Republican Senate District convention

Yesterday I attended my Republican Senate District 16 convention.

As usual, it was mostly pep rally and preaching to the choir.

I spent a few hours in the nominations committee room because of an error on my precinct convention’s forms. It turns out that the senate district nominating committee caught the error and was already going to bump me to a senate district nominee to the state convention (instead of a precinct nominee).

The fun stuff started when the resolutions committee brought its recommendations for changes to the Texas Republican Party Platform for floor votes. (These are generally an amalgam of resolutions emanating from precinct conventions.)

I couldn’t believe how boneheaded these resolutions were. Many were profoundly nuts or useless. Examples:

  • Resolution stating that the U.S. Constitution’s Taxing and Spending Clause doesn’t authorize creation of “Federal (sic) bureaucracies, agencies and regulations” and calling for abolishment of 5 named federal agencies and “all other agencies not expressly authorized … by the Constitution…” Huh? Talk about misinterpretation! This clause’s controversy is not of the creation of federal bureaucracies but of the power of the purse, where the federal government withholds funds unless states do something, such as impose that stupid 55 mph speed limit or drinking age restrictions. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch this flaw during the discussion, so I couldn’t speak against it. Amazingly, this passed by a floor vote. A guy actually stood up and said that he thinks this will help reduce Congressional delegations of power to the Executive Branch. Um, hello, Congress doesn’t run bureaucracies! That’s the purpose of the Executive Branch!
  • A floor motion to have roll call votes to allow proxy votes. The motion’s intent was to allow remaining delegates of precincts to cast proxy votes representing members of their precinct who had already left. Had they allowed floor debate on this motion, I would have reminded how one of the planks of the 1994 Contract With America was to ban proxy votes!
  • “We desire harsh penalties … for those who publicly display or promote pornography…” I’m fine with penalties against public display of porn. No question it’s inappropriate. But question against promotion of pornography?Promotion is speech! Cracking down on unpopular speech is for Iran, China, and North Korea. Why do some want the Republican Party to mimic these despotic regimes? I spoke against the “promotion” part, but the resolution passed anyway.
  • A resolution requiring parents written permission before Planned Parenthood materials could be passed out to students. I think Planned Parenthood is a radical organization that does more harm than good. I was fine with this plank. But some kooks thought this reduced rights because it required parents to do something. Never mind that the wording clearly gave parents more control over receipt of objectionable content.
  • A resolution supporting the Social Security Fairness Act. This act would repeal provisions that reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits for wealthy people. I spoke against this resolution. Social Security is not an “investment.” The concept of the Social Security Trust Fund is a hoax. Social Security is a wealth transfer program entirely funded with current tax dollars. Anything that increases Social Security spending will increase debt or taxes. Unfortunately, this resolution prevailed because some got up and mischaracterized Social Security as an investment. As long as we propagate old lies about Social Security, meaningful reform will not happen.
  • A resolution on bilingual education. I didn’t object per se, except for some silly grammatical and punctuation errors, until a supporter pointed out that the resolution really does nothing. At that point I stood up and opposed the resolution, saying if it does nothing, it’s not worth passing. I got a small ovation and laughs, and the resolution failed.
  • A resolution restricting the right of private property owners to regulate concealed, permitted gun possession on their premises. This resolution had two parts.Currently, private property owners appear to have the right to prohibit gun owners from leaving guns in their locked cars that are in a parking lot. I agree with the first part of the resolution, which said that property owners should not have this right. I strongly disagreed with the second provision, which said that private property owners should be liable for any harm coming from a gun owner not being able to carry his gun in the premises in an otherwise law abiding manner. Even though I am fine with concealed weapons, I strongly support the right of property owners to set their own standards for their premises (with the one exception provided above). I and some others spoke to this effect, and I proposed modifying the resolution to eliminate this second part. Unfortunately, my motion to amend failed and the original resolution passed.

By this time, it was 3:30 PM. I hadn’t had any lunch and was getting tired of the legalism, so I left. Other noteworthy ridiculous resolutions included:

  • A resolution adding the words “direct or indirect” to a plank about hiring lobbyists. Huh? How does stating all possible forms of an action add meaning to a statement of principles?
  • A resolution calling for the end of all earmarks. Totally nutty. The problem is the abuse of earmarks, not earmarks themselves. Without earmarks, Congress would fully delegate allocation of government resources to unaccountable bureaucracies. The problem are pork earmarks that force pointless or wasteful spending (e.g., bridge to nowhere).
  • Various resolutions calling for drastic changes to our monetary system, abolishment of the Federal Reserve System, or enactment of a commodity-based currency. Sheer whack job nuttiness. I hope these failed.
  • Immediate Iraq and Afghanistan withdrawal. Some Republicans want us to surrender to Iraqi and Afghan terrorists. I noticed a lot of Ron Paul supporters at the nominations committee meeting. I figure they were behind this.

The resolutions that passed merely trickle up to the state convention, and it is that convention that puts together the final document. The state Republican platform is already nutty enough, so I hope these resolutions get rejected.

