Tuesday, April 30, 2013

House Dems block water bill in last stand for schools

While rain slicked the streets of Austin, lawmakers heatedly debated legislation that would use $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to pay for the state water plan, an increasingly urgent issue for lawmakers. But, after hours of stop-and-go debate, a procedural error derailed the legislation.

The bill’s author, state Rep. Allan Ritter, a Republican from rainy Southeast Texas, said House Bill 11 was “doorknob dead.”

You know, it's too bad that Ritter couldn't use any of the goodwill he had among Democrats -- you know, from all those years he spent being one -- to save his water bill.

House Democrats, who organized a point of order to kill the bill, said they resorted to that parliamentary tactic only because their demands to put more into Texas’ schools, and fully undo the cuts from 2011, were going unheeded. Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) said they’d like to see the House pass a 2-2-2 plan: $2 billion for roads, $2 billion for water and $2 billion more for public schools, all paid out of the Rainy Day Fund.

Texas Monthly‘s Paul Burka described the Democrats’ dilemma:
This is also the last point in the session when the Democrats will have any leverage. The moment the gavel falls to certify the final passage of HB 11, the Democrats will lose whatever power they have.

But with a reputed 80 votes, and needing 100, it's not just the Dems who stand in the way. (The statehouse is split 95 R and 55 D.) The TP doesn't care much for the bill either, but that's because they don't want to spend anything.

House Bill 11 also faced challenges from the House’s tea party faction, which has been itching for a fight all session. To appease the brawlers, the House GOP caucus chair Rep. Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) presented what one lawmaker called a “nuclear bomb”: an amendment stipulating that if the bill didn’t get a vote of two-thirds of the House, then it would be funded out of general revenue by imposing a $2 billion across-the-board cut. In other words, Creighton would force lawmakers to choose between water and everything else in the state budget.
The proposal, said Turner, puts “water first and everything else is second. By definition your amendment has picked a winner and everyone else stands to lose.”

Creighton’s rejoinder was that everyone would suffer from not funding the water plan. “Whoever is impacted by small reductions in the budget will benefit for years from this move,” he said.

But before the amendment came to a vote, the point of order killed the bill.

The bill could get passed if the Republicans with half a functioning brain could reach Sly Turner's common ground on funding education and transportation. But Ritter says it's dead, so I guess we should take him at his word.

It’s unclear how the House gets the water plan funded now. Any transfer from the Rainy Day Fund, as is preferred by Gov. Perry and other top Republicans, would require a two-thirds vote. The Senate passed a proposed constitutional amendment last week pulling a total of $5.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund, including $2 billion for water. However, Ritter said that legislation “has a snowball’s chance” in the House.

Ritter and the Democrats pointed to another bill sitting in committee, House Bill 19, which spreads $3.7 billion from the Rainy Day Fund to water and roads.

Without 100 votes, something will have to give to fund the state water plan.

It's called compromise. It's defined as Republicans giving up something -- their apparent desire NOT to fully fund public schools -- in order to get what they want. Which, though difficult for them to manage, beats the kind of intransigence they have demonstrated on other legislative items (such as Medicaid expansion).

Or they could just postpone the scuffle until a special session.

State Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, commenting after Turner’s point of order won out, voiced determination to see a water bill through. “If we don’t fix this, I think a lot of people’s political careers will be on the line,” he said.

Since Larson is the guy who advanced term limits legislation over the objections of the governor, hopefully it's Rick Perry's political career he's referring to.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance would have gotten rid of the entire sequester, not just the part that inconvenienced the few, as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff notes that we might actually get a worthwhile payday lending bill passed this session... if the House follows the Senate's lead.  

WCNews at Eye on Williamson highlights one example of how our legislators decide that ideology trumps morality.  

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme wants you to know that enablers of racism and fear are planning to build more of that d*mn fence!

Greg Abbott is running for governor in 2014, but is Rick Perry? PDiddie at Brains and Eggs turned over the Magic 8 Ball and it said: "Reply Hazy Try Again".

Over at TexasKaos, Libby Shaw nails Perry on his lethal governing philosophy. Check it out: Texas Recipe for Disaster: Small Government, Lax Regulation, Little Oversight.


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

I Wish Fifth Ward invites you to reimagine one of Houston's historic neighborhoods.

Texans for Public Justice tracks the 12 Republicans who went from the Legislature to the lobby since last session.

Nonsequiteuse advises you on getting the most from your fundraiser.

Clay Robison eulogizes Demetrio Rodriguez, one of the earliest champions in the decades-long fight for equity in public school funding.

Harold Cook muses on lizards, henhouses, and snakes in the grass.

Texas Clean Air Matters asks if lax regulations or insufficient oversight are more to blame for the explosion in West.

Flavia Isabel reads "Lean In" and draws some lessons from it.

Pedestrian Pete demonstrates bad parking lot and traffic signal design.

Texas Leftist explains why Barbara is his favorite Bush.

Texpatriate discusses the latest legislative assault on voting rights.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Rick Perry outraged by cartoon explosions, not real ones

Jack Ohman and I were on the same wavelength last week. And for the first time in a very long time, something published in a newspaper got the governor's attention.

Gov. Rick Perry said Friday he's disgusted a California newspaper ran a cartoon that depicts him boasting about booming business in Texas, then shows an explosion, a week after a fertilizer plant explosion killed 14 people in a Texas town.

Perry said he wants an apology from the Sacramento Bee on behalf of the town.

The cartoon in Thursday's edition shows Perry crowing that "Business is Booming," flanked by signs saying "Low Tax!" and "'Low Regs!" It's a play on the Republican's often-repeated mantra that his state's low-regulation, business-friendly climate has its economy humming.

The next panel reads "Boom!" as a blast engulfs the area behind the governor and his signs.

In a letter to the Bee's editor, Perry said it "was with extreme disgust and disappointment I viewed your recent cartoon."

"While I will always welcome healthy policy debate, I won't stand for someone mocking the tragic deaths of my fellow Texans and our fellow Americans," Perry wrote. "Additionally, publishing this on the very day our state and nation paused to honor and mourn those who died only compounds the pain and suffering of the many Texans who lost family and friends in this disaster." 

Ohman is, of course, mocking Perry and not the dead of West, and even Perry is smart enough to understand that. Which is why he's crying like a Boehner about it.

