Monday, September 24, 2018

Longhorns look like they're starting to turn a SERIOUS corner!!!


"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

Hoo boy!!!

Yesterday afternoon, the Longhorns turned in a dominant performance against TCU, a team that has given them fits for most of this decade.  That follows last week's strong win against USC.  It remains too soon to use the "B"-word, but man do the signs look good.

The defense looks phenomenal.  Especially red zone.  For all of TCU's trips into Longhorn territory, they only managed one touchdown.  USC wasn't much better.  They still give up more yardage than we'd like.  But they get stops when they need them.  And they're starting to get serious turnovers.

The offense isn't far behind.  Sam Ehlinger is emerging.  The running game can chew up yards.  Obviously, that sets up the receivers down field.  And those receivers are getting open.  None of this is rocket science, but it's the first time in awhile that we've seen this level of execution.

The kicking game is a work in progress; we hope it doesn't come back to bite us.

Otherwise, some thoughts:
  • DKR has been electric!!!  We can't remember the last time it was this consistently loud.  Of course, it's been awhile since we've had something to be loud about.
  • Sam Ehlinger's level of poise is improving.  He's starting to give his receivers time to get open.  We still wish he wouldn't run as often as he does.
  • Tre Watson and Keaontay Ingram are an impressive duo in the backfield.
  • For the first time in ages, the receiver rotation makes sense.  For too many years, Texas has had wide receiver A.D.D.  This means nobody can get into a rhythm.  That seems to have changed.
  • Colin Johnson is, straight up, the man.
  • Lil'Jordan Humphery is emerging a perfect complimentary receiver.  His touchdown against USC was pretty impressive.  Helping put the game away yesterday was also pretty solid.
  • Props to the offensive line, who are doing everything we expect.
  • Gary Johnson has been everywhere on defense.
  • The secondary is nasty.
  • Kris Boyd is turning into a serious leader.  Both in terms of his personal performance and how he elevates his teammates.  Really impressive.
  • Davante Davis is turning into a SHUTDOWN cornerback.
  • Similar to Johnson, Brandon Jones is everywhere.
  • That being said: Where's Breckyn Hegar?!?  Besides offside.  If he can get going, it makes this defense that much more fearsome.
Bottom Line: It's been a long time coming.  Still too soon to get carried away.  But so far, so good!!!

-------






















-------

#TXSEN: People who live in Glass Houses shouldn't Throw Stones


"Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."
Matthew 7:5

Took less than 5 seconds on Google.

Shot, from Friday night:
“Dr. Ford’s allegations should be investigated by the FBI. Full stop,” O’Rourke said. “There is precedent for that,” he said, referring to Anita Hill, who accused Justice Clarence Thomas of sexually harassing her when he was her boss at a federal agency.
Chaser, from August:



In other words: The guy going after Brett Kavanaugh over sexual misconduct allegations is doing campaign events with...BORRIS friggin' MILES?!?

We weren't the only one to notice:


In case you forgot:
Lauren*, a Texas legislative intern, was standing underneath the bright blue-and-red neon sign of The Continental Club, a famed Austin bar frequented by schmoozing politicians, lobbyists, and reporters.

That week in May 2013 was filled to the brim with end-of-session (“sine die”) parties, and Lauren was with a group of other interns on South Congress when Democratic state Rep. Borris Miles pulled up.

According to Lauren, Miles leaned out of the carriage he was riding in and pulled out a large roll of money. He handed “maybe $500” to an intern and then looked at Lauren.

“You know how you have the roll of hundreds that you see on TV? It was like that,” Lauren told The Daily Beast.

“I said, ‘Hi Representative, how are you?’ Then he slowly looked me up and down, counted out more money, reached out his hand and said, ‘Bitch, you want to fuck with me tonight?’

“I said ‘No, thank you’ and physically stepped back,” Lauren recalled. “I didn’t want to be rude to him. I remember his intern pacifying him and saying, ‘It’s time to go.’

“Everyone was just shocked that he said that—that he cussed at me and that he was offering me money. It was outrageous,” she continued. “I just remember thinking, ‘I need to go, and I need to not be here anymore.’”
And this:
One time, Chris said, he “witnessed [Miles] catcalling women in Downtown Austin on the way back from a Spurs game, and there had to have been at least 15 or 16 other members that were there because it was a member event.”

