Ted Cruz defends Alex Jones’ free speech; praises Trump for having `permanently unmasked the media’

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Alex Jones catches Ted Cruz in an elevator in Washington, D.C. after President Trump’s inauguration.

Good Monday Austin:

U.S. Ted Cruz spoke at Erick Erickson’s Resurgent Gathering in Austin on Saturday.

Early on in their conversation, Cruz was interrupted by a protester.

A protestor interrupts U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, as he is escorted out of the Resurgent Gathering at the Capitol Sheraton, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

From my story in Sunday’s American-Statesman:

Holding up a cardboard sign with the words, “Cruz: Russian bootlicker,” a young man stood and shouted toward the podium, “You’re a coward, Ted. Fight the trade war. Stand up to Russia. Stand up for all Texans.”

As he was being hooted at by the audience and led out of the hall, the young man chanted, “Beto, Beto, Beto,” a reference to Cruz’s Senate campaign rival, Democrat O’Rourke of El Paso.

xxxxx

In his immediate response to the protester’s outburst Saturday, Cruz said, “What you saw there, it’s not about Russia. That young man, bless his heart, couldn’t tell you a thing about Russia — has no idea.”

“He’s just angry, and Russia’s the latest thing they’re screaming,” he said.“That anger, by the way, is dangerous.”

Then Cruz said something that I found troubling.

There’s a rage on the left and it’s being irresponsibly stoked. It’s being stoked by the media. I will say one of the greatest blessings of the Trump presidency is he has finally and I think permanently unmasked the media.

Do you remember when there used to be people who would get on TV and try to argue in a gravelly voice, “There’s no bias in media.” No one even says that any more. They don’t even try it. They are so foaming at the mouth, unhinged. I was with the president a few weeks back, I told him, I said, “Listen, I think you’re greatest friends ironically are the media because they’re so deranged about you, the American people turn on the TV, they see that and say, `If those nuts are that mad, you’ve got to be doing something right’.”

I don’t think this is healthy advice to give President Trump, especially coming from Cruz, who knows firsthand the hurt that Trump’s loose attachment to the truth can cause and how that loose attachment has long been at the core of Trump’s nature.

I understand the political necessity for Cruz to make his political peace with the president, even to become his staunch ally, but I think he would be doing himself, the country and even President Trump a service to not encourage the president’s pernicious presentation of the news media – i.e. Fake News, which is simply any reporting the president doesn’t like – as the enemy of the people.

And I think Ted Cruz is uniquely qualified to provide the president with advice that would be infinitely more useful to the  president – even if the president is unlikely to take the advice and even if offering the advice is unlikely to improve Cruz’s chances of being re-elected.

Then, in the wake of Facebook temporarily suspending Alex Jones’ personal Facebook account, and YouTube taking down his videos and Spotify taking down his podcasts, there was this.

I spent much of last week covering two defamation suits against Jones in Travis County District Court, and Jones, who thrives on adversity, heralded Cruz’s defense of his right to be heard.

In his conversation with Erickson, Cruz decried the ugly state of political discourse.

CRUZ:

It’s not healthy in our culture for these divisions to be as ugly, to be as nasty, to be as hateful as they were. Listen, all of us gathered together when  Obama was president, we disagree with what Obama was doing, but you know, I remember Trump’s inauguration, all the young people with hats and shirts that said, “not my president.”

As much as a I disagreed with Barack Obama, as much as I thought his policies were harmful, he was always my president, every day he served in office he was he president of the United States and I respect the office and the democratic process that elected him. And you see the fever pitch to impeach the president. Listen, as bad as I thought Obama was, I didn’t call for him to be impeached. I wanted him to be defeated in the ballot box.

CRUZ: You know when Trump went to Helsinki and did a press conference with Putin, now I think that press conference was a mistake, I don’t think he handled it well. I think we’ve seen good policies on Russia, I think the sanctions put in place have been a good thing. I think providing lethal weapons to Ukraine to stand up and resist the Russians have been a good thing, but I think that press conference was a mistake, I don’t think the American president ought to be apologizing for Russian aggression.

That being said, the Democratic response to it was thoroughly unhinged. It was most captured by John Brennan who began  bellowing that Trump committed treason. Now Brennan is not just a fly-by-night individual, he is the former head of the CIA,  Treason is a capital crime defined in the United States code and punishable by death. Now having a foolish press conference with the head of Russia is not treason and for the former Democratic officials ratcheting  it up to that rhetoric, listen it contributes to that environment, it is not good for our country, and I’ll tell you, on our part, we have a responsibility not to respond in kind, not to respond with the same anger and hatred back but to instead respond with reason, with facts.

After that, Cruz, typical for him, did a 26-minute gaggle, providing long and detailed answers that suggest that Cruz actually respects the press and its obligations and his obligations, and that perhaps, for the same reason that he has agreed to five debates with O’Rourke, he also out of ego, confidence, delight in intellectual sparring, and genuine commitment to the democratic process, enjoys and embraces these opportunities.

He was asked a question about his concerns with censorship on social media.

CRUZ: I have deep concerns about social media and Big Tech. We have a concentration of  power in a handful of giant tech companies that are controlling a vast proportion of political discourse in this country and these companies have a degree of power and an ability to censor that William Randolph Hearst at the height of yellow journalism could never have imagined.

They have the ability  if there is a speaker who is disfavored simply to silence the speaker, to shadow ban them. You might speak but  your words float off into oblivion and nobody hears them.

And what’s so pernicious about that is it’s invisible. You might never know you’re shadow-banned. You might just think no one seems to be responding to what you’re saying because no one is in fact hearing what you’re saying.

On the flip side, they have the ability to curate your feed so that every piece of news you hear is news they approve of. Every piece of news you  hear conforms with their political ideology.

A couple of months ago, Mark Zuckerberg testified  before the Senate and I engaged in pretty vigorous questioning with Mr. Zuckerberg. The first question I asked him was whether Facebook considers itself a neutral public fora. He didn’t really answer that question and I have asked numerous representatives of Facebook that question. They’ve given multiple and contradictory answers.

The reason that  question matters so much is under current federal law – Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act – Facebook and other social media companies, have an exemption from liability. And the predicate, the reasoning behind Congress passing that exemption, was that they were neutral public fora, that if someone says something slanderous or libelous that  it wasn’t fair for Facebook or the social media site to be liable for it because it was not their speech, it was whoever was posting.

And so there’s a special exemption from liability.

Well, my question to Zuckerberg was, are you in  fact a neutral public fora. If you are than the reason behind that immunity from liability under the CDA is still sound. If you’re not, if you’re in fact a First Amendment speaker, if you’re engaged in politics, if you’re espousing your views, you have a right to do that, everybody has a First Amendment right, but  you  don’t have an entitlement to a special immunity from liability.

If (Patrick) Svitek (who was part of the gaggle) writes something in the Texas Tribune that is libelous, he can be sued, he doesn’t have an immunity from liability. There’s no reason Facebook or Twitter should get a special immunity that Pat doesn’t get, and that  question is a question that’s got the tech companies very nervous because they like their immunity from liability but at the same time they have demonstrated a pattern of bias that is deeply concerning and one of the most maddening aspects of it is there are actually no clear and objective data.

So I went through a number of anecdotes, examples, where they had silenced conservatives.

Now look, reasoning  by anecdote is not the most reliable way to reason, it’s not the most satisfying way to reason, but  it’s the only choice we have because all of the data are controlled by Facebook and Twitter and Google and YouTube and it’s completely opaque, it’s not remotely transparent, so we don’t know how many people Twitter has shadow-banned, how many conservatives, how many liberals, how many Republicans, how many Democrats. We don’t know. We have no idea.

That lack of transparency is dangerous, particularly when combined with a heavy ideological skew to the left, and I think it poses a real threat to our democracy.

I followed up:

FR: Senator, substituting Alex Jones for Patrick Svitek in that example …

CRUZ: They are very similar.

FR: You  were critical of Facebook, saying, what made them the arbiter. (Alex Jones) has been in court this week defending himself against defamation suits and the argument (his lawyer is making) is he can’t be held liable because he’s not a journalist, what he presents as facts are merely his opinions and are protected. Is there a line there and does Facebook have any responsibility to police it?

CRUZ: Look Alex Jones, I don’t listen to his show. I don’t know what he says. I  do know that he has this odd fixation with spreading lies about my dad and accusing him of killing JFK and I would encourage him while he’s at it, he also buried Jimmy Hoffa in the backyard and is, in fact, Elvis.

Look those theories are nutty, they’re fringe and they’re nutty.

The reason I sent out the tweets I did defending someone whose defamed my own family, is I actually believe in the First Amendment. I believe in the First Amendment. It protects the right of people to be nutty. It protects the right of people to say things that are dumb.

And I think the right solution to bad speech, john Stuart Mill told us the solution to bad speech is more speech. Censorship is profoundly dangerous and it’s wrong. And if Facebook or anyone else thinks that what Alex Jones is saying is wrong, is nutty, the right way to respond to it is lay out, here’s why you’re wrong, to engage it on the merits. It’s not simply to say, we’re banning you from speaking and we, the Star Chamber – mind you, this is one company but it is a company that is the portal of communication for the vast majority of Americans. It is a company with power – by any measure the big tech companies today, they are bigger and control more market than Standard Oil did when the federal government broke them up under the anti-trust laws. They are bigger and have more power than AT&T had when the federal government broke them up under the antitrust laws.

Q – Are you proposing to break them up?

TC: I think it’s an issue that policymakers are looking at seriously. We have existing anti-trust laws that protect against monopolies, and part of the reason is monopolies’ history has shown they abuse their power, and in this instance, I have to say I watched a lot of the Twitter response when I sent out the tweet on Alex Jones. I wasn’t surprised to see a lot of Democrats attacking me. I was sad though to not see any liberals willing to make the same point. And for a long time I’ve wondered what’s happened to real liberals. There was a time not that long ago when liberals defended free speech.

By the way, free speech, the First Amendment is all about offensive speech, bad speech, stupid speech. One of the big First Amendment cases before the Supreme Court out of Skokie, Illinois, was the right  of the Nazis to march in protest. Now Nazis are vile, despicable idiots and bigots, which means I’m not remotely scared to have Nazis protest and speak. Now I think we should speak out and respond to them, that the answer to that kind of stupidity is to counter it with truth, but the Supreme Court rightly said that even Nazis have a right to speak.

When I sent the tweet on Alex Jones it was striking how all – I did not see any liberals saying, “Like Cruz, I don’t like Jones either, but  I do believe in free speech and we shouldn’t be censoring speech we don’t agree with,” and it’s worrisome that the left, so much of the left, and for that matter, so many in the media – look there were reporters who took a lot of shots at me for that.

There used to be a time when reporters were big supporters of the First Amendment. And you know as the poem goes, ‘First they came for Alex Jones…

That doesn’t end well.

There is a reason I have picked someone who has been nasty to me. To illustrate this is not about defending someone I agree with, this is about a First Amendment principle that everyone has a right to speak and the people can sort out those who are making sense from those who are full of crap.

A few things here.

It is fine to say that you are defending Alex Jones’ right to say despicable things not because you agree with him but precisely because you don’t agree with him. Cruz was, in fact, victimized as he says he was by InfoWars.

But it is inconsistent to encourage President Trump in his war on the media when it was in fact Trump, and not Alex Jones, who most publicly said those despicable things about your father, which you denounced in no uncertain terms at the time. Furthermore, what Trump said about your father was a blip on the radar screen of Trump’s dabbling in fake news. His dissertation was the birther movement, which he carried for years based on even less evidence than that grainy photo of Lee Harvey Oswald and some guy purported to be Rafael Cruz in New Orleans and, contrary to Cruz’s assertion that Republicans like himself didn’t ever question whether Obama was “our president,” Trump successfully helped persuade a sizable chunk of Republicans that Obama was not a a bona fide American and was fraudulently elected.

In their approach to news, there is very little daylight at this point between the Alex Jones approach – his lawyer argued in court last week that Jones’ speech is protected because it is simply his opinion, even if it is sometimes “opinion masquerading as fact”- and the Donald Trump approach, and for Cruz to denounce Jones while defending his First Amendment rights, seems inconsistent with encouraging Trump’s Jones-like devotion to conspiracy theories – only in the president’s case there seems even less reason to believe he pursues them for anything but politically transactional reasons and the stakes are immensely higher.

I doubt that President Trump ever doubted that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii or ever thought, or cared, whether Rafael Cruz was involved with Lee Harvey Oswald.

Cruz’s JFK/Jimmy Hoffa/Elvis comment Saturday was verbatim what he said when the accusation about his father went national, not because of anything Alex Jones said or did, but because of what Donald Trump said and did on the day of the crucial Indiana primary that ended Cruz’s challenge to Trump.

From May 3, 2016, the day of the Indiana primary.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This morning, Donald Trump went on national television and attacked my father.

Donald Trump alleges that my dad was involved in assassinating JFK. Now, let’s be clear. This is nuts. This is not a reasonable position. This is just kooky. And while I’m at it, I guess I should go ahead and admit, yes, my dad killed JFK, he is secretly Elvis, and Jimmy Hoffa is buried in his backyard.

You know, Donald’s source for this is “The National Enquirer.” “The National Enquirer” is tabloid trash. But it’s run by his good friend David Pecker, the CEO, who has endorsed Donald Trump. And so “The National Enquirer” has become his hit piece that he uses to smear anybody and everybody.

And this is not the first time Donald Trump has used David Pecker’s “National Enquirer” to go after my family. It was also “The National Enquirer” that went after my wife, Heidi, that just spread lies, blatant lies.

But I guess Donald was dismayed, because it was a couple of weeks ago “The Enquirer” wrote this idiotic story about JFK. And Donald was dismayed that the folks in the media weren’t repeating this latest idiocy, so he figured he would have to do it himself. He would have to go on national television and accuse my dad of that.

Listen, my father is has been my hero my whole life. My dad was imprisoned and tortured in Cuba. And when he came to America, he had nothing. He had $100 in his underwear. He washed dishes making 50 cents an hour. You know, he is exactly the kind of person Donald Trump looks down on.

I’m going to do something I haven’t done for the entire campaign. For those of you all who have traveled with me all across the country, I’m going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump.

This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying.

He accuses everybody on that debate stage of lying. And it’s simply a mindless yell. Whatever he does, he accuses everyone else of doing. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist, a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen.

Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and goes, dude, what’s your problem? Everything in Donald’s world is about Donald. And he combines being a pathological liar — and I say pathological because I actually think Donald, if you hooked him up to a lie detector test, he could say one thing in the morning, one thing at noon, and one thing in the evening, all contradictory, and he would pass the lie detector test each time.

Whatever lie he’s telling, at that minute, he believes it. But the man is utterly amoral.

And Trump didn’t let it rest.

The day after the Republican National Convention in July 2017, at which Cruz refused to endorse Trump, Trump revisited the  issue.

Is it true that Cruz didn’t deny that his father was involved in the Kennedy assassination?

Well, according to Politi-Opinion, err PolitiFact, no.

From Dylan Baddour at PolitiFact on July 22,2016:

Donald Trump, fresh off triumphantly accepting the Republican presidential nomination in Cleveland, surprisingly revived an explosive unfounded tale related to someone with no chance of beating him in November.

The day after the 2016 Republican National Convention, Trump said his vanquished Republican rival, Sen. Ted Cruz, had never denied that his father was in a 1963 photo with Lee Harvey Oswald, who went on to assassinate President John F. Kennedy that November.

At a rally, Trump initially told supporters he doesn’t want the backing of Cruz, whose convention speech two days earlier drew boos for not including a Trump endorsement; the Texan did offer congratulations. Next, Trump resurrected his unconfirmed claim about Oswald and Rafael Cruz, the senator’s father, possibly knowing one another.

Trump said: “All I did is point out the fact that on the cover of the National Enquirer there was a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast. Now, Ted never denied that it was his father. Instead he said, ‘Donald Trump.’ I had nothing to do with it. This was a magazine that frankly, in many respects, should be very respected.”

In May 2016, PolitiFact found incorrect and ridiculous–Pants on Fire–Trump’s claim that Cruz’s father was with Oswald before Kennedy’s assassination.

There was no evidence the man next to Oswald in the black-and-white photo published in the Enquirer was the elder Cruz. Notably, facial recognition experts advised that no such match could be made; meantime, historians found no corroborating records. The Enquirer never said how it determined the man in the photo with Oswald was Rafael Cruz.

Could it still be that Sen. Cruz never denied his father was in the photo?

To our inquiry on this point, Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier pointed out a statement the Cruz campaign gave to the McClatchy News Service in April 2016 at the time the photo in question was printed on the Enquirer’s cover.  

The Cruz campaign’s communications director, Alice Stewart, said then: “The story is false; that is not Rafael in the picture,”according to the Miami Herald’s April 22, 2016 news story.

Stewart’s “not Rafael” declaration appears to have gotten play. We found it in stories or web posts on the McClatchy website and for the conservative web network The Blaze plus in the International Business Times, on the FactCheck.org fact-checking site and on sites for Yahoo! News, The Hill, Gawker, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

Trump first cited the Enquirer article during a May 3, 2016, telephone interview with the Fox News program, Fox and Friends. Later that day, at an Indiana campaign event, Cruz spoke to reporters, saying: “This morning Donald Trump went on national television and attacked my father. Donald Trump alleges that my dad was involved in assassinating JFK. Let’s be clear, this is nuts. This is not a reasonable position, this is just kooky.”

Cruz said the Enquirer “just spread lies, blatant lies” and described the article as “this idiotic story about JFK.”

Also,  on May 3, 2016, Ben Jacobs, political reporter for the Guardian, tweeted a statement regarding the claim that Jacobs generally attributed to the Cruz campaign. It said: “It’s embarrassing that anyone would enable Trump to discuss this. It’s a garbage story and clearly Donald wants to talk about garbage.”

