Bush the environmental realist?

The Texas Tribune published a fairly detailed interview with George P. Bush, the Republican candidate for Land Commissioner, yesterday. Most notable among its lengthy contents was that he had a rather pragmatic take on environmental issues, at least in comparison with his compatriots. Bush, of course, is the son of former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) and the grandson of former President George H.W. Bush (ergo, the nephew of George W. Bush).

Among the many examples of his perceived moderation on these issues is that he admits global warming is occurring, though the Tribune pointedly notes that he stops short of attributing it to humans. However, perhaps more importantly, Bush does note that something needs to be done about global warming and the deleterious effects it will have around the world, specifically in Texas. He laments the coming rise of the sea level, claiming it is something that “keeps him up at night.” This is a very different line of reason from most other Republicans who concede global warming occurs but still claim man does not affect it. Those arguments typically make a point of saying that people cannot do anything to affect global warming, so we need not alter our environmental policies.

Furthermore, Bush countered some of his colleagues by stating that he would not want to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, though he definitely strongly disagrees with most of their recent mandates. I, for one, am not impressed by this concession. Is it supposed to be impressive? Rick Perry claimed the EPA need not be abolished in the midst of his epic debate failure a few years back.

However, Bush appeared content –even tepidly supportive– with the reality that the EPA and other major players are trying to transition the consumption of energy away from fossil fuels such as coal, and onto cleaner sources such as natural gas, before moving onto full renewable sources.

In the full interview –which you can read here— Bush went on at length about how it is a good thing to wean the State off of oil (yeah, you read that right) and mitigate emissions of carbon dioxide. He even spoke quite favorably of Garry Mauro, a Democrat who was Land Commissioner for the four terms between 1983 and 1999, for similar initiatives. Mauro, for his part, said he was “shocked” upon learning of the compliments and the pragmatism.

Obviously, Bush’s views on many environmental topics, namely a support of increased fracking, are dangerous and short-sighted. But the shift to a more reality-based approach on these issues is very, very good news. Anyone with a half a brain can tell that Bush has ambitions for higher office, namely Governor either four or eight years down the line. In my opinion, Texas will be a swing state by then, so for the Republicans to nominate a partisan zealot at that time would be exceedingly unwise.

Historical conservatism, the type Bush’s great-grandfather (Prescott Bush) who served as a Senator from Connecticut subscribed to, was actually quite receptive to environmental issues. A terrific profile in The Atlantic recently explored this idea, noting how “Earth Day” was once derided by left-wing groups such as SDS as a type of elitism. Hopefully, attention to the earth could one day be restored to the GOP.

Additionally, I sincerely hope that otherwise liberal individuals, much like myself, do not continue griping at Bush about him not coming “far enough” on the issue. Make no mistake, any progress on this issue from Republicans is a good thing, and should rightly be celebrated. Hopefully we’ll be celebrating for many years to come…right from our beachfront properties in downtown Houston.

What’s next for HB2?

The Texas Tribune reported, last Friday, that HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill famously filibustered by State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County) (who is now the Democratic gubernatorial candidate), has been struck down once more by a Federal Judge. This is somewhat old news, so I want to deal with a few pieces of the puzzle that have not been adequately covered by the mainstream press.

First, this news should ideally sound like deja vu if you have been paying attention. About 10 months ago, the same Federal Judge out of Austin –Judge Lee Yeakel (a George W. Bush nominee)– struck down other parts of the law. That ruling has since been reversed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, otherwise known as the Federal Appellate Court with jurisdiction over Texas. The most recent action in that case was a request by the law’s opponents for the entire Court, as opposed to a three-Judge panel, to consider the case. This was filed back in April, and is the most recent action taken on the case.

Accordingly, one may be confused as to how two concurrent lawsuits can be going forth on the same law. I’m glad you asked! The law was divided up into four separate provisions. The first and second provisions require inducing drugs to be taken at a clinic and require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, respectively. They took effect on September 1st of last year, and were challenged in the lawsuit from last year. The third provision, which would not have gone into effect until tomorrow, requires all clinics to adhere to the standards of ambulatory surgical centers, universally considered among pertinent professionals to be a wholly unnecessary regulation designed to drive clinics out of business. And, by all counts, it would have been.

