Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Great Again

I confess that as I rise and place my hand over my heart to recite the pledge of allegiance to the flag, I still get a special feeling.  A little tingly and pride in the fact that I have the privilege to be an American.  It saddens me to hear politicians rant and rave about how we need to make America great again.  I happen to believe that with all of its flaws, America is still great.  Were it not, why would so many people want to come to our country?

Recently I read in the paper about a group passing a petition around Texas urging Texas to secede from the United States.  I can’t imagine something more stupid than someone wanting to renounce their American citizenship.  They obviously have failed to stop long enough to count their blessings.

The United States of America still provides us with a defense from foreign countries by having the largest and best military establishment anywhere in the world.  No place is better than America to be able to realize your ambitions. Few places in the world give us the opportunity to worship the God of our choice in the manner we choose.  Where else in the world can we raise our voice and call our leaders–even our president–names if we so choose?  Elsewhere in the world such conduct would land us in prison or worse.  When we take the time to add up the benefits, America is head and shoulders above any other nation in the world in greatness.

It disturbs me to see leading politicians readily announcing that their greatest goal is to see that our duly elected president does not succeed as president.  Of course, there are many detractors among our fellow citizens today about the shortcomings of government.  But I am confident that in the end we will overcome unwarranted criticisms and continue to demonstrate to the world that America is still great.

One of the disturbing factors in our current political atmosphere is that so many citizens appear to want people who hate government--and who seem to know the least about its administration--to take the reins of leadership.  What if you were to read in the want-ads an ad from a young mother advertising for a sitter for her children stating she wanted someone who had never changed a diaper and even disliked children?  I trust most of us, if not all, would denounce such a wrongheaded approach to the care of precious children.  Why then should we follow the same idea by electing people who would like to drown American government in a bathtub?

While I still firmly believe in America, I do believe a danger exists–that danger being that too many Americans, for some reason, have decided to cease being good citizens.  I say this based on recent trends and statistics concerning voter participation.  An older gentleman once spoke to me about personal skills, saying you should always remember to use them or lose them.

Nothing could be truer than applying the same idea to informed citizenship.  Less than 10% of Texans chose to participate in the past statewide elections.  A majority of that minority of citizens obviously believed it didn’t matter that the would-be chief legal officer of our state had admitted guilt to a third degree felony.  Electing someone of that ilk is not the fault of our system but the fault of citizens too dumb or too lazy to delve into the qualifications of those who would run our government. 


Please!  The next time you are tempted to buy into the cheap political slogan of “make our state great again” or “make our nation great again,” take stock in your own performance as a citizen and see whether or not you would grade yourself with A+, a failing grade or incomplete.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Legal Fictions

In law school I was taught about the theory of legal fictions.  For example, in business law and corporations I learned that, although it was fiction, corporations are treated in many respects like persons.  Unfortunately, our United States Supreme Court--supported by the rich and powerful--has created one step beyond the legal fiction.  Our Supreme Court has decided that money is speech and corporations are people. 

In examining what these legal fictions have brought us, the first and foremost detriment to our democratic way of life is the Citizens United decision which allows corporations and the wealthy to spend unlimited billions of dollars without voters even knowing the source of the funds.  

The thought that money cannot buy elections is truly naive.  If we, the citizens of this country, continue to tolerate what has happened without reacting with a constitutional amendment to set it right, we will deserve losing the freedom we have.  The average American is on the way to losing the power of his or her one vote.  The amount of money currently being spent on political activities is obscene.

 Interest groups have put together billions of dollars in so called super PACS which are basically unpoliced.  We are being told that even though super PACS amass untold wealth they cannot cooperate directly with the candidates and coordinate activity.  What a joke.  A great case in point is what is currently happening with our former governor, Rick Perry.

Perry’s old buddies did a great job of putting together $17 million in a PAC--or super PAC, as you may dub it.  It seems now that our ex-governor has run out of personal money, particularly since he can no longer travel around the country honing his conservative credentials at the expense of Texas taxpayers.  Now, he says he will continue to fight and is relying on his super PAC to allow him to continue his quest for president.  If you truly believe Rick Perry never speaks to the folks who put together the money concerning his future needs in order to stay viable as a presidential candidates, there are a couple of bridges around Jefferson County that I would like to sell you.  

