Tuesday, March 03, 2015

The Hillary e-mail matter smells bad

As several have already noted.  First, Mediaite:

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell tonight covered the big news that Hillary Clinton solely used her personal email account while she was Secretary of State, and he honestly found this news both troubling and baffling, noting how personal emails are “only supposed to be used for government business in an emergency.”

New York Times reporter Jeremy Peters said this is definitely “unusual,” but only adds to the idea that Clinton is not very “forthcoming” and “not all business is being conducted in the open like it should be.” MSNBC senior editor Beth Fouhy also wondered, “Where were the State Department lawyers who allowed this to go forward?”

Fouhy said, “She understands rules and protocol, and for her to just willingly violate it just to preserve some semblance of privacy just really makes no sense.”

O’Donnell, meanwhile, was just baffled at how the Secretary of State could be “using a not-secure, commercial email system” the entire time. He called it a “stunning breach of security and said, “If it’s true that she never used a State Department email address, we have something that, at first read, has no conceivable rational explanation to it that is legitimate.”

Vox makes it seem a little fouler yet.

But this story looks even worse if you transport yourself back to early 2009, when Clinton first became of Secretary of State and, according to this story, initially refused to use a governmental account. The Bush administration had just left office weeks earlier under the shadow of, among other things, a major ongoing scandal concerning officials who used personal email addresses to conduct business, and thus avoid scrutiny.

The scandal began in June 2007, as part of a Congressional oversight committee investigation into allegations that the White House had fired US Attorneys for political reasons. The oversight committee asked for Bush administration officials to turn over relevant emails, but it turned out the administration had conducted millions of emails' worth of business on private email addresses, the archives of which had been deleted.


That scandal unfolded well into the final year of Bush's presidency, then overlapped with another email secrecy scandal, over official emails that got improperly logged and then deleted, which itself dragged well into Obama's first year in office. There is simply no way that, when Clinton decided to use her personal email address as Secretary of State, she was unaware of the national scandal that Bush officials had created by doing the same.

That she decided to use her personal address anyway showed a stunning disregard for governmental transparency requirements. Indeed, Clinton did not even bother with the empty gesture of using her official address for more formal business, as Bush officials did.


Perhaps even more stunning is that the Obama White House, whose top officials were presumably exchanging frequent emails with Clinton, apparently did not insist she adopt an official email account. At some point during Obama's first year, there must have been at least one senior official who dealt with the political fallout of Karl Rove using a personal address, then turned around and fired off an email to the personal address that Hillary Clinton used exclusively. That this continued for four years is baffling.

On its best day -- which will be many days from today, if such a day ever comes -- this is a serious PIA for more than the reasons made obvious so far.  Here comes Zombie Benghazi, the IRS e-mails, and God only knows what other chum the sharks in the water will be gnashing their teeth on.  It will completely drown out this day's more significant development, Netanyahu's speech before Congress on the coming war with Iran.  And it reinforces the narrative that the Clintons always have something to hide, a notion that goes all the way back to Whitewater.

I don't support Hillary Clinton for president.  Didn't eight years ago, don't today.  This changes nothing about how I intend to go forward with my political activism for 2016.  But it is a serious blow, a self-inflicted wound, to her and to Democrats, which is why the Republicans won't stop screaming about it for the next 20 months.

The media might not be the problem

But then again, they might.  They get a heaping helping of the blame for the sorry state of our public discourse today.  Let's begin with the sharpest takedown of the media business I have read in a long while.

For a long time newspaper owners everywhere could get away with anything because look, where else you gonna go, son? They could lie and cheat and steal, and there was enough slush floating around to mask the thievery and incompetence.

Plus let us face it, whatever newspapers were (and are) screwing up, local and national news programs were (and are) so awful that after the in-depth analyses of GOOD MORNING CLEVELAND and its ilk, the worst newspaper jock on his laziest day seemed like a Nobel laureate.

Now, though, there are other ways to get information out. There are other ways to find things and tell everybody. Failure and idiocy are exposed much, much faster than they used to be, and that has not been a boon for those whose stupidity was only tolerable because the profits made it so.

