Greg Abbott: Arrogant, Dangerous, and a Craven Hypocrite

There it is, in case you were wondering what I think about him. I wouldn’t want you to have to read between the lines.

Did you read the entire Dallas Morning News article I linked to in my last blog post yet? If not, you really should. Here’s the link again. Seriously, read it.

If you did, post a link to it on Facebook & tweet it out, too, so your fellow Texas voters can read it as well.

If you don’t have time to read it, let me pull out the most illuminating facts:

Abbott, who claims his office is concerned about voter fraud, does not keep records or statistics about voter fraud:

In response to requests from The News, the attorney general’s office provided a list of 637 potential violations of the Elections Code referred to Abbott since he took office in late 2002.

Strickland said he could not say how many were investigated or how many involved alleged voter registration fraud. “The office does not ‘compile or keep statistics,’” he said.

How can you say something is a problem if you can’t say why?

Maybe it is because you have a vested interest in destroying the evidence you might have?

When Haver [one of the people interviewed during Abbott's investigation] was interviewed by Abbott’s office in late 2010, her attorney asked if Haver could get some folders returned to her. They’d been taken in the Houston raid and contained research Haver had done on possible irregularities in how GOP officials in Harris County were handling voter registration.

Haver told the attorney general’s office that the research had no relationship to the Houston Votes investigation.

“We kept following up, and they kept giving us the runaround about getting it returned,” she said recently.

In late 2013, Abbott’s office asked judges in Harris and Travis counties for permission to destroy the records seized in the two raids. The request said records contained the names of people who were not suspects, partial Social Security numbers and forged voter registration applications.

When the attorney general’s office received a green light from judges, Haver’s research, which did not contain personal identifying information, was among the materials destroyed.

The research didn’t contain the information Abbott’s office claimed it needed to protect—names, Social Security numbers, or voter registration applications.

It might have contained information about irregularities in voter registration activities of elected officials in Harris County, the very thing that Abbott’s office seemed to be concerned about investigating when they went after Houston Votes.

But there, of course, is the difference. Those elected officials are members of the same party as Greg Abbott.

Time after time, Abbott has demonstrated that the rules apply one way for him, and another way for the rest of us.

He championed tort reform, drastically limiting the amount someone can recover in a personal injury trial after he, himself, recovered a very large settlement in a personal injury trial. Remind yourself of the details here.

He drilled his own well to water his lawn while the city and county he lives in suffered from a drought that continues to this day. Soak up the full story here.

He willfully and recklessly destroyed records and refuses to keep statistics about potential voter fraud while championing a law that nonpartisan experts have shown not only disenfranchises minority voters, women, and students, but also targets only the rarest type, and least effective form of, voter fraud (in person voter impersonation).

Greg Abbott wants to be governor so he can take care of Greg Abbott, as well as a few campaign contributors of his who want to continue running their predatory lending businesses without any oversight, building their dangerous chemical storage facilities next to nursing homes and residential neighborhoods without disclosing what, exactly, is being stored, and pillaging our natural resources without regard for the safety of our citizens or water supply.

Dangerous, arrogant, and a craven hypocrite. Ladies and gentlemen, what are you doing to make sure this man does not become governor?

Posted in Houston, politics, Texas | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Vote If They Let You & Raise Hell If There’s a Problem

I like to talk about politics, not for the sake of talking, but in the hope that enough of us getting involved and voting our values can change things for the better.

Hate reading about teachers having to dip into their own wallets to make sure their students have pencils and notebooks? Sure you do. Breaks your heart a little, doesn’t it?

Do you dry your tears and then vote for Republican politicians who have passed budgets that fail to meet our constitutional requirement to fund public schools adequately in Texas? If you do, then I question whether you really care about those teachers or those kids.

Ahhh, voting. We suck at voting in Texas:

In 2010, Texas ranked 51st in voter turnout, 42nd in voter registration, 49th in the number of citizens who contact public officials and 44th in the number of people who discuss politics a few times a week or more.

51st? But don’t we have 50 states?

Yes, but we’ve got Puerto Rico as well, and their voter turnout, even though they don’t get to vote in federal elections and have citizenship but no voting representation in Congress, was ahead of ours.

Bummer, huh? Well, look at it this way: we were ahead of Guam and the US Virgin Islands.

Some might suggest that when your silver lining is better voter turnout than Guam, you’re really looking at a cloud wrapped in lead. And it is weighing you down while poisoning you.

So, voting. We don’t do it very well, but at least there’s no one stopping us, right?

Wrong.

There are groups so worried that voter fraud is rampant that they have taken it upon themselves to audit the voter registration rolls. This article in that link is from 2012, but this work is still happening in Harris County right now. RIGHT NOW.

