Ouch! Texas Judge Slams Right-winger for Wasting His Time

It’s always good to see folks in responsible positions refuse to play games with far-right fanatics who substitute ignorant, facts-free ideology for honest research and expertise. So we enjoyed reading a particular section of state District Judge John Dietz’s opinion on Thursday that the public school finance system in Texas violates the state Constitution.

The case is almost certainly headed to the Texas Supreme Court down the road. And Judge Dietz’s opinion is long — nearly 400 pages. But check out pages 335-336 of that opinion.

In his lengthy list of “Findings of Fact,” Judge Dietz rips into wild and unsubstantiated claims that the head of the right-wing, corporate-funded Heartland Institute, Joseph Bast, made when he testified in the case last year. The Heartland Institute argues, among other things, that the overwhelming scientific evidence on the growing threat of global climate change is wrong. It also supports voucher schemes that take funding from neighborhood public schools to subsidize tuition at private and religious schools instead.

In his January 2013 testimony in the school finance base, Bast claimed that the Texas Taxpayers’ Savings Grant Program, a voucher scheme that failed to pass the Texas Legislature in 2011, would save the state about $2 billion over the first two years. As Dietz points out in his opinion, state officials strongly disputed Bast’s ridiculous math. In fact, Bast’s claims aren’t remotely close to reality. But here’s best part of what Dietz wrote:

Mr. Joseph Bast, president and CEO of the Heartland Institute, testified for the Intervenors regarding the Texas Taxpayers’ Savings Grant Programs (“TTSGP”), a school voucher bill that failed in the 82nd Legislative Session. As a threshold matter, this Court finds that Mr. Bast is not a credible witness and that he did not offer reliable opinions in this matter. While Mr. Bast described himself as an economist, he holds neither undergraduate nor graduate degrees in economics, and the highest level of education he completed was high school. Mr. Bast testified that he is 100% committed to the long-term goal of getting government out of the business of educating its own voting citizens. Further, his use of inflammatory and irresponsible language regarding global warming, and his admission that the long term goal of his advocacy of vouchers is to dismantle the “socialist” public education system further undermine his credibility with this Court.

Ouch.

Here’s the shorter version of Judge Dietz’s opinion: Stop wasting my time, fool.

Posted in climate change, Heartland Institute, Joseph Bast, public education, TFNEF, vouchers | 4 Comments

Anti-abortion Extremists Still Aren’t Telling the Truth about HB 2

The Texas Legislature’s passage of House Bill 2 last summer has led to the closing of most abortion clinics across the state. In fact, the number of abortion clinics in all of Texas will have dropped from 44 in 2011 to as few as six next month if HB 2 is fully implemented. Yet activists who helped pass that bill still aren’t telling the truth about what they were trying to do.

Consider, for example, an interview with Kyleen Wright, head of the anti-abortion and anti-sex ed group Texans for Life Coalition, in the September issue of Texas Monthly. Wright tries to persuade readers that the purpose of the draconian anti-abortion legislation passed last year was to protect women, not close clinics:

We had no idea how many clinics would close. I don’t want to be disingenuous: we’re not unhappy when abortion clinics close, because we think that abortion hurts women and we know that it ends the life of a separate, unique human being. But the part of the legislation that our organization was so passionate about was the hospital admitting privileges. That was about getting some bad actors out of the industry.

Wright goes on to talk about two women who told her about horrible experiences they had with a particular abortion doctor. At least one of those experiences, according to Wright, involved being molested by the doctor. So, she says, the requirement that doctors obtain hospital admitting privileges is simply a tool for protecting women from bad doctors.

But it was already illegal for a doctor to molest his or her patients. Forcing all doctors who provide abortion care to obtain hospital admitting privileges simply creates another obstacle for providers of a legal medical procedure. And by pressuring hospitals to deny admitting privileges, anti-abortion extremists can stop doctors from providing safe, legal abortion care.

