District Attorney Candidate Kim Ogg on the "Human Toll" of Prosecuting Misdemeanor Pot Offenders

Last Friday, Kim Ogg, the Democratic candidate for Harris County District Attorney, was the guest of honor at a gathering of the Houston chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a pro-pot legalization group.

Just let that sink in for a moment. A major party candidate vying for the largest prosecutor's office in Texas, and one of the largest in the country, took her campaign to a pro-marijuana gathering. There, Ogg spoke not only of the money Harris County taxpayers could save if the county shifted how it prosecutes misdemeanor marijuana possession cases, but of the war on drugs' human toll.

Here's part of what she told the NORML crowd Friday at Cafe Adobe:

More »

Why Is Dredging Oysters at Night a Felony, Anyway?

Stay tuned for Law & Order STU: Steve Toth Unit.
You probably didn't know that, in Texas, lying in a fishing tournament is a punishable offense that can land you in jail for a year.

You probably didn't know that because you're a generally honest person, you don't fish competitively, or you aren't Texas Representative Steve Toth, who tried once and for all how to codify obscure offenses that lay outside the Texas Penal Code. Think of it as silly laws meeting a silly legislative bill in a perfect storm of utter silliness. The bill was DOA. Now a dude at the Texas Public Policy Foundation wants Toth to revive it.

More »

The Harris County DA's Race Is Mostly About Drugs

Thumbnail image for Marijuana.jpg
Wikimedia Commons
This year, the race for Harris County District Attorney, who heads the largest prosecutor's office in Texas and one of the largest in the country, is mostly about drugs.

That much was clear in a debate this weekend hosted by Fox 26 between incumbent Republican Devon Anderson and Democratic challenger Kim Ogg. Instead of trading tough-on-crime bona fides, or arguing over who's "soft" on the death penalty (Harris County is, after all, the most execution-friendly county in the nation), the vast majority of the debate centered on how to handle low-level, nonviolent drug offenders.

More »

Steven Hotze Reams Gays in Conference Call

This book will not be found in the LGBT section.
If there's one think Steven Hotze has thought long and hard about, it's sex between a man and a boy.

As elder statesman of Houston's homophobic right-wingnutters, the doctor (we use that term loosely) wants everyone to know what will happen if the gays aren't forced back into the closet where they belong. Which is why Hotze joined Texas GOP chair candidate Jared Woodfill and anti-gay "pro-family" group leader Brian Camenker, in a "Marriage Battle Plan" conference call earlier this month. Fortunately, Media Matters sat in on the call and has captured the crazy.

More »

Harris County Treasurer Candidate Brings His Moms Into Politics

Rick Perry does it; Ted Cruz does it; Harris County treasurer nominee David Rosen doesn't see why he can't run on a family values platform too just because he has two moms.

In a bid to redefine the tired jargon of political ads, Rosen released a video starring his mothers, retired HISD teachers who have been married for only two years out of a decades-long relationship. Despite having that certificate, Rosen's moms are still unable to share health insurance because the state doesn't recognize their marriage. One of Rosen's top priorities is to extend equal rights to gay county employees if he is elected.

Rosen's other dreams include creating an online portal for anyone with an internet connection to see money going in and out of government coffers in real time, and to partner with local nonprofits to teach basic personal finance to at-risk kids. His third goal, to give health benefits to gay employees, is personal.

More »

Ted Cruz: The Heckler of the Senate Gets Heckled Over Israel


The champion heckler of the U.S. Senate was finally heckled right off stage.

Yes, shocking as it is, it's finally happened. Houston's own Sen. Ted Cruz has proved impervious to censure, to disapproval and even to heckling since his big leap onto the national political stage back in 2012. This is the dude who read Green Eggs and Ham on the Senate floor during a fake filibuster over Obamacare, ignoring the fact that Republican party leaders looked like they were trying to make him burst into flames with the sheer force of their collective minds. Talking is what he does. Heck, he helped talk the federal government right into a shutdown.

The leaders of his own party can't quiet him down, and run-of-the-mill hecklers are generally, like flies buzzing around his ears during a speech, more irritants than things that will actually make him stop speaking. When people don't like what he is saying or when they question the often questionable logic that Cruz so often twists and bends to suit his own political purposes, Cruz just keeps talking. And talking. And talking.

More »

Rick Perry: King of the Awkward Twitter Pic

via Rick Perry's Twitter
Does he ever look comfortable in a photo-op?

The other day while combing through Gov. Rick Perry's Twitter feed (we make our own fun, don't judge) we were jolted by a shocking revelation. Perry, the man with the best head of hair in professional politics, the guy who will burble every advantage in a debate but still manage to pose for a great mug shot, is terrible at the fine art known as the political photo-op.

Perry has been in the political arena for many moons now, so we've always just assumed he had already acquired all of the ridiculous-but-necessary skills required to make it in professional politics. Politicians wishing to appeal to enough of the populous to actually obtain office are more often than not skilled at kissing babies (among other things), shaking hands and smiling with absolute plastic sincerity while posing for photos that are studies at the art of insincere sincerity.

But, judging by his own Twitter feed, Perry seems to have lost the knack. Whether he is throwing his arm around a fellow politician, posing with supporters or just standing against a wall, he almost always looks like he's about to have to take a math test. Don't just take our word for it though. The proof is in the tweets.

More »

Does the Wendy Davis Book Tour Count As Campaigning? Does It Matter?

Photo by Allison Hess
She'll be doing less of this while she promotes that book.

State Sen. Wendy Davis stopped campaigning for governor this week. You'd think that her Republican opponent, Attorney Gen. Greg Abbott, would be thrilled, but Abbott is thoroughly unenthusiastic about the move. Why? Well, Davis is taking a break from her campaign to promote her new book, Forgetting to Be Afraid.

And since she called a timeout and everything, she has been utterly focused on making sure people want to buy her book. Totally. She definitely was not trying to persuade Texas voters to consider her when she popped up on Good Morning America on Monday. She is not reminding the general population of the Lone Star State about her stance on abortion -- and those famous neon pink running shoes -- when she talks openly and honestly about the two abortions she chose to have (for medical reasons).

The fact that this book has made Davis's campaign front-page news, and given her some of the best coverage she's had since the filibuster that rocketed her to political stardom last year, is just a big old coincidence, not a clever bit of political maneuvering. Nope, she's just promoting her book, y'all. Nothing to see here.

More »

The Police Department Race Gap in Houston's Suburbs

This includes cops.
In the wake of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, growing scrutiny has been placed on police departments across the country with a particular focus on department demographics. Given the fact that Ferguson's citizenry is predominantly black, but minorities representing only a small percentage of the police force, it makes sense that departments across the U.S. being looked at through a similar lens.

The New York Times did exactly that, looking at "The Race Gap in America's Police Departments," complete with maps and graphs to illustrate the point that many police forces in major metropolitan areas do not represent, from a racial standpoint, the communities they serve.

There are a couple of exceptions, however, and Houston is one of them.

More »

The Tea Party Does Not Love Rick Perry


Gov. Rick Perry has been a bit of a conservative darling of late. Yep, the Republicans have rallied round the man after he was indicted for corruption charges a few weeks back. It was a touching moment of unity in a party that has been remarkably divided in recent years.

Well, that's all over or now. It turns out the guy with the most presidential hair in politics still - unsurprisingly, in a bit of stunning optimism - wants to be president. He's gunning for a 2016 White House run and he is duly putting together a team to turn those Commander-in-chief dreams into reality (with fewer "oops" moments this time, we assume.)

To do so he has hired three, shall we say, controversial figures. It doesn't seem to take much to anger ye olde Tea Party people these days, but Perry couldn't have done a better job if he'd tried. He hired former President Bill Clinton aide Mark Fabiani for his legal team. He also hired former McCain-Palin campaign consultant Steve Schmidt (who has sounded off his thoughts on Sarah Palin, and said thoughts aren't exactly positive.) And then, for the piece de resistance (or coup de grace depending on your viewpoint) he hired Henry Barbour.

More »