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General snarkiness

From the “Live by the leaked audio, die by the leaked audio” department

Oh, the irony.

Two staffers for the hardline conservative group Empower Texans have been caught on an audio recording disparaging Gov. Greg Abbott with profanity and joking about his wheelchair use.

Upon the comments surfacing Friday morning, Abbott’s office and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick denounced them and Empower Texans said the staffers were “suspended from all public activities with the organization immediately.”

The comments came on an unedited version of the group’s podcast, Texas Scorecard Radio, featuring Empower Texans’ vice president, Cary Cheshire, and general counsel, Tony McDonald. The audio was published — apparently inadvertently — Thursday. The unedited version was replaced with an edited episode later in the day.

After the show ends in the unedited version, McDonald and Cheshire laugh about references they made to Abbott that could be perceived as highlighting the fact he has used a wheelchair since being partially paralyzed in a 1984 accident.

“I feel like before there was a switch I could flip to avoid that, and I’m just so frustrated that I’ve flipped it off,” Cheshire says. “He’s such a revolting piece of shit.”

The two had been venting over Abbott’s recent comments allowing local officials to order businesses to require customers to wear masks amid the coronavirus pandemic. The governor’s approval of such policies came after a stretch of confusion over what exactly local officials could do to mandate regarding mask use under his statewide orders. In clarifying the statewide mask rules earlier this week, Abbott said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff had “finally figured” out what was allowed.

The sentiments by Cheshire and McDonald are not dissimilar from criticism of Abbott they have lodged publicly, though without profanity and reference to his disability. Empower Texans and some other hard-right activists have been generally critical of Abbott lately for ceding too much power to big-city Democratic leaders to fight the virus.

“It’s like, I have created this riddle for you and you have figured out how to fuck your citizens with it — ‘Great job, I’m with you,'” Cheshire says in the unedited podcast while talking about Abbott’s mask confusion. “And it’s like, you’re an awful piece of shit.”

McDonald adds that Abbott “created a shitty policy that’s vague because he wanted to avoid accountability.” As for Abbott’s eventual clarification that counties and cities can require businesses to mandate mask wearing, McDonald says, “Well, just like, fuckin’ say it. Don’t clown around. ‘You read between the lines.’ Well, fuck you.”

It was the Quorum Report that broke the story, though of course much of what they wrote is behind their paywall. You can hear the full audio here. Somewhere, I figure future ex-Speaker Dennis Bonnen is grimly enjoying a double Scotch and a cigarette.

Let’s make three points here. One of course is that lots of people, myself included, have criticized Abbott’s ridiculous “riddle me this” statement as well. He’s been doing his best to dodge accountability for his own actions, and non-actions, all along, and he deserves all the brickbats he’s gotten for it. The issue here, in addition to their awful ableist slurs, is that Empower Texans themselves, from their wingnut billionaire sugar daddy Tim Dunn to their loathsome leader Michael Quinn Sullivan on down to their staffers, are the epitome of shitty politics in Texas. (Note that while Sullivan made a typically pious statement about how “unacceptable” this was and how “heartbroken” it made him, moneybags Dunn has not said anything yet.) You don’t have to believe me about this. Go read what a former staffer had to say, or go have a look at some of Cary Cheshire’s tweets. These guys are the worst.

Two, they’re also huge supporters of many elected Republicans, including the likes of Dan Patrick, who did a little pearl clutching of his own. I’m sure he went right back to counting all the money he’s gotten from them in the past.

And on that note, credit where credit is due:

Pretty sure no one, least of all Dollar Bill Dan, will be handing their donations back to Empower Texans. The Chron has more.

Where do they find these people?

News item: Five Texas GOP county leaders share racist Facebook posts, including one juxtaposing an MLK quote with a banana.

Republican leaders in five Texas counties shared racist Facebook posts, some of which also floated conspiracy theories, leading Gov. Greg Abbott to call for two of them to resign.

Abbott and other top Texas Republicans called for the resignation of the GOP chairs in Bexar and Nueces counties after they shared on social media a conspiracy theory that Floyd’s death was a “staged event,” apparently to gin up opposition to President Donald Trump. There is no evidence to support that claim; Floyd, a black Minnesota man, died last week after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

“These comments are disgusting and have no place in the Republican Party or in public discourse,” Abbott spokesman John Wittman said in a statement Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, the GOP chairman-elect in Harris County, Keith Nielsen, posted an image on Facebook earlier this week that showed a Martin Luther King Jr. quote — “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” — on a background with a banana. The juxtaposition of the quote and the banana can be read as an allusion to equating black people with monkeys, a well-worn racist trope. Nielsen appears to have deleted the post and apparently addressed it on his Facebook page Thursday evening. On Friday he updated his comments to say he would not resign.

[…]

Even later Thursday, Democrats also criticized a fourth post from a GOP chair on Facebook. Sue Piner, chair of the Comal County GOP, shared a post on Sunday that included an image of liberal billionaire George Soros and text that said, “I pay white cops to murder black people. And then I pay black people to riot because race wars keep the sheep in line.”

Piner could not be immediately reached for comment about the post. The unfounded Soros conspiracy theory is among many that have spread online as Americans have protested policy brutality.

Republican Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush late Thursday said all four county leaders should step down.

Sorry, I was busy reading this classic Onion article and got distracted for a minute. Where was I? Oh, yeah. First, who knew that the Harris County GOP could suck even more than it already did? And that Bexar County GOP Chair, nobody could have predicted that she was an utter wacko. Remember when Republican leaders in Texas believed in more wholesome conspiracy theories? Boy, those were the days.