The Spurs had played the Lakers that April, and the lawmakers went together to San Antonio to watch one of the games. “As we’re driving back towards the W, he’s hanging out of the open door of the bus and shouting at women,” said Chris.

Chris could not recall the catcalls specifically but said, “It was not something that I would want shouted at anyone.”

Chris’ chief of staff confirmed to The Daily Beast that he heard about the alleged catcalling the next morning.
And this:
Ben*, a former staffer who recently worked in the Capitol and “spent a lot of time with Miles,” said he witnessed the then-state representative “forcibly kiss” at least one woman at the W Hotel.

“He offered to buy her a drink, kept trying to kiss her, and she kept trying to push him away,” said Ben. “He kept laughing about it.

“It was so creepy, and he had this big smile,” said Ben. “Borris loves the W Hotel, and he has a tendency to force himself upon women at bars and kiss them or grope them. He’ll tell them that he is a higher elected official than he actually is.”

....

“He also has a tendency to call women out of their name when they turn him down,” he said. “‘Bitch,’ ‘ho,’ ‘whore.’ He doesn’t like being told ‘no.’
And this:
When Heather* first covered the Texas Legislature as a journalist in 2011, she was repeatedly targeted by Miles, she told The Daily Beast in a story published last month.

Late one night when the legislature was in session, Heather was reporting on HB 400, which would have scrapped Texas’ law mandating class size ratio. Miles famously used a point of order to defeat the bill, landing him the title of Star of the 2011 Legislative Session by the Texas Classroom Teachers Association.

Heather said she had been trying to get details about the bill negotiations, when that night, around midnight, Miles cornered her in a hallway and forcibly kissed her outside the House chamber.

“It happened quickly,” Heather said, noting that Miles laughed afterward. “I think he thought it was hilarious.”

“He’d said several times already, ‘If you go out to dinner with me, I’d be happy to give you the details,’ and I’d sort of laugh it off but it was weird and obviously gross.”
You can read the full Daily Beast report here.

There you have it.

Obviously, this is not to belittle the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh.  Those accusations are serious and should be investigated in the most judicious manner possible.  Unfortunately, we suspect that the atmosphere has been so poisoned that doing so might now be impossible.

That being said, however one feels about Kavanaugh, it's impossible to deny that the accusations against Miles have significantly better sourcing.

Anybody who knows this author knows there are few things we loathe more than when serious allegations of sexual misconduct are interpreted through the lens of mindless, rank, partisanship.  This website has called for politicians from across the political spectrum [Note: Including Borris Miles!!!] to resign over this garbage.  Thus, we have little patience for grandstanding U.S. Senate candidates who theatrically call for FBI investigations while they're holding campaign events with BORRIS friggin' MILES.

Finally, a political note: We wrote last week about how the Democrats' failure to do the right things with Carlos Uresti cost them his Senate seat.  It would be fitting for them to go through the same thing a second time.  What a STUPID, completely preventable, unforced error!!!

Bottom Line: There are two possibilities.  Bobby Francis didn't know.  Or he didn't care.  Neither one is good.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

#TXSEN: Random Thoughts on Cruz and Bobby Francis' first "debate"


"Because of the transgression of a land, many are its princes;
But by a man of understanding and knowledge
Right will be prolonged."
Proverbs 28:2

We don't feel like organizing them into a long-form write up, but some thoughts:
  • This debate was very similar to the immigration debate between Dan Patrick and Julian Castro in 2014.  Like Castro, Bobby Francis came out strong.  He was high energy (more on that below).  Like Patrick, Cruz took some time to get going.  But, also like Patrick, by the fifteen minute mark, Cruz was firmly in control and he never relinquished it.
  • Also like Castro: By the end of the debate, Bobby Francis was reduced to spouting the same three talking points.
  • Speaking of Bobby Francis: Was he on amphetamines?!?  Whatever the reason, his initial burst of energy turned into a bizarre type of hyperactivity.  What was up with his hands?!?
  • Immigration: Cruz supports securing the border and coming up with a more rational system of legal.  Bobby Francis' for straight-up amnesty.  You do realize this is Texas...right?!?
  • The only thing stupider than discussing the NFL protests in the first place was Bobby Francis comparing them to Selma.
  • Health Care: It's not a secret that we wish Cruz would discuss this topic more.  Cruz listed good principles, though we still wish he would put together his own comprehensive plan.  Bobby Francis, by contrast, supports socialized medicine.  This isn't close.
  • Bobby Francis drinking game: Drink every time he says...
    • "I visited every county in Texas."
    • "I want to work with Trump when I can, and oppose him when I must."
    • "Republicans, Democrats, Independents coming together...."
  • #2A: Cruz badly exposed Bobby Francis ignorance about firearms.  Bobby Francis called AR-15's "weapons of war."  It only takes 10 seconds on Wikipedia.

    That being said, when Bobby Francis says "I support the second amendment," he's lying.  PERIOD.  END OF STORY.
  • Criminal Justice: This was the most interesting section of the debate.  It's not a secret that this author's views on criminal justice don't line up neatly with any faction.  That being said, Cruz was absolutely correct when he pointed out that hateful, over the top, anti-police rhetoric leads to things like the Dallas shooting.  Bobby Francis' obsession with turing everything into a racial issue was sad.
  •  That being said, there was one person who liked Bobby Francis' constant obsession with race:


  • Bobby Francis denigrates prayer.  Wow.  Just wow.
  • Economy: 'Bout dadgum time they got to this.  Cruz strong in discussing how we need to continue path of deregulation [Note: More of this please!!!] and tax relief/simplification.  Bobby Francis' overzealously delivers stale talking points about "tax cuts for the rich" even though...you know...the rich like high taxes.
  • An hour long debate on "domestic issues" and...NOT.  A.  SINGLE.  DAMN.  QUESTION...about Federal SPENDING!!!
Bottom Line:  What you'd expect.  Contrast speaks for itself.  This is Texas.

Friday, September 21, 2018

George P. Bush, David Dewhurst, (shady real estate mechanisms), and YOUR taxes


"For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light."
Luke 8:17

Obscure, complicated, fight over education funding broke out last week:
A fight is brewing between Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and Republicans on the State Board of Education over investment funds they manage to generate school funding.

For the first time ever, the School Land Board — a three-person body headed by Bush, a Republican — declined to pass any money from its fund to the education board, instead opting to feed $600 million to schools directly.

In response, education board members say they will have to reduce their own contributions toward school funding. And they’re also calling for this complex investment system to be reformed in the next legislative session.

As each side argues over how to best manage the largest educational endowment in the country, their disagreement could affect funding for Texas schools.

The crux of their fight rests on whose investment portfolio is the most profitable.

Since 2001, the land office and the education board have each managed separate portfolios as part of the $40 billion Permanent School Fund, a massive endowment of land and investments set up to support public schools in the state. That money makes up one piece of a broader school finance system in Texas, which also uses funds from local property taxes, state taxes and federal programs to support public schools.

The land office, which manages the real estate and mineral leases on the fund’s land, passed along millions each year from its fund to the education board’s own fund for securities investments.

In the past eight funding cycles, it had twice contributed $300 million directly into school funding, in addition to giving the SBOE anywhere from $200 million to $500 million.

But for the first time, the School Land Board voted not to pass along any money at all to the education board. Instead, all three of the board’s members voted to put $600 million directly into school funding — the maximum allowed under state law.

“Our dollars are needed more than ever, and this was the most direct way to get the money to the schoolchildren of Texas,” Karina Erickson, a spokesperson for Bush, said.

Bush has insisted that the land office's investment fund is more profitable, and thus where it makes the most financial sense to keep school money.

But state board members have disputed his claims, instead accusing the land commissioner of getting involved in school funding to boost his political profile.
The (extremely) short version of what's happening: George P. Bush is hoarding cash in his own agency.  That gap will have to get made up somewhere.  The most likely places are the legislature or local property taxes.  Either one of those outcomes would likely forestall meaningful property tax reform.

So that's bad, but what's more interesting is how we got into this mess in the first place.

