Category Archives: State news

Perry to N.Y.: Learn from us

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has placed an important phone call to his colleague in New York and offered a critical piece of advice.

Don’t make the mistakes we made in Texas when handling an Ebola case, Perry reportedly told Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Good advice, governor.

The Texas Ebola case ended tragically for the Liberian man who brought the disease to the state. He died under the care of medical professionals in Dallas. A nurse who cared for him has just been released from medical care after she came down with the virus. Now  New York doctor who was in West Africa treating Ebola patients has been diagnosed with the disease and he apparently is responding to treatment.

Perry called Cuomo and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to offer his assistance on how to handle the disease. Gov. Perry’s prime advice? Follow all the necessary medical protocols to the letter. A breach in protocol in Dallas apparently led to the nurse getting infected, according to the governor’s office.

The good news is that the nurse, Nina Pham, is now Ebola free.

There was some more advice Perry gave to Cuomo and de Blasio, according to the San Antonio Express-News:

“Perry shared some more lessons in separate Friday phone conversations with the officials, including regarding ‘the importance of informing the public about the realities of the Ebola virus in order to reduce misconceptions about its transmissions,’ his office said.”

Ah, yes. Public information.

A lack of accurate information has helped lead to the near-hysterical response in some quarters to the arrival of this disease.

A thorough dissemination of facts always should be of prime concern.

It’s good to remember that Ebola likely wasn’t on medical professionals’ radar when the patient arrived from Liberia. It’s on everyone’s mind now.

Gov. Perry has some valuable experience to share and it’s good that he’s sharing it.


Wondering about endorsements' value

Joni Ernst is stiff-arming Iowa newspaper editorial boards in her bid to become that state’s next U.S. senator.

She is following the trail blazed four years ago right here in Texas by Gov. Rick Perry, who did the very same thing, watched most of the papers around the state endorse his opponent, and then won re-election by a healthy margin.

I’ve taken note of this already in a blog post.

Now comes the corollary question: Do these endorsements matter any longer?

I wrestled with the question for many years before my daily journalism career came to a screeching halt in August 2012.

It’s no secret to anyone that newspapers are changing before our eyes. Their role as community leaders is changing as well. Sadly, many companies that run newspapers are giving in to this trend and are devaluing their opinion pages and retreating from their traditional role as community leaders.

So, Republicans Ernst and Perry have decided to forgo the ritual that politicians used to say they enjoyed, which was to seek newspaper endorsements in their election and/or re-election campaigns. They seem to understand that newspapers no longer carry the clout they once did. Politicians used to call on editorial boards, proclaiming that they relished the give-and-take these meetings produced.

Newspaper editors — and you can count me as one of them — also used to get much from these encounters. I worked at the Amarillo Globe-News for 17 years, and 8 months and participated in many more of these meetings that I can remember. And I always, without question, learned something new about my community or my state during every election cycle.

We would reach consensus on who to recommend for public office, craft our statement, publish it and then let the chips fall.

That process now seems to be slipping away as politicians decide they don’t need these endorsements.

Rick Perry didn’t need them in 2010. I’m betting Joni Ernst — win or lose — won’t need them now.

People are forming their opinions using other media. They scour the Internet in search of their version of the truth, which isn’t hard to find, no matter your political orientation.

It’s interesting to me that politicians most likely to blow off these endorsement interviews lean heavily to the right, such as Perry and Ernst.

We’ll know for certain that editorial board endorsements really no longer matter when progressives stop seeking them.

Sen. Patrick getting scarier all the time

The more I read about Texas’s next probable lieutenant governor, the more concerned I become over our state’s future.

Dan Patrick is likely to be elected to the No. 2 position among all Texas politicians on Nov. 4. He’s the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. He’s a state senator from Houston who’s running against his colleague, Democratic state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio.

Mother Jones has assembled a glossary of some of the more outrageous things Patrick has said and done during his time in the Senate.

