Dewhurst is neither dear nor a friend

Lieutenant governor’s email touts disastrous budget cuts as a success, says he’s preparing to share some ‘exciting news’

PHYLLIS GUEST | Contributing Columnist

As the Special Session of the Texas Legislature ended, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst posted a “Dear Friend” letter online.

The Internet being what it is, the letter also went to those who do not think him dear and do not consider him a friend.

In it, he touts what he considers the accomplishments of “[w]e conservatives.” These include cutting state spending by nearly $15 billion, balancing the budget without raising taxes, preserving Rainy Day funds for future budget balancing, enacting a strong voter ID law, passing legislation to reduce frivolous lawsuits, and protecting the unborn.

Let’s look at a few of the people and services that got the axe:

• School teachers

• School librarians

• Public library services

• Nursing home care

• Stipends for college

• Access to contraceptives

• Access to low-cost health care

• Food, etc., for prisoners

The list goes on and on. But the list is sad, while the letter is funny — assuming you enjoy black humor.

The first funny thing is that Dewhurst reminds readers five times of his position on the political spectrum. In addition to noting what “[w]e conservatives” did to make the 82nd Legislature “one of the most successful in Texas history,” he mentions his conservative record, his conservative values, the Lege’s conservative victories, and the wonders of conservative change.

Also funny is his claim to having reduced current state spending by almost $15 billion. Does he think we have forgotten that he and Gov. Rick Perry never mentioned, during the last re-election campaign, our state’s shabby fiscal condition? Only later did we learn that our state was $25 billion in the hole. That’s give or take a few billion, according to State Comptroller Susan Coombs.

Even funnier is his pride in the passage of the voter ID law “to protect the integrity of our elections.” Remind us how many unqualified individuals have dashed to the polls, desperate to vote? How distressing it was to wait for hours, in pouring rain or blazing sun, to get to a voting machine? Apparently it is true that a handful of ineligible people have voted, and some have been cited for technical violations. However, far more Texans turned out for the Dallas Mavericks parade than for the Dallas mayoral runoff. Go Mavs!

Funnier still is that he boasts of providing “pregnant women the opportunity to see a sonogram of their unborn child.” Does he believe no such opportunity had existed before? To his mind, and that of his colleagues, have clinics and clinicians across the state refused pregnant women access to ultrasound technology available even in (gasp!) Africa and Asia? As to his companion boast of “requiring a 24-hour waiting period” before a woman can get an abortion? Only a stupid straight or a closeted queen could deem that the state’s business.

Finally, Dewhurst probably thinks clamping down low-cost health care is a real knee-slapper. The June 29 Dallas Morning News reported that the new state budget cuts funds to Parkland’s family planning clinics by more than half, or about $5 million. Statewide, $63 million was cut from family planning programs. So the Lege is punishing not only an organization that refers women for abortion services — Planned Parenthood — but all low-income women. Men, too, of course. And the unwanted children who will be born as a result.

The 82nd Legislature on which Dewhurst was “proud to report” tore a $467 million hole in the state’s already frayed social safety net, lopping off chunks of the Medicaid program that would have helped, according to the DMN, poor children, pregnant women, nursing home residents, and the disabled.

But here’s the best part of the Dewhurst letter. After assuring readers that he and his wife, Tricia, had prayed over his future, he reports — in bold face type — “we will have exciting news to share with you about what we will do next.”

Be still, my heart.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist and member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. Contact her via editor@dallasvoice.com.

—  John Wright

2011 was (will be?) one heck of a year!

Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

On New Year’s Eve, I sent out a “tweet” wishing everyone a Happy New Year and a “none too fond goodbye to 2011.” It only took a few moments before I was reminded that 2011 had not even started.

So, in the spirit of the strange time warp I somehow fell into, here is my “look back” on 2011.

It was quite a year, especially in LGBT politics. Even though the U.S. House of Representatives was dominated by Republicans, Congress still managed to move a modified version of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) through. And after a few changes in the Senate, it was signed into law by the president.

The main provisions concerned religious organizations, and they were allowed to continue to be as bigoted as they want without government interference.

