can’t stand the mosquitoes, may I offer three suggestions for how you can help Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte win this election?

1. Donate
You knew that would be the first thing on the list, and it may not feel like your $10 or $50 or $100 can help, but it can. Give now so they can plan! Make a monthly gift for the next three months! Your gift will help with the ground game, and it’ll help with media buys.

Most states have one media market. A few have multiple markets, like California, with eleven. Texas has twenty, and our candidates need to place ads on all of them. TV advertising is especially important since the Republican candidates are all refusing to debate, or agreeing to only one debate. If candidates can’t buy ads, they will likely not be seen by voters who need to see them.

Give to Wendy Davis

Give to Leticia Van de Putte

2. Follow Wendy & Leticia on Facebook & Help Boost Posts with Your Likes
Follow them. Subscribe to their feeds. Like everything they post. Re-post their posts. Comment when your Texas friends share their posts.

Wendy Davis

Leticia Van de Putte

The more likes a post gets, the more comments and shares, the more likely the algorithms will put that post into other people’s feeds. As with TV advertising, Facebook posts help keep Wendy and Leticia and the election top of mind.

But don’t stop with those two! Like our lesser-known but equally impressive statewide candidates:

Sam Houston, running for Attorney General. Seriously, that’s his name. Seriously, he’s very qualified for this job. His Republican opponent was disciplined for violating state securities laws. Seriously.

Mike Collier, running for Comptroller. Mike has great business experience, so on point that it would seem his entire career was preparing him for this job. His opponent has prepared by helping his family run their family business, and has been endorsed by the NRA, Eagle Forum, and the Texas Home School Coalition. The only endorsement he’s received from a group that has anything even remotely to do with finances came from Michael Quinn Sullivan, who has also been disciplined by the Texas Ethics Commission this year.

Steve Brown, running for the Texas Railroad Commission. You may wonder why the Railroad Commission matters … it regulates the oil and gas industry. In Texas. In 2014. I’m not even going to google his opponent to see if he’s been indicted, reprimanded, or the like, because honestly, I’ll get depressed if I learn another candidate has been.

John Cook, running for Land Commissioner. You might know some of the relatives of the Republican candidate for this office. His last name is BUSH. Enough is enough as far as that family goes, wouldn’t you say?

You can’t like Jim Hogan’s Facebook page, because this Democratic candidate for Agricultural Commissioner doesn’t have one. Truth be told, he’s not who any of us would have picked. But, he’s running against Sid “Transvaginal Ultrasound” Miller, so …

You can see all of these candidates on the state party’s website and get links to all of their online outlets.

3. Come to Texas
Really, come on down and spend a weekend block-walking or phone-banking. The weather…well, are you really going to let the weather deter you from helping Texans end the reign of mean/stupid we’ve suffered under for so long?

Don’t you want to prepare a path to victory for the Democratic woman running for president in two short years?

You can come during early vote season, which starts October 20th. What about Halloween weekend? Come for the phone-banking and stay for the Tex-Mex.

The turnout model that Battleground Texas, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, and others are using this year have never happened in Texas on this scale and with this supporting technology. Phone banks and neighborhood canvassing that are all focused on GOTV are what will make the difference. You can have an impact here. Every study ever done has proven that person-to-person contact is the best way to get people to show up and vote.

This is how we win.

Come alone. Road-trip with friends. We’ll be glad to help you find couches to crash on, and to pick up the first round of margaritas.

Who’s in?

Posted in Houston, politics, Texas, time for action | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Greg Abbott: Arrogant, Dangerous, and a Craven Hypocrite

There it is, in case you were wondering what I think about him. I wouldn’t want you to have to read between the lines.

Did you read the entire Dallas Morning News article I linked to in my last blog post yet? If not, you really should. Here’s the link again. Seriously, read it.

If you did, post a link to it on Facebook & tweet it out, too, so your fellow Texas voters can read it as well.

