Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Texas Secretary of State holds hearing on electronic voting machines

"You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another."
Leviticus 19:11

Should Texans have the same degree of confidence in the integrity of their elections as residents of New Hampshire?!?

This afternoon, the Texas Secretary of state held public hearings on certification for two types of electronic voting machines.  It was a flashpoint for concerns from activists around Texas over questions that have recently emerged over the reliability of said machines.  Literally zero people testified in favor of electronic machines.

Speakers universally spoke in favor of some form of paper balloting.  As Katie Brewer of Texans for Accountable government explained: "I don't write code, but I can count paper ballots."  Speakers pointed out that, in the event paper ballots became the standard, people would come out of the woodworks to help count them.

The most compelling speaker was Kurt Hyde, a Denton county activist who "began the paper trail movement in 1986."  As Hyde continued, "nothing in that time has changed my mind."  Hyde detailed how counting paper ballots can be accomplished in a timely manner.  Hyde also pointed out that New Hampshire has had a paper trail law on the books since 1994.

The New Hampshire law got us thinking.  Obviously, we just came through a presidential primary where both parties' nomination contests featured accusation of election fraud.  But we didn't remember any accusations related to the contest in New Hampshire.  Google confirmed it.

Laura Pressley said "the Texas Secretary of State does not have public trust" and gave several reasons related to her election challenge:

  • A cast vote record is not a ballot image.
  • Poll watchers were kicked out of the election office in Dallas county on the night of the primary.
  • The Sec'y of state's office has granted numerous waivers related to election integrity matters.
While we didn't catch the CV of the woman who conducted the hearing, it is worth pointing out that nobody from the Secretary of State's election division showed up.

Bottom Line: Paper ballots aren't perfect, but they'd be a heck of a lot better than the mess in which we find ourselves today.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Is there anything Austin's NIMBY's (and Code department) won't ruin?!?

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
Matthew 5:16

Sigh; OF COURSE they did:
The secret theater in East Austin was just what the doctor had ordered.

Beau Reichert, who has Asperger’s syndrome and was struggling to make friends, moved to Austin nine years ago to build an art studio so he could meet people in a comfortable setting. His doctor thought it would help with the isolation Reichert experienced as a result of his developmental disorder that is characterized by difficulties in social interactions.

The studio never got built. But Reichert, a 39-year-old artist, did plenty of work on the dilapidated condition of the vast 2-acre lot he had bought.

He started using the main building as his home and, as a form of stress relief, began tinkering with an outdoor movie screen in his backyard. When neighbors stopped by to compliment the work he’d done on the home, Reichert would show them his outdoor movie theater. Soon, they were coming to the theater every Saturday night.

As word got out about the theater, Reichert became well-known in the Austin arts scene and eventually played host to an unofficial South By Southwest neighborhood party, charity events for nonprofit art groups, weddings and even a few memorial viewings. For a few years, Reichert said, he was having the time of his life.

But the future of the secret theater is now up in the air.

This year, Reichert began hearing complaints from neighbors in a subdivision adjacent to his backyard. Since March, Austin police have received 10 calls for noise complaints at his home. But Reichert says he has never been issued a citation and that these are “fictitious complaints” called in anonymously by neighbors who moved in recently and are unaccustomed to living in a neighborhood full of artists and creative types.
 It gets better:
Recently, anonymous complaints also started coming in to the Austin Code Department that accused Reichert of running an illegal business out of a residential home in violation of the city’s land use rules.

Reichert said the theater is not a business because he doesn’t charge for events. People often make donations because they know how much he spends to host the events, Reichert said, but he doesn’t set a price.

“This is not a business model; this is a community,” he said.
You know where this is going:
But after another complaint on the Fourth of July, the Code Department executed a search warrant on Reichert’s property and found several violations, including one for a gazebo without a permit in his backyard, another for the “movie theater wall” and one for not keeping the property in sanitary condition, due to overgrown grass from gardens he’s created.

Since July, Reichert said he has desperately tried to appeal and address the violations. A lawyer representing him said he’s spent an estimated $250,000 to comply with the city code.

Reichert estimates that he’d have to pay several hundred thousand dollars more and that it would take years to obtain his permits because he would have to rezone his property. Even then, he thinks those who take issue with his theater wouldn’t let up.
Read the whole thing here.

Monday, August 29, 2016

UT Politburo threatens small business owner helping promote their product

“Thus says the Lord of hosts:

‘Execute true justice,
Show mercy and compassion
Everyone to his brother.' "
Zechariah 7:9

Oh good grief, they didn't:
Last fall, Angel Seng, owner of Donut Taco Palace 1 off Highway 290 in southwest Austin, gained thousands of new fans after a popular sports website told the world about her signature Longhorn Donut.

One look at the yeast-and-glaze concoction that resembles the Hook ‘Em Horns hand gesture and you can understand why fans gobble it up.

But if you were thinking of celebrating the start of football season with a dozen, think again. The University of Texas has found some holes in Seng’s design.

Last month, Seng received a letter sent on behalf of the university citing a violation of trademark rights in relation to the Longhorn Donut and requesting that, when it comes to selling them, Seng yeast and desist.

“It’s not fair. It’s not right,” Seng said. “This I created by myself, I’m not copying from them. I’m supporting them.”