The Bee's editorial page editor, Stuart Leavenworth, responded Friday that the artist, Jack Ohman, "made a strong statement about Gov. Rick Perry's disregard for worker safety, and his attempts to market Texas as a place where industries can thrive with few regulations."

"It is unfortunate that Gov. Perry, and some on the blogosphere, have attempted to interpret the cartoon as being disrespectful for the victims of this tragedy," Leavenworth said. "As Ohman has made clear on his blog, he has complete empathy for the victims and people living by the plant.

"What he finds offensive is a governor who would gamble with the lives of families by not pushing for the strongest safety regulations. Perry's letter is an attempt to distract people from that message."

Rick Perry is, as we know, the guy who ignored every Texas newspaper editorial board on his way to re-election in 2010. Rick Perry is the guy who brags about how great the Texas economy is when the state has the most minimum wage jobs in the nation. Rick Perry is the guy who, in his pitch to out-of-state businessmen, makes analogies of burning buildings about to collapse. And he is also the guy who believes that Texans, with their ballots, have endorsed all of his lazy-ass-faire libertarian notions of regulation.

You cannot make these things up. Rick Perry has exposed himself on a weekly basis for the past two years as the King of All Buffoons, and appears (with an indignant response to a cartoon) to have finally realized that we're onto him. When even the Texas Republicans in the state legislature are tired of your act...

I have to say I am still doubtful, however, that the greater ramifications of Ohman's cartoon will successfully penetrate our governor's dense mind. I just don't think his brain can be fracked. He's been such a national laughingstock for so long that it's hard for me to see anything that occurs outside of his tea bubble will actually influence his actions. That David Dewhurst -- who has a lot of fencing to mend with the extremes in the TXGOP -- would go a step further and demand Ohman's firing is evidence that the Glenn Beck caucus, Texas chapter thinks there is still mileage to be gotten out of strenuously objecting to a cartoon.

Cartoons, as you may recall, were what resulted in the fatwas against both Danish and American cartoonists in the past ten years. And that is essentially the state of play in the Lone Star State today: Texas is right on the verge of becoming the Afghanistan of the western world. That's where the Tea Party has brought us.

Either the people who vote in the GOP primary in Texas will put an end to this bullshit, or they won't. It's up to them.

Hurry up, Battleground Texas.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bush's Lie-bury opens today

(The media blitz) was part of a carefully choreographed effort surrounding the opening of the Bush library at Southern Methodist University. The rollout includes a series of TV interviews with Bush and his wife, Laura, on ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN. Fox News, whose conservative viewers represent the Bush library's biggest target audience, will get two interviews.

The resemblance to the start of a national campaign is no accident. For a former president seeking to turn around public opinion about his tenure, "the presidential library is their key to getting a better place in American history," said Benjamin Hufbauer of the University of Louisville, who is a specialist on presidential libraries.

Bush's reemergence comes after several low-profile years. He did not attend last year's Republican convention and played no role in the 2012 campaign. More recently, he became a grandfather for the first time and attracted unexpected attention for his newest hobby: painting.

"People are surprised," he told the Dallas Morning News. "Of course, some people are surprised I can even read." 

Count me out on the rehab tour.

A few things are clear: This campaign is as much about cleaning up the mess he made for his brother Jeb, who clearly wants to claim his rightful place in the White House, as it is about refurbishing his legacy. Last week Bush told Parade magazine he hopes his brother runs. “I would hope that people would judge [him], if Jeb were to run, on his merits and his track record.…So I hope he will run.”


He is the worst president in modern history, by any measure. Americans don’t like disliking their presidents, so his (polling) recovery was predictable, but Bush’s media tour is likely to provoke a backlash, or at least closer media scrutiny to his record. Or at least it should.

Obama, along with all of the ex-presidents, will be there today. After raising money for Texas Democrats last night, the president will also speak at a memorial for West blast victims in addition to the library dedication.

A partial listing of library exhibits I would like to see, if I ever go...

• The 'Mission Accomplished' banner and the codpiece he wore ten years ago when he declared that major combat operations had ended in Iraq even though they continued for the rest of his presidency.

• The chair in which he sat, frozen, at Booker Elementary School on 9/11 after he was told "America is under attack." Also his dog-eared copy of "The Pet Goat."

• A bag of pretzels, of course.

• On a continuous loop in the lobby: a recording of the push-poll question his campaign used to destroy John McCain in 2000…
"Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain for president if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?"
...just to show visiting school kids what a classy guy Bush is.

• A piece of the birthday cake he shared with John McCain in Phoenix as the levees were busting open in New Orleans.

• The golf club he swung immediately after vowing to "stop these terrorist killers."

• The 2005 "Can I go pee?" note he scribbled to Condi Rice at the United Nations.

• The Segway he fell off of in 2003.

• A credit card bill forwarded from the White House to "The People of the United States of America" with a balance of $10 trillion.

• The August 6, 2001 PDB: Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside US.

• Some aluminum tubes.

• The vial of baby powder Colin Powell used to scare us to death at the United Nations.

• The best of FEMA Director Michael Brown's Katrina emails, including "I am a fashion god" and "Can I quit now? Can I go home?"

• A photo collage of the U.S. soldiers who died during the Iraq war underneath a sign that says, "Oops!"

• The shoes that were thrown at him by a journalist during his last visit to Iraq.

• The shirt Bill Clinton was wearing in Haiti when Bush used it as a rag to wipe a commoner's cooties off his hand in 2010.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The free market levels the playing field

And also the apartments, and the nursing home, and several homes in the adjacent neighborhood. Along with the people living in them, and the first responders.

Gov. Rick Perry said Monday that spending more state money on inspections would not have prevented the deadly explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. plant that was last investigated by Texas environmental regulators in 2006.

Perry told The Associated Press that he remains comfortable with the state's level of oversight following last week's massive blast in the rural farming town of West that killed 14 people and injured 200. Federal and state investigators say they have yet to identify the cause of the explosion.

Perry suggested that the majority of Texas residents agree with him.

"(People) through their elected officials clearly send the message of their comfort with the amount of oversight," Perry said Monday. 

So there you have it: the governor believes he has a mandate for inaction. Whether he actually does or not depends on whether Texas Republicans are willing to extend his political career as governor in 2014... or in a rerun for the presidency in 2016.

