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July 22, 2014      3:27 PM

Bearse: Rethinking Rick Perry

From the right: The maturing of Perry as national personality is more than just repackaging

I am loathe to make predictions about politics – especially about elections more than two years away. Ask me who the Republican nominee for president will be, and I will say, “ask me in August, 2016.” Ask me who the Democratic nominee will be, and it is tempting to go with the presumptive favorite Hillary Clinton, but in this case I will take the field. She’s like California Chrome before the Belmont, only there has been no Kentucky Derby or Preakness where she enters the race on a winning streak.

I think Democrats will figure out their nomination is worth fighting for, not a coronation because “it’s my turn.” Look how well that message worked for Senator Hutchison’s gubernatorial bid in 2010.

I don’t know what my old boss, Rick Perry, will do. I don’t know if he will run, or ride off into the sunset. But if he runs, we may very well look back on this period as his “training montage,” like in the movie “Rocky.” Rocky hit the gym, Perry hit the books, and they both began the transformation from street fighter to contender.

First, you have to look at the political backdrop. We have a president who won’t even acknowledge that the crisis at the border is worthy of a visit. Imagine if President George W Bush did a fundraiser in Shreveport and didn’t adjust his schedule to see New Orleans right after Katrina had hit. This is the group that likes government solutions. Why can’t they come up with any?

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By Eric Bearse

July 18, 2014      5:36 PM

Updated - Rottinghaus: Which conservative groups endorsed best?

University of Houston political scientist ranks the success rates of Empower Texans, Texas Right to Life, and others in the primaries

With the 2014 primaries and runoffs in the books, the refrain nationally and internationally is that the Tea Party ran the table in Texas.  The New York Times reported that the “Tea Party Holds Sway,” the Wall Street Journal wrote that the election showed the “Tea Party’s Muscle,” while the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom proclaimed a “Tea Party Takeover.” 

Does the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party control the Republican nomination politics in Texas?  Texas is undoubtedly conservative but there is variation in which groups have the most sway.  One way to look at which groups are most influential is to examine the successful percentage of endorsed candidates in the primary and runoffs.  An endorsement from a political group signals to voters that the endorsed candidate’s views are seminal to those of the organization and gives us a window into their influence on the Republican electorate.  The voter guides produced by each political organization is a shorthand way for voters to understand the views of the groups. 

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By Brandon Rottinghaus

July 18, 2014      9:41 AM

We cannot leave these men behind

From the Left: Our liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues that Congress needs to act quickly to save the lives of Afghan interpreters who put it all one the line for the United States

The situation on Texas’ southern border is not the only refugee crisis facing the United States. Thousands of Afghan interpreters who need to get out before the Taliban kills them for collaborating with U.S. troops are stuck over there because the State Department has run out of visas. Make no mistake, this is a test of our national character: These men risked their lives to help us bring democracy to Afghanistan, but they might die because our government doesn’t work.

About 6,000 interpreters need to come here, and we’ve only got 3,000 slots left. We can either start digging 3,000 graves in Afghanistan, or we can remember that we’re the country that put a dozen men on the moon. We can do big things, and this is just paperwork. This should not be that hard.

As fun as it may be to blame feckless diplomats working for Hillary Clinton and now John Kerry, the number of visas the State Department is allowed to hand out is limited under the Special Immigrant Visa program set to expire in September. That means the only solution lies in the greatest deliberative body in this history of the world, the United States Congress.

Yes, I know. This is the same congress that only gets a 7% confidence rating from Americans, which according to Gallup, is the worst rating recorded for any institution. Ever. A 2013 poll found that cockroaches, head lice, colonoscopies, and—ugh—political pundits were more popular than congress, which is on track to pass the fewest non-ceremonial bills. Ever. So yes, at this point I’m willing to engage in a little empty flattery to move this along.

