Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: Hands Off My Gun, by Dana Loesch


"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[a] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."
Ephesians 6:12-13

Did you know that Martin Luther King Jr. was denied a permit to own a handgun "as a result of gun control laws put into effect by white male Democrats" (146)?!?  Neither did we.  Then we read Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the plot to disarm America, Dana Loesch's cogent, succinct defense of the second amendment.

Loesch's 2014 release is one stop shopping for those who support the Second Amendment but don't have all the facts memorized.  While the entire book is worth reading, the most riveting chapters detail the degree to which anti-Second Amendment advocates hire private security, the ability of women to use firearms to protect themselves from rape, and the origins of gun control in the Jim Crow south.  Historically, disarming the target population has been a pre-condition for other attacks on civil liberties.

Loesch's zeal for the Second Amendment gained a sense of urgency in 2009 (7), when her family still lived in St. Louis.  That summer, during the first round of Tea Party protests, a man named Kenneth Gladney was beaten by Union Thugs outside of a Missouri congressman's town hall (8).  While the story made national headlines, for those of us outside St. Louis it faded into the background.  Loesch, however, was living it.  After the national media moved on, as she continued to cover the story locally, Loesch received threats and was followed around town (9).  Then, they threatened her children (10).  To understand's Dana Loesch's commitment to the Second Amendment, you have to understand that story.

Women's self-defense is one of the strongest motifs in the book.  As Loesch explains, firearms are "the ultimate equalizer for women" (140).  She details several examples where women have used firearms to prevent assault and, sadly, others where disarmed women were left to the mercy of their rapists.  Unfortunately, women's safety is unimportant to anti-Second Amendment politicans.  Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo's recent comments are a representative example:



Hands Off My Gun lists more facts than we can include in a seven-paragraph review.  Many of them were new to this author.  Examples include:
  • The mother of the Sandy Hook shooter, Nancy Lanza, "had failed to properly and safely store her guns."  (29)
  • "Three Sandy Hooks take place every month in Chicago, the progressive model for gun control." (39)
  • All of the victims of the Columbine shooting "were killed within the first 15 minutes of the shooting." (109)
  • That "anti-gun extremists don't even want our troops to carry on base, which has resulted in several massacres over the past few years on our military bases, twice at Fort Hood." (144)
  • The anti-Second Amendment reasoning behind the Dred Scott decision. (152)
  • The goal of taxing firearms ownership in the Jim Crow south "was a set of laws that made guns too expensive for black Southerners to afford." (157)
  • During the revolution, "the patriots were armed from the start of the war with the British Brown Bess, which was the firearm of choice for the British Army." (168)
Our only beef with the book is that it fails to discuss abortion.  It's not a secret that some of the loudest anti-Second Amendment advocates, who hide behind "protecting children," are also some of the most rabidly pro-abortion.  Michael Bloomberg is a case in point.  Personally, we've always found this reprehensible.  That being said, we understand why it would not be considered germane to a discussion of the second amendment.

Citizens are responsible for their self-defense.  While law enforcement and the corrections system aid public safety (most of the time), they are inherently reactive.  Protection, by contrast, is proactive.  This is even more true for women.    Unfortunately, anti-Second Amendment Extremists have targeted our civil liberties.  Defending them requires us to be armed with truth.  Hands off My Gun, by Dana Loesch, is a fantastic place to start.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Senate Passes Tax Relief; House Wastes Day (hears shady stuff late)....


No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Luke 16:13

(Author's Note: The belated hearing of the Texas House State Affairs Committee can be viewed here.)

Texas State Capitol -- When the Texas House released it's schedule for today, it said the Committee on State Affairs would convene at 10:30 A.M.  The committee was scheduled to hear testimony on four AWFUL bills and one good bill.  We found it strange when we saw the Texas Tribune report that the full house would convene at noon.

As we approached the hearing room, an ideologically sympathetic friend informed this author that state affairs had been delayed until after the full House adjourned from the floor AND that they were going to consider the texting while driving ban.  So we'd have to wait until the end of the floor debate on a controversial topic.  Gotcha.

