Archive | December, 2011

My little Christmas story

Note: this is a re-run – I wrote it for Christmas last year. I may run it again for Christmas next year.

There have been complaints in the comments section that I am a “scrooge,” and am less than completely enthusiastic about Christmas. I beg to differ – I do think Christmas is the most magical time for children, I’ll give it that.

When I was a kid, I specifically remember being deeply suspicious of this “Santa Claus” B.S. at the early age of 5. I remember as I was sent to bed on Christmas eve that year “so that Santa could come,” trying very hard to stay awake long enough to catch Dad swiping the milk and cookies we left out for Santa. I just knew Santa was a farce…fiction…a fraud perpetrated on the most innocent among us. Not dissimilar to the concept of “quality public education” in Texas, come to think of it.

However, this particular Christmas Of My Deep Santa Suspicion was also the very same Christmas in which I had asked for a shovel for Christmas – so that I could dig a heffalump trap, just like in the Winnie The Pooh books. So, yeah, Santa seemed totally fishy to me, but I had no problem completely believing in heffalumps. This, despite the fact that they never even caught a heffalump in the damn books. But it wasn’t for lack of Pooh and Piglet trying!

Anyway, of course I couldn’t stay awake that night, so presumably Dad absconded with the milk and cookies as usual. And when I awakened the next morning, not only did I get my shovel, but I also got, from “Santa,” my older sister’s hand-me-down record player. This turn of events only added to my confusion, as it intersected with my admittedly-rudamentary understanding of property rights. It was obviously my sister’s record player. But it said “From Santa” on the tag. So, I wondered, does Santa just get to waltz into my sister’s room, swipe her record player, and give it to me? WHAT KIND OF A COMMIE PINKO CON MAN IS THIS “SANTA” CHARACTER ANYWAY??!

The bottom line: the record player played records just fine, and while the shovel worked great and I ultimately had heffalump traps all over the back yard, I never once caught a heffalump. I maintain it’s because of the atrocious lack of concern for endangered species. And neither Mom nor Dad ever got caught playing Santa – I just never could stay up to catch them.

Or…who knows. Maybe there really was a Santa Claus after all. But if so, I really think he owes my sister an apology.

Here’s hoping everybody had a very merry Christmas. Happy now?

And, oh yeah, if anybody has any hot tips about where the heffalumps might be hiding in Big Bend, I’ve  got a shovel.

[Stay tuned - next time I get in the mood to share personal childhood holiday stories, I might share the time Dad came home with the little baby chicks for Easter, which didn't have the good sense to die like most Easter chicks, and became full-grown terrorist chickens]

Comments { 2 }

The elephant in the room (book review)

Let’s set aside for now the potentially explosive allegations regarding Rick Perry which Glen Maxey lays out in his e-book Head Figure Head: The Search for the Hidden Life of Rick Perry, released earlier this week. They’re either true or they’re not, and those reading the book or resulting news stories can draw their own conclusions. I won’t repeat them here – you already know the material.

Let’s even set aside the massive hypocrisy it would represent if even one of the stories Maxey relates in the book were true. Perry’s “Strong” ad last week alone would make that clear enough.

And let’s for a moment set aside the relative credibility of the author, which is bound to come under serious scrutiny if mainstream media begin reporting on Maxey’s findings. I’ve known the man for 22 years. We’ve agreed a lot, and disagreed sometimes. In the years we’ve been friends, I have certainly not doubted his dedication to his causes. It’s a sure thing he is willing to take the heat – he certainly barged into the kitchen.

Rick Perry

Let’s set all of the above aside, long enough to have, in Rick Perry’s frequent words, a serious conversation, and mull over what’s next, if anything, and why.

Intelligent people can, and probably will, disagree about whether the book should have been published. But now that it is, what are serious journalists, who work at news organizations on the political beat whose job it is to inform the public, going to do about it?

It’s a bit of a stretch to imagine absolutely nothing happening – Maxey has taken years worth of rumors and attached (partial) names, details, and sheer bulk which covers much important new ground. The subject material is a sitting Governor of a major state who is running for President.