Yes, it's not just the print media that is the dinosaur struggling in the tar pit; even legacy broadcast media has all but gone down the drain.  NBC's travails -- like those of CBS and the dramatic collapse of integrity at 60 Minutes -- didn't start and end with Brian Williams.  Here's something devastating the LA Times wrote about the Sunday Morning Talking Heads show "Press the Meat" and Chuck Todd just yesterday.

"Meet the Press" likes to swank around as though it's our premier network public affairs program. Yet somehow its producers and host think it's all right to treat a manifestly ignorant statement about climate change as "a fun moment" involving a "fun little prop" -- and to pander to American anti-intellectualism by implying that the global warming debate is just too serious and boring to waste time on, like high school kids grousing about having to go to math class. One can almost hear the producers of "Meet the Press" going, "What, climate change again? Cue up the escaping llamas."

How low can the news departments of our major networks sink? We've already reported on the decline of journalistic standards at CBS' "60 Minutes," in the context of its flawed and credulous reporting on disability and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. And now "Meet the Press," by endorsing a display of pure ignorance about an urgent issue of public policy as a "fun" prank, cedes the last shred of its credibility.

This also is no new topic.  The film Broadcast News took down the networks, their anchors, and the corporate layoffs in 1987, almost thirty years ago.  Remember the scene where Holly Hunter lectured her assembled peers about "not-news" as the gym floor full of dominoes tumbled on the screen behind her and the reporters all laughed?

I think I've told this story before here, but here it comes again, with some updated figures.

When I worked at the Beaumont Enterprise in the early to mid-1980's, the daily circulation was almost 90,000 and on Sunday, 115K.  Today it's under 22,000 daily, and less than 29,000 on Sunday.  When Hurricane Ike took out Southeast Texas 6 1/2 years ago, the paper's printing press was flooded and inoperable; they quickly sold it and laid off most of  the (unionized) pressmen.  Since then, the BE is printed by the Houston Chronicle and trucked over to make the morning delivery schedule.

When Hearst acquired it from Jefferson Pilot in 1986, the paper was running a 40% profit margin.

When I was at the Plainview (almost) Daily Herald in the late '80's, its circulation was 8K and 10K on Sunday.  I prepared the budgets for it; the Hearst daddies wanted 33%, but in reality it came in closer to 30.  Today the PDH circulates about half that number of papers, and also does not have a press or even a publisher on site.  It is printed in and managed from Midland, 180 miles away, where the circulation for the Reporter-Telegram was 24K and 30K on Sunday when I worked there in the early '90's.  Today that newspaper distributes just over 14K daily and 17K Sunday.

There are lots of good journalists doing very good work at the Houston Chronicle and the Hearst newspapers I worked for in the course of my ten-year career.  But the corporation itself is still run by greedy, self-serving people who care little about the people and not much more for the actual business of news.  Hearst is not unique in this regard as a diversified media conglomerate.  It just happens to be a private company, unbeholden to the quarterly statement but tightly yoked to a small group of  William Randolph Hearst's grandchildren and a sham board of directors the heirs approve.

And for decades now they have hit their somewhat reduced profit projections mainly on the expense side of the ledger.

Monetizing news-gathering was a business even a fool could get rich from for nearly a hundred years (from the 1880s to the 1980s), and many fools did.  Even the smart people are having trouble coming up with creative ways to make money in the business these days... certainly the kind of money they once did.  That's not just been bad for media and its employees but also our democracy.  Without the watchdogs at City Hall and the state capitals and in DC, the politicians and their cronies have run amok.

This is a tale told many times before; there's just not much new to say about it.  Facebook and Twitter simply aren't suitable replacements.  But for a generation which previously got much of its news from Jon Stewart (not necessarily a bad thing) where will they turn?  It seems to be the same sources the rest of us use... with some notable distinctions, like blogs.

Approaching Idiocracy already, we all must be certain that we can find sources of information we can believe and trust.  And most importantly, discerning what is news and what isn't.

