Nov 30, 2005

Kinky and the Rep Talking Higher Ed

Kinky Friedman, UTPA Student Governemnt President Adrian Sandoval and I were at Pan Am last night to talk about higher ed. The forum was hosted by the UTPA Faculty Union and I'd like to thank Dr. Llanes for the invitation.

I had a lot of fun, Kinky was a hoot but I can tell that the man is passionate about education and he is serious about running for Governor. I had the unenviable position of defending the Legislature, as most criticism was directed at the state but I am always happy to participate in these community discussions.

We had over 100 people in the crowd and I can assure you most of them were not there to see me. The forum lasted a couple hours and we had some great participation by the faculty and students.

Democracy is wonderful isn't it.

Nov 29, 2005

Rep. Carlos Uresti Is Marching On

We told you that Rep. Richard Raymond was running for Congress months before he made an official announcement to run against Henry Cuellar.

Now the Rio Grande Guardian and the Quorum Report mention that Rep. Carlos Uresti (yep that's him above in the recent Veterans' march) has a special announcement on Friday. Could it be that he is announcing his run for re-election? Or is the rumor, running around Austin, true - is he in fact going to announce that he is running for the Texas Senate?

Well in keeping with the tradition first started here months ago, first please note Carlos has yet to make a formal announcement, the inside scoop however is be prepared to hear his announcement that he is in fact running for the Senate.

UPDATE: He formally announced Friday, Dec. 2, 2005, here is his announcement release taken from his website.

Kinky and The Rep. Tag Team School Finance at UT-Pan American

In this corner, despite a lot of walking, still weighing in at several hundred pounds is your local blogging rep. (Small applause).

In the same corner, straight out of a successful writing career right into a run for Texas Governor, the Kinkmiester (The crowd goes wild).

In the opposite corner are the sticky and politically sensitive issues of school finance and taxes.

The two will come forward at a faculty and student forum at the University of Texas, Pan American tomorrow at 6 p.m. where they will discuss the ongoing debate over school finance along with issues dealing with cutbacks in higher education.

Both political figures were invited by the UT-PA Faculty Association to speak on education issues to the attendees.

For more information look to Kinky Friedman's website.

Nov 28, 2005

US Senator Cornyn In The Valley Tonight As "Key" Player In Immigration Debate

Read the previous posts and articles on the Immigration issue. Then read Fred Barnes article in the Weekly Standard on what is really going on in trying to get this issue before the voters at this time.

"For Republicans, immigration reform could be a saving issue in the 2006 midterm election. With Social Security reform off the table for now, immigration is America's most urgent domestic problem. And if handled sensitively, it would not reverse the drift of Hispanic voters to the Republican party. Democrats, of course, may try to disrupt Bush's efforts, as they tried in 2003 when he won a Medicare prescription drug benefit. But since his ideas on immigration are close to theirs, they're more likely to go along."

The article points to Senator Cornyn as a key player in the internal debate that may cause the Republican party to implode on this issue. Internal dynamics pit the grassroots of the party that are unhappy with Bush's previous stands on the issue against corporate interests that benefit from cheap labor.

It is an interesting read at any point. At this moment Senator Cornyn seems to be doing his part of the game plan. He is presently speaking to local business leaders here in McAllen, Texas.

I would hope that rather than simply looking for a mid-term political issue to use in congressional campaigns, that those involved meaningfully address the problems that people face.

Meth Use, Seizures on the Rise on the Border

The Monitor's story.

Grits for Breakfast has a good post on the growing problem.

Bush Presses for New Immigration Strategy

Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. – President Bush on Monday tried to ease the concerns of conservatives who are wary of his guest-worker plan for foreigners, talking tough about illegal immigration and a need for tight U.S. borders to deter terrorist attacks.

“Illegal immigration is a serious challenge and our responsibility is clear: We are going to protect the border,” Bush said.

