Essential Services?

Governor Greg Abbott has fumbled the ball again.

Turner and others did express concern about Abbott’s decision to include religious worship as an essential service, leaving open the possibility of large gatherings at churches. At the news conference, Abbott encouraged churches to conduct their services remotely but said that if they must meet in person, they should follow the federal social-distancing guidelines.

“I’m unaware of a church that would want its constituents, its parishioners, to be exposed to COVID-19, and I think there’s enough public information right now for them to be aware of the practices that are needed to make sure that their members don’t contract COVID-19,” Abbott said in the interview.

There has been controversy, particularly in the Houston area, over church closures in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Pastors are in court challenging a stay-at-home order that Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced a week ago that restricts churches to online-only services.

To that end, Abbott’s latest executive order overrides “any conflicting order issued by local officials,” including those related to religious services. At the news conference, Abbott said local officials “still have flexibility to impose standards that they consider to be more strict” — as long as they do not conflict with his latest executive order.

There are at least 3,266 coronavirus cases in Texas, including 41 deaths, according to the most recent figures from the Texas Department of State Health Services. The cases are spread across 122 of the state’s 254 counties.

There have been 42,992 tests done in Texas, according to the latest numbers.

Texasstandard.org

Churches are essential services when schools are not? This conclusion says more about Texas than most thinking Texans are going to be comfortable admitting. It also says a lot about Gov. Abbott’s ability to be an effective leader; that he is more afraid of the religious right than he is of the plague that is sweeping across the country. He also continues down the path that he has set himself on, thinking his state government is more understanding of what Houston, Austin and Dallas citizens need than the governments we have put in place to govern our cities.

If Harris county leadership says the churches are closed, then the churches are closed in Harris county. Look to see that provision of the order reversed, along with a lot of the bullshit his Republican legislature has passed over the last year hamstringing local governments. It won’t happen soon enough to stop the landslide of coronavirus cases that will stem from letting people gather in churches because church services are essential.

The number of tests conducted in the state are pathetic. 42k? The number of asymptomatic carriers that will be at church spreading the disease to other parishioners will ensure that the wildfire of COVID-19 will continue to burn out of control in Texas until hopefully the summer months bring it to an end. If we are lucky.

…also. Women’s health is an essential service. This means that abortion services are essential services. Pretending that the procedures you don’t like are not essential and then banning its practice during this crisis is the essence of making something that shouldn’t be political, political. I want this on the record for the next time that Abbott and his Christianist cronies start tearing their hair and pretending that they want to avoid making this crisis political. Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, meet pot.

Women’s Health in Texas is Still Under Attack

The Planned Parenthood clinic in San Angelo, Texas has closed.

KUT – For Supporters Of Abortion Access, Troubling Trends In Texas – November 18, 2019

Planned Parenthood was the only place in the region that a woman could go to get birth control pills at a reduced cost. To get mammograms and pap smears done. The only place that poor women could go to see to their basic health needs. I know this because The Wife and I relied on that clinic when we lived in San Angelo. Now that clinic is closed and those women who are still in San Angelo have nowhere else to go.

The promise that Conservative Christianists made, that women’s health would not suffer in Texas because of their war on Planned Parenthood, was an outright lie.

Texas Standard – January 25, 2018

They don’t care about women’s health, they only care about maintaining male control over the female’s reproductive system. That is the beginning, the middle and the end of the story when it comes to why they hate Planned Parenthood.

It is the same reason why the founder of Planned Parenthood was reviled when she started this movement to care for women’s health first and foremost. She was liberating women from their reliance on men, and men don’t like that. It would be nice if this liars were better at telling the lies they tell. At least you could be comfortable in the lies that way.

RAnt(hony)-ings
RAnt(hony)-ings

Keep Austin Weird

I ran across some click-baity article on Facebook in one of the groups I’m a member of. The click-bait worked, because I clicked on the article and learned more than I wanted to about the website and the oversized beer packaging that they said proved the new slogan Keep Austin Weird was right on par.

