Mike Kueber's Blog

April 16, 2014

Dan Patrick and Julian Castro debate illegal immigration

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 6:04 pm
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Last night, Dan Patrick and Julian Castro debated illegal immigration. According to most of the pundits and experts, they debated to a draw or a slight Castro victory. I disagree, and told them so.

Local blogger Greg Brockhouse posted a lengthy analysis in his blog, and I commented as follows to his blogpost:

  • Greg, I disagree with your ‘fair and impartial’ statement that Castro won the debate. To the contrary, Patrick staked out a winning position on illegal immigration – i.e., he is not in favor of deporting the 11 million illegal immigrants, but he is also not in favor of granting them citizenship or continuing magnets for future illegal immigration. By contrast, Castro staked out a losing position – i.e., a path to citizenship and continuing the magnets. Also, I don’t know how you conclude that LVP is the Dem with the winnable statewide race. She is just another in the long line of amazingly weak candidates the Dems have placed near the top of their ticket, and her numbers reflect that. Just because SA wags and pundits may know her personally, that doesn’t provide her with statewide gravitas. Although Castro had a plethora of cringe-inducing, smarmy moments, my favorite was when he boasted that Patrick would be unable to handle LVP if he couldn’t even handle Castro. I suspect Castro thought he was being generous to LVP, but instead he revealed his smug arrogance.

Local TPR journalist David Martin Davies published a summary of the debate on Texas Public Radio website, and I commented as follows:

  • I haven’t followed Patrick until last night, so I don’t know if his position against deporting (or self-deporting) 11 million illegal immigrants is new, but it certainly takes some wind out of the sails of Dems on this issue. In its place, the Dems are left to argue in favor of amnesty and magnets like sanctuary cities.

And finally, Gilbert Garcia wrote about the debate in his column in the Express-News titled, “Castro’s boldness made Patrick cautious.” In response to the column, I suggested as follows:

  • I thought both guys defended their positions well and I would be amazed if either converted a single voter. But Patrick probably benefited most by ameliorating the common perception of him as a radical.”

I have previously written that the Castro brothers are not ready for primetime.  Based on last night’s performance, I believe Julian remains unready, but Dan Patrick surely is.  We have not heard the last of him.

 

September 16, 2013

Raised by a single mother

Filed under: Media,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:52 am
Tags: ,

 

An article in the San Antonio Express-News this Sunday described the city’s mayor, Julian Castro, as being raised by a “single mother.”  Usually, the term is used when a journalist is attempting to describe a Horatio Alger story – i.e., rags to riches, and that is clearly the case here:

  • Castro said he was speaking from experience. He and his twin brother, a Democratic representative from San Antonio, were accepted to Stanford University in April 1992. The cost for one of them to attend exceeded their single mother’s entire annual salary.”

According to Wikipedia, a single parent is “a parent, not living with a spouse or partner, who has most of the day-to-day responsibilities in raising the child or children. A single parent is usually considered the primary caregiver, meaning the parent the children have residency with the majority of the time.”  Thus, the use of the term, as applied to Julian Castro, is technically accurate, at least after his father moved out of their house when Julian was eight years old.

But I suspect that a majority of Americans apply a different definition to “single parent.”  As reflected by a discussion on Yahoo, many Americans think the term “single parent” means that the child doesn’t have two parents involved in their lives, either physically or financially:

  • “I think the term ‘single mother’ invokes sympathy and compassion – as it should. But if you choose to become a single mother, and you are only a 50% single mother – I don’t think you should get the same empathy as someone who is single mom 100%. The struggle is clearly different.”

Based on what I have read about the Castro twins, there were not raised by a single mother, as most people understand the term.  Applying the term to Castro is merely a modern-day version of the legend of Abe Lincoln growing up in a log cabin, and because the Express-News is often merely an extension of the Castro PR machinery, I’m not surprised that it helps spread the legend.

 

February 22, 2013

Disenfranchising Northside voters by Castro’s City Council

Filed under: Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:13 pm
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For the past couple of years, there has been a loud political battle over Voter ID laws, both in Texas and across America.  Republicans claim that a requirement for voters to provide a photo ID is a reasonable precaution against voter fraud.  Democrats counter that there is scant evidence of a voter-fraud problem and that the actual intent of Voter ID laws is to disenfranchise Democrats (and minorities), who are more likely to not have a photo ID.  Regardless of who is right, there is no question that any disenfranchisement related to Voter ID laws is miniscule compared to disenfranchisement of San Antonio’s diverse North and Northwest sides by San Antonio’s version of Tammany Hall, the Hispanic-dominated political machine of the East, South, and West sides headed by Julian Castro.  

According to the 2010 U.S. census, San Antonio’s diverse North and Northwest sides (Districts 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10, whose populations are between 21% and 56% non-Hispanic Anglo) had about 741,000 residents while the Hispanic-dominated East, South, and West sides (Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, whose populations are between 3.98% and 19.81% non-Hispanic Anglo) had about 585,000 residents.  Yet each area had five councilpersons.  What a travesty of the one-person, one-vote principle!  The extra 156,000 voters in the North and Northwest sides were essentially denied representation.  My District 8 in 2010 had 50% more residents (159,578) than District 5 (106,608) had, yet each had one councilperson.

