Saturday, August 8, 2020

#TXLEGE: Fallon's Departure Virtually GUARANTEES Texas Senate Moves (significantly) Left


"A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself;
The simple pass on and are punished."
Proverbs 27:12

Meh:
SULPHUR SPRINGS — State Sen. Pat Fallon, R-Prosper, has won the Republican nomination to replace former U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Heath, on the November ballot — and will likely succeed him.

Fallon prevailed Saturday on the first ballot held by county and precinct chairs who had been tasked with replacing Ratcliffe on the November ballot. Fallon won a clear majority of the group, getting 82 votes. The runner-up was former Ratcliffe staffer Jason Ross, who received 34 votes.

The district is solidly red, so Fallon is expected to win in November even though a Democrat, Russell Foster, is also on the ballot.
Congratulations to Pat Fallon. We guess. Although we must confess we find the decision to voluntarily spend time in Washington D.C. to be strange.

But here's where things get really depressing: There is no obvious **good** person lined up to succeed Pat Fallon in the Texas Senate.

Consider the state reps whose districts overlap SD-30:

  •  James Frank -- Meh.
  •  Reggie Smith -- Who?!?
  •  Shelby Slawson (pending) -- Too green.
  •  Tan Parker -- LOL.
  •  Phil King -- Meh.
Of those turds, James Frank probably has the most polish.  King and Parker **MIGHT** cross a minimum threshold of acceptability.  But everyone on that list is significantly to the left of Pat Fallon.

Of course, the possiblity exists that someone from completely outside politics might enter the race. We hope that heppens. Because, as you can see, the pickings among current legislators is pretty slim.

Bottom Line: Whatever ultimately happens to Pat Fallon in D.C., you've just injected massive uncertainty into a Texas Senate that had previously been in relatively solid hands.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Austin Chronicle reporter launches sexist broadside against...local Mommy bloggers?!?


"Strength and honor are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come."
Proverbs 31:25


For those who've never heard of it, the Austin Moms blog is...exactly what it sounds like.  It's a generally apolitical group blog focused on lifestyle and parenting.  They're not particularly relevant to this author, but we are familiar with them.  FWIW, they have a strong testimony in the appropriate circles.

Austin Sanders, meanwhile, has been the city hall correspondent for the Austin chronicle for about a year.

Anyways, apparently the Moms are participating in an anti-sex trafficking initiative. Furthermore, apparently, as part of this initiative they're working with a PR company that also has clients in the law enforcement community. None of this sounds controversial.

Right?!?

Apparently not:





Yeah.

Lest you think this was some misunderstanding, the following exchange happened shortly thereafter:





None dare call it mansplaining.

It's almost enough to make you miss Michael King.

Almost.

Bottom Line: None of this is surprising. At least, not really. The Austin Chronicle has been the worst of the worst in local media for a long time. Still, even by their standards, going after Mothers and sex trafficking surviors is...quite something.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

#atxcouncil: Lying Lawless Liars do what Lying Lawless Liars do


"If a ruler pays attention to lies,
All his servants become wicked."

Proverbs 29:12

Not even a little surprising:
A petition to reinstate Austin's ban on public camping—abolished a year ago in a widely-debated move by Austin City Council to address homelessness—does not have enough signatures to make it on the November ballot, Austin City Clerk Jannette Goodall ruled Wednesday.

On July 21, the local nonprofit group "Save Austin Now" said they had collected 24,598 signatures—well over the 20,000 required to put their initiative on the ballot in November.

In reviewing the petition, however, the city clerk said she discovered a number of issues.

Nearly a hundred signatures were removed because of requests from signers. The clerk's office also discovered that the petition contained two versions of the language being proposed in the ordinance, which led to 397 signatures being removed. Of the remaining 24,201 signatures, the clerk's office used a random sample to verify the petition.
Furthermore:
When Austin City Clerk Jannette Goodall ruled yesterday that a petition to reinstate the city's ban on public camping did not have enough signatures to make the November ballot, it was the first time since 2002 that the city invalidated a petition because of lack of signatures, she told Austonia on Thursday.

Goodall used a random sampling method that the city adopted in 2002 in her review, according to a city spokesperson. State law allows cities to use any reasonable sampling method in determining whether citizen-led petitions contain the required number of signatures.

Matt Mackowiak, a cofounder of Save Austin Now, the group behind the petition, said Thursday that the group has not yet decided what legal action it may take. In an email sent to Austonia, he wrote that their deadline is "as soon as possible."

Mackowiak, who is also the chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, said in a statement issued Wednesday evening that it is exploring legal action in response to the clerk's ruling.

Local attorney and activist Fred Lewis - who has spearheaded other citizen-initiated petitions, including one last year that opposed an expansion of the Austin Convention Center - said he would expect the group to file very soon, likely with the state district court.

This is because the last day for the city to order a referendum in the November election is Aug. 17, according to the state election schedule.

"You're talking two or three weeks this has got to be decided - at most," Lewis said. "The court may not be able to decide it in that time."
There's not really a lot to say.

There are two realistic possibilities:
  • The city is lying (almost certainly correct).
  • The city is interpreting state law in the friendliest way possible.
Honestly, that's a distinction without a difference.

Either way, this development was completely predictable.

We hope Save Austin Now has planned for this contingency.

Bottom Line: People and institutions with a track record for dishonesty behaving dishonestly shouldn't surprise anyone.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

#atxcouncil: COVID, Homelessness, and the ongoing lunacy


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

Austonia has a write up this morning about a homeless encampment in central Austin. The whole thing is worth a read. But let's focus on this one sentence:

Due to the pandemic, however, the city has implemented a moratorium on clean-up efforts.

Can we take a second and reflect on how insane that is?!?

