Sunday, October 19, 2014

ABBOTT DISSES DISABILITY RIGHTS - PART II

Abbott's hallmark - that of a leader or a deceiver? 
The Dallas Morning News' endorsement of Greg Abbott over Wendy Davis boils down to this: extremists are holding Texas hostage. It's too troublesome to take a stand against them, so we should surrender to them. Despite his extremist record, Abbott will somehow moderate GOP extremism.  

Of course, the DMN editorial board does attempt to dress this up. What have they seen to indicate that Abbott is the better pick for chief executive? 

"Davis has no price tag for her education package; Abbott says his would cost $775.5 million. Such specifics are the hallmark of an organized leader."

But does his "hallmark" hold up when it comes to disability rights? As we'll see, the DMN editorial board may wish to reconsider its endorsement after checking Abbott's "specifics" regarding home care for the disabled. 

Let me take up where I left off with my interview with Dennis Borel, Executive Director of CTD, the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities. He says that providing proper compensation for home care workers is key. 

"We have a workforce crisis for people in our community for people that want to stay in their own home. Like any public policy, if you ignore it for long time, you've got a lot of catching up to do. We've got more than a decade of catching up now," said Borel.

According to Borel, the cause of the crisis is simple, These workers, part of the state's Medicaid program, are grossly underpaid. That means the quality of care is substandard since, if nothing else, staff turnover is horrendous. Last year, Borel says that one of the state's largest agencies for home care workers reported a 100% turnover. Everyone threw in the towel to look for something better than $7.50/hr with NO benefits - no health insurance, sick days, paid vacations - NOTHING. 

Think about the realities here. You don't have to be a healthcare professional to know that having a parade of people pass through the homes of the state's disabled is grotesque. Even if these workers are unfailingly professional, capable and courteous (nothing short of miraculous at $7.50/hr), the fact that the client has to constantly restart this relationship is, by definition, unsettling. Constancy of care and care providers is essential. These SHOULD NOT be "pass through" jobs. 

Let me put this relationship in a different context that conservatives might better appreciate. Providing home care isn't for everyone. You might even say it's a calling, what some of my Christian friends would properly recognize as a ministry. Let's push this pastoral parallel a bit further. How healthy is a congregation that has a parade of ministers pass through? What is the quality of the relationship that the members of the congregation enjoy with these care providers? Isn't this fundamentally different from congregations that enjoy the blessings of a long, settled ministry? Isn't the same dynamic happening here in the ministry of those called to care for the disabled in their homes?

"Well, ministers aren't that concerned about money," some might object. That's a nice thought - you can reward someone's selfless sacrifice by heaping financial hardship on them. Aside from being morally bankrupt, it simply doesn't work. Ask anyone who has done hands-on church management about the role ministerial compensation plays in retaining good ministers.

So what do Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott say about home care compensation?


Many believe that the current base wage of $7.50 per hour is a major reason for the growing shortage of community attendants as well as the current high turnover rate. What would you do to help raise wages and benefits?

Wendy Davis said that this is part of the larger minimum wage issue. 

I believe all hardworking Texans deserve to be paid an honest day’s wage for an honest day’s work. No Texan can support a family at a $7.50 hourly wage. That is why I support increasing our minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. That would be an important step for millions of Texans, including those currently earning base pay as community attendants. As governor, I will also work with the Legislature to determine an appropriate benefits standard for the community attendants who are doing such important work for Texans.

Always check the candidate's references
And Greg Abbott? 

As part of my Healthy Texans plan, I have called for increasing community attendant professionals’ wages.

Well, sure.....but how much of an increase? How does it compare to Wendy's $10.10/hr? 

Let's have a look at his "Healthy Texans plan." Surely he must provide greater detail there, right? 

But under "Disability Services," that's not what we find.

Recommendation: In order to recruit and retain personal attendants, and provide home- and community-based living options, increase pay for personal attendants.

No specifics. 

Worse, it is fair to say that his answer for the CTD's questionnaire is deceptive. He dodges the issue by referring voters interested in disability rights to a policy document that, he implies, would offer specifics. But there are none. 

So what are we to make of the Dallas Morning News picking Abbott for his specific policy positions - especially his willingness to put price tags on his proposals? "Such specifics are the hallmark of an organized leader," they claim. 

Well, with disability rights, Abbott does worse than merely leave out specifics. He gave the disability community a FALSE AND MISLEADING IMPRESSION about having a specific pay increase proposal for home care workers. That isn't the "hallmark of an organized leader." But it is a good indication of what we should expect of an Abbott administration.

***

In my third and final part for this series, we'll have a look at how Abbott's jihad for "sovereign immunity" seeks to deprive the handicapped of their rights and exposes a fundamental dishonesty. 

