Editorial Roundup: Texas – San Luis Obispo Tribune

editorial-roundup:-texas-–-san-luis-obispo-tribune

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Amarillo Globe News. February 24, 2022. Editorial: State must move quickly to ease Texans’ pain The fallout and finger-pointing continues in the aftermath of last week’s massive electric grid failure that at one point left some 4 million Texans without power as the fiercest winter storm in decades wreaked havoc on the state. According to a Texas Tribune story earlier this week, the state’s utility commission moved to prevent electric companies from cutting power to customers as well as from sending out bills and cost estimates. That decision, the right one at the right time, comes as some Texans were trying to recover from sticker shock after opening their electric bills. It’s created a fresh round of outrage for people who have been buffeted by the effects of the ongoing pandemic for more than a year. State officials, meanwhile, continue to promise action will be taken and answers pursued. Toward that end, the first Texas House and Senate hearings regarding the grid failure are scheduled for today (Thursday, Feb. 25). In preparation for what likely will be one of many investigations conducted, House Speaker Dade Phelan said Monday online public comments will be accepted. “We’re going to turn over every rock,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said during a stop in Lubbock on Tuesday. “Was there any malfeasance in how the prices were set? Was there any shorting the market before? I don’t know that there are, but we’re going to look at everything to be sure that some of the issues weren’t caused because people were trying to profit from it.” Patrick, who oversees the Senate, said no bills will reach that chamber’s floor without fully addressing the issues that must be solved, many of which originally surfaced during a severe winter storm a decade ago. A New York Times report indicated one man in San Antonio received a bill in excess of $16,000, and a Chambers County woman filed a class action lawsuit (seeking $1 billion in damages) against one power company after she received a bill for more than $9,000 the week of the storm, according to a Tribune report. Some power providers were proactive in communicating to customers that they should be spared such spikes as a result of market volatility and variable rate plans. Her suit is one within a volley of litigation related to the winter storm and its associated impacts. There has also been a class action suit brought against the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) accusing the entity of inadequate planning in the face of the impending winter weather. About 90% of the state is within ERCOT’s service area. It does not include Lubbock, Amarillo and the Panhandle nor El Paso or some portions of east Texas. Virtually everyone who lost power last week had it restored by Monday. The storm, in which estimates say dozens died, also disrupted water systems serving about half the state’s residents as a result of the widespread power outages. Regardless of the ramped-up rhetoric, Texans certainly want answers, but more than that, they want relief from the pain of sky-high electric bills and water damage from burst pipes. They want access to drinking water and fully stocked grocery stores. By all means, getting answers is important, but the state must continue to move as quickly as possible to ease the pain and frustration of so many hurting Texans. ___ Dallas Morning News. February 24, 2022. Editorial: How badly will Dan Patrick’s ‘help’ hurt GOP mail-in voters? The outcome of voter integrity rules? Confusion. Hypocrisy is bad, but incompetence is worse. And either unsolicited applications for mail-in ballots are threats to election integrity or they aren’t. In recent mass mailings to Republican voters, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick urged them to apply for mail-in ballots. Patrick’s mailings included return envelopes addressed to the Texas secretary of state’s office for voters to use to submit the applications. One problem, and it is a big one. By law, the applications are supposed to be returned to local county election offices, not the secretary of state. Patrick’s campaign had an answer for that irregularity, and that is that Republican voters don’t trust elections officials in blue counties. Oh what a mess we weave. Patrick created an unnecessary and unauthorized stop for the applications, which ultimately have to end up in the local elections offices for review and processing, regardless of the political persuasion of election administrators. The irony is that Patrick opposed elections offices sending unsolicited mail-in applications around the state, citing security and fraud concerns from Harris County’s plan in 2020 to send vote-by-mail applications to all 2.4 million registered voters in the county. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton successfully sued the county for violating Texas election law on grounds that mass mailing would “sow confusion” for voters. The secretary of state’s office is forwarding the applications to the local counties. However, that takes time, and the deadline to submit a mail-in ballot application for the primaries was Friday. If there is a problem with a voter’s ballot application, he or she might not have time to fix it. If elections officials believe they can’t rectify the confusion in time then they have to notify those voters by phone or email. Then voters would have to visit the elections office in person or try online to provide the right information. Already, the stricter voting rules have resulted in the initial rejection of hundreds of completed ballots for not meeting the state’s new identification rules requiring a driver’s license number or a partial Social Security number on the return envelopes. An ID is also required when requesting a mail-in ballot. Ballot requests and votes will be rejected if those identification numbers don’t match voter registration records. Texas’ rules for voting by mail are stricter than the rules in other states. Mail-in voting