Category Archives: Politics

Held Accountable: Trump Advisor Resigns

In the flurry of events that have begun the Trump Presidency, it’s sometimes difficult to sort fact from fiction, or significance from daily bluster.  This presented a continual struggle for the news media during the 2016 campaign, and is even more of a challenge today.

But the news media is starting to figure it out.  In fact, this week has already proven an historic one for the young Trump Administration, as CBS News reports…

National security adviser Michael Flynn offered his resignation on Monday night, senior White House sources told CBS News. President Trump accepted his resignation and named a temporary replacement.

Flynn said in his resignation letter that during the course of his duties as incoming national security adviser he held “numerous” phone calls with foreign counterparts, ministers and ambassadors that were “to facilitate a smooth transition and begin to build the necessary relationships” between President Trump, his advisers and foreign leaders.

“Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian Ambassador,” he said. “I have sincerely apologized to the President and the Vice President, and they have accepted my apology.”

 

What was that Mr. Flynn said about Hillary Clinton?  “Lock Her Up”?

An international firestorm began to swirl around Former National Security Advisor Flynn when it was revealed that he spoke with Russian leaders about the possibility of alleviating sanctions once Trump took office.  And even after the resignation, this crisis is only deepening for the Trump Administration, as journalists continue to decipher exactly what the President may have known about these talks.

Thus why this situation is historic… it marks the first time the Trump folks have been held accountable for their questionable actions.  After a continuous succession of false statements, blatant denials and potentially dangerous missteps, the President and his team are FINALLY starting to bear consequences for their actions.  This is one complexity that a late-night Twitter rant simply will not repair.

With a Congress that seems to look the other way at every Trump misstep (where did those constant cries of ‘Executive Overreach go?!?!), the American People are now limited to the Fourth Estate as their primary watchdog in Washington.  Looks like we are starting to make use of it.

After ‘Travel Ban’, Citizens Gather, Support Texas Muslim Capitol Day

If Americans are learning anything in the wake of January 20th, it is this:  the controversy just doesn’t stop when your President is Donald Trump.  As if the proposed Border Wall plans weren’t enough for week one, the nation was left reeling late Friday from the President’s hastily announced (and apparently hastily conceived) ‘Travel Ban’ targeting persons from seven Muslim-majority countries.  The Executive Order erupted, causing mass confusion among affected travelers and barring people from entering the country.

Here’s the full text of the  President’s Executive Order:  Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, directly from the White House.  Many Trump supporters are quick to point out that the Executive Order does not explicitly ban any person of a particular religion, so it is unfair for protesters and others to label it as a “Muslim Ban”.  But like many of the actions Trump has taken thus far, his true motives were revealed in a recent interview where he doubles down saying the Ban is “meant to prioritize Christians”.  So yeah… it’s a Muslim Ban.

 It’s in this fractured and uncertain environment that the Muslim community held its advocacy event in Austin.. Texas Muslim Capitol Day.  The biennial advocacy day was organized by the Texas area chapters of CAIR– the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  Here’s more on the event from Alexa Ura and Alex Samuels of the Texas Tribune…

Participants in Tuesday’s Texas Muslim Capitol Day traveled to Austin for a day of education about the state government. But they walked away with a significant lesson in civil demonstrations.

Two years ago, the Muslim participants who visited the Texas Capitol were met with two dozen protesters who repeatedly interrupted their event. But when participants walked up to the south steps of the Capitol on Tuesday morning, they were surrounded by a massive human circle made up of at least 1,000 supporters looking to ensure the event went off without a hitch.

“Civic engagement … it is not just a privilege. It is God-given privilege, and it’s also a blessing and our duty to participate,” Sarwat Hussain, president of the San Antonio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the crowd gathered for the biennial advocacy day. “Lately, we have seen some demonstrations against us. That is not going to stop us at all.”

 

[…]

Outside the Capitol, more than 20 Democratic lawmakers attending the event made their support known. “We are with you … this is your country, this is your state,” state Rep. Celia Israel of Austin told the crowd. “Texas needs you, and you belong here.”

It was a sentiment made clear by supporters who had joined arms in front of the Capitol. And it was echoed earlier that morning when the first few students who arrived for the advocacy event were met with cheers and applause from the circle of supporters.

As positive as today’s events may have been outside the capitol, the usual business of exclusion and division was alive and well among leaders of the Texas Legislature.  In Governor Greg Abbott’s State of the State Address, chief among his agenda for lawmakers was to pass a ban on ‘Sanctuary Cities’.  What this means for immigrant communities remains to be seen.

But come what may, Texas Muslim communities and those that support them and our collective freedom of religion are here to stay, here to live, here to work and here to be visible.

Trump, Congress Say U.S. Will Pay For Border Wall

Barely a week into the Trump Era and the United States has already seen one of the largest protest marches in American history, caught the new Administration telling blatant lies… or as they would like to say, “Alternative Facts”… about something as inconsequential as crowd size at the inauguration, and taken rapid moves to dismantle the American healthcare system with no signs of a replacement in sight.

Someone call Mary J. Blige, because if this isn’t the ‘Thick Of It’ then we are in for a very tough ride.

As one would suspect, the dizzying developments continue.  After the President signed a sweeping Executive Order to fast track deportations and build the infamous Border Wall,  House Speaker Paul Ryan has stepped up to support the efforts, saying Congress can approve funding for the wall.

But as Eric Werner of the Associated Press (via PBS News Hour) points out, this isn’t exactly what Trump promised on the campaign trail…

House Speaker Paul Ryan says President Donald Trump’s border wall will cost $12 billion to $15 billion — and Ryan says Congress will pay for it by this fall.

Congress will move legislation this year providing up to $15 billion to build a wall along the Mexican boundary, Republican leaders said Thursday at their annual strategy retreat. But they would not say how they would prevent the massive project from adding to federal deficits. Ryan said the goal is to complete that and other major bills in 2017, but the leaders offered no details on how the wall would be paid for, saying they would wait until the Trump administration proposes legislation.

[…]

Trump has repeatedly said Mexico will pay for the wall, but Mexican leaders oppose it and have said they won’t finance it.

Congress will pay for “the construction of the physical barrier on the border,” Ryan said.

“We intend to address the wall issue ourselves,” Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said.

Pressed on whether construction would increase federal deficits, Ryan said Republicans are fiscal conservatives. He said strengthening the economy and replacing President Barack Obama’s health care system were two of the best ways to bolster the government’s budget.

“If we’re going to be spending on things like infrastructure, we’re going to find the fiscal space to pay for that” in a budget Congress plans to write this spring, Ryan said.

Umm Mr. Speaker, saying that Republicans are fiscal conservatives is not an answer of how specifically you plan on paying for the wall without adding to the federal deficit.  And it’s certainly not an answer that Republicans would have even consider accepting if the former Administration had proposed legislation without a way to pay for it.  They didn’t support President Obama’s initiatives even when they were paid for, but now we’re supposed to “just trust them”??

Worse yet, it was Donald Trump who said that Mexico would pay for the Border Wall, but now Congress is ready to put up our tax dollars that could be going to educate our kids and pay for our roads.

Sounds less like an ‘America First’ policy, and more like ‘Mexico First’. And Mexican citizens don’t even want the wall.

Let’s revisit some actual facts for a moment.  The United States does not need a Border Wall, because it will not stop illegal immigration to or through the country.  Last time I checked, we live in the 21st Century.  If people want to come to this country illegally, they can get here by simply taking a flight and overstaying their VISA (by many estimates, this is now the predominant mode of illegal immigration).  We can build a wall halfway to the moon and put over a million guards along the Rio Grande. If built, the whole wall project will serve to do more harm than good by fracturing the economies of border communities, seizing land from private landowners, endangering American jobs and reinforcing corrosive narratives which play into the hands of America’s enemies and undermine the values which perpetuate this nation.

Far more important than sealing our borders to keep people out, Congress must do the real work to fix our broken system and pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  Presidents on both sides of the political spectrum have tried and failed to get the real work of reform done, and it has been of great detriment to the nation.  Right now the country already spends north of $18 billion per year to enforce the border.  But if we brought our most vulnerable communities out of the shadows and forged a path to citizenship for those already here, we could not only make the American people safer, but generate billions of dollars (and lots of American jobs) in the process.

And let’s not forget, this is the common-sense conclusion that is shared across multiple political philosophies.  If you don’t believe me, take this statement on the border wall issue from the 2016 Gary Johnson campaign

“Having served as Governor of a border state, Gary Johnson understands immigration. He understands that a robust flow of labor, regulated not by politics, but by the marketplace, is essential. He understands that a bigger fence will only produce taller ladders and deeper tunnels, and that the flow of illegal immigrants across the border is not a consequence of too little security, but rather a legal immigration system that simply doesn’t work. Militarizing the border, bigger fences, and other punitive measures espoused by too many politicians are all simplistic “solutions’ to a problem caused by artificial quotas, bureaucratic incompetence and the shameful failure of Congress to actually put in place an immigration system that matches reality.”

Unfortunately for us, “reality” has been thrown out of the window for the next several years.  And soon, our view of it may be blocked from the wall.

 

Shareholders’ Meeting: ‘Women’s March’ Welcomes New President

Yesterday the National Mall in Washington, DC was the site of one of our nation’s most cherished and important traditions.

And today, the same sacred site hosted another important tradition. The Women’s March on Washington had larger than expected turnout, with some news sources reporting a crowd comparable to attendance on the actual Inauguration Day.  Whatever the final numbers, it is quite possibly the largest inauguration-related protest in American history.

Standing in solidarity with Washington were citizens across the country, with many sites beating expectations.  The Lone Star State was certainly no exception.  The Houston estimate of attendees was north of 22,000, and estimates for Austin are said to have crossed up to 50,000 attendees.

So those are the stats, and here is the why.  Sure some people showed up today because they still refuse to see Trump as a legitimate President.  It was an opportunity for them to let off some steam, and be around like-minded folks with similar complaints.

But for most, today’s march was about more than Donald J. Trump, or any one President.  It was a reaffirmation of the America that has had a place since Barack Obama was elected in 2008.  It was a reminder that one Electoral College result may have chosen a leader, but it didn’t erase the people of this nation.  It didn’t erase their values.  Of the 324 million citizens in the United States (235 million in the voting-age population), 130 million of them participated in the 2016 Election.  Of that sum, state lines and their apportioned Electors determined a winner which only 63 million of those people selected, while 66 million chose the other candidate.  So sure, what happened today across the country was a protest.

President Trump is still relatively new to governing, but he has lots of experience in business.  So instead of viewing today’s events as protests, perhaps another way to think about them is a shareholders’ meeting.  Like any major company, the citizens of the United States all have a stake in our country.  As President, Mr. Trump is the only elected official whom serves all of us… 324 million shareholders, 324 million bosses.  Like the inaugural celebrants of yesterday, we have a right to ‘welcome’ the new administration as well, and voice our interests and concerns.  Glad to see that the message is getting out.

Here are a few snaps from Women’s March Houston

 

 

Role Change: The 45th President

At long last, it is done.  From a field of over 20 candidates and the most divisive, insulting campaign in modern history, the government has fulfilled its constitutional duty and installed our nation’s 45th President.  So yeah folks the truth is upon us: Trump In, and…

Welcome to the new reality of President Trump.

But Donald Trump was not the only person to be installed today. This was an Inauguration of, for and by the American People.  For those that wished for a different outcome, let the words of our Former Secretary of State, Former First Lady and lifelong leader ring true today.  From Hillary Clinton’s concession speech… 

We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.
Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power and we don’t just respect that, we cherish it. It also enshrines other things; the rule of law, the principle that we are all equal in rights and dignity, freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values too and we must defend them.
Now — and let me add, our constitutional democracy demands our participation, not just every four years but all the time. So let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes and values we all hold dear; making our economy work for everyone not just those at the top, protecting our country and protecting our planet and breaking down all the barriers that hold any American back from achieving their dreams.
We’ve spent a year and a half bringing together millions of people from every corner of our country to say with one voice that we believe that the American dream is big enough for everyone — for people of all races and religions, for men and women, for immigrants, for LGBT people, and people with disabilities. For everyone.
And therein lies our rallying cry and  our new call to purpose.  The same way that Donald Trump went from candidate to the person in power, our roles have also changed today.  We now must stand up, speak out and work like never before to defend all of the values we cherish about our country.  For eight years, the Obamas gave us a voice in Washington like no President and First Lady had done before.  They may be gone from power, but we still have plenty to say.  Of the 324 million shareholders that the new Administration has just inherited, it’s our turn to speak loud and be heard.
So today, we wish the best for our 45th President and the nation. But tomorrow and for the next four years, we will demand it.  

After Latest Dust Up, FBI Finds Nothing New In Clinton Emails

For most Americans, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI is an agency which seems to live in secret.  There’s no doubt that public interest has likely increased since the hit ABC series Quantico, which delves into the world of FBI agent training.  But for the most part, the men and women of this agency focus much more on their work than talking about it because, well, they’re the FBI.

Sadly in 2016, those rules have flown out the window.  As of this summer, the agency had already played an unprecedented role in this year’s Election by not only revealing details of an investigation into Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, but clearing her of wrongdoing.  That was in the summer, but just a couple of weeks ago to the surprise of the entire nation, FBI Director James Comey set off yet another national firestorm when he revealed to members of Congress that the email investigation was being reopened after they found more communications on a computer owned by Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her estranged husband Anthony Wiener.

Could this be it for Hillary Clinton??  After 40 years in politics and 25 in the national spotlight, did this final set of emails reveal THE smoking gun Republicans have hoped for??? 

Umm, yeah… you guessed it.  The answer is NOPE.

Here’s the story from Eric Bradner, Pamela Brown and Evan Perez from CNN Politics…

FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers Sunday the agency hasn’t changed its opinion that Hillary Clinton should not face criminal charges after a review of new emails.

“Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July,” Comey wrote in the new letter to congressional committee chairmen.
Comey dropped a bombshell on the presidential race last month when he sent a letter to Congress saying the FBI had discovered emails in a separate investigation that could be connected to the now-closed probe of whether Clinton mishandled classified information. The move infuriated Democrats and emboldened Republican nominee Donald Trump.
So after all the drama, the FBI basically concluded that they found more run-of-the-mill emails that were of a personal nature, and that while Clinton’s use of the private server was careless, she did not harbor malicious intent and will not be charged with a crime.
Wait… let’s repeat that last part…

In her emails, Hillary Clinton did not harbor malicious intent and will not be charged with a crime.  

As you can probably guess, Donald Trump and Republicans are not happy with Director Comey’s update, saying that it’s impossible for the FBI to review 650,000 emails in 8 days.  But like most of the things he’s said throughout this Presidential campaign, Donald Trump is wrong yet again.  Here’s more on that from Andy Greenberg of Wired
“You can’t review 650,000 emails in eight days,” Trump said Sunday in a campaign speech in Michigan hours after Comey’s latest update to Congress came out. “You can’t do it, folks. Hillary Clinton is guilty.” Trump supporter General Michael Flynn did the math on Twitter:

But fortunately for Comey’s eyesight—and for Clinton’s presidential campaign—Trump is wrong: the FBI can review hundreds of thousands of emails in a week, using automated search and filtering tools rather than Flynn’s absurd notion of Comey reading the documents manually. “This is not rocket science,” says Jonathan Zdziarski, a forensics expert who’s consulted for law enforcement and worked as a systems administrator. “Eight days is more than enough time to pull this off in a responsible way.”

One former FBI forensics expert even tells WIRED he’s personally assessed far larger collections of data, far faster. “You can triage a data set like this in a much shorter amount of time,” says the former agent, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid any political backlash. “We’d routinely collect terabytes of data in a search. I’d know what was important before I left the guy’s house.”

So there’s some last minute fact to add into all the noise that is being bantered about by the Trump campaign and his ReTRUMPlican hounds.  For your sake and mine, let’s hope that this is the last week that we have to care about what Trump says about anything.

Speaking of that last point… Have you voted yet?? Election Day is tomorrow, so you’ve got one more chance!!  Go to I Will Vote if you have any questions about your polling place.  Let’s get Hillary Clinton in office, and Trump out of the picture.

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TLCQ 2016: Mark Miller

In the Second installment of the 2016 Texas Leftist Candidate Questionnaire, we hear from Mark Miller, candidate for the Texas Railroad Commission.  He is a Libertarian.

Please note: Responses are directly from the candidate, and have been posted ver batim from the email received. This is done out of fairness to all candidates. Publishing these responses does not constitute an endorsement, but may be considered during the endorsement process.

 

 

TL:  What is your name, as it will appear on the ballot and the office that you are seeking in 2016?

MM:  Mark Miller

Texas Railroad Commissioner 

 

TL:  Are you a current or former elected official? If so what office(s)?

MM:  No 

 

TL:  As a political candidate, you clearly care about what happens in certain levels of government. In your own words, why is government important?

MM:  Government has a primary responsibility to protect the rights, liberties, property, and common resources of its citizenry. Good governance simply requires that those goals be effectively executed. 

 

TL:  If elected, what is your top priority in office for the upcoming term? Describe how you plan to accomplish it.

MM:  My top priority will be to seek ways through both rule-making and legislation to provide a better balance between surface property rights vs. subsurface mineral rights and between property rights vs. commercial rights. The dominance of both mineral rights and commercial rights have serious implications for things that are sorely in need of reform – e.g., urban drilling, eminent domain authority of common carrier pipelines, and seismic activity triggered by wastewater injection. These issues are bound to increase in importance as the State’s shale resources are developed in the future. The time to address them is now. 

 

 TL:  Recent years in American Politics have yielded an environment of hyper-partisanship, the results of which have often led to government inefficiency, and sometimes total government gridlock.  Describe how you plan to break through this partisan gridlock for the good of your constituents, and work with those from differing political ideologies. 

MM:  Texas government has little gridlock because of one-party dominance in our State. But even where the two parties manage to vie for power, gridlock is exacerbated by the duopolistic nature of our current politics. Partisan deadlock can best be dealt with by ensuring that three or more parties share political power. This is one of the main reasons I am running for office as a Libertarian and not as either a Republican or Democrat. 

 

TL:  What makes you the best candidate for this office?

MM:  Because of my petroleum engineering experience and expertise, I am far more qualified than anyone else running for Railroad Commissioner. I am also the only candidate who truly believes in limited government whose responsibilities should be focused solely on protecting public safety, our common natural resources, the rights of all property owners, and personal liberties.

I have also thought and written extensively about the Railroad Commission. My policy recommendations can be found on my website blog and in a recently-published book titled Oil & Gas and the Texas Railroad Commission: Lessons for Regulating a Free Society

 

TL:  When not on the campaign trail, how do you like to spend your free time?

MM:  I like to spend my free time doing things with my grandchildren and working on our new house on five acres in Dripping Springs.

 

 

Thanks to Mr. Miller for the responses.

Election Day 2016 is Tuesday November 8th, and Early Voting runs from October 24th through November 4th.  For Houston area voters, here’s early voting information for Harris CountyFort Bend County, Brazoria County, Montgomery County, and Galveston County.  For other areas, visit the Texas Secretary of State’s Elections Page for your county information.

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