Archive for the ‘Texas’ Category

Now that the supposedly tech-friendly Austin has banned Uber, what comes next?

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

Originally published at Rare

Austin, Texas is a youthful, entrepreneurial city, known for its tech startups, food trucks, and innovation. Although a liberal bastion, it still isn’t the type of place you’d expect residents to reject technological advancements.

Yet recently, Austin voters rejected an arguably misleading ridesharing proposition that claimed its aim was to enhance safety. But the regulations were so overly onerous and based in cronyism that ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft had to leave.

As John Daniel Davidson wrote at The Federalist:

“The story of how Uber and Lyft were driven out of Austin is a textbook example of how government-backed cartels force out competition under the guise of creating a ‘level playing field’ or ensuring ‘consumer safety.’

In this case, the cartel is the local taxi cab lobby, which successfully saddled Uber and Lyft with cab-like regulations that shouldn’t apply to ridesharing companies.

The result is that thousands of enterprising Austinites have been deprived a source of income, while thousands more have been deprived of ridesharing services that were reducing congestion and drunk driving while expanding transportation options to underserved parts of town.”

Due to this, Austin is now the only major city in the country without Uber. Even Las Vegas, which has arguably the most powerful taxi cartel in the country, acquiesced to Uber last year under public pressure.

And now, Austin is needlessly suffering.

As tech entrepreneur Courtney Powell noted at AustinStartups.com, “If we estimate the total wages earned by part-time Uber and Lyft drivers in 2015 using … 10k drivers in Austin multiplied by 60% part-time drivers, multiplied by 5 hours per week … multiplied by $19 per hour — that’s $29 million in part-time yearly earnings alone that will no longer be fed right back into the local economy in the form of income, spending, and taxes.”

And this doesn’t even touch how consumers are affected. In fact Greg Hamilton, the Sheriff of Travis County, has expressed support for ridesharing, because it has reduced instances of drunk driving. As he explained, the arrival of Uber and Lyft to Austin had a positive impact.

“The number of DWI arrests [in Austin] fell 16-percent in 2014. DWI-related crashes fell even more citywide, decreasing by 23-percent last year,” said Hamilton.

This begs the question, what’s next for Austin? Ellen Troxclair, one of Austin’s few libertarian-conservative councilmembers, had this to say about the future of ridesharing in her city:

“I continue to believe that a fair and limited regulatory environment for transportation providers benefits all consumers, and I hope we can work toward that outcome … I remain hopeful that the Council will work on solutions that will allow Uber and Lyft to return to Austin as soon as possible.”

The battle isn’t over. And as Troxclair has noted, Austin is entirely unprepared to even enforce its new regulations. “Uber and Lyft left Austin because they were unable to comply with the city’s new fingerprinting rules,” wrote Troxclair.

“Meanwhile, the city is bending over backwards to encourage customers to use Get Me and Wingz, who not only arenot fingerprinting their drivers, but may not even run any kind of background checks before passengers get in the car.”

Sadly, this goes to show that, as is typical, government is using “public safety” as a stand-in for their desire to control an economy absent unwanted competition. And as usual, people continue to defy these unnecessary regulations.

View From the Wing, a travel blog, had a smart tip for Austin area residents and visitors: Simply drop your location pin outside of the city limits, then immediately call your driver and ask if he or she will pick you up where you’re actually located.

Talk about a smart market solution to a silly law! While this workaround might be a good temporary solution for some, Austin does need to allow Uber and Lyft back into their city indefinitely.

Halting progress for the sake of cronyism is bad policy, and I have faith that Austin’s consumers will fight alongside their pro-ridesharing city council members to eventually undo this travesty.

Ron Paul praises Bernie – but Sanders’ supporters might not like the reason why

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Originally published at Rare

On Friday, former Rep. Ron Paul was interviewed by Texas-based KERA News, and provided some insight into why he thinks his son Rand Paul’s campaign faltered, along with his thoughts on Bernie Sanders.

Of his son’s suspended campaign, Paul said, “Conditions are different right now and unfortunately, people are scared and are much more willing to listen to people who have magical answers.” Paul also noted that, “There’s a lot of demagoguing going on, so it’s not easy to present the case of liberty…”

One such politician peddling the kind of “magical answers” Paul cites is of course “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders. Of Sanders, Paul said, “There are some things that Bernie and I overlap on. He and I could work together to go after corporatism and corporate welfare, even though he’s a socialist, we could agree on things.”

Paul also explained that he could work with Sanders on foreign policy issues. Both were vocal opponents of the Iraq War, and Sanders is far less of an interventionist than Hillary Clinton. Paul even went so far as to say that having a progressive as president might be a good thing.

But Paul’s reasoning is based on logic that Sanders’ supporters would completely reject. “It’d be better to have some progressive in [the White House],” he said. But not because he in any way supports Sanders’ objectives. Added Paul, “It’d be much better for the country long-term. Because of partisan competition and power, you will hope to have gridlock.”

Gridlock! A term universally reviled on the left; one President Obama has invoked repeatedly since Republicans took over the House of Representatives in 2010. It seems that quite often, progressives forget the legislative branch is constitutionally responsible for exactly that – legislating. The executive branch simply, you guessed it, executes the laws. Hence Paul’s logic.

So if you’re “feeling the Bern,” don’t get too excited about Paul’s comments one way or the other.

When asked if his statement constituted an endorsement of Sanders, Paul laughed and said that it absolutely did not.

To Win Nationally, First Act Locally

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

Originally published at Every Joe

I’m far from the first person to suggest that insurgent political factions looking to wield influence on a national level need to take the reins of power locally first, then build their way up. While it’s sexier to focus on the presidential primary than it is to work on city council races, there’s no doubt that your marginal impact will be greater with efforts geared toward the latter. It’s also important to remember that without a farm team of good – in my case defined as liberty-leaning – candidates and activists to draw from when the time does come to run nationally, one can expect little chance of success.

This is an area where President Obama was right: Community organizing is the key to eventual national-level victory. The Left is generally quite good at building from the ground-up via local action while simultaneously motivating their activist base with national and statewide issues. Take for example, an ongoing effort in my adopted home state of Texas.

Pioneered by former Obama Field Director Jeremy Bird, Battleground Texas (BGTX) is an effort spearheaded by liberals who believe that if they can increase voter registration and turnout in Texas, especially among minority populations, they can turn the solidly red state blue. And if Texas turns blue, best of luck to Republicans presidentially given Texas’ thirty-eight electoral college votes.

Truth be told, BGTX’s calculations aren’t entirely off the mark. Though Wendy Davis, the candidate for Governor they pushed, lost to current Governor Greg Abbott by over twenty points, I don’t believe the group’s efforts have been in vain. Davis was a flawed candidate for countless reasons, as chronicled aptly by Erica Grieder at Texas Monthly.

But BGTX is thinking long-term – and rightfully so. Despite her many shortcomings, Davis served as a motivator for liberal activists who canvassed targeted neighborhoods throughout Texas, registering voters and identifying new recruits to their cause. Savvy liberals, particularly those who have done this type of organizing before, know the change they want won’t come overnight. And Republicans, especially those of the insurgent liberty variety, ought to take note.

The good news is that in Texas, particularly my home city of Houston, I’ve seen positive progress that motivates me, even when I feel incredibly disillusioned by the state of national politics. And the truth is, I do feel that way right now (remember my Trump rant from earlier this summer?). While I’ve only lived in the Houston area for five years, I’ve seen grassroots changes here, and in countless cities and towns throughout the country, that lead me to believe our Republican future will in fact be bright, if we stay the course.

Flashback to May of 2013: The Houston Young Republicans hosted a forum in the wake of an incident that still makes my blood boil. It featured a discussion between Gregory Angelo, national President of the Log Cabin Republicans, and Dave Welch, a Houston based leader with the U.S. Pastors Council. They convened to talk about the state of the Republican Party in response to an occurrence that stirred longstanding factional divisions and upset many activists, especially those of us on the younger side.

A month beforehand, Chris Busby, a prolific Republican volunteer for a variety of candidates and causes, decided he wanted to become a precinct chair, and the seat in his neighborhood wasn’t occupied by anyone at the time. This led to an interview with the county Party’s vacancy committee that frankly, didn’t go well. As conservative Houston blogger David Jennings explained:

“When I spoke to Chris today, he described the questions from Mr. Lowry as “brutal”. Chris was asked about his membership in the Log Cabin Republicans, should sex education be taught to kindergarteners, his position on gay marriage, and, bizarrely, did Chris agree with the 1972 homosexual agenda that promotes removal of all “age of consent” laws. Yes, he was asked that, confirmed by the people that were in the room. Chris took this to mean that the question was asking if he approved of pedophilia. Obviously he answered of course not but the damage was done and Chris was denied membership in the club.

No words.

If you don’t know about the ‘1972 homosexual agenda’ just Google it. Like I had to. Who in the hell has a copy of that on hand so that they can interrogate potential Harris County Republican Party Precinct Chairs?“

This inquisition upset a large number of people, and reflected ongoing problems with a less-than-inclusive good old boys club that had long controlled the Harris County Republican Party (HCRP). During the aforementioned forum however, Dave Welch, with whom I have many fundamental disagreements, said something simple but prolific.

Welch chronicled how the Christian Right wrested local control of Republican Party apparatuses throughout the country and were able to rise up in the ranks. He implored more socially moderate and liberty-leaning Republicans to do as he and his allies did in the late Reagan era: Work to take the reins of power and move the party in our direction. Of course from Welch’s perspective, this was more a challenge than a wish – and a small but determined group of Houston activists stood ready to accept.

In March of 2014, Jared Woodfill, the former HCRP chair who had long enabled the type of behavior chronicled above was defeated in a primary by an insurgent candidate and longtime Republican activist Paul Simpson, who has since measurably improved HCRP’s programs and increased local electoral victories, not to mention the fact that he has taken a much more inclusive stance toward Party participation.

Meanwhile, a very competent liberty Republican named John Baucum became the President of the Houston Young Republicans (HYR) around the same time, growing the club to levels it hadn’t seen in nearly a decade. John’s efforts in HYR and other arenas got him elected as the newest Texas Young Republicans Chairman in a landslide just last month. And guess who replaced John as HYR President with the overwhelming support of his peers? Chris Busby – who by the way, now has more power as the leader of an official GOP auxiliary club than the men who, just two years ago, needlessly persecuted him and drove people who had identified with the Republican Party out of activism entirely.

The moral of the story is ultimately that the efforts of pro-liberty Republicans are in fact laying crucial groundwork and making a measurable difference. John, Chris, and the many activists working beside them, represent the future of the GOP. And this is just one story; efforts like this are being replicated on a nationwide scale, particularly in a generational context.

Ultimately, a significant portion of winning is simply showing up, taking power, and staying active; and it starts in your neighborhood. It’s precisely what I’m focused on through a new group called Liberty Action Texas, which with enough manpower behind it will be a crucial weapon in the arsenal in the fight against the efforts of organizations like Battleground Texas.

I know that right now, a lot of my ideological allies are frustrated by things like Rand Paul’s current presidential poll numbers, conservatives conflating religious liberty with government-enabled discrimination, an increase in hawkishness among national Republicans, and the rise of hyper-nationalism as embodied by Donald Trump.

These are trends I believe we need to fight within our own movement, but without building and cultivating our local armies, there will be no ultimate battle. While I’m less than thrilled with much of what’s going on right now politically, I stay optimistic by looking at what I know the future holds. Millennial Republicans, reflective of our generation broadly speaking, are vastly more socially tolerant and interested in fair, limited government than many of our predecessors, according to a variety of polling.

The question is, will we take our ball and go home, refusing to identify as members of the GOP because we dislike the status quo? Or will we take over by integrating ourselves, making a difference locally, and building the infrastructure necessary to not only change the public’s perception of our Party, but win nationally? I believe enough of us are doing the latter to make a difference. Ultimately, politicians are always interested in taking the path of least resistance to electoral victory. If you’re a young, libertarian-leaning voter, become one of the Republican power-wielders they need to get past to win. The future might quite literally depend on it.

Cruz, Paul, and Perspective

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

As a libertarian who worked very hard to bring my fellow travelers into the Ted Cruz for Senate camp in the primary and runoff, I’m a little disturbed by the way I see some Cruz for President supporters currently treating both libertarians and Rand Paul, especially in my home state of Texas.

Make no mistake: Without the help of the Paul family and the grassroots activists who align with them, Ted Cruz would NOT have had a base broad enough to force Dewhurst into a runoff and garner his ultimate win. We were indispensable. This is something Senator Cruz himself has acknowledged, and anybody with a real understanding of the campaign knows that. There’s a reason Cruz’s camp pushed his endorsement from Senator Paul as hard as they did, and hired former Paul staffers.

In the Spring of 2012, I wrote a piece in The Daily Caller entitled “Ted Cruz Can Unite the Right.” Now, it feels like many of his supporters want to steamroll over a significant portion of the people who got Senator Cruz to where he is today, and I have to admit, it hurts me on a personal level. That type of behavior is a very good way to burn the bridges you crossed to get where you currently stand; a risky behavior, indeed.

To be clear, this actually isn’t a criticism of Senator Cruz himself. I think for the most part, he’s been pretty classy, and I still count many of his supporters, especially staff, among my good friends. What I’m bothered by is both a lack of respect for people who were there from day one, and a weird focus on trying to destroy Senator Paul when the GOP establishment and Hillary Clinton are much bigger problems.

I understand that presidential primaries will inevitably get nasty. I also realize that there are Rand Paul supporters who need to work on their behavior as well. Believe me, I really do know that all too well, and anyone who follows me is aware of the fact that I spend plenty of time “policing my own,” so to speak. But there’s something very disturbing about some of the attitudes I’m seeing here in Texas. We all ought to know better.

Remember, Tea Partiers (a group I’ve been very intimately associated with): Rand Paul was elected in the 2010 wave. He and mostly Mike Lee, laid the groundwork for Ted. Rand Paul is far from an enemy; you owe him big time for Ted’s ability to even run for President at all. It’s also important to remember that at the end of the day, we’d all want Ted or Rand before someone like Jeb Bush. Perspective: It’s important.

The Texas GOP’s Lieutenant Governor Runoff Race

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

The runoff between Dan Patrick and David Dewhurst, the two remaining GOP Lieutenant Governor candidates in Texas is May 27th. Neither choice is ideal, and both are running what, in my opinion, are lackluster campaigns. Nevertheless, liberty-minded Republicans (including my original choice for Lt. Governor Jerry Patterson) are leaning toward  the current Lt. Governor, David Dewhurst, which I sympathize with despite prior wounds from the last Texas Senate race in which Dewhurst was a candidate.

Looking back to 2012, I was a hardcore Ted Cruz supporter during the Texas Senate primary. I certainly engaged in my share of Dewhurst bashing at the time. Some of it I regret in light of finally interacting with the Lieutenant Governor (I wish he’d been more accessible to the grassroots back then, as it would have served him well. He’s a very likable man in small group settings).

What I stand by however, is the fact that the Dewhurst campaign released some really classless ads against Cruz. Despite preferring Dewhurst over Patrick in the current Lt. Gov runoff by a significant margin, I’ve been quite vocal about the fact that I’m still having a hard time getting over many of those ads. Especially the not-so-subtle race baiting “Cruz supports amnesty” one.

However, one of the reasons I’ve chosen Dewhurst over Patrick despite my concerns is because I’ve never heard the Lieutenant Governor personally use the divisive rhetoric that, unfortunately, his Senate campaign was reduced to utilizing in the aforementioned attack ad. Sadly, I cannot say the same of State Senator Patrick, who regularly engages in insensitive commentary, handing ready-made talking points to Battleground Texas operatives.

But now, I find myself frustrated yet again by the tone deafness of Dewhurst’s campaign, despite my new-found appreciation of his reasoned approach to accomplishing legislative goals in his current role. The recently released “Dannie Goeb” parody of a song from “Frozen” is just bizarre, and is rightfully getting made fun of across the internet. Instead of focusing on the serious problems with Dan Patrick (and there are many), Dewhurst’s campaign is choosing to highlight the fact that Patrick changed his name, and has appeared in public shirtless.

The overall level of discourse in this race has been a disappointment to me. I know that attack ads are more effective than positive ones, and I don’t have a fundamental problem with going negative. But the “Frozen” ad reeks of desperation, and makes it look like there’s nothing substantive to criticize Patrick on, which is simply false. That being said, I’m still supporting David Dewhurst despite wondering what goes on in the man’s mind when he OK’s ads that go out under his name.

Another relevant point is to remind Ron Paul supporters outraged over his recent endorsement of Dewhurst that this is nothing new. Dr. Paul has been endorsing less than ideal politicians longer than those of us who jumped on the bandwagon in 2008 and 2012 have been alive. Sometimes, he actually exercises a bit of political savvy, and thinks about the the long-term impact of certain races. It’s much better to keep Dewhurst in a position he’s held for quite some time after he’s demonstrated that he can’t move much higher than to provide someone like Dan Patrick, who makes Dewhurst look like a saint, an upward trajectory.