Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Cruz sticks with Francis

"A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."
Proverbs 18:24

Inbox yesterday:

Francis Announces Major GOTV Rally with Sen. Ted Cruz in HD-60 Runoff

(Cisco, TX) On Monday, conservative businessman and candidate for State Representative of House District 60 Jon Francis announced he will hold a major campaign rally featuring special guest, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, encouraging conservatives in House District 60 to get out the vote.

“Ted Cruz is a conservative outsider who knows what it’s like to be an underdog and defeat the establishment favorite,” said Francis. “We’re excited to energize conservatives across House District 60 with this one of a kind special event ahead of this important election.”

Cruz, the conservative firebrand, endorsed Francis for the State Representative position in the primary, but is now heading into the district to stump for Jon personally in the July 14 Republican Primary Runoff Election.

“If anarchists, leftists and marxists can pillage major cities across America in strong numbers, I can pretty much guarantee conservatives will show up for our rally and head to the polls at full strength on Election Day,” said Francis.

The rally is set to be held at the beautiful, new event venue, La Bella Luna in Hood County on Sunday, July 12. The 2:00 PM afternoon gathering will be totally free of charge for a general admission ticket; however, seating is limited and will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Jon Francis Campaign highly encourages potential attendees to RSVP as soon as possible in order to secure their seat. Tickets are required for entry to the rally.

Francis made headlines in his announcement by pledging to only take contributions from individuals in his campaign and not a dime from lobbyists or PACs.

Francis won the Republican Primary on March 3, finishing just shy of the 50% +1 vote mark needed to avoid a Runoff Election. Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has moved the Republican Primary Runoff Elections to Tuesday, July 14. Early Voting will be held June 29 through July 10. House District 60 includes Brown, Callahan, Coleman, Eastland, Hood, Palo Pinto, Shackelford and Stephens Counties. The 87th Legislative Session is set to gavel on January 12, 2021.

Early Voting begins Monday, June 29 and runs through Friday, July 10. Election Day is Tuesday, July 14.
In other words, Abbott's endorsement of Jon Francis' opponent had no impact on Ted Cruz.  This is interesting for a whole host of reasons (have Cruz and Abbott ever been on opposite sides of a primary before?!?).  But the most interesting aspect is what says about the Empower Texans kerfuffle.

Which is, for the most part, nothing.

Obviously, a cynic would argue that Ted Cruz wants to remain in the good graces of the Wilks family for a future presidential run. Of course, the cynic is completely correct. But that's the point.
Had the Empower Texans kerfuffle had the impact their enemies' had hoped, Ted Cruz wouldn't get anywhere near Jon Francis. Which shows you the long-term impact of the Empower Texans kerfuffle.

In a word: Bupkus.

Nothing's changed.

(Except for the fact that Abbott now needs to run the table.)

Bottom Line: If anything had materially changed in the past ten days, this event wouldn't be happening. But it IS happening. Sorry phony outrage crowd.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Abbott (kinda sorta) Declares (half-assed) War

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

Abbott makes it official:

Gov. Greg Abbott was on the receiving end recently of some jokes about his use of a wheelchair — and his alleged kowtowing to liberal Texas cities on COVID-19.

Now, he’s going on offense.

In a two-week early voting period for the July GOP runoffs beginning Monday, Abbott’s using his broad popularity among Republican voters, lists of likely voters and elaborate campaign organization to try to propel three state or county-level candidates past rivals associated with Empower Texans.

This is expected.

Greg Abbott has been taking on water because of his own indecisive, weak, "leadership." Greg Abbott, and Greg Abbott alone, made the decision to hire Mike Toomey. Greg Abbott, and Greg Abbott alone, made the decision to giveaway a no-bid contract...allegedly for so-called "contract tracing." Greg Abbott, and Greg Abbott alone, did these things.

But Greg Abbott, being notoriously thin-skinned, can't abide discussion of Greg Abbott's job performance.  Greg Abbott has to play Mr. Burns to a revolving cast of legislative Smithers'.  The Empower Texas kerfuffle just gave Greg Abbott a pretext to do what Greg Abbott always wanted to do.

But here's the thing: Abbott's not actually doing much.

(Which is, of course, typical for Abbott.)

Last three paragraphs of the DMN piece:

The governor’s political operation, conceded “endorsements are not the silver bullet or anything.”

In all of the races, Texans for Greg Abbott will deploy “digital advertising to our universe, texting to our folks and emails” — but not radio or cable-TV ads, Carney said. Turnout is likely to be low, he added.

“Hopefully, they’ll get out there and vote and support the governor’s candidates,” Carney said.

Soo...they're going to send a bunch of spam text messages. People hate those.  But keep on keeping on Dave Carney.

Speaking of Dave Carney, that quote is astonishingly weak. "Hopefully?!?"   Hopefully, lots of stuff happens.  But it usually helps to have a plan beyond spam text messages.

Then there's this: Why run your mouth in the first place?!?

A mob boss who knows how to keep his mouth shut only needs to whack one enemy from time to time to be feared.  But a mob boss who says he's going to whack four specific people on a specific timeline...better whack all four (on time).   Anything less looks weak.

In other words, Abbott better run the table.

Anything short of that is a loss.

A bad one.

Bottom Line: This is an awfully high-stakes fight to pick to not have a plan beyond Dave Carney, spam text messages, and the word "hopefully."

