Tuesday, March 22, 2016


One of the primary definitions of a myth is “A widely held but false belief or idea or a misrepresentation of the truth.  A factitious or imaginary person or thing, or an exaggerated or idealized conception of a person or thing.”  In my opinion, the most recent and biggest myths in politics are the following:

1.  The first big myth in recent history was the one propagated by George W. Bush that there were weapons of mass destruction being gathered in Iraq.  This myth led us to spend almost a trillion dollars of tax money (off the books) and cost approximately 4,000 American lives and an untold number of physical and emotional problems for thousands of our servicemen.

2.  The second big myth that I believe to have been perpetrated in Texas concerns the Republican effort and law which was passed requiring voter identification, claiming it was solely for the purpose of preventing voter fraud.  Numerous scholarly investigations and testimonies in court have pretty well established there was little or no voter fraud in Texas, and particularly none based on mis-identification of voters.  The idea was born at an ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) gathering which was comprised of mainly conservative state legislators and sponsored by the Koch brothers.  Numerous conversations and utterances from Republican leaders after the deal was passed clearly indicate it was their hope it would adversely impact the number of minority voters going to the polls and would favor Republicans in upcoming elections.  Some Republicans still look at you with a straight face and say it was only for the purpose of stopping voter fraud ... none of which they can document.

3. The third current big fairy tale is almost amusing, as well as somewhat sickening—that our legislative leaders in Austin can look the public in the eye and say the only purpose for draconian restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas was for ensuring the health of women.  This is after the same leaders have traversed the state vowing to end abortion.  While I’ve never been keen on abortion, it strikes me as grossly hypocritical to stack so many requirements on what the court has determined to be a constitutional right by using the phoney excuse they are trying to help women.  That’s almost as ludicrous as the old saying, “I’m the tax man.  I’m here to help you.” 

4. The fourth big myth is that climate change is a "myth" — it is being propagated by captains of industry that climate change, or global warming, is a myth created by radical environmentalists.  Even worse, a Republican candidate running for election to the State Board of Education has proclaimed global warming is something made up by Karl Marx to destroy Capitalism.  While I have done some research on the theories that Karl Marx espoused, I have never found such an advocacy dealing with global warming.  Political conservatives continue to deny its existence in the face of thousands of prominent worldwide scientists who have documented the effects of the continual warming of our planet.  The real opposition is not any altruistic desire to save the planet, but is simply to save profits of large fossil fuel burning power plants and corporations which continue to spew trash (carbon dioxide) into our atmosphere destroying the ozone layer around the earth which protects us.

5. The fifth and biggest myth of our time has been around for quite a while.  It is that if we cut taxes for multimillionaires and billionaires it will somehow put money into the pockets of working men and women.  Supply-side economics has never worked.  It didn’t work for Reagan.  It didn’t work for either Bush.  It won’t work in the future.  If you believe that lowering taxes on the billionaires will add one penny to your family's income, you must believe in fairy tales.  Theories espoused by the majority of the current United States Congress simply continue to widen the gap between rich and poor in America, and eventually will erode the very fabric of our nation.  

Watch carefully for myths put forth by politicians ... and do your best to vote your own interests in the upcoming elections.

Monday, March 14, 2016


Government inaction may seem benign, but actually it is costing you, the Texas taxpayer, every day. While our state leaders boast of years of no new tax, their obstinate refusal to even discuss tax policy, or how it might be streamlined or made more efficient, is costing you money.  Even worse, it is costing our state in a gross failure to meet the challenges of a modern world and economy. 

Medical costs. The government doing nothing related to medical costs is one of the worst indicators of “do nothing” government — costing us all money.  Today, the chief cause of bankruptcy among American citizens relates to medical costs.  Studies done by AARP and other authoritative consumer watchdogs indicate the cost of medicine has more than doubled in the past seven years. 

