Thursday, August 24, 2017

Inaction or surrender?

Inaction in the Texas House does not simply maintain the status quo. The Texas legislature meets only once every two years. Between now and the next opportunity our legislators will have to address our concerns we will see our property taxes raised twice, the broken school finance system will continue to do its damage, the life of someone's loved will be cut short by the woefully short 10-day-law, and more schools and municipalities will promote social engineering over the privacy of Texans. Inaction by the House Republican leadership is support of the progressive agenda, and it is an insult to the thousands upon thousands of Texans who delivered a near super majority to House Republicans in expectation that these issues would be addressed.

The bill limiting the ability of doctors and hospitals to place do-not-resuscitate orders on patients without their consent or the consent of their loved ones did not pass in the regular session. Thankfully it passed in the final hours of the special session. How many lives would have been cut short by the status-quo over the next two years if Governor Abbott had not prioritized this issue for action during the special session? Where was the sense of urgency during the first 140 days of the session? Why did House leadership delay this action to the second to last day of the special session?

I recently had the opportunity to listen to my incumbent opponent explain that several issues were not addressed because of competing approaches to solving these problems within the house. I followed the session pretty closely this year, but don’t remember grand battles on the floor of the House between competing ideas for addressing Texans’ property tax concerns. I don’t recall the passionate struggle over which method was best for protecting the privacy of our daughters in their school locker rooms. I do recall a group of representatives trying to address the privacy issue for their constituents, and the Speaker of the House telling concerned Texans that their concerns were “manure” while his leadership team made sure the issue would not be addressed for at least two more years.

Complacency is just a word for describing a lack of conviction. It is too easy for two years of inaction to become four years of inaction. Before you know it the Republican majority has the Democrat choice for Speaker of the House for ten years, and a decade of opportunity is lost. It is time for the complacent administrators of government to step aside. We need Representatives who have the same sense of urgency as the constituents who send them to Austin.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Selecting Texas' Speaker

There is a phenomenon in politics, so routine that it has become cliché. We even make jokes about it by saying things like “There must be something in the water in Austin.”, or Washington, or virtually any seat of government throughout the United States. That phenomenon is, of course, the example of a politician who is carried across the finish line on election day by voters excited to have a champion on their side, only to see those voters eventually confronted with the reality that the politician is a champion for an opposing team.

It is a mystery why such people are so frequently drawn to become politicians. It is no mystery why voters become disillusioned. One often offered explanation for the phenomenon is that Austin changes and corrupts previously principled people. A more plausible theory is that the magical properties of Austin’s water reveal unprincipled politicians for who they have always been.

One of the most significant events for Texas politics in recent years is scheduled to occur on August 17th. The Texas House Republican caucus is scheduled to convene to discuss or adopt the process for selecting the Speaker of the House for the 2019 legislative session. This is the opportunity for House Republicans to take the selection process out of the hands of the Democrats and their few GOP allies. Thankfully, it is looking increasingly likely that a quorum will be formed and that the meeting will take place. What is almost surreal is that a significant number of House Republicans are dragging their feet on committing to attend. Why are House Republicans not overwhelmingly leaping at the chance to let Republicans choose the Republican nominee for Speaker?

In 2016 a plank was added to the Republican Party of Texas platform recommending the following process for selecting Speaker:
“Texas Speaker of the House- We oppose the use of pledge cards and call for the Republican members to caucus after each November general election to determine by secure secret ballot, their candidate for Speaker. We also call for the Republican members to vote as a unified body for their selected speaker candidate when the legislature convenes in regular session.”
This is not an unreasonable request. The grassroots that has worked countless hours to bring the House Republican caucus from the slimmest possible majority in 2009(when Joe Straus became Speaker), to a near super-majority in 2017 simply wants their Republican majority to be able to function as a Republican majority. On August 17th the opportunity that grassroots Republicans have been working for, and pleading for since Joe Straus became Speaker of the House will arrive.

In recent discussions with grassroots Republicans, some former leaders in their local Party, I have been struck once again with how much frustration there is over the disconnect between representatives and the sincere concerns of the Republican base. I have watched in awe as a variety of representatives have offered up excuses for why they might not make it to the meeting this Thursday. An opportunity to show real concern and a connection with the cares and interests of their constituents is replaced with another subliminal declaration that what they represent has everything to do with Austin, and very little to do with the folks back home.