Wait a minute. New slogan? Clearly not written by an Austinite. Keep Austin Weird has been a saying in Austin for pretty much as long as I’ve been here. Longer ago than 2000, the date cited in this wikipedia page. That may be why the competitor’s company was able to trademark the brand and sell merchandise. Because the phrase was in common use before the initial claim was made. I’m not sure why everyone can’t use it, then. Shouldn’t be anyone’s trademark.

In any case, an oversized package of beer is a pretty pedestrian thing to salute as the paragon of weirdness. Most Texans would go for that and it would make stocking the cooler for a barbecue easy-peasy. Just take a look at what passes for weird on the Wikipedia page and remember that those aren’t even the weirdest things in Austin, most of which can’t be captured on video to be shared in the first place since most of the weirdness happens in your head.

Other cities have now started trying to mimic Austin’s weirdness, too. The sincerest form of flattery. Here’s hoping they draw off the plague of Californians we are currently suffering under with their new advertising campaigns.

Just another reason why we love our city. #SoAustin #KeepAustinWeird

Posted by That's #SoAustin on Monday, December 14, 2015
Facebook – That’s #SoAustin – December 14, 2015

The Warrior

I think I’ve found the winner for the most 80’s of 80’s music videos.

Scandal featuring Patty Smyth – The Warrior (Official Video) – Oct 26, 2013

I probably should have figured that a song whose refrain was

Shootin’ at the walls of heartache, Bang! Bang!

Would have an amazing 80’s music video associated with it. Just another moment where I’m thankful that I didn’t watch much MTV or VH1 back in the day. Radio, radio and more radio. Also Texas disco bars, lots of Texas disco bars.

Texas disco bars were nothing like disco bars anywhere else. A man wearing a cowboy hat onto a disco dancefloor anywhere else in the world could be assumed to be wearing a costume. Not in Texas. Never insult a man’s hat in Texas. It’s always a fine lookin’ hat here. You wear it with style, even when you’re dancing to a song like this one.

Weirdly, I still like this song. I’ll just avoid watching the video in the future. Youtube auto-queued Pat Benatar after Scandal. Freaking Youtube and their mind-reading queues.

The Last Man on Rainey Street

Haunting first person descriptions of the transition from low-income residential to high-priced commercial property. Right here in Austin.

StitcherATXplained – The Last Man On Rainey Street – February 14, 2019

ATXplained.org


The article on KUT’s site is here. The ATXplained podcast page doesn’t do the story justice, from a visual perspective.

“I always feel melancholy when I [think about leaving] this place. This is my home. Not only mine but mine in spirit. Hopefully you’ll understand. I’m saying this because maybe –”

Then the phone line cut out.

KUT – The Families Who Lived On Rainey Street All Left. But One Man Stayed.

June 3, 2019.

“Built in 1910 this is the last remaining residential home on Rainey St. A treasure in time ready to pass this Austin Gem over to the next steward to create their own legacy with a piece of Downtown Austin. These properties rarely go to market and awaiting your next concept, whether it be a Restaurant, Bar, Hotel or Music Venue, the options are endless with the CBD zoning.”

KUT.org – The Last Single Family Home on Rainey Street is For Sale

Forcing Allegiance Is Fascism

The Texas Standard – KEN PAXTON INTERVENES IN SUIT – September 26, 2018

Lauren McGaughey is reporting on this story for the Dallas Morning News. She says the case stems from a suit filed by parents of a student who was kicked out of school for not standing to recite the pledge. The student and her parents say the school violated her First Amendment rights with that punishment.

“Attorney General Paxton says that it’s a ‘moral good.’ He said, in a statement, that kids learn about citizenship and patriotism from saying the pledge every morning,” McGaughey says.

A First Amendment expert McGaughey talked to says he believes the Texas requirement that students recite the pledge is unconstitutional.

