Archive for the ‘Texas’ Category

Random Observations from the Round Rock Gun Show

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

I attended the Austin Gun Show-Round Rock (to use the full appellation) on Sunday, and here are a few random observations:

  • The venue, the Round Rock Sports Center, is much bigger and better suited to a gun show than the Austin and Cedar Park venues. There’s room for more vendors in the central space, there’s none of that inner ring/outer ring/multilevel nonsense, and it’s a nice modern building.
  • You had the weird Russian guy selling the one Nazi flag, WWII stuff…and bedsheets.
  • He wasn’t the only bedsheet dealer.
  • There was also a Tupperware dealer. Evidently non-gun vendors have figure out that gun shows get lots of foot traffic.
  • When it comes to guns, prices seemed up roughly 10% over the show I attended last year.
  • Some manufacturers (including Kimber) are going into custom colored grips and such in a big way. I understand the reasoning (more money from the growing female shooter demographic), but they don’t do much for me.
  • Ditto what I call Ruger’s “Logan’s Run .22”:

  • One dealer did make a strong pitch for us to buy the Barrett .50 BMG we were ogling, but it was a tad out of our price range.
  • I’m looking for an AR-pattern rifle in 5.56 NATO/.223, probably a Smith & Wesson M&P, but they’re still a little more than I want to spend.
  • There was a Trump swag guy at the show. He didn’t seem to be as busy as the people selling “Hillary for Prison” shirts.
  • Speaking of Hillary, actual announcement at the show: “Building management has asked that you refrain from putting Hillary Clinton pictures in the urinals.”
  • LinkSwarm for September 16, 2016

    Friday, September 16th, 2016

    It’s Friday! Something to be thankful for!

    Its 52 days until the election! At least we can be thankful it isn’t more! (Alternate theory: We’ve all died and gone to Hell, and will be watching this Presidential race for the rest of eternity…)

  • Donald Trump widens lead in LA Times poll. “The poll shows Trump leading Clinton, 47%-41%.” (Hat tip: Ace of Spades.)
  • Another poll puts Trump up by eight in Iowa. Downside: Same poll has Trump up by only seven in Texas. There’s no way in Hell or Terlingua that’s happening, but let’s hope Battleground Texas cons some national Democratic donors into throwing more money down that particular rathole based on that poll… (Hat tip: Ace of Spades.)
  • Scott Adams on Hillary’s 9/11 collapse: “The optics of a potential commander-in-chief collapsing at that holy place, and on an important anniversary, rendered her unelectable in my opinion.”
  • Hillary Clinton has stage-three Parkinson’s disease and suffers from seizures, according to three sources who have had a personal relationship with the Democratic Party presidential nominee.” Grains of salt, anonymous sources disclaimer, yadda yadda.
  • Did I miss this from 2015? “The charitable foundation run by Hillary Clinton and her family has received as much as $81m from wealthy international donors who were clients of HSBC’s controversial Swiss bank.” Including Frank Giustra. But why would you trust such a notoriously right-wing news outlet as The Guardian? (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “It Was Easier To Cure Trump Of His Trumpiness Than Hillary of Her Hillaryness.” “For Hillary, the problem runs deeper. People think she’s corrupt and dishonest. That’s because she’s corrupt and dishonest.” (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Email leak exposes Democratic Party Pay-for-Play scheme, despite cleverly hiding their intent by actually using the phrase “pay-for-play.” Just think: This would have been a major story dominating the news for months if it were a Republican Administration. In the age of Obama and Hillary, it’s just another selection on a vast buffet of corruption. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • America’s trust in media hits all time low:

    Well, what did they expect when they went all in for Hillary? And now Trump is climbing in the polls — 6 points up in the new L.A. Times poll — and they’ve already squandered their credibility. They can’t help her now. They tried too hard before. Too bad the Democratic Party didn’t give us a democratic experience this time. They foisted a candidate on us, they rigged it, with the assistance of the media. And now the candidate we didn’t want zombie-walks and stumbles to the finish line, and there is nothing the Party or the media can do to stir up our affection. Meanwhile, the man the media loved to hate is powering through to the Presidency, looking only stronger for all the shots he took.

  • More Americans murdered in Chicago since 2001 than U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
  • The European Dream gives way to nightmare:

    Viktor Orbán, together with the prime ministers of the Visegrad countries and the Ukrainian prime minister, took part in a discussion where he highlighted: a whole generation of European politicians had a “secret dream”, that they can use the EU to achieve the weakening of the member states’ national, religious, and historic identities, and that all this would be replaced by a new European identity. But we found out there is no such identity that could replace the old ones, he said. He added: now it is proven that the only successful countries are the ones with strong identities.

    (Hat tip Director Blue.)

  • Someone is learning how to take down the Internet.

    Someone is extensively testing the core defensive capabilities of the companies that provide critical Internet services. Who would do this? It doesn’t seem like something an activist, criminal, or researcher would do. Profiling core infrastructure is common practice in espionage and intelligence gathering. It’s not normal for companies to do that. Furthermore, the size and scale of these probes — and especially their persistence — points to state actors. It feels like a nation’s military cybercommand trying to calibrate its weaponry in the case of cyberwar… The data I see suggests China.

