Friday, October 24, 2014

SLAPP suits (and how to counterpunch them)

The author of the following gave me permission to reprint it in its entirety. It's written in the styling of legal briefings, with occasional pauses for footnotes.  Several bloggers in Texas have been SLAPPed in years passed, with the occasional unfortunate outcome.

There's a Q&A at the end with respect to the recent defamation suit brought -- and won -- by conservative icon David Barton against two Democrats SBOE who ran for the State Board of Education, Rebecca Bell-Metereau and Judy Jennings.

=====================

From holiday yard decorations criticizing a neighbor to Internet restaurant reviews, free speech is under attack in the courts in our increasingly litigious society like never before.  Frivolous lawsuits designed to chill expression of criticism have reached such a fever pitch that 28 states have now adopted “anti-SLAPP” statutes designed to protect speakers from such suits, and a new national statute has been proposed in Congress. The relatively new Texas “anti-SLAPP” statute is the most powerful speech protection statute ever adopted in any jurisdiction so far. Whether your business’s revenues dropped because of an Internet attack by a competitor or you were sued by a business whose services you criticized on a blog, the Texas anti-SLAPP statute is something you need to know about.


Defamation in the Internet Age—Have You Been SLAPP-ed?©

In 2006, 83-year-old Alaska Senator Ted Stevens famously described the
Internet as “a series of tubes.”1 Although the late senator is still fodder for
television comics, warp-speed changes in ubiquitous electronic media have left
even members of the Facebook Generation struggling to keep up. Electronic
speech in e-mail, blogs, Twitter, and “Yelp!” reviews pervades our lives like a
virus. Even in our sleep, Internet speech affects what we wear and eat, what we
think, how world leaders make decisions, and even who those leaders are. Barack
Obama’s 2008 election is attributed to his superior use of electronic media.2
Disturbingly, the gruesome knife-beheadings of American journalists by taunting
ISIS terrorists is also likely attributable to their certainty that viral transmission of
the grotesque videos on You-Tube would give them planetary shock value. There
always seems to be a serpent in the Garden.

The Dark Side of Free Speech Is Nothing New

Some argue the Founding Fathers would never have condoned First
Amendment protection for Hustler Magazine’s ad parody of Jerry Falwell
confessing that his first time having sex was with his own mother, drunk in an
outhouse.3 They are wrong. The right to speak hurtfully about public figures was
used by the Founding Fathers themselves with relish—on each other. In the
election of 1800, a political opponent wrote that president John Adams was “old,
querulous, bald, blind, crippled, [and] toothless.”4 An operative hired by Adams’
opponent Thomas Jefferson added:

John Adams is a hideous hermaphroditical character with neither the force
and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.5

Adams then called Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a halfbreed
Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

Speech can comfort the afflicted as well as afflict the comfortable. It was
ever so. Jerry Falwell was not the first stuffed shirt to be deflated in the media.
He will not be the last. Only the media are constantly changing.

1 “[T]he Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck.
It’s a series of tubes. And if you don’t understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled,
when you put your message in, it gets in line and it’s going to be delayed by anyone that puts into
that tube enormous amounts of material.” Singel, Ryan; Poulsen, Kevin (June 29, 2006) “Your
Own Personal Internet,” www.wired.com, last accessed August 31, 2014. [Emphasis added.]
2 See Stirland, Sarah Lai, (November 4, 2008) “Propelled by Internet, Obama Wins the
Presidency,” www.wired.com, last accessed August 31, 2014.
3 The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed a jury award in favor of the muchadmired
minister, declaring Hustler’s ad parody to be protected speech about a public figure.
Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46, 48 (1988).
4 McCullough, David, John Adams, p. 500, quoting a letter from Abigail Adams.
5 Swint, Kerwin, “Founding Fathers’ Dirty Campaign,” CNN Living, August 22, 2008.

