Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Criticism of our President

I have seldom, if ever, gone to an athletic contest that—when the home team was losing—I did not hear comments all around me from those who could have done better than the coach. They should have called a pass instead of a run, or they should have punted instead of trying on fourth down, etc. etc. Criticism such as this always carries the implication that the critic could have done better had he been in the shoes of the person being criticized. Being a Monday-morning quarterback is not only large in athletic endeavors, it is also extremely large in politics and government. Equally large is the little word “if.” “If I could have been there, I could have done better” is always the implication.

All of this reminds me of a story attributed to Jack Dempsey. A little fellow of about 130 pounds walked up to Dempsey, looked up at him and said, “If I were as big as you, I could have been heavy-weight champion of the world.” Dempsey looked down at him and said, “Well, why aren’t you the light-weight champion of the world?”

All of this brings to mind the current criticism of our President; particularly, related to foreign policy. We are saddled with an opposition party that at the outset—from the beginning of President Obama’s first administration—listed as their number one objective to see that he was not re-elected and to defeat any of his proposals. Now they lament the fact our President is less respected throughout the world. I recall a better time when it was almost un-American andconsidered disloyal to condemn or criticize our President with regard to foreign policy decisions, particularly when we were facing possible armed intervention.

The sad part about the Republican Party’s continued attacks on the President is that the attacks simply are criticism with little or no offered alternative. We have to look first at the response of the Republican Party’s criticism of the Affordable Care Act. This has consisted of over 50 GOP efforts to repeal it and never any alternative offered to deal with the suffering or spiraling costs, which if not curbed will eventually wreck our national economy. They simply criticize what was done—and much of what was done was an effort to compromise and meet criticisms of the Republican Party during its passage.

Benghazi now is being used by Republicans as the factor contributing to the inability to end the Syrian Civil War or prevent the invasion of the Ukraine. If only our President had been stronger and brought to justice those responsible, he would look so tough that other rogue nations would fear challenging us in other situations around the world—or at least so says the Republican Senator from South Carolina. Many of the allegations—such as the one that there was a task forceready to intervene on behalf of our beleaguered citizens in the Benghazi StateDepartment facility and were told to stand down—have been completely disproven by a bi-partisan, select committee of the U.S. Senate.

The most glaring hypocrisy of criticism about the President’s foreign policy comes in regard to Syria. Trying to figure out what to do in Syria is an almost unsolvable dilemma. Clearly, the tyrant who rules Syria and who is killing his own people with abandon should be held accountable. Yet, when President Obama yielded to criticism and asked the Congress to join with him in a tough stancewhich possibly could have led to some armed intervention, they ran from the issue like scared rabbits. Not a single Republican member of Congress has comeforth with a clearly defined proposal of how to end the conflict and save thecivilians of Syria—at least not one they are willing to endorse and advocate on the floor of the House or Senate.

Currently the President is using economic sanctions to persuade Russia, an obvious international bully, to withdraw from an invasion of the Ukraine, and the same old criticism pops up again by those brilliant world leaders like Sarah Palin, who couldn’t even serve out her elected term as Governor of Alaska, plus a host of very loud critics at the conservative based CPAC meeting in Washington last week. Not a single one, after the rough criticism of our President, offered one solution. They seem to opine that, had they been president, Russia would not have dared to cross the borders of Ukraine.

They all seem to have forgotten the lessons we should have learned from Bush’s phony war, invading Iraq, where we lost thousands of young American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. Very similarly to Jack Dempsey’s little antagonist who wasn’t the light-weight champion of the world and wasn’t about to be, neither are any of these naysayers about to be world leaders who could do a better job than our current President.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

THE ELECTION RUNOFFS...and why I think the Democrats have a chance for statewide office in the coming election

Well, the recent election did not bear many surprises as far as I was concerned, with perhaps one possible exception.  I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the reason or purpose for the Legislature delaying a runoff election until the end of May.  Such a delay causes a real strain on candidates who will virtually have to mobilize their campaign teams twice in a short period of time.  This is to say nothing about what they’ll have to do after the runoff election in May in getting ready for the November general election. 