The ASC requirement was the one challenged –and ruled unconstitutional– in the most recent court case. The fourth provision, which went into effect last year and bans abortion past the twentieth week, was never challenged.

Now, as long as we’re being realistic, it should be noted that this ruling will likely be stayed by the Fifth Circuit, much the way the previous one was. At some point in the future, the Fifth Circuit will fully overturn it. A little further down the line from that, the Supreme Court will step in, and likely consolidate the two cases, then make a ruling. It’s really anyone’s guess at that point.

As I have stated in the past, if the Supreme Court were to truly examine all the pertinent precedent in this case, the law would indubitably be going down in flames. But that simply is not a given anymore.

Unaccompanied Minors

First things first, there are a few items in need of stipulation. Over 50,000 unaccompanied young people have illegally crossed the US-Mexico border, for a multitude of reasons. While a key rationale surely has been a humanitarian crisis throughout Central America (where the migrants have originated therefrom), and it is worth noting that many of these migrants have sought out asylum in other nations such as Mexico, part of the problem has been exacerbated by lenient deportation rules for those who illegally come to this country as minor children.

Second, and this stipulation is probably the most significant, my own personal philosophy on these matters is to welcome these children into this country with open arms. Asylum seekers should always be welcomed in this country, particularly those who strive out to seek a better life. As I have said many times in the past, I believe in generally reforming the immigration system to provide for open borders. When you look at actual science –and not the right-wing conspiracy theories– one will see that the civilized world is facing an unparalleled demographic disaster. The “Greying of Europe” or the “Greying of Japan” is threatening to tear those regions apart at the seams as the nations face the prospect of a rapidly declining population. The only reason that the United States does not face the same grim fate is because of healthy and vivid immigration. Furthermore, because of an awesome thing called “the Melting Pot,” our immigrants are largely assimilated into the culture after one generation, and their children are full-fledged American citizens. Heck, one of them could even become President.

With all this in mind, I find myself walking a very narrow line on this issue. On one hand, I have been very disappointed by President Barack Obama’s response to this issue. On the other, I hate myself for seemingly agreeing with such reactionaries on this issue as Governor Rick Perry. To be perfectly clear, I’ve come to the same conclusion as Perry –that Obama has screwed up– for a very different reason.

The Austin American-Statesman highlights some background on the spat between Obama and Perry. Later this week, Obama will visit Texas. In a lengthy statement released to the press, Perry noted that he would not give a “quick handshake on the tarmac” to the President, which he stated would “not allow for a thoughtful discussion regarding the humanitarian and national security crises enveloping the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas.” As an alternative, he gave a suggestion for Obama and him to have a heart-to-heart on serious solutions to the matter.

Perry’s points are very valid, but they are not much use given his insincere alternative. If you actually think that Perry wishes to foster a collaborative and productive conversation with Obama, given Perry’s inane hatred and presidential aspirations, I would like to sublet my ocean-front apartment in Austin to you! A wolf in sheep’s clothing, indeed.

The valid points, however, deserve repeating. As The Dallas Morning News reports, when Obama comes in town, he will attend fundraisers in Austin and Dallas, but will not visit the border. Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX), a denizen of Laredo who represents much of the border, berated Obama for his aloofness and unfavorably compared him to former President George W. Bush.

“I hope that this doesn’t become President Obama’s Katrina moment,” Cuellar said, referring to the infamous incident in 2005, when Bush merely flew over a flooded and desperate New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, rather than coming to help.

In a bipartisan effort by Texans of all stripes, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) joined in on the critiques of Obama. “The problem speaks for itself when the president, who would prefer to hang out with campaign donors and other political supporters, would decide not to have any interaction with those that are directly affected by his failed policies,” Cornyn said.

Make no mistake, Obama has seriously erred in not taking a decisive stand on this issue. Coming to that conclusion is not necessarily a Democratic or a Republican position. It is merely the acceptance of a reality on the ground. Doing nothing earns you no accolades from the left or the right.