Modern Legal Problems of Free Speech and Defamation

In the 20th century, courts sometimes struggled with the boundaries of First
Amendment protection in ways that looked sadly comical even at the time. After
Potter Stewart famously wrote that he could not define pornography but, “I know
it when I see it,”6 the U.S. Supreme Court met in the basement for awkward movie
nights, watching the improbable escapades of Lesbian Nymphomaniacs and other
films to decide if they contained “redeeming social value.” Subtly mocking
Stewart, law clerks would sometimes cry out in the darkness, “I can see it!” John
Marshall Harlan was nearly blind at the time and could not see the films, so
Thurgood Marshall gleefully narrated the clips for him.7

In the 21st century, the law of defamation is no longer in flux, but a new
species of legal predator has evolved from the Internet’s DNA and now quietly
swims the electronic seas in search of prey. The web’s free access, unprecedented
reach, and the extraordinary ability of its users to speak anonymously have created
a torrential flood of electronic speech on an endless variety of topics. Anonymity
removes inhibitions that traditional social standards may impose in other contexts,
so Internet rhetoric may be coarser, meaner, and more hyperbolic. However, it is
no less constitutionally protected. In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court wrote:

Through the use of chat rooms, any person with a phone line can
become a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could
from any soapbox. Through the use of Web pages, mail exploders,
and newsgroups, the same individual can become a pamphleteer.8

When an Internet “pamphleteer” reaches millions of people with a single
Tweet” or blog posting, he risks offending far more people than a town crier
walking near Boston’s Old North Church in 1776. Like Jerry Falwell after reading
that his mother “looked better than a Baptist whore with a $100 donation,” angry
targets of vulgar Internet mockery and denunciation may sue the Tweeters and
bloggers for it—especially if the targets are wealthy and powerful. Thus, the giant
Internet-spawned shark of which free-speechifiers are now a plentiful supply of
victims is called a “SLAPP suit,” an acronym for “Strategic Lawsuits Against
Public Participation.” It has turned the waters red with blood.

6 Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 197 (1964) regarding possible obscenity in The Lovers.
7 Tribe, Laurence, and Matz, Joshua, “Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the
Constitution,” ch. 4.
8 Reno v. ACLU, 521 U.S. 844, 870 (1997).

What is a SLAPP Suit?

A SLAPP suit is brought not because the plaintiff seeks compensation for
an injury, but to chill the exercise of free speech—by exploiting the speaker’s fear
of having to defend even a frivolous suit. Often no attempt is ever made to serve
the defendant with process (which would trigger duties on the plaintiff’s part). Of
course, the pleadings are usually sent to the defendant informally so he knows he
has been sued. Often “emergency” injunctive relief is sought even before the
defendants learn the suit has been filed.9 Sometimes multiple SLAPP-suits are
filed simultaneously in different courts—by the same plaintiff making the same
allegations against the same defendants.

A typical SLAPP suit alleges that the defendant’s Internet comments have
defamed him and intentionally inflicted emotional distress, but angry plaintiffs
may also claim business disparagement, tortious interference, fraud, conspiracy,
and even “harassment” and “electronic stalking.” The fact that a claim is not a
recognized civil cause of action does not deter a SLAPP-suit plaintiff—he desires
to create fear, not survive appellate review. And SLAPP suits are not limited to
electronic speech. There are even cases based on speech in Halloween
decorations—quarreling neighbors who decided to mock each other on fake frontyard
tombstones literally made a “federal case” out of the free-speech
ramifications of their comical public barbs.10 (The speech was protected.)  
Plaintiffs often drop their SLAPP suits when a defense lawyer appears.
Even though “nonsuiting” technically does not purge the offender’s violation of
pleading rules, judges are nevertheless loath to punish a plaintiff who unilaterally
disarms. Of course, by that time, the damage is done. The defendant has paid a
lawyer to defend, but is deprived of his day in court. Thus, SLAPP-suit plaintiffs
have evolved a useful technique to create the false impression that they are
benign—rather like a Texas ’possum “playing dead.” The SLAPP-suit plaintiff
nonsuits, re-files his SLAPP-suit in a different court, and begins the process anew.
This author’s last SLAPP-suit defense before adoption of the new statute
discussed below was a two-year odyssey for the individual bloggers ending in the
Texas Supreme Court. Although successful, the victory was Pyrrhic. There was
no vehicle for the clients to recover their $250,000.00 in attorney’s fees from the
soundly-rebuked plaintiff. See In re Does 1 and 2, 337 S.W.3d 832 (Tex. 2011)
(orig. proceeding). But all this changed in 2011.

