Monday, December 11, 2017

Who does Blake Farenthold think he's kidding?!?


"It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness,
For a throne is established by righteousness."
Proverbs 16:12

New developments over the weekend:
The new revelations, which Farenthold acknowledged to the Chronicle on Friday, bring to at least three the number of women who have complained of either sexual harassment, gender discrimination, or a hostile work environment in his office.

....

But Farenthold, 55, has since been hit with a new public account from another former spokeswoman, Elizabeth Peace, who left his office last March.

Although Peace came to Farenthold's office after Greene had left, she provided a similar account of a hostile and sexualized work environment. Neither accused Farenthold of improper sexual contact.

In her lawsuit, Greene, then 27, painted a picture of a socially awkward, hard-drinking, middle-aged man who reportedly had "sexual fantasies" and "wet dreams" about her. She also accused his chief of staff, Bob Haueter, of regularly belitting and humiliating her.

Peace, a former television news anchor, told the Chronicle in an interview this week that even after Greene had left, Farenthold "allowed the hostility in his office to continue. He allowed us to work in a place that was just emotionally damaging, and that should never be allowed in any office."

Peace, now 37, said that while Farenthold didn't sexually harass her directly, "his comments were inappropriate and his unwillingness to immediately take action to allow us to work in a safe environment is inappropriate."

Incidents of abusive behavior were not uncommon, according to another woman, former college intern Olivia de la Peña, who worked in Farenthold's office in the fall of 2015. Peña, now 23, said she experienced no sexually inappropriate behavior in the office, but instead learned to navigate what she called the congressman's "anger issues."
Bottom Line: Farenthold has multiple credible challegers. If we need to take this case to the voters, so be it.  But it sure would be nice if the Congressman would save everyone's time and leave of his own accord.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

#TXLEGE: Questions about Unintended Consequences BEFORE we eliminate property taxes


"For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—"
Luke 14:18

Last week, RPT announced the questions that have been placed on the March 2018 ballot; they include the following question related to property taxes:
Texas should replace the property tax system with an appropriate consumption tax equivalent. Yes/No
We've spoken favorably about this idea in the past. We'd still like to see it happen. But a personal experience from this past week gives us pause.

On Wednesday, this author made a small purchase on Amazon during we we remembered something obvious: STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS ARE PROHIBITED BY FEDERAL LAW FROM CHARGE SALES TAXES ON A SIGNIFICANT PORTION OF ONLINE PURCHASES.

That got us thinking:

  • Do we really want to move towards a tax system where the fastest growing part of the tax base is already carved out?!?

    One of the best arguments for moving to a consumption tax is that, at least in theory, it should broaden the tax base.  But the federal prohibition on online sales taxes is a pretty significant narrowing.  Furthermore, this narrowing is only going to grow over time.
  • Are we prepared to ask the Feds to allow online sales taxes?!?

    And, if so, for what are they going to ask in return?!?
  • If we carve out online sales, will the final result be a tax system that is overly reliant on rich people (with the attendant revenue swings)?!?

    The long term trend is that the middle class is moving their shopping online, while brick and mortar retail shopping is becoming a leisure activity for rich people.  Thus, any tax system that taxes brick and mortar purchases while carving out online sales will be reliant on purchases by rich people.  As we have learned from California, a system of taxation that is excessively reliant on rich people can lead to wild swings in revenue when the economy changes.
  • If we ask the Feds to permit online sales taxes, and they say yes, what shenanigans would such a move enable other states to pull?!?
  • Are the costs of permitting online sales taxes worth the benefits of eliminating property taxes?!?

    In the past, we've opposed online sales taxes.  The arguments against doing so remains strong.  Suffice to say, internet sales taxes would be a compliance nightmare for small and medium sized retailers.
  • Do we really want to make Amazon the largest tax collector in the state/country?!?

    Many people already think Amazon is too big and too powerful.  Indeed, this website has recently expressed significant misgivings about their proposed HQ2 in Austin.  If you think Amazon is too big and too powerful now, just wait until they're the largest tax collector in the country.

    Consider one example: Amazon very publicly opposed the Texas privacy act this past session; does anyone think they won't threaten to withhold tax revenue in the future?!?
Bottom Line: We're not saying no, but we are saying lets think this one through.

Friday, December 8, 2017

#atxcouncil: City that already has soccer stadium considers building TWO more....


"Every prudent man acts with knowledge,
But a fool lays open his folly."
Proverbs 13:16

In Austin's quest to act as patsies for a San Francisco based crony capitalist looking to boost the value of his Ohio-based asset, it appears we're up to two soccer stadium proposals.

Downtown:
If Austin signs off on a privately financed stadium on city parkland near downtown, the owners of a Major League Soccer team see a facility that would have a small geographic footprint yet make a giant positive impact on the community.

Precourt Sports Ventures, which operates Columbus Crew SC and is exploring a move to Austin, told the American-Statesman on Tuesday that finding the right stadium site remains the critical piece of the puzzle and that Butler Shores Metropolitan Park is the spot to beat.

The group rolled out a preliminary rendering of a 20,000-seat stadium tightly tucked into the western half of well-worn Butler Shores, leaving some parkland to the east.

....

The Precourt group rattled off several ideas to ease the strain on the neighborhood, while presenting Austin with its first major league sports franchise in what they say would be a city-owned, club-run stadium costing upwards of $200 million.
East Side:
A small local group with a big vision and political backing has unveiled plans for a wide-ranging project called the East Austin District, highlighted by a large arena and a multipurpose stadium.

Austin Sports & Entertainment, co-founded by former University of Texas swimming star Sean Foley and New England sports entrepreneur Andrew Nestor, partnering with Rodeo Austin, intends to work with the city of Austin and Travis County governments to replace the Travis County Exposition Center with a 15,000-seat arena adjacent to a 40,000-seat open-air facility.

