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.

—-

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.

—-

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.

—–

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.

—-

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.

More:


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

Resources:

More:

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


Gun rights advocates stalking Texas women arguing for gun safety

November 12, 2013

You can’t find it much in Texas newspapers, though Steve Blow at the Dallas Morning News had a good piece about it today (he’s a columnist, not a news writer).

Texas “gun rights advocates” have been stalking people who argue for safety for school kids.  You could see photos of it in all sorts of blogs and websites — but silence from most Texas media.

Cops in Arlington, Texas, seem uninterested because, they say, it’s legal to wave guns around in Texas.

But it’s not legal to stalk, and the on-line photos and other coverage should be warning to those nuts giving gun owners a bad reputation:  Every dog gets one bite, every stalker gets one visit, and you just had yours.

Here’s the skinny:  Four women want to agitate for rational laws to protect their children and grandchildren.  They chat about it in even public places, like restaurants and Facebook.  Four of them met for lunch, at a restaurant in Arlington, Texas.  A bunch of gun idiots decided to show up to intimidate them, with guns “openly carried.”

It hit my e-mail inbox as “Wee Winkie Parade.”  Here’s the photo from Moms Demand Action:

Photo of the

Photo of the “Wee Winkie Parade,” posted at the Facebook site for Moms Demand Action.

Here are the photographs offered by the intimidating group, Open Carry Texas:

Open Carry Texas's Facebook photos of the Arlington, Texas, incident.

Open Carry Texas’s Facebook photos of the Arlington, Texas, incident.

What would a rational person think if a group of gun-carrying people showed up after announcing they were coming to crash your lunch?

Arlington Police, perhaps with some wisdom, didn’t make arrests (avoiding confrontations with people waving guns in public is often an act of good discretion).  They noted Texas law allows hunters and others to carry non-handguns openly, if no other violations of law are involved.

Arlington Police, and Open Carry Texas may want to familiarize themselves with Texas’s anti-stalking laws, as described by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Information on Stalking

You have the right to defend yourself against a stalker. This page lists strategies that can help shield you from stalking.  You do not deserve to be intimidated or terrified.

Questions About Stalking…

What is Stalking?

A stalker tries to control his or her victim through behavior or threats intended to intimidate and terrify. A stalker can be an unknown person, an acquaintance or a former intimate partner. A stalker’s state of mind can range from obsessive love to obsessive hatred. A stalker may follow a victim off and on for a period of days, weeks, or even years. A stalking victim feels reasonable fear of bodily injury or death to self or to a family or household member or damage to property. Stalking can be perpetrated by the stalker or by someone acting on her/his behalf. Stalking can take the form of verbal threats or threats conveyed by the stalker’s conduct, threatening mail, property damage, surveillance of the victim, or by following the victim.

How do I Know if I’m Being Stalked?

The stalker may, on more than one occasion:

  1. Follow the victim and/or victim’s family or household members, or
  2. vandalize the victim’s property, or
  3. inflict damage to property–perhaps by vandalizing the car, harming a pet or breaking windows at the victim’s home, or
  4. make threatening calls or send threatening mail, or
  5. drive by or park near the victim’s home, office, and other places familiar to the victim.

Terroristic Threat

What is a terroristic threat?

Terroristic Threat is a penal code offense (Section 22.07). A person commits the offense of Terroristic Threat if he or she threatens to commit any offense involving violence to any person or property with the intent to place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury.  Penalty: Class B misdemeanor.

Texas Stalking Law

The law on stalking can be found in Section 42.072 of the Texas penal code.

How is stalking proven?

  1. Intent of stalker: Stalker has the intent or the knowledge that his/her actions will instill fear of death or bodily injury to the victim or a member of the victim’s family or household. Threats can be explicit (e.g.-stating that he is going to kill the victim) or implied (e.g.-veiled threats, hurting the family pet). Threats have to be aimed at a specific person; they cannot be general threats. Threats may be conveyed by the stalker or by someone acting on behalf of the stalker.
  2. Conduct of stalker: Conduct has to occur on more than one occasion and be directed towards the victim and/or the victim’s family or household members. More than one police report is not required. The acts may include threatening contact by mail or by phone, or damaging the victim’s property.

