April 24, 2015

Seabrook Charter Amendment Election

Early voting on these charter amendments begins on Monday, April 27. I’d like to offer my take on them and suggest whether or not they are worthy of adoption. I believe the commission that recommended these changes did so in good faith and out of the highest of motives, but I cannot endorse the entire package put before the voters. Let me offer my view of each, complete with my recommendation for voters.

Proposition 1: Section 2.01—Term Limits Change the term of a. Councilmember from a 3-year to a 4-year term, beginning with the General Municipal Election in 2017 for the Mayor and Council Positions 2, 4 and 6 and in 2018 for Council Positions 1, 3 and 5.

Commission Explanation: The Commission identified the following disadvantages of the current term lengths: 1) difficulty for the City to place Council representatives in leadership positions in external organizations that have a direct impact on the City; 2) administrative costs involved with the orientation and training of Council members every three years; 3) costs associated with more frequent elections; and 4) availability of candidates. Extending the terms of office from three to four years mitigates these disadvantages, while still adhering to the limitation of two consecutive terms of office.

Budget Impact: This proposition is expected to save money, as elections would be held less often.

On one level I like this proposal, given that it does away with the rather strange three-year terms we currently have on a six-member council. After all, we currently elect three members at a time, so that means one year out of three we do not have a city election at all. For reasons to be detailed later, going to terms that have an even number of years is potentially quite desirable.

Yet at the same time, I would have preferred seeing the charter changed to make all positions two-year terms with all seats elected biennially. You know – on the model of the city of Houston, where the mayor and the council members can serve a maximum of six years. Given our city’s limit of two consecutive terms, is the possibility of eight consecutive years of service really preferable to four years of consecutive service – or perhaps six, with a change that would allow for three consecutive terms.

More to the point, with four year terms being implemented in 2017 and 2018, that would mean that there would be a three-year gap (until 2021) in the holding of the next city council elections. That is too long – and would leave us without the power to change council personnel without resorting to recall (assuming there are no deaths or resignations in the interim). Better that we either wait for a proposition creating two-year terms or alternating four-year terms elected two years apart than what we have here. I therefore urge the voters to reject Proposition 1.

Proposition 2: Section 2 .05—Vacancies, Forfeiture, Filling of Vacancies (and related Charter requirements for filling a vacancy, such as Section 8.13, “Results of Election”)

Allow an affirmative vote of four (4) or more Councilmembers to fill a vacancy on Council by appointment if the remaining term of the vacant position is 12 months or less.

Commission Explanation: State Law now allows for this provision that permits a Council to fill an unexpired term without having to call a special election, which can be very costly. If the remaining term of the vacant position is greater than 12 months, a special election would be called by Council.

Budget Impact: It is expected that the City would save money as appointment is less costly than a special election.

The notion of having appointed members of the city council for any period of time is disturbing. It would be preferable to leave any seat with a vacancy of 12 months or less vacant until the voters could speak. Since that option is not offered, my preference is to see the special election option retained by the city so that the people have their say on who will be a member of the council. I therefore recommend that voters reject Proposition 2.

Proposition 3: Section 2.0—Administrative Offices and Departments

Delete the list of City’ Departments.

Commission Explanation: The name and number of City Departments can change or be modified over time, as is dictated by the needs of the City. The Departments are named by ordinance, which should suffice.

Budget Impact: There is no expected budget impact.

A perfectly reasonable change. I recommend that the voters approve Proposition 3.

Proposition 4: Section 2.O9—City Secretary

Require an affirmative vote of four or more Councilmembers to appoint or remove the City Secretary.

Commission Explanation: The Commission compared the voting requirements of Council for appointment or termination of critical positions within the City, including the City Secretary, City Manager, City Attorney and Municipal Judge. It found inconsistencies and, in some instances, silence on the subject. As all of these positions are essential for the operation of the City, it is recommended that the voting requirements be the same for all of these positions. The Charter requires an affirmative vote of four or more Councilmembers to appoint or remove the City Manager, so this is the template the Commission used for the other positions, including the City Secretary. In this instance, the Charter has no requirement for removal of a City Secretary, so one is added for consistency.

Budget Impact: There is no expected budget impact.

I don’t see where this is a strictly necessary change, but I also see the wisdom of standardizing the manner in which the holders of these critical positions are hired and fired. I therefore recommend that the voters approve Proposition 4.

Proposition 5: Section 2.08—Administrative Departments and Section 2.09—City Secretary

Move both sections from Article II (The Council) to Article IV (Administrative Departments).

Commission Explanation: It would be easier to reference both of these sections if they were in the Article that focuses on different departments, rather than the Article that focuses on the City Council. There is no other revision associated with this amendment.

Budget Impact: There is no expected budget impact.

This is a housekeeping matter, and I therefore recommend that the voters approve Proposition 5.

Proposition 6: Section 2.12—Rules of Procedure Clarify that all required Council actions shall be adopted by an affirmative vote of a majority of Council members present and voting, except as provided elsewhere in the Charter or in state law.

Commission Explaniation: The Charter currently limits any exception to this provision to Section 2.05. There may come a time when other sections of the Charter or state law will also apply, so the Commission recommends changing the exception to “as provided elsewhere in the Charter or state law” so that potential conflicts can be avoided.

Budget Impact: There is no expected budget impact.

Again, this is unobjectionable. I therefore recommend that the voters approve Proposition 6.

Provision 7: Section 2.13—-Passages of Ordinances in General

Delete the following: “A proposed ordinance may be amended at any reading but any ordinance amended in substance, as determined by Council, shall automatically be placed again on first reading at a subsequent meeting. Amendments involving such items as typographical, grammatical or spelling changes or renumbering of sections shall not be considered substantive.”

Commission Explaniation: The phrase “in substance” has caused great confusion in the past as it is left to City Council to interpret which changes are “substantive” in nature. Removing this statement allows less confusion in interpreting the Charter.

Budget Impact: There is no expected budget impact.

The devil is in the details here. While I do not doubt that the intent of this change is to avoid the confusion we have seen over the years as to whether changes are substantive or not, the potential effect of doing it this way is to allow an unscrupulous future majority to make substantive changes to an ordinance and adopt it at the time of the final reading. Better we have continued confusion than potential skullduggery. I therefore recommend that the voters reject Proposition 7.