Notice I didn't mention Fox, Bill O'Reilly, or conservatives even once.

Monday, March 02, 2015

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance thinks the dress is gold and white (but doesn't really care either way) and that the llamas should replace the Kardashians on TV as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff notes that Republican hostility to local control doesn't extend to the proposed high speed rail line, where a bill to give cities and counties a virtual veto over it has been filed.

Libby Shaw, writing for Texas Kaos and a contributing to Daily Kos, is not surprised by the Texas Republicans' cruel contempt for immigrant families and Obamacare. Abbott celebrates busting up immigrant families while John Cornyn licks his chops for a gutted Obamacare.

Stace at DosCentavos reports on the League of Women Voters-Houston's discussion on low voter turnout.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is appalled at the anti-citizen ignorance of the McAllen city commissioner candidate, Debbie Crane Aliseda, who equates early voting to voter fraud.  What's worse?  Other candidates echoed her ignorance.

A hot rumor about Adrian Garcia declaring for mayor of Houston turned out to be only that, but PDiddie at Brains and Eggs -- as someone really well-connected once said -- "ran the traps on everything". (A city council candidate did announce at that same breakfast meeting, for whatever that might be worth.)

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson: The Texas GOP gutted public education which caused a budget surplus. Instead of putting the money back they want to give it to the wealthy and big business: Doing Away With What They Believe Is Unnecessary.

Texas Leftist wonders if the nullification of opponents' signatures recalling the Plano ERO might be a precursor to Houston's case.

jobsanger underscores the lies conservative repeat about the poor.

Egberto Willies reported from the Texas Kossacks meetup in Austin this past weekend.

Neil at All People Have Value took a walk and looked up at the things above him. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.


And here are some other posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Texas Clean Air Matters reminds us that Texas is very good at energy efficiency and should do more of it, and Texas Vox calls for more support for solar energy from the Lege.

Better Texas Blog calculates the cost of cutting the business margins tax.

Socratic Gadfly exposes Austin for the not-quite-so-liberal bastion that it is.

Houston Matters airs their interview with Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein today.

Prairie Weather reminds us that Congressional Republicans are about as dangerous to America as badly trained local police have shown themselves to be.

Juanita Jean has a good laugh over a kerfuffle involving male strippers at an antique show in Fayette County.

Nonsequiteuse would like Republicans to stay out of her bathroom.

Grits for Breakfast recounts how the DPS "border surge" caused an increase in crime elsewhere.

The TSTA Blog asks if anything will be left for Texas schools in the budget, while Raise Your Hand Texas comments on the filing of quality pre-K bills in the Legislature.

Randy Bear endorses Mike Villarreal for mayor of San Antonio, and The Quintessential Curmudgeon, taking over for the Panhandle Truth Squad, takes note of the city council races in Amarillo.  And the Lewisville Texan-Journal also reports on city council election happenings there.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Rick Perry: Scott Walker's a jerk

And when Rick Perry thinks you're a jerk, you're probably more of an a-hole.  And by that, he means a bigger a-hole than he is, Scott.

Saturday morning, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said that "the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime" was Ronald Reagan's aggressive response to an air traffic controllers strike in 1981. Forget Nixon's outreach to China, Reagan's defense buildup, or the Iraq war — it's all about the firing of about 11,000 federal employees.

Walker has made similar remarks about Reagan and the air traffic controllers before. But now, he is one of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination in 2016. And he is trying to convince party elites that he can be their guy. But instead of checking off the foreign policy box, this latest comment adds to a list of foreign policy screwups.

The context surrounding this quote is important. Walker had repeatedly asserted that the air traffic controllers strike was a critical foreign policy decision, arguing that it sent the Soviets a message that Reagan meant what he said. At one point, he cited Soviet documents to support his point — documents that, it turns out, were entirely made up. Reagan's own ambassador to the Soviet Union told Politifact back in January that Walker's interpretation of these events is "utter nonsense."

Earlier this week, Walker had gotten into hot water for saying that his fight with union at home prepared him for fighting ISIS abroad. "If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world," Walker said. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, another 2016 hopeful and no squishy moderate, called Walker's comments "inappropriate."