The Texas Standard

Ken Paxton is a Christianist. He wants to force Americans to worship his God. This is a documented fact that anyone can find out for themselves with a simple Google search. A good portion of Texas agrees with him and his fascist views concerning the Freedom of/from Religion guaranteed by the US Constitution. If evil exists, and I am agnostic on the existence of evil; but if evil exists his views and the views of his fellow Christianists are an active evil in the mind of modern America. Ken Paxton should be shunned. He should be rejected at the polls. If you vote for Paxton, you are voting for evil.

I have a distinct opinion on the subject of forcing children to pledge allegiance, as the title of this article and the above paragraph should make abundantly clear. My qualms about the wisdom of making children pledge allegiance before they are old enough to know what words like allegiance mean go back to an early reading of The Children’s Story by James Clavell. In that story the children in a generic classroom are introduced to a new teacher sent to them by their new government. That teacher explains the intent behind the words of this pledge they’ve been forced to recite all their young lives, but the explanation she offers is a lie, and the children are too young and impressionable to know that they are being lied to by an authority figure.

These qualms came to a head when Texas passed a law requiring that children pledge allegiance to the Texas flag as well as the U.S. flag. I received a flyer amongst several other pieces of documentation sent home from school with my children the year this law went into effect, a flyer informing me that Texas law required all students to mouth the words of the United States pledge of allegiance, as well as the then newly revised Texas pledge of allegiance (HB 1034) in addition to observing a moment of silence once each day (SB 83) a practice that intended to re-introduce morning prayer into Texas public schools. The sponsor of HB 1034, when queried on the subject of religion, had this to say (source, Capitol Annex: More HB 1034 Exchanges):

BURNAM: Are you aware that Governor Perry has recently said, “Freedom of religion should not be taken as freedom from religion.” And my question is, do you agree with that statement, Ms. Riddle?
RIDDLE: I would say, Amen.

Which pretty much sums up the intent of the modification of the pledge, and the accompanying minute of silence. It also showed the utter contempt the governor and the majority of the legislature had for anyone who didn’t share their particular christian beliefs. Freedom of religion is a meaningless concept unless it includes freedom from religion; requiring someone to have a religion places constraints upon the person, negating any freedom that might be present.

The requirement to recite the two pledges has been on the books since 2003. When they changed the pledge in 2007 they felt they needed to inform parents, once again, of their children’s duty to stand and recite the pledges. This prompted me to fire off a letter to the school in response, telling them in no uncertain terms what I thought of their forced indoctrination into religion and what has become a transparent attempt to create an American theocracy.

Dictators and cult leaders require the slaves under their rule to swear allegiance to them, because power is jealous of rivals. In a free society, pledges of allegiance should not be required, because individuals are free of any allegiance other than to rational self interest. Additionally, pledges required of the public are contrary to the sentiments of the founders of the United States, as it reverses the role of the subservient state and places it above We The People.

Obviously, from the tone of this letter, you will be able to discern that I am hereby notifying you in writing that my children will be exempted from this practice. They will not be required to recite any pledges, nor will they be required to observe a minute of silence. This notice is given pro forma, because my children have abstained from reciting the pledges for the entire time that they have attended school; and they have done this without asking me or the omnipotent state for permission to do so. They have remained silent during pledges even in my presence, when I have recited the pledge autonomically; and I applaud them for their strength of will.

If it was possible, I would extend this exemption to any student of AISD, of any school district in Texas, or of any state in the United States, who wished to abstain from reciting the pledge, but lacks the permission that the state requires.

The Religious Right, the Christianist right, have simply become more strident over the years since 2007, not less.  They do not appear to have learned anything from the many battles they have engaged in and lost when it comes to the subject of making the US a christian nation against the will of the majority who like it just the way it is.

Nor is this an issue of socialism versus fascism, the author of the pledge having been a card-carrying Socialist of his timeSocialism itself is not a bad word. Socialism is another in a long list of bogeymen that really should be retired, since the mindset that inspired the pledges and Marxist Dictatorships of the twentieth century now looks as alien to us as most of the other concepts of the time do. However, it does remain fascist to force conformity to any ideology; fascism being the sole surviving ideology that holds up Authoritarianism as a benefit to society. Freedom of conscience requires that we allow people to believe what they want to believe and to act according to their own conscience. That means that allowing people to abstain from reciting the pledge is the least we can do in acknowledgement of their freedom of conscience. Imagine what it would be like if football fans could be reasoned with in this fashion.

The article that included the letter sent to AISD

Tasteless Antics That Could Get People Killed

Bang Bang CrazyAn outfit calling itself "Come and Take It Texas" announced they will stage a "mock" mass shooting…

Posted by Jim Wright on Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Stonekettle Station

It does bear mentioning that the University of Texas already has a pretty good familiarity with the reality of what a mass shooting is like. I don’t think we need a refresher course.

At approximately 11:35 a.m., Whitman arrived on the University of Texas at Austin campus. He falsely identified himself as a research assistant and told a security guard he was there to deliver equipment. He then climbed to the 28th floor of the UT tower, killing three people within the tower, and opened fire from the observation deck with a hunting rifle and other weapons.

Altogether, Whitman killed fourteen people and wounded thirty-one in the 96 minutes before he was shot and killed by Austin police officers sergeant Ramiro Martinez and Patrolman Houston McCoy. They had raced to the top of the tower to stop Whitman.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

If there is any justice remaining in Texas, these demonstrators will be arrested and locked up en masse as an example of what happens to stupid people who think laws don’t apply to them.

Gun rights groups say they will conduct a mock mass shooting this weekend at the University of Texas campus as they try to end gun-free zones.

The Open Carry Walk and Crisis Performance Event will involve actors “shot” by perpetrators armed with cardboard weapons, said Matthew Short, a spokesman for the gun rights groups Come and Take It Texas and DontComply.com.

——-

After University of Texas officials said a gun rights demonstration planned for this weekend could be considered criminal trespass, the organizers said the demonstration would likely be staged on Guadalupe Street, adjacent to campus.

Austin American-Statesman via the Wayback Machine

Facebook


Editor’s note, 2019. As I recall, this farce of an event was called off in the face of serious blowback from authorities as well as student organizations. Here are the links to the relevant articles on Stonekettle Station.

Texas Trying to Secede. Again.

Hanging around the fringes of Texas politics as I have off and on over the last 20 years, you hear a lot of strange ideas. Texas is conspiracy fantasy central in many ways, and Austin being the capitol of Texas means that the conspiratorial currents all lead to the vortex located at 15th and Congress.

Since the clean sweep that the GOP experienced in 2014, the wackos have come out of the woodwork and aren’t embarrassed to let their freak flag fly. Over the last year we’ve had the whole Jade Helm 15 teapot tempest, the newly elected governor calling out the Texas Guard to defend Texas against the largest military on the face of the planet. Governor Abbott calling out the underfunded and understaffed Texas Guard to face down the unquestionable might of the US military. Facing down a US military that maintains troops in superior numbers to the Texas guard, just at the bases inside Texas (not to mention Texas citizens in the service of the US Army) troops that are included in the Jade Helm training exercises. We’ve seen the governor’s replacement in the office of Attorney General arrested and booked while embroiled in a scheme to deny marriage certificates to gay couples who wanted to get married in the wake of the SCOTUS decision.

Texans are also suffering due to continued resistance to the ACA by our sitting legislature and governor.  The ACA may be the law of the land according to the federal government, but the overwhelming majority of Texans spit at it as Obamacare, while at the same time whole segments of the Texas population who can’t afford to buy health insurance are left without any healthcare options because they make too much money to get Medicaid under the old rules, but are still supposed to have health insurance or face penalties.

