Tag Archives: Texas Tribune

She’s no hero; she is a lawbreaker

Shelley Luther is being hailed as a heroic figure, someone who is standing up to what many contend is a form of governmental tyranny.

I consider her to be a lawbreaker, someone who flouted a legally mandated directive to keep her business closed to save lives against a killer virus that has swept across the world in the coronavirus pandemic.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered salons closed. Luther’s business, Salon La Mode in Dallas, remained opened. She was doing customers’ nails and performing other cosmetic procedures even though she was putting herself and, more importantly, her customers at risk of catching COVID-19.

As the Texas Tribune reported: Luther knew she was operating in blatant defiance of emergency orders from the state and county. She had already torn up a cease-and-desist letter from local authorities, winning loud cheers onstage at an Open Texas rally in Frisco.

Ridiculous.

Here’s my favorite part. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Houston decided to get his hair cut at Luther’s salon … in Dallas. The Cruz Missile, who backs Donald Trump’s rush to return reopen the economy that has collapsed in the wake of the pandemic, thought he’d score some cheap political points by standing with Shelley Luther.

Cruz should be ashamed of himself, except that he isn’t.

As for Luther, she had been sent to jail for violating the stay-closed order. Top Texas Republicans sought to work for her release. So she got sprung from the hoosegow. She came out to a hero’s welcome.

Now this business owner is being hailed as a sort of cultural icon because she’s standing her ground against what she believes is government overreach.

She is standing instead for the fruitcakes who have stormed the Michigan state capitol building brandishing assault rifles and waving swastikas and Confederate battle flags; she is standing for other protesters around the nation who flock to beaches and ignore social distancing recommendations.

It’s people like Shelley Luther who make enforcing mandates aimed at protecting our health — and even our lives — more difficult than they need be.

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!

Wishing re-opening of Texas can work … but doubts remain

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

I want to wish Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has done his due diligence in determining the time is right to restart the state’s economic machinery.

Oh, man, the doubt persists.

Abbott said he is going to grant permission for restaurants, malls and movie theaters to welcome guests beginning Friday. Yes, it’s a cautious approach, but I remain deeply concerned about whether even this timid approach will cause another spike in the infection rate caused by the COVID-19 virus that has killed more than 700 Texans.

I just don’t know how this is going to work.

My wife and I plan to stay at home. We aren’t going to frequent restaurants; we will stay out of movie theaters; we aren’t going to the mall to mingle with others; we will continue to wear cloth masks when we go to the grocery store or put fuel in our truck. We will maintain social distance.

Abbott said he would rely on the doctors and data to determine his decision. I will take him at his word that he has done as he pledged to do. I just wonder if the time is yet right to start that return to what we used to call “normal” in Texas.

As Ross Ramsey writes in the Texas Tribune:

The protesters and holdouts are interesting, but to see how this is going, watch the people in the middle — the actual mainstream Texans. That big group wants to get things running but also thinks social distancing is a pretty good idea right now.

Their actions will speak louder than anyone’s — even Greg Abbott’s. And they seem to be the group he’s watching, too, as he anxiously opens the door.

I will act as if we’re still under restriction.

Undocumented immigrants getting unfair punishment

Oh, if we only could muster up a bit of compassion in this country for U.S. residents who lack proper immigration documents, but who perform “essential” work, pay their taxes and behave themselves.

These folks are being neglected by the “economic stimulus package” that is being sent to millions of Americans. They won’t receive the help that is going to U.S. citizens.

Call me a bleeding heart if you wish. I’m OK with that as it regards this issue.

The Texas Tribune reports that roughly 8.2 percent of Texas’ workforce comprises undocumented immigrants. Yes, they are here “illegally” in the strict definition of the term. They face deportation by the Trump administration.

But they pay their taxes, giving money to the U.S. Treasury. They do not break other U.S. laws. They act as de facto law-abiding citizens. Except they are being shut out of the government’s economic stimulus initiative activated by the coronavirus pandemic.

I do not believe that is fair. It is as unfair as the effort to criminalize the Dreamers who live here “illegally” because their parents brought them to this country as children. They are recipients of the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals measure enacted by President Obama, but which was revoked by Donald J. Trump. The state and nation are full of DACA recipients who have lived as model “citizens,” even as they lack the documentation that grants them citizenship, or even legal immigrant status.

And so the unfairness is now spilling onto those who deserve some economic relief in this perilous time.