We had planned to write a long post on this topic, but apparently we did that in March:
Is this a joke?!?

At a time when 90% of the city is shut down due to a mayoral edict...they're going to allow homeless encampments to remain in place?!?

No, really...is this a joke?!?

We said our piece on this topic when they shut down #Sx, but it bears repeating: Under normal circumstances, we think the so-called 'public health' claims about homeless encampments are exaggerated. The real issue with the encampments is the petty crime and general unsightliness. In the current situation, however, homeless encampments ought to be the first place you look to shut down transmission of infectious diseases.

Instead, those are the one place that will be left completely alone.

Lunacy.
Here we are, almost six months later. The only thing that's changed is that we're now only about 50% closed.  And that edicts are coming from the governor as well as the mayor.

But we're still allowing homeless encampments to fester during a global pandemic.

Madness.

Bottom Line: It's astounding that, half a year into a global pandemic, we're still having this conversation...yet here we are.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Abbott/Dead Armadillos: An Ongoing Series (Part 5 - School Reopenings)


"So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth."
Revelation 3:16

Greg Abbott's education commissioner, last Friday:
"[A] blanket order closing schools does not constitute a legally issued closure order for purposes of funding solely remote instruction for an indefinite period of time."
Greg Abbott today:
[S]chools “have until November” to open up for in-person education, Abbott said.
For all of the convoluted lawyer talk, in plain English Abbott did something between flip flopping and caving.

Honestly, at this point, it's not even about Abbott's policy (does he really have one?!?). It's about the fact that he doesn't stick with anything longer than three days. It's indecisive and weak.

We will confess to mixed feelings on this particular topic. Thus, we could potentially be convinced that either end of this spectrum is correct. But we can't endorse this lukewarm muddle.

As we wrote in April:
Abbott's already pissed off the stay-home-forever crowd. Now, he's pissing of a not-insignificant part of his base. He's creating a rather difficult needle to thread for himself.
Subsitute the current reopening schools discussion for April's discussion of lockdowns, and the same dynamic remains at play.

Bottom Line: Half measures mean that you get all of the political pain with none of the public policy benefit.  That's why you should generally avoid them.  Yet here we are.

Monday, August 3, 2020

For the First Time in AGES, State of Texas Does Something Right


"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of correction will drive it far from him."
Proverbs 22:15


Some good news:
Rumors and intel flew around for days leading up to Saturday, August 1. Dozens of activists were being bused into Austin, Texas, from Portland and Seattle to do to this city what they have done to both of those. Rumors suggested they wanted to destroy Austin police headquarters, the Texas state capitol, or both.

....

[I]nformation suggested the groups intended to attack Austin police headquarters. The headquarters building has been the site of protests and often violent riots over the past two months. The activists have attempted to storm the building in the past but failed.

Saturday’s protest activity was billed as the biggest yet, at least in part due to the shooting of Garrett Foster. Foster was the man who apparently pointed his AK-47 rifle at the car window of driver Daniel Perry while protesters surrounded and pounded on his car during an unpermitted protest and illegal taking of the public street just before 10 p.m. on July 25. Perry, an Army sergeant and licensed handgun carrier, fired his weapon after Foster had used his rifle to order Perry to roll his car window down. Pointing a gun at someone can, obviously, be read as hostile action. Texas’s castle law covers drivers in vehicles defending themselves, including the use of deadly force.

APD and the Texas Department of Public Safety were ready for Saturday’s action, making this post short.
There isn't a lot more to say.

Saturday had the potential to be bad. Really bad. But it wasn't.

For those who are interested, there's plenty of video footage on social media. You're welcome to check. But the main takeaway was that, by having DPS back up APD...not much happened. A situation with a lot of ugly potential was rendered a non-story.

Also, the GOP might have just made the case (despite the underformance 95%(+) of the time) for keeping themselves in charge of the state.

Bottom Line: Saturday night could have been a lot worse.

Friday, July 31, 2020

#TXLEGE: Yikes for Tinderholt


"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord."
James 5:14

That's not good:

State Rep. Tony Tinderholt was hospitalized last week after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, the lawmaker confirmed Friday to The Texas Tribune, marking the first known case involving a member of the Texas Legislature.

"I truly thought last Friday was gonna be my last," Tinderholt, an Arlington Republican, said in a text message to the Tribune. Tinderholt said his wife and two of his children also tested positive for the virus, though their symptoms were less severe.

Tinderholt said he is recovering after receiving medical treatment from a North Texas doctor. He and his family wore masks every time they went out in public because they felt it was the right thing to do, he said.

....

While Tinderholt acknowledged the virus is a "serious illness," he reiterated Friday his position that Abbott shutting down parts of the economy is wrong.

"Closing the entire economy and halting business as well as illegally taking people's freedoms are absolutely the wrong things to do to Texas, Texans and our nation," Tinderholt said.

Tinderholt said his recovery was largely thanks to state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, who referred him to Dr. Brian Procter of McKinney Family Medicine. Procter, Tinderholt said, told him that out of the few hundred patients he has seen so far for the coronavirus, the lawmaker was among "the worst five he had handled." Tinderholt said he was considered at risk for the virus due to his titanium aortic heart valve.

Confession: We were today years old when we learned Tony Tinderholt had a titanium valve in his heart.

Bottom Line: Get well soon Tony.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

#atxcouncil: Flannigan's proposal would beget bureaucratic turf wars/"information siloing"


"Every prudent man acts with knowledge,
But a fool lays open his folly."


Since Jimmy Flannigan made his "Defund APD" proposal the other day, there's been a lot of ink spilled over his call to physically demolish APD headquarters.  That's fine.  It's certainly newsworthy.
In fairness to Jimmy Flannigan, this website has been calling for moving governmental offices out of the downtown area for at least five years.  Technically, this could fit under that rubric.  If this proposal were being made by someone trustworthy, it **MIGHT** be worth considering.

Unfortunately, this proposal is being made by Jimmy Flannigan.

But there's a lot more to Flannigan's proposal than the physical location of APD's offices.

Specifically, Flannigan wants to split the current police departments in five component parts:

*** Department of Emergency Communications & Technology 
- Civilian Director of Emergency Communications 
- Budget of approx. $65mil (incl. support & transfers)
- Responsible for 9-1-1/CTECC, regional intelligence, records management, forensics, and emergency-specific technology

*** Department of Patrol
- Sworn Director of Patrol designated by the city manager and approved by the city council (according to state law). This department head could be designated as one of the 5 commanders that make up a geographically broad “Commander’s Council” to help democratize patrol leadership, ensure more diverse voices are making state-law-required decisions, and ensure a ready list of alternative department heads if necessary.
- Budget of approx. $197mil (incl. support & transfers)
- Responsible for DTAC & 4 Regions of patrol, tactical, and district reps 

*** Department of Investigations 
- Sworn Director of Investigations designated by the city manager and approved by the city council (according to state law).  
- Budget of approx. $95mil (incl. support & transfers)
- Responsible for detectives, investigations, and organized crime units

*** Department of Traffic Safety 
- Sworn Director of Traffic Safety designated by the city manager and approved by the city council (according to state law).  
- Budget of approx. $25mil (incl. support & transfers)
- Works in partnership with the Austin Transportation Department and should have mobility-focused civilian executive management in the Manager’s office

*** Department of Professional Standards
- Sworn Director of Professional Standards designated by the city manager and approved by the city council (according to state law).
- Budget of approx. $25mil (incl. support & transfers)
- Covers Internal Affairs, Recruiting, and Training. Future cadet class decisions would impact this part of the budget and would help separate those dollars from being reallocated without Council authority.
It doesn't take a genius to see how this unfolds: The new departments spend more time fighting each other than fighting crime. Political Fiefdoms develop. The five department heads game the new system so that nothing is ever 'their' fault. Accountability disappears.

On the bright side, creating five new municipal departments could create five new cottage industries for lobbyists.

So there's that.

Here's what's really crazy:
An information silo is an information management system that is unable to freely communicate with other information management systems. Communication within an information silo is always vertical, making it difficult or impossible for the system to work with unrelated systems.
In the event, God forbid, that Flannigan's proposal were to become reality...information siloing is pretty much guaranteed.

Nature of the beast.

That's before you account for the fact that this has to go through the rest of council.

Yikes.

Bottom Line: This is all completely predictable.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Lying Liar Ross Bjork LIES about Texas and Rivalry Restoration


"Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
But those who deal truthfully are His delight."
Proverbs 12:22



[Note: For those of you who aren't aware, Ross Bjork is the Aggy athletic director.]

Which begged the obvious response:

Furthermore:

You can read the full article here, but the TL,DR version is that Chris del Conte pretty much called Ross Bjork a coward to his face. Del Conte also told Bjork that A&M was hurting college football by refusing to play. Bjork responded with a bunch of political non-answers.

This was less than a year ago.

What's remarkable about this isn't so much the substance of what Bjork said. It's not a secret that A&M are a bunch of puss...panzies who are afraid to play Texas. That's not new.

What is new is the chutzpah of Ross Bjork trying to claim that Texas has ever been anything other than crystal clear on this topic.

And that Ross Bjork did so in a way that was so easily Googleable.

Apparently, in addition to being a coward, Ross Bjork is also a liar.

Real winner you've got there A&M.

Bottom Line:  To make such a flagrantly false, yet easily verifiable, claim is dumb even by A&M's standards.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

#TXLEGE: Beckely, Bonnen, and how Texas Democrats missed another opportunity


"But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."
James 2:18

Yesterday, in our post about the bizarre beef between Dennis Bonnen and Michelle Beckley, we wrote:
[B]eing attacked by Bonnen is pretty much the best thing that could happen to Michelle Beckley

It's now been 24 hours since that post.  And 48 hours since the original kerfuffle.  Yet, except for one tweet that causally refers to Bonnen, we've yet to hear a word about this from Beckley.  At least according to her campaign website, Facebook page, or Twitter feed.

And that's revealing in and of itself.

We don't want to litigate any dispute between Bonnen and Beckley.  According to sources that reached out to us after yesterday's post, Bonnen's personal dislike for her might have reasonably decent explanation.  That's not the point.  The point is that, politically, when you're personally attacked by a corrupt speaker of the other party...it's probably a good idea to tell people.

Michelle Beckley should have been campaigning on "having been personally attacked by a corrupt Republican speaker" (or something similar) for the past year.  Having failed to do that, she could have belatedly launched that campaign after this weekend's incident.  She's done neither.  It's a textbook example of what we discussed Saturday (and in January) (and last November).

Bottom Line: Given the state/national environment, it might not matter...but if it's close.

Monday, July 27, 2020

#TXLEGE: What's Bonnen's beef with Michelle Beckley?!?


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

Going back to when we first listened to the audio recording last summer, we've always been struck by Dennis Bonnen's obsession with Michelle Beckley.  Obviously, anyone who know this author knows we don't care about PG-13 language.  Still, for a sitting speaker to get into that level of vulgarity against an irrelevant back bencher is...odd.

But then, over the weekend, this happened:


Bonnen goes on to link to this Denton Record-Chronicle piece about some extremely vague allegations that Beckley might have made some racially charged comments a few years ago.  Who knows.  Maybe.  But does anyone actually believe that Dennis Bonnen, of all people, actually cares about that?!?

Cuz' we don't.

