Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Our country started as a confederacy but never reached its full potential until it became a union.  Our forefathers debated at length whether to have a federalist government or continue as a confederacy of states.  A confederacy of states proved not to be an efficient way to defend our country, unite our country, or throw off the yoke placed on Americans by England.  After a long and arduous debate, the founders of our nation decided on the federal system and created the United States of America.  Through our unity, America evolved as a beacon of freedom, a powerful nation, and a juggernaut of economic growth and benefits.

The last attack on the union of America brought on the Civil War.  I’ve thought since my early study of the creation and continuation of the United States of America that that conflict settled the question of whether or not we were a confederacy of states or the United States of America.  The latest right-wing, looney idea about our federal system comes from our own governor, Greg Abbott.  

Abbott wants to convene a constitutional convention to change our current United States constitution.  The idea of a constitutional convention is not so loony or bad in and of itself.  Were we to have one, there would be an opportunity to overturn the “Citizen’s United” decision of the Supreme Court which decrees corporations are people, money is speech, and unlimited sums of secret money can be spent to influence our elections.  Abbott’s ideas, however, would undermine, if not destroy, the United States as we know it.

Abbott’s plan, among other things, would allow the states to overturn laws passed by our Congress and decisions made by our Supreme Court.  Think about what mischief could be wrought under such a system.

The right of all citizens to vote without paying a poll tax could be reversed.  States could reinstitute the practice of Jim Crowism—draconian literacy tests before people would be allowed to vote in even local elections.  The concept of one man/one vote would be a thing of history.  The practice of separate but equal in education could be reinstituted as well as separate drinking fountains for our citizens of color.  What if, perchance, America found itself once again in a world war, and our national Congress reinstituted the draft?  Would states be able to overturn such a decision and opt out of allowing its citizens to serve in the military?

Our forefathers were wise in creating the federal system we now have.  I do not advocate that our United States constitution is perfect, but it is flexible and has been enduring.  America became strong when we ceased to be a collection of states—with each going their own way, following their own will—and united as a federal system called the United States of America.  

Abbott should rethink his plan, if he is truly to be known as a loyal and patriotic American citizen.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


It appears America’s efforts to counter the ISIS public media messages recruiting young people  is not viewed as being effective.  The director of this particular task has not been named since the last one resigned 7-8 months ago.  The Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, says our efforts have fallen way short, and it is probably a valid criticism.

In examining why we are having a rash of young people recruited by ISIS and why our countermeasures are not being effective, I wonder if, in part, it could be blamed on Fox news pundits, talk show hosts and the Republican establishment, including the 14 candidates running for president.  If a car dealership had a significant number of its sales force on the public media trashing their product and telling about why their cars are junk, I doubt seriously their market share would rise.  

We should ask the question, “How can we sell the benefits of being an American to impressionable young men and women while one of our major political parties keeps telling the world that freedom in America is dying or dead?”  Republicans have kept up an 8-year drumbeat trying to persuade the world our president, duly elected by the people, is a dictator who wants to take our guns, impose Sharia Law and God knows what other evil plan.

No team has ever won a championship when the team does its best to undermine its designated leader.  From day one of President Obama’s term the announced goal of the Republican Party was to ensure his failure as leader of the United States of America.  Republicans would revise history by ignoring the fact the economy had already tanked on Bush’s watch by the time Obama had gotten elected. But they continue to blame a slow recovery on Obama.  Currently, one of the loudest allegations from the 14 Republican candidates for president is the mess in Iraq and Syria is the fault of our president and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  

Republicans continue to ignore the fact it was a Republican administration who lied to us, got us into a war costing a trillion dollars and 4 thousand American military lives, and destabilized the entire Mideast.

Americans who love this country, and work for a living or are retired, and who are not suffering from “affluenza,” need to awake to the fact that America is still great.  We don’t need to take our country back as most Republican candidates yammer at every opportunity because we still own it.  We just need to take more interest in its management.  It seems that in Texas at least people who are hurt the worst by Republican policies, including minorities, poor people and union members, are voting the least.  A greater turnout with those in these categories would soon make Texas Blue again.

We need to begin demanding from our elected officials fair treatment of wage earners, including protections to stop business from being able to fire workers without just cause.  We should enact a decent living minimum wage so that people could live on their earnings, clothe and feed their families, educate them and attend to their medical needs.  We should not allow billions to be spent on elections unless voters are told from whence the money came.  No American should die for lack of adequate health care, nor should their families be bankrupted to keep loved ones alive. 

We Americans will do much better selling America to the rest of the world when we recognize the value of what we have, not the least of which is the right to select our own leaders.  In all probability, little is going to change so long as we continue to have less than 10% of our population selecting those who make the major decisions for us all.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Perry's Hypocrisy

I’ve seriously considered changing the name of this column from the Carl Parker Column to the Hypocrisy Watch.  A hypocrite, as you well know, is someone who preaches one thing and does another.  My nomination at the end of the year for hypocrite of the past ten years has to be Rick Perry.  Rick Perry started his career advertising himself to be a Democrat, got elected; and at the first opportunity for glory, switched parties.  Thereafter, he campaigned and held himself out to be a born-again Christian and an arch-conservative, guardian of the public till.