You can see this Patrick Svitek Twitter thread for more calls from these respectable Republicans for these not-so-respectable Republicans to resign. But that, as they say, is not all. News item: In false Facebook posts, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller accused George Soros of paying protesters to “destroy” the country. I’m not going to quote from this one, you pretty much get the picture from the headline. It’s just that spouting bizarre, racist, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on Facebook is pretty much Sid Miller’s core competence. I look forward to seeing George P. Bush and the rest of those Respectable Republicans call on him to resign, now that maybe Sid Miller may finally be too big an embarrassment even for them.

UPDATE: We’re now up to a dozen GOP county party chairs with truly Facebook posts about the George Floyd murder, and an equally vile lack of understanding of why they’re so disgusting.

UPDATE: And the new Harris County GOP Chair is out. My advice, leave the position vacant. Won’t make any difference whether they have a Chair or not, and there’s one less idiot to say something ugly and stupid in public.

“There are more important things than living”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, everybody.

After facing intense criticism for suggesting on Fox News last month that he’d rather perish from the new coronavirus than see instability in the state’s economic system, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said last night that he’s thankful Texas is beginning the process of reopening its economy because the restrictions are currently “crushing small businesses” and the economic market.

“I’m sorry to say that I was right on this and I’m thankful that now we are now finally beginning to open up Texas and other states because it’s been long overdue,” he told interview host Tucker Carlson.

“What I said when I was with you that night is there are more important things than living. And that’s saving this country for my children and my grandchildren and saving this country for all of us,” Patrick said. “I don’t want to die, nobody wants to die, but man we’ve got to take some risks and get back in the game and get this country back up and running.”

During his latest interview on Fox News, Patrick said that, in Texas, the death toll wasn’t high enough to warrant shutting down the entire state. According to the latest data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, 19,458 Texans have been sickened from the virus, while 495 have died.

“Let’s face reality of where we are: In Texas, we have 29 million people. We’ve lost 495 and every life is valuable, but 500 people out of 29 million and we’re locked down,” Patrick said.

So just to clarify his earlier remarks, Dan doesn’t want to die, but if the price of “reopening the economy” is that you have to die, well, that’s the way it goes. Every life is valuable, but obviously some are more valuable than others. I’m sure he can’t believe he has to explain that to you.

Only the megadonors can save us now

Actual headline, from an actual Houston Chronicle story:

Dallas megadonor leads secret team charged with carrying out Dan Patrick’s plan to restart economy

Remember how I said that the story of Steve Stockman and his supporters using the cover of the coronavirus pandemic to butter up Donald Trump for a pardon was the most 2020 story ever? Took less than a week for events to prove me wrong. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

You can read the story if you want, in which you will learn that the people who are closest to and/or have worked for said megadonor, whose name is G. Brint Ryan, think he’s a swell guy who only wants to do good, and that he himself swears he would never use the position of favor and access that he bought for himself fair and square to benefit himself or his businesses. Nope, he’s just there to look out for the little guy, by which he means people who couldn’t afford Dan Patrick’s list price and thus depend on even richer people like him to make sure they don’t get forgotten. Truly, we are blessed to have the likes of G. Brint Ryan in the favorite contacts of our state leaders. As to what he might be doing in secret to restart the economy in a way that won’t kill too many people, well, if he told you that then there wouldn’t be a secret, now would there? Just cool your jets and let the magic of the patronage system do its work, OK?

Oh God, I have to mention Tony Buzbee again

There goes one New Year’s resolution.

Straight outta The Hights

There is a plate of crawfish on the table in front of Tony Buzbee, who has substituted his jeans-and-jacket campaign garb for a baby blue sweatshirt and Texas A&M baseball cap.

The setting: Crawfish & Noodles on Bellaire Boulevard, where Buzbee — three weeks removed from an unsuccessful mayoral bid — is facing a camera held by his girlfriend, Frances Moody, and digging into the ample helping of crawfish.

“The reason we know these are fresh is because they’re small, because it’s the very beginning of the season. Beware of large crawfish at this time of year,” Buzbee says, poking a finger at the camera. “Beware of places that freeze their crawfish. You want ‘em fresh.”

The 54-second video was posted Sunday to Buzbee’s Facebook page, which until recently promoted his campaign for Houston mayor. It since has been converted to a page for his new show, Uninvited, which Buzbee says will feature deep-dives into Houston restaurants, their owners and the food they serve.

Each of the 13 episodes will spotlight a different restaurant and likely will be posted online mid-summer, once a week on Facebook and YouTube, Buzbee said.

Five restaurants already have signed on to participate, and a crew is filming a promo for the show Thursday. Buzbee also has launched the rough draft of a website, tonybuzbeeuninvited.com, which still includes some dummy text and a few typos. And he has posted three teaser videos on Facebook, including the crawfish one.

[…]

“I thought I was Trump. Now I’m Anthony Bourdain,” he said. “That’s one comparison I would damn well take.”

There are links in the story to that video and the website, but you can click over there to find them, I’ve already done too much. Just be aware that if you do go to his website, you will see pictures like this, so be prepared. Local Twitter is having a field day with this, with Nonsequiteuse having the most fun, so start there if you want to pile on.

One more thing:

Buzbee said the show will not impede on his law practice, to which he has returned full time since embarking on a post-election vacation he documented through a series of posts on Instagram. Buzbee also previously tried his hand at travel blogging, though his blog has remained dormant since he published a handful of posts in 2018.

