Category Archives: Texas

At Long Last, Texas AG Ken Paxton Arrested, Indicted

Tornadoes can be devastating natural disasters.  One day, a neighborhood, or even a whole town can be going about business as usual, and in a few fateful moments, everything change.

While much of this is also true about hurricanes, there is one important distinction of the two.  With a hurricane, you almost always get some warning time.

Such was certainly the case with the hurricane of issues surrounding Texas’ third highest public official.  The fact that Attorney General Ken Paxton was arrested and indicted today may be a massive shock to some, but for other Texans, this was a day forecast on the political calendar for a very long time.  For evidence of this, take Paxton’s opponent in the 2014 elections… Democrat Sam Houston.  In an interview with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune, Houston predicted the Attorney General’s fate…

At the time, Houston’s postulation was in the context of a 2014 election where Paxton basically hid from voters as soon as he had secured the Republican Primary nomination.  And of course today, we are finding out details for why he felt it best to keep quiet.

Without further lead-up, here’s the story from Brandon Formby of the Dallas Morning News

Attorney General Ken Paxton turned himself in to the Collin County jail this morning and was arrested on two felony counts of securities fraud and one felony count of not registering as an investment adviser, according to public records. He was quickly released after his arrest. His total bail was set at $35,000.

Indictments signed last week and unsealed today say that in July 2011, Paxton “engaged in fraud” by selling more than $100,000 of common stock in Servergy Inc. to both Byron Cook and Joel Hochberg without disclosing that he would be compensated for their purchases or that he had already been paid with 100,000 shares of the company.

A year later, Paxton allegedly “rendered services as an investment advisor representative to James and Freddie Henry” without being registered with the state’s securities commissioner.

That third charge — failing to register as a financial agent — is an action to which he has already admitted in a civil proceeding.

[…]

GOP leaders had been virtually silent so far about supporting Paxton, who was elected in November after serving Collin County as a state senator.

But the Republican Party of Texas released a statement criticizing the charges this morning. Party spokesman Aaron Whitehead said the indictments were surrounded in “outrageous events” but did not elaborate on which details of the investigation and subsequent charges constituted a “sloppy process.”

Mr. Paxton is only the 2nd high profile Texas Republican to be indicted this year.

At some point, voters will be forced to draw some uneasy connections.  As a current elected official, how will the Paxton indictment resonate to other politicians?  Lest we forget, the Attorney General wouldn’t be where he is today without the firm endorsement of Senator Ted Cruz early in his primary campaign.  If there is any possibility of more widespread ramifications, this could lead to big trouble in state government.

And of course, there is that whole business of our state needing an Attorney General that is capable of doing their job without having to worry about going to jail.  In any event, state Republican leaders would have to be kidding themselves to see that this event does not have an effect on their future.  Perhaps they should call for the AG’s resignation??

Texas Leftist will be watching to see how this shakes out.  In the world of Texas political hurricanes, an arrest and indictment are nowhere near the eye of the storm.

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The picture to the left is Attorney General Ken Paxton’s mug shot via Collin County jail.  On the right is an official photo from the AG website.  

Sandra Bland’s ‘Arrest’ Was A Violation of Her Rights

At this point, so many things have been said about the tragic arrest, detention, and mysterious death of Sandra Bland, there are probably few readers that haven’t at least heard of the story.  The young woman, a graduate and soon-to-be employee of Prairie View A&M University, was sent to jail from what should have been a traffic stop.

But video of that first encounter reveals some serious problems occurred before Ms. Bland was placed in Waller County Jail.

As the Texas Standard reports, the dashcam video makes it perfectly clear that officer Brian Encinia violated Bland’s rights…

 

Questions, in the wake of the video: What are the rules? Not policies or politeness –  specifically, what are your rights when you’re pulled over by police?

Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, speaks with Texas Standard about the footage of the arrest, point-by-point. Here’s a transcript of the conversation, edited for brevity and clarity:

The trooper asks, “You mind putting out your cigarette please?” And Ms. Bland says, “Well, I’m in my car – why do I have to put out my cigarette?” Does she have to put out her cigarette?

“No, she doesn’t have to put out her cigarette. And you wonder why the officer is even bothering with that. This is part of his escalation of the whole event that unfolded, unfortunately.”

