Rep. Joe Pickett sticks it to Rep. Jonathan Stickland

State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, subtly poked fun at one of his colleagues who was trying to derail one his bills Thursday.

Pickett walked from the front mic on the House floor to the lectern at the rear of the chamber, where state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, prepared his crusade to temporarily knock Pickett’s House Bill 2346 out of consideration.

Pickett said he was delivering to Stickland a large-print copy of the bill’s language, which would give limited powers of arrest to security officials at the Federal Reserve Bank.

But included on the page were two stick figures to help Stickland understand the bill.

Depicted was an armed Fed security guard, which was labelled “Good Guy,” and a masked bank robber with a “Bad Guy” tag.

See the illustration below.

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Democrats’ new dilemma – they were too tough on crime.

Good morning Austin:

For much of my lifetime, crime was an issue that Republicans used to great effect against Democrats, leading Democrats to sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to establish their bona fides for being tough on crime.

One result – President Bill Clinton and Gov. Ann Richards presided over unprecedented growth of the prison populations in the United States and Texas respectively during their tenures.

From Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow:

Far from resisting the emergence of the new caste system, Clinton escalated the drug war beyond what conservatives had imagined possible a decade earlier. As the Justice Policy Institute has observed, “The Clinton Administration’s `tough on crime’ policies resulted in the largest increases in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history.”

And from Robert Perkinson’s book, Texas Tough:

All told, the size of Texas’s already hulking prison system more than doubled under Richard’s watch, a notable accomplishment for a liberal governor. In this way, Richards’s program offered a punitive twist on the New Deal politics of her youth. By the end of her term, she was managing one of the biggest public works projects in Texas history, what the Criminal Justice Policy Council called “the largest correctional construction project in the world.”

It now appears that legacy will become an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, only this time, the Democrats – most especially Hillary Clinton – will stand accused of having been too tough on crime.

From Rand Paul’s campaign yesterday:

WASHINGTON, D.C.- Earlier today, Hillary Clinton proposed various criminal justice reform ideas in an attempt to undo some of Bill Clinton’s work– the same work she cheerfully supported as First Lady.

According to Salon, the Clinton administration’s focus on the “War on Drugs” is responsible for increasing incarceration by 673,000 new inmates:

“The explosion of the prison system under Bill Clinton’s version of the “War on Drugs” is impossible to dispute. The total prison population rose by 673,000 people under Clinton’s tenure – or by 235,000 more than it did under President Ronald Reagan, according to a study by the Justice Policy Institute. “Under President Bill Clinton, the number of prisoners under federal jurisdiction doubled, and grew more than it did under the previous 12-years of Republican rule,combined,” states the JPI report. The federal incarceration rate in 1999, the last year of the Democrat’s term, was 42 per 100,000 – more than double the federal incarceration rate at the end of President Reagan’s term (17 per 100,000), and 61 percent higher than at the end of President George Bush’s term (25 per 100,000), according to JPI.”

Bill and Hillary Clinton at the signing of the 1994 Crime Bill.
Bill and Hillary Clinton at the signing of the 1994 Crime Bill.

This will be a problem for Clinton as she attempts to stake a claim to the issue.

Here is the headline from the Politico story yesterday by Ben Schreckinger and Annie Karn: Hillary Clinton’s criminal justice plan: Reverse Bill’s policies:

Hillary Clinton declared Wednesday in New York that there’s “something wrong” with criminal justice in America.

But a lot of what Clinton finds wrong can be traced to her husband’s presidency.

Bill Clinton imposed harsher sentencing guidelines, cut education funding for prisoners, and expanded the flow of military equipment to local police in the 1990s, when violent crime was surging and tough policies played well in the political center. With Baltimore in flames and bipartisan concern about mass incarceration rising, both Clintons are now calling for reform.

“It’s time to end the era of mass incarceration,” said the former secretary of state in Wednesday’s speech at Columbia University. What she didn’t say: She lobbied liberal lawmakers to support her husband’s 1994 crime bill, which included $9.7 billion in prison funding and tougher sentencing provisions.

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Clinton decried the decades-long growth of American prison populations, though it continued unabated during her husband’s administration and beyond. The number of prisoners grew nearly 60 percent between the end of 1992 and the end of 2000, the duration of Bill Clinton’s presidency, according to figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Clinton also took aim at the militarization of police forces. “We can start by making sure that federal funds for state and local law enforcement are used to bolster best practices, rather than to buy weapons of war that have no place on our streets,” she said Wednesday.

Left unsaid: A program signed into law by her husband increased the flow of those weapons from the Pentagon to local police departments. The 1997 National Defense Authorization Act allowed the Department of Defense to donate excess supplies to local law enforcement agencies for any purpose, expanding an older program that was limited to aiding anti-narcotics operations. Under the program inaugurated by the Clinton administration, the Pentagon has transferred more than $5.4 billion worth of supplies, including weapons and vehicles, to local police, according to the Defense Logistics Agency.

These tough-on-crime policies, say advocates of reform, have set the stage for the unrest enveloping Baltimore and other American cities in response to police violence against black men.

“I think where we are today partly can be attributed to what went on in the ‘90s,” said Marc Schindler, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute. “That includes who was in the White House, who was in Congress, who was in state houses across the country.”

And who was in City Hall.

If the sharp political turn on criminal justice policies may place Hillary Clinton on the defensive in her efforts to present herself as a credible leader for reform, it would seem to deal a crippling blow to the long-shot prospects of likely rival Martin O’Malley, former mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland, in the aftermath of recent events in Charm City.

From today’s New York Times:

When riots exploded over the death of Freddie Gray, a young black man who was critically injured in police custody, Mr. O’Malley rushed back to the city from London to visit the scene of the protests, meet with local leaders and deliver food at churches. But on those familiar streets, critics old and new questioned his record as mayor, the “zero tolerance” brand of policing he introduced and the lingering effects it had on the relationship between law enforcement and Baltimore’s poor communities.

For a politician whose potential candidacy has received little attention, it was hardly the spotlight he had hoped for. But Mr. O’Malley has nevertheless embraced the moment, arguing that his in-the-trenches familiarity with the urban issues exposed by the riots gives him a unique voice in the coming presidential election.

“There is nobody else among those who might run that has had the experience I have had of living this and working this every day for the last 15 years,” Mr. O’Malley said in an extended phone interview on Wednesday.

“I haven’t traveled the world as widely as some others,” he said, in an obvious reference to Mrs. Clinton, the former secretary of state, “but I certainly have traveled the length and breadth of this gap between the ideal of who we are as a people and the places where we are falling far short.”

Mr. O’Malley declined to discuss Mrs. Clinton (“no, no, no,” he said, “I’m not doing Hillary today”), who at Columbia University on Wednesday called for the end of “the era of mass incarceration.”

Some of Mr. O’Malley’s supporters pointed out that Mrs. Clinton supported the strict prison laws that expanded those very prison populations, and noted her absence in Baltimore. But Mr. O’Malley said that he would speak to only “the substance” of her speech, and that he had “achieved the trifecta” of lowering crime, incarceration and recidivism as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland.

But, according to David Simon, the one-time police reporter for The Baltimore Sun, who went on to create Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, and the HBO television series The Wire, that trifecta was built on lies.

As Molly Ball wrote in a profile of O’Malley in the Atlantic last year:

The character of Tommy Carcetti—the ambitious white-ethnic councilman who rises to the mayoralty, and then the governorship, based on manipulated crime-reduction statistics—is a composite inspired partly by O’Malley. (Although O’Malley was similarly accused of fudging crime stats, he denies it, and the allegation has never been proved.)

Perhaps, but in an extraordinary interview this week with Bill Keller at the Marshall Project, Simon offered a withering assessment of O’Malley’s tenure and legacy, culminating in riots and the first Major League Baseball game ever to be played in an empty stadium, eerie and evocative images that I don’t see how O’Malley’s incipient candidacy can ever get past.

Simon: The drug war began it, certainly, but the stake through the heart of police procedure in Baltimore was Martin O’Malley. He destroyed police work in some real respects. Whatever was left of it when he took over the police department, if there were two bricks together that were the suggestion of an edifice that you could have called meaningful police work, he found a way to pull them apart. Everyone thinks I’ve got a hard-on for Marty because we battled over “The Wire,” whether it was bad for the city, whether we’d be filming it in Baltimore. But it’s been years, and I mean, that’s over. I shook hands with him on the train last year and we buried it. And, hey, if he’s the Democratic nominee, I’m going to end up voting for him. It’s not personal and I admire some of his other stances on the death penalty and gay rights. But to be honest, what happened under his watch as Baltimore’s mayor was that he wanted to be governor. And at a certain point, with the crime rate high and with his promises of a reduced crime rate on the line, he put no faith in real policing.


The city eventually got sued by the ACLU and had to settle, but O’Malley defends the wholesale denigration of black civil rights to this day. Never mind what it did to your jury pool: now every single person of color in Baltimore knows the police will lie — and that’s your jury pool for when you really need them for when you have, say, a felony murder case. But what it taught the police department was that they could go a step beyond the manufactured probable cause, and the drug-free zones and the humbles – the targeting of suspects through less-than-constitutional procedure. Now, the mass arrests made clear, we can lock up anybody, we don’t have to figure out who’s committing crimes, we don’t have to investigate anything, we just gather all the bodies — everybody goes to jail. And yet people were scared enough of crime in those years that O’Malley had his supporters for this policy, council members and community leaders who thought, They’re all just thugs.

But they weren’t. They were anybody who was slow to clear the sidewalk or who stayed seated on their front stoop for too long when an officer tried to roust them. Schoolteachers, Johns Hopkins employees, film crew people, kids, retirees, everybody went to the city jail. If you think I’m exaggerating look it up. It was an amazing performance by the city’s mayor and his administration.


I’ve just described for you the culture of the Baltimore police department amid the deluge of the drug war, where actual investigation goes unrewarded and where rounding up bodies for street dealing, drug possession, loitering such – the easiest and most self-evident arrests a cop can make – is nonetheless the path to enlightenment and promotion and some additional pay. That’s what the drug war built, and that’s what Martin O’Malley affirmed when he sent so much of inner city Baltimore into the police wagons on a regular basis.

The second thing Marty did, in order to be governor, involves the stats themselves. In the beginning, under Norris, he did get a better brand of police work and we can credit a legitimate 12 to 15 percent decline in homicides. Again, that was a restoration of an investigative deterrent in the early years of that administration. But it wasn’t enough to declare a Baltimore Miracle, by any means.

What can you do? You can’t artificially lower the murder rate – how do you hide the bodies when it’s the state health department that controls the medical examiner’s office? But the other felony categories? Robbery, aggravated assault, rape? Christ, what they did with that stuff was jaw-dropping.

Keller: So they cooked the books.

Simon: Oh yeah. If you hit somebody with a bullet, that had to count. If they went to the hospital with a bullet in them, it probably had to count as an aggravated assault. But if someone just took a gun out and emptied the clip and didn’t hit anything or they didn’t know if you hit anything, suddenly that was a common assault or even an unfounded report. Armed robberies became larcenies if you only had a victim’s description of a gun, but not a recovered weapon. And it only gets worse as some district commanders began to curry favor with the mayoral aides who were sitting on the Comstat data. In the Southwest District, a victim would try to make an armed robbery complaint, saying , ‘I just got robbed, somebody pointed a gun at me,’ and what they would do is tell him, well, okay, we can take the report but the first thing we have to do is run you through the computer to see if there’s any paper on you. Wait, you’re doing a warrant check on me before I can report a robbery? Oh yeah, we gotta know who you are before we take a complaint. You and everyone you’re living with? What’s your address again? You still want to report that robbery?

They cooked their own books in remarkable ways. Guns disappeared from reports and armed robberies became larcenies. Deadly weapons were omitted from reports and aggravated assaults became common assaults. The Baltimore Sun did a fine job looking into the dramatic drop in rapes in the city. Turned out that regardless of how insistent the victims were that they had been raped, the incidents were being quietly unfounded. That tip of the iceberg was reported, but the rest of it, no. And yet there were many veteran commanders and supervisors who were disgusted, who would privately complain about what was happening. If you weren’t a journalist obliged to quote sources and instead, say, someone writing a fictional television drama, they’d share a beer and let you fill cocktail napkins with all the ways in which felonies disappeared in those years.

I mean, think about it. How does the homicide rate decline by 15 percent, while the agg assault rate falls by more than double that rate. Are all of Baltimore’s felons going to gun ranges in the county? Are they becoming better shots? Have the mortality rates for serious assault victims in Baltimore, Maryland suddenly doubled? Did they suddenly close the Hopkins and University emergency rooms and return trauma care to the dark ages? It makes no sense statistically until you realize that you can’t hide a murder, but you can make an attempted murder disappear in a heartbeat, no problem.

But these guys weren’t satisfied with just juking their own stats. No, the O’Malley administration also went back to the last year of the previous mayoralty and performed its own retroactive assessment of those felony totals, and guess what? It was determined from this special review that the preceding administration had underreported its own crime rate, which O’Malley rectified by upgrading a good chunk of misdemeanors into felonies to fatten up the Baltimore crime rate that he was inheriting. Get it? How better than to later claim a 30 or 40 percent reduction in crime than by first juking up your inherited rate as high as she’ll go. It really was that cynical an exercise.

So Martin O’Malley proclaims a Baltimore Miracle and moves to Annapolis. And tellingly, when his successor as mayor allows a new police commissioner to finally de-emphasize street sweeps and mass arrests and instead focus on gun crime, that’s when the murder rate really dives. That’s when violence really goes down. When a drug arrest or a street sweep is suddenly not the standard for police work, when violence itself is directly addressed, that’s when Baltimore makes some progress.

Meanwhile, former President Clinton offers a mea culpa of sorts for his role in expanding incarceration in America in the foreword to a new essay collection,  Solutions: American Leaders Speak Out on Criminal Justice, released this week by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and described here:

With a new essay collection from a bipartisan group of prominent public figures, criminal justice reform has entered the center of American political discourse ahead of the 2016 election.

Released today by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, the book offers a first-of-its-kind preview of the range of policy reforms that may be debated throughout the campaign season, with striking consensus around one idea: the need to reduce the American prison population.

Solutions: American Leaders Speak Out on Criminal Justice, edited by Brennan Center president Michael Waldman and Justice Program director Inimai Chettiar, includes essays by Joseph R. Biden, Cory Booker, Cornell Brooks, Chris Christie, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Cathy L. Lanier, Martin O’Malley Janet Napolitano, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Bryan Stevenson, Scott Walker, James Webb, and more.

Among the highlights:

This collection marks the first time many of these leaders have put pen to paper on the issue of criminal justice policy.
Nearly every contributor identifies the problem as mass incarceration, meaning the sheer volume of people incarcerated, and propose public policy solutions to reduce it.
Their policy solutions range from releasing low-level offenders waiting for trial to using federal grants to change police practices, from eliminating prison for low-level drug crimes to increasing mental health treatment.

Here is Bill Clinton’s foreword:

In this time of increased political polarization, there is one area where we have a genuine chance at bipartisan cooperation: the over-imprisonment of people who did not commit serious crimes.

The drop in violence and crime in America has been an extraordinary national achievement. But plainly, our nation has too many people in prison and for too long — we have overshot the mark. With just 5 percent of the world’s population, we now have 25 percent of its prison population, and an emerging bipartisan consensus now understands the need to do better.

It has been two decades since there was sustained national attention to criminal justice. By 1994, violent crime had tripled in 30 years. Our communities were under assault. We acted to address a genuine national crisis. But much has changed since then. It’s time to take a clear-eyed look at what worked, what didn’t, and what produced unintended, long-lasting consequences.

So many of these laws worked well, especially those that put more police on the streets. But too many laws were overly broad instead of appropriately tailored. A very small number of people commit a large percentage of serious crimes — and society gains when that relatively small group is behind bars. But some are in prison who shouldn’t be, others are in for too long, and without a plan to educate, train, and reintegrate them into our communities, we all suffer.

The new approach has many roots and just as many advantages: a desire to save taxpayers money; the resolve to promote rehabilitation not recidivism; an obligation to honor religious values; the necessity to alleviate crushing racial imbalances. All of them strengthen this powerful new movement.