“It wasn’t very nice,” added her boyfriend, Fred Hart. “We felt kind of bullied.”

The letter, dated July 19 and sent from law firm Pirkey Barber, which represents the University of Texas in trademark and unfair competition matters, included a photo of Seng’s Longhorn Donut and an explanation that it violates UT’s trademarked “LONGHORN Marks,” which include the words “longhorn” and “longhorns” and the Hook ‘Em hand symbol.

“While the University appreciates Donut Taco Palace’s enthusiasm, UT is understandably concerned about your use of the LONGHORN Marks in this manner,” the letter said. “We suspect that you were not aware of the University’s trademark rights when you started selling ‘Longhorn Donuts.’ We trust that, now that these rights have been brought to your attention, you will take the appropriate steps to discontinue sales of the ‘Longhorn Donuts’ and refrain from any other uses of the University’s marks.”


Seng first attempted a hand-gesture doughnut years ago by customer request. She spent two years perfecting the technique and now sells a variety of hand-gesture doughnuts, including a peace sign, an “I love you” sign and a thumbs up (so far she’s received no complaints from the Aggies). She sells a limited number of various hand-gesture doughnuts in the shop Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.


Seng, 36, was born in Cambodia and moved to the United States in 1997. She was running a salon in Boston in 2006 when a family member told her that doughnuts do well in Texas, so she hopped a flight to Austin and called every doughnut shop in town, hoping to strike a sweet deal. On her final call, to the former Donut Palace at 5446 W. Highway 290, she learned the owner was ready to sell. She purchased the shop, stuck the word “taco” into the name and the rest was history.

These days, she puts her brother and her dad to work behind the counter and oversees a tight, small staff, some of whom arrive at 1:30 a.m. so that everything is ready when the first customers arrive at 5 a.m. There are two other Donut Taco Palace locations in the Austin area, but they are no longer affiliated.

“You’d think the university would let it go.”
They did; read the whole thing here.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Revelation 11:15-19 -- Hallelujah, He Reigns!!!

"Seventh Trumpet: The Kingdom Proclaimed
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying:

“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail."
Revelation 11:15-19

Pastor Danny Forshee.  Great Hills Baptist Church.  February 22, 2015:

Hallelujah, He Reigns - Dr. Danny Forshee - February 22, 2015 from Great Hills Baptist Church on Vimeo.


  1. The Sound (v. 15)
    John 14:30
  2. The Song (vv. 16-18)
    Romans 2:5
  3. The Sight (v. 19)
    A. Joy in Heaven
         Hebrews 9:23
    B. Judgement on Earth
  • God temporarily allows Satan to reign on Earth.
  • Falling on your face is the pre-eminent form of Worship in the Bible.
  • Satan always 'rules' with murderous intention.
  • The preeminent God reigns on their puny 'gods' and it makes them mad.
  • First word out of the mouths of the 24 elders is thanks.
  • Specifically mentions the arc of the covenant.
  • Our sin has to be judged; the only question is whether we allow Jesus to bear it or if we choose to bear it ourselves.
  • There are people reading this right now who will allow themselves to go to hell because they refuse to swallow their pride and humble themselves before God.
    • Author's Note: If you think this statement *might* apply to you, this statement applies to YOU.
  • There's only one way to get to Heaven and that's through Jesus!!!
    • Jesus is the culmination of all those Jewish prophesies in the Old Testament.
  • "I'm vocal, but I'm friendly."

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Gauldin strongly positioned in #ATXCouncil District 7

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

[Author's Note: District 7 covers North Central Austin, from Burnet Rd. up to Parmer Lane.]

Looks like Natalie Gauldin has Leslie Pool one on one; from her latest campaign newsletter:
I’m excited to announce that I am officially the ONLY candidate challenging the incumbent District 7 City Councilmember. This is great news for our campaign! We will not need to head into a runoff and we will not need to compare ourselves to other candidates. Voters will have two choices and I am confident that our message will resonate with the majority of District 7 residents. Maintaining the status quo is not enough to truly address the transportation and affordability concerns of the average Austinite. It’s time for a change down at City Hall and we can get there with YOUR help!

Thank you to everyone who has been spreading the word about this campaign. I have been going door to door speaking with voters daily since July. In that time, I’ve had countless people mention seeing the yard signs out in the area or having spoken with their supportive friends. I really appreciate you helping to give me a head start on earning their votes.


Whether you choose to participate in the campaign by block-walking in the area or by making a contribution to the campaign, we thank you for your support. By joining together in this effort, we are confident we can continue to move towards a more affordable Austin with transportation options that work for everyone. Make sure to stay tuned for exciting updates on social media and our website over the next few weeks.
We can't find a link to the full newsletter, but you can sign up to receive e-mails for yourself here.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The city of Austin's "Chief Equity Officer"

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

Cutting to the chase for busy readers:

From this morning's statesman:
Austin residents got their first look at the person who will be the city’s first-ever Chief Equity Officer during a town hall event Thursday night at the Palmer Events Center.

The chief equity officer, a position newly created by the City Council, will head an office focused on identifying gaps and disparities in services and programs in the city, as well as help create ways for city departments to address those needs. The position will also help community groups work with the city to ensure equal access to city programs and services.

