Saturday, February 26, 2011

175 Years of Misapplied Texan Pride

This week, Texas celebrates its 175 anniversary declaring Independence from Mexico. 175 is a totally lame number, history wise. No offense, "Terquasquicentennial."

The Texas Declaration of Independence, modeled after the American Declaration of Independence, was handwritten 175 years ago this week and freed the state from "oppressive Mexican rule." No other U.S. state has such a distinction. But does it somehow credit Texas of being different-better somehow?

I can agree Texas has some interesting history, but declarations and battles seem pretty par for the course, particularly to this country. Key facts in Texas' origins stories are shared with other states. Other states were originally Mexico (New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah, even parts of Wyoming). Some states were even independent prior to becoming part of the United States (the Vermont Republic [1791], the Republic of Texas [1845], and the California Republic [1846]). And Hawaii shares in the distinction of having formal diplomatic recognition internationally for a short time in history. So why do Texans always pride themselves on having such a unique, distinctive history compared to other states?

"The independent spirit that reigned on the Texas frontier during the era of the Texas Revolution can still be seen today throughout the state," said Light Cummins, an Austin College history professor and the Texas state historian. "Texans today pride themselves on being independent, hard-working, innovative and no-nonsense people, all of which is reflected in our view of those who participated in the Texas Revolution. Perhaps for that reason, many Texans believe that this state is different from any other in the nation in terms of its history and its heritage."

The more I try to understand the nature of the depth of the pride of Texans for the state, the more I can't understand why anyone is so loyal to any place they are from, rich history or not. I'm not trying to rain on Texans' right to celebrate its history and culture, I'm just curious as to the ferocity in which the state is defended based on its past. Texas is a great state, but not because of anything it did 175 years ago. Almost two centuries later, we cannot seriously continue to assert merit based on historical events. Shouldn't we all be wondering what great steps Texas will be taking to make us proud to live here now? What about those Texan values worth standing for, hard-won and deep-rooted?

Such values as being famously anti-government. Why the recent curtailing of civil liberties (mandatory sonograms-for-abortions bill, frivolous anti-drug laws, the banning of same-sex marriage)? Texas has a unique and bountiful environment that prospers from tourism and agriculture. Why not move to protect the coast, gulf, and land from oil-drilling abuse, the rich pine forests from the logging industry, the small, independently-owned farms from mass agriculture takeovers? The booming economy is second in the nation. Why not take steps to stimulate the economy and raise the standards of living by providing, rather than cutting, funding to schools and social services? Texans, please help me understand. What are you so proud of that Texas has done for you in the last 10 years? Is it just the barbecue?

Leave it in the comments.

Related: Celebration for 175 Years of Texas Independence

Earlier: The Texas Experiment: Awful, Artful Texan Pride
The Texas Experiment: Apply To Be Texan

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Guns 4 Groceries" Sanest Gun Policy In Texas

Law enforcement agencies are holding a gun buyback program this weekend, no questions asked, in exchange for cold hard cash (go buy a better gun! Just kidding. Feed your family). The Guns 4 Groceries program began last year and returns this Saturday at Oak Meadow Baptist Church, 6905 S. Interstate 35, near William Cannon Drive in South Austin.

Here are the deats:
Saturday, 2/26/11 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
$200 for each assault rifle
$100 for each handgun and rifle
$10 apiece for air guns, BB guns or replicas
There is a two-gun limit per participant.

"The response was overwhelming last time. We had to shut down after a few hours," said Cary Roberts of Greater Austin Crime Commission, a nonprofit that is co-sponsoring the event. "We anticipate the same interest this time."

The Greater Austin Crime Commission webpage promotes "public safety programs that improve the community's quality of life. These programs have been done with private financial support and without concern for public fanfare. The Crime Commission and its members care about the Central Texas." Apparently, the mission statement was written by someone not native to the Central Texas. The Commission does general do-gooder work like provide anti-drug and youth programs for kids, bullet proof vests to cops, trauma kits for patrol vehicles, technology for an Amber Alert program, and what is probably most important, marketing the police department's 3-1-1 response systems, which significantly reduces emergency calls. They seem a little stoic for a non-profit (no fanfare for these guys), but maybe they are just hiding their soft, gooey centers behind tough cop exteriors. I like the idea of public safety as a community concern and effort.

Why are people giving up their guns? Many of the participants last year had weapons they had inherited and no longer wanted, or were living with children and no longer wanted weapons in the home, Roberts said.

