- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Houston Chronicle. March 22, 2014.

Border hyperbole: Bipartisan immigration reform doesn’t rile up the crowd. ‘Boots on the ground’ does

Until the political season comes to an end, there’s probably little hope we’ll hear anything about border issues beyond posturing, pontificating and bloviating. It’s particularly offensive in the lieutenant governor’s race, where state Sen. Dan Patrick, cruising to probable victory, rails about invading hordes of criminal-minded, disease-carrying illegals, while his beleaguered opponent, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, touts his so-called Operation Strong Safety. Dewhurst calls for a $60 million “permanent surge” of National Guard troops and Department of Public Safety officers, along with high-tech hardware and vehicles to supplement a billion-dollar border wall and several thousand Border Patrol agents.

Dewhurst has been quick to jump on the discovery of a “stash house” in Pearland, where more than a hundred people, presumably in the U.S. illegally, were being held against their will. Obviously, law enforcement at the border and beyond needs to use every resource to prevent such outrages, but ranting about “border security” is nothing more than political posturing.

Whoever comes across as toughest on border security is likely to win the hearts and minds of Republican runoff voters, but their posturing has little do with our border challenges. It actually does harm.

Consider the observations of Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson, chief law enforcement officer for the state’s largest county for the past 14 years. “I think they’re just throwing money at the border for nothing,” he told the Texas Observer recently. “I think people in the interior see all these shows about the border where there’s violence. . A lot of tourists will call up my office and say, ‘Is it safe out there?’ We’ll ask where they’re coming from. They’ll say, ‘Houston.’ We’ll say, hurry up and get out of there! It’s safer here than where you’re coming from.”

Dodson noted that all the border hyperbole not only makes people feel insecure but also drains resources from other state needs. And he questions whether it does any good at all.

“They were smuggling across the border when my grandmother was a girl, and they’re going to be smuggling when my granddaughter grows up,” he told the Observer. “I wish they’d stop talking about the border and focus on problems in the interior.”

They won’t stop talking between now and November, of course, although if they were to talk seriously about the border, they would focus on the need for the all-but-dead immigration reform legislation moldering in the House of Representatives. The comprehensive immigration reform proposal approved by the U.S. Senate last year not only beefs up border security, but also addresses the complexity of issues involving our relations with Mexico and other immigration concerns. But for Patrick and other bloviators, bipartisan immigration reform doesn’t rile up the crowd. “Boots on the ground” and invading hordes make for better sound bites.

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San Antonio Express-News. March 21, 2014.

Another case shows need for military justice change

The case of Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, the accused in one of the most high-profile military sexual assault cases in recent times, illustrated the need to remove commanders from the decision on whether to prosecute such cases.

He was allowed to plead to lesser charges. Conviction on the more severe charges, now dropped, could have earned him a life sentence. Among these charges were that he forced a captain to perform oral sex and threatened to kill her and her family if she disclosed the relationship. The two had an affair, which went horribly awry.

It’s tempting to see this as a case in which the punishment does not fit the crime - and there is a case to be made for that after his verdict last week for the remaining charges, a $20,000 fine and no jail time. He gets to keep his pension.

Story Continues →