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!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Politicians want full disclosure from poor people, but not themselves...



Once again it appears the Legislature has taken two steps backward on ethics as it applies to them.  

It seems the Legislature wants full disclosure about whether or not poor people took advantage of Obama Care in a way similar to ancient history where wrongdoers were branded with an “S” on their foreheads which became known as the “scarlet letter.”  The Legislature overwhelmingly passed a requirement that people who were furnished coverage through Obama Care would have a set of numbers placed on their health cards identifying them as “Obama Care” recipients.  Ostensibly, this is so doctors would know whether or not to take that insurance.  I wonder if this measure was passed hoping doctors would refuse the insurance so acquired as the state has turned down the several billion dollars we could have gotten for implementing a decent program for poor people.

During this same session, the Legislature quickly killed any measure which would have required identification of secret groups which might have given money to slush funds for the members of the Legislature or other politicians—better known as “dark money.”  

Senator Huffman, Chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee, pushed through two anti-ethics measures through her committee this session.  First of all, Senator Huffman decided she couldn't trust the public integrity unit of the Travis County District Attorney, so she passed legislation handing off investigation of any wrongdoing of an Austin politician to the Texas Rangers.  It’s doubtful any powerful senator or member of the Legislature, or even governor, would worry a lot about being investigated by an entity which wholly depends on legislative appropriations for the salaries of its members.  Even worse, if the Rangers find wrongdoing, they have to refer it to the politician’s home prosecutor to decide whether or not to prosecute.  Most of the senators, representatives and governors I have known in the past have a cozy relationship with their local folks back home.  It sure seems to me such a procedural scam will not lead to many indictments or convictions.

Currently, Texas law requires that officeholders file an annual financial report.  One purpose of this requirement is to tell voters whether or not there is a potential conflict of interest when acting in an official capacity. Senator Huffman passed a bill which is a step backwards in transparency of government.  Her bill provides that if property is in the spouse's name, it is not necessary to include that property on a politician's financial disclosure.  Texas being a community property state, no matter which spouse's name appears on the title of property, it is community property unless it is inherited or the result of a gift.  Therefore, even if property is in a spouse's name, one-half of it belongs to the politician.  Even if the property in question is the separate property of the non-serving spouse, income from it becomes communal and thereby benefits the officeholder.  This bill robs citizens of the ability to know whether or not the officeholder has a potential conflict of interest or receives benefit from a business not favored by voters. 

I suspect this legislation was prompted by the fact that a couple of our state officials have conveniently forgotten to list community property on their financial disclosure and were reprimanded by the state’s ethics commission.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Health Care

Our junior senator, Rafael Ted Cruz, is at least on target about one thing. In fighting the Affordable Care Act which has been dubbed Obama Care, Senator Cruz feared that if not repealed very soon the people would start growing to like it. That certainly has happened for millions and millions of formerly under-insured Americans who were suffering without adequate medical care. Obama Care is in fact working. 

Those who are detractors of Obama's program have yet to offer a single alternative. Americans should look at the very weak response from Republicans who claim we could do better. Rick Perry simply said we had plenty of coverage for poor people in Texas--they could go to the emergency room. Going to the emergency room may be a fine idea of good medical care for some folks, but it is sorely lacking in facilities for long-term ailments. And, those of us who pay for medical treatment, or our insurance carriers, are stuck with the bill. 

 America is said to have the best medical technology in the world, and is a place where--if you are well off--you can obtain the best medical care in the world. Unfortunately, however, the same cannot be said for people living from payday to payday or unable to work. Medical bills are the leading cause of individual bankruptcies. Today medical care takes an average of 16% from family income.  When Blue Cross started, only 6% of the family income was adequate  for medical care for the whole family.

Our conservative friends, and many in the medical profession, like to boast about how great medical care is in the United States. Yet, we rank 28th in the world of all nations concerning infant mortality.  Much of the blame for this situation goes to many of our politicians. They claim we should leave it alone and let free enterprise take care of it.  

As one writer has sarcastically said, “It’s very difficult to negotiate price when you’re on the gurney heading into the surgery room to have open heart surgery.” Market forces simply do not work. If you are told to take these pills, you do not stop to argue when offered a “take the pill or die” proposition. 

There’s often talk that fraud and phony ailments drive up our medical costs. Those are not the primary forces helping to destroy our economy. The primary cause of ever-increasing medical costs is fairly simple. It’s greed. Insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and manufacturers of medical equipment combined probably have more lobbyists in Washington than all other interests combined. 

For those of you who do not believe money makes a difference in politics, look at the successful lobbying that has been accomplished by medical care lobbyists. As an example, statutorily, Medicaid is prohibited from negotiating price with pharmaceutical companies. Also, so-called charity hospitals have grown like topsy and are paying their top managers millions of dollars. M.D. Anderson has two top administrators, each receiving $2 million a year. 


To make matters worse, in Texas--purely for political reasons--Rick Perry, who is trying to position himself as an ultra-conservative to run for president, has led our state in turning down billions of federal dollars which not only denies access to good medical care to millions of Texans, but also hurts the state in other ways. Hypocritically, conservative Republicans mouth that Obama Care is the biggest job killer ever passed. Unfortunately for conservative Republicans, this claim does not square with facts. 

A recognized economist in Texas, Ray Perryman, has calculated that accepting the money and wisely spending it for health care in Texas would create 60,000 new jobs in Harris County alone. Our current governor just gave away about a million five in tax payer dollars to lure a company building tractors to Texas that would give us less than 400 new employees. Compare that to accepting the $920 million on the table for Texas to provide health care that would help create 60,000 new jobs in one county alone.  

The next time you hear someone belittling the efforts of our current president to provide better medical coverage for Americans, ask them what alternative they would propose. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Getting the politics out of politics...

Lloyd Doggett, while in the Senate of Texas, once commented during a debate that you can’t take politics out of politics. Senator Joan Huffman of Houston, however, seems to be trying.

For several decades the public integrity unit of Texas has resided in the district attorney’s office of Travis County. This special unit has successfully investigated and prosecuted numerous complaints of official misconduct. The unit was placed where it is because more often than not most official conduct at the state level arises in the capitol city.

Over the years, the unit has prosecuted far more Democrats or their appointees than Republicans.  Among them have been two speakers and an attorney general.

Republican politicians are now whining because Rick Perry was indicted by a group of 12 citizens for abusing his power. Perry, in an attempt to force the local district attorney to resign, threatened the use of his power of veto to punish the then-officeholder of Travis County. Had he threatened to beat her up if she didn't resign, his wrongdoing may have been more clear to citizens than it is now.  Nonetheless, it was still a threat to use his power to attempt to force another officeholder to bend to his will.

It seems Huffman’s scheme would be as political--or moreso--than the present system.  In the Huffman plan, instead of having alleged misconduct reviewed by a panel of 12 reputable citizens, the conduct would be referred to a group of Texas Rangers selected by one person, appointed and serving at the will of the governor. Thus selected, if the Rangers thought necessary, the case would be referred to the home county of the accused official. If the hometown boys perchance indicted the official, the case would then be referred to the local district attorney in the home county of the official. This would be the case even if the criminal conduct occurred in some other county such as Travis County, Austin, Texas.

Apparently, several senators favoring the Huffman method have lost sight of the conduct of a Republican activist occurring just a few years ago. Several thousands of dollars were allegedly misused in connection with the election process. The then-Republican-controlled Ethics Commission let the offender go free because the money allegedly misspent in violation of the election laws of Texas didn’t count since he didn’t use cash--he only sent out checks. This is the type partisan, political mischief Huffman is inviting.

The most recent great hypocrisy among Republicans occurred in the last election cycle. While they demanded loudly for the district attorney to resign because she pled guilty to a DWI charge, in the same election cycle they elected a politician attorney general who had recently admitted to conduct which amounted to a third-degree felony. 

It seems as difficult to take politics out of politics as it is to take hypocrisy out of politics.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Senate Bill 1628 and Windstorm Insurance...

The definition of a frivolous lawsuit is one that has been filed against me. All of mine are legitimate, of course. 

This is the hypocritical position of the leading so-called tort reformers. Richard W. Weekly is a great example of the consummate hypocrite.--he has fought for tort reform: his idea is to simply do away with lawyers and juries. Yet, when he lost a huge arbitration case (in an arbitration he had advocated), he turned to the courts to try to get further relief.  

People like Weekly and big insurance will not stop their assault on individual consumers and ordinary people until jury trials no longer exist and lawyers are all out of business. Weekly and others claim the "windstorm insurance pool" was done away with because of greedy lawyers. There is a very simple way to avoid having to deal with lawyers–pay the legitimate claims you owe.

A forgotten history of windstorm insurance was the fact that insurance companies at one time were required to furnish windstorm insurance with any homeowner’s policy. Insurance companies complained so much that they promised to fund and underwrite a special insurance for coastal folks, like us, if they could offer homeowner’s policies without offering storm insurance.  What went wrong was a combination of several hurricanes in a row, closely bunched--and the fact Rick Perry and his buddies put some of their cronies in charge who were either crooked or stupid. Many did not understand or know about the insurance adjusting business, others didn’t care and simply used the position to line their own pockets. Fraud was rampant among those who administered the Texas Windstorm Pool. Unfortunately, conservatives in the Legislature, instead of punishing the wrongdoers, simply are attempting to solve the problem by punishing consumers.

