May 19, 2022

America–Home of the Brave

By Glenn

On April 19, 1995 Timothy McVeigh attacked the United States of America.  He murdered 168 Americans. Ten children were among the dead.

At the time of his arrest, McVeigh had excerpts from the Turner Diaries in his car.  This 1978 novel by William Luther Pierce depicts a coming race war.  White supremacists attacked the United States of American, hoping to cleanse the country of African Americans.

McViegh’s murderous bombing shocked the nation.  Americans everywhere joined together to stamp out the militia movement.  For several years leading up to 1995, militias spread anti-government hatred and promoted an armed resistance to federal law enforcement agencies.

Unfortunately, this period of calm did not last long.  The 9-11 terrorist attacks and hurricane Katrina reinvigorated the National Rifle Association.  It became the mouth piece for the gun corporations and spread fear and paranoia in order to sell more guns.

The NRA began promoting gun violence as the solution to social problems.  Scared of a terrorist? Buy a gun.  Scared of a natural disaster?  Buy a gun.  Scared of crime? Buy a gun.  Scared of an immigrant? Buy a gun.

The NRA’s message of fear and paranoia fit in nicely with Australian billionaire, Rupert Murdoch’s agenda shouted on his new cable channel—Fox News.  Murdoch favors vast concentrations of wealth and power.  He knew that most Americans don’t have either, and he sold fear and paranoia as a distraction.

At first Fox’s message was relatively mild with men like Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly peddling nostalgia for the 1950s.  In the 1950s everyone knew their place.  Women stayed at home.  Blacks and Hispanics lived on their own side of town.  Gays and lesbians lived in the closet.

Since the transition of Donald Trump from charlatan businessman to demagogic politician, the conservative rhetoric has become more vulgar.  Trump constantly, and falsely, claimed immigrants were invading the southern border.  He smeared them with false accusations of crime and violence.

On October 3, 2019, Donald inspired a 21 year old man from Allen Texas to travel across the state to El Paso and murder our neighbors.  Patrick Crusius walked into an El Paso Walmart, and, using a semi-automatic rifle, killed 23 humans and injured 23 others.  He wanted to stop “cultural and ethnic replacement” of White Americans by a “Hispanic invasion”.

Unlike Oklahoma City, this terrorist attack didn’t stop Republicans and Fox News.  On May 16, 2022, Wyoming congresswoman Liz Cheney tweeted, “The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism.”

Cheney was responding to the terrorist attack the day before.  Another White Supremacist murdered Americans in Buffalo, New York.  Will Fox News and Republicans stop inciting violence this time?

May 11, 2022

It’s the Market Stupid

By Glenn

One year and 4 months after Donald Trump took occupancy of the White House, gas price averages rose from $2.46 to $2.99 per gallon.  Two years later, in May 2020, the average price per gallon had fallen to $1.96.

What causes these wild swings?  What had Donald done in office? Nothing.

Oil companies, not the government set prices.  Oil companies prefer higher prices to lower prices.  Oil companies are run by capitalists.

Capitalists make decisions to earn a profit.  They invest their money and want their sales price to exceed their production costs. This is called a profit.

Chief Executive Offices (CEOs) and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) have a fiduciary duty to investors.  They must act in the interests of investors before anything else.  Before workers.  Before consumers.  Before America.

CEOs raise prices when demand is high and supply is limited.  Under normal market conditions they rig supply to match demand.  This allows them to set prices at a profitable rate.  Investors expect this special treatment.

In May 2020, oil companies would have preferred a price of $3 per gallon.  Unfortunately, they couldn’t have predicted the world-wide impact of Covid-19.  The pandemic caused an abrupt change in driving habits as people stayed home.

For nearly two years, oil companies lost potential revenue.  They looked for ways to cut costs below the revenue coming in.  They needed to make a profit.

CEOs saved money by simply shutting down wells and not drilling new wells.  Less oil coming out of the ground meant a smaller supply.  Another place to save money was in the refineries.  During the pandemic oil companies reduced refinery capacity.  A smaller supply commands higher prices even with the limited demand. These decisions created higher profits.

