Texas vs. California Update for January 12, 2017

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.
  • Dawnna Dukes Case Headed to Grand Jury

    January 11th, 2017

    In an update to the Dawnna Dukes story, her case is headed to a grand jury:

    Travis County prosecutors and Texas Rangers will present evidence to a grand jury that state Rep. Dawnna Dukes abused the power of her office, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore told the American-Statesman.

    Among possible charges: abuse of official capacity and tampering with public records, Moore said.

    Dukes was sworn into office for a 12th term Tuesday after reneging on a plan to step down before the Legislature convened.

    Moore said that the grand jury proceedings will begin next Tuesday.

    Snip.

    Shortly after the Texas Rangers presented their case against Dukes to Travis County prosecutors in September, the Austin Democrat announced she would step down when her term expired, citing medical issues related to a 2013 car crash had made it impossible for her to serve.

    Days ago, however, Dukes changed her mind. She was sworn in to a 12th term on Tuesday with the rest of her House colleagues.

    The Travis County DA doesn’t have a great reputation (see also: Rosemary Lehmberg and Ronnie Earl), but the Rangers are in a different league entirely.

    (Previously.)

    Pentagon Successfully Tests Microdrone Swarm

    January 11th, 2017

    Given the name of my blog, you wouldn’t expect this development to escape my eye:

    The Pentagon may soon be unleashing a 21st-century version of locusts on its adversaries after officials on Monday said it had successfully tested a swarm of 103 micro-drones.

    The important step in the development of new autonomous weapon systems was made possible by improvements in artificial intelligence, holding open the possibility that groups of small robots could act together under human direction.

    Military strategists have high hopes for such drone swarms that would be cheap to produce and able to overwhelm opponents’ defenses with their great numbers.

    The test of the world’s largest micro-drone swarm in California in October included 103 Perdix micro-drones measuring around six inches (16 centimeters) launched from three F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets, the Pentagon said in a statement.

    “The micro-drones demonstrated advanced swarm behaviors such as collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying and self-healing,” it said.

    “Perdix are not pre-programmed synchronized individuals, they are a collective organism, sharing one distributed brain for decision-making and adapting to each other like swarms in nature,” said William Roper, director of the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office. “Because every Perdix communicates and collaborates with every other Perdix, the swarm has no leader and can gracefully adapt to drones entering or exiting the team.”

    And I tracked down video of the test:

    Of course, there are all sorts of military and ethical considerations to truly autonomous drones. Like what theaters do you deploy them in, and under what conditions. And what do the first time they decide to dismantle a schoolhouse, or kill one of your own guys…

    85th Texas Legislative Session Begins Today

    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.

    The Great Pickup Truck War of 2017

    January 9th, 2017

    This past week brought one of those small, illuminating skirmishes in the culture wars, this time over that quintessentially Texas vehicle, the pickup truck.

    First came this New York Times piece by Many Fernandez on the Texas Truck Rodeo. If it weren’t for the opening paragraphs, it would be a pretty solid (if not terribly in-depth) piece on pickup trucks in Texas.

    But look at those opening paragraphs:

    DRIPPING SPRINGS, Tex. — Tim Spell has noticed a peculiar condition that affects Texans’ mental, physical and automotive well-being.

    “I call it ‘truck-itis,'” said Mr. Spell, the former automotive editor for The Houston Chronicle. “People in Texas will buy trucks even if they’re not going to haul anything heavier than raindrops. I was interviewing one guy. He had a 4-by-4. I said: ‘You live in Houston. Why do you have this 4-by-4?’ He said, ‘Well, I own a bar, and 4-by-4s are higher, and I can climb up on the cab and change out the letters of my marquee.'”

    It’s like New York Times editors think their target readership wouldn’t dean to read an article on pickup trucks without two opening paragraphs of smug, patronizing condescension. The rest of the piece focuses as much on Texans’ love of pickup trucks as the truck rodeo, and few would take issue with that portion:

    Whether for high-up urban letter-switching or more rural and rugged purposes, pickup trucks are to Texas what cowboy boots and oil derricks are to the state — a potent part of the brand. No other state has a bigger influence on the marketing of American pickup trucks.

    Texas is No. 1 in the country for full-size pickup trucks. More of them were sold in 2015 in the Dallas and Houston areas than in the entire state of California, according to the research firm IHS Markit. There is the Ford F-150 King Ranch, named for the iconic Texas ranch. And the Nissan Texas Titan, the floor mats and tailgate of which are emblazoned with the shape of Texas. And the Toyota Tundra 1794 Edition, featuring leather seats that mimic the look and feel of Western saddles, was named for the year that the JLC Ranch in San Antonio was established.

    The Texas-edition truck is a product of the state’s pull on the truck world. Some truck styles are sold and marketed only in the state as Texas editions, ensuring that pickup trucks, like a lot of things in Texas, are different here than elsewhere.

    “I like to say that you almost can’t overmarket Texas to Texans,” said Fred M. Diaz, a Nissan North America executive and a native Texan.

    All true, and all largely uncontroversial.

    But what really shifted The Great Pickup Truck War into high gear was one simple Tweeted question:

    From the reactions of the chattering classes, you’d think Ekdahl asked “How many of you liberal reporters have stopped raping your children?”

    And there’s been many an interesting roundup on the subject:

  • Sean Davis at The Federalist: “Even after a presidential election in which scores of media personalities were shown to be entirely disconnected from the country and people they report on, the liberal media bubble is alive and well. All it took to reveal the durability of that bubble was a simple question about pickup trucks.”

    Rather than answer with a simple “no,” the esteemed members of the most cloistered and provincial class in America–political journalists who live in New York City or Washington, D.C.–reacted by doing their best impersonation of a vampire who had just been dragged into the sunshine and presented with a garlic-adorned crucifix.

    There were basically three types of hysterical response to a simple question about truck owners: 1) shut up, 2) you’re stupid and/or sexist and/or racist, and 3) whatever, liar, trucks aren’t popular (far and away my favorite delusional response to a simple question from a group of people who want you to believe they’re extremely concerned about “fake news”). It turns out that people who are paid large sums of money to opine on what Americans outside the Acela province think get very upset if you demonstrate that they don’t actually know any of the people about whom they pretend to be experts.

    I have a quibble with that: I doubt many of the liberal reporters snipping at Ekdahl are well-paid.

  • Here’s SooperMexican at The Right Scoop on the topic, including capturing a tweet since deleted:

    The automotive editor for Ars Technica compares truck owning to BEING A HEROIN ADDICT BECAUSE HE’S NOT SENSITIVE ABOUT IT AT ALL:

    .@JohnEkdahl plenty of heartlanders are opioid addicts. Does that mean to report on real Amerikkka you need an oxy habit?

    — Jonathan Gitlin (@drgitlin) January 4, 2017

  • Kevin D. Williamson at National Review:

    The responses were predictable: The sort of smug progressives who are proud of their smugness scoffed that pick-ups, pollution-belching penis-supplements for toothless red-state Bubbas, are found mainly in the sort of communities where they’d never deign to set foot; the sort of smug progressives who are ashamed of their smugness protested that it is a silly question (which it is — that’s part of the point) and made strained connections with pick-up-owning childhood friends back home in East Slapbutt; conservatives mainly said “Har har stupid liberal elites.”

    Snip.

    Russell Kirk, describing his “canons of conservative thought,” argued that to be a conservative is to appreciate genuine diversity, “the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems.” The Left is living up to Kirk’s expectations: The increasingly sneering attitude of coastal elites toward the more conservative interior, particularly for the poor communities there, is as undeniable as it is distasteful. But conservatives are not immune to these Kulturkampf tendencies, either. No, the whole country does not need to be Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It doesn’t need to be Lubbock, Texas, either.

