What We Believe
At a recent Democratic Women’s scholarship luncheon, Texas State Representative Donna Howard spoke eloquently of the values on which Democrats stand. In America, all should have the opportunity to rise above their situations, no matter how dire. America isn’t just a place; it’s an idea. Expressing an idea isn’t always easy, but Representative Howard was able to truly define what it means to be a Democrat: “We believe in healthy families, responsible government and opportunity for all.”
Democrats believe that proper healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Every man, woman and child in America should be able to see a doctor when ill, regardless of their economic status. It is a national disgrace that injured or ill Americans must sometimes choose whether to put food on the table or go to the doctor. Democrats believe that good health isn’t just for the wealthy; it’s for everyone. Every person in this country should be able to obtain a flu shot; no questions asked. It doesn’t just protect the person receiving the vaccination, it protects us all. We believe that it is time to adopt what so many other developed countries already have-single payer healthcare. It’s been promised by those seeking election for years. The time has come to keep the promise of good healthcare for all.
We also believe that the government should work FOR the people-ALL the people. Elected officials should be held accountable for their actions. In the past year, one Texas senator called over half the voters “deranged.” A politician, once elected must enter office with an understanding that he or she represents all the people-not just a selective few. We also believe that it is unethical for politicians to use dark money to win elections. When outside interests write checks to candidates for thousands of dollars, they are, in effect, buying Democracy. This is unacceptable. We oppose voter suppression, gerrymandering and the buying of elections by rich donors. Our country should not be owned by the wealthy; we are not an oligarchy. As Democrats, we believe that government must serve all the people, not just big business. Democrats stand for Democracy.
And finally, we believe in the American Dream. Democrats believe that everyone in America deserves the right to learn, grow and advance. We are stronger as a nation when we accept the talents of all, regardless of their country of origin. We are a land of immigrants, like my 3X great grandfather, who stowed away aboard a ship from Ireland when he was just 12 years old. He escaped the Irish Potato Famine and certain starvation to become a Texas Ranger and well-respected in his community. His story isn’t unique; it’s the story of America. Our country is filled with dreamers who have risen above life’s circumstances to make us all stronger as a nation. This is what we believe as Democrats, and I’m proud to be one.
The average restaurant worker makes less than $20,000 per year. Considering the fact that the federal poverty threshold for a family of three is $20,420, these workers are barely able to make ends meet with their paychecks. For years, the National Restaurant Association, the lobby arm of restaurant owners, has poured millions of dollars into Washington politics in order to keep restaurant worker wages low. Now, the Trump Department of Labor wants to give restaurant owners a 6.1 billion dollar tip each year at the expense of their workers.
The Trump Department of Labor wants to change the Fair Labor Standards Act Regulations. In doing so, the Trump administration will be giving lobbyists a gift that they have long wanted-the ability to capture tips. The manner in which this new regulation is written will allow restaurant owners to pocket the tips which you believed you were leaving for your waiter. While a few restaurant owners might capture tips and distribute them to dishwashers and other non-tipped staff, most won’t. The new law is written to allow restaurant owners to do whatever they wish with the tips, including keeping all tips for themselves. These tips were earned by workers who are paid minimum wage-a measly $7.25 per hour.
The Economic Policy Institute estimates that 12% of restaurants are illegally keeping tips. The enactment of the new “Fair” Labor Standards Regulations will make tip capturing by owners legal. It will cause extreme financial hardship for the 1.3 million tipped workers who earn the standard minimum wage. (Any claims that restaurant workers are well-paid is a myth.) Those tips don’t buy luxury items for workers. They help them make ends meet. It is tragic that those who serve food to others might forfeit their tips to owners and be unable to put food on their own tables.
Government proposals are required to undergo a public comment period. Rather than allowing the usual 60 day comment period for this proposal, the Trump administration has limited the comment period to 30 days. All public comments on the “Fair” Labor Standards Act Regulations must be submitted by January 4, 2018. The comment period has been shortened and scheduled during the holiday season for a reason. People are busy and it’s easier to slide an unpopular proposal through. During this busy holiday season, please take some time to make your voices heard on this issue.