Overlook his being a jerk or an a-hole or whatever.  Scott Walker is just too effing dumb -- even for a Republican -- to be president of the United States.  This time, it has nothing to do with him dropping out of college 34 hours short of an undergraduate degree.  It may take a few months for the GOP base to figure this out, however, so who might be the most stupid in this regard is an open question.

On the other hand, our formerly worst Texas governor ever (just since the current one) might not have learned his lesson four years ago about demonstrating empathy towards 'the enemy' publicly, and if you believe the so-called libertarians who vote in the CPAC poll, Oops doesn't have much ground left to lose.  So, as usual, I can't really determine which of these conservatives committed the bigger gaffe.

C'mon, debate season!

Update: It's not as if Governor Glasses was going to just let Scott Walker be the most ignorant person of the weekend, after all.

Following a weekend full of conservative attacks on Hillary Clinton at the Conservative Political Action Conference, former Texas Governor Rick Perry added to the list, questioning the former secretary of state’s “loyalty” in an interview that aired Sunday.

Responding to news that the Clinton foundation had not notified the State Department when it previously accepted a donation from a foreign nation, Perry argued that Clinton was disloyal.

“I think it falls flat in the face of the American people when it comes to, are you going to trust an individual who has taken that much money from a foreign source? Where’s your loyalty?” Perry said in an interview that aired on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

He winks and nods at Texas secessionists, he supported Cliven Bundy's armed insurrection, and he's questioning someone -- anyone -- else's "loyalty".  Sometimes you just have to laugh.

Sunday Funnies, Conservatives Behaving Badly edition

Bonus toon: "In Memoriam: Logic and Reason".

Hat-tip @TomTomorrow who notes that the toon (at the link above), from September of last year, won a silver medal from the Society of Illustrators on Thursday, the day before Leonard Nimoy passed away on Friday. "Seems somewhat bittersweet now," he added. "Wonder if @TheRealNimoy ever saw it."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Things I am glad I do not have to blog about

-- CPAC: Christie, Walker, Jeb.  Fuck all that.  Really.  Wouldn'cha rather go look at livestock at the Rodeo?  (You'll have to wait another week; this weekend is the BBQ cookoff that nobody is invited to except for a few special people.  RodeoHouston has long gone elitist.)

-- Rudy "A noun, a verb, and 9/11" Giuliani, James Inhofe and his snowball in Hell, and those homophobes at the Lege gaying themselves up without a clueUpdate: Oh yeah, Bill O'Reilly too.

Just waiting on the cartoonists to finish, then they'll be in the Funnies on Sunday.

-- Net Neutrality for the win.  I blogged enough about it anyway in the early days, when its fate was still uncertain.  Update: Oh yeah, the Keystone XL pipeline, too.  Oh wait, I did blog about that.  Nemmind.

-- Rahm Emanuel's runoff.  I probably will have to blog about that asshole eventually, seeing as how his experience is a cautionary tale for Hillary Clinton, now matter how it turns out in April for him.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to try to get across town for breakfast and fireworks 

Update (2/28): A big nothing on the Garcia front as predicted, but former Houston Community College trustee Abel Davila did announce for District H, where Ed Gonzales is term-limited.  Davila is the husband of former HISD board member Diana Davila, and both have had some clouds of controversy swirling about them in the aftermath of the ethics investigations into both HISD and HCC a few years ago.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bibi Netanyahu is a TeaBagger

Sorry if the truth offends my Jewish friends.

Throughout my life I have managed to avoid taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.  For almost fifty years, these people have pointed fingers -- and guns and rockets -- at each other as the source of the constant strife.  The circle of tensions to hostilities to brutalities eventually rotates to ceasefires, and then starts over again.  There has been more than enough blame to go around on both sides as the conflict enters its third generation.  I found myself horrified when an Israeli bulldozer killed Rachel Corrie twelve years ago, and completely astounded as the Palestinians have -- over the past fourteen years -- kept firing the occasional indiscriminate missile into Israel, which then retaliated with a hundred times' worth of excessive force that an 'appropriate response' might have called for.