During the recent negotiations over the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) there was a huge effort on the part of the advocates of this program to allow oversight and some control on the price of pharmaceuticals.  Billy Touzin, a former congressman from Louisiana, led the fight against price controls on behalf of pharmaceutical corporations and won.  Apparently, the pharmaceuticals agreed to a significant one-time reduction in the cost of drugs to Medicare and Medicaid recipients, but extracted a commitment which was ensconced in law that pharmaceutical companies would not be subject to negotiation with the government for the price of pharmaceuticals in these assistance programs.  

So, we are saddled with the situation where pharmaceutical companies charge what they want to.  Most of their charges are not based on supply and demand, but simply on availability and the fact that some super-sick Americans need the drug.   Many conservatives argue medical supply in the United States should simply be covered by supply and demand.  Unfortunately, free enterprise markets only work when buyer and seller can meet on an even planeWhen it comes to medical care, and particularly drugs, the consumer is told “buy or die.”  There is little or no negotiation over price.  Congress would do well to stop moaning about the rising cost of Medicare and Social Security and concentrate on reigning in the gouging of Americans by the big medical supplier corporations.

Property taxes. The second area where most of us are being had through inaction is with regard to our property taxes in the state of Texas.  A recent think-tank group which studied all of the states ranks Texas as the worst state for fair property taxes second only to New York.  Another group examining Texas has reported debt in Texas has risen to the level of over $250 billion dollars.  

All of this started at a time when Texas was fairly debt free and the rallying cry for politicians in Austin was “no new taxes.”  As a result, Texas has not kept pace with a growing state — particularly related to public education.  The state continues to shirk its duty of funding our public school systems, pushing off the burden on local districts which depend almost solely on the property tax.  This hardship falls on old school districts which are losing school age population — which drives the amount of state support you can receive, and new districts which are growing so fast they cannot provide adequate facilities for their burgeoning new citizens.

The inaction by the state has resulted in several lawsuits claiming the Texas system of funding for education violates our own constitution.  At least three times in recent history judges have ruled our education system is unconstitutional — particularly in the way it is supported.  In the most recent lawsuit adventure, several hundred school districts joined together and sued the state claiming unfair and unconstitutional funding for public education.  A district judge in Austin has ruled twice the system was unconstitutional.  Rather than address the problem during the past two legislative sessions, the Legislature responded on one occasion by cutting an additional $5 billion from the education budget.  Then they ignored the lawsuit and legal claim in the second session, kicking the can down the road and delaying as long as possible having the issue addressed by an all Republican Texas Supreme Court.  

It is possible the court could conceivably  affirm the ruling of the district court, but the court has little power to raise money to go into public education.  The only method of enforcement the court has available is simply to shut down public education in Texas until the Legislature provides fair and adequate funding.

Gasoline tax. Likely, most citizens do not count the cost of sitting for hours idling their engines in overcrowded freeways.  While under the leadership of Rick Perry, the state Legislature has stubbornly refused to consider even indexing the gasoline tax to keep pace with Texas’ rapidly growing population and transportation needs. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that automobiles today get significantly more mileage and therefore buy less gasoline and furnish less and less tax money to maintain our highways.  

Texas has not addressed an increase in the gasoline tax since 1992 — even though it is lower than most other states of the union and fails woefully to provide adequate funding to maintain a first-class highway system.  Our needs are growing; unfortunately, our wherewithal in the form of tax money to meet our needs is not. A recent engineering study found that at least 1,000 bridges in Texas are substandard. Hopefully, our Legislature will turn its attention to our highway needs before we have the tragedy of some bridge collapsing with a car full of teenagers in it.

While Governor Perry continued to condemn others for wanting to tax and spend, he launched into an even worse scenario to avoid having to face the possibility of a small increase in the gasoline tax.  Governor Perry successfully proposed a bond issue to replace needed funds for our highways.  He predicted boastfully that his policies would lead to such an economic boost in Texas that no new tax would be necessary — and that we would have plenty of money to take care of these needs.  

Unfortunately, all Governor Perry’s program has left us with is a $30 billion debt, which we are struggling to pay along with the massive interest on it.

While the motto of no new taxes sounds great on the political stump, it is doing little or nothing to meet our needs for health, education, transportation, or even economic growth.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


We hear a lot about the "war on Christianity."  Frankly, I don’t believe there is any war on Christianity in the United States.  Unfortunately, however, I think there may be a mass defection from organized religion.  It seems many churches are in trouble, and there are fewer and fewer in regular attendance in churches which represent organized religions. 

Politicians like Ted Cruz keep emphasizing and relying on the fact there are millions of Evangelical Christians out there whom he believes could unite and carry the day in almost any national election.  However,  it seems the current presidential election is revealing some startling facts about the so-called Religious Right.  It appears they may be right of center, but not so religious.  Donald Trump continues to boast about the large percentage of Evangelicals who are supporting him and helping him close in on Ted Cruz, even in Iowa.  He then bested Cruz in South Carolina where the Evangelical vote was supposed to be very close, or carry Cruz to a victory. 

The startling thing about Trump’s apparent support from those claiming to be Evangelical Christians is how they could do so and still remain true to their faith.  It seems only a short time ago that any politician with the “warts” that are on Trump would not even get out of the starting blocks in a contested race.  Trump has flouted traditional Christian standards in multiple ways, and yet still claims a substantial amount of support from so-called Christians.  Trump boasts in his autobiography of having numerous affairs with women who were married, of having a child out of wedlock, and marrying for a third time.  Even more revealing is Trump's failure to reveal his favorite passage in the Bible, which he claims he loves so dearly, on the grounds that it is very personal to him and not to be revealed.  I suppose he has overlooked all the chapters about witnessing your faith.  

The saying goes that all the world loves a righteous man but loves a repentant sinner better.  That is probably true because most of us can more readily identify with the repentant sinner than with one who parades his righteousness.  The scary thing about Trump, however, is he apparently is a sinner but not repentant.  When asked if he ever has asked God for forgiveness, Trump is evasive, and basically has said he didn’t feel the need to do so.

I confess I have written much about hypocrisy.  I will also confess there is enough hypocrisy to go around in both major political parties.  While most politicians tout their religiosity and boast of their good qualities, it looks as though many of our better individual qualities and better tendencies as a nation go unpracticed.  While it is often said we are a Judeo/Christian nation, how is it then that we continue to allow children in this nation to go to bed hungry? or allow babies to go without adequate medical care in a nation of plenty?  How can we, or a substantial portion of us, appear to flock to a candidate who has forgotten “love thy neighbor” and instead would substitute “watch thy neighbor”?  

If we are truly a nation of deep-seeded Christian beliefs, we should do better than endorse politicians who, to all appearances, confuse good policy with nasty rhetoric.  Unfortunately, both parties are reaping what they have sown–one party too dependent on government to do what we as individual caring people should do, and the other party too ready to turn their backs on those less fortunate and in need. 
It appears some so-called evangelistic people who boast of their Christianity are more dedicated to right wing politics than they are to following Christian teachings.

While I do not believe there is a threat to real Christianity in America as long as we have our constitutional protections for religion, I do fear for the Christian movement based on defections from within.  Unfortunately, the main thing that clearly comes across when assessing the large support of so called Evangelicals for Donald Trump, with all we know of him, is that there is a vast movement in this country of religious hypocrites.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


I’m quite sure the vast majority of citizens in Southeast Texas can do basic arithmetic, including the multiplication tables as well as simple addition and subtraction.  Unfortunately, when considering candidates for public office, it appears to me too many of my fellow citizens forget to do some basic math.

A great example is the current and surprising support for Donald Trump.  Mr. Trump has succeeded in gathering a large following through vague promises to build a wall without telling us how to make Mexico pay for it and a whole series of other boastful predictions of what he can do.  Unfortunately, when basic arithmetic is applied to most of Trump’s promises, they simply don’t add up.

First of all, Trump kowtows to older voters by pledging not to touch entitlements—basically, Social Security and Medicare. Apparently, Trump once supported raising the age limit for Social Security recipients, but he has now backed off from that commitment and promises to continue Social Security as it is with billionaires receiving a cost of living adjustment every year.

Even worse, Trump claims to be a great negotiator and would change the law passed by Congress prohibiting Medicare to negotiate for savings on prescription drugs.  He claims he could save 300 billion dollars by negotiating for drug price.  However, the total amount spent by Medicare for prescription drugs was only 78 billion.  I doubt seriously if Mr. Trump, even with his negotiation skills, could persuade the pharmaceutical industry to contribute to the national deficit.

Closer to home, however, are the promises made by the current ruling party in Texas.  We’ve been promised no new taxes, conservative government and doing away with waste.  At the same time, we’ve been promised quality education, good highways, great law enforcement and most recently a termination of the influx of uninvited guests (illegal aliens).  Recently we have learned one of our great fiscal conservatives, Rick Perry, donated a quarter million dollars to his outgoing staff in appreciation for their service.  He engineered a 5 billion dollar reduction in school funding which caused your property taxes to go up significantly while we had 12 billion dollars in the savings account for Texas.

While Texas politicians boast of no new taxes, without hesitation they force middle America to spend more and more.  Recent studies have shown that in our urban areas people are spending thousands of dollars each year idling their vehicles in traffic jams in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.  While we have not raised the gasoline tax since the 90's, everything else has gone up, the quality of our roads and bridges have gone down substantially.  You should know this if you’ve recently driven on a no-new-tax washboard which passes for a decent highway.

Conservative politicians, like our Governor Abbott, speak of the American dream and how they want our children do better than we did in school—and yet, they have made access to our high-quality institutions of higher learning almost impossible because of the continuing rise in tuition.  A&M and UT currently have substantial tuition increases on the table for consideration by their boards of regents. 

While I’m railing about my conservative Republican friends, I do not leave out some crazy Democratic promises as well.  Who really believes Bernie Sanders when he says a single-payer health system could be bought for $500 a citizen and return $5,000 in benefits?  I’m given to wonder—with so many people believing these outlandish political promises, where is our common sense and ability to calculate?  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Like most—watching skiers gliding with ease down beautiful, snow-covered slopes—it appears to me to be something a well-coordinated, young man could easily master.  What’s complicated about strapping on a pair of boards and pointing them downhill?  The experience of first-time skiing is very likely to be somewhat different.  The first time I managed to get my rented boots fixed in a pair of skis I felt like the biggest klutz in Colorado.  And, after winding up in a local first aid station, I decided there was substantially more to it than what it appeared when I watched it on Wide World of Sports.

Similarly, watching the current political shows, you'd know there's more to it if you've ever strapped on political boots as I did for many years.  If you listen to and believe folks like Donald Trump, political problems like immigration, health care, the ISIS crisis, and foreign trade can be easily solved.  His answers include few, if any, details.  Usually, his response is, “I am rich, smart, and I will provide the best health care you’ve ever seen.”  To the terrorist threat he simply says, “I’ll knock ‘em out right away—so fast they’ll disappear.” 

Why then are so many people seemingly so gullible as to support such nonsense?  I believe the answer is for the same reason Americans spend millions each year on phony shortcuts to lose weight or obtain a model body without effort.  “If you take this miracle pill,” says the ad, “weight will fall off without any effort.”  “If you buy and use these stretch tubes for exercise, in a few weeks you can look like Beyonce.”  Fad diet claims abound on television, books and other sources.  Most, however, do not work.  

There are seldom easy shortcuts which will result in serious weight loss or good health. Just talking about your weight or health will not add strength to your body or lose you one single pound. There's more to it—like dieting and exercise.  Cutting calories and regular exercise are true answers to better health—however, most are generally unpleasant for most of us couch potatoes to accept. 

Likewise, in politics and government, there's more to it than simple solutions to complicated problems. Just bragging about how tough you are won’t do anything for world peace.  Ask yourself this question: would you hire someone to build you a house who simply claimed to be a great craftsman, but cannot or will not show you a set of plans?  Why, then should we trust someone who merely says they can lead our country, improve our economy, keep us safe and be in charge of a nuclear arsenal that could destroy half the world?

Voters, wake up.  You probably wouldn't waste a check on a TV evangelist who claimed he can pray and make you skinny.  Similarly, please don’t waste your vote on politicians whose claims are equally as phony. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Rick Perry and those like him have long been fond of touting Texas’ great business climate.  Of course as a proud Texan, I’m happy to brag about any Texas quality—including our business climate.  However, in my opinion, there are ways in which we should not continue to measure a great business climate for our state.

As a first-term legislator, I learned a different definition of “a great business climate.”  The definition I learned in the House of Representatives was that whatever special interests with big bucks and big lobbyists wanted, they get.

A close examination of the history of how policy "happens" in the Texas Legislature will support my theory concerning the definition of a great business climate.

Among leading special interests in Texas since the 50's is the insurance industry.  State government in Texas has done little if anything to protect consumers, or to see that Texans get fair value for their insurance premiums.  Auto rates in our state have consistently been among the highest insurance rates in the United States.  Homeowners, especially those of us who live on the coast, have long suffered unfair discrimination for protection of our homesteads.

 Rick Perry, Abbott and Dan Patrick, the current Lt. Governor, appear to be dedicated to continue serving special interests while ignoring the people’s needs.  Health care is a prime example.

Perry—supported by then-Attorney General Greg Abbott—turned down about $9 billion dollars or more for health care for Texans.  Their decision was not made with concern for the best interests of our people or their health, but for their own political standing among rightwing conservative groups.  They wanted to show how conservative Mr. Perry was in his quest for the presidency of the United States.

Those of you who have chosen to vote Republican here in Southeast Texas should be aware of part of the price you are paying for the Abbott-Perry-Patrick definition of a good business climate.  Opting our state out of the Affordable Care Act has cost Orange County its Memorial Hospital and Port Arthur its St. Mary Hospital.  And the conservative Republican stance on health care has denied millions of Texas children adequate health care in Texas alone.

Even the health care and insurance we do have is poorly regulated.  A recent example of our state’s failure to protect citizens can be seen in a case where Preferred Provider, aka Texas Blue, terminated individual health plans without prior notice.  Their stated cause was that the plan was losing money.  The prompt closing left thousands of Texans without any coverage.  Examination of the company revealed they had collected over $28 billion dollars in premiums, and their own financial report revealed they had paid their chief executive a 10 million dollar bonus over his very generous salary.  At the same time, the company’s financial report showed $10 billion dollars in reserve.  Think about whether or not you consider a state policy that allows this kind of profiteering to occur at the expense of its citizens to be a great business climate for Texas.

Currently, rightwing candidates for president continue to babble about repeal of the Affordable Care Act with no specific plan to provide healthcare for United States citizens.  The yammering crowd who hates Obamacare, and anything else he did, continue to argue that healthcare should be left to the free market and not to interfere with the relationship between patients and their doctors.  They never seem to discuss the fact there is no clear, easy relationship between you and your doctor when it's always interfered with by which doctor your insurance carrier (if you have insurance) will choose to pay or not.  

The free market is not “free” when it comes to health care.  Generally, the free market occurs when buyers and sellers are free to deal at arm’s length to negotiate price and terms of whatever product or service is being bought or sold.  Imagine yourself on the hospital gurney about to be subjected to surgery.  Do you really think you have any standing to negotiate price when your doctor says, “Take these pills or die.”  Have you ever said, “Wait a minute.  I want to negotiate and see if I can get a better deal somewhere else.”  Our current conservative Congress has even seen fit to prohibit us as a country from even negotiating the price of drugs, particularly for those of us on Medicare. 

It seems to me these kinds of attitudes—particularly as promoted by our own state government—follow the wrong definition of "a great business climate."

Monday, February 1, 2016


I have observed the public backlash of late over political correctness that seems to have been set off by Donald Trump and his devotees.  Although political correctness is rooted in good will toward others, apparently even a good thing—when taken to extreme—can get a bad rap.

No doubt some interest groups have been taking political correctness to extreme.  I know a feminist, for example, who wanted to change the name of Dallas’ football team to the Dallas “Cow-persons.”  It seemed to me that was overreaching just a bit, the same as when politically correct individuals get wrought up over whether or not to call a server in a restaurant a waiter or waitress a "waitperson."

One of my current doctors (of which I have several at my age) told me part of my problem was I was “deconditioned.”  She could have simply reminded me that I am now old and fat.  Though I appreciate the kindness, the facts would not have offended me.

In defense of public correctness, there is still much to be said for it.  What’s wrong with all of us being polite to one another?  With growing acceptance of the concept of political correctness, I believe many worthwhile things have evolved.  In conversation in recent years, I have observed a notable decline in racial epithets.  Unsavory and insulting references to persons of a different gender no longer seem to be so much in use, even by the good old boys.  Even derogatory references to those of a different sexual orientation seem to have become less popular. 

If we can continue a rational use of the concept of political correctness, in the sense of just being respectful of one another’s differences, we will be better for it as a people.  Being united has been the strength of America.  To insult our fellow citizens is not the way to stay united.  Political correctness is something we should continue to observe, and we should remind many of our current candidates for office to do the same.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Our country started as a confederacy but never reached its full potential until it became a union.  Our forefathers debated at length whether to have a federalist government or continue as a confederacy of states.  A confederacy of states proved not to be an efficient way to defend our country, unite our country, or throw off the yoke placed on Americans by England.  After a long and arduous debate, the founders of our nation decided on the federal system and created the United States of America.  Through our unity, America evolved as a beacon of freedom, a powerful nation, and a juggernaut of economic growth and benefits.

The last attack on the union of America brought on the Civil War.  I’ve thought since my early study of the creation and continuation of the United States of America that that conflict settled the question of whether or not we were a confederacy of states or the United States of America.  The latest right-wing, looney idea about our federal system comes from our own governor, Greg Abbott.  

Abbott wants to convene a constitutional convention to change our current United States constitution.  The idea of a constitutional convention is not so loony or bad in and of itself.  Were we to have one, there would be an opportunity to overturn the “Citizen’s United” decision of the Supreme Court which decrees corporations are people, money is speech, and unlimited sums of secret money can be spent to influence our elections.  Abbott’s ideas, however, would undermine, if not destroy, the United States as we know it.

Abbott’s plan, among other things, would allow the states to overturn laws passed by our Congress and decisions made by our Supreme Court.  Think about what mischief could be wrought under such a system.

The right of all citizens to vote without paying a poll tax could be reversed.  States could reinstitute the practice of Jim Crowism—draconian literacy tests before people would be allowed to vote in even local elections.  The concept of one man/one vote would be a thing of history.  The practice of separate but equal in education could be reinstituted as well as separate drinking fountains for our citizens of color.  What if, perchance, America found itself once again in a world war, and our national Congress reinstituted the draft?  Would states be able to overturn such a decision and opt out of allowing its citizens to serve in the military?

Our forefathers were wise in creating the federal system we now have.  I do not advocate that our United States constitution is perfect, but it is flexible and has been enduring.  America became strong when we ceased to be a collection of states—with each going their own way, following their own will—and united as a federal system called the United States of America.  

Abbott should rethink his plan, if he is truly to be known as a loyal and patriotic American citizen.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


It appears America’s efforts to counter the ISIS public media messages recruiting young people  is not viewed as being effective.  The director of this particular task has not been named since the last one resigned 7-8 months ago.  The Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, says our efforts have fallen way short, and it is probably a valid criticism.

In examining why we are having a rash of young people recruited by ISIS and why our countermeasures are not being effective, I wonder if, in part, it could be blamed on Fox news pundits, talk show hosts and the Republican establishment, including the 14 candidates running for president.  If a car dealership had a significant number of its sales force on the public media trashing their product and telling about why their cars are junk, I doubt seriously their market share would rise.  