The same day, Rafael Cruz told ABC News in a TV interview that the links insinuated between him and Oswald were “ludicrous.”

“I was never in New Orleans at that time,” he said.

Our ruling

Trump said the day after the Republican convention that Cruz “never denied” his father was pictured with Oswald before Kennedy’s assassination.

This spring, Cruz called the National Enquirer story “lies.”  Earlier, a Cruz camp spokeswoman said outright the elder Cruz wasn’t in the published photo.

That’s far enough from “never denied,” it makes Trump’s claim incorrect and ridiculous. Pants on Fire!

PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim. Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

For what it’s worth, PolitiFact had also offered a negative judgment on the original claim linking Rafael Cruz and Lee Harvey Oswald.

Of course, that’s just PolitiFact’s opinion. It’s a circumstantial case built on reasonable assumptions.

But, to InfoWars, that’s fake news.

From October 26, 2017, via InfoWarrior/Alex Jones political guru/ Trump’s political brain, Roger Stone:

Of course, Cruz and Trump eventually reconciled, which Jones celebrated when he ran into Cruz in an elevator after the inauguration.

In the meantime, Big Tech continues its assault on Alex Jones.

Which will give Cruz more reason to press his, “I don’t like what Alex Jones says but I will fight to the death defending his right to say it,” which will be well good enough for Jones, who will tout Cruz’s stout defense of him against the Big Tech/Deep State to his legion of listeners who in 2016 proved they could help elect a president,and in 2018 could help re-elect a Texas senator.

 

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to supporters during the Resurgent Gathering at the Capitol Sheraton, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

 

 

 

 

 

On Tele-Town Hall, civil Will Hurd is uncivil about President Trump’s servility to Vladimir Putin

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, speaks wn hall the South San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, in San Antonio. As the first black Republican House member from Texas since Reconstruction, the national GOP is grooming the 37-year-old for political stardom.(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Good day, Austin:

A week ago, U.S. Reps. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, and Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, won the seventh annual Allegheny College Prize for Civility in Public Life “for their bipartisan road trip’ last year, when the two congressmen from opposing parties livestreamed collegial discussions on the divisive issues of the day over a 1,600-mile drive from Texas to the Capitol.”

The 2017 winners were Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and, posthumously, Justice Antonin Scalia.

In 2016 it was Joe Biden and John McCain.

In 2015, when the award looked for historical examples, Wendell Wilkie won an honorable mention.

But these are, of course, times that test the limits, or even the wisdom or moral appropriateness, of civility.

On the very day they shared the Allegheny College award, the civility bros were saying some uncivil things about President Donald Trump for what I supposed could be construed as the president’s being inappropriately civil/servile to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

 

Last night, I received an automated call from Hurd’s congressional office inviting me to join a telephone town hall. It seems I get one of these calls every couple of weeks, and this time I decided to listen in.

It was interesting.

It consisted of Hurd taking questions from among those people who had punched a certain number on their telephone key pad to get into a queue.

Here are a few of the exchanges.

HURD: The first question I would like to go to John. John how are you?

There was no response, so Hurd tried again.

HURD: Steve. Hey Steve, sorry about that. How are you?

STEVE: Good, how are you?

HURD:  Good. I’m up here in D.C. It’s a little bit cooler than it is in Texas right now but I’m glad to be talking to y’all.

Thanks for joining us tonight and do you have a question?

STEVE: Well, my question, and I know that this is not politically correct, but it’s what in the world is wrong with Washington, D.C., today?

We all hate the other side. And I’m old enough that I remember the old days when Democrats and Republicans joked and teased each other, had fun with each other, made fun of each other and laughed about it.

I heard somebody say not that long ago, Bobby Kennedy, he was a great Democrat, unfortunately he was assassinated, he had a Republican as the godfather of his first-born as the godfather of his first-born child.

That made me curious. Kennedy had a lot of children but I did not recall there being a Wendell Wilkie Kennedy.

I looked to see who that Republican godfather might have been.

I was soon sorry I did.

From the Evan Thomas biography of Kennedy.

 

So, Joe McCarthy was either godfather to Robert Kennedy’s first-born, or Robert Kennedy boasted that he was as an act of belligerence.

Returning to the Tele-Town Hall and Steve.

STEVE: What Democrat would have a Republican as the godfather or godmother of their children today? What’s wrong.

HURD: Steve. Thank you for the question and the comment.

I actually would agree with a majority of what you’re saying.

The only way we get big things done up here in Washington, D.C., is if we do it together, and I’ve gotten, I think the number is now at 15 or 16 bills signed into law, that’s under a Democratic president and a Republican president, and the only way you do that, is you work together.

And one of the things that was shocking to me when I first got up here is that when the cameras are off, the relationship between members is fairly warm across the aisle. I’ve learned that as I’ve criss-crossed the district, the 23rd District of Texas, and one of the things that makes the 23rd unique is that it’s 50-50. Fifty percent Republican , 50 percent Democrat, and guess what, most people care about the same things.

Food on their table , a roof over their head, and that the people that they care about are healthy and happy, and these are some of the issues that I’ve been trying to work on. Issues like immigration, and this is a very partisan issue but I’ve been able to work with folks like Pete Aguilar, he’s as a Democrat from California, and someone we’ve worked closely together on this issue. When it comes to some of the IT issues that I work on and cybersecurity,  Robin Kelley, a Democrat from Illinois.  We have a great working relationship. And Steve, what I’ve learned, as I’ve crisscrossed these 29 counties is far more unites us than divides us as a country and we can disagree without being disagreeable.

And that is something that we have to remember.  And guess what? If we can’t do this, if we can’t disagree without being disagreeable, if we can’t be civil and reintroduce some civility into our lives, then our kids won’t be able to do it and our grandkids won’t be able to do it.

So Steve, I’m glad you asked the question, and I’m sure you’re trying to be an example and I’m trying to be and I hope everybody that’s listening on this call believes it too. So thanks for the call Steve.

Congressman Will Hurd speaks with Alysa Wheeler at a Dairy Queen in Dilley, TX on Aug. 11, 2017 during a week-long Dairy Queen town hall tour of his district. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

HURD: Next we have John from San Antonio.

John. How are you?

JOHN: Yes sir. I just wanted to let you know that I’m a strong believer in you. I voted for you three times.

My question and my worry is what are you going to do or say to keep people like me – conservatives – not me, but people like me, because you’ve got my vote, but I worry about you swinging to the middle and to the left by the statement you made about Trump being manipulated by Putin, instead of siding with him, even though he did sidestep and make some errors. I do worry about you losing some votes by trying to get independent and Dem votes by making that statement.

But I wished you could clarify and try to get other people back on board . You’ve got my vote.

Here is what Hurd wrote in the New York Times — The New York Times! — on July 19, to considerable national notice.

Trump Is Being Manipulated by Putin. What Should We Do?
Lawmakers must keep the American people informed of the current danger, writes a Republican congressman from Texas.

By Will Hurd

Mr. Hurd, a former C.I.A. officer, is a congressman from the 23rd District of Texas

Over the course of my career as an undercover officer in the C.I.A., I saw Russian intelligence manipulate many people. I never thought I would see the day when an American president would be one of them.

The president’s failure to defend the United States intelligence community’s unanimous conclusions of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and condemn Russian covert counterinfluence campaigns and his standing idle on the world stage while a Russian dictator spouted lies confused many but should concern all Americans. By playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands, the leader of the free world actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign that legitimized Russian denial and weakened the credibility of the United States to both our friends and foes abroad.

As a member of Congress, a coequal branch of government designed by our founders to provide checks and balances on the executive branch, I believe that lawmakers must fulfill our oversight duty as well as keep the American people informed of the current danger.

Somehow many Americans have forgotten that Russia is our adversary, not our ally, and the reasons for today’s tensions go back much farther than the 2016 election. For more than a decade, Russia has meddled in elections around the world, supported brutal dictators and invaded sovereign nations — all to the detriment of United States interests. Mitt Romney had it right in 2012 when he told President Barack Obama that Russia was “without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”

Our intelligence community has concluded with high confidence that President Putin personally ordered his security services to undertake an influence campaign aimed at undermining confidence in American democracy to sow chaos in our electoral system. Russia’s efforts to hack political organizations and state election boards are well documented, as are the Russian disinformation campaigns on social media platforms.

Russia is an adversary not just of the United States but of freedom-loving people everywhere. Disinformation and chaos is a Russian art form developed during the Soviet era that Russia has now updated using modern tools. The result has been Russian disinformation spreading like a virus throughout the Western world. From elections in Britain, France and Montenegro to invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, Moscow has pursued an aggressive foreign policy aimed at spreading disorder and expanding Russian influence in states formerly under the heel of Soviet Communism. These efforts weaken our allies and strengthen those who seek to undermine the democratic order that has helped prevent another world war in Europe since 1945.

Moreover, the threat of Russian meddling in United States elections is not behind us. Just last week, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, cautioned that “the warning lights are blinking red” that Russia and other adversaries will undertake further cyberattacks on our digital infrastructure. This includes many of the energy companies in my home district in South and West Texas.

Make no mistake, Russian disinformation campaigns are working.

It goes on like that.

Of course, as President Trump put it in his opening remarks with Putin, in his view, getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing

Back to the Tele-Town Hall, and John’s question.

HURD:  Well John thanks for the question and thanks for your support.

For me, my statement was very simple. It wasn’t for the left or the middle or the right. It was a statement that was based on nine-and-a-half years as an undercover officer and, for those that don’t know, I made a statement about the Helsinki press conference between President Trump and President Vladimir Putin and  my concern with that press conference is that it was a form of disinformation that was being used by Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Putin said some things that were pretty outrageous and said them next to the leader of the free world.

And when the leader of the free world is standing there shaking his head about thing like on the Ukraine — if Russia wanted to change its relationship with the United States or the West it would leave Ukraine.

The Russians invaded Ukraine. Period. End of story.

And the Russian are trying to say this was a separatist movement that was happening in the Ukraine and that they were trying to help this separatist movement. It wasn’t. It was an invasion.  

So when you see Vladimir Putin make comments saying that, “the Ukrainians are being unreasonable,” and that is not rebuked, that has longterm ramification with our allies and even with our adversaries.

So for me, I spent nine-and-a-half years as an undercover officer in the CIA. I was the guy in the back alleys collecting intelligence on threats to our homeland. I did two years of training in D.C., two years in India, two years in Pakistan, two years in New York City doing interagency work a year and half in Afghanistan, where I managed all of our undercover operations. I chased terrorists. I chased Russian intelligence officers. I put nuclear weapons proliferators out of jobs.

And for me it was important to let the world  know that this disinformation was going on and to speak up and so, my dad always said, “Be honest,” so that’s what I did in my comments on the press conference and I will continue to be honest and I think that’s something that folks in the 23rd Congressional District have come to expect from me and to use my background as a leader in national security to provide context for such important issues. But John, I really appreciate the comment and you bringing that up to today.

The next caller in the queue said he was just there to “spectate,” so Hurd launched into a vigorous defense of NAFTA, another Trump bugaboo.

At this point, Hurd offered one of several poll questions he asked during the call.

HURD: Do you believe Russia is an enemy or friend of the United States Press one if you think Russia is an an enemy Press two if you you think Russia is a friend of the United States. Press 3 if you do not know. 

In this Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016 photo, first-term Republican Rep. Will Hurd, right, of Texas, poses for a photo with a supporter at a campaign office, in San Antonio. Many House Republican incumbents worry that blowback from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s anti-Hispanic rhetoric and promises to build a towering wall the length of the U.S.-Mexico border could hurt their re-election chances, a problem especially acute for those in heavily Latino districts like that of Hurd, whose territory encompasses 820 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

HURD: Now we’re going to go to Mary from San Antonio. Mary, how are you?

MARY:  I’m fine, how are you sir?

HURD: I’m doing fantastic. Thanks for calling.

MARY: Absolutely.

First of all I think you’re doing a fabulous job. I’ve been with you since you first ran and I think you’re just one of the few honest ones up there. I hate to sound so critical but its’ just getting ridiculous up in Washington. You know we Texans like people that tell the truth and just stick to the issues.

My question is, the one thing I kind of break with you on lately is the immigration issue. My husband was career Air Force as was my father and grandfather. And I’ve lived all over the world, like you have. I haven’t been in back alleys. I have lived in areas such as Turkey and all across Europe.

My question is why are you not agreeing with a wall, a boundary for our country, to stop illegal immigration. I’ve seen the boundaries in Europe and I’ve seen them, even in Turkey, the Air Force would put up big fences and walls around us to keep us safe, and this was back in the ’70s even.  And it worked.

I agree with you on the drones and the IT situation that you’ve sponsored and we’re already using. It does help but it’s not stopping them.

I mean you see all of them coming across the border. And with the situation in Nicaragua, I’m really concerned that you don’t think adding something extra, like a boundary wall of some type would not help. I’m confused about that.

HURD: Well, Mary, one, thank you for the service of your family; two, I appreciate you joining (the call), and three, I appreciate your question.

I believe that building a 30-foot tall concrete structure from sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security. I do believe we should protect our borders.

It’s 2018 and we don’t have operational control of our border. I think at any moment, the head of Border Patrol should be able to say, “Pull up Mile Marker 18,” and we should be able to know what’s happening at Mile Marker 18. We don’t have that capability right now.

And one of the reasons I have a problem using a Fourth Century tool for a 21st Century  problem is that the response time from Border Patrol to problems at a wall is oftentimes measured in hours if not days. If the response time is measured in hours to days, then that wall is not a physical barrier. And when I was in embassies, yes in embassies we had fences and walls around them, but you had Marines there to respond immediately to somebody who was at that fence or at that wall or jumped over it.

At some areas in the Chihuahuan Desert, which is in my district west of San Antonio, the response time of the Border Patrol was measured in days.

So I believe that we should be using all of our tools within our toolkit to the most effective way possible. The technology exists today to determine the difference between a bunny rabbit and a person coming across the border. We can deploy a small drone to track that person until the most important resource we have, the men and the women of the Border Patrol, can deploy and do the interdiction.

And that’s why I call it the smart wall, it’s utilizing that technology, because you know you’re right, it’s not just Nicaragua, it’s El Salvador, it’s Guatemala, that is fueling the illegal immigration that’s coming up here.

You also have the drug trafficking organizations in Mexico and the rest of Central and South America making $66 billion dollars a year on selling drugs in the United States. There are more people who die of drug poisoning in the United States than they do in the global war on terrorism.

We’re starting to see fentanyl coming in in high numbers into the United States. Fentanyl is similar to heroin but with a main difference  — 0.2 grams of heroin can kill somebody; 0.002 grams of fentanyl can kill somebody. Eleven pounds of fentanyl could kill about three million people. The only way we can stop this from coming into our country is utilizing technology and making sure we have more men and women in the Border Patrol.

Right now the Border Patrol has trouble retaining people because oftentimes, if they have to move from Arizona to Texas, they have to pay for their own move. That’s outrageous. And only DHS would think that would be OK. We’re not hiring enough people and retaining enough people in the Border Patrol. So we should use every tool in our toolkit, and in some places a barrier makes sense but for all 2,000 miles of the border it does not.

So I’m about being smart. I’m about dealing with the problem of illegal immigration. And oh and, by the way, we also need to be addressing and working with those countries to address the root cause of immigration coming out of Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, and these are some of the areas we’re working, and also we need to be increasing the number of immigration judges, once people are apprehended, to get them through the judicial process.

So that’s my take on the wall and I really, I really appreciate calling in and thanks for your service and your family’s service.

Congressman Will Hurd speaks to constituents at a Dairy Queen in Dilley, TX on Aug. 11, 2017 during a week-long Dairy Queen town hall tour of his district. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

HURD: Next, we’ve got Freddie, Freddie, how are you ma’am. Is it hot down in Eagle Pass?

FREDDIE: Lets just say I’ve been campaigning for a special election outside from 8 in the morning to 5 at night and it’s been 100 degree by the time I”m up at 6:45 a.m.

HURD: Well, that’s crazy. 100 degrees by 6 a.m. Well, thanks for calling in, I’m sure you have a question.

FREDDIE: Yeah, I was wondering how were you over the president handling the situation with Russia because, the one thing I’ve always liked about you is you play tough with tough guys and you play nice with nice guys, and I don’t think Putin’s very nice. So I’m wondering how you would want him to handle the situation with your background in national security and what have you?

HURD: I appreciate the question, Freddie, and you’re absolutely right.

When I was in the CIA, be nice with nice guys and tough with tough guys and there’s not a tougher guy out there than Vladimir Putin.

And I would agree with folks that say having a better relationship with Russia would be a good thing for everyone, however, there have to be some pre-conditions to show that Russia is interested in changing the nature of its relationship with the United States.

Every president since the fall of the Berlin Wall has thought they were going to have the opportunity to reset the U.S.’ relationship with Russia and they have failed to do that because ultimately Russia, and Vladimir Putin specifically, are interested in one thing and one thing alone. He is interested in re-establishing the territorial integrity of the USSR.

Vladimir Putin has said the worst thing that has happened in the last century was the fall of the Soviet Union, and he is the one trying to re-establish that, so what I would like to see is some continued support for sanctions against Russia for a number of reasons.

They invaded Ukraine. In their invasion, they manipulated the utility grid of the Ukrainians. They’ve tried to do that in  Estonia. Even the UN hs said that doing something with someone’s utility grid electricity is an act of war, so there have been sanctions against Russia for doing that.

They have invaded Ukraine, so they should leave, they should take their troops and their tanks and they should leave Ukraine, plain and simple.

They should stop supporting Iran, especially when it comes to Syria. They should make sure that these Iranian irregular units stop killing American forces, and they should be pushing Bashar al-Assad, the leader of Syria, to come to the negotiation table in order to have a political and military solution to he issue in Syria.