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By Jason Stanford

July 15, 2014      3:35 PM

Bearse: Dignity and Security

From the right: QR's conservative columnist argues that Evangelicals should indeed care about immigration, "but their chief concern should be treating all people as if they were made in the image of God. Because they are."

Whatever your politics, what is happening at the border is a humanitarian crisis. Dead children have washed ashore in the Rio Grande River. A 15-year old Guatemalan boy was found in dessert brush, dead from heat stroke. Little children are stuffed into makeshift detention centers where conditions are squalid.

It breaks my heart that young children would take a perilous journey by train to get to America, unaccompanied by adults, exploited by coyotes and traffickers. It’s a human tragedy. And like Hurricane Katrina, Texans are showing their love for their fellow human beings knows no bounds. Charities are standing in the gap for these children. So are Border Patrol and Texas law enforcement, even if it is not what they are trained to do. We will do right by these kids. The question is whether we will actually fix the problem.

The sad reality is that the only way to stop new waves of illegal migrants is to send home those who have already arrived on our border. The Obama Administration must work with Congress to change the law for child migrants not from contiguous countries. They must also unravel a 2012 decision that helped open the floodgates.

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By Eric Bearse

July 14, 2014      2:16 PM

Greenfield: These folks do not seem to understand state finances

Economist Stuart Greenfield argues that those promoting E-Fairness don’t quite get it

In a recent Quorum piece entitled “Lawmakers propose Laffer plan replacing margins tax with sales tax from out of state vendors,” a number of Republican state representatives and others representing Republican affiliated groups presented a plan that “a free market—unencumbered by government regulations or intervention—is the key to economic prosperity.”  To promote this objective, the group promotes Dr. Arthur E.B Laffer, Ph.D, “E-Fairness and the Texas Franchise Tax.” 

Dr. Laffer is the author of the original 2009 study, “Enhancing Texas’ Economic Growth Potential Through Tax Reform,” that the Texas Public Policy Foundation offered to replace property taxes with an increased sales tax.  Unfortunately, Dr. Laffer’s calculations were incorrect, and his original calculations significantly underestimated the increase in the sales tax rate required to replace property taxes.  This was corrected in the second edition, released in 2011.

In his current research, Dr. Laffer has once again demonstrated his lack of knowledge of this state’s taxes.  How is this lack of knowledge demonstrated?  Let me explain.

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By Stuart Greenfield

July 11, 2014      10:41 AM

Stanford: This is our Katrina moment

From the Left: Our liberal columnist argues that Obama is missing a huge opportunity to showcase the real life consequences of broken immigration laws

Before we move onto the next crisis, let’s get one thing straight about what’s happening on the Texas border. This is not Barack Obama’s Katrina moment.

This is everyone’s Katrina moment.

I do not relish criticizing Obama. I have defended him on Benghazi, the IRS, Edward Snowden, and countless other contretemps and kerfuffles. And he’s right that if Congress had passed immigration reform years ago we would not have 52,000 children from Central America in South Texas right now.

But right now, Barack is blowing it by not going to visit those children.

"There is nothing that is taking place down there that I am not intimately aware of and briefed on," said Obama. "This isn't theater, this is a problem. I'm not interested in photo-ops, I'm interested in solving the problem.”

He’s right up to a point, but boy howdy is he wrong about this not being theater. The President is our leading man, and by not going to the border to witness the situation first-hand he is missing an opportunity to lead. Instead, he believes that intellectual abstractions and political infighting suffice to carry the day. They don’t.

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By Jason Stanford

July 9, 2014      8:46 AM

Carona: Major Challenges ahead for Business and Commerce

Payday lending reform will face an even tougher environment, outgoing Chairman says

My service as Chairman of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee has been extremely rewarding but also challenging as the committee is charged with addressing some of the state's most intractable issues.