Just as an example, one of the prime movers in fundraising for Perry’s super PAC is a former employee of Perry's with whom he co-owns property.  Do you really believe they do not share concerns about Perry’s future problems staying in the presidential race? (According to the Houston Chronicle, most came from about three large donors.) 

It seems, too, these 501 corporations--i.e., super PACS--are almost wholly without policing to see that they follow even the pitiful rules which currently exist concerning their activity.  Some folks at the IRS attempted to investigate whether or not the stated purposes of these organizations were in fact within the law, but these IRS investigators were attacked vigorously--particularly by conservatives claiming the IRS was being political and only doing so at the will of the current president.

The agency charged with the responsibility to monitor these organizations acknowledges little or no attempt at enforcement or investigation saying only they were overwhelmed and surprised by the number of such organizations created. 

The other consequence of the conservative attitude regarding corporations appears to be another legal fiction.  Corporations generally are business devices existing to insulate owners from having to take the full responsibility for the business activities engaged in via a corporate structure.  How then can or should a corporation be ruled to possess religious beliefs?  On the one hand, were a corporation to go bankrupt, business people would be appalled at the thought of requiring the owners of the stock--even were it to be only a single family--to pay the bills left by the bankruptcy.  However, our courts have ruled that the religious beliefs of the shareholders can be transferred to the corporation and the corporation can refuse to act in any way religiously offensive to the insulated owners of its stock.

While I certainly am a strong advocate for religious freedom, I have a hard time believing a corporation possesses religious beliefs.  They do not go to church.  They do not tithe.  They cannot be sent to prison for crimes committed in their name.  They do not have souls.


While a popular political statement contained in many political speeches today is, “Let’s take our nation back,” I believe the real way to take our nation back is by acting as stand-up citizens who rise up to do away with the ever-increasing power of money over our democratic system.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Donald Trump is Right (About SOME Things)

Strangely enough for many of you who read my columns, I believe Donald Trump is right on target on some things.  In fact there should be a place for Donald Trump in the national scheme of things.  Were I in charge, I would appoint Donald Trump as “Critic In Chief.”  He is correct in the long list he spouts at the drop of a hat about what’s wrong with America and our current political mess.

Listed below, not necessarily in order of importance, are the ten things Donald Trump has identified as major problems in the United States:

1. America is not dealing very well with the ISIS crisis.  While perhaps not a direct threat to America, ISIS' beheadings, and apparent success in luring Americans to their cause, at the very least is an embarrassment to the United States and does not help our image as the world power.

2. Immigration is clearly a problem in the United States.  Political inertia and partisanship has prohibited us from developing a rational and equitable system of immigration in our country.

3. Our infrastructure is suffering gross neglect from our national leadership.  The Congress, in its zeal to see how lean we can make our budget, is starving our infrastructure.  An alarming number of our bridges have been declared unsafe, and our highway system is not meeting the growing population or the growing need to maintain a modern-day economy.

4. Healthcare is a mess.  While the majority of doctors, and almost all Republicans, rail about Obamacare, none have stepped forward with constructive suggestions about how America can better deliver a health system to the majority of our citizens without remaining the number one cause of bankruptcy in America.

And Trump has hit the nail on the head and said what no politician will say out loud:  5. The obscene amount of money and the farce of believing super PACS, spending billions of dollars, do not overly influence the actions of our congressional leaders, governors or even local politicians.

6. Dealing with China, a problem too long ignored and continuing to grow.  Our debt to China continues to explode, and it seems no elected politician has a solution for demanding fair trade practices from this growing giant.

7. Treatment of our veterans is a national shame.  We rattle our sabers, want to boast of being the most powerful military presence in the world, and send our boys and girls to combat while too many of us feel we and our children are immune from having to face death on foreign fields.  Yet, we fail to really treat our veterans as heroes. 

8. National officeholders seem to be all over the place about how to deal with boosting America’s public education to lead the world in innovation, new ideas, technology and science. 

9. Neither party seems to have a really good idea on how to prevent Iran from developing and possessing a nuclear weapon thereby launching a nuclear contest for power.  It seems many of our congressional leaders would rather kowtow to the leader of another nation than to work with our president for some reasonable solution to the problem.

10. How to dramatically improve our economy, replace our high-paying manufacturing jobs, obtain a decent wage for American workers and encourage spectacular growth of our middle class are yet other issues of concern.


Perhaps this nation would be better off simply by all of us, whatever faith and whatever God we worship, concentrating our prayers on our nation finding solutions beneficial to all to the above-listed problems--because I doubt seriously Trump or anyone else will provide us with the relief we need.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Wealth Disparity

In some circles there appears to be a growing concern about the increasing wealth disparity in America.  As early Americans discovered, free enterprise is a great system--but it has its limitations and dangers.  

Among other interesting stories contained in the early history of great American fortunes was the revelation that when Southern Pacific Railway was created with $1 million capital not one penny was spent for rails, cross-ties or spikes.  The entire million was spent bribing Congress to give huge land grants to the investors in the SP.  

There were numerous great fortunes made by the early robber-barons who became America’s first multimillionaires.  America soon learned limits should be placed on unfettered free enterprise.  The U.S. government leaders soon realized that some restraints--such as laws against monopolies--should be put in place in order to keep free enterprise on an even keel.  Early in Texas, lawyers, in order to stop the unbridled power of railroads, not only created a Railroad Commission for regulation but also put limits on the amount of money railroads and other corporate giants could spend for the purpose of buying elections.

Several recent events are contributing to the widening gap between the rich and poor in America.  Keeping that gap to reasonable limits in part, or perhaps largely, is what has made the United States a self-government beacon to the world.  Without the widening gap, all citizens believe they have a real stake in ownership of the nation.  The great Communist Karl Marx’ position, as espoused in his book Das Kapital, predicted that eventually the rich would grow richer and the poor would grow poorer until the vast majority of wealth would be concentrated in the hands of a few.  A huge gap in wealth would cause a revolt by the poor.  Unfortunately, the U.S. in the past decade has been trending in that direction.

Unfortunately, decisions of our Supreme Court--such as Citizens United, which allows corporations and labor unions to engage in unfettered spending to influence elections--has made matters worse.  Donald Trump, who gets in trouble for telling his true feelings occasionally, said it best in a recent debate.  Trump stated that he likes to give away lots of money to politicians because it fixes things where they will bend to his will.  Imagine where we are going when our new system allows billionaires to donate hoards of wealth in the billion of dollars to affect the outcome of our free elections.

If you are a person with less than one million dollars in the bank, do you have as much say in government as a billionaire?  Recently, a friend of mine put forth a plan which would narrow the gap.  His plan would cure the problem of run-away pay for managers of large corporations and the continued stagnation of worker pay.  He called his idea the “shareholder fairness bill.”  His idea was to pass a law in the United States requiring the CEOs of corporations to earn no more than ten times the amount of their lowest paid worker.  This certainly would create a pot of money more available for dividends for those who invest their money in the corporations, as well as tending to have CEOs more concerned about the level of their low-paid workers.  Currently, the average gap between worker and CEO is 300 to one...in the CEO's favor!

Having a constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United would also be in the interest of small investors in large corporations.  Currently, if I own stock in a major corporation, the managers of that corporation can take money which is partially mine from the profits of the corporation and donate it to politicians who do not vote in my interest.  Also, corporate political gifts may not be in the interest of working people who invest their labor and their money in the corporation.  

The same principle has been applied to unions for years prior to the Citizens United ruling.  Unions were prohibited from donating dues money for political purposes because it was money donated by their members, and the choices of the union leader might not square with the choices of dues paying members of the union. 

While I disagree with the U. S. Supreme Court about corporations being people, I do agree with them that today, in politics, “money counts.”


While the free enterprise based economy is the best yet devised, we should take care to put safeguards in place which will assure us that the Communist predictions of Karl Marx will not come true in our nation.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

TEXAS PENNY WISE, POUND FOOLISH

The leadership of our state Legislature, in my opinion, has been somewhat foolish in handling the state’s money.  There are ways to deliver humanitarian relief and at the same time save money.

Our State Legislature has continually reduced the amount of money per student dedicated to education–both public education and higher education.  Not only will this cost us in terms of lost jobs, businesses, and innovative thinking in the future, but it in fact costs us money now.  The one which is most evident is the fact most inmates in Texas have not had the privilege of graduating from high school.  Most are there not because they are mean, but because they are ignorant of how to cope with the everyday challenges of life.  It costs the state more money to keep a young person in prison than it does to keep them in a graduate program in college.  Unfortunately, Texas has more of its citizens in prison than there are prisoners of all the countries of North America put together, as well as South America. 

Health care is another way our state is blatantly shortsighted.  Aside from children who are deprived of adequate health care as they grow up and who later become a burden on our social welfare system, there are specific examples of how poor health care and lack of foresight costs taxpayers millions and millions of dollars.  

A good/bad example of how we deal with health care is diabetes.  If a person with diabetes reports to a state health facility, he or she is asked, “Are you blind?”  “No.”  “Do you need kidney dialysis?”  “No.”  “Do you need an amputation?” “No.”  The answer is then, “Well, come back later when you get worse--we have a program for you.”  It has been estimated by medical experts that over half of diabetes in Texas could be controlled or cured by a simple screening and proper diet.  Although we once had a program to accomplish this, it has been scrapped by the Health Department and the Legislature.  We are virtually spending billions on the above-listed treatments brought about by diabetes.  It has escalated every year for the past fifteen years. 

 Cutting off assistance and attempting to put Planned Parenthood out of business  is another costly item.  Prenatal care has been shown to be very effective in the birthing of healthy children.  Young mothers without prenatal or adequate health care produce children with defects which lead to dependence on state programs for the rest of their lives.

Worker safety is yet another glaring example of wastefulness and harm to our citizens.  Texas leads the nation in job deaths.  Construction, refining and oil field work are all very dangerous and yet Texas is one of the few states which refuses to mandate workers’ compensation.  All too often workers in Texas who receive debilitating injuries on the job end up at emergency rooms which we, the taxpayers, eventually pay for--or even worse, they end up on welfare. 


Our Legislature and statewide leaders continually raise the issue of how they would like to give homeowners relief from burdensome property taxes.  The simple answer they continue to ignore is the state should adequately fund things which are clearly the state’s responsibility: a state system of public education, eliminating the multi-billion dollar state debt on highways, and adequately funding retirement programs for state retired workers as well as teachers.   

It seems not only foolish, but irresponsible to leave these matters as growing indebtedness while we leave several billion dollars in the so called Rainy Day Fund.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Donald Trump

The scary thing involving Donald Trump’s rise to lead the race to be the Republican nominee for president is not Donald Trump, nor his outlandish statements.  The frightening thing about Trump is the fact so many people have rushed to endorse his quest. 

How can so many people be taken in by his empty rhetoric?  Trump promises to have full employment in the United States with every citizen a job.  Close examination of Trump’s record would quickly reveal he has done all he can to avoid American labor; even to the extent of importing foreign workers on one of his projects in New York which avoided building requirements, safety requirements and certainly were working below scale on that job.  He has made a long list of promises without the first concrete plan of how he would accomplish his grandiose scheme to move America forward.

When asked about the recent agreement over Iran developing a nuclear bomb, he claims without particulars, “I would have done a much better job.”  This is like saying I could have beaten Mohammad Ali, if only I had been in the ring 20 years ago.  An equally outlandish claim is that Mr. Trump claims he can label most all Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers and still get the majority of Hispanics to vote for him.

“I am rich” is not a qualification to be president.  If this were so, El Chapo, the escaped drug lord in Mexico would qualify.

Trump’s denials are truly amazing.  This guy denies what he said when he said it on television.  Even now, while denigrating American military personnel who were captured in combat, he now claims he really didn’t denigrate them, he was only lashing out at one of his political opponents.  If anything, Trump is a modern day snake oil salesman who can’t even be honest about his net worth.  He brags he is worth 10 billion dollars and publishes a financial statement that includes no liabilities.

How can this guy, as he claims, seal our borders against illegal immigration when he can’t even keep them off his latest construction project.  Equally amazing is his claim he would build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and make the Mexican government pay for it.  He claims he would have the Mexican government give us $100,000 for each illegal immigrant into our country.  How on earth could he do this?  Does he propose we once again invade Mexico to enforce such a claim?  

Should we trust Donald Trump’s political positions when they have constantly changed over the years?   He once praised Hillary as a great friend and competent leader.  Now, Trump views Hillary Clinton as an incompetent pretender to the presidency.  Also he once defended abortion as a woman’s right to control her own body--but now has morphed into an anti-abortion pro-lifer.  He has switched positions on so many things such as universal health care that they can’t be listed in the space available for this article.


Donald Trump is as phony as his comb-over hairdo.  We can only hope a good wind will bare his almost bald head.  We can also hope people’s inquiry and a revelation of Trump’s past will blow away his empty promises of full employment, border control, solid social security and the ability to bully China, Russia, Mexico and Iran.  Having a substantial number of citizens in this country who are qualified to vote and who are seemingly supporting Donald Trump--and his outlandish ideas--is truly a scary thought.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

ALLIGATORS AND POLITICS

In the 1960's, shortly after I was elected to the House of Representative, I was contacted by Tolbert Crowder, one of my good supporters.  Tolbert was a resident of Port Acres, lived on the bayou, and was an avid hunter, fisherman and advocate of environmental quality--particularly to our marsh area.  Tolbert informed me that alligators in Texas were about to be listed on the endangered species list.  

The problem seemed to be that alligators are a very valuable commodity.  Almost all parts of an alligator  are commercially usable.  Their teeth are ivory, their meat is edible, and their hides are valuable for producing various products such as belts, boots, etc.  I also learned through Tolbert that alligators are vital for the ecology of the marsh.  In times of drought, alligator holes which have been hollowed out in the nesting process are the only source of water for the creatures who reside in marshy areas.  The main problem causing the decline of alligators was poachers who would catch alligators and sell them.  If they were apprehended or stopped, even in suspicious circumstances, there was no way to prove the alligators were taken in Texas.  

Tolbert and many of his friends who were concerned would spend a considerable time catching young alligators and scratching their initials in their hide so they could be identified as Texas gators if and when poachers were caught in possession of same. 

At his urging, and the urging of other ecologists, as well as local game wardens, I introduced legislation making it a crime to be in Texas in possession of any part of an alligator.  I was quite satisfied I had done a good deed for the ecology as well as alligators.

Fast forward to several years later when I was a member of the Texas Senate.  I started receiving cards, calls and letters from many of my constituents, some of whom had lost their pet dogs to alligators coming up from ditches, drainage canals, or other ponds of water into my constituents’ yards.  It seems the original legislation had worked to propagate more gators in our area.  I soon realized the only natural enemies of alligators are humans.  Alligators are the ruling creatures in our marshes.

At the urging of Texas Parks & Wildlife, I again introduced legislation concerning alligators.  My new legislation provided that Parks & Wildlife could establish rules and regulations about the taking of 'gators in Texas.  The law we passed at that time is basically still the law and has resulted in very reasonable regulations which now allow controlled hunting or taking of alligators and even their commercial use.

As I tell my fellow citizens in trying to urge them to participate in politics, if a state law can have an effect on the life of alligators, imagine what it could do for or to you and your family.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Thoughts for the 4th of July


I am convinced our country will never be conquered by a foreign power in my or your lifetime.  I am concerned, however, that hypocrisy, greed and callousness will erode many ideals which have caused our country to become the greatest nation on earth.  To continue our greatness, we need to return to the attitude that we are all Americans who love freedom and should concentrate more on our American heritage than our political preferences. 

As a young person I was taught to respect our president even though I might disagree with his policies.  Today too many Americans are quick to demean our elected leaders by describing them as not real Americans, idiots, weak, uncaring, dishonest, and then lament our leaders are not respected around the world.  One good example of how sometimes good Americans miss the mark-- Vietnam vets should be among the most honored of our veterans.  Many of them chose to obey the law even though they were strongly against us being in the war.  They went and did their duty, even disagreeing with the politics which put them in harm's way.  Yet, many of them, when returning to America, were treated like ex-convicts rather than the heroes they were. 

America probably creates more and more millionaires via our economic system while more and more working poor suffer without adequate income, medical care--and some even basic sustenance--because of our current economic system. 

Voter participation appears to be at an all-time low, even in local elections, while too many of our politicians work to limit voting rather than encourage.  The influence of money in our elections is at an all-time high.  Money, according to our Supreme Court, is speech--and real speech seems to have become only TV entertainment.  Debates are no longer real debates, but sound bytes prompted by trite questioning by some TV personality.

