Thursday, December 12, 2013

Williamson County GOP Primary Update

The filing period for the 2014 Elections closed this week, and we have an interesting assortment of  GOP candidates in Williamson County.  Some qualified, some trying to use shiny Red Herrings as qualifications, and some might have filed with the wrong party?

Here's a quick run down:

Judge Stacey Mathews, newly appointed by the Governor to replace disgraced Judge Ken Anderson , has been challenged by Ryan Larson.

Judge Rick Kennon, newly appointed by Governor Perry to fill Judge Burt Carnes' unexpired term, is being challenged by Donna King.

County Court at Law Judge Doug Arnold has been challenged by GOP newcomer Tallion Taylor (Taylor used to vote Democrat, but recently switched to the Republican party).

Three candidates have filed to replace retiring Williamson County Treasurer Vivian Wood: Leander City Councilwoman Michell Cantwell, Jerri Jones, and Ralph Pruyn.  As I've previously written, Jones is an alleged Republican who publicly supported a Democrat for District Attorney in 2012.  (Yes, I have a problem with this.)

Williamson County Commissioner, Pct. 2 Cynthia Long has been challenged by unknown Michael Sorenson.

Williamson County Commissioner, Pct. 4 Ron Morrison has been challenged by Round Rock attorney Rick Guzman. (Unrelated I know, but the latter is married to Round Rock author Lila Guzman who writes good stuff for junior readers.)

Entertainingly enough, Justice of the Peace, Pct. 3 Bill Gravell is being challenged by Robert Lloyd.  Lloyd is suing Williamson County because he doesn't think it fair that he was asked questions about his political philosophy when seeking a political appointment to a political office.  Not sure Mr. Lloyd has filed with the correct party... pass the popcorn on this one. 

Pct. 3 Constable Kevin Stofle will face Jeff Eckert.

County Surveyor Joe Baker is challenged by Shane Shafer. 

Congressman John Carter (HD-31)
State Senator Charles Schwertner
State Reps Marsha Farney (HD-20), Larry Gonzales (HD-52), and Tony Dale (HD-136).
Chief Justice, Third Court of Appeals Jeff Rose
County Judge Dan Gattis
County Court at Law Judges Suzanne Brooks, Tim Wright, and John McMaster
District Clerk Lisa David
County Clerk Nancy Rister
Justices of the Peace Dain Johnson, Edna Staudt, and Judy Hobbs

Will try to provide readers with more information after the holidays.

Updated on December 14 to link to Stacey Mathews' (one "T"!) website and to correct Pct 3 Constable (It's "Kevin," not "Ken"). 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Attorney Who Bankrolled Williamson County Democrats Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

Austin attorney Marc Rosenthal, who was convicted on charges relating to racketeering, conspiracy, bribery, extortion, tampering, and mail fraud last March, has been sentenced to twenty years in prison.  Prior to his 2011 arrest, Rosenthal played a prominent role in funding Democrat candidates in Williamson County. 

In both 2008 and 2010, Rosenthal gave generously to State Representative Diana Maldonado (HD-52) and other Democrats.  According to Texas Ethics Commission reports, Maldonado received $51,000 in cash and another $7,000 in "air travel."  Allegedly, the latter consisted of Ms. Maldonado's use of Rosenthal's private jet.  (Although Texas District 52 is entirely contained within Williamson County). 

Maldonado eked out a win in 2008, partially due to support from naive Round Rock "Republicans" who ignored her liberalism because they thought that she would represent their geopolitical interests.  After a disastrous single term, Maldonado was soundly defeated in 2010 by Republican Larry Gonzales. 

Unfortunately for local Democrats, Rosenthal won't be able to fund any campaigns for quite some time. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Why It Matters

Throughout my years of political activism, I have been challenged by those who do not believe the core principles I cherish have anything to do with certain political offices.  Yesterday I wrote of my concerns over Jerri Jones' 2012 support of Democrat candidate Ken Crain for District Attorney.  One reader asked me if it really mattered since the Williamson County DA wouldn't be prosecuting any abortionists.  I do not condemn this question; it is legitimate, and I am very happy to have the opportunity to address it.

True core principles and beliefs are not those which can be kept in isolation.  I do not pull out my views on unborn children only in cases involving abortionists.  The belief that parental rights supersede government rights must by nature permeate school board decisions.  Principles of private property rights vs neo-marxist collectivism are at war in our courts constantly.  These things cannot be set aside for only the 'big' cases, but play a role in every decision. 

That is not to say that every Republican adheres to these core principles either.  There is no shortage of Machiavellian Republicans who are more than willing to set aside core conservative principles in favor of crony capitalism, patrician socialism, or a warped sense of geopolitics.  (Like those who want to make sure that all our district's elected officials are from Round Rock, core beliefs be damned- see the 2008 race for State House District 52 where local "Republicans" supported liberal, pro-abortion Diana Maldonado because she was from Round Rock while the Republican Bryan Daniel was from Georgetown.)

Yes, there are times when we do not like the GOP nominee, but does that mean we then actively work to elect someone who has adhered to the Democrat Party's values?

  • Parental Rights vs Government Rights over our children,
  • 2nd Amendment Rights vs citizens without the power to protect themselves,
  • Right to Life vs least costly option,
  • Property Rights vs Government Management of private property,
  • etc., etc., ad naseum.

On any given day, one or more of these issues will be at play in the courts, even those small courts right around the corner.  No, not all Republican office holders will always adhere to conservative core principles, and they must be held accountable.  But the 21st Century Democrat Party worldview is destroying this country already, and we must hold the lines where we are able. 