Looking to the next legislative session, I see several priorities for the committee, including addressing issues with the state's insurer of last resort, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, or TWIA. TWIA's continued viability is of vital importance to businesses and residents along the Texas Gulf Coast. Unfortunately, TWIA has been and remains financially unsound and is not positioned to meet its obligations if a major storm were to hit the coast during this hurricane season. While the Legislature has reformed certain aspects of the challenges facing TWIA, major changes are still needed. The billions of dollars in potential losses above what TWIA could cover in the event of a major storm pose a significant risk to the entire state.

The Business and Commerce Committee has looked at this issue in-depth for several sessions and I expect that it will be considered again in the upcoming session. As he has in the past, look to Representative John Smithee to take a lead in the House and to Senator Larry Taylor, who is a coastal member and is currently Vice Chairman of the Business and Commerce Committee, to do the same in the Senate.

As always, Texas' energy supply remains a challenge and one that the committee will most likely monitor and address as needed. Texas has seen an increased demand on the electric grid due to weather events and a rapidly growing population. And, as with our water supply, ensuring an adequate and reliable supply of electricity is critical to the state's continued economic growth. Addressing this issue will require the Legislature and the Public Utility Commission to play the long game, ensuring they are crafting solutions that will serve Texans for years to come.

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By John Carona

July 8, 2014      4:44 PM

Bearse: Entitled

“We want what we want, and we want it now. The same applies to our politics. What else could explain a country that borrows $2 for every $5 it spends? We drive dealer-financed cars on bond-financed roads to and from our bank-financed homes.”

The rest of this screed will read like a self-indictment. And I plead guilty as charged.

Our culture has gone to hell. I’m not talking as a middle-aged man who bemoans the number of tattoos on young people these days – though if you have been to Schlitterbahn lately it looks like an NBA training camp for normal-sized people. Sure, there may be some self-loathing in all that body art, or the nose rings, or the Bridgestone tires lodged in the Starbucks barista’s ears. But I am less concerned about appearances as I am about our collective emotional maturity. We have gone Benjamin Button on dog years – adults who are really 13 years old.

We call the World War II generation the greatest generation. We are the entitled generation. We live to be entertained. The sports that get the greatest ratings involve the most action and lots of points. Football is our favorite because it involves high-speed collisions, constant action and scoring.  Our national pastime, baseball, is like a living fossil – it reminds us of a bygone era, when families would gather around the radio and listen to a game, entertained by what played out in their own imagination. Today, baseball suffers because it is not a great TV sport: there’s not enough scoring, and you have to sit through pitching changes, throws over to first and all kinds of other modern-day torture that doesn’t satiate the modern-day fan who will look at his or her Twitter feed ten times an inning. The only time it was really interesting was when guys were ‘roided up and breaking home run records. Now even the home run derby is as boring as the Internet on dial-up.

Soccer may be the emerging exception – a sport where it is hard to score, where it is still possible to finish with a tie, and attempts at goal are frequently frustrated. I love the World Cup. But I think a lot of the fervent fandom of the last month will recede when it is over. We like to root for America. Will we start rooting for the Houston Dynamo? Did you even know they have won two titles in recent years? If it takes off, it may be a function of our changing demographics more than anything else.

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By Eric Bearse

July 5, 2014      8:52 AM

Stanford: Lessons of West go unlearned

From the left -- Republicans sacrifice basic public safety for profits

Texas has such a business-friendly regulatory environment that it can best be described as “free range.” Recently a Democratic lawmaker gently suggested making it illegal to store dangerous chemicals in flammable buildings, and Republicans jumped to defend the exploding fertilizer plant industry. Even after the explosion in West that killed 15 people, Texas Republicans maintain that these things happen and that it’s not the government’s job to keep us from being blown up.

The only preventable tragedy these Republicans can see is the one that might drive up the cost to the exploding fertilizer plant industry. This is why so many of us drink in Texas. Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” but what if the change you wish to see is someone slapping some sense into these guys? Shall I be a cast iron skillet, because being a voter hasn’t done me much good.

The regulations proposed do not seem unreasonable. After studying the West explosion for more than a year, Texas Rep. Joe Pickett thinks—stay with me here—that stuff that could explode should be stored in containers that won’t burn. In West, ammonium nitrate was stored in a wooden container. The state fire marshal says there are 46 places in Texas that store exploding fertilizer in wooden buildings.

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By Jason Stanford

July 1, 2014      1:48 PM

Bearse: An Insider Against Insiders…And Other Nonsense

From the right -- Conventions are ripe for partisan raw meat. And for Wendy Davis, stunning a thought on "pendejos"

Her theme is that Greg Abbott is an “insider” who has taken care of insiders. She said the word so many times in her late-night convention speech that it would have made for an interesting drinking game (by the way, why do Democrats complain about Friday night debates and then slot their gubernatorial nominee for a 9:00 p.m. speech on Friday night?)

But Senator Davis’ record is replete with insider dealings. In 2011, the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) sought to hire counsel for land condemnation work. They set up a process for reviewing bids. On the day of the vote to decide the issue, former Fort Worth Mayor Ken Barr put forward a new bidder – Newby Davis – that had not been vetted as part of the process. In an apparent political power play, his unvetted recommendation was agreed to, making a mockery of the review process. It appears Davis’ cynical act of forming a minority-owned business gave NTTA an opportunity to fulfill its expressed goal of granting minority contracting opportunities, while padding her pocket.

Davis admitted she formed a separate firm with African-American attorney (and my former colleague in Gov. Perry’s office) Brian Newby to attract minority contracts in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram  (“Tollway Authority's Way Of Doing Business Comes Under Scrutiny,” 10/16/11):

“Some recent changes at NTTA have created new layers of controversy. For example, tollway board members talked about the need to hire more minority-owned contractors, and took a step in that direction this year in hiring the law firm Newby Davis to provide legal services for right of way purchase on the Chisholm Trail Parkway project. … ‘So long as the work is not related to any decisions I make in the Senate, there is no conflict,’ Davis said. ‘Together with the NTTA's goal of spreading work around Dallas-Fort Worth, and using minority-owned firms, Brian and I created a minority-owned law firm. There's absolutely no conflict whatsoever.’”

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By Eric Bearse

June 27, 2014      2:09 PM

Stanford: Terrorist aren't patriots

From the left--"...More Americans have died at the hands of radical, anti-government Americans since 9/11 than because of Islamic jihadist terrorism"

<>It is getting harder to tell the right-wing nut jobs who shoot law enforcement officers from the right-wing politicians running for president. America has always had its share of John Birchers hoarding guns for a coming revolution. What’s new is that the GOP has mainstreamed radicalism and turned violently anti-government rhetoric into Republican Party doctrine.

This kind of thing has been bubbling in the Republican Party stew since Barack Obama won in 2008, and it used to be a bigger deal. When Nevada Senate candidate Sharon Angle repeatedly said in 2010 that the Second Amendment was there to keep the federal government honest, it made national news. Likewise in 2011 when Rick Perry called quantitative easing by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke “treasonous” and famously threatened, “We would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas,” his warning seemed like an important early signal that the Governor was not ready for prime time.

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By Jason Stanford

June 24, 2014      5:05 PM

Bearse: Easy Come, Easy Go

From the right--the rapidly disappearing Constitution

Dear George, Tom and Ben:

All good things must come to an end. You had a good run for the last 227 years, but we are moving on. Sorry about the many months you sweated it out in Philadelphia to establish a Constitution that enshrines power with the people. We are so over that. We now have an Imperial Presidency.

It turns out the Constitution you wrote is “living” – which means you guys are not as smart as you thought. Ben, I know you were a renowned scientist, but there’s no way you could grasp that the horse you rode was releasing greenhouse gases. If Congress doesn’t deal with horse emissions, the president will.

