Friday, December 30, 2016

Revolution may well be in the works

A little over two years ago billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer wrote an essay for the online magazine Politico in which he argues that “the pitchforks are coming for the plutocrats”. He says that people like himself, Bill Gates and Donald Trump had better heed history and take action to relieve the societal stresses created by wealth inequality and poverty soon or like the French and Russian revolutions the masses will become fed up and take it out on the people who have abused them for so long. Hanauer will tell you he’s not brilliant, he says he was a mediocre student and has no technical background, he just has a higher than average tolerance for risk and a knack for seeing where things are going a little sooner than the other guy.

Hanauer compared revolutions to bankruptcy in that both slowly move toward the cliff and then suddenly occur seemingly without warning. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in a 1966 60 Minutes interview “I think that we've got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.” Revolutions are messy and violent and everyone suffers, most of all those who are already suffering as the few systems that help them fend off starvation inevitably breakdown.

It’s been argued that acting on insight similar to Hanauer’s is what has held the country together many times over the last 240 years; one example being Teddy Roosevelt and his efforts to restrain the worst excesses of capitalism. Now that a minority of voters has managed to elect Donald Trump I fear that the chances of this nation’s leaders acting on enlightened self-interest to restrain capitalism’s natural tendency toward monopoly and increasing profits at any cost have been dramatically reduced such that we’ll see a return to the strife and violence of the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Efforts to right the ship like Moral Monday protests led by Rev. William Barber in North Carolina are modeled after the successes of the Civil Rights era. After this election many argued that it was successful in that Gov. McCrory was ousted and therefore a model for further efforts around the nation. Unfortunately the Republican led legislature there failed to get the message and instead set about stripping the governor-elect of virtually all power. As Fredrick Douglass said so eloquently “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

As Nick Hanauer pointed out revolution creeps up on you, we don’t know when it will happen or what will appear to be the precipitating event but we seem to be moving ever closer. Isn’t it time for our leaders to behave like Teddy Roosevelt and once again act relieve the pressure before it’s too late?

Published in the Seguin Gazette December 23, 2016

Friday, December 23, 2016

Trump Supporters Must Denounce White Supremacists like Dylann Roof

A radical Christian white supremacist went on trial last week for the nine murders he committed June 17, 2015. That’s not the phrasing you’re likely to hear from ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox. There you’ll hear that Dylann Roof is accused of 33 counts of hate crimes for the murders he committed that night at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. You’ll probably hear or read that he wanted to start a race war but unlike the Muslims who killed so many in San Bernadino later that year no one wants to talk about how Roof was radicalized.

Now think about how many Americans react to such violence perpetrated by Muslims, too many of us want to throw them all out of the country. President-elect Trump on the campaign trail said he thought it would be a good idea to register all Muslims. We all know how well that worked out for German Jews and Americans of Japanese ancestry. Many Americans screech that if Muslims don’t believe in such violence then their religious leaders should speak out against it. I don’t hear them calling for Christian churches like the one Roof attended to speak out in condemnation.

Analysis by the Southern Poverty Law Center suggests that Roof was a reader and commenter on The Daily Stormer, a white nationalist news website. Roof cited the website of the Council of Conservative Citizens as his gateway to white nationalism. The Council’s president Earl Holt issued a statement saying that Roof had some "legitimate grievances" against black people. Harold Covington, the founder of the Northwest Front called the attack "a preview of coming attractions". These groups like to refer to themselves as the alt-right as if they’re just another variant of conservatism and the media generally lets them get away with it.

Roof’s horrendous acts occurred well before Trump began his run for the presidency yet he openly courted the alt-right/white nationalist vote and their campaign donations. Since last year numerous media sources have reported on drastic increases hate crimes yet the soon to be leader of the most powerful nation on earth has not thought to condemn these acts instead he tweets insults at the Saturday Night Live cast in the middle of the night.

When you’re out Christmas shopping somewhere you’ll see a sign that says “You break it, you bought it.” It’s time for those who voted for Trump to own the racist remarks he’s made. It’s on you because you’ve given him a green light by knowingly casting your ballot in his favor. You are in part responsible for the hate crime spike because your support and your vote for Trump gave permission for racist speech and as we know from Roof having permission to speak such ugliness turns into ugly acts.

If you think you’re a good person and voted for Trump because he’s a Republican it’s time for you to step up and condemn his racism and that of many of his supporters. It’s time you prove you’re a good person by running the racists out of the Republican Party once and for all. While you’re at it you need call out those that think it’s OK to make fun of the disabled like Trump did on national television when he demeaned a journalist who offended his tender feelings. You also need to intervene when you see some misogynist in the work place grabbing a woman or sexually harassing her as Trump so proudly stated he did. You need to step up or you’re just another racist, misogynist and not a good person. So which are you?

Published in the Seguin Gazette December 16, 2016 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Radical Christian White Supremacist on Trial

A radical Christian white supremacist went on trial last week for the nine murders he committed June 17, 2015. That’s not the phrasing you’re likely to hear from ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox. There you’ll hear that Dylann Roof is accused of 33 counts of hate crimes for the murders he committed that night at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. You’ll probably hear or read that he wanted to start a race war but unlike the Muslims who killed so many in San Bernadino later that year no one wants to talk about how Roof was radicalized.

Now think about how many Americans react to such violence perpetrated by Muslims, too many of us want to throw them all out of the country. President-elect Trump on the campaign trail said he thought it would be a good idea to register all Muslims. We all know how well that worked out for German Jews and Americans of Japanese ancestry. Many Americans screech that if Muslims don’t believe in such violence then their religious leaders should speak out against it. I don’t hear them calling for Christian churches like the one Roof attended to speak out in condemnation.

Analysis by the Southern Poverty Law Center suggests that Roof was a reader and commenter on The Daily Stormer, a white nationalist news website. Roof cited the website of the Council of Conservative Citizens as his gateway to white nationalism. The Council’s president Earl Holt issued a statement saying that Roof had some "legitimate grievances" against black people. Harold Covington, the founder of the Northwest Front called the attack "a preview of coming attractions". These groups like to refer to themselves as the alt-right as if they’re just another variant of conservatism and the media generally lets them get away with it.

Roof’s horrendous acts occurred well before Trump began his run for the presidency yet he openly courted the alt-right/white nationalist vote and their campaign donations. Since last year numerous media sources have reported on drastic increases hate crimes yet the soon to be leader of the most powerful nation on earth has not thought to condemn these acts instead he tweets insults at the Saturday Night Live cast in the middle of the night.

When you’re out Christmas shopping somewhere you’ll see a sign that says “You break it, you bought it.” It’s time for those who voted for Trump to own the racist remarks he’s made. It’s on you because you’ve given him a green light by knowingly casting your ballot in his favor. You are in part responsible for the hate crime spike because your support and your vote for Trump gave permission for racist speech and as we know from Roof having permission to speak such ugliness turns into ugly acts.

If you think you’re a good person and voted for Trump because he’s a Republican it’s time for you to step up and condemn his racism and that of many of his supporters. It’s time you prove you’re a good person by running the racists out of the Republican Party once and for all. While you’re at it you need call out those that think it’s OK to make fun of the disabled like Trump did on national television when he demeaned a journalist who offended his tender feelings. You also need to intervene when you see some misogynist in the work place grabbing a woman or sexually harassing her as Trump so proudly stated he did. You need to step up or you’re just another racist, misogynist and not a good person. So which are you?

