Tag Archives: Rick Perry

Trying to process Perry’s affection for fossil fuels

I am having a bit of difficulty processing Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s recent tortured and convoluted connection between the use of fossil fuels and sexual abuse.

The former Texas governor spoke in Washington the other day and said — you have to follow this closely — that nations in Africa can avoid sexual abuse of children and young women if they burn more fossil fuels that help “keep the lights on.”

I’m still in a bit of a fog over how one connects one with the other — and does so with a straight face.

I want to offer another element in this strange conflating of energy use and sexual abuse. Actually it’s hard setting aside Perry’s nutty notion that sexual attacks occur only at night, but I’m going to try nevertheless.

When the energy secretary governed Texas, our state turned into a leader in the development of alternative energy sources. I’m talking mostly about wind power. Yet the energy boss seems to have swilled the fossil-fuel Kool-Aid served up by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general who seems enamored with the oil and natural gas industry.

If the energy secretary believes it’s important to keep the lights on, why doesn’t he fall back on the wind power that has become such an enormous presence in places like, oh, the Texas Panhandle and the South Plains?

I don’t often say something positive about Perry, but the development of a clean, renewable alternative energy source — which has an infinite supply out here on the Caprock — provides a pretty stellar legacy that should make the former governor proud.

Indeed, he ought to speak more openly and aggressively about promoting wind energy as a critical component of the national energy policy.

I haven’t heard much from Perry on that score. Instead, he offers a silly notion that connects burning fossil fuels as an antidote to sexual abuse.

Weird, man.

Follow the logic if you can

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick “Oops” Perry has made a curious leap between fossil fuel development and consumption and sexual abuse.

I’m trying to connect the dots. I am having a difficult time of it.

Perry said fossil fuel consumption can prevent sexual abuse because the “lights are on.” The Energy boss made his remarks at a forum sponsored by NBC News and Axios.

According to The Texas Tribune, Perry said: “It’s going to take fossil fuels to push power out into those villages in Africa, where a young girl told me to my face, ‘one of the reasons that electricity is so important to me is not only because I’m not going to have to try to read by the light of a fire and have those fumes literally killing people.’”

Oh, boy.

Is he pushing fossil fuels as an energy source or is he speaking about the brutality of sexual abuse suffered by villagers?

I’m going to assume — given the secretary’s former position as the governor of Texas, which produces a goodly amount of oil and natural gas — that he is pitching fossil fuel consumption.

Or is he?

Here seems to be where the Trump administration that Perry serves is missing the boat. This big world of ours is full of alternative energy sources that also can keep the lights on. Wind, solar, hydropower … they all are renewable, clean and safe. I’ll also throw nuclear power into that mix, too, even though nuke plants — which are safer than they used to be — aren’t yet totally safe from cataclysmic accidents.

Perry went on, according to the Tribune: “But also from the standpoint of sexual assault, when the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts,” Perry continued.

The Sierra Club, one of the nation’s foremost environmental interest groups, has called on Perry to quit in light of his remarks. I won’t go that far.

Perry offers confusion

I do question the logic the energy secretary is employing in connecting fossil fuels with sexual predation.

He lost me.

Texting and driving? It’s illegal in Texas, man!

I want to present a portion of an editorial that appeared in today’s Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise, where I used to work before I gravitated in early 1995 way up yonder to the Texas Panhandle.

It comes from a regular Saturday feature called “Bouquets and Brickbats.” The Enterprise tossed a Brickbat thusly at: Southeast Texans who continue to text and drive even though that has been illegal since Sept. 1. Most local police and sheriff’s deputies have not been writing tickets for this offense because of Harvey duties and to give residents time to become familiar with the new law, but they say that will change soon. Statewide, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers issued four citations and 46 warnings for texting in the first 12 days. Texas Department of Transportation officials blame texting while driving for more than 3,000 vehicle crashes in Texas last year. The new law prohibits drivers from using their phones to “read, write, or send an electronic messages while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped.” Violations can lead to a fine up to $99 for a first offense, with costs rising for subsequent offense.

I want to call your attention to this pearl of wisdom because it could apply at this end of Texas as well. Motorists seem to be ignoring the state law that took effect at the beginning of September.

I cannot stress enough the importance of this statewide ban. It took some guts for the Legislature to approve it, given that a previous Texas governor, Rick Perry, vetoed a nearly identical bill in 2011. Gov. Greg Abbott saw the wisdom of signing this bill into law.

Are Texas Panhandle drivers any more obedient than our fellow Texans way downstate? Hardly. A day doesn’t go by without my being able to spot someone yapping on a handheld device while driving a motor vehicle. Just the other day I watched a young man doing that very thing while driving past Windsor Elementary School in Amarillo; I should note that Amarillo enacted an ordinance years ago banning such activity in school zones.

I want to make a request of the Texas Department of Public Safety, which does a good job stopping drug traffickers moving along Interstate 40.

How about turning your sights with equal intensity on the yahoos and morons who ignore state law by texting and gabbing on handheld cell phones while exceeding the posted speed limit on I-40?

Oh, by the way, Texas cell phone ban takes effect

Texans have been fixated on news from the Gulf Coast of late.

Flooding. Heavy wind. Thousands of people displaced. Some tragic deaths. Injuries. Devastation from the deluge.

While we were praying for our friends and loved ones, and while some of us were looking toward Washington and the “Russia thing,” a big day arrived in Texas.

On Friday, the state’s ban on use of cell phones while driving motor vehicles took effect. Texas joined many other states in enacting a statewide ban. It’s not entirely clear if the ban supersedes local ordinances — such as in Amarillo — but the statewide ban does accomplish an important mission. It brings continuity to how the state expects motorists to behave while they are traveling on Texas streets, roads and highways.

I’m proud of our Panhandle legislative delegation. They were strongly in favor of the ban. Indeed, so was Republican state Rep. (and former Texas House Speaker) Tom Craddick, who authored cell phone ban bills in several legislative sessions.

Then-Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a cell phone ban bill in 2011, calling it an undue intrusion from the government into the behavior of citizens. What a crock!

Perry’s successor, Greg Abbott, signed the 2017 bill into law. Which makes a lot of Texans quite happy. Count me as one of them.

This law enables the state to post signage at highway entrances at all corners of the state. It puts motorists coming into the state on notice that they need to keep their cell phones quiet — or use their hands-free communication systems inside their vehicles.

To my way of thinking, that is far better than to asking motorists to risk breaking the law if they don’t know whether individual communities have bans on the books.

Texas legislators did well by approving this law. Gov. Abbott did well, too, by signing it into law.

I just wanted to remind you that the law took effect. Now, let’s turn back to worrying about the flooding victims and “the Russia thing.”

Rick Perry at Homeland Security? Interesting idea

Reports are surfacing that Energy Secretary Rick Perry is being considered for a major Cabinet shift within the Trump administration.

The Texas Tribune reports that Perry might move to the Homeland Security Department to become the new secretary there, replacing John Kelly, who’s taken the thankless job of White House chief of staff.

That the former Texas governor is under consideration for the Homeland Security job makes plenty of sense to me. I believe he could be a good fit in that post.

He served for 14 years as governor of Texas, which has the longest border with Mexico of all the states along our southern border. He understands the issue of border security as well as any leading politician.

As the Texas Tribune reports, though, a shift of this importance signals a dramatic — some would say unbelievable — evolution in the relationship between Gov. Perry and Donald J. Trump. Perry once campaigned for the presidency against Trump. Perry then called his fellow Republican a “cancer on conservatism.” Trump ridiculed Perry after the former governor started wearing eyeglasses, suggesting Perry did so only to make himself look smarter.

All that changed, though, after Trump’s election. The two men buried the hatchet — and not in each other’s backs. The Energy Department job was Perry’s reward from the man who beat him for the GOP presidential nomination.

Is the former governor the perfect pick for Homeland Security? No, but in one way — to my way of thinking — he actually could be better than the man he would succeed. Perry’s record as Texas governor suggests a more reasonable immigration outlook than the one John Kelly espoused while he ran DHS. Perry’s understanding of border issues, earned by his years as governor of a large and important state, tells me he well could be a stellar choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Cue the music and let’s see whether this latest report puts Rick Perry into the DHS chair.

Republicans become party of diverse thought

I want to offer a good word or three about today’s Republican Party.

Yes, I’ve been beating them up a good bit of late. The GOP has deserved the drubbing. However, I want to speak to something that became evident after Donald John Trump Sr. tweeted out his decision to ban transgender Americans from serving in the armed forces.

The Republican Party has exhibited a profound sense of diverse thought on that issue.

On one side, we have heard some of the more predictable reactions. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry — who’s now energy secretary in the Trump administration — said he supports the president “totally” in his decision to ban transgender citizens from service in defense of the nation. Fellow Texan, state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller — a fellow not known for thoughtful rhetoric — said the armed forces are “no place for social experimentation.”

Then came the push back from other notable Republican pols. Many members of Congress expressed disappointment and dismay that Trump would use Twitter to announce such a staggering policy shift.

Then came a highly personal statement from U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Utah lawmaker known as one of the Senate’s more conservative members. Transgender individuals do not “choose” to change their sexual identity, Hatch said. “They are born that way,” he added. Sen. Hatch said it is unfair to hold that against them.

The GOP has demonstrated considerable diversity as well in this debate over whether to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The moderate wing of the Republican caucus dislikes many of the provisions contained in the GOP-authored bill; it cuts too much from Medicaid, for example. The TEA Party/conservative wing of the caucus dislikes the overhaul because it doesn’t go far enough in repealing the ACA, the signature legislation authored by Democrats during the Obama administration.

Democrats, meanwhile, speak with a single voice on those and many other issues. It must be Democrats’ universal disdain for Trump and the fact that he managed to win the 2016 presidential election against Hillary Rodham Clinton. Believe me, I understand their anger on that one!

However, the Republican Party has shown itself to be more willing to expose its differences in the months since Trump became president.

For that, I applaud Republicans.

Oh, and yes, the stalling of the Trump “agenda” — whatever it is — has played a key part in earning my praise.

But, Secretary Perry, are transgender warriors less brave?

Rick Perry says he is in total support of Donald John Trump’s decision to bar transgender Americans from serving in the armed forces.

Of course he is. He’s part of the Trump team now. The president forgave Perry for labeling Trump a “cancer on conservativism.” His reward was to appoint him secretary of energy.

Perry, though, weighed in on the president’s tweet that became a major policy reversal. Trump declared: “After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow … transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” Trump tweeted. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption.”

The president, though, didn’t talk to all of the generals. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford declared that all personnel would be treated with “respect,” and that no policy changes would be enacted until the order came from the defense secretary. It’s that thing called “chain of command” that has given Gen. Dunford pause.

As for Perry’s support of Trump’s decision, he said the government shouldn’t have to pay for surgeries in which personnel change their sexual identity. Reporters reminded him that studies showed the cost of such procedures amounts to about 10 percent of the money the government pays to provide medicine that cures erectile dysfunction.

Perry’s response? “I don’t check out the cost of Viagra.” Yuk, yuk …

Neither the president or his energy secretary, though, have yet to produce any evidence that transgender military personnel are less capable than any other of their comrades in arms. Nor have they have provided proof that they are less patriotic, less loyal or that they don’t love their country as much as anyone.

The president has used Twitter to make a policy pronouncement without considering for a moment what it means. I would have expected better from the secretary of energy — himself an Air Force veteran — if not the know-nothing commander in chief.

Remembering a great Texas Republican

MOUNT PLEASANT, Texas –– Wherever my wife and I travel these days, I cannot help but think of individuals I’ve either met while working in journalism or those about whom I have some knowledge.

We came to this northeast Texas community in search of a grocery store to buy some, um, groceries. I told my wife that this is the hometown of one of the great all-time Texas politicians.

Bill Ratliff was a state senator from Titus County. He was a Republican lawmaker who was held in the highest esteem possible by all 31 of his Senate colleagues. Democrats respected him as much as his fellow Republicans.

Sen. Ratliff was what I have called a “reasonable Republican” who knew how to work across the aisle. Both parties have become so polarized these days that bipartisanship has become a four-letter word.

In 2001, though, the rarest of events occurred in the Texas Senate.

Gov. George W. Bush was elected president in 2000. Because of that vote-counting matter in Florida, Texas Gov. Bush’s election was not a foregone conclusion until a month or so after Election Day. The U.S. Supreme Court stopped the ballot recount in Florida, Bush was leading at the time by 537 votes, Florida’s electoral votes went to Bush — and he was elected president.

Then Bush quit the Texas governorship, elevating Lt. Gov. Rick Perry to the Big Office. That meant the state needed a lieutenant governor to preside over the Texas Senate. To whom did the Senate turn? For the first time in state history, senators elevated Bill Ratliff to the lieutenant governor’s office, a post he held while at the same time serving as state senator during the 2001 Texas Legislature.

He served in that capacity until 2003, when David Dewhurst was elected lieutenant governor.

Ratliff had a nickname among his Senate colleagues, who called him Obi-Wan Kenobi, the wise being from “Star Wars.” Indeed, Ratliff once said of his own Republican views: “I am a Republican because I agree with the Republicans at least 51 percent of the time.”

He was unafraid, therefore, to agree with Democrats when the time — and the cause — was right.

Sen./Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff is now 80. I wish he was still serving his beloved Texas.

Parties change, politicians don’t

One of the nation’s more well-known Republicans has bolted his party. I’m going to presume for the purposes of this blog post that it’s because the Party of Lincoln has become the Party of Trump and Joe Scarborough no longer is comfortable with that association.

Scarborough — who says he’ll register as an independent — is now host of an MSNBC talk show, “Morning Joe,” which he co-hosts with Mika Brzezinski. They’ve been in the news of late, with Donald J. Trump tweeting some nasty comments about Brzezinski, who happens to be Scarborough’s fiancée. It’s complicated, yes?

But the Scarborough’s departure from the GOP is part of a trend that swings in both directions, involving both major parties. It happens when a particular political party veers into an dramatically different direction. Such is the case with the Republican Party that nominated an inexperienced entertainer as its presidential nominee who then has behaved like someone who is clueless about political decorum, norms and custom.

Oh, and he’s also someone who continues on the same insult and innuendo barrage that got him nominated and then elected.

Scarborough is no Republican In Name Only, although I’m sure the devoted Trumpkins out there will call him a RINO as often as possible. He once voted to impeach President Clinton when he was serving in the House of Representatives from Florida. He fancies himself as a serious conservative thinker and commentator. He joins a few other long time prominent Republicans who have left the party for essentially the same reason. The noted Washington Post columnist George Will is the most notable example.

Here in Texas, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in the other direction over many years as the state shifted from true blue to deep red. Democrats became Republicans because of the shift in Democratic Party ideology. I can think of several individuals: former state Rep. Warren Chisum of Pampa; the late former Gov. John Connally; former Gov. Rick Perry. They all were Democrats when they entered public life. They are far from the only Texas Democrats who would no longer feel comfortable with the party of their political “birth.”

So, now it’s Scarborough who’s bolted the GOP.

My hunch? We’re going to see more political out-migration.

Supply and demand and supply …

Energy Secretary Rick Perry is supposed to know about these things.

He was governor of Texas for a zillion years. Before that he was lieutenant governor. Before that he was the state’s agriculture commissioner.

He’s supposed to know some basic economics, or one should think. Yes? OK. He went to West Virginia today and spoke at a coal-fired power plant. Then the secretary said this: “Here’s a little economics lesson: supply and demand,” Perry said, according to reports. “You put the supply out there, and the demand will follow.”

To borrow a word that Perry himself made famous during the 2012 Republican presidential primary campaign: Oops!

I believe the secretary had it exactly backward. My understanding of economics suggests this: Demand drives supply, not the other way around.

Or, as The Hill reported: “Twitter users were quick to find fault with Perry’s use of the term, which is defined in the dictionary as the law that ‘an increase in supply will lower prices if not accompanied by increased demand, and an increase in demand will raise prices unless accompanied by increased supply.'”

Check out some of those tweets.

This won’t signal the end of the world or anything like that. I just recall how candidate Donald Trump ridiculed his 2016 GOP opponent for donning eyewear to “make himself look smart.” That was a cruel cut, to be sure.

However, if the president is going to surround himself with “the best people,” as he promised, then he needs them to articulate a basic economic tenet about supply and demand.