Saturday, December 19, 2009

Response to Senator Cornyn's latest scary email about health care reform legislation

A few days ago Senator Cornyn sent out a scary email making a series of spurious claims about the health care reform bill now being debated in the Senate. Refuting it point by point here is useless but I would ask a few questions about what he and the rest of the Republican Party are doing to improve the bill.

Senator, why haven’t you worked to make certain that the reform bill requires insurers to cover pre-existing conditions and prohibit rescission for any reason? Since you’re so certain that competition is the best solution, why haven’t you demanded that insurers loose their anti-trust exemption? Since competition is so useful, why haven’t you demanded that Americans be allowed the opportunity to purchase lower priced imported medications?

Since you are so concerned about the millions of Texans without insurance coverage why don’t you demand that employers either be required to offer insurance coverage to their employees or expand Medicaid to allow low income folks working for companies that don’t offer insurance plans to have medical coverage and at the same time also feed, clothe and house their families? The point of health insurance is to spread the risk so that no one looses their home or life over huge medical bills because we all share in the cost, why haven’t you worked to force insurers to use community rating rather than allowing them to rate individuals so that people with medical problems can find affordable insurance?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cornyn's hypocrisy knows no bounds

Senator Cornyn sent out a mass email today touting his co-sponsorship of an amendment to the health care reform bill that have effectively eliminated insurance coverage for all abortions claiming “millions of taxpayers will be forced to fund procedures that go directly against their beliefs and convictions.” Senator Cornyn fails to mention that he has also voted against the health care reform bill that would save the lives of as many as 5,000 Texans every year and improve the health of tens of thousands more.

Senator Cornyn also has nothing to say about his support for the war in Iraq that goes against the beliefs and convictions of millions of Americans. He also doesn’t bother to mention his ongoing support for fossil fuel subsidies that goes against the beliefs and convictions of millions of Americans because their use contributes to ongoing climate change that will flood coastal Texas and other parts of the U.S. and the world in coming decades. So if Senator Cornyn were really concerned with the beliefs and convictions of millions of Americans he would change his tune on a host of issues but then that’s expecting an awful lot from a corporate shill.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Afghan surge and taxes to pay for it

December 4, 2009

The Honorable Henry Cuellar
336 Cannon H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
phone: 202-225-1640
fax: 202-225-1641

Dear Congressman Cuellar,

I believe that we should immediately begin a phased withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan because we are aggravating a situation that is well beyond our ability to control. Since it appears that we will instead increase our military engagement there the war must be paid for without mortgaging our future and to do that we must raise taxes.

I know that you, a proud Blue Dog, understand how important it is that government operates in a fiscally responsible manner, it is therefore incumbent upon you and your Blue Dog associates to demand that we either withdraw from Afghanistan or raise taxes to pay for it. It is my understanding that it costs approximately $1 million to field one soldier for one year and since we’re soon to have 100,000 troops on the ground then $100 billion in taxes must be raised. Only the House can raise taxes so you and your Blue Dog colleagues are the nation’s best hope for prosecuting this unwinnable war in a fiscally responsible manner. I urge you to demand that all Afghanistan War funding be put into the standard military budget bill rather than in special supplements that hide the true cost of this war.

I look forward to your response.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Cal Thomas and a classic case of projection

In Thursday’s Op-Ed Cal Thomas provides a terrific example of the psychological term projection. He claims that the liberals are taking the country down the path to Socialism when in fact the conservatives have already taken us down the fascist path and all we’re trying to do is get back to where we were when Bill Clinton was in office.

Referring to the emasculated health care reform bill being debated in the Senate he claims, “This is about liberal Democrats realizing their decades-old dream of complete control of our lives.” It’s the conservatives that have a need to control everyone in every aspect of their lives, conservatives are the ones withholding civil rights from gay couples who want to share their lives together as married couples. It’s conservatives who want to maintain the outlaw status of marijuana regardless of what the science says about it’s use or what many Americans do anyway.

Later Mr. Thomas alludes to rationing being part of the health care reform bill and states, “The unwanted, the inconvenient and the ‘burdensome’ could soon be dispatched with a pill, or through neglect.” Apparently he’s unfamiliar with the tens of thousands who die every year due to lack of affordable health care insurance. Mr. Thomas thinks it’s OK for insurance companies to ration care in order to maximize profits but it’s not OK for the government to ensure as the constitution clearly states the “general welfare” of all Americans

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hope for the State Board of Education

Dr. Rebecca Bell-Metereau, candidate for the State Board of Education District 5, spoke at a meeting I attended recently and I found her presentation refreshing. She told us about her years in education as a teacher and her experience developing programs at Texas State University to improve student retention. Dr. Bell-Metereau also told us about the academic challenges faced by Texas students who attend out of state colleges due to their poor preparation in Texas public schools.

Dr. Bell-Metereau explained her work on a community board in San Marcos where she successfully worked with people across the political spectrum to accomplish the board’s goals. She is running for a seat on the SBOE because she was asked to run and was encouraged by her daughter who has suffered under the current board’s dumbed down curriculum standards which are supported by inaccurate texts chosen to meet a political agenda. She told us she respects the all volunteer writing teams and the hard work they do in an effort to give students the best possible curriculum but is appalled at the disrespectful attitude displayed by the incumbent who casually discards their work in favor of hastily crafted partisan based materials.

Dr. Rebecca Bell-Metereau promises to responsibly and ethically manage the Permanent School Fund without regard to personal financial rewards. I’m confident that if elected Dr. Bell-Metereau will be able to enhance the quality of our children’s educations through respectful exchanges with the other members of the SBOE.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Congressman Cuellar - thanks but...

Today members of the Dem's Café and allied groups visited with Congressman Cuellar's aide to thank the Congressman for his support of the health care reform bill HR 3962, we also let him know that we weren't happy with his vote in favor of the Stupak amendment eliminating insurance coverage for abortions. We also delivered the visual aid and following letter.

Dem’s Café activists and allies

November 17, 2009

The Honorable Henry Cuellar
100 S. Austin Street, Suite 1
Seguin, Texas 78155

Subject: HR 3962

Dear Congressman Cuellar,

Thank you for standing with your constituents and the American people in voting for HR 3962. There is still a long way to go and we urge you to continue to work for a robust public option, one that allows everyone to participate and starts right away. The bigger the pool of participants the more efficient the system will be and the greater the savings your constituents will enjoy, as well as, according to the CBO, the greater the impact it will have on lowering the federal deficit.

While we appreciate your support for this historic legislation our happiness is tempered by your vote in favor of the Stupak anti-choice amendment and we will be working with our friends in the choice community to ensure that this dangerous measure is stricken from the final bill. President Obama has said that the Stupak Coat Hanger amendment goes too far and doesn’t maintain the compromise of the Hyde amendment. We’re counting on you to recognize that the Hyde amendment already is highly restrictive and including the Stupak amendment in the final bill is unnecessary and unjust as it would effectively eliminate abortion services from any insurance plan whether or not it is paid for with federal funds.

We understand that Catholic bishops put a lot of pressure on members of Congress to support the Stupak amendment. We ask you to realize that many of your supporters are not Catholic nor are they religious and our form of government exists because of the separation of church and state. We therefore urge you to step back from the Stupak amendment and allow it to die in conference.

If you’re going to support the Stupak Coat Hanger amendment then to be consistent you should work to eliminate coverage in Medicare and the Exchange for Cialis, Levitra, Viagra and penile implants.

Legalized abortion is now clearly understood to be largely responsible for the decrease in violent crime over the last 15 or so years by minimizing the number of unwanted children born to women too young or otherwise unable to care for them*. It has also reduced the number of battered children reducing the need for programs like Child Protective Services and Head Start. By eliminating women’s options you are guaranteeing the need for more police, SCHIP, Medicaid and CPS funding as well as the untold misery caused by the adolescents and adults those unwanted children turn into.

The Stupak amendment does not literally say that plans on the exchange can’t include abortion coverage, it just makes it completely impossible that a plan could for several reasons. To pretend that a reading of the Stupak amendment could not easily be used to stop the sale of plans covering abortion on the exchange is absurd. That is like claiming a law making it illegal to sell tubes capable of having a bullet pass through at high speeds would not be a ban on firearms.

If women and families are forced to have children that are unplanned and unwanted, then the government and society that imposes that burden on women and families must offset the burden with all of the necessary societal programs that are needed to sustain and enhance the child and the family. If you take away choice, then you must replace it with social and economic programs to help the families be responsible, productive tax paying citizens. When your fiscally responsible views collide with your anti-abortion stance you have to choose and fully support one or the other, which will it be?

Redistricting will soon be here and as I understand it Texas stands to pick up two new House seats. Your district may not remain the same so unless you are prepared for a primary challenge from the left you should remember that “Hell hath no fury like a woman disenfranchised”. If you plan to stay in office much longer you should remember that women support Democrats more often than men and women are more likely to be Pro-Choice than men so you’re throwing away the Democrat’s slim edge in the district. Virginia Governor candidate Creigh Deeds ran away from the Democratic Party’s principles and party stalwarts stayed home in droves on election day. The day that Democrats in your district don’t bother to vote because you don’t inspire us to come out is the day that the Republican challenger will beat you.

For the good of the country, the Democratic Party and most of all for the good of women we urge you to work to eliminate the Stupak amendment from health care reform legislation.


Dem’s Café progressive activists, Members of American’s United and allies

* "The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime" by John Donohue and Steven Levitt published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in 2001

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Prosecute detainees or continue violating the constitution

President Obama is making another attempt to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and stop the farce of military commissions. The prison holds nearly 800 prisoners and only a few have even been charged with a crime. Of all the detainees that have been held at Guantanamo Bay only 3 have ever been convicted of any crime while in the Federal court system at least 195 terrorists have been convicted since 2001. Federal courts have been much more effective in convicting terrorists than military commissions.

Holding a detainee at Guantanamo Bay costs about $15,000 per month while prisoners in a Federal penitentiary cost about $2,000 per month. That makes the Federal penitentiary system over 7 times more cost efficient. Our Federal supermax prisons hold the worst criminals in the country safely and can do the same with terrorists. It’s an insult to our intelligence when Republicans use fear-mongering claims that terrorists will escape and kill us in our beds.

Let’s face it the only real reason that these people are held in Guantanamo Bay is so that our government can avoid legal requirements; such as having to appear in court to show cause for continued detention of the prisoner. The right to a speedy trial and the right to confront the accuser would also be imposed if the detainees were held on undisputed American soil. This isn’t about anything more than skirting our constitutionally guaranteed rights and we should all be very afraid of that.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Why not treat KBR and Halliburton just like ACORN?

A few weeks ago after the release of video showing ACORN employees giving advice on how to break the law to receive housing assistance Congress immediately wrote and passed legislation to eliminate funding for the entire organization. No one was prosecuted for criminal behavior because no laws were broken and no one came to any harm over the actions of the ACORN employees.

Halliburton and KBR on the other hand are responsible for the deaths and illness of our brave service men and women in Iraq and according to testimony before a Senate committee, by Master Electricians Jim Childs and Eric Peters, KBR resisted any efforts to correct the defects that caused the deaths for nearly a year thereby continuing to endanger our military and civilian workers.

Halliburton's misconduct and gross negligence such putting in showers in Iraq that end up electrocuting soldiers, and feeding them poisoned water haven’t stopped them from continuing to receive federal contracts and billons of dollars. According to Florida Representative Alan Grayson the federal funding ACORN has received over the past twenty years is approximately equal to what Halliburton receives in a single day of the Iraq War. Why are we still doing business with companies negligently doing harm to our soldiers but we drop ACORN like a hot rock because a few low level employees gave bad advice instead of calling the police.

Our legislators saw fit to defund ACORN, the same standard should be applied to all federal contracts.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Where's the concern for the 123 people who died today due to lack of medical insurance?

In a study released by Harvard Medical School September 18, 2009 researchers found that 45,000 people die in the United States each year in large part because they lack health insurance and can not get good care.

If terrorists managed to pull off a September 11 scale attack every month for a year they wouldn’t kill as many people as lack of medical insurance does in that same year. Why are we as a nation willing to go to war and spend what is now projected to be $2-3 trillion over 3,000 deaths but not willing to do what’s necessary to make sure every American receives adequate health care. More than 3,000 of our soldiers’ have given their lives not to mention thousands more accepting devastating injuries in a ill conceived effort to prevent 3,000 more deaths by terrorists but John Cornyn wouldn’t even support the watered down version of health care reform legislation proposed by the Senate Finance Committee. Tens of thousands of civilian lives in Iraq and Afghanistan have been sacrificed over those terrorist caused deaths and yet we’re willing to let 15 times as many Americans die every year so some insurance company can turn a profit?