Right now, that is, at a time when shifting demographics are on the brink of flipping Texas R to D. Coincidentally, their “citizen audit” seems to disenfranchise minority voters, whose votes tend to the D.

Or, you know, their “citizen purge” of the voter rolls intentionally targets those voters under the misdirect that they are preventing in-person voter fraud:

ufos and voter fraud

An “extremely fact checked” infographic about voter suppression masquerading as concern about voter fraud that isn’t actually happening.

 

Let me be crystal clear: in-person voter fraud is not what True the Vote is trying to prevent. They are trying to prevent certain people, people whose skin color also puts them at risk for things like being shot by the police for no reason, from voting.

That brings me to an article in this morning’s Dallas Morning News that I think every Texan who votes, or who is affected by politics and government, needs to read:

Abbott’s Houston raid didn’t end with arrests,
but shut down voter drive
By James Drew

On an overcast Monday afternoon, officers in bulletproof vests swept into a house on Houston’s north side. The armed deputies and agents served a search warrant. They carted away computers, hard drives and documents.

The raid targeted a voter registration group called Houston Votes, which was accused of election fraud. It was initiated by investigators for Attorney General Greg Abbott. His aides say he is duty-bound to preserve the integrity of the ballot box.

His critics, however, say that what Abbott has really sought to preserve is the power of the Republican Party in Texas. They accuse him of political partisanship, targeting key Democratic voting blocs, especially minorities and the poor, in ways that make it harder for them to vote, or for their votes to count.

A close examination of the Houston Votes case reveals the consequences when an elected official pursues hotly contested allegations of election fraud.

It may seem like old news, but the Republicans play long ball. Bare knuckles, scorched earth long ball. What’s going on now is the legacy of Lee Atwater, and that’s an ugly, ugly legacy. I don’t invoke it lightly.

Get ready. November, 2014 is going to be a rough ride.

Posted in Houston, politics, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Starbucks & Paying It Forward

My dear friend, gadfly extraordinaire Steve Dew, posted the following status update on Facebook just now:

Dew it right Starbucks

These “pay it forward” stories get my goat as much as they get his. I find the act of buying a coffee for someone else charming, and think you should do it if it makes you feel good. I object, however, to the notion that something like this is newsworthy or extraordinary, as the NPR reporters characterize it.

As Steve observes, given what we could be doing through individual charity, perhaps buying coffee for a person who can already afford that coffee is an urge we could re-direct.

Here’s my suggestion for Starbucks.

(1) Add a “pay it forward” menu item. They could offer it tall for $1, grande for $2.50, and venti for $5. Do they still do trenta? Add a trenta at $10.

(2) Pick a national charity each month, or each quarter. Pick ones that address root causes of economic inequality, racism, or access to health care. Think about organizations fighting against hunger or homelessness, or advocating for early childhood education for all students.

(3) Encourage customers, and stores, to compete to see who can get the longest chain of “pay it forward” donors.

The line at the Florida Starbucks was over 450 customers long. Imagine if each of them gave $2.50, and 100 other stores around the country did the same in a given month. That would be a six-figure donation to the charity, which is no small gift.

If Starbucks customers were regularly donating this way, that would be extraordinary, and worthy of a story on the radio.

Steve, I’ll buy the next cuppa if we can make this happen.

Posted in charity, things there should be, time for action | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Cruz & Cornyn Invest in Themselves Instead of Investing in Texans

Texas senators spend more than almost any other senators do on their office operations:

All told, Cruz’s office spent $3.8 million in taxpayer funds from April 2013 through March 2014 on salaries, office equipment and travel to and from the state.

Fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn wasn’t far behind – his Senate office spent more than $3.7 million in the same period, while Cornyn’s minority whip leadership office gave out more than $800,000 in salaries.

All expenditures were funded by U.S. Treasury money derived from taxpayers – a small irony since both Cornyn and Cruz are leading advocates of reducing the size of government.

On a list of all 100 senators compiled by the Washington Post and ordered by amount of office expense, Cruz and Cornyn take spots four and five, respectively. Only Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., spent more. The average Senate office total, according to the Washington Post’s analysis, is about $2.5 million.

The Houston Chronicle article above, along with just about every other person talking about this study, snorts at the “small irony” of critics of government spending being government spendthrifts.

That, however, buys into the very narrative Sen. Cruz, Grover Norquist, and others on the radical, nativist right want us to believe—that we should value reduced government spending across the board, no matter what.

The point we should be making is that Sen. Cruz and others are very willing to spend more money when it serves their purpose. Cruz wants to have an effective office, so he invests in it, and he doesn’t stint. We can assume from these numbers that he pays his staff well. He’s willing to spend marginally more money for them to stay at the Stephen F. Austin instead of Motel 6. He lets them travel between DC and home more often, perhaps. He knows that spending this money is the best way to show his staff they are appreciated, and that treating them well garners loyalty and probably makes them more productive.

