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August 20, 2014      10:17 AM

Simpson: Proud of vote to keep PIU in Travis County DA's office instead of moving it to the AG's office

“It perplexes me that the same people who are decrying the actions of the Ethics Commission are also questioning the votes of members who opposed granting the Commission an unconstitutional task.”

Since Governor Perry’s indictment by a Travis County grand jury, I have received inquiries as to why I voted against an amendment that was intended to move the Public Integrity Unit (PIU) from the Travis County District Attorney’s Office to the Office of Attorney General. When I was first elected to the Legislature, I was advised to do the right thing and then explain it. Here is the explanation:

During the 83rd Legislature the District Attorney for Travis County was arrested for drunk driving and exhibited reprehensible behavior. In many cultures the public shame of such actions would result in an official’s voluntary resignation. There is however, no mechanism for the legislature to force the resignation of a locally elected official who has lost the public’s trust. That did not stop members of the legislature from trying.

Senate Bill 219, a bill which dealt with the Texas Ethics Commission and was vetoed by the Governor, presented the opportunity for a political statement through an amendment to “transfer the duties and responsibilities of the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County district attorney’s office to the office of the attorney general.”

The problem with the amendment was that the PIU is merely an organizational division within the office of the District Attorney. Travis County like the other 253 counties in the State, derive their authority to prosecute criminal violations from the Texas Constitution. The Attorney General has no such authority and the amendment would not have conferred it to him. Only a constitutional amendment can do so.

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By David Simpson

August 19, 2014      4:12 PM

Bearse:The Petty and the Partisan

Against backdrop of Perry indictments, some Republicans turn guns inward and others savor gamemanship

Let’s start with the most serious: the runaway grand jury and the prosecution of politics. The indictment of Governor Rick Perry late Friday has been the talk of the town, in fact the nation (note: the governor remains a client of mine). In the first 72 hours people of all political stripes have rallied to the governor’s side, decrying the criminalization of politics and an indictment based on what experts deem to be a weak case.

The prosecution has created a sort of alternative reality: that the veto itself was not the crime, but instead the alleged warning given ahead of time. So, no case could be made if the governor struck $7.5 million from the Public Integrity Unit out of the blue, but if he tried to give District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg the chance to step down in order to salvage the integrity of the unit, and therefore it’s funding, it is alleged to be a crime.

We don’t resolve our political differences by indictment, but by elections. One can disagree with the governor’s policy decision, but to deem his veto an abuse of power, and pursue charges against him for it, is ironically its own form of abuse of power.

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By Eric Bearse

August 15, 2014      2:17 PM

Stanford: Perry not getting second chance at first impression

From the left -- no fresh look from national press as Perry tries to re-brand himself

Al Gore never claimed he invented the Internet. Sarah Palin never said she could see Russia from her house. And when Dan Quayle visited Latin America, he never wished he had studied “Latin harder in school so I could converse with those people"—but they might as well have.

 Once the national media decides on a narrative, it is nearly impossible for a politician to get a rewrite. That’s what’s happening to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is begging for another crack at the role of a lifetime. Unfortunately, the press has decided that he’s just not what they’re looking for because he blew his last audition so badly. Perry would not concede this point on a return trip to the Iowa State Fair.

“I'm not saying it was necessarily bad. Life is about having experiences you can grow from. I had one in 2011 and 2012,” he said. “Being prepared physically, mentally, and intellectually is very, very important if you’re going to be running for the President of the United States.”

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By Jason Stanford

August 12, 2014      1:30 PM

Bearse: Self-Imposed Chaos

From the Right: QR’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse argues that President Obama has overreacted to the Bush legacy in such a way that puts the world at risk

Sunni terrorists under the banner of ISIL or ISIS are running around the Iraqi countryside beheading and crucifying men, women and children who don’t renounce their Christian Faith, and currently threatening massacre of our Kurdish Allies in the north. How did we get here, and do you care?

Some would observe that America cannot intervene every time atrocity raises its evil head. I would agree. But America can and should intervene when it created the conditions for such atrocity and when unchecked evil threatens our own existence. In other words, when it is in our national interests to militarily engage the enemy, we must do so.

