To My Friends Who Vote for Republicans

Please know that I say this from a place of love and desperation—the blood of the children who have died in school shootings is on your hands.

The blood of the students slaughtered in schools, in parks, in churches, and in bedrooms and living rooms … all of that blood, all on you.

This is your mess. Your hands are indelibly stained. You are the only ones who can fix this.

The governor, lieutenant governor, and junior senator from the once-great State of Texas, a state which has been terrorized by two horrific mass shooters so far this year, and too many more equally horrific but not as prolific assassins wielding guns, stood up before the body count was even known and mouthed words that do not deserve the dignity of being named platitudes.

How dare they say we must “do everything we can.”

How dare they.

Because I have done everything I can.

I have shown up for meetings, signed petitions, supported marches, called elected officials, lobbied, and supported all of my friends doing these same things. I have spoken out in all of the venues afforded me, a mere citizen, and not only has almost nothing has changed, in some ways, things have gotten worse.

I have voted in every election, every primary and primary runoff, for years.

Short of running for office myself, and winning the election, and doing so at the same time as a group of others who share my views on reasonable gun safety policy do, there is nothing more I can do.

Some of my friends have gone farther, actually. Several are running for office. One has already been elected.

And yet, we hold no true power. We are but the loyal opposition, which is a more diplomatic way of saying we are the losers who cannot accomplish anything.

Republicans hold the majority in both houses of Congress and, obviously, the White House.

The federal bench? Packed tighter every day with jurists in thrall to the Federalist Society.

Republicans occupy 33 governors’ mansions. They control a majority of state legislatures.

And almost to a man, a word I use instead of person quite intentionally, these Republicans stand with their mouths upturned to the steady drip—not a drip, actually, and more than a stream, even—of blood money gushing from the open throats of the children you have so willingly offered up for sacrifice to the mighty and glorious second amendment.

Yes, you. You who vote for Republicans. You are the ones who have placed your children, our children, on the slab of stone atop the mountain.

In the most resonant myths of our culture, Isaac and Iphigenia are offered up similarly, but saved at the final moment. Even the gods realize they cannot demand so gruesome a sacrifice.

But not Republican elected officials, who gladly stand in for gods and ignore the great power that comes from mercy. Republicans give a fetid fealty to a poorly punctuated sentence, bring down the knife, again and again and with great gusto, slicing through the tender necks of those we pretend are the innocent.

And as the knife comes down, the children know it is coming. They are now fully awake and aware.

You, my friends who vote for Republicans, are sending children to their death, and the children know you are doing it.

You hire crossing guards, you buy bike helmets, you ask conscientiously about allergies, slather on sunblock and set curfews and buckle seat belts and use the buddy system and rig nanny cams.

And they you walk down the street to the polling station and pull the lever for Republicans who refuse to even consider common sense gun safety laws.

So this is on you. It is time.

They don’t listen to me, and they don’t listen to my friends, these Republican elected officials.

Not that that will stop us. We will keep pushing. But until you drop your shoulder and squeeze in among us, we will not dislodge this cancer from our culture.

Until I see you beside me, please know I see you across from me. I see you, now, as the enemy. You have lost my respect and compassion.

If you post your thoughts and prayers, I will call you out as a traitor to children. You have lost the right to mourn until you take responsibility for your complicity in the ongoing slaughter of children in the 21st century in the United States of America.

But when you are ready to join us, we will welcome you. We will teach you. We will work with you, with gladness and without further recrimination, and together, we will find a path forward through the carnage, a path that both protects people and respects the true intent of our founding fathers.

But until then, my friends who vote for Republicans, sit still in the full knowledge of the fact that now, the blood of the children who have died is on your hands.

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Drive-By Sexist Click-Bait from the Houston Chronicle

Today’s New York Times features a graphic showing that so far, just over half of the women running for Congress this year lost their primary races.

The fewer women who run, and the fewer who win, the longer it will take to see true gender equity* in the US Congress.

Today’s Houston Chronicle suggests why we struggle so hard just to pull up even.

Call it a tale of two opinion pieces. I’ll spare you an extended riff on that grizzled opening line.

One is a compare and contrast essay on US Senator Ted Cruz and his challenger, Representative Beto O’Rourke. By essay, I mean something that uses actual words composed into sentences and strung together into paragraphs.

The other is a photo essay on the two women facing each other in the Democratic primary run-off for the right to challenge incumbent Rep. John Culberson.

