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July 31, 2015      4:44 PM

O’Donnell: Time for some predictions on politics and public personalities

Quorum Report’s Curmudgeon in Chief Edd O’Donnell finds a way, yet again, to give everyone something to be angry about even during the happy, sunny, days of Summer

The 2016 election cycle has started and the preliminary lunacy promises a plethora of inanity, lameness and outright stupidity on every front. Pop culture will weave into the political process as never before. Here are some predictions and observations FYE (For Your Entertainment) because substance will be as hard to find as an Astros fan in Arlington.

The Republican National Committee will secretly send money to support the Trump campaign to ensure his antics continue to distract from the fact that party candidates don’t have any realistic, workable answers to the nation’s most intractable problems.

The Democratic National Committee will secretly send money to support the Trump campaign to ensure his antics continue to distract from the fact that party candidates don’t have any realistic, workable answers to the nation’s most intractable problems.

Donald Trump – The Donald will soar on in various polls until October when he will announce he is merging his empire with the Kardashian holdings. In November, he will pick as his running mate rapper Kanye West. In April he will end third party speculation and become chairman of the board for the Hair Club for Men.

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By Edd O'Donnell

July 31, 2015      1:56 PM

Smith: Welcome to the Videoverse

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues dash cams, body cams, phone cameras, ubiquitous security cameras bring both good and bad; good, in the case of exposing police violence and other injustices; bad in the case of citizen versus citizen spying and loss of privacy.

It is a new world as law enforcement dash cameras and body cameras reveal a level of police violence, especially against minorities, that has been invisible to the public for far too long.

At the same time, we have the news covering illicit videos made by liars who fraudulently pretend to be people they are not. They set out with hidden cameras to entrap their fellow citizens they consider their enemies. I’m speaking, of course, of the James O’Keefe video storm troops or O’Keefe-inspired dirty tricksters like those recently in the news with their heavily edited Planned Parenthood videos.

They are, in effect, little Nixons mainstreaming dirty tricks into a citizen-versus-citizen racket that destroys trust, weakens society’s bonds and somehow mysteriously captivates the press, which should know better. It’s a mistake to feed these anti-social subterfugers (Can I can coin that word? Maybe spoken with a hard “g”?). If I lied and misled the press as often as these dirty tricksters do, I doubt reporters would even return my phone calls.

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July 29, 2015      2:54 PM

Patterson: My response to the GLO audit

In op-ed, former Land Commissioner of Texas Jerry Patterson says “I can’t speak to the motive of the current Commissioner for apparently endeavoring to drop his predecessor ‘in the grease’ but I would suggest he put more focus on doing his job and less on covering his derriere.”

Audits are a good thing. State agencies always learn things that help them improve their ability to perform their mission, and the recently released audit of the Texas General Land Office is no exception.

The State Auditor’s Office is a credit to Texas government. If I were going to engage an auditor, I would pick John Keel and his extremely professional crew. They are the best.  

However, an audit should be a two way endeavor where both the auditor and audit subject are engaged in the process. It is the responsibility of the agency to provide the rationale for certain decisions when the auditor finds an apparent discrepancy.

At least in one part of the recent Texas GLO audit that I have personal knowledge of, that appears not to have been the case.

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By Jerry Patterson

July 24, 2015      4:02 PM

Smith: Tragedy and Tragicomedy in Texas

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the tragedy of Sandra Bland overshadows a tragicomic Texas week that saw Donald Trump in Laredo, an indictment against Rick Perry upheld three Republican judges, and a grand jury investigation of Att. Gen. Ken Paxton.

A grand jury is considering felony charges against sitting Attorney General Ken Paxton. Former Gov. Rick Perry’s one-time general counsel, Bob Pemberton, writes a unanimous opinion upholding one of the felony indictments – abuse of power – against Perry. That brings the total number of Republican judges finding merit in the charges to five, by my count. So much for the “partisan witch hunt” cries of Perry’s $2 million dollar legal team.

