Straw Poll

It's 7:15 on a Friday evening and I've come to my computer to write this. Not because it's important but because I want to remember it.

I live in the barrio -- no really, my neighborhood association is called Barrio Unido. More specifically, I live across the street from a housing project near downtown Austin. As I like to say to guests when they ask for directions, "Slow down when you see the projects." The project is occupied largely by Hispanics (it was actually set up by LBJ during a more segregated time specifically to house low-income Hispanic families).

Anyway, I was just bringing in my trash can when a group of boys rode by on their bikes. I waved hi, as I often do, and Delfino, the thirteen year old who might have a bit of a crush on me, rode over, bringing the rest of the crew with him. "What are y'all doing?" I said.

"Playing cops and robbers." I was about to ask what the crime was when I heard one of them shout at Delfino:

"Immigration is coming! Stop!"

They all laughed.

While we were talking, one of them pointed at my Rebecca Bell-Metereau sign and said "Are you going to choose her for the...State Board of Education?" I could tell he was reading from the sign the title of the office but I liked his attitude of engaging in political discussion so I said "I sure am!" He nodded, and then Delfino pointed at my Bill White sign. "You're voting for him too?"

"Yup," I said. The boy who'd asked me about the SBOE sign, who I later learned is named Alex, said, "Good, he's better than the others...better than Rick Perry."

I tried not to look shocked as I said "How do you know--What makes you say that?"

Alex shrugged and said "I watch the news. I listen to it, too. Perry, he--he makes us pay fees, taxes and stuff, but we don't get it, it goes to his big fancy house."

Picking my jaw off the ground, I said "Yes, that's right. How old are you?"

"Eleven. And he has a six thousand dollar yard."

I don't know where that last part came from, but this is what happened next: I went into my kitchen, got a container of Milano cookies leftover from my sister's recent visit, invited the whole group up on my porch and started passing them out. And the next time Alex goes by, I can tell you this:

I'll have a whole lot more confidence in the State of Texas's future and a Bill White for Texas t-shirt for him in his size.

The Devil's in the Details. Subtitled: Everyone Else is Just Broke

Look, I don't subscribe to the "citizen journalist" title because a) I don't have a journalism degree and b) I don't have any degree. I much prefer the pajama-wearing, beer-drinking blogger stereotype because, as I can confirm for you right now, I'm writing this in my pajamas while drinking a Shiner. But it's moments like this when I'm particularly glad I'm not a journalist because I really don't have the time, willpower or mental bandwith to explain to you Governor Rick Perry's most recent ethics snafu. That's what the Dallas Morning News and websites like Rick's Dirty Deals are for.

And I gotta hand it to him: Slick Rick's got me beat on this one. While I consider myself to be smart, I certainly wouldn't be able to figure out how to talk an international arms dealer with ties to the Rwandan genocide into buying my lake house at $400,000 over market value while simultaneously not paying as much in taxes as I should have been paying on said lake house.

If idle hands are the devil's workshop, wealthy Republicans are the devil's power tools. While Rick Perry may have room in his busy seven-hour work week to concoct shady deals with other extremely rich white men, most everyone else in Texas is just trying to scrape by. And if you needed another reason not to vote for Rick Perry, how about this one: When was the last time you had this much free time to work on getting rich?

Like I said. It's deals like this that put the "deep" into deep shade, and nights like this that I'm glad I don't have to report the news--I just get to spit at it.

Linda Chavez-Thompson Keynote at Netroots Nation

Last night in Las Vegas, Linda Chavez-Thompson not only lit up the auditorium in front of a Goal Thermometercrowd of 2000 eager progressives, she also lit up the currents in which online activism thrives, becoming a trending topic on Twitter and earning the attention--and money--of anyone paying attention online. Also paying attention was Politico, who quoted her this morning in their Netroots Nation wrap-up as saying, “The old way of doing politics is done. This is the new thing. If you don’t embrace it, you lose out on a whole new way to get your message out.”

The old way is done, indeed. Chavez-Thompson didn't just deliver a speech last night, she delivered a leader. In an unhurried, eighteen minute speech, Chavez-Thompson took her time, weaving the tale of a come-from-behind underdog who now has the power, drive and (my words, not hers) cojones to make it better. It was the making of a super hero--actually, make that heroine--in a time when both Texans and those squinting toward our state thinking "What the hell is going on down there?" are so desperately in need of one.

