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Barack Hussein Obama Approves Federal Assistance For Texas Wildfire And Drought Emergency That Texans Are Unable To Resolve Without Washington’s Help

President Obama has declared 45 Texas counties to be disaster areas because of wildfires and drought.

(Above–Homes destroyed by Texas wildfires earlier this year in the vicinity of Possum Kingdom Lake. Photo by unherdable) 

Federal money and other federal assistance will now come to Texas because of President Obama’s decision.

These fires and the never-ending statewide drought are problems that Texas cannot resolve without additional help from Washington.

That’s fine as far as I’m concerned. Sometimes in life you need help.

Maybe this is something that folks in the impacted counties and all across Texas can remember as they go on and on about about how bad government is and how the federal government is all about socialism.

So often the response from the conservative voting majority in Texas for a request for help is a kick in head.

July 2, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 4 Comments

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up—The Work Of Freedom Is Up To Each Of Us

Here is the weekly round-up of the Texas Progressive Alliance. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas. TPA members are citizen-bloggers who are working hard for a better Texas.

Though given the unusually small number of entries in this most recent round-up, it does seem that some of my fellow bloggers were taking the Fourth of July a bit easy.

Every Texan has the ability has the ability to attend a public meeting, attend or organize a protest, write or call an elected official, talk to friends and family, start a blog, donate money, write a letter to the editor, volunteer for candidates and causes, engage in acts of civil disobedience, and even run for public office. The work of freedom is up to each of us.

Off the Kuff took a look at changes in turnout in Congressional districts between 2006 and 2010.

After much chaos, the GOP-led Texas Lege finally adjourned this week. WCNews at Eye On Williamson says that what we got is what happenswhen fools rule.

How does “Tommy Lee Jones, United States Senator from Texas” sound? It’s still a possibility, according to the recent news collected by PDiddie atBrains and Eggs.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is already sick of Rick Perry’s presidential run, what with the propaganda and a**hattery.

Neil at Texas Liberal noted that despite all the talk in Texas about how the federal government is bad, the state of Texas is taking disaster aid from Washington to help manage wildfires and drought.

July 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

President Obama To Visit Texas—How Will He Refrain From Laughing When Some Texans Demand More Federal Help?

President Obama will be Texas today.

The President is scheduled to visit El Paso and Austin.

(Above–President Obama at Texas A & M University in 2009. President Obama and Texans get along just fine–Unless some folks would claim that the photo is a fake.)   

Because the Johnson Space Center Houston was not awarded a retired space shuttle, and because the President has not declared a federal emergency over ongoing wildfires in Texas, some feel Mr. Obama does not like Texas.

This article on the President’s visit to Texas written by Maria Recio at McClatchy Newspapers has the following quote–

“You can almost make the case the administration has a vendetta against Texas,” said Republican Rep. Michael Burgess.

Congressman Burgess has also been going around talking about fictitious death panels as a part of Health Care Reform.

Why would anybody not like such a fine person?

The federal government has helped Texas with the wildfires—

“Current federal aid covers 75 percent of Texas’s costs for emergency response work, such as evacuations, equipment, field camps and meals for firefighters, police barricading and traffic control. The agency’s regional office in Denton continues to monitor the situation and work closely with Texas Forest Service and Texas Division of Emergency Management, FEMA officials say. In addition, firefighting teams from more than 30 states have provided state-to-state support for firefighting efforts in Texas.”

Texas Governor Rick Perry has asked why parts tornado ravaged Alabama have been declared disaster zones while  Texas has not been so designated.

From our Governor—

“You have to ask, ‘Why are you taking care of Alabama and other states?’ I know our letter didn’t get lost in the mail…” 

What a decent Christian man.

If it is all about a political grudge, why should President Obama help Alabama anymore than he should assist Texas? Barack Obama won 39% of the vote in Alabama in 2008. He lost Texas with 44% of the vote.

The President is not going to win Alabama in 2012.

Here is the bottom line—

Rick Perry and Texas accepted many billions of dollars of Barack Obama approved federal stimulus dollars. 

The federal government has helped Texas with the wildfires.  Tea Party supporters and other Republicans and others are free to form a battalion citizen volunteers to help Texans deal with the problems presented by wildfires. To this point, though the fires have been going on for some weeks now, I’m not aware of any so-assembled  citizen-volunteers.

* The Lyndon B. Johnson  Space Center was a gift to Texas from a Texas politician who looked up to Franklin D. Roosevelt as a hero. You’d think that conservative Texans would be demanding that the federally operated  Space Center be removed from Texas as an intrusion upon our states rights and sense of self -reliance.

It is not that I view Barack Obama with an uncritical eye, it is just that opposition to him in some quarters of Texas is so extreme that you can’t but help to be glad to see the guy in the Lone Star State. You’ve got to appreciate him for the enemies he has made.

The bad news for Texans is that these enemies, maybe 20% of all Texans, are the people who vote in Republican primaries. This angry minority is doing great harm to public education and public health in Texas.

May 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Texas Forced Sonogram Bill On Way Towards Passage—15 Men And 2 Women

The Texas forced sonogram bill is on the way to Governor Rick Perry’s desk. The Governor intends to sign the bill.

