Friday, June 29, 2012

Critical thinking and higher order thinking skills aren't part of the Republican education agenda

You have to wonder what Republicans are thinking when it comes to education when you look at the Republican Party of Texas 2012 platform: “We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills, critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

How do you make scientific discoveries if you don’t challenge fixed beliefs? How do you analyze an unfamiliar situation and find a solution to a problem without critical thinking skills? As to undermining parental authority, if you’ve done your job right as a parent no school can ever undermine your authority.

We all understand that high paying jobs go to educated, creative people yet in Texas when we were already 48th in education spending per pupil Gov. Perry and the Republican controlled legislature cut education funding by $5 billion. They did this while wailing about respecting the Constitution. It seems to me that they showed great disrespect for the Texas constitution’s Article 7 requirement to “make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools”

Every dollar that goes to education is an investment in the future of this state and its people. This November it’s important that we elect legislators that respect our constitution and understand the need to invest in our future, obviously that means voting for someone other than a Republican.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Disappointed in US Senate candidates

The Houston Chronicle covered the debate between the Democratic candidates for US Senate here

Our two US Senate candidates both leave something to be desired. Yarbrough thinks securing our border with Mexico could use some Berlin Wall style thinking. Sadler regrets that the party platform calls for decriminalizing marijuana because Americans aren’t ready for that.

Yarbrough ran twice as a Republican so in my mind he’s already a questionable candidate and suggesting that a Berlin Wall along our southern border (think Herman Cain's moat) is the way to solve our immigration problems just confirms my dim view of the man. Sadler ought to have more courage since he wants to be a leader in our country and instead of bashing our newly minted platform take it a step further by recognizing that part of our immigration problem is caused by our failed “War on Drugs”.

Our border immigration/border security, drug cartel violence, over-incarceration of non-violent offenders and the attendant damage to our economy, national security and official corruption are all interwoven issues and if you fail to understand one of them you fail to understand the whole picture.

We have a lot of important problems to solve in Texas and the U.S. which leaves me disappointed that both of our US Senate candidates are clueless on at least one of them.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Death Penalty Isn't Always Justice

Texas Democrats came out strongly for justice when the 2012 state convention added repeal of the death penalty and replacing it with life without parole to the party platform. Exonerated death row inmate Anthony Graves, who was nearly executed twice, spoke to a large audience explaining how our dysfunctional justice system continues to wrongfully execute innocent people.

Graves spoke from the heart and reminded attendees that you can’t undo an execution. He also told us that while outsiders think life without parole is getting off easy those in prison with such sentences don’t see it that way and many would rather face execution or in his words “take the needle”.

While people of color are disproportionately represented among those executed don’t think it can’t happen to middle aged white guys. Gov. Perry allowed Cameron Todd Willingham to be executed even after being presented with evidence that no crime had been committed at all.

We should also recognize that it costs four times as much to try a death penalty case and execute the convict as it does to jail someone for 40 years. That means we spend an awful lot of our criminal justice resources on killing someone when we could be protecting our families from violent crime by having more cops on the beat.

If you’re a small government, low tax conservative who believes our criminal justice system should be tough on crime wouldn’t it be more cost effective to stop this big government boondoggle?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

End the big government boondoggle

Republicans constantly make the dubious claim that fewer regulations on businesses would increase profits and encourage them to hire more people. There is something we could cut regulations on that would reduce costs to our local, state and federal governments, increase employment, reduce both violent crime and official corruption and increase tax collections without raising tax rates. That something is legalizing marijuana then regulating and taxing it like alcohol and tobacco. On Saturday June 9, 2012 the Texas Democratic Party took a giant step forward by adding a platform plank calling for decriminalization of marijuana.

Every year the police in this country arrest more people of marijuana possession than they do for murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault and other violent crimes combined. After over 40 years of the “War on Drugs” marijuana use is more prevalent and the marijuana is more readily available than it was when President Nixon declared the war.

By any measure the prohibition of marijuana possession and personal use is exactly the big government boondoggle that conservatives so often complain about. It’s way past time that all our political leaders recognize that prohibition today is just as counter productive as it was in the 1920’s and 1930’s and repeal it. As one who doesn’t drink alcohol and doesn’t smoke tobacco or marijuana I have nothing personal to gain, I just want to see sensible public policy.

I’m proud to have led the effort to add decriminalization of marijuana to the Texas Democratic Party platform.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Desperate people do desperate things

While the TEA Party continues to play into the hands of Wall Street bankers and billionaires with delusions of grandeur the U.S. economy is once again swirling around the drain. If House Speaker John Boehner is successful in his oft stated goal of making President Obama a one term president we can all look forward to further austerity measures which will put the economy into a tailspin the likes of which haven’t been seen since Herbert Hoover was President.

Many Americans were in desperate shape even prior to the Great Depression and once it struck their ranks only grew. Our parents and grandparents often went hungry sometimes for days on end. What is usually glossed over in history classes in this country is that there was quite a bit of civil unrest in this country in the early part of the 20th century with labor strikes and government troops used by the corporate bosses to break those strikes often using deadly violence.

We’ve already seen pre-cursors to such heavy handed tactics in places like New York and the University of California at Davis where police pepper sprayed peaceful protestors who were sitting on the ground. What the Koch brothers and the Walton family seem to have forgotten is that in this age of improvised explosive devices when people have nothing left to lose they are willing to take measures that they would never have risked with just a little food on their tables and a roof over their heads.