The speech echoed a national disappointment in Texas's education system, a system which Chavez-Thompson is well-aware of the failures. Her lack of college education may still sting bitterly, but it also helps her push back against those who expect it to slow her down. She spoke with a sense of rebellious disbelief about the excuses and outright lies on the part of the Republican party, as if saying to the audience "Look at what I've overcome -- you think we can't overcome this?"

To the chorus of "Republicans: they just don't get it," Chavez-Thompson quickly found a common ground with the audience. When at one point she motioned to the crowd to keep booing Rick Perry, saying "They're going to kill me back there because I'm taking that extra moment," that extra moment seemed to win over hearts and Twitter accounts.

"Linda Chavez Thompson touched me! I told her she shd [sic] be President!" tweeted Sady Doyle, a New York-based writer.

"Raul Grijalva and Linda Chavez Thompson giving gente something to be very proud of at #nn10," said Ernesto Aguilar, a Houston radio producer and journalist, on Twitter.

Among scores of other tweets, a Los Angeles "Momocrat" summed it up best as Chavez-Thompson railed against Texas's failure in high school drop-out rates: "Am TOTALLY charmed by Linda Chavez-Thompson, candidate for Lt Gov of TX. She has #NN10 eating out of her hand! 'Que Linda' indeed!"

Que Linda indeed. "For those of you that are limited," Chavez-Thompson said, she has a translation for you. "Que linda" means "How beautiful." On November 2nd, que Linda will Texas be? That's up to us. Donate to Linda Chavez-Thompson today, and if you missed last night's keynote address, you can watch it below. Her speech starts at 1:11:07 into the recording.


Como se dice "hypocrites?"

From the Houston Chronicle:
"George P. Bush (Jeb's son) and two other Republicans have announced the establishment of the Hispanic Republicans of Texas. The group officially launches Tuesday in Austin. ... 'As it stands today, Hispanic leaders are disproportionately under-represented as elected officeholders, especially as Republicans,' the group notes in a press release."
I'm sure that "under-represented" has nothing to do with this.

¿No comprendes? I'll repeat it again, si quieres. From my post Pobrecito: The Victor Carrillo Allegory:
An inordinate amount of time is spent by Republicans working to disenfranchise Latino voters. Period. How could a Latino elected official feel secure in the Republican Party when his Party doesn’t believe that people with “-illo” in their last names have a right to vote, much less be elected to public office?

Beyond voting rights, though, it goes back to equality and it's something that the Republican leadership in this state values less and less. We have a state run by five year old boys who throw temper tantrums anytime something doesn’t go their way. Their vision for equality goes as far as their reflection in the mirror. Immigration? Throw up a wall. Terrorism? Put them somewhere we don’t have to see them. Gay marriage? Not under the collective roof of the State of Texas, son. An African American President? We’re seceding.
All that, and we have a governor who doesn't even know how to spell "martial."

Dios mío.

What Political Campaigns and Candidates Can Learn from the Old Spice Campaign

“I’m on a horse.” If you haven’t heard that line yet, be prepared because you’re about to. The Old Spice Superbowl commercial titled “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” was a fast-paced, witty and steamy thirty-second spot that engaged both male and female viewers. In other words, it was The West Wing with less suits.

Since then, the Old Spice marketing agency, Wieden + Kennedy, has continued to play up the sexy, shirtless hero of their original ad by creating a series of YouTube videos (they made over 87 in one day) engaging with fans and answering their questions--in real time.

(As an aside: Yes, I asked Mr. Old Spice a question. No, he didn’t respond – typical man).

With over 6 million views in less than 24 hours (beating out Obama’s victory speech and the Bush shoe-ducking videos for viral views in a twenty-four hour period), this campaign is the new paradigm for marketing whatever it is you’re trying to sell (see "How Old Spice Won the Internet"). All this got me thinking about how a campaign could become so singularly popular in a short amount of time, which immediately led me to think about how the Old Spice campaign could—and no doubt, will eventually have to—translate into political marketing.