The accusations against Perry are obviously serious enough that a battery of Republicans, from the judge who appointed the special prosecutor to the judge who appointed that judge to the judges of the 3rd Court of Appeals, take them seriously, no matter how hard Perry and his team try to persuade malleable pundits in Texas and elsewhere that the charges have no merit.  

Since it was unlikely Perry would confess and plead guilty, I guess he and his team had no other route to take, though. So be it.  

But that’s not all the post-4th of July fireworks that exploded in Texas this week.

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By Glenn W. Smith

July 23, 2015      1:25 PM

Greenfield: From the Perry Period of Prosperity to the Abbott Growth Decline

Resident number cruncher Dr. Stuart Greenfield says that while Texas continues to grow economically, revenue estimates for fiscal years 2016 and 17 will .likely not be nearly as rosy as had been estimated by the Comptroller

Yes, the state continues to prosper. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas projects economic growth will continue to be positive. But the rate of growth will be declining. Those with degrees in economics will tell you that the first derivative is positive while the second is negative.

This decline in state economic growth is already showing in the growth in state tax collections.

As Comptroller Glenn Hegar recently noted, the June state sales tax collections growth declined for the first time in 62 months. What was not mentioned by the Comptroller is that that the monthly growth rate in total tax collections has been negative for the past three months. 

This has resulted in the cumulative growth in state tax collections declining to 2.2 percent through June, as shown here in Figure 1.

The 2.2 percent cumulative growth rate through June is the lowest rate since August 2010.   While this rate of growth is greater than the 1.9 percent growth in the Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE) released in January, should the rate of growth (-2.2) experienced over the last four months continue for the remainder of the fiscal year, total tax collections will still be within 1 percent of the current estimate of $51.8 billion.

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By Dr. Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D.

July 20, 2015      2:38 PM

Ratliff: I stand by my numbers 100%

SBOE Vice Chairman Thomas Ratfliff says his point that charter schools are “politically connected” is proven by the fact that former Education Secretary Rod Paige and former Texas House Education Chairman Paul Sadler were eager to respond to his assessment of charters vs ISDs.

Editor’s note: A heated debated about charter schools began in the pages of QR when SBOE Vice Chair Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, last week offered this analysis of numbers comparing charter schools in Texas with ISDs. Former US Secretary of Education Rod Paige and former House Education Chair Paul Sadler took issue with that in this Quorum Report Op-Ed. Now, Ratliff fires back at Paige and Sadler, arguing that they’re helping him make his case.

First, Mr. Paige and Mr. Sadler must have missed my comment that there are good and bad ISDs and good and bad charters.  Some charters do a wonderful job, some not so much.  The same could be said for ISDs.  That's not the point.  This was a comparison of the total programs statewide.

More specifically, since Charters receive the "average" amount of state aid, they actually get more money than many schools districts in East Texas. 

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By Thomas Ratliff

July 17, 2015      1:08 PM

Smith: Life Under the Circus Big Top (And Where is the Jade Helm Invasion Anyway?)

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that we can't live on "circus candy" alone -- nonsense about Jade Helm, escaped cobras or anything Donald Trump ever says."

I have a sneaking suspicion that the U.S. military’s Jade Helm 15 exercise is already over. I think it was a psychological operation designed to test the reactions of various marginal groups to news that something like Jade Helm was underway. I’d say the experiment was a success.

So far, the paranoid paramilitary hobbyists who have fanned out to monitor the military exercise have seen nothing. Really. Nothing.

 Here’s how England’s Guardian newspaper described the embarrassing circumstance:

“A small town near Austin with a quaint Victorian downtown, Bastrop is supposed to be a hub of the vast US military training exercise that spans seven states and runs until 15 September. But Wednesday seemed to be a day like any other in Bastrop – which is to say not much was happening.

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By Glenn W. Smith

July 15, 2015      5:14 PM

Paige and Sadler: In response to Ratliff op-ed about charter schools

In op-ed of their own, former Education Secretary Rod Paige and former Rep. Paul Sadler take issue with SBOE Vice Chair Thomas Ratliff’s assessment of charters

We believe State Board of Education members should endeavor to present an accurate picture of public education in Texas, but Mr. Thomas Ratliff’s description of public charter school performance misses the mark.

