This Week in WTF, May 29, 2015

– I think of all the education that I missed…: A teacher in Texas is facing criminal charges in connection with allegedly giving a 15-year-old student a “full contact lap dance” in class. For his birthday, authorities claim:

The teen told investigators that he sat in a chair next to Smith’s desk as she moved back and forth on his crotch and touched him all over his body. Near the end of the dance, the student said Smith sank to her knees and put her head between his legs. The incident reportedly happened in front of the other students during class.

The student admitted that he spanked Smith’s buttocks a couple of times, according to KHOU.

Because of course he did.

– Just tell me this—is there a Klondike Bar in it for me?: What would you do to achieve “internet fame”? Would you light yourself on fire while being recorded, and post the video online? No? Well, the you’re smarter than these kids (h/t Jack).

– It’s just a drink. It’s just a drink. It’s just…: It took a jury in Florida fifteen minutes to convict two people of having sex on the beach. Not the drink, the sex (h/t Amy): Continue reading


The Bluebonnet Meme the World So Desperately Needed

Spring is here in central Texas, which means that it’s time for an age-old tradition: incredibly awkward poses while surrounded by bluebonnets.

To honor this tradition, someone has created a blog on (where else?) Tumblr entitled Pooping on Bluebonnets. The author of the blog has made some amusing modifications to the photos, which I admit I didn’t notice right away.


My only beef is that it’s not clear where these photos come from. If they are taken from other people’s social media posts, there might be some consent and privacy issues. Hence my use of pixelation.


Texas Can’t Get Too Smug Over Russia

In the midst of everyone’s rush to give Putin’s Russia (much deserved) grief over the country’s law banning “homosexual propaganda” or whatever, the Washington Post published an article identifying eight U.S. states with laws that, while nowhere near the Russian law in letter, might seem close to it in spirit. The U.S. state laws, commonly known as “no promo homo” laws, presumably by people who never expect to have to say that out loud, apply specifically to public education regarding teh gayz. Unlike Russia’s law, they do not include provisions for incarceration and whatnot.

The Texas statute is worth examining, provided that any such examination is followed by peals of derisive laughter and ruthless mockery at our backwards legislators. Texas Health & Safety Code § 163.002(8) provides as follows:

Course materials and instruction relating to sexual education or sexually transmitted diseases should include…emphasis, provided in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.

I see four glaring problems here:

  1. “Emphasis, provided in a factual manner.” The absurdity of this provision should become clear once it is demonstrated that nothing following it in the statute is in any way factual.
  2. “From a public health perspective.” Similarly, this really does not apply to either of the assertions that follow.
  3. “Homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public.” This might have been sort of true in 1991, when the Legislature passed this particular statute, but times have undoubtedly changed and continue to change, and it was never really the public’s business anyway. What happened to liberty, Texas Legislature? I guess that only applies to things you don’t personally find icky, right?
  4. “Homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.” This was certainly true in 1991, but it hasn’t been true since 2003, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that specific statute in Lawrence v. Texas. The fact that the Legislature hasn’t bothered to take it off the books in the subsequent decade is pretty embarrassing. Not as embarrassing, of course, as the law mandating that schools continue to teach kids that a statute ten years in its constitutional grave still has legal force.

EDIT (02/13/2014): Edited to correct a spelling error – “times have undoubtedly change” should say “times have undoubtedly changed.”


“Texas Doesn’t Belong to Them”

Last summer, I expressed my sincere view that we progressives are not stuck here in Texas with those who would impose their own narrow religious views on everyone in this state and have the audacity to call it freedom. Those people are stuck here in Texas with us.

I am a Texan, born, raised, and flag-waving, and if you try to say otherwise, bless your heart, you can go  to hell.

While she is far more diplomatic about it, it seems Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis agrees with me, according to this e-mail I received today:

This month has been quite a start to the election year. Our opponents are showing exactly how low they’re willing to go to keep their stranglehold on power. But Texas doesn’t belong to them. It belongs to each and every person who lives here. Every student struggling to get ahead. Every family working to put food on the table. Every child who dreams of a future that’s filled with possibilities. Texas deserves leadership that understands and respects their stories -- not leaders that attack them.

This month has been quite a start to the election year. Our opponents are showing exactly how low they’re willing to go to keep their stranglehold on power.

But Texas doesn’t belong to them. It belongs to each and every person who lives here. Every student struggling to get ahead. Every family working to put food on the table. Every child who dreams of a future that’s filled with possibilities.

Texas deserves leadership that understands and respects their stories — not leaders that attack them.

[Emphasis added]

Contribute to Wendy’s campaign (or volunteer) if you want to help make Texas a better place for everybody (even the religious folk who might not appreciate it at first.)


Gay People Are Welcome in Larry Kilgore’s Revolution…….but Then What Happens???

Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Kilgore is apparently willing to work with teh gayz in getting Texas to secede, but I can’t imagine his vision of Texas would be a good place to live.

I am a Christian, and I have lots of Christian beliefs. However, I am trying to build a coalition of all different types of people. I look at the lesbians and the homosexual folks and I say, ‘Hey, D.C. is stealing my money just like they’re stealing your money.’ After we get our freedom, then we can decide all that stuff — hopefully at a county level. Right now, lesbians and homosexuals and Christians may have differences with each other, but we’ve got a bigger enemy.

This is a good example of the remarkably narrow definition of “freedom” that people like him use.


