Saturday, April 30, 2011

Marfa Keeps It Weirder

This short documentary, “No Place Like Here: Marfa, Texas" by Karen Brownstein, is a glimpse into the lives of the incredibly creative artists and eccentrics hanging out in isolation in far west desert town Marfa, Texas. "Everybody's doing their own thing here, so no one's really interested in what you're doing. And that gives you the freedom to do whatever you want," says one of the crafters.

Now on my to-do list: visit the Museum of Electronic Wonders and Late Night Grilled Cheese Parlor.

via The Etsy Blog

Friday, April 29, 2011

Texan Rules on Transgender: Only Acceptable If Violating Title IX

Two years ago, Texas finally allowed transgendered people to use proof of their sex change to get a marriage license. Finally! We caught up to the rest of the country! Too bad the rest of the country is going straight to hell.

"The Texas Constitution," Senator Tommy Williams said, "clearly defines marriage between one man and one woman." AP reports that the legislation by Williams, of Houston, and Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, of Brenham, would prohibit county and district clerks from using a court order recognizing a sex change as documentation to get married, effectively requiring the state to recognize a 1999 state appeals court decision that said in cases of marriage, gender is assigned at birth and sticks with a person throughout their life even if they have a sex change. Gov. Rick Perry's spokesman Mark Miner said the governor never intended to allow transgendered people to get married. He said the three-word sex change provision was sneaked through on a larger piece of legislation Perry signed two years ago regarding marriage licensing rules for county and district clerks.

Let's start with the "gender is assigned at birth" part. Let's go back to biology and sociology 101, Mr. Perry. Sex is assigned at birth, gender is a role constructed by environment. A sex change isn't even necessarily the end all to gender assignment - if a man feels like a woman, acts like a woman, looks like a woman, thinks he's a woman - he's is, in fact, a woman. Secondly, Governor, it's your job to read and write legislation, so way to fuck that up. Thirdly, it's hard to believe such a huge issue could be so easily "sneaked" in - and by who? Perry (obviously) supports efforts to "clarify the unintended consequences" of that law, Miner said. They never intentionally gave anyone rights. The unintended consequences? People who love each other getting to marry each other. CONSEQUENCES, INDEED.

Ironically, at Texas A&M (which is Perry's alma matar), it's totally okay for boys to be girls, as long it allows the school to comply with the federally funded gender-equality law known as Title IX, which has allowed thousands of girls an athletic team to compete on. According to the New York Times, Division I programs routinely count male players who practice with women’s teams as female participants. Texas A&M, a notoriously conservative University which just won the women’s Division I basketball championship, reported 32 players on that such team in the 2009-10 academic year, although 14 were men. HUH?

Texas seems pretty opportunistic about the flexibility of gender roles - boys can be girls, as long as they don't try to love anyone (love - it's what corrupts the children), and as long as an institution (read: a business) gets their money.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Finally, A Place For Much-Marginalized Heterosexual Students

The Texas House of Representatives has overwhelming passed a budget bill that would require any public college with a student center on "alternative" sexuality to provide equal funding to create new centers to promote traditional values. "Alternative" centers turned out to be Women, Gender, and Sexuality Centers. Alternative to what? Traditional by whose standards? Am I going to end up in an apron? The amendment, proposed by Representative Wayne Christian would apply to any public colleges with a center "for students focused on gay, lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, transsexual, transgender, gender questioning, or other gender identity issues." A glaring omission by the Representative, these centers add 'women' to the list.

What services do these "alternative" school centers provide? Well, at UT Austin, for example, "The Gender and Sexuality Center provides safe spaces for all members of the UT Austin community to explore, organize, and promote learning around issues of gender and sexuality. The center also facilitates a greater responsiveness to the needs of women in the LGBTQ communities through education, outreach, and advocacy." It sponsors Women's History Month and provides domestic abuse counseling. So it provides a safe place as well as useful resources and services to all students, regardless of orientation, gender, or sex.

What exactly will a "traditional values" center provide? Heterosexual couples don't need protection from oppressive laws, they aren't bullied for their sexuality, never need to admit their sexuality to others, wouldn't be denied opportunities because of orientation, and have a plethora of resources available for them in their school libraries. Advice and assistance is pretty much guaranteed in their lives; heterosexuality as the norm is engrained in our society, in our customs, and our law. So is this law really about equal opportunity or something more sinister?