  • T. Becket Adams at The Washington Examiner: “Following Trump’s win, one would think members of the press would reflect more on what they know and don’t know about the electorate they cover. Though some journalists seem to be doing just that, others appear to be extremely upset with the idea that their industry is insular and operating out of a bubble.”

    Ekdahl’s question doesn’t suggest that owning a pickup truck somehow makes one morally superior or “more American” (it’s sort of pointless anyway for someone living in Washington, D.C., or New York City to own a vehicle, let alone a giant, hulking truck. Good luck parking that thing). His question appears to be about the insular nature of media, and whether those who cover the electorate have a broad and significant understanding of American culture.

    The point is that a significant number of people drive pickup trucks. How many national media reporters can say they know one of these drivers? The question seems like a worthwhile exercise in self-reflection for the press, especially after it was so violently broadsided in November by Trump’s victory.

    Becket concludes with this question:

    Rifles are consistently the most manufactured firearm in the U.S., according to the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

    The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in the U.S., according to the National Rifle Association.

    How many reporters can say they own or know a person who owns an AR-15?

    Hell, no need to even go that far: How many reporters know someone that owns any gun?

    If there’s one thing missing from the commentary, it’s the unspoken moral code liberals bring to the question. The late novelist Michael Crichton noted that environmentalism is the new religion for unchurched urban elites. To them owning a pickup truck makes one an environmental sinner, a moral lapse no less offensive than committing adultery is to a Baptist.

    Declaring you own a truck is declaring you’re a sinner in the eyes of an angry media…

  • Dawnna Dukes Changes Course, Refuses to Step Down

    January 7th, 2017

    Well, this is an interesting turn of events:

    State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, has informed Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore that she will not step down from her seat in the Texas House as planned when the House convenes for a new session Tuesday, Moore told the American-Statesman Saturday.

    Moore, newly-sworn in as district attorney, said that Dukes had called her to inform her of her decision.

    Moore said he was already scheduled to meet with Texas Rangers investigating ethics charges against Dukes on Tuesday and would proceed with that meeting and then decide whether to go before a grand jury and seek an indictment of Dukes.

    Dukes announced in September that she would not be sworn in for a 12th term when the next session of the Texas Legislature convenes Jan. 10. Dukes cited medical complications stemming from a 2013 car crash as the reason for her departure, but her announcement came soon after the Texas Rangers completed an investigation into her use of legislative staff and campaign money.

    It’s hard to fathom why she’s doing this, unless it’s to somehow gain more leverage for a better plea deal. Or maybe she just has no other potential job prospects that will let her pretend to work from home while not showing up, given that the last time I covered this story she had been absent from the legislature for a year.

    But I can’t help thinking that Dukes’ desire to remain in the Statehouse will make it a lot more likely that she ends up in the big house instead…

    (Hat tip: Matt Mackowiak’s Twitter feed.)

    Rep. Sam Johnson to Retire

    January 7th, 2017

    U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson of the Texas Third Congressional district (northeast of Dallas, including Plano and McKinney) has announced that he’s retiring at the end of his term.

    Like Sen. John McCain, Johnson served as a military pilot who was shot down, held prisoner and tortured during the Vietnam War. Unlike McCain, Johnson has been a fairly reliable conservative, earning an 89% ranking from the Heritage Action for America’s scorecard and 82% ranking from Conservative Review, earning particular liberal ire for a bill to reign in the abuses of the EPA.

    At 86, Johnson is well into retirement age. As for replacements, State Senator Van Taylor’s Eighth District is right smack dab in the middle of the U.S. Third, and like Johnson, Taylor is ex-military, having served with the Marines in Iraq. He’s also a staunch conservative, pulling a 100% rating from the American Conservative union, all of which makes him a natural candidate.

    I just sent Taylor a tweet asking if he’s running. I’ll let you know if I get a reply.

    LinkSwarm for January 6, 2017

    January 6th, 2017

    The James Quintero interview on Texas municipal pensions generated a lot of interest, including a piece on Zero Hedge. I mention it here because, being Zero Hedge, the firehose nudged it to page 2 before I could even take a look at it.

  • It turns out that the FBI never examined the “hacked” DNC servers”. Indeed, the DNC denied the FBI permission to examine the server. “The bureau tells Buzzfeed News that the Democrats’ organization reportedly ‘rebuffed’ multiple requests for physical access to the hacked servers, forcing investigators to depend on the findings of the third-party security firm CrowdStrike (which the DNC contacted after the hack).” (“Your honor, instead of the FBI crime lab testing the alleged cocaine sample, we had Morty’s Fly-By-Night Chemical Analysis and Pet Grooming Company do the analysis. I’m sure you’ll find that’s good enough…”) So how can FBI actually tell the Russians hacked them? Did they even try to get a warrant for the DNC servers? Since that’s one of the first things you would do if you really thought the Russians were behind the hack, and the hack had (by Obama Administration testimony) national security implications. This suggests that the DNC is: A.) Lying about Russian involvement, or B.) Is telling the truth about it, but has material far more illegal and/or damaging than what has already been released. Why should we give more credence to allegations that the FBI hasn’t even taken the most basic steps of criminal investigation to prove?
  • President-elect Donald Trump has told the Department of Homeland Security to start getting ready to build the border wall. Remember, the construction of 700 miles of border wall is already authorized by the Secure Fence Act of 2006. All it takes is Presidential will to have work started on it. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “For Me, Obamacare Means Paying All Your Own Bills And Never Getting The Doctor You Need.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • A look back at all those Obama Administration scandals that Valerie Jarrett can’t remember. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Liberal strategy for 2016 election: “1) Make sure the GOP nominates Trump 2) ??? 3) Victory!”
  • John Podesta’s password was ‘password.'” What a tragedy it is that we kept the Democratic Party’s best and brightest out of the White House… (Hat tip: Borepatch.)
  • Reporters who colluded with the Clinton campaign? Not only did they not get fired, some got better jobs. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • “If you thought 2016 was packed full of liberal foolishness, just wait until you get a load of 2017. As 2016 ends, progressives enter the new year terrified that Donald Trump will continue to run circles around them, and their epic meltdown is only going to get more epically meltdownier. They’ve been shrill, stupid, and annoying for the last two months, but brace yourself for the next 12. Fear is going to make them go nuts – not the fear that Trump will be a failure, but the gut-wrenching, mind-numbing fear that Donald Trump will be a success.”
  • Which is why Democrats are still in denial. “Republicans control the House, the Senate, 34 governor’s mansions, and 4,100 seats in state legislatures. But Democrats act like they run Washington.” (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Global warming critic at Georgia Tech resigns tenured position because “growing disenchantment with universities, the academic field of climate science and scientists.”

    The reward system that is in place for university faculty members is becoming increasingly counterproductive to actually educating students to be able to think and cope in the real world, and in expanding the frontiers of knowledge in a meaningful way (at least in certain fields that are publicly relevant such as climate change).

    Snip.

    A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science. Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment — funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc.

    How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide (I have worked through these issues with a number of skeptical young scientists).

    (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)

  • Philadelphia’s new soda tax means that sometimes the price of the tax is more than the soda itself.
  • How the Washington Post pushed a fake “Russians hacked the power grid” story, then silently walked the whole thing back via silent edits. And the media wonder why the public no longer trusts them…
  • And speaking of the Washington Post being staffed with untrustworthy idiots, check out this cover plumping a “women’s rights” march:

  • And speaking of Fake News, the four different types of fake news.
  • Nothing says “delusions of grandeur” quite like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo booking 200 hotel rooms for a Hillary Clinton inauguration for theoretical supporters of his own future presidential run.
  • Speaking of Cuomo, he just commuted the sentence of left-wing cop killer Judith Clark. Clark participated in a Weather Underground robbery where three people, including police officers Waverly Brown and Edward O’Grady, were murdered. Maybe we should start calling him “Cop Killer Cuomo.” Evidently black lives, like that of Brown, don’t matter when they’re cops murdered by white leftwing radicals… (Hat tip: Director Blue.)