The photos are primarily from their high school yearbooks. The framing in the captions suggests cheerleader versus jock.

Even though it is placed in the endorsement section of the Opinion page, you have to click on a link to find out who the Houston Chronicle actually endorsed in the race.

Yes, an article in the endorsement section does not bother to repeat the actual endorsement. In case you are wondering, I won’t make you click to find out. In both the primary and the runoff, the Houston Chronicle endorsed Lizzie Pannill Fletcher.

How did this even get published?

These are serious candidates tackling serious issues in a hotly contested race that has national significance. What on earth does publishing photos of them from high school accomplish? What insight does it offer?

I’m not even going to link to it. I don’t want to grant them any traffic for it.

I know the Houston Chronicle has many thoughtful, talented, and professional journalists. Several of them have covered this race.

Perhaps someone thought the candidates’ positions had been given enough air?

When was the last time you felt the local paper spent too much time covering a local race?

I ask again, how did this even get published?

Today and tomorrow are the final two days of early voting. Next Tuesday is the election. Turnout is going to be low, as it always is for primary runoffs. But is this the kind of journalism that is going to motivate people to go to the polls?

Or is this the kind of journalism that perpetuates pernicious stereotypes about women while click-baiting online readers with a slide show?

They disagree on some—a handful—of issues. The way they run their campaigns suggests two different philosophies on who will vote in this district. Their professional backgrounds offer insight into how each would be attacked by the GOP incumbent if she were the nominee.

That is what their race is about.

That is what a reporter covering the race should illuminate and explore.

Their race is not about who was cooler or prettier or more popular in high school. In fact, spoiler alert – they were both cool and had friends and did lots of activities and what they looked like then is as relevant now as it was then, which is not at all.

Those are harmful stereotypes that not only insult these two women, but also discourage other women from stepping up to run. If your high school photos and activities are going to be used against you decades later when you are a serious person conducting a serious campaign, why bother?

I’m disappointed, to say the least. No, scratch that. I’m angry.

This post is a one-draft wonder as I’m a busy person with work to do, but I have to admit that I’m tempted to spend more time editing it, adding citations to outside experts and verifiable data, removing my anger from the piece and substituting dry, careful reasoning, because I know what the criticism will be. I’m a bitter, hysterical feminist, letting my emotions getting the better of me.

The joke’s on the  Chronicle, of course. I barely show up in the SJS yearbooks from my time there. They’d have a hard time finding a photo of me to post to minimize me or my message.

I hope they will pull down this A+ example of drive-by sexism and apologize to the candidates, voters, and the rest of us for such lazy journalism.


*Gender equity is by no means the only equity we need to work on in Congress. By no means.

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Paul Ryan: Also Sick of Your Bullshit

Speculation abounds that someone finally has goat pictures on Paul Ryan damning enough to make him call it quits. Mueller? Trump? Putin?

No, no, and no.

Occam’s razor, people.

Paul Ryan is 48 years old, smack in the middle of Gen X. And, as those of us who share his generational affliction know deep in our bones, and the rest of you learned from Gizmodo back in 2011, both Paul Ryan and Gen X are sick of your bullshit. 

Ryan calling it quits makes perfect sense. He’s tired of waiting for the boomers to get out of the way or die. Boomer congressmen—and let’s be clear, I don’t mean men in a gender-inclusive way, but male men—have attached to their seats, limpet-like, and are going nowhere. Ever.

The millennials, meanwhile, and the generation after them that no one has bothered to differentiate from millennials except the people in it and the folks at Pew, are getting all the good press. And the bad press, but all press is good press.

I’m not a Paul Ryan fan. He picked the losing team, as far as getting it right for history goes, and he can curl up fetal in the bed he made for himself and deal with that choice for the rest of forever as far as I’m concerned.

But I get him.

Gen X has been calling it quits for a while now. It’s what we do, and we do it well.

We understand there is no upside to anything, but certainly not to sticking around for a lost cause. We’ll just do all the work and take all the blame and watch our hair thin and our friends die way too young and struggle to figure out SnapChat not realizing it’s totally pointless and never get the credibility or credit we have earned and deserve.

So go home, Paul Ryan. Let Randy Bryce step up to serve. You know you like him and you’ll probably vote for him. Because you, like me, like most in our generation, are secretly part of the burn it all down caucus. Take pleasure in seeing the GOP implode and know that it would have happened with you there, so it might as well happen without you.

And know that whatever job you take next, it won’t be selling out, because your selling out happened long, long ago. Now, it’s just about self-preservation, and I won’t begrudge you that.


