Saturday, August 31, 2013

Obama pantsed the Republicans today

President Obama announced on Saturday that he will ask Congress for authorization to launch military strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military in response to his alleged use of chemical weapons last week.

Obama reiterated that the United States has concluded that Assad’s forces gassed civilians and opposition fighters in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus on Aug. 21 and said “this menace must be confronted.”

“The United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets,” Obama said, adding that while he believes he has the authority as Commander-in-Chief to order strikes, he “will seek authorization for the use of force” from Congress. Obama also outlined what the campaign would entail, saying that any U.S. military action in Syria would not be an open ended intervention but one that is meant to hold Assad accountable and to deter him and degrade his ability from using chemical weapons in the future. 

For the record, I am dead set against any action in Syria, even "limited" action (which is probably defined as a hundred or so Tomahawk missles fired from ships and jets).

But, echoing comments from Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday, Obama asked: “what message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children and pay no price? … We are the United States of America. We cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus.”

The president also said that Congress will debate and vote on the authorization for force in Syria when it returns from the August recess. “I am ready to act in the face of this outrage,” he said. “Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation.” 

I've already posted my opinion on Hawk Kerry, who is acting like a Secretary of War and not State. What a disgrace, and he seems completely oblivious to it.

But that's not the news. Today Obama put the GOP in a trick bag. Painted them into a corner. And they don't know whether to shit or wind their wristwatch.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, yesterday.

“There are potential repercussions,” Paul said on Fox News Channel. “If he launches this little piddly attack with a few cruise missiles, it won’t stop chemical weapons, but it may well insight a gas attack on Israelis. I think it’s a big mistake.”

Paul said that if military action is undertaken, it should only happen after Congress signs off.

Cong. Peter King of New York, today.

"President Obama is abdicating his responsibility as commander-in-chief and undermining the authority of future presidents. The President does not need Congress to authorize a strike on Syria. If [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians deserves a military response, and I believe it does, and if the President is seeking congressional approval, then he should call Congress back into a special session at the earliest date. The President doesn’t need 535 Members of Congress to enforce his own red line."

The Senate will pass whatever the president wants -- and with Republican votes like John McCain and Lindsey Graham -- but there's enough anti-war liberals and tea partiers in the House that a resolution to strike Syria will probably fail (without lots of strings attached).

Can you imagine a tough-talking Republican -- like say, my Congressman, John Culberson -- trying to explain his vote when he gets primaried from the right?

If he votes 'yes'...he obviously can't criticize Obama for taking action. 'Support the president in a time of war' and all that.  If he votes 'no'... he looks like a pussy. Bowing down to Assad.

To be certain, this has ALWAYS been the dynamic when military strikes are on the table. Hawks and doves, tough guys versus pantywaists. And a few other categories.

A 'no' vote isn't going to make Obama look bad, because he'll just fire the Tomahawks anyway if he feels like it (and he obviously does). See, he's not up for re-election next year. And besides, some Americans think war presidents are hot.

What Republicans are not grasping is that you have to be against war on moral principles, not because you're tired of fighting wars or because you don't want to spend any more money. You have to be against -- or for -- war no matter who's in the White House. Otherwise you just look like a partisan hypocrite.

Not that it bothers them to be one of those...

What's also disgraceful is John Boehner not calling the House back into session until September 9. TEN DAYS from now.

Nothing gets in the way of the Republican House avoiding work. Not even voting on military action in Syria.

House leaders issued a statement saying that “serious, substantive” questions were being raised regarding Syria and they are so glad that the President is asking them to vote because this is so important, constitution, blah blah – oh, and they are going to take the measure up on September 9th, which is another way of saying they are not coming back early from vacation for this “serious, substantive” matter.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) today issued the following joint statement.

“Under the Constitution, the responsibility to declare war lies with Congress. We are glad the president is seeking authorization for any military action in Syria in response to serious, substantive questions being raised. In consultation with the president, we expect the House to consider a measure the week of September 9th. This provides the president time to make his case to Congress and the American people.”
Can you imagine if Democrats had told Bush they’d get back to him on Iraq when they were done with vacation?

This was to be expected by this House, after all, they are only planning on working 9 days in September.

Obama has bamboozled them.  Every last one of them.

: The New York Times has the backstory on how it all went down, focusing just on the policy and not the politics.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Why the mayor's pay raises are a BFD

Because perception is reality.  Altering the perception is why so many people are trying to spin the matter one way or another.

Those who have followed the previous reporting on this topic don't need to be caught up, but let's provide a one-paragraph summary anyway for casual observers.

In 2011 Mayor Annise Parker laid off around 750 city employees because she did not want to raise any taxes or fees in order to balance the budget, but about the same time she began granting -- and has accelerated since then -- significant salary increases to high-level staff members.  The city's firefighters, no pal of the mayor's, have heavily criticized the move, and the president of one of the unions representing city employees called it "heartbreaking".  But the police officers' union (big supporters) stood behind her, contending that 'the market' dictated that the key people around the mayor were underpaid compared to similar jobs in the private sector, and were thus worthy of the increases once the city's financial footing was secured.  Even Richard Shaw, head of the local AFL-CIO, backed Parker up, saying (somewhat unnecessarily, unless he's extending a private fight into public view), "The firefighters need to quit whining".

For the record also, Noah at Texpatriate led the reaction in the left blogosphere, calling it a "phony" issue, and has supplied considerable inside information to support that POV.

Parker's highest-profile challenger, Ben Hall, has -- as with several other opportunities -- tried and failed to make this much of a campaign issue so far.  A couple of the local uber-insiders have the best interpretation of the affair for today...

GOP communications consultant Jim McGrath said the issue will be little more than water-cooler fodder at City Hall unless Hall can show a pattern of such decisions.

"Taxpayers and voters care about their well-being and their future and if the mayor has failed in some regard as it relates to that, that's something you can get traction with," McGrath said. "This inside baseball stuff will not fundamentally alter the dynamics of a race that isn't looking good for Mr. Hall at present."

Democratic political consultant Mustafa Tameez agreed: "This is not going to be seen well by the public, but something like this doesn't make or break the election."

So for everyone who thinks it's no big deal -- or hopes it won't be -- here's a news flash: it should be, and it ought to be.  And while Hall cannot find any traction with the topic, it appears that another of Parker's challengers, Don Cook, has.  This is from his campaign bulletin last night, via text message.