These are all things that I’d like to see our president stand up to Vladimir Putin on and use as, when those things get resolved, a pre-condition to continue to trying to improve a bilateral relationship. Republican presidents and Democratic presidents have gotten Vladimir Putin wrong and he’s proven himself to only care about one thing and that one thing only and that’s the USSR and re-establishing that.

So thanks for the question Freddie.

There were some other questions. Hurd talked about bipartisan efforts to restore national parks. He answered questions about community health centers and mental health services for veterans. He talked about small businesses in the district.

Altogether, in tone, it was a very civil and substantive telephone town hall.

Hurd’s differences with President Trump were very apparent and he did nothing to obscure them. On the contrary.

It’s a tricky business in a district in which most of his votes will have to come from Trump supporters, but victory will likely depend on drawing some voters appalled by the president.

There are very few districts like the 23rd in all of America.

Hurd is a skillful politician, not to be underestimated

And so far, he has also been lucky.

President Trump, it seems, wasn’t listening in on Hurd’s telephone town hall, or become personally exercised about Hurd’s New York Times op-ed.

Or, at any rate, if he was, he hasn’t tweeted about it.

And that’s remarkably, uncharacteristically, civil of him.

U.S. Reps. Will Hurd, left, and Beto O’Rourke on their road trip from San Antonio to Wasington D.C. on Tuesday, March 14, 2017.l

 

 

 

 

Hey, RNC. Forget holding the convention in Charlotte. Why not Moscow 2020?

 

Good Friday Austin:

The Republican National Committee, meeting in Austin this morning, is expected to choose Charlotte, N.C., as the place where the party will renominate Donald Trump for president.

From Katy Friel at Culture Map Austin:

The Republican National Committee quietly convened in Austin on July 18 to begin planning for the 2020 Republican National Convention. Members of the RNC are hosting closed-door sessions inside the Fairmont Austin to decide details about the event, including the host city for the next convention — the site of Donald Trump’s likely renomination for president.

It’s unclear why Republicans chose Austin in the middle of summer to host their meeting, and a rep for the Fairmont said they “are not able to comment on or confirm whether a particular individual or group is a guest within our hotel.”

Host cities for 2020 have been narrowed down to Charlotte, North Carolina, and Las Vegas, though it’s been a contentious battle. On July 16, the Charlotte City Council faced protestors and heard from more than 100 citizens speaking out against the event, mostly in regards to safety concerns. The Charlotte City Council narrowly approved the measure 6-5, with four Democrats joining two Republicans in the decision.

Charlotte?

Come on. That’s an old-school, hopelessly conventional, Deep State choice.

Las Vegas would be better, but still.

The big, bold, Trumpian choice should be obvious by now.

The Republican Party should hold its 2020 convention in Moscow.

Just look at the numbers.

From Numbeo.com:

You would need around 284,572.04руб (4,482.90$) in Charlotte, NC to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with руб in Moscow (assuming you rent in both cities). This calculation uses our Cost of Living Plus Rent Index to compare cost of living. This assumes net earnings (after income tax).

 

Indices Difference Info
Consumer Prices in Charlotte, NC are 65.68% higher than in Moscow
Consumer Prices Including Rent in Charlotte, NC are 58.10% higher than in Moscow
Rent Prices in Charlotte, NC are 45.09% higher than in Moscow
Restaurant Prices in Charlotte, NC are 57.58% higher than in Moscow
Groceries Prices in Charlotte, NC are 108.95% higher than in Moscow

Restaurants Moscow Charlotte
Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant 600.00 руб
(9.45 $)
952.19 руб
(15.00 $)
     +58.70 %
Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course 2,500.00 руб
(39.38 $)
3,808.77 руб
(60.00 $)
     +52.35 %
McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal) 350.00 руб
(5.51 $)
380.88 руб
(6.00 $)
     +8.82 %
Domestic Beer (1 pint draught) 100.00 руб
(1.58 $)
285.66 руб
(4.50 $)
     +185.66 %
Imported Beer (11.2 oz small bottle) 185.22 руб
(2.92 $)
380.88 руб
(6.00 $)
     +105.64 %
Cappuccino (regular) 170.96 руб
(2.69 $)
273.64 руб
(4.31 $)
     +60.06 %
Coke/Pepsi (11.2 oz small bottle) 58.18 руб
(0.92 $)
110.27 руб
(1.74 $)
     +89.53 %
Water (11.2 oz small bottle) 41.29 руб
(0.65 $)
83.99 руб
(1.32 $)
     +103.41 %
Markets Moscow Charlotte
Milk (regular), (1 gallon) 245.44 руб
(3.87 $)
192.70 руб
(3.04 $)
     -21.49 %
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (1 lb) 34.50 руб
(0.54 $)
145.96 руб
(2.30 $)
     +323.11 %
Rice (white), (1 lb) 31.70 руб
(0.50 $)
107.68 руб
(1.70 $)
     +239.69 %
Eggs (regular) (12) 76.70 руб
(1.21 $)
140.92 руб
(2.22 $)
     +83.73 %
Local Cheese (1 lb) 253.87 руб
(4.00 $)
310.34 руб
(4.89 $)
     +22.24 %
Chicken Breasts (Boneless, Skinless), (1 lb) 125.98 руб
(1.98 $)
222.01 руб
(3.50 $)
     +76.22 %
Beef Round (1 lb) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat) 240.93 руб
(3.80 $)
369.83 руб
(5.83 $)
     +53.50 %
Apples (1 lb) 43.07 руб
(0.68 $)
157.36 руб
(2.48 $)
     +265.36 %
Banana (1 lb) 27.72 руб
(0.44 $)
38.41 руб
(0.61 $)
     +38.57 %
Oranges (1 lb) 38.45 руб
(0.61 $)
152.00 руб
(2.39 $)
     +295.32 %
Tomato (1 lb) 70.02 руб
(1.10 $)
132.96 руб
(2.09 $)
     +89.88 %
Potato (1 lb) 16.21 руб
(0.26 $)
81.25 руб
(1.28 $)
     +401.34 %
Onion (1 lb) 13.39 руб
(0.21 $)
92.33 руб
(1.45 $)
     +589.32 %
Lettuce (1 head) 73.84 руб
(1.16 $)
113.08 руб
(1.78 $)
     +53.15 %
Water (1.5 liter bottle) 45.12 руб
(0.71 $)
114.08 руб
(1.80 $)
     +152.82 %
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 600.00 руб
(9.45 $)
666.53 руб
(10.50 $)
     +11.09 %
Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle) 65.07 руб
(1.03 $)
196.15 руб
(3.09 $)
     +201.45 %
Imported Beer (11.2 oz small bottle) 126.67 руб
(2.00 $)
272.71 руб
(4.30 $)
     +115.30 %
Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro) 125.00 руб
(1.97 $)
317.40 руб
(5.00 $)
     +153.92 %

 

And can the Spectrum in Charlotte really rival the Sokolniki Exhibition and Convention Center.

From Trip Advisor:

Sokolniki Exhibition and Convention Center is an international venue for business and leisure. Annually Sokolniki Exhibition and Convention Centre hosts over 100 large-scale events – exhibitions, conferences, forums, political.

  • Excellent76%
  • Very good9%
  • Average11%
  • Poor3%
  • Terrible1%

Terrible?

Filthy one percenters.

Don’t worry.

They’re dead. Their families are dead. Their dogs are dead.

 

OK, you say.

That’s ridiculous.

Holding the Republican National Convention in a place where every delegate would need a passport is preposterous.

And Moscow?

Well, yeah, sure, it sounds odd.

But really, no odder than what has happened in the last week, or, at any rate, than what has happened in the last week would have seemed if it hadn’t actually happened and if the Republican Party, by and large, hadn’t shown its capacity to adjust to, accommodate, make its peace with and maybe even embrace, all in a matter of hours and days, the same sequence of acceptance that would follow the daring choice of Moscow for 2020.

Watching Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who is America on Sunday  I wondered yet again how he gets people, real people, members of Congress, to say and do the most outrageous things.

Why in the world would Trent Lott be endorsing a program, peddled by Cohen, made up like Frankenstein as “Col. Erran Morad, anti-terror expert,” to arm toddlers in schools?

Trump, man of the world, is proud of the fact that he saw through Cohen as Ali G.

But, in this case, Trump is Ali G, double negatives, or lack thereof, and all.

Are we being punked?

Is the Republican Party being punked?

Like Sacha Baron Cohen, Trump never breaks character, he is capable of doing something totally outrageous and then double down.

From Mark Landler at the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to invite President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to visit Washington in the fall, the White House said Thursday — an invitation that stunned the nation’s top intelligence official, who said he was still groping for details of what the two leaders had discussed in their encounter this week in Helsinki, Finland.

“Say that again,” the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, replied when Andrea Mitchell of NBC broke the news while interviewing him at a security conference in Aspen, Colo. “O.K.,” Mr. Coats said, taking a deep breath and chuckling awkwardly. “That’s going to be special.”

The announcement came as the White House spent a third day trying to explain statements made by Mr. Trump after the Helsinki meeting, and as uncertainty spread throughout the government about whether he had reached agreements with Mr. Putin on Syria and Ukraine, leaving his military and diplomatic corps in the dark.

Yielding to intense criticism, Mr. Trump rejected a proposal by Mr. Putin for Russia to question American citizens, including a former ambassador to Moscow, Michael A. McFaul, in return for giving the United States access to 12 Russian military intelligence officers indicted on charges of trying to sabotage the 2016 presidential election.

Two hours after the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, issued that reversal, she said on Twitter that Mr. Trump had asked his national security adviser, John R. Bolton, to invite Mr. Putin, framing the decision as part of a dialogue that began in Helsinki and would continue at lower levels until the Russian president comes to Washington.

Beyond saying the meeting would be in the fall, the White House did not announce a date. That means Mr. Trump could meet Mr. Putin again before the midterm elections, giving him a chance to redress the widespread criticism of how he handled the first meeting and possibly injecting further volatility into the campaigns.

Ha. C’mon. Donald Trump,  didn’t get where he is today by redressing the widespread criticism.

That is fake news.

Donald Trump doesn’t know the meaning of the word redress.

That’s if the man we think is Trump is really Trump.

Perhaps Putin insisted they meet alone for two hours so the Russian tech team – or Sacha Baron Cohen or Elon Musk – would have time to check, service and update the circuitry that was installed in Trump, whenever that was. Maybe when he was in Moscow for the Miss USA Pageant in 2013, or maybe during that time Trump said he and Putin shared in the 60 Minutes green room, which never really happened, but, who knows, shades of Hitchcock, maybe it actually did.

Trump’s invitation to Putin to visit the White House in the days leading up to the midterm election is breathtaking. But by then, it won’t even be shocking when Trump announces that he had gratefully accepted Putin’s “incredible offer,” to remain at the White House through the election to guide ballot security efforts.

What a coup. Sharing he Oval Office with Vladimir Putin.

And, after all, who knows more about ballot security than Vladimir Putin?

Even Trump, who noted, yet again, in his appearance with Putin, the enormity of his own electoral triumph in the teeth of an Electoral College that offers prohibitive advantages to the Democrats, would have to acknowledge that Putin’s triumph in March was pretty impressive.

From Wikipedia

Why fight Russian interference when you can embrace it?

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON — The Republican-controlled House on Thursday eliminated new funding for states to strengthen election security, drawing protests from Democrats who said Republicans are not doing enough to prevent Russian meddling.

“The Russians attacked our democracy. They will be back, and we are not ready,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill. “The president is unwilling to meet this challenge, but we must be willing to meet the challenge.”

Quigley and other Democrats blasted President Donald Trump for failing to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin at this week’s summit in Helsinki and said Republicans were not taking threats against the integrity of U.S. elections seriously enough. Democratic lawmakers erupted into chants of “USA! USA!” during the debate, which came as Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she has not seen evidence that Moscow had tried to help elect Trump.

“I haven’t seen any evidence that the attempts to interfere in our election infrastructure was to favor a particular political party,” Nielsen said Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, adding that Russia is attempting to “cause chaos on both sides.”

Trump has made shifting statements on whether he agrees with the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. When asked Wednesday if Russia is still targeting the United States and its midterm elections, Trump responded “no,” but White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders later said Trump was saying “no” to answering more questions.

Quigley’s election security amendment would have extended funding for a state grant program overseen by the federal Election Assistance Commission. Congress approved $380 million in the current budget for the program, which is intended to help states strengthen election systems from hacking and other cyberattacks.

Democrats want to approve a similar amount through 2019, but Republicans say money from the current program is still available to states and new spending is not needed.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said Congress has already spent more than $3.5 billion on election security since the contested 2000 election. States still have money left from the current $380 million appropriation, and lawmakers have not been made aware of any new requests for more money as the November midterm elections approach, he said.

Sessions called the Democrats’ argument a “shrewd political shenanigan that has no merit to it.”

The amendment was defeated, 182-232, as the House debated a broader spending bill.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said Republicans’ refusal to spend more money on election security “represents nothing less than unilateral disarmament” against Russia, citing the U.S. intelligence community’s finding that Russia intervened in the 2016 election and charges brought by the Justice Department against Russian officials for hacking Democratic groups.

Relax LLoyd.

Listen to Mike.

Huckabee: The fact is we tried to interfere in elections all over the world ourselves.So let’s not be too much patting ourselves on the back about how pure we are.”

Right. And if Putin, who acknowledged at his joint press conference with Trump, that he wanted Trump to be elected, put his thumb on the scale for Trump, so what?

From McKay Coppins at the Atlantic: A New Talking Point From the Pro-Trump Fringe. A new line of punditry is bubbling up among the president’s followers online: It was a positive thing that the Russians hacked the 2016 election.

On Wednesday morning, in the midst of yet another contentious news cycle dominated by coverage of Russian election meddling, I tweeted a kind of thought experiment: “If Trump & co. just pivoted to ‘Aren’t you glad Russia helped us defeat Hillary Clinton?’ would there be any serious blowback from his base?”

 The question was rhetorical. The answers that began trickling in were not.

“No,” said Cassandra Fairbanks, a writer at the right-wing news and conspiracy website Gateway Pundit (and a former Sputnik employee). “I mean, I would be cool with it. I’m already there. If Russia was involved we should thank them.”

 “No,” responded another self-identified Trump voter. “Hillary is a greater threat to our Republic.”

Several people pointed me to Jacob Wohl, a Trump booster with a large Twitter following, who had mused just hours earlier, “If Russia assists MAGA Candidates on the internet in this year’s midterms, that’s not the end of the world.” And others re-upped a C-SPAN clip from the day before in which a caller identified as Mary Lou from Connecticut said, “I’ll try not to sound too awful, but I want to thank the Russians for interfering with our election to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming president. That woman has got illusions of grandeur.”

These are anecdotal cases, of course. As Phillip Bump notes in The Washington Post, there hasn’t been much polling data measuring how Americans feel about foreign governments interfering in United States elections; up to now, disapproval has simply been presumed. The polls that are available suggest that most Trump supporters don’t believe there was any Russian election interference, and if there was, it had no effect on the race.

 But as Washington braces for special counsel Robert Mueller to release the findings of his investigation, this new line of punditry bubbling up in the pro-Trump social-media conversation is worth taking seriously.

Bubbling up?

How about full boil.

As usual, we can count on Alex Jones to be just slightly ahead of the curve.

AJ: We have a criminal Deep State in control and if we ever remove these face-suckers, if we we ever get oxygen back in our country, which we’re starting to see. Trump has gotten two tentacles off of our neck. We still have three more over head, laying eggs in our guts and we’ve got to pull the damn thing off and  have emergency surgery and get the embryos out of our stomachs, to use any alien analogy. He has not even got the face-sucker off yet and it’s trying to strangle us.

You leftists. You fools. You scum. Look, coming up I”m going to break it down. From Chicago to Portland to San Francisco, everyone is canceling their conferences. Everyone is leaving. There are piles of feces and trash. People running around. It’s like a demon spirit. Men dressed as women with huge beards with feces running down their legs. This is happening in Austin now too. They worship men with huge beards wearing wigs with feces all over them, and they just run around BLAAHH, BLAAHH!

We are seeing epic history unfold. Just days after the enemy of the American people, the enemy of world peace, the enemy of prosperity, the globalist Chinese-controlled, big mega-bank controlled, big college-controlled, big Hollywood, filth bag-controlled whore media complex said Trump was a traitor for meeting privately with Putin, which every president does with every other major leader.

After lying about what was said and done. After covering up Hillary and all their collusion with the Russians, after all of this he came out and said, “Yes, I accept these conclusions, all these countries meddle in each other’s elections, but Russia’s barely on the Richter scale, a lot of people meddle, hell the U.S. spends billions a year trying to mess with Russia. We want prosperity. We want economic development. Russia’s cutting their defense spending. Let’s not start a new Cold War with them. China’s the big threat. They’re the big enemy.

Jones went on to predict, as he has for some time now, a civil war, really an insurrection to remove Trump, a  coup, beginning in late summer.

AJ:

I“ve been proven 1,000 percent correct in royal flush, in absolute ace of spades every time, because I’ve studied history, I’ve studied globalists. I know how they’ve overthrown other countries and I can read their damn statements, I can read their statements. I can read their actions. I know an enemy when it’s attacking me, I know an enemy when it’s attacking my family. I know an enemy foaming at the mouth to abort as many babies as it can, I know an enemy trying to inject us with deadly vaccines filled with pathogens declassified to brain damages. I know they spike our troops when they leave the military with a final round of shots to debilitate them. That’s declassified. We’ve got a criminal Deep State in control and if we ever remove these face-suckers, if we ever get oxygen back in our country…

Assuming Trump dodges the coup, Moscow 2020 will be way better than Cleveland 2016.

So what if Michael Flynn isn’t there to speak.

Alex Jones will be terrific.

Run Hard: Blue Action Democrats rally against `naysayers’ and `conventional wisdom’

Good Monday Austin:

While other people yesterday were doing whatever people do on a summer Sunday afternoon in Austin, I spent several hours with a couple of hundred Democrats at a fundraiser for Blue Action Democrats, a relatively new club in Southwest Travis County.

