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Ken Mercer Responds to Editorial Board Print E-mail
by Ken Mercer    Sun, Jul 31, 2011, 06:07 AM

Ken Mercer Responds to Editorial Board (Op-Ed Submission to San Antonio Express-News)

Thank you for allowing me to respond to your editorial in which you referred to me as a conservative ‘zealot” on the State Board of Education (SBOE).

True, I will not always agree 100% with academic “experts” who come before the SBOE. True, there is a “culture war” of political ideology and philosophy, especially in the area of new standards for American History, Government, and Economics.

It might interest members of the Chamber of Commerce to know that “experts” had deleted every reference to the free enterprise and free market system in the K through Grade 12 draft version of the Social Studies standards.

Because I certainly could not agree with these “experts,” I successfully brought forward and passed the amendment, complying with Texas law, to restore the teaching of the positive benefits of the free market for creating jobs and opportunities.

Another example: A panel of university “experts,” led by a professor from the University of Texas at El Paso, voted 8-1 against American Exceptionalism. When I questioned that action at a public SBOE hearing, the “expert” immediately launched into a lecture about how wonderful Socialism is in a “good democracy.

When I asked the UTEP professor for his example of a good democracy, he replied “Venezuela.” I reminded him that the President of Venezuela has made sure that the state has control of every newspaper, radio, and television station in that country.

One Ph.D. “expert” testified that “high school students are unqualified to ask questions.” I countered that if our children are no longer allowed to raise their hands in class and ask honest questions, then we are no longer living in a place called the United States of America.

A professor from the University of Texas at Austin shared a survey that included 51 professors from the History Department. Fifty answered “Democrat” when asked their political affiliation.

While we SBOE members were searching for examples of good role models for our minority students, one “expert” pushed for a current board member of the Democrat Socialist Party of America. My amendment deleted the Socialist and added Navy Seaman Philip Bazaar, the first Hispanic recipient of the Medal of Honor, and Army Sgt. William Carney, the first African-American recipient of the Medal of Honor.

Finally, “experts” deleted Veteran’s Day, Independence Day, and the Liberty Bell from the Grades 3-4 Social Studies standards. “Experts” also raised a concern about the use of the word “patriot” in the new standards.

My fellow Conservatives and I carried the amendments to restore the coverage of Veteran’s Day, Independence Day, and the Liberty Bell along with many other essential historical elements of America’s history, such as including the word “patriot.”

I also voted to ensure that from K-12, as age appropriate, our students will actually read and study the authorship and purpose of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Our Texas school students will also study the impact those documents had on such historical milestones as the Emancipation Proclamation and women’s suffrage.

I am sad to report that too many university “experts” range from being America bashers to America haters. Unfortunately this editorial board blindly sides only with those types of “experts.”

I often state, “The Far Left is scared to death of a place called Texas.” Why? Texas has an elected SBOE, not a politically appointed board.

I am a representative of 1.8 million constituents in a very conservative district, and I am not a rubber stamp for the agenda being directed at our public school students by the “Far Left zealots.”


Ken Mercer is a member Texas State Board of Education and former member of the Texas State House.

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Hope for Revolution Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Fri, Jul 22, 2011, 12:53 PM

Last week I wrote about “occasioning hope.”  Of course, it is easier said than done.  Moreover, it requires a certain object—as in, what to hope for.  “What we reverence therefore becomes our Hope,” I said.  In America today, given a fading dream the Founders shared with us: their Republic turned to empire, now arguably in decline—how should we respond in terms of what to hope for

I tell you unequivocally that we should hope for a return to the Constitution.  It is as simple and as hard as all that.  For the Constitution was the instrument the Founders left us, both to govern and be governed by.  Their dream returns the moment we bind ourselves to its strictures.  Even the Declaration was not meant to bind us in that manner, since the Declaration declared independence.  After the Revolution, our Founders labored and produced the Constitution, in order to give us a government capable of sustaining independence as well as living up to the ideals of the Declaration. 

According to constitutional scholar, Dr. Larry P. Arnn, government under the Constitution was justified by an account of the nature of man and his relation to God.  Indeed, the biggest reason for the decline of constitutional government in this country may be the decline in a sense of spiritual purpose.  Spiritual purpose subordinates Caesar and the state to unalienable rights inhering in individuals, i.e., to the rights of man and woman in God’s image.  Thus spiritual purpose helps maintain the limited scope and function of government according to the Constitution. 

Utility on earth, as well as everyday practical and special interest politics, were subordinate to “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” in the Founders’ worldview.  Those who aspired to lead their Republic, or indeed to live well in freedom, were those who would contemplate the divine order of things and make specific application of it in their lives.  Education was entirely separate from any part of the nation-state, and the Constitution contains no language whatsoever to authorize the federal government to have a Department of Education.  Indeed, the purpose of education was both intellectual and moral, since the components were deemed connected.  How different were their notions of freedom then, and of the good society.  How different was their notion of education too, since the Founders looked to a free populace so educated, to maintain their good Republic. 

No Founder would have told us to teach Chinese to five year olds or cram science down the students’ little throats at any grade, just to ensure your kids get a job and remain competitive in the new world order’s global marketplace. Even if you convinced Ben Franklin it was a good idea, he would not have said the federal government had authority under the Constitution to do it or “make it so.”  Of course, we are far more utilitarian these days, notwithstanding what the Constitution does or does not say; and though I doubt it very much, contemporaries today will say we have so much bigger problems to justify the coercion.  They might as well add that we have sufficient problems to throw away integrity and character too, since we clearly lack the stuff to follow the text or written word of the Constitution—even as we pretend government actions retain legitimacy under some magic penumbra. 

“Train up the child in the way he should go,” Solomon wrote, “and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Ronald Reagan added that, “Our leaders must remember that education doesn’t begin with some isolated bureaucrat in Washington .  It doesn’t even begin with State or local officials.  Education begins in the home, where it’s a parental right and responsibility.  Both our public and our private schools exist to aid our families in the instruction of our children, and it’s time some people back in Washington stopped acting as if family wishes were only getting in the way.” 

Not only has government forgot the purpose of education, it has forgotten its own purpose too!  The power to hope is the power to see solutions, however.  The power to hope is also the power ultimately to change things.  Hope is not a plan, but what to hope for helps to explain our predicament and points to what must be done.  Our statesmen and citizens must return to Original Intent and to a strict interpretation of the Constitution.  My hope is on the side of people, because people hope and governments don’t.  Hope fires the coming political storm and potentially, the backlash.  As Sam Adams stated forcefully in 1776: “If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom—go from us in peace.  We ask not your counsels or arms.  Crouch down and lick the hands, which feed you.  May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”  Who would have thought that the hope for a return to the Constitution is hope for a Revolution in our time?


Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford .  Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC).  This article is from his forthcoming book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium scheduled for release in September (iUniverse, Inc., 2011).  Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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Who Should We Vote for Father Tom? Print E-mail
by James Reza    Fri, Jul 22, 2011, 12:50 PM

This past July 3rd, a Sunday, during the mass homily, our pastor, Father Tom, delivered a sort of “Fire and Brimstone” type of sermon.  He told the congregation that we Americans are slowly losing our family traditions, along with our God given freedoms and that our responsibility as American voters is to correct the insane course the country is heading to.  As I intently listened to Father Tom and wondered why he was so upset, he finally revealed his disgust at the recent allowing of same sex marriage in New York, making it the sixth and largest state in our country to allow it.  Father went on to tell the congregation that the church is steadfast against same sex marriage and was disappointed that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo-D, a Catholic, signed it into law, much to the disapproval of New York Catholic Bishops.  I might add that of the 33 New York senators to vote for the bill, 29 are Democrats and four are Republicans.  Of the 20 who voted against it, all but one are Republicans.  While the Catholic Church does recognize homosexuality as disordered, this does not mean that the Church is uncompassionate to those who suffer from the disorder.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies . . . must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.  Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Folks, throughout my life I’ve had several gay (male and female) friends.  Sadly, most of my gay male friends are all deceased. Many died at the prime of their lives succumbing to AIDS.  In the Hispanic culture, gays are often the recipients of verbal abusive insults and sometimes-physical harm. 

As Father Tom continued his diatribe on Americans losing many of our freedoms, he then brought up the subject of women given the freedom to abort or kill their unborn babies.  “How about the freedom of the unborn having the right to life!”  Father shouted in disgust.  “Who is fighting for the freedom of the unborn to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as is written in the Declaration of Independence,” Father continued.  As I listened to Father Tom I then wondered whom he was trying, though not pointing the finger at, those who are largely responsible for stripping away our family traditions and basic God given freedoms.

Listening to Father Tom’s “Fire and Brimstone” sermon, a flurry of thoughts suddenly swirled in my mind.  I began to think of all the hoopla of the much-publicized Casey Anthony trial.  Caylee Marine Anthony (Aug. 9, 05 – June 15, 08) skeletal remains were discovered on Dec. 11, 09, almost 5 months after she was reported missing by her grandmother, Cindy Anthony.  Her mother, Casey Anthony, also failed to report her daughter missing, though she had been having a grand time dancing, partying, etc.  She was indicted on charges of 1st degree murder and faced the death penalty.  After a long arduous trail Casey was sentenced on misdemeanor charges and fined $1,000.  She virtually was given a slap on the hand and her release date is set for July 17, 2011.  The verdict in the Anthony case reflected the lack of forensic evidence and heavy reliance on circumstantial inferences.

As the acquittal of Casey Anthony hit the airwaves, many high profile news people, celebrities, were outraged at the verdict.  Many wanted Casey’s head to roll.  What I found so hypocritical is that these same high profile people would have cheered Casey on had she wanted to abort Caylee when she got pregnant.  Was not Caylee a human when she was in the womb, or is it only after she was born that then made her a human being?  Many now want to pass laws punishing those who don’t report their children missing.  Yet, we don’t have any laws fighting to save the life of an unborn child if the mother wishes to dispose of it, or more to the point — kill it.

After Roe v. Wade law passed in 1973 which allow women to abort their unwanted child, I confess that I really didn’t have much interest in the Supreme Court decision.  I was a young man with 3 children that I loved very much and cared less if women wanted to kill their own child.  I loved my kids and if a mother didn’t want her child to live so be it I thought in those days.

In the early 90s, a renowned bone specialist, Dr. Bill Mitchell, befriended me.  A devout Catholic, Dr. Mitchell invited me to attend a seminar in Dallas sponsored by the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation.  The seminar’s speaker was a recent exiled priest from China.  Though I can’t remember the priest’s name, I will never forget his presentation titled, “Sex-Selected Genocide in China.”  Folks, in all my life I had never seen such horrendous film clips of just born baby girls drowned in water filled buckets as they were pulled from their mother’s womb.  I still have vivid images of the baby girls held at the bottom of the bucket as they kicked and struggle while bubbles surfaced to the top of the bucket.  The priest went on to explain that in China, boys are preferred over girls resulting in the systematic killing of girls soon after they are born.  According to a recent United Nations Population Fund report, these practices, combined with neglect, have resulted in at least 60 million “missing” girls in Asia, creating gender imbalances.  Consequently 25 million men in China currently can’t find brides because of a shortage of women.  Thus, women are trafficked from North Korea, Burma and Vietnam and sold into sexual slavery to the highest bidder.  Needless to say, these presentations made me a strong Pro Life advocate and through the years I’ve written many articles on this horrible problem.

Most, I believe, find the killing of just born girls in China horrific, but I don’t see any difference in how the Chinese do it, and how babies are aborted here in the USA — either way, they’re murdered!

Finally, any of you have any idea of which political party Father Tom thinks we need to vote out to correct the wrongful course of our Nation heading to?  He didn’t have the guts to tell us.

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Some Defenses That Worked, and a Few That Didn’t Print E-mail
by John Browning    Wed, Jul 13, 2011, 01:26 PM

In previous “Legally Speaking” columns, I’ve written about some rather creative defenses that defendants and their lawyers have concocted—with varying degrees of success.  From the accused tax evader who pleaded “fear of filing” syndrome to the IRS, to the murder defendant who blamed it all on “caffeine intoxication,” I thought I’d heard it all; that is, until now.  It seems that the defenses or excuses people will come up with in an attempt to avoid guilt are limited only by their imagination.  Here are a few new ones.


The “God Told Me To” Defense


Earlier this year, Levon Sarkisyan was arrested for breaking and entering a Farmington, Connecticut home.  He allegedly caused over $10,000 in property damage, and even showered and dressed in clothes belonging to one of the residents.  Facing charges of burglary and criminal mischief, Sarkisyan claims that a “light from above” appeared, and God told him to commit the burglary.  Hopefully, God told him to get a good lawyer, too.


“The Boogeyman Did It” Defense


On June 12, 2011, police in Naples, Florida arrived at the scene of a motorcycle accident in the middle of the afternoon.  There they found a “highly aggressive and combative” James Scarborough trapped underneath his motorcycle on the side of the road.  Noting his bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and “strong odor of alcohol,” police charged him with driving under the influence.  Scarborough’s explanation for the crash?  According to police officers, Scarborough claimed “the Boogeyman did it.”  Scarborough has been charged with DUI, driving without a license, obstructing police, and refusing a sobriety test.  Perhaps he will call the Boogeyman as an expert witness?


The “I Am Not of This Spiritual Plane and Your Laws Do Not Apply To Me” Defense


In Victoria, Australia, policeman Andrew Logan pulled over Eilish De’ Avalon for talking on her cellphone while driving one fine February day in 2010.  Little did he know that, seconds later, he’d be hanging on for dear life.  When he asked to see her driver’s license, Ms. De’ Avalon—a self-styled “pagan priestess”—said she didn’t need one, since she was from another world and earthly laws did not apply to her.  She abruptly sped off, as Logan clung to the car.  The policeman was dragged for about 200 yards before he managed to grab her car keys as she slowed down to turn a corner.  De’ Avalon was taken to an earthly jail before being brought before an earthly judge, one Judge Geoff Chettle.  The proclaimed witch not only had injured a police officer (Logan suffered arm and shoulder injuries), but she also had several prior convictions for dangerous driving.  Judge Chettle sentenced her to 2 months in jail, revoked her driver’s license for a year, and imposed a stiff fine.  As she was being led away, De’ Avalon told the judge “I decline your offer.”  Judge Chettle explained that it was “non-negotiable.”  Next time, Ms. De’ Avalon, stick with a broomstick; you’ll probably get better mileage anyway.


The “I Can’t Leave My House for Trial” Defense


62 year-old Colin Watson of Middlesborough, England is an agoraphobic (a person with a crippling fear of public places).  He hasn’t left his house in at least 6 years, and because of his condition (along with a heart ailment and circulatory problems), Watson receives regular benefits under England’s welfare system.  In fact, he’s received the equivalent of nearly $200,000 in just six years, according to published reports.  With few outside expenses, prosecutors say, Watson found a use for his spare cash—he allegedly ran an illegal loan sharking operation out of his house.  But when authorities brought criminal charges against him, they ran into a problem: how do you bring a man to trial when psychiatrists say he can’t leave the house?  While the judge was skeptical, he called for a professional report into Watson’s inability to leave the house and stand trial, and the court even explored the possible use of a video link at the defendant’s house in order to conduct a trial.  Ultimately, it was decided that a trial could not occur because of Watson’s agoraphobia, and the court had no choice but to find Watson formally not guilty on all charges.  Agoraphobics 1, justice system 0.


The “I was Sleepwalking” Defense


The recent trial of a man in Calgary, Canada for the brutal assault and beating of an escort featured an interesting defense: parasomnia, a mental disorder in which a person commits involuntary acts while sleeping.  Sleepwalking is a subcategory of this disorder, according to mental health professionals, as is “restless leg syndrome” and “night terrors.”  The defendant allegedly hit the victim with a baseball bat, choked her until she passed out, and attempted to sexually assault her; when she escaped, he pursued her.  According to his defense lawyers, all of this was done while the defendant was asleep.  He claimed to have no memory of the attack, and the judge found the expert testimony backing this up quite credible.  While the defendant wasn’t acquitted outright (he’ll have to undergo psychiatric assessment and treatment), the judge ruled that he wasn’t capable of forming the necessary intent to commit a crime.  In fact, this is not the first use of a “sleepwalking defense” in the courts.  It’s been employed at least 7 times since 1846, and has led to acquittals in 3 of those cases.


A theory like that gives new meaning to the term “the defense rests.”

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Occasioning Hope Print E-mail
by Wes Riddle    Tue, Jul 12, 2011, 03:32 PM

Sometimes I wonder why anybody bothers to get up in the morning.  What drives them is necessity much of the time: they have to get up to go to the bathroom, or to eat; or to work, in order to eat; or to keep a roof over their miserable heads.  It is the curse of Adam tugging them and me out of bed, plain and simple.  On better mornings, I think maybe there really is a key we should learn about. 

Happy people add a morsel more to life and living called hope.  Dour people find it on occasion to survive, but on any given day anyone can actually get an added measure from the inexhaustible store.  Hope seems planted in the human heart just to keep it beating.  Hope against hope as it were, for hope springs eternal; and hope is the last thing to be extinguished; and hope is that part of the human spirit that wants to live not die.  Hope is I guess, not an entirely rational thing. 

Hope is a feeling that what is wanted will happen; and hope is also defined as the object of that feeling.  Happy people get up with a healthy measure, an expectation or anticipation that something good or better is going to happen to them!  It’s like looking forward to the mailman despite junk mail and bills, because there might be a check, an offer, or a package from Grandmother.  Hope is rose-colored too, I suppose. 

Hope is also integral to, and results from a person’s worldview.  If one has confidence in one’s own abilities and/or trusts in others, there is cause for hope and hope’s cousin optimism.  An archaic meaning of hope is trust or reliance.  “I hope” in this sense, means “I trust” or “I rely.”  This sense brings the definition close to faith, meaning complete trust, confidence or reliance; as well as loyalty and allegiance. 

The little-engine-that-could thought he could, and did.  He made up his mind and then made it up the hill.  If one has confidence in one’s environment, in the relative safety, justice and predictability of surroundings, one pretty much goes about the business of working and raising a family to improve upon a given situation or “lot” so to speak.  Whereas, the opposite environment drives folks to take up defensive postures and counterattack constantly, figuratively and literally.  Thus governments help foster hope or hope’s opposite, despair.  It isn’t a stretch to say that Americans are more hopeful as a rule than, say, Burmese or Zimbabweans and probably still will be, even after our own elections. 

Of course, hope can be misplaced; and hope is no substitute for a plan, albeit, hope is essential to living with any semblance of joy.  Faith helps foster hope even more than governments do, to the extent that one’s system of beliefs and notion of God define expectations, determine the quality of good desired, and extend all this to the afterlife.  Expectations can be quite extravagant, in terms of rewards in Heaven and responsibilities on earth. 

What we reverence therefore becomes our Hope.  It is likewise true that what extinguishes faith diminishes hope.  Human hope was at low ebb in Soviet Russia and in communist satellite regimes.  Clearly the economies were in ruin and offered little material promise to people.  Those who were able to keep hope alive behind the Iron Curtain normally did so with the aid of their religion and comfort received from God.  They had knowledge and surety that prayer changes things.  Locked into unfair circumstances, they nevertheless continued to think about what they wanted, i.e., to hope in the perfect law of liberty.  They did what they had to do, rendering unto Caesar his while continuing to do God’s work.  Faith and reverence for the sacred, permanent things in life bred hope; and hope became initiative not only to get out of bed, but also to change the world.  What occasions this so-called irrational, rose-colored response to Leviathan is the knowledge that with God all things are possible, even likely.  “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Psalms 37:5). 


Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford .  Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC).  His forthcoming book, Horse Sense for the New Millennium is scheduled for release in September (iUniverse, Inc., 2011).  Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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