“There is a tremendous amount of muscle memory from Covid and the dramatic drop in prices,” said Ben Shepperd, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association in Midland, Texas. “If we were convinced oil prices would hold at levels of $75 a barrel or more for another three years, you would see a higher level of capital deployment.”

“Why U.S. Oil Companies Aren’t Riding to Europe’s Rescue,” NYT, 04 26 2022

Over the past year the United States and world economies recovered rapidly from the Covid 19 pandemic.  In the first year of President Joe Biden’s term, the US economy added a record 6.4 million jobsIn the first five months of 2022, over 400,000 American found employment ever month.

More Americans are enjoying the fruits of their labor.  They are driving more.  They are eating out more.  They are shopping more.  High demand drives up prices.

This is how capitalism works.  Investors demand a profit.  Companies fix prices to generate a profit.  Capitalists are not patriotic.  They are not charities.  They redistribute wealth from the consumer to the investor.

May 4, 2022

Freeing State Power

By Glenn

After the Second World War, the United States Supreme Court has been following a single star.  Individual liberty is stronger than state power.  Millions of Americans from all walks of life had risked their lives, and the nation honored their service with individual liberty.

The new conservative Supreme Court is on the verge of empowering states once again.  The issue is abortion, but the principle is much broader.  A secret draft opinion declares “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

States, not individuals, will have the power to decide medical issues. States will have the power to strip minorities of their rights. States will have more power.  We will not.

The conservatives on the Supreme Court have already rolled back voting rights.  In the March election Texas trashed 12% of mail in ballots.  The Supreme Court has been silent as millions of ballots remained uncounted.

Seniors lost their Right to Vote. Our disabled neighbors lost their Right to Vote.  Veterans lost the Right to Vote.  Soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen serving overseas lost their Right to Vote.

The conservative Supreme Court also gave the green light to partisan gerrymandering.  They gave politicians the power to pick their voters and obstruct the will of the people.

Now on the chopping block is the Right to Privacy.  The Right to Privacy requires a state to justify its intrusion into your most personal decisions.  It protects your decisions in the doctor’s office.  It protects your actions in the bedroom.

The conservatives on the Court reject the Right to Privacy because it is not mentioned in the Constitution.  They belittle the literal meaning of the Ninth Amendment. 

The Founders placed this broad limitation on government:  “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” 

Conservatives justices point to history to deny and disparage a woman’s Right to Privacy.  They are correct.  Both the Federal and the State governments routinely denied and disparaged women’s rights. Do we really want to go back to those days?

Next on the Conservative wish list is government prayers in public schools.  Justice Clarence Thomas has already written that banning government prayers in schools violates the constitution. 

Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick can’t even fix our broken property tax system. They raise our taxes every year.  How can they teach our children to pray?  That’s a parent’s right, not a state power.

April 30, 2022

Addiction

By Glenn

Addictive behavior can destroy the addict as well as those around them.  Addicts find it harder and harder to distinguish reality from imagination.  They tell themselves lies and demand others accept the lies as truth.

Dealing with an addict can be very exhausting.  Addicts respond to the truth with false allegations and threats.  Their paranoia grows with each attempted intervention.

As more and more evidence mounts about the events on January 6, 2021, it is hard not to see a group of addicts.  Conservative politicians and activists became addicted to power.  They enjoyed using it to punish their opponents.

That is not how democracy works.  Democracy works when elected leaders respect the will of the voters.  Joe Biden earned 81,268,924 votes. He earned 7,052,770 more votes than the loser. 

According to the Constitutional process established by the Founders, the 7 million vote advantage translated into an Electoral College victory of 306 to 232.

The loser tried to challenge these facts in court.  In courtroom after courtroom, the loser lost again and again.  Like an addict the loser refused to accept reality. 

Donald Trump was not the only addict, however.  He surrounded himself with addicts.  According to text messages from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Republicans in Congress wanted Donald Trump to declare Martial Law.

Stop and think about that for a moment.  A sitting Congresswoman sent a message to the White House asking the President of the United States to consider Martial Law.  Elected Offices wanted to throw away the Constitution of the United States of America.

Who in their right mind considers a dictatorship acceptable?  Who in their right mind thinks politicians, not voters, determine the outcome of elections.

If Republican politicians secretly conspired to tear up the constitution, why were they surprised when a mob attack our democracy on January 6?  The mob tried to disrupt constitutionally mandated counting of electoral votes.

Lies fed these behaviors.  Rational people like Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell private and officially rejected the lies. What made them different?

Both Pence and McConnell accepted the Constitution.  They understood that losing an election requires giving up power.  Addicts cannot give up power.  Addicts will burn the whole house down to satisfy their appetite.

April 21, 2022

Beto Came to Sherman

By Glenn
April 21, 2022

Build Ladders

By Glenn
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Glenn Melancon

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I have often heard it said that most of success is showing up. Well, I have shown up to Southeastern for 27 years now and still have a few years left in me.  The Faculty Senate recognized my career with a Life Time Achievement Award.

My success, however, wasn’t just my life time.  I was lifted up by hundreds around me.  They built ladders for me to climb.

The climb began long ago in Raceland, Louisiana.  My Mawmaw Melancon was the widow of a sugar mill worker.  She had worked the fields alongside him and then survived his early death.  Mawmaw never refused my request to read Green Eggs and Ham. Her gift of reading opened up so many doors.

Raceland Sugar Mill

My Dad’s decision to join the US Army also created many more opportunities for me.  Not only did the Department of Defense schools provide a world class public education, but my parents showed me the world. I saw historical places first hand as we visited churches, castles, palaces, and museums. 

I will never forget standing in a German bunker above the Normandy beaches. I will never forget looking up at Abraham Lincoln and knowing his contribution to building a better America.  These experiences made history real for me. 

In high school I learned from the Salesians of Don Bosco. They staffed Archbishop Shaw High School. Father Roy and Brother Dave taught us the value of service through their lives. Head Football Coach Hank Tierney stressed the importance of technique and intelligence.

When I went to college, I continued to find support.  In the 1980s states like Louisiana paid 75% of the costs attending college.  My parents could afford the rest of the tuition and room rent.  I only had to pay for the extras.

Luckily, I had my big brother Randy looked out for me.  He ran a sandblasting and painting shop in Morgan City.  I worked for him every school break, hauling sand, moving pallets, scraping rust, or driving a truck.

Since I lived with him, I saved my money to spend while attending University of Southwestern Louisiana.  I didn’t have to work during the semester.  Randy removed that worry, and I enjoyed my college years.

Sometimes I enjoyed myself too much, but eventually I learned moderation and time management.  It didn’t hurt that I found two incredible mentors: Vaughan and Amos Ed Simpson.  They taught me how to be a trained historian.

Amos E. and Vaughan Simpson

Their advice served me well at LSU.  Just as important, however, was finding new mentors.  Meredith Veldman, Victor Stater, Karl Roider and John Henderson helped me develop as a researcher.  They pointed me in the right direction and kept me focused.

Not only did Amos and Vaughan teach me in the classroom, but they introduced me to their professional friends at the Southwestern Social Sciences Association.  It was at a SSSA Annual Meeting that I meet Ed Byrd and Ingrid Westmoreland from Southeastern.

By coincidence Dr. Byrd died the year I earned my Ph.D.   Having meet Dr. Westmoreland, it made it easier to apply for the job SE job. Her guidance and support helped me succeed for the past 27 years.

No one made my climb easier than my wife Jackie.  She was there every step from graduate school until today.    I am very fortunate to have her, and so many others, lift me higher than I could go on my own.  I just showed up.

April 15, 2022

The “Way of the Cross” Leads to Easter

By Glenn

Good Friday, the day Jesus hung on that old wooden cross, has been celebrated by Christians for centuries.  It was the culmination of His mission on earth.  The night before his execution he experienced the agony in the garden.  According the the Evangelist Luke 22: 41-44,

41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Instead of running, Jesus embraced the cross, taking on the sins of the world.  He had done nothing wrong.  Instead He bore the weight of the world’s sins and did not shrug.  Altruism, not self gratification, is the Christian vocation.

El Greco, The Disrobing of Christ, 1577–1579, Toledo, Spain

Paul explain the significance of this act of self sacrifice by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2: 9-11

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

   in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

   to the glory of God the Father.

The “Way of the Cross” leads to Easter.  Jesus warns, however, that His suffering, death and resurrection were not the end of the story.  

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

How can we possibly take up our cross daily?  The Gospels are full of examples: “Bear Fruit” Luke 3: 8-9

“Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 10And the crowds were questioning him, saying, “Then what shall we do?” 11And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.”

In this passage John is exhorting the crowd to bear good fruit, professing a belief in God is not enough. When pressed for a definition of fruit, John says to share with your neighbors in need. This message is consistent with the 8th century prophets, Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah. The consequences of disobedience are clear, barren humans will be cast into the fire.

“The Greatest Commandment” Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus’ ministry built upon the foundation laid by John. God gave the Law not only to foster the relationship between humans and Himself, but also to restore the proper relationship between humans. When asked “which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus could have simply ended with “Love the Lord your God.” He didn’t. He chose to expand the answer to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus is reaffirming that, yes, I am my brother’s keeper.

“Leave Your Gift at the Altar” Matthew 5: 23-24

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Earlier in Matthew, Jesus says clearly that God does not want to hear our empty words of praise if we are not willing to ask forgiveness from our neighbor. A healthy relationship with God requires a healthy relationship with our neighbors.

“They have Moses and the Prophets” Luke 16:19-31

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. . . . 27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

In this passage Jesus explains that his requirements for salvation are not new; everything needed to gain access to the Kingdom can be found in God’s commandments. Human, however, have misunderstood the message. We believe riches are a sign of God’s favor and poverty is a sign of God’s condemnation. Like the Rich Man, we cling to our material processions as if they were God. Jesus warns, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16: 13)

“As a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” Matthew 25:31-46

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. . . . “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Matthew 25 gives the most vivid depiction of the Last Judgment. The Son of Man divides into two groups; there is no middle ground. Again, the judgment does not rest on lineage or belief; it rests upon human actions. Some humans will respond to the Word of God and serve their neighbor, while others will serve themselves.

What does the “Way of the Cross” mean then as we approach Easter?  How can we “take up our cross daily”?  We can serve others the way Jesus served us.  The benefits are priceless.

April 7, 2022

Big Government Conservatives Take Back Rights

By Glenn

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has fought her way past big government conservatives.  She is on her way to confirmation to sit on the highest court in America.  Her story is a story of America.

As conservative Senators questioned her, both inside and outside the committee room, they revealed how far back they are willing to take America.  They revealed their contempt for Modern America.

To understand the conservative judicial philosophy, it helps to remember their first big loss in Modern American History: Brown v. Board of Education (1954).   Senators and Representatives issued what they called the “Southern Manifesto.”

“We regard the decisions of the Supreme Court in the school cases as a clear abuse of judicial power. It climaxes a trend in the Federal Judiciary undertaking to legislate, in derogation of the authority of Congress, and to encroach upon the reserved rights of the States and the people.”

Fast forward to 2022; Senators used this same rhetoric to attack Judge Jackson. 

For example, Senator Mike Braun (IN) claimed in interview that Judge Jackson would legislate from the bench and trample on States’ Rights. 

When the interviewer pressed Sen. Braun for a specific example from the past he evaded until the interviewer asked about Loving v. Virginia (1967).  He chastised the Loving case because it outlawed state bans on interracial marriage and freed individuals to marry the person they choose.

Later Braun retreated from this extraordinary statement, but at the time he held firm.  He claimed “It’s the beauty of the system, and that’s where the differences among points of view in our 50 states ought to express themselves.”

Senator Marsha Blackburn (TN) used the hearing to call into question Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). Griswold established that a woman has a Right to Privacy in her doctor’s office.  Connecticut had restricted Estelle Griswold access to birth control pills. She sued and won.

The Supreme Court ruled that women, not the states, had the power to make health issues.  States had to demonstrate that birth control pills caused harm in order to regulate them.  Until states could prove harm, society had to trust women to make this choice.

All of these questions, however, danced around the big question.  Should state governments or women make decisions about reproduction?  In Roe v. Wade (1973), the Court ruled that states could not interfere in the early stages of pregnancy but could in the final stages.

Conservative senators want to take America back.  They want to give states more power and limit the freedom of adults.  American voters have to decide if they want to grow government again.

Abortion law, China trade war, Colorado shooting, Iran: Top columns
March 31, 2022

Feed the Sheep

By Glenn

Accountability is one of those words politicians love to throw around.  Voters and politicians alike apply it to their opponents but rarely use it look in the mirror.  Accountability means taking responsibility for one’s actions.

Accountability requires weighing cause and effect.  Did a certain word or action create or cause a measurable effect?

Conservative politicians love to talk about the degeneration of American culture.  They have had great electoral success pointing to the increased acceptance of homosexuality in society.  If you listen to self-proclaimed “Christian” radio, you will have no trouble hearing the thousands of problems they blame on homosexuals.  

Using homosexuals as a scapegoat falls into the right wing narrative of world history.  If you listen long enough, you will hear how homosexuals caused the fall of Rome or the damage from hurricane Katrina. 

These so called Christian voices sound more like Pharisees than Jesus.  They want to throw stones at the weak but refuse to hold the powerful accountable.  

If you don’t believe me, go read the Gospels for yourself.  Go read each account from start to finish.  Read how often Jesus condemns greed.  Read how often he condemns homosexuality.   In his strongest condemnation of sexual abuse, he tells his followers in Matthew 5:  27-30 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Notice this is not about attacking others.  If you have an issue, reform yourself.  On the other hand, Jesus has much to say about greed.  Greed not only destroys society, it also threatens salvation.  The only people Jesus condemns to Hell are greedy.

In Matthew 25 Jesus describes the Last Judgement.  He divides the saved from the damned. Let’s look at the damned in Matthew 25: 41-43.

“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’”

Here is Christian accountability.  No scapegoat will save you.  Will you feed His sheep or throw the stone? 

March 24, 2022

Cut the Test, Pay the Teachers

By Glenn

Our Texas founding fathers knew we needed to guarantee public education if our State was to continue to be successful. They wrote:

A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.

Education funding is the Texas State Legislature’s responsibility, not local school boards.   We have seen, however, the legislature continually cutting the state’s share of education cost.

By dodging the Texas Legislature’s constitutional responsibility, Republicans can cut corporate taxes.  Local Independent Schools Districts are left holding the bag.  To keep our schools open, Texas ISDs raise taxes.

Who pays local ISD taxes? Local home owners and small businesses do.  Big businesses often dodge these taxes.  They demand tax abatements from local government and threaten to leave if they don’t get a break.

This one-two punch leaves you and I holding the bag.  I’ve lived in Texas since 1995 and every year my taxes go up.  Every year is the same old dance. Republicans cut corporate taxes and raise ours.

What needs to be happening is the opposite. We need to shift more of this responsibility from property taxes to the state. We also need to raise the homestead exemption to really cut local property taxes from the bottom up.

Texas Republicans have also raised the cost of local education.  They have created unfunded mandates like standardized tests.

Standardized tests are bubbling exercises on steroids. These exams directly cost over $90 million per year.  The indirect costs are even higher.

For example, schools counselors rarely counsel students anymore.  They can’t help students work through the emotional trauma of losing a parent or a friend.

Standardized testing often takes them away from that critical job.  They have to count and secure the exam when it arrives at the school.  They have to train the students and the teachers in burdensome test regulations.

We waste millions of dollars a year and force every Independent School District to prepare and administer these tests.  The exams do nothing but terrorize our teachers and students.

Texas Republicans need to follow the Texas Constitution.  Texas must have an efficient system of public free schools.  Texas Republicans must improve Texas education, not destroy it.

Cut the test.  Pay the teachers.