Total Pageviews

Friday, June 28, 2013

What’s it Gonna Take Texas Democrats?

I’m tired of watching the Texas Democratic Party get steam rolled, time after time, after time. After 1994, I lost interest in Texas politics because that’s how long it’s been since a Democrat has won a state-wide election. I know it’s an upward climb because the gerrymandered districts look like a snake trail to favor white Republican candidates. I also understand elections matter because the winner gets to draw the congressional districts. Whining is not the answer, so we must follow the examples of the 2012 voters, who fought the voter suppression laws by standing in lines for hours; in defiance.

I don’t think Governor Rick Perry will run for governor this time around, so Senator Wendy Davis would probably run against Atty. General Greg Abbott, who is to the right of the governor we have now. I think she needs to paint Abbott as the right-wing extremist he is, early in the campaign. Ordinarily, Senator Davis would have a funding disadvantage but her recent notoriety gained her a check from for $240,000.Some might say that money from Moveon.Org, and Hollywood liberals will hurt her chances in Texas, but I think she can overcome that, besides, I doubt she would get votes from that crowd anyway. Texas is a red state and not a bastion for independents. The only negative is giving up that important Senate seat.

The new voter ID law will certainly hurt since 600,000 voter eligible people do not have a valid picture ID. Student IDs will not be accepted and over 80% of the 600,000 without pictured IDS are Hispanic. The rest are elderly who normally don’t have a need for a picture ID.

Texas Democrats have a problem with name recognition and a weak bench but after Wendy’s filibuster, which was seen nationally by 200,000 folks, more and more networks are asking Texas Democrats to appear on their shows. Rick Perry doesn’t realize how damaging his condescending words towards Senator Davis were. He’s the 2013 version of Clayton Williams. A Wendy Davis/Julian Castro gives the Democrats a one/two punch as governor and lieutenant governor and name recognition. They won’t take over the House and the Senate anytime soon, but it puts their foot in the front door.

Wendy certainly has a lot of ammunition that she can use because she can point to GOP controlled states where they all have overreached. She can stick with education, health care, and a living wage, as their part of her platform. She can let the Republicans talk all they want to about small businesses because most people are wage earners. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hillary Clinton made Texas one of her frequent stops. Her opponent can demonize Hillary at their own peril. When Clinton ran in the Texas Democratic primary against Barack Obama in 2008 - about 3 million voters showed up – that’s double the number who turned out in the 2012 GOP primary when Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee.

I continue to think local elections don’t have much to do with party affiliation and people at that level  will change parties depending on which way the wind blows.

Nationally, I’m very optimistic because of the make-up of today’s GOP. We have a local longtime Republican who thinks climate change is about fluctuating temperatures. No, we already know that the planet is hot and we are now discussing the rising sea levels and the more destructive storms due to the heat. We have another local poster who thinks Republican men should tell women about their health care choices. I can tell you the result of the first Republican who runs on a platform of supporting an amendment to ban gay- marriage. House Republicans representing very conservative districts will always vote against a comprehensive immigration reform bill, and the federal party will suffer the consequences. The national GOP is just now waking up to the fact that most voters are wage earners not business people. Let them keep supporting coal fired plants,banning the EPA,getting rid of the IRS and more tax cuts for rich people. The Democrats need to continue to support the ACA,background checks,students,the poor and tax reform and they will continue to win national elections. North Carolina under their new Republican governor just eliminated unemployment insurance.

It’s up to us, do we want to continue to be door mats or do we take advantage of the everyday gifts the GOP hands us? It’s in our hands but there are 1.2 million unregistered voters in Texas and at least that many who don’t vote. We have the numbers;it’s getting them to the polls where we have a huge problem.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Unruly Mob?

I thought it was a bad idea for Mayor Polasek to be addressing posters on our on-line forum. I thought that the posters would be disrespectful, but that wasn’t the case yesterday. I thought yesterday’s comments led to an informative civil discussion, and I hope it continues. I wish I could only say that for state and national politics.

I guess it depends on what side of the fence you are on, when it comes to defining a mob. Three years ago, those of us interested in passing health care,may have thought that the tea partiers were unruly mobs at their town-hall meetings and on the steps of the capital, the day health care was passed. The other day the people rooting for Senator Wendy Davis were called an unruly mob. This morning Joe Scarborough said that if pro-lifers were shouting from the capital gallery, they would be called a disorderly mob.

Governor Rick Perry allowed the recent loss of the GOP’s very restrictive abortion measure, to get the best of him. The governor made a very condescending remark about Texas Senator Wendy Davis.. Perry said “Who are we to say that children born in the worst of circumstances can’t lead successful lives?” Perry asked in a speech at a convention held by the National Right to Life organization. “Even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances. She’s the daughter of as single woman, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas Senate. It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example: that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential, and that every life matters.” The issue was much more than that and he knows it. Those remarks don’t dignify the office he holds especially since he knows that he called a special session in which he has a good chance of passing the abortion bill he wants.

This morning I heard Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst tell a Fox anchor, Bill Hemmer, in an interview, after he said "You put out a statement, I think yesterday, that said you were furious". Dewhurst responded, "Absolutely. I've always been a strong protector of women's health and the rights of the pre-born, but Bill, I'm really mad. The will of the people of Texas is not going to be thwarted by Obama-style mob tactics. We can't permit that in the state of Texas."

The strongest words I heard from a Democrat after the strike down of the enforcement mechanism of the Voting Right Act came from John Lewis. He said it stuck a dagger into the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The president said he strongly disagreed with ruling, but he did not resort to language that is beneath his office.