A series of events led to the rapidly growing threat posed by ISIL fanatics. First, President Obama’s withdrawal of American troops was dictated by his campaign calendar. It was more important to him to say he ended a war than to end a war properly. You can blame President Bush all you want for the initial invasion, but we should not forget that the difficulties of 2006 and 2007 had been largely overcome. America needed to leave a contingency force to ensure a proper long-term transition to the Iraqi Army. It did not.

Now the president is engaging in revisionist history, saying it was an Iraqi decision to not establish a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), enabling a small American presence. So he ended the war, except the Iraqis ended the war. The fact is that he proposed dwindling the American presence from 20,000 troops to 5,000, leaving Malaki with a political problem: asking the Iraqi Parliament to approve a SOFA when the juice wasn’t necessarily worth the squeeze. Yet, today we have sent hundreds of American military advisors to Iraq without the approval of the Iraqi Parliament. It’s all a semantic charade for a President who refuses to admit he botched the withdrawal.

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By Eric Bearse

August 8, 2014      1:38 PM

Stanford: US needs Truth & Reconciliation

From the left -- US could draw a lesson from South African transition from apartheid to a black majority, starting with agreement "on an evidence based version of reality"

Men might be from Mars and women from Venus, but at least we’re in the same solar system. When it comes to politics, liberals and conservatives can’t agree on what the problems are much less solutions. We can blame the politicians for not making progress on the big issues of our time, but until Americans share a common truth about what those issues are we won’t move an inch.

An AP poll found that 74% of Americans had no confidence in the federal government’s ability to tackle our biggest problems, but the fault lies not with the politicians but the idiots who elect them. We have met the enemy, and boy howdy is he us.

Take global warming. Liberals—and virtually the entire scientific community—agree that human activity is changing the climate in dangerous ways. Conservatives, such as Louisiana state Rep. Lenar Whitney, claim that it is “greatest deception in the history of mankind.” This isn’t a fight over where to set the thermostat. This is a fight over whether there is a thermostat.

Conservatives believed government spending was holding our economy back. Others, such as liberal economist Paul Krugman, argued that we needed a bigger stimulus to replace the hole left by a cautious and wounded private sector. Krugman has a Nobel Prize in economic, and conservatives had talking points, but who are you going to believe?

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By Jason Stanford

August 5, 2014      4:36 PM

Bearse: Unity, Not Purity

From the right -- "A certain degree of zaniness has taken our party captive."

How would you like to be Vice President for six years, and still be 50 points behind in the race for your party’s nomination for the presidency? And to a candidate who has no professional record of accomplishment? Dick Cheney scowled his way to approval ratings below 20 percent, and still had a better shot at the presidency in 2008, without even being a candidate, than Joe Biden has in 2016.

The only time people notice Joe Biden is when he screws up – such as when he outed the president on gay marriage before the president was ready to admit where he really stood on gay marriage. Biden has taken to eccentric behavior in response to his fear of political abandonment, skinny dipping in front of the Secret Service agents charged with protecting his life. How lonely must be life at the Naval Observatory. He touches the Anointed One’s Cloak and gets political leprosy. It’s hard being Joe Biden.

But at least Joe Biden can say he is in power. Republicans would rather purify their ranks to permanent minority status than build a coalition to run the country. The Reagan Majority is a thing of the past. Many of those Reagan Democrats are Republican now, or dead. We’re still losing ground across the country. I bought into the Republican meme that all the polls were oversampling Democrats based on 2008 data. I thought Romney was going to win. Election night was a bitter pill to swallow. We not only lost, but lost every battleground state.

What Reagan achieved was jarring. He won over Democratic constituencies, including 40 percent of union voters. He brought together budget hawks and national security hawks. He ushered in a new era of evangelical involvement, and won over social conservatives concerned about abortion. He built a constituency of disparate parts under one party tent. We have been fraying ever since.

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By Eric Bearse

August 1, 2014      2:21 PM

Stanford: Obama's secret diplomatic victories

From the left-- The most important Obama foreign policy wins you never heard

I get it. When foreigners challenge America, we want our President to scream bloody murder and then send in the Marines to make sure it happens. Forget about talking softly. Go straight for the big stick. By contrast, diplomacy looks weak, like some tin-pot dictator from a nothing-burger country is pushing us around. But in case anyone cares to notice, the world may be falling apart, but Barack Obama has put together a string of surprising diplomatic victories.