Penalty: Third Degree Felony- unless there is a prior conviction for stalking, in which case the penalty is upgraded to a 2nd degree felony.

If You Are Being Stalked…

NOTIFY THE LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AND PROSECUTOR’S OFFICES. All stalking incidents should be reported to the police. Request that each incident be documented. Request a copy of the report from your local law enforcement agency. Give police any written correspondence and report any phone threats. Put dates received on all correspondence from the stalker. Know the name of the law enforcement officer in each incident.

KEEP A DIARY. Obtain the names and addresses of witnesses. Complete records are essential to the successful prosecution of stalking cases. Write a description of each incident.

GET A PROTECTIVE ORDER if you are related to the stalker by blood or marriage, if you ever lived together, or if you have a child in common. To get a Pro Se Protective Order Packet call 800-777-3247. This packet will help you obtain a protective order barring the stalker from certain areas near your home, your work, or your child’s school. You can also review our Domestic Violence Protective Order Kit.

RECORD TELEPHONE CONVERSATIONS. Tell the stalker to stop calling and hang up. Screen your calls. Write down the time and date the stalker calls. Keep recorded messages and give them to law enforcement.

TAKE PICTURES OF THE STALKER. Take pictures of the stalker if it can be done safely and write time, date, and place on the back of each picture.

KEEP ALL CORRESPONDENCE. Make a copy of anything you receive from the stalker. Touching the letter as little as possible will preserve fingerprints.

TELL EVERYONE. Give friends, co-workers, and neighbors a description of the stalker. Ask them to document each time the stalker is seen by them.

Important Safety Measures

BE ALERT and aware of your surroundings, the people and things happening around you.

VARY ROUTES of travel when you come and go from work or home.

PARK SECURELY and in well-lit areas. Ask someone to escort you to your car.

BE AWARE of vehicles following you. If you are followed drive to a police station, fire depart-ment, or busy shopping center and sound the horn to attract attention.

ALERT MANAGERS or security at your place of business. Provide a picture or description of the stalker.

HAVE A SECURITY CHECK MADE by law enforcement of your home to ensure your home can be locked safely. Secure all doors and windows in both your home and vehicle.

MAINTAIN AN UNLISTED NUMBER. If Caller ID is available in your area, obtain the service for your phone.

DO NOT DISMISS ANY THREAT, written or verbal. Call the police or sheriff ‘s department and save any documentation.

MAINTAIN PRIVACY, never give out personal information to anyone where the information can be overheard. Remove phone number and social security number from as many items as possible.

DEVELOP A SAFETY PLAN for yourself and family members in case of emergency. Decide on a safe place to meet and someone to call if problems do arise.
Revised: November 08 2012

Dallas’s Mayor campaigns for an end to violence against women.  Perhaps Moms Demand Action should move their lunches to Dallas.

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GOP debacle swells: Texas voter ID law blocks aged, World War II veterans from voting

November 3, 2013

It’s difficult to figure out a headline for this story, one that accurately describes just how bolloxed the Republicans have made voting in Texas.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Friday was the last day of early voting for Tuesday’s elections in Texas.  Some local offices, and about 2,000 amendments to the Texas Constitution.  Okay, a half-dozen amendments to the Constitution.  Texas’s Constitution is the greatest patch-work legal document on Earth, perhaps in our galaxy, and we’ve got a bunch of amendments this time, too.

Texas’s Kommissar of State Prosecutions, Greg Abbott, took advantage of federal court decisions and imposed the clumsy Texas Jim Crow/Diego Cuervo voting laws for this election.  Although eligibility for voting, including citizenship, is checked when voters register, the new law requires that every voter present a state-issued voter identification card with a photo, again at the polls.