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

ABBOTT DISSES DISABILITY RIGHTS - PART I

A sincere snear?
How to feel about Wendy Davis' so-called "wheelchair" ad? Given that opinions are mostly divided along partisan lines, let's not forget when Abbott's camp attempted to manufacture similar outrage. Remember James O'Keefe's "fizzle of a scandal"? 



In late January, the American-Statesman compared the raw and edited footage of a Project Veritas video that purported to show Battleground Texas volunteers and Wendy Davis supporters mocking Greg Abbott’s being in a wheelchair, and found that the tapes had been edited in a misleading manner, including moving the sound of laughter to produce the desired effect. 

So the Abbott camp is at it again.

That being said, I do think something valuable can come of the attention here. It's an opportunity to talk about the rights of those in the disability community, some three million people here in Texas.  

I reached out to some leading disability rights organizations to see what's their take about the "scandal."  Some stepped away, being apolitical not-for-profits unwilling to take sides in what some see as little more than a nasty political squabble. But I had a very interesting conversation this morning with Dennis Borel, Executive Director of CTD, the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, the state's oldest disability rights organization. 

Borel's take on all this is a breath of fresh air.

Sure enough, Borel has fielded many calls, emails and text messages from the disability community about Wendy's ad. Were they up-in-arms against her as the Abbott campaign would have us believe?  Hardly. 

"I've gotten the same response we had when Abbott had his wheelchair ad.  Now that both sides have used this, let's get past imagery and get to issues!" Borel said.

Both ads, he says, don't even touch what's important. Abbott's use of the imagery was to highlight his personal traits. Wendy's ad just focused on so-called "tort reform." That's a miss on both counts for Borel.

What would be on target?  Discussing the need for adequate pay for home care workers and getting clear about Abbott's record and position on what's known as "sovereign immunity," fighting to exempt state government from the Americans for Disability Act (ADA). I'll be going into detail about these in Part II. 

First, let's just look at who's willing to even address disability rights issues.

On September 24, CTD offered all the statewide candidatesthat should have an interest in disability issues an opportunity participate in a forum. The event was held in Austin and some 300 people turned up. What's most telling is the sharp contrast between the Republican and Democratic candidate participation. The Democrats running for Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General - Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte and Sam Houston - all showed up to answer questions in person after filling out candidate questionnaires detailing their positions on key issues.  Their Republican opponents, Abbott, Dan Patrick and Ken Paxon, were all no-shows. To his credit, Abbott did return the questionnaire. The other Republicans didn't even demonstrate that minimal interest, much less respect (check the candidate responses here).

Still, the details of Abbott's no-show are telling. Maybe the event just didn't fit into his schedule? Not so says Borel.

We had been in conversation for months with his campaign. They knew the date well in advance. In fact the scheduler said it was too far in advance as she was not yet scheduling September. After declining to appear, we offered a Skype live interview, then even a taped interview. Ultimately, the message was that he had no time at all in September.

So Abbott willfully, deliberately ducked this forum to avoid exposing himself to questions from disabled Texans. There's good reason for him to do so as we'll examine in Part II.  

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

CORRUPTION FATIGUE SETS IN ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Abbott: Perry's master window-dresser
Now, after an extended break - time to jump back in here. But where to begin?

I confess that I've been sitting on the sidelines these past few weeks somewhat overwhelmed after spending two months out of the Texas summer swelter outside of Chicago, near the Wisconsin border. Watching both the Scott Walker/Mark Burke and Pat Quinn/Bruce Rauner races there was quite a contrast to what's been going on in the Greg Abbott/Wendy Davis match up here. What struck me was how the campaigns in Texas seemed to be in the doldrums, while thing were going full-swing in Wisconsin and Illinois. Perhaps the cooler weather is more conducive to such things. 

In any case, where to jump in? I feel stricken by a case of what you might term "Corruption Fatigue." The unseemly underside of the one-party rule in Texas has been showing itself. Staunch conservatives might look at the this and agree with their ideological adversaries on one thing - that competition is good for the marketplace. 

Of course, competition in the marketplace is exactly what is in question with the revelations over the Perry/Abbott slush fund, also known as the "Texas Enterprise Fund" (TEF).

Reality check in black & white
...a scathing state audit showed $222 million in taxpayer money was disbursed from the Enterprise Fund to private businesses and universities that never submitted formal applications or were not required to create new jobs, mandates that were not in place in the first two years of the fund in 2003 and 2004.

What's a problem for Candidate Abbott is what Attorney General Abbott did in 2004. Then, the enterprising reporters at the Dallas Morning News decided to check up on oversight of the megamillions doled out. Call it an affirmation of the Free Market for ideas, they made a freedom of information request for documents. They wanted to see the application that one such TEF recipient, Vought, made for the money. AG Abbott dutifully refused, claiming that the quasi-public docs were quasi-private, too - and that the law allowed him to protect such trade secrets from the prying eyes of the press. But the reality revealed in the audit is fundamentally different. THERE WERE NO DOCUMENTS TO RELEASE. 