At the event attended by about 100 people, including Council Members Delia Garza and Kathie Tovo, the three finalists for the position were given 10 minutes to make opening remarks to the audience and then answered questions for 15 minutes. The city initially announced four finalists for the position, but one candidate, Parisa Fatehi-Weeks, withdrew her application before the town hall, the city said.

The three finalists are: Veronica BriseƱo Lara, director of the small minority business resources department at the City of Austin; Brion Oaks, vice president of health equity at the Southwest Affiliate of the American Heart Association; and Kazique Prince, a senior policy advisor and education coordinator for Mayor Steve Adler.
It gets better:
The event was the first time the community at large heard from the candidates, though the consulting group that helped the city with recruiting for the position had sought out community input during earlier stages in the search.

[Author's Note: Emphasis added.]
We don't remember the source, but we vaguely recall hearing scuttlebutt that the fix is in and that Adler's guy is going to get the position.  That would render this entire 'search process' an expensive smokescreen.  Obviously, that would be consistent with Adler's m.o.

Equally obvious: Whatever disparities may or may not exist in Austin's municipal government won't be solved by adding another layer of bureaucracy at a six figure annual salary.

Bottom Line: Sheesh....


Read the recruiting brochure below:

Thursday, August 25, 2016

More STONEWALLING in Byron Cook's #TXLEGE District....

"You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another."
Leviticus 19:11

Despite a report from Hill County’s electronic voting machine vendor identifying errors in the county’s March 1st Republican Primary, the activist who originally identified the problem is saying there are still more questions than answers. Worse, county officials have become uncooperative.

Aaron Harris, an activist out of Tarrant County affiliated with Direct Action Texas, filed a complaint with the Secretary of State in July pointing out that Hill County reported in excess of 1700 more votes than voters in the March primary. The complaint was immediately referred to the Attorney General’s office for a criminal investigation that is ongoing.

Last week, Hill County’s electronic voting machine vendor, ES&S, released a memo identifying two major errors that contributed to the additional votes. The vendor reported that a hard drive was not cleared before votes were tallied and this caused absentee ballots and early voting paper ballots to be double or triple counted.


Voters should continue to focus on Hill County GOP Chairman Will Orr, who certified the election despite massive discrepancies. It was Orr’s responsibility to review the results and certify their accuracy.

It is shocking that he appears to have missed a nearly 2000 vote discrepancy. Orr must be held accountable for his actions. His resignation would be a step in the right direction.

The Attorney General’s investigation will continue, and any person who is found guilty of voter fraud should be punished to the maximum extent of the law.

But even if the Hill County result is merely due to incompetence and a failure of various election officials to do their duty, the cause of these problems must be identified and Texans must be supplied with accurate results. To not clear up these errors simply invites voter fraud in future elections.
Read the whole thing here; contact the Hill County GOP here or here.


On a related note, we sent our own open records request related to this case about a week ago; you can read the Hill County attorney's response below:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

UT's Horizon Fund updates Board of Regents

"So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom."
Psalm 90:12

Sigmund Freud is rumored to have once said "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."  We thought of that alleged quote during this morning's meeting of the UT Board of Regents' technology committee.  No matter how corrupt the other financial activities of the institution in question, sometimes an effort to commercialize research performed on university campuses is just an effort to commercialize research performed on a university campus.

The UT Horizon fund is a $50 million appropriation designed to provide seed funding to bring to market initiatives developed at UT System institutions.  We've documented their expenditures here.  As we explained last week, we also have a separate open records request related to the Horizon fund working it's way through the Attorney General process.

During this morning's update, Technology committee chairman Wallace Hall called the Horizon fund a "cost-effective" way to bring technological developments developed at system institutions to market.  It's actually not a crazy point to make.  If $100 to $200k of seed funding from the university can get a development away from the university bureaucrats and into the private sector, that's a small price to pay.

Here's the thing: This activity sounds an awful lot like having a governmental entity pick winners and losers.  In a way, it reminds us of Rick Perry's infamous Texas Enterprise Fund.  Obviously, that's not something one should support.

But here's the other thing: The difference with the Texas Enterprise Fund is that, technically, the money going in 'belongs' to the university, not the state.  If the university were to cease this activity, the university still gets to keep the money.  And we'd rather have them investing in something that could be useful than hiring a bunch of 'diversity' related bureaucrats.

Obviously, higher education funding is deeply messed up.  Equally obvious, the University of Texas system has too much money.  In the event that higher ed/UT funding undergoes deeper structural reforms, activities like the Horizon fund should be on the table.  Furthermore, the Horizon fund could be a piece of leverage to make the university negotiate in good faith over tuition next session.  But as long as the current system remains in place, there are far worse ways to spend the money.

Bottom Line: UT's endowment is somewhere around $25 billion.  The Horizon fund is a max of $50 million.  If the university wants to use one tenth of one percent of its resources in an attempt to accomplish something useful, we have bigger fish to fry.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Patrick, Kolkhorst, and the Texas Senate Transportation Committee chair....

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

We received the following text message from NE Tarrant Tea Party yesterday:

We had no idea they were pushing for this, but sign us up!

Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF) is the best transportation group in the state; according to their 2015 scorecard, Kolkhorst got an A+ on transportation issues last session while Nichols got an F.

We're not super familiar with Kolkhorst's record on all transportation issues, but we know she's really good on toll roads (and those are the biggest scam of the whole lot).

