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They rallied in the name of ‘unity’

On a day when Donald Trump preened and proclaimed that George Floyd would be “happy” with the huge job gains registered in the wake of the global pandemic, a group of Princeton, Texas, residents gathered at a park under a sweltering sun to honor Floyd’s memory.

Floyd, as the world knows, died more than a week ago when Minneapolis cops arrested him for a non-violent offense, put face down on the pavement and then snuffed the life out of him. The officer who killed him is white; Floyd was black.

Floyd’s death has triggered a national protest response that today found its way to this Collin County community.

They called a “unification rally,” given that there was no parade that required a police presence, although the Princeton Police Department dispatched about three patrol cars on the edges of the park just to stand by in case.

The rally drew a gathering of about 100 residents. Some of them were carrying signs: Black Lives Matter. Vote for Change, Silence is Violence, There Comes a Time when Silence is Betrayal; one sign asked, “What are you going to do to combat racism?”

The unification rally was organized by Princeton High School students. No one from City Hall was there. No one from the Princeton Independent School District (at least no one that I could recognize) came to the rally at J.M. Caldwell Sr. Park. It was an overwhelmingly white crowd of folks.

Off to the side members of the Princeton Veterans of Foreign Wars post handed out bottles of water. Jason Ash, a life member of the VFW post, said he was there “to support people’s consititutional right to protest. That’s why we served.”

I pointed out the voter registration table and Ash said, simply, “I hope everyone turns out to vote this November.” Indeed.

The climax of the unification rally occurred under the shelter when participants were asked — if they were able — to lie on the pavement, place their hands behind their backs and be silent for 8 minutes, 46 seconds … which is the amount of time that former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin pressed his boot into the back of George Floyd’s neck. Floyd cried out for his mother, he pleaded with Chauvin to let him get up, saying “I can’t breathe.” 

George Floyd is the latest African-American to die a martyr for the cause of racial justice and equality. Tragically, he won’t be the last one. However, his death has spawned a movement that has found its way to communities of all sizes and backgrounds.

I am glad — and proud — that Princeton High School’s young people have declared to the world: Enough is enough.

Partisan bickering could cost more lives

Oh, my goodness. The partisan bickering is filtering from Austin to county courthouses throughout Texas.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is issuing warnings to Democratic mayors and county judges to back off their local coronavirus pandemic mandates because, Paxton says, they do not conform with what Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has declared.

This is rich, man.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, one of those Democrats, has emerged as a champion in my eyes as he seeks to battle the viral infection outbreak in North Texas. Oh, I need to mention that my wife, one of our sons and his family and I reside in next-door Collin County.

Jenkins has ordered that everyone “shall” wear masks when they do business; Abbott’s order doesn’t require the wearing of masks. Thus, Paxton said that Jenkins and other get-tough local officials are overstepping their authority.

C’mon, Mr. AG. The judge is seeking to save Texans’ lives!

It’s all part of what looks like a deepening and widening of the partisan divide in Washington as Democrats and Republicans squabble over how to fight this pandemic. This won’t surprise you, but I do believe Democrats are on the correct side in that D.C. fight, with Donald Trump continuing to muddle his messages and continuing to pick fights with Democratic governors needlessly.

It’s now happening in Austin, where Republican state officials are haggling with Democratic local officials over which of them is taking the correct course. GOP officials want to reopen the economy more rapidly than their Democratic colleagues. Why are Democrats dragging their feet? Let’s see. Oh, they fear that a too-rapid reopening puts Texans’ lives in danger!

Hey, that concern is good enough for me.

So, with that, allow me this rejoinder: Mr. Texas Attorney General … back off!

DOJ tosses out a guilty plea? What in the world?

I don’t think I misunderstand what has happened here.

Michael Flynn, who served for 24 days as Donald Trump’s national security adviser, lied to the FBI and Vice President Mike Pence about the Russian interference in our 2016 presidential election.

Then the retired Army lieutenant general pleaded guilty to charges brought by the FBI. He admitted to breaking the law!

Oh, but wait! Now the Department of Justice says Flynn’s admission of guilt is insufficient for him to be punished for committing a federal felony. So the DOJ declares it won’t prosecute Flynn.

I agree with what a friend of mine said on social media: Attorney General William Barr needs to be disbarred! This an absolute travesty of justice!

