Friday, February 28, 2014

Feb. 27th was Texas Human Trafficking Awareness Day

In an official proclamation, Governor Rick Perry declared Feb. 27th as Texas Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

On the subject, Perry released to following statement:

"Texas has taken strong steps to combat human trafficking, but key to preventing and ending this horrible crime is public awareness that millions still suffer exploitation around the nation and the world. I urge all Texans to join me today in bringing awareness to this important issue as we continue to fight to bring justice to human trafficking offenders, and help to their victims."
In the proclamation, Perry cites HB 3000 from the Texas 82nd Legislature. The law makes human trafficking a first-degree felony in the Republic of Texas. Perry signed the bill into law in 2011. Texas Representative Senfronia Thompson sponsored the bill. Of the Governor's proclamation, Thompson stated:

"We all must work together to end this despicable crime that degrades and destroys the lives of its victims in all corners of our country and our world. Texas has taken a strong stance against human trafficking and I will continue this fight as long as it takes."
Follow this link to view a copy of the official proclamation.

In observance of Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Attorney General and candidate to Governor, Greg Abbott, promised to push for Texas to continue the fight against this crime.

Texas's battle against sex slavery and human trafficking didn't end in 2011 with HB3000's passage. In 2013, The 83rd legislature passed further laws to assist victims of these crimes.

Human Trafficking is a modern form of slavery. Many foreign nationals are taken across the borders and into the US against their wills. They are forced into servitude as sex slaves or to work in sweat-shops. Many are forced to work in horrendous and unsafe conditions for little to no pay.

Worse, many of those trafficked originally come willingly. They are promised assistance in passage and attaining forged documentation. One in the US, they find they owe the "coyotes" more than they are able to make working. Many are forced into prostitution or pornography, often conditioned to be addicted to illicit drugs. The drug addictions usually increase the debt the indentured owe their slave masters and the coyotes. This perpetuates the spiral of slavery.

Human trafficking is a two way path across the border. Many Americans, usually teenagers and children, are smuggled across the border. From there they are sold as indentured workers or sex slaves in countries that have looser child labor and pornography laws.

Human Trafficking Awareness should not cease at the end of a single calendar day. It is a subject that is worthy of attention, prevention, and prohibition every day.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dana and Chris Loesch

The Free Range Texan & Dana Loesch, BlogCon '13
Photo Copyright © 2013, P-G Matuszak. All rights reserved.

Dana Loesch is often the target of insults, threats, and attempted ridicule. How she appears to remain above it so much of the time is a testament to her character and grace.

On Twitter as in real life, her husband is quick to her defense, often taking up the arguments she tries to sidestep. On Facebook, he often posts wonderful tidbits about how lucky he is to have her as a wife. he and I have, on occasion, gone back and forth praising our spouses and agreeing we are both lucky men.

Their love for each other is obvious. Given Dana's profession and calling, it takes a big man to stay by her side and put up with all the hate cast her way. I know if that were my wife, it would weigh heavily upon me every second of every day. In these times, loyalty and devotion are too often left unrecognized when they should be praised.

I have caught a couple of episodes of Dana's show on "The Blaze". I have listened to her radio show via internet radio. It is nothing less than over-exaggerated hyperbole to claim that Dana is "constantly outraged" or pedals hatred. She is informative. She debates factually but passionately. She uses humor and personal anecdotes. She entertains and informs.

I have found both of these people to be warm, caring and likeable. They are not just nice and cordial. They are genuinely good people.

I have met them both in person three times. It isn't enough to say we are close friends or best buddies. "Friends" may even be too strong a way to characterize the relationship. "Acquaintances" is a better descriptor. I would say we are colleagues of a sort.

The first time I met Dana, she kicked me. I know that doesn't sound "nice". I had been working up the courage to overcome being star-struck and try to talk to her. I had no problem talking with Chris. He's rather open and approachable. But Dana is Dana. When all you know of her is her on-air personality, she can be a little intimidating.

So I had enough beer in me to try to introduce myself. Fingers Malloy was walking in front of me. Dana attempted to kick him. Her foot struck me, accidentally, instead. So, I figured it was not the best time to make the introduction. I ended up outside the venue talking with Brandon Darby and Mandy Nagy instead.

But this was just a couple of weeks after Andrew Breitbart passed away. Many of Andrew's friends, colleagues, and fans were there. If Dana were "constantly outraged" she would not have been able to help keep spirits up and motivate people to stay the course.

The second time I met the couple in person, Chris flat out told me to introduce my wife to Dana. I did. This was days after a mutual acquaintance, "Chip", had passed away. Dana and Chip were close friends. I knew him only in passing. Amid a busy conference, Dana was trying to make arrangements to be at the funeral. She was sad and overwhelmed. Still, she took the time to sit, eat, and talk with my wife. They spoke about home schooling and being mothers and professionals. In effect, Dana very quickly befriended my rather shy wife. The Free Range Texan does not warm up to people very quickly. But she warmed up to Dana in what seemed like seconds.

The third meeting, we had our kid with us. Our kid is a huge fan of the song (and video) Chris did with Steve Crowder. She was ecstatic to meet Chris. Dana struck a harmonious chord with the kid as well. Dana gave a speech at this event that had our mini-munster enthralled.

What remains is a simple fact. The Loeschs are the type of family my family would love to hang out and socialize with. It isn't a star-struck mentality of some crazed fans. They are not family friends, but could easily be.

Does Dana's humor or rhetoric anger, embarrass, or otherwise offend some people? I'm sure it does. But that doesn't make her a "bad" person. It makes her an honest person.

Nobody is perfect. We do not agree on every issue, etc. But Dana  and Chris are good people whether you agree with them or not.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Texas Securities Board warns of issues with Bitcoin

Austin, Tx. February 25, 2014 -- The Texas State Securities Board warns Texans against investing in digital currencies such as Bitcoin.

The board's press release carries concerns and warnings of fraud and security issues associated with digital currencies. Among those concerns is that such currencies are not backed as legal tender by any government. That means that nothing legally binds them as acceptable units of barter, trade or settlement of debts.

In addition, the TSSB warns that digital currencies may be compromised easier than "hard currencies" in events such as hacking. They cite one example of a Japanese firm, Mt. Gox, ceased operations on Feb.24, 2014, effectively eliminating 6 percent of Bitcoins on the market.

Texas Securities Commissioner John Morgan stated:

“Although digital currencies such as Bitcoin are often touted as a sophisticated, online alternative to traditional currencies, investors should realize these currencies are not tangible, they are not issued by a government, and are not currently subject to traditional regulation or monetary policy.”
For more information, citizens are encouraged to contact:

Joseph Rotunda, Director, Enforcement Division, 512-305-8392,
or Robert Elder, Communications, 512-305-8386 or at the TSSB.

Below are key points from the TSSB press release:

Although Bitcoin and other digital currencies are becoming more popular, they present significant risks when part of a securities offering.  These risks include the following:
  • Questionable security of the exchanges dealing in Bitcoins and other digital currencies, highlighted by Mt. Gox, the Japan-based Bitcoin exchange that apparently ceased operations Feb. 24. A reported series of security breaches at Mt. Gox may have caused the loss of 6% of the Bitcoins of circulation.
  • Digital currencies exist only on computers and are almost always used as part of transactions that are effectuated through cyberspace. The electronic nature of digital currencies may provide fertile ground for hackers, who may be able to remotely compromise computer security systems and effectively steal digital currencies. Investors are therefore highly reliant upon their own computer security systems, as well as those provided by other parties, to protect investment programs tied to digital currencies.
  • Digital currencies may provide promoters with a significant degree of anonymity.  Unscrupulous promoters may be able to exploit the anonymous nature of certain digital currencies to conceal their true identity and assist in the concealment and laundering of the proceeds of a fraudulent investment offering. 
  • Securities offerings that incorporate digital currencies may be highly dependent upon their growth and acceptance in retail and commercial marketplaces.  Also, any change in consumer confidence, user demographic or governmental regulation, or the introduction of new and competing forms of digital currencies, may negatively affect the liquidity or value of such securities offerings.