"You started it" is a poor place to begin diplomacy.  We all teach our children to behave better than that.  The world over.

If there is any reason why a person questioning their religious beliefs should consider atheism, all one should do is look to the Middle East for the worst of what overtly devout faith exemplifies.  And it's demonstrative of the revolting extremism that when someone points out the fact that religion is so often the basis for so many of the planet's historical atrocities, that truth always draws the most indignant responses from those who consider themselves the most righteous.

The Israeli prime minister's appearance before Republicans in Congress next Tuesday -- and it will be mostly Republicans only -- is cynical, conniving, and meant to influence both his re-election bid (in two weeks) and the nascent Iran-US talks intended to avoid that nation going nuclear.  Even the vaunted Israeli intelligence agency, the Mossad, has discredited the prime minister's claims of an imminent threat from Iran.

Update: More from Vox on Netanyahu's cries of "wolf" over the decades.

As Iran expert Gary Sick explains, Netanyahu has been warning of an imminent threat from Iranian nukes for decades. "More than 20 years ago, Mr. Netanyahu solemnly informed us that, unless someone intervened, Iran would have a nuclear weapon within five years," Sick writes.

If you needed more evidence of how deep this episode has sunk into the septic tank, even the US political consultants -- on both sides of the aisle -- have been involved.

An American digital media guru denied reports (three weeks ago) that suggested he was sent by the Republicans in order to help Netanyahu win reelection.

Army Radio reported that the Likud employed Vincent Harris, who worked for Republican senators Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz. The report said the Likud complained about US President Barack Obama’s former field director, Jeremy Bird, advising groups working to unseat Netanyahu, even though they were using the same tactic.

Ted Cruz's and Mitch McConnell's political adviser.  And Jeremy Bird, of Obama for America and Battleground Texas.  It almost sounds like the Onion, doesn't it?

Netanyahu's Congressional address next week is precisely the kind of disrespectful bullshit we've come to expect from McConnell and John Boehner and the rotten apples in the GOP caucus.  That they are using him -- while he uses them -- is not just one of their run-of-the-mill disgraces this time, but a volatile development for everyone who doesn't want a wider, hotter war in the Middle East.

I'm not into Biblical prophecies about the end times, but I am in the minority.

Besides believing that it hastens the return of their Savior, as simply a commercial and political tool, war is all these goddamned conservatives have ever wanted.  It's good for business: good for their cronies in the defense industry, good for television ratings, good for their tuff-guys brand, and real good for stoking that fanatical American patriotism that gets everybody in Texas to buy baseball caps with Chris Kyle's skull logo on them.

Jill Stein's Texas tour: Kingwood and Laredo

The campaign's slogan is "It's In Our Hands".

Media representation in Laredo was a far cry better than Houston.  Watch at KLDO Univision beginning at 9:40, and livestream 8-9 am Thursday morning on 99.3 FM with Jay St John and Sergio Mora on "Laredo Citizens for Good Government".

And see here.

The Laredo Humanitarian Relief Team met with a potential presidential candidate for the Green Party, Dr. Jill Stein, in Laredo. They spoke on the banks of the Rio Grande about a potential resurgence of undocumented immigrants this summer.

Tonight on KGNS News at Six, reporter Renee Santos tells us why the team thinks a new wave is coming, and how they plan to handle it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Latino activist claims Adrian Garcia will announce for Houston mayor Friday morning, Garcia denies

*See update at the end.

It was just yesterday that Teddy Schleifer at the HouChron reported Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack's impatience with the Hamlet-esque Adrian Garcia as he processes whether or not to run for mayor.

Here is Carlos Calbillo's Facebook page, earlier today.  (Copying the particulars in case your settings don't let you see the original).