If you don’t have time to read it, let me pull out the most illuminating facts:

Abbott, who claims his office is concerned about voter fraud, does not keep records or statistics about voter fraud:

In response to requests from The News, the attorney general’s office provided a list of 637 potential violations of the Elections Code referred to Abbott since he took office in late 2002.

Strickland said he could not say how many were investigated or how many involved alleged voter registration fraud. “The office does not ‘compile or keep statistics,’” he said.

How can you say something is a problem if you can’t say why?

Maybe it is because you have a vested interest in destroying the evidence you might have?

When Haver [one of the people interviewed during Abbott's investigation] was interviewed by Abbott’s office in late 2010, her attorney asked if Haver could get some folders returned to her. They’d been taken in the Houston raid and contained research Haver had done on possible irregularities in how GOP officials in Harris County were handling voter registration.

Haver told the attorney general’s office that the research had no relationship to the Houston Votes investigation.

“We kept following up, and they kept giving us the runaround about getting it returned,” she said recently.

In late 2013, Abbott’s office asked judges in Harris and Travis counties for permission to destroy the records seized in the two raids. The request said records contained the names of people who were not suspects, partial Social Security numbers and forged voter registration applications.

When the attorney general’s office received a green light from judges, Haver’s research, which did not contain personal identifying information, was among the materials destroyed.

The research didn’t contain the information Abbott’s office claimed it needed to protect—names, Social Security numbers, or voter registration applications.

It might have contained information about irregularities in voter registration activities of elected officials in Harris County, the very thing that Abbott’s office seemed to be concerned about investigating when they went after Houston Votes.

But there, of course, is the difference. Those elected officials are members of the same party as Greg Abbott.

Time after time, Abbott has demonstrated that the rules apply one way for him, and another way for the rest of us.

He championed tort reform, drastically limiting the amount someone can recover in a personal injury trial after he, himself, recovered a very large settlement in a personal injury trial. Remind yourself of the details here.

He drilled his own well to water his lawn while the city and county he lives in suffered from a drought that continues to this day. Soak up the full story here.

He willfully and recklessly destroyed records and refuses to keep statistics about potential voter fraud while championing a law that nonpartisan experts have shown not only disenfranchises minority voters, women, and students, but also targets only the rarest type, and least effective form of, voter fraud (in person voter impersonation).

Greg Abbott wants to be governor so he can take care of Greg Abbott, as well as a few campaign contributors of his who want to continue running their predatory lending businesses without any oversight, building their dangerous chemical storage facilities next to nursing homes and residential neighborhoods without disclosing what, exactly, is being stored, and pillaging our natural resources without regard for the safety of our citizens or water supply.

Dangerous, arrogant, and a craven hypocrite. Ladies and gentlemen, what are you doing to make sure this man does not become governor?

Posted in Houston, politics, Texas | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Vote If They Let You & Raise Hell If There’s a Problem

I like to talk about politics, not for the sake of talking, but in the hope that enough of us getting involved and voting our values can change things for the better.

Hate reading about teachers having to dip into their own wallets to make sure their students have pencils and notebooks? Sure you do. Breaks your heart a little, doesn’t it?

Do you dry your tears and then vote for Republican politicians who have passed budgets that fail to meet our constitutional requirement to fund public schools adequately in Texas? If you do, then I question whether you really care about those teachers or those kids.

Ahhh, voting. We suck at voting in Texas:

In 2010, Texas ranked 51st in voter turnout, 42nd in voter registration, 49th in the number of citizens who contact public officials and 44th in the number of people who discuss politics a few times a week or more.

51st? But don’t we have 50 states?

Yes, but we’ve got Puerto Rico as well, and their voter turnout, even though they don’t get to vote in federal elections and have citizenship but no voting representation in Congress, was ahead of ours.

Bummer, huh? Well, look at it this way: we were ahead of Guam and the US Virgin Islands.

