Beaumont Enterprise. Dec. 3, 2012.
Cancer agency needs radical cure
When is tone deafness scarier than cancer? When medical ethicists and respected independent researchers refer to the abysmal failure of the state cancer agency to recognize the need to remove tumorous politics and cronyism from its handling of multi-million-dollar grants.
The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas is a veritable Venn diagram of conflicts of interest. Last summer it had to rescind a $20 million grant to a group led by the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center after challenges to the integrity of its review process. Earlier this week, it admitted it approved an $11 million grant in 2010 without review.
A board of politically and commercially connected appointees of Gov. Rick Perry is running roughshod over the agency's scientists, to the usual self-serving rah-rahs of the ex-yell leader in the governor's mansion. The interference has been so blatant that the chief science advisers, two Nobel laureates, and more than 30 of the top-rank out-of-state researchers who served on its review panels have quit in disgust.
This agency, authorized in 2007 by voters to issue and spend up to $3 billion in bonds, has about $2 billion of that to go. It simply cannot be permitted to continue its wanton cupidity and high-handedness under the guise of fighting cancer.
The real cancer here is the agenda of the politically appointed oversight committee. Legislators convening in January should conduct a head-to-toe examination of the agency's actions. They should follow up with a clear set of workable rules that put science and the public trust first and protect the agency's important determinations from reproach.
The Dallas Morning News. Nov. 28, 2012.
Texas' gun laws work; open carry wouldn't
A law generally restricts someone from doing something, and in a state as large and diverse as Texas, opinions will vary on how reasonable that restriction might be. And when it comes to gun laws, don't leave out intense emotion and ideology.
Since 1995, Texas has allowed residents to carry handguns outside their homes, as long as they were effectively kept out of sight: concealed under clothing, in purses, in glove compartments.
The battles to achieve that law were epic, but time has proved the hysterical "blood in the streets" critics wrong. As a group, the half-million Texas concealed-handgun licensees have proved themselves far less likely to break the law than other Texans. Their reasons for carrying handguns are their own, with personal protection most commonly cited.
So why not let them carry in plain view? Rep. George Lavender, a Texarkana Republican, plans another run at an "open carry" law in the next Legislature to allow licensees to carry holstered pistols where anyone can see them. It's not such a crazy notion: Texas is one of only six states that bar any form of open carry, after Oklahoma began allowing it Nov. 1.
Lavender's open-carry bill in 2011 never gained momentum and died in committee, but he claims "very wide and deep" support this time. "This is Texas, and we should be the leader," he says.
First, a question: What's to be gained?
Armed, law-abiding citizens carrying in plain view, supporters say, would only further deter criminals, enhancing everyone's safety. However, proving deterrence, whether from the death penalty or street justice, would require an awful lot of interviews with criminals: Why didn't you rob that store? Let's say it's, at best, debatable.
As it stands, a responsible Texas gun owner with a concealed-handgun license can buy a gun, keep it in his home or car, carry it anywhere the law allows and use it when absolutely necessary. This newspaper generally supports concealed carry, in large part because Texas law makes sure an applicant understands the rights and responsibilities that come with it.
This newspaper's concern with open carry is more about common sense. Two words come to mind, and neither is positive. One is intimidation. The other is provocation.
A gun hidden away intimidates no one, but that was never the point, was it? The point was the ability, within the law, to protect oneself or one's family — not to convince someone else how tough or dangerous one might be because, well, Check out this Glock on my hip!
A gun hidden away also provokes no one. Unseen, it's not a tempting target for someone of criminal intent or unstable mind to grab and use in a way a responsible, law-abiding Texas gun owner would never intend.
Texas' gun laws are effective as they are. The Legislature would be wise to steer clear of open carry.
Longview News-Journal. Nov. 29, 2012.
Keep it open: Legislature should turn back efforts to weaken records law
In its session that opens Jan. 8, the Legislature appears likely to get its hands on the Texas open records law. Every Texan should be concerned.
The law, widely seen as one of the best of its kind in the nation, is in place to ensure the public's business is done in public. Unfortunately, changes being considered could weaken it. That would be a mistake, leaving all of us a bit more in the dark about how our tax dollars are spent, how our laws are made, and other matters of public interest.
The Texas Senate Open Government Committee, acting on a request from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, met Monday to hear testimony about possible changes aimed at reducing the number of "frivolous" open records requests. In part, the request arose from complaints by government contractors who say they have to reveal too much information when bidding on government work. And some public agencies complain they are being bogged down by what they consider to be frivolous requests for records.
To both concerns, we have the same response: Tough.
Any company receiving public money should play by the open records rules. The public has a right to know how its tax dollars are being spent, whether promised results are delivered and deadlines met. Potential bidders' competitive concerns also appear to be groundless. If all private companies have to disclose the same kinds of information, none is getting an advantage. Rather, all bidders know going in what will be expected and can choose not to bid if disclosure discomforts them.