Saturday, June 27, 2020

"You're going to be disappointed": An open letter to Peter Rex about Austin Texas

"Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:
Ezekiel 3:17

Dear Mr. Rex,

I read, with great interest, your Wall St. Journal op-ed "I’m Leaving Seattle for Texas So My Employees Can Be Free." You sound like me a decade ago. The only difference is that I moved to Austin from New York City, not Seattle.

Allow me to break some news you need to hear: If perceived differences in public policy are your primary reason for relocation to Austin, you're going to be disappointed. VERY disappointed. It's not 2006 anymore. Dazed and Confused was a quarter century ago.

I understand the urge to flee the Seattle city council. Unfortunately, Austin's city council is no better. Where Seattle has Kshama Sawant and her allies, Austin has Greg Casar. Austin today is Seattle five years ago.

And the trend lines are, unfortunately, identical.

Allow me to illustrate: In 2019, the Austin city council passed an ordinance to encourage camping by the homeless. Homelessness predictably skyrocketed. Sound familiar?!?

Unfortunately, homeless encampments are just the most tangible, visible, manifestation of misgovernance in Austin. They're hardly alone. Over the past decade, Austin has been a laboratory in how to NOT run a city.

Off the top of my head, within recent memory Austin has seen:
  • Multiple attempts at rewriting our land use development code that, while laudable in intent, have descended into lawless farce in practice.
  • A coordinated assault on the integrity of police chief Brian Manley, the only remotely competent official in the entire city government.
But at least they got their boondoggle soccer stadium...and they want to spend $10 Billion on some trains.

Again, you're from Seattle, does any of this sound familiar?!?


But a ha, you say, Texas is a Republican state. And surely the Republicans at the state level will protect me from Democrats at the local level!!!  Right?!?


The only difference between the Travis County Democrats and the Texas GOP is that the former will stab you in the front.

When you observe it up close, you will rapidly discover that the Texas legislature is a uniquely wretched collection of cowards, drunks, imbeciles, and perverts. Far too many Texas legislators are more interested in sexually harassing young women than in protecting entrepreneurs and taxpayers. To be fair, there are also plenty of run of the mill financial criminals. Carlos Uresti was all of the above.

The Texas to which you think you are moving is a figment of the collective imaginations of Fox News, Political consultants, and the self-serving politicians who hire them.

Speaking of self-serving politicians, Governor Greg Abbott is worthless and weak.  He has no core convictions beyond Dave Carney's tracking poll. There is a lot that could be said on this topic, although the fact that Greg Abbott put a lobbyist named Mike Toomey in charge of Texas' COVID policy encapsulates it all.

While Greg Abbott's poll driven COVID dithering brought his fecklessness into public view, it's hardly the only example. When Austin passed the afore mentioned homeless camping ordinance, Greg Abbott vowed swift and decisive action. Unfortunately, by Greg Abbott's standards, swift and decisive action means nothing more than running his mouth on Fox News. Greg Abbott could have called a special legislative session to override the Austin ordinance. But Greg Abbott didn't. And Greg Abbott won't. Because Greg Abbott is worthless and weak.

If you're looking for a visual manifestation of Greg Abbott's callow failure, check out the intersection of Burnet Rd. and U.S. Hwy 183...and understand that the state of Texas has 100% jurisdiction over this right of way:

In terms of grandiose rhetoric accompanied by meager results, Greg Abbott is the right-wing Bill DiBlasio.

The less said about Lt. Gov Dan Patrick and house speaker Dennis Bonnen, the better.


There you have it.

That's not to say that everything is bad in Austin anno 2020. Longhorn baseball looks solid. One of these years, the football team is going to click.  Evil MoPac has his moments.

Then again, for one of the highlights to be a parody Twitter account that was founded to ridicule our leaders' inability to fix Austin's endemic traffic speaks volumes.

I wish I had better news to report. I really do. But that's reality. And that's what you're getting yourself into if you relocate here.

Consider yourself warned.

Adam Cahn
East Riverside
Austin, TX

P.S. Do feel free to forward this letter to Elon Musk and Joe Rogan.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Abbott/Dead Armadillos: An Ongoing Series (Part 3 of ?!?)

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

PushJunction this morning:
GOVERNOR ABBOTT, continuing on a theme, moved yesterday to limit elective medical procedures in four large counties, and pause reopening at current levels.

Today, the governor is closing bars, rolling back restaurant capacity, and over-regulating public gatherings.

At least one doctor in the DFW area is calling the governor's latest maneuvering a needless reaction and political posturing, and he's not alone "harshing the narrative."

Following dire reporting and handwriting about hospital capacity in Houston, leaders of the sprawling Texas Medical Center said the COVID surge is manageable.

As has been the case for the past week, cases continue to increase, but deaths are not keeping pace. This under-reported good news gets in the way of Abbott's reaction to fear porn habit.

While the governor has encouraged the use of face masks, he's stopped short of mandating use (more on this below). Tarrant County, after promising not to force masks wearing, has forced mask use.

It’s rumored that law enforcement isn’t interested in enforcing the nanny state mandate.
Honestly, it's not even his position on the issue (does he really have one?!?).  It's that he can't stick with one once he takes it.   He's indecisive and weak.

The worst part, unfortunately, is that the uncertainty this sort of political dithering creates is the worst of all possible worlds for a business.  It's challenging enough to navigate the virus.  Adding politicians' mood swings complicates things further.