There is a real struggle taking place in Austin between representatives of the Republican grassroots and representatives of the Joe Straus caucus. It is unfortunate, and painful to see this divisiveness within our own Party, but it is the state of Texas politics. There will be few better opportunities for GOP House members to demonstrate whether they represent the Texans in their district, or an institution of politics in the state capitol. On August 17th a clear message will be sent to the Republican base - one way, or another.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Warped powers

America's founding fathers were not isolationists. They recognized that there were connections between the nations of the world and American interests, but history is clear that they considered it vital to connect American interests to any action against the interests of other nations.

Our very first president sent military aid to belligerents in a foreign land. He was not an isolationist. This point needs to be stressed because there are quite a few toward the right end of the American political spectrum that have a sanitized view of the founders philosophy regarding our place on the globe. It is equally important to stress the point that Washington did not unilaterally send US troops to follow that military aid to Haiti.

Much debate has ensued in recent days regarding President Trump's unilateral cruise missile barrage on an air base in Syria. Some say the President is within his constitutional limits to strike out on his own in cases like this, some say he is not. How can the Constitution support both sides of this argument?

In some cases the Constitution is unfortunately vague, or leaves a gap for others to fill in. The Constitution touches on war making powers in descriptions of the powers of the legislative and executive branches. The powers of congress are covered in Article 1 Section 8, and the most quoted salient point grants Congress the power:
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
The President's authority is described in Article 2 Section 2:
The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States;
And that's pretty much all we have from the Constitution on the authority of warring. The gap in the descriptions is that the text contains no restraint on the President in his role as commander in chief. As a result, one side in the debate claims that no restraint was intended and that the President can command his forces beyond our borders as he chooses. The other side claims congress' war declaration power is intended to restrain the President. Which side of this argument a person, or politician, is likely to take generally depends on which party controls which branch of government at any given time.

What really shouldn't be in question is which side of this debate America's founders would be on if they were part of our contemporary discussion. It is clear from their historically recorded fundamental distrust of centralized executive authority, and from comments we have from the founders themselves that the elected representatives of the people were to decide when American blood and treasure would be placed at risk in foreign war. The following quote from James Madison is long, but it covers a variety of points on this subject:
In no part of the constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war or peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department. Beside the objection to such a mixture to heterogeneous powers, the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man; not such as nature may offer as the prodigy of many centuries, but such as may be expected in the ordinary successions of magistracy. War is in fact the true nurse of executive aggrandizement. In war, a physical force is to be created; and it is the executive will, which is to direct it. In war, the public treasures are to be unlocked; and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them. In war, the honours and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed. It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered, and it is the executive brow they are to encircle. The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honourable or venial love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.
While the argument that the President's strike on Syria doesn't fit some specific definition of "war" is made in many statements in the ongoing debate, it is clearly not an act of peace. War and peace are ends of a spectrum that Madison identifies here as falling under the control of congress. Here the President is offered the authority to declare neither war nor peace - or anything in between. The contempt that Madison held for executive power is crystal clear in these comments he made to Hamilton. The idea that he would support giving carte blanche power to strike at foreign lands to the person described in this quote is preposterous on its face.

In the young United States there was very little in the way of a standing army. In the early days federal troops were raised with specific things in mind, like protecting the frontier from Indian raids. An oddly consistent talking point for supporters of executive war powers includes using the Barbary wars as examples of unilateral executive war making in the time of America's founders. Problems with the Barbary states were nothing new to our young nation. This conflict began as soon as the British dropped their umbrella of protection from American ships at the beginning of the revolutionary war. The idea that Congress was not part of the war making process on the Barbary states after the drafting of the Constitution is a hollow talking point with no historical validity.

In Jefferson's first inaugural address he made it clear that he considered his authority to end at defensive action, unless authorized by Congress to go on the offensive. Though they did not issue a formal declaration of war, Congress provided approval for the first Barbary war at President Jefferson's request. They commissioned the building of our first naval vessels for this purpose. Congress did declare war in the second Barbary war. Nothing in these examples implies that there was an expectation that US Presidents had the authority to unilaterally strike foreign nations - even those that had declared war on us. To use this as an example of executive authority to strike without congressional consultation at foreign nations that are in no way threatening US interests is the height of intellectual dishonesty.

The issue of unilateral belligerent presidential escapades in foreign lands came to a head at the end of the Viet Nam conflict. Congress passed the War Powers Resolution (commonly referred to as "Act") in 1973. President Nixon vetoed the resolution and it became law when Congress voted to override Nixon's veto. The Resolution reconciles the ambiguities in the constitutional text with the spirit of the founder's intent. This is a legitimate role of our legislature.

The strength of the War Powers Resolution has never been tested in court. Unfortunately it has been used as a tool of the opposition to attack President's from both parties for political purposes. President's of both parties consistently ignore the law, while Congressional majorities from both parties refuse to make an effort to enforce it, or bring it to court for a ruling.

The question of whether it was right or wrong to strike at Syria is a subjective question and opinions will vary. The question of whether the President had the authority to strike at Syria should not be a subjective question. This should be a matter of law plainly resolved for the guidance of Presidents and Representatives irrespective of political party. The question of which causes the men and women of our armed forces should be asked to risk their lives for is not a question that one man should answer for an entire nation. In a republic, these are decisions that should be made by a republican process - as the founders intended.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Flynn Flammed

You can tell when a Republican is in the White House. Every potential misstep is Watergate, and every potential misstepper is Adolf Hitler. The day when this finally wears thin and people wise up to the media and democrat theatrics can't come too soon. At least we're all getting brushed up on the finer points of obscure 218 year old never once used laws. How about that Logan act eh? What would we do without it?

Michael Flynn is gone. I say good riddance. Trump can do better. Flynn now has the distinction of having been hired by two presidents in a row and let go by two presidents in a row (Obama and Trump). Bye Felicia.

There are a few possible scenarios about Mr. Flynn's wild, and brief, ride and mostly they all end with it being the right thing to do to let him go. Yes there are other miscreants in the mix, but that doesn't absolve Flynn of his sin.  A few possibilities;

Scenario 1 - Accepting the public narrative

  • A reporter reveals Flynn engaged in conversations with Russia's ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, on December 29th (the day Obama announced sanctions).
  • Reporter wonders "What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?".
  • Flynn told VP Pence that he did not talk about improper stuff with Sergey.
  • Pence supported his guy and publicly made false statements based on the bad info that Flynn gave him about not discussing the stuff.
  • Routine FBI surveillance of Sergey revealed that Flynn did talk about the stuff with Sergey.
  • Flynn confessed, apologized, and resigned.
Best case with this scenario is that the Trump admin has a NSA that will lie to them to cover his backside. It shouldn't have taken days to ask for his resignation in this scenario. Your NSA lies to you, you fire him. Once is once too much.
Scenario 2 - Conspiracy theory 1
Start with scenario 1 and add the possibility that Pence actually knew that Flynn had talked about the stuff at the time he was defending Flynn. In this scenario Pence's public presentation was a bluff. When it got called, scenario 2 became scenario 1 for all intents an purposes. The appearance that you have an NSA that lies to you becomes the public's reality and the NSA still gets fired.
Scenario 3 - Conspiracy theory 2
Add to scenario 2 the possibility that the December message to Sergey was sent on behalf of Trump/Pence. Here Flynn hasn't actually done anything on his own to put the administration in a tough spot. The ensuing theater around the issue still presents some difficulty in keeping Flynn, but there is the possibility that the administration might have stood by a loyal team member and just rode it out.
Scenario 4 - The big conspiracy theory
Consider the possibility that Mike Flynn was actually a focus of the surveillance. Flynn is a US citizen and stuff isn't supposed to be collected on him without a warrant. The information that was leaked shouldn't have been available to be leaked. The FBI investigation would have had to include looking for something like collusion between Russia and the Trump team for the leak to have been just a simple leak. 
Of course this scenario still leads into one of the first three, so still a better than 2 in 3 chance Flynn gets the boot.
All of the hoopla from the left about this being a scandal for the Trump administration is misdirected. If there is a real crisis that needs to be investigated here(and I think there is), it's with the retention of surveillance data on a US citizen, or the possibility that the warrant covered Trump team members, and of course the subsequent leaking of the surveillance. Two of these, The leaking and retention without a warrant, should result in charges against the people involved. The third involves the possibility that the warrant covered Michael Flynn, and the implications of that are enormous.

There is a fair amount of chatter that Flynn getting ousted is all the media's fault and they brought down one of Trump's inner circle. That's a pile of pasture puddles. The king of media trolling is the guy that just accepted Flynn's resignation. It's unlikely that Michael Flynn is out for any reason other than Michael Flynn. The silver lining is that Trump has an opportunity to trade up.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Still partying like 1965

In 1965 US immigration policy officially became a weapon aimed at the heart of American culture. Those things that promoted or protected traditional American political and social philosophy were diminished, while those things that encouraged political and social change were expanded. There were no significant populist elements propelling immigration policy in this direction. The move was driven by political elites intent on making America less American through immigration policy.

After more than 50 years of anti-American emphasis in US immigration policy the idea that some effort might be made to introduce America-centric elements into that policy is being received as a declaration of war by the left. For far too long the left/right debate over immigration has been treated as disagreements between factions that both want what is best for America. The reality is that in these decades when America should have been promoting Americanism abroad, America's political elites have worked to globalize American culture at home while working to remove the elements of American exceptionalism from the cheap generic democratic reforms promoted through US foreign policy.

Burdened with a left-wing that hates the idea of American exceptionalism, and a Republican Party that doesn't think it's worth making a fuss over, the march of America toward a "salad bowl" reflection of the global community is as predictable as it is inevitable. Only in an environment where the political powers see transformational immigration as a goal, or as something they just don't worry about, does the lawlessness we've witnessed surrounding US immigration become a possibility.

For the left, the governance of any nation is a potential archetype for global governance. The idea of making the world look more like America is rejected in favor of making America look more like the world. Citizens of western nations watch agape as their politicians show no sympathy for those citizen's concerns of potential cultural identity clashes in the face of a staggering influx of immigrants and refugees with which they have virtually nothing in common.

To the left, Islam is just a sub-culture in a border-free, America-free, Utopian world - a world that they can exploit, manage, and centrally plan. The favoritism toward immigrants that are more different from existing or traditional US population clarifies the true goals of the US approach to immigration as little else can. A pogrom has been taking place against Christian populations in the middle east, yet they have been virtually unrepresented among recent middle eastern refugees bound for America. This clearly gives the lie to the idea that these programs are about compassion for refugees.

In this case the cynical view is the rational view. The refugee crisis is simply an opportunity to be exploited by the left in it's ongoing assault on America. The motive is the opposite of love or compassion. Further evidence is seen in the left's view of immigrants from Mexico versus their view of immigrants from Cuba. Immigrants from mexico are more amenable to left-wing political views, immigrants from Cuba are not. What seems like the application of a double standard toward these two populations is simply a consistent standard of what best serves the left-wing political agenda to de-Americanize the United States.

For evidence that left-wing elitists see themselves as citizens of the world first, and citizens of America when it suits their sensibilities, we need look no further than NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recent declaration that deportations should start with him. Cuomo is not an immigrant by any measure. His statement makes it clear that he sees America as no more than a member state of a global society which holds his first loyalty. In equating his actual birth-right citizenship with the status held by an illegal immigrant, he also reveals his sense that no member of the human race should be considered more or less American than any other under the law. There is no common ground in this position for starting anything resembling a reasonable debate.

It's time to start calling the America haters out for what they are, and stop responding to their theatrical accusations that anyone who disagrees with their immigration positions is anti-immigrant. There is no potential constructive outcome to be gained by being defensive toward people that could not care less what your motivation is for resisting them. I don't care why the left hates America, or why they are threatened by American exceptionalism or first principles, or why they recoil at the idea of an American melting pot. I just want their anti-American agenda defeated. Conversely, the left does't care why I think the American idea is worth protecting and preserving, they just see it as an obstacle. Hating America simply needs to become much less popular in America.

Obama provided the most succinct summary of the left's antipathy toward America when he boasted about being "days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America" to a cheering crowd...of Americans. This is the agenda of the American left in a nutshell. It's time for people that love America to recognize that they don't need to justify their resistance to the left's efforts to fundamentally transform their country. It's been time since 1965.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Crossroads

In 2007 G.W. Bush and John McCain led an effort to provide amnesty to millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States. That action would have led to long term democrat majorities at the national level and at lower levels in some regions of the country. Conservative Americans burned up the Washington DC phone lines and crammed the in-boxes of elected officials to stop Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR). The outcry was so intense that the CIR effort was stopped, and has not been able to gain traction for nearly a decade.

That effort to oppose the 2007 Comprehensive Immigration Reform was a harbinger of what would become the TEA party movement. The movement brought together a number of frustrated factions of Americans that were fed up with an unresponsive, and entirely self-absorbed political ruling class that spanned both major US political parties. Among the groups that would unite within the movement there was never universal agreement on policy or even principle. But the movement found success in its focus on areas of agreement.

Like a lot of folks that were cynical about the prospects of America's political future I was encouraged by the TEA party movement. I've long held the conviction that the solutions to our nation's political dysfunction must come from the bottom up, from the broad base of the American people. The fantasy of the politician hero, or champion, is an obstacle to getting the nation on the right course. A movement motivated by a few common principles, or simply goals, rather than teams and personalities held great potential for overcoming the wrong-direction-momentum dragging the nation down.

Today the future of that movement is unclear to me. The divisions among prior allies seem to deepen every day - a growing schism between Mark Levin and Alex Jones wings of the movement. These factions were formerly able to unite to defeat CIR, and to achieve off-year election victories in 2010 and 2014. To a surprising extent the divide is presently not respectful, constructive, or amicable. The antipathy between the wings is increasingly based on the willingness to support a specific politician.

This is not a post about the GOP nominee, but it is about the affect that nominee may have on the future of the conservative movement. Will the movement that coalesced around stopping CIR in 2007 find the will to do the same if Donald Trump supports some form of amnesty as President? Or will this simply be accepted as a non-politician's "common sense" solution to the illegal immigration problem, just part of a negotiation to get a wall built.

We just watched a GOP National Convention in which the nominee's daughter introduced her father with a speech that praised the moderate political center, decried the "gender pay gap", demanded a solution for student loan debt, and pined for universal child care. Within days of that speech Trump himself reaffirmed his support for increasing the minimum wage. The TEA party movement would have excoriated Mitt Romney or John McCain for these positions when they were the GOP nominees. But today much of that movement is silent on these topics. So what  gives?

I'm daily looking for reasons to be confident that the TEA party movement will be there to hold a President Trump accountable when he promotes these ideas from the White House. When the next TARP, or CIR, comes along will former allies oppose them together even if President Trump supports them? Will there be a new view of accountability based on relativism? Bad policy is bad policy even if the democrat's policy is worse. After months of hearing "conservatives" talk about cuckservatives and Constitution preachers while using the idea of electing a "pastor" as an epithet, my confidence that the movement hasn't accepted the promise of a wall as down payment on some Faustian bargain is pretty low.

One thing that a Trump presidency is likely to do for us is reveal the depth and persistence of the divide in the conservative movement. Tim Huelskamp lost his Kansas primary for US Congress yesterday. There is no way to characterize this loss as anything but a tragedy for conservatism, Americanism, or the conservative movement in general. There is no question that his opponent was a less conservative, establishment, candidate. Yet today I've seen a lot of celebration about Tim's defeat from people that have identified as conservatives - celebration based on nothing other than the opinion that Huelskamp waited too long to support Trump. That's a tough divide to bridge.

I'm looking forward to more battles where conservatives are united by principle, rather than divided by politicians. But for now, the silence from not a few that have previously spoken out is saying a lot.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Leftward listing

If there is enough evidence to legitimize the infringement of someone's natural rights, there is enough evidence to prosecute them. If there is not such evidence, there is no legitimacy in repressing the exercise of those rights. The presumption of innocence is a core tenet of the American philosophy of justice. Most Americans do not realize how rare this is in the world. When the US government starts promoting the need to compile lists for the express purpose of establishing a low bar for infringing on the natural rights of US citizens, it should be clear that we are confronted with the type of "experiment on our liberties" of which James Madison warned us.

The relationship that America's founders established between citizen and state is difficult to maintain in its proper balance (made difficult by basic human nature). Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a situation in which the presumptive presidential nominees of the two major parties are on board with abandoning the presumption of innocence, the right to confront one's accuser, and basic due process. The left has been on board with these ideas for quite some time. The increasing cries of support from republicans are deeply troubling.

In the last couple of days I've run across multiple facebook posts by conservatives vigorously defending Trump's intent to lobby the NRA in support of the idea of a "no-buy list" for firearms. I suspect that much of this is from folks that were previously ok with this type of infringement who are now emboldened to declare it by Trump's agreement with them, but that's just one man's guess. There is danger here in the potential for broadening the dilution of the 2nd Amendment across the spectrum of American politics and in increasing division among conservatives.

Conservatives that would traditionally speak out against a particular action taken by democrats and leftists, should not allow themselves to be silenced when a Republican politician takes that same action. The tendency for Trump’s supporters to defend him against any perceived attack is understandable. Unfortunately, some of that defense is morphing into a rejection of some foundational principles of conservatism, or perhaps it is morphing into a new level of comfort for expressing a pre-existing rejection of some conservative principles. Either way, there is a growing need to speak out, and to constantly seek to anchor our political positions to principles that aren’t subject to the winds of political change.