Discover the Five
| September 19, 2014 | 9:18 pm | Cuban Five | No comments

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Greg Abbott’s political contributions: part 11. Border Health, Laurence Hirsch and James Flores
| September 18, 2014 | 9:16 pm | Action, Analysis, Local/State | No comments

by James Thompson

According to Project Vote Smart, Border Health, Laurence Hirsch and James Flores were tied to be Greg Abbott’s 16th highest political contributors at $100,000.

Texas monthly writes about Border Health PAC:

“A well-funded political action committee has augmented the region’s political influence. The Border Health PAC, whose contributors are closely associated with Doctors Hospital, has contributed $940,000 to state and local candidates and now boasts a war chest in excess of $1 million.

The PAC’S initial treasurer was Dr. Carlos Cardenas, a physician on the Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Board of Managers. The hospital was constructed by Alonzo Cantu, a successful Valley real estate developer who was known nationally as a “bundler” for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign. Cantu remains a key investor in the hospital. His involvement in blocking federal legislation banning doctor-owned facilities was highlighted in a 2007 Washington Post profile.

The Doctors Hospital group is obviously well connected: Its board hosted Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in 2007 for the grand opening of its new Women’s Hospital. (Cantu made her trip worthwhile, as he personally contributed $6,600 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that month.)

And former Texas comptroller John Sharp, now a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, owns a small stake in the hospital.  He has also contributed $250 per month since November 2005, to the Border Health PAC. That  same month Governor Rick Perry named Sharp chairman and Cantu a member of his tax reform commission. Sharp has also contributed $250 each month to the federal Border Health PAC. There are others who make clockwork-like contributions like Sharp’s–Cantu, for instance has sent a $250 check each month since August, 2004, as has Doctors Hospital CEO Lawrence Gelman. Cardenas said in a phone interview that all owners are encouraged, but not required to give to the PAC. The PAC has received authorization to draw a certain contribution from each owner, but Cardenas says there is no link between those sums and the hospital’s profits.

Sharp, who is an announced candidate for the U.S. Senate seat that Kay Bailey Hutchison will give up this fall, said his contributions to the PAC do not mean he agrees with the positions advocated by the group. As for the proposed federal ban on doctor-owned facilities, Sharp said, “It is not on my radar screen.” He said he signed up to make regular contributions to the PAC at Cantu’s request, and said he believed most investors did as well. “See, they have these deals at banks where you can automatically deduct,” he told me. “It’s no different than any other PAC.”

He also noted that Cantu has not held a fundraiser for him in his current race. According to news reports, Cantu held an event for Sharp’s opponent, Houston mayor Bill White, to meet community leaders.

The largesse of the Border Health PAC is significant. Since 2006, here are some of its beneficiaries: in the Texas Senate, Juan Hinojosa, $125,000; Judith Zaffirini, $50,000; Eddie Lucio, $25,000; in the House of Representatives, Richard Raymond, $20,000; Yvonne Gonzales-Toureilles, $20,000; Veronica Gonzales, $22,500, Flores, $42,500. Perry picked up $75,000 during the same period, and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and former House Speaker Tom Craddick both netted $25,000.

Undoubtedly, political influence has been brought to bear on the federal issue of physician-owned facilities and the state issue of managed care. So should lawmakers revisit the issue of extending managed care for Medicaid in the Valley?

State representative John Zerwas, who oversaw the state health care budget for the House this spring, says he advocated moving to managed care in the Valley to take advantage of the estimated cost savings, but Valley lawmakers “would have none of it.” Zerwas, a physician, says, “There is no doubt that managed care makes costs go down. The question is what will that do to the hospitals and the docs?” The delivery system in the Valley is “fragile,” he said.

Still, given evidence of “overutilization” of medicine dramatized by the New Yorker article, he said “It should be a wake-up call to practitioners in the Valley to recognize that the single biggest driver of the cost of care is the pen in their hand.”