9 Called “ex parte” relief, such injunctions often operate as illegal, content-related prior
restraints on speech, but are granted by busy judges anyway because the other side is not present
in court to argue against them.
10 Purtell v. Mason, 527 F.3d 613 (7th Cir. 2008); see also Salama v. Deaton, 10-CA-00310 (Fla.
13th Cir. Ct.).

What You Can Do Now If You Get SLAPP-ed

By 2011 when In re Does 1 and 2 was decided, the use of SLAPP suits to
squelch public criticism had reached such a fever pitch in Texas that the
Legislature adopted the Citizens Participation Act (“TCPA”) by a unanimous vote
in both houses. To date, 28 other states and the District of Columbia have also
adopted anti-SLAPP statutes. At just over three years old, the TCPA is only a
toddler, but it is performing under appellate review like an Olympic gold medal
gymnast. Decisions under the TCPA are exploding out of the courts of appeals
like popcorn kernels in a microwave—in part because of the statute’s provision
allowing immediate, accelerated appeal of any trial court decision that allows a
SLAPP suit to continue.

In a brief this firm filed in a TCPA case in August 2014, we cited fifteen
TCPA appeals decided within just the previous twelve months—and several of
those had come down only weeks before. No other statute or issue has generated
this volume of decisional law in so short a period. It appears no appellate court
has yet reversed a trial court for dismissing a SLAPP suit—they have all either
upheld dismissal or reversed the trial court for failure to dismiss. The Texas
statute may be the most powerful anti-SLAPP statute yet enacted in any
jurisdiction. Here are seven reasons why. The TCPA:

(i) Requires dismissal of the suit on the defendant’s motion unless the
plaintiff brings forth “clear and specific evidence” of each element
of each cause of action pled—even non-defamation claims.
(ii) Automatically stays discovery—usually the most expensive stage of
a case.
(iii) Requires the court to hold a hearing on the defendant’s motion to
dismiss within 60 days—light-speed by juridical standards.
(iv) Requires the court to rule on the defendant’s motion to dismiss
within 30 days of the hearing—curing the common scourge of a
court’s passively denying relief by simply never making a ruling.
(v) Mandates not only an award of the defendant’s attorney’s fees but
also sanctions “sufficient to deter the filing of similar actions.”
(vi) Flings the doors of the appellate courthouse wide open if the trial
court fails to rule and allows a rare “interlocutory” appeal—which is
also given precedence over all other appeals.
(vii) Requires courts to “liberally construe” the TCPA to “fully
effectuate” its purpose and intent.

In one of this firm’s cases presently on appeal, we are asking for $1 million in
sanctions for our client—a higher amount than any court has awarded to date, but
one we believe justified under the unique facts of that case. Perhaps more
importantly, briefing in that case was completed only in early October, the case
was orally argued on October 21, 2014, and the case is now ripe for a decision in
the court of appeals.

If you get SLAPP-ed in Texas, look down. Thanks to the TCPA, you are
already wearing the ruby slippers that have the power to whisk you away from the
land of witches, judges, and legal bills more quickly than you may think. Like
Dorothy, you just didn’t know it.

(Jeffrey L. Dorrell is a board-certified civil trial specialist in First Amendment law
who has represented SLAPP-suit defendants in cases from the trial court to the
Texas Supreme Court.)

====================

Q.  In light of the recent defamation litigation won by David Barton against two Democratic candidates for the SBOE, would you agree with the lawyer cited in this article that the statute needs to be strengthened?

