Monday, July 6, 2015

Cecil Bell and School Choice


"Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is."
Ephesians 5:17

Two sessions ago, during the 83rd #TXLEGE, team Straus tacked an anti-school choice amendment onto the House version of the budget; the amendment stated:
“Use of Appropriated Funds for School Vouchers or to Support Tax-Credit Scholarships Prohibited. Money appropriated to the Texas Education Agency by this Act may not be used to pay for or support school vouchers or scholarships for private primary or secondary education provided by non-profit entities using donations received from entities that receive tax credits as a result of the donations.”
Cecil Bell voted for it.

It's not surprising; Bell is from a rural district and rural Republicans are the biggest obstacle to school choice because school districts are often the largest employers in their district.

Still, it's revealing....

(h/t Empower Texans)

Frivolous attacks against Ken Paxton


"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9

National Review reviews the charges:
Paxton determines that the “newly minted federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage can and should peaceably coexist with longstanding constitutional and statutory rights, including the rights to free exercise of religion and freedom of speech.” First addressing the rights of county clerks and their employees to abstain from taking part in the issuance of a same-sex marriage license, Paxton modestly concludes that “the strength of any claim under employment laws or the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts depends on the particular facts of each case.” (Among other things, his opinion reasonably indicates, the accommodation of religious objections may be more necessary when there are other employees in the office who will perform the task.) Ditto for justices of the peace and judges who would like to abstain from conducting same-sex marriage ceremonies: “the strength of any such claim depends on the particular facts.”

In yet further evidence of the mendacious intolerance of the Left, some 150 Texas attorneys (according to this article) have signed a letter threatening to file a complaint with the State Bar of Texas over Paxton’s opinion. The letter ridiculously misrepresents Paxton’s opinion as an “edict to encourage Texas clerks to violate a direct ruling of the United State Supreme Court” and claims that Paxton is thus violating his duty to uphold the U.S. Constitution. According to the article, a former state legislator has already filed a State Bar complaint against Paxton on the same baseless ground. (The article itself also falsely states that Paxton’s opinion “tell[s] Texas clerks they did not have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if it violated their religious beliefs.”)

The pursuit of same-sex marriage through the courts rather than the democratic processes has trampled or corrupted virtually every tenet of the rule of law. It’s beyond parody that the same movement that encouraged state attorneys general to violate their ethical duties by failing to defend state marriage laws would now complain about Paxton’s careful and nuanced advice to the state lieutenant governor.
 Mark Pulliam has more detail:
Paxton’s opinion was a mainstream overview of the principles governing religious accommodation in the government workplace, ultimately concluding that employees with bona fide religious objections to participating in same-sex marriages (a highly fact-specific inquiry) should assign such tasks to other employees who do not have such objections. Paxton did not advocate nullification of or civil disobedience to Obergefell, but merely explained the relevant legal authorities under the First Amendment, applicable employment laws, and state and federal Religious Freedom Restoration Acts.

Yet Paxton now faces a State Bar complaint alleging that he violated the rules of professional conduct by instructing county clerks to “break the law.” And approximately 150 lawyers signed a letter threatening to bring charges against Paxton if he doesn’t withdraw his legal opinion. Acknowledging the existence of religious objections to Obergefell, it seems, is tantamount to violating the Constitution and allegedly constitutes grounds for disbarment. This may be nothing but a publicity stunt, but it was widely (and credulously) reported in the local media in Texas.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Assessing a potential Cecil Bell speaker's run


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

Yesterday, Cecil Bell floated the idea of running for speaker.  It's a possibility that leaves us with mixed feelings.  We can explain.

Cecil Bell is a strong social conservative (and that's good), we have questions about the degree to which he's conservative across the board.  In two sessions in the Texas House, Cecil Bell has gotten a 71 and a 74 from Empower Texans; Scott Turner, by contrast, got a 100 each time.  Furthermore, we don't think we've ever seen him at a TPPF event.

One of the biggest mistakes Christians make in political activism is our terrible habit of voting for people who follow what the Bible says on life and marriage, but fail to follow the Bible on economics.  As government expands, the Church always contracts.  If you give away your economic liberty, eventually they're going to come for your religious liberty as well.

Furthermore, Cecil Bell voted for pre-K.

But all is not lost!!!  Cecil Bell has something else going for him that is potentially VERY attractive.  He voted for Straus and got nothing, and that could be the basis for a VERY strong campaign.

Cecil Bell could potentially destroy the notion that there's anything to be gained for conservatives by "getting a seat at the table" or playing an "inside game" with Straus.  That would make life very uncomfortable for the conservative when convenient crowd.  We can already see Drew Springer, Tan Parker, and Jason Isaac squirming.

Bottom Line: It could work, but we have several questions we'd need answered before we get on board.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Texas Supreme Court strikes blow for liberty


"Consider the work of God;
For who can make straight what He has made crooked?"
Ecclesiastes 7:13

Unlike the Feds, at least the Texas Supreme Court understands a thing or two about economic liberty:
So it’s not the U.S. Supreme Court throwing wrenches into the state’s new abortion restrictions or affirmative action programs or same-sex marriage prohibitions. But in all the excitement over the recent flurry of high-profile high court opinions, readers may have missed the Texas Supreme Court’s hair-raising decision last week that the rules governing occupational licensing have to, well, actually make sense.

The long-running dispute between eyebrow threaders — they run tightened thread loops along the surface of the skin to pluck eyebrows — and state regulators began in 2008, when the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation officially declared threading a cosmetology procedure. That meant the profession, which is commonly practiced by East Asians, was subject to the same regulations that applied to hair stylists.

Those rules require lengthy and expensive education. Cosmetologists typically pay between $9,000 and $20,000 for 750 hours of training over 9 months in everything from basic sanitation to facial treatments, color psychology, anatomy, aroma therapy, and so on.

