Category Archives: State news

Put Confederates in museums, and study what they did

I suppose it’s time to make a decision on what I think we should do with these Confederates statues scattered around many of our states.

Put ’em in museums. Make displays of them and then explain to visitors who these men were, what they did and tell the world about the consequences of their actions.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott weighed in this week on the subject in the wake of the Charlottesville, Va., mayhem that left a young woman and two Virginia state troopers dead. The pro-Nazi/white supremacist/Klan march prompted a counter protest that turned violent.

And for what? Because the hate groups sought to protest the removal of a statue from a public park of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general who led the army that fought against the United States of America.

According to the Texas Tribune  — “Racist and hate-filled violence – in any form — is never acceptable, and as Governor I have acted to quell it,” Abbott said in the statement. “My goal as governor is to eliminate the racist and hate-filled environment we are seeing in our country today.”

“But we must remember that our history isn’t perfect,” Abbott added. “If we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Instead of trying to bury our past, we must learn from it and ensure it doesn’t happen again. Tearing down monuments won’t erase our nation’s past, and it doesn’t advance our nation’s future. As Governor, I will advance that future through peace, not violence, and I will do all I can to keep our citizens safe.”

Those are noble words and sentiments. I am not going to go the distance on these monuments. I share Gov. Abbott’s view that they shouldn’t be torn down and destroyed. But I also share the view of those who wonder why we “honor” individuals who turned on the Republic, ignited a bloody Civil War and fought to preserve “states’ rights” to enslave human beings.

These traitors to the nation don’t deserve to be honored with parks and structures that carry their names. They don’t deserve to have statues displayed in public places frequented by Americans who are direct descendants of those who had been kept in bondage.

I rather would see these monuments relocated as museum pieces accompanied by narratives that explain who they are and the role they played in that terrible, dark chapter in our otherwise glorious national story.

The governor said removing the statues “won’t erase our nation’s past, and it doesn’t advance our nation’s future.”

It shouldn’t erase the past, governor. As for the future, well, we advance it by keeping the egregious errors of our past in full view and presenting it in complete context to ensure we don’t repeat them.

‘Six Flags’ now all look alike

How about this?

Six Flags Over Texas, the noted theme park in Arlington, has made a fascinating decision about the flags it flies.

The Charlottesville riot and the blowback over symbols of the Confederate States of America has moved Six Flags to replace the various flags with just one: Old Glory.

Six Flags over Texas has removed the various colors it flew. The flags represented France, Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Stars and Stripes and, yes, the Confederate States of America.

Now all six banners will be the United States national flag, the Old Red, White and Blue.

The outrage over Donald Trump’s comments about the riot, the notion that “both sides” were responsible for the violence that erupted, has prompted this change at the Six Flags theme park. The protest turned into a riot when counter protesters challenged Ku Klux Klansmen, white supremacists and neo-Nazis who had gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a public park. A young woman was killed during the riot when she was run over by a motor vehicle allegedly driven by a young man with neo-Nazi sympathies.

Six Flags spokespeople say the park has sought to display flags that illustrate “unity.” Given the harsh response to what transpired in Charlottesville, the park has decided that unity should be displayed in the form of Old Glory.

Which begs another fascinating question: How about the flags that fly during the musical “Texas”? The Texas Panhandle plays host every summer to the acclaimed musical “Texas” at Palo Duro Canyon. The show concludes with horsemen and women riding across the set carrying the “Six Flags” that represented the governments of Texas. One of them is, you guessed it, of the Confederacy.

Will the “Texas” producers follow the lead provided by Six Flags Over Texas? I salute Six Flags for demonstrating remarkable sensitivity to the national mood.

And do I sense a name change at the theme park is in the making?

Bathroom Bill is dead; may it remain dead

Ladies and gents, boys and girls … I am delighted to proclaim the return to sanity in at least governmental power center.

That would be in Austin, Texas, where the Legislature is concluding a special session called to deal with 20 issues mandated by Gov. Greg Abbott. One of them was the so-called Bathroom Bill.

