Monday, January 25, 2010


Carl Parker sez:

The recent opinion of the United States Supreme Court brought to mind visions of the opening scene of “The Son of Frankenstein.”  As Dr. Frankenstein and his trusty assistant, Igor, were puttering around the laboratory, the monster they were creating showed signs of life.  Dr. Frankenstein exclaimed in a loud voice, “It lives”!

Unfortunately, five Republican Justices have created their own monster with their bare, right-wing majority.  This monster is real and eventually will do more harm than even movie makers could imagine emanating from the fictional monster of “Frankenstein.”

The bare majority on our Supreme Court has just announced corporations such as General Motors, Chrysler, Exxon, Shell, drug companies such as Eli Lilly, banks, giant insurance companies and labor unions--all have the same right of free speech as a real, live, living, breathing American citizen.  The Court’s opinion is that such entities are entitled to the same protections for free speech as voting, live citizens.  While conservatives and Republicans go on ad nauseam claiming to abhor judges who legislate rather than interpret, this right-wing court has in one fell swoop enacted all new rules for free elections.  Unfortunately, this court has adopted the modern day “Golden Rule.”   Ye who have the gold will rule.  The court has overturned not only federal law, but Texas laws which have been on the books for over 100 years to prevent railroads and other big corporations from drowning candidates for office under floods of money in order to control state government.

Former Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, said money is the mother’s milk of politics.  This being so, lobbyists hired at the rate of approximately 20-million dollars a day by insurance companies, health care providers and pharmaceutical companies have produced some wonderfully healthy babies. They have produced enough healthy voting members of Congress, it appears, to derail any hope of a meaningful health reform package.  I feel this is only a preview of things to come.

We can find a prime example of corporate money excess right here in Southeast Texas.  We were blessed for years with one of the most effective, dedicated congressmen ever to serve in the United States House of Representatives, Jack Brooks.  Jack was a courageous, ex-Marine who without flinching or backing up was always willing to take on special interests for the benefit of ordinary citizens.  Texans have long suffered under one of the most onerous sales taxes in the United States.  Retailers, particularly mom and pop operations, are at a disadvantage to catalog salesmen who do not have to collect the state sales tax if they take the order for merchandise outside the boundaries of Texas. 

Congressman Brooks introduced legislation to cure this inequitable situation.  Shortly thereafter an ad appeared in several national publications offering thousands of dollars for any candidate who would see fit to take on Congressman Brooks in the coming election.  Unfortunately, the ads were answered by a man whose name I have already forgotten, but remember he had trouble locating the mens room in the capitol complex in Washington, DC.  He only lasted a session or so, but it was enough to disrupt the continuity of effective service the people of Southeast Texas enjoyed from the dedication of Congressman Brooks. 

Multiply the above situation a thousand fold.   Few congressmen or other elected officials, particularly at the state level will ever have the wherewithal to withstand the ability of big companies to raise thousands, if not millions, of dollars to punish any elected official who crosses them.

The second effect of the Supreme Court’s decision is to allow unfettered expenditure of corporate dollars into the system by people spending the money who do not own it.  When an individual sees fit to spend thousands of dollars on politics, it is his or her money; it is their personal decision.  When a corporation decides to spend money in an election, the money belongs to the shareholders who invested the money in the corporation and, as a practical matter, have no say as to whether or not the profits of their venture should be used for political gain or for dividends.  Incidentally the same is true for the unfettered use of dues paid to labor unions.  It is not the union officers’ money.  It is meant to carry on and support the efforts of seeking better wages and working conditions for workers.  Various dues paying members may not be of one mind as to which candidate to support or oppose.

Another glaring example of how political positions can be bought is the Texas Legislature.  The Texas Association of Business (TAB), in all probability, stepped over the line in gathering several million dollars to elect a majority of Republicans to the House of Representatives and elect Speaker Tom Craddick.  Although the TAB received criticism and got indicted unsuccessfully, their ultimate aim of controlling the Texas Legislature succeeded; and even though their unpopular speaker was “booted” out with the support of many of the Republicans, they have replaced him with a slightly more tolerable version of a Republican speaker. 

Any money contest between the vast wealth of corporate America and individual citizens, volunteer associations and labor unions is bound to be a one-sided fight in which ordinary citizens of this state will suffer great loss.


Carl Parker sez:

The recent incident involving a man entering the State Capitol and then stepping out on one of the porticos and firing a gun into the air has renewed the debate about Capitol security.  Recently, the House and Senate installed metal detectors outside their entrances for the general public to make sure no one entered the gallery of either chamber carrying a gun.  It has always been a mystery to me for them to be so paranoid about citizens having guns when the majority of both Houses have expressed the fervent belief better law enforcement and greater safety exists when everybody is armed.  It seems to me that it would be consistent with their belief system to say that if every citizen in the gallery had a gun, wrongdoers would be quickly dispatched by some dedicated member of the NRA before any real harm could take place.  One more bit of right-wing hypocrisy.  They obviously don’t believe what they say. 

However, I agree to some extent with Governor Perry on this.  We should not try to make our state Capitol, which belongs to all people, look like Fort Knox with an airport security area with x-rays, metal detecting machines and magnetic wands throughout the entrance.  What we do have are half-way measures which make Capitol security ridiculous.  On the one hand, we have these massive pillars of concrete and steel blocking the entryway to all of the gated openings of the Capitol grounds.  On the other hand, all 4 huge entrances of the Capitol are wide open, sometimes patrolled and sometimes not.  It makes as much sense as having a steel, vault-like door on the front entrance of your home and not even a door on the back.  The elevator accesses at the rear of the Capitol to the underground offices are locked, requiring a magnetic card for entrance.  There are no DPS personnel at either of these entrances; one seldom has to wait more than five minutes for a staffer to pass through the door with his or her magnetic card and simply follow them in.

