Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

Texas, The Sequel: The State That Continues to Provide the National News and Late Night TV Plenty of Material

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Between March and June, 2015, making national news seemed to be a frequent occurrence for Texas as Austin, Garland, Waco, Overton, and texas1McKinney experienced unprecedented media coverage. Meanwhile, as the Tea Party conservatives maintained control of the legislature, Texas also gained notoriety in many other areas.

The Texas Tea Party has a history of avoiding issues…Texas ranks first in the amount of executions, first in the amount of uninsured citizens, first in the amount of toxic chemicals released into water, and first in the amount of hazardous waste generated. On the other hand, they ranked last in mental health expenditures, last in the percent of students who reach graduation, and last in worker compensation coverage. In addition, they are in the bottom five for tax expenditures that directly benefit their citizens, the number of poor people covered by Medicaid, and the number of people included in employer-based healthcare. (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, November 17, 2012)

The city of Austin recently had a training mission to teach staff members how they should work alongside a female majority on the council. The training included the following statement: “Women don’t care about the math, they don’t read the briefings, they’ll drown you in questions.” Austin’s female council members, rightly shocked and outraged, blasted the briefing for being ignorant, archaic, and offensive. (DMN, 3/16/15, p 24A Hit and Misses Nitwits on parade) In the city’s defense, its spokesman said those ideas from the visiting consultant were “timely and relevant”. Really?

As the media continues to focus on mass shootings and the mounting number of gun deaths, Texas legislators continue to make it easier to carry guns everywhere—grocery stores, college campuses, and on city streets. On May 2, two gunmen opened fire at the Culwell Event Center in North Garland at the “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” featuring controversial cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. The shooting occurred as the event was concluding, Garland police spokesman Joe Harn said. The two gunmen were killed, but the incident thrust Texas into the national spotlight again. (CNN News, May 4, 2015)

Two weeks later, the horrific May 17 shooting in Waco between the police and two motorcycle gangs, the Bandidos and the Cossacks, left at least nine people dead and 18 hospitalized. Three weeks later, the Waco police, who had arrested 177 bikers following the deadly shootout, still had filed no charges in the killings. Nearly half the bikers remained in jail on unusually high bonds, and more than a few legal experts — including former prosecutors — are wondering what is going on in McLennan County? (Texas Tribune, June 10, 2015)

Following the deadly incident in Waco, the police in Overton, Texas continued the media frenzy but, this time by shutting down a lemonade stand run by two little girls, ages 7 and 8. Andria and Zoey Green were trying to raise $100 for a Father’s Day present. They had been selling lemonade and kettle corn for an hour – and made about $25 – when officers showed up and told them they need a $150 permit to sell their lemonade.

“It is a lemonade stand, but they also have a permit that they are required to get,” Overton Police Chief Clyde Carter said, “as well as to be approved by the Health Inspector.”

The sisters, smart entrepreneurs even at an early age, decided to reopen the stand. Instead of selling their lemonade, they chose to give it away for free and accept donations. They made about $1,000. (ABC Eyewitness News, KTRK, June 11, 2015) I hope these youngsters stay in Texas and inspire our state politicians to adopt some commonsense approaches to problem solving.

In early June, Eric Casebolt resigned from his post as a corporal for the Police Department in McKinney, Texas days after a video went viral online showing him yanking a 14-year-old bikini-clad girl to the ground and kneeling on her back. Prior to the police intervention, white residents began to harass the swimmers. When one woman told the teens to “go back to Section 8 housing,” a fight broke out. The black girl, who was assaulted by the policeman, was invited to the pool party by one of the residents at the complex.

While the media prefers to report on heinous vs heroics, thousands of officers perform good deeds without much recognition. Even though the good deeds don’t often make the national news, it important to notice, remember, and praise the men and women who serve our communities. Below are just a few of their heroic deeds that were in print, but were hard to find, and didn’t receive much national press…

In the freezing temperatures of January, Odessa Police Corporal Jeremy Walsh was seen kneeling next to the homeless man and giving him a pair of boots and a bottle of water. (Yahoo News, January 21, 2014)

In February, Plano Police Chief Rushin was on his way home from a speaking engagement when he saw three young ladies walking along the shoulder of State Highway 75. Their vehicle had run out of gas. He drove the women to a gas station so they could purchase gas, and then transported them safely back to their car. (CBS/DFW February 5, 2014)

On April 19, Mesquite police officers Ryan Nielson and Autumn Soto pulled a man from a burning car moments before it was engulfed in flames. (The Independent, June 18, 2015)

Just as citizens should respect the job done by most police officers, the Texas legislators need to respect the laws of our land, and welcome same sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act as part of Texas’ future. Instead of taking the opportunity to reinforce and unite our country, Governor Abbott chose to divide us by stating Texas won’t comply with these new Supreme Court rulings.

