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.