Now it’s time to focus on solutions and ask the right questions. Can we do a better job identifying the people who present a serious threat to society? If we shorten prison terms, could we take those savings and, for example, restore the prison education programs that practically eliminate recidivism? How can we reduce the number of prisoners while still keeping down crime?

As the presidential election approaches, national leaders across the political spectrum should weigh in on this challenge — and in this exciting book of essays from the Brennan Center, many of our nation’s political leaders step up and offer answers. This, in itself, is deeply encouraging. After decades in which fear of crime was wielded as a political weapon, so many now understand the need to think hard and offer real reforms, which, if implemented, can bring about this change in the right way. To address our prison problem, we need real answers, a real strategy, real leadership — and real action. We can show how change can happen when we work together across partisan and political divides. That is the great promise of America. 

From a Peter Baker story in the New York Times earlier this week on the release of the book of essays:

This really does reflect a huge change in the political momentum from decades when parties and candidates competed to see who could be the most flamboyantly punitive,” said Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law and a former aide to Mr. Clinton. Now, Mr. Waldman said, “there’s a competition for reform and to take on the issue of mass incarceration. It’s really unheard-of in recent decades.”

“This used to be a wedge issue, not it’s a consensus issue,” Waldman said on Morning Joe this morning.

Maybe, but I can see a Rand Paul anti-Hillary ad in which statistics on incarceration roll across images of black men in prison, with a wan, explanatory tag line from Bill Clinton: “We have overshot the mark.”

Here are the essays that Sen. Ted Cruz and former Gov. Rick Perry contributed to the collection.

From Rick Perry – Follow the Texas Model.

For too long,  fear has dictated America’s criminal justice policy. Citizens, afraid of the growing violence brought on by the drug wars of the 1980s, demanded harsher penalties and longer sentences. Politicians, afraid of looking soft on the issue, eagerly obliged.

But policy driven solely by fear — absent the equally powerful motivation of human redemption — has failed us. States across the country spent billions locking up kids for the most minor of offenses. In jail, these kids learned how to become hardened criminals. Out of jail, they often repeated their crimes. The result was a significant fiscal burden for taxpayers, a less safe community, and a segment of society shut out from hope and opportunity.

I saw this firsthand in Texas. While arrests for violent and property offenses remained fairly steady throughout the 1990s, drug-related arrests had increased by one-third. The amount Texas spent on prisons and parole had ballooned to nearly $3 billion a year in 2007 — and it was nowhere near enough. Projections called for an additional 17,000 prison beds, at an additional $2 billion, just to sustain the system for another five years.

Something needed to change. No political party has a monopoly on good ideas, including my own. Over the course of my career in public service, I have never been afraid to borrow good ideas, regardless of where they come from.

That’s why, when Judge John Creuzot, a Democrat from Dallas, shared an idea that would change the way Texas handled first-time, nonviolent drug offender, I listened. As the founder of one of the first drug courts in Texas, Judge Creuzot argued that incarceration was not the best solution for many low-risk, nonviolent offenders. It benefits neither the individual nor society at large, and can even increase the odds that offenders will commit more crimes upon release. And, just as importantly, by treating addiction as a disease — and not merely punishing the criminal behavior it compels — Texas could give new hope to people trying to get their lives back. The evidence he presented was compelling. Recidivism in his program was 57 percent lower than traditional state courts, and every dollar he spent saved $9 in future costs.

So in 2007, with broad support from Republicans and Democrats alike, Texas fundamentally changed its course on criminal justice. We focused on diverting people with drug addiction issues from entering prison in the first place, and programs to keep them from returning.

First, we expanded our commitment to drug courts that allow certain low-level offenders to stay out of prison, if they agreed to comprehensive supervision, drug testing, and treatment. We added drug courts to more counties, increased funding, and expanded the types of crimes that allow a defendant to enter drug courts. Rather than languishing somewhere in a cell, first-time, nonviolent offenders willing to confront their drug addiction are connected with counseling and undergo intense supervision, including weekly random drug tests and meeting with a probation officer. These programs work. The National Association of Drug Court Professionals found that about 75 percent of people who complete drug court programs do not recidivate.

Second, we reformed our approach to parole and probation. We focused financial resources on rehabilitation so we could ultimately spend less money locking prisoners up again. We invested $241 million to create treatment and rehabilitation programs to address drug addiction and mental illness for people on parole and probation. Rather than immediate re-incarceration for minor violations of parole or probation conditions, we introduced a system of progressively increasing punishments, or “graduated sanctions.” If people committed violations because of drug or mental health issues, we addressed those issues instead of simply locking them up again. We added more residential and outpatient beds for substance abuse treatment. We added more beds in halfway houses providing reentry services. And we provided more substance abuse programs in prisons and jails.

A key shift was a focus on outcomes rather than volume. We offered financial incentives to local probation departments: they could win additional state funds if they reduced the number of probationers returning to prison by 10 percent by adopting the graduated sanctions approach. Most departments accepted this challenge, and the number of new crimes committed by probationers substantially decreased across the state. These types of financial incentives are proven to work. Government should be funding what works — not blindly funneling money into broken prisons.

The results have been remarkable. Texas implemented these reforms in 2007. By the time I left office in 2015, Texas had expanded the number of specialty courts in the state from nine to more than 160. We reduced the number of parole revocations to prison by 39 percent. We saved $2 billion from our budget, not to mention the countless lives saved. We did all this while our crime rate dropped to its lowest point since 1968. And for the first time in modern Texas history, instead of building new prisons, we shut down three and closed six juvenile lock-ups.

Taxpayers have saved billions because of our new approach to criminal justice, and they’re safer in their homes and on the streets. Fewer lives have been destroyed by drug abuse, and more people are working and taking care of their families instead of languishing behind bars. That may be the most significant achievement of all: By keeping more families together we are breaking the cycle of incarceration that condemns each subsequent generation to a life of lesser dreams.

Our new approach to criminal justice policy is all about results. This change did not make Texas soft on crime. It made us smart on crime. There is nothing easy about our diversion programs. Our drug courts provide an opportunity to those willing to work hard to regain control of their lives. They are often much tougher than traditional programs. What they get in return is a chance to minimize the damage they have done to their lives. And for some people, a chance is all they really need.

I am proud that in Texas, criminal justice policy is no longer driven solely by fear, but by a commitment to true justice, and compassion for those shackled by the chains of addiction. My hope is that all states will do likewise. States across the country can follow the successful example of Texas. By off treatment instead of prison for those with drug and mental health problems — upon entrance and exit from prison — the United States can eliminate our incarceration epidemic.

A big, expensive prison system — one that off no hope for second chances and redemption — is not conservative policy. Conservative policy is smart on crime.

I am reminded of the words of the 20th century social activist who co-founded Volunteers for America, Maud Ballington Booth: “There is a sunshine that can force its way through prison bars and work wondrous and unexpected miracles . . . and a genuine change of heart where such results seemed the most utterly unlikely and impossible.”

We must remember that when it comes to the disease of addiction, the issue is not helping bad people become good, but rather helping sick people become well.

And here is Cruz’s essay, Reduce Federal Crimes and Give Judges Flexibility:

The criminal law is the most potent “lever through which government brings power to bear on the individual citizen.” Not  only can a criminal conviction lead to imprisonment and the loss of other rights, including the right to vote, it forever brands those who are convicted as criminals — a stigma that can be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. Because of these serious consequences, the power to define crimes and to prosecute and jail people for committing them must be exercised with utmost care. Unfortunately, for all its virtues, the criminal justice system does not always exercise the care that it should.

This essay focuses on three vital areas of concern: overcriminalization, harsh mandatory minimum sentences, and the demise of jury trials. These problems pervade our criminal justice system at large, but there are practical ways to address them at the federal level. Congress should pass laws that would eliminate redundant crimes and convert regulatory crimes into civil offenses, take steps to give judges more sentencing flexibility, and require prosecutors to disclose material exculpatory evidence during plea negotiations.

The first problem is the proliferation of federal crimes, what is often termed overcriminalization. Since the late 19th century, the number of federal offenses has risen steadily, accelerating during the New Deal and virtually exploding since the 1970s. The last time a rigorous effort was undertaken to tally the number was over 30 years ago in 1982. The task took two years and produced, at best, an educated estimate of approximately 3,000 federal criminal offenses. No one really knows what the real number is today. We do know, however, that Congress created more than 450 new crimes from 2000 to 2007, a rate of more than one a week. Assuming a one-a-week rate over the last 32 years, the number of federal criminal offenses would now exceed 4,600. But even that does not capture the full scope of our overcriminalization epidemic because many federal regulations carry criminal penalties. If those regulations are included in the tally, then the total number of federal offenses could reach a staggering 300,000.

Congress and the president should work together — perhaps through a commission — to scrub the entire United States Code, eliminating crimes that are redundant and converting regulatory crimes into civil offenses. But the political incentives to criminalize disfavored conduct — whether it is inherently evil or not — could prove too great to generate the support needed to undertake this Herculean task.

The place to start is with incremental reforms aimed at mitigating the harmful effects of overcriminalization. Congress should begin by requiring that all criminal offenses are put into one title of the Code, Title 18, or if that proves too difficult, Congress can enact a law that prohibits criminal liability on the basis of any statute that is not codified or otherwise cross-referenced in Title 18. Having thousands of criminal laws scattered throughout the entire Code works an intolerable hardship on the public akin to Caligula posting his laws high up to make them difficult for the public to see.

To ameliorate the effect of redundant or overlapping criminal laws, Congress should also pass legislation requiring courts to presume that a single criminal act or transaction should be treated as one crime subject to one punishment, even if the act or transaction is punishable under multiple statutes. And to mitigate the consequences of criminalizing regulatory offenses, Congress should repeal criminal penalties for violations of agency regulations. At the very least, it should require that any new regulations carrying criminal penalties be approved by Congress and the president. Perhaps most importantly, Congress should enact legislation that requires the government to prove the defendant knowingly violated the law — or that, at least, allows a mistake of law defense — for certain classes of crimes that have no analog in the common law or that no reasonable person would understand to be inherently wrong. Where the government has criminalized non-blameworthy conduct for regulatory purposes, ignorance of the law should be a valid defense to criminal liability.

The second problem is the ratcheting up of mandatory minimum sentences over the last several decades. Although there is nothing wrong in principle with mandatory minimums, they must be carefully calibrated to ensure that no circumstances could justify a lesser sentence for the crime charged. The current draconian mandatory minimum sentences sometimes result in sentencing outcomes that neither fit the crime nor the perpetrator’s unique circumstances. This is especially true for nonviolent drug offenders.

Harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes have contributed to prison overpopulation and are both unfair and ineffective relative to the public expense and human costs of years-long incarceration. According to a 2012 Government Accountability Office report, the inmate population in the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) increased by more than 400 percent since the late 1980s because of lengthening sentences. The number of drug offenders in federal and state prisons increased 13-fold during that time period. As of February 2015, nearly half — 49 percent — of BOP inmates were sentenced for drug crimes. This has contributed to overcrowding. BOP prisons now house 39 percent more inmates than their capacity. It is far from clear whether this dramatic increase in incarceration for drug crimes has had enough of an effect on property and violent crime rates to justify the human toll of more incarceration.

Given the undeniable costs and dubious benefits of mass, long-term incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders, Congress should take steps to give judges more flexibility in sentencing those offenders. The Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015, which was introduced by Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and of which I am an original cosponsor, is a significant stride in that direction. Among other things, the bill lowers minimum sentences, cutting them in half, to give judges more flexibility in determining the appropriate sentence based on the unique facts and circumstances of each case.

The third problem, which is exacerbated by the first two, is the demise of jury trials. Plea bargaining has become the norm in our criminal justice system, while the constitutional right to a jury trial — which the Founders understood to be a bulwark against tyranny — is now rarely exercised. Contrary to popular perceptions, we no longer have a system where a jury determines a defendant’s guilt or innocence in a public trial. In 2013, 97 percent of all federal criminal charges that were not dismissed were resolved through plea bargains; less than 3 percent went to trial.

In this plea-bargaining system, prosecutors have extraordinary power, nudging both judges and juries out of the truth-seeking process. The prosecutor is now the proverbial judge, jury, and executioner in the mine-run of cases. Often armed with an extensive menu of crimes, each with their own sentencing ranges, federal prosecutors can wield their discretionary charging power to great effect by threatening the most serious charges that theoretically (if not realistically) can be proved. If the accused succumbs to the threat and pleads guilty, which often happens, the prosecutor agrees to bring lesser or entirely different charges that carry a lower sentencing range.

Given the risks involved in turning down a plea offer, it is not unheard of for people to plead guilty to crimes they never committed. Of the 1,428 legally acknowledged exonerations recorded by the National Registry of Exonerations since 1989, 151 (or roughly 10 percent) involved false guilty pleas. It is estimated that between 2 and 8 percent of convicted felons who have pleaded guilty are actually innocent. In a federal prison population of 218,000 — the number at the end of fiscal year 2011 — where 97 percent pleaded guilty, that means that anywhere from 4,229 to 16,916 people could be imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.

The plea-bargaining system is premised on the assumption that there is relatively equal bargaining power between the accused and the state. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. Mitigating the coercive effect of the plea-bargaining process will require empowering the defense. And one way to do that is to reduce the informational asymmetry between prosecutors and defense counsel. Plea offers are often foisted upon the accused before the defense has had enough time to investigate the facts, and the longer the investigation takes, the less generous the plea off may become. Congress should pass legislation that requires the government — whether constitutionally required or not — to disclose material exculpatory evidence before the accused enters into any plea agreement. This reform will reduce the risk of false guilty pleas by helping ensure that the accused is better informed before sealing his or her fate.

Not all criminal justice reforms benefit criminal defendants. I, for instance, strongly supported Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) Military Justice Improvement Act, which would have transferred charging authority for many non-military-related crimes, including sexual assault, from unit commanders to independent military prosecutors — a change that may well make it more likely for charges to be brought against defendants. Such a reform will better serve the interests of justice. Likewise, the reforms discussed in this essay would serve the interests of justice by giving much-needed protection to individuals — many of whom are poor or minorities — who find themselves in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors.

Also, you can read the essay, A System that Rewards Results, by Marc Levin, founder and policy director of Right on Crime and director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.


Sen. Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president this morning in an email to supporters:

After a year of travel, discussion and dialogue, I have decided to be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. But let’s be clear. This campaign is not about Bernie Sanders. It about a grassroots movement of Americans standing up and saying: “Enough is enough. This country and our government belong to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires.”


“I have no idea what he’s thinking” (laughter)

Here is the exchange between Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News and White House press secretary Josh Earnest at yesterday’s White House press briefing.


Q    Thanks, Josh.  I have a question about — are you familiar with Operation Jade Helm 15?  This is a military exercise in seven western United States.

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, I have read about this.

Q    Okay, so 1,200 special operations forces over eight weeks, some of them traveling kind of incognito in these states. So the governor of Texas has ordered the National Guard to monitor this exercise to make sure that the civil liberties and constitutional rights of Texans are not going to be infringed.  Is this paranoia?  Is this concern justified?  Has it been conveyed to the White House in any way?  Can you explain what the purpose of the exercise is and why people should or shouldn’t be concerned?

MR. EARNEST:  I’ll say a couple things.  My understanding is that the individuals who are participating in the exercise won’t be traveling incognito, that they’ll be wearing armbands.  But what I would do is I would encourage you to check with the Department of Defense that’s conducting the exercise, and they can explain to you what the goal of the exercise is, what sort of — what practices and capabilities will be conducted in the conduct of this particular exercise. 

The thing that I can say without having a lot of detailed knowledge about the particular exercise is that in no way will the constitutional rights or civil liberties of any American citizen be infringed upon while this exercise is being conducted.

Q    What do you think it says that the governor of a state as large as Texas would feel the need to not just order the Texas National Guard, but to announce that he has ordered the Texas National Guard to monitor federal troops to protect his citizens? What does that say about relations and mistrust of this administration?

  MR. EARNEST:  I have no idea what he’s thinking.  (Laughter.)  I might have an idea about what he’s thinking, but I’m not going to — (laughter) — I appreciate the opportunity, though.

Q    Do you think it’s helpful?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think it’s — I think what is clear is that I feel confident in expressing to you without having a lot of detailed knowledge of the particular exercise is that the civil liberties and constitutional rights of Americans citizens will be in no way affected by this exercise.


