Category Archives: State news

Why did you want Duncan to go, regents? Come clean!

I have to hand it to the Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey: The man knows how to lay political injustice out there in the great wide open for all to see.

Ramsey thinks Texas Tech University System Chancellor Bob Duncan got hosed by the university’s board of regents. They voted — possibly illegally in an executive session — to issue a no-confidence verdict on Duncan.

What does Ramsey think of Duncan? Get a load of this excerpt from the Texas Tribune: He has been solid gold the whole way: As a legislative staffer, a lawyer working for state Sen. John Montford, D-Lubbock; as a member of the Texas House and then a state senator; and finally, as the chancellor.

No scandals. No meaningful enemies (until now, anyway). His has been a stellar career. It’s what the optimists hope for and what the pessimists bet against. He’s straight out of a Frank Capra movie, or a civics textbook. Imagine a guy walking through a spaghetti factory in a white suit and leaving without a spot on him. Duncan is really something.

Which is why it’s a shame that the rest of the crabs pulled him back into the bucket. The regents at Texas Tech showed their mettle — demonstrating why they’re little fish and not big fish — when a more brazen academic institution bellowed about their plans to launch a veterinary school in the Panhandle. Texas A&M University, headed by former legislator, railroad commissioner and comptroller John Sharp, believes one vet school is enough.

Ramsey thinks that someone connected to the A&M System got to Gov. Greg Abbott, who might have told the Tech regents — who are appointed by the governor — to reel Duncan in.

What is galling to me is that regents haven’t yet given a hint of detail as to why they want Duncan to leave the post he has held for the past four years. By most observers’ reckoning, he was doing a bang-up job as the system’s chief administrator.

Regents have sought to cover their backsides by declaring their continued support for the school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. That’s great!

Read Ramsey’s excellent analysis here.

First things first. They need to explain to Tech’s constituents why they have pushed a “good guy,” as Ramsey described Duncan, over the proverbial cliff.

Beto over The Cruz Missile? Here’s why

OK, so what if I haven’t come up with a pejorative nickname for the guy I want Texans to send to the U.S. Senate. Maybe he’ll earn it if he gets the chance to represent Texas beginning in 2019.

I do know this: I want Beto O’Rourke to defeat Ted Cruz in the race for the Senate. Some recent polling suggests a tight race. Texas Lyceum has it at 2 percent for Cruz, which makes the contest a statistical dead heat.

Yes, I often refer to the Republican incumbent as The Cruz Missile. I do so because I do not think he places Texas’s interests over his own ambition. He was elected in 2012 and immediately could be seen on TV screens, blathering about this or that. The media glommed onto him, much as they have done with other senatorial newcomers, such as Democrats Kamala Harris and Corey Booker.

A senator who doesn’t earn his or her place on the front row of the political chorus automatically makes me suspicious as to his or her motivation.

Thus, Cruz has become The Missile.

I am going to turn my attention to Beto O’Rourke.

The young man’s issues pronouncements do not seem overly radical, which many on the right are likely to characterize them.

He speaks with compassion about immigration, wanting to preserve the Differed Action on Childhood Arrivals provision, giving so-called “Dreamers” a chance to achieve U.S. citizenship rather than rounding them up and deporting them. He wants to fix the Affordable Care Act, not trash it merely because it was authored by President Obama. O’Rourke wants to be true to our veterans; and this veteran thanks him for that. He believes Earth’s climate is changing and wants to invest more — not less — in alternative energy production to protect the atmosphere against carbon-induced warming.

I am acutely aware of the steep hill that towers in front of O’Rourke. He is campaigning as a Democrat in a state that tends to elect Republicans just because they, well, are Republicans. We live in a conservative state populated by conservatives. O’Rourke will need to tell us what he intends to do for Texans if he gets elected to represent us — and our interests.

As I have watched Sen. Cruz for the past six years, I do not yet know whether he understands yet that he works for us and that he must keep his personal ambition under wraps.

My head tells me a lot of things have to go right for O’Rourke for him to win. My heart wishes they do … and believes they will.

***

Take a look at O’Rourke’s platform. You’ll find it here.

