Sunday, June 26, 2016

Revelation 7:9-17 -- A Great Revival in the Great Tribulation


A Multitude from the Great Tribulation
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,  saying:
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?”

And I said to him, “Sir, you know.”

So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.  They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat;  for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Revelation 7:9-17

Pastor Danny Forshee.  Great Hills Baptist Church.  October 12, 2014:



Outline:

Matthew 24:21
  1. Praise - Said "NO" to the anti-Christ (vv. 9-17)
  2. Persecution (all will be) (vv. 13-15a)
    - Titus 3:4-7
  3. Promise (vv. 15b-17)
Highlights:
  • "Never compromise with the Gospel.  Never quit preaching on Hell.  Cause it's True!!!"
  • "Hell is real but more important, Glory to God, Heaven is real."
  • "The blood of Jesus is the divine detergent that washes away our sin."
  • Jesus first used the phrase "Great Tribulation."
    • See the verse from Matthew linked above.
  • Revival frequently accompanies times of financial difficulty.
  • White Robes = Virtue and Victory.
  • The best thing we can do to get ready for Heaven is to worship God here on Earth!
    • "This is a warm-up for what we get to do for eternity."

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Cassidy identifies the real Fischer case outrage


"For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,"
2 Timothy 3:2

We haven't paid particularly close attention to the Fischer case.  While affirmative action is a counterproductive and obnoxious policy, it's also a low-value political minefield where you can't accomplish much even if you're successful.  If you want real change in higher education, go after the money and the political favoritism.

Speaking of political favoritism, however, the indefatigable Jon Cassidy has a must read piece in the American Spectator about the Court's ignorance of the admissions scandal during it's Fischer ruling:
The Supreme Court upheld affirmative action at the University of Texas in a 4-3 decision Thursday by openly ignoring the facts of the case.
In his opinion for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy dismissed a bombshell report on admissions corruption at UT as mere “extrarecord materials” which “the Court properly declines to consider.” The excuse would have been a lot more convincing coming from anybody else.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing the dissent for himself, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justice Clarence Thomas, found those records not just worthy of consideration, but devastating both to UT’s argument, and to Kennedy’s rationale for accepting it. They prove that UT’s official story about how race is considered in admissions is little more than a cover story. For more than a decade, the school has been running a backdoor affirmative action program for the wealthy and politically connected.

That’s hypocritical, of course, for an institution that opposes privilege with such sanctimony, not to mention self-defeating, but it’s also directly relevant to Kennedy’s given standard. “Racial classifications,” he has written, “are a last resort.” If that’s true, and if UT’s backdoor program has been contributing to classes that are too rich and white, then shouldn’t the first resort be to stop doing crooked favors for rich white parents? Wouldn’t a level playing field produce more diversity?

The answer is obvious, which is why Kennedy averted his eyes.

We know that the University of Texas lied to lower courts about how it conducted admissions, because that lie was exposed, in stages – by a board member named Wallace Hall, by reports in Watchdog.org, by a whistleblower in the admissions office, in an investigation known as the Kroll report, in further reporting on the truly damning material left out of the Kroll report, and finally, perhaps one day, when the Texas courts force Chancellor Bill McRaven to turn over 25,000 pages of investigatory records he has hidden from his own board.

The legal principle the Supreme Court decided Thursday is whether UT’s defense of its affirmative action would survive “strict scrutiny.” But considering UT’s own board is blocked from scrutinizing admissions, it’s not clear what the court thinks it was scrutinizing. A bunch of decade-old legal fictions, I’d say, fictions exposed by the Kroll report.

....

The court knew nothing about them, and of course nobody knew anything about the students admitted through the secret admissions program set up by disgraced former president Bill Powers. We know now that from 2009 to 2014, at least 764 applicants who were initially denied admission were ultimately admitted through Powers’ secret back door, some with grade point averages below 2.0 and SAT scores in the 800s. The Cato Institute, citing my reporting for Watchdog.org, argued that it’s likely the secret backdoor program “results in more admissions than… (the) ordinary ‘holistic review’ process” that the court was reviewing. In short, the actual admissions operation bore little resemblance to the decade-old record assembled in lower courts.

Kennedy’s reason for ignoring the reports on admissions corruption was that they “are tangential to this case at best.” He insisted that the university hadn’t had “a full opportunity to respond to” them. The weasel word there is “full,” as the university did respond to them in two briefs. Alito pointed out that six briefs in all referenced the admissions scandal, and even cited three passages in them that cite my own reporting.