By the way, Randy Bryce is one of us, too, even if he is on the cusp. He’s been out there the longest, conserving his energy, building up an actual skill and accomplishing things that are real instead of striving in a bullshit world. He’ll do great. He’ll outlive the boomers, and he’ll welcome the millennials and the post-millennials. I can’t wait to see him in office.

 

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GOP Dirty Tricks in HD 134

Lloyd Oliver entering the Texas House District 134 as a Democrat is part of the reactionary-right plot to remove Sarah Davis from office. It’s straight from GOP Dirty Tricks 101.

Davis is hoping to beat her well-funded GOP-insider opponent in the primary by winning the swing voters of that district, pro-choice women who are in the middle enough that they’ll vote for the state’s one milquetoast not-quite-as-wretchedly-anti-Planned-Parenthood Republican as protection against a worse Republican.

But with cringe-inducing sexist buffoon Lloyd Oliver on the Democratic ticket, those voters will now be forced to consider the consequences of voting Republican—they might end up with a viscid and vile reprobate on the ballot for the Ds in the year of #MeToo.

Oliver, a man who said women who were victims of intimate partner violence shouldn’t go to court, but to boxing lessons, and explained away the violence by suggesting it was just foreplay. Really.

Do those swing voters pick Allison Sawyer, the Democrat, to keep Oliver off the ballot?

Or do they pick Sarah Davis to block her opponent, settling once again for the tepid tea of well-at-least-she’s-not-as-bad-as-the-rest-of-them representation?

Don’t be fooled. This isn’t just about a Texas House race.

This goat rope in the 134th has an impact on other races.

There’s strong overlap with CD-7, the most Democratic-trending GOP-held district in the country. With 7 Democrats in that race, every primary vote that doesn’t show up in the D column, and especially every woman’s vote that doesn’t show up in the D column, helps that blathering blemish of a do-nothing Republican, John Culberson, stay in power.

The most dangerous outcome for the GOP is strong pro-choice Democratic women with broad appeal and significant business experience winning in both the CD-7 and HD134 primaries, and then again in the general.

To clarify, the Republicans do not want to see a Lizzie Pannill Fletcher v. John Culberson match-up in CD-7 with Allison Sawyer in HD134 giving a vulnerable Republican a run for the money at the same time. 

This is the year Democrats could re-claim both of these seats. This is not a drill. That’s why EMILY’S List has endorsed Fletcher in the race.

Republicans will do anything to stop that from happening.

I don’t think Lloyd Oliver decided to enter this race of his own volition. I believe he was invited in by GOP operatives. Possibly some of the same ones whose fingerprints are already starting to show up in the CD-7 race.

Do I really think that this happens?

You bet.

Story time.

I met a man late one night in Jackson, Mississippi. One of the ways white privilege works is that people who are white assume that other white people share their political views and biases.

This man told me the story of being a young Republican political operative the year Democratic Senator James Eastland left office. A popular Misssissippi Democrat, Maurice Dantin, entered the race, as did a Republican named Thad Cochran. Dantin was favored to win.

This man I met was given thousands of dollars and sent, with a friend, to recruit a candidate who would split the Democratic vote. He and his friend recruited Charles Evers, mayor of Fayette and brother to the civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who had been assassinated in 1963 by a white supremacist.

Evers and Dantin split the vote, and Cochran won. He’s still there, forty years later.

Now, I don’t have proof. I can’t even remember the guy’s name, although I know how I could go about finding it out. But I have no reason not to believe it, especially in light of the stories I heard from a former boss who, with her then-husband whose name you might recognize, Roger Stone, got up to all sorts of dirty tricks and manipulation in GOP politics in the 70s in Virginia alongside their good friend Lee Atwater. Don’t know him? Google him.

This is the long-standing modus operandi of the party of Nixon.

What do I recommend?

Democrats and pro-choice independents and moderate pro-choice Republicans should support and vote for Allison Sawyer in the 134th and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher in the CD-7 primaries.

Then, work like hell to turn out votes for them in November.

Don’t get pulled into defending Sarah Davis. Even if she wins, she will be so marginalized and targeted by the religious zealots like Dan Patrick that she will be forced to vote against Planned Parenthood and common sense gun safety measures. Realize that even if she finds the courage to vote for PP or gun sense, she’s just one vote.

Do you want a symbolic vote, or do you want to win?

Symbolic votes don’t win. Majorities do.