As a former US Secretary of Education and as a co-author of the Texas Education Code rewrite (Ratliff-Sadler Act), we believe the 200,000-plus students in public charter schools and the 105,000 families waiting for a seat at a charter deserve the truth.

Every Texas student, their families, and even taxpayers without children in the public education system also have the right to expect our schools meet the constitutionally required “general diffusion of knowledge.” To do this, they must be fairly funded.

Texas public charter schools, like the vast majority of other public schools, have gone to court to claim their students receive insufficient state funding. The current funding system is unconstitutional, and all public education students suffer as a consequence. Mr. Ratliff fails to even mention that the funding gap between traditional public schools and charters is very significant. He makes no effort to factor in how this gap impacts performance.

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By Rod Paige and Paul Sadler

July 13, 2015      2:43 PM

Ratliff: Game, Set and Match

In op-ed, State Board of Education Vice Chairman Thomas Ratfliff argues that when compared with charters, “ISD’s are not perfect but they graduate more kids, keep more kids from dropping out and get more kids career and college ready than their politically connected competitors.”

Every year the Texas Education Agency releases the “snapshot” of the prior school year’s academic and financial performance for ISD’s and charter schools. These are the facts from the 2012-13 school year (the most recently released report, which was released last week). Check them for yourself here.

I offer the following key comparisons between ISDs and charter schools:

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By Thomas Ratliff

July 10, 2015      4:28 PM

Smith: Let’s do the time warp again

From the Left: QR’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that conservatives like Rick Perry will have to do more than pay lip service to African Americans and Hispanics if they expect earn their votes. Policies matter.

“It’s just a jump to the left,

And then a step to the right….”

--From “Time Warp,” in Rocky Horror Picture Show

 We are once again battling over battle flags of the Civil War (well, actually, the Confederate Flag is more a 20th Century symbol of racism and segregation, but still…). Xenophobes are busy calling all Mexicans “rapists” and criminals in exactly the same way earlier Anglo-Americans called the Irish, the Italians, the Polish, the Chinese, the Japanese and other newcomers such names.  

It’s long past time for the removal of the Confederate flag and government-sponsored memorials to the traitors who served the secessionists in the war to abolish slavery. It speaks poorly of us that it took an unspeakable tragedy like the murder of nine souls in Charleston to open our eyes to this need.

I’ve lived my entire life in Texas. It’s not exactly a Southern State. In fact, Gov. Sam Houston got thrown out of office for opposing secession. Texas is also a Western, or at least Southwestern State. This grants us benefits unavailable to the Deep South. Still, Texas culture has never really escaped its bigoted past. Talk of a post-racist culture is baloney.

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By Glenn W. Smith

June 26, 2015      3:48 PM

Smith: Here is "Days of Miracle and Wonder?"

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that recent progressive victories on health care reform, marriage equality and the Confederate flag should not fool us into thinking that Injustice doesn't remain at large in America

The Rev. William Barber, president of North Carolina’s NAACP and organizer of the Moral Mondays movement, had this to say about the tragedy in South Carolina and the removal of Confederate flags from Southern government buildings: “The perpetrator has been arrested but the killer is still at large.”  

Barber was referring to the deeply ingrained institutional racism, private bigotry and government-enforced economic inequality that remain across the land. While we applaud the recognition that racist symbols such as the Confederate flag have no place in America, much remains to be done to erase the root injustices.  

A day after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, the Court held bans on gay marriage to be unconstitutional. Like Paul Simon sang in different circumstances, “these are the days of miracles and wonder.” 

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By Glenn W. Smith

June 23, 2015      3:15 PM

Coppedge: Statewide Judicial races under way

Longtime observer of Texas judicial races Dr. John Coppedge takes a look at who is already running and speculates a bit on how it all might play out

The 2016 election season has begun. Candidates are already raising money and campaigning for the six statewide judicial spots in Texas – three Texas Supreme Court seats and three Texas Court of Criminal Appeals seats.

And once again the Republican Primary will determine the outcomes. Democrats will continue their electoral drought in statewide races that now extends over two decades.