Yet, the threaders noted in their legal filings, nothing in the state-licensed cosmetology curriculum says anything about eyebrow threading. As a result, only a tiny handful of schools offer the training. And the subject appears nowhere on the state cosmetology exam every student must pass before becoming licensed.

....

In its June 26 decision, the justices voted 6-3 in favor of the threaders. Although the court considered several technical legal questions, at heart they agreed that Texas regulators had placed an irrational burden on eyebrow threaders by requiring them to complete an expensive and time-consuming cosmetology education that doesn’t even teach them their regulated skill.
Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Jodie Laubenberg: One Cheap Date


"A false witness will not go unpunished,
And he who speaks lies will not escape."
Proverbs 19:5

Empower Texans had a piece yesterday discussing Jodie Laubenberg:
When neighboring State Rep. Scott Turner (R-Rockwall) announced his bid for Speaker, a number of conservatives stepped up to support him. Conservatives knew that Turner would work with Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and the conservative caucus in the Texas Senate to pass a bold conservative agenda, while Straus would obstruct the passage of reforms favored by the electoral majority.
Unfortunately Laubenberg could not be counted among Turner’s backers. Instead of standing with her conservative friends and supporters, Laubenberg capitulated, endorsing Straus to hold the gavel during the 84th session.
Speculation mounted that Laubenberg had sold her support for a seat at the table—believing she would receive a chairmanship of either the Public Health or Human Services committees, where she could advance pro-life legislation. But Laubenberg’s Faustian bargain never came to fruition.
Laubenberg did not receive the chairmanship she allegedly bartered for. In fact, Laubenberg was never even granted a seat on any of the health-related committees. Instead, she was given the chairmanship of the Elections committee.
But even that chairmanship represented only an illusion of power. All major campaign finance and election reforms were routed by Straus away from Laubenberg’s committee to his close allies on the State Affairs and General Investigating and Ethics committees. Laubenberg was left with busy work, and managed to even pass little of that.
We concur with Empower's take, but have one thing to add.  Laubenberg didn't even get to carry meaningful pro life legislation.  Instead, she got to sponsor HB 3446 which was slow walked to death by Byron Cook and Todd Hunter.

Bottom Line: The politics of the pro-life issue have become so one-sided in this state that something was going to pass this session; that leadership didn't include Jodie Laubenberg in this process reveals the contempt in which they hold her.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Book Review: Zero to One, by Peter Thiel


"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins."
Mark 2:22

Peter Thiel is one of the most successful American entrepreneurs of the past quarter century; Zero to One is his opus on success.

Success is a difficult concept to discuss, because every successful company is unique.  Thiel encourages would be entrepreneurs to seek "monopoly capitalism" where you create "the kind of company that's so good at what it does that no other firm can offer a close substitute" (24-5).  Unlike government enforced monopolies "[T]he dynamism of new monopolies explains why old monopolies don't strangle innovation...the history of progress is a history of better monopolies businesses replacing incumbents" (33).

Thiel condemns stale, conventional, thinking.  Unfortunately, there's far too much of it across American society, especially in American business.  As he explains: "[E]very moment in business happens only once.  The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system.  The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won't make a search engine.  And the next Mark Zuckerberg won't create a social network.  If you are copying these guys, you aren't learning from them....The act of creation is singular, as is the moment of creation, and the result is something fresh and strange....Unless they invest in the difficult task of creating new things, American companies will fail in the future no matter how big their profits remain today" (Emphasis added) (1).

Great fortunes require contrarian thinking.  That's why you do something different in the first place.  Thiel identifies four cultural factors that inhibit it: incrementalism, risk aversion, complacency, and 'flatness' (97-8).  Air B'n'b, Netfilx, and Uber are recent examples of companies that embraced contrarian thinking. They figured out "[T]he best place to look for secrets is where no one is looking" (104).

Successful startups usually become 'mature' over the course of 5 to 10 years.  Thus, they require a type of long term thinking that is itself contrarian.  Thiel asks "[W]hy would professional [Venture Capitalists], of all people, fail to see the power law?  For one thing, it only becomes clear over time, and even technology investors too often live in the present" (87).  Short term thinking begets bankruptcy.

While Thiel's book isn't political, it did provide us with one major insight.  In the realm of politics, the Tea Party is the equivalent of a tech startup.  He explains "what a startup has to do: question received ideas and rethink business from scratch" (11).  If there's one trait that defines the Tea Party, it's a rejection of the bogus assumptions that have dominated the political process for far too long.  The proof is in the ending of the Ex-Im bank and the strongest Republican presidential field ever.

When one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the past quarter century speaks, you listen.  Peter Thiel details the pitfalls of conventional thinking and the opportunities available to those who reject it.  Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future is required reading for anyone interested in changing the world.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Matt McCall endorses Ted Cruz's SCOTUS amendment


"And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you."
Luke 3:13

Last Friday Ted Cruz proposed a constitutional amendment that would require retention elections for U.S. Supreme Court justices; Matt McCall endorsed the idea this morning:
I highly recommend you take 3 minutes and read Ted Cruz's recent comments on the Supreme Court decision

It is a fantastic read, but the article is summed up with the following statement:

"I am proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution that would subject the justices of the Supreme Court to periodic judicial-retention elections. Every justice, beginning with the second national election after his or her appointment, will answer to the American people and the states in a retention election every eight years. Those justices deemed unfit for retention by both a majority of the American people as a whole and by majorities of the electorates in at least half of the 50 states will be removed from office and disqualified from future service on the Court." - Senator Cruz
----

We must step up for states right's and we must elect federal congressmen willing to take every step necessary to defend a state's right to push back against an oppressive and tyrannical federal government.
Read the whole thing here.