I am proud that I helped get two planks inserted into the 2002 Texas platform concerning speed limits. Unfortunately, none of my 2008 precinct resolutions made it past the senate district resolutions committee, so I will have little impact on the Texas Republican platform this year.

The poor quality of the senate district 16 resolutions committee’s work amazed me. Far too many of its resolutions were ignorant, pointless, or rife with grammatical or punctuation errors.

We’re Republicans. Certainly we can do better?

Lent fast almost done

In the old Beavis and Butt-head cartoons, Beavis becomes Cornholio when he eats lots of sugar. Example:

On Easter Sunday, I break my Lent fast. I will drown myself in sweets. I may become the Great Cornholio. (How’s that for introducing a spiritual exercise?)

Some interpret the Lent fast to exclude Sundays because those are feast days. I decided to fast straight through without stopping. Dessert and candy and explicitly sweet stuff haven’t passed my lips since Shrove Tuesday.

I recall a poignant study on grace from a few years ago. It showed how a rigid, rule-bound religious group was transformed by an infusion of grace.

I could see a valid argument that failing to observe sanctioned Lent fast breaks may be an example of a grace-less, rule-bound, spiritually rigid exercise.

However, I also considered what I am giving up: stuff that my body doesn’t need. Stuff that isn’t in any way essential to my life. Stuff on which I should have no dependence. As much as I love my Blue Bell Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream, I am better off for skipping it for these 6.5 weeks.

Even though giving up sweet junk foods is a common Protestant form of Lent fast, it’s really such a light fast that I can have a fully grace-ful Sundays without it.

So I held my Lent fast straight, not giving it up.

As an average American, I life a life full of material comforts that even the richest from 2000 years ago could only imagine. I realize that this trivial fast is nothing, absolutely nothing compared to temptation Jesus faced in the wilderness. But it still gives me a glimpse, and for that I am thankful.

Irving’s new pet tax

The Dallas Morning News reports that Irving, Texas just enacted a pet tax. When you pay the tax, your animal gets a record in a database maintained by a private firm. Residents with untaxed pets risk a class C misdemeanor, a real offense that goes on criminal records.

Irving’s stated rationale is “to reunite more lost pets with their owners and continue driving down the rate of animals the Irving Animal Shelter euthanizes.”

Irving has already succeeded with the euthanization problem: they plummeted 70% in the past 3 years. Now 80% of Irving’s pet shelter pets get to live. Way to go!

But the other goal, reuniting pets with their owners, is silly.

Here’s how it works: owners of fixed and microchipped pets pay the least tax, $5. Owners get taxed $10 if the pet is missing a microchip and $15 if the pet is not fixed. These sound low, but how many taxes never rise? Trust me, these are introductory period prices. It won’t be long before that $15 tax rises to Dallas’s $30 tax.

Don’t get me wrong; I’d love to reunite all lost pets with their owners. But why should a city force owners to take a specific measure to help reunification? Are pet owners incapable of managing their property?

I’ll bet a couple of dollars that 1. the vast majority of pet owners are responsible people, and 2. their pets either never get lost or, if lost, are found before they end up in a shelter.

Instead of recognizing that any problems are likely isolated to a very small percentage of pet owners, Irving has done what governments do best: harass and annoy everyone.

Pets who are not reunited are a personal problem, not a societal problem. There is no legitimate rationale for Irving to force this on its citizens. A pet tax is another piece of nanny state interference into the private matters of citizens.

Dallas Morning News article: Irving dog and cat owners must register their pets

Don’t do something, just sit there!

We were involved in a minor wreck today. Not our fault; an unobservant driver ran into our car, which was stuck in traffic leaving some parade.

The incredible part is the Dallas County Sheriff, Lupe Valdez, was in uniform and sitting in the open bed of a Dallas County Sheriff’s truck, also stuck in traffic, no more than 30 feet line of sight from us. Because of barriers, she would have had to walk about 100 or so feet to get to us.

While my head still feels shaken 2 hours later, the wreck probably was minor. An amateur investigation of the car could only find two dimples in the rear bumper from the other car’s front license plate.

Did the sheriff bother to help? Did she even acknowledge my shouted question of whether she saw the crash?

Nope. She and her non-uniformed cohorts just sat in the truck, gave a blank stare, and did nothing.

I am floored. I guess as an average citizen, I am in her “flyover country.”

I have a picture. I can’t share it yet. But I will as soon as I can.

Ceiling is done (but more work to do!)

The den/living room ceiling is finished! Late week, it was taped, bedded, textured, and painted.

Here’s how it looked after the taping and bedding:

Then it was textured and painted:


Did you notice that the plastic sheeting is down? The room still has no attic insulation, so we’re keeping it mostly closed off from the rest of the house. But we can at least go into the garage without going into the front yard.

All that’s left now is to sand and refinish the floors, install the blown in fiberglass attic insulation, and finish out the recessed lights.

Oh, and replace most of our furniture. Argh.