My Letters To the Editor


Alan Jackson

Date Subject
2013-01-13 Walmart, The Heights,and bribery
It is becoming clear that the extensive bribery employed by Walmart to ease their entry into the Mexican market was not a localized phenomenon, but was known about, if not endorsed by upper management. If that is true, then why would this not be a standard business practice wherever Walmart ran into opposition? How confident can we be that the controversial store in The Heights was not helped along by similar practices, for example? It might be timely to investigate.
2013-01-25 Global Warming
You do us all a great disservice when you publish demonstrably false letters to the editor. The earth has not been cooling since 2000, as a recent writer claimed. If you quit looking at the internet and actually read the science in peer-reviewed journals, the last decade has been the hottest decade on record. The so-called cooling trend is arrived at by carefully cherry-picking the data, and starting the fit in 1998 - an unusually hot year. Any honest statistical analysis shows that the heating has continued and in fact at a rate faster than predicted.
2013-02-10 guns and mental health
The L.A. police fired Christopher Dorner for reasons that haven't been publicized, but they obviously saw something amiss in him. Universities have dismissed students who went on to become mass shooters, because they saw disturbing behavior patterns. Companies have fired employees for similar reasons, and with similar results.It occurs to me that as a society, the norm for government agencies, companies, and schools is to rid themselves of people with behavior issues, and thus make them someone else's problem. If we really wanted to try to stop mass killings, maybe we should instead try to get help for these people, instead of dismissing them to relieve ourselves of potential liability. This will take a fundamental change in societal attitudes, both about mental illness, and about our responsibilities to each other. It cannot be legislated, although there are probably laws that could make it easier.
2013-02-24 Soviet style electricity distribution
I am no great fan of the Public Utilities Commission or ERCOT, but the editorial by Edward Hirs III and Paul MacAvoy is just silly. They might have some valid points in there somewhere, but so far as I am concerned they destroyed any potential credibility by their ad hominem attack with allusions to the Soviet Union. It is clear to me that the real problem is that deregulation is a total failure, that electricity is an inappropriate item for a free market and should remain in what we used to call a "natural monopoly", before ideology began to replace science and evidence. The legislature won't, but should take the hard step of re-regulating electricity in this state before we have a disastrous set of brown- and black-outs. Market incentives for maximizing profits, and maximizing efficiency, are at fundamental odds with what most of us want in our electricity production - which is reliability. Unless we start paying companies based on reliability instead of kilowatts, the current system will lead us down a road to third-world electrical reliability.
2013-03-23 FAA, sequester, and feeding children
I was dead set against the sequester, and I still think it is a thorough indictment of our legislative blanch of government that they allowed this to happen. However, I can't say that I am all broken up over the closing of air traffic control towers that amount to a subsidy for private and corporate aircraft. I would much prefer to see my tax dollars going to feed poor children supper, than to subsidize airports for corporate jets. So, a bit of a silver lining for me.
2013-04-11 Fiber in Austin
I find it interesting that AT&T said they will respond to Google putting fiber into Austin by doing the same. I'd like to see AT&T invest in getting the infrastructure in Houston to work right. I have AT&T DSL in the Heights, and it is pretty bad. I am sorely tempted to move to cable instead, to avoid all the outages and hiccups.
2013-04-19 Assault weapons
What a strange confluence of events. The Senate shows no backbone at all by voting down very mild gun control measures supported by a clear majority of Americans. And then the Boston Marathon bombers kill and injure police officers using - assault weapons. It occurs to me that John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, because of their votes on this issue, bear a degree of responsibility for these deaths and injuries, and honestly, I believe they should be personally calling the families of every officer shot by a criminal using an assault weapon and apologizing. It is all fine and good to talk of lofty principles, but the bottom line is that real people die and get injured, and I will wager most of them and their families don't care so much about lofty principles.
2013-06-29 Hobby Lobby
Let me see if I understand the argument that the 10 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals bought regarding Hobby Lobby objecting to providing access to birth control through its employees' health care plans. The owners religious beliefs are so deeply rooted that to do so would violate their conscience. By that reasoning, a deeply committed Scientologist would not have to provide psychiatric health coverage to their employees, a deeply committed Jehovah's Witness would not have to provide coverage for blood transfusions, and a deeply committed Christian Scientist would not have to provide any health coverage at all! By this reasoning, all employees are closer to being servants than employees, subject to the religious whims of their employers, and being granted the protections of Federal law only on the approval of their employer. This ruling basically says that the Federal government has no power to set health insurance standards at all.
2013-06-30 Buses along Post Oak and Ed Emmett
Ed Emmett says "I think I know Houstonians enough to know they are going to want to drive". Ed has apparently not taken the bus downtown or ridden the train around rush hour. They are packed with Houstonians who do not want to drive.Whenever I can easily use public transit, I will - I despise fighting traffic and most of the people I know feel the same. Besides which, more roads is an unsustainable stance. West I-10 is already becoming as bad as it was before it was widened, what a shame there is no train planned for that corridor.
2013-07-07 Excess power capacity
So the PUC is discussing giving financial incentives to power companies to build capacity that will sit idle most of the time, and will only come online in times of peak load. I have a better idea. When is peak load? During hot afternoons in summer when air conditioners are drawing maximum amounts of power. Coincidently, that would also be the best time to have solar cells contributing to the power grid, as it would be sunny. The problem is that, unlike many states, Texas does not subsidize people putting solar cell arrays on their roof, we would rather subsidize power companies to burn coal, oil, or gas to produce power during peak load times. I have looked into putting solar cells on my roof, and with a relatively small tax break, it would make good economic sense for me, it would avoid more pollution, and it would give the power grid a little more margin on hot days.
2013-08-16 Abbott fear of ID theft
Greg Abbott seems to expend a lot of time, energy, and state resources focussed on stopping things, and very little on trying to do something positive. Instead of asking "what can we do to help insure the security and success of this program", he basically accuses Secretary Sebelius of incompetence and begins throwing out unsubstantiated accusations. Wouldn't it be nice if our elected officials could at least attempt to work together instead of spending all their time yelling at each other and trying to "play to the base". Let's remember who the base is. Those are the radical party members who see the other political party as evil, brook no compromise, and are willing to let the whole country go down the drain if it lets them win. It is time for politicians to actually work for the rest of us.
2013-08-16 Early to Rise
One can debate the merits of the particulars of the "Early to Rise" petition, but what it does clearly demonstrate is that there is a lot of support in this county for expanding early education. Instead of arguing against the petition, I think it would make a lot more sense for our local politicians; Dan Patrick, Ed Emmett, and the County School Board, to get out in front and lead instead of obstructing. It is pretty clear the public wants something. If these folks don't like the proposal, then propose something else. Simply blocking it is ignoring the reality that the voters of Harris County feel strongly enough about this issue that a petition quickly gathered a significant number of signatures that said, in effect, "I think early childhood education is important enough that you can raise my taxes to support it". That message seems to be getting lost in the debate, but will not be forgotten by the voters.
2013-10-06 The Congress
"That's a fine looking economy you have there", said Ted, as his eyes narrowed threateningly. "It would be a shame if something happened to it". Wielding an existential threat to the economy is not negotiating, it is tactic used by bullies and thugs, and I hope that the Senate holds firm. Giving in now would only encourage this sort of destructive behavior in the future. Ultimately, we need new laws governing the drawing of representative districts, that would force them to make sense and become competitive, and unsafe for the radical fringe of either party.
2013-10-20 You should be ashamed
Your front page statistics on Sunday should cause you to hang your heads in shame. They are totally misleading and completely useless. How can anyone meaningfully compare the numbers you show? 25% of non-Tea Party Republicans nationally vs. 70% of Texas Republicans? And similarly for the numbers you quote for Obama, comparing overall national figures vs. Republican local figures. There is no meaningful comparison that can be made with the numbers you quote. That is statistical nonsense. You have picked and chosen numbers to try to manufacture a point, instead of showing comparable data and letting the data itself speak. That is intellectually dishonest, and quite frankly is called "lying with statistics". You cannot imagine how totally disappointed I am with your paper in this regard. To give something this appallingly poorly done front page prominence speaks volumes, and it is not good.
2013-11-01 Snowden and Google
Up until now I have supported the idea that Snowden should be prosecuted for the secrets he stole and released. However, the latest revelations, about the NSA vacuuming up all of the Google and Yahoo traffic between their data centers, has changed my mind. I now believe that Snowden is a whistle-blower worthy of protection and a Presidential pardon. The wholesale capture and storage of most of the American e-mail traffic and search queries is well beyond the pale.Personally I feel like someone should be going to jail for this program.
2013-12-11 How to spell Kyiv
Why do all of the news wire services, the Houston Chronicle, and the New York Times all spell the capital of Ukraine using the Russian transliteration (Kiev) instead of the Ukrainian transliteration (Kyiv)? All of my Ukrainian friends use Kyiv.In a subtle way, using the spelling Kiev shows support for the old Soviet Union and the subjugation of Ukraine by Russia. Note that the US State Department now shows the official spelling as Kyiv,
2013-12-29 Duck Dynasty
At the risk of prolonging the discussion of Phil Robertson's comments and A&E's reaction, how is it that his remarks have been minimized to somehow be only about gay marriage? The articles in the paper and on the news seem to have completely forgotten about his comments regarding how blacks were perfectly happy before the civil rights movement - implying that segregation was great and the civil rights movement just got everyone all stirred up. It is clear to me that A&E, and Gov Bobby Jindal, have decided that supporting an anti-gay bigot is okay, and economically and politically expedient.
2014-01-29 Lieutenant Governor race
So in the debates, all of the Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor said they favor teaching creationism in schools, or in other words, they are opposed to teaching science and favor supporting the teaching of dogma from selected Christian denominations. Keeping our children scientifically illiterate is a great way to prepare Texas for the future. Good job guys.
2014-02-09 Kathleen Parker and freedom of religion
Kathleen Parker rails against the requirement of the Affordable Care Act that companies like Hobby Lobby cannot refuse to provide health insurance that includes contraception coverage. What I wonder, is if she would also defend a company run by, say, Christian Scientists who would refuse all medical coverage for their employees as an infringement of their religious beliefs? Or refusal of mental health coverage by a Scientologist boss? Or a Jehovah's Witness refusing to cover blood transfusions? Where would she draw the line? By accepting employment, do I agree to live by the dictates of the religion of the company's owner? I certainly hope not.
2014-02-09 Green Card red tape
The article "Green card red tape keeps families apart" notes that visa approvals have taken much longer to get in the past year, and attributes that to the deferral program. However, I have another explanation - the sequester and the shutdown. From the mathematical theory of queueing, that is, the behavior of waiting in line, it is well-known that for any system that is just keeping up with demand (think of cash registers at a grocery store at 5 PM), any disruption can cause a huge and rapid increase in the line length, and unless you add more processing capacity (opening more cash registers), the lines bleed off very slowly. The sequester essentially prevents adding checkers, and the shutdown likely caused a catastrophic increase in the length of the lines. Given the intent of a significant fraction of Congress to starve the government for money, look forward to more stories like this.
2014-02-28 Uber
The city needs to quit protecting the Yellow Cab monopoly. In Chicago, Uber is the safest most reliable and convenient ride in town. It is time Houston joined the group.
2014-07-22 Rick Perry and the border
Rick Perry plans to send troops to the border, and plans to pay for them by taking money from healthcare, because that isn't important - I guess unless you're sick. And this is to protect us from refugee children who are fleeing violence and looking for our help. As a Christian and as a human being, this makes me physically ill.
2014-08-18 Coverage of Perry-gate
I have been very disappointed in the coverage of Governor Perry's indictment by the Chronicle. Almost absent from the coverage has been the background information as to why Perry committed the acts he has been indicted for. He was under investigation for corruption surrounding the CPRIT grants, and the Travis county D.A.'s DUI arrest provided him with an excuse to defund the investigation and/or replace the DA with a friendly face. Much of the national media has picked this up, but the Chronicle has been pretty quiet about it. Perry's actions were akin to the Saturday Night Massacre, the big difference being the muted response of the media and voters in the state.
2014-09-28 State to fight EPA
As a state, we have made little to no effort to cut back on CO2 emissions. One very simple approach would be to add a modest tax break for solar panel installation. Solar panels are most effective when demand is the highest (hot, sunny days). and would not only reduce the need to burn coal, but also reduce the need to have expensive standby generator capacity for peak load days during the summer months.
2014-09-28 Collaboration on the new Exxon campus
I don't work for Exxon, but I have worked in cubicles, and it is a great myth that open offices and cubicles improve collaboration. For technical workers, in my experience, it kills collaboration because no one can talk to anyone for fear of disturbing those around them. Having a door that can be closed leads to a much more productive environment. In point of fact, both IBM and Microsoft have studied the issue, and have not bought into the open office myth. Support is also found in the peer-reviewed studies that have been done.
2014-10-11 furor over Wendy Davis advertisement
So the Republican officials are uniform in condemning the latest ad from Wendy Davis that depicts an empty wheelchair. I don't see what is offensive about the ad - it rightly points out an apparently hypocritical set of positions Greg Abbott has taken. It would help if Abbott, Cornyn and others could be specific about what in the ad is objectionable, rather than a vague "I'm offended".
2014-10-13 Re: CDC confirms second Ebola case in Dallas
'Officials say a "breach in protocol" is what led to a hospital worker contracting Ebola.' First of all, if the protocols are that complicated and that fragile, perhaps they need to be improved to be more fool-proof. The fact that according to the CDC, in 2011, there were 721,800 hospital-acquired infections by patients, indicates to me that in general sterile protocols are *never* followed very effectively by hospitals. They are terrible at protecting patients from infection, so it should not be surprising that the confidence that was expressed that hospital workers would not get infected by Ebola because we have the protocols was sadly misplaced.
2014-12-19 Re: The Interview
I find it very depressing that we immediately caved to threats from North Korea, and pulled "The Interview" from theaters. I had planned to go see it, just to spite Kim Jung Un. Home of the brave indeed.
2015-02-09 State Senator Campbell and the Alamo
I for one am quite pleased that Senator Campbell is working on bills like the one she has proposed to prevent the U.N. or other foreign entities from owning or controlling the Alamo. So long as she busies herself with bills like that, she will not have time to do any real damage to the great state of Texas.
