Thursday, March 30, 2017

Two Trump Administration Staffers Briefed Representative Devin Nunes

White House Lawyer Michael Ellis
The identity of two White House staffers, who briefed Representative Devin Nunes about references to Trump and Trump administration members in security documents, was released today by the New York Times.

White House lawyer Michael Ellis, also a Special Assistant to the President, was named, along with Ezra Cohen-Watnick,  Senior Director of Intelligence at the National Security Council.

Apparently, Representative Nunes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, charged with investigating coordination between Russian officials and the Trump campaign, lied about not being briefed by White House staffers.  Nunes joins other Trump administration liars about Russian connections, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and fired former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Derek Trucks at 13. He's now 37 and kicking ass!

A Book About Kids Who Fall Through the Cracks at School

An Illustration from "Through the Cracks"

Today, Jack and I read together "Through the Cracks," a book by Carolyn Sollman about children who cannot find meaning and interest in school.  Jack identified with a character in the story, Christopher, a smart kid, but bored, falling through the cracks after first shrinking enough that his body fit between the flooring of school.

Jack, like Christopher, was totally bored, unmotivated at BISD.  He was not too smart for BISD, just a bad fit, isolated.(Jack's dad asked me to homeschool Jack 1/17 and the kid's been flourishing since.)

As we finished the 60 page book, Jack said:  "I wish the book was a little longer."

That told me he'd enjoyed it.

Then, we went and explained it all to grandma.

Friday, March 24, 2017

My Apology to Mary Tipton

I'm sorry Mary.

My multitudinous words accomplished nothing.

Detective Thomas Clipper shit on your life with his mishandling of a computer video that likely would have proven Marisa Govea Hernandez made no effort to look for you after plowing through you with her vehicle.  She continued talking on the phone for nearly four minutes after killing you.

Still.  She struck you with her vehicle and did not stop to render aid. Was she impaired?  We will never know since BPD Officer Nino allowed her son, Cameron County Sheriff's Deputy Marin Hernandez, to explain what he thought happened on FM 803 that night, only taking her ID through the doorway.

Her boys, Marin and Mario, well-rehearsed and in uniform, explained how she "closed her eyes," then searched for your body. They likely lied to protect their mother.  

Judge Banales was not your friend.  He's been involved in two vehicle/pedestrian accidents and got off scot-free.  Giving you justice would have been ruling against himself, but he lacked the courage or honesty to recuse himself.

I'm sorry you had such an ineffictive prosecutorial team; 29 year old Nathaniel Navey and the inept Oscar Guzman.  They did not command the courtroom or get justice for you.  Neither knew how to use a microphone or give closing arguments.  

I'm so sorry.

Donald Can't Close the Deal! Trumpcare Dies!

Brownsville Police Department Catches, Arrests Sign Scammer

The Brownsville Police Department has arrested Juan Leon Torres, 51, charging him with theft.

Torres has been allegedly posing as a sign maker, collecting money from local business people, giving them a receipt, but never making the sign.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Coverboy on Time Magazine's "The Death of Truth"

Marisa Govea Hernandez~"I Closed My Eyes!"


From the editor:  Below is one of the autopsy photos of Mary Tipton shown the jury yesterday in 445th District Court.  Evidence was presented in court that Marisa Govea Hernandez was on her cellphone from 6:56 PM till 7:15 PM on February 28, 2015, the night Mary Tipton was struck.  The video shows that impact was at 7:11 PM so this means Hernandez continued to be on her cellphone nearly four minutes AFTER her car struck Mrs. Tipton.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Egomania, Car/Pedestrian Accidents and Judge J. Manuel Banales

Since losing his 105th District Court judgeship in 2010 to Angelica Hernandez, Judge J. Manuel Banales has found gainful employment doing side gigs, such as his current substitution at Cameron County's 445th District Court during the Marisa Hernandez-Govea case.

Banales received some notoriety a few years ago by ruling that 15 sex offenders in Corpus Christi must place signs in the yard of their residence declaring:  "Registered sex offender lives here."

Banales pretended not to like the brief national attention, telling the Texas Monthly:  “I didn’t want the attention.  When I go to the store now, everyone knows me, and that didn’t use to happen. I hate the invasion of my privacy.”  

The Texas Monthly reporter also noticed a framed copy the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that waited to be hung on the wall by his desk with a picture of Banales and a headline that read “The Mind Behind the Sex Sign Controversy.” 

So much for not enjoying the attention.

Judge Banales has maintained tight courtroom control in the Govea case, moving testimony along expeditiously.  He loses patience with the untrained, unskilled like prosecutor Oscar Guzman, who can't seem to frame questions that don't include the anticipated answer.  Banales has to be judge and law professor simultaneously.

Yet, Banales himself loses concentration, not noticing entire lines of questioning that are inaudible to the jurors.  When I can't hear Erin Gamez, while sitting directly behind her, because she doesn't understand how the microphone works, I glance at the jurors and see them straining to hear.  No matter how artful a line of questioning or well-rehearsed the responses, it is lost on the jury if the judge doesn't understand the need for microphone enhancement of all but a few human voices in a courtroom.

Judge Banales' attempt to call me out for using an electronic device in the courtroom was as bizarre as his facial hair.  Had I been using a laptop or other electronic device to "blog" as Banales insinuated, surely one of the constable/bailiffs would have dealt with it.  I was on the front row in plain view, directly behind the prosecution, just a few feet from the defense team.  It was OBVIOUS I was simply taking notes.  Was Banales simply grandstanding?