"It is characteristic of the insensitivity of this administration that Ms. Mayor Parker would give these massive pay raises to staff members while the 747 people she laid off in 2011 have not been rehired.  Parker claims credit for turning the local economy around, although an outside observer might conclude that has more to do with the city's position atop the carbon energy food chain.

"But Houston's economic recovery, as with the rest of the country, has been limited to those at the very top," Cook said.  "In fact, the highest 7% of wage earners have seen increases in their incomes of an average 28%, while the lower 93% of Americans have experienced real income deductions of 3%.  This business of the Mayor's is just more feather bedding for the elite while the rest of us tighten our belts.

"As Mayor, I pledge that not only will I rehire those 747 employees, I will only claim $31,138 of the current mayor's salary of $209,138, and find something better to spend the remaining $178,000 on."

The 31K figure is based on current estimates of a 'living wage' as being $15 per hour, a 40-hour work week, and a 52-week year.  "I figure the mayor, along with everybody else, deserves a living wage," said Cook.

That is how you make a mountain out of a molehill.  Alas, I predict the corporate media will overlook this candidate's statement... seeing as how we're headed into a holiday weekend and all.  After all, "nobody pays attention to political campaigns until after Labor Day".  Right?

Update: I'm delighted to see that the HouChron e-board proved me wrong and referenced Cook's press release Saturday morning. They did so as they justified the pay raises and slammed Ben Hall, but their mention of Cook's name and pledge still qualifies as progress, however minute it may be.

In other news, here's the ballot order for all local candidates standing for election in November.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Uber ridesharing service coming to Houston (Part II)

(Part I is here)

Mike Morris' piece at the Chron names the power players for the two sides involved in Uber's entry into the Houston market. We'll pick it up where the battle lines are drawn.

Yellow Cab CEO Roman Martinez and Joe Jordan, president of the Houston Limousine Operators Networking Group, labeled Uber a rogue operator.

Martinez, whose Yellow Cab and affiliated companies field 1,400 vehicles, said Uber's service will skim the best trips in the city, hurting the taxi industry and curtailing its ability to give rides to the poor or disabled.

"We don't understand why Uber would want to change existing law instead of operating under current ordinance just like all of us have been doing for years," Martinez said. "It's unfair for them to come in the market and say, 'Now we're going to get rid of all these rules and regulations so we can get into the market.' "

Yellow Cab affiliate Towne Car operates sedans at the same price as cabs, said lobbyist Cindy Clifford. She is joined on the cabs' lobby team by Felix Chavelier and former council member Sue Lovell. Uber has hired lobbyists Jeri Brooks, David Gonzalez, Robert Miller, Neftali Partida and Nancy Sims.

"Every place they go, they say, 'We're only going to use established, licensed operators; we're clean as choir boys.' And as time goes on they start using anybody with a pulse and a running vehicle," Jordan said. "If there's an issue with the city or a ripped-off client, where are you going to go? You going to go complain to a website? It'd be chaos if they let Uber come in."

That's really the best word to describe Uber: chaos. Another clarifying adverb is 'disruptor'. More on disruptor companies here, here, and here.

The Original Disruptor, as both Jen Sorensen above (and perhaps you) surmise, is Wal-Mart. Or rather, Walmart. In attaining their goal to compete solely on the basis of price, they succeeded in bullying both their suppliers and employees into accepting the lowest price Walmart was willing to pay, which has culminated in the wholesale destruction of the retail industry's mom-and-pop stores across the United States. This also resulted in the scions of Sam Walton becoming some of the wealthiest people on the planet. They have pushed workers onto welfare, bought off politicians in countries around the world... you probably already well understand the Walmart 'success' story.

Still, before we get back to the business of Uber and how it will affect us both positively and negatively in the Bayou City, more local background is essential.

Yellow Cab and a few other Houston brands (like Fiesta and United Cab) are owned by Texas Taxi Inc., a corporate parent to the Greater Houston Transportation Co. and others. The Houston affiliates currently hold about a 60% market share here, according to their own data, and Texas Taxi also serves Austin, San Antonio, and Galveston. They are in competition with several other smaller taxi and limousine operators, not to mention outfits like SuperShuttle, the jitneys and even pedicabs. In Houston the company employs about 250 dispatchers, mechanics for their fleet of cars, administrative and support personnel as well as nearly 2000 cab drivers as independent contractors. Many employees are long-termers, with 30 and 40 years' service. The companies have a long history of supporting the community, from scholarships to free rides to the polls on Election Day.

By contrast, Uber -- a company with only a smartphone app, no actual cabs or dispatchers, no customer service personnel, no phone number to call if you leave your briefcase in one of their cars, no long-term reputation to protect and no ties to the local community -- got in hot water with New York City after they doubled their rates in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. They called it "surge pricing".

This is the kind of thing that results when there isn't sufficient regulation to protect consumers from gouging. The kind of regulation Uber's CEO calls 'draconian'.

Let's be clear that the argument in favor of ordinance compliance is not naive to the premise that many laws have been written to the prejudice of large corporations seeking to protect their market share. The big banks own the Congress; the oil companies have bought off the Texas Legislature and most of our statewide office-holders, and even the beer distributors in the Lone Star State have long used the Lege to keep a boot on the neck of the microbreweries. But city ordinances compelling taxi cab companies and operators to high standards came about many decades ago primarily as a result of two things: unsafe transportation and unethical operators taking advantage of customers. The public safety of citizens -- and not manipulation of the market by influencing lawmakers -- is why taxis operate in a regulatory environment. Houston's ordinances have not restrained the many and varied competitors listed previously.

Uber's model, simply, is not to play by the rules. They don't want any employees except for a few at the top of their pyramid, they aren't going to have a fleet of cabs that they maintain and service, they don't wish to train, license, insure or support their drivers (except to the barest minimum standard). They simply want to profit by offering a service designed to cut every single cost of doing business... except for the lobbyists to get them their way in the beginning, and the lawyers to clean up their messes after the fact.

Here's a checklist that describes the differences in greater detail.

It is not restraining commerce to ask the city to enforce laws already on the books. But in the spirit of "letting the market decide", go read some of the reviews at Uber's Google Play page. You'll find some really good ones and some really bad ones. Then do something you rarely, if ever, do: carefully read the terms of service. Among the eye-widening disclosures, you'll find that in order to litigate a dispute with Uber, you must file your case in The Netherlands. The damage limit for a successful tort claim of this type in that country is... wait for it... 500 euros.

