Archive for the ‘Texas’ Category

Rio Grande Valley Corruption Watch

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Been a while since I took a look at the last region of Texas where Democrats still wield political power: the Rio Grande Valley. What’s going on down there these days?

Would you believe…corruption?

The Rio Grande Valley is considered the most corrupt area in the country, according to the latest statistic from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Valley has the highest number of federal public corruption convictions. In 2013, 83 cases received guilty verdicts or pleas. The FBI since launched their anti-corruption task force.

Let’s look at a few examples, shall we?

  • A look at vote buying in the valley:

    They’re called politiqueras — a word unique to the border that means campaign worker. It’s a time-honored tradition down in the land of grapefruit orchards and Border Patrol checkpoints. If a local candidate needs dependable votes, he or she goes to a politiquera.

    In recent years, losing candidates in local elections began to challenge vote harvesting by politiqueras in the Rio Grande Valley, and they shared their investigations with authorities. After the 2012 election cycle, the Justice Department and the Texas attorney general’s office filed charges.

    “Yes, there is a concern in which the politiqueras are being paid to then go and essentially round up voters and have them vote a certain way,” says James Sturgis, assistant U.S. attorney in McAllen.

    In the town of Donna, five politiqueras pleaded guilty to election fraud. Voters were bribed with cigarettes, beer or dime bags of cocaine. In neighboring Cameron County, nine politiqueras were charged with manipulating mail-in ballots.

    Funny how much of that voter fraud Democrats claim doesn’t exist there is. (Hat tip: Push Junction.)

  • From the same series: How the drug trade turns good cops bad, focusing on Jonathan Treviño, former head of a Hidalgo County narcotics squad who’s now doing 17 years in prison
  • Still another piece from the same series: “Jonathan Treviño’s father, Lupe, who was Hidalgo County’s powerful and popular sheriff, is serving a five-year prison term for a separate conviction. He admitted taking $10,000 in illegal campaign contributions from a drug trafficker known as The Rooster, with ties to the Gulf Cartel.” Plus an estimate that 20% of the border’s economy is based on drugs. NPR guesses this estimate is too high; I would guess it’s probably low.
  • Speaking of which: “The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office blocked auditors from investigating whether or not former Sheriff Lupe Treviño’s administration allowed county workers to fraudulently report they worked extra hours — and rack up so-called ‘comp time’ they could spend campaigning for him.”
  • And this was at the direction of former Sheriff’s Office Cmdr. Jose Padilla, who “himself pleaded guilty to working with a Weslaco-based drug trafficker named Tomas ‘El Gallo’ Gonzalez, talked about the time card tampering allegations during a videotaped interview with anti-corruption activists.”
  • “Two former Hidalgo Housing Authority officials have plead guilty to bribery this afternoon. Sixty year-old Susana Mungia and 53-year-old Lubina Pedraza both admitted in Federal court to have engaged in a bribery scheme, after they had solicited and received money in exchange for allowing people to skip the waitlist and immediately obtain housing assistance.
  • “A Starr County justice of the peace facing bribery and cocaine charges has been forced off the bench until further notice, state officials ordered Monday. The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct ordered Salvador Zarate suspended without pay until further notice, according to court documents. Zarate, 62, the Place 3, Place 1 justice of the peace, is accused of taking $500 to lower two defendants’ bond on Christmas Eve.”
  • “The Indian Lake Police Chief John Chambers was arrested [in February] on 14 counts of tampering with governmental records.”
  • These are only the stories that have caught my eye this year…

    LinkSwarm for July 20, 2015

    Monday, July 20th, 2015

    46 years ago today, America walked on the moon. Or perhaps I should say “Nixon walked on the moon” in the same sense that “Obama got Bin Laden.”

