Saturday, February 29, 2020

GRANGER'S Fundamental Problem is that she's Completely and OBVIOUSLY LYING

"A righteous man hates lying,
But a wicked man is loathsome and comes to shame."
Proverbs 13:5

Came across this drivel scrolling through Twitter:
Few things in politics are more cynical than a leader’s (or prospective leader’s) eleventh-hour “conversion” on an issue that for many of us is simply a matter of principle.

Who can forget President Barack Obama’s “evolution” on gay marriage?

Or Sen. Mitt Romney’s flip from pro-choice governor to pro-life presidential candidate?
A bit closer to home, we have the declared evolution of Fort Worth’s own Rep. Kay Granger on abortion, a transformation some voters are meeting with skepticism.


As recently as 2007, when she was serving as a campaign surrogate for (quite ironically) Romney, Granger called herself a “pro-choice Republican.”

There must not have been many Republicans watching that MSNBC interview 13 years ago, because when video of her pro-choice declaration re-surfaced as part of an aggressive primary challenge from businessman Chris Putnam, many conservatives, myself included, were shocked.
The article goes on to argue that we should trust Granger because she's been endorsed by a couple of allegedly "pro-life" money laundering organizations and...something about Trump.


Granger's problem, no matter how she wants to beat around the bush, is that she's a 24-year incumbent.  In that time, she's never actually lifted a finger to do anything about it.  O.k., fine, she voted for a couple bills that tinkered around the edges.  Anyone who thinks that's even remotely close to good enough is, at best, a cheap date.

But where the piece becomes particularly asinine is in the comparison to Trump.

Trump was running in a general election against someone who was known to be completely terrible.  In that instance, there's a case to be made for going with the unknown over the guaranteed bad outcome.  While this website never found that argument particularly satisfying, it doesn't take a genius to understand it.

Granger, by contrast, is running in a primary.  For a safe Republican seat.  Chris Putnam, meanwhile, has been endorsed by the only credible pro-life organization in this state.  In this case, upgrading makes total sense.

None of this is difficult to understand.

Bottom Line: After 24 years, a record of doing (at best) the absolute bare minimum isn't good enough.

Friday, February 28, 2020

#TXLEGE: Rodriguez might be least bad realistic possibility in SD-14

"Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:10


Wasn't expecting that.

For those who aren't aware, this author has been a constituent of Eddie Rodriguez's for most of the past decade.  As such, we've had the opportunity to interact with him (and his staff) on a number of occasions.  We've always found them to be professional and respectful.  Not to damn him with faint praise, but that's more than we can say for about half the legislature.

That's not to say we agree with him on many issues.  We don't.  Furthermore, as we already said, we think it's worth it for someone with whom we agree to take a shot .  That being said, the shot in question would be a very long one.

FWIW, Eddie Rodriguez sometimes tailgates next to this author's friends at UT football games.  That doesn't mean much.  But...well...what else do we have to go on?!?

Bottom Line: We could certainly do worse.

#TXLEGE: Whitmire's "Audit TRS" proposal LONG overdue

"Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;"
1 Peter 5:2

Wasn't expecting this:
A state senator on Thursday has called for an audit into real estate investments and partnerships involving the Teacher Retirement System of Texas after revelations its officials had signed off on renting space at an office skyscraper at a minimum monthly rate of $326,000.

With a completion date of March 2021, the 36-story office tower at 200 West 6th St. is pricey even by the standards of downtown Austin that has seen soaring rent costs amid brisk municipal growth. Teacher Retirement System of Texas officials had cited space constraints at its current 816 Congress Ave. location, as KXAN reported. Backlash partially fueled by media scrutiny from the Austin American-Statesman and others over the lavish rent space prompted officials to reverse course and look into expanding its existing space instead.

But the repercussions of having even considered signing a lease have seemingly just begun given a request for an audit by State Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), the longest-serving current member of the Texas State Senate who has represented District 14 since 1983.

[Note: We're not going to blockquote it in full, but we do recommend reading the whole linked article.]

Some thoughts:
  • Even without the current scandal, this should be done every 3 to 7 years as part of routine fund maintenance.
  • Considering that the fund has a $46 Billion unfunded liability, this can only help put it on more solid footing.
  • Whitmire's proposal comes on the heels of Paul Bettencourt's the other day.  It certainly appears that the Senate is serious about addressing this issue (or that they're at least better at creating that impression).  This stands in marked contrast to the caterwauling phoniness we've seen from the house.
  • Any serious audit really ought to take into consideration all of the other prime real estate in Downtown Austin owned by the fund.
Bottom Line: It's a shame that it took a scandal for this discussion to occur, but this should absolutely happen.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

UT Regents (Finally) Increase Security Around Campus

"Peace be within your walls,
Prosperity within your palaces."
Psalm 122:7

Oh wow:
The University of Texas System Board of Regents has approved new funding for public safety and security measures in the West Campus area of UT Austin.

In a letter, UT President Gregory Fenves announced the approval, saying it will include hiring 11 additional UT police officers and two additional police sergeants and investments in cameras and other technology solutions, vehicles and equipment.
We haven't discussed the UT board in ages.  As long as they're protected by the Governor, there's not a lot that can be done.  Still...we suppose we're honor bound to note when they do something for which we called a long time ago.

We've been calling for this since 2017.  That was the year that saw the second on campus murder in 13 months.  That was also when the violent commies were running around.  Obviously, this is in response to Austin's recent homelessness issues.

So good deal...although maybe, just maybe, some of this recent issues could have been avoided if folks had listened to us three years ago.

Bottom Line: This should have happened three years ago, but better late than never.