We strongly suspect that something happened last session that isn't public knowledge.  We don't know what.  But it's the most plausible explanation for how Bonnen's behaving.

Bottom Line: There's GOT to be a backstory here.  Whatever that backstory might be, however, being attacked by Bonnen is pretty much the best thing that could happen to Michelle Beckley.  How odd.

-------

Note: If anybody knows any more details, do feel free to e-mail us at cahnman@hotmail.com.  Confidentiality obviously respected.  Please don't send us direct messages on Facebook or Twitter.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

#TXLEGE: Still more Bi-Partisan Political Malpractice


"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

Yesterday, KXAN offered a preview of the fall campaign in Texas.  In so doing, they unintentionally offered a snapshot with what's wrong with both parties.  Here's the offending section:

Outgoing Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen said “We need to do better,” when asked if Republicans are doing enough to connect with voters virtually during the pandemic.

“I would encourage all Texans to participate and not just participate by voting,” Bonnen told KXAN, noting, too, that some virtual campaigning has included negativity on social media and that people should instead participate in a positive manner. “It’s of great importance that they engage and that they be part of that discussion and that commentary so that their voice is not run over.”
Before we get to the political stuff, let us make a non-partisan point: It is disgusting and disgraceful, and insulting to any notion of honest government, for Dennis Bonnen to be quoted in this article.

However, given that Bonnen was quoted in the article is begs some follow up questions for both parties.

For the GOP:
  • On what planet is this a good look?!?  Even if you don't care about Bonnen's corruption (which you obviously don't), it doesn't take a genius to see that he's a gigantic political liability.  Why is he speaking on behalf of your party?!?  Of course, we've been making this point for nearly a year.
For the Democrats:
  • Given that Bonnen keeps insisting upon thrusting himself into the news, why aren't you making him a campaign issue?!?  He should be a household name by now.  That he isn't might just be the single most astounding squandered opportunity in the history of politics.
In researching this blog post, we found this gem from last November: Republicans still deserve to lose...but Democrats don't deserve to win.

Not a lot has changed since then.  Republicans are still awful (and getting worse).  But the Democrats...still...seem to dumb to take (or at least maximize) advantage.

Then again...well.

Another data point: For as much of a debacle as the GOP convention has been and remains, have the Democrats really taken advantage?!?  Besides some snarky commentary on social media?!?  Have they actually done anything?!?

Not that we can tell.

We can't believe we're saying this, but for the first time in ages we can see a plausible path for something resembling the status quo to prevail.

It's completely pathetic, but it might just be the case.

We can't believe we just typed that.

Bottom Line:  GOP keeps handing D's opportunities.  But D's keep squandering them.  It's quite something.

Friday, July 24, 2020

If Chad Prather's serious


"Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens."
Exodus 18:21

Chad Prather recently spoke with Texas Scorecard about his recently declared run for Governor in '22:


Highlights:
  • If he's talking to Empower first, that's a good sign.
  •  "Texas isn't the Texas that most Texans think it is."
    • Ain't THAT the truth.
  •  "Anti-mandatory anything."
  •  Education system: "Moving kids toward a socialist worldview."
  •  Lives just outside of Ft. Worth (Johnson county).
  •  Says more in support of constitutional carry in one interview than Greg Abbott has ever.
    • "I don't like to see Oklahoma leading the charge" on 2A issues.
    •  Once again, ain't THAT the truth.
  • "We are expansion, we are growth."
    • Note: More of this please.
  •  "We've got to stop overlegislating everything."
It's an ok start.

That being said, we're not particularly inspired.

Prather seems to demonstrate a good grasp of certain foundational principles of governance.  That's good, so far as it goes.  But we're not really hearing anything specific to Texas.  And, well, that's important.

Texas is governed by its own unique blend of crony capitalism (aka. the good ol' boy system).  That's why things are the way that they are in this state.  To govern this state effectively, you need to understand that system without getting caught up in it (which might, unfortunately, be impossible).

Also: What powers currently possessed by the Governor of Texas does Chad Prather intend to use?!?  How does he intend to use them?!?  How would Chad Prather use those powers differently than Greg Abbott?!?  Does Chad Prather even know the specific powers delegated to the Governor under the Texas constitution?!?

Don't get us wrong, we'd vote for Chad Prather in a heartbeat over anyone else likely to appear on the 2022 ballot (ie. Greg Abbott and/or George P. Bush).  But there are light years of difference between being an acceptable protest vote and actual viability.  To say nothing of governing in the event you win.

So, we'll see.

Bottom Line: Lotta unresolved questions.  Plenty of time, however, to resolve them.  Situation worth monitoring.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Elon Musk to Austin could get fun


"But You, O God, shall bring them down to the pit of destruction;
Bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days;
But I will trust in You."
Psalm 55:23

So it's official:
Austin will soon be home to a $1.1 billion Gigafactory, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk announced during the company's quarterly earnings update on Wednesday.

"We're going to make it a factory that's going to be stunning," he told investors, adding that construction is "already underway."

As proposed, the factory will be located on a 2,000-acre site in Southeast Travis County. It will provide at least 5,000 jobs and produce the Cybertruck pickup and the Model Y, a midsize SUV.

Both Del Valle ISD and Travis County offered Tesla tax rebates to build the factory in Austin.
First, allow us to state the obvious: As a resident of both Travis County and Del Valle ISD, we completely oppose giving special treatment to Tesla. Broad base, low rates, and all that. That we've been busy with other things, and had higher priorities recently, should not be mistaken for assent.

However...this is a deal that could blow up in the faces of a whole bunch of politicians who deserve it.

It's not a secret that Musk doesn't suffer petty tyrants well.  Unfortunately for Musk, that's what most of our state and local elected officials actually are in reality.  Eventually, Elon Musk is going to figure out that reality.  When that happens, it will be glorious.

About a month ago, following the Peter Rex/WSJ op-ed, we wrote a long post about why CEO's from other locations should no longer buy they company line about either Austin or Texas.  In terms of substance, the points we made to Peter Rex are the same as the points we'd make to Elon Musk.  But the TL,DR version is that both of them have fallen for a company line about both Austin and Texas that's no longer relevant.  Dazed and Confused was three decades ago.

Of course, that's before we get to the fact that Tesla's business model remains illegal in the state of Texas.

The whole thing's gonna be a shitshow.

Bottom Line: Obviously, this is a terrible deal for taxpayers.  We get that.  But taxpayers get hosed all the time (especially in this town).  In terms of entertainment value, however, the gloriousness of the coming debacle could easily make this very, very, worth it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Quinnipiac Poll confirms a bunch of stuff we already knew


"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

Brutal:

AUSTIN — Democratic challenger Joe Biden has a 1-point lead over President Donald Trump in Texas, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released Wednesday.

The same poll of registered voters shows Republican Gov. Greg Abbott hemorrhaging support over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The survey shows 47% of Texans approving of the governor's approach while 48% disapprove. That is a swing of 21 percentage points from early June.

….

And Abbott's overall approval rate is 48%, with 44% disapproving.

In Quinnipiac's poll released in early June, Abbott had a 56-32 percent job approval rating. The governor is not up for re-election this year.
Again, none of this is news.  It's just further documented proof of a trend that's been obvious for months.  That being said, Ted Cruz's numbers remained surprisingly strong.

Bottom Line: The game isn't over, but we're getting into the later innings and it doesn't look like the home team has a clue about what it's doing.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

#TXLEGE: The Budget Outlook Remains Pretty Brutal


"Son of man, when a land sins against Me by persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch out My hand against it; I will cut off its supply of bread, send famine on it, and cut off man and beast from it."
Ezekiel 14:13

Hoo boy:
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar delivered bleak but unsurprising news Monday: Because of the economic fallout triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, the amount of general revenue available for the state’s current two-year budget is projected to be roughly $11.5 billion less than originally estimated. That puts the state on track to end the biennium, which runs through August 2021, with a deficit of nearly $4.6 billion, Hegar said.

Those figures are a significant downward revision from Hegar’s last revenue estimate in October 2019, when the comptroller said the state would have over $121 billion to spend on its current budget and end the biennium with a surplus of nearly $2.9 billion. The state, Hegar said, will now have roughly $110 billion to work with for the current budget.

Hegar’s latest estimate, he stressed in a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders, carries “an unprecedented amount of uncertainty” and could change drastically in the coming months, thanks to the pandemic and, to a lesser extent, a recent drop in oil prices.

“We have had to make assumptions about the economic impact of COVID-19, the duration and effects of which remain largely unknown,” Hegar wrote. “Our forecast assumes restrictions [on businesses and people] will be lifted before the end of this calendar year, but that economic activity will not return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this biennium.”
Keep in mind:

  • This is just the current two-year budget cycle, the numbers are even worse for the next cycle (although, to be fair, there are several years for the economy to recover in the interim).
  • This doesn't account for the way they have to backfill the regular Medicaid shortfall.
Bottom Line: Next session is going to be miserable for the powers that be (the silver lining, of course, is that they deserve it).

Monday, July 20, 2020

Everything You Need to Know about the RPT Debacle (in one tweet)


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


Saturday, July 18, 2020

Friday, July 17, 2020

The Saga Continues


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


UPDATE:


-------

ORIGINAL POST:

This speaks for itself:

The Texas Republican Party has postponed its state convention by a day to give itself more time to figure out technical issues that plagued the virtual gathering Thursday.

After a nearly four-hour meeting that ended after midnight on Friday, the State Republican Executive Committee voted 51-5 to resume convention business Saturday instead of later Friday. The delay was encouraged by party Chairman James Dickey, who expressed uncertainty throughout the night that the party could start the convention again Friday without encountering further problems related to its online credentialing process.

....

Now, with the SREC vote, convention business will not begin again until Saturday morning, likely about 8 a.m., Dickey said. That also means the convention will last a day later than originally scheduled, going into Sunday.

For weeks, the party had pushed to hold an in-person convention in Houston, one that was expected to draw thousands of people, even as coronavirus cases spiked across the state. After exhausting legal options earlier this week, party officials moved forward with the virtual meeting, which they said they had long been preparing for as a backup plan.

The saga has been especially high-stakes for Dickey, who faces a serious challenge to his chairmanship from Allen West, the former Florida congressman.
Honestly...what is there to say at this point...except...well:

via GIPHY



Bottom Line: If we cared, this would be depressing. But we don't. So it's funny.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Hegar (Completely Accurately) Kicks Cornyn in Teeth


"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


Back in January, we sat down to analyze a potential general election between MJ Hegar and John Cornyn. It turned into a lot of work, so we never finished it. With that field now set, maybe it makes sense to loop back. We'll see.

But the TL,DR version is that MJ Hegar is a **VERY** good candidate. And John Cornyn's record is completely indefensible. And that's not a good place for any three term incumbent.

In her opening salvo of the general election, Hegar illustrates why:



Ignore the first minute. It's the type of self-promoting fluff you see from any politician. For our purposes, what matters is her takedown of Cornyn in minute two.

Specifically, Hegar makes three claims:
  • Cornyn's poll numbers suck.
  • Cornyn's made several asinine comments about COVID (which she plays in all of their excruciating detail).
  • In response to Cornyn's gaffes: "That's ridiculous."
Here's the thing: All three of those claims are accurate.

[Note: See here and here.]

