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Heman: How we can end drunken driving

Heman: How we can end drunken driving

Senseless deaths. Again. Innocent victims. Again. Survivors’ lives forever changed. Again. News coverage and tears, thoughts and prayers, head scratching and soul searching. Again. And then we move on without doing anything by way of prevention though there are potential solutions worth serious consideration. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. In this context, such a sad word. The problem...

Commentary: Why Mexico’s presidential election matters in the Trump era

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. Their rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” — Donald Trump In an election and presidency filled with incendiary comments, Americans may have all but forgotten about comments like this made during Donald Trump’s campaign. Unfortunately...
Commentary: Why Travis County needs nonprofit start-ups

Commentary: Why Travis County needs nonprofit start-ups

Austin is an entrepreneurial city filled with caring people who like to improve things. We see a wrong; we want to right it. Many respond by wanting to start a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Lately there has been a surge of thought from local business and tech leaders who urge people to “stop starting nonprofits.” The state comptroller lists more than 7,000 in Travis County alone. It is easy to understand...
Commentary: Why movie ‘LBJ’ is a needed reminder about the presidency

Commentary: Why movie ‘LBJ’ is a needed reminder about the presidency

The film “LBJ” resurrects fading memories of the strength of the presidency when the Oval Office was occupied by a hard-working person with a clear agenda. Coarse and brutal at times, Lyndon Johnson harnessed the power of persuasion to the benefit of this nation. The screenplay by Joey Hartstone, with LBJ’s fellow Texan Woody Harrelson in the title role, casts Lyndon Johnson in favorable...
Commentary: Get smart on crime, not tough on crime

Commentary: Get smart on crime, not tough on crime

The Department of Justice recently released its long-awaited violent crime strategy. As both a retired lieutenant who spent 24 years with the Houston Police Department and as someone who lost a brother and a father to gun violence, I have mixed feelings about the policies outlined in it. A police officer’s job is difficult. Police chiefs across the country have learned that building trust in...

Letters to the editor: Nov. 25, 2017

Re: Nov. 17 article, “Cost-cutting measures coming to Hancock Golf Course.” If the city really wanted to improve the popularity and corresponding increase in revenues at Hancock Golf Course, maybe they should consider renovating the existing course into 18 par-3 holes and install lights for evening play. It would be a fun course to walk — and with the extended evening hours, could...

Commentary: Why Bobby Moore should not be on Texas’ death row

A man with intellectual disability – Bobby Moore – sits on death row at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston. Like every person on death row in Texas, Moore is in constant solitary confinement – about 23 hours per day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. For people with intellectual disability, solitary confinement is especially agonizing, cruel and intolerable. It is against the law...
Herman: Ben Barnes, Greg Abbott and my new cemetery plot

Herman: Ben Barnes, Greg Abbott and my new cemetery plot

It’s the day after Thanksgiving. You know what that means. Even more football! And leftovers. So here are some things I’ve been meaning to tell you but haven’t had a chance. Here we go, reheated in the microwave for your edification. I recently ran into long-ago Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes at a surprise 75th birthday party for Kent Hance. Hance is a former state senator, railroad commissioner...
Commentary: Boeing ruling stretched to keep government records secret

Commentary: Boeing ruling stretched to keep government records secret

Every week, government officials across Texas and private companies receiving taxpayer dollars get increasingly creative in hiding public records. Their new tool is the Boeing ruling, a decision from the Texas Supreme Court that lowered the threshold for arguing competitive bidding as an exemption from disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act. It gives governments an easier path to claim...
Commentary: As Austin’s many faiths gather, a common humanity emerges

Commentary: As Austin’s many faiths gather, a common humanity emerges

Every year, I work with diverse faith leaders to plan Interfaith Action of Central Texas’ (iACT) annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. It involves weeks of meetings with new groups. Each year is completely unique. It is one of the greatest experiences of growth I have each year — and it always brings out new talents and skills in myself and everyone else involved. For the past 33 years...
Herman: The George H.W. Bush dilemma

Herman: The George H.W. Bush dilemma

Sadly, there’s much to be sad about as we’re fixin′ to fix the fixings and preparing to check off what we have to be thankful for as we celebrate Thanksgiving 2017. On a micro basis, most of us have much good stuff for which to be thankful. On the mega basis, as always, there’s good for which to be thankful and bad for which to be concerned. The two sometimes overlap. It&rsquo...
Commentary: How young voters can bring truth back to politics

Commentary: How young voters can bring truth back to politics

The way we pass laws in this state is failing young Texans. Elected officials use lies to pass bad laws. Turning lies into laws hurts our state and risks alienating a rising generation of Texans when we should be doing everything possible to encourage their participation in the political process. That politicians ignore or distort facts for the sake of their agenda is nothing new — in Texas...
Commentary: Why the spirit of Thanksgiving resonates with Muslims

Commentary: Why the spirit of Thanksgiving resonates with Muslims

Thanksgiving — with all its festivities and scrumptious dishes — has always been my favorite holiday. As an immigrant to America, I adore this holiday not only for its origin of fostering peace but as well for focusing on divine remembrance and for offering gratitude — a common value shared by all religions. As a Muslim, the idea of giving thanks resonates well, since it reminds...
Commentary: How Texans suffer without office of minority health

Commentary: How Texans suffer without office of minority health

During the past legislative session, Texas lawmakers canceled funding for the Office of Minority Health Statistics and Engagement (OMHSE) beyond Sept. 1, 2018. In effect, this means Texas could soon become the first state in the nation without an office of minority health. This is a bad decision by our lawmakers because Texas institutions continue to operate inequitably. It may seem that inequity...
Commentary: How NAFTA, immigration influence Texas’ economic future

Commentary: How NAFTA, immigration influence Texas’ economic future

Future challenges faced by the Texas economy with trade, immigration and border governance policies were the focus of a recent symposium convened by UT Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs and its Texas 2030 Project. Some eye-opening facts emerged. Today’s Texas economy depends heavily on international trade and is built around technology, energy-related goods and professional services...
Herman: Uncertain times in a media industry with an uncertain future

Herman: Uncertain times in a media industry with an uncertain future

I recently manned a table at career day at North Austin’s Padron Elementary School. It didn’t take me long to confront, in my head, the stark reality that I was talking to kids about a career that (a) might not look like it does now or (b) won’t exist when they age into the labor force. I work at a newspaper, which these days means it also includes a robust online operation delivering...
Commentary: Broken hearts, closed doors. We mind.

Commentary: Broken hearts, closed doors. We mind.

Monica Loera was murdered at her Austin home on Jan. 22, 2016. Loera was transgender. Her killer was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison just this month. Austin has a reputation as a progressive haven amidst a sea of conservativism, though as any LGBTQ person will tell you, no place is safe from the violence perpetrated by individuals and institutions who would make-believe that our culture...
Viewpoints: How Texas should start assessing dam safety across state

Viewpoints: How Texas should start assessing dam safety across state

Texas has made progress in addressing dam safety — there is no doubt. But more needs to be done to keep Texans who live near dams safe. Twenty years after the Austin American-Statesman reported on widespread shortcomings in dam safety, another Statesman investigation by Ralph K.M. Haurwitz published last week found hundreds of dams in Texas remain at risk of failure. It also found that, as more...
Alberta Phillips: Just one flag honors all veterans — Old Glory

Alberta Phillips: Just one flag honors all veterans — Old Glory

Austin Mayor Steve Adler is being slammed for his decision not to participate in last Saturday’s Veterans Day Parade. That criticism from Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody and many others took aim at the wrong target. Adler made a moral decision. It was the parade committee that goofed up badly with a decision that demeans the dignity of African-American veterans and families. Adler rightly...
Commentary: My family fought for the Confederacy. They were heroes

Commentary: My family fought for the Confederacy. They were heroes

Rich Oppel and I have been friends of sorts for 20-plus years. Recently, he mentioned he was “provoked” by my outburst of anger over a guest commentary suggesting “we mothball Confederate statues.” By mothballing, he meant removing them from their current location to an unknown destination. RICH OPPEL: Where does America’s hate come from? Your Facebook feed. All of my...
Juan Castillo: How common sense can transcend ideology about guns

Juan Castillo: How common sense can transcend ideology about guns

It seems outrageous now, but cruising New Mexico streets while tossing back a beer used to be as common as hatch chiles in August. It was the culture, pure and simple, says Doug Fritzsche, who used to live there. Not surprisingly, until the 1990s, New Mexico led the nation in alcohol-related deaths, the New York Times reported back in 2005. Carnage on the highways stirred outrage, which triggered...
Commentary: Why a White House family crisis is everyone’s crisis

Commentary: Why a White House family crisis is everyone’s crisis

Reports that former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s son may be brought up on corruption charges demonstrate how President Trump has brought this nation to the brink of a constitutional crisis. Michael G. Flynn, 34, joined his father on a 2015 trip to Moscow, where the elder Flynn sat next to Vladimir Putin at a dinner to celebrate Russian’s state-funded media network. Now, the younger...
Phillips: How an environmental deal led to Austin’s gentrification

Phillips: How an environmental deal led to Austin’s gentrification

Austin environmentalist Robin Rather is apologizing for a deal heralded as historic 20 years ago when it was endorsed by business groups, developers and environmentalists as a solution to pitched battles over development of the Barton Springs watershed. Rather didn’t envision that the agreement would spur the gentrification that continues to oust African-Americans and Latinos from their East...
Herman: Republicans, in control and on the run

Herman: Republicans, in control and on the run

These are such great days to be a Republican in America. The GOP has the White House, both congressional chambers and five of the nine Supreme Court justices (though one of the GOP appointees is not as dependable as you’d like an appointee to be). And Republicans have got more governors than ever, 34. Just like you tell your kids, the Republicans can do anything they set their minds to. Odd...
Commentary: How ‘Jane Doe’ case reveals Texas’ glaring weakness

Commentary: How ‘Jane Doe’ case reveals Texas’ glaring weakness

The “Jane Doe” case reveals Texas’ glaring weakness: reproductive decision-making for teenagers. Texas recently made headlines across the country when Attorney General Ken Paxton asked a federal judge to deny “Jane Doe” the ability to leave a federal detention center and receive an abortion. The news reverberated across the nation as an inhumane violation of rights. It...
Commentary: Why Trump’s policies would stall Harvey recovery in Texas

Commentary: Why Trump’s policies would stall Harvey recovery in Texas

By announcing that 2,500 Nicaraguans with provisional residency must leave the United States in 14 months, President Trump harmed the economy of Texas – and the recovery of Houston — less than he could have. But the look of concern on faces across the Lone Star State remains. Go back to that week in September when wind and unprecedented flooding tore down shops, homes and power lines,...
John Young: To err always on the side of the maniac

John Young: To err always on the side of the maniac

We are told by the gun lobby’s echo chamber (the Republican Party) that great numbers of armed civilians make this world a safer place. Tell that to police in Thornton, Colorado. They had responded to the scene of yet another mass shooting — three people dead in a Walmart check-out line. When it all came down, a few shoppers pulled their guns, though the shooter walked calmly out of the...
Commentary: What if Sutherland Springs had no ‘good guy with a gun’?

Commentary: What if Sutherland Springs had no ‘good guy with a gun’?

The fact that a bystander armed with his own rifle chased and shot the perpetrator in Sutherland Springs crucially transforms the terrain of the political interpretation of the shootings. The presence of an armed citizen “shooting in the opposite direction,” as President Donald Trump put it in the hours after the killings, activates partisan attitudes about guns in Texas that advocates...
Herman: The Hollywood version of a Texas filibuster

Herman: The Hollywood version of a Texas filibuster

I wasn’t ever going to write about this ever again. Really. And there were at least two good reasons not to write about it ever again. I’m sick of typing about it. You’re sick of reading what I type about it. But then something happened. Hollywood happened, and Lord knows Hollywood is where we look these days for moral guidance. I blame Hollywood. For everything. Except “Caddyshack...
Letters to the editor: Nov. 14, 2017

Letters to the editor: Nov. 14, 2017

Re: Nov. 8 commentary, “Herman: Hail to Texans who helped liberate Nazi concentration camps.” After reading about the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp by Herbert Stern and Birney T. “Chick” Havey, I could not help but reflect that they did not mention one word about the perils they faced to get there. More than likely, they were on foot, carrying a 50-pound backpack...

Native American children deserve equal protection under law

Like any 2-year-old, Andy (not his real name) loves his mom and dad. They’ve cared for him as long as he can remember — ever since his birth parents realized they couldn’t give him the care he needed. They want what’s best for him, so they supported his foster family’s decision to adopt him. If Andy were white, black, Asian, or Hispanic, that adoption would have been...
Lifesaving Reach Act can impact mothers and children around the globe

Lifesaving Reach Act can impact mothers and children around the globe

All kids deserve a strong start at life and the opportunity not to just survive but to thrive, no matter where they are born. Tragically, each day, 16,000 children under the age of 5 die from preventable causes such as pneumonia, malnutrition, dehydration and diarrhea. Mothers are also extremely vulnerable, with 800 women dying each day from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Largely due...
Gov. Abbott: Texas puts veterans first with array of new services

Gov. Abbott: Texas puts veterans first with array of new services

Yesterday, on Veterans Day, Americans came together to honor the brave men and women who have served on the front lines to defend our freedoms. They have our everlasting gratitude, but they have earned so much more. That is why yesterday I unveiled my Front of the Line veterans plan. The men and women who served on the front lines deserve to go to the front of the line and receive the best services...
TWO VIEWS: Stop attacks on Affordable Care Act

TWO VIEWS: Stop attacks on Affordable Care Act

In the aftermath of the tragic killings in Sutherland Springs, President Donald Trump said, “I think mental health is the problem here. This isn’t a guns situation.” If Trump believes that, why did he sign an executive order last month that could make mental health care less available? Trump ordered federal agencies to make new rules that would allow the sale of cheaper health insurance...
TWO VIEWS: Time for action on health care

TWO VIEWS: Time for action on health care

Texas, like much of the country, is halfway through the fifth enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act — and as in years past, the occasion serves as a reminder that the law is in critical condition. That the ACA is ailing is uncontestable. Insurers are fleeing the exchanges, enrollment is shrinking, and premiums are skyrocketing — even while U.S. taxpayers substantially increase...
Viewpoints: Texas needs to help — not pick on — children with disabilities

Viewpoints: Texas needs to help — not pick on — children with disabilities

Picking on the most vulnerable is not the Texas way. Yet, it is exactly what state lawmakers do each time they take aim at programs that serve children with disabilities. It’s no surprise then that in its quest to change how it handles Medicaid, Texas has hurt more than helped hundreds of children with disabilities. The list of hurt caused by cuts and the privatization of Medicaid is long. Families...
Commentary: He left Mexico for the draft. His 11 children served, too

Commentary: He left Mexico for the draft. His 11 children served, too

Swept up in transnational efforts to relocate Mexicans and Mexican-Americans south of the border during the Great Depression, Francisco Chapa Alvarado returned to the U.S. to answer its call to arms during World War II. Later, all but one of his 12 children would also serve in the U.S. military. Alvarado was born in Bexar County, on Sept. 16, 1910; he died in 1988, but his children keep his and their...
Commentary: When does life begin? Thoughts from a pro-choice pastor

Commentary: When does life begin? Thoughts from a pro-choice pastor

The pro-life movement is clear about when the life of a fetus begins — but what seems to lurk beneath the surface is a notion that pregnant women are no longer fully human or fully free. Anti-abortion advocates insist that once a woman conceives, regardless of the circumstances, she must choose motherhood — over her physical and emotional wellbeing, over her vocation, even if it means...
Herman: The media and mass murders

Herman: The media and mass murders

“Three days ago,” Vice President Mike Pence said at a Wednesday night memorial service for those killed at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, “evil descended on a small town and a small church.” And where evil goes, journalists follow, descending on and often overwhelming the scene, especially among small-town folks who would otherwise never come face to face with...
Commentary: Why consular rights were not an issue in death row case

Commentary: Why consular rights were not an issue in death row case

Austin based Mexican Consul General Carlos González Gutiérrez presented a highly distorted version of human rights. Sixteen-year-old Mayra Laguna was kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered in South Texas in 1997. Her cousin, Mexican national Ruben Cárdenas-Ramírez, was convicted and sentenced to death. He was executed late Wednesday. González Gutiérrez is...
Commentary: Maybe evil is always with us, but we are not powerless

Commentary: Maybe evil is always with us, but we are not powerless

Demons. Nobody ever wants to talk about them. Evil. Now that’s a different thing. Its abstract. Diffuse. The kind of thing a sophisticated modern can hum and cluck about regretfully before going on with things just the way they were before — well, before the evil thing happened. RELATED: Abbott put church shooting in context of evil from Bible to Hitler. Our own Texas governor contextualized...
Herman: Heroes and vigilantes and gun laws

Herman: Heroes and vigilantes and gun laws

For the NRA, ever on the prowl for proof that proliferation is better when it comes to guns, the horror in a small-town Texas church was a talking point come to life. A good guy with a gun protected the townsfolk, albeit after the massacre, but, for all we know, just prior to another one down the road. And because it turned out the murderer had weapons the law should have prevented him from having...
Commentary: How to fix social media’s dark side

Commentary: How to fix social media’s dark side

Social media’s dark side has transcended the psyche of individuals and companies to taint our nation’s democratic institutions. When political ads appear on Facebook from sources called “_american.made” or “Being Patriotic” but are actually from Russian “troll farms,” it is something to take seriously in our sacred democracy. At the same time, we&rsquo...
Phillips: Will an African-American hold on to Dawnna Dukes’ district?

Phillips: Will an African-American hold on to Dawnna Dukes’ district?

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore owes state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, an apology. Moore dragged her feet in dropping all charges against Dukes when her case against the state legislator began unraveling — but not before taking some cheap shots. Since being indicted in January, Dukes had been looking at a prison term of up to 28 years for felony and misdemeanor charges of official...
Herman: Hail to Texans who helped liberate Nazi concentration camps

Herman: Hail to Texans who helped liberate Nazi concentration camps

I cringed on Saturday when comedian Larry David, hosting “Saturday Night Live,” told a concentration camp joke. Those last three words are a phrase I never thought I’d type. It will always be too soon for concentration camp jokes. Just as it will never be too late to honor those who liberated the camps. RELATED: Larry David criticized for ‘SNL’ Holocaust jokes That&rsquo...
Castillo: We can’t let gun violence remain the new normal

Castillo: We can’t let gun violence remain the new normal

Texas weeps today. In a small house of worship in a bucolic small town – one of those where everyone knows everyone else’s business, and that’s just fine – a gunman with a military-style rifle methodically opened fire Sunday morning. When he was done, 26 people lay lifeless inside a Baptist church. The dead ranged from 18 months to 77 years of age and included as many as 14...
Commentary: Religious exemptions come at expense of women’s health

Commentary: Religious exemptions come at expense of women’s health

The Obamacare contraceptive mandate was put into place because providing free contraception provides health benefits to women, families and society. It protected the right of American women to access contraception even if their employers had objections. Now that President Trump has signed rules expanding who can opt out of providing no-cost contraceptives to their employees, the balance has tipped...
AISD bond would modernize Ann Richards School

AISD bond would modernize Ann Richards School

Austin has been one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. for six years now, with an unemployment rate of less than four percent, one of the two lowest in the state of Texas. According to the Austin Chamber of Commerce, advanced manufacturing, creative and digital media technology, data management, space technology, healthcare and life sciences are among the key industries fueling our city&rsquo...
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