Tag Archives: Texas Tribune

Yes, they were ‘heroes’ at The Alamo

What’s going on with the Texas State Board of Education?

The 15-member elected board had decided that the men who fought and died at The Alamo shouldn’t be called “heroic” in Texas textbooks that tells the story of the 1836 struggle.

Then the SBOE backed off. The men who died were heroes after all. Politicians from Gov. Greg Abbott on down had objected to the eliminating of the “heroic” description of the fight.

The Texas Tribune reported: The board has been streamlining curriculum standards for social studies for the past several months, with the aim of cutting back on the instructional time for teachers and allowing them to go into depth in their courses. The workgroup’s recommendations, submitted to the State Board of Education in April by a volunteer working group of area experts, called the term “value charged” and recommended its removal. They also struck out a reference to a letter Col. William B. Travis wrote just before the siege titled “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World.”

I’m not a Texas native. My wife, sons and I got here as soon as we could. I grew up in Oregon and studied The Alamo battle back in the day, in junior high school and later in high school. By the time we moved to Texas in 1984 I was well aware of the “heroic” stature that the men had achieved when they fought against a huge military force of Mexican soldiers who laid siege to the mission.

C’mon, SBOE! Don’t mess with what we know to be true. Those men fought heroically. They died as heroes. Didn’t the Texians who took the fight to Mexico’s armed forces rally to the battle cry “Remember the Alamo”?

SBOE backs off

Part of the change seems to have something to do with the short shrift textbooks give to civil rights leaders. As the Tribune reports: Those in support of the workgroup’s initial proposal argued that using language like “heroic” for the defenders of the Alamo and minimizing the contribution of civil rights leaders whitewashes the history of Texas. “The curriculum standards that guide what we learn in our public school classrooms don’t teach enough and don’t teach the truth,” said Lamontria Edwards, a student at Paul Quinn College in Dallas.

Fair point. However, let’s be sure our texts also teach children of the heroism of our civil rights movement in addition to teaching them of the heroes who died at The Alamo.

You go, Rep. Four Price!

It would be presumptuous of me in the extreme to assume that state Rep. Four Price of Amarillo read a recent blog post of mine and then decided to run for speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

Whatever, my friend has joined a growing gaggle of politicians seeking to succeed Speaker Joe Straus as the Man of the House.

I applaud him for taking the plunge.

Price joins four fellow Republicans and a Democrat in the speaker’s race.

I’ve already stated my bias. Price is my friend and, thus, my admiration for his legislative skill is tainted somewhat by my personal affection for him. Still, the young man has cast a large shadow over the 150-member Texas House since he joined that body in 2011.

“Having successfully worked for the last four sessions with my colleagues from across our state to pass major legislation and focus on issues of importance to all Texans, I am eager to seek this leadership position in the Texas House of Representatives,” he said in a statement. “Looking towards the future, I truly believe the Texas House will play a leading role in making the decisions that keep Texas on the path to prosperity.”

I am quite certain Price knows what becoming speaker would mean to his role as a “part-time citizen legislator.” It means he would become nothing of the sort. House speakers essentially become full-timers, on call 24/7 to the media, to fellow pols, to constituents who live far beyond their legislative districts.

I find it impossible to believe that Price has failed to build sufficient political alliances within the House to make a serious run for the speakership.

With all the talk we keep hearing about the shifting power balance in Texas, as rural districts such as the one Price represents in the Texas Panhandle lose their clout, a Four Price speakership could produce a boon to the often-overlooked region way up yonder at the top of Texas.

So, good hunting, Rep. Price as you scour your colleagues for the support you’ll need as you seek to run the show in the Texas House.

Why did you want Duncan to go, regents? Come clean!

I have to hand it to the Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey: The man knows how to lay political injustice out there in the great wide open for all to see.

Ramsey thinks Texas Tech University System Chancellor Bob Duncan got hosed by the university’s board of regents. They voted — possibly illegally in an executive session — to issue a no-confidence verdict on Duncan.