When turning in a weapon, police ask participants to follow these instructions:

• Unload the gun.
• Put the gun and ammunition in separate paper bags.
• Bring gun and ammunition to Oak Meadow Baptist Church (6905 South IH-35), Saturday, February 26, 2011, between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.
• Upon arrival, tell an officer you are there to turn in a gun.
• Do not remove the gun from the bag unless asked to do so.

My next question is, what are they going to do with all of those guns? Oh, of course. They need them for hunting.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Man Executes Santa Claus, Runs For Mayor

David Grisham Jr. is running for mayor of Amarillo, Texas. Here he is in crossed-out "Co-exist" sweatshirt executing Santa Claus by firing squad. He is fucking insane.


The Repent Amarillo website, which Grisham runs, claims "Repent Amarillo is a unique ministry. We are outside the box in terms of traditional American Christian practices. First and foremost we seek to be bold. We believe in using the strength, courage, and authority in our Lord Jesus Christ to its utmost. Eternal souls are at stake and heaven and hell are the only two outcomes. We are not playing church. Christ gave His very life. We dishonor Christ if we give any less of ourselves. The Apostles risked prison, beatings, ridicule, and death. We dishonor them if we risk any less of ourselves. We can be cowards or Christians but we cannot be both. With the exceptions of false doctrine or sin we will use any method to preach the Gospel or stand for righteousness that God commands us to do." All of this somehow translates to Santa. Must. Die.

Think Progress describes Repent as "a sort of militia and targets a wide range of community members they deem offensive to their theology: gays, liberal Christians, Muslims, environmentalists, breast cancer events that do not highlight abortion, Halloween, “spring break events,” and pornography shops. On its website, Repent has posted a “Warfare Map” of its enemies in town." Practicing "Spiritual Warfare" doesn't seem very Christian to me, but I'm not exactly trying to rationalize with this group. My concern is his platform for Amarillo, Texas.

“The Scriptures are quite clear that the governing authorities are ministers of God, and if that is true — and we know from God’s word that it is — then it just makes sense that ministers of God should be running for office,” Grisham said of his campaign for the May 14 mayoral election. Of course, the Scriptures aren't the framework for our governance.

Grisham on civil liberties: "We’re not campaigning against certain people’s freedoms. When we preach on the streets, we give people a choice of accepting Christ or accepting things the way people are doing them. Are we aggressive about doing that? Yes, we are.” Grisham's behavior is beyond aggressive, it borders on stalking, psychotic, and militant. This January, Grisham gained national infamy by urging a boycott of Houston for having a gay mayor and one of the nation's largest abortion clinic. Think Progress reports that "he's also gone after an Amarillo swingers club, showing up in military fatigues and bullhorns, blaring Christian music at the swingers’ club building. The swingers, made up of “regulars” of middle aged, working class couples, were then stalked at every following visit to the club. Repent not only took video of each member, but obtained the swingers’ license plates and dug through their trash, informing neighbors and coworkers of what was once private." What choice does a person have to be stalked, harassed, and bullied? Here's a report from the Texas Observer:




Repent has even been successful in its hate crime endeavors. When a local community theater attempted to put on a play about the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany, Repent helped shut it down by calling the Fire Marshall to complain against the theater's permit.

What can you do? Support groups like Angel Action, protesters who gather to represent the rights of the businesses and groups Repent Amarillo does not support. Crystal Williams says, "The swingers club for instance. These are consenting adults and whatever you make of that personally we don't believe as a group or as individuals that its our business to interfere. We also want to represent the fact that some of these businesses and some of these churches that are on this prayer list that they have you know they are making accusations against them that aren't necessarily true." And Amarillo, make sure to get out there and vote for someone who understands the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bienvenidos, Y'all!



Born to lift community spirits during difficult times, the Charro Days Fiesta arrives in Brownsville, Texas this week with the same dedication to bi-national friendship and respect for traditions that first captivated Brownsville 74 years ago. All weekend long, you can enjoy street dancing, live local music, a children's costume contest, a flour tortilla taco eating contest, Folklorio dancing, Mariachi music, 3 days worth of Sombrero Fest, Hispanic art and artists, unique food-booths, a jalapeno eating contest, the Grito yelling contest, a tortilla frisbee toss, a hat-stack relay, and the a Charro bean cookoff adorably titled "Frijolympics." Phew! What an awesome week!

During the Great Depression local business leaders decided to create an antidote to the gloom that engulfed Brownsville and the rest of the country - talk about awesome governance! They wanted to celebrate what made their community unique: it’s location on the border with Mexico, and the rich cultural heritage that comes with that interesting address. Maybe Arizona needs some eating contests.

