Saturday, August 16, 2014

Corporations and Free Speech

The recent Supreme Court finding that Hobby Lobby, a for-profit corporation, can hold religious beliefs has set me to thinking about various scenarios.  First of all, if corporations, as decreed by Chief Justice Roberts, have a right to free speech as do human beings, and if they can hold religious beliefs, I would gladly invite Walmart, Mobil Oil or any other corporation to take out membership in my church.  Of course, I would expect them to tithe which would be a real boon to not only my church, but several others in the country.

I’ve also found it fascinating reading to go back occasionally and read the founding documents of our country–The Declaration of Independence, and our Constitution with all of its amendments.  Although I’ve read through both of them twice in recent days, I have failed to find any reference to corporations.  As a matter of fact, the Declaration of Independence (which I believe to be the precursor to our national Constitution) makes it perfectly clear our forefathers were concerned about the rights of human beings.

In fact the eloquent words of Thomas Jefferson speak loudly as to intent:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...”
In spite of recent Supreme Court pronouncements, God did not create corporations.  Corporations were created by the government.  They were created as a convenient way to reap profits--but in large measure, corporations are created by government on a daily basis to allow people to avoid the responsibilities and risks of dealing in the world of commerce.

Corporations have no soul.  And, unfortunately, they cannot burn in Hell for misdeeds here on earth.  (Nor, I suppose, can they go to Heaven.)  Corporations cannot be sentenced to jail for committing crimes nor be drafted for military service in times of national need.  Corporations cannot run for elective office, nor can they hold public office.  Unfortunately, if the current Supreme Court trend continues, this may change in the not too distant future.

The Supreme Court in their quest to confer “person-hood” on corporations issued the faulty decision of Citizens United in which they now pronounce that spending money is speech and that neither the Congress of the United States nor State Legislatures may interfere with corporate free speech in the form of money.  It seems to me this, too, stands logic on its head.  Money is not speech.  Money is money.  Were it to be speech, however, it seems to me it can be legitimately regulated just like other speech.  

As an example, almost every city and town I know of has ordinances prohibiting loud speakers roaming up and down residential streets proclaiming advertisements for candidates for public office, or even commercial ventures.  We have ordinances against loud music out of automobiles passing by our residences.  The classic example of a limit on free speech is that we don’t tolerate someone shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.  Nor do we tolerate one person speaking so loudly that no one else can be heard.  It seems to me the Koch brothers spending $100,000,000 in an election more than drowns out those of us who could maybe afford to contribute $100 to a candidate.

Unfortunately, it appears to me on the whole that the Supreme Court may not truly believe money is speech--but it could be that too many folks today believe money is God.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Whose Lawyer Is He?

Once again Attorney General Greg Abbott, following in the footsteps of his mentor Rick Perry, has proven that the general public cannot be trusted, particularly with sensitive information.  It seems much of the state media has been doing their best to get the Attorney General’s Office to reveal the location and extent of hazardous dump sites or sites where things dangerous to their neighbors are stored or kept.  Our Attorney General, Mr. Abbott, hassteadfastly considered this information not public and apparently believes the public does not need to know whether or not they are living on top of a cesspool or not, or beside something likely to blow them to smithereens on any given evening.

Just as an example, there are dump sites along the Trinity River which have been there for years and continually seep such carcinogenics into the river as dioxin, mercury or worse.

It boggles my mind that our Attorney General and current Republican nominee for Governor boasts about thwarting federal efforts to regulate such things as storage of dangerous explosives, cancer laden fumes and poisonous substances going into our drinking water.  While I understand his political reasoning, I believe most of the Attorney General’s lawsuits have been for the purpose of simply pleasing special interests in Texas and showing how conservative he is.  While I understand the political reasoning behind Attorney General Abbott’s reluctance to blow the whistle on industrial polluters in this state, I resent him spending my tax money to file lawsuits against the federal agencies which are trying to protect the citizens of Texas. 

I doubt very seriously that even the most conservative resident of Jefferson County would love to go back to the good old days when we all enjoyed the full stench of the local refineries’ output.  Some of my fellow citizens of Jefferson County would probably be surprised to learn a facility exists right here in our county very similar to the plant which blew up and leveled the town of West, Texas. 