News media even provided coverage a couple of months ago when a man paid for an ad in the Austin Chronicle merely asking the questions that Maxey attempts to provide answers to in the book. How can asking the questions be more news-worthy than providing some answers?

Glen Maxey

After reading the book Wednesday, I could frankly see why “the national news outlet,” as Maxey mysteriously terms it but which practically everybody in town can identify, ultimately took a pass on printing the story, to Maxey’s clear frustration. What Maxey lays out is sheer volume of circumstantial evidence. But among this mass of evidence, what he lacks – and he’s not at all misleading about this – is closing the loop on the smoking gun story. The golden example – named and on the record, laid out on a silver platter to conveniently take all worrisome close judgement calls off the collective conscience of editors, and make it abundantly clear that the story is solidly publishable, and true – is missing. It’s the deal that ultimately couldn’t be closed.

And fair enough – a lot of stories which rely on circumstantial evidence don’t get printed, and shouldn’t be. But some are, and should be.

Something Maxey barely touches on in his book, in my view, could have been the central thesis of the entire work: the possible double standards involved here. Discussing his frustration at being unable to convince a publication to run with his evidence, he writes:

“…on October 30, I saw that Politico.com broke the story about Herman Cain harassing a woman while he worked for the National Restaurant Association. Politico ran the entire story—and based it almost entirely on anonymous sources. Where were the on-the-record quotes I was required to have? Why didn’t they need to have two dozen people speaking openly about what they’d heard or known??

To refresh your memory, in late October, Politico broke the Herman Cain sexual harassment story which ultimately proved to be  the beginning of the end of Cain’s Presidential aspirations.

The story neither named nor otherwise identified Cain’s accusers/victims and didn’t quote them, nor did the story name sources used to back the claims. It didn’t even describe any of the specific behavior of which Cain had been accused.

But Politico ran with it.

For whatever Maxey doesn’t have, he apparently has more about Perry than Politico printed about Cain. Granted, it’s entirely possible that Politico had much more evidence than they printed, which gave comfort to the editors ultimately approving the story. That would certainly be a defense from a possible journalistic double standard.

But what did Politico have, but not print? And what did Maxey’s “national news outlet” need in order to print, but not have? Do those two data sets match up, or is there really a double standard?

And what of other possible double standards, related to gender, or sexual orientation? As difficult as it must be for a woman to come forward and disclose an improper relationship with a man, how much more difficult would it be for a man to do so? The negative stigma attached to those situations is perpetuated by politicians like Rick Perry himself, and others in his Party, who have long had gay Americans on their list of people they cynically scapegoat for the sake of a few more votes.

Has Rick Perry himself created the very media standards paradox which protects him? Has he scapegoated people so effectively that there is no way they can possibly step forward and verify Perry’s hypocrisy to the satisfaction of long-established journalistic standards?

These are, hopefully, the ethical issues being debated among reporters, editors, and publishers, as they grapple with what, if anything, to do with Maxey’s book, or any other evidence of base cynical hypocrisy among those who would lead governments.

On the other hand, here is the conclusion I hope they’re not going to reach: that it’s a legitimate story, but that they’re not going to bother with it, because of an editorial judgement call that Perry is a washed-out Presidential candidate who will soon drop out of the race.

Even if that happens, which seems likely, Rick Perry will still be the sitting Governor of the second most populous state in the Union, who presides over, and claims credit for, the second largest economy in the nation. And he will remain that for at least the next couple of years, and perhaps the next six. He has either done the things Maxey discusses in the book, or he hasn’t. Perry is either a hypocrite of the highest order based on this evidence, or he is not.

At a bare minimum, there are more than 25 million Texans whose judgments regarding their Governor are important to them, who should know the truth, if the truth is, indeed, demonstrable.

Comments { 0 }

Headline of the day so far

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Comments { 2 }

Headline of the day so far

French musicians: you just can’t trust ‘em.

Comments { 0 }

Attention people of Fort Worth

Be on the lookout.

Key quote: “…one was trapped outside of a barbecue restaurant.” That’s one barbecue restaurant which isn’t quite getting the point.

