If you like Cruz-O’Rourke 2018, you’ll love Cruz-O’Rourke 2020.

Good day Austin:

I recently went to see a test screening at the University of Texas of Run Like the Devil, a documentary about the U.S. Senate race between Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz, which will have its first screenings at the Austin Film Society Cinema on Sept. 6 and 7.

From director Steve Mims, who lectures at UT’s Department of Radio-Television-Film:

RUN LIKE THE DEVIL, the inside account of the increasingly tight Ted Cruz-Beto O’Rourke U.S. Senate contest will premiere in Austin, Texas on September 6 at the Austin Film Society Cinema and go on to tour the state with a dozen screenings. 

A non-partisan deep dive that goes beyond the political campaign, the film threads the stories of the candidates with those of their respective political parties during a historic period of national political tumult. Participants include O’Rourke, Cruz, Evan Smith (CEO, Texas Tribune), Mark McKinnon (political consultant), David Richards (Ann Richard’s ex-husband and redistricting litigator), Bob Moore (former editor, El Paso Times) and others.

Produced by Richelle Fatheree and directed by award-winning Austin-based director Steve Mims, the film is an attempt to get beyond partisanship and down to the stark choice the two candidates represent. “We had the cooperation of both campaigns and our mission was to lay it all out in an honest, clear, and entertaining way,” said Mims. “If you were writing a fictional campaign you couldn’t create two more different characters with more opposite positions. In that sense the movie really makes itself.”

After the Austin premiere the film screens through September and into October in cities including Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Lubbock, El Paso, Huntsville, Tyler, Nacogdoches, McAllen and Wichita Falls. More dates are being added.
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Screenings (as of August 13, 2018)

Thursday, Sept. 6 AUSTIN / Austin Film Society / Austin Cinema / 7:00 pm
Friday, Sept. 7    AUSTIN / Austin Film Society / Austin Cinema / 6:30 pm
Sunday, Sept. 9 NACOGDOCHES / Liberty Hall / 4:30pm
Monday, Sept. 10 TYLER / Liberty Hall / 7:00pm 
Thursday, Sept. 13 HOUSTON / Museum of Fine Arts, Houston / 7:00 pm
Saturday, Sept. 15 EL PASO / El Paso Film Festival / 9:00 pm
Monday, Sept. 17 HUNTSVILLE / Old Town Theater / 7:00 pm
Saturday, Sept. 22 LUBBOCK / Flatland Film Festival 
Monday, Sept. 24 McALLEN / Cine El Rey Theater / 7:00 pm
Thursday, Oct. 11 WICHITA FALLS / Midwestern State University / 7:00 pm
Oct. 12-13 DALLAS / Dallas Video Festival DocuFest 
Sunday, Oct. 21 FORT WORTH / Sunday Cinema Series 

From Mia Galuppo at the Hollywood Reporter back in April:

Director David Modigliani (Crawford, Wounded: Battle Back Home) and his company Live Action Projects have announced a co-production with Crooked Media for a feature documentary that will follow Congressman Beto O’Rourke as he runs to unseat Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterm elections. 

“Partisan polemics make for boring stories,” said Modigliani. “That’s why Crooked Media is the perfect co-producer for this project; it’s the home for entertaining, no-bullshit conversations about politics and we’re making an entertaining, no-bullshit film about this campaign.”

The Austin-based filmmaker and his team have been following O’Rourke since October 2017 and will continue shooting through election night of the much-anticipated midterms. Former Tribeca Film Festival head Nancy Schafer is producing, along with Michelle Modigliani, Rachel Ecklund and former SXSW programmer Rebecca Feferman.

The Crooked team went down to Texas to witness O’Rourke’s campaign firsthand. “It reminded me of being back in Iowa in 2007 with Barack Obama and the feeling of that campaign,” says Tommy Vietor, who co-founded Crooked Media with fellow, former Obama staffers Jon Favreau and Jon Lovett.  

“This race and how [O’Rourke] has run it tells a story about the way politics should be, the way it used to be. When candidates were accessible in media and town halls and answered questions,” says Vietor. “It is a story that can endure beyond this race and tell a bigger picture about American politics.”

Meanwhile, McClatchy is embedding with the O’Rourke campaign for a weekly video documentary series.

There is a reason for all this embedding with O’Rourke. He is the most open and accessible candidate I’ve encountered. Anyone watching his live stream of his campaign on Facebook is already virtually embedded with the campaign.

 

And, as Cruz notes in the trailer for Run Like the Devil, O’Rourke is the perfect media/filmmaker darling, while Cruz is, to put it in professional wrestling terms, the perfect heel.

While Run Like the Devil gives Cruz equal screen time, and bends over backwards to give him his due, it is still, ultimately, a film designed to help elect O’Rourke to the U.S. Senate.

O’Rourke’s appeal is not just his accessibility. He is also, along with Obama, the most gifted politician I’ve ever encountered.

I spent the day before Obama won the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in March 2004 with Obama in Chicago and wrote a story the day after the election that began as follows:

CHICAGO _ Meet Barack Obama.

With his smashing victory in Tuesday’s primary to become the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Illinois, the 42-year-old state senator and University of Chicago law instructor stands poised to enter the national stage, and history. If elected — and the odds now favor him — he would be only the third black senator since Reconstruction.

“The moment he sets foot in the U.S. Senate he is going to be a national figure, not only national but international,” says U.S. Rep. Janice Schakowsky, an early supporter, whose district embodies the “lakefront liberals” —  mostly white and Jewish — who are part of Obama’s base.

Tall, fresh and elegant, Obama is certain to be an overnight sensation in national Democratic circles.

Meanwhile, Cruz is the most gifted Republican politician of his generation — a formulation that allows me to avoid comparing his skills to those of Trump, which are truly sui generis.