Brownsville residents and visitors dress in the traditional costumes of Mexico and honor the Mexican cowboys -- the Charros -- who were heroes of the borderlands. Elegant costume balls, popular street parties and fireworks – all launched with an exuberant, traditional “Grito’' yell – contribute to the lively Charro Days celebrations.

“The importance of Charro Days goes back to 1937 when it was organized,” says Carlos BaƱales, executive director of the festival. “It was to unite two countries, to bring them together. We like to remember our roots and we like for people who come to Charro Days as visitors to know about our rich cultural heritage.” Charro Days Fiesta is held jointly in Brownsville, Texas, USA & Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico every year in the last week in February. Kudos to these lovely towns for celebrating history and diversity. Don't forget your sombrero and your spurs, and practice your Grito Mexicano!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Texas FAIL

For the third time in as many consecutive legislative sessions, a bill that requires women to undergo a sonogram prior to receiving an abortion was passed by the Texas Senate. The proposal requires doctors to perform the ultrasound and offer women a chance to see the image and hear the fetal heartbeat, if it is present. Physicians must also give a description of the image, including whether the fetus has limbs or internal organs. A woman may decline the first two provisions, but not the third. Exemptions are granted for medical emergencies, victims of rape or incest, or in cases where fetal anomalies make the child’s survival unlikely.

Now why would there be exceptions granted for such cases? The governing bodies clearly understand the emotional distress caused by the ultrasound procedure. Supporters of the bill claim it's about providing women with all information they need to make informed decisions. Focus on the Family's Jim Daly believes that 65% of women who see an ultrasound don't go through with the abortion. “To be able to put a face on that baby humanizes this process and really allows the mother to connect,” said Carrie Gordon Earll, a Focus on the Family spokeswoman. “Ultrasound is one of the ultimate examples of informed consent because you are seeing what you are giving permission to happen.”

Imin Carmon writes, "an ultrasound in this case isn't information, it's propaganda, and requiring it is based on the notion that women are in denial about their abortions and should be forced to look at an image of the fetus as a tool to talk them out of it." And many doctors say there's absolutely no medical reason for the scans.

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, made a attempt to tweak the bill by allowing women to opt out of all the bill’s sonogram-related provisions via a form; it was defeated. In an approved amendment that preceded Davis’s, a similar form will be given to women of the exempted categories, as well as minors who are receiving the procedure without parental consent, through a judicial bypass procedure. What a pathetic compromise.

It's so obvious that images provided by ultrasounds are being used to potentially dissuade women from proceeding with abortions. Why else the need for exemptions in extreme cases such as rape or incest? I am incensed by the notion that women seeking abortions are whimsical, ill informed, or somehow need the state's "guidance." Texas clearly shows a lack of respect for a woman's right to her own medical treatment and her emotional and intellectual capability to make adult choices.

Sonogram Bill Passes In Senate - Austin American Statesmen
The Texas Experiment: Being Pro Choice In Texas

Monday, February 14, 2011

Texan Lovin'



The Daily Beast ranked America's 50 cities "where love’s promise is most profound, from abundant singles to happy couples to romantic ambiance." And 2 Texan cities made the top 10 - with San Antonio scoring #1!

Say the scientist-bloggers: "Some cities have high percentages of single men and women, some cities foster a culture that places a higher value on marriage than others, and some cities just have better looking people and a more romantic cultural ambiance. To find which cities provide the best backdrop for luring love, The Daily Beast ranked the country’s largest cities based on a high prevalence of marriage, a low incidence of divorce, a relatively happy population and a wealth of bars and restaurants to meet and woo a significant other."

They culled statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau on the population of singles, the number of marriages and divorces, considered the percentage of the population comprised of single adults to measure each city’s "date-ability." They also considered the percentage of the total married population who walked down the aisle in 2009 to see how marriage-minded each city’s residents are at present (whether you personally consider that a measure of love is a whole 'nother can of worms) and measured the success of each city’s betrothals by looking at the number of divorces in 2009 compared to the total married population. And Texas pulled in 4 top ranking cities - wowzer! With so much loving going on here, you'd think they'd let gay people get in on it!

Austin scores at #3, Houston at #40, and Dallas at #41. I wonder why El Paso didn't make the cut? Just kidding! It's because it's a shithole.

Happy Valentine's Day, lovers!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Good Love

This Valentine's Day, consider the love you have for your community!