    Some links:

  • Rotherham councilors suppressed the Muslim child rape scandal because Muslims vote Labour. (Hat tip Jihad Watch.)
  • Islamic State sets up stronghold in Bosnia. (Hat tip: Jihad Watch.)
  • One of the architects of ObamaCare is now a health insurance lobbyist.
  • Mark Steyn says the Iran deal is far worse than Munich.
  • Former Labour minister, newspaper founder fired for column defending free speech of columnist critical of Islam.
  • Judge Hanen is pissed at the Obama Administration illegally defying his ruling on their unconstitutional illegal alien amnesty.
  • Rick Perry proposes hitting sanctuary cities in their pocketbooks.
  • Pension payments to Chicago public union employees have become so high that today all the property taxes paid by the households of Chicago go exclusively to pensions.
  • Minimum wage goes up, prices go up by the same amount. What are the odds?
  • The Nine Rings of Climate Scientist Hell.
  • Keith Olbermann fired. Yet again. Maybe because ESPN is feeling the pinch.
  • “if you have permission from the property owner, it is art. If you don’t, it is vandalism.”
  • Speaking of walking on the moon, there’s a whole lot of spaceflight items up for auction.
  • The myth of the “Southern Strategy.”
  • “Political correctness is a euphemism for exclusivity and closed-mindedness.” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Governor Greg Abbot raises $8.3 million, bringing his war chest up to $17.8 million. Keep in mind that Abbott is three years away from any election campaign…
  • Adultery website Ashley Madison hacked, and “37 million clients” could be blackmailed. (I’m guessing that’s more like 15 million male clients and 22 million fake female profiles.) Golly, who could have possibly seen that coming? Except, of course, everyone who’s ever worked in the computer industry…
  • There’s a Jack Kemp Foundation.
  • Here’s a blog devoted to news about Ted Cruz.
  • Maybe this headline from Buzzfeed is what caused Gawker to pull the trigger on detonating the entire bottom-of-the-barrel containment field…
  • The documentary Roar may be the most insane (and dangerous to the cast) movie ever filmed.
  • UT Admissions Scandal 10X Worse Than Previously Admitted

    Thursday, July 16th, 2015

    We’ve known, from the drips and dabs that slipped out, that the UT admissions scandal was worse than the Kroll report actually let on. But we didn’t know it was ten times worse:

    At least 764 applicants initially denied admission to the University of Texas were admitted thanks to a backdoor program for the wealthy and politically connected administered by former president Bill Powers.

    More than 200 of those applicants were admitted despite having their applications cancelled by the Admissions Office.

    The total is more than 10 times the 73 applicants widely reported from an investigation paid for by the university and conducted by Kroll Associates. Kroll withheld the full findings from its 107-page final report.

    More:

    The Kroll investigation confirmed what had been common knowledge in the wealthy Dallas-area community of Highland Park, which includes UT Regent Wallace Hall and House Education Committee chair Dan Branch: students were getting into UT at extraordinary rates, despite bad grades.

    UT admitted seven Highland Park students with grade point averages below 2.0 and SAT scores below 800.

    Also this:

    The very worst of the students UT admitted, the investigation showed, were clustered in the districts of Branch, House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio), and Sen. Kirk Watson, (D-Austin).

    Straus has gone to even greater lengths than UT to cover up the abuses. He authorized a special committee operating behind the scenes in an effort to impeach Hall for asking too many questions about the admissions process.

    A very cynical part of me wonders if this is the root of Straus’ stranglehold on the Speaker’s office: his power as the go-to fixer for getting unqualified students into UT.

    If you hadn’t heard, Wallace Hall, who uncovered the scandal, is suing UT chancellor William McRaven for access to the documents Texas attorney general Ken Paxton has already said he’s entitled to.

    Indeed, UT’s dishonest coverup may be a big factor in the Supreme Court in agreeing to hear an appeal on Fisher vs. University of Texas, “a 2008 lawsuit brought by a white student claiming the university’s diversity-seeking admissions system had unfairly deprived her of admission.”