Not just anyone has what it takes to be a blogger, let me tell you. Once a dilettante…

Pete Sessions’ fine whine

There ain’t enough cheese in the entire state of Wisconsin to accompany this.

Rep. Pete Sessions’ campaign might be over. But he isn’t over it.

The Dallas Republican is still smoldering about the circumstances that led to his decisive loss in November to Democrat Colin Allred, a first-time political candidate who ended Sessions’ 22-year career in Congress and helped tip the House back to Democratic control.

“It required an incredible amount of money and an overwhelming sense of mischaracterization,” Sessions told The Dallas Morning News at his Capitol office.

That indignation burned through a recent exit interview, one that included a matter-of-fact assessment by the chairman of the House Rules Committee that he’s “not done with politics.”

His biggest campaign regret, he allowed, was that he didn’t “take more credit for the things that I do.” The campaign’s X factor had nothing to do with his own race, he said, but instead the success that Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke had in bringing Democrats to the polls.

He struggled to win over new voters, he vented, because of the “Democratic Party and their allies who smeared” him as an out-of-touch Beltway insider — and worse.

“I got tattooed this election,” he said. “People fell victim to thinking, ‘Wow, he’s for dogfighting. Wow, he does nothing for seniors. Wow, he voted against cancer drugs.’”

There’s more, and you should click over and savor every last word of it. Honestly, there’s no sweeter sound than those of a PAC-fattened kingpin complaining about how unfair it is that he has to get a real job now. Don’t worry, Pete, I’m sure the gravy train will make a stop at your office before you have to vamoose. In the meantime, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Greg Abbott, Russian stooge

Heck of a job, Greggie.

A former director of the CIA and NSA said Wednesday that hysteria in Texas over a 2015 U.S. military training exercise called Jade Helm was fueled by Russians wanting to dominate “the information space,” and that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to send the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation gave them proof of the power of such misinformation campaigns.

Michael Hayden, speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe podcast, chalked up peoples’ fear over Jade Helm 15 to “Russian bots and the American alt-right media [that] convinced many Texans [Jade Helm] was an Obama plan to round up political dissidents.”

Abbott ordered the State Guard to monitor the federal exercise soon after news broke of the operation. Hayden said that move gave Russians the go-ahead to continue — and possibly expand — their efforts to spread fear.

“At that point, I’m figuring the Russians are saying, ‘We can go big time,’” Hayden said of Abbott’s response. “At that point, I think they made the decision, ‘We’re going to play in the electoral process.’”

You can read the rest, and you can listen to the Morning Joe podcast – Gen. Hayden was also on The Gist with Mike Pesca on Wednesday, though he wasn’t specifically talking about Jade Helm. I just have two things to add. One is that from now on, any time Greg Abbott criticizes anyone for any reason, the response should be along the lines of “Well, at least [whoever] didn’t fall for Russian propaganda”. And two, from the Observer:

Meanwhile, another Jade Helm-style exercise is planned for San Angelo in June. Oddly enough, now that Trump is president, there’s a notable lack of freaking out this time.

Well, the Russians aren’t trying to goad idiots like Greg Abbott into peeing their pants over it this time. Amazing what a difference that makes. ThinkProgress and the Lone Star Project have more.

Collins responds to Farenthold

Please keep this up forever.

On Monday, Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) offered a novel — and sexist — explanation and solution for the Republican health care bill’s struggles: He blamed “some female senators from the Northeast” for holding up the legislation. Then he went on to argue that “if it was a guy from south Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style” — a reference to Burr’s fatal duel with Alexander Hamilton in 1804.

In a hot mic moment, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), one of the senators who opposes the Senate health care bill because it would lead to big losses in insurance coverage, was very blunt in her thoughts about Farenthold.

First, she asked Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), “Did you see the one who challenged me to a duel?”

Reed said, “You could beat the shit out of him.”

Collins responded: “He’s so unattractive. It’s unbelievable. … Did you see the picture of him in his pajamas next to this bunny?”

The recording is then cut off.

See here for the background. You can hear the recording at the link above. I don’t think there’s anything I could possibly add to this. Gray Matters has more.

You’re never so weak as when you try to act tough

Blake Farenthold, ladies and gentlemen:

A Texas GOP congressman says if the three female Republican senators who oppose a bill repealing Obamacare were men from South Texas, he might challenge them to a duel.

“The fact that the Senate does not have the courage to do some of the things that every Republican in the Senate promised to do is just absolutely repugnant to me,” U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, told his local radio host Bob Jones on Friday.

“Some of the people that are opposed to this, there are female senators from the Northeast… If it was a guy from South Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.”

[…]

Duel language is not new in politics. In 2004, then-U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, a Democrat who crossed party lines to campaign for President George W. Bush, invoked it against MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews. The comments were met with widespread mockery at the time.

But there’s little funny about such language in the U.S. Capitol these days, after a deranged man shot and injured a Republican member of Congress during a baseball practice in June. U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, was gravely injured in the incident and remains hospitalized.

Yes, thank goodness we’ve all heeded that call for civility after the shooting on the baseball field. Also, someone might gently tell Farenthold that Alaska is not in the northeast. Tell him thanks for the laugh, too, we all needed it. Juanita and ThinkProgress have more.

Yes, m’lord

I totally should bid on this.

All it takes to be a noble – to be called “m’Lord” or “m’Lady” – is money. And for Texans interested in owning a noble title, a silent auction in London holds an extra appeal. The title being auctioned has a loose connection to Gen. Sam Houston, arguably the most important figure in Texas history.

The Barony of Fingalton, Renfrewshire, Scotland, is said to have once belonged to Houston’s ancestors. Between June 27 and July 11, it’s being sold in a special silent auction.

Auctioneer Robert Smith, of Manorial Auctioneers Ltd., said that he expected the title to sell for at least $100,000.

It’s being sold, Smith said, by a French-speaking Swiss businessman who’s owned it since 1998.

Why would anyone want to pay $80,000 for nothing more than the right to call yourself a baron or baroness?

“People’s reasons vary,” Smith said. “There’s novelty involved, I suppose. I would think someone in Texas would have some warmth in regard to the general.”

Ernie Manouse, the Houston Public Media TV host, said that he bought a title of nobility nearly 20 years ago – for $29 or so.

That title, of highly questionable provenance, came with an ID card and a certificate suitable for framing.

It was, Manouse laughs, well worth the investment.

Manouse used the title years ago on a Lord & Taylor credit-card application, resulting in a credit card that read: “Sir Ernie Manouse.”

According to the sidebar, “Anyone wanting information or planning to bid should write to [email protected] or call auctioneer Robert Smith at &44-20-7582-1588.” I suppose there are better uses for a hundred grand, but these things don’t grow on trees, you know. Maybe I could crowdfund it. Who’d be in for a piece of the action with me?

The “Man’s Right To Know” Act

This is some high-quality trolling.

Rep. Jessica Farrar

Texas State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, filed a bill Friday that would penalize men for “unregulated masturbatory emissions.”

The satirical House Bill 4260 would encourage men to remain “fully abstinent” and only allow the “occasional masturbatory emissions inside health care and medical facilities,” which are described in the legislation as the best way to ensure men’s health.

Farrar said she created the bill after feeling fed up with the various legislative bills introduced by men addressing women’s healthcare.

“A lot of people find the bill funny,” Farrar said in a phone interview. “What’s not funny are the obstacles that Texas women face every day, that were placed there by legislatures making it very difficult for them to access healthcare.”

A man would face a $100 penalty for each emission made outside of a vagina or medical facility. Such an emission would be considered “an act against an unborn child, and failing to preserve the sanctity of life,” according to the legislation.

The money would benefit children in the care of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

A registry would be created of non-profit organizations and hospitals that provide “fully-abstinent encouragement counseling, supervising physicians for masturbatory emissions, and storage for the semen.”

[…]

Her latest bill also seeks to provide men with a safe and healthy environment during vasectomies, Viagra uses and colonoscopies by creating “A Man’s Right to Know” booklet that should “exactly follow the rules and procedures of the informational booklet “A Woman’s Right To Know,” required to be given of women terminating pregnancies.

During the consultation, the physician would verbally review the booklet with men and would be required to “administer a medically-unnecessary digital rectal exam and magnetic resonance imagining of the rectum,” according to the bill.

Farrar said she included this part of the bill to mimic the trans-vaginal ultrasound woman have when they are seeking an abortion. She also described the doctor reading the “Woman’s Right To Know” pamphlet as a “guilt mechanism.”

“It’s to show how invasive this medically unnecessary procedure is,” She said. “When a woman has to have a trans-vaginal ultrasound, it has nothing to do with her healthcare. One of the state’s objectives is to guilt her into changing her mind.”

A doctor would also have the right to “to invoke their personal, moralistic, or religious beliefs” if they refuse to perform a vasectomy or prescribe Viagra.

And then you’d have to wait 24 hours to get it, because obviously. Other bills of this nature have been filed in other states; this as far as I know was a first for Texas, and in true Texas fashion it’s a lot bigger than anything like it. Needless to say, some people don’t get the joke.

Farrar has criticized several anti-women’s health bills that have been filed this session, primarily a measure filed by state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, that would require Texas hospitals to bury or cremate fetal remains and another by state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, that would charge both abortion providers and women who receive an abortion with murder.

At a House State Affairs committee hearing Wednesday, Cook was challenged by Farrar and other House Democrats who questioned how his bill would impact women’s mental health and how much it would cost. Cook said his measure would create a registry of organizations that can help pay for burial or cremation of fetal remains. That way, the cost associated with burials would not fall on women, Cook said.

“Let me be clear: this bill has nothing to do with abortion procedures whatsoever. It has everything to do with ensuring the dignity of the deceased,” Cook said Wednesday. “We believe Texas can do better than this.”

Cook did not immediately respond to the Tribune’s request for comment Sunday.

In a statement, Tinderholt said Farrar lacked “a basic understanding of human biology.”

“I’m embarrassed for Representative Farrar,” Tinderholt said. “Her attempt to compare [HB 4260] to the abortion issue shows a lack of a basic understanding of human biology. I would recommend that she consider taking a high school biology class from a local public or charter school before filing another bill on the matter.”

This is Tony Tinderholt. To steal from Molly Ivins, I’d say that being insulted by Tony Tinderholt is like being gummed by a newt, though in this case I’d say it would be an old, frail newt. I hope that the filing of HB4260 results in a lot of legislators who are suddenly unable to make eye contact with Rep. Farrar. Andrea Greer, who does get the joke, and the Austin Chronicle have more.

I stand with Ahmed

Jesus H. Christ on a cracker.

This is a travesty

Ahmed Mohamed — who makes his own radios and repairs his own go-kart — hoped to impress his teachers when he brought a homemade clock to MacArthur High on Monday.

Instead, the school phoned police about Ahmed’s circuit-stuffed pencil case.