Below is what Republican State Senator Dan Patrick–the Senate sponsor of the bill– said about the picture you see above—

“Speaking at the House press conference this morning on their acceptance of the latest version of the bill. Thanks to Rep Miller (white hat) and House members who worked with us to pass this bill.”

Senator Patrick is the gentleman shaking hands with the fellow in the white hat.

I count 15 men and 2 women in that picture.

Those are some of the people responsible for the fact that in Texas the state government will soon force some women to undergo unwanted highly invasive medical procedures.

Here are some details about the forced sonogram bill from the Houston Chronicle

“… a bill requiring a woman seeking an abortion to view sonogram images of her fetus tentatively passed the state Senate. The vote was 21-10. State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston… said he was confident the legislation would pass the House and make it to the governor’s desk, thereby giving Texas what he called “one of the strongest bills dealing with this issue in the country.”  Labeled “emergency” legislation by Gov. Rick Perry early in the session, the bill would require the image to be shown to the woman at least 24 hours before an abortion is performed. It also would require doctors or medical professionals to play audio of the fetal heartbeat if there is one and point out to the woman the arms, legs and internal organs of the fetus. A woman could choose not to view the sonogram or hear the heartbeat but would be required to listen as the medical professional points out the arms, legs and internal organs that are visible on the screen.Victims of rape and incest would be exempt from the sonogram requirement, under Patrick’s bill.”

If the state can force one medical procedure on free citizens, why can’t it force any medical procedure on free citizens?

Yet the same people turn around and say it is wrong to compel people to buy health insurance as part of health care reform.

In Texas, “Choose life” appears to mean choose a crappy life with no health insurance, no social security, no steady work, and no quality education.

Will women who refuse the sonograms be arrested? Will they be in some way forced to get the sonogram? Will doctors be forced to detail patient conversations in order to prosecute women who refuse to comply?

This is how the State of Texas defines small government and personal freedom.

The good news is that we all have the ability to fight back and win. Please consider giving to the lobbying arm of Planned Parenthood. You can do so at the national level or where you live.

Here is some information about what Planned Parenthood does in Texas. Planned Parenthood provides many vital health services for women in Texas.

There are always things you can do to make progress. Don’t leave the work of freedom to others. Others don’t always do a very good job with freedom. Especially in Texas.

May 5, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 6 Comments

Texas House Republicans Consider Tax Breaks For Yachts As Vital State Services Are Cut—Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up

At the end of this post you’ll find the current Texas Progressive Alliance round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.

With the round-up this week, I’m passing on the news that the Republican-controlled Ways and Means committee of the Texas House of Representatives has okayed a tax break for the purchase of yachts.

(Above–Little comment needed. Photo by B. Straub.)

From the Houston Chronicle-

“Republican Rep. John Davis said other states have paved the way for his proposal — primarily Florida, which backers of his bill say is No. 1 in boat sales to Texas’ No. 2. “We’re losing our yacht sales in Texas to Florida,” said Davis…. Davis said it’s not so much a big break for yacht owners as an effort to keep the economic activity surrounding the vessels. “We’re losing a lot of downstream jobs and sales tax revenue,” he said, because Florida has limited sales taxes on yachts to $18,000. Davis’ bill, as filed, would limit the amount of boat tax to $15,625 – the amount normally due on a $250,000 vessel – regardless of sales price. He said he’s changing that to match Florida’s $18,000 maximum.The fiscal analysis on the original bill said it would cost Texas $1.4 million annually in lost tax revenue, but supporters including yacht brokers note the figure doesn’t take into account the ripple effect of Texas losing yachts. Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, said at a Ways and Means hearing on the proposal that he felt like “I just walked through the Twilight Zone.”

Beyond what this proposal says about some yacht owners, the Florida legislature, Rep. Davis, and our nation as a whole, let’s say that giving a tax break to yacht buyers really would spur some minor amount of economic activity and jobs here in Texas.  I’m not conceding that point—But let’s just say.

Wouldn’t better educating our kids, providing greater resources for public health, and avoiding the public sector layoffs we are seeing in Texas also be good for our state?  Wouldn’t these things create economic benefits and jobs in Texas? Yet our state legislature seems intent on attacking the most important aspects of our future in Texas in the current budget debate.

Let’s take teacher layoffs in Texas. Rather than maybe or maybe not keeping people employed in such a round-about way with tax breaks for the purchase of yachts, why not take the funds that will be lost from the yacht tax break and put those funds towards retaining teachers who would otherwise be terminated?

Or, instead, maybe we could just have tax breaks for the purchase of yachts.

Here is the round-up—

The long range plan to kill public education is reaching the end game. Over a tTexasKaos, lightseeker talks about seeing one of the (unintentional) moving parts at a public lecture given by one of the premier charter schools in the nation. Check out Educational Reform and Our Common Peril!

Bay Area Houston has the latest on state representative Larry Taylor’s emergency surgery.