But for Donald Trump, Cruz might have succeeded in securing the Republican nomination and perhaps even the presidency in his first term in the U.S. Senate, an Obamian feat.

In other words, Senate campaigns rarely if ever feature two such talented candidates, in, with the backdrop of Texas politics, such a titanic setting.

It is a shame that it has to end, and so soon.

In less than three months, it will be over.

But it doesn’t have to end.

At the test screening of Run Like the Devil, one of the small audience in attendance told Mims that his film may prove of historic, archival importance because it is likely that either Cruz or O’Rourke will someday be president. (He said his money is on O’Rourke.)

I think he’s right about Cruz and/or O’Rourke, and, if so, this election is not just about who will represent Texas in the U.S. Senate, but also about which one of these two candidates is most likely to be his party’s nominee for president as early as 2020, with the possibility, however long the odds, that it could be both of them.

Stepping back, as Abby Livingston recently wrote in the Texas Tribune, O’Rourke remains a distinct long shot.

WASHINGTON — It’s the most backhanded of compliments.

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s campaign for U.S. Senate has caught so much fire throughout the state that the new favorite betting game in Texas politics is “How close can he get to Ted Cruz in November?”

The implication in the question’s phrasing is that O’Rourke’s loss remains a given.

Despite the high enthusiasm the El Paso congressman’s campaign has drawn among Democrats, Texas has not elected a Democrat statewide in over 20 years. An informal round of interviews with well over a dozen political players involved in Texas and national politics suggests that Cruz is expected to extend that streak with a re-election victory in the high single digits.

While such a margin would amount to significant progress for Democrats from past statewide performances, a loss is a loss, and Cruz’s win would likely ensure GOP control of the U.S. Senate for another two years.

Even so, O’Rourke’s 18-month statewide tour could still help significantly rebuild a flagging state party apparatus. The term being thrown around quietly among Democrats is “losing forward.”

In that sense, the stakes are much higher for both parties than a single race.

How this very strange matchup of Cruz, a former GOP presidential runner-up, against O’Rourke, a rank-and-file congressman turned political sensation, shakes out could set the trajectory of the next decade in Texas politics.

But, as I’ve explained, I think this understates the stakes.

I would go further.

I think if O’Rourke comes within 5 points of Cruz he will be a lock for a place on the Democrat’s national ticket in 2020 — vice president would be a gimme, especially if the candidate for president is a woman — like Elizabeth Warren or Kirsten Gillibrand or, more likely, California’s Kamala Harris.

And if O’Rourke were to come within 2 or 3 points of Cruz, I think he would be the presumptive front-runner for his party’s presidential nomination.

Why? Because of his qualities as a candidate, and because his run against Cruz — to Democrats every inch as evil and despicable as Trump — has already made him a national hero to the party faithful, and because the prospect of a candidate like O’Rourke — a Spanish-speaking, border-dwelling, border-loving, Kennedyesque Texas liberal — who could actually put Texas in play, is impossible to resist.

And by, as Livingston puts it, “losing forward,” O’Rourke would be freed of any responsibility to serve in the U.S. Senate.

In victory, O’Rourke would, in order to run for president, have to do a very un-Beto-like thing and essentially abandon any pretense of using the Senate as anything but a platform from which to run for president, and on twice-as-fast timetable as Obama or Cruz.

In narrow defeat, O’Rourke could go straight from losing strong to Cruz to embarking on visits to all of America’s more than 3,000 counties.

From the USGS:

There are 3,141 counties and county equivalents in the 50 States and the District of Columbia. They are categorized as follows:

3,007 entities named “County”
16 Boroughs in Alaska
11 Census Areas in Alaska (for areas not organized into Boroughs by the State)
64 Parishes in Louisiana
42 Independent Cities (1 in Maryland, 1 in Missouri, 1 in Nevada, and the remainder in Virginia)
1 District – the Federal District or District of Columbia.

Am I crazy?

I spoke this week with J.D. Gins, a veteran Democratic operative and former executive director of the Travis County Democratic Party who is among the most sober observers of Texas Democratic politics even if, or maybe especially because he left politics in 2015, at least for now, to open a brewery and tap house in Taylor.

Gins said that if O’Rourke were to beat Cruz, the pressure on him to run for president would be irresistible, the thinking being that, “If he can carry Texas again, that’s a game changer,  it’s over.”

But even if O’Rourke were to come within 2 points, Gins said, there would still be enormous momentum for O’Rourke to go national.

But can you lose a bid for the U.S. Senate and immediately and successfully run for president?

Well, actually, yes you can. It happened after the last best Senate race in U.S. history back in 1858 — Lincoln vs. Douglas.

I recalled that campaign when I wrote about the likelihood that Cruz and O’Rourke will be debating five times.

The prospect of five debates in a U.S. Senate campaign anywhere, anytime is eye-catching. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debated seven times in their 1858 Illinois U.S. Senate campaign. (Senators were chosen by legislatures then. Douglas, the incumbent, prevailed, but two years later, Lincoln was elected president.)

Even before this development, the contest between Cruz, 47, and O’Rourke, 45, was emerging as the most-watched Senate campaign in the country. According to the Federal Election Commission, O’Rourke and Cruz each have raised more than $23 million, more than any U.S. Senate candidates this cycle with the exception of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who appears likely to run for president in 2020, and U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., who won a heated special election that was a singular focus of national attention late last year.

Of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Fergus M. Bordewich writes in the September 2008 issues of Smithsonian Magazine:

Although we regard the debates today as a head-to-head contest for votes, in fact neither Lincoln nor Douglas was on the ballot. U.S. senators were chosen by state legislatures, as they would be until 1913. That meant that the party holding the most seats in the state legislature could choose who to send to the Senate.

