Tuesday, June 28, 2016


The coming 4th of July is a time when all of us loyal Americans should celebrate and thank our Maker for the privilege we have of living in a great nation.  It really rubs me the wrong way when I hear a candidate for president use as his slogan that he wants to make America "great again."  Obviously, he cannot see that America was and still is the greatest nation on earth.  Were we not a great nation, the thousands and thousands of people from other parts of the world would not be so anxious to come here.

Our nation was started by a group of people who fled England to avoid persecution for their religious beliefs.  We are one of the few countries on earth where we can choose to worship any god we choose, or choose not to worship any at all if that is our option.

You can count on one hand the nations of the world where the citizens of the country are free to criticize the heads of state of a nation without fear of reprisal.  Think what would happen to a citizen of North Korea were he to cast aspersions on their supreme leader anywhere akin to the criticisms that our current president endures.

Our system of higher education is the envy of the world, and in large measure it is because of our great colleges and universities that we still lead the world in innovative technology and innovation.

Our unique system of self government allows us to arm ourselves, speak as we choose, assemble at any time we want to, own our own property, be protected by a world-class military and change our government leaders if we want to or have the will to do so. 

We are still the strongest nation in the world as we have repeatedly demonstrated by protecting the countless freedoms and benefits which we enjoy every day.  Those among us who take great pride in speaking of our national government as though it was some sort of despotic, foreign power have obviously not counted their blessings for the privilege of living in such a great and wonderful country. 

We should all take inventory this 4th of July and rejoice in the freedoms and blessings we have, envied by others. 

Monday, June 20, 2016


Several years ago a cartoonist named Walt Kelly published a regular cartoon called Pogo.  Pogo was a very wise ‘possum who would regularly opine on the state of the union, social issues and other important items.  Probably Pogo’s most famous quote was, “We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.” 

Currently, there is a great outcry about the loss of jobs, the imbalance of trade between the U.S. and other countries and free trade robbing the middle class of its livelihood.  Donald Trump proposes an isolationist policy whereby he would slap large tariffs on any product entering the United States manufactured in another country.  He rails on and on about how Americans are losers because our leaders are stupid and do not know how to make a deal with foreign nations.

Unfortunately, the fault does not lie principally with bad deals made by our elected leaders on trade agreements, but with most of us because of our greed.  A recent experiment reported on national television revealed that when average consumers were asked to choose between a pair of $50 jeans made in China and basically the same jeans made in the United States for $85, consumers overwhelmingly chose to trade with China.  Additionally, recent polls show that 67% of American consumers choose price over where products are made.  Daily, billions of automobiles, televisions, computers, clothing and God knows what else are sold in America to consumers based on advantageous price.  Without a doubt, American consumers vote for free trade if it means saving them a dollar or two on price. 

Similarly, immigration—so attacked by Trump and other so-called conservatives—is similarly caused by too many Americans’ desire for cheap labor.  If this were not true, our American Congress would have long ago simply passed a law putting severe penalties—even including jail—on employers who chose to employ illegal aliens in their businesses.  It continues to boggle my mind that those who squawk about illegal immigration refuse to support a very simplistic remedy for the whole situation.  The guy who rails at Tea Party conventions oftentimes is the same guy having an uninvited guest from Mexico mowing his lawn on a weekly basis.

In another arena we continue to let politicians—who first admit they are not scientists and know little of global warming—get by with allowing the decline of the air we breathe and the water we drink simply because “fat cat” companies don’t want to lose a dollar’s worth of profit to protect the environment.

We decry the government and say government is not working while probably less than half of qualified voters even take the time to vote.  Unfortunately, even those who do oftentimes are sadly uninformed and vote based more on their prejudice than on being well informed on the qualifications and aims of those seeking office.  

Yes, I’m afraid Pogo was more right than wrong that there is a clear explanation of why we have so many idiots in office. It’s called representative government.

Monday, June 13, 2016


When one of my old country friends felt some highbinder was trying to sell him a bill of goods he would exclaim, “That fellow must believe he can convince me that horse manure tastes like wild honey.”  The same could be said about the recent Texas Supreme Court ruling concerning public education.

Having presided as Senate Education Chair for many years and grappling with the thorny problem of trying to solve the issue of public school funding, I am familiar with the pitfalls encountered in such an effort.  It is amazing to me that anybody of intelligence could look at Texas’ current system of allocating public resources to public education and declare it to meet the constitutional mandate of our constitution.  The critical words at issue in our state’s basic legal document is that our legislature is obligated to provide an efficient system of free public education for the children of this state (emphasis mine).

It boggles my mind that our system could be called efficient when it provides some districts with the ability to furnish twice or three times the amount of dollars to educate the children in that district while other districts, even though given a maximum tax effort, can produce only one-fourth as much per pupil.