We should ask the question, “How can we sell the benefits of being an American to impressionable young men and women while one of our major political parties keeps telling the world that freedom in America is dying or dead?”  Republicans have kept up an 8-year drumbeat trying to persuade the world our president, duly elected by the people, is a dictator who wants to take our guns, impose Sharia Law and God knows what other evil plan.

No team has ever won a championship when the team does its best to undermine its designated leader.  From day one of President Obama’s term the announced goal of the Republican Party was to ensure his failure as leader of the United States of America.  Republicans would revise history by ignoring the fact the economy had already tanked on Bush’s watch by the time Obama had gotten elected. But they continue to blame a slow recovery on Obama.  Currently, one of the loudest allegations from the 14 Republican candidates for president is the mess in Iraq and Syria is the fault of our president and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  

Republicans continue to ignore the fact it was a Republican administration who lied to us, got us into a war costing a trillion dollars and 4 thousand American military lives, and destabilized the entire Mideast.

Americans who love this country, and work for a living or are retired, and who are not suffering from “affluenza,” need to awake to the fact that America is still great.  We don’t need to take our country back as most Republican candidates yammer at every opportunity because we still own it.  We just need to take more interest in its management.  It seems that in Texas at least people who are hurt the worst by Republican policies, including minorities, poor people and union members, are voting the least.  A greater turnout with those in these categories would soon make Texas Blue again.

We need to begin demanding from our elected officials fair treatment of wage earners, including protections to stop business from being able to fire workers without just cause.  We should enact a decent living minimum wage so that people could live on their earnings, clothe and feed their families, educate them and attend to their medical needs.  We should not allow billions to be spent on elections unless voters are told from whence the money came.  No American should die for lack of adequate health care, nor should their families be bankrupted to keep loved ones alive. 

We Americans will do much better selling America to the rest of the world when we recognize the value of what we have, not the least of which is the right to select our own leaders.  In all probability, little is going to change so long as we continue to have less than 10% of our population selecting those who make the major decisions for us all.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Perry's Hypocrisy

I’ve seriously considered changing the name of this column from the Carl Parker Column to the Hypocrisy Watch.  A hypocrite, as you well know, is someone who preaches one thing and does another.  My nomination at the end of the year for hypocrite of the past ten years has to be Rick Perry.  Rick Perry started his career advertising himself to be a Democrat, got elected; and at the first opportunity for glory, switched parties.  Thereafter, he campaigned and held himself out to be a born-again Christian and an arch-conservative, guardian of the public till.

First of all, although Perry was regularly seen at the services of one of the largest Baptist churches in Austin, Texas, while he was running for office and espoused the virtues of Christian belief, there it appeared to stop; at least so far as the charitable feature of Christianity and giving yourself to others less fortunate.  The records revealed several years ago that Perry’s only contribution to charity, or religion, was a donation of secondhand clothing in the amount of about $200 (a value which he and his wife placed on it).  Though he went from a poor country boy to a millionaire, he has never explained the source of his wealth, or ever attributed it to hard work and wise investment.  Most of it came from one of his rich beneficiaries who allowed him to make a bundle off of a piece of land he was able to secure on credit.

However, part of Perry’s worst hypocrisy is the fact that while espousing to be a conservative and guardian of our tax dollars, he spent millions traveling around the nation to further his presidential ambitions.  Although at one time he had over $100-million in his campaign coffers, he still soaked the taxpayers of Texas for several million dollars.

  While espousing holding a tight rein on the purse strings of our state treasury, he gave away multiple millions of dollars from “his” slush fund under the guise of attracting business to Texas.  Most of his grants from this fund went to those who had given him large contributions; and about half of them never produced anywhere near the jobs or economic windfalls promised in justifying the gross giveaways.

Perry—who claimed to be guardian of our tax dollarsrecently showed his true colors.  According to an article in the Houston Chronicle,  Perry, as he and his staff were leaving office, bestowed gifts of our tax money to his pals.  One of his gifts was $19,700 which is more than a minimum wage earner makes in a year.  His administrative assistant, who was paid $250,000 per year was given $13,000 on her way out the government door.  More appalling, this assistant took her tax money gift and promptly went to work on the ex-governor's campaign for president at another generous salary.