Some might suggest that when your silver lining is better voter turnout than Guam, you’re really looking at a cloud wrapped in lead. And it is weighing you down while poisoning you.

So, voting. We don’t do it very well, but at least there’s no one stopping us, right?

Wrong.

There are groups so worried that voter fraud is rampant that they have taken it upon themselves to audit the voter registration rolls. This article in that link is from 2012, but this work is still happening in Harris County right now. RIGHT NOW.

Right now, that is, at a time when shifting demographics are on the brink of flipping Texas R to D. Coincidentally, their “citizen audit” seems to disenfranchise minority voters, whose votes tend to the D.

Or, you know, their “citizen purge” of the voter rolls intentionally targets those voters under the misdirect that they are preventing in-person voter fraud:

ufos and voter fraud

An “extremely fact checked” infographic about voter suppression masquerading as concern about voter fraud that isn’t actually happening.

 

Let me be crystal clear: in-person voter fraud is not what True the Vote is trying to prevent. They are trying to prevent certain people, people whose skin color also puts them at risk for things like being shot by the police for no reason, from voting.

That brings me to an article in this morning’s Dallas Morning News that I think every Texan who votes, or who is affected by politics and government, needs to read:

Abbott’s Houston raid didn’t end with arrests,
but shut down voter drive
By James Drew

On an overcast Monday afternoon, officers in bulletproof vests swept into a house on Houston’s north side. The armed deputies and agents served a search warrant. They carted away computers, hard drives and documents.

The raid targeted a voter registration group called Houston Votes, which was accused of election fraud. It was initiated by investigators for Attorney General Greg Abbott. His aides say he is duty-bound to preserve the integrity of the ballot box.

His critics, however, say that what Abbott has really sought to preserve is the power of the Republican Party in Texas. They accuse him of political partisanship, targeting key Democratic voting blocs, especially minorities and the poor, in ways that make it harder for them to vote, or for their votes to count.

A close examination of the Houston Votes case reveals the consequences when an elected official pursues hotly contested allegations of election fraud.

It may seem like old news, but the Republicans play long ball. Bare knuckles, scorched earth long ball. What’s going on now is the legacy of Lee Atwater, and that’s an ugly, ugly legacy. I don’t invoke it lightly.

Get ready. November, 2014 is going to be a rough ride.

Posted in Houston, politics, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Starbucks & Paying It Forward

My dear friend, gadfly extraordinaire Steve Dew, posted the following status update on Facebook just now:

Dew it right Starbucks

These “pay it forward” stories get my goat as much as they get his. I find the act of buying a coffee for someone else charming, and think you should do it if it makes you feel good. I object, however, to the notion that something like this is newsworthy or extraordinary, as the NPR reporters characterize it.

As Steve observes, given what we could be doing through individual charity, perhaps buying coffee for a person who can already afford that coffee is an urge we could re-direct.

Here’s my suggestion for Starbucks.

(1) Add a “pay it forward” menu item. They could offer it tall for $1, grande for $2.50, and venti for $5. Do they still do trenta? Add a trenta at $10.

(2) Pick a national charity each month, or each quarter. Pick ones that address root causes of economic inequality, racism, or access to health care. Think about organizations fighting against hunger or homelessness, or advocating for early childhood education for all students.

(3) Encourage customers, and stores, to compete to see who can get the longest chain of “pay it forward” donors.

The line at the Florida Starbucks was over 450 customers long. Imagine if each of them gave $2.50, and 100 other stores around the country did the same in a given month. That would be a six-figure donation to the charity, which is no small gift.

If Starbucks customers were regularly donating this way, that would be extraordinary, and worthy of a story on the radio.

Steve, I’ll buy the next cuppa if we can make this happen.