Senator Rand Paul told Glenn Beck that the Supreme Court Ruling for same-sex marriage opened the door to bestiality, but then he remembered about his presidential aspirations and cleaned up his statement before going on CNN where he backtracked those words.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What IRS Scandal?

It’s another day and another misinformed letter submitted to our local newspaper.

Mr. Stokes, I will question your assertion that poor conservatives were the only ones singled out for special scrutiny. We have just found the initial report by the treasury inspector general omitted the fact that the word “progressive “was also listed on the “be on the lookout for” list but a lot more conservatives applied for the tax-exempt status. You do the math.

The only reason you don’t know who directed the illegal misguided effort to bring the 501(c) (4) tax-exempt status back into compliance is because Chairman Issa started his investigation by blaming the White House. If it wasn’t for the ranking minority member Rep.Elijah  Cummings, we still would not have known the contents of the transcript of the interviews that were conducted, where the office manager in Cincinnati said that he was a conservative republican. The office manager also said that the actions of the agents were not politically motivated..

The IG report led to the congressional hearing and it was appropriate  to ask for all the e- mails and phone calls that might be relevant. Yes, Democratic senators wrote to the IRS, asking why conservative groups like those associated with Karl Rowe were granted 501 (c) (4) statuses when they were not primarily involved in social welfare. Republican should have called for liberal groups who were also in violation of the tax-exempt status to be singled out for more scrutiny. Not one single application was ever denied. I take that back, a liberal group was rightfully denied.

Almost all of the groups in question are organized under 501(c)(4) of the tax code, which regulates nonprofit groups engaged in promoting “social welfare.” At least 16 such organizations spent a million dollars or more on campaign advertising in the 2012 elections. (Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA also run “super PACs” with similar names that spent millions more.)
But because they purport to be engaged primarily in issue advocacy, not election advocacy, tax-exempt groups are not closely regulated by the Federal Election Commission. That task falls, instead, to the I.R.S., which can take years to investigate problems and is required to do so in strict secrecy. 

Some groups, like Crossroads, filed applications for I.R.S. tax-exempt status, claiming that they would be engaged primarily on research and educational activities but spending the bulk of their money on what appears to be political advertising. Others, like the American Tradition Partnership, operate for years at a stretch without filing federal tax returns, in seeming violation of the law. Many boast of their impact on political campaigns.”

If President Obama questioned the validity of the tax-exempt applications, well he was in good company and correct in doing so. If that’s your smoking gun for some kind of collusion, then why were some liberal groups targeted? Let’s go back to the original allegation where no applications were denied, so where’s the crime? So I guess it was a botched attempt to scrutinize applications from groups that probably weren’t entitled to tax-exempt status in the first place.

You said, “we know who directed the IRS campaign against perceived enemies.” I don’t know the “we” you represent but those applicants were customers not enemies. You also stated, “the president’s signature is on the purloined letter. Huh? That doesn’t even make sense.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Preclearance Struck Down

I was disappointed but not surprised that the five conservative Supreme Court judges voted to overturn the coverage formula used by the government to determine which states are required to get federal permission before they make any changes to voting laws is unconstitutional.

President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law 48 years ago but today five men in black robes  ruled that racism is no longer an issue, as far as voting rights. The 1965 Voting Rights Act "established extensive federal oversight of elections administration, providing that states with a history of discriminatory voting practices (so-called "covered jurisdictions") could not implement any change affecting voting without first obtaining the approval of the Department of Justice, a process known as preclearance."

Like I said,I was not surprised at the ruling because Judge Roberts famously said “ The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race, is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Affirmative action has been sent down to lower courts for now,but  it will soon be on the chopping block.

Texas, North Carolina, Virginia and other states with questionable voter suppression laws just got the thumbs up from the Supreme Court. Those states won’t rein in their controversial practices but instead stretch them to move those boundaries even further, daring the Fed to act.

Congress can renew the voting rights act because the court ruled that the current formula that determines which states are covered by Section 5 is unconstitutional, but it didn’t strike down Section 5, (although was hanging on by thin thread )which requires those affected states to have changes to their voting laws cleared by the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington, D.C., before they go into effect.  With today's make up of Congress, I don't think that the appetite to renew the Voter’s Right Act is there. I bet there's  a lot of fist bumping among those on the right.

The court's action might have just provided the fuel that was needed to get Democrats, liberals, progressives and young people to the polls in 2014.  When Florida and Ohio imposed their voter suppression laws in 2012, it backfired because people waited several hours on the day of election to cast their votes. It’s going to be harder but not impossible to overcome.  Remember those districts can be redrawn every ten years unless SCOTUS rules that census data can longer be used after the year 2019.

It's a "breaking news" bonanza for the media, with Snowden being on the run, SCOTUS's rulings,President’s President Obama’s climate-change  speech,  and  a 13-hour  filibuster in the Texas Senate by Senator Wendy Davis to stop the legislator from closing 80% of the abortion clinics in Texas. I thought I was going to sit back and enjoy the George Zimmerman trial but as it is, I was already using PIP,so now I will have to record some of the events to view later.

Monday, June 24, 2013

If you Have to Ask

The Question of the Day from our local newspaper was “ PRO-CON: "Should the Government Spy on Us?” I think the question was asked to stimulate a debate.

A local poster Jack Evony didn’t see it that way because he just wanted to know why the liberals weren’t complaining loud and long as they did when President Bush was using our surveillance systems. The poster hasn’t been watching Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes and others complaining just as much as they did when the Bush administration was caught misusing the domestic surveillance systems.