I don’t hear a lot of concern for the 123 people who died today or the 123 more who will die every tomorrow until we have universal coverage, because they lacked medical insurance. What is wrong with this picture?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gay marriage is a civil right!

The only legal discrimination permitted in the United States is discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Representative Joe Sestak is a retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral and the highest-ranking military officer currently serving in Congress and believes it’s time to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell". To quote Rep. Sestak, "Over the last 16 years we've lost 12,500 good service-members to this policy. In a time of war, our national security cannot afford to lose these troops, especially high-value specialists and linguists. But more so, our military cohesion depends on honesty and integrity".

It’s estimated that 65,000 of our troops are gay and we demand that they act dishonestly and conceal information from their comrades and commanders in order to serve their country. Why are those who wish to serve in defense of liberty forced to live a lie?

Our very Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”.

How is it that we ask Americans to risk their lives to defend our country but then don’t treat them as full human beings by denying them basic rights like the opportunity to marry?

If you believe as I do that gays should be free to serve in the military and gay marriage is a civil right, then call your Congressman and urge him to support the “Respect for Marriage Act” and support the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ideology over education in Texas

Rev. Peter Marshall, in his appointed role as a Social Studies curriculum expert, shows he’s no history scholar in the review he wrote of the recommendations of the curriculum writing teams. This unqualified out of state preacher was appointed by State Board of Education members Cynthia Dunbar and Barbara Cargill.

In Marshall’s analysis of the high school U.S. history class, he writes that the United States returned to Mexico “over half of the territory it conquered” during the Mexican-American War, “drawing the border only where we had claimed it to be before the war – the Rio Grande River.” He’s absolutely wrong. Mexico ceded 55 percent of its territory to the U.S. including what are now the states, California, Nevada, Utah and most of Arizona as well as parts of other bordering states.

Dunbar and Cargill appointed the incredibly unqualified Rev. Marshall apparently because he endorses their social conservative agenda. Rev. Marshall runs Peter Marshall Ministries and his website promotes books for school age children. The man is an amateur historian at best and takes similar liberties with the facts in the books he writes and sells on the website.

Educating our children is one of the most important tasks of government, allowing unqualified ideologues to interfere with the quality of that education is unacceptable. I urge the teachers who have volunteered to develop the curriculum that will guide our children’s education for the next decade to file Rev. Marshall’s critique in the circular file where it belongs.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Education "inexpert" Barton doesn't know Rosa Parks rode a bus

David Barton, who sits on the State Board of Education’s expert panel reviewing the Social Studies curriculum, has recently provided additional evidence that he is unqualified to participate as an expert.

In his critique of the review committee’s draft of the Social Studies TEKS Mr. Barton can't even get relatively recent events straight; such as his claim that Rosa Parks’ civil disobedience was related to sitting at a lunch counter instead of a bus seat. He also doesn't seem to understand the difference between civil disobedience and a boycott since he conflates the two when referring to the Montgomery bus boycott. Mr. Barton also strangely considers the Boston Tea Party to be civil disobedience which it most certainly was not since the tea in question was private property. Given his inability to grasp this widely understood material it seems prudent to be skeptical of anything else he has to say about less widely known events and persons.

I urge the review committees drafting the Social Studies TEKS and the members of the State Board of Education to ignore any of Mr. Barton’s recommendations given his proven lack of qualifications on these important topics.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Is John Boehner an ostrich or an extraterrestrial?

The Honorable John Boehner
H-204 The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4000
Fax: (202) 225-5117

Dear Congressman Boehner,

You’ve been quoted as saying "I'm still trying to find the first American to talk to who's in favor of the public option, other than a member of Congress or the administration". Assuming that you’ve quoted accurately and you weren’t being facetious you must have your head in the sand. More than 60% of Americans favor a public option and I’m one of them. You will probably never meet me in person as I don’t reside in the Beltway or your home state but I find it hard to believe you haven’t encountered Ohio citizens that favor the public option which leads me to ask as Congressman Barney Frank did, “On what planet do you spend most of your time?”

You should step out of your insular community and actually meet with constituents that don’t agree with you from time to time. You’ll find it an enlightening experience and you’ll be able to get rid of those silly ostrich feathers.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kyl wants a Chinese menu for health insurance

Senator Jon Kyl (R, AZ) recently exclaimed "I don't need maternity care" as his reasoning for supporting his amendment to prohibit the government from setting minimum standards for certain insurance coverage. Essentially Kyl's argument was because I'm a man and will not get pregnant I don't need maternity care and requiring maternity care to be a basic benefit in a policy will make it more expensive. So, to keep health care costs down, insurer's should not be required to cover basic prenatal and maternity care. By that logic, if you can call it that, as someone who doesn’t smoke or drink I shouldn’t have to pay for coverage of lung cancer or emphysema or cirrhosis of the liver. Smoking and drinking alcohol are choices after all.

Let’s hear it Senator Kyl, how about not paying for treatment of Type II diabetes since over-eating is a choice? What about injuries caused by falling off a ladder, climbing on the ladder was a conscious choice? Then there’s artherosclerosis caused by the choice of a high cholesterol diet, I eat right I don’t need that either. Why not require that you be able to check off all the things you don’t want your insurance to cover because you don’t think you’ll have the need?

I think Senator Kyl nicely summarized the Republican approach to the health insurance crisis: I've got mine, too bad for you.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Lamar Smith's Pants are on Fire

In Lamar Smith’s article in Wednesday's San Antonio Express-News he offers tort reform as the solution to the high cost of medicine. Tort reform is a red herring. Only from 4 to 7 % of those injured by malpractice even bring suit due to the high cost of litigation. Medical malpractice tort costs were $30.4 billion in 2007, we have a more than a $2 trillion health care system. That puts litigation costs and malpractice insurance at 1 to 1.5 percent of total medical costs. Even if we eliminated malpractice insurance costs entirely it won’t substantially reduce the cost of health care in America.

Despite Congressman Smith's contention that Texas Tort Reform has brought back doctors and reduced costs; insurance companies did not drop their rates because of tort reform, instead the state’s insurance commissioner forced them to drop their rates. Shortly after the passage of the Medical Malpractice and Tort Reform Act of 2003, two major Texas insurance carriers requested increases in malpractice insurance rates. One, the Joint Underwriting Association, filed for a rate increase of 35 % for doctors and 68% for hospitals. Malpractice insurance rates did not increase only because the state insurance commissioner denied the request.

Contrary to the claims that defensive medicine drives up costs and tort reform would reduce the practice the CBO found that on the basis of existing studies as well as its own research, savings from reducing defensive medicine would be very small.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Is the outrage over the President's presentation to students just a tempest in a teapot?

We’re all upset by this latest outrage, I’ve been asking myself why the R’s are making such a stink about the President’s address to the students. Then I started thinking about what there is to gain from it. I’ve always been a bit socially awkward and therefore a little slow at getting the psychology of moving people so it took me a while to make the connections.

Having been reading a little history and looking at polling data I now believe that all the froth that’s been stirred up by the far right leadership regarding Obama’s birth certificate, the “death panels” and the presidential “indoctrination” speech to students are all about activating their base for the battles over health care, climate change/energy legislation and the 2010 election. The method is the same racial polarization also known as the “southern strategy” that Nixon and the R’s have used to great success in past elections. They’re using fear, the fear of the other to raise the intensity of their base and so far it’s working. Polling shows that not only is Obama’s approval down with the general public but it’s really down with “likely voters”. Who are likely voters, right now they’re Republicans because they’re activated.

If we allow ourselves to be distracted from the forest by the trees we will spend our time and energy constantly reacting to their efforts rather than putting out our own message. It’s important to get ahead of the wave or we’ll drown in the trough. We need to turn their weapon against them by using their tactics to activate our base. We have to remind our folks that the reason they went out and worked to get Obama elected was to change the status quo and that if they don’t get out and continue to work toward the goals he set forth on the campaign trail their prior efforts will be for naught.

I have no doubt that George Lakoff is correct that Obama’s team bungled the roll out of the health care reform program. I have no doubt that David Sirota is correct that the Democratic Party isn’t going to just get the things we elected them to do done without a progressive movement to push them into it. I have no doubt that Robert Creamer is correct that Obama is aware that if health care reform fails he probably will be a failed president. I have no doubt that many of you, myself included, will feel betrayed if health care reform doesn’t include a public option.

What we, as progressive activists, have to do is use the tools available to activate our base supporters because we know that only then will our legislators vote as we expect them to, only then will our President stick his neck out and demand a public option. The R’s play a deep game and they plan and work for the long haul, we’ve got to do the same thing.

I know that many of you are charged up about this most recent outrage, I’m certain that many less politically aware/interested folks are just as upset. We need to use that outrage to activate our folks. One possibility would be to hold a brief, hour long, rally in front of school board offices in ISD’s where the president’s address won’t be shown. We need petitions and folks writing to the school boards and administrators and writing letters to the editor. A gentleman I know is making DVD’s of the address and planning pizza parties with viewings of the “forbidden” presentation. We have to talk to our neighbors and when we find one that agrees we must urge them to make a call or write a letter.

Each person that we activate in this manner becomes more receptive to being activated again. The goal is not to somehow right the present wrong it’s to activate our base because if we don’t then the R’s have already won. They have succeeded in activating their base and are keeping them activated through repeated ridiculous spectacles. We need to put our heads together and develop a plan to not just counter the R’s but to beat them at their own game. If I were part of the Hispanic community I would certainly be shouting from the rooftops about our Senators voting against Justice Sotomayor. What votes or positions do you think will resonate with your family members, friends and neighbors? Is it appropriate to use party resources such as the Texas VAN in an effort to activate our base? I believe it is and it’s time we use it to phone bank and call Democrats asking for them to call school superintendents, call our Congressmen and write to the President.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fehrenbach repeats teabagger and secessionist rants as analysis

In T.R. Fehrenbach’s Sunday article, “The core questions might make you sick”, he cites three core questions and claims to answer them. Unfortunately Mr. Fehrenbach, who claims to be a historian, seems to be using teabagger propaganda as source material.

On the question of cost he states that any extension of benefits will be enormously expensive. If we assumed that those not presently covered by insurance were also getting absolutely no unpaid care he would be correct, but that’s not the case. Hospitals and doctors frequently provide services for which they aren’t compensated and therefore charge everyone else more to make up the shortfall.

On the question of benefits Mr. Fehrenbach states “Every country with cradle to grave coverage dilutes or rations care” and then goes on to say that “In Sweden, top specialists are usually available only to the political class or famous people.” How is that different than in the U.S. except you should add “the wealthy” to those who have the luxury to seek out the finest care?

Finally like the teabaggers and secessionists I’ve met at demonstrations Mr. Fehrenbach claims “Government can’t manage Medicare now – why trust it with greater responsibility?” What other entity in the U.S. spends health care dollars more efficiently than Medicare which achieves 95% while private insurance companies do no better than 70 – 80 %?

If Mr. Fehrenbach wants to lay claim to being a historian he’d do well to choose his sources more carefully.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

SCUC ISD building mega-schools, not better schools

On August 11 the SCUC ISD Board of Trustees voted to dramatically increase the number of students new schools are designed to support. The recently built K-4 schools are designed for approximately 750 students, a size that is considered by the educational community to be significantly too large for the best educational outcomes, but new schools will be designed for 1210 students. Schools for grades 5-6 and 7-8 will jump to 1452 students and future high schools will go from 1500 to 2904.

The literature generally suggests that the greater the number of students on a campus the lower the educational outcome regardless of the whether or not the school is designed for the high number. The justification claimed the nearly 50% increase in size is cost savings in maintenance and operations. Studies show that while there may be small cost savings to be had in operations they are more than offset by the loss of educational quality.