I had thought that whole checks and balances thing would preserve your experiment, but then Chief Justice John Roberts decided the Court needed to worry about political approval instead of jurisprudence, and ruled the ObamaCare mandate constitutional in the form of a tax. So Washington can now mandate that Americans purchase a product, or more specifically tax us if we don’t. This living Constitution thing is quite clever: with enough evolution, little by little, it just doesn’t exist anymore.

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By Eric Bearse

June 20, 2014      12:58 PM

Stanford: Robert Scott was right

From the left--Scott was prescient, even many of his detractors now agree on his criticism of Common Core

When Robert Scott criticized standardized testing and said that Common Core would nationalize schools, he took heat from both Sec. Arne Duncan and Texas business lobbyist Bill Hammond, who called Scott a “cheerleader for mediocrity.” But two years later, those are the only who still think Scott was wrong. With states abandoning Common Core and advocates of high-stakes testing now criticizing its misuse, it’s time to admit that Scott was right all along.

Scott announced his resignation as Texas Education Commissioner in May 2012, but his public career effectively ended that January when he said that standardized testing had become a “perversion of its original intent.” Testing was wagging the dog, and Scott placed the blame on testing companies and lobbyists that have “become not only a cottage industry but a military-industrial complex.

“You’ve reached a point now of having this one thing that the entire system is dependent upon. It is the heart of the vampire, so to speak,” said Scott, who stood by his remarks even as others failed to do the same for him.

Many credit Scott’s candor with igniting the Education Spring movement, but it’s to be expected that teachers, parents, students, school boards and administrators would fight back against testing mandates. It’s quite another to see the criticism coming from those who pushed for the mandates in the first place, such as Michelle Rhee, the former DC schools chief celebrated by pro-test education reformers, who recently admitted, “Yes, in too many schools and in too many districts, there is an overemphasis on testing.”

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By Jason Stanford

June 20, 2014      10:08 AM

Greenfield: Triple C-- Come on Comptroller Combs, share some revenue insight

Tax collections up across the board but no hints from Comptroller on future available funds

We are now nine months in FY14 and while Comptroller Combs releases both a monthly press release on sales tax allocations to cities, and monthly data file on state revenue receipts, one would have expected greater transparency concerning how much additional revenue will be available during the upcoming 84th Legislative session.  As both releases report on changes in state revenue, there is no analysis provided to her fellow Texans on how these changes will affect available funds that support public education, public assistance, transportation, and other critical state services.

At a recent House Committee on Business and Industry session, , a number of economists noted the continuing significant growth in the Texas economy.  Unfortunately, except for a question on the Rainy Day Fund (RDF), nothing was mentioned on the impact this substantial growth will have on the state’s fiscal condition.  As a former revenue estimator at the Comptroller’s Office, I would hope that the following analysis will provide both public officials and all other Texans with insight into the significantly improving state fiscal situation.

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By Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D

June 17, 2014      4:15 PM

Bearse: Nanny State

From the right: "If you are pro-choice, vote Republican"

I love Twitter. It is an assault on the senses for political types. You can monitor breaking news there, follow your favorite celebrities, discover twitter celebrities, and find all kinds of interesting arguments. Like this one: “I vote Democrat, because I’m pro-choice…except on schools, guns, trade, health care, energy, smoking, union membership, light bulbs, plastic bags, Wal-Mart, what kinds of food you can eat…”

So much truth packed into a single infographic. Where to begin? How about here: the liberal ruling elite doesn’t have enough faith in individuals to do the right thing, which is why they believe in government by fiat. Liberals are for tolerance as long as you tolerate their choices. But pray in the public square and the ACLU will hit you with a lawsuit faster than you can say, “secular agenda.”

The liberals in Austin are kinda whacky. I used to think Whole Foods literally conspired to make small parking spots at their old store at 6th and Lamar because they thought they could discourage us from driving SUVs. Then came the bag ban: the living embodiment of the liberal nanny state. It used to be paper bags were bad. Then plastic bags. Now we are forced to carry around salmonella bags. Who says science doesn’t evolve, condescending carbon culters?

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By Eric Bearse

June 13, 2014      9:22 AM

O’Donnell: Texas shares its mean political language with nations that speak our common mother tongue

An entertaining contrast between US and European political mudball

The late, great U.S. Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously said, “All politics are local.” Clearly, he’d never been to Texas where all politics are loco. This runoff season produced some epic ugliness in GOP races ranging from the lite guv massacre and attorney general bouts to a couple of state house races that scored high marks for zany.

I particularly liked the raising of mental health issues in the lite guv race where a question of competence might have been suitably applied to either candidate. McGovern’s 1972 running mate Thomas Eagleton was scuttled on mental health issues and they have been become standard targets for opposition research.

The triumph of top ballot Tea Party candidates, with Sen. Dan Patrick on point, reminds me that getting elected and governing aren’t the same thing. You can bet there’s an even further right group out there ready to paint Patrick as an establishment pawn and seek to dilute the lite guv’s powers. Eric Cantor can explain this to him.

While Democrats didn’t have as many loons or nastiness in the game, watching an African American woman lose a run for a U.S. Senate candidacy on an anti-Obama platform was no more surprising than the irrepressible Kinky Friedman’s loss to a virtual unknown. Democrats still spiritually dwell in the Republic of Travis County and can’t really make a statewide comeback without winning courthouse-to-courthouse fights in a long haul.

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By Edd O'Donnell

June 6, 2014      10:24 AM

From the left--On this D-Day remembrance, a thought about Republicans seeking to profit off of terror

Let us us pause to observe a moment of silence for a time when politics stopped at the water’s edge. That quaint notion of national unity was mortally wounded immediately after the attack in Benghazi and finally succumbed to complications after a prisoner exchange for an American POW in Afghanistan.

There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing on foreign affairs. In fact, it’s our duty as citizens to engage in our democracy. You want to protest for peace? Burn the Dixie Chicks’ CDs? Criticize how a president is waging a war or how congress is funding it? Go nuts. The First Amendment isn’t a trophy in a glass case on the mantel. You’re supposed to use it.

There is a difference, however, between publicly disagreeing with the President’s handling of foreign policy and using international incidents to gain a political advantage. The GOP’s aberrant handling of Benghazi provides a sad example. In 2012, the Romney campaign was looking for an opportunity to highlight what they saw as the President’s weakness on foreign policy. To be clear, Romney had every right to make that case.

But Romney didn’t even wait to find out how many Americans had died in Benghazi before claiming the President “sympathize[d] with those who waged the attacks.” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus at least waited until a minute after midnight on September 11 before tweeting, “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.” That last part was true, but not in the way Priebus intended.

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By Jason Stanford

May 30, 2014      12:03 PM

Stanford: Anti Common Core Tea Party rant misses the point

"Amid this cacophony of kooky, it can be easy to chalk up the opposition to a different strain of Obama Derangement Syndrome. But most of the opposition to Common Core deals with how standardized testing has turned schools into a “massive stressball” in the words of comedian and public-school parent Louis C.K."

It’s hard to tell what’s a bigger joke: Common Core or Common Core critics. Rightwing hysteria that Common Core will turn our children into gay socialists—not kidding about that one—is overshadowing legitimate reasons to oppose it. The problem with Common Core isn’t that Barack Obama is brainwashing our children. It’s that the brand new curriculum is being ruined by the same old tests.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative began innocently enough under George W. Bush. Governors and state education officials convened to determine what to teach our children in math and English to get them ready for college. Then Barack Obama got elected and offered competitive grants to states through Race to the Top, whereupon Common Core became an insidious plot to destroy America.