I’m glad the president has nominated James Comey to be the new FBI director. “A decade ago, Comey threatened to quit the Justice Department over electronic eavesdropping. The former George W. Bush administration deputy attorney general, along with Mueller, threatened to resign March 11, 2004, because of legal concerns about central aspects of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program, Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee three years later.”

Libertarians complained loudly back then, and they are doing the same under this administration.

Mr. Envony is not exactly correct when he says the Patriot Act was taken to a place where no one ever envisioned. I have to remind him that the Patriot Act did not allow our country to torture, run black sites or execute warrantless wiretapping. The Obama administration reined all those lawless tactics to comply with the FISA courts. Yes, surveillance has expanded to keep up with the technology that is now available. It is my opinion that the American public should have been more informed but that’s not to say that these programs weren’t run by several in Congress; several knew what was going on but they remained silent until now. Just last week, NSA held a meeting to explain their surveillance systems. All 100 senators were invited but only 47 of them showed up.

Where in the world did Jack get that the Boston Marathon bombing could have been prevented by using the Intel Russia gave us? The FBI did the best they could with the information they had. They had not forgotten that one of the suspects was a US citizen, and the other was a legal resident with due process rights. As I remember, the Russians provided hints about the older brother but when asked to elaborate, they didn’t respond. I think the FBI did a fantastic job of bringing the bombers to face justice in just five days.

The world has changed a lot since the Constitution was first written, but the principals remain the same. I think a lot of people realize that they have to give up a little of their freedoms for safety. I think we need to grow up and realize that other countries are spying on us, and we are doing the same to them. Occasionally, someone like Edward Snowden will get into systems where he has no business getting into and destroy the trust of our legal surveillance programs. I wonder if those who thought Snowden was a hero feel the same now that he has confessed that it was always his intention of collecting information on the NSA.

I remember when the first bailout took place, and the loud outcry from the public made the politicians vote against it. I also remember the immigration bill President Bush wanted to pass go down in flames because the right- wing jammed the White House switchboard. Citizens cannot complain and use the excuse of being powerless because if enough of you are against the surveillance powers of our government; your protest is just a phone call away.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Another Month…Another Novosad anti-Obama Letter
Mr. Allen Novosad has posted another anti-Obama letter, but it hasn’t made our on line forum yet, so I’m not able to provide a link. While we are on that subject, I could not access the digital version of the Victoria Advocate using the forum this morning. Luckily, I have the VA app on my iPad.

Mr. Novosad you have a serious case of Obama derangement syndrome. You are now blaming the voters who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 for the struggling economy and national debt. The debt has been accumulating for decades, but our country is showing signs of recovery. President Obama held his head high at the recent G7/G8 meetings because the United States and Germany were the only participants at that summit who could point to signs of recovery. We have a long way to go because even at our most positive predictions show that we won’t have unemployment at 5% until the year 2020. The Fed Chairman just hinted that he might take off the training wheels off (quantitative easing) in the fall because of the improvement he is seeing. Can you name one GOP bill that has been passed ,in the last fours years, that is responsible for the economic gains?

Mr. Novosad said Democrats and others who voted for President Obama were blinded by his blackness and rhetorical skills so much that we overlooked his lack of experience. This is coming from someone who will probably vote for someone like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or Rand Paul and was willing to elect the likes of Sarah Palin to be vice president. A man like Allen Novosad will never understand the meaning of “hello pot meet kettle.”

I have to remind Mr. Novosad, that the 2008 financial crisis happened in the fall of 2008, so the voters were unlikely to turn over the reins to the party who got us into the mess. Mr. Obama won the three presidential debates, and he won by a landslide. In fairness to John McCain, no Republican could have beaten Barrack Obama or Hillary in 2008. If Hillary  had won, you would have used the “she was elected because people wanted the first woman president.” It’s never “we lost because people do not like our policies, agenda or ideology.” You keeping thinking that you won even thou the GOP has lost the presidential popular votes in the last five of six elections.

In 2012, the economy was terrible and the Republicans had a chance to unseat the incumbent but your party chose to elect the most electable from the clown show that they had to choose from.  Your party ran a Wall Street Republican who blamed the 47% as being takers in our struggling economy. Mitt Romney promised more tax cuts for the rich and a tax plan that would cut taxes by 20% across the board, but he never said how and the rest is history. You can blame it on a hurricane,naïve voters, or anything else you want but it won’t change the results.

Republicans like Novosad always leave out the part about key members of GOP leadership (on the night of the first Obama presidential inaugural festivities,) cooking up a plan to deny the president any support. They also forget that Democrats and independents favored Obama’s plan for health care over the GOP plan during the election. Yes, the Dems went alone because they didn’t have another option. They only had 59 senators (we all know it takes 60 votes to approve anything, nowadays) because the Coleman/Franken race in Minnesota was held up in the courts for a while. The Affordable Care Act, when fully implemented, will make believers out of many skeptics but the GOP loyalists will fight it to the bitter end.

Scandals you say Mr. Novasad, but they will never meet the definition of a real scandal like invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and is the basis for the turmoil that we see in the Middle East today. The scandals Mr. Novosad mentioned are just scripts for the next Fox News show. The American people are worried about jobs not about so-called scandals that never materialize. Allen will never know that a self-admitted conservative Republican IRS office manager in Cincinnati said the screening technique used were not politically motivated. You see; Mr. Novosad will never read the actual transcripts of the investigation. Republicans are frustrated because President Obama is as pure as the driven snow when it comes to ethics. Remember, he was only a senator for two years, so Washington did not get a chance to corrupt him. You can legitimately be against his policies and ideology, but you are going to have to find the smoking gun before you can mire him in scandal.

