Saturday, August 17, 2019

#TXLEGE: Burrows belatedly recognizes the completely obvious

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

About DAMN time:
State Rep. Dustin Burrows of Lubbock has resigned as chair of the Texas House GOP Caucus amid allegations that he and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen planned to politically target members from their own party in the 2020 primaries.

Burrows' departure marks the largest fallout yet since the accusations surfaced.

On Friday, the caucus executive committee sent an email to members saying that it had "met and accepted" Burrows' resignation as caucus chair. The email, which also announced that state Rep. Stephanie Klick of Fort Worth had been elevated from vice chair to chair of the caucus, confirmed what two sources had told The Texas Tribune earlier Friday.

Bonnen said in a statement that Burrows, who has served in the House since 2015, "was a strong leader for the caucus." Bonnen added: "I respect his decision and I remain committed to strengthening our majority."
Good. This is a slow-drip story that won't go away until Dennis Bonnen and Dustin Burrows go away. That outcome is inevitable. The only question is how much pain Bonnen and Burrows want to endure first.

Bottom Line: Now do Bonnen....

Friday, August 16, 2019

#TXLEGE: Bettencourt LEADS charge to rescue children from Houston ISD

"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me [a]to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea."
Mark 9:24

It's about time:
The chronic low scores at HISD's Wheatley High School leave the Texas Education Commissioner with no choice under state law but to close the campus or overturn an election, kick out the entire Houston school board and appoint a new one.

According to state education leaders who spoke with 13 Investigates, that takeover now seems increasingly likely.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Republican from Houston and member of the State Senate Education Committee, told ABC13, "I've never had any criticism for the interim superintendent (Dr. Grenita Lathan) and will not, because she's not the problem. The problem is the board of trustees and everybody out there knows it, and that's what needs to be replaced."


It could be late fall before the official decision comes down. State accountability ratings aren't finalized until November, but HISD does not appear to be fighting the accountability ratings.
We wrote a longer piece about this situation back in January; TL,DR version:
  1. It's the morally right thing to do.
  2. If the GOP follows through then, over time, there **MIGHT** be political benefit (at a minimum, it's better than doing nothing).
Bottom Line:There are few failures of big government more blatant than urban school districts. Children being maleducated deserve an alternative to the entitled, spendaholic, bureaucracy. Kudos to Senator Bettencourt.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Abbott's so-called "Domestic Terrorism" Power Grab

"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

Yesterday, we discussed the sleazier political aspects of Governor Abbott's new "Domestic Terrorism Task Force."  We still think that's the primary takeaway.  Having had a chance to sleep on it, however, there's another insanely bothersome aspect.

Politicians ALWAYS exploit tragedy for power grabs.

We have no idea what this so-called "task force" will propose, except on thing: This process will expand the power of the Governor's office.

Furthermore, that expansion of power will be around a lot longer than Greg Abbott.

Obviously, by any sane, rational, or data-driven standard, so-called "mass shootings" are statistically meaningless.  They're INSANELY rare.  That the media cynically gives them sensationalistic wall-to-wall coverage doesn't change the fact that they're extreme outlier events.

Sensationalistic, wall-to-wall, media coverage, however, is exactly the backdrop power hungry politicians always exploit.

Bottom Line: Have we not learned our lesson from the so-called "Patriot Act?!?"

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

#TXLEGE: Abbott appoints Bonnen to Task Force

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

Umm, ok:
Governor Greg Abbott today, under Article 4, Sections 1, 7, and 10 of the Texas Constitution, formed a Domestic Terrorism Task Force in the wake of the El Paso shooting to combat these hateful acts and extremism in Texas. The group of experts will analyze and provide advice on strategies to maximize law enforcement’s ability to protect against acts of domestic terrorism. The task force will hold its first roundtable meeting with Governor Abbott on Friday, August 30th.
For the most part, this seems to the type of grandstanding that all politicians do following tragedies.  Obviously, it should be monitored.  That being said, this task-force likely won't amount to much.