Then Alito dropped the hammer: “the Court’s purported concern about reliance on ‘extrarecord materials’ rings especially hollow in light of its willingness to affirm the decision below, which relied heavily on the Fifth Circuit’s own extrarecord Internet research.”
Seriously, do read the whole thing here.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Notes on Yesterday's #ATXCouncil Meeting....


"There are many plans in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand."
Proverbs 19:21

[Author's Note: The full agenda for the meeting can be viewed here.]

We attended a substantial chuck of yesterday's uber-marathon Council meeting (14 hours and counting when we left at midnight; ultimately 16 hours).  Our thoughts are in the order events occurred.  For those only interested in the transportation bond, that discussion is at the end:

  • Item 79: They actually approved approximately $275k per year to build 2 luxury public bathrooms on street corners downtown.  This despite the fact that every downtown hotel already has bathrooms that any member of the public can use as long as they don't make a scene while doing so.  Kathie Tovo justified this project on the grounds that the homeless would relieve themselves on the street if the city didn't provide facilities.  Passed 8-2-1 with Zimmerman and Troxclair voting Nay and Gallo abstaining.  We can't prove it at this point, but we strongly suspect someone's getting paid.

    In addition, during later public testimony over the bond package, a female firefigher testified that there are numerous fire stations around Austin that don't even have male and female bathrooms despite the fact that a previous council moved seventeen years ago to provide them; for council to move forward with taxpayer funded luxury bathrooms at a time when city owned firestations have been waiting almost two decades for sufficient facilities seems...odd.
  • Item 56: The ball appears to be slowly moving forward on APD's plan to buy license plate readers to scan citizens' vehicles.  We're not a lawyer, and we haven't reviewed the relevant jurisprudence, but this strikes us as one of the most blatant violations of the fourth amendment we've ever seen.  Making matters worse, the vendor will be allowed to keep data from license plate scans as long as it "has commercial value."  So it's both unconstitutional and a special interest boondoggle.  In addition, one of the members of the public who testified in opposition raised concerns over whether such a proposal would turn APD into "mobile debt collectors" for things like traffic tickets.  Thankfully, they at least dropped the civil asset forfeiture component.  Council voted 6-5 (Zimmerman, Troxclair, Casar, Houston, Garza, and Kitchen voting AYE) in favor of Zimmerman's amendment to restrict APD from "executing" the contract and merely allow them to negotiate it.  This will be back in front of council in August.
  • Items 57/58: Unfortunately, council went ahead with their poorly conceived APD body camera policy and contract.  First things first, between the cameras and iphones being purchased to play the footage, we're talking about $17 MILLION.  Council went forward with using Taser (yes, THAT Taser) for the cameras at a cost of $12 million despite the fact that another vendor (Utility) was offering a technically superior product at a fraction of the price (Author's Note: We apologize, but we didn't write down the number of their asking price).

    Leslie Pool initially moved to postpone consideration of the contract to August, but she later pulled the motion after asking questions of APD.  Kathie Tovo called now a "time for action" following a "deliberative" process.  Keep in mind, they tried to ambush us with this contract 6 weeks ago.

    More troubling is the incomplete policy council pushed forward related to body camera footage.  While Kathy Mitchell of the Texas Criminal Justice coalition cited "incremental progress" in terms of allowing public greater access to body camera footage, there are still numerous hurdles to public access.  A representative from the Electronic Frontier Foundation urged caution because whatever policy adopted by council would subsequently become subject to typical governmental inertia; specifically, "we should be very careful about a cobbled together system."  Everybody supports police bodycameras, but there's no reason council couldn't have taken another month or two to get the policy right.  Council will rue this day whenever the inevitable dispute between an officer and a citizen provokes outrage that this policy proves insufficient to quell.

    Item 57 ($12 million for body cameras) passed 9-1-1 (Zimmerman voting Nay, Houston abstaining); Item 58 ($5 million for iphones) 7-3-1 (Zimmerman, Houston, and Pool voting Nay; Troxclair abstaining).
  • "Special Called Meeting" -- Council also considered Ellen Troxclair's proposal to expand the city of Austin's homestead exemption to 14% from the current 6%.  For obscure legal reasons, this had to be considered as part of a "special called meeting" instead the regular agenda.  Council watered Troxclair's proposed 8% expansion (to 14%) all the way down to 2% (to 8%). We had actually left the meeting at this point so we missed the discussion, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out why the current council would water down a tax relief package.