This could also only help any potential Uber/Lyft legislation that might emerge.

Yes, thank you!!!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Phony, anti-Zimmerman, "Outrage": The latest fallout....

"For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there."
James 3:16

At last Thursday's council meeting, Don Zimmerman made a completely reasonable comment.  That didn't stop the phony outrage machine.  The Travis County Democrat politburo even used it to fundraise!!!

That being said, there were a couple of interesting developments over the weekend.

First, Don's office released a video comparing his remarks last Thursday to other remarks he's made previously that generated no such reaction:


That being said, we think THIS is the most interesting reaction:

You can learn more about Celia Israel and the issue in question here.


Finally, one personal note: We didn't think about it until we started writing this post, but we actually first heard Don say something along these lines back in 2013 during the school bond campaign.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Revelation 11:1-14 -- A Temple and Two Witnesses (Part 2)

The Two Witnesses
"Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”

These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.

The Witnesses Killed
When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

The Witnesses Resurrected
Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.

The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly."
Revelation 11:1-14

Pastor Danny Forshee.  Great Hills Baptist Church.  February 8, 2015:

A Temple and Two Witnesses, Part 2 - Dr, Danny Forshee - February 8, 2015 from Great Hills Baptist Church on Vimeo.

  1. The Temple (vv. 1-2)
  2. The Two Witnesses (vv. 3-14)
    A. Their Ministry (vv. 3-6)
          Zechariah 4:14
          Luke 4:25

    B. Their Death (vv. 7-10)

    C. Their Resurrection and Ascension (vv. 11-14)
  • Prophecy = Both Foretell and Forthtell
  • The prophets are hated because of their message.
  • God will protect you, He will spare you, until He's finished with you; [properly understood] when you're walking with God, you're invincible.
  • John presupposes thorough understanding of the Old Testament.
  • Don't mess with these prophets of God.
  • First introduction to the antichrist.
  • "Whenever the Bible calls you Sodom, that is NOT a compliment."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

#TroxRox; aiming at Adler/Ott budget MONSTROSITY....

"An inheritance gained hastily at the beginning
Will not be blessed at the end."
Proverbs 20:21

Amen, from this morning's Statesman:
When voters sent the new 10-1 council to City Hall, they did so with a clear mandate to address the rapidly rising cost of living in Austin in order to slow gentrification, address economic segregation, keep long time Austinites in their homes, and protect seniors — and the rest of us, too — from losing their quality of life. Yet, as we enter our second budget cycle, “affordability” seems to be slipping further and further away.

In these next few weeks leading up to budget adoption, critical decisions about property taxes, utility bills and city programs will be made. This is when the difficult choices are supposed to happen. But the proposed budget takes the easy road at every turn.

It includes an increase to all utility bills and every major fee in the city, and it proposes adopting the maximum tax rate allowable under state law. General Fund spending is increasing a whopping $58 million, and an additional 437 new city employees are being added to the payroll.


The growth is certainly already contributing the city’s coffers. Property tax revenue from new construction is expected to increase by $10.2 million. Sales tax for the city is expected to increase by $8.5 million. Hotel occupancy taxes could rise by $11.2 million. Licensing, permitting, and inspection revenues could increase by $9.1 million. Charges for services other than utilities could increase by $2.4 million. Parking revenue could go up by $900,000. Other taxes, which includes alcohol tax is expected at $1.7 million.

This means that the city is already bringing in well over $40 million in additional revenue this year, and is still going to turn to you for more money.

The city must learn to live within reasonable means, set goals that have measurable outcomes, and scrutinize every program in order to become relentlessly efficient with taxpayer dollars.


Beyond that, the city could choose not to add any new positions until the over 1,000 existing vacant — but fully funded — positions are filled. Save the money allocated to these vacant positions as a credit to the next year’s budget. The city could limit the surprisingly large marketing budgets and significant transfers to other departments from Austin Energy, Austin Water, and Austin Resource Recovery.
Read the whole thing here.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Adler already stretching facts to sell bond....

“For My people are foolish,
They have not known Me.
They are silly children,
And they have no understanding.
They are wise to do evil,
But to do good they have no knowledge.”
Jeremiah 4:22

Soo, this happened:

We'll set aside the discussion of transit vs. roads for another day; we want to focus on the underlying veracity of Adler's claim.

Adler's bond has nothing related to rail.  Rail was actually the subject of substantial political wrangling last week, but the rail advocates lost that round. No "increase in access to public transit" there.

Buses, of course, are controlled by CapMetro.  Council and the Mayor have no jurisdiction there.  No "increase in access to public transit" there.

We suspect that, if cornered, Adler would refer to the "dedicated transit lanes" in the corridor plans.  But dedicated lanes don't increase access to anything.  At best, assuming you take the city's claims at face value, they might make the public transportation system more efficient at some vaguely defined point down the road.

LOL, nice try.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Adler's bond gets worse; votes melt away....

“For My people are foolish,
They have not known Me.
They are silly children,
And they have no understanding.
They are wise to do evil,
But to do good they have no knowledge.”
Jeremiah 4:22

It's a shame it had to work this way, but we suppose it isn't a surprise:

Divided Austin City Council puts $720 million bond on November ballot

Austin voters, who already had some weighty decisions to make Nov. 8, will now have a $720 million question to answer as well.

