Month: <span>October 2014</span>

Wendy, Leticia attract educators; Abbott aims lower


You can tell a lot about political candidates by the people who are attracted to them. Some candidates attract the cream of the crop, while others appeal more to the dregs at the bottom of the barrel.

Educators, some of the most respected people in Texas, have been eager throughout this long campaign season to meet and have their photos taken with Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte. The two legitimate pro-education candidates have welcomed the support educators have given their campaigns.

Greg Abbott, meanwhile, has gotten more attention for attracting the dregs to his campaign events. Early on, you may recall, he campaigned with the disgraced rocker Ted Nugent, best known these days for shilling for the NRA, promoting hatred toward the president of the United States and trying to live down (although not very much) an admitted fondness for under-age girls.

Since then, Abbott has tried to keep his distance from Nugent. But guess who showed up at a recent campaign event and had his picture taken with Abbott?  None other than a convicted felon and “citizen militia” leader who, a few days later, was arrested on federal weapons charges.

Kevin Lyndel “K.C.” Massey chatted with Abbott at a campaign event in Brownsville on Oct. 16, according to the San Antonio Express-News. The story is linked below, accompanied by a photo of the pair, Abbott smiling and Massey dressed in combat fatigues adorned with an Abbott campaign sticker

Massey was sentenced to five years in prison for felony burglary in Dallas in 1988, which resulted in his probation being revoked from a 1985 arrest on another burglary charge, the Express-News reported.

Four days after Massey had his photo taken with Abbott, he was arrested by federal agents on federal weapons charges. The newspaper said agents found in his hotel room an AK-47 with six loaded magazines, a loaded handgun, a ballistic helmet and an ammunition box filled with what agents suspected was ammonium nitrate, the substance used in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Federal law prohibits a convicted felon from carrying firearms. And, this armed felon has been “patrolling” the border, endangering peaceful, law-abiding people.

A campaign spokesperson said Abbott had no idea who Massey was but would not clearly and forcefully repudiate the law-breaker and the potential violence he could have caused. Three months ago, Abbott personally had refused to denounce these militia groups. Yes, you can tell a lot about political candidates by the people they attract, especially when a candidate does nothing to discourage the attraction and promotes policies, such as militias providing “border security,” that actually encourage it.


Sam Houston: The right choice for attorney general, education


Sam Houston, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, is the real deal. By that, I mean he has strong qualifications for the office, and Sam Houston is his real name. He isn’t one of those guys who make up strong ballot names to try to sneak into office and wouldn’t have the faintest idea what to do with the office if they were elected.

Houston, a highly qualified attorney from Houston, is running against Republican Ken Paxton, who has a record of violating state securities laws – which alone makes him unqualified to be the state’s top lawyer – and as a legislator voted to cut $5.4 billion from school budgets in 2011.

Paxton was fined $1,000 and reprimanded by the Texas State Securities Board a few months ago for soliciting investment clients without being registered with the state, as required by law. He also has solicited at least one client for an investment adviser without disclosing to the client that he was being paid by the investment advisor.

Paxton’s behavior is unethical, illegal and would immediately cast a cloud over the state’s top legal office should Paxton be elected. Educators also could expect Paxton to continue Attorney General Greg Abbott’s costly appeal of the court decision ordering the Legislature to enact a fair, adequate and constitutional school finance system.

Paxton is a darling of Tea Partiers, who nominated him in the Republican primary because they are driven by right-wing ideology, not the need for quality education and ethical government.

Sam Houston, meanwhile, has been endorsed by all the state’s major newspapers – which promote good government, not ideology — as clearly the best choice for attorney general.


Speaking of ideology, though, a member of the State Board of Education recently was wondering if the other Sam Houston – the hero of San Jacinto, president of the Texas Republic and early governor – may have been a “liberal.”

“I don’t know if he would like that (label) or not,” the board member was quoted in The Texas Tribune. “I just never hear Sam Houston referred to as a liberal. And those of us who liked Sam Houston want to keep him on our side.”