    The Dallas Observer‘s Jim Schutze (who, unlike myself, favors affirmative action) explains:

    The court did receive a blistering friend-of-the-court brief (see copy below) from the Cato Institute, a conservative think-tank, in support of Fisher’s request to be heard again. The Cato brief called the court’s attention to an investigation of admissions at UT that grew out of the Hall disclosures. Cato told SCOTUS the investigation proved that UT’s “claimed diversity rationale is a sham.”

    That would be new evidence, maybe. But if it goes to the university’s core integrity – if the university has been lying to the courts about why it handles admissions the way it does – then maybe it’s not so new. Maybe it goes right to the heart of the existing case.

    We have talked here often before about revelations brought forward by Hall showing that the former president of the university and some of the regents were handing out undergraduate admissions to sons and daughters of influential state legislators the way favors of love are distributed in a bawdy house. But does that kind of corruption go to the affirmative action question?

    Nobody knows if the Cato amicus brief played any role at all in the high court’s eventual decision to rehear Fisher. But if it did, this would be why: When the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 to send Fisher back down to the 5th Circuit, the court said the lower court needed to take a tougher look at the university’s admissions policies. The Supreme Court told the lower court not to just take the university at its word but to examine the university’s admissions closely under a doctrine called “strict scrutiny.”

    The 5th Circuit basically said yeah, yeah, OK, we strict scrutinied them, and we still trust them. So the 5th Circuit upheld the university. Fisher appealed back to the Supreme Court saying the 5th Circuit hadn’t really done the strict scrutiny strictly enough.

    Then along comes the Wallace Hall evidence of an under-the-table secret admissions program the university forgot to tell the courts about. In fact, Hall’s investigation found evidence of lying, destruction of documents, coercion – enough story lines for an entire season of The Sopranos, all having to do with UT admissions.

    A Supreme Court case is likely to bring national attention to a scandal the local mainstream media has tried to downplay or bury. And if it turns out UT actually lied to the courts, well, that sort of thing tends to make federal judges a mite testy…

    (Hat tip: Push junction.)

    Texas vs. California Update for July 9, 2015

    Thursday, July 9th, 2015

    Time for another Texas vs. California update!

  • “Greece, Puerto Rico show California’s potential future.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • What’s remarkable (or not, depending on your worldview) about the huge disparity in poverty rates between California and Texas is that the states are diametrically opposed in their taxing, spending, and regulatory policies. California, featuring America’s highest marginal income-tax rate, ranks as the fourth-most taxed state in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation, while no-income-tax Texas came in at forty-seventh. In a broader survey of economic freedom that includes labor law and regulation, Canada’s Fraser Institute rated Texas and South Dakota as tied for first with California lagging far behind at forty-third, just ahead of New Jersey at forty-fourth.

  • Yet another fiscal ranking of the states once again puts Texas well ahead of California, though not as much as in some other rankings. Texas ranks 19th, while California ranks 44th. In most rankings, Texas is higher and California is lower…
  • California’s rural poor are among those hit hardest by the drought.
  • Richmond may be the next California city to go bankrupt. (Hat tip: The Ace of Spades Doom Roundup.
  • California sanctuary cities are in the spotlight due to an illegal alien committing a high-profile murder.
  • Strike averted for Santa Clara nurses making an average of $148,000. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Ed Driscoll and wife Nina Yablok are moving to Texas. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Did Sacramento’s Democratic Mayor Kevin Johnson use his aides and volunteers to cement a coup in the National Conference of Black Mayors? And if so, why? What’s his angle?
  • Belated News: Grand Jury No-Bills John Daub

    Thursday, June 25th, 2015

    I missed this good news when it came out on June 2, but a Travis County Grand Jury has declined to indict John Daub in the self-defense shooting death of a home intruder who turned out to be autistic.

    And his blog, Stuff from Hsoi, is available again.