It’s time to turn out for Democratic women if you care about the future of Texas, starting in HD 134 and CD 7.

 

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Buy Local, Fight Gentrification, Invest in Black Women

From I ❤️ 3W by Marc Newsome, one of the installations in Round 47 at Project Row Houses.

Gifts with political heft that support local businesses and organizations? What’s not to love? Here’s the Third Ward edition:

Get A Membership to Project Row Houses
Launched 25 years ago by a collective of artists, I’m going to let PRH’s website explain it:

Project Row Houses (PRH) is a community-based arts and culture non-profit organization in Houston’s northern Third Ward, one of the city’s oldest African American neighborhoods. Founded in 1993 as a result of the vision of local African-American artists wanting a positive creative presence in their own community, PRH shifts the view of art from traditional studio practice to a more conceptual base of transforming the social environment.

Central to the vision of PRH is the social role of art as seen in neighborhood revitalization, historic preservation, community service, and youth education. The programs of PRH are built around Five Pillars inspired by the work of internationally renowned artist John Biggers and his principles concerning the components of row house communities: art & creativity, education, social safety nets, architecture, and sustainability.

Friday, December 8th is a great time to visit the site, meet the supporters, and become a member. Your ticket to Cocktails in the Courtyard gets you a membership, but you can always buy more for the people in your life who appreciate art, activism, and community revitalization.

Even if you can’t come for Cocktails in the Courtyard, get your membership online and invest in an organization that’s been investing in Third Ward for 25 years. With all that will be happening during this anniversary year, you’ll want to be an insider.

Eat Cookies Like You’ve Never Experienced – CrumbvilleTX
Ella Russell’s bakery, CrumbvilleTX, packs a punch. The cookies and cupcakes are as delicious as they are inventive, and you can special order cakes in addition to the smaller treats.

Keep track of what’s coming out of the oven on Instagram (edubalicioustreats). Cookie Minaj, Chance the Cookie, Mayniac Munch … music in your mouth. Vegans and butter-fiends alike will be happy with the options.

The venture started out as an installation for PRH’s Round 43, Small Business, Big Change, but has become a permanent fixture on the ground floor below the historic El Dorado Ballroom on Elgin at Emancipation Boulevard, the once and future Third Ward Main Street.

Chocolate with white chocolate and caramel and peppermint chips. That’s a good-ass cookie.

Go On A Home Tour – The Real Riverside Terrace Home Tour
In flat-out WTF-land, realtors who do not live in this historic neighborhood have created a new civic association and scheduled a “home tour” that seems to be more about selling real estate than anything else one week before the actual legit Blue Triangle Garden Club.

The actual legit home tour that has been going on for 56 years, run by actual residents.

Seriously. Read what the Forward Times has uncovered.

Houston will never escape our legacy/destiny as a real estate development Shangri-La, but people, we can do so much better than this complete and utter nonsense.

Get a ticket to the real-deal Christmas home tour on December 10th. Even if you can’t go, you can support the event.

Help Save History – Blue Triangle Community Center
The Blue Triangle, once a YWCA, houses an amazing mural by John Biggers, The Contribution of The Negro Woman to American Life and Education. Already in need of restoration, the mural was further imperiled by damage from Hurricane Harvey.

The story told in the mural is the story playing out throughout the Third Ward. The art keeps watch over the people keeping watch over the community. Make a contribution, or, if you’re really feeling the love, make your mark by underwriting the restoration.

Contribution of The Negro Woman to American Life and Education

 

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Stan Stanart’s Moment to Be a Hero – Or a Villain

It’s August 30th in Houston. We’re mucking out homes, provisioning families with everything they need since everything they had is done, repairing roofs, restocking shelves, and wondering how on earth we’re going to recover from Hurricane Harvey.

But it’s only about 7 weeks until early voting starts for this November’s elections.

It’s not too early to talk about politics. What’s going on is in many ways directly related to politics.

Now is Harris County Clerk’s time to decide whether to be a hero or a villain.

On the one hand, County Clerk Stan Stanart could be a hero and put in place the procedures and equipment necessary for people registered to vote in Harris County to vote at any precinct or early voting-style polling location on Election Day.

He should also extend early voting hours to the maximum number allowed by law.

After all, this election will have very low turn-out for some very high-stakes positions on the Houston ISD Board of Trustees.

Thousands of people are displaced from their homes, having left without critical papers they may need to re-establish themselves. They could be living in friends’ rooms, apartments, hotels, or (let’s hope not but worst case scenario) shelters or FEMA trailers by the time it is voting time.

