Larry Liston Joins “Sluts”-Slinging Brigade

Cara DeGette

Colorado state Rep. Larry Liston isn't the only elected official in the state to dispense the epithet "slut" against teen parents -- he joins the ranks of two other El Paso County Republicans.

With one offensive, four-letter word, Colorado state Rep. Larry Liston has seamlessly joined the ranks of two fellow El Paso County Republicans, notably former Commissioner Betty Beedy, who called single mothers who date "sluts," and former state Sen. MaryAnne Tebedo, who outraged people of color when she went on television and claimed their "culture" encourages sexual promiscuity for girls.

Apparently trying his darndest to distance himself from his own slur, Liston, who announced last Saturday his intent to run for a third term in November, spent at least part of Thursday making sure that everyone knew that he didn't quite mean what he said when talking about "sluts" on Wednesday.

The Colorado Springs Gazette first reported on Liston's comment, made during a Wednesday GOP caucus lunch when a group was delivering a report that included Colorado's high teen pregnancy rate.

"In my parents' day and age, they were sent away, they were shunned, they were called what they are. There was at least a sense of shame," Liston said.

"There's no sense of shame today. Society condones it. . . . I think it's wrong. They're sluts. And I don't mean just the women. I mean the men, too."

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Immediately Rep. Stella Garza Hicks, a fellow El Paso County Republican, told a reporter she was offended. And by Thursday, after Liston's comments had been widely circulated — from a women's room at the Capitol to the Drudge Report — the lawmaker, who graduated high school in 1970, informed reporters he was "definitely sorry" for his "derogatory term."

"I certainly could've used different words," he said.

And,

"I had no intention of offending anybody. That was not my intent all – never was, never has been."

But Liston's "slut" application — and suggestion the pregnant girls should be "shamed" into hiding — conjured up, at least for some Coloradans and certainly residents of El Paso County, memories of former county Commissioner Beedy.

The outspoken Republican, in office from 1996 to 2000, first raised a stink when she declared that single mothers who date are "sluts." She went on to stridently oppose naming a stretch of concrete highway in El Paso County after civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr., claiming he was nothing better than a philanderer.

Beedy then boycotted — on moral grounds — a statewide gathering of county commissioners, who were meeting in the mountain town of Crested Butte. The town and ski area, she claimed, informally endorses a "ski naked" day in the winter.

The commissioner's saucy tongue generated such controversy that she eventually was invited to appear on "The View," where she informed her slack-jawed interviewer, Starr Jones, an African-American woman, and the rest of the nationwide TV viewing audience that only white people are "normal."

As for former state Sen. Tebedo, who left office in 2000 – well, she was also well known for her gaffes. In addition to her televised claim that minority culture "encourages sexual promiscuity for girls," Tebedo did offer up one bit of encouraging news about teens and sex — and certainly something Rep. Liston might keep in mind:

It's a fact, Tebedo once told her colleagues, that the incidence of teen pregnancy "drops off significantly after age 25."

Commentary Politics

Losing My Lege: Cupcakes and Open Carry Kick Off 84th Texas Legislature

Andrea Grimes

The 84th Texas Legislature convened this week, with a new batch of lawmakers, lobbyists, and elected officials poised to defend some of Texans' most cherished freedoms: baked goods and the public possession of unlicensed handguns.

Losing My Lege is a weekly column about the goings-on in and around the Austin capitol building during the 84th Texas legislature.

The 84th Texas legislature convened this week, with a new batch of lawmakers, lobbyists, and elected officials poised to defend some of Texans’ most cherished freedoms: the right to eat cupcakes and carry unlicensed handguns in public.

Yes, cupcakes. Newly elected Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller held a press conference on Monday announcing that his first official act would be to grant amnesty to cupcakes in Texas schools, taking a bold stance against the oppressive big-government regulation that … does not, actually, ban cupcakes in Texas schools.

In fact, “Lauren’s Law,” in place since 2005, specifically allows Texas kids to enjoy cupcakes and other sweets at class parties, despite regulations that put limits on other junk food in public school classrooms and lunch rooms. Undeterred by the minor hiccup of reality, Miller took the opportunity to engage in a little political grandstanding, letting “everybody know” that on his watch, “the government here in Texas is getting out of your lives.”

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Lord, if it only were the truth.

While the cupcakes of Texas were basking in the sweet glow of their not-so-newfound freedoms, gun rights activists stormed legislators’ offices to demand support for HB 195, which would repeal Texas’ 125-year-old ban on the carrying of unlicensed handguns in public. Members of a Fort Worth-area open carry group—one of whom reportedly, according to a Houston Chronicle quote from house Democrat Poncho Nevarez, “reeked of marijuana”—were so aggressive with lawmakers that they prompted the Republican-dominated Texas house to make the installation of “panic buttons” in capitol offices one of its very first orders of business this session instead. Those are necessary, apparently, to protect lawmakers from the good guys with guns. The rest of us are on our own.

Speaking of grandstanding, literally: Sen. Konni Burton, the anti-choice Tea Partier who won Wendy Davis’ old District 10 seat in November, took her oath of office while wearing black leather boots embossed with the phrase “stand for life,” digging in her heels, as it were, against the pink sneakers famously worn by Davis during her 2013 filibuster against Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion bill.

Indeed, anti-choice lawmakers seem intent on reminding everyone just how willing they are to continue chipping away at abortion access. Now that HB 2 has shuttered the majority of Texas abortion facilities, legislators are turning their attention to some oft-proposed bills that, in years past, have taken a backseat to more stringent TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion provider) laws and mandatory ultrasounds.