After spending nearly a week at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush went on the road to pitch his immigration plan – first in Tucson and again on Tuesday in El Paso, Texas. The border states are home to GOP senators who say there is a need to change immigration laws but who aren't entirely sold on Bush's vision.

Here is the Dallas Morning News story.

Here is the story by Time Magazine.

Nov 27, 2005

Immigration Debate: I Hate To Say I Told You So, But Here It Comes, Demagoguery!

Several years ago I shouted out to whoevever cared to listen about the growth of drugs and drug violence along the US-Mexican border. It seemed to me at the time that although the public may have cared, few of their leaders did. In my town we lost numerous lives to drugs and many more to drug violence. At the time I questioned why our state and national leaders seemed to not give a damn. As our local children died, I publicly and repeatedly questioned how many more would have to die in order to get some relief.

Fast forward several years, with the congressional and presidential election cycle fast approaching, some within the country's political elite are stumbling over each other to get in front of the issue, but now with a slight twist. The New York Times examines the new, issue du jour in this well written story.

The twist of which I speak, is that although we here in the affected communities complained about this country's ineffectiveness in dealing with a growing drug trade on the border and the lack of local infrastructure to deal with the growing problem, politicians of the Machiavellian sort, saw and have now fashioned a finer more useful argument. Not of course to deal with the root problem but rather to see that they, and their ilk, are re-elected.

You see our argument of drug violence and corruption of our local youth got transformed, it got personalized, into a fear of the illegal immigrant. Sure this country has an illegal immigration problem and one that needs to be rationally and compassionately addressed, but what about the human toll that results from the original problem of drugs and drug cartels infecting our border states.

No, I fear, that politicians (of the deroratory sort) fear that the drug problem can never be resolved and providing local communities the tools, namely drug treatment centers and other grassroots supports, are simply too costly. Why do this, they must think, when our real objective of finding a re-election issue can more easily achieved by personalizing the fear of the border, or the other, on the illegal immigrant.

As an American of Mexican ancestry, I fear the damage by such demagoguery that will result to a fiercely loyal and patriotic segment of our country. Should anyone question that loyalty, come, take a visit to my Deep South Texas home where I'm sure we bury loyal patriotic Americans serving in Iraq at a faster rate than other parts of this country.

As this journal documented months ago, notes leaked out of some of the hands of Washington political insiders, clearly show that we can expect, as we see today, a growth in the demagoguery on the issue.

As we noted back then, let us not be divided as some prey on our innermost fears of each other. Let us find the solutions that provide maximum benefit to our fellow man. Let us not be deterred from doing the important work that confronts us, but let us do so with concern for the greater good rather than a fear of each other.

Such is our challenge.

The Dallas Morning News Has Another Excellent Piece On Escalating Border Violence

The Dallas Morning News will likely receive an award for their coverage of the rising border violence. Very early on, when there were but a few "voices in the wilderness" on the growth of drugs and border violence, I am proud to say the DMN was there exposing the early stages of the problem.

As a representative of this state and more particularly a representative from the border, I personally want to thank them for their coverage and commitment to those of us who hate to see the violence committed against the people and place we call home.

The coverage they have provided on this issue is a mark of what is best in journalism. Here is their latest front page story.

Nov 23, 2005

Maligning Murtha and The Word Games Politicians Play

The Washington Post has an excellent story on how the orchestrated attacks on Congressman John P. Murtha (Democrat of Pennsylvania, a Vietnam combat veteran who spent 37 years in the Marines and is one of the most respected military authorities in the House) have proceeded and notes a rhetorical device increasingly employed by politicians in attacking the former Marine.

We are all free to have a difference of opinion, in this case I believe, a bit more respect should be called for than that shown by maddam, "Mean Jean."

Will Appear On Sunday's Valley Newsline

Rep. Veronica Gonzales and I have been a number of programs today responding to the Texas Supreme Court's school finance descion. For those of you in the Valley you can catch us Sunday morning on channel 5 at 9:30 a.m. The show can also be picked up on the internet.