That being said, one participant seems noteworthy:
  • Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen 
It doesn't take a genius to see why that's a bad idea.

Bottom Line: See no evil....

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

West's first interesting move during RPT campaign

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

This wasn't expected:
When asked about the [Dennis Bonnen quid pro quo] controversy on the Chris Salcedo Show this morning, former Congressman and military veteran Allen West said he believed Bonnen should resign from his position.

“I’m not an opportunist and I don’t want anyone to see me that way, but one of the things about being in the military is leadership is about honor, integrity, and character,” said West. “If we’re going to move forward with the Republican Party of Texas, I’ve got to tell you that I can’t work with someone who has a lack of honor, integrity, and character.”

“I would suggest the Speaker of the House, Dennis Bonnen, right now step down from speaker and resign from his State House seat, because we’re not going to be able to go forward as long as he stays in that position,” he concluded.
That's...certainly welcome.  To this point, West has campaigned on nothing but vague cliches.  With this statement, however, West might indicate a growing understanding of Texas-specific issues.

At a minimum, it makes West relevant.

Bottom Line:  Whatever happens between now and next convention, kudos to West for forcing this discussion....

Monday, August 12, 2019

#TXLEGE: Bonnen is dead man walking (and only FOOLS will pretend otherwise)

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

This morning went pretty much as expected:

The committee is still in executive session as we write this. They may or may not make news. That being said, it really won't matter.

One of two outcomes is now inevitable:
  • Dennis Bonnen leaves soon.  Whether it's genuinely voluntary or he's forced out doesn't matter.  The key point is that he's gone.
  • Bonnen becomes a gigantic campaign issue...and good luck to his defenders if that happens.
The silver lining is that, besides Dennis Bonnen and Dustin Burrows, nobody else is implicated.  This scandal is contained to two people.  Once they go away, everything else follows.

If they don't, however, this will be a slow-drip story for the next year and a half.

Bottom Line: The path to making this story go away is obvious, but it's an open question whether anyone will take it....

Saturday, August 10, 2019

A trip to Yankee Stadium, and a renewed appreciation for Chris Del Conte

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

For anyone who follows this author on social media, it's not exactly a secret where we were or what we were doing during our week not publishing.

During our NYC trip, attending five separate games at Yankee stadium, we were repeatedly struck by a thought: How much the Yankee Stadium gameday experience reminds of Texas...2 to 3 years ago.

They didn't do anything "wrong," per se, but it still left us feeling nickeled, dimed, and underappreciated.

Of course, it wasn't that long ago you could say the same thing about Texas.  Then Chris Del Conte arrived, with a renewed commitment to fans and the gameday experience.  The results were instant.  A year and a half later, the fan base is more stoked than they've been in ages!!!

In 2005/2006, before we moved, the Yankees were the hottest ticket in town.  Today, despite having a better team, people are kinda "meh."  The difference is the attitude of the people in charge.

However, with an attitude adjustment and the right personnel, fan perception can change very quickly.

Bottom Line: Fans actually spend more money when they're not being nickled and dimed.  Texas eventually realized that.  Will the Yankees?!?

Friday, August 9, 2019

#TXLEGE: Thoughts on the Sullivan/Bonnen audio

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

Yesterday, we listened to the recording of the infamous meeting between Michael Quinn Sullivan and Dennis Bonnen.  For the most part, it reinforced our initial impression of this story.  If you've been following it, the recording doesn't contain a ton of "new" information.  But there's a lot of additional context.


  • Bonnen's arrogance, and Bonnen's stupidity, are...something.
  • On multiple occasions, Bonnen offers Sullivan official actions in exchange for political activity.
    • Each time, Sullivan instantly says no.
  • Bonnen also offers to allow Sullivan to stay in a property in New Mexico that his in-laws apparently own.
  • Bonnen has the demeanor of a frat boy who's trying waaaaaaaaaaaaay too hard to be your friend.
  • The hardest part to wrap your head around is that the substance of Bonnen's ask isn't necessarily crazy.  While he's doing it for the wrong reasons, Bonnen basically asks Sullivan to focus on rural members instead of suburban ones.  There's a certain logic to that strategy.  Unfortunately, there's no logic that suggests one make oneself a party to a felony in the process.
  • The most surprising part is the degree to which Bonnen's talking out of both sides of his mouth on his alleged "no campaigning" edict.  Bonnen spends nearly a quarter of the meeting telling Sullivan how he plans to vigorously enforce the edict against Democrats, but casually look the other way with Republicans.  At this point, the Democrats have every right to tell Bonnen to pound sand.
    • It's in this part of this discussion that Bonnen makes his causally vulgar remarks about Michelle Beckley and Jon Rosenthal.  The remarks themselves are not particularly bad.  That being said, we don't ever want to hear a lecture from Dennis Bonnen about "civility" or "respectful dialogue" ever again.
  • Speaking of the Democrats: If they're smart, they'll make this a gigantic campaign issue.  That being said, it's an open question whether the Democrats will be smart.  But they should....
  • On the other hand, if Bonnen departs soon, the impact on any future election should be minimal.
  • Apparently, Dennis Bonnen really hates Phil Stephenson.
    • Note: Stephenson's got a pretty mediocre record, but he's a nice guy.
  • Likewise Travis Clardy.
    • Note: This one's understandable.
  • Bonnen, and especially Dustin Burrows, are super thin-skinned about criticisms of the session.  They spend a quarter of the discussion trying to spin the results to Sullivan.  At one point, Burrows laughably accuses Sullivan of gaslighting the members.
  • According to Dustin Burrows, Allan Blakemore told Mike Schofield not to campaign last fall.
    • Note: It's not really relevant to this discussion...but why does anyone hire Allan Blakemore anymore?!?
  • Burrows claims the list is about members who voted against the ban on taxpayer funded lobbying, but Ken King and Gary van Deaver also voted against the ban and didn't make the list.
  • The list: Steve Allison, Trent Ashby, Dirty Ernie (Bailes), Travis Clardy ("the ringleader of all opposition" according to Burrows), Drew Darby, Kyle Kacal, Stan Lambert, Tan Parker, John Raney, Phil Stephenson.
    • Note: While they didn't make the list, Burrows also made disparaging remarks about Doc Anderson, Keith Bell, and John Smithee.
  • We don't know if 12 jurors vote to convict, but neither would it surprise us.
  • This author is not a lawyer, and we don't know the legal intricacies of this case, but there's no political reason not to release the recording publicly.
Bottom Line: Like it or not, this story will stick around as long as Dennis Bonnen sticks around....

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Van Duyne campaign = GOP's opportunity on Housing

"And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands."
Psalm 90:17

Former Irving mayor Beth Van Duyne has left her post at the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s office in Fort Worth.

She confirmed she is running for the 24th Congressional District after Rep. Kenny Marchant announced he’s retiring.

Van Duyne said she’ll make a formal announcement soon.
In 2015, we called van Duyne our "Texan of the Year."  It was a one-time award, designed for specific circumstances.  But we've been following her for awhile.

Over the past few years, during her time at HUD, van Duyne has come through town several times.  Thus, we've had several occasions to discuss the dysfunctional nature of federal housing policy.  None of the conversations were Earth shattering, but van Duyne knows her stuff.

It's not a secret that this website has been harping about housing costs for YEARS.  It's the largest item in most household budgets.  Reducing them is one of the lowest of the low hanging pieces of economic fruit.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Republicans are oblivious.

We'll defer to the candidate on policy.  There are a number of worthwhile possibilities.  Off the top of our head: HUD, the Federal housing administration, and Fannie/Freddie could all use significant reform/scaling back/outright elimination.  We're not sure where to draw the line between what we really want and what's realistically achievable.

Bottom Line: It's hard to think of a candidate better suited to address the largest item in most household budgets....