Moreover, as the Texas Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Texas explains, such requirements don’t increase patient safety; they simply give “hospitals veto power over the existence of providers”:

“(T)he risk of transferring a patient from an outpatient abortion clinic to a hospital is less than 1 out of 1,000. When such a transfer occurs, it is important that the physician most qualified to care for that patient treat her; in many cases, that may not be the abortion provider. In addition, hospitals are obligated to provide emergency care to any patient experiencing a medical emergency under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act of 1986 (EMTALA). It is standard practice for the abortion provider as the referring physician to contact the emergency room physician in order to inform the medical staff about the patient, regardless of whether the referring physician has admitting and staff privileges there. A recent analysis of complications of office-based surgery in Florida and Alabama concluded that “requiring physician board certification and physician hospital privileges does not seem to increase safety of patients undergoing surgical procedures in the office setting.”

Wright is also being disingenuous when she suggests that her organization was mostly interested in that requirement on admitting privileges. The Texans for Life Coalition blog last summer made pretty clear that the organization passionately supported all of HB 2′s burdensome regulations:

The pro-life omnibus bill is historic legislation that will save thousands of babies each year and better protect women. It bans abortions after 20 weeks when babies can feel pain, requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, requires abortion facilities to upgrade to that of other surgical centers and better regulates medical abortions.

The Texas Policy Evaluation Project points out (as have health care professionals) that every one of those regulations was medically unnecessary.

Had enough of extremists who use government to interfere in the decisions women make about their reproductive health and whether and when to have children? Then join us in telling far-right politicians to stop the attacks on legal, safe abortion care in Texas.

Posted in abortion, Kyleen Wright, TFNEF | 7 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Aug. 17 – 23)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

continue reading »

Posted in The Week in Quotes | 2 Comments

The Most EPIC Animated GIF Ever Created in the 4.5 Billion-Year History of the Earth

Offered without comment (via this Popular Science profile of friend of TFN, and last year’s EPIC Evening keynote speaker, Bill Nye the Science Guy).

Posted in Bill Nye, science | 1 Comment

Three Days in Austin: A Texas Rising Story

This is the latest in a series of blog posts on Texas Rising, the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s campaign to uplift the voices of the rising electorate, 18-29 year olds, across the state.

By James Carneiro (writer bio)
TFN Student Activist

They came from every corner of the state.

Some only had to make a quick jaunt over from San Marcos, others had to endure the eight-hour drive from El Paso. Some had been working with the Texas Freedom Network for years, a few of them had only just heard of the organization. They were a cross-section of an increasingly diverse state, representing every race, religion, and sexuality. No matter their differences, these people all had one thing in common: They are young, they are pissed off, and they are most certainly voting.

The 2014 Texas Rising Summer Institute ran from July 31 to Aug. 3, and in that brief time a whole lot got done.

Reproductive justice was an essential component of the institute. Activists gave presentations on combating the cultural stigmas surrounding abortion. Many people who have abortions are degraded as “selfish” and “irresponsible,” making it easier for anti-choice advocates to say abortion is immoral. The activists turned this argument on its head, letting people who had abortions tell their stories. This helps to humanize them and give them a voice they never had in the national conversation. Allowing people to tell their abortion stories is what the 1 in 3 campaign is all about, the activists said, and their stories clearly show why access to safe and legal abortion is a human right.

Holly Doyle, the leader of TFN’s Texas State chapter, gave an incredibly insightful presentation on why reproductive justice matters. Doyle said the legal right to an abortion is meaningless without actual access to one. In order to bring about reproductive justice, we must address structural inequalities rooted in racism and classism, she said.

continue reading »

Posted in Texas Rising, TFNEF | 1 Comment

Erasing Dolores Huerta from History?

huertatbtfinal

Have you been checking our #ThrowBackTexas page, where we look at what happened when right-wingers on the State Board of Education vandalized social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools four years ago? Even the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute has called the U.S. History standards adopted by the state board back in 2010 a “politicized distortion of history” filled with “misrepresentations at every turn.” Among the changes far-right board members made to the standards was deleting revered labor organizer and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta.

Now the state board is considering new textbooks based on those deeply flawed and heavily politicized curriculum standards. The state board will hold two public hearings on the textbooks this fall and is scheduled to vote on which ones to adopt for Texas public schools in November.