My favorite moment was Austinite Julie Oliver, the Democratic candidate challenging U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, invoking Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

Oliver:

Naysayers. Have any of y’all come across any of them?

So,  I’m going to reference a movie: Walk Hard: The Dewy Cox Story.

“I do believe in you. I just ruthnow you’re going to fail.”

If y’all haven’t seen it, there’s a really funny scene where John C. Reilly, he is playing this Johnny Cash figure, he’s young, he’s about to hit the road on his very first musical tour and his wife is played by Kristen Wiig, and as she’s saying goodbye to him, kissing him, seeing him to the door, she’s like, You’re never gonna make it,” and smiling and waving and singing out the window and it’ really funny.

This is not the exact scene. Couldn’t find that. But close.

Oliver:

So I see that because I hear it sometimes, but when I hear that something clicks inside and I never thought of myself as competitive, but since I’ve been hearing that lately I’ve been game on. Game on.

Because, honestly all these race are winnable. We have to believe that. That’s the very first step is believing. Because when you believe that these races are competitive and winnable, that informs your reality. You know what happens from there. Action is stirred. 

“Well it looks like I got some proving myself to do.”

Walk hard, hard
When they say, “You’re all done”
Walk bold, hard
Though they say, “You’re not the one”

Even if you’ve been told time and time again
That you’re always gonna lose and you’re never gonna win
Gotta keep that vision in your mind’s eye
When you’re standing on top of a mountain high

You know when I was a boy, folks used to say to me
“Slow down Dewey, don’t walk so hard”
And I used to tell them, “Life’s a race and I’m in it to win it
And I’ll walk as damn hard as I please
How do I walk boys?”

“I’m casting my vote for Julie because we got cut five blocks out of our own district,”  said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, who, thanks to gerrymandering lives outside his district. ” I have never seen a more dangerous time for our country. Our democracy is under direct threat from someone who daily tells us that he admires every third world thug that he salutes and praises.”

Doggett told his mostly white audience that while talk in Democratic circles is getting the Hispanic or black vote out, “What we really need is our next-door neighbor, the person across the street.”

(See Ken Herman’s column on this from last week.)

The key races where we can win are right here in theses precincts – electing Vikki Goodwin  to serve in the state House. We know gerrymandering divided up our city in the way that we’re the largest city in America that does not control a congressional district. It’s wrong, but it’s obvious that the Supreme Court will provide no remedy for that. The remedy is in our hands, not at the courthouse but at the ballot box.

This is an election in which we either resist and stand up and provide a genuine check and balance to all of the hatred and bigotry of Donald Trump or we let our country continue to sink and decline.

One of the nice touches of the Blue Action Democrats event was that the runners-up in the contested races were invited as well and given a chance to speak.

All three of U.S. Rep. Joseph Kopser’s three rivals for the Democratic nomination to succeed U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, in the 21st Congressional District, were on hand.

Mary Wilson, who is back in the pulpit full-time at the Church of the Savior in Cedar Park, talked about a recent mission delivering supplies to Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries on the border.

Next up was Derrick Crowe, who is moving with his wife to D.C., where his wife just landed a good job with Ballou High School.

Crowe:

Raise your hand if you know what the Dunning-Krueger Effect is?

For folks that don’t know it’s a phenomenon that’s been well documented. There are two types of people that are absolutely sure that they are great at the thing that they are doing. The first group of people are the experts. And the second group of people are the people that are too dim  to know they are not good at it. I am convinced that the Trump administration are the best example of the Dunning -Krueger Effect that we’ve ever had in an American administration. 

I think if psychologists would look they would find a very similar effect in terms of empathy. That there are people that are so lacking in empathy that they think they are great it.

xxxxxx

And you mentioned the folks that are loath to speak out against Donald Trump unless they’re retiring. We call that ring and run where I come from. And the solution to a ring and run Republican is a knock-and-drag Democrat.

It is absolutely essential that we take these congressional seats. Do everything you can to put Joseph Kopser and Julie Oliver in Congress this year.

Then it was Elliott McFadden’s turn.

On vacation last week, I read a book called the Storm Before the Storm. It’s about the generation before Julius Caesar the led to the end of the Roman Republican, and we are that generation in our country.

(OK. so this is Elliott McFadden’s idea of beach reading? Was he on Martha’s Vineyard shunning Alan Dershowitz?)

From the book description:

The Roman Republic was one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of civilization. Beginning as a small city-state in central Italy, Rome gradually expanded into a wider world filled with petty tyrants, barbarian chieftains and despotic kings. Through the centuries, Rome’s model of cooperative and participatory government remained remarkably durable. The Romans commitment to regular elections and peaceful transfers of power was unmatched in the history of the ancient world.

In 146 BC, Rome finally emerged as the strongest power in the Mediterranean. But the very success of the Republic proved to be its undoing. The republican system was unable to cope with the vast empire Rome now ruled. Rising economic inequality disrupted traditional ways of life. Endemic social and ethnic prejudice led to clashes over citizenship and voting rights. Rampant corruption and ruthless ambition among the elite sparked violent political clashes that cracked the once indestructible foundations of the Republic.

Chronicling the years 146-78 BC, The Storm Before the Storm dives headlong into the first generation to face the treacherous new political environment made possible by Rome’s triumphant success. Abandoning the ancient principles of their forbearers, men like Marius, Sulla, and the Gracchi Brothers set dangerous new precedents that would start the Republic on the road to destruction—a stark warning for modern readers about what happens to a civilization that has lost its way. This was the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic.

Yikes.

McFadden:

Congressman Doggett said it today. Our Republic is at stake in this election. If you don’t believe it, look at those children being ripped from the families. Watch a Supreme Court that is hanging in the balance which  can roll back Roe v. Wade. 

This is the election of our generation That is why I am supporting Joseph Kopser so he can go to Congress with Julie Oliver and hold this president accountable.

Kopser said that the primary had made him a much better candidate, which I think is true.

I talked with Steve Kling of Dripping Springs, who is taking on state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels.

I asked Kling a question prompted by some recent tweets, and his answer was a variation on Oliver’s rap on naysayers.

Kling:

When we started this 16 months ago we were considered a long-shot race. We’ve been upgraded by various pundits to a tough-but-winnable scenario. If we’re looking at some of the trends we’re seeing precinct-by-precinct across this district, if we can just get the level of turnout we get in a presidential – that’s saying a lot – but if we can get that, we can win this.

And it’s organizations like Blue Action Democrats that have a template of producing really strong turnout. If we can replicate that in just northern Bexar County alone, just that part of my district, we’ll actually win this, despite whatever happens in Comal or Kendall. 

I think we can actually win this by two or three points if we do that.

I asked, per the tweets, whether the felt he was getting the kind of support he needs or expects from Democratic Senate incumbents in adjoining districts?

 

Kling:

I really wish I could say that I was.

Unfortunately, that is a long string of unreturned phone calls, unresponsive. I’m surrounded by  Democratic state senators. We tried to set up meetings with them. I don’t know why they decided to stay on the sidelines. I don’t really know how to interpret that. They either don’t understand how important 2018 is or they don’t care. I don’t know which is worse.

We have an opportunity to break the (Republican) supermajority. 

If we turn two Senate seats we will be in a Senate where they won’t be able to do a vote without at least one member of our caucus.

I have been running this for 16 months and I have said the enemy is conventional wisdom. Getting the number that we’re seeing from our primary, getting the numbers we are getting from growth and talking to groups like Progress Texas and seeing the demographics that are moving into this area, the fastest growing area of this country.

This is a very winnable district. And really there’s an outcome if we get the help from the Democratic Party and the incumbents, and there’s one without, and they may be very different, and so trying to get an audience with my fellow Democrats that can really help make a difference in this race has been really important. We just haven’t been able to get the traction, and I don’t really know why.

The one Democratic senator I sat down with, who will remain nameless, has told me that one of the reasons that, at least from his perspective, that we are not getting traction, is they are frightened by the vindictiveness of Dan Patrick, which to me, that’s a vote of no-confidence for my friend Mike Collier (the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor).

The most important race right now is Mike Collier’s race. Even if I win, I’m really relegated to banging my head against the brick wall of Dan Patrick for four years. We’ve got to get Mike Collier in there and he’s the one who really needs the support from Democratic incumbents and, to my knowledge, he isn’t getting it either.

To be fair, the Senate Democratic Caucus, headed by Sen. (José ) Rodríguez, has  been as helpful as they can be. They have contributed to our campaign. Sen. Rodriguez has been an outspoken advocate of Democratic challengers. The adjacent. 

Of the Democratic incumbents who have been less forthcoming, Kling said, “If they want to make Dan Patrick happy, they can switch parties and let us know where they really stand.”

Yikes.

We conclude our coverage of yesterday’s event talking to Will Simpson, who is writing a book about his losing campaign for the Democratic nomination to challenge state Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, in House District 47, which was ultimately won, in a runoff, by Vikki Goodwin.

From the Texas Tribune:

C’mon Trib, give the guy a break.

That’s better.

Simpson:

I have very thick skin. I spent a lot of time with (Austin City Council Member) Jimmy Flanagan who helped me try to get an idea of what it was going to be like. And he prepared me –  `You’re a first-time candidate, you’re probably going to lose, no matter what.”  

And we never believe that.

I probably will run again.

Simpson said he hopes to have a E-book out before Election Day.

Even if I don’t run again, somebody else may be able to learn something from my story.

Or maybe not.

I’m anal with note-keeping so I was able to reconstruct an outline of a book really fast.

I want to tell the story. I want somebody else to read the story of what it’s like.

I’m calling it Blue Wave.

His campaign slogan – a good one – was, ‘Where there’s a Will there’s a way.”

He lost his father during the campaign. That was tough.

:

We knew it was a rough district. Western Travis County is not blue Travis County. The south end is, the north end, where I live really is not. I live in Leander. the Travis County part of Leander. I’m a native. I was born in Austin.  I knew what I was getting into, but there was a ton that I didn’t know.

Like …

What I thought was a good candidate was way, way, way, way apart from what the masses were looking for. I’m very critical thinking and `can they win’ is part of the equation. Average person is emotion-driven, especially right now.

I didn’t focus enough on hard-core fundraising up front. I put in a lot of my own money, which is now gone. It really is a marketing campaign.

One of the things that almost kept me from running is that I believed I had too much integrity to be a national Democrat. I tend to tell it like it is too much. And that can hurt you in a campaign. I may not ever be a good candidate. A candidate needs to be a marketer first. I don’t like that, but that’s a very true statement.

At the end of the day a lot of what I had to offer wasn’t actually good for what a lot of the voters in the Democratic Party wanted by the time it came to the primary in March.

They wanted someone more progressive and they wanted someone who was female. And I understand why they wanted that because I can see it and I agree.

One of the things I may do, because I still do want to serve and make a difference, I may actually go and try to run in Wilco where those Democrats that you can find are different. And so I’m closer to them, I’m an old white guy like them. People want someone they feel they can relate to.

Did he find the loss emotionally wrenching?

Not for me. I’m a COO by nature. I am the wet blanket. I don’t tend to live in the emotional world. My wife, who is my better three-quarters, is, so it was harder on her and the family, even though we talked about it. That was hard on me.

Me losing? I live to take risks.

Simpson is the chief operating officer of a technology recruiting firm.

Simpson:

I’m fully supporting Vikki. It’s going to be damn close. She has 13,000 votes to switch out of 100,000, that’s a big margin to turn, and the blue wave isn’t going to hit. HD-47 is in the top ten districts in voter turnout, period, so it’s already a high-voting district.

What?  No blue wave?

Not in Texas there won’t be.

So why is his book going to be called Blue Wave?

That title is meant to be ironic. I don’t know what I’m going to put underneath it (as a subtitle.)  Overall in the nation, we are going to have a better midterm then we’ve had in a long time.

But, Simpson said:

I believe in math. It is going to be very hard in Texas. God love Beto, I am out writing checks and helping him every chance I get. He is not going to win. I don’t believe it. I’ve got his yard sign in my yard.

I think Julie has a shot. Personally I’m not a big fan, but I do think she has a shot, so that’s good for us.

Kopser?

I think Kopser has the money, he has the ground troops. Mathematically, it is a harder one to win. But he is more attractive to those kinds of people, so I think it’s a tossup.

And MJ Hegar, who is challenging U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, in CD31?

I don’t like her at all. But the Travis County Democratic Party should hang its head in shame to see how effective and how hard Wilco works relative to Travis County.  (He thinks John Bucy has a good shot at ousting state Rep. Tony Dale in House District 136.) MJ has very good ground game going and lot of money and national recognition. When Guy Kawasaki posts your video …

She will get traction. I think she’ll actually kick it open. I think she’ll turn it. We’ll know in the next 60 days how fired up the other side is. If 100 percent turns out, the Democrat loses. Period.

So there you have it.

Political curmudgeon and forthcoming memoirist Will Simpson says there is no blue wave coming, that if everyone turns out, Democrats lose, that Beto O’Rourke, the great blue hope, God love him, can’t win, but that Julie Oliver and MJ Hegar, neither of whom he particularly cares for, could pull upsets.

Wet blanket? Sure. But naysayer? Apparently not.

A little while later, Lynn Kurth, who was emceeing the Blue Action Democrats program, called out for Simpson.

“We have something for you.”

But Simpson had already left.

I asked Kurth later what she had for Simpson.

“Will was going to get one of the Get Shit Done Club pins. I’ll mail Will his pin.”

 

 

`Because we need a warm splinter of good news in these gun-riddled days.’ The columns of Rob Hiaasen.

Rob Hiaasen. Capital Gazette

Good Friday Austin:

Rob Hiaasen was one of five victims of the shooting at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Md., yesterday.

I did not know him, but he was a friend and former colleague of friends.

He was an editor and columnist.

His columns were rarely on the news, or about the news.

But they are the kind of columns that make a newspaper essential.

Here are five of his columns from the last couple of years.

Thank you Stephen Colbert 

February 16, 2016

Learning to love the bomb.

Last summer, there was an avalanche of press about Stephen Colbert taking over as host of “The Late Show.” In a profile for GQ, he talked about the plane crash on Sept. 11, 1974 that took his father’s and two older brother’s lives along with 70 others.

The Eastern Airlines flight carrying them went down in a foggy North Carolina cornfield due to pilot error. The NTSB found the flight crew engaged in unnecessary and “impertinent” conversation during approach (the crew talked about politics and used cars). The accident spurred the “Sterile Cockpit Rule,” an FAA regulation requiring pilots to refrain from non-essential activities during critical phases of flight.

Perhaps a distant consolation for a younger brother.

“You’ve got to learn to love the bomb,” Colbert told GQ. “Boy, did I have a bomb go off when I was 10.”

Learning to love the bomb might have informed his comedy — performances fueled by improvisation where loss can be converted into humor. But deconstructing comedy or tragedy is like holding water in a nervous hand; it slips through your fingers and evaporates before it hits the ground. I don’t know how Colbert came to accept and even experience gratitude for his loss. It feels like an impossible spiritual leap.

“It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you want it.”

Other interviews where he mentioned the subject included the fact his father and brothers are buried in the Annapolis National Cemetery.

Annapolis, of all places.

I went to the cemetery late last year, went there twice. I am among those drawn to cemeteries, to gingerly step among their rows, to eavesdrop on their living histories. It’s not out of sense of morbidity but out of a sense of an inexplicable comfort and connection. OK, maybe it is a bit morbid.

The groomed cemetery off West Street — one of 14 President Lincoln established to keep Civil War casualties — is lined with uniform small markers honoring veterans from a cross-section of wars. In a section toward the back of the cemetery, a large, relatively new memorial towers over the other grave sites. The inscription reads: “Colbert.” You can’t miss if you’re looking for it.

There lies the comedian’s father (James Colbert, a U.S. Army veteran) and his two sons lost when Eastern Airlines Flight 212 went down as pilots chatted about used cars: Peter, 18; Paul, 15. Their mother, Lorna Colbert, was laid to rest here in 2013.

It’s a curious, uneasy thing to want to visit another family’s grave site. I’ve yet to see Colbert’s “Late Show” since I don’t stay up late, but I’ve seen where his family members are buried. It’s a personal invasion of a public person. It’s none of my business. I didn’t want to visit, but I did. Twice.

And I read everything I could on this moment in the life of a man I feel distantly connected to.

“What punishments of God are not gifts?” Stephen Colbert also said about his loss.

Forty years ago this week, a bomb went off. My father didn’t die in a plane crash. He died in our family room, marking the birth of a new normal and family narrative. He was 50.

A gift of punishment, a bomb to love.

Athena is Home

February 24, 2018

Editor’s note: Shortly after our column appeared, we heard from Jennifer Brianas and her family. Athena, having left home for two weeks, appeared Sunday, Feb. 11. “She just showed up at the front door,” Jennifer wrote us. (Athena and her brother, Achilles, had been gifts for Jennifer’s twin daughters for their 7th birthday.) The family wanted to give a shout-out to the nonprofit Dogs Finding Dogs, a group that helps people track and find their lost pets.

Athena, dear one, get your tale back to your Annapolis home.

I don’t know you or the people you live with. Hell, I don’t particularly even like cats.

But here’s the thing. Well, a few things.

First, leveled at me have been longstanding accusations that I’m a romantic and sentimentalist (guilty, guilty). So what if I can’t pass a missing cat/but mainly missing dog poster and not blink? So what if I always stop in my tracks and spin stories for missing cats but mainly dogs?

Haven’t we all gone missing at one time or another? Kind of in our DNA this urge to be unkenneled, yes.

Word on the Annapolis street (Southgate, Thompson, etc.) is you’ve been missing since the end of January. By the looks of your wanted poster, I imagine you are lounging and looking just like that somewhere right now. You appear wholly ignorant and unaffected by the early year’s ugly news.