UPDATE:  You can also add Tallion Taylor to your list of 'moles' on the Williamson County GOP ticket:  Taylor has traditionally voted Democrat & recently switched parties.  There is zero evidence to suggest that he is conservative.  Stick with Judge Doug Arnold on this one.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Wilco Primary Update: "Republicans" Who Work For Democrats

In a relatively conservative area like Williamson County, sometimes potential candidates feel that they can only win if they run on the Republican ticket.  However, filing as a Republican is not the same thing as actually embracing a conservative philosophy.  Therefore when we are evaluating our GOP Primary candidates, it is important to look beyond the standard campaign lingo.  Unfortunately, among the declared candidates for the Williamson County GOP Primary, there are a few problems.

For the contest to replace retiring County Treasurer Vivian Wood, there are two candidates:  Michell Cantwell of Leander and Jerri Jones of Georgetown.  Cantwell has served on the Leander City Council since 2003, and has been an active member of several local Republican and Conservative Groups.  There is little question of her commitment to conservative principles.

Jerri Jones is retired from the Marine Corps (Lt. Col.) and lives in Georgetown.  Although a member of the Georgetown Area Republican Women, Jones has been less than committed to her fellow Republicans.  In the 2012 election cycle, Jones seemed a little bitter about the Primary results and publicly supported Democrat Ken Crain for District Attorney, and, according to campaign finance reports even made a $100 donation to Crain.

While voter participation in general elections runs at about 60%, less than 30% vote in Primary elections, and many local elections see less than 10% turnout.  The percentage of those who actually make a campaign contribution is probably less than 1%.  This is a passionate supporter indeed.

Now there have been times that I have been disappointed in the results of a Primary race, and I have quietly refused to vote for a particularly nasty Republican.  However, I cannot imagine publicly and financially supporting any Democrat candidate, unless he/she were pro-life, pro-family, pro-Second Amendment, and fiscally conservative, which means, basically, never.
That Jerri Jones would go so far as to support a Democrat in this way is very troubling.  I’m sure she is a lovely person, but the political implications are too much.  Jones actively worked to elect a Democrat to a powerful county-wide office.  Either she believed in Ken Crain’s liberal Democrat message or she was feeling very spiteful and vindictive over the results of the primary.  Either way, it doesn’t bode well for her prospects as a Republican leader in Williamson County. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Leander ISD Truly A Poster Child for Bad CAB Debt

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and this chart from the Texas Permanent School Fund certainly tells a horror story.  The PSF, which included this slide in a presentation to the State Board of Education earlier this year, does try to downplay the danger of school debt, but it's really hard to spin a chart like this. 

Not only does Leander have over $2.7 billion, repeat BILLION, in debt, school district officials continue to exploit controversial Capital Appreciation Bonds which defer payments for anywhere from 15 to 40 years while massively increasing total payback.  Irresponsible CAB borrowing has been banned in other states, and by certain local governments including the City of Cedar Park and Williamson County.

Furthermore, while LISD officials keep whining that 'everyone is doing it,' the chart above shows that no one is 'doing it' like Leander.  

For those of you on Facebook, check out the "On Board With Leander ISD - Information and Analysis" page.  The administrators are working to educate the community on the problem and have been posting relevant information. 

More media outlets are beginning to notice the Leander ISD problem, and Mark Lisheron at has written a great piece hereI've been trying to raise awareness for years, but Mark's article is excellent- a must read not only for Leander residents, but every citizen in the State of Texas. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Round Rock ISD Turns To Harlingen CISD for Leadership Guidance

Last month Round Rock ISD Trustee Brian Sellers joined that vast club of politicians who have suddenly discovered they "want to spend more time with family," and resigned without fulfilling the elected term of office.  Sellers' abrupt and unexpected resignation gave the existing trustees the power to appoint a replacement without voter input, and this week they chose newcomer Claudio Cruz, who works for Austin ISD.

Some members of the board were very excited about Mr. Cruz since he has experience in passing bonds and, like both the former and current Superintendent, he also hails from Harlingen CISD.  I have been inundated with emails and phone calls asking me if I can shed any light on what the fascination may be with Harlingen, but I'm afraid I've got nothing.  I'm sure Harlingen has a lovely school system, but if the Round Rock folks are looking for a successful program to emulate I'm not sure why they would recruit from a district with student achievement scores some 17 points below ours.  (RRISD received a score of 88; HCISD received a 71)  Maybe this has something to do with it?

It is unclear as to how long Mr. Cruz has been in Round Rock, but surely he knew Superintendent Steve Flores back in Harlingen? 

Next year, the Round Rock board will be trying to convince voters to approve a bond package, so get ready for the so-called "Citizen" bond committee.  And oh, by the way,  this week four of the board members voted against any transparency or 'conflict of interest' policies for the 'citizen' bond committee members, so expect plenty of business as usual.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

Combs Endorses Hegar for Comptroller

Thus far the GOP candidates for Texas Comptroller are State Senator Glenn Hegar, State Representative Harvey Hilderbran, former State Representative Raul Torres, and Debra Medina.  This morning, however, current Comptroller Susan Combs announced her endorsement of Hegar. 

Combs has been very popular with fiscal Conservatives and has worked very hard to educate the public about our growing local government debt issues.  I'd say this endorsement is huge.

Here's the press release from the Hegar campaign:

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs Endorses Glenn Hegar for Comptroller

San Antonio, Texas - Calling him a "man of conservative principles," Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs today endorsed State Senator Glenn Hegar in his Republican Primary race for Texas State Comptroller.

"I've known Glenn Hegar for many years. He is a man of conservative principles, strong values and great integrity. He loves his state and nation and I trust him to help lead Texas as our next Comptroller," Combs said. "Glenn is a fighter, and has a proven track record of reducing government inefficiencies and saving taxpayer dollars. He understands that business is the engine of our economy and he is committed to keeping it strong. I hope my fellow Texans will join me in supporting my friend, Glenn Hegar."

Combs made the announcement this morning at a breakfast event of republican leaders at the Texas Federation of Republican Women Convention in San Antonio.

"Susan Combs is a bold leader and has had an enormous impact on Texas. She has helped us create an economy equal to none in the country and has worked tirelessly for the citizens of Texas," commented Hegar. "I'm honored that she supports my candidacy and will faithfully carry on her legacy of transparency and government accountability if elected."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Some Animals are More Equal than Others

In the allegorical fable Animal Farm, George Orwell sought to describe the unpleasant outcomes of the Russian revolution, but ended up illustrating some unpleasant truths about the nature of government.  In the novel, a set of revolution-minded animals establish an idealistic government based on the idea that “all animals are equal,’ but the idealistic mantra is short-lived.  The pigs that govern the animal farm begin to elevate themselves above the others and eventually declare that while all animals are equal, “some animals are more equal than others.”  Orwell himself was a socialist who wished to preserve hope in some Marxist ideals, but his story demonstrated the inevitable outcome of any government-imposed notions of ‘fairness;’ those in power will enjoy special privileges denied to ordinary citizens.

The implementation of Obamacare has provided ample opportunity for those in power to grant special privileges, especially to…those in power.  Although many groups are seeking exemption from the most onerous requirements of the new health care law, it seems that Obama has moved to make members of Congress and their respective staffers much ‘more equal’ than others before this law.  In August, via the Office of Personnel Management, the President quietly decreed that those on the Congressional payroll will continue to receive a generous taxpayer-funded subsidy to cover health-care costs.  So while the rest of Americans struggle to cope, Washington’s elite will enjoy a de facto exemption.

In an effort to preserve the notion of “equality before the law,” Senators David Vitter (LA) and Mike Enzi (WY) have responded with a proposal to require everyone working in Congress and the White House to fully comply with Obamacare without the special subsidies.  While ordinary Americans from all sides of the political aisle might think the Vitter/Enzi measure makes perfect sense, some members of Congress are screaming like stuck Orwellian pigs.
Rather than embrace efforts to uphold constitutional concepts of equality before the law, Democrat Senator Harry Reid has declared war on David Vitter.  In addition to re-airing Vitter’s personal indiscretions, Reid and company are actually drafting ‘punishment’ legislation.  If Reid is successful, any member of congress voting for the Vitter amendment, along with his or her respective staff, would become ineligible to for future health care subsidies.
Happily, informed American voters are now getting wind of the special subsidy and are demanding that Congress fully and joyfully embrace the ‘merits’ of Obamacare like the rest of us. 
It is frustrating that our leaders would attempt to give themselves special privileges, but that is the nature of government.  While many policy ideas are rooted in the best of intentions, the devil is in the implementation details.  When those details prove to be excessively painful, history has shown that those in power will create exemptions for themselves.  This trend is apparent in everything from gun control laws to school choice measures: laws for thee, but not for me.
Even more disturbing is the attempt to justify such exemptions.  Like their porcine counterparts in Animal Farm, defenders of the congressional exemption are justifying the subsidy as necessary so as to be able to hire quality employees.  As if the rest of American employers are not facing the same challenges to adequately compensate workers while complying with growing government demands.  Unfortunately, not everyone has the power to vote themselves a generous subsidy.  And it’s a bit difficult to believe there’s any shortage of talented and ambitious individuals seeking employment on Capitol Hill.  Perhaps Congress ought to just come right out and confess their belief that some animals are just ‘more equal’ than others.

Hopefully Senator Vitter will be successful in ensuring that Capitol Hill gets to enjoy Obamacare as much as rank and file Americans.  We will need to be vigilant however, in watching to make sure our elected leaders remember the democratic principles on which this country was founded.  All Americans should be equal under the law.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Leander ISD Doubles Down on Debt

Although one might think a downgraded bond rating and a whopping $2.7 billion in debt, the caretakers of the Leander ISD might be doing the Dave Ramsey thing and trying to exercise some measure of fiscal restraint.  Alas, four of the seven school board members decided that $2.7 billion is no big deal, and last week voted to double-down on that debt burden for future generations. 

In voting to sell even more bonds, the ISD will use the funds to build a 6th high school at a cost of $106 million, but that's only the initial cost.  By utilizing even more of the highly controversial Capital Appreciation Bonds, LISD will defer payments for 15 years (Merry Christmas, Kids!) so that even with a 5.85% rate, the total cost of the high school will rise to $614 million.

The move is certainly shocking, especially considering the devastating impact of Capital Appreciation Bonds.  "CAB"s have been banned elsewhere and were nearly banned by the 2013 Texas Legislative session.  The 2015 session will certainly re-engage on this issue and hope to reform this dangerous borrowing procedure, but in the interim some folks are willing to continue to spend like drunken sailors

Debt apologists on the LISD Board, along with the oft-fined and censured loan shark bond salesmen at Southwest Securities, argue that 1) everyone is doing it, and 2) they must keep building since they are the "second-fastest" growing district in the nation.  The only problem is that neither 1 nor 2 is actually true, but what is true is that Leander ISD continues to be a poster-child for poor fiscal government.  (Pardon the poor pun.)

Here's who voted to party on increase the LISD debt with CAB's:

Pam Waggoner
Don Hisle
Russell Bundy
Grace Barber-Jordan

Board members who voted against (and for fiscal restraint):

Lisa Mallory
Will Streit
Aaron Johnson

The Board graciously allows you to contact them through this page:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Call To Arms: 2nd Amendment Saturday in Williamson County

It's no secret that our 2nd Amendment is under assault (and apparently some public schools are willing to teach blatant falsehoods about our Constitutional right to bear arms.)  Here in Williamson County we prefer to uphold the Constitution and stuff, so on Saturday, October 12, the Williamson County Republican Party and the Best of the West Shooting Range are sponsoring the first annual "2nd Amendment Saturday." 

Here's the scoop from the Wilco GOP:
Shooting events for every skill level. Come out and try Cowboy Shooting, International Practical and International Defensive shooting. Go through the shooting portion of the CHL course. Conventional rifle, pistol, trap ranges with instructors on hand for the novices. and much, much, more.