The extension of the negotiating window with Iran came and went with little notice. The nuclear freeze in Iran should be a big deal. Thanks to our negotiations and economic sanctions, Iran has diluted its highly enriched uranium, agreed to in-person inspections and video surveillance, and ceased work on its heavy water plutonium reactor. But this progress is less well known than some state secrets, a mystery not just to Americans at large but most political insiders as well.

Another recent—and oddly secret—diplomatic victory took place in Syria. Of course, with Syria in the middle of a civil war, it looks like the country’s main export is bad news. And when Obama leveraged Russia’s relationship with Syria to broker a deal to get rid of the latter’s chemical weapons, Republicans said Vladimir Putin made Obama look weak.

A funny thing happened on the way to the GOP’s deification of Putin: While Syrians were busy shooting each other, the country’s last supplies of chemical weapons—600 metric tons of it—left Syria on a Danish ship under the supervision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. This is probably the best news you’ve never heard.

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By Jason Stanford

August 1, 2014      8:04 AM

Greenfield: As women's clinics close, state Medicaid costs will increase

"This increased number of births will result in Medicaid expenditures increasing by around $250 million a year after HB 2 is fully implemented."

A recent study from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TPEP) at the University of Texas reported that passage of House Bill 2 (HB2) by the Texas Legislature in 2013 resulted in reducing abortions by 9,200.  While some women may find out-of-state sites to have an abortion, we should expect additional births in Texas.  These additional births will have an impact on state finances.

As shown in Chart #1, more than 55 percent of the births in the state in 2010 were paid for by Medicaid.  In fiscal year 2010, the Medicaid program spent $2.6 billion to cover the delivery of 221,000 babies, at an average cost of $11,600, each.

By projecting the proportion of births that will be covered by Medicaid and the increase in delivery costs, one can derive an estimate of the impact HB 2 has and will have on state finances.  Should the current trend continue, the proportion of births in the state covered by Medicaid will be around 60 percent in 2014.  Average cost per Medicaid beneficiary increased by 5.4 percent per year between 2004 and 2010.  Had this rate of increase continued, the average cost per Medicaid covered birth in 2014 would be around $14,000 per beneficiary.

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By Stuart Greenfield, Ph.D.

July 29, 2014      2:08 PM

Bearse: Conventional Wisdom and Henri, Le Chat Noir

From the Right: QR’s conservative columnist Eric Bearse argues the best name the Democrats have on this year’s ballot is Jim Hogan because he’s the un-candidate: “If Hogan pulls this off, his campaign will be studied for decades. And Wendy Davis’ campaign will be studied for ten minutes.”

The definition of conventional wisdom is that which has yet to be proven wrong. For instance, conventional wisdom says a lot of Republicans will vote for Senator Leticia Van De Putte for lieutenant governor because they dislike Dan Patrick. It is said to be conventional wisdom in Austin, which means it was promulgated in a bar and made it to a blog. From there, it took a life of its own; a meme that rings true until proven false. In other words, until November.

Look, I know some insiders will vote for Van De Putte. Some may even call themselves Republicans. Or scoundrels. Or lobbyists. And this protest vote will change the overall total by 0.0001 percent. In other words, she will win Travis County even bigger. The problem is the other 253 counties.

And the sad irony for Democrats is they have long assumed Hispanics will vote in large numbers for Hispanic Democrats. Because that is just what Hispanics do. It’s conventional wisdom. But what if her name is Belgian? Or Dutch? Or Flemish?

My name is English. But I am most closely aligned with the Finns in terms of bloodlines. Well, and Germans and the crazy Dutch too. But if I ever ran for office, I would not win the Finnish colonies with a name like Bearse. Too many vowels for the Finns. The Finns would stay home. I would lose.

The best Democratic name on the ballot is not Davis, Van De Putte or even Sam Houston (that sounds too much like one of those crackpots who actually changed his name to be famous instead of making his name famous.) The best name is Hogan. He is the ultimate un-candidate. He is better than Cola. He is Un-Cola.

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By Eric Bearse

July 24, 2014      10:40 AM

Stanford: Phil King's problem with prosecutors

From the left--King's has history with Public Integrity which is looking at a criminal complaint filed against him

Ethics enforcement in Texas is so relaxed that you really have to put your back into corruption to draw the interest of prosecutors. You can launder corporate money, like Tom DeLay did. You can take bribes, like one judge named Angus McGinty did when he exchanged favorable rulings for car repairs. That fella made life easier for prosecutors when they found a text message he sent to the person bribing him that read, “I’m a whore for money.”