Disgraced, Liberal, (Kinda Psycho) Bishop Leading Attacks on Pro-Lifers

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."
Matthew 7:15

Bishop Michael Olson of Ft. Worth has been problematic for awhile.  In recent months, however, he's become worse.  Texas Right to Life has more:
[E]very election cycle the liberal establishment deploys one tool to deceive Pro-Life voters: the political organization known as the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB).

Rest assured, even for Catholics, the TCCB has no magisterial or canonical authority; rather, the TCCB is simply a lobbying and administrative entity with no governing power.

Last election, the TCCB launched a politically-motivated (and FALSE) attack to intimidate faithful Catholics against voting for authentically conservative Pro-Life candidates. The TCCB not only favors moderate politicians who are weak on the Right to Life, religious liberty, and homeschooling, but most bishops actually have a history of voting Democrat!

That’s right: Most Texas bishops actually have a history of voting Democrat!

The TCCB lobbyist and disgraced Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson (who is under investigation for multiple scandals and has been called to Rome to try and account for his behavior) are behind these attacks on Texas Right to Life.
The Star-Telegram cataloged Michael Olson's various issues about a month ago.  The piece is too long to quote in full.  But we strongly recommend reading the whole thing here.  Dude's psycho.

Of course, this shouldn't surprise anyone whose watched the so-called "Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops" for more than ten minutes.  They're not an actual faith based organization.  They just exist top give a quasi-religious patina to the crony capitalists who run this state.

None of this is new.  Under Michael Olson, however, the mendacity has become blatant.  Kudos to Texas Right to Life for calling it out.

Bottom Line: Wolves...sheep's clothing...beware...etc.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

#TXLEGE: Bettencourt calls Legislators' Bluff re: TRS

"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

A couple weeks ago, we wrote a commentary for Texas Scorecard about the TRS scandal.  We still recommend reading the whole thing.  But the TL,DR version is that legislators who were howling in alleged outrage were a bunch of liars who've never lifted a finger to prevent this sort of scandal in the first place.

Now, however, it looks like they'll have an opportunity to put our money lobbyists' money their money where their mouth currently resides:

Good for Paul Bettencourt. Somebody has to step up. Not surprising that it's him.

Unfortunately, wish Bettencourt luck...cuz' he's gonna need it.

We can pretty much guarantee one of two things will happen:

  • A bill passes the Senate to die in the house.
  • The bill gets gutted in the house and is basically toothless in the end.
But the odds of a strong bill surviving the legislative process are basically zero.

Still, kudos to Bettencourt for forcing the issue at all.

Bottom Line: It's LONG past time for legislators to put up or shut up on this topic.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Primary Turnout is basically IRRELEVANT for November

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”;
1 Corinthians 3:19

There's been a graphic floating around social media into which way too many people are reading way too much:

As you can see, in some of the larger counties, Democrat primary turnout is modestly outpacing the GOP.  This should surprise nobody.  The Democrat have a contested presidential primary, while the GOP has zero credibly contested (non-judicial) statewide races.

Unless you're in a part of the state that has a congressional or state rep. race, there's really no reason to vote in the GOP primary.

The current turnout patterns are what you should expect given what's on the ballot.

Consider the last time you had a contested Democrat presidential race, while the GOP ticket was basically set:

In 2008, 1.5 million more people voted in the Democrat primary...yet the GOP won everything in November.

Again, this is what you should expect.

Beyond that, some thoughts:

  • Every election cycle, external events change things.  The political environment of March is never the political environment of November.  That will probably happen this time as well.  We don't know what those events will be...or who they'll benefit...but it's nevertheless a safe bet that things will look different in eight months.
  • Lower turnout tends to mean a better informed electorate.  This is key in down ballot races.  If you care about down ballot races...why do you want to bring more low-information voters into the process?!?
  • Notwithstanding all the handwringing, R's are still outpacing D's by over 100k votes statewide.
  • While we stand by what we said above the truth is that, if you want to play this game, these are actually terrible numbers for the D's.  Their open presidential contest doesn't seem to be attracting casual voters.  Under 30k in Travis county?!?  Yikes.
Again, all of this you should expect.

Bottom Line: Nobody's going to know anything about the environment this fall until August at the earliest.  More likely October.  Relax.

Monday, February 24, 2020

#atxcouncil: Save Austin Now *MIGHT* have firepower for serious change

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

A group that has opposed city policy changes allowing camping in many public spaces in Austin announced plans Monday to take camping rules to voters in November.

Matt Mackowiak, chair of the Travis County Republican Party and co-founder of the nonprofit, nonpartisan group Save Austin Now, said the group plans to bring a petition to the November ballot that would reinstate a ban on camping in public throughout the city, restore ordinances banning sitting and lying in public places, including the University of Texas campus, and bar panhandling overnight from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.


By Monday, the online petition had more than 88,000 signatures. For the initiative from Save Austin Now to get onto the ballot, the group must get signatures from 5% or 20,000 of Austin’s voters, whichever number is smaller.
There are two relevant numbers: 289,450 and 88,000.  The first is the number of people who voted in the 2018 Mayoral election (assuming you trust Travis county's election results).  The second is the number of people who have signed the online version of the petition.  Obviously, 88,000 isn't enough to flip the city on its own.  But it's a pretty good start (and it's more than any of Adler's challengers got in '18).

That being said, there are a couple of other interesting #'s: 27,599 and 36,434. Those are the total number of voters in Districts 6 and 10 respectively in 2016. We don't know what will happen, but we guarantee you there's no way Jimmy Flannigan or Alison Alter want to run for re-election with the homelessness ordinance on the ballot.  That's pretty much the last issue those two will want to discuss.

