Dating Games: Bush Supporter Courts Texans as Democrats are Hot Again

Cross-posted on HuffPo.

A question missing from the recent Tom Schieffer interview, executed by excellent Burnt Orange Report writer Todd Hill, could have been “What have you done for me lately?” If you haven’t read the interview, you should.

Call me selfish or just an Austinite, but when reading about Schieffer, potential Texas gubernatorial Democratic candidate, and a Bush-appointed Ambassador to Japan & Australia, I spend most of my time like a girl on a bad date: Pushing food around on my plate, trying to find a spark with the guy, and unable to see past his eau de motor oil (true story) or the fact that he carries a credit card with a large-mouth bass on it (also true – don’t ever date a veterinarian).

In Schieffer’s case, it’s neither an odor or fishing hobby that distracts me. Instead, it’s his longstanding friendship with George Bush – yes, that one – that makes me not want to order dessert.

Granted, like Garth reminds us, we’ve all got friends in low places. For Schieffer, it’s unfortunate that his low friend happens to have such a high profile. And if you’re going to run for Governor as a Texas Democrat, you’re going to have to cheat on Bush (or, and this is optional, publicly humiliate him) before you manage to get this girl’s vote.

If I squint my eyes just right (okay, I have to shut them), I can understand Schieffer’s support of a gubernatorial W. After all, they met while they were working with the Texas Rangers (we’re talking baseball here, not law enforcement). We’ve all got our Rangers memories, mine being that I was at a perfect game pitched by Kenny Rogers Jr. in 1994. I’d still be friends with the raging drunks sitting in front of my dad and me if they’d managed to get any words out other than “Throw ‘im the heeeeter!” I think this must be similar to the Schieffer-Bush good ol’ days, forged together by hot dogs and halogen lights.

But it’s not 1994 and the Rangers suck now. George Bush’s batting average doesn’t seem to have held up that well either. That’s why I cringed when I read Schieffer’s response to whether he was loyal to the state and nation as opposed to Bush. “George Bush is a friend of mine,” Schieffer said. “George Bush and I don’t have the same politics, particularly on domestic issues.” So they don’t have the same politics on domestic issues. But what about international issues? That whole torture thing and cooked up war on terror? Agree or disagree?

But back to our date. Schieffer’s friendship with Bush, and seemingly continued support of his friend, is kind of the quirky “Did he really just do that?” feeling you get when your date is discussing the various ways to prepare squirrel meat for human consumption (again, the veterinarian). It’s clearly not in line with any values you might have, or anything you might endorse, but Democrats, like single, lonely women, can be desperate lovers. We can fall for a nice suit and tie, someone who buys us dinner, or even someone who promises us a good time.

Yet this is no date. We can’t be deluded by white picket fences and engagement rings. At the end of this, Democrats are left staring at someone with a core value completely different from ours, and a question: What have you done for Texas lately? What will you do for me? Schieffer remains a question mark, an out-of-touch, former-legislator-turned-overseas-diplomat who, upon his recent return to Texas, needed to drive around the perimeter of the state with a copy of Texas Monthly’s Best BBQ joints issue just to remind himself of what Texans need.

Some of us have been here the last eight years. We know all too well. No disrespect to Texas Monthly, but Texans don’t need a weatherman to tell which way Cooper’s is.

Guest Post: Laurie Felker Jones on Sen. Patrick's Abortion Bill

My friend Laurie Felker Jones sent me an email about her testimony that was taken yesterday on Sen. Dan Patrick's SB 182, which would require a woman to receive and view an ultrasound along with additional "information" before consenting to an abortion.

While Laurie's actual testimony was much shorter, below is the longer version of what was on her mind:

Good afternoon – be sure to let me know if you have trouble hearing me.

My name is Laurie Felker Jones, I was here last year testifying on the inaugural version of this bill -- we really should stop meeting like this.

I am here representing myself and the legions of Texas women who are working hard everyday to provide for their families and don’t have the time nor the desire to come here to justify their life choices to you -- a few, extreme legislators who would rather play politics than craft sound policies.

As we all know, there is no medical reason why a woman must see an ultrasound or hear a heartbeat -- whether in a wanted or unwanted pregnancy. So, why are we here? Politics, plain and simple. But aren’t there better ways to win a primary election especially in this economy – After all, I don’t see a lot of headlines stating “if I only had an ultrasound I wouldn’t have been laid off or lost my house to foreclosure”.