Media Misses Point On GOP Congressional Retirements

"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

Representative sample of recent Congressional race reporting:
Rep. Kenny Marchant on Monday became the latest Texas Republican to announce he will not run for reelection, leaving a suburban district between Dallas and Fort Worth up for grabs. He is the fourth Republican in the state to bow out of the 2020 election; three of them represent very competitive districts.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates Marchant’s district as a “toss-up,” opening up a major opportunity for Democrats. Last week, Rep. Will Hurd, the House’s only black Republican, who represents a border district in Texas, also said he would be stepping down. Hurd was seen as the only Republican who could hold on to his border district, which runs from El Paso to San Antonio — a district that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Rep. Pete Olson, who represents a quickly diversifying Houston suburban district, is also not running for reelection.

House Democrats are reveling in a “Texodus” as they increasingly see an offensive strategy to grow their House majority running through the Lone Star State.
Kinda, sorta...a little...but not really.

The truth is that (with the possible exception of the Hurd district) the GOP is clearing dead weight.  Lukewarm incumbents with indefensible records are TERRIBLE general election candidates.  The GOP is in a stronger position today than it was three weeks ago.

Back in March, we wrote a piece outlining the math.  You really should read the whole thing.  But the TL,DR version is that, in 2018, the GOP held every single open seat while two incumbents lost.

Also, for the record: One of those incumbents who lost was a guy about whom we'd been warning for years.

In a challenging national environment, the last thing you need is additional baggage from an incumbent's indefensible record.

Bottom Line: During a storm, clearing excess weight doesn't guarantee avoiding shipwreck, but it dramatically increases the odds.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Patrick channels Marge Simpson

"The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly,
But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness."
Proverbs 15:2

Oh good grief:
Appearing on "Fox & Friends" on Sunday, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that while authorities have yet to classify it as such, he saw Saturday's shooting as a "hate crime against immigrants."

Patrick cited a list of possible contributing factors, starting with video games.

"We've always had guns, always had evil, but I see a video game industry that teaches young people to kill," he said.

The Simpsons addressed this 30 years ago:
After Bart and Lisa watching an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon, Maggie strikes Homer with a mallet. Marge is horrified and vows to put a stop to violence on children's television. But when the ball of censorship starts to roll, where will it all end?
Roger Myers' response to Marge, updated for new technology, is also the correct response to Patrick:
“In preparing for this debate I did a little research, and I discovered a startling thing. There was violence in the past, long before [video games] were invented....And there was something called The Crusades, for instance, tremendous violence, many people killed, the darn thing went on for thirty years!”
Bottom Line: Marge Simpson belatedly figured out that her position was asinine...will Dan Patrick?!?

#TXLEGE: Oh, Dennis

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

Even from 1500 miles away, it was pretty difficult to miss to continued devolution of the Bonnen saga.

To write a full analysis of the past week would require more time than we have interest, but some thoughts:
  • When we've been saying, for years, that state government in Texas is astonishingly corrupt...this is a pretty good example.
  • The members defending Bonnen are a bunch of dickless chodes.
    • aka. Mayes Middleton, Matt Shaheen, Drew Springer, Craig Goldman, and...especially...Jeff Leach.
    • Update: Add James White, Scott Sanford, Brad Buckley, and Cole Hefner to the list.
    • Update II: Add Tom Oliverson.
  • We haven't seen this level of willful blindness to serious misconduct since Wallace Hall.
  • Whether or not Bonnen survives as speaker is irrelevant.  Anyone who can get to 76 votes will be a scumbag.  Gib Lewis, Pete Laney, Tom Craddick, Joe Straus, and Dennis Bonnen have all sucked.
  • This is the same Texas house that, nearly two years into the scandal, has yet to say a word about Jim Murphy.
  • Does the Travis County DA have jurisdiction?!?
  • This is FUN!!!
Bottom Line: These people brought this on themselves and deserve everything that's coming....