Tuesday, May 5, 2015

History Lesson: Transparency in Mr. McRaven's world


"Can anyone hide himself in secret places,
So I shall not see him?” says the Lord;
“Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the Lord."
Jeremiah 23:24

With open records back in the news at U.T., it's worth remembering how Mr. McRaven handled public inquiries in his last job:



Plano Pastor communicates with congregation; political opponents throw a tantrum


"The sinners in Zion are afraid;
Fearfulness has seized the hypocrites:
'Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?
Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?' "
Isaiah 33:14

Last December, the city of Plano enacted a "transgender" bathroom ordinance against the will of the people.  The first round of local elections since then takes place this Saturday.  Unfortunately, a local pastor reminded his congregation of this fact and we can't have community leaders communicating about public events using available means:



[Author's Note: While the story claims Church members objected to the e-mail, we find it revealing that they didn't interview any Church members for the story.]

From the Story:
Two weeks ago, the executive pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church sent an e-mail from his personal account. In it, Pastor Mike Buster endorsed five candidates in next week's local elections.
Some church members are concerned that this message crossed the line.
Matt Lagos is not a church member, but he is a candidate — one who is not mentioned in the pastor's e-mail.
"We need to keep the church separate from politics," Lagos said.
Lagos is challenging Ronald Kelley, who is mentioned in the e-mail for the Place 5 Plano City Council seat.
Referring to Kelley, Pastor Buster writes in the e-mail:
"We need to make sure we are electing local leaders who support our Christian values and who stand for the people."
Kelley is with Prestonwoood's ministerial staff and is director of the Prestonwood Foundation. 
In other words, a Pastor was communicating about a local election with friends as a private citizen and the people who didn't like what he had to say are now trying to create a Federal case where none exists.

On the other hand, this case could provide an excellent opportunity to finally litigate the Johnson Amendment.

First Amendment Tuesday: Week 16


"and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,"
Ephesians 6:19

Fun times this morning.

Jim Graham (Texas Right to Life) (Partial):



Highlights:
  • Just because we made concessions 15 years ago doesn't mean we'd make them today.
  • SB 575 by Taylor on Senate floor today.
    • Author's Note: This video was recorded around 9AM, the bill passed around noon.
  • Bills have to be done by May 14th.



Highlights:
  • Byron Cook playing much bigger shenanigans with witness registration than Stickland ever did.
  • Troy Fraser left during American Laws for American Courts hearing.
  • Judy Zaffirini gave Donna Campbell the pre-K bill to give it a "conservative" face.
  • Don Huffines: "At what point do you want children to go into pre-K?!?"
    • Proved liberals want to do this at birth.



Highlights:
  • Pastor Protection bill moving surprisingly quickly.
    • "There will be no more changes to this bill."
    • ACLU amendment language would have added another layer of bureaucratic B.S.
  • "This bill is not about consensus."
  • Senate could move on SB 2065 this week.
  • No movement on bill to smackdown local "Non-discrimination" ordinances.
Texas Homeschool Coalition:



Highlights:
  • College admission bill has been voted out of Senate.
  • Tebow bill passed Senate Ed committee two weeks ago with bi-partisan support.
  • Parental rights bill has the most hurdles to climb.
  • Sticklan has bill to allow foster parents to homeschool.



Highlights:

  • ALAC only pertains to divorce and child custody.

Stickland addresses Accusations


"And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
John 8:32

Jonathan Stickland released a statement yesterday about last week's nonsense:
I want to address an unfortunate incident that took place last Thursday evening. I was set to lay out HB 142, which would eliminate red light cameras, in front of the Transportation Committee. Because our floor activity went so long that day, my layout was delayed until well into the evening. Many supporters of the bill had waited all day – some for twelve hours – to testify and were still waiting. Thank you all for coming out to support the bill.

Earlier in the day on Thursday, I objected to a bill carried by the Democrat Chairman of Transportation on the local and consent calendar, which would have given powers of arrest, search, and seizure to Federal Reserve security guards. Because of that confrontation, I approached Chairman Pickett of El Paso before his committee reconvened to make sure that my bill was still set for a hearing. I was informed that it was, and there was no discussion with me of any concerns on his part about the bill or the witness registration process.

Unfortunately, when I went to lay out my bill, I was prevented from doing so in a very deliberate and dramatic way. It was what I can only characterize as an ambush by a political opponent. Pickett hurled accusations at me and then refused to hear the bill, cutting off all of the members of the public from testifying on the legislation.

Let me make something clear. At that time, I had no idea what Mr. Pickett was referring to, and still have no firsthand knowledge of the facts related to his accusations.

Tensions run high at this point of the session, and I am not surprised that Mr. Pickett would be upset with me for knocking his bill off of the local and consent calendar. However, there is no reason that he could not have discussed his concerns with me in advance of the hearing. I would have gladly worked with him to resolve them.

As best as I can tell, the accusation Chairman Pickett leveled is that some people were registered in support of my bill who were not present in the Capitol building. My attorneys and I have reviewed the laws, the rules, the witness affirmation forms, and the House personnel manual and have been unable to locate anything that commands that a person must be present in the capitol to register their support or opposition to a bill. In fact there are rules which suggest exactly the opposite.

....

Thank you all for your support and prayers. In my last campaign, I told all of you that I am not down here to make friends but to defend life, liberty, and fight for limited government. My voting record and actions prove that I have made good on that promise. It is an honor to serve you.
Read the whole thing here.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Texas House "Leadership" refuses to release transportation committee hearing footage


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

Last Friday, following the drama in the Transportation committee hearing, we put in an open records request to see the archived video footage from the night; the House business office's response to our inquiry is below:



Cahnman's Musings will continue to monitor this story and will update as appropriate.