1. Show some skin.

No, I’m not suggesting any of our esteemed elected officials go shirtless on camera (except for maybe Mayor Julian Castro). But we’re living in an increasingly transparent world and your audience isn’t going to engage with just any old suit. But transparency doesn’t just mean filing your FEC reports and releasing your taxes—although that’s important, too. Transparency in this generation means it’s time to loosen up the ties, roll up your sleeves, and tag yourself in a few Facebook photos showing you cutting a rug at your daughter’s wedding. It’s not acting, it’s not a character, it’s you. It might even mean throwing out your message to talk about your son’s new French Bulldog, or your favorite type of Western novel. For all the gun-slinging and grandstanding Rick Perry does, he does have one thing down pat: letting people have a glimpse his down-home demeanor, even though that actual home is a $10,000 a month rental mansion with a Food and Wine magazine subscription. So ask yourself: What is your campaign’s version of standing in the bathroom wearing only a towel?

2. If you’re going to take, learn to give.

Old Spice started its real-time campaign yesterday by tweeting video responses to influential (as well as lesser-known) bloggers who had mentioned the campaign in earlier tweets and posts. Producing short, humorous videos and tweeting them back at bloggers instantly gave the bloggers even more material to push out on their blogs, Twitter and other social networks. If you’re looking to engage bloggers and get them to help you spread the word about a particular initiative, give them quality, personalized tools to promote your cause. Exclusive video, tailor-made badges or logos, behind-the-scenes photos – think about it. You might have the answer sitting right there in your iPhone. And, no, a press release doesn’t count. We’re not real journalists, remember?

3. Play by the rules of engagement.

You can't expect anyone other than your mom and your high school government teacher to care about your campaign right away. So stop trying to be more than who you are before you've even laid the groundwork to define yourself enough for people to care about you. Brenna Ehrlich, of Mashable, summed up the secret to success of the Old Spice campaign perfectly:
Old Spice first created a character that people — shock, shock, horror, horror — liked, and then created an immersive experience that people wanted to be a part of.
What other highly successful campaign does that sound like to you? If you aren’t saying “Barack Obama,” you should probably go back to Mark Strama’s Campaign Academy.

4. Be brave.

Making videos in real-time, with no predetermined script or subject, sounds scary and hard because it is. Do you think everyone at Proctor & Gamble, Old Spice’s parent company, was crazy about the idea? No. But they let the marketing agency do it anyway, and the results have paid off in spades. What is a bold move your campaign could be making but aren’t because you’re convinced it could cost you an election? And…how can you know it won’t cost you an election if you don’t try? Being brave doesn’t mean you have to be stupid. Figure out where the absolute boundaries are, have a plan to stay within them, and then go for it.

So go on. Let the towel drop (so to speak).

Short and sweet.

You stick around here long enough, you'll get some blog posts about pianos.


Ciro Rodriguez: Tantrum or Truth?

History, when left to record it, ultimately lets the prose tell the story.

And so, too, will this blogger.

"I’d rather be here [with the Tea Party] than with those America-bashing Democrats."
Marsha Farney, Republican SBOE candidate speaking at a Tea Party event over July 4th weekend.

"From time to time, there are going to be things that occur that are acts of God that cannot be prevented."
Governor Rick Perry, defending BP and likening the oil spill to an act of God.

"I've never had anyone challenge, that I can remember, in the last seven years, the accuracy of what I say."
Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, "As 'Truth-O-Meter' Spreads, Politicians Wince"

"Don't accuse me of not saying the truth."
Congressman Ciro Rodriguez
, at a town hall meeting when being accused of lying.

Tune in for a Town Hall

In the old days, a "town hall" meant a dusty pavilion, sweltering heat, pot luck dinners and sweaty kids running around in circles covered in popsicle juice.

Now, with the information age at our very fingertips, you don't have to drag yourself out into the oven that is Texas in July in order to participate in a town hall.

On Monday, July 12th, at 5:30 PM, tune in to UStream to catch an air conditioned town hall with Bill White, hosted by Senator Kirk Watson. White will be taking questions via UStream, Twitter and Facebook during the town hall (be sure to use the #BWTH hashtag on Twitter to have your comments and questions show up in the UStream chat feed).