    Hutto Police Officer Murdered On Duty

    Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

    Hutto police Sergent Chris Kelly was was killed in the line of duty today after being run over by a suspect during a traffic stop. (The suspect is in custody.) Kelly was a USAF veteran, and left behind a wife and two children.

    Police work is deeply necessary for civilized society, and occasi0onally very dangerous…

    Texas vs. California Update for June 24, 2015

    Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

    It’s been a while since I did a Texas vs. California update, so this is going to be a meaty one:

  • The Texas Comptroller has released a 50 state overview of how Texas stacks up to other states. There’s a lot of information to mine there. A few nuggets”
    • Texas ranks first as the best state for business, while California ranks 50th.

    • Texas ranks as the best state for net migration; California ranks 49th.
    • There are area in need of improvement. Texas ranks 49th in states whose residents over 25 hold high school diplomas. California? 50th.
  • Texas has enjoyed 100 straight months of unemployment below the national average. (Now it’s 101 months, but I can’ find a link right at the moment.)
  • The previously mentioned California pension reform ballot initiative has been filed.
  • Can it help California voters avoid pension armageddon?
  • “Low Taxes And Economic Opportunity In Texas Lead To Youth Population Boom.”
  • I was unaware that CalPERS owns its own planned community in Mountain House, California, and which it’s invested more than $1 billion in. A community that in 2008 was the most underwater in terms of mortgages in the entire country, and which was estimated to be worth only $200 million at some point. And now their water is being cut off due to the drought. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Speaking of the drought, California is running on empty:

    We suffer in California from a particular form of progressive immorality predicated on insular selfishness. The water supplies of Los Angeles and the Bay Area are still for a year longer in good shape, despite the four-year drought. Neither area is self-sufficient in water; their aquifers are marginal and only supply a fraction of their daily needs. Instead these megalopolises depend on intricate and expensive water transfer systems — from Northern California, from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and from the Colorado River — that bring water and life to quite unnatural habitats and thereby allow a MGM or Facebook to thrive in an arid landscape that otherwise would not support such commerce and population. Without them, Atherton would look like Porterville.

    Quiet engineers in the shadows make it all work; the loud activists in the media seek to make it unwind. These transfers have sterling legal authority and first claims on mountain and northern state water. If Latinos in Lemon Cove are going without household water, Pyramid Lake on I-5 or Crystal Springs Reservoir on 280 are still full to the brim.

    Why then do those who have access to water delivered in a most unnatural way seek to curtail supplies to others? In a word, because they are either ignorant of where their own water comes from or they have not a shred of concern for others less blessed, or both. We will confirm this ethical schizophrenia should a fifth year of drought ensue. Then even the most sacrosanct rights of transferred water will not be sufficient to accommodate the San Francisco and Los Angeles basins. Mass panic and outrage will probably follow, and no one will care a bit about the delta smelt, or a few hundred salmon artificially planted into the San Joaquin River watershed, or a spotted toad that holds up construction of an urgently needed reservoir.

    The greens who pontificate about the need to return the San Joaquin watershed to its 19th-century ecosystem will become pariahs. When the taps run dry in Hillsborough and Bel-Air, very powerful people will demand water for their desert environs, which will in fact begin to return to the deserts that they always were as the thin veneer of civilization is scraped away.

    (Hat tip: Instapundit.)

  • Hey, remember how California’s are always saying “Sure, Texas has lower taxes, lower cost of living, and better job growth, but California’s awesomely moderate weather beats Texas’ summer heat hands down!”?

    Yeah, not so much this year… (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)

  • California legislature votes to reinstate Kelo-like seizure of private property for private development use. Shamefully, 12 Republicans joined Democrats to vote for eminent domain abuse.
  • “Pension payments are starving basic city services.”
  • A Marin County grand jury wants more openness about government employee salaries and pensions. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Of the four “minority majority” states, minorities in Texas are doing best.
  • California farm workers are suing to get the United Farm Workers out of their lives and pockets.
  • Among cities with high prices and stagnant wage growth, California has the nine worst, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Jose.
  • Because California homes just didn’t cost enough already, new energy regulations are going to make them even more expensive.
  • The San Bernardino sheriff’s department has used a “stingray” to capture cell phone communication over 300 times in the past year or so without a warrant.
  • Apple continues expanding in Austin.
  • Texas is one of the states General Electric might leave Connecticut for.
  • California-based retailer Anna’s Linens files for Chapter 11.
  • California holding company Premier Ventures uses yet another bankruptcy filing to prevent an Akron, Ohio mall from being sold at auction. (Previously.)
  • Not news: California bankruptcy filing. Still not news: From a fraud judgment. News: For a lawsuit first filed in 1989.
  • Public Integrity Unit Oversight Removed From Travis County

    Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

    Democrats won’t be able to launch partisan witch hunts against statewide Republican officeholders from the Travis County Prosecutor’s Office anymore, as Governor Greg Abbott has signed the bill stripping oversight of the statewide Public Integrity Unit from the Travis County prosecutor’s office

    “Under House Bill 1690, the Public Integrity Unit would be shifted from Travis County to the Texas Rangers – part of the Department of Public Safety – which would take charge of investigating alleged corruption among public officials. District attorneys from the home county of the accused would prosecute the cases.”

    Travis County Democrats in general, and District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg in particular, have only themselves to blame. Both Lehmberg and equally partisan predecessor Ronnie Earle have pursued vindictive and flat-out-fraudulent cases against Republican officeholders, from Rep. Tom Delay (accused of violating a law that hadn’t been enacted at the time, and whose conviction was overturned and converted into an outright acquittal) to Kay Bailey Hutchison.

    But it was Rosemary Lehmberg’s actions that pretty much sealed the fate of the Public Integrity Unit. The video of following her DUI arrest (when she decided that rolling around Austin with an open bottle of vodka in the car and a blood alcohol level of .239 would just be a swell idea) lead to Governor Rick Perry demand for her to resign. When she refused, Perry carried through with his threat to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit, at which point the Travis County prosecutor’s office indicted Perry for using his constitutionally enumerated veto powers.

    If it hadn’t been for Lehmberg’s poor judgment and criminal activity, and and the grossly partisan overreach of herself and Earle, the legislature would never have felt compelled to act.

    Given the sterling reputation of the Texas Rangers, the unit is now in far better hands, and the move to their oversight takes effects September 1.

    Governor Abbot Signs Emergency Prep Sale Tax Holiday Into Law

    Monday, June 22nd, 2015

    Put this in the category of news that didn’t make the news.

    You may recall mention of two sales tax holiday bills working their way through the legislature.

    The good news is that SB904, the emergency/preparation bill, was signed by Governor Abbott on June 15. While the law itself takes effect on September 1, the first day of the actual sales tax holiday for the enumerated emergency prep items is the last weekend in April, which in 2016 will be April 23-24. At the very least, consider it a good weekend to stock up on batteries.

    As to why no news outlet seems to have even mentioned this fact in passing, I couldn’t tell you.

    The bad news is that it appears both HB 849 and SB 228 died in committee before the end of the legislative session. Since n special session is currently planned, it seems unlikely there will be a hunting and guns sales tax holiday any time in the next two years.

    Gov. Abbott Signs Open and Campus Carry Bills

    Saturday, June 13th, 2015

    This afternoon, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the Open Carry and Campus Carry bills into law at Red’s Indoor Range in Pflugerville. (I can tell you from experience that it’s hard enough to get a shooting lane at Red’s even when the governor isn’t there.)

    Note that as per the actual text of the open carry bill, open carry for CHL holders goes into effect January 1, 2016. I’ve seen various commentators cite a date of September 1st, but that’s just the date for various Texas agencies to have administrative plans in place for complying with the new regulations. So don’t go wearing your holsters in public on September 1st, or you’re likely to receive a very rude awakening…