Did you just need to get away and chill? A misunderstanding on the homefront? Tired of the same cat food?

I like to imagine you busted out during last week’s warm burst, but you skipped home well before then. Please tell us you stayed warm and away from traffic. But how would we know?

No one knows the mind of a cat; no sense in trying, either. It’s like trying to figure out why none of our flashlights work. It’s actually nothing like that, but it’s hard to think straight when thinking about cats. They’ll do that to you.

Athena — goddess of war and wisdom, subject of the final good Who song — get your tale home.

Because we need a warm splinter of good news in these gun-riddled days. I don’t have any answers much less the right questions, so the path of least emotional resistance can beckon: A tiny win on the horizon. A safe homecoming.

Of course, a missing cat is nothing like those Broward County students dead and wounded or that fallen police officer in Prince George’s County.

A missing cat is just a missing cat.

Until our hearts and minds, in shutdown mode, take a brief recess from watching, absorbing and feeling. Then, there, a missing cat sign on a stapled telephone pole on a neighborhood street. There, a sweet-faced distraction lounging, missing.

So, Athena, dearest one, get your tale home.

No questions, recriminations or judgment from us. If you’ve gained a pound of two while you were away, no worries. If you met some kind kids or other cool cats, good for you.

Just come home to tell us your story.

Taking a strange, unexpected and personal walk through our newspaper

April 22, 2017

I was reading my newspaper the other day when an ad headline shook me to my core. My future passed before my eyes and points lower. Whatever self-doubts and setbacks that have dogged me were erased by this:

NEW ALTERNATIVE TO ADULT DIAPERS AND CATHETERS SETS MEN FREE.

Generally, I shy away from all caps (and New Year’s Eve parties and poodles), but the news was so bold it deserved bold typography. Rather than having to wear diapers or use catheters, men can now use a skin-friendly pouch that “attaches to the tip of a man’s anatomy.” This, as my mother would say, is not dinner table talk. But by gosh, we need to talk about things that can set us free.

Believe me, I don’t need “24-hour leak-free security.” I’m not a long-haul truck driver who may or may not need an equivalent method for long-haul relief. I do have a longish commute to work, and I do like my morning coffee, but pouches have not entered into the equation. To recap: I don’t need urological care of this or any magnitude, thank you very much. Psychiatry, sure, who doesn’t? But not this really personal stuff.

Still.

How can you read such a thing and not see yourself down some long-haul, lonesome road from now?

Perhaps this cheery outlook explains a certain shortage of New Year’s Eve parties.

•••

I was reading my newspaper the other day and saw an item about a missing 98-year-old man. Fortunately, the man was found unharmed and was returned to his relieved family. Police reported the man does not have any medical issues, but he sleepwalks from time to time.

No medical issues at 98.

98.

Just sleepwalks away from home sometimes.

I am profoundly jealous of every fact in this story. Setting aside for the moment the worry such a missing invokes, I daydream of the day when I am 98 with no medical issues and slip away in sleep state and am returned unharmed to my loved ones.

Oh, he just walks off sometimes, they will tell police. Better check the water. He tends to wander down to City Dock to look at the water and boats.

And there they will find me. Sleepwalking and daydreaming among all the boats in all the water.

Found smiling, they will report.

•••

I was reading my newspaper the other day about the FBI adding to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list the man suspected of killing his wife at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Hanover two years ago. Police hope the renewed attention will produce fresh leads in the cold case.

The crime video is also back in the news with renewed views — many views. In the store video, the husband and wife are seen walking off-camera to a backroom and the husband emerging alone. For now it’s the last image we have of the fugitive; it’s forever the last image we have of his wife.

I watched the video as if vainly looking for clues. But what I was really watching was simply a woman walking with her husband to the backroom of where they worked. But she never comes back into camera range, no matter how many times I see the popular video. The story never changes.

For the people who knew and loved her, surely they must know countless strangers, such as myself, re-watched the last images of 21-year-old Palek Patel. If they could ask us why we watch, what would we say?

Talking about the Sunday scares on Mother’s Day

May 13, 2018

Sundays were born rough.

Someone called them the “Sunday scaries,” which is perfect. Others just call them the Sunday blues — that diagnosis-defying, fog-like funk that comes in on tiger feet. If you know someone who is wild about Mondays, you can bet they get the Sunday scaries. Mondays are rescue missions.

So, today, another Sunday, another Mother’s Day.

I can’t pick up the phone to call my mother anymore. Poor, selfish me. But Sunday was our day to talk on the phone. She was in Florida; me in Maryland, as was our chronic geography.

We had this running joke on Sundays. “You must have read my mind because I was thinking of you,” she would say. I’d say something back along those lines. We weren’t mind-readers. We were having the Sunday scaries.

The world brims with lousy talkers and lousier listeners. My mother was neither.

Like a neutral biographer, she stowed the chapters of my life in all their messy hope. She logged my job changes, relationship changes, address changes, mood changes, hair color changes — her youngest getting gray at 28?! Well, dear, it looks good on you, she would say.

Why do fibs from mothers sound like Valentines? And because youngest children prefer the camera stay on them, I’d lament my gray-then-white hair through the decades.

If she ever got tired of my whining, she never let on. Took some nerve to complain about hair color to a woman in a wheelchair who needed help in the bathroom. Even then she listened.

I’d like to think she taught me to listen, but I have a long way to go on that front. Without her knowing, she did teach me how to ask questions. Hers were personal but somehow never prying — at least they didn’t feel that way after I left home. In middle and high school, I wanted no part of her questions.

Because of her, I came to believe the only questions worth asking are personal. What a gift for someone to lay low in silence just to hear your answer. It’s how people begin to trust one another. It’s how people fall in love, you know. Might be how we stay in love.

If you’re lucky, you don’t wait too damn long to grow up and appreciate your parents. (She would not have used damn and would have questioned my use of it. So, in her honor, a redo.)

If you’re lucky, you don’t wait too long to grow up and appreciate your parents.

So, she and I talked on the phone Sundays about personal things. As the years ticked off, our conversations dwindled. Then what happened — along with every awful thing that happens with an aging parent — is our talks ended. Too tiring, too much, too hard by the end.

Before that, though, in all those years of talking and listening on those scary Sundays, she was there.

In our make-believe meeting of the minds, I would call, and she would know exactly when I’d be calling. I’d wait to hear that opening invitation, that most personal of questions:

“How are you, son?”

No Joke: Donald Trump is Absolutely Right

August 21, 2016

‘I’m not running against crooked Hillary, I’m running against the crooked media’ Donald Trump

Finally, I agree with Trump.

With poll numbers somewhere between concerning and catastrophic, Trump’s campaign last week labeled the media his true opponent. The corrupt and crooked media.

Unlike with every other occupation, I can speak on the subject of journalism. I’ve worked in newsrooms for some 35 years and have accumulated enough wealth to have to work another 35 years in newsrooms. But I digress into a vat of self-pity.

My point is I find myself agreeing with Donald J. Trump.

Why the other day in our newsroom a reporter returned from covering a meeting of local officials. The un-edited article was accurate, fair and balanced. Horrified, I took the reporter aside to mentor her in the revered journalistic tradition of crooked reporting. Rather than punishment, the incident proved a teachable moment:

Reporter: “You wanted to see me? Did I do something wrong?”

Me (in dulcet editor’s voice): “I just wanted to talk a little about your story.”

“Was there anything wrong with it?”

“I’m just a little disappointed.”

(At this point, young reporter tears are flowing.)

“Did I get a fact wrong? I triple checked everything in the story. Did I misspell someone’s name? Don’t you think the story was fair? I got both sides to talk to me…”

(Young shamed reporter now in fetal position under desk.)

“We talked about this when you interviewed with us. I don’t know what they taught you in journalism school, but the real world of journalism is crooked, and we expect you to act and work accordingly. Frankly, your story failed. By being fair and balanced, you failed me, our readers and our industry.”

“But I thought…”

“You thought? You thought? Don’t think. Just be crooked.”

“I’m sorry. I won’t let it happen again. I won’t let my training, values and professionalism tarnish another story.”

As I helped her crawl out from under her desk, I felt it was yet another victory for my communication skills. (Note: the next story she filed was exceptionally crooked thus earning her a coffee gift card.)

Sometimes we slip up, though. Sometimes a thorough and thoughtful story slips through our rigid crooked standards. It’s embarrassing. And, as long as I’m being honest, sometimes we run community listings, obituaries, box scores, legal notices, honor rolls and “Alley Oop” comic strips that fail to achieve crookedness. Be assured that when this happens, we have business practices to deal with the issue.

First, we convene a series of mandatory newsroom meetings — usually early Saturday mornings or on holidays (mindful of any inconvenience, the meetings are never longer than 4 hours). After my opening remarks, we have break-out re-educational sessions. Three reporters are selected to role play by wearing T-shirts that say FAIR, BALANCED and ACCURATE. The others take turns mocking their colleagues until all participating reporters are reduced to weeping under their desks. Then we break for lunch.

None of us are perfectly crooked, even journalists. All we can do is try our best every day.

 

 

 

 

`That’s how the light gets in.’ Kirk Watson brings Leonard Cohen to the Texas Democratic Convention

Good Monday Austin:

It is not unusual for a politician to take the stage at a Texas political convention to some kind of popular anthem, like Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down, or Alabama’s “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band).”

But when state Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin came to the stage at the Democratic State Convention to the strains of Leonard Cohen’s Anthem Friday, I thought,  Well, that’s different.

It was.

Here are the lyrics to Anthem.

The birds they sang
At the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
Has passed away
Or what is yet to be
Yeah the wars they will
Be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
Bought and sold
And bought again
The dove is never free
Ring the bells (ring the bells) that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in

We asked for signs
The signs were sent
The birth betrayed
The marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
Of every government
Signs for all to see
I can’t run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
A thundercloud
And they’re going to hear from me
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in
You can add up the parts
You won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march
There is no drum
Every heart, every heart to love will come
But like a refugee
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in
Ring the bells that still can ring (ring the bells that still can ring)
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything)
That’s how the light gets in
That’s how the light gets in
That’s how the light gets in

Here is Watson’s speech.

That song you just heard is a Leonard Cohen song called “Anthem” that I really like.

A key lyric, one that resonates with me is:

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

We’re part of a community. We’re all in this together.  We’re called to contribute to each other.

It’s why I’m a Democrat.

None of us is making perfect offerings.  All of us are ringing bells with some cracks.  But each of us is working, working, working to let the light in.

I’m very proud of our efforts.

But today, both in the State Capitol Building and in D.C. there’s a toxic tone and approach in politics that would’ve been unthinkable not so long ago.

The list is long. The seeming normalization of overt racism and demonization of other people.  A disregard for objective truth, facts, science and expertise. A loss of the sense of shared responsibility.

And I’ve been stunned that long-standing democratic norms have been so easily abandoned in the name of party over country.

Right now, that toxicity is epitomized by a government that tears children away from their parents.  It’s astonishingly inhumane.  It’s poisonous.

All of it has made me more angry than I’ve ever been. And I’m not typically an angry guy.

But I find myself getting pretty worked up about the efforts to divide us, the extremism, the unthinking, unblinking partisanship.

Why can’t they hear those who plead for someone to listen? Where’s the love and empathy? How has injustice and intolerance and selfishness prevailed?

“Where’s the light in all of this”?

And we should ask whether we’re doing all we can. We must change things.  We must succeed.

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.”

I don’t know all the answers.  But I know that we have to continue to ask the questions.

Are we inclusive enough?  Are we limiting success by expecting an outcome, even demanding it, in a certain way?

We must reject what has failed.  We can’t demand our idea of perfection.  And we can’t settle just because it’s the way it’s always been.

And we need to support each other, even as we may not agree all of the time.

I’ve been moved by those who are finding hope in resisting, marching, organizing, donating, tweeting, testifying, wearing hats.

Engaging and ringing bells.

But it’s just an outcry if we don’t turn that enthusiasm, desire and, yes, in some cases, anger into votes.

The resistance must have results.

And the most meaningful results will come with winning elections.

Let’s face it, Democrats.  We’ve been down.  We’ve been discouraged. But we don’t give up.

It’s a part of who I am.  I feel it in my bones that we can’t stop. We must go forward with all of the passion and effort we have.

Because . . .We are the bells.

 Unsure. Imperfect. Broken.

We are the ringing sounds of justice.

We are the cry for equality.

We are the voices of diversity.

The roar for unity.

The song of happiness.

The whisper of love.

We are the clanging noise of hope.

Without us, there is no light.

Without us, it is quiet.

God bless you.

I spoke with Watson last night about how he came to devote his convention speech to Anthem. 

WATSON:

I’m a big Leonard Cohen fan. 

The lyrics that he writes have resonated with me for some time.

This song obviously has.

A few years back, our church (First Baptist Austin) actually used the chorus of Anthem during Lent as a reference point, and I even did a testimony at the church related to my public service and my view of the world and the way things were going.

And for a couple of years now it’s been a part of how I think about how we should be  addressing what’s going on.

I have joked that I would like to teach a political science course or a public policy course on the song, Anthem.

The chorus jump out at you and it serves as a good basis for a less than five-minute speech at a Democratic Convention, but if you let me speak for an hour and a half or all through a semester, I’d like to go through all the lyrics in that song, verse by verse.

And if you read he verses of the song, right now they particularly resonate with me and move me and I thought they would be particularly moving to the folks who are there who I know bow strongly they feel about community and about the need to protect and work for one another and bring their individual skills and talents to the game.

The concept of starting again, and the belief that we don’t need to focus on what’ has already happened – he refers to it as having “passed way” – but instead recognizing that there are things that are going to happen over and over again, and we need to recognize  that there are going to be things that are imperfect, that there are things that have cracks in them, but that’s how the light gets in, and, as I said in my speech, I envision those of us who believe we are here as part of a community, that we are all individuals, that we are all imperfect, that we all have cracks, that we are all unsure, but yet, what we do is bring our individual strengths, desires, hopefulness, passions, talents, to each other.

Admittedly that is also biblical with me and part of how I see how democracy is supposed to be and how I see what government should be, so the song has special meaning to me in that regard.

Particularly with that was happening to the children at the border, I felt it was most important to speak to the fact that we are the bells and without us, there’s not light, and without us, it’s awfully quiet

Watson said the speech was very well received.

Wonderful reaction. Wonderful reaction. Very gratifying.

It has been a very strong response.

I wondered with Watson what President Trump’s favorite Leonard Cohen song might be..

I suggested First We Take Manhattan (then we take Berlin).

Watson likes the REM version

I prefer Cohen’s own version.

They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I’m coming now, I’m coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
I’m guided by a signal in the heavens
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
I’d really like to live beside you, baby
I love your body and your spirit and your clothes
But you see that line there moving through the station?
I told you, I told you, told you, I was one of those
Ah you loved me as a loser, but now you’re worried that I just might win
You know the way to stop me, but you don’t have the discipline
How many nights I prayed for this, to let my work begin
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
I don’t like your fashion business mister
And I don’t like these drugs that keep you thin
I don’t like what happened to my sister
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
I’d really like to live beside you, baby
And I thank you for those items that you sent me
The monkey and the plywood violin
I practiced every night, now I’m ready
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
I am guided
Ah remember me, I used to live for music
Remember me, I brought your groceries in
Well it’s Father’s Day and everybody’s wounded
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

But perhaps Everybody Knows best captures the general despair that crosses partisan lines about the current broken moment.

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
Everybody knows
Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you’ve been faithful
Ah, give or take a night or two
Everybody knows you’ve been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows
Everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows
And everybody knows that it’s now or never
Everybody knows that it’s me or you
And everybody knows that you live forever
Ah, when you’ve done a line or two
Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old Black Joe’s still pickin’ cotton
For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows
And everybody knows that the Plague is coming
Everybody knows that it’s moving fast
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But there’s gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows
And everybody knows that you’re in trouble
Everybody knows what you’ve been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it’s coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows
Everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows, everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows
Everybody knows

And then there is the mordantly hopeful Democracy.

It’s coming through a hole in the air

From those nights in Tiananmen Square

It’s coming from the feel

That this ain’t exactly real
Or it’s real, but it ain’t exactly there

From the wars against disorder

From the sirens night and day

From the fires of the homeless

From the ashes of the gay

Democracy is coming to the USA

It’s coming through a crack in the wall

On a visionary flood of alcohol

From the staggering account

Of the Sermon on the Mount

Which I don’t pretend to understand at all

It’s coming from the silence

On the dock of the bay,

From the brave, the bold, the battered

Heart of Chevrolet

Democracy is coming to the USA

It’s coming from the sorrow in the street

The holy places where the races meet

From the homicidal bitchin’

That goes down in every kitchen

To determine who will serve and who will eat

From the wells of disappointment

Where the women kneel to pray

For the grace of God in the desert here

And the desert far away:

Democracy is coming to the USA

Sail on, sail on

O mighty Ship of State

To the Shores of Need

Past the Reefs of Greed

Through the Squalls of Hate

Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on

It’s coming to America first

The cradle of the best and of the worst

It’s here they got the range

And the machinery for change

And it’s here they got the spiritual thirst

It’s here the family’s broken

And it’s here the lonely say

That the heart has got to open

In a fundamental way

Democracy is coming to the USA

It’s coming from the women and the men

O baby, we’ll be making love again

We’ll be going down so deep

The river’s going to weep,

And the mountain’s going to shout Amen

It’s coming like the tidal flood

Beneath the lunar sway

Imperial, mysterious

In amorous array

Democracy is coming to the USA

Sail on, sail on

I’m sentimental, if you know what I mean

I love the country but I can’t stand the scene

And I’m neither left or right

I’m just staying home tonight

Getting lost in that hopeless little screen

But I’m stubborn as those garbage bags

That Time cannot decay

I’m junk but I’m still holding up

This little wild bouquet

Democracy is coming to the USA

 

 

`I did win, right?’ George P. Bush on being booed at the Republican Convention

Good day Austin:

I headed to the Republican State Convention a week ago Monday, and was there all week. But somehow, I very nearly missed what I now consider my favorite moment, even though I was present for it

It was during George P. Bush’s speech to the convention on Friday afternoon.

Because my laptops’ battery is weak and I need to keep it plugged in most of the time, and because there were precious few outlets in the hall at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, I spent most of the general session seated on the hard cement floor (though on the last day I found a single chair that wasn’t attached to a row of chairs that I could move near an outlet and sit on).

The first day, I was up toward the front of the hall, but by the second day, they day Bush spoke,  the good outlets were taken and, I was seated on the floor pretty far back between the men’s and women’s rooms (or as Republicans refer to them in their platform, biological men and biological women) in an acoustically challenged part of the hall where you could hear the speaker and then also also the speaker’s echo.

I knew Bush’s speech could prove a dramatic moment. How would he be received? Would there be any boos from delegates unhappy with his supervision of the Alamo. At some point during his speech I moved into one of the empty seats in the back of the hall to get a better look at Bush as he spoke.

But, even then, when the dramatic moment arrived, I somehow missed the best part.

After recounting his support for President Trump, and amid his trumpeting his successes as the “most conservative” land commissioner in Texas history, Bush bragged about his stewardship of the Alamo.

Bush: And despite the fake news you may have been reading in the liberal media we’ve been busy saving and strengthening the Alamo for generations to come.

This was met with some boos and jeers from the crowd.

Bush smiled and let loose with a classic response, which amid the boos and jeers and the bad acoustics, I missed but which is beautifully clear in the livestream of the convention, which I watched for the first time last night.

Here it is:

Bush: I did win, right?

How great is that?

Before his speech, Bush met with reporters at the convention center.

Miguel Suazo, Bush’s Democratic opponent was spending a few hours next door to the convention in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt Hotel talking to reporters. I asked Bush about Suazo’s position that the Alamo Cenotaph, the big memorial statue that dominates the plaza in front of the Alamo, should remain right where it is, and that the General Land Office should negotiate a new deal with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, who had managed the Alamo until Bush became commissioner, so the Daughters could return to that role.


Bush: 

Well, I think if you look at the track record over the last four years the average observer would see nothing but  success on the grounds of the Alamo, an historical appropriation from the state of Texas, buy-in from the city of San Antonio, a $5 million master plan that’s been completed, a roadshow that incorporated 40 public feedback. forums.

We are on the precipice for the first time in Alamo history to bring it back to the origins of 1836.

So, I’m excited by the track record, looking forward to a vigorous campaign where we’ll discuss the differences of opinion. It’s in safe hands with the GLO and we look forward to an even brighter 300 years.

And the Cenotaph?

Bush:

So as part of the process, we are in the middle of the public feedback component, so the fourth of five steps that were agreed to by the city of San Antonio, the board and the General Land Office. 

So we just released last week the designs that show more deference to the site. There’s different concepts within it to either keep the Cenotaph as it is or move it just about 100 yards south of the south gate, which was the entry to the Alamo, but would actually dignify the Cenotaph more than where it currently is and restore the original battlefield of 1836.

As part of that process we still have 20 public town hall forums that we’ll be hosting here in San Antonio and throughout the state, then a recommendation comes to the working committee, and then the final decision is made by me and the mayor.

Patrick Svitek asked if he had any regrets about the way he and his campaign characterized a leaked draft report of an internal audit that I had written about in February.

From my May 31 story:

The Texas General Land Office released an internal audit Thursday critical of accounting practices at the Alamo that is consistent with a draft report from September that the American-Statesman had obtained and written about in February but which Land Commissioner George P. Bush had described as “doctored.”

The document, which questions the use of a nonprofit to manage the Alamo, was characterized by the agency as a “proactive internal audit of the Alamo’s accounting and financial management — the first of its kind in Alamo history — undertaken by the Texas General Land Office to modernize and reinforce oversight and accountability.”

“Many of the recommendations have already been implemented while others are being fulfilled through the implementation of a new Alamo management contract with the Alamo Trust,” Bush said in the statement.

The audit begins with the internal auditors’ “overall conclusions,” which are presented in language identical to the draft report quoted by the Statesman in February and which agency spokeswoman Brittany Eck said then had been “altered,” but would not say how.

At the time, Bush was being challenged in the Republican primary by his predecessor, Jerry Patterson, and two other candidates, who made his management of the state’s most hallowed site a central issue in the campaign. Eck said then that the audit would be made public in the spring. In the meantime, Bush’s campaign labeled the Statesman story “fake news,” and Bush won the March 6 primary, with 58 percent of the vote to 30 percent for Patterson and 12 percent for the two other candidates, Davey Edwards and Rick Range.

In answer to Svitek:

Bush: No regrets. I think what is lost in the discussion is that this about the public trust. We had an employee in the middle of a campaign release a document that wasn’t finalized. This was an internal work product and for anybody who serves in city government, county governments, state government, you know that until the product is finished .. you have to wait.

Here is what his campaign said at the time.

 

Back to the convention press conference.

Bush: I never disagreed with the conclusions and the  recommendations.  That’s why we proactively held the audit in the first place and  been working on it since then to rectify those recommendations The problem is that whe  an employee who has a disagreement with the boss who happens to be an elected official in the middle of a campaign, releases a document. that’s problematic and that was the concern.

Is there an ongoing investigation on the release of the audit?

There is. I was recently briefed that he Texas Rangers are still investigating it so we will report back if there is a conclusion or if there is a resolution to that.

We  have rectified and have responses  to all the recommendations that are in the audit. We have improved oversight  in my opinion form a finance standpoint by putting in GLO full-time employee as the CFO along with several other FTE’s to have a little more direct oversight on the financial picture.

How was the draft audit “doctored?”

BUSH: It wasn’t complete and that it was changed  and it was altered,  not in the recommendations and I think theres’ where the  clarification exists, the recommendations I never said were changed, there were responses in the appendix in the back part of the memo, if you red-lined what was leaked and what we just released, you’ll see some changes and some differences and our focus at the GLO is taking security very seriously.  We live in a world were cyber attacks occur daily. We maintain personally identifiable information as defined by the federal Privacy Act and so we take it very seriously. So we are proactive about it, we made changes and  I think that’s what people want out of their  leadership.

What happened to the leaker?

BUSH: That individual was let go and I can’t go into deeper specifics beyond that. We are continuing the investigation at the advice  of the Texas Rangers and we’ll brief you as to the resolution or outcome of the full investigation.

R.G Ratcliffe of Texas Monthly asked about the convention’s Alamo platform plank “that doesn’t mention you but is aimed at you.”

The Alamo plank was shepherded by Ray Myers, the head of the Kaufman County Tea Party, who chaired the state affairs subcommittee of the convention’s Platform Committee. He is seen here, at right, at a Save the Cenotaph rally last year with Rick Range, one of three candidates to run against Bush in  the Republican primary in March.

In the next session, Myers is looking to enlist legislators to move the Alamo from the jurisdiction of the GLO to Parks and Wildlife to get it out from under Bush’s control.

RATCLIFFE: What will your feelings be if the delegates show displeasure?

BUSH: I think its going to be a positive reception. We won with – we doubled up the gentleman who held the office the second-longest in Texas behind Garry Mauro who’s been in politics since the 90s. We also had two other challengers and we avoided a runoff. So I think it was a strong showing.

This is about us coming together as a party after some difficult primaries and difficult choices and difficult stances that we’ve all had to take but then aiming fire at the … Democratic Party but then also reaching out and expanding the tent, reaching out to moderates and Independents and Democrats. That’s how I won with more than votes any other candidate but for Sen. Cornyn in 2014.

Ratcliffe asked Bush what he thought about the family separations at the border.

BUSH: To me its reflective of the failure of DC politics.  This an issue that is all too familiar to folks on the border, to folks in Texas.

And separating arents and children?

BUSH: Well I don’t want to dive into specifics, but I know that we’re having difficulty triaging between legitimate asylum cases … and other cases which are folks that are trying to get here illegally.  There are legitimate claims that can be made for political intimidation and violent threats in other jurisdictions but our resources from all ends of the spectrum are spread thin.

This was on Friday in what is a very fast-moving story.

Three days later, Bush’s father made his feelings plain

It proved to be a politically costly tweet for his son.

From Asher Price in today’s paper.

Donald Trump Jr. is canceling an appearance at a New York fundraiser for Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush next week, according to The Associated Press, citing anonymous sources.

The move comes after George P. Bush’s father, former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, tweeted on Monday that “children shouldn’t be used as a negotiating tool” and that President Donald Trump should end his “heartless policy” of family separation.

On Sunday, George P. Bush’s aunt, former first lady Laura Bush, also criticized family separations on the border in a Washington Post opinion piece.

According to an invitation to the event posted on the website of the New York GOP, the event in New York City on June 25 has a suggested contribution of $5,000 for admittance to a private reception and $1,000 for admittance to a general reception. The “young professional” rate is $250.

Donald Trump, Jr. is listed as a “special guest” — the only speaker other than George P. Bush listed on the invite.

Asked Tuesday by the American-Statesman whether George P. Bush has made any public pronouncements about the family separations at the border, General Land Office spokeswoman Brittany Eck said, “this is an issue area for the campaign.” George P. Bush appears to have remained silent on the issue on Twitter and his office did not make him available for an interview.

Messages left by the Statesman with Donald Trump Jr., the Trump Organization and the George P. Bush campaign were not returned on Tuesday.

From Jonathan Swann and Alayna Treene at Axios.

The backdrop: During the 2016 presidential campaign, George P. broke with his family to support Trump — a move that signaled he’d decided to adapt to, rather than the resist, the new direction of the GOP. His support earned him not only the backing of Don Jr, but also an endorsement from the president in February.

How things unraveled: Sources close to Don Jr. say that Jeb Bush’s tweet was the final straw in what he sees as repeated attacks from the Bush family.

-Don Jr. was furious after Jeb Bush said in March that, despite losing the 2016 election, at least he goes home to children “who still love me,” which Don Jr. perceived as a swipe at Trump.

-Don Jr. reached out to George P., who was apologetic, according to the sources close to the president’s son. And when Don Jr. fired back at Jeb on Twitter, he purposefully left George P. out of it.

– Earlier this month, Jeb Bush also told CNBC that he “can’t imagine having to attack” his rivals in the way President Trump does to “make himself look strong.”

– Don Jr. called George P. again, and George P. “apologized profusely,” according to the sources, telling Don Jr. that he had already talked to his father and that it would not happen again. 

– After that, Don Jr. said he could no longer help George P. if his dad continued to attack the president.

The bottom line: The sources tell us that Don likes George P. and that canceling the event isn’t personal. He considers George P. “collateral damage.”

Oh man.

You’d think that Donald Trump Jr. would have more sympathy for someone who can’t control his father’s tweeting.

Unless of course, Bush secretly agrees with his father on this one.

After I found a chair at the Republican State Convention. (Creating fake news is not as glamorous as it sounds.)

Did Jimmy Kimmel set the shot clock for Ted Cruz to act on family separations at the border?

 

Good day Austin:

Until just about five-to-five yesterday, Ted Cruz was the ultimate, tougher-than Trump, immigration hardliner.

From Sahil Kapur at Bloomberg in January

Senator Ted Cruz blasted the idea of giving young undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship, a day after President Donald Trump said he was open to the idea as part of immigration legislation being negotiated in Congress.

“I do not believe we should be granting a path to citizenship to anybody here illegally,” the Texas Republican said in the Capitol. “Doing so is inconsistent with the promises we made to the men and women who elected us.”

Cruz didn’t mention the president in his remarks, but they resurfaced some of the bitterness still left over from the presidential campaign. Trump fought Cruz for the Republican nomination and won with a hardline immigration stance that rejected “amnesty” for anyone in the country illegally. During the primaries, Cruz also took a strong stance on immigration and came out firmly against legalizing undocumented immigrants.

But on Wednesday, with negotiations on immigration legislation in Congress moving slowly, Trump indicated he was willing to be flexible.

“It’s gonna happen at some point in the future, over a period of 10-12 years,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I think it’s a nice thing to have the incentive of after a period of years being able to become a citizen.”

Cruz said that President Barack Obama’s 2012 creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which included temporary work permits and deportation relief for young people that met certain criteria, didn’t provide a path to citizenship.

“For some reason that to me is utterly inexplicable, we see Republicans falling all over themselves to gallop to the left of Obama in a way that is contrary to the promises made to the voters who elected us,” Cruz said. “We need to honor the promises we made. And that is what I am energetically urging my colleagues to do.”

And here was Cruz from an interview with KERA for the June 11 edition of the show, Think.

On separating detained parents from their children …

Cruz: “There’s a reason why under the Obama administration that often didn’t happen. Because when they apprehended people here illegally, they just let them go. And when you let them go, you didn’t separate children from parents. You know, you think about it, if someone gets arrested for a crime – let’s say an American citizen … you’re separated from your children – you’re put in prison. If you’re the only caregiver for that child, then you’ve got to find alternative care for those children. … This is an issue that I think the media has largely constructed, because what’s shifted is that the Trump administration is endeavoring when people cross illegally to arrest them, not to let them go. And so if they have kids, you know there’s actually a court order that prevents keeping the kids with the parents when you put the parents in jail. So when you see reporters, when you see Democrats saying, ‘Don’t separate kids from their parent,’ what they’re really saying is, ‘Don’t arrest illegal aliens’.”

But by Friday he had this to say to KTSA:

Texas Senator Ted Cruz tells KTSA News he is horrified by the images of children being separated from their parents who are suspected of being illegal immigrants.

“One of the tragic consequences of illegal immigration is that often it is children who pay the biggest prices,” Cruz told KTSA in an exclusive interview Friday night.  “I would like to see an outcome where we endeavor to keep family units together — to keep mom and dad with their kids.”

The Texas Republican — who is up for reelection against Rep. Beto O’Rourke — said illegal immigration usually does not end well for children.

On one hand, Cruz said they are often abused on their journey to the U.S., sometimes caught up in drug cartels that exploit them. On the other, the end up getting split up from their parents when they get to the U.S.

The biggest thing the nation needs to do, he said, is secure the border to stop illegal immigration and help families looking to come here do so legally.  But until then, the processing for migrants needs to improve.

“What I think makes a lot more sense is that we need a lot more funding for immigration judges so that if a family comes with a credible claim of asylum, rather than having them wait weeks or months for that to be heard, that should be heard immediately,” Cruz said.  He added that those without a credible claim would be sent back sooner, keeping families out of detention facilities.

On Saturday, Cruz addressed the Republican State Convention, which did not appear to be torn up about the images at the border. As he always does, Cruz identified his rival, Beto O’Rourke, as an out-of-touch supporter of open borders.

Cruz left the convention early to participate in a charity basketball game with talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, which was all really a fairly clever maneuver by Cruz to humanize himself.

Kimmel: It’s been my ambition since I was a little boy to play basketball against the least popular member of the United States Senate.

It proved successful.

But I think it might not have been, that the effort at humanization would have curdled, if Cruz had not done something a few hours before the show aired that enabled him to answer the critical question Kimmel posed early in their encounter.

Kimmel: The ref is having mercy on this. See this is a good lesson for you and those kids in that detention center.

The juxtaposition of Cruz clowning with Kimmel Saturday and O’Rourke leading a march Sunday morning on the border to protest separating children from their parents was not a good one.

But, at five minutes to five yesterday, just hours before the show as to air, Cruz’s office released this statement.

Sen. Cruz Introducing Emergency Legislation to Keep Illegal Immigrant Families Together

WILL CREATE NEW TEMPORARY SHELTERS – KEEPING FAMILIES INTACT – FUND NEW IMMIGRATION JUDGES, GUARANTEE REVIEW BY AN IMMIGRATION JUDGE WITHIN 72 HOURS, AND RETURN THOSE DENIED ASYLUM TO THEIR HOME COUNTRIES WITHIN 14 DAYS

June 18, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), issued the following statement:

“All Americans are rightly horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers. This must stop. Now. We can end this crisis by passing the legislation I am introducing this week.

“Repeatedly, I have visited detention facilities tragically housing young children.  For far too long, children have been the greatest victims of our broken immigration system, with tens of thousands of children who were detained under the Obama Administration and continuing through today, and with far too many of those children facing horrific physical or sexual assault from criminal human traffickers. 

“The answer is not what congressional Democrats are proposing: simply releasing illegal aliens and returning to the failed policy of ‘catch and release.’ Rather, we should fix the backlog in immigration cases, remove the legal barriers to swift processing, and resolve asylum cases on an expedited basis.

“While these cases are pending, families should stay together. Children belong with their mothers and fathers. Once their cases have been adjudicated – under my legislation, in no longer than 14 days – those who meet the legal standard should be granted asylum and those who don’t should be immediately returned to their home country.

“We can fix this. If my Democratic colleagues will join me, not play politics but work to solve the problem, we can start to end family separation this week. And, we can honor the rule of law.”

This week, Sen. Cruz is introducing the Protect Kids and Parents Act, which will: 

  • Double the number of federal immigration judges, from roughly 375 to 750.
  • Authorize new temporary shelters, with accommodations to keep families together.
  • Mandate that illegal immigrant families must be kept together, absent aggravated criminal conduct or threat of harm to the children.
  • Provide for expedited processing and review of asylum cases, so that—within 14 days—those who meet the legal standards will be granted asylum, and those who do not will be immediately returned to their home countries.

Cruz could have announced his plan in his speech at the state convention. But reaction there would have been uncertain.

From Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman  The New York Time

WASHINGTON — As Republicans try to keep their midterm election strategy focused on the economy, tax cuts and falling unemployment, President Trump sent his clearest signal yet on Monday that he intends to make divisive, racially charged issues like immigration central going into the campaign season.