From Inside Higher Ed: Lawmakers supporting the bill have said that they favor only equal time for all kinds of sexuality.But the Young Conservatives of Texas, a group that worked with Christian on the legislation, did so with the hope that public colleges would respond to a law, if the bill passes, by ending support for existing centers. Tony McDonald, senior vice chairman of the group and a law student at UT Austin, said in an interview that "we could try to get these groups defunded" in a law, but that the equal funding approach was viewed as more likely to pass (perhaps with the same impact).

Ah. So it's not about providing equality. It's about trying to end the "alternative" centers. Ironically, the need for Gender and Sexuality Centers is most obviously gleaned from the rhetoric of those who oppose them: The Dallas Morning News reports lawmakers "cracked jokes and guffawed" during debate, with one representative asking Representative Wayne Christian what "pansexual" means. Christian urged the lawmaker to visit the centers at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University to find out.

Though it was suggested tongue-in-cheek, this is probably the best proposal of the day. Why don't you, heterosexual-lawmaker-man, go out and find out what a pansexual is? There is a person behind that easily-derivable vocabulary word, a person who would like a college education in a safe environment. Why try so desperately, through a law, to make it more difficult for them?

I am constantly, infinitely confused by Texans' insistence that they value freedom above all. Why so many laws then - particularly the mean-spirited sort? Does empathy fall under "alternative" values?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Governor Rick Perry Wants Texans To Throw Money At Strippers, Er, Make It Rain

Due to such severe devastation in Texas (over 150,000 acres have been affected by the wildfires), Governor Rick Perry has taken up action by issuing the following proclamation asking Texans "of all faiths and traditions to offer prayers to the God of their choice to open the skies and make it rain."
Gov. Rick Perry has proclaimed the three-day period from Friday, April 22, to Sunday, April 24, as Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas, following extreme drought conditions that have sparked dangerous wildfires across the state, which have taken lives, engulfed more than 1.8 million acres and destroyed nearly 400 homes.
“Throughout our history, both as a state and as individuals, Texans have been strengthened, assured and lifted up through prayer,” Gov. Perry said. “It is fitting that Texans should join together in prayer to humbly seek an end to this ongoing drought and these devastating wildfires, and for the safety of the brave firefighters and emergency management officials who have worked tirelessly to protect lives and property around the state.”
Gov. Perry urges Texans of all faiths and religious traditions to offer prayer for the healing of the land, rebuilding of communities and the restoration of our normal and robust way of life in Texas.
Hey, whatever puts out the fires. I just hope God doesn't get mixed messages from Fat Joe and Lil' Wayne.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In Honor of 4/20 Texas Bans Fake Weed

Today is April 20th, the random day of the year where potheads celebrate marijuana use by smoking weed, and Texas shows its love for the green by outlawing that pesky fake weed. From the Houston Chronicle: Come Friday, herbal incense products such as K2 and Spice that have grown in popularity as substitutes for marijuana will be outlawed by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Available at gas stations, smoke shops and on the Internet, the products are often labeled as "herbal incense," but when smoked can mimic the effects of marijuana by giving users feelings of euphoria, sedation and relaxation. No accepted medical use for the substances has been determined.

Good looking out, Texas! And while you're at it, outlaw schwag too. KTHX!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Obama Hates Texas, Reporters, And Puppies; Tells Reporter to STFU

The front page of The Blaze today reads: 'Let Me Finish My Answers': Obama Loses His Cool With Texas TV Reporter. OMFG Obama had a fistfight with a reporter? Threw a chair? Told him to shove it? Disappointingly, no. In summary of the clip via Gawker: Reporter Brad Watson of Dallas station WFAA asks Obama questions about why he's so unpopular in Texas, whether he'll compete in Texas after losing it by 10 points in the last election, and whether he took a certain space project away from Texas for political reasons. The questions are fair enough, and Obama gives his typically disciplined answers. But Watson cuts him off a few times with follow-up questions! Which leads Obama to say at the very end of the interview, while he's taking his microphone off, "Let me finish my answers the next time we do an interview, all right?"


No, national media, he didn't. I'd file this under "mild schooling". He merely reminded the reporter to question him politely, which includes allowing him to finish answering the question. He's the friggin' President - I would certainly like to hear what he has to say, whether I agree with it or not. Reporters know and understand protocol for interviewing top officials of state: remain respectful. Allow your interviewee adequate time to answer in full. Especially if your interviewee is the President of the United States, who might be on to your insidious prompting, interrupting, and selective editing and reporting.

And as for asking why he is so unpopular in this particular state? Is anyone in America really so out-of-touch with politics that they haven't realized Texas leans on the conservative side ("leans" being a euphemism)? Is that really the tough investigatory journalism the public needs?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cowboy Politician Brands Republican's Bills

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer made national news this week due to his sideshow cowboy antics: he applies red-hot branding irons that read "VETO" to bills he deems "unconstitutional or in direct contrast with the will of the people, by initiative, for God's sake," Schweitzer said. "I'm for more jobs, more freedom and more wealth creation in Montana. If they're sending us bills that infringe on any of those, I can't support them."