Comments { 2 }

What Friday night’s SCOTUS TX redistricting ruling means

To readers outside of Texas, I apologize in advance. But Texas politicos felt a great disturbance in the force Friday night, as if a thousand county chairs were crying out as one, when the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the legislative and Congressional redistricting maps, and appeared to have taken jurisdiction over everything. Here’s the one-page order.

I haven’t talked to a single redistricting lawyer tonight – they’re all busy conferring with each other, no doubt. But as a guy who has been through redistricting so many times that I can’t think about it very long without being ashamed of myself for still being in this business, here are my initial thoughts on what this means:

– First, we don’t really know what this means. But from Democrats’ perspective, it can’t exactly be great news.

– Second, If somebody tonight is explaining to you what it means, that’s probably because he’s a consultant, you’re paying him, and as a result he feels a duty to sound smart. Nobody knows what it means. But keep this in mind: it takes fewer Supreme Court Justices to accept a case than it does to issue a majority ruling on a case, so after it’s all said and done, we may end up with the exact same maps the Federal Court in San Antonio ordered. Or, we may not. It may be a sign that Justice Scalia has seen this as his big opportunity to do away with Sec. 5 of the Voting Rights Act, or it may be a hiccup in which Justices merely want to know more.

– at this point, there is no way to tell what the filing deadline is, whether current filings mean anything, when the primary election might be held, or when a primary run-off might occur. And, of course, we don’t know what the maps will look like, although they could look exactly like the maps we thought folks would be running under yesterday.

– I do think, given that the oral arguments for this case aren’t until January 9, that it is extremely likely that Texas could ultimately have a split primary election next year, with the Presidential primaries on one date, and everything else on a subsequent date. This also means that everybody’s primary election turn-out models could be moot. We spent all year assuming we’d have the typical Presidential year boost in turnout, and may end up with city council run-off-style low turnout, given the absence of a Presidential primary, or even high profile statewide races on the same ballot.

Most of all, however, I think that politicos of both Parties and all ilk should follow this one simple instruction: chill out. Without a doubt, lawyers and judges will soon be holding telephonic hearings, during which clarifications will be given, guidance be shared, and more will be revealed. Until then, there is simply nothing anyone can do besides enjoy their weekend.

Comments { 8 }

Buzz from the TV show: trashing Rick Perry’s shameful ad

On this week’s “Capital Tonight” show on YNN Austin, I was asked about Rick Perry’s “Strong” ad. I, of course, praised Perry for significantly raising the level of public discourse.

Nah, just kidding – I trashed his ass.

You can watch the show in its entirety this Sunday morning at 11 am on YNN Austin, on Time-Warner’s Texas Channel in other cities around the state, or at any time online.

Comments { 0 }

Perry’s shameful ad draws justified fire

Update: just as a fun contest, let’s see if you can detect the subtle differences between Perry’s original ad and this re-mix.

Another update: the hits just keep a’comin’.

Yesterday, Rick Perry released a shameful ad which scapegoats military men and women in an attempt to create a new wedge issue to help get him out of the toilet in recent polling. In releasing this ad, Perry has not only jumped a whole school of sharks, he simultaneously shames the office of President, draws fire even from fellow Republicans, and once again embarrasses Texas.

The response to this inappropriate ad has been quite appropriate.

As I write this, more than 155,000 people have “disliked” the ad on YouTube, while fewer than 3,500 have “liked” it.

Meanwhile, this meme is making its way across the interwebz on social media.

And finally, there’s this:

Perry should be ashamed of himself. Then again, he should have been that long ago.

Comments { 1 }

Well this is fun

I ran across this Christmas fun earlier this morning, and just had to share.

Comments { 1 }

Buzz from the TV show: Perry pokes fun at Perry

On this week’s episode of YNN Austin’s Capital Tonight, Paul Brown asked me about the new Rick Perry ad in which Perry pokes fun at himself over the “oops” moment, and the new Ron Paul ad attacking Newt Gingrich.

Watch the entire show this Sunday morning at 11 on YNN Austin, Time-Warner Cable’s Texas Channel in other Texas media markets, or watch it online any time you want.  And tell me what you think in the comments section.
Comments { 0 }