Adding Cubs to the Pack of Lone Wolves

Two incidents are weighing heavily on my mind these days:

These two episodes trouble me because of what connects them—each was perpetrated by second-generation anti-abortion activists.

In Montana, they’ve arrested a suspect:

[A] suspect, Zachary Jordan Klundt, was arrested Tuesday in connection with the break-in . . .  Klundt is the son of Twyla Klundt, who is a board member of Hope Pregnancy Ministries, an anti-choice crisis pregnancy center in Kalispell. Cahill [the doctor whose clinic was destroyed] says members of the Klundt family have used extreme rhetoric against her and her family. For instance, she says Twyla Klundt has told patients who see Cahill’s husband, who is an acupuncturist, that he “does the work of the devil.”

The person in charge of the “prayer” poster is:

Eric Scheidler . . .  the son of Joe Scheidler, founder of the Pro-Life Action League (sometimes known as the Pro-Life Action Network, or PLAN), which spent years elbow-deep in the violent rhetoric and direct actions that characterized much of the debate around abortion in America. In 1985, following a year during which there were 10 bombings and 16 cases of arson, the senior Scheidler famously called for “a year of pain and fear.”

If you click on that “year of pain and fear” link, you’ll be reminded of Eric’s dad, Joe, taking part in a gathering of anti-abortion extremists who were welcomed to their hotel, at a time when clinics were regularly being fire-bombed, with the sign: Welcome Pro-Life Activists – Have a Blast.

Often, people harassing clients on sidewalks outside clinics bring their children with them. Those kids learn how to be bullies from their parents, shouting at strangers, telling them what to do, threatening them with judgment and damnation that is not theirs to assign or predict. Eric Scheidler and Zachary Jordan Klundt are those kids, grown up, still being bullies, but with consequences that go beyond one sidewalk encounter.

The narrative around any act of anti-abortion violence quickly turns to talk of lone wolves, sick individuals acting outside the parameters and without any support or encouragement from “mainstream” or “nonviolent” organizations. Again and again, however, perpetrators of violence and extreme acts of harassment are shown to be directly connected to the same network of people and organizations.

You can take any one incident and explain it away. Well, it’s just praying for a few people, and where’s the harm in prayer, you might say. It’s just a disaffected young man, unable to channel his rage, breaking into one building in one town.

I, however, cannot and will not divorce one poster, one call to action, from this larger history of violence, intimidation, and terrorism.

The fact that the venom and tactics are being handed down to a new generation is even more evidence that violence against people who advocate for and provide access to abortion services is not about lone wolves who can’t be stopped and whose actions can’t be predicted. It is an organized network of people whose tactics are on a continuum from prayers on the sidewalk and model legislation to clinic bombings, arson attacks, and shooting at doctors. So why do we tolerate it?

Update: I received this comment on another page of this blog:

Dear Andrea,
I am the physician assistant who’s clinic in Montana was completely destroyed by Zachery Klundt. Your blog goes straight to my heart. Zachery is the son of the founder of “Hope Ministries”, a CPC (crisis pregnancy center). The executive director of “Hope Ministries” bought the building I had been renting for 61/2 years to force me out of business. She and her husband knew that it would not be easy for me to find another building to rent, but I did. So, when they couldn’t stop me from practicing, their founder’s son destroyed my practice. He had a semi-automatic rifle in his car and a semi-automatic pistol on his person. Without a shadow of a doubt I know that if he had been unsuccessful in destroying my office, he would have destroyed me.
I know and have worked with the medical director for “Hope Ministries”. He and I have always been respectful and he is a good doctor, although completley anit-choice. On the “Hope Ministries” webpage he says his work is “in the spirit of Jesus”. I wrote to him last week. In the letter I said, “I am a victim here, but so is Zachery. He was born in innocence and love. He was taught to hate. This is not the “spirit of Jesus”. This is the “spirit” that Jesus was preaching against.”
My point is two-fold: The anti-choice rhetoric that calls it “murder”, and therefore abortion providers “murderers” has bred a second generation of people who feel ok about these acts of violence and hatred. That our country continues to allow such rhetoric to continue for a legal, medically important and necessary procedure, leaves me speechless…….

Susan Cahill

Posted in politics, pro-choice activism | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

It Takes Two to Wango Tango

You may be thinking one of the following thoughts about the news that GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott took Motor City Madman Ted Nugent on the campaign trail with him this week:

  1. Who cares?
  2. Get over it, Democrats.
  3. Both of the above.

I hear you, but please hear me.