The Americans Are Coming, The Americans Are Coming: on Jade Helm, Greg Abbott, Alex Jones and the politics of paranoia

Good morning Austin:

Operation Jade Helm 15?

What were the folks at Special Ops thinking?

Label Texas “hostile territory” and send a bunch of Green Berets, Navy SEALS and the like in the heat of summer to (pretend to) pacify the local population, and expect that to go well?

And call it Jade Helm 15? Oh man. What a giveaway

As, among other sites, revealed:

Jade Helm Deciphered: ‘Joint Assistant for Development and Execution along with Homeland Eradication of Local Militants’ – It Doesn’t Get Any Clearer Than This!

Only, according to Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria, the Special Operations spokesman who has the thankless task of explaining Jade Helm to an aroused citizenry, Jade Helm is not an acronym for anything.

It is just a name.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” said Lastoria.

And the 15?

Well, he said, that’s what year this is: 2015.

OK, then, if that’s the case, and Jade Helm has no real meaning, they might have done better to name it Operation Jesse Helms, in honor of a great patriot and patron of the American military, and a name that might have conjured up for those now most exercised by Jade Helm, a far more pleasing image of an expeditionary force bent only on pacifying remnant bands of dissident liberals still loose in the countryside, while passing out Hershey bars to the children and, if not also cigarets, perhaps planting some North Carolina tobacco along the way.



I don’t know how this will all end, but for now I am enjoying the prospect of a summer season in which Texas becomes the backdrop for a modern, perhaps slightly darker but still comic remake of the 1966 classic, The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming.



Enter, yesterday, Gov. Greg Abbott.



From Rob Milford at Breitbart:

Governor Greg Abbott has called out the Texas State Guard to monitor the U.S. Army’s Operation Jade Helm 15. The massive, multi-state special warfare exercise is set to start in July and run through September.

In a letter sent on Tuesday (included in its entirety below), Abbott tasked Major General Jake Betty, Commander of the Texas State Guard, with monitoring the operation and reporting back to the Governor for the duration of the exercise. Citing Texas’ “long history of supporting military forces,” Gov. Abbott said he is taking this action to ensure “Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.”

This follows sustained controversy on the internet, where some critics fear Jade Helm 15 is an training exercise for such ominous purposes as:

– Declaring martial law in some southwestern states.
– Using the military to confiscate firearms.
– Bringing in United Nations troops or Islamic soldiers to effect firearms confiscation, and put resisters into FEMA internment camps.

Austin based radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been sending out warnings for weeks regarding the exercise, saying it is the U.S. military positioning itself to take over the states and declare martial law.

Here is the headline on Rob Dew’s report at Alex Jones’

BREAKING! Texas Gov. To Send State Guard To Monitor Jade Helm Exercise
Is Gov. Abbott truly concerned about the Army’s mission?

Ah, that question mark. And a good question mark it is.

If you watch it through, the video yields to a promotion for Jones’ fitness regimen, which includes his super male vitality serum, on sale at his site, along with an array of other offerings, including emergency survival foods, and seeds for planting your post-apocalyptic garden.

Screenshot 2015-04-29 05.31.09

Screenshot 2015-04-29 05.54.34

But, back to Rob Dew’s report questioning Abbott’s action.

Is this statement meant to have citizens let their guard down, or is Gov. Abbott truly concerned about the Army’s mission?

Here is some of the mix of on-line reaction to Dew’s story at

Stryker CV • 32 minutes ago
Abbott is playing the political 2-step. I recently wrote a letter concerning Jade Helm to the Governor’s office and within a couple of days received a brief form letter reinforcing the Military’s laundry list of what won’t happen. I never once mentioned Martial Law, merely that I thought the troops should not conduct covert operations as described, mixed in with the population. Safety was my concern…yet the Martial Law comment was inserted in the letter to divert the argument.
It appeared as though the Governor had already given the go ahead to the military. Now that public reaction is mounting, Abbott is making a political calculation. He jabs a stick in the federal eye and deflects criticism that he didn’t intervene in some way.
Abbott approves Jade Helm 15 and decisions were made moons ago.
Don’t kid yourself fellow Texans, if Abbott was truly doing something about this Jade Helm business, it would have been much ballzier to “disallow” any military from conducting the operation in Texas. Period.

Phillip Exeterblue • 34 minutes ago
Oh great. Add more “police”……brilliant.

knight2 • 39 minutes ago
Could be legit…but on the other hand maybe just getting all their ducks in a row without much fanfare. Same way they invade any country, you gotta get everything in place first and what better way to do it then to lie about it. Of course the US government would never lie to the citizens they work for….I would be ready for a bait and switch.

Judgement Day knight2 • 38 minutes ago
It’s like a game of chess.

knight2 Judgement Day • 36 minutes ago
Seems that way. And “we: have to be one step ahead of them. Question everything, as anything is never as it seems at first.

And here’s some general Twitter reaction to Jade Helm.

Here’s Abbott’s letter, directing the State Guard to keep an eye on Jade Helm.


Abbott’s directive followed by a day a remarkable hearing in Bastrop (which I see as the opening scene in, The Americans are Coming, The Americans are Coming.).

A woman who did not want her name published holds a sign at a public hearing about the Jade Helm 15 military training exercise at the Bastrop County Commissioners Court in Bastrop on Monday. JAY JANNER / AME
A woman who did not want her name published holds a sign at a public hearing about the Jade Helm 15 military training exercise at the Bastrop County Commissioners Court in Bastrop on Monday. JAY JANNER / AME

From the American-Statesman’s Sean Collins Walsh:

BASTROP, Texas — In a map released by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command to show the fictitious battlefield of the Jade Helm 15 training exercise, Texas was labeled as “hostile” territory.

On Monday, Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria found out why.

Lastoria answered questions for two hours from a crowd of more than 150 people at a special meeting of the Bastrop County Commissioners, hoping to allay locals’ concerns that the training operation is a way for the federal government to take over Texas and much of the Southwest. Instead, Lastoria was told that he couldn’t be trusted and was asked whether Jade Helm 15 will involve bringing foreign fighters from the Islamic State to Texas, whether U.S. troops will confiscate Texans’ guns and whether the Army intends to implement martial law through the exercise. (The answer for all three was no.)

“It’s the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany. You get the people used to the troops on the street, the appearance of uniformed troops and the militarization of the police,” said Bob Wells, a Bastrop resident, after the meeting. “They’re gathering intelligence. That’s what they’re doing. And they’re moving logistics in place for martial law. That’s my feeling. Now I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong. I hope I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist.’”

Bob Welch, of Bastrop, holds a sign at a public hearing about the Jade Helm 15 military training exercise at the Bastrop County Commissioners Court in Bastrop on Monday. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Bob Welch, of Bastrop, holds a sign at a public hearing about the Jade Helm 15 military training exercise at the Bastrop County Commissioners Court in Bastrop on Monday. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Here’s the video of the wild scene in Bastrop.

From my story on Abbott’s order:

The governor’s office said the directive to the state guard — which, like the separate Texas National Guard, is under the command of the Texas Military Forces — is really in keeping with its usual responsibilities to act as the liaison when federal military units are deployed for any reason in the state, and will not cost any additional money.

The governor’s announcement didn’t explicitly address the more extreme fears about what might be the hidden agenda of Jade Helm 15.

But Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas, said the governor’s action seemed to be “lending credence to something that is a very fringe concern. I don’t know how you can conclude otherwise.”

Even in a state with as much anti-Washington feeling as Texas, Henson said he found the politics of the governor’s action puzzling.

“I don’t think there are many people in Texas — even in Texas — who think that the military maneuvers by the United States military are really anything to worry about,” Henson said. “You can’t read that statement and say he’s gone all in with Alex Jones, but is that a game you even want to be in?”

As Henson pointed out, as much as the Texans who identify with the tea party really loathe the federal government, they also really love the military.

Look at the results below from the February 2015 UT/Texas Tribune poll.









In Bastrop, Lastoria said one of the reasons they were coming to Texas was because it traditionally provides such a warm welcome.

Did it all turn sour because Obama is now commander-in-chief? (From Breitbart last week: Huckabee to Christians: Wait to Join The Military After Obama Leaves Office)

Lastoria: “You may have issues with the administration. So be it. But this institution right here has been with you for over 200 years. I’ve worn this uniform across five different administrations for 27 years.”

Where is Chris Kyle when they need him?


Here’s the updated press release on Jade Helm released by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command:

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, April 20, 2015) – Members of U.S. Army Special Operations Command will train with other U.S Armed Forces units July 15 through Sept. 15 in a multi-state exercise called Jade Helm 15.

USASOC periodically conducts training exercises such as these to practice core special warfare tasks, which help protect the nation against foreign enemies. It is imperative that Special Operations Soldiers receive the best training, equipment and resources possible.

While multi-state training exercises such as these are not unique to the military, the size and scope of Jade Helm sets this one apart. To stay ahead of the environmental challenges faced overseas, Jade Helm will take place across seven states; Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida. The diverse terrain in these states replicates areas Special Operations Soldiers regularly find themselves operating in overseas.

The training exercise will be conducted on private and public land with the permission of the private landowners, and from state and local authorities. In essence, all exercise activity will be taking place on pre-coordinated public and private lands.

The public can expect nothing much different from their day-to-day activities since much of exercise will be conducted in remote areas. The most noticeable effect the exercise may have on the local communities is an increase in vehicle and military air traffic and its associated noise. There will also be economic gain: an increase in the local economy, in fuel and food purchases and hotel lodging.

This exercise is routine training to maintain a high level of readiness for ARSOF since they must be ready to support potential missions anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.

During this eight-week period, ARSOF soldiers will use this opportunity to further develop tactics, techniques and procedures for emerging concepts in Special Operations warfare.

USASOC intends to conduct the exercise safely and courteously while providing the best possible training available for the nation’s Army Special Operations Forces. State and local officials are being informed of the scope of Jade Helm and will continue to be updated as the exercise progresses.

So why all the suspicion?

Writing in January in the liberal quarterly journal, Democracy, Nathan Pippenger, a PhD student in political theory at the University of California at Berkeley, contemplated what he called, The Conservative Paranoia Machine:

Speaking in Iowa yesterday, Rick Perry warned an audience of conservatives not to believe the recent good jobs news, claiming that the unemployment rate has “been massaged, it’s been doctored.” As far as I can tell, this is a conspiracy theory of relatively recent vintage: It goes back to the weeks before the 2012 election, when former GE CEO Jack Welch declared that a modest, unexpected drop in the unemployment rate was “unbelievable” and could be explained only by “Chicago guys” cooking the books to re-elect President Obama. As former Labor Department officials politely pointed out, this was a loony, completely uninformed assertion—since any conspiracy to manipulate the official jobs statistics would involve huge numbers of people and be nearly impossible to pull off.

It would be easy to see Welch’s claim, and its eager reception in conservative circles, as the sort of campaign noise which quickly subsides after the election has ended. (Rick Perry’s silly invocation of the conspiracy theory in Iowa supports this interpretation.) But it’s actually part of a much more serious, widespread effort to undermine institutions and figures whose authority depends precisely on their credibility—and who are among the few agreed-upon sources of appeal left in political debate. Launching spurious accusations against respected, disinterested organizations is one of the most worrying games the right plays.

To be clear, the risk here is not that we owe some blanket deference to expert or governmental authority, and that conservative attacks will undermine that proper deference. Experts can be wrong; governments lie. But there are standards that separate skepticism from paranoia and accusations from wild speculation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (unlike, for example, the CIA) has no record of misleading the public; its statistics (unlike, for example, Chinese economic statistics) enjoy credibility among scholars, foreign governments, and businesspeople; and nobody familiar with its data collection methods thinks manipulation would really be possible. In other words: It’s a terrible candidate for a conspiracy theory.

But none of that matters, because smearing the BLS was never the result of a well-intentioned skepticism that simply happened to go overboard or miss its target. The aim, all along, has been to tarnish authoritative sources of empirical knowledge, wherever they conflict with the conservative agenda. It’s no accident that the right delights in convenient attacks on the BLS, climate scientists, the “liberal media,” or major universities. Official government agencies, scientists and other scholars, and journalists are crucial sources of public knowledge, and whatever authority they have comes from their reputation for professionalism and integrity.

I talked to Pippenger yesterday to get his take on Abbott’s directive. Here is what he had to say:

There are two ways, I suppose, to read the statement. The charitable way is he is trying to tamp down paranoia by assuring people that this is not actually the first stage of a military coup or martial law. The uncharitable interpretation is that he’s lending credence to these theories by pretending as though monitoring is needed, and that, if it weren’t for the state keeping an eye on things, the civil liberties of Texans really would be at risk.

I have to think that these things only happen in a context and a press release from the governor’s office saying, “Don’t worry, we’re going to keep an eye on things during Operation Jade Helm 15, is very clearly taking place in a context of heightened paranoia that probably don’t deserve to be dignified by an official.

If the intent of the governor’s office were to truly tamp down suspicions they could have just as easily released a statement saying that there are rumors that there is a risk of military invasion or martial law and we want to clarify that those rumors are entirely unfounded, that we have been in dialogue with federal authorities and military personnel throughout this process, that its a normal, routine military exercise and we have nothing to worry about. But the language in the press release is far less direct than that, far less unequivocal than it could be.

I do worry about what happens when state officials, or national officials as well, give unfounded reason for skepticism. Obviously no one wants to be so naive to say, you should never be skeptical of government, because government agencies are just as liable to incompetence or dishonesty as anybody else and in some cases things are heightened. But the question is, is there an actual reason to believe that something nasty is afoot here, other than just general paranoia and suspicion.


It becomes very difficult to have any political argument whatsoever when people exist in alternate reality and can’t help but talk past each other. I think we need we need to be very careful when we’re spreading undue paranoia or undue suspicion and it’s probably a missed opportunity. I don’t think Greg Abbott necessarily cares very much if people are skeptical of climate scientists or the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He’s probably quite alright with that. But I do think from the standpoint of public responsibility, if that’s not too quaint a notion, there is probably a missed opportunity here to tamp down a little bit, to push back  against some of the paranoia in this case.

Abbott’s statement yesterday, and his letter to Betty, was ingenious in its way, and very Abbott.

“It’s a very artfully worded statement,” Pippenger said.

Delphic, in its way.

He reaffirms his patriotism and confidence in the military. So, if you think that the concerns about Jade Helm are loony, he’s with you.

But, the headline remains that he is assigning the State Guard to monitor Jade Helm.

So, if you think something nefarious is afoot, Greg Abbott’s your guy, standing up to the feds and foiling their sinister plotting.

And, if you think the Republican Party’s conspiratorial fringe is nutty but are best dealt with not head-on but with a consoling head pat and a tummy rub, well, Abbott’s your man.

Whether it’s Ted Nugent, or now Alex Jones, Abbott knows that there are figures well outside the respectable mainstream who have reach and draw that a politician can only envy, and who it is far better to be friends with than enemies.

From an April report in Media Matters for America, a liberal group that styles itself as a watchdog of conservative media, on How Alex Jones Helped Launch Rand Paul’s Career: Paul Told 9/11 Truth “Founding Father” Alex Jones He Couldn’t Win Senate Race Without Him:

A fringe right-wing radio host who believes the government was behind 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, and several other catastrophes, has been a key figure in the political rise of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who will reportedly announce a run for president on April 7.

Paul has credited Alex Jones, who heads conspiracy website and an eponymous radio program, for being a vital part of his 2010 Senate campaign. Jones endorsed Paul, turned out followers to his events, and partnered with Paul for fundraising, at one point crashing his website. Since Paul’s election to the Senate, Jones has continued to serve as a key Paul booster, including endorsing him for 2016. 

The fringe nature of Jones’ program is apparent during the introduction of one of Jones’ YouTube videos featuring Paul. The video begins with images of Nazi soldiers goose-stepping next to a Nazi flag-draped White House, and a poster claiming the government covered up 9/11. Such material is regular fodder for Jones, who is “one of the earliest and most influential 9/11 conspiracy theorists.”

Paul has been a longtime guest on The Alex Jones Show, originating from Jones’ friendship with Rand’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX). Jones said last year he first interviewed Rand in 1996 and was “probably one of the first people to ever interview” him.

