Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Those Lying Republicans...

My father used to tell me that anyone who will lie to you will steal from you. Most voting citizens focus on politicians stealing or taking bribes when testing them for honesty. Unfortunately, this is not the only way politicians can be dishonest in office. 

We currently have massive lying to all of us which apparently goes unchallenged or simply passed off as “politics as usual.” Over the past 200 years the media has convinced the American public that there is an unwritten portion of our constitution which states that the people have a right to know. It has always been my position that if people have a right to know anything from politicians, they need to know the truth. However, in the last several years, the Republican Party has mounted an effort to not tell the truth about their true intentions with their legislative agendas.

One only needs to examine the public positions taken by the Republican Party, both at the national and state level, in four areas to determine their lack of candor, or outright lying. 

Those areas are abortion, civil rights, lawsuit reform and environmental regulation.

Abortion is a hot-button issue, and I quickly acknowledge there are large numbers of citizens on both sides who are passionate in the debate over abortion. Personally, I would not ever favor abortion, but I do believe it is a matter of personal belief which should not be dictated by law any more than whether or not I choose to attend the church of my choice on a given day.

It has been well established for a number of years by the Supreme Court that a woman’s right to seek and have an abortion is constitutional and legal as declared by the Supreme Court of the land. Particularly in recent years, there has been a war favored by the Republican Party to diminish that legalized right of women. Measures being passed through various state legislatures to close women’s health clinics who might counsel a woman concerning an abortion--requirements that physicians who run clinics which grant abortions must be credentialed by a hospital, requiring women to have invasive testing procedures before being granted an abortion--all are passed with the sponsors of such legislation unabashedly telling the tv cameras they are only doing so to protect the health of women. Most of us know this is pure baloney, and the only objective of such legislation is to deter or make the availability of abortions to women throughout the United States almost non-existent. 

In the area of civil rights, the Republican appointees of the Supreme Court fell right in step with the on-going subterfuge strategy of the Republican Party; not having guts enough to stand up and say, “We want fewer minorities to vote because they tend to vote Democratic.” They proceed to create obstacle after obstacle in the field of voting or fair reapportionment of legislative seats following census years.

The last impediment and safeguard for having voters protected from such shenanigans was a section of the Voting Rights Act recently declared unconstitutional by the Republican majority in the U.S. Supreme Court.  The basis of the finding again was a fiction. Supposedly, racial discrimination in Selma, Alabama, and similarly situated states, no longer exist according to Chief Justice Roberts.
In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, accurately likened the action of gutting the Voting Rights Act to throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you’re not currently getting wet. Clearly, the phoney reasoning for emasculating the Voting Rights Act was to protect the ill-gotten state majorities through voter IDs and similar measures which are supposedly to protect us from voter fraud where none really exists.

A third area of the false-face put on by Republicans is in the area of so-called tort reform. Advocates of such tort reform groups claim it is necessary to deny citizens access to trial by jury for their civil claims to avoid frivolous lawsuits. Again, the objective is not to deter frivolous lawsuits, but those with merit which take a few pennies away from the profiteering, major corporations and insurance companies in our country.

Finally, in the field of our environment, conservative politicians will say with a straight face, with millions of people watching on television, they have scientific evidence that man-made global warming does not exist. Again, 98% of scientists in the world have told us that man is contributing to destroying the ozone layer which ultimately will allow the destruction of the earth. Their position in this matter that it is false and will destroy jobs is meant not to save the earth, but to save money for those corporations who are reaping huge profits by spitting several tons of poison into our atmosphere on a daily basis. Such dishonesty is the same as stealing from those of us who wish a future for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Sadly, the false argument that protecting the environment equals fewer jobs lacks vision. An all-out search for alternatives to fuels currently used could not only save the atmosphere, but could very well be the salvation of our moribund economy. It is often said necessity is the mother of invention; and should we concentrate the nation’s wealth and resources on finding alternative sources of fuel such as hydrogen to power our vehicles, it is highly likely we could have an explosion of technological development and economic growth unparalleled since the same was brought about by our nation’s commitment toward space exploration. 

It’s time that we, as voting citizens, start demanding politicians to say what they mean and mean what they say. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


The two recent special sessions of the Legislature demonstrate once again that our Governor “Good Hair” is more dedicated to Republican Party politics than he is to the people--particularly to the people along the Gulf Coast. As though it were the most burning issue in the hearts of all Texans, abortion seemed to be the feature of the past two special sessions. And, in the most recent special session, it was almost the only issue considered by the governor or the Legislature.

Sadly, those of us who live on the Gulf Coast are left exposed to impending disaster in the form of another Hurricane Ike. 

It is a poorly kept secret that the Republican administration currently in charge of Texas is cozy with the insurance industry. Our homeowner rates continue to be among the highest in the nation, and our Republican courts continue to side with insurance companies about 85% of the time when given the opportunity. TWIA is another example of dancing to the tune played by the insurance companies while the average homeowner pays the fiddler.

A few years ago insurance carriers could not write homeowner’s insurance in Texas unless they included windstorm damage.  A solution was supposedly found in the form of TWIA–Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.  Insurance companies were smarting because of the requirement that they cover windstorm damage in order to tap the lucrative insurance market of homeowners in Texas.  The bargain that was struck was that a state insurance association would be created as an option for homeowners who wanted to have insurance coverage on their homes for major storm damage. 

Insurance carriers agreed to pony up sufficient amounts of money to fund the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association in exchange for the privilege of writing homeowners’ insurance minus windstorm coverage.  Initially, adequate reserves were placed into the windstorm pool to cover damages, and, at the same time, insurance carriers proceeded to write highly profitable homeowner’s insurance without windstorm coverage.  The bargain has made millions for our insurance carriers who write policies in Texas.

Unfortunately, Hurricane Ike devastated the pool--in part because of the high number of claims and the great damage wrought by Hurricane Ike, but also in part by the incompetent handling and organization of the state windstorm insurance alliance.  After Ike, when the association was needed most by persons who were left homeless by storm damage, it was discovered that the association was being run either by incompetents–to say it kindly--or by crooks, at worst. Thousands and thousands of dollars were paid to non-deserving claimants while legitimate homeowner claims were left waiting for months, and in some cases, years.  

It came out that persons were hired as adjusters who had little, if any, experience in adjusting claims and some had records of felony convictions. Probably what should have been done was a major attorney general or grand jury investigation of the whole ball of wax--and someone should have suffered major consequences as a result of the mishandling of this fund. 

In typical Republican fashion, however, the response from the legislative leadership–all Republican at the time–was to punish the homeowners and reward the insurance companies. Instead of continuing the system whereby insurance companies, in order to continue writing homeowner policies without windstorm coverage, would pony up enough to fund the program adequately, legislation was passed through the House and Senate putting a cap on the amount for which insurance companies operating in Texas would be liable–an amount woefully short of the needed amount to protect homeowners in the event of storm losses.  Following this debacle, the further solutions to try to provide money for TWIA came most often from former Representative Larry Taylor, now Senator Taylor, who proceeded to try to limit claims in draconian ways so that little, if any, money would flow to injured homeowners.  

As an example, one of Senator Taylor’s last efforts would have been to restrict claims to a one-year window rather than the current four-year time period for submitting claims. When questioned in committee by Senator Whitmire and other Democrats, Senator Taylor alleged his only motivation was to clear up confusion about when the cut-off date was for claims against TWIA. Senator Whitmire argued that shortening the time limits for people who might not even discover storm damage to their roofs causing leaks in some of their closets was not ending confusion but simply another sop to the insurance carriers. Other solutions to preserve funds for TWIA came in the form of requiring that only employees of insurance companies could be used to adjust the claims.  Homeowners would have no say in hiring independent adjusters to assess their damages.

The saddest part of all is that, with impending danger of the approaching hurricane season, our leaders in Austin saw fit to devote their time to passing matters which would burnish their conservative credentials–all looking to run for some higher office. Those of us who live on the Gulf Coast should take note at the next election of which politicians care more for their conservative image and for insurance companies than for us.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Self-Confessed Liberal Democrat

As a self-confessed liberal Democrat, I have often been criticized for only picking on conservatives and Republicans. I consider myself an independent thinker and can document plenty of criticism to some who allegedly fit in the liberal class. First among them is the so-called consumer crusader, Ralph Nader, who I found to be a phoney when we had Senate hearings on the infant safety seat bill. When invited to testify on a bill to save hundreds of infant lives in Texas, Mr. Nader quickly volunteered to testify for the paltry sum of $10,000.

Along the same lines, where I find fault with some of my fellow progressives, is the current flap about whether or not Mr. Snowden, the champion leaker of classified information, has done a good deed for citizens or not. Ostensibly, Mr. Snowden chose to violate his oaths and publish state secrets in violation of the law on the grounds that Americans needed to know the government might be snooping on some of their activities by keeping a record of foreign phone transmissions. My question for my liberal friends, who agree with Mr. Snowden, is “If Mr. Snowden was only concerned with the unconstitutional invasion of privacy for Americans, why did he feel compelled to give a Chinese newspaper the information that American intelligence had been snooping on Chinese activities?” That, along with the fact that he chose to seek refuge in a Chinese controlled environment, I find deeply suspicious. 

Even more suspicous is the fact this young man so concerned with American democracy and freedom chose Russia as a jumping off place on his way to Ecuador via Cuba. Can one really doubt that Rusian agents would pass up an opportunity to debrief someone with so many American secrets?

And in order to give a balanced column, I still have plenty of criticism for my conservative friends.  I am absolutely convinced too many conservatives are influenced by propaganda paid for and delivered by mega-buck corporations and right-wing billionaires such as the Koch brothers. The degradation of our atmosphere is a prime case in point.  It appears conservatives would rather have us all poisoned a little than inconvenienced a little.

There is no doubt the ozone layer of this world is diminishing.  There is also little doubt, based on scientific information, that greenhouse gases are contributing greatly to what could ultimately be the destruction of this planet. Republican House Speaker John Boehner is lamenting the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal would cause companies reaping millions of dollars of profits from power plants throughout the United States to spend a little of their money to stop polluting the atmosphere so greatly.  It has been estimated that 40% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to the energy industry. Voters, when considering such political posturing, should ask themselves whether or not you’d rather die of cancer, or pay a little more for your power.

Texas Is Not Alone

On a recent visit to watch my granddaughter graduate from high school, I had occasion to spend a few days in Michigan. In some ways I discovered Michigan resembles Texas as far as state governance is concerned. Both houses of the legislature are Republican, as is each state’s governor.

Fortunately for Texas, we are somewhat better off financially than the state of Michigan. As to uninsured citizens of the state who are without adequate health care we do differ, but only in the size of the number of uninsured citizens. While Michigan estimates there are 450,000 uninsured citizens, Texas is estimated to have in excess of a million.

Apparently, Governor Rick Perry thinks it’s just fine to continue to have a substantial number of children in Texas rely on emergency room care as their first option for health care. While Governor Perry brags continually about the low tax rate in Texas, he fails to mention that every time an uninsured citizen of Texas seeks treatment in an emergency room, it adds an additional burden to the citizens of this state who do in fact pay for insurance or pay for care at the various hospitals throughout the state.  Estimates of this cost, which is shared by many Texas citizens, have escalated into the neighborhood of $20 billion dollars a year. 

In spite of the size of the problem, both the Governors of Michigan and Texas have refused to participate in the benefits of the Affordable Care Act which would provide Texas with billions of dollars with which to alleviate much human suffering, particularly for children in our state. What’s worse, Governor Perry appeared to resist any effort to formulate compromise strategies which might have alleviated the problem for many Texas citizens. 