While the board justifies jamming our kids into undesirable environments in order to reduce the need to raise taxes they look forward to building a large district football stadium and a 3500+ seat performing arts center. Then to add insult to injury the board approved the use of $300,000 in bond money that was saved from previous projects that came in under budget to buy electronic signs for the schools. If money is so tight we’re willing to accept lower educational performance why wasn’t that money spent to enhance our children’s educations?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Letter to Congressman Cuellar urging support for strong public option in health care reform legislation

August 30, 2009

The Honorable Henry Cuellar
336 Cannon H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
phone: 202-225-1640
fax: 202-225-1641

Dear Congressman Cuellar,

Thank you for speaking out in support of HR 3200, I urge you to take the position that you’ll only vote for a reform bill that includes a strong public option right away. It should include the following concepts:
Everyone is eligible.
Pre-existing conditions won’t disqualify anyone.
It must also be transparent and accountable to Congress and taxpayers.
It has to be nationwide to pool risk most efficiently.
It has to be nationwide so it has the clout to negotiate with all forms of health care providers.
It has to be nationwide so that it is portable when a citizen moves.

Your constituents have far more to gain than they stand to lose by such reform. HR 3200 would:
Prevent 620 health care-related bankruptcies in the district
Properly compensate health care providers in the district who currently provide $47 million worth of uncompensated care
Cover 244,000 of the 267,000 people in the district who are currently uninsured
Be deficit neutral through increased efficiencies in Medicare and Medicaid and a surtax on one half of one percent of the population in the district.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Gurwitz divorced from reality

In Jonathan Gurwitz’s story, “Dissent OK, unless it's against Obama's plans”, he claims that the Democrats are the ones using thuggish tactics to shut down debate on health care reform. Apparently he isn’t aware of Congressman Henry Cuellar’s town hall meeting in McQueeney a few weeks ago where he could hardly open his mouth without being shouted down by anti-reform protestors. Supporters of health care reform at the event found many of the comments crude and the thuggish behavior frightening. Mr. Gurwitz also failed to see the stories in the Express News and elsewhere of anti-reform protestors threatening behavior toward Congressman Lloyd Doggett in Austin. How Mr. Gurwitz sees these folks as peaceful protestors when some of them have started bringing guns to town hall meetings, at the suggestion of some in the media, is beyond my comprehension.

Mr. Gurwitz’s claim that an Internet tip line the White House setup for citizens to report “fishy” criticism of health reform legislation is really for nefarious purposes shows he is as divorced from reality as the birthers he previously decried and Sarah Palin is regarding her “death panel” claims. The White House website is simply a takeoff on the Obama campaign’s “fight the smears” page that sought to debunk the same kind of falsehoods that were so common prior to last year’s election.

Perhaps if real health care reform legislation is passed this year Mr. Gurwitz will be able to receive the psychological counseling and medication he so obviously needs.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Signs for Teabaggers

We support the Sarah Palin Freedom from Information Act

End Medicare and Social Security Now

If you have a pre-existing condition here’s a cup for donations

Health care is only for the wealthy, the poor don’t deserve it

Shut up, we don’t want to discuss health care reform at all

Facts don’t matter, only how loud we scream matters

Freedom means we never have to give you what you paid for

Don’t get between me and my insurance company until after they screw me

Republicans were for killing grandma before they were against it – see John Kerry

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cornyn and Hutchison hypocritical as usual

While Senators, John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, complain about the Obama administration and Democratic controlled Congress spending on the stimulus, the budget and potentially on health care reform their votes in favor of building seven more F-22 fighters for $1.75 billion are hypocritical in the extreme. Republicans including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Senators John McCain and John Kyl among others agreed that the F-22 was unnecessary and an inappropriate expenditure. Fortunately the vote to kill the F-22 was truly bi-partisan with 42 Democrats, 15 Republicans and 1 independent; unlike some other legislation lately which had only token Republican support.

Our senators claim to make their votes based on what’s good for Texas and the country but how is building a cold war era fighter that can’t be flown near an aircraft carrier and hasn’t been used in combat over Baghdad because its super-sensitive electronics can’t deal with the mass of radio signals good for the country?

I’ve heard some Republicans say they voted for the F-22 to save jobs; but their party generally claims, quite loudly, that government spending doesn’t create jobs, so which is it? There are plenty of worthwhile projects that $1,750,000,000 could fund including bridge repairs, building schools, green energy and energy efficiency projects that would pay dividends for all of us for years to come.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What bible are they studying?

I find the current debate about health care reform fascinating as it relates to religion and the Republican party and the contradictions therein. Specifically Republicans and Libertarians of all stripes complain that health care is not a right and therefore should not be in anyway run by or paid for by the government, yet most of these very folks at least claim to be pious Christians.

I’m not sure which bible the folks arguing against the “public option” or single-payer health care studied, but in my 12 years of Catholic education I was taught Christian charity, love thy neighbor and that feeding the poor and healing the sick were the attributes of a true Christian. I doubt anyone would call Catholicism a liberal faith given the Church’s stand on abortion and gay marriage so I don’t see where its teachings can be said to be a liberal.

So the question is what have others learned from their religious education that causes them to favor withholding medical care from folks too poor to pay for it? What bible are they studying? In mine when Jesus healed the sick he didn’t ask for a co-pay. I don’t think Sister Agnes, my elementary school principal, would approve of what these folks have taken away from their bibles.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Every day we hear the same health care myths from politicians and industry alike, but what are the facts?

Myth - The U.S. has the finest health care in the world.
Fact - If that were so we wouldn’t rank 24th in life expectancy according to the World Health Organization. "Basically, you die earlier and spend more time disabled if you’re an American rather than a member of most other advanced countries," according to Christopher Murray, M.D., Ph.D., Director of WHO's Global Programme on Evidence for Health Policy.

Myth - We don’t want a government run health care system like Canada where it takes a year to get a hip replacement.
Fact - Some hospitals in some provinces do take that long but many if not most don’t. We don’t really know for sure how long it takes in the U.S. since there is no standard for nor central collection point for this data. But let’s assume that as the opposition to health care reform claims hip replacements only have waiting lists of six weeks in the U.S., guess who pays for the vast majority, none other than Medicare the federally run single payer system.

Myth – If we have government run health care then health care will be rationed.
Fact – Health care is rationed now in the U.S. to a much greater degree than any other developed country.

Myth – Government run health care won’t let you choose your doctors.
Fact – Private insurance companies don’t let you choose your doctor, if the doctor you wish to see isn’t in your network, either you don’t see them or you pay the bill yourself.

Myth – Government run health care will tell your doctors which medications they can prescribe.
Fact – Private insurance already tells your doctors which medications they can prescribe by limiting what they will pay for or how high your co-pay will be.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Our country is endangered by neo-Nazi infilitrators in our armed forces

July 12, 2009

The Honorable Henry Cuellar
336 Cannon H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
phone: 202-225-1640
fax: 202-225-1641

Dear Congressman Cuellar,
The Southern Poverty Law Center reports a continuing surge in racial extremists infiltrating our military. It’s imperative that our armed forces are not inadvertently training future domestic terrorists. We must not wait for another terrorist action like the Oklahoma City bombing by Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh to wake up to the fact that a rising number of bad apples have joined the U.S. military for this express purpose.

What I find truly disconcerting is that the Pentagon appears to consider homosexuals who serve honorably more of a threat to the good order of the military than neo-Nazis who reject our Constitution's most cherished principles. While the military has discharged more than 12,500 service members because of their alleged homosexuality since 1994, it has refused to adopt a true "zero tolerance" policy when it comes to extremists in the military.

There is no place for neo-Nazis in our military as they endanger their unit members as well as those of us at home when they return. The overwhelming majority of our courageous men and women in uniform reject extremism and are dedicated to our nation's highest ideals. We owe it to them — and to the American public — to ensure that the ranks are as free of extremists as possible.

I urge you to support an immediate investigation of the military’s induction standards and push for adoption of a “zero tolerance” policy regarding extremists of any type.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Support S 696 to end mountain top removal

Senator John Cornyn
517 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Main: 202-224-2934
Fax: 202-228-2856

Dear Senator Cornyn,

I am writing to urge you to support the bill to end Mountain Top Removal called the Appalachia Restoration Act (S 696) and co-sponsored by your colleague Lamar Alexander.

Mountaintop mining is one of the most destructive practices which has already destroyed some of America's most beautiful and ecologically significant regions. We must put an end to this mining method that has buried more than a thousand miles of streams before there is nothing left to protect.

No one should have the right to destroy streams that provide drinking water for others downstream by polluting that water with toxic minerals unearthed by mountain top removal. It’s past time to put an end to this horrible practice, please sign on as a co-sponsor to this important legislation.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Today, June 17th, fourteen progressive activists from various parts of Guadalupe County representing met today with Mark Gonzales of Congressman Henry Cuellar’s staff to deliver a letter and supporting documents urging the Congressman to work to strengthen the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

We gathered to show our support for a stronger clean energy bill. Mr. Gonzales promised to pass our request to the Congressman. I asked him to please have the Congressman get back to us on our request and he promised would. I reminded Mr. Gonzales that this was our third visit about this issue and it should be taken as a measure of our commitment to this issue and we wanted to see real action on our agenda. We won’t really know if we have had any impact for some time to come so we’ll have to maintain pressure by continuing to contact Congressman Cuellar. I urge you to call Congressman Cuellar by phone or mail.

The Honorable Henry Cuellar
336 Cannon H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
phone: 202-225-1640
fax: 202-225-1641

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Republican hypocrisy knows no limits

Republican hypocrisy knows no limits, Nevada Senator John Ensign who called for President Bill Clinton to resign over the Monica Lewinsky affair has now admitted to an affair with a campaign staffer but he hasn’t offered to resign. Has he had a change of heart about appropriate post scandal behavior for elected officials or does he believe he’s above such considerations?

Republicans in Congress claim they won’t vote for the Iraq War supplemental bill because they don’t trust President Obama to make good on his promise not to release torture photos. When Democrats had enough spine to vote against Iraq War supplemental bills during the Bush administration they met a storm of claims that they were against the troops. So doesn’t that make the Republicans against the troops?

When Democrats in the Senate threatened to filibuster Supreme Court nominees Republicans claimed that they should show deference to the president now that Republicans are in the minority they threaten to filibuster Supreme Court nominee Judge Sotomayor. How is a democratic president’s nominee any different from a republican president’s nominee?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Book Review "Intelligence and How to Get It"

I recently read “Intelligence and How to Get It” by Richard E. Nesbitt, after reading an article written by Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times. Mr. Nesbitt argues, and I believe successfully, that over all genes are not what makes people smarter. Nesbitt goes into some detail explaining the statistics that support his contention that intelligence is far more determined by family life and teachers than genetics. In addition he reviews a variety of programs aimed at improving student performance (intelligence) and discusses why they succeeded or failed and why many studies aren’t sufficiently rigorous to use in determining what works and what doesn’t.

Nesbitt also looks at some very effective and low cost ways to improve student performance including things like small group sessions with at-risk high school students explaining to them how our brains work and that they are truly in control of how smart they become. Nesbitt also points to studies that show that while these simple things can be quite effective they are often offset by lack of employment opportunity for minority workers because when businesses are given two equally qualified applicants one a white male high school graduate with a felony conviction and the other a black male high school graduate with a clean record they will most often hire the white male felon.

The last chapter of Nesbitt’s book entitled “Raising Your Child’s Intelligence … and Your Own” discusses steps that parents can take to improve the intelligence of their children. I found this especially valuable as a parent of a 10 year old child. His recommendations include some that may be obvious but aren’t often followed in low income families like talking to the child using high level vocabulary and reading to the child. Another recommendation is avoiding undue stress because it results in poor learning ability and reduces the ability to solve novel problems. Teaching your child self control and the value of delayed gratification correlate with higher test scores. One of his final recommendations is to avoid rookie teachers for your child and having experienced one with my daughter I can’t say he’s wrong on that one.

Overall for a good review of educational program effectiveness and debunking of the myth of genetics being the key to intelligence I found this book very worthwhile.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dick Cheney and the "big lie"

I watched Dick Cheney’s speech to the American Enterprise Institute today in awe. Apparently Mr. Cheney is a student of Joseph Goebbels who was a master practitioner of the “big lie”. The “big lie” was defined by Adolph Hitler in Mein Kampf as a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously”. Of course one must also repeat said colossal lie ad nauseam and in fact Dick Cheney has been doing so in one form or another for over seven years now.