OK, before we go any further, I’ll concede that Mother Jones is not friendly toward Patrick or those who agree with his world view.

But some of this stuff is utterly mind-blowing.

He talks about immigrants bringing “Third World diseases” into the United States; he walked out of a Senate invocation that was being delivered by a Muslim cleric; he once joked, in 1992, that Asian-American broadcast journalist Connie Chung’s show “Eye to Eye” should be called “Slanted Eye to Eye”; he once declared “there is no such thing as separation of church and state.”

Mother Jones lists other bizarre statements that have flown out of Patrick’s mouth over the years.

He comes from a radio background, which I suppose says plenty about how a guy with a machine-gun mouth occasionally lets the rhetorical bullets fly with abandon.

Some folks find him entertaining, I suppose. I prefer someone who is more thoughtful.

If he wins — and it’s looking as though he will — he’s going to turn the Texas Senate, over which the lieutenant governor presides, into a much-less collegial body. Patrick has all but guaranteed that by vowing to do away with the two-thirds rule — which requires at least 21 senators to support a bill before it goes to a vote; the idea is to promote bipartisan support for legislation. He’s also suggested he’ll appoint only Republicans to committee chairmanships, doing away with the custom that lieutenant governors of both parties have followed of appointing members of the minority party to lead Senate committees.

Texas’s legislative branch of government — at least one half-half of it — is likely to become a hostile work environment for those who don’t like the way it’s going to be run.

Ernst follows Perry model: Who needs editorial boards?

Joni Ernst is staking out an interesting — but not unprecedented — tactic in her campaign for the U.S. Senate in Iowa.

The Republican is forgoing interviews with major Iowa newspaper editorial boards. Media observers in the Hawkeye State are wondering whether she’s afraid of being questioned by the editorial boards. She’s canceling interview appointments left and right.

Her opponent, Democrat Bruce Braley, is meeting with them, hoping — I can assume — to gather up newspaper endorsements.

Do you remember when Gov.Rick Perry kissed off newspaper endorsements in 2010 when he was running for re-election in Texas? He stiffed newspaper editorial boards all over the state. He was quite clear: I don’t need no stinkin’ editorial endorsements; I’m going to “talk directly” to Texans.

Texas newspaper editors and publishers took the snub personally, with most of them endorsing his Democratic opponent, former Houston Mayor Bill White. The paper where I worked at the time, the Amarillo Globe-News, followed suit. We backed White and when we did, you’d have thought Planet Earth had just spun off its axis. The reaction from our deeply Republican readers in the heart of the Texas Panhandle was ferocious.

Not to fear, Perry’s handlers reckoned — correctly, I should add.

The governor was re-elected handily four years ago with a 13 percent victory over White.

I figure, though, that Perry knows Texas voters as well as any politician who’s ever held public office.

Does Joni Ernst know Iowans as well? We’ll find out in about 12 days.

Voter ID laws miss real culprit

Texas’s voter identification law is in place to guard against voter fraud.

Is it working? Does it seek out the most common culprit? Frontline, the acclaimed PBS news documentary series, suggests it doesn’t.

The most common abusers are absentee voters, according to Frontline. The Texas law, which has been upheld by the courts, targets those who show up at the polls without proper identification or who have false ID and seek to pass themselves off as someone else.

Yes, those incidences do occur — rarely.

The more common element of fraud occurs away from the polling place.

Frontline notes that most absentee votes are white and older than the rest of the voting population. Accordingly, voter ID laws draw their aim on those who are least able to afford to pay for the kinds of identification that many states now require. As Frontline reports:

“Laws that require photo ID at the polls vary, but the strictest laws limit the forms of acceptable documentation to only a handful of cards. For example, in Texas, voters must show one of seven forms of state or federal-issue photo ID, with a valid expiration date: a driver’s license, a personal ID card issued by the state, a concealed handgun license, a military ID, citizenship certificate or a passport. The name on the ID must exactly match the one on the voter rolls.