Fifth Circuit upholds HB2

The Texas Tribune reports that HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill passed last year and famously filibustered by Wendy Davis, has been upheld as constitutional by the Fifth Circuit, a Federal Appeals Court with jurisdiction over Texas. A three-judge panel, consisting of two appointees of George W. Bush and one of Ronald Reagan, unanimously endorsed the constitutionality of the bill. Among the provisions challenged in this case were one requiring the abortion doctors to receive admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and another requiring inducing drugs to be taken in person the day before. Both requirements have been deemed as excessive by pertinent doctoral societies and otherwise repudiated by medical professionals as simply opaque ways of closing abortion clinic. Since the passage of this law, a plethora of clinics west and south of San Antonio  have shut their doors.

Not challenged in this ongoing lawsuit is the 20 week ban on abortion. A fourth provision, arguably the most controversial, that requires clinics to adhere to the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers does not go into effect until later this year and thus was not challenged. Back in October, a Federal Judge (another Bush appointee) in Austin ruled components of the law unconstitutional. However, a few days later, the Fifth Circuit stayed this ruling.

Click here to read more, including what to do next!

Texpatriate endorses in Land Commissioner primary

In the race for Land Commissioner, voters must choose a new steward over the vast public holdings of the General Land Office, managing acres upon acres of land both rich in minerals and value. The Commissioner must figure out how exactly to do this, but he also is tasked with presiding over a plethora of important State Boards, specifically a pair managing broad issues relating to Education and Veterans, respectively.

First, this board examined George P. Bush, an attorney from the Dallas area. However, what readers will most notably know Bush from is his extended family pedigree. His father, Jeb Bush, was the Governor the Florida. His uncle, George W. Bush, was the 43rd President. His grandfather, George H.W. Bush, was the 41st President. We have serious misgivings about a political amateur running for such a powerful, Statewide post, and we do not think Bush makes up for these weaknesses because of his family (whom this board has never been so fond of in the first place).

However, our strongest objections with Bush end at his short resume. We believe that he has run a great campaign, especially when juxtaposed against his compatriots in the Republican party. Whether this has been his strong mastery of educational issues or those affecting our veterans, or finding a reasonable voice in those disputes of environmental concern, Bush has continued to surprise us as a new leader in perhaps a more centrist wing of the party, one we so desperately long for.

Click here to read the full endorsement!

Chief Justice Hecht

The Dallas Morning News reports that Nathan Hecht, the longest serving Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, has been nominated by Governor Rick Perry to become the 27th Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court.

The vacancy arose exactly one week ago, when incumbent Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson announced his intent to leave the bench by the end of the month. Jefferson did this so that he may enter private practice and earn a higher income. Although Justices on the Texas Supreme Court are elected to six year terms, if a vacancy arises mid-term, the Governor appoints a replacement–without the advise and consent of the State Legislature.

Hecht will serve until the next regularly scheduled election for Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice, November 2014. Courtesy of Ross Ramsey at the Texas Tribune, we already know that Hecht intends to go for the longhaul and seek another term at that point.

Only the third-ever Republican Chief Justice, Hecht will be sure to be the most conservative to ever hold the job. Hecht is currently the longest serving current Justice on the court, holding his position as an Associate Justice since 1989. Before Hecht’s election to the court, the Court was controlled by a 9-0 Democratic composition, a sharp contradiction from the 9-0 Republicans composition that has cursed our State since 1999. Hecht is seen as a hyperconservative, in stark contrast to his predecessor, and as such gained the praise of Greg Abbott on the campaign trail.

Perhaps most troubling about Hecht, however, is his ethical problems. Barely 10 days ago, the San Antonio Express-News published a lengthy article detailing some of Hecht’s issues in recent years pertaining to his abuse of office and campaign finance violations.

First, back in 2005, when President Bush nominate Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, Hecht talked her up a lot. It seems the two are former lovers. No seriously. In fact, even though they went their separate ways eventually, neither has ever married, leaving an open question about how close the duo continue to be.

Anyways, the many interviews Hecht gave defending and talking up Miers’ nomination was seen as a big abuse of power for many. The over 120 interviews Hecht gave, raised some red flags.

In 2006, Hecht was admonished for this abuse of office by the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct (the admonition was later overturned). Further, the commissioned fined the Justice $29,000 in 2009 after they deemed he improperly fought the admonition with campaign funds.