Fortunately, this sort of travesty is supposed to end with a redistricting following each census.  San Antonio’s 2010 population of 1,326,721 means that each council district should have 132,672 residents.  (Although congressional redistricting requires that each district have almost exactly the same number of residents, cities are allowed by law to have a deviation of +5% or –5%.)  That sort of flexibility might make sense in the hands of a wise City Council, which could use the flexibility to create compact districts with communities of shared interest and easily identifiable geographic boundaries.  But this flexibility makes no sense when the Castro Council uses it to continue its outrageous disenfranchisement of the North and Northwest sides by massively diluting our votes. 

With the average council district supposed to have 132,672 residents, the heavy-handed Castro Council decided to re-populate Districts 1-5 with between 126,616 residents and 129,002, while Districts 6-10 will have between 134,410 and 139,227.  Thus, Districts 1-5 will have about 636,000 residents while District 6-10s will have about 691,000.  The difference between the most and least populated districts after redistricting is 9.8%, the most possible without breaking the law.  

Perhaps those of us who live in northern San Antonio should be happy that, instead of the 156,000 North and Northwest side residents disenfranchised in 2011, we will only have 55,000 disenfranchised in 2013.  Of course, that is based on the 2010 Census.  Everyone knows that all of San Antonio’s population growth continues in the North and Northwest sides and that the 2020 census will reveal a repeated travesty of the one-person, one-vote principle. 

A wise City Council would have set the populations for Districts 6-10 as slightly lower than Districts 1-5, knowing that population growth would reverse that status by 2020.  (Population growth in San Antonio has been to the North and Northwest for several decades.)  But apparently, we don’t have a wise City Council.  Instead we have a City Council where the Castro machine runs roughshod over the non-Hispanics on the North and Northwest sides.

When I called my councilperson Reed Williams to complain about this inequitable treatment of his district, he responded that there was not much he could do because “they have the votes.”  Well, that’s not what civil-rights advocates said in the early 60s when their voting rights were trampled on.  Instead of turning the other cheek, Williams should be raising hell on behalf of his constituents.    

Further evidence of this bigotry by the Castro Council was recently revealed when it adopted what the Express-News called “a race-conscious approach to awarding contracts put out for bid.”  Apparently, the city’s race-neutral program had resulted in too few contracts going to minorities and women.  Because there was no evidence of discrimination, the Council’s action revealed that it was more interested in equal results than in equal opportunity.  Under its new program, every bidder except white males will receive preferences.

Further evidence of Castro’s prejudice against the North and Northwest sides – in a column last month, Express-News columnist Brian Chasnoff wrote that Castro admitted to him that an employer-incentive package was especially generous because the employer was locating on the South Side – “Are we doing a little more because it’s a South Side investment? Sure,” Castro said.  Why should the creation of jobs on the South Side be more valuable to San Antonio’s mayor than the creation of jobs on the North Side?   

I just finished watching the John Adams miniseries, so I’m especially sensitive to the issue of taxation without representation, and the supercilious attitude of Castro’s Council evokes a similar feeling.  Like the colonies, we are being treated by the crown as its personal ATM machine.  So, the next time you hear about the Republican Party trying to disenfranchise a few voters who don’t have photo IDs, tell them that the Republicans are small-time amateurs compared to the big-time professionals on Castro’s City Council.

The following is District populations before and after redistricting:

District            Before             After

1                      112,466           126,616

2                      123,727           129,002

3                      118,848           127,207

4                      123,256           126,702

5                      106,608           126,228

6                      152,661           134,410

7                      137,292           139,081

8                      159,578           139,169

9                      159,189           139,227

10                    133,096           139,079

http://www.sanantonio.gov/clerk/ReDistricting/index.aspx

 

 

 

January 10, 2013

Corporate incentives gone awry in San Antonio

Filed under: Issues,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 9:51 pm
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In preparation for running for the San Antonio City Council, I started drafting some talking points or brief position papers.  Among the first issues that came to mind are (a) limited government (Pre-K 4 SA), (b) transportation, (c) development of downtown, (d) employee pension reform, (e) sanctuary city, (f) corporate incentives, and (g) water. 

Regarding (c) and (f), I drafted the following:

  • Development of downtown.  A vibrant downtown is important to the future of San Antonio, but the city should not try to impose its will on the free market.  Modest encouragement of downtown development is appropriate, but the city should not try to manufacture an unnatural demand.
  • Corporate incentives.  Although public entities in Texas have been criticized for giving too generous incentives for employers to re-locate, I support such incentives provided their cost to our taxpayers does not exceed their benefit to the city.

An article in today’s local newspaper reported on a controversial matter that hits on both of the aforementioned issues.  According to the article, the San Antonio City Council has approved a wide-ranging collection of corporate incentives (a ten-year tax abatement, a $400k grant, and $500k of free water) for a solar-panel manufacturer to build a facility on the South Side.  In addition to those incentives, however, the city has included a $12 million discount for some city property, and the city’s three Northside councilmen have objected to this as too generous.  Mayor Castro’s response:

  • Are we doing a little more because it’s a South Side investment? Sure,” Castro said Wednesday. “We want to create momentum there in a traditionally economically depressed area.”

So it appears that my talking point about the development of downtown is too narrow.  Yes, the mayor wants the Northside, at its expense, to encourage the development of downtown, but he also wants the Northside to encourage the development of other parts of San Antonio at the expense of the Northside.  This is clearly an effort for the city to impose its will on the free market.  Modest encouragement of downtown development is appropriate, but the city should not be favoring one part of town over the other for the placement of jobs. 

In the long run, distorting the market will prevent San Antonio businesses and San Antonio itself from being competitive.   

Incidentally, the city of San Antonio would not be bribing the solar-panel manufacturer with millions of dollars to locate on the South Side if CPS hadn’t given the manufacturer the option to locate anywhere in the CPS territory.  By granting this option, CPS incompetently gave the manufacturer the ability to play several small municipalities and San Antonio against each other.  Let’s hope our public servants learn from this multi-million dollar mistake.

September 7, 2012

Thoughts on President Obama’s speech at the Democratic convention

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 5:05 am
Tags: ,

  As I listened to President Obama’s speech, I compared it to Mayor Castro’s and concluded that they shared a desire for government to create more opportunity for advancement.  But then I realized that they were making another one of their typical “straw man” arguments – i.e., attacking a position that no one else is defending.  Neither Mitt Romney nor the Republican Party opposes the creation of more opportunity, the question is how do you do that.  As Brit Hume later noted, Obama applied the same rhetorical device when he falsely stated that Republicans wanted government to (a) do virtually nothing, and (b) turn Social Security over to Wall Street.  Republicans are not saying that.   

President Obama has been known to plagiarize from MA senate candidate Elizabeth Warren in the past – i.e., she first used the “you didn’t build that” line – and he did it again tonight.  Last night, Warren repeatedly talked in favor of a “level playing field” and against a “rigged game.”  Tonight, Obama talked about “… the heart of America’s story: the promise that hard work will pay off; that responsibility will be rewarded; that everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules – from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, DC.”

Probably the most interesting paragraph in President Obama’s speech was the following:

  • We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules. We don’t think government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems – any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.”

The paragraph begins with conservative thoughts, and then shifts radically liberal with another straw-man argument.  Who wants bailouts for banks that break the rules?  If the banks broke the rules, then the Obama administration should be prosecuting them.  Furthermore, why is the GM bailout something to crow about while the bank bailout is a pox?  As with the Castro speech, the Obama speech contains statements that make no sense on paper, but sound good in a convention hall. 

And finally, President Obama apparently learned his lesson about the brouhaha over the absence of God from the Democratic platform.  To avoid a similar criticism with this speech, Obama refers at different times to Providence, God, and the Creator.

At the beginning of his speech, President Obama declared that this election “will be a choice between two different paths for America; a choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.”  As the speech progressed, Obama made it clear that his vision was for higher taxes and a bigger government that was more proactive in creating opportunity, and he suggested that Mitt Romney and the Republicans envisioned lower taxes and smaller government.

In the realm of political speeches, that is a pretty accurate description of the choice facing America.

 

September 6, 2012

Musings on Mayor Castro’s keynote address

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:22 pm
Tags: , ,

While on a bike ride yesterday, I reflected on Julian Castro’s keynote address to the Democratic National Convention.  Most of my local Facebook friends had posted effusive comments, and many local politicos were similarly gushy.  The erstwhile editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Robert Rivard, blogged such fulsome praise that I felt compelled to tell him that his comments reminded me of TV personality Chris Matthews admitting in 2008 that he “felt this thrill going up my leg” during a speech by candidate Obama.  For a more balanced analysis of Mayor Castro’s keynoter, I commend you to Ryan Lizza’s blog in The New Yorker.  His conclusion – “It was a fine speech, but at least for me, a fairly forgettable one.” 

During my bike ride, I realized that I didn’t know what Castro and his ilk stood for.  Surely they must be proposing something more than Robin Hood – i.e., take from the rich and give to the poor.  So to learn what the new wave of Democrats stand for, I decided to look at the text of the Castro speech and see what it says.  I found the following:

  • Our ancestors built this land of opportunity, where great family journeys can be achieved in three generations, or sometimes in even a single generation.  “The roads and bridges they built, the schools and universities they created, the rights they fought for and won — these opened the doors to a decent job, a secure retirement, the chance for your children to do better than you did.”  [This statement doesn’t make much sense, but it sounds good.  And it ostensibly responds to the “you didn’t built that” brouhaha.]
  • A large middle class is the bedrock of America.  “With hard work, everybody ought to be able to get there. And with hard work, everybody ought to be able to stay there — and go beyond.”  [We can all agree on that.]
  • Although we expect individuals to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, “we also recognize there are some things we can’t do alone. We have to come together and invest in opportunity today for prosperity tomorrow.  And it starts with education.”  [So far, Castro is only talking about the state and local infrastructure.  What does that have to do with President Obama and the federal government?]
  • San Antonio under Mayor Castro is doing great things with respect to educational opportunity.  “In my city of San Antonio, we get that….  We know that you can’t be pro-business unless you’re pro-education.  We’re investing in our young minds today to be competitive in the global economy tomorrow.  And it’s paying off.  Last year the Milken Institute ranked San Antonio as the nation’s top performing local economy. And we’re only getting started.  Opportunity today, prosperity tomorrow.”  [Talk about taking credit for something you had nothing to do with.  It is ludicrous to suggest that Castro’s education initiatives, some of which are still in the proposal stage, have anything to do with the Milken ranking.  But it sounded good in the speech.]
  • Republicans are fat cats who don’t understand that opportunity in America is no longer readily available to the disadvantaged.  “Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn’t get it. A few months ago he visited a university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial advice. ‘Start a business,’ he said. But how? ‘Borrow money if you have to from your parents,’ he told them. Gee, why didn’t I think of that?”  [Although Castro previously bragged about his grandmother and mother working to lay a foundation for him and his twin brother, he ridicules Mitt Romney for suggesting to college kids that they look to their parents for help.  That doesn’t make sense.]
  • Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will eviscerate America’s middle class.  “The Romney-Ryan budget doesn’t just cut public education, cut Medicare, cut transportation and cut job training.  It doesn’t just pummel the middle class — it dismantles it. It dismantles what generations before have built to ensure that everybody can enter and stay in the middle class. When it comes to getting the middle class back to work, Mitt Romney says, ‘No.’ When it comes to respecting women’s rights, Mitt Romney says, ‘No.’ When it comes to letting people marry whomever they love, Mitt Romney says, ‘No.’ When it comes to expanding access to good health care, Mitt Romney says, ‘No.’” [What does access to abortion or same-sex marriage have to do with access to the middle class?  But it sounds good to hit the talking points.  When government subsidies are required to maintain a large middle class, our nation is in deep doodoo.]
  • Unless government tethers successful individuals to unsuccessful ones, the unsuccessful ones will be permanently left in the dust.  “Of all the fictions we heard last week in Tampa, the one I find most troubling is this: If we all just go our own way, our nation will be stronger for it. Because if we sever the threads that connect us, the only people who will go far are those who are already ahead. We all understand that freedom isn’t free. What Romney and Ryan don’t understand is that neither is opportunity. We have to invest in it…. Mitt Romney just doesn’t get it. But Barack Obama gets it. He understands that when we invest in people we’re investing in our shared prosperity. And when we neglect that responsibility, we risk our promise as a nation.”  [This fundamental tenet is the crux of the matter – Castro believes that government has to create opportunity.]

This last dot point reveals the inconsistency in Castro’s message.  He doesn’t believe that individuals should be allowed to “just go our own way.”  Although he gives lip service to the “rugged individual” in Texas who believes in pulling himself up by his bootstraps, Castro is more concerned that successful individuals don’t leave the unsuccessful ones behind. 

If there was any doubt about whether Castro’s sentiments were Democratic orthodoxy, that doubt was removed by the next speaker, Michelle Obama:

  • Like so many American families, our families weren’t asking for much.  They didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success or care that others had much more than they did … in fact, they admired it….  Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it….  And he believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity … you do not slam it shut behind you…you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”

When I first read the Michelle Obama quotation circulating on Facebook, I responded that reaching back and helping others is admirable, but it is something that should be done voluntarily, not at the point of a government bayonet.

Last night, I was unable to watch the convention because of the Cowboys-Giants game, but this morning’s new reports indicate that party’s wonderkind Elizabeth Warren repeated the same message in her speech – apparently using the phrases “the system is rigged” three times and “we just want an even playing field” five times.

I wonder if Mayor Castro thinks the system that admitted him, a kid with two college-educated parents, into Stanford University with substandard qualifications was an even playing field or a rigged system.   

As Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne observed, Bill Clinton closed the evening by “crisply” distinguishing the two parties:

  • He cast the philosophical differences between the parties just as crisply. Republicans, he said, believe in a “winner-take-all, you’re-on-your-own society,” while Democrats seek “a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibility — a we’re-all-in-this-together society.”

Although Clinton’s phrasing is obviously skewed in favor of the Democrats, I think both parties would accept those general tenets.  Republicans see America, ideally, as a place where individuals have opportunities and responsibilities, while Democrats see America, ideally, as a mass of people moving collectively.

Capitalism vs. socialism – take your pick. 

Text of Mayor Castro’s speech

My fellow Democrats, my fellow Texans, my fellow Americans: I stand before you tonight as a young American, a proud American, of a generation born as the Cold War receded, shaped by the tragedy of 9/11, connected by the digital revolution and determined to re-elect the man who will make the 21st century another American century — President Barack Obama.

The unlikely journey that brought me here tonight began many miles from this podium. My brother Joaquin and I grew up with my mother Rosie and my grandmother Victoria. My grandmother was an orphan. As a young girl, she had to leave her home in Mexico and move to San Antonio, where some relatives had agreed to take her in. She never made it past the fourth grade. She had to drop out and start working to help her family. My grandmother spent her whole life working as a maid, a cook and a babysitter, barely scraping by, but still working hard to give my mother, her only child, a chance in life, so that my mother could give my brother and me an even better one.

As my grandmother got older, she begged my mother to give her grandchildren. She prayed to God for just one grandbaby before she died. You can imagine her excitement when she found out her prayers would be answered — twice over. She was so excited that the day before Joaquin and I were born she entered a menudo cook-off, and she won $300! That’s how she paid our hospital bill.

By the time my brother and I came along, this incredible woman had taught herself to read and write in both Spanish and English. I can still see her in the room that Joaquin and I shared with her, reading her Agatha Christie novels late into the night. And I can still remember her, every morning as Joaquin and I walked out the door to school, making the sign of the cross behind us, saying, “Que dios los bendiga.” “May God bless you.”

My grandmother didn’t live to see us begin our lives in public service. But she probably would have thought it extraordinary that just two generations after she arrived in San Antonio, one grandson would be the mayor and the other would be on his way — the good people of San Antonio willing — to the United States Congress.

My family’s story isn’t special. What’s special is the America that makes our story possible. Ours is a nation like no other, a place where great journeys can be made in a single generation. No matter who you are or where you come from, the path is always forward.

America didn’t become the land of opportunity by accident. My grandmother’s generation and generations before always saw beyond the horizons of their own lives and their own circumstances. They believed that opportunity created today would lead to prosperity tomorrow. That’s the country they envisioned, and that’s the country they helped build. The roads and bridges they built, the schools and universities they created, the rights they fought for and won — these opened the doors to a decent job, a secure retirement, the chance for your children to do better than you did.

And that’s the middle class– the engine of our economic growth. With hard work, everybody ought to be able to get there. And with hard work, everybody ought to be able to stay there — and go beyond. The dream of raising a family in a place where hard work is rewarded is not unique to Americans. It’s a human dream, one that calls across oceans and borders. The dream is universal, but America makes it possible. And our investment in opportunity makes it a reality.

Now, in Texas, we believe in the rugged individual. Texas may be the one place where people actually still have bootstraps, and we expect folks to pull themselves up by them. But we also recognize there are some things we can’t do alone. We have to come together and invest in opportunity today for prosperity tomorrow.

 And it starts with education. Twenty years ago, Joaquin and I left home for college and then for law school. In those classrooms, we met some of the brightest folks in the world. But at the end of our days there, I couldn’t help but to think back to my classmates at Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio. They had the same talent, the same brains, the same dreams as the folks we sat with at Stanford and Harvard. I realized the difference wasn’t one of intelligence or drive. The difference was opportunity.

In my city of San Antonio, we get that. So we’re working to ensure that more four-year-olds have access to pre-K. We opened Cafe College, where students get help with everything from test prep to financial aid paperwork. We know that you can’t be pro-business unless you’re pro-education. We know that pre-K and student loans aren’t charity. They’re a smart investment in a workforce that can fill and create the jobs of tomorrow. We’re investing in our young minds today to be competitive in the global economy tomorrow.

And it’s paying off. Last year the Milken Institute ranked San Antonio as the nation’s top performing local economy. And we’re only getting started. Opportunity today, prosperity tomorrow.

Now, like many of you, I watched last week’s Republican convention. They told a few stories of individual success. We all celebrate individual success. But the question is, how do we multiply that success? The answer is President Barack Obama.

Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn’t get it. A few months ago he visited a university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial advice. “Start a business,” he said. But how? “Borrow money if you have to from your parents,” he told them. Gee, why didn’t I think of that? Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldn’t determine whether you can pursue your dreams. I don’t think Gov. Romney meant any harm. I think he’s a good guy. He just has no idea how good he’s had it.

 We know that in our free market economy some will prosper more than others. What we don’t accept is the idea that some folks won’t even get a chance. And the thing is, Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are perfectly comfortable with that America. In fact, that’s exactly what they’re promising us.

The Romney-Ryan budget doesn’t just cut public education, cut Medicare, cut transportation and cut job training.

It doesn’t just pummel the middle class — it dismantles it. It dismantles what generations before have built to ensure that everybody can enter and stay in the middle class. When it comes to getting the middle class back to work, Mitt Romney says, “No.” When it comes to respecting women’s rights, Mitt Romney says, “No.” When it comes to letting people marry whomever they love, Mitt Romney says, “No.” When it comes to expanding access to good health care, Mitt Romney says, “No.”

Actually, Mitt Romney said, “Yes,” and now he says, “No.” Gov. Romney has undergone an extreme makeover, and it ain’t pretty. So here’s what we’re going to say to Mitt Romney. We’re going to say, “No.”

Of all the fictions we heard last week in Tampa, the one I find most troubling is this: If we all just go our own way, our nation will be stronger for it. Because if we sever the threads that connect us, the only people who will go far are those who are already ahead. We all understand that freedom isn’t free. What Romney and Ryan don’t understand is that neither is opportunity. We have to invest in it.

Republicans tell us that if the most prosperous among us do even better, that somehow the rest of us will too. Folks, we’ve heard that before. First they called it “trickle-down.” Then “supply-side.” Now it’s “Romney-Ryan.” Or is it “Ryan-Romney”? Either way, their theory has been tested. It failed. Our economy failed. The middle class paid the price. Your family paid the price.

Mitt Romney just doesn’t get it. But Barack Obama gets it. He understands that when we invest in people we’re investing in our shared prosperity. And when we neglect that responsibility, we risk our promise as a nation. Just a few years ago, families that had never asked for anything found themselves at risk of losing everything. And the dream my grandmother held, that work would be rewarded, that the middle class would be there, if not for her, then for her children — that dream was being crushed.

But then President Obama took office — and he took action. When Detroit was in trouble, President Obama saved the auto industry and saved a million jobs. Seven presidents before him — Democrats and Republicans — tried to expand health care to all Americans. President Obama got it done. He made a historic investment to lift our nation’s public schools and expanded Pell grants so that more young people can afford college. And because he knows that we don’t have an ounce of talent to waste, the president took action to lift the shadow of deportation from a generation of young, law-abiding immigrants called dreamers.

I believe in you. Barack Obama believes in you. Now it’s time for Congress to enshrine in law their right to pursue their dreams in the only place they’ve ever called home: America.

Four years ago, America stood on the brink of a depression. Despite incredible odds and united Republican opposition, our president took action, and now we’ve seen 4.5 million new jobs. He knows better than anyone that there’s more hard work to do, but we’re making progress. And now we need to make a choice.

It’s a choice between a country where the middle class pays more so that millionaires can pay less — or a country where everybody pays their fair share, so we can reduce the deficit and create the jobs of the future. It’s a choice between a nation that slashes funding for our schools and guts Pell grants — or a nation that invests more in education. It’s a choice between a politician who rewards companies that ship American jobs overseas — or a leader who brings jobs back home.

This is the choice before us. And to me, to my generation and for all the generations to come, our choice is clear. Our choice is a man who’s always chosen us. A man who already is our president: Barack Obama.

In the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay. Our families don’t always cross the finish line in the span of one generation. But each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor. My grandmother never owned a house. She cleaned other people’s houses so she could afford to rent her own. But she saw her daughter become the first in her family to graduate from college. And my mother fought hard for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone.

And while she may be proud of me tonight, I’ve got to tell you, mom, I’m even more proud of you.  Thank you, mom. Today, my beautiful wife Erica and I are the proud parents of a three-year-old little girl, Carina Victoria, named after my grandmother.

A couple of Mondays ago was her first day of pre-K. As we dropped her off, we walked out of the classroom, and I found myself whispering to her, as was once whispered to me, “Que dios te bendiga.” “May God bless you.” She’s still young, and her dreams are far off yet, but I hope she’ll reach them. As a dad, I’m going to do my part, and I know she’ll do hers. But our responsibility as a nation is to come together and do our part, as one community, one United States of America, to ensure opportunity for all of our children.

The days we live in are not easy ones, but we have seen days like this before, and America prevailed. With the wisdom of our founders and the values of our families, America prevailed. With each generation going further than the last, America prevailed. And with the opportunity we build today for a shared prosperity tomorrow, America will prevail.

It begins with re-electing Barack Obama. It begins with you. It begins now. Que dios los bendiga. May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

September 5, 2012

Brit Hume’s Destitution Derby and Julian Castro

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 3:25 pm
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Brit Hume is one of my favorite pundits.  I remember, as a high schooler, reading his column more than 40 years ago in the Grand Forks Herald.  Currently, he is an analyst for FOX News and can be counted on to consistently provide remarkable insights.  Though he is not as brilliant as FOX’s Charles Krauthammer, his punditry is certainly infused with more sardonic, wry humor.  As a regular guest on Bill O’Reilly’s The Factor show, Hume regularly deflates O’Reilly’s bombast. 

Last night at the Democratic convention, Hume discerned something that seems to have eluded all of the other pundits.  Like my parents’ generation, which bragged about walking through three miles of snow to get to school, the current crop of convention speakers seems to be competing for coming from the most destitute background. 

Hume’s comment was prompted by Michelle Obama bragging in her convention speech that President Obama had dumpster-dived for his favorite piece of furniture during their courtship and that his courting-car had rusted-out floorboards. 

President Obama’s destitution compares favorably to the preceding speech by keynoter Julian Castro, whose grandmother was an orphan who emigrated from Mexico as a young girl and “spent her whole life working as a maid, a cook and a babysitter, barely scraping by.”

Some bloggers have criticized Hume’s insight as a partisan slight, but this morning Hume responded that Republicans – e.g., Ann Romney – are just as guilty of this charge.  He might have added Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio to the Republican list of self-described Horatio Alger stories. 

Whether you call it a Destitution Derby or a Horatio Alger story, the evening’s storyline caused Julian Castro to emphasize his grandmother at the expense of his heretofore sainted mother, albeit college-educated, Rosie.  This could be a part of Castro’s long-term political strategy because radical Rosie, as suggested in a recent Breitbart column titled, “Julian Castro, A Radical Revealed,” could easily become a significant liability in a state that is more proudly patriotic than any other.     

Hume failed to note that Mayor Castro’s keynote speech contained a mammoth inconsistency.  On one hand, Castro said:    

  • In the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay. Our families don’t always cross the finish line in the span of one generation. But each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor. My grandmother never owned a house. She cleaned other people’s houses so she could afford to rent her own. But she saw her daughter become the first in her family to graduate from college. And my mother fought hard for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone.

One the other hand, he makes fun of Mitt Romney for suggesting that kids enlist the help of their parents:

  • Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn’t get it. A few months ago he visited a university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial advice. “Start a business,” he said. But how? “Borrow money if you have to from your parents,” he told them. Gee, why didn’t I think of that? Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldn’t determine whether you can pursue your dreams.

You can’t have it both ways.  Yes, government can help increase individual opportunity, but there is no substitute for having family support and we shouldn’t begrudge those who receive it.

p.s., Julian Castro’s speech revealed energy and charisma that I hadn’t previously perceived in the man.

August 26, 2012

San Antonio’s keynoter receives some hometown treatment from the Express-News

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:21 pm
Tags: ,

As he prepares to give the keynote address at the Democratic convention in a couple of weeks, San Antonio’s mayor Julian Castro is the subject of a lengthy profile in today’s San Antonio Express-News.  The profile involved such extensive reporting that the Express-News assigned two bigtime reporters to it – Gary Martin and Josh Baugh (hereinafter M&B), with contributions from John Gonzalez.  Unfortunately, M&B decide to write a puff piece instead of doing any real reporting. 

Some pundits have described Julian Castro as Obama-lite, and this article reveals a disturbing tendency of fawning media to fail in their responsibility to vet our public figures, as they did with President Obama. The following is a list of information that we learned in the piece as compared to what M&B failed to report.

  1. M&B tell us that Julian Castro’s dad lived with Julian’s mom, Rosie, until the twins were eight years old and always remained in their lives.  In addition to neglecting to tell us Dad’s name, M&B failed to tell us why the twins’ “activist” parents declined to get married.
  2. M&B tell us that the twins attended Stanford University as undergraduates.  Julian has previously admitted that he gained admission to Stanford based on affirmative action and has argued that his success is evidence that affirmative action works.  M&B should have asked Julian if he knows what happened to the better qualified individual whose place in Stanford he took.  Furthermore, if affirmative action is designed to help the disadvantaged, does Julian think that he and Joaquin, as the sons of two college-educated activists, were disadvantaged individuals entitled to admission preferences.
  3. M&B tell us that the twins’ mom Rosie, was “a leader in the La Raza Unida Party, who they ubiquitously point to as the foundation of their success.”  This issue reminds me of President Obama’s connection to Reverend Jeremiah Wright, of whom then-candidate Obama said, “I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother,” before disowning him.  M&B should have asked Julian whether he shares his mother’s well-known views about the disgraceful quality of the men who defended the Alamo.
  4. M&B tell us that Julian was raising funds for a City Council campaign even before he had graduated from law school, which qualifies him as a career politician.  M&B should have asked Julian how a poor kid like himself has been able to sustain himself on low-paying, full-time political jobs.  There are rumors that he received a windfall from some legal settlement; detail, please?

 As an optimist, I believe many Americans have learned a hard lesson in electing Barack Obama as president, and they won’t repeat the same mistake.  Let’s hope the media has also learned a lesson in its failure to vet Barack Obama and won’t repeat the mistake with Julian Castro.

 

 

July 31, 2012

Mayor Julian Castro in Primetime

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 11:07 pm
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The Democratic Party announced today that San Antonio mayor Julian Castro would be their convention keynote speaker, and the internet is full of stories introducing him to America.  I have blogged my city’s mayor for a couple of years, including the following entries:

  1. My analysis, titled “The Next Great Hispanic Hope,” of an in-depth profile on Castro in the New York Times Magazine. 
  2. My criticism, titled “Julian Castro and San Antonio’s Not Ready For Primetime Players,” of the City Council’s motion to condemn the Arizona immigration law. 
  3. My report, titled “Immigration and the State Bar of Texas,” on a talk on illegal immigration that Castro gave to a small group at the State Bar Convention. 

Politico.com put out a photo gallery today with “10 key facts about Julian Castro.”   One of those facts is that he has an identical twin brother, Joaquin, who is a state rep currently running for the 20th congressional district seat that is being vacated by Charles Gonzalez.  If you want to know about Joaquin and his golden-boy status in San Antonio, you could read my blog entry titled, “Joaquin Castro, an obviously flawed profile on as ostensibly unflawed candidate.”   

President Obama knows the power of being the keynote speaker, having once occupied that role himself.  And the Democrats surely wouldn’t have anointed Castro if he couldn’t deliver a stem-winding speech.  But having heard Castro speak on several occasions, I will be surprised if he delivers for Obama and the Democrats.  Castro seems to admit his weakness, according to #10 of Politico’s key facts about Castro:

  • He likens speeches to boxing, saying, “If always looking for a one-punch knockout, you get knocked out yourself.”

Castro, who has a bookish demeanor, should stay away from the sports metaphors or he will end up looking as silly as Michael Dukakis in a tank.

October 3, 2011

Benefits to domestic partners

The business of politics is often messy, and of the current messes, none is messier than trying to reconcile traditional America and homosexuality.  Texas and most of America have taken a hard position against same-sex marriage, and even against civil unions.  But those who advocate for civil rights to homosexuals keep probing for any softness in their opponents’ resistance, and their latest battlefield concerns benefits to domestic partners.

On this battlefront, the city of San Antonio recently decided to extend benefits to its employees’ domestic partners.  The problem is that there is not a generally accepted definition of “domestic partners.”  Unlike a civil union, which is always a formal legal relationship in those states that recognize it, a domestic partnership can be an informal, nonlegal relationship in some states – such as Texas.

An article in the San Antonio Express-News described why San Antonio adopted a policy of providing employee benefits to domestic partners and how someone could qualify as a domestic partner:

  • Why?  According to Councilman Diego Bernal, who acknowledged the apprehension by some religious groups, “I understand that people have certain views that they hold dearly.  But treating people with respect and loving thy neighbor are values that I hold dearly.”  Since the city already offers benefits to common-law married couples, offering them to domestic partners would be a fair extension, Bernal said.  He also echoed what Mayor Julián Castro has said about the plan: that it will allow the city to attract and retain top talent in its ranks.  “It’s something that 90 percent of Fortune 100 companies are doing, as well as other top cities around the country,” he said.
  • How.  City Manager Sheryl Sculley has developed a policy that would require that couples — both same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partnerships — swear that they’re in a “committed relationship” on a city affidavit.  Beyond the affidavit, couples must also provide documentation that proves the relationship is at least six months old. They must show that they have at least two of the following: joint lease or mortgage, joint bank account, joint credit card, jointly paid household expense, such as a utility bill, bearing both names, or documents showing beneficiary status of life insurance or will.

Regarding the “Why,” the inane comments from Diego Bernal might strike you what you expect from a backward, dim-witted politico, but you should know that he is being promoted by the Express-News as a rising political star in San Antonio.  Like the Castro twins, he was raised by a single mother in South Texas, graduated from a prestigious out-of-state college and law school, and returned to San Antonio a few years ago to work as a lawyer.  Bernal advocated for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and with advocacy like Bernal’s, I wonder if MALDEF is winning any cases.  Mayor Castro’s argument, although laughably specious, at least is coherent.

Regarding the “How,” Manager Sculley appears to have developed a reasonable and practical process for qualifying as domestic partners.  The bar is neither so low as to encourage fraud nor so high as to prevent legitimate couples from qualifying.  Sculley endorsed Mayor Castro’s “keeping up with the Joneses” argument by suggesting that, of major Texas cities, only San Antonio and Houston were behind the times.  Conversely, Dallas offered benefits to same-sex couples, while Austin, Fort Worth, and El Paso went even further – covering both same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners.

Which brings us to another issue – why is the city of San Antonio extending benefits to opposite-sex couples who choose not to marry?  That doesn’t make sense to me, and the Express-News article didn’t address that.  The article did note that the extended benefits were “expected to cost $300,000, or 0.014 percent of the city’s $2.2 billion budget.”  The reporter’s phrasing of that statement suggests to me that the reporter favors extending the benefits.

Maybe that explains why the reporter failed to mention that one of the aforementioned more enlightened cities – El Paso – was engaged in a full-scale war over its council’s decision to extend benefits to domestic partners.  According to a recent article in the Texas Tribune, El Paso extended benefits to same-sex couples in 2009, but the benefits were reversed by referendum in November 2010 by a 55%-45% vote.  Inexplicably, the El Paso City Council in June 2011 rejected the referendum and reinstituted the benefits to domestic partners of city employees.  Not surprisingly, the winners of the referendum were outraged and have petitioned for the recall of the mayor and two council members, but the election won’t be held until May 2012.

The leader of the recall (Pastor Tom Brown, “the charismatic leader of an independent evangelical congregation of about 1,500 members”) sounds a little extreme:

  • They want to reward fornicators, and they want to reward homosexuals,” Brown said in an interview, his voice booming with indignation as he occasionally pumped his fist for emphasis.  “Homosexuality is being trumpeted as a moral activity,” he said. “How will they ever repent and turn to Christ?”

If I were a betting man, I would bet that the mayor is out of a job by June.  And he deserves to be.  America is a democracy, and the people of El Paso have spoken.  I was faced with a similar issue when I ran for Congress and was asked for my position regarding same-sex marriage.  I responded that, personally, I would vote for same-sex marriage, but because the voters of Texas had recently declared their full-throated opposition to the concept (76% voted to amend the state constitution), I would defer to their wishes.

btw – the following states authorize same-sex civil unions or domestic partnerships that are essentially equal to marriage:

  • Domestic partnership in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, and the District of Columbia.
  • Civil union in New Jersey, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Delaware.

Watered-down domestic partnerships are available in Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, Colorado, and Wisconsin.

btw – a recent poll by the Texas Tribune found that Texans are equally split among three same-sex positions – i.e., one-third favors same-sex marriage, one-third favors civil unions, and one-third opposes both.

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