Mr. Novosad named the usual six Obama scandals but one of them made me laugh out loud. He blamed the Obama administration for obtaining billions of phone calls and Internet information on American citizens. Hello, Allen, did you have a good five-year nap? Those policies existed under warrantless surveillance for several years before Obama became president. I read where NSA wiretapped Senator Obama in 2004.

No, Mr. Novosad, the Democratic congressmen are not the cause for the so-called danger you think our nation is experiencing, and your way of life may not be what the majority of America wants.

Congress has an all-time low 10% approval, and your party controls one body of Congress. Your party could not pass the usual bipartisan farm bill because your far-right representatives put in some poison pills. Your party wanted to cut $20 billion from the food stamp program and give those funds to millionaire farmers. No self-respected Democrat would ever do that. The 62 Republicans who voted against the bill only did so because they didn’t think that the cuts in food stamps were enough. The people you should be going after are the far-right loons in your party like Louie Gohmert, who said.” "When I look into the eyes of constituents, who want to provide for their children … and they talk about standing in line, I've heard this story so many times … standing in line at a grocery store behind people with a food-stamp car—one individual said, I love crab legs. You know, the big king crab legs. I love those. But we haven't been able to have those in who knows when. But I'm standing behind a guy who has those in his basket, and I'm looking longingly like, when can I ever make enough again where our family can have something like that, and sees the food-stamp card pulled out, and provided, he looks at the king crab legs and looks at the ground meat, and realizes because he does pay income tax, he doesn't get more back than he pays in, he is actually helping pay for the king crab legs when he can't pay for them for himself." It’s statements like these that make your party less credible because they have become commonplace. We can’t go one day without hearing a stupid comment by a Republican. It’s sad because people like Allen Novosad believe in people like Louie Gohmert because he tickles their ears. The crazies on the right dominate politics because the media loves to interview crazy people (yes,the crazy comments are only coming from the right) but it’s making the Democratic Party the default for serious governing. The Democrats will get all the blame because they are expected to govern but without a challenge, our party will become complacent.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Driverless Cars are Coming to A Dealer Near You

Driverless cars are being advertised as safety nets and not as an excuse to watch a movie on your next trip to Houston. I know that I will  never own one, but I’m sure someone in my family will eventually own one, and I’ll be more than happy to listen to their experience. The driverless cars have systems that can be overridden but why pay all the extra money if you are going to do that.

The 2014 Acura RLX is supposed to rescue careless drivers with a feature called the “lane keeping aid.” If a driver falls asleep and the car starts to drift, warnings will sound and if the driver doesn’t respond, a camera will scan the areas around the car, pick out the lane markings and guide the vehicle back to the center lane. You can own this package for a nominal price of $61,000.

No doubt driverless cars are in our future to help us park in tight areas, steer for us and even brake for us faster than our own human sensors might tell us to, which might be a good thing in Victoria since we have more than our share of people who run into buildings. I do like the idea that Volvo might install a cyclist detection on their 2014 models. I need all the help I can get from cars who refuse to give me a three-foot  separation.

On the high end, GM plans to install a Super Cruise on their Cadillacs (2020) which will allow drivers to take hands off the wheel in certain driving conditions. The 2014 Mercedes –Benz ($90,000) will have stereo cameras in 3D, so the suspension can adjust for irregularities of the road.

The new millionaires in Cuero can crank up their RLX, turn on their adaptive cruise control, which can bring the car to a full stop and start again( the vehicle can manage its own gassing in braking) and  just sit back and relax on their way to Victoria. 

It's been estimated that 6% of the new cars in North America will have some form of lane assistance, and that figure will jump to 40% in the next decade. The prices of these newly equipped cars will eventually fall as the government will make all these  innovations mandatory. I can also see auto insurance rates coming down with related discounts, as they do in Europe.

I’ve given all the positives, but I can remember Toyota recalling all those cars where the gas pedals stuck (software error) leaving the driver without a way to turn off their car going 100mph. I know my GPS has been wrong on occasion. I wonder if the systems can detect blind spots, new construction, faded or marked out lane markings?  Then there is driver awareness like the driver who allowed the system to brake the car but the car remained motionless at a green light because the driver forgot to re-engage the cruise control.

The article I read in Time magazine never mentioned passing, all it said was that the driverless cars would steer themselves into the fast lane and remain at the proper interval. I can imagine on a trip to Houston  encountering a few farmer Browns driving 45 MPH in the fast lane, and I’m probably one of the few who drives 65MPH from Beasley on to Houston.

Back in my money making days,I would have gone to dealership for a test drive and left with a brochure promising to come back but knowing I was going to shop around for the best deal.  I would have convinced myself and in time my wife (maybe) that this driverless car  would be ideal for our next vacation. I'm glad those car haggling days are over.

I can see where those cars would appeal to those who are always on the road  but I'm content with the Prius for those few out of town trips. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Another Tea Party Summer?


Congress is taking another crack at passing immigration reform, but it’s 2007 all over again. It doesn’t matter how it’s packaged or how much data there is that proves that it’s to our economic benefit to pass a comprehensive immigration bill because the right wing of the GOP considers anything less than 100% attrition as amnesty. The right-wing does not want to address the 11 million undocumented people residing in our country other than to say “citizenship …never” and “let’s just secure the border.” There is language in the bill that calls for 90% of the southern border crossing being secured but there are people here  illegally from countries other than Mexico.