Bottom Line: Many things remain up in the air, but there's good reason to believe this will be the best anti-status quo cycle since 2014.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

TRS Caves

"Alas, sinful nation,
A people laden with iniquity,
A brood of evildoers,
Children who are corrupters!
They have forsaken the Lord,
They have provoked to anger
The Holy One of Israel,
They have turned away backward."
Isaiah 1:4

From Texas Scorecared:
In a win for teachers and taxpayers, the Teacher Retirement System of the Texas Board of Trustees has voted against following through on a planned move into Indeed Tower.

Established in 1937, TRS provides retirement and related benefits for more than 1.6 million Texas teachers, college professors, and other educational employees. It is supported by the State of Texas and manages a $150 billion trust fund established to finance member benefits. TRS is the largest public retirement system in Texas and is the sixth-largest public pension fund in the U.S.

First reported by Austin’s KXAN last month, TRS had signed a 10-year lease for three floors of office space at the Indeed Tower, a highly sought-after location for companies seeking extravagant downtown accommodations in close proximity to the city’s bar district.

The cost for the space? A jaw-dropping $326,000 a month.

Or, as one retired teacher who taught for 31 years in Texas public schools told Texas Scorecard, the costs of more than 135 retirees a month.
Bottom Line: This is a good start; now make them sell all that prime Downtown Austin real estate.

Friday, February 21, 2020

The System Punishes Dissent

"Yet they would not listen to their judges, but they played the harlot with other gods, and bowed down to them. They turned quickly from the way in which their fathers walked, in obeying the commandments of the Lord; they did not do so."
Judges 2:17

Via Texas Scorecard:
In a closed meeting, concealed from the eyes of the public, the district judges of Tarrant County—led by Judge David Evans—stripped Judge Alex Kim of a job the people elected him to do in November 2018.

Last Thursday, Texas Scorecard broke the story about the emergency meeting called for judges to vote on removing all Child Protective Services cases from the 323rd District Court, where Kim presides. He was elected in 2018 to oversee this court, which specializes in child welfare and juvenile delinquency cases.

Multiple sources in Tarrant County allege Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Tarrant County, along with CPS and Cook Children’s Medical Center, influenced Evans—who oversees all district judges of Tarrant and 17 other counties in the region—to make this move. These sources say this is retribution for Kim being an impartial judge, making CPS follow the law, and intervening to save the life of baby Tinslee Lewis.

The grassroots quickly became alarmed and contacted all of the judges, expressing their support for Kim. County Judge Glen Whitley bemoaned the accountability being cast on the judges voting in this meeting. Texas Scorecard was later tipped off that, instead of airing whatever concerns the other judges had about Kim before the public, they would lock themselves away in the courtroom of Judge Jerry Hennigan and vote in secret.


After meeting for over an hour, the decision was final: all CPS cases will be removed from the 323rd District Court of Judge Alex Kim. After March 1, 2020, they will be randomly assigned to the 231st, 233rd, 322nd, 324th, 325th, and 360th District Courts.

We've followed politics for a long time. We're pretty cynical. The brazenness of this, however, is breathtaking.

All for the audacity of making a government agency that was abusing parents and children follow the law.

It's quite something.

Obviously, we have no specific knowledge here.  History and common sense, however, suggest someone was getting paid.  And that Judge Alex Kim was a threat to them.

We don't know who the "them" was.  It could have been Cook Children's "Hospital."  It could have been CASA.  It could have been some CPS vendor.  It could have been Judge David Evans.  It could have been Judge Jesse Nevarez.  Considering that it's Tarrant county, Glen Whitley is likewise a possibility.

Most likely it's a combination of "all of the above."

But who knows?!?

What we do know is that every piece of circumstantial evidence suggests someone powerful's financial interests were at stake.

That being said, Jeff Leach seems to be on it:

We don't know what authority Jeff Leach has under current law. At a minimum, he can embarass them. If he has to pass a bill, we can only imagine the underhandedness he'd face. Regardless, kudos to Jeff.

Bottom Line: This is dirty, even by the standards of Texas politics.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

#TXLEGE: "Behind the Scenes" in the Legislature

"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them."
Ephesians 5:11

Nothing quite like an former officeholder who's now unshackled.

Don Huffines has been speaking about the reality of his experience in the legislature for some time.  He gave similar remarks at Empower Texans gala in December.  His recent appearance at the True Texas Project is, at least to our knowledge, the first time it's been recorded.

  • Decided to run for office because the incumbent (John Carona) became a liberal over his time in office.
  • Abolished an obscure quasi-educational agency: "A rats nest of crooks."
    • "We uncovered the biggest political corruption scandal in the history of the state of Texas."
    • "We discovered these people were stealing a lot of money."
    • "Over 3000 employees."
    • At least 5 employees are currently in prison, with more potentially coming soon.
  • "I didn't get a lot of help in Austin."
    • "I didn't get any support of the Governor."
    • "I got nothing but opposition from the speaker of the house."
    • The Lt. Governor wasn't particularly helpful, but didn't actively work against him either.
  • First Republican caucus meeting:
    • Took the party platform with him.
    • Wanted a vote on Constitutional Carry so that voters could hold Senators accountable.
      • 3 Senators left..."it was VERY awkward."
      • The next morning, he was told to apologize to the other Senators.
    • Republican Senators are willing to be held accountable to the media and lobbyists, but not their own voters.
  • "I don't know if you know this or not, but they don't like you...As a matter of fact, they hate you."
  • "They belittle you, they laugh at you...they ridicule our state party platform."
  • "Have you ever seen our Governor talk about our state party platform?!?"
    • Likewise the other statewides.
  • "They don't believe in what you want."
  • "We have never not had a purple session."
  • "Democrats ran this state for 125 years, for the past 20 years you've had Democrat party switchers running it."
    • Note: This point CANNOT possibly be emphasized enough.  The only difference today is that all the local Good Ol' Boys run in the R primary instead of the D.  Texas has NEVER been a conservative state.  It's been a deeply corrupt, crony "capitalist" state for 150 years.
  • "We've never had a conservative session."
  • "If we wanted a secure border, that border would be secure."
  • "Did you hear a whisper on education freedom?!?"
  • Election integrity: "We know we're being cheated.  We know dead people vote."
    • We know thousands of non-citizens are voting, could be significantly higher.
    • Abbott was Attorney General for 12 years and never did anything about voter fraud.
      • Paxton hasn't been much better.
    • "When I lost my election in '18, there was evidence presented to me that we might have a problem."
    • The biggest issue is software manipulation: "If they can program a computer to count the votes, they can program a computer to change the votes."
    • Yet it was the GOP who killed the election integrity bill.
    • His attorney quit because he didn't want to be on the outs with the Governor.
  • Socialism: "The Democrats want to get there today, the Republicans want to get there next week."