So far, right-wing lawmakers have filed six bills that would affect the provision of abortion care in the state, including a sex-selective abortion ban, increased regulation of the judicial bypass process that some minors must use to obtain abortion care, and a law that would require abortion facility employees to “complete training on human trafficking.” Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) has also proposed a ban on allowing abortion providers or affiliates—Planned Parenthood, basically—from providing sex education in Texas schools.

Undeterred, a few outnumbered but tenacious Democrats have also filed bills that would increase access to abortion care and other reproductive health services: Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) wants to eliminate Texas’ mandatory 24-hour pre-abortion waiting period and Rep. Mary González (D-El Paso) has proposed bills that would widen the criteria for enrollment in the Texas Women’s Health Program and require “medically accurate” sex education material in schools.

Overall, as Texans say goodbye to the 14-year Perry administration, they turn to newly elected Gov. Greg Abbott, formerly the state’s attorney general, and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, a former state senator and right-wing talk radio show host, for signals on what to expect next.

Right-turn signals are a good bet. Lt. Gov. Patrick, whose office wields the most political power in the state legislature, announced last week that he intends to do all he can to defund the state’s Public Integrity Unit, which is charged with investigating corruption in public offices—much to the chagrin of lawmakers like Gov. Perry, who was indicted last year on coercion and bribery charges when he cut funding to the PIU in an attempt to force the Travis County district attorney to resign.

This week, Patrick announced he’d be getting down to to business—or perhaps, down with business. Specifically, the business of appointing business tycoons and Republican political donors to what he calls the “Lieutenant Governor’s Advisory Boards of Private Citizens,” which will advise lawmakers on public issues ranging from transportation to tax policies, at last giving voice to Texas’ much-marginalized and oft-ignored wealthy white guy contingent. (Of the 55 appointees, just six are women.)

What kind of indispensable advice will these rag-tag bands of average Joes offer? Well, as an example, Patrick appointed fabulously rich natural gas investor T. Boone Pickens to chair the “Energy / Oil & Gas” board, to which he may offer such expertise as denying that fracking has caused a disturbing upswing in earthquakes across North Texas.

The boards are, said Patrick at a press conference on Thursday, an opportunity for business leaders to bring “insight and new ideas” that legislators may not yet have thought of—in other words, he’s rolled out the red carpet to the best-funded lobbyists in the state.

I sort of have to admire Patrick’s gall. After all, the Tea Partier campaigned on challenging capitol insiders and standing up for the little guy, but his first move in office is to give some of Texas’ most powerful and established business leaders and political donors a direct line to the capitol building, in an unabashed attempt to legitimize the outsized influence that Texas’ wealthiest residents have long had on dictating public policy. And, if Patrick gets his wish, all without that pesky Public Integrity Unit knocking on closed doors.

It all makes me wonder: Why should lawmakers be the only ones with panic buttons?

Commentary Media

“Marching” Together, Online: Trust Women Week and the Silver Ribbon Campaign

On The Issues Magazine

It's no secret that the United States is in the midst of a War on Women. During January 20-27, women and allies from around the country will come together to fight back -- online.

Originally written by Gabrielle Korn for On The Issues Magazine.

It’s no secret that the United States is in the midst of a War on Women: in 2011, 36 states enacted a record 135 provisions limiting access to reproductive health care, including 92 measures restricting abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute. But as our reproductive rights are slipping away from us, activists are mobilizing.

During January 20-27, women and allies from around the country will come together to fight back — online. The Trust Women WEEK/Silver Ribbon Campaign and MoveOn will kick off 2012 with the “National Online March For Trust Women Week, Building Solidarity And Momentum For Reproductive Health, Rights And Justice.”

An online march is essentially a super-petition that concentrates attention from a wide variety of groups on a common theme in a short time period. It’s a powerful organizing tool because it allows activists to “reach and harness the voice of large numbers of people powerfully and quickly and link them with each other across geographic boundaries,”says Ellen Shaffer, a lead organizer for the Trust Women campaign. Through a site set up by MoveOn, individuals will click in agreement on one of six messages. Individuals will see their locations show up as dots on a map of the U.S. that will be updated in real time. The messages and signatures will go to members of Congress, governors and selected state legislators.

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According to Shaffer, the response so far has been “remarkable.” The campaign has mobilized a list of over 50 feminist, social justice and health-related partner organizations in support. “Clearly,” she says, “people have been looking for a new way to express their support for women’s reproductive freedom, rights and justice, and this online march has given them a chance.”

The majority of Americans believe that women should have access to basic health care services, and that decisions about reproductive health care, including family planning and abortion, should be left to each person. However, according to the Trust Women/Silver Ribbon Campaign, rather than addressing the public’s pressing concerns about the economy during 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures focused on eliminating access to basic health care services and contraception as well as abortion, with severe consequences for the most vulnerable.

Shaffer hopes that the online march will be able to reach the majority of the country that disagrees with these actions, but may lack the means to express it. “For example,” she says, “in our online work in the past year, we’ve heard from many people in the South and Midwest where onerous measures targeting women’s reproductive health are being forced on people – making them feel that they don’t have a voice. By offering a virtual way to link arms, people can find and exercise their voice in the democratic process.”

People who join the online march will be able to select from six campaign messages:

I trust women and I vote.

Reproductive rights are human rights.

Keep abortion safe and legal, and make it accessible and affordable.

Stand up and be counted for reproductive justice.

We are the 99%. Fix the economy, and stop the attacks on women’s health.

Contraception Is Prevention.

Trust Women Week includes January 22, 2012, the 39th anniversary of the historic Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision. Shaffer hopes that throughout the week, as buzz of the action generates around the internet, allies of women’s reproductive freedom and justice will be activated and inspired. She says, “This is necessary now because we have learned that the opposition, supported by a well-funded minority, believes that they can continue to wage attacks on women’s health that the majority of Americans do not support. We have to change the tide, and we expect to do that in 2012.”

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