    [Author's Note: Community Impact has more here.]
  • Item 83: This was the discussion of the Transportation bond.  We left following public testimony, so we didn't see much of the discussion between council members.  Something eventually passed 8-3, but we aren't familiar with the details and will refrain from commenting further until we digest said details.

    That being said, we are going to re-iterate the concern we expressed in our public testimony and in our open letter to the mayor: Does the city bureaucracy have the capability to execute this plan in anything resembling a competent or timely manner?!?  $720 million is a lot of money, and this package has a lot of moving parts.  As the female firefighter testified, the city still hasn't been able to produce male and female bathrooms in fire-stations despite having promised to do so seventeen years ago.  If they can't deliver bathrooms, are they really capable of successfully executing a major transportation project?!?

    [Author's Note: The firefigher's testimony is at the 17:35 mark; our testimony is at 23:30]

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Rindaldi pushes envelope on Local Government Accountability!!!


And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Luke 20:25

Lookin' good Rinaldi:
AUSTIN, TEXAS – On Tuesday, Rep. Rinaldi, joined by 19 House and Senate Republicans, filed an amicus curiae brief in a lawsuit challenging Laredo’s bag ban ordinance. In the brief, Rep. Rinaldi supports the argument that the City of Laredo’s plastic bag ban ordinance is void because it contradicts § 361.0961 of the Texas Health and Safety Code.

The Laredo Merchants Association brought suit against the City of Laredo in March of 2015, challenging Laredo’s city ordinance that prohibits retailers from providing or selling plastic bags to customers. The 341st Judicial District Court ruled that the ordinance does not violate state statute. Oral arguments will be made in the Texas Fourth District Court of Appeals on June 28th. The Court will then determine if the lower court’s decision will be overturned or upheld.

“Cities need to understand that the Legislature can and will step in when authority delegated to them by the sovereign state of Texas has been abused to restrict liberty and constrain the free flow of commerce,” Rinaldi said. “In this instance, the Legislature anticipated these types of power grabs by local municipalities and passed a peremptory state statute that trumps Laredo’s bag ban ordinance.”

Paxton secures victory for Rule of Law/Separation of Powers


And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Luke 20:25

This morning, the United States Supreme Court sided with Texas over the Obama administration in the lawsuit related to the President's unilateral alteration of immigration policy in 2014.  We don't particularly care about the policy or political implications, but the legal and constitutional ramifications are huge.  This is the biggest restraint upon the executive branch, at least on the domestic side, we've seen in a long time (possibly in our lifetime).

The crux of the matter is that the president cannot make unilateral changes to any aspect of domestic policy without the approval of congress.  This is a universal principle, regardless of the identify of the President or the members of Congress at any particular moment.  And Ken Paxton's Attorney General's office was the one to secure the ruling!

As Paxton explained in an e-mail to supporters:
I want to let you know that within the past hour, we have won a major victory for the rule of law. In April, my team and I were at the U.S. Supreme Court leading a 26-state coalition to fight President Obama's unconstitutional push for amnesty — an unlawful act which defies the rule of law and bypasses our elected officials in Congress. I’m pleased to report that our efforts were successful.
 
As the Washington Post reports in the story below, “The action deals Obama perhaps the biggest legal loss of his presidency…..”.
 
Today’s decision keeps in place what we have maintained from the very start: one person, even a president, cannot unilaterally change the law. This is a major setback to President Obama’s attempts to expand executive power, and a victory for those who believe in the separation of powers and the rule of law.
Bottom Line: There's a reason why, in both the Texas and U.S. constitution, the legislative branch appears before the executive; kudos to Ken Paxton for securing this ruling.

-----

Now that we think about it, there actually is one political point worth making: There's no way in heck this happens if Dan Branch is Attorney General.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Yet ANOTHER Infuriating Budget from Austin ISD....


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

We can't even, from the Austin Monitor:
Trustees with the Austin Independent School District approved a $1.3 billion operating budget for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year in an 8-0-1 vote Monday night, with District 1 Trustee Edmund Gordon abstaining. It is the largest budget AISD has ever considered, yet board members continued to call out the state’s public education system for its unfairness.