One of the worst examples of national hypocrisy relates to action or inaction on the part of our United States Congress.  It seems many of our congressmen are hawkish, ready to go to war at the drop of a hat.  I've noticed most of them are individuals who never faced real combat.  Too many of our Congressional leaders are quick to want to go to war yet very reluctant to pay the cost or clean up the mess left by the aftermath.  Too often, it seems, our military veterans who have returned to America in body bags or seriously damaged are not adequately revered or cared for. 

A recent news article pointed out that even though Congress is well aware of the condition and status of our VA hospitals, the waiting line for our veterans to be accepted for medical treatment is 50% greater than it was only a year ago.  While making great speeches about how we love our veterans, our Congress lets the VA hospitals go three billion dollars in the hole.  All of this while many of our veterans wait for months to be afforded treatment for injuries or treatment they suffered in our defense. 


For this 4th of July, I suggest that we, as American citizens, resolve to contact our leaders to put our country’s money where the politicians’ mouths are in their 4th of July speeches.  

God bless America!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Not in office and growing old...

It has recently occurred to me ex-politicians should realize when they are no longer the occupant of an important office.  Additionally, all of us need to learn we are growing old.  In an effort to help all with those two conditions, I submit the following:

SIGNS OF BEING OUT OF OFFICE

–no free tickets are being offered to you for things you didn’t want to go to anyway
–your jokes are not as funny as they use to be
–not being invited to groundbreakings by the Chamber of Commerce
–important people are harder to reach by phone
–fewer people get in your face and say, “You don’t remember who I am, do you?”
–your postman doesn’t bring you as much mail
–you’re not asked to make many speeches
–more folks remove you from their speed dial
–you wait longer on hold when calling someone
–“Our government was better when you were in” is your main topic of conversation
–people in public confront you with, “Didn’t you use to be ____?”


THINGS TO NOTICE TO REALIZE YOU ARE GROWING OLD

–when you see a good looking young woman you think “she reminds me of my granddaughter”    rather than “what a hot looking babe”
–most of your mail is medical bills or catalogs
–you and your friends talk mostly about your ailments
–you look forward to getting junk mail
–you read the obituary columns of the paper more often
–you find more of your acquaintances and old high school chums in the obituary column
–you attend more funerals than weddings
–your wife nags you more about your health
–your wife complains more about you not hearing her nag you about your health
–AARP sends you more invitations to join
–grandchildren are asked to help you with your computer and cell phone
–I can’t seem to remember the other things

I’m hopeful these suggested signs will help you to realize you are no longer in office and growing old.


In addition to the above signs, your friends can give you helpful hints about your aging process.  The most common reply you get from friends when complaining of aches and pains is, “At least it’s better than the alternative.”  I’ve started replying to that catchphrase by telling my friends, “That’s not what my preacher tells me.”  My only ambition at this point is to live as long and as well as my mother.  She would always say as she was approaching her 100th year, “I’ve lived a long and good life and done almost everything I ever wanted to do and look forward to meeting my Maker in the near future.”

Monday, June 22, 2015

Abbott

Governor Greg Abbott is still a neophyte on the job as governor. He just gave us all a glimpse into his philosophy of being governor. He recently closed out the Legislative Session by vetoing 42 separate bills–some good; more bad.

Probably the Governor’s greatest failing was that he made a big show of wanting to create better ethics for state government. He had a good start when he dismantled several of Rick Perry’s slush funds which doled out almost a billion dollars in tax money--mostly to Perry’s campaign contributors.  He also has gotten a pretty good handle on non-bid contracts by requiring extensive review before such contracts are granted.

Unfortunately, some of Abbott’s rhetoric concerning ethics did not ring true.  He left undone anything about “dark” money whereby people are not required to let the public know where millions of dollars, if not billions, come from when spent on electing or defeating public officials.  On the plus side, Governor Abbott vetoed an attempt by some members of the Legislature to avoid having to fully disclose millions of dollars worth of property in which they have an interest claiming it belonged to their spouse. 

Then again, on the minus side, our Governor signed a bill removing jurisdiction of investigation of public official crime from the long-standing public integrity unit residing in the Travis County District Attorney’s Office.  By doing this, Governor Abbott has assured there will be no thorough investigation of a no-bid contract done by an official of the Department of Public Safety.  This is true because the responsibility for investigating the Department of Public Safety now lies with the Texas Rangers--a subdivision of the Department of Public Safety.   If the Rangers (not a citizen jury) find just cause to suspect a crime by a public official, they must send the matter to the official's home courts for trial or dismissal.  Even worse, the head of DPS says he does not have funds to conduct such an investigation and the Travis County grand jury can't.  Consequently, another one of Perry’s appointees will go with no investigation for his possible wrongdoing. 

On the finance side, the Governor let stand some added money to colleges and universities, particularly for building, and did a little to shore up teacher retirement and retirement for other state employees. But, he failed miserably in restoring millions and millions of dollars robbed from the schools of Texas in the preceding Republican legislative  sessions.

Again, on the plus side, however, the Governor signed the bill doing away with the “pick-a-pal” selection of grand juries and allowed the law requiring grand juries be randomly selected from citizens much the same as other juries are selected.

Our Governor Abbott gave a little assistance to school districts by vetoing a bill which would have created a giant loophole in the area of property taxes mainly benefiting giant oil corporations such as Conoco/Phillips.  On the other side, however, he signed a bill making it impossible for cities and local governments to stop bad practices of oil companies within the borders of their cities. This means that "fracking", which causes drinking water pollution and possibly earthquakes, will continue virtually unabated in portions of North Texas.


Unfortunately, the Governor’s bad experience of being subjected to a tragic accident leaving him without the use of his lower extremities did not do much for his empathy of others in Texas suffering from medical problems and accidents.  The Governor did absolutely nothing to try to relieve the fact that Texas has more uninsured citizens than any other state of the union, leaving many children within our borders to suffer without adequate medical care.  He also vetoed a bill which could have been life saving to people caught in the grip of drug addition.  He did so by vetoing the bill which would have given immunity from prosecution to someone who calls in to report someone possibly dying because of an overdose of drugs.  

I suppose there is some hope in the fact that if our new Governor truly considers education and ethics his high-priority items,  he should have plenty of  challenges in future sessions.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Why have disclosure of money?

Recent events have brought about interesting thoughts concerning attitudes about race relations in the South.  All of a sudden it seems conservative Republican leaders are giving serious thought to removing the Rebel battle flag from the top of public buildings--not only in South Carolina, but elsewhere in the Ol'e South.  Clearly, this change of heart was brought about by all of the adverse publicity concerning racial hatred involved in the slaughter of nine people as they worshiped in an old African American church in South Carolina.

The lesson to be learned from the shameful tragedy of the church in South Carolina is that now some of our Republican politicians are stumbling over themselves to hurry and return money which has been revealed to have come from Earl Holt, III.  Holt is a leader in a white supremacy group known as the Council of Conservative Citizens.  Ted Cruz, it was discovered, had accepted $11,000; Ran Paul an undisclosed amount; and Greg Abbott $1,000.  As soon as word got out they had received campaign money from this group, all suddenly had a pang of conscience to the extent that Ted Cruz wants to donate his to the victims of the killing.  My question is, if their hearts were in the right place and truly believed all Americans were brothers, at least in the eyes of God, why did they not consider giving the money back or not accepting it in the first place?  It seems pretty clear the motivation for these politicians returning the tainted money was the public revelation of from whence it came.  Voters, however, should know the source of hate speech, or speech contrary to the voter’s personal interest.

To me the scenario of politicians giving campaign money back once it is disclosed makes the very point that they do not want the public to know that many of their supporters are among tainted, unacceptable groups to a majority of Americans.  Why then should we continue to allow secret donors to buy our elections?  Even worse, we don’t even know who the buyers are, or what the ultimate price of the sale could be.

I’m appalled at good union members, workers and retirees, who do not see the dangers of letting folks like the Koch brothers spend almost a billion dollars to elect their choice of the next president of the United States.

Benefits such as the right to collective bargaining--in order to demand safer working conditions, to not be summarily discharged from your livelihood because someone didn’t like the way you parted your hair this morning--are important issues the Koch brothers and their followers do not like.  They would like to have the ultimate authority and make working people just one step away from being slaves.


It is far better for all of us if we could be protected against such occurrences--which are nothing more than buying elections, but even worse are elections bought when we don’t even have an idea who the buyers are!  We should not allow democracy to be for sale!