I don’t know how widely words like liberal and conservative were used in the political debate during the original Sam Houston’s day. But one incident during his career in Texas government is particularly telling. As governor in the period leading up to the Civil War, Houston opposed secession. And, when the Legislature decided to secede anyway, he was forced from office because he refused to pledge his loyalty to the Confederacy.

I would rate Houston as courageous, compared to the prevailing political sentiment in Texas at that time. But more importantly, he was on the right side of history, something that won’t be said about many of Texas’ current political leaders.

Consider a candidate’s education record, not promises


When Dan Patrick opens his mouth, claiming to support public education, you can be assured that two things will emerge – hot air and an untruth. (Lie is such an ugly word.)

The legitimate, pro-education candidate for lieutenant governor, Leticia Van de Putte, has released a new ad, accurately advising that, if you care anything at all about public schools and educational opportunity for every kid, don’t vote for Patrick.

Leticia’s ad (linked below) opens with Patrick talking out of both sides of his mouth during their televised debate last month. On one side of the screen, Patrick is pictured saying, “I’m really concerned about the dropout rate in our inner cities.”

Then on the other side of the screen, he adds, “And so we cut education.”

Patrick remains unabashedly unrepentant for voting in 2011 to slash $5.4 billion from public school budgets. And, he never has expressed any regrets for voting against the entire state budget, including all education funding, in 2013. So, if anyone really thinks Patrick is the least bit concerned about the dropout rate in inner cities – or anywhere else for that matter – you are deluding yourself.

Van de Putte voted against the cuts in 2011 and for the 2013 budget, which partially restored the education funding.

The only education agenda Patrick has is to starve public schools, while siphoning off tax dollars so a small group of cherry-picked students can get private school vouchers or attend corporate charters, where the bottom line is profit, not educational excellence.

If he is elected lieutenant governor and gets his way, the dropout rates in our inner cities – and everywhere else – will rise. And, Patrick will keep shedding crocodile tears.


We can’t survive on budget cuts, as Ebola is making clear


I have written repeatedly about the political shortsightedness involved in making budget cuts to public schools with the resulting loss of teachers’ jobs, larger class sizes and other negative impacts on children’s educations and the state’s future. Now, we have an even more dramatic example of the folly of building political careers on the flimsy foundation of budget-cutting. It is called Ebola.

The deadly disease’s recent arrival in the U.S. already has come perilously close to invading several Texas public schools. And, it is spreading fear and unease in a lot of other places, mainly because health care providers, although dedicated and selfless, have not been nearly as prepared for the disease as officialdom would like to be able to say they are.

Ebola has been ravaging three West African countries, including Liberia, for months, and this outbreak wasn’t the first on that continent. Since airliners are constantly crossing the Atlantic (in both directions), you would think that the folks in charge of safeguarding public health in the United States would have figured out long ago that, sooner or later, someone infected with Ebola would get on an airplane in western Africa and fly to an American city, any American city with an airport. Why were we so unprepared?

Actually, in government laboratories, at least, health officials and scientists have been working for years to try to get ahead of Ebola. Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, told the Huffington Post that NIH has been trying to develop an Ebola vaccine since 2001, but research has been slowed by – guess what? — federal budget cuts.

“Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready,” Collins said.

The lack of sufficient funding obviously has hurt scientists’ efforts to develop a vaccine or cure for the disease. According to the Huffington Post article, the National Institutes of Health budget has remained flat for the past decade, losing 23 percent of its purchasing power after adjusting for inflation. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s emergency preparedness budget has been cut deeply since 2006.

In Texas, the problem is worsened by the fact that millions of people are without health insurance – we continue to lead the country in that callous distinction – and may not be able to afford an Ebola vaccine even if one were developed. And, don’t forget, the powers that be in Austin have shut the door on billions of dollars in federal Medicaid funds that could ease that problem.

Budget-cutting is a popular mantra that has helped countless demagogues get elected to office and guide public policy, but ideological mantras are no way to govern, as the mounting Ebola problem is making painfully obvious.

One of those budget-cutting demagogues, Sen. Ted Cruz, who precipitated a federal government shutdown last year, now wants to impose a ban on travelers from West African countries. What we really need is a ban on electing more Ted Cruzes.