In the first entry in this series, we wrote:
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.
We could have understood the case for a longer original lockdown.  We could have understood the case for a much more decisive reopening.  Lukewarm piles of suck, however, help nobody.

Then again, what would you expect when you don't understand your own data and put lobbyists in charge?!?

But...but...keep Texas red (and send the GOP money)...otherwise...something, something, Alexandra Occasio-Cortez!!!

Bottom Line: We're not going to insult dumpster fires by comparing them to Greg Abbott, but sheesh....

Thursday, June 25, 2020

SAEN proves our point about Morrow's campaign

"Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:"
Luke 18:9

Remember, a month and a half ago, when we pointed out how Robert Morrow's SBOE campaign has ended up serving an unintentionally useful function by forcing the education establishment to line up behind the type of conservative they would otherwise vehemently oppose?!?

San Antonio Express News editorial this morning:

After a lengthy tenure, Ken Mercer is leaving the state Board of Education. We tepidly recommend Lani Popp in the Republican runoff for this seat. This is mostly because we reject the other candidate, Robert Morrow. After a lengthy tenure, Ken Mercer is leaving the state Board of Education. We tepidly recommend Lani Popp in the Republican runoff for this seat. This is mostly because we reject the other candidate, Robert Morrow. Photo: Michael Minasi /Contributor In the Republican runoff for the District 5 seat on the State Board of Education, we give an extremely tepid recommendation to Lani Popp, a speech pathologist in the Northside Independent School District.

We have major disagreements with Popp on a number of issues, but there really is no choice in this race. Her opponent, Robert Morrow, the former chair of the 2016 Travis County Republican Party, is unqualified for any elected office. A crude provocateur, Morrow has said, if elected to the SBOE, he would advocate that a false conspiracy theory about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination be placed in Texas textbooks.

We vehemently disagree with Popp on these statements and viewpoints. Our recommendation of her is really a rejection of Morrow, who has no business serving on the SBOE.
We don't have a lot to add. It's kinda obvious how the SAEN editorial proves our original point. That being said, we find it amusing that the SAEN remains so far up Lyndon Johnson's posterior (48 years after his death), that they hide Morrow's views about what happened in Dallas behind the euphemism "false conspiracy theory."

Bottom Line: Control the options

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A Teachable Moment re: Who's Allowed to say Mean Things about Abbott

"Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits.' "
1 Corinthians 15:33

For those who aren't aware, last week Empower Texans accidentally released an outtake from their podcast that included some R-rated (although factually accurate) comments about Governor Abbott's recent job performance.  The comments were certainly in poor taste.  Regrettable, tacky, etc.  That being said, the comments in question aren't anything anyone wearing big boy pants hasn't heard before.

Of course, this hasn't stopped the caterwauling banshees of insincere outrage from taking advantage of the situation.

That's fine, you can't really blame them for exploiting an opportunity that fell into their lap.

This morning, however, a certain columnist from the Houston Chronicle got in on the act:

Grieder: Texas GOP needs to separate itself from heavy-handed activists at Empower Texans

Grieder's column is a fairly boring act of concern trolling. You're welcome to read it for yourself. But, Greider's claims to have engaged in original reporting over a meeting that's been public knowledge for almost a year notwithstanding, her column contains nothing new.

Here's what's so gobsmacking about the situation: Erica Greider, in the not very distant past, has done the exact same thing.

Erica Greider used to be one of the higher-ups at Texas Monthly. In 2016, she left that position under bizarre circumstances. Whether she was fired or she quit has never truly been resolved. Either way, the details of who initiated her departure aren't relevant except to the degree to which they highlight the oddness of the whole situation.

Once she departed from Texas Monthly, you'll never believe who Erica Greider went after while using some grown up language:

[Note: This tweet log is in reverse chronological order.]

There you have it.  Two situations.  Both involving irritation with Abbott.  Both, probably regrettably, producing some strong language.

The difference, of course, is that only one of these incidents begot howls of phony outrage.

It's almost like the issue has nothing to with saying mean things about Greg Abbott and everything to do with who opposes bidness as usual.

Or is that too cynical?!?

Bottom Line:  Last week's comments were obviously not good, but for someone who's done the exact same thing to condescendingly lecture the rest of us speaks volumes about how government in this state operates.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Apparently, Abbott doesn't even know his data

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

Apparently, the Governor was on (where else?!?) Fox News yesterday.  Due to formatting issues, we can't embed the video.  But you can watch it for yourself here.

More from PushJunction:
After his hollow flex, Abbott went on Fox News and biffed. When asked for specifics about the virus spread in Texas, Abbott, like a kid called on unexpectedly in class, told the anchor he left his stats at home.
And this:

Bottom Line: When your decisions impact the economy and public health for 29 million people, you need to know this stuff...unless you want to admit that lobbyists are running everything.

Monday, June 22, 2020

#atxcouncil: Kelly scares somebody

"For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful Have opened against me; They have spoken against me with a lying tongue.

This reality recently emerged in Austin, TX, when Media Matters, along with Texas Democrats, attempted to smear a leader in the Travis County Republican Party (TCRP) and a conservative candidate running for city council.

It didn’t take long for Media Matters to step in and do what they do best: Lie about Republicans. The supposed media watchdog outlet used Shroyer’s appearance to falsely smear the TCRP, along with Travis County GOP Chair Matt Mackowiak and Mackenzie Kelly, who is currently running for city council.
The linked piece what happened and why MediaMatters' accusations are nonsense.  We recommend reading it.  For our purposes, however, it matters less what was the said and more that that particular organization said something in the first place.

