Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Roundup June 15, 2015

The Texas Progressive Alliance is binged out on the Women’s World Cup as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff tries to predict how County Clerks and AG Ken Paxton will react to a SCOTUS ruling in favor of marriage equality.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos spanks the Texas Republican Party for its ideological and spiteful decisions that cheat Texas taxpayers, robbing them of paid for services. Wake up voters. TX GOP: Spite Cheats Texas Taxpayers.

A few people predicted Leticia Van de Putte’s close loss in the San Antonio mayor’s race, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs found them.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know a labor bashing provision was in the Latino bashing border security bill. 50 hours a week is the new norm.

Socratic Gadfly thinks we need to drop a bomb on our entire current health care system, going beyond “single payer” to a full-blown British-type National Health System.

Nonsequiteuse is frustrated by journalists who can’t or won’t shut down wingnuts when they go into the Gish Gallop.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. Good news out of Williamson County regarding renewable energy, Georgetown Will Be Powered 100 Percent By Renewable Energy Within The Next Couple Years.

Neil at All People Have Value took a picture of the mailbox he used to send a $50 donation to the Bernie Sanders campaign. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Texas Leftist wants you to know about the 150th Anniversary of Juneteenth, and where you can go across Texas to celebrate.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Scott Braddock looks back at how the Senate operated in a non-two-thirds-rule world.

Juanita is keeping an eye on Tom DeLay as the SCOTUS same sex marriage ruling draws near.

Greg Wythe reviews the list of departing (or possibly departing) legislators so far.

Scott Metzger offers his thoughts on a recent kerfuffle between some high-end restaurants and the Silver Eagle beer distributor that has many Texas microbreweries caught in the middle.

Carmen Cruz and Annetta Ramsey argue that marriage equality matters to both gay and straight people.

BEYONDBones celebrates World Ocean Day while spreading the word about the problem of plastic pollution.

The Texas Election Law Blog critiques Rick Hasen’s criticism of the Hillary Clinton campaign’s push for voting rights reform.

Jay Crossley calls for an end to road-only bonds.

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Journalists and the Gish Gallop

This was the topic on the Diane Rehm show when I tuned in yesterday:

Declining Access to Abortion Services Nationwide

Two years ago, Texas passed a law requiring all clinics that offer abortions to meet the same standards as hospital surgical centers. On Tuesday, a federal court upheld the Texas law, saying it did not place an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions. And in Wisconsin this week, a bill that would ban all abortions after 20 weeks passed the state senate. Fourteen states now have a similar ban on the books. Supporters of these laws say they are needed to protect the health and safety of women. But critics say they are unconstitutional and simply make it harder for women to obtain abortions. Diane and guests discuss new state laws restricting abortion and how courts are responding.

– Erik Eckholm national correspondent, The New York Times
– Wendy Davis former state senator, Texas district 10
– Elizabeth Nash Senior State Issues Associate, The Guttmacher Institute
– Mary Lazich Republican state senator, Wisconsin’s 28th district

Sen. Lazich had me pounding my keyboard so hard as I tweeted at the nonsense coming out of her mouth that it was starting to smolder.

Clearly, I disagree with Sen. Lazich’s political position on abortion. I appreciated the calm, factual information that the other guests brought to the table.

Sen. Lazich, lacking actual facts to back up her position, resorted to a technique known as the Gish Gallop in delivering her remarks.

This technique involves a person spouting as many rapid-fire lies, half-truths, distortions, unsubstantiated allegations, and innuendos as possible in a short period of time, knowing that a debate opponent, or journalist interviewing them on a television or radio show, cannot possibly have enough time to counter every claim. Here’s a helpful in-depth description of the technique.

When asked about exceptions to abortion bans for victims of rape and incest, for example, Sen. Lazich quickly made up a lie about how most victims of rape or incest get abortions in the first few weeks of pregnancy, pivoted to a tirade about a concept of fetal pain that is medically unsubstantiated in peer-reviewed scientific literature, using medical-sounding terms that are not actually accepted terms for any procedure in the medical community, then covered up her own inability to point to legitimate studies by going on the offensive about detail critiquing one Journal of the American Medical Association by saying it was invalid because it was a survey of other research, which is, actually, a very valid type of scientific paper.

A question about victims of rape and incest becomes a debate about the meaning of certain terms and the validity of scientific research papers. You’ve got a minute to respond. Where do you start?

The Gish Gallop can be stopped—here’s a great story of Joe Biden thwarting it—and journalists are well-positioned to do so. Diane Rehm tried, by insisting that Sen. Lazich address her original question about rape and incest survivors, but she was ignored, and the time constraints and format of her show meant she could not follow up to counter the misinformation aired on her show.

I’d like to see journalists spell out the rules ahead of time when interviewing public officials and candidates:

  1. I will ask a question.
  2. If you give me a non-responsive answer that contains a torrent of information to which I cannot possibly respond, I will remind you to answer the original question.
  3. If you duck it again, I will comment on the fact that you are avoiding the question by using a technique designed to disguise the truth and confuse the issue, then end the interview without giving you a final word.

I’m sure some people would not commit to being interviewed under these conditions. So be it. The internet is a big place, and I’m sure they can find a sympathetic outlet to air their propaganda.

We know politicians like to duck questions. They’re grown-ups (chronologically, at least), and should be able to either say I won’t answer that, or defend a position, without resorting to a technique that runs everything off the rails.

I believe journalists feel constrained by a requirement to be fair and balanced—which is reasonable—but a society in which fair and balanced has been perverted to mean you have to allow someone to lie because they have some inherent right to lie.

Conversations and debate over political issues won’t always be constructive, and by nature, will contain dissent as often as agreement. The Gish Gallop, however, is used by people intent upon disrupting civic discourse entirely with positions that are indefensible and will not hold up to scrutiny.

Why should broadcast journalists be forced to give air time to intentionally misleading information? Print journalists have the (relative) time and luxury of being able to fact-check before publishing. Having a policy of cutting off Gish Gallopers would give broadcast journalists the same opportunity.

Posted in advice you didn't ask for, politics | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Roundup June 8, 2015

The Texas Progressive Alliance is happy there’s no hint of any special sessions to come as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff notes that while Travis County is ready for the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage, there’s likely to be no small amount of chaos in the state once they do.

Letters from Texas explains how a recent ruling in a North Carolina redistricting case may bode well for Texas’ plaintiffs.

LightSeeker at Texas Kaos calls “ethics reform” in Texas for what it is. Government is for, by and of the highest bidder. Texas leads the pack. Texas Ethical Reform – DOA.

SocraticGadfly, reading about a new study that claims classical psychological conditioning during sleep can reduce racist tendencies, has two thoughts: it’s either too good to be true, or, if it has real and lasting change, it’s probably got an element of Clockwork Orange.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is glad McAllen ISD and others are taking care to feed children during the summer.

Do you think Greg Abbott’s first legislative session as governor was a success or a failure? PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wants to know.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson, the threat was enough for the clandestine video scheme that may have changed the game on the budget and taxes in 84th Texas Legislature, Timing Is Everything.

Neil at All People Have Value offered a framework about how to live our lives. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Nonsequiteuse missed the Houston Mayoral Candidates Arts and Culture Forum, but it got her thinking about getting arts organizations out of their silos and engaged as advocates for progressive change.

On her long road seeking the Presidency, one of Hillary Clinton’s greatest challenges will be to re-create the infamous Coalition of 2008. This week at Houston’s Texas Southern University, she worked hard to mend some fences, and shared some important views on Voting Rights.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Texas Watch celebrated its victories from the legislative session.

Grits can’t wait to see if the state’s new junk science writ will be interpreted broadly or not.

The Texas Election Law Blog asks if our government is supposed to represent everyone, or just everyone who is allowed to vote.

The Texas Living Waters Project warns of a new environmental danger to the Brazos River.

Molly Cox bemoans low voter turnout in San Antonio.

Keep Austin Wonky explains how percentage-based homestead exemptions help fuel inequality.

Paradise in Hell is not impressed by Rick Perry 2016.

Texans for Public Justice and Public Citizen call Greg Abbott “just plain wrong” on the matter of dark money and disclosure.

Texas Vox managed to find a few small rays of hope from the legislative session.

Equality Texas produced its report card for the 84th Legislature.

