Guest writers

              Dale Schlundt

By guest writer Dale Schlundt

Debates, heated arguments and social tension defined the era. People were scared of what they had thought was going to be a thing of the past, too much power in the hands of just a limited few.
We had all witnessed inequality, power exerted
by people who seemed so far removed from us, perhaps distanced by both proximity and, ultimately, ideology. By the time we were finished, we had come to a consensus but it was one that left certain factions feeling dissatisfied.
This description could fit numerous contexts in American history, specifically the revolutionary era, illustrating the point that social and political tension is nothing unique or new.
Essentially, it gives us some solace during times of conflict, as the framers of the US constitution gave us tools to address these circumstances.
The founders were not remotely close to being a united body, yet they all had one thing in common – two fears. They feared mass movements by what they perceived as an uneducated public negatively influencing policy and thus they gave us the electoral college as one of the checks and balances they believed would keep our system in order.
Contrasting that, our nation’s founders feared that an excessively limited democratic structure within the new republic would turn into an authoritarian entity. That was perceived through their lens as being similar to Great Britain in relation to its colonies. So they framed a government structure that distributed power. Recently, that system has been put to use in regard to president Donald Trump’s executive order limiting travel and immigration from certain regions of the Middle East. It featured one independent branch of government interpreting the constitutional validity of another’s policies.
The study of history is based in seeking out change. An aspect of that focus, depending on the area of study, is to conclude whether we are progressing or regressing as a society.
The discussion of concentrated power was nothing new at the time of the Constitutional Convention. Conflicting ideas among the framers about the role of the judicial branch in the new republic has led us to interpreting the results. Consequently, today they alter society to a large degree.
Despite our governmental system’s shortcomings throughout history, we are indeed progressing. For instance, who would have thought the US supreme court would have cited the 14th amendment, a constitutional revision focused on African-American liberties from the latter part of the 19th century, to uphold gay rights in the 21st?
Still, executive orders are typically controversial simply because they can bypass one of those checks, the legislative branch. Let us remember president Abraham Lincoln’s criticized executive orders during the Civil War, orders that he utilized in an effort to silence his political critics in the press.
Executive orders are within the legal powers of the president and are, at times, both necessary and appropriate.
At other times, they are called into question. Thus, the judicial process picks up the slack, if you will.
Most observers argue that the current debate about travel and immigration has the potential to arrive at the supreme court. However, individuals on both sides of the issue should keep in mind the fact that this is part of the American experience. While political tensions rise, it is the debate that promotes growth.
Perhaps more significant is that these experiences are nothing new. Let us allow the framers’ system
to interpret our constitution and applicable legislation, while respecting our fellow Americans regardless of their political affiliation.
Dale Schlundt is an adjunct professor for Palo Alto community college in San Antonio and an occasional contributor to The Post.

           Jennifer Newton

By guest writer Jennifer Newton

About a third of high-school seniors across the country report using an illegal drug at some time in the past year and more than 10 per cent report non-medical use of a narcotic painkiller, according to NIDA, the national institute on drug abuse.
Here in Texas, marijuana
is the most commonly used illegal drug, with 9.1 per cent of students reporting past-month use, according to the Texas schools survey of 2014.
Drugs can put a teenager’s health and life in jeopardy but many teens are not aware of the risks. Today’s popular culture is filled with inaccurate information about drugs.
During National Drug And Alcohol Facts Week last month, Bay Area Council On Drugs And Alcohol was part of a national campaign titled Shatter The Myths, joining with schools, community leaders and scientists across the country to spread science-based facts about drugs through our county community coalition.
For example, one myth that has persisted for years is that marijuana is safe because it is “natural”. This myth has been disproven time and again by scientists. According to NIDA, marijuana use as a teen can impair brain development, reducing IQ and keeping the brain from reaching its full potential.
Contrary to popular belief, marijuana is addictive. People who begin using the drug before age 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop a marijuana-use disorder than those who begin later.
Events such as National Drug And Alcohol Facts Week arm teenagers with science-based information on drugs and their impact on the body, helping them make well-informed decisions before engaging in risky behavior.
But keeping our children aware of such facts is not just a one-week-a-year exercise. BACODA never stops delivering the message throughout our community. For more information on how you can involve yourself in helping us promote drug and alcohol facts, contact our community liaison, Jennifer Hart, at Galveston.CCP@bacoda.org or go online to bacoda.org.
Jennifer Newton is communications coordinator for Bay Area Council On Drugs And Alcohol, a nonprofit founded in 1974 to fight the effects of drug and alcohol abuse in the Galveston Bay area.