Now, that IS troubling. Why? Let's look at this in context. 

Typically what you'll get back after filing a FOIA (or TPIA as the case may be - Texas Public Information Act) is one of three things:
  1. You get some documents. If you're lucky in what's often a fishing expedition, you have some interesting information. You may find that they aren't exactly what you're looking for, and have to go back to make a follow-up request. 
  2. You receive notice that no such documents exist. In other words, you're fishing in the wrong place! Perhaps you need to rephrase the terms of the search in your request. 
  3. The government refuses your request claiming that the documents are privileged. This gives a good indication that you've hit on something sensitive. Of course, that also means you're left with nothing to work with. 
Now, what the DMN request in 2004 should have yielded was #2. They might have interpreted it as a problem with their request or what it actually was - that these "deals" didn't include such documentary encumbrances. As Wayne Slater reports in the DMN:

Had the attorney general responded to the newspaper’s open-records request in 2004 by disclosing that Vought – and other businesses with their hands out – were getting millions in state money without submitting applications or specific promises to create jobs, it might have been an early signal of problems bedeviling the fund. Abbott has received more than $1 million in campaign contributions from companies that got state money.

Here, the DMN is being public-spirited, only pointing to how the public was shortchanged. But what about the enterprising reporters? 

AG Abbott should have given them a #2 response, but gave them #3 instead. Put another way, he declared that the non-existent applications for the TEF existed, but were protected. 

That is more-than-troubling. Seen in that light, it seems that AG Abbott had, in effect, falsified a government record apparently with the intent to defraud the reporters that filed the request. This, it would seem, harmed their ability to do their job which, in this case, would have yielded a major scoop. 

Isn't that a CRIMINAL action under the Texas Penal Code? Let's look. 

TITLE 8. OFFENSES AGAINST PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION 
CHAPTER 37. PERJURY AND OTHER FALSIFICATION
Sec. 37.10. TAMPERING WITH GOVERNMENTAL RECORD. 

(a) A person commits an offense if he:

(1) knowingly makes a false entry in, or false alteration of, a governmental record;
(2) makes, presents, or uses any record, document, or thing with knowledge of its falsity and with intent that it be taken as a genuine governmental record;

What's curious to me here is how I didn't have to search for this citation - I've had it open in my browser for some time. This same statute (or one close to it), also applies to something that came out awhile back about candidate Abbott's associate, Michael Quinn Sullivan. MQS ran afoul of the Texas Ethics Commission. After much kicking and screaming, he received a slap on the wrist. But what was most interesting is this aside from the TEC:

FINAL ORDER (pgs. 6-7)

On May 29, 2014, after two hearings on motions to quash, the Commission issued an order directing Mr. Sullivan to comply with production of documents responsive to the Commission-issued subpoena duces tecum. On June 13, 2014, Mr. Sullivan produced about 80 pages of documents. However, the evidentiary record at the formal hearing revealed hundreds of pages of direct communications from Mr. Sullivan located in the files of Texas legislators that were not produced pursuant to the subpoena. The Commission is left with the inescapable conclusion that Mr. Sullivan and Empower Texans have destroyed or lost thousands of emails sent to members of the Legislature during 2010 and 2011, despite having received written requests for such information in 2012. 

Ah, apparently another Title 8, Chapter 37 offence! 

Sec. 37.09. TAMPERING WITH OR FABRICATING PHYSICAL EVIDENCE. (a) A person commits an offense if, knowing that an investigation or official proceeding is pending or in progress, he:

(1) alters, destroys, or conceals any record, document, or thing with intent to impair its verity, legibility, or availability as evidence in the investigation or official proceeding; 

Previously, I wondered at candidate Abbott's willingness to be associated with MQS. It's odd that the state's top law enforcement officer would provide a platform for a man who had spoken disparagingly about the Texas Ethics Commission. As I observed

Law officers are generally less-than-enthusiastic about being personally associated with miscreants who publicly demonstrate a lack of respect for law enforcement. 

Now, with the revelations about the TEF, we may be closer to resolving the riddle. Abbott and MQS may have Title 8, Chapter 37 offences in common! 

But this is all old news, and much of it has already been covered elsewhere - all except for the possible criminality of it all. It's been months since I reached out to the Travis County DA's office to ask about the MQS deal - did such crimes fall under its jurisdiction? I just re-sent - no reply as yet. Should I bother asking about Abbott?


Maybe they're suffering from corruption fatigue, too. 