Barr’s rationale reportedly is that the lie that Flynn told the FBI and Pence wasn’t “material” to the Russia probe, which had been started by former FBI Director James Comey and continued by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Wasn’t this clown asked directly what he told Russian operatives about their attack on the election? Didn’t he then lie to the FBI and to Pence? And didn’t he then admit to lying?

This looks to me — and, yes, others — like a systematic dismantling of the Comey/Mueller probe into the Russian attack on our electoral system.

It’s not necessarily a done deal. The DOJ needs approval of its recommendation by the judge to whom Flynn entered his guilty plea. I don’t know what the judge will decide. My hope is that he tosses William Barr’s request aside and then chews the AG out for trying to circumvent justice.

Ridiculous.

Census count? It’s done!

The federal government has been getting a lot of much-deserved criticism and condemnation for its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

I want to set that aside for a moment and offer a good word to the feds for something it did correctly: the census.

We received a mailing from the Census Bureau the other day. I opened it and saw some instructions on filling out the census form online. I followed the instructions, completed the form and then submitted it electronically to the agency in Washington in charge of counting every U.S. resident.

Boom! Done!

I have to say that this year’s census-taking is a lesson in one of the things government can do well for us.

Moreover, I want to say that I appreciated the fact that none of the questions we answered had anything to do with whether we are citizens, that we are Americans.

You might recall the hubbub that erupted when the Trump administration considered whether to add the citizenship question to the census form. The U.S. Constitution stipulates that the government should count all U.S. residents every decade; there is no requirement that we must identify ourselves as citizens.

The census form has been completed. It was easy as it could possibly get. It was clearly worded, concise and direct.

My wife and I are now counted as among the 300 million-plus residents of this still and always great nation.

Thanks, feds, for making it such a simple process.

Always known it’s a pandemic? Really, Mr. POTUS?

Donald Trump thinks he is president of a nation of rubes.

He said this the other day when asked why his tone about the coronavirus pandemic had changed: “I have always known. This is a real pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic … I’ve always viewed it as very serious.”

No. He hasn’t. He lied again. Just as he has done over and over and over. The president couldn’t tell the truth — and please pardon the reference — if someone held a gun to his head.

As The Atlantic has reported, Trump has said the virus could disappear in a miracle. He has said it has been “contained.” He has declared that he knows more about medical matters than anyone in the world, that he has a “gift” of this knowledge.

Now he wants us to believe that he’s known all along that the pandemic is serious?

Please. Stop. Shut up.

Trump resumes feud with media

Well, that was a nice break while it lasted.

Donald Trump took time the other day to offer a good word about the media and their work in covering the coronavirus pandemic. It gave some of us a glimmer of hope that the president was finally beginning to act the part he portrays.

Silly us. He resumed his feud today, blasting the “fake news” the media purportedly conveys. He blasted The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, all of which are great newspapers full of dedicated journalists who do their job to the best of their considerable ability.

None of that matters to this president, who passes judgment on media outlets based on whether they report “positive” news about his administration.

Yep, the feud is back on.

Disgusting.

Ain’t no ‘panic’ being conconcted here, Mr. POTUS

Donald Trump continues to make me sick to my stomach.

He has joined a leading right-wing radio blowhard, Rush Limbaugh, in suggesting that national Democratic Party leaders are seeking to create panic among Americans over the coronavirus outbreak.

I just want to remind the president that the coronavirus is a deadly strain of infection that has spread around the world. It has now touched every continent on Earth … except Antarctica.

I am also one who doesn’t want to see the markets reacting as they are reacting. My retirement fund is disappearing before my eyes. I don’t know if it’s coming back. I hope it does, but — as Trump himself is fond of saying — you never know.

Instead of blaming the other party, Mr. President, I prefer to hear you say with some detail what you’re intending to do to help stem the infectious tide that is threatening to overtake us.

No more giving short shrift to the medical experts who say we’re heading for a potentially serious pandemic. No more platitudes — and that’s all they are — about our “very smart” medical minds. No more handing off the leadership of this fight to a known science denier, none other than Vice President Mike Pence.

Trump called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “incompetent” and said she is whipping up the frenzy to stir opposition to his administration. Good grief, man! Get over the impeachment thing!

Concentrate on the crisis of the moment and turn the medical geniuses loose to find some answers to how we cope with this frightening medical emergency.