Since all of this is Obama’s fault, it should be no wonder that a perennial favorite of the Texas conspiratorial fantasists is making the rounds again. Yes dear readers, we are faced with the dreaded initiative to secede from the Union. Again.

As I said previously, those of us who’ve been paying attention are not surprised to learn that the beast has raised its ugly head again. The history of the Texas secession movement is both long and checkered. I’m not going to go through all of it (the wiki page does a decent enough job of it) but it bears mentioning that many shady people for many long years have declared not only that Texas should secede, but that it probably isn’t legally a state of the Union.

Help, help we’re being repressed!

Texas not being a state would be news to the rest of the United States, since Texas manages to pretty much have its way with all sorts of things that affect other parts of the country. Make no mistake, the rest of the US knows that Texas is a state, much as many of them might rather it wasn’t.

The problem is, most Texans can’t be bothered to read;  and those that do read really can’t make heads or tails out of the Texas Constitution.  Or maybe it isn’t a problem with reading.  Maybe it’s a problem with who writes the books, especially the text books. In any case, these factors have lead to a number of interesting fantasies considering the nature of Texas’ relationship to the rest of the nation, as well as its status as a state.

Most Texans have heard the 5 states story, I’m sure.  The theory that Texas could be split up into 5 different states? The first time I heard it, the provision was in the Texas Constitution; which would be quite a feat I quickly discovered.  Upon the briefest of searches I learned that Texas has had seven constitutions since she left Mexico. So it isn’t in the Texas Constitution, not that we can tell among the nearly 500 amendments that have been passed (second only to Alabama. Saved again, Texas) The provision was actually imposed by the US Congress (those imperialists!) in their legislation which annexed Texas into the Union.

This is the tidbit that most people have probably never realized. Texas has already been split into 5 states. There are pieces of Texas in Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas and Wyoming; and while this may not have been the intention of the drafters of the legislation, Texas was paid for the severance of these lands, and they are no longer part of the state. So, yes. Texas could be subdivided, and those crazy plans to have Texas dominate the Senate by breaking itself into 5 or 6 more states that would somehow still vote in lockstep are all too late.  The deed has already been done.

The southwestern tip of Kansas was claimed by Texas. Dodge City was in Texas. Glad to know that. “Gunsmoke” always seemed like a Texas series. We know that Marshal Matt Dillon was born in San Antonio. His father was a Texas Ranger. It’s all coming together.

KUT, W.F. Strong, Sure, Texas Is Big – But It Used to Be Even Bigger

Another one of these fantasies is that Texas has permission to secede from the union.  This feature would be a truly curious development considering that all the slave states reacquired by the union after the civil war were required to renounce any intention to leave the union again as a condition for readmittance as states, as well as adopt the 13th and 14th Amendments. Most scholars agree that there is no basis to assume that a State could secede from the Union; it would be hard to see how this would be possible outside of the failure of the United States as a political entity and a military power.  These facts didn’t stop former Governor Rick Perry from voicing his opinion that Texas could secede at a rally full of supporters chanting for secession.  This wouldn’t be the first time that Rick Perry was in error, especially when it comes to the subject of law.  I wouldn’t put too much stock in his remembering facts about secession, or evolution, or whatever that third thing was (have you figured that out yet, Mr Perry? It’s the branch of the administration that you currently lead – editor)

…in hindsight Rick Perry’s governorship feels like a walk at the wildflower center compared to the level of crazy currently ensconced in the capitol building. Between Governor Abbott’s blatant hypocrisy as a disabled person who was uniquely situated to keep other disabled person’s from taking his road to Wellville, his trumped-up war on Planned Parenthood, his initiative to remove local control from Texas cities, and the legislature’s rejection of a minimum wage hike, it’s hard to imagine how life could get more grim than it currently is for the average Texan.  Which goes a long way towards explaining the desperation present in movements to secede as a political entity from the United States. Again.