Coleman, who is leading a group of state lawmakers making recommendations for national heath care reform, recently met with representatives of Doctors Hospital. “I was chagrined that Texas was being used as an example of the worst in terms of costs, particularly when we have the most uninsured. A change needs to occur in how health care is delivered in Hidalgo County.”

But he cautioned against a “knee-jerk” reaction, like banning physician-owned facilities or switching to a traditional managed care system that does not take into account the region’s unique mix of poverty and chronic illness.

Cardenas argued that the Valley has needed its current system for Medicaid administration—primary care case management, which allows many medical procedures to be billed as “fee-for-service”—because its population is more spread out, poorer, and more sickly than is characteristic in other areas of the state. Adopting the managed care system of the state’s other metro areas might realize savings, but would also result in poorer care for patients, Cardenas said. It is not immediately clear why managed care would not work in these circumstances.

Senator Steve Ogden, chairman of the Texas Senate Finance Committee, says he’s always believed managed care would trim health care costs in the Valley. But, he acknowledged, “Valley legislators line up uniformly opposed to it. It was not a fight I took on because there wasn’t anything I could do about it.”

This is how the system works: The politicians who get huge contributions from the Border Health PAC protect the status quo, the doctors continue to order expensive medical procedures, and the money rolls in. The question is whether, given the spotlight shone on the Valley by the New Yorker and now by the New York Times (“ Texas Hospital Flexing Muscle in Health Fight ”) the question is whether the status quo can be changed in the face of resistance from the region’s delegation. Says Ogden: “There are some providers using poor people to make a lot of money. And I think South Texas is probably ground zero for that.”

Forbes magazine wrote this about Laurence Hirsch:

Mr. Hirsch is Chairman of Highlander Partners, a private investment company. He has served as Chairman of our Board of Directors from July 1999 to the present and also served in that capacity from January 1994 through December 1997. He was our interim Chief Executive Officer from April 2003 through September 2003. Mr. Hirsch is a member of the Executive Committee of our Board of Directors. Until his retirement on March 31, 2004, Mr. Hirsch served Centex Corporation in various capacities, including as President beginning in 1985, as Chief Executive Officer beginning in July 1988 and as Chairman of its board of directors beginning in July 1991. Mr. Hirsch served as a director of Belo Corp. from August 1999 through January 2008 and continued as a director of A. H. Belo until May 2011. Mr. Hirsch served as a director of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. (Freddie Mac) from November 2009 until February 2012. Mr. Hirsch is currently Chairman of the Center for European Policy Analysis.

Forbes magazine wrote this about James Flores:

James C. Flores, Vice Chairman of the Board of the company and President and Chief Executive Officer of Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas LLC, our wholly owned subsidiary, since June 2013. Former Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Plains Exploration & Production Company from its inception in December 2002 and President from 2004 until acquired by the company in 2013. Chairman of the Board of Plains Resources, Inc. (now owned by Vulcan Energy Corporation) from May 2001 to June 2004 and current director of Vulcan Energy Corporation. Chief Executive Officer of Plains Resources, Inc. from May 2001 to December 2002. Co-founder, Chairman, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at various times from 1992 to January 2001 of Ocean Energy, Inc., an oil and gas company.

Mr. Flores owns a “mega-mansion” located at the corner of River Oaks Blvd. and Inwood in Houston. This is the heart of River Oaks, the most exclusive neighborhood of the wealthiest Houstonians. The mansion boasts 28,000 ft.² and is valued at nearly $19 million.

Texas voters should remember these contributors to Greg Abbott’s political campaign when they cast their ballot in November.

The Right of Nations to Self-Determination
| September 17, 2014 | 9:52 pm | Analysis, International | No comments

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Scotland’s referendum: The Communist View
| September 17, 2014 | 9:48 pm | Analysis, International | No comments

A long-awaited referendum on whether Scotland should become an independent country will be held on Sept. 18. The following statement on this issue was adopted in March 2014 by the Scottish Committee of the Communist Party of Britain.
People’s Voice
, Sept. 16, 2014

The Scottish Committee of the CPB defends the right of nations to selfdetermination and condemns the Coalition government for its threats of noncooperation.