It’s pretty funny watching Senator Rubio trying to satisfy both sides of the issue while trying to maintain his credibility. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee thinks that he has found the answer. He upped the ransom that he will pay to get a few more Republican votes. His amendment will now include 700 miles of additional fencing, and he doubles the amount of the border patrol from 21,000 to 42,000. Remember we’re still in sequester mode but now he wants to hire more federal workers and spend millions more to extend the fence, even though the illegal border crossings are at net zero. All these sweeteners are just to pass a bill in the senate which doesn’t stand a chance in the other body unless Speaker Boehner relies on 100%  yes votes from the Democrats once again.

The Democrats are signing on to just about everything that appeases Republicans because they think they will outsmart their opponents in the long run. Even Michelle Bachmann understands the Democrats’ strategy. If the Senate passes a bipartisan comprehensive bill that has 70 votes in the affirmative, it will put the speaker on even more shaky grounds than he is in now. If by some miracle, the GOP controlled house passes their version of an immigration bill, it then has to go before a committee, so both versions can be merged. Will speaker Boehner stick with the Tea Party and destroy any chance of the GOP ever winning a national election or will he go to Nancy Pelosi ( hat in hand) and ask her for all the Democrats votes when he can only produce 20 or so? John Boehner can kiss his speakership good-bye if he does the latter.

The Republican base’s pep rally issues are front and center awaiting the 2014 mid-term elections. Yesterday, the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Louie Gohmert, Steve King, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Michelle Bachmann held an all day rally on the White House lawn. I will never understand why people who have so much distain for government, run for office. Their complaints ranged from Benghazi, abortion, the IRS, Obamacare, illegal immigration reform, President Obama and government in general. Ted Cruz called for abolishing the IRS; Rand called for the same, but he also said that he would never send foreign aid to countries that persecuted Christians. Rand Paul is testing the presidential waters for his eventual 2016 run. The crowd images I saw I saw had about as many anti-Rubio signs and there were anti-Obama signs. The call was for small government for the safety net and more government for abortion, NSA and border enforcement. The Libertarian Republicans still have to convince their non- libertarian members that they have to be scared of big brother snooping. It shouldn’t be that hard, they’ll try to use the IRS and Obamacare as examples of big brother can’t be trusted to do anything right.

We are seeing record abortions bills passed in GOP controlled states and in the House of Representatives, but it’s not because there is an increasing amount of abortions, it is for political reasons. The states that are passing the unconstitutional bills don’t care about the costs; both politically and monetary because they want this issue front and center. The Pro-lifers want a Supreme Court challenge where they think having five conservative judges gives them an excellent chance of overturning Roe v Wade. In the meantime, GOP lawmakers are the beneficiaries of the Pro-lifers money and votes.

I’m finally at the point where it’s pretty obvious where the lines are drawn on the gun, Obamacare and immigration issue. The pro- gun people watch the evening news, read their paper and listen to their radio and come to the right conclusion that our country is getting more violent. They don’t trust law enforcement to be at the precise time and place to protect them. They want as much firepower and ammunition as they think is necessary to protect themselves in any situation.

A lot of people don’t have the slightest idea of what it takes to insure 31million more people, because they never spent the time and effort it takes to learn how the Affordable Care Act will affect them. Those who have company paid insurance or those on Medicare and VA will not see much difference. A lot of people fear that the government will take away benefits that their company gives them and redistribute them to the uninsured. There will never be convinced that we pay for the overuse of the emergency rooms with increase premiums rates. I could go on and on but that’s for another blog.

The immigration bill opposition is pretty easy to understand . We live in south Texas, so a lot of people here think that it’s a Mexican issue. If that’s a case, then it’s about food stamps, welfare, more crime and the overburdened of our hospitals and schools. Those people will tune you out if you present facts that contradict what they already presume to know. Citizenship, hell no; that just legally puts them on the public dole. Some people still believe Americans will pick those crops, and they can say they will pay higher prices to make it happen because they know they never will. The more browning of America is the underlying issue. If you need more proof, you won’t have to look no further than our redistricting maps. I have yet to hear a reasonable answer as what to do with the 11 million people who either came to this country illegally or overstayed their visas.

I believe that you have to be blunt because sugarcoating an issue just prolongs the solution. There’s a lot to “tell me what you really think.” Think about it; that’s why we have all the back and forth about a legal document being translated into Spanish.

Am I the only who is curious about the tease of two homes being raided yesterday? I didn’t see a follow up on the evening news or in my morning newspaper.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Every One is Out of Step but Willy

blameless cartoons, blameless cartoon, blameless picture, blameless pictures, blameless image, blameless images, blameless illustration, blameless illustrations

I agree with Don Jay Andres’s first and last sentences of his recent letter to the editor, but the body of the letter shows a total lack of understanding of the issue, in my opinion.

Yes, people need to stop nitpicking the race issue to death and facing the offender in person might be best. There are exceptions to the latter because the media and government are great equalizers, when the offended cannot not get satisfaction using normal channels..

Mr. Andres stopped making great points when he injected what he considered racism. It was a classic “don’t be crying racism…racists.” He went on to name the same-old things that he considered racist, like a separate beauty pageant and organizations as if a separate but equal things are not part of our normal day. In the House of Representatives ,we have a Tea Party, Hispanic and Black caucuses who break down the issues to suit their constituents. This has always been the case but those groups I mentioned have put a label on it.