Published in the Seguin Gazette December 16, 2016

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Price Proves a Dangerous Appointment

Georgia congressman and medical doctor Tom Price is Donald Trump's nominee to be Secretary for Health and Human Services (HHS). He's only known for his obsessive opposition to the Affordable Care Act so you can call him Doctor No. As disturbing as Price’s opposition to insuring that 20 million Americans continue to have access to health care is I’m even more concerned about his views on medical science.

As Secretary for Health and Human Services Price will set policy for a number of agencies including: the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – which does much of our basic biomedical and health-related, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – which among other things sets vaccine policy for this country, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – regulating pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food, diagnostics, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Dr. Tom Price belongs to a radical physician’s group called the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). The associate requires its members to sign a “declaration of independence” pledging that they will not work with Medicare, Medicaid, or even private insurance companies. According to AAPS Principles of Medical Ethics, it is moral and ethical to refuse to treat patients who have Medicare or Medicaid. Apparently that means Price doesn’t believe in medical care for those over 65 or disabled because Medicare is the only insurer those folks have access to in my experience.

In addition the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons is explicitly opposed to any form of government regulation of health care and considers the Food and Drug Administration to be unconstitutional. The association also inexplicably opposes organ donations.

The association publishes the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons which often promotes articles on such junk science as the thoroughly debunked connection between autism and vaccinations as well as those denying the link between HIV and AIDS, claims that abortions cause breast cancer. The reason this is important is that no other journal will publish these papers due to the consistently poor quality of the research. This journal seems to prefer bad science as a criterion for publication.

If this were just matter of who was going to speak and the Lions Club annual benefit or the high school graduation none of this would matter. Instead we’re talking about whether or not the man who will lead one of the most important scientific agencies in the country actually accepts the scientific method we all should have learned in grammar school or high school science class. If he doesn’t as appears from his membership in the fringe Association of American Physicians and Surgeons the American people are in danger.

If the proverb “Whoever keeps company with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm” is true then Price is also a quack and we’ll be the ones suffering harm so he’s the last person who should be in charge of the nation’s healthcare resources.

Published in the Seguin Gazette December 9, 2016

Don't Give Up on our Republic

At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation Ben Franklin is reported to have been asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” He replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Though many of us assume that since our Republic has withstood numerous trials since its founding it is certainly durable today. Recent research by Harvard lecturer Yascha Mounk and Roberto Stefan Foa, a political scientist at the University of Melbourne in Australia suggests that may not be the case. The November election results support the report’s findings.

This worrisome trend isn’t found just in the United States. In previously published work the researchers calculated that 57 percent of older Americans believed it was legitimate for the military to take over if the government were incompetent or failing to do its job, while 81 percent of millennials agreed. The same generational divide showed up in Europe, where 47 percent of older people thought a military takeover would be legitimate, while only 64 percent of millennials agreed.
Data from Freedom House, a watchdog organization that measures democracy and freedom around the world, shows that the number of countries classified as “free” rose steadily from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s. Many Latin American countries transitioned from military rule to democracy; after the end of the Cold War, much of Eastern Europe followed suit. And longstanding liberal democracies in North America, Western Europe and Australia seemed more secure than ever.
But for the last decade, Freedom House’s index has shown a decline in global freedom each year. Over the past 10 years, 105 countries, the United States among them, have seen a net decline, and only 61 have experienced a net improvement.
In other research published earlier this year it was found that Trump supporters tended to score high on a scale of authoritarian behavior and that fear would drive those who don’t typically score high on that scale to have their score increase.
Venezuela, once had the highest possible scores on Freedom House’s measures of political rights and democracy in the 1980s. Even then Venezuela already scored as deconsolidating on the test Mounk and Foa developed to ascertain the health of a democracy. Since then, Venezuelan democracy has declined significantly. In 1992 there was an attempted a coup against the democratically elected government. In 1998 Hugo Chávez was elected president on a wave of populist support, and he immediately passed a new constitution that consolidated his power. His government cracked down on dissent, imprisoned political opponents and shredded the country’s economy with a series of ill-planned economic overhauls.

Donald Trump ran on a populist platform, he evoked an authoritarian ideal saying “Only I can solve - the problem du jour”. Since his election he has called a meeting with some of the biggest media companies and threatened them in addition to his campaign promise to weaken their libel protections so they can be sued. Today he is threatening to prosecute Hillary Clinton if she pursues recounts of votes in swing states. His economic plans are reported by most economists as dangerous to downright tragic. I know people who have compared Trump to Mussolini or even Hitler but I think a more apt and recent model is likely Hugo Chávez.

I’m not ready to give up on our Republic and I hope you aren’t either but it’s going to take effort on the part of every citizen to restore our freedom are you ready to do your part?

Published in the Seguin Gazette December 2, 2016

A Reason to be Outraged

I understand why protesters chanting “Not My President” are upset, worried and angry. On the other hand it’s an unproductive exercise in that it won’t change behavior of our elected officials. That’s not to say they should “get over it” as Trump supporters would have it. Instead their actions should be directed at accomplishing specific goals.

One of those goals could be preventing the worst of Trump’s cabinet appointments from being confirmed by the Senate. Of those named so far his nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama for Attorney General certainly qualifies as one of the worst he’s likely to select.

The Attorney General is responsible for many areas of law and one is prosecuting Civil Rights cases. Sen. Sessions, once US Attorney in Alabama, has a history of racist behavior that is so bad he was once rejected by the Republican controlled Senate when nominated by Ronald Reagan for a federal judgeship. Thomas Figures, a black assistant US Attorney in Mobile, said that Sessions had repeatedly referred to him as “boy.” Sessions admitted to calling the Voting Rights Act a “piece of intrusive legislation.” Gerry Hebert, a former Department of Justice employee who worked in the Voting Section, told Congress that Sessions had called the NAACP and ACLU “Communist-inspired” and “un-American,” and labeled the white civil-rights lawyer Jim Blacksher “a disgrace to his race.”

Sessions was elected to the US Senate in 1996 and hasn’t shown any effort to reform. He frequently earned an “F” rating from civil-rights groups like the NAACP and praised the Supreme Court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act in 2013, saying, “if you go to Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, people aren’t being denied the vote because of the color of their skin.” If ongoing voting discrimination wasn’t a problem in his home state of Alabama they wouldn’t have tried to close 31 DMV offices, mostly in majority-black counties, after instituting strict photo-ID requirements to vote. We don’t need a man who doesn’t believe in the goals of the Voting Rights Act in charge of enforcing civil rights.

So instead of lashing out and expending energy to no avail we should listen to former congressional staffers who agree that the best way to get our legislator’s attention and cause them to act as you wish is to call their local offices and speak to the local staff member about your concern. That means we should all be calling our own US Senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, urging them to reject Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. They both have offices in San Antonio. Sen. Cruz’s office number is (210) 340-2885 and Sen. Cornyn’s number is (210) 224-7485.

If you truly want to make a difference, calling those offices and getting your like minded family and friends to do the same is the most likely way to accomplish this worthy goal. Keep those numbers handy because Donald Trump is likely to offer other poor choices for important cabinet posts and you’ll want to call our Senators about them too.

Published in the Seguin Gazette November 25, 2016

Progressive Agenda Still Marches On

Don’t let anyone tell you that Trump’s win is a sign that the Republican Party’s agenda is broadly supported. Clinton had over 800,000 more votes but unfortunately they weren’t cast in the “swing states” so Trump got their electoral college votes. Trump won in those areas due to voter frustration with the status quo, especially in rural areas, that he recognized and spoke to. As Bill Clinton famously said 20 years ago “It’s the economy stupid”. Some voters were turned off by his mocking a handicapped journalist or his bragging about getting away with sexual assault but others were just so fed up with an economy that isn’t working for them they simply ignored anything but his promise to make their lives better. Unfortunately we Democrats chose a candidate who, while I believe she deeply cares about all of us, didn’t know how to articulate a message of hope and understanding.

Here are a few examples that show America is moving toward a more progressive future regardless of who just won the presidential election. Residents of California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada all passed measures legalizing recreational marijuana which will now be legal under state law in eight states with over one-fifth of the US population. Arizona voters rejected legalization in a close call of 52-48; which likely means advocates will try again soon since public opinion continues to trend against prohibition. Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota passed or expanded access to medical marijuana, making it available in three-fifths of the US.

Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington elected to raise their state minimum wages to at least $12 an hour by 2020, with Washington’s going up to $13.50, and indexed to inflation thereafter. In Arizona and Washington the same measures also mandated employers offer paid medical leave which has been part of a growing progressive push in recent years.

Virginia voters rejected an effort by the Republican legislature to enshrine its anti-union “right-to-work” for less law into the state constitution so there is hope a future Democratic legislature can repeal the law.

Missouri was one of a dozen states with no limit on direct financial contributions to candidates this year voters chose to impose such limits in a landslide. Voters in South Dakota made it the first state to give voters campaign-donation vouchers to give to candidates in an effort to level the playing field and empower grassroots campaigns, and also imposed other campaign finance restrictions. Texas really needs to pass both of those measures if we really want government “of the people, by the people, for the people” instead of corporate control of our legislature and executive offices.

Maine voters chose to make theirs the first state in the nation to adopt instant-runoff voting, where voters rank their candidates in order of preference, and last-place finishers are eliminated sequentially until someone has a majority, with the goal of preventing a candidate from winning simply because multiple opponents split the vote. Had that been in place in Texas in 2006 Rick Perry might not have won the Governor’s election that year.

And voters in Florida rejected a sneaky bill that sounded like it supported home solar panel installation but in fact did just the opposite.

I’m confident that in the long run we’ll move forward on these and other important issues. 2016 is a setback but not a defeat. Be ready to counter attack.

Published in the Seguin Gazette November 18, 2016

America's nightmare now begins

And so begins the national nightmare, my daughter and 20 million other Americans will likely lose their health insurance. I have friends who think this is a good idea because their health insurance premiums went up and they blame it on the Affordable Care Act. While it may be true in part since under the prior model they had the benefit of getting deep discounts because their insurer didn’t have to cover people who weren’t born as healthy much of those increases were due to the continuing rise in the cost of health care especially drug costs so they’ll be really surprised when their insurance premiums hardly change.

The Republican mantra on the Affordable Care Act has been “Repeal and Replace” but they’ve had four years to offer a replacement and instead simply tried to repeal it 70+ times. People who have survived cancer and other severe illnesses will once again have to fear losing their health insurance because of lifetime caps. Parents like me will worry that their college age children won’t be able to get health insurance they can afford because there will no longer be the requirement that those children can stay on their parent’s plans until age 26.

We all know, including Clinton and Obama, that the Affordable Care Act is flawed but that’s what happens in a system with 535 cooks in the kitchen. It’s important to get dinner started cooking anyway and adjust the seasoning on the fly otherwise it won’t be ready when it’s needed. Clinton had numerous ideas for improving the program, Republicans not so much.

Many of the talking heads are suggesting that Clinton didn’t speak to the needs of the while working class especially those in rural areas. That may very well be true, she certainly didn’t speak to the concerns of many millennials and the progressives in the Democratic Party who supported Bernie Sanders. I’m especially frustrated with my friends who said they agreed with Bernie but thought Hillary had a better chance to win. They said she’s been attacked by the Republicans for 30 years and nothing stuck. No she was never convicted, or tried or even indicted but in the court of public opinion she was trashed and that is what voters remembered. Some of my high school classmates believe without any evidence that she and her husband are responsible for dozens of murders. That’s what 30 years of Republican attacks have done to her reputation.

There is no question that this was the year of the anti-establishment candidate and we in the Democratic Party had the chance to choose one but instead selected a middle of the road candidate and we got a middle of the road performance. Don’t blame me for any of what happens over the next four years I proudly voted for Bernie.

Published in the Seguin Gazette November 11, 2016

Armed Protesters Handled with Kid Gloves

Late last week the Bundy brothers and five of their anarchist brethren were found not guilty of conspiracy in their armed occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon last year. We may never fully understand how such a crime can go unpunished since there was live television coverage of who was involved and what was done. Federal prosecutors are at a loss to explain it but I suspect that the charge of conspiracy to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs was the problem.
The trial lasted for six weeks that alone tells me that the prosecution got deep into technical issues of the charges given that no one disputed that the men were there so there was no effort to break alibis or use forensics to prove their presence. It would seem the jury viewed the term conspiracy very concretely and since the Bundy gang didn’t verbally discuss preventing wildlife refuge staff from entering their offices there was no conspiracy.

One of the Bundy gang testified that they organized some friends and supporters telling them we’re going to take over the wildlife refuge for awhile until the feds give up and turn it over to the state of Oregon to manage and we’re going bring our guns so they don’t arrest us right away. How would you as an employee react if you found dozens of armed yahoos at your work place and they stopped you and demanded you identify yourself and checked you for weapons? Are you going to just continue on to your desk and start work? I don’t think so.

Not only were they found not guilty of conspiracy; the judge instructed the jury that without conspiracy they couldn’t find the gang members guilty of weapons charges either. How do you think a bunch of armed Latinos would be treated here in Texas if they decided to take over the Alamo and chased out the park rangers? Those folks would be lucky to walk out alive, let alone walk out of a courtroom as free men.

The saddest part of this farce is that while the trial was going on hundreds of unarmed protesters in North Dakota were being arrested by police in military body armor carrying automatic weapons. The peaceful protesters supporting the Standing Rock Sioux weren’t violating federal laws or attempting to take over a federal facility. The protesters are there to prevent the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline from destroying sacred burial sites, prayer sites and culturally significant artifacts. Just as important to the members of the Standing Rock Sioux they are trying to prevent contamination of the Missouri River which is the only source of safe water in the area.

The Sioux have an 1851 treaty supporting their claims while the Bundy’s had nothing. It remains to be seen how the protest will be resolved and how the arrests will be adjudicated but if there is any justice in this world it will turn out even better for the Standing Rock Sioux than what the Bundy’s got away with.

Published in the Seguin Gazette November 4, 2016

Rigged Election Just Another Trump Falsehood

Whether or not you agree with Mr. Trump on immigration, the economy or just about anything else there is one thing that should frighten every American whether a patriot or not. Trump’s repeated and apparently serious remarks that he will only accept the validity of the election results on November 8 if he is the winner ought to put fear in the heart of us all. His claims that the election is already rigged against him without a single reference to why he believes that or offering a sliver of evidence should cause anyone who believes in Democracy and the peaceful transition of power to disavow him.

Confidence in the validity of election results is the cornerstone of our democracy and while Texas Republicans claim, also without evidence, that the only way to insure the integrity of the vote is to require a limited number of photo ID’s in order to vote they haven’t offered any evidence of voter impersonation fraud either. In fact, as reported by the Washington Post, there have only been 31 credible cases of voter impersonation fraud since 2000 with over 1 billion votes cast in that time. Even the Republican Secretary of State in Ohio, Jon Husted, who is on record pushing the voter impersonation fraud story, has admonished Trump for has baseless claims.

Not only is there no evidence that voter impersonation fraud is wide spread as Trump asserts it would be a remarkably inefficient way to steal a presidential election or even a gubernatorial election. To insure a change of result in Texas someone would have to motivate and coordinate hundreds of thousands individuals to vote twice or 50,000 to vote 5 times each. Now can you honestly say that a conspiracy of that magnitude could possibly be kept quiet? If you can, I’ll send you a roll of tin foil because you need more than just the tin foil hat you’re already wearing.

As for computer hacking to swing the election that too is a bridge too far since such a conspiracy would require simultaneous intrusions into the voting systems in a dozen swing states most of which like Texas use different systems or at least different versions in various counties. Then because most are never connected to the internet and therefore not able to be remotely accessed hacking would require conspirators on the ground at many counties in many states. Again it is unimaginable that such a conspiracy could be kept quiet.

Since we should therefore be comforted that our electoral process is secure from perfidy and anyone running for office or leading a campaign should know it; the only purpose a presidential candidate of any party can have for making such baseless claims is to cause the chaos and disruption that would start a civil war.

Most of you have seen pictures of Syrian or Iraqi cities and read about the millions of refugees and hundreds of thousands of dead civilians there. Imagine major cities in the U.S. torn apart on the basis of false accusations of a stolen election and consider the damage such careless remarks could do here. Trump’s comments bigoted comments on various ethnic and religious minorities suggest he’s preparing to offer scapegoats just like Europe once did to Jews and Gypsies.

I had planned to write a positive column on the benefits of Democratic Party policies but “The Donald’s” unacceptable claims are too dangerous to ignore.

Published in the Seguin Gazette October 28, 2016

Voting Matters

Some people vote for a candidate and some vote against one, other people look at the candidates and don’t bother to vote at all. That last group is the one I find most disturbing because they aren’t taking advantage of this nation’s heritage and the sacrifices of those who have gone before to secure their right to choose their leaders.

The excuses for not voting are many, including: “I just don’t have time”, “I forgot” and “My vote doesn’t matter”. The first two would seem to be a matter of time management but in reality all three are forms of “government doesn’t affect me”. If those who don’t bother or get around to voting understood just how much our government affects our lives I suspect plenty of them would be motivated.

I wonder how many of the 20 million people who now have health insurance but didn’t before the passage of the Affordable Care Act think who runs our government doesn’t matter. I wonder how many of the 750,000 Texans who have been denied the opportunity to enroll in Medicaid due to the intransigence of the Republican leadership of this state think who runs our government doesn’t matter.

In 2011, Texas cut public school funding putting tens of thousands of teachers out of a job and more importantly damaging the education of our children by over-crowding their classrooms. My daughter, who just graduated from high school in June, remembers how things changed because the Republican leadership refused to use the “Rainy Day Fund” that had been saved for just such an occasion. She’s very clear that those running our government affect our daily lives. My daughter will definitely vote in November and she’ll vote for the candidates who will work to make her life and the lives of her friends and family better.

Donald Trump’s claims to the contrary, those that didn’t have a job from 2001 to 2008 are much more likely to have a job today. People who had to work two jobs back then to make ends meet are 27% less likely to need to do that now. Those same workers on average earn more per hour and work an hour less per week than they did 20 years ago. More jobs were created during just President Obama’s first term in office than during George W. Bush’s two terms. Obama’s second term isn’t over yet and there have already been 8 times as many jobs created during his time in office than the entire time Bush was President. That also means the Affordable Care Act hasn’t killed jobs regardless of what our Republican officeholders would like you to believe.

Whether it is health care, education, or employment chances are your life or the lives of your loved ones has been affected by those who control our government. Your vote does matter and it matters to you and the ones you love. Be sure to exercise your right to vote. Be sure to vote for the candidates who have a record of making lives better for us all. I’m sure you know who they are by now.

 Published in the Seguin Gazette October 14, 2016

Introducing Tim Kaine

Whether or not you watched the Vice Presidential debate this week there’s a lot about Tim Kaine you probably don’t know. Like Hillary Clinton while Kaine was still in college he began working to make other peoples’ lives better. Kaine, a Jesuit educated Catholic, spent a year in El Progreso, Honduras working with Jesuit missionaries. Kaine ran the school which taught carpentry and welding. He expanded enrollment by recruiting new students in the village. He has often said that his time in Honduras helped him answer the question “What do I do with my life?”. Kaine says he learned from those missionaries that faith is about more than words or doctrine — it’s about action and that lesson turned his life toward public service. Kaine is also fluent in Spanish as a result of his work in Honduras.
Upon graduating from Harvard Law School, Kaine began 17 years of work representing people who were denied housing due to their race or disability. Among other things he sued Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company for redlining, in other words they were denying home loans to people of color just for being people of color. Tim Kaine was also a founder of the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness.
While serving as a Richmond city councilman and later as mayor Kaine earned a reputation as a conciliator who brought the city together. He was chosen as mayor by other mostly black city council members due to his efforts to improve the lot of their constituents. Rather than take the easy road of past mayors who viewed the job as largely ceremonial and let the city manager handle day to day operations Kaine approached it as a full time job. Among other accomplishments he worked to create a magnet school and opened three other schools during his tenure. Tim Kaine was also instrumental in an effort that "won broad political support" for reducing the city’s homicide rate by 55% during his tenure in office.
Kaine later ran for and won a term as Lt. Governor, then won two terms a Governor of Virginia where he shepherded funding for new public schools, passing the largest bond package for higher education construction in Virginia history. Kaine was also a forceful advocate for expanded pre-Kindergarten access. During his tenure as governor, Virginia earned Forbe’s magazine rating as the best state for business. At the same time Virginia became a one of the country’s best places to raise a child.
As Governor, Kaine used his executive authority to restore voting rights to thousands of formerly incarcerated individuals. Later as a United States senator, he helped introduce the Voting Rights Advancement Act to fight voter suppression and repair the damage done by the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision, which gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act and disempowered millions of voters across the country. In the Senate Kaine co-sponsored the Protecting Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act to overturn the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision and restore contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. He also introduced legislation to provide women access to affordable, FDA-approved, over-the-counter birth control pills.

Like Clinton Kaine has made a life of fighting for the less fortunate, for civil rights and to make everyone’s lives better, we deserve his leadership as Vice-President of the United States.

Published in the Seguin Gazette October 7, 2016

Review of Texas Voter ID and alternatives

Last week Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton were rebuked by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos for continuing efforts to suppress minority votes. In 2011 the Texas legislature passed SB 14 which is widely considered the most onerous voter ID bill in the nation. According to that legislation a photo ID is required to cast a ballot in person and there are only 7 acceptable forms of government issued ID. State university or college IDs are not among those listed as acceptable and there are about 50 counties in Texas without a single office that issues an acceptable photo ID.

At least for the election in November if you don’t have any of the 7 photo IDs, you can sign a sworn statement that there is a reason why you don’t have any of those IDs and show one of the following alternatives: a valid voter registration certificate, a certified birth certificate, a current utility bill, a government check, a paystub or bank statement that includes your name and address or a government document with your name and an address (original required if it contains a photograph).
In June of 2013, Congressman Marc Veasey sued the state of Texas claiming that SB 14 is discriminatory and the suit took three years to wind its way through courts. In July of this year a majority of the 15 judges sitting on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal, the most conservative federal appeals court in the nation, agreed that the Texas Voter ID law violates the Voting Rights Act by disenfranchising minority voters. The Appeals court referred the lawsuit back to the federal judge presiding over the case to work out a solution with the state.

The presiding judge then worked with both the state and the parties suing to craft an acceptable way to loosen the restrictions on acceptable forms of ID and inform potential voters of the changes in time for the election. The state agreed to spend $2.5 million to educate voters. Unfortunately the state chose to ignore the judge’s ruling on the settlement and used language that suggested little or nothing had changed when in fact there are now many alternative documents that are acceptable if the voter doesn’t have one of the 7 government issued photo IDs.

Weeks later Judge Gonzales Ramos found Texas’ voter education campaign is using misleading language which is likely to discourage eligible voters from going to the polls. The judge then issued a ruling instructing Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Paxton to use exactly the language she provided without alteration. In a fit of pique Ken Paxton has appealed to the Supreme Court so he can continue to waste taxpayer money, $3.5 million to date.

This election if you don’t have one of the 7 forms of photo ID listed in the original bill just bring one of the alternatives like your electric or water bill and sign the affidavit so you too can exercise your right to vote for the candidates of your choice. And if you think that’s the way it should be from now on; be sure to vote for Hillary Clinton so she can appoint justices to the Supreme Court who recognize that your right to vote is what makes America great.

Published in the Seguin Gazette September 30, 2016

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Hullabaloo over protest hypocritical

I’m not a football fan so it took me a few days to catch onto the hoopla surrounding Colin Kaepernick’s choice to not stand at attention for the national anthem. Then I thought it would blow over and people would move on to more important matters. Weeks later I still see conservative outrage that a man would exercise his constitutional right to non-violent protest of injustice.

All the anger Kaepernick’s act has generated is deeply disturbing considering that the argument I hear most often from conservatives is that he has behaved disrespectfully toward our troops. Did you watch a game on television this weekend? Did you stand with hand over heart while the national anthem was played and the flag presented? If you watched a game and didn’t stand for the anthem weren’t you just as disrespectful?

How could anything be more disrespectful to our troops than sending them into a needless and illegal war in Iraq? Isn’t it disrespectful to our troops to say it is too expensive to provide those injured in war with the medical care and support services they need like Senator Jeff Sessions did in 2014?

Looking at it another way, the oath of enlistment our troops take upon entering service says: I “solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed ...”. Since the First Amendment of the United States Constitution says “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech…” isn’t Kaepernick’s choice to kneel instead of stand a constitutionally protected act which is what our troops have sworn to defend? How is that disrespectful?

If you really must take what goes on at football games so seriously then wasn’t it incredibly disrespectful for fans at several NFL games last Sunday booed with President Obama’s recorded tribute 9-11 tribute was played? If you’re going to call out Kaepernick that shouldn’t you be calling out those fans too? Oh wait, it seems that the same folks calling out Kaepernick are the fans booing our president.

When the Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks said of Pres. George W. Bush “we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas” they were called treasonous and received death threats. If you had a problem with the Dixie Chicks please explain why those booing President Obama aren’t treasonous too. The irony is that those doing the booing were also the ones who stopped buying Dixie Chick music.

We should be proud that Kaepernick and Maines felt comfortable making their protest; in many countries such acts could have cost them their lives or at the very least their freedom. Isn’t that what our troops fight for?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Snake Oil and Trump University

On the radio I recently heard that the for profit technical school ITT Technical Institute has closed its doors; blaming the shutdown on a recent move by the U.S. Education Department to ban the company from enrolling new students who use federal financial aid. In another statement , they called it over-regulation. That’s a claim I often hear from conservatives, too much regulation is what they say prevents job creation.

I’m fairly sure that old time snake oil salesmen said the same thing when the FDA was given enforcement powers putting many of them out of business. Of course that claim is true in the strictest sense, because when our government regulates health and safety causing a business to stop selling its unsafe or ineffective product someone does lose a job but then those who aren’t harmed or defrauded benefit and reputable businesses prosper.

In the case of ITT Technical Institute the Department of Education has been under pressure to reduce student loan defaults. The Department of Education investigated and found that a high percentage of those who graduated from such schools were unable to find employment and that the placement assistance promised was either inadequate or non-existent. This led to those graduates either being unemployed or going back to the same kind of low paying burger flipper job they had borrowed $30,000 or more to try to escape.

ITT Technical Institute like so many other for profit education companies were modern day snake oil salesmen and like their earlier counterparts will complain loudly that have been unfairly maligned and that their employees have been put out of work. Sadly the students will have no one to advocate for them as they attempt to carry on with their lives many still owing tens of thousands of dollars and for the current students not even a worthless diploma to show for it.

This ITT Technical Institute debacle is remarkably similar to the Trump University scam wherein prospective students were promised they would learn from real estate investment experts hand picked by Donald Trump and materials prepared or at least reviewed by him. What they got were people hired to present material many of whom had no familiarity with real estate investing prior to reading the material in preparation to give the class. Donald Trump has been sued in numerous states as well as being investigated by the attorneys general of several others. Trump famously or infamously called the presiding judge in one of the pending cases biased because he’s a Mexican, which is a lie.

The Trump University scandal doesn’t just involve the presidential candidate. It also includes our own Governor Greg Abbot, then Attorney General of Texas, who took a $35,000 campaign contribution and Pam Bondi, currently Attorney General of Florida, who took a $25,000 contribution from Trump at around the times each decided to drop their respective investigations into fraud at Trump University.

There’s apparently plenty of tar to go around yet we don’t hear much of this in the media. This is exactly the same kind of crony capitalism that rank and file members of both parties are so frustrated with. So message to Republicans: Trump is not the answer!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A "miracle" that never really was

The “Texas Miracle” is no more, in fact it never really was. Texas women are suffering high rates of death in child birth or shortly thereafter and our economy has soured with the downturn in oil and natural gas prices.

Recent reports show maternal death rates have doubled in recent years making Texas the most deadly state in which to give birth. In fact if we were a stand alone nation we’d be worse than every other developed country. There is as yet no definitive answer to why more Texas women die in child birth or for associated reasons but it’s not hard to imagine that the fact that Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the nation might have something to do with it. You can thank our Republican leadership for that since our governor and state legislature have refused to accept Medicaid expansion even though the federal government will cover 90% of the cost.

There is also a likely connection to our Republican led government cutting funding to Planned Parenthood and other providers of women’s health care. There is certainly a connection to the increased number of births covered by Medicaid.  

When running for governor in 2014 Greg Abbott promised continued growth of the economy and that we would be number one in the United States. He has failed miserably; Texas has fallen from third in the nation to twenty first. Republicans have taken credit for a strong economy in Texas for the last 20 years which they claimed was due to a “business friendly” read low tax, low service government. No change in either taxes or services have occurred, the rest of the country continues to recover from the 2007 Wall Street implosion and yet Texas’ economy is well on its way to the bottom.

When Greg Abbott sought the governorship in 2014 he said he didn’t want Texas to be like California, well he got is wish. MassachusettsOregon, Delaware, Colorado and California are ranked as the top five economies in the nation by Governing magazine. The one thing they all have in common is Democratic leadership in the governor’s mansion and the legislature. Some of those states have raised the minimum wage, some have increased spending on infrastructure, they’ve all accepted Medicaid expansion. Remember that expanding Medicaid not only means more people get health care it also means more people are employed providing health care and those people spend money and buy houses.

In short our Republican leadership has taken the wrong road and all of Texas is suffering for it. We have an opportunity in November to start cleaning house. The only way that happens if we all vote so take a family member, take a neighbor or take a friend and if anyone tells you that their vote doesn’t make a difference or they’re all alike remind them that we could be growing like California instead of tanking like Kansas.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Republicans should know you can't have it both ways

As traffic and the number of school age children increase cities all over Texas struggle to address the needs of their citizens. Down the road in Cibolo the elected leaders believe that in order for the city to develop in an economically sustainable way it needs extend FM 1103 which currently runs from I-35 to FM 78 so it goes all the way to I-10. In fact this idea has been around since at least 2006 but state funding hasn’t been available and city leaders have been told it will be at least another 20 years if then before money might be available.

Rather than give up and wait a generation or more for the state to find the money Cibolo’s city council decided to investigate the possibility of partnering with a toll road operation to build the extension. Now some members of the community are up in arms over the idea of tolls and spurious claims of using eminent domain to allow an outside company to as they claim “take property a bargain basement prices”.

I was a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission that reviewed the cities options for financing the extension and recommended that working with a toll operator be explored. I was one of the skeptics on the committee and while I’m no fan of toll roads we agreed that there aren’t many options to finance this project. I reluctantly agreed that the city council should explore a toll road so it can be built.

Now here’s what I have trouble making sense out of, many of the folks objecting the loudest to the idea of a toll road are also staunch low tax Republican voters. When you are a low tax state you must also be a low service state in order to balance the budget. In Texas the city can’t even legally raise taxes to the level necessary to pay for the road and still maintain its other responsibilities. Rather than blaming city council members for taking an action they don’t like; these folks ought to be calling our state representative John Kuempel and state senator Donna Campbell to tell them to raise taxes enough to do the job that state governments are supposed to do.

While they’re at it they should also remind our state legislators that funding public education is required by the Texas constitution and they’re doing a pitiful job of that too. The legislature still hasn’t fully restored the funding cuts from they made in 2011 when thousands of Texas teachers were fired and more kids were jammed into each classroom.

Republicans are funny; they don’t want to pay taxes but they expect to get high quality services like good roads and great teachers. Most of us know that you get what you pay for; I just wish Republicans understood that.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Trump's Ethical Dilemna

"Every Republican nominee since Richard Nixon, who at one time was under an audit, has released their tax returns" according to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. No major party nominee has failed to release tax returns since at least 1976 so what’s holding up Donald Trump? Perhaps it’s because they’ll show he isn’t the billionaire he claims to be. Perhaps it will simply show Trump has not made the millions of dollars of charitable contributions he claims to have made. Or more troubling it may be due to the connections to various Russian oligarchs whose wealth Trump relies on to fund his many ventures since no U.S. bank will lend to him. Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets, we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Trump adviser Carter Page has extensive dealings with Gazprom, the Russian state-run energy company with strong ties to Putin and his inner circle. Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort consulted for former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich, a key Putin ally, until his ouster in February 2014. There’s even a ledger, recently found in Ukraine, that was maintained by Yanukovich’s staff listing $12 million as fees to Manafort.

What will Trump do if Putin makes it known that he wants to complete the annexation of Crimea or perhaps all of Ukraine and if Trump protests Putin’s buddies will cutoff funding for Trump’s projects? That’s a question that concerns ethics lawyers who worked for President George W. Bush, presidential candidates Bob Dole, John Kerry, and Mitt Romney, among others. They all agree Trump would have more potential business conflicts than any prior president.

Trump’s conflicts of interest aren’t limited to Russian investors, he’s invested in 500+ companies around the world. Many are limited liability corporations related to real estate holdings, including properties in Panama, Istanbul, Mumbai, Puerto Rico and Dubai. How would Trump behave if one of those countries says they’ll nationalize his local assets if the U.S. doesn’t relent on some issue or give them preferential trade treatment?

Trump has said many times that his children and executives would manage his businesses instead of selling them off. "This is certainly going to present an unprecedented ethical dilemma if Trump wins," said Kenneth Gross, a partner at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, who provided legal assistance to several presidential candidates during their campaigns. "He can't just get amnesia. He's stuck with the knowledge of what he owns."

The Donald has waffled when describing his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump claims he's never spoken to Putin yet in 2014 Trump said he did. According to Trump, Putin "could not have been nicer" and has praised him as a canny leader who he respects. In the last week his daughter Ivanka posted on social media a photo of her and Putin’s girlfriend out sightseeing together.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Execution of Wood unjustified

Supporters of the death penalty usually claim that it’s OK because only the worst killers are executed. In Texas that isn’t always the case and I’m not even considering the questionable convictions using tainted evidence or prosecutorial misconduct. No, I’m talking about what will happen in about two weeks. On August 24th Texas is scheduled to execute a man who even the prosecution says didn’t kill anyone. If you think he’s guilty of some other heinous crime you’d be wrong.

How is that legal, you might ask. Texas criminal code includes something referred to as the “law of parties” wherein all those party to a crime are guilty to the same degree for whatever happens even if they didn’t actually participate in the act. In this case Jeff Wood was the getaway driver for a convenience store robbery in which the robber shot and killed the clerk. Wood wasn’t even in the building at the time of the crime. The actual shooter was executed more than a decade ago and Wood has been in prison for the last 18 years.

In addition to the question of culpability, there’s also the question of Wood’s competence to stand trial. The trial was initially postponed because a jury deemed Wood incompetent to stand trial. Wood has borderline intellectual functioning and a history of emotional issues. 

And then there’s the wildly speculative and inflammatory testimony of Dr. James Grigson, the infamous forensic psychiatrist known by many, including his peers, as “Dr. Death,” for testifying in nearly every death penalty case he appeared in that the defendant would present a future menace unless executed. It’s amazing that Grigson was even allowed to testify given that he’d been expelled from the American Psychiatric Association and its Texas counterpart for his unethical behavior long before he testified against Wood.

No one, not even his family, is suggesting that Wood wasn’t involved in the commission of a crime but if your support for the death penalty is due to your need for retribution how does executing Jeff Wood satisfy that need? If you consider yourself Christian; how does “an eye for an eye” square with the Christ’s teaching on forgiveness? If your view is that “it’s the law”; just remember that slavery was once the law of the land and in 1940’s Germany gassing Jews was legal.

Recent research shows that the victim’s families don’t feel the closure so often imagined when the culprit is executed. So the questions are: Why are we executing this man? What purpose does it serve?

To quote Gov. Greg Abbott: “Human life is not a commodity or an inconvenience. It is our most basic right. Without it, we have no other rights.”

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Textbook Peddling Nonsense

"Mexican American Heritage," is the first textbook on Mexican Americans ever included in a list of pre-approved instructional materials for Texas public schools. The authors must have been fans of Donald Trump before it was cool because they attribute poverty, drugs, crime, non-assimilation, and exploitation to Mexican Americans and link the ethnic group to illegal immigration. Apparently the history books’ authors don’t understand enough history to realize that many Mexican American families can trace their roots in Texas to a time when it was part of Mexico. In case I’m not being the clear, the border moved not the people.

In another part of the book they claim “Studies have shown that the Mexican American community suffers from a significant gap in education levels, employment, wages, housing, and other issues relating to poverty that persist through the second, third, and fourth generations". These are the same insults used against every other ethnic group that has ever set foot on this continent since the 1700s. Irish Catholics, Italians and Poles are just a few of the groups who have suffered such ethnic slurs over the last 300 or so years.

As it turns out the publisher of this travesty of a textbook is owned in part by Republican activist and former State Board of Education (SBOE) member Cynthia Dunbar. This is the same woman who questioned whether public education was even constitutional. Apparently she shares Donald Trump’s aversion to reading our founding documents since the Texas Constitution states: “A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.”

There are numerous like minded members of the SBOE still in office, one of them represents our district. Ken Mercer has supported textbooks and curricula that even other conservative groups like the Fordham Institute consider bad. Here’s what they had to say “Indeed, both in public hearings and press interviews, the leaders of the State Board of Education made no secret of their evangelical Christian-right agenda, promising to inculcate biblical principles, patriotic values, and American exceptionalism. And politics do figure heavily in the resulting TEKS. . . . Complex historical issues are obscured with blatant politicizing throughout the document. Biblical influences on America’s founding are exaggerated, if not invented. The complicated but undeniable history of separation between church and state is flatly dismissed.”

Mercer also claims that evolution is a hoax. Even the conservative Catholic Church has accepted the science of evolution since the 1950s and Pope Francis has reiterated that position recently. I spent 12 years in Catholic schools and well remember the high school biology lessons including evolution.

Now here’s the good part, you have an opportunity this November to retire Ken Mercer by voting for Rebecca Bell-Metereau. She’s a professor at Texas State University in San Marcos, her daughters went to public schools here in Texas. Bell-Metereau knows education and what we can do to make it better for all Texas children. If you don’t have a single other reason to vote in November improving the education of the next generation of Texans by replacing a reactionary with a professional educator should be more than enough.

Friday, August 5, 2016

A Contrast Between Two Candidates

As of Tuesday both major parties have officially nominated their candidates for President of the United States. There couldn’t be a greater contrast between the two people. The Republican Party has nominated a man who has handed a millions by his father and used it to build immense wealth including interests in over 500 companies. The Democratic Party selected a woman who grew up middle class and upon entering law school began a life in which public service has always been a part.

While still in law school Hillary Clinton gathered the information and provided the reports that led to legislation requiring that disabled children get equal access to public education. While still in law school she documented segregated academies in the south that were illegally getting public funds and tax breaks which led Richard Nixon’s administration to stop the practice.

Hillary Clinton has not only been a law school professor and a successful lawyer but she’s also been an advocate for public education, improving access to health care in rural areas and for children of low income families to name a few of her accomplishments. As Secretary of State she was able to triple the number of poor Africans able to get AIDS drugs through programs paid for by our tax dollars without spending any additional money by arranging to buy generic drugs at one third the price.

While Trump has thrown a few parties and donated some money to worthy causes, all indications are that it wasn’t nearly as much as he pretends. Since he won’t release his tax returns like every other presidential candidate for over a generation we don’t know what he has really done or even if he’s really the billionaire he claims to be.

Hillary Clinton has succeeded in working with people who had no reason to want to work with her by finding common ground as exemplified by her work to pass legislation by working with Tom Delay. She recognized that he was an adoptive parent and might be sensitive to the needs of children in foster care. They worked together to pass legislation that significantly increased the number of children adopted out of the foster care system which has impacted the lives of tens of thousands of young people over the last 20 years.

Donald Trump divorced two wives during that time and now wants you to believe he’ll never let you down.

Hillary Clinton's lifelong dedication to public service is absolutely astounding. As Bill Clinton said in his speech at the DNC convention in Philadelphia, “Very few politicians have ever made as much positive change in their entire political career as she did before she was 30”. I’m anxious to see the positive change she can bring about as President of the United States.

Friday, July 29, 2016

GOP’s message based on fear

By now you probably know that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for President of the United States. Monday at the Republican convention had the theme “Make America Safe Again”. It was all about fear, fear of others, fear of job loss, fear of loss of status.

Former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani took the podium and claimed Americans have reason to live in fear but that’s just a lie since crime statistics show that the country is safer than it has been in 20 years and police officers have also been safer over the last 5 years than over the prior 20 years.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke told attendees that the peaceful protesters of Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street are anarchists and the crowd cheered. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that in other venues Clarke has called the Black Lives Matter movement “black slime” that “needs to be eradicated from the American society and the American culture,” and a “subversive movement” that seeks to overthrow the government. That’s really funny for someone like Clarke who recently accepted the “ Constitutional Sheriff of the Year” award from the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, an anti-government group that promotes the idea that county sheriffs are the highest law enforcement officers in the country and thus have the power to defy federal laws that they believe are unconstitutional. In his acceptance speech , Clarke declared that “government” was the “common enemy” of the “patriots” in the room. In a radio interview he said that “on an everyday basis, to me, federal government is a bigger threat” than terrorism.

Rep. Mike McCaul, Congressman from Texas promoted fear of immigrants. So did Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions who also claimed that immigration is the reason that wages are down and jobs are scarce. He went on to say Trump will build the wall and stop immigration.

Though not a speaker at the convention Congressman Steve King of Iowa was on the set of one of the cable channels covering the convention and claimed that western civilization, which he defined as Europe and the United States, contributed more to civilization than any other subgroup. I wonder if he understands what China or Egypt were like while Europeans were still living in squalor. Mr. King either has no grasp of history and geography or he is a racist, you decide.

Rick Perry said “making America great again starts with taking care of our veterans”. The problem with this statement is that it is his party which has prevented increasing the VA budget to adequately provide the care our veterans deserve because, according the Alabama Congressman Jeff Sessions, it’s an entitlement we can’t afford.

Arkansas Congressman Tom Cotton blamed Hillary Clinton for all he perceives wrong with American foreign policy without once mentioning his traitorous letter to the Iranian leadership in which he attempted to undermine the nuclear deal President Obama signed with them.

Former Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell, Rudy Giuliani and Tom Cotton all blamed Hillary Clinton for the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi even though it was Republicans who blocked funding for more security at our embassies.

I don’t know how conservatives can stand to live in such constant fear especially when their fears are baseless. If they want something to be afraid of they should consider global climate change, but that would mean upsetting coal mining operators and oil industry executives.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Elections Tied to Post Oak Dump

The proposed Post Oak Dump is an ongoing controversy in Guadalupe County similar to one in Maverick County near Eagle Pass over a coal mine operated by Dos Republicas Coal Partnership. Both projects require permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). In both situations the citizens of the area have brought up significant concerns over damage to local water resources.

In Maverick County, despite long opposition from local residents and environmental groups like the Sierra Club, Dos Republicas has received TCEQ permits to expand its operation and to discharge waste-polluted storm water and mine seepage into nearby Elm Creek, which feeds the Rio Grande — the source of drinking water for many Maverick County residents — and Hediondo Creek, a recreational fishing stream.

In Guadalupe County, the fight to prevent Post Oak Dump from acquiring a permit from TCEQ continues because residents fear that storm water runoff will become contaminated by the refuse buried there and carry those contaminants into the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer recharge zone thereby adversely affecting drinking water in the area.

Whether project opponents in Maverick County or Guadalupe County realize it these fights are related to who we elect as Texas Governor and as our state legislators. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is run by appointees of the governor and his views on environmental protection versus the interests of business have a tremendous effect on the decisions made by the agency. As Maverick County residents have recently learned business interests outweigh safe, clean water needs in the minds of TCEQ decision makers. Of course that’s not surprising when you consider that Gov. Abbott leads a party whose state platform calls for eliminating the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

State legislators also have an impact on the decisions the agency makes through passing laws and budgets. This November we have an opportunity to affect the Post Oak Dump decision by who we vote for in the race for Texas House District 44. Incumbent John Kuempel has publicly opposed the project but has done nothing to change the process which led to the preliminary permit or that might prevent approval of a final permit. We can re-elect our current Republican who has supported the Governor at every turn or we can send a message that we’ve had enough by electing Robert Bohmfalk instead.

It could take a generation to truly change the course of the TCEQ even if we elected good environmental stewards to every state office because our overly business friendly Governors have appointed commissioners with the same philosophy to the agency which then is passed down through the hiring process for agency employees at every level. If we don’t start now we won’t see improvement in our lifetimes.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

H.R. 2802 is un-American

Next week in the U.S. Congress the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is scheduled to hold a hearing on the First Amendment Defense Act, H.R. 2802. Among other things the bill would allow retailers, restaurants and even government employees to discriminate against anyone whose marriage or sex life they claim offends their religious sensibilities.
The bill says the federal government can take not action against those who discriminate “…on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” While it is clearly aimed at allowing discrimination against same sex marriage participants the language is so broad that also includes those who: divorce and remarry, have a child out of wedlock and sex outside of marriage.
Do you have family or friends who could be discriminated against if this bill passes? Keep in mind that this bill authorizes federal employees to refuse to process applications for Medicare or Social Security benefits, or VA benefits. It would allow the local restaurant to fire a waitress if the management thought they were having sex with their boyfriend. The pharmacist could refuse service to a pregnant woman known to be unmarried. The Catholic grocer could refuse sell you groceries if you’ve divorced and remarried.
171 House Republicans are co-sponsoring this bill, with 23 of 25 Texas Republicans participating. Discrimination isn’t what the First Amendment was written to protect. Just the opposite, it was written to allow anyone to practice their religion not forcing others to practice it. The First Amendment’s clause on religion says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. H.R. 2802 would let a government employee use the power of federal government to deny the rights of others thereby violating the very Constitution that House Republicans claim they are protecting. How very Orwellian of them to use such double speak when describing their bill.
When it’s time to vote this November just remember that one of the consequences of a Republican president is that this bill would likely be signed into law. What would our country be like if that were the case? What would Seguin be like if local businesses decided that they should operate as bedroom police?
On the positive side the Supreme Court overwhelmingly threw out the Texas legislatures’ attempt to ban abortion by regulating them out of existence. The five member majority made it clear that they could see through the lies used to in an attempt to justify the measures as designed to protect the health of women seeking an abortion. It seems that since Republican politicians are unable to attain their goals by telling the truth they’re more than willing to lie and cheat to do so.

Why is it that the religious principles Republican politicians seem so intent on “protecting” all have to do with what other people do in the privacy of their own bedrooms?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Gun Debate Saga

There’s been plenty of partisan bickering over gun laws since the Orlando mass shooting. Let’s all step back and review the logic being used by defenders of guns of any kind anywhere, anytime. All five conservative members of the Supreme Court agreed with Justice Scalia’s opinion in the 2008 Washington D.C. v. Heller decision which expressed approval for bans on weapons like the military’s M-16. There is precedent for limiting what weapons we as a society are willing to allow on our streets such as, the now expired 1994 assault weapon ban which Ronald Reagan worked hard to see passed. Perhaps it is time to write a ban on weapons with removable magazines or on magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds.

Republicans in Congress prevented passage of a bill that would have made it illegal for someone on the federal no fly list to buy a gun. They argued that it would be an unconstitutional infringement on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms if the would be purchaser has not been convicted of a crime. I get that, but I have to wonder why it’s OK to prevent someone who hasn’t been convicted of a crime from flying on a plane. Is it just because methods of travel aren’t mentioned in the Constitution? I also have to wonder why the those same legislators are so quick to defend the Second Amendment but were the instigators and perpetuators of the abridgement of our Fourth Amendment right to privacy by the Patriot Act. Why are they supportive of the surveillance state that the United States has become with the NSA recording who we talk to, listening to what we say, and reading our emails without a warrant?

Leaving aside constitutional issues, congressional Republicans also killed a bill that would have closed what is erroneously called the gun show loophole. Actually any private sale doesn’t require a background check. The bill would have required that all gun purchasers be subject to the same federal background check as those already required when purchasing from a federally licensed firearms dealer. I still haven’t figured out why they are willing to allow individuals to sell guns over the internet without a background check. Oh sure, the apologists will say that isn’t the case but if the seller is a private individual and posts their gun for sale on a site likes they can arrange to deliver the gun to an individual at their home or a parking lot and there is no federal requirement for a background check. The same holds true for any private sale whether at a gun show or between neighbors. Upwards of 85% of Americans want all gun purchasers to be background checked. Why aren’t Republicans willing to support this common sense regulation?

It would seem, in this election year, that Republicans simply want to score points with extremists who believe guns should be unregulated. Apparently they’re not concerned that 85% of Americans disagree with them.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Party Unity Means Persuasion Possible

In the media lately there’s been much talk of “party unity” when discussing support for the presumptive nominees of both parties. While I had worked for and contributed to Bernie’s campaign and had real hope he could pull off an upset we can now see it was not to be. I hope my fellow Bernie supporters, especially those of the “Bernie or Bust” mindset, will take heed of what I have to say.

First you must understand that although the national party apparatus didn’t help Bernie get his message out and various establishment members did put their fingers on the scale to assist Hillary Clinton it’s clear now she didn’t need it, she won resoundingly. She is the choice of the majority of Democrats. I won’t belabor the discussion with statistics other than to say she won millions more votes and won them in the most democratically run primaries, meaning elections not caucuses. We don’t have to like it, we just have to make the best of it.

Now here’s why it should matter to you that Hillary becomes our next president instead of the reality show blow hard. To explain I’m going to tell you a little story about how our then congressman Henry Cuellar came to support the Affordable Care Act back in 2010. Cuellar, who is the only Democrat endorsed by the right wing, anti-tax group called Club for Growth, was unwilling to commit to voting for the bill. I and others called his offices repeatedly that winter and spring urging him to come out in support of the bill. When he continued to keep his distance we organized rallies in Schertz and Seguin and met with his local staff several times hoping to up the pressure. We wrote him letters and emails, we wrote letters to the editor. We made such a nuisance of ourselves that we heard through back channels that he was asking his contacts what was going in Guadalupe County since we’d never made a ruckus before.

Late one evening a couple of days before the vote was to take place I received a phone call from a member of his Washington, D.C. staff asking if I could manage to get some Affordable Care Act supporters to attend an event in Laredo the next day at which he was speaking and would likely commit to vote for the bill and he knew there would be opponents present. Since I was working with a nationwide group and had the phone number for an organizer with a wider range of contacts I called her and she agreed to make some calls. When Cuellar spoke the next day there were roughly equal numbers of supporters and opponents and he committed to vote in favor of the bill.

In an effort to persuade Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn to support the bill knowing that it would improve the lives of nearly one million Texans we held many more events with many more people in attendance. We held petition drives and delivered the petitions to their local offices. We organized phone calls to their offices from Texans from all over the state. Even with all that effort neither of them ever showed the slightest inclination to support the bill.

If you haven’t figured out my point yet, I’ll make it crystal clear. It is better to elect a wavering Democrat who can be pushed to move in our direction than to allow a Republican of any sort to hold office as we won’t have any persuasion power over them at all.