First of all, although Perry was regularly seen at the services of one of the largest Baptist churches in Austin, Texas, while he was running for office and espoused the virtues of Christian belief, there it appeared to stop; at least so far as the charitable feature of Christianity and giving yourself to others less fortunate.  The records revealed several years ago that Perry’s only contribution to charity, or religion, was a donation of secondhand clothing in the amount of about $200 (a value which he and his wife placed on it).  Though he went from a poor country boy to a millionaire, he has never explained the source of his wealth, or ever attributed it to hard work and wise investment.  Most of it came from one of his rich beneficiaries who allowed him to make a bundle off of a piece of land he was able to secure on credit.

However, part of Perry’s worst hypocrisy is the fact that while espousing to be a conservative and guardian of our tax dollars, he spent millions traveling around the nation to further his presidential ambitions.  Although at one time he had over $100-million in his campaign coffers, he still soaked the taxpayers of Texas for several million dollars.

  While espousing holding a tight rein on the purse strings of our state treasury, he gave away multiple millions of dollars from “his” slush fund under the guise of attracting business to Texas.  Most of his grants from this fund went to those who had given him large contributions; and about half of them never produced anywhere near the jobs or economic windfalls promised in justifying the gross giveaways.

Perry—who claimed to be guardian of our tax dollarsrecently showed his true colors.  According to an article in the Houston Chronicle,  Perry, as he and his staff were leaving office, bestowed gifts of our tax money to his pals.  One of his gifts was $19,700 which is more than a minimum wage earner makes in a year.  His administrative assistant, who was paid $250,000 per year was given $13,000 on her way out the government door.  More appalling, this assistant took her tax money gift and promptly went to work on the ex-governor's campaign for president at another generous salary.

My nominee for runner up for the 2015 Hypocrite of the Year would have to be Sid Miller, our recently elected Agriculture Commissioner.  Sid Miller, while a member of the House of Representatives was one of the attack dogs searching for waste in our budget.  No new tax was the chorus he sang at every opportunity, condemning waste and allegedly saving the taxpayers.  

It seems Commissioner Miller has now had a change of heart in that he has recently imposed 117 new taxes on many Texans.  Commissioner Miller has increased the fees for most of the services of the Department of Agriculture saying it was needed to efficiently administer the Department.  I wonder why Mr. Miller didn’t think about how hard it would be to deliver an education to the school children of Texas when he went along with millions in cuts on our public education budget?  

And it also seems Commissioner Miller is not so conservative when it comes to dishing out favors to his buddies.  Commissioner Miller recently awarded thousands in the form of bonuses to many of his employees who had been  on the payroll less than a year.  Several of them were hired by bypassing the state law requiring posting and bidding for state jobs.  

It makes me wonder how Rick Perry and Sid Miller define conservative.  It sure isn’t the one listed in the dictionary.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Unfair Termination

In my 57 years of law practice I've had all kinds of calls.  One of the questions most frequently asked, however, is related to unfair treatment of working folks in Texas.  Most have been let go from their jobs and are calling to inquire whether or not they have some legal remedy.  Most feel they were unjustifiably terminated from their employment because of a minor disagreement with one of their supervisors, or an argument with a fellow worker, or a wrongful allegation of wrongdoing.  Unfortunately, in most cases in Texas, there is little a lawyer can do for a working person unfairly cast loose in the cold world of our present economy.

Texas, I must tell all of them, is in fact an “at will” employment state.  This simply means you are employed and may continue to be employed at the will of your employer.  Generally, a Texas employer can terminate an employee for any reason he or she chooses so long as it is not a prohibited reason for discharge.  The exception to the rules related to at will employment is if the employee has the benefit of working under a personal contract or a union contract.

Personal contracts are generally related to executive services such as sales managers, supervisors, technicians or professionally qualified employees.  Union contracts generally provide no employee can be discharged unless there is proper cause and thereafter provides various types of remedies such as grievance procedures in arbitration agreements.

Under Texas law there is generally only one provision which prevents an employer from discharging an employee.  An employee who is discharged for failure to perform an illegal act in connection with his or her employment may seek protection of the courts.  An example of the leading case in this involves the operator of a vessel who was ordered to dump all of his sludge into a waterway.  After having refused to do so, he was discharged.  The court ordered him reinstated in his job with back pay.  There are probably not more than two or three cases on the Texas law books of this nature.

Generally, prohibitions on unfair discharge are contained in our federal law which mainly ban unfair treatment in the workplace related to race, national origin, gender, age or health.  In order to pursue a claim under the federal Equal Employment Statutes, one must first seek a remedy by filing a complaint with the federal office of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  The nearest office to Jefferson County is located in Houston.  Once a complaint is filed, a worker will be assigned to the complaining employee, an investigation made and resolution sought.  In some instances the agency is able to reconcile employee and employer and allow the employee to regain his or her job.  If no resolution can be made through the investigative process, the EEOC will grant the aggrieved employee a right-to-sue letter.  The complaining employee thereafter must file suit within 90 days, and suit can be brought in state or federal court.

Suits claiming violation of the equal employment provisions of law generally are heavily burdensome to those filing them.  The burden of proof is on the aggrieved employee, and usually turns out to be fairly expensive.

Most of the callers to my office are normally shocked to learn they have no remedy simply because they were treated by their employer in a manner they consider grossly unfair.  Sadly, I have to tell these disappointed, out-of-work folks that it is one of the prices they pay so our politicians can brag of the great business climate that has been created by our political leaders in Texas.