The Texas Freedom Illusion

Governor Perry is well known for his brags that “the Lone Star State’s winning mix of low taxes, reasonable regulatory structure, fair court system and world-class workforce has been paying dividends” and bringing business to Texas, even when it isn’t true.

Courtesy the Dallas News
Courtesy the Dallas News

For the day to day Texan, their freedom is becoming increasingly an illusion too.

To have real freedom, you need choice. Increasingly Texans have no freedom, because they have no choice. This week, Attorney General Abbott confirmed the ban of releasing information to the public as Tier II reports in the 1986 Emergancy Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA).

What this means is, YOU, yes You! can no longer find out what dangerous chemicals are stored by businesses in your town, or your neighborhood. The sort of chemicals for example, that were the cause of the West, TX explosion last year. The Dallas Morning News in their research found 74 facilities that 10,000 Pounds or more of Ammonium nitrate or ammonium nitrate-based explosive material on site.

Given one of the startling discoveries post West, TX. that

“The fertilizer plant hadn’t been inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 1985. Its owners do not seem to have told the Department of Homeland Security that they were storing large quantities of potentially explosive fertilizer, as regulations require. And the most recent partial safety inspection of the facility in 2011 led to $5,250 in fines”

wouldn’t you want to know this stuff was happening near your home, school, or work place? WFAA has a great video report showing Texas regulation at it’s best/worst. Confusion.

Gov. Perrys claim for low regulation is in fact obfuscated by the fact that plants like the one in West, TX are regulated by as at least seven different state and federal agencies. OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Feed and Fertilizer Control Service. If you think this creates a smooth, efficient, low cost and safe way of managing risk, then “good luck with that”.

The good news is Texas isn’t much worse than many others, at least we still have the ultimate freedom, to leave. Unless of course it’s via the Mexican border where Abbott continues to press for the Federal Government to be tougher, fence more, fence frequently border control. What Texas does a best is apparently marketing the illusion of freedom via the cheerleader in general, Gov. Perry.

Water rights, wrongs and stupidity in Texas

If Texans are to have the kind of rational water policy we deserve. All we need is a captain unafraid to take us there.

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The February 2014 issue of Texas Monthly magazine has a good article by Nate Blakeslee on the stupidity of water rights here in Texas.  His summary though is spot on. You can read it above.

The summary paragraph is a killer  ending with ” If Texans are to have the kind of rational water policy we deserve. All we need is a captain unafraid to take us there.”

Which surely can’t be Abbott given his private well to water his lawn, I assume?

Abbott, leads by example

And says FU to Texas water users.

Attorney general Abbott knows the law,  if nothing else. Texas is a property rights state,  along with which come a number of other rights,  not normally recognized as either good for the Commons,  or not allowed by law in a modern democracy.

Those rights include everything under the property,  which would obviously include oil  gas shale,  but in this instance include water. Abbott must like a green lawn, we all do, but for the most part it has become impractical and should be unaffordable to waste water on a lawn.

In what are record drought conditions with numerous businesses affected, boat docks, related people and business, plus the farmers and rice fields downstream from Austin getting more and more severe restrictions, you’d think the candidate for Governor of Texas would lead by example, apparently he is, he’s drilled a well on his property and is watering his lawn from it. This article in the Texas Tribune covers the details.

Abbott Stormy waterThis letter in the current Austin Chronicle, by Philip Russell explains why Abbott is wrong, either way. Doesn’t Texas deserve better than this?

In the interests of transparency, I have a sprinkler system, it was installed when the house was built and generally never gets used. I can’t say I’ve never used it, I have, but not this year. My neighbor replaced half the turf on my lawn to stop the weeds spreading to his lawn, I’ve not watered it since. Also, since our drains run directly into the creek and town lake, I won’t use weed killer or chemicals on the lawn.

[Update: 12/2/13. I guess this is Philip Russell the letters author.]

The long traveled road…

to 1010 Colorado St, Austin, TX

I’ve seen it many times over the years in business. A new guy shows up, he was unexpected. He seems fine at first and then he starts cleaning house, reorganising, people get fired, departments get cut and before you know it, he is gone. Paid off handsomely, publicly, because they wanted his silence, privately because he’d done his job, he was Leon, The Professional.

What happens next is the old guard regroup, they step out of the shadows and everything goes just the way they wanted it. The hired guy was the fall guy, the one to take the heat.

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Here in Texas we are a year out from the election for a new governor, and the race has most definitely started. Texas Monthly magazine October 2013 has a profile of who it calls unequivocally, “THE GOV*”  with the * denoting “barring an unlikely occurrence”  and it includes this picture.

In a long background piece on the current Texas attorney general,  Greg Abbott,  it says

  • “is a conservative’s conservative”
  • “has sued the Obama administration 27 times”
  • “Filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that the Second Amendment provides citizens with an individual right to bear arms”

Abbott is my age, he represents and is focussed on appealing to the traditional Texas ol’ boys, guns, small government, low taxes, low regulation etc.

Texas monthly carries an article on the likely competitors to Abbott, but given Abbott resplendent with Shotgun and Wheelchair is featured on the front page, and their prediction, that Abbott will be “The Gov” barring an unlikely occurrence, you can’t take them too seriously.

Not so much what’s in, More what’s not.

More interesting, although explainable given the timing of the magazine print edition, and the announcement by Debra Medina, that she is considering a run for governor, as an Independent. Medina lost in the 2010 Republican Party Primary Election, taken by Governor Perry. Medina, had been raising money for a state comptroller bid, said, according to this Texas Tribune report, “has received millions of dollars in pledges on the condition that she instead run for governor as an independent.”. Would that make Medina, Leonora?

The Trib’ focuses on Medina ability to change the outcome of the election without either hinting or mentioning the Democratic front-runner, Wendy Davis. The Trib’ says “One way to win an election is to change the electorate. That’s not as nefarious as it might sound”.. “Another way is to split the votes among more than two candidates. In primaries, that often forces runoffs. In general elections, third-party candidates can sometimes grab enough votes to change the outcome.” And they go on to review Bush vs Clinton, and Perot.

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Who ever is offering Medina millions to run as an Independent for Governor, isn’t doing it to split the vote of the Republicans, she will be a shill, put in to collect the votes of the more liberal, center leaning Republicans, especially the growing, base of GOP Women voters. Those voters, even the more christian right, must be horrified by recent moves including State bill HB2 that will have a drastic effect on both womens services as well as the ability, choice and availability of a great number of womens services.

Given an appropriate campaign by Democrat Wendy Davis, there was always the chance Davis would not only been able to muster the democratic and independent candidates, but also those of many Republican women. With Medina in as a shill, she can appeal and win that vote, denying Davis. Heck, Medina can come in and participate in an all out catfight with Davis, while Abbott et al. wait in the shadows, only to appear on election night after the “public” dismal of Medina aka The Professional.