Greg Abbott is not responsible for every sexist lyric, racist statement, or just plain offensive thing Ted Nugent has ever said.

Greg Abbott is responsible, however, for selecting the people who represent what he stands for, and he picked Ted Nugent.

The Nuge really has said some hateful things:

  • On immigration and undocumented immigrantsHe has suggested that undocumented people be treated as indentured servants, also known as slaves, building a wall on our southern border with Mexico. He also said that if he saw people entering the country illegally, he’d like to “shoot them dead.”
  • On women: The Nuge’s rants are full of derogatory words for women, but he seems especially fond of suggesting that various female politicians suck on his gun.
  • On girls: We know how he feels about women, but the Nuge takes a very different view of underage girls. He likes to seduce them and promise to marry them. Except, since we are talking about underage girls, that sentence should read: he likes to commit statutory rape. Trigger warning for this second link.
  • On the President of the United States: In an interview with Guns.com, he described the first African-American president as “a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel.” Journalist Wolf Blitzer, among others, has pointed out that the phrase “subhuman mongrel” harkens back very specifically to language used by the Nazi regime to justify the holocaust.  And, lest we forget another high point in the life and charm offensive of Ted Nugent, he threatened the life of the president.

Of course, he didn’t say any of that while campaigning for Greg Abbott yesterday. So why does it matter that Greg Abbott picked him?

Let’s say Abbott wins the election and becomes governor. Think of all of the agency heads he’ll get to select. Commissioners, regents, board members, and the like.

What kind of people will he select as university regents? And what kind of leadership will those regents provide? How will they feel about supporting diversity initiatives, about Mexican-American studies, about gender-neutral dorms?

What about what kind of neighbors would we be to Mexico, under Abbott, and how would we treat the neighbors who might cross the border? Greg Abbott has already spoken, in very militaristic terms, about his plans to send more law enforcement to the border. Ted Nugent likes to talk about imposing “Joe Arpaio justice” when it comes to border issues. Is that the kind of behavior that an Abbott administration would tacitly support?

It isn’t a life or death matter, but who would sit on the historic commission, and determine who and what gets to be part of our state story? Who would determine where in the state tourism dollars were spent—and not spent? Who would sit on the business and economic development councils and boards, and what types of businesses would they attract or ignore?

If Greg Abbott, under media scrutiny while still applying for the governor’s job, is OK with Ted Nugent, then what kind of bigotry would he be comfortable with if he secured that job and faced less scrutiny? How long would our state feel the impact of Abbott’s policy decisions and agency appointments?

By the way, the job Abbott wants only lasts four years. He’d surely want to run again, having won once, and as Molly Ivins said, you got to dance with them whut brung ya.

Greg Abbott has clearly decided his dance is the Wango Tango, and them whut he hopes’ll bring him are fans of the Nuge. Ted kept it PG-13 during his appearance with Abbott yesterday, but that’s because he didn’t need to say anything incendiary. The audience he was aiming for already knows the words.

All this bother and flap about Ted Nugent is important to me because I want anyone who plans to vote to know what we can expect from Greg Abbott.

[The Burka Blog says just about the same thing in only 3 paragraphs.]

Posted in feminists & feminism, politics, Texas | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Political Math & The Activist’s Lament

The article is fluttering around Twitter as I type:

Wendy Davis backs 20-week abortion ban that defers to women

A few points I’d like to make quickly while this is still topical:

One. When an issue like reproductive justice drives your activism, you will always be disappointed by politicians over the long haul.

At key moments, they will be your champions, but then, they will have to do what legislators do, which is compromise and try to appeal to the wishes of the greatest number of people (or voters, if you are cynical/practical).

This is the activist’s lament. You put your heart, soul, time, and money into a cause and a candidate, and the return is incremental and slow.

We chant what do we want? X! When do we want it? NOW! Because it just isn’t as catchy to say we want it after it has been drafted, proposed in committee, calendared, debated, voted out of committee, etc. etc. in such a manner that a majority can get behind it without pissing off too many people.

I mean, if you can get that into a chant, have it at, but …

Two: Wendy Davis was responding to a question from an editorial board about what kind of legislation she might support, not a question about what her first act as governor would be. She gave a politician’s answer, pointing out that she’s in line with what most Texans support. She gave a measured response that was pretty brave, considering she’d know that it would disappoint some of her most ardent supporters. She could have declined to answer, I suppose, but then we’d be reading an article about how evasive she is.

