Saving the plains bison, at Caprock Canyon State Park, Texas

July 8, 2014

Few days go by that I don’t hear from some Texas yahoo about the futility of conservation, especially attempts to save sustainable populations of animals near or teetering on the brink of extinction.

American bison galloping. Photos by Eadweard Muybridge, first published in 1887 in Animal Locomotion. Wikipedia image

American bison galloping. Photos by early motion-studying photographer Eadweard Muybridge, first published in 1887 in Animal Locomotion. Wikipedia image

Conservation works.  Conservation works in Texas.  How can they ignore stories like this one, about the conservation of the plains bison, at Texas’s Caprock Canyon State Park?

This film from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department illustrates and discusses the work going on at Caprock Canyon SP to keep a herd of bison there healthy and reproducing:

Published on Feb 1, 2013

Caprock Canyons State Park in the Texas Panhandle holds the last remnants of pure Southern Plains Bison that once numbered in the millions on this land. Watch as this historic herd is restored to its native habitat. For details on visiting the park, see http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-par…

If we had a national mammal, is there much doubt the noble American buffalo would be it?

Defenders of Wildlife range map, showing where to find bison in North America. DoW said: Bison once roamed across much of North America. Today bison are ecologically extinct throughout most of their historic range, except for a few national parks and other small wildlife areas. Yellowstone National Park has the largest population of free-roaming plains bison (about 4,000), and Wood Buffalo National Park has the largest population of free-roaming wood bison (about 10,000).

Defenders of Wildlife range map, showing where to find bison in North America. DoW said: Bison once roamed across much of North America. Today bison are ecologically extinct throughout most of their historic range, except for a few national parks and other small wildlife areas. Yellowstone National Park has the largest population of free-roaming plains bison (about 4,000), and Wood Buffalo National Park has the largest population of free-roaming wood bison (about 10,000).

You can see that conservation is not easy, that serious conservation of animals takes cooperation between governments, federal, state, county and local.  Throw in migratory birds, and you’re talking international efforts.

But it’s worth it, at least to me.  Wholly apart from the direct benefits to humans — the discovery of drugs like digitalis and tamoxifen, for example — we learn so much about how the planet operates, how nature operates.  We get a view into the ideas of God, if not a direct view into the universe’s creative mind.

There are two recognized subspecies in North America: Bison bison bison and B. b. athabascae.  We have populations saved in small plots across the U.S.:  In and around Yellowstone National Park; on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake; in Utah’s Henry Mountains in the south central part of the state; at the LBJ Grasslands (National Forest); and at Caprock Canyons State Park.  At one time, millions of the plains subspecies migrated for hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles, harvesting grass and turning the soil to make the North American Great Plains one of the most productive habitats for plants and animals on the face of the Earth.  We screwed that up a bit.  The same area today does not produce equally to 200 years ago in fiber and meat, despite modern farming and ranching.

Maybe we can learn a lot more from these creatures, about how to keep food supplies going for that other common, though self-threatened species, Homo sapiens.

Probably can’t improve on the video, but I hope to get some good photos of these creatures for myself, this summer.  Check the map above. If your summer travels take you close to a population of bison, why not stop in and visit?

More:

World Wildlife Fund image of plains bison, mother and calf

World Wildlife Fund image of plains bison, mother and calf, and caption: Historically bison were the dominant grazer on the Northern Great Plains landscape. This dominance shaped the landscape by affecting the pattern and structure of the grasses and vegetation that grew, and it was this vegetation pattern that allowed animals to flourish.


Leticia Van De Putte will make Texans smile

July 3, 2014

As an introduction to her speech at the Texas State Democratic Party 2014 Convention last Friday, Lieutenant Governor candidate, Sen. Leticia Van De Putte produced a short video, making light of the serious issues of citizens trying to get the attention of Texas officials under the current GOP junta.

If nothing else, the Democrats offer someone with a much better sense of humor than the Republicans.

Published on Jun 28, 2014

Introducing Senator Van de Putte and family at the Texas Democratic Convention

Texas State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte; the Harvard-graduate, Texas pharmacist pushed the Texas Senate in good directions; she offers a solid record and outstanding ability for the Lieutenant Governor's office.  It Texas, the Lieutenant Governor makes the state budget, chairs the State Senate, and appoints people to several important boards and commissions, making the post more important than the Governor, in many calculations.

Texas State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte; the Harvard-graduate, Texas pharmacist pushed the Texas Senate in good directions; she offers a solid record and outstanding ability for the Lieutenant Governor’s office. It Texas, the Lieutenant Governor makes the state budget, chairs the State Senate, and appoints people to several important boards and commissions, making the post more important than the Governor, in many calculations.

