Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Roundup May 10, 2015

The Texas Progressive Alliance is busy designing its own TexMoji as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff is busy popping popcorn so as to fully enjoy the Jonathan Stickland soap opera.

Letters from Texas guest blogger Russ Tidwell explains what the SCOTUS ruling that invalidated Alabama’s Congressional redistricting means for Texas.

Lightseeker at Texas Kaos examines the Texas founders’ vision for public education. As a teacher and scholar Lightseeker laments how far we have strayed from this noble goal. Why Texas Puts the Stupid into Educational Reform.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. It impossible to lower taxes in a way most Texans will actually notice without raising taxes on the wealthy and big business. That is The Texas GOP’s Tax Trap.

There’s a message from the last socialist mayor of a major American city to the various Republican and Democratic socialists running (in a so-called non-partisan race for) mayor of Houston. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wants everybody to understand that we are all socialists of a form or fashion. And that’s not a bad thing.

Socratic Gadfly talks about how the New Democratic Party win in Alberta might have lessons for American Democrats, even in Texas.

Texas Leftist attended the first ever Houston Artist Town Hall— a meeting of nearly 200 artists from across the region. As Council prepare a new Cultural Plan for the Bayou City, artists themselves met to make sure they contribute to those plans.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is appalled that Texas Republicans are using our taxpayer dollars to publicly bash gay people.

Neil at All People Have Value observed Jade Helm operations in Houston. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.


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

Better Texas Blog reads a headline from the future about the short-sighted tax cuts of today.

Texas Vox mourns the passing of the anti-fracking ban bill.

Newsdesk puts on its tinfoil hat for a look at Jade Helm 15.

Paradise in Hell is amused by the effort to video stalk members of the Legislature.

The Current reports on Scouting for Equality and their crowdfunded work to get the Boy Scouts of America to repeal its ban on gay parents and adults.

David Ortez complains about Harris County’s role in killing the online voter registration bill.

Robert Rivard recalls the legacy of William Velasquez and wonders what he’d make of today’s turnout rates.

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Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Roundup May 4, 2015

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a Happy Star Wars Day as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff rounded up coverage of the voter ID appellate hearing at the Fifth circuit last week.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos weighs in on the overall disgust for the TX Governor’s cowardice. The C.T Freaks Win: TX GOV Panders to Paranoia.

Socratic Gadfly wonders if, given this was not the first outbreak, having other information about the Food and Drug Administration from whistleblower Ken Kendrick and more, if we can really trust the FDA that much when it claims Blue Bell and other ice creams are safe.

Nonsequiteuse calls on Rep. Todd Smith and any other reasonable Republicans left in Texas to come collect their party.

Bernie Sanders declared for the Democratic nomination for president, and not even the events of Baltimore could keep him from extending his news cycle through the weekend. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs reports on the money part of the equation in the opening days of his campaign, and wonders if the stark differences between he and Hillary Clinton might actually produce a meaningful primary contest.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wonders why so many Texas Republicans act to enable rapists.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. Hooray, Obamacare is working, The Good News About Healthcare In Texas For Everyone But Republicans.

Neil at All People Have Value said as shameful as Governor Abbott is to pander to the Jade Helm paranoia, there are in fact serious reasons people believe crazy things. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.


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

HISD Trustee Anna Eastman explains her standardized testing philosophy.

Susan Criss asks if anyone can call us a “Christian nation” if it is a crime to help people or pets.

The Texas Election Law Blog previews the arguments in the voter ID appeal.

Quoting the 2015 Teacher of the Year, the TSTA Blog says we do not separate people into groups that are more deserving than others.

Unfair Park and Paradise in Hell both wonder why Greg Abbott is giving comfort to the tinfoil hat crowd. Harold Cook may have the best explanation for it, and RG Ratcliffe joins the fun.

Texas Watch excoriates the Senate for choosing insurance company profits over families and businesses.

Mean Green Cougar Red gives his thoughts on the proposed I-45 rebuild in Houston.

Mari Aguirre-Rodriguez demonstrates some of the tools and technologies that a modern campaign can use.

Texas Vox documents the vote on the latest assault on the environment and local control.

Fascist Dyke Motors recaps her story so far.

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Todd Smith, Come Collect Your Party

A Pentagon-ordered military training exercise, the kind of work the armed forces do on a regular basis all over the country so they can maintain peak readiness and prepare for hostile conditions should they be sent to defend our country and constitution, is taking place in part in Texas later this summer.

Texas, a state with fifteen military bases that support the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Texas, a state that, according to many sources, including this one, sends a greater number of people into the armed forces than any other U.S. state or territory.

We know about this because the military has been public about it, by which I mean they used the English language to speak and write about their plans, which they’ve helpfully augmented with maps and lists of locations where exercises will be held.