Having stuck it to Texas homeowners, now big insurance wants to stick it to consumers in all insurance claims.  Now pending in the House of Representatives in Austin is a bill properly dubbed “the insurance immunity act.”  It is so named because it would be a gift to insurance companies who have pulled $11.6 billion out of Texas’ economy and are now whining about having to pay claims fairly.

There are numerous features in the bill to protect insurance companies and increase their profit coming out of your pocket--but some are more egregious than others.  As an example, if you as a homeowner file a claim which mistakenly overstates your loss, you can be indicted under the new act and branded a criminal. On the other hand, if an insurance agent or adjuster cheats you, they are totally immune from being sued. If the roof blows off your house, you can wait forever for a replacement with no penalty to the insurance company who is re-investing and using the money you paid in premiums for coverage. 

Senate Bill 1628 now pending in the House of Representatives does away with most consumer protections afforded by the Texas Consumer Protection Act and shortens the time an injured consumer has to provide his or her claim.


You should call or email your state representative and senator and ask that this bill be stopped or seriously amended to protect  the rights of consumers. Don’t buy the old excuse that if we are too hard on insurance companies they will quit writing insurance in Texas. Texas is the second most populous state and a huge insurance market which no insurance company wants to give up. 

It’s time for our elected representatives to get a little backbone and stand up to the hundreds of lobbyists and big money insurance companies.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Abbott Aversion

I can’t imagine in my wildest dreams that a mother in her right mind would trust someone who hated children to care for their child. Why on earth, then, would rational citizens choose groups such as the Tea Party which hates government to be in charge of government? Recent events demonstrate our current Governor mistrusts not only the United States government, but also local governments within our state. These recent actions show not only hypocrisy but bring into question whether or not Governor Abbott has what it takes to lead our state successfully into the twenty-first century.

In a recent speech, Governor Abbott stated that Texas should lead the way in combating the United States government, as well as local governments. In the past week our Governor had the opportunity to speak for sanity and rational government by denouncing the wackos who were promoting the rumor that the United States Army was moving into Texas for the purpose of declaring marshal law and confiscating Texans’ guns. Instead of having the courage to denounce such an outlandish scenario, the Governor simply wrote a letter to our state guard instructing them to keep an eye on the United StatesArmy.

Who can believe that loyal Americans who join our armed forces, putting their lives on the line to protect us all, could be a party to a mass conspiracy whereby the U.S. Army would move into Texas for the purpose of imposing marshal law?

The level of hypocrisy further extends to local government. While conservative Republicans have for many years preached that government that governs best is that closest to the people.  Now, with the Governor’s seeming acquiescence, the Republican Legislature has passed bills which would prevent cities and the voters in those cities to enact ordinances which would protect them from invasive oil drilling activities.  

On the theory of creating uniformity in state law, our Legislature has bowed to big oil by denying cities the right to put limits on activities which have led to earthquakes, toxic pollution and contamination of local water supplies.  While pushing more and more responsibility for funding onto local school districts and cities, numerous bills have been introduced to limit the ability of local taxpayers to allocate what they consider adequate money to pave streets, improve education and provide health facilities for city residents.

While promoting the idea that the United States government is the enemy of the people, Abbott and others ignore the fact that thousands of Texas children go without adequate medical care, educational opportunities or health services.  Even though Texas leads the nation in worker deaths, almost nothing is done or said about workplace safety in this state.  In fact, Abbott and his army of so-called tort reformers have made it almost impossible for an injured worker to seek redress through the court system.  While Abbott continues to enjoy his almost $10 million lawsuit settlement, he supports measures to make it more difficult for citizens injured by others to receive adequate compensation for their injuries. 

Public schools in Texas are clearly underfunded. Roads and bridges have serious needs while our leadership turns down billions of dollars in federal funds which could provide medical help to needy Texans, and the $5 billion robbed from public education remains unrestored. 

In spite of all of these needs, our Governor and Lt. Governor seem absolutely locked in on the proposal to take $4 billion+ dollars out of the Texas budget in order to be able to say that they gave a tax break.  Such a break to each individual Texan would amount to somewhere between $160 to $200 a year.  

To me, a $200 a year tax break in exchange for the opportunity to have better roads and a better education for my grandchildren is not good. 

It makes me angry that these folks continue to refer to the government of the United States of America as the enemy and also attack local government--both levels of government are making serious and valid attempts to address some of the real needs of citizens. I find little resemblance between some of these folks who call themselves patriots and our ancestors who dumped the tea in Boston Harbor.