Sat June 13, 2015 5:21 pm By Erica Grieder

The news that Greg Abbott will not call a special session on gay marriage should not have been a surprise to anyone. I wouldn’t even call this a “decision” on the governor’s part, really. In addition to the fact that Abbott has never cited gay marriage as the most serious issue facing Texas today, he is clearly a reasonable adult, and would therefore be unlikely to see it as such. Plus, the Lege had plenty of opportunities to pass anti-gay legislation, and declined all of them; that’s not a particularly ambiguous result, or one that seems like an accident.

Still, the news was a serious disappointment to some of Texas’s most ardent social conservatives in Texas, who are still reeling from the 84th Legislature’s total failure to advance this aspect of their agenda. Their dismay is not surprising: considering that both chambers and all major statewide offices are controlled by Republicans, who won the 2014 elections in a landslide, this was a pretty unproductive session from a socially conservative perspective. But looking back at the session, I don’t think socially conservative activists should be surprised. They’re the ones to blame, at least in part. And if they don’t realize that–which many of them clearly don’t–they’re bound to be disappointed again. 

In my assessment, social conservatives were stymied by circumstances this session, specifically guns; the seemingly endless open carry debate absorbed the time and muscle that otherwise might have been allocated to tackling right-wing priorities such as abortion, gay people, or the Texas DREAM Act. They were also thwarted by their usual bogeyman, Joe Straus, and the commitment to tackling real issues like roads and education that he and his affiliates represent. The latter factor is no doubt the one that conservatives will focus on during the next round of primaries; some of the RINOs have already drawn official challenges. The right wing may win a few seats, as they have in previous rounds.

But that approach helps explain how little social conservatives accomplished. The purges marginalize them in two predictable ways.

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Sat June 13, 2015 2:13 pm By R.G. Ratcliffe

Open carry signing

Who says the gods don’t have a sense of irony? On the same day that Governor Greg Abbott signs new laws allowing for the open carrying of pistols and licensed carrying of concealed handguns on college campuses, a lone gunman opens fire on the Dallas police station while driving a zombie apocalypse van.

No zombie action was present at Red’s Shooting Range in Pflugerville, as Abbott signed the two controversial bills into law.

“Today I am proud to expand liberty in the Lone Star State,” said Governor Abbott in a statement. “By signing these bills into law, Texans can be assured that their Second Amendment rights will be stronger and more secure than ever before.”

Police across Texas were widely opposed to both of the new handgun laws, so there is no little irony that an attack occurred on the same day as Abbott’s signing – although there is no reason to believe the two are connected.

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that the suspect in the shooting was a man who blamed police for him losing custody of his son. A sniper killed the shooter. 

At the time of the assault, the man apparently was driving a retrofitted armored van with gun ports that had been sold as a “Zombie Apocalypse Assault Vehicle and Troop Transport.” According to the Morning News, as the van was marketed: “This fully armored zombie busting vehicle features convenient gun ports so no zombie juice touches your during a mass Zombie takedown.” 

Breitbart is all over the zombie assault van, with photos.

(Photo: Governor Greg Abbott signs open carry bills/Source: Governor’s Office.)

Thu June 11, 2015 8:58 am By R.G. Ratcliffe

KTRE photo

Sure, our lieutenant governor in his race for office promised voters that he was going to bring “a new day and a bold day in Texas.”  It was a theme of Dan Patrick’s campaign, and when he trounced former Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the Republican primary runoff, Patrick declared, “It’s a new day in Texas.”  And after his swearing in, Patrick asked the crowd, “What day is it? It’s a new day in Texas.”

So we really shouldn’t be surprised that Patrick followed up the legislative session with a “Bold New Day in Texas” Tour of Tyler, Wichita Falls and Abilene.

Patrick gave state senators a grade of “A-minus” — no one’s perfect, he quipped. He spoke first about increased spending — $800 million — for border security. He also praised tax relief for property and business owners.

