Echoing Alex Jones and the National Enquirer, Trump says Obama is behind the resistance



Good morning Austin:

Last Monday in First Reading I wrote about the effort by local members of what I will call the popular resistance to Trump – here and across the nation –  organizing to try to call their local members of Congress to account for their enabling of President Trump.

I wrote:

So, I think an important national story in the coming week will be conflict at town hall meetings, avoidance of town hall meetings, the politics of town hall meetings, and who is behind all the fuss over town hall meetings.

And, I believe that before the week is over, President Trump will interject himself into that conversation, and that he will blame it on Barack Obama.

Why do I say that?

Because last Thursday, even as Trump was delivering the press conference to end all press conferences, that was what Austin’s own Alex Jones was saying on Infowars in a conversation with New York Post columnist Paul Sperry, and generally speaking, Trump adopts Jones’ frame on these sorts of issues.

I quote the Jones-Sperry exchange at great length because, the experience of the last year has taught me that, with Trump, what happens on Infowars doesn’t stay on Infowars.

Well, last night, just under the “before-the-week-is-over” wire, came this.


From the Washington Post: Trump says Obama is helping to organize protests against his presidency.

By way of background, here is a quick snatch from that earlier First Reading in which I recounted Alex Jones’ interview with Paul Sperry, whose New York Post columns are the source material for the Obama-is-behind-the-resistance narrative.

PAUL SPERRY: But I’m afraid if Trump doesn’t get out in front of this, and call it for what it is, actually directly call Obama out. Forget about Hillary, Hillary’s gone. His main concern right now is Obama. I mean the guy’s set up a bunker down the street from the White House..He’s got a mansion. He’s got an office. OFA, the Obama Foundation he’s setting up. He’s got his own chief of staff, press secretary. He’s setting up his own shadow White House, just within two miles of the White House .. This is something on the order of a civil war here.


He’s really gearing up over the next year or two to creating a huge, really well-funded, organizing and protesting infrastructure, that’s going to constantly go after and attack Republicans and this new administration.


ALEX JONES: Looking at this, studying history, I’ve not seen anything like this in U.S. history, I mean maybe the Civil War, like you say, has parallels, but this is a civil war by elements of the government, and bureaucracies and foreign governments, against the president, who is so clearly a populist, clearly Americana, going up in the polls. And I agree with you, at a gut level I am more concerned about this than anything I’ve seen in 20 years on air. They mean business, and I don’t disagree that they want to build this up over the next few years, but it appears they are making moves right now to try to topple the president.


PAUL SPERRY: Yeah, Trump and Republicans don’t know what they’re up against. I”m mean there’s no other precedent for this. No other president has stayed behind in president, at least not in 100 years, not since Woodrow Wilson.

ALEX JONES: And what’s scarier is you are the only one pointing it out.

PAUL SPERRY: Well, finally people are calling it for what it is, all these protests. This is a shadow government that’s behind it. But this needs to get into the mainstream media, but of course the media is behind the protests, so every time they get a video feed from one of these marches or protests, they play it over and over again to make it seem like this is this big grassroots revolt against Trump, but of course it’s not. I’s just artificially manufactured Astro Turf.

But no other former president has actively undermined a sitting president. Obama actually did that with the immigration ban on the terror-prone Muslims.


ALEX JONES: He also encouraged all these demonstrations, he says – you had it in your article – “heartening.”

It turns out that Sperry’s and Jones’ assertions about Obama’s role as Godfather of the Resistance, were relatively mild compared with what confronted me as I stood in the checkout line at my local HEB grocery store at the end of last week.

There it was, on the front page of the National Enquirer, sandwiched between “Julie Roberts Packs on 43 LBS!  – as marriage crumbles” and “Beyoncé: Twins, Trapped & Alone.”


The exclamation point lede is especially  good:

Treasonous puppet master Barack Obama is pulling the strings on a coordinated conspiracy across multiple federal agencies to sabotage the Trump administration – and impeach President Donald Trump before he can make America great again!

Read on, as the anonymous source lays it out.

That’s the bombshell claim of a left-leaning whistle-blower who stepped out of the Beltway shadows to meet with the National ENQUIRER – after a crisis of conscience motivated him to expose the revolt.

These acts of defiance when viewed apart, may seem independently accomplished, but that’s precisely how they’re intended to be seen,” said the insider.


The Obama-directed conspiracy got its start when officials from at least seven federal agencies met on two occasions after the election, according to THE ENQUIRER whistle-blower.

“Obama was not present – but it was made clear his agenda and orders were to be carried out,” claimed the source.

“He is the tarantula at the center of this web of insubordination. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are just doing his bidding.”


According to the D.C. turncoat, the revolt is intended to climax in impeachment proceedings against Trump, using the 25th Amendment of the Constitution.

Under that provision, “the Vice President and a majority of … the principal officers of he executive departments” can deem the president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

In that case, the vice president steps in as “Acting President.”

“It could ignite a constitutional crisis!” said he source “They intend to so isolate President Trump that the impeachment will go forward. Then amid the chaos, Obama’s stooges will work to change existing law so he can run for a third term in 2020!”

Just to make sure you’re following the sequence here, Obama is directing  a conspiracy, which will include Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s Cabinet, to remove Trump from office and “amid the chaos” set the stage for Obama’s third term.

Does Pence get to stay on as veep?





Which brings us to yesterday’s “Fox & Friends” interview with Trump, which was previewed last night and then played in several installments this morning.

My guess is that Trump, either because of his own inquiring mind or a text from Roger Stone,  already knew the “Obama is behind it” frame from his favored news sources – the New York Post, Infowars and the Enquirer.

(Note: At a press conference the day after his nomination for president, Trump defended the Enquirer’s front-page story linking Ted Cruz’s father, Rafael, to Lee Harvey Oswald before the JFK assassination. Said Trump:  “This was a magazine that, in many respects, is respected. They got OJ, (John) Edwards, they got this. If that was The New York Times, they would have gotten Pulitzers for their reporting. I’ve always said, ‘Why didn’t the National Enquirer get the Pulitzer surprise for Edwards? And OJ Simpson? And all of these things?”)

But Trump didn’t have to bring up Obama’s stealth agenda, because his Fox friends at “Fox & Friends” did so in yesterday’s interview.

FOX: Can we talk about President Obama? You’ve said you personally get along with him. You guys were going at it for three or four, maybe eight years. It turns out his people are doing a lot of the organizing behind the protest that a lot of Republicans are seeing around the country, and against you.

Do you believe President Obama is behind it and, if he is, is that a violation of the so-called unsaid president’s code?

TRUMP:  No, I think he is behind it. I also think it is politics, that’s the way it is.’

FOX: Bush wasn’t going after Clinton. Clinton wasn’t going after Bush.

TRUMP: You never know what’s exactly happening behind the scenes. You know, you’re probably right or possibly right, but you never know.

No, I think that President Obama is behind it because his people are certainly behind it. And some of the leaks possibly come from that group, some of the leaks, which are really serious because they are very bad in terms of national security.

But I also understand that is politics. In terms of him being behind things, that’s politics. And it will probably continue.

All in all, for Trump, that’s a very low-key response. On one hand, there may be no real evidence that Obama is “behind” the protests and the leaks. On the other hand, Trump didn’t seize the  Fox question and use it to portray Obama as the treasonous puppet master, or even offer a classic paralliptical, Trumpian, I’m not saying he’s masterminding a coup from his bunker in Washington, just saying that I have heard people call him a treasonous puppet master, but I’m not saying that.

As for the so-called unsaid president’s code?

From Peter Baker in today’s New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Former President George W. Bush implicitly criticized President Trump on Monday, taking issue with his approach to immigration and the news media, and suggested that any ties between the new president’s team and Russia should be investigated.

But, he did accept the “Obama is behind it,” frame, even if he passed it off as politics as usual … for now.

In a television interview to promote a new book of his paintings, Mr. Bush indicated that important questions were raised by reported contacts between Russian officials and Mr. Trump’s associates during last year’s election campaign. Mr. Trump forced out his national security adviser for withholding information about a call with Russia’s ambassador.

“I think we all need answers,” Mr. Bush said on the “Today” show on NBC. He said he would defer to Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, about how such an investigation should be conducted. He is a “really good guy, and an independent thinker,” Mr. Bush said of Mr. Burr, “and if he were to recommend a special prosecutor, then it would have a lot more credibility with me.”

Like other members of his family, Mr. Bush did not support Mr. Trump during last year’s campaign against Hillary Clinton, although in public he largely kept his views to himself. Mr. Bush congratulated Mr. Trump after his victory and attended the inauguration last month, but the interview on Monday made clear that the most recent Republican president still had serious disagreements with his party’s incumbent commander in chief.

Although he did not mention Mr. Trump by name, Mr. Bush expressed disapproval of the president’s assertion that “fake news media” organizations are the “enemy of the American people.”

“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy,” Mr. Bush told Matt Lauer, the “Today” host. “We need the media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”

He seemed to suggest that language like Mr. Trump’s made it more difficult to press authoritarian leaders like President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to tolerate a free press. “It’s kind of hard to, you know, tell others to have an independent free press when we’re not willing to have one ourselves,” he said.

I await Alex Jones’ response.


Who’s bat-crap crazy now? Or how Ted Cruz learned to stop worrying and love The Donald



Good morning Austin:

In case you missed it, Sen. Ted Cruz appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

Here is a transcript of a particularly ripe passage:

LEVIN:  Let me — impeachment. Impeachment is a constitutional function. Yes, the left keeps talking about impeachment. I mean, they were talking about impeachment before the inauguration.



CRUZ: And, you know, I think impeaching Obama in January probably would have been a mistake.



LEVIN: So would retroactive impeachment be unconstitutional?


CRUZ: I don’t know, but it would be fun.



LEVIN: Let me ask you this question. Do the Democrats understand they need to control the House of Representatives to impeach somebody?


CRUZ: You know…

(LAUGHTER) … the Democrats right now are living in an alternative universe.





CRUZ: The week after the election, I was back at the Capitol. I was in an elevator at the Capitol with a well-known liberal Democrat, who was simply staring ahead in this complete stupor.


And that hasn’t changed.


LEVIN: They all look like that.

CRUZ: They are in denial. And they’re angry.

I mean, you and I were talking backstage before this. The anger on the left — I’ve never seen anything like it. I mean, they’re right now opposing everything. Democrats in the Senate are filibustering absolutely everything. This is the longest we’ve been. The Cabinet is still not confirmed. This is the longest we’ve been since George Washington without confirming a Cabinet.


They’re filibustering everything. We voted a couple of weeks ago on approving the journal. Now, Mark, I’m going to confess, I haven no idea what the hell that is.


I’ve never — I voted yes. I hope yes was the right vote.



Approving the journal is the most mundane procedural step. It is always done by unanimous consent. I didn’t know we did that until they objected to it and said, no, you’ve got to have a full Senate vote; everyone come down to approve the journal.

What that means if this continues, and from the left, their base — there’s a technical term for their base —

LEVIN: Moscow.


CRUZ: I was going a different direction, which was bat-crap crazy.



Right now, Democratic senators are more scared of their base than they are of the voters. Democrat — a liberal Democrat told me a couple of weeks ago, said listen, we’re afraid of being primaried. The Democrats took as a lesson of this election that Hillary was too moderate.



A couple of things here.

Let’s review.


They’re filibustering everything. We voted a couple of weeks ago on approving the journal. Now, Mark, I’m going to confess, I have no idea what the hell that is.

Really? I don’t think so. This is a guy who as a teenager memorized the Constitution.

From the Library of Congress.

Senate Journal

From its inaugural session, the United States Senate has kept a journal of its proceedings in accordance with Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution, which provides that:

Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the members of either House, on any question, shall, at the desire of one-fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.

Back to the Cruz conversation with Levin:

Approving the journal is the most mundane procedural step. It is always done by unanimous consent. I didn’t know we did that until they objected to it and said, no, you’ve got to have a full Senate vote; everyone come down to approve the journal.

In other words, Senate Democrats have become unduly, unreasonably obstructionist.

Says Ted Cruz, who made his career being the singular thumb in the eye of the other 99 members of the Senate – especially his fellow Republicans.

From Amber Phillips at the Washington Post in January 2016: Ted Cruz: Obstructor in chief.

In Washington and outside it, Cruz is best known for going to war with the GOP on everything from Obamacare and immigration to Planned Parenthood and the Export-Import Bank. Even though Cruz has never succeeded in actually blocking any of this, he has delayed them — and more importantly, raised his national profile considerably in the process.

In December, I detailed this incident a year earlier, when Republican leaders in the Senate headed home for the weekend thinking a spending bill would be put to bed on Monday.

It was a Friday night, and the spending bill vote was scheduled for Monday. Senate leaders had already gone home; some were on trains and planes back to their districts for the weekend when Cruz took to the Senate floor and demanded lawmakers go on-record for or against Obama’s executive actions to defer deportation of some 5 million undocumented immigrants.

His colleagues were not impressed.

Everyone had to turn back around. Cruz forced the Senate into a Saturday session. Senators on both sides argued Cruz ended up giving then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) more time to push through the president’s judicial and executive nominees. The spending bill passed anyway.

“I don’t see an end goal other than just irritating a lot of people,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah).

Hatch may have missed the point. Throwing a wrench in the Senate was exactly what Cruz wanted to do. Using the Senate’s procedural tool box to try to block or halt something he doesn’t like has been Cruz’s MO since day one, said Molly Reynolds, a congressional analyst with the Brookings Institution.

“He’s really displayed an aptitude for using the Senate’s procedural tools,” Reynolds said.

Back to Cruz and Levin.

CRUZ: there’s a technical term for their base —

LEVIN: Moscow.

OK. This one’s just too much to bear. All I can presume is that Levin was grasping for a quick witticism and fell back on a bit of reflexive the Democrats are Commies red-baiting from the golden age of 20th Century American politics.

Only Moscow now refers not to the USSR and the Commies but to Russia and its president Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGBer whose  ties to Trump and to trying to elect Trump president will probably be the subject of investigations for the next several years.

Levin’s quip was all the more odd because he has been quite tough on Trump’s odd kinship with Putin.  I simply don’t get that one.

But then there was Cruz’s follow-on retort.

I was going a different direction, which was bat-crap crazy.

Bat-crap crazy. About Donald Trump. Bat-crap crazy.

Hmmm. OK.

But, way back when, on May 3, 2016,  just about ten months ago, here is what Ted Cruz had to say about Donald Trump on the day of the Indiana primary which ended Cruz’s campaign.

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.


Let me finish this, please.

The man is utterly amoral. Morality does not exist for him. It’s why he went after Heidi directly and smeared my wife, attacked her. Apparently, she’s not pretty enough for Donald Trump. I may be biased, but I think, if he’s making that allegation, he is also legally blind.

But Donald is a bully. You know, we just visited with fifth-graders. Every one of us knew bullies in elementary school. Bullies don’t come from strength. Bullies come from weakness. Bullies come from a deep, yawning cavern of insecurity. There’s a reason Donald builds giant buildings and puts his name on them everywhere he goes.

And I will say there are millions of people in this country who are angry. They’re angry at Washington. They’re angry at politicians who have lied to them. I understand that anger. I share that anger. And Donald is cynically exploiting that anger. And he is lying to his supporters.

Donald will betray his supporters on every issue. If you care about immigration, Donald is laughing at you. And he’s telling the moneyed elites he doesn’t believe what he’s saying, he’s not going to build a wall. That’s what he told “The New York Times.”

He will betray you on every issue across the board. And his strategy of being a bully in particular is directed as women. Donald has a real problem with women. People who are insecure, people who are insecure about who they are — Donald is terrified by strong women.

He lashes out at them. Remember, this is the same Donald Trump who last week here in Indiana proudly touted the endorsement from Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist who served three years in prison here in Indiana for raping a 17-year-old girl. And in Donald’s world, he said Mike Tyson was a tough guy.

I don’t think rapists are tough guys. I spent a lot of years in law enforcement dealing with rapists. Rapists are weak. They’re cowards and they’re bullies. And anyone that thinks they’re a tough guy, that reveals everything about Donald Trump’s character.

Donald Trump said Bill Clinton was targeted by unattractive women. You know what? I have been blessed to be surrounded by strong women my entire life.


Today’s voting day here in Indiana. The president of the United States has a bully pulpit unlike anybody else. The president of the United States affects our culture. I ask the people of Indiana, think about the next five years if this man were to become president.

Think about the next five years, the boasting, the pathological lying, the picking up “The National Enquirer” and accusing people of killing JFK, the bullying. Think about your kids coming back and emulating this.

For people in Indiana who long for a day when we were nice to each other, when we treated people with respect, when we didn’t engage in sleaze and lies — and I would note one of the lies he engages in, listen, Donald Trump is a serial philanderer, and he boasts about it. This is not a secret. He’s proud of being a serial philanderer.

I want everyone to think about your teenage kids. The president of the United States talks about how great it is to commit adultery, and how proud he is, describes his battles with venereal disease as his own personal Vietnam. That’s a quote, by the way, on the Howard Stern show.

Do you want to spend the next five years with your kids bragging about infidelity? Now, what does he do? He does the same projection. Just like a pathological liar, he accuses everyone of lying. Even though he boasts about his infidelity, he plants in David Pecker’s “National Enquirer” a lie about me and my family, attacking my family. He accuses others of doing what he is doing. I will tell you, as the father of two young girls, the idea of our daughters coming home and repeating any word that man says horrifies me.

That is not who America is. And I would say to the Hoosier State, the entire country’s depending on you. The entire country is looking to you right now. It is only Indiana that can pull us back. It is only the good sense and good judgment of Indiana that can pull us back. We are staring at the abyss. And I have incredible faith in Hoosiers.


I love this nation with all my heart. I love the people of this country. This is not who we are. These are not our values. If anyone has seen the movie “Back to the Future II,” the screenwriter says that he based the character Biff Tanon on Donald Trump. A caricature of a braggadocios, arrogant buffoon who builds giant casinos with giant pictures of him everywhere he looks. We are looking potentially at the Biff Tanon presidency. I don’t think the people of America want that. I don’t think we deserve that. I don’t think Hoosiers want that.

More from Trump back in May 2016.

Ted Cruz is a desperate candidate trying to save his failing campaign. It is no surprise he has resorted to his usual tactics of over-the-top rhetoric that nobody believes. Over the last week, I have watched lyin’ Ted become more and more unhinged as he’s unable to react under the pressure and stress of losing in all cases by landslides the last six primary elections, in fact, coming in last place in all but one of them.

Today’s ridiculous outburst only proves what I have been saying for a long time, that Ted Cruz does not have the temperament to be the president of the United States.

I  attended five town hall meetings last week in Dripping Springs, Austin, Cedar Park and Pflugerville put on by the local Trump resistance groups, and the Trump that these folks are alarmed by is precisely the Trump described by Cruz last May, only no one at any of these meetings detailed their concerns about Trump with anything like Cruz’s specificity or first-hand experience.

Sure, the people at these town halls are opposed to the administration’s plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and build on border wall, and ban refugees and immigrants from certain nations, just as they would have opposed most of Cruz’s agenda had he been elected president. But, what has them panicked is that, unlike Cruz, or Rubio or Bush or the others, Trump is outside the usual bounds of behavior and norms of personality that Americans have grown accustomed to in their presidents.

He scares them, because he is, to them, very much the man Cruz described last May.

And, for better or worse, ten months later, Trump remains very much the same Trump. There is no reason for Cruz to think the Trump of today is fundamentally different from the Trump who he sought to take down, piece by piece, last May.

The big difference, the important difference, the huge difference, is that Trump is now president of the United States.

Which explains why Ted Cruz now finds virtue in a man in whom he once saw vice (and before that virtue).

Fine. Realpolitik and all that.

But, given his history with Trump, one might think that Cruz would not be so dismissive or derisive of others who shared exactly the same concerns about Trump that Cruz expressed with every fiber of his being just ten months ago, and did not simply jettison those concerns simply because Trump won.

So, in the spirit of healing, I have an idea.

Ted Cruz could do himself, the nation, President Trump and the Trump resistance a great service.

He should hold a Town Hall meeting  – a great big one – at which he explains why it is that he was wrong about Donald Trump last May, and why the Trump resistance is wrong about him now.

It could begin like this:

Hello. My name is Ted Cruz. I understand that many of you are bat-crap crazy about Donald Trump being president.

I completely understand where you are coming from. There was a time, not really all that long ago, only about ten moths ago, when I was bat-crap crazy about the prospect of Donald Trump becoming president.

Or, as Donald, I mean President Trump, but he was Donald at the time, tweeted, I “went wacko.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that I was wrong about President Trump then, and you’re wrong about him now.

He’s not a pathological liar who doesn’t even know when he’s lying.

He’s not amoral.

I’m sure I must have done something to provoke him to slur my wife.

And how do I know if my father was involved with Lee Harvey Oswald? I wasn’t even born until 1970 – in Canada. Who am I to argue with The National Enquirer?

Donald Trump is not a narcissist. Donald Trump is not a bully.

He’s our president.

That’s is, except maybe, Cruz, whose audience would now be putty in his hand, could close with a stage whisper:

And, if it turns out that this Trump thing doesn’t really work out, well you and me, we can always say, “We told you so.”

Rise of the Trumpenvolk: On President Trump, populism and the mistrust of expertise


Good day Austin:

I attended the Williamson County Republican Party Reagan Dinner Monday night at the Sheraton Georgetown. Very nice affair with a virtually full house of about 450 people presided over by the Wilco GOP Chairman Bill Fairbrother, who I quite like.

I first met Bill back in early October when I attended a debate watch event the WIlco GOP put on at the City Lights Georgetown theaters for  the second Clinton-Trump presidential debate.


I wrote at the time:

Bill Fairbrother, for the last 17 years the Williamson County Republican Party chairman, manned the table outside the screening, setting up and taking down the nearly life-size cardboard cutouts of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, distributing the lawn signs, and helping (Adrianna) Norman register for her husband.

Fairbrother thinks Trump righted the ship Sunday and set up the third and last debate as decisive in a race that he thinks Trump can still win because Clinton represents the status quo.

“He’s a rabble-rouser, but sometimes the rabble needs to be roused,” he said.

Fairbrother said he thought Trump’s capable performance would quiet griping from a chorus of national Republicans, some of whom have called for him to step aside as the party’s nominee in the last two days.

Fairbrother said he was disappointed that they didn’t have the 85 people who showed at the theater for the debate watch for the first debate, but said a lot of that crowd were older voters from Sun City, who had family obligations on Sundays.

This debate came a few days after the release of the Access Hollywood video, with Trump talking about grabbing women, that had seemed to once and for all have doomed his candidacy. But Faribrother’s confidence was well-founded, and Monday night he had 450 people at his dinner including a lot of  those Republicans from Sun City.

I sat at the only empty table, in the rear of the ballroom, where I was joined by a reporter from the local paper and two police officers.

Just before the speaking program began, Larry Gonzales, the state representative from Round Rock, caught sight of me and came to say hi and accuse me of “lurking” in the back.

As we were talking, just a few feet from my table, there was a little commotion back at the table. It turned out one of the guests at the dinner had been choking on her food, saw the police officers, approached them and signaled her distress. One of the officers administered the Heimlich maneuver, dislodged the food, saved a life and sat back down.


The dinner speaker was Karl Rove, who explained to the crowd that Fairbrother had asked him kind of late in the day to be the speaker but reminded him that he had a relatively new book out, and so, Rove said he agreed to come  and was going to talk about his book, “The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters.”




Rove was as good as his word. He spoke about William McKinley, with great, animated excitement for a full hour.

We learned about McKinley’s extraordinary Civil War heroism – three battlefield promotions.

We learned about the great nicknames of the politicians  of the Gilded Age and the grim gridlock that paralyzed Congress.

We thrilled to Rove’s recounting of William Jennings Bryan Cross of Gold speech that, all by itself, vaulted Bryan to the Democratic nomination to oppose McKinley in 1896.

But, as the speech wore on, I began to worry. I am old, but much of the audience was way older and, I imagined, had programmed Alexa to turn the burner on low to warm their milk right about now back in Sun City, and Rove showed no signs of slowing down.

And selfishly, I was obliged to write a story off Rove’s remarks, and I didn’t think news of McKinley’s crushing defeat of Bryan was going to work.

I began to think I might have to lead with the woman saved from choking and was ruing the fact that I hadn’t got her name, age, hometown and quote of thanks for the police officer who saved her life, and maybe something about how Rove’s remarks on McKinley were a revelation.

But then, 58 minutes into his talk, Rove said, of his book, “There are a lot of lesson for how we conduct ourselves.”

“Also there is a lesson in there for our administration.”

Thank God.

And Rove’s lesson for President Trump?

“Be concerned with the big things, not little things,” Rove said. “Be concerned with prosperity and paychecks and jobs, not the size of your inaugural crowds or the skill of Meryl Streep as an actress.”

“Why should we be surprised if the press gives a Republican president a bad time? It has always been thus. It will always be thus,” said Rove, the architect of George W. Bush’s successful campaigns for governor and president who now makes his way as a political and public affairs consultant, GOP fundraiser, political pundit and author based in Austin. “Don’t be defensive. Don’t be negative.”

“When complaining too much sounds like you’re whining, focus on the big things that people sent you there to do and when you do them, you’ll be rewarded,” Rove said. “You won’t be rewarded for declaiming the press. You won’t be rewarded for talking about little things or perceived personal slights. You will be rewarded for doing the things people sent you there to do. And when you do those things, don’t let them be obscured by this other conversation.”

(Karl Rove signs his book on William McKinley for Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield)


Good for Rove. Defending the press, sort of.

But then I realized, Rove is one of us – part of the media elite, and, right and wrong aside, in sheer political terms, I’m not sure Rove is right.

On Fox News this past Sunday, Rove said that “on substance,” Trump is “off to a strong start,” but that, in his epic press conference last Thursday in which he, once again excoriated the media, “he looked Pharaoh with a whip in hand, whipping those slaves, getting them to build the pyramids.”

But I think Rush Limbaugh may have been closer to the mark, that, for his constituency, Trump at the press conference was not Pharaoh lashing the Jews, but Moses leading his people to the Promised Land.

From Limbaugh:

So the CNN guy stands up and effectively asks — I’m paraphrasing Jim Acosta — “Don’t you think…? Don’t you think that these routine attacks of yours on the press and on the media undermining the First Amendment by calling what we’re doing ‘fake news’?

“Aren’t you doing a terrible disservice to the Constitution and to the American people by criticizing the media?” And there it was. Sure as I’m sitting here watching, there it was. They can sit here all day and not just criticize. They can try to destroy people. They can — using whatever power they think they have been granted by the First Amendment — go out and literally destroy people. Let Trump criticize the way they do their jobs, and all of a sudden it’s a constitutional crisis. Well, how about Obama trashing me all the time?

How about Obama trashing Fox News all the time? Was that not a threat to the First Amendment? No, they applauded that. They still do applaud that. They join in the attacks on Fox News — and, more often than not, they join in attacks on me, too. But they want you to believe that they are this watchdog and that they’re holding truth to power, that they’re holding powerful people accountable. They’re not doing anything of the sort. The press has gotten to the point where they need a watchdog, and it turns out that Trump is the watchdog!

Trump is the guy holding them accountable.

(“I inherited a mess.”)

Trump is the guy calling them out. I’ve never seen anything like this today. I have never seen it. We have wanted Republican presidents all of my life to deal with these people this way, and the only thing we ever got was Spiro Agnew. We’ve not seen anything like this, and Trump did it with an air of confidence and self-assuredness. He was not nervous at all. He was having fun with them. He was toying with them. It’s like if you got a cat. You know how you get these little laser pointers and you have a little kitten or a cat and the cat goes nuts chasing the light? It will run into a wall.

That’s what I was watching here today. It was just… It was fantastic, and the American people are gonna eat this up. Now, I said yesterday on this program that what I thought Trump could do to recapture and regain control of the narrative here, if you will — of the agenda — is simply focus on the domestic agenda. Just get in gear and very publicly start talking about repealing Obamacare, tax reform, building the wall, immigration reform. All of it. Just go full speed at it, and in the process keep people who voted for him on his side and they won’t care about whatever these efforts are that the press is engaging in with the intel community to undermining him.

And make no mistake. And he called this out. He accused Obama of running the shadow government. He accused Hillary Clinton and George Soros of being the people paying for people to show up and protest things. He held nothing back! He ridiculed Hillary Clinton for being in part of a deal that gave up 20% of our uranium supply and for having that cheap little red reset button when she became secretary of state. And each time he mentions Obama. He mentions… He didn’t say “shadow government” but he said, “Our opponents are doing what they can.”

He called all of this fake news. He was on spot with all this. You know, it’s hard to say. You get caught up in the moment. But this was one of the most effective press conferences I’ve ever seen. The press is gonna hate him even more after this, don’t misunderstand. When I say “effective,” I’m talking about rallying people who voted for him to stay with him.

“I’m not sure why people were surpised by this,” Wendy Rahn, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota told me yesterday afternoon.

Rahn was the co-author in August with University of Chicago political scientist J. Eric Oliver of the paper, Rise of the Trumpenvolk: Populism in the 2016 Election.

From the paper

Trump is the “populist par excellence,” with “a rhetoric that is distinctive in its simplicity, anti-elitism, and high degree of collectivist language. Trump’s supporters echo these sentiments, exhibiting a unique combination of anti-expertise, anti-elitism and pronationalism.

The year 2016 is indeed the year of the populist, and Donald Trump is its apotheosis.

("They don't know if it's true or if it's false.")
(“They don’t know if it’s true or if it’s false.”)

(P)opulists often employ a distinctive style, one that is simple, direct, emotional, and frequently indelicate. By flaunting the usual rules of engagement, the populist’s lack of decorum contributes to followers’ perceptions of authenticity, distinguishing the populist from the usual typical politician.’ Like a `drunken guest’ with `bad manners,’ the populist disrupts the normal dinner table, much to the discomfort, even alarm of the usual patrons.

This transgressive political style signals to the people that the populist politician will go to great lengths to protect her interests, even if it means bending or breaking the rules. To members of the establishment, however, the people-centric and pugnaciousness of the putative populist’s rhetoric is demagoguery, successful only because its listeners harbor antidemocratic sympathies. But to many lay followers, the populist’s distinctive antics provide a focal point to orient themselves, and criticism by established elites only serves to strengthen the bond between the leaders and his or her followers. A common identity and a sense of linked fate emerge through shared attachment to the populist politician rather than impersonal attachment to group members. By `performing’ populism, the psychological distance between populist leaders and their followers is reduced and the bonds among followers solidified.

Trump’s epic press conference was a bonding session with his volk, the elite press corps with all its so-called expertise was the enemy, and with every bit of condemnation that rained down on Trump for his performance, the volk-bond was strengthened.

And, as readers of First Reading well know, Trump and his volk have their own alternative facts and alternate reality in the world according to Alex Jones.


From Jim Rutenberg this week in the New York Times, In Trump’s Volleys, Echoes of Alex Jones’s Conspiracy Theories:

Way back on Friday, President Trump declared that several news organizations — ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, The New York Times — were “the enemy of the American people.” You know who’s not the enemy, in his book?

Alex Jones.


Where Mr. Jones’s content fits in Mr. Trump’s broad media diet isn’t clear. White House officials declined to talk about it in detail. (Hey, Mr. President, I’m trying.) But as Mr. Trump pushes full steam ahead on his effort to delegitimize American journalism, he is lending credence to a number of out-there Jonesisms, adding yet another “pinch yourself, this is happening” element to our national journey into the upside-down.

You can look no further than Mr. Trump’s description of the press as “the enemy of the American people” on Friday, which was reminiscent of Mr. Jones’s use of the same phrase in 2015, as Mr. Jones noted on Sunday on Twitter.

Two of the major internet tracking companies, Quantcast and Alexa, reported that in January Infowars had an average of around eight million (Quantcast) or 8.7 million (Alexa) global visitors, who viewed its pages nearly 50 million times. As of Sunday Quantcast ranked its traffic above that of the fact-checking site

Those numbers miss the audiences for his national radio show and his team’s videos on YouTube, where the biggest of his 18 channels has 1.2 billion views, and on Facebook, where they draw many millions of views. (One, by his editor at large, Paul Joseph Watson, lists 18.1 million views.)

Like Limbaugh, Alex Jones thought Trump’s press conference was one of the great moments in American political history.

There were a couple of clarifying moments that were replayed over and over in the days that followed.

There was this exchange with April Ryan,  a veteran White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Network.

TRUMP: I have great people lined up to help with the inner cities. OK?

APRIL RYAN: Well, when you say the inner cities, are you going — are you going to include the CBC, Mr. President, in your conversations with your — your urban agenda, your inner city agenda, as well as —

TRUMP: Am I going to include who?

RYAN: Are you going to include the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional —

TRUMP: Well, I would. I tell you what, do you want to set up the meeting?

RYAN: — Hispanic Caucus —

TRUMP: Do you want to set up the meeting?

RYAN: No — no — no. I’m not —

TRUMP: Are they friends of yours?

RYAN I’m just a reporter.

TRUMP: Well, then, set up the meeting.

RYAN: I know some of them, but I’m sure they’re watching right now.

TRUMP: Let’s go set up a meeting. I would love to meet with the Black Caucus. I think it’s great, the Congressional Black Caucus. I think it’s great. I actually thought I had a meeting with Congressman Cummings and he was all excited. And then he said, well, I can’t move, it might be bad for me politically. I can’t have that meeting.

I was all set to have the meeting. You know, we called him and called him. And he was all set. I spoke to him on the phone, very nice guy.

RYAN:: I hear he wanted that meeting with you as well.

TRUMP: He wanted it, but we called, called, called and can’t make a meeting with him. Every day I walk and say I would like to meet with him because I do want to solve the problem. But he probably was told by Schumer or somebody like that, some other lightweight. He was probably told — he was probably told “don’t meet with Trump. It’s bad politics.”

Ryan’s response was perfect.

But in the days that followed, all kinds of members of Congress, and reporters and commentators expressed outrage about the racism and sexism of Trump’s exchange with Ryan, that he was treating her like his secretary, that it’s surprising that he didn’t ask her to mop the floor, that how dare he assume that just because she is black that she knew members of the Congressional Black Caucus, like every black person knows every other black person in America.

But, I think for any elite-hating, anti-expertise observer at home, when Ryan asked Trump about the CBC, they had exactly the same reaction, Trump did – Am I going to include who? And when he asked her to try set up a meeting, they saw it as direct, practical and genuine.

And hey, the idea that it’s insulting to leap to the conclusion that April Ryan of National Urban Radio might actually know members of this CBC of which she speaks, is just the fake, politically correct poppycock of the sort that they elected Trump to dispense with.

Another big moment at the press conference was what I will call, Trump’s Shaming of the Obsequious Jew.

Trump’s exchange with Turx began in a way that any self-respecting reporter would dread.


QUESTION: Mr. President, on national…

TRUMP: Wait. Let’s see. Who’s — I want to find a friendly reporter.

TURX: Mr….

TRUMP: Are you a friendly reporter? Watch how friendly he is. Wait. Wait. Watch how friendly he is. Go ahead.

From Laurie Goodstein of the New York Time, A Jewish Reporter Got to Ask Trump a Question. It Didn’t Go Well.

The exchange began with Mr. Turx standing up from his third-row seat and gesturing slightly toward his fellow reporters:

“Despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting, I haven’t seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren. You are their zayde,” which is Yiddish for “grandfather” and often a word of great affection.


At that Mr. Trump nodded slightly, and said, “thank you.”

“However,” Mr. Turx continued, “what we are concerned about and what we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it. There’s been a report out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people committing anti-Semitic acts or threatening to——”

At that, Mr. Trump interrupted, saying it was “not a fair question.”

“Sit down,” the president commanded. “I understand the rest of your question.”

As Mr. Turx took his seat, Mr. Trump said, “So here’s the story, folks. No. 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. No. 2, racism, the least racist person.”


Mr. Turx tried to interject, realizing how the encounter had turned. He said he had wanted to clarify that he in no way meant to accuse Mr. Trump of anti-Semitism but instead intended to ask what his administration could do to stop the anti-Semitic incidents.

But Mr. Trump would not let him speak again, saying, “Quiet, quiet, quiet.” As Mr. Turx shook his head with an incredulous look on his face, Mr. Trump accused him of having lied that his question would be straight and simple.

Mr. Trump said, “I find it repulsive. I hate even the question because people that know me. …”

He went on to say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, during his visit to the United States on Wednesday, had vouched for Mr. Trump as a good friend of Israel and the Jewish people and no anti-Semite.

Mr. Trump concluded that Mr. Turx should have relied on Mr. Netanyahu’s endorsement, “instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.”

“Just shows you about the press, but that’s the way the press is,” Mr. Trump said.

This was truly dumbfounding.

President Trump is lobbed a softball, and he proceeds to charge the mound and beat the pitcher bloody with his bat.

Trump takes the bully pulpit literally, and it was as if, confronted by a fawning Orthodox Jew, he couldn’t hear what he was saying, but just couldn’t resist the impluse to bully him.

But, frankly, I couldn’t get past, You are their zayde.

For every zayde, there is a bubba.

I, of course, had two zaydes, three if you count a step-zayde, who married my mother’s mother afer her father died, 10 years to the day before I was born.

But, as Zayde Donald sunk in, it occurred to me that Ivana Trump is a bubba, and Melania Trump is a step-bubba.

Now that’s a reality show.




But it gets worse.

Much worse.

From Allison Kaplan Sommer at Haaretz: Neo-Nazis Cheer After Trump Shuts Down Jewish Reporter Over anti-Semitism Question: The editor of the Daily Stormer website dubs Thursday’s press conference ‘one of the greatest things I’ve ever witnessed.’

There was horror and befuddlement after Donald Trump slammed a young ultra-Orthodox reporter who first flattered the U.S. president by using the Yiddish name for grandfather and then pitched him a softball: a chance to speak out against incidents of anti-Semitism. But, as one newspaper put it, it didn’t end well.

In fact, neo-Nazis and white supremacists have enthusiastically applauded the exchange between Trump and Jake Turx of Ami Magazine.


At the website The Daily Stormer – named after the Nazi-era newspaper Der Stürmer – editor Andrew Anglin wrote that the press conference “was one of the greatest things I’ve ever witnessed in my life. From start to finish, it was simply beautiful. He blasted the media, the Jews, Mexicans, Obama – all of his/our enemies.”

Another Stormer writer, Eric Striker, honed in on the exchange with Turx in an article headlined “Trump Dismisses ‘Anti-Semitism’ Wolf-Crier, Identifies Fake Hate Crimes as Fake.” Striker seized on Trump’s assertion that anti-Semitic writings and graffiti were concocted artificially to make him and his supporters look anti-Semitic.

After another reporter Thursday followed up Turx’s question on anti-Semitic incidents, Trump said: “Some of it is written by our opponents. You do know that? Do you understand that? You don’t think anybody would do a thing like that?”

The president continued: “Some of the signs you’ll see are not put up by the people that love or like Donald Trump, they’re put up by the other side and you think it’s like playing it straight? No. But you have some of the signs and some of that anger caused by the other side. They’ll do signs and drawing that are inappropriate. It won’t be my people. It will be people on the other side to anger people like you.”

Trump’s words echoed the theory that the threats to Jewish community centers and other anti-Semitic incidents have been contrived to support the premise that Trump’s presidency is ushering in greater racism.

A former “imperial wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist, David Duke, has been promoting the theory to his followers. Tweeting a photograph of a Jewish community center that was evacuated in the latest round of threats, he commented: “I wonder who could be placing all those calls? Seems they’d be able to track that down rather easily … such a dramatic photo.”