Here is the federal link for public comment on the “Fair” Labor Standards Regulations:https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/12/05/2017-25802/tip-regulations-under-the-fair-labor-standards-act-flsa
On Mansplaining and Nerdsplaining
“Hey, guess what I’m doing?” That’s normally how my late sister Nita began a phone conversation. As usual, I had no idea, because Nita was one of the most creative and clever people I’ve ever known. When it came to intelligence, she was off the charts. Because it was nearing Christmas time, I thought it was related to the holidays. Turns out I was right. Nita had a small piece of land near Marble Falls, Texas and decided she needed a rooster. Unfortunately, she had buyer’s remorse pretty soon after the purchase because the rooster took his job very seriously. Every morning at 5 a.m., rain or shine, the rooster crowed. So Nita had a problem, but being the intelligent woman she was, she soon hatched a plan. When the usual “white elephant” Christmas party at her friend’s house rolled around, all the Christmas gifts were tucked neatly under the tree. Unfortunately, the family dog was not pleased with one of the gifts and went berserk (probably because the gift box had air holes in it and kept moving on its own.) Problem solved. One lucky guest opened a box containing a live rooster. The rooster went to a new happy farm and Nita didn’t have to wake up at 5 a.m. any more.
Our family was big on education. My mother raised a physicist, an endocrinologist, an invertebrate paleontologist…all six of us had degrees. Nita decided to opt for a two-year nursing degree. At times, as an RN with a two-year degree, there were supervisors or others with more advanced degrees that assumed their intelligence or knowledge exceeded hers. Boy, were they wrong. Out of the six of us, we always knew that Nita was the smartest. There was no doubt. She was a life-long learner, and if she didn’t know it, you can bet that she would “look it up,” just like our parents taught us. We now have a word for condescending behavior by so-called experts-“nerdsplaining.” When one “nerdsplains,” they wrongly assume that someone doesn’t know as much as they do. The nerdsplainer endeavors to “help” with lengthy explanations on a variety of topics. When the listener tries to get a word in edgewise, the nerdsplainer may cut off the speaker mid-sentence. After all, how can anyone possibly know more than the nerdsplainer? If the victim of the nerdsplainer does manage to relay their knowledge on a particular topic, the nerdsplainer will quickly change subjects to a new “more challenging” topic.
Mansplaining and nerdsplaining are two sides of the same coin. In an effort to be “helpful,” men sometimes assume women don’t understand as much about a topic due to their gender. (I once had the “pleasure” of listening to a lecture on the merits of various barbecue grills for 45 minutes.) Most of the time, we politely listen, because it’s clear the speaker is trying to be helpful. Sometimes, however, mansplaining can have negative consequences. When a woman is cut off mid-sentence, because the listener assumes she doesn’t understand a topic, she might not speak up as often. A lot of brilliant ideas may have been mansplained away, and that’s a tragedy. It’s a mistake to assume a woman isn’t an expert in a traditionally male arena. In order to pay her way through medical school, my sister Karen joined the Army. Karen was always very precise, which made her an excellent medical student. And when it came to military training, it also made her a crack shot. When she’s mansplained regarding weapons, she politely lets them know that she was first in her class in the operation of an M-16. Just because we look “ladylike,” doesn’t mean we can’t hit a target.
There are some simple cures for mansplaining and nerdsplaining. Listen to other people. Try not to cut them off until they’ve finished speaking. Hear them out and be patient. Avoid dismissing their ideas. It isn’t necessary to continually offer suggestions. Just because they’re listening to you, doesn’t mean they appreciate your “help.” Most people will ask if they want your advice. Unless you have the ability to crawl inside someone else’s head, you have no idea of their expertise or intelligence. So as the holiday
season approaches and the gatherings of family and friends begin, just remember to nix the mansplaining and nerdsplaining. We “got it.” And even if we don’t “get it,” we will ask if we need help or advice.
A Recycling Field Trip
This morning I went on a field trip of sorts to search for recycling options in Stephenville. I was pleasantly surprised at the results. Stephenville has some options for people who want to recycle. In order to map out my first stop, I called the City of Stephenville water department to ask about trash collection and recycling. Stephenville doesn’t have curbside recycling, but the water department employee told me to call their trash contractor, Waste Connections at 254-968-8173. Turns out that Waste Connections has some recycling bins, so I took a drive over to 1291 N. Bates to find the bins. Waste Connections has three large bins to the left of the maintenance barn. They are outside of the fenced-in area and are not manned, so residents can drop off cardboard, paper boxes and plastic at any time. They don’t accept glass. The bins were a bit full, but someone from the city told me just to call the Waste Connections number to let them know.
I called Sara Koonce who works for the City of Stephenville to find out if there were any other recycling options. She thought that Tarleton might have a recycling center. Indeed they do. I called the TSU Recycle Center at 254-968-8059, and learned that they have a manned center. They take more types of recyclables, but they don’t take glass. So my next stop was 2451 CR 518. The TSU Center is open Monday-Friday 8:30 am-4 pm. They take cardboard, plastic bottles, plastic milk jugs, paper products, aluminum cans, tin cans and more. I’ve lived in Stephenville three years and I had no idea there was a recycling center. (I should take more field trips.)
I next took a drive to the Stephenville City Hall to speak with Sara Koonce in person about the City of Stephenville’s recycling events. Each year in August, the city conducts a hazardous waste pickup. Residents who have hazardous waste can pick up a voucher from the water department in City Hall and then take their hazardous waste for removal. (The event date and time is always printed on your water bill.) It’s free for Stephenville residents. Twice a year (in April and October,) the city collects computers and electronic recyclables. Sara said that the information on these events is also printed on your water bill.
On Saturday, October 21 Stephenville and county residents can take their old electronics to the Municipal Service Center (1201 Glen Rose Road-Hwy 67.) Items will be collected from 9 am to 1 pm (or until the truck is full.) Most items are free to collect. They include: computers, laptops, cell phones, servers, racking, printers, fax machines, copiers, routers, switches, cabling, phone systems, stereos, speakers, DVD players, VCRs, LCD TVs, cameras, car batteries, etc.) It costs $20 to recycle a box TV and the RAKI Computer Recycling Staff only accepts cash. Pretty much everything else is free to recycle. You can contact Sara with the City of Stephenville if you need more information. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org and her number is 254-918-1292.
Hopefully, Stephenville will explore additional recycling options in the future. A pilot program for curbside recycling might be a good next step. Other surrounding cities of comparable size have already implemented curbside recycling programs. The easier we make recycling, the more people will adopt it as habit.
The Money in Your Hometown Races
The majority of the money spent in North Texas races comes from a Cisco, Texas billionaire family and two billionaires from Midland, Texas. They donate the money to a couple of entrenched officeholders that have no opposition. Those officeholders, not needing the money, spend it on "consultants" that then use it to finance local races where the billionaires' candidates face opponents. Because the money is spent by a "consultant" its origins and distribution are outside of the required campaign finance reporting.
Why Do They Go to This Much Trouble?
The go to this trouble because they fear that if the voters knew that many North Texas elected officials were mostly financed by 3 families; outsiders to most of those districts, those voters might smell a rat.
So what kind of rat? Let's take the mover and shaker behind HB 1774, the revamp of insurance regulations that take effect this September 1st. That law was championed by Texans for Lawsuit Reform. That organization is one of the entities created by Tom DeLay in 2000 that eventually resulted in him being unanimously admonished by the House Ethics committee, and criminal charges being referred to both Federal and State prosecutors.
While Delay has since disappeared from the front pages (and Dancing with the Stars), his primary aide is still the pivot man in several of the old (and new) funding structures, including the Texans for Lawsuit Reform.
What Changes Were Wanted?
What kind of reform were these folks seeking? Lower premiums for homeowners? Lower deductibles? More timely policy payouts? Not hardly. The law reduces the interest rate applied to delayed settlements by almost half. So the leverage the homeowner had to encourage the insurance company to make a timely settlement has been cut in half. Delaying payment is a tactic used by insurance companies to get homeowners to settle for less money, just so they can get out of the motel and get on with rebuilding.
It also reduces the likelihood that the insurance companies would have to pay the homeowner's attorney’s fees when the homeowner had to resort to a lawsuit to receive their fair compensation. With the reduction in allowable attorney fees, it will be harder for the homeowner to get an attorney to take their case. The intent is to discourage homeowners from using our courts to seek relief.
The little guy has only two tools to use to level the playing field against big corporations; regulation and tort law. HB 1774 weakens both of those tools.
Why Doesn’t Government Work For Us?
When billionaires buy your vote, through their ginormous (hidden) campaign contributions, they are not doing so to make your life easier. They do it to increase the profits of their companies.
Texas government is run for the benefit of those corporate "citizens" and to hell with our flesh-and-blood citizens. If you have to sum up what is wrong with our state and country today, that's it.
It is being run only to benefit the wealthy.
Want to Really Drain the Swamp? Here’s What You Can Do.