The state affairs committee was scheduled to hear several bills related to campaign finance and donor privacy.  By scheduling the hearing to commence at 10:30 then scheduling the House to convene at noon to take up a controversial topic, Chairman Byron Cook knew he'd be able to postpone the hearing on the shady legislation until evening.  Byron Cook was making a delay play.

(Sidenote: As we type this sentence, at 8:23 P.M., none of the important bills have even started.)

After a long lunch, we stopped into the House gallery around 12:45pm, where they were passing multiple resolutions honoring firefighters.

Then we decided to check out the Senate!!!

They were talking TAX RELIEF!!!

The Texas Senate was in the process of passing the largest tax cut in Texas' history out of the full chamber.  As part of the process, they were 'hazing' Sen. Paul Bettancourt as he passed his first bill.  Apparently, when a new Texas Senator passes their first bill out of the body, the other Senators ask obnoxious nit-picky questions as a rite of passage.

As we said in a text message:
Everything you need to know about the two houses: Senate debating tax relief; House passing "we love firefighters" resolution.... (12:56 PM)
At 1:22 PM, we returned to the house gallery.  They were beginning to debate the texting ban.  Then we had the amendments.

The House debated over a dozen amendments.  Nothing wrong with that.  It was a lousy bill to begin with, so why not attempt to improve it?!?

But the full House slow walked the amendment process; the only interesting part of this debate was that the Black Democrats and the Tea Party, led by Harold Dutton and Jonathan Stickland, worked together to defeat the bill.

As we said in text messages:
  • It would not surprise me if they keep taking amendments on this texting bill for a couple hours.  (3:20 PM) 
  • They're going slooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow.  (3:23 PM)
At 4:14 PM, we received an e-mail from the Lt. Governor's Office:



At 5:07 PM, we received another e-mail from the Texas Public Policy Foundation:
TPPF Statement on Passage of Senate Tax-Cut Package

AUSTIN – Today, the Texas Senate passed a tax-cut package, which includes Senate Joint Resolution 1 and its enabling legislation Senate Bill 1, an amended version of Senate Bill 7, and Senate Bill 8.

SJR 1 and SB 1 provide property tax relief by raising the homestead exemption for school districts from $15,000 to 25 percent of the statewide median home value. SB 7 cuts the business margin tax rates by 15 percent and the amendment calls for a study on full repeal of the margin tax with a report due to the Legislature next September. SB 8 raises the revenue exemption level for the margin tax from $1 million to $4 million.

Texas Public Policy Foundation Vice President of Research and Director of the Center for Economic Freedom Bill Peacock issued the following statement:

“Today was a first step in the process of giving Texans badly needed tax cuts,” said Peacock. “The $4.6 billion in property and business tax cuts adopted by the Senate moves us in the right direction. However, we continue to support the complete elimination of the state’s onerous margin tax.”
Around the time we received the e-mail from TPPF, the house voted to pass the texting ban.

That's when this author left the Capitol.

Just before 6PM, Byron Cook called the state affairs hearing (originally scheduled for 10:30 AM) to order.

Then they went through fluff bills for three hours while we wrote this blog entry.

Just fifteen minutes ago, we received a text message:
Marriage up first (8:55 PM)
That's the good bill, which deals with marriage; that means, as we write this sentence at 9:12 PM, the Texas House's State Affairs committee has yet to hear the five AWFUL bills that restrict your first amendment, campaign finance, and donor privacy rights.

To summarize today in the Texas Legislature: Dan Patrick's Senate passed record tax relief.  Joe Straus' House passed frivious nanny state regulations.  As you read this (Straus lieutenant) Byron's Cook is attempting to curtail your first amendment and donor privacy rights under the cover of night.

Chairman Byron Cook: (512) 463-0370

Watch the hearing livestream here.

-----

Update (3/26/2015, 9:16 AM): The hearing was still going on when this author fell asleep around 1;30 AM last night.