The law was originally targeted by Republican legislators to stop African Americans and Hispanics from voting, with a bonus that it stops senior citizens who may not have valid drivers licenses.

A lot of other people are getting snagged, too.  A state judge was required to vote provisionallyState Sen. Wendy Davis, the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for next year’s gubernatorial race, had to file a conditional ballot — she is within striking distance of Kommissar Abbott in current polls (he’s running for the Republican nomination).  About a third of white women in Texas don’t have photo identification that matches their voting registration, due to moving, marriage, divorce, etc.

And Friday, in Fort Worth . . .  well, you can’t make this stuff up.

You cannot make this stuff up.

No one questioned who he was.  He just can’t vote with the ID he has.

If Jim Wright can’t easily get an ID to vote, who can?

If any other veterans of World War II don’t have personal assistants from their Congressional retirement benefits, who will help them vote?

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

By Terry Evans and Anna M. Tinsley

tevans@star-telegram.com atinsley @star-telegram.com

FORT WORTH — Former House Speaker Jim Wright was denied a voter ID card Saturday at a Texas Department of Public Safety office.

“Nobody was ugly to us, but they insisted that they wouldn’t give me an ID,” Wright said.

The legendary Texas political figure says that he has worked things out with DPS and that he will get a state-issued personal identification card in time for him to vote Tuesday in the state and local elections.

But after the difficulty he had this weekend getting a proper ID card, Wright, 90, expressed concern that such problems could deter others from voting and stifle turnout. After spending much of his life fighting to make it easier to vote, the Democratic Party icon said he is troubled by what he’s seeing happen under the state’s new voter ID law.

“I earnestly hope these unduly stringent requirements on voters won’t dramatically reduce the number of people who vote,” Wright told the Star-Telegram. “I think they will reduce the number to some extent.”

Wright and his assistant, Norma Ritchson, went to the DPS office on Woodway Drive to get a State of Texas Election Identification Certificate. Wright said he realized earlier in the week that the photo identifications he had — a Texas driver’s license that expired in 2010 and a TCU faculty ID — do not satisfy requirements of the voter ID law, enacted in 2011 by the Legislature. DPS officials concurred.

But Wright and Ritchson will return to the office Monday with a certified copy of Wright’s birth certificate, which the DPS employees assured them would be good enough for the Texas personal identification card, designed specifically for people who do not drive.

“It can be used for anything, not just voting,” Ritchson said.

Photo ID alone doesn’t work.  Legal identification cards don’t work.  It has to be the magic, let’s hope you ain’t got one, kind of ID.

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Jim Wright shows the voter identification card issued to him by his home county -- not enough to allow him to vote under new Texas voter ID laws.  The World War II veteran was denied an identification card on Friday.  Fort Worth Star-Telegram photo by Terry Evans

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Jim Wright shows the voter identification card issued to him by his home county — not enough to allow him to vote under new Texas voter ID laws. The World War II veteran was denied a photo identification card on Friday. Fort Worth Star-Telegram photo by Terry Evans

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Signs: “Church” — warning signs?

October 13, 2013

Our drive through central Texas and the Hill Country a few days ago provided some good fun and much needed break, though our destination was a memorial service for a friend who died very prematurely.

Kathryn noticed these odd signs first.  I’m not sure of the purpose.  These are in the information sign mode, the yellow diamonds used to warn drivers of hazards ahead.

The hazard?  “Church.”

"Church" warning sign in Burnet, Texas

“Church” warning sign in Burnet, Texas

One might imagine these signs are posted to warn drivers on Sunday.  About noon, when these churches’ services let out, the roads around them may be filled with people who are only too happy to go meet Jesus right now — so watch out! and drive accordingly.

Texas offers all sorts of strange things to those willing to drive the state’s highways, and see ‘em.

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Wendy Davis’s first ad: A positive vision for Texas (but too long for most TV)

October 8, 2013

In stark contrast to Greg Abbott‘s “Texas is for white people with guns” advertisement (addressed here yesterday), Wendy Davis‘s get-to-know-me ad paints a vision of a better Texas to be had, even if in a too-long four-and-a-half minutes:

The ad was released yesterday at Davis’s campaign website, “Are you with Wendy?”