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

#TXLEGE: Troxclair would be, easily, strongest GOP candidate for SD-14 special election (aka. #TroxStillRox)

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

With Kirk Watson having now had a day to bask in his semi-deserved accolades, attention now turns to the special election.  The Statesman's roundup about Democrats is good.  But it begs a natural follow-up question.  Who will Republicans run?!?

The answer is completely obvious: Ellen Troxclair.

She's already been elected within the district.  She attracted crossover votes in that election.  Furthermore, her record in office was spectacular.

The question, of course, is whether she'll actually do it.

When Ellen Troxclair first ran for council, she and Caleb had zero kids.  Now they have three.  That changes priorities.  If she decided against seeking a second council term when she had two kids, it's hard to ask her to run for another office when she has three.

But none of that changes the fact that she's, easily, the strongest potential candidate.

Bottom Line: We doubt she'll do it, but it's an easy call if she will.

#TXLEGE: HD-47 candidate already wobbly on Constitutional Carry and Taxpayer Funded Lobbying

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

We're mostly staying out of legislative primaries.  We no longer trust any of them.  That being said, candidates occasionally do something that stands out.

HD-47 candidate Justin Berry recently gave an interview to Honest Austin where his answers on a couple of RPT legislative priorities were...noteworthy.

Justin Berry on Constitutional Carry:
I think is something that we need to have deeper discussion on. I don’t care if you open carry or conceal carry — that’s a personal decision. I personally carry concealed and I like having that the advantage of surprise, but that’s everyone’s personal decision. But with regard to being able to care without a permit, I’m not opposed to that but there needs to be some screening process. As Republicans, we believe in voter ID laws, making sure that your are a U.S. citizen. Well, you have to be a U.S. citizen to be able to carry a firearm as well.

We need to make sure that people that are convicted felons don’t get to just carry a gun, because they’ve lost that right. We need to focus on a common sense approach that still protects the lawful gun owners and their right to carry a firearm, but that doesn’t make it so hard to get one.
Pretty much speaks for itself.

Justin Berry on Taxpayer Funded Lobbying:
I’m conflicted on that because I’ve seen firsthand that there are people that have information on issues that can advocate for them, for example, if a community needs a roadway system, or needs funding for a water treatment plant, then it’s not a bad thing, having the local government fighting and advocating for that to provide the services we need. The average citizen does not have the ability to be at the Capitol or at the city government every single day advocating, because they’re working or taking care of their kids.

On the other hand, you see governments that actually advocate for things that harm the community, or they focus on wants rather than needs, and they misuse our taxpayer dollars. I would look at requiring more transparency and accountability with it.
This is a sneaky sleight of hand. Nobody's attempting to curtail local governments from fighting and advocating for anything.  It's just not appropriate for them to use hired gun lobbyists.

This isn't difficult.

Berry also conspicuously uses the phrase "pragmatism."  "Pragmatism" is a common political euphemism, typically meaning going along to get along.  And spending.  Lots of spending.

Bottom Line: If this is what he's saying during the primary, imagine what he'd be like once in office.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

#TXLEGE: Watson's gets a fascinating new gig

"To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:"
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Wasn't expecting this:
State Sen. Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat, is retiring from the Texas Senate.

His resignation is effective at midnight on April 30, the Austin American-Statesman first reported Tuesday. Watson is leaving office to become the first dean of the University of Houston's Hobby School of Public Affairs.

"This is a chance to build a world-class public affairs and policy school essentially from the ground up," Watson said in a statement. "It is transformative work at a creative and ambitious university, located in one of the country's largest and most diverse cities. ... Only a unique opportunity to serve this state — and a compelling platform for that service — would cause me to leave."

Watson, an attorney and former mayor of the city of Austin, represents Senate District 14, a historically Democratic seat. It covers Bastrop County and parts of Travis County. He was first elected to the seat in 2006, taking office in early 2007.

Watson's early departure will set off a special election to serve the rest of the term, which will end in 2023. Watson delivered his resignation letter this morning to Gov. Greg Abbott, who will later set the date for a special election.

In terms of politics, and public policy, there's a lot to say.

Before we get to that, however, allow us this: Kirk Watson is one of the genuinely nicest people you will ever meet in politics.  That's not to say we've agreed with him or supported the same policies.  But in an industry where so many are cowards and liars, Kirk Watson has always been an honest sort of scoundrel who was never afraid of a public discussion.

To his tremendous credit, Kirk Watson was also an unsung hero on a certain topic.

That being said, about the other stuff:
  • Kirk Watson WILL get PAID!!!  Whatever his other virtues (at least in comparison to most politicians), he's always been comfortable funneling taxpayer subsidies to the very well-heeled.  It was probably inevitable that he would eventually cash in himself.  Expect him to receive a salary in the mid six figures.
  • Watson was typically one of the great defenders of the higher ed. establishment; while those sorts still exist in the Texas Senate, to have one fewer veteran on that topic around could make things interesting. 
  • Still, it's odd that U of H chose someone from Austin.  There are plenty of ex-politicos in Houston who could do this job.  There's probably something else at play, although we have no idea what it could be.  Keep that in the back of your mind over time.
  • As for the special election: Yes, the GOP could.  They probably won't.  But they could.  They should certainly try.