Referring to Turx, Striker predicted in The Daily Stormer that “this lice infested ghetto Jew will be getting hardcore press coverage and made into a folk hero for a month straight or more. But on the bright side, Jews will gasp when they realize that A) nobody is listening to their fake news or celebrities anymore, and B) everyone is pretty damn sick of Jews.”

Zayde Trump, please.

But, as Karl Rove could tell you, this is nothing new.

Historically, American populism has harbored a strong strain of anti-Semitism, and even as distinguished a figure as William Jennings Bryan was skilled at simultaneously praising the Hebrew race and playing to anti-Semitic fears.

From Lawrence Bush at Jewish Currents:

Populist politician and frequent presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan made one of the most electrifying political speeches in history on this date in 1896. Speaking at the Democratic National Convention, Bryan railed against maintaining the gold standard for U.S. currency by declaring, “You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

To the extent that there was anti-Semitism within the Populist movement, Bryan’s speech fed mythologies about Jews, financial power, and Christ-killing. (He had earlier asserted on the floor of Congress that America could not afford “to put ourselves in the hands of the Rothschilds,” and that the U.S. Treasury “shall be administered on behalf of the American people and not on behalf of the Rothschilds and other foreign bankers.”)

Yet Bryan would also insist, in a speech to Jewish Democrats in Chicago who were troubled by his “cross of gold” speech, “We are not attacking a race, we are attacking greed and avarice, which know neither race nor religion. I do not know of any class of our people who, by reason of their history, can better sympathize with the struggling masses in this campaign than can the Hebrew race.”

Bryan’s last great crusade was prosecuting school teacher John Scopes for teaching evolution in the the 1925 Monnkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee. Five days after the verdict, Bryan, worn out by the trial, died in Dayton.

Here are a few paragraphs from deep in what H.L. Mencken, who covered the trial, wrote of William Jennings Bryan the day after his death in the Baltimore Evening Sun, July 27, 1925.

This talk of sincerity, I confess, fatigues me. If the fellow was sincere, then so was P. T. Barnum. The word is disgraced and degraded by such uses. He was, in fact, a charlatan, a mountebank, a zany without sense or dignity. His career brought him into contact with the first men of his time; he preferred the company of rustic ignoramuses.

It was hard to believe, watching him in Dayton, that he had traveled, that he had been received in civilized societies, that he had been a high officer of state. He seemed only a poor clod like those around him, deluded by a childish theology, full of an almost pathological hatred of all learning, all human dignity, all beauty, all fine and noble things. He was a peasant come home to the barnyard.

Imagine a gentleman, and you have imagined everything that he was not. What animated him from end to end of his grotesque career was simply ambition – the ambition of a common man to get his hand upon the collar of his superiors, or failing that, to get his thumb into their eyes.

He was born with a roaring voice, and it had the trick of inflaming half-wits. His whole career was devoted to raising those half-wits against their betters, that he himself might shine.



`Roger, Roger, Town Hall Dodger.’ Indivisible confronts a cardboard congressman.

Left to right, Dr. Rana Singh, Austin, Chris Mackey, Austin, and Linsey Young, Buda, before start of mock town hall at Flores Mexican Restaurant in Dripping Springs Sunday.



Good morning Austin:

I got to the mock Roger Williams Town Hall meeting at Flores Mexican Restaurant in Dripping Springs about fifteen minutes before it was supposed to start Sunday afternoon, and, were it not for my esteemed rank as a member of the Fourth Estate, and  the kind willingness of one of the volunteers working the door to let me take her place among the 100 that fire rules permitted on Flores’ porch, I would not have gotten in.

There were a long line of people who were not so fortunate, but watched from the lawn, or, went inside the restaurant for the occasional peek. Others, seeing the large crowd, simply left.

To call it a mock Roger Williams town hall is not quite right, though the double meaning worked for the purposes of the event. But the Republican congressman was invited, and, if he had showed up, it would have been a real Town Hall. But he didn’t and it was thus a mock town hall in which he was represented by a handsome cardboard cutout of his likeness.

Williams was also “represented”  by a Arthur Simone,  (” actor, artist and co-founder of Austin’s ColdTowne Theater. He graduated in Theatre from Oberlin College and studied improvisation at Chicago’s Improv Olympic”) who would come to the lectern to answer some of the questions posed to the cardboard congressman, sometimes reciting things that Williams had said, and sometimes not.

But, those vaudeville touches aside, the mock Town Hall was conducted with serious purpose in launching a week  that will see more of these in Central Texas and across  the nation during Congress’ President’s Day district work period – one of the breaks in the Washington schedule, once known by the far happier title of a Congressional recess, with its sweet image of members of Congress racing toward the see-saw and the jungle gym.

It had very briefly appeared last week that perhaps Williams was holding a Town Hall of his own Sunday evening.

From Friday’s Dripping Springs-Century News.


But that, it turned out was a misunderstanding:




Correction- In the printed version of the February 16, 2017 The Century News incorrectly listed Congressman Roger Williams’ visit to Dripping Springs as a “town hall and town meeting,” which implied open attendance.  Wally Kinney, President of the North Hays Republican Club (NHRG), stated that the meeting is a “private/member only meeting of the NHRG.”  The corrected version follows below. The story is a compilation of three separate news releases.

Dripping Springs’ Congressman Roger Williams (R – Austin), will visit Dripping Springs on Sunday, February 19th, from 6:30 pm to 8 pm, at The Church of the Springs located at 230 Sports Park Drive, as guest of the North Hays Republican Group (NHRG).

Wally Kinney, President of the NHRG, said, “The visit will be a private/member only meeting.  We encourage members to attend with their guests. Williams will give a report on what’s happening in D.C. and will answer questions from NHRG members and their guests. The Dripping Springs High School Republican Club will also be in attendance and will present Congressman Williams with one of their new DSHS Republican T-shirts.”

Instead the mock town hall had to suffice, and, while it was my first, it appeared to me to be so efficiently executed that it set the bar rather high for mock town halls to come.

Nice venue. Perfect weather, despite fears of the thunderstorms that came much later. Large crowd – more than twice the capacity – that arrived just enough ahead of schedule so that the event could start right on time.

There were a pre-scheduled group of questioners, plus time for other questions, and  all of which were serious in nature, as Mary Huber reported for the Statesman.

The constituents say they are concerned about changes to the Affordable Care Act, cuts in Medicare, regulations on big banks and immigration policies, among others.



To which Adcock added that, thanks to Medicare, his hands are neither cold nor dead.

There were a number of questions about the future of the Affordable Care Act from people for whom it is absolutely crucial.


“In her three and a half years, we’ve been in and out of Dell Medical Center for five procedures,” said Lance Langharr “How are you going to take care of people with pre-existing conditions?”

In each case, the individuals posing the questions identified themselves  by name and zip code, including sometimes their zip-plus-four, which is the level of specificity needed to demonstrate they were, indeed, the congressman’s constituents.

The meeting ended in song.

Gentry McLean of Austin's Northwest Hills leaves town hall meeting with her cardboard cutout of Congressman Roger Williams.
Gentry McLean of Austin’s Northwest Hills leaves town hall meeting with her cardboard cutout of Congressman Roger Williams.


Afterward, about 70 of the attendees drove a few minutes over to the church where the congressman was meeting with North Hays County Republicans, lined up across the highway and chanted in the gathering dusk, “Roger, Roger, Town Hall Dodger,” “Do Your Job,” and “Red Rover, Red Rover, Can Roger Come Over.”

Also, “I’m not paid,” a response to the accusation by some Republicans and Trump supporters, that the opposition is all on the payroll of billionaire liberal philanthropist George Soros.

This was what Vince Zito, Williams’ spokesman, had to say about the congressman’s decision not to attend the town hall meeting in Dripping Springs.

Congressman Williams believes in listening to his district and in doing so spends as much time as possible meeting with constituents and groups throughout his district.

Congressman Williams will always humbly listen to the thoughts and concerns of all of his constituents- he always has and always will.

And although he appreciates the invitation, he declines to attend the club meeting of the Dripping Springs Democratic Action and its associated groups

 I think if you closely examine the statements and missions of these groups, it’s clear that civil, substantive discourse on issues is not their true agenda.

Congressman Williams looks forward to continuing to fight for the issues that his constituents sent him to Washington to fight for, including: real tax reform, strengthening our military and rolling back the job killing Obama trademarks such as Obamacare and Dodd-Frank legislation.

Sunday’s mock town hall was organized by various Indivisible groups within his district, Indivisible being a movement that was launched with the creation of an on-line document, Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda, which originated with some former staffers to U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, and almost instantly swept a huge swath of the disconsolate left into action with local affiliates springing up everywhere.

The guide offered practical advice on influencing your local member of Congress, which is the unit of influence that the guide suggested was most practical and important. Indivisible has also issued a Missing Members of Congress Action Plan, on how to try to get your member to hold a town hall meeting, or hold one for your member if that member won’t.

Suffice to say, Williams is correct that the audience he avoided Sunday probably did not include a Williams voter among them. However, it is also true that they are his constituents and that it never looks good for a member to be avoiding constituents. But, practically speaking, it probably looks better to have them berating a cardboard  cutout of you, than you, on camera and on the news, however courageous that might be.

And, while the folks who showed up at Flores Sunday would love it if Williams shared their concerns about Trump, they generally consider him a hard case and would be happiest if they could somehow defeat him in 2018, a very long-shot proposition.






Williams’ response to the Dripping Springs town hall was relatively mild and circumspect.

Other Republicans have lashed out at the angry audiences they have faced at actual town halls.

How Republican members deal with town halls – real and mock – will, I think, be the big story of this week’s district work period, and, with neither of Texas’ two U.S. senators nor any of Central Texas members of Congress scheduling their own town hall meetings this week, the story of these mock town halls will serve as a stand-in.

Monday, Feb. 20

6-8 p.m. Cruz/Cornyn Mock Town Hall

Spider House Ballroom
2906 Fruth Street, Austin, TX 78705

Wednesday, Feb. 22

5:30-7:30 p.m. TX31 Wilco Indivisible John Carter Town Hall

Champion Park

3830 Brushy Creek Rd, Cedar Park, TX 78613

7:30-8:30 p.m. TX17 Indivisible Bill Flores Town Hall (Pflugerville)

Blackhawk Amenity Center

3111 Speidel Dr., Plugerville, TX 78660

Thursday, Feb. 23
6:30-8 p.m. TX10 Indivisible Michael McCaul Town Hall

Congregation Beth Israel, 3901 Shoal Creek Blvd, Austin, TX 78756

So, I think an important national story in the coming week will be conflict at town hall meetings, avoidance of town hall meetings, the politics of town hall meetings, and who is behind all the fuss over town hall meetings.

And, I believe that before the week is over, President Trump will interject himself into that conversation, and that he will blame it on Barack Obama.

Why do I say that?

Because last Thursday, even as Trump was delivering the press conference to end all press conferences, that was what Austin’s own Alex Jones was saying on Infowars in a conversation with New York Post columnist Paul Sperry, and generally speaking, Trump adopts Jones’ frame on these sorts of issues.

I quote the Jones-Sperry exchange at great length because, the experience of the last year has taught me that, with Trump, what happens on Infowars doesn’t stay on Infowars.

On Feb. 11, Sperry wrote in the Post, How Obama is scheming to sabotage Trump’s presidency

When former President Barack Obama said he was “heartened” by anti-Trump protests, he was sending a message of approval to his troops. Troops? Yes, Obama has an army of agitators — numbering more than 30,000 — who will fight his Republican successor at every turn of his historic presidency. And Obama will command them from a bunker less than two miles from the White House.

In what’s shaping up to be a highly unusual post-presidency, Obama isn’t just staying behind in Washington. He’s working behind the scenes to set up what will effectively be a shadow government to not only protect his threatened legacy, but to sabotage the incoming administration and its popular “America First” agenda.

He’s doing it through a network of leftist nonprofits led by Organizing for Action. Normally you’d expect an organization set up to support a politician and his agenda to close up shop after that candidate leaves office, but not Obama’s OFA. Rather, it’s gearing up for battle, with a growing war chest and more than 250 offices across the country.

Since Donald Trump’s election, this little-known but well-funded protesting arm has beefed up staff and ramped up recruitment of young liberal activists, declaring on its website, “We’re not backing down.” Determined to salvage Obama’s legacy, it’s drawing battle lines on immigration, ObamaCare, race relations and climate change.

A week later, on Saturday, Sperry wrote another story,,Obama-linked activists have a ‘training manual’ for protesting Trump

The training manual is the Indivisible Guide, which is self-consciously modeled on the tea party playbook of eight years ago.

And Obama’s bunker. I guess that’s his house which has been designated a bunker because, I guess, of some additional security measures on the president’s post-presidential residence.

Here is the extended conversation between Sperry and Jones last week.

PAUL SPERRY: Obama will be overseeing it all from a shadow White House located within two miles of Trump. It features a mansion, which he’s fortifying with construction of a tall brick perimeter, and a nearby taxpayer-funded office with his own chief of staff and press secretary. Michelle Obama will also open an office there, along with the Obama Foundation.


PAUL SPERRY: Obama is the mastermind behind the protests and the sabotaging of Trump. Trump’s hitting Hillary at his press conference today when he should be calling out Obama. Organizing for Action is what I look at in this piece for the Post. It’s listed on Obama’s post-presidency web site, one of only two organizations listed. The other is the Obama Foundation. In fact he’s going to merge the two together in this very large, very well-funded super-structure.


PAUL SPERRY: And he’s bitter about the election results, and he’s desperate to salvage his legacy, and that goes for everything from Obamacare to the Iran deal, and he wants to continue to advance the leftist agenda that voters repudiated at the polls, and so what he’s setting up here is a shadow opposition government, and it’s already wreaking havoc on the new Republican administration and its very popular America First agenda.

And there’s remnants of the Obama administration still deeply entrenched inside the Trump government, where they’re sabotaging him from the inside. Meanwhile Obama is building this shadow government that I talk about in his column, to sabotage Trump from the outside. So you’ve got saboteurs on the inside working against Trump, and Obama saboteurs from the outside.


ALEX JONES:  It’s like it’s not even hidden that they say they are going to sabotage his agenda. They’re going to throw him out of office. Michael Moore is saying he is a Russian, not that he’s a Russian agent, with no proof, and that they’re going to overthrow him.

ALEX  JONES: And  you’ve got former CIA people like Evan McMullin running around saying he’s a domestic enemy. I mean, this is like Twilight Zone.


PAUL SPERRY:   I’m a little worried if Trump doesn’t, and Republicans too because they are getting hit too at these Town Hall meetings, and really are going to get hit harder next week during the recess by these groups, by Obama’s group, OFA, primarily.


PAUL SPERRY: But I’m afraid if Trump doesn’t get out in front of this, and call it for what it is, actually directly call Obama out. Forget about Hillary, Hillary’s gone. His main concern right now is Obama. I mean the guy’s set up a bunker down the street from the White House..He’s got a mansion. He’s got an office. OFA, the Obama Foundation he’s setting up. He’s got his own chief of staff, press secretary. He’s setting up his own shadow White House, just within two miles of the White House .. This is something on the order of a civil war here.screen-shot-2017-02-19-at-9-42-10-am

PAUL SPERRY: He’s really gearing up over the next year or two to creating a huge, really well-funded, organizing and protesting infrastructure, that’s going to constantly go after and attack Republicans and this new administration.

ALEX JONES: Looking at this, studying history, I’ve not seen anything like this in U.S. history, I mean maybe the Civil War, like you say, has parallels, but this is a civil war by elements of the government, and bureaucracies and foreign governments, against the president, who is so clearly a populist, clearly Americana, going up in the polls. And I agree with you, at a gut level I am more concerned about this than anything I’ve seen in 20 years on air. They mean business, and I don’t disagree that they want to build this up over the next few years, but it appears they are making moves right now to try to topple the president.


PAUL SPERRY: Yeah, Trump and Republicans don’t know what they’re up against. I”m mean there’s no other precedent for this. No other president has stayed behind in president, at least not in 100 years, not since Woodrow Wilson.

ALEX JONES: And what’s scarier is you are the only one pointing it out.

PAUL SPERRY: Well, finally people are calling it for what it is, all these protests. This is a shadow government that’s behind it. But this needs to get into the mainstream media, but of course the media is behind the protests, so every time they get a video feed from one of these marches or protests, they play it over and over again to make it seem like this is this big grassroots revolt against Trump, but of course it’s not. I’s just artificially manufactured Astro Turf.

But no other former president has actively undermined a sitting president. Obama actually did that with the immigration ban on the terror-prone Muslims.

ALEX JONES: He also encouraged all these demonstrations, he says – you had it in your article – “heartening.”

PAUL SPERRY: Not just that, I’ve got transcripts in that story, talking about rallying the OFA troops and saying,  `GO out there and protest Trump, and I’m going to join you in a big way once I get back from vacation this year,’ and that’s what he’s planning on doing, and no other president has set up this kind of permanent protesting machine against another president. I mean we’re going to see over the next year or two, I mean people are going to see it for what it is, because once he gets everything in place, Obama I’m talking about, with his Chicago  presidential center, and OFA is going to be a part of that, plus he’s going to be in Washington with his  compound there, just two miles from Trump.

So how do we, doesn’t matter your color, liberal or conservative,

So the good news that even in cooked polls, Gallup and Rasmussen, his approval rating is up to 55 percent, up from around 40-something at the time of the election, so positive things are happening, people are getting his message but at the same time, obviously a very dangerous climate, I’m just really thinking as a father, as a citizen, as somebody who love this country and the world, with such a good president who is obviously doing what he said he was going to do, it’s like a responsibility that I’m going to have to be on the air, but we’re going to have to organize, running for office, getting involved in the street, organizing the listeners to call C-SPAN and other show. What else do we do. Go to these town halls, let folks know? I think what you’re saying is the battle has just begun.

PAUL SPERRY: Yes, definitely go to your local reps’, senators’ town halls, and call out these people for who they are. They’re OFA, they’re Obama, but they’re not representative.

ALEX JONES: That’s key. The media will lie and not tell you that the main push is Obama.

PAUL SPERRY: But the problem is most traditional Americans are nice people who do not riot or fight in the streets. They’re too damn busy holding a job to march in the streets, while the other side has nothing better to do, these radical, leftists protesters, these Alinskyites for Obama, and that’s the problem, because the leftists get all the attention on TV.


 So they go to these town hall meetings, they secretly record them and then they feed it to the media – CNN, MSNBC – they run it on a continuous loop and make it look like this is some big, sudden revolt against Trump, months after everybody voted in a landslide for his program and his policies. What it starts doing is seeding doubt in people’s minds who even voted for Trump, `Boy, maybe people want to keep Obamacare, maybe we don’t want to secure the border.’

It also gives Republicans cause to kind of second-guess their positions. Maybe we shouldn’t – after I met with my constituents – go back vote for this Trump legislation, maybe I  should reconsider this. Maybe the people are against this. That’s what Alinsky, through Rules for Radicals, trained them to do, and by the way, I looked up these IRS 990s for this group, OFA,  they are deploying an army of 32,000 well-trained Alinsky agitators, and they’ve got another 25,000 being trained to bully Republicans to back off border security and Obamacare, right now as we speak.

But these aren’t Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street rabble. These are professionally trained agitators who go through a six-week training program in Alinsky-style organizing, similar to the training Obama received in Chicago.

ALEX JONES: So now we’re seeing him go back to his former profession.

PAUL SPERRY: Exactly. He was never good at leading. He wasn’t even really good at governing.

ALEX JONES: That’s why he stirred up the country racially and divided it more than since the Civil War.

PAUL SPERRY: He’s a divider, and that’s the end game for Alinsky. Create chaos, civil war, and that will soften the ground for a revolution.

ALEX JONES:  Cultural takeover. Exactly.

PAUL SPERRY: And that’s what he talked about. Revolution.


ALEX JONES: It’s just so insane that this guy could become president, and then meanwhile, if you get past the rhetoric of the media, this guy is literally the unifier if you listen to his speeches. He’s totally the opposite.


I’ll tell you, the New York Post is one of the only good newspapers out there. What would we do without the New York Post, without Drudge, without a few other publications. I mean none of us are perfect, we’re just not out for civil war.

PAUL SPERRY: You’ve got to call in and email in your local reps to counteract the OFA, they’re flooding the switchboards and the inboxes of the reps and that will help cement their spines because you’ve got to offset and counteract what these activists are doing against Trump and in support to protect Obama’s legacy programs.

But this is really a crisis that’s developing because Obama is not just subverting the new sitting government, but he is subverting the will of the people – 62 million people who voted for Trump and against the Obama agenda.


Celebrating the Rag: Austin’s iconic underground newspaper


Gilbert Shelton


Good morning Austin:

I miss The Rag.

Of course, I only arrived in Austin in December 2012, so I missed The Rag, which published its first issue in October 1966 and its last in May 1977, by several decades.

But, reading Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper, a remarkable collection of more that 100 articles spanning what, for an underground paper, was its lengthy and hugely eventful eleven-year run, I miss it and the era it embodied and reflected.



On Sunday, the editors of Celebrating the Rag will be at the Austin History Center to talk about the book, along with the maker of an excellent documentary about the paper.

Event: ‘Celebrating the Rag’
What: Discussion, film screening, book signing
Who: Editors Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree, and Richard Croxdale, and film producer Glenn Scott
When: Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017, 2-4 p.m.
Where: Austin History Center
Address: 810 Guadalupe St., Austin 78701
Phone: 512-974-7480
Cost: Free and open to the public; Refreshments

‘Celebrating The Rag’ at the Austin History Center!

Editors Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree, and Richard Croxdale will speak and lead a discussion on the book, “Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper.” The book will be available for purchase and the editors will sign copies. Glenn Scott of Peoples History in Texas will screen a sneak preview of a new documentary film made about The Rag.

The event at the Austin History Center is free and open to the public. And there will be refreshments!

Background: Fifty years ago, Austin gave birth to the highly influential underground newspaper, The Rag. Noted for its unique blend of New Left politics and ‘60s alternative culture – presented with a hearty dose of irreverent Texas humor and psychedelic art — The Rag was one of the earliest and most influential of the 1960s-‘70s underground papers that spread across the country in what the New Yorker called “one of the most spontaneous and aggressive growths in publishing history.”

The book features more than 100 articles from The Rag’s 11-year history, plus contemporary essays and vintage art and photography. This collection captures the radical politics and subversive humor that marked the pages of this upstart newspaper between 1966 and 1977.



Here is some of an appreciation of The Rag by Austin novelist Thomas Zigal from The Rag Blog.

I came to UT-Austin in the fall of 1969 as a transfer student in my junior year. I had spent the previous year studying at a Swiss university, putting an ocean between myself and the Galveston County draft board, which had mistakenly classified me as 1A and began pressing me to show up for army induction and the prospect of Vietnam. (The 1A was eventually changed to a student deferment while I was in Europe.)

By the time I arrived in Austin, I’d hitchhiked around the Continent (including into East Berlin), Great Britain, Scandinavia, and yes, to Morocco, where the hashish was exquisite. So on my first day of class as a UT English major, I left Brackenridge dorm dressed like a walking Bob Dylan song (shoulder-length hair, a natty black vest over my t-shirt, a Moroccan ring, and brown suede Spanish boots of Spanish leather I’d bought in Barcelona) and wandered down to the Drag, where I encountered Alan Pogue selling The Rag. I was hooked after the first issue, and that underground rag became my guide star for the next several years.

The Rag was magnificent. Informative, hilarious, righteously angry when it needed to be, and the perfect melding of New Left politics and hippie dope-smoking, Hendrix-loving cool. I read every word of it every week and discussed the Serious Issues with my friends and classmates. It shaped my thinking more than any other publication at that time in my life, more than Rolling Stone or Mother Jones or whatever else we were reading. 

And while The Rag didn’t pretend that all politics is local, to quote Tip O’Neill, it did educate us about what was going down in Austin and in the rest of Texas, a place we hated and loved. Don Weedon’s Conoco station, the Austin cops’ hostility and indifference (whichever suited them), the undercover surveillance, the tear gas (I got a face full of it) down at the Capitol, the continuing emergence of Feminism, Black Power, La Raza, Gay Rights, Ecology (before it was called environmentalism), and all the progressive movements on the right side of history.


Celebrating the Rag is a luving homage to quite possibly the best underground newspaper of its era, selecting and reprinting The Rag’s greatest hits, but also providing excellent reflections and recollections written from the present day. The new contributions, like Alice Embrees’ heartbreaking “The Murder of George J. Vizard IV,” are fond and often very moving evocations of another time and place, with affectionate tributes to their friends and comrades.

But the writing is never maudlin or sentimental. And in his superb and informative introduction to the book, “Rag Mama Rag,” Thorne Dreyer puts The Rag in historical context, describing where it fit in the underground newspaper movement of the ’60s and quoting numerous scholars and notable observers who praise The Rag’s originality in a crowded and colorful field.

The secret was humor. The Rag had an edgy, irreverent sense of humor we all admired and shared. Even the letters to the editor were funny:

Fellow Trouble Makers:
I love you too, even if you don’t have chairs, or pencil sharpeners.
Enclosed is a check for $10. Buy something.
Bill from Waco

What an amazing era in an amazing town, and The Rag was there to capture the times and help change them. As the Rag writers explained at the recent 50th anniversary celebration, they would join the protest marches and boycotts, then come back to their funky office in the old University Y and write about what had happened. Participatory democracy, participatory journalism.

From Michael Hoinski, who wrote about The Rag for Texas Monthly in October on the occasion of a four-day celebration of the 50th year of its founding in 1966.

To most people, the story of Austin’s progressive streak begins in the early seventies, when the Armadillo World Headquarters opened, Willie Nelson moved to Austin from Nashville, and people started getting high on cosmic country. But Austin’s roots in weirdness extend even deeper into the caliche soil, to at least 1966, when a handful of members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the University of Texas founded the underground newspaper the Rag. The paper took aim at  UT’s administration, which was threatening drastic tuition hikes, among other ostensibly draconian measures. It also covered civil rights, the Vietnam War, women’s liberation, the Chicano movement, and unions like the United Farm Workers. In its eleven years of publication, the Rag would evolve into a national voice, playing a role in at least one major Supreme Court case and, as one of the first underground papers, becoming a template for the alternative newsweeklies that would follow, in effect influencing the business of journalism.
Jim Franklin

I had dinner with Thorne Dreyer at Threadgill’s this week. Here is some of what he told me.

One thing that’s different is the sense of community that was around the underground newspapers and, in some ways, I think the progressive blogosphere, or whatever we want to call it. It’s a bunch of people sitting in their cubicle or their home in their pajamas. There’s not that kind of connection. In some ways you can be connected in amazing ways but The Rag was a community center, always.

And it pulled people together in very personal and real ways. The layout sessions, there’d be 20 people in the office and artists would be siting there doing drawings. The Rag office was always a center of activity. It was where all the people who sold the paper came.


Dreyer said the office and the staff were all within blocks of each other on West Campus.

It was a real community.

The Rag was really the voice of a community that already existed.

It grew out of SDS.

The SDS group in Austin, the core group, were really a unique and special group of people and they were very close and communal and smart. They were smart politically, and they were serious New Lefties, and in general, very into the culture as well.

I think just being physically around other people is very important and the kind of collaboration that happens when you’re together.

The Rag was always intimately involved in organizing and then often wrote about the stuff that we organized.

It was never seen as just a journalistic enterprise. It was a very weird mixed bag, but it was always seen as part of the movement and an organizing tool, although it wasn’t an organizing tool in that it was a propaganda organ. It was very much not that.

I think Austin was unique. Austin always had this unique vibe about it.

It was always a center, not just for rogue artists and maverick politicos. And this was a time when this energy was exploding. The counter-culture thing and the music and the drug scene – drugs were incredibly important in this story and they aren’t told much. Drugs meant a very different thing than what they mean now. That whole psychedelic thing, the openness, the kind of Eastern metaphysical kind of approach.

But especially the critical thing was, number one, the commitment to participatory democracy, which was really at the core of what SDS was about, but also the idea that, which was unlike the old left and a lot of the left, which is that we had to change our lives, as well as being philosophical or ideological about how society had to change. We had to change the way we related to each other.

That was part of the time. The politics was personal.

Do these seem grimmer times?

Oh yeah. Totally different sensibility. There really was an underlying sense of joy, even when we were surrounded by people that opposed us. Even when there were fraternity cowboys who were antagonistic toward us.

The Rag was really centered around the University of Texas. Everybody lived within a few blocks of each other. The nature of the university community was incredibly different than it is now. The times, the economics.

You could go to school. You could drop out. There were people who were professional students, they would call them, who had been in school, out of school for ten, twelve years, and were in the community, and maybe they taught at some point.

Professors and students had more interaction. Students and non-students, there wasn’t this rigid line. People could live cheaper. I don’t think they felt the incredible pressure that students feels now.

It was a much freer time, they were free in their minds, the sense of possibility, right now I don’t think that’s possible, they’re just trying to figure out how they are going to navigate this.

I dropped out. I was a drop out.

From John McMillan’s  Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America








They banned Gentle Thursday, which made it a political event.

Kissing. Seriously.

What they were afraid of was that Gentle Thursday was changing the boundaries of the campus. People just did all these things they weren’t supposed to do. The University freaked out.’

It became political, because it was organized by The Rag and SDS. It also became political because it was banned.


Could The Rag exist today?

It was very much of its time. I don’t know if we could do that  now, because the world has moved so far. The technological revolution has just totally transformed things. You can’t even keep a traditional newspaper publishing in this day and time, even though our model had nothing to do with making money. Our model had to do with coming up with enough money every week to make sure we could get it out.

Here are the first two of three parts of The Rag documentary, which give a very good sense of the time and place.


And here are some gleanings from the film.



There was just a palpable sense of history. A sense that something very important was happening. You could feel it. Everything was just a little larger than life.




Democracy wasn’t about electing someone to office and waiting around hoping they would do something you would like. Democracy was about taking direct action.




Part of the ethic was that we were not only reporting about the news but we would make the news, so we would organize a demonstration, we would be at the demonstration and then we would come back and write about the demonstration.





There was a lot of stuff in the Rag that I didn’t understand, but I was very aware that what we’d later call the straight media were not giving us straight skinny. The underground press was needed,  and we had to protect it, no matter what it was printing.



We had room for everything. We had a motorcycle column.


We had artists on God knows what drugs sitting in the corner for hours.



Frank Erwin was the president of the University of Texas and it was his domain. He didn’t want any embarrassment to the university of the president of the United States, and I think he took personal offense that this newspaper even existed.

(note: Erwin was not president, but chairman of the UT board.)



You had SDS, which is broken into factions, so you’d have progressive labor, and, I don’t know the difference, the nihilists.



You had SDS, which is broken into factions, so you’d have progressive labor, and, I don’t know the difference, the nihilists. You had Marxist-Leninists. You had cultural people, like the Yippees – the Abbie Hoffman types. And then you had the political street people, called the Hotherf**ckers, socialist feminists, and then you had the awful Trotskyite feminists who were trying to take over women’s liberation in Austin.

They tried, unsuccessfully.

And then you had the lesbian separatists, who thought the planet would be better off without men entirely.


So imagine a room with these divergent views, and sometimes it would descend into screaming matches.


What I did at first was hang around and watch the process and the process was really mind-boggling.I had never seen a miracle of functioning anarchy, but that was The Rag.


So when they said this was a model of functioning anarchy, this was no joke. It had to function.


(On the most common way of entering the Rag office) We went in through the basement window … Maybe that’s why it was an underground newspaper, because it was in the basement.


And the political arguments that went on, i just flat did not understand.


Over time, The Rag became an important location for the rise of feminism.

It played a central role in the germination of Roe v. Wade

From David Garrow’s 1992 review of Sarah Weddington’s book, A Matter of Choice.

Abortion was illegal in Texas then, as in almost all states, unless a pregnancy threatened a woman’s life. In a few Texas cities, midwives or even a doctor quietly offered abortions of uncertain safety, but across the border in Mexico, where abortion was also supposedly illegal, some skillful doctors ran thriving practices for American women. Ron Weddington spoke with some friends, made a few calls, and on a Friday morning in the fall of 1967 Sarah and Ron drove south to Eagle Pass, Tex., and crossed the border into the Mexican town of Piedras Negras to meet an unnamed man wearing brown pants and a white shirt. They followed him to a small clinic with clean facilities and a pleasant staff. Ms. Weddington recalls that her final memory, before waking up hours later after the anesthesia had worn off, was of thinking “I hope I don’t die, and I pray that no one ever finds out about this.”

The 25 years since that traumatic but successful visit to Mexico have offered Ms. Weddington scores of appropriate opportunities to tell her story, but not until the writing of this autobiographical memoir did she disclose her own abortion to any friend or relative aside from her now former husband. Her 1967 choice allowed her to complete law school as scheduled, but to her dismay no law firm offered her a position.

Through Ron, who was still completing his own law degree, Sarah met several women graduate students, all active members of the political community that revolved around Austin’s “underground” newspaper, The Rag. The women were operating a birth control counseling and information project, and they also wanted to advise women with unwanted pregnancies about which Mexican clinics were reputable. They asked Sarah for free counsel as to whether they might be criminally liable for providing such advice. One of the women, Judy Smith, had been impressed by how easily The Rag had initiated a Federal court suit when the university had sought to prohibit distribution of the paper on campus, and she voiced a further question: Couldn’t the Texas abortion law itself be challenged in Federal court?

But, in the early days, the woman at The Rag mostly typed and …

When the sales were low on The Rag we would move our nude from the centerfold to the front page, or at least we were discussing this one night at a meeting planning The Rag., and some said, `Well, who’s going to be the nude, who’s going to be the next nude?’



And somebody else said, `What about you Sharon, you haven’t been the nude?” And there was something in me that said, “No,” and it was just a very rebellious feeling, but I didn’t want to pose nude to sell The Rag, and so I said, `No,” and somebody said,Oh, that’s just because you’re from Wichita Falls, you’re just being prudish.’ And I knew that wasn’t it. And I just heard myself saying, and it was unpremeditated, I wasn’t thinking about this, and I heard myself saying, `What about a boy?’ And the women and I exchanged looks, almost startled looks, because it was something we never thought about and I trace my feminist consciousness, and I teach women’s studies today, to that moment, because it was the first time I imagined an alternative to being someone who did the work, and was used for sex, or whatever.




Make the Constitution great again: On a Convention of States in the age of Trump

(Trump coloring book)


Good morning Austin:

This morning, the Senate State Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for a Convention of States, in which, under Article V of the United States Constitution, two-thirds of the state legislatures can call for a convention at which the Constitution could undergo some rewriting, though any proposed changes would have to then be ratified by three-quarters of the states.

Governor Abbott has offered the following constitutional amendments that he would like to see.

  1. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State.
  2. Require Congress to balance its budget.
  3. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from creating federal law.
  4. Prohibit administrative agencies—and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them—from preempting state law.
  5. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
  6. Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law.
  7. Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.
  8. Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.
  9. Allow a two-thirds majority of the States to override a federal law or regulation.

I don’t know how soon this could all happen, but the moment is ripe for Abbott’s agenda because Republicans are now in control of a record 67 of the nation’s 98 partisan state legislative chambers.

And let’s face it, if, for the first time in our history, we’re going to throw our hallowed Constitution open to some tinkering by the vox populi, let’s do it while the Big Guy is still in the White House to offer some leadership and guidance to the hoi polloi.

There will, of course, be naysayers, who think the big task ahead is keeping the Constitution we have and not worrying about improving it.

Here was Garret Epps writing in the Atlantic the very day after the November election (note: Epps teaches constitutional law and creative writing  (!) for law students at the University of Baltimore.).

The election of Donald Trump was, in procedural terms, scrupulously fair. I hold no dark suspicions of altered vote counts or intimidation at the polls. We may wish the Voting Rights Act had not been gutted by the Court; but the election of 2016 followed the law of 2016.  Clearly a large proportion of American citizens—not as many as voted for Hillary Clinton, but still, under our strange system, enough—wanted Trump as their president and now hope that he fulfills the loud promises he repeatedly made to the country.

But those promises are the problem. Donald Trump ran on a platform of relentless, thoroughgoing rejection of the Constitution itself, and its underlying principle of democratic self-government and individual rights. True, he never endorsed quartering of troops in private homes in time of peace, but aside from that there is hardly a provision of the Bill of Rights or later amendments he did not explicitly promise to override, from First Amendment freedom of the press and of religion to Fourth Amendment freedom from “unreasonable searches and seizures” to Sixth Amendment right to counsel to Fourteenth Amendment birthright citizenship and Equal Protection and Fifteenth Amendment voting rights.

Like an admissions officer at Trump University, he offered Americans a bag of magic beans and asked them in exchange to hand over their rights and their form of government.

Smiling, nearly 60 million complied.

A couple of months earlier, Epps had warned:

A Trump victory would render the Constitution as toothless as the Statuto Albertino of 1848 after Mussolini’s March on Rome. That’s not because Trump proposes violating this or that provision; it is because, to him and his followers, the Constitution is simply nonexistent.

But, I’m of a mind that, if you’re getting a heart transplant, why not, as long as you’re paying for the bed, have met the deductible and are already under anesthesia, go for a little brain surgery.

And, as of Monday, President’s Day, Trump will have been president for a whole month, and we’ve still got a Constitution.

Anyway, I’m sure if Abbott succeeds and we get a Convention of States while Trump is still president, he and his team of Constitutional scholars – Steve Bannon, Attorney General Jeff Sessions,  Stephen “The powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned” Miller, Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer – will be very circumspect in the kinds of changes they might like to see in our nation’s founding document.

Maybe, just a few little  tweaks

For example, in Section 1, where it delineates “The judicial Power of the United States,” just throw a so-called in front of judicial.


In fact, just go through the whole document, and wherever you see a judicial, or a judiciary, or court,  throw a so-called in front of it.

Simple stuff. Little tweaks.

Like the First Amendment.

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Great stuff. The Number 1 amendment.

But it could be even Greater.

Like that bit about or of the press. How about adding to that, but not including the fake media with its fake news.

I mean, why should we be protecting fake news?

Doesn’t make any sense.

And, you know, that line about the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances, just add at the end there, but not in numbers greater than the president shall have drawn in support of whatever policy these sore-loser Soros-bots are grieving about.

Now that would be a great First Amendment.

Oh, and, what is the story with the Emoluments Clause?

8: No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

OK. Quick question. What’s an emolument?

It sounds great.

Like adding maybe some gold leaf to the Affogato (vanilla honey baklava ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce covered in espresso coffee) on the menu at the Trump Grill.


But let’s look it up.

plural noun: emoluments

a salary, fee, or profit from employment or office.
“the directors’ emoluments”
synonyms: salary, pay, payment, wage(s), earnings, allowance, stipend, honorarium, reward, premium; fee, charge, consideration;
income, profit, gain, return
“his name alone is worth the emolument they’re willing to offer”

Wow. That’s it.

“his name alone is worth the emolument they’re willing to offer”


And, let me get this straight. The Founding Fathers thought that was bad thing?

What a bunch of losers.

Trump coloring book

In his State of the State Address, Gov. Abbott alluded to the fact that Trump can’t restore the Constitution all by himself:

For decades, the federal government has grown out of control.

It has increasingly abandoned the Constitution, stiff-armed the states and ignored its citizens.

This isn’t a problem caused by one president. And it won’t be solved by one president. It must be fixed by the people themselves.

That’s why we need a Convention of States—authorized by the Constitution—to propose amendments.