Or you can do something with more creativity, more flair. Sometimes it takes a guy like state Rep. Phil King to really make a statement by making it a policy not to disclose in-kind gifts. According to Assistant District Attorney Rob Drummond, the Travis County Public Integrity Unit has received a criminal complaint and is “reviewing it to determine whether to open a criminal investigation.”

In June, Denton resident Aaron Renaud filed a complaint with the Public Integrity Unit that largely covered the same ground that Betty Richie covered with her ethics complaint against Tom Craddick in May. Both Renaud and Ritchie allege that Rep. Tom Craddick funneled $25,000 into his daughter’s Railroad Commission campaign by giving it to Phil King who gave it to the Dallas-Fort Worth Conservative Voters PAC to do turnout for Christi Craddick in North Texas. Concealing a contribution in this way is a no-no, but King messed up when he didn’t disclose the contribution from Tom Craddick until after Ritchie filed her complaint, but that’s probably not enough to draw a look from prosecutors.

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By Jason Stanford

July 22, 2014      3:27 PM

Bearse: Rethinking Rick Perry

From the right: The maturing of Perry as national personality is more than just repackaging

I am loathe to make predictions about politics – especially about elections more than two years away. Ask me who the Republican nominee for president will be, and I will say, “ask me in August, 2016.” Ask me who the Democratic nominee will be, and it is tempting to go with the presumptive favorite Hillary Clinton, but in this case I will take the field. She’s like California Chrome before the Belmont, only there has been no Kentucky Derby or Preakness where she enters the race on a winning streak.

I think Democrats will figure out their nomination is worth fighting for, not a coronation because “it’s my turn.” Look how well that message worked for Senator Hutchison’s gubernatorial bid in 2010.

I don’t know what my old boss, Rick Perry, will do. I don’t know if he will run, or ride off into the sunset. But if he runs, we may very well look back on this period as his “training montage,” like in the movie “Rocky.” Rocky hit the gym, Perry hit the books, and they both began the transformation from street fighter to contender.

First, you have to look at the political backdrop. We have a president who won’t even acknowledge that the crisis at the border is worthy of a visit. Imagine if President George W Bush did a fundraiser in Shreveport and didn’t adjust his schedule to see New Orleans right after Katrina had hit. This is the group that likes government solutions. Why can’t they come up with any?

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By Eric Bearse

July 18, 2014      5:36 PM

Updated - Rottinghaus: Which conservative groups endorsed best?

University of Houston political scientist ranks the success rates of Empower Texans, Texas Right to Life, and others in the primaries

With the 2014 primaries and runoffs in the books, the refrain nationally and internationally is that the Tea Party ran the table in Texas.  The New York Times reported that the “Tea Party Holds Sway,” the Wall Street Journal wrote that the election showed the “Tea Party’s Muscle,” while the Daily Mail in the United Kingdom proclaimed a “Tea Party Takeover.” 

Does the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party control the Republican nomination politics in Texas?  Texas is undoubtedly conservative but there is variation in which groups have the most sway.  One way to look at which groups are most influential is to examine the successful percentage of endorsed candidates in the primary and runoffs.  An endorsement from a political group signals to voters that the endorsed candidate’s views are seminal to those of the organization and gives us a window into their influence on the Republican electorate.  The voter guides produced by each political organization is a shorthand way for voters to understand the views of the groups. 

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By Brandon Rottinghaus

July 18, 2014      9:41 AM

We cannot leave these men behind

From the Left: Our liberal columnist Jason Stanford argues that Congress needs to act quickly to save the lives of Afghan interpreters who put it all one the line for the United States

The situation on Texas’ southern border is not the only refugee crisis facing the United States. Thousands of Afghan interpreters who need to get out before the Taliban kills them for collaborating with U.S. troops are stuck over there because the State Department has run out of visas. Make no mistake, this is a test of our national character: These men risked their lives to help us bring democracy to Afghanistan, but they might die because our government doesn’t work.

About 6,000 interpreters need to come here, and we’ve only got 3,000 slots left. We can either start digging 3,000 graves in Afghanistan, or we can remember that we’re the country that put a dozen men on the moon. We can do big things, and this is just paperwork. This should not be that hard.