Straight-ticket voting and the Trump coattail effect

Buried near the end of a typically excellent Texas Tribune analysis by Ross Ramsey, is an item that sent chills up my spine.

It reads: Straight-ticket voting accounted for 64 percent of all voting in the state’s ten largest counties in the 2016 general election. If that holds in 2018, almost two-thirds of the vote will be cast with more attention to party than person.

Ramsey’s analysis talks about the candidate whose name isn’t on the ballot: Donald J. Trump. If Trump’s approval numbers are up, Republicans will do well; if they’re down, Democrats might have a glimmer of hope.

Read the analysis here.

Why do I have the heebie-jeebies? Because I hate straight-ticket voting, no matter which party is up. The GOP is currently the “up party” in Texas.

What galls me to the max is that a healthy majority of voters in the state’s largest counties vote for the party rather than the individual.

Sad, man!

I live in one of the state’s larger counties these days. Collin County will figure mightily in the midterm election that is coming up quickly.

If only I could persuade state legislators to change the law, propose a constitutional amendment, do something proactive to force voters to examine every race individually before casting their ballots.

Spare me the idiocy that voters don’t have “the time” to look at these races when they step into the ballot box.

Parties shouldn’t matter more than the individual we elect to serve us, the people.

Wishing a former governor could weigh in on DACA

I am quite aware that Rick Perry’s job as energy secretary inhibits the areas on which he can comment publicly. He is limited to talking about energy policy.

You see, he also is a former Texas governor who — if memory serves — got into some hot water with hard-line conservatives within his party because of his relatively generous views about undocumented immigrants.

The Republican governor used to support the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants who grew up in Texas, who came of age here, to enroll in colleges and universities while paying in-state tuition rates. Those rates are considerably less expensive than those who live out of state and who choose to attend higher education institutions in Texas.

Thus, I wish the former governor could speak out against the notion of ending the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, which is what the Trump administration — which Perry now serves as energy boss — wants to eliminate.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office is going to court next week to continue the fight on behalf of the Trump administration.

As the Texas Tribune reports: On Aug. 8, federal District Judge Andrew Hanen will hear the state’s request to have the program preliminarily halted while the issue meanders its way through the federal court system. The hearing comes nearly a year after President Donald Trump promised to end DACA in September by phasing it out over six months. But three different courts have since ruled that the administration must keep the program —which protects immigrants brought into the U.S. as children from deportation and allows them to obtain a two-year work permit — intact for now.

DACA was created by the Obama administration. It is intended to grant temporary reprieve from deportation of those who were brought to this country illegally by their parents. Many DACA recipients came here as babies; they know only life in the United States. They need not be deported, given that many of them already have established themselves as de facto citizens of this country.

Donald Trump wants to eliminate it, seemingly only because it was left over by the presidency of Barack Obama.

If only the secretary of energy, Rick Perry, who was right about his more humane view of how we treat these immigrants could be heard within the president’s inner circle.

Beto and Barack vs. Cruz and The Donald?

Barack H. Obama has issued his first round of Democratic Party endorsements in advance of the midterm election.

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Beto O’Rourke no doubt was wanting the 44th president to endorse his candidacy against Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. He didn’t get it.

Some of my Republican-leaning social media acquaintances have reminded me that the ex-president stiffed O’Rourke. I’ll answer them here: The Obama endorsements are likely to be followed by another round prior to the election.

It’s fair to ask: Do these endorsements really matter? Does an endorsement from a president who lost Texas by double digits in 2008 and 2012 pack enough political ummpph to carry Beto O’Rourke across the finish line ahead of the Cruz Missile? That’s problematic at best.

I would pay real money, though, to attend a campaign rally featuring Barack Obama. Now that I live in Collin County, just one county north of Dallas County — which Obama won in his two presidential election bids — there is at least a remote chance he might come here to campaign for Beto.

As for the GOP side, I am wondering about whether Donald Trump will stump for Sen. Cruz. He well might harbor some reticence. Why? Cruz did say some really harsh things about his then-Republican Party primary foe — that would be Trump — back in 2016. He called Trump “amoral,” a “pathological liar” and a guy with zero decency.