And, from a March 2010 Nate Blakeslee profile of Alex Jones in Texas Monthly, under the headline, Alex Jones Is About To Explode: The Austin radio host’s wild conspiracy theories—The swine flu vaccine will lead to martial law! 9/11 was an inside job! An evil global network is preparing to institute a New World Order!—have already earned him dedicated fans across the country. But as the tea parties and Obama hatred go mainstream, he may be ready to give Glenn Beck a run for his money.

 What really sets Jones apart is not the message itself but how good he is at delivering it. The 36-year-old Jones has a charismatic, commanding presence that belies his relative youthfulness and a booming voice that was tailor-made for radio. He is also a relentless and creative entrepreneur who has deftly managed to spread his brand across a variety of platforms. The Alex Jones Show is syndicated by more than sixty stations and heard weekly by 2 million listeners. Jones’s two main Web sites, and, draw 4 million unique users, more than Rush Limbaugh’s site. Unlike Limbaugh or other talk radio stars, Jones appeals to a young demographic; he’s a cult favorite on college campuses, and his rants are all over YouTube. His documentary films, which he produces at the rate of nearly two a year, have been viewed millions of times online. After Jones announced a contest to see who could distribute the most copies of the infamous poster of Barack Obama done up as the Joker, the image became ubiquitous, appearing not only at tea party rallies but on T-shirts and street corners around the world.

At a time when the national conversation has expanded to include talk of government “death panels” and the legitimacy of the president’s birth certificate, The Alex Jones Show seems to have captured the national zeitgeist. The biggest hero of the tea party constituency is Ron Paul, the maverick Texas congressman who has long argued, as Jones does, that both the left and the right are corrupt. Suddenly Paul’s name is all over the mainstream media. But Jones has been singing Paul’s praises and interviewing him on the show for years, and that gives Jones grassroots credibility—though even Paul considers many of Jones’s views beyond the pale.

Conspiracy thinking is by no means the exclusive province of the right-wing. But, at this moment in history, that strand of the politics of paranoia looms larger on the right than the left, particularly here in Texas, where the Republican Party has become that “shiny little surrey with the fringe on the top.”

All the world’ll fly in a flurry
When I take you out in the surrey,
When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top!

When we hit that road, hell fer leather,
Cats and dogs’ll dance in the heather,
Birds and frogs’ll sing all together and the toads will hop!
The wind’ll whistle as we rattle along,
The cows’ll moo in the clover,
The river will ripple out a whispered song,
And whisper it over and over:
Don’t you wisht y’d go on forever?
Don’t you wisht y’d go on forever?
Don’t you wisht y’d go on forever and y’d never stop
In that shiny, little surrey with the fringe on the top!

The saber and the compass: Can Greg Abbott save pre-K from the tea party machete?

Good morning Austin:

I arrived midday yesterday at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s grand opening of its grand, new, six-story, 41,000-square-foot building at 901 Congress Avenue, only 352 yards from the Capitol, with its Red McCombs Event Center, its 170-seat Joe B. Hogsett Theater with its 50-foot Travis letter, and its Governor Rick Perry Balcony with its splendid view of downtown and the Capitol, in plenty of time to hear the speechifying by Attorney General Ken Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott.

But by the time I got there, I had missed the governor’s arrival.

Apparently, I was told, as the governor rolled past the assembled members of the press, he imparted two pieces of information.

1. First puppy Pancake had taken ill the day before, had been frothing  at the mouth, after apparently swallowing a frog.

The very good news is that Pancake is OK.


And, no, I don’t know why he swallowed a frog.

But if Callista Gingrich can produce a series of children’s books about Ellis the Elephant, I see no reason why First Lady Cecilia Abbott can’t turn Pancake into a successful children’s book franchise.



And 2:

Yes indeed.

From my story:

“We are at a time of crisis, and Texas must lead the way out of these times of crisis,” Abbott said. “We have to fight our way through a thicket of growing government oppression using liberty as both the saber that will cut the pathway clear, as well as the compass that will point the direction in which we are to go.”

That’s a wonderfully compelling image. Government as a kind of strangling kudzu. And the governor there, thrashing at it with his saber, with only his liberty compass to guide him.

Only, it seem to me that cutting your way out of the thicket of government oppression – or any thicket for that matter – is more the job for a machete than a saber.

Sabers are more for …. rattling.

That’s what the governor was doing yesterday.

After a period of studied quietude as he goes about the serious business of governing, Abbott wanted to let off a little steam, reassure the troops he hasn’t gone all soft and insidery and Austin on them, and show he can still rattle his saber with the best of them.

As I wrote:

Three months into his tenure as governor, Abbott on Tuesday sounded more like the gubernatorial candidate of 2014 — or his one-time protégé U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who is now seeking the Republican presidential nomination — than the more low-profile, low-key Gov. Abbott who has mostly stayed out of the limelight and kept his rhetoric firmly in check since being inaugurated.

In his State of the State speech in February he outlined a pragmatic agenda — with emergency items calling for spending for roads, pre-kindergarten, higher education research and border security, along with ethics reform and tax cuts — and since then has mostly worked behind the scenes to try to move his program through the Legislature.

But Tuesday’s speech, at a luncheon attended by 140 funders, staff and supporters for the think tank that has guided much of Republican thinking during the party’s two decades of dominance in Texas politics, demonstrated Abbott can be as fiery in his right-wing rhetoric as Cruz or any of the bevy of Republicans — including his predecessor as governor, Rick Perry — who are contemplating getting into the wide-open GOP presidential race.

Or, for that matter, Dan Patrick.

dyc tppf abbott 06
Gov. Abbott speaks to TPPF as AG Ken Paxton looks on. (Deborah Cannon photo)


Lucky for America, Abbott said, there is still Texas standing tall against oppressive government interference. For example:

“Instead of a federal government that is trying to control school curriculum through mandates, Texas has outlawed Common Core, and now we’re working to give parents even more freedom by giving them the power to choose the school that is best for their child,” Abbott said

But, as the governor learned yesterday, one man’s or woman’s Common Core is another man’s or woman’s pre-K  plan.

While it is certainly possible, as Abbott is, to be opposed to the Common Core and in favor of his pre- kindergarten initiative, it’s a whole lot easier to be in favor of both, or against both.

After all, it’s a slippery slope from a pre-K pilot program to full-on, it-takes-a-village kibbutzism and Barack Obama/Wendy Davis style pre-K for all.

From the American-Statesman’s  Kiah Collier:

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s hand-picked tea party advisory board denounced legislation Tuesday containing Gov. Greg Abbott’s pre-kindergarten improvement plan as “socialistic” and “a threat to parental rights,” exacerbating an already strained relationship between Texas’ top Republican leaders.

“We are experimenting at great cost to taxpayers with a program that removes our young children from homes and half-day religious preschools and mothers’ day out programs to a Godless environment with only evidence showing absolutely NO LONG-TERM BENEFITS beyond the 1st grade,” the letter said of two Abbott-backed bills — House Bill 4 and Senate Bill 801.

It was signed by 18 members of Patrick’s so-called Grassroots Advisory Board, which the Texas Senate’s presiding officer created in January — the month he was sworn into office and the Legislature convened — as part of a larger effort to more closely involve citizens in the legislative process.

But Patrick immediately sought to distance himself from the letter in a statement Tuesday, saying it “was unsolicited and expresses the individual viewpoints of Texas citizens.

“We had no advance notice of the letter and saw it for the first time after it had been distributed,” he said.


The legislation would divvy up additional pre-K funding —$130 million in the House bill — among school districts that meet certain state quality standards and that create a “parental involvement” plan. To the Grassroots Advisory Board, that sum would be a “great cost to taxpayers,” but critics on the other side of the debate have said it’s insufficient, in part because it wouldn’t help all districts offer the full-day program they say a vast body of research indicates is beneficial to young children.

The two bills wouldn’t expand free preschool beyond the population of children currently eligible for it: 4-year-olds from low-income, non-English-speaking or military families. Although an exact price tag hasn’t been determined, the measures also don’t seek to restore a $200 million pre-K grant program state lawmakers gutted in 2011, which didn’t require the kind of quality standards and data reporting Abbott has demanded.

Under both bills, participation would be voluntary — as it is now.

“This interference by the State tramples upon our parental rights,” the advisory board wrote in its letter. “The early removal of children from parents’ care is historically promoted in socialistic countries, not free societies which respect parental rights. The Welfare State has resulted in the breakdown of the American family.”

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, who authored the Senate pre-K bill, said that “to associate Gov. Abbott’s pre-K initiative with socialism and with parents not loving their children is complete nonsense.”

From Jay Root’s story in the Texas Tribune, which provided a link to the letter.

 Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, author of the bill in the Senate, said she was “surprised and disappointed” to see the letter from Patrick’s advisers.

“It seems rather strange that they would take a stand like that against a bill that is the priority of the governor,” she added. 

Abbott has fought vociferously for his pre-K plan, which has already passed the House. It would give about $130 million, or some $1,500 per eligible student, in additional funding to school districts that adopt certain curriculum and teacher quality standards in their pre-K programs, as well as a “parent engagement plan.”

The letter underscores the potential for trouble in the relationship between Abbott and Patrick, who are far different stylistically and could be on a collision course over both education and taxes. After Abbott moved away last week from his earlier vow to “insist” on property tax reduction — considered Patrick’s top priority in the Senate — Patrick ignored the shift and invoked Abbott’s name as if the governor had chosen his plan over a competing one in the House.

In a statement, Patrick also said he would “not support any budget that does not have property tax relief.” Both chambers must pass a budget before the new fiscal year begins in September. Without a budget in hand before the regular session ends June 1, the Legislature will have to pass one in a potentially high-stakes special session this summer.

While the latest flare-up didn’t come directly from Patrick, it suggests that pre-K could be a new front in a power struggle pitting moderate and conservative Republicans against each other — with Abbott caught in the middle. Patrick’s advisory board appears to be beyond convincing when it comes to pre-K programs.

And, from Bobby Cervantes in the Houston Chronicle:

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has spent much of this legislative session both channeling and undercutting Gov. Greg Abbott. Nobody is more aware of this than Patrick himself, whose few months as the Senate’s leader have shown more than anything that he is cutting his own path to higher office.

On Tuesday, another front opened in the path to implement Patrick’s agenda. His Grassroots Advisory Board said it stands “united in strong opposition” to two pre-K funding bills making their way through the legislature and which are priority items for Abbott. The bills are a “threat to parental rights,” the group said in a fire-and-brimstone, hyperbolic letter first published by The Texas Tribune, adding that they are the “first step towards the implementation of universal pre-K.”

From a subsequent Facebook post from Julie White McCarty, head of the NE Tarrant Tea Party, and a member of the lieutenant governor’s advisory committee:

Well, somebody had to say it because 128 of our electeds sure weren’t standing up to the Governor! I am proud to be a member of this advisory board who released this statement today. Unfortunately there is confusion on whether Patrick was given a head’s up regarding our opinion letter. He certainly should have received one. If he did not, apologies are needed, but our stance is solid and remains intact. This pre-K bill is bad for Texas, bad for the budget, bad for kids and bad for families. Many thanks to Representatives Dustin Burrows, Patrick Fallon, Stephanie Klick, Matthew Krause, Jeff Leach, Matt Rinaldi, Matt Schaefer, Matt Shaheen, David Philip Simpson, Stuart Spitzer, Jonathan Stickland, Tony Tinderholt, Scott Turner, Molly White, Bill Zedler, Dennis Paul and Debbie Riddle for their courageous “NO” votes. I hear the pressure from Abbott was intense.

And this from an email exchange with Julie this morning:

The Governor giving a “red meat” speech reminds me of his speech to NETTP during the campaign trail.  I was only slightly on board with him at the time, but he chose our venue to launch his list of intentions for office.  It was good stuff.  Very strong.  Very tea party friendly.  I was encouraged that maybe Abbott really did “get it.”  Unfortunately, now that he actually holds office, not one of those issues he listed has been addressed, and instead he’s pushing for Pre-K.  Pre-K was not mentioned in his “red meat” speech to NETTP! 
The Pre-K program is opposed universally by tea partiers.  In fact, even some of my less politically active friends and more moderate friends can see this for what it is…  free daycare on the back of the taxpayers and further deterioration of the family unit… all with no true monetary limits.  Education funding is a mess.  Austin always tries to fix it by throwing more money at it.  But as others have said, if we cannot get it right with grades K-12, what business do we have adding Pre-K?  It’s madness.

We pause here for some scripture:

Galatians 6:7-9King James Version (KJV)
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
King James Version (KJV)

In a previous First Reading on Feb. 4, I wrote about Gov. Abbott positioning himself as a national foe of Common Core, and tried to puzzle out why.

On Sunday, Gov. Abbott debated former Education Secretary William Bennett on the Common Core standards on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.


I mean, why would the governor go on national television as the point man against Common Core and as his coup de grâce urge viewers to look at a video that shows a teacher employing a method that is identical to that contained within Texas’ own standards.


Or perhaps Abbott’s appearance on Fox as the national point man against Common Core has something to do with inoculating himself against criticism that his appointment of Martinez Tucker reveals him to be soft on the Obamacare of education standards.


Lurking beneath this, is, I think, a longing for one-room schooldays of boys in overalls and girls in Laura Ingalls Wilder prairie dresses sharing their McGuffey Readers (“the child modeled in this book is prompt, good, kind, honest and truthful) and reciting, in unison, their times tables, a sharp rap on the knuckles for any act of errancy, and nothing in the lesson plan on evolution, climate change or this thing called Base 10.

The peril for Gov. Abbott, is that I don’t think there was any gold-standard pre-K program on the prairie.

Martinez Tucker, referred to above is  Sara Martinez Tucker, who Abbott named to the UT System Board of Regents.

As Michael Quinn Sullivan, head of Empower Texans, wrote at the time of her appointment:

Coming out of the gate with appointments, the team advising Gov. Greg Abbott seems to have made an initial early misstep by appointing an advocate of “common core” to the University of Texas board of regents. This is most surprising, given the strong stance Abbott has taken in opposing Common Core in specific and the federalization of education in general.

Among Abbott’s appointees to the UT Board of Regents announced on Thursday is Sara Martinez Tucker, the CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative. Writing in US News and World Report in February of 2014, she praised the controversial Common Core initiative being promoted by the Obama Administration.

“We should move the discussion to ‘how’ Common Core will be implemented – not ‘if’ Common Core should be implemented,” she wrote.

Suffice it to say, the governor did not consider the appointment of Martinez Tucker a “misstep,” and his office did not brook any opposition to her nomination.

From the American-Statesman’s Ralph Haurwitz on March 11:

The Texas Senate on Wednesday approved Gov. Greg Abbott’s nominees for the University of Texas System Board of Regents — but not without some opposition.

Ah, so wait, Common Core Martinez Tucker ran into some headwinds, eh?


David Beck, a Houston lawyer, won a seat on the prestigious board by a 27-3 vote. Steve Hicks, a current regent and businessman from Austin, was approved 28-2. The vote for Sara Martinez Tucker of Dallas, CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative, was 30-0.

30 zip.


Frying eggs on the sidewalk

From my story yesterday:

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who preceded the governor speaking at the luncheon, said he was following in Abbott’s footsteps by suing the U.S. Labor Department for redefining “spouse” to include same-sex couples in the Family and Medical Leave Act, adding, “We filed that lawsuit in Wichita Falls. We thought that would be a great place for Department of Justice lawyers to spend their summer.”

Abbott, who was born in Wichita Falls, said it was “hot as H-E-double-toothpicks” there in the summer, recalling his mother cooking a fried egg on the sidewalk one July day. “I hope you cook those federal lawyers,” Abbott told Paxton.

Abbott said his mother fried the egg on the Wichita Falls sidewalk as a demonstration for him and his brother.

But a reader sent this link from Everyday Mysteries:

This question comes from the saying “It’s so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk!” How many kids, hearing it, actually try? Most likely they end up with a mess resembling scrambled eggs more than one sunny-side up. So what’s the problem?

An egg needs a temperature of 158°F to become firm. In order to cook, proteins in the egg must denature (modify), then coagulate, and that won’t happen until the temperature rises enough to start and maintain the process.