As fun as it may be to blame feckless diplomats working for Hillary Clinton and now John Kerry, the number of visas the State Department is allowed to hand out is limited under the Special Immigrant Visa program set to expire in September. That means the only solution lies in the greatest deliberative body in this history of the world, the United States Congress.

Yes, I know. This is the same congress that only gets a 7% confidence rating from Americans, which according to Gallup, is the worst rating recorded for any institution. Ever. A 2013 poll found that cockroaches, head lice, colonoscopies, and—ugh—political pundits were more popular than congress, which is on track to pass the fewest non-ceremonial bills. Ever. So yes, at this point I’m willing to engage in a little empty flattery to move this along.

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By Jason Stanford

July 15, 2014      3:35 PM

Bearse: Dignity and Security

From the right: QR's conservative columnist argues that Evangelicals should indeed care about immigration, "but their chief concern should be treating all people as if they were made in the image of God. Because they are."

Whatever your politics, what is happening at the border is a humanitarian crisis. Dead children have washed ashore in the Rio Grande River. A 15-year old Guatemalan boy was found in dessert brush, dead from heat stroke. Little children are stuffed into makeshift detention centers where conditions are squalid.

It breaks my heart that young children would take a perilous journey by train to get to America, unaccompanied by adults, exploited by coyotes and traffickers. It’s a human tragedy. And like Hurricane Katrina, Texans are showing their love for their fellow human beings knows no bounds. Charities are standing in the gap for these children. So are Border Patrol and Texas law enforcement, even if it is not what they are trained to do. We will do right by these kids. The question is whether we will actually fix the problem.

The sad reality is that the only way to stop new waves of illegal migrants is to send home those who have already arrived on our border. The Obama Administration must work with Congress to change the law for child migrants not from contiguous countries. They must also unravel a 2012 decision that helped open the floodgates.

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By Eric Bearse

July 14, 2014      2:16 PM

Greenfield: These folks do not seem to understand state finances

Economist Stuart Greenfield argues that those promoting E-Fairness don’t quite get it

In a recent Quorum piece entitled “Lawmakers propose Laffer plan replacing margins tax with sales tax from out of state vendors,” a number of Republican state representatives and others representing Republican affiliated groups presented a plan that “a free market—unencumbered by government regulations or intervention—is the key to economic prosperity.”  To promote this objective, the group promotes Dr. Arthur E.B Laffer, Ph.D, “E-Fairness and the Texas Franchise Tax.” 

Dr. Laffer is the author of the original 2009 study, “Enhancing Texas’ Economic Growth Potential Through Tax Reform,” that the Texas Public Policy Foundation offered to replace property taxes with an increased sales tax.  Unfortunately, Dr. Laffer’s calculations were incorrect, and his original calculations significantly underestimated the increase in the sales tax rate required to replace property taxes.  This was corrected in the second edition, released in 2011.

In his current research, Dr. Laffer has once again demonstrated his lack of knowledge of this state’s taxes.  How is this lack of knowledge demonstrated?  Let me explain.

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By Stuart Greenfield

July 11, 2014      10:41 AM

Stanford: This is our Katrina moment

From the Left: Our liberal columnist argues that Obama is missing a huge opportunity to showcase the real life consequences of broken immigration laws

Before we move onto the next crisis, let’s get one thing straight about what’s happening on the Texas border. This is not Barack Obama’s Katrina moment.

This is everyone’s Katrina moment.

I do not relish criticizing Obama. I have defended him on Benghazi, the IRS, Edward Snowden, and countless other contretemps and kerfuffles. And he’s right that if Congress had passed immigration reform years ago we would not have 52,000 children from Central America in South Texas right now.

But right now, Barack is blowing it by not going to visit those children.

"There is nothing that is taking place down there that I am not intimately aware of and briefed on," said Obama. "This isn't theater, this is a problem. I'm not interested in photo-ops, I'm interested in solving the problem.”

He’s right up to a point, but boy howdy is he wrong about this not being theater. The President is our leading man, and by not going to the border to witness the situation first-hand he is missing an opportunity to lead. Instead, he believes that intellectual abstractions and political infighting suffice to carry the day. They don’t.