What conservatives believe to be true ranks far above what is actually true,and even what is demonstrably true according to science and mathematics. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs points out that this why Rick Perry declares Easter weekend as ‘Days of Prayer for Rain in Texas’, and why John Cornyn “isn’t so sure” that Jon Kyl was wrong when he claimed that abortions were 90% of Planned Parenthood’s budget. It should consequently be no surprise that they place no value in teachers and education.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme thinks the Texas Supreme Court, aka the republican crony justice system, sucks. Continue reading

May 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rick Perry Asks For Help From Washington For Texas Wildfires—Where Are The Tea Party Volunteer Disaster Relief Teams?

Texas Governor Rick Perry wants President Barack Obama to declare parts of Texas as disaster areas because of ongoing wildfires.

( Above—2011 Texas wildfires.)

From CNN

‘Texas Gov. Rick Perry is asking the federal government to declare the state a disaster area, a bid to spur assistance during a particularly potent wildfire season that has imperiled lives, structures and livelihoods in 252 counties, his office said in a statement Sunday. In his letter written late Saturday to President Barack Obama, sent through a Texas-based Federal Emergency Management Agency official, Perry said that above-average temperatures, lack of rain and low humidity have “caused extreme fire danger over most of the state.” “The wildland fire risk potential has reached a critically high level,” the governor wrote. These conditions “present a serious hazard to the lives and property of the citizens of the state.”

I see.

Texans need help from the federal government because of things beyond their control.

I thought the conservative Texas ethos was that a man or woman controls his or her own fate.

This call for help from Washington is being made by a Governor who has engaged in treasonous speculation about secession, and who is pushing savage budget cuts on the most vulnerable Texans.

We should recall that while those suffering from the impact of wildfires merit quick help, many in Texas nursing homes or many Texans who are sick due to no fault of their own also need help.

Of course, it is no surprise that Rick Perry wants help from Washington. According to a map prepared by Texas State Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs, Texas took almost $28 billion dollars in federal stimulus money.

I’d also like to know when the Tea Party volunteer fire companies and the Tea Party disaster relief teams will be rushing to assist people impacted by the fire? Where are county Republican parties in Texas organizing teams of citizen-volunteers to help out our fellow Texans so that they will not have to turn to government?

Are we going to allow socialized fire companies of public employees team up with Washington to do the job that everyday Texas citizens should be doing?

People who have been harmed by the fires should be helped. However, since many of our political leaders in Texas would rather people die than use the Rainy Day fund or raise the taxes needed to meet the legitimate needs of Texans, it is fair to comment when these same officials declare that some Texans are indeed worthy of help from government.

Let’s be clear about the facts—

1. Despite all the tough talk, Rick Perry calls on Washington and Barack Obama for help to solve problems facing Texas.

2. Despite all the criticisms of the federal government from Republican political leaders, Texas received many billions of dollars of Barack Obama approved stimulus funds.

3. While I’m certain many very good citizen volunteers are helping out with the wildfires, the Tea Party movement and other Texas conservatives who sing the praises of citizen action are no place to be found in any organized fashion when help is needed most.

April 18, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 62 Comments

Texas Wildfires Are Ongoing—Facts About Wildfires

There are major wildfires taking place in all over Texas, in other plains states, and in portions of Mexico.

(Above– The current Texas Wildfires as seen from the U. of Texas owned McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.)

(Blogger’s Note 9/7/11—This post is from April. Here is a link to the current wildfires in Texas. If you review this post, you’ll see that there are facts about wildfires in general that are useful to understanding what is taking place.)

Update 4/22/11–Texas Governor Rick Perry has asked people to pray for rain.

Update 4/21-11—Cooler and more humid weather is helping firefighters.

Update 4/20/11—This report from the morning of the 20th says that fires are burning in every part of Texas

Update 4/20/11—People in England are reading about the fires.  

Update 4/19/11—As of the evening of the 19th, the wildfires are moving towards the Dallas-Fort Worth area.   

Update 4/19/11–More and more fires in Texas.

Update 4/18/11—Here is an overview of the situation in Texas from the Abilene Reporter-News.     

Update–4/17/11—Despite his ceaseless criticisms of the federal government, Texas Governor Rick Perry has asked for federal help with the fires from President Barack Obama.

Update–4/17/11–New fires and gusty winds to spread those fires are the unfortunate conditions in parts of Texas.

Update–4/16/11–With the fires also taking place in Mexico, the U.S. has sent some airplanes to help our neighbors out.

Update–4/16/11—The fires have cost a 105 year old Texas man the homes he grew up in and lived in.

Update–4/15/11–Here is a report about the fires from late in the evening of the 15th. This report includes the sad news of the death of a firefighter. 

Update—4/15/11—While some fires are mostly contained, other are starting or rekindling.

Update —4/15/11 —The Texas Forest Service has ongoing reports of wildfires in Texas. 

Here are a number of facts about wildfires from National Geographic.