Facing bipartisan criticism over his administration’s family separation practice on the border, Mr. Trump renewed the sort of bald and demagogic attacks on undocumented immigrants that worked well for him politically in his 2016 presidential campaign. He inveighed against “the death and destruction that’s been caused by people coming into this country” and vowed that “the United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility.”

Republicans typically handle immigration gingerly in an election year, as they try to appeal to Hispanic voters, independents and moderates across divergent districts. But with more Americans still opposing the tax measure than supporting it, Mr. Trump’s allies believe that trying to link Democrats to crimes committed by undocumented immigrants and gangs like MS-13 will do more to galvanize Republican voters and get them to the polls in November than emphasizing economic issues.

“People don’t turn out to say thank you,” said Corey Lewandowski, one of the president’s top political advisers. “If you want to get people motivated, you’ve got to give them a reason to vote. Saying ‘build the wall and stop illegals from coming in and killing American citizens’ gives them an important issue.”

xxxxxx

Further, some in the party believe that by pursuing a hard-line approach to families at the border — a policy that is deeply unpopular among independent voters, according to polls — Mr. Trump is handing Democrats the high ground on immigration instead of making them defend their support for less popular immigrant protections like sanctuary cities.

“Somehow I don’t think that putting kids in cages is likely to go over very well with suburban moms,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster uneasy about running on the culture wars. Mr. Ayres said his party should campaign on “the concrete accomplishments of a Republican-held government.”

“A fabulously strong economy, a record stock market, ISIS defeated and a world without any major wars that are killing lots of Americans on a weekly basis,” he said, laying out the case.

Cruz is going to want to have it both ways – to maintain a hardline that will allow him, like Trump, to polarize the electorate and, in his case, leave O’Rourke looking weak – while at the same time not appearing simply inhumane.

One will notice that,in his press release about his new legislation, in which he describes being “horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers,” he sticks strictly to the nomenclature of “illegal immigrant families,” and “illegal aliens.”

No humanizing there.

And, if some are suggesting that his plan really is an iron fist in a velvet glove, that may be OK with the Cruz campaign as well.

Some condemnation on the left is most desirable for Cruz.

And, in the meantime, he mostly got exactly the reaction he wanted – that moved by a morally intolerable situation he was bravely standing up to the president and offering a thoughtful and reasonable response.

 

From David French:

Cruz’s bill enjoys the considerable virtue of focus. By banning family separation, it deals with the immediate crisis. By increasing the number of judges, authorizing new shelters, and providing for expedited processing, it can increase comfort for families, reduce the length of their detention, and ease the backlog. There’s a modest fiscal cost, of course, but it’s a price worth paying to end a broken policy.

The primary critique I’m seeing online is aimed at the 14 day asylum processing provision. Constructing a solid asylum case often takes time, and I’d be concerned about that provision as well if it didn’t ultimately allow for generous extensions when good cause is shown. But that seems like a point that can and should be quickly negotiated with input from experienced asylum attorneys.

Yes, it punts on immigration reform, the wall, and other legislative fixes, but Cruz is wise to do so. Each additional substantive provision increases controversy and complexity. Let’s save the grand bargains for another day.

Right now, the public debate is dominated by finger-pointing. Members of Congress are calling on Trump to make immediate, unilateral changes. Trump is demanding that Congress act, but with a bill that meets his requirements. Yet he doesn’t have to be (and given the conflicting and often trollish messages coming from the White House, shouldn’t be) in charge of this process. One of the many beauties of our constitutional system is that the branch closest to the people — the legislature — can override the president. It’s time to send exactly that message. Cruz’s legislation is a solid start.

All that and beating Jimmy Kimmel one-on-one.

On Hawaiian family vacation, Alex Jones proves he is always Alex Jones

Good morning Austin:

The most frequent question I get about Alex Jones is, “Does he really mean what he says or is it an act?’

Ultimately, the answer to this question is unknowable.

The more pertinent question is whether there is any separation between the public Alex Jones and the private Alex Jones.

From April 16, 2017: In Travis County custody case, jury will search for real Alex Jones.

At a recent pretrial hearing, attorney Randall Wilhite told state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo that using his client Alex Jones’ on-air Infowars persona to evaluate Alex Jones as a father would be like judging Jack Nicholson in a custody dispute based on his performance as the Joker in “Batman.”

“He’s playing a character,” Wilhite said of Jones. “He is a performance artist.”

But in emotional testimony at the hearing, Kelly Jones, who is seeking to gain sole or joint custody of her three children with Alex Jones, portrayed the volcanic public figure as the real Alex Jones.

“He’s not a stable person,” she said of the of the man with whom her 14-year-old son and 9- and 12-year-old daughters have lived since her 2015 divorce. “He says he wants to break Alec Baldwin’s neck. He wants J-Lo to get raped.

“I’m concerned that he is engaged in felonious behavior, threatening a member of Congress,” she said, referring to his recent comments about California Democrat Adam Schiff. “He broadcasts from home. The children are there, watching him broadcast.”

Beginning Monday, a jury will be selected at the Travis County Courthouse that in the next two weeks will be asked to sort out whether there is a difference between the public and private Alex Jones, and whether, when it comes to his fitness as a parent, it matters.

For Naranjo, who has been the presiding judge of the 419th District Court since January 2006, it is about keeping her eyes, and the jury’s eyes, on the children.

“This case is not about Infowars, and I don’t want it to be about Infowars,” Naranjo told the top-shelf legal talent enlisted in Jones v. Jones at the last pretrial hearing Wednesday. “I am in control of this court, not your clients.”

Kelly Jones ostensibly won that case before a jury, becoming the primary parent in their continued joint conservatorship of the children, but, as it has played out, not so much.

Today, Alex and Kelly Jones were to be back in Naranjo’s courtroom because he is seeking a modification of the arrangement that would restore him as primary parent.

But before court began, Kelly Jones’ attorney, Brandi Stokes, filed a motion seeking Naranjo’s refusal from the case, and the hearing was canceled.

A living and beautiful thing to be sure, but I had rushed over to the courthouse the moment I hit send on First Reading and had paid for a full day of parking before I arrived to find out it was all over for the day.

Oh well.

Kelly Jones at Travis county Courthouse Monday.

As it happens, Jones, his three children from his marriage to Kelly, his new wife, and their baby, are just back from a family vacation in Hawaii that, based simply on watching Infowars, demonstrates rather conclusively that there is precious little separation between Infowars Alex Jones, and vacationing dad and husband Alex Jones.

The vacation begins with the Joneses running into Bernie Sanders during a layover at LAX.

 

AJ: Well if it isn’t old Bernie Sanders.

Sanders aide: Dude, no, come one, not right now.

Bernie Sanders (to his aide): Who’s this?

AJ: Why’d you say white people didn’t know what it was like to be poor?

The Infowars video now goes to a clip of Sanders at a debate with Hillary Clinton in which he says, “When you’re white, you don’t know what it’s like to live in a ghetto. You don’t know what it’s like to be poor.”

AJ: Ladies and gentlemen, we just got off our plane at LAX and Bernie Sanders, the living embodiment of communist and socialist evil and failure was here.

A living museum piece of Mao Zedong or Josef Stalin or V.I. Lenin.

In fact with the death of Hugo Chavez, he passed on the mantle.

 But, of course, his little handlers wouldn’t let him to talk to some proletariat slave like me.

Yes, of course, why wouldn’t Bernie Sanders want to talk to Alex Jones?

Indeed, why wouldn’t any traveler not savor the opportunity to be harassed by an aggressive stranger (because Sanders really doesn’t seem to know who Alex Jones is) thrusting a camera in your face and asking hostile questions?

So naturally, Jones had to chase after Sanders.

AJ: You guys aren’t flying first class, are you? If you guys are flying first class you shouldn’t be. They don’t do that in Venezuela.

Why’s he running?

To be clear, Sanders is not running. He is walking very, very slowly, and is not reacting at all to Jones’ provocations.

AJ: Hey Bernie, why’re you running? Karl Rove didn’t run like this.

He said white people don’t know what it’s like to be poor. I thought that was a really racist thing to say.

You guys have fun. Got to be around the general public. Kind of a bad thing. You’re in the proletariat like that. You’re a ruling class commie.

AJ: The truth is the left is the most vicious, evil ideology the planet has ever seen. It’s an historical fact.

They always lecture us how we’re violent, we’re bad. They’re the ones that want to abort all the babies. They’re the ones who wanted to block Trump from being able to have all the experimental treatments and cures given to people that were terminal.

They’re the people who love the culture of death, just like Bernie supported Black Lives Matter. Just like he wouldn’t denounce cop-killers when they killed cops. That’s the kind of monster, cold-blooded person that Sanders is. He wants to overthrow this country via conquest

Bernie Sanders is a monster.

Monster. Conquest. Culture of Death.

But, if you think that bizarre tirade is the end of it, you would be wrong.

AJ: Why do you think socialism is better than capitalism and then why do you live in a capitalist country?

AJ: I don’t know why you’re running from me.

Sanders aide: Are you going to apologize to the Sandy Hook families, Alex?

AJ: Well, the media misrepresents that.

Well, Jones is being sued for by several Sandy Hook parents who think otherwise and, and six more Sandy Hook parents have joined the suit, which may ultimately leave to a Travis County jury, the questions of whether Jones is on the hook for damages.

AJ: You apologized for all the wars you guys launched, Democrats? All the millions you guys killed?

This is an odd line of attack on Sanders. I’m not sure which if any recent wars Sanders, an Independent in the Senate, supported, let alone launched.

OK, this next sequence is key, with Rex Jones, in the green shirt, getting into the vacation swing of things by joining dad in the chase and hectoring of Sanders.

 

REX JONES:  Do you enjoy living in your million-dollar vacation homes, Bernie, or do you want to give those to the poor?

AJ: Your $100,000 Audis?

What?

From Jason Torchinsky at Jalopnik, 4/1/16..

Over the past day or so, a picture that’s allegedly of Bernie Sanders driving a roughly $160,000 Audi R8 has been circulating online, along with the allegations that he purchased the car with donor money. Is any of this even remotely true?

Um, no. I know it’s astounding that something that shows up on 4Chan might not be 100 percent absolutely, verifiably true, but there’s roughly zero evidence that Sanders has used campaign contributions for anything like this, or even if that guy in the R8 is Bernie Sanders at all.

AJ: Anyways, anyways, anyways, anyways, you guys have fun.

Good luck when Google gets broken up.

Sanders aide: Apologize to the Sandy Hook families, Alex.

AJ: You guys need to. You made those places disarmament zones and then advertised it.

REX JONES: What do you think about the fact that 98 percent of shootings occur in gun-free zones, you want to get rid of those?

Then, a most remarkable thing happens.

A bystander seeing what is happening approaches Jones, gets in his face and, in a minute or two, owns Alex Jones.

And this guy appears to be having a great time.

BYSTANDER: Why don’t you stop being an idiot for a second?

AJ: It’s OK.

BYSTANDER:  I know it’s OK.

AJ: Are you mad that Hillary stole the election from you?

BYSTANDER:  I’m mad that you’re a Sandy Hook denier.

AJ: You’re that guy…

BYSTANDER:  What guy am I?

AJ: You like Hillary.

BYSTANDER: Did I bring up Hillary? You deny Sandy Hook and you’re giving him a hard time?

AJ: Hillary edited tapes of that.

BYSTANDER: Oh. Hillary edited tapes of Sandy Hook?

AJ: That’s right.

BYSTANDER: You’re an idiot. You win.

AJ: Why don’t you talk about all the wars that’ve killed millions of people. 

He launches into Benghazi, food shortages in Venezuela, Harvey Weinstein.

Confronted by some guy at the airport, the Alex Jones’ mumbo-jumbotron appears to be short-circuiting and Jones decides to beat a strategic retreat.

AJ: Anyway, you guys have a great day. I’ve got to catch my plane.

BYSTANDER: Please, one less idiot in LA is a good thing.

REX JONES: Well, LA’s kind of hit their idiot max, I’m not sure we’re one of them.

Alex Jones offers one last parting shot at Sanders, bringing his rhetorical harassment full circle.

AJ: Hey Bernie, why did you say white people didn’t know what it’s like to be poor? Why are you such a racist?

AJ: Why don’t you move to Venezuela Bernie, you’ll like it.

The video ends with Jones offering some concluding thoughts, summing up what we have just seen in a manner that anyone who has watched want went before knows is preposterous.

AJ: So over and over again, they want to change the subject from communism and socialism destroying hundreds of countries and killing 200 million people, they want to change the subject to myself and others asking questions about big public events that are used to blame the Second Amendment.

This is incredible. But as long as they can’t guilt you into their mind control they’ve failed. They are sociopath sand psychopaths. Leftists and globalists are there to manipulate those of us who have feelings.

So again ladies and gentlemen, Bernie Sanders, checked off the bucket list, chased like a cowardly rat into a sewer away from serious questions.

What is remarkable to me is that Jones had complete control over what happened here and how it was produced and presented to the world and I’ve got to think that to all but the most devoted Infowarriors he comes across as ridiculous, as a ludicrous parody of himself.

As for what is says about his parenting of Rex, well maybe next year he’ll take his son to the Running of the Jew in Kazakhstan.

Rex’s involvement in Infowars has grown in recent months.

From a  March 30 First ReadingAlex Jones turns to his 15-year-old son to defend him from `bullying’ by David Hogg

It has been almost a year since the Alex Jones-Kelly Jones  child custody trial in the Travis County courtroom of District Judge Orlinda Naranjo.

I, like other reporters, never identified the names of the Jones’ three children.

But that now seems a quaint precaution when it comes to their oldest child, their now 15-year-old son, who his father yesterday pushed into a very public place on InfoWars before his huge audience in a manner that appears to make a mockery of Naranjo’s insistence throughout the trial that Alex Jones’ day job had nothing to do with how he parents his children and was of no concern to the court.

Alex Jones seems determined to make his son a celebrity, to make Rex Jones the next Alex Jones.

It’s not hard to understand why Rex Jones, at 15, still in braces, wouldn’t want to go into the hugely lucrative and unfathomably ego-affirming family business. And, I suppose, why not blame David Hogg, who, of late, has become a more hated and demonized target of the American right than Hillary Clinton or George Soros.

I will admit that I find Hogg’s arrogance off-putting and unsettling.

But I don’t think Alex Jones thrusting his son into the spotlight is either helpful or model parenting. It is just more narcissism from a narcissist, intended to wring every drop of juice he can out of attacking Hogg while grooming his Mini-Me.

Here’s some other scenes from Alex Jones’ Hawaiian family vacation.

 

AJ: Alex Jones here form the Central Pacific Ocean reporting on a really exciting development…I have made the point that if we really want to take down the globalists, their Achilles’ heel is sex-trafficking …

AJ: Pizzagate was a distraction.

I”m not blaming folks. We halfway bought into it as well.

Right. Halfway.

Next.

AJ: Alex Jones, reporting live on historic events from the Central Pacific Ocean.

AJ: There is literally an ocean of people who are awake and know what’s happening. There are also an ocean of people who aren’t awake but they are becoming disillusioned as they realize they have been lied to and as they realize the economy is turning around.

Next up Anthony Bourdain, who, according to Jones, was about to go MAGA when he supposedly committed suicide.

Here, he literally talks into the sunset.

 

Then continues under a tiki torch.

AJ: You know what, I’m going to join the liberal team. I think it’s totally reasonable.

I’m going to identify as an eighth-grade girl and I am going to make them let me on the local eighth-grade girls team in Austin and I am going to wrestle eighth-grade little girls, and if they don’t let me, I’m going to sue them.

AJ: John was here with his children, I was here with my children, we’re here in the middle of Pacific Ocean, we’re here in the newest land on Earth, last touched by God, the real Garden of Eden, and I ran into this guy, he’s a very humble guy but very well-spoken, very charismatic, very passionate, and so I  wanted him, from another angle, to get into the current state right now, how we are witnessing prophecy right now, and what an amazing time we’re in ...

Then this dispatch while snorkeling.

Of course, there was lao report on the disruption by Infowars of Bill Clinton’s book tour appearance at Bass Concert Hall in Austin.

AJ: I’m here on a workcation with my family in Hawaii, but I tell you, I wish I was there in Austin with you.

And then, of course, there is a report on his decision to do what many men do, and grow a beard on vacation.

Apparently Alex Jones said he wouldn’t grow a beard until the “tide has turned against the globalists,” which, he said, it now has and that is why he started growing a beard while in Hawaii, and stole a few precious minutes away from his family time to tell us about it.

 

 

Asche is to ashes, but is James Dickey a man the Texas GOP can trust?

 

Good day Austin and San Antonio:

About two hours into yesterday’s afternoon session of the Texas Republican Convention, in the lead-up to the vote for chairman, the battle between James Dickey, the current chairman, and Cindy Asche, his rival, was truly joined.

The outcome, based on Senate caucus votes in the morning, was already clear. Dickey would prevail by a large margin but the Asche camp was persisting with some tactical maneuvers, though it was unclear to what end.

At which point, Amy Clark, the outgoing vice chair of the party, who was presiding over the session, recognized Toni Ann Dashiell, the state’s national committeewoman and a leader of the Asche forces, to speak.

DASHIELL: I have a very important announcement and I would like to yield my time to Jennifer …

JENNIFER STONER: I’m Jennifer Stoner, Republican Party accounting director … for eight years, and I have resigned my position as accounting director …

Amy Clark: Ma’am. I’m advised this is out of order.

Having cut off Stoner, Clark went called on delegate Terry Holcomb.

Terry Holcomb, Senate District 3, I am speaking in heavy opposition to this. I never thought I would say this at a Republican Party State Convention in Texas, but don’t California my Texas. What are we really talking about here? They say they don’t concur with the will of the voter.

This sounds like something Hillary Clinton would do when Trump beat her. We heard speech after speech about unity and here we are doing the most divisive thing possible. We want to burn the party down so she can be queen of the ashes.

I encourage you to vote “no” and let’s join together behind Chairman James Dickey.