The place they usually vote might not even BE there come election day.

With a crisis of this magnitude, Stanart & his office should do whatever it takes to make it easy for people to vote in whatever part of town they find themselves in come election day. The early voting options we already have are not enough.

The law is written so he can authorize changes like these. He can check in with his colleagues in Travis County for guidance.

On the other hand, #FireStanStanart is a perennial hashtag for a reason.

The long lines, the machines that don’t work first thing in the morning, the polling sites changing last minute … this isn’t ineptitude, it’s intentional, and designed to suppress votes.

The clerk can prove me wrong if he wishes by following my advice and making it easier for people to vote.

The leaders of our great city and county should call on Clerk Stanart to be as generous with his access to democracy’s sacred duty, voting, as the rest of us have been toward our storm-tossed neighbors. Harris County voters should demand it as well.

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Fear and Loathing and Buses in the Suburbs

Spring Happenings is an online journal for folks living in that little slice of heaven north of the beltway between Hwy 249 and I-45.

And to keep it heavenly, Spring Happening’s president, Zach Karrenbrock is urging readers to attend a community hearing to oppose METRO’s plans to run a bus line to Spring.

“Implementing METRO bus service in Spring will give criminals an easy way in and out of our community,” said Karrenbrock. “I believe some type of public transportation is needed, especially since Spring is growing at such a rapid rate, however, a METRO bus line is NOT the answer.”

It’s nothing new to hear people oppose new rail or bus lines by warning that public transit creates an express lane for criminals.

It’s also not true. Burglars don’t take the bus.

In a very comprehensive study, Journeys to CrimeAssessing the Effects of a Light Rail Line on Crime in the Neighborhoods, researchers at the examined this myth:

The implementation of new transit lines is some times dogged by concerns that such lines may increase crime rates in station neighborhoods. Affluent communities have often complained that transit lines transport crime to the suburbs. This study focuses on the Green Line transit system in Los Angeles and examines its effects on crime in the adjacent areas. The Green Line light rail system passes through some high-crime inner city neighborhoods and terminates at its western end in affluent suburban communities. The study examines neighborhood level and municipality-wide crime trends for five years before and five years after the inception of the line. A piecewise regression model is developed to evaluate the impact of the opening of the line in the station neighborhoods. GIS analysis is also utilized to identify spatial shifts in crime hot spots for the municipalities abutting the Green Line. At the end, the study establishes that the transit line has not had significant impacts on crime trends or crime dislocation in the station neighborhoods, and has not transported crime from the inner city to the suburbs.

Public transit has faced the myth of the criminal many times. As a result, some pockets of major urban centers are transit deserts, cut off from culture and commerce.

One of the most frustrating parts of visiting Washington, D.C., for example, is that the very efficient and easy to use subway does not go into Georgetown. Residents of that tony territory were also convinced criminals would use the Metro to sneak in and steal their silver. <Insert snarky and cynical comment about the fact that the lobbyists, lawyers, politicians, and diplomatic hangers-on are now stuck using town car service instead of the Metro to get in and out of Georgetown while stealing our nation’s silver.>

This is not to say that crime doesn’t happen on or near trains or buses. It does. But that’s because crime happens, full stop. Criminals don’t come into being only when conjured by two bus tokens being rubbed together.

At best, those who oppose expanding public transit options are misguided folk who’ve never stopped to consider that a person fleeing the scene of a crime would hardly want to risk waiting at a bus stop on a major thoroughfare for 20 minutes in afternoon rush hour while wearing a mask and holding a 42″ plasma TV with the wires dangling from it.

At worst … well, we’re sadly familiar with the racially coded language of suburban fearmongering.

I find it particularly amusing that the editor of this website acknowledges that some public transportation would be helpful, just not METRO. As if the city’s crowbar-to-the-back-door set has Q cards and fierce brand loyalty.

Houston desperately needs more transit options. METRO has done a phenomenal job of studying commuting patterns, traffic flow, geographic population distribution, and re-routing under-utilized lines, all of which has improved service.

Opposing a bus line now won’t reduce the crime rate, but it could mean that once the gridlock gets bad enough, people will stop moving to Spring, preferring neighborhoods with better transit options.

Let’s hope that the hardworking residents of Spring who would very much prefer the cost and ease of riding METRO over having to drive a car (and pay for gas, insurance, repairs, and parking) are not cut off from the city because of a few loud opposition voices.

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