is available only to those 65 and older, sick or disabled, out of the county on election day, expected to give birth within three weeks before or after election day, and some who are confined in jail. Now Patrick’s misdirection to his party’s own voters has added to the confusion of this election cycle. The stated goal of the GOP voting rules changes last session was to protect the integrity of the election and reduce confusion. But so far, confusion has reigned. ___ Galveston County Daily News. February 24, 2022. Editorial: Albertine Yeager’s historic story reflects the good in all of us Kudos to the Texas Historical Commission for recognizing Albertine Hall Yeager’s accomplishments with a new historical marker in Galveston. The marker will be erected at the former Yeager Children’s Home, founded by Charlie and Albertine Yeager in about 1917, at 1111 32nd St. in Galveston. This important piece of Black history and Galveston history was chosen as part of the commission’s Undertold Marker program, which honors neglected Texas people and stories. Yeager and her husband opened the orphanage and day care center initially for Black families during a time in the United States when Jim Crow laws were the norm in the South. At its beginning, it was one of only six private orphanages for Black children in Texas. The orphanage also operated a day care center for mothers working in the war industries during World War I. In the 1940s, during World War II, the business was expanded to provide care to children regardless of race or religion — more than a decade before desegregation was required under the law. “What Yeager accomplished boggles the mind,” said Marsha Wilson-Rappaport, director of community development at The Children’s Center, which traces its roots back to Yeager’s creation. Wilson-Rappaport, along with Julie Baker, marker chairwoman for the Galveston County Historical Commission, helped to bring Yeager’s story to the forefront — and it’s one that should be told for years to come. We at The Daily News know how important it is to ensure news and historical facts about all walks of life are chronicled and recorded for the public to see. The collaboration between the historical commission and residents who worked to uncover Yeager’s story should be commended. Her story is one of perseverance, courage and passion. Yeager died in 1969 and a new shelter was named in her honor in 1975 at its current location, now run by The Children’s Center. The story of Albertine Hall Yeager is a beacon of light for all of us. It’s a reflection of the ideal that no matter what life may throw at us during the good or bad times, if we look at putting others before ourselves, good is sure to follow. That’s what this story is about. The good in people. The good in all of us. And when Yeager’s marker makes its way to Galveston, we’ll be there to celebrate. We’re hoping you’ll be there, too. ___ Houston Chronicle. February 26, 2022. Editorial: Abbott and Paxton, don’t threaten parents of trans kids and their doctors Attorney General Ken Paxton’s Feb. 18 legal opinion labeling most therapy for transgender children and teens as child abuse spread over 13 pages, contained 21 footnotes and credited no fewer than eight lawyers, including Paxton, in coming to its radical conclusions. What it didn’t include was evidence that any of the nearly 750 attorneys who work for Paxton bothered to speak with someone such as Mack Beggs, a transgender Texan who could have explained that the treatments Paxton labels abusive are often life-saving. Beggs, 22, could have told Paxton that he felt like a boy for years, long before anyone else recognized the confusion he was feeling inside what appeared to be a girl’s body. When his mom watched a video about transgender people with him when he was in the seventh grade, he felt as if he finally had an answer for questions he’d been carrying around for years. “I did my own research after that and it really solidified for me that this is legitimate and not just something in my head,” he told the editorial board this week. “It helped me be true to myself.” Beggs started seeing a therapist at 13, and halfway through freshman year, his doctor at Children’s Health in Dallas prescribed medication to delay the onset of puberty. The next summer, his doctor prescribed low dosages of male hormones, which in time helped his body look more masculine. The summer between high school and college, he had “top surgery” at 18 to remove his breasts. All of these things — the reversible puberty blockers, the hormone therapy and the surgery — “can legally constitute child abuse under several provisions of chapter 261 of the Texas Family Code,” Paxton’s opinion states, adding that for these purposes a “child” is anyone under 21. They also would trigger legal duties for physicians and others aware of such treatments to alert authorities. The Texas Legislature had an opportunity last session to outlaw these therapies, but the bill failed as did similar bills in Alabama and elsewhere. (Nationwide, more than 150 bills that targeted trans youths were introduced last session, including restrictions similar to the ones that passed in Texas regarding transgender athletes.) After Texas’ third special session ended, Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, asked Paxton for his office’s opinion on whether existing prohibitions against child abuse could be interpreted to already outlaw surgery and other treatments. Paxton’s opinion says yes. As if on cue, Gov. Greg Abbott weighed in on Tuesday, citing Paxton’s opinion in a letter to Commissioner Jaime Masters of the Texas Department of Families and Protective Services ordering “a prompt and thorough investigation of any reported instances of these abusive procedures in the State of Texas.” Paxton’s opinion is merely advisory, but what Abbott’s call for an investigation means for Beggs and others who have received those therapies or for their parents or doctors is not clear. At least five Texas district attorneys have rejected Paxton’s legal interpretation. Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said his office will ignore it. Other types of harm have already been done. The message to trans youths that they are unnatural is clear. The message to their parents and doctors is that helping will be risky. What unites Paxton, Abbott and Krause on this issue, besides their desire to incite their voting base, is a belief that gender is determined before birth and anyone who believes otherwise is either deluding themselves or being lied to. In his opinion replying to Krause, Paxton writes, “While you refer to these procedures as ‘sex changes,’ it is important to note that it remains medically impossible to truly change the sex of an individual because this is determined biologically at conception. No doctor can replace a fully functioning male sex organ with a fully functioning female sex organ (or vice versa). In reality, these ‘sex change’ procedures seek to destroy a fully functioning sex organ in order to cosmetically create the illusion of a sex change.” There are many things wrong with that statement, which it is grossly dismissive of the very children Paxton purports to be helping. Paxton’s opinion embraces a notion advanced by some conservative thinkers that a person’s body helps defines who they are. “No one is born in the wrong body, because no one is born ‘in’ a body. Rather, we are our bodies,” writes Princeton professor Robert George and author Ryan Anderson in an 2019 article cited in Paxton’s opinion. “There is nothing that could be ‘in’ the wrong body, for the soul is the substantial form of the body — not some sort of separate substance.” There is plenty of evidence that anatomy alone can be an ambiguous marker for gender identity, says Christy Olezeski, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale and director of the Yale Pediatric Gender Program. Some people are born with both sets of genitalia, for instance. George and Anderson write that those cases are “disorders,” but Olezeski suggests they are clues that outward sexual characteristics alone can’t define one’s gender. “For most people, they do align,” so throughout history there hasn’t been a lot of mainstream thinking about these exceptions, she said. In the past couple of decades, though, more people who are experiencing a mismatch between how they present anatomically and their gender identity have spoken up, and found growing numbers of physicians and therapists willing to treat them. Paxton’s and Abbott’s actions threaten to deter those who would provide gender-affirming, and potentially life-saving, care. Talk about child abuse. Olezeski said there are lessons to be learned from how society once forced gay people to either hide their homosexuality or live as heterosexuals: “What we have seen from that data from conversion therapy is that forcing young people into one mode or another causes extreme mental health issues.” In his opinion, Paxton notes that there are not yet any long-term studies that can prove the efficacy of gender-affirming treatments. What are the long-term effects, for instance, of increasing estrogen for a transgender girl? Or for surgeries such as the one Beggs underwent? Olezeski and others the editorial board consulted agree that there are unknowns, which is why medical professionals prescribe them rarely and with great caution. Standards of care used by endocrinologists and other physicians caring for transgender youths require extensive counseling before therapies begin, and close monitoring. Wake Forest University law professor Marie-Amélie George, an expert in laws that affect transgender care, told us that no state has outlawed these rare therapies, and in most cases when courts are asked to intervene — usually during a custody case — judges have mostly sided with the parent who is affirming the child’s choice. That’s because evidence shows that transgender children are happier when they receive support and, eventually, medical care that affirms their identity, she said. At the Yale Pediatric Gender Program, Olezeski’s team treats about 400 patients between 3 and 25. She said roughly 36% of the patients receive no therapy at all, just support, counseling and help with navigating school or peers. Some transgender youths, she said, ultimately decide to simply express their identities through a new name or style of dress. About 48% take hormones. Roughly 15% of the patients are on medication to delay puberty, which can prevent transgender girls from developing an Adam’s apple or broad shoulders, for instance, and help transgender boys delay the development of breasts. The puberty blockers can be important because, while their effects are easily reversible, the changes a body undergoes during adolescence are not. “If you force them to pause until 21 then you are creating a space where they can’t have their body aligned with who they are,” she said. “What the officials in Texas aren’t considering is that there are considerable risks of not providing these treatments to those who need them.” About 10% of patients, all in their late teens, have had surgery to remove breasts. Only 1%, all of them adults, have had so-called “bottom surgery” to alter genitalia. Beggs said bottom surgery is a big step, one he’s not taken. It’s expensive, often not covered by insurance, and it’s not for everyone, he says. “But why should a government official be the one making that decision? It’s a matter of control over one’s own body,” he said. His own doctor had counseled patience throughout his teen years. “There were at least three times when I asked to speed up the treatment, for a higher dose of hormones, for example, and she slowed me down.” But when he graduated, he was ready to have surgery, he said. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he says now, more than three years later. “Just looking in the mirror was a relief. The way I look finally made sense with what’s been inside my head.” Paxton and Abbott would want the world, and no doubt voters in this coming Republican primary election, to interpret Beggs’ story as child abuse. They couldn’t be more wrong. “There is a myth that providers of gender-affirming care are pushing these treatments,” Olezeski said, “but we’re not. We help patients and their families understand the pros and cons of the decisions they make. We understand that what we’re doing isn’t child abuse. We’re helping.” Abbott, Paxton and Krause are hurting. Hurting the children by threatening doctors and parents, and also offending the sensibilities of any Texan who still believes in personal freedom and limited government. There’s nothing more personal than health decisions affecting one’s own body and nothing more worthy of condemnation than government’s intrusion on those decisions. ___ New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung. February 26, 2022. Editorial: Your window to cast your vote closes Tuesday By the time you’re reading this, your chance to vote early in the March 1 primary election has passed you by. Early voting closed on Friday evening, leaving those who want to cast ballots only the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. window on Tuesday to take care of business. That may seem like not much of an issue, but who knows what will happen between now and then? Medical issues, flat tires, work emergencies — there are so many things that can wreck whatever plan you might have. And a plan is a good thing, so if you intend to cast your ballot on Tuesday, you should have one — and maybe a friend that will keep you accountable to that plan, perhaps even going with you as part of it. Primary elections don’t always get the attention of all the voters — particularly those voters who don’t have a strong affiliation to either party. They are seen by many as a pre-season affair before November’s real election. But many spots across the state will be locked up in Tuesday’s election because there isn’t an opponent on the other side of the ballot for that November tilt. In almost all of those cases there isn’t a Democrat in opposition. For some posts, the only chance people will have to make a decision will come on Tuesday. That’s not something that voters should let pass them by. So if you missed the boat during the early voting period, use that chance on Tuesday to have your voice heard. Carve out the time, make a plan, and get to the polls. If you already have, then see if you can help someone else do the same. ___ San Antonio Express-News. February 23, 2022. Editorial: Dan Patrick is why tenure needs to exist The more Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick assails tenure and the teaching of critical race theory in higher education, the more he demonstrates the urgent need to ensure academic freedom and inquiry. Beyond this, Patrick’s rhetorical broadside doesn’t just hit academia and college campuses, but takes a shot at the Texas economy and innovation. Strip away tenure, amplify culture wars on campuses, and Patrick will drive leading academics to the private sector or other research universities, and with those departures will go their research and economic innovation. Why would top talent choose universities that cannot offer tenure and academic freedom when they can go elsewhere? The state’s business community, which benefits so much from the research at Texas universities, should be rapidly organizing in response to Patrick’s stated plans to clip academic freedom come 2023. Patrick recently announced he wants to eliminate tenure for all new hires at state universities. As if that’s not enough, he also has called for introducing legislation next year that would designate teaching critical race theory as “good cause” for revoking tenure, and he has called for annual tenure reviews. This was in response to a recent nonbinding resolution from the Faculty Council at the University of Texas at Austin that affirmed academic freedom, and specifically teaching about race and gender theory. Critical race theory has existed for some 40 years and offers the view that racial discrimination is inherent in our political systems and social structures. Not that Patrick is interested in such nuances or such long-standing inequalities. He has made no good faith effort to understand critical race theory. This is simply a political bludgeon to own the libs. “We are not going to allow a handful of professors who do not represent the entire group to teach and indoctrinate students with critical race theory,” Patrick said. And later in an article by Cayla Harris and Samantha Ketterer of Hearst’s Austin bureau: “Go to a private school, let them raise their own funds to teach, but we’re not going to fund them,” Patrick said. “I’m not going to pay for that nonsense.” Patrick was speaking of students, most of whom are unlikely to afford private school. But it’s remarkable, and sad, that he does not believe students at Texas universities can handle nuanced and challenging views about complicated topics. There’s a certain fragility to Patrick’s outlook that is discordant for an elected official with so much power. It’s even more stunning that Patrick would not be thinking of the economic consequences of eliminating tenure. Clearly, top talent who might consider UT Austin, Texas A&M University, University of Texas at San Antonio or other state universities would likely opt for employment at schools that do offer tenure and in states that value academic freedom. And that’s where the state’s economic engine collides with Patrick’s political rhetoric. Tenure is not perfect — there should be greater emphasis given to teaching, for example, and greater accountability for underperforming professors. But it is a hallmark of academic life, and it offers academic freedom from outside industry and political influences. It’s striking how Patrick antagonizes critical race theory at the very time Texas’ population is rapidly diversifying. Of the roughly 4 million new Texans last decade, about 3.8 million were minorities: Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans. But this demographic change isn’t represented in Texas’ new legislative maps, and if Patrick has his way, critical race theory won’t be mentioned in college classrooms. Freedom is a word Patrick often invokes, but not in its truest sense. It’s just a word he uses for his own political convenience. END
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