Proposition 8: Section 2.13—Passages of Ordinances in General

Clarify that the effective date of ordinances with penal provisions be dictated by state law rather than after it has been posted for two weeks.

Commission Explaitiation: In ordinances with penal provisions, the state requires certain effective dates. This change is to avoid conflict with state law.

Budget Impact: There is no expected budget impact

Purely a matter of housekeeping to comply with state law. I recommend that the voters approve Proposition 8.

Proposition 9: Section 2.141—Emergency Ordinances

Require an affirmative vote of four or more Councilmembers to approve an emergency ordinance, except where otherwise provided in the Charter.

Commission Explanation: In an emergency, all Councilmembers may not be available, especially if an evacuation or natural disaster has occurred. For uniformity, the Commission recommends changing this voting requirement from two thirds of those present to four or more for approval. This does not impact emergency appropriations ordinances, which require a vote of five or more Councilmembers for approval.

Budget Impact: There is no expected budget impact.

I prefer the language here to what exists. Better to have a true majority of the council speaking than the majority of a rump council with members missing. I therefore recommend that the voters approve Proposition 9.

Proposition 10: Section 2.15—Authentication, Recording, Codification, Printing and Distribution of Ordinances

Change the requirement for availability of approved ordinances and resolutions from posting at City Hall and the library to posting at City Hall and on the City website.

Commission Explanation: There is a cost associated with copying and distributing every ordinance and resolution that is passed by Council. This would eliminate that cost. There is also a computer at City Hall where the public can access this information.

Budget Impact: It is expected that this proposition would save copying and administrative costs.

It is great that the City of Seabrook wants to enter the computer age by requiring the posting of ordinances and resolutions online (which it already does), but are we in such a grave financial situation that we need to eliminate the copying and posting of those ordinances and resolutions at the library? I say let’s do both (as I believe we already do anyway). I therefore recommend that the voters reject Proposition 10.

Proposition 11: Section 4.02—City Attorney

Change the voting requirements for appointment or removal of a City Attorney from “majority of members present” to “four or more Councilmembers”.

Commission Explanation: See explanation for Proposition 4. This proposition is intended to create consistency and uniformity in voting requirements. In this specific instance, a majority of members present could be as little as three votes.

Budget Impact: There is no expected budget impact.

See my explanation for Proposition 4 for details as to why I recommend the voters approve Proposition 11.

Proposition 12: Section 5.21—Citizen Approval Required for Certain Expenditures and Use of Reserved Funds

Consolidate this section and update it to address current and future City needs, allow for grant opportunities requiring matching funds and adjust for changing state mandates by allowing the City Council to make non-emergency capital expenditures in an amount not to exceed 20 percent of the combined General and Enterprise Operating and Reserve Fund Budgets, less any required reserve fund balance established by the City’s financial policy, in effect at the time of the expenditure.

Commission Explanation: This section has been discussed and debated for many years. Currently, the Council may not spend funds of one (1) million dollars or more without a vote of the people. This limitation prevented the City from applying for additional grant money following Hurricane Ike, which could have been a major help in the recovery of the City, because grant application deadlines do not generally allow for time to conduct elections. The Commission determined that having a fixed dollar amount in the Charter will cause future problems related to inflation, rising building costs and other economic factors. Therefore, the Commission recommends a percentage of the General and Enterprise Funds (only these two major funds of the City, not including special funds) to keep in line with the City’s current budget needs and limitations. As the budget rises and falls, so will the Council’s cap on spending. This proposition does not allow Council to spend any of the required fund balance that is established by the City finance policy, and it does not apply to emergency expenditures.

Budget Impact: Budget impact cannot be quantified due to variables.

This particular proposition bothers me. I understand the reasoning, but I find it difficult to reconcile this with the notion that the voters should have a say on major expenditures. Do we really want to surrender this check on the city council? I’m not so sure that we should. At the same time, the matter of inflation and pressing deadlines such as those the city faced after Hurricane Ike make changing the fixed dollar figure appropriate. Even though I find the 20% figure to be somewhat higher than what I would have picked (I would have set it at either 12.5% or 15% of the combined General and Enterprise Operating and Reserve Fund Budgets), I recommend that the voters approve Proposition 12 – and keep a template for recall petitions on their computer desktops for use if the city council abuses this spending authority.

Proposition 13: Section 7.01—Nominations and Elections

Allow the general City election to be held on a date other than the second Saturday in May, if allowed by state law.

Commission Explanation: The State recently changed the allowable dates for municipal elections and required cities to choose which date they would use. Because of this charter requirement, the City could not change the date of its elections. It resulted in the City having to purchase its own election equipment. This proposition would give the City flexibility to work within state law.

Budget Impact: This could save money if the City is allowed to hold elections with Harris County.

I serve as the election judge during elections held by Harris County. I recall a recent election day when we had a city council election going on the same day in a different location. Let’s move our election day to November so that we have a higher turnout for city elections – and have our elections during even numbered years as a way of ensuring that. The latter change, as I suggest in my recommendation on Proposition 1, will have to come later, but even without it I enthusiastically recommend that the voters approve Proposition 13.

Proposition 14: Section 9.02—Judge of the Municipal Court Change the voting requirements for appointment or removal of the Municipal Judge from “majority of members present” to “four or more Councilmembers”.

Commission Explanation: See explanation for Propositions 4 and 11.

Budget Impact: There is no expected budget impact.

See my explanation for Proposition 4 for details as to why I recommend the voters approve Proposition 14.

Proposition 15: Section 10.05—Ordinances Granting Franchises

Change the requirement for approval of franchise ordinances to correspond to other ordinances (after two readings unless otherwise required by state law).

Commission Explanation: The Charter currently requires three readings and a waiting period of 42 days after the first reading. It also requires the full text of the ordinance to be published in the newspaper, which can be very costly. The proposition would allow for publishing the title and caption in the newspaper after passage. The current requirements do not allow the City to be competitive with other cities.

Budget Impact: This proposition may save money due to the changes in requirements for publicizing in the newspaper.