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

OF MOBS & MILLENIALS: WENDY'S FILIBUSTER A YEAR ON

Now, a year on
This week marks a year since the fracas in Texas went into full-gear with Wendy Davis' celebrated filibuster. 

I happened into it almost inadvertently. I had been following the rumblings building up to it. I watched what happened with the "people's filibuster" that had gone on in the days before. Hundreds of activists poured in to testify against the Texas GOP's anti-abortion legislation. The idea was to go the distance with the Far Right legislators, force them into exhaustion with testimony around-the-clock. What got my attention was the anti-abortion zealot's response - axing the public's right to give testimony. 

Many women who had traveled great distances to share their heart-rending stories were sent away. What did the Texas GOP accomplish by this?  They put the lid on the pressure cooker and turned up the heat. I made my plans to attend the real-deal filibuster. I managed to finish my work early that afternoon and headed over with some camera gear at around 3pm.  

The outrageous conduct of the Republican senators stays in my mind. It was clear that they would stop at nothing to stop Wendy. Decorum? Tradition? Basic respect? Forget it. They showed themselves to be bullies intent on humiliating a political enemy. When things didn't quite turn out the way they expected, their bellyaching after about being bested by a breach of decorum was laughable.


AAS's Arnold Garcia's laconic style
In any case, I tried putting this experience into perspective in the Austin American Statesman. I submitted "Of Mobs & Millennials" and it was accepted immediately. Usually, I'd honor the publication by simply providing a link here. Unfortunately, my piece didn't survive the editing process whole. Through some editing error, the concluding paragraph somehow got axed in the print edition. Numerous kindred problems plagued the online version. Despite repeat requests to get these sorted out (they did manage to correct their misspelling of ""Legilslators" that had been in the title), it still sits mangled on their website. For example, instead of opening with my opening, a paragraph removed towards the end (at the request of the editor) somehow appears as the opening sentence!   

So, here's what they published under the headline "Legislators hear roar of Millennials" - as intended.  Does it hold up? 


***

Of Mobs & Millennials
                                                       - By Carl Lindemann

Who is behind the “unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics” that shut down the Texas Senate? It isn’t Wendy Davis. The Republican Establishment has worse to fear. What they heard wasn't just a few young women rattling the rafters. It was a shout-out from the millennial generation.

Millennials are the more than 100 million Americans born from 1983 to 2003. They like to vote. With each passing election cycle, millions more of them can and do go to the polls. According to the Center for American Progress, millennials accounted for 20 percent of the ballots cast in 2008, some 25 million nationwide. In 2016, that should grow to 33 percent, 46 million ballots.

That millennials are ethnically diverse and politically progressive does not bode well for the status quo in Texas. In 1988, conservatives outnumbered progressives here by 14 percent among 18- to- 29-year-olds. In 2008, that shifted drastically, with progressives leading by 9 percent — a 23-point swing. Millennials are a lost generation to the GOP that has hitched its wagon to aging white tea party members.

The one ray of hope for conservatives is abortion. Millennials have the same mixed feelings about it that their parents do. But millennials have little interest in the Culture Wars that have divided us into red and blue states. Despite deep differences over abortion, they won’t let it split them.

Are millennials an unruly mob? Making noise inside the Capitol is nothing new to Austin’s contingent. Hundreds gather there regularly to “Om the Dome.” They sit in still silence meditating for the better part of an hour, then let out a joyful sound that reverberates throughout the building.

This isn’t just an Austin thing. It is an offshoot of MedMob, a quintessential millennial phenomenon that started here in 2011. Since, it has spread worldwide. Its mission? The “unification of our inner selves in public spaces.”

MedMob goes about this through “flash mobs,” albeit of a different sort than the carefully choreographed street theater often posted on YouTube. MedMobs are organized only to the extent that they synch-up over 300 cities on five continents. Maybe you’ve seen a horde of 20-somethings congregating calmly on the ground downtown. That’s it.

So millennials aren’t an unruly mob. This crew just operates by a different set of rules. That explains what happened in the Senate last week. The young women in the gallery held their breath and noses witnessing a brutal beat-down on Wendy Davis. In the end, it was a matter of conscience. They could not just stand by watching such injustice. So they shouted with a great shout and the wall came down.

And about the “Occupy Wall Street tactics”? That millennial signature shout comes from being close-knit. They are tribal at heart, communitarians. Their connection with Occupy, a protest organized by middle-aged anarchists? For most just a passing phase, a first few stumbling steps into politics. Now they are beginning to find their own feet.

While Republicans feel the heat in Texas, Democrats will soon have their turn. President Obama is not the man millennials hoped for when they took him over the top in 2008. Consider his penchant for punishing whistleblowers. Though Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden may be an anathema to the Washington establishment, they are millennials par excellence.