An unexpectedly divided Austin City Council gave final approval Thursday to Mayor Steve Adler’s “go big” transportation bond proposition, a mixture of improvements to major city arterial streets; bikeway, sidewalk, trail and transit expansions citywide; and suburban highway projects. What had been an 11-0 preliminary vote a week ago fell to 7-1-3 Thursday, with some council members raising concerns about the ballot language, tax impact and even the rushed process that led to the huge bond proposition.

“I am dismayed that a $720 million bond that is on the November ballot is a product of the way things have always been done,” said Council Member Ora Houston, who represents District 1 in East Austin, explaining her “no” vote. “I feel like I’ve been bullied.”

Council Members Delia Garza, Ellen Troxclair and Don Zimmerman, for various reasons, abstained.

If Austin voters OK the all-or-nothing package, which is five times larger than any transportation bond ever approved in the city, the city property tax by about 2020 would increase by around $56 a year on a $250,000 home.

The council, in giving third-reading approval to an ordinance calling the bond election, also agreed on the specific and lengthy ballot language. Voters will see a single sentence, about 150 words long, that names nine major roads that would be reworked to include alternative transportation modes. The ballot will also name highways that would be expanded and city streets designated for repairs.

That language, however, will not include a specific estimate of what the property tax effect will be for an average home owner. The council last week, on a preliminary 6-5 vote, had said it wanted such wording.

But after an executive session Thursday morning, the council emerged and voted 7-4 against including that provision on the ballot, doing so on the advice of the city attorney. Zimmerman, Troxclair, Garza and Houston were in the minority on that vote.

Assistant City Attorney Leela Fireside in last week’s open session had told the council that if the tax impact of the bond borrowing over time approached what appears on the ballot, that could limit spending under the bond to some amount lower than $720 million. She recommended against including such language.

That advice continued in Thursday’s closed session, an incensed Zimmerman said. He left the backstage meeting early.

“It’s not legal advice, it’s lobbying,” Zimmerman said. “There’s a difference. I’m sick of it. They want to give the city the unlimited power to tax.”
Read the whole thing here.

The real shame here is that some components of this package have merit.  But they've been shoved into an enormous, complicated amalgamation.  And if you have any faith in the city of Austin's ability to execute this in anything remotely resembling a competent or timely manner, we have mineral rights in South Texas we'd love to sell you.

If Adler were serious about addressing mobility, he could have done two things over the summer:
  • Break the bundled proposal into its component parts, giving voters several smaller/ simpler propositions from which to choose.
  • Delivering a credible and detailed plan for how the city would execute this plan if the voters say yes.
Unfortunately, Adler did neither of these things.

[Sidenote: Before anyone asks, that was the exact message we delivered council (twice) back in June.]

And that's before we review the actual ballot language; if that's not legally binding, that's a whole separate can of worms.

Kudos to Zimmerman, Troxclair, Houston, and Garza for not walking this plank; it doesn't take a genius to see a coalition.

Bottom Line: Bond packages are usually unanimous.  For Adler to lose four votes on the dais is pathetic.  Then again, considering the aloof presumption with which Adler has conducted himself throughout this process, it isn't surprising.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Read the Ken Paxton Op-Ed the Statesman wouldn't publish!!!

"Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin."
James 4:17

The Austin American Statesman recently published an editorial where they attacked Ken Paxton's advocacy for Texas in federal court while drawing a non sequitur comparison to the his legal case.  Paxton wrote a response which the paper declined to publish.  Paxton's campaign just sent the full text out as an e-mail and we're reprinting it in full:
Defending the Constitution, So Help Me God
By Attorney General Ken Paxton

I learned a long time ago that politics can be a tough business. But if your opponents are forced to concoct misleading attacks, you’re probably doing something right. It’s obvious from the Editorial Board’s most recent opinion piece they are still seething that the people of Texas elected a conservative as Attorney General. They’re even more upset that I’m actually fulfilling my campaign promise to protect our constitutional rights and liberties, however untrendy that may be with the Austin press corps. 

When I took my oath of office, I swore to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State, so help me God.” I take this oath seriously and work diligently to uphold this pact between myself and the people of Texas, no matter the sentiment among those critical of my leadership. 

As the paper pointed out, there are allegations against me. These unfounded charges are, at their core, politically motivated. Even the Editorial Board grudgingly concedes the allegations don’t equate to guilt and I deserve my day in court – where I will prevail. I’ll be sure to put their note on top of the stacks of news clips generated by the paper against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and former Governor Rick Perry. The innocence of these two honorable public servants didn’t preclude the paper from its decade-long journalistic campaign as the propaganda arm of the political left. Sadly, the complete exoneration of these Republican leaders didn’t seem to generate the same level of coverage as the politically motivated attacks and endless news coverage against them. 

I will not let these absurd charges, however, distract me from my responsibilities to the people of Texas. As Attorney General, I am fighting to protect our constitutional rights and liberties at every turn. I’m working diligently to prevent infringement on those rights in all our communities across Texas. 

The Statesman Editorial Board criticizes my defense of the 2nd Amendment rights of Texans and enforcement of the laws passed by the Texas Legislature. The Editorial Board’s position is outrageous and, in fact, dangerous. They are not saying that the open carry laws passed by the Texas Legislature are somehow legally invalid. Instead, they contend that because they do not like a law that was enacted by an overwhelming majority of the elected representatives of the people of Texas, that law should not be enforced. Not overturned, not protested, but ignored. You don’t often see an American newspaper speak out against democracy, but the Statesmen is doing so here.

The Editorial Board also attempts to hoodwink its readers by suggesting that enforcing state law somehow depletes precious legal resources from state coffers. In setting their objectivity aside, the paper hides a key fact. Under my leadership, the Office of Attorney General has generated tens of millions of dollars in new revenue to the state’s coffers. They don’t want you to know this information because they would have to concede that I have been and continue to be an effective Attorney General on behalf of Texas. 

The paper also chose to omit the most significant defeat handed to the Obama Administration by the United States Supreme Court, a defeat secured by my office. We led a coalition of 26 states in a legal challenge to President Obama’s executive amnesty on illegal immigration. We went to the highest court in the land to force the Obama Administration to recognize that Congress, not the President, makes our laws. 

This was one of the most important cases to come before the Supreme Court in recent history because the fundamental issues in question are at the core of the Constitution. If the Supreme Court had allowed President Obama to prevail, think about what could happen with a future president? What if he or she decides to take away our gun rights through executive action, or tells churches they can no longer be tax exempt because their conscience is at odds with the federal government, or punishes liberty minded individuals for speaking the truth? Thankfully, we prevailed on this landmark legal case and I will continue to fight for our liberty and the constitutional principles upon which our Founding Fathers stood. 

In another critical legal battle omitted by the paper, the Obama Administration is threatening the Medicaid programs of the states if they refuse to pay an unconstitutional tax that would cost Texas over $120 million annually. I’m fighting back against this legal extortion and have no intention of allowing it to happen on my watch. My office also won a unanimous decision in the Texas Supreme Court in a tax dispute that will save the people of Texas over $4 billion.

My office has also set records with regard to online predator sting operations, human-trafficking arrests and fugitive apprehensions. I am very proud that our Child Support Division remains the top performing child support program in the country and leads the nation in cost effectiveness, collecting almost $4 billion last year.

There are dozens of other actions and initiatives brought by the Office of Attorney General under my leadership to preserve constitutional rights, push back against federal government overreach and protect the lives of Texans. Since the Statesmen won’t give you all the facts, you can read about them on my website at It is my highest honor to serve as your Attorney General and I will continue to defend our constitutional rights and liberties … “So help me God.” 

"Investments" from public institutions and "proprietary information"....

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

Several months ago, we made several open records requests related to UT's 'venture' fund.  The system was actually quite responsive to two of them.  We just reviewed third party correspondence related to the third.

On June 2nd, we requested "[a]ll communication between the UT-Horizon fund and any member of the Board of Regents over the past seven years."  Shortly thereafter, the system turned over a tranche of materials while kicking part of the request over to the Attorney General's office.  As part of that process, two Horizon fund grantees have filed requests to withhold information with the A.G.'s office.

You can read their correspondence for yourself:

This begs the natural follow up question: On what planet is it acceptable for a private entity into which a public entity has 'invested' public funds to withhold information about those 'investments' from the public in the name of protecting proprietary information?!?

If you want to protect proprietary information (which is understandable), don't take seed funding from a governmental entity.

Bottom Line: It might be technically legal, but it isn't right.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.."
2 Timothy 1:7

When did this become a controversial statement?!?
[E]xperimentation with new technologies and business models should generally be permitted by default....innovation should be allowed to continue unabated and problems, if any develop, can be addressed later. (1)
Permissionless Innovation, by Adam Thierer, is an academic investigation of regulatory issues related to technological modernization.  The book argues that attempts to regulate new technologies end up stifling efforts to make life simpler and cheaper.  While we found the academic approach frustratingly slow, that approach is appropriate when explaining these issues to newbs to those who haven't considered them in depth.

Thierer distinguishes between two approaches to regulation: 'permissionless' vs. 'precautionary.'  The permissionless approach gives "entrepreneurs...a clear green light from policymakers that signals a general acceptance of risk taking -- especially risk taking that challenges existing business models and traditional ways of doing things (10)."  By contrast, a precautionary approach entails asking "mother may I" from some political authority and accounting for every possible contingency that might arise before experimentation can proceed.

This discussion has consequences across the economy.  While issues like ridesharing and short-term rentals have forced the question, they're not limited to what we have historically thought of as the 'tech' industry.  The internet is hardly the last platform for innovation (16).  As Theirer explains, "the world of atoms and physical things -- is primed for the same sort revolution that the world of bits -- the information economy -- has undergone over the past two decades" (16).  3-D printing and commercial drones are the first two examples that spring to mind.

As a veteran of the Austin City Council's strange technophobia, we were struck by this sentence: "if harms do arise, consider whether existing laws and regulations are sufficient to address them, before assuming that new rules are required (109)."  In other words, if you really want to crack down on 'party houses' it might be advisable to enforce the noise ordinance that was already on the books before banning an entire industry.  As to the Uber/Lyft discussion, the notion that "[p]olicymakers should relax old rules on incumbents as new entrants and new technologies challenge the status quo (112)" speaks for itself.