So the 14-year-old missed the student council meeting and took a trip in handcuffs to juvenile detention. His clock now sits in an evidence room. Police say they may yet charge him with making a hoax bomb — though they acknowledge he told everyone who would listen that it’s a clock.

In the meantime, Ahmed’s been suspended, his father is upset and the Council on American-Islamic Relations is once again eyeing claims of Islamophobia in Irving.

A box full of circuit boards sits at the foot of Ahmed’s small bed in central Irving. His door marks the border where the Mohamed family’s cramped but lavishly decorated house begins to look like the back room at RadioShack.

“Here in high school, none of the teachers know what I can do,” Ahmed said, fiddling with a cable while a soldering iron dangled from the shelf behind him.

He loved robotics club in middle school and was searching for a similar niche in his first few weeks of high school.

So he decided to do what he’s always done: He built something.

Ahmed’s clock was hardly his most elaborate creation. He said he threw it together in about 20 minutes before bedtime on Sunday: a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display, all strapped inside a case with a tiger hologram on the front.

He showed it to his engineering teacher first thing Monday morning and didn’t get quite the reaction he’d hoped for.

“He was like, ‘That’s really nice,’” Ahmed said. “‘I would advise you not to show any other teachers.’”

He kept the clock inside his school bag in English class, but the teacher complained when the alarm beeped in the middle of a lesson. Ahmed brought his invention up to show her afterward.

“She was like, it looks like a bomb,” he said.

“I told her, ‘It doesn’t look like a bomb to me.’”

The teacher kept the clock. When the principal and a police officer pulled Ahmed out of sixth period, he suspected he wouldn’t get it back.

They led Ahmed into a room where four other police officers waited. He said an officer he’d never seen before leaned back in his chair and remarked: “Yup. That’s who I thought it was.”

Ahmed felt suddenly conscious of his brown skin and his name — one of the most common in the Muslim religion. But the police kept him busy with questions.

The bell rang at least twice, he said, while the officers searched his belongings and questioned his intentions. The principal threatened to expel him if he didn’t make a written statement, he said.

“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?’” Ahmed said.

“I told them no, I was trying to make a clock.”

“He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.’”

All that happened on Tuesday. Ahmed was subsequently arrested, handcuffed, walked through the school in handcuffs – that’s the picture above – fingerprinted, and finally released, with the cops eventually admitting that it was a clock, as he had been saying all along. Ahmed is now an Internet celebrity, and another example of how public officials like Irving’s Mayor who pander to fear and hate in the name of “security” do far more damage than good. And yeah, race and religion was a factor. Shame on everyone involved in this debacle, and good on you, Ahmed Mohammed, for being a kid who likes to build things. Keep on doing what you’re doing, and don’t let the turkeys get you down. TPM, Think Progress, Daily Kos, Kevin Drum, Slate, Vox, Wonkblog, Gawker, Mic, the Current, the Trib, the Observer, and Juanita have more.

As if we needed a reminder that Sid Miller is an idiot

We got one anyway.

DoubleFacepalm

Don’t expect Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller to apologize over a social media post that appeared to call for the atomic bombing of “the Muslim world” – despite an outcry from critics.

Miller, who is currently on a trade mission to China, did not personally share a controversial photo that appeared on his campaign Facebook account and has since been removed, Todd Smith, the Republican’s campaign spokesman, said Monday. The commissioner has no plans to figure out which of his staffers shared the posting, or to apologize, Smith said.

“We’re not going to apologize for the posts that show up on our Facebook page,” said Smith, estimating that 18 people have access to the campaign account. “I don’t know who did it, but I’m not going to start a witch hunt to find out who did.”

The photo, originally shared by the Facebook user The Patriots IV Drip 2, depicted a mushroom cloud framed by two statements: “Japan has been at peace with the US since August 9, 1945,” and “It’s time we made peace with the Muslim world.”

The posting also included the text: “#noislamknowpeace” and “#COMETAKE.”

Late Sunday, Miller’s campaign account shared the post without adding a comment, according to the Dallas Morning News, and it was removed some time Monday morning.

You can click over and see the picture in question, if you haven’t already. There’s not much one can do with something like this except make snarky comments and attempt to score cheap political points, so let’s get on with it.

– Obviously, Miller owns this action. It’s his campaign account, and he’s not even making a token gesture of regret or distancing himself from it. (There were some weasel words from one of his people in the Chron story, but nothing from Miller himself.) I just wonder if anyone related to his campaign is smart enough to realize what a huge security risk it is to grant author permissions to 18 people (or so; they don’t even know exactly who has this level of access). All it takes is for one of those people to get hacked, and that campaign Facebook page can get pwned. One has to wonder about the security protocols they may be following with the official state accounts and files if this is how they treat their campaign assets. Maybe they should have a chat with Susan Combs about that.

– I’m pretty sure everyone in Miller’s office and campaign considers themselves good, devout Christians. I’m also pretty sure that Jesus Christ never suggested to his disciples that genocide was a good idea, or a thing to do if one wanted to follow him.

– Similarly, I’m pretty sure that everyone who works for the man who authored the sonogram law while he was in the House considers themselves strongly “pro-life”. I’m also pretty sure that some of the people they’re apparently comfortable with the idea of killing en masse are children, and that some of them are pregnant women. How that squares with their “pro-life” beliefs, I’ll leave for them to explain.

You get the idea. I could say something serious here, but honestly, what’s the point? We get the Sid Millers we deserve. The Observer, the Current, the Press, Juanita, and Paradise in Hell have more.