Rep. Miller, you know my support for this. I wrote a book on it.

More importantly, there are hundreds of thousands of Texans who are motivated by this.

The proposed amendments would include things like term limits, restoring the 10th Amendment, an amendment that reins in federal regulation and, yes, Rep. Workman, a balanced budget amendment.

We should demand that the federal government do two things. One: Fulfill important—but limited—responsibilities as written in the Constitution. And two: On everything else, leave us alone, and let Texans govern Texas.   

Sen. Birdwell and Rep. King, the future of America can’t wait for tomorrow, so I’m making this an emergency item today.

The governor elaborated on this on Glenn Beck’s show this week. (Note that in the show’s transcript, they’re on a first-name basis.)

GLENN: All right. Let’s go to — let’s go to something that I feel strongly about. And I’m afraid that there are a lot of Republicans now that have Donald Trump in office, they will say, “Oh, things aren’t so bad. We don’t really need this.” And that is the Convention of States.

In your state of the state speech, you spent a good deal of time talking about the Convention of States and why we need this. Are we going to — are we going to be added to the list? Are we going to be a state that is involved in the Convention of States?

GREG: There is such a strong movement in the state of Texas right now. I began talking about this when I wrote a book on it and started touring around the state of Texas talking about it. And there are well over 100,000 — I’m told, hundreds of thousands of activists. Not just people who have supported — but people who have actively engaged in the political process, who are taking the capital by storm. Educating the members of the House and Senate, that it needs to be done.

Remember this, and that is last session we had here in the state of Texas, the Texas House of Representatives did adopt the Convention of States platform. We — at that time, we were only a vote or two short in the Texas Senate.

I think we will have enough votes in both the House and the Senate to finally get this done and make Texas a leader in this process of the Convention of States.

Let me follow up as kind of a comment you were suggesting about Trump. And that is, remember this, for your audience, the problem that we are in now nationally is not a problem caused by one president alone. Yes, Barack Obama did more than his share to depart from the Constitution. But this is something that’s been going on for almost a century now. It goes back well before FDR who was one of the leaders of getting away from the Constitution. But it goes back into the 1800s.

So it’s been a process of erosion. Just the way you would see a river erode over time. Our Constitution has been eroded over time. So this wasn’t a problem caused by one president. It cannot be fixed by one president.

Simply because Donald Trump is in there, doesn’t mean our constitutional flaws are going to be fixed. Let me give you the most easiest example. And that is, I know you and many of your listeners will know the Tenth Amendment. We want a Tenth Amendment to be upheld. And that is that all powers not delegated to the federal government and the Constitution are reserved to the state and sort of the people.

Well, there’s a problem in the way that provision is written. It doesn’t specifically say who gets to enforce the Tenth Amendment. All we want to do is to add a clause or a sentence that says, “States have the power to enforce the Tenth Amendment.” That’s easy. That’s common sense. That’s something we can get 38 states, which is three-fourths of the states to agree upon. And it restores power to the states to enforce the Tenth Amendment.

STU: Hmm.

GLENN: We would like to have you back on. I know you have to go because you’re a governor I guess of an important state. But we’d love to have you on again. Because there are just so many things that need addressing. And you distill them so well. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, we appreciate your time, sir. Thank you so much.

GREG: My pleasure. Thank you, Glenn.

GLENN: You bet. You know, it’s interesting to me. And I wish we had time to talk to him about what’s happening in California. California, remember, they all made fun of us for saying we wanted to secede. Texas wanted to secede. And now, Slate and Atlantic and all these left magazines are all saying —

PAT: That’s not so outrageous. That’s not so bad.

JEFFY: Why it makes sense for California to leave.

PAT: Yeah.

GLENN: No. What makes sense is the Convention of States so you as a state are not being held with a gun to your head, depending on who is elected. We’ve got to stop this, now. Because I’ve got news for you. Trump can reverse all this stuff. You think the other guy is not going to come in and reverse all this stuff when they get in, of course.

PAT: And how about a constitutional amendment to take away some of that power.


PAT: Take that power away from some of these people. And just term limit them.

STU: Yes.

So here’s Glenn Beck saying this week, Simply because Donald Trump is in there, doesn’t mean our constitutional flaws are going to be fixed.

But here was Beck on Nan. 7, 2016, reading, approvingly and in its entirety, National Review editor Rich Lowery’s December 2015 piece, The Right’s Post-Constitutional Moment.

GLENN: (reading Lowery) No one will ever mistake Donald Trump for a student of James Madison. (laughter). The real estate mogul has demonstrated about as much familiarity with the US Constitution as with the Bible, which is to say none.

Trump has captivated a share of the Tea Party with a style of politics utterly alien to the Constitution. In the year of Trump, the right is experiencing a post constitutional movement and moment. This wouldn’t have seemed possible just a few years ago.

In 2010, the newly arrived Tea Party produced a class of constitutional obsessives like Rand Paul, Mike Lee, who were not focused just on what government shouldn’t do, but on what government couldn’t do and why. After the passionate conservatism of George W. Bush and the earmark happy excesses of a congressional Republican in the Bush years, the Tea Party rebaptized the G.O.P. in the faith of limited government and constitutional constraints.

If you weren’t down with the Tenth Amendment, you weren’t down with the Tea Party. Glenn Beck earnestly explored the Founding Fathers with his audience. It was a time once again of first principles. Rand Paul who sells autographed copies of the Constitution is a Libertarian. He makes constitutional persnicketiness, he takes it to a high art. Paul, by the way, is the guy who objected that closing down part of the internet, as Trump has proposed, would be unconstitutional, not that it has seemed to have made much of an impression on Donald Trump or anyone else.

Trump exists in a plane where there isn’t a Congress or a Constitution. There are no tradeoffs or limits. There is only his will and a team of experts who will figure out how to do whatever it is he wants to do, no matter how seemingly impossible.

The thought, “You can’t do that never seems to occur to him.” He would deport the American-born children of illegal immigrants. He has mused about shutting down mosques and creating databases of Muslims. He has praised FDR’s internment of the Japanese-Americans in World War II. In Trump’s world, constitutional niceties, indeed any constraints whatsoever, are for losers.

It’s only strength that matters. It shouldn’t be a surprise that he expresses admiration for Vladimir Putin, as a powerful leader who is highly respected within his own country and beyond. Trump’s call to steal Iraqi’s oil and kill the families of terrorists are in the Putin-esque key. For some, on the right, clearly the Constitution was an instrument, rather than a principle.

It was just merely a means to stop Obama. And it has been found lacking. Trump is a reaction to Obama’s weaknesses. But also to his exaggerated view of executive power. Trump rejects the former, but is perfectly comfortable taking up the latter.

Progressives have been perfectly willing to bless Obama’s post constitutional government. Trump’s implicit promise is to respond in kind, and his supporters think it’s about damn time. What he has done is to unmoor conservative’s populism from its traditional ideological commitments, including those to constitutionalism and limited government.

Pure populism is inherently intentioned with constitutional conservatives. The Constitution is a device for frustrating popular enthusiasms, as are federalism, checks and balances, and the rule of law. It’s why impassioned factions usually have very little patience for those things and why they are so central to checking government and protecting individual rights. If the right’s devotion to these things wanes, it will not only be a loss for constitutional conservatives, but also for America.

Rich Lowry. Really, really good and right on the money.

STU: And a huge part of the frustration, I think with people who work so hard with the Tea Party and work so hard to focus us on constitutional principles and limited government — I mean, just because Trump says things that you generally agree with, does not mean he gets to trample over the Constitution to do them.

Well, as Gov. Abbott told Beck: Remember this, and that is last session we had here in the state of Texas, the Texas House of Representatives did adopt the Convention of States platform. We — at that time, we were only a vote or two short in the Texas Senate.

That vote or two short was most especially that of Sen. Craig Estes, a Republican from Wichita Falls, birthplace of Greg Abbott, whose own bill, SJR 38,  pertaining to a Convention of States, will also get a hearing today.

And what is SJR 38?

A JOINT RESOLUTION rescinding each and every application made at any time by the Texas Legislature to the United States Congress to call a national convention under Article V of the United States Constitution for proposing any amendment to that Constitution.

WHEREAS, Over the years, the Texas Legislature has approved resolutions officially applying to the Congress of the United States to call a convention, under the terms of Article V of the Constitution of the United States, to offer various amendments to that Constitution; and

WHEREAS, While no Article V amendatory convention has yet taken place thus far in American history, nevertheless, there is a very real possibility that one, or more than one, could be triggered at some point in the future; and

WHEREAS, Regardless of their age, such past applications from Texas lawmakers remain alive and valid until such time as they are later formally rescinded; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the 85th Legislature of the State of Texas, Regular Session, 2017, hereby officially rescinds, repeals, revokes, cancels, voids, and nullifies any and all applications from Texas legislators prior to the 85th Legislature, Regular Session, 2017, that apply to the United States Congress for the calling of a convention, pursuant to Article V of the United States Constitution, regardless of how old such previous applications might be, and irrespective of what subject matters such applications pertained to; and, be it further


Rescinds, repeals, revokes, cancels, void, and nullifies.

What about annuls, quashes, invalidates, abrogates, overrules and vacates?

And what so outrages, upsets, annoys, vexes, riles and disturbs Sen. Estes about a Convention of States?

From Brandi Grissom last January in the Dallas Morning News:

Last year, House legislators filed measures calling for such a convention. State Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, unleashed a screed against the proposal when it came before the Senate State Affairs Committee in May. He compared the idea to “a petulant teenager who’s lost a few basketball games and plans to burn down the gymnasium.”

“The constitution has served us well for over 200 years. The problem is not the constitution,” Estes said, adding that the solution is to elect more conservative lawmakers. “Slap a bumper sticker for Ted Cruz on your car and get after it and knock yourself out.”

Estes went on to promise a filibuster if the measure came to the Senate floor.

But that was before Donald Trump defeated Ted Cruz (and Hillary Clinton) and Gov. Abbott declared the convening of a Convention of States an emergency.

Brendan Steinhauser on how the left borrowed his Tea Party playbook


Good morning Austin:

Eight years ago Sunday, CNBC’s Rick Santelli went on a rant on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange that is credited with launching the Tea Party Movement.

SANTELLI: We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July.

The very next day, Brendan Steinhauser, then a 27-year-old organizer with the organization FreedomWorks, headed by former Texas congressman and House Majority Leader Dick Armey, wrote a post on his blog that, while less well-known than Santelli’s rant, had a far more profound and long-lasting effect on building the Tea Party Movement

How to Organize Your Own “Tea Party” Protest
The Conservative Revolution ^ | 2-21-2009 | Brendan Steinhauser
Posted on 2/20/2009, 10:44:43 PM by bstein80

The internet is abuzz with chatter about organizing protests around the country to put an end to this madness on Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. But I’ve talked to many people out there who have never organized a protest, and so they don’t have a clue where to begin.

Here are 10 simple steps that you can follow to organize a protest in your own community. If you want more help, just send me an email at and I’ll work with you one on one to help make your protest a success.

1. Pick a location, date and time in your town. I’d suggest main street at an intersection with lots of traffic.

2. Tell your friends, family, co-workers and everyone else you know about the protest. Build an rsvp email list so that you can provide quick updates if something changes. You should also create a facebook group so that the group can communicate with one another.

3. Make 5-10 signs with legible slogans that send a clear message to the public and the media. Write in BIG LETTERS.

4. Call your local talk radio hosts and ask them to announce the location, date and time on the air for a few days leading up to the protest. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper announcing the protest. Email the bloggers in your area and ask them to post a notice about the protest.

5. Write a press release and email, mail and fax copies to the local tv stations, radio stations and newspapers. Call the reporters that cover local events or politics and leave messages on their voice mail.

6. On the day of your protest, show up with your group, be loud, visible, happy and engage the public. Wave your signs, make lots of noise and move around to get attention. If reporters interview you, give them some good sound bytes for their stories. Stay on message and keep your answers short and coherent.

7. Bring sign-in sheets to capture the names, emails and phone numbers of everyone who attends the protest and/or says that they support what you are doing. You will then have a big list of people that can plan the next, much bigger and louder, event. Also bring handouts with one page of quick facts about why you are protesting in the first place.

8. Add your pictures, video and an after-action report to your facebook group, and send this stuff to the bloggers and reporters that you originally contacted. Ask them to post the photos, story and video.

9. Thank everyone who attended via email and phone, and set up a meeting to plan your next event. Now you have a list of people in your community that can help make the next protest huge. Encourage everyone to commit to bring at least one friend to the next protest.

10. Organize a carpool and go find a friend in your neighboring town or county and help them organize a protest there. You and your people are now veterans and should be able to keep the momentum going around your area.

Email me if you have any questions or want some ideas for signs.

Good luck!

It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds. — Samuel Adams

From Jane Mayer’s 2016 book, Dark Money: The Hidden History Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.

In looking back, Armey gave particular credit to a young aide name Brendan Steinhauser, the group’s director of federal and state campaigns, who created a Web site immediately after Santelli’s rant that provided all kinds of practical  advice to supporters.  It counseled them on how to plan rallies  and what issues to protest, with Obama’s stimulus spending high on the target list. He also suggested slogans and signs and sponsored a daily conference call with over 50 Tea Party activists around the country to coordinate their efforts. Soon Freedomworks was providing a professional support team of nine for the operation. Armey recalled that Steinhauser “spent hours and hours on the phone with people who’d found the FreedomWorks Web site. The other guys at FreedomWorks were laughing at him” in the beginning, he said. But Armey described how Steinhauser organized the inchoate anger into a mass political movement. “He told them what to do. He gave them training. If it hadn’t been for FreedomWorks, the Tea Party movement would have never taken off,” Armey said later.



From Meet the Press Sunday:


Let me ask you this, Senator, we’ve seen a lot of anti-Trump activism over the last three weeks. Once again, every Saturday of his presidency so far we’ve seen some protests. There’s a lot of energy in the progressive movement. But there’s a lot of debate about what Democrats should do about it. First of all, do you believe this is a Tea Party for the left? And, if so, what lessons did you learn in ’09 that you think can be learned by the Democrats now?


No, it’s not a Tea Party because the Tea Party was essentially funded by the billionaire Koch brothers family. This is a spontaneous and grassroots uprising of the American people. And let me just mention to you, Chuck, you may be the first to hear this, on February 25th, two weeks from yesterday there is, in fact, going to be rallies all over this country.

Later on the same show, former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, responded to Sanders.


Follow the money. Follow the money. You know, Senator Sanders mentioned the money going to the Tea Party. The money is going to the Bernie Sanders wing. Do you think all these protests are not being paid?


But the thing is–


Can I just say– By the way, everybody always thinks–


But paid protests–


It takes money to coordinate these protests.


No it doesn’t. It takes the internet. It takes the internet to coordinate. But, you know what, this is political–


No, it takes money.

Sanders’ refusal to accept that the Tea Party was, in its origins, a genuinely grassroots movement, and McCrory’s equal and opposite refusal to accept that the outpouring of grassroots opposition to Trump is genuine, are both wrong.

The best evidence is the Indivisible Guide, the handbook for grassroots action on the left that, since its creation late last year, has become the practical Bible for the Trump resistance, and makes plain from the outset that it is borrowing the Tea Party playbook.

(Here is a story and a First Reading I wrote on the Indivisible Guide’s Austin roots, and a story from Sunday’s Statesman on how local folks are making use of it.)

From the introduction to the guide:

Donald Trump is the biggest popular vote loser in history to ever call himself President-Elect. In spite of the fact that he has no mandate, he will attempt to use his congressional majority to reshape America in his own racist, authoritarian, and corrupt image. If progressives are going to stop this, we must stand indivisibly opposed to Trump and the members of Congress (MoCs) who would do his bidding. Together, we have the power to resist — and we have the power to win.

We know this because we’ve seen it before. The authors of this guide are former congressional staffers who witnessed the rise of the Tea Party. We saw these activists take on a popular president with a mandate for change and a supermajority in Congress. We saw them organize locally and convince their own MoCs to reject President Obama’s agenda. Their ideas were wrong, cruel, and tinged with racism — and they won. 

We believe that protecting our values, our neighbors, and ourselves will require mounting a similar resistance to the Trump agenda — but a resistance built on the values of inclusion, tolerance, and fairness. Trump is not popular. He does not have a mandate. He does not have large congressional majorities. If a small minority in the Tea Party can stop President Obama, then we the majority can stop a petty tyrant named Trump.

To this end, the following chapters offer a step-by-step guide for individuals, groups, and organizations looking to replicate the Tea Party’s success in getting Congress to listen to a small, vocal, dedicated group of constituents. The guide is intended to be equally useful for stiffening Democratic spines and weakening pro-Trump Republican resolve.

We believe that the next four years depend on Americans across the country standing indivisible against the Trump agenda. We believe that buying into false promises or accepting partial concessions will only further empower Trump to victimize us and our neighbors. We hope that this guide will provide those who share that belief useful tools to make Congress listen.




Steinhauser is getting his props for his role in creating the template now being used by his ideological opposites

From a Feb 5 story by Kate Zernike, New York Times –  Trump Protesters Borrow From Tea Party to Put Pressure on Lawmakers.

“We borrowed the organizing and taking to the streets from the left. They’re borrowing the showing up outside offices and doing legislative contact from us,” said Brendan Steinhauser, who helped organize and train Tea Partyers as a staff member of FreedomWorks, a libertarian group in Washington.


“For the right, Barack Obama represented an existential threat to the American way of life. And for the left, Donald Trump represents an existential threat to the American way of life,” Mr. Steinhauser said. “And I take the current protesters at their word that they’re that afraid and concerned about the changes Trump is going to make very quickly.”

Two days later, Steinhauser was on Meet the Press Daily with Katy Tur.

TUR:  So, what can each side learn from the other?  So, what can the left right now learn from how the Tea Party deployed their tactics pretty successfully in the 2010 midterms? 

STEINHAUSER:  Sure.  Well, one of the things that I`ve been thinking about is how the left is going to have a challenge and it needs to make sure that it expels any radicals from its midst.  You know, whether they aresocialist or anarchist or communist.  People that are destroying public property, that are destroying Starbucks, or, you know, destroying an ATM machine at Bank of America, they really need to self-police to make sure that they don`t say that that`s OK.

Because, you know, we`ve dealt with crazy folks, too, that try to infiltrate our movement or the Lyndon LaRouche crowd who would come into our protests, and we would self-police and say, you`re not a part of this.  You`re not allowed to be here.  So, that`s important for a mass movement to maintain public support.

I also think they need to go ahead and ask Lena Dunham to exit stage left.  She`s been a disaster as a messenger for them.  She offends middle America, talking about not having had the opportunity to have an abortion.  Things like that alienate people.

For the Democrats to be successful, for the left to be successful in this movement, they really do have to go back to winning back the voters that actually voted for Barack Obama, in places like Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania, and then decided to vote for Donald Trump.  They need to appeal to middle America, to white working class voters, in particular.  The folks that Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump.  And that`s really the challenge that they face. 

Well, so long to Lena Dunham and the Starbucks-smashing anarchists, but the socialists aren’t going anywhere. After all, a socialist gave Hillary Clinton a run for her money in the Democratic Party nominating contest last year, and, who knows, might have been elected president in a one-on-one with Donald Trump.

The next day, Steinhauser did an interview  with Rachel Martin on NPR’s Morning Edition.

MARTIN: So it’s not enough to just make signs, march in the streets.

STEINHAUSER: That’s right. In fact, I remember one of the big rallies we had in Washington at the Capitol. There were thousands of people there. And I was on the microphone, and I said, now, everyone, head over to these buildings on the left and on the right of the Capitol dome and go see your senators. Go see your representatives, and tell them to vote no on Obamacare.

And so really encouraging folks to go from the protesting into the offices to sit down with legislators and their staff really is that next step that actually has the biggest impact on public policy.

MARTIN: Do you think Democrats are as powerless now as Republicans were in 2008, when the Tea Party started to get a little bit of traction?