Nov 22, 2005

Texas Supreme Court Rules State School Finance Unconstitutional

Looks like were coming back! The Texas Supreme Court ruled that Texas' School Finance System is unconstitutional. We are instructed by the Court to have this matter resolved by June of 2006. I guess I'll be spending my birthday in Austin in special session.

All kidding aside most of us expected that the court would rule the system unconstitutional. The basis for the court's decision did however surprise many.

Three basic arguments were presented to the court as to why the present system was unconstitutional:

1). The system is inequitable, with a growing gap between property-rich and property-poor districts;

2). State funding is inadequate to provide the "general diffusion of knowledge" required by the Texas Constitution; and

3). The property tax cap of $1.50 per $100 valuation for school operations amounts to an unconstitutional statewide property tax.

This court's ruling relied on the third argument to declare the school finance system unconstitutional.

The Houston Chronicle has an excellent article on the Court's opinion.

The Austin American Statesman chimes in.

The Dallas Business Journal also reports the story.

Retired State Judge F. Scott McCowen, who presided over all of Texas' public school finance cases from 1990-2002, issued a statement in response to the ruling.

Sony has Some "Esplaining" To Do As Prosecuted Under New Spyware Bill

It's good to see that the spyware bill Rep. Brian McCall and I worked so hard on this last session is having some effect. The AP has the story of how Sony is alleged to have run afoul of the new law.

Now to my good friends at Sony, lets start esplaining.

Def: Esplaining, is explaining in Ricky Ricardo English.

Nov 20, 2005

The Great Undoing of The Texas Republican Party

An AP reporter pulled me over at the end of the last legislative session and asked me this question: As a Democrat, who are your heroes for this legislative session? I knew she was looking for balance and wanted my answer to rattle off the names of Democratic legislators who showed great courage or leadership for the session.

My answer was met with curious laughter. I had answered that my heroes for the session were moderate Republicans, like Casteel, Griggs, and Strauss. Its easy to tow the party line, I answered, but it takes true courage to tell your party that its wishes do not reflect the wishes of the people. Time after time, a number of independent "Texans" stood tall to tell their party that their objective did not serve the interest of their constituents or the future of their state.

If one looks back on my posts it won't be hard to find the journal entries marking their acts of bravery. This story by the San Antonio Express saddens me. The story is about the internal turmoil in the Republican ranks. Conservatives cannibalizing their moderates for the stands they took in defense of their district, in defense of their state. Sure, you say, why should a Democrat be concerned with the internal strife of the Republican party. You should be rejoicing, you say!

Yes, I can see that my Democratic credentials may lead you to that conclusion. Note this however, each day when I rise I do so as an individual with a moral directive to love my neighbor. As a legislative leader I extend that directive to protect the interests of my community and my state. One is not elected to office to follow the wishes of party leaders in Washington because it advances the notions of some think tank or political guru. In a representative Democracy, one is elected to represent the interests of the people from your home community first. These moderate Republicans did just that and now the "big boys" in the smoke filled rooms aim to destroy them for having the independence for taking the novel course of actually representing the people who elected them.

And where does this put many members of the growing Hispanic community, whose social conservatism yet otherwise moderate to conservative leanings may have found a home in the Texas Republican Party? Look to my good friend Rep. Elvira Reyna, who faces a primary opponent, for that answer. No, from my point of view a political party looses its way when the dogma of a few outweighs the voices of the many constituents you are supposed to represent.

My hat is off to my good friend Rep. Joe Strauss
and the other moderates for having the courage to stand for the Texans in their community. This state is clearly better off because of the courage they exhibited last session.

So as the hacks seek to replace these Republican "representatives" with cookie cutter clones willing to follow the orders of a powerful few, an opportunity arises that marks the beginning of their undoing.