Paxton Rebukes local Austin special interest group


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

Multiple Level Awesomeness:
A dispute over whether the Downtown Austin Alliance should have given $440,000 to last year’s failed light rail campaign, money that overwhelmingly came from a tax on downtown property owners, has moved to the Travis County courthouse.

But as is often the case with such matters, the legal argument is centered on a side issue — whether the alliance is a “governmental body” — and the resolution, when it comes, will not specifically address or bar such campaign contributions in the future.

The nonprofit alliance, under its formal name of Austin DBO Inc., on March 10 sued Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, asking the court to overrule a March 3 “letter ruling” by Paxton that the alliance is a governmental body and thus must surrender records requested in December by Austin activist Brian Rodgers. The case is pending, as is a nearly identical suit the alliance filed last year in response to a similar ruling by Paxton’s predecessor as attorney general, now-Gov. Greg Abbott.

....

The alliance was founded in May 1992 by a group of downtown property owners as an advocacy group for the central business district. Responding to a petition from downtown property owners, the Austin City Council in 1993 formed a “public improvement district” roughly bounded by Interstate 35, MLK Jr. Boulevard, San Antonio Street and Lady Bird Lake (although the Austin American-Statesman property and the Hyatt south of the lake are also in the district). The city levies an additional 10 cents per $100 of property value in that area, exempting the first $500,000 on each property, and forwards that tax money four times a year to the alliance.

That tax supplied about 98.3 percent of the alliance’s $3.3 million budget in 2014, according to the alliance’s annual report. Travis County contributed another $25,000.

Last year, the alliance made four donations to Let’s Go Austin, eventually providing about 40 percent of the $1.1 million the group spent to support the city’s light rail referendum. The alliance’s then-executive director Charlie Betts (he has since retired) said that the donations were legal and that the group had given to earlier issue-oriented campaigns (though not individual candidates) such as school bond elections and the Central Health vote for a University of Texas medical school.

....

Bill Aleshire, Rodgers’ lawyer and a former Travis County judge, said that if Rodgers prevails, he expects the records will generate anger from the public and legislators. That alone could discourage the alliance from making such contributions in the future, he said.
Read the whole thing here.

Bottom Line: If you have taxing authority, you are a governmental agency for purposes of open records laws.  Kudos to Attorney General Paxton for recognizing this distinction.  Double kudos for recognizing this distinction in the context of last year's urban rail boondoggle.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

First Amendment Tuesday: Week 10


"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

First Amendment Tuesday hit it's high-water mark for attendance this session earlier today.

Tony McDonald (Empower Texans):



Highlights:
  • Citizen activists are not lobbyists.
  • Amendment process
    • You can't do it with any bill.
    • Prevents Massive "Christmas Tree" bills a. la. D.C.
    • Bills have to be limited to one topic.
    • Ultimately, the members decide a point of order.
  • Members frequently leave legislation pending after a committee hearing; you shouldn't get suspicion until it's been left pending over a week.



Highlights:
  • Religious liberty amendment borrows language from Hobby Lobby case.
  • Religious liberty involves telling government TO STOP ACTIVITY.
  • Jason Villalba dropped religious liberty amendment, Matt Krause picked it up.
  • Bill in State Affairs on Marriage tomorrow.



Highlights:
  • Recaps toll and marriage rallies.
  • "Without marriage, America implodes."
  • HB 1745 by Bell, hearing tomorrow.
  • American laws for American Courts (ALAC) getting hearing today.
    • 10 other states have passed it.
  • "A test is valuable, an 'assessment' is devious."



Highlights:
  • CWA also supports ALAC.
  • ALAC is about protecting women.
  • School choice hearing at 9AM Thursday.



Highlights:
  • Parental rights restoration
    • Protects single parents.
    • Grandparents frequently do this in cases of homeschooling.