Montana Republicans ignored his earlier warning that he would veto those bills he deemed frivolous or that don't create jobs. Schweitzer, a Democrat, is currently facing a GOP-controlled Legislature. but the Governor hasn't about shy branding bills. Since taking office in 2005, Schweitzer has vetoed 60 bills outright and made 85 amendatory vetoes.

Among the bills he vetoed this week:

  • a bill ending same-day voter registration
  • another aimed at weakening parts of his "Clean and Green" energy initiative
  • an attempt to place state eminent domain authority over federal land
  • a bill aimed at repealing of the state's medical marijuana law
  • the Republican-backed ban against insurance companies from covering abortion procedures

He also promises to reject bill that would allow the expansion of cyanide gold mining operations, a plan that was originally curtailed by voters in an initiative - twice! "Frivolous, unconstitutional and just ba-a-a-d ideas," he said. And all with cowboy swag, natch. Texans, are you paying attention? If you continually demand that governors be beer-drinking, horse-riding, redneck-sounding, salt-of-the-earth types, at least vote one into office who won't curtail your rights!

Republicans are not amused. But why? I thought they loved cowboy politicians: here, here, and of course, here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Texas Now Actually Hell

From the Austin American Statesman: The Austin Fire Department is fighting a brush fire in the Oak Hill area. Authorities report the fire is currently 90 percent contained. 10 homes have been destroyed and 20 homes suffered fire damage. Above: A firefighter douses a burned home on Callbram Lane with water.

Sorry, I can't blog too much today, I've gotta get up on my roof and hose it down. Here's some light reading for you in the meantime: Texas may be fighting wildfires for the next two months.

Friday, April 15, 2011

OMFG Texas Teen Texting Has G2G? LOL

The Texas Senate has voted to allow prosecutors to charge teens 17 or younger with a misdemeanor for sexting. Sexting is when a mobile phone is used to send sexually explicit images or messages (but you already knew that, didn't you? Perv!). Lawmakers are doing this, of course, "for the sake of the children!", who would currently face a felony charge for sending a racy pic - anyone who transmits an explicit image of a teen or child can face felony charges of possessing or trafficking child pornography. This would be downgraded to a misdemeanor and would require first-time violators and their parents to undergo an educational program about the long-term harm of sexting.

Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin says, "I don't want teens to get labeled as sex offenders for the rest of their lives for doing something stupid. This bill creates different levels of misdemeanor charges for sexting."

The issue here is not that young people may be interested in or participating in sex, but that their confusion about appropriate and healthy sexual activity (or lack of) stems from mixed messages from adults and media. These spheres of influence provocatively oversexualize young people for adult entertainment (15-year-old Britney Spears dressed up in a school girl outfit putting lollipops in her mouth for her debut "...Baby One More Time") while simultaneously demonizing their actions (her having to respond to the American Family Association by publicly announcing she'd stay a virgin until marriage).

Here's an idea - if you don't want your kid sexting with other kids, don't give your kid a cell phone. Or at least not one that can send or receive pictures. And if you're actually worried about your child's sexual exploits then maybe try talking to your kids about sex. Maybe also explain that the world we live in involves viral sensations and unintended internet fame (which means parents have to actually understand today's technology and its effect on our lives and culture). You know, parenting? Do we really need the courts' involvement?

And now, because you're dying to hear it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cowboy Monkey Makes Monkey's Uncle Of Me

"Whiplash is an old time cowboy. He was just born 100 years to late. When you see him ride, it is not hard to envision him leading a wagon train west – keeping the herd in line as they cross the prairie. He really enjoys feeling the leather of his custom-made saddle and experiencing the wind in his face and the sun in his eyes as he maneuvers his trusty steed over the mounds of grassland and through the rushes or in an exhibition arena under the watchful eyes of thousands of adoring fans. In the tradition of Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger, he is at home in the saddle. He has the pride, attitude and style found among those pioneers of the old west. If you listen closely you may hear him give his trusty ride a piece of his mind if the maneuvering response falls short of what he expects of a well mannered steed. It’s a fun thing for the gallant rider. If you watch closely, you can easily see the smile on his face."