Politicians of all stripes should brace for the coming quarrel with millennials. The first clash will be over the crushing weight of student debt. They will revolt against backbreaking interest rates on these no-risk loans. Those holding the paper will get payback — but of a different kind than the windfall profits they expect.

More immediately, during the special session, Republicans might remember one thing while plotting revenge on the upstarts that upset their agenda. The issues alone didn’t send millennials into a frenzy over Occupy.

It was the cavalier way issues dear to them were cast aside. Being brusque now is the sure way to elect Wendy Davis Governor - if not in 2014, then in 2018.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

ABBOTT TO HISPANICS: BLAME WENDY

A telling distortion
What's the Abbott campaign's strategy for dealing with the Texas GOP's epic fail on immigration? 

Why, BLAME WENDY. 

Abbott cannot deal with the reality, so he has to rely on distraction. Now, Tucker Carlson's scandal sheet does the dirty work with a thoroughly dishonest, gross misrepresentation. The claim? "Wendy Davis Caught On Camera Saying Republicans Dislike ‘People Who Don’t Look Like Them’

The distance between this and the reality of what she actually said is telling. As the Texas GOP convention was getting underway last Friday, Wendy spoke about the economic consequences of Teapublican ideology: 

...there are other pieces of course that shape and influence the economic success we have as a state. Showing value and respect for people is such an important part of that. You need look no further than what happened in Arizona with their anti-immigration bill and the withdrawal of tourism and the impact to their economy as a consequence of what ideological thinkers did to that state.

And the same is true with the conversations going on in the Republican convention right now. They're talking about whether they should soften their language on immigration. But we all know where they are because they've been talking about it on the airwaves for the last couple of months.

And we know what they really believe and think about people that don't look like them or come from where they come from....


You can watch the full video of the speech here (the comment comes in after 4:00).

She DID NOT, in fact, say that Republicans "dislike" anyone. Instead, she said that their words and actions speak for themselves.

How VERY interesting that the "reporter" at the Daily Caller should project "dislike" on this here. But that comes from the Daily Caller, NOT Wendy Davis.  What does THAT say?

Well, let's put this out-of-context quote in proper context - what happened at the Texas GOP convention. 

How the Texas GOP and the Abbott campaign have gone into overdrive to promote this bogus story is telling.
"A NEW LOW" from the Abbott campaign

The Teapublican echo chamber has been reverberating for hours, with "The Real Wendy" attack site promoting the "story" and the Abbott campaign actually sending out a fundraiser email about it under the subject "A New Low." 

Contrary to Sen. Davis’ ignorant comments, the Republican Party includes people from all backgrounds who are united...

Geez - wonder why they didn't make the SAME effort when that Abbott supporter organized the "Immigrant Hunt" at UT last Fall.


DIDN'T TEAPUBLICANS JUST DISS HISPANIC CONSERVATIVES? 

Now, this little distraction doesn't change the reality this tries to ignore - that the Texas Teapublicans have tossed the Hispanic Republicans under the bus. That has NOTHING to do with Wendy Davis, and everything to do with how it dooms the GOP.

Let's start with Hispanic loyalists NOT quoted by the Abbott campaign in their sleazy attempt to sidetrack the conversation. Adryana Boyne describes herself as a "Proven Conservative American - God, country & family. National Director: VOCES Action- Fmr GOP Candidate for Texas House HD 102."

As I've noted before, she seemed ready to break ranks in the aftermath of last Fall's despicable "Immigrant Hunt" Now? Let's look at her Twitter feed before & after the Texas GOP convention.

Things started pretty rosy.


Then they went downhill from there. FAST:


Who is responsible?  Good question.


Now? Looks like she's at the tipping point - as are other GOP Hispanics. Finally, she's left with a primal question as the GOP tragedy for Hispanics takes a Shakespearean turn:


Now, Boyne is not alone, despite Rep. Villalba's absurd claim that "the Republican Party includes people from all backgrounds who are united..." 

Instead, it looks like others are ready to break ranks.

Have GOP Hispanics finally had enough?
Funny, you don't see Artemio Muniz on that list of people denouncing Wendy. Why not? I guess he was too busy denouncing the Teapublicans, "Extremists (who are) Destroying Our Party."

But are these "extremists" - or the new norm for the Texas GOP?

What does Greg Abbott, the would-be leader of the Texas GOP have to say? Maybe he could ask conservative Hispanics to look on the bright side. Unlike the Log Cabin Republicans who weren't allowed to have a booth at the GOP convention, those seeking real immigration reform were tolerated - for a brief time. BE PATIENT! 

And if that isn't enough?  BLAME WENDY!