Paradoxically, Judge Banales, working a case involving a car/pedestrian accident has himself been involved in two such accidents.  Note this Corpus Christi Caller report:

Banales car struck man in 1990 accident

Corpus Chisti Caller-Times By Jaime Powell

CORPUS CHRISTI - Eighteen years ago, a gold Chrysler Fifth Avenue driven by District Judge J. Manuel Banales struck a Robstown man with mental disabilities who was crossing the street near Corpus Christi City Hall.

Banales was not ticketed for the incident and the pedestrian, Francisco "Frank" Pena, then 31, was found at fault. He was taken to Memorial Medical Center with cuts, scrapes and a broken leg.

Banales and his lawyer, Ron Barroso, did not return phone calls last Thursday.

The Caller-Times filed a public records request with the Corpus Christi Police Department on June 9 seeking a police accident report and other documents related to the incident.

The police department wasn't able to fill the request because, under department guidelines, traffic accident reports are purged after two years, according to police.

An Aug. 20, 1990 police report obtained by the Caller- Times through other means Thursday afternoon and verified by Mayor Henry Garrett, who was police chief at the time, shows that Banales was traveling west on Leopard Street at 7:20 p.m. when Pena crossed the street, without the benefit of a crosswalk.

The report says Banales braked and swerved.

"This is an accident report that we generated at the police department at the time," Garrett said. "It's the real thing. It looks like the pedestrian was crossing at the middle of the block. To look at this diagram, I wouldn't see that a ticket would have been issued. By the diagram and what's in the report, the violation was the pedestrian."

Pena's father, Ramon Pena, 74, gave a different version of events Thursday morning. He was not there to witness the collision but talked to witnesses shortly after.

Frank Pena was waiting for a bus at the corner of Leopard and Staples when he decided to cross the street to a convenience store to get a soda, his father said.

"He looked both ways and here came the judge," Ramon Pena said.

City Councilman Mike Hummell, an attorney, who was serving as the assigned prosecutor in Banales' court at the time of the accident, went to the scene shortly after it happened.

He could not remember if Banales had called him or if he happened upon the accident on his way home.

"The only thing I recall is the guy had a Big Red," Hummell said. "When I got there, there was Big Red all over the car and at first glance it was a scary thing. Looking closer it was just a soft drink."

Ramon Pena said he had difficulty finding a lawyer to take his son's case. "I saw a lawyer every day on TV, Mike Butler. At first he refused to take the case but then he decided to."

Mike Butler, who now practices in San Antonio, did not return repeated phone calls this week.

But Jeffrey DeVillez, who was an investigator and insurance negotiator for Butler's law practice at the time, remembered the 1990 accident.

"They were accusing the kid and the kid's family was accusing Banales, saying that he was not watching," DeVillez said. "He was a judge and the kid was (disabled). They couldn't put the kid on trial. They wanted to avoid that at all costs. So we asked for the total amount of the policy and said let's move on."

Ramon Pena said Banales had a $100,000 insurance policy. Lawyer's fees and hospital bills carved Frank Pena's share down to a little more than $47,000, Ramon Pena said.

"Frank, he's still limping today and he got a rod in his leg," Ramon Pena said.

Also, this report from the Raymondville Chronicle:

Judge Banales injures TX-DOT worker in collision in Corpus Christi

Worker's medical condition upgraded to serious

ROBERT WILCOX,  Editor/Reporter

CORPUS CHRISTI POLICE inspect the car driven by Presiding District Court Judge J. Manuel Banales on Thursday afternoon near the I-37/Padre Island Drive interchange, after he struck and seriously injured a TXDOT worker. Rescuers had to cut the roof and doors off Banales's Cadillac Coupe DeVille to free the judge. Both men were taken to the Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital. Photo courtesy of George Gongora/Corpus Christi Caller-Times.CORPUS CHRISTI - Presiding District Judge J. Manuel Banales struck and critically-injured a TXDOT highway worker last Thursday afternoon, who was working with crew members on the North Padre Island Drive connecting ramp to I-37 in Corpus Christi.

Judge Banales, who is presiding over three crucial Willacy County criminal trials, was slightly injured himself, and had to be removed from his gold Cadillac Coupe Deville, by the jaws-of-life, according to Corpus Christi police who are investigating the incident.

Martin Garcia, 34, the TX-DOT worker who was injured, is in serious condition at Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital's Intensive Care Unit.

Garcia and one other TX-DOT worker were replacing signs along the left side of the ramp when Judge Banales lost control of his vehicle, and went off the roadway.

After striking Garcia, Judge Banales car then struck a heavy duty cherry picker truck, according to a story in the Corpus Christi Caller- Times.

Capt. Mike McKinney of the Corpus Christi Police Department said that Judge Banales willingly gave a blood sample for examination, and that police are still investigating if speed or other distractions may have caused the accident.

Traffic investigators returned to an accident scene for about three hours on Friday, to recreate the crash that seriously injured Garcia, according to KRIS/Channel 6 TV in Corpus Christi.

It is still unknown, whether Judge Banales will face any charges.

"We have no reason to believe, nor do I believe, that he was under the influence of anything. But we just kind of have to eliminate any possibility."

McKinney said the incident is still under examination, and the blood test results could take up to 30 days.

TX-DOT Spokesperson Cliff Bost told KRIS/Channel 6 TV, "Our guys are kind of going through some things. They're upset about their coworker. Probably next week they'll get out there and take care of them."

Judge Jose Longoria said that his colleague Judge Banales is more concerned about Garcia's well-being than his own right now, according to KRIS/Channel 6 TV.

Judge Longoria said, "Knowing Judge Banales, he'll be here on Monday, but he needs to take care of himself and we'll take care of his court."

Judge Banales had a Nueces County murder trial scheduled for Monday, and was planning to take vacation in July.

The three Willacy County criminal trials involve; District Attorney Juan Angel "Johnny" Guerra and two of his staff members; County Judge Eliseo "Cheyo" Barnhart; and former Raymondville School Board President Gloria Garcia, her niece, and her nieces husband.

It is unknown if the Willacy cases will be postponed or reassigned to another district judge.

Judge Banales is in recovery from surgery he had on a broken hand on Friday.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Ralph Tipton Complies with Judge Banales' Instructions As Delivered by DA Assistant Oscar Guzman

Hello friends and family. 

Mary Tipton
I was told by the Cameron county D.A. office ( Oscar Guzman) that the judge told him to tell me that "some one put up a sign in front of the court house" exercising there right to free speach of course. 

I was told it was a picture of my late wife Mary Tipton. Thank you for having her in your thoughts. I was told to tell my friends and family that if it happens again the case could be thrown out and won't be retried. I informed them I did not do it and I didn't know who did..I told him I do not have the right to tell people not to do something they have a right to do. It did not matter. He reinforced his original statement and told me it was from the judge.

He told me again to tell all my friends and family not to do anything...or the case would be thrown out...even though I can't controle the actions of others. Nor do I want to.. 

So I am doing as was told.. I am informing everyone.

What's Behind Eddie Lucio, Jr's Attempt to Consolidate Into One School Districts in Border Counties?

Senator Eddie "Bathroom Bill" Lucio, Jr.

Day 2 at the 445th~ How the BPD's Detective Clipper and Lieutenant Niño Botched the Marisa Hernandez-Govea Case

Officer Esteban  Niño
The tone for mishandling the Marisa Hernandez-Govea failure-to-render aid case was set when her son, Marin Hernandez, a Cameron County Deputy Sheriff, called, not 911, but the non-emergency number for the Brownsville Police Department.

A tape played in the 445th District Court Tuesday showed that Marin called to report a "10-50 minor," a fender bender.(Actually, the call should have been for a 10-57, a Hit-and-Run.)  The 25 year old sheriff's deputy also stated clearly, that his mother had "hit an animal," something contradicting the later testimony of two family members.

Had the incident been described correctly, then rookie cop, Esteban  Niño, would likely not have been dispatched, not even being certified to work accidents. Niño, now a lieutenant, would probably not been as lackadaisical in getting to the accident scene, stopping to issue a warning citation on his way.

When Niño finally made his way to the stretch of FM 803 between FM 511 and Hwy 100, he expected to find a white VW Jetta and some accident debris, but he found neither.  After a call back to dispatch,  Niño was directed to the Marisa Hernandez Govea driveway at 9305 FM 803, just a mile from the ditch along the west side of FM 803 where Mary Tipton's body would be found three days later.

Lieutenant Niño remembered seeing a Cameron County Sheriff's vehicle in the driveway and putting on his older issue police vehicle's emergency lights to get noticed.  He was met by Marin Hernandez, who,  Niño said, "did most of the talking.

Marisa Govea Hernandez
Officer  Niño's interview of the alleged hit-and-run driver was brief at best, done through a doorway. The BPD officer said Mrs. Hernandez gave him one word answers, volunteering little.  In any event,  Niño's first report of the incident had Hernandez' vehicle traveling north, when, actually the video shows it traveling south.

Defense Attorney Ernesto Gamez worked like crazy to impeach or discredit Officer  Niño, lest the jury believe his testimony that "Marin said his mother may have struck a pedestrian."

If Marin believed that, it certainly explained why he, his brother Mario and girlfriend, Carla, and mother, searched both sides of FM 803 with flashlights.  Both Marin and brother Mario claimed their mother, the defendant, did her own private search of the area.

Retired BPD Detective Clipper
Now-retired detective, Thomas Clipper, played out his huge role in the case with his incredibly inept mishandling of evidence. After getting possession of a security video from a warehouse adjacent to the accident site with three days of footage, Clipper used his cellphone to preserve only 40 seconds, returning the tape back to the shop keeper.  Six months later the evidence was taped without the Brownsville Police Department having the sense or judgement to retrieve it.(Clipper gave the courtroom a lighter moment today as he leaned over the rail behind the defense team and totally mooned the entire court audience, not once, but twice.  A BPD officer whispered in his ear and he yanked up his britches.)

Clipper was also credited, rightly or wrongly, by Marin Hernandez, of reassuring him that the body found in a ditch along FM 803 had no connection to his mother's accident three days earlier because the "body was fresh."

Erin, Ernesto Gamez
Ernesto and Erin Gamez, the father and daughter defense team, used what's left of the tape in an attempt to show that Marisa Hernandez Govea had her headlights on before her car struck Mrs. Tipton.