Nov 19, 2005

Blogging Lawmakers

A great blog by the name of "Lawmakers" has been doing its part to spread unbridled democracy throughout the lands by encouraging this nations lawmakers to blog, to communicate with its citizens.

Here at A Capitol Blog and our sister session blog, Lone Star Rising we have long believed that this newest of mediums was an effective method of opening up the channels of communications with the people who should have the ultimate control of their government.

Lawmakers recently named this blog as one of the best blogs by a public official.

"Texas State Representative Aaron Pena continues to lead by example. Someday all state legislators will blog like Aaron Pena of Texas."

This blog gave us given a runner-up position to the "best blog" published by Congressman John Conyers. My good friend, Rep. Steve Urquhart, Majority Whip, from Utah,

who recently partnered with me in a conference to legislators on the value of blogging, was also given a runner up position.

Recently Lawmakers suggested that this blog maintain for public review the stats coming to this blog address. We are most happy to oblige and so today for the first time we have inserted sitemeter and statcounter so that this information could be readily available.

Best wishes on your plan to have all policymakers up and blogging. It has worked well for my community, so much so that I do not expect a challenger in the upcoming election. And should one arise, I am confident that my record, evident in this journal, makes clear my loyalty, fidelity and commitment to the people of my district.

UPDATE: Lawmakers has moved this blog to the "Best" category.

Nov 18, 2005

Somebody Called Me Chauncey Gardiner Today?

I was in my office today visiting with constituents and the funniest thing happened. A very sweet lady came in and told me her favorite movie is "Being There." I told it was one of my favorites too. She didn't have a problem for me to assist her with, which is why I thought she was there. No, she just wanted me to know that I reminded her of the character Chauncey Gardiner from the movie and I had her support in my re-election efforts.

I think she meant it as a compliment, I took it that way. So I just wanted you to know that this re-election thing is going well and I got my first endorsement.

Rep. Veronica Gonzales Formally Announces Intentions To Seek Re-Election

Last night my colleague and immediate legislative neighbor to the South, had a "kick off" party where she announced her intentions to seek re-election to the 41st House District.

Veronica is not expected to have a Democratic opponent, however Republicans have been talking it up that they will be looking for a challenger. The district is a swing district and so if it materializes this will be a race to watch.

Nov 17, 2005

My Formal Announcement To Seek Re-Election To Be Made Monday

Those of you who follow this journal have the early scoop on everything. For instance, I am letting you know that my formal announcement to seek re-election to the Texas House of Representatives will be made this Monday. Yes, yes, I also told you in a joking fashion months ago.

My formal announcement of course is during the week of Thanksgiving. Despite the personal tragedies that my family and I experienced in the past, I have so much to be thankful for. I have a loving wife and five beautiful children. I have four healthy grandchildren. I am enjoying a full return to the practice of law with a noted and friendly law firm and finally am truly, truly enjoying the service to my community as a state representative.

Time after time, event after event, I feel fulfilled in the service to my community. I truly in my heart believe that a committed few can bend history to the positive. I want, with your help, to be one of those in the public service to others.

The reality is, whether in public or private service to this community, my path has already been set, long before I knew it existed. My choice has been made. I will be in the service to others for my remaining days. I can only pray that God will give me the opportunity to make a difference.

I can only ask for your friendship and understanding on this journey of ours. Sure we are bound to disagree at times, but our friendship and common goal of service to others will bind us together.

Thank you all for making the trip thus far an enjoyable one. May God bless!

Nov 16, 2005

Inspired by Valley Veterans, Coastal Bend Pharmacists Say They Will March

The Rio Grande Guardian, an internet political magazine covering South Texas and the border communities, is reporting that the recent march by the Valley Veterans has stirred some "voices in the blood" of many in the pharmacists community. Coastal Bend pharmacists are threatening to march on Austin if the Irma Rangel Pharmacy school is not funded by the Legislative Budget Board.