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Arts Organizations As Advocates for Progressive Reform

We talk often of health and human service nonprofits operating in silos, but the arts groups are not only in different silos, they’re on an entirely different farm when it comes to legislative advocacy. Arts organizations already lobby for funding, but more funding benefits institutions more than individual artists, and it has no impact on the larger community save indirectly.

The major arts organizations—and the smaller ones, but the leadership and investment needs to come from the bigs—need to leverage their community connections and partner with other nonprofit organizations to advocate for progressive social change. This goes beyond merely hosting a forum or community meeting. It means strategizing, organizing, and working in coalition to effect social change.

What should their agenda contain? I’d start with these three things:

  • affordable housing,
  • Medicaid expansion and, ultimately, single-payer healthcare, and
  • a $15 living wage in Houston, if  not statewide.

Artists deserve needs to have their basic needs met the same as anyone else, especially considering the myriad ways arts enrich our lives.

Artists and affordable housing are a natural fit. When we think of group homes or supported communities, we tend to think of people in recovery or in decline, but consider how many artists would benefit from access to creative and affordable housing options. A Dutch nursing home allows university students to live there rent-free, in exchange for some interaction with residents. Not every artist, medium- or personality-wise, would be cut out for such an arrangement, but many would. What if nonprofits running SRO housing like New Hope set aside space for resident artists?

Artists need be able to afford health insurance, and to have the ability to seek both preventive care and emergency care without having to choose between paying the water bill or paying for a prescription. Medicaid expansion would relieve pressure on our greatly overburdened healthcare system, primarily Harris Health, but all hospitals that operate emergency rooms. That’s a short-term fix that just helps shift some healthcare dollars around to make lower-cost primary care more accessible. The long game is single-payer insurance. Some artists may not want insurance, but that usually comes down to not being able to afford it. I’m tired of going to benefits to help people pay when they are uninsured, and even under-insured, especially because I resent having to ask other artists to donate their time and talent to make those benefits possible. It isn’t sustainable.

As far as a living wage goes, while some artists aspire to earn their entire living from their art, not all do, and not all can. Some great art does not have commercial value, and some has even greater value because it is not commercial. No matter what, while some lucky few artists will be able to survive and thrive off income from their creations, plenty of artists will still need to support themselves with jobs as hourly workers.

Aiming for $15, a living wage that has already been adopted in several larger cities around the country, just makes sense:

Arts organizations are already part of civic discourse, as evidenced by recent community meetings and candidate forums. Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) status can engage in advocacy through voter engagement and education, and even some limited lobbying. They can also establish 501(c)(4) organizations, and, in turn, 527 political action committees. That’s a quick overview, but you can learn more about what these types of organizations can do here. I don’t know of any arts-focused (c)(4)s or PACs operating in Houston now, but there are some across the country that can be used as models.

Who needs to lead?

The big arts groups need to take the lead, because they have the capacity to drive this work. The big groups, like the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, or the large performing arts groups downtown have big staffs and critical political connections because of who their boards of directors and donors are. Smaller organizations do not have room in their budgets or enough staff members to devote significant resources to advocacy work, but they could leverage their supporter base and include key information in emails and newsletters.

The bigs can also implement policies that help artists. If a large museum with a substantial endowment paid $15 an hour or more for entry-level work, and allowed for flexible hours, artists could take those jobs.

I don’t know what the major arts organizations in Houston pay for those positions, and would love to learn I’m wrong about my hunch, but I suspect they don’t pay $15 an hour to many or any their hourly workers. The Museum of Fine Arts, for example, today lists $9, plus benefits, to a security officer. The Houston Museum of Natural Science lists a data entry position at $7.50.

People like Ric Campo serve on numerous boards and commissions. I single him out because he’s a good example of someone who undoubtedly counts among his friends trustees of some of the tops arts organizations in town. Given his position and those relationships, might he (and people with similar professional and philanthropic profiles) be prevailed upon to help negotiate more affordable lease rates for artists, or help identify investors who could develop affordable housing for artists?

I am pleased that our city seems to recognize the tangible/economic and intangible value of fostering a thriving arts community, but I’d like to see our arts community engage in even more action to make it possible for artists themselves to thrive. I’d love to know of advocacy that those organizations are already doing, and would be glad to help train them or talk to their boards about the importance of getting involved.