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Tips? Suggestions? Ideas? Drop a line to carl (at) inanityofsanity (dot) com

Sunday, June 8, 2014

TALKING BACK TO THE TEXAS TRIB'S TRIBTALK


One of the great disappointments of the Internet Age has been the failure to create forums to foster respectful, insightful debate and discussion. Trolls trash conversation in a give-and-get that's an "eye for an eye that leaves the whole world blind." 

TribTalk's editor, David Muto, has the challenging task of extracting civil discussion from the toxic stew that is Texas politics. The Trib is working with University of Texas' "Engaging News Project" to see about developing new strategies to unlock the potential that has, thus far, been untapped. 

This project is, by design, a work-in-progress. Like fracking, the techniques now deployed may have unintended consequences requiring attention. Thus far, one post in particular seems particularly problematic. If, as Muto says, his goal is to foster "thoughtful and courteous discourse on the issues that matter," this needs to be addressed.

GOP "Apologist" Sylvester

There is no way for us to hold the moral high ground if our tactics include name-calling and sexist attacks, even though those tactics are often used against us.


So this is an "apology" for an Abbott supporter's violation of the norms and standards for civil behavior? 

It begins by accusing Democrats of "name-calling and sexist attacks." This thinly-veiled hit-piece goes downhill from there. The specious spite spewed under the guise of Christian Charity alternates between finger-pointing and finger-wagging. 

Among the gems:

  • Democrats "may be as committed to their faith as (conservatives) are," but you'd never know it. 
  • Wendy Davis is a "big-government-supporting tax-and-spender" promoting "over-the-top pro-abortion positions."
  • Davis' supporters at her "pro-abortion filibuster" were "hateful, in the true sense of the word."
  • "Our liberal opponents frequently litter their arguments with name-calling and condescension, for which they often get a pass." 
  • The Democrat's "fast-talking spokesmouths have adopted sarcasm and hatefulness as a communications strategy." 
  • "...outnumbered Democrats rambled on for hours, alternating between falsehoods, hyperbole and cheap shots" at an unnamed committee hearing last legislative session.
On top of all this, Sylvester offers a revisionist history aimed at discrediting Leticia Van de Putte. She says that, like Wendy's other supporters at the filibuster, the Senator was also hateful and contemptuous. Her celebrated moment that night calling out GOP bullying? Just "crowd-pandering and (an)opportunistic comment."

This is "thoughtful and courteous discourse on the issues that matter"???

When I first saw this piece, I simply posted a comment providing a link to my original reporting on the Abbott supporter's abortion prank. Then, after some reflection, I figured I should weigh in on this in some detail. I didn't want to simply expose Sylvester's "apology." The "issues that matter" here? How to take her "discussion" to a different level and a different direction?

It seemed to me that this raises the problem of Christianizing for political gain. I submitted "The Naked Narcissism of Public Piety" Friday morning. Yes, it's a pointed piece - provocative, in fact. I was careful to strike a proper tone, an appropriate match to Sylvester's.

Late in the afternoon, I got my rejection from Muto:

Thanks for submitting! Unfortunately, we only have room for one or two guest columns per week and this doesn't fit our editorial needs right now, but thanks for your interest and keep us in mind in the future.

A structural problem needing adjustment
As a professional writer, I live with rejection. No big deal. Move onto the next pitch! But I see a structural issue here. If they publish the likes of "The Problem with 'Abortion Barbie'," then they should reserve space for rebuttal above-and-beyond online comments. No, they don't have to take MY piece. But someone should be able to respond, at the very least like a letter to the editor.

So I wrote back:

I DO hope that someone will be permitted to answer Ms. Sylvester's hit piece in some detail. That really is necessary.

I'm not sure if you're aware of how inflammatory her accusations are - like characterizing Wendy Davis as "pro abortion" - that's really over-the-top.

I know that you're just getting started, but if you allow third-parties like that to do surrogate work for campaigns, it seems appropriate that there's balance. 


Let's see what Muto has to say. Honestly, I think he was mistaken to publish Sylvester's hit-piece in the first place. It has NO PLACE in a publication fostering "thoughtful and courteous discourse on the issues that matter." But, having made the mistake of accepting it, will TribTalk accept its responsibility to offer "thoughtful and courteous" rebuttal?

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Tips? Suggestions? Ideas? Drop a line to carl (at) inanityofsanity (dot) com

Saturday, May 24, 2014

ATTITUDES & ABBOTT BEHIND BRUTAL ABORTION STUNT

The Abbot supporter behind the LA hit
What's the Texas connection behind the instantly infamous "Abortion Barbie" stunt that even the Abbott campaign (but not Abbott himself) denounced?

Kolten Parker at the San Antonio Express-News and Wayne Slater at the Dallas Morning News have provided tantalizing glimpses. But there's more to the story... 


Parker unearthed the Texas connection through some sharp reporting in "Conservative Midland woman funds 'Abortion Barbie' posters in Hollywood." 