In the meantime it would be great if the invisible hand of the free market whips Rick Perry's ass.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Greg Abbott is running for governor of Texas in 2014, but is Rick Perry?

The incumbent keeps head-faking.

"Why would you want to change?"

The challenger, meanwhile, beat him out to West.

The day after the horrific blast last week, Gov. Rick Perry held a press conference at the Department of Public Safety headquarters in Austin. He wore casual clothes with an open collar, and flanked by the lieutenant governor and other officials, talked about making sure the state sent whatever was needed to the tiny town best known as a Kolaches stop on Interstate-35.

A few hours later, Abbott was the first elected, statewide official on the scene wearing a fleece and a serious expression, taking an aerial tour of the damage and returning to brief journalists. In past disasters, that was Perry's job. The governor didn't make it to West until the next day.

Many may ask what role does an attorney general play in responding to an industrial accident. Not much really, though Abbott did take the opportunity to warn local businesses against price gouging for food and shelter. But his appearance makes a little more sense if you consider that Abbott is widely seen as Perry's chosen successor to the governor's mansion.

It was a quick return trip to the Waco area for Abbott. He was there just the day before the explosion telling people that Battleground Texas was a "far greater threat" than Kim Jong-un.

The troublesome thing for the attorney general is that the governor might not be ready to move on. Ross Ramsey lays out the case for both directions, in or out.

Rick Perry is being so cagey that even I won't speculate -- yet -- on what he might do. I do know that the guy who will know first is Eric Bearse.

Abbott's campaign consultant, Eric Bearse, responded mildly saying that he isn't privy to Perry and Abbott's conversations. But Bearse also happens to be a Perry campaign consultant who helped write Perry's book on scouting, "On My Honor." He also worked on Perry's presidential campaign.

Bearse declined to comment to The Associated Press on Perry's plans, or if Abbott is preparing a run for governor. But going into his 11th year in office, Abbott is known to be restless for something bigger and an attorney general candidate doesn't need an $18 million war chest to run virtually unchallenged for re-election.

Well, it is certainly true that Abbott is bored being the state attorney general.

Earlier this year he was asked what his job entailed. “I go into the office in the morning,” he replied. “I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home.” 

I guess that beats stuffing your boot in your mouth on a weekly basis. Here's the governor, just days before West.

If you’re a business owner in Illinois, I want to express my admiration for your ability to survive in an environment that, intentionally or not, is designed for you to fail.

With rising taxes and government interference on the upswing, your situation is not unlike a burning building on the verge of collapse. If you’re thinking of “just riding it out” you might want to reconsider.

Yeah, a burning building about to collapse. Or it might be just like living next to a fertilizer plant with 1,350 times the legal limit of ammonium nitrate and no inspections by OSHA since 1985. Anyway, Eric Bearse.

Perry-watchers can find evidence for either case. His failure to declare any emergency items this legislative session — a first since he took office — shows that his mind is elsewhere, as does his travel to California and an upcoming trip to Illinois, Democratic states with big Republican donors.

On the other hand, Perry talks about how much he loves his job and how the Texas economy is thriving due to the state's leadership current leadership.

So it is from this fog of uncertainty about Perry's plans that Abbott emerges alone in West, meeting with first responders, comforting the grief-stricken and acting very much like a governor.

If the speculation is true, and Bearse is charged with managing an orderly transition from Perry to Abbott, then Texans may have already witnessed the first act.

I can't stand the thought of either of these two as governor of Texas in 2014. C'mon, Republicans: can't you do any better than this?

The Hell Week Wrangle

The thoughts and prayers of the Texas Progressive Alliance are with the people of Boston and West as we bring you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff explains what electric car makers and microbreweries have in common.

There's always a price for stupidity and it's usually steep, especially when it comes to the stupid decision not the regulate key industries. McBlogger observes that the bill for Rick Perry's low regulation heaven came due last week in West.

Before all of the other things happened last week, Swift Boat Bob Perry passed on to his greater reward. Which, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs hopes, is a low-paying job in an extremely warm climate.  

WCNews at Eye on Williamson posts about the former Williamson County DA being charged with a crime: Ken Anderson will be charged with criminal wrongdoing in Michael Morton case.

At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw reminds us that there are no signs of Rick Perry become a human being anytime soon. Check out Rick Perry's Texas: Tax Cuts for Businesses. No Mercy for the Poor.


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

TFN Insider reminds us that the creationists are still at work in the Legislature.

The Great God Pan Is Dead joins with the Houston Art Alliance to paint some trees blue.

Concerned Citizens warns about a teabagger group that targets progressive municipal candidates with nuisance ethics complaints.

Jason Stanford doesn't believe in miracles, at least not as far as test scores are concerned.

Mark Bennett illustrates how spousal privilege may come into play in the Kaufman County murder trials.

Texpatriate finds a reason to be proud of his (Republican) Senator.

Texas Watch offers some tips for dealing with your insurance company after a disaster.

 Texas Leftist gives his impressions of the Gang of Eight immigration bill.

And finally, Flavia Isabel has some helpful hints for domestic bliss.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Earth Day and Record Store Day

Because we all need a little stress relief, right?

(In addition, there is a fundraiser today for SDEC-6 committeeman Phillip McNutt. My friend Phil, a longtime Democratic activist, was battling spinal meningitis last month when he suffered a stroke. As a small businessman without health insurance, you can imagine the crushing financial burden that joins these health concerns. Phil's pal, Susie Loucks, has put together a silent auction benefiting Phil's family this afternoon; click the link for details.)

Record Store Day

This annual celebration of independent music stores will again stuff retailers with brightly colored, limited-edition vinyl in various sizes. Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Fela Kuti, Willie Nelson, Moby, Captain Beefheart, the Grateful Dead, the Dave Matthews Band, Big Star, Cream, Bob Dylan, Roky Erickson and Houston's own Jandek are among the dozens of artists represented by RSD exclusives.

Here, courtesy the Houston Chronicle, are some of the special hours, festivities and such that some local retailers will be presenting today.