You might also be aware that just as Uber gives their passenger a quick customer-satisfaction survey at the end of the ride, its drivers are also rating you.

In my humble O, Uber should be able to easily comply with the city of Houston's long-standing and generally accepted good business practices in regard to providing transportation services -- or brokering such, as they claim. If they decide they can't, then there are lots of other sandboxes they can play in.

The matter will likely be resolved by Houston city council sometime after the November election, so now would be a great time to quiz your favorite candidate for mayor or council about whether they support -- or oppose -- Uber's "disruptor" business model.

Uber ridesharing service coming to Houston (Part I)

Mike Morris at the Chron last month provides our background.

A smartphone app could be the subject of the year's most spirited regulatory battle at City Hall, as lobbyists line up for a fight that pits taxicab companies against a car-service technology company called Uber.

The firm's entry into more than 20 U.S. cities has sparked lawsuits and cease-and-desist letters from taxi owners concerned for their livelihoods and regulators accusing the firm of skirting the law. Uber says it is merely a broker between riders and drivers, using a smartphone app to make getting a ride more efficient.

Uber must seek a change in ordinance for its business model to work in Houston, said Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Company representatives first met with city officials in May; a social media marketing push launched in recent days.

The service the San Francisco-based startup wants to offer in Houston is UberBLACK, which would allow riders to hail town cars - also known as black cars or sedans - using the Uber app, alerting the nearest participating driver to respond. The fare is based on speed and distance using each smartphone's GPS technology, with the fare charged automatically to the customer's credit card.

Drivers who want to participate are given smartphones with the Uber app installed, said company spokeswoman Nairi Hourdajian, and must pass a background check and comply with all city licensing rules. Drivers continue to work for their limousine company or themselves; they do not work for Uber.

Houston is the last major U.S. city in which Uber does not operate, largely because of the city's "draconian" regulations, Kalanick said, calling the city's rules typical of those negotiated by taxi companies to protect themselves at the expense of riders.

Uber's jab at the local cab companies reflects their Libertarian-styled business plan. They give away ice cream and T-shirts as part of their initial marketing campaign, but they also don't invest in vehicles or other transporation company infrastructure, which is why they depend heavily on lobbyists to sway municipal lawmakers to change or drop existing ordinances. More about the local lobbying effort in Part II posted later; see here for what's going on in their home base, San Fran.

San Francisco’s taxi drivers plan to turn up the pressure on companies such as Lyft, Uber and Sidecar.

Taxi drivers said they will hold a rally outside City Hall on Tuesday to draw attention to "unlicensed, uninspected, unregulated and underinsured taxis" that are "allowed to roam the streets, creating a public safety hazard, increased congestion, greenhouse gasses and unfair competition against law-abiding cab drivers."

Taxis, which are regulated by the city and public utilities commission, said that Lyft, Uber and SideCar should all have to abide by the same rules.

"We’re not against innovation," said Barry Korengold, president of the San Francisco Cab Drivers Association. "We’re just against unfair competition. Everybody with a four-door car can now go be a taxi."

Back to what's happening in H-Town.

Uber wants to drop the minimum fare for a sedan ride in Houston from $70 to $5.50; wants regulations changed to enable on-demand service, as opposed to rides arranged at least 30 minutes in advance; and wants to delete the four-car minimum required for new limo and sedan companies, among other tweaks.

"City government has decided, 'In Houston you're allowed to get a quality ride, but it'd be bad for you to get it quickly; we need to make sure that doesn't happen because chaos would ensue,' " Kalanick said. "That's a little tongue-in-cheek, but the point is, that is a law designed to ensure there is no alternative to taxis. There is no way to get a nice ride quickly in the city of Houston."

Chris Newport, spokesman for the city's Administrative and Regulatory Affairs department, said the changes Uber seeks are "significant" and will not be undertaken before a study of Houston's taxi industry, begun in April and expected to finish later this year, is done. Recent revisions allowing jitneys, pedicabs and low-speed shuttles, Newport added, prove the city's rules are not protective of cabs.

"Obviously, we want to encourage innovation and smart, new ideas. We just need to make sure we do it in a smart way, and our most important consideration is always going to be the safety of the riding public," Newport said.

Isiah Carey at Fox26 had a good report also.

Houston weather, traffic, news | FOX 26 | MyFoxHouston

A roundup of other recent stories include the Houston Business Journal and CultureMap Houston. Yelp has some favorable comments from Houstonians who used the service elsewhere. Wall Street is simply wild about the company, and Google Ventures is all in with over a quarter of a billion dollars invested in Uber. Even the Chron's editorial board *cough*Evan Mintz*cough* registered support.

(O)ne only has to look at other cities where Uber operates to see the benefits of fresh blood in the market. Residents in New York City's outer boroughs, where cabs never tread, suddenly found themselves with access to cars. Uber could do the same for the vast cab-less swaths of Houston. In California, writers and bloggers have touted Uber as a solution to drunk drivers. And we imagine that Uber will also help alleviate Houston's inner-loop parking problems.

So with all of that positive press, who's saying no (or at least 'slow down')? That's coming in Part II.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

John Kerry's turn to roast on the liberal spit

Hey, I didn't draw 'em.

But really, let's not let the commander-in-chief off the hook here.

Facing mounting domestic and international pressure to respond to the deployment of chemical weapons by the government of Bashar al-Assad, White House sources confirmed today that President Barack Obama is carefully weighing his option for dealing with the war-torn Middle Eastern nation. “The president has conferred with his top advisors and is currently considering everything from authorizing missile strikes against Syrian regime targets, to taking out Syrian regime targets with missile strikes—nothing is off the table at this point,” said White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, noting that the president would “take all factors into consideration,” including the well-being of the Syrian people and the strategic interests of the United States, before settling on his only option.

“The president recognizes that the situation in Syria is extremely delicate and that the U.S. faces complex consequences regardless of what he chooses; that’s why he’s giving the one option in front of him so much thought. He will not act until he’s confident in the inexorable decision he’s making.” At press time, Obama had reportedly narrowed his option down to missile strikes against Syrian regime targets, but stated that he would consider it for several more days before making a final decision.

I went ahead and split that long paragraph in two, so that the delicious Oniony flavor would pop.

On greed, and driving the message

Two posts about sports in two days! Don't worry; it's not a trend.

-- Forbes reported earlier this week that the worst MLB franchise by won-loss record, our Houston Astros (soon to be three 100-loss seasons consecutively) are also on track to be the most profitable team ever in history.

