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?