Three: Let’s say Wendy Davis did write a 20-week ban that gave, as she described it, deference to what a woman and her doctor decided without providing a bright line legislative rule. This would be something similar to a ban except in cases where a woman’s life or health was at risk, per her doctor, and the doctor would have the discretion to say that emotional distress over carrying an unwanted pregnancy would be a valid reason to terminate.

Trust me, no GOP legislator in Texas would support that, even if every D in the big pink dome got behind it. That gives too much power to the woman and doctor, and you know the GOP would be calling mental health exceptions and not wanting to carry a pregnancy to term “frivolous” and such. So the likelihood of Wendy, as governor, having to sign such a bill is slim to none.

That’s a pretty awful way to say don’t worry about it, I realize, but that’s how the politics would play out on this.

Four: This is Texas. It is not the time for a Texas Democrat trying to break the hold the GOP has had statewide for 20 years to become the champion of progressive abortion legislation. No hate from the blue states, please.

Five: Don’t take your eye off the ball. Right now, this could go two ways.

On the one hand, Wendy Davis could get elected, turning Texas blue earlier than anyone dared dream, bringing Leticia Van De Putte into the Lt. Gov. office and a whole bunch of other great Ds into positions of authority. National money would come into Texas for 2016, and we’d have a shot at making some great, but still incremental, change.

On the other, Greg Abbott could get elected. We’d not be talking about the nuances of a 20-week ban, let me assure you. We’d be talking about wholesale assaults on the rights, health, and well-being of the majority of Texans. Healthcare? He’d gut it. Public education? He’d sell it to the highest bidder. Payday loans? On every corner, dragging people into debt with no regulation or protection. Voting rights? ID, please. Immigration? How high can we build that fence again, and how many law enforcement officers can we send south to militarize one of the most vibrant parts of our state? Environmental protection? If that means protection for polluters, sure.

Electoral politics will always let the activist down. The only way to win an election is to get more votes than your opponent, and the math you need to get there isn’t pretty. I don’t like it, but it is the game we are forced to play, so I plan to play it to win. I’m #TeamWendy, and hope you are, too.

Posted in politics, Texas | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Whose Discourse? Our Discourse!

Someone at MSNBC tweeted something implying that right-wing Republicans’ long history of intolerance and racism might mean they would not appreciate a commercial that features a biracial family being cute about breakfast cereal and heart disease.

The response from the GOP is that the news network should examine its biases and determine whether it is really qualified to delivery news and analysis.

The slide show in the news story linked above then shows other instances of that news network saying things that annoyed right-wing Republicans.

Wait a minute? Where’s the slide show of all of the policy decisions and bad votes from GOP elected officials, and statements, “joke” emails, and racists cartoons, etc. from GOP officials? Because we all know there’s a long list of those things.

Why put the news outlet on the defensive when they are providing trenchant observations and analysis, which, in their business, *is* their business?

In the meantime, one of those same GOP officials (perhaps retired – I’m a little unclear on the bio) who lives in a mid-Atlantic state is busy amusing himself by detonating Twitter bombs full of sexist, hateful, untrue, and deeply offensive personal attacks and lies about Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis.

A better-dressed litany of similar accusations was rolled out in the Dallas Morning News a few weeks ago, and we’ve all been busy parsing how long one much live in a trailer to claim one has lived in a trailer, and whether you can still have bootstraps if your spouse chips in for part of your school tuition or you win a personal injury lawsuit and get a huge settlement. But details, details.

¡Y basta!

Why does Reince Priebus get to call out MSNBC without himself being called out for the well-documented history of racist statements and actions by his party?

Why give more air time to what a troll from South Carolina says beyond using his words, but not his name, to show Texas voters what this election is about for some people? Let’s get out of his @s and start talking Texan to Texan.

We have four Lt. Gov. candidates who are pushing each other out of the way to out-stupid each other when it comes to teaching religious mythology in science classes in our public schools. We’ve got plenty of materials to use to go on the offensive.

We have Greg Abbott running for governor. Did you know he is fighting to  exempt the State of Texas from compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, using a legal argument that didn’t even pass muster with the conservative 5th Circuit Court of Appeals? More tilting at windmills.

This same gubernatorial candidate, Greg Abbott, takes huge checks from out-of-state individuals aligned with businesses that prey on the most economically vulnerable populations in our state.

This election is about our future.

We need to set the terms of the debate.

We don’t have to do much digging to uncover all of the statements, actions, and relationships that show what a rotten governor Greg Abbott would be. Let’s start putting him on the defensive.

At the same time, let’s keep pointing out hypocrisy and sloppiness when the media isn’t living up to its promise.

Whose house? Our house! Whose future? Our future!

It is almost February. The primary election is March 4th, and early voting in Harris County starts on February 18th.

We’ve got the tools, y’all, and we’ve got the experience. After all …

Photo by Jaime R. Puente used under creative commons license via Flickr

Photo by Jaime R. Puente used under creative commons license via Flickr

Whose house? Our house! Whose future? Our future!

Let’s get busy.

Posted in advice you didn't ask for, politics, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

California? Let’s Talk Texas, Greg Abbott

I find Greg Abbott’s campaign trope, Wendy Davis wants to turn Texas into California, laughable and sad, one more example of a Republican running on fear and culture wars instead of engaging over substantive issues.

Could Texas ever cease to be Texan?

You let me know when the King Ranch Ranch Hand Breakfast menu dumps bacon, beans, and biscuits for kale smoothies and TVP tacos, and then we’ll talk about Texas turning into California.

In the meantime, we are at risk, thanks to years of Republican gamesmanship, of having certain parts of our state revert to the 19th century.

I met a man last week who works in oilfield services, and has traveled extensively in central Asia—Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, et cetera-stan.

I brought up politics, because it was either that or sex and religion.

I shared with him Sen. Leticia van de Putte’s observation on TxDOT’s decision to allow miles of roads that have been torn up by traffic generated by the boom in the Eagle Ford Shale revert to gravel since they lack access to enough funding to do a modern paving job:

“As if they think that you can grow a 21st Century economy on 19th Century transportation system,” she said. “Doesn’t Texas deserve better than that?”

My conversational partner explained that he’s been down to the Eagle Ford Shale country, and the roads there are as bad as or worse than any he’s had the discomfort to rumble and bump over in the central Asian republics he’s visited. He was shocked to hear that our state government’s response to the wear and tear generated by a booming industry would be to revert to gravel roads, a devolution of technology that would directly impact the very sector of our economy that is buoying revenues for towns, cities, and counties in desperate need of good financial news.

Greg Abbott is apparently going with his strategy of trying to stoke the embers of a culture war pretty much everyone else is tired of fighting.

The rest of us need to focus on the fact that without a serious change in budget policy and leadership, we can forget about California. We’ll be living in a state with the infrastructure of an impoverished country like Kyrgyzstan and no way to compete in the modern economy.

Now, I enjoyed watching Frontier House on PBS, but I don’t want to live there.

That is one of the many reasons I am voting for Wendy Davis and Leticia van de Putte, and encourage you to do the same.

Along a Texas road - good for art photography, not for heavy equipment or commerce. Photo courtesy of Old Grey Mare via Flickr.

Along a Texas road – good for art photography, not for heavy equipment or commerce. Photo courtesy of Old Grey Mare via Flickr.

Posted in politics, Texas | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Greg Abbott, Tilting At Windmills

The top issue on Greg Abbott’s campaign website is this pledge:

End ObamaCare: Committed to Fighting
and Repealing an Unconstitutional Tax

I understand that there are plenty of people who don’t like the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, and obviously, Greg Abbott is one of them.

Would Greg Abbott, if elected governor of Texas, have any chance in the world of fulfilling this promise? No.

Photo courtesy of Kat... via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Kat… via Flickr

The Affordable Care Act was passed in early spring, 2010. Four things happened:

  1. Republicans immediately began filing bills in Congress to overturn it. As of November, 2013, 47 bills challenging some or all aspects of the law were brought to a vote, and 47 bills failed.
  2. Lawsuits were filed challenging the constitutionality of the A.C.A. One, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, was heard by the United States Supreme Court. The case declared, in a decision written by Bush-appointee Chief Justice John Roberts, that the law is constitutional, and even that it is a constitutional tax.
  3. Doctors, hospitals, clinics, nonprofits, insurance companies, and state, county, and federal government agencies began preparing for the changes the law would create.
  4. People who did not have health insurance before the law passed have started to get it, including people who, in the past, had been denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

The law exists. The court has ruled it constitutional. Businesses, governments agencies, and individuals have all moved forward with plans and actions that are predicated on that decision. It would be a gigantic, overwhelming, and destabilizing blow to our economy and our health if it all went away. 

At this point, committing to fight the A.C.A. as unconstitutional tax is like committing to fight against gravity. You can keep jumping, but if suddenly you found yourself floating, you’d be pretty horrified once you realized what else had come unmoored.

If you think the highest and best use of Greg Abbott’s time is fighting against the A.C.A., you should hire him to work in a think tank or be a lobbyist. You should not elect him governor of Texas. As governor, he would have no  opportunity to challenge this law in any substantive way.

When it comes down to it, we rely on our state government for rather mundane things. We need to be sure public schools are, at a minimum, adequately funded. We need roads to be paved, and water we can drink to come out when we turn the tap in the kitchen sink. We need various instruments of commerce inspected, and we need our shared resources protected. Government is a machine we depend upon, a tool we use, to keep the business of our daily lives moving forward.

I don’t think Greg Abbott sees government that way.

Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”

“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.

“Those you see over there,” replied his master, “with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length.”

“Take care, sir,” cried Sancho. “Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone.”

—Part 1, Chapter VIII, Don Quixote

Posted in politics, Texas, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

This payday loan blog post is for you, Greg Abbott and Rod Aycox

I’m pleased that Houston joined the other big Texas cities in passing an ordinance to provide some sort of check on the terrible payday and title loan industry that has sprouted in our state.

I believe passionately in the need for regulating these businesses, which plunge unwitting consumers into deep holes of debt that can ruin their financial future.

I was glad that Lisa Falkenberg called out one Council Member for his opposition to the ordinance, and published the stories of some Houstonians who have been trapped in particularly heinous cycles of debt service.

Truthfully, though, I winced a little bit when she made the very personal connection between the member and one of his oldest and dearest friends, who is a lobbyist for a company that provides check cashing, pawn, and deferred presentment services (aka payday loans).

Here’s a link to the piece, titled “This payday loan column is for you, Councilman Rodriguez.” Pretty clear who the intended audience was.

I winced because I know the two people she called out in her article, James Rodriguez and Giovanni Garibay. I’ve known them for a long time, and while we may be in very different places on this one issue, I am very fond of them both and know we have a great deal in common when it comes to many issues and concerns. They’ve both stood up for me at times when I’ve needed help or advice on various projects—nothing major, and nothing that should make you worry that I’m pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes or exerting undue influence over the legislative process or policy debates for sure!—offering guidance, kind words, advice, and support. Things that you offer to friends. Things, too, which I’ve seen them offer to people who weren’t even their friends, but just people in need of help, like kids in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, or at-risk students at schools in the East End.

I didn’t talk to either of them about this vote, and I don’t want to speculate about whether or not they even talked about it, frankly. The ordinance passed, 15 to 2, and Houston now has some small way to exert some influence and control over this industry. That’s the part of the story that needs to be the story.

That, and what comes next.

The state.

The money spent on lobbyists in Austin.

The candidates running for governor, only one of whom has a track record of working with broad-based coalitions to tighten regulations on predatory lenders.

Many Houston council members pointed out that city-by-city regulation is just a stop-gap measure since the Republican-controlled state legislature has, time and again, killed any attempts at regulating this industry. They said they hoped their vote would put pressure on Austin to take action.

Republican candidate Greg Abbott accepted a campaign contribution in June, 2013, of $10,000 from Rod Aycox of Alpharetta, Georgia, where he runs Select Management Resources. It’s a company with payday loan businesses in 23 states.

Was Rod a groomsman at Greg’s wedding? Were they ever roommates? Frat brothers? BFFs?

I’ve got to be honest.

I’m less concerned about a municipal elected official’s relationship with one of his closest friends and how that might influence a vote than I am about the relationship between our state’s attorney general and GOP gubernatorial candidate and a man who can make $10,000 campaign contributions. A man who employs, if you consult the 2013 Texas Ethics Commission lobby list, ten people whose business relationship rises to the level that they need to be registered as lobbyists for his company.

Greg Abbott and Roy Aycox, this payday loan blog post is for you. I hope that other bloggers and journalists will look into your relationship, and plow through campaign finance reports and lobby lists to see who else needs a mention. Because one outgoing city council member in Houston hasn’t been the person who has prevented reforms and regulation of this industry. The Republicans in Austin have been the ones failing to protect Texans from this treacherous and prosperity-sapping business. So let’s speak truth to that power and see what we can accomplish.

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