STEINHAUSER: I do. You look at the election of 2008, and Republicans and conservatives were very much out of power. They were watching this new president come in and propose a trillion dollars in new spending. And so there really wasn’t a good alternative to going out and protesting. And so that was the way that we were able to galvanize the opposition. And it took about a year and a half to really turn that mass movement into a political force into the elections of 2010, where Republicans and conservatives were very successful.

Steinhauser is now 35. He is a political consultant in Austin, whose clients include U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul of Austin. He managed Sen. John Cornyn’s 2014 re-election campaign. He lost a bid to chair the Travis County Republican Party last fall because he would not endorse Donald Trump for president and he remains very concerned about Trump’s “strong man” approach and desire to consolidate power as antithetical to his own brand of libertarian conservatism.

He thinks that the new resistance to Trump could, on particular civil liberties and other constitutional issues, find allies on the right, and, with the right approach, influence Sens. Ted Cruz, Cornyn and others. He also think that the Trump presidency could, or should, lead the left to a new appreciation for the Tenth Amendment and efforts to decentralize power from Washington to the states.

From some recent conversations with Steinhauser.

BS: I’ll be honest with you. I really do want a healthy opposition. I just wish it wasn’t just on the left.


The old-fashioned forms of communication are actually back in vogue because the other forms are so impersonal. So sitting down and talking with a staff member, getting them on the phone and talking through it, being polite, being concise. That gets recorded, that weighs on them.


You have to give your people little wins. You can’t constantly lose. I looked at their call to action page in Austin. Today is Betsy DeVos, Tomorrow is Jeff Sessions. But you’re going to lose, lose, lose.

You’ve really got to spend your time training, teaching, going back to philosophy, issue education, then do, `how to lobby your congressman, `how to write a letter to the editor, “how to write and Op-ed.’

I did literally over 1000 trainings around the country in my time a FreedomWorks and did the same training over and over and over again and I never had someone come up to me and say, `Brendan, I already kind of knew that, I didn’t learn anything new,” and it was basic stuff.


How to actually  host a protest in your community, step 1 through to step 10. How to deal with local media.. Sit down and talk. Don’t be afraid of them.


Make sure you sign up everybody when they come to a press conference so you  have phone numbers, email addresses and zip codes. Just kind of simple stuff, basic building blocks of how to build a movement, how to use  rallies to not only to get earned media, but recruit people, drive a message.


So they really just need to  sit down and do basic grassroots communication to your elected officials. That’s really worthwhile.




And then you also kind of spread out the fight, so you’re not constantly fighting, you’re building social cohesion, fun stuff. So go see a movie together, go have meals together. You can’t underestimate that, the band of brothers aspect.



Steinhauser said the staffs with the senators and members of Congress know what’s happening now is for real.

They see he volume of calls and they know it’s not  just paid people or Astro Turf.

This is organic. That picture (of the Women’s March) at the Capitol in Austin. Democrats aren’t that well organized, and Progress Texas isn’t that well organized. That’s real.

Thousands, some officials putting the number between 40-50,000, attended the Women's March on Austin Saturday afternoon January 21, 2017, joining other movements across the country to stands up for women's rights. The masses marched from the Texas Capitol through the streets of downtown and returning to the Capitol grounds for speeches and entertainment. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
(Thousands, some officials putting the number between 40-50,000, attended the Women’s March on Austin Saturday afternoon January 21, 2017, joining other movements across the country to stands up for women’s rights. The masses marched from the Texas Capitol through the streets of downtown and returning to the Capitol grounds for speeches and entertainment.


Republicans should not make the same mistake Democrats did. Nancy Pelosi did say that we were are a bunch of racist, AstroTurfing tea-baggers and it pissed people off. And they  were motivated.

It’s kind of like the deplorables comment. It motivated people.

From Steinhauser’s interview with Katy Tur:

In fact, Nancy Pelosi famously referred to us as Astro Turf.  And when we showed up with 500,000 Tea Party protesters on September 12, 2009, I said into the crowd, ou know, we`ve replaced the grass on the west lawn of the Capitol with AstroTurf.  And that got a big cheer because people understood that we were being denigrated, we were being insulted, and I really think that, you know, that you have to – you have to encourage participation, even if you disagree with those that are going out and protesting.

They had every right to do that. Democrats and liberals are out of power, so that`s what we should expect them to do, and it`s up to conservatives to make the case why we`re right and they`re wrong



Bagging a unicorn: Texas mom gets 8 years for illegally voting for Ken Paxton



Good Monday Austin:

That is Rosa Maria Ortega in the photo above, with her brother and her four children (I assume the fifth child in the photo is her brother’s). Last Wednesday, Ortega, a legal permanent of resident of the United States who had lived in Texas since she was an infant, but was not a citizen, was sentenced to eight years in prison for illegally voting in Dallas County.

There was no assertion that Ortega was part of any scheme to swing the election, or any organized effort at all. Her illegal votes were for Mitt Romney for president and Ken Paxton in his primary runoff for attorney general against Dan Branch. Her illegal voting appeared to be the consequence of genuine confusion about whether she could vote, and, what in retrospect, seems a pathetic sense of civic duty.

From  Mitch Mitchell at the Fort Worth Star Telegram

In a case that state Attorney General Ken Paxton said “shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure,” a Grand Prairie woman who isn’t a U.S. citizen was sentenced to eight years in prison Thursday for voting illegally.

A Tarrant County jury handed down the sentence after finding Rosa Maria Ortega, 37, guilty Wednesday of voting in Dallas County in the 2012 general election and the 2014 Republican primary runoff. Ortega has a green card.

“This case shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure, and the outcome sends a message that violators of the state’s election law will be prosecuted to the fullest,” Paxton said in an emailed statement. “Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is essential to preserving our democracy.”

Ortega, a mother of four children ages 12 to 16, was sentenced to eight years in prison and fined $5,000 on each of two counts of illegal voting. The sentences will be served concurrently.

Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson said voting is a fundamental right for U.S. citizens that must be fought for and protected.

“At a minimum, statements made in applications to vote should be verified before handing out voter registration cards,” Wilson said. “In all aspects of society, people verify their identity. Why not for voting? This case shows a clear need to enforce the laws we already have.”

Ortega will be eligible for parole after she serves two years in prison, her attorney, Clark Birdsall, said, but she will be immediately deported after she finishes her sentence.

From Breitbart, Nov. 9, 2015, when the case was brought:

‘Protecting the integrity of elections is essential to our democracy and a top priority of my administration,” said Attorney General Ken Paxton in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas from the Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG). “As long as there are criminals seeking to exploit our system of elections, we stand ready to investigate, prosecute and restore confidence that the will of the people of Texas is heard.”

From Michael Wines  last week in the New York Times.

Ms. Ortega is now in a Fort Worth jail awaiting transfer to a state prison. Her four children, ages 13 to 16, are being cared for by siblings and her fiancé, Oscar Sherman, 27, a trucker who said her arrest had scotched their plans to marry. The children’s fate is unclear. Mr. Sherman lacks legal custody; her siblings are still debating their options.

Ms. Ortega’s future is bleak. The federal government frowns on giving green cards to felons. “She’ll do eight years in a Texas prison,” Mr. Birdsall said. “And then she’ll be deported, and wake up blinking and scratching in a country she doesn’t know.”

Her life is ruined.

Birdsall said her four children are now with their birth father, who, he said, has not been part of their lives for a long time.

But, a message has been sent.

Yes, and in Singapore, if you are visiting foreigner who overstays your visa by more than 90 days  you will pay a price (caning), “a measure designed to deter illegal immigrant workers.” And in Saudi Arabia, you may pay a price (death by stoning) for adultery, if you are the woman in the affair (for the man, 100 lashes), though two years ago, after an international outcry, the softies in Saudi Arabia “reduced a Sri Lankan woman’s sentence for adultery from death by stoning to a three-year jail term after an appeal.”

I talked yesterday with Clark Birdsall, Ortega’s attorney:

Let me put it in perspective for you. The real evil, if there is any, in election fraud, occurs in the process known as ballot harvesting. It’s something where people assist elderly and handicapped people to apply for ballots. Maybe they’ll go into old folks homes. Where I’ve seen it is old folks home primarily, people not very able-bodied. They’ll assist in filing out their ballot applications and when the ballot gets sent to them through the mail, they’ll be waiting at the mailbox. If it’s a multiple dwelling unit, they can take 50, 100, and they can take them out and vote them the way they want … That’s called ballot harvesting and that’s the place where the efforts need to be focused.

What my women did was in no way related to any sort of organized harvesting. She was just some simple lady, who thought it was her duty to vote, and it was wrong, but instead of the government just acknowledging, `OK, you were wrong, you’re simple, don’t do it again,’ they chose to make an example out of her, to show everybody how hard they are trying to get ahold of this. Instead of getting at the real evil if there is such, they just picked the low-hanging fruit and broke her sword in the public square and tarred and feathered her and carried her around for the public to see and it infuriates me.

(Photo: Dylan Hollingsworth/The New York Times)
(Photo: Dylan Hollingsworth/The New York Times)

On the reaction from Republican politicians, Birdsall said:

These people are beating their chests and wrapping themselves up in the flag and trying to impress our current occupier of the White House, and they’re like a big-game hunter, one foot on the carcass, with their gun in their hand and with a big smile on their face.

This is such a miscarriage.

And the taxpayers are going to pay a minimum of $300,000 or $400,000 to house this woman, just so a local politicians can curry favor with Trump, or with Abbott, who is just as out of control.

From the Times story:

Mr. Birdsall said Mr. Paxton’s office had been prepared to dismiss all charges against Ms. Ortega if she agreed to testify on voting procedures before the Texas Legislature. But the Tarrant County criminal district attorney, Sharen Wilson, vetoed that deal, he said, insisting on a trial that would showcase her office’s efforts to crack down on election fraud.

Both the attorney general’s office and the county prosecutor declined to comment on the specifics of Mr. Birdsall’s statement, citing privacy rules for plea-bargain negotiations. A spokeswoman for Ms. Wilson, Sam Jordan, said any negotiations were only “discussions,” a description Mr. Birdsall disputed.

From my conversation with Birdsall:

The local politician wanted to avoid any appearance of being weak on crime or weak on election fraud and instead wanted to impress the world with how tough she can be and so she said no. That’s all there is to it. That’s it.

Of the deal that fell through:

This was my idea.

I got brought in (to represent Ortega) by some Latino leaders because this is an area that I have a background in. I only got brought in about a month beforehand and from the start, this was my idea to the attorney general, let her run press conferences do whatever, and the guy in the trenches, the one that actually prosecuted the case (Assistant Attorney General Jonathan White) ran it up his chain of command and it took two or three weeks and they said fine.

So that really should have been good enough, but because this case was being prosecuted in the Tarrant County courthouse, they felt like they needed the blessing, if not the acquiescence, of the elected district attorney of Tarrant County, and, as of the day before we started jury selection, that’s when the attorney general’s representative and the assistant district attorney went to the district attorney’s office to bounce this idea off of her and I was there Friday until 3:30 and I get a call at 4 o’clock that the deal is off, she wont’ go for it. And that’s all I know. I’m not in that meeting, but I‘ve been around long enough to know what it is.

I know in my heart of hearts she just wanted to appear tough and that’s why we had to go to trial. So there it is.

The DA’s office first got this brought to their attention because she had voted for ten years in Dallas. When she moved to Tarrant County she had to re-register with the Tarrant County Election Department. She sent in an application. She checked the box saying `I’m not a U.S. citizen,’ so of course they reject it and tell her you cant’ be a voter when you check that box saying you’re not a citizen.

My client, knowing she had been voting for years in Dallas County believing she was eligible, she sent another one in saying she was a citizen. Well, that immediately gets those guys all roiled, they tap the DA on the shoulder, the DA gets involved, they develop evidence that she had actually voted, not just applied to vote, but actually voted in Dallas,because this woman is saying, `Dallas said I’m OK to vote, what’s wrong?’

So she basically tells them I’ve been voting in Dallas, so they go, pull the records, and yup, she’s been voting in Dallas. Well Tarrant county doesn’t have jurisdiction to prosecute her voting in Dallas, so the only way Tarrant County can hang onto that case is by bringing in the attorney general. If the attorney general is involved, the law is written so that they can prosecute not just in the county where the irregularity occurred but in any adjoining county.

Boom. That gives Tarrant County jurisdiction for the misdemeanor, where she applied to vote, and now they have jurisdiction for the actual voting in Dallas County. That is what we went to trial on.. That’s a secondary felony.

One of the problems with this whole thing and it should have been, in my opinion – and I’ll yell it to the skies – should have been prosecuted in Dallas County. Why? It’s a much higher percentage of Latinos They send her out to Tarrant County where there’s a much lower percentage of Latinos, you can look at the U.S. Census figures to see that. I entered those into evidence when I tried to argue that this prosecution should be stopped.

And, on top of that, she got sent into Indian Country because that was a heavily Trump-controlled county and we all know Trump is very publicly claiming the reason he lost he popular vote by 3 million is because of illegal voters. So she got sent into the lion’s den holding meat in both hands. She was mauled.

(Trump won 52 percent of the vote in Tarrant County, and 35 percent in Dallas County.)


Here was Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, who made the rounds of the Sunday shows on behalf of the administration yesterday, on ABC’s This Week:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:  President Trump again this week suggested in a meeting with senators that thousands of illegal voters were bused from Massachusetts to New Hampshire and that’s what caused his defeat in the state of New Hampshire, also the defeat of Senator Kelly Ayotte.

That has provoked a response from a member of the Federal Election Commission, Ellen Weintraub, who says, “I call upon the president to immediately share New Hampshire voter fraud evidence so that his allegations may be investigated promptly.”

Do have that evidence?

STEPHEN MILLER: I have actually haven’t worked before on a campaign in New Hampshire. I can tell you that this issue of busing voters into New Hampshire is widely known by anyone who’s worked in New Hampshire politics. It’s very real. It’s very serious. This morning, on this show, is not the venue for me to lay out all the evidence.

But I can tell you this, voter fraud is a serious problem in this country. You have millions of people who are registered in two states or who are dead who are registered to vote. And you have 14 percent of non-citizens, according to academic research, at a minimum, are registered to vote, which is an astonishing statistic.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You can’t make a — hold on a second. You just claimed again that there was illegal voting in New Hampshire, people bused in from the state of Massachusetts.

Do you have any evidence to back that up?


MILLER: I’m saying anybody — George, go to New Hampshire. Talk to anybody who has worked in politics there for a long time. Everybody is aware of the problem in New Hampshire with respect to —


STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m asking you as the White House senior — hold on a second. I’m asking use as the White House senior policy adviser. The president made a statement, saying he was the victim of voter fraud, people are being bused from —


MILLER: And the president — the president — the president was.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you have any evidence?

MILLER: — issue — if this is an issue that interests you, then we can talk about it more in the future. And we now have our government is beginning to get stood up. But we have a Department of Justice and we have more officials.

An issue of voter fraud is something we’re going to be looking at very seriously and very hard.

But the reality is, is that we know for a fact, you have massive numbers of non-citizens registered to vote in this country. Nobody disputes that. And many, many highly qualified people, like Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, have looked deeply into this issue and have confirmed it to be true and have put together evidence.

And I suggest you invite Kris Kobach onto your show and he can walk you through some of the evidence of voter fraud —

STEPHANOPOULOS: You have — you have —

MILLER: — in greater detail.

STEPHANOPOULOS: — just for the record, you have provided absolutely no evidence. The president’s made a statement.

MILLER: The White House has provided enormous evidence with respect to voter fraud, with respect to people being registered in more than one state, dead people voting, non-citizens being registered to vote. George, it is a fact and you will not deny it, that there are massive numbers of non-citizens in this country, who are registered to vote. That is a scandal.

We should stop the presses. And as a country, we should be aghast about the fact that you have people who have no right to vote in this country, registered to vote, canceling out the franchise of lawful citizens of this country.

That’s the story we should be talking about. And I’m prepared to go on any show, anywhere, anytime, and repeat it and say the President of the United States is correct 100 percent.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you just repeated, though, you just made those declarations. But, for the record, you have provided zero evidence that the president was the victim of massive voter fraud in New Hampshire. You provided zero evidence —

MILLER: Anyone who’s worked —


MILLER: — politics is familiar —

STEPHANOPOULOS: You have provided zero evidence that the president’s claim that he would have won the general — the popular vote if 3 million to 5 million illegal immigrants hadn’t voted, zero evidence for either one of those claims.

MILLER: Well, it’s —

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks a lot for joining us this morning.

Clark Birdsall, (Dylan Hollingsworth/The New York Times)
Clark Birdsall, (Dylan Hollingsworth/The New York Times)

In the current political climate, I asked Birdsall about the reason why, in this case, the jury and not the judge passed sentence.

In Texas anybody accused of a crime has a choice between a judge and a jury to set sentencing. That decision has to be made before the start of trial. I figured the judge (Robb Catalano) would line up with the local politicians and want to curry favor, and I was right, he was making all sorts of speeches throughout the trail and it was really upsetting.

But, obviously, the jury – which could have imposed a sentence anywhere from probation to 20 years – was no better for Ortega.


It’s a disproportionate sentence. They’re putting her head on a pole. `Here’s our three million voters that cost Donald trump the popular vote.’  But that’s  wrong. She is not part of any organized thing. She’s not one of those ballot harvesters, if here are such.

When I was head of the Public Integrity Unit for the Dallas County DA’s Office, we’d always hear that and people would bring us in a lot of evidence and we would never find anything conclusive. We know the AG’s office is getting those same kind of rumors and trying to check it out. If they found enough evidence to charge anyone I don’t know, but here’s this one little lady, the mother of four, one voter, she’s not in alliance with any nefarious bad guys.

Even if she voted when she was not supposed to vote, she’s voting for Mitt Romney, she’s voting for Ken Paxton. Give me a break.

Ortega is being held in the Tarrant County jail.

Birdsall has filed a notice of appeal. But Ortega still faces the misdemeanor charge of giving a false statement on a voter application in Tarrant County, and even conviction on just that charge, Birdsall said, would lead to her deportation under federal immigration law, even though she was a legal permanent resident.

‘If we plead that, she’ll still be deported and the family will still be ruined,” he said.

Birdsall said Ortega has been in Texas, “since she was in diapers.” Her mother was able to get her daughter a green card when she was a child.

“She was eight-years-old when her mom got her a green card and then shortly after that her mom got in trouble and was deported,” Birdsall said. “Nobody ever explained to her what this card is. She just grew up with this card in her pocket that said that she was a resident, which meant she was allowed to be in this country, but nobody ever explained to her that you can’t vote from this.”

Birdsall said Ortega’s mother was sent to prison and deported for selling drugs.

Now, in a very odd echo, her daughter is being sent to prison and will be deported for illegally voting for some Republican candidates.

Birdsall said Ortega is not in touch with her mother. He doesn’t know if she is living her dead. There is no father in the picture. Her four children – aged 13,14,15 and 16 – have been placed in the custody of their biological father, who he said has not been in the picture for a long time.

And what’s Ortega’s frame of mind?


Well, I can tell you what it was like after she sentenced, and at that point she was very stoic and calm and ready to just get this behind her even though it meant prison and deportation. I’m told by the family that she’s in a high state of anxiety now that she knows the bio father has taken the kids.


(Courtesy Tarrant County via AP)
(Courtesy Tarrant County via AP)

Ortega’s conviction and sentencing was heralded by, among others, J. Christian Adams, an election lawyer who served in the Voting Rights Section at the U.S. Department of Justice in President George W. Bush’s administration writing at PJ Media: Illegal Alien Voter Convicted in Texas is Tip of the Iceberg

You won’t hear much about Rosa Maria Ortega after this week.  Ortega is the Mexican  alien who was caught illegally voting five times in American elections.  Ortega is Bigfoot for those in the media, professors, and Democrats who tell us that “voter fraud is as rare as Bigfoot.”

The caustic radical Andrew Cohen is one of the purveyors of that lie (@JustADCohen).

Unfortunately, when it comes to voter fraud, when you catch one crook, it usually means there are hundreds more hiding in the darkness.  When it comes to aliens voting, it’s more like thousands and thousands.  And yes, there is evidence of large numbers of aliens getting on American voter rolls for anyone who cares to look, as we shall see.

“Voter fraud is a myth” is the favorite lazy narrative at places like the New York Times, the DNC, CNN and the Brennan Center for Justice (apologies, I repeat myself again). That’s why Ortega is about to disappear down the memory hole.

In August of 2015 – just three months before Ortega was charged with voter fraud, PolitiFact checked this claim by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., made on ABC’s This Week:

Take Texas for example, where Lyndon Johnson’s obviously from, they passed these voter ID laws. In the decade before it, 10 years, they only prosecute two people for in-person voter ID, only two people. You’re more likely to get struck by lightning in Texas than to find any kind of voter fraud.

From PolitiFact:

Our ruling

Booker said, “You’re more likely to get struck by lightning in Texas” than to find in-person voter fraud.

Since 2002, there have been a total of 85 election fraud prosecutions, not all of which have resulted in conviction. Only a small number of those cases — four or possibly fewer — included allegations of in-person voter fraud, also called voter impersonation. Those are the kinds of cases the voter ID law in Texas is aimed at preventing, and Booker is right that they have been less frequent than lightning strikes. Overall, we rate his statement True.

Subsequently, PolitiFact Texas checked out Gov. Abbott’s March 2016 statesman: “The fact is voter fraud is rampant–and in Texas, unlike some other states and unlike some other leaders, we are committed to cracking down on voter fraud.”

While noting the charges brought against Ortega, here was PolitiFact’s conclusion:

Our ruling

Abbott, defending the Texas mandate to present a photo ID at the polls, said: “Voter fraud is rampant.”

If Abbott has the goods on this, he’s keeping secrets. Best we can tell, in-person voter fraud–the kind targeted by the ID law–remains extremely rare, which makes this claim incorrect and ridiculous.

Pants on Fire!

Putting aside the crucial question of frequency and scale,  I have thought from the start of this controversy that Trump critics were foolish to be so absolute in their protestations that voter fraud simply does not exist. I mean this is real life and this is politics and there is nothing that does not exist. By being so absolute in  mocking Trump and Republican claims, they set the stage for the Ortega show trial in Fort Worth.

From Dan Barry in the New York Times, on January 25.

Amid the verbal deluge, President Trump this week repeated an assertion he made shortly after his election: that millions of ballots cast illegally by undocumented immigrants cost him the popular vote. If true, this would suggest the wholesale corruption of American democracy.

Not to worry: As far as anyone knows, the president’s assertion is akin to saying that millions of unicorns also voted illegally.

Well, with Ortega, Republicans bagged a unicorn, and while it’s just one, it’s nonetheless proof  that unicorns exist.

Birdsall said that Ortega voted in Dallas County, and insisted – with fateful consequences – that she ought to be able to vote in Tarrant County, because Dallas Count let her vote. They never checked her citizenship or demanded that she prove it.

Birdsall said that for most Americans – evidently including those on Ortega’s jury – it may be impossible to believe that she didn’t understand the difference between being a permanent legal resident and being a citizen when it comes to voting. But, he said, in the milieu in which Ortega existed, it’s perfectly possible.

I also have no trouble believing that there are those who are OK with that ambiguity, who are not particularly bothered if some folks, like Ortega, longtime legal residents without citizenship, vote – though, in the case of the folks I’m thinking about, they would be mightily disappointed if they knew they were voting Republican.

But, if this is a problem, it requires systemic change, and, indeed, the attorney general and the Tarrant County DA could have used Ortega as a the Poster Woman for the need for that kind of change without putting her in jail. They could have offered Ortega as proof that unicorns exist, without having to destroy a woman – who somehow felt obliged to choose Mitt Romney over Barack Obama and Ken Paxton over Dan Branch – and her family.

Meanwhile, Abbott, Paxton and other Texas Republicans are wiling to err on the side of disenfranchising many thousand of eligible voters.

From Asher Price and Sean Collins Walsh in the Statesman.

At least 16,400 Texans who voted in the November election wouldn’t have been able to cast ballots if the state’s voter identification law had been in full effect, state voting records show.

Adopted in 2011 by a Republican-dominated Legislature, the law requiring voters to show one of seven forms of photo identification has been mired in a years-long legal battle, with opponents arguing that it disenfranchises groups that are less likely to carry identification, such as young people, elderly people and racial minorities. Proponents of the law have argued that the measure is necessary to protect the integrity of the vote.

In July, a federal appeals court ruled that the law was discriminatory, and a month later U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ordered the state to soften the ID requirements for the Nov. 8 election, greatly expanding the types of documentation voters could show to prove their identity. Voters using one of the newly approved documents had to sign statements explaining why they couldn’t obtain one of the seven types of ID originally required by the law.

It is difficult to measure the impact of voting laws for a variety of reasons, but the last-minute compromise provides a case study for how many people would have been affected by the voter ID law.

Through a public records request to the Texas secretary of state’s office, the American-Statesman obtained copies of the more than 16,400 Reasonable Impediment Declarations signed by Texans in the November election. More than 2,300 of the forms, legal affidavits punishable with a perjury charge if found to be false, were signed by Travis County voters.

The voters who signed the affidavits were concentrated in urban areas, with six counties alone — Harris, Travis, Dallas, Collin, Tarrant and Hidalgo — accounting for more than half of them.

To sign the forms, all of those voters would’ve had to have been registered to vote and to produce documentation proving who they were.

Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said the volume of the declarations validates the concerns that the law’s opponents raised.

“The voter ID law was going to take away the legal right to vote of 2,300 people” in the county, she said. The voters who signed those declarations, she said, “tended to be poor, tend to be elderly — maybe they weren’t born in a hospital or had other extenuating circumstances.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose office has defended the law, didn’t respond to a request for comment.










Beto O’Rourke will run for the Senate, because with Trump and all, `How could you not.’


Good morning Austin:

Beto O’Rourke is running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Ted Cruz.

While the three-term Democratic congressman from El Paso has not formally announced his candidacy for the 2018 Senate race, there doesn’t seem to be anything that would stop him from running.

As he told about 120 University Democrats at their weekly gathering in the Pharmacy Building at the University of Texas last night:

One of the things I’m thinking about is running for Senate to 2018, in part because, how could you not, given everything that’s going on in this country.

Besides that, if we are able to effectively represent what’s exciting and the potential in this room, what’s possible for Texas, that fundamentally changes what’s possible in this country.

We are going to have outsized, as we should, impact on where this country goes. We are going to change forever the stereotype Texas holds in the imagination of the United States and I don’t have to tell you, it’s not always positive. There are a lot of aspects which we can be proud of, absolutely, but there is a lot of diversity, creativity, innovation and difference that makes us so special, so powerful, so strong that I would like to, just as a Texas citizen, like to see represented in the Senate and on the national stage.

O’Rourke is already effectively running for the job:

The last 10 weeks I have been essentially touring Texas, going to every town that will have me. I was in Killeen and College Station and Waco and Houston last weekend. I got on an airplane at 5:20 this morning to fly to Charlotte, N.C., to come here. Everywhere I go I am so inspired by what’s happening in rooms like these all over the country.

For me, and I don’t know about everyone in the room, these last two months have been pretty dark in terms of the decision that this country made and where we are going already in the first few weeks of this presidency.

Whether it’s humiliating our southern neighbor, talking about a 20 percent tax on everything they produce or building a 2,000-mile wall to separate the two countries or telling the president of Mexico not to bother showing up if he is not going to pay for said wall; whether it’s talking about NATO being obsolete, or trying to humble the prime minister of Australia on the telephone, or banning refugees from coming into this country, or setting a religious test for those who do, or selecting seven countries with a Muslim majority, none of which had a hand or person involved in 9/11, and barring entry from those countries, including temporarily green card holders, these are dark days.

But they are also the days on which we will be judged down the road.  People will want to know what you and I were doing in February 2017. “Dad, where were you?'” “Grandma did you say anything, did you stand up or did you let this happen?”

Rooms like these and marches I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in, there are people standing up and saying what they don’t want. “I don’t want a wall. I don’t want a Muslim ban. I don’t want this fear and anxiety and hatred to drive everything that this country’s doing.” It feels very small. It feels very wrong. It doesn’t feel like the United States of America.

But I also find people very positively and powerfully talking about not just what they don’t want to see, but what they are excited about, what they have in store for their future, what their aspirations are.

The two things – what we will not stand for and what we will stand up to achieve, these two things happening at the same time.

It’s my hope this darkest hour is our finest hour.




O’Rourke combines an easy energy with great ambition. The oldest of his three children is named Ulysses, which is not a name lightly assigned (I wanted to name my daughter Ulysses, but my wife vetoed that).

Cruz remains a heavy favorite but Democrats have to mount a very serious campaign, the Trump presidency does complicate Cruz’s story, and O’Rourke, were he to be Cruz’s challenger, would have all the money and attention he would need.

Also, he has already said he would not serve more than four terms in the House, so 2018 would be his last run for that seat in any case, and fighting Trump as one of a 100 in the Senate has a lot more potential than being a member of the minority party in the House.

As he said last night:

2018. It’s got to be about 2018. 

Here is the best argument nationally for a Democratic senator from the state of Texas. You have 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats. The second biggest pickup opportunity for Democrats throughout the country to pick up a Senate seat in 2018 is in Texas.

One, it shows you how bad our hand is nationally, but two, it shows you some very encouraging trends.

Hillary Clinton spent a grand total of $220,000, which is like 15 cents, in the state of Texas in 2016, and only lost by 9 points, which is the slimmest margin for a Democratic presidential candidate in forever. Harris County going blue and going blue big. El Paso, Texas, 56 percent higher turnout 2016 over 2012. Dallas County, Pete Sessions, hardcore Republican, his district goes for Hillary Clinton, Will Hurd’s district goes for Hillary Clinton. John Culberson, Republican, (his district) goes for Hillary Clinton.

My feeling is, who’s Beto O’Rourke from El Paso, Texas, to think about running for Senate? Well, the thing is, if no one else is going to do it, I sure as hell am going to do it because, 2018, two years of Trump, six years of Cruz … if we don’t do this now, when the hell are we going to do it. But it’s got to end in some kind of victory because otherwise, what are we here for?


When you hear someone speaking in their own voice you automatically pay attention. Watching Donald Trump press conferences, you couldn’t take your eyes off of it. Who talks like that? Who says this kind of stuff? But it’s compelling, it’s entertaining, it gets our attention.

Bernie Sanders, speaking his mind, the courage of his convictions. There’s no questioning what he thinks.

Hillary Clinton, terrific public servant, deeply flawed candidate, in that it was very hard for many people in the country to believe that what she was saying was what she actually felt. There was a credibility gap with her.

O’Rourke talked about Trump’s election and his decision to attend Trump’s inauguration.

I’ve had to get it into my head that if you voted for Donald Trump it isn’t that you’re a bad person, it isn’t that you hate us, it’s just that this stuff has been driven into your head for decades in some cases, this fear of people that are not like the majority of America, and that starts in Mexico.

So, I think when we protest, when we’re engaged, when we’re talking to other people, we do it as respectfully as possible.

You know I took some heat and some flak and there may be some folks who think differently it the room, I went to he inauguration of Donald Trump and I went out of profound respect for our institutions, for this country that we can still pull this shit off  230 years later.

The man who spent eight years pursuing at the popular will of the American public a direction for this country was willing to peacefully transfer power to the man who promises to upend and destroy his work. The fact that we can still do that is awesome and we should respect it and not trifle with it.

I also thought it was important to say to those people in this country who supported Donald Trump, `Look, I respect the choice that you made, I want to work with you out of respect, but I also want to, in that spirit of respect, help you understand it from our perspective.’

O’Rourke talked about his recent TED talk.

You go back to 1913, El Paso becomes the first city in the United States to criminalize marijuana, because Mexicans, when they smoke marijuana, rape white people, they kill white people, literally, that was the common understanding. And you see marijuana criminalized throughout the Mountain West, as Mexican-Americans, as Mexican national labor moved up through the Mountain West, until by 1934 this Mexican problem was a big enough problem in connection with marijuana that we criminalize it nationally.

There are lots of stories like this where our fear of people whose culture and languages and backgrounds and histories are a little bit different from the majority of America, we criminalize them or the things that are associated with them. It’s kind of a long, dark history but one whose end I think we get to write the final chapter, and I think it’s going to be a positive final chapter.


For the last year, I have seen that city (El Paso) actively shat upon on the national stage. Mexicans with whom we’re connected are here to rape us, to kill us, to commit crimes, to take what’s ours. That we are not safe.


A few years back, when we were talking about Dreamers, these Dreamers, 700,000 registered with the government, 200,000 here in Texas, voluntarily, because we asked them to –  gave us their names, their telephone numbers, where they live because they were offered deferment  from prosecution or removal. They could be here, they could attend school, they could go to UT, they could serve in the military, they could have their families here, start careers.

They came forward under that understanding. Now the government under a different president has the power to, because we know where they live, what their phone numbers are, we have the power to round all them up and deport them and the president has pledged to end all the executive actions in DACA and pledged to deport 3 million immediately unauthorized, undocumented immigrants.

So when we were talking about Dreamers, when Dreamers first became a thing, people were acknowledging these were people who came when they were 2-years-old and they are just as American as anybody else. (U.S. Rep.) Steve King of Iowa said these student government presidents you are talking about, these soccer team captains, look at the size of their calves, they are the size of cantaloupes because they have been trucking drugs on their backs across the border, to put them in your kids’ system, your beautiful, innocent American kids, being corrupted by these Mexican thugs.

From Steve King:

For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another hundred out there who weigh a hundred and thirty pounds—and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling seventy-five pounds of marijuana across the desert. Those people would be legalized with the same act.

King was also Cruz’s most important supporter in Iowa, where he won the caucuses, defeating Trump.

King explains here that he was backing Cruz because the future of Western Civilization was on the line.


So that guy (King)  said that and many other people have been saying things like that for a long time. This is unfortunately the natural conclusion, I hope that is the natural conclusion and there is not a step worse than this one, from what we’ve seen.

No longer will I take, no longer will we take that, no longer will either politely respond or correct the record, or in my case stand in the well of the House and make great speeches about El Paso.

What we are going to do so this never happens again, so we do something that’s far better and brighter and bolder and stronger for our country – we need to run for higher office, we need to support those in this room who are going to run for office. We need to connect people in different communities, who want to make this a better state and a better country, and that for me is my full-time job going forward, in addition to trying to be a good dad to Ulysses and Molly and Henry and a good husband to Amy and a representative to the people of the 16th District, I am going to make it a full-time job to do everything I can to make sure the country gets back on the right course.

This presidential election was won on fear. What are you afraid of? Who’s going to keep you safe? This is like one of these classic moments in civilization. Is that going to win? Because it has won before. Or is there going to be some stronger force?









`You wanna give me his name. We’ll destroy his career.’ On Trump and the authoritarian impulse.


Good morning Austin:

Watch this brief clip from a meeting President Trump had yesterday with officials of the National Sheriffs’ Association.

That’s Donald Trump, president of the United States, on the left, and Sheriff Harold Eavenson of Rockwall County, Texas, on the right.

Eavenson: There’s a state senator in Texas that was talking about introducing legislation to require conviction before we could receive that forfeiture money.

Trump: Can you believe that?

Eavenson: I told him that the cartel would build a monument to him in Mexico if he could get that legislation passed.

Trump: Who is the state senator? You wanna give me his name? We’ll destroy his career.

I’ve read and watched that exchange over and over and I still can’t get over it.

Just to be clear that you are not misunderstanding, that the sheriff is saying what you think he is saying, from Asher Price’s story in the Statesman:

During a roundtable discussion with Trump, Rockwall County Sheriff Harold Eavenson told Trump that a state senator, whom the sheriff declined to name, wanted to introduce legislation that would require law enforcement agencies to get a conviction before seizing a suspected offender’s assets.

In other words, the crime of this unnamed state senator for whom the president, on the basis of a handful of words, was, on his own initiative, prepared to serve as judge, jury and executioner, was writing legislation that would require that an accused person be convicted of crime before being punished. Next thing you know, we’ll have to  start believing that people are innocent until proven guilty, or some such subversive nonsense.

In distilled essence, and in multiple ways, it was an expression of Trump’s authoritarian impulse and what  America has the most to worry about in its new president.

My guess is that defenders of the president will pass it off as a meaningless laugh line by the Trump; that he really didn’t know what Eavenson was talking about.

But, if that’s the case, it suggests that Trump was all too ready to identify with the older white male in uniform, simply because he was the older white male in uniform, and, as first, natural impulse, offer to destroy the career of someone whose identity he did not know, but, it turns out, was in all probability, a Republican supporter who came to Washington to celebrate his inauguration.

Somehow, in an age of irony, we have found ourselves with a president destined to fulfill it without being able to savor it.

And, the worst part of it all was the general laughter that accompanied the president’s remark, which suggested flunkies flattering the alpha male in the room, or attempting to careful cordon off what he had said from serious consideration.

Alternatively, maybe Trump knows civil forfeiture in and out. After all, as a real estate developer he had an intimate, practiced knowledge of the uses of eminent domain, and civil forfeiture is kind of like one-way eminent domain – you get to seize someone else’s property, but, unlike with eminent domain, you don’t have to offer the person deprived of their property with anything in exchange.

And yet, it was peculiar because, reining in civil forfeiture is one of those issues where liberals and libertarian conservatives – where the ACLU and the tea party – agree on the need to limit state power in one of its most abusive forms.

One of the most compelling and horrifying stories I read in recent years was a New Yorker piece in August 2013 by Sarah Stillman entitled Taken: Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes.

On a bright Thursday afternoon in 2007, Jennifer Boatright, a waitress at a Houston bar-and-grill, drove with her two young sons and her boyfriend, Ron Henderson, on U.S. 59 toward Linden, Henderson’s home town, near the Texas-Louisiana border. They made the trip every April, at the first signs of spring, to walk the local wildflower trails and spend time with Henderson’s father. This year, they’d decided to buy a used car in Linden, which had plenty for sale, and so they bundled their cash savings in their car’s center console. Just after dusk, they passed a sign that read “Welcome to Tenaha: A little town with BIG Potential!”

The officers found the couple’s cash and a marbled-glass pipe that Boatright said was a gift for her sister-in-law, and escorted them across town to the police station. In a corner there, two tables were heaped with jewelry, DVD players, cell phones, and the like. According to the police report, Boatright and Henderson fit the profile of drug couriers: they were driving from Houston, “a known point for distribution of illegal narcotics,” to Linden, “a known place to receive illegal narcotics.” The report describes their children as possible decoys, meant to distract police as the couple breezed down the road, smoking marijuana. (None was found in the car, although Washington claimed to have smelled it.)

The county’s district attorney, a fifty-seven-year-old woman with feathered Charlie’s Angels hair named Lynda K. Russell, arrived an hour later. Russell, who moonlighted locally as a country singer, told Henderson and Boatright that they had two options. They could face felony charges for “money laundering” and “child endangerment,” in which case they would go to jail and their children would be handed over to foster care. Or they could sign over their cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road. “No criminal charges shall be filed,” a waiver she drafted read, “and our children shall not be turned over to CPS,” or Child Protective Services.

“Where are we?” Boatright remembers thinking. “Is this some kind of foreign country, where they’re selling people’s kids off?” Holding her sixteen-month-old on her hip, she broke down in tears.

Later, she learned that cash-for-freedom deals had become a point of pride for Tenaha, and that versions of the tactic were used across the country. “Be safe and keep up the good work,” the city marshal wrote to Washington, following a raft of complaints from out-of-town drivers who claimed that they had been stopped in Tenaha and stripped of cash, valuables, and, in at least one case, an infant child, without clear evidence of contraband.

