Seeking a Chill Pill Prescription

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As a precinct captain among the “self-appointed integrity cops,” I take great pleasure in noting that the Texas Tribune still says it’s doing everything it needs to do for transparency, but they are still going to make some changes. Never mind that no one can process that contradiction; give the Tribune credit for allowing Executive Editor Ross Ramsey to answer questions on WFAA-TV’s Sunday political program in Dallas. Regardless of his schedule, CEO Evan Smith ought to have been present to explain the hide-the-ball construct he has been using to protect his donors while constantly insisting the Trib has transparency.

evan quote photo

Ramsey has always been an honest broker as a journalist but to function at the Trib he seems to have compartmentalized the reality of where he works to keep it away from what he knows to be ethical. His first answer pushed the continued false equivalency that donations and advertising money are not different. All of the apologists for the Trib are making the same fatuous argument.

The lobbyists and corporations and associations that give money to the Texas Tribune are the same ones that give money to candidates and officeholders to influence state policy, and that is nothing like advertising. If the Tribune is serious about controlling influence and disclosing donors they need only to create general pool of money for operations, list contributors and their amounts, and then everyone shuts up and allows reporters to commit rampant journalism.

Ramsey told interviewer Jason Whitley, “All of the donors are on the page. All of the amounts they have given are on the page. All of the sponsors are on the page so you can see all of that stuff. Everything we do is out in the open.”

At a minimum, Ramsey is being misleading because before the interview is concluded he informs us of what is missing from the Trib’s website and that it will be added as part of a change in policy.

“The sponsors are listed,” he added. “But the amounts that they’ve paid for their sponsorship, basically advertising, are not listed and we are about to include that on our site.”

So, we are completely open and everything’s right there but, oh wait, we are going to add some stuff that isn’t there?

 

If, in fact, it’s about advertising and not contributions and donations, why not call the Tribune precisely what it is: a commercial enterprise? Because when they finally get around to posting how much they have received through sponsorships, which Ramsey characterizes as “basically, advertising,” we will see that it is the source of the vast majority of the funding for the Texas Tribune. It is time to stop pretending the Tribune is anything other than a business and make it pay its fair share of taxes.

It’s also time to stop pretending they are even going to be honest. In a piece about environmental groups and lawsuits yesterday (Sunday) in the New York Times, the Trib disclosed that one of the subjects of the story was one of their sponsors with the following sentence: (Luminant is owned by Energy Future Holdings, which is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune.) When the same story was published in the Tribune this Monday morning, the disclosure was missing. Now that’s honest journalism and the transparency promised by CEO Smith. I’m off to get my chill pill prescription filled. 

But on to other stupid.

Every political professional in Texas, on either side of the aisle, is wondering what in the hell Greg Abbott has been thinking. All of us who have been claiming that Wendy Davis needs to run a perfect race to win seem to have discounted the possibility that Abbott might run a perfectly idiotic race and give her the election.

Abbott hardly even needed to begin campaigning. He could have kept his powder dry, made his usual run of inane statements to infuriate the sane, and kept a low profile. His lead would have been secure. Instead, he invites Ted Nugent to Texas, a self-proclaimed sexual predator of teenaged girls, who shat himself to get out of the Vietnam draft, and called the president of the United States a sub-human mongrel.

Abbott is getting counsel from island owner David Carney, who advised, and was dumped by, Rick Perry in his presidential race. I think I’m beginning to understand Perry’s decision. If Nugent is Carney’s idea, he ought to be fired by Abbott. The attorney general, and putative frontrunner in the race to succeed Perry as governor, was vilified by every major newspaper in the state over the weekend for his association with the Motor City Madman.

Abbott probably could have hid out until the fall and maintained a comfortable lead, given the political demography of Texas. Instead, he and his team chose to send him out and have him make a fool of himself and insult every person in Texas. As early as it is in this campaign, I am inclined to believe the power of those images of Nugent and Abbott will have long-term residual impact on the vote.

Clayton Williams, a jug-eared ignoramus from West Texas who ran for governor against Ann Richards, ruined his chances with a similar dumb public maneuver. Most analysts had written off his campaign after he said the best thing for a woman to do about rape was to “relax and enjoy it.” But Claytie was still in the race long after that fumble. His headshot came, as they are wont to do, in Dallas, when he was to take the stage for an appearance with Ann Richards. She put out her hand to shake and Williams refused and walked off. You could track his decline in the polls from that day.

Whatever you might say about Texans and their majority political beliefs, they will not abide rudeness. Refusing to shake an opponent’s hand, especially not exhibiting manners, and calling the president a sub-human mongrel, even if he’s not the man you voted for, is not a moment they are likely to easily forgive. Abbott will need to atone for this sin.

Of course, he’d already had a few previous idiocies and hypocrisies before he got around to catching cat scratch fever. Abbott refused to talk to the Dallas Morning News about their story on his ongoing efforts to block Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits in Texas. Having lived in a wheelchair for three decades, Greg Abbott has been a beneficiary of the ADA because it has forced governments and public institutions to make wider doors and provide ramps to accommodate the disabled. But whenever Texans sue the state under the ADA, Abbott’s office argues sovereign immunity, which means a state cannot be sued unless it agrees. Cases never get to court.

This is hardly his only contradiction. When a tree fell on Abbott and paralyzed him, he sued the homeowner and associated insurance companies and won what has been estimated as a $10 million dollar settlement, which also provided the health care he needed for the rest of his life. Almost as quickly as he won the case, Abbott went to work on tort reform for Texas with the sole purpose of making it very hard for litigants to get into a courtroom. If the same thing happened to anyone today in Texas, they would have a hard time getting their case onto a court docket because Greg Abbott has, essentially, closed down the courthouse door.

Gee, he seems nice.

And he started his rock and roll month by calling South Texas, a third of the state, a Third World. Really, really smart rhetoric, dood. Offend a third of the state, block disabled people like yourself from getting the assistance the law legally provides, and then invite a sexual predator to town to dehumanize the president.

I’m now recommending Wendy Davis just take it easy and not campaign. She could wrap this thing up early without ever saying another word.

Greg Abbott has always made my teeth ache. He is an angry man, which, I suppose is partly understandable. But he seems determined to make everyone else miserable. Of course, whenever I think Texas is cornering the market on idjits, I look north toward Kansas or west to Arizona.

Kansas gets the prize on this day. Dr. Milton Wolf is running in the GOP primary to unseat Sen. Pat Roberts. Wolf had a Facebook page where he was posting grotesque hospital photos and x-rays and cracking wise about what he saw in the images. His friends were also having a grand time with it. If you have never seen a sweaty politician confronted with their own asininities, take the time to watch this brief interview he agreed to do with the reporter who broke the story. Of course, this being Kansas, he’ll likely win in a landslide.

New Texas state motto: Thank god for Kansas!