Black Dog Records: Starting at 10 a.m., the venerable vinyl shop will celebrate its first RSD at its new location with select titles and refreshments that will begin to flow at 3 p.m. 4900 Bissonnet, No. 102; 713-522-6001

Cactus Music: The store will open at 10 a.m. with select RSD titles. At 2 p.m., author David Ensminger will read from "Mojo Hand," the book he co-wrote about Lightnin' Hopkins; John Egan and the Mighty Orq also will perform. At 5 p.m. the Virginmarys will perform. There will be giveaways and drawings, including a Bowie print proof and a poster signed by most of the acts that have taken part in Cactus in-store performances in the past year. More than 2,000 hip-hop 12-inch recordings will be on sale at two for $1. Refreshments from Saint Arnold Brewery also will be served. At 7 p.m. Friday, Cactus will host a screening of "Last Shop Standing," a short film about independent record stores. 2110 Portsmouth; 713-526-9272.

Heights Vinyl: Doors will open at 11 a.m., giving customers extra time to visit other stores beforehand. In addition to RSD releases, the Tontons will perform at 1 p.m. and Come See My Dead Person will perform at 3 p.m. There will be giveaways, refreshments from Karbach Brewing Co. and a limited-edition "Weird Beard" screen print. 3122 White Oak; 281-974-1234.

Sig's Lagoon: In addition to RSD releases, the store - which received a formidable vinyl infusion from San Marcos' Sundance Records last year - will have food from around the 3600 and 3700 blocks of Main, and select local businesses will offer discounts with a Sig's receipt. 3622-E Main; 713-533-9525.

Vinal Edge: Having relocated to the Heights, the store will open at 9 a.m. (one hour early) and offer select RSD titles. Owner Chuck Roast also will be selling rare punk 45s from his personal collection from his "Funhouse Radio" show days. Singer Really Red also will be selling LPs from his collection. As for drink, Boomtown Coffee will provide some samples. 239 W. 19th; 281-537-2575. 

And a couple more from the Houston Press. By the way, and if you haven't already read about it in Rolling Stone, the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Rush, Heart, Public Enemy, Randy Newman, Donna Summer, Albert King, Lou Adler, and Quincy Jones had their jam this past week and that will be shown on HBO tonight next month. It's a don't-miss.

Earth Day

Here's a list of Earth Day events all across Texas from the Texas Drought Project.

Abilene-Saturday, April 20th-9AM to 12:30PM, McGlothlin Campus Center-exhibitors. 1PM, Crutcher Scott Field, a tree planting demonstration and workshop will begin and will continue until 5 p.m. The workshop will be led by Byron Patterson, ACU's director of physical resources, and representatives from the Texas Forest Service will participate as well. The trees and the organic material to be used in the planting have been grown at ACU's tree farm.

Austin-Saturday, April 20 2013,noon-7pm, Old Mueller Airport , Browning Hangar. Speakers, kid zone, environmental organizations exhibits, gardening, sustainability and rainwater harvesting. 
Special note: Presentation of the "How to become carbon positive" manual, compiled by the Energy Action Team of the Interfaith Environmental Network, Stage 2, at noon. Also--Join our 5:00pm Rhythmic Rally Finale,"The Story of Energy in Texas"with "Austin Beyond Coal", with Jim Hightower.

Beaumont/Port Arthur/Orange--April 19th, 20th, and 21st--Trail Between the Lakes Hike. Contact Phil Rogers, philarogers@gmail.com or 409-543-4616, or Bruce Walker, bwalker@gt.rr.com, 409-782-3486.

Boerne--Friday, Apr 26 6:30 PM, Movie in the Park, Dr. Seuss "The Lorax" and Earth Day Family Drum Circle. Main Plaza. Free.

Brownsville--Saturday, April 27th, 10AM to 2PM, Linear Park. Food vendors, live music,
recycling, gardening, exhibitors, kids' activities. Free. 

Bryan-College Station--Saturday, April 20th, 11AM to 6PM. Wolf Pen Creek Amphitheater. 
Eighteenth Annual Brazos Valley Earth Day. Educational booths--rainwater harvesting, composting, "green" lawn care techniques, alternative transportation. Kids' zone, including obstacle course, inflatable bounce and environmental story times. Live entertainment performs throughout the day.  

Canyon Lake--Saturday, April 20th, 10AM to 4PM. Tye Preston Library, 40 exhibits and displays, rainwater catchment, children's activities, native plants, birding. Free.  

Corpus Christi--Saturday, April 20th, Adopt-a-Beach on Earth Day! Two locations, Cole Park  and North Beach, both 9 to noon. Check with Carolyn Moon for additional info cmoon4920@att.net. 

Then, on Monday, April 22nd, 2:30 to 5:PM--Earth Day events at Del Mar College, featuring comments by the iconic environmentalist Pat Suter, and a tree planting. East Campus Peace Pole between Heritage Hall and the Harvin Center, near Baldwin Blvd. All are welcome.

Dallas--Saturday, April 20, 21st. One of the country's largest Earth Day events. Fair Park in the heart of Dallas, with 500,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space. Six hundred exhibitors. The Eco Expo will teach attendees how to take environmentally responsible action by better utilizing resources, switching to eco-friendly products or joining their organizations.


Edinburg--April 27th, 9AM to 1PM. Earth/Arbor Day Festival at the Edinburg World Birding Center. Includes a one-mile family walk and a "Bicycle Rodeo." See more at: 
El Paso--April 20, 9AM to 1PM. El Paso's Earth Day, Union Plaza District. Organized by the City of El Paso's Environmental Services Department.

Galveston--Saturday, April 20th, 10AM to 4PM. Moody Gardens. Visit their exhibitions and other awesome Earth Day activities, like their herb garden with the Galveston County Master Gardeners and make-and-take butterfly-garden-in-a-pot.

Houston--April 20,21 from 9-3, Houston Zoo at 6200 Hermann Park Drive. All the Earth Day activities are paid for by your admissions ticket. Scavenger hunt, Mother Earth maze, reusable mural for your little Mondrians, and an Earth Day DJ for those who like to move their bodies. Other cool and educational activities include a Ladybug Release and Bear Awareness Day (on Sunday only).
Children's Museum of Houston: April 20th, 10 AM to 6PM Earth Day Extravaganza is a celebration of Mother Nature, 1500 Binz. Activities that will get the children involved in discovering what this day is all about. Water Bottle Birdfeeders, reusing and recycling, and planting take-home seedings. For kids of all ages.