2015-02-09 State Senator Campbell and the Alamo
I for one am quite pleased that Senator Campbell is working on bills like the one she has proposed to prevent the U.N. or other foreign entities from owning or controlling the Alamo. So long as she busies herself with bills like that, she will not have time to do any real damage to the great state of Texas.
2015-02-27 Homeland Security
So when are our senators going to stand up and propose that Congress not get paid as long as the employees of Homeland Security work without pay?
2015-04-29 Jade Helm
Governor Abbott is going to have state employees "monitor" the Jade Helm exercise. The tin hat brigade is now running the state. What an obscene waste of money. When we have so many real problems, Abbott is wasting money trying to appease the wingnuts? Any respect I might have had for him is gone.
2015-05-04 Jade Helm
Re: Texas governor: Criticism to Army training order overblown The governor just doesn't get it. By his concrete actions - I don't care what pretty words he dresses it up in - he is implicitly saying that he does not trust the armed forces of the United States. Frankly, if anyone needs monitoring, it is the Texas National Guard, since their commander seems to have a seriously paranoid view of reality.
2015-05-15 Iraq war
After much back and forth, Jeb Bush says that if he knew what we know today he would not have invaded Iraq. Well I for one am more interested in the real question - knowing what we knew then, would you have invaded Iraq? Frankly, it was crystal clear to me before we invaded that the reasons were largely bogus and made no sense. And that is the real test. Knowing what we know now - that it was an unmitigated disaster hyped by distortions and lies, well anyone could easily say no to that. The real test is to be able to smell the lies ahead of time, and say no when the situation is ambiguous and not nearly so clear cut.
2015-07-30 Re: Texas grid operator asks consumers to limit electricity use
Why doesn't the state encourage home-owners and businesses to install solar panels, with tax breaks? At precisely those times when the grid becomes overloaded, solar panels would be producing most efficiently - and if local, would actually reduce the load on the power lines as well. Why is their solution always more coal-fired plants, and more transmission lines? This is madness.
2015-08-13 City permitting process
So it is nice to hear that all the mayoral candidates want to make the business permitting process as smooth as possible. However, what I failed to read, was how they all feel about making certain that the concerns of the neighbors of businesses also get addressed in a fair and equitable way. Accelerating the permitting process without also insuring that neighborhood concerns are addressed seems to me to be a recipe for a lot of conflict, including lawsuits. Let's try to get all the parties on board.
2015-08-31 Sheriff Ron Hickman and #BlackLivesMatter
Our sheriff is an embarrassment. He has taken a terrible tragedy, the brutal slaying of an innocent police officer, and turned it into something ugly and political. By his unthinking statements, he has shown himself to be part of the problem between blacks and law enforcement in this country, instead of being part of the solution. But perhaps this is not a surprise, since his first act was to clean women and people of color out of the leadership at the department, and turn it into a group of mostly white guys.
2015-09-02 Re: XTO waste water well and earthquakes
As a Geophysicist, I would strongly encourage XTO to publish their results which purportedly show that their well is not linked to earthquake activity in a peer-reviewed journal, so that we can strengthen the science behind when these wells cause earthquakes and when they do not. This is still a young science, and it needs their contribution. Decisions based on data and science is a direction I believe we need to go, and they can contribute to this effort.
2015-09-03 No texting signs in school zones
So the spokesman for the state transportation department said "But we don't believe that putting up a bunch of signs stops anybody from doing anything". I have a suggestion, why don't we test that hypothesis. Pick 20 schools in HISD at random, put up signs at half of them, and for a month watch the driver's behavior and see if the signs actually make a difference. Wouldn't it be nice to have some actual data instead of arguing on the basis of feelings?
2015-09-16 Ahmed Mohamed
I'm anxiously awaiting for our Governor to show some leadership, and denounce the paranoid targeting of kids with the wrong name. Would any of this happened if his last name were Smith?
2015-09-20 Ahmed letters
After reading the letters to the editor regarding Ahmed Mohamed, I have to say it is time we rewrote the national anthem and replaced "home of the brave" with "home of the cautious".
2015-10-06 Guns
Listening to the candidates who arguably span the Republican presidential field, Trump and Bush, I was amazed at their consistent response to the latest episode of gun violence. It was basically one of resignation, of concession to a future of frequent violent acts, an all-American can't do spirit. When did we become so passive and unwilling to challenge the status quo, to take on the difficult problems? Are the GOP candidates indeed nothing but bombast, totally lacking in solutions?
2015-10-09 Ken Paxton against the death penalty?
I was so pleased to see the quote from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in this morning's paper - "A society which proclaims to be just must recognize that every human life, including unborn babies, has the right to live." I can only assume that he will also fight to get rid of the death penalty and convince the governor to commute the sentences of those on death row.
2015-11-05 Re: Woman arrested after posting photos of allegedly abused porch dog
So our sheriff cares so little about the First Amendment that he has a woman arrested for posting pictures on Facebook? Does the good sheriff plan on monitoring all our Facebook and Twitter activity? If he is looking for evidence of online harassment, he need look no further than the trolls who post on the Chronicle website, spewing hate and ad hominem attacks on those they disagree with. How can posting photos, which simply represent the truth, be considered illegal?
2015-11-10 Starbucks holiday cups
Besides it being an embarrassment to have fellow Christians start ranting about an issue of so little consequence as the Starbucks cups not carrying Christian symbols, I find it particularly disturbing that the initial complaint was couched in terms of fighting "Political Correctness". When I hear someone complaining about political correctness, I reflexively translate that to "someone doesn't want their bigotry exposed." It truly is laughable when members of the majority pose as victims as soon as there is anything that hints they might be wrong.
2015-11-14 Editorial on open carry
I will not be "getting used to" people parading about with guns. If I see someone, I will call 911. If I am shopping or eating in a restaurant, I will immediately leave, even if that means walking the check. This is an insane law, and I will not pretend that it is okay, or that it is sane and makes sense. The recent Colorado Springs shooter was called in to 911 when he was spotted with his gun, but the police dispatcher replied that it was legal and did nothing. And three people died.
2015-11-16 Greg Abbott: Syrian refugees aren't welcome in Texas.
I am more than happy to welcome Syrian refugees, and to help them get settled here. Beyond that, I consider it my Christian duty to do so. Many years ago our church helped a Bosnian refugee couple who were Muslim settle here. We are called to "welcome the stranger", so I find it sad that our Governor would rather play to fear than to Christian love.
2015-11-26 Militia posts addresses of Muslims
Waiting for governor Greg Abbott to get off a quick tweet condemning the actions of the militia.
2015-11-30 Re: Lawsuit threats over Syrian Refugees
It seems clear to me that there is in fact a war on Christianity, instigated and supported by our very own state government, threatening to sue organizations for doing their Christian duty to support Syrian refugees. I would be very interested to hear from our local officials (and candidates) on this topic.
2015-12-07 Re: Greg Abbott tweet about no fly list
Governor Abbott tweeted "A better recommendation to Congress would be to not allow people on the no-fly zone to even be in the US", which only goes to expose his ignorance. Many people on the list are US citizens, and live here. Where does he propose they go?
2015-12-29 Ozone standards
I would like to see the TCEQ leadership, or Attorney General Paxton, come to Harris county and explain, face to face, to asthma suffers why their health is less important than business profits. The EPA standards are based on the best science available, and frankly should represent a minimum standard that, if we actually cared about people's health, would be a standard we would strive to exceed.
2016-01-11 Promoting an astroturf organization
Regarding the letter from Jennifer Harris, "Avoid Shysters" in today's Chronicle, she neglected to note her affiliation as spokesperson for Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas. And you failed to note that this group of lawsuit organizations are astroturf organizations - claiming to be grassroots, but in fact funded by large companies. Philip Morris itself put up $16 million in 1995 to hire a PR firm to create faux "grassroots" fronts in every state under the banner of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. If organizations are going to write a letter to the editor, they should be transparent about who they are, and you should Google for 5 minutes to enforce honesty on their part.
2016-01-22 Re: UT to spend $450 million over 30 years on Houston land
With UT having so much money to spend on land acquisition in Houston, is it safe to assume that students at UT are no longer falling deeply into debt getting an education there? Is tuition now free?
2016-02-03 Re: Man in wheelchair hit, killed in street in NW Houston
I would challenge Mayor Turner to take measures to make Houston a walkable city. As it stands, we lack sidewalks, and where they exist they are often broken and in poor repair; crosswalks are few and far between, and drivers generally ignore crosswalks, speeding through even when pedestrians are trying to cross. In Houston, car is king, long live the king.
2016-02-09 Re: Reducing emissions takes time
Bill Hammond of the Texas Association of Business doesn't like the EPA's Clean Power Plan. But he twists the facts to make his point. In this country, which is all we can control, electricity generation results in 40% of our CO2 emissions. That is a big target, and given the dire consequences of global warming, going after the big target only makes sense. Bill also claims that "the science of climate change is anything but settled." That is patently untrue - the only people for whom it is unsettled are politicians and businesses who would be adversely affected by CO2 reductions. Scientists are as close to unanimous on climate change as it is possible to be. As a scientist, I find that statement both insulting and dismaying. His economic impact claims are also bogus, low natural gas prices have already, under his beloved free-market pressures, been causing the closing of coal mines and the shutdown of coal powered electricity plants. The EPA plan, in effect, simply wants to accelerate a trend that is already in progress. As far as economic effects and urgency, if all the ice on the planet melted, sea level would rise by about 250 feet. That puts all of Harris county under water. A more likely short-term scenario is a rise of 30 feet, which is about the elevation of the ship channel industries. Calculate the economic impact of that.
2016-02-16 Re: Crash leaves one dead in the Heights
Minutes before the crash at Yale and 15th, my wife and I were crossing a street a few blocks away, and were nearly run over by a different wrecker driver, who blew a stop sign and turned as we were in the middle of crossing the street. He was steering with one hand and had his phone in the other. He was following yet another wreck who was speeding through the neighborhood, on their way to who knows what accident. We have had problems with wrecker drivers speeding and ignoring traffic laws for as long as I can remember. When will we address this in a serious way?
2016-03-19 Homeless downtown
After reading the comments of our city council regarding the homeless population downtown, I find myself caught between sadness and anger. The whole attitude is disturbing - that these people are obstacles, an embarrassment, a problem for our image, so we need to "move" them. Why not try seeing them as troubled human beings with serious problems, and move them into housing or other places that they can get help. It is a rare homeless person who wants to live on the streets. For a variety of reasons they find themselves without shelter and a place to go. Instead of seeing them as an embarrassment, let's do something that would really boost Houston's image, and get them housing instead of trying to hide them from the visitors who come to our city.
2016-03-26 Re: Couples infected with Zika urged to postpone pregnancy
It is all but certain that the Texas Gulf Coast, from Brownsville to Sabine Pass, will suffer an epidemic of Zika virus this summer. Yet our state's leaders have crippled women's healthcare, just at the point in time when the demand for contraceptives will be greatest. Our Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and legislators have all but guaranteed that following the Zika epidemic, we will then see an epidemic of abortions, legal and illegal, and of babies born with microcephaly. The train is coming down the tracks, the light is on and the horn is blaring, and we as a state will sit on our hands and feign surprise when the disaster strikes.
2016-04-03 Re: City still split
As a long time Continental/United Platinum traveler, I believe that Gordon Bethune is off base. I thought he might have some good points until I read him praising Jeff Smisek, the last CEO of United. In my experience, staff morale lept ten-fold when Smisek resigned. Service on the ground and in the air improved markedly. I have been on a couple of flights that were delayed for as long as 4 hours, due to weather, but the caring treatment by the staff, post Smisek, made the experience completely bearable. I like the progress the new United has made in the past year, and I have very positive hopes that they will continue to improve and succeed.
2016-04-11 Bear Branch Elementary not allowing parents to pick up kids on foot
What are the kids at Bear Branch being taught? In the midst of a chiildhood obesity epidemic, they are being taught that walking is a bad thing. They are being taught that sitting in an idling car spewing pollutants is a good thing. And they are being taught that the police can be used to intimidate parents who have a dispute with public officials. I can only wonder what else may be on the lesson plan.
2016-04-11 re: Power from Natural Gas becomes King
The article notes that a big concern is how to ensure sufficient generating capacity during summer peak load times. One solution given is for ERCOT to increase the wholesale value of electricity to increase powerplant profits. What is never discussed is the possiblility for ERCOT to promote residential solar power. Summer peak loads will occur on hot sunny days. Solar power is most efficient on those same days. If ERCOT would work with the legislature to provide tax incentives, and to prevent Home Owner associations from blocking rooftop installations, we could reduce the need for more peak load powerplants, and reduce the need to build more controversial high-tension power lines.
2016-05-10 Re: Chemical contents remain a mystery
Regarding the fire and subsequent chemical release at the storage facility. There is really no excuse in the 21st century for a company to not be storing key records off-site, in the cloud. For a little over $100 per year, they could have backed up everything, encrypted, continuously, and automatically in the cloud. My personal records are more secure than their business records. This is reckless, approaching criminal. The state needs to require off-site records for hazardous materials, now.
2016-05-11 Re: Wal-Mart sues Visa on PIN issue
It is rare that I find myself in agreement with Wal-Mart, but this is one of those occasions. Apparently Visa and MasterCard have managed to implement their version of chip cards so poorly, that both consumers and retailers are poorly served, and only the credit card companies do well. In Europe, I have used chip and pin, and it works quickly and efficiently. Here, I have timed the wait for the chip reader to respond, and it has taken upwards of 45 seconds. And the lack of a PIN means that neither the store nor the consumer really sees improved security, but the card company gets to relieve itself of some liability. Given that we have a virtual duopoly in this business, it is going to take national legislation to force the card companies to do the right thing and go to chip and PIN.
2016-05-13 Re: Letter to the Editor regarding Lanier Middle school
It has become a common meme, repeated in a letter on May 13, that "only a small percentage of Confederates owned slaves". This is an example of lying with statistics, by counting heads of households instead of families. If we look at the percentage of families that owned slaves, it is hardly small. According to "The Handbook of Texas", before the Civil War, fully a quarter of families in Texas owned slaves, which in my book is not a small percentage.