Cruz has taken a different tack, naturally, since then. But that other stuff is still out there in the public domain. It provides ample grist for foes to use against Cruz. And against Trump, for that matter.

Start packing up, Coach Meyer

This is just me, but it looks for all the world as though another noted athletic figure is about to be shown the door.

Ohio State University head football coach Urban Meyer is now on “administrative leave” while the school — using an outside investigative firm — looks into allegations that Meyer looked the other way while one of his assistants was abusing his wife.

The “Me Too” movement well might be set to score another “victory” in its effort to eradicate this kind of disgraceful behavior.

As ESPN.com has noted, Meyer attained college football greatness leading a team — at the University of Florida — at a time when there was much greater tolerance of players’ misconduct.

Read the ESPN story here.

The Ohio State story is quite a bit different. It involves an assistant coach Zach Smith, who allegedly was physically assaulting his now former wife, Courtney Smith. Meanwhile, Urban and others knew about it, but took no action.

Urban Meyer has been perceived for a long time to be one of the good guys in intercollegiate sports. This story, if it proves true, peels away that veneer more than likely forever.

The “Me Too” movement has arisen out of an increasing societal intolerance of abusive behavior of powerful men. It has ended the careers of men in sports, entertainment and politics. As it should! It has, in the case of Bill Cosby, resulted in a criminal conviction. There likely will be others.

I don’t want Urban Meyer to be the next one to be given the boot. If the OSU investigation proves that, yes, the head coach knew about sexual abuse involving a staff member but looked away … well, the school will have no choice but to fire him.

And what about that highway work?

AMARILLO, Texas — I’ve spent a lot of blog time and cyberspace commenting on the progress shown in downtown Amarillo.

I’ll continue to do so.

A return this weekend to Amarillo, however, reminds me of the kind of headache that most cities should welcome. Highway construction!

Wow! Driving into Amarillo westbound on Interstate 40 is a serious challenge. When I watch projects of this magnitude proceed I try to picture what the finished product will look like. I cannot yet form a picture in my mind’s eye what I-40 will resemble when the Texas Department of Transportation work crews finish their job.

It’s gigantic, man!

I am aware of the griping that’s gone on since the beginning of statehood back in 1845 about how Austin doesn’t know the Panhandle exists, how the power center concentrates its collective mind on the needs of those down yonder.

My own sense is that the construction work under way along I-40, as well as along the southern end of Loop 335 (another highway under state jurisdiction) as well as along Interstate 27 at the extreme southern end of Amarillo tells me that Austin is well aware of the Texas Panhandle.

I will continue to beg for patience from my former fellow Panhandle neighbors as they navigate through the chaos that has developed along I-40, I-27 and the loop. I’ll need it, too, when I return periodically for the foreseeable future.

Let’s all be strong together. The virtue that is patience will pay us off.

Five U.S. Senate race debates? Very good!

Well, shut my mouth and call me flabbergasted.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has pitched a patently capital idea to his Democratic Party challenger, Beto O’Rourke: Five debates on consecutive Fridays between the two candidates for Cruz’s Senate seat.

Very, very good, Sen. Cruz.

You know how I want this contest to turn out. I want O’Rourke to defeat Cruz. There. That’s out there.

However, the incumbent has put forward a thorough airing of the issues that divide the candidates. For that he deserves high praise.

Cruz’s campaign has proposed the following schedule:

  • Aug. 31 in Dallas on “Jobs/Taxes/Federal Regulations/National Economy”
  • Sept. 14 in McAllen on “Immigration/Border Security/Criminal Justice/Supreme Court”
  • Sept. 21 in San Antonio on “Foreign Policy/National Security”
  • Oct. 5 in Houston on “Energy/Trade/Texas Economy”
  • Oct. 12 in Lubbock on “Healthcare/Obamacare”

That about covers it, don’t you think?

The Texas Tribune reported on the Cruz proposal. Read the story here.

That this proposed schedule comes from the incumbent suggests that the race well might be as close as public opinion surveys have indicated over the past several weeks. I lamented just recently that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said he has no interest in debating Democratic challenger Mike Collier, which I consider to be a shame.