    There's a good chance that the special election comes down to a runoff between a Republican and someone closely aligned with Greg Casar.

    If that circumstance were to materialize, we could see those central Austin precincts that typically run up the scoreboard for Democrats being...unenthusiastic.  These are the neighborhoods that have been hit hardest by the city of Austin's new homelessness policies.  It doesn't take a genius to see how a critical mass might stay home.

    The special election would likely come down to Westlake.  And, to put it mildly, a Greg Casar type ain't gonna play well in Westlake.  Go Chaps.
Bottom Line: What an odd, unexpected, development.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Trib Poll Continues to find that Voters are Incoherent Dimwits

"A fool has no delight in understanding,
But in expressing his own heart."
Proverbs 18:2

For crying out loud:
Texas voters still think that property taxes are too high and that the state spends too little on public education, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
Taxes too high...but spending too low.  Got it.  SMDH.

If you're wondering why things are the way that they are in politics, this is a pretty good place to start.

For as much as you can make any number of criticisms about how state government operates, the truth is that legislators are often responding rationally to the incentives they face.

Cuz legislators get a lot more polling on this subject that we do.

Bottom Line: This is why elected officials tend to find debt to be the path of least resistance.  That doesn't make it good.  Or right.  But it is an explanation.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Cornyn's latest poll numbers are pretty terrible (but that's also nothing new)

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

From the latest Trib poll:

We recommend exploring Jim Henson's links in more detail.

That being said, the key takeaways are:

  • Cornyn's net approval rating is three points underwater.
  • Cornyn's underwater with independents.
  • Cornyn's job approval with Republicans is only 66%.
Those numbers are terrible for a three term incumbent.

We discussed this phenomenon a few months ago, when the last Trib poll came out.  We don't have anything new to add.  That piece remains our best guess as to an explanation.  This week's poll merely confirms the trend.

That trend ain't good.

That being said, in writing this blog post, we came across this post from 2013.  Cornyn's poll numbers weren't very good back then either.  Yet Cornyn proceeded to solidly (if not spectacularly) win both the primary and the general election that cycle.

So history's probably on Cornyn's side, especially now that national Democrats seem to be specialized in getting lousy Republicans across the finish line in Texas.

Still, nobody should be under the illusion that Cornyn's a strong candidate.

Bottom Line: Given recent developments nationally, it might not matter.  But the national environment can change quickly.  If it does, a three term incumbent with weak ratings in his own party, who's underwater with everybody else, probably isn't your best bet.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Does Bush's "Vandalism" Allegation REALLY add up?!?

"Even a child is known by his deeds,
Whether what he does is pure and right."
Proverbs 20:11

[Note: Open Records Requests have been sent.]

George P. Bush posted this to Twitter the other day:

We didn't give this a lot of thought on Tuesday. It seems plausible, given Austin's well documented recent upsurge in crime.  Our first impression was to keep scrolling.

Yesterday, however, we spoke with a source on an unrelated matter.  During the conversation, the source asked whether we were enjoying "George P. Bush as the new Jessie Smolett?!?"  When we were slow to pick up on the reference, this source laid out a hypothesis that Bush staged the whole thing.


At that point, we weren't particularly sold.  But the thought lingered.  Then we saw this report from KVUE:

We also saw this tweet from KVUE:

[Note: There's no way KVUE would have posted this tweet had they not tried to contact Bush through official channels first.]

Here's the thing: If Bush's story is on the level...then why wouldn't he respond to press inquiries.  As long as he's telling the truth, there's nothing but political upside.  He gets to bash the Austin city council on their single most unpopular policy.

But he says nothing.

Which begs a follow up question: What are the odds?!?

Out of all the cars...and all the residents of just "happens" to be a statewide elected official whose car gets vandalized.

Furthermore, it just "happens" to be the statewide elected official with the most transparently obvious political ambitions?!?

(Yet no witnesses.)

Maybe...but that's an awfully big coincidence.

To be clear: This is all speculative.  We don't have anything to go on besides a hunch.  That being said, we've had multiple hunches related to George P. Bush pan out in the recent past.

It just seems...convenient.

Bottom Line: The results of the smell test, at least for now, are inconclusive.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Notorious Pay to Play practitioner endorses Billionaire

"One who increases his possessions by usury and extortion
Gathers it for him who will pity the poor."
Proverbs 28:8

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner endorsed Michael Bloomberg for president, Bloomberg’s campaign announced Thursday morning.

The backing of the mayor of the fourth largest city in America is Bloomberg’s most high profile Texas endorsement yet. It also gives Bloomberg another nod from a prominent black elected official as the billionaire grapples with pushback over his use of “stop and frisk” policies while he was mayor of New York City.

“As mayor, Mike embraced New York’s diversity and made smart investments that brought better infrastructure and greater opportunity to all five boroughs,” Turner, a Democrat, said in a statement released by the campaign. “We need a president who knows how cities run. It’s why I’m proud to endorse Mike for president, and I look forward to sending him to Washington in November.”
This is the point, dear reader, when the value of someone familiar with the inner workings of politics in BOTH New York City and Texas shows itself.

Because, if you know how each of this figures has operated for years, none of this is surprising.

First up, Turner:
Houston's Four Seasons hotel has a pretty pricey breakfast, but the big money on February 16, 2016, had nothing to do with the $19 egg breakfast. Emails from Houston City Hall show Mayor Sylvester Turner was at the Four Seasons that morning with the then-CEO of Kelsey-Seybold, the health clinic's marketing director and their city lobbyist for a breakfast meeting at 8 in the morning.

