People Unclear

This is number 41 of a long series

One of the ideas behind creating and maintaining the Skeptical Analysis blog was to provide a hint of clarity in a sometimes confusing world. A topic I treat on a weekly basis is the matter of gun violence in the United States, but despite all my efforts, there remain a number of people unclear. Some of them are elected officials in our highest offices. Take Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, for example:

Texas lieutenant governor blames abortions and violent video games for school shootings, but not guns

Updated 10:24 PM ET, Sun May 20, 2018

(CNN)Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Sunday said school shootings aren’t happening because of an issue with guns. Rather, he blamed the tragedies on a litany of other reasons, including abortions and violent video games.

Patrick praised Gov. Greg Abbott’s plans for a roundtable discussion on how to protect students from gun violence after the nation’s latest school shooting in Santa Fe, where 10 people were killed. “Everything ought to be on the table,” Patrick said.

Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you want, but I believe the LG has a point there. Suppose there were not a proliferation of guns about where just about anybody with a trigger finger could get his hands on one, and suppose you just had an abortion or else you spent the last five weeks binging on Street Fighter, then the inevitable would come to pass. You would have the insatiable desire to head back to school for the first time in days and gun down a few jerks who cut in front of you at the cafeteria. It would be no problem for you to dive down into your basement workshop and gin up a rapid-fire handgun with a 20-round magazine, and then those jerks back at school would be quickly short-listed.

Yes, this is the kind of thinking that goes on at levels well above my head. But there’s more.

Speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Patrick repeated earlier arguments about eliminating some school entrances: “We need to get down to one or two entrances into our schools.” He added: “You have the necessary exits for fire, of course, but we have to funnel our students into our schools so we can put eyes on them.”

Wait. Wait! Didn’t we recently enact laws that would make Texas one of the safest places in the country? Didn’t we just make it legal for run of the mill pedestrians to openly carry some serious heat? By now it should be safe enough that schools would not need walls. In fact, shouldn’t that be the case in any circumstance. Shouldn’t society by now be so safe that school shootings are a bad memory? Shouldn’t some of our top elected state officials stop over at the Mayo Clinic to have their brains checked for worms?

The truth is crashing down on us. We were promised that a proliferation in deadly weapons would make us all safer, and the fact is that in places where gun ownership has become a right, sanctified by law, we have:

  • A teenager shot in a scuffle perpetrated by a gun-carrying vigilante
  • A man in a car shot by somebody in another car who objected to loud music
  • A man shot in a movie theater in a confrontation involving popcorn
  • Five Dallas police officers killed by a sniper
  • Twenty-six people shot to death at a Texas church
  • Seventeen people shot to death at a Florida school
  • Ten people shot to death at a Texas school

I’m feeling safer already. Not really. I’m being facetious. Texas has Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Dan Patrick, Senator Ted Cruz, and Senator John Cornyn, all supporting the absurd notion that deadly weapons freely distributed will make us safer. What will make us safer is clearing out some of this dead wood.


The Government You Paid For

Number 6

A few days back I sent a note to Texas Senator John Cornyn. I sent another one weeks before that. See the back link above.

Anyhow, here is the text of my most recent to Senator Cornyn:

First, thank you for responding to my previous note.
The situation is obvious and has been driven home by events  of the past week. The Republican Party needs to distance itself from President Donald Trump, and more so, you and all of Congress need to  repudiate him and his policies and his actions. If you believe continued loyalty to the President is beneficial to you as a candidate or to your Party as a representative of the American people, then you are ignoring a terrible reality. You and the Republican Party can only stand to lose if you do not distance yourselves from this liability.
Congress, and you as a powerful member, have the ability to take necessary action to ensure the well-being of your constituents. Teaming with members of the Democrats in Congress, Republicans can set policy and enact legislation to prevent further damage. A strong rebuke from Congress can force President Trump to pull back from his school yard face off with the North Korean dictator. You can force the Executive Branch to resume its role as a responsible leader in world affairs. And more, all of which is obvious to you.
All that said, as a liberal and a person who tends to vote for Democratic candidates, I view the election of Donald Trump to  be a gift from Heaven, so to  speak. Nothing in recent decades has done more to expose the true nature of right wing politics as has the promotion of a man like Donald Trump to a position of the highest power. If your goal is to promote sincerely held conservative values, then your best play for these times is to show to all voters that Donald Trump does not represent the Republican Party and that the Party still has the ability and the willingness to look out for the American people first.
Background: I am retired, living in San Antonio. I am originally from Hood County, descended from Texans. My great grandmother was born in Texas about the time it was fighting to gain its independence from Mexico.