Because it begs a follow up question: Why does MediaMatters care about Mackenzie Kelly?!?

We don't know.

We could sketch out any number of potentially plausible hypotheses. But they're just that: hypotheses. Any answer we could give is speculative.

But we know one thing: Somebody doesn't want even a hint of intellectual diversity on the Austin city council.

Probably a good reason to donate to Mackenzie Kelly's campaign.

Bottom Line: Sometimes the reaction of your opponents tells you things you wouldn't have otherwise known....

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Texas Federation of Republican Women Rebukes Abbott

"A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity."
Proverbs 17:17

Via. Empower Texans:
Even staunch supporters are taking issue with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s stance on mask orders.

Calling it “an overreach of power by our elected officials,” the Texas Federation of Republican Women—the most powerful women’s political organization in Texas—joined a host of Republican lawmakers and voters who are speaking out against local mask orders that were given the green light by Abbott.

On Thursday morning, TFRW sent an “action alert” asking members to “Tell Governor Abbott ‘No’ to Face Mask Mandates.” 

Crazy. For those who aren't aware, TFRW are the mother of all establishment R organizations. It's not so much what's being said as it is who's saying it.

Kudos to Empower Texans for catching this.

Bottom Line: The long term fallout remains unknown, but this can't be a good sign.

Friday, June 19, 2020

#TXLEGE: No Thank You to Joe Straus' COVID-related "Behavioral Health" initiative

"The king establishes the land by justice,
But he who receives bribes overthrows it.
Proverbs 29:4

From the Department of not letting a crisis go to waste:
This moment, in other words, is not just a physical health pandemic, but also a behavioral health emergency. Our willingness to confront and address our worsening behavioral health challenges will go a long way toward determining how quickly and successfully Texas recovers from the damage unleashed by COVID-19 — and how well we can meet our state’s ongoing mental health challenges further exposed by the pandemic.

And on an even larger scale, we know that healthy Texans mean a healthy workforce. Illnesses like anxiety and depression can sap the enthusiasm and innovative spirit of our state’s entrepreneurs, business leaders and workers, long before they reach their potential, or in some cases even get started. That spirit is at the very heart of our state’s ability to recover economically.

Over the last two legislative sessions, Texas has made significant progress in treating mental health issues. Our state has wisely invested in local treatment programs, greater access to services, needed facility repairs and significant updates to the ways we identify and respond to mental health and other safety issues in our public schools. Just recently, the state launched the Child Psychiatry Access Network to help pediatricians throughout the state better treat mental health issues. Legislators from both parties in the Texas House and Senate have done commendable work on these issues — identifying problems, listening to experts and making strategic short- and long-term investments.

Yeah, um, no.

To be honest, others know more about this topic than we do. We're not necessarily sure what this portends. But nothing good comes from the Texas legislature pushing schemes allegedly for the protection of mental health.

That Joe Straus is personally pushing this initiative makes it that much more suspect.

You can learn more about the recent history of this topic here.

Bottom Line: Given what's happened in the not very distant past, to see this subject raised in this manner by this individual is highly suspicious.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Abbott/Dead Armadillos: Revisited

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

Since shortly after the start of the Chinese coronavirus shutdowns, local governments have clamored to make mask-wearing mandatory—threatening jail time and fines for noncompliance.

Gov. Greg Abbott, however, had stood firm, not only refusing to institute a statewide mask mandate, but also barring elected officials from implementing penalties for not complying with local mask orders, effectively rendering them moot.

Until this week.

On Tuesday, a group of eight mayors wrote to Abbott, imploring him to give them the authority to penalize those who refuse to wear masks.

Among those who signed the letter were: Houston’s Sylvester Turner, Austin’s Steve Adler, San Antonio’s Ron Nirenberg, Dallas’ Eric Johnson, Fort Worth’s Betsy Price, El Paso’s Dee Margo, Arlington’s Jeff Williams, Plano’s Harry LaRosiliere, and Grand Prairie’s Ron Jensen.

On Wednesday, Democrat Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff attempted to skirt Abbott’s restriction by signing an executive order requiring businesses to require customers and employees to wear masks. Failure to do so would result in a fine of $1,000 for each incident.

“The action I’m taking today may be pushing the legal bounds a little bit, but our attorneys believe they can defend this order in court,” Wolff said after issuing the order.

Abbott, however, says he believes the loophole does not conflict with his executive order and even implied that the tactic was meant to be available to local governments all along.

In an interview with KWTX News in Waco shortly after, Abbott said there had been “a plan in place all along” and that “the county judge in Bexar County had finally figured that out.”
Honestly, it's hard to overstate just how bad of an unforced error this was.

However belatedly, we're opening.  People had moved on.  With yesterday's move, however, Abbott rips open those old wounds.

And for what?!?

Because encouraging local governments to micromanage private entities, when these decisions should clearly be left to individual entities, seems like an odd hill on which to die.

In late April, we wrote:

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.

Yesterday's announcement restores that needle, which had been fading into the background with time, to front and center.

GREG ABBOTT is quickly becoming a man without a country.

The left, at least publicly, reviles the governor because of his party, and now the right is coming to understand Abbott is not a conservative leader, just a cipher taking up space, biding his time till a promotion is possible.