Kathryn Stuard told the San Antonio Express-News she donated an undisclosed amount to conservative street artist “Sabo” to create the posters.

“It hits people with the truth,” said Stuard, 53. “The artist is very edgy… I do support (Greg) Abbott but the campaign had nothing to do with these (posters).”

But then, after Parker published his piece, Stuard publicly requested a correction via Twitter where she goes by "#DUDE! I'M#BOSSY!!

"I said I helped fund the artist's ongoing project. I never commissioned or asked him to do this 'for me.' Please correct."

How Parker found her
Did Parker misrepresent Stuard's involvement? Was she something of an unwitting party here? She supported "ongoing work" but not this specific, tasteless prank. Can you really blame a patron of the arts when a beneficiary of their largess steps over the line? 

Parker responded to defend his work. "I see no reason for a correction, nothing is inaccurate and the info is attributed correctly. Am I missing something?" 

He also provided an email from the prankster (see right) that pointed to his benefactor. It also provided the needed clues to track her down to Texas from her otherwise obscure name on the posters. 

With this, Stuard immediately backed down from her request for a correction. But I still had some questions. So I tweeted her.


INTO A TWITTER TIZZY:

A cordial discussion until...BURP! 
Unfortunately, Twitter isn't well-designed to handle a back-and-forth, especially with more than two people involved. Let's unpack this.

Basically, Stuard continued to distance herself. How is it that her name ended up on all of the posters? A misunderstanding. "I did not ask for any approval or review. They are his expressions He is the artist"

Then, an associate - apparently the person who connected Stuard to Los Angeles - jumped in. More about "Bossy Rock Princess" ("Rock Prin" on Facebook, but let's just call her BRP) and her expletive-laced "style" later.

"Thanks for being our voice"
Now, the problem here is that Stuard's statements and actions elsewhere seem to contradict this. On Facebook, she said "I donated to get these up. Have had press calling this afternoon." A friend replied "Wow. Thank you for being our voice...Hope it doesn't backfire on Abbott."

I posted this for her response (see right). Still, in the back-and-forth, she insisted that there was an arms-length relationship here. 

I donated. Gave money. No ROI... Just like if you had a message I liked I'd donate to your cause. To support artist so he can get his work out. It's always a secret. Ya don't know....All I knew it was art going up where she was speaking....

Let's take her at her word. 

Blasted out all through the day on Twitter
But what about her hands-on work promoting this once it was out? As the posters hit the streets Thursday morning, Stuard was hammering away all day on Twitter marketing it. "Look what went up all over LA!" she declared, over and again, including an image of the posters and the prankster. She posted this some twenty-seven times in the hours after it hit the street, with innumerable other postings to promote it. She did not, however, disclose her direct connection.  

Now, looking back in her Twitter feed, it seems that she made other contributions to the effort. On May 16th, she put out a call for general support, then a very specific pitch. She retweeted BRP's message "Need funds to plaster Los Angeles with posters when #AbortionBarbie comes to town next week!"    



WHY THE BACKPEDALING?

The May 16 pitch
Given all this, it's hard to imagine a greater level of commitment short of helping put up the posters herself. Still, there was no direct connection until Stuard confirmed it when she spoke to the reporter that afternoon. The back backpedaling started after Parker's story hit the street, when it became clear that the Texas connection with funding from an Abbott supporter would be of great interest - and concern.  

Also, it is worth noting that Stuard had received negative feedback during her promotions. Some conservatives didn't think that was appropriate. "Benghazi Sentinel" wondered "Do little girls need this?" 

"It's a smack in their (Liberals) face," she replied. 

"That's really over the top and seriously wacky...hate to be the mother who has to explain this stuff," he answered.

Then, there was her Facebook friend's concern, "Hope it doesn't backfire on Abbott."

Now, Stuard had a compatriot throughout this entire experience, and certainly during our Twitter exchange. 
The Princess doth protest too much, methinks
BRP's part here is telling. "Attacking an innocent citizen funding art cuz u can't tie it to Abbott or GOP PATHETIC" 

First, "an innocent citizen funding art"? Stuard knew this was a donation for negative messaging against a political opponent. She had made her opinions about Wendy Davis plain in rehashes of the fracas about her biography in January. And now? She'd paid "...
to plaster Los Angeles with posters when #AbortionBarbie comes to town..."

And "can't tie to Abbott or GOP"? Stuard did that herself the moment she identified herself as an Abbott supporter. What's worse, her friend thanking her for "being our voice," while having concerns for the campaign's exposure makes the connection clear. Is the prank's "message" some aberrant attitude, or does it reflect views embraces by Abbott's supporters? Tellingly, the Facebook post disappeared shortly after I posted it.  


