Sharp Knives Well-Done Texas Boggers

For those Texas bloggers, many of whom are my friends and fellow Austinites, I have a message. Some of you attended a dinner at Sullivan's tonight to let John Sharp, potential candidate for the potential Senate race that potentially will start some time in the potential future, buy you dinner in an effort to become popular with those kid bloggers on the Facepage and Tweeter. I have but one thing to tell you all: Shame on you.

I'm sorry, but the day someone offers to buy my support with a steak is the day I know I'm a Republican. What happened to grassroots? What happened to change? You want access to a candidate - I get it. Don't you think you deserve the kind of access that doesn't involve some medium-rare bribe?

How can we truly be progressives if we fall for the same tricks as our Republican counterparts, whose gluttony has led to eight years of no bid contracts and deregulation; Speaker policy biases and massive amounts of pork.

We have spent the last few years raging against this kind of biased favoritism. Suddenly, now that we're nosing forward, it's acceptable to attend a fancy dinner to "learn more about" this candidate? That is equivalent to unravelling the sweater we've been knitting by hand, just because we need the yarn for something else. You cannot, as true progressives, have your steak and eat it too.

Shame on you. And to John Sharp I say this: when you're ready to have a discussion with real bloggers, cut the fat and send an email.

30 Response to "Sharp Knives Well-Done Texas Boggers"

  • Capitol Annex Says:

    Your post is a gross mischaracterization of what took place and the purpose and is beyond "over the top."

    For your information, the dinner was held after a blogger (me) suggested a personal get together with bloggers as a result of a conference call we attempted to have with Mr. Sharp just before Christmas we weren't able to complete. We weren't able to complete the call due to a problem with the conference call system.

    The bloggers that were there are those who had expressed an interest in that original call, save a couple who could not make it.

    The idea for the dinner came organically after I had discussions with Sharp's folks after the technical difficulty with the conference call; we thought the opportunity to meet in person with the candidate would be nice. So did Mr. Sharp. Your making a big deal out of the fact that it was a "dinner" is simply making a mountain out of a molehill. Politicians taking bloggers to dinner is nothing new. In fact, I believe there is an instance (maybe more) of it actually mentioned in a fairly prominent book about the netroots movement in America.

    If you want to blame someone for the dinner idea, blame me, because I thought it was a good idea. I still do. Personally, I don't care if I'm meeting and talking to a candidate over dinner not. It doesn't alter the fact that it is a substantive meeting.

    The entire argument is just absurd.

  • John Coby Says:

    Yep. I agree with Vince. It was an absolute great event. And there were some very hard questions asked.

    Now I know why you didn't want to go! You missed a very good discussion. Heck you could have come and not eat if that was your beef. (ha ha)

    Oh the steak wasnt so good, but that wedge of lettuce and the blue cheese dressing was GREAT!

  • Mean Rachel Says:

    Vince, are you employed by the Sharp campaign and/or their consultants?

    John, either way it was great to meet you last night at the Shoot Saloon -- glad you enjoyed the wedge salad!

  • boadicea Says:

    Rachel, I hadn't thought you were naive enough to think that simply having dinner equates to selling out to any candidate any more than fucking a political consultant indicates a blogger's political opinions are owned by their bedmate.

  • cyrus Says:

    It appears the proprietor here has struck a nerve.
    I think that was a bit of a disproportionate response.

  • Anonymous Says:


  • Mean Rachel Says:

    Boadicea - Below the belt. I published it, but really. You might care to notice
    that I haven't exactly written anything since I've been dating Harold
    Cook, which for the record was just before Thanksgiving. I've actually
    been struggling with what to do with my blog because of my
    relationship with him.

    I'm sorry for pissing you off, but I'm not sorry for saying what I think.

  • boadicea Says:

    So, Rachel, you think that sometimes things are more complicated than just "you sat down with someone they must own you"?

    Well, that's an excellent point, though I'd suggest the principle should be considered reflexive.

  • cyrus Says:

    I think one could make that point without being a dickhead.

