Editorial Roundup: Texas

San Antonio Express-News. June 9, 2021.

Editorial: Only authentic artifacts to remember the Alamo

Immortalized by a battle, the Alamo is destined to always be a site of contention. Sitting on the eastern edge of downtown San Antonio, the 18th-century limestone mission is one of the most distinctive and instantly recognizable structures in the world, yet it remains a blank slate onto which history, race and politics are projected and fought.

Since the 1836 battle, the overarching fight for nearly 200 years has been over how the Alamo is presented and preserved. The most recent controversy is over the authenticity of some of the items in Phil Collin’s trove of Alamo artifacts.

The British singer and songwriter has parlayed his lifelong Alamo obsession into a massive collection of 400 items worth $15 million. In 2014, Collins donated the collection to the state of Texas.

Some of those items were on exhibit at the Alamo from March 2-April 25, and all of them will be on display in a new museum that is part of a $450 million reimagining of the Alamo.

But in a new book, “Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth,” by Chris Tomlinson, Jason Stanford and Bryan Burrough, a dozen prominent antiquities dealers, archaeologists, collectors and the Alamo’s official historian question if some of the relics are what they’re purported to be.

Most of Collins’ collection, including all the documents, appear to be authentic. But other pieces supposedly from the battle site are bogus, according to experts who have looked at them.

Most dubious and lacking any documentation are at least eight items supposedly belonging to the Alamo’s three most famous defenders: William Travis, Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie. “Verification” for one of Bowie’s famous knives came from a psychic. Yes, a psychic.

While Collins’ passion for all things Alamo is genuine, his enthusiasm appears to have been exploited by unscrupulous dealers and collectors.

None of this reflects badly on Collins. He’s invested millions of dollars amassing his collection, and his donation to the state should be seen and accepted as the extraordinary gift that it is.

However, only those artifacts whose authenticity can be verified deserve to be on display when the museum is completed. The lure of Crockett’s rifle, for some, means nothing if it’s not really Crockett’s rifle and serves only to perpetuate legend rather than preserve facts.

The renovation of Alamo Plaza is meant to lift the shroud of mythology draped over the Alamo and reveal a more complete and honest history. Anything less is a disservice to history, taxpayers and, yes, Collins’ collection.

___

Abilene Reporter News. June 9, 2021.

Editorial: Buckingham’s bid for land commissioner opens door for a more local state senator

Dawn Buckingham, the District 24 state senator, is moving on up.

At least, that’s the intent.

Elected after a Republican runoff against former state Rep. Susan King in 2016, Buckingham has announced her bid for land commissioner. The current commissioner, George P. Bush, also hopes to move up the state ladder by winning election as attorney general, an office currently held by embattled Ken Paxton.

Republicans have occupied every rung on the state leadership ladder for decades. Haskell County native Rick Perry as a Democrat was elected to the Legislature in 1984, then won election as ag commissioner and lieutenant governor after switching parties. He was in the right office at the right time when Gov. George W. Bush sought the presidency in 2000.

Perry became governor, and held that job until 2015.

Republicans have held a vise grip on state offices for even longer.

Buckingham, an eye physician by trade, may be looking at a similar rise in her party.

Her bio emphasizes being the first Republication from Travis County to be elected to the Texas Senate.

Take that for what it is.

First, she represents just a portion of traditionally Democratic Travis County; she represents a portion of Taylor County (Charles Perry has a sliver).

Secondly, her district includes Bandera and Buffalo Gap, more than 200 miles apart, and includes Brown, Callahan, Comanche and Mills counties.

It’s mostly rural but our senator lives in Lakeway, closer to Austin, which not only is the Texas capital but also the capital for Democrats.

Her press release puts three titles ahead of her name. Conservative. State Senator. Doctor. She took aim on voters in our area by emphasizing her support of the 2nd Amendment

Her announcement, made official Monday, opens District 24, previously held by Troy Fraser. Yes, he also lived near a lake (Marble Falls area), but he had West Texas roots.

Buckingham has not been a familiar face in Abilene, best known, perhaps, for bailing from bucking buggy during the 2018 Western Heritage Classic parade. She recently was seen, with state Rep. Stan Lambert and Gov. Greg Abbott, cheering the coming of Great Lakes Cheese to Abilene from Austin.

Everyone wanted to say cheese with that good news for Abilene.

So, who would seek the senator’s seat that will open?

Lambert might consider a run, though that didn’t turn out well for his predecessor, King.

How about Mayor Anthony Williams, who has been increasingly cozy with Republicans? It seems a bigger run for office is ahead for the two-term mayor - but which office?

Michael Bob Starr, who ended his Air Force career early to run, unsuccessfully, for Congress? His options are open.

What we need is a viable candidate from this area. Redistricting likely will alter representation, and with population declining in much of the western half of the state, the numbers stack against our area. We need a senator from our necks of the mesquites.

Buckingham lives near Austin and Perry is from Lubbock, as is our congressman, Jodey Arrington. Our central area of the state has been without local representation for years.

During the pandemic, “local control” was championed. We have a chance to do something about that, starting with District 24.

___

Austin American-Statesman. June 10, 2021.

Editorial: Public health becomes an afterthought in ‘vaccine passports’ ban

As he dropped the state’s mask mandate and other COVID-19 restrictions in March, Gov. Greg Abbott emphasized that business owners could still set their own standards to keep employees and customers safe.

“If businesses want to limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols, they have the right to do so,” Abbott told a crowd March 2 at a Lubbock restaurant that, as it happens, decided to keep its mask policy and socially-distanced seating plan in place a bit longer. “It is their business and they get to choose to operate their business the way they want to.”

Or not.

This week the governor signed a law banning so-called vaccine passports. The measure prohibits Texas businesses from asking customers for proof of vaccination before offering them services. Violators would be cut off from state grants or contracts and could have their state permits or licenses revoked.

The ban is a bumper-sticker solution to a complex problem. It could prevent businesses from developing common-sense safety measures based on a customer’s vaccination status — for instance, allowing people entering a concert hall or sports arena to skip a temperature check if they show proof of vaccination, or allowing hair or nail salons to schedule unvaccinated clients at staggered times or with special safeguards.

Only a third of Texans have been fully vaccinated. But the vaccine passport ban leaves businesses unable to differentiate: They must treat all customers as if they are vaccinated, or pile on the precautions as if no one is, even though their client base is a mix of people posing different levels of risk.

It is foolish to foist this level of uncertainty on businesses, especially at a time when businesses are trying to show potential employees and customers that it is safe to come back. Instead, Abbott simply wishes it to be so: “Texans should have the freedom to go where they want without any limits, restrictions, or requirements,” he declared this week.

This pandemic involves a highly contagious virus that has killed more than 50,000 Texans. Barring businesses from asking customers about vaccination status reinforces a misleading narrative that COVID-19 precautions are a matter of individual choice and not public health. In reality, our choices affect everyone around us, and the actions of a stranger can infect someone we love.

The question over vaccine passports has become a hot-button issue, especially in right-wing media, but it deserves a fair and nuanced discussion. An April poll by the Texas Politics Project shows Texans are evenly split on the issue, with 41% favoring and 42% opposing the idea. But a national Gallup poll shows the support depends on the activity: Clear majorities said proof of vaccination should be required for airline travel (57%) or attending large events, such as concerts or sports events (55%). Fewer people said proof of vaccination should be required for returning to work (45%), staying in a hotel (44%) or dining indoors at a restaurant (40%). Americans recognize the risks vary by situation, and the policies should, too.

People rightly value their health privacy, and all Texans have the freedom to choose whether to take the coronavirus vaccine. Freedom of choice should not mean freedom from consequences, however. People who decline to get vaccinated pose a higher risk to others in crowds or other close settings. Businesses should have the information needed to safely accommodate them — or, in some circumstances, may find they can’t safely serve them at all.

Banning vaccine passports throws those considerations out the window. Freedom of choice becomes freedom from any responsibility for that decision, freedom from any duty to consider the safety of others.

The tension between individual and community interests has been a defining theme of this pandemic. In too many cases in Texas there has been no balance at all, just sweeping mandates that prevent local communities or individual businesses from tailoring the proper response. Abbott and other leaders have made decisions as a matter of politics, not public health. And there is a cost to that mindset: Two studies recently cited by The Atlantic found higher rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths in “strongly individualistic countries” like the U.S.

Recognizing that growing numbers of vaccinated Texans are helping the state inch toward normalcy, Texas leaders could have allowed businesses to use customers’ vaccine status to more safely serve them. Instead they opted for a ban, keeping businesses in the dark, leaving Texans to shoulder all of the risk.

___

Houston Chronicle. June 13, 2021.

Editorial: Abbott’s Texas border wall gimmick isn’t tough. It’s trite

Gov. Greg Abbott is a man with a plan. Responding to an influx of undocumented men, women and children trying to reach the United States through Texas, our opportunistic governor announced last week that he will build — stop us if you’ve heard this one — a great border wall!

Waves of the desperate will simply smash into its base like flotsam washed up at the foot of Galveston’s wall against the mighty sea. What a vision. What a lack thereof.

And there’s more.

Any border intruder who manages to squeeze past Abbott’s Wall will be met with massive force. The Texas National Guard, local law enforcement, the Texas Rangers and the Department of Public Safety, presumably working in conjunction with the U.S. Border Patrol, will round them up like maverick cattle; they’ll be corralled in Texas jails before being shipped back from whence they came.

For border scofflaws tempted to try again, the sound of a locked jail door will be a grim Pavlovian reminder that you don’t mess with Texas.

“We don’t want just to arrest somebody to have them released,” Abbott said last week, lapsing into his tough-Texan voice. “We want to arrest somebody and have them prosecuted, to be put in jail, to stay in jail — to create an environment where people will choose they don’t want to come across the border into the state of Texas anymore, because it’s not what they were expecting, it’s not the red carpet that the federal administration rolled out for them. They are going to jail in the state of Texas.”

The fact that Abbott has even less chance of halting the flow of asylum seekers than did his bloviating, wall-building idol during four years of White House ineptitude, matters not. Nor does the dubious legal justification for using state resources and taxpayer dollars to enforce federal immigration law. For Abbott, actually dealing with a national dilemma is of secondary importance.

The more immediate concern is a potential challenge from the rightist fringes next year by former state Sen. Don Huffines, a Dallas Republican who, if elected governor, has promised to finish President Donald Trump’s border-wall construction in Texas.

“We will completely shut down the border until the crisis is solved and eliminate all taxpayer-funded subsidies to illegal aliens,” Huffines said, lapsing into his own tough-Texan tweet mode. “I am not afraid to take on the federal government.”

Nor is he afraid to steal a perfectly good campaign gimmick that has proven effective for at least one long-shot candidate in recent memory. Any day now, Abbott will announce that the Texas Wall will be beautiful and that Mexico will pay for it.

Abbott, who boasts a massive war chest and Trump’s own endorsement, apparently still fears he’ll become flotsam himself if he doesn’t respond to Huffines..

Abbott’s border wall pronouncement — he promised details in a few days — is cynical, short-sighted, and irresistibly simple for people to understand.

In other words, it’s the exact opposite of Vice President Kamala Harris’ approach in visiting Guatemala and Mexico as part of the Biden administration’s effort to craft pragmatic and humane border-security policy that addresses the root causes of migration and not just the current symptoms. “Do not come,” she admonished would-be asylum-seekers.

The admonition — for which Harris received her own admonition from the leftist fringes who claimed she was insensitive — was stark, sensible and desperately needed at a time when smugglers are exploiting confusion about the new president’s policies and spreading misinformation that America is encouraging migration.

The truth is that, after decades of inchoate border policy and four years of Trumpian chaos and cruelty, this nation is poorly equipped at the moment to handle huge waves of asylum-seekers or others seeking entry. It’s a problem that can’t be resolved immediately, with or without a wall.

There’s no denying that we have border problems. Arrests at the border have increased since President Joe Biden took office. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported roughly 180,000 encounters with persons crossing the Southwest border illegally in May, the highest monthly total yet.

Numbers are decreasing for migrant teenagers, for children crossing without parents and for family groups, while numbers for single adult migrants are increasing, with more than 121,000 apprehended last month. Most get “expelled” to Mexico, and many try again, numerous times. Nearly 40 percent of those apprehended in May had already been stopped by border officials at least once before in the past 12 months. With our immigration system so backed up, many crossing the border no longer fear legal consequences or jail time if they are caught. A growing number are arriving from nations outside Central America and Mexico.

Harris’ visit was an acknowledgment that helping improve conditions in Central America is a key component of any serious immigration reform and border security effort.

As Rice University political scientist and Latin American studies chair Mark Jones pointed out in a 2018 Chronicle op-ed, the U.S. has to acknowledge a modicum of responsibility for the deplorable conditions forcing citizens to flee from Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala.

After all, America’s sordid interventions over the past 75 years, including our propping up of dictators and toppling of democratically elected leaders, contributed mightily to the modern-day mess.

Simply as a matter of self-interest (not to mention any humanitarian impulse we might feel), we should help fix the plague of gang violence, government corruption and ineptitude, and lack of economic opportunity in those countries.

“Even if one believes we owe these countries nothing, the only realistic way to significantly reduce the flow of unauthorized Central American migrants is to improve conditions in their homelands,” Jones wrote.

No sensible American wants open borders. No sensible American wants thousands of desperate men, women and children showing up at our door after long, dangerous treks across Mexico atop railroad boxcars. No one we know wants vicious cartels smuggling illegal drugs into this country or merciless traffickers transporting human beings.

We presume that what most Americans want is a safe, secure border combined with immigration policies that are reasonable and fair. Working with Mexico and Central American nations is an integral part of a multi-pronged approach toward that end.

Abbott announced last week he’ll be working with Arizona. He said he had signed an interstate compact with that state’s Gov. Doug Ducey, a fellow Republican, to resolve the border crisis, and he called on other states to do the same. The results will be negligible.

The governor ought to be signing some sort of “compact” with the United States Congress and the White House, agreeing to participate in a bipartisan effort directed toward resolving our long-term immigration and border security issues. He ought to lay down the border wall trowel and take on a truly tough construction task: comprehensive immigration reform.

It’s tough, we realize, for a Republican still clinging for dear career to Trump’s wayward coattails to consider bipartisan cooperation, but in the spirit of his fellow Texans — Sam Houston, Audie Murphy and Barbara Jordan come to mind — the governor needs to remember that truly tough Texans facing a truly tough challenge don’t just talk big.

They don’t pander. They don’t pass off partisan shtick for smart policy. They grab the challenge by the horns. In short, they don’t follow; they lead.

___

Dallas Morning News. June 13, 2021.

Editorial: Dude Perfect partnership hits the bull’s-eye. Frisco trick shot masters using their influence for good

Dude Perfect, the Frisco-based trick shot empire, may be the epitome of internet culture banality, but now the group is using its power for good. We applaud it.

If you’re not a preteen or the parent of one, you may not be familiar with the five young men who have built YouTube’s top sports channel, with 56 million subscribers, by producing viral videos of impossibly difficult trick shots involving everything from basketballs to nerf guns. Dude Perfect’s channel is one of those internet rabbit holes that can entertain for hours on end.

Last month, Dude Perfect announced that it is partnering with iD Tech, a STEM education program that offers summer tech camps for kids. The courses will teach video editing, video effects and video game design. The first class is free and open to kids and their parents. It starts Monday.

Dude Perfect has built a sizable following, making appearances with dozens of the world’s most famous athletes and celebrities from Aaron Rodgers to Zac Efron. But so far the group has not gained notoriety for any cause beyond goofing off. We’re glad they’re taking this step to point their 56 million followers toward education.

“We have this platform, and we’re always thinking of the best ways to use it,” Dude Perfect member Coby Cotton told us in an email. “What we liked about this opportunity in particular is that with iD Tech, we are able to offer $150,000 worth of iD Tech virtual tech camp scholarships to underserved youth in the Dallas-Fort Worth area specifically. Our hope is that we can inspire kids at young ages to get creative, learn how to make videos and provide them with all the tools they need to get started.”

It’s hard not to love this group of five good friends who seem to always be having a good time and who celebrate wildly when a shot goes in. For their efforts not just to entertain but also to be a positive influence for millions of young people, we celebrate with them.

END