The sidewalk presents several challenges to this. According to an experiment reported in Robert Wolke’s book, What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained, sidewalk temperatures can vary depending on the composition of the sidewalk, whether it is in direct sunlight, and of course, the air temperature. Dark objects absorb more light, so blacktop paving would be hotter than concrete. More often than not, sidewalks are concrete. Wolke found that a hot sidewalk might only get up to 145°F. Once you crack the egg onto the sidewalk, the egg cools the sidewalk slightly. Pavement of any kind is a poor conductor of heat, so lacking an additional heat source from below or from the side, the egg will not cook evenly.

Something closer to the conditions of a frying pan would be the hood of a car. Metal conducts heat better and gets hotter, so people actually have been able to cook an egg on a car hood’s surface.

Still, the idea of cooking an egg on a sidewalk won’t die. It is so intriguing that the city of Oatman, Arizona, hosts an annual Solar Egg Frying Contest on the 4th of July. Contestants get 15 minutes to make an attempt using solar (sun) power alone. Oatman judges, however, do allow some aids, such as mirrors, aluminum reflectors, or magnifying glasses, which would help to focus the heat onto the egg itself. It turns out that eggs also have a bit of an advantage in Arizona, the land of low humidity and high heat. Liquids evaporate rapidly when humidity is low. The eggs have a bit of “help” while they cook, and they dry out faster.

I bet you were wondering what is the origin of the saying? It’s not clear, although there is a reference to it in the Los Angeles Times on October 5, 1933, and even as far back as June 11, 1899, in The Atlanta Constitution–so the idea had captured the American imagination and become one of our common sayings by that time. And what about the other saying, “it’s so hot the chickens are laying hard-boiled eggs?” Well, what do you think?

Well, maybe Everyday Mysteries has never been to Wichita Falls.

And maybe “those federal lawyers” can try their hand at frying an egg on the sidewalk this summer.

UPDATE: Pet crematoriums considered by Texas lawmakers

An old veterinarian joke: “What do you call a vet that treats one species?”

Answer: A physician.

Gary Gosney, a Temple veterinarian, cracked that one during testimony before the House Environmental Regulation Committee as it took up a proposal, pushed by Gosney’s animal crematorium operation, to regulate animal crematoriums the same way as human crematoriums.

The deregulation proposed “is consistent with the free market economic system and values that Texas champions,” explained bill author Molly White, a Republican state Representative from Belton.

According to testimony before the committee, animal crematoriums are currently regulated as “incinerators,” limiting the hours they can operate and their ability to expand their facilities.

Gosney told the committee the more stringent regulations involving an incinerator mean higher costs.

That, in turns, means dead pets are more likely to be buried in the landfill than sent to a crematorium.

“You want to have your animal to have the same care after it dies as a human does,” Gosney told the committee.

UPDATE: The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality patiently explained to me why animal and human cremation are treated differently. The short answer is the different rules developed because of the difference between what’s being incinerated, human remains versus animal remains:

Regulations that apply to combustion units burning animal carcasses are regulated differently from human crematory units, because of the material that is being burned.  Human remains are not defined or classified as “waste”; whereas, dead animal carcasses are defined as a “special waste.” A combustion unit that is used in the process of burning wastes is called an incinerator. Since human remains are not considered wastes, the units that burn human remains are called crematory units.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has historically minimized its regulation of human crematories, other than to insure that emissions from the crematory units would not create a nuisance, because the primary authority to regulate human crematories was granted to other state agencies and because these sources tended to be very small sources of emissions.  The Texas Department of State Health Services is given statutory authority in the Health and Safety Code to regulate the disposal of human remains. The Texas Funeral Services Commission is given statutory authority to regulate the cremation of human remains under Section 716 of the Health and Safety Code. The regulation of animal carcass incinerators is not granted to another state agency and therefore resides with the TCEQ. The TCEQ regulates different industries that utilize incinerators that burn waste. Rules associated with incineration are generally written to insure the incinerator is properly operated, so as not to create a nuisance, and to minimize emissions to protect human health and the environment. The United States Environmental Protection Agency also has developed extensive rules related to the regulations of incinerators.  Although current EPA rules do not regulate human crematory units or animal carcass incinerators, EPA’s other incineration rules also differ based upon the type of material or waste being burned. So, identical incinerators could have entirely different requirements, if they were burning two different materials.

The claim that there are more requirements under existing rules to expand or increase the hours of operation for  animal carcass incinerators compared to human crematories is correct, due primarily to the difference in the classification of what is being burned.  Existing environmental requirements for human crematories are contained in a permit by rule which contains minimal requirements for the reasons identified above. The existing standard permit for commercial animal carcass incinerators includes limitations on expansion based upon an evaluation of resulting off-property concentrations, but the standard permit also offers some opportunities for expansion. 

Avik picks Rick (and vice versa): Why Perry being Roy’s boy matters

Good morning:

This is Avik Roy.

He said it was kind of a “stuffy” photo of him from the Manhattan Institute website. Yes indeed. Looks more like Madame Tussauds. Doesn’t look at all like the engaging guy I talked to on the phone yesterday.

Avik Roy
Avik Roy


Here he is from Twitter. Whoa. Much better.



Yesterday, Rick Perry’s prospective presidential campaign made some important policy hires, beginning with Roy.

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry’s leadership PAC, RickPAC, is proud to announce new, senior policy advisers. 

“For more than two years I’ve focused on being substantially better-prepared to discuss policies I believe will help create a better, more secure America,” said Gov. Perry. “I’m thankful for all the experts who have briefed me on a wide range of issues, especially Avik Roy and Abby McCloskey, whose erudition on complex challenges will serve as great resources as I outline my vision for the future of our country.”  

As Senior Advisor, Avik Roy will share his expertise on a wide range of policies and help guide communication on all policy-related issues. Roy is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the Opinion Editor at Forbes. In 2012, Roy served as a health care policy adviser to Mitt Romney. Roy is the author of Transcending Obamacare and How Medicaid Fails the Poor, and co-authored Fixing Veterans Health Care.

“Over the last 15 years, no leader has expanded economic opportunity in more ways for more people than Gov. Rick Perry. I can’t wait to come home to Texas and work with RickPAC because I’m convinced that the creative, conservative reforms he implemented as governor can make life better for every American,” said Roy.

Abby McCloskey will serve as RickPAC’s Policy Director. Abby has been leading policy briefings for the governor with a wide range of experts for over a year.  Prior to joining RickPAC, McCloskey was the Program Director of Economic Policy at the American Enterprise Institute. She also has experience as the Director of Research at the Financial Services Roundtable, as an Adviser to Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), and as a Policy Associate with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. McCloskey has a M.S. in Applied Economics from Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. in Economics from Wheaton College. 

“Texas’ economic success under the leadership of Gov. Rick Perry is unmatched in our country. I look forward to working with the governor on policies to unleash economic growth and increase opportunity for all Americans,” said McCloskey.

Brett Fetterly joins RickPAC as Foreign Policy Coordinator. As a graduate student at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington D.C., he studied under Dr. Eliot Cohen and Ambassador Eric Edelman. This May he earns his master’s degree in Strategic Studies and International Economics.

“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work with the governor and respected policy experts to develop foreign and defense policies that encourage strong and unwavering American leadership,” said Fetterly.

The naming of Roy, especially, stirred a lot of positive buzz in political circles.

Like this:



All right. I’m game.

I reached Roy late yesterday afternoon at Austin Bergstrom, where he was waiting for plane back to New York City, and asked him what all the fuss is about.

Why is it considered such a big deal that Perry had snagged him for his campaign?

Obviously, I’m flattered that people think that but I think it’s  the other way around and I’m honored to have the opportunity to work with the governor. I think he’s done a tremendous job here in the state and if you’re a guy like me who’s passionate about public policy and the ability of public policy ideas to make life better for every American, I think the governor is a guy who has embraced that side of being a politician, of being in politics.

I don’t think anyone would say that he’s sat around the last 14 years and coasted. I think he’s put forward a lot of  initiatives that have been, from my point of view, have been fairly innovative and entrepreneurial and applied conservative principles to a broad range of policy problems. I think if you’re a guy like me who believes in the possibility of policy to make a difference, that’s the kind of guy you want to work with.

He said he expects to continue with his responsibilities at the Manhattan Institute and at Forbes. Roy said he’s happy that he will get to spend time in Texas again.

I went to high school in San Antonio, so I have Texas ties and have followed the governor’s career for a long time. I met him, I want to say it could be  2012 maybe 2013. He spoke at a Forbes health care summit in New York and I interviewed him in that context and got to spend some time with him.

We met in Austin a few times last year to brief him on health care and entitlement issues at the behest of Jeff Miller, his main man down here.  And those discussion led to further discussions about being more involved in advising the governor, and here we are.

I’ve been in discussions with a number of the people who are thinking about running in 2016. My plan had been to not really get involved in the primaries, just talk to anyone who cared what I thought and just try to be as helpful to the field as possible.  But Gov. Perry made me an offer I couldn’t refuse in this role for him, so here I am.

What was so attractive about the governor’s offer?

Having the ability to further develop his agenda and apply what he’s done in Texas to the national stage, not  just on health care but on the broad sweep of policy issue.

The first attraction is what I said already. Gov. Perry is a guy who is an innovative and entrepreneurial policy maker. If you’re interested in public policy, that is the kind of guy you want to work for. And then the secondary consideration is that my involvement would be at a fairly senior level in terms of helping the governor develop the agenda broadly not just on health care and entitlement reform, which is my traditional focus, but I have spent a lot of time on a lot of other issues and  when you’re in the think tank world, you have to kind of pick a specialty because that’s how think tanks work. There really aren’t think tank generalists. But so it’s kind of like that whole thing with movie actors or actresses who get typecast in a particular role, part of you wants to break out from that. The opportunity to apply my interest on a broad range of issues to Gov. Perry is attractive.

Like, for instance …

One of the things I’ve really admired about the governor is his  attempt to create a $10,000 bachelor’s degree, which was somewhat controversial in Austin.

If you actually  think  of it from a macro level, one of the biggest barriers to economic mobility for lower and middle-income  Americans is  the high cost of a college education because there’s a huge  gap between the income of people with college degrees and people without  college degrees, and if you want to make a college degree more accessible there are basically two ways to do it. You can spend more federal taxpayer dollars or state taxpayer dollars to subsidize the high cost of a college education, or you can attempt to do  to something to make the underlying costs of a college education lower, to make it less expensive, which is a much more sustainable solution.

If the cost of a college education goes up eight percent every year forever, that’s not sustainable. But increasingly, a college education as a component of the American dream that is associated now with a college education is increasingly out of reach for more and more Americans  and so, what did the governor do? He said, `Let’s try to do something about this, let’s try to make a college education less expensive  and let’s take advantage of all the new technology to  make a college education less expensive.”

And when Gov. Perry started talking about this issue, this was at a time when nobody was talking about this issue. You couldn’t read the white paper from the Manhattan Institute, or the American Enterprise Institute or the Hoover Institution about how you make a college degree  cost $10,000. This is something the governor did on his own with some help from local scholars like the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

That’s an example. There’s sort of something, not everyone in the conservative movement was working on.  This was something that Gov. Perry said, “I’m going to do this. I think this is an important problem for a lot of people in my  state and I’m going to do something about it,” and again, applying conservative principles to the problem instead of simply saying, “Were going to tax people more and spend more money in papering over the high cost of higher education, let’s actually try to use market principles to make a college education less expensive.” And so that to me is a classic example of what the governor brings to the table on a whole suite of issues because that’s what we need in the Republican Party.

(Here from PolitiFact Texas and Thomas Lindsay at TPPF are two different reports on Perry’s $10,000 plan.)

I think to a large degree when I follow the policy debate out there on the national scene, a lot of people are saying the same things they’ve been saying for 10, 20, 30 years, and I think the policy challenges we face today require us to think anew about a lot of these issues with maybe a timeless set of principles, but to apply those principles in ways they haven’t been applied up to this point.


I think what Gov. Perry can speak to is, “I applied conservative principles in an innovative and entrepreneurial way to make my state better.”

That record, to me, is very impressive and I think under-appreciated by observers across the country.

Had you worked on a presidential campaign before advising Mitt Romney in 2012?

No, 2012 was my first. I have not spent my adult life in the political realm. I went to medical school and, after that, I worked in the business world for a dozen years and totally got involved in policy. I started writing about Obamacare in 2009, 2010, when it first started to go through Congress. My blog just kind of took off as a kind of hub for commentary on health care policy and entitlement reform policy, and one thing led to another. I  got involved with the Manhattan Institute and started working for Forbes, and Gov. Romney asked me to join his effort in 2012. One thing led to another and then, all of a sudden I was a policy wonk – an accidental or unintentional career change you could say, but I have really enjoyed the opportunity to make a difference on an issue that affects so many people.

When you went to medical school did you contemplate a career in policy instead of practicing medicine?

I was always interested in policy but there was never any intention of pursuing a career in policy. I was the chairman of the Conservative Party of the Yale Political Union, a debating society at Yale, which a lot of interesting characters have come out of. At the Conservative Party, we didn’t really debate policy questions, we debated questions of first principles. For example, we talked about things like the tension between traditionalist conservatism and libertarianism, things like that. I found that stuff just very intellectually interesting.


For example, there has been no force that has done more to lift people out of poverty than free markets  and so it’s so funny when people on the left say that, well, if you believe in free markets, you are against the poor, when, in fact, the history of the world is that free markets have done more to lift people out of poverty  than any other institution in the history of civilization. The funny thing is, oftentimes as conservatives, we don’t talk about that. We talk about freedom being a good for its own sake, which of  course  it is, but it’s also good for what it actually does to help people.

One of the reasons, I would argue, the main reason that Ronald Reagan was  so successful politically was that he was able to make that connection between the values  of a free society not just morally but economically.

You were able to find time while in medical school to debate political philosophy?

You know we all of have our hobbies. I was fortunate to be at a place like Yale, where those opportunities existed. If I had gone to someplace like UT Southwestern, which is obviously a fantastic medial school that  opportunity would not have been there, so it’s all about taking advantage of the resourceswhere you are.

Where did you get your undergraduate education and what did you study?

MIT.  Majors at MIT have numbers. I was Core 7, which I usually translate for people as molecular biology. The official title is biology, but biology at MIT means a lot of genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology.

Where did you go to high school?

I graduated Keystone, a small school in San Antonio.

You had your choice of candidates and, right now, Gov. Perry is considered a long-shot. Why not make a safer bet?

 I went with who I considered to be the best candidate. If you really care about the ability of public policy to make a difference in people’s lives, you want to be involved with someone who is entrepreneurial about policy, and to me, that’s the most important thing.

I’m told the conventional wisdom about doing these things is  you work for a guy who you think is going to win – if your guy wins you get a plum job in Washington. To me that’s not my first priority. My fist priority is to advance ideas that makes a difference for people. If that leads to more opportunities to make a difference for people, that’s great. But if I were in a role with another candidate who didn’t have that entrepreneurial attitude about how to apply policy to problems facing average people, it wouldn’t matter whether he was more likely to win or not.

I’ve followed his career. I was certainly was always favorably inclined toward him. I thought he has done some very impressive things down here in Texas.

I didn’t have the intention of getting involved in the primaries. My goal was to improve  the quality of the debate, so I thought the way to do that was just to talk to anyone  who cared what I had to say, which  wasn’t necessarily everyone, but to talk to anyone who would listen to what I have to say and be neutral.

I was happy to just kind of work with whomever was interested because I wanted to advance the ideas through discussion and all that. As I spent more time with the governor, it became clear that this could be a really attractive way to make a difference.

 He’s a charmer.

Most successful politicians, they have that, they are blessed with those qualities. But I don’t think that it’s that at all.

I think he genuinely brings a lot to the table and I get why in the salons of Manhattan, maybe people have a different view right now, or maybe many of them do, but that doesn’t concern me.

I look at it like Rick Perry’s an undervalued stock and, when you have undervalued stock, eventually if you’re right about the fundamentals of that stock, that stock goes up, and I feel like the fundamentals of Rick Perry are very, very strong, both in terms of who he is and what he has done, and the record he has had  in Texas.  There’s no one in the field who has anything close to the governing record of Rick Perry and I think there are going to be plenty of Republican voters who are going to take a look at him at some point if  he decides to run and decide, this is a guy who really should be taken seriously.

You know it’s a very talented field on the Republican side. Everybody has their favorites and you can’t fault anybody for having a particular view as to who they like. I like a lot of the people in the field. I would be very surprised if the Republicans don’t nominate someone who I would be happy to support, whoever it is.