A.  "Jennings v. Wallbuilders was decided under a version of the Citizens Participation Act that was amended by the Legislature—in direct response to the Wallbuilders case—just four months later to prevent what happened to the SLAPP-suit victims in that case from ever happening again. Unfortunately, the amendment could not help the victims of the Wallbuilders SLAPP suit after the fact. Under the amended version of the statute as it has existed since 2013, the outcome would likely have been much different."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Parking these things for the time being

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

News I can't opine about and trends I cannot detect

-- As a reminder, news reports such as this one and this one are the kind of things that I won't be blogging about while I'm serving on the EVBB.  Or this one.

-- Accounts of Texas voter turnout are varying, from one end of the spectrum (gloom and doom) to the other (cautious enthusiasm).  The smartest people I know with regard to this are Charles Kuffner and Greg Wythe, and they both say it's still to early to divine an end result.  Maybe by this weekend -- or after -- we'll be able to discern a pattern.

-- So the next time you hear someone say that IDs are "free", show them this.


Does everyone understand now why Judge Gonzales Ramos ruled it an unconstitutional poll tax?

Monday, October 20, 2014

The P Slate: Top down

Got it done just in time... except for today's early voters.  Those people had their minds made up anyway.  First, let's note -- and follow -- the advice of the Waco Herald Tribune's editorial board.

While the Trib has elected not to make candidate endorsements in the 2014 general election, we do have three recommendations: If you’re registered to vote, then do so — but only if you’re informed, which is our second recommendation. If you have not studied the candidates and the issues, take time to learn about both or do this republic a favor and just skip the electoral process.

Finally, only a putz votes straight-ticket. We haven’t seen a slate of party candidates yet, Republican or Democrat, that didn’t have some turkeys on it. And if you think voting straight-ticket ensures that one party’s nominees meet certain qualities, think again. Right here in McLennan County, we’ve seen straight-ticket voting put some absolutely incompetent people into offices of responsibility. When that happens, you’re to blame because you voted for them out of party loyalty, not merit or civic regard.

That is so perfect.  You can find some red and blue in the picks at Texpatriate, a mostly blue slate at Texas Leftist and nonsequiteuse, and a mostly Green one at Socratic Gadfly.

Congress

US Senate: Emily "Spicy Brown" Sanchez, Green.  Sorry Democrats, but I can't vote for a pro-life Catholic who also financially supports pregnancy crisis centers in his hometown.  David Alameel has also admitted that this year is a test run for a bid against Ted Cruz in 2018.  No freaking thanks.

Sanchez spoke via Sype to Harris County Greens at their candidate forum in September and made a surpise appearance at the season's fundraiser for her ticketmates, Kenneth Kendrick (Ag Commissioner) and Martina Salinas (Railroad Commissioner).  She made an instant impression talking to both groups.  She's committed and earnest.  She represents the future of Texas Greens: hard-working middle class people with a sense of justice, which is to say a proper outrage at injustices.  I am delighted to be counted a supporter.

US House of Representatives (in my case, the Seventh Congressional District).  Everybody already knows how I feel about this race.  Nothing has changed.  I think I'm going to vote for the Libertarian as a the best protest to John Culberson that can be mustered.

In other districts in the Houston area, Mark Roberts in CD-2 (G) and Niko Letsos (D) have run low-profile campaigns against the incumbent, Ted Poe.  They're both worthy alternatives.  (Neil and I wrote more extensively about Roberts in his first bid for this office two years ago.)  In CD-18, Green Remington Alessi's campaign against Sheila Jackson Lee, similarly, hasn't reached the level of his bid for Harris County Sheriff two years ago.  Democrat Tawana Cadien's second shot at ousting Rep. Michael McCaul in CD-10 is likewise under the radar.  And in CD-22, Democrat Frank Briscoe tests the Fort Bend County waters to see if they're purple enough yet to wash out the incumbent Repub, Pete Olson.