Meanwhile on the local scene, at least three openly gay candidates announced plans to run for judicial and city council positions. Most notable was activist and radio personality Jesse Garcia, who announced his run for mayor.

Nationally, the field of candidates for the 2012 presidential race narrowed when Sarah Palin announced she was ending her political career to focus on yet another reality TV show, “Real Housewives of Wasilla.”

Her daughter, Bristol, will headline her own dance review in Las Vegas next year at the new trailer park-themed hotel opening on the famous strip.

No word yet as to whether Levi Johnston will co-star.

Additionally this year, in a bold move, the LGBT conservative group GOProud changed their name to GOAway following yet another rejection by the Republican Party national convention as well as the Conservative Political Action Conference, which barred the group from attending its functions. A spokesperson for the group called the move, “a more rational way of stating the real agenda of the Republican Party while maintaining our group’s identity as supporting conservative values.”

In other LGBT news, another dozen homophobic evangelical pastors have been added to the growing list of “outed clergy.” It has been a bad year for closeted clergy since the escort web site “RightWingRentBoys.com” had their records released through WikiLeaks.

On the West Coast, since Prop 8 was overturned by the high court, LGBT couples are flocking to romantic wedding chapels in the Golden State. The boom in business has started a whole new honeymoon destination travel trend, as gay-themed resorts are cashing in on the influx of business.

The “Beary Marry Honeymoon” package from one Russian River resort offers a woodland wedding with party-sized “Bear Soup” hot tubs.

Though our state naturally lags behind, the Texas Legislature did manage to pass a civil union law awarding same-sex couples most of the rights of married couples.

Though the governor’s office denies any influence in the matter, most people assume the passage was a result of behind-the-scene bargaining and perhaps downright blackmail in a matter of a male escort who has yet to be named.

In tech news, the announcement late in the year of a public offering for Grindr has the stock market salivating. Many experts expect the smart phone app will exceed Facebook in revenues in the coming IPO.

The company got an extra boost after the heterosexual version was released last fall.

The publishing industry was rocked this year by the closure of the Dallas Morning News. Most media experts believe the publication’s ultra-conservative editorial policy and resistance to change was instrumental in the venerable institution’s demise.

Though it leaves Dallas without a major newspaper, niche publications like the Dallas Voice and Dallas Observer have seen circulation grow in both their online and print editions.

So as I bid a fond farewell to 2011, I just want to thank everyone who has written in complimenting me on my insightful and enjoyable columns over the past year.

Ok, well so much for fantasy! Now, I wonder if anyone will save this and see how close I came with my predictions?

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Sessions is missing the Log Cabin dinner to discuss the importance of ‘traditional marriage’

Earlier today we wrote about how Dallas Republican Congressman Pete Sessions had backed out of a scheduled appearance tonight at the Log Cabin Republicans National Dinner. In cancelling his appearance, Sessions cited another commitment — specifically a meeting of the House GOP Conference.

Irony of ironies, it turns out the GOP Conference will be meeting to discuss a brand new election year agenda to be unveiled Thursday that — surprise! — will include social issues and specifically a statement affirming the party’s support for “traditional marriage.”

From Politico:

House Republicans had a spirited debate behind closed doors about the degree to which social issues should be included in the new agenda, and social conservatives have been pressing for the GOP to be more explicit in putting social issues in writing on this 2010 agenda.

Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.), winner of a 2012 presidential straw poll at the recent conservative Values Voters conference, led the campaign to ensure social issues would not be ignored. Some others believed that the plan should focus more narrowly on fiscal and security issues that unite a broader swath of the GOP.

The decision to at least affirm opposition to abortion and gay marriage appears to represent a compromise between the factions.

House Republicans will be able to review the new agenda this afternoon, after which they will discuss it at a conference meeting. Republican leaders will unveil it to the public Thursday morning.

Gee, we wonder which side of the “spirited debate” Sessions was on.

UPDATE: Via CBS News, below is a draft of the GOP’s new “Pledge To America”:

GOP Pledge to America

—  John Wright