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Friday, October 24, 2014

Project Connect 'earns' dubious Government Waste 'award'

"Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight."
Proverbs 11:1

A friend in Senator Cruz's Austin office passed this along.

Every year, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn puts out a 'waste book' that details the most egrigious examples of government waste at the Federal level; guess who made the cut this year?!?

[Author's note: The piece on Project Connect is on page 61 of the report linked above.]

From the article:
WASTEBOOK 2014 61 An extensive, and expensive, rail project for the City of Austin, Texas, is getting some fiscal assistance from Washington. Project Connect, the program management group spearheading transit for the Central Corridor Advisory Group in central Texas, has spent $157,000 on an ad campaign to prop up public support to approve floating a billion dollar bond to help pay for the rail line.

The catch? Approximately 80% of the ad campaign is being financed with federal grant money, essentially using taxpayer money to encourage taxpayers to pay more taxes. Critics have voiced concerns over the media campaign’s funding sources and questioned want to know how it can be considered appropriate when “Taxpayers are paying money to the federal government, which is then turning around and lobbying Austinites to support more taxpayer spending.” The advertisements ended just before being subjected to provisions on election laws regarding ballot measures.

In addition to questions about how public funds have been used to shape public opinion, Project Connect changed the line route, invalidating public comments collected regarding the original plan. The change in route and need for a new round of public comments is required for Project Connect to seek additional funds from the Federal Transit Administration to finance the rail line.

Project Connect also spent time and money canvassing Austin with flyers that local groups claim provide misleading propaganda regarding the actual route and benefits of the line. Instead, they claim, the fliers are intended to gauge locals knowledge of Project Connect and encourage people to attend their open houses.

The potential bond could put Austinites on the hook for over $500 million.
 Congratulations Project Connect!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Becoming Belle Knox (Part 2): #PornstarProblems

"While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage."
2 Peter 2:19

The saga of Miriam Weeks continues; once again, though she claims to be a-ok about what's going on in her life, the truth about the life of performers in the industry is impossible to ignore:

  • People online encouraging her to commit suicide.
  • The night she admitted to a male friend that she was doing porn, "he got super wasted and tried to make out with me."
    • "Within days the entire campus had found out."
    • "I remember thinking to myself: My life is over, I can never go to Duke again."
  • Mother bought her "panties, for when I strip."
  • "I like the assertive, passionate, person I'm becoming because of porn."
    • "Sexually in control, empowered, porn star."
    • Author's Note: She says that at 18, we'll she if she's singing the same tune at 25 or 30.
  • "Every two weeks, you have to get tested for the full panel of STD's."
    • Author's Note: Seriously, think about that one.

Glenn Beck, Peter Thiel, and Disruptive Innovation

"No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins."
Mark 2:21-22

Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal, early player in several other well known technology companies, and author of the new book: Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or how to build a future sat down with Glenn Beck the other day to discuss several topics:

  • Out of the box thinking in a world plagued by conformity.
  • If there's another terrorist attack on the U.S., our civil liberties will go out the window.
  • The government is much more abusive than Google.
    • "Google doesn't have guns."
  • "It feels like the system is on Autopilot."
  • Tech, as an industry, has been lightly regulated.
  • The culture of D.C. and Silicon Valley are radically different.
  • Most members of Congress "are in the middle ages" re: Science and Technology.

  • Silicon Valley -- Generally "politically quite naive."
    •  Instincts libertarian, but become liberal because it's cool.
  • As soon as the establishment says "don't read that," it's cool again.
  • The Hippies took over the country at Woodstock; 3 weeks after moon landing.
  • Believing a better world is possible is radically countercultural these days.

  • Reforming systems from within hasn't worked.
    • Create empowering pathways
  • Most people are scared and when you're scared, you retrench.
  • If you're a slacker with low expectations, you will meet them.
  • We're going to get to Mars in 20 years.
  • Computers haven't been regulated while everything else has been.
  • Eventually, the old crony system falls apart
    • But when?!?
  • "What FDR did in the New Deal, I don't think you could do that today."

  • "You want to do one thing where, if you didn't do it, it wouldn't get done."
  • Apple had "an incredible run of innovation under Jobs."
  • "It's hard to maintain innovation once you get past a certain size."
  • Innovation frequently dies with the Founding generation.
  • Monopolies are bad when they're protected by government, in technology they go away over time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

TPPF Poverty/Prosperity Summit: Poverty and it's Causes (Luncheon Keynote)

"Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And plead the cause of the poor and needy."
Proverbs 31:9

 Stephen F. Austin Hotel -- TPPF's summit on Prosperity and Poverty continues; Father Robert Siricio is the Luncheon Keynote speaker:

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

  • Prosperity is the most important tool to alleviate poverty.
    • Charity good, prosperity more important.
    • The mundane, work-a-day, world of work.
  • Giving stuff away hurts local entrepreneurs
    • At a minimum, means test.
  • We have to respect the dignity of the poor and govt. welfare doesn't do that.
  • Move from aid to enterprise, poverty alleviation to wealth creation, dependency to productivity.
  • At some point, we're gonna hit a critical mass.