“Our members are distraught that the state is not funding the pharmacy school and that because of this, it may not open on time next fall,” said Ron Garza, president of the Coastal Bend Pharmacy Association.

“We will march to Austin, just like our forefathers, if that is what it takes. And we will get the students of South Texas to join us. They will not disappoint us in this crusade.”

As for me, I need a little rest boys, but will be up and about in a few days! Just joking! We will keep an eye on this story and be there if you need us.

UPDATE: The Corpus Christi Caller Times has the story.

Nov 15, 2005

A Soldier's Last Farewell

Before I move to other subjects, I must make one last visit to a friend who achieved so much for so many last week. If you will remember Felix Rodriguez, one of the marches leaders, was pulled away from completing the 250 mile walk a mere 4.2 miles from his destination.

Felix who had been so instrumental in organizing the march, did so knowing that his sister, Delia Avila, had fallen into coma following a head injury. Like her brother, Delia was a real and respected leader in her hometown in Elsa. My office and the Texas House of Representatives recognized her community service in our last legislative session with HR 378. Delia recently struggled with cancer and was receiving treatment at the Houston Medical Center. It was there that last month we were able to give her a parchment copy of the resolution in her hospital bed.

The doctors told her that the cancer was in remission. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter she fell, hit her head and fell into coma.

Delia Avila passed away on Thursday, November 10. Her passing occurred at the high point of the veterans' march and we were all saddened by the news.

Delia was a good friend and the community will be at a loss with her passing. Early in the march I told Felix that Delia would have expected him to be in the march. Felix knew this to be true. As we bury our friend I want to thank her, and her brother, for their sacrifice and service to our community.

Funeral service will be 10 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2005, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Interment to follow at Highland Memorial Park.

Nov 14, 2005

Blogging the Veterans' March

I woke up two Saturdays ago and on a spur of the moment made a decision to take a stroll with the Veterans from my district in support of their call for better health care treatment. I got so caught up with the spirit of the cause, that my short stroll turned out to be a 250 march to the Alamo in San Antonio. In the process I came to better understand the plight of a veteran in today's society.

For those of you who have been following the Rome series on HBO, you will be reminded that returning soldiers have historically been neglected. Last nights story was about the neglect and troubles of returning veterans and what Rome did or failed to do. Ancient Rome like modern America simply failed to treat the veteran soldier with the same zeal and concern that it did when the war started. One would think with this historical fact repeating itself over and over again that modern America would get it right.

On behalf of the veterans I traveled with, I want to take time to thank the many of you who followed our march. I want to most especially thank those of you who posted our progress. Most of these veterans were not that computer or media savy, but they all read your posts on my Treo computer-phone. Their children certainly picked up the story off of the blogosphere and the soldiers heard about it.

A most sincere thanks to Off The Kuff, Dos Centavos, Pink Dome, RGV Life, Lawmakers, and Latinos For Texas, Politico, Valley In Exhile, Tejano Insider, Fort Hood at Large for helping bring awareness to the cause of these veterans.

For the most part, they are decent, humble men, some working some not, who each in some way is still traumatized by their experience in Vietnam or Korea. They have encountered the neglectful eye of a forgetful nation who has moved forward on to other issues. What we fail to realize is that we are repeating a story as old as Rome. Now, with the benefit of the teachings of the young carpenter, I would hope that these veterans find a more sympathetic audience. So far, it seems we still have more to learn.

Again, to my fellow bloggers, a job well done!

Nov 13, 2005

Photos From The Veterans' March Of Veterans Entering Downtown

My fellow bloggeros from Fort Hood At Large took a number of pictures of our final entry into the central city of San Antonio after our successful 250 mile march. Thanks for the attentions! It is good to see that we have bloggers in the military. Wow, thats a subject worth exploring. A blogger from the front lines?

Here are the photos.

Nov 11, 2005

Day Seven: What a Day! May God Bless Our Veterans!

Oh what a beautiful day! I could not have planned it any better. The weather, the camaraderie, the good veterans, the good hospitality from so many!

No I'm not talking about the initial hospitality some members of the San Antonio police had in mind. But even the near arrest of myself and my companions, although serious at the time, made the successful completion of the 250 mile march (a new and more accurate mileage) all the more sweeter.

During the commotion yesterday that was best described in The Monitor even the police and constables were having a hard time doing their job (enforce some permit regulation) because the cause of these veterans was just. One veteran told me a constable pulled him aside and told him that they were instructed to participate in the arrest of the veterans, if the need arose. He was told they refused. I must commend the officers who tried to do their duty as they were instructed. I'm just glad they received new instructions that allowed the veterans to proceed.

I want to thank Dawn Ann Larios, field director for constituent services in Mayor Hardberger's office, who had the difficult job of making a difficult instantaneous decision of what to do with the veterans when things reached a boiling point. My appreciation for her efforts comes because the moment the decision was made to allow the veterans to continue, this proud daughter of a Marine, picked up a parade flag and marched 15 miles with the veterans. She also insured that the veterans would be escorted to their final destination by police escort.

I have some great pictures and I'll have them up soon. For the moment the feeling is one of elation and success. Make no mistake, there is no delusion about the difficult and rocky road ahead. A moments glory does not mean my people of Deep South Texas will garner the full respect they earned with their sacrifice and the loss of so many young soldiers. This does not mean a hospital will soon rise above the plains of South Texas.

Notice should be taken however that we are a determined people that will sacrifice all in order to achieve a goal. The fire that has always burned in these soldiers now burns in me and a multitude of others who now believe. It should be noted that the passion in these and many other veterans will not be extinguished. In the future I would hope that before we spend billions in constructing roads to nowhere in Alaska, that great caution will be taken before our veterans are passed over again.

For now, I must rest and reclaim my family. I will return with some of the great personal stories I witnessed on this most wonderful of travels. As time passes, I will never forget these good brave Americans and the personal sacrifice they made for a small, but important piece of America.

Happy Veterans Day!

Day Seven: Valley Veterans Successfully Arrive at Alamo at 11:55 am

Veterans Day: The Veterans March of Honor

Woke up this beautiful morning to the sounds of bells from the San Jose Mission. A cool 72 degrees invites us to our final 4.2 miles on the highway to the Alamo. Our veterans hall, where many slept last night, lies directly north of the mission. I take a moment to visit the small chapel behind the mission before we begin our 9:00 am journey for the veterans community who search for the same commitment from their government that they gave when they served. We must never forget the hundreds of thousands who paid the with their lives so that a lonely rag-tag bunch from the nearly forgotten regions of Deep South Texas could walk through the country they so faithfully served.

As our 9:00 am march begins, escorted by the good officers of the San Antonio Police Department, accompanied by representatives of the Mayor of this fine city we march over the San Antonio River. We enter the downtown district of San Antonio remembering the long, painful hours through the grueling and tortuous heat that rises from the South Texas highways. Each time one tires a voice deep within the human spirit cries out that we must not forget.

Deep within the blood of each of these proud South Texans one hears the voices from our past, from our ancestors. From the once proud Indians that worked the fields of the missions surrounding San Jose to the voices of our fathers and grandfathers, they call us to take their place, to march in their stead, they ask that we not fail them, so that all their brothers, past and future, can receive the honors they earned with their blood, toil and tears.

Late last night as we were celebrating the good news of our arrival into the Alamo City the mood changed to a somber tone as one of our leading organizers, Felix Rodriguez, learned of the passing of his beautiful sister. Felix, so close to his goal, had to leave to Houston to prepare his sister's transport to the Valley. Each of us this morning knows that the completion of this journey is for him and the many others that are no longer with us.

