The Case of the Invisible Congressional Seat #34

A revelation on the inefficiency of government.

By Flabber DeGasky




This story is merely a trifle to illustrate a point, one I think we can all, Democrats and Republicans alike, agree on: the general inefficiency of government.

After the 2010 census Texas was slotted to pick up four congressional seats. So of course, many with political aspirations began to speculate on where those seats might show up and who could run for them.  One of those seats will most likely end up in the North Texas area, possibility Dallas or Collin county. If you are unaware, the process of adding congressional seats can be a lengthy one. Between political jostling and gerrymandering, what should be a simple procedure can be drawn out for months. In Texas, it could be the end of the year before the Texas state legislature decides the exact areas of the congressional seats.

A friend and political associate, Dan Morenoff, approached me early in the year saying he hoped to run for the seat if it ended up in Dallas. He had already put together an exploratory committee. However, the process of getting the committee turned out to be more trouble than he originally expected.

Dan put together the paperwork for the exploratory committee (you have to register and let the government know when you even want to consider running for public office, mostly this has to do with fundraising because God knows we can’t do anything with our money without alerting the proper authorities).  When Dan filled in the paperwork, he left the seat he was running for blank. Why? Because the seat doesn’t actually exist yet. This was not acceptable. The following is the conversation that took place between Dan and our trusty government worker [dramatic reenactment] via phone.

Gopher: I’m sorry sir, you didn’t list the congressional seat you are wanting to run for on your paperwork.

Dan: Yes, I know. I can’t list the seat because it doesn’t exist yet.

Gopher: Sir, I need the number of the seat.

Dan: It doesn’t have a number, yet. It will be for one of the new congressional seats in Texas.

Gopher: Sir, your paperwork is required to have a number on it.

Dan: I’m trying to explain that there isn’t a number.

Gopher: I understand that sir, but it’s required on the paperwork.

Dan: But I don’t want to list the number for an existing congressional seat. Then whoever has that seat will think I’m running against them, when I’m not.

Gopher: Sir, I can’t file this paperwork without a number.

Dan (after a quick google): Fine. There’s no Texas Congressional 34, so I’m running for that seat, will that work?

Gopher: Okay, seat 34.

Dan: Wait, so it doesn’t matter what number I give you? I could just make one up and you’d take it? Even if I’m running for seat 154,895th?

Gopher: No sir, that’d be silly.

So Dan is running for the invisible congressional seat, Texas 34th. Vote for/donate to him. Cheers to government inefficiency.

Texas Takes Steps Against Voter Fraud: Will anyone else?

Voter ID required in Mexico

In my family, registering to vote went hand-in-hand with entering adulthood. On my 18th birthday, I excitedly registered. Even though, at the time, I would not consider myself politically active (I believed all politicians to be corrupt so I disdained getting involved), I still understood the immense importance of my right to vote.

In 2004, I went to the polls for the first time. After waiting in line a good twenty minutes, my turn finally came. The older man behind the counter asked for my voter registration. I handed him my card and my license. The man handed the license back without even a cursory glance.

“I don’t need that,” he said.

I stared down at my driver’s license. “What? Why not?”

“Just need this card,” he responded.

“But how do you know that’s me?” I asked.

The man stopped and looked at me, “Its not required.”

“But–” I began again.

“Ma’am, I don’t need your license.”

This dumbfounded me. How easy would it be for someone else to vote for me? How did they know that card really represented me without some kind of proof? I shoved my drivers license back in his face. “Would you please just look at it?” I firmly requested.

“Ma’am I don’t need–”

“I know,” I responded, cutting him off, “but it would make me feel better if you did.”

So he looked at me, look at my license, looked at my voter ID and handed them both back. “Thank you for voting.”

This simple act of just visually confirming my identity seemed obvious to my teenage-self. But most states in the US do not utilize this simple technique against voter fraud.

Texas only recently passed a photo ID law (after much ridiculous stalling in the Texas State legislature by Democrats), making it the 9th state with this requirement. 18 other states require an ID (with or without a photo), meaning only 27, barely over half, of our states require some regulated form of identity as proof before voting. Now, other states still have voting requirements just not as stringent.

Why do we not have more states falling in line with ID-based voting? Especially, when we still see and hear about voter fraud (and if you don’t believe voter fraud exists go pick up a copy of My Fall from Grace: City Hall to Prison Walls by James J. Laski). Yet, other countries have far more aggressive measures to prevent fraud. Mexico not only uses pictures, but also biometrics.

Just to get pictures passed in the Texas legislature took months of arguing. So the prospect of getting more states to agree to these limitations sounds nearly insurmountable despite competition from other countries. Protecting the vote in America still has a long way to go.

Smart Meters in Texas Assume You Are Stupid

Today’s post was actually an email I received from Gail Spurlock. She gave me permission to reprint her email (as I thought it was informative and pressing). The text has only minor edits for better readability.

The following is a notification from my neighborhood group about the coming of Smart Meters to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and an email reply from Oncor when I asked them what I needed to do to be exempted from this program (answer is no).

You are going to pay for the cost of the meter at a rate of between $2.00 and $3.00 per month for the next 11 years.  There is no indication that eliminating the manual meter reading is going to reduce the cost of service even though it is supposed to eliminate manual meter reading.

This technology allows the service provider to monitor your electrical usage minute by minute.  This means that they will be able to determine when you are home and when you are not, when you have visitors or other unusual activity.  Think 4th Amendment – Illegal search and seizure.

It also lays in the infrastructure to enable selective rationing.  Does anyone think that political rationing is not possible?  I had seen numerous articles about this topic over the years, but never expected anything so Orwellian to be implemented in Texas.  Per the following email from Oncor, this is another example of the Obama administration’s strategy of using administrative fiat [Public Utility Commission of Texas] to circumvent the political process, where citizens actually have some influence.  I have not yet researched this to find out how long this has been in the works or if there were ever any public hearings.

This brings two thoughts to mind:

  1. What else is going on under the radar to infringe upon our liberties that we don’t know about (think Agenda 21?).
  2. Class action lawsuit anyone?  Other legal challenge to the constitutionality?

Here is a link to a map showing the deployment schedule:      http://www.oncor.com/tech_reliable/smarttexas/deployment_map_metro.pdf

Here is a website dedicated to Texas and smart meters:     http://www.oncor.com/tech_reliable/smarttexas/default.aspx

Text of email notification that I received:

Greenwood Hills Neighbors,

Below is an invitation to learn about the meters and how we can reduce our energy consumption.

Oncor will begin changing existing meters to Smart meters in West Richardson in the very near future. This will be the entire area of Richardson West of Highway 75. Please find attached a Media Advisory in preparation for the arrival of our Mobile Experience Center (MEC) that will be in the Kroger parking lot at the NE corner of Coit & Beltline on Thursday, March 17th from 3pm to 7pm and on Friday, March 18th from 10am to 2pm. Please encourage your homeowners and their families to visit the Mobile Experience Center to learn about the meters and how they can reduce their energy consumption. They can also register to win a $100.00 gift card that will be awarded at the end of the two day event. Please distribute this information to your homeowners and I will be happy to answer any questions anyone may have.

Thanks

Barry J. Young
Area Manager
Oncor Electric Delivery

Here is the email response from Oncor when I asked if I could prevent the installation of the Smart Meter:

Ms. Spurlock,
Thank you for contacting Ask Oncor.

Unfortunately, there is no action that you can take to prevent Oncor from installing a “smart meter”. Oncor along with other transmission and distribution utilities (TDU’s)  in the State are required to replace all mechanical meters with smart meters in accordance with their advanced metering deployment plans approved by the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

There are a lot of benefits to the new meters. They can be read remotely and have two-way communication capability, that gives us an ongoing picture of the electric system that will aid in identifying trouble spots and minimize the duration of power outages.

Smart meters provide detailed information on your energy consumption that can be used to better manage your usage and potentially save you money. These meters support energy conservation strategies, allows the consumer to make informed decisions about their energy consumption and improves the overall reliability and efficiency of our system.

If you would like to discuss this further please do not hesitate to contact me at 214-486-5341.

Best Regards,

Bridget McNeill

Market Ops Business Analyst

“Ask Oncor” Team

214-486-5341

214-486-7617

bridget.mcneill@oncor.com

Find out more about what’s going on with the Smart Meters in California as well, they are also resisting this technology.

Dallas Falls from Conservative Grace

Across the county, Republicans took the midterms by storm, scoring seat after seat in national, state and local elections. But deep in the heart of Bible Belt, the bastion of conservatism, the leader of Red state initiatives, the city of Dallas fell from Grace in no uncertain terms. Texas has led the charge on redefining Republicanism. Other conservative states look to the Big T as a place where those on the Right live safely and even thrive, carrying on our fiscal and moral values in a kind of mini utopia of Republican values.

But that dream is now shattered in Dallas County. Some conservatives in Texas had expressed concerned over the growing Democratic strongholds in the state, as each metropolitan area turned to blue. Big Blue cities is nothing new in the political landscape, and in Texas, these rogue Blue areas were shrugged off by most Republicans. And why not? These cities aren’t the majority. Texas still bleeds red.

However, last night’s dismal results for conservatives in Dallas should send up a warning flag, not just to Texas but to Republicans everywhere. We are no longer safe. We cannot trust that the tide will carry us. We have to fight for our values all the way to the bottom of the ballot or we could lose everything.

It seemed like the perfect set-up for a victory. The political momentum of the entire country pointed to wins for Republicans. Dallas County had a slew of truly great candidates, candidates who had experience, did the work and connected with voters. Volunteers came out of the wood-work, voters showed up angry. How could we lose? But instead of the expected upset, Republicans in Dallas county lost seats. In fact, no wins for new candidates below the State Representative position. We lost judges, a county Commissioner and failed to win the hard-fought District Attorney race.

How did this happen? Voters and officials took a Dallas win for granted. Leadership wasn’t strong enough. Even some voter fraud occurred in South Dallas. Overall: we just weren’t vigilant enough. If we ever want to win again, we need to focus.

There are certainly a few areas that could stand obvious improvement. In the future, we need more interaction between top and bottom candidates. There has to be mutual support. Communication across the board could use some tweaking. And there has to be a new emphasis on reaching independents. Die-hard Republicans will turn out to vote in an angry election like this one, but it’s the newly political and middle of the road voters that need someone to hold their hand. Dallas also needed to emphasize better messaging (including social media), Democrats still managed to push more blogging than we did. Finally, Republicans needed to provide more “reward” for volunteers. It doesn’t need to be monetary, but recognition and a position of authority can go along way for someone giving their free time.

Dallas isn’t totally alone. Other Republican cities show similar symptoms. Right now, while our Party’s in power, we have a chance to change it. But we can’t become arrogant, we can’t overlook the real needs; if we do we will watch other Republican strongholds turn Blue just like Dallas. And if Dallas County doesn’t get a hold of its situation, we could be lost to the liberal agenda and begin a chain reaction in Texas; the kind Republicans have nightmares about.

 

(Also see Denise McNamara, former Texas National Committeewoman’s response to last night’s loses.)

10 Reasons Why This Republican Thinks Perry Should Debate White

Make no mistake, I’m voting for Perry. To me, there’s no other choice for Governor, despite that I did not support him in the primary and would have preferred a different Republican nominee. But when it comes down to my moment in the box I will happily check R for my state.

However, I think that current Governor Rick Perry is making a huge mistake by refusing to debate his Democratic opponent or even speak to the news media. I have expressed my concern over Perry’s media phobia both publicly and directly to his staff and/or supporters. Responses have been everything from shrugs to outright accusations that I have been “duped by the liberal media”. The most rational response has been “Why debate when you’re winning?” So here are my top then conservative reasons for wanting to see Rick Perry debate Bill White.

  1. Engage New Voter Blocks: Obama really did create change. With deficit spending, unemployment and healthcare we saw a new breed of conservatives step up and open their mouths. The Tea Party Rallies across the national brought out new blood. But not all these new activist subscribe to the die-hard Republican values. They need their candidates to prove their worth. Even though Perry has a long track record, many of these recently political voters want to hear from Perry’s own mouth what he plans to do to combat the growing fiscal liberalism in our country. While many Texas Republicans will pull the lever for R without even thinking, this new, vocal segment of the voting population (who call themselves moderates, independents or conservatives–but not Republicans) will read newspapers and carefully consider the merits of both candidates before casting their ballot. And who is pandering to those voters? Not Perry.
  2. You Know What They Say About Assumptions: While we’re on the subject of new, or at least more active voters, let’s not just assume that Republicans will fall-in behind Perry blindly. Perry’s overall approval is good but some voters, even Republican ones are concerned with a few of his decisions whether they be about tollroads or living quarters. Assuming that without effort he can win Republicans is presumptuous at best. During early voting I asked a number of Republicans if they planned to vote straight ticket. Not all said yes, and many confessed they planned to vote straight Republican except for Perry.
  3. Liberal Media is Still Media: I was told by those close to the Perry campaign that he has chosen to shun the media because they would be against him anyhow. I’m not going to argue that generic mainstream media has Perry’s best interests at heart, but they are still press. And right now, they only have one (real) candidate to talk to. So for every article that Bill White gives an opinion on, he’s getting more readership than Perry to the tune of hundreds of thousands. And now, instead of having Perry’s own words to misquote they can literally make things up as they go. I was also told that a debate would be acknowledging White and giving him a national platform for his message. But Perry could also have that platform in a debate. Let’s not forget that White is having publicized debates anyhow against the Green Party candidate, who pretty much exists to showcase White as more conservative. The media in Texas is still more conservative than many states, and some would have endorsed Perry. At this point, all of the large news sources have defaulted to endorsing White. Why? Perry won’t return their calls.
  4. White Should be Confronted: A mantra from Perry’s office is that White is a liar. That he and the media make up things about Perry and distort the truth. What better way to confront (and possibly humiliate) White than through a debate. Perry said he would not debate White unless he turned in his tax records. We all know he won’t so publicly call him on it! Be the bigger man. Decide to debate despite his refusal to turn over records. What a slap in the face that would be on national television. Perry could certainly hold his own with his experience. It would be the perfect opportunity to call out White on any number of issues, ones that White would have no follow-up argument for.
  5. Combat Liberal Messaging: Perry will win, its only a question of margin. However, White owns the media and has an army of bloggers spreading his liberal message with practically no opposition. Perry has not put together a volunteer network to post in response, or blog, or even create our own conservative message. While White will not win the election, his words and message will continue to exist unaltered on the internet for years to come. Remember those independent, free-thinking voters I mentioned earlier? Those are the people who could possibly be swayed by Democrat rhetoric blog posts. Especially when nothing exists in contrast. While its too late for Perry (despite repeated urgings by yours truly to multiple levels of his staff) to create an online army to combat the liberal message, he can personally take a stand by directly debating his opponent.
  6. Republicans should Trump with Transparency: Refusing a debate conjures up all kind of images for people less politically inclined and one of them is, you’re hiding something. What is it that you don’t want to talk about? Debate is a form of government transparency. Republicans should be championing all forms of transparency right now. We have a President who promised transparency and didn’t follow through. We have bills no one can comprehend. And we have spending that is less than available to the public. Republicans should be turning over that information to the public at ever possible opportunity. We have nothing to lose by shining a light on what Democrats spend money on and legislate behind closed doors. Being willing to step up and discuss positions is the first step to making transparency a Republican platform.
  7. We’re Past Politics As Usual: Political consultants have told me in my naivety that you never debate when you’re winning in the polls. It can only hurt you if you say something stupid. If you’re losing, however, you should push for debate to hopefully catch your opponent with their guard down. While this makes decent political sense, I feel this is retiring to politics as usual. This election alone should prove that the American population does not want politics as usual. Doing it just because “that’s the way its always been done” just isn’t good enough anymore. The people want their candidates to own up to their positions, not hide behind decent polling numbers.
  8. We All Know You’re a Consideration for President…: Despite how much Perry denies wanting to run for President, his name is on the short list, with or without his approval. Refusing to publicly debate his opponent does not bode well for Presidential greatness. Lead by example, Perry, and you are a national leader, like it or not. Obama got serious flack from both sides of the aisle when he refuse a “Douglas-style” debate with McCain. Americans just won’t accept that kind of position from a Presidential candidate. Don’t set the standard so low this election.
  9. Debate is Democracy: I truly believe open and honest or (as honest as politics can be) debate is a true tenet of democracy. Perry’s staff reports that he has made numerous public appearance to make up for his refusal to debate or interview. But even those appearances don’t allow everyone in Texas to meet their governor. Even I don’t feel like I got to really know Perry even though I sat next to him at a lunch with less than ten people present. Its just impossible to get all your answers in a photo-opportunity. Debate allows everyone to “meet” a candidate and hear their thoughts on the issues. But let’s not mince words, when you won’t debate you look like a wimp. Which brings me to my last point…
  10. Don’t be a Coward: This is Texas, man up and debate. Its the last state of the wild west and we want to see the rodeo. Put on your big boy boots and send that Democrat home with his tail between his legs.

UPDATE: I argued my stance with my (very) Republican father last night. After he disagreed for an hour he finally said: “The thing is, debate is expected. There are still undecided voters out there. That alone is the best reason for debate. Period.”

Ending the Texas Deficit

You may have heard that the state of Texas has a shortfall in the State budget. The deficit is estimated at $18 Billion. If you hadn’t heard, here is a good summary of the budget deficit and how Texans found out about it. Of course liberals say this proves that Texas’s conservative fiscal policies got them into trouble. Obviously, the cause of the deficit is not conservative policies but the recession. And it will be the conservative policies that save us in the end.

This past week Texas Public Policy Foundation presented their solutions to the House. You can read the actual testimony given to the House Select Committee on Fiscal Stability in this pdf. These ideas are fiscally conservative and also logical. Here are some of the ideas discussed:

  • Adopt a zero-based budgeting process (instead of cutting costs, starting blank and then adding the necessary costs, the most radical of all the suggested ideas and one that has proven to be effective)
  • Eliminate and consolidate unnecessary agencies/programs
  • Prevent tax increases
  • Minimal and predictable regulation
  • Case Study of Texas v. California
  • 10 year economic statistics
  • Adopting a sustainable debt policy
  • Greater government transparency

Other ideas:

  • Greater competition in government contract bidding
  • Allowing the Workforce Commission to issue bonds
  • Taking advantage of the zero-interest loans provided to states with good credit by the federal government

Despite the shortfall in the budget, Texas still has one of the best economies in the nation. Rhetoric on the left tends to accuse Texas of disproving its own taxation choices (no income tax, refusing to raise property taxes and so on). But Texas still has one of the lowest unemployment rates and best real estate markets comparatively. Also this is our first year with a deficit since 2003, having kept a balanced budget the last seven years, not something most states can boast. So while We have a budget shortfall almost as high as California, we have still managed to stay balanced and effective until the recession, and therefore the reduced spending due to the economy forced us to re-evaluate our state spending.

Democrats have used the budget to push the agenda of gubernatorial candidate Bill White. Perry has promised not to raise taxes to cover the shortfall. He has also suggested ten percent cuts across the board. (White reacted to these cuts less than favorably, calling it Soviet Style budget management.) Some of Perry’s criticism goes far all the way back to his refusal stimulus money. This money, the opposition argues, could have stopped the deficit and provided unemployment assistance to Texans. An article by James Quintero, fiscal analyst at the formerly mentioned Texas Public Policy Foundation, on the Americans for Tax Reform website details what extra demands those federal dollars and details some more fiscally responsibly solutions to the deficit.

While the budget deficit in Texas certainly causes concern, this is not a problem we cannot solve. Using the suggested zero-based budgeting procedures, consolidating and eliminating unnecessary expenditures and allows more competition in state contracts we could easily make the cuts that would keep our budget balanced. Any of all of the solutions bullet-pointed above can make the difference. Government needs regular review, duplications, over-spending and unevaluated programs constantly clog the system. A lean, effective government that does not burden its people is the best hope for recovering in our current economy.