Even this was not as straightforward as it seemed. The sizes of districts varied wildly as a result of gerrymandering, in Illinois’ case by Democrats, who dominated state politics. In some Republican-leaning districts, for instance, it took almost twice as many votes to elect a legislator as in pro-Democratic districts.

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Still, the debates introduced Lincoln to a national audience and set the stage for his dark-horse run for the Republican presidential nomination two years later.

“Lincoln comes out of the debates a more prominent figure in Illinois and across the country,” says historian Matthew Pinsker. “The key question facing him before the debates was: Can he lead a party? Now he has the answer: He can. He now begins to see himself as a possible president.”

Douglas had won re-election to the Senate, but his political prospects had been fatally wounded. In 1860, he would fulfill his ambition of winning the Democratic nomination for president, but in the general election he would win only one state—Missouri.

Ah yes, that would be the ultimate Texas dream — a 2020 presidential race pitting Beto vs. Ted.

Cruz, who clearly still harbors presidential ambitions, is now loyal to Trump. There is no reason to believe Trump won’t be the nominee.

But with Trump there is no certainty that he will be the nominee. There is more than a passing chance that something will happen that will lead him to walk away, or have to walk away, from the job or re-election. and if that happens, Cruz, assuming he defeats O’Rourke, would be the clear frontrunner to succeed Trump.

None of the other rivals for the party’s nomination in 2016 proved his equal.

No other potential candidate has the same national network of donors and grassroots supporters.

And Cruz could put it together on a dime if an emergency situation requires a quick successor to Trump.

So, while Cruz-O’Rourke is not likely, it is not beyond the realm of the possible as long as Texas voters cooperate and re-elect Cruz, but by the slenderest of margins.

There is, of course, one big loser in this fantasy — Julián Castro — who, like his twin brother, Joaquín, passed on running for U.S. Senate or governor this year. Instead Julián Castro is exploring a run for president.

O’Rourke now complicates Castro’s national prospects. The best scenario for Castro is that O’Rourke wins and refuses to consider being on a national ticket in 2020, which would make Texas appear ripe and make Castro the next-best-Texan to serve on a national ticket. Otherwise, from a purely selfish political perspective, the next best scenario for Castro would be if Cruz wins and O’Rourke takes a job teaching English literature at the University of Texas at El Paso, or better yet, his alma mater, Columbia University.

O’Rourke/Castro or Castro/O’Rourke 2020 would run up against the constitutional prohibition on electors voting for both a presidential candidate and vice presidential candidate from their own state.

But Castro could always pull a Cheney, who, like George W. Bush, called Texas home when Bush picked him to be his running mate, and register to vote in Wyoming.

 

 

How Big Tech’s war on Alex Jones left First Reading pockmarked with Orwellian dead zones

 

Good day Austin:

I’ve been in Austin five-and-a-half years. For the last couple of years I’ve had an obsessive interest in Alex Jones. This is important work, I tell myself.

But I know the way other people look at me.

I read the snide comments.

I have been formally recognized for my obsession.

I was named a Best of Austin by the Austin Chronicle last year, thanks to my coverage of Jones, but, as grateful as I was for the distinction, I knew that it was more in the nature of being humored than honored.

I went to the Best of Austin event, but before the actual program got underway, I got an email from Roger Stone, who had brokered the political marriage between Alex Jones and Donald Trump that, perhaps as much and probably more any Russian collusion, elected Donald Trump, and who has since become part of the InfoWars broadcast team.

The message from Roger:

Yo: I am in Austin – headed to – you guessed it. Russia House!

Give me a call.

I had introduced Roger to the Russian House the previous June – are you listening Mueller (oh, but you already knew that).

On Tango Tuesday  no less.

I split the Chronicle event when I got Roger’s message and headed to the Russian House. We had a drink and I took him to Licha’s Cantina where we had dinner on the porch.

Paul Manafort, Stone’s former partner at Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly, had just been indicted by Robert Mueller. Stone said Manafort told him he wasn’t worried.

Stone, who also serves as the Daily Caller’s Men’s Fashion Editor, and compiles an annual Best and Worst Dressed List, noted that Manafort had spent an enormous amount of money on ill-fitting suits that he thought looked good on him.

The man, it seems, had more money than fashion sense.

Manafort didn’t make Stone’s 2017 list, though Steve Bannon, his successor at the helm of the Trump campaign, did rank as among the worst dressed: Not meant to be confrontational. In all seriousness: Lose the three button down shirts on top of each other.

It’s an eclectic bunch that included, among the best dressed, Mark McKinnon  (His trademarks are hats and scarfs, which he pulls off in almost any climate or setting with aplomb.)  and Anthony Scaramucci (During his short stint at the White House, he showed America how a well-built man of medium stature should properly tailor his suits.)

Among the worst dressed were Harvey Weinstein (For a slovenly and blobby man, he relies far too heavily on white dress shirts… is he trying to showcase his grease stains from the KFC bucket he downed in the limo before hitting the red carpet?), and Mark Zuckerberg ….

Mark Zuckerberg: All the money in the world and he still can’t dress. In 2017, we saw a lot more attempts to dress up his look, but it just has not worked. Zuckerberg at least looked confident in himself when schlepping around in t-shirts and hoodies — looking like the control-freak coder that he really is. When he puts on a suit, it is horribly tailored and looks like he got it off the rack at a red-dot sale. Instead of concocting new ways to censor Facebook users, Zuckerberg should swing by Saville Row. This is his first year on the WORST DRESSED list.

