- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Corpus Christi Caller-Times. July 30, 2014.

Criminal damage to Rio Grande Valley’s reputation

One of Gov. Rick Perry’s main justifications last week for sending 1,000 National Guard troops to the border was to control crime. Sending the Guard to control crime suggests that crime in the Rio Grande Valley is out of control.

What an embarrassment for the Valley, to be branded as crime-ridden. Who in their right minds would want to invest in such an unsafe place?

Usually the Texas economy is foremost on Perry’s mind. Surely a governor who has been so deeply devoted to promoting his state and its economic potential wouldn’t knowingly disparage the Valley’s reputation unless the threat was real. Right?

Well, it turns out that Texans are more likely - a LOT more likely - to be robbed, beaten, raped or murdered in Houston or Dallas than in any of the border counties. Statistics reported last week by Matthew Waller of the Scripps Austin Bureau (the Caller-Times is a Scripps publication) show violent crime and crime in general in the Valley to be below the state average.

“If crime is the rationale that we use to call out the National Guard, then we might have them walking downtown Houston,” state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa said.

Who besides the Houston Chamber of Commerce would dispute that logic? The governor, that’s who. Last month when, according to Waller’s report, an El Paso Times reporter pressed Perry as to whether the border was any more crime-ridden than the rest of the state, Perry responded:

“The idea that the border is without crime is a very false statement.”

Parsing that quote, we have no choice but to agree with the governor: Crime occurs along the border. To assert that no crime occurs there would be false.

It’s a narrow technicality that some level of crime indeed occurs along the border, but, hey, it happens. No one was disputing the governor on this ludicrously narrow point because it was beside the point. But anyone who did would be a liar.

What’s not beside the point is that the governor called out the Guard based on easily disprovable facts - or, as some insensitive people would call them, lies. He would have us believe that questioning him is tantamount to questioning whether any crime at all occurs on the border. He must think we’re as dumb as Jon Stewart thinks he is.

The impetus for calling out the Guard was, of course, the surge in unaccompanied children crossing the border. Siccing the Guard on children would appear insensitive. Vicious criminals make a much more useful scapegoat for this unnecessary show of force.

Hence, Perry’s attempt to focus the attention on “criminal alien defendants.” That sounds ominous. This statement from Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed sounded more ominous:

“If thousands of young children can successfully get across the border, so can ruthless cartels and criminals.”

Too bad the Guard doesn’t have the authority to make arrests.

“The perception that we’re in a war zone, it’s just false,” Monica Weisberg-Stewart of the Texas Border Coalition told Waller.

The Guard surge is expected to cost $12 million a month. We shudder at the cost to the Valley’s reputation.

___

Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Aug. 5, 2014.

Texas border operations are a money pit

Dealing with the surge of illegal immigrants into Texas is swallowing a lot of money in Austin and along the Rio Grande.

The cost has alarmed some lawmakers, including some who question the method Gov. Rick Perry has chosen to pay for deploying up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the border.

And local officials in the Rio Grande Valley say they need help in offsetting humanitarian, law enforcement and other costs.

It would have been much better if Congress had completed action on emergency federal funding last week, but wishing for help from Congress is futile lately.

To be clear: These are expenses that the entire nation should bear. Immigration is a federal responsibility, not one that border states and their residents should assume or should have to carry.

At least two options are still available.

Congress will be back in session after Labor Day. The House and Senate could agree to funding that would reimburse Texas and the local communities that have been hit hard by the immigrant surge.

But, there we go again, wishing.

President Barack Obama has said that, failing action by Congress, he will take steps on his own to address immigration issues before the end of the summer. He could provide emergency funding to hard-hit areas.

Perry has chosen an unexpected way to pay initial costs of his National Guard deployment, one that his aides defended last week at a meeting of the Legislative Budget Board.

The governor intends to take $38 million that the Legislature allocated for Department of Public Safety emergency radio communications upgrades.

In a report on the LBB meeting, The Texas Tribune quoted Mike Morrissey, the governor’s deputy chief of staff and senior adviser, as saying $7 million will go back to the DPS to help pay for its expanded border operations.

The rest will pay for between two and three months of the National Guard deployment. Morrissey said the governor wants to work with legislators to find funding for even longer National Guard operations.

The money pit keeps getting deeper.

___

San Antonio Express-News. Aug. 4, 2014.

Speaker Cruz? Sure seems like it

So, does Ted Cruz or John Boehner run the U.S. House?

You have to wonder after last week’s tortured efforts in the U.S. House to pass emergency funding for the border - because of the influx of Central American children. A first bill’s withdrawal in the absence of conservative support seems to have been engineered by Texas’ junior senator.

The president had requested $3.7 billion to help with the humanitarian crisis posed by the influx. By the time it was watered down - ability to more easily deport the children included - that was down to $659 million.

House leadership withdrew that bill and passed another $694 million version the next day, this one including $35 million for the National Guard at the border. It passed 223-189. To get more conservative support, House leadership enabled a separate vote to gut the president’s Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative to entice the more conservative House members. That passed 216-192.

And this is about as heartless and misdirected an effort as can be imagined. DACA has nothing to do with the flood of Central American children.

Thank Cruz for this, too. He met with some House Republicans the evening before the first vote. Cruz urged House members to concentrate solely on a bill gutting the president’s initiative to give relief to immigrants brought here as children.

The theory is that the president’s initiative enticed the Central American youth. But a 2008 law that treats them more like the refugees they are is a more likely magnet. And smugglers likely have been making promises that have no relation to existing U.S. law about the children’s ability to stay.

Cruz’s real motivation, of course, was his apparent run for the presidency and a desire to be viewed as the most conservative conservative.

Cruz might be serving in the wrong body. He has worked his magic on the U.S. House before. He used his influence with the House’s more conservative members to help engineer a government shutdown in 2013. All because he wanted to defund the Affordable Care Act.

That was a disaster. And now we have another. Because the Senate failed to pass its version of emergency relief, Congress leaves for its five-week summer break without action on the humanitarian crisis posed by the Central American children.

And this tells us all we need to know about congressional dysfunction. Politics over compassion.

___

The Dallas Morning News. Aug. 4, 2014.

Procreation vs. same-sex marriage in Texas

Attorney General Greg Abbott often makes the point that government should tread lightly in matters of personal liberty. Yet in a legal brief defending Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage, the GOP candidate for governor treads heavily.

Abbott is appealing a federal judge’s ruling that found Texas’ voter-approved ban in 2005 on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. In legal documents filed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans recently, his legal team argued that Texas can ban same-sex marriage based on the state’s interest in couples having children.

Abbott notes that Texas law recognizes marriage as being between a man and a woman and argues that, in turn, a heterosexual marriage “increases the likelihood” that they will produce and raise their children in “stable, lasting relationships.” Therefore, the brief continues, “because same-sex relationships do not naturally produce children, recognizing same-sex marriage does not further these goals to the same extent that recognizing opposite-sex marriage does. That is enough to supply a rational basis for Texas’s marriage laws.”

That is a legal reach. Actually, state marriage laws are not rooted in establishing “stable, lasting relationships” that produce children but are designed to clarify property and inheritance rights. Creating children has never been a state goal, nor is it a credible argument against same-sex marriages. There also are many reasons heterosexual couples get married that may or may not include having children. Certainly, they would be surprised to learn Abbott thinks Texas has a vested interest in whether they have offspring.

The Texas ban was challenged by a Texas couple who wanted to marry and by a couple who married in Massachusetts and wanted their marriage recognized in Texas. In striking down the Texas law earlier this year, federal Judge Orlando Garcia concluded that “without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution,” specifically the guarantees of equal protection and due process.

We agree, and find Abbott’s argument to be a grasp at legal straws. Societal and cultural tides are shifting on this issue. At least 19 states permit same-sex marriage, many of them since the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act last year, clearing the way for federal judges to strike down bans. A variety of voices ranging from Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings to former Vice President Dick Cheney to President Barack Obama also support same-sex marriage.

This newspaper, which opposed Texas’ constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, nonetheless respects religious traditions against it, as well as the First Amendment, which protects places of worship from being compelled to conduct same-sex marriages.

That said, Abbott’s claim of a rational, vested state interest in procreation is a step too far.

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Longview News-Journal. Aug. 5, 2014.

Texas miracle is that taxpayers let Perry play venture capitalist

Texas’ economic success over the past decade has been dubbed by politicians the “Texas Miracle” but, of course, that’s just something politicians say. Our state’s success is really due to hard work coupled with innovations, investments and risks taken by untold numbers of Texans and others.

We aren’t saying policies pushed by Gov. Rick Perry and others haven’t given a bit of lift to the Texas economy, but the effect has been been relatively minor. In some cases, in fact, the effects have been downright non-existent, or even negative.

Take the Texas Emerging Technology Fund.

This is one of Perry’s pet programs. It and similar funds have given him free rein to give taxpayer money to companies that, in his opinion, are on the brink of inventing or producing a technology that will substantially impact the world.

Just Monday, Perry awarded $2.3 million from another fund to Space X, the private space exploration company, to build a rocket launch facility that will supposedly bring 300 jobs. Two weeks ago, he gave $6 million to Charles Schwab Corp. with the expectation of creating 1,200 jobs.

Perry probably has advisers who help him identify all the companies that have received millions of state dollars over the past 14 years but the final decision was wholly the governor’s. No other person or entity is there as a check or balance on how the taxpayer funds are doled out. He makes the call and that’s that.

More importantly, there has been no official research on how the investments have performed.

But The Associated Press recently put together a report card on the Emerging Technology Fund and found that while the program has had its successes, it also had plenty of mishaps - and that not all the data put out by Perry’s office are exactly accurate.

For instance, some of the jobs that have been created over the past 14 years have been located in other states. That, of course, does not seem the best use of Texas taxpayers’ dollars.

Some of the businesses he’s funded have stalled, while others have actually blamed Perry’s office for their struggles. Sixteen of the businesses that have been given money have failed outright.

In the world of venture capital projects, that is not an overly high number. But do we really want our governor to be playing the role of venture capitalist with our money?

Our answer would be no, and that does not even take into consideration that no person or other branch of government is providing a check for what Perry does. That lack of transparency makes the situation even riskier for Texas taxpayers.

For those of you who follow politics, this is the same kind of program that was used in funding Solyndra Corp. under President Barack Obama. As you’ll recall, that situation raised all manner of charges of scandals and crony capitalism against the White House.

When Perry does the same thing, the program is called a Texas Miracle.

Maybe the “miracle” is that Texas voters aren’t paying close enough attention to what happens in their own backyards.

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