Sunday, May 29, 2016

Revelation 6:1-8 -- The SEALS are BROKEN!!!


"First Seal: The Conqueror
Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, “Come and see.” And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.

Second Seal: Conflict on Earth
When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come and see.” Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.

Third Seal: Scarcity on Earth
When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”

Fourth Seal: Widespread Death on Earth
When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see.”  So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth.
Revelation 6:1-8

Pastor Danny Forshee.  Great Hills Baptist Church.  September 7, 2014:

The Seals Are Broken, Part 1 - Dr. Danny Forshee - September 7, 2014 from Great Hills Baptist Church on Vimeo.

Outline:
  1. Seal One (White Horse) (vv. 1-2)
    -
    The Beast before people know he's the beast.
  2. Seal Two (Red Horse) (vv. 3-4)
    - War and Bloodshed.
    - War, like it or not, will continue to be with us until the end of this age.
  3. Seal Three (Black Horse) (vv. 5-6)
    - Famine
    - One day's food for a full day's wage.
  4. Seal Four (Pale Horse) (vv. 7-8)
    -
    Sickness

Highlights:
  • Events that have yet to take place.
  • Has one-fourth of the Earth's population been killed in a short period of time at any point in history to this point?!?
    • The bubonic plague doesn't count, it only killed 1/4 of the European Population.
  • We can, and should, pray for God to save but eventually God will HAVE to judge.
  • "God doesn't smile" at sexual immorality.
  • Famine ALWAYS follows war.
  • Not too many preachers in America will preach on Revelation 6.
  • It's NOT gonna be ok; it'll be ok if you know Christ, but otherwise it won't be.
    • You'll either know Him as your friend and savior; otherwise, one day, you'll know Him as your Judge.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Michael Quinn Sullivan's perfect description of #TXLEGE state of play


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

The other day, Michael Quinn Sullivan gave his take on the #TXLEGE runoffs.  His two cents largely mirror our own.  That being said, he penned a half sentence that put into words a sentiment we've felt towards Team Straus for several years but have never been able to put into words:
[Team Straus is] also losing a war of attrition.

[Author's Note: Emphasis added.]
Boom.

That's EXACTLY what this is....

As long as we stay in the fight, we win in the end; we just don't know when that end ultimately materializes.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Will Dan Branch run against Ted Cruz for U.S. Senate?!?


"The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
But he who heeds counsel is wise."
Proverbs 12:15

Last night, we were war gaming various scenarios for the 2018 primaries with a knowledgeable source.  With Ted Cruz running for re-election, we started speculating about whom the big money crowd could run against him.  What follows is not an exact transcription, but is a reasonably accurate paraphrase of the conversation:
Source: The thing is, if you're going to run against Ted Cruz in a Republican primary in Texas in a midterm year, you'd have to be both incredibly arrogant and incredibly stupid; who fits that bill?!?

Cahnman's Musings: What about Dan Branch?!?

[Looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong Pause]

Source: You know...[another long pause]...I think you may be onto something.
It just makes too much dadgum sense.

Dan Branch works with the Law Firm Winestead PC.  Winestead PC does business with the Export-Import 'bank.'  Ted Cruz led the fight to shut down the Ex-Im 'bank.'

It's also an open secret around the Capitol that Dan Branch loathes Ted Cruz.  Branch can't stand the fact that Cruz has derailed his political plans multiple times.  Most recently, Ted Cruz praised Ken Paxton during the latter's successful 2014 Attorney General campaign against Branch.

In his 2015 book, A Time for Truth, Cruz recounts a 2009 conversation with Karl Rove during his aborted run for Attorney General:
It turned out Rove was in the process of helping raise money for the George W. Bush presidential library in Dallas.  Texas donors were giving the Bushes tens of millions, including major donors who were supporting the Dallas state rep who wanted to run for Attorney General.  Those donors were now berating Karl. (190)
The state rep to which that quote refers is Dan Branch.  This was briefly an issue during Cruz's presidential campaign.  You can learn the full history of that incident here.

George W. Bush gave BIG money to Branch's 2014 A.G. campaign and it's likewise not a secret that Dubya "just doesn't like" Cruz.

Furthermore, Branch is from Dallas.  Cruz is from Houston.  So it also makes sense from the perspective of the region vs. region dynamic that sometimes emerges in statewide races.

Branch remains the liberal he's always been.  But the Washington cartel and the big money crowd in Dallas and Austin hate Cruz enough that you've got to imagine they'll find some yutz to run against him.  And Dan Branch might just be the yutz they're looking for....

Bottom Line: For now, this is just informed speculation, but it just makes sooooooooooooooooooooooo much sense.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Delightfully good time had at Trib Higher Ed. Funding Event


"Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. "
Colossians 3:20

Lt. Governor Patrick's shadow loomed large over this morning's Trib event on Higher Ed. funding; as such it could not have been more enjoyable for this author to attend.



Chairman Seliger desperately clung to relevance discussed the practical aspects of implementing the Lt. Governor's agenda.  He was visibly caught between the rock of his longstanding history of gutting accountability in Higher education and the hard place of political reality in Dan Patrick's Senate.  To his credit, Chairman Seliger didn't seem to have much use for the lackadaisical financial management we've seen at public universities the past few years.

Senator Watson was full of excuses provided a contrarian, if logically questionable, perspective.  Watson mentioned his dissatisfaction with focusing on tuition as "a single tree as opposed to the whole forest" of higher ed. funding.  We're not sure what that means, but we're sure it involves spending a lot of money.  Watson also tried to hang his hat on the irrelevant claim that UT has the lowest tuition of the 15 largest flagship universities in the country.  Watson's overhyped statement reminded us of Michael Quinn Sullivan's longstanding observation that just because Texas is the least drunk state at the bar doesn't mean we should get behind the wheel.

Neither Senator brought up administrative expenses on their own.  To his credit, Evan Smith went there.  Discussing exploding administrative costs at a time when universities are raising tuition, Smith noted: "the optics are crap."  Seliger didn't argue.  Even Kirk Watson was forced, kicking and screaming though he might have been on the inside, to admit that looking at administrative costs is "appropriate."

Smith also asked whether higher education costs were the result of market forces creating an equilibrium along the supply and demand curves.  While neither Senator responded, we will point out that there is nothing even remotely resembling a free market in higher education.  While distortions in higher ed. market are primarily caused by the feds, it should still be the task of the Texas legislature to not create more distortions.

There was one topic that wasn't brought up that we wish had been: Endowments.  UT has the second largest endowment of any university in the country, A&M's isn't far behind, and no public university in Texas is exactly hurting in that department.  At some point we're going to have to ask if it's appropriate to have the universities sit on billions of dollars while they're raising tuition on students.

Bottom Line: When the biggest defenders of the status quo squirm visibly at a public event, that's a very good sign.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

2016 continues long-term historical #TXLEGE trend....


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

Here's the short version: In the Senate, Dan Patrick is SUBSTANTIALLY stronger and the Senate has SUBSTANTIALLY more leverage in inter-cameral disputes.  In the House, grassroots insurgents continued making incremental gains, but failed to land the knockout blow that earlier seemed within reach.  This cycle could have been better, but if modest gains every two years is a new baseline, that's also not a terrible place to be.

The most important result of the night was Dawn Buckingham's resounding victory over Susan King. As a Senator, Dawn will be a significant improvement over Troy Fraser.  Likewise, Bryan Hughes will be a major improvement over Kevin Eltife.  For Bryan Hughes to succeed where Susan King failed illustrates, once again, the degree to which Joe Straus carries negative coattails whenever House members try to run for anything else.  Adding Buckingham and Hughes to the mix will enable Dan Patrick to pass quickly a pro-growth, pro-liberty agenda early in the session then hold the line when the inevitable confrontation with the House comes late in the session.

In the House, we have mixed feelings.  Obviously, leadership is likely to return, and that's not a fact to gloss over.  On the other hand, if the best they can do is hold us to incremental gains while enabling a healthy churn in the open seats, that's just not a terrible place to be over the long run.

Consider the following:

  • 4 Straus lieutenants got directly popped (Debbie Riddle, Marsha Farney, Doug Miller, and Wayne Smith) between the primary and the runoff.
  • 3 more Straus lieutenants retired and were replaced by a substantial upgrade (Jim Keffer, Patricia Harless, and Allan Fletcher) during the primary.
  • While we lost 4 seats to leadership (Molly White, Stuart Spitzer, David Simpson, and Scott Turner), that still means +3 for the  grassroots; furthermore, we'd expect the leadership candidates who just won to vote substantially less badly during their first term than the incumbents who just got popped.
  • Speaking of leadership candidates voting less badly early in their tenure: There are several seats where incumbent leadership allies are being replaced by freshman leadership allies.  Freshmen leadership allies almost always vote better than longterm incumbent leadership allies.  Even when you don't get everything you want, churn is healthy.
That's our longwinded way of saying we expect there to be fewer "F's" and more "C's" in the House next session.  Obviously, that's frustrating when what you really need are "A's" and "B's."  But C's are still better than F's.

Also, Wayne Christian winning statewide was pretty awesome; we just had to throw that in there!

Bottom Line: We'd expect the 85th to be better than the 84th in a very similar way to how the 84th (for all it's flaws) was still better than the 83rd.  Obviously, it's not where we want to be, but it's still better than where we were.  While we're open to suggestion over how to hasten the process, if the worst case scenario is incremental gains of 5 to 7 seats (across both chambers) every two years, that will eventually get us where we need to go.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Wallace Hall reminds Appeals Court that the Clock is Ticking


"He who covers his sins will not prosper,
But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy."
Proverbs 28:13

Good for Wallace:
A University of Texas System regent is worried that time might run out on his lawsuit seeking access to confidential student records from an investigation of favoritism in admissions at the Austin flagship.

....

Hall first asked the 3rd Court for “expedited consideration” of his case in January, asserting that time is running out to resolve the litigation, including any appeal to the state Supreme Court, while he is still a regent. McRaven did not oppose that request. In papers filed May 10 with the 3rd Court, Knight reminded the judges that the clock is ticking.

“So the last thing Hall wants is for his oral-argument request to delay the court’s decision,” Knight wrote. If that pending request will delay the case and the 3rd Court agrees with McRaven that oral argument is unnecessary, then Hall would forgo such argument, he added. Both sides have already filed court papers staking out their positions.

On Thursday, the court denied the request for oral argument. It has no deadline to rule in the case.

State Attorney General Ken Paxton has sided with Hall, issuing a nonbinding opinion in June that said the UT System should turn over the records to the regent. Paxton also filed a friend-of-the-court brief in March urging the 3rd Court to rule in Hall’s favor.

Although the UT board voted in April 2015 to grant Hall access to the records, McRaven said he could not turn over confidential student information, and the board sided with him in July.

McRaven’s lawyers contend that Hall’s demands do not meet the federal standard of “legitimate educational interest” to warrant granting him access to private student files underlying the admissions investigation.
Read the whole thing here.

Austin City Council GETS ONE RIGHT on Civil Asset Forfeiture!!! (*)


"Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need."
Ephesians 4:28

We don't say this often, but kudos to council here:
TPPF Statement on Austin City Council’s Postponement of Purchase Approval Using Civil Asset Forfeiture Funds

AUSTIN – Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Effective Justice Policy Analyst Greg Glod issued the following statement on the Austin City Council vote last Thursday to postpone approval of purchasing Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPRs) with civil asset forfeiture funds procured by the Austin City Police Department.

“We commend the Austin City Council for looking more closely at a contract that has several troubling aspects that requires further examination. First, the use of ALPRs have invoked recent controversy across Texas, with some jurisdictions, such as Kyle, rescinding their contract agreements after learning more information on some of the more troubling aspects of the technology. ALPRs have taken millions of pictures of license plates across the state in jurisdictions that utilize them, and without legislation restricting how this information is used there is an obvious privacy concern.

“Second, ALPRs can ‘ping’ an officer in real time as they drive past an automobile if the individual has an outstanding warrant, including those who only owe fines and fees on a traffic ticket. If an individual cannot pay the fine off at the point of the traffic stop, the officer can arrest that individual. This will likely hit the poor the hardest as they are most likely unable to pay the fines and fees in the first place.

“Third, the practice of civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement to take property from citizens without ever convicting or even charging them. The poorest citizens would be most affected by this practice, which uses their own seized property to fund equipment that would adversely impact disadvantaged communities.

“We look forward to working with council members in the coming weeks to provide technical assistance as they look more into the subject.”
We've been thinking of late that abolishing civil asset forfeiture at the municipal level in Austin might be a project worth taking on; we're not yet ready to make a commitment at that level, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.

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* -- For now.