You can get started on the reasons the voter results had to be translated into a Spanish document without it being racists. In other states, documents are translated into Vietnamese, Chinese or to the satisfaction of other groups who have been discriminated against in the past.   Texas election law has required bilingual election materials and bilingual clerks since 1975 because of their past efforts to suppress minority voters. They continue to be one of the five states who need permission from the Federal government to draw redistricting maps and other measures. The Supreme Court will rule on voting rights issues, perhaps as early as this week. I don’t think SCOTUS will satisfy everyone with their decision.

Mr. Andres called out the individuals who initially yelled “racism” but didn’t call out the editorial board  when they raised the same question? The letter writer expressed his views on what he thought to be racism (which I thought was nitpicking), and then he went public with his letter instead of confronting the people who offended him. It’s another one of those “everyone’s out of step but Willy” statements.

Monday, June 17, 2013

It was Just supposed to be a routine election

I’ve been noticing that it’s hard to find good people to run for national office anymore because it takes a lot of money, and the likelihood of getting anything done is darn near impossible. I don’t know whether it starts at the local level or vice versa.

Our mayor ran for reelection and then withdrew after coming in second in the voting which called for a runoff. Right away, the mayor’s opponents smelled a conspiracy, and they posted their feeling on our online forum and on local Facebook pages. I certainly don’t know the reason for Mayor’s Armstrong’s withdrawal, but if I was the incumbent, after serving three terms as mayor and I was getting along in age. I would give withdrawal a serious thought after coming in second place. It’s all about that “fire in the belly.”

I’m not a lawyer, election official or one who’s the least bit interested in local politics but I do like a “whodunit story.”

In what should have been a routine canvassing of the votes and the swearing-in of the new mayor turned in an illegal vote for a forced runoff. It was withdrawn after the third-place candidate refused to participate.

It must’ve looked like a coordinated effort by David Hagen, Emmett Alvarez Josephine Soliz and Joe Truman to the Victoria Advocate because they admonished them for their illegal action in an editorial. However, that was not enough for the newspaper because they thought that the public should know more, causing them to file two open records requests. They asked for the city-owned iPads, emails, other devices and phone records of all council members from May 13 to midnight May 14 to be turned over.

I’m not sure of the official status of compliance of each council member, but I believe three members are not completely complying. This prompted the Victoria Advocate to file a letter of complaint with the Victoria County, criminal district attorney against the city council and a duplicate complaint with the Texas attorney general. That’s enough for any reasonable person to take these charges seriously.
I can’t imagine what’s going through the minds of those going through the investigation and how it’s affecting their family life and business. If the four are exonerated, then I think the paper should put the same amount of effort in printing that portion of the story.

I know that most people think that “pleading the fifth” or taking your time to explore all of your options before turning in a personal correspondence is an act of guilt, but nothing could be further from the truth. I wouldn’t turn over my personal emails or phone calls unless my attorney could get the assurances that it was an absolute must and that the scope of the search would be limited to the details of the investigation. Then there are the moments of arrogance we might experience from time to time. For example, I’m an old dude who doesn’t have the energy to pull off a robbery, so if I was pulled over and asked to pop open my trunk, I just might tell the officer(s) “sure, after I see your warrant.”

From what I’ve seen, some people are using this situation to exploit their agenda. I’ve seen the talk of racism come to the surface and that same old “I pay your salary, so I own you” mentality. Others have conceded that the four might be guilty, so they want to bring up past “open meeting” violations that have been ignored as some sort of restitution. Then there are those who think that the Victoria Advocate is being selective in their outrage. That’s why I think that we need a quick resolution before the insane take over the asylum.

There’s no doubt that the media and politicians are at an all- time low in popularity but that’s why we need to stick to facts and do less assuming. Newspapers (freedom of the press) are known as the fourth estate because it’s supposed to bring about the transparency we want from government. Politicians are our elected representatives who give us our voice in government. This incident can start to restore our faith in those entities (at the local level) if we let the facts take us to the eventual outcome.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Year of the Libertarian

The political shows that I watch are getting a bit muddled because the liberals' hosts are hearing voices from their libertarian side of the brain. Last night, MSNBC's Chris Hayes spent about 5 minutes explaining why he's agreeing with Representative Louis Gohmert on the NSA issue. He sounded like he was apologizing to his audience. There never has been a right or wrong stance on this issue because it's about a person's tolerance and understanding on where that imaginary line is between security and privacy.

All these discussions take me back 30 years, to a time when I used to go toe- to- toe with libertarians with whom I used to work with. They were all likeable, intelligent human beings who hated government and taxes in general, and they thought that the only role government had was to provide defense. They were literalists in their interpretation of the Constitution, and they all carried that document wherever they went. I put it to the test one day when we were attending the funeral of a fellow coworker. I jokingly asked the friend if he had a copy of the constitution and to my surprise, he said, “As a matter of fact, I do.” Libertarians don’t waver a bit when it comes to defending their ideology.

It was the 1980s, so most of our discussions were about the staggering economy and how they thought that the Fed and government were responsible. I was using quotes from economists, and they were using the theories of Ayn Rand. I soon realized that you can't argue against theories that have not been tried in any country. My adversaries believed in the school of Austrian economics, which don’t rely on economic mathematical models; just theories about human behavior. They used to like to tell me that the markets will self- correct, oh if only I could run into them today; I would ask them “how did that self -correction in the 2008 financial crisis workout for you?” Ron Paul said we should have let Wall Street fall, but that’s easy to say from the position of a congressman who didn’t have to face the American people or other world leaders.