  • Mean Rachel Says:

    You aren't going to see me blogging about state senators.

  • jolie Says:

    someone wash boadicea's mouth out with soap, please.

  • double tonic Says:


    way to bring the discussion up a notch. very classy.

  • Howard Says:

    Ah, none of your folks have addressed what I see as Rachel's central concern: THE CANDIDATE BOUGHT DINNER.

    Sure, sit down with him. Eat with him. But why let him pay?

    The fact that you asked "hard questions" isn't the point. The fact that you have to answer these questions is. You're compromised.

  • Chellie Says:

    boadicea is out of line. Someone's a little too sensitive.

    And I think Rachel made a legitimate point in her post.

  • Michael Hurta Says:

    It's a legitimate point that allowing the candidate to buy dinner could have crossed the line. But blatantly telling shame on us in a public forum might not have been the best way to do it.

    Oddly, though, if it wasn't a steak dinner, and if John Sharp had bought us all coffee and tea, would it be a big deal? I think a city council candidate bought me lunch one day last year, even if it wasn't at some fancy restaurant somewhere.

    It has always been a questionable issue as far as politicians themselves having dinner paid for, but in reality one meal isn't a big issue. The fact that John Sharp paid for my steak will have no effect on whether I support him. Had he bought me, say, 2 steaks, I would feel some more legitimate ill behaviors were happening. Here, that was not the case.

  • Anonymous Says:

    It's funny cause in spite of the bloggers attempt to be legit they can't even avoid the appearance of impropriety. Any journalist worth their salt would have sat for dinner with Sharp but paid for dinner on their own dime.

    Can you buy someone for steak dinner?

    Sadly yes.

    Bloggers: New rule - If it looks shady, it doesn't matter that it isn't, its shady.

    Rachel, you are dead on.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Boadicea, as a random, fairly worthless dude that has enjoyed reading your blog postings on different sites for many years now, I can't tell you how incredibly disappointed I am to read that incredibly crass, worthless comment.

    I don't know Mean Rachel and I don't know you, but I've got alot of admiration for the work you've both done over the years and I've been reading both of you for quite some time now. Strong opinions and disagreements are one thing, but whatever point you had buried beneath that disgusting, petty comment was lost amidst the giant pile of shit you unloaded.

    I'll readily admit this comment is explicit and I won't fault Mean Rachel if she chooses not to publish it. But I will sign this comment with my real name and a sincere fuck you for saying something like that.

    Joe Madden
    Random Blog Reader

  • Alice Cooper Says:

    Michael Hurta:

    You say:

    "It's a legitimate point that allowing the candidate to buy dinner could have crossed the line. But blatantly telling shame on us in a public forum might not have been the best way to do it."

    What? It's entirely the best way to do it.

    Come on now. Would you have preferred the message in a candy-gram? Rachel sitting down with you over a cup of tea?

    Neither the New York Times, Talking Points Memo,Daily Kos nor Burnt Orange Report give their subjects much of a heads-up before rhetorically skewering them.

    Seriously, I've seen a fair amount of (entirely justified) griping on Burnt Orange Report and other blogs about how bloggers sometimes aren't treated with the same respect as members of the MSM, even though bloggers do important and frequently superior work. I agree, but if you want that respect you've got to accept the scrutiny that comes with it and be prepared defend your actions in a public forum (I've got a perfect one: the blog!).

    Whether or not you believe bloggers covering state politics should be accepting steak dinners from politicians, it's entirely appropriate for another blogger to state her opinion on her blog and spur open debate on this question.

    The very fact that politicians like Sharp are courting bloggers (along with the popularization of blogs as a news source) means bloggers are in the big leagues now. You've got to learn to roll with the punches, without hitting below the belt (Boadicea).

  • boadicea Says:

    Here's the thing, part of what we as bloggers have to balance is how to be both part of and outside the process. Where each of us will draw that line for ourselves-whether it's dating, working professionally in politics, as an party activist, or a largely outsider and critic will be different.