What does Ramsey think of Duncan? Get a load of this excerpt from the Texas Tribune: He has been solid gold the whole way: As a legislative staffer, a lawyer working for state Sen. John Montford, D-Lubbock; as a member of the Texas House and then a state senator; and finally, as the chancellor.

No scandals. No meaningful enemies (until now, anyway). His has been a stellar career. It’s what the optimists hope for and what the pessimists bet against. He’s straight out of a Frank Capra movie, or a civics textbook. Imagine a guy walking through a spaghetti factory in a white suit and leaving without a spot on him. Duncan is really something.

Which is why it’s a shame that the rest of the crabs pulled him back into the bucket. The regents at Texas Tech showed their mettle — demonstrating why they’re little fish and not big fish — when a more brazen academic institution bellowed about their plans to launch a veterinary school in the Panhandle. Texas A&M University, headed by former legislator, railroad commissioner and comptroller John Sharp, believes one vet school is enough.

Ramsey thinks that someone connected to the A&M System got to Gov. Greg Abbott, who might have told the Tech regents — who are appointed by the governor — to reel Duncan in.

What is galling to me is that regents haven’t yet given a hint of detail as to why they want Duncan to leave the post he has held for the past four years. By most observers’ reckoning, he was doing a bang-up job as the system’s chief administrator.

Regents have sought to cover their backsides by declaring their continued support for the school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. That’s great!

Read Ramsey’s excellent analysis here.

First things first. They need to explain to Tech’s constituents why they have pushed a “good guy,” as Ramsey described Duncan, over the proverbial cliff.

Straight-ticket voting and the Trump coattail effect

Buried near the end of a typically excellent Texas Tribune analysis by Ross Ramsey, is an item that sent chills up my spine.

It reads: Straight-ticket voting accounted for 64 percent of all voting in the state’s ten largest counties in the 2016 general election. If that holds in 2018, almost two-thirds of the vote will be cast with more attention to party than person.

Ramsey’s analysis talks about the candidate whose name isn’t on the ballot: Donald J. Trump. If Trump’s approval numbers are up, Republicans will do well; if they’re down, Democrats might have a glimmer of hope.

Read the analysis here.

Why do I have the heebie-jeebies? Because I hate straight-ticket voting, no matter which party is up. The GOP is currently the “up party” in Texas.

What galls me to the max is that a healthy majority of voters in the state’s largest counties vote for the party rather than the individual.

Sad, man!

I live in one of the state’s larger counties these days. Collin County will figure mightily in the midterm election that is coming up quickly.

If only I could persuade state legislators to change the law, propose a constitutional amendment, do something proactive to force voters to examine every race individually before casting their ballots.

Spare me the idiocy that voters don’t have “the time” to look at these races when they step into the ballot box.

Parties shouldn’t matter more than the individual we elect to serve us, the people.

Wishing a former governor could weigh in on DACA

I am quite aware that Rick Perry’s job as energy secretary inhibits the areas on which he can comment publicly. He is limited to talking about energy policy.

You see, he also is a former Texas governor who — if memory serves — got into some hot water with hard-line conservatives within his party because of his relatively generous views about undocumented immigrants.

The Republican governor used to support the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants who grew up in Texas, who came of age here, to enroll in colleges and universities while paying in-state tuition rates. Those rates are considerably less expensive than those who live out of state and who choose to attend higher education institutions in Texas.

Thus, I wish the former governor could speak out against the notion of ending the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, which is what the Trump administration — which Perry now serves as energy boss — wants to eliminate.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office is going to court next week to continue the fight on behalf of the Trump administration.

As the Texas Tribune reports: On Aug. 8, federal District Judge Andrew Hanen will hear the state’s request to have the program preliminarily halted while the issue meanders its way through the federal court system. The hearing comes nearly a year after President Donald Trump promised to end DACA in September by phasing it out over six months. But three different courts have since ruled that the administration must keep the program —which protects immigrants brought into the U.S. as children from deportation and allows them to obtain a two-year work permit — intact for now.