In Southeast Texas, the race to replace Steve Stockman in CD-36 has Libertarian-turned-Democrat Michael Cole of Orange and Green Hal J. Ridley Jr. of Bridge City bidding to upset the prohibitively favored Republican, Brian Babin of Woodville.  Ridley's been invisible; Cole was interviewed on Daily Kos, here.  In CD-14, incumbent Randy Weber of Pearland, really growing into his Tea Freak clothes, has Democratic challenger Donald Brown of Beaumont to fend off.  Brown has the HLGBT Caucus stamp of approval.

In other urban areas of Texas, there's a Green candidate running where no Democrat is, in CD-21 (Antonio Diaz versus Lamar Smith) and where no Republican is, in CD-28 (Michael Cary against Henry Cuellar).  So progressives in San Antonio and the RGV have options.  And in the Metroplex, Democrat David Cozad has run a spirited campaign against Smokey Joe Barton.

But short of something that is equal parts unforeseeable and miraculous, the only contested Congressional race in the Lone Star State is between Congressman Pete Gallego and GOPer Will Hurd in the far west Texas district that stretches from Big Bend to El Paso.  Gallego was once pretty progressive when in the statehouse in Austin, but he's moderated quite bit to hang on to his Congressional seat.  Still, we need no more Republicans in Congress, and Gallego should be returned to Washington.

The statewide executive offices and high courts

Governor: Wendy Davis.  Big surprise, huh?  I and everyone else have written enough about this race that the choice is as obvious as can be.

Lt. Governor: Leticia Van de Putte.  I wanted to find a reason to support Chandra Courtney; she and her husband David (also a Green candidate running for SD-17) are solid people, but the urgency to avoid having Lonesome Rhodes Dan Patrick elected to the state's most powerful position is just too great.  I'm voting for VDP and hoping enough moderate Republicans have come to their senses that we can avoid an apocalypse.

Attorney General: Sam HoustonEvery newspaper in the state of Texas isn't wrong.

Comptroller of Public AccountsMike Collier.  Though I consider Deb Shafto one of my friends, and as Gadfly has pointed out, Collier says all the wrong things in trying to attract conservatives and moderate independents, it is just too dangerous for Texas to risk electing Jethro Bodine to statewide office.

Agriculture Commissioner: Kenneth Kendrick.  It was easy enough to scratch Sid Miller Archie Bunker and Jim Hogan Junior Samples, but Kendrick would have stood above the crowd even if the Republicans and Democrats had managed to nominate respectable candidates.  As the whistleblower in the Peanut Corporation of America killings, no one has done more for Texans already in the cause of social justice.  And unless you smoke a whole lot of dope, there's no coherent excuse for voting for the Libertarian, either. (Kendrick supports decriminalization as well.)

Kendrick is by far the best reason on the ballot for both Democrats and Republicans to split their straight tickets.

Land Commissioner: John Cook.  Here I also gave serious consideration to Valerie Alessi (married to Remington).  Alessi was nominated at the Green Party's state convention in March to replace another candidate who withdrew.  Except for some good responses to questions posed in the Houston League of Women Voters Guide, Alessi's campaign has been low-profile.  Cook was a progressive mayor of El Paso and gets my support.  Please, no more Bushes.

Texas Railroad Commission: Steve Brown (D) or Martina Salinas (G).  Honestly, I still can't choose between them.  They're both as good as it gets for their respective parties.

Texas Supreme Court, Place 1: Bill Moody (D).  Incumbent Republican Nathan Hecht remains under a cloud of ethical violations.  Republicans: your best choice in this race is the Libertarian, Tom Oxford.

Texas Supreme Court, Place 6: Lawrence Meyers.  The state's longest-serving Court of Criminal Appeals judge, Meyers switched parties and became a Democrat last year to bid for the SCOTX against Rick Perry appointee Jeff Brown.

Texas Supreme Court, Place 7Gina Benavides (D).  Serving the 13th Court of Appeals since 2006, Benavides has earned some endorsements over the incumbent Republican, Jeff Boyd.  Charles Waterbury of the Green Party is also well-qualified for this office.