I have always thought of the Attorney General of Texas as the people’s lawyer.  Being the people’s lawyer, it seems to me, he should be doing everything he can to protect the public.  It seems that full knowledge of where dangerous commercial activities are taking place would certainly be in the interest of everyday citizens.  We get a glimpse into Greg Abbott’s Republican-candidate-for-governor mindset by simply reading his brags.  Abbott brags he goes to work, sues the federal government and goes home.  I firmly believe I would rather have an Attorney General that goes to work, sues bad guys, protects my environment and fights criminal behavior in Texas than one who simply sues the federal government.

Like my conservative friends, I abhor the waste of public funds.  It appears to me to be a waste of our tax dollars for our state’s lawyer to continue filing lawsuits against our own government. As a matter of fact most of the lawsuits against the federal government of which Abbott is so proud have been lost at great expense to Texas taxpayers.  I don’t know about you, but for me I don’t believe I’d hire a lawyer who loses more lawsuits than he wins.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Perry's Big Show

It seems Rick Perry has had a change of heart about several things.  He started wearing big, black-rimmed glasses to improve his appearance and, probably, to seem more intelligent. And he has quit wearing cowboy boots. And, apparently, he has changed his mind about children brought to America through no fault of their own.  

If you will recall in one of his debates the first time he ran for the Republican nomination for president, he allowed as how anyone who did not favor allowing children--brought here through no fault of their own--to finish their education had no heart.  Now it seems he’s joined the chorus, along with people like Ted Cruz, vowing to stop the invasion of all of these terrible people coming from South of Texas.  Cruz and Perry claim aliens have committed 3,000 killings in the past 6 years.  The Austin American Statesman has investigated this claim and found it totally false. 

Perry’s recent conduct once again confirms what a hypocrite he is.  He has always maintained he is a conservative, not wanting to spend any money belonging to the taxpayers, and even proposing we reduce taxes in Texas.  He is now spending a few million of our tax dollars traveling around the United States in his quest for the Republican nomination for president.  Even though he has several million on hand of campaign funds, he insists the state pay many of his expenses for his “Elect Perry” tour.

The latest stunt Perry has grabbed on to trying to polish his image as a right-wing conservative is to supposedly secure the borders. To that end he pushed a proposal through to obtain a multimillion dollar camera system to set up surveillance along the Texas/Mexico border.  A system of 29 cameras placed every 41 miles was installed but has not proven to be very efficient. The system was installed in 2006 and since that time has been responsible for the capture of 26 illegal aliens attempting to invade Texas.  If you divide the 26 illegals captured into the cost, this amounts to $153,800 per illegal alien captured.  This is from a governor who refuses to accept millions from the federal government to see that poor Texas citizens are afforded decent health care coverage.  His argument for turning down the federal bucks is that it would create a trend for which the state might be liable in the future. 

Apparently, cost is really no object when it comes to putting on a good show for Perry’s right- wing supporters.  He ordered several hundred state troopers to the border to do what border guards are supposed to be doing and then recently ordered 1,000 national guard troops to the border.  It’s estimated the collective cost of these two moves will cost Texas taxpayers $17,000,000 per month ($17 million).

The sad part of this story is that it appears finding illegals crossing into Texas is not a problem.  The recent surge of young people and children entering Texas produces a scenario where they immediately attempt to surrender to some local official.  Border county sheriff  suggests this move does nothing but assist Perry’s image among conservative Republicans.  

Because of a law called posse comitatus, military folks in the United States are not authorized to be law enforcement officers against civil populations.  They cannot arrest, they cannot even hold to interrogate, and they certainly would not be authorized to shoot any of these illegal children as they cross the border in what is described by Ted Cruz as an invasion.

Monday, July 14, 2014

So-called Governmental Attack on Religion

I'm getting a little tired of seeing right wing conservatives on television continue to use religion as a political foil.  I hold the personal belief the commandment of not taking the Lord's name in vain means substantially more than not using it in a curse word.  I think those who use it for political show, particularly the hypocrites in the world, will have to answer for it at the end of the line.

Particularly irksome to me is the claim by Senator Ted Cruz and others that religious liberty is under attack here in the United States.  As an example of a governmental attack on religious freedom they then go on to cite the IRS investigating citizen groups.  They know, or should know, the IRS investigation on the so-called religious citizen groups is usually caused by the fact that special interests attempt to clothe themselves in religious endeavors to disguise the fact they are nothing more than a special interest political tool--case in point are organizations formed by the Koch brothers and "Bush's brain," Karl Rove.

