Oh, would you look at what those crazy Americans have done now‏

Finding a new angle for a story is one good way to shed light on an event so a reader can see aspects that have been obscured by the shadows of unfamiliarity, ignorance or prejudice.  Today in Slate they wrote up the Senate’s filibuster-ending vote in the style of U.S. journalists when they are writing about other countries around the world; imagine just how stupid we may look to others:

WASHINGTON, United States—In what analysts are calling a landmark step on the country’s path toward representative democracy, the U.S. government agreed today to allow most appointments to high offices to be approved by a majority vote. However, opposition lawmakers are crying foul, arguing that the change will allow the country’s embattled leader to seize more power.

And, if you enjoy the opportunity to see a politician talk out of both sides of his mouth, here’s your chance: in 2005, Senator Barack Obama explains why the Republican majority in the Senate of the time should not tamper with the filibuster rule, precisely the thing the Democratic majority did today.

Obama 2005

I know we can make the arguments for and against this change to Senate rules; personally, I think protecting the rights of the minority from the tyrannical majority is a good thing, but I also think that the minority should have to actually take the floor and keep speaking in order to block action on appointments or legislation, not just threaten to do so.  But I hope we could look at ourselves honestly—all of us as a group, not just our political opponents—and see the ridiculous state that we’ve reached in our politics.

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The TV news is an ass, the sequel

I failed to give credit where it was due when I wrote early yesterday about how television “news” ignored the dramatic events at the Texas state capitol.  There was a filibuster-to-adjournment over a bill that would drastically reduce the availability of abortions in Texas and that caused citizens to fill the galleries, and later to express their anger when they saw, plain as day, the lieutenant governor and his supporters try to railroad the process, and at one point saw that an official record of a vote had been changed.  I was annoyed that I couldn’t follow the story on television–it was not being covered on any of my local stations in Houston nor on any of the national cable “news” channels.  I was keeping up on Twitter.

What I neglected to do was to consult other avenues available on the Inter-Webs, and I was reminded of that today by Time and by Rachel Sklar.  The state senate was live-streaming itself, and the big show was available on other live streams, too, with some great work done by the Austin American-Statesman.  Congratulations to them all for recognizing a newsworthy event when they saw one and doing something to let the rest of us keep up.

Time: “As protesters massed in the gallery, the GOP majority attempted to close debate and bring a vote, and Democrats maneuvered to stall after their rivals forced [Senator Wendy] Davis to stop speaking on procedural grounds, well over 100,000 YouTube viewers were tuned to the channel–closer to 200,000 as zero hour approached. That’s a six-figure viewership, after primetime in most time zones, watching legislators argue over Robert’s Rules of Order and who properly held the floor.”

Sklar: “The clock struck midnight. Victory! They had run out the clock! The chants continued. Twitter exploded. But that was weird, it seemed like that vague roll call was still going on. What, exactly, was going on in that huddle by the Chair?

This is what was going on: They were taking the vote. It was after midnight, and suddenly that strict adherence to rules didn’t seem so strict anymore. Whispers were trickling out, confirmed by the AP: SB5 had passed, 17-12.

Twitter was going bananas. I checked the networks again. CNN was re-running Anderson Cooper. MSNBC was re-running Lawrence O’Donnell. Fox was re-running Greta van Susteren. Journalist Lizzie O’Leary tweeted, ‘Interesting choice you made tonight, cable news executives.'”

By now you’ve heard how it turned out: the good old boys intent on changing a law that most Texans thought didn’t need changing (and despite having failed in their effort to change the law during the regular session, by the way) were gobsmacked at the reaction of the crowd, yet tried to push ahead and took a vote on the bill after the deadline and declared victory, only to be confronted with not only the evidence of their failure to act within the rules of the chamber but evidence that someone messed with the records (Anthony De Rosa posted screenshots of the evidence, here and then here) and ultimately conceded defeat of the bill on other technical grounds.  And just as expected, Governor Haircut issued a call for another special session starting next week so legislators can have a third bite at the apple.

Yeah, but we didn’t need to see any of that live as it happened, did we…

UPDATE 6/28 8:00 am CT: Patti Kilday Hart at Houston’s Leading Information Source solves the mystery over the conflicting reports of when the Texas Senate voted on the abortion restriction bill, and it turns out there was no hanky-panky.  The respected secretary of the Senate Patsy Spaw explains that the vote started before the special session ended at midnight–she knows because it’s her job to check the clock before starting the roll call–and the rules allow such a vote to count; because of the noise in the chamber the staffer charged with recording the vote had to leave her desk to hear the result, and it was past midnight when she returned to her workstation to enter the result; someone later manually changed the date in the system to reflect the correct date of passage.  But the bill ultimately was not passed legally because, as Lt. Gov. Dewhurst said at the time, it hadn’t been signed by the presiding officer “in the presence of the Senate” as required by the state constitution: all official action of the special session ended the moment the senators left the chamber (because of the noise) after midnight, and could not resume when they returned some time later Wednesday morning.

The TV news is an ass, and they proved it tonight in Texas

From all reports received—on Twitter—the people of Texas just filled our state capitol building and shouted down the Republican majority in the senate as it tried to trample a Democratic senator who’d been filibustering since 11:00 a.m. to stop passage of a bill that would have forced the closure of almost every abortion provider in the state.  It sounds like an incredible thing that I would have dearly loved to witness.

Too bad, because every Houston television station on my cable system that prides itself on being first with the news…kept running its regular programming.  And every cable news network that tries to convince us they’re covering the news continued with their reruns of the evening’s talk shows.

Shame on every one of you.  Worthless!

Now Twitter tells me that the senate voted to pass the bill, but did so after the statutorily-mandated midnight adjournment of the legislature’s special session, so there’ll be court hearings coming.

Something big happened in Austin, Texas tonight, and almost all of us didn’t see it.  The TV News that insists it knows best about these things decided it wasn’t important enough, not interesting.  Let’s all look at the local Austin video later today and see just how wrong they are.

Thank you, Twitterverse, for doing the job that journalists are supposed to do.