In addition, there will be a long range shooting demonstration, and vendors with the latest technology, door prizes, and other activities.

Featuring the author of our Concealed Carry Law Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Congressman John Carter, Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman, and others.

So, come on out, get your picture taken with the people defending your 2nd amendment rights. Try out the various shooting styles, and perhaps become a member.

A special thanks to our sponsors:

Gold Sponsors:
Congressman John Carter, US House District 31
Constable Robert Chody, Williamson County Pct. 1

Silver Sponsor
Barry Smitherman for Attorney General

Bronze Sponsors
Representative Tony Dale
Representative Marsha Farney
Representative Larry D. Gonzales
Commissioner Cynthia Long
Justice of the Peace Dain Johnson
District Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield

For more info on this and other events:

“Kiddos”, of 17 or less are welcome if you feel that they are mature enough to attend. They must remain under your supervision.

Please send an email to for more information.
Click here to purchase tickets.
Oh, and just in case you forgot, our Gov rocks on the 2nd Amendment.  (Okay, yeah, so I'll just use any excuse to re-post this video.)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Conversation With Greg Abbott: Creating a Better Texas

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit with Texas Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott in Round Rock.  After a campaign event at the 620 Bakery & Cafe, General Abbott sat down with me for a one-on-one interview about his approach to several issues.  Here are the highlights of our conversation.

Individual Independence a Touchstone for This Nation.

A major theme of Greg Abbott's work as the Attorney General and now of his campaign for Governor, has been the fight against inappropriate federal intrusion into state issues.  In the courts, Abbott has defended Texans on a variety of conservative issues, including 1st and 2nd Amendment rights and Voter ID laws.

If elected Governor, he has indicated that he will continue to fight federal intrusion by working with state agencies.  I asked him if he was concerned about the way that sometimes our state agencies are being used to circumvent the will of Texas voters and implement Obama policies. (Case in point:  Common Core architects were invited into Texas to help create CSCOPE.)  General Abbott was emphatic about keeping agencies accountable to voters and Texas law, and not permitting any "back door implementation" of Obama policy.  He added,
"We see the pathway that some other states are going down...they've bought into these federal programs, or tried to replicate them at the state level.  We see how devastating it is for their states and for their people.  Conversely, we've seen the Texas Model.  We've seen it work for creating jobs, but it also works for something more important:  preserving individual independence.  Which is, I believe, the touchstone of this nation.  Without individual liberty we have nothing.  So we will continue to fight for individual liberty."
Room for Improvement in Texas Right to Work Law.

We talked about the need to protect the Texas Model, and I asked General Abbott about the growth of labor union membership in the state (which increased by 65,000 in 2012).  Did he think we were doing enough to preserve our 'Right to Work' status and strong economy?   He agreed that union growth was a concern and stated that one of his goals is to stay "ahead of the curve" on keeping union power in check.  Abbott has vigorously enforced Texas right-to-work laws, and in 2011 he filed legal action opposing the National Labor Relations Board's attempt to punish Boeing for expanding into South Carolina (another right-to-work state.)  Earlier this year, he encouraged Senator Seliger and Representative Anderson to craft state legislation protecting the right to cast a unionization vote by secret ballot, and to provide a Texas Workers Bill of Rights.  
I asked, "Do you think there's room for more tweaking of our right-to-work laws?"

Abbott replied, "Yes, absolutely."
Abbott noted that the impact of union control is even more "devastating" on the public sector side.
"You saw what happened in Chicago, you see what's happening in Illinois, Wisconsin, California, where the public sector unions are running the state, and running the state into the ground.  I can guarantee you that will not happen in Texas."
"School Choice is a win-win."

The last topic we tackled was education reform.  During his speech, Abbott mentioned education as one of the top three issues facing the state.  Noting that the legislature had failed to act on any parental choice measures this session, I asked if he saw Texas eventually embracing the kinds of reforms that have been enacted in states like Florida, Louisiana, Indiana, etc.
"In the last couple of weeks I've been studying up on what happened in Florida, what happened in Louisiana, and some ideas that we have here in Texas, looking for where we are going.  We are going down the pathway of more school choice, and what we are looking for is more school choice options.  

School Choice is a win-win for several situations.  First and foremost, if you look at the driving force, the most effective is parental involvement.  And the best way to have parental involvement, is by having the parent of that child be involved in where their child is going to be attending school.

Second, you shouldn't have one set of rules for the wealthy and well-to-do, and one set of rules for the poor.    The well-to-do have school choice...the impoverished don't have school choice.  Their child is trapped in a bad school, trapped in a school filled with violence, trapped in a school filled with drugs, trapped in a school with failing teachers and administrators.  The impoverished parent has nothing to do, no avenue to pursue.  We need to give the kids in those bad schools, and parents of those kids options and opportunities.  When we have school choice it really injects competition into the school marketplace, which is going to improve the quality of education across the board. 
A Spine of Steel to Stand Up to Unions

This brought us back to the issue of unions, since teacher unions can be one of the obstacles to allowing parental choice in education.   General Abbott was very direct on this issue:
I was very serious, although it was funny line, I've proven I have, and that I will have a spine of steel in fighting against these unions.  You need someone with a proven stiff spine to be able to deal with things like that.  It's a funny way of characterizing it, but I do have a stiff spine and I will use it on these types of issues, where I'm not afraid of going up against those unions because they're wrong- they're wrong for the future of Texas and I have one single goal and that is creating a better Texas.  
Texas has been a largely successful state, but we are under assault and our next Governor will indeed need a stiff spine.  It sounds like Greg Abbott fits the bill. 


