Tag Archives: Texas Tribune

A deal on guns … finally

Let me be clear: The deal in principle by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators doesn’t go nearly far enough to curb gun violence.

But … it is a baby-step start.

The Texas Tribune reports on the deal announced today: The tentative deal includes a mix of modest gun control proposals and funding for mental health. It would incentivize states to pass “red flag” laws, which are designed to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others; boost funding for mental health services, telehealth resources and more school security; permit juvenile records to be incorporated into background checks for purchasers under the age of 21 and crack down on the straw purchase and trafficking of guns.

Deal on post-Uvalde shooting gun legislation reached in Senate | The Texas Tribune

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the senior Texas Republican, is part of the senatorial team that hammered out the deal.

My own preference would have been to ban assault rifles, raise the minimum age requirements for purchasing firearms from 18 to 21 years of age and launch comprehensive universal background checks for every purchase.

That won’t come forward. House of Representatives Democrats want more. They’re likely to resist what the Senate is pitching.

I am not going to dig in just yet against this plan, which is good remember is just a deal in principle.

However, it is more than we got after Sandy Hook, after Columbine, after Las Vegas, after Sutherland Hills, Aurora, El Paso or Parkland.

Uvalde and Buffalo proved to be the catalyst to provide something.

It is far from ideal. However, I am going to accept it as possibly the beginning of a march toward more meaningful reform to end the gun violence that is killing too many innocent Americans.


Character no longer matters

This much is abundantly clear about today’s Republican Party: Character no longer matters, that party fanatics do not care whether the individuals who hold public office might be criminals, or that they are serial philanderers and admitted sexual assailants.

A Texas Tribune story published this week talks, for instance, about how Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is well-positioned to defeat challenger George P. Bush in next week’s GOP runoff for the attorney general’s office.

Why is that a big deal? Because Paxton has been under criminal indictment almost his entire time in office. Paxton has shamelessly challenged President Biden’s election in 2020. The FBI is investigating complaints filed by several top Paxton legal assistants, who allege criminal activity within the office.

Hey, no problem! The GOP is set to renominate Paxton for yet another term.

It’s all part of the pattern followed by the GOP cultists in this Donald Trump Era. Conservatives used to get their underwear tied into knots when liberal politicians got caught misbehaving.

Why Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s backers are unfazed by his scandals | The Texas Tribune

Character mattered to them in the days of Bill Clinton. Do you recall those days? I damn sure do. These days, one of their own pols — Donald J. Trump — actually boasted that he could “shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes.” The line drew laughter and gasps when he said it. It’s not so preposterous these days.

This is a large part of what troubles me about the demise of a once-great political party. It no longer stands for character. The only aim of GOP pols ought to be their ability to stick it to their liberal foes.

Ken Paxton has done so in Texas and he likely will win the GOP runoff next week, to the ever-lasting shame of the GOP faithful.

As for Trump … aww, hell! I have nothing to say about the former Sexual Assailant in Chief.


Loony bin wing strikes back

The loony bin wing of the Republican Party comprises two Texas congressmen who were among just nine House members to vote against legislation that aims to fast-track baby formula which — you likely have heard — is in critically short supply.

Reps. Louie Gohmert of Tyler and Chip Roy of Austin voted “no” on a bill that seeks to grant women on federal assistance greater access to the formula.

Texas is among the worst-hit states in this current crisis. President Biden has just invoked the Defense Production Act to facilitate delivery of the formula to families with infants.

The Texas Tribune was unable to obtain a comment from Gohmert. Roy delivered a message. The Tribune reported: “The only way to get more formula to American families is to fix the crony policies that prevent more U.S. companies from producing it, remove barriers to innovation, and allow imports from trusted nations; the legislation Democrats put forward does none of that,” he said. Calling the Biden administration “demonstrably incompetent,” he called the shortage “the direct result of unnecessary federal regulations and of a bloated bureaucracy that failed to recognize the problem before it spiraled out of control.”

Two Texas Republicans vote no on bill to help poor mothers get formula | The Texas Tribune

Well, Congress was able to act in that rare bipartisan fashion to approve the legislation, no thanks to the stubbornness of two Texas Republicans.

Shame on them.


Condemned woman might get a new trial

It surely isn’t every day that someone convicted of a capital crime wins bipartisan support in her quest for a possible new trial to see if the individual is truly guilty of the crime for which the state has leveled a charge.

Melissa Lucio is that rare case.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals today blocked her scheduled execution in a move that has drawn widespread praise across the vast political landscape. Republicans and Democrats alike are hailing the CCA’s decision, given that the state’s highest criminal appellate court isn’t known as being “defendant-friendly” in its handling of these matters.