The radical nativist right spends money where it counts to get the results it wants, and it doesn’t nickel and dime itself. The Koch brothers don’t just give a few thousand dollars here and there. The Heritage Foundation had $25M more in assets at the end of 2012 than it did at the end of 2011; during 2012, their salary line item increased by $2.5M. These institutions have invested big bucks for the long haul because they know that’s what it takes to achieve their goals.

That’s the story here. Sen. Cruz and Sen. Cornyn want to cut government spending execpt the government spending that make their offices more effective. They deprive our state of a chance at success by choking off federal dollars that we could be investing in infrastructure, education, and preventive health care. They claim not liking pork is a reason to starve us all.

I don’t care what they spend on their offices. I just wish they were willing to make the same investment in Texans. 

Posted in Houston, politics, Texas | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

You Speak for Houston

Back when the Houston It’s Worth It website launched in 2004, it solicited reasons why people consider the city to, in fact, be worth it. This was my submission, #129. An excerpt of my submission was published in the first HIWI book, but I wanted to share it in its entirety since now seems to be a cultural moment for love letters to Houston. 

Houston is worth it because if you are here, you want to be here. The heat, the mosquitoes, the traffic—they might bug you, but you have more important things to do than whine about the weather.

You are in Houston because you have great things to accomplish. You want to be part of one of the most philanthropic communities in the world. You want to be in a town whose doctShalimar headors are known, respected, and sought out by the entire world. You want art in the most unexpected places, and more of it in the expected ones. You want to be in a place where maybe, just maybe, you can celebrate the New Year in shorts and flip flops with a margarita in your hand while sitting under a palapa next to the pool. You crave contact with an incredibly diverse population. You thrive on challenges, and see them as opportunities to grow and improve.

It is easy to go to a city with a beautiful bay and soaring bridge. You never have to explain your goals if you head for the big apple. Your soul is drawn to some new-age-old-hippie-town.

In those places, you let the city speak for you.

Houston doesn’t speak for you – you speak for it.

You make it better, stronger, healthier, wealthier, more beautiful, and more dynamic. Houston is worth it because your dreams, goals, and accomplishments are worth it. Houston is worth it because it will do everything it can to make those dreams and goals possible, and it will celebrate you for your accomplishments, no matter who you are and where you came from.

Houston is worth it because it knows YOU are worth it.

 

Posted in Houston, Texas | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Licenses for Sidewalk Counselors

McCullen v. Coakley got me thinking.

Justice Scalia is intent on calling the people who stand outside offering their opinions to strangers entering clinics counselors, not protesters. The plaintiff in the case, Eleanor McCullen, claims she’s just a mother and grandmother who wants to give people information about abortion before they enter clinics.

If we’re going to call them counselors, then let’s regulate them the way we do all mental health professionals. Moms and grandmoms can offer advice at home and on the phone all they want, but if they hold themselves out in public as counselors, they should be required to have the same credentials as someone who offers counseling in the more traditional setting of an office.

Not to get too technical, but the credentials will probably need to be a certain size, and framed, and printed in at least two languages in some parts of the country. These sidewalk counselors will likely also need to post whatever patient rights and complaint/hotline information other counseling professionals so.

In fact, we already require by law that certain information offered during the procedure be presented by a doctor, not a nurse or counselor or anyone else, so clearly the law already envisions requiring that people delivering information about abortion have certain specific licenses and credentials.

If they are going to include medical information in their advice, shouldn’t they be required to have medical credentials, too, just like the doctors performing the procedures?

Texas, for example, requires clinics hand out a pamphlet called A Woman’s Right to Know. Doctors are required by state law to give specific information to clients. We don’t talk about the doctor’s free speech rights in this context. Shouldn’t we require any counselor, including sidewalk counselors, to give this state-mandated information as well? And shouldn’t the be subject to the same penalties if they don’t provide the mandated information?

Maybe we can even generate a little revenue here. If the sidewalk is their work space, are we OK allowing them to use it for free?

And what about malpractice insurance? What if they offer false or misleading information? Can we file a complaint with whatever state board licenses them?

There are all sorts of ways we should be regulating the people outside abortion clinics if what they are offering is medical or mental health advice. After all, we regulate the speech that gets provided inside the clinics. Let’s get some consistency here.

Posted in pro-choice activism | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The Bathroom Menace & Other Lies About Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance

"Seattle Public Library (OMA Architects)" by Keith Daly via Flickr

“Seattle Public Library (OMA Architects)” by Keith Daly via Flickr

Steven Hotze, M.D., recently published these outright lies about the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance:

Mayor Parker’s ordinance would include minority status for the so called “transgendered,” allowing a biological male to legally enter women’s public bathrooms, locker rooms and shower areas and expose himself to women and girls or just ogle them like a peeping Tom. All he has to claim is that he “thinks of himself as a woman.”