WHERE STUARD SURPRISES

All that being said, Stuard should not be dismissed altogether as some blind ideologue. Instead, she's an example of the ills Far Right ideology has brought to the cause of good governance.  She is not a media professional. She's an occasional blogger and introduced herself online last year as a "Stomping Mad Mom in Midland." A mother of five, in fact. 

Now she finds herself unexpectedly in a media frenzy. I don't imagine that this attention was exactly what she was hoping for, much less expecting.Reading Wayne Slater's take in the Dallas Morning News (“Abortion Barbie” posters depicting Wendy Davis as a pregnant Barbie doll appear in Los Angeles), I found myself wondering about her opinions. He quotes her as saying “...If we’re going to have abortion, can’t they just be safe?” 

Now, that last intrigued me. Does she actually have a nuanced view on abortion?

So I Tweeted her about this. Here initial reply wasn't promising.

"I'm certainly not in support of unsafe, non hospital privileged clinics. Hear of Gosnell?"


But I persisted. I pressed her again. "Gosnell is a criminal. We're talking about LEGAL abortion. So you are pro-choice?"

Then she surprised me. 


Was it possible that we could find common ground?

"We agree? REDUCING abortion requires good public policy/health. Attempts to "end" or ban not helpful/realistic.

Her reply?


Now, what if we really do stay planted in reality?  What if we start trusting public health to public health professionals and physicians with health care....and set aside ideology to focus on best practices, practical solutions and positive outcomes? 

Here's where today's radicalized GOP runs into problems. Traditionally, conservatives have operated in the realm of reality. What to do when radical politics and practicality intersects? The reality is that Kathyrn Stuard is NOT the stereotypical anti-abortion activist that some would see her as. Is it possible for Stuard to see that the stereotype she has of Wendy Davis isn't accurate, either?  Is it possible to set aside labels and look to practical solutions for reducing unwanted pregnancies - and with them, abortions - even if they come from Texas Democrats?


THE "BUT THEY DO IT, TOO" EXCUSE

Now, let's look at this from a different angle. Is there some way that Stuard's prank can, somehow, be justified? 

In our back-and-forth, Stuard repeatedly attempted to justify her actions by citing what she sees as the equally abhorrent attacks on Greg Abbott for his handicap. She suggested that I look them up. Well, I have already written about that, particularly in regard to James O'Keefe's part in cooking up these "offences" by doctoring footage. As Jonathan Tilove reported in the Austin American Statesman:

...the most egregious edit of all is the placement of the hacking laugh. In the video released by O'Keefe, it comes when the "old woman" says "he's in a wheelchair." But in the raw footage, it comes five seconds later, with the exchange about Abbott's hair.

In other words, the headline on O'Keefe's release - which read Breaking News Video: Wendy Davis Supporters/BGTX Mock Greg Abbott's Disability - would have better read, Breaking News Video: Wendy Davis Supporters/BGTX Mock Greg Abbott's Hair.

 
Also, there's an essential contrast here between Davis and Abbott's responses to these situations. When it seemed that the inappropriate conduct from a Davis supporter was real, the candidate herself stepped up immediately to denounce it. Abbott, however, distances himself with spokespeople as he did with Stuard's prank. 

"It's not affiliated with our campaign and we find it appalling," said Abbott campaign spokesman Matt Hirsch as Slater reported. 

Are Abbott and his supporters truly appalled, or is this just public relations posturing?  


WHAT ABBOTT SUPPORTERS SAY AMONG THEMSELVES

We get another glimpse at the reality looking at Stuard's associate, the Los Angeles conservative that apparently connected her to this nastiness. While Stuard took time to courteously respond on Twitter, the same could not be said for her anonymous associate. 
Twitter devotee
"Bossy Rock Princess" was offensive, insulting and could not restrain herself from using the "F-Bomb." I had to ask "Bad case of Tourette's - or incapable of having a civil discussion?"

"Princess" is apparently part of the Twitter subculture. With over 77,600 "tweets" up...let's do the math. She posted her first in July, 2012. So she's been averaging just under 100 a day. Day in, day out, she cranks them out to over 22,000 followers.

Big audience of followers for this
Though it's hard to imagine she has time for much else, BRP did make an appearance on an internet radio station, "We are America Radio,"  following the prank. This is part of the same site where Stuard blogs. BRP comes on for the last half-hour to detail what happened, and what it represents. 

"It's time to stop letting the establishment decide how we want to run our campaigns and how we want to support our candidates. We can go bold, edgy in your face...." she says. What's especially noteworthy, in light of James O'Keefe's manufactured video about Davis' supporters, is the laughter here from the host:

video


All this comes down to the question I raised earlier: 

Is the prank's "message" some aberrant attitude, or does it reflect views widely embraced by Abbott's supporters? 

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