Because this bill is about politics, I won’t repeat to you what you have already been told by healthcare providers about why this bill just doesn’t make good policy.

Instead, I want to focus on why I – and others opposed to this bill – are opposed to its very principle which insinuates that women haven’t thought about what a serious choice this is – and that we’re so weak as a people that we can be easily persuaded or emotionally manipulated by an ultrasound and other political propaganda– even against our will. The fact is women who are pregnant and women who are not make tough choices every day and we get along just fine.

So, because you’re seeking to have your 3 minutes even against our will, I think it’s only fair that you allow me 3 now – even if you don’t care to hear it.

So, here’s the Top Five reasons why this bill is a bad idea:

5. This is just plain old bad information about how Sen. Patrick wants help women: 90% of women have abortions in the first trimester and you can’t even determine a heart beat until after the first trimester – so that part of the bill just doesn’t hold water.

Another reason why this is based on bad information is that even the FDA is against treating sonograms like toys because of the risk of miscarriage and other serious side effects– so don’t take my word for it – take the Fed’s.

If Sen. Patrick really want to save Texans’ lives by seeing what’s inside of women– how about more funding for mammograms?

4. There’s no clarity in this bill about the type of ultrasound Sen. Patrick’s requiring women to receive. If he’s really interested in this bill getting the maximum effect for women, I’m curious as to why Texans haven’t followed other States’ preference to use “the best picture available” by requiring the ultrasound to be vaginal. Victims of violent crimes like rape and incest need not be excused from this intrusive, humiliating exercise. After all, it’s for our own good.

And speaking of things that are for our own good, let’s get back to how this bill is insulting to the intelligence of women -- Come on, surely you can agree that if women know one thing, it’s where to shop! We get our nails done at nail salons, hair done at hair salons and women who are looking to continue pregnancies go to an Obstetrician. Conversely, when we’ve made the tough, family decision to terminate a pregnancy we make an appointment at an abortion clinic – and it’s not because we feel the burning desire to have a persuasive conversation about our lady business with our State legislators . In fact, it’s the very opposite, we go to abortion clinics to have safe, legal abortions – whether Sen. Patrick understands this or agrees doesn’t mean we haven’t thought it through.

3. Since you’re in the advice-giving business, Sen. Patrick, let’s make it easier for women to get ahold of you. I look forward to you publishing your cell number, home number, facebook, twitter, myspace, and atm pin code just in case me and a bunch of other Texas women need to bend your ear. For example, I’m going to be hungry later. Where’s a good place to pick up sandwich? Or maybe a tougher question, how am I gonna get my kid enrolled in CHIP?

2. I can understand why Sen. “on-air vasectomy” Patrick wants to be in the business of public medical procedures, but why stop at the clinic -- let’s make it easier for you to practice. Let’s put a sonogram machine next to the constituent sign in sheet on the floor of the Senate – you and your co-authors can take turns operating it. Let’s offer free colonoscopies in the Visitor’s Parking Lot and prostate exams on the steps of the Capitol. We can put the results on that Jumbo-tron you used a few weeks ago -- Don’t worry, you can “avert your eyes”.

1. Finally, is the most boring reason this is bad bill: This is about bad priorities. In the amount of time you spend playing political football with women’s lives and women’s health YOU could have prevented numerous unintended pregnancies which reduce the need for women to seek abortion care – OR help a new Mom and baby by providing healthcare, daycare or job training OR cleaned up a Texas river – OR provided some jobs, roads or bridges to your district OR anything, really anything that’s not controversial for Texans -- just do that. Last Session over 100 amendments to Sen. Patrick’s companion bill, threatened to run down the calendar and kill thousands your fellow legislators priorities. I bet they thank you for your divisive politics when the rest of us are trying to focus on goals we share: like reducing the number of abortions.

There are numerous, hardworking, good-natured people with solid facts and figures who walk the Capital halls daily visiting offices imploring our legislators to give women and men the information and tools they need to prevent unintended pregnancies. Either we work together to prevent unwanted pregnancies or you can continue to shake your fingers at women in clinics. The choice, for now, is yours.

Et tu, America?