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By Jason Stanford

July 9, 2014      8:46 AM

Carona: Major Challenges ahead for Business and Commerce

Payday lending reform will face an even tougher environment, outgoing Chairman says

My service as Chairman of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee has been extremely rewarding but also challenging as the committee is charged with addressing some of the state's most intractable issues.

Looking to the next legislative session, I see several priorities for the committee, including addressing issues with the state's insurer of last resort, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, or TWIA. TWIA's continued viability is of vital importance to businesses and residents along the Texas Gulf Coast. Unfortunately, TWIA has been and remains financially unsound and is not positioned to meet its obligations if a major storm were to hit the coast during this hurricane season. While the Legislature has reformed certain aspects of the challenges facing TWIA, major changes are still needed. The billions of dollars in potential losses above what TWIA could cover in the event of a major storm pose a significant risk to the entire state.

The Business and Commerce Committee has looked at this issue in-depth for several sessions and I expect that it will be considered again in the upcoming session. As he has in the past, look to Representative John Smithee to take a lead in the House and to Senator Larry Taylor, who is a coastal member and is currently Vice Chairman of the Business and Commerce Committee, to do the same in the Senate.

As always, Texas' energy supply remains a challenge and one that the committee will most likely monitor and address as needed. Texas has seen an increased demand on the electric grid due to weather events and a rapidly growing population. And, as with our water supply, ensuring an adequate and reliable supply of electricity is critical to the state's continued economic growth. Addressing this issue will require the Legislature and the Public Utility Commission to play the long game, ensuring they are crafting solutions that will serve Texans for years to come.

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By John Carona

July 8, 2014      4:44 PM

Bearse: Entitled

“We want what we want, and we want it now. The same applies to our politics. What else could explain a country that borrows $2 for every $5 it spends? We drive dealer-financed cars on bond-financed roads to and from our bank-financed homes.”

The rest of this screed will read like a self-indictment. And I plead guilty as charged.

Our culture has gone to hell. I’m not talking as a middle-aged man who bemoans the number of tattoos on young people these days – though if you have been to Schlitterbahn lately it looks like an NBA training camp for normal-sized people. Sure, there may be some self-loathing in all that body art, or the nose rings, or the Bridgestone tires lodged in the Starbucks barista’s ears. But I am less concerned about appearances as I am about our collective emotional maturity. We have gone Benjamin Button on dog years – adults who are really 13 years old.

We call the World War II generation the greatest generation. We are the entitled generation. We live to be entertained. The sports that get the greatest ratings involve the most action and lots of points. Football is our favorite because it involves high-speed collisions, constant action and scoring.  Our national pastime, baseball, is like a living fossil – it reminds us of a bygone era, when families would gather around the radio and listen to a game, entertained by what played out in their own imagination. Today, baseball suffers because it is not a great TV sport: there’s not enough scoring, and you have to sit through pitching changes, throws over to first and all kinds of other modern-day torture that doesn’t satiate the modern-day fan who will look at his or her Twitter feed ten times an inning. The only time it was really interesting was when guys were ‘roided up and breaking home run records. Now even the home run derby is as boring as the Internet on dial-up.

Soccer may be the emerging exception – a sport where it is hard to score, where it is still possible to finish with a tie, and attempts at goal are frequently frustrated. I love the World Cup. But I think a lot of the fervent fandom of the last month will recede when it is over. We like to root for America. Will we start rooting for the Houston Dynamo? Did you even know they have won two titles in recent years? If it takes off, it may be a function of our changing demographics more than anything else.

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By Eric Bearse

July 5, 2014      8:52 AM

Stanford: Lessons of West go unlearned

From the left -- Republicans sacrifice basic public safety for profits

Texas has such a business-friendly regulatory environment that it can best be described as “free range.” Recently a Democratic lawmaker gently suggested making it illegal to store dangerous chemicals in flammable buildings, and Republicans jumped to defend the exploding fertilizer plant industry. Even after the explosion in West that killed 15 people, Texas Republicans maintain that these things happen and that it’s not the government’s job to keep us from being blown up.

The only preventable tragedy these Republicans can see is the one that might drive up the cost to the exploding fertilizer plant industry. This is why so many of us drink in Texas. Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” but what if the change you wish to see is someone slapping some sense into these guys? Shall I be a cast iron skillet, because being a voter hasn’t done me much good.