As to religious freedom in America, there seems to be good news and bad news.  National studies have shown there has been a substantial decline in citizens who attend church regularly.  The good news is that there's still a vast majority of Americans who believe in a Supreme Being even though they do not ascribe necessarily to a formal religion.  The further good news is that although there is a perceptible fall off in church attendance, there seems to be an increasing zeal among younger citizens who are committed to their faith.

No nation in the world promotes or tolerates diversity in religious beliefs as does America.  Our Constitution still stands for the proposition that citizens should be allowed to worship or not worship as they choose.  There are glaring examples of our government comingling protecting freedom of religion along with freedom of speech.  A classic example occurred in Hardin County, Texas, where the courts ruled cheerleaders were protected in their right to publish and advocate biblical scriptures at Friday night football.  It seems to me if there has been an attack on Christianity by government, at least in Southeast Texas Christianity is winning.

In America, religious activities are not under attack by the government, but religious activities unfortunately are being forsaken by too many Americans who had rather go to ball games, hunt, fish or simply sleep late on Sundays.

When I see Ted Cruz alleging that our national government is trying to destroy Christianity, or Fox News claiming there is a violent war against Christmas, it makes me feel as though my religion has been hijacked by a bunch of phony hypocrites who had rather use their religion for political purposes than spread the gospel of Jesus by living as He taught.  For those who truly believe we should be concerned about a governmental attack on our religion, I would hope you would fight back by occupying a pew at the next religious service of your choice. See you Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Republican Platform

As you might suspect, quite often the topic of conversation with me gets around to politics.  I’m constantly surprised as to how many people will express the belief that there is precious little difference between Republicans and Democrats.  I submit that only a brief examination of those folks who run each party and the content of their deliberations will quickly dissuade anyone who believes there is little or no difference.

If you want to test for difference, first look at the people who make up the leadership of a particular political group.  A case in point is Sara Legvold from Roanoke, Texas, elected by popular vote in the Republican Party as one of the Party’s leaders. She is an avowed White Supremacist, a proud racist who supports separation of the races as existed in South Africa.  Even though her views are widely and publicly known, she was elected by Republicans to their leadership team. Democratic officeholders who switch give more credibility to the team.

Part of the team that Sara was on is responsible for the Republican state platform.  The Party platform is often said by many not to amount to anything because none of those proposals will ever really happen.  The point is, however, that they express a mind set and deeply held belief of the people who run this particular Party. This is why platforms mean something. The people who write these documents are the people whom Republican politicians must ultimately please in order to hold on to their offices.

The current Republican Platform includes a number of things which outright deny scientific fact.  First of all, the Texas Republican Platform would have you believe that climate change is a conspiracy of left-wing, crazy environmentalists who promote the idea that it is caused by human beings and their activities. And there are odd solutions for education, energy and the abortion question. They would like to abolish the Department of Education, to stop spending any money on research for alternate energy sources, and believe a woman should not even have enough say over her body to be able seek an abortion if impregnated as a result of rape or incest.

The Republican State Party Platform goes on to document the Republicans’ distrust of ordinary Americans who are currently allowed to vote on their United States Senator.  In this matter, the Platform calls for appeal of the 17th U.S. Constitutional Amendment which allows popular election of U.S. Senators, and instead would place election of Texas' two congressional senators in the hands of that source of infinite wisdom, the Texas Legislature. 

Republicans also believe that racial harmony has arrived in the United States because we have elected a Black President.  This must be the supporting belief expressed in the plank of the Platform that calls for repeal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

For good measure, Texas Republicans would abolish the Department of Homeland Security, withdraw from the United Nations and immediately ship 1.8 million undocumented residents in Texas back South.

One reason all of this is so strange to me is that most of my conservative friends claim to be good Christians who espouse peace, love and understanding. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Varmint Permits

 I continue to be sorely disappointed the world has failed to recognize some brilliant ideas I’ve had to solve on-going problems.

For example, even though it’s an idea without flaw, I’ve yet to persuade anybody to open a chicken processing plant in conjunction with an alligator farm.  It would save the cost of feeding the alligators and the cost of disposing of the waste from the chicken plant.  Or my other idea which could have done away with billions of dollars in airport security by simply requiring everyone to fly without clothes.  That would do away with expensive x-ray machines and make it impossible for terrorists to smuggle explosives aboard a plane.

This time, however, I’ve hit upon a foolproof idea.  This idea is certain to please gun owners, the NRA, the Tea Party, tort reformers, hunters, farmers, ranchers and conservatives who want to save money.

A recent article carried on the front page of the Houston Chronicle pointed out that over ten million dollars is being spent by the federal government each year to kill varmints.  It published quite a long list of critters that have been “dispatched” to the Great Beyond by the program.  It included over 7,000 coyotes, 646 bob cats, almost 20,000 wild hogs and an assortment of other varmints that hunters generally take great pleasure in shooting.  While reading the article, I agreed with some conservatives who are protesting the expenditure and question why the federal government should make farm and ranch land safe for the owners.

I know hundreds, maybe thousands, of would-be hunters who cannot afford an expensive hunting lease   where they might demonstrate their prowess as “Great White Hunters” (or even Black or Brown Hunters as the case may be).  I would anticipate the first objection that farmers and ranchers would have is the fear of bad lawyers who would file suit at the drop of a hat for anyone injured while carrying on the endeavor to rid the land of varmints.  I have an answer for that which will please the tort reformers.

Currently, hunters are required by Parks and Wildlife to demonstrate proficiency with a weapon to be relatively sure they will not kill or injure their hunting companions, innocent bystanders or people who happen to live near the hunting area.  I would add to that a simple permit issued by Parks and Wildlife which would require the would-be hunter to commit to respecting the land, taking great care not to injure people or damage property.  Based on that commitment the would-be hunter would  receive a Varmint Permit.  Farmers and ranchers would then open their lands, on an appointment basis, to permitted Varmint Hunters who would be more than happy to perform the task at no pay–only the enjoyment of ridding the world of these wild and noxious creatures.

As for the potential liability, I would make the tort reform groups happy by providing a state law which would give immunity to any farmer or rancher--who opened his or her lands to hunting by permitted Varmint Hunters--for any liability or injury received while engaged in the endeavor of stalking raccoons, armadillos, coyotes and other dangerous critters.

There are other economic benefits to be gained by my idea.  The sale of guns, ammunition, coyote calls and 4-wheel vehicles would probably enjoy a great boost in popularity and sales.  Why, even taxidermists would experience a great off-season boom to mount armadillos, mountain lions and foxes.  These hunters might even want a nice wild boar’s head to go over the mantle, particularly those who have not been able to afford the shoulder mount of a sixteen-point buck. 

Even the anti-immigration folks should be happy with my proposal because many of our Southern states are being overrun with almost 70,000 European Starlings.  I’m certain most of these immigrated to the United States without benefit of a permit or visa. Imagine getting rid of almost 70,000 aliens with no expense to the government.

I’m sure some organization like PETA will protest my proposal, but it seems most of these animals are going to meet their fate at the hands of federal death panels whether my plan is adopted or not.  

One last potential benefit is that some of the gun nuts who sit at home and then decide to go lay waste to people in a theater, church house or school might be able to assuage their frustrations or dreams of grandeur by shooting at these pesky animals rather than us. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Science, Politics & Lawyers

"You dare challenge global warming with SCIENTIFIC DEBATE?"
The conflict between science and politics is nothing new. As far back as the occasion when politicians of the time in league with the church threw Leonardo DaVinci in jail for daring to advocate the fact that the earth revolved around the sun and not vice-versa. 

It seems politicians, officeholders, or those in governmental power will always deny science if it appears to threaten their position or cause them discomfort.  

The same is true today.

One only has to look at the current debate over global warming--which 90% of the scientists say is caused, in large measure, by human activity. The basic problem is twofold. Those who see their profits jeopardized by addressing the problem of climate change are hell-bent on denying the problem exists. Unfortunately, those folks are well-heeled and apparently have a bottomless bucket of money to maintain the status quo.   

A case in point is recent news revealing that some billionaires have joined the fray. A hedge fund billionaire out of California, Tom Steyer, has pledged $100 million dollars to support politicians who stand firmly on the side of addressing the problem of global warming. In response, the Kochbrothers--who have various refining, coal and other interests which clearlycontribute to global warming--have responded with a pledge of $290 million dollars to support politicians who deny the existence of global warming.

Anyone familiar with the history of the workplace and industry should immediately see through those politicians who cater to the Koch brothers--in hopes of becoming beneficiaries of their political largesse--who cling to the false hope that there are scientists who deny global warming. 

A most glaring example of when and why profiteers from dirty industries resist recognizing scientific fact is the issue of asbestos. For over thirty years industry denied that asbestos was harmful.  Many industries even went to great lengths to have doctors give false diagnoses of people with lung problems.

More recently, an industry right here in Jefferson County had a doctor proclaim that employees working unprotected with sandblasting had developed tuberculosis, attempting to cover up the facts of silicosis in the lungs.  This is a familiar path.  Even though industries like Johns Mansfield had known for years that asbestos would cause asbestosis--or, even worse, lung cancer--yet they tried their best to keep it a secret. They even had scientists on their payroll to proclaim that the element of asbestos was not dangerous.

And, how long, if you remember, did the tobacco industry produce studies from physicians on their payroll to the effect that smoking was not harmful?  Today, in hindsight, those physicians of phony science seem not merely ridiculous but almost criminal.

Hopefully, average citizens will recognize the current doctors of phony science--conjured up by the Koch brothers--and vote accordingly.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


I’m constantly in awe of how the Republicans in Congress cannot find anything that President Obama does right.  I’m reminded of the corny old story about the overbearing husband who directed his wife to get out of bed and fix him a really nice breakfast.  He ordered eggs, sunny-side up with all of the accompaniments.  Having been abused, and wishing to avoid further abuse, the dutiful wife arose from bed and fixed the breakfast as ordered.  She determined  this time she would please her husband who seemed never be pleased.  She placed before him eggs sunny-side up as ordered.  Immediately, the overbearing husband picked up the plate and threw it against the wall.  “What’s wrong,” asked the wife.  He said, “You’ve put the wrong side sunny side up.”

I agree that our President should have strictly adhered to the law requiring notice to Congress before a prisoner exchange was accomplished--and it also would have been the smart political thing to do.  Had he submitted the issue to Congress, then Congress would be faced with reversing their former position that we should never leave an American soldier behind--or quickly pass a measure to prevent the exchange.  The reason I think it would have been the politically smart thing to do is that it would have put the onus on Congress to debate the issue. And had Bergdahl been assassinated by some element of the Taliban or died in captivity due to a serious illness, it would have been fodder for the Democrats to criticize the Republican Congress for having played politics and caused the death of an American serviceman. 

Apparently, as an humanitarian act, our President chose to take emergency action rather than play politics with the life of an American soldier.

If examined closely, I also feel many of the arguments of the President’s critics would not hold water just because they are espoused by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing crazies.  First comes the argument that we should not care about Bergdahl because he might have committed an offense against the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The fact is, he is ours. He is our soldier. What parent would not be mad as the dickens were some stranger or some other person to punish their children, even for some serious infraction?  Bergdahl is American.  If he is to be punished, he should not be punished by imprisonment by the Taliban but in a military court for violating our Uniform Code.

The next argument is that we have turned loose five dangerous combatants and have encouraged terrorist groups to kidnap more American soldiers.  This argument is almost silly, if you consider the fact that thousands of Jihadists exist in the world today focused on and desiring to destroy America and kill Americans.  Does anyone really believe five more will make a great deal of difference?  The argument that it will encourage terrorist groups to take American soldiers captive is almost as silly.  What terrorist, if he had the chance, would not kill or capture an American soldier today–with or without encouragement?

The whole Bergdahl mess is a glaring example of what’s wrong with our Congress and the operations in Washington today.  There is almost nothing that takes place--even critical issues to America in its relationship with other nations--that is not politicized. And yes, I fault both parties.  It’s time we come together as Americans and take care of our own, even if they have sinned and come short of the standards we believe they should adhere to.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


During my involvement in politics I have met and developed a deep dislike for folks I call chicken hawks and know-it-alls.  Two current examples come to mind.  Our new Senator Ted Cruz and the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.  Their know-it-all attitudes and their rush to have someone else go enter into a fight remind me of lessons I learned at Franklin school.

I started school in the friendly confines of what was then more or less a rural school, Groves Elementary.  By the third grade my family had moved into town to accommodate my dad’s work at the refinery, and I entered Franklin school.  I have often jested that when I went to Franklin there was a sign on the playground saying, “If you can’t fight, help tote off the dead.” 

Franklin was a wonderful school--built in 1929, the state-of-the-art.  It contained an olympic-size swimming pool, two gymnasiums, a wood shop, an auditorium, and a third-floor art atrium with natural sky lights and greenhouses on either end of the school.  In addition to the fine facilities, the teachers at Franklin were excellent.

The worst thing about Franklin was that, among boys, fist fighting seemed to be the favorite past time.  Hardly a day would go by but that a gaggle of boys would go en masse across the playground, through hedges, and congregate on the median of Thomas Boulevard.  That was our favorite arena for fisticuffs.

Along with the combatants at Franklin there were always several loudmouths who were always willing for someone else to fight.  They would egg it on, even push boys into one another trying to start the melee but never take part themselves. 

Most of these guys who always wanted someone else to get into a fist fight were the ones who had all of the answers.  They always knew how things should be and were very free with their opinions.  This experience leads me to believe that chicken hawks and know-it-alls are good names for some of our current so-called leaders.  

Without a doubt, George Bush’s father helped him stay out of the Vietnam conflict by using his influence to allow him to join a special Air National Guard unit out of Austin, Texas.  The vast majority of Bush’s administration, including his vice-president, had also gone to great lengths to make sure they were never tested in combat.  The current nominee for Lt. Governor on the Republican side, Dan Patrick, touts his patriotism and zeal for America, but woe be him.  He could not serve because he says he had a bad leg.

Ted Cruz’ recent rants about exchanging prisoners to return an American soldier home reminds me why I think chicken hawks and know-it-all fits him perfectly.  When asked by a reporter whether or not he would have simply left the soldier there to the tender mercies of the Taliban, Cruz hedged in his usual manner saying there are many other ways we could have rescued him.  “We could have employed the military.”  It seems odd that someone who never served the military or carried a weapon in defense of this country could be so quick to surmise how easy it would be to invade a foreign country and rescue a soldier without loss of life.

Were it not so tragic, it would be amusing to listen to the Republican members of Congress criticize President Obama for not being tougher with Russia, and perhaps even sending the military to the Ukraine to offset Russian troops amassed on the border of that country.  They apparently completely overlook the fact that we might engage ourselves in World War III by doing so.  I daresay if these members of Congress had children or grandchildren serving in the military and were likely to go and be engaged in such a war, they would never condone the ultimate consequence of urging the President to get much tougher with Russia.  Instead, they simply will criticize our President for not being tough enough--or, if he takes action, criticize him for engaging America in another war that we could ill-afford. 

Politicians like Cruz are very adept at not answering questions.  Like the one he was asked, “What would you do to free an American soldier held captive by the Taliban?”  He does not give specific answers, but simply says, “There are many options available.”  This is a lot like the promoter who says it would lead to greater tourism if we simply built a highway from California to the Hawaiian Islands.  When asked how he would go about doing that, he said, “I’m an idea man, not an engineer.”  

Unfortunately, too many of the critics in our Congress have great ideas, but no idea whatsoever about how to implement them.  We need to pay more attention as citizens and make our elected officials more accountable when they choose to be critics rather than builders.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Federal Government Haters

On this recent Memorial Day,  the television was filled with citizens full of patriotic verve.  Unfortunately there is a seriously growing element in our society who seems to think of our national government as a foreign power.  I wondered as I saw armed so-called patriots gather to defend a rancher if they are really patriots.  How can one be a loyal American who also professes not to even believe in the United States of America and obviously have little regard for the rule of law?  I wonder if those gathering and denigrating the United States would choose to live in any other nation.

Our federal government is us.  It is the United States of America.  Those who are quick to criticize and profess that government is totally inefficient--and should be reduced small enough to be drowned in a bathtub--have never thought of what our government does for us.

I wonder if these critics would feel comfortable flying in airspace uncontrolled by a government agency.  What if we simply let competition take care of our airways?  I wonder if the Tea Party leaders would feel comfortable hopping on a plane that perhaps was not the fastest or could fly the highest without air controllers guiding the flight. 

How about those of us who enjoy listening to a clear channel radio station or enjoying our favorite program on television?  What if we just let competition take care of that?  Our airways would be reduced to a mish-mash of stupid programs paid for by those with the most money.  It brings back thoughts of those super broadcast stations out of Mexico advertising the sale of autographed pictures of Jesus.

How about if we just let the oil companies pay for our waterways and keep them dredged?  How long do you think the waterways along the Neches would remain open and how many jobs would be lost when ships could no longer go from Sabine Pass to Beaumont? 

What about you Tea Partiers who live in Port Arthur-- how comfortable would you feel when the next hurricane hits, were it not for the 19' levee our government built around the city?  We wouldn't have federally subsidized flood insurance and you couldn't afford to buy it from private sources.

How about the weather warnings we get from a nationally funded weather service?  Perhaps some innovating television service station owner would spring for enough money to research our climate and let us know when we are about to be hit by a level 4 hurricane.  I doubt, however, that they would do it without a subscription fee, which would probably be more than our current cable TV.  Do you even think about the comfort that comes from having a federally insured savings account in your bank or think about the technology that the government sponsored aerospace explorations has brought in comfort to our daily lives?