  • This just in: Reporting on firearms still sucks.
  • Feminists have very little in common with the women they claim to represent: “Few feminists seem to be married with children, and comparatively few are heterosexual.” (Hat tip: The Other McCain.)
  • Evidently Cuba is just as much a tourist paradise as it is a worker’s paradise. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Smugglers work across the Texas border to sell their addictive products. Only this time, it’s selling black market Krispy Kreme donuts from El Paso in Juarez… (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • The time when James “Mad Dog” Mattis skipped dinner so a hungry soldier could eat. (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • Armed Texas grandma runs off would-be attacker. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Sears to sell Craftsman, close 150 stores. In other news, Sears still had stores to close.
  • Skynet conquers Go.
  • World’s largest dog. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Obama Administration Awards Obama Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service

    January 5th, 2017

    Un. Freaking. Believable:

    On Wednesday, President Obama added another prestigious medal to his Nobel Prize collection when he had Defense Secretary Ash Carter award him with the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service.

    Secretary Carter awarded his boss with the medal on January 4 during the Armed Forces Full Honor Farewell Review for the President held at Conmy Hall, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia.

    Carter insisted that the medal was a token of appreciation for Obama’s service as commander in chief, the Associated Press reported.

    There are two possibilities: Either Obama ordered them to do this, because he has the biggest ego in the world, or the DoD came up with this on their own, and Obama didn’t have the good sense to decline the obvious wrongheaded flattery, because he has the biggest ego in the world.

    If The Onion had published this as a parody, people would complain it was too unsubtle. I’m sure he feels the “World’s Greatest Boss” mug he ordered his staff to buy him was also richly earned.

    For people who think that Donald Trump has the biggest ego in the world: Have you seen who he’s replacing?

    (Hat tip: BigGator5’s Twitter feed.)

    (PS: And yes, George W. Bush should have had the good sense to turn it down as well. A Distinguished Public Service Medal shouldn’t be handed out like a retirement watch…)

    MD Anderson Announces Layoffs

    January 5th, 2017

    Well, this is a bad economic indicator for the Houston area:

    Financially ailing MD Anderson Cancer Center will announce today it will cut its workforce by 5 percent through layoffs and retirements.

    Dan Fontaine, Anderson’s chief financial officer, confirmed Thursday morning a little less than 1,000 of the staff of 2o,000 [sic] will be leaving the world-renowned cancer hospital. Some of those people are expected to volunteer to retire, he said.

    Dr. Ronald DePinho, president of the cancer center, Fontaine and other officials set a press conference today to announce the workforce reduction.

    Anderson officials said before Christmas they were considering staff cutbacks as the Houston cancer hospital tries to shore up its finances. During the September-through-November quarter, Anderson posted $110 million in operating losses.

    Officials said in the advisory MD Anderson’s long-term financial health remains strong. Last month, officials said the operating budget is an important indicator of the cancer hospital’s ability to be self-sufficient, but it doesn’t take into account other revenue streams like state funding, charitable gifts and investement [sic] income. At that time, officials said Anderson has $2.8 billion in cash on reserve.

    Snip.

    Other factors also are at play, Fontaine said, including patients’ higher insurance deductibles and a shrinking number of insurers willing to pay for MD Anderson’s expensive cancer treatments.

    Belt-tightening measures already are paying off, he said, noting that the $9 million operating loss in November was far smaller than the $102 million in losses recorded in September and October. Those losses followed seven months of operating losses to end fiscal 2016.

    MD Anderson is one of the premier cancer centers in the world, and my father received treatment there during his terminal illness. I wonder if the relentless cost-cutting required by ObamaCare was a contributing factor, as MD Anderson has been dropped by all ObamaCare plans.

    Also, the folks at the Houston Chronicle should have their proofreaders do a better once-over for breaking stories. Those two typos I’ve noted [sic] for should have been caught…