Even the Michigan Republican legislature is making an effort to find a compromise which will allow the state to take advantage of at least a large portion of the assistance from the federal government. The plan in Michigan accepts federal funding, but builds in safeguards. Should the federal assistance be diminished or stopped, able-bodied citizens of Michigan without insurance or other coverage would be required to pay up to 7% of whatever income they had to remain on any federally subsidized health insurance program for the poor, or they would be required to purchase federally subsidized private insurance. This would assure that even if the Affordable Care Act ceased to operate as intended, the State of Michigan would not have to bear the burden of continued health care alone. 

It is obvious Governor Perry wants to burnish his credentials as one of the most conservative governors in the nation, but he should not want to do it at the expense of sick children. It seems to me that any humane person--a conservative, even--would want to explore alternatives rather than simply turning a blind eye to the billions of dollars available through a federal program, or turning a deaf ear to the pleadings of many medical experts as well as to the pleadings of Texans who are in need of adequate health care coverage.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


The Reverend Jim Wallis, author of  God's Politics, opined that an officeholder's Christianity can be measured by his or her budget--the point being that Christian teachings repeatedly admonish believers to be concerned for the poor.

On the other hand, it is my belief that the level of hypocrisy of a public leader can be represented by his or her vetoes. By this standard, Governor Perry has secured his place in history as the all-time Texas Hypocrite.

For years Perry and many of his fellow Republicans have attempted to do away with the fraud unit based in the District Attorney's office of Travis County. It seems to me that an honest, law-abiding officeholder should never worry about the existence of a governmental agency whose purpose is to investigate public corruption. 

Republicans have been reluctant to simply say they want to obliterate an agency to investigate wrongdoing, particularly at the state level, and have under various subterfuges attempted to divert the attention from the Travis County's very effective District Attorney's unit.  On more than one occasion it has been proposed that investigation of corruption be turned over to the Attorney General of the state.  Those advocating this diversion know very well that the Attorney General of Texas does not have authority to preside over a grand jury or issue criminal charges.

Recently, Perry vetoed funds for the public integrity unit using the excuse that the current officeholder of the District Attorney's office in Travis County was convicted of a misdemeanor crime--DWI. To her credit, the incumbent DA Lehmberg immediately admitted her error, pled guilty and served one of the longest sentences handed out for first-time DWI in the history of Travis County. Perry said he vetoed the funds for the public integrity unit on the grounds that everyone had lost confidence in the officeholder. It seems that mainly Republicans--who have never had any confidence in anyone that investigates them for corruption--are the ones who want to dismantle the facility. 

Probably the main cause for vetoing the appropriations for this unit is the fact that too many of Perry's cronies are being looked at. There are over 400 cases the public integrity unit is investigating, including the 56 million dollar boondoggle by Perry's appointees on the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute. It is quite possible as well that the unit is looking into the multi-million dollar slush funds which Perry has passed out to many of his generous political contributors. 

Most of Perry's vetoes were not to improve government, but mainly for political reasons. One example is Perry's veto of the bill which would have required the three elected members of the Railroad Commission to resign their positions before seeking another term. The current practice allows members of the Railroad Commission to strong-arm those they regulate into giving large political contributions for the Railroad Commissioner to seek another office. This is nothing more than legal political blackmail. Additionally, officeholders such as the governor and Railroad Commission members can use perks of public office as a resource in their election efforts. Apparently our governor, who regularly hands million-dollar bills to the taxpayers for his travel in pursuit of his presidential ambitions, is in favor of allowing officeholders to campaign on the public dime.

Even Republican Kel Seliger said it's a sad day for integrity and transparency in Texas--referring to the Perry veto of a bill which would have required disclosure of names of large contributors to secret slush funds which were to be used in political campaigns.

While the governor continues to parade his Christianity, he continues to ignore the poor and protect the rich.