....

The complex, designed to include office space, a convention area, medical facilities, retail and eight courtyards, could house a wide variety of sports events, concerts, trade shows and festivals.

....

The arena would be the new home of an expanded Rodeo Austin, which owns 40 acres adjacent to the Expo Center and annually pulls approximately 260,000 people to the aging facility for its two-week March run. The project is slated to be built on that land, near Lake Walter E. Long.

....

[A] public-private partnership using city-owned land at the Expo Center, which is run by the county.
Thoughts off the top of our head:
  • The idea that, just because the physical construction is 'privately financed' it doesn't still contain massive public subsidies, is laughable.  At a minimum, the project developers are getting public land for free.  These proposals would be a lot easier to swallow if we were talking about selling the land.
  • Who will be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of a potential stadium: taxpayers or Anthony Precourt?!?
  • Downtown: The lack of on-site parking is the only meritorious part of the proposal; if that could be used as leverage to nuke parking requirements more generally, it might be an acceptable trade off.
  • Downtown: "a small geographic footprint yet make a giant positive impact on the community"... sounds like typical 'grandiose promises backed by vague buzzwords' that usually accompanies publicly subsidized construction projects.
  • Downtown: "tightly tucked"...did you focus group that alliteration?!?
  • Downtown: "city-owned, club-run" = Privatized profits with socialized losses...where have we seen that before?!?
  • East Side: If you take the stadium out of the equation, this project has a certain appeal.  Even if we find the "economic development" forecasts exaggerated, it would certainly attract capital to a part of town that needs it.  It would also take development pressure off of downtown.
  • East Side: That being said, the team seems pretty insistent on a downtown stadium, and building any sort of a stadium without a committed occupant is a fool's errand.
  • East Side: If we build an arena, will UT basketball move out there as well?!?  If not, how many nights a week/year will both this proposed East Side arena and the new UT arena sit empty?!?  Is there enough business to prevent two arenas from cannibalizing each other?!?
  • East Side: If we build significant convention space out there, then there's even less reason to expand the convention center downtown.
    • Note: If this project were accompanied by having the city sell the downtown convention center, it could dramatically increase its appeal.
  • What happens to Circuit of the Americas under either proposal?!?
    • Note: For personal reasons, we loathe Circuit of the Americas, so if either of these proposals could drive those scumbags out of business, we would consider that a plus.
  • Based on our experience working in the service industry, a venue needs to have 4 to 5 events per week to have any realistic chance of creating full time jobs.
  • During the 2019 legislative session, we're going to "have a conversation" about public subsidies for stadiums and arenas; does either proposal take into account that state law on this subject is likely to change in the near future?!?
  • As we pointed out less than a month ago, Austin already has a 20,000 seat soccer stadium.  Do we need a second?!?  Do we need a third?!?
  • How does the legal action proposed by Ohio's Attorney General impact the ability of a team to guarantee they'll be ready by 2019?!?
Finally, following last month's council discussion, we put an open records request into Kathie Tovo's office [note: Tovo carried the original resolution] for all correspondence between her office and the Columbus Crew; Austin's famously transparent municipal government produced the following document:

552.137 Notice by Cahnman on Scribd


Bottom Line: While the east side proposal has a certain amount of merit, putting it very politely, both of these proposals need significantly more work before they're workable.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

#TXLEGE (et. al): Farenthold, Geren, Miles, and Uresti ALL Need to Go....


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

On Monday, we held off on calling for Blake Farenthold's resignation because he was promising to release some bombshell new defense; what a week it's been since then.

Since then, we've seen:

When it rains, it pours.

But, given what we've learned in the past week, the next step is obvious: CAHNMAN'S MUSINGS CALLS FOR CONGRESSMAN FARENTHOLD, REPRESENTATIVE GEREN, AND SENATORS MILES AND URESTI TO RESIGN FROM THEIR RESPECTIVE PUBLIC OFFICES.

The links above should tell you everything you need to know about the respective conduct of the respective officials, but if you need more convincing spend some time on Google.

Bottom Line: All four of these scumbags need to follow Joe Barton's example....

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

#TXLEGE: Charlie Geren seems to miss a lot of things happening under his nose....


"While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage."
2 Peter 2:19

On Monday Bo French, Charlie Geren's opponent in both 2016 and 2018, filed a lawsuit related to actions by a Geren campaign operative last cycle.

Direct Action TX explains:
Last year Charlie Geren had his most credible primary challenge to date from Bo French for the TX House District 99 Republican Primary. It was well known that Charlie was nervous and campaigned harder than he ever had – and with good reason. Now it appears he and his campaign may have used some good ‘ol fashioned tomfoolery in order to pull off a win.

Today Bo and Sheridan French filed suit against Charlie’s campaign staffer and well known democrat, David Sorensen, in a story that is very disturbing and challenges our sense of decency.

On Friday February 26, 2016, 4 Days before the primary, CPS, along with a FTW police officer, showed up at the French residence with a complaint that their son had suffered a broken rib and allegations of physical abuse from Bo against the children. This was followed by repeat visits to the home on Saturday and Sunday. Oddly, once the election was over on that Tuesday, they never showed back up.

The Frenches have filed a civil suit against Sorensen, claiming he filed the report with CPS, with the intent to gain an unfair advantage for the Charlie Geren campaign in the final days of the primary. The suit claims: Defamation/Libel; Business Disparagement; Intrusion of Seclusion; Invasion of Privacy; and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.