Texas needs to join the 21st century and envision a path forward that will enhance our image, both with the citizens and the media, rather than diminish and tarnish it.

Texas, Our Texas: Will Republicans Continue to Make Things Even Worse?

Friday, June 12th, 2015

texas1There are many competitions in our society, in our country, and in our world. Children, adults, colleges, corporations, etc. are constantly striving to be ranked at the top. States even compete so they are ranked high for things like the best place to work, raise a family, and live. So why does Texas, and the Texas Republican Party, strive to be last? Following are just a few of the decisions, laws, and actions contributing to the race to the bottom in the country:

Environmentally, no other state has deregulated dams like Texas, said Lori Spragens, executive director at the National Association of Dam Safety Officials. The law “just doesn’t make any sense from a safety standpoint,” she said. Spragens was referring to the fact that Texas stopped inspecting 44% of the dams in the state, following passage last year of a state law that exempted most privately owned dams from safety requirements by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Texas gave permission for unsafe environmental measures to go unchecked (Wall Street Journal, July 9, 2014).

In education, Texas ranks last among the 50 states in the percentage of high school graduates. Rather than working to improve their status, Texas chose to cut billions from education funding and lower standards for students to graduate.

Texas is not always at the bottom. It is in first place with the highest proportion of people without health insurance, and we are also number one in releasing the most carbon dioxide and hazardous waste of any state.

Texas ranks number one again, having more gun dealers — about 8,500 — than any other state, according to statistics kept by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. (USA TODAY, February 18, 2013)

Texas Republicans without a doubt are pro-life, but are they really concerned with a person’s life itself or just a person’s life before it is born? The state’s lax gun laws, which have no required state registration of firearms, no waiting period, no limits on type or number of guns, make Texas a prolific source of guns for criminals and the ire of national gun-control advocates, according to John Rosenthal, co-founder of the Newton, Mass.-based Stop Handgun Violence.

If Texas Republicans are pro-life, why was the Republican state legislature passing legislation allowing guns on college campuses, rather than helping people through the recent floods that took their homes, their businesses, and their lives?

In 2014, Texas, with the blessing of the Supreme Court, passed one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country. Texas voters were required to present one of seven forms of identification to vote. Student IDs at state-run universities were not included on the list of acceptable forms of identification but, concealed handgun licenses were. The Justice Department said more than 600,000 mostly blacks, Hispanics, the elderly and the poor, currently lack any of the eligible IDs to vote.  A federal judge compared the Texas’ tough voter ID rules to a poll tax meant to suppress minority voters and he blocked Texas from enforcing it just prior to the midterm election. (DMN, October 9, 2014)

Texas lawmakers believe they are beyond having to follow the Constitution and laws of the land. They have proclaimed that if the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a Constitutional right to marry in all 50 states, they will just disregard it. Additionally, on May 11 the Senate gave tentative approval to protect pastors who want to refuse to perform a same sex marriage.

According to Planned Parenthood, abortion restrictions clearly violate Texas women’s Constitutional rights and drastically reduce access to safe and legal abortion statewide. On October 3, 2014, the second round of HB2 restrictions took effect, leaving only 8 of the original 36 clinics in Texas. The only cities that still had clinics after this constricting legislation are Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Houston. (Fund Texas Choice, 10/14/14) With so few clinics now available, Texas is depriving improvised women who have to travel long distances for access to a clinic, great emotional, physical and financial hardships.

How do Republicans justify being for smaller government? How can Republicans claim they care what citizens’ want when they override local laws? Denton County citizens banned fracking in their own backyard, yet Governor Greg Abbott’s legislature banned the ban.

Governor Abbott asked the State National Guard to track Jade Helm 15 this summer, which is a scheduled military teaching program, calling the maneuvers a Conspiracy Theory of Obama to enforce a martial law takeover of Texas.

Jon Stewart, comics, and newscasters all mocked Abbott’s fiasco. Bill Maher was clear on his Real Time show. “Have you heard of Jade Helm 15?” Bill Maher asked. “It is actually a code name for a routine training exercise the U.S. military is planning to conduct in the Southwest which the tea baggers in Texas are convinced is actually an Obama plot to invade Texas, take their guns, and impose a new world order. Yes, because we hate Lubbock for its freedom.”

Texas Senator Ted Cruz actually called the Pentagon just to make sure that wasn’t the case. Cruz, who is now running for president, made his announcement at Liberty University, an evangelical school founded by Jerry Falwell — disregarding the Constitutional idea of separation of church and state.