I want to offer Sen. Cruz — clearly one of my least favorite Senate incumbents — a good word for proposing a series of head-to-head joint appearances with the young man I hope defeats him.

Debates do matter, Lt. Gov. Patrick

The word is out: Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick doesn’t want to debate his opponent before Election Day.

That’s too bad. Actually, it’s a shame. Hey, I’ll even say it’s a disgrace to the cause of learning all we can about the individuals who want to represent us at the highest levels of state government.

Patrick, the Republican, is running against Democratic challenger Mike Collier, who has been needling Patrick for weeks about debating.

I cannot quite fathom why Patrick is so reticent. He comes from a media background; he was a radio talk-show host before entering politics as a state senator from Houston.

The Texas Tribune reports: “It’s no secret Lt. Governor Patrick relishes debates, but since his opponent shows no sign of grasping even the most basic rudiments of state government, our campaign has no plans to debate him,” Patrick strategist Allen Blakemore said in a statement to the Tribune. “There isn’t anyone in the Lone Star State who isn’t absolutely clear about where Dan Patrick stands on the issues. He told us what he was going to do, then he did it. That’s why Dan Patrick has the overwhelming support of the conservative majority in Texas.”

OK, I’ll come clean: He doesn’t have my support. He has sought to yank the state into far-right territory that makes me uncomfortable. The Bathroom Bill he sought in 2017 is the example of what I’m talking about. He sought to make it illegal for transgendered individuals to use public restrooms in accordance with their current gender; he intended to make the use restrooms that matched their birth certificate gender. The bill died in a special session.

That’s out of the way.

He should debate Collier. GOP Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez are likely to debate each other, even though Abbott is going to be the prohibitive favorite to win re-election.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the Republican, will likely debate his Democratic foe, Beto O’Rourke. That contest figures to be a whole lot closer.

So, the lieutenant governor isn’t likely afraid to meet his challenger head to head. Why not just quit playing games, Lt. Gov. Patrick?

Step onto the stage and have it out with your challenger and make the case on why you should be re-elected.

And, yes, if that’s what happens on Election Day, it will be in spite of the ballot I will cast.

‘It’s time to impeach the president’

Jason Villalba has climbed way out on a limb. I mean, way, way out there.

He is a Texas state legislator from Dallas, and a Republican to boot. He also is saying — in no uncertain words — that Congress has to impeach Donald J. Trump, the nation’s 45th president.

Holy cow, man!

I ran across his essay in the Texas Tribune. Villalba has mounted a pretty damn stout argument for his case.

Read the essay here.

Here is just a bit of what Villalba has written:

I am a Republican today because of Ronald Reagan. He instilled in me the principles that have guided my life, personally and politically. I believe in fiscal conservatism, American exceptionalism, a moral rubric based on Judeo-Christian values, and on a basic fealty to the essential standards set by our forefathers: truth, liberty, self-sacrifice and basic goodness.

And yet, today, our own president of the United States mocks these basic tenets. Since Donald J. Trump has been president, he alone has increased the national debt by over $1 trillion. Yes. One trillion dollars. The fastest any president in U.S. history has accrued that level of debt.

Our president has mocked and belittled our immigration laws, our intelligence agencies, our foreign policy strategy and even the American people. We have been called “stupid,” “weak,” “a joke” and “pathetic,” all by our own president.

Our president has reveled in sexually engaging with those actively trafficking in the pornography industry and he has ridiculed those religious leaders who would deign to question him for doing so. He mocks and laughs at those Christians who would question him.

I don’t think impeachment time has arrived. I am waiting for the conclusion of the special counsel’s report. Robert Mueller has been conducting an exhaustive investigation into whether the Trump campaign “colluded” with Russians who attacked our electoral system. He also might determine an obstruction of justice through the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

As for the practicality of impeaching Trump, the numbers don’t lie: Republicans still control both congressional chambers. Congress needs only a simple majority to impeach the president in the House; the Senate trial requires 67 votes to convict a president and remove him from office.

If there’s an impeachment and a trial to take place, I think we need to wait just a while longer.