Monday, February 18, 2013

Honoring Democracy on Presidents Day

The history of our great nation is often remembered in presidential chapters. From Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt to Kennedy, Reagan and Obama, the United States has weathered good and bad under the watches of 44 men.

Regardless of their politics, achievements and shortcomings, each of these men holds the elite distinction of reaching the highest and most powerful office in the world. As citizens, we can choose to agree or disagree with each president’s charted course, but we must do it with the respect and dignity befitting of the Oval Office. We must also recognize that our voice – whether in agreement or opposition – is afforded to us by the democracy that each president is sworn to protect.

As we celebrate Presidents Day on February 18, let’s be mindful and thankful of the political process it represents. Each of our 44 presidents was voted into office by a free citizenry that is constitutionally empowered to do so. That democratic process makes us the envy of the world. Let us also always remember that while we, the people, select a president to lead, we, the people, have a responsibility to participate in the process and demand on accountability and transparency every step of the way. Our responsibility doesn't end with voting.

On Presidents Day and every other day, may God continue to bless democracy and America.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mexican Drug Kingpin is ‘Public Enemy No. 1’

Anyone who still thinks Texas and other southern border states are crying wolf when pleading for additional border security may be interested to know Mexican drug cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has been named Chicago’s “Public Enemy No. 1.”

Yes, Chicago – as in Chicago, Illinois. The nation’s third-largest city and some 1,400 miles away from the Mexican border. The same city that is home to President Obama and an escalating homicide rate that counted more than 500 murders last year. Coincidence? I doubt it.

Perhaps more telling is the fact that “Public Enemy No. 1” was the distinction first – and last -- held by notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone during the days of Prohibition. The Chicago Crime Commission has not used the label since. That is, until today. In fact, according to this news report, the DEA claims Guzman is actually more dangerous than Capone. Cause for concern? It should be.

If you’re asking yourself how a ruthless criminal hiding in Mexico can be Chicago’s “Public Enemy No. 1,” allow me to shed some light. The U.S. border with Mexico stretches 1,969 miles, yet according to the General Accountability Office, only 44 percent of that entire border is under operational control. In other words, our porous border is an open invitation to thugs like Guzman and his merciless henchmen.

Washington has been patting itself on the back of late by propping up statistics showing an increase in border protection resources over the past few years. Just because 10 agents is more than nine doesn’t mean 10 is enough. Closing a door halfway does not allow it to be locked.

While I am eternally grateful to the federal, state and local men and women who risk their lives to protect our border and citizens, I cannot rest easy knowing Washington deprives them of maximum backup and fortification. I also find it deplorable that our border region citizens are subjected to these heavily armed narco-terrorists who brazenly trespass and threaten violence while trafficking drugs and humans across our border and deep into Middle America.

And while Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano tours the southern states proclaiming our border is more protected than ever, USAToday tells us January was the deadliest month Chicago has seen in a decade.

So what’s the president’s solution to the rising crime rates in his hometown? Take away self-defense abilities from law-abiding citizens by restricting gun ownership. I’ve got news for the president – criminals don’t obey laws.

When Chicago’s most dangerous criminal is a known Mexican drug cartel kingpin, it should be impossible to pretend our porous border has nothing to do with the skyrocketing murder rates taking place in our president’s hometown.

Are we crying wolf in the southern states? Not when real tears are being shed as far away as Chicago.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Congratulations to our Partners in Ag

Agriculture is big business in Texas made possible thanks to longstanding partnerships like the ones we share with the newly appointed 83rd Legislative Texas House Agriculture and Livestock Committee, and the Texas Senate Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs & Homeland Security.

The Texas House Agriculture and Livestock Committee is chaired by Rep. Tracy King (D-Batesville) and composed of Vice Chairman Charles “Doc” Anderson (R-Waco), Rep. Tim Kleinschmidt (R-Lexington), Rep. Drew Springer (R- Muenster), Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint), Rep. Kyle Kacal (R-Bryan) and Rep. James White (R-Houston).

The Texas Senate Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs & Homeland Security is chaired by Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), and composed of Vice Chairman Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio), Sen. Glenn Hegar (R-Katy), Sen. Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen) and Rep. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown).

These committees and the Texas Department of Agriculture will continue working together to prioritize agriculture for rural, suburban and urban Texans.

I look forward to working with these new committees to ensure Texas agriculture continues leading the nation while also fortifying our economy, empowering rural communities and promoting healthy lifestyles.

Congratulations to our new committee members and my thanks to each of you for your dedication to Texas agriculture. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Remembering Columbia 10 Years Later

Today we remember the seven astronauts who lost their lives 10 years ago when Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart over Texas during re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. The mission was 16 short minutes from landing safely at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Many in Texas recall hearing the explosion and seeing the white line of destruction cut across the clear, blue sky. I remember the tragedy vividly. As a state senator, I spent much of the days and weeks following Feb. 1, 2003 in East Texas (photo lower left) mourning the lives of the Columbia crew and working with volunteers and state, local and federal officials to facilitate recovery and search for answers.

As they did 10 years ago, my heart and prayers still go out to NASA and the families and friends who continue to mourn the loss of the Columbia crew. Those seven astronauts, like the ones before and after, were pioneers who inspired us all.

As we remember the tragedy of a decade ago, I’d like to also thank the men and women of the space program for their courage, ingenuity and patriotism. Though today the space shuttle program is shuttered, I hope the mystery and adventure of space will continue to inspire future generations to reach for the stars.