According to the filing, Sorensen put his scheme into effect by supplying a false report to CPS claiming Mr. French’s youngest son had suffered broken ribs and that the son was not provided adequate medical care. It was further falsely reported that the police had responded to domestic abuse calls at the French residence in the past. CPS’s internal investigation found that the Frenches’ son never had any broken ribs and that the police had never at any time been called to the French residence. After nearly a year the CPS proceeding was closed without any further investigation of the Frenches, but not until after Mr. French lost to Sorensen’s employer in the primary election.

....

Sorensen has an interesting employment history. He currently advertises himself as a progressive liberal, but the only record of employment include liberal establishment Republican Ken Sheets’s followed by Charlie Geren’s campaign last year. After leaving Geren’s campaign, he went to work for the Tarrant County Democrat party. This further fuels speculation about Charlie Geren’s real ideological leanings and demonstrates that Charlie nor the democrats concern themselves with ideology or character.

....

It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this that Charlie’s campaign was managed by Murphy Nasica, widely known to be the most unethical political outfit in Texas.
Geren predictably denies:
“If this happened, and I don’t know if it did, I was unaware of it,” he said. “I didn’t instruct anyone to do it. If I had known about it, I would have put a stop to it. I have never, in any campaign, brought up anybody’s family.”
And where, pray tell, has Charlie Geren recently had to backtrack after claiming he knew nothing about sleazy behavior?!?
Speaking with reporters after the hearing, Geren said that in his nine years as chairman of the committee he had received “a few” complaints of harassment.

Those investigations, Geren said, included addressing the complaint with the victims and the person accused of sexual harassment “to determine if there really was an issue" in hopes of resolving it “between those two people.”

Geren’s comments contrast with what he told the Tribune in November, when he refused to discuss the process for handling complaints because he said he had not received any. A request under public information laws for complaints made since 2011 turned up no records.

“There’s nothing to talk about because we don’t have any,” Geren told the Tribune last month. “I don’t deal in ifs. When there’s one I’ll handle it. And that’s it.”
For the sake of discussion, let's take Geren at his word: At best, he's disqualifyingly incompetent.

As to the lawsuit itself, it's well worth the 15 minutes it'll take you to read:



Bottom Line: Charlie Geren denying he knows about his campaign operative filing a false CPS report sounds a lot like Charlie Geren denying he knows about sexual misconduct in the Texas House (while having a very public sexual relationship with a lobbyist).

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

#TXLEGE: Straus' loathsome "economic competitiveness" dog and pony show wastes everybody's time


“The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’

“And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore:"
Revelation 18:9-11

[Note: There's no reason to do so, but if you're so inclined you can view the hearing here.]

The house 'select committee' on 'economic competitiveness' had it's final hearing today; we sat in on most of the first three hours before leaving because the whole thing was boring and pointless.

It was the usual mix of buzzwords, cliches, and euphemisms one hears at these sorts of events.  Centrally planned "economic development" via "incentives," "investments" in "workforce development," alongside the omnipresent "diversity" and "inclusion."  Like we said, it was a waste of time.

Chancellor McRaven spoke first.  He claimed concerns about "keeping higher education affordable."  This came from a man whose institution is currently pursuing a tuition hike despite its endowment being worth more than ever.

A lovely gentleman from the Corpus Christi chamber openly spoke in favor of local governments raising tax rates on regular taxpayers to create carve-outs for big businesses.  That was euphemistically titled "local control" and "property tax abatements."  He also called for more secrecy in corporate incentive packages.

For his part, Byron Cook was obsessed with anti-privacy act and pro-illegal immigration hysteria.  Cook asked each witness loaded questions on those subjects.  That being said, Cook did get one representative of the Houston construction industry to openly state "we need cheap labor."

But the greatest act of chutzpah came from the Texas State University chancellor.  He spoke about his "mission" to produce "qualified workers" (which, of course, required "more funding").  If this committee had any self respect, they would have asked if last week's student editorial calling white skin an abomination was consistent with a "mission" to produce "qualified workers."

Bottom Line: Today's hearing was a bastardized hybrid of the latter chapters of Atlas Shrugged, the bar scene from Star Wars, and Chapter 18 of the Book of Revelation...which is a pretty good metaphor for how the Texas house has been run in recent sessions.

Monday, December 4, 2017

#TXLEGE: Man engaged in sexual relationship with lobbyist to oversee new "sexual harassment" policy....


"The words of his mouth were smoother than butter,
But war was in his heart;
His words were softer than oil,
Yet they were drawn swords."
Psalm 55:21

SHOT:
House Administration Chairman Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, said the new policy would require all House employees and staff to undergo anti-sexual harassment and anti-discrimination training by January 2018. The training can’t be required of individual lawmakers, some of whom were behind the worst behavior recounted to the Tribune. But Geren said House leaders would keep records of who attended the trainings — and that those records would be subject to public information laws.

Speaking with reporters after the hearing, Geren said that in his nine years as chairman of the committee he had received “a few” complaints of harassment.

Those investigations, Geren said, included addressing the complaint with the victims and the person accused of sexual harassment “to determine if there really was an issue" in hopes of resolving it “between those two people.”

Geren’s comments contrast with what he told the Tribune in November, when he refused to discuss the process for handling complaints because he said he had not received any. A request under public information laws for complaints made since 2011 turned up no records.

“There’s nothing to talk about because we don’t have any,” Geren told the Tribune last month. “I don’t deal in ifs. When there’s one I’ll handle it. And that’s it.”

In a phone call, Geren clarified that at Friday's news conference he had been referring to complaints made through an informal process.

Nothing's been in writing, that’s typical in these cases. Women choose to remain anonymous,” he said. “They’ve come forward and gone through the details with me, and I’ve investigated it and we’ve resolved it."

Neither the former nor the newly adopted policy detail whether sexual harassment complaints must be in writing. And it’s unclear whether Geren or others fielding complaints are required to maintain any documentation regarding such complaints or disciplinary action that may have resulted from those complaints.