Much as people might not want to believe, your representatives in Washington will respond to all reasonable mail, in this case a message posted on the Senator’s Web site. As my note indicates, Senator Cornyn’s office responded to my first message. Here’s the response I received related to the above:

Dear John:

Thank you for your recent letter regarding the Trump Administration. I appreciate having the benefit of your comments as our nation transitions to a new administration.

As you may know, President Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on January 20, 2017. President Trump has the authority vested in Article II of the U.S. Constitution as the Commander-in-Chief and President of the United States.

To alleviate the dangers inherent in centralized power, the U.S. Constitution establishes three separate, but equal, branches of government: the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary. Our Founding Fathers developed a system of checks and balances to prevent the accumulation of excessive power in any single branch. Within this system, Congress has the duty to provide critical oversight of the executive branch and determine how taxpayer dollars are spent.

I take this responsibility seriously and am committed to working with the Trump Administration to ensure the will of the American people is heard and the interests of all Texans are represented. I believe open government is an essential requirement of democracy. Transparency allows citizens to view how government operates, permits an honest exchange of information that ensures government accountability, and upholds the American ideal that government never rules without the consent of the governed.

During the 115th Congress, I look forward to addressing the critical issues facing Texans and will continue my efforts to restore America’s fiscal health, help Texas businesses innovate and create jobs, strengthen our national security, support our veterans and military personnel, protect U.S. sovereignty, and tackle our health care challenges.

I appreciate having the opportunity to represent you in the United States Senate. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.


United States Senator
517 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-2934
Fax: (202) 228-2856

You will notice in my message to the Senator, I urged him to work with his Senate counterparts in opposing President Donald Trump. I hinted doing so would be beneficial not only to the Republican Party but also to the nation at large. An implication was that continuing to move lock step with Donald Trump could bring dire consequences. You will also notice the crux of Senator Cornyn’s response:

I take this responsibility seriously and am committed to working with the Trump Administration to ensure the will of the American people is heard and the interests of all Texans are represented.

If I understand that correctly, Senator Cornyn still considers himself to be in President Trump’s camp. He’s following the leader.

As I write, additional Senators are putting distance between themselves and Donald Trump. One such is the junior senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake. The consequences are manifest:

Phoenix crowd last night was amazing – a packed house. I love the Great State of Arizona. Not a fan of Jeff Flake, weak on crime & border!

Yes, there is a price to pay for bucking the Tweeter-in-Chief, and one of two is true:
  • Senator John Cornyn is of like kind with Donald Trump.
  • Senator Cornyn lacks the self assurance to step away.
John Cornyn is up for re-election in 2020, so he is safe from voter retribution for three more years. Senator Ted Cruz is up for re-election next year, and his fate may be a signal to Cornyn. The hope of many Texans, Democrats and Republicans alike, is to see Ted Cruz gone two years from now. If he is replaced by a Democrat, then the signal to John Cornyn may become clear. Whether he will heed my advice will not become known for several more months.
There’s more to come. Keep reading.

The Government You Paid For

Number 5

The matter of Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) has come up before:

A follow-up investigation by the brought the conclusion: this is a pants on fire not true. PolitiFact concludes:

Our ruling

The Facebook post tells the story of a man who says he opted out of Obamacare soon after the marketplace was launched on Oct. 1, 2013, and was informed that he owed a fine of more than $4,000.

The post includes many elements that make no sense or are flat-out wrong — and can be easily debunked by reading the law or reliable summaries of it. We rate it Pants on Fire.

That was nearly four years ago, and the tussle continues. Donald Trump has since been elected President on the promise of repealing and replacing the ACA. This scheme has not been working out. Republicans in  Congress submitted 60 pieces of legislation to this purpose while Mr. Obama was President. The President vetoed all of them, said vetoes being sustained, because Republicans in Congress did not have enough votes to  override the vetoes.

Now that Mr. Trump is President, and now that Republicans control both houses of Congress, there should be no problem repealing and/or replacing the ACA. Except, the Republicans all this time never had a plan for doing that exact thing. The ACA, which Donald Trump promised to dispose of his first day in office, is still on the books, and Republicans are making little progress toward achieving their previously-stated goal. The squabble continues.

All of this prompted me to contact a key senator from my home state. I found his Web page and filled out a message form. I essentially requested that he consider the wellbeing of all the people of Texas and not just the wishes of those who supported his re-election. After a few days I received a response by email:

Senator Cornyn <>

Aug 5 at 7:54 AM


Dear John:

Thank you for contacting me with your suggestions regarding health care reform. I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on this matter.

The existing American health care system faces a myriad of complex challenges. The 2010 passage of sweeping health care reform continues to have dramatic implications for our health care system and for all 321 million Americans.

I often hear the frustration of Texans struggling to meet their health care needs in the existing system and understand the importance of implementing common-sense reforms that achieve results. Under the Affordable Care Act (P. L. 111-148), premiums have increased by more than 105 percent since 2013, and one-third of all counties in the United States have only one option on their exchange. Moreover, 6.5 million families preferred to pay a tax penalty in 2015 rather than purchase a government-approved health care plan, costing a combined total of $3 billion. Meaningful health care reform is necessary.

To this end, I have supported legislative proposals that place patients, their families, and their doctors at the center of health care decisions, rather than government bureaucrats. As the Senate continues to debate how we can improve upon our current system, I will keep your views in mind and support realistic reforms to lower health care costs, address entitlement spending, and increase access to affordable health coverage.

I appreciate the opportunity to represent Texas in the United States Senate. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.


United States Senator
517 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-2934
Fax: (202) 228-2856
 And that was most gratifying. Of course, I do not think for a minute that a busy United States Senator takes time out to answer all his correspondence (maybe he does), but I am sure the above represents the thinking of Senator John Cornyn of Texas. To that end, I consider his closing statement most interesting:
To this end, I have supported legislative proposals that place patients, their families, and their doctors at the center of health care decisions, rather than government bureaucrats.

We have seen these past months how that is working out. This from Forbes:

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 24 million fewer people will have health insurance by 2026 under the House GOP plan to replace Obamacare. That projection is unsurprising, and quite likely overstated. But what is surprising about the CBO report is the ways in which it makes the GOP bill look better than expected, and how it points to how the bill can be improved.

There is more besides this, and you can read the linked page to get the rest. But that is the gist. The Republican-controlled House voted in place (not enacted) a plan to replace the ACA, said plan being predicted to put millions more people among the uninsured. Apparently somebody has missed  the point. The purpose of the ACA was to add more people to the ranks of those having health (medical) insurance.

Of course, Mr. Cornyn works for the Senate, which must also come up with a plan. It may be of interest how that’s working out. From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act was edging toward collapse on Monday after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said it would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026.

Two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, said Monday that they would vote against even debating the health care bill, joining Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, who made the same pledge on Friday. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin hinted that he, too, would probably oppose taking up the bill on a procedural vote expected as early as Tuesday, meaning a collapse could be imminent.

Right! Not only has the Senate been able to come up with a bill to improve on the ACA, but key Republican senators have refused to vote for one that was submitted for vote. Since publication of the above item, Senator John McCain, Republican from Arizona, also declined to vote for the bill. Seeing as how the Republican Party has only a two-vote edge, Senator McCain’s vote killed the Republican proposal.

Despite Senator Cornyn’s best intentions, the United States Congress is not going to be able to improve on the ACA without discarding a half a basket full of outworn notions. They are going to need to get past objections against a bunch of people obtaining health insurance with premiums paid by others. They are also going to need to acknowledge universal medical care is a benefit to the American economy, those benefits including:

  • More people working productively rather than languishing at home, unable to work.
  • Reduced costs with people having debilitating illness going to their doctor rather than crowding hospital emergency rooms.
  • Reduced medical costs, as more people receive preventive care and do not develop serious medical issues.

And likely more.

Readers, it is to your benefit to contact your congressman and senator. These people depend on your vote to return to office next year in the case of your House representative and to the Senate in the case of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. If you don’t let them know, and in great numbers, they are going to think that next year’s election will be another walk-on part in the drama currently playing out in Washington.