The regulations proposed do not seem unreasonable. After studying the West explosion for more than a year, Texas Rep. Joe Pickett thinks—stay with me here—that stuff that could explode should be stored in containers that won’t burn. In West, ammonium nitrate was stored in a wooden container. The state fire marshal says there are 46 places in Texas that store exploding fertilizer in wooden buildings.

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By Jason Stanford

July 1, 2014      1:48 PM

Bearse: An Insider Against Insiders…And Other Nonsense

From the right -- Conventions are ripe for partisan raw meat. And for Wendy Davis, stunning a thought on "pendejos"

Her theme is that Greg Abbott is an “insider” who has taken care of insiders. She said the word so many times in her late-night convention speech that it would have made for an interesting drinking game (by the way, why do Democrats complain about Friday night debates and then slot their gubernatorial nominee for a 9:00 p.m. speech on Friday night?)

But Senator Davis’ record is replete with insider dealings. In 2011, the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) sought to hire counsel for land condemnation work. They set up a process for reviewing bids. On the day of the vote to decide the issue, former Fort Worth Mayor Ken Barr put forward a new bidder – Newby Davis – that had not been vetted as part of the process. In an apparent political power play, his unvetted recommendation was agreed to, making a mockery of the review process. It appears Davis’ cynical act of forming a minority-owned business gave NTTA an opportunity to fulfill its expressed goal of granting minority contracting opportunities, while padding her pocket.

Davis admitted she formed a separate firm with African-American attorney (and my former colleague in Gov. Perry’s office) Brian Newby to attract minority contracts in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram  (“Tollway Authority's Way Of Doing Business Comes Under Scrutiny,” 10/16/11):

“Some recent changes at NTTA have created new layers of controversy. For example, tollway board members talked about the need to hire more minority-owned contractors, and took a step in that direction this year in hiring the law firm Newby Davis to provide legal services for right of way purchase on the Chisholm Trail Parkway project. … ‘So long as the work is not related to any decisions I make in the Senate, there is no conflict,’ Davis said. ‘Together with the NTTA's goal of spreading work around Dallas-Fort Worth, and using minority-owned firms, Brian and I created a minority-owned law firm. There's absolutely no conflict whatsoever.’”

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By Eric Bearse

June 27, 2014      2:09 PM

Stanford: Terrorist aren't patriots

From the left--"...More Americans have died at the hands of radical, anti-government Americans since 9/11 than because of Islamic jihadist terrorism"

<>It is getting harder to tell the right-wing nut jobs who shoot law enforcement officers from the right-wing politicians running for president. America has always had its share of John Birchers hoarding guns for a coming revolution. What’s new is that the GOP has mainstreamed radicalism and turned violently anti-government rhetoric into Republican Party doctrine.

This kind of thing has been bubbling in the Republican Party stew since Barack Obama won in 2008, and it used to be a bigger deal. When Nevada Senate candidate Sharon Angle repeatedly said in 2010 that the Second Amendment was there to keep the federal government honest, it made national news. Likewise in 2011 when Rick Perry called quantitative easing by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke “treasonous” and famously threatened, “We would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas,” his warning seemed like an important early signal that the Governor was not ready for prime time.

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By Jason Stanford

June 24, 2014      5:05 PM

Bearse: Easy Come, Easy Go

From the right--the rapidly disappearing Constitution

Dear George, Tom and Ben:

All good things must come to an end. You had a good run for the last 227 years, but we are moving on. Sorry about the many months you sweated it out in Philadelphia to establish a Constitution that enshrines power with the people. We are so over that. We now have an Imperial Presidency.

It turns out the Constitution you wrote is “living” – which means you guys are not as smart as you thought. Ben, I know you were a renowned scientist, but there’s no way you could grasp that the horse you rode was releasing greenhouse gases. If Congress doesn’t deal with horse emissions, the president will.

I had thought that whole checks and balances thing would preserve your experiment, but then Chief Justice John Roberts decided the Court needed to worry about political approval instead of jurisprudence, and ruled the ObamaCare mandate constitutional in the form of a tax. So Washington can now mandate that Americans purchase a product, or more specifically tax us if we don’t. This living Constitution thing is quite clever: with enough evolution, little by little, it just doesn’t exist anymore.

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By Eric Bearse