Yesterday the governor, after previously stating that facemasks could not be forced on Texans, rolled over to pressure from a lame-duck county judge.

That the left doesn't prefer Abbott isn't news, but Abbott, unless he bails at the last minute to save face, will have to appear before thousands of his party's most enthusiastic members in one month.
[Note: This blog post is already too long, but see here, and here, and here, and here for more.]

Bottom Line:  The strength of the hull remains to be seen, but the ship is clearly taking on water.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

#NoRePete: FLORIDA operative doing Sessions' dirty work

"Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,"
1 Timothy 4:1

The e-mail looks terrible:

If you follow the link, you'll come to a website called "texaspolitics.com."  Upon arrival, you'll immediately discover that almost all of the content is produced elsewhere.  Well known outlets that cover Texas political news.  Places like the Texas Tribune and KXAN.

So, it looks like your average scammy content aggregator site...with one exception.

That exception, as the original e-mail subject line proclaimed, was this headline:
White GOP congressional candidate: “I know what slavery is like”
The story in question is a vile smear against CD-17 runoff candidate Renee Swann.  It attempts to twist a comment she made about regulatory compliance into a racial issue.  While the comment might have been clumsy, it most certainly was NOT what the headline implied.  Despicable stuff.

That being said, laundering innuendo through "official looking" websites (and blasting them out through e-mail) is a fairly well known technique for a certain type of political operative with...malleable scruples.

That's where this gets interesting.

Because that hatchet job against Renee Swann was written by this guy:

Now who, pray tell, is Javier Manjarres?!?

We take no joy in our endorsement of Javier Manjarres, a flawed but savvy political operative who makes his living producing a blog called Shark Tank. Our reluctance should give voters a clue about the tone and tenor of the Republican primary for U.S. House District 22.

The blog strays into the tasteless, if not the cruel. His recent attack on the parent of a Stoneman Douglas murder victim — and demeaning commentary about one of the survivors — capture the sometimes hostile character of his work.


Take Manjarres, for example. Most of us go though life never getting arrested and charged with attempted murder, domestic violence, burglary or fist fighting. Manjarres has managed to get ensnared in all of them without ever getting convicted. There’s a story that goes with each of them and Manjarres tells them well.

But wouldn’t most of us prefer a wanna-be Congressman to be story-free?
That's from a newspaper editorial in 2018.  Apparently, Javier Manjarres ran for a solidly blue seat in Florida in 2018.  Of course, running for solidly blue seats as a Republican is another well known political scam.

For our purposes, however, the relevant detail is that Javier Manjarres is from Florida.

Why is Florida relevant to the runoff for TEXAS' 17th congressional district?!?

Because Renee Swann's opponent in that race is Pete Sessions...and Pete Sessions **AHEM** connections to Florida have been an issue for a long time.

Bottom Line:  For this sleazy of an allegation to just **happen** to get published against Pete Sessions' opponent by one of the most well-known scammers in Florida is...an awfully big coincidence.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Abbott gets sued re: "Contract Tracing" Boondoggle

"Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison."
Matthew 5:25


Here's the thing: Lawsuits are not free. They cost money to file and fight. While that last statement is obvious, it also speaks volumes to the degree of abuse in this case.

Think about how frequently those with the means to take on these sorts of fights roll over and die.

That a fight is actually occurring means: a) those waging it think the abuse is severe enough to warrant it **AND** b) they think they can win.

We know that we've been saying for awhile that we think Abbott's going to drop this contract.  That being said, we admit that it hasn't happened yet.  But we still think dropping the contract is Abbott's path of least resistance.  And that's before you get to this.

Bottom Line:  Honestly, it's astounding that they've yet to jettison this contract.  It's an albatross.  But they've got to eventually.  Right?!?

Monday, June 15, 2020

Good Follow-up questions about Phil Wilson

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

Obviously, last week we wrote about the multifaceted disaster of Phil Wilson/the Texas Department of Health and Human services/the Lower Colorado River Authority.  We weren't aware of this when we wrote the original post, but apparently Mr. Wilson is a longstanding member of the good ol' boy crowd in Smith County.  Given the Smith County connection, JoAnn Fleming has some follow-up questions:
Mr. Cahn's blog got us thinking about the timing of Mr. Wilson's hire and Abbott's contact tracing contract. Here's our list of unanswered questions:

1. Why is a quasi-state agency “river authority” paying over $636,000 per year for a General Manager?

2. Why is Gov. Abbott entrusting the state agency charged with leading the COVID-19 response to a part-time commissioner?

3. Why did HHSC Executive Commissioner Phil Wilson sign the $295 million contract with MTX Group for contact tracing – approving it in two days – apparently without running due diligence backgrounds on MTX and the CEO?

(Note: As we’ve reported, grassroots leaders have uncovered plenty of questionable information about the contract, MTX Group and its CEO that Mr. Wilson apparently overlooked.)

4. How long can anyone hold two high level demanding jobs before mistakes become deadly – especially since HHSC regulates nursing homes, operates nearly two dozen state hospitals and state supported living facilities, and is one of the largest state bureaucracies with 36,600 employees?

5. Why is this double posting considered constitutional, legal, or even ethical and how long will the Abbott-ignored legislature allow this kind of elite nest-feathering to go on without question?
Well said...although we will politely (but very, very, firmly) suggest the answer to question #5 can be found here.