TPPF Poverty/Prosperity Summit: Poverty and it's Causes (Panel 2)

"Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And plead the cause of the poor and needy."
Proverbs 31:9

Stephen F. Austin Hotel -- TPPF's is Prosperity and Poverty summit continues; the second panel is on public policies than help move people from poverty to prosperity:

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

  • Chuck Devore (TPPF):
    • Poverty rate is based on cost of food, which has come down over 50 years.
    • Factored for cost of living, California has the highest poverty rate in country.
      • Texas lowest among big states.
    •  Texas has more jobs and lowest poverty among big states
      • Go figure.
  •  Jeff Rowes (Institute for Justice):
    • 30% of Americans need permission from the government to work.
    • In the real world, special interests with time and money bend the rules to their advantage
      • eg. African hair braiders and Steel Tariffs
    • State of Louisiana shutting down monks making caskets.
    • Public action for private profit is illegitimate, and it's not judicial activism for courts to strike it down.
      • Appoint judges who understand this and change the culture of judges.
      • The reason courts allow this is to avoid the government embarrassment.
    • The free-market and economic liberty is the greatest anti-poverty program ever known.
  • Marvin Olasky:
    • The Sharing economy is template for connecting those with needs and those with means
      • Breaks down professional/amateur divide.
      • Charitable equivalent of Air B'N'B
  • 84th #TXLEGE:
    • School choice for all children
    • Eliminate Margins Tax
    • Economic Liberty legislation
    • Give people the economic means to free up time for volunteer activity.

TPPF Poverty/Prosperity Summit: Poverty and it's Causes (Panel 1)

"Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And plead the cause of the poor and needy."
Proverbs 31:9

Stephen F. Austin Hotel -- TPPF is hosting a summit on Prosperity and Poverty; the first panel is on poverty and its causes:

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

  • Richard Alm; SMU:
    • The rich have capital, the poor don't.
    • Freedom Capital Stock -- Free Enterprise over Time
  • Sandy Schultz; Work/Faith Connections:
    • Poverty is poverty of relationships.
    • Spiritual poverty is the root cause.
    • Under the surface is a feeling of inferiority, shame, and voicelessness.
    • Start out by helping them return to work.
      • We give people incentives to spend long periods of time out of work, which ultimately makes employers suspicious.
    • Coaxing people into becoming productive citizens is a multi-year process.
  •  Alan Graham; Mobile Loaves:
    • #1 Cause of poverty is a "profound loss of family"
    • Smell of poverty = bouquet of Christ.
    • Policy without relationships = More poverty.
    • Modest Living Income - You can get people off the streets where they're earning sufficient income to covert the basics for $500/month.
    • It's legal to panhandle, but you can't sell drinks on street corners to earn income.
      • "Our guys already know how to fish, how do we get them a license to fish?!?"
  •  Bob Woodson:
    • The principles that apply in our market economy should apply in our social economy.
    • 4 types of poor folks.
      • Broke and down on luck
      • Disincentives
      • Genuine mental and physical disabilities.
      • Bad decisions
    •  The issue isn't private vs. public; it's competent vs. incompetent.
    • Don't 'design' remedies for people you don't know, build on what already exists in a community.
    • Make the poor agents of their own transformation instead of delivering them from themselves.
    • In our social economy, we honor credentials, in our market economy, we reward results.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Strange" Bedfellows: Robert Thomas and Austin ISD

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves..."
Matthew 7:15

Robert Thomas is running for Austin City Council on a platform of alleged fiscal conservatism.  Unfortunately, his record indicates an unsettling closeness with the government school bureaucracies, most notably Austin ISD.  He seems to have a soft spot for school district debt.

In 2013, while this website was working to defeat the Austin ISD bond, Robert Thomas made the following comment:
Robert Thomas is on the Community Bond Oversight Committee and is a board member for the Northwest Austin Civic Association. Speaking as a Northwest Austin resident and not a representative of either organization, he said he wants what is best for the community.

“I’m very supportive of the bonds, but I am unsure how I will vote on each individual proposition,” Thomas said.

He said many residents would like to see the district address overcrowding in Northwest Austin schools such as Murchison Middle School and Anderson High School. That might persuade them to vote for Proposition 2, which includes eliminating portable classrooms and building new infrastructure on existing campuses to aid with overcrowding.
 But it gets better, from his website:

Which begs the real question: How does an alleged 'fiscal conservative' get a seat on the bond 'oversight' committee and get endorsed by the outgoing President of the Board of Trustees?!?

Bottom Line: A City Council candidate who supported the largest bond initiative in Austin ISD history and enjoys the support of the local education establishment can call himself many things; a fiscal conservative ain't one of 'em.

Vote Bill Worsham!!!