  • Former Ohio mayor arrested for raping a 4-year old. Guess which party they were a member of, and guess how deeply the Washington Post buried that information.
  • Have an Android? Enjoy your Big Brother inside.
  • Happy Land Social Club arsonist dies in prison. (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • The end of the Euro?
  • Austin to hire an official Social justice Warrior.
  • Local Texas school districts try to reduce or repeal Local Option Homestead Exemptions, get smacked down by Texas Attorney general Ken Paxton.
  • Texas vs. California Update for September 14, 2016

    Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

    Time for another Texas vs. California update:

  • Vance Ginn makes the case that Texas is still kicking California’s ass:

    After descending into a deep valley during the recession, California’s economy has recently grown at a faster rate than in Texas, where the drop in oil prices and higher value of the dollar have negatively affected the mining and manufacturing sectors. However, during the last decade, the productive, real private sector growth has increased by 13.6 percent in California compared with a robust 29.1 percent in Texas.

    This growth translates into output per person in Texas increasing almost four times more than in California in that period, meaning economic output has far outpaced population growth.

    Although contemporary economic growth in California has led to a higher annual job creation rate than in Texas since April 2015, this only tells part of the story.

    Since December 2007 when the last national recession started, total civilian employment increased in California by 1.2 million while it increased by 1.7 million in Texas, with a labor force two-thirds the size of California’s. This increase in employment in Texas constitutes about one-third of all jobs created nationwide — truly remarkable given recent headwinds!

    This phenomenal job creation contributed to Texas’ unemployment rate (4.6 percent) being at or below California’s rate (5.5 percent) for 121 straight months, or since July 2006. But the official unemployment rate only accounts for those actually looking for work, a better gauge of labor force health would be the share of the population employed, which has been higher in Texas than in California since at least 2000.

    More economic output and job creation over time in Texas has contributed to less poverty. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ supplemental poverty measure, which accounts for the local cost of living, shows that Texas’ rate matches the national average while California has the nation’s highest poverty rate

    Income inequality has also been higher in California than in Texas for years. For example, the average of total income held by the top 10 percent of income earners from 2000 to 2012 was 49.9 percent in California compared with 48.8 percent in Texas.

    The results are pretty clear that California’s progressive policies of having the highest marginal personal income tax rate, cumbersome regulations, huge unfunded pension obligations, an out of control lawsuit environment, and other policies reduce economic opportunity.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • High earners are leaving blue states like California for red states like Texas:

    For generations, the Golden State developed a reputation as the ultimate destination of choice for millions of Americans. No longer. Since 2000 the state has lost 1.75 million net domestic migrants, according to Census Bureau estimates. And even amid an economic recovery, the pattern of outmigration continued in 2014, with a loss of 57,900 people and an attraction ratio of 88.5, placing the Golden State 13th from the bottom, well behind longtime people exporters Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Louisiana. California was a net loser of domestic migrants in all age categories.

    Snip.

    Much of the discussion about millennial migration tends to focus on high-cost, dense urban regions such as those that dominate New York, Massachusetts and, of course, California. Yet the IRS data tells us a very different story about migrants aged 26 to 34. Here it’s Texas in the lead, and by a wide margin, followed by Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, Maine, Florida and New Hampshire. Once again New York and Illinois stand out as the biggest losers in this age category.

    Perhaps more important for the immediate future may be the migration of people at the peak of their careers, those aged 35 to 54. These are also the age cohorts most likely to be raising children. The top four are the same in both cohorts. Among the 35 to 44 age group, it’s Texas, followed by Florida, South Carolina and North Dakota. Among the 45 to 54 cohort, Texas, followed by South Carolina, Florida and North Dakota.

  • California just raised your food costs.
  • And agricultural producers are not happy:

    The Governor signed this ag overtime bill in the same year that minimum wage legislation was also passed that will take California to the highest minimum wage as well as legislation forcing California to adopt additional greenhouse gas regulations for businesses in California.

    California is the only state in the country subject to such regulations. Today’s signing occurred despite numerous requests by the agricultural industry to meet with the Governor to discuss our concerns. The message is clear. California simply doesn’t care.

  • Ca;ifornia companies have a hard time attracting workers:
  • More than two-thirds (70 percent) of organizations in California indicated that they have had difficulty recruiting for full-time regular positions in the last 12 months, similar to 68 percent nationally.

