Lord Acton Understated the Case

"I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way, against the holders of power... Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Lord Acton Understated the Case
Pretty much sums it up.

I know there are some of you out there who are looking for yet another reason to dislike the only Lieutenant Governor we have, at least for now. Oh, I could give you several personal reasons involving his honesty, ethics and IQ, but they would only matter to me.

What should matter to everyone in this state is not just Dan Patrick but the entire GOP in Texas. Now, I'm not the political insider that folks like my Outlaw colleague Jim Moore are, and I don't dislike Republicans as some sort of kneejerk reaction, but some troubling issues are apparent. Apparent? Stevie Wonder called me up the other day to let me know he saw this coming. And it comes, as always, from a majority so secure it inevitably oversteps. As Lord Acton wrote in 1887...

I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they do no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way against holders of power...power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. - Lord Acton

Of course, Acton was a big supporter of the Confederacy in the Civil War, so I'll just take this remark from him and ignore the others. Or as the Roman Emperor Tiberius said...

"Power has no limits."

And we have seen this in ways big and small, primarily, the overreach of this Governor, Attorney General, and our buddy Dan. Want a couple of examples? How about Governor Abbott calling a special session of the pinhead fiesta we call the state legislature? And why after a full regular session, one special session, and an impeachment that looked more like the Scopes Trial? Because of, well, money.

What is euphemistically called "school choice" by its advocates simply allows parents a chunk of cash to send the kids to a private school, where of course, they'll get some superior learnin'. Or, maybe not. And where does this money come from? Well, your local teachers can tell you. It comes from them. Each family gets $8000 per child for private school tuition. Great, eh? I can send little Johnnie or Janie to Episcopal High School in Houston, for example. Well, hold on there Father O'Malley.

G2LD - gandy squared lighting design
Makes my high school look like a cabin in Boonesboro.

No offense to my Anglican brethren and sisteren but tuition there is $34,155 a year, one-third more than a year at the University of Houston. Want a school lunch? That's another $1,625 a year. Need a laptop, you have to buy one of theirs for $2400. And if you are a new student, that'll be another grand. Why? Well, you're new, right? So, using my, granted, public school math, you're about $31K short. And your old, ill-maintained public school and its underpaid teachers are now $8000 short. As for helping families from rough neighborhoods, if a voucher rollout in Texas mirrors what happened in Arizona, those parents would be the least likely to benefit. More than three quarters of voucher participants in Arizona already had a child enrolled in private school.

And the private school is free from some annoying regulations. Private schools do not need to be accredited by the state but by a private association, do not need to take standardized achievement tests, do not have to employ certified teachers, and when it comes to protecting parental rights, which the Gov touts, the list is interesting...

Parental Rights and ProtectionsPublic SchoolsPrivate Schools
Right to review their child’s educational records and request corrections              
Right to be notified of incidents of bullying             
Right to receive their child’s academic progress report             
Protection of student and family privacy           
Right to review a school’s performance data            
Right to weigh in on district and school matters            
Protection of their child from discrimination            
Protection of their family’s faith            
Right to receive a free education for their child            

Add to this, the Texas Commissioner of Education, Mike Morath, instructed the state to take over the largest school district in Texas, Houston. And by takeover, we mean dismiss the school board, dismiss the Superintendent, and assign a man, who is very involved in the private school business to shake up the district. Why, you ask?

Mike Morath - Ballotpedia
Hi! Can I take over your schools?

Well, HISD has 270 schools in its system. And one of them, one mind you, failed to meet state test standards for 10 years, though it did pass the latest one. Despite that, Morath plowed ahead and sacked the whole team. The shakeup involved, by the way, the elimination of 28 school libraries and librarians. Those spaces, usually full of, you know, books and stuff, will now become disciplinary rooms. Remember when you had to stay after school in detention hall? That was usually in the cafeteria or library. Now, these little contemplation rooms will be the norm.

And though Morath says he could have either simply closed the underperforming school, or taken over the whole district, he chose the General Sherman approach. If your kid doesn't understand that metaphor, they could look it up if they had a library.

While this is happening, he has given a green light to a virtually unlimited expansion of Charter Schools, essentially private schools, even though, and here's a surprise, according to the Texas Tribune...

"Since taking office more than seven years ago, Morath has repeatedly given charters permission to expand, allowing them to serve thousands more students, even when they haven’t met academic performance requirements. On at least 17 occasions, Morath has waived expansion requirements for charter networks that had too many failing campuses to qualify, according to a ProPublica and Texas Tribune analysis of state records. The state’s top education official also has approved five other waivers in cases where the charter had a combination of failing schools and campuses that were not rated because they either only served high-risk populations or had students too young to be tested.
Only three such performance waivers had been granted prior to Morath, who declined numerous requests for comment."

For critics of public schools and how we rank against other nations in Europe and Asia, please name one of those countries that does not have a public school system, unless you are wealthy and can afford something private? Let me help, not one. Meanwhile, Texas teachers and administrators are overdue for some support, raises, and school repairs that could come from the over $32 billion state budget surplus. Abbott says, he'll consider it, once you pass vouchers.

And then there is what is jocularly called, the Defend Texas Liberty Political Action Committee. This is a pot-o-cash provided by 3 rich oilmen named "Tim Dunn and brothers Farris and Dan Wilks — who have given more than $100 million to a network of campaigns, nonprofits, dark money groups and media companies to push their ultraconservative religious and anti-LGBTQ+ views and oust fellow Republicans from power," according to the Texas Tribune.

Nick Fuentes (middle) is seen exiting the offices of Pale Horse strategies with Chris Russo, founder and president of Texans for Strong Borders (right) in Fort Worth on Oct. 6, 2023.
Yeah, that's the schmuck...Courtesy: Texas Tribune

The PAC is, or was, run by Jonathan Stickland, a very conservative former member of the Texas House. And in early October, the Texas Tribune caught him along with the chair of the Republican Party of Texas, Matt Rinaldi and Texas GOP Executive Director Jen Hall appearing to have met with white supremacist Nick Fuentes at an office building in Fort Worth. I say appear because Rinaldi admits being there at that time on that day, but says he was in another room in the building. Oh, that little AR-totin' avenger, Kyle Rittenhouse was there as well. Here's how the Anti-Defamation League described Fuentes...

Fuentes seeks to carve out a space that deliberately and publicly challenges the mainstream conservative movement while doubling down on themes central to the white supremacist movement. Fuentes and his America First adherents vocally support the closure of the U.S. borders to immigrants, while opposing “liberal” values such as feminism and LGBTQ+ rights. Fuentes views these societal changes as the “bastardized Jewish subversion of the American creed. The Founders never intended for America to be a refugee camp for nonwhite people.”  He often uses his platform to further conspiracy theories about the impending destruction of the white race, also known as “white genocide.” In one Tweet, Fuentes stated, “Our civilization is being dismantled, our people are being genocided, and conservatives can’t think past what will play well with liberal media in the next election.”

Yeah, he said "genocided" as though that is a word.

Defend Texas Liberty is the group that has worked hard to oust people like Texas Speaker Dade Phelan and Senator John Cornyn, who are considered insufficiently conservative, or so-called RINO's. But given the current starboard drift of the Party of Lincoln, perhaps the accusers should be termed PLINO's. This is also the group that gave Dan Patrick a $3-million contribution just before the kangaroo court impeachment of Ken Paxton got underway, and by the way, my apologies to any kangaroos out there.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on the dais in the Senate chamber as senators are in recess at the start of the 3rd special session of the 88th Legislature on Oct. 9, 2023.

I did nazi that coming.

Patrick allowed as how he didn't see any problem, but a day later claimed he called one of the wealthy Marx brothers in charge of the money pump, and said the Fuentes meeting was a "blunder." Now, putting the wrong grade of gas in your car is a blunder. But meeting with a guy whom House Speaker Phelan described thusly...

Look at Fuentes’ history of being a “Nazi sympathizer.” Fuentes has praised Hitler, called for “holy war” against Jews and said that “all I want is revenge against my enemies and a total Aryan victory.”

Phelan also asked those who got money from the PAC to give it back or donate it to charity. All but a couple did, but one who didn't was our buddy Dan. And of course, Dan accused Dade Phelan of using the ongoing war in Israel for his own political ends. Giving new meaning to the word "chutzpah" Patrick called on Phelan to resign.

Incidentally, my friend Harvey Kronberg publishes the oldest political newsletter in the state, The Quorum Report, and his editor said he had evidence that this wasn't the only meeting with the Fuentes' lollipop guild.

And on Tuesday, Speaker Phelan issued this statement after Lt. Dan finally caved and announced he would use the $3-million to buy Israeli Bonds....

“As I have pointed out repeatedly over the last two weeks: there is no place for antisemitism within the Republican Party. We must remove its terrible influence, both root and branch.
“Lt. Governor Patrick correctly points out that we have problems that need to be addressed in the formal structure of the Republican Party of Texas. If we are to ‘root out this cancer,’ as Lt. Governor Patrick states, those efforts begin with Matt Rinaldi's resignation as the Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.
"Additionally, the donors to Defend Texas Liberty PAC, Texans for Strong Borders, and any other organization affiliated with Pale Horse Strategies and its corrupting web of influence, should request an immediate return of any funds donated. Defend Texas Liberty PAC and Texans for Strong Borders should then be dissolved.”

How does this stuff happen? Easy. The conservative hold on Texas politics is so strong and so complete, that the more extreme folks can get away with anything, even this. We are talking about racists, anti-semites, and Hitler apologists. Do Dan and the gang think this is coincidence? Happenstance? I assume that they assume you won't notice. You're not paying attention. You just don't care.

Just cloak it in phrases like "parental choice", "free speech" or "Texas values" and voters will give you the keys to the bank. You may not be a huge fan of John Cornyn, Dade Phelan or the gutsy Senator Robert Nichols, but these reasonable voices are what stand in the way of the result about which Lord Acton warned us.


Watching the Astros game, I just saw an add for orange-flavored Jameson Irish Whiskey. I warn you in the name of all that's holy, avoid this. It is of the Devil.

Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.