I think citizens should ask: “When is Texas going to elect competent leaders and visionaries with ideas and solutions to today’s challenges that include climate change, education, and healthcare?”

If you don’t vote, you get what you deserve

Monday, June 30th, 2014

vote2Have you ever thought…my vote doesn’t matter so why hassle with it? Or, decide not to vote because you didn’t want to wait in line or drive to your designated polling location? Have you ever chosen not to vote, but then found yourself getting angry about the course of action an elected official took? It is crucial for everyone to exercise their constitutional right to cast a ballot…even in midterm elections like the one coming up in November.

After all the ballots are counted, someone is going to win whether you take part or not.

The Midterms Elections typically have small turnouts, but this November needs to be different if Democrats want to keep the Senate and make a substantial move in the House. To accomplish that goal, everyone will need to put the excuses aside and vote. Citizens, whether Republicans, Democrats or Independents, all have much to gain by voting for politicians who are interested in the good of the country: interested in working together, listening to each other and compromising. So, take a stand, get involved and go to the polls to choose the candidate that best represents you and your interests.

If you are part of the LGBT community or support marriage equality, make sure you know where your candidate and their party stand on equality issues. Did you know that a draft of the Texas Republican Party’s platform cuts language claiming homosexuality “tears at the fabric of society” but recognizes the “legitimacy” of so-called reparative therapy to “escape from the homosexual lifestyle?” Did you know that the Texas GOP’s stand could become the national GOP stand? If you are a Log Cabin Republican, please explain to me how you can support both the GOP and your partner.

If you are a woman, please enlighten me on how you vote for a party that wants to control your life in the bedroom and the office? How do you vote for a party that didn’t support the Violence Against Women Act? The GOP wants to take away your right to choose the best course of action for your body, doesn’t want to pay you an equal wage for equal work, wants to cut food stamps to the needy and won’t assist you if a violent crime is committed against you. While you may be pro-life, do you support extremists who think abortion should be banned even in the case of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life? If you are opposed to abortion, are you also opposed to contraception, welfare, and unwed teenage mothers? When you vote, remember that the Republicans closed Planned Parenthood in many states, limiting options for many women, especially in rural areas, for mammograms and other medical care.

Are you interested in good health insurance for you as well as others? Did you know that almost all the red states turned down the Medicaid expansion, costing these states billions in federal dollars, reducing healthcare and costing jobs for thousands? Taxpayers in red states do pay into the system, but unfortunately all the benefits of the Medicaid expansion go to blue states.

Despite the Republicans attempts to repeal the ACA 50+ times and turning down the Medicaid expansion, the latest jobs report suggests that the broader economy—and the healthcare sector, specifically—are adding jobs at a brisk rate. Since March 2010, when the ACA was signed, the healthcare industry has added nearly a million jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.*

If you are a minority citizen, an immigrant or a person who embraces diversity, do you realize that the Republican Platform does not support immigration reform? In addition, the GOP is actually taking steps to make it more difficult for minorities to vote and earn a living wage. I believe if African Americans and Hispanics do not come out to vote this November, the clock could be turned back to the era of Jim Crow laws or worse.

Veterans have historically voted Republican. Have you noticed that the GOP, however, is more interested in sending our soldiers to war than taking care of them when they return? Consider the Republican view on benefits, homelessness and job creation once our heroes come back home.

If you drive a car, have a house, or own a business, do you ever consider alternative energy sources or the cost of oil? Democrats support the research and development of alternative energy rather than depending on foreign oil. The United States’ own resources along with wind and solar can solve our energy problems if we invest in that technology and it would create good jobs at home.

If you are part of the working class, and tired of struggling to make ends meet, are you coming out to vote for the candidate that represents you and your best interest? Republicans continue to deny workers a living wage, healthcare and a safe working environment. Did you know that most Congressional members are millionaires? How can the GOP choose to deny an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for average Americans?

When did America become an oligarchy or plutocracy, rather than a democratic republic? When did what Citizen’s United, the Koch Brothers and the NRA want mean more to Congress than what their constituents who voted them into office want? Maybe it’s time to vote these opportunists and obstructionist out, and vote for candidates who care about rebuilding the middle class, generating jobs and creating a prosperous, healthy country.

When did a majority mean that one person, like John Boehner or Ted Cruz could completely stop our government from functioning, even though the majority of Congress and the American people want them to work together and get things done? Why does it now take 60 votes for a majority in the Senate rather than 51?

Americans should stop accepting the status quo and begin to demand answers to these questions. They should come out this November and vote for candidates that represent their values and their best interest. The far right extremists are well organized and will turn out the vote…the good news is they are a minority. If Democrats, Independents and moderate Republicans vote in 2014, we can win and start making a difference!