One personal note:  I've met numerous politicians over the years, and I have found some to be shockingly arrogant and condescending; some truly ooze slime, and I can spot a womanizer from a mile off.  But there are good ones too, and my impression of Greg Abbott is that while he may be in a wheelchair, he 'walks the walk.'  I have met him on several occasions and found him to be genuine and straightforward, but always kind, never patronizing, and never condescending.  You might find a few political issues on which you disagree with him, but I think he is a man of solid character.  We need more like him in modern politics.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Ad Hoc President

Who could have imagined, a mere 26 years after Reagan’s world-changing “Tear down this wall” speech, America would be reduced to clown status on the world stage? Events of the past month demonstrate that U.S. leadership has little grasp of realpolitik, no consistent or coherent foreign policy, and now the international community has little if any respect left for the United States.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s “off the cuff” approach to nearly everything is proving disastrous for the nation.

From the beginning of the Syrian crisis, the President has inspired little confidence in his ability to lead. His ill-considered vow to retaliate if Assad used chemical weapons left Obama in the precarious position of having to put up or shut up. The administration’s convoluted diplomatic response, has been harshly criticized from all sides of the political spectrum. The President seems to have persuaded no one that military action is prudent, and as the commander in chief, he has displayed a dangerous naiveté about military strategy. The President’s performance on the world stage has been about as graceful as a Miley Cyrus dance number. Like Ms. Cyrus, Obama’s awkward public contortions have left Americans hanging their respective heads in shame.

Not to be outdone, Secretary of State John Kerry seems to have doubled down in the ‘careless comments category.’ Perhaps in the post-modern world of higher academia, words (“just words”) can be deconstructed and disregarded as meaningless utterance, but in the real world of diplomacy, words matter very much. Consequently, Kerry’s offhand “rhetorical” comments were seized upon by the astute and savvy Vladimir Putin. In complete contrast with the events of 1987, the United States has just been thoroughly humiliated by the Russians, and now has a drastically reduced ability to influence anyone in world politics.

Careless words are not the only problem for America’s foreign policy goals: the Obama administration appears woefully ignorant of historical events and precedent. A little familiarity with Russian/Soviet history might have alerted Obama that Putin isn’t his choom-pal in some international fraternity of world leaders, but rather a formidable opponent always ready to exploit weakness.
Furthermore, our past experiences with Middle Eastern intervention should have taught us to carefully consider taking sides. The Syrian evidence indicates that while Assad is a ruthless dictator, the rebellion primarily consists of equally ruthless Al Queda. Why we would risk American lives, fortunes, and sacred honor on radicals who long to destroy us is beyond comprehension. At some point however, we must ask if anyone who has risen so far in politics could really be so stubbornly obtuse about Middle Eastern geopolitics.

At best, the President’s foreign policy appears dangerously ad hoc, but he seems to have an off-the-cuff approach to domestic issues as well. Ever since we had to pass Obamacare to find out “what’s in it,” the administration has repeatedly had to conjure quick fixes for the latest implementation fiasco. Most recently, in an attempt to protect his union cronies from the worst of the new health care rules, the President floated the idea of granting exceptions for organized labor. However, Congressional leaders last week officially notified the administration that any union exemption would be patently illegal. Unless Obama chooses to violate his own law, he must once again return to the drawing board to try to come up with yet another ad hoc solution.

Without a doubt governance does require a measure of flexibility and adaptability. However, an effective leader must have at least some clear principles on which to govern, and some coherent strategy to implement those principles. This president seems to have neither. The public perception is that we have an administration that is floundering at every turn. Equally disturbing is the sneaking suspicion that all of this policy chaos might be intentional.

Either way, we are in trouble.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Williamson County Courts Primary Election Bingo Cards

Pre-Primary Pre-Season, Part II

There is a good deal of PPPS buzz in Williamson County over judicial candidates these days.  What with the imminent demise of beleaguered Judge Ken Anderson of the 277th District Court, there's blood in the water and many possible candidates.  Thus far, the best-known GOP possibilities include Ryan Larson, an assistant attorney general in Greg Abbott's office, Stacey Mathews, a prosecutor assigned to the 277th Court in the District Attorney's office, and Terrence Davis, a local attorney. 

In addition, Judge Burt Carnes of the 368th District Court has 'unofficially implied' that he will retire sooner rather than later, like next month.  If so, Governor Rick Perry will appoint a replacement, who will then run for election in 2014.  Local attorney Rick Kennon has formally announced his candidacy (Kennon has previously run for County Attorney and is well-known in Republican circles.)  Other candidates include Round Rock attorney Tallion Taylor, and Lytza Rojas, another assistant district attorney.  (Rojas and the aforementioned Mathews seem to have teamed up on a number of projects and may be perceived as a ticket?)

Austin attorney Lesli Gordon Fitzpatrick has also indicated that she will be running, but has not decided if she is aiming for the 277th or the 368th.

There are other rumored candidates and a few curious treasurer's reports that have been filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, but not enough to report on yet.

Will keep ya' posted...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Critically Thinking About Critical Thinking

My "All In Perspective" column for September 5, 2013

Well, September is here and school is back in session.  Most parents are filled with high hopes for their child’s academic success, and educators across the nation have assured us that they are capable of teaching everything Little Johnny and Jane need to know.  Along with learning to read and cipher (hopefully,) we are told that the kids will also be learning those essential ‘critical thinking skills.’
Visit any education-related website and you will find references to ‘critical thinking.’  Everyone claims to be teaching it, and every person from every point on the political spectrum agrees; we must teach critical thinking!  The term itself sounds so good.  Hard consonants, nice number of syllables, rolls off the tongue, and just sounds so…smart.  The problem is that most folks don’t do much critical thinking about ‘critical thinking.’