From National Geographic—

There are three conditions that need to be present in order for a wildfire to burn, which firefighters refer to as the fire triangle: fuel, oxygen, and a heat source. Fuel is any flammable material surrounding a fire, including trees, grasses, brush, even homes. The greater an area’s fuel load, the more intense the fire. Air supplies the oxygen a fire needs to burn. Heat sources help spark the wildfire and bring fuel to temperatures hot enough to ignite. Lightning, burning campfires or cigarettes, hot winds, and even the sun can all provide sufficient heat to spark a wildfire. Although four out of five wildfires are started by people, nature is usually more than happy to help fan the flames.”

Here is a fact sheet from the Centers For Disease Control that talks about the potential health effects of wildfires and how you can protect yourself from these risks.

Here is the FEMA web page on wildfires.

Quite aptly, April is Wildfire Awareness Month in our nation.

As of the afternoon of Wednesday, April 13, Big Bend Now reports that while some of the fires in Texas are contained to a degree, there are still a number of concerns.

The Mineral Wells (Tx) Index has a very good April 13 report on where the different fires are taking place in Texas.

Marfa Public Radio is keeping folks up to date.

Because conditions are so dry in much of Texas, there are, as of April 13, 194 Texas counties with burn bans in effect.

If you are the one who starts a fire in your community because you have broken burn ban rules, you will forever be seen by your neighbors as the town dumbass.

Texas is so large that it can be difficult to grasp where Texas news events are located. While I’ve lived in Texas for 13 years and have explored at least some of the state, these fires are hitting areas of Texas I’ve never visited.

The excellent Handbook of Texas Online is a great resource to learn all about the state. These are the folks who publish the Texas Almanac. The Almanac is another great was to find out about Texas. You should buy a copy.

I’ve long been of the view that many of problems of urban Texas—I live in Houston— have much in common with the problems of rural Texas. I’d be certain that the good folks in West Texas who have suffered from these fires will need the help of individual citizens, charitable groups, and of government to recover.

The Jeff Davis County Relief Fund in Fort Davis, Texas is taking donations to help people.

Here is the link to the FEMA Fire Management Assistance Grant Program which helps state, local, and tribal governments recover from wildfire damage.

My friend Harold Cook who very familiar with this part of Texas–and with of all of Texas for that matter–has written about the fires at his blog Letters From Texas. The great Texas political blog Juanita Jean has also posted on this important topic.

April 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rolling Blackouts In Houston & Texas—We All Need A Safety Valve

Rolling blackouts are ongoing in the Houston-area and elsewhere in Texas as the cold weather settles in for a few more days. There is also the prospect of snow and ice.

(Above–Blackout.)

Blogger’s Note—Here is my snow in Houston post.

What steps can you take to conserve energy so that these blackouts can be minimized?

Here is what is suggested in the Houston Chronicle’s Fuel Fix blog

  • Limit electricity usage to only consumption that is absolutely necessary. Turn off all unessential lights, appliances and electronic equipment.
  • Do not use your dishwasher, laundry equipment, hair dryer, coffee maker, pool pump or other home appliances between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. or 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
  • Reduce the opening and closing of refrigerators, freezers and doors.
  • When at home, open blinds and shades during sunny days to take advantage of the sun’s natural heat
  • Turn your thermostat to 68 degrees or lower in the daytime and 55 degrees at night or when you’re away from home.

Why are we having these rolling blackouts in Texas?

Again from Fuel Fix

“A higher-than expected surge in power use due to the cold weather, combined with up to 50 power generating units going offline unexpectedly, led to the emergency.”

This is at least what the energy companies are saying.

Texas is getting some supplemental electricity from Mexico to help us get through the winter weather.

I guess Texas needs help from Mexico beyond the low-wage labor we all benefit from even as some of us bash immigrants.

Here is a general definition of a rolling blackout

“Rotating outages are controlled, temporary interruptions of electrical service initiated by each utility when supplies of reserve power are exhausted. Without this safety valve, generators would overload and begin shutting down to avoid damage, risking a domino effect of a region-wide outage.”

(Here is a picture of some ND-250 safety valves. Here are some basic facts on safety valves.)

We all need a metaphoric safety valve in life. We all need a release from the pressures of daily life.

It could be reading, working on a blog, exercising, volunteering for a cause we value, keeping up with friends, walking the dog, or whatever helps you complete your life.

These things of value in your life are not the same as a rolling blackout. On the contrary, they may be the times when we feel most alive.

Let’s conserve the energy needed to avoid more blackouts as the cold weather persists in Texas.

Let’s reserve the personal energy we require to have the time and resources to enjoy life beyond what we must do each day to get by.

We can also use our reserves of personal effort to advocate for our political beliefs and to try to make the world a better place.

February 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Texas 48th In Children’s Health—I’m Certain Governor Perry Can Get Us To Bottom Of List Soon Enough

Texas is 48th overall in the overall condition of the health of children.

From Texas State Representative Garnet Coleman—

“The Commonwealth Fund today released the State Scorecard on Child Health System Performance, 2011 which ranks states and the District of Columbia’s performance on children’s health care. Overall, Texas ranks 48th. The report examines access and affordability, prevention and treatment, potential to lead healthy lives, and equity of the child health care system. Broken down, Texas ranks 50th in access and affordability, 48th in prevention and treatment, 29th in the potential to lead healthy lives, and 50th in equity. Additionally, 18 percent of Texas children are uninsured compared to 10 percent nationally.”

Here is a link to the report.

Is the poor health of many children in Texas one of the number of  “emergency”  legislative issues as declared by Governor Rick Perry?

No.

Governor Perry and the Republican majorities in the Texas State Legislature lack the simple decency to place the welfare of children at the top of the legislative agenda.

And where are rank-and-file Republicans in Texas on these questions?

Read here to see what Governor Perry and the Republican majorities in the legislature see as emergency issues.  Not one thing on the table in this respect is a true emergency.

Our State of Texas is run by people who are morally sick. They will let young people be sick and die and never say a word even though they could help address what is taking place.

Texas is 48th in the overall health of children.

Don’t worry though–I’m certain our Governor and our legislature can work as a team to get us to the bottom of this list by the end of the current legislative session.

February 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Many So-Called “Emergency” Measures Declared By Governor Perry/TPA Blogger Round-Up

To distract Texans from the massive cuts ahead due to the Republican-caused budget deficit, Governor Rick Perry has declared a number of “emergency” subjects for the upcoming Texas Legislative session to consider.

This emergency status allows topics deemed of great importance by the Governor to be rushed to the front of the regular legislative calendar. The Texas political blog Capitol Annex has more details on emergency declarations by the Governor.

Governor Perry’s emergency topics so far are–

* Legislation that will allow state government to force women seeking a Constitutionally legal abortion to have a sonogram and to hear an audio of the heartbeat of the fetus. It is not known at this time what other medical procedures the State of Texas will force citizens to undergo.  Nor is it known if Texas will demand that law enforcement officers witness these procedures so they report back to the state that the law is being followed.

* Ending so-called Sanctuary City practices that allow local governments the discretion to check or not check the immigration status of people they stop or arrest. This proposed usurpation of local authority will expand the power of the state by allowing law enforcement to check the papers of any person who might be, in the eyes of the state, in the U.S. illegally. It is not clear how this determination will be made by government, or if this change will lead to police checkpoints where U.S. citizens will be stopped and asked to prove they are here lawfully.

* A bill that will call upon the federal government to balance the budget each year. Do you think this non-binding legislation is more important than the fact that Texas is first in the nation in the percentage of people without health insurance?

* A voter ID bill. Conservatives are obsessed with the notion that people of color are casting fraudulent votes. Yet there are very few cases of voter fraud in our state. In any case, why is this an emergency? What elections are scheduled between now and the end of the legislative session?

* Property rights legislation to deal with alleged eminent domain abuse.  It is hard to imagine that after all the years of Republican control of Texas government, that property rights are not yet secure. What has Rick Perry been doing all this time? I thought protecting private property was a big deal to Republicans.

These are the “emergencies” at hand in Texas. They have nothing to do with the education, health care, or the economy. They have plenty to do with appeasing the most extreme far-right elements in Texas and with distracting Texans from the real issues. In the case of the sonogram bill, what is involved is an intrusion by the state into the doctor-patient relationship.

None of these things will be of value when the school your kids attend takes massive funding cuts because of the pending budget cuts, or when you cannnot afford college, or when you are sick and cannot afford treatment.

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This being Sunday, below you will find the latest Texas Progressive Alliance round-up. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas. TPA bloggers will be covering the upcoming legislative session in great detail. Please visit TPA blogs each chance you get.

The round-up–

Off the Kuff wrote about Governor Perry’s sanctuary scam and what it says about his priorities.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that Perry and his merry band of republicans play to the Tea Party and corporate polluters while the EPAstarts doing its job. Continue reading

January 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Texas Budget Deficit Crisis Reflects Republican Mismanagement And Poor Citizenship—We Can Do Better

Due in large part to Republican mismanagement of state finances, and due to the failure of many ordinary Texans to meet the everyday obligations of citizenship, the State of Texas faces a massive budget deficit.

(Above—Not long after the Arizona shooting rampage, the Austin State Hospital, which offers mental health assistance, faces drastic Texas state budget cuts. Photo by Larry D. Moore.)

State Comptroller Susan Combs says the deficit could possible be as high as $27 billion for the 2012-2013 biennium.

The Texas Legislature, now in session, will have to approve a budget for 2012 and 2013.

There are many reasons for this budget shortfall. Some of them have nothing to do with anything in the control of Texas. The national recession has hit states hard  across the nation.

However, property tax cuts we could not afford and a Republican ideology of small government and low taxes no matter what, has also put us in this tough spot.

Will states rights and reflexive bashing of Washington help your kid compete with kids from India and China? Will it help you when you are sick and need help? Will Governor Perry declaring divisive Voter ID bills for non-existent voter fraud and sanctuary city legislation an “emergency”  help anybody?

People in our state need to make the call that they are going to demand a focus on things that matter, and that they will not allow themselves to be distracted by sideshows.

We need to be clear. Republicans have been in firm control of Texas for many years now. We have had a Republican Governor since 1995. Republicans have long been in control of  both Houses of the Texas Legislature.

Republicans would have you believe that only states run by Democrats face these types of deficit problems.

