The recent victory of Ted Cruz in the U.S. Senate Republican primary and the electoral successes of a number of conservatives running for the Texas Legislature are strong indicators that the grassroots conservative movement, which proved so powerful in 2010, is alive and well in 2012.
While some liberal pundits are quick to dismiss the election results as a victory for the "far right”, they miss the real message from the voters: There is a growing disconnection between many of the career politicians who have been in power for an extended period of time and the voters they are supposed to represent. "They don't represent us anymore — it is all about them" is a common refrain one hears at the grassroots level.
Ted Cruz and many of the successful conservatives running for the Legislature were able to put together a coalition of both economic and social conservatives, reminiscent of the Reagan coalition. In fact, many of the newcomers remind me of those conservative outsiders like myself and others who went to Washington with President Reagan in 1981 to challenge the political elites and, in the President's words, "to drain the swamps". Under President Reagan's leadership, a team of conservatives put in place a set of policies to address the serious issues facing our country at that time — high unemployment, double-digit inflation, and an America in decline on the world scene. The solutions were relatively simple and straightforward, garnering broad-based support from the American public. More importantly, by and large, these conservative policies proved successful in getting the economy moving again and accelerating the demise of the Soviet Empire.
That brings me to my bit of advice for Ted Cruz and the other successful, conservative candidates, particularly those elected to serve in the Texas Legislature: Be prepared to govern. While Democrats control the Presidency and the Senate nationally, here in Texas, Republicans are in charge of state government and we need to act like it. It is up to us to fix a flawed Robin Hood school finance scheme which funds public education in part by transferring property taxes from so-called property-rich school districts to poorer districts with the State acting as the redistribution agent, forcing many Texans to be double taxed on their property. Gov. Ann Richards first tried to implement this Robin Hood scheme in 1993 through a constitutional amendment. Texas voters turned it down by a margin of two to one only to have Richards and the Legislature pass a statute imposing the same tax on property owners.
Nearly 20 years and two Governors later, this flawed system of school financing is still in place. It is constantly the subject of school litigation (as is currently the case) and clearly is a violation of our constitutional prohibition against a statewide property tax. Our conservative legislators in Austin have an opportunity to show real leadership by replacing the Robin Hood finance scheme with a fairer and more equitable system of funding public education in Texas.
Our legislators also need to address our heavy reliance on a so-called 4 x 4 curriculum and a STAAR test designed to make all our high school students "college ready". This broken system of performance measurements places an excessive emphasis on high stakes, standardized testing that isn't doing anything to improve teaching and real learning. This "one size fits all" standard for educating kids needs to be replaced by a common-sense approach to education which recognizes that students learn differently and have different talents.
There are multiple pathways to a quality education and educational success which can prepare our Texas students to be college ready and career ready. What we are doing now isn't working, and we should replace test learning with real learning.
Issues relating to water and transportation infrastructure needs aren't going away. We can't keep passing the buck one legislative session to the next with short-term patches while long-term problems persist.
True conservative leadership requires reaching out beyond one's base of support and coming up with common sense solutions to the problems that need addressing. To quote State Rep.-elect Cecil Bell Jr., "To solve complex problems, it is essential to find the simplest solution possible. Otherwise, your 'solution' becomes part of the problem, trapped in the quagmire of its own bureaucracy."
With new conservative leaders like Bell coming to Austin, and a number of returning legislators equally determined to apply a common sense approach to the issues confronting Texas on multiple fronts, I am optimistic that the nucleus of a conservative team, similar to the one that worked so well during the Reagan era of American politics, is beginning to come together again. It is the difference between loyalty to individual politicians in power vs. loyalty to principle. With Reagan, we who were part of that team felt it was about loyalty to principle.
In his farewell address on January 11, 1989, Ronald Reagan had this to say: "They called it the Reagan Revolution... For me it always seemed more like a rediscovery of our values and our common sense."
It is time for the next Reagan Revolution to begin, and the reinforcements have landed.
Tom Pauken, a Texas Workforce commissioner, is former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.
Originally published on TexasWeekly.com (August 20, 2012)
Boy howdy, this controversy over comments made by the owner of Chick-fil-A, Mr. Dan Cathy, who stated recently that, he was against gay marriage has ruffled the feathers of those who are for same sex marriage and those who are opposed to it. In a recent interview with Baptist Press, Mr. Cathy stated, “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our fist wives. We give God thanks for that.”
Proponents for same sex marriage have uttered some harsh and unspeakable words about the eatery. Even the Jim Henson Company, who has supplied their Muppet toys to the fast food restaurant, said in a statement, “We have notified Chick-fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors.” Jason Parsley, editor-in-chief of South Florida Gay News, was also turned away by Mr. Cathy’s comments. He stated, “Since this has come out, I will not be spending my money at Chick-fil-A.”
Adding to the list of Chick-fil-A detractors were 3 mayors, all Democrats, from 3 large cities, all vowing to try to block Chick-fil-A from bringing more of their restaurants into their cities. Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston has sworn that the franchise will have to fight city hall to bring its fast-food empire to Boston. By sheer coincidence, the Atlanta-based chain is hoping to open a Chick-fil-A in a popular tourist spot near the Freedom Trail in Boston — a rather ironic choice. Mayor Menino stated, “Boston is an open city that’s at the forefront of inclusion, that’s our Freedom Trail. We’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the hell the name is, on our Freedom Trail.” Wow, so much for freedom in Boston.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, of Chicago, also chimed in his distaste for Chick-fil-A. The head of the nation’s third-largest city hopes to hit the fast food chain where it hurts most — its pocketbook — by vowing to block its plans to build a new restaurant in his hometown. Again, so much for freedom in the WindyCity!
Not to be outdone, Mayor Edwin Lee of San Francisco also joined the chorus opposing Chick-fil-A with a tweet saying: “Closest Chick-fil-A to San Francisco is 40 miles away and I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer.”
My friends who love this country because of the freedoms we hold dear like: freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, or freedom of religion, which are now under assault when an owner of a business is vilified for his stance on his religious belief of same sex marriage should concern all of us as to where our country is heading to. Growing up during WWII, the Korean Conflict, Viet Nam and the assault on our homeland in 9/11 has not worried me as much as the now assaults on our Constitutional freedoms by our own fellow citizens and left wing politicians.
Sadden by the unrelenting verbal assaults towards Chick-fil-A my spirits were lifted when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee created a counter boycott launched by gay marriage activists on Wednesday, Aug. 1. According to Mr. Huckabee, more than 630,000 supporters signed up to celebrate Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day on his Facebook page for the event. Mr. Huckabee further stated, “Let’s affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick-fil-A. Well folks, I, along with my grandkids went to our neighborhood Chick-fil-A and waited almost an hour to get served to show our support for the restaurant as did scores of others throughout our country.
After millions of Americans showed their support for Chick-fil-A gay activists and same sex marriage proponents stepped up their assault on the eatery and Christians by calling them haters, bigots, hicks, rednecks and staging same sex kissing sit ins at Chick-fil-A restaurants. One individual on my Facebook stated that he was going to Chick-fil-A and fondle his gay lover in public.
These gay and same sex proponents should be thankful they don’t live in a Muslim country. Here’s the Islam law on gay behavior: “Kill the one that is doing it and also kill the one that it is being done to. In a pamphlet produced by Al-Fatiha, it estimates that 4,000 homosexuals have been executed in Iran since 1979 and 10 public executions of homosexuals in Afghanistan by the Taliban army.
Throughout my life I’ve met and been friends with gays and lesbians. Though I didn’t approve of their lifestyle I never harmed or insulted them. My theory was “to each his own.” Nor, do I recall other Hispanics in my community rebuking or bullying them. Sadly, all with the exception of one gay friend are all dead! “Were they murdered James?” Some might ask. No, they died of AIDS!
According to a statement by the Kaiser Foundation it revealed that in San Francisco, CA there have been 19,341 reported AIDS deaths as of Dec. 31, 2010. The reported stated that since the AIDS epidemic began in 1981, 1.7 million Americans have been infected with HIV and 641,976 have died of AIDS-related causes. A Kinsey report states that it takes approximately $300,000 to take care of each AIDS victim, so thanks to the promiscuous lifestyle of homosexuals, medical insurance rates have been skyrocketing for all of us.
As for Christians been labeled as haters, homophobes and bigots by gays and same sex marriage proponents let me share some comments made by those in law enforcement.
• Judge John Martaugh, chief magistrate of the New York City Criminal Court has said, “Homosexuals account for half the murders in large cities.”
• Captain William Riddle of the Los Angeles Police says, “30,000 sexually abused children in Los Angeles were victims of homosexuals.”
Final note to gays and same sex marriage proponents: “My friends, we Christians are not your enemies, ya’ll are your own worst enemy!”
Judges from around the country engage periodically in what’s called “creative sentencing.”Some legal observers criticize such punishments as forms of public shaming taking us back to the days of Puritans putting people in the stocks.Others, like Ohio State University law professor Doug Berman (who writes the Sentencing Law and Policy blog), point out that creative sentencing frequently does good, such as when a defendant is ordered to read books and write reports or enroll in an educational program.He says “When done well by the right folks with the right idea in mind, creative sentencing can be a good thing.There are lots of folks for whom prison may do more harm than good, not just for themselves but for society.”
With overcrowding in prisons and correctional budgets stretched tight for many states, I think creative sentencing can offer a workable solution to a number of sentencing quandaries, where merely warehousing someone at taxpayer expense won’t drive home the message nearly as effectively as other means.For example, a Georgia judge recently had to sentence an Augusta personal injury lawyer in a case involving his conduct with an 18 year-old babysitter.Joseph Neal, Jr. was originally accused of sexual assault for his role in allegedly plying the babysitter with wine and marijuana before engaging in a threesome with his wife.A misdemeanor plea bargain was reached when prosecutors acknowledged the difficulties in winning the “he said/she said” case, and Neal was sentenced to 3 years of probation.But Judge James Blanchard evidently still found Neal’s conduct as sleazy as most of us would, and wanted a punishment “in keeping with the conduct in this case.”So, he ordered Neal to perform 100 hours of community service—at a sewage treatment plant.
Other judges use creative sentencing for “teachable moments.”When a marital spat between Joseph Bray and his wife began with Bray’s failure to wish his wife a happy birthday and escalated into a charge of domestic violence, the presiding judge took the opportunity to teach the Plantation, Florida man a lesson.Instead of setting a bond, Judge John “Jay” Hurley ordered Bray to undergo marriage counseling, but also to “get some flowers . . . go home, pick up his wife, get dressed, take her to Red Lobster.And then after they have Red Lobster, they’re going to go bowling.”Similarly, Judge Michael Nettles of South Carolina didn’t see the point in “throwing the book” at a defendant in his court recently—unless you count the Good Book, that is.28 year-old Cassandra Tolley pleaded guilty to a drunk driving crash that seriously injured two people.But in accepting her plea (and sentencing her to 8 years in prison), Judge Nettles also listened to Tolley and to what brought her to such a low point in her life.
Tolley told the judge how her drinking problem had begun with horrific physical abuse suffered as a child.When she was 11, a relative poured gasoline on Tolley and set her on fire.Scars from the burns are still visible on the young woman’s face.After Tolley explained that she was a Christian and detailed the remorse that she felt over the crash she caused, Judge Nettles ordered substance abuse counseling and also ordered the defendant to read the Old Testament’s Book of Job and write a report about it.Job, of course, is a man of faith and father of 10 who loses everything—including his livelihood, his children, and his health.Yet, his faith in God never wavers, and his health is restored, he fathers 10 more children, and God doubles his previous wealth.Tolley’s pastor was present in the court for her sentencing, and he believes that the unusual sentence was meant to teach Tolley that “Job made it through, and [the judge] wants her to know she can, too.”
How do you teach a hardened criminal a lesson in taking his crimes seriously?By punishing him for not taking it seriously, that’s how.Boyd William White Twin was convicted of assaulting his companion with a deadly weapon in front of their young children, and threatening the woman about choosing “which child he should kill first.”Yet after sentencing Twin to 78 months in prison, federal Judge Charles Kornmann of South Dakota saw Twin smiling.After asking the defendant if he thought there was something humorous about the sentence, Judge Kornmann tacked on an additional six months as an enhancement—a move that was recently upheld on appeal.Twin now has 84 months to learn to wipe that smile from his face.
And finally, though it’s not exactly creative sentencing, you have to admire the humor displayed by Judge Carnes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in a recent case.A young man named Larry Butler was appealing the dismissal of his excessive force lawsuit against Dorethea Collier, who worked for the Palm Beach County (Florida) Sheriff’s Department.It seems that Butler had visited Collier’s home for a tryst with Collier’s 19 year-old daughter.Deputy Collier came home early, surprised the young lovers, and did what many armed parents would do if they returned home to find a naked stranger in their daughter’s bedroom: she punched him, drew her gun, handcuffed him, and threatened to kill him before calling her husband (who also hit Butler) and the sheriff’s department.In upholding the dismissal of the case, since Mrs. Collier was acting as a private citizen and not in her official capacity, Judge Carnes began by invoking the 1972 Jim Croce song “You Don’t Mess Around with Jim:”
“In one of his ballads, Jim Croce warned that there are four things that you just don’t do: ‘You don’t tug on Superman’s cape/You don’t spit into the wind/You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger/And you don’t mess around with Jim.’He could have added a fifth warning to that list: ‘And you don’t let a pistol-packing mother catch you naked in her daughter’s closet.’”
Whether it comes down to creative sentences or having your lawsuit tossed, it all comes down to getting what you deserve—because sometimes the punishment really does fit the crime.
This 4th of July I attended an open door concert where my grandsons and other young music students were performing with their instructor’s band. The event was held in North Fort Worth, a predominately Hispanic community where I grew up and lived until 1984. North Fort Worth is a stronghold for Democrats. Thus, after the young aspiring musicians displayed their musical talents two Democrat politicians bidding for the newly formed 33rd congressional seat spoke to the large gathering of Hispanics. The politicians in question were Domingo Garcia, a former State Rep. from Dallas and Marc Veasey, a black, and State Rep from Fort Worth. Both men will face off on July 31 when voters from the 33rd congressional district will decided which of the two will represent them.
Before addressing the sizeable crowd, both politicians mingled with those in attendance. As I talked to many of my old neighborhood buddies, Mr. Garcia suddenly walked up to me. He extended his hand, which I shook, and he then told me he always read my columns when I wrote for years in the Dallas Morning News. I quickly told him I was already drafting a column about comments he made in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, which brought a smile to his face. He said, “tell the folks about me James,” and quickly left to get on the stage with Mr. Veasey. Though I don’t have a dog in this hunt (33rd congressional race), I nonetheless listened with some interest to their political comments. Though predictable, to me anyway, what both men would tell the crowd, Mr. Garcia quickly injected a blurb about Obama’s recent almost amnesty to 800,000 illegal aliens from Mexico and how he applauded the President’s actions. What puzzled me was Mr. Garcia’s comment about President Obama’s illegal immigrant mandate was that only a handful of the large mostly American Hispanic crowd applauded. Mr. Veasey’s comments in my humble opinion were more inspiring in that he pleaded with Hispanics to encourage their kids to stay in school and hopefully continued on to college. Other comments I found disingenuous by both men were when they told the crowd how they would work hard to bring jobs to the area. My friends, I was born and lived in that area for 47 years. In my 47 years living in North Fort Worth the biggest employers there were Swift & Co. and Armour’s, two huge meatpacking plants and other small meatpackers (Rosenthal and City Packing) where many Hispanics, blacks and whites worked. After these meatpackers closed Hispanics, whites and blacks who lived in North Side sought work elsewhere. Since then, I’ve yet to see large job creating companies like the packinghouses bring their businesses to the North Side. Thus, these two politicians promising jobs to the voters of the 33rd congressional district was political pandering fabrications.
As for Mr. Veasey encouraging Hispanics at the concert to stay in school, he has to take into account that black students also have a terrible record of staying in school. According to the Huffington Post, minority students dropped out at disproportionately higher rates than their white counterparts. In the last three years since 2009, 4.8% of blacks and 5.8% of Hispanics between 15 and 24 dropped out of grades 10-12, compared with 2.4% for white students. In a USA Report it stated that white high school graduates are more likely than black or Hispanic peers to enroll in college. The report stated that 47.3% of white high school graduates ages 18 to 24 attend college, vs. 41.1% of black and 35% of Hispanic high school graduates. The USA report further stated that among students who entered college since 1996, 36.4% of blacks and 42% of Hispanics earned a bachelor’s degree within six years, vs. 58% of whites and get this — 62.3% of Asian Americans! Before Mr. Veasey chides Hispanics on their kid’s dismal education stats, he should recognize the dismal stats of blacks as well.
In his comments to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Mr. Garcia stated, “Fort Worth’s Stop Six, and Poly neighborhoods (heavy populated black areas) look like ghettos!” He further stated that politicians representing those neighborhoods are more worried about money for themselves than about their constituent’s best interests. Folks, seldom do I agree with a Democrat, but here I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Garcia. Sadly, and unbeknown to Mr. Garcia, is that those aforementioned areas are now heavily populated by Hispanics, mostly from Mexico. Also unknown to Mr. Garcia, is that those once almost all black communities were once thriving robust business areas operated by black entrepreneurs. As a young man in the 50s I practically, due to racism, loved that area due to the black man’s music. Whites didn’t allow me in their clubs and Hispanics from other Hispanic neighborhoods would threaten me because I was from North Side. Thus, I hung out in the Poly area. Never, did blacks threaten me, asked me for a hand out or stole anything from my car. If I was hungry or needed gas, I’d stop at a black owned restaurant or gas station. However, in the 1960s, President Johnson with his Great Society Program tried to eradicate poverty by leveling the playing field with government freebees. My friends, within five years to this very day, as Mr. Garcia so stated, turned not only the Poly and Stop Six black areas in Fort Worth into ghettos, but other black and Hispanic communities throughout the United States as well. And after more than 50 years black and Hispanic communities in the United States are high crime rate areas and sadly those who live there are still as poor or poorer than ever before. All due in part to liberal Democrat government programs that Mr. Garcia and Mr. Veasey have championed and will probably continue to support!
So what are we celebrating on the Fourth of July? Something’s there behind those parades and barbeque: it’s Freedom, and how freedom was born in these United States. On June 11, 1775 Congress appointed a committee to prepare a declaration in support of a resolution Richard Henry Lee of Virginia had made on the 7th—namely, that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.” Congress appointed Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman and John Adams to that committee, and the committee in turn asked Jefferson to write the draft. On 28 June the committee reported to Congress, and the “Declaration of Independence” was so powerful and persuasive that Congress unanimously adopted Lee’s resolution on July 2nd. After two more days of debating form and content of the Declaration, the amended instrument was approved without dissent. This date (the Fourth of July) thus marks our country’s “official” birthday. Coincidentally, both Adams and Jefferson who would later become presidents were born on the Fourth of July. Over the next few weeks, the Declaration was engrossed on parchment and signed by every member of Congress, who pledged to each other ‘our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.’ Next to the Constitution, written only after we won the Revolution, the Declaration is our most important document. Together with the Constitution, they comprise the organic law of the American People. The Declaration even more than the Constitution, espouses a political theory that was radical in 1776 and still has radical implications.
Drawing upon natural rights political philosophy, Jefferson basically compiled a list of abuses by the king of England and listed them in the Declaration. He assumed the British Empire to be a confederation of free peoples and implied that certain acts of the king showed a design to subject Americans to arbitrary control. He reasoned that arbitrary control illegitimated rule over the Colonies, and he asserted the right and duty of the Colonies to dissolve their tie with the Empire and declare themselves independent states since no people have a right to govern any other people without the consent of the governed. The Declaration was severely criticized in England for expressing exactly this theory: a minority opinion about government which reasons men are by nature free and equal, and may not, without their own consent, be governed by another people!
Having studied U.S. history in England, there is still a consistent puzzlement and amazement about the American Revolution. Brits ask themselves why and still don’t get it. After all, the Colonies were better off than any other part of the British Empire—wages were 100% higher on average than in the homeland. Sure there were taxes imposed by Parliament, but these were to pay for debts incurred during the French and Indian War. The Colonies had participated in the war and benefited from a British victory! And by European and British standards, King George III was certainly no tyrant. But there’s the proverbial rub, because Americans had made their own standards when it came to rights. Jefferson remarked that a revolution occurred in the American mind before the fighting started in 1775. Of course long years of real fighting were required after the Declaration, since that document was a point of no return or compromise. Americans all had in effect, pledged themselves to fight for a permanent secession from Great Britain, in order to secure their God-given, unalienable rights—natural rights given to them by their Creator that were bound to be respected by other men, because God intended it that way. To many this new nation was a holy city, a New Jerusalem fulfilling Bible prophecy. “And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it” (Rev 21: 24). The Declaration did not usher in the kingdom of heaven or reign of perfect harmony—but it did usher Freedom and how it was born in these United States. And Freedom you see is the start of everything dear that matters, even fear of the Lord and a living, practical faith that conforms word and deed, thought to action, motive to conduct. That’s what the celebration is all about, why small town parades achieve incredible grandeur and Texas barbeques taste so good. Why even a voice that isn’t coached sounds beautiful singing a song that is also a prayer: “God Bless America, Land that I love; Stand beside her, And guide her Through the night With a light From above; From the mountains, To the prairies To the oceans, White with foam; God bless America, My home Sweet home.”
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) and is currently running for U. S. Congress (TX-District 25 in the Republican Primary. He is also author of two books, Horse Sense for the New Millennium (2011), and The Nexus of Faith and Freedom (2012). Both books are available on-line at http://www.wesriddle,net/ and from fine bookstores everywhere. Email: