Archive for the ‘Budget’ Category

LinkSwarm for April 14, 2017

Friday, April 14th, 2017

Good news, everyone! Your tax returns aren’t due until April 18th this year. So you can panic slightly later than usual…

  • How Trump won: by “consolidating the Republican base and then earning massive levels of support from whites without a college degree.” With lots of wonky demographic data goodness. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • More on that district-by-distract voting map in last week’s LinkSwarm.
  • The Beltway has a spending problem.
  • Republicans retain Kansas’ fourth congressional district.
  • Brian Krebs would like you to know thatches week’s Russian spammer arrest in Spain had nothing to do with election hacking.
  • Scumbag who killed Brian Terry with a Fast and Furious gun arrested in Mexico. (Insert innocent until proven guilty yada here.)
  • Hey Lois Lerner: If you want to seal your testimony because you think it might bring death threats, maybe you shouldn’t have used the IRS as a weapon against your domestic political enemies… (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • BATF spending taxpayer dollars on NASCAR race suites.
  • Did Hezbollah take out their own second-in-command?
  • Texas Governor Greg Abbott: build the border wall with funds withheld from sanctuary cities. (Hat tip: Dierctor Blue.)
  • Gavin McInnes at Taki’s Magazine thinks the Syria strike was five different 4D chessboard wins. Excerpts: “This shows women that America is in charge and we will keep the world’s children safe. Deep down, all they really want is a patriarchy.” And: “Obama’s legacy was the only death on April 6, 2017.”
  • U.S. forces drop a GBU-43/B Massive Ordinance Air Blast bomb on Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan.
  • “Obama’s covert drone war in numbers: ten times more strikes than Bush.” Details: “A total of 563 strikes, largely by drones, targeted Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen during Obama’s two terms, compared to 57 strikes under Bush. Between 384 and 807 civilians were killed in those countries.”
  • Inside baseball account of the Gorsuch confirmation battle. Also:

    It turned out the open seat was an “electoral asset” for Trump. Voters didn’t like him or Hillary Clinton. But once filling the seat became the “principal issue,” Trump had the advantage. Everyone knew she would dump Garland, a moderate, for someone further to the left.

    “We didn’t know if the president would be a conservative or not,” McConnell said. However, he had promised to pick a nominee from a list of 20 conservative jurists. (McConnell had advocated such a list.) “This reassured conservatives.” The result: he got 90 percent of the Republican vote and won.”

    (Hat tip: Director Blue.)

  • Daily Mail pays Melania Trump $2.9 million for calling her a whore.
  • Prisoners secretly build computers from recycled parts, hide them in the ceiling, hook them up to the prison network, and use them to commit fraud. “They were able to travel through the institution more than 1,100 feet without being checked by security through several check points, and not a single correction’s staff member stopped them from transporting these computers into the administrative portion of the building. It’s almost if it’s an episode of Hogan’s Heroes.” That’s some mighty fine correctional supervision there, Marion Correctional Institution…
  • Is the Trump dip over in gun sales? (Hat tip: Shall Not Be Questioned.)
  • Archeologist Jacques Cinq-Mars was attacked and shunned for offering up evidence that challenged the scientific consensus of the day. Good thing there’s no way that could possibly happen in climate research…
  • Why not a reverse auction for airline overbooking? (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Ft. Hood brings the Funk.
  • Austin-area massage parlor turns out to be a front for prostitution. Try to contain your shock.
  • Enjoy your Easter weekend!

    LinkSwarm for March 24, 2017

    Friday, March 24th, 2017

    This week I started a new job and started working on my taxes, so expect scattered patches of Light Blogging for the next few weeks…

  • Everyone in Washington hates Donald Trump’s new budget. So it must have something going for it. This is a budget plan that will surgically remove trillions of dollars of wasteful spending from the obese $3.9 trillion federal budget. Many agencies will have to live with cuts of 5, 10 and 30 percent, while other outdated, duplicative or unproductive programs will go to the graveyard.”
  • Neil Gorsuch appears to be headed toward confirmation to the Supreme Court.
  • The Obama Administrations was carrying out surveillance of the Trump transition team:

    “First, I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition. Second, details about U.S. persons associated with the incoming administration, details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value, were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting. Third, I have confirmed that additional names of Trump transition team members were unmasked. Fourth and finally, I want to be clear, none of this surveillance was related to Russia or the investigation of Russian activities or of the Trump team.”

    One wonders if his data collection was as “incidentally” as the IRS auditing conservatives…

  • Borepatch has a handy summary of the global warming controversy, with just enough technical details to provide a nice overview.
  • London: “You are entering a Sharia controlled zone. Islamic rules enforced.” Also this: “According to the Association of Chief Police Officers, every year 17,000 Muslim women in Britain become victims of forced marriages, are raped by their husbands or subjected to female genital mutilation.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “Italians used to look to Europe as a kind of savior: the Italian state was corrupt and inept, but Brussels would set a higher standard, and by loyal support for the EU, Italy could rise above its own problems. These days, the EU looks more like an anchor than a lifejacket.” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Philadelphia’s Democratic District Attorney Seth Williams indicted on corruption and bribery charges. Oh, he also allegedly stole more than $20,000 from his own mother’s Social Security and pension funds. (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • Barack Obama violated the Constitution when he appointed a general counsel to the NLRB after the Senate refused to confirm him.” Notable: 6-2 Supreme Court decision. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “I would argue that Pakistan’s history teaches at least three lessons. The first: Elections alone do not produce democracy. The second: Majority rule without minority rights leads to egregious illiberalism. Third: A state committed to the pursuit of religious ‘purity’ will always find some of its subjects in need of ‘cleansing.’ Down that path despotism lies.” (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Denmark doesn’t want to become Sweden.
  • The shape of battles to come.
  • Kurt Schlichter imagines how a second Korean War would unfold. Not so hot for the norks…
  • He came to America illegally with a dream…of raping a two year old. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • I’m still not tired of all the winning.
  • “Molecule kills elderly cells, reduces signs of aging in mice.” Faster please.
  • Texas to eliminate legal bribery in Brown County.
  • Karl Rehn on beyond the 1%. “93% of the 3.2 million adult gun owners in Texas likely do not train. 4% of them take the mandatory new permit course, at best 3% of them take some kind of NRA course, and only 1%, less than 30K, take any kind of post-CHL level course or shoot any kind of match, including all kinds of pistol, NRA high power, and all the shotgun sports.”
  • Dwight blogged about a case where a convenience store robber was found not guilty of aggravated assault because he was using an Airsoft pellet gun in the robbery. Evidently the reason for the verdict was the DA’s decision not to seek a lesser charge. It seems that the possibility of convicting on lesser charges is subject to instructions from the judge. The question that occurs to me: Is a criminal jury empowered to find a defendant guilty of one or more lesser charges if they were given no instructions regarding lesser charges from the judge?
  • London jihad-attack tweet:

  • Scott Adams describes how Bloomberg assembled a hit piece on him by taking things out of context, all because he was predicting a Trump victory in 2016. Remember: Every MSM hit piece on a conservative you see is constructed and slanted in similar ways.
  • Exit fat Barbie.
  • Statistical analysis of writer’s work. Elmore Leonard hates exclamation points, but James Joyce loves them…
  • LinkSwarm for March 17, 2017

    Friday, March 17th, 2017

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Insert your own Irish-related drinking joke here.

  • President Trump’s approval ratings rise.
  • Did Obama use a British intelligence agency to spy on Trump? (Maybe not.)
  • Did the Obama Administration use Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac as a slush fund to pay for ObamaCare?
  • Senate Democrats are paralized what do to over Neil Gorsuch. Everyone agrees Gorsuch is extremely qualified, but the leftwing nutroots are threatening to primary any Democrat who votes to confirm him. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Finally: “A House panel held a hearing on possibly splitting the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday morning.” (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • In talking about the House GOP’s pathetic ObamaCare replacement, Stephen Green hits the nail on the head: “Congress is warped because the American electorate has yet to accept that other people’s money does eventually run out — and that we are all the other people.” That’s why we need someone committed to reform in the White House, and Greece and Venezuela’s examples fresh in the public’s eye…
  • Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey: “What we reject is immigration without assimilation.” (Hat tip: Sarah Hoyt at Instapundit.)
  • ICE arrests 248 illegal aliens, most in the sanctuary city of Philadelphia. “20 had a conviction and/or pending charges or 48 percent (88 of those arrested had criminal convictions and 32 of those arrested have pending criminal charges). In addition, 50 had been previously removed from the United States and subsequently illegally re-entered.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Meanwhile, in Australia: “Teacher quits after primary school students threaten to behead her.” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • “Iraqi government forces besieged Islamic State militants around Mosul’s Old City on Thursday, edging closer to the historic mosque from where the group’s leader declared a caliphate nearly three years ago.”
  • Former Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich says that one of his phonecalls was wiretapped. “If a member of Congress can have his phone tapped, this can happen to anybody.”
  • Ten Senate Democrats are vulnerable in 2018. They’re prime targets for takedowns in the midterm elections. But the process starts now, not then…In order of vulnerability (most to least), the target list features: 1) Joe Donnelly-IN; 2) Bill Nelson-FL; 3) Sherrod Brown-OH; 4) Claire McCaskill-MO; 5) Heidi Heitkamp-ND; 6) Tammy Baldwin-WI; 7) Jon Tester-MN; 8) Joe Manchin-WV; 9) Debbie Stabenow-MI; 10) Bob Casey, Jr.-PA.” Agree with the list, but not the order, since Heitkamp hails from a state Trump won by 36 points. But seeing Stupak bloc flip-flopper Donnelly go down at last would be extremely satisfying…
  • Breakdown of 2016 Presidential race demographics. Least likely to vote for Trump: Black single women. Most likely to vote for Trump: Mormons. Usual poll caveats apply. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Remember convicted felon Brett Kimberlin? There’s always some Kimberlin news floating around the blogsphere, usually in relation to his latest ludicrous lawsuit getting laughed out of court. But this week he made the news for being involved in selling hoax documents designed to bring down Donald Trump. “The entire set of documents appear to have been forged as part of an elaborate scam.” So, like most Kimberlin escapades, the story ends in embarrassing failure. (Hat tip: The Other McCain.)
  • Cenk Uygur: Why the Democratic Party is useless. 1. As with all these critiques of the Democratic Party from the left, it’s right about the party being a corrupt institution for entrenched interests and wrong about America being gung ho for socialism. 2. Boy, that “not being polite” stuff sure helped Democrats recall Scott Walker! 3. “Cenk Uygur” sounds like a dark, forbidding fortress at the edge of Mordor.
  • Holland is the canary in the European coalmine of radical Islamization. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Speaking of Holland, Geert Wilders placed second in Dutch elections, which falls short of a serious challenge to the Islamophillic and Eurocentric establishment.
  • Dear Sen. McCain: (Sigh).
  • Rand Paul fires back: “He makes a really, really strong case for term limits. I think maybe he’s past his prime. I think maybe he’s gotten a little bit unhinged.”
  • Germany wants to fine companies for not censoring fast enough. What do you want to bet that objections to the rousing success of their Muslim immigration policy are first on the list of things to be censored?
  • Camille Paglia has a new book out, and offers up an interview where she talks about modern feminism (against), southern women (for), working class men (for), Michel Foucault (against), and pornography (for).
  • Soros Fellow Flees Country While Wife Arrested For Welfare Scam.” It seems that earning $1.5 million a year at the Washington, D.C., offices of Mayer Brown LLP just wasn’t enough for Fidelis Agbapuruonwu… (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Three #BlackLivesMatter protestors arrested for beating up a homeless man.
  • Man gets a C when he should have gotten an A for a school assignment. So he did what any of us would have done: Successfully amends the Constitution. (Hat tip: Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett’s Twitter feed.)
  • Dwight has some Austin-related memoes from the police beat.
  • “Coming up next on Most ShockingMormon Justice!”
  • King King burns.
  • He divided them again!
  • Schumer steals again. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Singer Kelly Clarkson is selling her Tennessee mansion. I like how it’s half typical rich-person mansion, and half Bass Pro Shop…
  • LinkSwarm for March 3, 2017

    Friday, March 3rd, 2017

    Welcome to another Friday LinkSwarm! (On a personal note, if you know of any technical writing positions here in the Austin area, please let me know.)

  • U.S. troops in Iraq finally get to enjoy sane rules of engagement. (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • George Soros-funded group is providing scripts for those “spontaneous” town hall protests. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • For many Democrats, President Trump’s joint address was the first time they actual heard and saw him unfiltered. “He just crushed the Drive-By [Media] last night. He just crushed them. He just blew up every narrative they’ve established on the guy. And they don’t even realize it.”
  • “As one might imagine given the Democrats’ breathtaking electoral collapse, there is basically nothing but bad news for Democrats across the board. The data showed that the voting patterns of key demographic groups shifted dramatically downward from 2008 through 2016.” More: “Contrary to the emerging Democratic majority thesis, there does not seem to be any demographic category with which Democrats are progressively improving.” (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Maine: Want to work for a living? Welfare recipient: Nah! Maine: Well then, I guess you won’t be needing these food stamps.
  • Man arrested for making threats to Jewish groups is a Bernie Bro and former reporter for The Intercept. Bonus 1: His Twitter page calls capitalists “bloodsuckers.” Gee, that rhetoric seems familiar somehow… Bonus 2: This is hot on the heels of another Intercept writer poo-pooing the idea that Democrats might be targeting Jews.
  • “The Congressional Review Act of 1996 is a ‘sleeper statute’ (aka, a secret weapon) in that its practical application took 20 years to enter the realm of viable possibility. The CRA allows Congress to overturn executive regulations by a simple majority—and this is the moment it’s been waiting for.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • TBS guy at CPAC asks DA Tech Guy to help him make fake news.(Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • No. Just no. And how come SMONE ELSE isn’t running away with the race?
  • “Trump Was Right: Large Amounts of Actionable Intelligence Found in Yemen Raid.” (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Leading French Presidential candidate Francois Fillon investigated for paying his own family “€1m ($1.05m) of public money for allegedly fake jobs.”
  • Geert Wilders’ party is poised to win the most votes in Dutch elections March 15. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Members of an elite Baltimore Police Department squad charged with getting guns off the streets gets hit with federal racketeering charges and held for trial without bail. More: “In one case, four of the officers are alleged to have stolen $200,000 from a safe and bags and a watch valued at $4,000. In July 2016, three officers conspired to impersonate a federal officer in order to steal $20,000 in cash.” (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • Apple Board Member Al Gore makes $29 million in profit selling Apple stock.
  • Authenticity is bunk. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Help me Watergate, you’re my only hope!

    The NYT and the Washington Post have a motivation to ally with the Democratic Party in its last-ditch effort to Watergatize Trump after Trump’s endless criticisms of them. And this anti-Trump approach may get them a spike in readership, even as it repels some readers like me.

    I’m missing the sense that I’m getting the normal news. It seems unfair and shoddy not to cover the President the way you’d cover any President. What looks like an effort to stigmatize Trump as not normal has — to my eyes — made the media abnormal.

    Snip.

    The more seemingly normal Trump becomes — as with his speech to Congress the other day — the more the anti-Trump approach of the news media feels like a hackish alliance with the Democratic Party in its sad, negative, backward-looking effort to disrupt the President the people elected.

  • Have any of my friends lost a gun transiting Austin Bergstrom Airport? If so, a baggage handler may have stole your gun to trade for pot.

    Austin police have charged Matthew Bartlett, 21, and Catronn Hewitt, 36, with felony possession of marijuana, police said in a news release.

    Ja’Quan Johnson, 25, was charged with federal charges in connection with the thefts. Johnson is a contract baggage handler at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and is believed to have been behind the thefts, according to police and the Justice Department.

    Buying pot? Likely misdemeanor charge. But stealing guns from airport luggage is likely an interstate federal gun trafficking felony. Also: Our airport security is in the best of hands!

  • Houston Chronicle to move its call center from the Philippines to Dallas. 1. Who thought it was a good idea to move it to the Philippines in the first place? 2. “The move will result in 130 new jobs for Texas.” Why does the Chronicle need 130 people in its call center? 3. Dallas? Really? Because it’s evidently impossible to locate a call center in the 4th largest city in America…
  • SEC charges against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton dismissed. A state felony trail is pending, but given that the state charges are based on the same issue as the SEC case just dismissed, chances of a conviction would appear to be very slim. (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • Trump Derangement Syndrome in La La Land.
  • How was I to know/She was with the Russians too?

  • Speaking of which:

  • Indeed, “Russia!” is now the go-to move for the media the same way a bad video game player will just use the same button combination over and over again:

  • More CNN fakery:

  • Happiest stinkiest place in the world. (Hat tip: Director Blue.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio flew eyebrow artist 7,500 miles to do his brows for the Oscars. (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Insecure Mongo DB run by toy company hit with ransomware.
  • Ever wanted Mickey Spillane’ typewriter or his World War II uniform? Now’s your chance. I already put in a bid on Spillane’s concealed gun permit…
  • Trump Budget to Eliminate PBS, NEA, NEH, LCS, Americorps?

    Monday, February 20th, 2017

    Let’s take a look at this New York Times piece titled “Popular Domestic Programs Face Ax Under First Trump Budget.”

    WASHINGTON — The White House budget office has drafted a hit list of programs that President Trump could eliminate to trim domestic spending, including longstanding conservative targets like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation, AmeriCorps and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities.

    At this point I have to break out this Archer meme:

    You know what all these programs have in common: None are constitutionally enumerated concerns of the federal government.

    And note the headline: “Popular Domestic Programs.” Popular to who? Why, Democrats, of course. I would imagine that 90+% of the money spent on those programs goes directly into the pockets of Democrats, and mostly well-heeled and well-connected ones at that.

    More:

    Work on the first Trump administration budget has been delayed as the budget office awaited Senate confirmation of former Representative Mick Mulvaney, a spending hard-liner, as budget director. Now that he is in place, his office is ready to move ahead with a list of nine programs to eliminate, an opening salvo in the Trump administration’s effort to reorder the government and increase spending on defense and infrastructure.

    Most of the programs cost under $500 million annually, a pittance for a government that is projected to spend about $4 trillion this year. And a few are surprising, even though most if not all have been perennial targets for conservatives.

    Mr. Trump has spoken volubly about the nation’s drug problems, yet the list includes the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, which dispenses grants to reduce drug use and drug trafficking. And despite Mr. Trump’s vocal promotion of American exports, the list includes the Export-Import Bank, which has guaranteed loans to foreign customers of American companies since the 1930s.

    While the total amount of annual savings of roughly $2.5 billion would be comparatively small, administration officials want to highlight the agencies in their coming budget proposal as examples of misuse of taxpayer dollars. An internal memo circulated within the Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday, and obtained by The New York Times, notes that the list could change. Proposals for more extensive cuts in cabinet-level agencies are expected to follow.

    All this, of course, could be a trial balloon, and the actual budget cuts could be far more timid. But overall, it’s exceptionally promising, especially since Trump did not evidence much (if any) enthusiasm for budget cutting on the campaign trail. But a willingness to kill entire agencies (especially those that make of some of the Democratic Party’s favorite slush funds) is incredibly heartening.

    If America is going to deal with the existential threat that is the national debt, there needs to be a lot more budget cutting ahead.

    LinkSwarm for January 13, 2016

    Friday, January 13th, 2017

    Time to extract more pure wheat from chaff!

  • Glenn Greenwald says Democrats will go to any lengths to avoid blaming themselves for their debacle:

    I really haven’t experienced anything even remotely like the smear campaign that has been launched by Democrats in this really coordinated way ever since I began just expressing skepticism about the prevailing narrative over Russia and its role that it allegedly played in the election and, in particular, in helping to defeat Hillary Clinton. I mean, not even the reporting I did based on the Edward Snowden archive, which was extremely controversial in multiple countries around the world, not even that compared to the attacks now.

    And the reason is very, very obvious, which is that it has become exceptionally important to Democratic partisans to believe that the reason they lost this election is not because they chose a candidate who was corrupt and who was extremely disliked and who symbolized all of the worst failings of the Democratic Party. It’s extremely important to them not to face what is really a systemic collapse on the part of the Democratic Party as a political force in the United States, in the House, in the Senate, in state houses and governorships all over the country. And so, in order not to face any of that and have to confront their own failings, they instead want to focus everything on Vladimir Putin and Russia and insist that the reason they lost was because this big, bad dictator interfered in the election. And anyone who challenges or anyone who questions that instantly becomes not just their enemy, but now, according to their framework, someone who’s actually unpatriotic, that if you question the evidence, the sufficiency of the evidence to support this theory, that somehow your loyalties are suspect, that you’re not just a critic of the Democratic Party, you’re actually a stooge of or an agent of the Kremlin.

  • In fact, Greenwald is all over this week’s LinkSwarm, saying that the U.S. “deep state” is at war with Trump:

    For months, the CIA, with unprecedented clarity, overtly threw its weight behind Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and sought to defeat Donald Trump. In August, former acting CIA Director Michael Morell announced his endorsement of Clinton in the New York Times and claimed that “Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.” The CIA and NSA director under George W. Bush, Gen. Michael Hayden, also endorsed Clinton and went to the Washington Post to warn, in the week before the election, that “Donald Trump really does sound a lot like Vladimir Putin,” adding that Trump is “the useful fool, some naif, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”

    It is not hard to understand why the CIA preferred Clinton over Trump. Clinton was critical of Obama for restraining the CIA’s proxy war in Syria and was eager to expand that war, while Trump denounced it. Clinton clearly wanted a harder line than Obama took against the CIA’s long-standing foes in Moscow, while Trump wanted improved relations and greater cooperation. In general, Clinton defended and intended to extend the decadeslong international military order on which the CIA and Pentagon’s preeminence depends, while Trump — through a still-uncertain mix of instability and extremist conviction — posed a threat to it.

    Whatever one’s views are on those debates, it is the democratic framework — the presidential election, the confirmation process, congressional leaders, judicial proceedings, citizen activism and protest, civil disobedience — that should determine how they are resolved. All of those policy disputes were debated out in the open; the public heard them; and Trump won. Nobody should crave the rule of Deep State overlords.

    Yet craving Deep State rule is exactly what prominent Democratic operatives and media figures are doing.

    One need not buy all of Greenwald’s analysis of geopolitics or Trump to conclude that his analysis of the current alliance between Democrats, the media and the intelligence community is essentially correct. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)

  • Borepatch, who is a real life computer security expert, is not impressed with the Russian hacking claims:

    My take is that several state actors certainly hacked Hillary’s email server for years and years, and silently read all her communications. Probably more than one state actor penetrated the DNC email system for several years.

    It’s plausible than an insider leaked the DNC emails – some BertieBro IT Admin type who saw how the sausage was being made and who was smart enough to cover his tracks while pointing clues towards Russia.

    Bottom line, this is a tale told by an idiot; full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. We know that something happened, but we don’t know who did it, and what they say in the report doesn’t change that.

  • Borepatch, in turn, points to this detailed analysis of the security on both Hillary’s email server and the DNC:

    At this point, we can largely dispose of Hillary’s Hack. It was an open book to all comers and at least one was Romanian (and sharing with friends) and not Russia. However, I’d say it was almost certain that at some time a Russian intrusion happened. The name of the server was obvious. The location insecure. The operating system and protective layers a joke. Frankly, I’d expect them to be “in” the same day they first looked at it. Which means something like 8 years ago. So why didn’t things leak then?

    Because the Russians Are Not Stupid. A fundamental of spycraft is you don’t expose sources and methods, you use them to collect intel for your use, not publication. I suspect they enjoyed a near real time email feed from the Secretary Of State for years, in silence. This argues for email dump to be someone other than them. My personal muse would be an NSA guy, aghast at what was in evidence. Like a Snowden, but not willing to give up the $1/4 Million salary… He (or she…) would have all the requisite skilz to pull it off and leave no finger prints, access to PRISM, and lots of neat toys to work with. Though more likely would be the underpaid I.T. guy Hillary had set it up who was making a backup one day and dropped a load… But I digress.

    The bottom line on Hillary is we know she kept a full copy (found on Huma’s Laptop with the Wiener…) and that it was around until she had her lawyers erase it. We know it surfaced in full at the time the laptop went to the FBI, and in parts before that. We know at least one of her hackers was found (though he had likely not leaked it) and that he said he had a doomsday copy for safety. He wasn’t a very good hacker, so that shows lots of good ones walked right in and snagged copies. Assigning source of any Hillary leaks is going to be an exercise is “ME ME MEE!!! PICK MEEE!” with a dozen hands up in the room.

  • More from Guccifer 2.0 himself: “I have totally no relation to the Russian government. I’d like to tell you once again I was acting in accordance with my personal political views and beliefs. The technical evidence contained in the reports doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. This is a crude fake.” (Hat tip: Zero Hedge.)
  • “The opposition research firm that hired a former British spy to dig up dirt on Donald Trump is the same shady outfit that was hired by Planned Parenthood to put a positive spin on videos showing the sale of baby parts.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Our new Secretary of Defense sounds serious about defeating the Islamic State. “We should try to shut down its recruiting, shut down its finances, and then work to fight battles of annihilation — not attrition, but annihilation — against them; so that the first time they meet the forces that we put against them, there should basically be no survivors.”
  • Speaking of which: “Islamic State publishes video of toddler executing prisoner on playground.”
  • House Republicans are already laying the groundwork to repeal ObamaCare.
  • News media buries story of Jeff Sessions bankrupting the Klu Klux Klan in Alabama because it doesn’t fit their narrative. (Hat tip: Dierctor Blue.)
  • Mexican illegal aliens are already self-deporting in advance of Trump’s inauguration. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • The problem with rule by experts:

    The problem that we are faced with, and what the American people seem to be rebelling against, are the “experts” who seek to influence government policy in ways voters are either opposed to or at the very least find ineffective and expensive.

    To put it bluntly: those experts have screwed a lot of shit up. Obamacare, American foreign policy, the war on drugs, domestic environmental policy, the economy…the list of issues is seemingly endless. The American people were told for at least the last eight years that the smart set was in charge, and things would be just dandy if only we allowed the “experts” free rein. The problem is that there are a lot of things that may seem smart on paper but which just won’t work when forcibly applied to the citizens of 50 separate states, with 50 separate economies, and 50 distinct voting bases, and this assessment assumes that those implementing policy actually have America’s best interests as a free republic at heart.

    This leads us to the real heart of the matter: liberty. The Washington political and bureaucratic classes have no Constitutional right to force the “solutions” to any of these problems on their fellow citizens. The health insurance “problem” is not a national problem insofar as there is no Constitutional right to health insurance (or even healthcare), and the answer to what problems there are in healthcare in Texas are very probably not the same as the answer for New Hampshire or Oregon. The federal government institutes regulations constantly affecting the economy that have no Constitutional basis. There is no Constitutional basis whatsoever for banning or regulating any drug at the Federal level, and yet we’re told we have a national “opioid epidemic” that demands a federal solution. Foreign policy experts are undoubtedly necessary, but our foreign policy, when any logic or reason can be discerned in it at all, certainly doesn’t seem to be guided by any experts in the field. There is even a very good possibility that actually fixing any “problem” at the federal level is viewed as bad for business, because without the problem to solve there would be a lot of unemployable experts.

    In short, the American people don’t have a problem with experts or intellectuals. What they have a problem with is incompetence, and it is just a fact of life that the larger and more remote the government and bureaucracy become, the more incompetent and unaccountable they will be.

  • Thanks Obama. “93 percent of police officers are concerned about their safety on the job; 72 percent are less willing to stop suspicious characters; and 75 percent report increased tension between cops and the black community.” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • U.S. troops sent on permenant deployment to Poland. Given that Poland joined NATO in 1999, it’s a surprise it took this long. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • About half the EU has been cheating on the 3% deficit ceiling fiscal discipline rule half the time. Only Finland, Estonia, Luxembourg and Sweden have never broken the rule. And Poland, France and the brexiting UK have actually violated the rule more than Italy and Ireland. Once again: Austerity hasn’t been tried and found wanting in the EU, it’s been declared difficult and left untried.
  • Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames “terrorist exchange rates” for attacking his country. Fun how that happens when you ruin your own country… (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Social Justice Warriors already deterring people from the “Women’s March on Washington.” See, they were all set to flaunt the peacock feathers of their leftwing virtue, only to be told “they had a lot of learning to do.” Because there’s nothing more fun than being lectured about how you’re a racist when you’re not. Welcome to Red State America, liberal white women! (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • “DNC Chair Candidate Forum to Be Held at Anti-Israel Restaurant” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Germany court rules that an attempt to burn down a synagogue is a “justified expression of criticism of Israel’s policies.” You know, I think I’ve seen this movie before…
  • Heh: “Intolerance at Berkeley as Faculty Demand Gay Immigrant Stay Off Campus.”
  • More: Berkley Social Justice Warriors dox the hosts of Milo’s speech. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • 1. “CEO Raises Salaries to $70K for EVERY Employee” 2. ???? 3. Wrecked company. (Hat tip: Borepatch.)
  • Teach women not to lie about rape.
  • Social Justice Warrior drama at the Free Software Foundation. “‘Developer’ Leah Rowe has been making unhinged, outrageous claims of harassment and bullying on behalf of her anonymous friend who was let go by the FSF. She then stole the Libreroot project from the community, locked it down away from the other devs, and made a unhinged claims of wrongdoing by the FSF and two employees. She has provided no evidence of any of these claims and as she is a post-modernist, we’re supposed to substitute her feelings for any facts as being equivalent.” The amazing thing is that, for once, FSF head honcho Richard Stallman (who is somewhere on the continuum between “true software visionary” and “fanatic lunatic no one wants to deal with”) isn’t the person at fault for the drama…
  • “An Arizona Department of Public Safety officer has survived an attempt on his life after a passing motorist shot dead a highway sniper who took aim at the trooper after stopping to assist an individual in a rolled vehicle.”
  • Also from Arizona: Naked woman steals police car, goes joyriding.

  • Clockboy’s lawsuit dismissed.
  • William Peter Blatty, RIP.
  • What the hell? YouTube takes down Legal Insurrection’s channel at the behest of anti-Israeli activists.
  • Slate won’t even delete their big mistakes:

  • Texas vs. California Update for January 12, 2017

    Thursday, January 12th, 2017

    It’s been a long time since I compiled one of these, so this is going to be monstrously large. Also, just as I was finishing this up, the San Diego Chargers announced they were moving to Los Angeles. Hell, LA has proven in the past it’s incapable of adequately supporting one NFL franchise, much less two…

  • When you look at the full recession records, not just the last few years, Texas is still kicking California’s ass. “Over that time frame, Texas has grown more than THREE TIMES FASTER than California. Actually 3.4 times faster (Texas grew at a 4.1% annual rate vs. 1.2% for California).” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “A just released study calculates the total state and local government debt in California as of June 30, 2015, at over $1.3 trillion.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • California faces its first budget deficit since 2012. Or at least it’s first official deficit since then. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • A second judge, this one on the California First District Court of Appeal, rules that public pensions may be modified.
  • The California Democratic Party has gone hard left, and it’s taking the rest of the state with it:

    Increasingly, inside the party, it’s been the furthest Left candidates that win. In the Democrat-only Sanchez vs. Harris race for the U.S. Senate, the more progressive candidate triumphed easily, with a more moderate Latina from Southern California decimated by the better funded lock-step, glamorous tool of the San Francisco gentry Left.

    Gradually, the key swing group — the “business Democrats” — are being decimated, hounded by ultra-green San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer and his minions. No restraint is being imposed on Gov. Brown’s increasingly obsessive climate change agenda, or on the public employee unions, whose pensions could sink the state’s finances, particularly in a downturn.

    The interior parts of California already rank near the bottom, along with Los Angeles, in terms of standard of living — by incomes, as opposed to costs — in the nation. Compared to the Bay Area, which now rules the state, the more blue-collar, Latino and African American interior, as well as much of Los Angeles, account for six of the 15 worst areas in terms of living standard out of 106 metropolitan areas, according to a recent report by Center for Opportunity Urbanism demographer Wendell Cox.

    Given the political trends here, it’s hard to see how things could get much better. The fact that most new jobs in Southern California are in lower-paying occupations is hardly promising. In contrast, generally better-paying jobs in manufacturing, home-building and warehousing face ever-growing regulatory strangulation.

    Sadly, the ascendant Latino political leadership seems determined to accelerate this process. In both Riverside and San Bernardino, pro-business candidates, including San Bernardino Democrat Cheryl Brown, lost to green-backed Latino progressives.

    For whatever reason, Latino voters and their elected officials fail to recognize that the increasingly harsh climate change agenda represents a mortal threat to their own prospects for upward mobility. Before this week’s election, California policy makers could look forward to Washington imposing such policies on the rest of the country; now our competitor regions — including Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Texas — can double down on growth. Expect to see more migration of ambitious Californians, particularly Latinos, to these areas.

    California is on the road to a bifurcated, almost feudal, society, divided by geography, race and class. As is clear from the most recent Internal Revenue Service data, it’s not just the poor and ill-educated, as Brown apologists suggest, but, rather, primarily young families and the middle-aged, who are leaving. What will be left is a state dominated by a growing, but relatively small, upper class, many of them boomers; young singles and a massive, growing, increasingly marginalized “precariat” of low wage, often occasional, workers.

  • Sanctuary cities might drive California into bankruptcy:

    California is about to face the music as Donald Trump becomes 45th President of the United States. Their Sanctuary Cities violate federal law and after Jeff Sessions is confirmed as Attorney General (and he will be), they are going to either have to knock that off or have funding to their law enforcement and their government stripped away. Sessions can’t wait and I have to say, I will enjoy watching this showdown. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that Trump pulling 37% of federal funding for their governments would cause chaos and upheaval. Yes, it will… it will also cause California to go absolutely toes up bankrupt.

    It’s simple. They can either follow the rule of law, or the free flow of money from DC gets cut off. In 2015, that amounted to about $93.6 billion. That’s a lot of money to turn away because you insist on not following the law. Let’s see how long that lasts. I love the thought of this. It’s about time Sanctuary Cities were stopped and this is an excellent way to do it. New York, Chicago and DC will all face the same choice by the way. Imagine the meltdown. Good times.

  • “California paid LESS to the feds per capita than Texas. California got MORE back per capita from the feds than Texas.” Freeloaders love the Blue State model… (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Another way of looking at California’s economy:

    California has 39 million people — 43% larger than the 2nd largest state (Texas). Such GDP comparisons don’t tell us much in terms of the PROSPERITY of a nation. Or a state.

    The proper comparison is PER CAPITA GDP. Using that more meaningful figure, CA is the 10th most prosperous state.

    But an even MORE accurate comparison is to take the per capital GDP and adjust it for COL. Because of California’s high taxes, crazy utility laws, stifling regulations (paid by consumers) and sky-high housing costs, CA in 2014 ranked WAY down in 37th place. Only 13 states were worse.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • Same as it ever was:

    Governor Jerry Brown announced today that the budget was $1.4 billion in deficit. At the end of last year, the state announced that it was giving state employees a raise which would cost taxpayers over $2 billion over the next four years. Do you think there is a connection?

    A story ran locally in Southern California saying that over 105 employees in Santa Monica, a medium sized city, earn over $300,000 a year. The Governor of the state of California earns $174,000 per year. If you do the research, you will find that there are over 200 state employees that earn more than that

    When I was deciding what I wanted to do in my younger years, my mother told me I should go to work for the government, good benefits she said. I knew I would be bored and would die young if I became a government drone. My little sister listened to her. Today, my little sister is retired on a great government pension, I still fight to pay my taxes. Given the pay that even the lowest government official receives, my mother was right.

    Our government pension system is over $500 billion upside down. Retired state employee health benefits add an additional $300 billion or more to that deficit. The system is out of control. Pay and benefits to government employees at state and local levels is incomprehensible, and the government leaders still come to you and I and ask us to foot the bill for their indulgences.

    What is even more evil about the system is that government unions, led by thugs who force people to pay union dues for the privilege of having a government job, take the money from the government employees and put it into the political system to pay for the campaigns of the Governor, statewide elected officials, legislators and city councils with whom these unions then negotiate for the out-of-control pay and benefits. If anyone tries to limit them, as I once tried by tying everybody’s salaries to the Governor’s salary, they are marked for political defeat. And the system perpetuates itself, taxes to employees to unions to politicians, as it did in the Soviet Union, until the whole system collapses.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • California has stopped growing:

    Driven by rising out-migration and falling birth rates, California’s population growth has stalled, leading analysts to consider a possible forecast of a so-called “no-growth” period in the future.

    Although Americans nationwide have been flooding south and west for years, the Golden State has become an exception. Nearly 62 percent of Americans lived in the two regions, Justin Fox observed from Census figures. “That’s up from 60.4 percent in the 2010 census, 58.1 percent in 2000, 55.6 percent in 1990 — and 44 percent in 1950. The big anomaly is California, which is very much in the West, yet has lost an estimated 383,344 residents to other states since 2010.”

    “The state’s birth rate declined to 12.42 births per 1,000 population in 2016 — the lowest in California history,” the San Jose Mercury News noted, citing a state Department of Finance report. “In 2010, the last time figures were compiled, the birth rate was 13.69 per 1,000 population.”

  • California Democrats legalize child prostitution.” (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Some are objecting to the term “legalization”.
  • California Democrats vote to line Eric Holder’s pockets:

    Last week California’s progressive lawmakers announced that they’ve put former Attorney General Eric Holder, now a Covington & Burling partner, on retainer as the state’s outside counsel. “This is potentially the legal fight of a generation, and with Eric Holder we’ve added a world-class lawyer,’’ said Senate majority leader Kevin de León.

    This is odd. Typically states hire outside counsel for help with specific cases, but the legislature is paying Mr. Holder $25,000 a month for three months under the initial contract, apparently for 40 hours a month and the privilege of his attention if something comes up.

  • At least one California assemblyman thinks that the Holder deal is illegal. “California courts have interpreted the civil service mandate of article VII of forbidding private contracting for services that are of a kind that persons selected through civil service could perform ‘adequately and competently.'”
  • In California, robots are replacing people in warehouse work. The minimum wage is mentioned, but only in passing.
  • California is the state third most likely to enter a death spiral in a recession. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to increase their own salaries by more than $19,000 a year, despite public comment from dozens of opponents.”
  • “California state firefighters will receive substantial raises of up to 13.8 percent this year, according to newly released details from a proposed contract that their union negotiated just before Christmas.” Just the thing a state with a budget deficit needs…
  • “The evidence is clear that standards of living are substantially higher in Texas than in California, which has a model of excessive government.” More: “During the last decade, economic growth in the real private sector has increased by 29 percent in Texas compared with only 14 percent in California. Job creation increased by 1.2 million in California compared with 1.7 million in Texas, which has a labor force two-thirds of that in California. Remarkably, Texas’ job creation was roughly one-third of total civilian employment increases nationwide.”
  • Texas ranked third nationally in economic freedom for the sixth consecutive year. California ranked 49th, just ahead of New York.
  • California Democrats vow to go all-out to keep illegal aliens from being deported. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • CalPERs plans to sell $15 billion worth of equities over the next two years. Also: “CalPERS’ current portfolio is pegged to a 7.5% return and a 13% volatility rate” even though the most recent returns were “a 0.6% return for the fiscal year ended June 30 and a 2.4% return in fiscal 2015.”
  • But the shift from Fantasyland to Reality has been a slow and painful one for CalPERS:

    Overseers of the nation’s largest pension trust fund, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), last month reduced – albeit reluctantly – its projection of future earnings by a half-percentage point.

    With earnings on investments the last two years barely exceeding zero, CalPERS has been compelled to sell assets to make its pension payments – which far outstrip contributions from state and local governments and their employees.

    Reducing the “discount rate” to 7 percent will force employers, and perhaps employees, to kick billions of more dollars into the system to slow the growth of CalPERS’ “unfunded liabilities,” as the $150-plus billion debt is termed.

    However, the extra contributions generated by lowering the discount rate will not erase that debt, which is likely to keep growing if CalPERS’ investment earnings continue to fall short, as many economists expect. In fact, CalPERS’ own advisers see a prolonged period of relatively low earnings, and say the system shouldn’t count on more than 6.2 percent.

    Rationally, the discount rate should have been lowered by at least another full percentage point. But CalPERS has already increased its mandatory contributions by 50 percent to make up for investment losses during the Great Recession and other factors, and cutting the discount rate to 6 percent would probably mean bankruptcy for a number of local governments, especially some cities.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • And CalPERs needs to do a lot more:

    This is why the CalPERS board must do far more — starting with, on a large scale, finally embracing pension reforms and, on a smaller scale, shuttering an over-the-top corner of the CalPERS website that says it’s a myth that pension costs are crowding out “government services like police and libraries.”

    It’s no myth. The Los Angeles Times reported last month that pensions and retirement health benefits now consume 20 percent of revenue in Los Angeles and Oakland and a stunning 28 percent in San Jose. While the state government is in better shape than most local governments, it’s beginning to feel the strain as well. On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that beginning in April, the state will increase vehicle registration fees from $46 to $56 to help cover the soaring cost of pensions for California Highway Patrol officers. In 2000, the state had to pay about one-eighth of annual CHP pension costs. Now it must pay about half.

  • “Home values in San Francisco have doubled in a matter of four years. Since 2012 the typical San Francisco home went from $600,000 to $1,200,000. The Bay Area is under a tech based hypnotic spell and foreign money just can’t get enough of million dollar crap shacks in San Francisco. As we all know trees do not grow to the sky with unlimited potential and at a certain point the laws of reality have to hit. Only 11 percent of households in San Francisco can actually afford to purchase the typical $1.2 million crap shack.”
  • San Francisco welcomes immigrants…unless they threaten to move next door. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • “New housing data show foreclosure activity in California dropped to an 11-year low in 2016. But the state is still working through a backlog of homes purchased with bad loans during the last housing bubble.”
  • How America’s restaurant bubble is about to burst. Actually, the piece focuses mainly on the impossibility of running a profitable fine dining restaurant in San Francisco and other similarly expensive locales. (Hat tip: Zero Hedge.)
  • “How the University of California exploited a visa loophole to move tech jobs to India.”
  • The Census bureau says that Texas continued to grow in 2016. “Another big gainer was Texas, whose addition of about 433,000 people accounted for 19% of the country’s growth. The state, with 27.9 million people, grew from a relatively strong flow of immigrants and people relocating there from other states.”
  • Texas was second relocation destination choice in 2015:

    Texas experienced a net gain of out-of-state residents in 2015, with 107,689 more people moving to Texas than Texas residents moving out of state. This is a 4 percent increase in the net gain of Texas residents from 2014 (103,465 residents).

    The total number of residents moving to Texas from out of state in 2015 increased 2.8 percent year-over-year to 553,032 incoming residents. The highest number of new Texans came from California (65,546), followed by Florida (33,670), Louisiana (31,044), New York (26,287) and Oklahoma (25,555).

    Texas once again ranked third in the nation for number of residents moving out of state (445,343) in 2015. The most popular out-of-state relocation destinations for Texans were California (41,713), Florida (29,706), Oklahoma (28,642), Colorado (25,268), and Louisiana (19,863).

  • Arizona and Florida managed to dethrone Texas for the relocation top spot for the first time in a dozen years.
  • Why is Austin housing more expensive comapred to other Texas cities? “The reasons vary, but boil down to Austin’s relative unwillingness–thanks to NIMBYism and regulations–to build more housing.”
  • It doesn’t help that Austin is experiencing a net influx of 3,000 Californians a year. Seems like more…
  • California ban on modern sporting rifles went into effect January 1. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “Police in Kern County, California, have killed more people per capita than in any other American county in 2015.” Caveat the first: The Guardian. Caveat the second: Thanks ever so much for that full-frame background video designed to bring by computer to a screeching halt, Guardian
  • How Marfa, Texas turned itself into an art colony.
  • Students at California law schools are doing horribly on the bar exam. “Law schools are admitting less and less qualified students in an effort to bolster their bottom lines. And why do their bottom lines need to be bolstered? Because they have too many faculty relative to student demand for the schools, and are either reluctant or unable to reduce the size of the faculty to “right size” the law school relative to present demand for the JD.” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Maybe they should start calling it “North American Apparel“:

    Canadian apparel maker Gildan Activewear Inc. has won a bankruptcy auction for U.S. fashion retailer American Apparel LLC (curxq) after raising its offer to around $88 million, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.

    Gildan’s takeover marks the end of an era for the iconic Los Angeles-based company, which was founded in 1998 by an eccentric Canadian university drop-out and grew to become a part of U.S. popular culture thanks to its racy advertising.

    Gildan will not take any of American Apparel’s 110 stores, but will own its brand and assume some of its manufacturing operations, the source said. The deal is subject to a bankruptcy judge approving it on Thursday.

  • State of California: You can’t mention actresses ages, because Reasons. IMDB: Free speech. Bite me.
  • And if you hadn’t seen them already, two previous BattleSwarm stories that touch on the Texas vs. California issue:

  • Interview with TPPF’s James Quintero on the Texas Municipal Pension Debt Crisis
  • The Texas 85th legislative session opens with budget tightening on the agenda.
  • 85th Texas Legislative Session Begins Today

    Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

    Lock up your women and liquor, the legislature is back in town!

    The 85th Texas Legislative Session started today, and one of the biggest concerns is a smaller budget, as detailed by the comptroller:

    For 2018-19, the state can expect to have $104.9 billion in funds available for general-purpose spending, a 2.7 percent decrease from the corresponding amount of funds available for the 2016-17 biennium. If not for the new constitutional provision dedicating up to $5 billion in biennial sales tax revenue to the State Highway Fund (SHF) starting in fiscal 2018-19, projected funds available for general-purpose spending for 2018-19 would be $109.6 billion, 1.7 percent greater than in 2016-17.

    The $104.9 billion available for general-purpose spending represents 2018-19 total revenue collections of $106.5 billion in General Revenue-related (GR-R) funds, plus $1.5 billion in balances from 2016-17, less $3.1 billion reserved from oil and natural gas taxes for 2018-19 transfers to the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF) and the SHF.

    Tax revenues account for approximately 87 percent of the estimated $106.5 billion in total GR-R revenue in 2018-19. Sixty-two percent of GR-R tax revenue will come from net collections of sales taxes, after more than $4.7 billion is allocated to the SHF. Other significant sources of General Revenue include motor vehicle sales and rental taxes; oil and natural gas production taxes; franchise tax; insurance taxes; collections from licenses, fees, fines and penalties; interest and investment income; and net lottery proceeds.

    In addition to the GR-R funds, the state is expected to collect $74.9 billion in federal income as well as other revenues dedicated for specific purposes and therefore unavailable for general-purpose spending. Revenue collections from all sources and for all purposes should total $224.8 billion.

    Absent any appropriations by the Legislature, the ESF balance is expected to be $11.9 billion at the end of the 2018-19 biennium, below the ESF constitutional limit of an estimated $16.9 billion.

    Following a strong 5.9 percent increase in real gross state product in fiscal 2015, the Texas economy is estimated to have grown by only 0.2 percent in 2016, well below the average growth rate of 3.8 percent per year over the past 20 years. Contraction in activity related to oil and natural gas production has been a drag on state economic growth. Still, the diversity of the Texas economy has allowed for continued growth in employment over the past two years and we expect sustained growth over the coming biennium. Texas stands in contrast to other states with large energy industries, many of which have suffered through declines in employment and economic output.

    Here’s an eyechart visual summary. Click for a bigger version.

    The budget is the meat-and potatoes of the legislature, but we’ll get to some hot-button issues (like sanctuary cities and tranny bathrooms) at a later date.

    Paul Ryan Reelected Speaker

    Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

    Rep. Paul Ryan has been reelected Speaker of the House:

    As expected, Republican Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin on Tuesday was elected speaker of the House for the 2017-2018 congressional term. The final vote was 239-189, with five lawmakers not voting for either Ryan or Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

    There were issues with Ryan’s speakership (as there were with all his Republican predecessors), but with Republicans in control of all three branches of government, Ryan should be able to implement vastly more of the Republican agenda than they did under Obama. Ryan needs to enable Trump when he’s acting to implement conservative policies, and provide a check on him when he isn’t.

    First order of business: Repealing ObamaCare. Second order: Junking as much of the remaining cruft of the Obama Administration as possible. Third order: Securing the border and staying the hell away from the siren song of “comprehensive immigration reform” that so many establishment Republicans still harbor a suicidal longing for.

    There’s a hundred other things that need attending to (including doing something about the budget deficit), but the damage of the Obama years will not be undone overnight…

    Interview with TPPF’s James Quintero on the Texas Municipal Pension Debt Crisis

    Monday, January 2nd, 2017

    James Quintero, the Director of the Center for Local Governance at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, was kind enough to provide some detailed answers to questions I sent him about the municipal pension crisis in Dallas and other large Texas cities. My questions are in italics.


    The Dallas police/fireman’s pension fund issue is generally described as stemming from the fund manager’s risky real estate speculation. Are there any additional structural problems that helped hasten that fund’s crisis?

    When it comes to Texas’ public retirement systems, one of my greatest concerns is that there are other ticking time-bombs, like the DPFP, out there getting ready to explode. It’s not just Dallas’ pension plan that’s taken on excessive risk to chase high yield in a low-yield environment.

    Setting aside the issue of risk for a moment, the DPFP, like most other public retirement systems around the state, suffers from a fundamental design flaw. That is, it’s based on the defined benefit (DB) system, which guarantees retirees a lifetime of monthly income irrespective of whether the pension fund has the money to make good on its promises or not. This kind of system is akin to an entitlement program, warts and all, and is very much at the heart of pension crises brewing in Texas and across the country.

    One of the biggest problems with DB plans is that they rely on a lot of fuzzy math to make them work, or at least give the appearance of working. Take the issue of investment returns, for example. Many systems assume an overly optimistic rate of return when estimating a fund’s future earnings. Baking in these rosy projections is, among other things, a way to understate a plan’s pension debt. In an October 2016 study that I co-authored with the Mercatus Center’s Marc Joffe, I wrote the following to illustrate this very point:

    For example, the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund (HFRRF) calculates its pension liability using a long-term expected rate of return on pension plan investments of 8.5%. During fiscal year 2015, the plan’s investments returned just 1.53%. Over a 7- and 10-year period the rates of return were 6.4% and 7.9%, respectively. Not achieving these investment returns year-after-year can have a dramatic fiscal impact.

    Even a small change in the actuarial assumptions can have major consequences for the fiscal health of a pension fund. According the HFRRF’s 2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, a 1% decrease in the current assumed rate of return (8.5%) would almost double the fund’s pension liabilities, from $577.7 million to $989.5 million.

    So while risky real estate deals were certainly a catalyst in the current unraveling of the DPFP, I suspect that its refusal to move away from the defined benefit model and into a more sustainable alternative—much like the private sector has already done—would have ultimately led us to this same point of fiscal crisis.

    To what legal extent (if any) is Dallas police/fireman’s pension fund backstopped by the City of Dallas and/or Dallas County?

    Let me preface this by saying that I’m not a lawyer nor do I ever intend to be one. However, Article XVI, Section 66 of the Texas Constitution plainly states that non-statewide retirement systems, like DPFP, and political subdivisions, like the city of Dallas, “are jointly responsible for ensuring that benefits under this section are not reduced or otherwise impaired” for vested employees. Given that, it’s hard to see how the city of Dallas—or better yet, the Dallas taxpayer—isn’t obligated in some major way when their local retirement system reaches the point of no return, which may be a lot closer than people think given all the lump-sum withdrawals of late.

    Likewise, does the state of Texas have any statutory backstop to the Dallas police/fireman’s pension fund, or any other local pension funds?

    For non-statewide plans, I don’t believe so. Again, I’m not a lawyer, but the Texas Attorney General wrote something fairly interesting recently touching on aspects of this question.

    In September 2016, House Chairman Jim Murphy asked the AG to opine on “whether the State is required to assume liability when a local retirement system created pursuant to title 109 of the Texas Civil Statutes is unable to meet its financial obligations.” Title 109 refers to 13 local retirement systems in 7 major metropolitans that are a small-but-important group of plans that have embedded some of their provisions in state law (i.e. benefits, contribution rates, and composition of their boards) I’ve written a lot about this problem in the past (read more about it here).

    In response to Chairman Murphy’s question, the AG had this to say:

    In no instance does the constitution or the Legislature make the State liable for any shortfalls of a municipal retirement system regarding the system’s financial obligations under title 109. The Texas Constitution would in fact prohibit the State from assuming such liability without express authorization.

    …a court would likely conclude that the State is not required to assume liability when a municipal retirement system created under title 109 is unable to meet its financial obligations.

    So at least in the AG’s opinion, state taxpayers wouldn’t be required by law to bail out this subset of local retirement systems. But of course, the political calculus may be different than what’s required by law.

    Compared to the Dallas situation, how badly off are the Houston, Austin and San Antonio public employee pension funds?

    If you’re a taxpayer or property owner in one of Texas’ major cities, I’d be concerned. Moody’s, one of the largest credit rating agencies in the U.S., recently found that: “Rapid growth in unfunded liabilities over the past 10 years has transformed local governments’ balance sheet burdens to historically high levels,” and that Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio had a combined $22.6 billion in pension debt—and it’s growing worse!

    Using the Pension Review Board’s latest Actuarial Valuations Report for November 2016, we can parse the systems within each municipality to get a little bit better sense of where the trouble lies. Pension debt for the retirement systems in the big 4 looks like this:

  • Austin Employees’ Retirement System: $1.1 billion, Austin Police Retirement System: $346 M, and Austin Fire Fighters Relief and Retirement Fund: $93 M;
  • Dallas Employees’ Retirement Fund: $809 M, Dallas Police and Fire Pension System—Combined Plan: $3.3 B, and Dallas Police and Fire Pension System—Supplemental: $23 M;
  • Houston Municipal Employees Pension System: $2.2 B, Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund: $467 M, and Houston Police Officer’s Pension System: $1.2 B; and
  • San Antonio Fire and Police Pension Fund: $360 M.
  • Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that the figures use some of the same fuzzy math as described above, so the actual extent of the problem may be worse than the PRB’s latest figures indicate.

    What similarities, if any, are there to current Texas municipal pension issues and those that forced California cities like San Bernardino, Stockton and Vallejo into bankruptcy? What differences?

    The common element in most, if not all, of these systemic failures is the defined benefit pension plan. Because of the political element as well as the inclusion of inaccurate investment assumptions in the DB model, these plans are almost destined to fail, threatening the taxpayers who support it and the retirees who rely on it. And sadly, that’s what we’re witnessing now across the nation.

    As far as the differences go, California’s municipal bankruptcies as well as Detroit’s were preceded by decades of poor fiscal policy and gross mismanagement. I don’t see that same thing here in Texas, but it’s also important that we don’t let it happen too.

    California pensions were notoriously generous (20 years and out, spiking, etc.). Do any Texas state or local pensions strike you as unrealistically generous?

    Any plan that’s making pension promises but has no plan on how to make good on those promises is being unrealistically generous. And unfortunately for taxpayers and retirees alike, a fair number of plans can be categorized as such.

    The Pension Review Board’s Actuarial Valuations Report for November 2016 reveals that of Texas’ 92 state and local retirement system, only 4 of them are fully-funded. At the other extreme, a whopping 19 of the 92 plans have amortization periods of more than 40 years. Six of those 19 plans have infinite amortization periods, which effectively means that they have no plan to keep their promises but are instead planning to fail.

    As far as specific plans go, there’s no question that the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System is the posterchild for the overly generous. The Dallas Morning News recently covered the surreal levels of deferred compensation offered, finding that:

    The lump-sum withdrawals come from the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, known as DROP. The plan allows veteran officers and firefighters to essentially retire in the eyes of the system and stay on the job.

    Their benefit checks then accrue in DROP accounts. For years, the fund guaranteed interest rates of at least 8 percent. DROP made hundreds of retired officers and firefighters millionaires. And once they stopped deferring the money, they received their monthly benefit checks in addition to their DROP balance. [emphasis mine]

    It’s probably fair to say that any public program that makes millionaires out of its participants is probably being too generous with its benefits.

    There seem to be only two recent local government bankruptcies in Texas, neither of which were by cities: Hardeman County Hospital District Bankruptcy and Grimes County MUD #1. Did either of these involve pension debt issues?

    I’m not familiar with those instances, but when it comes to the issue of soaring pension obligations, I can tell you that the system as a whole is moving in bad direction.

    In November 2016, Texas’ 92 state and local retirement systems had racked up over $63 billion dollars of unfunded liabilities, with more than half owed by the Teacher Retirement System. That’s a staggering amount of pension debt that’s not only big but growing fast. And worse yet, that’s in addition to Texas’ already supersized local government debt-load.

    How we’re going to make good on all of these unfunded pension promises is anyone’s guess. But I imagine that it’ll involve some combination of much higher taxes, benefit reductions, and fewer city services.

    What limits or constraints does Texas place on Chapter 9 bankruptcy?