Texas Supreme Court, Place 8: Jim Chisholm (G).  No Democrat ran for this seat on the state's highest court, and Democrats that fail to split their straight tickets will miss an opportunity to vote for this very qualified, progressive jurist.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3Bert Richardson (R), John Granberg (D), or Mark Bennett (L).  Richardson, as regular readers here will already know, is the judge who appointed the special prosecutor that brought felony indictments against Rick Perry.  Normally I might vote for the Democrat, Granberg, but he is young and unseasoned.  Bennett is a blogger and local lawyer I have crossed paths with.

I might flip a coin.  Or this might be the only Republican I vote for.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 4: Judith Sanders Castro (G).

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 9: George Altgelt (G).

There's no Democratic candidate in either of these two races.  If you're voting a straight D ticket, you're leaving a lot of votes blank.  As the WHT said at the top... don't be a putz.

Harris County races to come will have to wait until later.

Early Voting Wrangle

"Voting freshens your breath, whitens your teeth, and improves your sex life." -- Molly Ivins

It may even make you immune to Ebola, I've heard.  But only if you are not a Republican.  In which case... you're catching that shit for sure.  The Texas Progressive Alliance reminds you that EARLY VOTING HAS BEGUN as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff published an interview with John Cook, the Democratic nominee for Land Commissioner.

Libby Shaw, writing for Texas Kaos and Daily Kos is sickened by the "corporations are people" Supreme Court for allowing Greg Abbott to disenfranchise 600,000 Texans of their right to vote: TXGOP, Greg Abbott stand by discrimination and disenfranchisement.

Two special days in the blogosphere last week: Blog Action Day for inequality was a global initiative, and Texas blogs dropped a money bomb for Wendy Davis. PDiddie at Brains Eggs has details on both.

After this week's big announcement, Texas Leftist is left to wonder... Did the Dallas Morning News editorial board incorporate facts into its endorsement process for governor? If so, maybe this week's decision for Greg Abbott would have gone the other way. Clearly the DMN ed board should've taken a few minutes to read their own paper.

Republican racism revealed in TWIA emails about storm damage to Brownsville ISD property. CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme encourages everyone in South Texas to go vote. You can stop the racism. VOTE!

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson had two campaign ads worth checking out: Must See TV - Great Ads from Mike Collier and Sam Houston.

Neil at All People Have Value wrote about things he is doing to make a difference in the 2014 elections in Texas. Neil says you can make a difference as well. APHV is one of many interesting things to see at NeilAquino.com.

Texpatriate mixes it up with their endorsements in statewide races: George P. Bush for land commissioner, Sam Houston for Attorney General, and Mike Collier for Comptroller.

===========================

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

nonsequiteuse has her voting recommendations, which include a Green for agriculture commissioner.

Dan Solomon speaks from personal experience when he says that the Wendy Davis wheelchair ad shines a long-overdue light on the devastating effect tort "reform" has had on victims of medical malpractice.

The Inanity of Sanity has Part II of 'Abbott Disses the Disabled'.

The Lunch Tray keeps fighting the fight for healthier school lunches and snacks.

Grits for Breakfast calls on Texas jails to opt out of the Secure Communities program.

Texas Vox documents the big heat waves of 2013.

Socratic Gadfly was pleasantly surprised by the SCOTUS ruling that overturned the Fifth Circuit order allowing HB2 to go into effect pending appeals.

Helen Philpot would like for someone to explain to Greg Abbott where babies come from.

LGBTQ Insider compares Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott's positions on LGBTQ issues.

Andrea Grimes has the GIF-based explanation of the HB2 timeline that you've been waiting for.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

SCOTUS says use your ID, and other election developments

The last word for now (meaning this election).

The Supreme Court said Saturday that Texas can use its controversial new voter identification law for the November election.

A majority of the justices rejected an emergency request from the Justice Department and civil rights groups to prohibit the state from requiring voters to produce certain forms of photo identification in order to cast ballots. Three justices dissented.