A message from Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association: Austin Independent School District is considering closing Becker Elementary due to under-enrollment. Why it is important to keep Becker Elementary School open? Closing a school most parents and students walk or bike to does not support the city goals of creating vibrant, non-auto-dependent central neighborhoods. There is a tremendous amount of development in the city center and this neighborhood in particular, and closing Becker without careful consideration of the impact on the neighborhood and the city as a whole is short-sighted. This 70 year old neighborhood school provides a close-knit learning environment that is crucial to students’ social development and academic success. Closing this school does not serve the students and will change the feel of the neighborhood. AISD should keep Becker open to allow time for the community and the district to explore alternatives for increasing enrollment.



What you can do to help save this historic neighborhood school:

1) Call AISD Board of Trustees to ask them to keep Becker Elementary School open – this is a very effective approach and worth your time.
AISD Board of Trustees: email: trustees@austinisd.org, AISD office: 414-1704
Cheryl Bradley, 472-9554 Doyle Valdez, 502-1007 Mark Williams, 371-9338
Rudy Montoya Jr., 916-8921 Ave Wahrmund, 467-8554 Robert Schneider, 619-3973
John J. Fitzpatrick, 694-2153 Johna Edwards, 837-5488 Patricia Whiteside, 442-7637

2) Sign the petition to request more time to consider Becker Elementary’s future. Contact Lorie Barzano (barzano@flash.net), 447-5577

3) Pack the house at the next two AISD Board of Trustees meetings: March 20, Monday, 6 p.m. and March 27, Monday, 7 p.m. AISD auditorium, 1111 West 6th Street.

For more detailed information, see the Bouldin Creek Neighborhood Association website: www.bouldincreek.org/becker.html

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta, Er, Texan

DJ Bigga Rankin & DJ Michael "5000" Watts released this week the mixtape The History of Texas featuring Geto Boys, Chamillionare, Mike Jones, U.G.K., Devin the Dude, and ultimate street cred gangsta Scarface.

Watts finally put down his purple drank long enough to release his chopped and screwed (developed in the Houston hip hop scene in the 1990s) tribute to the state that made the style famous.



Rest in peace, Pimp C. I will pour out some sizzurp for you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Getting High With The Whole Family!

South Padre Island held its annual Kite Festival this weekend! From Texas Monthly, "The 11th annual South Padre Island Kite Fest has a fleet of “show kites” — mammoth versions costing upward of $10,000 that resemble floats at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.


“Some of them are as big as semis,” said Susie Doan, co-owner of B&S Kites, a retail shop that brings in kite-fliers from throughout the United States and Canada to perform flights of fancy for the weekend. “This is more of a come-and-be-in-awe thing and less of a fly-your-own-kite thing.”

The beach and ocean backdrop will provide unparalleled scenery, and a lawn chair will come in handy when Team iQuad, a nine-member group navigating quad-line kites (kites with multiple strings), performs synchronized routines that can cause stomachs to drop."

If fancy-pants ain't your style, try your homemade version out at Austin's Zilker Park Kite Festival next month on March 6. While all types of kites are welcome at the Kite Festival, manufactured kites can’t compete in the Kite Flying Contest, so go on get your crafty-DIY on, y'all! There are even free kite making workshops sponsored by The Exchange Club of Austin and the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department to help you get started.

Up, up, and away!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Crappy Suggestions For Renaming Austin's Solid Waste Services Department

Austin's Solid Waste Services Department needs a new name, and they are calling on the residents of Austin to help them decide. They're putting it to an online vote and so far, their overwhelming choice seems to be "The Fred Durst Society of the Humanities and Arts."

Fred Durst is the frontman for the hard-rock band Limp Bizkit, and from this photo evidence, the name seems appropriate. Besides being an idiot and a jerk, "Nookie" is perhaps the worst song of all time. This title may be even better fitting than when San Francisco tried to rename its waste plant after President George W. Bush.

Austin city officials, however, aren't in love with the idea. City of Austin public information specialist Jennifer Herber tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer that the name will ultimately be decided by the city manager and the poll was just for "public input."

"Obviously we're going to go with what makes the most sense for Austin and for the department," she says.

Perhaps we've finally found a place to stick that cookie, Fred.



Other suggestions include:
The Department of Neat And Clean,
Ministry of Filth
Lemon Party
The Colbert Solid Waste Department
The Austin Department of Are You Gonna Eat That?
FLOATER (The Department of Filth, Litter, Outreach, Abatement, Trimmings, Education and Recycling)
Keep Austin Wasted

Vote here!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Superbowl Sunday Is Actually Just A Super Sunday

One that begged for bicycling and exploring. And stumbling across this:





Why is there a dining room under a bridge? I just don't know.