But yeah, when the governor approached me about this particular opportunity, and I sought out  advice from my trusted confidantes and things like that, they were all unanimous in saying, `You’ve got to do this.” That was even if they were aligned with somebody else.

It’s so easy in stories about staffers to overemphasize the staffer. I would want to emphasize to you that what this is about is what the governor brings to this.

If the governor weren’t the governor and didn’t have  the record he has and the temperament that he has and the philosophy that he has, my role wouldn’t matter. To me that’s what’s going on here. I’m just here to help him develop what he has spent 14 year or longer developing the public support for, which is a governing mandate of his conservative philosophy.

Roy was headed back to New York Monday after a trip to Austin to look for “a place to stay, where I might hang my hat.”

He was joined by his fiance, Sarah Williams, who was a PhD student in French literature at Yale and founded Pro Bono Speaks, an interpretation and translation agency that assists victims of torture seeking asylum in the United States.

They will divide their time between New York and Austin, and are looking for a walkable location here.

My goal will be to be here quite a bit but we’ll just play it be ear and do what makes sense for everybody. She’s being very supportive and flexible, but it’s up to me be flexible and supportive as well.

Right now they live in Manhattan. So you’re not a Brooklyn hipster?

I’m not a Brooklyn hipster, though my prejudice  about Austin is that it’s Brooklyn married to Texas, that if Brooklyn and Texas created an offspring it’s Austin and I haven’t been dissuaded about that. It has a very Brooklyn feel to it.

I think Austin’s great. I love craft beer and homemade sausages  and good tacos, so I’m having a great old time. I’m looking forward to getting to know Austin better and taking advantage of what the city has to offer.

I don’t share the political outlook of a lot of Austinites, but that’s OK. I live in New York City right now and I’m pretty used to that.

Avik is pronounced Ovik, a function of imperfect transliteration from the Bengali.

“It’s something I’ve had to explain to every single person I’ve met in my entire life. It’s an ice breaker at cocktail parties,” Roy said. His fiance mispronounced it for a long time until she wondered why everyone else was pronouncing it “wrong.” Such is love, he had simply never corrected her. Avik is good for a Twitter handle – @avik – because it’s “such an unusual, strange name.”

His father came to the United States from the Bengal region of India in the late 1950s or early 1960s to work on his PhD in biochemistry, and was joined by Roy’s mother. They had an arranged Hindu marriage. Roy was born in Rochester, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. In 1988, when he was 15, the family moved to San Antonio. He graduated from high school in 1990.

Of his time in Texas, he said:

It was a brief period but a formative one, those teenage years. My first driver’s license is a Texas driver’s license. That’s when you’re tooling around, going on your first prom dates. Those memories. I remember when I watched Boyhood, that was my life. You see those streetscapes and you recognize them. It was mostly shot in San Marcos, but it’s pretty similar to San Antonio. I still have fond memories of my times here and that’s definitely had an impact on me, in shaping who I am today and I’m really happy to get to spend some time here.

And, does he already have a pair of ostrich boots?

I don’t have a pair of ostrich boots. One of the things that I’ve got to do when I get down here and get to spend a little more time is to get a proper pair of boots.


Meanwhile, there’s still this, which even SuperRoy can’t help him with.

From Peggy Fikac at the San Antonio Express-News:

AUSTIN – The special prosecutor in the case against Rick Perry is asking a judge to deny the former governor’s latest two efforts to quash the indictment against him.

Perry, meanwhile, is once again showcasing a high-profile group of legal scholars who think the case against him should be dismissed.

The two filings by special prosecutor Michael McCrum of San Antonio – and the filing on behalf of Perry by lawyers from Republican and Democratic backgrounds – are the latest moves in a long court dance that has taken place since Perry was indicted last August.

Perry is accused of abusing his veto power in 2013 to try to force out a locally elected official by killing funds for a program she oversees.

Perry, who is actively positioning himself for a presidential run, filed his latest trial-court motions to quash the indictment against him in January and February with state Judge Bert Richardson.

Those filing  the amici curiae brief on behalf of Perry included former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former U.S. Solicitor Generals Ted Olson and Ken Starr,  former Texas Supreme Court Justices Harriet O’Neill and Raul Gonzalez, Stanford Law professors Nathaniel Persily and Michael McConnell, former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas Johnny Sutton, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, former Lubbock County District Attorney John Montford, Alan Dershowitz, and Jeff Blackburn, founder and chief counsel of the Innocence Project.

From the brief: “Governor Perry has been charged with attempting to ‘coerce’ a lawful, official act (the voluntary resignation of a public official) by threatening to take a lawful, official act (the veto of an appropriations bill). That is protected free expression, and the Governor cannot be prosecuted for it. ”

According to the brief, that would be like prosecuting members of Congress for threatening to act against Sen. Larry Craig, the Idaho Republican, after he was arrested for indecent conduct at a public restroom, or Rep. Anthony Weiner, the New York Democrat, after he sent lewd tweets, unless they stepped down from office.


Texas Railroad Commission again threatened with name change, to Texas Energy Commission

Call them choo-choos, cabooses, or trains: The Texas Railroad Commission has practically nothing to do with them.

For years, lawmakers have tried, rather faintly, to change the name of the state agency that regulates oil and gas operations.

In the oldie-but-goodie department, state Rep. Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, will propose a measure today at the House Energy Resources Committee that would change the name of the agency to the Texas Energy Commission.

But if recent history is any indication, such a measure has little chance of passage: Name-changing legislation proposed in 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2013 all failed to pass. This despite the support of railroad commissioners: David Porter once told me that he was pretty tired of calls to his office complaining about the train rumbling through town. (While it regulated railroad rates and tariffs in the 19th Century, the agency has long had nothing to do with trains.)jwj 0417 Lege 0994

The inside skinny is that an enforcement agency with “energy” in the name is likely to get far more scrutiny than one with the quaint  “railroad” moniker. Oil and gas interests have historically registered themselves as neutral or opposed to a name change, often citing costs to the agency itself.

“While the current name is clearly a misnomer, it is a well-known misnomer recognized in energy circles around the world,” wrote Mark Sutton, executive director of the Oklahoma-based Gas Processors Association, in a Nov. 30, 2012 letter to state Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, who was then chair of the Sunset Advisory Commission.

That letter pretty much sums up the argument oil and gas companies have used, even as others have said the name “Railroad Commission” leads to confusion.

¿Quien es más Hispano? Rubio, Cruz, Castro or Bush

Good morning Austin:

I had a story in Saturday’s paper on the startling fact that, with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, two of the first three announced candidates for the Republican presidential nomination for president are Hispanic.

In other words, if America elects its first Latino president in 2016, that president would almost certainly be a Republican.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, at best there could be a Hispanic candidate for vice president, with most of the speculation concentrated on Julián Castro, the former San Antonio mayor who is now serving as President Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development.

From that story:

No sooner had Hillary Clinton tweeted her intention last Sunday to seek the presidency than the speculation began that Julián Castro — bright, young and Hispanic — might be her ideal running mate in 2016.

“Julián Castro: Is He The Perfect Latino VP For Hillary Clinton?” asked the Los Angeles Times in its headline.

Or, as the Christian Science Monitor put the question, “Hillary Clinton-Julián Castro 2016: an already inevitable Democratic ticket?”

The instant hype about Clinton-Castro was soon eclipsed by Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s announcement Monday in Miami that he was running for president, becoming the third big-name Republican to formally declare his candidacy and the second GOP Hispanic, along with fellow Cuban-American U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, to join the race.

Suddenly, the party with the supposed “Hispanic problem” had two rising young Hispanic stars in the presidential race. And, if nothing else, the Cruz and Rubio candidacies highlight the Democrats’ “Hispanic problem” — they have no Hispanic candidates playing at that level.

“What does that say? In my mind it says that the Republican Party is the party of opportunity for Latinos. It’s not the lip service that the Democrats have been shoveling out for years. It’s not the old beer parties and tamale parties anymore,” said Lionel Sosa, a veteran San Antonio advertising and political consultant and the dean of Hispanic Republicans in Texas. “It says the Republican Party is the natural party for Latinos. As Ronald Reagan told me back in 1979, Latinos are Republicans, they just don’t know it.”

(Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman) Julián Castro and Ted Cruz at the 2012 Texas Tribune Festival.
(Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman) Cruz and Castro at the 2012 Texas Tribune Festival.

Even beyond Cruz and Rubio, there is the incipient big-foot candidacy of Jeb Bush — Sosa’s favorite — whose wife, Columba, is Mexican-born, and who, whether out of a sense of family affinity, ethnic aspiration, mischief or simple inadvertence, identified himself as Hispanic on a 2009 voter registration application, and who, unlike Castro, speaks fluent Spanish.


At 40, Castro’s credentials are comparatively light.

When President Barack Obama chose the former San Antonio mayor a year ago as his secretary of housing and urban development, it was heralded as grooming Castro for the national stage. But Castro, whose identical twin brother, Joaquin, is in his second term in Congress, presides over what for most Americans is a back-bench department with responsibilities that might deepen but not expand his limited issue portfolio.

That his name should spring to mind as an obvious vice presidential choice says much about the sparkle of his political persona, burnished by delivering the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, an opportunity that eight years earlier catapulted Obama, not yet a U.S. senator, on his path to the White House.

The timing is right. Early in this century, Hispanics passed African-Americans as the largest U.S. minority, and the electoral math suggests that if Democrats can lock in big margins with Hispanics, they will be hard to beat in national elections.

But, considering how vital Latinos are to the party’s future, the fact that Castro leads almost any list of potential Hispanic running mates also says much about the surprising dearth of other Hispanic Democrats with national cachet.

The story raised a number of questions, so I decided to do one of our occasional First Reading Q and A’s, and as always with these Q and A’s, for quality control reasons, both the Q’s and A’s are my own.

QYour story suggests that Democrats’ Hispanic bench is not as deep as the Republicans’, with all attention focused on Julián Castro. But shouldn’t equal consideration be given to Joaquin Castro, which would both be fairer to him and instantly augment the bench?

FR – You’re quite right. It seems wrong, and almost hurtful, that Julián Castro should be the anointed one when his brother has what would appear to nearly identical political skills, and a comparable, if not identical, resume – and all, it seems, because Joaquin arrived a minute later than Julián.

There was fascinating profile earlier this year of the brothers Castro in National Journal by Andy Kroll: The Power of Two: America has never seen a political team quite like the Castro brothers.

The story recalls a visit that the Castros paid Lionel Sosa in the summer of 1999:

Sosa didn’t know the Castro brothers, but he did know not to expect right-wingers. Their mother, Rosie Castro, had been a fiery community organizer in San Antonio during the Chicano movement of the 1960s and ’70s; after an unsuccessful run for city council in 1971, three years before Joaquin and Julián were born, she’d remained a political force in San Antonio, chairing the county chapter of La Raza Unida, a Chicano third party, and running other progressives’ political campaigns. The twins had grown up tagging along to rallies, parades, and political functions. As Julián recalled in a college essay later published in an anthology called Writing for Change, political slogans “rang in my ears like war cries”: “Viva La Raza!” “Black and Brown United!”

It was Rosie Castro who had reached out to Sosa; the two had met at a forum on the future of Latinos in America. Her boys, she told him, were planning to return to San Antonio and pursue some kind of public service after they graduated. Would Sosa mind speaking with them?

Joaquin and Julián sat down in the trailer, Sosa says, and began to pepper him with questions: Where do you think San Antonio is headed? Who should we know? After a while, Sosa turned the tables and asked them one: What did they see in their futures? The way Sosa remembers it, the brothers broke out into big grins and told him, in unison, “We’re going to be mayor of San Antonio.”

“We’re going to be mayor?” Sosa said. “Which one?”

“One of us will,” said one of the brothers.

Sosa, who’s now semiretired, can recount little else about the conversation that day, or what counsel he gave the Castros. But their joint reply, he says, stuck with him: “That’s the one thing that got seared into my mind. They knew what they wanted in life.” And they knew that they wanted to attain it together.

Kroll writes that the Castros say Sosa’s story is apocryphal.

As undergraduates at Stanford University:

In their junior year, both brothers ran for the student senate on the left-leaning People’s Platform—and another mythmaking moment was born. There were 10 seats open, in a multicandidate race. Joaquin and Julián created separate campaign fliers, but posted them in the same strategic spots around campus—bathroom stalls. (Fraga, who became their senior adviser and then a friend, still calls them the “Stall Twins.”) On election day, the brothers earned exactly the same number of votes—811—on their way to being the top vote-getters.


In the fall of their senior year, when Joaquin was hired as a resident assistant in his dormitory, he felt, for the first time, the weight of following in his brother’s footsteps. (Julián had been an R.A. the year before.) “I don’t think I did as well in the job,” Joaquin says, “because I felt like I could [only] get the job because he had done it.”

In politics, too, it was becoming clear that Julián—the elder brother by one minute—would go first. By their third year at Harvard Law, Julián had already decided to run for the San Antonio City Council.


Fifteen years after visiting Sosa, the Castro brothers’ political horizons have broadened well beyond San Antonio. Joaquin, after a decade in the Texas House, won a seat in Congress in 2012 and soon became a fixture on Sunday talk shows, a go-to surrogate for President Obama’s immigration and economic policies. But the spotlight shines most intensely on Julián, the San Antonio mayor who vaulted into the national consciousness with his keynote address—the first by a Latino—at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Last year, when Julián left the mayor’s job to join Obama’s Cabinet as Housing and Urban Development secretary, the move stirred widespread speculation that he was being positioned as a potential 2016 vice presidential pick for likely nominee Hillary Clinton. Barring that, Texas Democrats have long envisioned Julián—or maybe Joaquin?—as the state’s first Latino governor. Or as a U.S. senator. Or maybe both.

“The whole idea that they could be governor, senator, vice president, president—it excites people,” Rosie Castro told me. “Everybody is waiting for the first Latino governor of Texas. Everybody is waiting for that first Latino president or vice president.” And no two Democrats are better placed to realize such expectations than Rosie’s sons. The Republican Party, despite its struggles to attract Latino voters, has more Latino politicians with national profiles and prospects—Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, for starters, along with Govs. Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval. For Democrats, at least for the time being, such hopes hang mostly on the Castro brothers.

Attention Hillary. If you’re going to vet Julián, why not vet Joaquin as well.


QYou write that Julián Castro’s vice presidential credentials are comparatively light. Compared to whom? Sarah Palin? Dan Quayle? Admiral Stockdale?

FR – Fair point.

But, as limitless as Castro’s potential may be, most vice presidents and vice presidential candidates have had greater and broader experience

Eisenhower chose Nixon. Kennedy chose Johnson. Nixon had Henry Cabot Lodge. Johnson had Humphrey.

Goldwater chose William Miller, a congressman from upstate New York, which did nothing to improve his chances.

From Miller’s New York Times obit:

Asked by The Associated Press what qualities in Mr. Miller impressed him most, Senator Goldwater replied: ”He was an outstanding member of Congress; he was one of the best national chairmen of the Republican Party we have ever had; he was a hell of a gin rummy player and a good poker player. He was the kind of a man other men like to be with. I think that’s the best way to put it.”

Nixon had Agnew. That didn’t end well for either of them. Humphrey had Muskie, a formidable figure. McGovern had Eagleton, which didn’t end well, and then Shriver. Ford had Rockefeller and then Dole. Carter had Mondale, a future party nominee. Reagan had Bush.

Mondale had Ferraro, which was a bit of a stretch aimed at making history. At 37, Henry  Cisneros, Castro’s mentor and forerunner both as San Antonio mayor and HUD secretary, was a finalist for the job that year. Dukakis had Bentsen. Bush had Quayle, a weak choice. Clinton had Gore. Perot had Stockdale and Pat Choate.

Dole had Kemp, who, like Castro, served as secretary of housing and urban development but also had served nine terms in Congress and had run for president. Gore had Lieberman. Bush had Cheney. Kerry had Edwards – in retrospect a really terrible and irresponsible pick. Obama chose Biden. McCain, to I’m sure his everlasting regret, had Palin, and Romney had Paul Ryan.

In that pack, I think Castro would rate as less ready than most.

Think of it this way?

A vice presidential candidate ought to, ultimately, be someone who could credibly serve as president, which also means that they are someone who could credibly run for president.