Bottom Line:  The world of legal political corruption in the state of Texas can be...quite sordid.

Friday, June 12, 2020

#atxcouncil: What's another $10 Billion between cronies?!?

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

Because of course:
Austin City Council and the Capital Metro board unanimously approved a $9.8 billion, 30-year transit plan—Project Connect—that will add three light rail lines, new bus lines and park-and-rides to the Austin region.


With their greenlight, the plan is likely to go before voters in November. If passed, more than half of the project budget—$5.4 billion—would come from local taxpayers in the form of an increased city property tax rate. Federal grants would cover the rest.
At this point, honestly, there's not a lot to say.

They have the votes on the dais.  They know they have the votes on the dias.  And they're using them.

The political strategy is obvious: Enough Democrats in Austin hate Trump that the plan is to create a "politics as team sport" effect that gets it across the finish line in a presidential year.

Will it work?!?

We don't know.  It's certainly the case that Trump's impotent buffoonery does no favors anyone or anything perceived to be remotely close to him.  On the other hand, $10 billion is an ASTRONOMICAL price tag even by the standards of council.

If the voters are focused on national issues, it's likely to pass.  If the voters are focused on local issues, it fails.  Where the voters are ultimately focused remains to be seen.

Either way, that's a lot of money.

Bottom Line:  We won't really know the macroenvironment for several more months, but with a price tag like that....

Thursday, June 11, 2020

#TXLEGE: Abbott Endorses Candidate Who's (at best) SOFT on Multiple RPT Legislative Priorities

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

AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today endorsed Justin Berry for State Representative of House District 47. Berry is a small business owner and first responder who has served with the Austin Police Department for over a decade. Berry will work tirelessly to enact meaningful reforms that will keep our communities safe, strengthen the economy, and improve Texas’ education system.

“I am proud to endorse Justin Berry for the Texas House of Representatives, and I am confident that Justin will be an effective leader on behalf of the people of District 47,” said Governor Abbott. “Justin will work hard to protect public safety, strengthen our education system, and promote free markets. I urge the people of Travis County to send Justin to the Texas House so that he can defend Texas values and secure an even brighter future for our great state.”

Let's take a trip in the way back machine...all the way to February.

[W]ith regard to being able to care without a permit, I’m not opposed to that but there needs to be some screening process.
John Kerry, likewise, was for the $87 Billion before he was against it.

[Note: We can't prove it, but we very strongly suspect that part of the subtext of this endorsement is that Greg Abbott does not want that bill on his desk.]

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.
As we originally explained: 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.

Furthermore, let's not overlook the 800 pound gorilla in the room: Cop unions.

It's not a secret that Justin Berry is a vice president in the Austin Police Association.  It's also not a secret that, post George Floyd, cop unions are (very belatedly) coming in for the scrutiny they probably should have recieved decades ago.  Greg Abbott knows this.  For Greg Abbott to endorse a board member of the Austin Police Association, in the current climate, speaks volumes.

To be fair, the Austin Police Association has been very good on Austin's homelessness debacle.  To the degree that the Justin Berry endorsement means the lege is serious about that issue...right on.  Likewise, considering council's actions this week, odds are high that we'll have considerable overlap  with APA for the next little bit.  But, immediate crisis notwithstanding, does anyone believe that the Austin Police Association is going to be proactive about preventing the next round of incidents?!?

Because we don't.

Bottom Line:  Not encouraging....

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

#TXLEGE: Zimmerman states obvious re: Newspaper Endorsements

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

Wasn't expecting this:

This is...very interesting.

Obviously, newspaper endoresments have been meaningless for twenty years. Nobody cares about them. At least, not in a partisan race.

That being said, they still have some value in obscure quasi-"non-partisan" down ballot races (mostly because the Austin Chonicle's endorsements are a good guide who to vote against).

But this race ain't one of those.

Bottom Line: In a world of unlimited time and resources, it's probably worth humoring them. But we don't live in that world. In the world as it exists in reality, Zimmerman's move is probably shrewd.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Head of the Lower Colorado River Authority is making...HOW MUCH?!?

"There is desirable treasure,
And oil in the dwelling of the wise,
But a foolish man squanders it."
Proverbs 21:20

Apparently, this story is almost a week old, although we just saw it:
The acting head of Texas’ massive health and human services bureaucracy, who is leading a 36,600 employee agency during a global pandemic, is also working a second job as the well-paid general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority, a quasi-state agency — funded without state tax dollars — that provides water and electricity to more than a million Texans.

And despite temporarily heading one of Texas’ largest and most high-profile agencies, acting Executive Commissioner Phil Wilson is not on state payroll. Instead, he continues to earn $636,694 from the river authority, more than double what the previous health commissioner made.
The Trib article goes on to discuss the appropriateness of Phil Wilson working both positions.  That's certainly a valid question.  It probably isn't appropriate.  But we admit it's a complicated discussion.

Can we take a second, however, to ask why the head of a friggin' river authority is making over $600k in the first place?!?

As a matter of comparison, that's more than any school district superintendent makes. And, to be fair, most of the larger school districts have over 10,000 employees. LCRA, by contrast, has under 2000.
Then there's this gem:
Wilson has had a long career in and around state government, at least once making news for out-earning predecessors in the same positions. As executive director of the Texas Department of Transportation, his starting salary was $100,000 more, 50% higher, than the previous head. Wilson was also deputy chief of staff to Gov. Rick Perry, who appointed him secretary of state, and worked as a lobbyist and corporate officer for Irving-based Luminant, an electricity generator.
Because of course he's a former high level Rick Perry staffer.