What’s more, one of the legislators most adamantly in Lucio’s corner happens to be a Republican from Plano, state Rep. Jeff Leach, who next year will become my state representative in the Texas Legislature. OK, that last part doesn’t mean a damn thing, other than my recognition of Leach’s possible impact on my life.

Leach told Lucio the court had granted her the stay, prompting her to cry out and, yes, to cry.

Why the stay?

A court convicted Lucio in 2008 of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah Alvarez, who had fallen down some stairs. The little girl went to sleep a couple of days later and never awoke.

Lucio’s trial reportedly was fraught with vague testimony from key witnesses. The defense team reportedly was denied access to information acquired by state prosecutors. Lucio, of course, denied harming her daughter.

The defendant has drawn support on both sides of the political aisle, an event I find to be remarkable, given the great divide that exists in this state, with liberals seen as “soft” on crime and conservatives seen as those who want to “throw the book” and everything else at criminal defendants.

Melissa Lucio’s execution halted by Texas Court of Criminal Appeals | The Texas Tribune

And so, does Lucio deserve a new trial? It looks as though there well could be enough doubt cast on her conviction to warrant a judicial do-over.

I mean, if the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals — inhabited entirely by Republican judges — thinks there is merit to those questions, then by all means let’s try this case again … and do it right!



Rioters sought to ‘protect’ Rep. Jackson? Well …

What in the name of insurrection do we make of this news? It turns out that the Oath Keepers, the right-wing radicals who took part in the 1/6 insurrection, sought to shield a Texas congressman from harm.

Why? Because he was on their side in the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. He voted in favor of efforts to resist certifying Joe Biden’s election as president.

The congressman in question is Ronny Jackson, an Amarillo Republican who represents the congressional district I called home for 23 years.

There’s a bit to unpack here. I’ll give it a shot.

Jackson has been adamant in contending the 2020 election was “stolen” from The Donald, who he once treated as White House physician; Jackson also served as WH doc for President Obama.

Jackson’s office said he doesn’t know anyone in the Oath Keepers group. The Texas Tribune reports:

C’mon! This isn’t a “liberal media” conspiracy! It presents a host of questions that need a congressman’s full disclosure about who or what he knows and when does he know who or what.

Here’s a bit more from the Tribune: The Oath Keepers claim to represent tens of thousands of present and former law enforcement officials and military veterans under the pretense of defending the U.S. Constitution. The group is, in effect, one of the largest far-right, anti-government groups that peddles in baseless conspiracy theories.

Oath Keepers involved in Jan. 6 wanted to protect U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson | The Texas Tribune

Does a member of Congress — such as Ronny Jackson — want to be affiliated with a group of radicals such as the Oath Keepers? This individual, Jackson, has said that those who rioted and “broke windows” on the Capitol Building must be “held accountable.” That’s not enough.

He needs to condemn the Oath Keepers in language everyone understands. My hunch is that such a condemnation won’t come from Ronny Jackson’s mouth.


Abbott vs. O’Rourke: gonna get nasty

Listen up, my fellow Texans. It is looking as though this year’s campaign for governor is going to get nasty. Maybe even way beyond nasty.

Democratic nominee Beto O’Rourke has leveled both rhetorical barrels as his Republican foe, Greg Abbott. I do for a moment believe Gov. Abbott is going to sit by passively while O’Rourke calls Abbott a “thug.”

Get a load of what the Texas Tribune has reported:

O’Rourke replied, “He’s a thug, he’s an authoritarian.

Beto O’Rourke calls Gov. Greg Abbott a “thug” and an “authoritarian” | The Texas Tribune

Oh … feel the burn, OK?

Don’t get me wrong here. I want O’Rourke to defeat Abbott, who I believe has become a disciple of the Kooky Cabal of the GOP. Abbott has shown zero inclination to pull his own punches regarding O’Rourke, accusing Beto of wanting to disarm Texans by taking their guns away, which is a lie; he accuses O’Rourke of favoring “open borders,” which is false on its face.

O’Rourke’s thug description carries some remarkable imagery, to be sure.

Still, the fight for the Texas governor’s office is on. It’s going to get loud and likely quite angry in extremely short order.

We’d all better strap ourselves in tight and get ready for a rough ride to the political finish line.


It ain’t child abuse

Greg Abbott never struck me in the years I covered him while working in daily journalism as a man with a mean streak; that was before he became Texas governor and now his meanness is on display.

Abbott wants to prosecute parents of transgender children for child abuse. Why? Because they want their children to undergo what is called “gender-affirming care.” He has the endorsement of the state’s indicted attorney general, Ken Paxton, who is another piece of … work.