In response to this most normal of activities, the irrational right wing of the (nominally) Republican Party in Texas is claiming this is the first stage of a full-scale infiltration and hostile takeover of our state.

The irrational right radio demagogues first raised the hue and cry, but what has Texans shaking their heads is that our elected governor, Greg Abbott, is dispatching the Texas State Guard to monitor the exercises just to be sure we can strike back if this does turn out to be an invasion.

Overlooking, of course, that we cannot be invaded by our own military. Insulting, actually, the Texans who currently serve. Ignoring, in fact, actual reason and common sense.

Former Republican state legislator Todd Smith published an open letter to the governor, dressing him down for indulging in such flat-out lunacy:

“I am horrified that I have to choose between the possibility that my Governor actually believes this stuff and the possibility that my Governor doesn’t have the backbone to stand up to those who do. I’m not sure which is worse.”

Rep. Smith goes on to ask in his letter:

“Is there ANYBODY who is going to stand up to this radical nonsense that is a cancer on our State and our Party?”

Well, you tell us, Rep. Smith.

Lisa Falkenberg, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist for the Houston Chronicle, gave him the opportunity to tell us. She called the former representative to ask if he would have sent the letter were he still in office. She reports his response:

Of course not,” Smith said candidly. “That was one of the reasons I did it: I was free to do so. And I felt it needed to be said. I can assure you, there are a lot of members who would love to say it.”



Christopher Weyant for the New Yorker.


Yup. I reckon that’s right.

It isn’t Democrats, Greens, progressives, liberals, or libertarians who are going to install a governor on the party apparatus to bring it back in line with traditional, reasonable Republican values.

It is traditional, reasonable Republicans. You created this mess. You clean it up.

We talk about speaking truth to power, but generally, the person doing the speaking in that context has every element of the status quo aligned against him or her.

If you are an elected Republican in Texas, you are the power.

You have a seat at the table.

You have the floor.

You have the power.

Use it, or quit complaining.

And if you’re not willing to use it, not willing to speak out and take action, here’s the face of the future of your party:

Stickland Gun Pin is GermaneFor everyone’s sake, and for Texas, get busy.

Posted in advice you didn't ask for, politics, Texas | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Texas Progressive Alliance Blog Roundup April 27, 2015

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes that Blue Bell can get its act together before it’s too late as it brings you this week’s roundup.

Off the Kuff cheered on the latest effort by the federal government to force the state of Texas to expand Medicaid already.

Libby Shaw at Texas Kaos and contributing to Daily Kos wants voters to know that voting for mean and stupid people, or not voting at all, has consequences. TX Refusal to Expand Medicaid May Result in Higher Premiums for the Insured.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme noticed a few cases of Texas law officers allegedly acting inappropriately here and here. These cases should be rare, not a daily occurrence.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson. The “big three” had a breakfast brouhaha this week and Dan Patrick got his feelings’ hurt, Hurt Feelings and Thin Skin – Session’s Getting Good.

Socratic Gadfly listed three numbers to remember 67, 3, $10 in 2016 elections.

Even the lawyer who argued — and won — the Citizens United case at the Supreme Court five years ago thinks our political system is broken. But his solutions for it involve removing even more of what remains of the tattered restrictions on financial contributions, and if you want to know the specifics, “you’ll have to pay him for that”. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs knows that this kind of mercenary political adviser is as large a part of the problem as the money itself.

Neil at All People Have Value says it seems there are more reasons than ever for people and corporations to break and ignore our laws. All People Have Value is part of NeilAquino.com.

Nonsequiteuse wants you to watch the video, or read the transcript, of Rep. Jessica Farrar’s declaration that she will not yield while Republicans deny Texans human rights and dignity.


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

Randy Bear, recently relocated to Arkansas, explains how that state managed to avoid Indiana-ing itself.

The Texas Election Law Blog calls for executive action to mitigate the damage being done to voting rights by the Supreme Court.

Lone Star Q knocks Sen. Donna Campbell for an amazingly hypocritical Facebook status update.

The TSTA Blog says a voucher bill is a voucher bill no matter what its proponents want to call it.

Raise Your Hand Texas presented its testimony against said voucher bill.

Paradise In Hell wonders if the “Texas Miracle” was based on anything other than high oil prices.

Better Texas Blog explains just what the federal government’s threat to discontinue the uncompensated care waiver unless Texas expands Medicaid is all about.

Equality Texas urges the city of San Antonio to take seriously the task of enforcing its non-discrimination ordinance.

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It Would Be Funny If It Weren’t the Texas Lege

Tomorrow, in the House State Affairs committee, a bill will be considered. Freshman Rep. Molly White (R-Surely Another Planet) outlined all of the signs she thinks clinics should put up if they perform abortions. You know, to make the clinics safe.