Runoff elections, contrary to popular belief, generally are like a completely new election, particularly when they are as far apart as the first primary and the runoff election for this cycle.   Too often political pundits try to add up those who voted for the losing candidates and figure where they will go in the runoff.  The fact is the runoff is a completely separate election, oftentimes made up of different participants.  Not everybody who votes in the initial primary will vote in the runoff election.  And often, even though the leading candidate in the first primary appears to have a big edge in the number of votes, people lose sight of the fact that the “also rans” are voting against the person leading in the first primary, which generally leads to upsets or the number two person winning the runoff election.

I’m still constantly amazed at the people who choose not to participate in elections--second only to those who do not take the trouble to at least get some information about the candidates available.

I’m particularly concerned about judicial elections.  While I confess to being a highly partisan Democrat, I could be persuaded to support judicial elections without labels.  People should look carefully at the qualifications of candidates for the office of judge.  A classic example of inattention of voters to a judicial race was Don Yarbrough, who got himself elected to the Texas Supreme Court and who was an out-and-out crook.  People should check as to whether or not a lawyer’s clients were satisfied with the representation they received from a candidate for judicial office.  It’s easy enough to check the recordsof the State Bar Association to see, for example, whether or not a candidatefor office has ever been disciplined for unethical or unprofessionalconduct.  Should you learn a candidate has been suspended for unethical practice or has not treated their clients right, it would logically follow that they probably would not make a very good judge. 

I was a little surprised at the Republican race for Lt. Governor.  Obviously, the incumbent Lt. Governor Dewhurst did not handle the situation very well.  He tried to out-conservative Dan Patrick instead of concentrating on material and important issues to the state.  In my opinion, Lt. Governor Dewhurst could have overcome his incumbency problems by simply pointing out the phoniness and far-right “wingism” of Dan Patrick.  If I were running against Patrick, I would begin with the fact that he’s so phoney that his name really wasn’t Dan Patrick until he had it changed for publicity purposes. 

The true test of whether or not Texas shall return to a two party state will be the Governor and Lt. Governor’s race.  Wendy Davis will be adequately financed to be competitive against Abbott, whose hypocrisy will show through.  The real issue is whether or not Davis can attract enough women to move from voting Republican to voting Democrat in the Texas general election.  Leticia Van de Putte is a savy politician, having served some time in the Texas House and Senate, and has the ability to stir folks with an inspirational speech--particularly when she is speaking to fellow Hispanics.  

Democrats in Texas have their work cut out for them as anyone can plainly see from noting that Abbott received over 1,000,000 votes to only slightly over 300,000 who cast votes in the Democratic primary.  As usual, the Democrats’ problem is not anti-votes, but no-votes.  Too many people choose to stay home and gripe about the antics of Rick Perry and his fellow travelers.  We can only hope this election cycle will produce more than a smattering of people interested enough in their government to exercise their right to vote. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014


For the life of me I cannot understand how people ignore an assault on their livelihood and join the very people who are attacking it.  For the most part, lawyers are well-educated;  most of them seem to have some modicum of commonsense.  I’ve often said a lawyer being a Republican, however, makes as much sense to me as a Jewish person joining the Nazi Party.  In the last two decades the Republican Party has continually attacked lawyers, blaming them for every ill befalling the nation.  The latest nonsensical  allegation is that Republicans couldn’t vote for equal pay for women because that would empower lawyers to file lawsuits.

Equally not understandable is how 3 million Hispanics who are qualified to vote in this state could stay home during election time and allow people who have a proven record of disrespect, if not outright slander, for Mexican-Americans in this state get elected.

One only has to look to legislation introduced in recent sessions to get a flavor of how conservatives feel about Hispanics’ place in Texas’ society.  A bill was actually introduced increasing severe penalties on illegal immigrants with exceptions for those who were brought in to Texas to serve as maids or yard men.  This should give any Hispanic an idea of how they are regarded by the right-wing conservatives in the Texas Legislature.