By that standard, tt’s hard to imagine Julián Castro being taken seriously as a candidate for president right now.

And this. For Saturday’s story I talked with Louis DeSipio, a professor of Chicano/Latino Studies at the University of California, Irvine. He said:

 A risk for Castro as a future leader is that, because the Democrats have usually been short on Latino leaders they have pulled people up a little too quickly and not let them get seasoned enough. It happened with Henry Cisneros, who as early as ’84 I this was sort of – he’s going to be that Hispanic leader –  and he had some problems. Maybe they would have happened anyway, but it probably didn’t help that he was being told  from a relatively young age that he was presidential timber, vice presidential timber.

From a Reuters story by Jim Forsyth at the time that Castro was chosen to keynote the 2012 Democratic convention:

Castro also realizes he is not the first young San Antonio mayor who has been tagged for greatness.

Thirty-one years ago, Henry Cisneros was elected as the first Hispanic mayor of the city, and later was on former vice president Walter Mondale’s short list of vice presidential choices in 1984.

But Cisneros saw his political hopes crash amid revelations of an affair with a staffer, an FBI investigation into whether he lied about payments he made to the woman, and an indictment for conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Cisneros pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of lying to the FBI, and was pardoned by former President Bill Clinton

When I talked with Sosa he said that while Castro has a great future, if Rubio, Cruz or Bush is the Republican nominee in 2016,, “That changes the entire dynamic. If any one of those three is the Republican candidate then Julián Castro is going to  have less impact, as attractive as he is, and he certainly is an attractive candidate.”


Is Jeb Bush Hispanic?

FR – No, but …

From the New York Times:

There is little doubt that Jeb Bush possesses strong credentials for appealing to Hispanic voters.

He speaks fluent Spanish. His wife, Columba, was born in Mexico. For two years in his 20s, he lived in Venezuela, immersing himself in the country’s culture. He was born in Texas and is a former governor of Florida, two states with large Hispanic populations.

But on one occasion, it appears, Mr. Bush may have become a bit carried away: He listed himself as Hispanic on a 2009 voter-registration application in Miami-Dade County.

A Bush spokeswoman said she had no explanation. But Mr. Bush went on Twitter on Monday to say:

Here, though it’s a bit hard to make out, is the voter registration form.


Screenshot 2015-04-19 20.41.32

A little background from International Business Times:

Bush, an early front-runner in the 2016 race, is the son of former President George H.W. Bush and the brother of ex-President George W. Bush. He was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. Both Jeb Bush’s father and mother are Caucasian. His wife, Columba, is from Mexico. Jeb Bush speaks fluent Spanish, which he has used on the campaign trail and is expected to be an asset in courting Hispanic voters.

Hispanics helped propel Jeb Bush to the governorship in 1998, when 61 percent of Hispanic voters cast a ballot for him. He had similar numbers in his re-election campaign in 2002, when 57 percent of Hispanics voted for him, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. Florida’s Hispanic community is dominated by Cubans, who generally vote Republican, although tides are shifting. In 2002, 64 percent of Cuban voters identified as Republican, according to a Pew Research Center poll. In 2013, 47 percent of Cubans identified as Republicans, according to the same survey.

Jeb’s success in insinuating himself into the Hispanic mind is a source of frustration to the liberal watchdogs at Media Matters as evidenced by this report from earlier this year: Latino Media Tout Jeb Bush As A “Hispanic Candidate” While Glossing Over His Important Policy Positions. Outlets Quiet On His Opposition To Obamacare And Denial Of Climate Change

Following former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s announcement that he is exploring a 2016 presidential run, Hispanic media outlets have celebrated his Mexican-American family and fluency in Spanish, portraying them as appealing to Latino voters. This focus on biographical details has come at the expense of reporting on Bush’s positions on health care and climate change — issues on which his positions are at odds with the interests of most Latinos.

For instance, Jorge Ramos, host of Univision’s Al Punto, helped feed the narrative of Bush as a “Hispanic candidate” (Spanish-language video clip) during a January 18 conversation with Carlos Gutierrez, who was commerce secretary under George W. Bush. Throughout the discussion, Ramos left Bush’s policy stances unquestioned, relying on Gutierrez’s glowing review of Bush’s personal leadership qualities. At one point, Ramos suggested that Bush could be grouped with other potential Republican presidential candidates who are Latino.

Other Spanish-language outlets like the newspaper El País have also credited Bush’s Mexican wife and children with making him a “Hispanic candidate,” calling these personal factors an “advantage” to win the Latino vote. Briefly glossing over his “moderate” foreign policy stances — a popular trope in English-language media — El País highlighted Bush’s Mexican wife yet again to address Bush’s claims that he is not like his brother George W. Bush. MundoFox, a Spanish-language cable channel that is partly owned by Fox News’ parent company, has celebrated Bush’s ability to speak Spanish fluently as well as his Mexican wife to position him as a GOP front-runner several times since Bush’s announcement in December.

When Hispanic media outlets do cover Bush’s policy positions, they rarely go beyond the single issue of immigration. And while it is encouraging to see positive coverage of Bush’s multicultural family and bilingualism, a review of Al Punto episodes and close monitoring of El País’ and MundoFox’s websites following Bush’s announcement reveal that they have not covered his conservative stances on climate change and health care reformd


But Ben Railton, an associate professor of English at Fitchburg State University, wrote at Talking Points Memo, that maybe we are entering a new age of ethnic choice.

Supporting Bush’s ability to define his identity however he chooses would be the philosophies advanced by David Hollinger in his groundbreaking book Post-ethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism (1995). Assessing what he saw as the important effects, yet also the limits, of multicultural visions of identity and community, Hollinger made the case for “voluntary affiliations,” self-identifications based on choice and will rather than simply heritage or descent. In many ways the two decades since Hollinger’s book, and especially the six years since President Obama’s inauguration, have seemed to illustrate just how much we are not yet post-ethnic (or post-racial, in Obama-era parlance). Yet one possible response to those continued racial and ethnic conflicts and divisions would be to return to voluntary affiliations as a communal goal, and thus to define both Obama’s famous checking of “African-American” on the 2010 census and Bush’s self-identification as “Hispanic” as examples of precisely such individual choices.

On the other hand, those two actions significantly differ, and not only because of how consistently Obama has been defined from the outside as African-American compared to how rarely, if at all, Bush has been defined as Hispanic. In Obama’s case he was voluntarily affiliating with one part of his heritage and identity, that descended from his father, whereas no part of Bush’s heritage links him to the Hispanic American community. As such, if Bush did choose to self-identify as Hispanic, he was participating in a kind of cross-racial performance, the adoption of a non-white identity by a white American, that has its own long and complex national history.

Q – Is Ted Cruz Hispanic?

FR – Yes, but

From Aaron Blake in theWashington Post in 2013:

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), a leading Hispanic voice in the Democratic Party, said Sunday that Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) shouldn’t be considered a Hispanic.

Asked in a web interview with ABC’s “This Week” whether Cruz represents most Hispanics, Richardson said the senator does not. Then he went a step further and suggests Cruz himself shouldn’t be labeled as Hispanic.

“He’s anti-immigration. Almost every Hispanic in the country wants to see immigration reform,” Richardson said. “I don’t think he should be defined as a Hispanic.”

Cruz’s father is Cuban, and his mother is white.


Updated at 12:01 p.m. Tuesday: Richardson said in a subsequent interview with Fox News that his comments were misunderstood.

“I said that he shouldn’t be defined as a Hispanic,” Richardson said. “I’m a Hispanic and I don’t define myself as just as a Hispanic. So, that was misinterpreted.”

He added: “We disagree on immigration, but all I was saying is I don’t consider myself just a Hispanic and he shouldn’t be defined just as a Hispanic. We’re other things. That’s what I said.”

OK, so, I guess, never mind.

But Media Matters found that the same Hispanic media, which was so ready and eager to accept Bush’s Hispanicity, seemed ready to excommunicate Cruz.

La Opinión: Cruz’s “Agenda And Style” Have Made Him “Incompatible With The Hispanic Majority.” As Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión pointed out, Cruz is the third Latino to officially announce a run for presidency in U.S. history, but his “presence opens the door to the question of whether it is enough to have a Spanish-speaking or Latino candidate to gain support of the Hispanic community.” Moreover, the editorial argued, Cruz’s “agenda and style” make him “incompatible with the Hispanic majority.” [La Opinión, 3/26/15]

El País: Cruz May Be Latino And Speak Spanish, But He Does Not “Crusade” For This “Identity.” Spanish-language newspaper El País criticized Cruz for his policies, writing (in Spanish), “while he is Latino and speaks Spanish, he doesn’t crusade with this identity and is opposed to measures that would legalize Latin American immigrants.” [El País, 3/23/15]

Huffington Post Latino Voices: Cruz “Doesn’t Represent Latino Public Opinion” On The Affordable Care Act. Huffington Post Latino Voices reported on multiple ways in which Ted Cruz’s views “diverge from prevailing opinion among Hispanics,” noting that despite the fact that 47 percent of Hispanics support the health care law, Cruz “appears likely” to make repealing the ACA a focal point of his campaign. [Huffington Post Latino Voices, 3/24/15]

La Opinión Highlights Cruz’s “Two Faces” With Spanish-Speaking And Non-Spanish Speaking Voters. La Opinión criticized Cruz’s “two faces” on immigration, arguing that he switches his messaging for Latino and non-Latino voters. The paper noted that in his campaign ads, Cruz “celebrates his Hispanic heritage, but omits his attacks on undocumented immigrants” in Spanish, while in English Cruz falsely calls Obama’s immigration actions “illegal and unconstitutional amnesty.” [La Opinión, 3/24/15]

Univision 41 (San Antonio): Hispanics “Reject” Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz, Largely Due To His Anti-Immigration Reform Policy Positions. According to, Hispanics have rejected Cruz, accusing him of “holding anti-immigrant positions.” More specifically, immigration rights activists like the Dream Act Coalition said: “While Ted Cruz has a Hispanic name and an immigration background in his past, that is where all of the similarities between him and the Latino community stop.” [, 3/23/15]

Despierta America: Cruz’s “Latino Last Name” And Background Cannot Distract Hispanic Voters From His Anti-Immigrant Positions. During the March 23 edition of Univision’s Despierta America, Newsport reporter Danay Rivera explored reactions to Cruz’s presidential announcement, noting that “getting the Latino vote would be really hard for him as he hasn’t precisely championed the interests of Hispanics.” Co-host Ana Patricia Gonzalez opened the segment by highlighting Cruz’s Latino and immigrant background, noting that he has become known for his “anti-immigrant policies.” [Univision, Despierta America, 3/23/15]

In August 2013, Rodger Jones, an editorial writer at the Dallas Morning News, contemplated the question, Is Ted Cruz not a Hispanic?

I told my friend Ralph De La Cruz that he puzzled me the other day where his fellow Cuban-American Ted Cruz is concerned, and I’d be writing about it here.

It goes like this: Ralph is a real Cuban, having left that country under a tarp on a fishing boat. So you might say he’s got cred.

Last week our editorial board was discussing the Sunday editorial that eventually whacked Cruz around for his “political opportunism” and other sins.

I didn’t have a lot to say, since that train was on the tracks and would only run over me. One comment I did make caused Ralph to gasp and arch his already prominent eyebrows.

It came when I called Cruz a “Hispanic.”

Ralph wasn’t going there. With all eyes in the room on him, Ralph, winced, shifted in his chair and groped for a comeback.

Finally, he said, trying to correct me: “He’s a Canadian.”

Yes, true. But as I told Ralph later, I thought there was something else at work. I thought it might be that familiar reluctance to grant minority status to a conservative Republican whose politics don’t align with typical Democratic alliances.

It’s a common way to stigmatize and de-legitimize black politicians, in particular. Stray from orthodox politics, and a black politician becomes an Uncle Tom.

Ralph dished out something I hadn’t expected. I don’t know what the Hispanic counterpart is to “Uncle Tom,” but I wasn’t expecting “Canadian.”

From the comments section on Jones’s piece:

George Chacon
True Hispanic is ideally bi-culture and bi-lingual. Spanish/native Indian/ creating a nationality eg. Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican. If he got roots in Canada it does not negate bi-cultural since Indian ancestry came from old world across bearing strait/ or pacific ocean.Cruz is politically, more Uncle Tom, pardon, TioTaco:That is by choice, to represent the 1 % upper class entities. He is turning his back on American Indian/ hard working middle class Hispanics. So Yes, he does not speak for us! Though entitled to represent whomever he wishes. We have a right to call him what he truly represents, He is a true “Tio Taco” for those who do not habla, Uncle Tom.

When I talked to state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, he had another word for Cruz:

Ted Cruz, you could take words out of his own mouth where he has said he has never wanted to be the Hispanic candidate.

Hispanics like a lot of things. They like seeing their reflection in the mirror in national politics, but they also like seeing themselves as being valid and having a significance in the national discussion. When you have the appearance of a Latino candidate in the Republican Party that doesn’t acknowledge the hard work and accomplishments and the needs and concerns of the Hispanic community, there is not an Hispanic who is going to forsake all these important issues to say, “I’m going to put all these aside, because we’re going to make history with an Hispanic commander in chief.”

In our community they call that a vendido. In any culture, nobody appreciates a sellout.

For an alternative take, here’s Ruben Navarette writing at the Daily Beast.

So how “Hispanic” is Ted? For those Americans who believe that President Obama is “post racial,” it’s tempting to say that Ted is “post-Hispanic.”

Unlike Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, my friend doesn’t speak Spanish. He doesn’t make a habit of speaking to Hispanic organizations or attending their events. While most Hispanics are Catholic, he’s a Southern Baptist. And he doesn’t pursue an agenda that is centered around “Hispanic issues.”

Moreover, as I mentioned, during his two years in the Senate, Ted has become a vocal opponent against immigration reform, which he derisively calls “amnesty”—even though such a policy change is supported by the majority of Hispanics.

But there is another side to Ted. While at Harvard Law School, he wasn’t just a primary editor of the Harvard Law Review but also a founding editor of something called the Harvard Latino Law Review.

In the years when I’d run into him at gatherings or conferences, while he was a lawyer in private practice and before he ran for the Senate, he was always surrounded by what seemed to be his closest friends: other Hispanic Republicans.

While running for the Senate in 2012, he liked to share, on the stump, a story about a friend who asked him: “When was the last time you saw a Hispanic panhandler?” Ted responded that he wasn’t sure he had ever seen one of those. He shared the story to make a point about how self-sufficient Hispanics were, if they could be rescued from the clutches of government.


And just a few weeks ago, National Review reported that Ted has a plan to run for president in 2016 that builds on his Hispanic support. According to the magazine, internal polling in Texas shows that 40 percent of Hispanics support the state’s junior senator. Any Republican who gets 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in the general election will win the White House.

How Hispanic is Ted Cruz? In the end, I have no idea. That’s a personal matter. Only he knows for sure. But from what I’ve seen, and heard directly from him, he’s as Hispanic as any of us and more Hispanic than many of his critics.

Ted is obviously proud of his father, and the journey that brought him to the United States. I also think he’s proud of his heritage, culture, and community. He doesn’t wear his ethnicity on his sleeve, but he seems proud to be Cuban-American.

My friend showed off that pride in December 2013 in Johannesburg, South Africa. While attending the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, he found himself in the audience while Cuban President Raul Castro approached the podium to speak. And Ted did what most Cuban-Americans would do in that situation: He got up and walked out.

That’s what I call “authentic.”

 Florida Sen. Marco Rubio speaks at the University of Texas on April 15, 2014. (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN- STATESMAN)
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio speaks at the University of Texas on April 15, 2014. (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN- STATESMAN)

QWhy does Rubio come off as more Hispanic than Cruz?

FR – Rubio rose to power as a Cuban-American in a city and state where Cuban-Americans are a large and politically powerful presence and, for many years, a mainstay of the Republican Party thanks to their anti-Castro anti-communism.

Cuban-Americans are less dominant in Florida than they once were.

From Florida Trend:

Cubans, once the majority of Hispanic Floridians, have become a plurality, down to 29% of the Hispanic population, as other groups grow faster.

But they remain very important.

And they are less reliably Republican. In 2012, Obama won nearly half the Cuban-American vote in Florida. But they still surround Rubio with a strong and vibrant Latino base of support that Cruz doesn’t have in the same way in Texas.