Assistant Defense Attorney Nate Navey used another portion of the same tape to demonstrate the headlights came on only at impact.

A frustrating section of testimony was Prosecutor Oscar Guzman's questioning of Officer  Niño.  A dozen times in a row, Ernesto Gamez objected to Guzman's "leading of the witness."  Judge Banales would order Guzman to "rephrase the question," and Guzman would simply come back with another question putting words in the mouth of the witness.  

Gamez later ran into his own troubles with Banales as he attempted to read a portion of  Niño's report written in Spanish.  More than once, Judge Banales stopped Gamez from reading the words in Spanish without first translating them into English or availing himself of the court interpreter.

Carla Escobedo, the live-in girlfriend of Mario Hernandez, at first testified that Mario's brother Marin, in reporting his mother's accident, did not state that she'd hit an animal.  The jury was excused and Carla listened to a tape of the phone call made while she was in the car with Marin, Mario and her mother-in-law.  She admitted in testimony later that Marin did say that his mother had struck an animal.

The jury of eight women and four men has much to sort out and testimony continues tomorrow.

Blogger Threatened with Contempt of Court by Judge Banales in Marisa Hernandez Govea Trial

Judge Banales
During this morning's jury trial concerning an alleged failure-to-render aid by Marisa Hernandez Govea in connection with the death of Mary Tipton, blogger Jim Barton of the Brownsville Observer was threatened with contempt of court by Judge J. Manuel Banalas, currently substituting in the 445th District Court.

Defense Attorney Ernesto Gamez conferred with the two prosecutors and then the three men approached Judge Banales.  Banales quickly dismissed the jury.

Mary Tipton
"Do we have a blogger in the courtroom?  If so, please stand up and state your name," asked and ordered Banales.

"Jim Barton."

"Are you aware that it is against the law to blog from this courtroom using an electronic device?" Banales asked.


"Are you doing so?" asked the judge.

"No.  My cellphone is off and in my pocket."

I wanted the judge to have the bailiff note that my cellphone was off, but he simply warned:  "You will face a $500 fine and up to 180 days in jail for each occurrence,  Then, he called the jury back in.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Representative Adam Schiff's Opening Remarks at Congressional Hearing on Trump Campaign's Russian Involvement

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to thank Director Comey and Admiral Rogers for appearing before us today as the committee holds this first open hearing into the interference campaign waged against our 2016 Presidential election.

Last summer, at the height of a bitterly contested and hugely consequential Presidential campaign, a foreign, adversarial power intervened in an effort to weaken our democracy, and to influence the outcome for one candidate and against the other.

That foreign adversary was, of course, Russia, and it acted through its intelligence agencies and upon the direct instructions of its autocratic ruler, Vladimir Putin, in order to help Donald J. Trump become the 45th President of the United States.

The Russian “active measures” campaign may have begun as early as 2015, when Russian intelligence services launched a series of spearphishing attacks designed to penetrate the computers of a broad array of Washington-based Democratic and Republican party organizations, think tanks and other entities. This continued at least through winter of 2016.

While at first, the hacking may have been intended solely for the collection of foreign intelligence, in mid-2016, the Russians “weaponized” the stolen data and used platforms established by their intel services, such as DC Leaks and existing third party channels like Wikileaks, to dump the documents.

The stolen documents were almost uniformly damaging to the candidate Putin despised, Hillary Clinton and, by forcing her campaign to constantly respond to the daily drip of disclosures, the releases greatly benefited Donald Trump’s campaign.

None of these facts is seriously in question and they are reflected in the consensus conclusions of all our intelligence agencies.

We will never know whether the Russian intervention was determinative in such a close election. Indeed, it is unknowable in a campaign in which so many small changes could have dictated a different result. More importantly, and for the purposes of our investigation, it simply does not matter. What does matter is this: the Russians successfully meddled in our democracy, and our intelligence agencies have concluded that they will do so again.

Ours is not the first democracy to be attacked by the Russians in this way. Russian intelligence has been similarly interfering in the internal and political affairs of our European and other allies for decades. What is striking here is the degree to which the Russians were willing to undertake such an audacious and risky action against the most powerful nation on earth. That ought to be a warning to us, that if we thought that the Russians would not dare to so blatantly interfere in our affairs, we were wrong. And if we do not do our very best to understand how the Russians accomplished this unprecedented attack on our democracy and what we need to do to protect ourselves in the future, we will have only ourselves to blame.

We know a lot about the Russian operation, about the way they amplified the damage their hacking and dumping of stolen documents was causing through the use of slick propaganda like RT, the Kremlin’s media arm. But there is also a lot we do not know.

Most important, we do not yet know whether the Russians had the help of U.S. citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign. Many of Trump’s campaign personnel, including the President himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On the other hand, if the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history.

In Europe, where the Russians have a much longer history of political interference, they have used a variety of techniques to undermine democracy. They have employed the hacking and dumping of documents and slick propaganda as they clearly did here, but they have also used bribery, blackmail, compromising material, and financial entanglement to secure needed cooperation from individual citizens of targeted countries.