* http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/06/06/1304959/-Obamacare-a-job-killer-No?detail=email#

Why I’m no longer a Republican

Friday, June 13th, 2014

donkeyandelephant

In 1988 when I voted for George H. W. Bush for president, there was nothing unusual about it. From the time I turned 21, I had always voted Republican. But, after he broke his promise not to raise taxes and the country was in the midst of a recession, I reconsidered my position in 1992.

As Bush floundered, the brilliant and charismatic campaign and message of William Jefferson Clinton hit the scene and I voted for my first Democrat.

During the next eight years, I watched how President Clinton oversaw the longest peacetime economic expansion in our history; how the nation enjoyed the lowest unemployment rate in decades; how the home ownership rate grew to the highest it’s ever been in the country’s history; how he improved economic equality that led to a strong economy and a surplus federal budget. Though his tenure was plagued with scandals and impeachment, it is important to remember, he was acquitted of all charges.

In 1996, I still didn’t consider myself a Democrat, even though I voted to reelect Clinton. I was an Independent who voted for the best person. But, when the Republican Party nominated George W. Bush in 2000…I began to think of myself as a Democrat.

Living in Texas, I saw Bush’s policies and ignorance first hand. I could foresee many problems the country would face if he was elected and, unfortunately, he didn’t prove me wrong. Against strong counsel from his own financial advisors, he cut taxes while starting two wars; something no other president had ever done. These decisions began the immeasurable damage to our country that would take decades to recover from.

He took a substantial surplus, and turned it into a huge deficit; he changed America’s standing in the world, by trying to force his views on other cultures; he chose to invade Iraq first, rather than Afghanistan, allowing Osama bin Laden to continue his reign of terrorism for years; he destabilized the Middle East which led to more insurgents. Bush and Cheney did not listen to Americans or our Allies and millions of lives were lost.

As the neocons continually promote just one more war to spread democracy, I believe we should fix America’s democracy first before we try to change the cultures of other countries to mirror our own.

Near the end of Bush’s disastrous two-term Presidency, it was an easy decision for me to vote for Obama over McCain. But, it was the creation of the Tea Party facet of the Republican Party in 2010 that turned me into a loyal Democrat, rather than an Independent. I don’t feel I abandoned the Republican Party but, I do feel the Republican Party abandoned me. Their emerging views on government, religion, women’s rights, workers’ rights, income inequality, violence against women, equal pay for women, minorities’ voting rights, made me move away from these radical ideologues as quickly as possible.

In 2014, the Republican Party is now split between the old GOP idealists and the new GOP obstructionists; between those who know their message is losing voters and want to change it and, those who would rather suppress and buy the vote, than change the message. The GOP no longer stands for Grand Old Party, but for Greedy Old Plutocrats.

Democrats must rally their base. There are many smart and educated Republicans who believe their Party’s lies, support their Party’s positions and who will come out to vote Republican at any cost. In America that is their prerogative. But, it is up to the rest of us to make sure these extremists are defeated in 2014, in 2016 and beyond. It is critical to this country’s future, maybe more than any other election in our history that you vote in November. Choosing not to vote because you think your vote doesn’t matter is just plain wrong. I worry that if people do not stand up for what they believe in, and vote, then our future right to vote may vanish.

I support the Democratic message because I’m for job creation, rather than obstructionism. I support healthcare for all, rather than repealing the ACA with no alternative plan. I think we should keep the safety net for those who need it and have paid into it all their lives. I support Social Security, and believe the system could be solvent for years if the income cap was removed and people paid into the system for every pay check they received. And unlike many Republican Governors, I also support Medicaid expansion which saves lives, adds billions in federal funds, and creates jobs.

I’m for keeping America safe and strong, but not for sending Americans into harm’s way when it isn’t necessary. I’m for helping veterans when they return from serving our country, rather than cutting their benefits. I’m for lowering Congressional pay and perks, so that elected officials’ jobs aren’t about becoming millionaires, but rather are about their responsibility to serve their constituents and their country.

I believe in food stamps for the hungry, but not subsidies to big agricultural firms. I believe in healthy school lunches for our children, but not Republican supported junk food lobbyists. I believe in putting people to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and bridges, rather than blocking the vote on job development, and asking “where are the jobs?” I believe in energy independence, but not at a cost to our society and way of life. I believe we should do something about man-made climate change, not deny it exists. I believe we should leave America, and the planet, a better place for my kids and my grandkids, rather than a worse place.

I’m for easy to vote elections, rather than designing restrictions that make it harder for minorities, the poor and the elderly to vote. I’m for term limits for all elected officials, rather than lifetime politicians. In other words, I’m for democracy…a democracy that is quickly diminishing under the current Republican leadership.