Does this guy have a political future? Yeah, I think so

Crises occasionally give birth to political superstars and I am starting to see some signs of superstardom emerging among the ranks of local political figures in Texas and around the country.

The crisis of the moment is a big one: the coronavirus pandemic.

A Texas Tribune feature singles out a fellow who just might be among the superstars emerging from the wreckage that the pandemic is likely to create.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, according to the Tribune article, has been far from “timid” in his response to the pandemic. He jumped right away on calls for shelter in place, then for r. esidents of the nation’s eighth most populous county to stay at home. He has spearheaded the installation of temporary hospital rooms and issued calls to action among city officials and those who govern neighboring counties.

Jenkins even has chided other county judges — such as Chris Hill in Collin County — to step up their efforts to battle the onset of the coronavirus. The Tribune also notes that after ordering bars and restaurants closed, he egged Gov. Greg Abbott on to follow suit statewide.

So, is a star being born? Hmm. Maybe.

Jenkins is a Democrat, elected to the county judgeship in 2010. I don’t know much about Jenkins, other than what I’ve seen from my perch in Collin County, where we have lived for the past year or so.

Whether he’s able to capitalize appropriately on the leadership he is exhibiting depends on whether the judge sees a higher political office in his future. It well might be that he has advanced as far as he wants to go. Indeed, politicians often can overplay their hands if they want to take their public service venture to the next level.

Clay Jenkins has to play it carefully if he has any personal future ambition to fulfill. In the meantime, he can just keep doing what he’s doing and hope his leadership helps save lives … which by itself could write the script for this fellow’s political future.

Take it from this fellow: Texas judicial election system stinks

There can be no diplomatic, or judicious way to say this.

The system we use in Texas to elect our judges stinks to high heaven … and beyond. It is filled with the stench of rotten money.

There. Now that we’ve laid that all out, I now shall offer some evidence. It comes from a marvelous Texas Tribune article about a fellow I don’t know well, but someone about whom I have known for many years.

Salem Abraham lives in Canadian, which I call “the pretty part of the Texas Panhandle.” He earned a fortune trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He knows how to play numerical probabilities.

As the Tribune reports, Abraham knows as well as anyone in Texas that the more you donate to Texas judicial candidates the better your chances of winning a judicial verdict/settlement in their court.

Texas is one of six states that elect judges on partisan ballots. The Tribune notes, too, that many judges owe their campaign donations to “the white-shoe lawyers and law firms who appear before them.”

The Tribune also reports that every living former Texas Supreme Court chief justice has called for reforming the system. To no avail. Their pleas have fallen into the abyss of indifference to — at a bare minimum — the appearance of impropriety.

Abraham notes in the article that the more money that pours in the more likely one will get a favorable ruling from the court.

Pass the collection plate?

This is no way to adjudicate fairly, impartially and without bias.

R.I.P., Texas GOP trailblazer

I never thought of Clayton Williams as a political trailblazer.

Then comes word today that Claytie — a Midland oil and natural gas tycoon who ran for Texas governor in 1990 — has died at age 88.

I extend my condolences to Williams’ friends and family. I do want to offer a comment on his single, but futile run for public office.

He sought the governorship running against the late Texas Treasurer Ann Richards — who had rocketed to national notoriety with her stellar 1988 Democratic National Convention keynote speech in which she declared that then-GOP Vice President George H.W. Bush “can’t help it, he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.”

Richards and Williams, a Republican, faced off two years later. Williams was poised to win. Then he started committing a series of gaffes. He compared inclement weather to rape, urging Texans to “relax and enjoy it”; he refused to shake Richards’ hand at an event, a gesture that rankled many Texans who believe a gentleman shouldn’t act that way toward a woman; then he revealed he didn’t pay federal taxes when the oil industry was collapsing in the 1980s.

Richards won the governorship. She served a single term before losing in 1994 to the “silver-footed” VP’s son, George W. Bush.

The Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey makes a fascinating point, though, about Williams’ political legacy. He notes that Bill Clements was the lone Republican to win the governorship since the Civil War Reconstruction era. Williams lost in 1990, but well might have paved the way for “W” to win in 1994.

Since then, according to Ramsey, Republicans have clamped a vise grip on the governorship, as well as every statewide office.

The things you can learn …

Rest in peace, Claytie.

We desperately need to shore up faith in our electoral system

I make this statement with considerable pain in my heart.