Yep, no one’s perfect, and Patrick’s tour looks like a return to the days when state officials used the resources of the taxpayers, the perks of their office and their official capacities for the exercise of a perpetual campaign.

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Tue June 9, 2015 8:24 am By R.G. Ratcliffe

New Gang In Town

In the late summer of 1977, I was working for the Beaumont Enterprise and living with two other journalists in a termite-ridden rent house beneath a street overpass. Only a high row of hedges separated us from the clanging of the railroad switching yard next door. For a generation of journalists who came and went from renting there, the home was known as the Troll House. Parties started when the newspaper went to bed at midnight and ended with the dawn. Freight cars don’t complain about noise or call the police to intervene.

A major career move that September dictated that I leave the Troll House behind for a relocation to Florida, but before I departed, my September issue of Texas Monthly arrived. The cover depicted Houston police as a motorcycle gang. The article inside by Tom Curtis, titled Support Your Local Police (Or Else), was a stunning tale of police brutality – and not just because of the murder of Joe Campos Torres Jr., a prisoner who was thrown in a bayou to drown. The story stuck with me through the years.

Torres’ death is just the most spectacular example of a recent deluge of violent police incidents. After the Torres killing, Mayor Fred Hofheinz, obviously anguished, said: “There is something loose in this city that is an illness.” Criminal lawyer Percy Foreman called Houston “a police state.” Today, he says, the Houston Police Department is worse, and its officers more violent and unchecked, than any comparable police force in the country.

The story out of McKinney this week about a white policeman pulling his service weapon on a group of African-American teenagers in swimsuits did not involve a shooting or throwdown weapons to mask unnecessary police brutality. It did renew questions about whether police in America are more apt to react violently toward African-Americans than whites. The question of police force and race in America is not an easy problem to solve. However, a problem that can be solved is how police are trained – especially since 9/11 – to be an occupying force rather than as our protectors.

The Dallas Morning News today has a profile of the McKinney officer involved in the incident, Cpl. David Eric Casebolt, who taught executive self-defense in his off hours: 

“During his career in Law Enforcement, he has received in-depth training on impact weapon deployment and expandable baton, firearms, electronic control devices (ECDs), ground fighting, Positive Assertive Control Tactics-Dynamic Threat Response (PACT-DTR), handcuffing, joint locks and pressure point compliance, armed and unarmed self-defense.”

His biography also listed his police certifications, and ended with his specific skills: “He has trained in several different disciplines of martial arts, but now exclusively trains in Krav Maga combat arts, Arnis, and ground fighting.”

Police deserve respect for risking their lives in the line of duty. Eleven died in Texas in 2014. It is not easy to determine, though, how many Texas civilians were killed by police and whether it was justified.

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Thu June 4, 2015 7:36 am By R.G. Ratcliffe

With his good hair and new horn-rimmed glasses, Rick Perry woke up this morning hoping Republicans will give him a second chance at making a first impression. Perry has an announcement scheduled at the Addison Airport north of Dallas. He is surrounding himself at the event with so many former Navy SEALs that if he’s not announcing for president, then he’s flying off immediately in a C-130 to stop a Bond villain a la You Only Live Twice — and “Twice is the only way to live.”

I’m betting on a run for president.

Perry told Christy Hoppe of The Dallas Morning News that he is a different man than he was when he entered the last contest in 2011 and then stumbled in a series of debates.

Perry has healed from the back surgery that hampered him through 2012. He has spent two years studying with experts in foreign relations, military preparedness and economics. He has traveled dozens of times to early primary states to establish a beachhead. He has ditched the cowboy boots and added glasses.

“It’s real different from last time,” Perry said in a recent interview. “You know I’m a different candidate than I was 3 1/2 years ago.”

The question before him is whether it’s too late.

In a crowded field of candidates at a time when Americans are disgusted with both major political parties, Perry’s first challenge is to break through the noise just to make the case that he is smarter than the 2011 campaign seemed to proclaim.

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