Friday, December 22, 2017

#TXLEGE Sexual Abuse: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly from Yesterday's Austin Chronicle Article (WARNING: Graphic)

"It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness,
For a throne is established by righteousness.
Proverbs 16:12

[Note: As a friendly trigger warning for some of you Baptist types, you should know the original Austin Chronicle article contained swear words that we are going to quote (and address) without sugarcoating; if that's something your snowflake Baptist eyes can't handle stop reading.]

[Note II: Did we mention that this blog post will be quoting swear words verbatum?!?  If you find a couple of swear words overwhelming, you are free to look elsewhere.  This author is not interested in receiving your Facebook messages.]

[Note III:  Swear words ahead; seriously, no Facebook messages.]

Yesterday, the Austin Chronicle published another chilling account about the culture of chronic sexual abuse in the Texas Legislature.  No new names dropped.  We will address topics thematically rather than chronologically.


The house's new policy being a joke:
The House Administration Committee, which is led by Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Ft. Worth, approved new rules that clearly define sexual harassment – including sexual jokes, gifts, and "intentionally brushing up against a person" – and offer ways for victims to seek recourse through a complaint process. Complaints about staffers can be sent to Geren or the House personnel department; complaints about members can be sent to Geren or committee vice chair Gary VanDeaver. All complaints will be "investigated by impartial individuals." If necessary, external resources (such as an outside attorney or investigator) can be used to ensure impartiality. Identities of victims and witnesses will be protected from disclosure to the "greatest extent allowed by law," the five-page policy reads.


[W]omen filing complaints would be better served by a third-party, neutral arbiter than legislators. "You don't want the fox guarding the hen house," she said. "Lawmakers who depend on their relationships with other lawmakers to get things done can't oversee the process in a fair way." The third party should also be a constant presence at the Capitol, she suggested, tackling the culture of inequality and misogyny.

Also under the new policy, all House members and staff are required to attend sexual harassment training by the end of January, and every two years afterward. There won't be much enforcement of that, although records of who attended the trainings will be made public, leaving citizens the opportunity to pressure those who fail to take the course.
The good: The Chronicle points out that the new policy is an unenforceable farce, leadership's self congratulatory absurdities notwithstanding.

The bad: The Chronicle fails to point out that the Chairman responsible for overseeing the new policy has been engaged in a sexual relationship with a lobbyist for many years.  We understand that some people disagree with us about the degree to which this represents a conflict of interest.  But, at a minimum, one would think it's a relevant detail that should be reported upon and left to the reader to decide it's importance.

The ugly: The Chronicle fails to mention that Geren has already been caught lying about this topic.


"Worshiping the Capitol":

The Chronicle details the story of Taylor Holden, a left-leaning activist who worked as an intern several sessions ago:
She never reported the incident to her boss because she felt that she had "no power" as an intern. "I worshipped the Cap­it­ol and always wanted to work in politics, but after that experience I felt betrayed," said Holden. She now works for a progressive organization in Colorado.
There's an obvious spiritual component to what she said that might be worth addressing in the future, but for the moment we'll focus on something more immediate.

To say that one "worships" a government building illustrates an unhealthy lack of perspective.  Whatever you hope to accomplish, ultimately politics is just politics.  It's not THAT important.

We don't want to belittle Ms. Holden's experience in any way, shape, or form, but if she's coming from the perspective of "worshiping" the political process, some modest disillusionment might be in order.


"Everybody Fucks Everybody":

Also from Holden:
While touring her around, she says, an aide commented that the Capitol was a "non-stop party" where "everybody fucks everybody" and proceeded to make a sexist remark about a fellow female staffer.
Annnnd, THIS is where we take exception.

With all due respect to every other faction at the Capitol, "everybody" at the Capitol does not "fuck everybody" at the Capitol.  That, straight up, DOES NOT HAPPEN among conservatives.  Furthermore, if such behavior were discovered in our ranks, it would NOT be tolerated.

To clarify:
  • Have conservatives who've met at the Capitol dated?!? Yes.
  • Have conservatives who've met at the Capitol gotten married?!? Yes.
  • Has a conservative ever had a one-off sexual encounter with someone they met at the Capitol?!?  Not to this author's knowledge, but the law of averages suggests that it must have happened at some point.
But the lecherous meat market that seems to exist everywhere else at the Capitol does not exist in our faction.  And, if it were to emerge, it would be dealt with.  Thus, we take exception to that remark.

For the record: This author has NEVER had a sexual encounter with someone we met at the Capitol; we find the thought BILIOUS.


Hinojosa misses point:

From Gina Hinojosa:
"I believe the biggest contributing factor to an environment where there's a problem with sexual harassment is not enough women in power," Hinojosa remarked.
On the one hand, we don't disagree with Rep. Hinojosa that having more women among the elected officials could help.

On the other hand, who is she kidding?!?

As the legislature currently stands, there are 27 women serving in the house and 8 in the Senate.  That's 35 total.  And of the 35 women currently serving, at best, 6 have stepped up to challenge this garbage. (And, at least a few of the men are ahead of the overwhelming majority of the women)

Make no mistake: Rep. Hinojosa is one of those 6, and we applaud her for doing so, but consider us skeptical of her underlying claim as long as 82% of the women currently in office at the Capitol are saying nothing.

[Note: Then, of course, there's the fact that Rep. Hinojosa's own father did this the day before.]


Going surprisingly easy on the Senate:

Moving onto the Senate:
Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has asked Senate Administration Com­mit­tee Chairwoman Sen. Lois Kolk­horst, R-Bren­­ham, to review the Senate's sexual harassment policies, while Sens. Sylvia Gar­cia, D-Houston, and Kirk Watson, D-Aus­­tin, called on Kolkhorst to hold a public hearing. "The Legislature has clearly failed to create a safe environment for women in the Capitol. That must change," said Watson. Kolkhorst heeded their calls on Dec. 14, letting senators voice concerns in a public forum about the lack of accountability and reporting procedures for how offices handle sexual harassment. But the upper chamber has yet to issue any updated policies.
We've spoken previously about how the Senate's response to what we already know has been woefully inadequate; we're surprised the Austin Chronicle (of all places) didn't let them have it a lot stronger than that.


Bottom Line: It's good that a clearer picture of this garbage is beginning to emerge, but yesterday's article makes equally clear how much distance remains to be traveled before anything will change.

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