By 9 a.m., the meeting was over and an email from the lobbyist to the mayor's secretary says it "went very well."

The day went well for the Mayor's campaign, too. City records show on that very day the mayor's campaign reported $81,350 in donations from more than 120 Kelsey-Seybold doctors and executives. The campaign could've received the checks anytime between when Turner was sworn in and when he ate with the Kelsey team. When 13 Investigates looked the donor's names up in city databases, we found 87 percent of them had never given to a city political candidate ever before.

Michael Wynne, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney described the donations as "very, very unusual." Wynne is a former federal prosecutor who handled cases dealing with campaign donations. He now works to defend people accused of breaking those laws. He's not supporting anyone in Houston's mayoral race.

After reviewing the donations, Wynne told 13 Investigates, "In this instance, the number of people who had never been involved in the political circus whatsoever, all of a sudden decide to get involved. I think it's something that demands a little more scrutiny."
Meanwhile, Bloomberg:
The foundation of Bloomberg’s imperial mayoralty is, obviously, money. He’s used his vast personal fortune—$17.5 billion at last Forbes estimate—relentlessly and creatively to reverse the standard political dynamic: Instead of the special interests’ buying off the politicians, the city’s top politician has bought off the special interests. Money has allowed him to create the Bloomberg Party, whose clubhouse is the business elite and whose field troops are enlisted issue by issue. Bloomberg employs large segments of the city’s political class, directly and indirectly, and his philanthropy, often done in secret, gives him a very large circle of friends. Opposing him can be an exceedingly lonely occupation.


Bloomberg has certainly deepened the financial bond—or dependency—through the strategic use of his checkbook. His charitable contributions have increased exponentially from when he first decided to run for mayor. In 1999, he gave away $47 million; last year, the figure was $235 million. Some of the money is funneled through the Carnegie Corporation, as supposedly anonymous gifts. Last year, 542 New York charities and nonprofits received $60 million of such gifts.

Money is a stealth weapon in Bloomberg’s political arsenal. And, as fund-raiser-in-chief, the mayor can leverage his own giving by tapping his well-heeled associates. “The mayor has an enormous influence in charity, and he does so much of it anonymously,” Rubenstein says. “I talk to some of the institutions who are clients and I say, ‘Why don’t you appeal to the mayor for money?’ They say, ‘What do you mean, appeal? He’s been funding us for years!’ I just had that discussion a couple of days ago with one of my museum clients.”

Bloomberg has also ramped up his purely political spending. Some of it is surreptitious: In 2008, three of Bloomberg’s closest friends and business associates suddenly wrote checks for $50,000 to the Working Families Party. The money was then steered to State Senate candidate Daniel Squadron, who’d won Bloomberg’s endorsement in a race to unseat a longtime incumbent
This is a classic case of baksheesh.

Bottom Line: This morning's announcement should surprise nobody who's followed the respective careers of Sylvester Turner and Michael Bloomberg.


Note: That being said, it would be pretty funny is somebody asked Bloomberg and Turner about the Astros cheating scandal.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

#TXLEGE: Borris Miles, Jim Murphy and Bi-Partisan POLITICAL MALPRACTICE

"It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness,
For a throne is established by righteousness."
Proverbs 16:12

We've been back on the Jim Murphy hobbyhorse ever since leadership put him in charge of cleaning up this mess at the Teacher Retirement System.  We've also discussed how hammering this issue could be advantageous to the opposition party.  Finally, we've discussed how strange we find said opposition party squandering said opportunity.

So we were prepared to rip on the Democrats for their failure to make Jim Murphy a household name.  But we can't.  At least not alone.  Because, truth be told, Republicans are looking just as big of a gift horse in the mouth.

Because Borris Miles is also running around like nothing ever happened.

It's kinda astonishing.

On the one hand, you have a Democrat who, at best, has been on the receiving end of horrifying allegations of sexual misconduct.  On the other hand, you have a Republican who has been documented to be engaging in serious financial corruption.  Yet, neither party is inclined to exploit the respective gifts they've received.

Some might argue this is a form of mutually assured political destruction.  Maybe.  But we're not convinced.  See why here.

Bottom Line: The opportunity is there...if either party wants to take advantage.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

#TXLEGE: Depressing

"Jesus wept."
John 11:35

We discussed this morning's Trib event with Craig Goldman and Celia Israel yesterday.  Yeah, we didn't go.  We did watch online. It was a great reminder of the ongoing institutional wretchedness...otherwise known as the Texas house.

The top line takeaway is easy: The majority party in the Texas house continues to suck.  The opposition party, however, continues to suck even more.  Thus, something close to the staus quo is likely to continue.

In a competition between D-minus and F, D-minus will continue to win by default.

It's difficult to oversell just how vacuous Craig Goldman was this morning. He's still drinking the Kool-aid from last session. "Transformational education reform" or some such nonsense.

For everything that could be said about Craig Goldman, however, all you have to know is that he praised "the leadership of...Speaker Bonnen."

He actually said it.

Yet, Celia Israel didn't call Goldman out.

[Note: Evan Smith didn't call Goldman out either.  But we can let that one slide.  That's not necessarily the moderator's job (although it is something a good moderator would do).  It is, however, the opposition party's job.]

Think about that: A member of the majority party praised a presiding officer who's being forced out because of corruption.  Furthermore, he did so while the campaign chief for the opposition party was literally sitting next to him.  Yet, that opposition party campaign chief didn't think such comments from the member of the majority party were noteworthy.

That, right there, tells you EVERYTHING you need to know about Celia Israel's political competence.

Then again, what would you expect from a political party that was too stupid to figure out the guy to whom they just lost was a slumlord?!?