    That's a worthwhile discussion to have-some of it privately, some in a semi-public forum like an email list and some out in the open in front of God and everybody with a monitor.

    At some point, most likely, each of us who ventures out from the keyboard will find ourselves meeting up with people we might rather be eviscerating in bits and bytes and a lot of others who we aren't sure of, and who aren't sure of us. That divide will kill progressive election chances in Texas if we let it.

    We have to look no further than Michael Skelly's campaign to see that it's all too easy for Texas candidates to panic and throw the scary netroots under the bus because he's courting the mystical voter from the right.

    So, a chance to sit down like civilized people and talk informally can be a way to ensure that we, and our concerns, are included in whatever calculations a candidate makes.

    Just like every other group of activists relating to candidates and campaigns, or the local Chamber of Commerce when the candidate swings by.

    The dinner with John Sharp (which came out of a cancelled conference call) is a sign to me that we are taken a bit more seriously based on what we accomplished last cycle-even if it was less than I'd hoped for at the time. I doubt he thinks we are all going to jump on his bandwagon, and if he does he'll have a surprise.

    If Bill White, or any other serious candidate for office is influenced to reach out to make sure they're not blocked out by John Sharp, then I think that's a win for the Texroots, and a win for the candidates themselves.

    You cannot influence people you don't get the ear of, and the dialog went both ways at that dinner-some of it fairly pointed.

    Also, if you're going to accuse one of your commenters of bad faith dealing-and in the context of this blog post that's exactly what Rachel did when she asked Vince if he was working for Sharp with absolutely no foundation- then you need a lot more than disquiet that a candidate bought someone a dinner.

  • el_longhorn Says:

    Thanks for sparking a very good discussion, Mean Rachel. I tend to think of people buying others dinner and drinks as no big deal, but you make a good point, as do some of the comments. If journalists should not accept paid meals and drinks, should bloggers? I guess it depends on how seriously you want to take yourself.

    For liberal bloggers, this is a really thorny issue, since there has been so much criticism of Republican cronyism over the last few years. And your question of Vince is spot on - I know a lot of bloggers are doing paid political work on the side, and it makes me very suspect of what they publish. Are you giving me your honest opinion, or are you being paid to spin?

  • jolie Says:

    while a capitol staffer I went to lots of parties paid for by lobbyists and political parties. these were opportunities to gather intelligence, hear rumors, talk issues with peers. it often seemed to me what I did was, in a fact-finding way, very like being a reporter. any opportunity to go directly to a source was prized; it didn't mean that I would be taken in by it.

    I wouldn't think it so different for a blogger than a reporter or staffer, all of whom value as direct a line to the source as they can get.

  • peaceandfriendship Says:

    Interesting that Vince never answered the question about whether he's working for Sharp or his consultants...hmmm….

    And it was just a question---one people might like to know the answer to. But that aside, Boadicea, it's clear you put some more thought into this comment. That's what you should have done in the first place, instead of spewing vile comments.

  • boadicea Says:

    P&F, you point out exactly why the place for that question might have been first privately since there was no foundation for it-you're assuming that silence is because there's something to it.

    I've asked both Vince and the Sharp campaign, such as it is at the moment, directly.

    Vince is not working for them.

    Where he is right now is in Austin for the opening of the Legislative session, so he has more important things on his plate at the moment than answering ridiculous assumptions on any blog post.

    And yes, I have thought a lot about where to draw this line-as have most bloggers I know.

    That's one reason the Texas Progressive Alliance actually has a rule requiring disclosure to fellow members by a participant who goes to work for a campaign.

    Rachel is a member, as is Vince.

    So, the first place that question should have been addressed, (if the intention isn't to undermine someone) would, imo, be through the TPA, or in a private email.

    To do so in response to a comment on THIS post is an accusation, and one than as you've demonstrated, can easily lead readers to believe there is a there there that there ain't.