“African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to lack one of these qualifying IDs, according to several estimates. Even when the state offers a free photo ID, these voters, who are disproportionately low-income, may not be able to procure the underlying documents, such as a birth certificate, to obtain one.”

Therein lies the problem that some see in these voter ID laws. They make it harder for some Americans to vote and those Americans happen to be among the more disadvantaged among us.

Didn’t we pass a constitutional amendment to prohibit such a thing?

Where does Davis go from here?

This is not a particularly bold prediction: Wendy Davis is likely to lose her bid to become Texas’s next governor.

The Democratic nominee is being whipsawed by a combination of circumstances: She’s running in a heavily Republican state; she hasn’t gotten serious traction on the serious issues she’s sought to raise; her opponent, Greg Abbott, has proven to be unflappable in the face of intense criticism.

My question now is this: Where does the state senator go from here?

Some observers had speculated that Davis could emerge with a moral victory even in defeat. She’s made a name for herself. She gained national fame with that notable filibuster in 2013 of a strict anti-abortion bill. She is an articulate spokeswoman for her party.

The problem is that the Texas Democratic Party is in shambles. Republicans have grabbed every statewide office and have tightened the vise-grip they hold.

Davis had been seen as a possible leader of a Democratic resurgence. Trouble is that the resurgence has failed to take hold.

Davis’s future as a political star in Texas is questionable at best, and not because of anything she’s said or done, but because the party cannot seem to pull itself off the deck.

If she’s going to maintain a future in elected politics, it looks to me as though she ought to follow the Scott Brown model up yonder in New England. Brown, a Republican, lost his U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts to Democrat Elizabeth Warren. Then he moved to neighboring New Hampshire and is mounting a serious challenge to Democratic U.S. Sen. Jean Shaheen.

Sen. Davis? New Mexico might be beckoning.

'Kick-ass militiaman' discovers humanity

Charles Gilbert has told a fascinating and gripping story about how he changed his attitude toward those who come to this country illegally.

He joined a Texas “militia” organization and deployed to the state’s southern border. He intended to join others who were angry about the illegal immigrant flow.

Then he discovered something. He says in a lengthy article attached to this blog that he found “humanity.”

Yes, the Texas Observer is a left-leaning publication based in Austin. One isn’t likely to find such a story in, say, the Amarillo Globe-News or other right-leaning publications.

Gilbert’s story is a lengthy one as published in the Observer.

The most interesting thing he said, however, is the one about discovering that the illegal immigrants coming into Texas merely were human beings seeking a better life.

He describes himself as a typical “angry white male.” He was ticked off when he went to the border. Gilbert told the Observer: “‘I decided I wanted to go down to the border and kick some ass,’” Gilbert says. ‘I’m your typical angry white male. I’m conservative. I’m pissed off at the double-standard in the media. I’m that guy.’”

Then he got up close and personal with the folks he sought to stop.

Not only did he discover the humanity in the form of the people who came to Texas from Mexico and beyond, he also found some humanity within himself.

Wishing to know how pols actually vote

Early voting for the Texas mid-term election starts Monday and it brings to mind something that’s been on my mind of late.

It’s my wish that I could learn how people in high public political places vote for their peers … other high-profile political figures.

I pose the notion with state Sen. Dan Patrick in mind. Patrick is the Republican candidate for Texas lieutenant governor, who I believe has as many foes on his side of the aisle as he has on the other side.

It’s just a hunch.

I must stipulate that I’ve never met Patrick. I know about him based only on what I’ve read in the media. What do I know about him? That he’s mercurial; he’s a fiery conservative who’s all but acknowledged he doesn’t care about any public official who doesn’t share his philosophy; he is quick with the quip and short on compassion.

So I wonder whether he’s going to get the full-throated support of Texas senators from within his own party.