However, because we are not powerless as free citizens, this problem is also on average Texans who have enjoyed low taxes even as our state has failed on so many measures of education and public health.

Texas is 43rd of the 50 states in overall tax burden.

And, of course, we have millions of Texans who can’t even be bothered to vote in most elections.

This combination of  a bad national economy, a destructive ideology, low taxes, and a short-sighted public has real consequences.

As reported by the Texas Tribune, here is how the Chairman of the Texas House Appropriations Committee, Jim Pitts, sees the upcoming state budget—

“Pitts didn’t sugarcoat the proposed cuts, which strike a potentially devastating blow to public education and health care, eliminate 9,000 state jobs and shutter two state institutions for people with disabilities, one prison unit and three Texas Youth Commission lock-ups.”

The Austin American-Statesman recently reported on the extent of the likely cuts for education in Texas–

“As many as 100,000 school district jobs could be eliminated in the face of a significant reduction of state aid for public schools, said Lynn Moak, a school finance consultant…The proposed budget does not cover $9.8 billion owed to the school districts under the current school finance formulas. Legislation will be needed to reduce the state’s obligations by that amount, which includes money to pay for new students in public schools and replace the federal stimulus dollars that legislators used in 2009 for basic school funding. Democratic House members said the budget proposal pretends that the 170,000 new students expected in Texas classrooms just won’t materialize. Nor was money included to pay for new textbooks or supplemental science materials that are needed to prepare high schools for the upcoming end-of-course exams. Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, told the State Board of Education on Wednesday that she would fight for those classroom necessities. Shapiro has long led the Senate Education Committee.”

Even a Republican State Senator is upset.

What did she expect?

In Ector County, Odessa College, a community college, has been targeted for zero funding. This has angered people in this area.

(Below–Multi-purpose building at Odessa College. The people in the area of Odessa College last November voted in favor of drastic budget cuts to this institution. Photo by Billy Hathorn.)

Ector County voted more than 3 to 1 for Rick Perry in 2010.

What did people in Ector County think they were voting for last November? I thought personal responsibility for your actions is what Texas is all about. By that measure, cuts in services of all kinds in Ector County should rightly be deep and brutal.

People are, of course, free to sacrifice their futures and the futures of their children to lost cause of states rights. They are free to value low taxes over anything else.

However, there are people in Texas who take the position that the future has value.

The Legislative Study Group, a forward-thinking caucus of the Texas House chaired by Houston area State Rep. Garnet Coleman, has issued a document detailing what the budget proposed by the Texas House will mean for Texans.

Review this document and see the impact these cuts will have on all Texans.

The Texas-based Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) has produced a document that provides Texans the facts on how to be involved in the budget process.

The CPPP is a good resource for Texans who believe our state is about more than just looking out for those who are already doing well.

Texas political blogs such as Capitol Annex, The Daily HurricaneBrains And Eggs, Jobsanger, Letters From Texas, Bay Area Houston, and Off The Kuff are also reporting on the deficit and on hopeful alternatives for Texas.  These citizen bloggers reflect the best aspirations of Texas.

It is up to each individual Texan to fight back. This is the ethos of Texas. We must take responsibility for our lives and for our state.

The extreme right-wing ideology of the Republican Party in Texas, which even goes so far as to talk about seccession from the union, does not provide any realistic vision of the part that Texas must play in the global economy.

No matter what we have been fed over the years in Texas, we don’t have to live selfish lives. We can care for the people around us and still be good Texans.

(Below–Likely state budget cuts in Texas will further worsen an environment so noxious that even Republican Oklahoma has complained to the EPA about bad air in Texas. The cash for clunkers program and air and water testing are among many environmental services likely to be drastically slashed. )

January 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Texas Progressive Alliance Names Joel Burns As 2010 Person Of The Year

Each year the Texas Progressive Alliance names a Texan of the Year. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas. I’m glad to report that the blog you’re reading is a TPA member blog. Below is the press release for our 2010 Texan of the Year. Fort Worth City Councilmember Joel Burns is this year’s winner. Mr. Burns made a speech at a council session in 2010 where he addressed being bullied as a teen because he is gay. I’m glad we have selected Mr. Burns. I believe that the rights of all people are connected, and that rights for gay folks are an important civil rights question. I do, however, wish that GLBT political groups across the country would make greater outreach to other groups in our society that are also fighting for social justice. I am concerned  that GLBT political orginizations do not always see economic justice as an issue that merits attention. I wonder sometimes if many quite vocal Republicans would stop condemning gay folks to eternal hell, if some number of gays would not then bolt the Democratic Party so they could get lower taxes. I hope that humanity shown by Mr. Burns in his brave remarks will remind all freedom loving Americans that when justice is denied for one, it is denied for all.

Included in the release below is the full list of nominees. Congratulations to Mr. Burns and to all who work to make Texas and our nation a more just place. Progress is always possible.

The Texas Progressive Alliance (has) named Fort Worth city councilman Joel Burns as its 2010 Texan of the Year.