The Bathroom Bill has been flushed away. It’s gone. The Legislature won’t send this idiotic notion to the governor’s desk.

While the nation is trying to gather its wits after the president’s stunning remarks Tuesday about “both sides” sharing blame for the tragedy that unfolded in Charlottesville, Texas lawmakers have performed a profoundly sane act by killing the Bathroom Bill.

The bill, which was part of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s wish list of items to be enacted, would have required folks to use bathrooms in accordance with the gender noted on their birth certificates. It is intended to prevent transgender individuals who identify with the “other gender” to use the bathroom commensurate with their sexual identity.

That would apply to those who’ve actually had their gender changed surgically. Yep, a man who was born a woman would have had to use the women’s restroom — and vice versa.

Discriminatory? Yeah. Just a tad.

Texas senators approved this bill and sent it to the House of Representatives. Speaker Joe Straus, though, opposed it, as did most House members. Straus said he wouldn’t be party to a bill that discriminated against transgendered individuals.

So, the bill has died a quiet death.

Lt. Gov. Patrick had support among social conservatives and clergy. Police chiefs opposed it, as did business leaders. According to the Texas Tribune: “Transgender women, men and children from across Texas descended on the Capitol to testify about how the proposal — which would ban local policies that ensured transgender individuals’ right to use public and school restrooms that match their gender identity — could endanger their lives. The business community rallied against the legislation too, giving House Speaker Joe Straus cover as he refused to negotiate with Patrick on bathroom restrictions.”

Read the rest of the Tribune story here.

It’s foolish to predict that the Bathroom Bill will remain dead. It might come back when the 2019 Legislature convenes. It might even be part of yet another special session if Gov. Abbott is inclined to call one.

I hope he doesn’t. The state has many compelling issues with which to wrestle. The nonsense associated with the use of public restrooms isn’t one of them.

Reason required cancellation of A&M rally

Reason and sanity have prompted an eminently wise decision in Aggieland.

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp has cancelled a white nationalist rally that was scheduled for the College Station campus.

Gosh, what do you suppose prompted the cancellation?

Oh yeah! It was that hideous riot at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the one that resulted in the deaths of three individuals. Ku Klux Klansmen, neo-Nazis and assorted white nationalists gathered there to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. All hell broke loose when counter protesters showed up.

Texas A&M was set to step into the crosshairs by agreeing to play host to its own white nationalist rally set for Sept. 11.

Then the chancellor intervened. Sharp cited safety concerns in ordering the rally canceled. According to the Austin American-Statesman, several Texas legislators urged cancellation of the rally that had been organized by a group promoting the event as a “White Lives Matter” protest. Read the rest of the American-Statesman story here.

The Charlottesville tragedy has ignited a rhetorical firestorm. Donald J. Trump threw a load of flammable liquid on it Saturday by initially declining to condemn the racists/bigots whose protests provoked the response they received. The president had a chance to lead, but then he failed to do so.

Today, the president called out the racists by name. It’s likely not enough to quell the uproar.

To that end, the A&M System has done the profoundly correct thing — given the national mood of the moment — to cancel a rally that well could have turned into another riot.

Good call, Chancellor Sharp.

There are Klan rallies, then we have what happened at UVa

I feel as though I’ve dodged a bullet or two, having watched the tragic events unfold in Charlottesville, Va.

Now for the explanation.

My former life as a full-time journalist enabled me to two attend two Ku Klux Klan rallies. The first one was in Orange, Texas, way down yonder on the Gulf Coast, just west of the Louisiana state line; the second was right here in Amarillo, Texas.

Why the feeling of relief? They both were peaceful. Unlike the pandemonium that erupted in Charlottesville, the rallies in Orange and Amarillo were tame — although one was far tamer than the other one.

The Orange rally occurred without incident of any kind. Some Klansmen showed up to protest the racial integration of a federal housing project in nearby Vidor, Texas, a community full of fine folks but also a town known to be a sort of KKK haven. There were no counter protests; just a lot of fiery and ignorant hate speech coming from the podium.