Debunking Farcical Claims from the Abortion Industry


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

Texas Right to Life debunks some of the sillier claims pro-abortion advocates made at a recent event:



Highlights:

  • Women are safer without abortion.  When TxRTL obtained state records of all abortion mills in Texas from July 2011-2012, 14 abortion mills FAILED health and safety inspections.
  • Since the passage of the pro-life omnibus legislation in 2013 (HB 2), abortion chains have purposefully built new facilities only in high-traffic, high-profit, metropolitan areas.
  • HB 2 mandates basic safety and structural standards required by other surgical centers.  Abortion centers to not want to spend this money and effort on behalf of women.  The abortion mills that have closed chose not to comply with these measures so as to protect their bottom line.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Defending Texas from Administrative and Judicial Tryanny


"Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,"
Ephesians 6:14

Since his inauguration in January, Attorney General Paxton has been a busy man.  He's defended Texas' Marriage laws from rogue judges in Travis County, the second Amendment from the Obama administration, and he's given Obama's executive amnesty major setbacks.  This afternoon, he spoke about the marriage cases at the Texas Marriage rally:



Highlights:
  • #TXLEGE passed state level DOMA in 2003.
  • 75$ of voters approved constitutional amendment in 2005.
  • Shenanigans in Travis county forced them to get two stays from the Texas Supreme court.

Toll Free Day at the Texas Capitol


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

Toll Free Texas held their lobby day today at the Capitol.  The coalition is led by Texans United for Reform and Freedom and encompasses grassroots groups from around the state.  Toll Free Texas seeks to roll back toll roads, eliminate waste in transportation spending, and restore transportation spending to a pay-as-you-go basis.

The event was notable for the changes it reveals in the 84th legislature compared to the 83rd.  Senators Don Huffines and Lois Kolhorst, neither of who was in their current position last session, were featured prominently.  On the house side, every representative who spoke had voted for Scott Turner at the beginning of the session.  House leadership was conspicuous in their absence.  Given the unpopularity of toll roads in this state, it would not surprise use to see House leadership boxed in on this issue.

According to organizers, this session is the first of the five they've been active that good bills outnumber bad bills (and that by 3:1 margin).

Cathie Adams (Texas Eagle Forum):



Highlights:
  • In the past, Texas used to make toll roads free after their construction costs were paid off.
  • Public/Private "partnerships" are a grotesque form of cronyism.



Highlights:
  • No eminent domain for toll roads.
  • Go back to pay-as-you-go.
  • End Public/Private "Partnerships"



Highlights:
  • Roads a fundamental function of government.
  • No double taxation.



Highlights:
  • "My district is surrounded by toll roads."
  • Collin County reps committed to getting rid of tolls.
    • Author's Note: Then where the heck was Jodie Laubenberg?!?



Highlights:
  • "A number of my friends are paying more in toll fees than in city taxes."
  • "H.O.V lanes are a social experiment that has failed."



Highlights:
  • Texas needs to put an end to toll roads.
  • Once debt is paid off, tolls are removed.



Highlights:
  • Need proper funding for toll free roads
  • Supports toll-free Texas.



Highlights:
  • Tea Party really began with fight against trans-Texas corridor.
  • Transportation is a tough issue.
  • 5000 to 9000 entities in this state have eminent domain authority.
  • People are paying more in tolls than utilities in Texas.
  • SB 1601 -- Restricts ability to use eminent domain for high speed rail.
  • "We have waste at TxDOT and we're working on that."



Highlights:
  • SB 5 covers ending diversions.
  • Make tollways send annual statements.
  • People on mobility authorities should be elected.
  • Transparency, transparency, transparency....
  • We should have a statewide policy for state highways.



Highlights:

  • Filed 11 bills on this topic
  • "It is a new day."
  • They want to toll every highway in DFW.
  • Traffic is a natural consequence of population growth.
  • Transportation should be 35% of the budget, currently 8%.
    • Author's Note: See here
  • Roads are a fundamental function of government.
  • Filed a bill to end diversions.
  • "No one in this building is talking about fully funding TxDOT."
  • There's a lot of money to be saved by simple actions.