Well spoken – Each month dentist John Hackbarth reveals the way to a perfect smile and confident conversation

COUPONS can save you, the consumer, money. So can a Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale.  Each has the common goal of moving products off the shelf. The amount of discount you’re offered depends on an agreement between the company that makes the product and the retailer.  
It is a situation in which everyone benefits and a fun game that everyone understands. On the other hand, unlike those sales or discount coupons, dental insurance is misunderstood by almost everyone. No one but the insurance company writing the policy understands its plans. While many people have benefited from the advent of dental insurance, it has often been a hindrance to others.
A sad fact about dental insurance is that it is not insurance. I think the best way to understand dental insurance plans is to think of them like a coupon that you can sometimes redeem to help pay for some needed dental services.
Unlike medical insurance, which has very high maximums – usually more than $1 million – for a lifetime, dental plans have yearly benefit limits. Usually, these limits are in the $1,000-$1,500 range per year and do not roll over to the next benefit period.
Some 35 to 40 years ago, insurance plan yearly limits were $1,000. At that time, everything cost considerably less but today’s plan limits are, for the most part, still at $1,000.
In 1980, patients could have quite a bit of needed dental treatment done and have a substantial part of that treatment paid for by their dental coverage. That is not the case in today’s world.
Dental plans can be helpful to help maintain one’s dental health or to aid with occasional repairs but, unlike insurance, they don’t do much to cover catastrophic loss.
If you run your car into a brick wall and inflict $10,000 damage, you will pay your $1,000 deductible and the insurance company will pay $9,000 toward repairing the car. If you run your teeth into the same brick wall and do $10,000 worth of damage, your dental insurance company will pay $1,000 toward the repair of your teeth and you will be stuck with paying $9,000. It’s not insurance!
Plans cover different services at different rates and they often have hidden limits within the coverage for different procedures.
Sometimes, a plan will tell the insured that the company will pay for something like a dental cleaning at 100 per cent but the 100 per cent is limited by the amount its “allowable” fee schedule approves for that procedure. One plan I have seen pays 100 per cent of the company’s allowable fee for a dental cleaning, which is $1.57. Everyone but the insurance company knows that is ridiculous. You can’t even buy a toothbrush for that.
There are dental PPOs, dental discount plans, dental DMOs and indemnity plans, as well as fee schedule plans. And there are guys on TV who tell you that you can buy coverage today and use it today. Does that even make sense?
All those guys do is recruit a few desperate dentists willing to severely reduce their fees for people who have signed up for these plans. The plans do not pay the dentist anything toward your dental care. What kind of care do you think you would be given under those circumstances?
I am often asked where one can buy private dental insurance. So far, there is no private plan I have found that is worth the money.
Dental insurance is a nice benefit, if it comes bundled with an employer-provided medical plan, one for which the employer pays the majority of the costs.
Wow, are you confused yet? I bet so. We deal with all sorts of dental plan at my practice. One key thing to remember is that it is the insurance company’s “plan” – not yours or the dentist’s.
Let me tell you a basic fact. The “plans” of insurance companies is to make money for themselves, not to take care of your health.
I often have patients tell me that they haven’t been to the dentist in years because they didn’t have insurance. Now, I am the first one to agree that good dental treatment is expensive, but the loss of one’s health is even more expensive.
Skipping needed dental care for years will not save you money. Even with insurance plans, it will end up costing you more. It is much more cost effective to maintain your dental health than to recover it when damage has been done.
We now know that poor dental health is a factor in many health problems ranging from cardiac disease to strokes and many self-immune diseases like arthritis. It is also a factor in preterm, low-birth-weight babies and has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease and even erectile dysfunction. Yikes! – this is all stuff that no one wants to have to deal with.
Simple preventative care is always more cost efficient, easier and more comfortable than any treatment to restore your health and function.
If you are lucky enough to have dental insurance, be sure to use it to help maintain your health.  But, if you don’t have it, don’t let that keep you from the care you need to stay healthy.
John Hackbarth is a Texas City dentist who believes in prevention rather than cure. Readers with oral-care questions can call him at 409-935-2111 or go online to his website, texasdentalhealth.com.