It’s called “social media”, Ted

Ted Cruz is shocked, shocked to learn that his silly little Facebook poll got shared with some people who weren’t supposed to answer it.

Not Ted Cruz

Not Ted Cruz

An old maxim about the law – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s chosen profession – holds that courtroom litigators don’t ask questions if they don’t already have the answers.

But in the chaotic world of social media, as the Texas Republican found out, all bets are off.

An impassioned Facebook clash involving tens of thousands of posterserupted this week in response to Cruz’s informal online survey marking the fourth anniversary of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

“Quick poll,” the survey began, “Obamacare was signed into law four years ago yesterday. Are you better off now than you were then? Comment with YES or NO!”

More than 53,000 responses had been logged as of Tuesday, dominated in recent days by Cruz opponents eager to defend a health care law that the tea party favorite had tried to repeal last fall through a government shutdown.

A surge of “yes” and “absolutely” comments overwhelmed an initial wave of anti-Obamacare posts, leaving Cruz’s staff with the clear impression that something was amiss.

“This is very clearly a manufactured, concerted effort from the left,” said Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier. “Maybe a better use of their time would be advocating for an Obamacare website that actually works.”

That’s so precious. So much so that I can’t quite put my reaction to that into words, so I’ll just do this:

Like that, yeah. Back to the story:

Dave Kapell, a small-business owner in Minneapolis, also voted yes, noting that a plan he found on Minnesota’s insurance exchange was saving him $200 a month. Kapell said nobody solicited his participation in the poll. “It just popped up on my Facebook page,” he said in an interview. “I think somebody I know reposted it.”

Amazing how that works. That Facebook sure is something, isn’t it? Someone ought to figure out how to leverage it for use in a campaign. I bet it’d work really well for that.

Anyway. BOR has some screenshots. Go look and have a good laugh at Cruz’s cluelessness.

Horse’s head sold separately

Shorter John Cornyn: “Unless President Obama gives us Republicans everything we want – and we insist that he be the one to come up with the list of things that we want, so we can attack him for it in the next campaign – we are going to destroy the global economy, because it’s the responsible thing to do.”

You weren’t supposed to be mad at me!

Oh, the humanity!

Sad Dewhurst is sad

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Friday continued to fight a battle that he had lost three days before when Ted Cruz defeated him for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination.

Cruz and his allies had effectively cast Dewhurst as a tax-and-spend moderate, a criticism that Dewhurst was still eager to rebut during a rare meeting of the Legislative Budget Board at the Texas Capitol.

“There are a lot of Texans who are so mad and angry at Washington — and I’m mad and angry at Washington, too — (they) have a hard time understanding how any other form of government, such as state government, could actually cut taxes, which we did, and cut spending, which we did,” Dewhurst said.

Allow me to translate that: “All that anger and fear and hatred and mistrust we’ve been stirring up with our lies and disinformation and propaganda – that was supposed to help me, not be used against me! Why can’t you people act rationally when we appeal to your basest instincts? Don’t you understand how government really works?”

On a more serious note, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson has been saying since last Tuesday that he was going to run for Lite Guv in 2014 regardless of what The Dew does. That’s a long way away and anything can happen, but I tend to believe him. Given that Patterson is not a culture warrior, it’ll be interesting to see how a Dewhurst-Patterson primary would shape up. Will Dewhurst play with fire again, or will he learn from his experience?

Mockery is the best medicine

Business Insider comes across the Facebook fun.

Women aren’t too happy with Rick Perry’s stance on family planning funding. Today, they let him know the best way they could, with some well-directed Internet snark.

Posts asking Perry’s advice about everything from menstruation to menopause flooded the governor’s Facebook wall this morning. They’ve since been taken down, and new posting has been disabled, but screenshots document the whole episode.

Click here to see their screenshots. The only think wrong with this report, which was written Monday, was that the hijinx had started several days earlier, as Nonsequiteuse had been documenting. Sadly, that fun came to a halt yesterday, as Team Perry finally figured out that social media is a two-way street (a lesson you’d think they’d have learned by now) and shut off the ability to post on his wall. Perry’s spokeperson whined about how mean everyone was, but they were pwned, plain and simple. Well done, ladies.

Nobody cares more about caribou nookie than Louie Gohmert

If that headline doesn’t make sense to you, go read this. Once you’ve regained your senses, go read what Harold Cook has to say about it. The standard beverage warning is in effect. You’re welcome.

When the landed gentry squabble

Am I a bad person for thinking this is funny?

I say, old bean. Not cricket, you know.

Was it sewer sabotage or self-defense?

That was the question hanging in the genteel air of two of Houston’s toniest suburbs [last] Thursday after Hunters Creek Village city officials verbally opened fire on their Piney Point Village neighbors for bricking up a storm sewer, leading to 4-foot-deep flooding on Kemwood Drive during the region’s early-January deluge.

Still fuming days after his city filed a lawsuit to remove the blockage, which reduced the conduit’s diameter from 36 inches to eight, Hunters Creek Village Mayor Dave Wegner blasted Piney Point Village for having “a very antagonistic form of city government.”

Piney Point Mayor Peter Nemeth retorted that Hunters Creek Village simply was caught in the act of “trying to flood our city with extra water.”

The dispute is about a shared sewer system, and it’s the sort of thing that one would think could be resolved without claims of sabotage, lawsuits, and airing one’s fashionable yet dirty laundry in public. My advice to them is to do what civilized people do and let Judge Judy sort it all out. Next!

From the “Things I will not be spending my money on” department

This arrived in the mail last week:

My letter from George and Laura

I have no idea from which mailing list they bought my name. Suffice it to say it was not money well spent on their part. I got a good laugh out of it, which is more than they’ll get.

You’ve got to grab those opportunities where you can

I just have one question about this:

Some area artists are making old look new by featuring recycled materials in their work.

Their pieces, showcased Saturday at the Green Arts Festival at the Talento Bilingue de Houston in the East End, include glass, metal, scrap wood and even bottle caps.

Janise Cookston, who has been painting for seven years, said her recent effort to include recycled materials is challenging her to be more creative.

“I don’t make as many trips to the art store now,” the public relations representative said. “I just sit in my studio and see what I have and what I can make from that.”

Were any of these artists working with discarded oil drums to make big metal chickens? I hear the market for them is red hot these days.

Saturday video break: This is an Olympics event I could win

I do have a talent for some things:

I’d need to work on my speed, however.

They like him! They really like him!

Here’s your heartwarming story for the week.

The Republican Party of Fort Bend County Executive Committee has unanimously passed a resolution in support of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay expressing “appreciation for his tireless service to our community, the State of Texas and the nation and the price that he has paid for being an effective advocate of Republican governance.”

Always nice to see people remember where they came from, isn’t it? No matter how wacked out the Republican Party may get, it wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for Tom DeLay.

In addition to expressing appreciation for DeLay’s service, the resolution urged Fort Bend Republicans to donate to the Tom DeLay Legal Defense Fund, 800 Commerce Street, Houston, Texas 77002.

Give till it hurts, y’all. It’s so much better for you to spend your discretionary funds on DeLay’s attorneys than on other causes or candidates.

In which I become a bit player in a Metro lawsuit

So I got an email on Friday from Chron reporter Mike Snyder, asking me if I had done an interview with former Metro Chair David Wolff. Apparently, there were some new documents filed in the lawsuit against Metro by its former chief counsel Pauline Higgins that referenced some comments Wolff made about Higgins in that interview. Except that the documents referred to an interview Wolff gave to “a Houston Chronicle reporter, Charles Cuff, for the purpose of discrediting and spreading false information about Higgins.” Snyder, knowing that there was no such person but assuming they meant me, asked me about it. I confirmed his assumption and sent him the relevant links. What was amusing to me is that if you found that latter page, as I presume the attorney working on Higgins’ case must have, you might have noticed that it contained my (correctly spelled) name three times, and also included a note that “The reader is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Chronicle.” Doesn’t sound like something done by a reporter to me, but what do I know? Anyway, it’s not a big deal, but I got a chuckle out of it.

Leo Berman addresses the serious, pressing needs

Elect crazy people, get crazy public policy. Crazy in, crazy out.

State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, introduced a bill on Tuesday that would require future presidential and vice-presidential candidates to provide the Texas secretary of state with “the original birth certificate indicating that the person is a natural-born United States citizen.”

Berman told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that the bill, House Bill 295, is necessary to correct an alleged gap in the law that allowed Obama to run for president, even though — in Berman’s view — he just might be a foreigner.

“This bill is necessary, because we have a president whom the American people don’t know whether he was born in Kenya or some other place,” Berman told the Avalanche-Journal. “If you are running for president or vice president, you’ve got to show here in Texas that you were born in the United States and the birth certificate is your proof.”

Hair Balls has some details from the bill. Apparently, the penalty for not having a Berman-approved birth certificate is not getting on the ballot. Yeah, I’m sure that’ll survive a lawsuit. BOR and Juanita have more.

A modest theory

I have become convinced that fifty or sixty years ago, a number of terror cells infiltrated the US and impregnated a bunch of women with babies who were groomed from birth to become utter morons who would destroy the country from within by their sheer, unbounded stupidity. That’s about the only sensible explanation I can think of for the likes of Louie Gohmert.

Turkey of the Year 2009

Among other things, the Thanksgiving season signals the arrival of year end lists – Top Ten this and that, Best Of, Worst Of, you name it. The local highlight is the Houston Press’ annual Turkey of the Year award, which has been made easier in recent times by the presence of Tom DeLay. He may be gone from the political scene, but thanks to the magic of reality television, he’s still out there racking up the awards. He wasn’t the top turkey this year – click over for that, I won’t spoil it – but you still have to give him an A for effort. It’s a lot harder in the Internet age for a has-been to regain any kind of relevance. As long as he doesn’t take advice on what his next career move should be from Levi Johnston, it’s all good.

We hate you! Now do a better job!

Actions do have consequences, even to teabaggers.

You may have heard that GOP Rep. Kevin Brady, staunch tea partier, is protesting that the taxpayer-funded D.C. Metro didn’t adequately prepare for the anti-government 9/12 rally. He’s even suggesting Metro’s failure to transport tea partiers may have hurt turnout.

A Democrat, however, points out to me that Brady voted against Federal funding for the very same Metro he’s blaming for offering the tea partiers substandard service.

Soon after the 9/12 march, Brady released a letter he sent to D.C. Metro griping that it had failed to transport tea partiers to the protest. Brady said they “were frustrated and disappointed that our nation’s capitol” failed to “provide a basic level of transit for them.”
Brady’s office complained about a train shortage. “METRO did not prepare for Tea Party March!” he tweeted. “People couldn’t get on, missed start of march. I will demand answers.”

But earlier this year, Brady voted against the stimulus package. It provided millions upon millions of dollars for all manner of improvements to … the D.C. Metro.

