Sunday, August 04, 2013

Sunday Extended Length Funnies

"Okay, let’s just be honest now. The House is clearly where things go to die. It's where parents are going to start telling their kids their aging pets went. 'Oh, Fluffy's fine, darling. She just got stuck in committee.'"
-- John Oliver

"Sunday, on his way home from Brazil, Pope Francis said it was not his job to judge gays. He said that's what the Tony Awards are for."
-- Jay Leno

"Anthony Weiner's campaign manager quit. He says he's applying for a much less stressful job that has a better chance of success. He's trying to get Paula Deen elected president of BET."
-- Craig Ferguson

"Some jackass vandalized the Lincoln Memorial. Who hates the Lincoln Memorial? Democrats love it because it honors the man who freed the slaves. And Republicans love it because it just sits there and does nothing. If it could cry and chain smoke, it would be John Boehner."
-- Bill Maher

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Burying the lede

I was of the mind that one of the biggest reveals in the Texas Observer's piece on misogyny in the Lege was well down in the story, and sure enough the NCRM beat me to it.

Even the most powerful women in the Legislature experience it. When I started interviewing women lawmakers, they all—Republican and Democrat, House and Senate, rural and urban—said that being a woman in the statehouse is more difficult than being a man. Some told of senators ogling women on the Senate floor or watching porn on iPads and on state-owned computers, of legislators hitting on female staffers or using them to help them meet women, and of hundreds of little comments in public and private that women had to brush off to go about their day. Some said they often felt marginalized and not listened to—that the sexism in the Legislature made their jobs harder and, at times, produced public policy hostile to women.

Of all of the various actions that can get a person's employment in the private sector terminated, surfing porn at work is pretty much at the top of the list. It doesn't require eyewitness testimony; there's no he said/she said BS, the offender can't say it never happened. When former Houston Metro chairman George Greanias went to on his personal laptop late one night at the office, he was nailed for it. As bright a man as he was, he didn't understand the whole VPN login-IT audit trail thing.

All of the bad behavior described in that article is (should be) zero-tolerance, but a state employee or elected official using taxpayer-funded computers, servers, IPs, etc. for their personal sexual titillation ought to be grounds for immediate dismissal. No warnings, no waiting until the next election.

It's at least as serious as forging timestamps on roll call votes, but then again I don't see Attorney General Greg Abbott investigating that either.

A real good question for religious conservatives to ask the Three TeaBaggers running to replace Abbott in the AG office: "Do you support or oppose state legislators, staff, etc. using their computers and tablets to look at porn?"

Because at least one of them is bound to oppose it strongly enough to be willing to make an example of someone.

Update: A solid take on how to fix these problems from nonsequiteuse.

Friday, August 02, 2013

"Yeeeeeaah, if you could just finish up those..."

"... campaign finance reports, that'd be grrrreat."

-- How TPS CF reports should not be interpreted (paywall):

Democratic political consultant Mustafa Tameez said Hall might have to show more widespread support to drag Parker on stage repeatedly; Hall reported raising $2 million as of June 30, $1.7 million of that his own cash.

"Let's say Ben Hall comes out and he raises $2.2 million and he only puts in $200,000 of his own seed money," Tameez said. "Then Parker's more likely to have multiple debates with him because he has substantial support and she wants to clarify her positions. All challengers want to take it to the incumbent and point out one of the 10 things that are wrong with the city at no expense to themselves, and no incumbent would ever allow that."

Tameez -- considered one of the city's premier political advisors, certainly a heavy player in the local insiders' clique --  seems to be suggesting to Mayor Parker that she execute the Rick Perry 2010 strategy of avoiding debates. Would that really be the best thing for her to do?

Update: Not to be outdone, Campos tops that for stupid.

Commentary doesn’t want to hear the other candidates in a debate and I’m thinking most folks don’t either.  I’m betting The Mayor’s Campaign didn’t do a whole lot of opposition research on the other folks like they did on Hall so don’t throw in that the other candidates have to participate.  Plus they haven’t staffed up and they haven’t plunked down a couple of mil of their own dough into the race.

Commentary is, as usual, a fucking moron. If there is anybody left in this town taking anything he says seriously, then they deserve what they get.