Before the vote, Dickey and Asch each got five last minutes to speak to the delegates.

Dickey strode to the stage access;pained a score of well-known figures in the Texas conservative firmament.

Dickey:

This has been a challenging year.

It was challenging being the third chairman of the Republican Party in two years.

It was challenging standing up strongly for what we believed in and having donors and elected officials and everybody else not know what we really meant by that and not knowing that was going to be a positive things and to turn it around and have it result in growth and benefit and this amazing unity that you see up here has been so humbling. and I am so grateful that every  one of you who has seen this with your own eyes and felt it with your own heart.

We have lived out leadership over the last year  taking strong stands, doing the hard work that needs to be done and I will tell you there were significant obstacles to that.

When I ran a year ago, I kept getting badgered with, “Will you keep everybody from the old administration that had failed, would you keep all of those things, and, of course my response was, “I have no intention of changing things up, time will tell and what the party needs is the most important thing.”

It has been tough to try to unify the group while there has been a core faction of folks from prior leadership that were disappointed that they were out, and were disappointed that they didn’t win the election, and were trying to do everything they could possibly do to overturn the bodies who had voted and I thank you guys for looking past that, looking over  that, looking through that.

You can look around and judge by your own eyes how things are going. It is so important that we move forward together. We have President Trump. We have the House. We have the Senate. We have the Texas House. We have the Texas Senate. We have city councils, school boards county commissioners and county judges. We are going expand our victories here and we can do that if we unite to win, and we have offered that olive branch and we are consistently offering.

You can decide by your own eyes, which campaign, which candidate has shown an interest in and a commitment to growing this party by being welcoming and open versus tearing it apart. And I ask you, vote for winning, let’s beat the Democrats in November. Let’s support President Trump. And let’s continue to have new donors, new supporters, new voters feel welcome and encouraged and loved so together we grow our majority.

God bless you.

Then it was Asche’s turn to take the stage.

ASCHE:

I know many of you are not happy with me for being here right now. But I hope, I hope you will allow me the opportunity to be heard one last time.

xxxx

This race is not about me. I am not running because I want to hold office.

You deserve to know the truth. You deserve to have leadership that is above reproach, because the only way we can advocate for our party’s principles and our elected officials and candidates is to be known as people of our word.

I have been accused of running a negative race and spreading mistruths, but every piece of information we’ve put out has been backed up overwhelmingly by evidence and support.

In fact, if you missed it just a moment ago, our current accounting director, Jennifer Stoner, submitted her resignation minutes ago. Jennifer has been with the party for eight years. She was hired by Cathie Adams and proudly served under Steve Munisteri. She is known by every one of those state chairmen as a professional  of unquestioned personal and professional integrity.

According to Jennifer, she has resigned because, in her entire time as accounting director, she has never seen the level of dishonesty, manipulation and erroneous reporting that she has seen, that she has seen from this chairman, and her direct quote, her quote was, “He is not trustworthy.”

The crowd, about two-third Dickey supporters, was growing increasingly restive.

Please hear me out.

The information that was disseminated via both RPT email and also on James’ printed campaign literature was not approved or verified by the accounting department or with Jennifer’s consent. Unlike any previous chairman, Mr. Dickey has required  that she submit an Excel spreadsheet instead of a PDF, where the data can easily be moved and manipulated and the numbers simply don’t match up. The way the numbers are communicated by the current chairman are in contrast to the processes that have been used and approved for almost ten years. And this past Wednesday, when directly asked by an SREC member at the SREC meeting if Jennifer had approved the numbers being disseminated, he lied.

She asked him publicly to retract the email and the statement multiple times but, as you know, he has not. She has offered a resignation statement but has promised me that she will return if Mr Dickey is not elected.

Talking amid some tumult not he floor, Asche ran out of time.

ASCHE:

My time has expired because I could not complete it.

I am asking you to vote and I am praying God will give you the wisdom to make the right decision.

It was a gripping scene, and properly seen as Act II of a drama that played out a year ago when Dickey was first elected chairman by the State Republican Executive Committee.

Here are scenes from Act I, trom a June 2, 2017  First Reading: Trump loyalty an issue in Dickey-Figueroa contest for Texas GOP chairmanship

(Candidates to become chairman of the Texas Republican Party James Dickey, the current chair of the Travis County Republican Party, and Rick Figueroa, a Houston-area businessman, recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of a meeting of the Texas State Republican Executive Committee at the Sirloin Stockade in Round Rock June 1. 06/01/17 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The 62 members of the Texas State Republican Executive, meeting at Austin’s Wyndham Garden Hotel, will choose a new Republican State Party Chairman Saturday to replace Tom Mechler of Amarillo who resigned two weeks ago because, when you get right down to it, he would rather “spend time with my 6 children, 16 grandchildren, and my beautiful wife Becky,” than the 62 members of the SREC who are so divided down the middle in all matters Mechler that Amy Clark, the party’s vice chairman and top ranking figure with Mechler’s resignation, might have to break a tie vote to determine his successor.

There are two candidates – Rick Figueroa of Brenham and James Dickey of Austin, the chair of the Travis County Republican Party. (A third candidate, Robert Morrow, tweeted he was running but that’s it so far, and he will not be a factor in the race. See my recent First Reading: Robert Morrow throws his jester’s hat in the ring for Texas GOP chair on an ‘Impeach Trump’ platform;)

On the face of it, Figueroa ought to have he edge.

He is the favored choice of Mechler, who named him ten months ago as co-chair of the Republican Party of Texas’ New Leaders on the Rise Committee, and in recent months has been crisscrossing the state with Figueroa on the Republican Party of Texas Hispanic Engagement Listening Tour.

Figueroa is also in good with President Trump, serving on his Texans for Trump leadership team and on his National Hispanic Advisory  committee and now President Trump’s National Coalition of Hispanic Leaders.

And, maybe it’s me, but wouldn’t the Texas Republican Party benefit from the headlines that it had selected its first Hispanic chairman?

Dickey also comes with a couple, three strikes against him.

  1. He managed to lose the chairmanship of the Travis County Republican Party in the March 2016 primary to the aforementioned Robert Morrow, no mean feat and one that made the Travis County Republican Party an object of intense and sustained national ridicule.
  2. While he says he was never a “Never-Trumper” he was part of a movement to “free the delegates” to stop Trump, until Trump became the nominee, when Dickey climbed on board the Trump train, but for those punching tickets, that was a mite late.
  3. Trump won 27 percent of the vote in Travis County.

Normally, three strikes and you’re out. But in this case, I’m giving the slight edge to Dickey.

Why?

  1. He is a far more familiar figure to the members of the SREC, somebody who knows them, who they know, who knows the rules and seems more likely to follow their lead than lead them where he wants to go, and won’t get too big for his britches. He’s paid his dues.
  2. He is not Mechler’s choice.
  3. While naming an Hispanic chair might seem, symbolically and practically, a good thing to do, this is the Republican Party, which rejects anything that smacks to them of pandering, and are particularly disinclined to choose someone for the symbolic value if that’s the reason they are picking him

Here is a summary of the argument against Dickey from Travis County Republican Bill Crocker, a former Texas national committeeman and former RNC general counsel, in an endorsement letter he wrote this week for Figueroa.

When his county chairman’s seat came up for election in 2016, Dickey spent very limited time and money in the first reporting period campaigning to defend his turf. And in doing so, lost his seat to a conspiracy theorist who made Texas an international laughingstock. When Dickey had the opportunity to make amends for this stinging loss and be a unifier at the 2016 National Convention, he instead chose to attempt to subvert the will of Republican voters all across the nation by being a leader in the “Never Trump” and “Free the Delegates” movement. At the same time, Rick was working to unite the bitterly divided factions of our party. In fact, during one particularly heated moment in our Texas caucus, I am told that a Cruz delegate and Trump delegate were on the verge of a physical fight. Rick approached this altercation to talk with both of them, and by the end of it the three of them were praying together. The mark of true leadership is the ability to lead and find peace in even the most difficult of situations.

Mr. Dickey also has a spotty record of raising funds for the Travis County Republican Party. When he lost his seat to Robert Morrow, the Travis County Republican Party was in rough financial shape. The most important job of the Chairman is to raise funds. During election years, the RPT will need to raise a minimum of 2-3 million dollars, just to ensure we maintain our current seats. A person who struggled to keep money in the bank is not a person with the capability of raising that level of funds.

Finally, Dickey does not have a strong record of success in his current position. In addition to his inability to maintain his own seat, Dickey has failed to hold on to the precious few Republican seats in Travis County. In fact, from my research, of the 56 partisan elected seats in Travis County today, only 2 are held by Republicans. Friends, we cannot let Texas begin to look like Travis County.

Whether it was his temperament or that he thought he had it in the bag. Figueroa did not go for the kill at the forum that night.

From that First Reading,

Afterward, I noted to Figueroa that I thought he had pulled his punches a couple of times during the night, not attacking when he could have.

“You noticed that,” he said. “It was intentional.”

Figueroa said he’d like to win, but if he doesn’t, it will be OK. He has a great life for which he is very grateful.

There was also this moment at that Williamson County forum.

The question addressed this tweet, about those rumors, came up the next night, at an SREC forum on the chairman’s race, the night before the election.

Figueroa were asked by the party’s general counsel, Patrick O’Daniel, who was moderating the discussion, whether he intended to keep the current party officers and committee chairs in place.

Figueroa said he woudn’t make any changes.

Then Dickey answered:

Dickey:

As both Patrick and (RPT Treasurer) Tom (Washington) can confirm, I had conversations with both asking them whether they were willing to stay on if I win election tomorrow. There is a very logical process for making change. You figure out the goals. You figure out the talents and skills needed. You match people with talents and skills needed. Until I’ve got an indication we are not going to meet the goals or we don’t have the necessary talents and skills needed, my bias is to leave things alone and that’s exactly what I’d do and that’s why I extended those invitations to Patrick and Tom.

But, the next day, right after his one-vote victory, Dickey announced that he was replacing almost the entire board, O’Daniel and Washington included.

I spoke some weeks ago about this with Melinda Fredericks, a former vice chairman of the party who represents Senate District 4. She told me that as soon as they broke for lunch that day she approached Dickey.

“I pulled him over to the side of the room and said, `James, you said you were going to keep the officers and you just didn’t.’ And he said, `Wait a minute, wait a minute, Melinda, what I said was I asked the officers if I were to ask you, would you continue serving as an officer?”

But, Fredericks said she told Dickey, “You led us to believe that you were going to keep the officers,” and he replied, `I had to in order to win.’ “

“I said, `Wait James, that is ends justify the means and that is totally unacceptable and you owe us an apology,” she said.

When I asked Dickey about this last Friday (June 8), he said that’s simply wrong.

I have consistently said, including to Melinda, that that is an absurd claim on its face. Not only would I not do such a thing but that the idea that I would do an impression of a Bond villain disclosing my plan to one of my most stalwart opponents is as ridiculous as it sounds,” Dickey said.

Dickey said that, at the forum the day before the election, “It  actually was my intention at that moment to keep them, which is why there is that impression, even though there was no such blanket statement.”

DICKEY: 

The more I thought about Patrick O’Daniel’s conditions upon which he would remain, I both had concern  about the specifics of the conditions and the fact that there were conditions, and so that changed my mind on that.

And Tom Washington, for the first time in his entire service as treasurer, warning the SREC members that the party was in dire financial straits and likely to be out of money by November, his choosing to hide that fact until the night before the election was, in my opinion, a breach of fiduciary duty and unacceptable, and he didn’t do that until ten or eleven o’clock that night.”

Mechler wrote a  post about all this at the Houston politics blog, Big Jolly Times, at the end of May, to which Tom Washington appended his own version of events:

This is an important point. James Dickey would prefer that you pay attention to his point that he never agreed to actually reappoint either Patrick O’Daniel or myself to our former duties. The actual key point here is that James Dickey used deception with the SREC voters to mislead them on his actual intentions in order to gain votes that he would not have gotten otherwise. James Dickey had already lined up his officers in advance and announced them as soon as the election was completed. He had no intention of following through and reappointing Patrick or myself.

James asked me for a meeting during the Friday evening before the election. He asked me if I would serve as Treasurer if he was elected on Saturday. I did not know that he was asking me only to give him a chance at shifting votes in the SREC with people who wanted some stability in the RPT key officers if he was elected State Chair.

I was fine with not being reappointed by James Dickey. I had reservations about serving with James because I had known him for over 15 years. I knew that there would be benefit to the continuation of the financial condition of the Republican Party of Texas if I continued as Treasurer but I had to address my reservations. I knew that James would be under extreme fundraising pressure if he was elected. Any signs of stability that the major donors saw in the party would be helpful.

In fact, before I told him I would serve because of my reservations, I gave James Dickey two conditions that he had to agree to in advance.

Condition #1 was that he retain Jennifer Stoner as RPT Accounting Director. Jennifer does a fine job for the Republican Party of Texas and I had no desire to retrain another person in that role.

Condition #2 was that James not interfere with the Republican Party of Texas keeping true and accurate accounting records and filing true and accurate reports to the FEC and TEC for our political and financial activities. James agreed to both conditions and I agreed to serve if James was elected.

James Dickey did in fact win the election by one vote (after shifting 3 votes with his deception that James intended to reappoint Patrick and myself).

The deception came to light in Chair Dickey’s first comments from the podium after election. James read his list of officers and did not reappoint Patrick O’Daniel or myself to office. He then added for the benefit of the deceived voters that he found that both Patrick and I had insisted on conditions for our service which he, James Dickey, could not accept.

James Dickey then made the first mistake of many that morning. He invited Patrick O’Daniel and me to the podium to give our final officer’s reports. Patrick went first. Prior to giving his report, Patrick clarified that he had made no conditions to his continuing service to the Party. James stated in response that Patrick had insisted on the retention of all of the Assistant General Counsel’s currently serving. Patrick stated again that he made no conditions to his service.

I was up next. I told the SREC that I did have two conditions to my service and I was sorry that they were unacceptable to Chair Dickey per his statement contrary to his acceptance with me on the prior evening. I then told the SREC what the two conditions were. You could hear an audible gasp from the SREC members.

Perhaps some were just becoming acquainted with Chair Dickey’s brand of ethics.
James stood up quickly and clarified that he only had issues with Patrick O’Daniel’s conditions for service (Patrick didn’t make any). James then said from the podium that his issue with me was my lack of transparency in financial reporting to the SREC over my seven years of service to that body.
During my service, I had increased the financial transparency that the SREC had from previous State Treasurer’s. First as Assistant Treasurer and then as State Treasurer, the SREC received a full income statement in detail by fund as well as Cash balances by fund. The new State Treasurer has since eliminated reporting by fund to the SREC.

Two weeks later, James Dickey contacted me to apologize for his conduct and statements to the SREC involving me.

James Dickey’s conduct involving the appointment of new officers for the Republican Party of Texas illustrates James Dickey’s ethics, morals, honesty and integrity in action.

Marvin Clede, a member of the SREC from Senate District 17, also commented at Big Jolly.

The comments to Melinda Fredericks are telling. —Melinda then asked him “why did you mislead us?” He replied “I had to or I would have lost the race because 2 votes would be determined based on my response.”—

I was one of those 2 votes who expected different things from Mr. Dickey. And this does not even address the heavy handed and impolitic way he dealt with the chair of the Auxiliaries and Coalitions Committee who is my colleague on the SREC. At the very least I am concerned about style and character expressed in subsequent actions. There are difficult questions to evaluate in this upcoming election, which to date, has become exceptionally divisive.

Dickey won that election by a single vote.

As I wrote then,

Travis County’s James Dickey was elected Saturday to lead the Texas Republican Party, defeating Rick Figueroa on a 32-31 vote of the State Republican Executive Committee.

Dickey succeeded Tom Mechler, whose sudden resignation two weeks ago left it to the statewide Republican Party leadership in the nation’s largest red state to pick his successor in a previously scheduled meeting at Austin’s Wyndham Garden Hotel.

“I am deeply humbled,” Dickey said, adding that he was only disappointed by the divisions revealed by the razor-thin margin.

For Dickey, chairman of the Travis County GOP, the victory was a stunning success for a campaign that was thrown together and executed in less than two weeks, quickly piling up endorsements from conservative activist groups.

Dickey’s victory signaled the strength of grass-roots tea party leaders, who felt Mechler was insufficiently aggressive in pushing the state party’s platform at the Capitol. Texas Right to Life also backed Dickey.

won

After Saturday’s vote, Mechler said he was “shocked and disappointed” with the result.

The next state convention in June 2018 will decide whether to ratify Saturday’s choice or select someone else as chairman.

Figueroa said he had no intention of challenging Dickey for chairman in 2018.

“It’s not who I am,” he said.

Ultimately, Mechler couldn’t impose his choice on an executive committee that was divided down the middle between what are described, broadly speaking, as establishment and tea party wings.

Mechler’s abrupt resignation two weeks before the executive committee’s meeting might have been intended to improve Figueroa’s chances, but it didn’t work, and there was some resentment on the committee that the chairman was trying to force his choice on them.

Yesterday, Bill Crocker nominated his daughter, Cindy Asche, for state party chair. Mechler was her most prominent supporter.

Dickey prevailed, and this time it wasn’t close.

From today’s story.

The final vote was 5,680 votes, or 65.4 percent for Dickey, a former Travis County Republican Party chairman, and 3,009 votes, or 34.6 percent for Asche, a nurse from Frisco who serves as chaplain of the Texas Federation of Republican Women and whose father, Bill Crocker, is an Austin attorney who formerly served as the Republican national committeeman from Texas and general counsel of the Republican National Committee.

After the tally was announced, a relieved and smiling Dickey briefly took the stage to offer his thanks to strains of the Beatles “Come Together,” and to ask those who voted for him and those who didn’t to “come together” to beat the Democrats in November.

As for Asche’s exit music, well, there wasn’t any, but if there were, the choice is obvious.