Cue Sinatra:

Bottom Line: Even by the standards of legal political corruption in the state of Texas, this is still real money.

Monday, June 8, 2020

#atxcouncil: Alter, Pool, and "Defunding the Police"

"And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Joshua 24:15

The Austin Justice Coalition is taking more drastic steps, calling for the Austin City Council to defund the Austin Police Department in favor of resources designed to protect the community.

"In the wake of the senseless murders of Mike Ramos, George Floyd, Brionna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless others, and the Austin Police Department's escalated violence against the city's grieving community, Austin is in desperate need of courageous leadership," officials wrote in an emailed advisory. "Communities around the world are rising up to call to an end the killing of black people and demand change that lives up the creed:

To that end, Austin Justice Coalition members plan to address council members during their regular meeting scheduled on Thursday: "We are calling on the Austin City Council to become these courageous leaders by pledging to defund the Austin Police Department and invest in the resources that really keep us safe and healthy, especially in black communities, Indigenous communities and communities of color."
There's a lot we could say, but we'll start here: This is an all-around fascinating conundrum for Allison Alter and Leslie Pool.

Both of them are up for re-election this fall.  If they vote yes, they can't win.  Voting no, however, is likely to produce a challenge from the left.  That is likewise a very challenging position to maintain.

It's the political equivalent of Kobayashi Maru.

You're damned if you do.  If you don't, you might not be damned, but you're damn sure going to find yourself in a painful position.  Neither option is good.

FWIW, if we were advising Allison Alter or Leslie Pool, we would advise them to vote no.  You might not win, but you'd live to fight another day.  Voting yes is a guaranteed loss.  Then again, Allison Alter and Leslie Pool don't ask this website for advice very often.

Bottom Line:  Whatever choice they make, it's going to be extremely painful.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

They Can't Help Themselves

"For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,"
Titus 1:7

A couple days ago, the chair of the Bexar county GOP made some Looney Tunes statements about the George Floyd murder.  This was followed shortly thereafter by the discovery that other county chairs had made similar comments.  This was a genuine problem that needs to be addressed.

Indeed, we intended to address that problem today.

Then we saw this:

Looks bad, doesn't it?!?

It does...until you read the article.
As it turns out, most of these new allegedly "racist" social media posts are speculating about George Soros' involvement in recent events.  A couple reference 1992's Reginald Denny tragedy.  These posts may or may not be accurate, but they're pretty specious grounds to lobby an accusation of "racism."

Which is a shame, because the original impetus for this story is problematic (highly so).

But nobody's gonna listen anymore.

Bottom Line:  Diluting the point undermines what was originally a valid inquiry.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Backlash to Abbott's so-called "Contact Tracing" Boondoggle is still Growing

Add caption

"David said furthermore, 'As the Lord lives, the Lord shall strike him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall go out to battle and perish.'"
1 Samuel 26:10

HHS Office of the Inspector General
P.O. Box 85200
Austin, Texas 78708

Dear Inspector General Kauffman:

I request of you, in the strongest possible way—and for a multitude of sound reasons—to begin an investigation into the handling of the contact tracing contract process and procedures before the Health and Human Services Commission moves forward with the proposed contact tracing program.

I am requesting the following questions be investigated:

  • The efficacy of the selected contractor, MTX Group. 
  • The newly discovered, possibly misleading, and undisclosed information of some board members that may have had undue influence on final contract award. 
  • There are reports citing its failure to fulfill the terms of previous agreements. How could a company with a questionable performance record have been rigorously vetted in such a short acquisition period? 
  • How do we expect a company that has only had a few small, $1 to 2 million contracts to manage a nearly $300 million contract that requires rapid mobilization? 
  • What proof is there that a company with only a couple hundred employees, located mostly in India, can recruit, train, and manage over 4,000 tracers to do something that has never been attempted on this scale?
As time is of the essence, I do ask for a speedy resolution and ask that the contract is halted until a deep investigation may be conducted.

Thank you,

Senator Bob Hall
Hoo boy.

If Abbott's smart, he'll cancel the contract as a Friday afternoon document dump later today.

Bottom Line:  This contract has become a political albatross.  It WILL get cancelled.  At this point, the only real question is how much pain Abbott wants to put himself through before he surrenders to the obvious.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Roy makes so-called "Paycheck Protection Program" meaningfully less useless

"He who despises the word will be destroyed,
But he who fears the commandment will be rewarded."
Proverbs 13:13

We just noticed this today, although apparently it happened a week ago:

The U.S. House overwhelmingly passed legislation Thursday to ease rules on small-business owners who are participating in a loan program meant to mitigate the economic complications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new legislation was a bipartisan effort, spearheaded by two freshmen — including U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin. The goal is to give business owners and operates more flexibility in the rules small businesses must follow in order to have their loans forgiven. The bill now moves to the Senate, where Roy has said he expects it will pass. (Update: The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the bill on June 3, and it will head to the President Trump's desk for signature.)

"We want to make sure that money is being targeted and focused in ways that's best for those businesses in order to stay alive," Roy said in an interview last week as he was shepherding the bill through the chamber. "That's the concern, that businesses are unable to get through this and stay alive."