2016-05-19 Re: diversifying transit
Greater walkability has been put forth as a goal, but a key enabler towards that end has not been mentioned. The law making the sidewalk the responsibility of the property owner is ridiculous. Sidewalks are a common good, no different from streets, and if we actually expect to have quality sidewalks, the city will have to pay for them. I frequently see wheelchair-bound people in the Heights travelling in the middle of the street because the sidewalks are either nonexistent or in such poor repair as to be useless. Having a good sidewalk really is a prerequisite for having a walkable city.
2016-05-23 CPRIT cancer research
While I appreciate Texas Sen. Charles Schwertner being so concerned that the state not waste any money, I wonder why I have not heard him expressing concern about our continuing waste of money with on teh border, where Texsa spends money essentially accomplishing nothing.
2016-05-30 Shooting on Memorial Drive
An AR-15 is a military assault weapon. By design it is an offensive weapon. It has no purpose, except to kill people. Why do we allow civilians to possess these weapons? Have we lost our collective mind?
2016-06-04 Re: Is Rebuke of "Roots" Misguided?
After years of genealogical research, I have learned that I had slave-owning ancestors, and both Confederate army and Union army ancestors. That knowledge is important to me. I want to try to exorcise the demon of slave-owning from my family's past, and I also acknowledge that my family, and I have benefited from the past labor of slaves. We just returned from a trip to Germany, and the frankness of the young guides as they confronted Germany's Nazi sins was inspiring and refreshing. I can only pray that we in the US can similarly confront our historic sin of slavery.
2016-06-07 Re: Teacher says pep rally set off PTSD
Why do we continue to have so much difficulty supporting our veterans, especially those with PTSD? New Caney ISD should have apologized and tried to set things right, but instead they are blaming the victim and disavowing responibility. Patriotism is not pep rallies and waving flags. It is caring for and respecting those who have defended us.
2016-06-12 Re: Angry first-time victims demand flooding solutions
While it may take $26 billion to "fix" the flooding issues in the Houston area, we needn't wait for that sort of money to be available and a comprehensive plkan. There are a few obvious steps that could be taken now. Like prohibiting development in the floodplain. There is a high-rise development on White Oak bayou that flooded last month, while under construction. Why is it allowed to build new buildings perched on the edge of the bayou?
2016-06-12 Re: Walkable Centers
I find it telling that the editorial titled, in part, "Walkable Centers", never actually mentioned walking. Houston is far from a walkable city, and the most walkable sections of the city have missing and poor quality sidewalks, too narrow sidewalks, sidewalks with telephone poles installed in the center of them, in short, walkability in Houston is a bad joke. When will we hear a plan to actually address walkability?
2016-06-22 Re: Flesh eating virus leaves man struggling to survive
In Junior High science we learned that viruses and bacteria are fundamentally different. Please don't have your headlines contribute to the widespread ignorance of science in this country. If bacteria won't fit, use "bug".
2016-06-22 John Cornyn and guns
I wrote our senator, John Cornyn, about a week ago, pleading that he do something about easy access to guns. His reply was the same, tired, false narrative that mass shootings are all about mental health issues, and he was working on that. Now he wants to require a court order to prevent a suspected terrorist from purchasing a firearm? What about requiring a court order to knock someone off the voter rolls, or is the right to vote unimportant? My reply to our senators is that I am now a single issue voter. If you cannot support real gun control, my vote and my money will go to someone who can.
2016-06-24 Zika
Given the near certainty that Zika will strike Houston this summer, I thought the very brief mention of the demise of the Zika funding bill in the House was disappointing. Elsewhere I read that part of the objection to the bill was that it prohibited payment for contraception, a key fact not mentioned by the Chronicle. Our Republican representatives seem wholly lacking in compassion, driven entirely by ideological purity and primary politics.
2016-06-26 Uber threats
Just a little tidbit for Mayor Turner and city council. Uber seems to be threatening every city that wants to do fingerprint checks with leaving. I am in Chicago right now, and the exact same story is playing out here. It seems to me that if Uber leaves all the largest cities in the country, they will go bankrupt.
2016-06-29 Re: Zika funding bill fails against Congress
Shame on Senator John Cornyn. When Zika strikes Texas, easy access to contraception will be necessary to minimize the impact, to minimize the number of babies born brain-damaged. All that denying contraception funding for Planned Parenthood will accomplish is to increase the rate of abortion and increase the number of microcephalic babies. How is any of this even remotely "pro life"?
2016-07-03 Flood costs
"We simply have no choice — people need a roof over their heads,” HUD spokeswoman Patricia Campbell said. I don't accept that. People also need to not lose their possessions every few years. This is a perfect example of how completely bankrupt our flood policies are. We desperately need to stop building in the floodplain and even remove structures that are there, and yet here we are encouraging a particularly vulnerable population to live there. The city should consider adding a flood tax to buildings in the floodplain to discourage development there, and cover the rescue costs.
2016-07-08 Re: Texas changes rules governing disposal of fetal remains
As I recall, our state leaders have many times demanded that Federal Agencies take into account the economic impact of their policy changes. I have not seen such an analysis by the state health department for their proposed rule regarding disposal of fetal remains. So I will do it for them. Most authorities estimate that between 10% and 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. In 2014 there were about 180,000 births in Texas. If I assume 15% end in miscarriage, that is about 27,000 miscarriages. A quick online search seemed to indicate that about the best deal available for cremation is $700. That gives us an economic impact of $18.9 million. Is this really where people want to spend that much money?
2016-07-12 Re: STUDY: Racial disparities not found in police shootings in Houston
It is clear to me that one of the key, foundational issues regarding race and policing, is the lack of transparency and good data. What are the root causes behind the many incidents that have been reported? Without actual data we can all yell at each other, we can speculate, we can promote our favorite prejudice, but we are unlikely to fix the problem if we don't actually understand it. So kudos to former chief McClellan, for opening up our records to researchers. And shame on those who would simply dismiss the findings out of hand because they violate their own beliefs and prejudices. While being at odds with experience is a perfectly valid reason to question the study, question the methodology, question the data collection. But saying that it must be wrong because it doesn't fit my preconceptions serves no one and can only contribute to continued problems. We cannot fix what we do not understand.
2016-07-15 Re: Retention pay lawsuit by Buc-ee’s breaks mold
Buc-ee's pay policy is indeed insidious. Normally a retention package only pays out if you don't leave, there is no "claw back" for salary already paid. But I am finding it difficult to distinguish this policy from indentured servitude. Appropriate for a state where individual rights and libertarian policies usually mean the right of the wealthy and powerful to do whatever they want without interference from government.
2016-07-18 Re: Rate hikes may sting individual health policy buyers
In many ways the healthcare system is a zero sum game. What portion of the insurance companies' losses can be attributed to higher costs due to Texas' refusal to expand Medicare? Texas politicians have done everything in their power to cripple Obamacare in our state, which has resulted in higher healthcare costs for everyone. Instead of working to insure the welfare of all citizens, our state leaders seem to be much more focussed on scoring political points.
Writing the dissenting opinion, Judge Edith Jones said thousands of pages of records “yields not a trace, much less a legitimate inference, of racial bias by the Texas Legislature.” An Appeals Court judge should do better than to set up a false straw-man argument. The legal standard in question is not whether the legislature intended to discriminate, but whether or not the law resulted in discrimination, regardless of any bias of the legislature. Of course, the judge has shown her own bias, in Jones had been accused of publicly mocking the appeals of the mentally disabled and Mexican-born defendants and of describing African-Americans and Hispanics as sadly more likely to commit crimes. (Houston Chronicle, Wednesday, October 15, 2014).
2016-07-21 Re: Lawsuit outlines ordeal of rape victim sent to jail
After reading this story, I am nearly speechless. This attitude, that throwing a mentally ill victim in jail is justified to get a conviction is the same attitude that says it is okay to see people die during police chases to catch shoplifters. This is simply wrong on so many levels. I do not have the power to fire the prosecutor who drove this, but I can certainly try to fire their boss, Devon Anderson, and intend to.
2016-07-22 Re: Buc-ee’s says a copycat gator is infringing on
So only Buc-ee's is allowed to have large restrooms and large gas pump islands? Or a smiling cartoon mascot? Give me a break. This is nothing more than abusing our court system to harrass a smaller competitor. I hope Choke Canyon counter-sues and wins.
2016-08-01 Re: Value of higher minimum wage doubted
Slavery. Indentured servitude. Sharecropping. Sweatshops. History is littered with systems designed to squeeze profits from human labor while treating the laborer with little or no respect, and leaving them with only just enough to survive and work another day. For me, the minimum wage argument boils down to respecting the dignity of every human being, of insuring that working provides a living wage, of simple justice. It is more a moral than an economic issue. And if I have to pay a little extra for that burger or that coffee, that is fine with me.
2016-08-05 Re: County sued over voting access
The Department of Justice complains about steep curb ramps, gaps in sidewalks and walkways and other “architectural barriers” . Well, if that is the case then there are probably few if any places that are satisfactory in Houston. I routinely see people in wheelchairs rolling down the street in my neighborhood, because the condition of the sidewalks is so deplorable. I have found many sidewalks that have utility poles centered in them, ramps that go nowhere, and frequent gaps or completely broken-up sidewalks. Our sidewalks, in general, are disgraceful. It is time the city took responsibility for construction and maintenance of sidewalks. They are no different than streets - why do we treat them differently?
2016-08-05 Re: Texas GOP lawmakers lambaste Obama over Zika funds
I find it both infuriating and revolting that the same lawmakers who claim to be pro-life are now so busy playing politics with Zika funding that they are ignoring the needs of the unborn in Texas. It causes me to seriously question if they actually stand for any principle other than staying in power.
2016-08-10 Re: Authorities ID man killed in trench collapse
Far too many workmen die each year from trenches collapsing. Installing proper shoring can prevent nearly all of these deaths, yet it isn't done. I would like to see the district attorney file manslaughter charges against the supervisor. I have a feeling that if that happened a few times, that might get the attention of these companies putting their workers at risk.
2016-08-14 Re: Abbott Unveils anti-abortion plans
If our governor were truly sincere, as his spokesperson says "Gov. Abbott believes that defending the sanctity and dignity of human life is worthy of immediate action", then why does he not commute death sentences to life imprisonment? Is only some human life worth defending? Are death-row prisoners not human? And what about medical care for the poor, the sorry state of foster care in Texas? Are those children not deserving of dignity? Or does that only apply to an unborn fetus?
2016-08-17 Re: State again bucks feds on Syrians
I find our state leaders rhetoric regarding Syrian refugees very disrurbing and worrisome. Words matter, and by continuing to cast the refugees as dangerous, and continuing their quixotic quest to prevent them from coming to Texas, they could be inspiring the disturbed among us to violence.
2016-08-22 Re: Pension forecasts provide reasons to worry
Realistic returns should be 2-3% above inflation. Since inflation right now is essentially zero, these 8% expected returns are fantasy. People who sell impossible rates of return are called con-artists, and often land in jail.
2016-09-06 Re: Russian plot to disrupt U.S. elections probed
This story raises an old complaint with the electronic voting systems. There is no way to insure their accuracy, to ensure they haven't been hacked. The code is proprietary, and there are no paper ballots generated as backup. When will our politicians take the simple step of demanding that each voter be supplied with a paper copy of their ballot results, which can be verified by them, and then deposited for safekeeping in case of the need for a recount? If Russia planted malicious code into voting machines that tilted the election, how would we know?
2016-09-06 Re: Closing private prisons could be costly
The article notes that "Private facilities don't save substantially on costs". It has always puzzled me that advocates of privitization of any government function claim huge cost savings, as if some magic will happen when you add on 10% for a profit margin and try to do the same thing the government was doing. What I finally figured out was that in those cases where privitization did actually save money, the savings were done on the backs of the workers, whose pay was substantially reduced. Privitization is simply a way to trade good-paying jobs for poorly-paying ones, and provide a gravy-train for friends of politicians. It is good to see us getting away from it.
2016-09-08 Re: Texas can learn from Sooner State on quakes
In 1965, a deep waste injection well near Denver at Rocky Mountain Flats started causing earthquakes. This is a well-documented and well-understood fact. Recent reservoir engineering studies have provided further details of how the process operates. By ignoring the science, the Texas Railroad Commission is likely to do much more harm to the oil industry in the long term. Fracking is getting a bad reputation, as is oil production in general, while the state tries to protect the waste disposal companies by ignoring science. In the end, the public may end up rejecting production activity in general.
2016-09-09 Re: Trump thinks the U.S. should 'take the oil' in Iraq.
This sounds to me like theft, or "might makes right", clearly with no moral principle involved beyond "I want it". Presumably this reflects Trump's business strategy, a complete lack of regard for the law and for morality.
2016-09-10 Re: Judge: State violated Medicaid rules
So our "pro-life" state officials are reluctant to spend money for medical care for children. One more example of the cynical hypocrisy that seems to envelope most of their decisions.
2016-09-13 Re: Ethanol poses new challenge for oil
I think the real issue with adding ethanol to gasoline is not that it displaces oil, but rather that it has little to no benefit for the environment - it takes about as much energy to make ethanol as it produces, so it actually has a rather large carbon footprint. Additionally, it drives up the price of corn, and pushes farmers to take fallow land and plow it up. And the fertilizer applied to cornfields is a major contributor to the Gulf of Mexico dead zone.
2016-09-13 Re: Transparency on candidates’ health urged
I fully favor more transparency by the candidates - Donald Trump should start by releasing the last 5 years of tax returns.
2016-09-13 Re: Little proof of Trump’s giving as campaign aim
I have a better headline for this story: "No proof offered to rebut claim Trump lied about charitable giving".
2016-09-14 Re: Congress must act to protect internet freedom
Senator Cruz expresses great concern over the long-planned (since 1998) transition of control of top-level internet domain naming from the US government, to a private corporation. It is interesting to see a group of conservative Republicans opposing the privatization of a government function. It should also be noted that, rather than threatening the integrity of the internet, this could very well save it. Not too many years ago, when the US was resisting giving up control, other nations began to credibally threaten to set up a parallel internet. It is clear that the world community will not abide the status quo, especially after the Snowden revelations, so we do need to change the system. We can either do it in a measured, controlled way as has been proposed, or have it forced on us.
2016-09-17 Re: Raise wages, not trade barriers
As it stands, with the minimum wage as low as it is, and with the restaurant worker exception being even below that low wage, we already subsidize many industries by paying for foodstamps and other benefit programs for their workers. Wouldn't it make more sense and help rationalize the economy if the true cost of workers, without subsidy, were reflected in prices, by paying them a living wage? If a company cannot stay in business while paying its workers a living wage, then perhaps it shouldn't stay in business.