    The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline has some good information on this, at least as far as municipal bankruptcy is concerned. A November 2011 report, Municipal Bankruptcy Explained: What it Means to File for Chapter 9, had this to say about the process:

    Who can file for Chapter 9? Only municipalities — not states — can file for Chapter 9. To be legally eligible, municipalities must be insolvent, have made a good-faith attempt to negotiate a settlement with their creditors and be willing to devise a plan to resolve their debts. 

They also need permission from their state government. Fifteen states have laws granting their municipalities the right to file for Chapter 9 protection on their own, according to James Spiotto, a bankruptcy specialist with the Chicago law firm of Chapman and Cutler. Those states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Washington. 

    Hopefully this is a process that can be avoided entirely, but given the fiscal condition of the DPFP and potentially a few other systems, I’m not sure that’ll be the case.

    Next to Dallas, which municipal pensions would you say are in the worst shape?

    I’m most concerned about the local retirement systems in Title 109. The reason, again, is that these 13 local retirement systems are effectively locked into state law and there’s little that taxpayers or retirees in those communities can do to affect good government changes without first going to Austin. These systems have basically taken a bad situation and made it worse by fossilizing everything that counts.

    In the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s 2017-18 Legislator’s Guide to the Issues, I cover this issue in a little more detail. In the article (see pgs. 122 – 124), I write of these plans’ fiscal issues which can be seen below, albeit with slightly older data.

    texaspensiondebtchart

    (Funded ratios marked in red denote systems that are below the 80% threshold, signifying a plan that may be considered actuarially unsound. Source: Texas Bond Review Board.)

    The fact that these systems either are in or are headed for fiscal muck is a big reason why the Texas Public Policy Foundation is helping to educate and engage on legislation that would restore local control of these state-governed pension plans. People on the ground-level should have some say over their local plans, and that’s what we’ll be fighting for next session. Encouragingly, a bill’s already been filed in the Senate (see SB 152) and there should be legislation filed shortly in the House to do just that.

    Should Texas government agencies switched over to defined contribution (i.e. 401K) plans over standard pension plan, and if so, how might this realistically be accomplished without endangering existing retirees?

    ABSOLUTELY. Ending the defined benefit model and transitioning new employees into something more sustainable and affordable, like a defined contribution system, is one of the best things that the state legislature can do. This is something I’ve long been an advocate of.

    In fact, in early 2011, I played a very minor role in the publication of some major research spearheaded by Dr. Arthur Laffer, President Ronald Reagan’s chief economist, that advanced this same reform idea (see Reforming Texas’ State & Local Pension Systems for the 21st Century). I’ve also written a lot about the need to make the DC-switch, making the case recently in Forbes that:

    DC-style plans resemble 401(k)s in the private sector and the optional retirement programs (ORP) available for higher education employees in Texas. These DC-style plans put the power of an individual’s future in their own hands instead of depending on the good fortune of government-directed DB-style plans. DC-style plans are portable and sustainable over the long term as they are based on the contributions of retirees and a defined government match.

    With DC-style plans, retirees will finally have the opportunity to determine how much risk they are willing to take. They also reduce the risk that the government will default on their retirement or fund those losses with dollars from taxpayers who never intended to use these pensions. By giving retirees more freedom on how to best provide for their family, they will be in a much better position to prosper.

    Because of their efficiency, simplicity and fully funded nature, the private sector moved primarily to DC-style plans long ago. For the sake of taxpayers and retirees dependent on government pensions, it’s time for all governments to move to these types of plans as well.

    As far as dealing with transition costs, some much smarter people than I have written on this issue and found that it’s not as big of a challenge as it’s made out to be. Dr. Josh McGee, a vice president with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, and Chairman of the Pension Review Board, had this to say about the matter:

    Moving to a new system would have little to no effect on the current system. State and local pensions are pre-funded systems, and unlike Social Security, the contributions of workers today do not subsidize today’s retirees. Future normal cost contributions are used to fund new benefit accruals that workers earn on a go-forward basis and are not used to close funding gaps. Therefore, it matters little whether the normal cost payments are used to fund new benefits under the current system or a new system.

    (Source: The transition cost mirage—false arguments distract from real pension reform debates.)

    Another pension expert, Dr. Andrew Biggs with the American Enterprise Institute, published research that found that:

    In this study, I show that if a pension plan were closed to new hires, over time the duration of liabilities would shorten, and the portfolio used to fund those liabilities would become more conservative. However, the effects of these transition costs are so small as to be barely perceptible.

    (Source: Are there transition costs to closing a public-employee retirement plan?)

    I’m confident that with the right plan in place, Texas’ state and local retirement systems can make the switch to defined contribution and we’ll be all the better for it.


    Thanks to James Quintero for providing such a detailed analysis!

    And since we’re on the topic, here’s a roundup of news on the Dallas Police and Fireman’s pension fund crisis:

  • The Texas Rangers have launched a criminal probe into the shortfall.
  • City Journal offers details on the unreasonable generosity of the Dallas plan (which covers some of the same DROP issues Quintero mentions):

    Dallas created the police and fire plan in 1916. The system’s trustees eventually persuaded the state legislature to allow employees and pensioners to run the plan. Not surprisingly, the members have done so for their own benefit and sent the tab for unfunded promises—now estimated at perhaps $5 billion—to taxpayers. Among the features of the system is an annual, 4 percent cost-of-living adjustment that far exceeds the actual increase in inflation since 1989, when it was instituted. A Dallas employee with a $2,000 monthly pension in 1989 would receive $3,900 today if the system’s annual increases were pegged to the consumer price index. Under the generous Dallas formula, however, that same monthly pension could be worth more than $5,000. No wonder the ship is sinking.

    The system also features a lavish deferment option that lets employees collect pensions even as they continue to work and earn a salary. Moreover, the retirement money gets deposited into an account that earns guaranteed interest. Governments originally began creating these so-called DROP plans as an incentive to encourage experienced employees to keep working past retirement age, which in job categories like public safety can be as young as 50. In Dallas, the pension system gives workers in the DROP plan an 8 percent interest rate on their cash, at a time when yields on ten-year U.S. Treasury notes, a standard for guaranteed returns, are stuck at less than 2 percent. According to the city, some 500 employees working past retirement age have accumulated more than $1 million in these accounts—on top of the pensions that they will receive once they officially stop working.

  • The Dallas Morning News says that there’s plenty of blame to go around:

    Over the years, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System fund has amassed $2 billion to $5 billion in unfunded liabilities, the result of bad real estate investments and blatant self-enrichment from prior management. Coupled with a possible setback in ongoing litigation over public safety salaries, Dallas is in the most financially precarious position in its history.

    City officials are openly uttering the word bankruptcy, not just of the pension fund but the city itself. As Mayor Mike Rawlings told the Texas Pension Review Board this month, “the city is potentially walking into the fan blades that might look like bankruptcy.”

    The state Legislature created this mess by not giving the city a meaningful voice in the fund’s operation and allowing the former board of the pension fund to unilaterally sweeten its membership’s promised benefits without concern to the overall fiscal damage being done. Now it must help the city clean up the mess.

    Dallas already provides nearly 60 percent of its budget to support public safety services and recently contributed $4.6 million to increase its share of pension contributions to 28.5 percent — the maximum allowed under state statute. However, if Dallas loses the lawsuit over salaries and no changes are made to the pension fund, the city could take an $8 billion hit. That is roughly equal to eight years of the city’s general fund budget.

  • That said, the bond market doesn’t seem to think Dallas is near bankruptcy.
  • And it’s not just Dallas:

    Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio collectively face $22.6 billion worth of pension fund shortfalls, according to a new report from credit rating and financial analysis firm Moody’s. That company analyzed the nation’s most debt-burdened local governments and ranked them based on how big the looming pension shortfalls are compared to the annual revenues on which each entity operates.

    “Rapid growth in unfunded pension liabilities over the past 10 years has transformed local governments’ balance sheet burdens to historically high levels,” the report says.

    Chicago had the most dire ratio on the national list. Dallas came in second. According to the report, the North Texas city has unfunded pension liabilities totaling $7.6 billion. That’s more than five times the size of the city’s 2015 operating revenues.

    Both those cities may turn to the public to partially shore up their shortfalls. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wants to use $1 billion in bonds to infuse that city’s funds. Dallas police officer and firefighter pension officials also want $1 billion from City Hall, an amount officials there say is too high.

    Meanwhile, Austin ranked 14th on the Moody’s list with unfunded pension liabilities of $2.7 billion. San Antonio ranked 22nd with a $2.3 billion shortfall.