That’s pretty much the modern conservative philosophy: We refuse to pay for the things we demand. I suppose it would be unkind of me to point out that instead of that socialist (or is it fascist? I can’t keep track) public transit system, there was a fine free market solution available. We call them “taxis”. Amazingly enough, the existence of a public option has not driven the private providers out of business. Who knew that was possible? Steve Benen has more.

By the way, remember how in 1996, Brady defeated the wingnut Gene Fontenot (who had previously failed in an expensive effort to win what was then CD25), and that at the time one could have viewed that result as a win for (relative) sanity and pragmatism? I don’t know that I could tell the difference between Brady and Fontentot any more. That to me is as clear an illustration of how degraded the GOP has become as a party as any I can think of.

The sanctity of marriage personified

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have so much respect for The Onion for its ability to stay ahead of the satire curve.

Rudy Giuliani is declaring war on gay marriage — vowing to use his strong opposition of it against the Democrats if he runs for governor next year. The former mayor, in an extended interview with The Post, also predicted that Gov. Paterson’s high-profile effort to legalize gay marriage would anger many New Yorkers and spark a revolt that could help sweep Republicans into office in 2010.

[…]

“Marriage, I believe, both traditionally and legally, has always been between a man and a woman and should remain between a man and woman,” said Giuliani, who has been married three times.

I think he meant “between a man, a woman, and the man’s mistress”. I mean, that’s been his experience with matrimony. Perhaps he could compare notes with Newt Gingrich to be sure. Thanks to Matt Yglesias for the link.

The sanctity of marriage personified

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have so much respect for The Onion for its ability to stay ahead of the satire curve.

Rudy Giuliani is declaring war on gay marriage — vowing to use his strong opposition of it against the Democrats if he runs for governor next year. The former mayor, in an extended interview with The Post, also predicted that Gov. Paterson’s high-profile effort to legalize gay marriage would anger many New Yorkers and spark a revolt that could help sweep Republicans into office in 2010.

[…]

“Marriage, I believe, both traditionally and legally, has always been between a man and a woman and should remain between a man and woman,” said Giuliani, who has been married three times.

I think he meant “between a man, a woman, and the man’s mistress”. I mean, that’s been his experience with matrimony. Perhaps he could compare notes with Newt Gingrich to be sure. Thanks to Matt Yglesias for the link.

From the “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” department

From Alan Bernstein’s Sunday conversation with Jessica Benkovic Colon, who chairs the Young Republican National Federation and has this to say about why Barack Obama won the national youth vote so handily:

A: It’s an interesting time to be a YR in that we are rebuilding our party and we want to see the Republican Party realize the importance of young voters.

President-elect Obama said that government is the only solution to getting us out of this economic crisis and that is in direct contrast to the very nature of who Generation X and Generation Y are. These two generations, I believe to be two of the most entrepreneurial, individual-oriented generations this country has ever seen.

Q: Then why did Obama capture so much of the youth vote?

A: Because he marketed to them. He talked directly to them. Obama used the tools at hand (such as the Internet) to go after the younger generation, and he dedicated the time and effort to it. It’s just that simple. It really is.

Yeah, the content of Obama’s message, not to mention the content of the Republicans’ message, that had nothing to do with it. No need to make any changes here! It’s all about doing it in the Facebook, with the Twittering. It’s just that simple.

From the “Some people just shouldn’t get married” files

Your pop culture train wreck of the day.

It probably wasn’t his most important decision ever, but a Harris County judge on Wednesday weighed in on a case that will set celebrity bloggers buzzing: the fate of pop star Hilary Duff’s lavish 21st birthday party.

It’s the latest chapter in a bitter divorce between the parents of pop stars Hilary and Haylie Duff. The 2½-year-old case deteriorated so much that Wednesday’s hearing in family court ended with the young celebrities’ father in handcuffs after Judge Thomas Stansbury found him in contempt of court.

During the tense hearing, Bob and Susan Duff sat on opposite ends of the courtroom, surrounded by posses of lawyers and paralegals. They never spoke and rarely even looked at each other.

Their attorneys exchanged heated words, accusing each other of lying and acting unethically.

“I get very annoyed when he accuses me of lying,” Bob’s lawyer, Robert Piro, shouted at one point, pounding the judge’s bench with his fist.

“Well, then, he should stop lying!” growled Susan’s attorney, Marshall Davis Brown Jr.

I just want to take a minute here and say Thank You to my parents, who recently celebrated their 44th anniversary, for not being anything like Bob and Susan Duff. That’s pretty much all I wanted to say about this.

Cheerleaders in an elevator

Sometimes, all you can do is point and marvel.

Twenty-six teenage cheerleaders tried to cram themselves into an elevator at the University of Texas to see how many would fit, but then they got stuck and had to be rescued.

One girl was treated and released at a hospital and two others were treated at the scene after the Tuesday night prank, officials said.

The group of 14- to 17-year-olds were attending a cheerleading camp when they decided to stuff themselves into an elevator at Jester Residence Hall at UT. The elevator went down to the first floor but then the doors of the overloaded elevator wouldn’t open, officials said.

After a few panicked cell phone calls, police and firefighters were called to the scene and it took a repairman about 25 minutes to fix the door, police said.

All I can say is that I can’t believe I beat Harold Cook to this one. Thanks to Julie on Twitter for the heads up.

It’s an amazing thing watching a meme being born

I am aware of all Internet traditions. Or, putting it another way:

See here, here, and here for way too much more. Be prepared to waste at least an hour when you do.