Sunday, September 11, 2005

On the road with the next AG of TX

As I mentioned back here, I was fortunate to spend a couple of days at the end of last week with the next Attorney General of Texas, David Van Os. I had previously made plans earlier to bring my mother, who lives near Beaumont, to hear David speak at a meeting of the Progressive Democrats of Southeast Texas, but when David's wife Rachel called me and said that David would have to rent a car at Hobby, I delightedly offered my services as chauffeur.

We both had appointments at Lamar University Thursday afternoon; David's was to speak to the Latinos Unidos student group; mine was to meet with some of the alumni officials. We reconvened that evening at the PDSE meetup at Acapulco Mexican Grill.

Before I tell you about our visits, which included a public hearing at the courthouse on a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) matter, let me provide some history about the area called the Golden Triangle, nestled into the corner of Texas next to the Gulf and the Sabine.

Beaumont-Port Arthur, the mid-county cities of Nederland, Port Neches, and Groves, and Orange -- the easternmost point of the Triangle; as far as you can go without being in Louisiana -- are home to the highest concentration of refineries and chemical plants in the state of Texas. And not just a lot of them but some of the largest petrochemical operations in the world; when I lived there, their names were Gulf and Texaco and DuPont and Allied, but the names have all changed. I was raised in a union household; Mom was a professor in the college of business at Lamar, Dad was OCAW, employed by the Mobil (now ExxonMobil, of course) refinery in Beaumont. I worked at the coking unit of that plant during the summer of 1980, graduated from Lamar that winter, and started my first career at the Beaumont Enterprise-Journal as an advertising salesman that spring.

Politically speaking, the Golden Triangle has been Yellow Dog Democrat country for almost all of the time I've been around, and for a long time before. They elected and re-elected liberal stalwarts like Jack Brooks, Carl Parker, and Charlie Wilson, but they've also had temporary lapses of sanity with right-wing fools like Steve Stockman. And like most of the rest of Texas, they fell in love with Ronald Reagan in the Eighties and haven't yet managed to fall completely out of love with the current iteration of radical religious Republicanism.

History lesson over.

About sixty SE Texas Progressive Dems assembled for David's stump speech, and the crowd included Jefferson County party chair Gilbert Adams, state representative Joe Deshotel, and a handful of local candidates, but mostly citizen activists and kindred spirits. Here's a summary of what he said:

“News commentators, industry representatives, politicians, and other voices of the corporate-political-media establishment are somberly telling the rest of us to expect more increases in gasoline prices as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

However, I have some questions for the political-corporate elites and their friends in the media punditry. Who gave the big oil companies an unalienable right to profit off tragedy? Do the oil companies have a God-given right to forever maximize their profits? Why shouldn’t the oil companies and their silk-stocking executives be expected to do their part to assist in relief efforts? Why shouldn’t the oil companies be expected to show some public spirit and reduce their profit expectations at this time of national distress? Where are our public servants who should be calling on the oil companies to do their part? Are our public officials too beholden to corporate industry to exert moral leadership on this matter?”

About the amendment on the ballot to outlaw gay marriage in Texas:

“I take it as a personal offense and an affront to my citizenship that forces of bigotry are seeking to enshrine hate into the Texas Constitution. You know, the Declaration of Independence of 1776 grants every United States citizen the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; it is inconceivable that Texans would put something in our state constitution that would be a giant step backward from the achievement of that vision. The very idea of what the 'unreligious wrong' is trying to do is a disgrace, it is inhumane and it sure isn’t moral ... Morality means everyone is equal under the law. All of us as Texans are entitled to public servants who will serve the people and do everything in their power to defend the constitutional rights liberties of all the people equally."

And specifically addressing members of the GLBT community throughout Texas, as quoted in the Dallas Voice:

“Just keep on fighting for liberty, keep on fighting for equal justice under the law and keep on fighting for the kind of society and world you want to live in,” Van Os said. “Fight 'em 'til hell freezes over, and then fight 'em on the ice.”

There's more, but you get the picture. David was pretty well received, as you might imagine.

Friday morning, Van Os appeared on News Radio FOX 1340 (check out the 'fair and balanced' syndicated program lineup) for an interview with local drive-time personality Dominick Brascia, who was obviously and genuinely impressed with David's credentials and stands on the issues.

We had lunch with the attorneys from the Adams law firm, then went to the Jefferson County courthouse to attend the aforementioned TCEQ hearing on a modification to the hazardous waste permit held by the ExxonMobil refinery.

Since this post is getting long, I'll continue in the next.

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