All of these issues will be sure to come up in the next few days as more and more people are reintroduced to Hecht. For Perry’s part, the Governor now must appoint a second individual to fill Hecht’s old seat on the Supreme Court.

Mayor’s race goes national

CNN has a video clip that discusses the Houston mayoral election.

The report by John King begins by discussing how Democrats can win nationwide despite winning only a tiny fraction of counties, and winning huge in the big cities. The discussion then moves to Texas, and if Democrats can win by just taking the cities. King lists the cities: El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and the pauses before noting “the biggest of them all,” Houston.

Annise Parker is then interviewed by CNN, and discusses the changing demographics and diversity of Houston, followed by why she thinks Texas can be won by the Democratic Party in the future.

Then, in my favorite part of the video, the shot cuts to a gym where the Mayor and First Lady Kahty Hubbard are exercising. Hubbard is wearing the famous orange “Stand with Texas women” shirt, a nice touch for the Mayor’s liberal credentials. Parker then discusses her support of gay marriage, and her desire to get married in Houston.

CNN then interviews Jared Woodfill, the Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party, who doubles down on bigotry and his opposition to any form of recognition for gay couples. Perhaps the most noteworthy part of the all-too-brief yet all-too-long interview with Woodfill is that gigantic portraits of George W. Bush and Rick Perry are erected on the wall  behind him.

Only at that point, over 3 minutes into the 4 minute video, does CNN even mention the Mayoral election. The coverage begins with “But Republicans don’t even have a top tier candidate…it is fellow Democrat Ben Hall who says he will deny Mayor Parker a third term.” Interesting to note the media outlets, such as Channel 13, who gave the distinction of “top tier” to Eric Dick, while the big national institutions do not.

King gives Hall a few seconds of air time, and closes with a teaser about where Parker’s political career will go next, discussing the possibility of Parker running for Governor.

I, for one, have no earthly idea what CNN was trying to do with this report. The title of the video was “Houston mayoral race a sign of a political shift?,” but the video barely even touched upon the election. Instead, the video seemed much more like a friendly interview for Parker than anything else. Still, I have no doubt the video will bring greater exposure to the election.

More attack ads in District D

I received this lovely message in my inbox at 11:53 this morning, from an organization labeled “Say No To Dwight Boykins“, complete with the email address of “SayNoToDwightBoykins@politician.com” The email contained another poorly created advertisement and went as follows:

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“Say No To Dwight Boykins

Fellow Democrats:

District D will be destroyed if Dwight Boykins is elected. Dwight Boykins and his City Hall Insider friends are only in it for themselves. Ask anyone who has talked with Republican Dwight and they will tell you that he is implying that once elected he will GIVE THEM CONTRACTS.  That sounds like a page out of the Book of Rick Perry and Tom Delay! J.R. “Bob” Jones donated THOUSANDS of Dollars to his fellow Republican. You remember Bob Jones don’t you?

Bob Jones’ disrespectful email to Council member Adams when she refused to support Double Taxing our community.

Now Republican Dwight is taking money from the same man who disrespected our Council member and Boykins was SILENT when this woman was attacked.TYPICAL REPUBLICAN!
 

District D can’t afford to elect a REPUBLICAN Insider. Dwight Boykins is BAD FOR OUR COMMUNITY BAD FOR OUR NEIGHBORHOODS Say No To Dwight Boykins!”

Notice the link about “Bob Jones’ disrespectful email” goes to a note by Jolanda Jones. It is about something the megadonor sent to Councilmember Wanda Adams in the aftermath of the Prop 1 kerfuffle. The astute will remember the previous attack ad against Dwight Boykins, which I wrote about at that time. Unlike this ad, the previous one was created on Facebook by an individual named “Dennis Glenn” and shared by another candidate, Larry McKinzie. This ad has not been connected with any individual, nonetheless any candidate, although they are remarkably similar in format and message.

Previously, Glenn had gone after Boykins for donating to the GOP and voting in a single Republican primary. These attacks were much less substance-based, although the previous advertisement contained mostly half-truths as far as substance goes.