The three incumbents on the Texas Supreme Court whose terms expire soon are, of course, all Republican and are all running for re-election. Justice Eva Guzman and Justice Paul Green will get universal support from those who historically take an interest in this court from the conservative side. To date, no potential Republican challengers have emerged for them.

It remains to be seen whether the personal injury bar mounts an effort to remove these two Justices like they tried to do in 2014 in an expensive but doomed attack on Chief Justice Nathan Hecht and Justices Phil Johnson and Jeff Brown.  

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By Dr. John Coppedge

June 19, 2015      2:54 PM

Smith: By ‘Freedom’ the Right Means “Obey Our Commands”

From the Left: Quorum Report’s liberal columnist Glenn W. Smith argues that the Right's complaints about attacks of religious liberty turn the Constitution on its head

A white man walks into an African American church in Charleston, says he wants to shoot black people and then kills nine black people.  But FoxNews and other hard Right sources claim it’s an attack on Christianity, not blacks. Is there anything more pathetic than Republican politicians being afraid to offend the racists in their base?

Yes, all of America is now marching on Christianity, according to the extremist Right. What a convenient argument to turn out the gullible at election time. But let’s move on to their more subtle “war on Christianity” arguments. Well, subtle is a charitable characterization because it’s rather brazenly bald-faced.

The hard Right’s corruption of the constitutional separation of church and state is hard to miss, though sadly many miss it. Their current argument: Opposition to their efforts to put their sectarian beliefs into public law is an attack on freedom of religion.

Their opposition to same-sex marriage and absolute bans on abortion, for instance, are based in their religious beliefs. They spring from particular Christian denominations that are at odds with many other Christian denominations and other faith traditions.

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By Glenn W. Smith

June 9, 2015      6:20 PM

Villalba: Together we are strong

Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, argues that outside forces trying to divide the Texas House have only served to bring real leaders together

As the dust settles from the tumult of another Legislative Session and as the punditry class begins to opine on the winners and losers of our grand, biennial, Texas conversation, it seems clear to me that when we work together, find consensus and abandon our rigidly-held ideological proclivities, we are able to strengthen, fortify and enhance the Great State of Texas for the betterment of all Texans.

My father is an airplane mechanic, with access to all kinds of interesting tools and materials that are necessary for his craft.  I was always fascinated by epoxies – which he often brought home to fix a broken chair leg or a cracked dish.  Epoxies are essentially two benign resins that, when mixed together, cure into an extremely strong bonding agent.  The cast of characters for this year’s session reminded me a little of my Pop’s epoxies.    

At the beginning of the 84th Legislative Session, there was a palpable sense that the internecine squabbles between the newly empowered, movement conservatives and the business-focused, establishment wing of the GOP would limit our ability to advance the agenda of Texas.  Based on the harsh rhetoric of a divisive election cycle and the vestigial animosity that permeated the early days of the Session, there was real concern that Republicans would be unable to work together to address the many challenges that our state faces.

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By Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas

June 3, 2015      1:28 PM

Bearse: Sine Die

From the Right: In his final regular column for QR, our conservative columnist Eric Bearse bids you adieu with some thoughts about the future of the GOP

You are reading my final column as a regular opinion columnist for Quorum Report. As George Strait would say, “Goodbye, farewell, so long, Vaya con Dios. Good luck, wish you well, take it slow. Easy come, girl, easy go.” Or as Rick Perry might say, “adios mofo.”

I started this venture around Memorial Day of last year. It has been a heck of a run. With the conclusion of the legislative session, I believe it is time for fresh voices with a different perspective. I am thankful to Harvey and Scott for the opportunity to splatterpaint their page with my random thoughts, blurts and incoherent ramblings.

I am not going anywhere – well, except to Dallas tomorrow for a speech that I helped Rick Perry write. It’s just a small announcement about his future. But I will remain the master of my domain here in Austin, which means I will continue to grumble about downtown streets missing car lanes, back-in parking and chicken salmonella bags.

And I will continue to ponder the direction of my own party. It hasn’t exactly left me, but there is a live hijacking being attempted. Soon enough, we shall know more about its destination.

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By Eric Bearse