Yes, we vote in private. I cannot in good conscience ask a state or Panhandle public official whether they actually are going to vote for someone such as Patrick. We call them “secret ballots” for a reason, even though such secrecy hasn’t stopped the critics over in Kentucky from wondering why Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes won’t say whether she voted for Barack Obama for president.

In 1998, George W. Bush was running for re-election as governor. He came to the Amarillo Globe-News to meet with its editorial board for the purpose of obtaining the newspaper’s endorsement. Gov. Bush was affable, talkative, well-versed on the issues and we had a thoroughly engaging and sometimes-frank discussion of his candidacy.

Then I asked him this question: “Governor, who are you supporting for lieutenant governor?”

Before the final word of that sentence came out of my mouth, he blurted out: Rick Perry!

Why bring this up? Well, it struck me odd at the moment that Gov. Bush didn’t elaborate on why he backed his fellow Republican over Democrat John Sharp. He didn’t say, “I’m supporting Rick Perry because he’ll continue the tradition of working across the aisle, as Bob Bullock has done,” or even that “Rick Perry is a friend of mine and he and I share the same conservative values that most Texans hold dear.”

No. He said, “Rick Perry” — and not a single word more.

I’ve long had this notion that despite that public pronouncement that Gov. Bush well could have voted differently when he stepped into the voting booth.

Dan Patrick’s fiery reputation has me wondering the same thing now about those who proclaim their support for him.

No surprise: High Court upholds Texas voter ID law

Early voting in Texas begins Monday and everyone who votes in this mid-term election will be required to produce identification that proves they are who they say they are.

This comes courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court, which today ruled that the Texas voter ID law is valid and that, by golly, it does not amount to an unconstitutional “poll tax.”


A federal judge in Texas had struck down the law, saying it discriminated against low-income Americans — notably African-Americans and Hispanics — who might be unable to afford such identification. The judge, a Barack Obama appointee, is a Latina jurist.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals then reversed the judge’s ruling. The case then went to the highest court in the land, which today ruled 6-3 to reinstate the Texas voter ID law.

The three dissenters: Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a Bill Clinton appointee), and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan (Barack Obama appointees).

Ginsburg said this in her dissent: “The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.”

Those who support these laws contend that they prevent “voter fraud” and keep illegal immigrants from voting. That, too, is interesting, given that there is so little evidence of such fraud existing in Texas or anywhere else.

The reinstatement of this law is now more than likely going to stand for the foreseeable future.

We’ll see how many American citizens will be turned away from polling places across Texas. Let’s also take a look at their ethnicity, shall we?

Ban texting and driving

To be honest, I had to blink hard a couple of times when I read what state Rep. Four Price said regarding texting and driving.

He favors a statewide ban. The Amarillo Republican also said he believes the issue will come up in the 2015 Legislature and that absent an overt threat by the new governor — whoever he or she is — to veto it, that it is likely to end up on the governor’s desk at the end of the session.

I’m all for it.

Price is a self-proclaimed small-government conservative who said he’s voted for the statewide ban in previous sessions. He told the Amarillo Globe-News that motorists driving through our huge state are subject to varying municipal ordinances. Motorists need to be aware of what each city and town allows or prohibits regarding the use of telecommunications equipment while driving.

“I really believe it would be a wise thing to have a common standard across the state,” Price said.

You go, Four!

Lame-duck Gov. Rick Perry has kept his veto pen handy during previous attempts to enact this wise legislation. He complained about government overreach when he vetoed a bill calling for a statewide ban in 2011. The next Legislature didn’t bother to pass a bill, fearing yet another veto.

Perry will be out of office in January. The new governor — let us hope — won’t threaten a veto and scare off the next Legislature.

A statewide ban won’t prevent idiots from texting while driving, which is why some people still oppose this reasonable law. Still, a law that gives police authority to cite dimwitted motorists and then enables cities and counties to enact harsh punishments might deter some folks from endangering themselves and — even worse — other motorists or pedestrians.