Standardizing our practices is a good thing. Besides, if the full text of the proposed franchise ordinance is found on the city website when the title and caption are published, it will be easy to access. I recommend that voters approve Proposition 15.

Proposition 16: Section 11.08—Fire Department and Fire Marshal

Modify the allowable service providers to state that the City could utilize the Seabrook Volunteer Fire Department and/or other fire service providers as permitted by law.

Commission Explanation: The City is exploring all options with the Seabrook Volunteer Fire Department for providing services, including an Emergency Services District. This amendment would allow the City to select the best option for service.

Budget Impact: Budget impact cannot be quantified due to variables.

While presented as a cost-saving measure, we have no idea as to how much this will actually save the taxpayers. Until we know exactly what we are being asked to approve here, I cannot support this proposition. After all, I would hate to see this used as the basis for creating a new taxing authority without significantly more public discussion than this has received. I therefore recommend that the voters reject Proposition 16

Proposition 17: Section 11.18—Charter Review Commission Allow the appointment of a Charter Review Commission no sooner than two (2) years nor later than five (5) years after the most recent appointment.

Commission Explanation: This would allow City Council the flexibility to appoint a Charter Review Commission to coincide with the election schedule, rather than holding a separate, costly, election. It would also allow Council to handle issues as they arise, rather than waiting for the current prescribed time period.

Budget Impact: Budget impact cannot be quantified due to variables.

I think the idea here is well-founded, and I recommend that voters approve Proposition 17.

Proposition 18: Section 11.16—Amending the Charter and Section 11.18-Charter Review Commission

Combine these two sections into one titled “The Charter Review Commission and “Amending the Charter”.

Commission Explanation: These two sections really discuss different aspects of the same topic. The Commission felt that combining them would allow for easier reference in the future. There is no other revision associated with this amendment.

Budget Impact: There is no expected budget impact.

This is a housekeeping matter, and therefore unobjectionable. I recommend that the voters approve Proposition 18.

Proposition 19: Section 11.24—Comprehensive Master Plan Commission

Allow the appointment of a Comprehensive Master Plan Commission no sooner than two (2) years nor later than five (5) years after the most recent appointment and allow Council to extend the six-month term of the Commission.

Commission Explanation: The Charter Review Commission and Comprehensive Master Plan Review Commission meet concurrently, making it difficult for staff to support conflicting meeting schedules. The Council also finds it difficult to attract qualified volunteers for concurrent Commissions. This proposition would allow City Council the flexibility to appoint a Comprehensive Master Plan Review Commission at a different time than the Charter Review Commission, which would assist with staff allocation and volunteer recruitment. It would also maintain consistency between the Comprehensive Master Plan Review Commission and the Charter Review Commission (see Proposition 17). Finally, it would allow the terms for the Comprehensive Master Plan Commission to be extended in the event a planning consultant is hired or other needs arise.

Budget Impact: Budget impact cannot be quantified due to variables

A reasonable proposal – though indicative of the problem of community involvement we have in Seabrook. All of us need to make a point of trying to get involved with various city government activities to avoid the continued appointment of the same names and families to boards and commissions and committees. But we should alternate the Charter Review and Comprehensive Master Plan Review Commissions – preferably separating them by a year or two – and I therefore recommend that the voters approve Proposition 19.

Proposition 20: Section 11.28—Other Charter Requirements

Require that all City appointees to boards, corporations, organizations, committees and other related entities shall conform to the requirements of the Charter provisions regulating personal interest, conflicts of interest, nepotism and ethics.

Commission Explanation: The current Charter language is vague, which may lead to conflicting interpretations and appears to apply to entities in their entirety. The Commission is clarifying and limiting the specific Charter provisions that shall apply and shifts the emphasis to City appointees. The Charter cannot govern entities outside of the city’s jurisdiction; therefore, the proposed amendment places responsibility on the city representatives to comply with these mandates.

Budget Impact: Budget impact cannot be quantified due to variables.

Honest government – what a concept! I recommend that the voters approve Proposition 20.

In short, I recommend approval for Propositions 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, and 20. I urge the rejection of Propositions 1, 2, 7, 10, and 16. I hope my fellow residents of Seabrook will give these Propositions and my recommendations serious consideration and make the best choice for our city's future.

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How Lawless Is Obama Immigration Executive Order Program?

Not only does it grant a legal status to those not eligible for it under federal law, it puts taxpayers on the hook for bringing their families to the US where they will be eligible for the same illegal “legal status “granted their relatives!

The Obama administration has created a new immigration path to the U.S. without Congressional approval, Sen. Jeff Sessions says. The Alabama Republican chaired a hearing looking into the Obama administration’s new program to fly Central Americans as refugees and asylees to the U.S.

USCIS Associate Director For Refugee, Asylum And International Operations Joseph Langlois confirmed that illegal immigrants granted executive amnesty would be eligible to apply to have their relatives flown to the U.S. from El Salvador, Honduras, or Guatemala under the administration’s Central American Minors Refugee/Parole Program.

“They would qualify to apply for their child and spouse. However the child and spouse would still need to meet the eligibility criteria for refugees,” Langlois testified before the Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest.

Sessions, the subcommittee’s chairman, pointed out that the Obama administration is moving forward with the program without Congresses approval.

“I just want to say, Congress rejected this. So the President is executing it on his own,” Sessions said.

In other words, Barack Obama is on track to become the biggest human trafficker illegally transporting aliens to the United States – and he is doing so on your dime.

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April 22, 2015

Earth Day 2015

Had a tree growing too close to my central air unit out in the yard, and so I figured today was the day to deal with it.


You know, turning yard work into a political statement makes it all worthwhile.

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April 21, 2015

Political Chicanery In Shoreacres City Council Election?

Early voting for local elections in Texas begins on April 27. As is customary in many communities, Shoreacres city council candidate David Jennings placed some campaign signs for himself and fellow candidate Nancy Schnell on public property (outside of the right of way) near city hall, which is the early voting and election day polling place..


What happened next is. . . interesting.


Oh dear. What do we have here? Why is a city employee removing legally placed campaign signs?

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Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be ISIS

Seems to be happening more and more these days.

In Minnesota and California.

The question of terrorism has shadowed the home of Fadumo Hussein since 2007, leaving only answers of heartbreak and confusion.