SHOULD BE SOME GOOD FIREWORKS, and early in the AM too, this Friday, at "Dario's Breakfast", in Denver Harbor, as the High Sheriff of Harris County, TEXAS, keynote speaker, faces a mostly hostile audience to announce he will run for Mayor of Houston.
Why hostile? Because this gathering of Latino, HIGHspanic and TEJANO activists are not happy that Adrian is resigning his office as Sheriff (By law he has to) in order to file for Mayor. The community feels that since it took a lot of struggle to take this office to begin with, his resignation may cause the Redneck community to take this office yet again, and those folks, before Adrian came on the scene, had run that office since forever.
Anyway, if you you enjoy drama, fear and loathing, and fireworks in the morning, come to the FREE and open to the public event. FREE Breakfast, starts promptly at 8AM, and that ain't CPT (Chicano People's Time) !
Taqueria El Alteño
Mexican Restaurant
Address: 7334 Wallisville Rd, Houston, TX 77020
Phone:(713) 678-8901

After I Tweeted that, Schleifer -- whose veracity has helped established himself as an authority on matters like these -- immediately expressed doubts.

And then he quickly verified Calbillo's "news" as rumor.

Maybe Calbillo is just trying to boost turnout for his meeting.  Eh, I like migas y chisme so I'll show up anyway, see if any fireworks actually go off.

Update (2/26): Schleifer's latest at the Chron names the two Republicans, Ron Hickman and Allen Fletcher, who are sweet-talking the county commissioners for a job opening that isn't (yet).

"Sheriff Garcia's still the sheriff," County Judge Ed Emmett said.

Precinct 1 Commissioner El Franco Lee emphasized that Garcia could decline to join the wide-open mayoral race: "I'll believe it when I see it."

Nonetheless, Lee and the other members of Commissioners Court have sat down with Hickman and Fletcher in recent months to discuss the job.

It is likely that more names will emerge for the post once Garcia formally announces his intention to run for mayor. The court also could appoint an interim replacement who would pledge not to run for reelection in 2016 – possibly triggering a spirited 2016 Republican primary – but Commissioners Jack Cagle and Steve Radack this week said that a placeholder appointment would not be their first choice.

Update (2/28): A big nothing on the Garcia front as predicted, but former Houston Community College trustee Abel Davila did announce for District H, where Ed Gonzales is term-limited.  Davila is the husband of former HISD board member Diana Davila, and both have had some clouds of controversy swirling about them in the aftermath of the ethics investigations into both HISD and HCC a few years ago.

Remind Texas Congressional Democrats NOT to override Obama's KXL veto

Hair Balls with the executive summary.

In its long-awaited environmental impact assessment last year, the State Department essentially said mining and refining the Canadian tar sands was a foregone conclusion -- that the stuff would be burned anyway, regardless of whether it's shipped via Keystone -- and that any argument against the pipeline that invoked climate change was a nonstarter. But last month, an EPA official cited tanking oil prices to challenge that premise. In her letter to the State Department, assistant EPA administrator Cynthia Giles insisted that below that $65-per-barrel mark, shipping tar sands crude by rail, the more expensive route, would no longer an attractive, lucrative option for industry.

For now, it appears the only way Keystone will be built is if Congress can muster a super-majority to override Obama's veto, if the State Department review ultimately concludes the project is in the "national interest", or if Obama changes his mind. 

If the Republican House of Representatives can vote to repeal Obamacare nearly 60 times, there's little doubt they will try to override the pipeline veto, if only for the piss value and the fundraising letters.  The Senate is already making plans to do so.  They need more votes in the House, though, so it's time to remind the Texas Democrats who voted for Keystone -- that would be Henry Cuellar, Filemon Vela, Gene Green, Al Green, Marc Veasey, and even Sheila Jackson Lee -- that repeating their 'ayes' a second time (even if Majority Whip Steve Scalise breaks out his white hood and his flogger) is not acceptable.

Call them and tell them to vote 'NO' on KXL when John Boehner brings it up again.  Call them all (I am).  If you live in a district represented by a Republican like me, be sure and tell them that as a Texas Democrat (or Green, or independent liberal/progressive) that you have no representation in Washington DC, and as such will they kindly be yours on this issue.  That's what I'm going to say.