Now, is there some way we can get the video of Van De Putte’s actual speech, or the text of it?  What she said of substance was even better than the video.

More:


EPA approves CO2 permit for Texas steel maker; anyone notice?

June 19, 2014

Here’s the press release from EPA’s Region 6 office:

EPA Finalizes Greenhouse Gas Permit for Voestalpine Iron Production Plant
$740M facility in San Patricio Co., TX, will bring 1,400 construction jobs and150 permanent jobs

DALLAS – (June 16, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a final greenhouse gas (GHG) Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) construction permit to Voestalpine for an iron production plant in San Patricio County, TX. The facility’s process for producing iron will use minimal natural gas and will be 40 percent more efficient than traditional methods. The permit is another in the series of permits drafted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and issued by EPA under a program to facilitate timely permitting for applicants in the State of Texas.

“Voestalpine shows energy efficiency is a common-sense strategy for success, not just in business but for the environment as well,” said Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “The joint EPA and TCEQ permitting program is helping Texas business grow while building greener plants.”

The plant will reduce iron ore pellets, which will be used as raw material input at steel mills. The direct reduced iron process will use only clean-burning natural gas instead of solid fossil fuels. The estimated project cost is $740 million and will bring 1,400 construction jobs to the area. Once complete, the facility will create around 150 permanent jobs.

In June 2010, EPA finalized national GHG regulations, which specify that beginning on January 2, 2011, projects that increase GHG emissions substantially will require an air permit.

EPA believes states are best equipped to run GHG air permitting programs. Texas is working to replace a federal implementation plan with its own state program, which will eliminate the need for businesses to seek air permits from EPA. This action will increase efficiency and allow for industry to continue to grow in Texas.

EPA has finalized 43 GHG permits in Texas, proposed an additional six permits, and currently has 21 additional GHG permit applications under review and permit development in Texas.

For all of the latest information on GHG permits in Texas please visit: http://yosemite.epa.gov/r6/Apermit.nsf/AirP

Connect with EPA Region 6:
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eparegion6
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/EPAregion6
Activities in EPA Region 6: http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/region6.htm

Headquarters of Voestalpine, head-turning building by Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes, located in Linz, Austria.  Architecture News Plus image

Headquarters of Voestalpine, head-turning building by Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes, located in Linz, Austria. Architecture News Plus image. Voestalpine plans to build a $740 million steel plant near Corpus Christi, Texas.

This is big news, really.  Texas constantly complains about regulations on greenhouse gases, and regularly and constantly sues EPA to stop regulation.  Texas and it’s wacky governor Rick Perry constantly complain that EPA regulation harms jobs, and that permits never really get issued.  So this announcement should be front page news in most Texas newspapers.

How was it covered?

That’s it for Texas media.  Where are the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Houston Chronicle, the San Antonio Express, the El Paso Times?  Big market TV and radio?

National coverage was limited to low-circulation newsletters.

Seems to me that these issues of actual action on climate change, are under-reported.

More:

Groundbreaking for Voestalpine facility near Corpus Christi, Texas

Caption from Voestalpine LLC: After about a year of preparation, Wolfgang Eder, CEO of voestalpine, broke ground today for the construction of a direct reduction plant in Texas (USA). This EUR 550 million investment is the largest foreign investment in the history of the Austrian Group. The voestalpine Texas LLC plant is being constructed at the La Quinta Trade Gateway Terminal in close proximity to the City of Corpus Christi. Starting in 2016, the plant will produce two million tons of HBI (Hot Briquetted Iron) and DRI (Direct Reduced Iron) annually and will supply Austrian locations, such as Linz and Donawitz, with “sponge iron” as a premium raw material. With the new facility, voestalpine can significantly reduce production costs in Europe. The highly automated plant will create 150 jobs.


Wendy Davis’s guide to Fort Worth: What every GOP delegate, and Texas voter, should know

June 8, 2014

You may have missed it.

Ending yesterday, the Texas Republican Party conventioned in Fort Worth, Texas — oh, if you were in Fort Worth you noticed all the people looking like fools and packing urban assault weapons, but others may have missed it. National GOP officials, and quite a few Texas GOP candidates, hope the convention would fly under the radar, with its call for repeal of Constitutional rights in almost every plank of their platform.

Delegates got a nice little map to help them tour Fort Worth, which is where Wendy Davis, the Democratic nominee for governor, got her political start.

Come to think of it, it’s a map every Texas voter ought to have, even those not visiting Fort Worth.  It spells out the difference between Wendy Davis’s vision for the growing, healthy and productive Texas, and Greg Abbott’s no-public school, low-wage playground for the rich-and-heavily-armed view.