Today, as I stomached another lunch in a brown-bag economy, I flipped on CNN to catch up on the latest. As is often the case with my late lunches, I came face to face with Press Secretary Robert Gibbs giving a press briefing, which centered around questions about the AIG bonuses.

Bonuses? The origin of "bonus," as stipulated by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is a Latin word literally translated to mean "good." I may be from Texas, where we'd rather spend money on hog-hunting and chasing voter impersonation windmills than education or unemployment benefits, but I don't think it takes an abacus for even the most inept of students to determine that things, decidedly, are not bonus.

As I watched White House reporters like Jake Tapper and Ed Henry chase down answers from Gibbs, I couldn't help but feel a certain amount of shared outrage between myself and the reporters. And two things occurred to me: since when did I start feeling connected to journalists through my rage and since when did this become a common occurrence? For eight years, I sat in various places watching the news -- apartments, horse ranches, hotel rooms, bars -- and never once felt like a single reporter cared half as much as I did.

Now maybe that's not true; they're professionals not shoe-throwers, after all. But I can't help but feel that the questions today are not asked just to meet a deadline tomorrow. These questions are for resurrecting livelihoods. Jobs and ratings. Twitter followers and Facebook friends. Reporters are, like the rest of us still with jobs, singing for their suppers. Their questions matter. "Evidence" never found a weapon of mass destruction, and the go-along-to-get-along attitudes haven't been helping anyone get along, including the newspapers.

There's another Latin word we can all stand to remember -- onus, a burden; a disagreeable necessity. The onus is on all of us. As it is with AIG and their bonuses, it is with reporters and their talking heads. It is with Americans and their Top Models. This economy is our disagreeable burden. It is with all of us.

If it takes a hard reset on this economy to put our government back on the defensive and keep them there, then I'm for it. I want to complain how the media let the Bush administration off so many hooks so many times that they were no longer were able to catch him. But instead I'm going to say that the renewed national scrutiny will be good for Obama.

And if we work at it, and remember that the onus is upon each of us, then perhaps things will be good again.

South By South Mess

It's that time of year again. The time of year when the sun sits along Austin's violet crown just a little longer than usual, the trees start to turn a neon green, and my blow dryer begins charging me by the hour.
It's also that time of year when people who think they aren't hipsters flock to town, decked out with badges, wristbands and skinny jeans, operating within a social caste system of platinums and golds that befuddles and loots in a manner similar to AIG's $480 million in bonuses.
I'm talking about South By South West. Also known as "SXSW." And, I think for perhaps the first time but I can't quite be sure, now also known on the Tweeter as "#sxsw."

Last year during "South-by," I was deep into my three month sobriety kick (what on earth was I thinking?), and I became my friends' most convenient and free taxi ride throughout the event. I found myself circling the block, listening to The Who, nearly mowing down the all-black-clothes-wearing hoodlum standing outside the Austin Children's Museum waiting to get in to an after party. An after party at the children's museum? Is that legal?

But aside from the invasion of the skinny jeans, and the occasional bout of road rage when traversing all major thoroughfares in Austin (note to self - do not traverse major thoroughfares in Austin during SXSW), I felt like I could usually distance myself from it pretty well.

That was back when things were good, when a shitty economy hadn't yet been defined in billions of dollars and there was no way to be mad about not prosecuting the crooks because they hadn't been caught yet. That was also before Karl Rove had a Twitter.

My twitter following and their hash-mark #SXSW-yness is driving me insane. I wake up and I see they're "headed to #sxsw coffee." I slave away at work and see they're "in Ballroom A listening to great panel #sxsw." I brush my teeth and they're "getting confirmed for the #sxsw tech afterparty! woot!"

I cannot escape. #Help.

Give 'em hell.

In February, Governor Rick Perry was asked to respond to laid off workers in need of unemployment benefits. He replied that out-of-work Texans should feel "blessed to be living in a state that created 80 percent of all the jobs last year in America."


Well, I feel blessed to have a job, and that's unrelated to Rick Perry. But when I saw the following email come through on a CD10 mailing list I am on, I thought it was an appropriate response to the Governor's rejection of the funds. I requested permission to repost it:

...Please, somebody tell me what it will take to get people to vote Democratic in this state? A video of Perry killing puppies with his bare hands? Hutchison in a three-way with Bernie Madoff and Ken Lay's corpse? Can these people get any worse?

After being out of work for four months, I swallowed my pride and applied for unemployment last week for the first time in my working career. When I heard today's news I had a two word, seven letter response for the governor that I won't repeat here. I am a native Texan and a proud UT alum, but I am about ready to give up on this stupid state and go back to California where they teach science, don't have a "moment of silence" in the schools, fund children's health care, invest in clean energy, voted for Obama, and I can get a job.

Pretty soon, we won't have to tell Rick Perry to go to hell - he will have created it here.

Put that in your hair and style it, Gub-nah.

Identity Crisis.

A few months ago, I signed a lease on a new apartment. It had everything I was looking for: wood floors, great location, and mid-century charm. It was me.

I signed the lease and paid my deposit, never once showing any form of ID, photo or otherwise. Rachel Farris, whomever she is, is locked-in to these 720 square feet for the next 12 months. I then began the process of canceling my old cable service and setting up utilities and gas. All of these transactions were done over the phone, my credit card number being the green light to initiate services and not once was I asked for photo ID. As the bills started rolling in, I noticed that my name took on different permutations – Time Warner knows me as “RICHEL FARRIS,” despite the fact that I clearly annunciated my name, letter-by-letter, several times for the operator. City of Austin Electric bills a “RACHELL” monthly. Spelling, apparently, is not critical to establishing my identity in the eyes of my utilities providers.

Speaking of identity crises, this week the Texas Senate will begin debate, yet again, on the Voter ID bill. Due to some early-session shenanigans, the Senate will likely pass the bill. Then it will be up to the Texas House.

Last week I got up early before work and, grumbling, did my taxes. I got online and e-filed my way to an audit-free existence (fingers crossed, of course). I stumbled my way through them as best I could, clicking “no” when I didn’t know the answer (“Were you part of a disaster area in 2008?” being one of them – I wondered, Does living under the Bush regime count?). When I finally hit “File Now,” I sat back to await my generous refund after paying nearly $10,000 to the government this past year. Despite this large, annual financial transaction between the IRS and me, I never once show a photo ID.

As an American taxpayer, attempting to go through life as responsibly and carefully as I can, I must encounter thousands of instances each week where my identity is established based on some sort of verbal confirmation, or a routing number, or a numeric pin, and even sometimes the oft overlooked tradition of trust. I maintain my identity by crawling out of bed every morning, going to work, paying my taxes, protecting my credit, not killing people who enrage me, obeying traffic laws (plus or minus five miles an hour) and, when the occasion arises, voting. I do these things, by and large, without ever once reaching for a photo ID.

We all understand the point of the Voter ID bill, at least to the extent that we know the strategy. We know that voter fraud in Texas is not any sort of epidemic. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott spent two years and $1.4 million investigating voter fraud, resulting in zero cases of actual, intentional fraud. The legislation is designed to deter thousands of indigent, disabled and elderly voters, who might not have a form of photo identification, from voting. As one of my favorite political consultants, whose opinion influences this blog more than most of you could even begin to speculate, once said, “these are the people who are almost off the grid.” And, unfortunately for the Republicans, these are the same people who, when they finally do get done crawling out of bed, going to work, paying their taxes, protecting their credit, not killing people, and obeying traffic laws, they vote. For Democrats. They identify with Democrats. Just as I manage to do most if not all of my daily routine without showing a photo ID, these people manage to do most if not all of their daily routines without having a photo ID. Maybe they can’t afford it. Maybe they don’t have time to get one. Maybe they physically cannot obtain one. Maybe they forget they don’t have one. Any of these scenarios are rather plausible once you think about how often you actually need one.

My friend Helen* was telling me today how she was twenty-two days behind on her car payment. When the loan collector called to ask where her money was, Helen said that she didn’t have the money and she’d pay when she could. The collection agency then asked her if she wanted to lose her car. She said, “Come and get it. But first, let me ask you – what happened to the $25 billion that went to Wells Fargo that should have gone to people like me? Where’s that money?”

It’s ironic that a political party, whose ideology has diverged so far off course from their own base's identity, is now asking me to prove mine; Texans to prove theirs. When did doubting Americans’ identity become patriotic? And if you can’t answer that, then tell me this: Do you think they’ll ask for photo ID when they take Helen’s car away?

What you can do to Stop the Voter Suppression.

*Name has been changed.