Barbie’s Got a Message for Greg Abbott & the GOP Ticket

Greg Abbott and his surrogates surprised no one when they sunk to new lows with the whole Abortion Barbie campaign.

They forgot, however, that Barbie’s got a voice and mind of her own. She’s not just a bathing beauty. She’s a working woman, and working women understand that if you do equal work, you should get equal pay.

Equal Pay Barbie

Barbie is everywhere. She’s gone into space, she’s practiced law and medicine, she’s made it big on the athletic field and in broadcast journalism. She’s made friends, bought a house or two, volunteered for service in the military … if a person can do it, Barbie’s done it.

And Barbie’s pissed, because in Texas, Greg Abbott and the Republican Party are determined to make it harder for her to live her life just because she’s a woman.

Barbie’s friends share her concern for how things are going down in Texas, so they’ve asked to share a few facts with you:

Doctor Barbie KellyBarbie Dr. Kelly, a pediatrician, would like to remind you that Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents overall, about a quarter of its population, and has the most uninsured children of any state. That’s the truth, and that’s because of Republican policies Greg Abbott supports and will continue to support if elected. 

Teacher Barbie Nikki

Nikki is Teacher Barbie, and she’s had to deal with increasing class sizes and an ever-evolving slate of standardized tests. She’d like to remind you that when the Republican legislature proposed cutting over $10 billion (that’s with a B-billion) from the education budget, it was Senator Wendy Davis who filibustered the budget and got that number down by almost half to only $5.4 billion. That’s a verifiable fact. It was Senator Wendy Davis who saved the day for Texas teachers and students and public schools. And it has been Greg Abbott, as Attorney General, who has fought against giving public schools adequate funding to do their constitutionally mandated job.

Barbie Family Doctor

Happy Family Doctor Barbie knows that babies’ health is critical to their success for the rest of their lives. She’d be a member of the Texas Medical Association if she practiced in Texas. The TMA supported Rep. Jessica Farrar and Rep. Armando Walle when they sponsored legislation to support and promote breast feeding in TexasHB 741 provided direction on accommodations for breastfeeding by public employees, and would’ve helped thousands of working moms. HB 1706 expanded on current state provisions, ensuring women would be protected from harassment when breastfeeding in public.

It will come as no surprise to you that the Republican leadership in the didn’t prioritize or pass these bills, even though they were both voted out of committee with bipartisan support. The Republican leadership is willing to risk the health of babies to score political points.

Barbie and Ken Doctors

Barbie and Ken have been practicing side by side for many years, doctors both of them. They agree that when it comes to decisions about reproductive choices like abortion, decisions are best made by women, their families, their doctors, and their God, without interference from the government.

Dr. Barbie and Dr. Ken want the legislature to know that doctors need the freedom to talk about complex medical issues with women struggling to make difficult choices without having to worry that they also need to include state-mandated messages and misinformation.

Representative Sarah Davis, a Republican, has talked to enough doctors to understand that. She proposed legislation last session, HB 2945, that would have removed a blatant lie from the literature doctors are required, by law, to give to all women seeking abortion care in Texas. The lie in the paperwork is that abortion causes breast cancer—you would think that we could remove outright lies from state-published literature. But that bill didn’t even get out of committee, thanks to Republican leadership, so the state of Texas continues to lie to women making this very personal choice.

That’s just a few Barbies reporting in, but stay tuned. We have Nurse Barbie, Astronaut Barbie, and all kinds of Barbies ready to talk about why Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte, and the Democrats on the ticket with them are the politicians and the party who are willing to give every woman, and every Texan, a fair shot at success.

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

Dan Patrick Bingo

I’m eager to watch the April 15th debate on immigration in Texas between Mayor Julián Castro and Senator Dan Patrick. So eager, in fact, that I thought I’d familiarize myself with Patrick’s views on immigration.

The man stays on point. He doesn’t say much, but what he does say, he says over and over again. Reading it all made me feel like I should be keeping score of how many times he said certain things.

Naturally, my thoughts turned to drinking games. There is a tradition, after all, of associating drinking games with major political speeches.

Y’all need to trust me on this: given how often Dan Patrick repeats himself, recommending a drink every time he says X would be hazardous to the health of most of the population.

I came up with a game you can play without risking alcohol poisoning.

Allow me to present Dan Patrick Immigration Debate Bingo.

Dan Patrick Immigration Debate Bingo  click this link to download your own set of cards and play along at home! All you need are a few pennies or peanuts to use as markers for your cards, and the ability to listen to Dan Patrick without throwing things at the screen hard enough to break it.

You can go for straight bingo, which is five in a row vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. You might consider variations like the Texas T (the top row across and the middle row down), or I for Immigration (Texas T with the bottom row across as well).

Of course, you do face a challenge with the free space on these cards, because the fact is, with the way the laws are now, some people just can’t win. If you think that’s frustrating in bingo, try dealing with it in your life.

A few disclaimers:

  • Immigration is a very serious issue that Texas and our country must address in a serious, thoughtful way very soon if we want to live up to the promise and possibilities that our future holds.
  • Some people might not have certain types of government paperwork, but no human is illegal, and all people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.
  • For information on groups doing incredible work to move our debate forward, check out United We Dream, watch the Race & Immigration section of the Texas Tribuneand monitor hashtags like #2million2many and #not1more on Twitter.
  • I took almost all of the phrases on the bingo cards from Patrick’s speeches, bills, videos, tweets, and Facebook posts. A few are thrown in that come up often in immigration debates but aren’t ones I can document him using – if I used ALL quotes from him, every card would be a winner. You can likely guess which ones aren’t his. [Hint: they will be the only spaces uncovered by the end of the debate.]
  • If you are offended by this, you don’t have to play.