  • Michael Hurta Says:

    Alice, the only reason I say this isn't the best method is because Mean Rachel is a part of the same community as everyone who was at that dinner with Sharp. As Boadicea just mentioned, she is part of the same Texas Progressive Alliance. As part of the same network and community, if you think someone else in that community did something wrong, the first thing you do isn't shout it out to everyone else, inside AND outside the community. You first, usually, try to fix it within the community.

    If Mean Rachel was not part of the same group as we were, then I would more-so understand this blog post. But she's part of the same group, so shouldn't she question us through the group first?

  • Mean Rachel Says:

    Thanks to all for their comments. What a lot of discussion for a race that doesn't yet exist.

    I still haven't heard an answer as to whether Vince is employed by the Sharp consultants. And I will say this again: On the night of the dinner, I asked a fellow TPA member why there was a dinner arranged. The answer that I got, from the TPA member, was that Vince was working for the Sharp consultants. If this is true, I feel this should have been disclosed to the list.

    But here's where things get fuzzy: I didn't write this post to 'out' Vince. While I am for disclosure to the TPA, I really could care less who Vince works for, except for when he's commenting on my blog calling my argument absurd. What I wrote about, and what I still take issue with, is the overall conflict of interest that occurs when bloggers -- who so desperately seek the same respect & rights as journalists and openly ridicule Republicans & Democrats alike for their special interests -- are making their own rules as to what is considered acceptable political behavior, what is allowed to be discussed in an open forum and, ultimately, declaring the questions that are allowed to be asked of them in this forum. If we can't hold ourselves to the same standards to which we hold politicians, lobbyists, and reporters, then hypocrites, we are.

    I have the fortune of not working professionally in politics or the political sector. I've never been paid by a single campaign, consultant, candidate or political organization. While there are those of you who feel I might have biases based on whom I'm dating, or whom I'm friends with, at the end of the day my agenda is solely for progress. I have no lobby to answer to, no candidate whom I can't walk away from, and certainly no steak dinners for which I'm indebted. If I'm going to ask a question, or publicly disagree with any sort of alliance, I will. It may cause unfavorable reactions, and I may not make a lot of friends in the process -- maybe I'll get kicked out of the TPA. It might reflect poorly on a political consultant whom I happen to date not because of his views on the Texas Senate but because he plays "Piano Man" better than I ever can ever hope to.

    But that's what happens when you choose to write for yourself over writing for others. That's what happens when you have no one to answer to. I'm proud of that and I sure as hell won't be giving it up for a tenderloin.

  • cyrus Says:

    "That divide will kill progressive election chances in Texas if we let it."
    Oh, drama. We can't let la gente see us bickering because it'll kill our credibility.
    I'm not sure from where such self-importance emanates, but the reality is that the progressive blogosphere, such as it is, doesn't control a whole lot of votes in Texas - certainly not enough to turn a statewide race. I realize having John Sharp stroke you with a steak can make one feel important, but let's not lose sight of what matters.

    "So, the first place that question should have been addressed, (if the intention isn't to undermine someone) would, imo, be through the TPA, or in a private email."

    Ah, yes - the classic "we should wash our own dirty laundry" credo.

    What horseshit. This is exactly the kind of insular and no-fault excuse-peddling Rachel is talking about. "progressive" bloggers spend God knows how much of their time digging up dirt and and looking under every bed for a bloody shirt to wave, then often do so without the slightest hint of consideration for the individuals (whom they have often never met) involved - but when the filthy little rag (explainable or not) is your own, you suddenly squeal like a stuck pig.

    I've said this before and I'll say it again: Bloggers need to pick a standard and stick with it. Operating in some ambiguous gray area between journalism and advocacy does not absolve you of responsibility for any and all actions undertaken in your pursuit of progress. You wanna be taken seriously, then take your lumps like the rest of them have to, in public and often without a chance to defend themselves before the memo gets halfway around the world.

    Personally I think the bulk of you are just getting puffy-chested because a statewide candidate treated you like you might be players of some kind. The truth is that John Sharp is a smart politician, but he's also a pretty well-heeled one, and buying steaks and talking policy with a bunch of political junkies is not exactly a stretch for him. Just because you weren't avoided like the plague doesn't mean you're indispensible to his or anyone else's campaign, or to the cause of progress in general, for that matter.