The issue of U.S. person involvement is only one of the important matters that the Chairman and I have agreed to investigate and which is memorialized in the detailed and bipartisan scope of investigation we have signed. We will also examine whether the intelligence community’s public assessment of the Russian operation is supported by the raw intelligence, whether the U.S. Government responded properly or missed the opportunity to stop this Russian attack much earlier, and whether the leak of information about Michael Flynn or others is indicative of a systemic problem. We have also reviewed whether there was any evidence to support President Trump’s claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama in Trump Tower – and found no evidence whatsoever to support that slanderous accusation – and we hope that Director Comey can now put that matter permanently to rest.

Today, most of my Democratic colleagues will be exploring with you the potential involvement of U.S. persons in the Russian attack on our democracy. It is not that we feel the other issues are not important – they are very important – but rather because this issue is least understood by the public. We realize, of course, that you may not be able to answer many of our questions in open session. You may or may not be willing to disclose even whether there is any investigation. But we hope to present to you and the public why we believe this matter is of such gravity that it demands a thorough investigation, not only by us, as we intend to do, but by the FBI as well.

Let me give you a little preview of what I expect you will be asked by our members.

Whether the Russian active measures campaign began as nothing more than an attempt to gather intelligence, or was always intended to be more than that, we do not know, and is one of the questions we hope to answer. But we do know this: the months of July and August 2016 appear to have been pivotal. It was at this time that the Russians began using the information they had stolen to help Donald Trump and harm Hillary Clinton. And so the question is why? What was happening in July/August of last year? And were U.S. persons involved?

Here are some of the matters, drawn from public sources alone, since that is all we can discuss in this setting, that concern us and should concern all Americans.

In early July, Carter Page, someone candidate Trump identified as one of his national security advisors, travels to Moscow on a trip approved by the Trump campaign. While in Moscow, he gives a speech critical of the United States and other western countries for what he believes is a hypocritical focus on democratization and efforts to fight corruption.

According to Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who is reportedly held in high regard by U.S. Intelligence, Russian sources tell him that Page has also had a secret meeting with Igor Sechin (SEH-CHIN), CEO of Russian gas giant Rosneft. Sechin is reported to be a former KGB agent and close friend of Putin’s. According to Steele’s Russian sources, Page is offered brokerage fees by Sechin on a deal involving a 19 percent share of the company. According to Reuters, the sale of a 19.5 percent share in Rosneft later takes place, with unknown purchasers and unknown brokerage fees.

Also, according to Steele’s Russian sources, the Trump campaign is offered documents damaging to Hillary Clinton, which the Russians would publish through an outlet that gives them deniability, like Wikileaks. The hacked documents would be in exchange for a Trump Administration policy that de-emphasizes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and instead focuses on criticizing NATO countries for not paying their fare share – policies which, even as recently as the President’s meeting last week with Angela Merkel, have now presciently come to pass.

In the middle of July, Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign manager and someone who was long on the payroll of Pro-Russian Ukrainian interests, attends the Republican Party convention. Carter Page, back from Moscow, also attends the convention. According to Steele, it was Manafort who chose Page to serve as a go-between for the Trump campaign and Russian interests. Ambassador Kislyak, who presides over a Russian embassy in which diplomatic personnel would later be expelled as likely spies, also attends the Republican Party convention and meets with Carter Page and additional Trump Advisors JD Gordon and Walid Phares. It was JD Gordon who approved Page’s trip to Moscow. Ambassador Kislyak also meets with Trump campaign national security chair and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions would later deny meeting with Russian officials during his Senate confirmation hearing.

Just prior to the convention, the Republican Party platform is changed, removing a section that supports the provision of “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine, an action that would be contrary to Russian interests. Manafort categorically denies involvement by the Trump campaign in altering the platform. But the Republican Party delegate who offered the language in support of providing defensive weapons to Ukraine states that it was removed at the insistence of the Trump campaign. Later, JD Gordon admits opposing the inclusion of the provision at the time it was being debated and prior to its being removed.

Later in July, and after the convention, the first stolen emails detrimental to Hillary Clinton appear on Wikileaks. A hacker who goes by the moniker Guccifer 2.0 claims responsibility for hacking the DNC and giving the documents to Wikileaks. But leading private cyber security firms including CrowdStrike, Mandiant, and ThreatConnect review the evidence of the hack and conclude with high certainty that it was the work of APT28 and APT29, who were known to be Russian intelligence services. The U.S. Intelligence community also later confirms that the documents were in fact stolen by Russian intelligence and Guccifer 2.0 acted as a front. Also in late July, candidate Trump praises Wikileaks, says he loves them, and openly appeals to the Russians to hack his opponents’ emails, telling them that they will be richly rewarded by the press.

On August 8th, Roger Stone, a longtime Trump political advisor and self-proclaimed political dirty trickster, boasts in a speech that he “has communicated with Assange,” and that more documents would be coming, including an “October surprise.” In the middle of August, he also communicates with the Russian cutout Guccifer 2.0, and authors a Breitbart piece denying Guccifer’s links to Russian intelligence. Then, later in August, Stone does something truly remarkable, when he predicts that John Podesta’s personal emails will soon be published. “Trust me, it will soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel. #Crooked Hillary.”

In the weeks that follow, Stone shows a remarkable prescience: “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon. #Lockherup. “Payload coming,” he predicts, and two days later, it does. Wikileaks releases its first batch of Podesta emails. The release of John Podesta’s emails would then continue on a daily basis up to election day.

On Election Day in November, Donald Trump wins. Donald Trump appoints one of his high profile surrogates, Michael Flynn, to be his national security advisor. Michael Flynn has been paid by the Kremlin’s propaganda outfit, RT, and other Russian entities in the past. In December, Michael Flynn has a secret conversation with Ambassador Kislyak about sanctions imposed by President Obama on Russia over its hacking designed to help the Trump campaign. Michael Flynn lies about this secret conversation. The Vice President, unknowingly, then assures the country that no such conversation ever happened. The President is informed Flynn has lied, and Pence has misled the country. The President does nothing. Two weeks later, the press reveals that Flynn has lied and the President is forced to fire Mr. Flynn. The President then praises the man who lied, Flynn, and castigates the press for exposing the lie.

Now, is it possible that the removal of the Ukraine provision from the GOP platform was a coincidence? Is it a coincidence that Jeff Sessions failed to tell the Senate about his meetings with the Russian Ambassador, not only at the convention, but a more private meeting in his office and at a time when the U.S. election was under attack by the Russians? Is it a coincidence that Michael Flynn would lie about a conversation he had with the same Russian Ambassador Kislyak about the most pressing issue facing both countries at the time they spoke – the U.S. imposition of sanctions over Russian hacking of our election designed to help Donald Trump? Is it a coincidence that the Russian gas company Rosneft sold a 19 percent share after former British Intelligence Officer Steele was told by Russian sources that Carter Page was offered fees on a deal of just that size? Is it a coincidence that Steele’s Russian sources also affirmed that Russia had stolen documents hurtful to Secretary Clinton that it would utilize in exchange for pro-Russian policies that would later come to pass? Is it a coincidence that Roger Stone predicted that John Podesta would be the victim of a Russian hack and have his private emails published, and did so even before Mr. Podesta himself was fully aware that his private emails would be exposed?

Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated, and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence? Yes, it is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not unrelated, and that the Russians used the same techniques to corrupt U.S. persons that they have employed in Europe and elsewhere. We simply don’t know, not yet, and we owe it to the country to find out.

Director Comey, what you see on the dais in front of you, in the form of this small number of members and staff is all we have to commit to this investigation. This is it. We are not supported by hundreds or thousands of agents and investigators, with offices around the world. It is just us and our Senate counterparts. And in addition to this investigation, we still have our day job, which involves overseeing some of the largest and most important agencies in the country, agencies, which, by the way, are trained to keep secrets.

I point this out for two reasons: First, because we cannot do this work alone. Nor should we. We believe these issues are so important that the FBI must devote its resources to investigating each of them thoroughly; to do any less would be negligent in the protection of our country. We also need your full cooperation with our own investigation, so that we have the benefit of what you may know, and so that we may coordinate our efforts in the discharge of both our responsibilities. And second, I raise this because I believe that we would benefit from the work of an independent commission that can devote the staff and resources to this investigation that we do not have, and that can be completely removed from any political considerations. This should not be a substitute for the work that we, in the intelligence committees should and must do, but as an important complement to our efforts, just as was the case after 9/11.

The stakes are nothing less than the future of liberal democracy.

We are engaged in a new war of ideas, not communism versus capitalism, but authoritarianism versus democracy and representative government. And in this struggle, our adversary sees our political process as a legitimate field of battle.

Only by understanding what the Russians did can we inoculate ourselves from the further Russian interference we know is coming. Only then can we help protect our European allies who are, as we speak, enduring similar Russian interference in their own elections.

Finally, I want to say a word about our own committee investigation. You will undoubtedly observe in the questions and comments that our members make during today's hearing, that the members of both parties share a common concern over the Russian attack on our democracy, but bring a different perspective on the significance of certain issues, or the quantum of evidence we have seen in the earliest stages of this investigation. That is to be expected. The question most people have is whether we can really conduct this investigation in the kind of thorough and nonpartisan manner that the seriousness of the issues merit, or whether the enormous political consequences of our work will make that impossible. The truth is, I don’t know the answer. But I do know this: If this committee can do its work properly, if we can pursue the facts wherever they lead, unafraid to compel witnesses to testify, to hear what they have to say, to learn what we will and, after exhaustive work, reach a common conclusion, it would be a tremendous public service and one that is very much in the national interest.

So let us try. Thank you Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

Brownsville Non-Profit and Trump Administration Clash on the Handling of Undocumented Minors

Bishop Daniel Flores
People do whatever they can to get to a heaven that likely doesn't exist. They give ten per cent of their earnings to religious bodies, abstain from "sins," sell the Watchtower door-to-door, crash aircraft into skyscrapers, attach suicide bombs to their bodies, all for access to a make-believe "heaven."

For residents of the so-called Western Hemisphere, especially those in the throes of extreme poverty, hunger, likely also endangered by ruthless cartel gang-bangers, the closest, actual, real "heaven" is the United States, sometimes called "America."

America may have a less benevolent guy at the helm than in recent centuries, and, to a certain extent, some American citizens are less welcoming, embracing their fears and insecurities, forgetting the statue that rests on Liberty Island in Upper New York Bay.

But, except for a few hotheads in the Border Patrol, we treat immigrants kindly, even illegal or undocumented ones.  Volunteers scour the forbidding, arid areas of Texas and Arizona, searching for those foolishly, but understandably trying to go north on foot, feeding, watering and clothing them, taking them somewhere to safety.