A side word here for my fellow Texans.  Ya’ll might want to go back and read my piece on Greece in Perspective (hint, it really isn’t about Greece) and ponder at the level of desperation that you feel today and just who really is to blame for that.  Is it at all possible that that blame currently resides in a white house a good bit closer to you than Washington D.C.?

As an illustration of just how well history rhymes, here are the words of Governor Sam Houston as he was forced out of  office by confederate zealots in 1861.

Fellow-Citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by the Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and manhood, which this Convention would degrade by dragging me before it, to pander to the malice of my enemies, I refuse to take this oath. I deny the power of this Convention to speak for Texas….I protest….against all the acts and doings of this convention and I declare them null and void.

Texans have once again been lied to and betrayed; not by Washington, but by the leadership of the conservative religious power base that dominates all of Texas politics.  They are lied to nightly by the talking heads at FOX news, in the hopes that we will blame each other rather than the leadership in this state that has brought us to this impasse. From the moment that conservatives declared that science was a matter of opinion, that critical thinking was something to be avoided,  their entire ideology became a house of cards which could be blown down by the slightest breeze.

Imagine Sam Houston’s outrage at the knowledge that in a park that bears his name, in the city that bears his name, stands a monument to the folly that he gave up the leadership of Texas for rather than embark upon.  What would he think of the even more foolish notion that Texas could or should leave the union again?

I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her.

Sam Houston

Texas Rising. Too Bad They Didn’t Shoot it in Texas

Bill Paxton as Sam Houston

Seven minutes is all it took to pop me out of the History Channel’s Texas Rising event that they’ve been advertising for weeks. Texan Army Camp – Gonzales is a picturesque mountain hilltop – a location found NOWHERE in Texas (well maybe Big Bend) this is Texas people. It’s big. It’s flat. Very Flat in most places. Especially around Gonzales.

If I’m not mistaken this is part of a location used for Dances With Wolves‘ final sequence. Not Texas, in any case. I did end up watching the whole thing, just like the guys at Texas Monthly. I agree, it could have been much better, it could also have been much worse.

Facebook status updated backdated to the blog.

Wendy Davis

13 Hours to Midnight: The Wendy Davis abortion filibuster, 5 years later June 25, 2018

This entry is a placeholder. A place for me to collect my random thoughts over the course of the months that followed our introduction to Wendy Davis. And when I say our I mean Texas and me, because I’m reasonably certain that most Texans had never met a woman like her before. I will be adding things that I wrote on Facebook at the time About Wendy Davis. Hopefully there will be enough to make this entry look less miniscule. From the time that she first emerged on the scene as a woman willing to stand up to Texas Christianists, to the failed campaign for governor, this article will weigh in. I hope. I know I had thoughts at the time. I talked about her incessantly to the children and the wife, they can vouch for that. I will collect those thoughts here as I stumble across them wherever I left them.

She would have been a better governor tha Abbott has proven to be, without a doubt. The publication date marked the beginning. The day she took to the floor and brought progress on this misogynistic bill to a stop.

Facebook status backdated to the blog.


Texas Tribune

I find it mildly amusing that Republican leaders can’t get enough government interference when the activity is something they don’t like; activity like women choosing to not have children, or democratic candidates who have too much money. In those cases, there just can’t be enough government interference.

Facebook status backdated to the blog.


Texas Tribune

News of Abbott’s appearance with Nugent, a Republican, generated a flurry of news stories and thousands of tweets — many of them referring to the entertainer’s smash talk and controversial past. State Democratic Party leaders criticized Abbott for campaigning with Nugent. Several of them are hosted a teleconference Tuesday prior to the campaign event to condemn Abbott and call on him to cancel the appearances, and Sen. Wendy Davis, the likely Democratic nominee for governor, said in a statement that “Greg Abbott’s embrace of Ted Nugent is an insult to every Texan — every man, woman, husband and father.”