Tuesday, December 29, 2015


I’ve often said the most important thing Texas government does is to provide educational opportunities for Texans and their children.  I am still of that opinion even though there are those in this state who would abolish public education in favor of privatization of our schools.

The very future of this state, as well as this country, depends on how well educated future generations are.  The key to a prosperous future for all of us is to be well prepared with an abundance of educational opportunities and demand the educational opportunities offered are of the highest quality and in keeping with the future needs of our economy and social interests.

The Legislature’s cuts to public education in the range of five billion dollars and ignoring the results of a lawsuit where the court found that Texas’ provisions for public education did not meet our constitutional mandate are all foreboding.  Even more foreboding is the ever upward spiral of the cost of higher education.  Since the Legislature abandoned its role of setting college tuition in our state and failed to adequately fund our colleges and universities, college tuition has more than quadrupled for most state colleges.

I’m also chagrined at the fact that too many of our legislators continue to advocate lowering the standard saying it is discouraging to students to not be able to do well enough on standardized tests or college entrance exams.  They suggest lowering the standard instead of redoubling our efforts to get our students up to speed.  It seems that advocates of lower standards would take lessons from winning coaches who continually raise the bar at practice and the requirements to join the team in seeking winners.  Students who are coddled and simply pushed through any educational process will sooner or later be sorely disappointed when they face the challenges of the real world.  Employers will not lower the standards, and as I have often told graduating classes to whom I speak, you may set out to conquer the world but you should be advised that the world fights back.

Preparing for future quality education in this state requires not only a financial commitment but a commitment to look with long-term perspectives.  One thing which should be observed, monitored and responded to is the demographics of the future population of this state which tells us much about where and what our future educational needs are and will be.

Something which should be studied are the following facts.  There are 5,215,282 students in our public school system in Texas.  Of those 2,714,266, or 52%, are Hispanic.  There are more than 659,000 African Americans, 202,000 Asians, and 1,500,000 Caucasians in our current system.  Of these, 51.2% of our school population are considered at risk.  Almost 60% are economically disadvantaged.  Of all of these populations, only 7.6% are considered gifted and talented.

Texas' SAT scores have hit a 22 year low.  Scores have declined overall by nine points.  In math they have dropped  six points.  A perfect score for math is 800—Texas' average SAT score in math is 470.  This is a sad commentary on how well Texas education is preparing our young people.

Our system will only get better when parents and non-parents start demanding more of our Legislature for education.  We must do more to fund education and demand that it is well spent.  We must demand lower college tuition to enable more to gain the knowledge necessary for a futuristic economy in our state, and one which will compete well in the world.  Unless we present-day Texans do these things, our grandchildren and great grandchildren will not inherit the opportunity to live a better world as we did. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015


One state program which, as a state senator, I was proud to support and help create was a program to collect child support from deadbeat parents.  The program originated at the federal level to encourage states to create a program by which the state would employ attorneys to collect overdue, delinquent support for dependent children from parents who refuse to accept their responsibility as parents.  The program has saved children from unnecessary suffering as victims of divorce, and has saved the country untold millions in payments for welfare for dependent children.

The program was started and resided in the office of the State’s Attorney General under the direction of Jim Mattox.  Since then, the program has grown exponentially and has generally been well-received by all citizens—other than those deadbeats who get caught in its net.  Unfortunately, under the leadership of our current Governor, or lack thereof while he was Attorney General, an entirely different story is unfolding.  Our recently elected Governor Greg Abbott was our Attorney General for a long time.  He used to boast his job was to go to work, sue Obama and then go home. 

Unfortunately, as Attorney General, he was not doing a very good job of minding the store.  The T-2 System (as it was styled) was to be a dynamic, new and innovative program. But, with obvious encouragement from then-Governor Rick Perry to privatize some government services, Abbott allowed a contract to be let to improve the T-2 System collection of delinquent child support. 

The contract to "improve" the T-2 System was to cost $1.8 million dollars.  After the initial letting of the contract, the contract was renewed five different times until the cost to Texas taxpayers ballooned from $1.8 million to over $46 million dollars.  The secondary tragedy to this shameful episode is the fact the majority of the workers hired to create this great new system were working in India, not the United States.