I want to protect my wife, daughters and granddaughters from being exposed to the dangers of male sexual predators masquerading as women in women’s public bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities. Don’t you want the same for your wife, daughters and granddaughters? Shame on Mayor Parker and city council for passing an ordinance that would put women and children at risk from sexual predators. That is why it is referred to as the Sexual Predators Protection Ordinance.

Shame on Steven Hotze for deliberately and willfully lying about the ordinance.

Let me break this down for you.

  • The ordinance does allow transgender people to enter public bathrooms.
  • Someone who is biologically male, but who lives life presenting herself as a woman, is considered to be a transgender woman, or transwoman. This person would use the same bathroom as a cisgender woman, or ciswoman, which is a woman who was both born biologically a woman and who presents herself to the world as a woman.
  • Transgender people have to use the bathroom for the very same reasons cisgender people do, and they have to do so when out in public for the exact same reasons, too.
  • A transman or transwoman using a bathroom is NOT committing a crime by being in a bathroom and utilizing the plumbing fixtures therein.
  • A transwoman or transman is NOT committing a crime by being a transgender person.
  • A person who enters a bathroom to commit a crime IS a criminal.
  • A person’s gender identity is irrelevant to any criminal intent or action. In other words, you are a criminal for committing a crime regardless of your gender.
  • A man who puts on a dress in order to commit a crime is not transgender. Such a person is a criminal using a disguise that he hopes will allow him to evade detection and apprehension.
  • “Thinking of himself as a woman” is not now, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, an affirmative defense to charges that a crime has been committed. The ordinance does not create such an affirmative defense, and never tried to do so.

Calling this equal rights ordinance a “sexual predator protection ordinance” is a deliberate attempt to scare and mislead people. This ordinance does not exempt any person or class of people from criminal penalties for committing criminal acts.

Using the bathroom is not a crime. It is not a crime if you are cisgender, and not a crime if you are transgender.

Being transgender is not a crime. Period. Full stop. Being transgender does not make you any more or less likely to commit a crime than being cisgender. And, being transgender does not make you a criminal any more than being a Libra or being tall or being from Arkansas or Guatemala does. Is there any other way I can say this or need to say this?

Spying on someone who is using the bathroom, molesting someone while they are in a bathroom, stealing a purse from someone in the bathroom, raping someone who is in a bathroom—these things are all crimes, and they are crimes regardless of the gender identity of the person committing them.

Both before and after the passage of this ordinance, committing rape, molestation, sexual assault, theft, or any other criminal action in a bathroom was a crime, is a crime, and continues to be a crime. There is no special protection or exemption from the law if you commit the crime while dressed in clothing that does not match your biological gender assignment.

A criminal commits a crime by carrying out certain specific actions clearly defined in our local, state, and federal statutes. The HERO does not change that.

Please share this with people you know who are worried about using public bathrooms now that we have the HERO.

If they were worried about a bathroom menace, and this doesn’t allay their fears, then perhaps try using shorter words and speaking louder. Honestly, though, I don’t know how it could be any more clear.

If they still oppose HERO, even after admitting that going to the bathroom while transgender is not a crime, then we have to consider another possibility.

They simply have a bias against transgender people. That happens, after all, and people who have such a bias might as well be honest about it. No need to pretend to be stupid to avoid being called bigoted.

People are allowed to have that bias. The HERO ordinance does not outlaw believing bad things about transgender people, or people whose skin is a different color, or those who practice a different religion than yours. Notably, the HERO does not infringe upon your right to claim that discrimination is a central tenet of your religious faith. It simply says that in certain matters of city contracting and public accommodation and housing, there are penalties for acting upon those biases when they are applied unequally.

It is also totally legal for me to say you are stupid, small-minded, and pathetic if you cling to this ridiculous bathroom menace argument. It isn’t nice, but it is legal. The HERO ordinance has no bearing on my assessment of your relative level of intelligence, tolerance, or niceness, or yours of mine.  To put it another way—being stupid or mean does not make you part of a special class protected by the HERO.

If you are confused about gender, sex, and identity, I recommend this phenomenal resource, The Gender Book.

It can be helpful, too, to remember that as a default, you don’t need to know what is between a person’s legs or not between a person’s legs in order to make the decision to treat them with respect and afford them basic civil rights.

Finally, something to keep in mind:

  • Just as you have no right to demand to know what the space between the legs of a cisgender person looks like, you have no right to demand to know what the space between the legs of a transgender person looks like.
  • Are you cisgender and accustomed to looking at the space between strangers’ legs in public bathrooms? Because if you do, you’re doing it wrong, and you might just be the bathroom predator everyone is so het up about.
Posted in advice you didn't ask for, Houston, politics | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments