The Rise of the Anti-Republicans

Lubbock is so overwhelmingly Republican that here, much like at the national level, we are experiencing the rise of the anti-Republicans.

These are a new breed of critic. They often spurn “the arena,” professing to be smarter than voters and officeholders alike. Where the anti-Republicans have achieved commercial or electoral viability, it is by the goodwill of their Democratic supporters.

This is not the usual style of dissent. For years Democrats and Republicans have welcomed the open debate of ideas. The lines were distinctly drawn and the differences clear.

They unite around an angry pathology, dubious credibility and uncertain stability.

The anti-Republicans, on the other hand, are a political fifth column; Democrats professing to be Republicans. They spend their time and energy expounding all that is wrong with the Republican Party. They canonize past Democratic figures and lament there are none like them today, ignoring their historical support of segregation, abortion and big government.

We eschew the porcine politics of pragmatism. What spews from the anti-Republicans is the crudest form of populist politics. The message changes from one to the next because they have no guiding principles. Instead, they unite around an angry pathology, dubious credibility and uncertain stability.

They value personality over principle. In their world, it is not the job of lawmakers to work for the greater good by passing principled legislation, but to be the biggest pigs at the trough. An officeholder must bring home a disproportionate share of the pie or be damned. The anti-Republicans disdain all but the pork principle.

The anti-Republicans disdain all but the pork principle.

When confronted with rational argument the anti-Republicans react with anger and pejorative. They resort to belittling opponents because they cannot argue from the secure ground of conservative values like limited government and self reliance.

Hiding behind nostalgia, shallow slogans and cheap rhetoric, the anti-Republicans are not electable. They are sideline critics.

The underlying conviction of the anti-Republicans is that we are dependent upon government to be great. Thus, their promises to make us “great again.”

But when did we cease to be great?

What ought to identify Republicans are our ideas: we coalesce around common beliefs and principles we hold dear.

And what made us great? Was it big government? Money from Austin? Does our greatness derive from the personality of our lawmakers? Or, are we great because of the ideas and values of our citizens?

What ought to identify Republicans are our ideas: we coalesce around common beliefs and principles we hold dear. The tent is big enough that we need not agree on every issue, but we agree that our ideas are what bind us.

What do we do with the anti-Republicans?

We stop calling them Republicans. They are political anarchists; Democrats in disguise. Unlike Republicans with whom we may disagree on one principle or another, the anti-Republicans are dishonest purveyors of political and social chaos.

We promote principle and eschew the porcine politics of pragmatism.

We challenge them. If bringing home the bacon is the stuff statesmanship is made of, then we demand they prove it. Let them run for office as Democrats, whose agenda they advance. 

Finally, we continue to be the party of ideas that matter. We question their presuppositions and false premises. We promote principle and eschew the porcine politics of pragmatism.

It has been a turbulent election year. To the degree we abandon our principles we cease to be the Republican Party and become a political parody.


AJ Editorial is Bad Opinion Based on Fabrication

Wednesday the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal carried an editorial founded in false reporting, reinforced by fraudulent quotes and bolstered by bad opinion.

In an op-ed piece that was more appropriate to the advertising section, the paper promoted Vigilant Solutions, a company that has devised a license plate recognition system. Their device will read and track license plates as a police officer drives down the street. If a plate owner owes outstanding fines to the city the officer is alerted and can stop the offender and offer to run his credit card on the spot to pay the fines. If the driver has no credit card the officer can choose to haul the citizen to jail for not paying a parking ticket.

Vigilant calls it their "warrant redemption system."

The city of Kyle never implemented the program. The quote from the police chief was a complete fabrication.

The result is to turn law enforcement into the city’s debt collection agency. Vigilant Solutions provides the equipment and charges 25% of the amount collected plus processing fees. 

The AJ, acting as a shill for Vigilant Solutions, advocates the idea saying “it has an appeal.”

The advertisement-parading-as-an-editorial cited the city of Kyle as an example saying it “is now using the warrant redemption program.”

The AJ editorial even quoted Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett saying “the program frees up more time for his officers to handle other police matters.”

The Sandstorm Scholar did a little fact checking and discovered none of the above is true.

First, according to Kyle Assistant City Manager James Earp, the city of Kyle never implemented the program. The city council initially approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to explore the idea. The council later voted unanimously to kill it more than two weeks prior to the AJ editorial. The AJ report was false.

This wasn't a mistake; it was a made-up story to fit a preconceived conclusion.

Further, the quote from the police chief, which can reasonably be inferred to be a quote given the AJ, was a complete fabrication. Police Chief Jeff Barnett told the Sandstorm Scholar he had not talked with anyone from the Avalanche-Journal.

Chief Barnett added that he had seen reports in the media that implied his department had implemented the program but that he had never said that to any media outlet.

“One misconception that I heard that was out there in some media was that we had already accepted the software and had already begun implementation. That is not true at all,” said Chief Barnett.

The Kyle story was not a distortion, it was a lie. This wasn't a mistake; it was a made-up story to fit a preconceived conclusion.

We contacted the AJ’s editorial board. Publisher Brandon Hughes was out of town so we talked with another member of the board. He claimed the editorial was based on information contained in a Texas Tribune article which the AJ had run last month.

LPD Chief Greg Stevens: "That's a terrible idea."

So the AJ’s facts and opinions derive from a left-leaning, factually questionable, online publication.

If it can get worse, it is the opinion that came from the errant editorial. Like almost any other big-government scheme that comes along the AJ editorial board liked the idea of turning the police into a collection agency. “…as long as they are doing it in addition to enforcing criminal and traffic laws and keeping the peace, it sounds reasonable," wrote the AJ. 

We’re left wondering exactly how much spare time the AJ thinks Lubbock police have?

Police Chief Greg StevensLubbock Police Chief Greg Stevens told the Sandstorm Scholar, “I don’t want the police out there collecting any proceeds on the street. That’s a terrible idea. That’s not the business we’re in. We simply serve arrest warrants.”

We agree with the Chief.

The Sandstorm Scholar questions how this editorial advertisement came about? Did it simply come from Vigilant Solutions' lobbyist via the Texas Tribune and blindly picked up by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal? Or has Vigilant Solutions targeted Lubbock and is doing pre-sales work via the editorial page of the AJ? And doesn’t this sound eerily similar to the AJ's support of red light cameras in days past?

Vigilant Solutions is a California company that, according to the website OpenSecrets.org, spent $421,000 on lobbyists at the federal level in 2015. You can be certain they spent that much or more at state and local levels. Most Texas cities, including Lubbock, do not have lobby reporting requirements.

Doesn’t this sound eerily similar to the AJ's support of red light cameras in days past?

Why is this a big deal?

Because there was a time when editorials in the local paper were thoughtfully and carefully prepared. They carried weight. The topics were substantive and they didn't shill for commercial interests. Not coincidentally, that was also a time when its circulation was twice or more what it is now.

Don't mistake what you read in today's AJ editorial pages for something that matters. The editorials and endorsements are sloppy, sometimes based in fiction and make no attempt to reflect Lubbock’s conservative values of limited government and self-reliance.

All in a day’s work at the Lubbock AJ. Is it any wonder we prefer to call it the Daily Nickel?


Lubbock County Auditor Office Enjoys Breakfast of Champions

Wander up to the seventh floor of the Lubbock County Courthouse annex some morning and you may encounter the aroma of sausage and eggs and find Lubbock County Auditor office employees enjoying the breakfast of champions.

According to Lubbock County Auditor Jackie Latham the meals are the result of a grateful part-time employee.

“[She] is like a seasonal employee that works for us…She kind of just, you know, just as a 'thank you' for her job and 'I’m glad that I work here and can I help ya’ll out.' And so she stirs up breakfast and kind of makes breakfast burritos on Friday morning for everyone that’s here. And so she kind of just mixes it up [sic],” says Latham.

Latham received a 6.6% "merit" raise last year; the largest in the county.

Sandstorm Scholar asked the Lubbock County Auditor if the employee/chef prepares these breakfasts while on the taxpayer’s time?

“She does,” answered Latham. "It’s possible that some of her time might be spent while she’s on the clock."

Can anyone think of a better way to show your gratitude? Or to endear yourself to your boss?

Latham is quick to point out that while the meal is prepared in the office break room, which is fully equipped with all necessary kitchen appliances, and on county time, the county does not pay for the food.

“I think that…everybody will give two or three dollars maybe. Or, I think some of them have, like, brought some of the food. It’s kind of like a pot luck thing sometimes,” explains the Lubbock County Auditor.

What’s worse than spending money like a drunken county commissioner? Spending it like a judge who has no accountability to the budget.

Indeed County Auditor Latham, who is responsible for reviewing financial procedures for all other departments at the county, can afford to pay for the food. The county auditor, who is hired by the Board of Judges, is the second highest paid Lubbock County employee, making more than any county employee except the medical examiner.

That should not come as a surprise since her salary is set by the Board of Judges also; a group that has no responsibility for balancing the county budget.

What’s worse than spending money like a drunken county commissioner? Spending it like a judge who has no accountability to the budget.

Some elected officials have derogatorily described County Auditor Latham as a "fifth commissioner." The auditor is, occasionally, a fierce watchdog over taxpayer money. That seems particularly true if a proposed expenditure does not benefit her. In last summer's budget meetings, commissioners suggested making a much needed contribution to the employee Health Savings Accounts. Latham, who chooses not to participate in the county health insurance, responded, “Are you going to cut me a check for that same amount since I'm not on the county insurance?"

We're surprised she didn't say, "Let them eat breakfast."

We're surprised she didn't say, "Let them eat breakfast."

Don't you love selfless public servants? We note that while county employees did not receive the HSA contribution, and received a mere 1.97% cost of living raise, Latham received a 6.6% "merit" raise last year; the largest in the county. In real numbers that was an increase from $119,084.94 to $127,000.

But let’s not exaggerate her importance: while apparently more valuable than almost every county elected official or employee, the county auditor does not, of course, make more money than the judges.

We don’t judge Latham too harshly. Some people are just, well, special.

And, after all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.


Hockley Co DA Challenger Richard Husen Admits $135,000 Federal Tax Liens

Richard Husen, Republican challenger for Hockley County District Attorney, answered questions from the Sandstorm Scholar Wednesday and admitted he has in excess of $135,000 in federal tax liens. Husen, former Levelland City Attorney, is running against incumbent District Attorney Chris Dennis.

The five federal tax liens filed against Husen by the Internal Revenue Service cover tax years 2005, 2006, 2007, 2012 and 2013 totaling $135,793.83. The liens were filed during a period from 12/29/2014 through 3/2/2015. The liens are for 1040 taxes, i.e., individual income taxes.

Husen said that the liens were the result of his double reporting certain income which he earned as Levelland City Attorney and deposited into his law partnership account. That income, reported on a W-2, was reported twice, according to Husen.

Husen: "I did not deem it relevant to the issues that are facing the district attorney's office."

Husen served as city attorney for 30½ years before retiring in 2015. He said the tax liens had nothing to do with his departure from the city of Levelland position. Husen said he and his accountant have filed amended returns correcting the income number.

"Since we discovered that the amount of income being reported was actually substantially in excess of what was earned we have filed amended returns, both partnership and individual, for each one of those years. And since that time the amount that we have paid to the IRS is everything that we believe that was owed including interest. Right now it is my understanding that what the IRS is doing is going back and reconciling what I have paid with what would have been properly reported," said Husen.

We asked Husen if the pressure of owing the federal government $135,000 created a vulnerability which criminal elements might seek to exploit?

"I don't agree that it creates a vulnerability operating the DA office because this concerns years well prior to my taking office. As far as I know most if not all of the amount owed has been paid. I don't agree that this creates any pressure or vulnerability from anyone who I would be in office prosecuting," responded Husen.

Sandstorm Scholar contacted incumbent District Attorney Chris Dennis for comment.

Dennis: "I don't care how you slice it, a need that large creates a vulnerability. To say otherwise kind of ignores common sense."

"I certainly think that type of exposure creates a certain type of need; and I don't care how you slice it, a need that large creates a vulnerability. To say otherwise kind of ignores common sense so far as I'm concerned," said District Attorney Dennis.

When asked if he disclosed the issue as part of the campaign Husen said he had not. null "I did not deem it relevant to the issues that are facing the district attorney's office that prompted me to announce my candidacy," said Husen.

Dennis disagrees. "It tends to indicate there are some management issues that might need to be examined," said the District Attorney.

Dennis said he manages a $485,216 annual budget.

What issues prompted Husen to run?

"The issues that are important and becoming more and more important are the number of cases pending. At any different time they have been increasing. They file 25 – 30 felonies a month but are only disposing of half that number."

Sandstorm Scholar asked if the District Judge had primary responsibility for managing the court docket?

Husen agreed that he does, but added, "The judge is somewhat limited to whether the DA is ready to try cases."

Husen offered no evidence that DA Dennis has not been ready to try cases.

Dennis says he is proud of his ability to move cases.

District Attorney Dennis responded to Husen's allegation saying, "There is an increase in cases filed. Crime is increasing. I dispute the idea that only half that number are being moved. That isn't true."

Dennis says he is proud of his ability to move cases and pointed to the Texas Courts website to validate his claim.

The website document, called Performance Measures, says, "A court should have a minimum goal of achieving a civil backlog index of 1.0 or less. On average, criminal cases should be disposed more quickly than major civil cases, so courts should maintain a lower backlog index for criminal cases than civil cases."

The accompanying document ranking the Hockley Co. District Court for fye 2015 shows a backlog rate of .6 for criminal cases. This suggests the court is operating effectively.

Early voting for the Republican Primary continues through Friday. The Primary Election takes place Tuesday March 1. Both candidates appear on the Republican Primary ballot.

Richard Husen Tax Liens

8-District-Performance-measures-PDF

10-Performance-Measure-Definitions


Will the Real Michael Bob Starr Please Stand Up?

It’s time for the real Michael Bob Starr to stand up and let us know who he is and what his record is.

Every other candidate in the Congressional District 19 race is from Texas. They have spent all or most of their lives in this district. Their footprints are easy to find. One owns a bank whose books are published in the public record. At least three hold professional licenses from the state. Any discipline meted out against them is in the public domain. Others are business people with lengthy history in the district.

It’s time we were allowed to look beyond the spit and polish.

But Michael Bob Starr is a stranger. He’s only recently become a Texas resident. We’ve found no record that he even owns property in Texas. Never has.

Of all the candidates, Michael Bob Starr is a mystery. Who recruited him to run? Who is supporting him? Even that last question is a secret for Michael Bob Starr. Starr is the beneficiary of dark money by way of a Super PAC organized to funnel money from unknown donors into a campaign to support him.

We call on Michael Bob Starr to release his military personnel record.

Starr is the classic carpetbagger. No one really knows who he is. He hopes to take advantage of a short election cycle and the cumbersome federal laws regarding the disclosure of contributors to do an end run on West Texas before voters wake up and start asking questions.

It’s time we were allowed to look beyond the spit and polish. Stop hiding behind the flag and the men and women of Dyess Air Force Base and show us who you are.

We call on Michael Bob Starr to release his military personnel record unredacted except where national security is compromised. The former colonel should release all military performance reviews, fitness reports, disciplinary actions, reprimands and commendations. In addition, Colonel Starr should ask that the Super PAC “Conservative Texans” immediately release the names and amounts of all donors. Enough secrecy.

We’d like to know why Starr wasn’t going to get his star.

There’s one thing you can be reasonably certain about an officer who retires at the rank of Colonel: he was never going to get a general’s star or he’d have stayed in. Generals in the Air Force are rarer and much better paid than congressmen.

We’d like to know why Michael Bob Starr wasn’t going to get his star.

The voters have a right to know Michael Bob Starr as well as they know Jason Corley, Jodey Arrington and the rest of the candidates. It is within Starr’s power to make that happen.