The Astros are on pace to rake in an estimated $99 million in operating income (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) this season. That is nearly as much as the estimated operating income of the previous six World Series championship teams — combined.

Yet the Astros are 43-86, worst in the majors. Of the 270 Major League Baseball teams who have taken the field since 2005, none have finished with a worse winning percentage than Houston’s.

The Astros trotted out their new kid, Nolan Ryan's son, to say "No, we're not" but he didn't offer any evidence to the contrary. Astros owner Jim Crane whined louder about being outed as money-grubbing douchebag, but ultimately took the Jamie Dimon approach (scroll down) with his rationalization.

"I didn't make $100 million by making a lot of dumb mistakes."

Forbes rejoined, saying they stand by their math (and their reporting). The good news here for Jim Crane is that nobody whose opinion he cares about actually thinks he is stupid. The bad news? You guessed it: he doesn't care what anybody thinks.

Update: There's actually two different Forbes bloggers arguing with each other about whose math in regard to the 'Stros' P&L is more accurate. 

-- That provides the segue to this report from KHOU about the Dome.

Harris County voters will determine the fate of The Astrodome in a bond referendum on the November ballot, a $217 million plan to convert the dome into a convention and exhibit facility. The Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation put forth the proposal after rejecting a number of privately-submitted proposals that it decided weren't financially feasible.

"It would be a shame, in my mind, to see that asset go away," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. "Because ten years from now, somebody looks up and says, 'Well, if we had the dome, we could do this.' Well, this is a use for the dome that makes sense and it preserves the dome for possible future uses."

But with election day a little more than two months away, a critical component of the plan is conspicuously missing. When big bond issues backed by the county's heavy hitters appear on the ballot, political and business leaders often form committees to sell the plan to voters. So far, nobody has emerged as The Astrodome's head cheerleader.

"I think it's going to take some sort of organized effort," said Bob Stein, the Rice University political science professor and KHOU analyst. "Bond proposals of this sort usually succeed when there's an overwhelming majority of campaigning and spending on behalf of a bond."

Emmett said a number of people have talked about leading the effort, but nobody's grabbing the ball to run with it.

"Typically, right after Labor Day is when things crank up," Emmett said. "And so we don't know who all is going to be involved, frankly."

Among people who've watched with dismay as the dome has fallen into disrepair, this only fuels suspicion that a failed bond election will give county leaders political cover to destroy the dome. Even a Houston Chronicle editorial recently opined, "The Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation comes to bury the Astrodome, not to praise it …We'll see it on the ballot only with the intent of it being voted down."

So the TV station riffed off this post two weeks ago. That's cool; I riff off them too. It's just nice to know that a little blog most people have never seen or heard of can occasionally drive the message.

Update: With former county judges Jon Lindsay and Bob Eckels now recruited for the effort, I would have expected Ed Emmett to show more enthusiasm. It's not showing up, though, from either him or them.

“You know, I know former Judge Eckels, former Judge Lindsay, people at the Harris County Sports and Convention Corp., are talking about it,” Emmett told reporters. “Now, how it gets formed, they have to wait and see.”


“All I can say right now is we’re working on it and trying to get organized,” Lindsay, first elected in 1974, said, describing the effort as “preliminary.”


Lindsay, however, expressed skepticism about fundraising potential, saying  he and Eckels don’t have the clout that they did when they held office.

“I doubt that we’re going to be able to get any significant money to run this campaign,” he said. “We’re going to have to run it on a shoestring.”

Charles Kuffner seems impressed by this development. I am very much not.

-- Last, more from Forbes about some other local greedy bastards. This time it's a bunch of desk jockeys at TransCanada, the company building the Keystone XL pipeline. What's wrong with it, James Conca asks?

Just Greed and Politics.

Pipeline defects have been identified along a 60-mile stretch of the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, north of the Sabine River in Texas (Winnsboro, Texas). 
Sections of pipe have dents, faulty welds, and pin-holes in some sections enough to see daylight through.

The installers have been digging up parts of the new southern segment of the Keystone pipeline that only recently have been installed. 
It seems that the existing leg of the Keystone has spilled more oil in its first year than any other first-year pipeline in U.S. history (HuffPost).

With the tens of billions of dollars this pipeline will make for these companies each year, you’d think they’d spend a little extra to build it right.  Or that they’d care about using new pipe that’s up to specs. We do have specs.

I can just imagine the mid-level manager’s thought processes on this. ”Hmmm…I’m making a decision on a pipeline that is involved in an extremely political battle, that may have a huge impact on the American economy, that could make tens of billions of dollars a year for my company but that could, if done badly, destroy the drinking water and irrigation supply for the bread-basket of America, and that even has international diplomatic ramifications.”

“So, yeah, I’ll save a few bucks and go with the crappy pipe.”

I understand making money. I even understand greed. But I just don’t understand the excessive super-callousness and super-greed required to make these kinds of bad decisions that risk so much just to save what amounts to a pittance on top of already enormous annual profits.

I'll have to explain Houston and Texas Republicans to Mr. Conca sometime, I suppose.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sports is a contact politic

-- Keith Olbermann is back. And it looks like he's gotten the band back together.

The ex-MSNBC and Current TV host made his official return to ESPN on Monday night. Olbermann was a staple of ESPN’s SportsCenter from 1992 to 1997, before parting ways with the network in not the most amicable way. But the bridge is magically no longer burnt, and Olbermann opened his new show with, “As I was saying…”

Despite the new subject matter, Olbermann is still the same guy from the old Countdown days. His opening story -- about the New York Jets, coach Rex Ryan, and some sports writer -- was replete with his unique sense of humor, including silly voices while reading quotes and tongue-in-cheek graphics, including the now-infamous picture of Will Smith and his family staring at whatever the hell happened at the VMAs.

He couldn’t help getting a teeny bit political, though, mockingly wincing as he admitted he agreed with New Jersey governor Chris Christie about an “idiotic” Jets beat reporter.

His Monday night show also included “Worst Persons in the Sports World,” taken from his old “Worst Persons in the World” segment, with the same exact music.

You can watch the first ten minutes of last night's maiden voyage at the top link. KO explains here why he is burned out on talking about politics.

-- Speaking of ESPN, they got intimidated by the NFL out of sponsoring the PBS Frontline documentary on concussions. Here's the trailer for that.

-- Did Bobby Riggs tank the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes" between he and Billie Jean King because Riggs owed gambling debts to the mob? The suspicions still linger.