DACA was created by the Obama administration. It is intended to grant temporary reprieve from deportation of those who were brought to this country illegally by their parents. Many DACA recipients came here as babies; they know only life in the United States. They need not be deported, given that many of them already have established themselves as de facto citizens of this country.

Donald Trump wants to eliminate it, seemingly only because it was left over by the presidency of Barack Obama.

If only the secretary of energy, Rick Perry, who was right about his more humane view of how we treat these immigrants could be heard within the president’s inner circle.

Mr. Rogers ought to show the GOP the way

A lawyer, Chris Perri, has written a fascinating essay for the Texas Tribune that pays a wonderful tribute to the late Fred Rogers, the Presbyterian minister who became a public television superstar.

According to Perri, Mr. Rogers was a lifelong Republican, a fact that surprised the author of the essay. Why the surprise?

Perri writes: Because the values he was espousing – of compassion, human dignity, radical acceptance, emotional health and funding for public broadcasting – struck me as, well, liberal. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that’s because I identify as progressive and share these values. But these aren’t Republican or Democrat but American values.

Yet right now Republican leaders aren’t upholding these shared American values. When we see children ripped from their parents at the border, refugees fleeing violence shut out of our country and corporations being awarded more rights than human beings, it’s hard to believe that the Republican Party of today is upholding our values. Mr. Rogers would have been appalled by the developmental trauma inflicted on children by many of these extreme policies.

How about that?

Might there be a lesson to be handed down here? Of course there is.

Rogers has been highlighted in a documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” that’s drawing some good critical reviews.

Rogers, who played host on the PBS series “Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood,” was the paragon of kindness, compassion and understanding.

Perri makes no bones about his partisan leanings. He once ran as a Democrat for a congressional seat. He lost. The bigger issue is the surprise he learned about an iconic figure’s background.

As Perri has noted, Fred Rogers’s views don’t belong to liberals or Democrats or anyone of a particular political stripe. They are quintessentially American.

I hope today’s Republican Party will start paying attention and toss aside the ongoing rage coming from the mouth of the Republican in Chief who happens to be the president of the United States.

Take a look at Chris Perri’s essay here.

I hope you, too, will learn something. I sure did.

‘It’s time to impeach the president’

Jason Villalba has climbed way out on a limb. I mean, way, way out there.

He is a Texas state legislator from Dallas, and a Republican to boot. He also is saying — in no uncertain words — that Congress has to impeach Donald J. Trump, the nation’s 45th president.

Holy cow, man!

I ran across his essay in the Texas Tribune. Villalba has mounted a pretty damn stout argument for his case.

Read the essay here.

Here is just a bit of what Villalba has written:

I am a Republican today because of Ronald Reagan. He instilled in me the principles that have guided my life, personally and politically. I believe in fiscal conservatism, American exceptionalism, a moral rubric based on Judeo-Christian values, and on a basic fealty to the essential standards set by our forefathers: truth, liberty, self-sacrifice and basic goodness.

And yet, today, our own president of the United States mocks these basic tenets. Since Donald J. Trump has been president, he alone has increased the national debt by over $1 trillion. Yes. One trillion dollars. The fastest any president in U.S. history has accrued that level of debt.

Our president has mocked and belittled our immigration laws, our intelligence agencies, our foreign policy strategy and even the American people. We have been called “stupid,” “weak,” “a joke” and “pathetic,” all by our own president.

Our president has reveled in sexually engaging with those actively trafficking in the pornography industry and he has ridiculed those religious leaders who would deign to question him for doing so. He mocks and laughs at those Christians who would question him.

I don’t think impeachment time has arrived. I am waiting for the conclusion of the special counsel’s report. Robert Mueller has been conducting an exhaustive investigation into whether the Trump campaign “colluded” with Russians who attacked our electoral system. He also might determine an obstruction of justice through the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

As for the practicality of impeaching Trump, the numbers don’t lie: Republicans still control both congressional chambers. Congress needs only a simple majority to impeach the president in the House; the Senate trial requires 67 votes to convict a president and remove him from office.

If there’s an impeachment and a trial to take place, I think we need to wait just a while longer.

Trump’s trade war inflicts casualties on friendly forces

Donald J. Trump keeps insisting that the United States hasn’t declared a trade war against China.

Except that we have.

Here’s the bad news for those who supported Trump’s “America First” political mantra in 2016. The trade war is going to hurt them. It will hurt them bigly.

The Texas Tribune reports that Texas agriculture is being cost in the trade war crossfire between Washington and Beijing.

I lived in the heart of Texas Cotton Country until just a few weeks ago. I am saddened to read what might happen to cotton growers in the Panhandle.

As the Tribune reports: President Donald Trump — and by extension many of the nation’s farmers — is seeing that lesson in action after he launched a bevy of tariffs against China on Friday, prompting the People’s Republic to retaliate with its own tariffs on imports from the United States. Among those American goods are some key Texas exports, including cotton, corn and sorghum. Some of the Chinese goods targeted in Trump’s tariffs are vital parts for Texas’ agriculture industry, such as livestock equipment.

“No question, it’s going to hurt,” said Gene Hall, a spokesperson for the Texas Farm Bureau.

They harvest a lot of cotton and corn in the Panhandle, much of which goes to China. More from the Texas Tribune: Cotton is the state’s 10th largest export. Nearly half of the U.S. cotton exported to China comes from Texas. Soy is a smaller market for Texas, but China is the state’s largest international soy customer. Texas exports about $157 million worth of corn a year, making it the 13th largest exporter of the crop in the country, though U.S. corn exports to China have dropped precipitously over the past few years due to increased regulations on the Chinese side.

Read the entire Texas Tribune story here.

And, yes, I hasten to add that many of the farmers who now are going to suffer from the trade war collateral damage supported Trump’s election in 2016. They rallied to his “America first” rhetoric, apparently not anticipating that a trade war would ensue that would have a direct impact on their ability to make a living.

The 26 counties that comprise the Texas Panhandle voted roughly 80 percent for Trump in 2016. I am wondering at this moment how many of those who live off the land are going to regret their vote for the guy who vowed to “make America great again.”

O’Rourke vs. Cruz: gap closing, maybe?

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke is expressing optimism in a new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll that shows his race with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz narrowing to just a five-point margin for the Cruz Missile.

Hmm. That’s fine, Beto. Let’s dive just a little bit deeper, though, shall we?

The poll puts the Republican Cruz at 41 percent; the Democratic challenger, O’Rourke, is at 36 percent. When I examine these polls, I tend to look at the 50-percent threshold. Neither of these fellows is close to it. That renders these poll numbers virtually useless.

O’Rourke, though, said this via Twitter: A brand-new poll has us down by just 5 points. We’re closing the gap in this race for Senate — and we rely 100% on grassroots donations from people like you to power our campaign. Let’s keep the momentum going and get Beto in the Senate!

Hey, I want O’Rourke to represent me in the U.S. Senate at the start of 2019. The young man needs to stop getting ahead of himself.

You’re even less funny now, Gov. Abbott

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott went to a gun range a year ago, shot a few rounds into a target and then bragged about the tight grouping of bullet holes he put into the piece of paper.

As Time reported: “I’m gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters,” according to the Texas Tribune. 

That’s a serious knee-slapper, ain’t it?

I didn’t laugh at the time. I am seriously not laughing now in the wake of what happened Thursday in the newsroom of the Annapolis (Md.) Capital-Gazette, where five people were slaughtered by a gunman.

Do you know what I’d like to hear now from Gov. Abbott? A statement of remorse over his tasteless quip. That would help quell at least some of the hatred that’s being fomented against members of the media by politicians in high places.

Here’s how Time reported it.

What do you think, Gov. Abbott?