Sites to see in Fort Worth, if you're a Texas Voter.  Map courtesy Wendy Davis for Governor campaign.

Sites to see in Fort Worth, if you’re a Texas Voter. Map courtesy Wendy Davis for Governor campaign.

[Conflict of interest note:  I've hired (and been happy with) the work of some of the law firms listed, and have familial connections to others.  Needless to say, the views in this map are not necessarily the views of any of my employers, though they should be, if they had any sense about what's good for Texas, and justice.]


Bob Reitz remembers Dallas — this afternoon!

May 10, 2014

Caption from the Dallas Morning News blogs:  This aerial photo shows the Casa View shopping village and the surrounding area in 1957, three years after Bob Reitz moved into the neighborhood with his family at age 7. Reitz is presenting a talk titled

Caption from the Dallas Morning News blogs: This aerial photo shows the Casa View shopping village and the surrounding area in 1957, three years after Bob Reitz moved into the neighborhood with his family at age 7. Reitz is presenting a talk titled “A Time We Once Shared” from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Dallas’ White Rock Hills Branch Library. File 1957 / Staff Photo

Steve Blow writes columns for the local section of the Dallas Morning News Wednesday he featured one of our veteran Scouters from Wisdom Trail District here in the southwest corner of Dallas County.

Dallas and Scout historian Bob Reitz - Photo by Ed Darrell

Dallas and Scout historian Bob Reitz

Bob Reitz is also the curator of the Jack Harbin Boy Scout Museum at Camp Wisdom, a surprisingly great store of Scout history.  Among many other things he does well, Bob is a historian of great stories.

This afternoon, May 10, he’s telling stories of Dallas in his growing up years in the “middle-middle class” neighborhood of Casa View, east of downtown.  Bob’s got two hours (it will seem like one or less) at the White Rock Hills Branch Library, starting at 2:00 p.m. (9150 Ferguson Rd, 75228 (map))

You ought to go.

Below the fold, Steve Blow’s column, should it disappear from the DMN site.

Read the rest of this entry »


BLM’s statement on Red River management

April 23, 2014

You may have missed the press statement the U.S. Bureau of Land Management issued yesterday, in response to press requests following the release of a letter from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.  Here it is.

On the Record

The BLM is categorically not expanding Federal holdings along the Red River.  The 140-acres in question were determined to be public land in 1986 when the U.S. District Court ruled on a case brought by two private landowners, each seeking to adjust boundary lines for their respective properties.  The BLM was not party to any litigation between the landowners.  The 140-acres were at no time held in private ownership.

On Background

During Westward expansion of the country, Texas and Oklahoma disputed their state line, particularly in relationship to where it fell on the Red River.  Once oil and gas was discovered, the dispute was elevated.

In 1923, the Supreme Court made a final determination on the State line and also clarified ownership by private landowners on each side of the river.  Subsequently in 1981 and 1984, Texas and Oklahoma landowners challenged this finding in U.S. District Court as it related to their private property and the changing course of the river.  In both cases, the District Court echoed the Supreme Court determination regarding private boundaries, ruling that the Oklahoma private landowner held property to the center of the river while the Texas landowner’s boundary stopped at the ordinary high water mark.  In 1986, the U.S. District Court established that the 140-acres are public lands.

The BLM is currently in the initial stages of developing options for management of public lands in an area that includes the Red River.  This is a transparent process with several opportunities for public input.

This issue has moved mostly underground, on radical right-wing on-line media, and Facebook and Twitter.

FYI.


Remembering the worst ever U.S. industrial accident, 1947: 576 dead at Texas City

April 16, 2014

April 16 marks the 67th anniversary of the Texas City Disaster.

It’s a day Texans, and all Americans should note.  It’s an event we need to remember, because every point of the disaster is something we forget at our very great peril.  Thinking such a disaster could not happen again, and failing to train for these same conditions, contributed to the disaster last year in West, Texas.

67 years ago, in the harbor at Texas City, a large cargo ship being loaded with tons of ammonium nitrate caught fire and exploded, setting fire to other nearby ships, one of which exploded, devastating much of the town. In all, 576 people died in Texas City on April 16 and 17, 1947.

View of Texas City from across the bay, in Galveston, April 16, 1947

View of Texas City from Galveston, across the bay, after the explosion of the French ship SS Grandchamp, April 16, 1947. Photo from International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1259

The incident also produced one of the most famous tort cases in U.S. history, Dalehite vs. United States, 346 U.S. 15 (1953). (Here is the Findlaw version, subscription may be required.)