One former staffer told the Tribune that Geren handled her complaint in 2013. The staffer, who was in her early 20s and working for a House lawmaker at the time, said that another lawmaker repeatedly asked her out. She said he had his chief of staff call her desk phone to get her cellphone number and that the lawmaker would text her, inviting her to his office for drinks or out on a date. She said she always declined or did not respond, but he would approach her around the Capitol asking why she didn’t respond.

She eventually told a friend what was happening, and it got to Geren. The House Administration Committee chairman then called her into his office and, after asking her what had been happening, said he was going to take care of it. The meeting lasted three to four minutes, she said. Soon after, the lawmaker apologized and never called her again, she said.

The staffer, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, reached out to the Tribune after being surprised when reading Geren's comments in November that there had been no official complaints.

“I don’t know if the House Admin keeps records on this,” she said.

Asked about the incident, Geren said he didn't have any comment on past complaints.

"That's confidential, and it stays confidential," he said.

During Friday's hearing, Geren said he was planning to ask House Speaker Joe Straus to create a working group to further review the chamber’s policies and make additional recommendations ahead of the 2019 legislative session. In recent weeks, some lawmakers have suggested the creation of an independent entity to review complaints.

Questions also remain about how members, who ultimately answer to voters back home, could be disciplined if they are found to have sexually harassed someone.

House officials can "address and discipline employees," Geren said, but have less control over disciplinary actions for elected officials when it comes to sexual harassment.
We'll get to the chaser in a moment, but first a few thoughts:
  • A policy requiring "training" is completely useless.  You can do all the "training" in the world.  Unless there are sanctions for bad behavior, nothing will change.
  • Based on everything this author has ever heard about sexual misconduct at the Capitol, the most important sanction, by far, would be loss of committee chairmanships.
    • Note: Especially Calendars.
  • Geren's already had to backtrack from his position last week, but he's still stonewalling over what he actually knows.
  • While we respect victims' need for anonymity, not requiring written complaints is a way to get around the Public Information Act.
  • Any "independent entity" that reviews complaints will have to adjudicate them very quickly to have any teeth.  There need to be immediate legislative consequences if a change of policy is going to mean anything.  If complaints aren't resolved until after the session, you can't do anything except hope the voters decline to rehire the offending member.
That being said, concerning Charlie Geren, CHASER:
On Jan. 10, 2017, lobbyist Mindy Ellmer tweeted a picture of her with long-time boyfriend Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, standing next to the Mayor of Fort Worth, Betsy Price. The caption read, “Happy to kick off the 85th with two of my favorite peeps.”

More than four months later, Rep. Geren is a driving force for a bill critics say will save the telecommunication giant AT&T hundreds of millions of dollars while taking needed revenue from city coffers in Austin and beyond.

Ellmer has an interest in the company’s success in Geren’s Texas House of Representatives. She holds a contract from AT&T worth up to $99,999 to try and influence lawmakers to vote on issues favorable to AT&T.
In fairness to Geren, he did marry the poor girl following the session.  So Charlie Geren is now merely married to a lobbyist, as opposed to living in sin with one.  But this is the guy the Texas House wants to oversee the creation of a new policy related to sexual misconduct and influence peddling.

Bottom Line: We suppose there's a romantic quality to a corrupt politician finding true love with a skanky lobbyist trading sexual favors for legislative influence, but to allow the politician in question to write a new "sexual harassment" policy seems...shortsighted at best.

Lecherous Pervert Blake Farenthold seems to think he's allowed to stay in Congress


"It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness,
For a throne is established by righteousness."
Proverbs 16:12

When all else fails, change the subject:



"High"lights:
  • Farenthold vows to "pay back" the federal government, as if that's any sort of justification of his own behavior.
  • Claims to have been cleared of wrongdoing by the congressional "ethics" investigators, as if the fact that this is the one time Congress has actually paid out this sort of settlement doesn't already tell you everything you need to know.
This has to be the most convincing performance we've seen since Harvey Weinstein pledged to go after the NRA...or perhaps since O.J's vow to find the real killer.

Greene said another Farenthold aide told her the lawmaker said he had “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” about Greene. She also claimed that Farenthold “regularly drank to excess” and told her in February 2014 that he was “estranged from his wife and had not had sex with her in years.”
We suppose there might be some theoretical defense that Congressman Farenthold could mount that might be compelling.  In the event such a defense exists, we suggest Congressman Farenthold make it quickly.  But the odds of such a defense emerging seem...low.

One personal note: Congressman Farenthold's district extends into Bastrop and Caldwell counties.  The district's western edge is less than 15 miles from where we're typing this blog post.  If Congressman Farenthold wants to make this race a priority, he's welcome to do so.

Bottom Line: Unless Farenthold comes up with a very compelling defense very quickly, he needs to go.  This week.  We won't have time to loop back to this until Wednesday, but 48 hours should be more than enough time.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Sycophantic Lickspittle pens ABSURD pro-Fenves Propaganda


Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
1 Corinthians 15:33

Apparently, some hack named "Del Williams" is the current president of the Texas Exes; you'll never believe what he wrote in the Dallas Morning News yesterday:
UT-Austin President Greg Fenves is my Texan of the Year for his devotion to opportunity for all
Formatting note: We'll address the claims Williams makes in his DMN piece first, then we'll point out other Fenves actions (or lack thereof) from 2017 that Williams neglected to mention.

