Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Yet again...WALLACE. HALL. VINDICATED!!!!!!!!


"And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."
Galatians 6:9

Empower Texans beats us to the punch:
A Travis County Grand Jury sent out notice earlier today that University of Texas Regent and whistleblower Wallace Hall will not be indicted on any charges, but not before they attempted to besmirch his reputation in a baffling public letter calling for less transparency.

The grand jury was investigating whether or not Hall abused his official capacity as a regent and misused public information in issuing open records requests. He issued the requests as part of an investigation into whether or not legislators were abusing their clout in order to gain admission to UT-Austin for under-qualified students.

....

In their comments, members of the grand jury recommended removing Hall after they just cleared him of all charges. “We are appalled at the Regent’s unaccountable and abusive behavior,” the report contradictorily states. The jury’s observations go on to say “Hall used his positional power to the point of abuse,” one of the very charges they determined lacked sufficient evidence to prosecute.

More baffling, however, is that the grand jury simultaneously observed, “Transparency and accountability are key elements in maintaining citizens’ trust in their government,” but then went on to recommend UT revise its policies to make records requests prohibitively difficult for regents.

It speaks volumes that the grand jury, whose recommendations and observations cast it as a mere apologist for UT’s established leadership, would not indict Regent Hall despite taking an extra three months to investigate him. Hall has been vindicated at every turn, despite baseless attacks on him for actually doing his job, instead of just playing along.
Read the whole thing here.

Later this afternoon, he released a statement:
Following the announcement from the jury, Hall broke his silence saying, “The campaign by Speaker Straus, Representative Flynn and Senator Seliger to criminalize my service as a Regent constitutes abuse of office. Their use of the levers of political power to cover up wrongdoing by legislators should now be investigated, and those exposed for their abuses should be driven from office.”
Kudos, again, to Wallace; it's a shame that Governor Abbott has thrown in with the U.T. politburo.

Wallace Hall remains on the board for at least 23 months; expect U.T. governance to be a much bigger issue in the 2016 Republican primaries.

School Choice and the Texas Hispanic Community


"Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go;
Keep her, for she is your life."
Proverbs 4:13

The Texas Public Policy Foundation, along with the Libre Initiative, held an event this afternoon: School Choice and the Hispanic Community.  Ironically, the event was held on the same day that the Texas House is going to take up an anti-School Choice budget amendment.  The event below.

Michael Barba (TPPF):



Highlights:
  • Gaps between Hispanic and White students haven't changed in 20 years.
  • Hispanics drop out at three times the rate of White Students.
  • I can side against parents having options because I had options.
  • School Choice is a means, not an end.
  • Fantastic hearing last Thursday.



Highlights:
  • Traditional public, homeschool, Charter schools, Virtual schools, and private are the five models.
  • Parents and Students are customers.
  • Your ability to take your business elsewhere "drives innovation."
  • We should give public schools a premium.
    • Author's Note: We don't particularly agree, but we're willing to make the concession if it'll move a bill.
  • Parents know best.
  • "It's not the government's decision."
  • We don't discriminate based on demographics, we discriminate via Zip Code.
  • School choice will not happen until the Latino community leads.



Highlights:
  • It's an issue of school quality, not poverty.
  • Middle class kids aren't doing great.\
  • Texas has very low proficiency standards.
  • Less than 1/3rd of students at one high income school in Coppell.
  • All parents should be concerned about school quality.



Highlights:

  • His charter school district has a 1500+ waiting list.
  • Florida is expanding school choice; Texas has barely started.
  • School choice rally last Friday in Brownsville.
  • Events in San Antonio and Dallas coming up.
  • Libre in Seven states.
  • School choice is a Hispanic issue.
  • Other Hispanic orgs aren't doing the legwork.



Highlights:

  • Within public schools, you have to have parental involvement.
  • Intense positive character education.
  • Life is not meant to to be complicated.
  • A lot of rural legislators are afraid of educrats.
  • We've never made the case to Republican voters about how school choice benefits them personally; we always present it as an altruistic thing to help someone else.

First Amendment Tuesday: Week 11


"and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,"
Ephesians 6:19

Today is budget day in the Texas House; the LLP coalition outlined both opportunities and pitfalls to this process presents.

Tony McDonald (Empower Texans):




Highlights:
  • A lot of the amendments the House of Straus will consider today deal with defunding border security operations and pro-Tenth Amendment litigation.
  • John Otto wants to add at least $800 million (and possibly as much as $3 billion) to public education.
  • Can't trust the order in which they release amendments.
  • Calendars committee can set rules for floor debate.
  • You have to find savings for new spending but (new this session) you can cut without plowing savings into other programs.
  • Major events trust fund -- Tried to give NASCAR ex post facto subsidies.
    • Unconstitutional, but the House didn't care and measure passed with 120+ votes.



Highlights:
  • 892 failing schools  in Texas.
  • House Leadership will "motion to table" good amendments.



Highlights:
  • Marriage bills left pending; ditto ALAC.
  • SB 1340 (Huffines) to eliminate red light cameras still in limbo.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Which Texas Senate Republicans are defending Travis County's DA?!?


"The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken in pieces;
From heaven He will thunder against them.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

“He will give strength to His king,
And exalt the horn of His anointed.”
1 Samuel 2:10

Update (3/31/2015): The Houston Chronicle reports that Eltife's colleagues have fingered him out while Seliger has confessed; Empower Texans has more here.

Hmm:
A Republican bill to transfer the Public Integrity Unit out of Travis County is snagged in the Senate, where the legislation does not have enough support to force a floor vote.

News that Senate Bill 10 has been blocked came in a Monday letter by state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate and who has made moving the Public Integrity Unit out of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office a legislative priority.

....

Legislation must have support from 19 senators to allow a floor vote — a requirement that was lowered from 21 votes at the start of the session to let the body’s 20 Republicans move forward on GOP priorities. Watson’s letter indicates that at least two Republicans are not on board with SB 10.

[Author's Note: Emphasis Added.]
While the article never identifies the Republican holdouts, common sense guided by history (combined with the fact that Craig Estes and Troy Fraser voted for the bill in committee) leads one to conclude that Kevin Eltife and Kel Seliger are the likeliest suspects.

Senator Kevin Eltife: (512) 463-0101; @KevinEltife
Senator Kel Seliger: (512) 463-0131; @KSeliger

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Movie Review: The Drop Box


"When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me."
Psalm 27:10

[Verse inscribed above "drop box" outside Pastor Lee's home]

Caring for babies and children with special needs, or who come from economically difficult circumstances, is a task pro-lifers often face.  Across the globe, we accept this reality and move forward to do good.  For cultural reasons, these challenges are especially acute in Korea.

The Drop Box tells the story of Lee Jong-rak, a Seoul pastor who runs a ministry for abandoned children.  In Korea, when they aren't aborted, babies born to teenage mothers or with special needs are often abandoned to die.  Pastor Lee founded the Jursurang (God's Love) community to give young mothers another option.

Pastor Lee's story begins with his biological son, Eun-Man (God's Grace).  Born with crippling cerebral palsy, Eun-Man spent most of his first 14 years in hospitals.  At one point, the financial strains were so severe that the Lee's had to sell their home and move into the hospital.  During this time, caring for Eun-Man metamorphosed from being a burden to a blessing as his parents learned first hand the value of life.  As they spent many long days in hospitals, other disabled children would come up and befriend them.  Over 14 years, Pastor Lee and his wife adopted an additional four special needs children.

Last decade, Pastor Lee took Hanna into his home.  The brain damaged daughter of a 14 year old who had abused drugs during her pregnancy, Hanna wasn't expected to survive more than a few months.  She ended up living another six years.  During this time, Pastor Lee vowed to do everything he could to help disabled children.  He installed the Drop Box in 2009.

In the film, we meet several of the children under Pastor Lee's care.  There's On-Ew, who recently learned to walk even with down syndrome.  Gi-Ri, a precocious boy, has survived multiple heart surgeries since being abandoned.  Ru-ri, ten years old, has a special talent for Tae Kwan Do and was recently elected class President.  As the film says, "God sent every one of them to Earth with a purpose."

Our biggest unresolved question following the film was "how does he pay for it"?!?  Obviously, children are expensive.  Children with special needs are even more so.  In addition, the film alludes to conflicts with the existing adoption bureaucracy.  For example, we learn about Pastor Lee losing certain government benefits after taking in children.  Unfortunately, the film does not go into detail on either subject.  It's a shame, doing so would have painted a more complete picture of God's grace and provision.

While drop boxes, and ministries like Pastor Lee's, are helpful, they are not the ultimate solution.  As Pastor Lee says "I always pray that there will be no more abandoned babies in this country and no more in our baby box. That’s all I want.”  Ultimately, this is a matter of the heart, and we need to restore a culture of life across the globe.  As the film explains, "it's not only Korea that has this problem."  That being said, until Christ returns and redeems fallen humanity, ministries like Pastor Lee's are crucial to show Christ's love to a lost and dying world.  The Drop Box is a life-affirming story that celebrates adoption and provides a model for pro-Lifers globally.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Lawrence Billy Jones III discusses censorship at North Texas Islamic Conference


"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."
Ephesians 6:11

Texas State Capitol -- Lawrence Jones of the Blaze discussed being shut down when attempting to cover the recent "Stand with the Prophet" conference in Garland, TX:



Highlights:
  • Texans don't give up.
  • "Texas will not go out without a fight."
  • At recent event: "At first, they didn't even want to let us in the building."
  • "If this is the religion of peace, let us in."
  • "The information we are discussing is way too sensitive."
  • After they kicked us out, we don't know what they did.
  • "ISIS is real, the Muslim Brotherhood is real."

New Austin City Council does something right


"When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice;
But when a wicked man rules, the people groan."
Proverbs 29:2

In case you were still skeptical that the new council is light-years better than the old one:
Intersection improvements. Better signal timing. And a crackdown on drivers who block intersections.

Austin officials announced a slew of efforts Friday morning targeted at reducing the traffic congestion, ranging from immediate fixes to longer-term undertakings. Officials hope the cumulative effect will ease some of the pain felt by commuters each day.

“It’s time for us to start trying new things,” Mayor Steve Adler said.

Among the efforts drivers should notice first: Police officers stationed at key intersections to help keep traffic moving; a crackdown on delivery trucks blocking critical roads during commuting periods; limiting the places for mid-block left-turns that can cause traffic to back up; and an aggressive “Don’t Block the Box” campaign to remind drivers not to pull midway into an intersection, only to block traffic when the signal changes.

Other initiatives will take more time. The city plans to ramp up efforts to use “smart signals” and other technology to adjust signal timing based on traffic flow, coordinate signal timing along corridors and adjust the timing to keep buses rolling through green lights.
Austin no longer has the craziest local government in this state; if that's not proof miracles really happen, we don't know what is....