The entire Texas City fire department was wiped out, 28 firefighters in all. The International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1259 has a website dedicated to the history of the disaster, with a collection of some powerful photographs.

More below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »


Last few Texas TAKS Exit Level Social Studies students? Review here

April 11, 2014

Stealing this wholesale from my history class blog:  A few hundred students still need to take the old TAKS Exit Level Social Studies Test, in order to finish their high school diploma requirements.

Isn't the TAKS Test dead?  Not yet -- zombie like, it still prowls the nightmares of older students working to get a Texas diploma.  Test review and practice in this post

Isn’t the TAKS Test dead? Not yet — zombie like, it still prowls the nightmares of older students working to get a Texas diploma. Test review and practice in this post

You can do it; and if you’ve been out of class for a while, or if you just want to boost your score, here’s a review, and a few lines down here is a link to a place to take an on-line practice test which you can get scored.  The practice test questions should be mostly phased out by now, but the topics will remain.

It’s spring, and a young person’s fancy and earnest wishes turn to acing these tests to get a high school diploma.

From Mr. Darrell’s Wayback Machine:

Here’s a generalized, much truncated list of things high school juniors need to know, according to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).  This is a list from which the TAKS test questions will be drawn.

Earlier posts provided the definitions of each of these terms and phrases — check those out in your study, too.

We’ll add links to these terms as we find them — you may want to bookmark this post so you can find it again.

You can download a MicroSoft Word version of this study guide, essentially the same as here in a dozen posts, in one file that prints out to about 12 pages; click here to get the printed study guide.

Update 2012:  Go here to link to an on-line, TEA-released TAKS Social Studies Exit Level Test.

Things to Know for the Grade 11 TAKS Social Studies Test

People:

  • Thomas Jefferson
  • George Washington
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Clarence Darrow
  • William Jennings Bryan
  • Henry Ford
  • Charles A. Lindbergh
  • Harry Truman
  • George C. Marshall
  • Joseph McCarthy
  • Susan B. Anthony
  • W. E. B. DuBois
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Rachel Carson
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Thurgood Marshall

Dates:

  • 1776 – Declaration of Independence
  • 1914-1918 – World War I
  • 1929 – Stock Market Crash (beginning of Great Depression)
  • 1941-1945 – World War II (U.S. involvement)
  • 1787 – Constitution written
  • 1861-1865 – Civil War
  • 1898 – Spanish American War, debut of U.S. as a major world power

Primary Sources (mostly documents):

  • Declaration of Independence
  • U.S. Constitution
  • Bill of Rights
  • 13th Amendment
  • 14th Amendment
  • 15th Amendment
  • Wilson’s 14 Points
  • 16th Amendment
  • 17th Amendment
  • 19th Amendment
  • Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (Supreme Court case from 1954)
  • 24th Amendment
  • 26th Amendment

Events:

  • Magna Carta
  • Bubonic plague
  • Columbian Exchange of food
  • English Bill of Rights (1789)
  • Declaration of Independence (1776)
  • American Revolution
  • Articles of Confederation
  • Philadelphia Convention (1787 – wrote the Constitution)
  • Federalist Papers
  • Bill of Rights
  • Nullification Crisis
  • Civil War (1861-1865, TEKS dates)
  • Thirteenth Amendment
  • Fourteenth Amendment
  • Fifteenth Amendment
  • Spanish-American War (1898, TEKS date)
  • Panama Canal
  • Sixteenth Amendment
  • Seventeenth Amendment
  • World War I
  • Wilson’s Fourteen Points
  • Treaty of Versailles
  • Nineteenth Amendment (Women’s Right To Vote, or Women’s Suffrage)
  • Red Scare
  • Prohibition (of production and sale of alcoholic beverages)
  • (Scopes Trial)
  • Stock Market Crash, October 29, 1929 (TEKS date)
  • Great Depression
  • New Deal (FDR’s program to pull U.S. out of Depression)
  • FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation)
  • Social Security Act
  • World War II (1941-1945, TEKS dates)
  • Pearl Harbor, “a day which will live in infamy” (December 7, 1941)
  • Internment of Japanese Americans
  • Battle of Midway
  • Holocaust
  • Normandy Invasion (D-Day)
  • (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) (Atomic bomb targets)
  • Truman Doctrine
  • Marshall Plan
  • NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, established in 1949)
  • GI Bill
  • Korean War
  • McCarthyism
  • Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
  • Sputnik I (1957; TEKS date)
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Twenty-fourth Amendment (banned poll taxes, a civil rights issue)
  • Twenty-sixth Amendment (18-years old to vote)
  • Vietnam Conflict
  • (Watergate)
  • (Resignation of President Nixon)

