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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 15, 2015 at 12:01 pm •  Published: September 15, 2015

San Antonio Express-News. Sept. 11, 2015.

Never again — investigate Jay thoroughly

Sometimes, the scoreboard lies.

Sometimes, the truth lurks beyond the touchdowns and home runs and 3-point shots.

And, sometimes, that truth is ugly and sordid.

Marble Falls defeated Jay, 15-9, the other night, a game that should have celebrated a grand tradition in Texas — high school football under the Friday night lights. But it was not grand, and there was nothing to celebrate.

Two Jay defensive backs, apparently upset by earlier calls, blindsided a back judge as he awaited an upcoming play at midfield; one of them speared him in the back, while the other hit him when he was down.

These hits, captured on video that has aired throughout the country, are reprehensible enough, but preliminary investigations indicate that the two players may not have been the only culprits in this sad, disturbing affair.

The athletes, Victor Rojas and Mike Moreno, were suspended from the team indefinitely, while assistant coach Mack Breed has been placed on administrative leave for allegedly saying that the ref "needs to pay for cheating us."

Colleagues stood up for Breed, saying there is nothing in his history that suggests he would encourage such violence.

As for the referee, Robert Watts, players allege that he made racial remarks during the game.

"This is not the Robert Watts I know and am friends with," Rebecca Ybarra-Ramirez, executive director of the San Marcos Convention and Visitor Bureau, told the Express-News.

Perhaps, but the investigation must be broad and thorough, and include the athletes, coaches and officials. If the probe confirms what seems apparent from the video, the suspensions of the players should be permanent.

And if the official and assistant coach are deemed to be similarly culpable, they, too, should be suspended, perhaps permanently.

"The incident is shameful to us, and yet in no way does it reflect the work that goes on at John Jay High School," said Brian Woods, Northside Independent School District superintendent.

He may be right, but fairly or unfairly, society judges entities by the actions of their worst representatives. The school — and the district — are grieving as a result.

Football, like all team sports, is supposed to build character, not undermine it, and when athletes, no matter how young, behave like thugs, the adults in charge should send them a message.

But what happens when those adults don't act like adults? Then they, too, should be sent a loud, clear message: This cannot — will not — be tolerated.


Houston Chronicle. Sept. 10, 2015.

Congress has work to do: Budget should come first, bickering last, on the congressional to-do list this month

Students getting used to the new school year should be thankful they don't have Congress' schedule. Summer recess just ended and the first big test is at the end of the month - Sept. 30 marks the due date to pass a budget or face a government shutdown. Also on that to-do list: address the upcoming debt ceiling, vote on the Iran Nuclear Deal, reauthorize the Federal Aviation Act, debate crude oil exports, fix the Highway Trust Fund and the Social Security disability trust fund and hopefully renew the Import-Export Bank charter. There's also a visit from Pope Francis.

Given that Congress scheduled only 10 work days through the end of the month, congressional observers have placed their bets on our elected officials knocking only two items off the list before September ends. The House and Senate are scheduled to vote next week on the Iran deal, which stands as the best current option for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Also, a continuing resolution will probably be used to delay any major budgetary changes for another day. Really, that only addresses one-and-a-half issues, but some politicians would rather see that number sit at zero.

Over the summer recess, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz wrote a letter to Senate leadership stating that he would "oppose any government funding legislation that would authorize or provide federal funds for Planned Parenthood."

Cruz may find himself standing alone in this fight. His senior partner in the Senate, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, said last week that shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood would be a mistake. "That would set the pro-life cause back, in my view," Cornyn said, according to Politico.

Politico also reports that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., lacks the 60 votes necessary to advance the sort of bill that could strip Planned Parenthood funding from the budget. One poll even shows that nearly 70 percent of Americans oppose a government shutdown over the issue.

But political failure doesn't mean Cruz can't win in another way.

When Cruz tried this shut-down strategy in a fight over the Affordable Care Act in 2013, it didn't turn out too well for his Republican colleagues. The party hit a record low in approval polls. Nor did Cruz help the nation as a whole, which suffered a $20 billion economic hit from the 16-day shutdown, according to Moody's Analytics. And in the end, the Affordable Care Act remained on the books.

However, one man came out on top: Ted Cruz. Fundraising skyrocketed for Texas' junior senator, who made headlines with his 21-hour speech on the Senate floor. You may remember the part where he read "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss.

Our nation faces serious challenges at home and abroad, and the senators hoping to lead our nation as president may be tempted to look at Cruz's personal success in the last government shutdown as a model for raising money and garnering attention in a crowded field.

But as Speaker Sam Rayburn once said, with his famous Texan bluntness, any jackass can kick down a barn.

A truly impressive presidential candidate would actually get the gears of government turning and help usher through a new federal budget that reduces long-term debt while fully funding government services. But so far, nobody seems up to it. It's back to school season, and Congress could stand to show that it still remembers civics class.


The (McAllen) Monitor. Sept. 13, 2015.

Making amends with Mexico

One short-sighted component of U.S.-led anti-immigrant political rhetoric is that it ignores the tremendous economic reality that countries like Mexico represent to our region and state.

With more than $100 billion in economic activity between Mexico and Texas, the stakes are huge — something that the Rio Grande Valley has known for a long time.

So last week's visit by Gov. Greg Abbott to Mexico City — the first by a Texas governor in eight years — was significant in both symbolism and economic reality. And we congratulate Abbott for making the journey.

The party of Abbott, for better or worse, has not been friendly to Mexico.

From the anti-Mexican rhetoric of GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump, to the unprecedented $800 million Texas legislative allotment to border security, to the legal action now pending over the refusal by Texas officials to give birth certificates to several U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, the message to our southern neighbor has remained consistently unfriendly in the past few months.

Unfortunately, this anti-Mexico perception has been building for nearly a decade and has been fostered by former Gov. Rick Perry.

Many suggest that is why, when Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto last visited the United States, he went to California, which has gone through a tremendous shift in its attitude toward Mexico — from one of outright antagonism to respect.

It is within that context that Abbott made his first visit to a foreign country as governor. And for that, we applaud him.

Given the appeal of xenophobic rhetoric to his base, Abbott displayed a tremendous courage in forging ahead with this three-day journey, which many characterized as a fence-mending tour.

Abbott met with several Mexican officials, including the Mexican president, and signed several agreements intended to enhance economic activity between Texas and Mexico — as well as security, which is often a difficult topic to navigate given the turmoil that has embroiled Mexico for nearly a generation now.

Perhaps the most significant moment of his visit was when Abbott invited Peña Nieto to come to Texas for what would represent a significant step forward in the relationship between this state and that country.

And while the expectation is that Peña Nieto will make the trip to Texas before the end of the year, little has been publicly disclosed about the details of such a trip.

That's why we would strongly recommend that, as officials from Texas and Mexico plan this trip, that the Rio Grande Valley should be a natural part of Peña Nieto's itinerary.

The Valley knows better than most locations in Texas the economic implications of a strong relationship with Mexico and the cultural ties between both entities is ingrained in our region.

Perhaps visits to other larger Texas cities may demonstrate the possibilities for Texas and Mexico, but the Valley can demonstrate to the world the realities.

From the recently created BiNational Economic Development Zone — called BiNED, in which entities on both sides of the South Texas border have joined forces in the name of expanded economic development — to the manufacturing prowess that this region has developed through its maquiladora sector, the Valley is the pure manifestation of the cultural and economic bonds that exist between Texas and Mexico.

As The Monitor has stated many times, the Rio Grande Valley is on the precipice of a transformational moment that is on par, and many suggest may even be bigger, than the moment borne out of the North American Free Trade Agreement a decade ago.

And, just like NAFTA before, the transformation can be directly tied in so many ways to our relationship with Mexico.

It's a relationship that smart politicians, such as Abbott and Pena Nieto, would be wise to highlight by meeting in our backyard.


Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Sept. 11, 2015.

State's lawyer should have more scruples

As if a felony indictment for shady investment scams weren't enough to question why Ken Paxton is Texas' attorney general, now a more sordid tale has come to light — the near-swindle of two daughters of a Hunt oil empire heir whose interests Paxton had a professional and ethical duty to protect.

In 2012, when Paxton was a state representative pursuing a successful run for state senator, he was appointed the attorney ad litem for the two girls, whose late father left a $200,000 estate and was the beneficiary of a $2 million family trust and possibly other Hunt trusts. Ad litem is an important legal assignment — the legal advocate for the interests of children and others who can't oversee their own affairs. It's also a common way for state lawmakers who are lawyers to make a quick fee without having to do much. It helps them juggle their legislative duties with earning a living.

Paxton tried to force the girls into a $750,000 settlement in which they would relinquish claim on any other Hunt family inheritances and — get this — Paxton would oversee the investing of the $750,000. This is the same Paxton whose work in the investment field led to his criminal indictment.

It doesn't take a legal expert to point out that the settlement would have been contrary to the girls' best interests. But the Houston Chronicle asked two anyway because it's just good journalistic practice to have an undisputed authority on a subject confirm the obvious. It was a fair, balanced way of showing without telling the voters of Texas what a foolhardy decision they made in the 2014 attorney general's race.

One of the experts wrote the Handbook of Texas Lawyer and Judicial Ethics, which it appears from the Chronicle's reporting that every lawyer who had anything to do with this case needs to read. The other expert is a longtime judge. Sure enough, they found Paxton's ethics questionable and the proposed settlement not in the girls' best interest.

But anyone with Billy Joe Shaver's good Christian raisin' and eighth-grade education would have concluded the same. A good ad litem doing his or her job would have put a stop to this shakedown of two girls who were 5 and 6 when their father committed suicide in 2011.

The girls' mother rejected the settlement. Her aunt told the Chronicle that the girls' mother "initially trusted Paxton because he was a well-known legislator and lawyer." Bad move. The Chronicle reported that Paxton didn't object when a Hunt family lawyer sought to disinherit the two girls, whose mother never was married to their father but whose parentage wasn't in dispute. Perhaps the stinkiest move of all against the girls that Paxton allowed to happen was the expenditure of funds from their late father's $200,000 estate to bankroll the attempt to disinherit them from the trust money.

Paxton wouldn't face up directly to the Chronicle's questioning, but through a private spokesman he said via email: "The Houston Chronicle's questions indicate a gross misunderstanding of this case and the settlement."

The law professor who wrote the handbook on how lawyers are supposed to conduct themselves might be inclined to dispute Paxton on that. But we concur that the case was gross. If only the voters could have known in 2014.


The Dallas Morning News. Sept. 14, 2015.

Misplaced trust in Blue Bell's product

Blue Bell Creameries has marketed its products for decades by invoking romantic country scenes of cows being led by hand to the milking stool. But the reality is far less idyllic. Lax procedures forced plant shutdowns and a massive product recall earlier this year after at least 13 people were sickened and three people died.

A Houston Chronicle report last week detailed the extent to which Blue Bell workers complained repeatedly about hazardous production practices, and how managers disregarded their concerns. The Chronicle interviewed 14 employees at Blue Bell's flagship Brenham plant.

The laxity and indifference these workers described makes us question why Texans are so quick to herald Blue Bell's return. Though Blue Bell still isn't available in Dallas, stores farther south couldn't restock fast enough to keep up with demand when the brand returned. As if the longing for old-timey flavor and mythical country freshness outweighs the wrongs that forced Blue Bell to close plants in Texas, Alabama and Oklahoma.

Workers described production schedules that were so geared to profit margins, managers didn't leave time for machinery shutdowns so that proper cleaning could occur. In February, potentially deadly listeria pathogens were detected in a machine in Brenham and were flagged by both health officials and company testers. Yet the company didn't change its practices for weeks — and then only after ill consumers were hospitalized in Kansas.

One worker described a cleaning process that required spraying production equipment with scalding-hot water to ensure that surfaces were cleaned of butterfat remnants, which can retain pathogens. The hot water would run out routinely, meaning surfaces remained potentially toxic. The equipment was put back into production anyway. Workers said they had complained about this problem for a decade or more, to no avail.

Condensation would drip from pipes and dirty air vents, they said, making its way into food products. An employee described efforts by the company not to correct the problem but just to hide it whenever health inspectors arrived for visits.

Company statements appear designed to divert attention from past mistakes and instead focus on production-process upgrades and training enhancements to ensure future safety. An independent microbiology expert is now being retained "for ongoing evaluation of our procedures and facilities."

Thank goodness for that. But customers should be asking: Blue Bell, what took you so long? Establishment of an anonymous hotline would go far to ensure that problems employees see on the production line are fixed quickly and thoroughly.

Loyalty to a time-honored brand has an endearing quality. But blind loyalty can be a dangerous thing. Blue Bell still has work ahead to earn back the trust it so badly squandered.


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