Ah yes, Mark Zuckerberg – the man who reminds you every day that someone you know is celebrating a birthday, even friends who have already died, and then has the ghastly Big Brother nerve to prepare anniversary albums with you and whoever – living or dead – recollecting the good times.

Which brings us back to Alex Jones.

A week ago Saturday Ted Cruz was at Erick Erickson’s Resurgent Gathering in Austin, where, in a gaggle with reporters, he expanded on his tweet criticizing Facebook’s suspending Alex Jones’ personal account.

From Cruz:

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…

I stayed up most of that night Sunday night writing a First Reading about it.

While Cruz notes that he is rising to Jones’ defense even though he says Jones spread the story about Cruz’s father and Oswald, that canard, as I note, was more the handiwork of Trump and Stone (who insists it’s true.)

I predicted that Cruz could reap political rewards by standing with Jones amid a Big Tech crackdown on InfoWars:

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.

I had to get that First Reading done by Monday morning so I could set off with my daughter, who was visiting from Brooklyn, on a one-week tour of such West Texas landmarks as Marfa, the McDonald Observatory, Big Bend, Boquillas del Carmen and the Chinati Hot Springs outside Ruidosa, all first-time visits for me and precaution in case my tenure at the Statesman should come to an abrupt end and I find  myself back where I came from with only my memories of Texas.

I had already devoted much of the previous two weeks to Alex Jones – one week preparing a story about all the defamation lawsuits being filed against Alex Jones, then a couple of days the next week covering efforts by Jones’ lawyers to dismiss two of those cases in Travis County District Court.

I was already being temperate in my Jones coverage – neglecting to be in the courtroom two other days that week when Kelly Jones, his ex-wife, pressed cases against him.

Enough. I had a yurt to pitch in Mara. (I know, it was already pitched.)

El Cosmico, Marfa

But, of course, Mark Zuckerberg knew of my plans, based on Facebook’s surreptitious but perfectly obvious surveillance of my searches and purchases, and still he plotted down to the final moment to ruin things for me and my daughter.

From Kevin Roose’s Aug. 10 story in the New York Times: Facebook banned InfoWars. Now what?

Late on Sunday, after returning to his hotel room on a trip away from home, Mark Zuckerberg made a decision he had hoped to avoid.

For weeks, the Facebook chief executive and his colleagues had debated what to do about Infowars, the notorious far-right news site, and Alex Jones, Infowars’ choleric founder, who became famous for his spittle-flecked rants and far-fetched conspiracies, including the idea that the Sandy Hook massacre was an elaborate hoax promoted by gun-control supporters.

Mr. Jones is just one Facebook user out of 2.2 billion, but he had become symbolic of tech platforms’ inconsistency and reluctance to engage in a misinformation war.The pressure on Facebook to do something about him had intensified after executives gave a series of vague and confusing answers to lawmakers and reporters about the company’s policies. Misinformation was allowed to stay on the platform, they said, but hate speech wasn’t. So users dug up and reported old Infowars posts, asking for their removal on the grounds that they glorified violence and contained dehumanizing language against Muslims, immigrants, and transgender people.

These posts clearly violated Facebook’s hate speech rules. And in a normal situation, a low-level content moderator might have reviewed them, found that they qualified, and taken them down.

But Mr. Jones was no typical internet crank. He has millions of followers, a popular video show, and the ear of President Trump — who once told the provocateur that his reputation was “amazing.” Banning such a prominent activist would lead to political blowback, no matter how justified the action was.

The situation was volatile enough that Mr. Zuckerberg got personally engaged, according to two people involved in Facebook’s handling of the accounts. He discussed Infowars at length with other executives, and mused privately about whether Mr. Jones — who once called Mr. Zuckerberg a “genetic-engineered psychopath” in a video — was purposefully trying to get kicked off the platform to gain attention, they said.

The pressure on Facebook to do something about him had intensified after executives gave a series of vague and confusing answers to lawmakers.

And there was the peer pressure.

Back to the New York Times story:

Late Sunday, Apple — which has often tried to stake out moral high ground on contentious debates — removed Infowars podcasts from iTunes. After seeing the news, Mr. Zuckerberg sent a note to his team confirming his own decision: the strikes against Infowars and Mr. Jones would count individually, and the pages would come down. The announcement arrived at 3 a.m. Pacific time.

In the days that followed, other platforms — YouTube, Pinterest, MailChimp, and more — said they, too, were banning Infowars. The notable exception was Twitter, which decided not to ban the site or Mr. Jones. The company’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, tweeted a veiled shot at the way his rivals handled the situation.

“We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short-term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories,” he said.

Now, cut off from most of his audience, Mr. Jones will have to chart a new course. He has already stepped enthusiastically into a role as a free-speech martyr. (After the ban took effect, Infowars slapped a “censored” label on its videos and launched a “forbidden information” marketing campaign.) And conservatives — and even some free-speech advocates on the left — worried that social media companies may be entering a new, censorious era. Senator Ted Cruz, the Republican from Texas, paraphrased the famous Martin Niemöller poem about German accommodation of Nazism: “First, they came for Alex Jones.”

By Monday morning my obsessive interest had become the nation’s obsessive interest, but  my yurt beckoned.

So, a few hours late, my daughter and I embarked on our 1,647-mile journey, leaving behind Alex Jones and, for the first time since we’d met, my Macbook (at the Apple Store no less,  where it was to get a new battery and a better listening device, I suppose.).

As Sebastian Herrera and Nicole Cobler wrote Friday in the Statesman ,in the short-term at least, the crackdown on Jones resulted in a surge in his audience.

For once in his life, Jones seemed to be at the center of a genuine conspiracy against him, and whatever the ultimate financial cost, if there is one, for now and for some time to come Jones was in a kind of InfoWarrior Nirvana.

 

So, if this social media crackdown on Jones is not hurting Jones, who is it hurting?

Oh, I can answer that one: Me.

It’s not so much Facebook cutting off Jones that’s done me in. It’s YouTube.

For the last two years, I have written First Reading after First Reading about Jones, about his rising influence, about how he is to be taken, about what he represents, and an indispensable element has been posting YouTubes of various rants and interviews, along with screen shots and my transcriptions of the pertinent moments. But the YouTubes let the readers see it all for themselves.

And now, whether its my recent First Reading about Jones’ working (i.e. hectoring Bernie Sanders at LAX and the like) family vacation in Hawaii, or Roger Stone’s last tango in Austin, my hand-crafted blog is pockmarked with these ugly, dark Orwellian dead zones.

It is hideous. And hurtful.

What’s more, YouTube was the most effective way for me to keep up with what Jones was up to.

He’s on about three hours a day, or more. With YouTube I could return to the show, scroll through to get the good stuff, transcribe what I wanted and grab the most evocative screenshots.

But now, from my first experience with the new world order yesterday, it seems the only way to really follow what’s going on is to actually listen to it live. Yes, you can go back and listen to the radio show again, but a rant is only half a rant without the visual.

Maybe there is a way to do what I used to do without YouTube, but in the meantime, I simply can’t do as good a job of keeping track of what Jones is saying as I did when I earned that Best of Austin encomium.

As for the public good, I don’t know.

It is a mistake to simply conflate the defamation suits with the social media restrictions.

The lawsuits are built around the argument that Jones pretends to be a journalist on the air, but then retreats behind the legal argument that he is merely an opinionated blowhard protected by the First Amendment when he defames someone.

And I am not at all comfortable with Mark Zuckerberg in his footie pajamas making some unilateral, 3-in-the morning decision about what speech is permissible and what is not on his ubiquitous platform.

As Matt Taibi wrote in Rolling Stone, under the headline, Censorship Does Not End Well: How America learned to stop worrying and put Mark Zuckerberg in charge of everything

Jones is the media equivalent of a trench-coated stalker who jumps out from from behind a mailbox and starts whacking it in an intersection. His “speech” is on that level: less an idea than a gross physical provocation. InfoWars defines everything reporters are taught not to do.

Were I Alex Jones, I would think Alex Jones was a false-flag operation, cooked up to discredit the idea of a free press.

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Moreover, Jones probably does violate all of those platforms’ Terms of Service. I personally don’t believe his Sandy Hook rants — in which he accused grieving parents of being actors in an anti-gun conspiracy — are protected speech, at least not according to current libel and defamation law. Even some conservative speech activists seem to agree.

And yet: I didn’t celebrate when Jones was banned. Collectively, all these stories represent a revolutionary moment in media. Jones is an incidental player in a much larger narrative.

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In about 10 minutes, someone will start arguing that Alex Jones is not so different from, say, millennial conservative Ben Shapiro, and demand his removal. That will be followed by calls from furious conservatives to wipe out the Torch Network or Anti-Fascist News, with Jacobin on the way.

We’ve already seen Facebook overcompensate when faced with complaints of anti-conservative bias. Assuming this continues, “community standards” will turn into a ceaseless parody of Cold War spy trades: one of ours for one of yours.

This is the nuance people are missing. It’s not that people like Jones shouldn’t be punished; it’s the means of punishment that has changed radically.

For more than half a century, we had an effective, if slow, litigation-based remedy for speech violations. The standards laid out in cases like New York Times v. Sullivan were designed to protect legitimate reporting while directly remunerating people harmed by bad speech. Sooner or later, people like Alex Jones would always crash under crippling settlements. Meanwhile, young reporters learned to steer clear of libel and defamation. Knowing exactly what we could and could not get away with empowered us to do our jobs, confident that the law had our backs.

If the line of defense had not been a judge and jury but a giant transnational corporation working with the state, journalists taking on banks or tech companies or the wrong politicians would have been playing intellectual Russian roulette. In my own career, I’d have thought twice before taking on a company like Goldman Sachs. Any reporter would.

Now the line is gone. Depending on the platform, one can be banned for “glorifying violence,” “sowing division,” “hateful conduct” or even “low quality,” with those terms defined by nameless, unaccountable executives, working with God Knows Whom.

These are difficult things to sort out and I don’t understand the workings of social media well enough to know exactly what I think about all this, and I may never.

In the middle of last week, my daughter and I went to the Lost Horse Saloon in Marfa, which was recognizable by its neon sign.

As I sat a small table with my daughter drinking a beer, two guys at the bar – they turned out to be brothers – were having a loud and lively conversation about Alex Jones. l couldn’t help myself. I listened intently, I looked over at them and then, when one of them noted my interest, I joined their conversation.

They enjoyed listening to Jones, but thought he could be destructive, even dangerous, and yet didn’t think any form of censorship was the way to go.

The  brothers brought up Jim Bakker, a natural enough association. Now selling huge buckets of food on TV to survivalists with his mesmerizing rap (and Trump love), Bakker is an Alex Jones forerunner

I used to watch Jim Bakker with his wife, Tammy Faye, before he went to prison.

The brothers, a lot younger than I am, watch the post-prison Jim Bakker and his new wife, Lori. (Here, courtesy Vic Berger. )

InfoWars ran on on-line poll yesterday.

As of this morning, Drudge was edging out Breitbart.

But, as of this morning, Drudge is still going strong.

There in the lower left was a link to InfoWars’ latest.

But leading the page was Roger Stone.

It links to a Daily Caller column by Stone: The Witch Hunt Continues.

Under his byline, Stone is identified as the Daily Caller’s Men’s Fashion Editor.

 

InfoWars depends on sales of its nutraceuticals, t-shirts and what-not.

Stone yet again yesterday was swearing by Brain Force Plus to get him through some very long days.

And yesterday Jones was, as usual, high on adversity.

This is bad folks. What’s the big event? We all know they are going to try to overthrow Trump. Economically, they’re trying to crash things, they admit it. They are trying to start big wars.

We’re living in an incredibly volatile time so I’m getting excited knowing I’m over the target. But at the same time I’ve got to think, they wouldn’t be pulling this unless they’ve got something big planned.

They wouldn’t be doing all this  all this unless they didn’t want us in the public square when they launch this big thing.

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

[cmg_anvato video=4455221 autoplay=”true”]

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)

 

 

 

 

 

`The blue wave has a physics all its own.’ On electoralizing the Indivisible resistance.

Good Monday Austin:

Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg, the married couple, co-founders and co-executive directors of Indivisible, the network of grassroots organization founded to resist the Trump presidency in the immediate aftermath of his election as president, returned this weekend to Levin’s hometown of Austin, where the idea of Indivisible was born over drinks at DrinkWell, 100 days out from the election where the success of their efforts to electoralize the resistance will be tested.

I first wrote about Indivisible on Jan. 18, 2017, two days before Trump’s inauguration as president. Here’s the top of the story:

WASHINGTON, DC – When the history of grass-roots resistance to President Donald Trump is written, it might be recorded that the movement was born in Austin – prefigured at the Randalls supermarket on Brodie Lane in the summer of 2009, conceived at a North Loop neighborhood bar over Thanksgiving weekend 2016, and crafted in great part by battle-tested veterans of the office of U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett.

It was at Randalls in the first summer of the Obama administration that Doggett, the longtime Austin Democrat, was besieged by tea party protesters chanting “Just Say No” to the health care reform that would come to be known as Obamacare. It was a jarring scene that set the tone for what would be a dreadful August recess for Democratic members of Congress at bitterly contentious town hall meetings across the country and presaged an Obama presidency to which the tea party and Republican Party just said “no.”

Seven years later, in the aftermath of Trump’s election, Ezra Levin, who grew up in Austin and Buda and worked for Doggett in Washington from 2008 to 2011, was back in Austin for the Thanksgiving holiday with his wife, Leah Greenberg, another Capitol Hill veteran. They got together at Drink.Well. on East 53rd Street with an old friend who was leading a new progressive group in Austin, to talk about how to channel their mutual despair and knowledge of congressional politics into effectively doing to the Trump presidency what the tea party did to the Obama presidency.

“We knew how Congress works and we knew how a pretty darn small group relative to the total population came together and implemented a very thoughtful strategy with very specific concrete tactics to resist an administration and a Congress that they didn’t agree with, and that was the tea party,” Levin said. They left Drink.Well. with a plan to draft a manual to replicate the tea party strategy — stripped, of course, of what they considered its noxious ideology and mean streak.

Three weeks later, on the evening of Dec. 15, Levin, 31, tweeted out a link to a Google Doc: “Indivisible: A practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda. Former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.”

“The tea party implemented a two-pronged strategy, and that was very locally focused, focused on their members of the Senate and their one member of Congress, and then they consciously chose to be defensive and almost exclusively defensive,” said Levin, who now lives in Washington.

“And they also understood that they weren’t setting the agenda, that at that time Democrats controlled the House and the Senate and the presidency, so what they could do is simply respond to it,” he said. “And they did that in a few concrete, not rocket science kinds of way. They showed up in person at public events, at town halls, at district offices and then called in response to whatever new thing President Obama or the Congress was trying to do.”

“We started out writing a practical guide for progressives who find themselves in kind of the same situation now, with a president we believe is illegitimate and is looking to destroy some key tenets of American democracy, and who controls the Senate and the House,” he said.

The response from across the country was swift and overwhelming: high-profile coverage in mainstream and progressive magazines, two segments on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show,” an op-ed in The New York Times, and a tsunami of grass-roots interest.

I spoke with Levin and Greenberg, who are 33 and 32 respectively, just before they spoke to a phone bank training attended by about 40 folks in a room at the Austin History Center on Guadalupe Street.

“We are at 100 days until the election. Literally it’s 99 days and nine hours,” Levin said. “This was the weekend of action pivoting directly into electoral activity.”

“Indivisible began as an advocacy, talking about how to pressure their member of Congress, whoever that was, and then whoever their elected officials were at the local and state level,” he said. “That’s a great strategy in off years. When an election is coming up, a great way to build power is to change who that member of Congress is, or to change who the senator is, or change who the state rep or state senator it.”

“What we’ve been doing at the national level, is preparing to pivot folks in that direction.”

“n the same way that we provided call scripts on Trumpcare in Ohio or national days of action to do sit-ins or die-ins at congressional offices against Trumpcare, we’re trying to help the groups now register voters, endorse  candidates, get out the vote, phone bank, text, all the nuts and bolts of electoral politics, is where we have the most power now.

“What we’ve seen over the last 16, 17, 18 months is in the special elections, in the primary elections, in the off-year elections, they don’t get won on Election Day,  they get won by boots on the ground doing the work, day in, day out leading up tot that.  So we’re building the blue wave. That’s what the groups  are doing.”

Why spend pivot weekend in Texas, which still seems an uphill climb for electorialization?

“I think the story of the last 18 months has been surprises. We’ve seen 3, 6, 9, 12-point swings against Trump in competitive races, places that traditionally political prognosticators in Washington, D.C., say, “Oh they’re not winnable.

“But then we win in rural Virginia. We win an Alabama Senate race. We win special elections w. we win a plus-Republican district in Pennsylvania, Conor Lamb. ”

“The blue wave has a physics all its own and it’s going to come crashing down in places that traditionally don’t see this kind of progressive power. So Texas is fertile ground for that because the powers-that-be in Texas, for instance, have used redistricting to gerrymander themselves a whole bunch of districts that are gerrymandered for traditional election years, not for wave election years.”

“And when you have a candidate that’s  as hated as Ted Cruz going for re-election you even have a shot of going statewide, even tough Democrats haven’t won a statewide election since the mid-90s. This year could be different.”

” A year ago the question was, is it even possible we could take the House back,” Greenberg said. “We were very optimistic because of what we were seeing on the ground level. Already people were doing the work at the ground level in places where nobody was expecting a victory.”

“We’ve actually focused on Texas,” Greenberg said. : We have a statewide organizer for Texas in part because we think there is real potential here.”

Let us pause here for a moment, and fast forward a few hours to the latest in a series of Walk the Lines events organized by Justin Nelson’s campaign for attorney general against Ken Paxton as a critique of gerrymandering, which is nowhere more obvious than in Austin, which has been carved up into six congressional districts leaving Austin votes the master of none of those districts and leaving Austin the largest city in the country without a congressional district to call its own.

From a June 15 story by Chuck Lindell on how Nelson and Paxton are on opposite sides of the gerrymandering debate:

Before they became election foes, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Democratic challenger Justin Nelson landed on opposite sides of a U.S. Supreme Court fight over the ability of politicians to gerrymander political districts to give one party a distinct advantage in future elections.

In one of this term’s most eagerly awaited cases at the high court, Paxton came down on the side of Wisconsin Republicans who are defending state Assembly districts that were ruled unconstitutional for giving the GOP a disproportionate advantage at the polls.

Because redrawing political districts after each census is an inherently partisan task, Paxton told the Supreme Court in an August brief joined by 15 other Republican-led states, there is nothing “invidious or irrational” about having a partisan political purpose in preparing new maps.

Paxton also warned about letting judges decide when the quest for partisan advantage goes too ggfar, saying it would create legal standards so vague that every state would be exposed to lawsuits, giving the losing political party a “plausible chance” of overriding the will of a majority of lawmakers.

Nelson, on the other hand, argued that allowing the party in power to gain an outsized electoral advantage undermines democracy and improperly dilutes votes.

“The foundation of American democracy rests on ‘the consent of the governed.’ When lawmakers engage in partisan gerrymandering, they corrode this consent by punishing groups on the basis of their political beliefs in an effort to deprive them of equal representation,” Nelson wrote as the lead lawyer for a Supreme Court brief on behalf of two voter advocacy groups, FairVote and One Nation One Vote.

Here’s some of what went on last night, at an event attended by Nelson and four of the six Democratic candidates representing pieces and shards of Austin: Longtime gerrymander survivor Lloyd Doggett, the only incumbent in the bunch; Julie Oliver, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, and would count Dogged as a constituent if she is elected; Joseph Kopser, who is facing Republican Chip Roy in the campaign to succeed U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, who is retiring, and Mike Siegel. Siegel is challenging U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who, living with his family at the intersection of great wealth and bad pipes, consumes more water than any other family in the city of Austin.

Here’s a litte of what they had to say at the event, held upstairs at Antone’s, a classy venue, albeit the Home of the Blues, and not House of the Blue Wave.

Also in attendance last night were the Lafairs, who have created a gerrymandering board game, Mapmaker.

Becca Lafair, left, Josh Lafair, her younger, taller brother, and Louis Lafair, Becca’s twin.

Louis just graduated from Stanford University, and Becca is entering her fifth year at Northeastern University in Boston (a school where the normal course of study is five years, as students alternate academic and real world experience.) Josh is a senior in high school.

Josh: “We grew up in a gerrymandered district in Austin.” They were formerly represented by Doggett, now represented by McCaul.

The Lafairs took moral umbrage at this.

“Voters should be choosing their politicians, but what’s happening is politicians are choosing their voters, and that’s just not right.”

And, Louis said, “we’ve always loved playing board games with each other.”

“I invented a board game when I was 11, that was my first board game,” said Louis.

Well, that explains Stanford.

What was that?

“I was called Pathwayz, spelled with a z, because I was 11.”

“It was published eight years later.”

More Louis: “We researched it. There weren’t any other gerrymandering games out there.:

The goal of the game is to win the most districts.

Louis: “The real reason we’re doing this is to start a conversation about gerrymandering.”

In other words, the goal is to win, but feel bad about it.

Louis: “We have a proclamation inside every box – gerrymandering is not a game.”

But Louis said, “We spent a lot of time making sure it was a really fun game. There’s the whole anti-gerrrymandering community and there’s the whole board game community.”

In the meantime, the game, which will be available shortly is  being sent to the Supreme Court, governors and others, and has been endorsed by notables like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lawrence Lessig and Doggett.

Back to Levin and Greenberg.

I wondered why they chose to spend pivot weekend Texas, not necessarily the ripest for victory.

“I think the story of the last 18 months has been surprises. We’ve 3, 6, 9, 12-point swings against Trump in competitive races, places that traditionally political prognosticators in Washington, D.C., say, “Oh they’re not winnable.'”

I asked them how they would counsel Democratic candidates to talk about impeachment.

This was apropos a recent back-and-forth on impeachment between the O’Rourke and Cruz campaigns via Gardner Selby at PolitiFact Texas.

Cruz’s campaign said in a July 17, 2018, press release that O’Rourke “continued today his reckless and radical Senate campaign based on impeaching Pres. Donald Trump. He is the only candidate to the U.S. Senate to call for impeachment,” the release said.

We wondered: Is O’Rourke alone among Senate hopefuls in advocating the Republican president’s impeachment?

Not so, we found, though it looks like he’s the only Senate nominee to date to say he’d vote to launch impeachment proceedings.

xxxx

Our search of the Nexis news database showed that as early as August 2017, O’Rourke said he’d vote for Trump’s impeachment. Most recently, the Dallas Morning News quoted O’Rourke saying in July 2018 that Trump merited impeachment for his performance in the just-completed summit with Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin.

O’Rourke responded to a News reporter: “Standing on stage in another country with the leader of another country who wants to and has sought to undermine this country, and to side with him over the United States — if I were asked to vote on this I would vote to impeach the president. Impeachment, much like an indictment, shows that there is enough there for the case to proceed and at this point there is certainly enough there for the case to proceed.”

Then again, O’Rourke in December 2017 was among 364 House members to vote for tabling a proposal by Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, to impeach Trump, records show. Before that vote, Democratic leaders released a statement referring to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry that said impeachment wasn’t timely.

When we asked Cruz’s campaign how the senator determined that O’Rourke was alone among Senate candidates calling for impeachment, spokeswoman Catherine Frazier pointed out by email that the News story noting O’Rourke’s willingness to vote for impeachment quoted Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe, leveling a more limited claim. Roe called O’Rourke “the only major-party candidate in America to call for impeachment.”

Another Cruz contact, Emily Miller, emailed us a web link to a November 2017 Reuters news story describing O’Rourke saying that Trump’s racially charged rhetoric and divisive governing style had led O’Rourke to support impeachment. O’Rourke was quoted saying: “I’m now convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that Donald Trump is unfit for that office.”

O’Rourke spokesman says he’s not ‘called’ for impeaching Trump

When we reached out to O’Rourke about Cruz calling him the only Senate candidate to call for impeachment, campaign spokesman Chris Evans said by email: “Beto has never called for the impeachment of President Trump.”

Evans maintained that O’Rourke’s responses to reporters and voters about voting in favor of impeachment weren’t the same as the candidate calling for impeachment. Evans elaborated that O’Rourke hasn’t brought up impeachment “at town halls or rallies, has not sent fundraising or petition emails on it, has not posted social media advocating for it, and has not used his current position of public trust to do so through floor speeches, letters or resolutions.”

Evans also pointed out an interview we’d missed. For an episode of Showtime’s “The Circus,” posted online in May 2018, O’Rourke replied that as a member of the House, he’d vote right then to impeach Trump. Asked if he’d vote as a senator to convict Trump, O’Rourke replied: “Until I’m in that position and am able to hear the case made by each side, all the facts laid out, I can’t give you an answer on that–nor would you want me to.”

xxxxx

Our ruling

Cruz said O’Rourke is “the only candidate to the U.S. Senate to call for” impeaching Trump.

Since August 2017, O’Rourke has been saying that he’d vote to impeach Trump, which would start with a vote in the House, where he serves. O’Rourke might be the only Senate nominee to say as much. However, Democratic Senate contenders in Minnesota and California also have talked up Trump’s impeachment.

We rate this claim about O’Rourke’s uniqueness False.

“Our network got involved in response to Trump. They want to resist the Trump agenda. So this is something that animates them,” Levin said. “I will say that impeachment is a political process. It’s something where you need not just vote to impeach in the House but convict in the Senate. You need Republican votes, by definition. You are not going to get two-thirds of the Senate just from Democratic hands, so you need Republican votes. So, it’s a process.

“On the first day of Congress, if we take the House or the Senate, we can get Donald Trump’s tax returns, we can launch investigations, we can get more information, we can get the smoking gun that is out there. To say you will vote for impeachment right now – it is a fine line to walk when folks are not putting it front and center, or when they’re saying they’ll re-evaluate – that’s actually the right move. We need more information, we need investigations.

“And the things that Texans care about when we talk to them in Wimberley, is they care about the state of democracy, they care about democratic institutions, like voting, like redistricting, like money in politics. They worry that it’s being taken over by a small segment of society. They care about health care. They care about families being detained and separated and put in cages along the border and elsewhere. These are the things that we see getting a lot of folks out.

“And I think it’s smart for candidates like Beto and others to be talking about those issues. We will get to the questions of what is going on in the Trump campaign and this administration, and the only way we will get there is if we retake the majority and force them to give reveal that information.”

“We were both congressional staffers, we both worked for Democratic members of Congress,” Levin said. “I didn’t have a super high opinion of Republican members of Congress, but I would not have accused them of doing essentially what they’ve done, which is turn a complete blind eye to what this administration does. They have proven again and again and again that they are not willing to act as a check on this administration, which is their constitutional duty, so the only answer in this moment is,we need to retake power so that we can start having a Congress that acts as a check on this administration.

“And then what comes from that, will come from that.

“We are in favor of impeachment proceedings, but the way impeachment works is to start investigations and you get information, and it’s worth noting that the Senate doesn’t vote to impeach, the Senate votes to convict, so that is going to be the question put before Sen. O’Rourke, and that will come after a long series of investigations that reveal exactly what’s going on.”

(*in the realm of phone banking on a summer Sunday in Austin, ginormous is defined as around 40.)

“The only question we get asked again and again is, “Yeah but, can the resistance be electoralized, can you actually win elections?” Levin said. “The rule of the last 20 months has been surprise wins by anti-Trump forces all over the country. Is it a sure thing? A Democrat hasn’t won statewide in Texas in over 20 years. And yet we  were out in freakin’ Beaumont Texas on a Friday night and there were 15 people phone-banking for Beto O’Rourke.

“This is everywhere.

“It’s going to be won if people put in the work day after day from now until Election Day, and so far we’re seeing the energy out there.”

 

 

xxx

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.)