Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Gov. Rick Perry... Wallace Hall... NRO... and White Hats vs. Black Hats

As reported by Kevin D. Williamson of National Review:

Why do state universities have boards of trustees?


In Texas, where the rather grandiose flagship university system styles its trustees “regents,” the governor appoints representatives to the universities’ governing boards in order to ensure that state resources are being stewarded responsibly.

Governor Rick Perry has been more aggressive than most in seeking to reform his state’s higher-education system, from innovations such as his $10,000 degree challenge to such old-fashioned bugaboos as efficiency and institutional honesty. One of the regents he appointed, Dallas businessman Wallace Hall, pursued the latter energetically, and what he helped to uncover was disturbing.


The dean of the law school resigned after it was revealed that he had received a $500,000 “forgivable loan” from the law-school foundation, without the university administration’s having been made aware of the extra compensation. And in a development sure to put a grimace on the face of any student or parent who has ever waited with anticipation to hear from a first-choice college or graduate school, Mr. Hall uncovered the fact that members of the Texas legislature were seeking and receiving favorable treatment for family members and political allies in admissions to the university’s prestigious law school.

Given the nature of these scandals — the improper use of political power — it was natural enough that impeachments and criminal investigations followed. What is unnatural — and inexplicable, and indefensible, and shameful — is the fact that it is Wallace Hall who is facing impeachment and possible charges.

* WHAT...?!?!

Mr. Hall, as noted, was appointed by Governor Perry, and there is no overestimating the depth or intensity of the Texas higher-education establishment’s hatred for Rick Perry. (He himself seems rather fond of his alma mater, Texas A&M.) Perry’s dryland-farmer populism is not calculated to please deans of diversity or professors of grievance, but academia’s Perry hatred is more financial than cultural. The idea that a college degree, even a specialized one, could be delivered for $10,000 is anathema to the higher-education establishment, which views ever-soaring tuition as its own collective welfare entitlement.

Texas’s ducal university presidents and (ye gods, but the titles!) chancellors are accustomed to doing as they please and to enjoying salaries and perks that would be the envy of many chief executives in the private sector — not only the medieval holdover of tenure, but such postmodern benefits as a comfy professorship for one’s spouse.


The last thing they want is some trustee — some nobody appointed by the duly elected governor of the state to manage the resources of the people who fund the universities — poking his nose in what they consider their business rather than the state’s business.

(Mr. Hall, a successful investor and oil-and-gas entrepreneur, is not an aspiring academic or politician, and he has little or nothing to gain from annoying the university’s administration — other than the satisfaction of doing the job that it is his duty to do.)

The case against Mr. Hall consists mainly of adjectives: “vindictive,” “bullying,” “blustery,” “myopic,” “mean-spirited,” “intense,” “malignant.”

The broad claim against him is that in the course of uncovering plain wrongdoing by university officials and Texas politicians of both parties, he used investigative techniques that amounted to harassment.


Setting aside the question of whether people engaged in wrongdoing on the state’s dime should or should not be harassed — for the record, the latter seems preferable to me — the case against Mr. Hall is mainly that he asked for a great deal of information and that he was insufficiently deferential to the refined sensibilities of the august ladies and gentlemen whose proprietary treatment of the University of Texas is in question.

Mr. Hall is also accused of violating academic confidentiality rules, and it is here that the storyteller enters the plot as a minor character. I cannot avoid discussing my own small role in the case inasmuch as my name appears a dozen times in grand inquisitor Rusty Hardin’s vindictive, blustery, bullying, mean-spirited, vindictive report on the case, and the report distorts my National Review Online reporting on the subject. For example, Mr. Hardin writes: "That same day, Williamson posted a second on-line article about the e-mails in which he states “it was suggested to me that one of the legislators [Rep. Jim Pitts] leading the impeachment push was one of the same legislators who had sought preferential treatment for their children in admissions to the University of Texas law school.”

The name of Mr. Pitts in brackets suggests exactly the opposite of what happened. In this, Mr. Hardin’s report is false and should be immediately corrected.

As my reporting made clear, it was suggested to me by a critic of the university that the push to impeach Mr. Hall was an attempt to prevent the disclosure of the identity of those Texas legislators who were seeking preferential treatment for family and friends in admission to the university and its law school.

Nobody suggested that the smoking gun I was in search of was to be found upon the hip of Representative Pitts.

My thinking at the time went roughly thus: “Surely none of these legislators is stupid enough to be, at the same time, one of the people who had leaned on the law school on behalf of their kids and one of the people with their own names prominent in the Hall witch-hunt.”

I had assumed there would be a degree or two of separation, but why not start with the prominent players? Being a hard-boiled reporter type, I went through the exhaustive process of looking up the online biographies of anti-Hall legislators and then googling their kids to see if any were enrolled in, or were recent graduates of, the university or its law school. After seven or eight minutes of grueling research apparently beyond the abilities of the utterly supine, groveling, risible Austin media, I had a few leads, and called the office of Representative Pitts, the chairman of the house ways and means committee of the Texas state house, who did most of the rest of the work for me, throwing a tantrum when I asked if he had sought special treatment for his son but not denying that he had.

(Almost immediately afterward, he announced that he would not be seeking reelection.)

I had underestimated the average Texas Republican’s capacity for stupidity. Mr. Hardin et al. still seem to believe that my source was Mr. Hall or one of his attorneys, when it was Google and Representative Pitts.

On the subject of capacity estimates, one of the interesting details of the case is the fact that the law school expressly spelled out the reasons it could not admit Representative Pitts’s son, Ryan, and it suggested two possibly remedies — retaking the LSAT or enrolling for a year in a different law school and there proving his mettle — but young Ryan Pitts was nonetheless admitted with neither of those conditions having been satisfied.

It was a disserve to all involved: Coming out of a law school with a 95% first-time passage rate on the state bar, he failed the exam repeatedly — Pitts and two other political scions had at last count taken the exam ten times among the three of them — another example of an affirmative-action case undone by having been promoted over his capacities.

In addition to facing impeachment — a prospect the American Council of Trustees and Alumni describes as an example of “expensive witch hunts designed to discourage public servants from asking tough questions in pursuit of the public interest” –  Mr. Hall also faces possible criminal prosecution by the so-called Public Integrity Unit, a detail within the Travis County district attorney’s office charged with investigating official wrongdoing.

(Those of you who have followed politics with any interest will recognize the woefully misnamed Public Integrity Unit as the former fiefdom of one Ronnie Earle, the Travis County prosecutor who engaged in outrageous grand-jury shopping in order to indict Tom DeLay — on charges of breaking a law that had not yet been passed at the time he was accused of having violated it — and succeeded in ending Mr. DeLay’s political career before having his case laughed out of court by a disdainful judge. Mr. Earle had tried the same thing before with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, with less success.)

* YEP...

The out-of-control prosecutorial unit has recently turned its political wrath on — surprise — Rick Perry.

Unhappy with the unit’s leadership — its publicly drunk, rage-filled, weeping, puppy-concerned, locked-in-restraints, pretty-much-bonkers leadership — Governor Perry vetoed the unit’s funding, and his office made it known that it would not be restored while current leadership was in place. Specifically, Governor Perry’s office wanted the ouster of the boss, Rosemary Lehmberg. Democrats say that Governor Perry wanted her scalp because she’s a Democrat and investigating his allies; the Perry camp maintains that the proximate cause was Ms. Lehmberg’s arrest on drunk-driving charges and her hilarious “Do You Know Who I Am?” performance, which was, conveniently, caught on video.

(It was not the Travis County district attorney office’s only DWI arrest of late, either.)

In a legal theory worthy of the time-traveling Ronnie Earle, Texas Democrats have filed a complaint that Governor Perry’s insistence that he’d keep vetoing the Public Integrity Unit’s funding as long as its embarrassing leadership was in place constituted an offer of bribery, i.e., that his apparent willingness to see the detail’s state funding restored after a change of leadership amounted to an illegal payoff. A special prosecutor is to consider the question. If the complaint against Governor Perry has any merit, then every legislative deal ever made in the history of the republic is an act of corruption.

And that’s where Texas is right now: A regent exposes wrongdoing at the University of Texas and in the legislature, and the regent gets impeached, possibly prosecuted. The chief prosecutor for a “Public Integrity Unit” gets hauled in on drunk-driving charges, throws a fit, makes threats — and Rick Perry is in trouble for demanding her ouster.

Both of these episodes are shameful, backward, and suggestive of corruption. There is something rotten in the state of Texas.

Barker's Newsbites: Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A cold, wet, miserable day here in New York's mid-Hudson Valley.

Congrats to family and friends in South Carolina and Florida; even if you've got rain too, at least it's warm!

Speaking of South Carolina... three weeks from Saturday! (Well... technically 22 days; we'll be spending the traveling night (hopefully with friends!) in Richmond!

You know me, folks... if it ain't about my last vacation... it's about my upcoming vacation!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Barker's Newsbites: Monday, April 28, 2014

My wife doesn't get drunk very often...


...but when she does get drunk...


I only wish I had pictures! (Perhaps I do "need" one of them thar fancy picture-taking cellphones after all...?!?!)


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Barker's Newsbites: Thursday, April 24, 2014

Please say a prayer for my sister-in-law Vicki who is battling cancer.

A Response to My Buddy L.B.C.

The other day, in response to my post of April 22, my friend L.B.C. responded with the following (edited) commentary/questions:

Ha, ha, Bill; that was great! I read and enjoyed your new entry.

Two thoughts: 1) In a letter to James Madison in 1789 Jefferson suggests his idea that the Constitution be rewritten every generation (19 years according to French mortality charts at the time). He felt that the earth belongs to the living at that each generation should make its own rules.

(Also, each generation should also clear its debts so as not to encumber the next.)

What are your thoughts?

2) I'm not quite sure what you meant by "redistribution of wealth;" are we talking Wall Street here or social programs aimed at helping the poor? Please clarify.

Otherwise, with the exception of the belief that we need be the strongest military power on earth, I basically agree with you.

Have a great day!

* * * * * *

So... allow me to respond!

First... allow me to address your last point - military strength.

Of course I want America to be the strongest military power on Earth - who would you rather take up the mantle... China? Russia?


Does this mean I desire a militarized America? Certainly not! Just the opposite! Frankly, I believe far too much is spent on "defense" (actually "offense" nowadays) and that President Eisenhower was right to warn us of an entrenched military-industry complex.

I believe America has far too many treaty commitments...

Believing America should be able to respond anywhere at any time doesn't equate to believing America should be everywhere at all times. We have far too many troops, bases, and resources abroad. It's long past time that we unhooked our "trip wire" presence in South Korea. As to Europe... we should have largely removed our forces following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But all this noted... my initial comment remains my position: America should remain the strongest military power on earth. Peace through strength!

(Note... "Peace through strength," not "Our way or else." Not "Might makes right.")

Next... the Jefferson quotes:

No. I certainly don't believe the Constitution should be rewritten every 19 years.



As previously noted, the Founders gave us an Amendment process.

I believe that while not perfect, our Founding document was... is... close enough. Coupled and bonded to the Declaration of Independence... yep... close enough.

Perhaps down the road I'll post my thoughts on how - if I were so empowered - I'd change the Constitution... add to it... subtract from it... but for now - for the sake of brevity and clarity - I'll simply stick to my guns...

(Get it? Guns! A little Second Amendment humor...)

...and rest my case upon the existence of the Amendment process.

As to debt encumbrance... hmm... very, very interesting!

I've actually put a great deal of thought into this topic! I'm on the same wavelength with Jefferson! The question is... how do we reconcile pragmatism with responsibility in a democratic Republic where absolute freedom of movement is not simply a Right but a cultural and societal reality?

All I can come up with is restricting bonding. Perhaps requiring super-majority votes... repayment mandated over a short period of time so that those elected officials who supported the bonding mechanism as a means of increasing spending would be tied to the pain of repayment...


We definitely need reform. Bottom line, government finances must... must... be brought in line more closely with how responsible individuals, families, and businesses budget and oversee their financial affairs.

Finally... you asked me to clarify my thoughts on "redistribution of wealth."

Is taxation redistribution of wealth? No. Not in the sense I use the term. For me taxation is a necessary evil so as to finance necessary government expenditures for the common good. (And I'm using "common good" as the Founders did - not as "progressives" do.)

I don't want government to get one cent more than it absolutely needs...


Yes. I understand that "need" is in the eye of the beholder. This is a blog post, though, not a tome, a treatise, or even a thesis. Therefore... I'll trust readers to pick up on what I mean by "absolutely needs."

Sticking with taxes...

I believe first we need to re-evaluate where our taxes go and in what degree. If we are truly a Republic and beyond that we believe a bottom up (rather than top down) governance is best, shouldn't our local government... village... town... county... state... be where the majority of our tax dollars go? Don't local authorities - "We the People" at the most basic level - know best what's "absolutely necessary?" Shouldn't federal taxes be a minor part of our yearly tax payments?


What's a reasonable "floor?" The least any of us should be asked to pay? One percent? I'd go with that. Just as a concept. Simply to buttress the point "we're all in this together." On the flip side, what should be the "ceiling?" Certainly not above 49.999%! Certainly each of us is entitled to keep at the very least half of what our labor returns to us - and yes, a smidgen more!

I believe that when government... governments plural, the composite parts of our federal union... demand more than half of an American's income... we have a major problem on our hands.

Welfare? Social "redistribution of wealth" is out of control. Are there people in need? Yes. Should those needs be addressed partially by government? Yes. (But mainly they should be addressed by individuals and organizations... private charities...) But as for government's role... that should be exercised at the lowest level... the village level... town and county... citizens boards similar to draft boards where cases are examined, decided, and overseen by those in the best position to do so.

I could go on and on... (Heck... I have gone on and on via previous blog postings. Search the archives!) I could address tax policy further... share my views on various types of taxation... get into inheritance taxes... address middle-class entitlements... get into Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, even unemployment!

I won't though. Not here. Not this second. (But ask me specific questions and I'll answer them! Leave your questions in the comment section of this post and I'll answer them!)

So... how'd I do? Did I do a credible job in tackling the comments and questions posed?

I hope so...