I want artists and people who work in the arts to go on lobby days with healthcare organizations, and healthcare advocates to help lobby for arts funding in exchange. I want to see artists and people representing their interests at all candidate events, not just those focusing on arts and culture.

It will take all of us, together, to turn Texas into the progressive place we know it can be. The arts feed our souls, and nurture our psyches. The least we can do is be sure that artists can feed  and house their families, and take care of their health.

Posted in Houston, politics, progressive | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Roundup June 2, 2015

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes everyone is dry and safe as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff reviewed how several bad bills met their end in the waning days of the legislative session.

Letters from Texas worries about the possible effect of the Supreme Court taking up the latest Texas redistricting case.

Lightseeker at Texas Kaos shines a bright light on the woeful lack of responsible, adult leadership among some in the Texas Legislature. Texas Legislators Who Put the Child in Childish.

Socratic Gadfly, with a hat tip to a fellow TPA blogger and his favorite name for a certain Southern senator, killed the birds of both Rick Santorum and another possible GOP candidate.

Hillary Clinton visits Houston on Thursday to collect an award and raise funds, notes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is appalled at the level of racism and xenophobia exhibited by Texas Republicans who deny birth certificates to Texans born to not properly documented mothers.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. There are many Texans that need a government that works for them and not just for business, corporations and wealthy campaign donors. A Windfall For Business, Scraps For The Rest Of Us.

Neil at All People Have Value said that floods in Houston forced people to yield some habitat to Houston wildlife if only for a brief time. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Queso documents flood effects in Wimberley and rounds up a bunch of flood-related resources for those who need them.

Eric Berger tries to explain where all that rain came from.

Texas Vox celebrates an expansion of homeowners’ solar rights.

Ashton Garcia advocates for gender-neutral bathrooms.

The Current introduces us to “Mansplainer: The Statue”.

RG Ratcliffe reminds us that the Lege is hoarding $18 billion of our money.

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Flooding in the Woodland Heights

We’re fortunate to be high up, away from the bayou, and on a pier and beam foundation, so while last night’s strobe lightning-fueled storm did keep us awake and on edge, we’re dry this morning. I could not resist the steady flow of people with cameras heading down toward White Oak Bayou to survey the mess. Click on the picture to see bigger photos.

I’ve heard that at least one body has shown up in one of the bayous, and have friends who spent the night stuck in cars, or at gas stations, or are mucking out their homes right now. Plenty of folks without power, it seems.

As bad as it is here, it is nowhere near as dreadful as the Hill Country. If you have friends with property on the Blanco River, authorities are asking that you search the banks to help locate the people still missing, or call the sheriff’s office to give permission for other searchers to enter your property.

Glad to see the sun, drying things out. So far, this does not seem overall as catastrophic as Tropical Storm Allison, but if we get any more significant rain in the next couple of days, I may have to revise that assessment. Stay safe, friends!

Posted in Houston, Texas | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

#HB 3994 – The Farce Continues

House Bill 3994 is not about making a medical procedure safer. None of the abortion legislation before the Texas Legislature this session is about making a medical procedure safer.

It is all and entirely about preventing people from terminating unwanted pregnancies by throwing up hurdles, slowing down the process, and making it so expensive, confusing, difficult, and even risky to obtain an abortion that only the rich can exercise the right.

It is about forcing advocates and reasonable legislators to bargain about whose rights to protect, and whose to sacrifice, in some twisted calculus about making a bad bill not as bad for a subset of people as it used to be for a larger subset.

I want to talk about two of the more farcical elements of this bill: first, the ID requirement, and second, the reporting requirements. The TL;DR—the ID requirement is still a mess, it’s just a little less of a mess for some, and the reporting requirements are the legislative equivalent of sending Rep. Jonathan Stickland to wag his finger in your face while you try to follow the rules holding onto some semblance of privacy and dignity.

ID Requirement

Yesterday, Senator Perry pulled HB 3994 from the Senate agenda, concerned about the constitutionality of a provision requiring doctors to treat any person seeking an abortion as a minor unless they could produce a valid government issued ID, thus forcing people without valid government issued ID to undertake the judicial bypass procedure in order to get legal medical care.

Before pulling the bill, in hearings leading up to this point, Republicans had refused to offer any guidance as to what, exactly, constituted a “valid government issued ID.” Texas laws about showing ID to vote are exceptionally clear about what ID is and is not valid for those purposes, and Republicans had no problem spelling that out, but refused, when asked, to do the same for this legislation.

HB 3994 returns today, on the Senate agenda, with new language designed to thwart that particular constitutional challenge. Not, mind you, new language to protect people. The sole reason for changing this language is to calibrate exactly who can and who cannot obtain an abortion with one eye on what will happen when it is challenged in court.

To “clarify” what ID is required, the bill has been amended to refer to the Texas Family Code §2.005(b), which lists the forms of ID that can be used when obtaining a marriage license. A few of the options:

(1) a driver’s license or identification card issued by this state, another state, or a Canadian province that is current or has expired not more than two years preceding the date the identification is submitted to the county clerk in connection with an application for a license;

(2) a United States passport;

(3) a current passport issued by a foreign country or a consular document issued by a state or national government;

(4) an unexpired Certificate of United States Citizenship, Certificate of Naturalization, United States Citizen Identification Card, Permanent Resident Card, Temporary Resident Card, Employment Authorization Card, or other document issued by the federal Department of Homeland Security or the United States Department of State including an identification photograph;

(5) an unexpired military identification card for active duty, reserve, or retired personnel with an identification photograph;

(6) an original or certified copy of a birth certificate issued by a bureau of vital statistics for a state or a foreign government;

So, if you have your Mexican driver’s license, or driver’s license from any country other than the United States or Canada, you are out of luck. Why do Canadian licenses get a special mention? Why not the other nation with which we share a border, Mexico?

You can use a passport, but how many undocumented Texans do you think walk around with valid passports from their country of origin?

HB 3994 is as discriminatory as it ever was when it comes to undocumented people seeking abortion. As Texas has demonstrated again and again, however, officially, we’re a-OK treating undocumented people as less than human, less deserving of rights, medical care, or any other basic human right.

Reporting Requirement

HB 3994’s reporting requirements have been toned down from their initial requirement that statistics be kept on which judges were granting or denying bypass requests. Legislators had to acknowledge that reporting turned judges doing their job and obeying the law into targets for violent anti-abortion extremists.

Still, however, HB 3994 increases reporting requirements and puts applicants’ names and addresses in court records. Are they supposed to be kept confidential? Yes. Does it make a difference safety-wise in how the medical procedure is conducted whether the names are tracked or not? No.

It is singularly ironic to note that Sen. Charles Perry, the Texas Senate sponsor of the bill, successfully amended House Bill 2633 so that the names of accident victims will be kept confidential.

If it becomes law, the change would be significant – keeping secret information that historically has been public in Texas, and is used to correctly and accurately report the news and events of public interest.

Under the amended bill, only the location of the accident, the date, the time and the make and model of the vehicles involved could be made public.

Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, amended House Bill 2633 – which was designed to keep the information on involved parties from becoming victims of ambulance-chasing lawyers and scam artists – to block most accident information from release to the public or to the media.

Perry said he wanted thought the change was appropriate to protect the privacy of people involved in accidents. “Privacy seems to be an endangered species in our time,” he said. “Technology has made it an endangered species.”

If Senator Perry thinks privacy is an endangered species, then by supporting HB 3994, he’s essentially applied for a special license to hunt some people’s privacy, if those people deign to exercise their constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.

People seeking judicial bypass do so because they have no other options. They are often victims of abuse and violence. Creating a permanent government record can compromise their safety. They know that, judges know that, and the legislators behind this bill know that. But still, they insist upon leaving additional reporting requirements in the bill, knowing that it is an intimidation tactic through and through.

Let’s stop the farce. None of this is about safety. None of this is about health. All of this is about trying to find the least-unconstitutional way to stop Texans from accessing abortion care.

If HB 3994 passes, and it will likely pass, and becomes law, it will be challenged in court. There are many elements in it that skate very close to the line of what is legal and permissible under Supreme Court precedent. The challenge will cost the state money, and cause confusion for the dwindling number of clinics serving a state with a population of almost 28 million.

It is bad fiscal policy, bad health policy, and flat-out wrong to pursue bills like this, but the Tea Party-driven majority in the legislature insists upon doing it. It’s a damn shame, and it is what passes for statesmanship in Texas these days.

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