2016-09-21 re: Mylan CEO defends EpiPen prices
In her testimony the CEO of Mylan "says the company makes about $50 per pen". That statement is simply not credible. In 2007 the pens cost about $120, today the cost about $600. Was the company losing $400 every time they had a sale? Unless they now spend $400 per pen on advertising - which may be possible - this makes no sense. I hope Congress investigates her testimony, for possible perjury charges.
2016-09-24 Re: Arbitration
In the story about Wells Fargo, it was noted that "A group of Senate Democrats continued to attack Wells Fargo on Friday, publicly calling on Stumpf to stop enforcing mandatory arbitration clauses in the agreements for customer accounts that were not authorized." What really needs to happen is for Congress to severely curtail the use of these clauses. It has reached the point now, where if you wish to fully participate in this economy, you are required to sign away your right to a trial, in favor of arbitration. Every study I have ever seen indicates that arbitration is heavily biased towards big business, and away from the consumer. This has removed an important check on bad behavior by large companies, and needs to be restored.
2016-09-27 re: Walking to school has become a tough course for most students
There is one fundamental problem Houston must first address if we are ever to get decent sidewalks. Under the current law, sidewalks are the responsibility of the property owner. Imagine if we treated streets that way! Sidewalks are a public good, and should be treated as such. The city needs to take responsibility for building, maintaining, and upgrading sidewalks. The Heights is the most walkable area in the city, yet even there I see people with walkers, or people in wheelchairs, out in the street, because the sidewalks are in such poor condition, or missing altogether.
2016-09-28 Trump and Taxes
Like most people, I am not thrilled when I see the bite that the taxman takes out of my income. However, I firmly believe that it is my patriotic duty as an American to pay every penny of the taxes that I owe. Our military, schools, roads, and many other functions of government depend on tax revenue, and depend on everyone chipping in and paying their fair share. Apparently Mr. Trump does not feel this way, since he boasts of how not paying taxes is smart. I have another word for that behavior - unAmerican.
2016-09-30 Re: Paxton sues over internet
Seriously? Is our Attorney General just looking for the Federal lawsuit de jour? This will, of course, be immediately thrown out. But our AG will have wasted state resources on yet another suit trying to please the tea party and draw attention away from his own legal troubles. Why have we not heard from him regarding real problems, like the illegal setting of quoutas for special education students? That is where he should be focused.
2016-09-30 Re: Lawmakers urged to vet appraisal system
I believe that we should eliminate property taxes altogether and replace them with sales tax, value-added, or income taxes. Property taxes are the most unfair tax. First of all, the tax is based on an estimate of what you could sell a property for, basically an appraiser's opinion. Secondly, if the value of your property goes up, until you sell you see no increased income, yet your taxes increase. This helps drive gentrification as fixed and low income people get driven out of neighborhoods by the tax increases they cannot afford. Finally, as the Chronicle has reported in the past, there is no transparency for commercial appraisals, and much evidence that they are manipulated so that residential properties pay more than their fair share of taxes. The fundamental problem that cannot be fixed though, is that you are taxing an illiquid asset based on an opinon of its current worth, unrelated to the ability of the owner to pay the tax.
2016-10-02 Re: Poll: 35% see voter fraud as a big issue
While I fully agree that the sort of "voter fraud" our state leaders have passed laws to prevent is essentially non-existent, I have deep concerns about the overall integrity of the vote. Disenfranchisement by use of voter fraud laws is rampant, in some states polling hours and polling places have been restricted, and then there is the whole issue of using unverifiable electronic voting machines. Our voting machines are literally a black box, with no auditing of the software, as that is considered a trade secret. A recount is meaningless as it only means that the electronic total are chacked. Without a paper backup, approved by the voter, there is no true backup or recount. Am I paranoid to think that Russian president Putin would have his intelligence agencies hack into our voting machines and alter the vote? Maybe. Or maybe not.
2016-10-09 Re: Enhancing the armored cap over toxic waste can be safe, effective remedy
Ken Haldin conveniently ignores the fact that the cap over the waste pits has already been breached once. I suppose that is why the talk is now of an "enhanced" cap. I think at this point the old saw applies: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."
2016-10-14 Re: Ethics panel ends long ‘dark money’ fight
I find it both sad and frustrating that we cannot get so-called "dark money" out of our political process. While the donors to these sort of organizations may remain anonymous to the majority of us, you can bet that they are all too well known to the officeholders who benefit from their largesse. Without knowing who our elected officials have recieved support from, how can we fight corruption? We must pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizen's United, and excise this tumor on the body politic.
2016-10-15 Re: State warns HISD board
So the Texas Education Agency has warned HISD about low performing schools in the district, and made threats about what it might do. This is the same agency that threatened school districts for trying too hard to support and educate special needs children?
2016-10-17 Re: Buffett’s no Trump, but he’s not a saint on
Reading about Buffet's personal taxes, where he has made charitable contributions much larger than he can deduct, it suddenly struck me. Why in the world is the tax law written so that a billionaire can pay no taxes for decades, because they made bad deals and lost money, but someone who gives huge amounts to charity cannot deduct all of it? That is a clear example of the insanity in our tax code, that favors the wealthy, the rapacious, and inept, and penalizes the philathropic.
2016-10-19 Re: 911 operator’s tale reminds us to make some ti
Lisa Falkenberg writes about the decline of empathy, our desire to isolate and insulate ourselves from people that may be unpleasant or challenging. In a recent social media thread that I followed, there was discussion about how the homeless were using city sidewalks and streets as their bathroom. Much outrage was expressed, much desire to see the city "do something", ie, move them out of sight. What I found depressing was that no one proposed building public restrooms. The reflexive response seemed to be around strategies to hide or move the problem, and the attitude seemed to be that the homeless are not people, not children of God, but a problem to be fixed or hidden away.
2016-10-21 Grace Hopper event, Artificial Intelligence and Trump supporters
A recent detailed poll tried to understand what makes Trump supporters different, and while the results were somewhat murky, one result stood out for me. His supporters are very anxious about the economy, because their children, who are not well-educated, have difficulty finding a decent job. It used to be the case that there were good jobs available for those who had only a High School education or less, but those jobs have been disappearing, replaced by minimum wage service jobs. And technological progress is about to make the situation worse. In five years or so, self-driving vehicles are likely to start becoming commonplace. Driving a truck or a taxi has traditionally been a job most people are qualified for, with low but livable pay. When those jobs go away, what will be the effect on our politics? I think we need to start seriously looking at a program modeled on the WPA, where the government hires people who are unable to find low-skilled jobs, to work on our infrastructure and other items. Otherwise, we may be looking at a violent revolution.
2016-10-22 Re: CPS head seeks 800 new employees
While it is true that more CPS workers are needed and that their pay is too low, there is another factor in the high turnover that was not mentioned. Like school teachers, who also are suffering from high turnover, CPS workers have become a frequent target of criticism from politicians and the public at large, with each failute magnified, and all the triumphs forgotten. When a profession endures high-pressure, low pay, and lack of support from the public and our leaders, of course they will burn out and quit. Instead of using them as a convenient whipping boy, maybe we should look a little deeper to understand the failings.
I find it very disturbing that not a single school district spokesperson in the article admmitted that their district had these illegal, immoral policies. What has happened to simple honesty? I also have a suggestion for saving the state money. Get rid of the Texas Education Agency. If they have time to send people to districts to harrass them for enrolling too many students with disabilities, then they have too much time on their hands. We can save that money and use it to help pay the lawsuits that the state will be losing.
2016-10-26 Re: Foster care fix to be expensive
The state of Texas spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year, pointlessly, on "border security". And we beggar our children most in need, those in the foster care system, those with disabilities in our public schools, low income students in HISD. I sense a pattern. I sense a pattern of wasting money on splashy, headline grabbing actions that kowtow to a conservative base, and a lack of concern about children. These problems are not new. The headlines only confirm what many of us already knew. Compassionant conservatism is dead, long live compassionant conservatism.
2016-10-27 Walking in Houston
A high School senior is struck and killed crossing the street, trying to get to school. The police chief strikes and injures a pedestrian in the crosswalk. In 2014, Houston was No. 7 among large metropolitan areas ranked "by Pedestrian Danger Index", as reported in the Chronicle. This past summer I lived in Chicago, on the near northside not far from Wrigley field. I had ample opportunity to observe how drivers there treat pedestrians, contrasted with how they treat pedestrians in Houston. With rare exception, when a driver accidently stopped too far forward and was blocking the crosswalk, they would go into reverse and back out of the way, often giving a sheepish wave as if to say "I'm sorry!". I can't say that in 40 years of living in Houston I have ever seen that happen, even once. If a car is blocking the crosswalk, you just have to step out into the traffic lanes to get around them - and hope they look and don't turn right while you are in front of them. In Chicago, if I would step off the curb into a crosswalk, 95% of the time, traffic in both directions would stop while I crossed the street. In Houston, seeing someone actually obey the law and stop for someone in a crosswalk is a rare occurrence. Most often, I find myself trapped half-way across, with no one even slowing down, waiting for a gap in the traffic. I could also talk about the vast difference in the quality and quantity of sidewalks, walk signals, painted crosswalks, and other aids to pedestrian traffic, but let me just say that there really is no comparison. Walking in Houston is a frightening, obstacle-laden experience. What could be done? I suspect that most drivers are blissfully unaware of the traffic laws regarding pedestrians. Can almost all of them really be willfully ignoring the law that requires you to stop for someone in the crosswalk? I don't expect enforcement of the law - I am trying to be realistic - but signage (stop for pedestrians, state law), and education campaigns could not hurt, and may actually help. Painting more crosswalks would help alert drivers that they need to watch for pedestrians crossing at a corner. Adding stop signs to residential streets that have become raceways would help as well. And certainly, around all of our schools, complete and high-quality sidewalks, crosswalks, and crossing lights need to be present to protect our children. It is actually quite pleasant to walk in Houston this time of year. Let's make it safe as well. We can do a lot better.
2016-10-28 Re: Fewer justices on high court?
So Senator Cruz and Governor Abbott reveal their true colors - they do not believe in the will of the people, but rather believe in partisan obstruction even when a mmajority have spoken. I think it is fair to class the both of them as un-American.
2016-10-29 Re: Senators indicate quick fix for CPS not likely
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jane Nelson, ... directed its members to “take the (DFPS) budget down to zero and look at every single penny of the $2.8 billion” Why don't other programs get this sort of scrutiny? Why has the border protection program not been scrutinized? There is not even real data available as to whether it has had any effect, yet we continue to spend millions. Is a fictitious invasion by undocumented people a more serious problem than caring for our children?
2016-10-31 Re: Down-ballot races at mercy of top
Personally I was happy to cast my vote for Republican down-ticket candidates who disavowed Donald Trump. But I didn't see any.
2016-11-03 Re: Agency defends benchmark policy, denies disabled children shut out
Where is Governor Abbott in all of this? Why has he been so quiet? He needs to step up, and the first thing he needs to do is fire all of the leadership of the TEA and replace them with leaders who will care more about children than about saving money. The continued lies and obfuscations coming from this agency are incredible. Does anyone really believe anything they say anymore?
2016-11-13 Re: Texas takes it slower than Oklahoma on quakes
The Railroad Commission is not doing Texas oil producers any favors by not tightening regulations on wastewater disposal. Inevitably, there will be a serious earthquake, and when that happens, public pressure will likely cause the state to overreact. The independent oil producers need to pressure the RR commission to get in front of the problem, not wait for it to be unavoidable. Yes, wastewater disposal causes earthquakes. That is a fact. Now let's move on to regulating and monitoring it so we can avoid them.
2016-11-14 The election
It is very easy to say that we should all just put the campaign behind us, dismiss all that hateful rhetoric as political talk, and try to get along. It is easy to say that if you are a white male. But white males were never the target of Trump's hateful rhetoric. There is far too little acknowlegement of the legitimate fears of the groups which were disparaged and threatened during the campaign. Putting all that behind us is exactly the wrong approach. If we expect to move forward with any semblance of unity, a reconciliation process is called for, where the victimizers take ownership for the consequences of their words and actions. I haven't seen that. All I have seen is denial and platitudes. There is no healing there.
2016-11-16 Re: Tech distractions cited as traffic deaths rise
The key word is distraction. When driving, it is not so much where your hands are, or even where your eyes are, but where your attention is focused. Some years ago I was driving in a parking garage, when a car came around the curve and headed straight for me. I stopped and watched helplessly as the other driver stared blankly ahead, deeply immersed in a phone conversation, blind to her surroundings. I laid on the horn and she saw me and stopped, hitting my bumper with a jolt. Distraction is the key. Until cars drive themselves, we need to remove distractions from drivers.
2016-11-20 Re: 'Hamilton’ cast blasted for curtain-call messa
President-elect Trump has bullied, attacked, mocked, insulted, and lied about dozens of people and groups. To my knowledge, not once has he apologized. Calls for "coming together" and reconciliation in at least some cases seem to ignopre the fact that reconciliation is a two-way street. The starting point for coming together is an admission of past wrongs. Without even admitting past wrongs, how can there be atonement and reconciliation? There can't. There can only be denial.
2016-11-25 Dropping overtime rule betrays middle class
People love a bargain. We like affordable smart phones, cheap stuff made in China, low-cost fast food, cheap clothing, all made possible by foreign child labor, slavery, low wages, or domestic serfdom with loose overtime rules and a low minimum wage. We have always been this way - we have enslaved whole races in the past, and now keep people in virtual slavery, to satisfy our appetites for cheap stuff. We need to look in the mirror, and call it what it is.
2016-11-29 Re: State slashing therapy funds for disabled children
Penny wise and pound foolish. Many disabilities, if caught and treated early enough, can be overcome. Cutting funding for early childhood intervention simply insures that we will end up spending more money on school-age interventions and it will cost us more in the end. It certainly looks like our legislators love children a lot more before they are born.
2016-11-30 Re: Trump, Texan look at EPA job
I find it interesting to read that former Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Chairman Kathleen Hartnett White, after her meeting with Trump, say that "he wants the EPA to run more carefully, to use stronger science...". I have actually read some of the TCEQ reports and evaluated them based on my geological training, and I can say that the science contained in those reports would receive a grade of "C" at best. I do hope that they do a proper economic analysis, since the cost of global warming leading to a sea-level rise that would put the ship channel industry and large parts of south-east Houston under water is guaranteed to be a large number.