If a majority of the Scottish people vote for independence in the 2014 referendum, then their decision should be respected. Our commitment to the right to selfdetermination is one of principle. At the same time, the Communist Party maintains its other principle of judging the exercise of that right in terms of the class interests of the Scottish people and of those of working people in Britain and internationally.

On this basis, Communists do not believe independence on the terms proposed is in the interests of working people today any more than it was in the 1970s. At that time Communists and the Left in the trade union led the way in the fight for a Scottish parliament with powers to intervene in the economy, to develop public ownership and increase labour’s power over capital  powers that would in turn strengthen the bargaining power of working people across Britain.

It is our conviction that independence as proposed in the White Paper would weaken such bargaining power and strengthen that of big business and of its state machine at both British and Scottish level. Membership of the sterling area would subordinate Scotland to current neoliberal policies without any power to change them  at the same time as seriously eroding the opportunity for united working class action across the nations of Britain to do so.

Worse still, membership of the EU would oblige Scotland to incorporate in any written constitution the terms of the 2012 Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance. This Treaty requires even tougher controls on government spending than the Stability and Growth Pact  with the same objective: using unemployment as the market regulator to curb the trade union movement.

While it is conceivable that some of the most reactionary aspects of the White Paper, such as NATO membership and reducing Corporation Tax, might be reversed as a result of subsequent political mobilisation by the Left, we judge it to be extremely unlikely that there would be a reversal of positions on Sterling and EU membership.

The transition to independence will take place at a time of diminishing oil revenues and unfavourable economic circumstances  allowing any Scottish government, and the big business controlled media, to call for fiscal “stability” in face of adverse market reactions. Leftwing supporters of independence need to think through the consequences. The socialist Left does not possess anything like mass support in Scotland today.

Election results show this. The inevitably rancorous negotiations over the division of resources will harden nationalist attitudes. Yet these years, 20152017, will be precisely when the terms of the new written Scottish Constitution will be determined and the SNP’s White Paper demonstrates a clear intent to do so on the terms set by big business and Scotland’s own finance capital sector.

This is why Communists oppose this White Paper on Independence. Instead we continue to call for radical federalism as the best way of developing class cohesion across the nations of Britain: national parliaments with powers of economic intervention, ownership and control and a federal parliament with overall powers over economic policy and a constitutional obligation to redistribute in terms of social need.

We believe that this provides the best framework for uniting working people on class terms against the state power of big business. Currently that power is concentrated at British level and represents above all the interests of the City of London.

Under a “White Paper” Scottish Constitution, big business will continue to exercise this power through its disproportionate ownership of the Scottish economy and the binding requirements of its instruments, the Bank of England and the EU Treaties.

A No vote in the referendum has to be made the springboard for remobilising the working class movement at British level to demand real constitutional change.

The fight for radical federalism, as outlined in Red Paper, must begin now. At the same time the fight for the objectives of the People’s Charter and the People’s Assembly, backed by the united trade union movement in England, Scotland and Wales, must be stepped up. Radical Federalism will only be won on the basis of class mobilisation across the nations of Britain.

Greg Abbott’s political contributors: part 10. Ardon Moore
| September 17, 2014 | 9:02 pm | Action, Local/State | No comments

According to Project Vote Smart, Greg Abbott’s 14th highest political contributor is Ardon Moore, who weighs in with $100,231.

BusinessWeek provides a description of Mr. Moore:

“Mr. Ardon E. Moore serves as the Chief Executive Officer and President of Lee M. Bass, Inc. Mr. Moore serves as Vice Chairman of University of Texas Investment Management Company. He serves as a Trustee of Cook Children’s Hospital. He served as a Director of Siemens Water Technologies since September 1997. He served as a Trustee of Texas Water Foundation. Mr. Moore serves as the President of Fort Worth Zoological Association. He served as President of All Saint’s Episcopal … School of Fort Worth. He serves as the Member of Austin Development Board at The University of Texas, Dean’s Circle, The University of Texas McCombs School of Business, and Stanford Graduate School of Business Alumni Association.