The Amarillo rally was a bit different. A Klan chapter sought permission to gather at City Hall; the city granted it. The head Klansman started to speak, only to be drowned out by a large procession of cymbal-bashing, drum-beating, horn-blaring and shouting counter protesters who marched onto the City Hall parking lot. They drowned out the KKK speakers.

There was no physical confrontation. There were no fights. No violence. Indeed, the Amarillo Police Department, the Potter County Sheriff’s Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety were out in force to ensure a peaceful outcome … although they couldn’t guarantee a quiet one.

I’ll stand by my previous posts in asserting that the “white nationalists” who gathered in Charlottesville were the provocateurs. They instigated the violence merely showing up. Then to have someone mow down counter protesters with his motor vehicle? I believe I would call that a terrorist act.

We well might have witnessed a horrifying symptom of a deteriorating national mood.

I never want to see anything like that again, let alone up close.

This Senate campaign could be a scream … really!

Go, Dan, go!

Dan McQueen is running for the U.S. Senate now held by Ted Cruz, aka the Cruz Missile.

McQueen is not exactly new to politics. He was mayor of Corpus Christi for all of 37 days. Then he quit amid a huge splash of bad publicity, a social media feud via Facebook with constituents and the media.

Now he’s decided to go after Cruz, who’s going to seek a second Senate term in 2018.

Read Texas Monthly’s report of McQueen’s candidacy.

McQueen was new to politics when he was elected mayor in 2016.

Then questions emerged about his academic credentials and his business expertise. He fought with the media and with city council members. McQueen got entangled in a clean water dispute. Then came questions about a relationship he was having with a business associate.

He had enough. So he walked away from his mayor’s job after a little more than month.

Is he the right person for Republicans to nominate next spring when he runs against Cruz? I have no clue.

But a guy who couldn’t stand the heat at City Hall now wants to step straight into the white-hot fire of Capitol Hill. How in the world is he going to withstand the scrutiny he is going to get as he campaigns against Cruz?

But you know what? The more I think about it, the more Dan McQueen sounds like he’d be a good fit in that zoo we call Congress.

Goodbye to the Bathroom Bill? Good riddance!

That so-called Bathroom Bill appears set to be flushed down the toilet.

It’s all right with me.

The Texas Legislature’s special session will adjourn in just a few days. The bill that the Senate approved and sent to the House of Representatives appears now to be languishing for the duration of the special session.

The bill is supposed to require individuals to use public restrooms in accordance to the gender noted on their birth certificate. It discriminates against the tiny portion of the population that considers itself “transgender.” These are folks with a sexual identity that differs from their gender at the time of birth. Some of them have taken steps to surgically change their gender identity.

That didn’t dissuade Texas senators from approving the bill, which is a favorite of the Senate’s presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. The speaker of the Texas House, Joe Straus, another Republican, thinks differently of the bill. So, the bill is unlikely to make it out of the House.

That’s all right with me.

The enforceability of the bill creates the biggest problem for me. That is, I am still baffled on how the state tells someone who’s changed their sexual identity that he or she cannot use the rest room that comports with who they are. How does the state enforce such a rule? Will there be search-and-frisk teams posted in public restrooms?

This is a classic case of the state looking for a problem to solve. Police chiefs report virtually zero cases of sexual assault caused by transgender individuals.

Which brings me to the basic question: What is the point of this intrusive legislation?

Lt. Gov. declares war on cities

Dan Patrick has gone to “war” with city governments.

Think of that for a moment. The Texas lieutenant governor blames city governments for all the problems afflicting the nation. The Republican official says, moreover, that Democratic municipal leaders are to blame for those urban problems.

Huh? Is this loudmouth suggesting that cities’ problems are exclusive to urban areas? Does he mean to suggest that rural America — and that includes Texas, of course — is immune from those maladies?

Good grief, dude!

Patrick made that declaration on Fox Business News. He all but admitted that he launched the attack for partisan purposes. He wants to lay the blame at Democrats’ feet and wants to protect Republican officeholders from criticism.

Nice try, big fella. It ain’t gonna work.