Other clues of how Hispanic Texans are viewed was revealed recently by Dan Patrick, one of the leading candidates for Lt. Governor and a leader of the Tea Party in Texas.  If one only listened to Patrick, you’d have to believe the only Hispanics crossing the Mexican border into Texas are akin to John Dillinger or criminals of the same stripe.  Patrick in his rant ascribed a majority of murders, rapes, robberies and other heinous crimes in Texas to Hispanics.  He failed in his litanyof crimes committed by Hispanics to state that his statistics were over alengthy period of years and was far less than crimes committed by non-Hispanicsin this state.

Greg Abbott, our current Attorney General and leading Republican candidate for Governor, has joined the chorus equating immigration from Mexico as an invasion of our state.  Abbott, who is defending the state Legislature’s reducing public education by $5.2 billion dollars, and a great advocate of no new taxes, and conservative government wants to spend $300 million dollars supposedly securing our border.  Abbott wants to spend $13 million dollars putting 500 DPS Troopers on the border, $8.4 million to buy a high-altitude airplane to monitor Rio Grande crossings, and a couple million on new boats to go up and down the Rio Grande.  Abbott and other Republicans who wail about securing our border seem to have forgotten the simplest of all solutions.  If they would take those folks whom they continue to refer to as “job creators” and put draconian penalties on them for hiring undocumented workers, the problem would quickly go away.  You can bet, however, they’re not going to put the onus on anybody likely to give large contributions to the Republican Party in this state.

It simply makes sense that we should not punish people who come to this country wanting only to work hard, feed their families, or be educated.  It especially does not make sense that after educating these folks we force them to go elsewhere to create jobs, invent and benefit the economy of the place they are sent.  Hispanics who are good American citizens should put an end to the insulting comments by conservatives.  You only have to vote!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lyndon Olson and Rattlesnakes

Eric Timaeus does not use gasoline to flush out snakes. Here
he uses a mirror to reflect light into a possible snake den.
There have been several stories related to snakes in the newspapers recently, particularly on poisonous snakes. One feature article was about the rattlesnake roundup sponsored by theTexas Jaycees in Sweetwater, in North Central Texas. Apparently, they gather snakes by pouring gasoline down likely rattlesnake dens and catch the rattlers as they crawl out. They then gather them all in one arena and throw them in a big pit for the amusement of spectators who come to the festival. I am told there is a charity element to this in that they donate the snakes to those who milk the venom which is used thereafter as anti-venom to treat snake bites and other ailments.
The other was an extensive article about religious snake handling at some back wood churches in Kentucky. The upshot of the story was that a preacher who handled snakes on a regular basis as part of his worship ceremony got bitten and died on the way to the hospital. 

In reading the snake stories I was reminded of a story connected with some political shenanigans of one of my old colleagues. Lyndon Olson, with whom I served in the House of Representatives, represented Waco. Lyndon, as a child, had a terrible accident which resulted in amputation of both of his legs slightly above the knee. He was fitted with artificial limbs which, to his credit, he learned to use rather well. As a matter of fact, most casual observers would not know he was not walking on God-given legs but artificial limbs.

Lyndon, being extroverted as most politicians are, told the story about attending one of the rattlesnake roundups somewhere in his district. At the time he was opposed by a minor candidate seeking to turn him out of office, so Lyndon was making the rounds of all of the festivals and gatherings campaigning for re-election. While attending the rattlesnake festival--apparently there was a pit full of vipers which in and of itself is a rather scary sight--Lyndon boasted that he had more courage than his would-be opponent. With that brag, Lyndon strode into the pit full of vipers walking and kicking rattlesnakes right and left, wholly without fear of them biting his artificial limbs. Most of the crowd did not realize Lyndon was fitted with such appliances and stood in awe while he bravely strode through the pile of rattlesnakes in the pit. Of course his opponent did not rise to the challenge and do the same thing. Lyndon was still laughing about it six months after the occurrence.

I suppose you could say that, if there is any moral to the story, it is sometimes true that a clever politician will even out-snake a rattlesnake to get re-elected.