Commentary

Herman: Paxton opines on freedom for the jennets of Fannin County

Herman: Paxton opines on freedom for the jennets of Fannin County

From time to time, state Attorney General Ken Paxton has to officially opine. People covet opinions from attorneys general, which makes them different from columnists. Attorney general opinions matter, and they touch on all matters of life in Texas. From way up in Almost Oklahoma came a request for the attorney general’s opinion (certified mail, return receipt requested) from Fannin County District...
Commentary: Texas-size signage fuels duel among businesses, gun groups

Commentary: Texas-size signage fuels duel among businesses, gun groups

Gun extremists appear to have developed a pattern of targeting small businesses in Texas that legally elect to prohibit guns on their property. Bee Cave patisserie Baguette et Chocolat legally opted out of Texas’ concealed and open handgun carry laws by posting visible and compliant signage prohibiting the open and concealed carry of handguns. HOW WE GOT HERE: Bakery deletes Facebook page after...
Commentary: Let’s debunk falsehoods about school choice and special ed

Commentary: Let’s debunk falsehoods about school choice and special ed

As kids begin a new school year, it’s deeply unfortunate that some of the most disadvantaged students in Texas still lack access to a quality education. When the special session for the Texas Legislature abruptly ended, the move killed two bills that would have created a tax-credit scholarship program for students with special needs. This common-sense reform received bipartisan support and the...
Commentary: Senate health care plan creates ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’

Commentary: Senate health care plan creates ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’

Sixteen words from my doctor changed my life: “What worries me is that I think you are in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.” I was 48 years old. Recently, I stopped by my local Walgreen’s pharmacy to pick up my Parkinson’s medication. As I waited in line, a woman told the pharmacy tech, “I absolutely have to have those pills,” pointing to a small white...
Commentary: Fix up the Gulf Coast — but not at the expense of safety

Commentary: Fix up the Gulf Coast — but not at the expense of safety

The Gulf Coast is an industrial powerhouse, home to nearly a quarter of U.S. oil refining capacity and half of the nation’s chemical manufacturing. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, dozens of these refineries and factories have been sidelined. Companies will move quickly to get their facilities up and running. Fair enough: An idle business means lost paychecks, lost profits and lost tax...
Commentary: Let’s change Vietnam’s legacy of land mines and Agent Orange

Commentary: Let’s change Vietnam’s legacy of land mines and Agent Orange

In March 1975, the United States fled from a protracted war in Vietnam, which claimed more than 58,000 Americans, and close to two million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. The U.S. also left behind a behind a devastated landscape, riddled with millions of hard-to-locate landmines and unexploded ordnances — and a once fertile land now defoliated by millions of gallons of Agent Orange, a carcinogen...
Commentary: Sanders’ drug plan puts Texas patients, companies in peril

Commentary: Sanders’ drug plan puts Texas patients, companies in peril

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and some of his fellow lawmakers are attempting to pass a bill that would make it legal to import prescription drugs. They claim doing so would expand the free market – an interesting claim from a band of lawmakers led by a self-declared socialist. The bill is a veiled attempt to import price controls into the United States, which would undermine the free market, hurt...
Dana Milbank: No one listens to women when they speak around here

Dana Milbank: No one listens to women when they speak around here

WASHINGTON — Over the weekend, the president of the United States retweeted to his 38 million Twitter followers a video clip doctored to show him driving a golf ball off the tee and between the shoulder blades of Hillary Clinton — “CrookedHillary” in the tweet — knocking the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential nominee to the ground. Eighty-four thousand...
Ruben Navarrette Jr.: Feisty, outspoken Dreamers are true Americans

Ruben Navarrette Jr.: Feisty, outspoken Dreamers are true Americans

SAN DIEGO — Immigrant advocates have always said that Dreamers deserve to have a voice in their own fate. I definitely see the value in that — now that a group of these undocumented young people have used their voices to shout down Nancy Pelosi. Angry Dreamers called out the House Minority Leader Monday in her own back yard of San Francisco for meeting in private with President Trump and...
Roger Cohen: It’s act five of the Greek tragedy