Trump offering too little to fight coronavirus

It’s not every day during the Donald Trump Era when you hear lawmakers from both parties express concern about how the president is handling a burgeoning international health crisis.

Coronavirus, anyone?

Congressional Democrats and Republicans are speaking from the same notes. They want Donald Trump to take a more proactive role in seeking some remedy to the outbreak of the virus that is now spreading through Europe as well as Asia and which, if it’s not contained, could do the same in the United States and the rest of North America.

He is asking for $2.5 billion in supplemental budget funds. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer calls the administration’s response an example of “towering and dangerous” incompetence. Then we have Republican U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby calling the administration response lackluster.

Trump said in India today that the disease has been “contained” in the United States. No, Mr. President. It isn’t contained. Granted, it hasn’t spread in the manner it has spread in other regions around the world. Contained? Not yet.

I am not suggesting that the nation’s health-response team push the panic button. Or that we should invest in hazmat suits.

We simply need some sense of urgency coming from the White House … and from the individual who runs the executive branch of the federal government.

Hoping the Legislature wises up to Empower Texans’ trickery

Empower Texans is a political action committee that has tremendous sway in the Texas Legislature, which at the moment comprises many legislators who adhere to Empower Texans’ extreme right-wing dogma.

We’ve got 181 legislators in both chambers, many of whom think Empower Texans speak for millions of Texans and deserve a special place at the legislative table.

The cabal of zealots deserves nothing of the sort.

My hope for the 2021 Legislature, which convenes next January, is that the legislative leadership — particularly in the House of Representatives — keeps its distance from Michael Quinn Sullivan’s PAC.

It’s not as though Sullivan hasn’t earned legislators’ scorn. Witness what he did to soon-to-be former House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. He and Bonnen had a “secret” meeting. They agreed that Bonnen would provide the names of 10 Republican lawmakers that Empower Texans could work to defeat in the 2020 election. Sullivan recorded the meeting without telling Bonnen. Then he spilled the beans on the speaker, who at first denied saying the mean things he said about his GOP colleagues. The denial lasted right up until the moment Sullivan produced the audio recording.

As they say … Oops!

Sullivan is untrustworthy. So, too, is Empower Texans, which Sullivan runs. Yet the PAC continues to throw its weight around. It seeks to demand that local legislators follow Empower Texans’ agenda.

I want Empower Texans to be put in its place. I want Michael Quinn Sullivan, who has launched efforts against legislators I happen to know and respect, to cease playing an outsized role in determining the Legislature’s political course.

He won’t bow out voluntarily. It then falls on legislative leaders to exert the power they possess to keep Sullivan and Empower Texans at arm’s length.

Strengthen, do not denigrate, public education

An interesting blog entry showed up on my Facebook news feed that I want to share with you. It comes from a young man who is an avid supporter of public education. His entry is written as an open letter to Donald J. Trump.

It starts this way: In your State of the Union speech last week you said, “for too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools.”

He goes on with this: I suppose that sentiment isn’t surprising for a man who appointed the least qualified Secretary of Education in history.  Neither you or Ms. DeVos have ever spent any meaningful time in America’s outstanding PUBLIC schools.  You call them “government schools,” because that somehow ties our education system to the dysfunction in Washington, D.C. that you preside over.

Read the rest of the blog post here.

I want to endorse the principle that Patrick J. Kearney posits in his blog, which is to endorse public education and to declare that I share his view that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is as unqualified in her job as the man who nominated her is in the job he occupies.

DeVos became education secretary in 2017 after the Senate voted in a 50-50 tie to confirm her; it fell, then, to Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking vote to confirm her, the first time that has occurred in a Cabinet confirmation vote.

I heard the president use the term “government schools” and I found it off-putting. He tossed that term out there to somehow separate the “government” from the “public” that pays for it. I am one American who sees the government and the public as being the same thing. Thus, when we speak of public education, we speak of an educational system that serves the public.

Our public schools are not to be feared. They shouldn’t be considered candidates for a political whipping. Are there problems with public education? Of course there are. The cure for those problems is not to take money from the public treasury and send it to private institutions.

Furthermore, I agree with the blogger whose entry came to my attention, who believes that Donald Trump would do well to visit a public school classroom and see for himself the great job that our public educators are doing for our children.