What is gender-affirming care? The Texas Tribune reported:

Areana Quiñones, executive director for the Texas nonprofit organization Doctors For Change, defined gender-affirming care as judgment-free, individualized care oriented toward understanding and appreciating a person’s gender. Providers often work with counselors and family members to ensure they have everything they need to navigate the health care system.

Under the gender-affirming model of care, more time is spent allowing kids to socially transition instead of focusing on medical treatment. A social transition consists of the steps a child takes to affirm their identity. An example could include allowing a child assigned male at birth to grow their hair or use a different name and wear clothing that better fits their identity.

Is that the stuff of child abuse? I think not.


What’s happening is that Gov. Abbott, who just breezed to the Republican nomination for a third term as governor after being challenged from the right wing of his party, is trying to assuage concerns among the nut jobs in his party that he isn’t conservative enough. Yeah … he is.

This ridiculous attack on children who express legitimate concerns about their sexuality suggests a level of radical conservative thought that shouldn’t have a place in setting state policy.

Child abuse is clearly defined as physical or emotional damage inflicted on children. How gender-affirming care — as stated earlier in this blog post — falls into that category simply boggles my noodle.


Texas turnout: a stinker

Here is how the Texas Tribune led a story about the voter turnout in this week’s midterm primary election: Around 17% of registered voters in Texas cast a ballot in the 2022 primary, according to preliminary turnout data from the secretary of state. 

The Tribune noted also that the turnout this year was greater than the six previous midterm elections. However, I now will throw a huge dose of cold water on it.

The “registered voters” barometer is a ruse. When you factor in the number of Texans who are “eligible” to vote, but who don’t even bother to register, then the turnout nosedives into the crapper.

This is a shameful exhibition of apathy that spells potential disaster for the state of governance in Texas.

Texas, tragically, is among the lowest-turnout states in the entire U.S. of A. Seventeen percent of registered voters sought fit to cast their ballots, either early or on Election Day, to choose who their party’s nominees would be for a host of important public offices.

That is fewer than one in five Texans. The percentage plunges even more when you measure the turnout of eligible voters.

So very sad.


Patrick goes to war … against higher ed

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, no shrinking violet to be sure, has decided the latest “enemy” of the public are the educators who lecture our students attending public universities.

Patrick wants to restructure the tenure status granted to professors, making tenure subject to annual review rather than every six years. He wants public college and universities to stop teaching “nutty” notions. He said, according to the Texas Tribune: “I will not stand by and let looney Marxist UT professors poison the minds of young students with Critical Race Theory,” Patrick wrote on Twitter. “We banned it in publicly funded K-12 and we will ban it in publicly funded higher ed … “

Let’s hold on a minute, shall we?


I have been critical of universities that ban conservatives from speaking at, say, convocations or commencement ceremonies. Our institutions of higher learning are supposed to be open to all ideas, to all principles, all perspectives, all world views. Why not, then, let students decide which of them they embrace? Why not expose these young people — and, frankly, some students who aren’t so young — to all ideas?

Patrick favors only those ideas that comport with his own rigid conservative view of the world.

He targets “critical race theory” because, according to Patrick, it promotes a hatred of the country. Why? Because professors would dare to tell students about the nation’s original sin, the enslavement of African Americans. Uh, Dan? It happened, man! Telling our students of that sad chapter in our history is no “looney Marxist” theory.

As for the frontal assault on tenure, Patrick needs to stop politicizing a policy that grants academic freedom in a place where it should be honored, not vilified for political gain.


Tenure war in Texas?

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has found a topic on which he wants to run for re-election. He wants to demonize college professors who dare teach their students about elements of U.S. history that include slavery and racist efforts to subjugate American citizens on the basis of their skin color.

He vows to eliminate tenure for those professors who teach what is called “critical race theory.” His first target will be new hires at Texas public colleges and universities. He also threatens to broaden his fight to include tenured professors; he might seek to strip them of their tenure status.

All of this hysteria makes me shake my noggin.

The Texas Tribune reports:

Conservatives over the past year have used “critical race theory” as a broad label to attack progressive teachings and books in college and K-12 schools that address race and gender.

Tenure is an indefinite appointment for university faculty that can only be terminated under extraordinary circumstances. Academics said Friday that tenure is intended to protect faculty and academic freedom from exactly the kind of politicization being waged by Patrick.


CRT is a red herring. Pure and simple. I find nothing wrong with teaching students about the aspects of our history that include the inhumane treatment our government leveled against Americans only because they were black, or brown, or anyone who isn’t white.

Yet such curricula have been labeled by conservatives — such as Dan Patrick — as being “anti-American,” or that it teaches young students to “hate America.”

Good grief! It doesn’t do anything of the sort.

Patrick, thus, has become the latest demagogue to seek to make political hay out of a legitimate field of academic study.