Another clue as to whether or not our system truly meets our constitutional mandate for free public schools for Texas children is the fact that Texas has now slipped to 37th in ranking for what we do for public education.  There have been lawsuits filed concerning the unfairness and inadequacy of school funding in Texas since the early ‘60's.  No court having examined the situation has pronounced our system to be what it should be.  All trial judges who have examined our system of funding have found it not to meet the constitutional mandate.  Frankly, the current situation with our Supreme Court appears, simply, to be one where the Republican Supreme Court wants to let our Republican Legislature off the hook so they do not have to face the reality of adequately funding public education.

In spite of all of our political rhetoric from our governor, lieutenant governor and past governor about wanting to make Texas first and preparing future generations to underpin a dynamic, growing economy for the state, their rhetoric continues not to match their deeds.  In fact when things get tight, rather than dip into the so called Rainy Day Fund, our Republican leadership led the charge to simply rob public schools of $5 billion dollars.  Incidentally, the $5 billion has not been replaced and we are barely keeping up with same amount for natural growth in the number of school children in our state.

One thing our legislative politicians should awaken to is there is another court system that might reach a different solution than our partisan Supreme Court–the federal court system.  Back in the ‘60's, Edgewood School District, a very poor school district in San Antonio, filed a federal suit.  By a close vote of the panel of judges hearing that lawsuit, the court ruled against plaintiffs, but in the process were extremely critical of Texas’ system of funding.  The courts said although the Edgewood case did not quite reach the status of being a denial of equal protection, it was very close; and unless the state did something to address the problem, the federal courts would take another serious look at Texas’ system.  While our past attorney general, now our governor, and the current attorney general seem to enjoy making a hobby out of suing the federal government, the future of our children in Texas is far too important to continue to play political games, particularly with public education.

The real problem that faces our legislature is there is really only one way to solve the inequity in the way we finance public education–that is to raise enough revenue to adequately fund our schools on an equal basis.  Doing so would have the benefit of stopping the meteoric rise in property taxes on our homes and small businesses in the state.  The means available for doing so are very limited: (1)  A statewide property tax that would raise enough revenue and could be divided equally among all of the schools—or, God forbid, (2) a state income tax that would raise enough money to adequately and equitably support our schools.  The other choice would be to raise the sales tax or create some new tax to get the job done.  It appears, however, that none of these options could garner enough favor among our “no new tax” legislature to get us out of the mess we are in.

Unfortunately, it is my prediction that our legislature will continue to try and find substitutes for money while trying to address our school problem.  It will also continue to siphon off the funds — that ought to be going to educate the vast majority of our children — by authorizing more and more private and charter schools to be funded without tax dollars, or continue to force higher and higher property taxes locally.

They say that a true statesman is one who looks years into the future and tries to prepare our government to address it in a way beneficial for the greatest number of citizens.  While I pray for more statesmanship in our state, based on past practice and partisan politics, I am not hopeful.

Monday, June 6, 2016


In their recent state convention [See party platform, item #39], it seems the Republican Party favors elimination of protection by the federal government of endangered species.  To me a party which appears to be obsessed with claiming a strong belief in God would want to preserve much of the way the earth was designed by our Supreme Creator. Nature has a delicate balance which could be upset by elimination of various species.

A perfect example of government protection of nature’s beasts is the alligator. 

By the 1960's alligators were disappearing from Texas’ swamps and marshlands.  The only natural enemy of a gator is humans.  Though taking of alligators was unlawful in Texas, enforcement was well-nigh impossible because when caught with a valuable alligator hide, poachers and illegal hunters would simply claim the gator had been taken in another state and its hide simply brought to Texas for sale.  There was really no way to identify the source of an alligator hide or other body parts.

Because of the value of alligators whose meat could be consumed, its hide made into valuable purses, shoes and other items and its teeth taken as a source of ivory, alligators were disappearing at an alarming rate and about to be listed on the federal register as an endangered species.

Because of concern expressed by environmentalists, I, while a member of the Texas House of Representatives, introduced legislation to make it a crime to possess any part of an alligator while in Texas.  The strategy worked and in only a few years alligators had made a spectacular comeback in our Texas estuaries and marshes.

Alligators were really essential to the whole ecology of marshlands because as a part of their propagation female alligators wallow out a large hole in the marsh pushing vegetation into a large pile whereupon they would place their eggs, cover them with other vegetation and allow the decomposition of the vegetation to furnish the heat thereby hatching many new gators.  The process was extremely helpful to the other creatures inhabiting marshlands because in times of drought, alligator holes were often the only source of water for other creatures.

The strategy of the legislation worked so well that in the ‘70's while a member of the Senate, Parks and Wildlife, as well as citizens, prevailed on me to introduce a second alligator measure.  Alligators were becoming so prolific in Southeast Texas that complaints were arising by people who had their pets attacked and eaten in yards which abutted waterways or swamp lands.  Through cooperation with Texas Parks and Wildlife, a bill was devised setting strict regulations whereby alligators could be hunted pursuant to permits in limited seasons.

Because of government intervention, alligators have flourished, wetlands have benefited, hunters have a new and exciting outlet for their efforts and there is even a flourishing industry attached to the hatching, sale and use of alligator parts in our state.