I imagine the GOP will jump on the ad, complaining that it doesn’t show enough guns (are there any?).  But it does several things the next Texas governor needs to do:

  1. It paints a picture of a Texas government that works to help people succeed in Texas.
  2. Davis’s ad shows Texas’s diversity, and suggests both that the diversity is a virtue for Texas’s future, and that Texas government shouldn’t be barring the door (or voting booth) to any Texan (especially white Texas women, many of whom may get a shock when they try to vote this November).
  3. Davis urges policies to help Texas cattlemen, who have been hammered hard under GOP rule (50% of Texas beef ranches closed in the past two years).
  4. Davis urges policies to help Texas farmers (cotton is still big in about a hundred counties).
  5. Aerospace and aviation get specific attention — you saw the American Airlines jet? Davis was City Councilwoman in Fort Worth, American’s hometown and headquarters. Already Davis turned around Greg Abbott on that issue when she called for a Texas government that supported American Airlines and its few tens of thousands of jobs in Texas.  Abbott announced last week that he has dropped his suit to prevent American’s merger with USAir, a suit that threatened Texas jobs directly.
  6. The ad ties Davis’s success in business, and life, to public institutions that help all Texans, institutions Davis used to climb the success ladder.
  7. Pro-business. Business in Davis’s ad is aerospace, ranching, farming, oil, and main street retail, among others.  Abbott’s ad shows only one ramshackle BBQ shack.
  8. It demonstrates an area where Greg Abbott should have been active in fighting crime, processing rape backlogged rape kits from Texas assaults — but where it too Davis in the legislature to get action to solve the crimes.
  9. Oh, yeah:  Education is in there.  It’s solidly in there.
  10. Overall, it’s a positive, “once more into the breach” sort of story.  At the end of Abbott’s ad, one can say he seems a physically capable guy; at the end of Davis’s ad, one may want to get up and go start a business, or run for office.

Davis’s ad does a lot of things a pitch for Texas’s next governor needs to do, on issues that we hope the next governor is way ahead of the rest of us on — but which are wholly missing from Abbott’s first non-negative ad effort.

What do you think?

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Davis at a rally following her most recent history-making filibuster.  KUT photo by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

Davis at a rally following her most recent history-making filibuster. KUT photo by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon


Greg Abbott’s campaign stumbles — except for white people with guns

October 7, 2013

For three days after Fort Worth State Sen. Wendy Davis announced her candidacy for the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor, the Republican front-runner, Greg Abbott, seemed off-balance, first going to negative campaigning about Davis.

Some Texans wondered whether Abbott had a good idea about what the role of governor is, which could form a basis for his candidacy.  Why does Abbott want to be governor, and what would he do?

Today Abbott released an almost-90-second advertisement.  The ad reveals Abbott doesn’t have a vision for Texas in the future, and the ad suggests Abbott will rely heavily on trying to scare white Texans to outvote everybody else.

Here are my observations about Abbott’s ad as it came to me on Facebook, and the ad, below.

Greg Abbott first went negative when State Sen. Wendy Davis announced her campaign for governor last week.

He’s having difficulty finding a reason to run for governor, demonstrated by his video, below.

The video is impressive:

  1. Not a single Hispanic shown out of several dozen people. In fact, there appears to be only one, lonely woman of color in the entire thing. Texas is for white people, Abbott appears to be saying.
  2. Those white people in Texas need guns. It’s not like Texas has any shortage of guns, nor has the Obama administration done anything to restrict gun ownership or use, nor is it even an issue in Texas — but watch the video, you understand that the Texas white people shown in it, need guns. (Why? you may ask?)
  3. Abbott is all for low-wage, service industry jobs. When he talks about jobs in Texas, the ad shows a rickety, ramshackle BBQ joint. You may like BBQ more than Greg Abbott, but if you’re an aerospace worker, or you work for American Airlines, you would do well to question why Abbott worked so hard to kill American Airlines before Sen. Davis made it a campaign issue. (Abbott belatedly dropped his suit challenging the American/USAir merger, last week. Less than a week in the campaign and Wendy Davis is already improving Texas government . . .)
    Faced with a pro-business Democrat with a proven record of making things work for business and Texas, Abbott is adrift. These appear to be issues he hasn’t pondered much, other than to reduce regulations on businesses that injure people.
  4. Not a word about education. Where will all those gun-wielding white people send their kids to school?
  5. When he mentions water policy, something that comes far behind guns, BBQ, and the Tea Party in Greg Abbott’s Texas, he shows footage of Interstate 35 in Austin. One of Texas’s greatest problems (on the ballot in November with a Constitutional Amendment), but to Abbot it’s an afterthought. Maybe he thinks he can shotgun a few clouds to resolve the issues?
  6. Not a word about farming, nor ranching. Texas’s lack of a water policy, and inadequate work to mitigate global warming, pushed about 50% of Texas’s cattle and beef operations out of business on the GOP watch, just in the last four years. In Greg Abbott’s Texas, land is for shooting quail for rich folk, all you hamburger eaters can take a hike.
  7. Not a word about oil or gas, nor fracking, nor the abuse of eminent domain to ram a pipeline through Texas ranches and farms, killing the ranches and farms.
    You’d think after two decades in state office, Mr. Abbott would have a better idea about Texas and Texas problems, and would run a campaign on how to improve things for Texans, not just out of state pipeline companies.
  8. Abbott is running against Barack Obama, and he hates California. No good reason, but those are probably the only applause lines in his bereft-of-Texas stump speech.

You’d think some of those Million-Dollar-A-Year consultants would have worried a bit about Texas in setting up these ads. They must think their only chance is to scare their supporters out to the polls. They may be right.

Abbott’s campaign said:

Preserve Texas as the land of liberty. Watch my video below, and donate here: http://bit.ly/18UKBnr

What do you think, America?  See any reason for anyone other than a paranoid white guy to vote for Abbott?

Conflict of interest note:  Abbott is a Duncanville boy, a favorite of most residents of Duncanville we know. 

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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott appears bef...

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott appears before a controversial tablet displaying the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol (behind the capitol building) in Austin, Texas, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Wendy Davis story — stay tuned

October 3, 2013

Two years ago this ad helped push Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis to victory in a district stacked against her.  I think it’s one of the more powerful political advertisements done in the last decade at least, considering the target audience.

Today Sen. Davis will announce she’s running for Governor of Texas.  Regardless the outcome of the race, it’s still a remarkable life story.

Polls show Davis only 8 points behind Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who usually enjoys an 80%-20% advantage in elections.  Davis is good enough to essentially wipe out the name identification, party identification and money advantage Abbott has, before she announces.

It could be a very exciting political year in Texas.  Stay tuned.

More:

Details: The entire conversation between Texas Senator Wendy Davis and James Henson, Director of the Texas Politics Project at UT Austin. Senator Davis discussed a range of topics including education, budget priorities in the 82nd Legislature, her filibuster in the final hours of the 82nd lege, and the future of the Democratic Party in Texas.

Recorded Dec 1, 2011 at The University of Texas at Austin.

Master of the Capitol:  Picture from Vogue Magazine; caption: Wendy Davis in a Carolina Herrera dress and Reed Krakoff pumps. Photographed by Eric Boman, Vogue, September 2013

Master of the Capitol, “I do hate losing”: Picture from Vogue Magazine; caption: Wendy Davis in a Carolina Herrera dress and Reed Krakoff pumps. Quote from the article: “I’m a very competitive person,” she says as the sun sets behind her and she packs up for the movie. “You won’t change things unless you are prepared to fight, even if you don’t win.” She pauses. “But I do hate losing.” Photographed by Eric Boman, Vogue, September 2013


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