2016-12-06 Re: State: Call 911 about abortion
So if a woman feels threatened and coerced into *not* having an abortion, either by relatives or by protesters outside a clinic, should she also call 911 in that case? Sounds to me like the pamphlet is advising calling 911 if there is any outside pressure on the decision.
2016-12-06 Re: Editorial "Take a step"
I firmly believe that one of the main barriers to sidewalks in Houston is the rather bizarre notion, fairly unique amongst cities, that sidewalks are the financial responsibility of the property owner, and not the city. A sidewalk should be treated like a street - it is a common good, used by and needed by all the people - and so it is perfectly sensible for the city to take responsibility. Until this change in the law is made, we will not have sidewalks. We will have what we have today - a patchwork of good sidewalks, ending in patches of mud and grass, and older sidewalks broken up into mini-mountain ranges of concrete. In other cities I can literally walk miles on large, high-quality sidewalks. Here, it is hard to make it a block before encountering an obstacle.
2016-12-07 Re: Trump, Taiwan call set up by Dole
It is pretty clear that the president of Taiwan, with the help of his U.S. lobbying team, took advantage of Trump's refusal to attend security briefings and his general naivete to play him like a fiddle. The president of Pakistan similarly took advantage of Trump with an early phone call. I see a pattern of a president elect way out of his depth, making promises when he shouldn't and stepping on toes right and left. The only positive is that his promises are worthless, and he will renege on them as soon as they cause an issue, as he is not a man of his word.
2016-12-07 Re: Trump’s pick for education secretary could tak
When I was growing up (quite a few years ago), it was well-known that there were two reasons for private schools: either you were Roman Catholic, or your parents didn't want you going to school with "those people". Now maybe things have changed in the intervening years, but then again, maybe not so much. Certainly, I think that by and large the result of private charter schools is to decrease classroom diversity in most cases. In a society that has steadfastly refused to grapple in a meaningful way with its racial past, that is not helpful.
2016-12-08 Re: Bike-sharing program gains traction with plans to expand inside
Nice to see they are expanding, but I am curious as to how the sites are chosen. For example, there are currently no stations in the Heights, and on their website future plans for only 2 in the entire NW quadrant inside the loop, north of I-10, and west of I-45. It would seem like a few stations along the MKT bike trail would be a no-brainer.
2016-12-09 Re: In-flight WiFi calls on airliners considered
"customers could make other travel arrangements if they feared sitting next to passengers chatting on their phones." Seriously? The DoT is basically saying if you don't want to sit next to someone talking on their phone the entire flight, you can drive or take the bus. If this is approved, I predict a new phenomenon will arise: "phone rage".
2016-12-10 Re: Transition team requests the names of Energy personnel in climate meetings
I find this extraordinarily disturbing. This sounds disturbingly like preparation for a purge of personnel who have worked on climate change issues. I can only hope that most of them are protected by civil service rules. And it does not bode well for the planet, or for Houston. Some complain about the costs of mitigating global warming, but those are small compared to the costs of Texas City, Galveston, and Clear Lake going under water as sea level continues to rise.
2016-12-11 Re: Scoffing at CIA, Trump opens up intelligence rift
In the story you quote Trump as saying "these are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction", without qualification. But the fact of the matter is that the whole WMD story was made up by the Defence Intelligence Agency, a creature of Dick Cheney, and not the CIA. Trump's statement should be challenged - they are not the same people.
2016-12-12 Re: Special Education services denied
"The TEA has vigorously defended the benchmark and said no students were denied access to services." It this the new normal from conservatives? To ignore data and deny facts as a tactic to win arguments? This tactic certainly seems rampant - if you can't win on the facts then simply lie about them in the most blatant way possible, and enough people will believe you that you can get away with it.
2016-12-16 Re: White House ties Putin to hacking
I sent and e-mail message to our senator John Cornyn yesterday expressing my deep concern over the Russian interference in our electorial process. And true to form, like most of my e-mails to our senator, I was sent a reply thanking me for commenting on an entirely different topic. Is this a purposeful avoidance of the topic by his staff? An attempt to skew the constituent statistics so they can claim they did not hear much concern over this? This act by Russia is bordering on an act of war, and we seem to be trying very hard to ignore it. This is not a time for partisan politics. This is a time for a focus on our common enemy, not each other.
2016-12-17 Re: Auction for meeting with Ivanka canceled
Remember back in the day all the complaints about a night in the "Lincoln Bedroom" being used as a way to reward donors? Now we move to an actual auction for gaining access - to maximize profits I suppose. I predict that in the Trump administration, the corruption will be huuuuge!
2016-12-20 Re: Electoral college politics
'Gov. Greg Abbott countered Cornyn’s statements, saying later on Twitter, “this charade is over. A bill is already filed to make these commitments binding. I look forward to signing it & ending this circus.”' I would like to ask the governor why he supports a system that dilutes the vote of Texans such that every voter in Wyoming gets 4 votes for every single vote a Texan has. It seems to me that that is the actual circus .
2016-12-20 Re: Small oil firms still struggling
Every month, small companies plead with commissioners to waive fees or requirements that the firms plug old wells and clean up properties, claiming they just don’t have the money and the costs could put them out of business. I fiind this disturbing. Is this what is meant by having less government regulation ? Wells are plugged so that the water table is not contaminated by fluids from deeper in the earth - oil, gas, and brine. If an aquifer gets contaminated by an unplugged well that acquifer is permanently ruined. Permanently. The state already gets stuck with the bill for plugging abandoned wells from companies that went bankrupt, and has failed to collect enough money from producers to cover that cost.
2016-12-24 Re: Measures to control flooding falling short as area grows
Hightower, of Wolff Companies, said the goal should remain the same — to ensure that new development has zero net increase on runoff. So I read this as saying that we don't need to actually improve the flooding situation - that the status quo is just fine - we need only keep things as they are? Somehow I think most people not making money off flooding someone downstream would not agree.
2016-12-24 Re: U.S. abstains as Security Council rebukes Israel
Make no mistake about it, Israel, along with Russia, are colonial powers with policies of territorial acquisition and expansionism - actions we had hoped were left behind in the twentieth century. In the longer term, no good will come from these policies, either to the colonial powers or to the rest of the world. We are being the best sort of friend to Israel when we allow their behavior to be rebuked - a real friend does not shield a friend from honest criticism.
2016-12-29 Enabling personal choice
“People should be able to make their own personal choices when it comes to dietary decisions,” said Daren Bakst, a research fellow in agriculture policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “Government shouldn’t be so arrogant as to think we can control their decisions, or even try to influence their decisions.” But I suppose that the billions spent by large agriculture, fast food, and prepared food companies on advertising to try to influence our decisions is okay? Government is simply trying to act as a counterbalance to the continual drumbeat from industry. Giving people more information, e.g. requiring the posting of calories on menus, enables personal choice, it does not take it away. Obesity is a public health crisis, returning control of out diets to people driven by the profit motive is not the answer.
2017-01-01 Re: Perry polishes image for role
In "Perry polishes image for role" you say "fossil fuel-fired power plants ..., which scientists blame for accelerating climate change." As a scientist who has read much of the research, I would say that the phrase "blame for accelerating" is not entirely accurate. More accurately would be to say "cause". With astonishingly unanimity, scientists agree that global warming is caused by man-made CO2 emissions, accelerated by some natural positive feedback loops (melting tundra, decomposition of methane hydrates, etc.). Within the community of people who argue based on facts and evidence, there is no controversy or argument - global warming is a fact, and it is anthropogenic, it is not natural.
2017-01-02 Re: School grade plan decried
Grading schools on a scale of A to F? Maybe we should start grading all our state government responsibilities on an A to F scale? Here is my crack at it: School Financing - D Tax fairness - C Gerrymandering - D CPS - F Protecting the population from pollution - C Education for the disabled - F- Overall effectiveness of state legislature - D I give them an overall unsatisfactory grade.
2017-01-03 Re: House seeks to gut ethics office
It is said that the president "sets the tone" for how the government operates. I see politicians denying what they have said - even when recorded. I see open and blatant selling of access and influence, all with the primary goal of enriching themselves. I see huge ethics violations, influence peddling, selling votes, intimidation of bureaucrats trying to follow the law. I see a huge, stinking swamp, expanding and swallowing up what decency exists in Washington. Hold your nose and shield your eyes, it's going to be an ugly four years.
2017-01-04 Re: State thought mass graves, cremations would cut costs, health
So an official testifies before a judge that the state was proposing the new rules for disposing of fetal tissue as a cost saving measure? I'm sorry, but that does not pass the smell test. I believe that official just committed perjury. Welcome to the new normal where denying the obvious and lying become the order of the day.
2017-01-05 Re: Trump and Assange: unlikely colleagues?
Unlikely? I think not. They both have a deep disdain for honest journalism, for intelligence community proofessionals, and lest we forget, Assange is hiding in the London Ecuadorean embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden on rape charges, so it seems they share a deep mysogyny and disdain for women. So, unlikely? Not really.
2017-01-06 Re: REP. McCAUL: Trump’s aware Russia is threat, P
I'm beginning to see a pattern emerging. President-elect Trump tweets something outrageous, and then various Republicans start walking it back - "no he actually didn't mean that", "he really does understand", "you shouldn't take that literally". This is already getting tiresome. I don't want to hear his handlers try to sweep up the messes he makes. He needs to do it himself. He needs to hold press conferences, and expose himself to tough questions from reporters. He needs to stop tweeting whatever crosses his mind. Can't we all start acting like adults for a change?
2017-01-09 Re: State budget squeezed by uncertain economy
An item not mentioned in the story that could have severe implications for the state budget, is the Chronicle's exposure of caps on special education. Let's face it, that was imposed for budgetary reasons, and will have to wither away in the sunlight - but it will cost money, and probably lots of it - to do for the children what we should have been doing. Property taxes will have to go up, and less of that money will be available to fill holes in the state budget. And that does not even touch on the inevitable class-action lawsuit that is sure to be filed.
2017-01-09 Re: Tough challenge for Trump: Getting more men back to work
Even in the office environment, jobs have gone away due to PC's and automation. When I first started working as a professional for a multi-national in 1979, our office was awash with clerks, technicians, and secretaries. I would take hand-written notes to my secretary to be typed, clerks would do mundane tasks like folding paper, copying, etc. But with the advent of the personal computer, and the copying machine, most of those jobs gradually evaporated. Now an admin (nee secretary) is responsible for 50-100 staff, and has no time to "type" a note for anyone - you do that yourself on your workstation. Professionals do their own copying, there are almost no clerks or technicians to do mundane tasks. Those used to be good jobs for people with a high school diploma, and maybe a year or two of college. But they are gone, and they are not coming back.
2017-01-11 Re: Trump told of Russian claims - Unsubstantiated reports contain
It is very clear that Russian president Putin worked very hard, through multiple venues, to influence the election and get Trump elected. What has never been very clear is why he would make such an effort, and take the risk of committing what approaches an act of war. What is the payout? There have been theories that he did it in a fit of pique at Hillary for past grievances, but that hardly fits with a calculating former KGB agent. On the other hand, possessing blackmail material on Trump is a very powerful inducement indeed. From taht standpoint, the story fits the pattern and makes a lot of sense. God save us all.
2017-01-11 Re: Action ordered on foster system
“Sweeping changes to the state’s foster care system should come from state officials, not from un-elected federal judges or their appointed special masters,” Marc Rylander, spokesman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, said in a statement. I would agree 100% that sweeping changes should come from state officials. But they have not. The state has swept the problems under the rug for at least 20 years. The judiciary is the final backstop against state officials refusing to do their jobs.
2017-01-12 Re: Reimbursement for border security
state Rep. Dennis Bonnen had a final request of the Obama administration: reimburse Texas taxpayers $2.8 billion for funding border security initiatives that are the federal government’s responsibility. While we're at it, we should also ask for reimbursement for the cost of monitoring Jade Helm. We all know that is all that prevented federal troops from herding Texans into vacant Walmarts.
2017-01-13 Re: For VW, ending scandal was easy
Is $4.3 billion enough? I don't know. However I would ask a different question. Will any compensation reach those who suffer from asthma and other breathing problems who were affected by the increased smog caused by the illegal emissions? For that I am pretty sure the answer is no.
2017-01-15 Re: Doubt cast over school finance reform
"The House and Senate have their own priorities. In the upper chamber, it is to figure out how to do more with less, said Sen. Paul Bettencourt" Texas ranks 8th from bottom in education spending per student and at the bottom in teacher benefits. Somehow spending too much doesn't strike me as being the central issue with schools in Texas. From looking at the data and what other states are doing, it appears that the central issue is that we are not spending enough. We are already doing with less. And I fail to understand how privatizing can save money - private companies have similar costs and have to also make a profit.
2017-01-19 Re: Trump lashes out at approval ratings
“Polling more and more is a false god,” said Ron Kaufman, a longtime Republican strategist. “We all play to it, but it’s a false god. I just think it’s no longer reliable as a judge.” I'm not sure how to interpret that statement. Is he saying that office holders should quit listening to their constituents? Not that they seem to hear very well if you don't have a checkbook in hand, but this seems to me to be justifying not listening at all. Maybe that is the case. A representative in Colorado fled out the back door rather than face a less than adoring crowd.
2017-01-19 Re: Trump’s wall likely won’t save state cash
When are our states leaders going to demand real evidence, real proof that our nearly $1 billion per year expenditure on "border security" actually accomplishes anything? To me it sounds a lot more like a full employment act for DPS workers, while literally consigning our foster children to poor care, our children to poor schools, allowing our state parks to deteriorate - there are a whole host of places that money could be spent to real, tangible benefit. I challenge our legislators to demand a real accounting of the money spent, and a real measure of the actual benefits.
2017-01-21 First press conference for new Press Secretary
Trump is apparently upset by news media reporting accurately, and not supporting his lies about the size of the crowds at the inaguration. Sad.
2017-01-25 POTUS difficulty with truth
We all learned the story of the boy who cried wolf when we were young. The moral, of course, is that if you have a habit of lying, when it becomes important to be believed, no one will listen. As POTUS and his staff daily present "alternative facts", or as I like to call them, lies, their credibility continues to sink. What will happen when they need to be believed? And where is our senator, John Cornyn? Has he no honor?