Now, I get it. There will be some of you who will want to say, "But Rachel, I like dusty hot pavillions and sweating through long speeches. Why would I want to have to turn on my computer in the comfort of my air conditioned home to watch Bill White talk on UStream? How can I be an activist if I'm not putting a little sweat equity into the event?"

In a conference call with bloggers last week, Watson compared the use of social media to a tactic that LBJ once employed: flying around in a helicopter to draw a crowd and get his message out. Yes, using a helicopter, like UStream, is novel but there's a bigger impact beyond this, which Senator Watson was quick to point out: Taking advantage of social media and online outlets is quickly becoming the best way to reach and interact with a wider audience, giving candidates and elected officials not only the ability to communicate with constituents and voters but, more importantly, to listen to them.

So there you have it. Gather the kids, grab a popsicle so you can feel authentic, conjure up a question to ask Bill White and tune in for a town hall on Monday evening. We'll keep the air conditioner on for you.

Native Texas Chickens

Comedy. Gold.


Tarballs and Tainted History

Crossposted on HuffPo and DailyKos.

BP’s wells aren’t the only things failing around Texas these days.

Education is quickly draining out of Texas classrooms, and as the oil spill made its way onto Texas beaches this weekend, word of the brain-drain that is our State Board of Education has most certainly gotten out. The spoof public relations Twitter account for BP, BPGlobalPR, tweeted a Texas-sized zinger that quickly zoomed to the top of Twitter today, garnering over 100+ retweets in less than two hours. It read: “Our oil hit Texas beaches yesterday. Fortunately, in 20 years their school books will say nothing happened. #bpcares

Texas State Board of EducationTarballs and tainted history. Lucky us.

The Texas State Board of Education has been caught in the national spotlight of mainstream news sources (see How Christian Were the Founders?) ever since, like a smelly oil well in the wind, reporters picked up the scent of how completely whacked-out the current SBOE members are--or, as the New York Times more politely put, when the SBOE approved a curriculum that “put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks.” Now, thanks to the SBOE’s it’d-be-funny-if-it-weren’t-so-sad antics, BPGlobalPR’s tweet today pushed the long-term risks of a state board rewriting history to perhaps a larger--and younger--following with a taste for schadenfreude.

As far as I can see, the only thing worse than George W. Bush being back in Texas is the state of education here. Bill Hobby, former Lt. Governor of Texas, recently called Texas the “Laughing Stock State” as a result of the SBOE’s desire to remove from the pages of textbooks notable Hispanics like Lorenzo de Zavala, who helped draft the constitution of the Republic of Texas. As if erasing history wasn’t enough, Republican SBOE members like incumbent Ken Mercer want to actually rewrite history by replacing them with ultra-conservatives like Sean Hannity, who once said, “I'll tell you who should be tortured and killed at Guantanamo: every filthy Democrat in the U.S. Congress.” Where do you think they’ll tuck that quote in the margins of a second grader’s social studies text? In the “Washed Up TV Hosts Who Historically Have Incited Violence” chapter?

Without a change of board members, as Governor Rick Perry continues to inexcusably refer to the BP oil disaster an “act of God,” Texas’s textbooks will soon reflect the same type of Republican ideology that Mercer’s opponent, Democrat Rebecca Bell-Metereau, correctly called “a butchered curriculum...riddled with inaccuracy.”

And with teachers like Rick Perry and Ken Mercer at the helm, why even bother with standardized tests?

How many hours a week do you work?

Happy Tuesday. Did you enjoy your three-day weekend, if you got one? Well, just imagine if you only worked 7 hours week like Governor Rick Perry who blocks me on Twitter.

Some everyday Texans let him know how many hours a week they work in the video below. You can let him know he's fired by voting for Bill White for Governor in November.


An Open Letter to Rick Perry

Dear Rick Perry, Governor of Texas who Blocks Me on Twitter:

The Texas Tribune is reporting that you're insisting you work 24/7, despite the fact that your official schedule says you only work seven hours a week on state business.

Let's just assume that you really do work hard. In which case, as a Texas citizen, I only have one request:


Maybe things would be less screwed up in this state if you worked less often.

Clearly with Rick Perry, less is more.