Kerrville--Saturday, April 20th, 8AM to 3PM. Sponsored by the Kerrville Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas, along with the Riverside Nature Center. 150 Francisco Lemos Street. Displays and lectures, rainwater harvesting, guided trail walk, butterfly presentation, kids' activities. 

Laredo--Saturday,April 20, 7:30AM to 1PM -- Earth Day Cleanup at Lake Casa Blanca, a partnership with the The Rio Grande International Study Center and the Texas Army National Guard. Join us as we clean and beautify Lake Casa Blanca, including the berm/dam that faces Loop 20. Students can earn community service hours at the cleanup. Meet at the entrance to Lake Casa Blance. Entrance fee will be waived, but you must sign in at the entrance. ATTIRE: Closed toe shoes; long-sleeve shirt; long-sleeve pants; hat; gloves. Please bring your reusable water bottle.

McAllen--April 20th, 9AM to 4PM, Vida Verde Earth Day Festival. Quinta Mazatlan. 
Organized by the City of McAllen.

Rockport-Fulton, April 27th, 7AM to 9:30 (run) and festival, 10AM to 2PM. 
5k and 2-mile fun run to benefit Rockport Heritage District Association's beautification efforts, 7AM to 9:30. Festival: 10AM to 2PM., 111 North Austin Street, in the Heritage Downtown district. Products & services for healthy living, artists, native plants, local food, kids' activities, and so much more! Local gardeners & farmers are encouraged to bring your excess produce for our Crop Swap. 


San Antonio--multiple locations, multiple times. See below for more information 
and consult HEB website.
April 18: "Earth Day" NW Vista College (9 A.M. - 1 P.M.)
April 22: "Earth Day" San Antonio College (10 A.M. - 2 P.M.)
April 23: "EarthFest" UTSA 1604 (11 A.M. - 2 P.M.)  
Earth Day San Antonio-April 20th, 10AM to 2PM. Woodlawn Lake, organized by Build San Antonio Green.

San Marcos--Earth Day, 7PM, Aquarena Center, San Marcos
Come to celebrate all of the natural things that make our earth beautiful on the headwaters of the San Marcos River--Spring Lake!

Sugar Land--April 20th, 2PM to 6PM. The City of Sugar Land is celebrating Earth Day at Sugar Land Town Square at 15958 City Walk, Suite 250. There will be interactive booths to educate the public about recycling, waste reduction, tree care, nature appreciation and more.
Texoma--April 20th, 7:30AM to 5PM, Municipal Ballroom and Grounds, Sherman, Texas. Texoma Earth Day.

Waco--April 20th, Cameron Park Zoo, 1701 North 4th. It's "Beasts and Blooms and Earth Day too!" Come and party for the planet at the annual Earth Day celebration. Walk through the zoo and talk with exhibitors from environmental groups in the area. Family fun activities for all to enjoy.

Whitehouse (East Texas regional)--April 20, 11AM. Camp Tyler Outdoor School at 15143 Camp Tyler Road, on the beautiful shores of Lake Tyler. Earth Day is a FREE event for the community and features earth-friendly businesses, organizations, activities--and lots of food and fun!

Update: OK man, like, Happy 420 Day, too.  I don't partake any longer but I can sure laugh about it. Together with Earth Day and Record Store Day, everything should be peaceful.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Shit been gettin' real this week

So... these things happened just while we were sleeping.

With a bomb strapped to his chest, one of the Boston Marathon suspects was killed early Friday after he and his accomplice robbed a 7-Eleven, shot a police officer to death, carjacked an SUV and hurled explosives out the window in an extraordinary firefight with law enforcement, authorities told NBC News.

The second suspect — the one in the white hat in photos released by the FBI — was on the loose, and police ordered people in the Boston suburbs to stay inside and businesses not to open. Boston shut down its buses and subway system for the hunt.

The suspects are Chechen brothers with the last name Tsarnaev, law enforcement officials told NBC News. The suspect at large, Dzhokar Tsarnaev, is 19 and has a Massachusetts driver’s license, they said. Law enforcement officials told NBC News that both men are legal permanent residents of the United States, had been here about a year and had military experience.

Oh yeah, Texas also blew up the day before yesterday. (I'll come back to that.)

When an Elvis impersonator in Mississippi gets arrested for sending letters with ricin to his senator and President Obama, and that barely makes the news crawl... you know some serious shit has gone down during the week. Oh, and Pete Williams is winning the Internet has been crowned the new King of All Media.

First things first.

-- So are Chechens Muslim? Why yes, very likely so. Are people of Chechnya "dark-skinned"? That probably depends on several biases, including those of a white, conservative news editor at the New York Post. Since the country is in the region of the Caucasus mountains, I think it's safe to say that Chechens are Caucasian.

This is going to seriously confuse a lot of people, Glenn Beck among them. And chaos, as we all know, leads to fear.

-- West, Texas. Kolaches and fertilizer bombs plants. When Rick Perry brags about the booming state economy, this isn't exactly what he means. It is, however, what he gets. More importantly, it's what we get.

West Fertilizer Co.'s plans for a "worst case scenario" didn't predict the catastrophic explosion that destroyed the plant and neighboring homes Wednesday and killed at least five people.


"The company said the plant had no alarms, automatic shutoff system or firewall."

That's two. Can you think of a third one?

(T)he Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) reports that it has pursued seven investigations of the fertilizer plant since 2002, both routine and in response to complaints. The last recorded investigation occurred in 2007, 10 months after the agency dealt with an odor complaint.

The Texas Tribune notes that this probably means the facility hadn't been inspected in the past five years. This would be consistent with a steep decline in the TCEQ's investigations in the past few years. The agency's last annual enforcement report showed that the number of complaints investigated has plummeted by 20 percent since 2007, though it is unclear it has been receiving fewer complaints. Its total number of investigations has fallen by more than 7 percent since 2007. Since 2008, the agency's operating budget has been slashed by nearly 40 percent. The TCEQ has not responded to a request for comment on its investigations and whether it was familiar with the West plant's 2011 risk report.

Turning to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for information on the plant's safety record turns up little. The plant's last OSHA inspection was in 1985—not surprising considering that it would take the short-staffed agency 98 years for the agency to inspect each of the state's workplaces. (It would take 130 years for OSHA to inspect every workplace in the United States.)