Worse, the current cost of the system is now estimated at $86.4 million—and experts who have examined the system and pronounced it virtually worthless say it will cost another $50 million to fix the problems.  

So much for good old Greg Abbott, Rick Perry and Republican conservatism. The entire episode should be a huge embarrassment to those who support our Governor who was elected by promoting his conservative credentials.  

When the early Roman people started getting uneasy about their leadership in the world, instead of addressing serious problems of the people, the Roman officeholders created games, building the famed Coliseum as a great venue of entertainment for the masses.  Perhaps too many of my Republican friends would find it difficult to learn this lesson from history, but it seems disturbing familiar to note that—while serious problems run the gamut in Texas— our conservative Governor Abbott is today giving us “games” by spending over $19 million dollars of taxpayer money to lure entertainment to Texas.  His latest fiasco is investing $2.7 million dollars of our money in an effort to bring wrestling shows to Arlington, Texas.  

Thursday, December 17, 2015


The combination of a mass killing in California and Donald Trump’s ranting about the impending invasion of ISIS operatives disguised as Syrian refugees has obviously ramped up Americans' concern for safety.  Gun sales are at an all-time high, and much of that is attributed to the fact that people are fearful for their own safety.  Even though experts have told us the likelihood of being victimized by an ISIS plot here in the United States is less than being struck by lightning, we, and some of our so-called leaders, tend to fear ISIS and overlook some real threats to our lives and our safety.

A recent article in the Houston Chronicle by Ms. Hersman pointed out one of Texas’ shameful firsts.  Apparently, we lead the nation in traffic deaths.  It is reported by the Texas Department of Transportation that at least one fatality occurs every day and has been that way for over 5,000 days.

Simple solutions have been offered and rejected by the collective wisdom of our state legislature; the most recent of which was a proposal offered by my longtime acquaintance, friend and former speaker of the house, Tom Craddick of Midland.  Repeatedly, Craddick has offered to make it a crime to text on your cell phone while driving 75 miles an hour down a Texas roadway.  What appears to me to be a reasonable proposal was roundly rejected by the Texas House of Representatives as an impingement on personal freedom.  After this rejection, Texas remains one of only four states in the union without a statewide texting ban for all of its drivers.  While it may be a win for personal freedom, it is probably also a win for our state’s funeral homes.

While I sheepishly admit to occasionally driving slightly over the speed limit, my mis adherence to our traffic laws pales by comparison to what I see, particularly, on our major thoroughfares.  While I’m driving one or two clicks above the 75 mile an hour limit, I am more often than not passed as though I’m sitting still by drivers swooping in and out, changing lanes and tailgating other drivers on our interstate highways.  Texas’ safety advocates several years ago used to remark that “speed kills.”  I strongly suspect that it still does.  

Another phenomenon I have noticed of late on Texas highways is the marked absence of highway patrolmen. It seems a rational way to slow down traffic would be to have our highways and byways adequately patrolled.  Unfortunately, our statewide leadership—including our governor, attorney general and lieutenant governor—have opted to divert over $800-million ofour tax dollars toward sending troopers to guard the Mexican border, demonstrating their conservative defense of our borders against illegal aliens. They have also sent about 100 new troopers who could be better used to fight crime in our neighborhoods and control speeders and tailgaters on our busy freeways.

I suspect without fear of rebuke that more lives will be saved by policing our roadways than protecting us against the influx of women and children from South American countries.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Making the world a better place

I periodically pause to think what a lucky guy I am.  I’ve had a profession I love, a family I worship, a hometown I like, and generally am easily able to maintain an optimistic attitude.  Of late, however, listening to news reports and reading the three newspapers I do on a daily basis, I am becoming increasingly alarmed about the future and fabric of our nation. 

The strength of America lies in the unity of its people and the privileges which are guaranteed to us by virtue of our constitution. Recently what has alarmed me is the continuing divisiveness of our politics which is creeping into our other liberties and relationships.