The law was struck down by a federal judge last week, but a federal appeals court had put that ruling on hold. The judge found that roughly 600,000 voters, many of them black or Latino, could be turned away at the polls because they lack acceptable identification. Early voting in Texas begins Monday.

The Supreme Court's order was unsigned, as it typically is in these situations. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, saying they would have left the district court decision in place.

The repercussions will be forthcoming.  Battleground Texas seems to have accomplished its task in adding a few hundred thousand Texans to the voter rolls.  The job now is to turn those folks out.

There will be some polling results to follow shortly, from YouGov directly and indirectly via the TexTrib/UT, perhaps as early as today or tomorrow but more likely Monday.  Unless they show some tightening of the races at the top of the ballot, I can't predict anything but a result that is woefully similar to 2002 and 2006 and 2010.  Harris County Democrats will be grinding out the GOTV efforts to hold onto their seats at the courthouse... and perhaps flip the DA and the County Clerk.

The EVBB for me begins Tuesday; at that time I'll go dark with respect to election commentary on the statewide and county ballot.  I hope to have everything I need to say said by then anyway. I will still be blogging here about politics -- probably have something on that pig castrator from Iowa, along with other US Senate developments -- but I'll take the edge off to remain in compliance with my oath as an election judge.  Same goes for Twitter and Facebook postings.  We'll mellow out with a little pumpkin spice whatever for a few weeks.

May blog about the World Series.  My buddy Gadfly's Cardinals got excused; I was hoping for a full orange and black Fall Classic myself.  That is, after the Angels and Dodgers got eliminated.

-- Greg Abbott's Twitter town hall yesterday blew up in his face, and it was, as Hair Balls accounts, laugh-out-loud hilarious.  Be sure and click on the #AskAbbott hashtag.

-- Wendy Davis lost the Dallas News endorsement but earned the Houston Chronicle's.  These simply don't mean as much as they used to, but let's be quick to point out that we still need newspapers badly in this underinformed and misled media environment.  Oh, and you can't paper-train a puppy with a blog.

Update: Some of my blog hermanos took exception to the DMN's endorsement of Abbott.  It takes a lot to drive Charles to scatological descriptions.  But I thought the Observer had the best takedown.

Elect Davis, and GOPers will be so mad they won’t cooperate on anything, just like what happened when Barack Obama took office. This is a really beautiful encapsulation of some of the most depressing features of American politics right now—a reminder that we do government primarily these days by hostage-taking, in contravention of the ostensible norms of representative government. It’s also an assertion that the hostage-takers should win, and a demonstration of why they will keep winning. It’s monumentally demoralizing. But applied to the Texas context, is it right?

What would a Gov. Davis look like? Well, she would probably have little influence over the Legislature. Assume Davis wins and so does Patrick—Davis would be able to get hardly any of her legislative priorities through. Patrick would be preparing to run against her in 2018, and his Senate would kill or mangle almost anything that bore her personal stamp. But Davis would have a veto which would prevent Patrick’s worst bills and initiatives from getting through.

But the Morning News endorsement anticipates something worse—that the conservative Legislature seizes the levers of state government and goes to war against Davis, refuses to budge on any issue, refuses to put together a budget, refuses to consider new and important legislation, until its demands are met and Davis effectively surrenders. In effect, if the people of the state elect Davis to lead them, conservatives in the Legislature—probably led by Patrick—will take Texas hostage.

So the Morning News’ instinct is to reward the hostage-taker, pay the ransom, and keep the state safely gripped by one-party rule. On the one hand, it feels like a pretty bleak misperception of how small-r republican government is supposed to work. It’s especially odd because the endorsement urges Abbott to be “a moderating influence” for his party—a bit like a liberal urging his radical-left friends to “work inside the system.”

Friday, October 17, 2014

Blogger money bomb for Wendy Davis today

Texas blogs want to make it rain today for Wendy Davis.  I'm in.