I suppose the whole of the unthinking, so-called patriots is summed up by the fellow who said that he wanted government to keep its handsoff his social security and Medicare.  

America is still our country.  America is still the best nation in the world with all of its warts and foibles.  It still makes me grit my teeth when I hear people who so hate our form of government they would like to see it destroyed.  It also makes me wonder why we would vote to place our government in the hands of someone like that who hates it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What Perry should really say...

Our governor, Rick Perry, has recently launched an effort to lure businesses from California and New York to Texas.  Perry’s message has been very subtle, disguised as touting Texas’ “business climate.” Perhaps our Governor should speak plainly and tell businesses in New York and California what he is really trying to say, in plain language. The following are ten points Perry could incorporate into his letter to lure businesses to Texas.

1. Come on to Texas, where we have no income tax. Of course we don’t have enough money to run our schools, maintain our highways, or provide health care for our citizens, but we have no income tax. By skillfully pushing off state responsibility on local governments, we have maintained one of the lowest effective tax rates of any state in the union. However, if you buy a nice home in Texas, your property taxes will be sky high. Your sales tax will ever increase, and almost every fee from hunting licenses to traffic tickets will be higher than most other states. 

2. We are an anti-regulation state. Why, recently we’ve even allowed a company to blow up a whole town with no significant penalty. We refuse to believe global warming is in fact caused by humans, and will fight to the bitter end to allow industry’s right to pollute. What if it does cause a little emphysema, asthma or benzine-caused leukemia. What’re all of those petty bothers compared to a good business climate and lots of jobs?

3. Some say our no new tax policy has caused us to be in a real bind with keeping up a decent highway system equal to our growth in population. We have found a remedy for that. In areas where big oil-field trucks have torn up paved highways, we have replaced them with fine gravel roads. It was good enough for grandpa, it’s good enough for us.

4. We have kept a Rainy Day Fund savings account in the bank. We have almost $12 billion and have preserved it by cutting public education by $5 billion a couple of sessions ago. Our public school system is really of no concern because most of my friends’ kids are in private schools anyway.

5. Some argue that Texas continues to be near the bottom, surpassing only Mississippi, in the quality of public education. Not to worry. This criticism is more than offset by the fact that our education system keeps us near the top of any state in low-wage workers. We have an abundance of yard men and maids available in Texas. We will continue to work to make sure that wages do not get out of hand in our state.

6. In spite of national criticisms by the liberal left wing, we do in fact have an adequate health care system for the poor here in Texas. It’s called go to the emergency room. While we don’t tax people directly, they pay for it when they pay for their health insurance. Aside from that, we have many of the finest health facilities in Dallas and Houston that are readily available to people of means.

7. I must brag on our Attorney General in Texas. He has sued the United States government more times than he has filed a major lawsuit against corporate crooks or polluters. You see, he’s doing his best to maintain the good ole’ Texas business climate.

8. We are especially proud of our Supreme Court, most of whom I’ve appointed at one time or another. They almost never allow an injured individual to abuse one of our corporations with a lawsuit.

9. The really good news is that, as Governor, I have established several slush funds with which I can reward friendly political supporters, such as you could be, with several millions in start-up funds. I have given these funds catchy names, like the Enterprise Fund. The really good news is that in Texas most folks have not caught onto the fact that we have wasted billions of dollars of taxpayer monies with these slush funds, but they have been very beneficial to my political career. 

10. The clincher to this letter is that if you move your business to Texas, it most assuredly will help me in my run for President.

Yours very truly,

Rick Perry

Monday, May 12, 2014

Riding a Mule in the Derby

Several years ago, an old friend of mine told me that one would never win the Kentucky Derby riding a mule. If our leadership does not awaken, Texas will be riding a mule while other states are riding thoroughbreds.

Smart social scientists studying the demographics of our state are revealing some disturbing findings.  Without a doubt, our state is becoming more and more Hispanic. In fact, it appears in the very near future that 78% of Texas’ growth will be Hispanic. 

Conservatives--such as one of the Republican candidates for Lt. Governor--attribute this to lack of security on our borders. However, the demographers have analyzed it more scientifically. There are many causes, but principally, Anglos represent an aging population, including would-be mothers.  Hispanic women are younger and more given to more births in the not-so-distant future.