As we cross under I-10 my good friend State Representative Carlos Uresti joins our group. Carlos served as a Capatin in the Marine Corp. He has engaged the marchers in a series of marching chants. The veterans, as they have the entire journey, exchange banter about which military branch is better than the other.

The streets are lined with well wishers as the Hemisphere Tower appears to grow larger in our frontal view. The Valley is far behind us but not far from our minds.

(10:15 am) Our march is ahead of schedule so we have taken a rare break at Roosevelt Park. The police are still with us as are the representatives of the Mayor's Office. Our numbers have increased three fold as we pick up people along the route who have heard about our walk.

(11:15) We entered the King Williams District and spirits are high. We are again joined by former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez.

This post was dictated over the telephone.

Nov 10, 2005

Day Six: Confrontation and Imminent Arrest of Marchers Averted by Last Minute Call

Valley veterans were detained for 25 minutes at the San Antonio city limits on old Hwy 281. They were thereafter escorted by approximately nine police cars within the city limits. After a brief rest veterans were once again detained for another 25 minutes as police argued with organizers about placing a $13000 bond before being allowed to continue. A representative from the Mayor's office appeared and tensions grew to the point where at least on police officer was heard saying "we are going to have to arrest all of you."

Rep. Pena made calls directly to the Mayor through his personnel in order to avert a potentially embarrasing situation for the city from occuring. One veteran was heard saying "when we were marching through the forests of Vietnam no one there asked us for a permit so you might as well arrest us." Word soon came from the Mayor's office to allow the marchers to proceed to the Alamo. The marchers have continued their pace towards the Alamo along with members of the Mayor's office, who joined the march in support of the veterans.

The brief confrontation with the city of San Antonio actually worked to help the soldiers as Spanish and English television and print media descended on the area upon hearing about the confrontation. Veterans are expected to reach the Alamo, their final destination, at noon tomorrow.

At 1:30 pm the San Antonio skyline became visible to the veterans.

At 1:50 pm former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez joined the march.

The Monitor has the story on the confrontation.

This post was dictated over the telephone.

Day Six: San Antonio 22 Miles and Counting

Day Six: Though I Walk Through The Valley Of Evil I Fear Not!

At one point in the Star Wars movie Obie One Kanobe, the great Jedi Knight and leading force for good, tells Darth Vadar, if you try to kill me you will only make me stronger. Darth Vadar does in fact kill Obie One but in doing so in front of Luke Sky Walker, the force for good is strengthened by the rise of Luke Skywalker who is emboldened by what he sees.

Last nights threats of arrests by a well intentioned but misinformed authority from San Antonio have had the same effect on these veterans. This morning we walk, even more determined than the day before. Jail is the furthest thing from our minds and yet we are prepared for that course of action. Today like in the movie we say as in the Star Wars movie, try to kill us and we only grow stronger.

I will do my best to report back, but if I fail then you will understand why. For the moment I am staying with my new found companions.

Nov 9, 2005

Day Five: Dark Clouds Arise As Veterans Threatened With Arrest

We had a good day today as we get closer and closer to San Antonio there is a noticeable lifting of the spirits of the Veterans.

Along the way we were visited again by a number of elderly veterans at one of Texas' fine roadside parks. Congressman Doggett's third cousin knitted this flag for us there. I then took the flag and presented it to some of the veterans on the road to San Antonio.

We did receive deflating news late in the day. As we arrived in Pleasington we received notice that if our group entered the city limits of San Antonio these veterans would be arrested. We are only 22 miles away from our destination and the news was met with shock. Here we are so close to our destination only to be stopped by authorities who do not fully understand the law. As I would hope to explain to the authorities in San Antonio, the United States Constitution protects everyone's right to travel.

The irony is that the good police of San Antonio will be used to arrest the very people who helped to protect the rights they enjoy. I would hope that calmer heads would prevail.

Channel 4 News back home got a hold of the story. I have since been indundated with phone calls of support.

