My Dallas Morning News Letters to the Editor

Published 8-15-2021

The continuing weather and fire disasters around the world honestly have me scared. I’ve been thinking about dinosaurs lately. Specifically, what caused them to disappear? A quick Google search told me that scientists are pretty certain that the earth was hit by either an asteroid or a comet. Either way, it was a sudden, unexpected cataclysmic event. Nothing that could have been foreseen or in any way avoided.

But our cataclysmic event is sneaking up on us, and has been for at least decades. And we are gleefully helping it along. As with seemingly everything, it all revolves around money. Ever bigger profits for the fossil fuel companies. And it wouldn’t be “reasonable” to “rush into” a transition to renewable energy sources, because so many good jobs would be lost. In reality, just as many good jobs would also be created in the transition that would allow us to survive. If some of the biggest earners at the top of the fossil fuel companies might end up in lesser circumstances, I don’t think most people are going to lose sleep worrying about that. I say let’s get serious about saving the planet and the human race. 

Published 7-23-2021

As a general concept, I think that getting smarter is a good thing.

I attended highly-rated public schools in Richardson, and I believe that I got an excellent education. Therefore, I have been astounded in recent years to become aware of many things that I didn’t learn during those years. Or in the subsequent years at Texas Tech, for that matter.

First, it was the movie Hidden Figures. How could a group of African-American women have been such an integral part of the mission to put American men on the moon, and I never heard about them?

Then just a couple years ago, I heard about a race massacre in Tulsa, OK. What? That wasn’t in our history books.

I did learn, in great detail, about all the ways in which America is and has always been a great nation. A beacon of freedom, and a land of the free and home of the brave, with liberty and justice for all.

When previously buried stories come to light, we have two choices. We can either learn about them, and get smarter, or we can deny their existence entirely. I highly recommend learning and getting smarter, and making our nation better.

Published 6-17-2021

I am in no way condoning the irresponsible lack of action we’ve seen from ERCOT and our state legislature in preparing for the weather extremes we all know will continue to occur.

As we look accusingly at energy producers, regulators, and legislators, though, I think we must also acknowledge that there’s another responsible party…us. 

In the words of Greta Thunberg, “Act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” The current advisory from ERCOT urges us all to reduce electricity usage for the next four days. And we’re outraged at such a request so early in the year, even before the official start of summer.

With our house on fire, it seems to me that we would each be making all possible efforts on a daily basis to do our part to put that fire out.

Published 4-4-2021

I am in full agreement with those who insist that there must be no voter fraud in our elections. The whole point of an election is to get an accurate tally of the decision of the majority of the people who are duly eligible to cast a ballot.

If someone who is ineligible does in fact vote, that skews the result. Thankfully, the data show that this happens in a minuscule number of cases. On the other hand, if someone who is eligible is prevented from voting, that also skews the outcome. Tragically, that is happening at an ever-accelerating rate. Bills in our own Texas Legislature, as well as in states across the country, aim to prevent many people from voting.

Maybe there’s a way to meet in the middle on this. People are quick to point out that no laws regulating guns in any way could be legitimate, as the right to bear arms is protected in the Constitution. Likewise, the right to vote is also enshrined in the Constitution. So maybe we agree that any time a restriction on voting is passed, there must also be a restriction passed on the acquisition and use of guns.

Published 3-12-2021

Constant interactions occur between groups of unequal power. Like employers and employees, banks and customers, energy companies and our environment. In each case, there are rules. 

For the powerful, the rules are pesky regulations, keeping them from making the maximum amount of money.

For the less powerful, the rules are protections. Without them, employees would still be working long hours, under inhumane conditions, for minimal pay. Banks wouldn’t have to insure their customers’ deposits. Our environment would risk disaster at the hands of fossil fuel companies.

Well, our state government is sure that proud Texans don’t want any regulations. The ability to do business without constraints is why companies want to move to Texas. 

Lately, we’ve seen the tragic consequences of there being no regulations on our energy sector. Following only a profit motive, they were grossly unprepared for the weather disaster that unfolded. For the energy company, things are good, and they’ll make more money! But if you’re a person who wants heat, and clean air and water, you should be demanding protections. Don’t be hoodwinked by the scathing sound of the word “regulations”.

Published 1-28-2021

Over the next several weeks, members of Congress will face big challenges. They’ll need to allocate their time to handle four major crises simultaneously: COVID, the economy, the climate, and racial injustice. For the Senate, they will also be handling an impeachment trial and confirmations of Biden’s picks for top government positions.

Oh, well, those of us in the real world handle multiple things every day, so I feel sure they’ll be able to manage it.

One helpful strategy they might try is to suspend making fundraising calls at least for Biden’s first 100 days.  
In 2016, former Rep. David Jolly proposed the Stop Act to prohibit federal politicians from personally soliciting contributions for any federal election activity. Predictably, it did not get much traction, and Jolly subsequently lost his next election. At the time, it seemed unthinkable that members of Congress were spending an estimated 30 hours per week making solicitation calls. But NOW, with people dying, falling into poverty, and fearful of losing our democracy, our elected representatives MUST spend their time doing the job they were sent to Congress to do.

Published 9-12-2020.

I admit that I had to chuckle at Sunday’s story about the boats that sank in Lake Travis during a Trump parade. According to the National Weather Service, there were no storms at the time, and winds were very light. Apparently, the boats themselves churned up heavy waves.

Since reading that article, I also saw an eyewitness account of the incident. His report stated that boats were cranked up, and driven at unsafe speeds, too close to one another. As the disaster unfolded, there was no attempt to slow down to reduce the wakes. The entire disaster, in the reporter’s opinion, could have been avoided with more attention to safety.

Now I have the uncomfortable feeling that our nation is on one of those boats. Skippered by Trump supporters who have no qualifications for their jobs. It’s full speed ahead, with no regard for the safety of our boat, or the others around it. With the bravado that defies regulations and guidelines, and has no concern for any collateral damage that may be caused. We need a new skipper.

Published 8-19-2020

Possibilities! That’s one theme the Biden/Harris campaign emphasized in their kickoff, and I love it!

Today, too many people are accurately described by the title of the book by Sarah Smarsh: Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth. The American myth says that if you work hard, you get ahead. But too often, the system is rigged, and people’s level of success is tied to the color of their skin and the zip code they were born in. Upward mobility has become a thing of the past. 

There’s another alternative, which I heard about during the memorials for former President George H.W. Bush. He had a plaque on his wall that says CAVU (Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited). It’s a phrase used by aviators to describe perfect weather conditions for take off and landing. But he thought of it as a description of life, of being able to see unlimited opportunities and possibilities. The sky’s the limit!

In our efforts to Build Back Better, we must move away from an economy that lets some people prosper at the expense of others who are working hard and being broke. Let’s work toward everyone having Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited!

Published 8-3-2020

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” – Mark Twain

Remember when the only thing Republicans had to say about “Obamacare” was “Repeal and Replace”? During the 2016 election cycle, every Republican candidate said that on Day One, they would repeal and replace Obamacare. Then the unthinkable came to pass. Republicans indeed had control of the White House, as well as both Houses of Congress. And guess what? There was no plan for the replacement. All the talk had been just that…talk.

Now we come to the 2020 verse. As of the beginning of August, millions of Americans have found that federal unemployment payments have ended, as have eviction moratoriums. And guess what? The Republicans have no plan. While House Democrats passed their Heroes Act plan in May, Senate Republicans sat back and waited until the deadline was at hand. And now they are again apparently surprised to find that there is no plan.

Who does have a plan? The voters in November!

Immigration

No human is illegal.

Yes, it’s important to protect our safety, which means deporting people convicted of felonies. But we are all immigrants, and the diverse tapestry of America is made better by the contributions of all. Our economy depends on the work being done by all. Our safety relies on people being confident that they can report information to law enforcement without fear for their own safety.

Healthcare

Healthcare is a right, not a privilege.

The United States should not be the only country in the Western world that does not realize that foundational idea. An ASAP Medicare-for-all approach is the answer. In the meantime, we should be making improvements to Obamacare to ensure that people continue to have the healthcare they need.

Environment

This Earth is the place we call home

Let’s treat it accordingly. And it’s home for ALL of us. If you don’t want something in your backyard, don’t assume it will be ok down the road where someone else lives. Protections safeguarding our planet have a higher priority than the ability of a corporation to make ever bigger profits. And yes, I believe in science. As the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

It’s time for a new national goal: to become a nation powered by sustainable, renewable sources rather than by fossil fuels. In the 1800s, we strove to build the Transcontinental Railroad, and in the 1960s we took pride in a national effort to put a man on the moon. This new goal must be what we rally around in the 21st century.

As we encourage STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education, our clean energy revolution will provide the millions of new jobs to put those STEM graduates into great careers.

Taxes

Income is income. There should not be rules favoring capital gains income (typically earned by the wealthy) over ordinary income (your paycheck, or small business profit).

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Social Security

It’s a safety net lifting 14.7 million elderly Americans out of poverty. Benefits are earned through a lifetime of work. While life expectancy has increased dramatically, the very people who are most dependent on Social Security benefits are also more likely to be working in occupations that make it difficult to continue working into their later years. So an increase in the retirement age is not the answer. Raising or eliminating the wage cap for the Social Security tax, as has been done for the Medicare tax, is what I would support. Also, applying the Social Security tax to income currently labeled “capital gains income” would net a huge inflow of funding into the program.

Abortion

No one is “pro-abortion.” Abortions should be safe and legal. That requires easy access to contraception, and to a robust sexual education. A woman must ultimately have the right to make her own decisions about her body.

Women’s Rights

Women’s rights are human rights. Gender pay equality should be a no-brainer. Affordable, accessible child care benefits everyone…men, women, and children. Paid maternity and/or paternity leave are also important building blocks for families to thrive, which again benefits us all.

Equality for All

 ALL citizens of our country deserve protection and equal treatment in all areas of life. If non-discrimination laws do not adequately identify a particular group to be protected, then the designation must be broadened to cover them. Regardless of Age, Gender, Ethnicity, Religion, Sexuality, ALL means ALL.

Gun Sense

It is unconscionable that the NRA has been able to use their seemingly bottomless pit of money to “persuade” Republican members of Congress to avoid even a vote on common sense gun measures endorsed by a big majority of all Americans. Those common-sense measures include ensuring that a background check is conducted on all gun purchases and banning the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Pretending to “Back the Blue” while allowing officers to be out-gunned by civilians is hypocrisy.