Our nation’s electoral system is in potentially dire peril. The Russians sought to sow seeds of mistrust when they interfered in — or attacked, if you prefer that verb — our electoral process in the 2016 presidential campaign.

They have succeeded. Maybe beyond their expectations.

They hacked into Hillary Clinton’s campaign system, apparently heeding the request of Clinton’s Republican opponent, Donald Trump. The mistrust began, seemingly at that moment.

It’s gotten worse.

The Iowa caucus just this past week and the “app” glitch that fouled up the vote-counting and the delegate-apportioning process has made it all the more troublesome.

As Ross Ramsey writes in the Texas Tribune, when you trifle with our electoral process, you are messing with democracy itself. Read Ramsey’s analysis here.

One gets the sense that everyone is going to suspect hanky-panky at damn near every electoral level. Legislative races? Statewide contests? Presidential primary contest? How about the 2020 presidential election itself this coming November?

If the Russians sought to spark discontent among Americans, they can declare victory. They were able to do so during the 2016 election.

The Russians aren’t the only villains. American politicians are looking for ways to suppress voter turnout. They scheme and conspire to make voting among minority Americans more difficult. Their aim is to elect non-minority candidates to public office, thus depriving minority Americans a voice in the halls of power among those who look like the voters they represent.

Yes, democracy is under attack. As we move more deeply into this election year, I believe we need to more vigilant against enemies — foreign and, yes, domestic — who seek to undermine all Americans’ right to vote their conscience.

Do your job, Mr. Texas AG

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has sworn an oath to defend, among other things, the U.S. Constitution, which Texans still must obey under the law.

The Constitution, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, has an equal-protection clause that says all Americans are entitled to be treated equally. That means gay couples, men and women, who choose to marry some of the same gender.

So, when a justice of the peace refuses to follow the law, gets sanctioned by the Texas Commission on Judicial  Conduct, and then gets sued by the JP for allegedly violating her religious liberty, then the AG is bound by law to defend the TCJC. That’s how I read it.

Paxton ain’t doing it.

Oh, no. He is siding with the justice of the peace, Dianne Hensley, for refusing to preside over same-sex marriages, citing her religious convictions, which endorse only marriages between one man and one woman.

But wait! The SCOTUS has determined that gay marriage is legal in this country. That includes Texas, doesn’t it? Aren’t we part of the United States of America, the nation governed by a secular Constitution?

I am all in favor of religious liberty. This is just my interpretation, though, but I always have considered religious liberty to have boundaries. People are free to worship as they please, or not worship a deity. Religious liberty grants them that right. However, public officials who take an oath to follow the laws of the land have responsibilities to adhere strictly to that oath.

The JP is wrong to deny marrying individuals on the basis of their gender. The AG is wrong to refuse a legally constituted state agency that has ruled appropriately against the JP.

Just do your job, Mr. Attorney General.

Sanctuary cities for unborn? Oh, my … get ready for the fight

Three Texas communities — Big Spring, Colorado City and Rusk — have thumbed their collective noses at a legal activity that I acknowledge fully has its sworn enemies.

The cities all have created what they are calling “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn.” They have declared that abortion is illegal in their cities and I will presume women who obtain them are subject to criminal prosecution.

Abortion-rights activists are furious, as they should be. Why? Well, it’s a simple notion, truth be told. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy was legally protected under federal law. Subsequent high court rulings have upheld the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Thus, the activity remains legal. Does it produce a desirable outcome? Of course not. However, I am in no position — nor is anyone else, for that matter — to dictate to a woman how she must make such a gut-wrenching decision. That is her call in consultation with her partner, her physician … and her conscience.

The Texas Tribune reports: The American Civil Liberties Union has said it is seeking to strike them down. Three towns — Mineral Wells, Omaha and Jacksboro — have voted down similar ordinances or walked them back under advice from city attorneys.

Big Spring, Colorado City and Rusk haven’t yet made their decisions final.

I am all for local control. I dislike states telling cities and towns that they cannot, for example, install electronic devices to help police enforce traffic laws. However, the U.S. Constitution remains the law of the land and in the case of abortion, the Supreme Court already has stood behind the Constitution as the final arbiter on the inflammatory issue of whether a woman can choose to terminate a pregnancy.

Texas already has told cities they cannot create sanctuaries to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation. Yes, I am aware of the intense political differences between illegal immigration and abortion.

But the Texas cities that are seeking to create “sanctuaries for the unborn” need to prepare for a fight that they should not win.