-- How CF reports should be interpreted (and then used by a political campaign):

Leave it to a college paper to scoop the bloggers on this , but it is definitely worth a read. Many of my fellow bloggers, me included, posted fundraising totals from candidates, including those in the running for District I. I had noticed a few individual snarks on Facebook toward some of the candidate totals, but nothing newsworthy or in a press release from other candidates. The college paper, The Venture, found something.

“As you can see from the finance reports, Mr. Mendez has a number of overvalued in-kind donations, lots of self-funding and he only has $12,000 cash on hand. To that end, alarm bells are ringing throughout District I because it appears he burned through the cash he allegedly raised. The hard working men and women of District I don’t spend money like that,” said Robert Gallegos, who is one of the candidates running against Mendez in District I.

Mendez’s campaign manager, Joaquin Martinez, did not provide a response for this story before deadline.

Looks like a well-worded direct hit by Gallegos on that one, stating that fundraising will not make the difference, rather, experience in the district will -- a theme on which he is running.

Precisely right.

So, to summarize (and despite how this post may have been interpreted): there's not anything inherently wrong with the reporting of campaign fundraising and spending; there is something wrong with how it is analyzed, and who is doing the analyzing.

Agendas coming out to play and all that.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

FBI knew about snipers aimed at Occupy Houston

But snipers affiliated with whom? Do you feel safer now?

As the Occupy Houston movement gained steam in 2011, the FBI was aware of a plan to use snipers to take out leaders of the movement, according to FBI documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The highly redacted documents do not point to any FBI involvement in the plan. Agency spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap said that it's premature to draw conclusions about the documents because the publicly released information is incomplete.

The documents do raise questions about how much the FBI knew about the plot, said Houston attorney Paul Kennedy, who represented several of the Occupy protesters in misdemeanor cases.

In an email Wednesday, Dunlap said the agency investigates hundreds of such threats, and "rest assured if the FBI was aware of credible and specific information involving a murder plot, law enforcement would have responded with appropriate action."

Dunlap stated the documents "were redacted in several places pursuant to privacy laws that govern the release of such information." She cautioned against "drawing conclusions from FOIA documents, as they often contain raw data and are incomplete."

Kennedy obtained a copy of the FBI document, which was requested in December 2012 by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, and has posted it on his blog.

You may recall that I spent some activist time down at City Hall at the birthing of Occupy Houston. From Kennedy's post...

Just how scared of the Occupy movement was the government? Or, maybe the question should be just how scared were business leaders and their lackeys in the government? The Occupy protests were a mass movement that had the potential to catch fire. That they didn't is due to the government's crackdowns and, I would argue, on the lack of a cohesive message from the movement.

The more important question is, obviously, who was behind the alleged plot to assassinate Occupy leaders in Houston? Why did the government redact any identification information about whose plot it was? Is that information redacted because it would expose confidential sources, or is it redacted because the FBI was behind the alleged plot?

The historical comparisons to Occupy mirror those of the 1932 Bonus Army, among others such as the March on Washington, which was held 50 years ago this month.

I have missed any reference to snipers and Tea Party protests over the past five years. Can anyone fill me in as to whether there were any stories about that? A cursory Google search was not helpful. I do recall seeing some guns being schlepped around by those folks at their rallies, and I think they did complain about IRS audits. Or something.

The thing that authority fears most is organic, civil, peaceful protest, witnessed again as recently as two weeks ago when Houstonians who objected to the whitewash -- a savagely appropriate word in this context -- of Trayvon Martin's murder wound up blocking traffic on a Houston freeway. (Read Mayor Parker's reaction to that here, and an account of the follow-up visit by activists with the US Attorney who offices locally here.)

If you haven't watched the Chris Hedges video I posted last week, now would be a good time to do so. His analysis of the government's intentions with respect to Occupy are spot on.

And then you might ask yourself if a discussion about the number of debates in the Houston mayoral contest, or how much money what's-his-or-her-name has raised for a city council bid, is the best conversation we can be having about politics in the nation's fourth largest city.

Update: This news about sharpshooters in Texas arrives on a grim anniversary.