On Sunday morning, that question once again stormed into her life, when FBI agents crashed through the door of her south Minneapolis house in search of her youngest son, Guled Omar.

Rousting her from sleep, the agents had surrounded the house about 9 a.m. and then stormed in to arrest her 20-year-old son. The young man, who works as a security guard for Target and attends community college part-time, is now charged with leading a secret life centered on plotting with five friends to leave the United States in order to fight with terrorists in Syria and Iraq.

“Guled was born by myself under a tree,” Hussein said, recounting the period her family spent in a Kenyan refugee camp and protesting his innocence.

Of the six men arrested Sunday by FBI agents — four in Minneapolis and two in San Diego — Omar was a particularly important target because of his past; federal authorities allege that since 2012 Omar had made at least three prior attempts to leave the country to fight with terrorists, first in Somalia and then with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Still reeling from the weekend’s trauma, a tearful Hussein sat on her couch Monday morning and tried to come to grips with now losing her second son to the nationwide investigation of terrorist recruitment among Somali-Americans.

Omar is the youngest brother of indicted fugitive Ahmed Ali Omar, who left the U.S. in late 2007 as part of the first wave of Somali-Americans in the Twin Cities to fight for Al-Shabab in Somalia.

And in Alabama, too.

A 20-year-old woman from a Birmingham, Alabama, suburb has left the US to join the Islamic State militant group in Syria, the local broadcaster WIAT reported on Monday.

Hoda Muthana made contact with militants through social media and had been distancing herself from other Muslims in Hoover for more a year before leaving, said family spokesman Hassan Shibly, according to WIAT. Her family reportedly fled Yemen for the US more than 20 years ago.

Hoda's father, Mohammed, told BuzzFeed that his daughter's introduction to social media started with the smartphone he gave her as a high-school graduation gift in 2013.

One has to wonder what it is that makes these people go off and join this violent terrorist organization. You don’t suppose it might have something to do with religion, do you?

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April 20, 2015

Verily, We Live In An Age Of Martyrs


More martyrs at the hands of the Religion of Peace operating under the name of ISIS.


The Islamic State released a video on Sunday that appears to show fighters from its branches in southern and eastern Libya executing dozens of Ethiopian Christians, some by beheading and others by shooting.

Prefaced by extensive speeches and interviews that appear to take place in the Islamic State’s strongholds in Syria and Iraq, the video of the killings, if confirmed, would be the first evidence that the group’s leaders in those countries are coordinating with fighters under the group’s banner in those parts of Libya, compounding fears of its expansion across the Mediterranean.

* * *

During the last five minutes of the half-hour video, the video cuts back and forth between scenes in the southern desert and a beach along the coast, at one point displaying both with a split screen. Both were filmed with the same sophisticated camera angles and editing that have distinguished other Islamic State films from indigenous Libyan videos.

Masked fighters lead a row of bound captives dressed in black into the desert and then shoot each of the prisoners in the back of the head. Another group of masked fighters leads a row of prisoners in orange jumpsuits along a beach and then beheads each of them with a long knife. The video shows fighters placing the severed heads on the bodies lying on the sand as bloody surf washes over them.

“You will not have safety, even in your dreams, until you accept Islam,” declares a masked figure, speaking English with an American accent and pointing a revolver at the camera. “To the nation of the cross: We are back again.”

Orange, it seems, has replaced red as the color of martyrdom.

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Congratulations, Lisa Falkenberg

Conservatives and Republicans around Houston don't always find Houston Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg to be a friendly journalist. However, when push comes to shove she is respected by most of us. I know that last year she wrote a rather flattering piece about me and my effort to undermine the pay-to-play slates that are so dominant in Harris County politics.

Well, today Falkenberg got some well-deserved recognition.

Houston Chronicle Columnist Lisa Falkenberg has won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, the Pulitzer board announced Monday.

It was the first Pulitzer Prize awarded to the Chronicle in its 114-year history. The Chronicle has had finalists on several occasions, including Falkenberg in the same category last year. Editorial cartoonist Nick Anderson won a Pulitzer for his work at the Louisville Courier-Journal in 2005.

Falkenberg, 36, a sixth-generation Texan, joined the Chronicle in 2005 as a reporter in the Austin bureau. In 2007 she moved to Houston as a Metro columnist.

Falkenberg was awarded the prize for a series of columns she wrote about Alfred Dewayne Brown, who was condemned for the killing of a Houston police officer, a crime he very likely did not commit.

Well done, Lisa! My heartiest congratulations.

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What Is The Purpose Of Free Speech?

A lot of folks have gotten involved in the whole Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies slate controversy involving the Hugo Awards. Ditto “Gamergate”. For my part, I’ve stayed out of both – in the case of “GamerGate” because I don’t care about gaming and in the case of the Hugos because I’ll read what I like and don’t really care about who gets the awards. If that means I finish reading Sad Puppy Sarah Hoyt and then move on to the latest by SFWA oligarch John Scalzi, so be it – even though I love Sarah’s blog and consider Scalzi’s to be a cesspool of progressive intolerance.

Today I’ve seen a number of my fellow conservative bloggers note Hoyt’s latest post, “Take Your Nose Off My Fist”, and in particular quote one particular observation from it, as amplified by Glenn Reynold.

SARAH HOYT: Take Your Nose Off My Fist. “If your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose, what if I move my nose and rest it on your fist, so you can’t move?” Well, that’s the whole point of “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings,” and the like.

A good point – since the entire premise of those demanding “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” is to paralyze anyone they don’t agree with by insisting that their opponents injure them by expressing a contrary view, by being present where they might be noticed, or even by just having the temerity to exist.

But frankly, that isn’t the part of Sarah’s post that struck me. No, I’m particularly fond of her explanation of the purpose of protecting freedom of speech, and exactly which speech it is that needs protection.

The right of free speech is meaningless when you only have the right to say that which society approves of.

No one has ever tried to ban speech that lauds mother and apple pie (well, maybe now, but that’s a long story.) No one has ever had a fit over your complimenting their lawn.

The right of free speech is by necessity a protection for unpleasant, unpalatable speech. It is the right to call someone in power a right son of a b*tch. It is the right to say things that are hurtful, whether they’re true or not. It is the right to proclaim that the king goes naked, even if it hurts the self esteem of everyone who has been lying to herself and telling herself he wears clothes of the finest silk.

Sometimes the metaphorical nose of the listener needs to be pounded with the metaphorical fist of mean words. Because it’s the only thing that can stop tyrannical actions or misguided but widely accepted ones.

Absent the right to say what hurts others, a society can careen head first into an abyss. Because it’s always easy to claim you’re offended at something you don’t want to hear, and that therefore the speaker shouldn’t be allowed to say it.
And that speech-stopping power is never evenly distributed. It’s always higher on the part of those who have connections in the press, friends in the bureaucracy, and who can amplify their teary cries and stop what they want stopped.

The right to stop speech you don’t like is ALWAYS an act of punching down, an act of speaking power to truth. (Or lies, but it’s amazing how often it is the truth that those self-selected, connected elites want stopped.)

Which is why the idea that my right to speak is stopped by your right to take offense is an open door to totalitarianism and censorship. If claiming that speech “offends” someone is enough to stop it, you’re giving those who already have the power to defame, destroy and character-assassinate more power and preventing those who would talk against them from speaking.

And there is all too much of that sort of “I’m offended” censorship going on in this country. Consider the recent “American Sniper” controversy on campuses around the country. Look at the controversy at UNC about David Horowitz being invited to speak by the College Republicans. Remember that the Supreme Court just refused to review a California school’s punishment of students for daring to wear American flag shirts on a minor Mexican holiday. Look at the attempts to delegitimize speech favoring traditional marriage. All of it has been justified based upon the “offensiveness” of the sentiments expressed and that it might make others feel “unsafe” that such views are allowed to be expressed.

And we see it in our politics today – opposition to Barack Obama is presumed to be based upon the color of his skin and not the wrongness of his policies. Hillary Clinton’s supporters have already begun to compile a list of words that are putatively “sexist” and therefore not to be used by the media or her opponents on pain of public condemnation.

Indeed, the notion that one can invoke a right to freedom of speech as a defense is under attack. For example, a teacher friend of mine shared that in his school district teachers were informed that if anything they said on social media or a blog provoked a complaint, invoking the right to free speech would be deemed an admission of wrongdoing. Too many, on both the right and the left, have decided that while freedom of speech may be enshrined in the Constitution, the government should be allowed to impose consequences for the exercise of that right

Sorry, folks, but Sarah Hoyt has it right – it is the speech that is unpopular, provocative, and offensive that most needs protection. And if such speech isn’t protected, we are left with bland discourse that never challenges the assumptions of the orthodoxies of the day or the

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April 18, 2015

Watcher's Council Results

The Council has spoken, the votes have been cast, and the results are in for this week's Watcher's Council match up.

"Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first." - President Ronald Reagan

"Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule — and both commonly succeed, and are right." - H.L. Mencken

""The last man nearly ruined this place, he didn't know what to do with it/If you think this country's bad off now,just wait 'til I get through with it!"-Groucho Marx as Rufus T. Firefly in "Duck Soup" 1933

"We have given you a republic - if you can keep it."
-Benjamin Franklin describing the new American government to his fellow citizen Mrs. Powel after the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, 1787

This week's winning essay by a nose,Joshuapundit's -A Change In The Weather - Looking At The Current GOP Field is the first of two articles (the next one will examine the Democrats) on the current presidential aspirants, their strengths and weaknesses as I see them and how they stack up. I limited it to those whom gave either announced or whom are obviously gearing up to do so. Here's a slice:

It's early days, and a few people who will likely be running haven't formally announced yet. But I think it's worth looking at Republican contenders for the White House and giving you my initial impressions. I'll be looking at Democrats in a subsequent article.

Senator Ted Cruz was the first to announce, and of course caught an initial blast from the Left's media hacks. We certainly can't dignify them with the term 'journalist since so many of them are simply Leftist activists with access to a microphone or a byline. Expect them to ignore blatant violations of law by the likes of Mrs. Clinton while examining in great detail any occasion where one of the Republican candidates borrowed five bucks from someone ten years ago and forgot to pay it back.

In a sense though, Senator Cruz was either exhibiting great courage, a certain amount of naivete or a mixture of the two by choosing the venue and the speech he did for his announcement. And I say that as someone whom admires him a great deal. By speaking at a Christian college at a time when Christians are under vicious attack by the Left and indeed, by the Obama Administration, he showed exactly what a brave man of principle he is. And make no mistake, Ted Cruz is a man of principle.

He is also a dynamic speaker, scary smart and a superb debater who has argued cases before the Supreme Court.

The one false note he's hit so far didn't particularly jar me, but I think it might have bothered others...his emphasis in his speech on his profession of Christian faith.

Ronald Reagan too was a man of rock solid faith, but when he voiced it, he took great care to phrase it in ways that were deliberately inclusive. Ted Cruz did not. For many people, this was their first opportunity to actually hear and see Ted Cruz speak. He's already been painted by the usual suspects as a fanatic rather than the articulate and accomplished man he is, and I have no doubt that some of them felt somewhat uncomfortable, although Cruz's audience obviously went wild over it. I look on it as an unforced error (and by no means a major one) by someone not quite used to campaigning with an eye towards a nationwide audience. And it pales when you look at how dynamically he came across, with no podium and no teleprompter, moving all over the stage to a crowd of wildly cheering students.

Ted Cruz will only get better as he goes along.

It's interesting to compare Ted Cruz with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. While Ted Cruz says the right things and articulates them with great skill and aplomb, Scott Walker simply does things and talks about them in ordinary, everyman style. It's Governor Scott Walker who took on some of most vicious public employee unions in the country and won, Scott Walker who balanced Wisconsin's budget, lowered taxes, oversaw the creation of thousands of jobs,and passed a badly needed voter ID law. And he did it while facing two election campaigns and one recall that were financed by millions of out of state dollars as well as death threats aimed at him and his family. The Left wanted Scott Walker's head badly,even to the extent of judge shopping to try and embroil him in bogus charges of campaign financing misdeeds. But he defeated them because he inherently understood that these people need to be challenged and fought, not accommodated and appeased. And because his performance, not his rhetoric spoke for itself. That experience is going to help him a great deal in the current campaign, as evidenced by his embarrassing the media over a dollar sweater and his superb push back to President Barack Obama's condescending horse manure about 'boning up' on foreign policy vis a vis Iran.

Yeah, Scott Walker has already faced the full force of the Left and survived quite nicely, thanks.And he puts up with zero static from the Left. That combination could take him a long way.

Profiles of Senator Rand Paul and others at the link

In our non-Council category, the winner was The one and only Mark Steyn's wonderful Treason and Corruption submitted by The Noisy Room. All I'll say is that if you've never read Mark Steyn before, you're in for a treat.

Here are this week’s full results. Only The RightPlanet was unable tovote tis week, but was not subject to the 2/3 vote penalty for not voting :

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

See you next week!

Make sure to tune in every Monday for the Watcher’s Forum. and every  Tuesday morning, when we reveal the weeks' nominees for Weasel of the Week!

And remember, every Wednesday, the Council has its weekly contest with the members nominating two posts each, one written by themselves and one written by someone from outside the group for consideration by the whole Council. The votes are cast by the Council, and the results are posted on Friday morning.

It’s a weekly magazine of some of the best stuff written in the blogosphere, and you won’t want to miss it...or any of the other fantabulous Watcher's Council content.

And don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter..’cause we’re cool like that, y'know?

|| Greg, 05:58 PM || Permalink || Add your comment || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 17, 2015

Here’s A School District Job That Needs To Be Eliminated

The one occupied by Dr. G. David Moss, head of the African-American Student/Parent Services Department for the South Bend Public Schools in Indiana.

It isn’t merely that he organized college field trips for third grade students that excluded all non-black students.

It isn’t just that the existence of such an office is offensive to the notion that all students and parents should be included.

No, it is this statement that shows that his job, not to mention the entire department, needs to be eliminated and Dr. Moss needs to be banned from any future employment in any public education setting.

Dr. Moss says the field trips were never meant to offend anyone.

"It was not meant to be exclusionary, it was only meant to support and give these kids what they need to think positively about themselves and about their future," he said.

After all, he says, it's his job to solely think about South Bend's African American youth.

"I was hired to look at the issues facing African American kids in the SBCSC, and my job specifically says that I need to develop programs and develop strategies to help these kids and their families become more successful academically," Moss said.

I’m terribly sorry – the notion that anyone in any position of public employment (much less in education) believes that their job is to think only about the success and well-being of people of only one race is totally antithetical to the Fourteenth Amendment. And as an educator, I am beyond pissed that this clown is pulling down a salary that would be enough to pay for at least two classroom teachers.

|| Greg, 06:10 PM || Permalink || Add your comment || TrackBacks (0) ||

The Silliness Of Anonymous Sources In Journalism

This may be one of the most unintentionally funny things I’ve seen in a news article..

Staff attorneys at the Justice Department’s antitrust division are nearing a recommendation to block Comcast Corp.’s bid to buy Time Warner Cable Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

Attorneys who are investigating Comcast’s $45.2 billion proposal to create a nationwide cable giant are leaning against the merger out of concerns that consumers would be harmed and could submit their review as soon as next week, said the people.

The antitrust lawyers will present their findings to Renata Hesse, a deputy assistant attorney general for antitrust, who will decide, along with the division’s top officials, whether to file a federal lawsuit to block the deal, they said.

The Justice Department lawyers have been contacting outside parties in the last few weeks to shore up evidence to support a potential case against the merger, one of the people said.

Am I alone in finding all of the vague references to “the people” rather funny? After all, it tells us nothing about the credibility of “the people” involved, other than that the reporter thinks they are somehow knowledgeable about the situation. Better not let the readers have enough information to judge for themselves -- just tell them that "people" and the always reliable "they" have said it so it must be true.

|| Greg, 06:10 PM || Permalink || Add your comment || TrackBacks (0) ||

Muslim Refugees Drown Christians On Their Boat

No doubt Barack Obama will soon respond to this incident – by condemning Christians who refuse to accept that Muhammad is a prophet.

Muslims who were among migrants trying to get from Libya to Italy in a boat this week threw 12 fellow passengers overboard -- killing them -- because the 12 were Christians, Italian police said Thursday.

Italian authorities have arrested 15 people on suspicion of murdering the Christians at sea, police in Palermo, Sicily, said.

The original group of 105 people left Libya on Tuesday in a rubber boat. Sometime during the trip north across the Mediterranean Sea, the alleged assailants -- Muslims from the Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal -- threw the 12 overboard, police said.

More Christians martyred at the hands of “the Religion of Peace”.

|| Greg, 05:45 PM || Permalink || Add your comment || TrackBacks (0) ||

Jeb Bush Is Right On Principle Regarding Deference, But Wrong In This Case

Here’s what Jeb had to say about confirming Loretta Lynch as Attorney General.

"I think presidents have the right to pick their team," Bush said, according to reports of his stop at the "Politics and Pie" forum in Concord, New Hampshire, on Thursday night.

The former Florida governor made sure to get in a few digs at current Attorney General Eric Holder, saying that Republicans should consider that the longer it takes to confirm Lynch, the longer Holder stays.

A Senate fight over a sex-trafficking bill that includes a controversial abortion provision has held up Lynch's nomination for 160 days since Obama announced his choice last Nov. 8, but Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is threatening to break protocol and force a vote on the Senate floor.

"If someone is supportive of the president's policies, whether you agree with them or not, there should be some deference to the executive," Bush told reporters. "It should not always be partisan."

Now as a rule, I would agree with the not-quite-official presidential candidate on this point. President’s should get deference in the selection of their Cabinet officials, and absent some manifest unfitness there is rarely good reason to refuse to confirm a nominee.

But notice my use of the word “rarely”.

In this case, there are three good reasons. First, the Democrats are filibustering a piece of legislation that has bipartisan support over a provision that is a standard part of most funding bills. That particular piece of legislation has priority over a vote on the nomination – and all the Democrats have to do is defer to the majority of the Senate in order to get a vote on Lynch. Secondly, this president has time and again refused to defer to Congress and usurped the legislative power when Congress has refused to pass legislation he wants. His failure to defer to Congress’ constitutional role constitutes good reason to refuse to defer to the customary practice of automatically giving consent to a nominee to a Cabinet position – especially since his approach to solving the problem is to sling public insults at the Senate rather than actually try to negotiate with the body given constitutional authority to accept or reject the Lynch nomination to end the logjam created by his own party. Lastly, Lynch herself has indicated her intent to continue the precedent set by Eric Holder of refusing to investigate or prosecute Executive Branch corruption because doing so potentially implicates the President in law-breaking – a presidential policy that Congress must refuse to affirm by confirming an Attorney General committed to continuing it.

Do I think this disqualified Jeb Bush to be the GOP nominee in 2016? No, I don’t – but it does not do anything to endear him to me and does not increase the likelihood of my supporting his candidacy in the GOP primary.

Personally, I think that the GOP leadership is thinking way too small on this one. I believe that they need to make clear to Harry Reid that there will be no vote on the Lynch nomination until he resigns his Senate seat and goes into disgraced retirement in Nevada. Otherwise the vote should be delayed until January 19, 2017.

|| Greg, 05:37 PM || Permalink || Add your comment || TrackBacks (0) ||

Democrats – The Party Of Old White People

Just look at their geriatric crew of pale candidates.

There are five Democrats who have either declared or are thinking about running for president. Three — Joe Biden, Bernard Sanders, and Jim Webb — will be over 70 years old on Inauguration Day 2017. Frontrunner Hillary Clinton will be nine months short of 70. Only Martin O'Malley, who will turn 54 a couple of days before the 2017 swearing-in, has not reached retirement age already.

The piece leaves out Lincoln Chafee, who will “only” be 63 years old on Inauguration Day – but who is so white that he would frighten Casper the Friendly Ghost. But hey – he’ll be eligible to draw Social Security by the time the next president is sworn in.

Contrast that with the Republicans.

The average age of the Republican field is far below the Democrats, with every candidate younger than Clinton. The most senior is Jeb Bush, who will be 64 on Inauguration Day. Scott Walker will be 49; Marco Rubio will be 45; Ted Cruz, 46; Rand Paul, 54; Chris Christie, 54; Mike Huckabee, 61; Bobby Jindal, 45. Although Bush is in the older range, they're all in the career sweet spot to win the White House.

Yeah, you could throw in Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee to age the field, but they will be 58 and 61 respectively when they are sworn in. Donald Trump, who no one takes seriously, will be 70, and long-shot Ben Carson will be 65. Carly Fiorina will be 62. But the point remains the same – the field is relatively young compared to any plausible Democrat, and is quite diverse in terms of ethnicity. Indeed, a Republican successor to Barack Obama is quite likely to be younger than the man they replace, despite the fact that Obama himself was the fifth youngest man to ever become president. Three of them (Rubio, Cruz, and Jindal) would even be bump him to sixth place on the list.

Of course, it isn’t just age that is the issue. The GOP candidates generally represent new ideas as well, while the Democrats tend towards an ossified leftism of the sort that died with the Soviet Union. Do we really want the old and broken?

|| Greg, 05:30 PM || Permalink || Add your comment || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 16, 2015

Remember That Martyrdom Is Not A Thing Of Ancient Days

Less than two months ago the demon-inspired terrorists of ISIS murdered 21 Coptic Christians on the banks of the Mediterranean in Libya for the "crime" of being Christians.


The waves themselves turned red with their blood.

These faithful souls who stood fast in their faith until the end are now commemorated in this work of beauty that pays tribute to Christ our Savior.


Remember these 21 brothers in Christ who made the sacrifice that each of us is called upon to be prepared to make.

  • Milad Makeen Zaky
  • Abanub Ayad Atiya
  • Maged Soliman Shehata
  • Youssef Shukry Younan
  • Kirollos Boshra Fawzy
  • Bishoy Astafanous Kamel
  • Samuel Astafanous Kamel
  • Malak Ibrahim Sinyout
  • Tawadros Youssef Tawadros
  • Gerges Milad Sinyout
  • Mina Fayez Aziz
  • Hany Abdel Mesih Salib
  • Samuel Alham Wilson
  • Ezzat Boshra Naseef
  • Luka Nagaty Anis
  • Gaber Mounir Adly
  • Essam Baddar Samir
  • Malak Farag Abrahim
  • Sameh Salah Farouk
  • Gerges Samir Megally
  • Mathew Ayairga

    The icon is the creation of iconographer Tony Rezk and available for purchase from Legacy Icons.

  • || Greg, 09:18 PM || Permalink || Add your comment || TrackBacks (0) ||

    Another Obama VA Scandal

    What do you expect of the most transparent corrupt administration in our lifetime?

    Another veterans scandal hit the Obama administration Wednesday with the emergence of an internal Veterans Affairs memo that allowed bureaucrats to cook their books and assert they were answering diligently President Obama’s call to reduce the backlog of veterans’ benefits claims.

    The memo was known inside the VA as “Fast Letter 13-10,” and a government watchdog said Wednesday this “flawed” guidance from VA headquarters in Washington deliberately resulted in making the agency appear it was delivering services and benefits to veterans faster than it really was.

    The VA inspector general examined the impact of the memo, issued in May 2013, on the Philadelphia VA office — one of the largest in the nation, serving more than 825,000 veterans and their families in three states. Investigators found that VA managers, using “Fast Letter 13-10” as their justification, ordered workers to put the current date on benefits claims that were sometimes more than a year old, thereby “eliminating” part of the highly publicized backlog with the stroke of a pen or time stamp.

    The inspector general said it was just the sort of fiction that VA headquarters sought.

    “By design, the guidance contained in Fast Letter 13-10 was flawed, as it required [Philadelphia] staff to adjust the dates of claims for unadjudicated claims found in claims folder to reflect a current date,” the report said. “As such, the reliability of all performance measures related to [agency] timeliness measures for processing claims becomes unreliable.”

    I would suggest that this is a stunning development – except for the fact that it is in keeping with so many other Obama Administration scandals and their cover-ups that there isn’t anything surprising about it. Indeed, the only shocker here is that the order to lie was put in writing and then actually disclosed to investigators. Does this mean that the administration no longer even feels the need to offer the pretense of honest governance?

    || Greg, 05:25 PM || Permalink || Add your comment || TrackBacks (0) ||

    Another Rich MSNBC Leftist Who Doesn’t Pay Taxes

    Remember – while they want higher taxes for the 1%, they exempt themselves from paying.

    According to the IRS, although she likely makes a substantial living anchoring a weekend MSNBC show and as a professor at Wake Forest University, the left-wing Melissa Harris-Perry does not pay her taxes. The Internal Revenue Service just placed a $70,000 tax lien against Harris-Perry.

    She is the second left-wing MSNBC anchor caught not paying her fair share. Al Sharpton reportedly owes Uncle Sam upwards of $3 million.

    Maybe the time has come to take a close look at the taxes of all MSNBC personnel – especially the on-air talent. I hear none of them have paid their taxes for at least ten years.

    || Greg, 05:19 PM || Permalink || Add your comment || TrackBacks (0) ||

    So I Presume That Ed Schultz Will Defend Any Republican Who Refuses To Talk To MSNBC “Reporters”

    Here’s what the MSNBC hack has to say about The Hillary and her refusal to talk to the press during her Iowa campaign event.

    ED SCHULTZ: I don't think Hillary Clinton wants press. I think she wants people. And I think she doesn't have to answer any questions right now. And I think what she's going to do in Iowa is not focus on press but focus on what people have to say. And I think that Hillary Clinton's been around long enough she knows exactly what she's going to hear when she goes into that room right there and talks to those twenty- and thirty-somethings about America. Because she has one.

    Nah – I can’t see him saying that Scott Walker doesn’t have to talk to the press because he has college age kids and that’s who he really wants to talk to. I can’t imagine him saying such a thing about Jeb Bush, despite his having added another grandchild this week (BTW -- congratulations to Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and his wife Amanda on the birth of their second child, Jack, on April 13). No, he would insist that it was a sign of arrogance and trying to hide from the American public while doing phony staged events.

    || Greg, 05:18 PM || Permalink || Add your comment || TrackBacks (0) ||

    I Don’t Understand Where The School Gets Its Jurisdiction On This

    Please understand – I find the shirts worn by these students and the message on them to be highly disturbing. But if they were worn off campus, I don’t see how the school has any jurisdiction to punish the students wearing them, even if there were pictures posted on social media sites.

    An investigation is underway on Long Island after two Commack High School students were photographed wearing t-shirts with anti-Semitic messages.

    As 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported, the photo shows two students in red t-shirts emblazoned with large, black swastikas with the word “Auschwitz” in large letters. In smaller letters, the words “hit the showers” can be seen, D’Auria reported.

    * * *

    The photo, which also appears to show the two students participating in underage drinking, was posted on Twitter, 1010 WINS reported.
    “I don’t know why they would ever post that, that never goes away. I don’t support what those kids did at all,” Commack High School senior Alex said.
    The school district said the students are being disciplined.

    Please note that the incident in question took place at a house party during spring break. It seems to me that this would put the incident fully outside the jurisdiction of the school to investigate and discipline – especially as far as the message on the shirt is concerned. After all, as Justice Jackson noted in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, “[i]f there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” That also means that no school official can punish the expression of disgusting and hateful statements that are deemed to be outside of the views approved by the school.

    || Greg, 05:16 PM || Permalink || Add your comment || TrackBacks (0) ||

    April 13, 2015

    Quotations From Chairwoman Hillary

    Regarding her kindness towards and concern for working-class Americans.

    F**k off! It’s enough that I have to see you shit-kickers every day, I’m not going to talk to you too!! Just do your G*damn job and keep your mouth shut.”
    (From the book “American Evita” by Christopher Anderson, p. 90 – Hillary to her State Trooper bodyguards after one of them greeted her with “Good morning.”

    Regarding her willingness to work with Americans of all political persuasions.

    “What are you doing inviting these people into my home? These people are our enemies! They are trying to destroy us!”
    (From the book “The Survivor” by John Harris, p. 99 – Hillary screaming to an aide, when she found out that some Republicans had been invited to the Clinton White House)

    Regarding her respect for the American people.

    “We just can’t trust the American people to make those types of choices…. Government has to make those choices for people”
    (From the book “I’ve Always Been A Yankee Fan” by Thomas D. Kuiper, p 20 – Hillary to Rep. Dennis Hastert in 1993 discussing her expensive, disastrous taxpayer-funded health care plan)

    More of Hillary’s greatest hits at Gateway Pundit.

    || Greg, 05:20 PM || Permalink || Add your comment || TrackBacks (0) ||

    But I Thought Rich People Spending Money To Influence Elections Corrupted Democracy

    Oh, that’s right – only when the rich folks are conservatives. When they are liberals, this sort of organizing is just hunky-dory.

    A cadre of wealthy liberal donors aims to pour tens of millions of dollars into rebuilding the left’s political might in the states, racing to catch up with a decades-old conservative effort that has reshaped statehouses across the country.

    The plan embraced by the Democracy Alliance, an organization that advises some of the Democrats’ top contributors, puts an urgent new focus on financing groups that can help the party regain influence in time for the next congressional redistricting process, after the 2020 elections. The blueprint approved by the alliance board calls on donors to help expand state-level organizing and lobbying for measures addressing climate change, voting rights and economic inequality.

    “People have gotten a wake-up call,” Gara LaMarche, the alliance’s president, said in an interview. “The right is focused on the state level, and even down-ballot, and has made enormous gains. We can’t have the kind of long-term progressive future we want if we don’t take power in the states.”

    The five-year initiative, called 2020 Vision, will be discussed this week at a private conference being held at a San Francisco hotel for donors who participate in the Democracy Alliance. Leading California Democrats are scheduled to make appearances, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and California Attorney General Kamala Harris. The alliance, which does not disclose its members, plans to make some of the events available to reporters via a webcast.

    Rich folks donating tons of cash to secretive organizations to influence government – if the Left didn't have double standards they wouldn't have any standards at all.

    || Greg, 05:13 PM || Permalink || Add your comment || TrackBacks (0) ||

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    NAME: Greg
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