Burns, who represents Fort Worth’s District 9, received international attention and acclaim in October of this year after delivering a speech at a Forth Worth city council meeting concerning suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered youth as part of Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better”campaign.In his speech, Burns spoke eloquently and emotionally about his own experiences as a teen facing bullying in Crowley because of his sexual orientation. Burns’ speech, which became an internet sensation, resulted in interviews on CNN, NPR’s All Things Considered, an in-studio interview with the Today Show’s Matt Lauer, and an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

“Joel Burns’ speech did more to raise awareness of the difficulties LGBT youth in Texas face on a daily basis perhaps more than anything else this year,” said Vince Leibowitz, Chair of the Texas Progressive Alliance. “His courageous action in delivering this speech was worthy of recognition, and progressives everywhere should salute him,” Leibowitz continued.

TPA Vice Chair Charles Kuffner of Houston echoed these sentiments. “As progressives, we stand for equality for all people. It is rare that public officials have the courage to do what Joel Burns did,” he noted.

Burns, the first openly gay municipal elected official in Tarrant County, was first elected in 2007.

Burns joins past TPA Texans of the year including Houston Mayor Annise Parker (2009); the Harris County Democratic Party Coordinated Campaign (2008); the House Democratic Leadership Team of State Rep. Jim Dunnam, State Rep. Garnet Coleman, and State Rep. Pete Gallego (2007); and Carolyn Boyle and Texas Parent PAC (2006).

In addition to giving Burns its top honors, the Alliance also named Dr. Al Armendariz, Administrator for Region 6 of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Texas DREAMers as Honorable Mentions.

Armendariz was recognized for cracking down on polluters in Texas in spite of immense political pressure from state leaders and corporations. Armendariz issued the first Emergency Imminent and Substantial Endangerment Order against a natural gas operator in Parker County which caused high levels of methane in private water wells.

The Texas DREAMers — students and activists involved in supporting the DREAM Act through peaceful protest and other means — were recognized for their work in Texas which has included everything from organizing phone banks to call and persuade U.S. Senators, to staging sit-ins and demonstrations at the offices of U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. The group has even staged hunger strikes in support of its efforts.

The Texas Progressive Alliance is a coalition of more than 50 of Texas’ most prominent netroots activists, blogs, and bloggers united to help further the progressive movement in Texas. Founded in 2006, the TPA is the largest state-based coalition of netroots activists in the United States and was instrumental in bringing Netroots Nation to Texas in 2008.

Additional nominees for our annual award included Ana Yañez-Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, and Texans Together/Houston Votes.

In a difficult year for Texas progressives, these individuals and organizations stood out for standing up to the onslaught of extreme conservatism the state of Texas and the nation weathered. They will no doubt continue to be under fire for expressing their views and championing their causes in the year ahead, and the TPA both salutes and stands with them.

January 2, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Closing Of St. Vincent’s Hospital In New York City—From The Texas Liberal New York Desk

(Blogger’s Note—Here is the second post from Texas Liberal New York City Correspondent Lyuba Halkyn. I inserted the links, but the words and pictures are from Lyuba.)

In these times of intense healthcare controversy, New York City suffers a great loss with the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital. St. Vincent’s is located in Manhattan’s West Village. For those not familiar with Manhattan’s neighborhoods, the West Village makes up the west side of Greenwich Village and spans from 14 th Street to Houston Street (pronounced how-stun).

St. Vincent’s Hospital opened in 1849 and has a rich, 160-year history.  The history of this hospital ranges from aiding Titanic survivors to it being the premier location of patients from the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers.  This hospital was known in the charity spectrum, as it took in homeless and those who were not able to pay.  St. Vincent’s was a pioneer in the AIDS/HIV crisis of the late 70’s/early 80’s, taking patients that were turned down at other hospitals and clinics.  St. Vincent’s was leading in its care with the elderly.

What can I assume from reading a bit about the hospital’s history?  This is a hospital that really cared to take care of people in need regardless of circumstances and a necessity in a city like New York.  Where will some of these people go to get care?  I suppose to other hospitals, if they have the money.

This private, non-profit hospital was $700 million in debt at the time of its closing.  There had been proposals to partner up with other NYC hospitals.  No one wanted to take on the debt.  Consultants had been hired at a point to help the hospital stay afloat.  There had been speculation of misuse of funds related to the consultants.  So the board of directors finally voted to close the hospital. (Here is a New York Observer article on the closing.)

Where is the bailout money for St. Vincent’s?  I had to ask myself this question.

Fortunately, certain outpatient services, such as the Cancer Center and the HIV/AIDS Center will continue to provide care without interruption.  These services will be transferred to new sponsors or other alternatives.  St. Vincent’s level 1 trauma center will be converted to an urgent care center run by Lenox Hill Hospital.  It will be equipped to handle only non-emergencies, nothing as serious as a heart attack.  If a person were to come in with an emergency, he/she will be taken by ambulance to another hospital. I wish these patients well, as they are being transported in the thick of Manhattan traffic.

St. Vincent’s was the only hospital in the City that supported home births. According to state law, midwives must partner with a doctor or hospital.  The closing of the hospital could put an end to home births.  This is another fact that contributes to the uniqueness of this hospital.

