Tag Archives: Texas Monthly

This Senate campaign could be a scream … really!

Go, Dan, go!

Dan McQueen is running for the U.S. Senate now held by Ted Cruz, aka the Cruz Missile.

McQueen is not exactly new to politics. He was mayor of Corpus Christi for all of 37 days. Then he quit amid a huge splash of bad publicity, a social media feud via Facebook with constituents and the media.

Now he’s decided to go after Cruz, who’s going to seek a second Senate term in 2018.

Read Texas Monthly’s report of McQueen’s candidacy.

McQueen was new to politics when he was elected mayor in 2016.

Then questions emerged about his academic credentials and his business expertise. He fought with the media and with city council members. McQueen got entangled in a clean water dispute. Then came questions about a relationship he was having with a business associate.

He had enough. So he walked away from his mayor’s job after a little more than month.

Is he the right person for Republicans to nominate next spring when he runs against Cruz? I have no clue.

But a guy who couldn’t stand the heat at City Hall now wants to step straight into the white-hot fire of Capitol Hill. How in the world is he going to withstand the scrutiny he is going to get as he campaigns against Cruz?

But you know what? The more I think about it, the more Dan McQueen sounds like he’d be a good fit in that zoo we call Congress.

Rep. Price makes the grade, according to Texas Monthly

Texas Monthly is an entertaining and informative publication.

Its most popular regular feature arguably is its annual Bum Steer Award issue that highlights the antics of the weird throughout our vast state.

The next most popular issue is the one that features the Best and Worst Legislators. Guess what, dear reader: One of the Panhandle’s own made the Best list.

I’ve long been proud of Walter Price IV — aka Four Price — the Republican state representative from Amarillo. He’s a friend and a supremely good guy. According to TM, he’s also one of the Legislature’s most effective members.

The TM list was compiled by veteran political journalist R.G. Ratcliffe, who knows his way around the Capitol Building in Austin.

Price is the only Panhandle delegation member to make either list from the 2017 Legislature. That is not to denigrate the others: Reps. John Smithee of Amarillo and Kenneth King of Canadian, or Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo, all of whom are Republicans in the heavily GOP Legislature. It’s interesting to me, though, that GOP Sen. Charles Perry from just down yonder in Lubbock made the Worst list, but since he’s not from the Panhandle, I won’t say any more about him.

TM cites how Four Price — a lawyer by training — often gets overlooked because he makes legislating look easy. As TM notes: “It’s not. As chair of the Public Health Committee, Price introduced more than a dozen bills to reform how Texas cares for those with mental illness, a historically neglected population. Probably the most significant was House Bill 10, which designated a state ombudsman to oversee access to behavioral health care and push insurance companies to cover treatment for mental health the same as they do physical ailments. It passed the House on a 130–13 vote, and the Senate sent the measure to the governor with only one dissention.”

Read the entire article on the Best and Worst legislators here.

I am sure Rep. Price is going to get his share of pats on the back from his friends throughout Amarillo and House District 87, which includes Potter and Moore counties.

That said, I want to join them in offering a good word to a sharp and energetic young man who works hard on behalf of the community that keeps sending him back to the Legislature.

Even Texans are mad at Trump … go figure

When residents of Texas are polling negatively against Donald John Trump, well, then you’ve got a problem.

Are you paying attention, Mr. President?

Texas Monthly reports that a Texas Lyceum poll suggests most of us here in the Lone Star State disapprove of the job Trump is doing. The poll surveyed everyone — those who vote and those who don’t. Texas Monthly reports further that among Texas Republicans who do vote, the president remains popular, with an 85 percent approval rating.

According to Texas Monthly: “The key seems to be which group of Texans you’re talking about. Overall Trump’s disapproval/approval rating among all Texans was 54 percent/42 percent. But while Republicans support him, 86 percent of Democrats disapprove of his job performance, along with 73 percent of the millennials and 61 percent of Hispanics. Sixty percent of whites view Trump positively.”

Trump in trouble in Texas?

I am not going to presume for a second that Trump couldn’t win Texas yet again if an election took place in the next day or two. Texans have shown a propensity over many years to be intensely loyal to whichever party is in power.

I’ve noted already that a semi-trained chimp could get elected to public office if he was a Republican.

To be, um, fair and balanced, you could have said the same thing 40 years ago about Democratic candidates for office.