From a political perspective, Permissionless Innovation is about pitching to persuades.  As such, there were times when it belabors certain points we consider obvious.  Still, for the intended audience, this is a robust discussion that will get them up to speed in a way that moves the ball forward.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Eye Popping Financials in UT's Athletic Department....

"An inheritance gained hastily at the beginning
Will not be blessed at the end."
Proverbs 20:21

Last Friday, the Statesman published a report on the financial state of UT athletics that won't surprise anyone familiar with how that institution treats money.

Still, even by UT standards, a few aspects stood out.

Like this:
Yes, Texas takes in eye-popping revenues, but the department also racks up incredible expenses — almost $30 million more than anyone else.
And how, pray tell, do they rack up expenses on that level?!?
About one-quarter of the athletic department’s 318-person staff makes more than $100,000 annually.
Finally...THIS one:
Where does all of UT’s money go? Before a single athlete stepped on the field, UT owed $25.7 million in debt service and facility rental payments, according to audited figures. Former athletic director DeLoss Dodds financed the expansion of Royal-Memorial Stadium through long-term debt; UT athletics still owes $218 million in debt payments through 2044.

[Author's Note: Emphasis added.]
Seriously, do read the whole thing here.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Revelation 11:1-14 -- A Temple and Two Witnesses (Part 1)

"The Two Witnesses
Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”

These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.

The Witnesses Killed
When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

The Witnesses Resurrected
Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.

The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly."
Revelations 11:1-14

Pastor Danny Forshee.  Great Hills Baptist Church.  February 1, 2015:


  1. The Temple (vv. 1-2)
  2. The Two Witnesses (vv. 3-14)
  • 5 Temples in the Bible
    • Solomon's
    • Zerubbel (post-exile; era of Ezra and Nehemiah)
    • Herod's (New Testament era)
    • Millennial (Ezekiel chs. 40-48)
    • Literal, physical temple rebuilt in Jerusalem.
  • "If there is a mist in the pulpit, there will be a fog in the pews."
  • 2 guys preaching in Jerusalem for 3.5 years who will perform visible miracles.
  • You need to understand Daniel to understand Revelation.
  • The reason you don't hear this is because preachers don't preach the Bible anymore.
  • "When you preach the scriptures, you are going to be unpopular."
  • People used to laugh at the idea of modern Israel existing as a nation.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Travis County DA attempting to revivie the "Public Integrity" Unit?!?

"If a ruler pays attention to lies,
All his servants become wicked."
Proverbs 29:12

From Thursday's Statesman discussing the race to replace Rosemary Lehmberg, we find this nugget about the Democrat nominee:
Most recently, [Democrat candidate Margaret] Moore has offered a position to a state District Judge Don Clemmer, who she describes as bipartisan, to take over the office’s special prosecutions division, which houses the Public Integrity Unit. Clemmer has worked at the Texas attorney general’s office and as deputy general counsel for the governor’s office.

Moore said the appointment will help as she tries to convince state lawmakers to add funding to the Public Integrity Unit when the legislative session begins in January. The unit has statewide jurisdiction and prosecutes state officials on ethics violations and other official misconduct.

“Judge Clemmer will be working with me toward that goal,” Moore said.
Soo...the Democrat machine in Travis County hasn't given up on the 'public integrity' unit?!?

That, by itself, is interesting.

Next up: who, pray tell, is Don Clemmer?!?

It turns out Don Clemmer is a currently serving nominally 'Republican' Travis County district judge who was appointed by Governor Abbott to fill a vacancy last fall.  Technically, Clemmer is on the ballot this fall.  The seriousness with which he's campaigning is revealed in the fact that we've literally never seen him at a Republican party event and had never even heard of him before we'd read this article.

In other words, Don Clemmer is about as Republican as Joe Straus.

Which means he would be the perfect vehicle for the business as usual crowd at the Capitol to run this play.

This sort of move would probably be DOA in the Senate, but it would be a lot better if it never got there in the first place.

Of course, the easiest way to prevent these sorts of shenanigans would be to elect the Republican candidate Maura Phelan.  Maura really is fantastic and she might be the one Republican candidate worth voting for this fall.  You can learn more about Maura Phelan here.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Marc Ott OUT!!!!!!!

"Do they not go astray who devise evil?
But mercy and truth belong to those who devise good."
Proverbs 14:22

Holy mid-August Friday afternoon document dump:

Austin City Manager Marc Ott leaving for Washington job

The most powerful man at Austin’s City Hall, Marc Ott, is out — leaving his post overseeing the municipal bureaucracy for a prestigious job running a Washington D.C. association. 
Ott’s announcement Friday came more than a month after he told the City Council he was a finalist for the executive director position with the International City/County Management Association, which advocates and lobbies for local governments and their managers. He will start at the post Oct. 31. 
Ott’s decision to leave comes just a month after the City Council gave him a $22,000 raise, bumping his pay and benefits to $361,000 annually. His predecessor at the ICCMA made $478,000 in 2013, the group’s tax returns show.
We'll have more to say about his replacement as appropriate as the process unfolds, but our initial two cents is that this is probably a case where turnover for the sake of turnover is a good thing regardless of who replaces him.

Bottom Line: Don't let the door hit you in the rear end....

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Can the #ATXCouncil Transportation Bond be salvaged?!?