It’s gotten a little out of hand. In March, a Florida state representative said the purpose of Common Core was to “attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can.” The Oklahoma legislature just voted to repeal Common Core standards because, as one state representative said, it was “indoctrinating” children into socialism. An Alabama Tea Party leader warned legislators that voting to adopt Common Core would damn them to Hell because it promoted “acceptance of homosexuality, alternate lifestyles, radical feminism, abortion, illegal immigration and the redistribution of wealth.”

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By Jason Stanford

May 27, 2014      3:27 PM

Bearse: Disconnected, Detached, Depressed

"But persuading voters is quite different than addressing their concerns. I have this sense we have stopped doing that; that our politics has become detached from everyday realities. I blame redistricting."

Sunday I happened upon an ABC News “This Week” story about the ten-year anniversary of a brutal battle in Iraq. On that day in 2004, the First Cavalry Division had experienced its worst casualty total since Vietnam. Among the interviewees was one of my neighbors. I knew he had been through a lot. We had discussed it a little bit at Cub Scout meetings for our sons. But I had no idea what he went through that day, and in subsequent battles. Like a lot of Americans, I was disconnected from the suffering of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines in battles most of us cannot even name.

When they come home, these heroes are not spit upon like Vietnam veterans. In fact, they are looked upon favorably by a large segment of the population. But when someone says, “thank you for your service,” I wonder what these military veterans think and feel. Perhaps that the civilian population has no idea how bad it was? That they can hardly conceive what the other side of the world is like? How good we have it back home? How the bravery of the few actually does secure the freedom of the many?

Freedom is a common theme in political speeches. I can’t tell you how many times I have put that seven-letter word in speeches I have written. Perhaps it is a reflex. Right before the words, “opportunity for the next generation” add the word, “freedom.“ There, that sounds nice.

In an era of poll-tested politics, political language has become quite precise. Ever wonder why liberals call the far-right extremists, and conservatives call the far-left radicals? Or that it doesn’t work as well when the words are switched? Words are stuffed with all kinds of meaning. When used rightly, they can unleash certain emotions or latent truths that lie under the surface. Used well, they change the electorate without the electorate even knowing it. But persuading voters is quite different than addressing their concerns. I have this sense we have stopped doing that; that our politics has become detached from everyday realties. I blame redistricting.

Today, roughly four percent of the population could very well decide our leadership. That is sad. I don’t blame the people who are voting in the primary or primary runoffs. They are doing their duty. The problem is the general election has become a lay-up in recent years, both statewide and in most legislative districts.

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By Eric Bearse

May 23, 2014      4:25 PM

Stanford: Patrick mental health dustup diverted from voters right to know

From Stanford's weekly column: "What is relevant is that Patrick called unauthorized immigration an “illegal invasion” and seemed much less concerned for the privacy rights of women than he now demands for himself."

Apparently the new rule is that it is OK to call a Texas politician crazy unless you have documented proof that it’s true. The revelation that Sen. Dan Patrick’s has a history of mental health problems has many asking whether negative personal attacks are now out-of-bounds. But with so many on both sides of the aisle insisting that certain topics aren’t fit for a public discussion, we forget that voters—you know, the ones who are supposed to be in charge?—are perfectly capable of making their own decisions.

Baseless personal attacks are nothing new in Texas. In 1990, Attorney General Jim Mattox insinuated without proof on national television that Ann Richards had used cocaine.  Many Texas Democrats accept on faith (that is, without proof) the unproven story that a certain first lady was divorcing a certain governor after finding him in bed nekkid with another dude. And Ted Cruz still hasn’t apologized for claiming that Chuck Hagel’s nomination as Defense Secretary "has been publicly celebrated by the Iranian government."

The difference here is that the personal attack on Patrick came with a document dump, and the peanut gallery has been howling ever since. Unlike those past scandals, we could not brush this one off as an unsubstantiated rumor fit only for beer talk. This one was real, and suddenly people starting acting like that just wasn’t how things were done around here. So much clutching, and so few pearls.

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By Jason Stanford