Texas Unhinged: State leaders on whackabout with gay Jesus, public health

Greg Harman

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Good grades have gotten harder to come by in Texas, what with the Guv Lite sticking his nose in our homework assignments, an' all.

Last week, a Tarleton State University student in Stephenville was to present a one-act play in class to complete the requirements of his theater course. After news leaked of the play involving a queer Jesus and crew, our crusading Lt. Governor threw his gauntlet down, demanding tax money not be used to “debase” the (evangelical, fundamentalist) religion of Texans. As if organized religion needed any help debasing itself, I'm sure he was thinking.

Had his staff bothered to investigate, they would have seen the costs of the class assignment were being footed entirely by the student.

After Dewhurt's comments ramped up the negative publicity (and resultant threats to the school) about the performance, the professor canceled class. Gay Jesus went down in flames; Dewhurst rose to applaud the victory of “reasonable expectations” over free speech.

The recently launched Texas Tribune has been all over the topic.

“Every citizen is entitled to the freedom of speech,” Dewhurst said in a statement on Friday, the day before the scheduled performance, “but no one should have the right to use government funds or institutions to portray acts that are morally reprehensible to the majority of Americans.” Hours later, the performance was cancelled by the professor of the course, Mark Holtorf, citing security concerns and “the need to maintain an orderly academic environment.” There is no plan to reschedule it. `Student John Jordan` Otte will be graded based on his final tech rehearsal.

“It baffles me that he thinks he has any right to weigh in on such a decision when this is an institution of higher learning,” says Otte of Dewhurst's statement, likening it to having the state's second highest-ranking official issue an unsolicited critique of a college English paper. “It was never intended to be an attack on Christians by the playwright or me. If he `Dewhurst` would even take the time to read or watch the play, he would in no way have that opinion.”

Dear Otte, it should be obvious to all by now: our state leaders don't read, they march. And yet somehow the likes of Dewhurst and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott still find themselves playing starring roles in life. The Bard once described life as “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Some may grouse, but the narrator is a pretty good gig.

In other recent cases, the Lone Star state's chief moderator of morality has been outdone by our posturing prosecutor, Greg Abbott. Most recently, Abbott took on heath care from the “uninsured capital of the United States” (that'd be us, Texas) and attempted to broadside federal efforts to arrest climate change in the most flagrant greenhouse emitter in the nation (were we truly a “whole 'nother country,” we'd be ranked 7th globally for these pollutants).

In the climate case, Abbott dared not challenge outright the science linking CO2 with climate change (a simple physical process first understood more than a century ago). Instead, he bemoans the economic impact CO2 regulation would have on Texas and chides the EPA for “outsourcing” its scientific responsibilities to the International Panel on Climate Change. Of course, the complaint is a fragrant red herring unlikely to delay an overdue era of accountability in Texas. Whatever the IPCC's troubles, and it has plenty of 'em, it is not some lone voice decrying the criminal results of greenhouse polluters.

As Jim Dawson (quoting Jim Marston) pointed out at Texas Climate News:

Jim Marston, Texas regional director of the Environmental Defense Fund, issued a statement saying that the “EPA's decision is based on a two hundred page synthesis of major scientific assessments by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Research Council, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautical and Space Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, CNA Corporation, and others.”

In short, the war on the EPA via further demonizing of the IPCC is not only ignorant but doomed. And where is the respect for my tax money's “reasonable expectations” of having a life tomorrow today?

In a move even worse for his political future, Abbott joined the sales team in the Lost Cause Department as one of a dozen Republican Attorney Generals suing to stop implementation of federal health care reform measures. Were repeal even possible (remember those effort to close the socialistic U.S. Department of Education and Social Security?) dismantling of health care reform â?? which is soon to add 1.5 million Texas children to the ranks of the insured with the support of the American Medical Association â?? would be two solid black eyes for Republicans marching toward November with their bully bricks in hand.

While bricks and black eyes exude a rugged manliness, they don't scream “responsible voice of the people” in quite the same way. I am looking forward to seeing how these not-so-compassionate conservatives will make their case for why 5 million Texans really don't deserve breast cancer screenings, or affordable dental work, or, in the worst cases, must be forced to watch family members die because insurance companies aren't required to help them. I just don't see that playing well.

Tea Party sucking may work for Governor Perry's national ambitions, but the votes of the 25 percent of Texans currently uninsured should retreat in a flash beyond the Trio's reach. When their political options dissolve like so many glaciers and disposable poor, one of these university systems would be happy to pick up Dewhurst, at least, hero of this here new-styled free speech moderated by the “reasonable expectations” of our dollars and cents. We could torch many a library with that sort moderated liberty.

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