The next part: “Step out of the car.” Ms. Bland says, “You do not have the right.” He interrupts – “I do have the right, step out of the car or I will remove you.” Does he have the right, first, to order her to step out of the car, and second, to actually physically remove her from the car?

“He does not have the right to say get out of the car. He has to express some reason. ‘I need to search your car,’ or, whatever; he needs to give a reason. He can’t just say ‘get out of the car’ for a traffic offense.”

It’s one thing to say he has a reason; it’s another to say he has to give a reason. He may have had probable cause, or thought he had it, we don’t know. Does he have to state it?

“He doesn’t have to state probable cause; he has to state some reason … And that’s part of the training that he should have had about how to de-escalate a situation. She’s clearly upset about what happened, particularly – as we know later on – that she moved over because he was tailing her. … He should be working on de-escalation. That’s the key. ”

It’s difficult to know all the facts regarding the Sandra Bland case once she was taken to Waller County jail.  But this video does not lie.  Still, it’s true that many people have different opinions of the situation.  Why didn’t Sandra Bland comply with the officer’s requests?

But here’s a critical fact in this case… her decision whether or not to comply with officer Encinia should not matter.  In that moment while Encinia was wearing the badge of law enforcement, it was his responsibility to follow the law and respect Ms. Bland’s rights, whether she knew them or not, and whether she was “compliant” or not.  It was also his responsibility not to escalate the situation further.  Does officer Encinia cart every single person that makes a rude comment within his earshot to jail?  Would any of us in our jobs be allowed such power as to control what other people say and think??  He did not have to like Sandra Bland, but he did have to respect her rights, including her right to say things that he doesn’t like.

Currently, officer Encinia is currently on administrative leave.  As the situation develops and more pressure is placed upon Waller County, it will interesting to see if he faces any charges for his behavior in the situation.

 

Texas Government Risks Treason By Denying United States Citizens’ Birth Rights

As astoundingly diverse as we all may be, members of the human race do share some common denominators.  Every single one of us that is living or ever had the opportunity to live, shares this basic experience… we were born.

Duh, right?? Obviously not that much of a shocker.  But if you stop to think about it for a second, this information being a known fact has huge implications that impact the rest of our lives.  Especially with regards to citizenship– where we enter this planet also determines in essence who we belong to. Per the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, if a person is born on American soil, they are American.  No ifs, ands or buts…

Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Yet for some strange reason, members of the Texas government seem to think they are above the law.  As Melissa del Bosque of the Texas Observer reports, there is some disturbing news coming from the Texas-Mexico border…

For nearly 150 years, the United States, under the 14th Amendment, has recognized people born here as citizens, regardless of whether their parents were citizens.

But Texas has other plans. In the last year, the state hasrefused to issue birth certificates to children who were born in Texas to undocumented parents. In May, four women filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Texas Department of State Health Services alleging constitutional discrimination and interference in the federal government’s authority over immigration.

Jennifer Harbury, a lawyer with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, who is representing the women, said the deluge of birth certificate refusals began last winter. “I’ve never seen such a large number of women with this problem,” she says. “In the past someone might be turned away, but it was always resolved. This is something altogether new.”

According to the lawsuit, the women who requested birth certificates for their children in Cameron and Hidalgo counties were turned away because of insufficient proof of their identities. State law allows the use of a foreign ID if the mother lacks a Texas driver’s license or a U.S. passport.

But local officials, which issue birth certificates registered by the Texas Department of State Health Services Vital Statistics Unit, told the women they would no longer accept either the matricula consular, which is a photo ID issued by the Mexican Consulate to Mexican nationals living in the U.S., or a foreign passport without a current U.S. visa. Undocumented Central American women are also being turned away because they only have a passport without a U.S. visa. “They are locking out a huge chunk of the undocumented immigrant community,” says Harbury.

By refusing to issue the birth certificates, these officials under direction of the state government, are technically committing treason against the United States of America.   It matters not what Texas’ opinion of the parents may be.  If they give birth to their child in the United States, the child is an American citizen, and therefore has the right to a birth certificate.  Denying Americans their citizenship has often been classified as an act of treason, and this case is no different.

Whoever is responsible for this catastrophe needs to be brought to justice, and these young Americans must not be denied their rights any longer.  Let’s hope that Attorney General Loretta Lynch or someone else from the Obama Administration gets involved.  For all the yelling and screaming that some people in Texas politics do about defending the constitution, it’s quite sad and shameful that they turn a blind eye to it now.

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(photo credit:  Harlingen Economic Development Corporation)

Alamo, San Antonio Missions Become 1st World Heritage Site in Texas

Last week was an big one for the city of San Antonio, and for Texas History.  Already of special importance to the Lone Star State, the Alamo and the original San Antonio missions have all been designated as official UNESCO World Heritage sites.  They are the first such landmarks to earn that designation in the state of Texas, and only the 23rd site in the United States of America.

Here’s more from Vincent T. Davis of the San Antonio Express-News

Hundreds of people visited San Antonio’s five missions Monday, a day after an international panel of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization designated them a World Heritage Site, the 23rd in the United States.

[…]

The site includes the state-owned Alamo complex and four federally run missions — San José, Concepción, San Juan and Espada — and a ranch near Floresville.

Though many Texans have been concerned about previous wranglings over how to care for the site and guide it’s future, those issues have also seen progress.  A bill to preserve and protect the Alamo was approved by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott last month.

The new designation is expected to encourage even more tourism interest and visitation of the sites, and was celebrated by city and county leaders.  Well, except for a small group of protesters that somehow think the UN is trying to stage a takeover.

But besides the factually-inept, this is truly a great thing for the city of San Antonio, and all of Texas.  We can truly say that the entire world Remembers the Alamo.

THE Alamo

(photo credit:  D.Boone/Corbis at Brittanica Kids

 

University of Houston Celebrates ‘Powerhouse’ Year

To say that the 2014-2015 school year has been a dynamic one for the University of Houston is an accurate statement. But the term dynamic barely seems to scratch the surface.  Recent years saw huge improvements in academic standing, with UH ascending to the ranks of UT and Texas A&M as the state’s third Tier One public research institution. Since then, the pace of academic achievement and investment has seen rapid growth.

The urban campus, now home to over 40,000 students and the third largest university in Texas, has endured a construction boom that could rival any mid-sized central business district.  UH opened a brand new football stadium at the beginning of the year, and it’s only the largest of over 40 major projects completed since 2010. If you’ve visited the University of Houston in recent years, you may not recognize the school when you come back.

But the building done at the University of Houston has been much more than just physical structures.  President Renu Khator and her team have done meticulous work to transfigure and elevate the University of Houston brand.  From increased visibility to aggressive social media campaigns and a new slogan, UH leaders understand that a truly great university is built with more than bricks and hammers.

This transfiguration hasn’t come without controversy.  Just months ago, UH made the headlines for agreeing to pay its celebrity commencement guest Matthew McConaughey a whopping $135,000 speaking fee to appear at the school’s first ceremony in TDECU stadium.  The large sum had many questioning Khator and the investment.  Could the university really afford such a high-stakes gamble just to recruit one celebrity speaker?

But if the unofficial motto for Texas is indeed “go big or go home”, the University of Houston’s big gamble paid off in a very big way.  UH’s 2015 commencement received world-wide press coverage which generated over $17 million dollars in earned ad revenue. McConaughey’s first ever commencement speech was one of the most talked about of the 2015 season.  This level of national press coverage, particularly for a non-athletic event, is unprecedented in the school’s history.

All signs point to 2015-2016 being another big year for UH.  With light rail service now connecting the campus to downtown Houston and the Texas Medical Center, students, faculty and staff now have convenient access to the region’s vast economic opportunities.

If 2014-2015 is any indication, it does seem that UH is living up to it’s recently re-branded slogan.  The school proved itself a true ‘Powerhouse’ this year.

UH Powerhouse

Check out this youtube video recapping the big school year.

 

 

 

On This Independence Day

On this Independence Day, the great experiment of the Democratic Republic goes on. And in the wake of recent historic decisions by our nation’s Supreme Court, this holiday has a particular tinge of patriotism for those in the LGBT community, and those who support them.

For others, evaluation of the “more perfect union” is still very much up for debate. As an American people, we still have many issues to tackle small and great.  But for today, let us be reminded of what makes America great… that centuries-long struggle to improve.

Happy 239th to the United States of America!!

 

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