-------

  • Claim: "He gracefully led the university after a pair of unthinkable murders of students"

    Reality: Fenves hasn't done a damn thing about the two murders.
  • Claim: "fighting sexual assault"

    Reality: By inventing arbitrary standards to please big donors then bribing the student in question to drop the resulting lawsuit.
  • Claim: "removed the statues of Confederate leaders from the Main Mall, which kept that issue from becoming a distracting spectacle"

    Reality: Anyone who claims the statue removal wasn't "a distracting spectacle" clearly wasn't paying attention in August.
  • Claim: "But Fenves' experience has been most directly relevant to promoting student success. He launched his career at UT Austin in the 1980s and returned a decade ago to become dean of engineering, then provost and, in 2015, president. This coincided with UT's commitment to raising its four-year graduation rate from 51 percent — tops in Texas but lower than flagship universities in most other states — to 70 percent."

    Reality: NEWSFLASH -- Colleges and Universities are supposed to graduate their students; you don't get to take a victory lap for doing the bare minimum.

    [Note: It's also worth point out that we've heard over the years that the University is fudging these numbers, but that's not something we can prove.]
  • Claim: "Fenves worked with the university's Board of Regents to secure an additional $24 million from the state's oil and gas royalties for the Austin campus. And he raised $450 million from donors in 2016-17 -- the most ever outside of a capital campaign. He's brought in game-changing gifts for the medical school and petroleum engineering, social work and liberal arts."

    Reality (a): Assuming they're telling the truth about their fundraising numbers which, to put it mildly, they haven't always done in the past.

    Reality (b): If Fenves IS telling the truth, that probably means they don't need a tuition hike.
-------

Now, let's consider several other incidents from 2017 that didn't make Mr. Williams list:
  • Basketball team goes 11-22.
    • Note: Ok, fine, technically part of that happened during 2016.
------

Bottom Line: George Orwell would be proud.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Barton Retires; take a bow Texas Grassroots....


"So then each of us shall give account of himself to God."
Romans 14:12

At this point, we're sure you've heard:
Rep. Joe Barton, whose private life came under national scrutiny after sexual images he shared in an extramarital relationship were made public, won’t seek re-election.

The Ennis Republican announced his retirement in an interview Thursday with The Dallas Morning News, three weeks after saying he would seek an 18th term.

....

Still, his decision to share lewd messages, even if in a consensual context, drew rebukes from Republicans in his own district — with many of them already offering up potential replacements while warning that, if he remained on the ballot, he would hurt other GOP candidates.

Pressure grew Wednesday when state Sen. Konni Burton of Tarrant County, a tea party conservative, joined other local leaders in saying he should drop his 2018 plans.
At this point, we wish the Congressman the best an hope he gets help for whatever weird sense of loneliness led him to engage in the original behavior.  Politically, it also sets up an open seat Congressional race where no one expected.  But there's another aspect that's worth considering.

Over the past couple months, we've watched the "pervnado" cascade with as much astonishment as anyone.  While certain figures in Hollywood and the national media have seen some accountability, so far that hasn't happened in politics.  In both parties, we've seen respective partisans rally around elected officials and candidates who have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct for short term political reasons.

But that didn't happen with Joe Barton.

Reports of bad behavior from Barton first surfaced last Tuesday.  Then everyone took a couple days to catch their breath and digest the accusation.  On Friday, this website called for Barton's to go.  On Monday, that was followed by his county GOP chair and a prominent local activist.  Barton was already on the way out when the latest incident was disclosed yesterday.  Today, nine days later, he's gone.

[Note: It probably would have happened even quicker if Thanksgiving weekend hadn't occurred in the middle of all this.]

[Note II: While it's one project on this author's to do list that's no longer necessary, had Barton stubbornly doubled down, there could have been a statewide coalition letter by Saturday.]

The Texas Grassroots were the first major political block in the country who were confronted with a case of sexual misconduct in their own backyard who didn't close ranks.  The grassroots took the time necessary to fully and fairly assess the situation, but once it became clear we acted quickly.  And, because the grassroots in Texas acted with deliberate diligence, Joe Barton is leaving Congress.

Bottom Line: In a world where reflexive partisans are reflexively closing ranks behind their party's pervert politicians for short term political reasons, Texas' grassroots chose the honorable course regardless of political consequences.  That's a big deal that speaks well for our movement.  Congratulate yourselves.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Another Shoe Drops Against Barton (who, seriously, needs to go)


"It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness,
For a throne is established by righteousness."
Proverbs 16:12

Gross:
An Arlington woman has shared a series of private messages — some with sexual overtones — she exchanged with U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, a week after he apologized for texting a nude photo of himself to another woman.

The messages, which were obtained by the Star-Telegram on Wednesday, included a mix of politics and questions about whether she was “wearing a tank top only..and no panties.”

Barton and the woman exchanged the Facebook messages in 2012 and 2013 while Barton was still married to his second wife, Terri.

The woman involved in the exchange, Kelly Canon, said she and Barton had been exchanging messages on Facebook Messenger for several years, mostly discussing politics.

“He took it a step too far on rare occasions,” said Canon, who is active in the Republican party. “He was very fascinated with my attire, to the point of being inappropriate.”

Barton, a 68-year-old Republican from Ennis, on Wednesday confirmed to the Star-Telegram that the message exchange took place.

“I will affirm I did have that exchange, but nothing more,” Barton said in a text message.

His consultant said he apologized to Canon.

Canon said Barton did not apologize to her about the Facebook messages, nor did she ask for an apology.

Canon shared a collection of messages, including Barton’s question about her wearing panties after midnight on June 13, 2012, followed by him asking, “right now?”

....

Other messages shared by Canon include:

On Oct. 2, 2013, Barton messaged her that “men are men...and u r definitely a sexy woman.”

When Canon responded that “all the good ones are married,” Barton replied: “I dont know about good..but I am married.”

“Well, that means you’re one of the ‘good’ ones, then!” Canon said.

“Thank u,” wrote Barton.

“Just calling ‘em as I see ‘em!” Canon wrote.

Barton replied: “but ...I am not thinking good thoughts at this moment...blush.”