Outraged by their experience in Tenaha, Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson helped to launch a class-action lawsuit challenging the abuse of a legal doctrine known as civil-asset forfeiture. “Have you looked it up?” Boatright asked me when I met her this spring at Houston’s H&H Saloon, where she runs Steak Night every Monday. She was standing at a mattress-size grill outside. “It’ll blow your mind.

From the Institute for Justice.

Texas has some of the worst civil forfeiture laws in the nation, as demonstrated by an Institute for Justice report, Policing for Profit:  The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture.  Texas law establishes a trifecta of circumstances that invite forfeiture abuse.  First, Texas allows law enforcement agencies to police for profit—to seize and sell property then return the proceeds directly into their budgets giving them a financial incentive to abuse this power.  Second, Texas uses a “preponderance of the evidence” standard for determining whether a particular seizure is valid, rather than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for criminal defendants.  Third, Texas places the burden on the innocent owner to prove his innocence.

I wrote about the Institute for Justice, which describes itself as, “the nation’s only libertarian, civil liberties, public interest law firm.” in a First Reading last week on their interest in paring back unnecessary licensing of occupations, a cause championed by state Sen. Don Huffines, who I ran into in Washington for Trump’s inauguration, and who may have views on civil forfeiture reform that might also merit his career being destroyed by Trump.

Just last week, Matt Powers of the Institute for Justice, was writing:

The Texas legislative session is off to the races with two reform bills set to strengthen property rights and expand school choice opportunities in the Lone Star state. The first bill, SB 380, would require a criminal conviction for property to be forfeited to law enforcement. The second, SB 3, would create a school choice program to give parents greater opportunities to choose what’s best for their children’s education.

Senate Bill 380 would secure greater property rights for Texans by requiring a criminal conviction to forfeit property. Currently, law enforcement agencies can seize property based on a mere preponderance of the evidence—the burden of proof required for property to be seized—and law enforcement agencies can keep up to 70 percent of forfeiture proceeds. In addition to requiring a criminal conviction, the bill would instead raise the burden of proof to clear and convincing evidence—a much higher standard, but still below the requirement for a criminal conviction—and require a property owner be convicted in order to have their property forfeited. According to IJ’s report, Policing for Profit, from 2000 to 2013, law enforcement agencies in Texas forfeited $540,689,972, or more than half a billion dollars.

The bill was filed in December by state Sen. Konni Burton, a Republican.  It contains identical language to HB 1364, which was filed by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, a Democrat.

This would seem to suggest that Trump ought to extend his vengeance to also destroy the careers of  Konni Burton and Senfronia Thompson, though, it seems, they are not who the good sheriff of Rockwall had in mind.

Here is the statement yesterday from J. Justin Wilson of the Institute for Justice on the White House exchange.

Civil forfeiture creates a perverse incentive for police and prosecutors to go after money, not just crime. No one should lose his or her property without first being convicted of a crime.

Policymakers of every stripe agree that civil forfeiture is wrong. A recent poll found that 84 percent of Americans opposed the use of civil forfeiture. And both the Republican and Democratic party platforms called for civil forfeiture reform.

During the meeting, the Sheriff of Rockwell County, Texas grossly mischaracterized the nature of civil forfeiture reform. Reforming or eliminating civil forfeiture does nothing to limit law enforcement’s ability to catch and convict criminals. We hope that as the President becomes fully aware of the abuse intrinsic to civil forfeiture, he will see the need to limit forfeiture to criminal activity.

Across the country, legislators are working to stand up for Americans’ civil rights and limit or eliminate the abusive practice of civil forfeiture. State legislators have the responsibility to set the criminal code and its punishment. Legislators working to limit civil forfeiture should be applauded, not threatened or condemned.

David Guillory, the lawyer who took the case of the couple described in the opening of the New Yorker story, found other similarly outrageous cases in the same tiny community of 1,700.

Patterns began to emerge. Nearly all the targets had been pulled over for routine traffic stops. Many drove rental cars and came from out of state. None appeared to have been issued tickets. And the targets were disproportionately black or Latino. 


Within a few weeks, the lawyers had received calls from other Tenaha forfeiture victims. In addition to Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson, the suit was joined by a handful of others—among them an African-American woman from Akron, Ohio, named Linda Dorman, who had forty-five hundred dollars taken from her and a passenger; and a young Mexican-American, Javier Flores, who turned over twenty-four hundred dollars. The suit accused the mayor of Tenaha and other town and Shelby County officials of operating “an illegal practice of stopping, detaining, searching, and often seizing property from citizens,” and doing so “not for any legitimate law enforcement purpose but to enrich their offices and perhaps themselves.” The practice was discriminatory, the suit alleged, and in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, “at least.”

The architect of the operation was the itty-bitty town’s deputy marshall, Barry Washington, a decorated former state trooper, who is black.

He explained his interdiction strategy, which relied on pulling over out-of-state cars for minor traffic violations, then looking for indicators of drug trafficking.

“And what are these indicators?” Garrigan asked.

“Well, there could be several things,” Washington explained. “The No. 1 thing is you may have two guys stopped, and these two guys are from New York. They’re two Puerto Ricans. They’re driving a car that has a Baptist Church symbol on the back, says ‘First Baptist Church of New York.’ They’re travelling during the week, when most people are working and children are in school. They’ve borrowed this car from their aunt, and their aunt is back in New York.” Profile factors like these, Washington explained, could help justify the conclusion that the two men’s money was likely tainted by crime. But also, he said, “we go on smells, odors, fresh paint.” In many cases, he said he smelled pot. In other cases, things smelled too fresh and clean, perhaps because of the suspicious deployment of air fresheners.

Later, the discussion turned to specific traffic stops. Garrigan asked about Dale Agostini, the Guyanese restaurateur who wanted to kiss his infant son goodbye before being taken to jail for money laundering. Why did Washington think he was entitled to seize the Agostini family’s cash?

“It’s no more theirs than a man on the moon,” Washington said. “It belongs to an organization of people that are narcotics traffickers.”

“Do you have any evidence, any rational basis to tell us that this money belonged to an organization of narcotics traffickers?” Garrigan asked. “Or is that more speculation?”

“I don’t have any evidence today,” Washington said.

And there it is. For Washington, it seemed, everyone he pulled over was assumed to be in league with the drug cartels, until proven otherwise, though they were never even given the opportunity to prove otherwise. They were simply stripped of their money and possessions – or else.

And likewise, as Sheriff Eavenson put it, the drug cartels would build a statue to this senator who would reform civil forfeiture rules, because, after all, the only people whose property they seized in Rockwall County were obviously working for the Mexican cartels, and the idea that there might be some innocent victims here whose rights were owed some respect was ridiculous.

And the president of the United States looked at the sheriff with his fine uniform and his mane of white hair and his official standing in this group of sheriffs and went ,sure, you’re right, and I’d be happy to destroy the career of whatever crackpot Texas politician is standing up for the Mexican cartels, even if it would turn out that the politician in question was most likely be someone he had shared a thumbs-up with him at the inauguration only last month.



From Price’s story:

State Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, who was elected in 2014 with the support of the tea party and represents Rockwall County, told constituents before the legislative session that he was considering filing a bill that would require that property cannot be forfeited without a criminal conviction.

Hall, who hasn’t yet filed an asset forfeiture bill this session, didn’t respond to requests for comment Tuesday afternoon.

He would make an unlikely target for Trump: Hall visited Washington for Trump’s inauguration and posted on his Facebook page, “We have a chance to move forward in unity to ‘Make America Great Again.’” The post also included a photo of him next to Trump, both giving a thumbs-up.

But this is Trumpian logic. Civil forfeiture is OK, because those you suspect are guilty are guilty.

His travel ban is correct because it will keep evil people out.

“It’s common sense,” he said. “You know, some things are law, and I’m all in favor of that, and some things are common sense. This is common sense.”

So, as long as this is not law but common sense, Trump called the judge who temporarily blocked his ban is a “so-called judge.”And, if there is a terrorist attack, blame him. Cue mob and rope.

The brief exchange between Trump and the Texas sheriff came on the same day that the Texas Senate gave initial approval to sanctuary cities legislation.

From Sean Collins Walsh’s story in the Statesman.

State Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, said the bill “will be read as the right to profile” by some officers. “To some degree, I think this bill will provide cover for those few bad actors,” he said.

Perry countered that the bill explicitly prohibits racial discrimination, as does current state and federal law. Those laws, however, haven’t prevented Texas officers from stopping and searching black and Latino motorists more frequently than Anglos, analyses of state data have shown.

Perry, in this case, is Sen. Charles Perry of Lubbock, the author of the bill to ban sanctuary cities.

I first met Perry in 2012, when I was still a reporter with the New Orleans Times Picayune and I came to Austin to do a story on what Louisiana could learn from Texas on criminal justice reform. Louisiana had the highest incarceration rate in the nation, in large part because sheriffs had an incentive to load up their parish jails, because they got paid by the state for every prisoner they housed – the more prisoners, the more cash.

Meanwhile, Texas was busy reducing its prison population.

I wrote at the time:

But Rep. Charles Perry, a tea-party-backed freshman from Lubbock who arrived in Austin as part of huge new Republican class with “lock ’em up” in his heart, was, on his appointment to the Corrections Committee, a quick convert to the new regime.

“We can all agree that we’d like to lock up every guy that doesn’t abide by our laws, but that’s not realistic. And I think that’s where Texas tried to strike a balance and been successful in finding a balance. We have interjected, if you will, common sense,” Perry said

I was impressed by Perry. He seemed like  a humble and  earnest man seeking to do what was right and guided by his faith.

But, as I watched a bit of the debate yesterday, it seemed that the critical divide was between Perry’s faith that there were very few “bad actors” in law enforcement who would misuse his legislation in punitive ways, that if you don’t break the law, you won’t get in trouble, and those who had no reason to have that kind of faith.

After all, Deputy Marshal Washington was a highly-decorated state trooper and African-American to boot, who thought he could literally sniff out criminals,  and I suspect, if you are undocumented in Texas, you live in fear of police officers who think they know one when they see one and are not beyond taking advantage of your vulnerability.

During the debate, one senator, I think it was Sen. Royce West of Dallas, recalled the compelling speech that Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna, D-Houston, made in the House in 2011 – the last time sanctuary cities legislation was considered in the Texas Legislature. He recalled her recounting how her parents, who were undocumented, feared even going to the market for food because they could be picked up on some pretext, found out, and deported, their lives shattered.

I can’t imagine having to live like that, he said.

Here is what Hernandez Luna said back in 2011.

Mr. Speaker, members, thank you for allowing me this time to speak. I know that HB12 has already passed and in the long run, there was nothing that could be done about its passage. But what is important for me is to express my concerns and why this issue is so important to me. Immigration and all that it encompasses is very personal for me because I was an undocumented immigrant. You may prefer to use the word illegal alien, but I’m not an alien, I am not a problem that must be handled, I’m a human – a person standing before you now as a Representative for the Texas House.

I was born in Reynosa, Mexico and brought to the United States as an infant child with the hope of a life my parents never knew or could dream I might have. My parents along with my sister and I came on a visitor’s visa and overstayed our visas. We lived in undocumented status for 8 years until the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was passed under President Ronald Reagan, an icon which I must remind many of you that you state as being one of yours. Under this Act we were able to become Temporary Residents, then Legal Permanent Residents. At age 18, I went through the citizen naturalization process to become a United States citizen.

I still remember my interview with the immigration officer. I was 18 years old, had attended Texas public schools from kindergarten through high school, graduating when I was sixteen years old and was a sophomore in college, yet I was very nervous over the questions that would be asked during the citizen examination. I was so nervous that when asked to name the capital of the United States, I responded Austin, Texas. The officer re-asked his question … name the capital of the United States, and I then quickly responded Washington, DC.

During the time we lived in undocumented status, I remember the constant fear my family lived with each day. The fear my parents experienced each day as their two little girls went to school, not knowing if there would be an immigration raid that day, and they wouldn’t be able to pick up their daughters from school, and not knowing who would take care of them if they were deported.

My parents worked hard to provide a better life for my sister and I. My mother worked the day shift and my father worked the night shift to make sure one of them would always be there for us. The daily task of going to the grocery to buy the food needed to provide your family nourishment may seem like a simple task, but for my family, it was the food we went to buy that might be the death sentence to our family that came in the form of an immigration officer.

As an elementary school student, I remember being embarrassed and shy away whenever my classmates discussed where they were born. I knew I was not a US citizen and feared the reactions from my classmates if they knew I was not a citizen.

Some say that immigrant children are a drain on our public schools, but I don’t consider myself a drain. I graduated at age 16 with honors, earned by bachelors and law degree and was elected to the Texas House of Representatives at age 27. I know there are many other immigrants out there like me waiting to be given the opportunity that I was given and part of me believes that the hurt and turmoil I went through is justified in this fact.

My parents never asked for government assistance, they paid their taxes and instilled excellent family values in their two daughters.

I know firsthand the impact that HB12 will have on many families that are currently in the same legal status in which my family once was. I know how this bill will push immigrants into the shadows. Mothers that will be afraid to go to the store to buy groceries for the family, as my mother once was.

Because of my background and the many opportunities afforded to me, it is incumbent upon me to continue fighting to ensure that others can have the America Dream – and let them know that you can make it here if you try and work hard. Even if those elected to serve and protect you don’t believe it for you.

A belief in authority – faith in authority- is not in and of itself authoritarianism. But the Texas economy is in some significant measure built on the backs of people who must cower before authority, and for that authority to harden its heart means they will cower all the more.

Meanwhile, Eavenson, who will become president of the National Sheriffs’ Association this year, posted an explanation of his remarks on his Facebook page yesterday. It was not well received.

It turns out that the career he may have destroyed yesterday, may have been his own.


Write a comment…
Alysa Youngson
Alysa Youngson Perhaps you should focus more on the lack of logic of your point. it is wrong to seize the property of persons who may NEVER be convicted of a crime, many of whom may in fact be innocent.
Like · Reply · 35 · 11 hrs


1 Reply
Bryan Slaton
Bryan Slaton After the President said “we will destroy his career.” You laughed. From what I see, you disagree of policy. Why was that so funny? I’m not understanding that behavior. Please explain.
Like · Reply · 21 · 10 hrs


Chris Centner
Chris Centner Rule of law demands conviction before punishment for a crime. Civil forfeiture must not occur without due process and the right to face accusers. Otherwise poor or politically weak victims will face shakedown by corrupt or overzealous individuals. Moreover, you encouraged another civil servant to be threatened for his position. You’re unworthy of the office you hold.
Like · Reply · 12 · 9 hrs · Edited


Emily James
Emily James Actually, the position being moved by the bill is, in fact. a very logical and legal one. Your position, that your office has the legal right to STEAL the personal property of citizens without legal limit is the one lacking in logic.
Like · Reply · 9 · 10 hrs · Edited


Margie Mo Ortez
Margie Mo Ortez Wow! A law enforcement official selling a politician to #45 for his own personal gain?! You can say all you want about not giving him a name but it’s too late. You really think he isn’t going after that person to destroy their career? He’s the presidenSee More
Like · Reply · 6 · 8 hrs


Ryan BK
Ryan BK This Sheriff doesn’t believe in the 5th Amendment and the Rule of Law. Too bad. He may have just committed political suicide. Good luck trying to get re-elected. Might want to think about early retirement. What a disservice to the community. I support Constitutional LEOs only.
Like · Reply · 6 · 9 hrs


Jonathan S Larson

Jonathan S Larson I love watching someone who did/said something stupid keep digging insteading of taking the humble approach.

Why not just say “I disagree strongly with the Senator’s bill and that passion led me to communicate my stance in a way that was wrong and shoSee More

Like · Reply · 4 · 10 hrs


Richard Scott Dawson
Richard Scott Dawson So we should just throw out, innocent until proven guilty? How does seizing someone’s property before being proven guilty legal? This is unjust. What if this person is found not guilty, are they going to have to fight for their things back? This law makes no sense and should be repealed.
Like · Reply · 4 · 9 hrs


Thomas O'Reilly
Thomas O’Reilly Did I just see a fellow Texan let Donald Trump offer to ruin another Texan’s career? What were you thinking?
Like · Reply · 4 · 7 hrs · Edited


Tacie Greg Lawrence
Tacie Greg Lawrence I hope Texas ends civil asset forfeiture without a conviction, hopefully ending Eavenson’s gravy train. How many margarita machines does the sheriffs office have? How many other TOYS were purchased with forfeiture funds? I think its time for an audit, where there is smoke, there is fire.
Like · Reply · 3 · 5 hrs


Travis Schlegel
Travis Schlegel “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” What part of this do you not understand? Do you suddenly think YOU = due process? Trump is a traitor to the United States of America and everything it stands for. People in positions of power and authority who do not resist him are just as guilty as he is. You will be remembered and there will be consequences.
Like · Reply · 2 · 6 hrs


1 Reply
Anthony Kesich
Anthony Kesich Yes, it would absolutely damage law enforcement and lead to a world of chaos if you couldn’t seize and spend people’s money before convicting them of a crime.
Like · Reply · 2 · 10 hrs


Lorraine Baldwin Kubala
Lorraine Baldwin Kubala Thanks for making Texas look stupid–again. Because that just doesn’t happen enough…..
Like · Reply · 7 · 10 hrs


GP King
GP King Well, I can only imagine how much that rake hurt. Especially after you step on one. Not once, but twice, no less! Have you learned anything from this experience or should you take a rake aversion class?


AnMarie Bozick
AnMarie Bozick I am appalled by the President’s remark – he needs to stay out of Texas State politics. It’s called sovereignty- we can take care of our own laws. We don’t need any power hungry feds threatening our legislators. As for civil forfeiture- goes against EVERYTHING this country was founded on. We are innocent until proven guilty – period.


Brian Wallis
Brian Wallis Who chuckles when a pos threatens to ruin a persons career and life?! Oh I know..someone hoping to see what the presidents ass tastes like. Are sheriffs required to know law?
Like · Reply · 1 · 6 hrs


Rob Lavigne
Rob Lavigne Ever heard of Due Process? You would have done very well in the Nazi Regime. As I recall, they also took people’s property without convicting them of anything!
Like · Reply · 4 · 8 hrs


Beverly Taylor
Beverly Taylor You would seek to destroy a person’s career over political gain. My Father was from Austin, and I’m ashamed to say it. You had the temerity to laugh. All of you. So shameful.
Like · Reply · 1 · 7 hrs
Jack M Wright III
Jack M Wright III Welcome to Rockwall County. Do a little digging in the corruption that’s come out of this county. How else do you think they pay for that big fancy courthouse. If you’ve ever been pulled over by a Rockwall County Sheriff’s Deputy or arrested by one, then chances are you’ve seen corruption first hand. If you’ve ever been through the court process there, then you know.


Jack M Wright III
Jack M Wright III I can’t believe that you would go to Washington and meet the president…voted in by “We the people”, and say something like that. You should be ashamed of yourself. Citizens….remember this when election time comes around.


Rob Lavigne
Rob Lavigne In case anyone missed it, in an earlier comment in response to someone saying that they were glad they left Texas, this was the response by Rockwall COUNTY COMMISSIONER Clifford Sevier….”If you never come back we will not miss you one bit. Shit like you leaves Texas all the time. That is why we don’t care about you.”…
Like · Reply · 2 · 8 hrs


4 Replies · 5 hrs
Nathalie Chenault
Nathalie Chenault Wow…I guess we are only constitutionalists when it comes to the second amendment, is that right?
Like · Reply · 4 · 6 hrs


Jonathan Morse
Jonathan Morse Thank you for apologizing. I will be voting against you in every election you run in, thanks for your service such as it is
Like · Reply · 4 · 7 hrs


Tim Rollof
Tim Rollof You should be charged with threating a US Senator punished and removed from office, lock your ass up


Pat Smith
Like · Reply · 9 · 9 hrs