One day our company emailed us to remind us that we all had to make arrangements to attend an offsite seminar about respect in the workplace. When my friend read his e-mail, he got up from his chair, and went straight into the boss’s office to complain. He said it was offensive to be told something that should come naturally. That's true, but like everything else my friend didn’t wait to get all the facts. Management might have been fulfilling their minimum requirements in ensuring a safe workplace.

I remember one segment where the issue was about race. My Libertarian friends were not racists but they were certainly ideologues. Straight out of a Ron Paul newsletter, one of the libertarians said that he agreed with Barry Goldwater’s vote against the Civil Rights Act because it trampled on property rights. This immediately alarmed the lecturer and caused a stir in our small group but he was allowed to make his point. He said while he was against segregation, he didn’t think that the government should be able to tell a property owner what to do. I was more than ready to make my rebuttal. I can’t remember the exact words but I went around the room and pointed to a new female employee, a Hispanic one, and a black employee and said “Do you honestly think that we would all be here together today if not for a nudge by the government?”

I think this is the year of the Libertarian because it’s safe to assume that the Tea Party is coming home to their roots. Rand Paul is now the de-facto leader of the Tea Party because unlike his father, he has won a state-wide election. It shouldn’t be hard for Senator Rand Paul to tie in all the so-called government scandals into a message that government is too big and cannot be trusted. That’s easy pickings for his constituents, but if he goes too far out there (as he is usually inclined to do) he will lose the independents. He will be given ample opportunity to spread his message but will he be able to sell it? I have to admit he did a good job with his filibuster of our drone policy, but we’ll see how he does with the NSA policy. The ball is his court, but as I see it, he will miss the three pointer, when the more makeable layup was available.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Between You, Me and the Fence Post

I used to work with an old timer who always shied away from controversial subjects, but that didn't mean that he didn't have an opinion. He would always call one of us to an isolated corner and say, “between you, me and the fence post” and then he would go on and state his views. I thought about the old timer when the NSA surveillance controversy came up. I believe a lot of people are withholding their opinion until all the facts surface. I also believe the people don't expect and sometimes, don't want the NSA to divulge all their secrets. Threading that line is difficult at best.

The NSA surveillance issue is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for libertarians, some liberals and the ACLU. There's no doubt that there are some things we can do to ease the fears of those who think that the methods used by NSA are unconstitutional. As it stands, by 56 to 62% are in favor of trading some privacy for security. The fact that there's no opposition to a warrant because the FISA court has been reluctant to turn down any request, is a big problem. I never liked the idea of allowing the government to wiretap first and then ask for a search warrant within a 72-hour period. You can under no circumstances convince me that issuing a million top secret clearances will make us safer; that just creates more people like Edward Snowden. The idea that 1/3 of the top-secret clearances are issued to private contractors terrifies me. The bow tie wearing bureaucratic nerd, who stays in on Saturday night, is the one I want to guard our secrets. I want career spooks who know that what they are doing is vital to our national security. A career employee who becomes a whistle blower has a lot more credibility than a naïve contract mired in ideology does.

The NSA has a $13 billion budget; however, the agency does not have systems in place that prevented a three-month employee from stealing secret documents, including an active court order. I'm still not sure why the government allows the Guardian and the Washington Post to keep those documents. What's to keep those documents from falling into our enemy's hands? If you want to understand how powerful and influential, these spying programs are, check out today's article about the program at Wired. com.

Last night, Lawrence O'Donnell interviewed a friend of Edward Snowden, named Mavanee Anderson. She said that Mr. Snowden obtained his top-secret clearance because he was an IT genius. Ms. Anderson said that Snowden was deeply disturbed at what he saw as a CIA IT analyst. Edward Snowden had to be a pretty naïve individual because before his CIA stint, he joined the army to liberate the Iraqis. You can bet from the first day of boot camp, he was told that he was going to learn how to kill Arabs. Boot camp has been and will always be a reprogramming technique that turns civilians into lean, mean, fighting machines and indoctrinates those individuals into a system of blind obeisance. That's just between you, me and the fence post.

This issue is not about politics or President Obama, but it is about future presidents and the power they will have. Congress and the will of the people are the only ones who can approve or disapprove of the methods used by NSA. The ACLU cans argue the constitutionality of the programs in place, but we can't expect the government to support their claims that these programs make us safer because of the secrecy involved. The government depends on citizens to trust outfits like Facebook, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo and Google because they are the catalysts that allow their systems to work. We have already given up a lot of our privacy, and it would be naïve to think that someone wouldn't have use for the data. Maybe the government could warn us that the expectation of privacy vanishes once you enter the cyberspace. Perhaps software companies can embed a warning similar to the ones what’re on cigarette packages. How many of you actually read your End User Subscription Agreement (EUSA) when you download software?

The problem is that the government surveillance programs are too big, and they will keep getting bigger as technology grows, and we don't have enough qualified, dedicated employees it takes to keep the system running smoothly.

Unfortunately, the noise made by some Libertarians such as Ron and Rand Paul prevent us from having an important debate. Ron Paul said that it wouldn't surprise him if our country killed Edward Snowden with an armed drone. Rand Paul said that the government could embed a GPS signal into our watches to alert them when a citizen went to a gun show. Those statements are just to elicit campaign funds because they sure don't do anything to enhance the dialogue that we should be having. Some liberal legislators are complaining because they felt that they were not told how intrusive some of these programs are. Like I said, the programs have been around for ages, and if it was not for Edward Snowden, a lot of legislators would not be asking the questions that they are today. The government should not take the American people for granted and should look for ways to be more transparent without jeopardizing their effectiveness.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Rest in Peace John

It was sad to learn that my mentor died, he was four years older than me. I had a stepfather and a stepbrother, but it was John, who taught me ropes and guided me through those stretches where I needed a guiding hand.  He lived right across the street, so it wasn't like I had to go far to seek his advice.  I was 17, and he was 21 and had just got out of the Air Force.