Monday, February 24, 2014

San Antonio Education Expo

Packed house at SATP expo. The Free Range Texan glares at the photographer for distracting her during the presentation

Some may think the Tea party is "dead".

Those who popped into the San Antonio Tea Party Expo on February 22nd wouldn't think so. The place was packed.

The Free Range Texan and Mental Aikido's P-G Matuszak both attended. 

Speakers presented information on the progressive undermining of public education, giving suggestions on how parents can mitigate or combat Common Core, CSCOPE, and Critical Theory based curricula. The best advice given was two-fold. First, parents need to get involved in educating their own kids. That means augmenting classes from school with history, civics, and morality at home. The second is to be more involved in local and state education governing bodies through engaging elected and appointed officers.

Other speakers educated attendees on Agenda 21 and how the UN is getting directly involved with local and municipal governments. This tied into the education theme. Many curricula are allegedly designed to incorporate Agenda 21 principles into school indoctrination programs. Not only is the International Baccalaureate curriculum sponsored by the UN's Agenda 21 initiative, but every other Agenda 21 initiative is allegedly promoted in CSCOPE, Common Core, and other curricula.

Articles exploring the above described presentations and other stories coming out of the expo are forthcoming at Brenner Brief News. In the meantime, enjoy these photos from the event. 

Free Range Texan & Gen. Washington pose for a photo
Gen. Washington (reenactment role player) gives benediction and history lesson on his birthday
San Antonio Tea Party Patriots' Education Committee Chair Sal Apicelli

San Antonio Tea Party President Allen Tharp gives "State of the SATP" address.

Friday, February 21, 2014

It's gone and not coming back

I'd like to say this essay is about "regret". But it really isn't. It's about remembering things and wishing things could return to how they once were. It's something we all do. In most cases, we should stop. We don't. It's human nature.

This morning, I found myself listening to a song called "Once Beautiful" by the wonderful Gothic-rock band, The Last Dance.

The song is about reclaiming. It is about reclaiming youth. It reaches beyond just youthful looks. It is about reclaiming some of  that innocent naivety and exuberance. The song is beautiful.

Make me beautiful again
And feel like I'm special still
And remind me how to smile
And feel like diamonds

The problem is it "pings" on elements of my post-combat stress (aka PTSD). It doesn't always. Many songs do that, on occasion. Other things can create those nostalgic "flashbacks". For instance, when I grill steaks, I cannot stay by the grill. I put them on the grill then go inside and time them. The smell of the burning beef reminds me of the wounds some suffered during various attacks against us in Iraq. In fact, smells are the biggest triggers. Blowing dust in Arizona in late spring does the same thing -- triggers memory recall.

But the song came on. The powerful lyrics reached in. The song doesn't make me recall the war. It makes me compare myself to how I was before it to how I was each time I returned  from it.

As my voice, it's silent
And my heart, it feels less than before
And my feelings fail me
Pretending to be lovely

I've come a long way. I have very strong coping mechanisms. I recognize "flashbacks" and bouts of  "survivor guilt" for what they are. I know that they each will pass, and I let them. I don't cling to them or swell on them. I let the feelings flow through. They usually leave in a minute or two. Then I move  onto more immediate and important things, like laundry or writing.

However, when I returned from my first deployment, I didn't recognize myself. I scared myself. Emotionally, I didn't "feel". Then I would "feel" too much. Repeat. This went on for maybe a month. Then I pulled my head out of my seat.

The one thing that kept me from even seeing the edge of the "deep end" was research. I research and read. I found out that what I was going through  was very common upon redeployment. In other words, my feeling unnatural was perfectly normal.

But, one thing was gone, left in the sand:  my innocence. I went back three more times. Two of those times I made the mistake of thinking I'd find it. That was stupid. It's gone. I've seen too much. It cannot be unseen. It can, however, be learned  from. It has. 

There are things I've done that I call "regrettable". I'm not sure if  that term applies accurately. Mostly, I refer to things I had to do in combat.

See, I don't regret doing those things. I know I don't. The reason I know that I don't is that I would do the same if placed again in a similar situation. In fact, there would probably be less hesitation. What I wish, though, is that those situations never happened.

I cannot say that I wish I had not been involved in those situations. If it hadn't been me, it may have been somebody else. If it was nobody, things may have been worse and more people may have been harmed or killed. I firmly believe that my actions saved more lives than they cost.

There are trade-offs. That innocence may be gone, but I now have a bank of experiences that give me an edge in certain things. I know I can survive harsh conditions. I know what it's like to not eat for days, and that it won't kill me to skip a meal or six. I know that will and determination can get me through things that seem insurmountable. I know that humor can save your soul.

I know evil. I saw it first hand. I also so some of the deepest compassion and good. War can bring out the best and worst of people. It's like a flood or tornado. Look at all the people who rallied when Katrina hit New Orleans. My own direct experiences fighting the Monument Fire and volunteering to help evacuees attest to similar. The fire brought out thieves and looters. It also scared away apathy and banded communities together.

Yes, my innocence is gone. With it is my youth. I no longer see things the same way. But now that I have the perspective I do, I've concluded that I'm better off without them.

Make me see, make me listen, make me wonder
Make me feel, make me dream and not surrender

Through this I learned one very important life-lesson. Letting go does not mean forgetting. It means learning to remember that it's just a memory, a lesson, an experience. It means knowing that it made me who I am now, and I would not be "me" without them. Letting go means not clinging to them. It means not dwelling on those things an keeping the present locked in the past. Letting go means freedom.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Texas morns the passing of David A. Fowler

David A. Fowler was an American patriot and US Army veteran whose life of service did much to make Texas, the nation, and  the world a better place. His work will be forever remembered, and he will be  sorely missed.

David A. Fowler served on the Texas Governor's Office Committee on People with Disabilities.

Pundits and activists on both sides of the aisle like to point fingers accusing the other side of not caring about disabled people. The reality in Texas is this is not true of either side, in aggregate. Certainly there may be individuals on each side who don't prioritize issues related  to the disabled as heavily as others. But looking at the big picture, across the spectrum, the facts show equal compassion on both sides.

The Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities is one example of bipartisan efforts to improve the quality of life and opportunities for prosperity for disabled persons. The current Attorney General, who is running for Governor this year, is another example. State senators such as Leticia Van de Putte demonstrate more empathy. Regardless of her political motivations, Van de Putte did sponsor key bills directed at providing better opportunities for disabled veterans, in particular.

David A. Fowler worked seemingly tirelessly both as a committee member and with various non-profit organizations to better the quality of life and provide better opportunities for prosperity to disabled persons.

Fowler's extensive work and history as both a Soldier and as an activist working towards those goals is best summarized in the press release from Governor Rick Perry's office. It is with humble hearts and deep sadness that the press release is presented in its entirety below:

The Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities is deeply saddened by the recent loss of our long-time Committee member  and friend, David Fowler.  David was an insightful and passionate disability leader in Texas and nationally.  David died this past weekend from complications from a respiratory illness.

David A. Fowler was a retired U.S. Army Veteran who served as the National Vice President for the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the President of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Texas Chapter. He previously served as the Vice President and Advocacy Director of the Texas Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America and as a Commissioner on the Houston Commission on Disabilities. He was a member the Disabled American Veterans and the Army 82nd Airborne Division Association. Mr. Fowler attended Houston Community College.

David was admired by all who knew him for his powerful commitment to full inclusion and participation for people with disabilities, especially veterans with disabilities. David championed legislation for veterans with disabilities that led to improved access to services and programs in Texas and nationally for veterans with disabilities. 

David had been involved with Paralyzed Veterans of American for over 20 years.  He believed in “paying it forward” and devoted his life to mentoring and advocating for veterans who are paralyzed due to a spinal cord injury.

David enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division.  In 1984, he was injured in a diving accident which resulted in quadriplegia.  His accident occurred before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act; however, the passage of the ADA, in which Paralyzed Veterans played an instrumental role, ensured that all individuals with disabilities would be given equal rights and opportunities. David often educated the public that the ADA opened opportunities for full participation in all areas of public life. David said,  “[Going] to a movie without being told that I was a fire hazard, being able to go into the front door of a restaurant [and] being able to go back to work” are just some of the many benefits that he experienced. “It was like the world was finally welcoming us,” he said.

David participated in a variety of adaptive sports.  He was an active participant in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) in 1991 and used adaptive equipment to bowl, according to David, “better than he could before he was injured.”  In 20 years, David never missed the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in which he competed in power soccer, slalom, wheelchair races and power relay events.  After attending his first Games, Fowler was seized with thoughts of, “If I can do this, what else can I do?”  He thought, “How can I pay back this organization that is improving my life?” David was a featured athlete on the General Mills Cheerios box sold in military markets as the Gold Medal winner of the 2007 National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

In 1991, he became actively involved in the Texas Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America (TPVA) in many capacities, including service as advocacy director, vice president, president and national director. Fowler also served on several committees for Paralyzed Veterans of America, including the Field Advisory Committee. Over the years he was an ardent leader for PVA.  At the urging of many veterans, and with the support of his wife, Marilou, he was elected as Paralyzed Veterans’ national vice president in October 2011. “Even though the responsibilities come with a lot of trials and tribulations, the reward is great when you realize that you made an impact on someone’s life,” he said. “I’m paying it forward for the next guys coming behind us, just like the people 27 years ago did for me.”

David was appointed by Governor Rick Perry in December of 2006 to the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD).  David was an active and influential member of GCPD, including making policy recommendations to the Governor and Legislature related to veterans services in Texas.  David also served as an advocate on the United/Continental Accessible Travel Advisory Board, helping the travel industry understand the unique issues related to air travel for people with disabilities.

Fowler was involved in his local community by serving on the Houston Commission on Disabilities and other committees that had input regarding accessibility in the local stadiums and the Metrorail transit system.

Our thoughts, prayers and sincere gratitude go out to David’s family at this difficult time, especially David’s wife, Marilou, who has been his steadfast partner and best friend throughout his life. 

In lieu of flowers, a memorial endowment fund has been set up through the National Paralyzed Veterans of America. The David Fowler Memorial Endowment will assist in educating clinicians about spinal cord injury, researching better care and assisting Veterans with satisfying careers.

Memorial Donations can be sent to Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), David Fowler Memorial, 801 Eighteenth Street, NW Washington, DC 20006-3517  (

Mr. Fowler, some day we'll meet in the Elysian fields of The Fiddler's Green. We'll drink a toast to Gary Owen punctuated by two words:  "Hooah! Airborne!".

"To us and those like us -- damned few left"

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Modern Pedagogy, CSCOPE, Common Core, Our Future

I'm not going to list out my bona fides concerning education and child development again. I'm not going to list my wife's either. All that should matter is that we are educated, informed, and active parents.

In a few short weeks, Texas students third grade and up will take the STARS test. STARS testing is a state-wide cookie-cutter standardized test based upon the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) set up by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and State Board of Education (SBoE).

Common Core is a bad idea on the national level. The studies have proven it harmful and disastrous. Given a state as large as Texas, similar concepts should apply.

CSCOPE was an attempt to sneak Common Core assessments, curricula, and material into the Texas education system. CSCOPE was not completely outlawed. It is still in use. However, it is more open to public access than it was last year.

Also, we have some writers of the TEKS come forward and proudly state they incorporated what they felt to be important aspects of Common Core into the TEKS. They did this behind parents' backs and without our approval. There is nothing worse than a politician telling an educated individual to "shut up" because "I know what is best for you better than you do".

Well, today I had a rather enlightening parent-teacher conference. The reasons for it and the name of the teacher are not important. I will say that it was refreshing to have an educator who is about as pleased with current curricula, the current TEKS, and the infiltration of Common Core as parents should be. He or she left me with that impression. However, it may not be his or her true beliefs. Teaching is a very political job, like being in the military, and teachers have to walk a thin line of not ticking off either parents or the administration. So, nodding and agreeing without commenting or confirming is normally the best way to leave your audience believing you are of similar beliefs. I am not saying he or she did or did not do this. I am stating that it would be understandable if he or she did.

Hopefully that was just confusing enough to obfuscate the point.

In any case, the TEKS expect third graders to think critically.

Let that soak in for a few moments.

They don't teach times tables anymore.

They don't teach cursive writing anymore.

Writing must first be a flow of ideas before they start looking at grammar, paragraph structure, organization, or even spelling.

History isn't important.

But they want kids to be able to articulate their thoughts and feelings based upon implications, symbolism, and inferences coupled with their own life experiences.

Look at that last bit again. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Now answer me this:  What "life experiences" does a 9 year old have? Most people cannot remember much of anything prior to their third birthday. So, six years of "life experience"? I have more time in combat.

It isn't an insult to 9 year olds. They're 9. They are supposed to be experiencing childhood, not comparing and contrasting abstract ideas to their bank of experiences.

Now is when they need to build that foundation of facts and experience. Without it, they won't be able to think critically when they reach the appropriate age for abstract meta-cognitive activities. In simple terms, the kid won't be able to build a bird house. He'll be able to critique the color scheme and shape. But he won't know the difference between a screw and a nail, a hammer and a screwdriver, or a dowel. Heck, the poor kid will cut his fingers off with a saw while trying to use it to nail in a screw.

It comes down to foundations.

Teachers are told to develop lesson plans around "the concepts". The problem is that "the concepts" have no storage boxes. They float in, hit short-term memory, and are data-dumped after the test. There is no foundation onto which they can anchor. This causes anxiety in kids who are now pushed to perform at levels they are not ready to perform. They are told to do a triple somersault off a high dive before they even know how to tread water. They're drowning.

People look at certain other countries that appear so much more advanced than ours, academically. For example, the Japanese appear to be better at math. It isn't an ethnic thing. It is a culture issue. We had the premise in our culture at one time. Sadly, it's gone the way of the dodo in the name of "progress".

The Japanese teach math the way martial arts instructors teach martial arts. They learn the basics, the fundamentals. When they have learned those well enough, they learn their first more advanced move. When tested on that more advanced move, they are tested, again, on those fundamentals. Each lesson warms up by returning to those fundamentals. Repetition. Back to basics. When they stumble and have difficulty on the more advanced moves, they go back to practicing the fundamental that predicated it. Then they rebuild the more advanced by reviewing each intermediary step the student should have learned. Then they practice, practice, practice until they "get it". Once they "get it", they practice it more until it anchors to all else they learned.

The same goes with math. Kids need to know how to add in order to multiply. They need to know the foundation of times tables (0 through 12) in order to do more advanced multi-digit multiplication problems, including the concept of carrying. They need to understand all of that plus subtraction in order to do simple division. Then they need to learn borrowing to do long division. These are all necessary to learn those lovely and enjoyable subjects we all loved such as algebra and trigonometry. A student won't be able to figure out the sine or cosine of an angle if they cannot first learn long division. They will never get those concepts without those basic arithmetic foundations and laws. 2 + 2 = 4. 2 x 4 = 8. 8 x 8 = 64. 64 / 4 = 16.

We also have these generational divides caused by changes in educational pedagogy.

Gen-Xers, like me, ask "Why" and mean "Why me?".

Millennials ask "why?" and mean "I know it works, but why does it work? Is there something else that works that way, too? Why do we have to do it that way if another way might work?"

The current generation doesn't bother to even ask "why"? "Why?" doesn't matter. Everything is relative. Correct answers don't matter as much as understanding the abstract concepts. That is, they don't matter until a standardized test is coming up and school funding (including bonuses and administrative salaries) is partially determined by student performance.

But this current generation asks "So, this is what you are saying? ...". Usually it is something far from your point. But they don't care about your point. They care about their interpretation of the message. The real meaning doesn't matter. All that matters is their existential and relative understanding as they see fit. My 9 year old tells me this every day.

See, a 9 year old is attempting to debate like a 16 year old. That may seem precocious. However, most 16 year olds don't have the facts or experience to debate a 45 year old. 9 year olds have even less. Yet, this is what they are taught. They are taught to justify their answer (not to have the correct answer) and explain the concept they used to arrive at that conclusion. It doesn't matter if they employed the wrong formula, wrong definition, wrong spelling, wrong dictionary in the wrong language. See, they thought critically.

But they are failing. Why? Again, it's the basics.

It's also the culture of the community.

I did a few group projects in grade school. I hated group projects.

Thankfully, I attended a private high school that didn't believe in community grading.

My wife did a lot more group projects to include several in her masters program. She is not the greatest fan of them. Her generation did a lot more of them, though.

The current generation faces a curricula built on many or them. This includes "citizenship" grades.

To understand why these are bad ideas, let me explain why I hated them as a kid. This is best done with one example. This was actually one of the better group projects I was forced to do.

We were studying basic human anatomy in 6th grade. I do mean "basic". Not as basic as "eyes, nose, ears" like you teach a preschooler. But we covered the main elements of each major system. For example, the main parts of the nervous system are the brain, brain stem, and nerves. You know, sixth grade level stuff. We were given a system and a team of 4-5. The teacher was smart enough to match better students with those not as advanced. Part of the idea was for those more advanced to rub off on those less advanced and increase their understanding. It didn't happen.

Here is what happened. Two of us did all of the research. We divided up tasks. I was the overall organizer and quality control. I worked on parts of the paper. I proofread it. I wrote the bibliography and notes pages. Then one of the girls, who was not as advanced, wrote out the whole thing for us. She had the best handwriting. I also helped with the physical display. So did the girl who helped with the research and wrote the majority of the paper. The two other boys were supposed to write portions of the paper.Two days before it was due, they still hadn't started. We gave them the books with the pages marked! And they still hadn't done any of it. They were also tasked with parts of the physical display, a labeled molding clay model of the brain and brain stem. So, the girl with the pretty handwriting and I did most of the sculpture and labeling. The other girl wrote the other boys' portions of the paper. The boys did make little red "snakes" to put on the brain and stem to represent how they integrated into the cardiovascular system. Wasn't that nice of them?

Lesson learned, three of us did 99% of the work. Two of us did 95% of the academic portion. The other girl did 88% of the artistic. The two other boys did maybe a combined 3% of  the work. We all got the "A" that three of us actually worked for.

I wish the grades were weighted by contribution. They would have been "A", "A", "B+", "F", "F". Communism at work in the classroom. Well, the current generation gets a lot more of those group projects than I suffered.

The "concepts" rubbed onto those boys though. The concepts they learned were "don't do anything and somebody who cares about their own skin will take care of yours to save it". What that becomes in adulthood is "Why work when I can vote for people who will just take what another has earned and give me part of it?"

That, folks, is common core in a nutshell. But it is more than just common core. It is the sandy sinkhole of progressive pedagogy leaving our kids without a foundation.

Luckily, agree with me or not, my daughter's teacher acknowledges my viewpoint. She offered help in tutoring my daughter in the fundamentals, the basics, those key elements the schools skip. Those skipped key elements that leave those same schools wondering why the kids aren't learning.

Early Voting Starts, I Endorse...

The Texas 2014 primary races are in the home-stretch. Early voting has started. The official polling date is March 4th.

Some have already asked me who I back. I've gone through some effort in attempting to keep people's minds open. After all, who am I do endorse anybody? I'm not a famous actor. I'm not a huge political mover and shaker like Erick Erickson. I'm not even a wealthy campaign donor. To nail it squarely, I'm not a low-level politician who is seeking somebody's coat-tails or a quid pro quo. I am one man with a ballot and a voice.

I won't tell anybody who to vote for. I will say that if you vote without first taking the time to do your own research, you are an idiot (or worse, lazy). If I lost your readership with that statement, it's a shame. You just closed your mind and proved my statement correct.

As far as my primary endorsements, I don't have a great track record. In 2012, very few of those I backed went to the main race. Of those who did, even fewer won. I will say, of  those very few, one stands out.

I was living in Arizona, but a Texas lawyer caught my attention. This guy was pro-Second Amendment. He had good fiscal and economic platforms. He was grassroots. I backed him. I did some limited campaign work for him when I visited Texas. Since I moved to Texas, I am glad I did back that guy.

That guy not only won his primary against David Dewhurst, he went on to become a US Senator. As a Senator, he has yet to disappoint me. He also has yet to disappoint the majority of his constituents. He has stood up against collectivism, socialism, tyranny and "Big Government". He stood against Democrats as well as the "establishment" invertebrate "RINOs" in his own party. Of course, I am talking about Senator Ted Cruz.

So, he's the feather in my cap.

My wife was busy and had little time to study the candidates and issues. When she asked me about that race, I told her what each candidate's platform and record was. I then told her I preferred Cruz and why. I think I convinced her when I cited the Heller v DC US Supreme Court case. Mind you, my recommendation is not always a selling point to my wife. In fact, many times it loses a vote. Why? My wife is more conservative than I am on many issues. With that in mind, my wife is pleased with Cruz as well.

That brings us to another US Senate race. Sen. John Cornyn faces re-election. As a "conservative" incumbent, you'd think his primary would be in the bag. It's not.

Cornyn faces US Rep. Steve Stockman. He also faces dark-horse Dwayne Stovall. Stovall is as much a "dark horse" as Ted Cruz was two years ago. I highly suggest you consider casting your vote his way.

Cornyn has done some good. He has also caved on some key issues. He's pushing for a national concealed carry reciprocation law. That's nice. If Conrnyn were a true conservative, he'd push for a federal reinstatement of constitutional carry. Any eye-rolls about a constitutional carry bill not having a chance of passage, neither does his reciprocation bill.

Stockman spoke a good game, especially on recent budget and immigration issues. However, despite all his blustering, he failed to even show up for key votes on those issues. I won't back him for a promotion when he can't even do the job he currently has.

That leaves Stovall. Stovall is a businessman. He understands fiscal responsibility and spending within means. He understands the national threat of a porous border including the identity theft, tax fraud, property damage, and loss of US civilian lives involved. He understands the need for visa reforms for seasonal migrant workers. Texas has agriculture jobs it cannot fill. The icing on the cake is that Stovall is not a political insider.

Now the reality is any of  these three is better than any Battleground backed candidate. But if Texas wants the best representation it can get, Stovall would be my choice.

For Attorney General, my choice is clear:  Ken Paxton. Of  the three republican candidates, he is the only one who is not a RINO in establishment Republican clothing. He is not a "big 'R'" insider. If you want somebody who will fight against federal infringements against state and individual rights, he's the guy.

Looking at his record, Greg Abbott has done an outstanding job. Has he been perfect? No. But he's done his job and done it well. So far, he has filed 27 lawsuits against the federal government in defense of the rights of Texans. Paxton would do the same. Icing on the cake, Sen.Ted Cruz likes Paxton as well.

That leaves Abbott for Governor. Sorry kids, but I have to look at electability here. While others may be able to do the job adequately, Abbott is the only one who stands a chance to beat Battleground and Wendy Davis.

People are fickle. In these days of sound bytes and social media, people have shorter attention spans than a Syrian hamster with ADHD. We cannot count of people to remember the royal flush of lies and half-truths that make up most of Davis's recent word vomit. Her "official bio" turned out to be a "manufactured composite" and not her real story. She said she is pro-Second Amendment  and "open carry". Then she turns her head and says municipalities should not have to recognize constitutionally protected natural human rights, particularly in regards to self-defense. In other words, she thinks that politicians such as Mayor Julian Castro have the power of office to unilaterally ban firearms because, well, he was elected  and must know what's best for each individual. People will forget all of this. The single-issue voters will back her at the polls regardless of her stance on important issues like the state and US constitutions, economy and taxes.

In the Lt. Governor's race, the GOP candidate must be the one who can beat Van de Putte.

Dewhurst was a powerhouse with hefty establishment backing. He lost, thankfully, to Ted Cruz. He's been in office for too long. He's done an adequate job. Without Rick Perry at the helm, though, he may not do as well.

I have met the other three candidates. Bottom line, I back Todd Staples. His economic platform is sound. He is pro-business. He is pro-Second Amendment. He has a sound and logical approach towards immigration, border security, and law enforcement.

Dan Patrick is a good guy and a good choice. However, Dan didn't deliver on second amendment related bills during the 83rd Legislative Session. He failed to stop CSCOPE. Despite laws banning Common Core in Texas, somehow the State Board of Education and Texas Education Agency managed to buy automated common core assessment tools that Texas public schools are forced to use. Those tools are against Texas law.

So, Staples has my vote in the primary. Any of them, including Patterson, can do the job, though.

For Texas's 28th Congressional District, Will Aikens (Libertarian Party) is the clear choice. This is mostly because no clear Republican or other conservative-leaning candidate seems to be available.

Cuellar claims to be a "blue dog" or "moderate" democrat. He isn't. He has responded in a condescending manner to every letter I've written to him. He ignored evidence I presented and attempted to tell me what is good for me. He has backed wasting taxpayer money on special interests. he has backed stealing private property to increase the size of the San Antonio Missions National Park. He has backed increasing the taxpayer burden in paying for criminals who illegally invaded our county, committed fraud, and stolen identification. He has not supported liberty for all people. He promotes special favors and extra monies for select groups. It's time for him to go.

The US Congress could use a libertarian. This one will serve TX-28 well. He'd serve all constituents and not just the "special collectives". He'd also be a great counter-balance to elected officials such as Van de Putte, the Castro twins, etc.

So if you were wondering, or even if you weren't, those are my recommendations.

However, kids, my biggest recommendation is to sit down and research. The days are numbered. It is time to do the diligence and your responsibility. Research, question, read, look at voting records and inform yourself. Only after doing so should you vote. But, if you are a law-abiding citizen, you should vote. Voting isn't free. You have to work for it to make it worthwhile.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Occidental Petroleum Moves From CA to TX

Occidental Petroleum announced it is moving its headquarters from California to Texas.

Occidental expanded its operations in Texas, making the Houston, TX area its largest production area. After comparing state policies, attitudes towards businesses, and tax laws, the Fortune 500 company announced it is moving its corporate headquarters to Texas as well.

Of the announced move, Gov. Rick Perry released the following statement:

"Occidental Petroleum is the largest oil producer in Texas and one of the largest in the nation, so it seems only fitting the company would locate its headquarters in Houston, the Energy Capital of the World. Oxy ranks 125 on the Fortune 500 list, and the company's move is further evidence Texas has built the most dynamic, pro-growth economy in the nation."

Occidental is the latest in a stream of companies moving to Texas to seek greener pastures. HID Global recently announced they, too, were moving their global headquarters to Texas. Magpul, a major firearms accessory manufacturer, relocated from Colorado to Texas. Aerospace corporation X-Cor left California and moved to Midland, TX.

Occidental ranks number 125 on the Fortune 500 list.

In moving its main headquarters to Texas, Occidental plans to "spin-off" many of its California assets into a new subsidiary. The new subsidiary will create approximately 8,000 new jobs in California. Meanwhile, the move or the corporate headquarters to Texas stands to generate numerous more jobs and capital growth across Texas. Occidental already has numerous sites at various levels of petroleum and natural gas production throughout Texas, to include Midland.

Former SEC Chairman Elisse B. Walter recently joined Occidental's board of directors. Walter was appointed SEC chair by President George W. Bush and served in that office until 2013.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Second Amendment, Politicians, Courts, And Veterans

The Second Amendment debate hits the news again.

Despite claims of ablative punctuation marks, the meaning is fairly clear.

The Second Amendment remarks that the federal government and individual states get militias.

Because of the necessity of militias to keep the peace (police and law enforcement officers) and protect the nation (State militia, state guards, the National Guard, The US Armed Forces both active and reserves), the citizens are allowed to own and carry firearms. The federal government, state governments, and municipalities are forbidden from infringing upon that right.

That right accomplishes three major necessities.

First, it arms the populace against enemies, foreign or domestic, and emboldens our nation's ability to protect itself.

Second, it allows citizens to protect themselves, their property, their family, and their communities from criminal threats and invaders. Police can do only so much. As citizens, we each have a duty to do our share. If we are ready to protect ourselves and assist our neighbors in doing the same, police are free to investigate those crimes the citizens could not deter, prevent or abate themselves. Several federal court cases such as Castle Rock vs. Gonzalez further this base tenet of our society.

Third, if one bothers to read The Federalist Papers, you would know that an armed populace is key to mitigating corruption and abuse of power by elected and appointed government officials. This includes the unelected bureaucrats. If citizens are armed, it is much more difficult for power-hungry politicians to become tyrants. It is a deterrent against that tyranny.

Still, states and municipalities seek to attempt to redefine what is and isn't allowed under the Second Amendment.

For example, San Diego, California made a law that required an applicant for a concealed handgun license prove a legitimate need to exercise a basic natural right that is protected by the Second Amendment. The case went to the federal courts. The 9th US District Court, considered the most left-wing-biased federal court in the nation, ruled the law violates the Second Amendment.

Their decision seems to opine that a state can restrict concealed carry or open carry but not both. They struck down the law. California is appealing to the Supreme Court.

Here is a quick excerpt from the majority opinion and ruling (emphasis added):

The Second Amendment secures the right not only to “keep” arms but also to “bear” them — the verb whose original meaning is key in this case. Saving us the trouble of pulling the eighteenth-century dictionaries ourselves, the Court already has supplied the word's plain meaning: “At the time of the founding, as now, 'to bear’ meant to ‘carry.’ ” Heller, 554 U.S. at 584.3 Yet, not “carry” in the ordinary sense of “convey[ing] or transport[ing]” an object, as one might carry groceries to the check-out counter or garments to the laundromat, but “carry for a particular purpose — confrontation.” Id. The “natural meaning of ‘bear arms,’ ”according to the Heller majority, was best articulated by Justice Ginsburg in her dissenting opinion in Muscarello v. United States, 524 U.S. 125 (1998): to “‘wear, bear, or carry. . . upon the person or in the clothing or in a pocket, for the purpose. . . of being armed and ready for offensive or defensive action in case of conflict with another person.’” Heller, 554 U.S. at 584 (quoting Muscarello, 524 U.S. at 143 (Ginsburg, J., dissenting)

Of note, Texas restricts both. Open Carry of handguns is illegal in Texas. Concealed Carry is by permit only.  It appears this decision favors Arizona's current laws. Arizona is a constitutional carry state. There are some restrictions for carrying a firearm without a concealed permit. However, a law abiding citizen may carry, open or concealed, in most places without needing a permit.

Along with several key cases in recent years, such as the Heller v DC case, this raises several questions regarding the legality of issuance of concealed (or open) carry permits as well as anti-open-carry laws.

It also questions the necessity of some proposed legislation such as the bill Sen. John Cornyn is currently propagating as a feather in his hat during his re-election campaign. Cornyn has previously stated that he opposes open carry. Yet he sponsored a bill that would make it federal law for all states to recognize a concealed carry permit issued in any state. It sounds great. However, the law just may end up unnecessary. Cornyn may be better served by presenting legislation that better clarifies the Second Amendment and reinstates individual constitutional carry rights nationwide, making all permits unnecessary infringements. So much for his claims of being a "conservative".

Speaking of politicians' banter in Texas, Texas Democrat Darling Wendy "Abortion Barbie" Davis finds herself caught in her own lies yet again.

Many recall when Davis's ex-husband gave an interview concerning Davis's "official biography". It turned out Davis lied about being a single teen mother who struggled to make it on her own. First, she wasn't a teen when she became a single mom. She was a single mom for only a few months before she found a sugar-daddy. That sugar-daddy supported her and her kid through her undergrad degree. She lived in a rather affluent neighborhood near Dallas. That sugar-daddy married her then paid for her Harvard Law degree. Then her infidelity came to light and they divorced. He got custody of the kids. She was more like a weekend-parent than a hard-working single-mom. But, like her hero Obama, she created a "composite character". The difference is that she was the composite character instead of a nonexistent girlfriend.

This time around, Davis claimed she is all in support of Texas law allowing for open carry of firearms.

It turned out to be a lie. First, she may be in favor of open-carry, but only to those select few deemed worthy of a handgun license. She disregards the fact that handgun licenses are infringements of the Second Amendment in the first place. It is sort of like a poll tax, even though there is no directly stated right to vote in the constitution (and it is implied only in regards to US Congressional and Senatorial elections). 

To show her stance to be even further from supporting the Second Amendment, she also stated that she believes the US Constitution doesn't have any sovereignty over municipalities in regards to the Bill of Rights. She stated that cities have the right to make up their own gun laws and restrictions, to include banning guns from all but those select few the municipalities deem worthy. This begs one simple question:  if the rights to own and carry weapons are subject to the whims of elected municipal politicians, does this apply to the other amendments as well? Does this include the Civil Rights Act? Does this include the 14th Amendment? How about the 1st? Considering the laws and actions of some of Davis's corrupt comrades in places such as San Antonio, it would appear to be the case.

Since we are on the subject of infringements of constitutional rights and abuses of power, let's take a look at abuses of power by bureaucrats in the federal executive branch. The Veterans' Administration under democrat lap-dog Gen. Shinseki has decided it has the power to invoke court orders without a judge.

It has been doing so for some time. If a veteran has TBI or PTSD and has somebody helping them with financial matters, the VA believes it has the right to revoke Second Amendment rights. If one actually reads the US Constitution, only a judge with a jury verdict can declare incompetency or felonious conduct and suspend constitutional rights. The VA is doing so without due process, without a hearing, and without court orders. It is so bad that the US Congress has a bill sitting in limbo that would cease this. The bill should not need to even be passed. It should be a no-brainer.

The VA claims they only do this if a fiduciary is mandated by a court order. However, that is not the case in reality.

Meanwhile, the VA continues to arbitrarily, unilaterally, and unconstitutionally "revoke" veterans' Second Amendment rights.

Most of the recent cases concerned Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans with Mild Traumatic Brain Injuries (MTBI) or Post-Combat Stress (often incorrectly referred to as "PTSD"). The vets go to the VA seeking screening or help. In return they receive a letter from the VA stating that the VA has decided to illegally take away their Second Amendment rights. However, a more recent case involves a Vietnam War veteran. Pat Kirby has struggled with PTSD since the Vietnam War. He has also been a responsible gun owner for decades. His wife, like many wives, manages the finances and books for the household. Pat went to the VA. The VA said that he is incompetent, because his wife handles the finances, and has PTSD, therefore he is no longer allowed to own any firearms.

This is nothing less than complete injustice.

Watch this video about Mr. Kirby:

The VA is currently headed by Shinseki. Shinseki is the joker who had no faith in the US Military. He said we could not topple Saddam's regime in Iraq with the forces available to deploy. He was wrong, obviously. He also thought that US Army Soldiers would be proud to all wear the Ranger's black beret, only with a United Nations flash. Somehow he thought we'd be proud of the symbolism of bending our knee and giving up our national sovereignty to the UN. Again, he was wrong.

Here is an open letter to Shinseki that I posted not too long ago:

Dear Gen Shinseki.

The last I checked, the VA, just like the Army, is part of the executive branch. You may want to review that part of the US Constitution. You do remember that document, correct? It's one you swore an oath to support and defend against all enemies foreign and domestic. Well, the illegal infringements and abuse of power your cabinet department is committing are those of domestic enemies. You may want to reel them in a bit.

As a bureaucracy under the executive branch, you do not have the authority to strip constitutional rights or protections. Those require a court order (and usually a conviction by a jury). Those are not powers that we, the people, have granted to the executive branch.

It's time to stop this illegal and immoral policy and abuse of perceived (yet legally nonexistent) authority. It is disgraceful and brings dishonor upon the very Soldiers and veterans you claim to be helping.

P-G Matuszak
SFC, US Army

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Texas's Economy Bright, Looking Brighter

The Texas Taxpayers And Research Association (TTARA) has released its findings on Texas's proposed 2014-15 budget. I'll reveal more of the findings as well as open the discussion on its implications to Texans and the nation as a whole in my inaugural article for The Brenner Brief.

In short, TTARA found the biannual budget proposed to be positive. The organization indicates they predict increased prosperity for Texas over these next two years. In fact, TTARA President Dale Craymer remarked:

"Lawmakers passed a conservative budget that meets the needs of the state, puts us on a sound financial footing, and cut taxes and fees by $1.4 billion."

Of TTARA's report, Governor Rick Perry stated:

"The evidence continues to mount that the Texas way of doing business is the best way of doing business. Our core philosophy of fiscal responsibility has enabled us to address the largest challenges facing our state, like transportation and water, while simultaneously cutting taxes and keeping cash on hand for emergencies. It enables us to meet these challenges from a position of economic strength, with an eye toward continuing our growth well into the future."

Though Gov. Perry is a man of many words, at times, he is a model Texan. His words are not empty boasting, but a seemingly accurate reflection of the economic situation in Texas. Let's take a brief review of indicators and news from just the past few weeks.

While national unemployment (U3) calculations ticked slightly down and workforce participation numbers ticked slightly up, the national rate of "recovery" is still sluggish and far behind where it should idyllically be. In fact, the WPR didn't uptick. It stabilized to the end of November number, a paltry and dismal 63.0%. Nationally, to cover the jobs gap within the remaining 11 months of this calender year, employers across the nation would have to add an average of over 650,000 jobs a month. Last month, the net gain was only 113,000. December's gain was only 74,000. 2013's average was 194,000 per month. The chances of tripling that average with the current federal economic policies currently in place is less likely than winning the Powerball lottery twice in a year.

Meanwhile, Texas is creating jobs at a much higher proportional rate. In fact, Texas is one of the top 5 states for private sector job growth. Reporting suggests that Texas has created more jobs than the state lost during the recession. Now it's remaining jobs gap is just to make up for the increased state population from births and migrations.

Many of those migrations are due to companies uprooting from less business-friendly states and expanding or relocating their operations in Texas. Former Colorado-based Magpul moved to Texas for a number of reasons. One reason was the change in state laws regarding firearms. The other reasons were Texas economic and taxation policies are far more business and employee friendly than Colorado's.

Media Icon Dana Loesch and her Husband, Chris Loesch recently moved to Texas. They are likely finding the lack of a state income tax to be rather pleasing. The state's outlawing of Common Core probably agrees with their education plans for their kids. Chris is a small business owner and operator in the music industry. No doubt, Texas's policies for small businesses are to his liking. Dana has her new show with Glenn Beck's The Blaze. In addition, her radio show is now syndicated, since her move. It seems Texas has been good to the power-couple.

HID Global expanded in Texas and is moving its global headquarters to the state.

Even those of us who normally oppose Keynesian economics are looking at some of the TETF and TEF grants, the capital they are helping generate, and the jobs they are helping create, and thinking "if you are going to use Keynesian policies, this is how you do it".

The downsides in Texas revolve around poor municipal policies. San Antonio and Houston, cities with far-left leaning mayors and city councils, are deep in public debt. They sell bonds and borrow money. They attempt tax increases that most people do not want. In fact, San Antonio passed a small sales tax increase on the lie that it was "for the kids". So far, the Pre-K SA tax hike has not produced the promised increases in public preschool attendance. Meanwhile, attendance in private programs remains steady or is increasing, depending upon which private school's records you review. Giving either of these cities increased purview or shares of taxpayer money is a poor move. It is giving your drug-addict 15 year old unlimited access to your American Express Platinum Card and your gun safe. If it weren't for the successes state-wide and the businesses located in the suburbs, these cities would be facing the dire straits in which Detroit currently finds itself.  

To nail Texas's continuing economic success, Laffer and Moore's comparison and contrast of California and Texas tells a striking story. The numbers and their meaning come as no surprise to Texans. But they do demonstrate a striking example of fortitude and sound economic policies for other states to aspire towards. In fact, Illinois may want to wake-up and take notice before they lose businesses such as Caterpillar, Inc. to Texas's warmer climes.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Happenings In Texas Higher Education

Items of interest surrounding post-secondary or "higher" education topics swirl in Texas.

It appears Texas students may be among the highest in advanced placement.

Around the country, many high schools offer what are known as "AP" or "Advanced Placement" courses. These courses offer an opportunity for accelerated high school students to compete to earn college credit while still in high school. The courses available cover a variety of topics form history to calculus, computer science to English composition or literary analysis, to biology and chemistry.

I took AP classes in high school during my senior year back in the mid-80s. They were fast-paced. We met an average of 4 days per week, an hour per day, all year. That would amount to 10-12 credit hours per subject in college. Universities may, but are not required, grant the college credit depending upon the scores the student earns on the standardized AP tests near the end of the year. The higher the score, the more credits awarded, normally. College credits are normally awarded to students that score a 3 or better on the tests.

Over the past 10 years, Texas has nearly doubled its state-wide participation rate in AP courses. The number of ethnically Latino/Hispanic students has nearly tripled. That is seen as a high achievement of success by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). In fact, the number of Texas students earning a 3 or better in 2013 (over 52,000) was greater than the total number of AP students in 2003 (approximately 48,500).

The TEA reports the following additional facts regarding the AP program in Texas:

  •  35.9 percent of public high school graduates in the class of 2013 took an AP Exam, (compared to 20.4 percent of graduates in the class of 2003).
  • 18.5 percent of public high school graduates in the class of 2013 scored 3 or higher on an AP Exam (compared to 11.9 percent of graduates in the class of 2003).
  • 42.5 percent of 2013 graduates who took at least one AP Exam were Hispanic/Latino (compared to 29.6 percent of AP Exam takers in the class of 2003).
  • In the Class of 2013, 43,031 Hispanic/Latino graduates took at least one AP Exam during high school – nearly three times the number of Hispanic/Latino graduates who took an AP Exam in the class of 2003.
  • Hispanic/Latino graduates accounted for 36.9 percent of students who scored 3 or higher on an AP Exam in the class of 2013 (compared to 28.7 percent of graduates in the class of 2003).
  • 49.9 percent of 2013 graduates who took at least one AP Exam were low-income students (compared to 23.1 percent of AP Exam takers in the class of 2003).
  • In the Class of 2013, 50,584 low-income graduates took at least one AP Exam during high school – more than four times the number of low-income graduates who took an AP Exam in the class of 2003.
  • Low-income students accounted for 43.9 percent of 2013 graduates who scored 3 or higher on an AP Exam (compared to 20.2 percent of low-income graduates in the class of 2003).
  • In the Class of 2013, 9,147 African-American graduates took at least one AP Exam during high school (compared to 2,780 in the class of 2003).
  • In the Class of 2013, 2,487 African-American graduates scored 3 or higher on an AP Exam (compared to 853 in the class of 2003).
  • In the Class of 2013, 36,728 white graduates took at least one AP Exam during high school (compared to 25,445 in the class of 2003).
  • In the Class of 2013, 22,663 white graduates scored 3 or higher on an AP Exam (compared to 15,422 in the class of 2003).
Commissioner of Education Michael William stated
“Texas has made great strides in increasing AP access to a broader, more diverse group of students reflective of the changing demographics of our state. Our state ultimately benefits each year we see increased participation in the number of students participating and succeeding in the AP program.”

On Texas's achievements, College Board Vice President (in charge of the national AP program) Trevor Packer remarked:

 “Texas is obviously committed to broadening AP access to more low-income and minority students. We congratulate them on their successes and encourage them as they move forward to ensure that all students have the same opportunity to reach their full potential.”
 Of the report, Gov. Rick Perry released the following statement:

"Texas has become a beacon of opportunity for job creators looking for a skilled workforce ready to take on any need an employer may have. Texas students must be equipped with the skills to compete in Texas' thriving economy. Increased participation in programs like AP means that Texans are better prepared after graduation, giving our high school students an early start at college and potentially saving them money in the long run."


Meanwhile, UT's Chancellor Resigns

The University of Texas's Chancellor, Francisco Cigarroa resigned from his position. He plans to remain in his position until a replacement is nominated and approved.

Many speculated on his reasons for resigning. Chancellor Cigarroa and UT-Austin President Bill Powers have often been at odds over several issues, including transparency and student-faculty communications.

However, both men retain high regard and respect for one another, reportedly. Cigarroa, despite criticisms of Powers, told the university's board of regents that Powers needs to remain in office.

Dr. Cigarroa, MD was offered the position as Head of Pediatric Surgery at University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio, TX. Dr. Cigarroa has maintained practicing as a pediatric surgeon and is considered one of the nation's leading pediatric transplant surgeons. After 5 years as chancellor of the University of Texas, Dr. Cigarroa seeks to return to his lifelong passion of treating children. Dr. Cigarroa's father is almost 90 years old and still practices medicine. It's a role model Dr. Francisco Cigarroa wishes to follow.

Of his resignation, Gov. Rick Perry stated:

"Francisco Cigarroa has been a strong proponent for the University system throughout his tenure, and his efforts will pay dividends for our state for many years to come. It says a lot about him that his departure is tied to his love of his important work saving lives as a pediatric transplant surgeon. I thank him for his service to the people of Texas and wish him well in the future."

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Perry's Criminal Justice Speech At Economic Forum

In late January, Gov. Rick Perry was the only Governor for a US State to participate in the World Economic Forum. There he made remarks regarding Texas judicial reforms in the prosecution of drug-related crimes.

Some have taken his remarks out of the full context. Among the panels Perry participated in was one of how criminal justice affects businesses and economic policies. The specific topic given for the panel was "The Drugs Dilemma: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business".

Here is a video of the entire hour-long panel discussion. Hear Governor Perry's words for yourself, in context and outside of a venue of edited sound-bytes for effect.

Of his remarks and Texas's approach towards the "war on drugs", Gov. Perry made the following statement:

"We've been very successful in the state of Texas with drug courts. States are laboratories of innovation, and I hope the other states will look at what we have done in the State of Texas."

In times when many debate medical uses for some illicit drugs such as marijuana, many have called for legalization or, at least, decriminalization of the drug.

Scientific evidence has demonstrated legitimate and safe medical uses for marijuana just as there are legitimate medical uses for other controlled substances that are legal for use with a prescription. Just like with those drugs, there are side-effects and risks to use or abuse of medical marijuana. For example, use by people under 25 has been linked to schizophrenia and aggravation of manic-depressive and anxiety disorders. However, for people with terminal illnesses, it is known to be a safer alternative for pain management than some legal drugs that are more commonly prescribed.

Illicit trafficking of marijuana, like heroin, is linked to other crimes. Among those crimes are human trafficking, sex slavery, indentured servitude, gun smuggling, and cross-border organized crime (including murder). Legalizing marijuana may cut down on some of that crime. However, smugglers may just turn towards more dangerous items to smuggle, including kidnapping and trafficking our children. That presents a shaky road for many lawmakers.

Conversely, a 23 year old stopped on a street corner who unknowingly consents to a search that turns up possession of two marijuana cigarettes should not result in long-term incarceration. In fact, these days, given the age, many see the infraction to be less severe than an 18 year old with a beer in his backpack.

Certain mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana possession are probably too high. They can severely inhibit a person's opportunity to prosper. Most likely, the 23 year old doesn't know the people involved in trafficking the drug. Most likely, he knows as small-time dealer or "hook-up" who doesn't know much either. In some cases the supplier may be a buddy with a single plant growing in his back yard. That hardly makes that person a large, organized crime boss.

To fight the war on illicit trafficking requires efforts targeting well above the end-user level. Prisons are overpopulated with kids caught with barely a casual user's amount of the drug. If it were an 18 year old with a single beer, many cops would just make the kid pour it out into the street rather than deal with the paperwork. Common sense solutions should be considered in dealing with casual, responsible users. On the other hand, if that 23 year old were baked, behind the wheel, and headed home to take care of 3 year old child, it becomes a whole different level of irresponsible behavior.

In other words, the sentences should reflect the severity and context of the crime. This is where minimum sentences could be sensibly restructured.

Ambassador Black Rests Eternal

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you've heard the news that Shirley Temple-Black died late last night. She died of "natural causes" at the age of 85, almost 86.

Mrs. Temple-Black is best known as a child actress with curly golden locks, a remarkable singing voice, and renowned meticulous attention to detail of choreography and stage direction. But she was much, much more than a famous child actress.

Shirley was a conservative republican. She ran for US Congress in California, losing the primary to a "moderate".

She supported the military and veterans. Her husband served in the US Navy as an intelligence officer in both WWII and Korea.

Shirley was a business woman. She sat on the board of directors for several companies including Del Monte and the Walt Disney Corporation.

She was a breast cancer survivor who lobbied, advocated, and fund raised for several women's health charities.

She served as an envoy to the United Nations.

Under President Ford she served as the US Ambassador to Ghana.

President Carter, who was ideologically opposed to Shirley Temple-Black, appointed her as his protocol officer. This showed Temple's non-partisan dedication to the nation and her abilities as a diplomat.

President George H.W. Bush appointed Mrs. Black as the US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia.

Most remember her as that famous child star. Her life of service to our great nation as well as her impact in private industry are not as commonly praised. But its for those accolades and accomplishments that she should be remembered.

Rest in Peace, Ambassador. The world is a better place because of you.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Texas Economy Remains Better Than Nation's

Several business and economic releases indicate more growth potential for Texans.

The US Bureau of Labor statistics released another report filled with mixed news. The U3 unemployment rate ticked down to 6.6% and the participation rate increased slightly. However, only 113k new jobs were created, far short of the monthly average required to recover the proportionate number of jobs required to cover the gap created by the 2008-09 recession.

Contrasting the luke-warm national report, Texas is growing economically. For the 12th consecutive year, Texas is ranked the top state for exports (source: US Census Bureau).

(Origin of Movement)

Top 2012 to 2013 Increases
(Millions of Dollars)

State 2012 Total 2013 Total Change
Texas $265,352.0 $279,694.9 $14,342.9
California 161,699.6 168,128.4 6,428.8
Washington 75,524.5 81,938.7 6,414.2
New York 79,188.9 83,994.8 4,805.9
Kentucky 22,092.3 25,285.5 3,193.2

Upon receiving the Census Bureau report, Gov. Rick Perry issued the following remarks:

"Texas continues to set a national example for economic success because of our commitment to the conservative fiscal principles that allow businesses to thrive. The Texas model of low taxes, smart regulations and fair courts continues to drive the state's economy, attracting businesses from around the world and helping the state remain the national epicenter for international trade for 12 consecutive years."

Other Texas Economic News

Texas presents TEFT Grant to DARPA Competitor

The Texas state government announced it has given a $1.5 million Texas Emerging Technologies Fund (TEFT) grant to a joint University of Texas (UT) and Texas A&M University (TAMU) robotics team. The UT and TAMU students belong to Team Valkerie, who designed the R5 robot.

The robot has advanced in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's robotics chalenge competition. The challenge is to design a robot capable of traversing varying terrains and accomplish several tasks considered vital in a variety of scenarios from humanitarian and disaster relief to survival in case of a major nuclear event.

Challenge winners, to be announced in 2015, will win a $2million federal DARPA grant.

DARPA is part of the US Dept. of Defense and operates under the federal defense budget. The US Constitution mandates congress to budget and allocate federal funds for national defense. They are also mandated to govern rules for the issuance of patents and copyrights to protect intellectual properties such as inventions. In addition, the Constitution allows congress to allocate funds to support scientific research and development. Through this competition, DARPA legally fulfills all three.

Concerning the TEFT grant to Team Valkerie, Gov. Perry remarked:

"Texas is home to world-class universities that continue to advance exciting new technologies and groundbreaking research. This investment has the potential to save lives through innovation in robotic technology that could assist in disaster responses around the world."

UT team members were tasked with body control design and software while TAMU team members are responsible for designing software to enable bipedal movement over varying rough terrain conditions.

 Latest TEF Grants Create 615 Jobs

Texas also announced two new Texas Enterprise Fund grants that are expected to generate as many as 615 new jobs, combined.

The grants are going to two digital information technology companies.

Websense is relocating its headquarters from California to Austin, TX. The move will bring over 400 new jobs to Texas and generate over $9million in new capital. Texas is presenting Websense a $4.5million grant to sweeten the deal and facilitate the move to Texas.

Websense produces software and digital information security products. Their products are used by private individuals, businesses, corporations, and government entities. They protect data and systems from cyber-attacks, hacking, and help mitigate accidental "spillage".

Websense CEO John McCormack stated:

"We are expanding our presence into Austin because it represents an energetic, high-technology hub that will further enable us to meet growing demand for our technology and better serve our global customer base.  Our top priority continues to be exceeding customer expectations and protecting organizations from data theft and advanced cyberattacks."

Dropbox, Inc. is expanding its operations in Austin, TX. The increase will generate at least 170 new jobs and $5.5million in new capital. They are tapped to receive a $1.5million TEF grant to assist in the expansion.

For those unfamiliar with Dropbox, they provide digital cloud storage and transfer services. Private individuals use home versions to store data in a cloud for access from multiple devices or locations. Businesses utilize their various business versions of their products to enable off-site storage and access. Both versions of the software allow data to be shared at various levels of access from "read only" to full access. These services enhance production and accessibility in a secure manner for their customers.

Dropbox vice president of business Sujay Jaswa released the following comments:

"We were drawn to Austin because of the talented people and vibrant tech culture, and we're thankful to the Governor's Office for their support as we grow our presence in the area. Our Austin team is excited to build deep Dropbox roots here as we focus upon supporting our business customers and our 200 million users."

On the subject of these two most recent TEF grant announcements, Gov. Perry released the following:

"Texas is the nation's leading example of creating an environment that allows job growth to flourish, innovations to thrive and families and employers to succeed. Paired with our low taxes, smart regulations and fair courts, these TEF investments will help bring hundreds of jobs to Austin, and thanks to our world-class workforce, these employers know Texans are prepared to take on the diverse needs any company may have."