*** OT re Texas ***
Re Selima #238, no, I didn't mean anyone in particular, it was just late and maybe I was a little short, sorry.
I did think that news from the US, UK, and DACH countries was off-topic in this thread about the rest of the world.
But since some of you mention Texas ...
Yes, I do find it discouraging that I live in the US state that now perhaps most resembles a third-world banana republic, or an ex-Soviet satellite, prompting comparisons to the worst of the rest of the world. Every time that Gov. Greg Abbott kowtows more to the extreme right, aka his smarmy, evil lieutenant governor Dan Patrick and his long-indicted but never tried attorney general Ken Paxton, it seems as if we might as well be ruled by Daniel Ortega or Viktor Orban.
Not only do we now have election officials resigning in many districts, because now their slightest mistakes are subject to serious criminal penalties, we have teachers threatened with prosecution if they refuse to whitewash American history, and jails emptied out of actual criminals to become photo ops for locking up migrants. Women's clinics that are the only source of contraception and ob/gyn care are still threatened with closure, so that the poorest women may now have to travel hundreds of miles for health care. And instead of reducing crime, we now have a law that allows any idiot to walk around with a concealed gun!
And while all that is going on, so much serious work is not getting done. The weatherizing of the Texas power grid, after the disastrous February freeze, has been softballed and largely postponed indefinitely, all failures swept under the rug. Nothing has been done to shore up teachers' pensions, improve transportation without regressive fees like toll roads, reduce dangerous air pollution levels, or increase access to health care for the 25% of Texas residents who are uninsured. Even most of the money that was designated in the federal budget for states to use to help residents deal with the pandemic has apparently been rejected or simply banked for 'the future,' though many children are still hungry and families are still facing eviction.
What actually seems the most ominous to me, though, is the creeping disappearance of serious journalism from the state.
The Houston Chronicle had already long since declined in quality. Since it was bought by Hearst in the late 1980s, it has continually lost good journalists like John Otis, who now reports from Colombia.
The Austin-American Statesman newspaper, owned by Gannett aka USA Today, recently let several of its best local journalists go, including Ken Herman, a perceptive columnist and sarcastic longtime critic of the Texas Legislature. Their editorial page and letters are still generally liberal, but the space for editorial content, which used to feature syndicated columns from both the left and the right, has been shrunk by half or more. Worse still, there is now almost zero local reporting, with practically all the space being filled by vapid syndicated non-news content for the stupidest readers, total garbage like movie and TV reviews and recipes that you could find thousands of other places all over the internet. Classical music, theater, fine arts, religion? Investigative reporting about Texas cities, schools, hospitals, and businesses? All long since gone.
The Dallas Morning News has always been conservative, but they have actually become slightly more balanced in their editorials, and surprisingly liberal in their letters, probably reflecting the actual demographics of the metro area, as opposed to the most rural outlying suburbs. They do at least still have local reporters on their staff, and they reported many fiascos of the Trump administration accurately, to the fury of some longtime subscribers. However, they too have lost some longtime reporters and columnists, and their editorial board remains very far to the right on local issues, annually rubber-stamping a slew of useless Tea Party–esque candidates as long as their platforms appear 'pro-business' (meaning anti-consumer and anti-worker). One of their remaining really good reporters is their consumer 'watchdog' Dave Lieber, who has been really scathing about the failures of every state department and regulatory body, including the ones that should have been watching over the electrical grid. But he has received outright threats, and I worry that he will eventually be driven away too.
One of the only other remaining entities practicing journalism in the state is the Texas Tribune, an online-only publication that focuses mainly on insider political topics like the courts and the legislature. Its articles are now widely syndicated, including to newspapers and TV and radio stations that once did their own reporting. But they rarely go into any depth at all, which I find very sad.
There is also still a magazine, Texas Monthly, that exists in print, but it too seldom seems interested in a story unless it involves 'colorful' personalities that fulfill every stereotype about the state. That dark-humor angle well describes its annual list of the best and worst legislators, which tends to be full of one-line barbs, not thoughtful reporting.
Unfortunately, none of those few remaining outlets seems to have enough actual reporters, or enough interest, to ever investigate other serious stories with statewide or national implications, like schools, businesses, health care, and the environment. There are decent schools of journalism, like at UT Austin and UNT (North Texas), but they too aren't picking up the slack at all in terms of actually publishing anything. I doubt that it even helps to keep reporting political conflict and gossip, when there's so little effort to back it up with detailed facts.
So the outlook for Texas in the near future is, sadly, still quite bleak, as is the outlook for local and regional journalism in many US states.
If anyone wants to actually discuss any of that, I don't mind, but it might need a different location from this thread, so as not to distract from world news.
Contentwise, the topic of Texas would probably still fit well in the Trump thread, because that mindset is still very much in power here.
PS: The last long article, from Vanity Fair, about Fort Hood, a notorious large military base in central Texas, is somewhat overwrought in tone, but nevertheless rightly disturbing.
Texas man who waited seven hours at polls is charged with voting illegally
Hervis Rogers became a national symbol of tenacity when he cast his ballot in last year’s presidential primaries
Gov. Greg Abbott includes voting restrictions, critical race theory and rules for transgender student athletes on special legislative session agenda
Abbott also put border security and restoring funding to the Legislative branch — which he vetoed last month — on the special session agenda.
Watch the Texas legislature live (when in session)
Analysis: The noisiest branch of Texas government goes into overtime
Special sessions are tempting for governors, but they’re risky. Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest attempt ... might go better if it’s relatively short.
Texas Lawmakers Are Back For A Special Session. Here’s What You Should Know
We asked our readers for their questions about the special legislative session that starts Thursday in Texas.
2021: The Best and Worst Legislators
A wild year begat an even wilder legislative session. Lawmakers faced blackouts, a pandemic, and their own worst impulses.
Here are the worst acts by Texas governors. How does Greg Abbott’s legislative branch veto compare?
The Founding Fathers created three branches of government, but Gov. Abbott doesn’t act like a fan.
By Dave Lieber
We celebrate the Fourth of July as our breakaway move from a king who did more harm than good. Eventually, the Founding Fathers devised the three-branch system of government.
That’s why Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to veto every penny meant to run the Texas Legislature starting in September is so tyrannical.
My columnist colleague Gromer Jeffers Jr. wrote in a piece that it was “diabolical but deft” because it could force the Democrats to stick around and not kill a quorum during a special session.
The veto, if it stands, would cost 2,000 state employees their salaries and health benefits for two years. Both parties are affected.
How dictatorial of you, Gov. Abbott. The only thing missing here is Mussolini’s balcony.
Political speech or illegal threat? That can depend on the political leanings of jurors
A Wichita Falls man who told people to “shoot” Democratic members of Congress on sight was recently acquitted of making a threat by a federal jury in that city. The jury, which apparently did not include any Democrats, took just 18 minutes to reach its not guilty verdict.
The Murders at Fort Hood
Remains of soldiers have been turning up around the Texas military base with terrifying frequency.
But the only link among the victims may be the institution that trained them all to kill ...
(one article only free to nonsubscribers)