It was John who helped me learn how to drive because I just wasn't getting it when my stepfather was yelling into my ear.  He wasn't Mr. Goody Two Shoes because he also bought me my first beer.  He also filled me in on the stuff that I would never ask my parents.

I remember attending a dance at the Club Westerner with three of my friends who lived close by. I remember my sister dropping us with the understanding that we would find a ride home. It was getting late, so after failing to secure a ride, we decided that we had to walk home; not knowing what was in store for us. We all lived around the area of Shields Elementary, Dairy Treet and Dick's, which is about 3.5 miles from the Club Westerner on West Constitution. We made it to where PJ's Seafood stands today, when a police car pulled alongside of us and told us to get into the car. My not so bright friend thought they were giving us a ride home. For some strange reason, the cops didn't ask us our names, destination, or whereabouts; it was just a fast journey back to the Club Westerner. They pulled up to the front door and told to go inside where we greeted by more police officers who motioned us to where they were. On the floor was a guy who had been stabbed multiple times and was awaiting an ambulance. The guy was asked if we were the ones who stabbed him, and he said no. We were told  to go home, but we all looked at one another as if to say, “that's what we were doing.” None of us wanted to call our parents because even though we were completely innocent; we grew up in  households where you were presumed to be guilty until you were proven innocent beyond a shadow of a doubt. The owner of the club allowed me to call John, who got out of his bed to pick us up.  My parents went to their grave not knowing the events of that night. That is a secret John took to his grave.

My stepfather was a WWII veteran, so his only advice to me when I enlisted was “keep your nose clean, do as they tell you and grow up.” It was John who told me want to expect and to keep telling myself “it's only eight weeks of basic training, and they can't kill you.” It was John's inspiration that kept me going when a drill Sergeant was cussing me out for stepping on his grass.

When I got out of the service; John's wife and children remained good friends for about five years, and then we drifted apart for no apparent reason. Every time we did meet, we reminisced about the old days and my clumsiness, but I never got around to thank him. You can bet when I go to pay my respect; that'll be the first thing that I will do. Good-bye old friend/mentor.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Choose Your Battle

I know my excuse.I have too much time on my hands, but it seems like everyday we have to pick a side to support. For example, the racist theme being discussed on our on-line forum, overshadows the real issue of a possible “Open Meetings “violation. Another is the current NSA issue. Do I want the government snooping into my life or am I OK with what they are doing?

I think Bob Nance’s letter took it to another level by clouding the so-called racist issue with irrelevant information about history and his martial status. On the other side, who died and left Clara Ramos the decider of a true Hispanic. City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz could put a quick end to the nonsense by doing the routine “ I’m sorry if I offended anyone because that was not my intention”and then allow the mayor to bring another council meeting to order. For those who are offended because the election results have to be translated into Spanish, need to take their complaints to the election board. All the stupid remarks are intensifying the discussion. This discussion has gone on far too long.

It is my opinion that racism cannot easily be defined because it boils down to the level of intolerance. Some people carry around a chip on their shoulder.Others are insensitive and then there are those who consider the source. I am the latter because I’ve made some pretty crude statements myself, not in the public venue but crude nevertheless. I believe we all know obvious racism, and I’m willing to admit that I have laughed and told a  few racist jokes, and that includes a lot of ethnicities. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being the least offensive) Gwosdz’s comment barely makes the scale at 1 and that’s only because three people were offended.

After digesting the NSA issue, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m somewhere in the middle at being not totally agreeing with Ron Paul or Diane Feinstein. I’ve come to realize that I am revolving on this issue because the world I live in has eroded my privacy concerns. I’m used to Google having all my digital information.Anyone can go down to the county courthouse and see if I owe back property taxes, and my doctor’s nurse has my Social Security number and can peek at all my medical information. I would be lying if I said that I am concerned that the government collects my phone transactions along with 3 billion other customers. However, I still think that Congress ought to rewrite the Patriot Act to reflect the post 9/11 world we live in. I do have a concern that 5 million people have a security clearance.1.4 million have a top-secret one and 1/3 of them are private contractors. The USA Today’s May 11,2006 issue reveled the abuses some analysts took in listening in to the troop’s conservation with their wives while  they were stationed in Iraq.

Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor? I don’t think he’s either because he didn’t have to take the steps he took. Sure,I’ve heard of cases where whistleblowers were not given a fair hearing after coming forward but that option is still there. He could have taken his complaint to Senator Rand Paul. He knew what he was doing was illegal but I don’t think what he divulged  endangered our security. The only service Snowden provided was that he showed how easily a contract employee could get his hands on sensitive material and post it on line with being detected.NSA better get their act together.Oh,he is not a whistleblower either because he reported on systems that are legal.

If one wanted to,they could could avoid the NSA surveillance by encrypting everything; in fact that’s how Snowden and Greenwald communicated. The New Yorker magazine is installing software that will allow whistleblowers to encrypt their message and hide their identities at the same time. This is going to become an ongoing battle.

After a while, you can be dubbed an angry old man letting off some steam, a conspiracy buff, or the “boy who cried wolf” if that’s all you ever do, so it’s wise to choose your battles.