Forty years ago in September, Billie Jean King struck one of the most decisive blows in women's fight for equality, and she did so with her weapon of choice: a tennis racket.

In a ridiculously hyped match, Bobby Riggs, 55-year-old former tennis champ and outspoken "male chauvinist," challenged King, then 29 and coming off a victory at Wimbledon, to a "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match in the Houston Astrodome. To the winner would go $100,000; to the winner's entire gender would go bragging rights for years.

Riggs had earlier that year beaten Margaret Court, the world No. 1, and a thrashing of King, then ranked #2, seemed all but certain. Oddsmakers favored Riggs, the 1939 Wimbledon champion, in an overwhelming tide. "King money is scarce," said another product of the era, gambling expert Jimmy the Greek. "It's hard to find a bet on the girl."

Anybody who did bet on "the girl" would have seen a huge and unexpected payday, however, as King absolutely thrashed Riggs in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Everyone from announcer Howard Cosell on down could see that King was the superior player, running a clearly winded Riggs all over the court and forcing him into error after error.

But how? Perhaps the greatest women's tennis player ever, Serena Williams, has said she would lose 6-0, 6-0 to Andy Murray. Riggs was no Murray, but then again Williams is in a different time zone from King. How on earth could such a stunning defeat have happened?

The story, according to ESPN's Don Van Natta in a must-read piece, is painfully straightforward: the fix was in, and the Mafia was in on it all.

And here's a trailer from a recent doc of that.

Still no evidence of jars of feces at Texas Capitol

Warning: scatological puns ahead.

The controversy that engulfed the Texas Department of Public Safety in July after leaders said troopers had confiscated jars of urine and feces from abortion activists at the Capitol prompted the agency's chief to urge the release of photos to prove it was not playing politics.

"I am tired of reading that we made this stuff up," Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw wrote in a July 14 email to another top agency official. "Let's get the photos we have to members and the media. Does anyone realistically believe we would fabricate evidence to support a political agenda? Amazing."

Except that the document dump does not seem to include any photographs of jars or bags of feces or urine.

Records released by state police Monday reflect the chaos at a Capitol abortion debate last month — when state troopers said they discarded urine and feces they took from activists — but do not conclusively show bodily waste was actually found.

Very strange. Six weeks after the fact, the DPS releases e-mail conversations that says they found jars of feces, and photos of... something. That no one in the media who has seen them is ready to declare jars of feces.

"If we have photos, let's push them out," Robert Bodisch, assistant director of the agency's Texas Homeland Security arm wrote to McCraw in a July 14 email.

Poor choice of words there, Mr. Bodisch. Maybe this will get cleared up today, or in the days ahead, but for now it still, ah, smells bad. The only bag of poop I could be sure about appears in photo #9 of the slideshow at this link. But the HouChron and the SAEN didn't go there.

Back to the pressing question: how is it that there could still be an unresolved controversy over this matter? Let's go back to DPS Director McCraw, from the excerpt at the top.

"Does anyone realistically believe we would fabricate evidence to support a political agenda?"

Sadly, yes. We most certainly do.

Update: From the TFN Insider...

So after weeks of smears directed at pro-choice activists, we see that there is no evidence at all that anyone brought jars of human waste to the Capitol. Moreover, out of the thousands of activists at the Capitol — both for and against the anti-abortion bill – it appears that a handful of people brought several bricks and a can of paint. And who brought those few items (which DPS officers were absolutely right to confiscate)? No one knows.

We now know, however, that DPS and other law enforcement officers were listening a lot to religious-right activists making wild and unsubstantiated claims. And those claims were meant to discredit the thousands of concerned citizens who went to the Capitol to protest — peacefully — yet another attack on women’s health care services in Texas.

...and Wonkette.

The rumor of jars of feces and urine being carried into the Senate seem to have originated with one lone officer at one checkpoint the day of the debate. Since anyone with higher brain functions (this of course leaves out the vast majority of wingnuts) thought it sounded ridiculous, reporters have been pestering DPS for weeks to confirm the stories. DPS had actually petitioned Texas’s attorney general to keep files on the matter sealed, which seems to us something an agency would do if its members did indeed have a political agenda. Not that it matters, because as we keep reminding everyone, a lie can get halfway around the world before the truth shits in a jar.

Update: #Poopgate ? No, I prefer Cacapocalypse. But Twitter is still getting over yesterday's hack by the Syrians, so I don't think my suggestion has much chance of trending.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes students, teachers, administrators, and especially parents a happy new school year as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff shows how the city of Pasadena and Galveston County are trying to take advantage of the SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act to push through politically motivated redistricting plans.

Olivia at Texpatriate laments living in a state where the lieutenant governor can attempt to manipulate the law with little to no consequences.

David Dewhurst put his ailing political career out of its misery with one phone call to the Allen Police Department, and it fell to PDiddie at Brains and Eggs to write the obituary.

Republicans have figured out the best way bring back “states rights”. It’s to rule over the country from the states, where they hold much more power. WCNews at Eye on Williamson calls it Neutering the federal government .

Make way for the Bushes! Specifically George P. Bush. Many people have already crowned him as the heir apparent for Commissioner of the General Land Office, but Texas Leftist thinks that if Democrats work hard, they can turn that into an "apparently NOT".

Neil at All People Have Value wrote about the taxpayer-financed life boats on the Bolivar Ferry that runs across Galveston Bay. There seems little difference between state-purchased life boats and Texas Legislature support of Obamacare that will help so many people get health insurance coverage. All People Have Value is part of Please check out the full site if so inclined.


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

Walkable DFW draws a lesson in traffic management from the rail systems in Houston and Dallas.

The Texas Observer profiles Jessica Kuther, the Janie-on-the-spot organizer during the rallies against anti-choice bills in the legislative special sessions.

And along those lines, Jessica Luther informs us of a new crowd-funding effort to create an educational online game about abortion and access in Texas.

I Love Beer is looking for a few volunteers for the 2013 Texas Craft Brewers Festival.

Letters from Texas piles on David "I'm Kind Of A Big Deal" Dewhurst.

Nonsequiteuse wonders why we don't regulate bounce houses more, given the Legislature's oft-stated obsession with the health of women and children.

Juanita Jean points out that if Greg Abbott can't read all the way to the end of a Tweet, his interpretation of anything longer than that cannot be trusted.

Concerned Citizens calls on San Antonio council member Elise Chan to resign.

Grits For Breakfast documents the rise of futuristic technology in police work.