Undocumented Children at Brownsville U.S.
Customs Facility
In recent years, many of these sneaking across our southern border are kids, well below the age of majority. Many of these kids crossing illegally are accompanied by parents doing the same, but, recently, many are coming here without their parents.

As Nena took this photo of the former Walmart, a rent-a-
cop, security guard tried to stop her.  She took the pic
anyway and several others.
Southwest Key, a non-profit, has set up a shelter for unaccompanied, undocumented minors in the former Walmart on Padre Island Highway.  As reported in the Brownsville Herald:

Southwest Key is federally funded by the Office of Refugees Resettlement. The group’s mission is to provide a safe environment for unaccompanied children while they wait to be reunited with a sponsor or relative in the U.S.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly
While the Brownsville shelter deals with unaccompanied children crossing the border, Trump's new Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, wants to separate children from their undocumented parents at the border.  As Kelly explained:

"We turn them over to (Health and Human Services) and they do a very, very good job of putting them in foster care or linking them up with parents or family members in the United States."

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Homeschooling Epiphany Lifts Drudgery From Study Drills

Today we finished our first two months of homeschooling grandson Jack.  Our day began as usual with light chit-chat with grandma.

"Grandma, do you know how to hack Roblox?" Jack asked.

"No, tell me about it!" Nena answered.

Jack's eyes lit up.  With hand gestures, pace, pitch and power evident in his voice, and unusual enthusiasm the little boy explained the procedure his grandma asked about.  Nena and I, of course, understood nothing.

I got an immediate epiphany.  

"Jack, instead of practicing your letters and numbers, why don't you write out what you just explained to grandma?"

Jack, as if shot out of a cannon, ran to his desk and was back in less than two minutes with the page printed above.

"Grandpa, since you have a Hewlett-Packard PC with Windows 10, this will work for you.  I don't think it will work on mobile devices," explained Jack.

Today I learned something.  Find out what actually interests the student and build on that foundation.

Patriot Guard Riders In Town

From the editor: The Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group  has been observed in Brownsville.  We repost their mission below as written on their website:

Our Mission

“The Patriot Guard Riders is a 100% Volunteer, Federally registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization which ensures dignity and respect at memorial services honoring Fallen Military Heroes, First Responders and honorably discharged Veterans.”

Our Vision

The Patriot Guard Riders is a diverse amalgamation of riders from across the nation. We have one thing in common besides motorcycles. We have an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for America’s freedom and security including Fallen Military Heroes, First Responders and honorably discharged Veterans. If you share this respect, please join us.

We don’t care what you ride or if you ride, what your political views are, or whether you’re a hawk or a dove. It is not a requirement that you be a veteran. It doesn't matter where you’re from or what your income is; you don’t even have to ride. The only prerequisite is Respect.

Our main mission is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. Each mission we undertake has two basic objectives:
1. Show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.
2. Shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protester or group of protesters.
We accomplish the latter through strictly legal and non-violent means.

To those of you who are currently serving and fighting for the freedoms of others, at home and abroad, please know that we are backing you. We honor and support you with every mission we carry out, and we are praying for a safe return home for all.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Pat Ahumada Endorses Mickey Mouse for City Commission

From the editor: Former Mayor Pat Ahumada posted the comment below to my article on the anti-LNG meeting.  The tone of my article was critical of the level of participation and interest of Brownsville residents.  

I wrote the article late Tuesday night, then pulled it Wednesday morning, viewing it as too negative. But, when I read it to Nena Wednesday afternoon, she said it was OK and I reposted.

It's obvious to me and others that Brownsville cares little about whether LNG plants will be built.  Actually, most know nothing of the issue. They are simply too busy making a living, raising their families and in some cases, worried about deportation to concern themselves about the health and economic threats posed by LNG.

It took me years to finally figure out that Brownsville does not care. In fact, it was just recently that I came to the same conclusion you just stated. Two friends wanted to run for office and I asked them why? If, Brownsville does not care and thrives with a corrupt culture in leadership, why can one think one can make a difference? Brownsville does not care and we deserve what we have on the commission. I am voting for Mickey Mouse at Large and Mickey for Place 3.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

LNG Meeting At Alonzo Building Reveals Brownsville's Weakness Against Oppression

As enlightening as the anti-LNG seminar was at the Alonzo Building Tuesday night, it showed me clearly that Brownsville doesn't have the wherewithal, intellect and, yes, skill set, to battle successfully the billionaire LNG companies wanting to rape the Port of Brownsville for a short window of profiteering by compressing natural gas by 600:1 so it can be economically and profitably be shipped to Asia.

Look at the crowd shot above.  Most are anglos from S.P.I., who fully realize the impact of fossil fuel energized plants compressing natural gas for profit, the air pollution, denigration of the estuaries, impact on tourism, birding and life style. 

Brownsville residents, not in attendance, simply don't know and don't care.  They don't know about LNG.  They don't even know who the mayor is. In a very unscientific sample, I've asked my Hinogas propane driver, H.E.B. clerk, Feldman's clerk, Cabler Park visitor and many others:  "Who is the mayor of Brownsville?"  None knew.  Not one.

Donny Williams
Donny Williams of Maryland, battling an LNG plant there, revealed how a billionaire company had funded salaries of the local police department for a SWAT team to combat protesters against LNG, bought new fire trucks for the local fire department and, of course, likely greased the palms of local politicos.  Do you think the commissioners at the Port of Brownsville could withstand such enticements?