The neighborhood is losing a hospital, and approximately 3,500 people are losing jobs. And the unemployment rate continues to rise.

Some of these facts, I have shared, I was already aware of and some, I was not.  I have visited people at this hospital and know someone who was born at St. Vincent’s.  (I probably know more than this person who was born here, but just one that shared with me recently.)

St. Vincent’s will be missed my many in the community and remembered with great respect in its humanitarian efforts.

May 5, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments

Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up With Ted Kennedy Links

File:Barack Obama and Ted Kennedy in Hartford, February 4, 2008.jpg

At the bottom of this post is the latest Texas Progressive Alliance weekly round-up. The Texas Progressive Alliance is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas. Immediately below this paragraph are a number of links I’ve compiled to recall the life and work of Ted Kennedy. These links are from a post I made just a few days ago, but that I feel deserve another go-round.     

The Kennedy links—

Here is the link to Senator Kennedy’s official government website

Tedkennedy.org is a good memorial site.   

Ted Kennedy represented Massachusetts in the Senate for 46 years. Here is the link to the Art & History page of the U.S. Senate web home. If you look around, you’ll learn a lot. It’s a site to bookmark and visit many times.

Health care was Senator Kennedy’s leading cause. Here is the White House Health care reform web home. President Obama and the Democratic majorities in Congress must keep faith with Senator Kennedy’s lifelong work for health care for all. 

Here is the web page of Physicians for A National Health Program.  This group supports single payer national health insurance. This is the public option that has been in the news.

Here is Senator Kennedy’s obituary in the New York Times.

Here is coverage of Senator Kennedy’s passing in his hometown Boston Globe.

The American Prospect and The Nation are good liberal magazines. These magazines are strong resources to learn about many of the causes Senator Kennedy fought for and to renew your own commitment to political liberalism. 

To win the fights still to come, we need leaders like Senator Kennedy and we need the hard work of average citizens.  

The TPA round-up—

From TXsharon at Bluedaze, EPA testing has now confirmed wells are contaminated with various substances connected with gas drilling–proof that hydraulic fracturing contaminates our drinking water. Even Motley Fool supports the FRAC Act and says industry is “crying wolf.”

Should Texans care about NJ? The Texas Cloverleaf examines why the GOP thinks we should.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme says a ‘Wise Latina‘ kicks Republican butt once again.
Continue reading

August 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 5 Comments

Are The People Who Run Texas Human Beings?

Are the people who run the State of Texas human beings in the sense that we associate humanity with the possession of basic morality and regard for life? In the ten years I’ve lived in Texas I’ve wondered about this more than once. A recent Houston Chronicle story about the debate over expansion of children’s health insurance, taking place in that malignancy known as the Texas Legislature, made me ponder this question again. 

One in five children in Texas lack health insurance. It’s another way we hate children for not having the ability to pay their own way.  Children are in this regard as despicable as old people and wounded veterans. Drains on society. Is their any more certain death sentence in our society than the widespread expression of care and sentiment?  

From the Chronicle article

The debate over children’s health care this year will be as arduous as ever, but so is the ante: More than 160,000 Texas children whose cash-strapped parents can’t get state help to pay medical expenses for maladies as common as chronic ear infections or as daunting as cancer treatment. The argument among legislators will be whether to raise income-eligibility levels so that those children can join the 451,000 now covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Supporters say reducing the number of uninsured youngsters — now one in five — would benefit not only the children’s physical health but the fiscal health of Texas taxpayers. The federal government picks up 72 percent of the cost and providing health care in doctors’ offices is almost always cheaper than treating children in public hospital emergency rooms.

Critics worry about undermining employer-sponsored health coverage and point to the growing costs for the state. CHIP enrollment increases over the past two years have driven the state’s tab from $102 million to $267.5 million. There are no monthly premiums but families pay an annual enrollment fee of $50 and most co-payments for doctor visits or prescription drugs range from $3 to $10. A pending federal bill that renews CHIP is expected to allow Texas to increase income limits so more can enroll. The current limit for a mother and two children of $35,200 could be increased to $52,800. Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston…Cohen this week plans to introduce a bill that would expand CHIP and take advantage of anticipated new federal funds. “Since 2003, Texas has turned away almost $1 billion of federal matching funds by failing to invest in CHIP,” Cohen said. “As a result, we are left with the highest uninsured population of children in the nation.” Gov. Rick Perry’s spokeswoman, Allison Castle, said the governor does not support expanding CHIP’s eligibility standards because of the higher income families who would be covered. She said Congress is trying to lure the state into expanding programs in tough times and doing so would put the state on a “slippery slope to socialized medicine.”

Children living in middle-income families are increasingly joining the ranks of the uninsured. That is largely because employer-based health insurance premiums have more than doubled since 2000. The average annual cost to employees is $3,355 and the cost to employers is $9,325, for a total cost of $12,680, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Only half of Texas private-sector employers offer insurance, and among small businesses, the percentage drops to 34, the federal government reports.

The “slippery slope to socialized medicine.” Sure. We can’t have that. We”ll just have all these kids without health insurance.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Texas, Ways We Hate Children | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments