Thursday, December 5, 2019

#TXLEGE: Latest Crisis Subsides, Toxic Culture Remains


"Whoever has no rule over his own spirit
Is like a city broken down, without walls."
Proverbs 25:28

Sigh:
State Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land, is no longer running for reelection after he sparked a firestorm for saying he was facing primary challengers because they are Asian.

“During a recent interview with the Houston Chronicle I made some statements that were insensitive and inexcusable,” Miller said in a statement to The Texas Tribune. “In trying to make a point about the campaign I used a poor choice of words that are not indicative of my character or heart.

“I do not want to be a distraction for my party or my constituents, and therefore I have decided not to seek re-election,” he continued.
Obviously, this was the least bad solution.  Had Miller not withdrawn from the race, this would have become a slow drip.  So one cheer.

We guess.

But does anyone feel good about this?!?

 After Bonnen left, we wrote:
[I]s anyone confident a new scandal won't soon emerge?!?

Cuz' we ain't.
Barely six weeks later...another frickin' scandal!!!

We've seen this movie:


From October:
This specific scandal is the completely predictable result of the toxic culture in the Texas capitol that has prevailed for a long time.

The GOP, meanwhile, has been running the place for a quarter century.

This is the same Republican majority that:
  • Two years ago, put a man who had been in a sexual relationship with a lobbyist for over a decade in charge of writing its sexual harassment policy.
The pattern is obvious...to anyone not under the influence of afore mentioned Egyptian rivers.

It can't be defended, and it shouldn't.
Yet, here we are.  Again.  Rick Miller, Dennis Bonnen, and Jim Pitts might be gone.  But Charlie Geren and Jim Murphy are still there.

Is anyone confident about that?!?

Cuz' we (still) ain't.

Bottom Line: Over/under six weeks before the next self-inflicted scandal?!?

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Joe Barton might be completely terrible, but he's not "Bailing Out" anyone


"He who works deceit shall not dwell within my house;
He who tells lies shall not continue in my presence."
Psalm 101:7

Obviously, this website doesn't like former Congressman Joe Barton.  In 2017, we were one of the first to call for his resignation over...all that.  But the truth is that we've not been a fan for a lot longer than that.

Thus, we were curious about the following headline in the Texas Observer:

Unfortunately, the article doesn't deliver the goods.

Turns out, Barton's launching an energy related lobby operation.  OK, fine.  There's a lot to criticize about the legislative/lobby revolving door.

But that's not where the Observer goes.

Instead, they attack him for...getting the ban on crude oil exports lifted:
[T]his week he reemerged with a lengthy retrospective in the Dallas Morning News humbly titled “I knew my bill to lift the ban on U.S. oil exports was important. I hardly expected it to change the world.” It’s an unusually revealing account of how Barton greased the congressional skids for one of the most consequential policies for oil and gas and the environment in modern political history.

....

The former lawmaker from Ennis paints himself as a shrewd legislative tactician with deep connections and policy know-how. He does not undersell the world-changing impacts of his handiwork. Not only is the U.S. now the top oil producer, but the introduction of American oil around the world has “destroyed OPEC’s ability to control world oil prices” and created a more “transparent” global energy market.

....

But as he details in his column, Barton set out to do the biggest favor of his career back in early 2014, when the Permian Basin was in the early days of a massive boom. New fracking technologies made it highly profitable to access the region’s huge reserves of oil hidden in dense shale formations. But fossil-fuel producers were sounding the alarm that the country’s existing domestic refining capacity couldn’t handle all of the newfound black gold.

So some of Texas’ oil behemoths began leaning on Barton to end the ban on crude oil exports from the United States, warning that the industry’s future depend on it.
And?!?

Does the Texas Observer really think that Texas putting the Saudis out of business is a bad thing?!?

'Cause that's definitely what it sounds like.

Furthermore, how is Barton's effort a "bailout?!?"  Congressional action certainly expanded the markets available to Texan/American energy companies.  But expanding markets is hardly a "bailout."

It's kinda the opposite.

Which is a shame, because Barton's terrible.

But that doesn't change the fact that lifting the crude oil export ban was pretty much the only good thing he did in 30 years in Congress.

Bottom Line: For such a target rich environment, this was an odd selection.


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

#TXLEGE: ANOTHER Cartoonish Debacle


"Whoever has no rule over his own spirit
Is like a city broken down, without walls."
Proverbs 25:28

Wow:
Republican Rep. D.F. “Rick” Miller of Sugar Land is facing primary opposition for the first time since 2012 as he seeks to keep his seat representing Fort Bend County in the Texas House.

He summed up one of his opponents like this: “He’s a Korean,” said Miller, describing Jacey Jetton, a former chairman of the Fort Bend GOP. “He has decided because, because he is an Asian that my district might need an Asian to win. And that’s kind of racist in my mind, but anyway, that’s not necessary, at least not yet.”

A second Republican primary candidate, Houston Fire Department analyst Leonard Chan, “jumped in probably for the same reason,” said Miller, 74, during an interview with Hearst Newspapers. “I don’t know, I never met the guy. I have no idea who he is. He has not been around Republican channels at all, but he’s an Asian.”
It gets better:
Gov. Greg Abbott rescinded his endorsement of state Rep. Rick Miller on Tuesday after the Sugar Land Republican said he was facing primary challengers because they are “Asian.”

“Representative Miller’s comments are inappropriate and out of touch with the values of the Republican Party. In light of Rep. Miller’s comments, the governor is withdrawing his endorsement,” Abbott spokesman John Wittman said in a statement to The Texas Tribune.

Abbott endorsed Miller for another term on Oct. 15, calling him a “strong, principled conservative who has represented the people of Fort Bend County with integrity.” The governor has backed all but a few House Republicans for reelection at this point.

By late Tuesday morning, a page featuring Abbott’s endorsement of Miller had disappeared from the governor’s campaign website.
Hoo boy.

There's a lot we could say, but we're not sure how much we should.

Suffice to say: Rick Miller's behavior has grown increasingly erratic since...well, you know.  Nothing really major.  But enough to strike one as odd.

The comment in the Houston Chronicle was the first time Miller's...odd...behavior occurred in public.

We can't prove anything, but we know what we suspect.

That being said, why Rick Miller said what he said is no longer relevant.  He said it.  What matters now is what happens next.

The good news is that all of this came in response to a primary challenge.  So there's already a mechanism in place to deal with the situation.  We don't do candidate endorsements anymore, but we would suggest the best way to make this story go away is to retire Rep. Miller at the earliest practical date.

Also, while we've been very critical of Governor Abbott in recent months, he does deserve credit for being proactive in this case.

Bottom Line: This was bad.  However, if it's dealt with promptly, the fallout should be contained.  We'll see what happens.

Monday, December 2, 2019

First National Conservative Media Outlet, pretty much EVER, Calls BS on Abbott


"Better is the poor who walks in his integrity
Than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool."
Proverbs 19:1

One America News is a newer outlet.  To be honest, we're not super familiar.  We do, however, have a couple of business acquaintances who are big fans.

That being said, they've certainly taken the lead on one of the most important stories that needs to reach a broader audience.

In reporting on the Baby Tinslee case, OAN anchor illuminates deeper truths about Greg Abbott and the Texas GOP that can be applied to an number of issues.



Highlights:
  • "Republicans in Texas, our eyes are on you."
  • "Republicans in the state legislature, Governor Greg Abbott, YOU have the power to repeal this rule once and for all."
  • "Governor Abbott, call a special session and repeal this rule."
  • TxRTL likewise calling for a special.
  • "Call these Texas Republicans out for what they're doing!!!"
    • Dear National Conservative Media: MORE OF THIS.
  • "Texas legislature, and Governor Greg Abbott, they have the ability to call a special session."
  • TxRTL: Abbott "is the only one who has the power to end this right now."
  • TxRTL has learned about more cases since the Baby Tinslee case has been in the news.
Bottom Line: We need A LOT more of this, but you've got to start somewhere.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Cook Children's "Hospital" conforms to WRETCHED Stereotypes


"Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Matthew 5:12

This is astounding:
Lawyers from a Fort Worth hospital are harassing a conservative organization in North Texas as part of their plan to combat a judge’s interference in killing a 9-month-old baby.

Tinslee Lewis was born with congenital heart disease. She is currently at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth and relies on a ventilator to live. On October 31, against the objections of Tinslee’s mother, the hospital announced it would remove the ventilator from Tinslee on November 10, thus killing her. No reasons relating to bodily health were given by the hospital. Instead, only a vague “quality of life” argument was provided.

The action by Cook Children’s is legal under Texas’ controversial 10-day rule, which allows a hospital committee to end “life-sustaining care” even if the patient, or his or her surrogate, objects; it also overrides a duly executed medical power of attorney or advance directive from the patient.

Tinslee’s life was temporarily spared when Judge Alex Kim of the 323rd District Court approved a temporary restraining order filed by lawyers from Texas Right to Life on her behalf on November 10—the day she was scheduled to die. A hearing originally set for November 22 was postponed until December 10 after the hospital dispatched its lawyers to try and force Judge Kim to be recused.

The lawyers have now issued a subpoena to True Texas Project, the North Texas grassroots activist organization—formerly known as Northeast Tarrant Tea Party—led by Julie White McCarty. The subpoena contains a draconian list of communications to be turned over to them, including:
  • All documents and communications related to any endorsement of Judge Alex Kim’s judicial campaign by True Texas Project. 
  • All documents and communications related to any contributions True Texas Project made to Judge Alex Kim’s judicial campaign.
A similar subpoena was given to Empower Texans, the publisher of Texas Scorecard. The subpoenas included a deadline for compliance of less than 48 hours during the week of Thanksgiving.
Because nothing screams "everything we're doing is on the up and up" quite like attempting to sue your critics into silence.

Which is a shame.

Here's the secret: This type of care is extraordinarily expensive.  Hospitals frequently eat that cost.  These are some of the most challenging examples of what the industry calls "indigent care."

It's not an objection to which we are entirely unsympathetic.  A conversation about how to pay for this sort of treatment probably should.  There's got to be a better way.

But then they do something like this.

Cook Children's "Hospital" can find the money to sue their critics...but they can't find the money to treat a little girl?!?

It's quite something.

It also makes one wonder what else they're hiding.

Bottom Line: At a minimum, the optics are terrible...and it's probably worse than that.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Genius Texas Republicans Do Something Super Genius-y!!!


"He who is slothful in his work
Is a brother to him who is a great destroyer."
Proverbs 18:9

Good grief:
In a bizarre political blunder, a document laying out the Republican Party of Texas’s election strategy for the 2020 elections has ended up in the hands of Texas Democrats. Attacking Democratic candidates through websites and mitigating “the polarizing nature” of President Donald Trump are part of the plan.

The document — called a draft for initial discussion by the Texas GOP Party chair — was titled “Primary/General Election 2020 [Draft]” and began showing up in Democratic emails Monday evening.

It includes a target list of 12 statehouse districts, including six in North Texas, that Republicans are aiming to take back in next year’s elections.

....

“Starting after the Primary, the RPT will generate microsites for negative hits against the Democrat candidates in our twelve target race—we expect each microsite to be roughly $500,” the document reads. “We will then begin rolling out these websites, prioritizing the races that were within 4% in the 2018 election.”

....

The document says Republicans will audit search engine optimization results to make sure that the negative attack websites are on the front pages of various search engines and work with other stakeholders — such as Texans for Greg Abbott, the governor’s campaign arm — “to get any more insight on issues that matter to these districts.”

“We will attack these Democrat candidates with contrast hits which we will obtain from, public votes from the 86th Legislative Session, their campaign websites, and any other means to gather negative material on them,” the document says.

In addition to the individual websites, the plan calls for a “master site" to house attacks on Democrats across the state, focusing on federal, state and down-ballot Democrats and “how Democrat values don’t match Texas values.”
Most of this stuff isn't earth shattering.  They're building websites.  Political parties build websites.

Still, the sloppiness illustrates so much more.

But maybe Karl Rove will fix things.

Bottom Line: When you can't competently execute basic campaign blocking and tackling...why should anybody trust you with anything else?!?

Monday, November 25, 2019

For an 18-year incumbent with "Seniority," Cornyn can't even work system


"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
Colossians 3:17

We recently observed traffic on I-35 in downtown Austin when we had a thought: Isn't I-35, technically, a federal highway?!?

Furthermore...isn't our senior Senator the #2 Republican in the United States Senate?!?

Obviously, this website doesn't *really* support pork-barrel governance.  Taxpayers elsewhere in the U.S. shouldn't *really* subsidize I-35 expansion.  Still, for such a situation to emerge under the jurisdiction of a  U.S. Senator who claims to "work within the system" indicates said U.S. Senator's incompetence.

Put differently: $23 Trillion national debt...and John Cornyn STILL can't secure funding for (already federal) I-35.

It's quite something.

Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn may have been completely wretched.  But at least Texas got some infrastructure out of them.  With John Cornyn, we get the wretchedness without the infrastructure.

Bottom Line: If we're going to be stuck with a U.S. Senator who doesn't represent our values, they ought to at least manipulate the status quo to Texas' advantage.  Cornyn can't even do that.  What purpose does he serve?!?

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Facing Environment that resembles 2006, GENIUS Texas Republicans turn to...Karl Rove?!?


"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
So a fool repeats his folly."

Proverbs 26:11

What could possibly go wrong?!?
A group of Texas House Republicans is making a multimillion-dollar effort to defend the party's majority in 2020 with the speaker sidelined and Democrats pushing to flip the chamber.

Earlier this month, the group quietly filed paperwork with the Texas Ethics Commission to create Leading Texas Forward PAC, with famed Republican strategist Karl Rove listed as the treasurer.

....

Rove's involvement is also notable — and it is not his only project this cycle focused on keeping Texas red. The former top adviser to President George W. Bush is also helping with the Texas GOP's Volunteer Engagement Project, an effort to revive the party's nuts-and-bolts functions ahead of 2020.
The funny part is that, the last time the GOP got into trouble because they lied and broke a bunch of promises to their voters, they had Karl Rove "run turnout operations" to keep a legislative chamber red.

We all know how that worked out.

Bottom Line: Something, something, definition.  Something, something, doing the same thing.  Something, something, expecting a different result.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Even when he does something right, Abbott's still Completely Incoherent


"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world."
1 John 4:1

Interesting development this morning:
Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered state agencies to review and overhaul their licensing requirements, with an eye toward providing Texans “the opportunity to earn a living free from unnecessary state intrusion.”

In an Oct. 8 letter to the heads of state agencies, signed by the Republican governor himself, Abbott directed agencies to trim licensing regulations, reduce fees and educational requirements for certain professions, and, “where appropriate,” remove licensing barriers for individuals with criminal records. He set a Dec. 1 deadline for agencies to tell his office which steps they plan to take. There are hundreds of professional licenses in Texas — from tow truck operators to physicians to laser hair removal technicians.

“Reforming Texas’s occupational-licensing rules must be a priority for all state leaders,” Abbott wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The Texas Tribune. “Sensible licensing rules, when necessary, can protect the public from legitimate harm, but overbroad rules stymie innovation, raise consumer prices, and limit economic opportunity. Overly burdensome licensing rules also discourage individuals from pursuing professions or prevent the unemployed — or former inmates who have paid their debt to society — from building a better life.”

Several state agencies confirmed they received the letter and are preparing their responses.

....

Abbott ordered agencies to reduce license application fees to 75% or less of the national average for comparable occupations.
This is good.  We're glad the governor is doing this.  But who is he kidding?!?

The Trib article explains:
Earlier this year, the governor also acted independently, signing an executive order to keep alive the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners after the Legislature allowed it to shut down.
Well...yeah.

You can see more about what we said about the plumbers board debacle here, here, and here.

Bottom Line: At best, Abbott's sending a mixed message.  That might be better than a uniformly negative one.  But it's hardly inspiring.  Which is a shame, because we'd like to praise him over this.

Friday, November 15, 2019

#TXLEGE: Republicans still deserve to lose...but Democrats don't deserve to win.


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

[Note: We'll be travelling out of state most of the next week, we're not sure when we'll resume publication.]

Interesting column from Ross Ramsey this afternoon:
Who would have guessed that sharing political confidences with a political foe — a conversation that upended the speaker of the Texas House — would have real competition for the biggest blunder a House member might make this year?

The newest contender became public Wednesday: Dropping an envelope containing four packets of cocaine at an Austin airport is clearly a dumbfounding mistake. But the frosting on that particular cake was on the outside of said envelope — which bore the official letterhead of state Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass.

....

The timeline raises some questions. Nevárez was seen on surveillance cameras dropping the envelope as he got into an SUV after arriving on a private plane — in September. For reasons that aren’t completely clear, the Texas Department of Public Safety kept a lid on the news for more than two months.

....

On Thursday afternoon, a warrant for the legislator's arrest was issued; he faces a charge of third-degree felony possession of a controlled substance, which carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.
Ramsey then speculates over how Bonnen's and Poncho's scandals could impact the current election cycle.  Ramsey's hypothesis is that the scandals portend well for conservatives.  Perhaps.

Allow us, however, to suggest an alternative: Regardless of how the 2020 cycle plays out, 90%(+) of legislators will either be cowards or scumbags.

The precise makeup of R's, D's, scumbags, and cowards won't change the nature of the beast.

Last month, as Bonnen's scandals continued to fester, we wrote the following about Republicans:
It's no longer just about Dennis Bonnen.  Or one act of political funny business.  This specific scandal is the completely predictable result of the toxic culture in the Texas capitol that has prevailed for a long time.

The GOP, meanwhile, has been running the place for a quarter century.

This is the same Republican majority that:
  • Two years ago, put a man who had been in a sexual relationship with a lobbyist for over a decade in charge of writing its sexual harassment policy.
The pattern is obvious...to anyone not under the influence of afore mentioned Egyptian rivers.

It can't be defended, and it shouldn't.
Since then, very little has changed for the GOP.  Sure, Bonnen's gone kinda sorta going away.  But the culture of corruption within their caucus remains.

But then you look to the Democrats...and...well...Poncho.

You can't justify either.

Bottom Line: Whether we're in the territory of "whoa," or the territory of "woe," neither is good.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

#TXLEGE: Adios Muchacho


"It is not good to show partiality to the wicked,
Or to overthrow the righteous in judgment."
Proverbs 18:5

Lolz, couldn't happen to a nicer guy....
On September 6 a pair of DPS employees at the TXDOT Flight Services location in Austin, Texas found a sealed white envelope on the ground outside of the terminal. Inside were four clear plastic baggies containing “white power.”

That powder was cocaine.

The envelope was white letterhead reading, “Office the State of Texas House of Representatives Member Poncho Nevarez.“ A review of video footage by DPS officers showed Poncho exiting the airport in burnt orange, dropping the sealed envelope and getting into an SUV driven by his chief of staff.

According to the affidavit, Poncho arrived in Austin that day flying a private Cessna T206 owned by the Nevarez Law Group. He was arriving from the Texas-Mexico border, where his legislative district is located.
In a CYA statement to the Trib, Nevarez belatedly claims:
Nevárez said "grief and addiction were consuming me" and noted that he plans to "seek treatment."
Blah, blah, blah.

[Note: Taxpayers gonna be on the hook for that so-called "treatment?!?"]

The only thing to which Poncho Nevarez was "addicted" was arrogance and entitlement.

This author doesn't care about Poncho Nevarez's recreational activities.  Glass houses, stones, the mid-2000's, and all that.  We do, however, care about arrogance and entitlement in the political arena.

It speaks volumes to the culture in the Texas house that the Chairman of the frickin' Homeland Security committee was caught trafficking cocaine.

Sure, it was a relatively small amount.  Sure, there was a big football game that weekend.  Sure, in isolation, this one specific action doesn't amount to much.

But he's the chairman of the Homeland Security committee.

Call us old-fashioned, but we don't think the chairman of the Homeland Security committee should fly cocaine from the Mexican border into the interior.

Just a thought.

Bottom Line: It's not the cocaine.  At least, not really.  It's the arrogance and the political entitlement.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

#TXLEGE: So-called "Campus Free Speech" Bill Accomplished NOTHING (Like We Predicted)


"Professing to be wise, they became fools,"
Proverbs 1:22

Lovely:
A speech panel titled “When Hate Comes to Campus: Free Speech” was held at the University of North Texas last week. What was intended to be a learning experience for us all devolved into toxicity and victimhood.

The panel opened with a speech by Caitlin Sewell, a lawyer on the university’s general counsel. Ms. Sewell discussed the First Amendment and Texas Senate Bill 18 by going over examples of what is protected by free speech and what is not. In one example of what is protected, she decided to use a racial epithet in its entirety. Later in her speech, however, she chose to censor an expletive by using the term “f-word.”

The students in the audience were not fond of these choices made by Ms. Sewell. Some jumped out of their seats to yell, and one student accused the speaker of “oppressing her.” The president of the student government, Yolian Ogbu, also had quite a bit to say on the matter, claiming that “we can think of a million words to harass black people, brown people … but we can’t even think of a single word to do that for white people. Why? Because we are living in a white supremacist system.”

The students rallied behind these outlandish claims made by Ms. Ogbu, and quite a few students on social media pushed for Ms. Sewell to be fired. She resigned the next day.
Despite lavish protestations otherwise, nothing's really changed.

As we said last month:
So why is anyone surprised?!?

We've been making this point for years: See 2017, and 2018, and 2019.
Once again, witness list from this past session's UNT Board confirmation hearing:


Bottom Line: The legislature can pass all the bills it wants.  Absent personnel that will faithfully implement those laws, however, nothing will change.  This has been obvious since (at least) 2016.  We've been on this soapbox since 2017.  But uprooting an entrenched bureaucracy is hard.  So-our so-called "leaders" do nothing.  "Keep Texas Red" Tho....

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

#TXLEGE: Effective, Sustainable, Solutions for Gun Violence


"Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me."
Nehemiah 4:18

From TPPF:

TPPF: Come and Take It

What Will – and What Will Not – Improve Public Safety in Firearm Violence Prevention

AUSTIN— Today, the Texas Public Policy Foundation published the research paper Come and Take It: What Will—and What Will Not—Improve Public Safety in Firearm Violence Prevention.
“In the wake of recent shootings, many gun control proponents have demanded that state leadership ‘do something’ in the hopes of preventing future tragedies,” said Derek Cohen, Ph.D., director of Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Right on Crime initiative. “However, these demands often contribute to a clear violation of an explicit right enumerated both in the United States and Texas constitutions—the individual right to keep and bear arms for lawful self-defense—while failing to empirically demonstrate the positive change the proposed policy seeks to achieve.”
Key Points:
  • Texas is the safest it has been in a generation, yet some are calling for stricter gun control.
  • Common gun control proposals often penalize law-abiding gun owners while failing to improve public safety.
To read the paper in full, please visit: 
Bottom Line: It's nothing you didn't already know, but it's good to have all the data in one place.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Kay Granger stands for NOTHING (except Cronyism and Patronage); We Have Proof.


"Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight."
Proverbs 11:1

The Trib has a write up on the primary in CD-12...see below:
When Granger first ran for Congress in 1996, both parties courted her as a candidate.
Wow.

Doesn't that just tell you everything you need to know.

You stand for so little that "both parties courted her as a candidate."  Just keep the money flowing to her friends, cronies, and unqualified hack son.  Wall St. will cover the rest.

It's just so craven.

Bottom Line: Maybe it shouldn't surprise us, but we still find the blatantness of the whole thing astounding.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

#TXLEGE: When in Doubt, Don't Execute People


"For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar."
Acts 25:11

On the one hand, we see this:
Bastrop, Texas (CNN)The outcry is growing from an army of supporters, including celebrities, clergy and state lawmakers, trying to stop the execution of Texas death row inmate Rodney Reed, who is set to die in less than two weeks.

Reed's execution is scheduled for November 20. More than 20 years ago, he was sentenced to death for the 1996 murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas, southeast of Austin. Police said he assaulted, raped and strangled Stites. Reed said he's innocent. His attorneys say the wrong man was convicted. They point to new witness accounts and evidence they say exonerates Reed.
On the other hand, we see this:
Honestly, we don't know. But by not knowing, we kinda know. Doubts certainly seem reasonable.

Bottom Line: See title of this post....

Friday, November 8, 2019

#TXLEGE, #atxcouncil: The Cynical Politics of Homelessness


"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world."
1 John 4:1

This is depressing:
Crystal Brimm said she was gone all of 20 minutes.

That's all the time it took for the Texas Department of Transportation to clean the encampment where she lives under U.S. Highway 290 and Ben White Boulevard on Wednesday, after Gov. Greg Abbott ordered homeless people to be removed from state overpasses in Austin. Abbott has spent months railing against Austin and its local leaders, accusing them of worsening what he calls a dangerous homelessness crisis by relaxing camping ordinances.

About 10 people returned to that area of the overpass, down from 30 before TxDOT arrived, Brimm said as she sat in a lawn chair Thursday outside the blue camping tent she shares with her husband.

"Everybody else packed up and ran like cockroaches," she said.

As Brimm pondered her future living situation, Gov. Greg Abbott’s office unveiled his plan to provide temporary living space for Austin’s homeless — a five-acre plot of land off State Highway 183 near Montopolis Drive.

The soon-to-be campground is a large expanse of concrete surrounded by a manufactured home factory and forest. It's about five miles away from the Texas Capitol, in a clearing adjacent to the historically low-income Montopolis neighborhood, across from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
Slow motion train wreck continues to fester.

Lovely.

Unfortunately, it's not in any politician's interest to solve this issue:

  • From Greg Abbott's perspective, it's the campaign issue that keeps on giving.
The worst part is, it'll probably work (for both sides).

The homeless are pawns.

The rest of us are collateral damage.

Wonderful.

Bottom Line: We love to be proven wrong, but we won't be.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

#atxcouncil: Was Flannigan Electioneering on Taxpayer Dime?!?


"nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God."
1 Corinthians 6:10

Groovy:
Honestly, this is just sloppy.

Pick a local business and meet there.

That being said, it does illustrate a certain arrogance on Flannigan's part.  Not only does he expect us to pay for his agenda.  He expects us to pay to promote it.

It'll be interesting to see what mental gymnastics the city uses to get out of this one.

Bottom Line: It's the city.  So nothing will happen.  But kudos for forcing Flannigan to defend this nonsense.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

#TXLEGE: In newly competitive district, genius Texas Republicans nominate Worst Possible Candidate


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

Oh no:
A Democrat and a Republican are advancing to a runoff in a nationally targeted special election for a previously Republican-held Texas House seat.

With all vote centers reporting Tuesday night, the sole Democratic candidate, Eliz Markowitz, finished first with 39% of the vote, according to unofficial returns. Republican Gary Gates was the runner-up at 28%.
More:
Gates, who has run for a myriad of elected positions in previous elections, including railroad commissioner in 2016 and state senate in 2014, but failed to come out on top each time, was largely self-funded. He loaned himself a whopping $445,000 in the last reporting period alone.

Markowitz, the lone Democrat, garnered support from liberal special interest groups, and fellow Texas Democrats like former State Senator Wendy Davis, former presidential candidate and congressman Beto O’Rourke, and an array of sitting Texas House members.

She significantly outraised her Republican competition.
We didn't realize Gates was even running until this morning.  There's pretty much no candidate more poorly suited to a competitive environment.  Hoo boy.

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Seven Time Loser:

From last time Gates ran for office:
His record of losses is complicated. Gates first sought a seat in the Texas House. He lost. He tried again. And he lost again. He ran for the Texas Senate. And lost. Then he tried again for the Texas Senate. And lost. Along the way, he twice ran for a local school board seat. And he lost both times.

It’s tempting to label such a record as “sad.” But “pathetic” seems more appropriate.
Gates went on to lose the election in question.

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Slumlord:

Ought oh:
HOUSTON — In his run for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission, Gary Gates has campaigned heavily on his business credentials, noting that he built a sprawling real estate company from scratch with his own sweat and dollars.

Gates, who has run for public office several times but never held it, suggests that his experience shaping and leading companies that now employ 350 people and own roughly 5,500 apartment units qualifies him to join the three-member commission that oversees the state's oil and gas production, natural gas utilities and mining operations.

....

Gates said that most of the apartment complexes he buys are considered “Class C,” typically older units that need rehabilitation and are rented out relatively cheaply.

He said he bought the Deerfield Apartments out of bankruptcy in 1987, just as his business was getting off the ground. The city of Houston later lent him $1.12 million to rehabilitate the property.

“It was in a real difficult area,” he said. “That’s kind of my specialty — buying very difficult properties.”

And that complex did present challenges.

In 2007, Houston sought to shut down the Deerfield Apartments for a year. In a lawsuit, the city alleged that his companies — APTDF and Gatesco — tolerated the rampant crime on the property. The lawsuit documented 55 offenses on the property over a two-year period, ranging from prostitution and drug offenses to sexual assault and capital murder.

“Defendants have made no reasonable attempt to abate the criminal activity at Deerfield Apartments, and should be enjoined from maintaining a common nuisance,” Houston argued.

Houston’s lawsuit followed complaints from fearful residents. At a city council meeting in August 2006, for instance, Councilman M.J. Khan discussed an email from a constituent who reported being jolted awake one morning by six rounds of automatic gunfire — and hearing more shots while police dispatchers told them they had no one to send out.

The resident said such violence had persisted for years in the neighborhood and wanted Gates to hire a security guard to patrol the area and to replace a fence that had been torn down, according to council meeting minutes.

Earlier that year, Gates’ companies faced a similar lawsuit after 9-year-old Jose Luis Briones was shot in the back and severely injured during a 2004 robbery at the Deerfield complex. Briones’ family levied similar neglect allegations and ultimately received a $3,500 settlement from Gates' company, according to court documents.
It gets better:
In the midst of his seventh run for public office – this time for the Texas Railroad Commission – new documents are coming to light showing that Houston real estate investor Gary Gates defaulted on a loan of over $1 million from Bayou City taxpayers.

On April 29, 1998, the City Council of Houston passed Ordinance No. 98-330 entering into a loan agreement with Gates’ company, APTDF, Ltd.

The loan was for $1,120,000 for rehabilitation costs in connection with Gates’ Deerfield Apartments located at 10001 Club Creek Drive. The interest rate for the taxpayer-backed loan was set seven percent annually. Gates personally guaranteed the loan.

The loan matured on November 28, 2000, but Gates defaulted.
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Full employment for (the worst) campaign consultants:

Again, from last campaign:
Campaign consultants keep taking Gary Gates to the cleaners as he desperately seeks one office after another. His reckless spending seeking Tuesday’s Texas Railroad Commission race demonstrates that even a big pile of money cannot make a bad candidate more attractive to voters.

Gates has no professional, educational or life experiences that would qualify him for a seat on the commission that has regulatory jurisdiction over the state’s oil and gas industry. As we have previously written, Gates merely wants to hold office but has been rejected in every single effort.

The Texas Tribune reports Gates spent $1.9 million in the race, which resulted in getting 28 percent of the vote.

....

Gates’ chief campaign adviser is disgraced State Rep. Jim Keffer (R-Eastland).
From Gates' most recent campaign finance report:


That's only one payment to Murphy-Nasica.  Gates had dozens more.  The only reason we didn't screenshot all of them is because this blog post has already gotten long.

Easily $250k(+) to Murphy-Naiscia.  Just one finance report.  Just one election.

Learn more about Murphy-Nasica here.

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Allegations regarding children and "the A word":

We have no specific comment about them.

We weren't there.

But only a fool would overlook them.

Learn more here.

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Old White Dude:

Obviously, you don't want to make candidate decisions based upon identity politics.  In any given election, you're looking for the best candidate.  But that's not to say it's irrelevant.

Over the past decade, a lot has been written about how Ft. Bend County is now the most demographically diverse in the country.

There's nothing inherently wrong with running an old white dude.  It does, however, bring an additional set of challenges.  That being said, when the specific old white dude has the baggage listed above...it doesn't take a genius to see where this goes.

The other two credible Republican candidates were both female and less than a zillion years old.

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Bottom Line: For any other candidate, this runoff would be a slam dunk.  But for a candidate with this much baggage...who knows?!?  Way to go.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Bye Bobby Francis


"A prudent man conceals knowledge,
But the heart of fools proclaims foolishness."
Proverbs 12:23

UNINTENTIONAL COMEDY GOLD:
Hundreds of supporters of Beto O’Rourke had come in from all over the country to cheer their candidate on at the big Democratic dinner, which launches the final stretch toward next February’s Iowa caucuses. Sure, they knew what the polls were saying, but their hopes were telling them something else. So they stood for hours Friday along the streets of downtown Des Moines in a freezing drizzle, waving their signs at passing cars.

Looking for a chance to dry out and warm up before the big event Friday night, three Texans — Brenda Guillen, a retired educator; Rocio Dumey, a second-grade teacher; and Elle Franklin, who does pet services — had found seats at the bar of the Residence Inn, across the street from the Wells Fargo Arena, where the dinner was to take place. They were making small talk with a couple of O’Rourke campaign staffers when the two campaign staffers suddenly excused themselves. Something about having to jump on a conference call.

When I came across them a few minutes later, Guillen and Dumey were finishing their Moscow Mules, and Franklin was downing an IPA. All three wore cheery blue O’Rourke campaign T-shirts touting the evening’s “Liberty and Justice Celebration” — and all of them were starting to cry. Thanks to the fact that CNN was on the screen behind the bar, they had just learned that O’Rourke had dropped out of the 2020 presidential race.

....

In the hotel lobby, I found Todd O’Day, who works for Microsoft in Seattle, and Scott Braymer, who develops apps in Santa Cruz, Calif.. They were still composed, but by the time we finished talking, they too were crying.
Read the whole thing here.

Bottom Line: Honestly, we just wanted to use that picture.

Monday, November 4, 2019

However imperfectly, voters reward Cruz; disdain Cornyn


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

Fascinating nugget in the latest Trib poll:


Cornyn's and Cruz's disapproval ###'s are within the margin of error.  Meanwhile, Cruz's approval number runs 11 points ahead of Cornyn (*).  The difference is the "don't know" category.

There's 34% of the electorate that will disapprove of ANY Republican.  Cornyn and Cruz both deal with that.  Among everybody else, Cruz outpolls Cornyn significantly.

This is a weird observation to make.  We've discussed the many mistakes we believe Cruz has made.  Yet, for all that, the basic pattern of 2013/14 seems to hold.

Bottom Line: Cruz has his flaws.  That's obvious to everyone.  That being said, at least he tries.  Last week's Trib poll illustrates that voters appreciate the effort.
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* -- Even if you give Cornyn every benefit of the doubt on margin of error, and Cruz none, in a worst case scenario Cruz is still +5 on approval rating over Cornyn.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

#TXLEGE: GOP Likely Dodged the Bonnen Bullet


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

Trib poll confirms what we've always suspected:
A recorded and reckless conversation between a top state official and a political activist rocked the state Capitol this summer and upended the career of Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen last month. But it hardly registered with most voters, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

More than two-thirds of registered voters said they have heard “nothing at all” (50%) or “a little” (18%) “about the controversy over a June 2019 meeting between the speaker of the Texas House and the head of a political action committee.” Only 12% said they have heard “a lot,” and 19% said they have heard “some” about the incident. 

Bonnen, elected speaker in January, met shortly after the end of the legislative session in June with Michael Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texans and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock. Sullivan alleged Bonnen and Burrows offered him media passes to the floor of the House and gave him a list of Republican colleagues they said they would be happy to replace. Sullivan recorded the conversation and released that recording last month, undermining denials made by Bonnen and Burrows and resulting in Bonnen’s decision not to run for another term in the House.

That’s been big news for months in Austin and among Capitol insiders. But not, apparently, to voters.
Duh.  That's why Bonnen had to leave when he did.  While not many people know about his scandal(s) now, that wouldn't have been the case a year from now.

Bottom Line: It took too long.  Taking too long revealed other alarming things.  That could all still have a reckoning. Concerning the Dennis Bonnen scandal specifically, however, this week's Trib poll suggests the public never caught on.

Friday, November 1, 2019

#atxcouncil: Successfully Recalling Adler will cost (at least) $1 Million


"I have been young, and now am old;
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken,
Nor his descendants begging bread."
Psalm 37:25

We had several conversations yesterday with folks who've worked on local campaigns in recent years.  They were surprisingly lukewarm about recalling Adler.  Primarily because of money.

To recall Adler...in a way that will stick...and be successful...won't be cheap.

That doesn't mean it's a bad idea.  Or that it's impossible.  It is to say that that's the level of resources it will take.

You're going to have to pay for the petition campaign.  Assuming the petition campaign is successful, you're then going to have to pay for the actual election campaign.  Furthermore, given the city's history with citizen petition campaigns, assume significant legal bills.  It'll add up.

Don't shoot the messenger.

If there's a realistic path to that level of resources, awesome!  Full speed ahead.  If nothing else, a recall campaign forces Adler to play defense for the next six months.  Absent financial resources in the $1 to 2 million range, however, don't get your hopes up.

Bottom Line:  We'd love to see this happen, but underestimating the heaviness of this lift won't help anyone.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

#TXLEGE: Lt. Dan continues campaign against scourge of...Mild Relaxation by teenagers


"The wise shall inherit glory,
But shame shall be the legacy of fools."
Proverbs 3:35

Dan Patrick dropped several interim charges yesterday.

[Note: Two hours before Game 7 of the World Series...CLASSY.]

In fairness to Patrick, most of them are fine.  A few of them are relatively good.  Most are fairly minor.

There was, however, this:
Keeping Vaping Devices/E-Cigarettes Out of the Hands of Children: Consider the emerging public safety concerns from the rise in “vaping” and ecigarette use by minors. Study whether current criminal penalties are sufficient to deter individuals from selling these devices and substances used to fill these devices to minors.
Keep in mind, this is the same Texas Senate that thought raising the tobacco age to 21 was a worthwhile endeavor.

Furthermore, we stand by our suspicion that somebody's getting paid.

Bottom Line: Vaping by teenagers might not be good.  But come on.  No, seriously, come on.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Hindman > Sessions


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

Wasn't expecting this:
The race to replace retiring U.S. Congressman Bill Flores (R–Bryan) got a lot more interesting on Tuesday, with the entrance of rocket scientist George Hindman.

A Pflugerville resident and an aerospace engineer and business owner by trade, Hindman says he believes his background uniquely qualifies him to represent Congressional District 17, a central Texas district that encompasses Waco and the Bryan-College Station area, with a portion dipping down into Travis County and Austin.

“As a committed conservative Republican who wants our nation on the right path, I can’t watch from the sidelines while our liberties and values are under attack,” Hindman said in a release on Tuesday. “It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to fix our national problems. But Washington D.C. is so broken, a rocket scientist might be what we need.”

“Not only am I an aerospace engineer and pilot who has taught astronauts, I’m a successful inventor and entrepreneur. Most importantly, I’m a Christian conservative husband and father who is genuinely concerned with the direction of our nation. Let’s defend our country’s bedrock principles and stand strong for our conservative Republican values,” he added.
Wow.

This website stopped endorsing politicians several cycles ago.  But we endorsed against Pete Sessions in both 2014 and 2016.  By 2018, we knew his corruption would drag him down.  We've already said our piece about 2020.

We've actually known George Hindman for...a whole bunch of years.  Mild-mannered dude.  Definitely a solid conservative.  While we no longer 'vouch' for politicians, Hindman's the type of guy who's more likely to resist the temptations of office.

Hindman is kind of a "fun with gerrymandering" candidacy.  As a Travis County resident, he's previously been the token Republican candidate in several safe Democrat seats.  But, due to how U.S. House districts are drawn, CD-17 is a safe Republican seat.  That being said, for a Waco-based district, we certainly understand if voters choose a Waco candidate.

Bottom Line: The final candidate lineup remains to be seen, but a one-on-one race between George Hindman and Pete Sessions is an easy call.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

#atxcouncil: Homelessness and the FASCINATING Political Geography of Abbott's Jurisdiction


"[R]edeeming the time, because the days are evil."
Ephesians 5:16

We've obviously said our piece about Greg Abbott and Austin homelessness.  We think Abbott's talked a lot more than he's acted.  Furthermore, the modest actions coming this week don't really solve anything.

Last night, however, we we discussing all of the above with a friend who lives in North Austin.  We explained why we think there's less to Abbott's announcements than meets the eye.  This person didn't disagree, but then said something we hadn't considered:
You're probably right...but if all Abbott does is use TxDOT to clean out the area under highway overpasses, it'll take care of everywhere [the homeless] congregate in my neighborhood.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
Not a bad point.

The primary place the State of Texas (and thus Abbott) has jurisdiction is highways.
Given that, consider how highways intersect Austin city council districts.  Specifically in North Austin:

  • MoPac is entirely within district 10 and the most conservative parts of district 7.
  • US-183 snakes through districts 7, 10, and 6.
  • Even I-35 gets in on the act in district 7.
Districts 6 and 10 have elected Republicans in recent memory.  District 7 has never been seriously contested.  In the current climate, however, it really ought to be (*).

None of this, of course, is to say that TxDOT moving homeless individuals away from highway overpasses really solves the problem.

But it is to say that it could make a visible difference in the lives of the type of people who are swing voters in local elections.

Maybe even enough to change turnout models...especially for December runoffs.

Bottom Line: Given where everything's located, even underwhelming changes could have an oversize impact.

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* - By Republicans AND sane Democrats.