Suffice to say, putting Jim Murphy in charge of cleaning up this Teacher Retirement system mess didn't come up.

Bottom Line: For as much material as the Texas GOP seems determined to give them, the Texas Democrats ongoing failure to exploit it remains a sight.

Monday, February 10, 2020

#TXLEGE: Questions we'd ask Goldman and Israel if we were Evan Smith

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

Trib's holding an event tomorrow morning about the Texas house:
It’s the question everyone’s asking across the state — and at the Capitol. With the speakership up for grabs, big issues looming, and redistricting around the bend, Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith talks strategy and tactics with state Rep. Celia Israel of Austin, who’s leading the Democratic party’s efforts to regain the majority, and state Rep. Craig Goldman of Fort Worth, one of the Republicans tasked with retaining it.
This is an event we'd normally attend.  But the weather looks like it's going to suck.  And we want to take it easy on our knee.

But there are any number of questions that should be asked.

For Celia Israel:
  • It has now been two weeks since the GOP put Jim Frickin' Murphy in charge of cleaning up the Teacher Retirement System scandals.  Why have Democrats failed to exploit this debacle for political purposes?!?  Does this failure reflect poorly on your basic political competence?!?
For Craig Goldman:
  • Why should anybody believe a word the Texas GOP says at this point?!?
For Both:
  • Does it actually matter which party controls the Texas house next session?!?  Besides the details of whose donors get paid off more.  And how, specifically, you'll lie to voters.
    • It's not exactly a secret that the Texas house is governed by a 'bi-partisan' blob of 120 or so members.
    • Hint: Not really.
  • What does the utter, total, and complete failure of ANY member of the Texas house (in either party) to condemn putting Jim frickin' Murphy in charge of cleaning up the Teacher Retirement System scandals say about the culture of the institution.?!?
  • Should Poncho Nevarez receive a taxpayer funded pension for the rest of his life?!?
Bottom Line:  We'd LOVE to hear Craig Goldman and Celia Israel answer all of these.

Sessions Reminds Voters Why They HATE Politicians with a Sense of Entitlement

"Every prudent man acts with knowledge,
But a fool lays open his folly."
Proverbs 13:16

Bill Flores has belatedly endorsed a successor.  Whatever.  Not really surprising.

In response to Flores' announcement, however, Pete Sessions released quite the statement:
When I am elected to represent CD-17, I will begin with more seniority than Rep. Flores has now. That seniority will help deliver highway funding, support our research institutions, promote our agriculture community and protect Waco and Bryan-College Station in redistricting. That same seniority will help me also deliver on the key issues facing our nation: changing our immigration laws, building the southern border wall and balancing the budget. Most importantly, Rep. Flores knows nothing can be done for the Republican agenda in the House unless Republicans take back the majority. Having led the campaign to defeat Nancy Pelosi in 2010, Bill knows that I can help do that again. A freshman member of Congress will not be as effective in helping to win the majority, and Rep. Flores knows that. It took him three terms to get on Energy and Commerce.”
Is this a joke?!?

Some thoughts:
  • Pete Sessions had 20 years in Congress to "help deliver highway funding," yet Downtown Dallas (where I-30, I-35, and I-45 intersect) remains the most congested area in the state.
  • The Texas Legislature handles redistricting, not Congress.
  • Pete Sessions was a well known obstacle to fixing the national issues he lists (immigration/spending) during his time in Congress.
  • The only reason why Nancy Pelosi is speaker in the first place is because losers like Pete Sessions lost in 2018.
  • "It took him three terms to get on Energy and Commerce."  That's not exactly wrong.  But it's still an incredibly smarmy thing that only someone with a gigantic sense of entitlement would say.
Bottom Line: Chutzpah, etc....

Saturday, February 8, 2020

O'Rourke Regressing to Mean Faster than the Boston Red Sox

"Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,"
Hebrews 6:1

DMN yesterday:
AUSTIN — Beto O’Rourke wants to do everything he can to help Democrats win the Texas House this November — even if that means ​staying off the campaign trail and sending his volunteers to work for another candidate without him.

Whether the former El Paso congressman and presidential candidate’s help is a liability is a question after ​the Houston-area Democratic state House candidate he campaigned for in a special election last month was routed by a Republican.

After the election, the Texas House Democratic Campaign Committee​ ​advised its candidates​ in an email​ not to speak to an Associated Press reporter asking whether they would accept O’Rourke’s help with their campaigns.

“Our recommendation is to provide no comment,” Justin Perez, the group’s political director, told candidates in an email obtained by The Dallas Morning News.

O’Rourke said Thursday: "If ​my presence is unhelpful, I’ll stay as far away as I can. I have no pride in this. My only goal is to help secure a Democratic majority in the statehouse. My only goal is to stop Trump and Trumpism in what I think is the most important year in the history of this country and to do my part.”

O’Rourke’s statement may tamp down concerns about how his political views might play in more traditionally conservative Texas districts where Democrats are fielding strong candidates. His veer to the left during his presidential run in 2019 — especially his support of a mandatory gun buyback program — would create difficulties for campaigns trying to sway independent and moderate Republican voters.

Democrats hoped​ that the special election in Fort Bend County​ would be their first opportunity to make a dent in their nine-seat deficit in the House, but Republicans exploited O’Rourke’s work as a surrogate for the Democratic candidate, Eliz Markowitz, tying her to his record on guns and on revoking the tax-exempt status of churches that oppose same-sex marriage.

The Republican, Gary Gates, won that district by 16 percentage points — double the previous GOP margin of victory in the district — leaving Democrats to rethink their use of O’Rourke as a surrogate in future races.
 (h/t PushJunction)

The whole thing is worth a read.  The DMN talks to some experts and profiles some races.  As the sample size gets bigger, 2018 looks like much more of a fluke.