2017-01-28 Re: Pro-Life march
I only have one question for Vice President Pence and the marchers. When are you going to speak out against and march against the death penalty?
2017-01-28 Re: Abbott warns Travis sheriff of funding cuts if detainer plan kept
I was struck by the statement coming from the governor's office, "considered wisdom of federal immigration authorities". What an amazing turnabout for our governor! Is he now becoming a Hamiltonian federalist, and modifying his strong state's rights stance?
2017-01-28 Re: Republicans try to undo Obama order targeting methane releases
A clear majority of Americans agree that global warming is real and is the result of human activity. The only conclusion I can make is that the party in power chooses to ignore the people in favor of wealthy special interests. The results are easily predictable. If we do not halt adding greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere very soon, melting icecaps will raise sea-level tens of feet, flooding most of Florida and Louisiana, and giving people in Pasadena shoreline property. Is that what we want to leave for our children?
2017-02-02 Re: Abbott cancels Travis grants
(Sen Charles) Perry said he was unmoved by those pleas because Hernandez is the one responsible for the cutoff of funding because she’s the one who decided not to follow the law. Ah, no, not really. Governor Abbot is a competent adult and he made the decision to try to bully Sheriff Sally Hernandez with a spiteful cutoff of funds to people in need. He was not forced to take this action, it was his initiative and his choice. And so we can judge the governor for his complete lack of empathy for the innocent victims of his temper tantrum.
2017-02-08 Re: Texas drafts wish list of projects
Wilbur Ross, is Trump’s choice for commerce secretary and has argued for a “private sector solution,” to finding the money for needed improvements. I am reminded of a history I once read of the development of the transcontinental railroads. The corruption was epic, the wealth generated for a few was enormous, thousands of investors lost huge amounts of money, and the amount of money wasted was unheard of. This has all the signs of being a huge Republican windfall for the banks and the wealthy, at the expense of the rest of us.
2017-02-08 Re: Houston continues to build a car-centric city that is dangerous
Our neighborhood has been trying for some time now to nudge the city into doing something about the spot where the heavily used MKT bike trail crosses 11th street in the Heights. Traffic on 11th routinely travels well over the speed limit, and there is wide agreement among bicyclists and pedestrians that it is a dangerous intersection. Yet the city has resisted even adding a "stop for pedestrians" candlestick in the middle of the street. I have visited and walked in many cities, and while Houston may not be the worst for pedestrians, it is certainly in the running for that sad title.
2017-02-09 Re: pedestrians
A letter writer made the claim regarding pedestrians, "If they would just watch where they were going, how could they be hit?". Well I walk several miles every day, I cross streets only at corners, I don't wear earphones, I look both ways, and while I haven't been hit (yet), I have had many close calls due to inattentive drivers running stop signs, turning recklessly, or refusing to stop while I am in a crosswalk - which is in violation of state law. Let's not forget, we had a police chief hit a pedestrian who was crossing the street legally. This sort of open denial is a huge part of the problem - blaming the victims and asserting the complete dominance of our auto-centric culture.
2017-02-10 Railroad commission funding
As noted by the chairwoman of the Railroad commission, funding for the Railroad Commission is not sufficient for the agency to do its job. What are the consequences for not inspecting wells and making certain they are properly abandoned? If the casing is breached in an aquifer, then essentially permanent contamination of that aquifer can take place. I do not understand why there is even a debate about preventing permanent harm to our water resources. Money can be found. We could, for example, quit using state resources to patrol the border. Our grandchildren will have to live with the consequences of our actions regarding the Railroad Commission. Let's make the right choice.
2017-02-11 School "choice"
What I don't understand about the proposed voucher bills, is if my tax dollars go to support an overtly religious school (Catholic, Muslim, Evangelical, etc.), how does that not violate the US constitution? In 1947, Justice Hugo Black wrote in a decision, "No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion." It appears to me that Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is spoiling for an expensive court fight.
2017-02-12 Re: Sandy Hook families hounded by ‘truthers’
"Your children never existed"? At what point do fringe conspiracy believers move from bizarre and deluded, to being considered mentally ill and committed to an institution? While some have been arrested for assault and other crimes, perhaps the criminal justice system is not the right place for them. We have a name for people suffering from and acting on paranoid delusions with no basis in fact - mentally ill. But what do we call those who use them as a political tool, and make money off them?
2017-02-16 Re: Congress moves to reverse rule on access to guns
Back in July, I wrote Senator Cornyn about the problem of guns in our society. In response, I received a form letter that stated in part, This is the debate we should be having—a debate that focuses on the real root causes of mass violence, and a debate that addresses the perilous intersection of guns and mental illness. Given our senator's vote to allow people with serious and disabling mental issues to purchase guns, I guess he no longer sees that intersection as being particularly perilous.
2017-02-20 Re: Bills aim to make it harder to develop affordable housing
Instead of placing study and neighborhood impact requirements on subsidized housing, why not a bill that would place those requirements on *all* high-density housing? The negative impact on a neighborhood is more due to the increased demand on local services like streets, sewers, drainage, etc. I would love to have some muscle behind slowing the apartment sprawl in the Heights. But maybe these bills aren't really about development, but about the "wrong kind of people" moving in?
2017-02-20 Senator John Cornyn
I'm afraid that our Senator, "Big John" Cornyn is actually a snowflake - unwilling to meet with constituents who might disagree with him and hurt his feelings. Instead, he throws insults at them and basks in the safe glow of the Republican Women's Club. He might consider what happens to snowflakes under the bright light of press scrutiny - they melt.
2017-02-24 Re: Texas congressman leading efforts to cut funds for renewable research
... a coalition of conservative politicians led by San Antonio Rep. Lamar Smith ... is pressing to overhaul a system it says allows the government, rather than the market, to decide the future of the country’s energy industry ... It has been my observation, that by and large, business is very poor at long-range planning - publically traded companies have to satisfy their shareholders, and are largely driven by quarterly results, not looking 5 or 10 years down the road. Additionally, there are many counter-examples of programs that would never have happened without government funding - the internet, the interstate highway system, most of the really innovative drug research. Even former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson has called for a carbon tax to help fight global warming, and to help the price of hydrocarbons to better reflect their true cost by explicitly including the cost of environmental destruction in the commodity price. I'm a retired oil company guy, but I firmly believe it is time to quit protecting the oil industry and push towards the next, cleaner, energy source, before we cause too much more damage to our fragile planet. I would like to leave my children a better world.
2017-02-24 Re: Trump seeks ‘top of the pack’ nuclear domina
I'm sorry, but this is utterly asinine. We have more than enough nuclear weapons to destroy most life on this planet, adding more accomplishes zero in terms of our safety, but it would move more of our economy and taxes to pointless, wasteful spending. This sounds like two boys in the restroom comparing their equipment. It is total nonsense.
2017-02-25 Re: Pension reform battle pits mayoral foes again
The basic problem with pension reform is the fact that the legislature even gets a say in it. Why doesn't one of our legislators file a bill that would have the state butt out and leave it up to the city to solve our own problems? The state has no financial stake in the outcome - all they have is a license to meddle. But then I guess local control doesn't apply in this case.
2017-02-26 Re: Bills would order districts and administrators to report improper
While I agree with the idea of tracking people guilty of improper relationships with students, I am shocked at the $3 million estimate. It seems to me that a spreadsheet and a person to manage it would be sufficient, and that would be a lot cheaper than $3 million. If this is how state government is being run it is no surprise that we have budget problems.
2017-03-03 Re: EPA drops request for methane data
Ostrich-like, if we stuff our head in the sand and don't measure it, it never happened? This is truly insidious. Don't even gather the data needed to make science-based, rational decisions that affect the fate of the planet. We should never fear the truth - even when it may contradict our beliefs. But here we have a case where we are trying to hide the truth, so that denial of global warming and desires for short-term profits may continue. If you live less than 20 feet above sea level, you had better be very worried.
2017-03-03 Re: When federal agents are ‘bad hombres’
I'm waiting for the day when ICE agents swarm River Oaks, the Villages, and Memorial to pick up lawn crews, leaving all those gorgeous lawns half-cut and ragged. Or perhaps they are avoiding the "red" areas of town, focusing their efforts on areas that did not vote for a Republican administration.
2017-03-04 Re: Bill protects workers’ political views
So a bill would "place political beliefs in the same protected category under Texas law as race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin and age." With the exception of religion, the other qualities are innate - things you cannot change. Which is nothing like a political belief, which is a choice. It would make a lot more sense to add sexual orientation and gender identification to that list, since they are similarly not chosen. I suppose too that with this law, if an employer found that their employee attended klan meetings or was a neo-nazi advocate, the employee would be protected. Or how about a daycare worker who is a member of a pedophilia rights group? This strikes me as especially poorly thought out.
2017-03-06 Re: Trump rages at leaks, setbacks, accusations
So a president who peddles in innuendo and lies is upset that he has low credibility? As far as I am concerned, he has given me no reason to believe or trust him, and many reasons - all of which fit into 140 characters - to simply assume that whatever he says is a lie. Sad!
2017-03-06 Re: Leashes come off Wall Street, gun sellers, miners and more
So a question for my senators. How does not requiring AT&T to take “reasonable measures” to ensure that their customers’ Social Security numbers, web browsing history and other personal information are not stolen or accidentally released. benefit me? I can see how it could help make the already wealthy even wealthier, but for the majority of us, it looks like a gift to large corporations, and more money in the pockets of the 1%. It seems to me that unleashing the economy is code for making sure the rich get richer, and maybe a little of that will trickle down to the rest of us, given that the unleashing seems to largely focus around removing regulations that protect the average citizen from corporate neglect and malfeasance.
2017-03-07 Re: GOP offers health plan
It is clear that the GOP health plan is a marginal improvement over what existed before Obamacare. Does no one remember what things were like then? Overcrowded emergency rooms as people without insurance tried to get medical care, the number one reason for personal bankruptcy was medical bills, people working jobs they hated but were afraid to quit because they would lose their insurance, a child mortality rate on par with third world nations. Obamacare is not perfect, but it has progressed medical care an enormous amount. If "Obamacare is a sinking ship", the answer is not to dynamite it and make it sink faster.
2017-03-09 Re: Judges, lawmakers target cash bail
It seems to me that we have a fairly fundamental choice at work here. We can strive to insure that no guilty person goes unpunished, at the cost of punishing many innocent people who lose their jobs while unable to bond out of jail (councilman Kubosh's choice). Or we can strive to create a system where we do not punishment the innocent, even if that means a few of the guilty may slip by. I vote for the latter.
2017-03-09 Republican health plans
I have a simple criteria for judging healthcare bills. How will they affect the children of the poor? It is clear, from conservative Republican analysts, that Trumpcare would be a disaster for poor children, leaving many of them without decent medical care. This is unChristian, unAmerican, and unacceptable.
2017-03-10 Re: Pruitt signals major shift at EPA
I would like to know on what Scott Pruitt bases his fictional beliefs that global warming is not due to greenhouse gas emissions. There is near unanimity within the scientific commmunity, and amongst the largest oil companies, that global warming is real, it is the result of emissions of carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil, and gas, and that the consequences are likely to be dire. He claims there is "tremendous disagreement", but the only people who disagree have no factual basis for their arguments, and tend to either be coal company lobbyists or politicians who receive money from them. I am a scientist. I have read hundreds of peer-reviewed papers on global warming. It is real. If we continue to pretend it is not, it will be too late to prevent catastrophic consequences. If you live near the coast, below about 20 feet above sealevel, don't plan to live there for the next 20 years. You will be under water.
2017-03-12 Re: Town hall crowd criticizes GOP health plan
The story notes that the legislation cuts funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — which provides emergency response and research for illnesses such as the Zika virus. Seriously? I am a lot more fearful of being caught up in an epidemic like Zika, or any one of more than a dozen other emerging diseases, than I am of a terrorist attack, or a bad dude from Mexico. The misplaced priorities this represents are breath-taking. We want to take money away from the CDC, which protects us from real and present threats, and instead build a wall at the border to protect us from an imagined threat? Every day I feel like I have fallen down the rabbit hole.
2017-03-13 Re: Pursuit through subdivision reaches 90 mph after officer attempts
The pursuit policies for police agencies in our area are in desperate need to revision. Far too many people have died when someone who is apparently guilty of only a minor offense takes off and is pursued. If the original offense is not a felony, then I think they police should not pursue - but use other tactics. It is too dangerous, especially in neighborhoods. I for one am willing to let a few bad guys let away if it prevents some of the loss of life we see in these chases.
2017-03-14 Re: Paul Bettencourt loves property taxes.
Property taxes are, in my estimation, the most unfair tax of them all. The basic premise is deeply flawed - that you pay a tax based on the estimated value of your property, if you sold it today. So while the estimated value of property may go up and down, and the taxes may go up and down, your ability to actually pay the tax remains constant. It is this basic disconnect that drives gentrification - as property values increase and taxes go up, original homeowners and businesses can no longer afford to pay the taxes. It is also open to subterfuge - as has been reported in the Chronicle - the actual value of large real-estate transactions being kept secret so that appraisors undervalue large commercial properties and leave the rest of us holding the tax bag. We should be moving away from property taxes and instead towards taxes that are more transparent, more closely tied to ability to pay, and less dependent on a volatile real-estate market.
2017-03-17 Sanctuary cities
I noticed that in the proposed Republican Federal budget, it cuts funding to reimburse state and local governments for costs of incarcerating certain undocumented immigrants. And our state legislators are proposing to force counties to incarcerate undocumented immigrants. So who will pay? Not the Federal government, not the State government. It will come out of our property taxes, which are capped, which will mean fewer potholes fixed, no police hired, and other cuts.
2017-03-19 Re: Culberson says funds cut; briefs show otherwise
Representative Culberson said, I’m the one who’s going to make the final decisions, along with the president. No judge can compel me to release the money.” So this is not about the rule of law since, clearly, under the law a judge can indeed compel the release of money. We are also subject to laws passed by all of Congress, not just the whims of a single Representative. Seems to me that our Representative is getting a little too big for his britches. He is not the law.