Vocabulary

  • Colonial grievances
  • Unalienable right
  • Free speech
  • Freedom of the press
  • Absolute chronology
  • Relative chronology
  • Demographic patterns
  • Subsistence agriculture
  • Market-oriented agriculture
  • Cottage industries
  • Commercial industries
  • Physical geographic factors
  • Human geographic factors
  • Population growth
  • Technological innovations
  • Telegraph
  • Scientific discoveries
  • Railroads
  • Labor unions
  • Big business
  • Farm issues
  • Minority group
  • Child labor
  • Migration
  • Immigration
  • Unrestricted submarine warfare
  • Prosperity
  • Bank failures
  • Dictatorship
  • Home front
  • Atomic bomb
  • Rationing
  • International trade
  • Political equality

Concepts/Issues:

  • Representative government
  • Revolution
  • Independence
  • Confederation
  • Constitution
  • Limited government
  • Republicanism
  • Checks and balances
  • Federalism
  • Separation of powers
  • Popular sovereignty
  • Individual rights
  • States’ rights
  • Civil war
  • Reconstruction amendments
  • Free enterprise system
  • Spatial diffusion
  • Economic growth
  • Traditional economy
  • Command economy
  • Market economy
  • Industrialization
  • Standard of living
  • Urbanization
  • Expansionism
  • World power
  • Reform
  • (Militarism)
  • (Nationalism)
  • Imperialism
  • Depression
  • Civil rights movement

“Years of Living Dangerously” – April 13 premiere of climate change information series

April 11, 2014

Will it work this time?  Can it recharge the effort Al Gore started?

Monte Best of Plainview, Texas, explains to Don Cheadle how the Texas drought caused the Cargill Company to close its meat packing plant in the city.

Monte Best of Plainview, Texas, explains to Don Cheadle how the Texas drought caused the Cargill Company to close its meat packing plant in the city. “Act of God,” many local people say.

Here’s the trailer:

The avid promotional explanation:

Published on Mar 14, 2014

Don’t miss the documentary series premiere of Years of Living Dangerously, Sunday, April 13th at 10PM ET/PT.

Subscribe to the Years of Living Dangerously channel for more clips:
http://s.sho.com/YearsYouTube

Official site: http://www.sho.com/yearsoflivingdange…
The Years Project: http://yearsoflivingdangerously.com/
Follow: https://twitter.com/YEARSofLIVING
Like: https://www.facebook.com/YearsOfLiving
Watch on Showtime Anytime: http://s.sho.com/1hoirn4
Don’t Have Showtime? Order Now: http://s.sho.com/P0DCVU

It’s the biggest story of our time. Hollywood’s brightest stars and today’s most respected journalists explore the issues of climate change and bring you intimate accounts of triumph and tragedy. YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY takes you directly to the heart of the matter in this awe-inspiring and cinematic documentary series event from Executive Producers James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

More: 


Beleaguered Texas GOP governor candidate Greg Abbott goes on offensive makes offensive Tweet

April 8, 2014

This guy just can’t seem to figure out when it’s polite to talk about some things, and when one should just be quiet.

In short, he’s not got the judgment to be governor of Texas.

We’re just five days out from a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, where gun packing has taken too many innocent lives in the past few years.

Doesn’t Abbott have any sense of decency?

No wonder his campaign is troubled.  At this point, a candidate for governor should be working on a message about building the state to make it stronger (hows that for generic?).

Abbott’s cracking Second Amendment gun jokes while families grieve.  Ouch.

This isn’t funny, five days after the April 3 incident at Fort Hood.

Not funny sign, at this time, if ever.

Not funny sign, at this time, if ever.


Dallas with rain clouds, March 27, 2014

March 29, 2014

Photo from the Dallas Karting Complex.  Dallas, evening of March 27, 2014.

Photo from the Dallas Karting Complex. Dallas, evening of March 27, 2014.  Photographer unidentified. David Worthington.

Funny thing is, this photo probably didn’t require much processing to look like this.  Advances in lighting, especially LEDs and color, mean that Dallas’s skyline can look much like this any night.

Just add a thunderhead to the northeast, and voila!

Nota bene: Mr. Higginbotham discovered the photographer to be David Worthington, who is selling prints.  I recommend Dallasites contact him to get one. (Anyone else, too; it’s a great shot.)


Texas Independence Day, March 2 – fly your Texas flag today

March 2, 2014

Texans writing the Texas Declaration of Independence, 1836

In a meeting hall at Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texans meet to write the Texas Declaration of Independence, released March 2, 1836; image from Portal to Texas History

So, put some barbecue in the smoker, get a Shiner for you and your pet armadillo, sit back and enjoy the holiday.  If you’re near Washington-on-the-Brazos, go to the ceremony.  You’d better be sure you’ve got plenty of Blue Bell Ice Cream.