And former Texan Roy Edroso gives retiring blogger TBogg an appropriate sendoff.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A few cruise missiles fired into Syria ought to take our mind off his problems

When your spying comes to light,

And you're stymied by the Right,

A new puppy's not enough.

With the libs and cons a-screamin',

He can't be another Lincoln

When his shots all find the rough.

So relax. In a few days we'll be launching Cruz missiles into Syria, the week after that Egypt, and by this time next month everybody will have gotten over their outrage because football season will be in full swing.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled fantasy team drafts.

Sunday Funnies

Except if you do something really evil, like use chemical weapons, we might fire a few cruise missiles from our jets and battleships.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fifty years later, a dream half-fulfilled

In 1963 the March was for jobs and freedom. Today... still jobs. And justice.

Fifty years ago, the goals of the March on Washington were simple: black people came together with enlightened white people to demand equal rights and the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

 But a half-century later, African-Americans have realized only half the dream.

Today, black people are free to move wherever their money can take them. But that right has become almost irrelevant because too many African Americans, black men in particular, can’t find legitimate work that would allow them to feed, clothe and provide for a family.

When you add in the mix the mass incarceration of young black men, urban violence, racial profiling and the dilution of voting-rights laws and affirmative action programs, it is not surprising that it will take two rallies to mark the historic march and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech.

On one hand, African-Americans have come incredibly far since King delivered his famous speech. On the other, a lot of black people in urban America face some of the same challenges they did when King moved into a dilapidated West Side apartment in the ’60s.

More on that from Charles Blow.

I’m absolutely convinced that enormous steps have been made in race relations. That’s not debatable. Most laws that explicitly codified discrimination have been stricken from the books. Overt, articulated racial animus has become more socially unacceptable. And diversity has become a cause to be championed in many quarters, even if efforts to achieve it have taken some hits of late.

But my worry is that we have hit a ceiling of sorts. As we get closer to a society where explicit bias is virtually eradicated, we no longer have the stomach to deal with the more sinister issues of implicit biases and of structural and systematic racial inequality.

I worry that centuries of majority privilege and minority disenfranchisement are being overlooked in puddle-deep discussions about race and inequality, personal responsibility and societal inhibitors.

I wonder if we, as a society of increasing diversity but also drastic inequality, even agree on what constitutes equality. When we hear that word, do we think of equal opportunity, or equal treatment under the law, or equal outcomes, or some combination of those factors?

And I worry that there is a distinct and ever-more-vocal weariness — and in some cases, outright hostility — about the continued focus on racial equality.

So far we have come, so far we have yet to go.

I want to celebrate our progress, but I’m too disturbed by the setbacks.


NBC News is asking all Americans to share their dreams as the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech. Beginning today through Wednesday, everyone is invited to take part in #DreamDay by completing the statement "I have a dream that _________." NBC News is spotlighting the messages across its shows and digital platforms, sharing the dreams of the nation with millions.

The video, photo and text messages can be submitted to NBC News using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine, with the hashtag #DreamDay. A curated collection of the submissions will be featured on “TODAY” and “NBC Nightly News” with thousands of dreams spotlighted on NBC's owned and affiliate stations will also be asking local communities to share their dreams.

Linda Ronstadt has Parkinson's

And it has left her unable to sing.

The 67-year-old singer, who will publish her memoir, Simple Dreams, next month, revealed her condition Friday in an interview with AARP.

The singer of such '70s and '80s hits as You're No Good, Hurt So Bad and Don't Know Much now uses poles to assist her when walking on uneven ground and travels with a wheelchair. She says she was diagnosed with the neurological disorder eight months ago, though she began experiencing symptoms, including hand tremors and trouble controlling the muscles that let her sing, several years ago.

Linda was the first woman -- not girl, woman -- I ever loved (OK, crushed on).  That Livin' in the USA album cover up there, coming out in '78, nearly knocked me over. But it was obviously her pipes that finished me off. Here she covered Gershwin...

...but she could also do country.

Her hits defined the '70's and '80's as much as anybody's.

"I think I've had it for seven or eight years already, because of the symptoms that I've had," the 11-time Grammy winner tells interviewer Alanna Nash. Ronstadt's last album was 2006's Adieu False Heart with Cajun musician Ann Savoy.

"No one can sing with Parkinson's disease," she says. "No matter how hard you try."

Color me a deep shade of melancholy at this news. One more, with my two favorite songs (interspersed with the 1978 comedy flick FM and Martin Mull).

Friday, August 23, 2013

Still waiting for that shame to show up

Lisa Falkenberg at the HouChron on the disintegrating civility in the mayoral tilt.

Already, (Ben) Hall and (Annise) Parker are trading jabs about everything from personal income to the definition of a debate. I'm sure allegations of illegal campaign signs will be next, especially with prospective also-ran Eric Dick in the mix.

But I was most interested in asking Hall one question: What the heck are you doing?

Given that Parker is a relatively well-regarded incumbent who managed to avoid major scandal and any resounding cries of incompetence, why is Hall running? Why throw good money - mostly his own - after bad odds?

"In fact, the odds are that I'm going to win," Hall responded, making it clear that he also disagreed with my "ludicrous" assumption that Parker is generally doing a good job. He most often mentioned her "pension fund neglect" and "mismanagement of assets" in the budget, and her silence on the problems in Houston schools.

You guessed it: God is his co-pilot and political adviser.

As to his reasons for running for mayor, Hall explained that he wants to give voters a real choice. It was a decision he made several years ago, he said, but he had to pray for God's guidance in choosing the right time and to give his reluctant wife "a spirit of acceptance" about the idea.

"Several years ago", but apparently not two, when Roy Morales nearly forced the mayor into a runoff, and not four when Gene Locke did so. Hall seems to have the same problem with the words that come out of his mouth that Greg Abbott has with his Tweets; neither are thought all the way through. Here's the reveal...

When he visits "the barrios and the bayous and the neighborhoods," Hall said, "I don't see where she gets her votes. She made 50.04 percent against no significant competition last round. She's gotten no more popular over the last two years." (For the record, the Chronicle reported 50.08 percent.)

Hall believes part of the problem may be Parker's "strident" leadership style, a bit of which he's experienced during his few private encounters with her. The first time they met, at a University of Houston event, Hall said, the two shook hands and he recalls the mayor saying " 'It's nice meeting you. I'm going to whip your ass so bad that you'll never run for public office again.' " At which point, Hall said, "I immediately told my friend, 'My goodness, I now know what's wrong with the city.' "

Hall then described a later exchange after the Juneteenth Parade. After introducing himself again, Hall says Parker responded, "I'm glad you keep introducing yourself to me because I keep forgetting who you are."