Judge Gorsuch says Judges should apply the law as it is, focusing backward, not forward, and looking to text, structure and history to decide what a reasonable reader at the time of the events in question would have understood the law to be.” Does this mean that the most-neglected phrase in the second amendment A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, will be applied for a change? The plain language says to me that thia amendment is all about states raising up militia to put down local revolts, mostly slave revolts, and has little or nothing to do with personal protection. Or is Originalism simply a smokescreen for apply personal, conservative beliefs?
2017-03-21 Re: Privatization of Medicaid ride program probed
Yet another success story for privitization. Not. I have never understood the desire to privatize government services. Since a private company must make a profit, either the cost will rise, as in this case, or the workers will have their pay and benefits cut, which is often the case. Of course in this instance, it appears that the privatization was pursued simply to open up new opportunities for graft and corruption. It could make an interesting story to see how many privatization initiatives actually succeeded. I suspect it is a diminishingly small number.
2017-03-22 Re: Manafort had plan to benefit Putin government
I am completely outraged, with our senators Cornyn and Cruz. Where is their outrage? Where are their demands that this investigation be pulled well out of partisan politics and pursued vigorously with independence and all deliberate speed? Since Citizens United, since unlimited funds can be spent for and against candidate anonymously, what are the chances that some of that anonymous money illegally came from foreign interests, from billionaire Russian friends of Putin? How many in Congress might also be compromised by Russian money?
2017-03-22 Re: Officials: No new threat led to laptop limit
I have flown out of Dubai, and my recollection is that I received - as did everyone else - one of the most complete and intrusive security checks I have ever experienced. I really question what may really be behind this rule that conveniently avoids impacting U.S. carriers. I'm afraid that this administration has lost all credibility with me.
2017-03-23 House Intelligence Committee
It is abundantly clear that the Intelligence committee cannot be trusted to get at the truth about Russian influence in our electoral process. Representative Nunes, the Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is obviously trying to cover for the liar-in-chief, running to the White House with information they can use to try to fend off critics, without even sharing that with his own committee. The stench of cover-up is all but overwhelming. The time for a special prosecutor is now, since nothing the committee does will have any credibility.
2017-03-28 Re: Trump to curtail clean air rules
“This policy is in keeping with President Trump’s desire to make America energy independent,” the White House official said. “The president is not going to pursue climate policy that puts the economy at risk.” Which is exactly what the president is doing. Rising sea level alone is estimated to cost about $1 trillion to the US economy this century. Add in similarly large numbers for increasingly violent weather, lost productivity in agriculture, higher air conditioning costs, and it quickly becomes clear that we could easily afford to pension off all the coal miners, shut down the mines, and be way ahead of the game. Why has global warming become a political litmus test? It is a scientific fact - and Mother Nature doesn't care what you believe.
2017-03-28 Re: Proposed federal budget cuts threaten after-school programs
In explaining cuts to afterschool programs, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said there’s no evidence the targeted programs help kids. In today's new reality I have a simple rule of thumb. If a member of the administration says it, I simply assume they are lying. Sadly this seems to serve me well. How long can we as a society survive when the leadership of the country cannot be trusted to tell the truth, when nearly every word out of their mouths qualifies as fake news ?
2017-03-29 Re: County commissioners spar over bail system suit
Kudos to Commissioner Rodney Ellis for shaking up the County Commissioners. It is unfathomable to me why we continue to waste tax dollars fightiing for a system we have already committed to change, a system that is clearly unconstitutional. The County Commissioners owe us an explanation of why they are continuing this fight, all the while arguing that the system is changing anyway. This really is one of the most nonsensical things I have seen government do.
2017-03-29 Future looking or mired in the past
The current budget draft includes a nearly 20 percent reduction for the National Institutes of Health and a likely 9.8 percent cut for the National Science Foundation. Executive orders from the White House have started to slash environmental and global warming regulations, especially regarding coal power plants. Should we be trying to “save coal jobs” that destroy the environment and miner’s health, or support a future economy based on being the technology leader? We are on a trajectory to cede leadership in renewable energy technologies to China. We can stay mired in nineteenth century energy production, or work towards twenty-first century energy production. Which is the better idea?
2017-03-31 Re: Houston immigrant doctors given 24 hours to leave the U.S., then
As someone who used to supervise many people on visas and green cards, I came to recognize the labyrinthine and often kafkaesque workings of our immigration system. Many times there were misprints, incorrect stamps, or dates entered incorrectly, and sometimes these resulted in great distress and expense while our lawyers worked it out with immigration. It is clear to me that the whole system is far too complicated, and is riddled with errors. If no one takes it too seriously, this is distressing but tolerable, but now that the Republican administration seems bent on deporting as many people as possible for any reason possible, the flaws in the whole system are revealed in sharp relief and become intolerable. I would hope that Senator Cornyn and Representative Culberson will see this incident as merely the tip of the iceberg, and an indicator of the urgency with which the whole immigration and deportation strategy must be re-addressed.
2017-03-31 Re: Despite Trump’s request, Israel set to OK West
I have a suggestion for the President. If he needs a place to cut the budget, there is $3.11 billion dollars for Israel that could be better spent on domestic programs. Let's really go America First!
2017-03-31 Re: Tesla makes a new run at rules
So what is so special about new cars that a dealership is required? A used car can be bought from a lot with no services except financing, or by cash from an individual. Do new cars really need all the services that dealerships provide? Or is this just a government-supported scam designed to create a privileged class of middle-men who then pass part of their profits to legislators in the form of campaign contributions?
2017-04-01 Re: In fight over water, critics say oil and money s
I firmly believe that monitoring groundwater around all injection sites, and also seismically monitoring the progress of frack jobs, should always be required, and the results made public. Not because I expect a lot of problems - I retired from working in the oil industry and believe that these activities are quite safe when done properly - but because the public willingness to give oil companies a license to operate is fading, and one important way to prevent the loss of public support for the industry is to be more open and up front. People fear what they don't know, and keeping secrets breeds fear and distrust. The industry is shooting itself in the foot by not supporting monitoring.
2017-04-01 Texting and driving
So will Rick Perry contact all of the grieving relatives of those who died in the bus crash, caused by a texting driver, to reassure them of the importance of not micromanaging adult behavior? Or maybe he could man up, admit that he was terribly wrong, and apologize.
2017-04-02 Re: Scientists must earn and maintain public’s tru
There is no enterprise in this country as open and transparent as science, so I do not understand what Ann Kinzig is complaining about in her editorial. It is certainly long on generalities and short on specifics. She keeps hammering home that scientists move into the realm of subjectivity, but cites no evidence. That sounds pretty subjective to me. And she does draw one line - that while man-made global warming is real, all the projected consequences are speculative. That is simply contradicted by the facts. Sea level is rising - that is an objective, well-established fact. And it is hardly subjective to look at the data on year-to-year ice loss in Greenland and Antartica, and calculate how much further sea level will rise. Now in my experience as a scientist, I have noted that most scientists are very conservative, and not given to speculation or alarmist rhetoric. So my assumption is that the negative consequence of global warming are probably being underestimated. Which is a frightening prospect.
2017-04-02 Re: House approves limits on EPA data use
“The American people have a right to see the data that is used to justify EPA’s costly regulations,” Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, author of the bill and chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said in a statement. “The days of ‘trust me’ science are over.” Because it would be so much better to trust politicians to do the right thing and take care that we are not poisoned?
2017-04-03 Re: Sore Losers
A letter writer opines I have never seen a “sore loser” attitude displayed like the one that is going on now. Really? Fully 40% of Republican still believe that Obama was not born in the U.S. Judge Merrick Garland did not even get the courtesy of a hearing by Republicans, because with only 15% of his term left - 8 months - that was too close to the election . And now we have a president who, even some Republicans admit, was helped along in his election by Russian meddling in our electoral process. This goes much deeper than sore loser - in part it is tit-for-tat, and in part it is a reaction to the current chaos in the administration and the tainted election process.
2017-04-04 Re: Deadly bus crash triggers debate on texting
I'm sure that the families of those killed in the bus crash are greatly consoled by the fact that Texas does not micromanage adult behavior.
2017-04-04 Re: Secret meeting held to boost Trump-Putin ties
There has been talk of a “shadow government” lately, but it appears that the real shadow government is made up of close associates of the President who have great power and serve without Congressional approval or in conformance with ethics laws. Blackwater founder Erik Prince, for example, negotiating with the Russians. Where was our duly approved Secretary of State Rex Tillerson? Was he even consulted? Jared Kushner, negotiating with the Israelis and Palestinians. Again, is the State department being bypassed? This looks to me like a ploy to diminish the authority of Congress to vet and approve the cabinet, by emasculating members of the cabinet and using people unencumbered by ethics regulations and oversight to operate outside of congressional purview. I do not see this ending well.
2017-04-06 Re: EPA seeks to roll back programs targeting lead paint
This morning I was greeted with the headline “EPA seeks to roll back programs targeting lead paint”. I was absolutely gobsmacked. There is no safe level of lead in children, and as Flint has shown, we are still being haunted by the sins of the past regarding this dangerous and insidious metal. I simply cannot fathom how anyone could think that this is a good idea. I have to say I am at a total loss to understand what sort of person could propose such a thing. Is this change being proposed so that real estate developers can save a few dollars? This is, frankly, obscene.
2017-04-07 Re: Ban on texting while driving not the solution
Mark Davis wants to increase penalties for causing an accident while texting without outlawing texting itself. Let's see, we could apply that logic to DUI - if you think you can make it home in one piece you're legal. Or speeding - as long as you don't actually cause an accident, who needs speed limits? How about stopping at stop signs and red lights - as long as no one gets hurt, why make it illegal? Personally I would like to see even talking on the phone while driving made illegal. Many large companies already prohibit this behavior on pain of dismissal. I got hit once in a parking garage by someone talking on the phone, because their attention was on the conversation and they literally did not see me. Waiting for the accident to happen seems like a very poor policy to me, and unlikely to change behavior.
2017-04-07 Syria
While I have to agree that there is a certain visceral pleasure in bombing a war criminal like Bashar al-Assad, I have to ask - is this nothing more than a visceral response? Or is there actually a strategy at play here? Given the wild swings in the stated policies of the administration, this seems like a one-off reaction without any strategic context or any thought given to what comes next. I think that we all, and especially our elected representatives, need to be asking just these sorts of questions.
2017-04-10 Re: Little obstacles a big drag on disabled access to Metro
Who is responsible for maintaining the street in front of my house? Why the city of course - the street is a public good and used by everyone. Who is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in front of my house? Why I am. How does that make any sense? The sidewalk is just as much a public good as the street. The city should be building and maintaining them. In most cities, that is what happens. When we spent the summer in Chicago, we could literally walk miles in any direction on well-maintained, wide, continuous sidewalks. Here, I can hardly get out my front door before encountering missing and broken sidewalks. I literally cannot go a single block in any direction on a continuous, well-maintained sidewalk. Talk about crumbling infrastructure! For the fourth largest city in the country, this is sad and embarrassing.
2017-04-10 Re: Smith takes on climate science
"...Smith says he believes climate change is real and humans play some role but questions the dire forecasts of fast-rising oceans and widespread drought." The problem with U.S. Representative Smith's crusade against climate science, is that the consequences are not symmetric. Suppose the science is wrong and has overestimated the effects - I don't believe that, the evidence is that if anything the effects are being underestimated, but for the sake of argument - maybe 1% would be shaved off the GDP. Painful, but well within the normal variability. But if Smith is wrong and the science is right, then the consequences are catastrophic and the economic consequences alone would far exceed the great depression. In other words, Representative Smith is trying to save pennies by risking dollars. Is this really sound policy? I don't think so.
2017-04-11 Re: Parents want more data on vaccinations
I cannot understand why the anti-vaxxers do not want to allow schools to publish the number of unvaccinated children in their population. Is it because they are afraid that if the high numbers at some schools were released, there would be a general backlash against their unwarranted priviledges? Personally I think we need to go back to the days when you could not send your child to school unless they were vaccinated, or had a medical condition that prevented them from being vaccinated. In retrospect, it is clear that the whole anti-vaxxer movement is yet another consequence of widespread "fake news" and people's willingness to be taken in by it.
2017-04-11 Re: Passenger dragged from United flight; CEO calls it 'upsetting event'
The CEO Oscar Munoz said "Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this," Munoz told employees". What he should have added was "It is apparent from this incident that while our employees followed procedure and I back them for doing that, the procedures themselves are deeply flawed and need fundamental revision. This incident should not have happened, and something like this should never happen again." But he did not do that, so I sold my United stock yesterday, and as a long time Platinum flyer, am re-evaluating my travel options.
2017-04-12 Re: Marriage license exemption bill gains initial OK
I find it interesting how the Texas Senate seems determined to turn Texas into a pariah state for business and sports events. But I guess things like this are an easy way to appeal to a prejudiced base, and don't involve the hard work of try to solve actual problems.
2017-04-12 Re: An edge for Texas - Fed official says rising population figures
"And the country has $46 trillion in unfunded entitlements, such as Social Security and Medicare" Let's be really clear. These are not entitlements. They are retirement and medical insurance programs that are underfunded because the Congress has chosen over the years to steal money from them. By repeating the mantra "entitlement" over and over again, you are making a political statement. They are insurance programs that people have paid into their entire working lives. Let's reword the quoted sentence: "And the country has $46 trillion in unfunded insurance, such as Social Security and Medicare". Sounds quite different, doesn't it?
The president’s budget has proposed eliminating four of NASA’s climate science missions, including instruments to study clouds, small airborne particles, the flow of carbon dioxide and other elements of the atmosphere and oceans. A common complaint of “climate deniers” is that the science is too speculative. So let’s gather more data and reduce the uncertainties around climate modeling and measurement. Given the potentially catastrophic consequences of global warming to the Texas Gulf coast, I would think that getting as much hard data as possible to make the best decisions possible would be a Texas Republican priority.
2017-04-13 Re: Council moves to crack down on homeless
The homeless. They are human beings who have fallen on hard economic times, often coupled with mental illness, and sometimes drug abuse. As compassionate people, we should try to help them. The homeless. They are frightening and irritating, begging on the streets, sleeping on the roadside, trashing our neighborhoods and causing us a lot of discomfort. We should move them elsewhere. How we treat the "problem of the homeless" says a lot about us.