This shit is bananas.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Texas Under Fire

Ranchlands in and around the West Texas communities of Fort Davis and Midland have become ashy wastelands due to intense wildfires this week, which have incinerated more than 60 homes during the weekend and killed livestock and horses. The fires have (luckily?) moved north and east towards largely unpopulated open spaces. All of Texas is experiencing drought, and conditions are classified as extreme or exceptional in 65 percent of the state.

The wildfires have been fed by strong winds, low humidity and dry vegetation.

All photos courtesy AP.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Texas May Ban Foreign Religious Law, Blind To Own Hypocrisy

In the wake of the France's Burka ban, the Houston Chronicle reports: Texas lawmakers are considering whether to ban state courts from considering foreign religious or cultural laws, such as the Islamic law of Shariah. The goal "is to require a Texas court to uphold and apply only the laws ordained by the constitutions of (Texas and the United States), prohibiting any other interpretation," said Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, a former Arlington mayor pro tem. "This is now happening all over Europe ... and in Dearborn, Mich. ... and it could spread throughout the United States.

That's excluding the 10 commandments displayed at The Texas State Capitol building. Only foreign religious laws are degrading and restrictive, didn't you know? Cut to the the grossly hyperbolic blanket statement,"We all know what Shariah law does to women - women must wear burqas, women are subject to humiliation and into controlled marriages under Shariah law," Berman said. "We want to prevent it from ever happening in Texas." Because Judeo-Christian women are never humiliated or controlled by their husbands. Except at their weddings when they vow to submit to their husbands.

Berman and his party's 2010 platform opposes any governmental action to restrict, prohibit, or remove public display of the Decalogue or other religious symbols and demand that the National Motto “In God We Trust” and National Anthem be protected from legislative and judicial attack. In the first sentence of their Family and Defense of Marriage pledge, they support "the definition of marriage as a God–ordained, legal and moral commitment only between a natural man and a natural woman." Which would be in direct violation of the United States Constitution.

Texas is among several states - including Alaska, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Tennessee - considering bans on the recognition of foreign laws, according to the Institute for U.S. Law. All of these states have just barely a two-thirds of their students graduating from high school. Correlation?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Finally, Something To Wear For My Big Country Western Superstar Debut

"Finally! Your own pair of cowboy boots in your favorite color! Who said you had to wear cowboy boots on your feet? Now you can strut your cowgirl self and show your love for Barbie with these fun and fabulous earrings!

Bright hot pink barbie cowboy boots accented with 3 tiny dangling silver stars.
These 4" long head turners will be perfect for those hot summer days ahead, to the rodeo, or to wear to your big country western superstar debut, or any time!
Where ever you go, you're going to be the star of the show with these little beauties!"

- Via Etsy

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Gay Cowboys Would Face Jail Time

The Texas Republican State Party Platform is calling for the re-criminalization of sodomy and making gay marriage a felony.

Basically, if someone were to help a gay couple get married, “the GOP would like to see that person serve mandatory jail time.” Also, it would be a felony to issue a marriage license to same-sex couples as well as for an official to perform a marriage ceremony for gay partners wishing to wed. I can find no information on the criminality of heterosexual couples who engage in sodomy.

In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court found in Lawrence v. Texas that Texas’ “Homosexual Conduct” law — a measure outlawing oral and anal sex — unconstitutional. It appears Texas Republicans would like to overturn that decision.

Would you put your neighbors - consenting adults - in jail for their sexual preferences?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Rising Gas Prices

Truck Stop On U.S. Route 67, Comanche, Texas
Image via Phil Bebbington

Don't Mess With Textbooks

The Daily Beast reports: "The conservative majority of the Texas State Board of Education adopted new guidelines for social-studies textbooks that reflect their conservative political views. The new guidelines will emphasize the Christian beliefs of the Founding Fathers. Students in Texas will be expected to learn about the emergence of the conservative movement in the 1980s and 1990s. The new textbooks are supposed to promote patriotism and respect for the “free-enterprise system.”

The problem with this system is that the Texas state board determines to textbook publishers what should appear in history books, and will only purchase books that meet stated requirements for its students. Books that are not approved by the state board cannot be purchased with state funds. This is an incredibly powerful lever for the state board. So far, the state board has insisted that words and phrases must be deleted from reading textbooks if they contained "anything that criticized their idea of family values. They fought to remove stories about witchcraft, fantasy, disobedient children, permissive child rearing, as well as anything that criticized the nation and its laws. Any stories in which bad behavior went unpunished were excised."

Diane Ravitch, who wrote The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn, writes, "It makes no sense to have an elected or appointed school board deciding which facts belong in history textbooks and which scientific ideas are valid. They do not have the qualifications to do this and they should not have the power to do it. No matter how many experts they call upon, this is a foolish way to revise textbooks.The job of the state board should be to evaluate which classroom materials seem to be most effective in helping students learn the subject and to make that information public."