  • Bozo_Casanova Says:

    I think you people, particularly boadicea, need to get over yourselves. Nobody cares about your reputations.

    Boadicea, you've got a lot of nerve going into somebody's personal life because they had the gall to criticize you as part of a collective group.
    You're taking cheapshots at Rachel? If you don't want to get called out for taking a free dinner, don't take it. And if you are going to whore yourself out for meat, at least do better than Sullivan's. For Christ sake, they use select grade beef. That's like putting out for Outback, man.

  • Anonymous Says:

    All this meta-blogging about the insipid Texas liberal blogosphere misses the true question that has been (indirectly) raised:

    Is boadicea getting any? If not, why not?

  • FUBAR Says:

    I've gone back and forth on whether to weigh in on this, since I've been so abruptly (ahem) brought into this debate. I'll make no effort to defend Rachel, because she's not in need of help - she's quite capable of thinking for herself (more clearly than I, as often as not), and once challenged can defend herself just fine.

    But I do have some random thoughts. I know you’re stunned.

    First, for what it's worth, I don't generally think there's any real conflict or impropriety with that particular Sullivan's dinner, mainly because if somebody can be bought off with a steak, that person won't stay credible in this system for long. If it is true that everybody has their price, than the cost of a steak is a mighty low one. It’s not as if Mr. Sharp bought everybody who attended a new car. (side note to Sharp: can I have a new car?)

    What remains in the absence of real impropriety, however, is the perception of impropriety. In other words, does such an action put you in the position which your subsequent opinion can be reasonably questioned? And therein I think Rachel has a perfectly valid point, as stated by several previous commenters.

    If perception is important to you, you might think about paying your own freight. And if you don’t pay your own freight, if I were you I wouldn’t bother reacting angrily if somebody questions you on it. If the question bothers you, just answer the question, simple. I could also make a pretty strong argument that if perceptions were all that important to us, we wouldn't be involved in politics at all, but that's a whole different kettle of fish.

    It’s all a pretty delicate balance, but one which isn’t in the long run very important if your positions are solid, and your writings are strong. Live your life without apology and with honor, and it’ll all get sorted out pretty well most of the time. If you want, eat Mr. Sharp’s steak, then write about Mr. Sharp, and then sleep well. If somebody wants to question why you wrote or what you wrote, let the strength of what you write and the power of your ideas speak well for you.

    Second, I am astounded at the tactical harm done to herself by one of the commenters. Yep – the obvious one.

    Political bloggers have long struggled for respect and legitimacy. Those bloggers generally deserve more respect and legitimacy than they currently enjoy. And it’s also true that they generally enjoy much more respect and legitimacy now than they have in the past. It’s all about making a good case for yourself, as a process, over time. And for the good bloggers, it’s working.

    So it was significantly harmful that, in one ill-advised and poorly-worded comment, one such blogger showed that the blogger was, at least in that moment, not yet worthy of the credibility for which most bloggers have struggled. If one is to be taken credibly, one must convey credible thoughts through one’s writings. If there was a credible point contained in that comment, it was completely obscured under the crudeness of the words chosen. Words are, indeed, important.

    And third, Rachel - Piano Man?? Is that why?? Sheesh!

    Y’all have a great day.


  • Anonymous Says:

    I'm really surprised that the vaunted Texas blogosphere made a mistake like this--letting Sharp buy them a steak dinner.

    If a lobbyist buys a politician dinner, it gets shown on 20/20. If a pharma company buys a doctor dinner--well, actually that's not allowed any more.

    I just started my own little pathetic blog, but even I know better than to accept a steak dinner from someone I'm going to be writing about and potentially criticizing.

    Sure, Rachel's tone was a little petulant. But she has a point...a very good point.

    The truly shrewd thing to do would be to go to the dinner...and then corner the waiter and make sure you get and pay for your own tab.