Canon said she and Barton never had a physical relationship.

“Oh hell no,” she said when asked. “I never even considered that.”

Canon did say she believes it’s “inappropriate for a congressman to be talking to a constituent like that. ... He wouldn’t say that if I was a guy.”

Divorce records filed in Waxahachie show that Joe and Terri Barton were married May 29, 2004 and stopped living together on or around February 2014. Their divorce was signed Feb. 25, 2015.
Thoughts:
  • Kelly Canon is a well known Tarrant County Activist.  We've known her for years.  She's instantly credible.
  • Once again, this is an elected official soliciting a private citizen.  That he's doing it through a Congressional Facebook page makes it abuse of office.  Neither is acceptable.
More From Facebook:



Konni Burton released a statement as we were writing this post:



The actual messages:







Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Sayonara, Greg Abbott's credibility....


Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
1 Corinthians 15:33

Wow:



To understand the full significance of this move, consider recent history.

Greg Abbott, July 17th 2017:
Gov. Greg Abbott said that he would publicly call out lawmakers who didn’t support his 20-item legislative agenda while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick came out swinging against House leadership during Monday appearances on the eve of Texas' special legislative session.

Abbott said he would aggressively hold lawmakers accountable for their positions on his legislative agenda and encouraged others to do the same.

“I’m going to be establishing a list,” he said in remarks before the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank. “We all need to establish lists that we publish on a daily basis to call people out — who is for this, who is against this, who has not taken a position yet. No one gets to hide.”
Drew Darby, two days later:
  • Darby, in response to question from this author: "I'm opposed to any lowering of the rollback rate" on property taxes.
  • Darby compares Abbott holding legislators accountable to parents threatening children during Christmas.
Then, of course, there's the fact that Darby was a key player in killing property tax reform during the regular session.

Bottom Line: With Abbott's previous endorsements, even if we didn't agree, there was a case to be made from his perspective.  That case doesn't exist for Drew Darby.  Drew Darby was a key player in killing Greg Abbott's agenda and any legislature where Drew Darby returns will do the same.

Fresh off Another Cover Up(/lousy football season) UT pushes forward Los Alamos bid


"And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
Genesis 11:4

We knew this was coming, but the arrogance of the timing still astonishes:
The University of Texas System Board of Regents today authorized submission of a formal bid on a federal contract to manage and operate Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Los Alamos is the nation’s preeminent national laboratory in the areas of nuclear weapons, nuclear nonproliferation, safeguards and security, environmental management, energy and other programs, one among the U.S. Department of Energy’s 17 national laboratories. Los Alamos, located about 30 miles outside of Santa Fe, N.M., operates under the auspices of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy.

The Board’s action authorizes Chancellor William H. McRaven and Deputy Chancellor David E. Daniel, Ph.D., with the support of others as the Chancellor may determine, to respond to the Department of Energy’s final request for proposals (RFP) to manage and operate the Lab.

The Department of Energy’s RFP was published Oct. 25. Formal responses are due on Dec. 11, and the award of the contract is anticipated to be announced mid-spring 2018.

While the Regents’ vote was not unanimous, Chairman Sara Martinez Tucker expressed appreciation for the Board’s deliberation and views.

“It is understandable that there may be differing perspectives on a matter as complex as this, but this rare opportunity is too important for the University of Texas System to not actively seek,” Tucker said. “Healthy discussion in an atmosphere of transparency demands that we get all points of view among Board members out on the table. I appreciate the diversity of perspectives in this discussion and am grateful to the Regents for their thoughtfulness, commentary and diligence in reviewing the comprehensive materials presented to them.

“Los Alamos requires exceptional leadership and management. Our nation deserves no less. Therefore, we are directing Chancellor McRaven and the UT System to prepare the strongest possible case to assume this role,” Tucker added. “We want to put the System’s best foot forward and pursue the opportunity vigorously.”

Tucker also recognized McRaven for his efforts to identify appropriate opportunities to advance multiple UT institutions’ scientific and service missions, including an opportunity to generate additional resources for them.
Thoughts:

  • We wrote back in August about how the University's cover-ups related to the Wallace Hall case should instantly disqualify them from this bid; we bring this up because they literally engaged in a new cover up six hours before the regents approved this bid.
  • No idea what it means, but interesting that the vote wasn't unanimous.
Bottom Line: If you haven't had a winning football season in five years, you aren't competent to manage nuclear weapons....

#TXLEGE: Pro-Status Quo Weasels attempting to wriggle out of BINDING Speaker Vote


"Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
But counselors of peace have joy."
Proverbs 12:20

[Note: Empower Texans has more here.]

With Team Straus' remnants attempting to undermine speaker selection process reforms, we signed onto the following coalition letter:

Monday, November 27, 2017

UT abruptly "settles" (aka. bribes/covers up) lawsuit over Fenves' arbitrary "Sexual Assault" policy


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

[Note: Learn about the origins of this case here.]

On the one hand, it's appalling; on the other hand, this is SUCH a UT politburo thing to do:
A settlement reached after about 45 minutes of closed-door negotiations has spared University of Texas President Gregory L. Fenves from having to testify about the school’s sexual misconduct policy, and it also effectively cleared a male student who had been accused of such misconduct.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said simply that the student’s lawsuit against UT and its president had been “concluded by settlement.”

Brian Roark, a lawyer for the student, told reporters that the student’s reinstatement last week by the university will remain in effect and that there will be no further review of the matter by the school. UT agreed to drop its plan to turn the matter over to an unnamed third party.

“There’s been a settlement,” Fenves told reporters. “I have no other comments to make. That’s all I can say at this time.”
A few thoughts:
  • Can't have a discussion in open court about the relationship between the university President and big donors, now can we?!?
  • What sort of astronomical sum will the final settlement be?!?
  • Meanwhile, they're in the process of raising tuition; in terms of cost controls, these sorts of settlements would be a good place to start.
Read the whole thing here.

Cruz outlines next step towards Telecommunications Freedom

Note: We found this picture through a Google image search...pretty cool 'eh?!?

"Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—"
Colossians 2:20

Repealing so-called net 'neutrality' is a good first step, but significantly more needs to be done:
the restoration of internet freedom may be short-lived, as there are already scores of politicians and state and local regulators who have indicated an interest in replicating the Obama administration’s fatally flawed rules at the state and local level. As harmful as the FCC’s rules have been for broadband investment and innovation, replacing such rules with a patchwork of state and local requirements would have an even more detrimental effect on the internet.

The Constitution’s Commerce Clause provides Congress with the power to regulate interstate commerce. Given that the internet permits consumers and businesses to connect to others in different states (as well as countries), broadband services are inherently interstate services and must therefore be protected from state and local interference. As the FCC rolls back the Obama-era regulations on the internet, it should also take the opportunity to affirmatively recognize this.

Allowing the Obama administration’s dangerous policy to infest the internet through state and local government mandates serves no purpose other than to stifle America’s entrepreneurial spirit, frustrate innovation, and block economic opportunity.

Steve Forbes recently raised concerns that allowing state and local regulators to recreate these regulations would create “a crazy quilt-like patchwork of state regulations governing the internet — unquestionably, the most border-free platform ever known to humanity. It would be chaos, and a massive deterrent to investment, innovation, and growth.”
Read the whole thing here.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Why is the DMN turning a Blind Eye to Joe Barton?!?


"It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness,
For a throne is established by righteousness."
Proverbs 16:12

Dallas Morning News this afternoon:
If Joe Barton's career ends because of a lewd video he sent to a lover five years ago, he'd be the rare congressman felled by a consensual, if icky, sex tape.

....

Can he survive? That depends. Barton has never been much of a public moralizer, which shields him from allegations of hypocrisy. He could have enough good will banked for constituents to forgive his foibles, and draw a bright line between seamy but private behavior and the sort of harassment and abuse of power allegations leveled at other politicians.

[Note: Emphasis added.]
Did we just read that right?!?  Did the Dallas Morning News just say that Barton engaged in neither "harassment" nor "abuse of power"?!?  Because that's what it looks like the DMN just said.

We explained this in detail yesterday, but nobody disputes that Joe Barton pursued sexual encounters with citizens who posted political comments to his Facebook page.  By definition, that's harassment.  That he was doing so on a Congressional Facebook page makes it, by definition, abuse of power.

It's literally both.

Bottom Line: Joe Must Go.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Joe Must Go


"It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness,
For a throne is established by righteousness."
Proverbs 16:12

This was quite the Thanksgiving day development:
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), who apologized Wednesday for a lewd photo of him that circulated on the Internet, told a woman to whom he had sent sexually explicit photos, videos and messages that he would report her to the Capitol Police because she could expose his behavior, according to a recording reviewed by The Washington Post.

....

The woman described encounters and contact spanning a five-year period that began online after she posted a message on Barton’s Facebook page in 2011, leading to the sexually explicit exchanges and ultimately a pair of physical sexual encounters in Washington and Texas. Over time, she said, she became aware of and corresponded with multiple other women who engaged in relationships with Barton, who represents a suburban Dallas district and is one of the most senior Republicans in the House.

....

The woman said Barton first reached out to her in 2011 after she posted a comment about politics on his Facebook page. As the two struck up a friendship, they would exchange messages for hours, including when he was on the House floor or in committee meetings, she said.

Soon, Barton began flirting, making suggestive comments and sending explicit messages, she said. She described feeling uncomfortable with his advances at first.

“He says to me, ‘Do you want me to send you a picture of myself?’ I said, ‘Oh no, no. Please do not do that.’ It kind of started there,” she said.

In the spring of 2012, the woman flew to Washington, where he gave her a tour of the Capitol building, she said. The two slept together during that visit, and he reimbursed her in cash for her flight, she said.

In 2014, she visited him in Texas, where the two slept together for the second and final time, she said. He again paid for her travel, she said. “I was in it for the politics connection,” the woman said of their relationship.“I was kind of unwittingly drawn into it with him because of just the amazement of having a connection to a congressman,” she said.
Which begs the natural follow up question:  On what planet is it acceptable for any elected official to pursue sexual encounters with any citizen who posts a political comment to their Facebook page?!?

The answer, obviously, is none.  It boggles the mind that we're even having this discussion.  But, we suppose, that's the sort of arrogance one builds up after three and a half decades in Congress.

And that's why CAHNMAN'S MUSINGS CALLS FOR THE IMMEDIATE RESIGNATION OF CONGRESSMAN JOE BARTON.

--------

What makes this case different?!?

Consider some factors about Joe Barton specifically:

  • The Facts of the Case aren't in Dispute -- Congressman Barton and the woman agree that Congressman Barton pursued sexual encounters with a citizen who posted a political comment to his Facebook page.  Nothing is "alleged."  That hasn't been the true for other recent incidents.

    Say what you will about Roy Moore and Al Franken (personally, we think they're both guilty), but there remains significant public debate about the veracity of the respective charges.

    Not so here: Congressman Joe Barton pursued sexual encounters with a citizen who posted a political comment to his Facebook page.
  • Congressman Barton abused his Office -- Joe Barton doesn't have a campaign Facebook page.  He has a Congressional page and a rarely used Personal page.  That means that, when Joe Barton pursued sexual encounters with a citizen who posted a political comment to his Facebook page, Joe Barton was pursuing sexual encounters with a citizen who political comment to his Facebook page as a sitting Congressman.
  • This website's jurisdiction -- This website knows how to stay in its lane.  We cover Texas.  This is a Texas case.