Asked whether Hall's recollections of the exchanges were accurate, Parker spokeswoman Sue Davis said in a statement: "Ben Hall needs to man up. The mayor did not use those exact words and she certainly didn't curse. But it's not surprising that Mr. Hall's response to a confident woman leader is to call her names. Yesterday, Mr. Hall sent out a public statement calling the mayor a liar. What kind of leadership is that?"

Well somebody is certainly not telling the truth. The truth probably does not rest entirely with one account or the other, either.

"Strident" is actually one of the nicer words I would use to describe Madam Mayor. To say that a Dale Carnegie continuing education course would be well worth the investment is understating her case.There just aren't going to be any charm offensives launched out of City Hall in this cycle.

Sue Davis is one of the few consultants who is worth a damn in this city. She's also my neighbor (we live in the same precinct). So I want to say this as nicely as I can, because I like her and respect her: this is poor service to your client, Mayor Parker. Turn down the flames. Stop trying to demonstrate who's the bigger dick in the race. One Dick is one too many already.

Personal attacks are not addressing the legitimate challenges to Mayor Parker's record, aren't increasing voter interest in the election, will NOT boost your vote tally. There is a considerable body of evidence that this sort of thing reduces all those, and worse yet, it gives the appearance that Mayor Parker simply wants to run out the clock on the campaign. Stonewalling the debates to the bare minimum in number and in who gets to participate, discussion in 'forums' that focus on issues that aren't the most pressing (such as crime for example), and other stalling tactics do not serve the best interests of Houstonians.

The underlying assumption here, of course, that it is the intention of Mayor Parker's campaign to serve the citizens of Houston in a positive manner, so perhaps my premise is flawed. If the ad hominem continues, I'll have to revisit and revise it. Back to Falkenberg for the finish.

I have to say, the not-cursing claim was a great disappointment. It seemed kind of an Ann Richards-on-a-Harley thing to do. The "man up" response was even less inspiring.


When I asked how Hall believes he differs politically from Parker, a fellow Democrat, he said: "I think I am a futurist. I don't think she has that skill set. For me, elemental government is balancing the budget. That's elemental. For her it seems to be an accomplishment."

Hall does seem a formidable politician. In a conversation, he'll use your first name a lot. He's loyal to the script. His oscillation between insulting Parker and then pledging the "positive campaign" mantra could use a little grease. But he's a likable guy with an inspiring rags-to-riches story. His name, Ben Hall, conveniently rhymes with "for all." He's had a bit of trouble paying property taxes on time and he spent too much time living in Piney Point.

But I do believe he genuinely wants to make Houston a better place. And whether or not he wins, he's already made this a better race.

Ben Hall runs strange ads and is just too 'revival minister' for my taste. He's also being managed by Republicans, which ruins his credibility as a Democrat. But Falkenberg is correct; for all of the Hall campaign's unfocused dream-state qualities and inability to find an issue that resonates (hint: it ain't pensions, no matter what Bill King says) there remains a large window of opportunity that Parker and her team have left open to exploit. She is simply not a pleasant and decent enough person in word and deed for her management skills to overcome.

She's like that boss who brags about meeting every quarterly projection even as the workers in his department -- or her company -- tell you what an asshole that guy is. That act may still pay dividends in the corporate world, but if the voters reward similar behavior in the public sector, we'll only get more of it. And we have far too many assholes in both worlds as it is.

So on the theory that Ben Hall is the lesser asshole... he's winning.

There are other people running for mayor who aren't assholes at all, and they deserve consideration from an electorate that would be motivated by that quality. Their only chance to make that case, and for the voters to make that choice, is in the first round in November. So I hope they choose wisely.

In the meantime I'll keep waiting for Godot humility to make an appearance. Respect, empathy, and kindness are not weaknesses. Only Republicans think that.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dewhurst ends political career

One last self-inflicted wound.

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst personally called police and asked to talk to the highest-ranking officer about getting a relative out of jail, Allen police said.

He also asked for the cellphone numbers of a judge and the Collin County sheriff, which a sergeant declined to give him.

The relative, Ellen Bevers, an Allen elementary school teacher, was jailed on charges of shoplifting at a Kroger’s grocery store on Aug. 3, police said.

Police released an audio recording of the phone call late Wednesday after a request from NBC DFW under the Texas open records law.

Go to the link above and listen for yourself.

"What I would like to do, if you would explain it to me, sergeant, what I need to do is to arrange for getting her out of jail this evening and you can proceed with whatever you think is proper," Dewhurst said on the call.

In the call, Dewhurst described Bevers as his sister-in-law but police said the woman was married to Dewhurst's nephew. In a short statement later Wednesday, Dewhurst referred to her as his niece.


Dewhurst said he had known Bevers for 30 years and described her as "the sweetest woman in the world."

He's known her for 30 years, but he's still confused about how he's related to her (by marriage). You would think he could've at least gotten that straight before he placed the call.

Naturally, Dan Patrick pounced.

"The fact that David Dewhurst believes he and his family are above the law is the height of arrogance and recklessness," Patrick said. "This blatant abuse of power would be stunning coming from any elected official.  However, it is particularly disturbing coming from the Lieutenant Governor of Texas.”

Yes, even a blind state senator/talk radio host can find an acorn once in awhile.

I was fairly confident that with the three right-wing freaks running against him in the primary, Dew could still find enough of the so-called moderates to lift him into the runoff. Not any longer.

Place your bets on Dan "Pussycats" Patrick versus Jerry "Gunhole" Patterson, ladies and gentlemen, because Todd Staples' Tweets, though entertaining, aren't going to be enough to get him any higher than third.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rick Perry negotiates to accept some Obamacare funding for seniors, disabled

(The Texas governor), an ardent opponent of the Affordable Care Act, is in talks with Obama administration officials to accept an estimated $100 million in care for the elderly and disabled through Obamacare, Politico reported Tuesday night.

Texas health officials are seeking to enroll in the so-called Community First Choice program available via the law's Medicaid expansion. Perry officially declined to enroll his state in the program, saying in April that expanding the program for the poor would make Texas “hostage” to the federal government.

From the Politico piece...