The tide has turned here. Having been at ringside in Texas as the state turned from moderately Democratic to strongly Republican, I borne witness to the shocking nature of the transition.

The Lyceum poll also suggests that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who’s up for re-election in 2018, might be in some trouble against a strong Democratic challenger. The poll puts Cruz and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke — the only announced challenger for Cruz’s seat — in a dead heat.

But … as they say: A week is a lifetime in politics. In Texas, I’m not about to count Cruz out as dead meat more than a year away from the next election.

As for Trump, his relatively poor standing is emblematic of the trouble he is encountering throughout the nation. He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which remains popular with a majority of Americans; and he wants to build that wall along the Rio Grande River, a notion that I keep hearing isn’t popular at all among rank-and-file Texans.

But, hey. If we were to ask Trump about his low poll standing, he’d blow it off. He’d call it “rigged.” He would say it’s cooked up by the media that he describes as “the enemy of the people.”

You know what? Most Texas Republicans would believe him.

Imagine that.

‘Plague’ in inappropriate student-teacher relationships?

Texas legislators are seeking to do something that, to be honest, I am surprised hasn’t been done already.

They want to make it illegal for school administrators to fail to report incidents of improper student-teacher relationships. Really? It’s not illegal already? I guess not.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt has collected the support of all 30 of his Senate colleagues in proposing legislation that would make failure to report such hideous behavior a Class A misdemeanor. To be honest, the level of criminality seems light.

As the Texas Tribune reports: “Bettencourt said that many of the teachers involved in such conduct are able to be rehired in other districts, a phenomenon known as ‘pass the trash,’ because districts fail to report them to the Texas Education Agency. The bill seeks to end that practice by slapping a Class A misdemeanor on administrators who fail to report such relationships, and if it is an intentional cover-up, administrators could be charged with a state jail felony.”

Has this circumstance reached “plague” status? I am not qualified to answer that question. Yes, we’ve read about such ghastly behavior in some of our Texas Panhandle school systems. Teachers have been fired; they have faced criminal charges. What isn’t generally reported here is whether administrators have kept their eyes closed to it, or if they have deliberately covered it up.

An administrator who purposely protects a teacher who has been romancing a student ought to lose his or her job and should be prosecuted and, if convicted, thrown in prison for contributing to the sexual abuse of children.

No more “passing the trash,” legislators.

No, sir, government isn’t the same as a business

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting on three occasions with one of the smartest men in America.

T. Boone Pickens has earned a fortune in the oil and natural gas business. He knows fossil fuels better than, well, almost anyone.

The former Amarillo resident and current fossil fuel tycoon, though, misses the mark when he says that you can run government “like a business.”

Pickens has written an essay for Texas Monthly, in which he says in part: “In the late eighties and early nineties, I considered running for governor of Texas. Now a lot has changed since that time. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the need to make sure we have a government that works.

“’Can you really run a government like a business?’ I was asked at the time. ‘Sure you can,’ I replied. ‘It’s a business to start with. Taxpayers are like stockholders, and both are entitled to a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. For a dollar spent, taxpayers ought to receive a dollar back in value.’”

Pickens is as smart a businessman as anyone you’ll ever know.

But as another tycoon is learning, government is a much different animal than a business. That tycoon, Donald J. Trump — who Pickens supported wholeheartedly for president of the United States — is learning in real time that the founders established a checks and balances system for a good reason. It is to ensure that no one branch of government runs roughshod over the other two.

The crux of Pickens’ essay was to extol the need to make the United States energy independent. He’s right about that need. He’s also got a dog in that fight, given that he owns a whole lot of fossil fuel rights in the United States and stands to benefit tremendously from pumping these fuels out of the ground.

He misses another point, though. It is that we already have made huge strides toward that goal in the past eight years. The Obama administration sought to provide incentives for investment in alternative energy sources: wind, solar, hydropower, biofuels. The big spike in oil prices in recent years has prompted much more fossil fuel exploration in this country. Add to that the fuel efficiency standards mandated on automakers and you have a sort of perfect storm that weans us from foreign oil.

Back to my main point.

Business is business. Government, though, is another creature altogether. I get that Pickens desires a business-like approach to government. However, the principles one applies to running a business do not transfer straight into the act of politicking, legislating and the making of laws.

Business executives can make decisions that stick, with no questions asked. Politicians have a different platform on which they operate. They have voters to whom they must answer. They also have colleagues who might have different points of view, a differing world view. They are as wedded to their view of the world as the businessman or woman is wedded to whatever he or she believes.

The “business” of running a government requires a certain skill set that business executives need to learn. From what I’ve seen of the businessman/president, he hasn’t yet learned it.

Perhaps someone like Boone Pickens could figure it out. If only, as he said, he had less history behind him and more in front of him.

Here comes the Bum Steer issue

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My pal Dave makes an excellent point about Texas Monthly’s annual Bum Steer Awards issue — which is hands down my favorite issue every year of the renowned feature publication.

He hopes they “don’t go to press too early,” given the wackiest of years that’s about to pass into history.

Boy howdy, 2016 gave the Texas Monthly editors plenty of material with which to work. Indeed, this year produced a national phenomenon, starting — and perhaps ending — with the stunning outcome of the presidential election.

The Bum Steer issue has been my favorite for the nearly 33 years my family and I have lived in Texas. I look every year in this issue for something that happens in my hometown that qualifies as a Bum Steer. Whether it was in Beaumont, where we lived for nearly 11 years, or in Amarillo, where we’ve been for the past 22, I always anticipate that Texas Monthly will find something truly weird to highlight and share with the rest of its readership across this vast state.

I actually have a favorite candidate for a Bum Steer. It just occurred, so Texas Monthly likely couldn’t get into print. It was the idiotic display of exhibitionism by “Pastor” David Grisham, who went to Westgate Mall a few days ago to berate children and their parents who wanted the kids to visit with Santa Claus.

Talk about a killjoy, man! Grisham sought to tell the kids that Santa ain’t real. He’s fake. Some parents took umbrage at this guy’s bad manners and boorish behavior.

Well, the Bum Steer issue will be out soon. Here’s hoping Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle are well represented, no matter what.

What about a Hispanic voter ‘surge’ in Texas?

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We’ve been hearing a lot in the past three days about a “surge” in Hispanic voter turnout in places like Florida, Nevada, Colorado and Arizona.

But … what about Texas?

We have an enormous Hispanic population here. The conventional wisdom has been that newly registered Hispanic voters would tend to favor the Democrats, given Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump’s fiery — and many say anti-Hispanic — rhetoric on the campaign trail.

http://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/decision-day-2016/

Texas Monthly blogger Erica Grieder seems to think that Trump’s expected victory in Texas this year will fall far short of the big win posted in 2012 by GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

What might fuel the decline? I guess it would be a larger-than-normal turnout among Hispanic Texans flocking to the polls.

It won’t be enough, more than likely, to turn Texas’s red hue to blue.

But the times — and the state’s demographic mix — are a changin’.

Has Cruz self-inflicted a mortal political wound?

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Ted Cruz’s presidential ambitions have been mortally wounded.

That’s the view of Texas Monthly blogger Erica Grieder, who thinks the Texas Republican’s endorsement of GOP presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has done far more harm than good — for Cruz.

http://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/ted-cruz-caves/

Cruz had, since the GOP convention, stood on the principle that Trump is not to be trusted, that he’s “amoral,” that he’s a narcissist, that he is a “serial philanderer,” that he is a “con man.”

Now he’s acceptable to Cruz.

But …

Is he acceptable to Cruz’s substantial conservative base of voters who still cannot stomach Donald Trump even though their guy — Cruz — now seems to find the nominee worthy of his endorsement?

Grieder notes that Cruz wants to be president. He ran hard for the GOP nomination. He developed a substantial following among the GOP’s more conservative base of voters. He told GOP convention attendees to “vote your conscience” this fall. Now he’s tell them to vote for Trump.

Mixed message? Do you think?

As Grieder writes: “First, both of the reasons Cruz gave for his decision, in a statement he posted on Facebook Friday afternoon—that he signed a pledge and that Hillary Clinton is unacceptable—are demonstrably ridiculous. Even if you agree that Clinton is more ‘unacceptable’ than Trump, and that a pledge made to the Republican National Committee should take precedence over one’s oath of office and one’s repeated promises to work for the 27 million people of Texas, it remains the case that Cruz signed the pledge last year and could have known, months ago, that Clinton would be the Democratic nominee.”