  • California organizations were more likely than organizations nationally to report competition from other employers (56 percent), qualified candidates rejecting compensation packages (28 percent), qualified candidates not being able to move to their local area (21 percent), or a relocation or a relocation package not being competitive or not being offered (12 percent) as top reasons for hiring difficulty.
  • Why California can’t build more housing. “Labor unions—which ostensibly stand for working class interests—will not stand for new construction unless it is accompanied by carve-outs and cronyist regulations that artificially boost their compensation.” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “California’s unfunded pension debts may be larger than acknowledged.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “The biggest problem faced by the State of California is not ‘climate change’ or ‘poverty it is the overreaching power of California government itself, namely the California Legislature and Administration, and the threats that this Democrat establishment poses to California’s future, particularly with regard to the economy and individual liberty. California Democrats are celebrating the passage of new climate change legislation that provides California government with broad, sweeping new powers to drastically curb greenhouse gas reductions without regard to economic impact or the basic rights of businesses and individuals.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Palo Alto decides that they hate, hate, hate that golden goose.
  • Maybe that’s why some observers are telling people “If You Own A Home In Palo Alto, CA; Sell It Now.” As the median price of homes has actually started dropping, though from admittedly already insane heights…
  • “Case Study: How Politicians Motivate Companies to Leave California.”
  • Orange County clerk took bribes to make charges disappear.
  • Corrupt Oakland police sentenced. There are all sorts of real winners in this story…
  • LAX Police Assistant Chief Resigns Amid Corruption Allegations.”
  • University of California hires India-based IT outsourcer, lays off tech workers. “The layoffs will happen at the end of February, but before the final day arrives the IT employees expect to train foreign replacements from India-based IT services firm HCL. The firm is working under a university contract valued at $50 million over five years.” This might be a good time to throw in a “How’s that $15 minimum wage working out for you, San Francisco,” but there’s another factor at work: “Joe Bengfort, the CIO for the UCSF campus, said the campus is facing ‘difficult circumstances’ because of declining reimbursement and the impact of the Affordable Healthcare Act, which has increased the volume of patients but limits reimbursement to around 55 cents on the dollar, he said.” So San Franciscans IT workers are losing their jobs thanks to ObamaCare.
  • “Texas has proven it’s possible to have both much lower crime and a lower rate of imprisonment. Indeed, Texas’ FBI index crime rate, which accounts for both violent crime and property crime, has fallen more sharply than it has nationally, posting a 29 percent drop from 2005 to 2014, the latest full year for which official data is available.”
  • “It turns out that the average property tax bill required to support BART’s proposed $3.5 billion bond measure on the November ballot could be as much as four times what the transit agency claimed…That’s because legal language in Measure RR allows BART to issue bonds at up to the state limit of 12 percent interest.” 12%? With 30 year U.S. Treasuries running under 2%? The fact they think they may have to go that high to attract investors suggests how worried bond traders are about the future of California’s economy…
  • Some are less than enthused about BART’s bond proposal:

    BART officials want voters to trust them with another $3.5 billion of taxpayer money. But they’ve done nothing to earn that trust.

    Instead, they have recklessly spent what they have, grossly understated how much their ballot proposal would raise property tax bills and devised plans to use money from the measure, intended for capital projects, to indirectly cover inflated labor costs.

    Voters in Alameda County, Contra Costa and San Francisco should say no — hell no. They should reject Measure RR on the Nov. 8 ballot.

    Despite the problems facing the transit agency, it makes no sense to approve five decades of extra taxes when Measure RR lacks a logical budget, a timeline for service improvements and provisions ensuring taxpayers and riders get what they’re promised.

    The measure would authorize the district to borrow $3.5 billion through bond sales as part of a larger plan to upgrade BART’s infrastructure. The ballot wording conveniently omits that the district would tax property owners for 48 years to pay off the debt.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • Speaking of California bonds: Proposition 53 explained.
  • California’s legislature passes extension of sexual assault statue of limitations mainly over Bill Cosby. Combine this with the trend of colleges redefining rape to “any sex a woman later regrets,” and suddenly the state has the ability to prosecute anyone who ever had sex in California…
  • Leprosy Scare in California Elementary School. “There are approximately 6,500 cases of leprosy in the United States, and 90 percent of the cases are immigrants from countries where leprosy is endemic.With the increase in illegal immigrants and refugees in recent years, diseases thought to be eradicated in this country — like tuberculosis, polio, measles and leprosy — have unfortunately reemerged in the United States.” (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Image Comics to move from Berkeley to Portland.
  • Cow Fart Regulations Approved By California’s Legislature.” No, not an Onion piece.
  • Follow-up: Pacific Sunwear exits bankruptcy.
  • Welcome Empower Texans To The Blogroll

    Thursday, September 8th, 2016

    Here’s another link I’ve been meaning to add to the blogroll for a while: Empower Texans. Michael Quinn Sullivan’s group (a companion organization to Texans for Fiscal Responsibility) does a good job of covering Texas political news and drawing attention to government abuses.

    Well worth checking out.

    Houston Jury Smacks SEIU With $5.3 Million Award

    Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

    Here’s a rare thing: A union actually being held accountable for breaking the law:

    A Harris County jury on Tuesday awarded a Houston commercial cleaning firm $5.3 million in damages, finding that a labor union’s aggressive organizing campaign went too far when it maligned the reputation of the company. It opens the door for more employers to sue unions over hardball tactics often used in membership drives and contract disputes.

    The jury, by a 10-2 vote, found for Professional Janitorial Service in a suit the company brought nine years ago against the Service Employees International Union, which targeted the company as part of its “Justice for Janitors” organizing campaign and wrongly claimed Professional Janitorial Service had violated wage, overtime and other labor laws.

    The case was the first time that a jury has found against a union in a business defamation or disparagement case, according to a search of legal records by the company’s law firm, AZA of Houston.

    “The jury found what PJS and its employees have known for more than a decade,” Brent Southwell, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement. “The SEIU is a corrupt organization that is rotten to its core.”

    Snip.

    The trial, which lasted four weeks, represented the first time the SEIU, which has nearly 2 million members nationwide, has had to defend its tactics in front to a jury. Other cases, including a federal racketeering lawsuit filed by the international food, maintenance and cleaning company Sodexo in 2011, were settled before they ever got before a jury.

    Empower Texans has more background on SEIU tactics:

    One of the tactics many unions use to access potential members is “salting,” and the SEIU is no exception. Salting is the tactic of sending a union-affiliate to a targeted employer to apply for, and then accept a position working for the company. Since unions are often prohibited from contacting employees at work, salts do it for them.

    Two of the salts used against PJS were Adriana Menchu and Eleanor Parada; both have been reoccurring figures during the SEIU trial.