Texas Capitol visitors parking vandalized with anti-Police graffiti


"Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
Romans 12:19

We took this picture in the Capitol parking garage this morning around 9AM; considering the anti-police activities that have been occurring nationally, this isn't good:


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Attorney General Paxton, U.T. Corruption, and Accountability....


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

We concur with Jon Cassidy's open letter to General Paxton:

An open letter to Attorney General Ken Paxton on the UT cover-up

By   /   May 1, 2015  /   No Comments

Dear Attorney General Paxton,
Watchdog really needs your help. There is a great deal more than $38,000 riding on it.
Call it an informed prediction, but I expect you’re about to call out the management of the University of Texas System, and tell them to let Wallace Hall see the Kroll papers.
I’m also betting they’re going to flip you the bird and dare you to do something about it. UT has no intention of turning over any sensitive records to anyone short of a court order. Given Chancellor Bill McRaven’s history of destroying documents rather than complying with public records requests, I’m not sure even a court order will be enough.
This is the showdown. The University of Texas still hasn’t come clean about its backdoor admissions program — punishing nobody and reforming nothing. The members of the Board of Regents who were involved have not stepped forward to admit responsibility, and their colleagues have failed to hold them accountable, damaging their own trustworthiness. The politicians who used and abused the university haven’t been outed. The new chancellor is willing to break university rules to sweep this all under the rug.
Watchdog and Hall have asked to see the Kroll papers. We believe we have every right to see them. There are about 180,000 pages in all. UT has sent us a $38,117.60 bill just to do some digital conversion that could be accomplished in an afternoon.
Agencies get away with demanding obscene sums of money for public records, because it can be hard to prove conclusively it won’t really cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce the records. Last year, a journalist I know asked Texas A&M for lawmaker recommendation letters, and was told it would cost $119,000 to search, because it supposedly couldn’t be done electronically. But in this case, it’s an easy call.
The Kroll records may not have all the names of everyone involved in the admissions abuses. There’s already been a lot of record-shredding, and much of this was wink-and-a-nod stuff to begin with. But these records likely contain enough information to ruin the careers of a few powerful politicians from wealthy districts who should have forfeited the public trust long ago.
There were several avenues of inquiry Kroll investigators were steered away from pursuing. According to the report, although Kroll gathered some 89,000 emails from “key UT-Austin and UT-System officials and members of the Board of Regents, the scope of our review was eventually limited by UT-System and UT-Austin to emails between” a certain subset of specified officials. The number of emails Kroll actually reviewed: 9,500.
UT is the most beloved public institution in the state, yet it’s been taken over by some folks who treat it as their private club. The backdoor admissions program continues to operate; the only thing that will stop and restore trust is to end the privacy.
It’s a public school, and its records ought to be public, aside from transcripts and financial aid. If you do no more than wag a finger at the board and tell them to let Hall see the records, they will shrug your opinion off. That’s going to set a terrible precedent, and undermine your authority around the state. City councils, commissions and other governing bodies will follow UT’s high-profile example, slagging off the dissenters on their own boards and disrespecting your guidance.
You can solve this problem with sunshine. The only reason this sort of thing goes on is that your predecessors have let state universities operate with a level of secrecy more appropriate for SOCOM. The way they’re interpreting student privacy these days, you’d have to redact every page of a yearbook before anyone could see it.
If you make a clear example out of UT, you’ll also rein in other out-of-control governmental bodies across the state. But it’ll take more than a non-binding opinion. It will take the exercise of your authority over the records themselves.
Here are some decisions you could make to restore order at UT:
  • a board member gets unfettered access to institutional records, period;
  • your office has authority over which records universities must release, not the universities themselves;
  • the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act, as the Supreme Court has said, applies only to “an institutional or official record of a student” of the sort found in a registrar’s office, nevermind what federal education bureaucrats presume to instruct you;
  • emails aren’t covered by FERPA;
  • Roe v. Wade covers abortion, not law school entrance exams;
  • each redaction must be justified individually;
  • the metastasizing practice of obstructing records requestors by charging them tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars ends now; UT ought to pay a penalty for billing me $38,117.60 for some records production that could be completed in a few hours;
  • remind their records officials that a failure to give access to public information can be punished by six months in jail;
  • file for a writ of mandate at the first sign of foot-dragging.
UT is asking me to pay for copies of records compiled during its recent investigation. As you know, state law doesn’t allow agencies to charge for attorney review time. That entire amount is supposedly the cost just to make the documents ready for redaction.
UT could dump all of that data into a program called CS Disco and have it ready for redaction in a single afternoon, at a cost of a few hundred dollars, as an affidavit I’ve submitted to your office demonstrates.
Yet just to view the documents, I’m supposed to pay $17,874, which includes the cost of paying a clerk to sit for six months converting email files to .pdf one by one.
I’ve laid out the arguments for these measures in letters to your office, but unless you personally decide to give your public records staff new direction, nothing will come of them. Those staffers have all been trained to think “FERPA” is a magic word that instantly trumps any challenge.
I’m asking for your help on behalf of everyone in Texas who believes UT belongs to all of us, not to a chosen few. Is there any good reason we shouldn’t be able to see these records?
Last year, when he was a State Senator running for Attorney General, Ken Paxton told this website "I'll do whatever I can with the laws that are available to me to make sure that there is transparency at the University of Texas and anywhere in government"; this is his opportunity to act on those words.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton: @KenPaxtonTX

University of Texas Chancellor Bill McRaven: @BillMcRaven

McRaven's Next Boss: @HillaryClinton