Also clear is the fact we are denying an adequate education to our Hispanic population. In large measure the reason for this is that too many Hispanic Texans are condemned to live in very poor school districts. The Texas Legislature and current leadership prefer to hide their heads in the sand rather than address the problem. Even though citizens in poor school districts are taxed with a greater burden, it produces less revenue than patrons of wealthier school districts. This in turn ends up being reflected in the lack of opportunities for students in these poor districts. This alone is not the cause of the growing number of under-educated Texas citizens--but it is a significant cause.

It is estimated that in the not too distant future one Texan in four will not have a high school diploma.  All of us Texans need to immediately recognize that it is to our advantage to assist in educating other peoples’ children.

Texas already boasts that among all of the states we are in the top five in low wage jobs. Almost every economic prognosticator of future success emphasizes the future of the American economy and wealth depends on knowledge and having a qualified productive workforce. It does not take a genius to figure out that Texas will not attract a great deal of high-tech industries with a low-skilled, poorly educated workforce.

So long as Texas continues to depend on property wealth as a principal source of our basic educational facilities, we will continue to have problems. While conservatives are quick to retort that you can’t fix education with money alone, they fail to recognize the fact that you can’t do it without money.  

They also fail to realize the cost of ignorance is far greater than the cost of delivering a quality education.  

The policy of having a state system of public education depending on funding by local districts of unequal wealth will always lead us to problems in equality and fairness--not the least, in more instances than not, it will lead to poor quality education for a significant portion of future generations of Texans. 

Until Texans realize this and get over their aversion to any form of new tax, no matter how much better it may be than old taxes, Texas is destined to lag behind--not only other states of the United States, but the world.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why too many miss an important concept about the law of tort...

I read an an editorial in the Beaumont Enterprise recently with which I agree.  I will readily admit this is not an everyday occurrence with me, particularly when reading some of their conservative editorial opinions.

The paper editorialized in favor of more stringent regulations with stronger penalties related to the manufacture of automobiles. I wholeheartedly agree the same is needed. The thing about the editorial, however, is that the editorial writers of the Beaumont Enterprise have overlooked the very best way to assure product safety. What I’m talking about is the law of torts as it existed prior to all the conservative, Republican, giant corporation assault.

Unfortunately, regulations or standards--particularly at the federal level--are adopted or written all too often by the very industries they purport to regulate. At the very least, they are passed over strong objection from an army of lobbyists that regulations will cost jobs, raise prices and in general befuddle the free enterprise system. Too often regulations are too little too late, and too often protect rather than penalize the wrongdoers. There have been numerous efforts--some successful--to provide that if a product meets government standards then immunity is provided from any suit or complaint, no matter what the injury or shortcoming.

Should you study the regulations concerning standards for the safety of automobile seats, you will learn very quickly how flimsy these regulations are. Standards are so loosely provided that an automotive engineer can construct a car seat out of cardboard--and it will satisfy federal safety standards. 

Another not so well known secret is that boards of directors of giant car companies for many years blatantly calculated the likelihood of having to pay out damages for deaths or serious injuries against the costs of making automobiles safer. While there has been some progress to overcome this equation, it has been slow in coming. And, as the recent GeneralMotors fiasco pointed out, it has not completely gone away.

In Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe At Any Speed, it was revealed that some car manufacturers, while balancing costs versus safety, had in fact placed cars in the annals of commerce that amounted to firebombs, exposing whole families to agonizing deaths and destruction. Neither state governments nor federal governments move very swiftly to correct or reveal the extent of the dangers provided by corporate decisions. It was lawyers.

As I have pointed out numerous times, in spite of a Supreme Court decision, corporations are not people. They cannot be given a prison sentence, and all too often the fines they are assessed are a mere pittance compared to their profits. What does get corporate attention is the bottom line. The best direct route to their bottom line is to make corporations and other manufacturers directly responsible when they cause injury directly related to their choice to save money rather than make their products safe for consumption.  

What is too often said about the tort system is that it’s just a game whereby fat-cat lawyers get richer.  The fact of the matter is the whole tort system was built on a concept of self-responsibility. People, by their action or inaction, cause injuries to others in society and should be held responsible. The victims should be made whole insofar as possible. The so-called tort reformers never mention these worthwhile purposes of a good tort system–only that lawsuits may cost the richer portion of our society a little money. 

A better solution than that offered by the Beaumont Enterprise would be to have strong regulations and standards for manufacturing and then make those who fail to adhere to them strictly liable in tort for whatever damage can be proven.