    Joe Barton is the first name to be named in Texas.

    We can't do anything about Roy Moore.  We can't do anything about Al Franken.  But, dammit, we can do something about Joe Barton.
-------

Bottom Line: Under no circumstances is it acceptable for any elected official to pursue sexual encounters with any citizen who posts a political comment to their Facebook page.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

UT Board to Discuss McRaven's future (and Los Alamos) on Monday (behind closed doors)


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

Holy afternoon before a major holiday document dump Batman; from the Inbox:

UT System Regents to meet Monday.

From the Agendabook:



#atxcouncil: Principles for the next City Manager


"It is a joy for the just to do justice,
But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity."
Proverbs 21:15

Big announcement yesterday afternoon:



The Statesman has a good round up about the finalists; suffice to say we don't share the Mayor's rosy assessment.

On that note, here are the principles we'd like to see guide the end of this process:
  • No Long Term Contracts -- If there's one lesson sports has taught during the past half decade, it's how the back end of long term contracts can bite you in the backside.  Nobody knows how the world will look in 6 or 7 years, and it's important to have the flexibility to respond to changing circumstances.  The same principle applies to local government.

    Thus, no commitments longer than three years.

    Personally, we'd like to see a one year deal with a council option for a second.
  • Avoid Sticker Shock -- There's a difference between a genuinely competitive compensation offer and one that disguises lavish opulence under that label; stick with the former.
  • Transparency in Compensation -- If necessary, we intend to file an open records request for "all compensation related documents" whenever a finalist is announced; that being said, it'd sure be nice to have the city release this information on their own before a final decision is made.
  • The City Manager works for the Elected Council, NOT VICE VERSA: The City Manager is the hired employee.  The elected city council is the boss.  This chain of command must be explicit.
Bottom Line: This is an opportunity for the city to rebuild trust.  They probably won't.  But they could....

WillCo RINO who opposed #TXLEGE property tax reform caught PERSONALLY Profiting from Property Tax Foreclosures


"For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed."
John 3:20

[Note: H/T to Empower Texans, we suggest you read their whole piece.]

There are few political hypocrites more loathsome than Williamson County "Republicans" who use a thin veneer of Austin-bashing to misdirect from their own crony capitalist misadventures; via KXAN:



You owe it to yourself to watch the full six minute report, but we'll excerpt the gist:
When Ken Tuck walked out to his Creek Ridge Lane mailbox last month, he didn’t know it, but he was walking right into some costly legal trouble.

He pulled an envelope from the box and the first thing he noticed was a law firm’s name in the top left corner: McCreary, Veselka, Bragg & Allen, P.C. The letter made it clear what this was about.

"NOTICE OF INTENT TO FILE FORECLOSURE LAWSUIT" was written across the top. Williamson County, Round Rock, Round Rock Independent School District all wanted tax dollars Tuck owed them. The total 2016 tax bill was $2,312.58.

....

He also didn’t know his mayor was the man behind the tax collection efforts, which led to the letter he was holding. That is, until we told him about it.

....

In 2013, the Round Rock City Council gave MVBA the right to do whatever it takes—legally—to collect millions of dollars from Round Rock businesses and city taxpayers. Since then, the law firm has collected nearly $622,000 in past due library fines, court fines and property taxes, according to city and Williamson County records.

The MVBA website shows, Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan heads one of the most lucrative arms of the law firm—the one responsible for Williamson County and Round Rock tax collections.
The KXAN report goes on to detail three separate contracts Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan's law firm received related to collection activity for various governmental entities in Williamson county; the TL,DR version:
The city told KXAN it did not put any of the three contracts out for competitive bidding, citing a state law that allows professional service contracts to be handed out without a bid process. That means a competing law firm would have had no way to know the contracts the city gave MVBA were up for grabs.

The city provided invoicing to KXAN showing $520,947.68 paid to MVBA between 2013 and August 2017 for municipal court and library collections. Williamson County tax office records show another $101,031.37 paid to MVBA on property tax collections.

Round Rock has a total of $2.2 million in delinquent taxes as of this report. If MVBA collected all outstanding Round Rock delinquent taxes, the firm would pocket $335,485. MVBA could earn $1.8 million if it collected all outstanding WIlliamson County taxes today.
This could be a local story of political corruption in Williamson County, except for one recent tidbit.

In late June, well-respected local activist Jeremy Story announced his campaign for HD-52.  HD-52 includes Round Rock.  At the time, Story was launching a primary challenge to Larry Gonzales, though Gonzales' subsequent retirement has re-classified this as an open seat race.



And how, pray tell, did Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan react to Jeremy's announcement?!?





In other words, it turns out that a local official who "doth protested too much" during the legislative debate over property taxes earlier this year was personally drawing income from property tax foreclosures.

Bottom Line:  We don't have time to lead it, but he deserves a recall campaign.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

LAWLESS FARCE masquerading as Paxton "Prosecution" grows ever more DISGRACEFUL


"Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place."
2 Corinthians 2:14

Direct Action Texas recently obtained a court document related to the Paxton case that George Gallagher (the second corrupt judge in the case) tried to seal.  In it, we learn several new pieces of the information about the depths to which the special prosecutors and Chris Oldner (the first corrupt judge) plumed to create their "indictment."  Lowlights include:
  • The special Prosecutors lied about the date one of their alleged "offenses" occurred because the statute of limitations had expired.
  • Lying about the definition of the term "investment advisor representative"
  • Allowing Chris Oldner to bully grand jurors during a time when their deliberations are supposed to be secret.
It's worth the 15 minutes it will take you to read the whole thing:



Bottom Line: This case needs to be dismissed...yesterday.