Perry health aides are negotiating with the Obama administration on the terms of an optional Obamacare program that would allow Texas to claim stepped-up Medicaid funding for the care of people with disabilities.

The so-called Community First Choice program aims to enhance the quality of services available to the disabled and elderly in their homes or communities. Similar approaches have had bipartisan support around the country. About 12,000 Texans are expected to benefit in the first year of the program.

"It's not Obamacare money! We are NOT hypocrites!"

“This is not entirely accurate,” (Perry spokesperson Josh) Havens said by email. “This has nothing to do with Obamacare. The state of Texas has been providing these types of services via Medicaid waiver for decades, and we are continuing to provide this service.”

My embarrassment in being represented by people so ridiculous is overcome by my desire to see the least among us assisted, no matter what pretzels of rationalization the governor has to twist himself into.

Just get it done, you morons.

Update: Snarkier from Egberto.

Cindy Hughes Zerwas 1955-2013

Cindy Zerwas, wife of state Rep. John Zerwas, of Simonton, died Tuesday of brain cancer.

"My wife Cindy passed away at home this morning, following a courageous fight against brain cancer," the Republican lawmaker from Fort Bend County said in a statement. "Cindy was surrounded by myself and our children and grandchildren at the time of her passing.

"My family and I would like to express our deep appreciation for the continued thoughts and prayers of our friends within the community, throughout Texas, and beyond."

A memorial service is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday at First Colony Church of Christ, 2140 First Colony Boulevard in Sugar Land.

John Zerwas is one of the very few Republicans in the state legislature who understands the need to expand Medicaid to the poorest and least-insured in Texas. I met with his staffers in the spring and they made it obvious that they knew something needed to be done, but that the extremists in their party weren't going to allow it to happen.

Try to imagine losing a loved one to cancer AND being saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical debt that will never be paid off in your lifetime. (It's no better being bankrupted by co-pays and deductibles when you have insurance, either.)

I'm glad that Zerwas has empathy for those Texans of lesser means going through similar circumstances to what he has endured, and I hope others with less empathy can be persuaded by his valiant example.

Peace and strength to the Zerwas family at this time of loss.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

If his mother had a C-section, then he isn't natural born

And it doesn't matter whether his head hit the dirt in Canada, Cuba, the United States, or in outer space.  That ain't "natural".

The Dallas Morning News says that I may technically have dual citizenship,” Cruz, a freshman Republican from Texas, said in a statement. “Assuming that is true, then sure, I will renounce any Canadian citizenship. Nothing against Canada, but I’m an American by birth and as a U.S. Senator, I believe I should be only an American.”

And if he doesn't renounce Satan, then it don't matter what the "boarders" of the country were.

(I'm finally understanding why this birther BS is so much fun.)

Calgary Carnival Poop Cruz, real name Teodoro Rafael Osama Adolf Fidel Jose Tom, has some 'splainin' to do. We better get Donald Trump and Orly Taitz on the case.

And I want to see his college transcripts, too.

Update: Nice try, Rafael Edward.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is also wondering... it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff is there with the early news that Sen. Wendy Davis is leaning toward the governor's race next year.

Despairing about the sorry state of Houston's mayoral contest, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs seems to be suggesting a vote for Nobody. But not if Nobody is a Dick.

Horwitz at Texpatriate notes that paybacks are hell as a special prosecutor is appointed against Rick Perry to investigate coercion and abuse of office complaints.

Rick Perlstein reminds us that the right wing is playing the long con. WCNews at Eye on Williamson has the details in There is nothing new under the wingnut sun.

Neil at All People Have Value wrote that he is donating 25 cents to Amnesty International for every negative attack e-mail he gets from the Ben Hall and Annise Parker campaigns for mayor of Houston. Neil, who previously wrote Texas Liberal, now has the website All People Have Value can be found at

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme sees Rick Perry hurting Texas children once again. Perry wants to privatize public education.


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

Better Texas examines the effects of the 2011 budget cuts to family planning.

Greg Wythe looks at the national backlash against standardized testing.

New Media Texas breaks out the wrestling analogies for the Houston mayor's race.

The TSTA Blog discusses the changes made to the process for approving charter schools.

Texas Vox points out the double standards in Texas' water laws.

Texas Water Solutions analyzes the Legislature's plans for water infrastructure.

Grits for Breakfast reports on another Texas official making taxpayers fund an extravagant security detail for himself.

Letters From Texas eagerly awaits the prospect of Rush Limbaugh moderating a GOP presidential debate.

BOR reports on racial disparities in drug arrests in East Texas.

Concerned Citizens condemns the homophobic remarks made by a San Antonio city council member and some of her staff while discussing that city's proposed non-discrimination ordinance.

Egberto Willies interviewed 2012 Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, but remains skeptical of third parties' influence on the American political system.

TXSharon at BlueDaze notes that a Texas Railroad Commission employee who blew the whistle on his supervisor was fired and now he's suing the state.

Lastly, attorney Paul Kennedy reviews Rise of the Warrior Cop, a new book about the militarization of America's police forces.

Wheelchair Ken

Turnabout is fair play, amirite?

If things were really going to get evened up, however, "Crippled Ken" would be the hashtag. And Senator Davis should not be thanking me for my support, either. (I'm positive she's smart enough not to do that.)

Let's not get bunched up over who's being more insensitive or politically incorrect either, shall we?

Among other things, Barbie taught compassion to my friends and me. When our dolls' bendable knee joints gave out, they were not thrown away but treated as physically challenged Barbies, whereupon we made make-shift wheelchairs for them. When Ken's arm was chewed off by the dog, we tried to convince our Barbies they should see beyond his disability.

Look what I found on e-Bay.

So -- again -- this isn't my creation. This isn't the invention of a sick mind. This is historical fact: Barbie had a friend in a wheelchair but not a blind one; certainly no mention of one that had a mental disability or with obvious opinions on women's reproductive freedoms (despite what you may infer).

That's obviously a contrivance intended to belittle.

Greg Abbott's got a real problem on his hands to start the week, and I don't think he can safely ignore it. It looks as if he has pushed himself right out of the frying pan and into the fire, and he may need a couple of his right-wing pals to get ahold of his chair and pull him out. He absolutely possesses the requisite conservative hypocrisy immunity gene, but even he is smart enough to see that this road he is rolling down is a less-traveled one for a reason.

It's not like he's the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, after all.

Update: This is not sufficient. Abbott must renounce the slur... or else continue to own it.

Update II: I learned a new word today.