Furthermore, that's just the past few months.  John Cornyn has three terms worth of baggage.  If Hegar can exploit it....

Bottom Line: This race...could get interesting.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

GOP Runoff Quick Takes: Basically A Muddle


"Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens."
Exodus 18:21


[Note: We didn't really do that...but what else is new.]

We don't really feel like doing a long analysis of what happened, but some thoughts:
  • Abbott had an ok night.  But it wasn't anything special.  He's not really an asset, but neither is he toxic.  Long-term fate remains TBD.
  • Dan Flynn and J.D. Sheffield prove that incumbents with really bad records can still get popped.
  • Justin Berry and Glen Rodgers prove that, in open seat races where you can pretend to be all things to all people, good ol' boy cash can get you across the finish line.
  • Speaking of those two, it's going to be fascinating to see what happens to their districts after redistricting...but we suspect both will have to introduce themselves to a lot of new voters in two years.
  • Carrie Isaac and Shelby Slawson prove that good candidates win.
  • Kathleen Wall proves that, no matter how much of your own money you light on fire, baseless, over-the-top accusations rarely stick.  Such a waste.  Congratulations Kathleen, you're the new David Dewhurst.
Bottom Line: A bunch of stuff we already knew got proven all over again.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Runoff Elections 2020: What 2 Watch 4


"For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life."
Galatians 6:8

With runoff elections today, here are some things on which to keep an eye. We don't claim this list is comprehensive. Nevertheless, it's what we'll be watching for.

Democrats:

  • U.S. Senate -- We've been meaning to do a longer writeup on this topic for about six months, but haven't gotten around to it.  Nevertheless, MJ Hegar is, easily and by far, the most compelling Democrat to run for statewide office in at least a decade.  Royce West, by contrast, is a rather middling state senator.

    Cornyn's 100% safe against West. He's probably about 85% safe against Hegar. In the event, however, that Donald Trump and Greg Abbott continue to run the national/statewide environment into the ground, do NOT underestimate her.
  • Travis County County/District Attorney -- While they aren't related, Delia and Jose Garza are running for those respective criminal justice positions on essentially pro-criminal platforms.  Woe unto all of us if either of them wins. Both are favorites.
  • Dutton/Lucio -- Two of the more conservative Democrats in the legislature face unexpected runoffs.  Both seem likely to win comfortably...but we would have said that in the first round.  Major implications for next session if either falls short.

Republicans:

  • Abbott's coattails -- Honestly, this is the only GOP question that matters right now.  Abbott's made a big show out of endorsing in five races.  In two others he's made endorsements that are essentially gimmes.

    Abbott really needs to run the table; if he loses more than one of these races, it's a **MAJOR** embarrassment.
  • HD-60 (Francis/Rogers):  Foremost among races where Greg Abbott has run his mouth is this open seat race for an otherwise obscure state rep seat west of Ft. Worth.  Jon Francis is the consensus conservative candidate.  Abbott recently declared war on Francis' family.

    Ted Cruz, by contrast, has endorsed Francis.

    Abbott really needs his candidate (Glen Rodgers) to clear 60%.
  • Morrow's race: Barring a (richly deserved) act of Divine retribution, the latest season of "Robert Morrow torments the Texas GOP" likely ends tonight.

    Nevertheless, it's been (really, really, really) funny.

    The final margin will still be interesting. Had the GOP handled this situation even remotely competently, Morrow wouldn't clear 10%. If Morrow gets north of 30%, that's an embarrassment for the GOP, no matter how they try to spin it.
Again, this list isn't comprehensive.

[Note: Texas Scorecard has an analysis of both parties Congressional runoffs here.]

Bottom Line: The macro-narratives are "can the Dems seize an opportunity (for once)" vs. "can the GOP avoid utterly, totally, and completely humiliating themselves (all over again)."  We don't pretend to know the answer.  Stay tuned.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Failure Theater Reaches It's Completely Predictable Conclusion


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

Annnnnnnnnnnnd in the least surprising news of the day:

The Republican Party of Texas' executive committee voted Monday evening to hold its statewide convention online, concluding a weekslong whirlwind of controversy and legal battles over initial plans to hold an in-person event during the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

After exhausting legal options, the party's State Republican Executive Committee, a 64- member governing board, met virtually Monday to consider moving the convention online. The vote was 53-4.

Monday's vote is the latest development in a saga over whether the party would end up hosting what was expected to be a roughly 6,000-person event in an area of the state that has emerged as one of the country's hot spots for the coronavirus. The gathering, before Houston officials canceled it last week, was scheduled to begin Thursday at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Earlier Monday, the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the party seeking to host the convention as scheduled in a 7-1 ruling. Justices also denied a similar petition spearheaded by other party officials and Steve Hotze, a conservative activist based in Houston. Later on Monday, a Harris County District Court also ruled against the party, effectively killing the party's chances of proceeding with its in-person gathering.

What's left to say?!?

Except this:


Adios Texas house.

Bottom Line: "...if you can keep it."

Bonnen and Ramsey ratchet up the gaslighting


"Behold, the noise of the report has come,
And a great commotion out of the north country,
To make the cities of Judah desolate, a den of jackals."
Jeremiah 10:22


Dennis Bonnen yesterday:

After more than 20 years in the Texas political arena, I know that, sadly, our state (and maybe even our species) is overpopulated with critics and naysayers who find it easier to disparage the efforts of leaders than to affirm and encourage them as they do what is right for the whole state, not just their particular political sect. (Incidentally, some of them have made a very nice living doing so.)

In the very recent past, the critics have come out in force to disparage and censure one of the great governors our state has known. I think of Governor Greg Abbott when I read the rest of the quote:

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.“
Theodore Roosevelt
Today, as our state battles a resurgent pandemic, political nincompoops have chosen to waste time and energy drafting resolutions to censure a man who has been working around the clock for the past four months to protect our state from a deadly virus.
Ross Ramsey this morning:

The trolls are real.