The Inefficiency of Republican Government: Christmas Edition

I wonder if people will ever figure out that, by electing Republicans to office, they are making their rhetoric about the inefficiency of government into a self-fulfilling prophecy:

Texas Values, a faith-based political advocacy organization, on Monday hosted an educational event to make sure that parents, students and others know about House Bill 308, the so-called Merry Christmas Law that the Texas Legislature passed this year. The law is meant to to ensure that public school districts can educate students about the history of traditional winter celebrations and can use traditional winter greetings, such as “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah,” without fear of litigation.

Then again, maybe people do realize it and just don’t care.


The Rise of the Super Zips

Presumably because we just don’t have enough ways yet to isolate the super-rich from everyone else, the Washington Post has prepared an interactive map of the nation that identifies what it calls “Super Zips”—zip codes that rank in the 95th to 99th percentile for median income and education level.

Austin, Texas has eight Super Zips. Not at all surprisingly, they are all west of I-35. In fact, with the exception of a small sliver of 78749, they are all west of Mopac. (Fun fact: I lived in that sliver of ’46 for just over three years! In an apartment. Trust me, the Super Zip-ness comes from the west side of the highway.) The highest overall score, a 99, goes to 78746, which includes West Lake Hills and Rollingwood, and should not be a surprise either. The highest median income, however, is in 78739 ($132,552 to the ’46’s $129,188).

The lowest score in Austin, from my cursory review of the map, is east Austin’s 78742 zip code. It ranks in the 10th percentile, with a median income of $21,071 and 14% college graduate rate. It also doesn’t seem to have much in the way of buildings.

Just for fun, I thought I’d look at all of the zip codes where I have lived in my 14 years in Austin:

  • 78705: 48th percentile, median income of $11,910 (although it’s worth noting that this zip code is probably mostly college students);
  • 78751: 57th percentile, median income of $37,521;
  • 78749: 90th percentile, median income of $79,712 (especially now that I’m not there to drag it down);
  • 78704: 66th percentile, median income of $47,336 (damn hippies);
  • 78751 (I moved back here for a while); and
  • 78723: 43rd percentile, median income of $41,839 (interesting that it has a higher median income than ’51, but it only has 28% college graduates to ’51’s 64%).

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 3.06.49 PM

Also interesting: the zip code where I grew up, 78209 in San Antonio, is famous for its “old money” excess, but it only ranks in the 79th percentile these days. Still impressive, but it’s clear that the real concentrations of wealth have moved further northwest (check out 78248, 78257, 78258, and 78015 for the big bucks). I bet the ’09 still has an edge in snobbery, though!


Stop Trying to Make “Hail Satan” Happen, Greg Abbott (UPDATED)

Greg Abbott never could decide exactly how to respond to the stunt planned by his former staffer, Lorenzo Garcia, who is currently the UT chapter chair of Young Conservatives of Texas. As Joe Deshotel describes at Burnt Orange Report, he first threw Garcia under the bus, but then decided this was a good opportunity for political cheap shots. Most notable, of course, was his attempt to resurrect the “Hail Satan” nontroversy from this summer. He couldn’t even do that right, of course, claiming that it was a series of chants during Wendy Davis’ filibuster. It actually occurred during the protests that started with the second special session, and by all appearances it was actually a handful (at most) of kids who clearly did not realize that many people would actually take them seriously.

I tried to find any media coverage of the incident that wasn’t overblown and sensational. U.S. News and World Report called it heckling, which seems fair. The Blaze offered a grudgingly fair assessment with a shout-out to the nutters: “Obviously, it is much more likely that the abortion supporters were chanting ‘Hail Satan!’ to mock pro-lifers rather than actually hailing Lucifer, but anything is possible.” Of course, Natural News (via Infowars, of course), let the crazy fly:

Obviously, not all abortion activists are Satan worshippers, but you’ll notice that none of them have denounced the Satanists, either. By failing to denounce it, they effectively embrace and welcome Satan worship as part of their cause. [Emphasis in original.]

Somewhat hilariously, the episode drew the ire of actual Satanists: Continue reading


Texas Monthly is playing it safe

The latest issue of Texas Monthly arrived in the mail today:


I really can’t blame the magazine for adhering to the “red state” paradigm. Progressives are generally viewed as mythical beings in Texas, except when they are making too much noise to ignore. Besides that, the editors have better things to do than sift through the petabytes of psychotic, barely-literate RWNJ screeds that would follow anything remotely nice about liberals and progressives. A Greg Abbott victory might not actually be inevitable, but an onslaught of keyboard poundings from the mouth-breathing class most certainly is.


More Talk of Secession from Texas Republicans

KellyP42 from morguefile.comTexas Attorney General candidate Barry Smitherman, when he’s not advocating for pre-birth voting rights, is apparently talking up Texas’ ability to go it alone as an independent nation (h/t Jenn). He apparently said in an interview that Texas is “uniquely situated because we have energy resources, fossil and otherwise, and our own independent electrical grid…. [Texas has] been very strong leading in the charge agains the Obama administration.”

People like this tend to wrap themselves in the American flag when it suits their purposes, then talk about taking their ball and going home when the rest of America doesn’t do exactly what they want. Democracy is messy, America is big and diverse, and affluent white men don’t always get what they want anymore. Sorry, Mr. Smitherman, but it’s life. (Also, no legal authority for secession exists.)

I could not find any specific statements Smitherman has made recently regarding the Pledge of Allegiance, but I do see that he was a guest speaker at a meeting of the Texas Patriots PAC on August 6, 2013, which reportedly opened with an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance. (The minutes do not mention if it was to the U.S. or the Texas flag. Yes, Texas has its own pledge of allegiance.)

My question for Smitherman is this: Did you recite the pledge to the U.S. flag that day, and say the words “to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible…”? Continue reading