Strike three. Oh well, the governor can just ask Uncle Sam for a bailout.

At a press conference, the governor thanked President Barack Obama for calling for offer quick action after Wednesday night’s explosion.

“Last night was truly a nightmare scenario for that community,” Perry said. “President Obama called from Air Force One as he was en route to Boston… We greatly appreciate his call, and his gracious offer of support, of course, and the quick turnaround of the emergency declaration that will be forthcoming, and his offer of prayers.”

"Thanks in advance, buddy, for a quick turnaround on that federal aid that I ain't made a formal request fer yet. And nemmind that crap I talked aboutcher birth certificate and suckseedin' and all."

West's Congresscritter, Rep. Bill Flores -- who voted against federal aid for the victims of Sandy -- pledged to line up at the trough with his hat in hand. He's never been to the fertilizer plant but he's driven past it "scores of times"; he's not going down there now because he'd just get in the way, he IS leading prayers and updating his Facebook and Twitter frequently with updates on how the residents can seek the help they need.

Now for a conservative Republican, that's true leadership. Meanwhile, local blogman Charles Kuffner got out ahead of the congressman. That doesn't surprise me one bit.

I don't think I have time to keep up with the rest of what's going on, but I am going to keep my eyes peeled for a Friday document dump trying to get lost in the noise. And if I were you, I wouldn't watch my teevee or even read my Twitter feed. Trust me: you'll get scared, and not just because some of what it's telling you is accurate.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Question Everything

Because the accuracy of what you're seeing, hearing, and reading is just ghastly.

The New York Post was derided Tuesday for apparent inaccuracies in its reporting on the bombing at the Boston Marathon. And now, its rival tabloid, the Daily News, is facing criticism over an apparent photo touch-up.

On yesterday's cover wrap, the News ran a photo taken by John Tlumacki of The Boston Globe showing an injured woman lying in a pool of blood while being tended to by a civilian.
It was one of many widely circulated images capturing the moments after explosives were detonated near the finish line of the marathon on Monday afternoon, killing as least three and wounding more than 170 in a likely terrorist attack about which police are still scrambling to scare up leads.

But the version published by the News seemed to erase a gory wound to the woman's leg that was visible in other publications that used the photo. On Tuesday evening, a link to a blog post exposing the manipulation began circulating among News journalists, some of whom were none-too-pleased about the situation, multiple newsroom sources told Capital

The graphic photo -- before and after Photoshopping -- is at that last link.

We should remind ourselves that this sort of thing happens constantly, and not just on our Facebook pages. If you're like me, you barely have ingrained a Snopes habit of verifying everything you read. Now you have to add "photographs often lie" to the list, right behind politicians and car salesmen.

-- Andy Kroll at Mother Jones with the emphasis expressed in the title above. Richard Jewell, the Atlanta Olympics "bomber", was innocent. (Eric Rudolph was guilty.) There was no fire on the National Mall on the morning of 9/11/01 as CNN claimed. It wasn't Muslim jihadists that slew dozens of Norwegians two years ago; a James Holmes shot and killed people in an Aurora movie theater but not that Jim Holmes; and poor Ryan Lanza initially got the blame for what his brother, Adam, did at Sandy Hook Elementary.

These are just a few hideous examples of the damage that the race to break first has done. As I wrote earlier in the week, our increasing reliance on social media is making it worse.

I'm with Eileen.

Update: One serious, one not so much. You decide which is which.

“After monitoring every minute of CNN’s broadcast since Monday, we have found hearsay, rumors, falsehoods, and a steady stream of inane commentary,” one authority said. “Everything but information.”

“I fear we have permanently entered the Age of the Retraction. All the lessons of the past — from Richard Jewell to NPR’s announcement of the death of Gabby Giffords to CNN’s erroneous report on the Supreme Court Ruling on ObamaCare — fail to inform the present. The rush to be first has so thoroughly swallowed up the principle of being right and first that it seems a little egg on the face is now deemed worth the risk.” 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What's Wrong with US Media, Part 5,439,826

Just now on HuffPo...

Says all that needs saying, doesn't it?

Update: The humiliation of a journalistic reputation...

Wednesday afternoon has seen a flurry of contradictory reports about the status of an alleged suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, but for the past hour or so, CNN has been going all-in with sources that said an arrest had already been made. A few minutes ago, though, CNN’s chyron went from “Sources: Arrest In Boston Bombing” to “Defcon: Oh, Crap,” as CNN contributor Tom Fuentes came on the air to tell Anderson Cooper that two “highly-placed sources” say there has been no arrest, followed by Fran Townsend reporting that “two administration officials” have confirmed that there has been no arrest.


It’s still possible that CNN’s first source was correct, but if their reporting on the arrest turns out to have been positively wrong, it will be a black eye that makes their SCOTUS decision flub feel like a backrub. With the Boston Police Dept. now refuting even CNN’s local sources, that appears likely now.

Update II: The excruciating play-by-play.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

For Boston

First, the Dropkick Murphys...

Beantown will be just fine. It's America I'm worried about.

Our United States always seems to screw these things up. I'm talking about the present and future overreaction, no matter who the perpetrators turn out to be. Our wonderful social media, the driver now of all things buzzworthy, opened the bidding yesterday afternoon.

"When tragedy strikes America, Twitter remembers bad reporting." Yes it does. There was Ari Fleischer, Bush's Baghdad Bob, reminding everyone how to conduct themselves during these moments. Gratefully, there also was TBogg of firedoglake...

If you click on the Slate link above, you'll see that one of the morons continuing to Tweet out their auto-propaganda was our very own Rick Perry...

You don’t want to be tweeting about the tax benefits of the state of Texas while limbs are being amputated in Boston if you’re @GovPerry ...

Eh, he's too stupid to know and too obnoxious to give a shit anyway.

And wading through the bramble of prayers, statements of solidarity, updates from friends who had family members at or near the scene and the like, the casual observer struggled to find a kernel of wheat amidst all that chaff. One did not turn out to be the Murdoch-owned New York Post, which is still reporting the death toll as "12" and said that initially there was a "Saudi national" in custody, and then "a person of interest under guard at the hospital" after the Boston PD knocked that down.

Update: The Onion skewered the NYP over their "reporting". And Media Matters wonders if this is the end of the line for the ailing paper.