Gov. Greg Abbott is feeling the derision of restive activists in his own party.

They’re noisy — and powerless. They work with the same machinery used by trolls on social media, who labor in the hope that public shaming of their enemies might give them the leverage to shape the world, or some corner of it.

The Texas trolls want to ignore the governor’s latest restrictions for wearing masks and keeping social distance and closing bars as the measures of the pandemic worsen. Abbott folded when confronted by people protesting business closings in May but this time is ignoring them, and responding to the coronavirus as a big deal — a task worth his government’s time and attention.
You get the picture.

The sentiment isn't surprising. For Dennis Bonnen and Ross Ramsey to be condescending and smug is expected. That being said, the vitriol IS noteworthy. Clearly, something is getting under their skin.

This is especially true for Ross Ramsey. While his so-called 'analysis' is often cliched and trite, he's usually nice about it. In nearly a decade of reading his columns, we've never seen him lose his cool like this.

Besides being funny, Dennis Bonnen's thin-skinned brownnosing isn't all that noteworthy on its own. Coupled with Ramsey, however, it's a trend. Somebody's spooked about something.

Bottom Line: Sometimes, the reaction of other people highlights something you would have otherwise missed.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

GOP Geniuses Goosing Robert Morrow's Name ID (all over again)

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap."
Galatians 6:7

Back in March, we wrote the following about Robert Morrow's surprisingly strong primary showing:

In a race where one candidate was getting tons of earned media, and the other candidate only raised $17 grand, the geniuses at the GOP decided to...help the candidate they didn't want to win get even more earned media.

Way to go geniuses.

Imagine an alternative world where, rather than spending the last six weeks helping Robert Morrow build name id, the GOP had poured $100 grand into helping Robert Morrow's strongest opponent build his or her own positive name ID.

You'd probably be looking at a different reality this morning.

Having seen their anti-Morrow strategy backfire spectacularly, one would think the GOP might try something different. But one would be wrong. How pathetic.

To be fair, we have seen some effort to build positive name ID for whatshername, the chick running against Morrow. But those efforts have been super half assed scattershot at best. Instead, we've mostly gotten mailers like the one pictured above. And don't get us started on this dumpster fire of a website.

The great, raging, irony in all of this is that whatshername is a compelling candidate. Had the powers that be chosen to do so, they could have made a strong positive case for her. Had they combined that positive case with saturation level advertising, the powers that be in the GOP could have been sitting pretty. But that ship has sailed and the GOP missed the boat.

Honestly, at this point, we don't care. Our only interest in this race is that we find Robert Morrow's ability to torment the Texas GOP to be really, really, funny. Our only regret is that nobody got Morrow asking Karl Rove about Jeff Gannon on video.

Bottom Line: What is it they say about trying the same thing over and over again expecting a different result?!?

Friday, July 10, 2020

Mixed Messages (at best)


"The way of a guilty man is perverse;
But as for the pure, his work is right."
Proverbs 21:8


Dan Patrick yesterday:


Dan Patrick last week:


We had originally intended to tear Patrick a new one over this. Buuut...as we read Patrick's comments a second and third time, it doesn't seem crazy to argue that Patrick is discussing different topics. So, speaking for no one but ourselves, we don't necessarily have a problem with cutting Dan Patrick a little bit of slack here.

Buuuuuuuuuut...it took us multiple readings of Patrick's comments, combined with a detailed knowledge of the context to reach that conclusion. And that's just about the nicest way to read it. And Dan Patrick squandered that level of widespread benefit of the doubt a long time ago. And it's difficult to argue that more hostile takes are necessarily wrong.

Bottom Line: When the charitable explanation is complicated, and the uncharitable one is plausible, that's never a good place to be.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Regardless of Outcome, convention DEBACLE illustrates EVERYTHING wrong with the Texas GOP


"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap."
Galatians 6:7


Lolz:

The Republican Party of Texas' in-person convention next week has been canceled, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wednesday.

The news came after Turner directed the city's legal department to work with the Houston First Corp., which operates the George R. Brown Convention Center, to review the contract with the state party.

Turner said officials with Houston First sent a letter this afternoon to the State Republican Executive Committee, the state party's governing board, canceling the gathering, which was set to happen July 16-18 and was expected to draw roughly 6,000 attendees.

"These are some very serious times," Turner said at a news conference. "Simply, the public health concerns outweighed anything else."
We've seen speculation floating around about what's really happening. Some believe Sylvester's doing Abbott a favor so the latter doesn't get booed. Others believe Sylvester's doing dirty work for the Democrats by forcing RPT to spend money on lawyers that could otherwise go to candidates. Either hypotheses is consistent with currently known facts.

Suffice to say, it looks like Sylvester Turner is doing an awfully big political favor for...somebody.

At this point, however, does the specific identity of that "somebody" matter?!?

Because, however we got here, the net result is that the Texas GOP has just spent the past two weeks being utterly, totally, and completely humiliated.

And isn't that typical?!?

At this point last year, we were warning that the Texas GOP's chronic underperformance was about to catch up with it.  While we had our reasons, those reasons almost seem cute in hindsight.  But whatever the proximate cause, the underlying reality is that their performance in office just isn't good enough.

What's happened since then?!?

Well, we had a pandemic.  Greg Abbott put a lobbyist in charge. And Abbott otherwise caved (while running his mouth to cover his...well, you know).

So here we are. The details don't matter. The only thing that matters is that this most recent debacle is the completely predictable consequence of trends that have been allowed to run unchecked for a long, long, time.

And there's no reason to believe any of it's going to change (at least for the better) anytime soon.