What?  You don’t get the day off?  You know, Texas schools don’t even take the day off any more.  (In 2014, of course, it’s a Sunday.)

I thought things were going to change when the Tea Party got to Austin and Washington?  What happened?

For Texas Independence Day, it’s appropriate to fly your U.S. flag — or your Texas flag, if you have one.

Original Manuscript, Texas Declaration of Independence - Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Original Manuscript, Texas Declaration of Independence, page 1 – Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Text from the image above:

The Unanimous
Declaration of Independence
made by the
Delegates of the People of Texas
in General Convention
at the Town of Washington
on the 2nd day of March 1836

When a government has ceased
to protect the lives, liberty and property
of the people, from whom its legitimate
powers are derived, and for the advance-
ment of whose happiness it was inst-
ituted, and so far from being a guaran-
tee for the enjoyment of those inesti-
mable and inalienable rights, becomes
an instrument in the hands of evil
rulers for their oppression.

[Complete text, and images of each page, at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission site.]

Resources for Texas Independence Day

Resources at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub

More:

This is mostly an encore post.


Register TODAY to vote in March Texas primary elections

February 3, 2014

All votes count

In Texas, voters must register 30 days prior to the election. Primaries for 2014 are on March 4, so today is the LAST DAY TO REGISTER to vote in the primaries in Texas

Registration will be easier than voting for many white women, but that’s the way the GOP legislature likes it.

Today, February 3, 2014, is the deadline to register to vote, to be eligible to vote in Texas’s primary elections, to be held March 4.

Voting is one of the few ways to get the Texas GOP to pay attention to your views.

From VoteTexas.gov:

Register To Vote 

To vote in Texas, you must be registered. Simply pick up a voter registration application, fill it out, and mail it at least 30 days before the election date. Get your application here.


You are eligible to register to vote if:

  • You are a United States citizen;
  • You are a resident of the county where you submit the application;
  • You are at least 18 years old on Election Day;
  • You are not a convicted felon (you may be eligible to vote if you have completed your sentence, probation, and parole); and
  • You have not been declared by a court exercising probate jurisdiction to be either totally mentally incapacitated or partially mentally incapacitated without the right to vote.

Are you already registered?

To confirm your voter registration status, you may select one of three methods to perform a search:

  • Your Texas driver’s license number, if you provided it when you applied for voter registration;
  • Your Voter Unique Identifier (VUID), which appears on your voter registration certificate;
  • Your first and last name.

Find out if you are already registered.


Texas State Sen. Kirk Watson warns state not to make ObamaCare navigators’ jobs tougher

January 6, 2014

After a convicted felon produced an edited video that appeared to show National Urban League “navigators” agreeing to allow the felon might file inaccurate information to get covered for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, Republicans in Texas called for greater regulation of the navigators.

Such is the topsy-turvy world of GOP gotcha politics in Texas.

After committees of the U.S. House of Representatives held press conferences* damning the Affordable Care Act, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) is holding hearings across Texas to develop regulations to restrict actions of those people who act as navigators to enroll people into federal health insurance programs or private insurance through ACA.

In short, the Texas government is working to screw up federal law and deprive Texans of health care insurance (yes, that’s probably a felony, but who could prosecute it under the current political climate?).

Burnt Orange Report described the situation:

On January 6th the Texas Department of Insurance will hold its last public hearing regarding the state’s regulation of health care navigators. The navigators are responsible for helping individuals get enrolled through the new Healthcare.gov exchange, but in Texas Governor Rick Perry has been working to add unnecessary red tape in order to impede the success of the law. Reputable non-profit organizations in Texas like United Way received $11 million in federal grant money to help enroll individuals in local communities across the state.

In September just days before the health insurance exchange website went live Perry ordered TDI to craft new rules that included additional training and background checks for individuals who serve as navigators. Apparently even Senator Kirk Watson the author of the bill (that authorized navigators in Texas) was unaware that TDI had sent a letter to federal Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, or the plan to implement rules that, “appear to both conflict with federal law and be inconsistent with SB 1795.”

In other words, TDI’s actions, on orders from Gov. Rick Perry, may violate Texas law as well.

State Sen. Kirk Watson provided this testimony at the TDI hearings today:

Texas State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Fort Worth, wrote the law that enables Affordable Care Act Navigators to work in Texas, and testified that further state regulation would be expensive, confounding bureaucracy.  Star-Telegram photo by Ron Ennis

Texas State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Fort Worth, wrote the law that enables Affordable Care Act Navigators to work in Texas, and testified that further state regulation would be expensive, confounding bureaucracy. Star-Telegram photo by Ron Ennis.