Bobby Francis O'Rourke is the political equivalent to the Boston Red Sox during the Alex Cora era.

(Except that the Red Sox won something.)

As time has passed, however, we know the next few chapters in the Boston Red Sox saga.  They haven't been pretty.  The exact same thing is happening to Bobby Francis O'Rourke.

Bobby Francis O'Rourke was never that good.  The only reason the U.S. Senate race was close in 2018 was because Ted Cruz's campaign blew chunks.  O'Rourke just showed up, looked pretty, and kept it vague.

That playbook was always destined to have a limited shelf life.

That limited shelf life has now expired.

Bottom Line:  It should surprise nobody to see long-term historical averages reassert themselves.

Friday, February 7, 2020

#TXLEGE: Democrat State Rep. Candidate's Law Partner Says Quiet Part Out Loud

And Balaam said to Balak, “Look, I have come to you! Now, have I any power at all to say anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I must speak.”
Numbers 22:38


Like most of today's stories, self-explanatory.

Bottom Line: To be fair, this is how 80%(+) of Texas Legislators operate. Most of them, however, aren't this flagrant. Good grief.

#atxcouncil: Alter claims discarded syringes are being used for...insulin?!?

"A fool has no delight in understanding,
But in expressing his own heart."
Proverbs 18:2

Yeah, um, no:

Pretty self-explanatory.

Bottom Line: Your move Tarrytown, Northwest Hills, and Great Hills (cuz' the camps are springing up along 183 again).

#TXLEGE: State Rep Candidate Hiding from Forum

"The wicked flee when no one pursues,
But the righteous are bold as a lion."
Proverbs 28:1

Is this a joke?!?

(h/t. PushJunction)

Pretty self-explanatory.

What a....

Then again, maybe there's a reason why Glenn Rogers doesn't want to answer questions.

Bottom Line: Had he simply shown up and kept his head down, most voters probably wouldn't have discovered Glenn Rogers supports taxpayer funded lobbying.  By hiding like a little crybaby, however, Glenn Rogers highlights that Glenn Rogers' support for taxpayer funded lobbying.  Obviously, if we supported taxpayer funded lobbying the way Glenn Rogers does, we probably wouldn't draw attention to it either.  That being said, there does seem to be better ways for Glenn Rogers to hide the fact that Glenn Rogers supports taxpayer funded lobbying.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Texas Monthly's DERP SQUAD Apparently Unaware that Taxes Impact Cost of Living

"But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took from them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of God."
Nehemiah 5:15

It's not a secret that this author grew up in New York City.  Or that cost of living issues played a significant role in why we moved to Texas.  Thus this Texas Monthly piece a few weeks back caught our interest:

This is, obviously, a self-evidently moronic statement to anyone who's spent more than fifteen minutes in either city.

Nevertheless, we were curious about what statistical sleight-of-hand they'd used to come up with such a preposterous conclusion.

Our friends at looked deeper:
The CBC report includes property taxes in the cost of housing for homeowners and expresses housing and transit costs as a percentage of before-tax rather than after-tax median income. Therefore, the CBC’s methodology will overstate the burden of housing costs in areas where property taxes are an unusually large portion of overall tax revenue. As it turns out, Texas is exactly such a place.

Property taxes in Texas are high. In Harris County, which includes most of the Houston metropolitan area, the effective tax rate is 2.31%—in the top five percent of all counties in the United States and about three times the average effective rate of 0.8% in New York City proper. (New York’s convoluted system of property assessment gives many wealthy homeowners even bigger breaks on property taxes: Mayor Bill de Blasio, for example, owns two $2 million townhouses on which he pays property taxes of 0.2%.)

Texans, however, enjoy much lower taxes than New Yorkers in other domains. The state has no income tax, for example, whereas state income taxes in New York range from 4% to 8.82%. According to the Tax Foundation, in 2010, property taxes accounted for 45.2% of total state and local tax receipts in Texas but just 32.4% in New York state (most of which has higher property tax rates than the city). New Yorkers also pay for most of the costs of their public transit through tax subsidies, which come out of residents’ taxes but isn’t counted as a transportation expense in the CBC report.

Also this:
Even after these questionable methodological choices, the CBC still finds that living in Houston costs less in absolute dollars. But as a percentage of income, New York, which has a higher average household income, is cheaper. This is true, but the lesson that Texas Monthly draws by implication—that workers moving from New York to Houston would see their incomes drop by more than enough to offset the lower cost of living—rests on a false inference that ignores the differences between the two regions’ economies.

The New York metropolitan area has a high average income because it is unusually filled with skilled professionals who could earn high incomes anywhere; meanwhile, the region’s high housing prices have driven lower-income workers to leave. The Houston region, on the other hand, has a proportionally larger working-class population. This difference is reflected partially in educational attainment figures: 38.7 percent of NYC residents aged 25 and above had a BA or higher, compared to just 31.8 in Houston. Therefore, if a worker earning an average salary in New York left for Houston, he would quite likely earn well above Houston’s average income.

The perils of the CBC’s income adjustments are exemplified by the fact that the San Jose area, where small bungalows sell for a million dollars or more, had the third lowest housing expenses relative to income. This is largely because San Jose is filled with extremely high-earning technology workers: the average household income in the region is above $124,000. But if you’re not a computer programmer, you would be foolish to think that you could save money on housing costs by moving to San Jose.
Double Derp.

[Note: The Econ 21 piece has links to their data that are worth exploring.  Unfortunately, we can't directly copy them due to formatting issues.  We strongly recommend reading the whole thing, and clicking through some of the links, here.]

In other words, Texas Monthly's claim was accurate...except for every single detail.

Bottom Line: Houston certainly has some things New York City lacks.  Cheating-ass baseball teams first and foremost.  A higher cost of living, however, is not one of those things.