Bottom Line: Actual leadership could have prevented this. Failing that, prudence could have minimized the damage. Yet neither happened. And here we are.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Abbott/Dead Armadillos: An Ongoing Series (Part 4 - Tribune Belatedly Recognizes Obvious)


"So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth."
Revelation 3:16


Texas Tribune this morning:

Greg Abbott has had a rough month. The civil liberties wing of the governor’s Republican Party, with its focus on individual freedom and economics, is lobbing rotten tomatoes his way — increasingly agitated by his attempts to cage the coronavirus with a new series of behavioral restrictions.

Abbott is simultaneously building the case for higher office for some of the state Democratic Party’s future stars — people in the local offices he relied on in the first stages of the pandemic, then cut off from power and now is trying to blame for the failures of his own response to the coronavirus.

If doing a good job is the best politics, Abbott should be making it harder for Texans to see his opponents in either party as future leaders — and certainly not as potential challengers.

Instead, he’s making it easier.
The whole Tribune piece is unintentionally hilarious. Mostly because everything Ross Ramsey observes has been blindingly obvious for MONTHS. But, you know, way to go Ross!

(We guess.)

As we explained almost three months ago:

Abbott's already pissed off the stay-home-forever crowd. Now, he's pissing of a not-insignificant part of his base. He's creating a rather difficult needle to thread for himself.
Nothing that happened this morning is new. Still, given the degree to which he fancies himself the gatekeeper of socially acceptable opinion, for Ross Ramsey to state this publicly is noteworthy. Expect Rice University professor Mark Jones to follow suit shortly.

Bottom Line: None of this is actually "news," but the perception becoming this widespread ain't good for the incumbent.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

"Seniority" is a terrible reason to vote for anyone...ESPECIALLY Pete Sessions


"Therefore by their fruits you will know them."
Matthew 7:20


We've seen some chatter on social media about Pete Sessions telling people that his Seniority will allow him to do good things if he gets back to Congress. Don't believe it. At least, don't expect him to do anything good for central Texas.

We actually addressed this argument last fall, in the context of a different federal official:

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

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

It's quite something.

Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn may have been completely wretched. But at least Texas got some infrastructure out of them. With John Cornyn, we get the wretchedness without the infrastructure.
Here's what's funny: When we originally wrote that post, we came very close to including Sessions. The only reason we didn't is that Sessions wasn't currently in office. But if Sessions is trying to use this argument to get back into office, then it's worth considering the same thing.

Pete Sessions was a congressman in Dallas for twenty years. Did traffic in Dallas get better or worse during that time?!? If Pete Sessions couldn't secure federal funding to address the I-30/35/45 cluster[REDACTED], what makes anyone think Sessions "seniority" will mean anything good for anyone besides Pete Sessions?!?

Again, this is **NOT** an endorsement of pork-barrel governance, but it is to say that if Pete Sessions alleged "seniority" meant anything...Dallas would have had a lot more bacon.

After twenty years of Pete Sessions, Dallas remains largely bacon free.

Bottom Line: Dallas traffic tells you everything you need to know about whether or not Pete Sessions' alleged "seniority" bears fruit for his constituents.

Abbott's Going AGAINST Public Opinion on COVID


"As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
Psalm 18:30

Yesterday, we mentioned Greg Abbott's political standing in the new Trib poll. The whole thing is worth exploring deeper. But the TL,DR version is that the trend is bad, although it has a way to go before it's fatal.

For our purposes, however, consider the following data points on COVID:

  • Fewer Texans were concerned about both the spread of the Coronavirus in their communities, and about contracting (or a family member contracting) the virus in the latest poll than they were in April. The share of Texans who reported being “extremely” or “very” concerned about the spread of the coronavirus in their community decreased from 54% in April to 47% in June.

  • The share of Texans who reported that they were only leaving their residence when they “absolutely” had to saw a dramatic decrease from 63% in April to 37% in June. Those who reported “living normally, coming and going as usual” increased from 9% to 19%.

  • Texans are far from unanimous in their willingness to submit to practices necessary to implement a contact tracing program.
Again, the full picture is somewhat complicated.  But while Texans remain wary of COVID and willing to voluntarily curtail some activities, they're getting awfully sick of politicians telling them what to do.  Yet, despite public opinion moving in his direction, Abbott panicked.

Bottom Line: This is one of the most mind boggling unforced errors in recent memory.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Greg Abbott and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, Three Days


"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap."
Galatians 6:7


Stories one and two (both from Saturday):

The Ector County Republican Party voted Saturday to censure Gov. Greg Abbott, accusing him of overstepping his authority in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, while state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, called for a special session so lawmakers could have a say in how Texas proceeds amid soaring caseloads.
Story number three (from earlier this morning):

Approval ratings of Governor Greg Abbott's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic remained net positive: 49% approved and 41% disapproved. This represented a 7-point drop in his positive rating in April, and a 12-point increase in his negative rating, amounting to a 19-point reduction in his net approval rating from + 27 in April to +8 in June.
We don't have time to address each of these stories on their own. But the TL,DR version is that any one of them would be bad for Abbott. The three of them together is brutal.

Again, each of these deserves a full post...but quick hits:
  • Censure is pretty much the most embarrassing thing that can happen to a GOP elected official in Texas.
  • Charles Perry calling for a special session means Abbott's loss of support in the legislature is growing rather significantly.
  • The Trib poll means Abbott has nowhere to go if he truly loses his base.

Also, keep in mind that the Trib poll was conducted before the mask order...and there ain't no way Abbott's numbers went up after that.

It's quite the pickle.

Bottom Line: One of these headlines is bad enough. Three is brutal. But the worst part for Abbott is that there's no reason to believe the bad headlines will stop any time soon.