The debate will start at 6 p.m. and be live-streamed on the Texas Tribune and Univision 41 (the San Antonio affiliate) websites. It will be broadcast on Univision stations in Texas later in the evening.

Download the bingo cards, print them out, tune into the live stream, and use them as you wish.

More importantly, however, learn about the complex issues facing immigrants. Reflect upon the fact that we are a nation of immigrants, and that is what has made us strong. Reflect upon the fact that some candidates want to put up the sign that says we’re full – no more room, while others want to find ways to be better neighbors and stewards of the great promise of the American dream, that if you are willing to work hard, you can make a better world for yourself here, no matter who you are or where you came from or how you arrived.

Reflect, and then get ready to vote in November. Because while bingo is a game, immigration policy should not be.

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Tired of Hearing About Equal Pay? Try Not Getting Paid Equally And Let Me Know How That Feels

The current GOP talking points in Texas over equal pay—the reality of which is unequal pay, and unequal access to remedies for unequal pay—are the following:

  1. If women aren’t being paid equally, it is our own fault for being too busy and bad negotiators.
  2. The statistics are being oversimplified.
  3. The law in question that Perry vetoed, and Abbott (via surrogates) would veto, duplicated a federal law, and Texas never tries to do its own thing once the federal government has taken care of something.
  4. This one little law dealt with a narrow, technical detail and wouldn’t really have done anything to equalize pay.
  5. We’re kind of tired of hearing about this, laydeez.

First point: I’m not going to dignify the first bullet with a response. You’ve got the internet, you figure it out. If you’re truly stumped, here you go.

Second point: the statistics are being oversimplified? No, they’re being generalized, but the fact is that even when you control for factors like age and experience, and compare apples to apples as far as job function goes, in almost every profession, white women earn less than men, and women of color earn even less than the white women. Here are two articles, from Time and Forbes, which compare different studies and show that, even when the gap isn’t as wide as the oft-cited 77¢ to the $1, it persists, and raise some of other harder to quantify factors that impact the disparity.

Greg Abbott tried to use the ‘differences in education and experience’ line to explain away accusations of unequal pay in the Texas Office of the Attorney General. Well, shame on him, because the San Antonio Express News reported:

Equal pay for women is in the spotlight of the Texas governor’s race, and figures from Attorney General Greg Abbott’s state agency show most female assistant attorneys general make less on average than do men in the same job classification.

Abbott’s office said the difference is explained by the amount of time that the men have been licensed as lawyers and have served at the agency.

But drilling down into different classifications of assistant attorney general, the figures provided by Abbott’s office show there isn’t always a direct correlation between such experience and pay.

And of the top 20 highest-paid employees at the agency, just three are women, February salary figures provided to the San Antonio Express-News show. Of the 100 top positions, 37 are held by women.

The story digs deep and shows that it may expand and contract at different tiers, but the disparity is there, it is persistent, and it is pervasive.

[Side note: say you and Greg Abbott wants to stick by his surrogate's assertion that women don't get equal pay because they are too busy and bad negotiators. Does that mean all of the women he hires at the AG's office are poor time managers who can't negotiate? Aren't those critical skills for lawyers? What kind of boss would he be for hiring them, then? I think you'd be hard-pressed to get the women in his office to admit to being too busy to negotiate well. I'd sure love to know how their next round of reviews and salary negotiations will go.]

Third point: Why do we need an improved state court remedy when we have a federal court remedy?

Because we don’t really have the same opportunities to access federal courts as we do state courts.

Because in Texas, access to justice is woefully unequal, and to tell Texans they can “just” go to federal court is as insulting as telling people that the main road from the RGV to San Antonio is “peculiarly flat and not congested.

There are fewer federal courts in Texas than state courts, the distances between them are vast, and there aren’t enough judges to get the work done. Thanks to Senator Ted Cruz, vacancies on the federal bench in our state are legion, with numbers in the southern and eastern districts among some of the worst in the nation.

Be wary when Greg Abbott is the one telling you that you have adequate remedies in the courts. This is a man with a proven track record of restricting access to courts and limiting consumer and individual protections at the bar.

I will say this, furthermore, until both I and the great state of Texas are blue in the face: it is just rich that Greg Abbott, who himself benefited tremendously from a state court remedy when he was injured through no fault of his own, has made a career out of denying remedies to other Texans harmed through no fault of their own.

Equally rich? Greg Abbott and Rick Perry saying hey, Texans like to let go & let Uncle Sam when it comes to major policy issues. Medicaid expansion … women’s health program … Greg Abbott’s claim that he goes to work only to sue the federal government … yep, Abbott and Perry are just go along, get along guys, right?

Four: True, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was written to address a narrow, technical issue. Does that mean it doesn’t matter?

Democracy in action is slow, messy, and incremental, but we’re a county that likes big, bold, immediate results. Those great moment of sweeping change are rare, and often only visible in hindsight.

That doesn’t mean the incremental changes aren’t vitally important, and it insults women who’ve lost the chance to challenge discrimination in court to say so.

Five. We know we can turn the ship of government around, and we believe government exists to serve the people.

That’s why we press hard to churn through those incremental improvements.

That’s why we will keep talking about unequal pay even if some politicians and some reporters are tired of it.

We’ll keep talking about it because there is one thing far more tedious and tiresome than talking about unequal pay. It is living with unequal pay, something too many women deal with all.the.damn.time.

Posted in feminists & feminism, politics, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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.

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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