My nominee for runner up for the 2015 Hypocrite of the Year would have to be Sid Miller, our recently elected Agriculture Commissioner.  Sid Miller, while a member of the House of Representatives was one of the attack dogs searching for waste in our budget.  No new tax was the chorus he sang at every opportunity, condemning waste and allegedly saving the taxpayers.  

It seems Commissioner Miller has now had a change of heart in that he has recently imposed 117 new taxes on many Texans.  Commissioner Miller has increased the fees for most of the services of the Department of Agriculture saying it was needed to efficiently administer the Department.  I wonder why Mr. Miller didn’t think about how hard it would be to deliver an education to the school children of Texas when he went along with millions in cuts on our public education budget?  

And it also seems Commissioner Miller is not so conservative when it comes to dishing out favors to his buddies.  Commissioner Miller recently awarded thousands in the form of bonuses to many of his employees who had been  on the payroll less than a year.  Several of them were hired by bypassing the state law requiring posting and bidding for state jobs.  

It makes me wonder how Rick Perry and Sid Miller define conservative.  It sure isn’t the one listed in the dictionary.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Unfair Termination

In my 57 years of law practice I've had all kinds of calls.  One of the questions most frequently asked, however, is related to unfair treatment of working folks in Texas.  Most have been let go from their jobs and are calling to inquire whether or not they have some legal remedy.  Most feel they were unjustifiably terminated from their employment because of a minor disagreement with one of their supervisors, or an argument with a fellow worker, or a wrongful allegation of wrongdoing.  Unfortunately, in most cases in Texas, there is little a lawyer can do for a working person unfairly cast loose in the cold world of our present economy.

Texas, I must tell all of them, is in fact an “at will” employment state.  This simply means you are employed and may continue to be employed at the will of your employer.  Generally, a Texas employer can terminate an employee for any reason he or she chooses so long as it is not a prohibited reason for discharge.  The exception to the rules related to at will employment is if the employee has the benefit of working under a personal contract or a union contract.

Personal contracts are generally related to executive services such as sales managers, supervisors, technicians or professionally qualified employees.  Union contracts generally provide no employee can be discharged unless there is proper cause and thereafter provides various types of remedies such as grievance procedures in arbitration agreements.

Under Texas law there is generally only one provision which prevents an employer from discharging an employee.  An employee who is discharged for failure to perform an illegal act in connection with his or her employment may seek protection of the courts.  An example of the leading case in this involves the operator of a vessel who was ordered to dump all of his sludge into a waterway.  After having refused to do so, he was discharged.  The court ordered him reinstated in his job with back pay.  There are probably not more than two or three cases on the Texas law books of this nature.

Generally, prohibitions on unfair discharge are contained in our federal law which mainly ban unfair treatment in the workplace related to race, national origin, gender, age or health.  In order to pursue a claim under the federal Equal Employment Statutes, one must first seek a remedy by filing a complaint with the federal office of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  The nearest office to Jefferson County is located in Houston.  Once a complaint is filed, a worker will be assigned to the complaining employee, an investigation made and resolution sought.  In some instances the agency is able to reconcile employee and employer and allow the employee to regain his or her job.  If no resolution can be made through the investigative process, the EEOC will grant the aggrieved employee a right-to-sue letter.  The complaining employee thereafter must file suit within 90 days, and suit can be brought in state or federal court.

Suits claiming violation of the equal employment provisions of law generally are heavily burdensome to those filing them.  The burden of proof is on the aggrieved employee, and usually turns out to be fairly expensive.

Most of the callers to my office are normally shocked to learn they have no remedy simply because they were treated by their employer in a manner they consider grossly unfair.  Sadly, I have to tell these disappointed, out-of-work folks that it is one of the prices they pay so our politicians can brag of the great business climate that has been created by our political leaders in Texas.