    The union used Menchu’s name in various campaigns, lawsuits, and fliers. In one flier she was quoted saying, “They don’t give us gloves or masks to clean. I know a woman who brings her own cleaning supplies from home just so she can protect her health.” Which PJS refuted with their longstanding policy prohibiting the use of any outside cleaning agents unless supplied by the company.

    SEIU fliers claimed that PJS failed to pay Menchu for hours worked, but internal union emails contradicted that statement saying that PJS was trying to “buy” Menchu off by giving her a raise. More evidence that they knew the information they were releasing was false.

    One press release read, “Mostly immigrant janitors were instructed to work ‘off-the-clock’ and had pay withheld by the city’s largest locally-based cleaning company, Professional Janitorial Service (PJS), according to a new lawsuit filed today.”

    Never revealing that SEIU was the party behind the lawsuit, or that the union planted the “janitors” they were referring to.

    Parada was another salt frequently used in lawsuits, and was quoted in an SEIU press release about the unfair labor practice suit they filed saying, “We work hard, but PJS thinks they can treat us however they want…That’s why PJS janitors are taking a stand today – so we can have some basic protections.”

    It’s worth noting that until the SEIU came to Houston to unionize janitors PJS had never faced labor violation allegations, had not been investigated by the Department of Labor or National Labor Relations Board, and had not had unfair labor practice lawsuits filed against them. Also, out of the 20 ULPs the union filed against PJS, 19 were dismissed with the last being rectified by simply having the employer post safety signs in the workplace.

    Texas vs. California Update for August 30, 2016

    Tuesday, August 30th, 2016
  • A new ranking of Freedom in the 50 states is out. Texas ranked 28th (too low, IMHO) while California ranked 49th:
    • Texas:

      Texas’s fiscal policy is very good. It is a fiscally decentralized state, with local taxes at about 4.5 percent of personal income, above the national average, and state taxes at about 3.6 percent of income, well below the national average. However, Texans don’t have much choice of local government, with only 0.36 jurisdictions per 100 square miles. State and local debt is above average (with the biggest problem being local debt burdens), at 23.1 percent of income, but it has come down slightly since FY 2011. Government subsidies are below average. Public employment has fallen significantly below average, at 11.8 percent of private employment.

      Texas’s land-use freedom keeps housing prices down. It also has a regulatory taking compensation law, but it only applies to state government. The renewable portfolio standard has not been raised in years. Texas is our top state for labor-market freedom. Workers’ compensation coverage is optional for employers; most employees are covered, but not all. The state has a right-to-work law, no minimum wage, and a federally consistent anti-discrimination law. Cable and telecommunications have been liberalized. However, health insurance mandates were quite high as of 2010, the last available date. The extent of occupational licensing is high, but the state recently enacted a sunrise review requirement for new licensure proposals. Time will tell whether it is at all effective. Nurse practitioners enjoy no freedom of independent practice at all. Texas has few cronyist entry and price regulations, but it does have a price-gouging law, and Tesla’s direct sales model is still illegal. The civil liability system used to be terrible, but now it is merely below average. The state abolished joint and several liability in 2003, but it could do more to cap punitive damages and end parties’ role in judicial elections.

    • California:

      Although it has long been significantly freer on personal issues than the national average, California has also long been one of the lowest-scoring states on economic freedom.

      Despite Proposition 13, California is one of the highest-taxed states in the country. Excluding severance and motor fuel taxes, California’s combined state and local tax collections were 10.8 percent of personal income. Moreover, because of the infamous Serrano decision on school funding, California is a fiscally centralized state. Local taxes are about average nationally, while state taxes are well above average. Government debt is high, at 22.8 percent of personal income. The state subsidizes business at a high rate (0.16 percent of the state economy). However, government employment is lower than the national average.

      Regulatory policy is even more of a problem for the state than fiscal policy. California is one of the worst states on land-use freedom. Some cities have rent control, new housing supply is tightly restricted in the coastal areas, and eminent domain reform has been nugatory. Labor law is anti-employment, with no right-to-work law, high minimum wages, strict workers’ comp mandates, mandated short-term disability insurance, and a stricter-than-federal anti-discrimination law. Occupational licensing is extensive and strict, especially in construction trades. It is tied for worst in nursing practice freedom. The state’s mandatory cancer labeling law (Proposition 65) has significant economic costs. It is one of the worst states for consumer freedom of choice in homeowner’s and automobile insurance.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • Texas tops yet another list as the best place to work and live.
  • “This notion of California as a land of outsiders is being turned on its head, our state’s dream repackaged – often with the approval of its ruling hegemons – as something more like a medieval city, expelling the poor and the young, while keeping the state’s blessings to the well-educated, well-heeled and generally older population”:

    California has been bleeding people to other states for more than two decades. Even after the state’s “comeback,” net domestic out-migration since 2010 has exceeded 250,000. Moreover, the latest Internal Revenue Service migration data, for 2013-2014, does not support the view that those who leave are so dominated by the flight of younger and poorer people.

    Of course, younger people tend to move more than older people, and people seeking better job opportunities are more likely to move than those who have made it. But, according to the IRS, nearly 60,000 more Californians left the state than moved in between 2013 and 2014. In each of the seven income categories and each of the five age categories, the IRS found that California lost net domestic migrants.

    Nor, viewed over the long term, is California getting smarter than its rivals. Since 2000, California’s cache of 25- to 34-year-olds with college, postgraduate and professional degrees grew by 36 percent, below the national average of 42 percent, and Texas’ 47 percent. If we look at metropolitan regions, the growth of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees since 2000 has been more than 1.5 to nearly 3 times as fast in Houston and Austin as in Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Even New York, with its high costs, is doing better.