Cruz’s hometown of Houston is among the most diverse in the world, but Miami is a mostly Latino city.

From NBC:

Miami is a majority Latino city — 70 percent of its population is Hispanic. And while Cuban-Americans still comprise over half of the city’s population — 54 percent — the city’s Hispanic composition is changing. According to a Pew Hispanic report, about 13 percent of Miami-Dade’s Latinos are from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Mexico, and 32 percent are from other Central and South American countries such as Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras and Brazil.

“Miami has a high share of foreign-born Hispanics compared with many of the other metro areas — 66 percent of Miami’s Latinos are foreign born,” according to Eileen Patten, a research analyst at the Pew Research Center.

Meanwhile, Cubans are a negligible presence in Texas, and the fact that Cuban-Americans and Mexican-Americans both happen to be Hispanic – mostly a political and census category of convenience – doesn’t mean that there is some overriding natural affinity.

From the Pew Research Center:

Cubans are far more likely than other Hispanics to identify themselves as white when asked about their race. In the 2004 Census data, about 86% of Cubans said they were white, compared with 60% among Mexicans, 53% among other Central and South Americans and 50% among Puerto Ricans.

In the Census data, a third or more of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics chose “some other race” when answering this question. But among Cubans, only 8% chose “some other race.”

A 2004 report by the Pew Hispanic Center concluded that Latinos who identify themselves as white and those who say they are some other race have different characteristics. Survey data also show that Latinos in these two groups have different attitudes and opinions on a variety of subjects. Hispanics who identify themselves as white have higher levels of education and income and than those who choose “some other race.” The report said the findings suggest that Hispanics see race as a measure of belonging and “whiteness” as a measure of inclusion, or perceived inclusion.

Also, there is a certain historical tension between Cubans and other Hispanics because of the difference in how they were received by the Why does Marco Rubio seem more Hispanic than Ted Cruz:

Gustavo Arellano, the editor of OC Weekly, an alternative newspaper in Orange County, California, who writes the nationally syndicated column, “¡Ask a Mexican!,” explained in the Guardian:

It’s not that Latino voters don’t respect the stories of Cruz and Rubio, whose parents came from working-class roots to achieve the American dream. Nor is it necessarily Latinos’ supposed hatred of Cubans, as some pundits try to paint it: go to Dodger Stadium, and see how the Chicano crowds cheer on outfielder Yasiel Puig, or go to any fiesta and hear Perez Prado, Celia Cruz, and Beny Moré draw people to the dance floor.

Rather, many Latinos don’t like that Cruz and Rubio represent the politics of Cuban immigration to los Estados Unidos, a saga far different from that of virtually every other Latino group.

Blame the White House’s Cold War game for the divide between Cuban Americans and other Latinos in America, not traditional Latin American rivalries. While Latinos who escaped sometimes-unfathomable violence in their countries – Central Americans during the 1980s, South Americans during their dirty wars, or Mexicans during this decade’s narcoterrorism – were rarely granted refugee status because American allies inflicted the violence they’d fled, Cubans famously received the red carpet treatment when fleeing Castro’s Cuba in the 1960s and beyond. Latinos who came to el Norte illegally for economic reasons had to evade la migra; Cubans who arrived after the initial wave were subjected to America’s infamously simple Cuban immigration policy: make it to land, and you can stay. (Haitians certainly didn’t have it so easy.) Because of the double standard, many Latinos have long cast Cubans as entitled recipients of a hand-up that the rest of us never got. And, Cuban-Americans’ embrace of the Republicans who welcomed them while demonizing all other Latinos also created a political rift in the Latino community that any Cuban-American politician running outside of Florida and New Jersey must confront.

That chasm, undeserved or not, would’ve already weighed down Cruz and Rubio before they even tried to court Latino voters. Then we get to their actual politics. Cruz is a blip in Latino popular culture, both because of his alignment with the evangelical fringe of the GOP and because his Spanish is virtually non-existent. The latter isn’t a fair knock, and Cruz did have a great comeback in 2010 when explaining why he wouldn’t do a debate on Univisión: his Spanish wasn’t great and “That’s the world in which I grew up, and that’s a world in which a lot of second-generation immigrants find themselves”. But refusing to speak Spanish will draw snickers all along the campaign trail, especially when Jeb Bush can speak better Spanish than most Democratic Latino politicians.

Rubio, on the other hand, would seem to be a Latino dream candidate: young, fluent in Spanish, directly tied to the immigrant experience and even self-deprecating. His advisors are even whispering about how his pop culture fluency will particularly appeal to young Latinos. But Latino millennials are the exact group that Rubio has antagonized the most, because on immigration, Rubio went from being somewhat sympathetic to the plight of undocumented youth to blabbering about closing borders before anything else.

His new hard-line approach brought the scorn of young immigration reform activists, who seem to take glee in rattling him. On this issue, the supposed Latino hive mentality comes to bite Rubio in the nalgas: you ain’t exactly going to win the Latino vote when you suggest that a generation of them ought to be deported for the simple act of living in this country without papers.


But the real offensive thing is how out-of-touch Rubio and Cruz are with non-Cuban Latinos. You know you’re bad when a gringo like Jeb is more attuned to Latino issues than the two of them combined – and Jeb is a pinche Bush, for Chrissakes! (He is not, however, actually Latino, all voter registration forms to the contrary.)

I’ll give the last word to Columbia University political scientist Rodolfo de la Garza, formerly of the University of Texas:

Rubio is Cuban and has a strong Latino following in Florida, an important state, in part because he is Floridian. But, among his advisors, there is an acknowledgement that Rubio will have a challenge winning support from non-Cuban Latinos.

Ten things about Ted, a Cruz compendium

Good morning Austin:

Lists are click bait, news crack – addictive and, ultimately, wasting.

The ten former child stars who were destroyed by fame or who weren’t destroyed by fame; who grew up too fast or who grew up just fine; who were so cute then, but aren’t so cute now; who went from fab to drab or who grew up hot; who have gone bad, and who died too soon.

Irresistible stuff, these lists.


From Maria Konnikova at the New Yorker:

The article-as-numbered-list has several features that make it inherently captivating: the headline catches our eye in a stream of content; it positions its subject within a preëxisting category and classification system, like “talented animals”; it spatially organizes the information; and it promises a story that’s finite, whose length has been quantified upfront. Together, these create an easy reading experience, in which the mental heavy lifting of conceptualization, categorization, and analysis is completed well in advance of actual consumption—a bit like sipping green juice instead of munching on a bundle of kale. And there’s little that our brains crave more than effortlessly acquired data.


In the current media environment, a list is perfectly designed for our brain. We are drawn to it intuitively, we process it more efficiently, and we retain it with little effort. Faced with a detailed discussion of policies toward China or five insane buildings under construction in Shanghai, we tend to choose the latter bite-sized option, even when we know we will not be entirely satisfied by it. And that’s just fine, as long as we realize that our fast-food information diet is necessarily limited in content and nuance, and thus unlikely to contain the nutritional value of the more in-depth analysis of traditional articles that rely on paragraphs, not bullet points.

Well, that’s good enough for me, and with the proper disclaimer.

So here goes.

 1. Ted Cruz has his own line of sneakers.


It also comes in a left shoe.

It’s the creation of SABO, the Texas-born Los Angeles street artist, who created the Tatted Ted poster.

SABO is not to be trifled with.


At $170, these are original Converse Chuck Taylor shoes. The art work is customized by Sabo. Each set is signed by the artist. It’s your mission to get Mr. Cruz to sign them as well. 😉

Compare this to Rand Paul’s libertarian flip flops.


Rand Paul flip flops
Rand Paul flip flops


2. Ted Cruz has never been to a gay wedding.

From his appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show.

Hewitt prefaced his question about whether Cruz had ever attended a gay wedding with this, though it didn’t stop him from then asking the question.

Hugh Hewitt: What matters more, knowing if a candidate for presidency will attend a gay wedding or whether he or she will destroy the Islamic State before it throws hundreds if not thousands of gay men to their deaths from towers? What matters more knowing?

Ted Cruz: There’s no doubt that the latter does, but that’s part of the gotcha game that the mainstream media plays where they come after Republicans on every front. It’s designed to caricature Republicans, to make them look stupid or evil or crazy or extreme and it’s because, sadly, most media players are not actually objective journalists, that they are active, partisan players. Right now the mainstream media are the Praetorian Guard protecting the Obama presidency, and there is no group on this planet more ready for Hillary than the mainstream media.


3. Ted Cruz wants America’s pastors to preach and pray ahead of the Supreme Court hearing arguments on same-sex marriage.


By Sen. Ted Cruz

On Tuesday, April 28, the United States Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in favor of “same-sex marriage.”

How will the American church respond?

The prophet Daniel described the people who know their God as people who do two things: display strength and take action (Daniel 11:32).

How can the church rise to the occasion in this situation? Along with my friend David Lane of the American Renewal Project, I urge you to consider the following –

 How can the church rise to the occasion in this situation? Along with my friend David Lane of the American Renewal Project, I urge you to consider the following –

1)     Preach about biblical marriage on Sunday, April 26.

We know that marriage is intended to be sacred, beautiful, and nourishing. If you do not influence your congregation’s understanding of marriage, who will fill the void? Hollywood? Divorce courts?

2)     Lead prayer services on Tuesday, April 28.

Prayer moves our God to intervene in history. Prayer softens our hearts and brings us into alignment with the heart of God. The church has not shared the truth about marriage well: it is time to repent and commit ourselves to courage on this front.

Regardless of what happens in the Supreme Court, or anywhere else, we know that the truth will never be obsolete. The union of man and woman in marriage will always be relevant. People will continue to need marriage, and to desire it – because we are made in the image of God, creatures who value authentic companionship and intimate connection.

That leaves us only one question. Will we be on the right side of history, the side occupied by the Author of history? Otherwise we will fall victim to the fashions of the times.

Will we discard an institution, ordained by God, which has brought so much stability and happiness to the human family? Or will we stand in its support? Rightly or wrongly, the Supreme Court will take a stand on marriage this summer. Let’s take ours now.

God bless America,

Senator Ted Cruz

P.S. Thank you, as the prophet Daniel might have said, for taking action in defense of marriage. Marriage was God’s idea, and He will preserve it, with or without us. But how could we miss a chance to stand with Him on behalf of something so wonderful?


4. Ted Cruz loves Orthodox Jews — and they love him back — and as a child wished he could celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas.

From Katie Glueck at Politico:

It’s a dynamic that allows the hard-line conservative presidential contender — a practicing Southern Baptist himself — to tap Orthodox donors more aggressively than any other 2016 candidate, as he zeros in on a small but potentially winnable slice of an otherwise deeply Democratic demographic.

Leaders in the Orthodox community point approvingly to his vigorous opposition to the administration’s negotiations with Iran, his comfort level with religious references and, most important, his passionate support for Israel, a theme he touched on during his presidential announcement speech.

“I share a great many values with the Jewish community and the Orthodox community,” Cruz said in a phone call during his first swing through Iowa as a presidential candidate. “Chief among them is a passionate dedication to strengthening our friendship and alliance with the nation of Israel.”

For Cruz, who attended an elementary school in Houston that was about half Jewish — he grew up wishing his family would celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas — the interest in Israel began in 1976, he said, as a very young Cruz learned of the Entebbe raid, an Israeli military operation to save airline passengers held hostage in an airport terminal in Uganda. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s brother Yoni was killed leading that raid.

“It struck me as a profoundly Texan approach to an act of terrorism,” said Cruz, who is an admirer of the hawkish prime minister. That tough response appeared to stem from “a foreign policy approach driven from strength, which I often wish American foreign policy more closely resembled.”


5.  Ted Cruz loves Don Willetts’ tweets.

From that same Hugh Hewitt interview where he admitted he had never been to a gay wedding.


Who doesn’t.







6. Donors, large and small, love Ted Cruz even more than they loved Mitt Romney.

From Russ Choma and Paul Lewis at Open Secrets and the Guardian:

Ted Cruz is raising money for his presidential campaign at a significantly faster rate than Mitt Romney did four years ago, eclipsing the early total raised by the former Massachusetts governor who went on to win the Republican nomination in 2012.

The conservative Texas senator, who is seeking to unite the Republicans’ tea party wing behind his White House run, raised $4.3 million during the final days of March – his first full week after declaring as a candidate for president.

Cruz proved particularly popular with small donors, raising more in his first week from contributors giving $200 or less than Romney did in the first eleven weeks of his campaign.

But the right-wing senator also raked in some noteworthy donations from two wealthy Republican donors – a sports owner and a private-equity investor – who are likely to be kingmakers in the forthcoming race for super-PAC money.

Cruz benefited from becoming the first Republican to formally enter the race for the 2016 nomination, an early move which also made him the only candidate required to submit details of first-quarter fundraising to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

A detailed analysis of Cruz’s filing by the Guardian and the Center for Responsive Politics reveals that his opening money tally significantly outstripped Romney’s performance in the eight days after he formed an exploratory committee four years ago. The analysis of Cruz’s filing, which details donations made between his declaration on March 23 and the first FEC deadline on March 31, suggests the crowded Republican presidential primary is on course to be both expensive and hard-fought.
Cruz is considered a second-tier candidate, but is proving he can gain financial traction through a combination  of small-contributor support and backing from key billionaires.

7. Ted Cruz loves the Simpsons and his second favorite episode features an alien Bill Clinton.

From the Daily Beast:

Cruz’s second most cherished Simpsons episode is “Treehouse of Horror VII,” which first aired in 1996. The Halloween episode includes a segment in which tyrannical space aliens named Kang and Kodos abduct Bill Clinton and Bob Dole, and then assume their form in order to run for president and take over the world. Cruz’s favorite line is uttered by the alien Clinton, who tells an excited debate audience that America must continue “twirling towards freedom!”

You can hear him recite the line, here 

He also liked this.



8. R. Lee Ermey loves Ted Cruz.


9. Ted Cruz loves guns and the right to bear them.

Here he is at the NRA Convention.

Here’s what he said:

“You know there’s an old line: there are lies, damn lies and statistics. You’re right, that was a poll that was bandied around a lot, but you can find a lot of results in a poll depending on how you frame the question. As you and I both know, we have a system of background checks in place right now.

What Manchin-Toomey was trying to do was extend that to every private sale between two individuals … two guys in a duck blind selling their shotgun, one to the other. The federal government doesn’t have any business there.

When you asked about the role of public opinion polls, when it comes to Constitutional rights, what matters is what the Bill of Rights says. It doesn’t matter what happens to be popular at the moment.

The entire reason for the Second Amendment is not for hunting, it’s not for target shooting … it’s there so that you and I can protect our homes and our families and our lives. And it’s also there as a fundamental check on government tyranny.”


10. Some lucky donor will get to go shooting with Ted Cruz.


Presumably, Ted and the lucky winner will, in this case, be exercising their Second Amendment rights for hunting purposes and not “as a fundamental check on government tyranny.”

Poll: Texas is least corrupt U.S. state, but also one of the most corrupt

Lone Star State politics: Theatrically partisan and weirder than the average Cirque du Soleil spectacle. So, in a poll searching for the most and least politically corrupt U.S. states, would you ever expect Texas not to make both lists?


Results of Monmouth University poll released Thursday, gathered from a sample of Americans 18 and older, place Texas at No. 1 on the list of states with the least political corruption and at No. 5 on the most-corrupt list. (The breakdown: 7 percent of respondents said our statesmen’s hands were clean, and 5 percent said something fishy is happening at the end of Congress Avenue.)

According to the poll, partisan sentiment reared its head, as it is wont to do. Among Republicans polled, 11 percent gave Texas the top spot on the nice list, and 7 percent of independents did the same. It was also the No. 2 choice on Democrats’ naughty list, though.

Across the country, residents of the northeast, midwest and southwest/mountain regions gave Texas kudos for political integrity. But on the list of most corrupt states, it made the top three only according to residents in the southwest/mountain region. For what it’s worth, NPR’s analysis of the poll links to a FiveThirtyEight chart that places Texas in the upper echelon of overall corruption convictions among U.S. states.

Oh, and the most corrupt state? Everyone polled — Republicans, Democrats, independents, all regions — says it’s New York. Concrete jungle, baby. Concrete jungle.

[h/t NPR]