Speak Up & Speak Out

I believe Free Press Summer Fest and Pegstar should cancel their contract with R. Kelly so he does not perform at FPSF this summer. They should do so because of R. Kelly’s extensively documented history as a sexual predator who attacks girls. I’m not the only person who thinks this.

cancel r kelly

I’m a huge fan of Summer Fest. It gives local musicians and our local music scene great exposure, is a really solid mid-summer bump to the economy, and showcases one of the prettiest parts of our swampy ol’ town.

My own livelihood doesn’t depend on what I do or don’t say about this issue.

For some performers, however, especially local ones, the stakes are higher.

Easy for me to demand they give up a job on a matter of principle, but in reality, it goes beyond playing this one festival. They’ve got to live and work here. It is unfair for those performers to be put in the position of sharing a bill with someone who is known to be a child rapist. I don’t judge them for remaining silent in public.

Right now, I only know of one band speaking out publicly. From their Facebook page, the Free Radicals say:

Either Free Radicals or Free Rads 2nd Line has played every Free Press Summerfest except the first one, but… Free Rads 2nd Line has decided to stand with Girls Rock Camp Houston this year. We won’t play FPSF2015 (or offer to play since we usually kinda sneak in at the last minute) unless the Girls Rock Camp Houston’s demands about R. Kelly are met. Free Press and Pegstar have been our supporters, friends, and allies over the years. So, we hope they handle this right!

They’re not declaring war, and they are acknowledging the complexities of the multiple relationships, but they are very clearly saying where they stand.

Who else with a stake in the industry will speak up? I know it can be risky, but how can we ask the girls harmed by R. Kelly’s sexual predation to speak up if we can’t speak up on their behalf? How can we expect them to know that we care, that we believe them?

What does Weezer have to say? Would Belle and Sebastian care to comment? The Decemberists?

What about Professor Bun-B, once of UGK and now of Rice University?

Or the People’s Champ, Paul Wall?

Maybe Robert Ellis, who has not only earned nationwide recognition for his incredible talent, but who has managed to earn mailbox money and praise (instead of accusations of selling out, which lesser-loved artists might face) for writing and staring in a commercial for a newfangled shaving cream can?

I don’t think any of these performers risk too much by speaking out. Fair to say that the festival needs these performers more than these performers need the festival.

The Girls Rock Camp participants are listening. The girls who’ve been targeted by R. Kelly, or people behaving like him, are listening.

I hope the leading musicians on the FPSF bill will be music to girls’ ears. Their lives matter. Let’s honor that fact.

Posted in advice you didn't ask for, feminists & feminism, Houston, live music | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Doing Business in Texas the Republican Way

All the conveniences of home while viewing wildflowers by Jack via Flickr

All the conveniences of home while viewing wildflowers by Jack via Flickr

I am a small business owner, and an investor in two businesses that offer accommodations to the public, and I am here to tell you that Republican elected officials in Austin and elsewhere are impediments to doing business in the State of Texas.

Their latest?

They are inserting business owners into the business of people who are, well, just trying to do their business.

Yes, while we grapple with school funding, crumbling roads and bridges, and uncertainty in the energy market, Republicans in the legislature want to talk about bathrooms.

The latest example is HB 1748, filed last Friday by Rep. Debbie Riddle, a Republican from Spring, a northern suburb of Houston. It would amend the law requiring that the “operator, manager, or superintendent of a public building, schoolhouse, theater, filling station, tourist court, bus station, or tavern” provide and maintain sanitary toilet facilities for use by the public to say that:

 An operator, manager, superintendent, or other person with authority over a building described by Subsection (a) may not allow an individual who is at least seven years of age to repeatedly enter a locker room, shower facility, or toilet facility in the building that is designated for use by persons of a gender that is not the same gender as the individual ’s gender. A violation of this subsection is a state jail felony.

How, exactly, does the author of this bill expect business owners to avoid violating this law and being found guilty of a state jail felony?