Click here to find out how you can help ensure that Texas students get accurate textbooks that are based on facts and honest scholarship instead of the personal and political agendas of right-wing politicians on the State Board of Education.

And keep an eye on our #ThrowBackTexas page for updates every Thursday.

Posted in Dolores Huerta, social studies adoption (2014), TFNEF | 1 Comment

And This Matters How?

The religious right’s response to the indictments against Gov. Rick Perry has at times been comical. We’re not going to get into the details of the legal case against Gov. Perry itself — it’s not our thing here at TFN, and we’re not a law firm.

What is our thing is monitoring and reporting on the loony things the religious right says and does. Like this tweet from Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, the Mississippi-based hate group that helped organize Gov. Perry’s prayer event in Houston just before he announced his first presidential bid in August 2011.

A few things about this:

1) There was no district attorney indicting anyone in this case. Grand juries, not district attorneys, are the ones tasked with indicting people.

2) There really isn’t a district attorney litigating this case either. What there is, however, is a special prosecutor – appointed by a Republican judge.

3) The special prosecutor in this case is San Antonio lawyer Michael McCrum. And she is actually a he, making it incredibly difficult and therefore unlikely that he is a lesbian.

But in any case, you probably know who Fischer was trying to attack in this mess of a tweet. Whether she is or isn’t a lesbian is irrelevant to most reasonable people. But to extremists like Fischer, that kind of thing matters, as he believes being gay or lesbian should disqualify you from holding ANY public office. A ridiculous claim, for sure, that we may get to at another time in another blog post.

Posted in American Family Association, religious right, Rick Perry, TFNEF | 13 Comments

Former NOM Official’s Message to Texas: ‘I’m Sorry. You’re Not Going to Be Able to Hold Out.’

It will be interesting to see in the coming months and years how many of the individuals now fighting against same-sex marriage begin to moderate their tone, or flat-out change their minds, as they come to terms with what now seems inevitable, and realize they don’t want to be immortalized in history as the people who fought against equality until the bitter end.

While not yet moderating her tone, one high-profile anti-equality figure has at least recognized the reality of the current state of the marriage fight, bluntly telling an audience: “It’s over.”

That figure is Jennifer Roback Morse, a former senior official for the anti-gay group the National Organization for Marriage who served as a spokesperson in favor of California’s unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Proposition 8.

The site Good As You has audio of Morse telling audience (the date and location of her remarks are not specified) that the battle against marriage equality is over and that all 50 states will have equality by 2015.

Morse even took a second to address any Texans in the room:

“If anybody is here from Texas, I’m sorry. You’re not going to be able to hold out.”

A federal judge in San Antonio has already ruled that Texas’ same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wants a federal appeals court to overturn that decision. But the trend across the country seems to point to Morse’s prediction of 50-state equality ultimately being correct. The only questions are: When? Will state officials embrace equal rights for all? Or will they be dragged kicking and screaming to the right side of history?

Here’s the Good As You audio of Morse:

Posted in LGBT issues, marriage equality, TFNEF | 3 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Aug. 10 – 16)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

continue reading »

Posted in The Week in Quotes | Leave a comment

HERO Won’t Be on the Ballot in November

TFN just sent the following message regarding today’s developments in the effort to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.


Photo By Thomas B. Shea,
for The Houston Chronicle

Today a state district judge set a trial date in January for a lawsuit filed by religious-right groups seeking a public election to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). That court date eliminates the possibility of a November public referendum to repeal the sweeping anti-discrimination measure. You can read more on today’s proceedings here.

The judge’s decision today came after HERO opponents asked the court to put the repeal referendum on the November ballot. The Houston city attorney said earlier this month that those opponents had not properly gathered enough petition signatures to put repeal up for a public vote.

We’ll continue to update you on any developments regarding HERO, and we’ll let you know of any opportunities to get involved to ensure that all Houstonians have equal rights.

Posted in civil and equal rights, Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, LGBT issues, TFNEF | 39 Comments