In 2001, back when he was Land Commissioner, David Dewhurst (of all people) got the legislature to pass HB 3558: Relating to the sale, lease, and purchase of interests in real property for the permanent school fund.  Essentially, the bill allowed the land office to act as a landlord/real estate developer in the name of "education funding."  Companies with good lobbyists could get favorable tax treatment.  It's pretty much the most Texas government thing ever!

Well:
The state-of-the-art Wal-Mart Distribution Center, located in the Houston Ship Channel area, is the newest and largest Wal-Mart import and distribution facility in the country.

....

Phase II is another 2 million-square-foot bulk storage facility and distribution warehouse consisting of four attached 500,000-square-foot buildings on a 238.80-acre site. Construction (site preparation) began in August of 2004 and Phase II was completed in May of 2005.

The transaction was a significant public/private venture between Wal-Mart Stores East LP and the Texas Permanent School Fund represented by the Texas General Land Office. This is the biggest real-estate transaction ever for the PSF, a $21 billion investment pool that generates about $800 million a year to help pay for the state's share of public education.

Wal-Mart purchased the land and built the two structures that were under contract for sale to the Permanent School Fund. The agreement also included a leaseback provision that was based on bond lease terms at a blended rate of 6.12 percent of the value of the property for the first five years or $6.12 million annually for that period.

The project transaction was conceived in conjunction with Chambers County officials with help from the Governor's Office of Economic Development.

The collaboration of a public entity, the largest retail organization in the world and a governmental agency on a real estate transaction posed certain challenges not familiar to private sector transactions.

This transaction was the first of its kind for the Texas General Land Office, and the asset management and legal departments had to interpret new legislation that allowed the agency to purchase the property. Working together, both departments and Wal-Mart came up with the creative solutions needed to close this transaction in a relatively short period of time for such a large and complicated deal.

Additionally, Chambers County was instrumental in attracting Wal-Mart to the Cedar Crossing Industrial Park. The county's cooperation facilitated Wal-Mart's decision to make their site selection in Chambers County.
So the legislature created a complicated system of using real estate transactions to "fund schools" and the first thing is was used for...was to give tax breaks to Wal-Mart.

Got it.

Bottom Line: This entire wretched system should probably be abolished (or, at least, significantly reformed).  But, at a minimum, dedicated funds should be used for their intended purpose.  George P. Bush is rapidly turning himself into a liability we can't afford....

Thursday, September 20, 2018

#atxcouncil: What's $75 million between friends?!?


"The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning,"
Revelation 18:9

We didn't feel like going to council today, but a couple items from today's consent agenda stand out.

Item 11:

This is asinine.  They should take this money and use it to lower the hotel occupancy tax.  But they need their corporate welfare!

Item 32:


Ho, hum...just a $61 MILLION contract.

Nothing to see here.

Bottom Line: It's not like it's THEIR money or anything...

#TXLEGE: Texas Association of Business endorses candidate who opposes their top legislative priority


"They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work."
Titus 1:16

Julie Johnson is Matt Rinaldi's Democrat general election opponent; she was just endorsed by the Texas Association of Business:


[Note: Johnson's endorsement is on the second page of TAB's press release.]

Just as a reminder, here's how the Texas Association of Business feels about mandatory municipal "sick leave" entitlements:
The Texas Association of Business intends to put the full weight of its organization behind legislation to stop paid sick leave ordinances passed by Austin and being considered in other Texas cities.

The biggest business organization in the state is “cautiously optimistic” Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance will get tossed out in a lawsuit filed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation,” Jeff Moseley, CEO of the TAB, said, in an interview with The Texas Monitor.

Moseley said TAB agreed to be the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit the Texas Monitor reported on at the end of April because “We had to stop the bleeding.” San Antonio advocates have gathered, unofficially, enough signatures to push for paid sick leave on a citywide ballot in November. Dallas advocates are gathering signatures in attempt to do the same thing.

Should there be delay in a court decision on the Austin ordinance and any other cities approve, however, it is clear paid sick leave will be a marquee issue in what has become a regular rite of the Legislature: blunting local overreach.

“We had heard the same thing was being done in other urban areas that was done in Austin, which is why we got involved, like Uber in Austin, which we consider an overreach in local authority,” Moseley said.

At the end of the 2015 session, Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation that overturned a ban on fracking in Denton. Two years later, Abbott signed legislation rescinding an Austin ordinance that required drivers for ridesharing companies to be fingerprinted by the city.