And let's ignore -- well, let's try to, anyway - the conspiracy theories blooming like 'shrooms in bullshit.

Fox News contributor Erik Rush tweeted, then deleted: “Everybody do the National Security Ankle Grab! Let’s bring more Saudis in without screening them! C’mon! #bostonmarathon,” then responded to a tweet asking if he was “already blaming Muslims”: “Yes, they’re evil. Kill them all.”

You can see screenshots of his tweets here.

It got worse than that. Hard to believe, right? Then there were the local news outlets left to trolling Twitter for news.

(I)nstead of doing the traditional leg-work that, you know, delineates the media's responsibilities and activities, a handful of local news outlets have outsourced their work to the readership that is attempting to turn to them for a fuller perspective on the story. Over a half-dozen outlets across the state have decided that now was the right time to turn over their reportage to their reader- and viewership, instead of, or at least in addition to, attempting to flesh out something carrying the dimensions of a terrorist attack.

It's one thing to crowd-source, guys. It's one thing to ask what your audience's "worst pet peeves!" or "favorite kind of ice cream!" or "all-time best Astrodome memories!" are. There's a time and place for all of that. But this -- with the dead, and the wounded, and the blood and viscera and video still redounding on each and every channel and feed across the nation -- this isn't the time. This is the time to do some damn work on your own.

"Tweet us your details because we just don't know how to do journalism any more". There, fixed it for ya, Chron.

This ought to be completely embarrassing, but it won't be. Our media's disgraceful conduct at times like these is nothing short of atrocious. I won't even go into what was talked about on the teevee, because I never turned it on. Teevee news accounts during these events are even worse, as you already know. Oh wait; yes, I will, because somebody else watched it for me.

(This is) cable news (doing) what it does best: Shift the narrative from straight news (what happened, how many were killed and injured, possible suspects, etc) to shameless, unfounded, ludicrous blame (President Obama, Congress, sequester cuts, the NRA, the Tea Party, foreign policy…you name it).

In fact, New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof is already leader of the idiot pack, blaming the attack on Senate Republicans on blocking the appointment of an ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) Director in the tweet below.

All class… and, of course, having an ATF director in place absolutely would have prevented these attacks in Boston — right, Nicolas? (He has since walked back that Tweet, but some myopic ideologues just can’t seem to put their hatred aside even for five minutes during a time we should be unified as a nation). And winners like Kristof won’t be the last. On cue, CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen told host Jake Tapper that the attack was either the work of al Qaeda or “right-wing extremists,” while sitting in a studio 1,000 miles away just hours after the attack. And NBC’s Luke Russert took to Twitter to speculate about a “possible” connection to the ATF deadly siege on Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas…which happened 20 years ago and 2,000 miles away. FOX and CNN also wondered about that possible (flimsy) connection. 

Bombs in Boston on Tax Day, April 15, Patriots Day -- which used to be celebrated on April 19 but is now the third Monday in April -- the same day the Oklahoma City federal building was destroyed by a fertilizer bomb, because Timothy McVeigh was angered by the fed's involvement in the Waco/Branch Davidian compound invasion which ended in flames on April 19. Oh, and also Columbine, which happened the day after...

Yes, a thick juicy stew for the conspiracy theorists. My advice? Keep calm and carry on.

Update: Cong. Michael McCaul's ignorance is not helping. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bob Perry dead

It's just a slow Swift Boat ride down the River Styx, made faster by the fact that there will be no pause in Purgatory.

Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, a major Republican campaign contributor and a leader of the successful drive to limit lawsuit awards in Texas, has died, a spokesman confirmed late Sunday.

He was 80.

There really isn't a single solitary thing about Republican politics in Texas over the past ten or twenty years -- and for a while there, the entire country -- that Perry did not have a hand (read: his money) in. The TXGOP, several sessions' worth of conservative legislators, and even the US presidency bear the mark of his financial legacy: $32 million to candidates and causes since 2000.

Update: I thought that sounded low. "Since 2004, Perry has given a total of at least $45 million in federal contributions — excluding direct donations to candidates, according to Federal Elections Commission records, a 2012 AP analysis and figures tabulated by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics."

The Center for Public Integrity ranked Perry third in its list of super donors, noting he contributed $23.5 million to Super PACs in 2011 and 2012. In the 2004 presidential campaign, he was a top donor to the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth, which fervently questioned the accuracy of John Kerry's description of his military service in Vietnam.

Perry was a pragmatic Republican who became a kingmaker as "the most prolific political donor in the state of Texas," said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones, who predicted Perry's death "is going to have a profound impact on Texas politics."

"Pragmatic" is definitely not the word I would choose. But Jones is, after all, a big fan of the man. (Jones is also credited with the underestimate of Perry's spending; the $32 million figure above is now attributed to Perry's donations statewide.)

He did sometimes donate to Democrats - like state representatives Eddie Lucio of Brownsville and Mike Villarreal of San Antonio - so long as they championed "education, economic liberty and tort reform," (spokesman Anthony) Holm told the Dallas Morning News last fall.


For example, he bankrolled the successful 2005 effort to pass a state constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage but stunted a 2011 effort to expand the authority of police inquiring about the immigration status of people they detain.

Yeah, Swift Boat Bob earned the enmity from the Xenophobe Caucus for his lasting support of cheap labor, but not for the same reasons others would (like refusing to raise the minimum wage, for example).

I think there is something serendipitous about the timing: Perry, and the generation of Texas Republicans who rose to power in the Reagan years, are being carried now to the cemetery just as the children of all those day laborers come of voting age, and the Democrats in Texas poise themselves for a renaissance. The locals sure are scared; there are at least two different reports of Battleground Texas meetings in Houston that Republicans have attended and reported on. And in reading that, the sheep seem real nervous.

Rest without peace, Bob.  Your epitaph is what it is. Nobody will actually miss you that wasn't depositing your checks.

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is settling in for another long hurricane season as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff offered his thoughts on the Battleground Texas kickoff meeting in Houston.  

WCNews at Eye on Williamson says the cheaters are winning: Wage theft in Texas.

Republicans have kind of a fetish thing going on with hangman's nooses, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has noticed.

At TexasKaos, Libby Shaw explains the 24/7 embrassment that Ted Carnival Cruz is by exploring his latest foray into the "outer limits" of sanity. Check it out: TX U.S. Senator Carnival Cruz Gets FiliBusted.