But I love it!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dallas Hosts Stripper Bowl Sunday



Dallas is certainly keeping it classy for the Stripper Super Bowl tomorrow. John Walsh, who runs Showtime Cabaret in Dallas tells TMZ that he's doing his part for the economy by doubling his staff from 50 talented dancers to 100-120. He also says that "the 60 clubs in Dallas' 30 Mile Zone need an additional 10,000 strippers." WOAH.

TMZ makes an interesting point: Arlington city officials expect to host 300,000 visitors that weekend -- which puts the tourist to stripper ratio at around 30:1. WOAH.

What exactly is this "Super Bowl" about, again? I thought people mostly ate wings?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Libertarians In Texas



Travis Irvine, Libertarian candidate in Ohio's 12th Congressional District Race from 2010, recently wrote the article "Awesome Austin: The Most Progressive Libertarian City in America." Irvine, who cleverly markets himself as "giving the two-party system the third finger", has some interesting impressions of the "unique culture, intelligence and overall freedom of the City of Austin. It is hands down the most progressive libertarian city I have ever been to — thanks to its progressive libertarian people and local government."

Irvine has a loose and certainly progressive definition of libertarianism, stating, "Libertarianism is, and should continue to be, about allowing all individuals of a society to have their own personal freedoms, lives, properties and pursuits of happiness, as long as they do not impede upon other people’s personal freedoms, lives, properties and pursuits of happiness. When individuals are empowered in this way, they can fight unwanted powers at the local level as a collective people without always having to turn to the government for help."

Irvine is certainly onto something about Libertarianism in Texas. Where else would Ron Paul have such a devout following from liberals and conservatives alike? Libertarians are gaining momentum in Texas as a party of personal freedom combined with small government and less spending. This year they are joined by the Green Party with a slot on the Texas ballots - something that hasn't happened since 2002, showing further polarization of ideals and discontent for the current state of affairs. According to the Texas Tribune, "Libertarianism is the largest of the 3rd party organizations in Texas, and is the only one to currently have an automatic spot on the ballot. The ballot slot is maintained each time the party gets at least 5-percent of the vote in a state-wide race. The party holds no state or federal offices in Texas. But members of the party do hold about a dozen non-partisan municipal level positions - like City Councilman."

While most Austinites don't consider themselves Libertarian (the county leans left; in the 2010 elections, nearly 60 percent of the county voted for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White, while under 37 percent voted to re-elect incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry [Perry won]. More than 63 percent of voters in the county voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential elections) historically and culturally they'd be more likely to agree with Libertarianism ideals of fiscal responsibility and social tolerance than with Conservatives' maintenance of traditional institutions and prudence in government.

But while I do agree that Austin values both uniqueness and equality, I believe Austinites have been forced to keep their power at the local level, what with the rest of the state wishing the city's inhabitants would up and move to California already. Austin fights the state of Texas for greater access to educational funding, medicare, and social services. Austin also institutes a local sales tax in juxtaposition to state's stance on taxation and advocates for tighter gun control laws, marriage equality, and most importantly, environmental protection.


Find out more about your own political leanings, read about Travis Irvine, and generally support pizza at www.irvineforcongress.com.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Texas Weather Crazier Than Texans



There is a tizzy going on in Texas, and it is called the weather. Apparently, Texans have little to no resourcefulness when it comes to dealing with the randomness of their winter cold (it was 75 degrees on Monday) and cannot be trusted to moderate their own energy consumption. In their greed for warmth and comfort, Texans' generated-power must in turn be regulated by the energy companies. Can't you just hear them yelling at you to put on a sweater?!

For instance, yesterday in Austin, with a high of 31 degrees and a low of about 18 with 20mph winds, Austin Energy instituted city-wide rolling blackouts in order to equalize access to their sweet, sweeeeeet heat. Apparently the entire city runs on electric heat, and the blackouts ensured that everyone had access to power for at least some time during the day, rather than one section of the city losing power for an indeterminate amount of time (at my house, we lost power for 40 minutes every hour, for about 12 hours). The rolling, regulated power-outages made traffic lights obsolete and buildings uninhabitable, and officials encouraged residents to stay home.

In an early morning press release, the the Electric Reliability Council of Texas has said that "we have more power plants online today with capacity to serve the energy needs that were not available yesterday," meaning that schools and businesses won't have to take another "No-Snow Day" due to cold, unlit buildings.

I find this logic to be genius: it's too damn cold, everybody just stay home and sleep. They're calling for snow tomorrow but it'll be sunny and in the high 60s by the weekend. Polarized state, indeed.


Now go put this on.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011