The multiple rantings of Donald Trump—whereby he would have us all wiretapped, water-boarded or divided by religion or national origin—do not alarm me so much as the fact that apparently so many people agree with him and fail to contradict his message of disunity in our country.  The proposal to simply classify people of the Islamic faith as second-class citizens not worthy of being in America is completely off the chart.

I have many Hispanic friends among whom I know of no drug dealers or criminals.  Additionally, I have friends who worship at the Islamic Mosque—and they are God-fearing, America-loving citizens whom any sane person would be delighted to have as friends and neighbors.  To divide Americans based on these type categories will ultimately destroy America as we know it.

I have often said that one should never point out a problem of governance or social compact without suggesting some solution to make things better.  Taking my own advice in that respect, I have a few suggestions.

First of all, politicians of every party and every stripe need to stop generalizing and painting our own government as if it were a foreign power which has landed from a different planet and invaded earth.  Next there needs to begin reasonable and rational discourse between liberals, conservatives and everybody in between about how we attack serious problems facing not only Americans, but humanity.  How can we live together without killing one another?  How can we protect the resources of this earth without allowing human activities to destroy it?  How we can provide adequate food, shelter and medical care to our fellow man?  These challenges will never be met until we begin to discuss them among ourselves and truly seek solutions.

Not only do our leaders need to put their shoulders to the wheel, but we, as citizens need to become more informed about how we govern ourselves, how we live together and participate in the process—whether it is through activities through our church, our civic club, our city, county or state governments, or merely through informed citizenship. 

It is amazing to me that anyone could live in the United States of America and enjoy the blessings and benefits we have and not appreciate them enough to carry his or her own load.  It is my fervent hope that all my fellow citizens will awaken to how good we have it, smell the roses, and resolve to make the world a better place—beginning with our own hometown, state and nation.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


As I have often written, I firmly believe ignorance is the greatest danger and enemy of democracy.  One of the sub-categories of dangerous lack of knowledge is the woeful ignorance concerning history. 

After the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor,  Franklin Roosevelt said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  Dictators of nations before have used fear to manipulate populations of nations, and thereby in many instances have caused world tribulation.

Anyone who is a student of the history of Germany can easily see how Adolph Hitler manipulated the German people into believing their nation was about to be taken over by Communists and Jews.  Hitler represented to his people that he could be the savior of their nation by ridding them of threats or perceived threats, persuading them to forsake freedom for his version of safety.  As we all now know, the result was the killing of many people of Jewish faith and ultimate tragedy and defeat for the nation of Germany. 

Benjamin Franklin once said that those who forsake freedom for safety deserve neither.  Unfortunately, today many politicians — particularly some seeking the office of president — are employing the fear factor as the central theme of their campaigns.  Sadly, those like Donald Trump who claim not to be political, are employing the most common of political ruses.  If one notices, Trump never says no, even to the craziest idea.  The best you can expect from him in these circumstances is to say, “Maybe” or “We’ll have to look at that.”  The most recent and  scariest  ideas presented to Trump were not greeted with the disdain they deserve, but ostensibly encouraged by Trump’s failure to spurn them.  For example, according to press reports, one idea recently put forth  was to register all Muslims in America and perhaps require papers or armbands to identify them.  Does this bring back memories of the Nazis requiring the Jews be tattooed in sequential numbers?  Unfortunately, Trump failed to give such ideas the short shrift they deserve, but only pandered to the craziness of his admirer’s proposal.

Trump has openly declared that perhaps we do not need to pander to acceptable conversation between American citizens of different ethnic backgrounds, but has also even proposed it would be acceptable to torture in an effort to help secure us from threats of terrorists. 

Equally dangerous to our religious freedom is the proposal of Ted Cruz that we allow only Christians to immigrate.  He is playing to the fear of non-Christians and is only a step away from government classification of citizens based on their beliefs.

Such crazy ideas by Trump, Cruz and several others currently seeking to be president would destroy the very fabric of what has made our nation a beacon of freedom, and in all probability the best country on earth in which to reside.

If we do not denounce such attitudes and remember the lessons of history which we should have learned, we will end up being no better than ISIS itself.