No pleading, no "we're doomed" desperation.  I'm as sick of that crap as you are.

Oh, and here's the wheelchair ad to end all wheelchair ads.



On the heels of my full socialist rant yesterday, some are going to see a little hypocrisy in today's ask.  That's okay.  If we had a more progressive option in the governor's race --someone that had not chosen to go into hiding for whatever his reasons are for doing so -- I might be voting for that person.  Or even donating to his campaign, for that matter.  If you've been reading here for very long, you know I'm not a fan of least-worst choices.  Yes, Davis did vote in GOP primaries once upon a time, is partnered in a law practice with a former Rick Perry staffer, has supported legislation for helping frackers with their water problems, did run and win a couple of times in a conservative-leaning Fort Worth Senate district. (It includes Burleson, for Jeebus' sake.)

She's no flaming liberal, despite the caterwauling of the worst elements of the RPT.  What she is, is a fighter.  And I have supported the fighters going back to David Van Os in 2006, when he ran against Traffic for attorney general.

She has had more slime slung at her by the fine, upstanding Christian conservatives occupying the rural and exurban brambles than anyone in Texas anywhere.  This race has made Ann Richards versus Claytie Williams look like a playground tussle.

Hell on Wheels has Ted Nugent, Dr. Charles Murray, Drayton McLane, and Bob McNair on his team.

Wendy Davis has us.  And you.  Which is to say the 99% of hard-working Texans who don't drink Red Koolaid or watch Fox News.  Who don't wake up every single morning angry at Obama, or Ill Eagles, and don't go to church to listen to a nasty pastor spew bigotry from the pulpit.  All we want is for her to be able to keep fighting for all of the Texans who aren't Tony Buzbee, or David Barton, or for the love of Dog, Dave Carney.

So if you've read this far, it's time to click the link and throw some change in the cup.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Making fun of guys in wheelchairs

Thanks to the Pulitzer-worthy Nick Anderson.


"Celebrities use wheelchairs in airports," an attendant in Charleston, S.C., once explained to me, "because people don't look at you if you're in a chair."

He is right. People often avert their eyes, either because they don't want to appear as if they're gawking at someone with a disability or because disabled people simply make them feel uncomfortable. To me, however, a wheelchair has never been a symbol of failure or of "being crippled." It is, instead, a symbol of independence and autonomy. Wheelchairs save people's lives, literally.

Maybe Greg Abbott understands what Lamar White is saying here.  It's obvious Dave Carney, Abbott's political adviser, doesn't get it.

The Abbott campaign went insane after Lamar White Jr., a law student who has cerebral palsy, spoke at a press conference in support of Davis. According to the Austin-American Statesman, ‘After horrendous wheelchair attack ad, Wendy Davis uses disabled people as props,’ David Carney, a top Abbott adviser, tweeted about Monday’s news conference.”

[...]

Beyond the tweet, Abbott’s campaign and supporters have been trying to discredit Mr. White by claiming that he was not disabled enough to speak in support of Davis. The idea of a ranking scale for individuals with disabilities is as insulting as it oppressive. Individuals such as Greg Abbott can still operate a motor vehicle, but many individuals Cerebral Palsy and other neurological conditions can not, because there is more to disability than physical mobility. Just because a person can stand up or move under their power does not mean that they are less disabled than a person in a wheelchair.

Republicans had the media fooled for a few days, but after the Abbott campaign has chosen to humiliate differently abled Americans, there is a backlash brewing. The media are rethinking their criticism of the ad, and examining Abbott’s record of denying disabled individuals their ADA rights. Republicans couldn’t resist. They had to attack a disabled individual, and now Greg Abbott’s record is under scrutiny.

The Abbott campaign has insulted millions of Americans with their dehumanization of individuals with disabilities. As Attorney General, Abbott has stripped disabled Texans of their rights. As a candidate for governor, Abbott is robbing differently-abled individuals and their loved ones of their dignity.

That's your boy, Texas Republicans.