If a woman comes into a business and goes into the women’s bathroom, a reasonable Texan would assume that person is a woman. Rep. Riddle, however, would make me, a business owner, responsible for ascertaining whether that person had, at birth, at least two X chromosomes, but not one X and one Y chromosome, before adjudicating which bathroom that person could use.

I humbly suggest that it is an overwhelmingly unreasonable burden on the small business owner’s ability to run a tavern, filling station, hotel, theater, or other public businesses to expect that person request a report on birth chromosomes from patrons wishing to use the toilet facilities.

Can you imagine the lines for the bathroom at Minute Maid Park or the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion as we wait to present our lab work?

This could shut down Buc-ee’s, and friends, that would be a tragedy of epic proportions.

Even more offensive would be the notion that business owners could be forced to figure out gender some other way, like requiring patrons to display their genitalia to gain access to the appropriate facility.

Most offensive of all would be the idea that we could be found guilty of a state jail felony if we allowed a woman dressed as a woman, but a woman who was born with X Y chromosomes, to use the women’s bathroom.

We’re not even going to delve into what chaos Rep. Riddle creates by specifying that this applies to “repeated visits.” Consider the multitude of health conditions, both chronic and acute, that might compel a person to make more than one trip to the facilities. Do you really want to be the arbiter of what constitutes a legal or illegal repeat visit when a fellow human has an urgent and compelling need?

This is Texas. We’re smart. We’re courteous. We value our privacy, and expect others to respect ours like we respect theirs.

Almost all of us, at a very early age, mastered the skill of using a bathroom without either exposing our genitals to anyone else or peeking at others’ taking care of their business. For those who haven’t mastered those skills, there are already adequate remedies in local and state criminal codes.

The Republican Party of Texas, of Rep. Debbie Riddle, is not the party of business. They are not conservative. They are not the party of small government, less government, or limited government.

They are declaring themselves, with this bill and others, to be the party that wants everyone to have access to what’s going on under your skirt.

I don’t think that’s very Texan.



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

I Want To Hear The President Speak

Tonight, the President of the United States will announce he’s taking executive action to change immigration policy because neither he nor our country can wait any longer for Congress to do something. Like their job.

If you want to hear what he says, I hope you can find a live broadcast to watch. I don’t have cable, so I can’t watch C-SPAN. I just have over-the-air, old fashioned antenna teevee. Provided it isn’t too windy, I can watch at 8 pm EST tonight:

  • ABC: Grey’s Anatomy
  • CBS: The Big Bang Theory
  • NBC: Bad Judge

But I can’t watch the President make what will unquestionably be one of his most controversial, endlessly debated policy announcements of his two terms in office unless I tune into Univision. I’ll do so, but it comes higher up on the dial, so reception is much spottier for me. Here’s hoping for no wind or Comcast not screwing up my broadband in case I can stream it. (Pinning one’s hopes on Comcast … )

One report:

President Barack Obama will announce his highly anticipated plan to deal with millions of illegal immigrants tomorrow night. While the cable news networks will carry the 8pmET announcement, the broadcast networks — deep into November sweeps — will not.

According to network insiders, the White House did not request time from the networks for tomorrow night’s primetime speech. But because it comes at 5pm Pacific Time the network evening newscasts will have to update their programs.

I’m not sure, but wonder if the White House didn’t ask because they knew they wouldn’t get it? To be fair, though, that is “according to network insiders,” so who knows whether that is true or what game is being played.

We wring our hands about low voter turnout. We all post the video of Texas Tech students unclear on when the Civil War actually took place, or who won. But we have major networks whose broadcast licenses are awarded as a public trust, and they won’t broadcast a major policy decision that affects the future of our nation, the stability of our economy, and the lives of our families, friends, and neighbors.

We don’t have to figure out whether to blame the networks for pandering during sweeps, the populace for demanding our bread and circuses, or the government for refusing to function except in crisis mode. There’s enough blame to go around.

It seems like spitting into the wind to suggest emailing, calling, or tweeting the networks, or the White House, or both, but the day we get tired of raising our voices is the day we lose them completely. So, get to it.