There are four principal first floor public entrances to the state Capitol– East, West, North and South.  There are no metal detector machines and even not always a Department of Public Safety trooper present on guard.  The security at the Capitol consists of locking the external entrances for the elevator access areas which lead to the underground extension of the Capitol and installing several million dollars worth of fancy devices which rise up out of the ground like something in a science fiction movie to make sure no car bomb is driven into the areas under the Capitol.  As a matter of fact, the same sort of security devices has now been implanted on every roadway entrance into our beautiful Capitol grounds.  Ordinary citizens and tourists can no longer take a pleasant drive through our beautiful Capitol grounds graced by a spectacular structure of pink granite.

These halfway measures have been implemented at the direction of politicians, not the professionals at the Department of Public Safety.  The governor and others were repeatedly warned of inadequate maintenance of surveillance equipment and an undermanned security force at the governor’s mansion.  The result of ignoring these warnings was to have our governor’s mansion fire-bombed by some nut.  Now, it looks like the politicians are hell-bent on double locking the barn doors now the horse is obviously out of the stable.  In all probability, in the very near future our state capitol will begin to look more like an intercontinental airport.  Whether or not we will be required to remove our shoes to enter our state capitol remains to be seen.

We would be far better off to trust the security of our capitol to the experts in law enforcement.  We should quit skimping on security personnel and have an adequate number of troopers to man each entryway to the Capitol, leaving them all open to the public.  Experienced troopers are as good at detecting suspicious characters as most machines and clearly have the right to search bags, suitcases and backpacks entering the state Capitol.  Such a plan would be a far greater deterrent than the million dollars worth of steel and concrete which has been implanted at every entrance to the Capitol grounds.  In addition, it would help both our employment, our peace of mind, and be far more convenient for the citizens of Texas. 

Monday, January 11, 2010


Carl Parker sez:

Partisanship is hurting us both at the national and state levels.  There is no doubt America’s debt and Texas’ miserliness is hurting citizens of America and of our state.  At the national level, America is more in debt than it has been since WWII.  The current debt is worse than that in the WWII era because in WWII America mostly owed Americans.  I remember as a grade schooler we were encouraged to buy savings stamps to help the war effort.  We kept them in little books until we accumulated enough to trade for a war bond.  Many Americans purchased war bonds and most of our debt was to ourselves.  Unfortunately, most of our debt today is to China, Japan and Arab countries.  The interest on our debt is costing us as a nation enough to be very harmful to our current economy and to our future.

Unfortunately, because of partisanship, it seems too many members of Congress in both parties are more concerned with blame than solution.  Recently, Republicans have been bragging that because President Obama has been in office for a year, he can no longer blame the Republicans for our current problems.  Clearly, that is not true.  For almost 8 years, Republicans waged a war without paying for it or accounting for it.  The Bush administration refused to include the Iraq War in its budget projections or accountability.  We spent enough on the Iraq War to reduce our nation’s deficit by substantial figures.  Members of both parties have blithely ignored our escalating debt and continue to get themselves re-elected by showing who can “bring home the most bacon.”  Governor Rick Perry has recently kept up the drumbeat of attacks on Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison by pointing out earmarks and other federal spending directed to Texas.  Perry does this to question her credentials as a conservative Republican.

Perry, in his zeal to criticize Senator Hutchison for bringing those “dirty” federal dollars to Texas seems to have forgotten many of his excesses.  Perry has ads boasting he has been the most conservative governor ever, vetoed more funds than any other and claims to have saved taxpayers of Texas millions.  Perry ignores many facts of his spending foibles.  While urging department heads to cut back on spending, Perry spent thousands of dollars taking himself a grand-sized trip to the Near East for no good state purpose other than giving Governor Perry an award.

Perry refers to money coming from the federal government as though it were a trap by a foreign nation to endanger our state.  While accepting $12.5 million to balance the budget he let get “out-of-whack,” he turned down $550-million to shore up our trust fund for unemployment benefits in the state.  Although the turndown of the $550-million helped burnish his credentials as a leading conservative, it ended up resulting in tripling the tax on us small business folks to replinish the funds in the unemployment trust funds.  Similarly, while our education system continues to suffer for shortage of money, Perry has turned down billions of dollars which could be going to our school districts to improve our schools.  Perry has raised the “bugaboo” the feds are trying to take over control of our schools, but it should be noted every state in the union, except Alaska and Texas, have accepted the funds.

The solution lies in self-restraint by members of Congress and understanding from American citizens.  We need to quit measuring the capabilities of our Washington elected officials by how much special funding they can get for our state alone.  Earmarks should stop and appropriations should be considered on their own merit for the good of the entire country.

At the state level, we need to quit blindly following the mantra of “no new taxes at any cost.”  We need to pay attention to human suffering which exists in Texas, the fact we have more people than most states in the union, that our educational system is in bad need of support, and that we have no rational tax policy in this state.  While it is easy to blame elected officials for both circumstances; and I do often, the real solution lies in the will of the people as expressed to their elected officials.