Roger Cohen: It’s act five of the Greek tragedy

ATHENS, Greece — After almost a decade in Greece, David Horner, president of the American College of Greece, has seen it all: fury at Americans under George W. Bush, near reverence under Barack Obama, and outright dismay now that Donald Trump is president. “We’ve gone in short order from the outhouse, to the penthouse, to the loony bin,” he told me. If being an American in...
Herman: Gov. Greg Abbott’s one-word answer to my two-part question

Herman: Gov. Greg Abbott’s one-word answer to my two-part question

It was a moment. A fleeting one, yes. And probably not the kind that, 20 years from now, you’re going to remember where you were when it happened. That kind of moment is reserved for huge moments, like remembering where you were when you got married. The event was Gov. Greg Abbott’s Monday announcement of what he called “probably the worst-kept secret in Austin, Texas,&rdquo...
Commentary: Department of Justice should stay focused on civil rights

Commentary: Department of Justice should stay focused on civil rights

This month marks the 60th anniversary of the implementation of the 1957 Civil Rights Act, which enshrines the right of all U.S. citizens to vote regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. It also established the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, which has been instrumental in helping to ensure the rights of minorities and women. As we reflect on this legacy and the path that it opened...
Commentary: Why it’s urgent to stabilize central Austin neighborhoods

Commentary: Why it’s urgent to stabilize central Austin neighborhoods

“Displaced” is sometimes used to describe what occurs in war torn zones, where a military presence forces out the population through use of weapons of war and claim the land as their own. There is an intersection between the description above and what continues to occur to individuals who lived and owned property in the area of Austin that has been identified as the “desired development...
Commentary: How Texas can stop the ‘death spiral’ of health insurance

Commentary: How Texas can stop the ‘death spiral’ of health insurance

When Congressional Republicans developed a plan to repeal Obamacare, they did so with the promise of offering states flexibility. The legislation eliminated the expansion of Medicaid, too, and sought to turn that program into one that allow states to supposedly use money more effectively. But the legislation would have removed about $800 billion of health care funding before telling the states to...
Commentary: Travis County commissioners can protect taxpayers and poor

Commentary: Travis County commissioners can protect taxpayers and poor

Travis County taxpayers generously voted in 2012 to raise Central Health Hospital District’s tax rate to fund additional medical care for our poor residents. This additional care included a medical school consistent with Central Health’s only mission by law to provide health care for the poor. During the 2012 election, Central Health and Austin’s political leaders assured voters...
Commentary: What Trump’s erasing of Obama’s work says to people of color

Commentary: What Trump’s erasing of Obama’s work says to people of color

During the tyranny of apartheid in South Africa, there was the phenomenon of “black spot” removal. This referred to the dismantling of shanty towns or settlements set up by black South Africans in areas designated for whites only. The dismantlement of the shabby, fly-by-night structures of these settlements was usually conducted forcefully by the police, whether necessary or not...
Castillo: A quiet vigilance against hate takes on an added urgency

Castillo: A quiet vigilance against hate takes on an added urgency

The racially-fueled violence that engulfed Charlottesville, Va., and transfixed the nation in August now is yesterday’s news. Such is the short shelf life of the 24-hour news cycle: One day we are riveted by incomprehensible images of neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members marching on a college town, spitting racial epithets and anti-Semitic rhetoric — and the next day we are awestruck by...
Herman: A family’s password and a mystery man. Who was Joe Swan Lusby?

Herman: A family’s password and a mystery man. Who was Joe Swan Lusby?

Today’s “What Is That?” melds the mysterious and the whimsical. And what melds better than mystery and whimsy? So, together, let’s delve into a local family’s curiosity about a man’s name that became the family’s secret password: Joe Swan Lusby. The Kovach family adopted that name as its secret password in the early 1990s from a marker under a great tree...
Commentary: Where does America’s hate come from? Your Facebook feed

Commentary: Where does America’s hate come from? Your Facebook feed

A Fox News poll released Aug. 28 found that 56 percent of respondents think President Trump is “tearing the country apart” didn’t surprise me. What did stun me was how divided Democrats and Republicans are on that question. Only 15 percent of Republicans believe that Trump is tearing the country apart, while among Democrats that belief registered an incredible 93 percent, according...
Viewpoints: Taxing districts can stop sticker shock by collaborating

Viewpoints: Taxing districts can stop sticker shock by collaborating

With each passing year, as the appraised values of Austin homes increase, homeowners receive a higher property tax bill than the year before. That’s become the norm. Yet, every year, the mixed messages sent by taxing jurisdictions contribute to the sticker shock property owners experience when they receive their tax bill. When setting budgets — and the tax rates that finance them &mdash...
Commentary: Texas should remove legislative barriers to Harvey rebuild

Commentary: Texas should remove legislative barriers to Harvey rebuild

The vital connection between America’s infrastructure and the well-being of our citizenry is never more apparent than in times of crisis. Rebuilding communities in Texas and Florida will be an immense task; however, there are important lessons to be learned after Hurricanes Katrina, Irene and Sandy that could also be utilized to make infrastructure better and stronger as we rebuild. Unfortunately...
Commentary: Williamson County thinks it needs another racist statue

Commentary: Williamson County thinks it needs another racist statue

In August, University of Texas President Gregory L. Fenves ordered the removal of three more Confederate statues from prominent display on campus. Those statues were not discarded or put into a warehouse; they are being added to a campus historical center, where they will join a Jefferson Davis statue that was taken down in 2015 after a white supremacist killed nine black parishioners at a church...
Herman: The George H.W. Bush State Office Building, version 2.0

Herman: The George H.W. Bush State Office Building, version 2.0

Well, this was potentially embarrassing. Back in March, state Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, filed House Concurrent Resolution 141 concerning someone in his district. Not just any someone. A someone who once lived at an exclusive Washington, D.C., address. Murphy’s measure called for the Texas Facilities Commission to “rename the State Insurance Building in the Capitol Complex as the George...
Commentary: Struggling to cope after Harvey? There’s help for that too

Commentary: Struggling to cope after Harvey? There’s help for that too

As Hurricane Harvey hit Texas a couple weeks ago, I visited the Delco Center to spend time with evacuees who were facing an unknown but excruciating loss. I talked with a young woman who was there with her children and mother — but she didn’t know where her dad was. He’d stayed behind. When we visited, she hadn’t heard from him and was frightened about what might have happened...
Commentary: Price gouging has its defenders. They ignore morality

Commentary: Price gouging has its defenders. They ignore morality

In addition to wind, rain and destruction, hurricane season also brings a practice that is almost universally repudiated: price gouging. Price gouging during emergency situations is against the law in several states, including Texas and Florida, where Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the hardest. Several economists and political pundits have spoken in favor of price gouging. They claim that we should...
Commentary: Trump’s ‘integrity’ panel spreads falsehoods about elections

Commentary: Trump’s ‘integrity’ panel spreads falsehoods about elections

The right to vote is a critical principle of our democracy. We want our election system to be free, fair and accessible to all eligible voters. President Donald Trump’s sham panel — the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which was formed in May — has launched an assault on the right to vote. Led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris...
Commentary: Texas Legislature leaves women’s health services in pieces

Commentary: Texas Legislature leaves women’s health services in pieces

This is the story of a veto. Though there were 50 bills rejected by Gov. Greg Abbott following the 85th legislative session — each with its own narrative — this tale is about Senate Bill 790, which would have extended for two more years the work of the Women’s Health Advisory Committee, a group of providers who advised the state regarding the organizational and funding structures...
Commentary: 11 reasons Austin will lose the affordable housing battle

Commentary: 11 reasons Austin will lose the affordable housing battle

Austin is in a housing crisis. The poor cannot afford rents that are the third-highest in Texas. Middle-income families must look to the suburbs for affordable housing. Within 10 years, the city will need 60,000 new housing units for low-income families, plus another 75,000 market-rate units, according to the city of Austin’s Strategic Housing Blueprint, which the City Council adopted last April...
Herman: Take time to know where your Harvey donations are going

Herman: Take time to know where your Harvey donations are going

At yet another tricky intersection of church and state — in this case church and city — Austin’s mayor in recent days asked the Austin Disaster Relief Network to make it clear that volunteers for its Hurricane Harvey relief efforts don’t have to adhere to the organization’s Christian values. “I’m glad that ADRN has always welcomed volunteers in a disaster...
John Young: No special eyewear needed for this sight

John Young: No special eyewear needed for this sight

Watching terrifying radar of what scientists predicted — Irma’s march up the Florida peninsula — a thought occurred about a tranquil and serendipitous observation days earlier. That brilliant day we knew exactly when the sun and moon would intersect — the solar eclipse. Yes, down to the second. Science gave us a drumroll. We trusted it. I wondered why President Trump didn&rsquo...
Commentary: Before Austin offers tax incentives, let’s see if they work

Commentary: Before Austin offers tax incentives, let’s see if they work

The current Austin mayor and City Council have largely avoided the big tax incentive battles of their predecessors. However, now they are signaling that they are ready to start giving tax incentives to compete for Amazon to create a new headquarters here, employing up to 50,000 people in high-paying $100,000-average-paying jobs. I don’t see enough questioning by our leaders of whether our local...
Commentary: Removing medical device tax can boost health care, economy

Commentary: Removing medical device tax can boost health care, economy

With efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act stalled in Congress, lawmakers should seize the existing opportunity to score a bipartisan legislative victory — for patients, jobs and innovation — by permanently repealing the jobs-killing medical device excise tax. Originally envisioned to help pay for the ACA, this 2.3-percent tax on medical devices went into effect in 2013...
Commentary: Texas kids merit talks on rainy day fund, special session

Commentary: Texas kids merit talks on rainy day fund, special session

The proverbial “rainy day” has come for Texas. The tens of thousands of children affected by Hurricane Harvey now need functional schools, accessible health care and safe places to live. Texas cannot wait until the 2019 Legislature Session to act. The children of the Gulf coast deserve an emergency special session of the Texas Legislature that focuses on their needs. Gov. Greg Abbott should...
Commentary: America wants diversity. Let’s begin with valuing opinions

Commentary: America wants diversity. Let’s begin with valuing opinions

In America’s clap-back culture when camps are easily polarized, complex conversations get shut down before they start. Before we praise an idea or criticize it loudly, what would it take to allow room for ideas to grow and for progress to be made? In a world wrestling with diversity and inclusion at work and public spaces, it appears diverse ideas increasingly don’t count. Munroe Bergdorf...
Commentary: Why we need to change the way we teach kids about Sept. 11

Commentary: Why we need to change the way we teach kids about Sept. 11

On Sept. 12, 2001, I was revising a middle-school textbook I had co-authored with another historian when I received a call from my editor. “You know what happened yesterday,” he declared. Of course, I did. Like many Americans, I had watched the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on television. “You have to write something for the latest edition,” he...
Commentary: Is America ready to embrace true meaning of ‘jihad’?

Commentary: Is America ready to embrace true meaning of ‘jihad’?

Every year, Sept. 11 reminds us of the horrific terrorist attack that occurred on the soil of America and took the lives of thousands of innocent souls. The anniversary directs our attention towards paying tribute to those who died and families affected by this tragedy. That day shook our nation and gave birth to fear and hatred. Right after 9/11, life for Muslims in America became a daily struggle...
Castillo: Using DACA youths as political pawn betrays America’s values

Castillo: Using DACA youths as political pawn betrays America’s values

So, this is what passes now for showing “great heart” in America. “We are going to show great heart,” President Trump assured the nation in February when asked about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “We are going to deal with DACA with heart.” More like heart-breaking. Trump unveiled his brand of compassion on Tuesday, dispatching Attorney General...
Herman: Austin man buys Kiddie Acres carousel, brings it home

Herman: Austin man buys Kiddie Acres carousel, brings it home

For me and Charlie Ford, it was instant connection at first e-mail. At least it was on my end. I don’t want to speak for Charlie, but I knew I was going to like this guy when he contacted me with an email with the subject line “kiddie acres caroussel or merry-go-round.” OK, so maybe Charlie’s not the best speller. But he more than made up for that with his email message: &ldquo...
Commentary: My eighth-graders know climatology better than congressmen

Commentary: My eighth-graders know climatology better than congressmen

Like so many of my colleagues, I have been consumed by the reality that Hurricane Harvey’s destruction was worsened by climate change. Penn State climatologist Michael Mann has explained that climate change had a measurable impact on Harvey’s intensity and damage. Rising sea levels caused storm surges to be higher. Rising sea temperatures drastically increased the strength of the storm...
Commentary: I’m strong, thanks to mom and DACA allies who won’t give up

Commentary: I’m strong, thanks to mom and DACA allies who won’t give up

“Mental Olympics.” That is how I would describe my life in the last few weeks — the last few months, really. I am an American. I might be an undocumented American – but I am an American. I came to this country in 1991, when I was 2. I have been in this country for 26 years and plan on staying for many more. I have no recollection of Mexico. My only memories are from the few...
Commentary: Help Harvey victims. Don’t bring up climate change now

Commentary: Help Harvey victims. Don’t bring up climate change now

Humans love to be right and hate being wrong. They go through life looking for evidence that what they already believe is correct and shunting to the side evidence that contradicts their current beliefs. In other words, humans are motivated reasoners. This accounts, in part, for numerous recent proclamations made by some that human-made climate change caused Hurricane Harvey to become the hurricane...
Napolitano: Immigrant children and the rule of law

Napolitano: Immigrant children and the rule of law

Earlier this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that in six months, the Department of Justice will begin the long process for deportation proceedings against 800,000 young people who came to America as babies and young children in the care of their parents and others because those entries into this country were and remain unlawful. When President Barack Obama signed numerous executive...
Herman: Honoring an old gas station, the Texas Capitol and a synagogue

Herman: Honoring an old gas station, the Texas Capitol and a synagogue

The folks at Preservation Austin — do-gooders who do good under the great slogan “Saving the Good Stuff” — are out with their list of local stuff nicely saved. Included are a bus stop and, perhaps appropriately for Austin these days, something that moved here from out of town. “This year’s recipients are among the best preservation projects from the past two years...
Gail Collins: Our back-to-school quiz

Gail Collins: Our back-to-school quiz

Summer is so totally gone. We move on toward chilly weather, falling leaves and … wow, Donald Trump is still president. What ever happened to change when you really need it? But you’ve been paying attention anyway, right? Good concerned citizen. Take this quiz to see how much you remember. 1. On Labor Day Trump sent out a tweet vowing, “We are building our future with American hands...
Viewpoints: Congress should stand by Dreamers, grant them legal status

Viewpoints: Congress should stand by Dreamers, grant them legal status

Since 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has protected young undocumented immigrants raised and educated in this country from deportation and granted them work visas. That could very well come to an end by early next year. If it does, the threat of deportation once again will hang over the heads of potentially hundreds of thousands of people. The Obama-era program was always...
Commentary: Austin is growing. Shouldn’t our police force expand, too?

Commentary: Austin is growing. Shouldn’t our police force expand, too?

The Austin City Council thinks we’re safe enough. Otherwise, how do you explain a reduction in public safety spending as a percentage of the city’s budget next year? Despite population growth, increases in violent crime, emergency response times and the recommendations of taxpayer-funded studies, there’s not a single new police officer in the proposed spending plan for the fiscal...
Commentary: Who’s hiding from Trump’s polarization? Go check the pews

Commentary: Who’s hiding from Trump’s polarization? Go check the pews

The primary problem that Babe — the titular pig hero of the “Babe” film franchise — encounters in his first outing has nothing to do with his status as a pig. Indeed, by the film’s end, Babe is celebrated with an approving, “That’ll do, pig,” and a smile from his master. For years, the sheep had been led by a group of dogs they knew as wolves because...
Commentary: Relations with Russia maintain U.S. as global safe haven

Commentary: Relations with Russia maintain U.S. as global safe haven

Many years ago the Irish writer Conor Cruise O’Brien told me that someone can always bomb the negotiating table. His reference was to the notorious Provos of the Irish Republican Army. Today, we have Provos in Congress, who just voted for new and dangerous sanctions on Russia. Many forces joined the vote. Some who favor confrontation in Syria and Ukraine and some who believe that Russian government...
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