Posted on January 6, 2014 at 10:12 am.

State Senator Kirk Watson issued the following statement Monday regarding the Texas Department of Insurance’s hearing on proposed rules for healthcare navigators:

Texans have made themselves heard, and it’s clear what they want: fair rules that truly protect consumers without making it harder for them to find health insurance.

The vast majority of healthcare navigators are honest folks who are working hard, and in good faith, to connect their fellow Texans with health insurance. The Department of Insurance should create regulations that protect the state from bad actors without making it harder for navigators to do their jobs.

Texans support common-sense requirements such as criminal background checks for navigators. The bill I passed in the legislative session allowing for navigator regulations prohibits convicted felons from providing these services. Of course the state should enforce that provision and protect consumers. We shouldn’t have electioneering; my bill prevents that too. And we need to be sure we protect privacy.

But some other proposed rules appear designed only to make it harder for navigators to do their jobs.

The Department of Insurance has proposed requiring 40 hours of navigator training on top of the 20-30 hours that’s already mandated by law. That kind of training requires real time and costs real money. Where did the additional 40 hour requirement come from exactly? Who is it truly meant to help? How will Texans benefit if navigators are spending as much as 200 percent more time in class? So far, TDI has failed to provide any explanation although repeatedly requested to do. If the Commissioner waits until the final rules are out, she robs Texans of a transparent, accountable process and avoids a fair debate on this issue.

It’s also patently unfair to assess fees on navigators who, by law, aren’t allowed to charge Texans for their services. The fiscal note on my original bill said the Department of Insurance could implement these rules using existing resources. Why is it now proposing these costly, burdensome fees?

I thank Commissioner Rathgeber for scheduling this second public hearing in response to my request for it. And I urge her to listen to the Texans she’s heard from in this process.

It’s wrong to impose heavy-handed, politically motivated rules that primarily serve to make life harder for hard-working Texans who are simply trying to help their friends and neighbors find affordable health insurance. Common-sense regulations should strike a balance that actually protect Texans, both by protecting their privacy and by protecting their ability to find good, reliable, affordable health insurance.

Sen. Watson also contributed more detailed suggestions in writing:

Posted on January 6, 2014 at 12:16 pm.

Jan. 6th, 2014

Good morning, Commissioner Rathgeber and Assistant General Counsel, John Carter. Thank you for scheduling this second public hearing in response to my request for it. There remain a number of questions which TDI has yet to answer and the people deserve another opportunity to be heard on this important issue.

First, I want to be very clear about avoiding the political straw men in this this conversation.

Texans support common-sense requirements such as criminal background checks for navigators. The bill I authored in the legislative session allowing for navigator regulations prohibits convicted felons from providing these services. Of course the state should enforce that provision and protect consumers. We shouldn’t have electioneering; my bill prevents that too. And we need to be sure we protect privacy.

We are all in agreement that these requirements are paramount to protecting consumers – that’s why we put them in the bill.

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But my bill authorizes TDI to create regulations that protect the state from bad actors without making it harder for navigators to do their jobs.  Remember the purpose clause of SB 1795:  the purpose of this chapter is to provide a state solution to ensure that Texans are able to find and apply for affordable health coverage under any federally run health benefit exchange, while helping consumers in this state.

Your goal is to help ensure that Texans are able to find and apply for affordable coverage under the federally run exchange.  Remember, those in control of the capital have chosen not to have a Texas exchange, creating the need for SB 1795.

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The vast majority of healthcare navigators, as you can see and have seen from the testimony you received on September 30, 2013 and most recently on December 20, are honest folks who are working hard, and in good faith, to connect their fellow Texans with health insurance.

TDI has yet to provide justification for why it has gone as far as it has with these rules.

—-

On December 20, I and several other senators submitted a letter to you in which we requested explanations to very specific questions. The people of Texas deserve answers to these questions. They deserve to know why some of these proposed rules are so far-reaching.

What’s very troubling to me is that my office asked when we might expect answers to these questions. We were told that an email you sent on December 23 was a reply.  But that so-called reply reads as an acknowledgement of receiving the letter – not as a response to it. In fact, you seem to suggest you will answer these questions in the final rule order.  With all due respect, Commissioner, that’s inappropriate.  As I stressed in my September 30 testimony to you, because this issue has been so politicized, people have reason—even an obligation to be skeptical.  So process matters here.

Your process – your refusal to answer critical questions prior to the final rule order – leaves no opportunity to discuss fallacies or poor decisions before the proposed rules are final. More importantly, it robs Texans of a transparent, accountable process and avoids a fair debate on the issue.

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So, what are the questions that haven’t been answered?

  1. TDI has yet to explain how it arrived at the arbitrary 40 hour training requirement, in addition to the 20-30 federally required training hours.
  2. Nor has TDI explained how it arrived at the 13-13-14 hours of training in the areas of Texas Medicaid, privacy and ethics, respectively.
  3. TDI has not explained why navigators will have to pay registration fees as well as significant costs associated with additional training in light of a) the fact that navigators cannot charge a fee for their service, and b) the fiscal note for SB 1795, based on information provided by TDI, assumes any cost associated with implementation of the bill would be absorbed with existing staff and resources.
  4. TDI has yet to explain how it arrived at the proposed options for proving financial responsibility, which include surety bonds.
  5. TDI has yet to provide a detailed timeline showing each step that a navigator organization and individual navigators must accomplish to come into compliance with the proposed rule. We also haven’t seen a timeframe for which each step can reasonably be completed — an essential question for honest, hard-working Texans who are working right now to connect folks with health insurance.
  6. TDI has not explained how extending the registration requirements to almost anyone providing enrollment assistance protects Texas consumers, or how restricting the use of the term navigator outside of the federally operated insurance exchange protects Texas consumers.

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Under your proposed rules, navigators must comply with many of the rules’ requirements by March 1, 2014. Assuming this rule becomes effective in early February, navigators and navigator organizations will have only about a month to come into compliance.

Given that the open enrollment period for people seeking coverage in 2014 ends on March 31, I fear that many navigator entities will face significant problems in meeting your proposed rules without compromising their ability to help Texans secure health care. I respectfully request that you postpone the compliance deadline until after the open enrollment period ends.

And although the training requirements for TDI-certified courses are not applicable until May 1, 2014, I question how many companies will be able to set up the training and examination requirements precisely as you’ve laid out in the proposed rules. An open and transparent process shouldn’t result in a product that only a certain business or type of business can provide.

People have a right to question whether the timing, combined with the extremely expanded training requirement that doesn’t seem capable of justification other than because the Governor suggested it, might be to benefit a private provider of training.  Perhaps one that already has a contract with the state.  This would put public money that should be going to help people get health coverage in a private enterprise’s hands.  Again, with no justification.

I respectfully request that you delay the implementation of the state training requirements until the universe of potential providers can be better assessed.

We still have time to do this right. You still have the opportunity to strike the appropriate balance between two equally important responsibilities: protecting consumers, and ensuring Texans have access to the health insurance that’s right for them.

I urge you to provide answers to the questions raised by members of the Senate on December 20 and to do so before you finalize this rule.

In Texas, the Republicans will consort with convicted felons to hoax up stories about people trained to help enroll Texans for health insurance, and make completely unsubstantiated claims that the helpful people are felons, and Texans should worry about it.

If the GOP will take the word of felons to impugn the Affordable Care Act, why are they worried about the honesty of others who are not known to be felons, on the other side?

If it doesn’t make your head hurt, you’re not paying attention.

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Texas Statehood, December 29, 1845 – 168 years ago

December 29, 2013

texas our texas

U.S. and Texas flags at the Texas Capitol – photo: jmtimages

168 years ago today: Rub your pet armadillo’s belly, slaughter the fatted longhorn, crank up the barbecue pit with the mesquite wood, put Willie Nelson and Bob Wills on the mp3 player, put the “Giant” DVD on the television, and raise your glass of Big Red, Dr. Pepper, or Lone Star Beer (or Pearl, or Shiner Bock, or Llano Wine).

U.S. Flag Code rules urge flying the U.S. flag on the anniversary of a state’s joining the Union — even as much as that will frost the tiny band of desperate Texas secessionists.  (Will the secessionists fly the Texas flag at half-staff?)

Texas was admitted to the union of the United States of America on December 29, 1845.

President Polk's authorization to affix Great Seal of the U.S. to Texas Statehood documents

President Polk’s Authorization to Affix the Great Seal to Texas Statehood documents – Texas Memorial Museum, University of Texas at Austin

The text of Polk’s message:

I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of State to affix the Seal of the United States to an authenticated copy of “an act to extend the laws of the United States over the State of Texas and for other purposes” approved Dec. 29, 1845 dated this day, and signed by me and for so doing this shall be his warrant.

James K. Polk
Washington, Dec. 29, 1845

Seal of the U.S. affixed to Texas Statehood Proclamation

Great Seal of the United States of America, affixed to the Texas Statehood Proclamation – image from State Archives Division, Texas State Library

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Much of this post appeared here before; it’s an annual event, after all.


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