Tag Archives: Rick Perry

New state anti-texting law: no apparent deterrent

A friend posed a question on social media that needs an answer and a brief rant from yours truly. She asked whether anyone else “looks in their rear view mirror” when they are stopped to see if the person behind them is texting while driving a motor vehicle.

I answered “yes,” although I should have been a good bit more emphatic about it.

Texas legislators in 2017 finally approved a statewide ban on the use of hand held communications devices while driving motor vehicles. Amarillo already had an ordinance on the books, along with several other cities throughout the state.

To their credit, our local lawmakers backed the ban. It went to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk and he signed it, reversing the position taken by his immediate predecessor, Rick Perry, who vetoed a nearly identical bill in 2011; Gov. Perry offered one of the most idiotic reasons ever recorded for his veto, calling it a form of “government intrusion.”

So, then, are laws against speeding and drunk driving … if you follow Perry’s nonsensical “rationale.” Texting while driving is every bit as dangerous as swilling alcohol or speeding.

My rant follows this track. Since the enactment of the law, I do not sense a serious decline in the incidents of texting while driving. I see motorists constantly doing that very form of dual-tasking.

I curse them, often out loud and in a bellicose voice.

I haven’t traveled out of state in a while, so I cannot confirm this, but the last time my wife and I went beyond the state line I didn’t see any signage on the return trip advising motorists that texting while driving — or using hand held cell phones while driving — was against state law.

Not that such a warning necessarily will deter motorists from breaking the law, but … you get my drift.

There. Rant over.

I’ll now refer to a bumper sticker that once adorned a car we used to own — but which was destroyed in 2012 by a driver who rear-ended my wife while she well might have been texting while driving. The cops never revealed it to us.

Get off the phone and drive!

Nature: Mother of all that is fickle

Can there possibly be another force that is more fickle than Mother Nature?

Consider what has transpired in just the past six months.

We began 2017 enduring a virtual deluge of rain and, yes, some snow. The Texas Panhandle set records for moisture accumulation during the first half of the year. Amarillo reached its annual precipitation level before the summer had expired.

The playas were full. The grass was green and lush. Our livestock were well fed. Dryland farmers were beside themselves.

Life was good, man. Remember?

Then came October. Or thereabouts. It all stopped. Virtually nothing has fallen from the sky since.

The playas aren’t so full these days. The grass that goes dormant in the winter isn’t likely to bounce back with its traditional gusto. Those dryland farmers, the folks who depend on Mother Nature to irrigate their land, enabling them to grow their crops, providing harvests that fill our pantries with food and their pockets with cash? They’re still beside themselves — but for vastly different reasons.

The weather forecasters now are sounding borderline panicky as they report on the extreme fire danger that exists. The wind that usually arrives in these parts in March are howling. The grass that should be somewhat moist from those spring thundershowers are susceptible to being torched by the tiniest of sparks.

What are our remedies? We cannot tell Mother Nature to do our bidding. She doesn’t jump when we tell her to jump.

When he was governor of Texas, Rick Perry took some ridicule when he suggested Texans pray for rain in the middle of an earlier drought. His view was that if we sought divine help, then perhaps we could rely on our collective faith that our fortunes would turn for the better.

They did. The rain came. We were left to wonder whether our prayers made the difference. Who can say categorically that they didn’t?

That time is at hand once again. Mother Nature’s fickleness is causing plenty of angst across our parched landscape. Given that we cannot force her to adhere to our demands, maybe we can go over her head and talk directly to God.

We need help from wherever it’s available.

Still favor in-state tuition for all Texas residents

You are welcome to call me a bleeding-heart liberal if you wish, but I am going to make this point once again.

Texas is blessed with a large body of young people who want to improve themselves and who want to attend our public colleges and universities. Even those who are living here illegally because Mom and Dad sneaked them into Texas from somewhere else.

Accordingly, those de facto Texans, people who have grown up here as full-blown Texas residents, deserve to pay in-state tuition to attend those higher education institutions.

I wrote about this most recently three years ago:

Texans split on in-state college tuition issue

I still believe to this day in that policy. The state’s two previous Republican governors — George W. Bush and Rick Perry — both supported the idea of offering in-state tuition privileges to these students.

I’m unclear where Gov. Greg Abbott stands on this. My guess is that the GOP base is pressuring him to kick those students out of Texas. Were he to do that, he would perform a profound disservice to the state.

I wrote in 2015, “Allowing the in-state tuition rates for these students does not harm the public university system in Texas, as some have contended. It enriches the system by granting young students a chance to attain the goals they have set for themselves — while living as Texans.”

They are making their dreams come true.

Perry, not Trump, set the tone for stiffing the media

Donald Trump likes to crow about how he uses Twitter to “talk directly” to Americans, avoiding the “filter” of the “fake news” mainstream media.

The president, it appears to me, would have us believe he has been a trendsetter in this regard.

I would beg to differ.

Trump is a bit late to this game of sticking it in the ear of the media. Rick Perry, the energy secretary, blazed that trail in 2010 while running for what turned out to be his final re-election campaign as Texas governor.

I wrote about it then:

Perry skips the ed board

Perry, too, wanted to forgo talking to newspaper editorial boards while campaigning for governor. He stiffed us in the business. He didn’t even come to Amarillo, where I worked at the time as editorial page editor of the Globe-News. He might have earned our newspaper’s editorial endorsement against the man he faced in that year’s general election, former Houston Mayor Bill White; the paper had a policy at the time of declining to make endorsements in contested partisan primaries.

The governor decided to stay away during the primary campaign in which he faced former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and then later in the general election.

I don’t recall him using Twitter at the time; indeed, I cannot even remember that particular social medium becoming the tool it has become in the past couple of years.

I wrote at the time of Perry’s decision to stiff the media that we didn’t “take it personally.” I might have to walk that back just a bit. In truth, we did take it as a mild insult. “Who does this guy, Perry, think he is?” we thought at the time.

It turned out to be a stroke of genius. The media had become the whipping child for conservative politicians. Perry became the spokesman for the Stiff the Media crowd.

Newspapers all across the state ended up endorsing Mayor White for governor. White talked to the Globe-News and made a strong case for his candidacy. So, the Globe-News — a longtime ally of Republican politicians — endorsed a Democrat for governor; I say “longtime ally” of GOP pols understanding that in 1994, the newspaper endorsed the late Democratic Gov. Ann Richards in her bid for re-election, which she lost to George W. Bush.

So … sit down, Donald Trump and stop implying that you’re hacking your way through some sort of political wilderness with your continual Twitter tirades. You aren’t the first to stick it to the media.

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.