- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

San Antonio Express-News. Aug. 25, 2017.

Armed militia members recently descended on Municipal Plaza during a City Council meeting.

They were there as “protection” for speakers in support of keeping a Confederate Monument at Travis Park. Just what these speakers needed protection from at City Council’s “citizens to be heard” session is unclear.

It’s just a public meeting where residents speak to City Council members about community issues. But it was quite a sight, bulletproof vests and semi-automatic rifles, which was probably the point.

There is nothing illegal about bringing a rifle down to Municipal Plaza. In Texas, people can openly carry rifles. They can also openly carry a handgun, if licensed.

Legal, though, is not the same as responsible. Guns have their place, but not as props to intimidate others outside a public meeting. This is an irresponsible and deliberately provocative tactic.

The conversation this country is having about the display, treatment and meaning of Confederate monuments is a challenging one. It’s incumbent on all parties to treat one another with respect. But that doesn’t always happen. Tensions flare. People get overheated.

A gun in this kind of setting is an invitation for trouble - and tragedy.

With the right to firearms comes the necessity for responsibility and common sense. Most gun owners know this. Responsible gun owners don’t behave this way. But extremism jeopardizes all of our rights.

If a person is really so concerned about safety at an event that they think a semi-automatic rifle is necessary, then maybe the best choice is to stay home.

That wouldn’t be as provocative, but it sure would reflect common sense.

___

Amarillo Globe-News. Aug. 28, 2017.

Former President Barack Obama promised to close the U.S. military facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Obama failed to keep that promise, for the most part - fortunately. (What the former president could not accomplish through one of his infamous executive orders - mothballing Gitmo - he tried to accomplish with absurd and dangerous detainee swaps and releases.)

President Donald Trump has vowed to use Gitmo as it has been used since 9/11 (the worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil) - as a facility to hold the world’s most notorious terrorists.

According to The New York Times, the Trump administration is considering reversing course on the Obama administration’s mandate that Gitmo be closed.

There is no way to logically debate that bringing terrorists and those captured while fighting the U.S. military overseas to the American mainland is not a risk to national security.

Keeping terrorists behind bars in America may give more convenient access for U.S. lawyers and attorneys hoping to represent these terrorists in lingering (and possibly lucrative) legal battles against the U.S. government.

However, does national security not outweigh the supposed legal rights of individuals who - more often than not - are not U.S. citizens, and who have killed or attempted to kill Americans and/or U.S. soldiers?

On a related note, there is this from a recent Washington Post editorial criticizing the Trump administration for wanting to maintain and/or expand Gitmo: “Domestically, detaining ISIS fighters at the prison (Gitmo) would be an invitation to years of risky litigation over the scope of government authority in the battle against the Islamic State.”

“Risky litigation?”

America’s national security should not be jeopardized because lawyers and attorneys attempt to drag out and delay justice for terrorists.

And please spare the concern from some Democrats that Gitmo costs too much taxpayer money. It seems some tax-and-spend liberals have a conservative view of government expenditures only when it comes to national defense and the U.S. military.

The federal government’s primary responsibility is to protect America and its citizens. And putting terrorists behind bars in a secure and safe location fulfills this responsibility - and this is what Guantanamo Bay provides.

___

Beaumont Enterprise. Aug. 28, 2017.

When the attorney general of a state is indicted for two felonies, taxpayers should see one thing: A fairly swift resolution of serious charges like that against their state’s highest law enforcement officer. Unfortunately, that’s not happening in Texas.

The case involving Attorney General Ken Paxton saw yet another glitch recently, the latest in a string that must be setting some kind of record.

The special prosecutors handling the case had their payment plan voided by an appeals court. They have already been waiting more than a year to get paid. If they give up in frustration - unlikely, but possible - the long-delayed case goes back to square one, or falls apart.

It may be hard to remember now, but Paxton was indicted way back in July 2015. He was charged with securities fraud and failing to register properly with the state securities board, Paxton has pleaded innocent and called the charges politically motivated.

After a series of various delays and a change of venue to Houston from Paxton’s home in Collins County, the case is finally headed for trial later this year.

Prosecutors plan to try him first on the charge of failing to register with the state as an investment adviser.

Should they obtain a conviction in that trial, they believe they would have a better case for the second charge, that of failing to tell investors he would make a commission off their investment.

Paxton was indicted a few months after his current term of office began. It’s not clear yet if this will be resolved when files for re-election in the Republican Party primary next March.

If Paxton is innocent, his reputation should be cleared. But if he is not, taxpayers need to know that as soon as possible and see his responsibilities transferred to someone else.

If there was ever a case that cried out for speed instead of stalling, this is it.

___

The Dallas Morning News. Aug. 28, 2107.

Twelve years ago, the city of Houston responded with heroic life-saving actions to the near drowning of New Orleans. This as-big-as-Texas effort earned Houston this newspaper’s Texan of the Year designation for 2005.

In the days after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29 of that year, more than 1,800 residents died and millions were left homeless.

For the sake of those traumatized survivors, Houston met the challenge with the largest shelter operation in the nation’s history. More than 150,000 of the approximately 250,000 evacuees would eventually make Harris County their permanent home.

Perhaps Houston’s director of building services in 2005, Issa Dadoush, said it best as evacuees stumbled off buses and into the mega-shelter created within the Astrodome: “These are Americans. They’re our neighbors. If not Houston, who else?”

Not only did Houston provide emergency aid to the survivors, the city got them into permanent quarters as quickly as possible so they could resume some semblance of a normal life. School assignments for the children and job placements for the adults.

To get the work done right, “we” became far more than government. The extraordinary effort depended on churches, companies, nonprofits and tens of thousands of ordinary people waiting for that first convoy of fearful survivors who had huddled for days in the New Orleans Superdome.

In response, Houston became the heart of Texas. From those who served the first hot meals to those who made return trips to New Orleans to pluck even more survivors from nursing homes and deserted streets.

Now it’s the rescuer in need of rescue: Houston, its suburbs and the many smaller southeast Texas towns and surrounding counties lay devastated by Hurricane Harvey.

While the catastrophic causes are different, the similarity between images out of hurricanes Harvey and Katrina are chilling. With southeast Texas rainfall measured in feet, not inches, and a grim landscape of homes seeming to sink into a quicksand of floodwaters, it’s no small miracle that the death toll thus far is small.

When Houston opened its arms to Katrina’s victims, its leaders noted that the county, local cities and other key agencies and corporations had worked together for years to brace for catastrophe. That planning is proving to be no less vital now that it’s Houston that’s at risk of drowning.

Any sense of normalcy in southeast Texas is months, if not years, away as a hurricane that first blew through the small coastal tourist town of Rockport has grown into a multi-billion-dollar state disaster.

What’s most immediately needed is a few of our state’s trademark August days: hot, dry and sunny.

But no rain totals will drown out the resilience, resourcefulness and good old Texas neighborliness that earned Houston the 2005 Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year designation.

As former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels said when his city welcomed the Katrina survivors: “We will rebuild, one life at a time.”

As Houston begins that task again, this time on behalf of its own residents, our thoughts and prayers remain with our big-city neighbor to the south.

___

Houston Chronicle. Aug. 28, 2017.

There will be a time in years to come when another storm with wind, downpours and lightning will remind Houstonians of where they were and what they experienced during the most devastating deluge this flood-prone city has ever experienced. Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath and his rising flood waters remind us that we are not natural habitants of this environment but human beings who care for each other, help each other, rely on each other for our very existence.

Across this vast city, neighbors are banging on the doors of neighbors, checking on their safety. Volunteers are maneuvering boats through submerged streets, putting their own lives at risk to rescue strangers who have retreated to upper floors, attics and roofs. Other are making their fishing boats, their trucks and their high-water vehicles available to rescuers. First-responders - police, fire and medical - are working without rest to rescue residents and to keep the city functioning to the extent possible.

The American Red Cross, communities of faith, service centers and social-service agencies are providing shelter and sustenance to people who have lost everything. Reporters - yes, those much-maligned purveyors of “fake news” - are putting themselves at risk hour after hour to communicate to Houstonians what they need to know during a time of danger.

The selflessness, indeed the bravery, of our fellow Houstonians, who come through yet again when they’re challenged by Mother Nature’s fickle moods, has become a Bayou City trademark. We’ve had more than our share of practice, of course, as a bevy of names - Allison, Rita and Ike among them - serve to remind us.

A new name on that ignominious list, Harvey, is setting records for sustained rainfall across a wide area, “unknown and beyond anything experienced,” the National Weather Service tweeted. Unfortunately, that dubious distinction may be short-lived, considering our recent penchant to experience 100-year rain events. We’re likely to experience future weather catastrophes just as cataclysmic.

As reporter Mike Tolson noted on HoustonChronicle.com while rain continued to fall, this region is finding it more and more difficult to cope with sustained torrential rains. Increasingly volatile summer weather and millions of people living in close proximity on a coastal plain, more and more of it paved over, means that flooding is inevitable.

With the exception of the climate scientists in our midst, Harvey and the massive flood in its wake is a dire reminder that our “opinions” about the reality of climate change are irrelevant. Whatever the cause, manmade or otherwise, climate change - and with it extreme weather - is a fact. It’s time to stop arguing and start preparing.

Just as the prospect of a hanging concentrates the mind, paraphrasing the British writer Samuel Johnson, so a massive natural disaster tends to sweep aside the trivial and the unnecessary. To think that just a few days ago our elected representatives, charged with providing for the public good, were debating the need for a bathroom bill designed to shame transgender Texans. What foolishness.

Government exists for a reason. Good government is the expression writ large of our caring and concern for each other. Our efforts to govern ourselves, always imperfect, deserve our respect and support, and not only during times of crisis.

Meanwhile, we have pressing concerns. As soon as we get beyond immediate rescue efforts, we have to turn talk about coastal protection into action. With vast refineries, natural gas terminals and numerous facilities that make and store dangerous chemicals along the Ship Channel and the Gulf Coast, the potential for environmental - and economic - catastrophe grows ever more ominous.

We also have to be sure that Addicks and Barker dams are capable of withstanding future massive floods. These barriers, both seven decades old, are essential for protecting the heart of the city. Their failure would wreak damage unimaginable.

The flood waters will recede, eventually, but our fellow Houstonians will be without jobs, shelter and transportation. Some will have lost loved ones. We’ll be rebuilding for months, if not years.

This great city, this city we love, is being tested. With courage, with selflessness, with love for each other, we will meet that test, Harvey be damned.

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