Cheney managed to string together a whole series of bald faced lies about links between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda, Iraq’s purported possession of weapons of mass destruction, the notion that when we use water boarding it’s an “enhanced interrogation technique” while if anyone else does it it’s torture and finally that the torture led to the prevention of further attacks rather than that they were attempts to justify invading Iraq ex post facto.

I’ve got to give it to Mr. Cheney while he maybe a war criminal of the first order he certainly has message discipline.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Moveon San Antonio lets Rep. Charlie Gonzalez know we're not happy

We had a great turn out of about 21 people, including some from Seguin and New Braunfels when we went to present Congressman Charlie Gonzalez with a green hard hat to remind him that the American Energy and Security Act was intended to promote green jobs and protect against climate change. We had 5 folks from the Congressman’s district so Madeline Dewar and three others did the honors of delivering the green hard hat and letter. They spoke to his aide Sylvia and were satisfied that they’d been heard. We were visited by a reporter/photographer, Greg Harmon, from the San Antonio Current. We had folks with signs out until from 12:10 to 12:50 when Madeline and her group came back out and we took some group photos while the reporter hung around and listened to conversations and asked questions. His story is linked here.

Presentation of a green hard hat to Congressman Charlie Gonzalez San Antonio

May 18, 2009

The Honorable Charles Gonzalez
727 E. Durango Blvd.
San Antonio, TX

Dear Congressman Gonzalez,

This green hard hat is presented to remind you that putting real muscle in the American Clean Energy and Security Act will jumpstart the economy and create millions of well paying local jobs. 5 million national and 13,000 San Antonio Moveon members are asking Congress to get to work so we can too. The economy is in bad shape and unemployment is expected to continue rising for over a year so we need you to pass a clean energy jobs bill that will bring jobs home to San Antonio and the rest of his district.

It’s a shame that Big Coal and CPS seem to have convinced you to weaken key provisions of the bill by claiming that stronger measures would increase electric bills. The reality is that if the strong provisions we advocate are included homeowners won’t see an increase and over time would save money because they’d be using less energy. The provisions we’re advocating would:
• Include strong standards for energy efficiency and cleaner, cheaper energy sources like wind and solar
• Make polluters pay their fair share for the transition to a clean energy economy
• Not weaken current law to favor dirty coal at the expense of clean energy jobs

A clean energy economy will help small businesses grow and reduce electricity usage for the average American family. Moveon members have teamed up with small business leaders here in San Antonio and all over the country to support a strong clean energy jobs bill. We’re joining together to ask you to pass an energy policy that works for all of us instead of corporate special interests.


All of us at San Antonio

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Why is the Congressman more interested protecting the short term profits of fossil fuel producers and utilities than his constituents?

In Thursday’s Express News article “Energy issue puts heat on Gonzalez” Congressman Charlie Gonzales is reported to have said “…he won't support the legislation until some changes are made to protect the utility industry — particularly CPS Energy and its investments in nuclear power.” He is also quoted as saying that he’s “meeting with party leadership in an effort to ease the bill's impact on the refining industry.”

Why is the Congressman more interested protecting the short term profits of fossil fuel producers and utilities than the long term interests of his constituents? Hopefully he just doesn’t realize that the consequences of inaction or insufficient action are much more costly in the long term than any increases in energy costs in the short term.

Quoting Congressman Gonzalez in the article again - “The question I ask is can CPS Energy still deliver affordable electricity to our constituents,” he said. “You will be paying penalties if you don't meet these mandates. Going green is going to require more green.”

Mr. Gonzalez seems to forget that regardless of cost increases that might be imposed by going green they will pale by comparison to the cost of adapting to permanent drought in south Texas and the loss of agricultural production in many other parts of the country. We don't have any time left to play around, it’s now or never. Mr. Gonzalez probably won't live long enough to see the results of his actions good or bad but his children and grandchildren certainly will.

Possession of small quantities of marijuana in the presence of a minor shouldn't earn a year in jail and $4,000 fine

Senator Jeff Wentworth
P.O. Box 12068, Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711
Fax (512) 463-7794

Dear Senator Wentworth,

Under the proposed provisions of HB 3680, a person who has a few grams of marijuana in his or her pocket and allows a person under 18 years of age to remain in the same room would face up to a year in jail and $4,000 in fines.

Why not extend the same penalty to anyone who possesses alcohol in the presence of a minor? How about extending the same penalty to those who possess tobacco in the presence of a minor? The penalties for marijuana possession are far too harsh already. It’s time to draw a line on increasing harsh penalties for anyone who is simply possessing marijuana.

Please, don’t allow marijuana users to be treated like child abusers – which is exactly what HB 3680 would do.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Why does Texas add insult to traumatic injury in rape cases?

Lately I’ve seen several stories in the news about rape victims being charged for rape kits used to collect evidence for prosecution. I’m absolutely shocked, can we expect that the next time a store is robbed the owner will be presented with a bill for collecting finger prints? Will shooting victims be billed for ballistics tests? When the state crime victims' fund sits full of cash, having grown from $57 million in 2007 to $66 million in 2008 why are victims of rape being singled out and billed $1,200 to $1,800 for evidence collection?

According to Kelly Young, with the Houston Area Women's Center, "It is set up legislatively so that the criminal justice system pays for whatever evidence collection occurs."

Police departments are reimbursed for up to $700 by the Texas Crime Victims' Compensation Fund, and many departments cover the bills if they exceed that. If they don’t, victims can apply the remainder to be covered by the fund but many are denied over minor coding mistakes on the forms filled out by the police and hospitals. If the victim doesn’t pay the bill quickly they start getting notices that the bill is overdue and up for collection as well reported to credit reported to credit agencies as deadbeats.

Given the trauma these victims have suffered why aren’t some of the millions left unused each year used to pay a clerk to resolve the paperwork snafus that are adding insult to the already tragic injury suffered?

Why is a historical revisionist deciding how Texas students are taught history?

The Texas State Board of Education will soon appoint a social studies curriculum “expert” panel. One of the nominees is the unqualified ideologue David Barton, whose degree is in religious education, not the social sciences. Mr. Barton is a well known practitioner of historical revisionism arguing among other things that separation of church and state is a “myth” foisted on us by the Supreme Court.

The authenticity of some of the quotes he uses is questionable at best. One attributed to James Madison claiming that the future of the U.S. government is "staked upon...the Ten Commandments" does not appear in any of Madison's known writings. Madison scholars do not acknowledge it as genuine.

Barton also has used a quote from Thomas Jefferson regarding the “wall between church and state” from his 1802 letter to the Danbury (Conn.) Baptist Association claiming that it suggests protecting the church from the state but not the other way around. If you take the time to actually read Jefferson's letter you see that Barton is totally wrong. Jefferson's letter says nothing about the wall being "one directional" and certainly doesn’t suggest that it was meant to keep "Christian principles" in government. Nowhere in Jefferson's known writings or speeches do such sentiments appear. In fact, Barton’s claims conflict sharply with Jefferson’s well documented advocacy of church-state separation and religious freedom.

Barton’s claims are not merely revisionism, they are anti-historical and such behavior should be unacceptable in someone charged with approving standards for our children’s history textbooks.

Why is a extremist fundamentalist from out of state deciding how history is taught in Texas?

The Texas State Board of Education will soon appoint a social studies curriculum “expert” panel. One of whom is an absurdly unqualified ideologue hostile to public education, who argues that laws and public policies should be based on his narrow interpretation of the Bible.
The appointee is Rev. Peter Marshall of Peter Marshall Ministries in Massachusetts, who suggests that California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina were divine punishments for tolerance of homosexuality. He sounds like an American version of the Taliban to me.

The Peter Marshall Ministries web site includes Marshall’s commentaries sharply attacking Muslims with remarks like “…allowed them to undermine our society by building mosques in our country… “, and “…there is an all-out spiritual war going on for the souls of mankind between Christianity and Islam”. Marshall has also attacked Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant churches. I don’t know about you but I don’t want someone who disrespects my religion making decisions about how my child is taught.

How is it that the members of the SBOE feel that Texas universities don’t have sufficiently credentialed scholars in the field who are more qualified than an out of state extremist?

SBOE needs Sunset Advisory Commission Review - HB 710

May 1, 2009

Representative Edmund Kuempel
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78767
Fax 512-480-0391

Dear Congressman Kuempel,

I know that the media circus called the State Board of Education has come to your attention by now. I’m sure you know that Chairman McLeroy has taken intellectually indefensible positions on several issues and led a group that has politicized the board that is supposed to make decisions on how best to educate the children of Texas. He and his followers have so embarrassed the board that it appears that the Senate won’t confirm his appointment to chairman.

The way to stop these shenanigans is to put the SBOE under review through the Sunset Advisory Commission process and Representative Patrick Rose has introduced HB 710 which would do just that. This is a chance for the legislature to put a leash on the out of control board and bring it into line with its reason for being.

I urge you to support HB 710 so that it can be passed to the Senate which already has companion legislation SB 513 ready to go. Thank you for all your efforts on behalf of Texans all over the state.


Letter to the editor - Harsh Interrogation is Torture

April 23, 2009

It’s disgusting that so much of the news media and polling organizations are following the lead of the former Bush administration by referring to “harsh interrogation techniques” as though it were excessive brow beating. We all need to face the fact that after World War II we executed Japanese soldiers for the very same waterboarding technique we used 250+ times on two prisoners. Either we unjustly executed the Japanese or we committed the same crime and an investigation and punishment is warranted. I cannot accept the notion that it was OK because we did it as Dick Cheney suggests.

We violated our own constitutional prohibition in by inflicting “cruel and unusual punishment” and these prisoners hadn’t even been tried and found guilty. We violated numerous international treaty obligations. Now we have an obligation to the people of the United States and the world at large to investigate and prosecute these violations otherwise lets revoke the Eighth Amendment so at least we aren’t two-faced about it.

Two hundred thirty years ago we fought a war of independence and developed a constitution so that we the people would be protected from the depredations of government then and into the future. Are we willing today to abrogate the very Bill of Rights that our forefathers fought and died for? I for one am not and to that end I will do what I can to call for an investigation into the use of torture by our government. Will you?

Supporting building a green industry economy

April 23, 2009

The Honorable Henry Cuellar
336 Cannon H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
phone: 202-225-1640

Dear Congressman Cuellar,
I was truly disturbed by news that by the end of the year China, of all places, will be the worlds leading manufacturer of wind turbines. We had the lead in the manufacture of solar cells in the 90’s and just let Europe have it.
We now have an opportunity to change all that in the next few weeks when President Obama’s plan for a new energy economy comes up for a vote. We still have time to catch up if we start now. The President’s plan would aggressively scale up American wind and solar production—creating millions of new jobs, tackling climate change and reducing the money we send to countries hostile to our national interests in one fell swoop.
I urge you to support the President in his efforts to put our country on the road to a reducing the threat of global climate change, a healthier economy and a stronger national security position.

Don McLeroy not qualified for SBOE

April 21, 2009

The Honorable Kevin Eltife
P.O. Box 12068
Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711
(512) 475-3751 (Fax)

Dear Senator Eltife,

I have learned that the Senate Nominations Committee is set to consider Gov. Perry’s appointment of Don McLeroy as chairman of the State Board of Education Wednesday. Mr. McLeroy proudly proclaims that he is a young earth creationist meaning that he believes God created Earth between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. I have no problem with his religious beliefs but I do have a problem with someone who denies the validity of numerous fields of scientific study and conclusions making decisions about how science is taught in Texas classrooms.

In order for Mr. McLeroy to believe in a young earth he must therefore deny the study of geology and plate tectonics from which we know that the earth is many millions of years old not just a few thousand. He must also deny the conclusions of archaeologists, paleontologists and anthropologists who have determined that the earliest humans reached the shores of Australia about 50,000 years ago, five times as long ago as Mr. McLeroy thinks the earth has existed.

Mr. McLeroy also has to believe that the method of determining the age of organic materials known as carbon dating is incorrect by an astronomical amount. Speaking of astronomy Mr. McLeroy must then also deny the validity of much of what is known about the rest of the universe as it is generally accepted that the universe and earth are both many millions of years old.

What with so much of science denied by Mr. McLeroy he seems to me to be singularly unqualified to be making decisions about how Texas school children are taught science. Given that Mr. McLeroy is unqualified to make such science education decisions it follows that he is therefore unqualified to be the chairman of the State Board of Education. I urge you to vote against confirming Mr. McLeroy for this very important post.


Letter to the editor regarding Health Care Reform

April 16,2009

Last year my family of three paid out over $7500 in insurance premiums alone. I’ve read numerous reports that Americans could save as much as 30% on their premiums if President Obama’s proposed public health insurance option were to become law. That would me my family would save over $2200. That would be huge, that would be better than any tax rebate or reduction I could possibly get.
Its unfortunate but many in Congress and the media don’t seem to get how important that kind of savings could be to families and to the economy. Senator Baucus considers a public health insurance option to be a bargaining chip rather than the backbone of health care reform and that’s tragic. Can you imagine what it would mean if every family in America had an extra $2200 available to spend each year, think about the impact that would have on the economy and the jobs that would create.
Republicans keep talking about low taxes creating jobs, my taxes would have to go to zero to save me $2200 a year, how about reducing my health insurance premiums – you might call it reducing my capitalism tax.

In support of Dawn Johnsen for OLC

April 16, 2009

Senator John Cornyn
517 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Main: 202-224-2934
Fax: 202-228-2856

Dear Senator Cornyn,

In your response to my letter urging you to confirm Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel you stated:

As your elected official, it is my constitutional duty to carefully review the record and qualifications of each nominee submitted for approval by the President. Regrettably, I have concerns about Dawn Johnsen’s qualification to serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel.

I am troubled that Dawn Johnsen has not demonstrated the requisite seriousness and resolve to meet the very real national security challenges our nations confronts today. During her Senate testimony, Ms. Johnsen stated that she believes America should treat the War on Terror like a police action, and terrorist enemies like common criminals. This is unacceptable. Additionally, Ms. Johnsen's past actions have called into question her basic judgment and necessary ideological neutrality that is required of all individuals serving in the OLC. For these reasons, I will oppose her nomination.

Ms. Johnsen has shown plenty of “seriousness and resolve” in her many positions over the years. You really mean that you believe that people suspected of terrorism are somehow not due a trial by a jury of their peers and that sir is affront to the constitution and to the very principles upon which this country was founded. Your statements suggest that you believe in violating our treaties with other nations that expressly prohibit torture and appear to be more interested in protecting those who have violated the civil rights of American citizens.You sir will have shown yourself to be unqualified for the position you hold if you continue to oppose Dawn Johnsen’s nomination the head the Office of Legal Counsel.


Letter to the editor regarding estate taxes

April 15, 2009

This month Senator Hutchison and Senator Cornyn, along with every other Republican senator, voted for more tax breaks for the super-wealthy. I’m talking about the 5,854 estates in all of the U.S. valued at $7 million or more per couple. Why are our senators so concerned that the children of the very wealthy won't be able to afford a third or fourth home?
Senators Hutchison and Cornyn voted to raise the full exemption on inheritances from $7 million to $10 million for a couple, and drop the top rate on fortunes over $10 million from 45% to 35%. They voted for these tax breaks for millionaires while decrying deficit spending meant to keep regular folks employed, yet this boon for the very, very wealthy will cost the rest of us more than $300 billion over ten years.
Our senators claim to be protecting farmers and small business, but the law already protects legitimate farm families and small business owners.
How about some common sense? Inequality is rising, similar to what happened from about 1880 to the 1920’s when the rich lived like feudal lords with multiple servants and the rest of us could barely afford enough to eat. Franklin Roosevelt pushed through highly progressive tax rates that were maintained for 30 years and we had the highest economic growth and lowest levels of poverty in history.
How do our senators justify cutting taxes for the wealthy paid for by cutting services for the working families of Texas?

Letter to US Senators supporting the lifting of the travel ban to Cuba

April 10, 2009

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison
284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-4304
202-224-0776 (FAX)

Dear Senator Hutchison,

I recently read that a bi-partisan group including Senators Dick Lugar, Michael Enzi, Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd has introduced the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (S. 428) and want to urge you to support this important piece of legislation. We have had success changing the behavior of totalitarian regimes like Russia and China through engagement and this bill gives us a chance to move in that direction. There’s no reason to believe that another decade of isolating Cuba will be any more successful that the last five decades have been so let’s try what know from past experience does work.

Human Rights Watch and prominent Cuban dissidents – including Oswaldo Paya, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, and Oscar Espinoza Chepe, the dissident Cuban economist and former political prisoner – have urged the United States to end the travel ban.

Polls show that two-thirds of Americans support lifting the travel ban. The American Farm Bureau Federation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce support S. 428 and I encourage you to do so as well so that we can have a stronger more prosperous America in the days to come.


Letter to the editor supporting legalization of marijuana

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently made the embarrassingly obvious statement that "Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade," adding that "we have co-responsibility" for the violence of Mexico’s drug cartels.
I’ve seen reports that Mexican cartels sold $9 billion of pot in the U.S. last year. One need only look back to Prohibition to see that mixing high demand for an outlaw product guarantees a violent black market.

The good thing about this is that Mexico’s cartels get over 60% of their revenue from US marijuana sales making them so dependent on the marijuana trade that we could virtually shut them down by pot legalization. Let’s bring it out in the open and regulate it like liquor, cigarettes and gambling, we can tax pot instead of spending billions prosecuting and imprisoning people for using it and distributing it.
Polls show most Americans support some form of legalization and legalization promises to generate billions of dollars in taxes while cutting expenses and violence, yet the subject has been left to first-term senator Jim Webb of Virginia. He proposed creating a federal commission to examine a relaxation of marijuana statutes and other potential changes to the prison system.

Senator Webb is a former Republican and decorated Viet Nam veteran who represents a conservative-leaning swing state with laws among the nation's most draconian, so it’s not like there’s a personal political upside for him in this fight. Senator Webb has the political courage not to let that stop him.
April 7, 2009

Letter to Representative Kuempel regarding support for requiring insurance companies to continue coverage of patients participating in clinical trials

April 2, 2009

Representative Edmund Kuempel
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78767

Dear Representative Kuempel,
If you’ve ever known someone with a life-threatening illness you know how important insurance is and how important new treatments can be. I recently found out that Texas is one of 20 states, where should a person with a life-threatening illness decide to participate in a clinical trial for that illness, their insurance company can drop coverage for routine care.
That means, not just routine care for their life-threatening illness but even a broken isn’t covered by insurance once they begin participation in a clinical trial.
Organizers of Clinical Trials cover their patients' expenses, but because Texas insurance companies consider these trials "experimental", they can and do drop routine insurance coverage for people who have little other help for their disease. This means fewer people in these trials and fewer trials equal fewer cures.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is working with other organizations throughout the state to pass SB 39, a bill that would give Texans access to clinical trials and would NOT allow insurance companies to drop coverage in the process. This bill is set to be voted on in the House soon and I hope you’ll support it.
If you've ever known someone who's had chemotherapy, had a bone marrow transplant, used a heart or cholesterol drug, known someone with diabetes or MS, or muscular dystrophy, or any type of cancer, or other life-threatening illness, you've seen the benefits of a clinical trials first-hand. Someone has to try the drugs, the treatments, the combinations of treatments, to see what works.
Help give Texans the option to find the best treatment and best care and help save lives with CURES.

Letter to the editor regarding Republican efforts to hold up Obama's nominees

The Republicans lost the presidential election due in part to gross mis-management of the government, now Senate Republicans are trying to stop the Obama administration from succeeding where they failed by blocking or delaying a growing number of critical nominees. There are numerous significant legal and logistical problems that the new administration is required to deal with including two wars, closing Guantanamo Bay and caring for our nation’s veterans.
Dawn Johnsen’s nomination as head of the White House Office of Legal Council has been delayed in part because our own Sen. John Cornyn disagrees with Johnsen’s criticisms of Bush national security policies, the Senator accuses her of lacking “the seriousness and necessary resolve to fight terrorism.” Somebody needs to tell Senator Cornyn that the OLC isn’t part of the military, the CIA or the FBI.
Republican Senator Richard Burr asked the Veterans Affairs committee to delay voting on the nomination of Iraq war helicopter pilot Tammy Duckworth, who lost both her legs serving her country, to be an assistant secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Burr’s office claims he’s waiting for the answers to several questions he’s put to the White House and Duckworth, but won’t say what those questions were. He can’t claim she hasn’t served her country or sacrificed for it.
Harold Koh, Ashton Carter and Chris Hill are also being held up. This has got to stop, there is too much important work that needs to be done for these kinds of partisan games to continue.

April 6, 2009

Against Tax Free Guns & Ammo

March 23, 2009

Senator Jeff Wentworth
P.O. Box 12068, Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711
Fax (512) 463-7794

Dear Senator,

I’m writing to urge you to withdraw SB 1788. Texas is having trouble meeting its financial obligations already especially since Governor Perry refuses to accept some of the stimulus money.

While Tax Free Weekend is easy to justify for clothes so that families, especially poor ones, can afford to adequately dress their children I can see no such social good coming out of a tax break for gun owners and buyers. Do you really believe that more guns on the streets of Texas will solve some social problem? Do you believe that gun owners and buyers are unduly taxed? Wouldn’t adding school supplies to the list of untaxed items better serve the public good?

While the constitution may arguably protect the right to keep and bear arms, depending on your interpretation, there is nothing in it that even hints at the need to waive taxes on guns and ammunition. In these times of economic uncertainty how do you see eliminating taxes on firearms addressing the needs of your constituents?

Please withdraw SB 1788.


In Support of Green Energy Legislation in Texas

March 19, 2009

Representative Edmund Kuempel
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78767

Dear Representative Kuempel,
This must be the year the legislature gets Texas started on a solar powered future. With solar costs plummeting, fuel costs rising and federal funds being made available, now is the time to advance a solar incentive program that will result in real economic development for the state. Solar generates more jobs per megawatt than any other energy technology and it’s faster to bring online than nuclear or coal. For every hundred megawatts installed, Texas can expect to see 1,500 jobs created. Once installed, solar energy, and other on-site renewable technologies, offer Texans locked-in low energy bills and reliable clean power for decades to come.
A solar incentive program would allow solar businesses to develop, create jobs and ensure economic growth as the market matures. Austin has committed to a 30 megawatt solar project and other cities around the state would do the same with proper incentives. San Antonio has announced its Mission Verde plan to convert the city to a clean energy town but that’s not enough. Every community in Texas could do the same if the legislature provided incentives to do so. Now is the time to ensure that clean energy development is a high priority this session. I urge you to support the many solar bills filed so far this session.

Supporting Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

March 19, 2009

Representative Henry Cuellar
336 Cannon H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
phone: 202-225-1640
fax: 202-225-1641

Dear Congressman Cuellar,

I'm writing to you to urge you to become a co-sponsor of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which Rep. Ellen Tauscher introduced on March 3. This bill ensures that all qualified Americans can serve openly in the military regardless of sexual orientation.

Since the beginning of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” over 12,500 Americans have been discharged over it. By some estimates 3,000 men and women who want to enlist or re-enlist decide not to because of the policy every year.
The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” statute is the only law that mandates firing a person because of their sexual orientation. In civilian life such actions would be decried far and wide and punished by civil penalties.
Please support the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allow lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans to serve openly and honestly.
By co-sponsoring the measure, you won't just be helping to make our military more fair. You'll also be making our overstretched armed forces more effective. Right now, thousands of brave and talented people are prevented from enlisting or re-enlisting because of the ban.

I urge you to replace “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” with a fairer, smarter policy.


Republicans Pressure SBOE to Promote Creationism

A bi-partisan majority of the State Board of Education voted to remove the requirement to teach “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution. Today I read a report that the State Republican Executive Committee is pressuring Republican members of the SBOE to re-insert the requirement that public school students be taught phony “weaknesses” of evolution in their science classes.

Why is the Republican Party making this a partisan issue? Perhaps it’s because the state GOP platform explicitly calls for teaching intelligent design in our public schools as shown in this quote from their platform webpage: “Theories of Origin – We support objective teaching and equal treatment of strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, including Intelligent Design.” The only problem is that this junk science has been ruled unconstitutional by a Republican federal judge in the Kitzmiller et al versus Dover decision; due to it being creationism in disguise. So instead of trying to force through creationism clothed as science, they are now attempting to weaken all public school science by calling it “strengths and weaknesses”.

On November 21, 2005 the Vatican Chief Astronomer, Rev. George Coyne, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying “Intelligent design isn't science, even though it pretends to be”. Rev. Coyne is a member of the Jesuit order and they’ve been known to disagree with the Pope a time or two but not this time. If all these conservative folks can see that evolution and common descent are good science why can’t the Texas Republican Party get it?
March 16, 2009

Opposing Guns on College Campuses

March 11, 2009

Representative Edmund Kuempel
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78767

Dear Congressman,

I am writing to urge you to oppose HB 1893.

This dangerous bill would allow loaded and concealed guns on our college and university campuses. Introducing guns into a volatile environment where young people still learning to curb their impulses are clustered and binge drinking and drug use are all too prevalent is tempting fate. It would also dramatically increase the risks of sexual violence, suicide and gun thefts.

"Guns on Campus" legislation has been rejected in all 17 states where it was introduced last year. I want to ensure that Texas is not the first state to pass legislation to allow guns on campus.

Please oppose HB 1893 to keep guns off our college and university campuses.


Supporting support of the Employee Free Choice Act

March 11, 2009

Senator John Cornyn
517 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Main: 202-224-2934
Fax: 202-228-2856

Dear Senator,

I'm writing you to ask for your support of the Employee Free Choice Act.

The Employee Free Choice Act recently introduced in Congress gives employees the free choice to join unions to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. It's exactly what's needed in our current economic crisis.

The key to a sustainable economy, according to a new report, is to increase the purchasing power of hard-working Americans; and one way to do that is by passing the Employee Free Choice Act. If the number of union workers increased by just 5%, an estimated $49 billion more in wages and salaries would be introduced into the American economy each year.
The Employee Free Choice act allows workers to form a union when a majority of workers sign cards authorizing the union—putting the choice of how to form a union, whether by majority sign-up or an election, in the hands of workers, not corporations.
Here are three reasons I support the Employee Free Choice Act:
1. Changes the rules on how unions are formed by returning the choice in how unions are formed back to employees, rather than their employers.
2. Promotes fair and just solutions to resolving disputes that would otherwise prevent employees from obtaining their first collectively-bargained contracts.
3. Enforces penalties upon companies that have been proven to have acted against the law.
I hope you consider supporting the Employee Free Choice Act.


Chairman of State Board of Education is Unqualified

Chairman of the State Board of Education, Don McElroy, proudly proclaims that he is a young earth creationist meaning that he believes God created Earth between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. I have no problem with his religious beliefs but I do have a problem with someone who denies the validity of numerous fields of scientific study and conclusions making decisions about how science is taught in Texas classrooms.

In order for Mr. McElroy to believe in a young earth he must therefore deny the study of geology and plate tectonics from which we know that the earth is many millions of years old not just a few thousand. He must also deny the conclusions of archaeologists, paleontologists and anthropologists who have determined that the earliest humans reached the shores of Australia about 50,000 years ago, five times as long ago as Mr. McElroy thinks the earth has existed.

Mr. McElroy also has to believe that the method of determining the age of organic materials known as carbon dating is incorrect by an astronomical amount. Speaking of astronomy Mr. McElroy must then also deny the validity of much of what is known about the rest of the universe as it is generally accepted that the universe and earth are both many millions of years old.

What with so much of science denied by Mr. McElroy he seems to me to be singularly unqualified to be making decisions about how Texas school children are taught science.

March 9, 2009

More on Voter ID Foolishness

March 9, 2009

Senator Jeff Wentworth
P.O. Box 12068, Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711
Fax (512) 463-7794

First, I don’t for a moment concede that there is any evidence that we need voter ID legislation like SB 362, but for the sake of argument let’s assume that we do.

Ask any college kid today about getting a fake ID to get into a bar or go to the liquor store and they’ll tell you it’s not hard to find one. They’ll probably tell you it’s a cottage industry on campus. Talk to the enforcement staff of TABC and ask them about fake photo ID’s. They’ll tell you two things, one is they’re quite prevalent and the other is they’re good enough that it’s often hard to tell them apart from the real thing even for them, let alone a poll worker with very little training and even less experience.

We’ve all heard the news that identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country, the credit card companies even do commercials about it. These folks routinely gin up fake photo ID’s and supporting documents.

What’s even easier though given the proposed legislation’s options for other non-photo forms of identification is forging utility bills and such. I can whip those out on a home computer and a $70 color printer so fast it’ll make your head spin. The whole notion that this legislation will prevent voter fraud is a farce of the first order.

The only people this legislation will stop from voting are folks that simply don’t have legitimate documentation because they don’t drive and don’t get the necessary bills in their name or don’t keep them around when they do. Therefore the real affect of this bill is voter suppression. I urge you to withdraw your support for this anti-democracy bill.


On Stopping the increase in signatures required for municipal citizen initiatives

March 9, 2009

Senator Jeff Wentworth
P.O. Box 12068, Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711
Fax (512) 463-7794

Dear Senator Wentworth,

I see that you have introduced Senate Bill 690 doubling the threshold percentage of signatures needed for citizen initiated municipal charter amendments. I ask that you drop this bill in the interest of democracy.

Your bill restricts the right of citizens to participate in their government, rights which we fought a war for independence over in Texas and the U.S. as a whole. Your bill makes it difficult for citizens to curb the excesses government.

The currently required five percent is a high number of signatures already on petitions for amendment, especially in large cities. Just having five percent of signatures does not in any way assure an amendment’s passage – they only allow citizens to decide on the amendment, which could still be and often are voted down.

As man who respects civil liberties, I’m confident that you appreciate the rights of citizens. Please do not abridge this one.

Please let me know how you proceed on SB 690.


March 9, 2009

Voter ID Foolishness

Some members of the Texas Senate seem stuck on the notion that Voter ID will somehow magically solve a voter impersonation problem that no one has shown actually exists. Not only is this a waste of time since there isn’t an actual documented problem its patently ridiculous to expect temporary poll workers to be able to identify a real versus forged drivers license as anyone on the enforcement staff of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) will tell you. Even full-time enforcement agents can’t always tell when a driver’s license is a forgery.

The folks at the TABC routinely run classes for liquor store and bar employees where they hand out a dozen or so confiscated driver’s licenses and ask the attendees to identify which are forgeries. Not only do most of the attendees get it wrong, the instructors readily admit that they often can’t tell just be looking at them either. If college kids can produce or acquire high quality forgeries that easily don’t you think a determined fraudulent voter would do the same.

The Texas Senate has more important business to attend to than fixing a non-existent problem by creating hurdles for low-income and elderly voters with a process that even trained professionals can’t guarantee they can execute consistently.
March 6, 2009

On Subverting the Republic

If Senator Leahy is successful in organizing a Truth Commission, future textbooks will show that the US narrowly dodged a carefully planned but thorough and unmistakable conspiracy to subvert the rule of law and the process of democracy from 2001-2008. Documents released recently by Attorney General Eric Holder show that President Bush’s lawyers asserted that Bush could deploy the military within the United States overriding Posse Comitatus, which has kept us safe from military policing for over a century.
This memo asserted that President Bush could direct the military to search your home without a warrant, even if you had not been charged with anything; seize material and documents; and even gave Bush the power to use deadly force against innocent US citizens -- "in self-defense."
Another memo claimed to give the president the power to close down or censor newspapers, radio and the Internet - override the First Amendment in the interest of "national security." So if he had deployed, ten brigades in key cities you might not have heard about it and his actions would have been perfectly legal.
We need to understand these memos for what they are: evidence that the groundwork was laid out to give the president the legal power to effectively subvert the Republic. We need to fully understand the significance of what this means -- for now, our work is hardly begun. We need to fully understand the attempt at treason against the Republic.

March 5, 2009

On Ending Abstinence Only Sex Education

Texas has long been held up as an example of how abstinence-only sexuality education should be done and we consistently lead the nation by a wide margin in federal abstinence education dollars spending more than $18 million in 2007 alone. What have we gotten for our money? The highest rate of births and repeat births to teens in the country, every ten minutes a teen in Texas becomes pregnant.

What does that mean for Texas taxpayers? Over a 13-year period, teen births in Texas are estimated to cost taxpayers $15.1 billion. With 60% of teen mothers failing to graduate from high school we get the continuation of a cycle of poverty that hurts these young people and their children for the rest of their lives.

Texas is failing families and students when it comes to sexuality education. Classrooms are perpetuating a “conspiracy of silence” by failing to give young people the complete information they need to make responsible life decisions. Even worse, the information students do receive about sexuality and health is often grossly distorted or simply wrong.

Gov. Rick Perry's office says he’s comfortable with the abstinence-based approach, “We oppose any sex education other than abstinence until heterosexual marriage.” What’s wrong with Governor Perry that he can’t see that what we’ve been doing isn’t working? Why is conservative dogma more important than pragmatic solutions? Even Bristol Palin says abstinence only doesn’t work, she should know.

March 4, 2009

On Education Funding Equality

March 4, 2009

Senator Jeff Wentworth
P.O. Box 12068, Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711

Dear Senator,

As I’m sure you’re aware the damage done to public school funding a few years ago when Robin Hood was eliminated has not been repaired. To give you an idea of how bad it is I met a young man, a senior in the Harlandale ISD, who along with several of his classmates doesn’t have a desk to sit at in several of his classes. In their literature class they had to share the textbooks after school so they could read their assignments as they didn’t have enough books to go around. After several months of dealing with the textbook issue he and some of his classmates banded together and confronted the principal who took action and got them books, but they are still short of desks.

The students of our state deserve equal opportunity of education so that they can have equal opportunity for employment later in life. We, the citizens of Texas benefit from better educated persons as they earn more and pay higher taxes. It is in the best interests of Texas that all students have the opportunity to get a high quality education and to that end Senators Van de Putte, Eltife, West and Davis have filed SB982 to correct the funding inequities and increase public school funding across the board.

We urge you to co-sponsor SB982 since it is an important piece of bi-partisan legislation.


On Preventing Voter Suppression

March 4, 2009

Senator Jeff Wentworth
P.O. Box 12068, Capitol Station
Austin, TX 78711

Dear Senator,

We have learned that a voter suppression bill is scheduled for debate March 10. SB362 by Senator Fraser and Senator Estes is designed to suppress voting by low income and elderly voters and I urge you to support your constituents by voting against it. This legislation is a solution in search of a non-existent problem as we’ve seen from considerable research there is no evidence of voter impersonation fraud of any significant scale. This bill is a waste of resources because it will require much more thorough training of poll workers on limited training budgets and we as citizens won’t gain anything. We have much more important priorities in Texas today given the state of the economy, healthcare and education the legislature should be focused on real issues.

SB362 would cause many woman voters to be disenfranchised since their name on ID won’t match in the case of recent marriage or divorce, sometimes confusion over hyphenation or use of maiden names as middle names. Senior citizens and low income individuals will suffer for lack of photo identification and they may not have utility bills if they are living with a relative. Homeless individuals may be disenfranchised if they have no photo ID since they also won’t have utility bills. Natural Disaster victims may also suffer due to lack of ID or documents when staying with relatives and therefore have no mail or utility statements in their name.

We urge you to vote against SB362.


On ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

March 3, 2009

Representative Henry Cuellar
336 Cannon H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
phone: 202-225-1640
fax: 202-225-1641

Dear Congressman,

Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher has filed the Military Readiness Enhancement Act which will repeal the damaging “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that has been in place for 16 years. We have wasted valuable human resources by running 800+ gay service members with vital language skills out of the military for nothing more than expressing their gender orientation. The British and Israeli militaries have shown that there is no valid purpose to keeping openly gay people out of the military.

Its past time to put this ugly piece of our history behind us and Congresswoman Tauscher has started the ball rolling. I urge you to co-sponsor this vital legislation so our military can move forward and use the talents and skills of all Americans.


Letter to the editor regarding DOJ confirmation hearings

Efforts on the part of some extremists to delay the confirmation of President Obama’s nominees to the Department of Justice have been revealed to be less about actually stopping any of these nominees and more about getting right-wing activists, pundits, and lawmakers warmed up for similar attacks on eventual Obama nominees to the federal judiciary, and in particular to the U.S. Supreme Court.
This is more than politics as usual. The DOJ is a vital branch of the government and these positions are critical to fill. Americans need once again rely on the DOJ as a protector of our rights and values. The Justice Department is at the center of some serious legal matters pertaining to fundamental checks and balances.
The Senate must not delay in confirming all of the president's nominees, and first up, due to be voted on in committee next week, is Deputy Attorney General nominee David Ogden.
Mr. Ogden is highly qualified, but the Right has attacked him because of his representation of American Library Association, the American Booksellers Association, and, yes, Playboy and Penthouse in First Amendment cases. What I ask is wrong with defending the First Amendment? He’s also being taken to task for urging that the U.S. follow the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Again, what’s wrong with that?
Our country needs speedy approval of David Ogden and our Senators should help make that happen. Senators Cornyn and Hutchison should be part of the solution not part of the problem.
February 20, 2009

Letter to Congressman Cuellar regarding Single Payer/Universal Healthcare

February 20, 2009

Representative Henry Cuellar
336 Cannon H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
phone: 202-225-1640
fax: 202-225-1641

Dear Congressman,

Healthcare cost and insurance availability is a problem individuals and our economy. In the current economic downturn we have an opportunity to correct this problem with legislation desired by Democrats since the 1950’s, we can pass a Single Payer/Universal Healthcare program. This will help small business to remain competitive and we all know that small business is the real engine of job growth. It will help companies like General Motors become competitive once again since it would remove a huge burden from their cost structure which some analysts believe adds upwards of $1500 per car to their costs.

Single Payer/Universal Healthcare as envisioned by Congressman John Conyers in HR 676 would be a godsend to my family as I work for a very small company which can’t get group coverage and my wife can not get coverage from any private plan due to several pre-existing conditions. In addition my brother works for a small business that doesn’t provide insurance and he can’t get private coverage for the same reasons as my wife. Between my wife, my daughter and I; we spend 30% of my pre-tax income on healthcare insurance, deductibles and co-pays. I can say that with confidence because I just finished my taxes last week and I was stunned by the percentage.

There are other proposals being bandied about such as the one President Obama when he was campaigning for the Democratic nomination won’t solve this crisis and neither will many of the others. Your constituents are some of those who will benefit most under a Single Payer/Universal Healthcare model.

I urge you to attend the forum, “National Lessons from State Healthcare Reform: The Massachusetts Case Study” February 25 from 2pm to 4pm at the Rayburn House Office Building.


Letter to the editor - John Cornyn's ties to the Stanford Financial Group Scandal

In the wake of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme debacle Texas now has its own financial scandal with the investigation of Allen Stanford and his Stanford Financial Group. Our Senator John Cornyn was awfully cozy with him accepting $7441 in travel expenses for himself and a “companion” to visit Stanford’s offices on the lush resort island of Antigua in 2004 according to filings with the Senate Ethics Committee. The filing states the purpose of the trip was fact finding, Stanford says Cornyn was shown around the offices. What kind of fact finding is that? Cornyn is now on the Senate Finance Committee which makes the rules related to offshore banking, the same rules that are important to Stanford Financial Group.

Why is our Senator associating with and accepting thousands of dollars from a high roller con-man? What isn’t Senator Cornyn telling us and the Senate Ethics Committee about his trip?

February 18, 2009

Letter to the editor - Urging impeachment of disgraceful Judge Sharon Keller

In an effort to restore justice and remove some of the tarnish on Texas criminal justice system State Representative Lon Burnam has filed HB 480 to establish a Special Committee on Impeachment to consider impeaching Criminal Court of Appeals Judge Sharon Keller. This is the judge that closed the door on justice at 5:00pm to and prevented the filing of an appeal of Michael Richards’ execution hours scheduled a few hours later that evening.

The appeal was based on the U.S. Supreme Court earlier the same day agreeing to consider a challenge to the constitutionality of lethal injection. Due to a problem with the computer on which the appeal had been written the defense team had was delayed in printing and delivering the documents to the court. Other judges in the same court were prepared and waiting for the appeal paperwork but Judge Keller shut it down without even telling them what she did. This is neither the firsts nor the last blemish Judge Keller has placed on the Texas justice system but it is certainly the most egregious.

Judges all over Texas have criticized her actions and it’s about time she was impeached for her miscarriage of justice.
February 16, 2009

Letter to Congressman Cuellar urging him to co-sponsor HR 676 - Universal/Single Payer Health Care

February 12, 2009

Representative Henry Cuellar
336 Cannon H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
phone: 202-225-1640
fax: 202-225-1641

Dear Congressman Cuellar,

I’ve been studying Congressman John Conyer’s HR 676 and here are six strong reasons to support it.

Universal means access to health care for everyone, period. It also means that if you are unemployed, or lose or change jobs, your health coverage stays with you.

It’s a fair plan since there would be no Cadillac plans for the wealthy and Pinto plans for everyone else, with high deductibles, limited services, caps on payments for care, and no protection in the event of a catastrophe. There is one level of comprehensive care for everyone, regardless of the size of your wallet.

Most folks will have more choices because most private insurance restricts your choice of providers and hospitals. Under the U.S. National Health Insurance Act, patients have a choice, and the provider is assured a fair payment.

Caregivers and patients regain their autonomy to decide what's best for a patient's health, not what's dictated by the billing department. No denial of coverage for preexisting conditions or cancellation of policies for "unreported" minor health problems.

One third of every private health insurance dollar goes for paperwork and profits, compared to about 3% under Medicare

A guaranteed health care system can produce the cost savings needed to cover everyone, largely by using existing resources without the waste. Taiwan, shifting from a U.S. private health care model, adopted a similar system in 1995, boosting health coverage from 57% to 97% with little increase in overall health care spending.

I urge you to sign on as a co-sponsor of one of the most important pieces of legislation likely to be filed in our generation.


Letter to the editor, Texas Republicans and family values in the economic crisis

According to the Texas Workforce Commission the state’s unemployment rolls increased by over 220,000 in the last eight months of 2008 while San Antonio’s unemployment level increased by over 10,000. Oddly enough Governor Perry says we don’t need help from President Obama’s Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Senators Cornyn and Hutchison think so little of it that they don’t even bother to show to vote on it and Texas Republicans in the House unanimously voted against it.

Are our elected officials in touch with the people of this state and the harm that is being done to families that can’t pay their bills through no fault of their own? Increases in joblessness means increases in the number of uninsured so that puts greater strains on the healthcare system. When folks loose their jobs the often lose their homes, their kids have to change schools if they can even stay in school and marriages are strained if not torn asunder. How does all this reconcile with the family values that Mr. Perry, Mr. Cornyn, Mrs. Hutchison so vociferously espouse at election time?

February 12, 2009

Letter to the editor, Who do they work for Texans or big money?

Gallup just released results of a public opinion poll on the stimulus plan, 67% of the public supports Obama on the stimulus bill versus 31% for congressional Republicans. 58% of Americans disapprove of the Hill GOP's stand on this issue. Even 56 % of Republicans think passing the stimulus is critical or important.

When Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) announced his support for the Senate version of the stimulus package Friday night, he pointedly read from a Chamber of Commerce endorsement. The National Association of Manufacturers has told Republicans that votes on the bill "including potential procedural motions" may be considered for designation as key votes in scoring of their legislative record.

Diverse groups from all across the political and economic spectrum have expressed support for the stimulus bill. Why has every member of the Texas Republican caucus voted against the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009? Senators Cornyn and Hutchison apparently think so little of the stimulus that each missed critical votes on the legislation in order to give face time to big money interests. Who do they work for, Texans or big money?

February10, 2009

Letter to the editor regarding Texas Senators vote against stimulus

The Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is supposed to provide the economic stimulus the country needs to put a tourniquet on job losses. Our Texas Senators Cornyn and Hutchison voted against it even after much of what they call “pork” like building schools was reduced or eliminated and half of it is now the tax cuts they and the rest of the Republican caucus have called for.

President Obama presented this plan without nearly as much public spending as most economists including Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman say it will take to pull us out of worst recession since 1970 on the grounds that it was important to get bi-partisan support. His good faith concession has been met by radio pundits with “I hope he fails” and our Texas Senators unwillingness to vote for anything less than 100% tax cuts for millionaires. I don’t call that representing Texas and working for Texas families, do you?

Letter to Senators urging no funds for nuclear weapons in the Economic Recovery & Reinvestment Act

JC & Melissa Dufresne
141 Lindy Hills
Cibolo, TX 78108

February 7, 2009

Senator John Cornyn
517 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Main: 202-224-2934
Fax: 202-228-2856

Dear Senator,

Today I learned of the Senate Appropriations Committee's decision to add $1 billion for the nuclear weapons complex to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (S.336). This is terribly short-sighted on a number of levels. I urge you to work to remove the $1 billion in funding for the nuclear weapons complex from the economic stimulus plan. We need infrastructure investment not more money down the toilet to defeat a foe that no longer exists.

At a time when our president has spoken out for a nuclear weapons free world, I urge you to work to remove this wasteful spending from the bill in the Senate version or the conference committee. If the Republican caucus is so interested in reducing spending in the stimulus plan then start here. Please write to let me know what action you will take on this issue.


JC & Melissa Dufresne

Letter to the editor advocating passage of the Prevention First Act

We’ve all seen the reports that Texas has the fifth highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the country. Given the size of the state that means more teen pregnancies than just about any state in the country. Our Senators and Representatives have the chance to address this situation today not only for Texans but for all Americans.

They should co-sponsor the Prevention First Act, which would increase access to family planning services, improve access to comprehensive sex education for teens, and help prevent unintended pregnancies. Affordable access to birth control and reproductive health services improves public health by allowing couples to plan their families and by reducing our nation's staggering rate of unintended pregnancy.

Half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended and more than 17 million women need publicly funded contraceptive services and supplies because they are unable to access or purchase them on their own. Between 1994 and 2001, unintended pregnancy among low-income women increased by 29 percent, while it decreased by 20 percent among women with higher incomes. Social conservatives want to reduce the number of abortions and this legislation is one way to do that. Fiscal conservatives want to reduce the welfare rolls and this legislation would do that by reducing the need for it. Our entire congressional delegation should get behind the Prevention First Act.

Its time to take a critical step toward addressing the unmet need for family planning services for all women.

January 29, 2009

Letter to Senators Cornyn and Hutchison advocating support for the Prevention First Act

JC Dufresne
141 Lindy Hills
Cibolo, TX 78108

January 29, 2009

Senator John Cornyn
517 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Main: 202-224-2934
Fax: 202-228-2856

Dear Senator,

As I’m sure you know Texas has the fifth highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the country. Given the size of the state that means more teen pregnancies than just about any state in the country. You have the chance to address this situation today not only for Texas but for all Americans.

I urge you to co-sponsor the Prevention First Act, which will increase access to family planning services, improve access to comprehensive sex education for teens, and help prevent unintended pregnancies. You certainly know that affordable access to birth control and reproductive health services improves public health by allowing couples to plan their families and by reducing our nation's staggering rate of unintended pregnancy. With the current state of the economy it’s a bad time to be a teenage mother or any woman with an unplanned pregnancy.

Half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended and more than 17 million women need publicly funded contraceptive services and supplies because they are unable to access or purchase them on their own. Between 1994 and 2001, unintended pregnancy among low-income women increased by 29 percent, while it decreased by 20 percent among women with higher incomes. Fewer unplanned pregnancies mean fewer people on welfare and AFDC, which has always been a stated goal of the Republican party its time for you to act on those principles.

Please co-sponsor the Prevention First Act, to take a critical step toward addressing the unmet need for family planning services for all women.


Letter to Senator Hutchison regarding secret hold on Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis

JC Dufresne
141 Lindy Hills
Cibolo, TX 78108

January 29, 2009

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

Dear Senator,

One of your colleagues is using a secret hold to delay confirmation hearings on the President’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis. I urge you to meet with members of your caucus to pressure that colleague to remove the secret hold. We are in dire economic straights and now is not the time to play partisan games with cabinet nominees, particularly ones of the caliber of Hilda Solis.

Your actions in regard to swiftly resolving this issue will be remembered in the gubernatorial election that you’ve announced you’ll be running in soon.


Letter to the editor regarding protecting our environment

Industrial pollution affects the health of our children and all Texans. We all know that air pollution can cause asthma, cancer and other diseases. Water pollution can cause cancer among other diseases. Controlling pollutants is necessary to protect the health our children and ourselves.

Anyone in business is familiar with the axiom that you can only control what you can measure. Several bills have been filed in the state Senate to protect the health of Texans by requiring that industries emitting pollutants into our environment measure and report those releases.

Our state representative Edmund Kuempel is in a unique position to protect the people of his district and all of Texas because he is the Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Environmental Regulation. He can do this by introducing companion legislation to the already filed Senate measures, SB 171, SB 173 and SB 176. In addition he can co-sponsor HB 557 which creates a watch list and reporting regime for air contaminants. Congressman Kuempel is in prime position to influence passage of such legislation and we urge him to use that influence to protect the health our children and all Texans.

JC Dufresne
January 18, 2009

Letter to Representative Edmund Kuempel regarding protecting our environment

January 21, 2009

Hon. Edmund Kuempel
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78767

Subject: Protecting our environment and the health of all Texans

Dear Congressman,

We’re constituents of yours and we’re concerned about the health of our children and our environment. Industrial pollutants affect all Texans.

As a businessman I’m sure you’re familiar with the axiom that you can only control what you can measure. There are several items pending in the state senate to protect the health of Texans by requiring that industries emitting pollutants into our environment measure and report those releases.

As Vice-chair of the House Environmental Regulation Committee you have considerable influence on this kind of legislation so we urge you to use that influence for the protection of your constituents and all Texans by introducing companion legislation to the following environmental protection bills filed in the Texas Senate: SB 171 Relating to standards for measuring the emission of air contaminants under the Texas Clean Air Act; providing a penalty, SB 173 Relating to monitoring air contaminant emissions from certain sources and SB 176 Relating to the reporting of emissions events under the Clean Air Act.

In addition we request that you co-sponsor HB 557 Relating to the establishment of an air pollutant watch list and associated reports for the purpose of controlling the emissions of air contaminants under the Texas Clean Air Act.

Please let us know what action you take on these important pieces of environmental protection legislation.

Melissa and JC Dufresne

Lack of leadership by Democrats in auto industry bailout negotiations with the president

The American public voted overwhelmingly for Democratic control of the government and President Bush has the lowest approval rating of any president in a half century. In the early forms of the legislation to offer loans or loan guarantees to the Detroit automakers one of the strings attached was a requirement that they abandon their lawsuits against the states to prevent enforcement of environmental rules, which the Bush administration said was a deal breaker. Once again Democrats in congress are failing to stand up to President Bush? This behavior has been going on since the 2006 election when we took ostensibly took control of Congress but our “leadership” has failed to show some backbone on a host of issues not the least of which is the setting a time table for withdrawing our troops from Iraq.

When I buy a new razor I expect it to give me a better shave than the old one. I voted for Democrats because I expected you to make changes in the direction of our country. I urge you to stop caving in to a failed president and allowing him to continue to run this country into a ditch. You can start with telling the Big Three that if they want help it has strings starting with dropping the lawsuits, developing green cars and accepting oversight to protect the interests of the public who loaned the money.

JC Dufresne

Letter to Congressman Henry Cuellar on Universal Healthcare

Congressman Henry Cuellar
100 S. Austin Street, Suite 1
Seguin, Texas 78155

December 11, 2008

Dear Congressman,

I recently became aware that John Conyers has offered HR 676 “the United States National Health Insurance Act” and having read the proposal I’m a whole hearted supporter. As an employee of a very small business I don’t have company provided benefits and therefore must find medical insurance on my own. If the state didn’t offer the Texas Health Risk Pool I would be unable to get insurance for my wife at all as she has diabetes and lupus which no for profit insurer will touch.

The uncertainty my family feels over the possibility that more than one of us will have a major illness requiring that we meet more than one $2500 deductible in a single year is worrisome enough. I know from the size of the co-pays and deductibles that I pay what it must be like for families less fortunate than mine who are unable to afford insurance if they want food on the table or a roof over their heads.

There is no compelling economic or social reason for health insurance to be a for profit business as the point of insurance is to spread the risk around to the greatest number of users so that no one person is overburdened by the cost of their necessary medical treatment. Given that the advantages of a single payer system include no refusal of coverage, portability and 30% cost efficiency by eliminating the mechanism used to deny claims and coverage there is no better comprehensive way to reform healthcare in American than that offered in HR 676.

As a constituent I urge you to publicly support John Conyer’s HR 676 and encourage your fellow congressional democrats to pass this legislation early in the next session.


JC Dufresne

Universal Healthcare leads to Socialism and that's un-American

The tragic end of medical insurance as we know it is upon us if John Conyers’ HR 676 is passed. Representative Conyers proposes to provide health care to all whether they have proven themselves worthy by having a job with a company large enough to have health benefits or not. The proposal will weaken America since no American adult or child will have the character building experience of having to forgo health care because they can’t pay for it.

What’s worse about the proposal is that thousands of insurance company claims deniers will be out of a job and heaven forefend given priority in federal hiring as claims processors handling payments. On top of that Congressman Conyers proposes to pay for this debacle by raising our payroll taxes 3.3% while eliminating the insurance premium. A small tax increase in place of a large insurance premium; why that’s positively Socialist.

I urge all readers to contact their congressman to demand that he reject HR 676 on the grounds that America needs healthy insurance companies more that it needs healthy citizens.

JC Dufresne

Response to Op-Ed in San Antonio Express News on fixing our educational system by writing off half of high school students

In Sunday’s Op-Ed, T. R. Fehrenbach, rightly speaks of benefits our educational system gave us in fighting WW II and I agree that our current system is broken. Mr. Fehrenbach
seems to suggest that the way to fix our broken education system is to give up on any kid that doesn’t do well in school of his/her own accord. He even seems to suggest it would be a great idea if we encourage them to drop out so we can expend our limited financial resources on the kids who want to be there. While that might sound terrific to some, I find it very short sighted as I don’t believe most children can begin to understand the life time impact of such a decision any more than they can understand the risks having sex at 14.

Rather than simply give up on half the general population, which would also tend to create the society elites and common folks, we should be looking at the methods and systems that have proven successful in Finland and other countries. We could begin with recognizing the need for and funding of early childhood education which is where a lot of the youngsters Mr. Fehrenbach so casually proposes to write off are left behind. Studies consistently show that underprivileged children that get high quality early childhood education can keep up with their peers and remain interested in school. Lets not blame the kids who don’t see a chance for success lets fix the system.

JC Dufresne

I'm saddened that the Unites States of America hasn't signed the treaty banning cluster bombs

A few days ago, representatives of more than 80 nations gathered in Oslo, Norway, to sign a new treaty banning cluster bombs. These weapons disperse hundreds of "bomblets," many of which don’t explode on impact as intended, but remain in fields and parks as de facto landmines, sometimes waiting years or decades to be stepped on or picked up by unsuspecting civilians. Children often mistake them for toys or food and lose their lives or limbs as a result. The United States has used cluster bombs extensively over the past few decades, from the Vietnam War up through the invasion of Iraq.
I’m ashamed that the United States was absent from the meeting in Oslo, and that its name will be missing from the treaty. It’s encouraging that President-Elect Obama says he’ll consider this treaty, which the Bush administration has refused to sign.
I hope that Representative Cuellar and Senators Cornyn and Hutchison will support legislation in the 111th Congress to ban the use and export of cluster bombs by the United States.

JC Dufresne

When will the Republicans get the message that you can't enjoy being rich if you don't have a healthy environment in which to live?

Rick Perry and House Republicans are again trying to stop necessary environmental reforms here in Texas. Last week Governor Perry lashed out at the notion of a carbon cap, claiming it would cripple the Texas energy sector and irreparably damage both the state and national economies.

Phil King, state legislator from House District 61 who chairs the Regulated Industries Committee, at a clean energy conference in Austin, said "Texas could go back into the dark ages, and you've got to say what impact does that have on global climate?"
Cap and trade is one of the most efficient, easily-introduced strategies to make an immediate impact on carbon emissions and global warming. However, some Republicans are failing to address the realities of global warming and instead threatening Texas citizens with doomsday scenarios if they can't burn all the oil, coal, and gas they please.
Rather than facing the fact that we're rapidly depleting fossil fuels, Gov. Perry and Rep. King want to stick their heads in the sand and do nothing. Perhaps they haven’t heard about T. Boone Pickens’ proposal to build massive wind farms in West Texas generating green power and high paying jobs for Texans.

JC Dufresne

Religion doesn't belong in our science classrooms

Texans are independent folks, so you’d think keeping religion out of our public school sciences classes would be a high priority. Unfortunately religious fundamentalists hold sway on the State Board of Education and are pushing to include false “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution in science classes. I attended Catholic schools from Kindergarten through High School and my religious education never interfered with my scientific education. If Catholic schools can do that I don’t see how Texas public schools can do less.
Rabbi Ana Bonnheim, Assistant Director for Education at the Union for Reform Judaism’s Greene Family Camp urged the State Board of Education to keep religion out of science class saying:
" For me as a rabbi, science and religion are not at odds . . . Moses Maimonides . . . who is perhaps the greatest philosopher of our tradition, was also a physician. He taught that scientific inquiry can lead to more thoughtful religious questions and better educated religious individuals. The place for the quiet discussions about spirituality in science is not in public schools but around the kitchen table, in religious school classrooms, or in a clergy member’s office."
I can’t say it more eloquently than that.

JC Dufresne

Economic crisis no reason to avoid comprehensive healthcare reform

The economic crisis has led some folks to suggest that now is not the time for comprehensive health care reform. They argue that rising economic instability, burgeoning budget deficits, and other national priorities should push health care reform to the back-burner. Health care reform is not a distraction from addressing our economic challenges, it is essential to fixing our economy and the finances of our working families.
Between 1999 and 2008, premiums increased over 100 percent for families, individuals and employers. The growing burden of health care benefits has contributed to U.S. automakers' dwindling profits. Health care costs add over $1500 to the cost of every GM vehicle; that’s more than GM paid for the steel.
The economic downturn has resulted in rising unemployment, increases in the number of people eligible for Medicaid, and in declining tax revenues, leading to less available revenue to pay for additional enrollees.
Given the burden of growing health care costs on businesses and individuals, moving health care reform to the back-burner only makes things worse. Congress can’t help families or the economy without health care reform. Only comprehensive health care reform can put Texas families and Texas businesses on the road to economic recovery.

JC Dufresne

Letter to our representative to the State Board of Education concerning Creationism / Intelligent Design in science classrooms

November 24, 2008

Ken Mercer
P.O. Box 781301
San Antonio, TX 78278

Dear Mr. Mercer,

As constituents of yours, we are writing to express our concerns regarding the debate raging over a state board requirement that students be taught the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories as early as middle school.

A "strengths and limitations" approach might be appropriate for a college-level course after the students are thoroughly familiar with science basics they learned in primary and secondary school. In primary and secondary school science classrooms there is barely time to even cover the basics, much less learn them thoroughly, without introducing religion as "science." Strengths and limitations come into play at the hypothesis level; hence, testing. When tested hypotheses rise to the level of a Scientific Theory, the explanatory and predictive power of the Theory itself is continually tested and adjusted as new evidence arises.

You and the other supporters of teaching “strengths and weaknesses of evolution” are introducing a significant threat to American education and ultimately national security by dumbing down science education. The selection of Discovery Institute fellows by the Texas Board of Education for the textbook review board is a conflict of interest as the Discovery Institute has published a recent book, "Explore Evolution" which is targeted at high schools. This book was intended to replace "Of Pandas and People" as the creationist's High School textbook to dodge the US Supreme Court decisions outlawing teaching creationism in public schools. The opposition to teaching creationism in schools is not "suppressing debate." The only debate regarding evolution is political. The fact of evolution, and the fact of common descent and the fact of natural selection are not debated among mainstream scientists.

The question is where should we hold the political debate; in high school science classes? If so, how much time should be given to science in history classes, or social studies? Will churches start inviting scientists to lecture on Sundays? America's public school science teachers are hampered in teaching about the gross errors of creationism by the same Constitution that blocks religion from public school science class. To really expose creationism's lack of rational and empirical support would be seen as an attack on religion. The cost of religious freedom is, for some people, the freedom from religion.

In Tammy Kitzmiller vs the Dover Area School District, Judge Jones, a George W. Bush appointee, rendered a decision that the SBOE should consider before proceeding down the path you appear to be on. He wrote:

“Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiff’s scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

The citizens of the Dover were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.”

Is this the kind of judgment you want to have attached to your name and the names of the other members of Texas SBOE that support the “strengths and weaknesses” approach?
We wonder how many of the ID Policy supporters on the Dover School Board are still in office.

We urge you to do the logical thing and withdraw your support from the “strengths and weaknesses” requirement and consider replacing the Discovery Institute fellows on the textbook review committee.