“For My people are foolish,
They have not known Me.
They are silly children,
And they have no understanding.
They are wise to do evil,
But to do good they have no knowledge.”
Jeremiah 4:22

Let's start by stating the obvious: This bond package took several steps backwards over the summer.

This is disappointing, though it's not surprising.

We've been torn since this discussion began.  We don't hate the underlying concept behind 'smart corridors.'  Doing things like getting buses out of traffic when they're making stops and improving signal timing make a certain amount of sense (at a certain cost).  In general, we like using technology to create new efficiencies.

The problem is that the city's transportation department can't implement this proposal in anything resembling a competent or timely manner.  That's why we testified (twice) back in June that we wanted to see the city present a "credible plan for execution" when they came back in August.  In other words, we wanted to see how they would get from point A to point B.

Six weeks later...they won't even commit to a firm location for point B.  There literally isn't even a specific list of project to which they're committing.  There's a phase for that: BLANK CHECK (and a $720 million one at that).

According to certain scuttlebutt, there's going to be an effort tonight to use amendments on the dais to reign in the proposal; consider us skeptical.

Bottom Line: We cannot support this bond in its current form; while we'd love to be pleasantly surprised, for Council to improve it sufficiently enough at tonight's meeting to merit support seems like a tall order.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

LOL, Michael McCaul....

"The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
But the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness."
Proverbs 15:14

Soo, this happened:
WASHINGTON -- Critics of Sen. Ted Cruz, still steaming from his Republican convention speech in which he refused to endorse Donald Trump, are now urging another high-profile Texas Republican to challenge him in the 2018 Senate primary. 
Some Republican donors and Texas politicians are working behind the scenes to build an intraparty challenge for Cruz and have zeroed in on Rep. Michael McCaul as a potential candidate, according to a new report from CNN.
McCaul has not yet ruled out the possibility of a run, according to the report, but the Austin Republican has also not seriously considered it. A spokesman for McCaul, Walter Zaykowski, would say only that the congressman is focused on the November’s election and his role as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Seriously...Michael McCaul?!?

Because his district includes northeastern Travis County, we've been familiar with McCaul for several years.  That being said, in four and a half years and almost 2500 posts worth of blogging, we think the most revealing statistic is that we've never said a word about him.  He's literally been that irrelevant.

But, since we're talking about Michael McCaul, lets talk about how he earned his money the old fashioned way:

How the Richest Member of Congress Got That Way

Even as the economy sputtered in 2010, Texas congressman Michael McCaul saw his net worth skyrocket to $292.21 million — 300 percent over where it stood in 2009 — vaulting him to the top of Roll Call’s annual list of the wealthiest members of Congress. Does this have something to do with that “Texas miracle” we keep hearing about? Nope! It has something to do with the miracle of having a very rich wife:

The lion’s share of McCaul’s wealth is held by his wife, Linda McCaul, the daughter of Clear Channel Communications CEO and founder Lowry Mays, and his dramatic rise in net worth appears to be the product of generational wealth transfer.
In other words, Michael McCaul is the poster child for privilege and wealth obtained through social connections not merit.

But perhaps you'd rather talk about policy.

McCaul's been a mediocre congressman and there's plenty we pick apart in his record if the need arises, but one aspect stands out.

McCaul is the current chairman of the Homeland Security committee in the U.S. House.  In that role, he voted to fund Obama's executive amnesty.  Not only that, but he actually gave political cover for others to vote against defunding it:
Republicans aren't going to shut down the government over President Barack Obama's immigration order, House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said Sunday, "but we are going to shut down this president and his actions."
In other words, when Ted Cruz was leading the fight to defund Obama's executive amnesty, Michael McCaul was running interference for leadership.

And, if necessary, there's plenty more where that came from.

Bottom Line: If the Trumpkins want to run a guy who married his money and greased the skids for Obama's executive amnesty against Ted Cruz, they are welcome to try.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Bureaucratic STONEWALLING in Byron Cook's #TXLEGE District....

"You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another."
Leviticus 19:11

Hill County’s attorney is using procedural tactics to delay the release of public records related to vast irregularities uncovered in the March primary. A private investigation revealed that nearly 1,800 votes appear to have been illegally cast in the election.
With election officials unable to account for the discrepancy, the Secretary of State formally requested a criminal investigation by the Attorney General’s office. In the wake of the controversy, Hill County’s Election Administrator resigned.
Now, the county’s lawyer, David Holmes, is unnecessarily delaying open records requests submitted by Direct Action Texas (DAT).
DAT responded with the below flow chart, with a footnote that read:
“Following these simple steps will save taxpayers money and stop wasting everyone’s time. Plus remove the hard job of thinking away from County Attorney, Elections Administrator, or anyone else who might by overwhelmed by such a task.”

Read the whole thing here.


For more information, feel free to send the following open records request:


Open Records Request

I hereby request copies of any and all Applications for Ballot by Mail (ABBM) and Carrier Envelopes for the 2016 Primary Election held this past March 1st. 
This would include any and all ABBM’s submitted to Hill County Elections, including duplicates and rejected ABBM’s. 
I do understand that annuals and certain information, like email addresses if provided, may need to be redacted. 

By this email I hereby request that this information be promptly produced. Wherever possible please provide it in digital format, whether that be email, CD, or thumb drive. 

I appreciate your prompt attention to this request.