This week at McBlogger, we take a look at the state of transportation funding in the Legislature (with the help of the Texas Tribune) as well as a stunning turnaround for Governor Perry.


And here are some blog posts of interest from elsewhere in Texas.

Empower The Vote warns that the RNC is seeking to get out from under the consent decree that has limited their ability to engage in voter suppression.

Texas Clean Air Matters explains what ozone action days are all about.

Texas Watch reports on a poll that says Texas voters – across all geographic, partisan, and political lines – want stronger legal protections from rogue insurance companies.

Lone Star Ma reminds us that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Jeff Balke clues you in on how to be a journalist.

Jason Stanford mocks the idea that Big John Cornyn has been nudged even farther to the right by his junior Senate colleague.

Nonsequiteuse recaps the most gruesome moments from the testimony on the so-called "fetal pain" bill.

Equality Texas has some tips for homophobic lobbyists.

Juanita Jean wonders what Smokey Joe Barton is smoking.

Texpatriate is perplexed by the state Senate's passage of the drug testing for unemployment benefits bill.

And finally, BeyondBones sings the praises of the iguana that came to them after hitching a ride to the United States.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Republicans and hangman's nooses

Your first question might be "Why does the head of the Texas Railroad Commission -- the state agency responsible for monitoring the oil and gas industry -- have an opinion on a gun bill in the US Senate?", or "Why would it be treasonous and lynch-worthy to vote in favor of allowing debate on gun safety legislation?", but neither of those would be my first question.

My first and everlasting question remains: "WTF is it with Republicans and their noose fetish?", and my second question would be: Are they erotic asphyxiation freaks or what?

Here's the TexTrib.

Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman weighed in on the gun-control developments in Washington on Thursday, retweeting an image that showed a noose beside the names of Republican U.S. senators who had voted down a filibuster.

On Twitter, Smitherman re-posted an image and message from a user with the handle @PsychScriv, who had posted: “Make sure none of these people have seats in 2014.” The accompanying image showed a list of the 16 Republican senators whose vote had broken the filibuster that would have kept the gun-control bill off the U.S. Senate floor. A noose dangled beside the names, topped by a single word: “Treason.”

Smitherman added his own commentary, tweeting: "We are in trouble when these Rs side w/ Sen Reid." The list included Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Republican party's 2008 presidential nominee.

Texas Sharon at BlueDaze had it first (see the screen capture of the Tweet there), followed closely by Progress Texas.

"Barry Smitherman's reprehensible action is disturbing, disgusting, and has absolutely no place in our political discourse," said Matt Glazer, Executive Director of Progress Texas.

"To suggest that any American, let alone a U.S. Senator, deserves to be hung for a democratically cast vote is absolutely unacceptable." "A Senator's job is to debate, discuss and vote on issues of importance to our country. Obstructionism shouldn't be upheld as a priority option for doing the people's work, and when violent rhetoric and imagery is used as a tool of obstructionism, it has gone too far. Smitherman's actions call into question whether or not his job can and should be terminated.

"Progress Texas calls on Smitherman to immediately apologize, and for Governor Perry and all of Texas' Congressional delegation to admonish Smitherman for his deplorable action." 

It's fairly easy to muster the outrage on this one.

Long ago this blog broke the story of hangman's nooses in bosses' offices. A cursory Google search turns up all kinds of repetitive instances, including the prevalence of this sort of thing across the country.

Now before Matt and Greg stumble in to the comments and bluster that private and public supervisors aren't necessarily Republicans, let's establish that at least since Robert Byrd dropped out of the Klan (this shibboleth is a favorite of race-sensitive TeaBaggers, and by 'race-sensitive' I mean TeaBaggers who don't like being called out on their racism) and up through the David Duke-for-whatever years, one cannot intelligently call Klansmen Democrats. See Thurmond, Strom. And there was also this whole Southern Strategy thing that Richard Nixon developed as a result of LBJ's civil rights advances...

Anyway, Barry Smitherman. He's a Rick Perry crony from way back. But in terms of any state position for which the governor can make an appointment, though, who isn't? The sad part is that Smitherman won his election in 2012 with plenty of donations from oil and gas companies and without a Democratic opponent. You may also recall that Smitherman's middle-school-aged daughter -- and her junior-high-aged brother -- maxed out their federal contributions to Rick Perry's presidential campaign in 2011.

Barry Smitherman, among his many other faults, probably pays his children too much in allowance. Or something. But there's no doubt that he needs to find a real job, as the TRC simply doesn't execute the one job it has to any significant degree. From the Texas Observer...

In a state where property rights are considered to be on par with the right to breathe, pipeline companies can seize private land by invoking the power of eminent domain. ... (C)ommon carrier status, which means the company is carrying competitors’ products as well as its own to serve the public good, grants companies the right to take land without getting landowners’ consent. ...

In Texas, there is currently no process to verify whether a company is actually carrying competitors’ products. All a company has to do is check a box on its permit application to the Texas Railroad Commission.

The commission doesn’t have the authority to ensure the company can claim the status. It does not ask for evidence or otherwise monitor the pipeline. This leaves the door open for companies that want the power of eminent domain free to do so without any oversight. The practice has resulted in a number of lawsuits across the state. Landowners who feel their land was taken unfairly (and sometimes without notice), have sued pipeline companies, and in at least one case the courts have determined that some pipeline companies “game the permitting process” to get eminent domain powers.

Yes, Barry Smitherman is a TeaBagging douchewad... but really, what Texas Republican isn't? It's really just a matter of degree, despite the smackdowns the freshman crop of crazy in the Lege keep taking at the hands of their elders. Ultimately, Republicans exactly like Smitherman are what Texas is, elects, and deserves, at least until Battleground Texas starts making a difference.

Or the Republicans in Texas come out from under the ether. I hope I live long enough to get to see one or the other (or both).

Update: Smitherman has apologized. Aware of both the media attention Smitherman's Tweet received and a desire to out-Gohmert Joe Barton from earlier this week, Steve Stockman has come up with a new bumper sticker slogan. He means 'fetuses' of course, but they don't have fingers. Or central nervous systems, or brains, or eyes.  "Babies", in other words (using Stockman's vocabulary).