Day Five: Crossing the Nueces River

Last night we slept within the land called the Nueces Strip, that being South of the Nueces River. It is appropriate that at the point of highest physical exhaustion, that in order to cross this most historic of Texas rivers, that it is our internal spirit that will carry us across.

Most Texans may forget that the lands South of the Nueces river were not won due to the battles at the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836. The Nueces river was widely viewed as the boundary that divided the newly liberated Texas and Mexico. Twelve years later in 1848 it was the Mexican-American War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that brought the disputed territory into United States.

Just as rapidly did the United States desire the territory did it neglect the people who inhabited it. Painful moments of my people, the people of Deep South Texas,are recorded by history and this river.

In 1848, in the last days of World War II, Felix Longoria was killed. What followed is a peephole in time as to the treatment of some of the inhabitants of South Texas. As the Handbook of Texas describes it:

"His body was shipped home for burial in the Three Rivers cemetery, where the "Mexican" section was separated by barbed wire. The director of the funeral home would not allow the use of the chapel because of alleged disturbances at previous Mexican-American services and because "the whites would not like it." Longoria's widow and her sister discussed the refusal with Dr. Hector Garcia, the founder of the American G. I. Forum. He, in turn, contacted the funeral director and received the same refusal and rationale. On January 11, 1949, Garcia called a meeting of the Corpus Christi Forum, which he had organized as the first G. I. Forum chapter in March 1948; he also sent many telegrams and letters to Texas congressmen. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson responded immediately with support and an offer to arrange the burial at Arlington National Cemetery. The funeral took place on February 16, 1949, at the Arlington National Cemetery; with the Longoria family were Senator Johnson and a personal representative of the president of the United States."

The pain of that moment and many other moments, recorded in history books, are still close to the surface. A recent attempt by Congressman Doggett to name the Three Rivers Post Office after Felix Longoria was met with furious reaction by some of the members of the community.

Today we cross this river of history and may pause to remember Felix Longoria at the post office which the current administration prevents from carrying his name. Today, Hispanic-American and Anglo-American veterans from the Nueces Strip, which we now proudly call Texas, continue our journey in search of the earned honor and respect for all veterans who proudly served their country.

May we all learn the lessons of history and fight to minimize man's inhumanity to man.

Day Five: Break the Chains That Bind You

I love this picture I took of of Apolonio Uresti, Jr., a Vietnam Veteran from Donna, Texas. The photo communicates certain characteristics I have come to admire in this small band of brothers. At the end of this day, we will have recorded 145 miles in our trek to the City of George West. I for one can no longer effectively use my feet. Whereas I started with a few blisters, now both of my feet are entire filled with blisters. Only by walking on the sides of my feet do I get some relief. In short I am physically spent. I know my companions are feeling the same. And yet, they continue!

What is it that I admire in this rag-tag bunch of veterans that I see lacking in others. The same things that are evident in the larger picture above, qualities of strength and determination even when physical limitations tell you to stop. When dark clouds surround you, you remain standing, strong and proud.

Their's is a fire that burns within. And yet, that spirit becomes most evident when they persevere beyond what they should be doing. Yesterday, someone joked and said we would be mistaken for "illegal aliens" for resting on the side of the road. Physically, we are all tired. We stink. We sweat. Not much to look at. We certainly would not impress any opponent. Yet if one looks within, there we see the power that I see in these men and women, these greying warriors. A power that says after walking over 125 miles, to the hills south of George West, that they will not be deterred. With the faith of a mustard seed, they command mountains to yield and move.

Here as we cross this river, we must understand that we must break the chains that bind us. I at his moment am bound by my physical limitations. I pledge to find the spirit from within to continue.

As we entered George West, I noted that their was an eagle (or perhaps a buzzard) that was flying above us. I chose to believe that an eagle foretells a successful completion of our journey to San Antonio. The other choice is not an option.