Cruz figured to have a potentially stout Republican challenge when he runs for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2018. Now, with his endorsement of Trump — who once stood for everything that Cruz detested — the challenge well might come from the TEA party wing of the GOP.

These are the folks who now feel betrayed by their one-time golden boy, Sen. Cruz.

If Ted Cruz cannot survive a challenge to his Senate seat in two years, well … the presidency is certain to vanish before the senator’s eyes.

Voter ID: a solution in search of a problem

vote fraud

Let’s talk for a moment about voter fraud.

If there’s an overblown, overhyped and overstated problem with the American electoral system, it has to be voter fraud.

Even in Texas, ,which has become somewhat legendary because of one instance of voter fraud. It occurred in 1948 when Duval County in South Texas supposedly recorded more votes than registered voters. The inflated number of votes allegedly pushed a young political candidate, Democrat Lyndon Johnson, over the top in his party primary runoff contest for the U.S. Senate.

How many instances of ballot-box chicanery have occurred in Texas since then? Damn few.

Republicans, though, have seized on voter fraud as a compelling national political problem. They keep insisting that Americans must prove they are eligible to vote by showing photo ID documents when they go to the polls.

http://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/the-integrity-of-our-elections/

I don’t necessarily object personally to showing photo ID when I go vote. I am able to present a valid driver’s license. A lot of Americans, though, do not drive; they don’t own passports; they don’t have licenses to carry concealed weapons. They’re out of luck.

Some courts have ruled that voter ID laws, therefore, to be inherently unconstitutional.

The most objectionable element of this discussion, though, has been the canard put forward that the electoral system is corrupt. Fear mongers — now led by Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump — keep insisting that illegal immigrants are voting by the thousands to elect Democrats to public office.

As Erica Grieder writes in her blog for Texas Monthly: “It’s true that voter fraud is real. It’s even true that there have been recorded instances of people passing themselves off as someone else in order to cast a fraudulent vote, which is the specific form of fraud that laws requiring photo ID might prevent. But that crime is not even remotely common, nor do Americans have any real cause to worry about elections being stolen in the most labor-intensive way imaginable.”

Trump is now predicting that the presidential election will be “rigged.” How does he know this to be true? He just says it.

Those who are following his futile efforts to change the subject away from his abject ignorance about anything relating to government and public policy, are buying into it.

A summation of Trump’s unfitness

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Erica Grieder writes a blog for Texas Monthly.

She is highly opinionated, which is why I enjoy reading her blog. She doesn’t hide her disdain for Republican presumptive presidential nominee Donald J. Trump.

She writes: “My contempt for Donald Trump is admittedly sincere and abiding, but I suspect that even observers who take a more temperate view of the man might agree that the Republican Party’s decision to accept him as their presidential nominee is a calculation that could haunt them for years.

Here is more of what she wrote about Trump’s candidacy: “Trump is GOP nominee for president. His opponent, in the general election, will almost certainly be Hillary Clinton. He is technically qualified to hold the office, should he win 270 electoral votes, as he was born in the United States and is over the age of 35. At the same time, Trump is an uninformed and emotionally unstable plague who has, over 70 years of life, proven himself incapable of wielding any form of power without immediately looking for some ham-fisted way he can leverage it to serve his profoundly fragile ego.”

Here’s the entire blog posted on the Burka Blog website:

http://www.texasmonthly.com/burka-blog/greg-abbotts-trump-problem/

She writes that Gov. Greg Abbott is backing Trump even though he knows Trump is a phony and a fraud.

Back to one of the points in her paragraph that I shared with you here.

Trump’s candidacy is not built on a commitment to public service. It is built solely on his monstrous ego. Listen to what he says about his supposedly immense wealth, about his “world-class business” ventures, about the women in his life, about his singular plans to “make America great.”

Public service? It’s a foreign concept to this guy.

Say what you will about the ills of the nation — which I believe have been grossly overstated by Trump and those who have glommed on to what passes for this fellow’s campaign message.

We must do better than elect an entertainer with zero experience dealing with a government he now proposes to fix. He has no template from which to pattern whatever he intends to do.

If he intends to repair the government, someone needs to explain to me what he intends to produce.

Does this guy have a clue about anything that resembles an understanding of the massive governmental machine he intends to operate?