A valuable lesson learned through history is of the mistakes, downfalls, and wrongdoings of mankind, as so future generations can process those mistakes, critique them, and not repeat it. Sanitized or politicized textbooks postulates that history is on a righteous path, rather than a series of unfair, violent, and often evil struggles between imperfect people and nations. Students must understand history in an honest context in order to make analytical decisions about current affairs, politics, government, race, law, culture and international relations. Why would Texas ever disadvantage their students in such a way as to make them completely out of touch with why the world is the way it is?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Drink Beer, Save Texas

Today, in the midst of financial ruin and populist turmoil, truly meaningful legislation was debated in the Texas House of Representatives. House Bill 660 was introduced, which would allow Texas Brewpubs to sell their beer to wholesalers and distributors directly. From the NYTimes, "Under state law, brewpubs can make and sell their beers only on site; they are not allowed to distribute their products themselves or through a separate wholesaler. Only breweries that do not sell their own products on site may distribute their beer through wholesalers. House Bill 660, filed by Representative Mike Villarreal, Democrat of San Antonio, would give them the green light to increase production, sell to beer distributors and sell directly to stores and restaurants if they produce 10,000 barrels of beer a year — the equivalent of 20,000 kegs — or less."

The proponents of 660 (including many beer distributors and Lee Nichols of ILOVEBEER) were clear and concise in making their points: It's good for Texas businesses. It will end the state's current discrimination against its own brewers in favor of out-of-state ones. It's good for tax revenue, which the state badly needs right now. The bill could put more money in the hands of distributors. Lastly, it allows for Texan brewpubs, and craft brewing - a booming industry - to become to be national success stories.

I've tried to find good opposing reasons against HB 660, most of them pertain to fears of alcohol sales in dry counties or to minors, or so they purport. The NYTimes reports,
"Major beer distributors do not want to open those spigots. Their lobbyists argue that allowing brewpubs to sell their own wares would destroy the regulatory system in Texas that has operated, effectively and profitably, since the end of Prohibition. Rick Donley, president of the Beer Alliance of Texas, which lobbies for companies that distribute major-brand beer and some craft brews, said the three-tiered system — which regulates the production, distribution and retail sales of beer separately — made the beer business easier to regulate and tax, and keeps any one business from creating a monopoly. Because brewpubs are not currently regulated in the same way as distributors, Mr. Donley said he worries that their products could be shipped to dry counties or to minors. “This regulatory system has worked well since Prohibition,” Mr. Donley said. “Why anybody wants to disrupt it is a question I can never quite get an answer to.”

CHANGE IS NEVER THE ANSWER. NEVER! Nothing could ever possibly be better than a system that has been in place since the 1920s. Just keep sipping on one of the top five brands of beer in Texas, according to the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission: Bud Light, Miller Lite, Budweiser, Coors Light and Natural Light. Mmmm!

The brewpub supporters point that the legislation would make brewpubs that produce up to 10,000 barrels a year and sell directly to restaurants and stores subject to the same requirements as wholesalers and distributors.

“At the end of the day, it’s just about they don’t want increased competition and how that affects their personal wealth,” says Freetail Brewing Company Pub Owner and Brewer Scott Metzger (who is also an economics lecturer at the University of Texas at San Antonio and seemingly awesome dude).

Anyway, they're still fighting it out. But don't worry, those representatives of yours are working hard! They passed a bill allowing you to shoot pigs from a helicopter.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Marijuana Use In Texas OK As Long As You Are Willie Nelson

Nelson with Texas pride and paraphernalia

Willie Nelson was arrested November 26, 2010 at a checkpoint in Sierra Blanca, Texas, after Border Patrol caught a whiff of Nelson's hotboxed tour bus and found 6 pounds of marijuana inside.

Hudspeth County Prosecuter Kit Bramblett had said Nelson could resolve the charges by pleading guilty, paying a fine — and singing "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" for the court. Bramblett also has told The Associated Press that the judge "wants to meet Willie." Judge Becky Dean-Walker told The Associated Press she thinks the prosecutor was trying to be funny, "and it got out of hand." Bramblett stated on Tuesday, March 29 that Nelson can plead guilty without coming to court and singing.

For your average Texan, that'd be a $10,000 fine and 2-10 years prison time, along with a third-degree felony on your rap sheet. Nelson doesn't even have to show up in court and both the judge and prosecutor have made national news and ended up looking silly. There's a reason Texas legislator Jim McReynolds has called Nelson "the most powerful Texan of all."