    (Hat tip: Instapundit, who also notes “I remember talking to the Investor’s Business Daily folks a few years ago — they were headquartered in Marina Del Rey, a lovely place but one where they were constantly visited by inspectors, tax people, etc., all posing problems. When they opened an office in Texas, the state and local government people were all ‘tell us if we can help you.’ Very different experience.”)

  • “IRS Data: More Americans are relocating to Texas.” Though why an article datelined El Paso, and quoting only El Paso experts, uses a photo of Austin’s skyline to illustrate the story is a mystery…
  • The California Teacher’s Association: the worst union in America:

    Seen as a national leader in the classroom during the 1950s and 1960s, the country’s largest state is today a laggard, competing with the likes of Mississippi and Washington, D.C., at the bottom of national rankings. The Golden State’s education tailspin has been blamed on everything from class sizes to the property-tax restrictions enforced by Proposition 13 to an influx of Spanish-speaking students. But no portrait of the system’s downfall would be complete without a depiction of the CTA, a political behemoth that blocks meaningful education reform, protects failing and even criminal educators, and inflates teacher pay and benefits to unsustainable levels.

    Also this:

    According to figures from the California Fair Political Practices Commission (a public institution) in 2010, the CTA had spent more than $210 million over the previous decade on political campaigning—more than any other donor in the state. In fact, the CTA outspent the pharmaceutical industry, the oil industry, and the tobacco industry combined.

  • California state appeals court rules unanimously that, yes, public employee pension benefits can indeed be reduced. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • The court giveth, the court taketh away, as the Vergara lawsuit ends with a whimper, meaning teachers unions can screw poor kids in California for the immediate future.
  • Meanwhile, California’s Democrat-controlled legislature passes a bill to get their fingers on private retirement funds create a plan to create a pension for private employee who don’t have one. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • No, it’s just to create more opportunities for graft through taxation. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • California’s cap-and-trade program is a colossal failure, and it may take the high speed rail boondoggle down with it:

    California concluded its most recent cap-and-trade program auction last week. Out of 44,268,323 metric tons of carbon dioxide credits offered for sale by the state Air Resources Board, only 660,560 were sold, 1.5 percent of the total, raising a paltry $8.4 million out of a hoped-for $620 million. Last May’s auction was almost as bad, raising $10 million out of an anticipated $500 million.

    California’s carbon dioxide cap-and-trade auction program was expected to bring in more than $2 billion in the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2017, a quarter of which is earmarked for the high-speed rail project narrowly approved by voters in a 2008 ballot initiative. As a hedge against uncertainty, a $500 million reserve was built into the cap-and-trade budget. But, with the August auction falling 98.5 percent short, the entire reserve was consumed in the first of four auctions for the fiscal year.

    It gets better:

    In the meantime, the High-Speed Rail project, currently promised to cost “only” $68 billion to run from the Bay Area some 400 miles south to Los Angeles may be looking at $50 billion in overruns. To fund the costly train, which was sold to voters as not costing a dime in new taxes, the expected revenue stream from cap-and-trade has been securitized, putting the state on the hook to Wall Street for billions in construction money advanced on the promise of future cap-and-trade revenue.

  • California spends $1.5 billion for Chinook salmon.
  • The corrupt city of Maywood, California hired an engineering firm whose employees were so hard-working they put in 27 hour days.
  • The collapse of high-end California wine merchant Premier Cru, a $45 million wine Ponzi scheme.
  • Three skilled nursing facilities in Humboldt County, California to close because they can’t find enough nurses. Humboldt County is up on the Northern California coast.
  • The Inland Empire in Southern California, still reeling from its foreclosure crisis, saw the biggest jump in income inequality in the state at more than 40 percent. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Toastmasters International to move from Orange County, California to Colorado.
  • And least you think Texas is complete immune from pension worries, the Employees Retirement System of Texas is set to run out of money as well…in 2063. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • If California farmland overvalued?
  • California judge faces recall over being being too lenient to a sex offender. If the recall succeeds, liberals may very well regret setting this precedent…
  • California Governor Jerry Brown may push “green” initiatives, but he’s more than happy to take money for doing regulatory favors for Chevron and Occidental Petroleum. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • From 2010: California’s abandoned wind farms.
  • Federal Judge to Gun-Banning UT Professors: REJECTED

    Monday, August 29th, 2016

    In case you missed it, a lawsuit attempting to block the implementation of campus carry has been rejected by a federal judge:

    A federal judge has denied three University of Texas at Austin professors’ initial attempt to keep guns out of their classrooms under the state’s campus carry law.

    U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that the professors, who had sought a preliminary injunction to block implementation of the law, had failed to establish their likelihood for success. UT students resume classes on Wednesday, and the professors’ case will continue to work its way through the court while the law remains in effect.

    The professors, Jennifer Lynn Glass, Lisa Moore and Mia Carter, filed their lawsuit against the university and the attorney general’s office. In the suit, the professors said the possibility of guns on campus could stifle class discussion in their courses, which touch on emotional issues like gay rights and abortion. They argued that was a violation of students’ First Amendment right to free speech.

    From the text of the decision:

    The court concludes at this stage in the proceedings that requiring public universities to allow licensed individuals to carry concealed handguns is a basis for the Campus Carry Law that bears a debatably rational relationship to the conceivable legitimate governmental end of enabling individuals to defend themselves.