Patrick is getting some push back, of course, from city leaders. They are reminding the lieutenant governor that rural Americans suffer precisely the same problems as urban Americans: drug abuse, gun violence, sexual crimes, unwanted pregnancies, alcohol abuse … do I need to go on?

Patrick’s attack on urban Texas and the rest of the nation ignores the reality that most cities (in Texas anyway) elect their governing councils on non-partisan ballots. Mayors and city council members as a rule do not run as Democrats or Republicans. They are elected by voters on matters that next to nothing to do with party affiliation.

Lt. Gov. Patrick has decided to make it a partisan battle.

As if we don’t have enough of them already!

‘Bathroom Bill’ on life support? Pull the plug!

Texas’s so-called “Bathroom Bill” is wallowing in the Texas House of Representatives.

Some lawmakers have said the bill is on “life support.” It’s not likely to get to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature.

To which I offer a hearty “hurrah!”

The Texas Legislature has eight days to go before adjourning its special session. The Senate has sent a bushel bucket of bills to the House. One of them is that damn Bathroom Bill, which requires individuals to use public restrooms commensurate with the gender listed on their birth certificate. The bill discriminates against transgender individuals. It is a patently ridiculous piece of legislation.

Legislative Republicans say it’s intent is to protect women and girls from male sexual predators who enter their restrooms disguised as women. Police chiefs around the state say that rationale is utter hogwash, that they have no reports of that kind of sexual assault.

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus opposes it. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick supports it. The bill is one of many such bills that might end up in the trash can when the Legislature gavels the special session to a close.

If the governor intends to bring legislators back to Austin to finish their work, my sincere hope is that he reduces the legislative call by at least one measure: that would be the Bathroom Bill.

As the Texas Tribune reports: “House State Affairs Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, said Tuesday he will not give the ‘bathroom bill’ a hearing in his committee — and the measure’s author, state Rep. Ron Simmons, said it would be difficult to amend the bill as written to any other legislation moving through the chamber.”

Here is the Texas Tribune story.

It looks to me as though it’s time to pull the plug on the Bathroom Bill and concentrate on issues that really matter to all Texans.

Welcome back, Beto!

I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but Beto O’Rourke is making himself quite at home in what might be considered “enemy territory.”

O’Rourke is the Democratic member of Congress who wants to succeed Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz at the end of next year.

He keeps coming back to the Texas Panhandle. He’ll be here Tuesday, conducting a town hall meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Austin Middle School in Amarillo.

What’s the deal? O’Rourke represents an El Paso district in Congress. He’s got a Democratic Party primary yet to win. He has returned back home to Texas during the August recess to resume his full-time campaign for the Senate seat occupied by Cruz.

O’Rourke has developed quite a fan following among local Democrats — yes, there are actually living, breathing Democrats in the Panhandle. They can’t get enough of this young man.

I’m curious about a couple of things regarding Rep. O’Rourke.

First, how much time is he going to spend mining a limited number of Democratic primary votes when there exist so many more in larger urban regions in, say, Dallas and Tarrant counties, in Bexar County, in Travis County, Harris County and, oh yes, El Paso County? Hey, it’s a big state and he’s got to get from place to place in a big hurry.

Second, if the young congressman gets nominated by Democrats next spring, will he come back to the Panhandle when the general election campaign kicks into high gear?

You and I know the rule of thumb regarding partisan Texas politics: Democrats generally have given up on the Panhandle, while Republicans take this region for granted. Just as national politicians campaigning for president focus on “battleground states” and ignore the trusty Red and Blue states, the same can be said for the intrastate campaign in Texas.

Do candidates for statewide office spend as much time in regions where the outcome is preordained? If I would run a Texas-wide campaign, I would focus my attention on those “swing regions” and seek to gin up turnout among my own partisans, be they Democrats in Austin and the Hill Country or Republicans in Amarillo and throughout West Texas.

I hope I’m wrong about Beto O’Rourke. Just maybe the young man will possess the energy and pizzazz to spend more general-election time far from his base of support.

You know, too, that I am no fan of the Cruz Missile.

Enough said.