HB 1648 calls for one sign that would say this, in 2-inch letters, in both English and Spanish, that would have to be displayed in each waiting room, consultation room, and procedure room:

NOTICE: It is against the law for a person, regardless of that person’s relationship to you (for example, your husband, parent, boyfriend, or teacher), to coerce or force you to have or seek an abortion.  You have the right to a telephone in a private room to contact any local or state law enforcement agency to receive protection from any actual or threatened physical abuse or violence.  Coercing or forcing a woman to have or seek an abortion is child abuse if the woman is a minor and may be punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine.  By law, a physician cannot perform an abortion, including inducing, prescribing for, or otherwise providing the means for an abortion, unless you give your voluntary and informed consent without coercion or force.  It is against the law for a physician to perform an abortion against your will.

A sign that includes all of that, in English only, in letters two inches high, would be approximately 7’4″ tall by 4’6″ wide.

Other things approximately that size include:

  • Some NBA players.
  • Bathrooms in some houses.
  • Sleeping compartments on trains in Europe.

Puts a new, rather un-funny perspective on everything being bigger in Texas, doesn’t it?

Posted in politics, pro-choice activism, Texas | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

The Hon. Jessica Farrar (D-Reproductive Justice)

Last Wednesday, I went to Austin to wave my fist at the sky and dare the sun not to rise sign in as opposed to a particularly heinous bill aimed at all but eliminating the option minors in Texas have of seeking a judicial bypass for the consent requirement they must fulfill in order to get an abortion.

That testimony was tough enough to listen to, but I also had to suffer through over two hours of testimony on a religious “freedom” bill. The witnesses in support of that bill seem to think that the definition of religious persecution is when your government won’t allow you to impose your religious beliefs on everyone else.

While Wednesday night’s testimony rambled on, we got word that 8 amendments had been pre-filed for the next day’s debate on HB2510, the House’s sunset review of the Texas Department of Health Services, that were all anti-abortion.

Ultimately, those amendments were stripped when the author pulled the bill and sent it back to committee, but that debate triggered an astonishing exchange between Rep. Schaefer and Rep. Jessica Farrar.

Below is the speech Rep. Farrar made after Rep. Schaefer refused to yield to her for question. If you aren’t familiar with the concept of reproductive justice, you can check out these links for more academic discussion of the concept, but this was a particularly meaningful moment when Rep. Farrar made clear that restricting access to abortion is only one of the many ways Republicans in the Texas legislature limit people’s access to the very programs and care that would allow them to make an unconstrained choice about choosing to parent, and deny Texans fundamental respect, equal treatment, and access to justice.

So, maybe abortion isn’t your issue. I get it. It is a burning issue for some, but that doesn’t make it the issue around which all activism should be centered. The most powerful thing we can do, in fact, when the other side wants to use abortion as the lever point for dividing us, is to discuss all of the ways all of our choices, all of our decisions, are affected by the overall refusal of Texas Republicans to accept that government exists to support and protect the full exercise of our human rights.

When you can’t get healthcare coverage, when breastfeeding can get you kicked out of places or relegated to dirty public bathrooms, when you work the second shift at home after earning less than a man doing the same job, you aren’t truly free to control your reproductive autonomy any more than you are if you can’t access abortion. And when you know your child might go to jail because of truancy, or be shot by the police for having the wrong skin color, or be beat up then denied treatment for expressing his or her gender identity in a way some people refuse to understand, when you know a sanctimonious man in the legislature can curl his lip and arbitrarily choose to not yield for your question, for your life … it is about fundamental human rights and dignity and their refusal to grant that to an entire segment of our populace. That’s government of all of the people for just some of the people, and that’s not the deal we signed on for.

The transcript is below the video:


I speak against this amendment for many things, but first I want to address an issue where Representative Schaefer would not yield to questions. That was very disrespectful of a member of this body. If one member can be disrespected we can all be disrespected. I won’t even go into the level of misogyny I have experienced this session, particularly worse than any other session.

I want to say, in terms of this amendment, this language, the severe fetal anomaly language, was developed in 2011 during negotiations between Senator Nelson, Representative Zerwas, legislative leadership, the Texas Hospital Association, Representative Bryan Hughes, who’s on the floor, Representative Sid Miller, the Texas Alliance for Life, and the Texas Right to Life. I want you to know a lot of things have been said by people much more qualified—who deliver babies and other things—but there are other things to consider.

When you’re looking at these amendments and how they affect, not just women, but their families, and the fact that women are leaders of their families. Whether some men in this room do not recognize that, I’ll bet when some of these fellows go home you’re not doing laundry, you’re not answering calls of your family, and taking care of young ones and older ones and such.