    Also:

    It appears to the court that neither the Texas Legislature nor the Board of Regents has overstepped its legitimate power to determine where a licensed individual may carry a concealed handgun in an academic setting. The court concludes that Plaintiffs have failed to establish a substantial likelihood of success on their equal-protection claim under the Fourteenth Amendment.

    IV. CONCLUSION
    Because Plaintiffs at this time have failed to establish a substantial likelihood of ultimate success on the merits of their asserted claims, their request for immediate relief must fail. The court therefore need not and does not reach the remaining requirements for granting a preliminary injunction. Bluefleld, 577 F.3d at 253 (“[A] preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy which should not be granted unless the party seeking it has ‘clearly carried the burden of persuasion’ on all four requirements.”). Accordingly,

    IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ Application for Preliminary Injunction (Clerk’s Doc. No. 20) is DENIED.

    Score one for civil rights and the rule of law over irrational hopolophobia.

    Dallas Pension Fund Near Insolvenacy Thanks To Risky Investments

    Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

    Dallas Police and Fire pension fund are near insolvency thanks to shady real estate deals:

    The Dallas Police & Fire Pension (DPFP), which covers nearly 10,000 police and firefighters, is on the verge of collapse as its board and the City of Dallas struggle to pitch benefit cuts to save the plan from complete failure. According the the National Real Estate Investor, DPFP was once applauded for it’s “diverse investment portfolio” but turns out it may have all been a fraud as the pension’s former real estate investment manager, CDK Realy Advisors, was raided by the FBI in April 2016 and the fund was subsequently forced to mark down their entire real estate book by 32%. Guess it’s pretty easy to generate good returns if you manage a book of illiquid assets that can be marked at your “discretion”.

    To provide a little background, per the Dallas Morning News, Richard Tettamant served as the DPFP’s administrator for a couple of decades right up until he was forced out in June 2014. Starting in 2005, Tettamant oversaw a plan to “diversify” the pension into “hard assets” and away from the “risky” stock market…because there’s no risk if you don’t have to mark your book every day. By the time the “diversification” was complete, Tettamant had invested half of the DPFP’s assets in, effectively, the housing bubble. Investments included a $200mm luxury apartment building in Dallas, luxury Hawaiian homes, a tract of undeveloped land in the Arizona desert, Uruguayan timber, the American Idol production company and a resort in Napa.

    Despite huge exposure to bubbly 2005/2006 vintage real estate investments, DPFP assets “performed” remarkably well throughout the “great recession.” But as it turns out, Tettamant’s “performance” was only as good as the illiquidity of his investments. We guess returns are easier to come by when you invest your whole book in illiquid, private assets and have “discretion” over how they’re valued.

    In 2015, after Tettamant’s ouster, $600mm of DPFP real estate assets were transferred to new managers away from the fund’s prior real estate manager, CDK Realty Advisors. Turns out the new managers were not “comfortable” with CDK’s asset valuations and the mark downs started. According to the Dallas Morning News, one such questionable real estate investment involved a piece of undeveloped land in the Arizona desert near Tucson which was purchased for $27mm in 2006 and subsequently sold in 2014 for $7.5mm.

    It gets better: “Then the plot thickened when, in April 2016, according the Dallas Morning News, FBI raided the offices of the pension’s former investment manager, CDK Realty Advisors.”

    Also: “And of course the typical pension ponzi, whereby in order to stay afloat the plan is paying out $2.11 for every $1.00 it collects from members and the City of Dallas effectively borrowing from assets reserved to cover future liabilities (which are likely impaired) to cover current claims in full.”

    Want to guess which political party Richard Tettamant was affiliated with?

    Go ahead. Guess.

    Tettament Donations

    (Hat tip: Jack Dean of Pension Tsunami.)

    LinkSwarm for August 12, 2016

    Friday, August 12th, 2016

    Welcome to another Friday LinkSwarm! Here in Texas it’s been hitting 104°F during the day. That’s bad enough, but worse is trying to walk your dog at night when it’s still 93° with no wind.

  • Hillary’s lead over Trump isn’t quite as wide as Dukkakis’ lead over Bush.
  • Trump raised $80 million in July.
  • DNC email hack a whole lot bigger than previously thought.
  • ObamaCare premiums set to explode again in 2017.
  • Ace of Spades HQ contends we’re in this mess because the GOP establishment is secretly all-in on illegal alien amnesty and think the base is racist for opposing their Olympian insight, but has steadfastly refused to tell voters what they actually think:

    The Establishment and establishment-aligned commentators are guilty of the Yeah Yeah Evasion I spoke of above with respect to amnesty.

    Oh, sure, in 2014, they’ll run on a super-border-hawk national platform, and vow to oppose, unto their dying breath, Obama’s executive amnesties.

    And sure, they’ll trot out a field of 17 candidates, fifteen of whom who have been coached to give the corporate/donor class evasive answer on the border.

    Snip.

    Now, the Trumpkins come along — I’ll use the Establishment’s slur for them — and the Trumpkins believe that it is standard GOP doctrine that we should have a border wall and be tough on border security, up to and including deportations.

    They think there’s broad support for this in the party. They don’t think this position is controversial — they think it’s just a base plank of the platform.

    Gee — I wonder where they could have gotten that idea, Establishment, huh?

    I guess those stupid Trumpkins did something crazy — the believed the lies pouring out of your mouths every election eve.