Posted in charity, things there should be, time for action | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Cruz & Cornyn Invest in Themselves Instead of Investing in Texans

Texas senators spend more than almost any other senators do on their office operations:

All told, Cruz’s office spent $3.8 million in taxpayer funds from April 2013 through March 2014 on salaries, office equipment and travel to and from the state.

Fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn wasn’t far behind – his Senate office spent more than $3.7 million in the same period, while Cornyn’s minority whip leadership office gave out more than $800,000 in salaries.

All expenditures were funded by U.S. Treasury money derived from taxpayers – a small irony since both Cornyn and Cruz are leading advocates of reducing the size of government.

On a list of all 100 senators compiled by the Washington Post and ordered by amount of office expense, Cruz and Cornyn take spots four and five, respectively. Only Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., spent more. The average Senate office total, according to the Washington Post’s analysis, is about $2.5 million.

The Houston Chronicle article above, along with just about every other person talking about this study, snorts at the “small irony” of critics of government spending being government spendthrifts.

That, however, buys into the very narrative Sen. Cruz, Grover Norquist, and others on the radical, nativist right want us to believe—that we should value reduced government spending across the board, no matter what.

The point we should be making is that Sen. Cruz and others are very willing to spend more money when it serves their purpose. Cruz wants to have an effective office, so he invests in it, and he doesn’t stint. We can assume from these numbers that he pays his staff well. He’s willing to spend marginally more money for them to stay at the Stephen F. Austin instead of Motel 6. He lets them travel between DC and home more often, perhaps. He knows that spending this money is the best way to show his staff they are appreciated, and that treating them well garners loyalty and probably makes them more productive.

The radical nativist right spends money where it counts to get the results it wants, and it doesn’t nickel and dime itself. The Koch brothers don’t just give a few thousand dollars here and there. The Heritage Foundation had $25M more in assets at the end of 2012 than it did at the end of 2011; during 2012, their salary line item increased by $2.5M. These institutions have invested big bucks for the long haul because they know that’s what it takes to achieve their goals.

That’s the story here. Sen. Cruz and Sen. Cornyn want to cut government spending execpt the government spending that make their offices more effective. They deprive our state of a chance at success by choking off federal dollars that we could be investing in infrastructure, education, and preventive health care. They claim not liking pork is a reason to starve us all.

I don’t care what they spend on their offices. I just wish they were willing to make the same investment in Texans. 

Posted in Houston, politics, Texas | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

You Speak for Houston

Back when the Houston It’s Worth It website launched in 2004, it solicited reasons why people consider the city to, in fact, be worth it. This was my submission, #129. An excerpt of my submission was published in the first HIWI book, but I wanted to share it in its entirety since now seems to be a cultural moment for love letters to Houston. 

Houston is worth it because if you are here, you want to be here. The heat, the mosquitoes, the traffic—they might bug you, but you have more important things to do than whine about the weather.

You are in Houston because you have great things to accomplish. You want to be part of one of the most philanthropic communities in the world. You want to be in a town whose doctShalimar headors are known, respected, and sought out by the entire world. You want art in the most unexpected places, and more of it in the expected ones. You want to be in a place where maybe, just maybe, you can celebrate the New Year in shorts and flip flops with a margarita in your hand while sitting under a palapa next to the pool. You crave contact with an incredibly diverse population. You thrive on challenges, and see them as opportunities to grow and improve.

It is easy to go to a city with a beautiful bay and soaring bridge. You never have to explain your goals if you head for the big apple. Your soul is drawn to some new-age-old-hippie-town.

In those places, you let the city speak for you.

Houston doesn’t speak for you – you speak for it.

You make it better, stronger, healthier, wealthier, more beautiful, and more dynamic. Houston is worth it because your dreams, goals, and accomplishments are worth it. Houston is worth it because it will do everything it can to make those dreams and goals possible, and it will celebrate you for your accomplishments, no matter who you are and where you came from.

Houston is worth it because it knows YOU are worth it.

 

Posted in Houston, Texas | Tagged , | 1 Comment