Texas Outlaw Writers Newsletter: Paxton Gets Tuckered Edition

Texas Outlaw Writers Newsletter: Paxton Gets Tuckered Edition
Photo by Emily Jewell Knaub: https://www.pexels.com/photo/dome-ceiling-3915643/

Ken Paxton. The Texas Attorney General. Impeached. You've heard? The first statewide officeholder in over a century to be impeached in Texas. Twenty articles of impeachment. Good going, Ken! You worked hard for this! Just like your hero, Donald Trump! But will you be acquitted like the former president?

But those were some astonishing numbers, General Paxton. 121-23. BAM! That's right here in blood-red Texas, 121-23. In a state where candidates for public office continue to move rightward, desperately trying to appeal to their Trumpian base, terrified of being "primaried" from the right. 121-23.

There has been much discussion of the twenty, count 'em, twenty articles of impeachment. All the grift and even more graft. There were charges of bribery. Some leftover indictments for securities fraud. Abuse of office. Obstruction of Justice. Did I forget to mention the extramarital affair? The good General was pleased when a political benefactor gave his mistress a job in Austin where she could be more "convenient" to him. I know, right! Who doesn't love a convenient mistress!? Now that the articles of impeachment have been read, she may become decidedly inconvenient. And you know that his wife, Angela, is a state senator, right? Unless she recuses herself, will she be voting to convict (or not?) at his trial in the Senate. C'mon ladies, stand by your Ken!

Paxton gets huffy with the press after hearing of impeachment proceedings.

Abbott has never cared for Paxton, and the governor's silence on the impeachment has even brought a rebuke from Trump on his Truth Social platform, "MISSING IN ACTION! Where is the Governor of Texas on his Attorney General’s Impeachment?” The ever-wily Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has also clammed up. He will preside over the trial in the Senate and set the ground rules, so he still has a lot of sway. Observers think that Patrick could pull a lot of weight as the impeachment moves to the Senate.

But that vote margin. 121-23. The intrigue is not whether he's the biggest crook in state government (is there a doubt?) I mean, ALLEGEDLY. The question is, in this modern GOP mafia, what did he do to turn 70% of his own party against him? Is he seen as a Fredo who went against the family? It was the settlement of a whistleblower lawsuit that brought on the investigation in the first place. Eight of his own deputies reported Paxton for improprieties while in office, and he fired them all. When four of them sued and claimed whistleblower protection, Paxton lost and the former employees won a $3.3 million judgment. The Attny General demanded that the lege (er, the taxpayer) fund the settlement. (Because wouldn't that be the thing for us to do?) Kinda ballsy, as they say, but par for Ken's course.

His elected GOP colleagues tolerated his smarmy reputation. They seemed content to have him fight dirty on their behalf - suing the Biden administration at every turn, leading charge after charge in a culture war, representing Texas at the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally... But maybe paying 3.3 million for his transgressions was a favor too far. (The alleged crimes that the whistleblowers had reported were mostly personal in nature or solely benefitted Paxton, see: bribery, mistress, etc.)

There's a detail about the impeachment on Saturday that may be the key:

In another shocking claim from the investigating committee, state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, said that less than an hour after the committee report recommending impeachment was released on Wednesday, Paxton began calling House members attempting to intimidate them into voting against impeachment.
“I would like to point out that several members of this House, while on the floor of this House, doing the state business, received telephone calls from [Attorney] General Paxton personally, threatening them with political consequences in their next election,” Geren said.  - Texas Tribune

There will no doubt be other theories put forth (and more information about the lopsided vote may still emerge,) I contend that his colleagues had had enough of his crap. And when Paxton called around, threatening members of the House with retaliation, I believe more than a handful snapped. Sure, Trump was unsurprisingly working the same angle. “Hopefully Republicans in the Texas House will agree that this is a very unfair process that should not be allowed to happen or proceed,” Trump wrote on social media. “I will fight you if it does.”

But here Paxton was, threatening the family. Sneaking around the already frustrated Speaker of the House. Demanding fealty from House members and a $3.3 mil. bad-boy subsidy. Perhaps Paxton is more of a Tucker Carleson than a Fredo. Like Carleson at Fox News, he thought he was bigger than the institution itself. He had disdain for higher-ups. He treated House members as subordinates. He treated his subordinates as expendable. And like Carleson, the lawsuits started to roll in.

So House members turned on him. They Tuckered his ass.

State Rep. Ann Johnson, D-Houston is vice chair of the General Investigating Committee. She presented the articles of impeachment against Paxton on Saturday

During the impeachment process, Rep. Ann Johnson, D-Houston, implored her fellow lawmakers to act. “God help us” if they didn’t... "If millions of Texans can’t trust us to do the right thing, right here, right now, then what are we here for?”

And for once, her Republican colleagues agreed with her.

Years ago, Myra Jolivet participated in some high-intensity workshops where a renowned public relations executive led the participants into some personal bridge-building exercises. The many tributes, celebrations, and memories of our old colleague, John Nova Lomax who died just over a week ago, rekindled a memory she had of attending those workshops. Myra reflects that John Nova's writing and his ability to touch so many readers is indicative of our deep need for meaningful human connection with each other.

What’s on the Back of Your Business Card? | jTX Outlaw Writers
Two unrelated events took me back to a special experience created by an extraordinary man. It reminded me that what we do and who we are might not be the same thing but are extensions of us.

Jim Moore disappeared for a few days last week, so I assumed he was out on his motorcycle somewhere in West Texas and we'd get a travel update for his column. It turns out, he went north to Alaska.. via heated planes and cars. The low temps, the ice, the impossible terrain humbled him a bit, especially when he met some fellow travelers willing to embrace the pain.

The son of Yankees’ baseball great Yogi Berra, Dale, was once asked if he was very much like his father. “No,” he said. “Our similarities are different.” As tortured as that response might be, it could also apply to comparisons between Texas and Alaska. When Jim visited the “Last Frontier," he discovered a very determined Texas woman and a deep and abiding mystery in the back county.

Mountains and Mysteries | Texas Outlaw Writers
“There ain’t no barbed wire up here, and it was made for me.” - Rich Corraza, Alaskan

The war in Ukraine grinds on. The Russians continue to target civilians, hospitals, and schools. Ukraine reaches further behind the Russian border in an attempt to disrupt their supply lines and destroy their equipment depots. Russian bombs and missiles keep up their daily destruction. Ukraine promises a counteroffensive.

As the invasion of Ukraine began a little over a year ago, Roger Gray wrote about the perils of brinksmanship in the nuclear age, and with an unstable midget in the Kremlin. So, how have his original thoughts aged?  

...This is the War Room! | Texas Outlaw Writers
So, you are Biden, Johnson, Macron or Scholz. “How far do you push this? There has been speculation over the years about whether Europe and America would have acted if Hitler had confined his evil to the borders of Germany. What do we risk in Ukraine?”

Oh, and speaking of Tucker Carleson and Fox News, (we were, weren't we?) The excellent and wildly popular series "Succession" dropped its finale this weekend. No spoilers, but let's just say, the Roy kiddies really outdid themselves in a last, soulless, avaricious attempt to keep and rule daddy's business empire.

They circle around each other, their opportunistic outer circle, and their competitors with dead eyes and twisted (or non-existent) values, barking meaningless business jargon into their phones while private-jetting back and forth to leverage the final "deal."  

"The Smartest Guys in the Room" was the phrase used to facetiously describe the Enron management team that oversaw the great collapse of the Enron Corporation. The phrase fits here, too, as long as the facetiousness remains. A bunch of the smartest, really dumb kids.

"You're such fucking dopes... I love you, but you're not serious people."  - Logan Roy, Succession

It was a bit of timing too good for a Hollywood script: as the Roy kids were stumbling around trying to preserve the family legacy (and eternally disappointing their late father,) Elizabeth Holmes of "Theranos" fame prepared herself for an eleven-year stint in the Big House. (Shout-out to Rupert Murdoch, the real-life Logan Roy for his real-life investment in Theranos!)

On Tuesday, Holmes reported to the all-female, minimum security Federal Prison Camp in Bryan, Texas (Gig 'Em, Aggies!) You all know the Theranos story by now.

Holmes checking in to her new digs.

Holmes, a Stanford drop-out, put together a massive amount of money from high-profile investors, promising them that she was developing medical laboratory hardware that would revolutionize blood testing. A mere drop or two of blood could be processed by a single device where over 1000 unique laboratory tests could be performed. She raised hundreds of millions of dollars from high-profile investors like Rupert Murdoch, the DeVos family, former Sec. of State George Schultz, and Jim Mattis. Venture Capitalists also pitched in. At one time, the company had a valuation of over 9 billion dollars. Ms. Holmes was thought to be worth over 4 billion.

Theranos put together deals to have their devices put in retail spaces like Wagreens and Safeway stores. These contracts were worth hundreds of millions. Holmes idolized Apple founder Steve Jobs and often wore a black turtleneck shirt, a Jobs staple. She was a media darling, appearing on dozens of magazine covers and featured in hundreds of business publications. She had a deep, steady baritone voice when interviewed and giving public presentations. Some of her friends maintained that her low voice was an affectation. (She later admitted this.)

But the Theranos machine was a fraud. At its best, it could never run more than a dozen blood tests, and then, only one at a time. Whistleblowers reported that Theranos was using other manufacturers' machines to run many of the tests performed during demonstrations. The Wall Street Journal did a scathing expose that marked the beginning of the end for Theranos.

Liz, during wealthier times. With her Steve Jobs signature black turtleneck. 

Holme's pitches to investors and customers, like her vocal pitch, were all for show. And like the Roy family on Succession, she could talk the talk. From business to marketing to medical jargon, she fooled 'em all, for a good while, anyway. They were all so focused on the mountain of money piling up on paper, they never saw that there was never a there, there. But elite investors, Ivy Leaguers, politicos, business tycoons, and all the other aristocrats refused to believe that the Emporer had no clothes.

One of my favorite stories that came out of the Theranos debacle was when George Schultz's grandson went to work for Theranos. The famous former Secretary of State introduced Tyler Schultz to Ms. Holmes. Tyler asked if he could intern at her company, and as a 22-year-old Jr. at Stanford, he did, eventually working there full time. Tyler had worked around other science labs and immediately began to see that Theranos was using other companies' machines to run their much-vaunted lab tests. With a couple of other whistleblowers, they reported the fraud to NY regulators and began to work with the Wall Street Journal. George Schultz was incredulous when the Journal article came out. He demanded his grandson retract the story, even having lawyers stand by to take a statement from him. Tyler refused and became estranged from his grandfather. Holmes vindictively had Tyler followed by PIs and had her lawyers harass him. When the company cratered and Holmes was charged with fraud, the senior Schultz would finally admit to Tyler that he had done the right thing, though he never apologized.


These days, <Tyler> Shultz is running his own biotech startup focused on women's fertility issues. He is pitching investors and making grand promises.
"I'm under pressure to exaggerate technology claims, exaggerate revenue projection claims. Sometimes investors will straight-up tell you, you need to double, quadruple, or 10x any revenue projection you think is realistic," he said.
In a weird twist, the experience has him comparing himself to his now-notorious former boss.
"I could see how this environment could create an Elizabeth Holmes," Shultz said.  -NPR News

That's right, Tyler. Learn the jargon. Play the game. Put on that black turtleneck and go for the low-hanging fruit. Hopefully, we can crush it in Q4.  

Did I mention that Elizabeth's father had been a Vice President at Enron? One of The Smartest Guys in the Room begat the Smartest Gal in the Room. In that shallow, facetious sort of "Smartest" meaning. It's a succession thing.

And now Elizabeth Holmes has a baby to pass along her genes to. She married "hospitality heir" Billy Evans. Her first child, William, was born in the Spring of 2021. It delayed her criminal trial... hmmmm.

In fact, reporter Nick Bilton predicted on an episode of his podcast, Inside the Hive, that Holmes might get pregnant.Holmes is going to get pregnant before she gets on the stand because she will look very sympathetic as a pregnant woman on the stand,” he said, per Elle.
And of course, when she made her pregnancy announcement, it threw a wrench in court proceedings.   -Women's Health Magazine

Her second PR stunt, er, baby was born shortly after her trial was over. Just in time to present a sympathetic baby bump during the sentencing phase of her trial. Her lawyers asked that she be allowed to start her sentence after her appeals (which would have allowed her to give birth before she went to prison.) Calculated strategy? What do you think? In reference to the baby, a Daily Mail headline read “Last-Ditch Bid for New Trial.”

In a gush-y NYT post-trial profile, Holmes explained her recent marriage,

“If we let how other people might view that, or what impression someone might make of it dictate how we live our lives, then we’ve lost. Finding your person in the middle of all of this and experiencing that love when you’re going through hell is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced.”

She and her husband named her newborn daughter Invicta (Latin for "invincible.") Because? It makes good copy? Invicta will provide great, gush-y backstory and narrative points for the media profiles from prison? Why else would you name your child after a watch brand?

Will William or Invicta inherit their dad's hospitality fortune? Nothing succeeds like succession.  

Maybe it's time to stop viewing every rich, successful business executive as a genius. Let's break the assumed correlation between wealth and smarts. Musk, the Pillow dude, Skilling, Trump, the Kardashians.

The Roys, the Holmes, Attny General Paxton? They're just fucking dopes. They're just not serious people.