    So once again we have a political calamity brewing– the Establishment types, the college educated set who has no fear of being displaced by a cheaper foreign worker, misled the white working class into thinking they agreed with them on immigration, while secretly — silently — holding the opinion that anything short of open borders was kinda-sorta (or definitely) racist.

  • Rahm Emmanuel steals from the poor (Chicago utility users) to give to the rich (union pension funds). (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • New Jersey teacher’s union wants to write its pension gravy train into the state constitution, vows revenge on Democrat who blocked it.
  • Rotherham is still a center for Muslim child rape gangs. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Alumni have started to decide that if college administrators insist on preemptively surrendering to Social Justice Warriors, then their donations can go elsewhere. (Hat tip: Hot Air.)
  • “State Sen. Judith Zaffirini and her associates have agreed to pay roughly $38 million to settle a lawsuit in which they were accused of seizing control of a massive real estate inheritance for their own enrichment. The Laredo Democrat still has a chance to get richer. She and her crew will walk away owning 444 acres of prime Laredo real estate that nobody bequeathed to them. They’ll need to continue developing the land to come up with the $38 million, but everything they clear above that will be profit. That’s not including, of course, the millions that the Zaffirini crew has already paid itself in legal and management fees out of the inheritance, including roughly $1.5 million paid to Carlos Zaffirini’s law firm.”
  • My friend Karl Rehn’s study on just what the best aiming system (red dot vs. laser vs. iron sights) gets a nice writeup by Massad Ayoob. (Hat tip: Stuff from Hsoi.)
  • Title IX is killing men’s teams at historically black colleges and universities.
  • British MPs facing a booze ban due to having to move to a Muslim-owned building while Westminster is refurbished (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Hungary says no to more “Syrian refugees.” EU to shove more of them down Hungary’s throat, because joining the EU means signing your national sovereignty away
  • Wal-Mart acquires Jet.com (which is an online retailer, not an airline).
  • Facebook to users using Adblock: “Shut up and eat some ads.
  • “Fisking the Latest Diversity in Sci-Fi Freak Out.”
  • Buy your own Sherman Tank. (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • “It’s ridiculous for anyone to worry that the new Ghostbusters will ruin their childhoods retroactively. We should worry about this piece of shit ruining childhoods in real time.”‘
  • Heh. The Ghostbusters reboot to gross “almost exactly $.78 for every $1 the first one earned.”
  • In another sign of 2016’s impending apocalypse, corpse flowers are blooming across America.
  • Crime scene dioramas. Or, as the creator calls them, “dieoramas.” (More here.)
  • Cat-like typing detected.
  • Texas vs. California Update for August 10, 2016

    Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • How California screwed itself:

    Then-Gov. Gray Davis and the Legislature had quietly, virtually without notice, decreed a massive, retroactive increase in state employee pension benefits, which was quickly emulated by hundreds of local governments.

    At the time, CalPERS was ringing up big earnings from the 1990s’ bullish stock market — so big that it had reduced contributions from member governments to near zero. Public employee unions hankered for a share of the bounty and pressed for a benefit increase.

    The CalPERS board, dominated by public employees and union-friendly politicians, sponsored the increase, Senate Bill 400, with assurances that it would cost taxpayers nothing. A state Senate analysis of the bill said CalPERS “believes they will be able to mitigate this cost increase through continued excess returns of the CalPERS trust.”

    Years later, it emerged that the assurances reflected the most optimistic of several scenarios developed by the CalPERS staff. More pessimistic scenarios were kept secret — but they were the ones that came true. By the time Seeling delivered his dark appraisal in 2009, the state was being hammered by an ultra-severe recession, and the CalPERS trust fund was losing what turned out to be nearly $100 billion in value.

    Seven years later, CalPERS and other pension funds still haven’t fully recovered, and they’re sharply raising mandatory “contributions” from state and local governments to cover the gaps left by meager investment earnings.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • California is deluding itself if it thinks it’s “turned to corner” and is on the path for sustainable growth:

    Between 2000 and 2015, Austin has increased its jobs by 50 percent, while Raleigh, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Nashville, Orlando, Charlotte, Phoenix and Salt Lake City – all in lower-tax, regulation-light states – have seen job growth of 24 percent or above. In contrast, since 2000, Los Angeles and San Francisco expanded jobs by barely 10 percent. San Jose, the home of Silicon Valley, has seen only a 6 percent expansion over that period.

    Obviously this runs counter to the notion of California being business friendly, since the ratio of jobs to workers is lower here than in Texas and the rest of the United States, and sometimes a lot lower.

    Snip.

    Gov. Brown has achieved bragging rights by suggestions of a vaunted return to fiscal health. True, California’s short-term budgetary issues have been somewhat relieved, largely due to soaring capital gains from the tech and high-end real estate booms. But the state inevitably will face a soaring deficit as those booms slow down. Brown is already forecasting budget deficits as high as $4 billion by the time he leaves office in 2019. As a recent Mercatus Center study notes, California is among the states most deeply dependent on debt.

    The state’s current budget surplus is entirely due to a temporary tax and booming asset markets. The top 1 percent of earners generates almost half of California’s income tax revenue, and accounts for 41 percent of the state’s general fund budget. These affluent people have incomes that are much more closely correlated to asset prices than economic activity, and asset prices are more volatile than economic activity generally. Brown’s own Department of Finance predicts that a recession of “average magnitude” would cut revenue by $55 billion.

    More critically, the state continues to increase spending, particularly on pensions. Outlays have grown dramatically since the 2011-2012 fiscal year, averaging 7.8 percent growth per year through FY 2015-2016. Seeing the writing on the wall, the state’s labor leaders now want to extend the “temporary” income tax, imposed in 2012, until 2030. This might not do much to spark growth, particularly in a weaker economy.

    During this recovery, California has made minimal effort to eliminate the state’s budget fragility. To use a recently popular term, this is gross negligence. It is, thus, no surprise that credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service ranked California second from the bottom in being able to withstand the next recession. Someday the bills will come due.

  • More on California’s business climate vs. Texas:

    Note that across the entire decade the unemployment rate in California was consistently greater than that in the United States, averaging 1.5 percentage points greater overall and maxing out at 2.9 percentage points in January and February of 2011. Except for the first six months of 2006, the same story holds true for California and Texas, although the differences here are more pronounced: an average of 2.5 percentage points greater and a maximum difference of 4.2 percentage points at various points in 2009 and 2010. Also note how long double-digit unemployment persisted in California (43 months) during this decade compared to the United States (1 month) and Texas (0 months).

    Also: “Texas outperformed California in 9 of the 10 years. And Texas had a CAGR of 3.1 percent, meaning its economy grew at more than twice the pace of California’s each year.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • Texas’ economic, labor Market, and fiscal situation. “The Texas model leads comparable states and U.S> averages in most measures.”
  • “CalPERS has not met its expected 7.5% rate of return for the last 20 years.” (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Things in Texas are very different than they were in the 1980s:

    This is what Krugman and others really get wrong about the Texas miracle.

    The state had its last major recession from 1986 to 1987, after oil prices collapsed and the real estate and financial sectors crashed. Back then, the mining sector, dominated by oil and gas activity, was directly related to about 21 percent of the real private economy and roughly 5 percent of the labor force. Today, mining is 15 percent of the real private economy and less than half of the labor force share. As a result, the combination of more economic diversification and pro-growth policies has produced a much more resilient economy. Texas in 2016 looks a lot different than Texas in 1987.

  • “A major impediment to economic growth and a factor chasing people and businesses away from California is the state’s high tax rates and poorly structured tax code. California levies the highest top marginal income tax rate in the nation at 13.3% and has the country’s 6th highest overall tax burden. Such a hostile tax climate has consequences. During the last decade, from 2000 to 2010, California had a net outmigration of over 1.2 million residents move to other states. Those former Californians took over $29 billion in income with them.”

    Residents of San Diego, Newport Beach, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and many other cities and towns across California enjoy beautiful scenery and enviably pleasant weather year round; while folks in Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston ride out their hot and humid summers by staying indoors as much as possible. Yet Texas has been the number one recipient of California refugees. While the physical climates found in states that are the top recipients of California refugees don’t hold a candle to the Golden State’s, the business tax climates are far more hospitable.

    California imposes the nation’s highest income tax, while Texas is one of nine states with no income tax. While Texas has the 10th best business tax climate in the nation, according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, California has the country’s third worst. During the last decade, over 225,000 people moved from California to Texas, bringing over $4.4 billion in income with them to the Lone Star State. After Texas, Nevada is the number two recipient of ex-Californians. Like Texas, Nevada can’t compete with California’s natural beauty and climate, but the Silver State makes up for it by having no state income tax and the nation’s 5th best business tax climate.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • The deregulated energy market is still working to lower costs for Texans.
  • California’s Democrat-dominated local governments are riddled with nepotism in their hiring practices. In San Diego, “Investigators uncovered an employee vetting process they allege was ‘abused’ — so that in a third of the cases reviewed, ‘friends and family members’ of city staff were hired ‘to the detriment of public job applicants.’” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Liberal complains about how San Francisco’s progressive policies killed affordable housing. “Instead of forming a pro-growth coalition with business and labor, most of the San Francisco Left made an enduring alliance with home-owning NIMBYs. It became one of the peculiar features of San Francisco that exclusionary housing politics got labeled “progressive.” Do note this piece is from a year ago. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Speaking of San Francisco, three of the city’s supervisors have decided that he would like to take the goose that laid the golden egg (i.e., the city’s high tech employers), smother it with locally source rosemary, thyme and organic butter, and broil it at 450° in the form of a payroll tax for those companies that earn $1 million or more in gross receipts.
  • “In 2014 there were 142,417 housing starts in the city of Tokyo (population 13.3m, no empty land), more than the 83,657 housing permits issued in the state of California (population 38.7m).” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • “California To Proclaim August “Muslim Appreciation And Awareness Month.” So when do we get Christian Appreciation Month?
  • “Relocation of Highway 99 in Fresno, a key part of the bullet train project, is over budget, behind schedule and will cost millions of dollars more to complete.” (Hat tip: Cal Watchdog.)
  • DAE Systems is relocating its headquarters to Catawba County and intends to create 46 new jobs and invest $6.8 million during the next three years, Gov. Pat McCrory’s office announced Monday. The California-based company, which is moving to Claremont, will receive a grant of up to $110,000 from the One North Carolina Fund that is dependent on the company meeting job-creation goals.”
  • Nothing says “adult oversight” quite like playing strip poker with teenage camp counselors. Take a bow, Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva! (Hat tip: Dwight, who also notes that Silva is a member of the criminal-ridden “Mayors Against illegal Guns.”)
  • Noted for the record: Mayor Silva comes up twice at the very top of Stockton real estate developer Dan Cort’s Facebook page. (Previously.)