Where to begin? The budget is a nightmare, costing jobs and adversely impacting a staggering number of Texans. More than 85% of those who turned out to comment on redistricting were against it, including rural Republicans and business leaders. Perry first announced the second special session would be confined to redistricting, clearly marking his slavish pandering to Tom DeLay. Only when Democrat senators decamped to New Mexico did he expand the session's scope, his "concern for citizens" nothing more than a cynical PR stunt.
Almost all the letter-writers and pundits who support redistricting focus not on the specifics of that issue but argue that legislators are wasting taxpayers' money, noting, "If I took off for several weeks, I'd lose my job." Setting aside the responsibility of principled politicians to protect their constituents' rights -- that is, to do their jobs -- think about this.
Last session, Gov. Perry vetoed 78 bills in one day, 82 bills in all. These were bills sponsored by Democrats and Republicans, many that legislators had been led to believe Perry supported. Rather than work the floor, present arguments, or negotiate with elected legislators, Perry took the lazy way out. Consulting with only a handful of advisers, including lobbyists, he capriciously slaughtered legislation, much of it reflecting months of hard work. The state lost millions in federal aid. Ultimately, these vetoes cost the state more in time, wasted effort, and federal money than any exodus.
What if you were a business owner whose CEO negated a season of work with no warning at the behest of special interests?
What if a majority of your executives were shoving ill-considered decisions down the throats of the rest, more as a show of power than to benefit the business?
What if your CEO was not only pushing a decision that was causing enormous dissension within the company, but admitted it had little to do with what was good for the business and instead served the goals of another company's executive?
What would you do in those cases?
Finally, applying the golden rule: If Lloyd Doggett were a House leader urging a Democratic governor to ignore state problems, break all precedent, and push redistricting to help the party, and Republicans took off, would any of these letter-writers dip their pens? Or is this just partisan posturing?
We're recrafting the Chronicle's "Postmarks" section and letters in general. Beginning with this issue, all letters will be posted online as soon as we get them. Over the last two years, the number of letters has risen dramatically, so even with more "Postmarks" space, the percentage published has shrunk. Almost all those received have gone online after the issue is published, but by immediately posting them we hope to encourage even more readers to share their views.
Associate Film/Screens Editor Kimberley Jones has left the staff. She'll still write reviews, but she's been accepted into UT's prestigious Michener writing program, so she can't continue full time. Her presence around the office will be missed, but we are so very proud of her and thrilled to have her still writing. Over the coming years, it will be very exciting to read those graceful sentences and succinct observations in different narrative forms, not just reviews. In Publisher Nick Barbaro's and my ongoing effort to make him the Chronicle's Robert Rodriguez (one who does everything), Shawn Badgley, working with Senior Editor Marjorie Baumgarten, will take over the Screens section.
Our friend Marjorie Hershey died last week -- I was going to write "passed away," but I could feel Margie reading over my shoulder, rolling her eyes back in her head with that look of, "Well, if you have to, but come on," at that euphemism. Marjorie was beautifully aristocratic, amazingly well-read, articulate, opinionated, very political, and so charming. Margie and Annie, my wife, were longtime great friends, which is how I came to know her.
Margie was of that old war-scarred generation of liberal Democrats. Giving the lie to the current fiction that "Democrat" has always translated as "liberal," they were long embattled, but this never deterred them from fighting the good fight. The community combined the best of politicians with the best of writers (where are there as many good writers hanging with as many good politicians as in Austin?). At Margie's funeral services on Monday writers, activists, reporters, editors, government staff, artists, consultants, politicians, neighbors, friends, an ex-governor, and at least one sitting congressman gathered to mourn. It was packed -- and would have poured into the street if so many Democrats weren't in exile.
For the longest time Margie was mostly a mystery to me -- simply Annie's friend who boasted a very wide range of seemingly unconnected other friends. What I really knew was the sheer pleasure Margie and Annie had talking.
They would have long, hysterical telephone conversations. "Mah-Gie!!" Annie would gleefully proclaim when her phone calls were answered. When Hershey called our house, she announced herself as "Mah-Gie!!" with the same joy and enthusiasm. Annie was not an old-school Texas liberal Democrat, as were so many of Margie's friends, so when they started in talking, all bets were off. There was a certain kind of freestyle, word-loving humor to their talk; they delighted in sharp observations, human detail, witty dish, and outrageous stories. As loud as Annie's laughter was, you could still hear Margie's rolling out of the phone.
Christmas parties at her house would include a delicious array of game hunted by her son Jeffrey as well as a range of decorated holiday cakes, a juxtaposition that evoked Tim Burton more than Charles Dickens. A rich collection of longtime Texas politicos, writers, and characters would be gathered. Most had achieved some kind of fame or power; many had then run aground on drugs or alcohol, with an almost unwieldy percentage having gone through rehab and Bob Bullock, often at the same time. Some were on the wagon, some slipping off, and some so far into the trail they should have been named Goodnight. Any number of folks whose names you would know stopped by on their way to other parties, but they came to pay their respects and admire the wild game. Presiding over this gathering, Margie moved regally among the guests, chatting with all.
Over time, I learned she had taught English at UT and had been president of the Central Texas chapter of the ACLU. When I knew her, she worked for the comptroller's office under both Bullock and John Sharp. It was a while before I found out she was Henrietta, the author of Third Coast magazine's fabled gossip column, which I regularly and enthusiastically read.
Margie's tongue was golden but could be caustic, her mind always surprising. When her dear friend Billy Lee Brammer died, she gave folks words to deal with it, and when George W. Bush was elected governor, she let you know that contempt was too generous.
Politics to Margie weren't an abstract or a game but all too real, affecting all of us day in, day out. She believed that it was OK to be our brothers' and sisters' keeper; to protect minority rights, free speech, and equal rights; and to demand a better, more caring world. Not just OK, but necessary, to label as narrow-minded and selfish the notion that we should do less, pay less, and leave the world worse than we found it. She passionately believed in social and economic justice, knowing the most crucial American idea was the importance of human dignity for all. Marjorie Hershey knew many things, but she knew one thing for sure: That to fight the good fight, for the rights of others and ourselves, regardless of consequences or opposition, was not just righteous, but the only way to live.
So many will miss her in so many ways, as will I. But more than anything, I'll miss those hysterical symphonies of talk and laughter between Annie and her.
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