....

The district approved approximately $1.2 billion in general fund expenditures, which is a $162.7 million increase compared to last year’s general fund revenue. The largest voluntary budget increase stems from a 4 percent raise for all full- and part-time employees, which equates to about a $20 million spending increase.

....

Other notable expenditures included AISD’s decision to raise the minimum wage of its employees to $13 per hour — an additional $1.2 million expenditure — and put in place a new teacher compensation program. The new program, Professional Pathways for Teacher Compensation, allows teachers to qualify for salary increases through continual education and performance-based measures, among other means. Board members put aside an additional $3 million for the program.

[Author's Note: Emphasis added.]
Keep in mind, this is in a district where enrollment has now declined four years in a row.

That being said, for those of us who successfully opposed their bond three years ago, there was this one modest piece of good news:
Due to debt-related savings, AISD is lowering its tax rate by 1 cent this year, to $1.19 per $100 of assessed property value.
Read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Quorum Report projects their mendacity onto Paxton


"The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian."
Genesis 39:2

Quorum Report is a corrupt, low-circulation, publication that acts as glorified stenographers for Team Straus and their lobbyist cronies.  We don't read them often, but occasionally they provide unintentionally revealing glimpses into how the business as usual crowd thinks.  Yesterday was one such occasion.

First, some background: Last week, Byron Cook requested an Attorney General opinion related to eminent domain in his district.  We didn't read anything into it because incumbent legislators ask the TXAG's office for opinions related to any number of subjects all the time (and, silly us, we actually thought Byron Cook might have renewed interest in representing his district after only winning his last election by 225 votes).  Nevertheless, yesterday Quorum Report used Cook's request to conjure up palace intrigue where none exists:
June 20, 2016      4:45 PM

SB: Cook request for AG opinion on eminent domain puts Paxton in a difficult situation

Some Capitol observers wonder if the AG will help Chairman Cook block eminent domain powers in similar fashion to how he helped Gov. Abbott wrest more power from appropriators – especially given that Cook was a complainant in the criminal case against Paxton
Texas House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook last week looked to the Attorney General’s Office for help in shoring up the rights of property owners as a company prepares to build a bullet train from Houston to Dallas – with the proposed corridor cutting through Cook’s rural district.
“It would be problematic if a company that does not have the power of eminent domain was entering or directing others to enter upon property it did not have the right to condemn,” Cook wrote to Ken Paxton’s office. “Thus, this issue is of great importance to Texans, especially rural Texans, whose property is already being entered upon in preparation for the initiation of eminent domain proceedings.”
Putting aside for the moment the question of whether the rail line would be good for the state and its thousands of “super commuters,” Cook’s request raises another topic of discussion at the Texas Capitol: Will Paxton issue an opinion helpful to the very member of The Legislature who was a complainant in the felony case against Paxton on securities fraud?
By Scott Braddock
We will detail the multiple levels on which this is asinine below, but first one obvious point: The Attorney General's office, under Ken Paxton just like it would have done under Greg Abbott, will issue an opinion related to Cook's request that is consistent with whatever the law says as the law is currently written.

Returning to Paxton: Ken Paxton is going to continue to do the job for which the voters hired him for as long as it remains his responsibility to do so.  That's just who he is and that's what he's been doing since these charges emerged.  The fact that Byron Cook is the guy requesting the opinion isn't relevant.

Furthermore, it's not a secret that Ken Paxton is a Christian, and there's a Bible verse that's relevant:
Vengeance is Mine [God's], and recompense;
Their foot shall slip in due time;
For the day of their calamity is at hand,
And the things to come hasten upon them.’
Deuteronomy 32:35
In other words, from Ken Paxton's perspective, vengeance belongs to God; vengeance doesn't belong to Ken Paxton.

Finally, if you really want to look at this from a political perspective, is the completely obvious fact that being magnanimous to Cook only helps Paxton.  There's a thing in life called being the bigger man and Byron Cook just handed Ken Paxton a golden opportunity to do that.  This isn't even politics, it's human psychology.

We didn't think about it until we started working on this post, but one final bible verse:
On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
Romans 12:20
Bottom Line: That Ken Paxton's antagonists could misread Ken Paxton's professional, spiritual, and political interests this spectacularly tells us far more about them than it does about Ken Paxton.