2017-04-13 Re: House panel OKs bill on heeding ICE requests
So let me try to connect the dots here. One the one hand we have the legislature poised to require police to honor all ICE requests and to not prohibit officers from asking about immigration status. The effect of this policy, as is already occuring, is that undocumented immigrants will no longer call police to report crimes in their communities, which will help embolden the gangs. And now the governor, without consulting the local police or sheriff, is sending in the Texas Rangers to "deal with the gang probem". Is this creating a problem in order to solve it? Or to at least put on a big show? Not that I expect the Rangers to be effective. If the local community will not be involved, then the gang task force will fail, and we will be left worse off.
2017-04-14 Re: Health subsidies now a pawn to force talks
On Maundy Thursday, the central focus is on Jesus washing his disciples feet - a compelling symbol of the Christian imperative for the powerful to serve the least, for the first to become the last. So it is particularly ironic that on a day devoted to servanthood, the president threatens to use the poor as a pawn in a power play to try to blackmail the Democrats into giving him what he wants. Sad.
2017-04-18 Re: TABC head quits amid controversy
Maybe I'm dense, but I don't see the controversy. How many employees traveled to conferences? It would be pretty easy to spend $1000 per employee, and attending conferences to see what others are doing is really important. Given the lack of interest in Ag comissioner Sid Miller and his spending, I have a feeling that something else is going on here.
2017-04-18 Re: Board wades back into creationism debate
The action some members of the board want to take is simply unconstitutional. The establishment clause of the First Amendment clearly prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another - which is what the creationists are trying to accomplish - to get the schools to teach a particular theology pretending to be science.
2017-04-18 Re: Planting Trees to stop global warming
A letter writer wrote "Let nature work for humanity by planting trees, billions of trees. They love carbon dioxide and give us a bonus of oxygen." Sadly, detailed studies have shown that it is not that simple. While trees in the tropics slightly cool the planet, trees in temperate zones may actually warm the planet slightly. There do not appear to be any silver bullets for stopping global warming, other than the obvious - quit producing greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane.
2017-04-19 Re: DHS chief tells critics to ‘shut up’
So Homeland Security Secretary John "Snowflake" Kelly is upset about criticism of his agency. Instead of telling critics to shut up, maybe he should fix what is broken. It is clear from recent events that they have started targeting the low-hanging fruit - people whose status is in dispute and who report to ICE offices. They also seem to have lost any sense of balance in their zeal to push up their numbers at any cost. If his agency was clearly targeting "bad hombres", there would be little criticism.
2017-04-19 Re: From her new West Wing office, Ivanka watches her brand grow
I do not see how it is possible for Ivanka to continue to own her company and work in the White House without there being a conflict of interest. She needs to decide to either sell the company outright, or leave the White House. If the Chinese had given her a $1000 piece of art, it would have to go to the government. But they gave her trademarks worth millions, and that is okay? Nonsense.
2017-04-21 Re: Pesticide maker is urging Trump to ignore scientists
And this is precisely why I am marching on Saturday. Ignoring unpleasant facts does not make them go away. Pretending that these pesticides are not causing harm, pretending that human activity is not causing global warming, pretending that vaccines are dangerous and not life-saving - does not change the reality. Mother nature does not care what we believe.
2017-04-21 Re: Group targets hospital fast food
While I am sympathetic to not wanting hospitals appear to be endorsing fast food, the reality is that many people in the hospital need to get calories of some sort in order to fuel healing, and frankly, fast food is often significantly more palatible than hospital food. Many reasons why someone may be hospitalized may affect their appetite or taste, and so the first priority should not be trying to send them a message about the evils of junk food, but getting them enough calories and protein to promote healing. I have snuck many a hamburger into someone's room when they were unable to eat the provided food.
Kudos to Steve Brown for addressing the taboo subject of income tax in Texas. We are far too dependent on property tax, which is the most unfair tax there is - it has little relationship to ability to pay. My property taxes went up by the maximum allowed for several years, this year they will go down slightly, and yet my income and ability to pay them is essentially unchanged. That makes no sense. Fair taxes should reflect the ability to pay them, i.e. income; not some estimate of the value of illiquid property that is owned.
2017-04-24 Re: EPA cuts could worsen border pollution
If one of our senators would actually have a townhall meeting, I would want to ask them "why is it so important to increase defense spending, when we already spend more than the next eight nations combined?" When is it enough? This whole notion that we need to eat sewage so that the military can have more money is absolutely crazy. We are impoverishing ourselves for no good reason, due to fear spawned by false narratives and spun by politicians trying to hold onto power. It must stop!
2017-04-28 Bad bill
This bill may as well have been titled the "Destroy trust in the police and worsen public safety act", because that will be the result. If people are afraid to speak to the police - which this act will accomplish - how will the police be able to solve crimes and find criminals hiding in the community? What is worse is that this will allow a few bad apples in the department to start harrassing everyone with brown skin, and the chief will have lost the power to discipline them. This will not enhance public safety, but will accomplish the opposite. It is a truly bad bill.
2017-04-28 Re: DEFICIT: Conservatives are facing moment of truth over curtailing debt
The quickest way to balloon the deficit is to cut taxes and expect economic growth to magically pick up the revenue slack. The Laffer curve has been shown to be a fiction, and this whole premise wishful thinking. But remember, the people working on this are all multi-millionaires and will see huge personal benefits from tax cuts, while sticking the rest of us and our children with the bill.
2017-04-29 Re: Federal ruling: Detaining poor for low-level crimes unconstitutional
I don't understand why almost all of the judges oppose changing the bail system. While I firmly believe they are wrong, I would like to hear their argument, as it will inform my vote in the next judicial election.
2017-05-02 Re: Trump pushes for health care vote this week
"The GOP will not seek a cost-and-impact estimate from the CBO." No news is good news? Is that the hope of the GOP? Or is this a shell game where they hope that when people start seeing the impact of the bill in 2018, they can blame state governments and still get re-elected? As the president himself recently noted, health care is really complicated. To propose to build a new law and pass it flying blind, not allowing a non-partisan analysis, is the height of folly, and a cynical ploy that shows no concern for people and a lot of concern for playing to the base to get re-elected.
2017-05-02 Re: President open to meeting with N. Korea leader
Does anyone remember when President Obama said he was willing to meet with the president of Iran, and Republicans went crazy?
2017-05-03 Re: Visa crackdown threatens seasonal help
I don't believe that "they cannot find enough Americans willing to take such jobs." I think that the truth is they cannot find enough Americans to take such jobs at something well below a living wage. We have all become addicted to exploiting foreign workers. Restaurants keep their prices low by using undocumented or temporary visa workers who get paid much less than an American would require, and we all love it. If we were serious about "America first" we would willingly pay more for restaurant meals, hotel rooms, and landscaping to support a livable wage for Americans. The first step would be to increase the minimum wage to something someone could actually live on.
2017-05-04 Re: Trump appointees offer muscular support for oil and gas
"As a congressman, he (Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke) voted consistently against applying new regulations to the oil and gas industry." I spent 35 years in the industry, and one lesson I learned is that while many companies, especially most of the large players, are pretty careful - they are very concerned with their "license to operate" and with liability - having deep pockets, some of the players tend to be more fly-by-night or overly cost driven and willing to cut corners. Regulations are needed to level the playing field so that the good-intentioned companies are not put at a competitive disadvantage by the ones cutting corners. And there are many areas that still need to be regulated - waste water disposal causing earthquakes, fracking around fault zones, methane releases, bonds to ensure proper plugging and abandonment, to name a few. The Interior Secretary's focus would result in some short-term gains at the expense of leaving an environmental mess for future generations. Let's not mortgage our children's future.
2017-05-05 Re: Senate approves state’s bail reform bill
"Bondsmen have said the measure would evaporate much of their bread-and-butter business in cash bonds for low-level defendants." And why is that? Precisely because these defendants are low-risk. If they were not low risk then they would not be so profitable for bail bondsmen. Which is precisely why most of them should be released on personal recognizance bonds. The system is not in place to provide a subsidized cash-cow to bondsmen. It is supposed to be a "justice system".
2017-05-09 Re: Administration hollows out EPA science board
"The Trump administration will not reappoint half the expert members of a board that advises the Environmental Protection Agency on the integrity of its science." Beginning with the President and his appointees, and now reaching down to the various agencies in the Executive Branch, the Federal Government is losing all semblance of integrity and believability. When I read anything coming out of Washington now, I simply assume it is a lie. What an awful state of affairs.
2017-05-10 Re: SHAKE-UP: Surprised Washington lawmakers react with caution, alarm
The foundation of any government, from democracy to monarchy, is for the governed to consent to being governed. In a democracy, that consent revolves around trust - trust that the government is legitimate, trust that the government is following the law, trust that the government is transparent. We are approaching a crisis in government in all of these areas. The time for Senator John Cornyn, majority whip in the Senate, to start leading us back to democratic ideals is long overdue. It needs to start with a Special Prosecutor being appointed to remove the stink of partisanship. Congress needs to reassert themselves and start challenging the executive branch before too much damage has been done to the Republic.
2017-05-10 Adoption Measure
So let me get this straight, Republican Rep. James Frank wants part of my tax dollars to be sent to adoption agencies that discriminate against potential adoptive parents. If adoption agencies want to shut down rather than not accept state money or accept non-discrimination statutes, then I suppose providing families for chiildren in need is not one of their deeply held beliefs. That sort of dogmatic, unloving behavior is what gives religion a bad name.
2017-05-11 Re: Anti-vaccination measure added to foster care bill in Texas House
How is this even a debate? Why do a large fraction of House members apparently believe they can play doctor, and tell real doctors to withhold standard care from foster children? These children have already been abused enough, they don't need our legislators abusing them further.
2017-05-11 Re: ER pricing study sparks fight
The next study should compare quality of care and outcomes at free-standing ER's vs. hospital ER's. It is clear that profit motive dominates the free-standing ER's. How does that affect care?
2017-05-12 Re: CenterPoint rate requests draw doubts
The regulatory dance. CenterPoint pads its rate increase request with many clearly improper items, the review identifies those, they get removed, and the rest is approved without much question. The reviewers can show how good they are, CenterPoint gets what it really wants, and the ratepayers get the booby prize. How about taking all of the obviously improper parts of the rate request, and subtracting twice that amount from the request? As it stands, there is no downside for CenterPoint trying to slip in improper items. Quit playing the game, refuse to join the dance.
2017-05-12 Re: Why you’re getting bad customer service — an
I recently experienced a stellar example of this phenomenon. For years, the Sundance theater downtown has been my favorite movie theater - great service, beer, reserved seating. But they were recently purchased by AMC. The difference in employee engagment was stark and disappointing. I got the strong impression that the employees really were just waiting for their shift to end - marking time. The whole experience left me sad, grieving the great theater that used to be. And I doubt I will be back.
2017-05-13 Re: Discord may spur special session
So the House "Freedom caucus", missed their nap time and had a tantrum, killing more than 120 noncontroversial bills. But it wasn't personal. What was it then? It wasn't good government. It wasn't dignified. It wasn't helpful to their constituents. Mostly it seems to be nothing more than a spiteful reaction to being incapable of getting their own hateful agenda passed.
2017-05-14 Re: Criticism mounts over pot licensing
Compassion and "Texas government" are fast becoming strangers. Much of the legislative session seenmed to be consumed by struggles to restrict and punish, with bills aimed at compassion losing out. Are we becoming the big state with a small heart?
2017-05-14 Re: Cell ban nearing penalty phase
Sadly the bans do not go far enough. Using hands-free mode does not significantly improve the situation. The problem is that multi-tasking is a myth. Attention is focused on one thing at a time, and if a driver is in an intense conversation, they will be driving blind, whether the phone is in their hand or not. I was hit head-on while driving in a parking garage by someone talking on their phone, and it was apparent that they literally did not see me right in front of them.
2017-05-17 Re: Sanctuary cities law won’t lead to profiling,
Instead of just stating what he cannot know, why doesn't Governor Abbot at least collect data to show that he is right? Ask the DPS or some other appropriate agency to actually collect data regarding profiling, and let's see if it increases. I for one am quite tired of government by supposition, and would like to see government based on actual data.
2017-05-17 Re: Hackers who leaked NSA tools likely have U.S. insider
The untold story in all of this is how the pervasiveness of the Windows ecosystem has helped lead us to this point. But there are alternatives. Especially for individuals, Apple computers, or even Linux computers can be used. With most functions now accessed through web browsers, the operating system is becoming irrelevant. Linux systems generally get automatic security updates weekly, and have free software that can work with Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files. Linux is often used in corporate backrooms for servers and to do the heavy lifting.
2017-05-18 Re: President Donald Trump complained about the coverage of his administration
Trump says no politician "has been treated worse or more unfairly." I would expect a teenager to play the victim, but a man his age needs to grow up and accept the consequences of his actions. Did President Obama complain about Trump refusing to believe he was born in the U.S.? No, he was bigger than that. The president's performances have me moving from embarrassment to fear to incredulity to disgust, and back again.
2017-05-18 Re: Paxton joins fight over prayer
I have some advice for County Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Wayne Mack - read Matthew 6:5-6. "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray ..."
2017-05-19 Re: Culberson defends biotech stock buy
Have you ever tried to buy a stock on a foreign exchange? It is not an easy process. In fact, it is quite painful. That fact alone causes me to be suspicious of Representative Culberson's motivation. That and the fact that the offered explanation doesn't hold water. Unless it is an IPO, you don't buy stock to benefit the company - they don't see any of your money. You buy stock because to think you will make money on it. There is more to this story, it simply does not pass the smell test.
2017-05-21 Re: State targets debt lawyer
Patronella said there isn’t anything he can do. So what is the point in even having judges and courts if the judge becomes a rote cipher, simply signing orders, without any ability to reject orders that on their face are illegal? I am not a lawyer, but that sounds wrong to me. The point of judges is to use judgement.
2017-05-22 Re: House passes ‘bathroom bill’ amendment
I hope that the members who voted for this bill are proud of bullying 8 year-olds. This really does amount to state-sponsored child abuse. But then, with all the children's issues that were ignored this session, we shouldn't be surprised.
2017-05-23 Re: HISD may pay $60M more
It seems that I am forever reading that a large part of the problem in HISD is that because of the large number of students in poverty, costs are higher than the state formula allows. Which begs the question - why is that factor not included in the school funding formula?
2017-05-23 Re: Help fight crime
There’s simply no way that oficers can have eyes and ears on all of Houston, 24-7. People who have witnessed criminal acts should find a safe way to report what they���ve seen Absolutely true. And if your key witness is an