The legislation made significant changes to the Paycheck Protection Program, a fund aimed at keeping afloat small businesses devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. In this program, small-business owners secured loans that will ultimately be forgiven if they play by the law's rules. Roy's bill loosened those rules for small business owners by:
  • Allowing recipients to defer payroll taxes. 
  • Extending the time in which business owners can use the loans from June 30 until Dec. 31. 
  • Reducing the ratio of loan funding that must be allocated to payroll from 75% to 60%. 
  • Extending the period in which small-business owners who are not eligible for forgiveness can pay back the loans to five years.
 This is interesting for a few reasons:
  1. The so-called "PPP" program was basically useless as originally passed.  Roy's modifications make it less so.  This is welcome news to anyone using it to navigate the government-mandated shutdowns.

  2. The knock people love to make on Chip Roy is that he's more interested in "hollow posturing" than substance.  This development kicks that argument to the curb.  That Roy build overwhelming bipartisan consensus at a time when his party is in the minority is icing on the cake.
Bottom Line:  This will probably be the most meaningful accomplishment of this session of Congress; kudos to Chip Roy for making it happen.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

#TXLEGE: Paxton sets up lege to do something Amazing (they probably won't)

"Understand, you senseless among the people;
And you fools, when will you be wise?"
Psalm 94:8

Wall St. Journal yesterday:
The Attorney General of Texas, Ken Paxton, plans to release an advisory opinion soon that could help free public employees who are fed up with their union. In 2018 in Janus v. Afscme, the Supreme Court said that union fees couldn’t be deducted from the paycheck of a government worker who didn’t “affirmatively consent.”

The question is what flows from this logic. Last fall Alaska Governor Michael Dunleavy, citing Janus, signed an order to let state workers quit the union anytime, instead of only during 10 enchanted days once each year. Union members also would have to refresh their consent forms periodically. Those changes are on hold pending a legal challenge.

Mr. Paxton’s advisory opinion takes a similar tack. In Texas, it explains, public unions “serve as a middleman” by circulating and then submitting the dues authorizations for state workers: “State agencies appear to have no independent method of confirming that an employee knowingly and voluntarily consented to the payroll deduction without any coercion or improper inducement.”

One solution, the opinion says, would be for the state to take fee authorizations directly from each employee. Mr. Paxton evaluates some suggested waiver verbiage, under which a public worker would certify: “I recognize that I have a First Amendment right to associate, including the right not to associate. . . . I am not compelled to pay a labor organization any money as a condition of employment, and I do not have to sign this consent form.”

Even then, Mr. Paxton says, a waiver can’t be presumed to last forever: “A one-time, perpetual authorization is inconsistent with the Court’s conclusion in Janus that consent must be knowingly and freely given.” The expiration date for such consent is an open question, the opinion says. But if the waivers were made valid for “one year from the time given,” a court would probably agree that’s “sufficiently contemporaneous to be constitutional.”
This sounds AWESOME...unfortunately:
Mr. Paxton’s advisory opinion isn’t binding....The Legislature, which ultimately controls the deduction framework for state and local workers, should heed Mr. Paxton’s call, too, once lawmakers convene in January.
Yeah, that won't happen.

But it's a nice thought.

Bottom Line: Paxtoni's certainly correct on the legal argument, but if the lege had any intention of addressing union dues, they would have done so EONS ago.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

#TXLEGE: Abbott facing first Sustained Revolt Re: "Contact Tracing" Boondoggle

"David said furthermore, 'As the Lord lives, the Lord shall strike him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall go out to battle and perish.' "
1 Samuel 26:10

I would like to make one final point which concerns contract tracing. The MTX contract must end promptly. It is a gross invasion of personal liberty and privacy. I also have serious concerns it violates HIPPA and other medical privacy laws. Why is Texas spending nearly $300 million of taxpayer money on tracking Texans for two years over this? Though it may be federally funded, every dollar spent by local, state, or the federal government either comes from current taxpayers or the children or grandchildren of taxpayers through debt service. Therefore, we could have forgone the federal funds, saved taxpayer dollars, and not conducted privacy-infringing tracing.
[Note: While the scope of this blog post is limited to the so-called "contact tracing" boondoggle, Tinderholt's full letter is brutal.]

“Contact tracing is technically wrong, as it may be an effective tool to trace slow moving deadly viruses such as Ebola or Tuberculosis, but not for a fast-moving virus with a low death rate that is primarily spread by asymptomatic people.

“Contact tracing, for COVID-19, is a colossal waste of money which could be better spent on resources to protect the elderly and immune-compromised populations that are the most affected. Contact tracing will shred our constitutional rights to privacy.

“Texas must stop contact tracing and change course by adopting new policies consistent with the facts as we now know them...."

James White:

It's not a full statement, but this retweet from Donna Howard's certainly suggests discomfort with the contract.

All of which is really, really, interesting.

Obviously, we've been around the block several times.  We know that the legislature often talks a big game during the interim, then fails to follow through once they get the chance.  Still, this is not a good place for a Governor to be heading into the most difficult session in awhile.

If Abbott's smart, he'll cancel the contract (and fire Mike Toomey).  Whether or not he is smart remains to be seen.  That being said, it wouldn't surprise us to see that announcement as a Friday afternoon document dump this week or next.

Bottom Line: The long term fallout remains to be seen, but the bloom is certainly off the rose in a way it hasn't been previously.