What does it mean?  An online search produces a variety of definitions that can be used to support an amusing diversity of educational approaches (including “It means whatever you want it to mean.”)  While traditional critical thinking is based on the ancient Socratic method of seeking truth, in the common vernacular the term ‘critical thinking’ has become nothing more than an empty phrase that looks very nice on one’s promotional literature.
Considering the frequent misuse and abuse of the term, I suggest that when we hear the term “critical thinking,” we immediately ask three important questions.
First, anyone who bandies about the term ‘critical thinking,’ must be forced to provide a definition.  While traditionally ‘critical thinking’ refers to the ability to identify logical fallacy, solve problems, and discover truths, for many Lefties critical thinking means that you have adopted critical attitudes about anything traditional.  In other words, if you don’t come to the conclusions that America is a horrible aberration, there is no God, and that Republicans caused global warming, then you aren’t critically thinking.
I would also ask so-called critical thinking proponents what tools they believe are essential to critical thinking.  If the answer is “an iPad,” then we are ridiculously off course.  The truth is that while ‘progressive’ educrats disparage any program that involves memorization, knowledge of basic factual information is essential to higher analysis.  The student cannot make sense of algebraic equation unless he/she has memorized the multiplication tables and Order of Operation rules.  One cannot effectively analyze the causes of the American Civil War without knowing the timeline of events that preceded the conflict.  Yes, quelle horreur! I am suggesting there is merit in memorizing a few dates!  In accordance with Bloom’s Taxonomy, factual knowledge is the building block for higher analysis.

Finally, I would ask how and when said school/teacher/program proposes to teach critical thinking.   Will you teach informal logic and the fallacies of argument?  Will you present them with all of the scientific evidence, or just that which fits the latest politically correct theory?   Unfortunately, even some of those who can actually define critical thinking are ignoring our scientific knowledge of brain development and trying to teach rhetorical exercise too early.   In order to engage in true critical thinking, a child must reach a certain level of brain maturity.  Anyone who claims they can teach your five-year old critical thinking is full of bunk.
Although not all of those who use the term ‘critical thinking’ understand the full implications, they are right about one thing:  the United States is suffering from a shortage of critical thinking.  When Slate Magazine writers argue that getting drunk before the basketball game is an equivalent academic exercise to analyzing literature, or that providing a lousy education is good for society in the long run, then we have completely abandoned reasoning as a hallmark of civilization.  In light of such views it is not surprising that our civic leaders would embrace empty gestures like purchasing a statue to honor the homeless rather than actually helping the homeless.
Sadly, one essential element of traditional critical thinking is a stumbling block for the post-modern world:  the pursuit of truth.  When society has exchanged truth for relativism, and life has become a cheap and meaningless biological existence, then real knowledge has little or no value.  Unless we return to teaching our children that some things are true and some things are false, there will be little use for critical thinking in any venue.  Johnny and Jane may yet learn to read, but what comfort will that provide to a crumbling civilization?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Leander ISD Second Fastest Growing District? Not So Fast...

Regarding the recent budget and tax rate debate, reader has pointed out a slight discrepancy in the claim that Leander Independent School District is among the fastest growing in the nation. 

According to her research, Denver Public schools added 2,261 students from 2011-12 to 2012-13, while LISD added 970.  Secondly, Frisco ISD claimed around 3,000 per year last November.  Northside ISD claims it is growing at 2,000 to 3,000 per year.  And Biz Journal's list of the top 15 "Fastest Growing School Districts" doesn't even mention Leander ISD. 

My reader also points out that while the alleged source for the "second fastest growing district" talking point is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a site-wide search for "Leander" "LISD," or "Leander Schools" on the Foundation Website yields nothing. 

Hmmmm.  Perhaps there is a reasonable explanation for this mystery, or perhaps they are counting on the fact that so many Americans today are intellectually on par with Allison Benedikt

Truth or Propaganda?

Bad People

I know most everyone with a brain has already jumped on this idiot, but not all of my followers read Hot Air, etc., so I would just like to bring your attention to the Slate piece entitled "If You Send Your Kid To Private School You Are a Bad Person."

In the article, Allison Benedikt 'argues' that if everyone in the nation sent their kids to public school, eventually the public schools would be great.  She actually writes:
I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental. But it seems to me that if every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve. This would not happen immediately. It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good.
 In short, your kids will get a lousy education, but in the long run, public schools might improve, and you are bad for not sacrificing your children to her idea of the common good.  Never mind that even parents who opt out still pay for public school.

Another gem from the article:
Reading Walt Whitman in ninth grade changed the way you see the world? Well, getting drunk before basketball games with kids who lived at the trailer park near my house did the same for me. In fact it’s part of the reason I feel so strongly about public schools.

Benedikt says many other shockingly stupid things and expresses pride in her shoddy education and inability to reason.  Her 'argument' has already been thoroughly destroyed, here, here, and here.

Sadly, like Ben Sherman at BOR, I think Ms. Benedikt is being brutally honest about Leftist views.  For the so-called Progressives, it's not about quality education, but social engineering. 

If this is what public education is producing...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Texas Lt. Governor Race: Patterson Calls Austin "Washington West"

According to the Tribune's Primary Pencil Bracket, we've four Republicans running for Lt. Governor:  David Dewhurst, Jerry Patterson, Dan Patrick, and Todd Staples.  Apparently the Dems are still looking for a sacrificial victim candidate to represent higher taxes, gun control, and unrestricted taxpayer-funded abortion.

Here's the latest from the Jerry Patterson campaign. 

"Local Government Debt: What Transparency?" and LISD Public Hearing on Budget & Tax Rate

My "All In Perspective" column from August 22 is republished below.  In related news, it seems that the Leander ISD is holding a specially called meeting on Thursday, August 29, at 6:15 at the Support Services Complex.  This will include a public hearing on the Budget and Tax Rate for the 2013-14 school year, and presents an opportunity for the community to speak out.  Concerned citizens should plan to attend. 

Original Column:

In a recent San Antonio Express News article, Donnis Baggett of the Texas Press Association claimed that ‘transparency’ was the buzzword of the Texas’ 83rd Legislative Session.  Baggett applauded a new law that allows the public to better scrutinize communications between elected officials, and gives news publishers more leeway to “correct, clarify, or withdraw” false reporting before being subject to defamation laws.  According to Baggett, these are marvelous advances for transparency in Texas.

However, the Elephant in the Room ignored by Baggett et al, is that Texas legislators quietly killed important transparency legislation that could have a dramatic impact on the long-term economic health of Texas.
The “Transparency for Texas Taxpayers” act, authored by House Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts, would have required greater disclosure on local government debt.   Both House and Senate versions of the bill stated that all taxing entities must prominently publish their spending and debt information online.  Also, when asking voters to approve new debt, local governments would have been required to include ballot language stating the:
  • Amount of proposed debt;
  • Principal outstanding on current taxable debt;
  • Estimated remaining interest on existing debt; and
  • Estimated total debt service on existing debt.
While many Texans are self-righteously clucking their respective tongues over the financial demise of cities like San Bernardino and Detroit, the truth is we have growing debt problem right here in the Lone Star State.  According to the Texas Bond Review Board, state taxpayers are now on the hook for $324 billion in local debt, and local taxes are on the rise.  Locally, the Leander Independent School District alone has a total debt/payback burden of nearly $2.7 billion dollars.  LISD is able to manage this monstrosity for the time being via the use of highly controversial Capital Appreciation Bonds (CAB’s,) which defers payments to future generations of Leander citizens.  In the meantime, LISD’s bond rating has been repeatedly downgraded and area homeowners already shoulder a significant property tax burden.
Defenders of public debt are eager to point out that most local government borrowing is “voter approved. “  Of course in most cases less than 10% of registered voters participate in bond elections, and proponents intentionally schedule such elections on odd dates for the express purpose of stifling voter participation.  (Like the Hutto ISD’s Labor Day Weekend election last year.)  Furthermore, local government officials set up separate Political Action Committees to promote these bond proposals.  Said committee then launches a slick advertising campaign that downplays the necessary tax increases and up-plays the benefits of the swanky new city/school district/county thing-a-ma-jigger.  Never, ever, ever is there any mention of the current debt carried or the impact on the next generation of taxpayers.
Unsurprisingly, cities and school districts sent their well-paid lobbyists and even a few elected officials to Austin to try to stop the Transparency for Texas Taxpayers Act, with the City of Georgetown in Williamson County playing an active role.  One witness actually stated aloud that he opposed the publication of the data because voters would not support higher debt if they knew how much they already owed.  In other words, we can’t continue to borrow and spend like drunken sailors if the public realizes what we’ve done.   The Texas House pulled down the act on a procedural problem and quietly let it die without taking action.

If we are to avoid the fate of the failed states of America, we must have a serious and persistent conversation about debt, and perhaps send some of our local elected officials to consumer credit counseling.  While some debt is necessary, excessive debt and extravagant spending (like $2500 park benches and unrealistic government pension plans,) can only have one, Detroitesque outcome.  Unfortunately, politicians are kicking the debt-can down the road for our children and grandchildren to solve.
This November, numerous local governments will be asking voters to approve ever more debt, and since there is little interest in off-year, single-issue elections, in all likelihood fewer than 10% of registered voters will bother to vote, and most of those will be completely unaware of the existing debt burden.  Local governments have until August 26 to call for bond elections for this year.  Be sure to check out local proposals, stay informed, and by all means, vote. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Leander City Councilwoman Cantwell Announces Candidacy for Williamson County Treasurer

Just received this release regarding Leander City Councilwoman Michell Cantwell:
“It has been both an honor and a privilege to serve and represent the citizens of Leander on the Leander City Council since 2003. Based upon the ‘Resign to Run’ requirements of the Texas Constitution and the Leander City Charter, I am resigning my seat on the Leander City Council effective immediately to announce my candidacy for Williamson County Treasurer. I will continue to serve on the Leander City Council until an election determines a replacement for the remainder of my term.  I sincerely appreciate the support and confidence the Leander voters have extended to me in representing their interests here in Leander, Texas.  Additionally, from a professional standpoint, I want to recognize and commend our city manager and his staff for their professionalism and support throughout my tenure on the Leander City Council.  While I will no longer be serving Leander citizens at the city level, I eagerly look forward to serving them as the next Williamson County Treasurer.  I ask for your support, your votes, and your prayers as I move forward with this opportunity to serve the citizens of Williamson County.”
The other announced candidate is Jerri Jones.  

New Beginnings for Round Rock ISD?

Well, it looks like the Round Rock ISD may have a new superintendent lined up.  Only one candidate has emerged from the school board's search to replace the highly controversial Jesus Chavez.  Another Harlingen CISD veteran, Dr. Steve Flores, was announced as the lone finalist last Friday. 

Several area news sources reported that Chavez "shocked the community when he announced that he would not be serving out the remaining two and half years on his contract."  The truth is that few were actually "shocked," but many were relieved.  During Chavez' tenure, the district has seen declining ratings, sloppy procedure, and an erosion of fiscal responsibility.  His actions regarding boundaries and construction have pitted the various communities of the ISD against each other, and his political posturing has wreaked havoc with the reputation of the district.  Chavez asserted last year that superintendents do not have to comply with elected school board authority, but the Texas Legislature overwhelmingly rejected that claim and passed legislation stating as much.  Chavez' days were numbered.

Hopefully, if approved, the new Superintendent will focus on making RRISD a solid district again.  With intense growth in Central Texas, the community will need new schools and strong leadership that works for the entire community.  Let's hope Dr. Flores will usher in a new era.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Primary Pre-Season Ground Rules

Well, summer is over and since 2014 is an election year, there are announcements and rumors of announcements all over the place.  For those of us who have friends running against friends, this is a good time to screen your phone calls and duck political commitments until the filing deadline passes.  So awkward.  Or, you might just be trying to figure out who's who and who's running for what.

Frankly, my head is spinning. 

One resource is the Texas Tribune's 2014 Elections Pencil Brackets.  They keep it pretty up to date, but of course it won't show your local stuff.  After the filing deadlines, we will have a clearer picture.  My advice?  Keep your powder dry; things are pretty fluid right now, and there are still announcements yet to come.

I have found some of the preliminary announcements troubling however.  Recently Red State's Dan McLaughlin had a great piece entitled "73 Rules for Running For President as a Republican," and a goodly number of his 73 rules could apply to any GOP and/or 'Conservative' candidate.  Based on some of the acknowledged and rumored candidates I've seen so far, here's just two rules I've come up with for Texas.

1.  Don't bother running for office if you can't manage to be faithful to your spouse.  If your indiscretions don't come out in the Primary, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Dems will be all over it.  Seriously dude, you might give some pretty speeches about how you came to Jesus when you were like, seven or something, but half of Austin knows how you've behaved when away from home.  We've got some very vocal, truly empowered women working in the Texas GOP, and frankly we won't put up with you as the nominee.  Spare your wife and family the grief and embarrassment, okay?

2.  If you spent most of 2012 campaigning for a Democrat candidate but are now running as a Republican in 2014, forget it.  You might think primary voters are too stupid to know what you're up to, but really, you won't have a chance.  At least not in Williamson County. 

I'm sure we'll come up with some more gems before too long.  For now, these will do. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Barbie Shoes and the "Creep" Factor

Below is my All In Perspective Column from last week.  Shortly after my publisher's deadline, the Wendy Davis controversy re-ignited over Erick Erickson's post at Red State calling Davis "Abortion Barbie."  Erickson pointed out that the media was glamorizing Davis; gushing on and on about her shoes, outfits, hair, etc., while ignoring the fact that she was lobbying to abort babies after five months gestation.  Horrific.  Lefties went beserk, calling Erickson a sexist, but I think these folks have missed a deeper point.  As the outrageous but honest comments of creeps like Ben Sherman demonstrate, abortion reduces women to mere playthings.  Like Barbie, they are just sex objects to be exploited with no strings attached.  What is sexist is pretending that abortion doesn't hurt women, and that women aren't anything more than plastic dolls who can repeatedly abort their babies without a second thought. 

Barbie's shoes look notoriously uncomfortable, but if the Barbie-shoe fits, maybe Davis should wear it.

Original Column:

Gender, Politics, and the "Creep Factor"

As a young, single professional on a business trip in 1996, I overheard a couple of other women discussing that year’s upcoming presidential election.  They expressed disdain for Republican Bob Dole because he “just seemed like an old man,” and, as one of the women explained, “Clinton just looks so cute in his jeans.”  Face, palm.  I can’t say my political views were highly developed in those days, but I was pretty sure I would not choose a candidate based on how he looked in his jeans.
Sadly, there are far too many voters who cast a ballot based on the most absurd criteria, and I am especially dismayed by the way some women participate in politics.  Rather than delve into important issues like maybe Constitutional limits for government or effective foreign policy, some women have bought into a false narrative of ‘women’s issues,’ celebrity candidates, and the politics of ‘firsts.’  For example, some think that since we’ve now had our first “black” president, we must elect the first woman to the White House.  Never mind that the likely candidate has a history of unethical and incompetent behavior; Hillary Clinton is apt to be the only woman running, and what difference does it make that a few unimportant Americans died in Benghazi.
There are also a disappointing number of women who are willing to buy into false narratives about ‘women’s issues.’  In the recent abortion law debate, we were told that the evil men of Texas were on the verge of outlawing abortion and taking away women’s rights.  Fortunately, quite a few smart women read the proposed legislation and knew the bill mandated safety measures for abortion clinics while allowing elective abortion during the first five full months of pregnancy.    (A compromise bill by definition.)  Despite the facts, certain women took to marching around the capitol wearing decorative tampons and carrying “Hoes before Embryos” signs.  And Susan B. Anthony went to jail for this?
Women who don’t bother to inform themselves on the issues are a problem, but another disturbing trend is the willingness to not only tolerate, but promote men who happen to be creeps.  The sad spectacle of poor Huma Weiner standing by her ‘sexting’ husband so that he can obtain even more power and glory, breaks my heart.  While the Clintons may be in a huff over the comparisons, Hillary pretty much set that standard when she showed co-dependent wives how to keep on putting up with a creep on a national level.  And this empowers women how?
Women on both sides of the aisle have found themselves yoked to creeps, but I much prefer the reactions of Marianne Gingrich and Jenny Sanford.  Instead of playing the part of the abused wife, these gals refused to put up with unacceptable behavior and told their unfaithful men to ‘hit the road, Jack.’   An empowered woman does not put up with nonsense; she might show up to the press conference, but maybe only to smack her wayward husband in the back of the head with a shovel.  Now that would be a great news story.
I believe that part of the problem is that women aren’t listening to their instinctual “creep detector.”  As we learn more about allegations that Democrat San Diego mayor Bob Filner has been engaging in sexual harassment for years, women who supported him are publicly admitting that the guy has always been creepy.  It’s too bad these gals continued to support and enable a man like Filner.
Of course while Congressman Weiner and Mayor Filner may be in a close race for National Creep of the Year, we have a Texas nominee too.  In a spectacularly revealing article published last month, a writer at the ‘Progressive’ Burnt Orange Report expressed concern that proposed Texas abortion laws might hamper his ability to hook up.  He wrote to his fellow ‘bro-choicers,’ “Your sex life is at stake…don’t be surprised if casual sex outside of relationships becomes far more difficult to come by.”  At least this guy was honest; unrestricted abortion allows him to exploit more women.  ­What a creep.
Unfortunately, women who have bought into the phony mantra of “women’s issues” seem much more likely to put up with these creepy guys.  The truth is that many progressive ideas, like unrestricted abortion and a state-controlled economy, are harmful to women and their respective families.  Truly empowered women really think about the long-term impact of government policy, and will reject the attempts of left-wing exploitation.  Time to kick the creeps and their harmful policies to the curb.