ABC Email comment form 
@ABC (ABC News)

CBS Email comment form
@KHOU – Houston CBS affiliate

NBC Email comment form

The White House Contact the White House

Posted in politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Cult of Mommy and The Cult of the Fetus

If I were in charge of lay-out for the New York Times, I would have printed these articles on facing pages:

Our ‘Mommy’ Problem
Motherhood. Is it a private relationship between a parent and child, or something that gives just about anyone the right to participate, direct, comment upon, or otherwise influence the way you interact with your child or children, and to reduce your meaning in the world as only that interaction and relationship?

I’m not a mommy, and won’t ever be one, and yet there are people, mostly men but not always, who will address me as such at random times and in random places. I’m even a little guilty of it when I assume, when talking to women about politics, that I should bring up education as an issue that will no doubt be important to them. Because mommy.

Pregnant, and No Civil Rights
As states try (and try and try, and sometimes succeed) to enact personhood laws, women are not only reduced to their potential role as mommy, but they are legally shown to be less valuable, less worthy of civil rights or humane treatment, than even a fetus which exists entirely within their own bodies.

How does this play out? Based on the belief that he had an obligation to give a fetus a chance for life, a judge in Washington, D.C., ordered a critically ill 27-year-old woman who was 26 weeks pregnant to undergo a cesarean section, which he understood might kill her. Neither the woman nor her baby survived.

In Iowa, a pregnant woman who fell down a flight of stairs was reported to the police after seeking help at a hospital. She was arrested for “attempted fetal homicide.”

The organization National Advocates for Pregnant Women is a critical part of the reproductive justice movement, expanding our notion of what it means and whether it really is possible to choose whether, when, and how to parent. They’re documenting a disturbing new reality:

Last year, we published a peer-reviewed study documenting 413 arrests or equivalent actions depriving pregnant women of their physical liberty during the 32 years between 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, and 2005 . . . Since 2005, we have identified an additional 380 cases, with more arrests occurring every week.

What on earth is wrong with this country that in 2014, we still cannot handle women as fully actualized humans worth of respect and civil rights completely apart from any propensity to procreate?

Posted in feminists & feminism, politics, pro-choice activism | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

What Comes Next: Advice from Simon Rosenberg

I’ve heard Simon Rosenberg speak twice now, and check in on his blog from time to time. Always weighty and thought-provoking.

Trust me that I’m not giving anything away by excerpting the end of his post, which you should read in its entirety, about how Democrats should move forward:

Reinvigorate the Democratic Party – President Obama and his team should leave his fellow Democrats a reinvigorated DNC with a new mission.  He should establish a “2024 Project,” one focused on doing what is required for Democrats to roll back recent GOP gains and come out of the next redistricting as the dominant political party in America with majority control in the Senate, House and state houses and legislatures across the country.   At the core of this project must be strategies to expand the new majority coalition built in recent years into terrain critical for winning more control in Congress and in the states.

Among the more operational things the DNC should take primary lead on now is recruiting and training a new generation of candidates and operatives needed to beat a new generation of Republicans, expanding and turning out the new majority coalition, and advancing efforts to make it easier for people to vote in every state and locality in the country.   A $50 to $100m fund should be put aside for a national paid media effort in off-year elections too.

Too many of these important responsibilities have been left to others parts of the center-left ecosystem.   It is time for the most important piece of this ecosystem – the Democratic Party itself – to be challenged to fulfill its rightful and vital role as the enterprise charting the future of all Democrats over the next decade.

We will be issuing a separate memo on the Hispanic vote soon.

I share for several reasons, including his reinforcement of what we all know to be true when we’re being honest with ourselves, and what we ignore when we devolve into too much blame and not enough critical analysis of recent events:

  • He’s talking 2024 because this kind of work takes time.
  • It also takes massive and strategic investment in what—and especially who—is coming next.
  • He refers to an ecosystem, and while he calls the party the most important piece, he’s also clearly saying that all of the pieces depend upon each other and need care and feeding.