I immediately noticed the difference in the token Republicans juxtaposed alongside Boykins in the advertisement, and how they differed from two weeks ago.  Originally, the photo included serious posed photos of Ronald Reagan, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, George W. Bush and Mitch McConnell, alongside a silly photo of Boykins that could easily have been photoshopped. This photo, however, includes a more serious photo of Boykins that I have seen before, along with sillier photos of the Republicans. This time it is Ronald Reagan, John Boehner, Rick Perry, Eric Cantor, Mitt Romney and Clarence Thomas. The presence of an African-American Republican in this ad immediately caught my eye.

The photo on the bottom, of course, in that infamous image from Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. An interesting jab against Republicans since the State of Alabama was run by the other party at that time. Yes, yes, I know they were Conservative Democrats and shortly thereafter they fled en masse to the GOP, but it would not have been my first suggestion for an image of why Republican politicians are bad.

No idea who is behind these, I will be conducting an investigation shortly if anyone has filed a d/b/a for “Say No to Dwight Boykins.” My hunch is that it is someone from the junior varsity squad (i.e., the fringe candidates).

University of Houston bans smoking

The Chron (paywall) reports that the University of Houston has will officially ban smoking on June 1st. The ban will include “cigarettes, cigars, pipes, water pipes, electronic cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco…” While smoking in all buildings is already banned, the new measures announced the past few days will prohibit smoking in most outdoor areas, except for a few specially marked “designated open areas” for smoking, which are ostensibly far away from sidewalks and buildings.

No good deed goes unpunished, however. The Libertarians, Objectivists and the rest of the cupcake cadets call the regulation “fascism at its worse.” What is really concerning is not only their neurological disorder which prevents them from EVER being told what to do (that is expect, at the point), but the fact that opponents of such a ban dispute the notion that secondhand smoke is harmful. When you start believing the FDA is undergoing some sort of massive conspiracy about secondhand smoke in order to deprive your liberty, then I have a tin-hat I’d like to sell you. This is just another example of how far the goalposts have been moved to the right in this country. I remember an old Lewis Black routine, where he said “I never thought that during the course of my life, a president would be elected who didn’t believe in evolution,” in, of course, an obvious jab to then-President George W. Bush. In similar shock and disbelief, I did not believe we would ever have a significant political movement comprised of so many theoretically educated members that disputes such clear science.

For what it is worth, I find it to be overkill banning smokeless tobacco, but I am very happy to see that there will not be so much actual cigarette smoking on campus anymore. No matter what the idiot Libertarians will argue, secondhand smoke really is quite harmful. Accordingly, when you smoke a cigarette in public, especially in a place with a lot of young people, you are not just physically harming yourself. I tend to make one very strong exception to my rule that “people should be allowed to basically do what they want”: harm to others. If your personal choice carries a strong risk oh physical harm to innocent bystanders, then I air on the side of preventing harm. Hence, why I am pro-Gun Control.

My college up in Boston basically allows smoking anywhere outside (including like 5 feet away from the doors). It is not an annoyance, it makes it painful to walk between the buildings. Also, when it is 10 degrees (farenheit) outside, it does not help to hold your breath and run. When I visited UT last month, I found their smoking ban to be quite nice. It is a good step for UH to follow.

Bob Perry, 1932-2013

The Texas Tribune reports that GOP super donor Bob Perry died this morning in his sleep. He was 80.

Bob Perry had amassed a large fortune over the years from his large development company, Perry Homes. Eventually, the focus turned to philanthropy of a political nature. Perry was one of the biggest donors to politicians in the State, mainly giving to the GOP. Among his recipients were George W. Bush, Rick Perry, Sylvester Turner, Mario Gallegos, George P. Bush and Carol Alvarado. A Houston resident, he worked tirelessly to support candidates, both left and right (but mainly right), from his hometown.

Additionally, Perry was invaluable in silencing the far-right from dominating the Republican Party’s immigration policy. He was one of the key reasons the cruel Sanctuary City bill did not pass, and for that, liberals like me will always be grateful.

I do not believe I ever had the pleasure of meeting Mr Perry in person, but I wish I did. He will be missed and I was saddened to hear of his passing.