“We believe the best place for sick leave to be settled is with the employer and employee, not with some vague and unenforceable ordinance,” Moseley told The Texas Monitor.
 And how, pray tell, did Julie Johnson choose to attack Matt Rinaldi in a recent campaign video:


Sooo...the Texas Association of Business just endorsed a candidate who opposes legislative preemption of municipal "sick leave" entitlements.

Interesting.

The municipal "sick leave" entitlement observation speaks for itself, but in researching this Julie Johnson character, we found a couple other gems.

From her campaign website:


With all due respect to Ms. Johnson, allowing cities to set their own minimum wage rates is BONKERS.

But what's REALLY bonkers is that an alleged "business" organization would ever support such a thing.

But wait....there's more!!!

Guess who else has endorsed Ms. Johnson:



In other words, the Texas Association of Business just endorsed a candidate who's also been endorsed by the thugs and stormtroopers that are pushing these municipal "sick leave" entitlements in the first place.

Bottom Line: Real winner you've got there, Texas Association of Business....

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Farenthold (and Barton), Uresti, and why the Texas GOP now controls ALL their seats


"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit."
John 15:2

[Note: You can read our call for Barton to go here.  You can read our call for Farenthold, Miles, and Uresti to ALL go here.]

By now you've heard:
Republican Pete Flores defeated Democrat Pete Gallego on Tuesday night in the special election runoff for Senate District 19, a major upset in a Democratic-friendly seat with implications for the balance of power in the upper chamber.

With all precincts reporting, Flores beat Gallego by 6 percentage points in the race to replace convicted former state Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio. Flores had 53 percent of the vote and Gallego 47 percent in unofficial returns.

Gallego conceded to Flores around 9 p.m., according to both campaigns. With the victory, Flores will become the first Hispanic Republican to serve in the Texas Senate.
There's a lot that could be said.  Obviously, Pete Flores ran a flawless campaign.  Obviously, the Texas GOP did as well.

But there's another aspect: For the second time in three months, there was a special election to fill a seat vacated by an elected official amidst a cloud of VERY sketch sexual activity.  The GOP won both.  They're also expected to hold onto the seat being vacated by Joe Barton in November.

Why is that?!?

In late November, the public learned that soon-to-be former Congressman Joe Barton had been sending lewd photos of himself around the internet.  Barton was given a chance to defend himself.  When no defense was forthcoming, the County GOP, Republican elected officials, and prominent grassroots organizations all called for Barton to go.  Then, Barton was gone within 9 days.

Within a week, the Blake Farenthold saga kicked into gear.  Once again, Farenthold was given a chance to defend himself.  Instead, it got worse.  Farenthold announced his retirement within two weeks.  Eventually, in the special election for which Farenthold stuck taxpayers with the bill, the Republican candidate won.

By contrast, the first (recent) report about Carlos Uresti came out in early November (ie. two weeks BEFORE we heard anything about Barton).  The second report came out in early December.  This, of course, is on top of video evidence from 2015:



The Democrats chose to rally around Uresti.  Not a single Senator called on him to resign.  What makes this more astonishing is that Uresti was already up to his eyeballs in financial corruption charges.

So Uresti limped forward into his corruption trial.  During that trial, we learned there was yet another sleazy sexual component to Uresti's activity.  Eventually, Uresti was convicted.  It was only at that point that Democrats called on him to resign.

Uresti still held on until June.  Even then, he only left to lighten his sentence.  For those keeping track at home, that's eight months (or two years and eight months) between the first credible reports of misconduct on Uresti's part and when he left office.

Then the GOP won the special election.  The ironic this is that, had the Democrats cut Uresti loose when the first reports emerged, they wouldn't have been on the hook during his trial.  But they didn't.

The contrast speaks for itself.

This is not to say that the Texas GOP has been fully cleaned out.  More work remains.  But there's a different between persistent rumors and actionable evidence.  And the Texas GOP has the best record of any state level political party in the country of cleaning house once actionable evidence emerges.

While we're on the subject of the party contrast, let's not forget who else is still running around the legislature like nothing ever happened:


Bottom Line: The contrast speaks for itself....