Brownsville will likely succumb.  We don't know enough, are not skilled enough to counteract billionaire companies asking for $200,000,000 in tax abatements from the Point Isabel School District.  Rap your head around that request.

Ben Neece
The only local politicos I noticed at the meeting were city commission candidates Ben Neece and Rose Gowen.  

I took voluminous notes at the meeting, but they are irrelevant. Brownsville doesn't know and doesn't care.

Captain Bob Arrested Again!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Downtown Brownsville On An Overcast Day~3/13/17

Wine and Beer Permit Application Posted at Tony's Never-Used Downtown Office Location

Do you remember the downtown office Mayor Tony Martinez said he just had to have?  It was to be located at 1101-A E. Washington Street, the building Tony had the city lease for one year and remodel at taxpayer expense, yet NEVER used!

To save face, the mayor had the building converted to the Brownsville Downtown Revitalization Information Center, but even with the fancy sign out front and a unisex bathroom paid for by the taxpayers, the BDRIC was used only a handful of times at most.

Arturo Trevino
The property may soon face an actual use.  The Fort on the Border, LLC, owned by Arturo Trevino, has filed for a wine and beer retail permit.  

Trevino, according to business records, also owns a welding company and a drive-thru beverage business and enjoys association with Brownsville Beerfest, registered as a non-profit 501(c).  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Real Danger of Trump's Persistent Lies

Donald Trump, Liar-in-Chief
We've had presidents who lied to us.   Lyndon Johnson lied about Viet Nam.  Richard Nixon lied about Watergate. Bill Clinton lied about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

None of these previous White House fabricators have anything on our current Liar-in-Chief, Donald Trump, who, routinely spews falsehoods, total shit without evidence.

Trump lied about Obama's birthplace, asserted without proof that 3-5 million voted fraudulently for his opponent, and, now, that he was wiretapped by Obama during the campaign.

Trump's lies can be explained, but not excused by saying he's constantly feeding on the drivel of right-wing conspiracy theorists.  No, his impulsive tweeting without fact-checking is inexcusable, actually just plain dumb. 

The problem Trump is creating for himself and the country is one taught by the children's story, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, originally one of Aesop's Fables.

As the ancient story reminds us:

"A liar will not be believed, even when he speaks the truth"

If Trump continues on his incredulous path, what happens when, and if, he makes the claim (rightfully) that Iran has violated the nuclear deal?

What reason will Trump have given us to actually believe him in some sort of national crisis when he's shown time and time again the inclination to stretch facts, make false claims and lie?

Friday, March 10, 2017

Judge Banales Reaffirms Gag Order in Marisa Hernandez Hit-and-Run Case

Judge J. Manuel Banales
Judge J. Manuel Banales of Corpus Christi did something Friday morning few political figures do.  He apologized.

"I apologize for the delay," began Judge Banalas, appearing at 10:20 AM for a hearing scheduled for 9:00 AM in the 445th court.

"I was held up for 1-1/2 hours on I-69 by an accident involving an 18 wheeler."

The judge initiated the hearing by calling Ralph Tipton, the husband of Mary Tipton, who was struck down by a car driven by Marisa Hernandez on FM 803 on 2/28/15.

"Is the surviving spouse of the victim in the courtroom?" asked Banales.

Ralph Tipton
Ralph Tipton came forward, fielding questions from Defense Attorney Ernesto Gamez.  The exchange was mostly inaudible from my front row seat, but I picked up a few sentences.

"Are you aware of an order to not talk about this case?" asked Gamez.

"I learned about it two minutes ago," responded Tipton.

Judge Banales weighed in:  "The law requires this case be tried fairly.  Anyone who does something to impinge this case, even a victim of this incident faces consequences.

I'm reaffirming a gag order in this case including any statement on the internet, twitter or social media.  If you violate that order, you can be found to be in contempt of this court, subject to incarceration up to 180 days and a fine of $500 for EACH violation.  Ten violations could result in 10 times 180 days or 1,800 days, several years, in jail."

Then came Banales' most ominous warning to Tipton:  "If this case goes to court and the defendant is found guilty, your conduct could result in a mistrial.  We'd have to do this thing all over again."

Mary Tipton, AllegedVictim of Hit-and-Run
While Ralph's anger is totally understandable, he's been his own and the case's worst enemy with his all caps rants on Facebook, railing at every local official for corruption, frequently overstepping the understanding of presumed innocence until proven guilty.

But, consider these known facts:  His wife was struck by a vehicle whose driver did not stop and render aid.  The Brownsville Police Department did not even interview the driver of the vehicle, instead taking a statement from her son, who happens to be a Cameron County Sheriff's deputy. 
A warehouse security videotape, in the control of the Brownsville Police Department was reduced in length from three days to 30 seconds and subsequently viewed as "insufficient" by Judge De Coss.  The Cameron County Sheriff's Department investigation can best be described as reluctant, with much of the evidence provided by the victim's husband.  How could Ralph not possibly be angry?

I simply could not stay for the entire hearing.  Jack was not allowed in the courtroom and two hours of monitoring taxed the energy of his grandma.

When a BPD officer told us we could not bring a child into the courtroom, Jack told his grandma:  "That's so rude to kick a kid out who just wants to learn things."


Self-Portrait by Josie del Castillo