The Star-Telegram writes about Ardon Moore and his wife on 6/25/2013:

“FORT WORTH — Ruth Carter Stevenson, daughter of the Star-Telegram’s founding publisher Amon G. Carter Sr., was herself a civic force, having co-founded the nonprofit Historic Fort Worth Inc., a group dedicated to defending the city’s architectural heritage.

Fervent on such legacy issues, Stevenson also served on the board of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, nominated by investor-philanthropist Robert M. Bass.

Yet on Thursday and Friday, just months after her death in January, Stevenson’s own award-winning house of mid-century modern design was demolished by its new owner.

Only a greenhouse at the front of the property at 1200 Broad Ave. was left standing, and truck after truck hauled off rubble on Friday from what had been a 6,080-square-foot house, valued by the Tarrant County Appraisal District at $641,000. The entire property, overlooking the West Fork of the Trinity River in west Fort Worth near River Crest Country Club, was appraised at $2.3 million. The purchase price has not been made public.

The house, built in 1956, was sold in April to an anonymous Delaware-based entity, 1200 Broad LLC. A Carter family member identified the new owners as Ardon and Iris Moore of Fort Worth.

The demolition occurred immediately after an appeal to spare the home on Thursday by the Texas Society of Architects and after several attempts this week by the Star-Telegram to reach Ardon Moore, 54, CEO of Lee Bass Inc. investment firm, for comment.

Coincidentally, a demolition permit has been issued for Stevenson’s father’s sprawling home next door at 1220 Broad Ave. That house, known as the Bomar-Carter house, is listed on the Tarrant County Historic Resources Survey, but like Stevenson’s is not protected by official historic landmark status.

The Bomar-Carter house was built in 1911 by the Bomar brothers, developers of the Rivercrest addition and country club, and sold in 1919 to Amon Carter Sr.

Researchers believe it was designed by the noted local firm Sanguinet and Staats in the California-influenced “ultimate Craftsman” style. Carter’s third wife and widow, Minnie Meacham Carter, lived in the house until she was moved to a care center in 1995. It stayed in the family until 2011 when it was sold to Range Resources Chairman John Pinkerton. He did not respond to several requests for comment.

Fort Worth architect Mark Gunderson decried the move to raze the Bomar-Carter house, saying it’s “inconceivable that a city would allow the demolition of the 100-plus-year-old home of its foremost civic supporter of the early 20th century while expressing allegiance to the city’s ‘heritage.’ ”

In recent days, architecture and preservation groups tried to rally support to save the Bomar-Carter house, and then added Stevenson’s home when it was learned that a demolition permit had been issued on May 30.

“This home is both a monument to the life and work of Ruth Carter Stevenson, as well as exemplary of the work of renowned architect Harwell Hamilton Harris,” Eva Reed-Warden, a College Station architect, wrote in an open letter to save the structure.

“As a representative of the historic resources committee of the Texas Society of Architects, I am writing to plea for the saving of this icon of 1950’s architecture and Fort Worth cultural history.

“As time passes and Fort Worth continues to grow and evolve, it becomes more and more important to not lose knowledge of the people and culture that came before, that helped make us who we are,” she wrote. “Fort Worth would not be the place it is today without the contributions of Ruth Carter Stevenson, and her dedication to both art and architecture is exhibited in this home.”

Harris, who died in 1990 at age 83, was dean of the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture when Stevenson hired him. With a practice in Dallas, he became known as a prominent member of a group of progressive architects known as the “Texas Rangers.”

Owners didn’t seek designation

The city of Fort Worth could do nothing to prevent demolition since none of the owners ever applied for historic landmark status, said city spokesman Bill Begley. He noted that Carter’s own grandson, J. Lee Johnson IV, successfully fought an attempt to give the Bomar-Carter house such a designation when he lived there in 1995.

“Respecting the history and the roots of our city and its architecture are very important to me and to the City of Fort Worth,” Mayor Betsy Price said in a statement. “However, we also must respect the rights of property owners. There is a process in place for identifying and designating historic properties, but the property owners did not take any action to begin that process. Therefore, no action has been taken.”

Sheila Johnson, Stevenson’s oldest daughter, said the heirs were unaware that her mother’s house would be demolished shortly after being sold. But she said she doubted if any relatives would have opposed its destruction. Johnson said the house had had mold problems about 10 years ago, but she did not know if there had been a recurrence or if there were other structural problems.

As a child, Johnson said, she went along as boulders were transported from Mineral Wells to construct the impressive garden designed by noted landscape architect Thomas Church. To her, the garden was more significant than the house, she said.

The older Bomar-Carter house had major problems, Johnson said. She said she had been told that it would have cost the Pinkertons more to restore the house than to rebuild from scratch.

‘Significant structure’

In a biography of Harris, author Lisa Germany wrote that Ruth Carter Stevenson chose the California-born architect because, unlike her West Side neighbors who built versions of French chateaux and English country manors, she wanted a modern and unpretentious home for her family “where her art collection seemed natural and personal, not monumental and aloof.”

Harris, who was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, used warm coral brick made by a company in which the Stevenson family owned stock, according to Germany’s 1991 book, Harwell Hamilton Harris. When Harris died in 1990, the biographer told The New York Times that Wright told Harris on their first meeting in the 1940s: “Of course I know Harwell Hamilton Harris. You’re a great artist, and when your hair is as gray as mine, you’ll be a great architect.”

Eleventh-hour appeals to save the Stevenson house — some issued to “whom it may concern” because the ownership could not be learned — fell on deaf ears.

Stevenson, aside from her historic preservation work, built the Amon G. Carter Museum of American Art based on her father’s collection and was the first woman appointed to the board of Washington’s National Gallery of Art.

“When showing the most important architectural work in the city to visiting dignitaries — noted architects, artists, writers and others — Ruth’s house is easily one of the six or so most significant structures in Fort Worth,” Gunderson said.

“Even in a city as conservative as Fort Worth, with its seeming ‘anti-modern’ bias, her house and garden remains a quiet, unostentatious, understated oasis and its loss would be a travesty,” the architect said before learning it was demolished. “It is sad commentary on the lack of appreciation for architecture and landscape in a place containing a handful of the best examples in the world.”

Staff writer Sandra Baker contributed to this report, which includes material from Star-Telegram archives.

Barry Shlachter, 817-390-7718

Read more here:


Texas voters should consider this powerful political contributor to Greg Abbott before casting their ballot in November.

Texas AG under fire (reprinted from 9/24/2006)
| September 15, 2014 | 10:15 pm | Action, Analysis, Local/State | No comments

(Originally written on 9/24/2006)

By Paul Hill

HOUSTON – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is under pressure for his “voter fraud” crusade and for improperly seizing records that were part of a pending federal court case involving possible fraudulent diagnoses of silicosis, a lung disease.


The San Antonio Express-News reported that Abbott, a Republican, is enforcing a controversial 2003 Texas law that makes it a crime to put other voters’ absentee ballots in the mail or deliver them to election officials. Democrats reportedly plan to file a lawsuit in federal court to challenge the law, arguing it violates the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of free speech, free association and equal protection. Democrats will allege that Abbott is “selectively enforcing the law against Hispanics and blacks to intimidate minority voters and dilute their strength at the polls.” Democrats complain that of the 13 individuals indicted for voter fraud, 12 are minority women, 1 is an Anglo male and 0 are Republicans. The suit will also allege that Abbott’s educational campaign launched before last year’s primary used racial cues and linked African Americans to voter fraud.


Texas Democratic Party spokeswoman Amber Moon stated, “I think it’s evident that Abbott’s practice of singling out minorities and seniors is a shallow political effort to suppress the votes…It’s being done disingenuously. The majority of these cases are well-meaning folks who are simply trying to help their neighbors to vote.”


The Texas NAACP and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund testified against the voter fraud law because it targets Latino and African American patterns of voting. Elderly African Americans and Latinos frequently prefer to vote absentee because they fear intimidation at the polls. If they are homebound, younger members of the community often assist them.


Meanwhile, it has been reported on David Van Os’ website that Abbott’s office “dispatched a squad of armed agents with subpoenas to forcibly seize, without permission, thousands of records from the federal court’s storage facility. These records were part of pending federal court cases involving possible fraudulent diagnoses of silicosis, a lung disease.”


U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack demanded that Abbott’s office return the documents immediately and suggested their removal could become a criminal matter. Abbot returned all the records except for 152, which his spokesperson said could not be found.


Abbott’s opponent in the November election, Democrat David Van Os, issued the following statement: “I’m not surprised by this arrogant conduct. Greg Abbott is part of the silk-stocking social clique that runs Texas government as if it were their private club…This is the same Gregg Abbott who lets the Texas Department of Transportation hide its contracts with foreign companies. This is the same Greg Abbott who uses the taxpayers’ money to file legal briefs and maps on behalf of the Republican Party, who employs Tom DeLay’s cronies, and who refuses to challenge the oil companies on behalf of the people of Texas. Seizing and then losing working people’s personal medical records from a court file is par for his course.”


Abbott apologized in a letter to Judge Jack for ‘the confusion and misunderstandings’ his actions caused. He also maintained that his agents were only joking when they threatened to arrest the storage supervisor if he didn’t hand over the documents.


Van Os commented: “Attorney General Abbott admitted to the federal court in Corpus Christi that he should not have seized court files without getting permission from the court. He apologizes, but then offers the incredulous excuses that his office thought permission had been obtained from the judge and that his armed agents were just joking when they threatened the supervisor of the court’s records with arrest. How did top officials in the Attorney General’s office come to think permission had been obtained from the judge when nobody had even contacted the judge? What kind of law enforcement organization allows its agents to threaten arrest as a joke when in the course of official duties?”

Greg Abbott’s political contributors: part nine. Kelcy Warren
| September 14, 2014 | 9:46 pm | Action, Analysis, Local/State | No comments

By James Thompson

According to Project Vote Smart, Kelcy Warren is the 12th highest political contributor to Greg Abbott at $101,303.

Texas Monthly wrote that Kelcy Warren is the 18th richest person in Texas with a net worth of $3.4 billion. The magazine also wrote about Mr. Warren: “Kelcy Warren knows pipe. He grew up welding with his dad for a modest pipeline company in East Texas and later found he had a knack for buying up undervalued pipeline outfits and squeezing money out of them. Along with Ray Davis (future co-owner of the Texas Rangers), he built Energy Transfer Partners into one of the nation’s largest pipeline companies, making himself a billionaire along the way. He recently caused a splash in Dallas by giving a reported $10 million to downtown’s new Klyde Warren Park—named after his ten-year-old son—but what he really wants to do is sing. He owns a recording studio in Austin, and in his $29 million, 27,200-square-foot castle in Preston Hollow, there is a hidden door in a walk-in closet that leads to a secret room filled with guitars.”

Forbes Magazine indicates Mr. Warren is the 235th richest man in the world and they estimate his wealth at $6.1 billion.

Forbes Magazine also had this to say about Mr. Warren: “The money just keeps flowing at Kelcy Warren’s Energy Transfer Equity. Shares of the oil and gas pipeline master limited partnership are up 80% this year, crushing the returns at rival energy billionaire’s Richard Kinder’s Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (shares are down 10%). Natural gas prices are at their highest price in four years as a frigid U.S. winter sent demand soaring. Warren co-founded natural-gas pipeline firm Energy Transfer Partners with Ray C. Davis in 1995; he bought struggling gas assets and linked them into an efficient system. Today its parent, Energy Transfer Equity, owns more than 17,000 miles of natural gas and crude oil pipelines. ETE bought Southern Union pipeline company for more than $5 billion, and bought Sunoco and its gas stations for $5.3 billion, both in 2012. Warren, a music fan, produces albums for singer-songwriters at his Austin-based studio, Music Road Records.”

Texas voters should consider this major contributor to Greg Abbott’s political campaign before casting their ballot in November.