               Charlene Hunter James

By guest writer Charlene Hunter James

Every February, Black History Month provides a time to reflect on the history of African-Americans and the events that have shaped the course of history for many in this country.
During this time, one of the things that gives me pause for reflection is the belief that there are endless possibilities in our lives. AARP, for which I volunteer and have the honor to serve as Texas president, refers to this as “real possibilities” that are presented to us at various stages of our lives.
This acquired new meaning for me recently when viewing the highly acclaimed movie Hidden Figures, which tells the story of three African-American women, Dorothy Vaughn, Katherine Johnson and Mary Jackson, whose work advanced the US space program.
The movie provides a historical framework for African-Americans who are prepared educationally and professionally but are denied the opportunity to grasp their “real possibilities professionally” for which they have been properly prepared.
While African-Americans and members of other minorities have certainly made great strides in this educational journey, as well as in leadership and managerial roles, greater attention has been given to the areas of science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM.
The reality is that African-Americans continue to fall short in the education, training and professional placement where “real possibilities” can be attained.
The census bureau reports that, in 2014, 84 per cent of African-Americans age 25 and older had a high-school or higher diploma but only 19 per cent had a bachelor’s or higher degree. That’s about 1.8 million people.
When it comes to African-American students, a Children’s Defense Fund report titled State Of America’s Children showed that growing up in extremely poor areas contributes to youngsters not reaching their educational goal because “educational opportunities are becoming increasingly unequal across the United States”.
One promising solution has been the concerted effort to expose our youth and college students to the area of STEM. According to the federal department of education, historically black colleges and universities – HBCUs – “produce 27 per cent of African-American students with bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields”. Many of these students are young women. HBCUs make up three per cent of all institutions of higher learning in the USA. There are fewer than 10 in Texas.
Texas Southern University in Houston is reaching out to African-American middle-school boys and exposing them to STEM programs that can lead to high-paying professions in a program sponsored by communications company Verizon.
Rodney Bush, who manages the program for TSU, said: “We’re showing the students that they deal with STEM-related projects every day in their lives. It is eye-opening to see them realize that science is involved in everyday programs like video games, cell phones and all technologies that they use.”
In addition to the education, the middle-school students are exposed to people making a living in STEM-related fields, such as engineers. The best part is that it isn’t the only program available to all our young students. The lists continue to grow every year across Texas.
Without a doubt, Vaughn, Johnson and Jackson were “hidden figures” for a period of time at NASA. Even before discovery, they performed important technical and professional tasks for the agency, just like their other colleagues.
When their expertise was finally recognized, it turned out that not only were they more than prepared; they were ready to meet the challenges that awaited them and make an indelible mark on American history. Today, there might or might not still be “hidden figures” but we can rest assured our presence in space history continues to be well documented.
African-American history should not be “hidden history” for it tells the rich background of so many who were willing to take risks for themselves or their children and make sacrifices so they or others could realize the real possibilities that could be a part of their lives.
Charlene Hunter James is a member of AARP Texas’ all-volunteer executive council.

              Fred Bryant

By guest writer Fred Bryant

Texas is known for its vast land and abundant wildlife and fish, resources that are available for all to enjoy through activities such as hunting, fishing or wildlife watching. Conservation of these resources for future generations is the result of a uniquely North American approach that is viewed by many as the most successful conservation program in the world.
This program is called the North American model of wildlife conservation and its cornerstone is the public-trust doctrine. Simply put, the doctrine means that all wildlife belongs to all citizens and that its management is entrusted to the government for the benefit of present and future generations.
The North American model also is centered on the principle that fish and wildlife management must be based on sound science and that science should drive regulations rather than emotions or short-term economics.
The North American model was developed because market hunting of wildlife during the late 1800s and early 1900s led to the extinction and near-extinction of many species. Eventually, hunting and fishing regulations were adopted and unregulated commercial markets were eliminated, which turned the tide on the indiscriminate slaughter of wild animals.
The North American model deserves credit for bringing many species back from the brink of extinction to the abundant populations we now enjoy.
Today, there is a new threat to the wild creatures we all treasure – privatization of the native fish and wildlife that belong to all of us. This is a bad idea for many reasons. For example, according to Outdoor Industry Association, hunting, fishing, state-park visits, bird watching, canoeing, kayaking and all other non-consumptive uses of our natural resources generate more than $28 billion in annual consumer spending in Texas.
Why even contemplate disrupting such a huge economic driver? Privatization of native fish and wildlife erodes public support for conservation initiatives, leads to the slippery slope for more and more species to be privatized, degrades the outdoor experience, turns native wildlife into livestock, changes the purpose from conservation to exploitation and favors short-term economic gain instead of long-term conservation for future generations.
The primary mission of the Texas Foundation for Conservation is to raise awareness about the Public Trust Doctrine, and to resist any efforts to privatize native fish and wildlife for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many. These wild-animal resources are like our beaches and our waterways – they belong in the public trust.
We applaud the founders of the North American model of wildlife conservation for saving fish and wildlife in this country. We also believe that Texas offers a unique set of circumstances within which the model operates. Ninety-five per cent of the state’s land is in private hands and  we believe private landowners are the front-line stewards of our native fish and wildlife resources. For this reason, private-property rights are paramount to successful conservation efforts.
As the 85th Texas legislature is now in session, please be aware that there are industry groups and individuals who seek to privatize the native fish and wildlife that belong to us all. Government should not hand over ownership of a public resource to private entities at the expense of all Texans.
Fred Bryant is director of the Caesar Kleberg wildlife research institute at Texas A&M University’s Kingsville campus and president of Texas Foundation For Conservation.

The views and opinions expressed by our contributors are their own and do not necessarily agree with those of The Post newspaper.