We’re lacking some of those critical elements in the ecosystem in Texas. I hope that the progressive leadership & political entrepreneurship program we’re launching will be a healthy and beneficial addition. None of us can do it alone, though.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for his next memo on “the” Hispanic vote.

Posted in advice you didn't ask for, big questions, politics | Tagged | Leave a comment

My Thoughts on Battleground Texas

As expected, everybody’s going after Battleground Texas. Republicans, for sure, trying to make us give up. The media, too, who walk the line between wanting to be impartial and objective, but also wanting to sound like experts with the inside track who are the first to say I told you so.

The calls, however, are also coming from inside the house. I’m talking about Democrats jumping on the anti-Battleground bandwagon.

That’s who I’m talking to right now. Some of you have been on it from the start, and some of you waited until  the returns started coming in, but I knew that sooner or later, you’d get in on it.

Here’s the deal—I volunteered on a Battleground team. I took part in a weekly phone bank. I helped out with some block-walks. I registered new voters, sometimes even driving to their homes or offices to sign them up or help them update their registration. I did a ton of data entry to support many others who called, block walked, and registered voters.

I also helped organize several fundraisers for the candidates at the top of our ticket, most with low ticket prices so they would be accessible to a wide range of people, and I served on host committees and attended events organized by other people for other candidates. I also organized a couple of coffees where people could learn more about specific issues, like education and women’s health, at my own home. I also took part in some public gatherings that featured speakers on issues ranging from immigration to transportation alternatives. There was no charge for those unless you wanted to buy a drink.

I voted early, which gave me time to drive other people to the polls. And then, on election day, I supported two teams of poll monitors who were the first line of recourse for people who were, for whatever reason, unable to vote.

I didn’t limit my engagement to only Battleground. I worked with other groups as well.

I did all of that, and I noticed something.

I never saw you at the phone bank. And when I called your house, you didn’t answer.

I didn’t see your name on the list at the door at my events, and when I knocked on your door at home, if it wasn’t inaccessible behind a locked gate, you sat silent until I left. When I was asking for help getting people to drive others to the polls, you weren’t available.

A few of you showed up to something every once in a while, but you stood at the back of the room talking to people you already knew, criticizing what others were doing. You didn’t introduce yourself to the new people or offer to help them learn what to do, or how to do it better.

I try very hard not to be the person who stands at the back of the room with my arms crossed and a smirk on my face, rolling my eyes because new people, different people, other people, are doing it wrong, or differently, or for a different audience. I try hard not to be that person because I don’t think it is constructive. Plus, I know there are some of you who’ve already mastered it, and I wouldn’t want to try to elbow in on your corner of the action.

I’m used to hard work that takes a long time and doesn’t necessarily yield wild success from the get-go. I know that kind of work goes better the more people you have doing it.

So the next time I call, pick up the damn phone.

Let’s talk about what we can do to move forward toward 2015 and 2016 and 2028.

Give me your tips for how to build a better phone bank, or voter registration drive, or GOTV program. Let’s pick a few precincts and work them hard in 2015 to see how we can drive turnout higher in 2016 and 2018.

Let’s test out our theories and reinvigorate our base. Let’s analyze the data, but let’s also work to be sure there is enough data to analyze.

Make the drive with me up to Austin some day to register support for a good bill or opposition to a bad one. I’ll pay for the gas and the kolaches at the halfway point.

Or do something else and don’t get me involved until you come to me after the fact to show me the measurable progress you made doing it your way. I want to know how to be successful, and if my way doesn’t work as well as your way, then I want to make your way mine, too.

But if you want to stand there and talk to me about how you knew it wouldn’t work, step off. If you knew it was a train wreck in slow motion, then good for you. Want a cookie? If you want to tear people and programs down instead of working to build them up, please move along. You can go to hell, and I’ll keep working for Texas.


Posted in Houston, politics, Texas, time for action | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Who’s Worried About Turning Texas Into California?

Here is what Greg Abbott means when he talks about beefing up his border security plan:

Candidate Greg Abbott with Chuck Norris and Norris's wife

So … ummmmm … plan accordingly.

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