But we have to sit here, and we go through this all the time, with what you’re doing and the way we are treated. I’ve served here 21 years, and to be disrespected the way I have been—I’ve learned a lot from Eleanor Roosevelt, and I’m sorry to go down all these rabbit trails, but Eleanor Roosevelt said it’s not an insult unless you accept it as one, so I don’t accept it as one. So the insult reflects only upon the person who administered it.

I want to go ahead and talk about other things.

When we talk about life, and this argument about life, at the same time, these same people will not pay for the state to take of care of these children who may not be able to exist without extreme help.

We have incredible waiting lines and they will not support amendments to require insurance policies to carry this.

The men who were standing here before with Representative Schaefer will not support my breastfeeding bill. Can you imagine that? They’re pro-life, but at the same time will not support a simple breastfeeding bill that is already a woman’s right today and has been.

So I say to you that the hypocrisy must stop. I’ve done a lot of work to keep a lot of these issues from coming to the surface, and the fact that we are here today, on language that’s been negotiated, and the fact that some members left because they didn’t want to deal with this issue, it’s an offense. Now, that is an offense, and I think Eleanor Roosevelt would agree with that.

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If At First You Don’t Succeed, Amend, Amend, Amend

HB2510 ostensibly deals with sunset review of the Department of State Health Services. Update at the end of this post.

A whole passel of amendments just got tacked on that turn it into a de facto abortion bill further restricting and regulating abortion providers.

The representatives filing amendments include:

• 2 from Rep. Matt Krause to regulate abortion providers.
• 1 from Rep. Matt Rinaldi that the state would not pay for ANY part of judicial bypass procedures.
• 4 from Rep. Matt Schaefer that make reporting requirements for abortion providers much more stringent and frequent with more severe penalties for filing late, and removing a doctor’s right to perform an abortion when a person wants the abortion because the fetus has been found to have a severe and irreversible abnormality.
• 1 from Rep. Matt Shaheen that also imposes more stringent and frequent reporting requirements on abortion providers.

Amendments like these are selfish attention grabs by legislators unwilling to do the hard work of building consensus around a bill and allowing it to follow the usual path through the process.

These men named Matt – all Tea Party-approved men named Matt – have hijacked a bill about the efficacy of the entire Department of State Health Services, a topic that we can all agree deserves attention on its own, and turned it into a proxy fight over abortion restrictions.

These sorts of antics are one reason so many Texans have disengaged from politics, staying home on election day, and throwing up their hands in collective dismay over the petty posturing of pusillanimous politicos like Krause, Rinaldi, Schaefer, and Shaheen.

Posturing to them, at any rate. For the Texans affected by these amendments, they are amendments that, should they become law, will have life-changing consequences.


Rep. Four Price, author of HB 2510, just let everyone know that he’s going to kill the amendments. I missed his statement, but did tune in to hear him explaining that it is his strong preference, like many members, that people who wish to amend his bill come to him to speak about it before the bill gets to the floor of the house.

I’m fairly certain that Rep. Price would vote for any and all abortion restrictions that might come to the House floor on their own accord, including those in HB 3994 that was left pending in committee last night. The larger issue here is that many members would prefer to get business done than become mired in gamesmanship and amendment power-plays.

It’s still a long time until sine die on June 1st.

Second Update

Wow, it got way worse before the epic performances of several members turned it around. You can read about the path that ultimately lead the bill back to committee, which strips it of all amendments, on the Texas Tribune’s site

I was watching the live stream during the debate on the amendments, and I’m sure my list of highlights matches others:

  • Rep. J.D. Sheffield, a doctor who normally votes against abortion rights and access, spoke from his heart about his experience as a doctor with couples who learn that their wanted pregnancy has gone radically off-course because of a severe and likely fatal fetal abnormality. He eloquently implored the House to oppose the attempt to remove doctors’ ability to perform an abortion in those circumstances, asking “why should the heavy, blunt hand of government come into that most heart-rending decision?” Rep. Schaefer responded with a curt, chilling line of propaganda about two beating hearts and not cutting up babies. Rep. Sheffield deserves appreciation for standing up to the madness.
  • Rep. Jessica Farrar stepped up, as is custom and as had been happening all afternoon with representative after representative, and asked Rep. Shaefer, the amendment’s author, to yield for a question. Voice dripping with disdain and derision, he simply refused to yield. Rep. Farrar, in the most dignified and calm manner, although her voice was shot through with tremors of rage and frustration, called him out and put the rest of the house on notice that this session’s misogyny would not go unanswered and that she refused to yield to it.
  • Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer put the exclamation point on her statement. Texans know that when TMF steps up to the mic and pointedly asks about a specific line on p. 314 of a bill, that bill is going DOWN on a point of order and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
Posted in feminists & feminism, politics, pro-choice activism, Texas | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment