Monday, March 10, 2014

Perry editorial praises Texas's diverse and creative culture

Austin, Tx., March 9, 2014 -- Governor Perry's press office released an editorial Perry penned regarding Texas culture and creativity.

Rick Perry pinged on several key points concerning Texas. He addressed how the diverse and creative culture make Texas a great state for tourism as well as business.

Perry's editorial opens with this up-front point, referring to the SXSW arts and technology conference in Austin:

"Some people like to say this is the time of year when creative folks converge on Texas. I say, they're here all the time."

 The Governor continues to cite examples spanning the past 60 years to back his claim:

"This is, after all, the place where Texas Instruments created the integrated circuit in the 1950s. This is the place where Ray Price revolutionized how people thought of country music. And this is the place where Robert Rodriguez elevated guerrilla filmmaking to a modern art form.

"We've always been home to people who are willing to try new things, adopt new approaches, and carve new niches.

"That's a tradition that's thriving as never before.

"In fact, our state's creative culture is flourishing in an economic climate that's been ranked No. 1 in the nation for nine years in a row in an annual survey of CEOs.

"Visionary companies like Facebook, Electronic Arts and Apple have picked Texas for expansions. Last year, Austin was selected as just the second city in the country to receive Google Fiber service, and AT&T has made Austin one of the first places to get its own GigaPower network."

Perry includes several artistic centers around the state, including Austin. Austin's Moody Theater hosts PBS's concert series "Austin City Limits".

He also mentions other Texas cities such as San Antonio. San Antonio is home to the Magik Children's Theater, who has a full-time company, a touring troupe, and runs several acting and theater educational camps and classes throughout the year. This season, The Magik Theater secured exclusive rights to adapt Judy Schachner's beloved SkippyJon Jones to the stage, "Skippyjon Jones and the Cirque de Ole" specifically, in celebration of the first book's tenth anniversary.

"Our low-tax environment and reasonable cost of living also means more people have more money to pursue their passions, and that includes the arts.

"Austin isn't the Live Music Capital of the World for nothing, and other cities across the state are steadily evolving into major hubs of a variety of fine arts. Dallas-Fort Worth is home to an array of world-class galleries. San Antonio is a bastion of state history and fine music. And Houston has a thriving theater district that is surpassed only by New York City in terms of theater seats."
 Perry concludes his statement with the following food for thought:

"This is an exciting time in Texas, and I encourage all of you to enjoy yourself during SXSW and - for those from out of state - take time to see why the Lone Star State is the best place to do business of any kind."
 Perry's full editorial can be found here, at the Office of the Governor's offical website.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Those Lazy February Numbers (Unemployment)

Normally, I call the monthly layman's analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistic's employment figures a "run at the numbers". But this months report is another instance of the numbers barely moving. My hamster (nocturnal) and cat (also nocturnal) are far more active in daylight than the national employment situation has been over the last month.

So, I figured if readers want to read just more of  the same, they could easily look that the previous couple of years worth of analysis.

Good news, the Labor Participation Rate, or Workforce Participation Rate, remained unchanged. It's still just above that 30 year low it hit in December '13 and remains stagnant at an awful and depressing 63.0%. The U3 unemployment rate didn't go up too much. It still rose. For February, it jumped from 6.6% to 6.7%.

Nationally, there were 175,000 jobs created. Some may celebrate that new jobs were created. However, economic models show that is half the number the nation needs to pull out of the recession. Correction, that is half the number the nation would have needed to create each month starting in July 2009 in order to recover by December 2014. To make up for that, we'd need to create closer to four times that amount for the rest of the year. Last year's average was 189k per month.

In reality, a handful of states are carrying the majority of the weight in job creation and economic recovery. Texas and Nebraska, who won Site Selection Magazine's Governor's Cups, are part of the handful. Texas won the overall. Nebraska won the per capita cup. Ohio's Governor Kasich and his administration have been criticized for enacting more conservative leaning economic policies. Ohio took second in both categories for the Governor's cup.

Texas saw it's seasonally adjusted U3 rate drop from 6.0% in December to 5.7% in January. It remains well below the national average. Governor Rick Perry commented on the numbers:

"Every day, more Texans are going to work, earning a living and supporting their families because we follow a simple recipe for job creation: we keep our taxes low, our regulations effective and predictable, our courts fair and our schools accountable. That's why Texas has been the national epicenter for job creation for more than a decade, and today's numbers indicate we're not slowing down anytime soon. While Washington is unable to significantly move the needle on unemployment, in Texas we free job creators to pursue success, which means more good-paying jobs for more Texans."

The Dakotas also have been pulling a large amount of that recovery weight. Many of those jobs are due to shale oil and gas fracking in those states. Those jobs generated economic booms in support industries such as grocery stores and restaurants.

The national economy has fallen into a state of socialism. The few who can and will are pulling all the weight for those who won't.

Texas has been well praised for the state's business-friendly policies that have placed the state at the pinnacle of economic performance. Some naysayers complain about increased public debt. The majority of those debts are at the municipal level, not the state level. Cities keep borrowing money, called issuing bonds. They do so to fund projects, using a selling point of "we can do this without raising taxes". It's a lie. What they mean is:  "We won't raise your taxes this year. In five years we will in order to start paying back the money we owe. The interest at that point will make the amount we owe so much higher. So, you and your kids and grandkids will need to pay back those loans".

A better idea would be to stop politicking to raise funds for things we don't need, and many don't even want. Examples are "light rail" systems. The light rail project in San Antonio is costing tax payers far more than the potential revenue it could ever accrue. The monthly overhead costs are more than the potential revenue. The construction costs will never see equity.

If you were a small business owner that sold ice cream, would that business model make any sense to you? Your supplies cost you $0.75 per serving. The labor cost per serving is $0.50. The overhead (utilities, rent, taxes, healthcare) amount to $1.25 per serving. In order to sell any, you have to compete with the market value of $2.00 per serving, for a loss of $0.50 per serving. You have to pay to stay in business. You lose money. Would you undertake this business? It will fail.

I know this from experience. I was a silent partner in a business. My partner changed the business model, against my advice, while I was deployed. She wanted to increase customer numbers. So she lowered prices. The reality was most of the "customers" were people hanging out and not purchasing anything. She started selling coffee at a loss, hoping to garner more paying customers. The only nights that saw a profit were those with special entertainment and a cover charge. People were willing to pay to hang out, participate (or watch) open-mic nights, sing karaoke, or watch local bands perform. I proposed she enact either a "must purchase" policy on non-event nights or start charging a "hangout fee". Instead, she lowered the cover charge on event nights and lowered the prices of the products. She sold more. But each sale was at a loss.

This is what municipalities run by left-wing ideologues are doing. They expect the tax payers to pick up the bills for the "politicians' wants" when they should be scaling budgets back towards those needs of citizens that fall under the explicitly enumerated authority and responsibility of the municipal government. Stop buying things we don't need, and most of us don't want. 

Outside of Texas, you have whole states that cannot understand this concept. We have a federal government that cannot understand this simple concept. For example, we waste tax money on green energy projects in the Department of Defense that will cost more in the long run. They will not save either money nor energy. Meanwhile, they propose we cut our military personnel, and cut the benefits of those remaining. Why? Because they waste operational, training, and logistic funding on crap like windmills and algae-based fuels. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Common sense compromise on gun control

Ideally, the only correct answer to the gun control versus gun owners' rights debate is for those involved to read the US Constitution and the Federalist Papers. The Federalist Papers may not carry the legal weight of the US Constitution. However, the authors wrote it for two key purposes. The first was to explain the Constitution to the citizens of the day. The second was to serve as a form of "how to" manual for future generations.

Hamilton, Jay, and Madison were geniuses.

Going back to the US Constitution, there are some key parts aside from the Second Amendment that are important to the whole debate. The first is Article VI. Article VI establishes the Constitution as the supreme law of the land, superior and of higher authority than any other. In regards to adjudicating laws, crimes, due process, and individual rights, all justices from the Supreme Court down to the lowest municipal court must abide by the US Constitution. It take precedence over any local law, automatically. This is something that Wendy Davis seemed to ignore when she stated that cities should have the rights to establish gun control laws as they see fit, regardless of the US Constitution.

The second important portion of the US Constitution that relates to the gun control debate is the 14th Amendment, particularly section 1. "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Taking those two portions in conjunction with the Second Amendment grants the Second Amendment precedence to supersede and preempt any local or state gun control ordinances. In other words, neither states nor municipalities have the authority to implement any gun control regulations or laws. Not even the US Congress can legally legislate any restrictions on ownership or transportation of firearms within the United States without first gaining ratification of a constitutional amendment to repeal the Second Amendment.

By the letter of the US Constitution, there is no basis to ban a private citizen from having a fully loaded M1A1 Abrams tank in his back yard. The idea of necessity has no logical place in the argument. Use of force laws for self-defense and defense of private property already include constitutional proportionality clauses. If a guy breaks into your house armed with a machete, use of the main gun of a tank is overkill. It's also potentially dangerous for your neighbors. However, if you own a 100+ acres cattle ranch just outside of Naco, AZ, there is a legitimate and justifiable necessity. There are well-armed criminal foreign invaders who have no regard for the rights or lives of US citizens. A tank patrolling the ranch may serve as a deterrent as well as a proportionate response to such a threat. In contrast, banning the tank from being driven on public roads makes a lot of sense. Tanks tend to tear up streets causing damage that is costly to repair. In addition, some people are not mentally equipped enough to understand that tailgating a tank is a stupid move. The heat form the exhaust can burn the paint off of a car.

The court of public opinion has a say, sometimes too much of one, in current policies. There are plenty of people acting emotionally instead of reasonably. Due to the public outcry over an illogical and unreasonable fear of firearms, some gun control measures may be upheld by the courts, despite the mandate of the Article VI to the contrary.

So this proposed compromise is just that. It is a compromise. Those of us who understand our rights as protected explicitly by the US Constitution give up a lot in this compromise. Those who want to dictate how responsible, law-abiding citizens should live their lives give up a little.

First, the open carry of all firearms, pistols or rifles, should be automatic for any citizen of voting age who has not had his or her constitutional rights suspended due to commission of a crime against the people. In other words, courts may suspend the Second Amendment rights of violent offenders. It would not be permanent, but a reasonable amount of time after the sentence is served.

Open carry should be restricted in certain areas. First, if a property owner doesn't want firearms on his or her property, that individual's sovereignty on that property preempts the right to bear.

Second, courthouses, city councils, congressional meeting areas, and the like should be free of firearms except for those carried by those militia directly tasked to defend those places and keep the peace. There are several historic incidents where legislators have pulled guns on (or even shot) each other over a political debate. There are incidents of vigilantes shooting suspects on their way to or from a courtroom for their fair trial. The list goes on.

Third, schools from pre-K though high school should not allow open carry. There have been several school shootings over the past couple of decades. The offenders didn't care about the laws. But banning open-carry in these places does allow those assigned to protect the students a means to better identify potential threats.

Fourth, places that serve alcohol. The reason should be more than obvious. Responsible people tend to become much less reasonable when intoxicated. Even if the bearer is not drinking, an openly carried pistol can still cause problems.

Fifth, college campuses and other places of higher education. If the institution is privately owned, this defaults back to the private property preemption. However, state supported post-secondary education institutions do have a point about openly carried firearms being a potential distraction from learning, and other things.

Lastly, medical facilities should not allow open carry, or concealed carry, except by law enforcement personnel. This should be inside the facilities, still allowing carry on the grounds. The reasons behind this may be hard to comprehend. From a military mindset, hospitals and clinics are "protected areas". That wouldn't necessarily stop a criminal, though. Other reasons include the fact these are places of healing. While firearms are seen as defensive tools, seeing them can generate anxiety in patients. Anxious patients don't heal as well. Also, firearms are not exactly septic items and can be rather difficult to sterilize. In fact, sterilization would remove many of the lubricants necessary for the firearm to function properly.

Though none of the above may seem like good reasons for prohibitions in those areas, remember, this is a compromise. 

Concealed carry should be a state level policy for issuance of a permit. Permits should allow concealed carry even in places where open carry isn't allowed. The permits should require some additional level of training to include applicable laws, marksmanship, presentation from a concealed location, etc. The permits come with implied additional responsibilities.

The places where concealed carry should be allowed, but open carry prohibited include the following:

First, all places of higher learning, unless it's private property that invokes a private property preemption. University campuses are notorious for crimes, including violent rapes. Criminals know their prey is most likely unarmed on campuses. So they are a magnet for scumbags.

Second, places that serve alcohol. A concealed carry permit holder should know not to drink while carrying. It can be more deadly and dangerous than drinking and driving. So, carrying but abstaining from alcohol would be a responsible decision, one a responsible adult citizen should be allowed to make on his or her own.

Schools pre-K through high school should allow concealed carry, with a caveat. First, parents with concealed carry permits should be allow to carry onto school premises, as long as they do not enter the buildings with the weapons. No parent or guardian should be denied the ability to defend his or her children while in route to or from school. Inside the schools, every teacher or administrator who attains a permit should go through advanced classes. These classes (and testing), once passed, should allow for a special qualification that allows concealed carry in the schools in order to protect the children and faculty from threats. In high schools, you have gang members who intimidate and threaten teachers. You have crazed people shooting up schools in order to gain infamy and their 15 minutes of fame in the news. Banning guns doesn't stop gunmen. It creates a magnet in the form of a soft target. Allowing those with the special classification to carry is a deterrent. Such a criminal would know the possibility of one to thirty armed teachers and administrators may be in the building at any given time. They don't know who, how many, etc. It creates a hard target of unknowns. Second, a teacher can shoot one of these scumbags before he or she hurts too many kids.

All together, certain other weapons should require special licensing and training. The Second Amendment strongly implies, as bolstered by the Miller v US US Supreme Court decision, that the right to keep and bear arms directly relates to the freedom for citizens to own and carry weapons of military grade. The decision is quoted by many gun control advocates as precedent for gun control laws. But it cuts both ways, since the decision was against a modified shotgun that had no rational military use at the time. These days, though, a sawed-off 12-guage shotgun does have military uses, primarily in breaching doors when fighting in an urban environment. However, common sense can concede that certain military grade weapons need specialized training to handle safely and effectively.

Among those military grade weapons, other than the aforementioned Abrams tank, are fully-automatic, belt-fed, open-bolt weapons. The slang term for this type of weapon is "machine gun". There are legitimate home defense uses and requirements for these firearms. Take the previously discussed cattle ranch owner living on the border as an example. But most citizens do not need an M249 7.62 machine gun to defend their home or family. Most citizens wouldn't be able to effectively handle one. These are not "spray and pray" weapons like movies depict. They require more fire discipline, greater marksmanship ability, and a little more than the average knowledge of ballistics to properly use. Because of their rapid-fire nature, the Minute of Arc (MOA) variations increase during more sustained fire. In layman's terms, you don't have time to properly aim after the first round or two, and being able to compensate takes training and practice. So, your accuracy decreases the longer the burst. Most seasoned machine gunners in the military fire 6-9 round bursts instinctively. This means the more rounds you fire in a single pull of the trigger, the higher the probability that you will shoot something that you do not want to hit instead of something you intend to hit.

Other items, such as hand-grenades, grenade launchers, mortars, anti-armor missiles, etc. should be banned. Even that cattle rancher on the border would have a hard time justifying a Mark-19 grenade launcher. For one thing, using one would cause more damage to his land than the invaders would. If he accidentally hit a cow with a .50cal round from an M2, there may still be some useable meat. A 40mm HE grenade from a Mark-19 would leave nothing edible.

So we can capitulate on those items.

This presents a fair and reasonable compromise for the gun-grabbers and opponents of the Second Amendment. Like they keep trying to tell us with Obamacare, the Second Amendment is the law of the land. However, the ACA is just a legislated act. The Second Amendment is the supreme law, higher in authority than the US President, every member of Congress, and the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Perry's birthday bonus: 5th Site Selection's Goveror's Cup

On March 3, 2014, Site Selection Magazine awarded Texas and Governor Rick Perry its coveted 2013 Governor's Cup. Under Governor Perry's administration, Texas won the cup four previous times in 2004, '05, '10 and '12.

This comes as a form of birthday present for the Texas governor, who celebrates his 64th birthday on March 4th. Perry was born in 1950 in the small Texas town of Paint Creek. Rick Perry has been the Governor of Texas since 2000 when George W. Bush left the office for his first presidential run. After 14 years in the governor's mansion, Perry announced last year that he would not seek re-election to the republic's highest executive office.

Upon receiving news of earning this economic-strength demonstrating award, Perry released the following remarks:

"States are the laboratories of innovation, and Texas continues to be a beacon of opportunity for job creators and entrepreneurs. Over the past 12 years, we've built a strong foundation for the future of this state with our low taxes, smart regulation, fair courts and skilled workers. Companies nationally and internationally know that Texas works, and is the best place to live, work, raise a family and own a business."

In the competition, Texas won by a large birth with 657 qualifying projects. Ohio was second, logging 480 qualifying projects. Based upon electoral demographics, Texas carries 38 electoral votes while Ohio carries just 18. For a state less than half the size, politically, Ohio did exceptionally well.

A qualifying project must consist of more than $1 million in capital, create at least 50 new jobs, and involve more than 20k square feet of new building construction. 

In awarding the cup, Site Selection's Editor-in-Chief, Mark Arend, stated:

"States that appear on our rankings of top locations for new projects, especially at the top of the ranking, like Texas, are those with the location attributes most in demand by corporate site selectors. Areas compete aggressively for capital investment, and Texas' latest first-place Governor's Cup finish is evidence of a highly successful economic development strategy."
Site Selection awarded another Governor's Cup to Nebraska for its qualifying projects per capita. Ohio took second place in this category as well. The magazine started this category in order to give smaller, more rural states and opportunity to also compete for one of their coveted Governor's Cups.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Feb. 27th was Texas Human Trafficking Awareness Day

In an official proclamation, Governor Rick Perry declared Feb. 27th as Texas Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

On the subject, Perry released to following statement:

"Texas has taken strong steps to combat human trafficking, but key to preventing and ending this horrible crime is public awareness that millions still suffer exploitation around the nation and the world. I urge all Texans to join me today in bringing awareness to this important issue as we continue to fight to bring justice to human trafficking offenders, and help to their victims."
In the proclamation, Perry cites HB 3000 from the Texas 82nd Legislature. The law makes human trafficking a first-degree felony in the Republic of Texas. Perry signed the bill into law in 2011. Texas Representative Senfronia Thompson sponsored the bill. Of the Governor's proclamation, Thompson stated:

"We all must work together to end this despicable crime that degrades and destroys the lives of its victims in all corners of our country and our world. Texas has taken a strong stance against human trafficking and I will continue this fight as long as it takes."
Follow this link to view a copy of the official proclamation.

In observance of Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Attorney General and candidate to Governor, Greg Abbott, promised to push for Texas to continue the fight against this crime.

Texas's battle against sex slavery and human trafficking didn't end in 2011 with HB3000's passage. In 2013, The 83rd legislature passed further laws to assist victims of these crimes.

Human Trafficking is a modern form of slavery. Many foreign nationals are taken across the borders and into the US against their wills. They are forced into servitude as sex slaves or to work in sweat-shops. Many are forced to work in horrendous and unsafe conditions for little to no pay.

Worse, many of those trafficked originally come willingly. They are promised assistance in passage and attaining forged documentation. One in the US, they find they owe the "coyotes" more than they are able to make working. Many are forced into prostitution or pornography, often conditioned to be addicted to illicit drugs. The drug addictions usually increase the debt the indentured owe their slave masters and the coyotes. This perpetuates the spiral of slavery.

Human trafficking is a two way path across the border. Many Americans, usually teenagers and children, are smuggled across the border. From there they are sold as indentured workers or sex slaves in countries that have looser child labor and pornography laws.

Human Trafficking Awareness should not cease at the end of a single calendar day. It is a subject that is worthy of attention, prevention, and prohibition every day.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dana and Chris Loesch

The Free Range Texan & Dana Loesch, BlogCon '13
Photo Copyright © 2013, P-G Matuszak. All rights reserved.

Dana Loesch is often the target of insults, threats, and attempted ridicule. How she appears to remain above it so much of the time is a testament to her character and grace.

On Twitter as in real life, her husband is quick to her defense, often taking up the arguments she tries to sidestep. On Facebook, he often posts wonderful tidbits about how lucky he is to have her as a wife. he and I have, on occasion, gone back and forth praising our spouses and agreeing we are both lucky men.

Their love for each other is obvious. Given Dana's profession and calling, it takes a big man to stay by her side and put up with all the hate cast her way. I know if that were my wife, it would weigh heavily upon me every second of every day. In these times, loyalty and devotion are too often left unrecognized when they should be praised.

I have caught a couple of episodes of Dana's show on "The Blaze". I have listened to her radio show via internet radio. It is nothing less than over-exaggerated hyperbole to claim that Dana is "constantly outraged" or pedals hatred. She is informative. She debates factually but passionately. She uses humor and personal anecdotes. She entertains and informs.

I have found both of these people to be warm, caring and likeable. They are not just nice and cordial. They are genuinely good people.

I have met them both in person three times. It isn't enough to say we are close friends or best buddies. "Friends" may even be too strong a way to characterize the relationship. "Acquaintances" is a better descriptor. I would say we are colleagues of a sort.

The first time I met Dana, she kicked me. I know that doesn't sound "nice". I had been working up the courage to overcome being star-struck and try to talk to her. I had no problem talking with Chris. He's rather open and approachable. But Dana is Dana. When all you know of her is her on-air personality, she can be a little intimidating.

So I had enough beer in me to try to introduce myself. Fingers Malloy was walking in front of me. Dana attempted to kick him. Her foot struck me, accidentally, instead. So, I figured it was not the best time to make the introduction. I ended up outside the venue talking with Brandon Darby and Mandy Nagy instead.

But this was just a couple of weeks after Andrew Breitbart passed away. Many of Andrew's friends, colleagues, and fans were there. If Dana were "constantly outraged" she would not have been able to help keep spirits up and motivate people to stay the course.

The second time I met the couple in person, Chris flat out told me to introduce my wife to Dana. I did. This was days after a mutual acquaintance, "Chip", had passed away. Dana and Chip were close friends. I knew him only in passing. Amid a busy conference, Dana was trying to make arrangements to be at the funeral. She was sad and overwhelmed. Still, she took the time to sit, eat, and talk with my wife. They spoke about home schooling and being mothers and professionals. In effect, Dana very quickly befriended my rather shy wife. The Free Range Texan does not warm up to people very quickly. But she warmed up to Dana in what seemed like seconds.

The third meeting, we had our kid with us. Our kid is a huge fan of the song (and video) Chris did with Steve Crowder. She was ecstatic to meet Chris. Dana struck a harmonious chord with the kid as well. Dana gave a speech at this event that had our mini-munster enthralled.

What remains is a simple fact. The Loeschs are the type of family my family would love to hang out and socialize with. It isn't a star-struck mentality of some crazed fans. They are not family friends, but could easily be.

Does Dana's humor or rhetoric anger, embarrass, or otherwise offend some people? I'm sure it does. But that doesn't make her a "bad" person. It makes her an honest person.

Nobody is perfect. We do not agree on every issue, etc. But Dana  and Chris are good people whether you agree with them or not.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Texas Securities Board warns of issues with Bitcoin

Austin, Tx. February 25, 2014 -- The Texas State Securities Board warns Texans against investing in digital currencies such as Bitcoin.

The board's press release carries concerns and warnings of fraud and security issues associated with digital currencies. Among those concerns is that such currencies are not backed as legal tender by any government. That means that nothing legally binds them as acceptable units of barter, trade or settlement of debts.

In addition, the TSSB warns that digital currencies may be compromised easier than "hard currencies" in events such as hacking. They cite one example of a Japanese firm, Mt. Gox, ceased operations on Feb.24, 2014, effectively eliminating 6 percent of Bitcoins on the market.

Texas Securities Commissioner John Morgan stated:

“Although digital currencies such as Bitcoin are often touted as a sophisticated, online alternative to traditional currencies, investors should realize these currencies are not tangible, they are not issued by a government, and are not currently subject to traditional regulation or monetary policy.”
For more information, citizens are encouraged to contact:

Joseph Rotunda, Director, Enforcement Division, 512-305-8392,
or Robert Elder, Communications, 512-305-8386 or at the TSSB.

Below are key points from the TSSB press release:

Although Bitcoin and other digital currencies are becoming more popular, they present significant risks when part of a securities offering.  These risks include the following:
  • Questionable security of the exchanges dealing in Bitcoins and other digital currencies, highlighted by Mt. Gox, the Japan-based Bitcoin exchange that apparently ceased operations Feb. 24. A reported series of security breaches at Mt. Gox may have caused the loss of 6% of the Bitcoins of circulation.
  • Digital currencies exist only on computers and are almost always used as part of transactions that are effectuated through cyberspace. The electronic nature of digital currencies may provide fertile ground for hackers, who may be able to remotely compromise computer security systems and effectively steal digital currencies. Investors are therefore highly reliant upon their own computer security systems, as well as those provided by other parties, to protect investment programs tied to digital currencies.
  • Digital currencies may provide promoters with a significant degree of anonymity.  Unscrupulous promoters may be able to exploit the anonymous nature of certain digital currencies to conceal their true identity and assist in the concealment and laundering of the proceeds of a fraudulent investment offering. 
  • Securities offerings that incorporate digital currencies may be highly dependent upon their growth and acceptance in retail and commercial marketplaces.  Also, any change in consumer confidence, user demographic or governmental regulation, or the introduction of new and competing forms of digital currencies, may negatively affect the liquidity or value of such securities offerings.


Monday, February 24, 2014

San Antonio Education Expo

Packed house at SATP expo. The Free Range Texan glares at the photographer for distracting her during the presentation

Some may think the Tea party is "dead".

Those who popped into the San Antonio Tea Party Expo on February 22nd wouldn't think so. The place was packed.

The Free Range Texan and Mental Aikido's P-G Matuszak both attended. 

Speakers presented information on the progressive undermining of public education, giving suggestions on how parents can mitigate or combat Common Core, CSCOPE, and Critical Theory based curricula. The best advice given was two-fold. First, parents need to get involved in educating their own kids. That means augmenting classes from school with history, civics, and morality at home. The second is to be more involved in local and state education governing bodies through engaging elected and appointed officers.

Other speakers educated attendees on Agenda 21 and how the UN is getting directly involved with local and municipal governments. This tied into the education theme. Many curricula are allegedly designed to incorporate Agenda 21 principles into school indoctrination programs. Not only is the International Baccalaureate curriculum sponsored by the UN's Agenda 21 initiative, but every other Agenda 21 initiative is allegedly promoted in CSCOPE, Common Core, and other curricula.

Articles exploring the above described presentations and other stories coming out of the expo are forthcoming at Brenner Brief News. In the meantime, enjoy these photos from the event. 

Free Range Texan & Gen. Washington pose for a photo
Gen. Washington (reenactment role player) gives benediction and history lesson on his birthday
San Antonio Tea Party Patriots' Education Committee Chair Sal Apicelli

San Antonio Tea Party President Allen Tharp gives "State of the SATP" address.

Friday, February 21, 2014

It's gone and not coming back

I'd like to say this essay is about "regret". But it really isn't. It's about remembering things and wishing things could return to how they once were. It's something we all do. In most cases, we should stop. We don't. It's human nature.

This morning, I found myself listening to a song called "Once Beautiful" by the wonderful Gothic-rock band, The Last Dance.

The song is about reclaiming. It is about reclaiming youth. It reaches beyond just youthful looks. It is about reclaiming some of  that innocent naivety and exuberance. The song is beautiful.

Make me beautiful again
And feel like I'm special still
And remind me how to smile
And feel like diamonds

The problem is it "pings" on elements of my post-combat stress (aka PTSD). It doesn't always. Many songs do that, on occasion. Other things can create those nostalgic "flashbacks". For instance, when I grill steaks, I cannot stay by the grill. I put them on the grill then go inside and time them. The smell of the burning beef reminds me of the wounds some suffered during various attacks against us in Iraq. In fact, smells are the biggest triggers. Blowing dust in Arizona in late spring does the same thing -- triggers memory recall.

But the song came on. The powerful lyrics reached in. The song doesn't make me recall the war. It makes me compare myself to how I was before it to how I was each time I returned  from it.

As my voice, it's silent
And my heart, it feels less than before
And my feelings fail me
Pretending to be lovely

I've come a long way. I have very strong coping mechanisms. I recognize "flashbacks" and bouts of  "survivor guilt" for what they are. I know that they each will pass, and I let them. I don't cling to them or swell on them. I let the feelings flow through. They usually leave in a minute or two. Then I move  onto more immediate and important things, like laundry or writing.

However, when I returned from my first deployment, I didn't recognize myself. I scared myself. Emotionally, I didn't "feel". Then I would "feel" too much. Repeat. This went on for maybe a month. Then I pulled my head out of my seat.

The one thing that kept me from even seeing the edge of the "deep end" was research. I research and read. I found out that what I was going through  was very common upon redeployment. In other words, my feeling unnatural was perfectly normal.

But, one thing was gone, left in the sand:  my innocence. I went back three more times. Two of those times I made the mistake of thinking I'd find it. That was stupid. It's gone. I've seen too much. It cannot be unseen. It can, however, be learned  from. It has. 

There are things I've done that I call "regrettable". I'm not sure if  that term applies accurately. Mostly, I refer to things I had to do in combat.

See, I don't regret doing those things. I know I don't. The reason I know that I don't is that I would do the same if placed again in a similar situation. In fact, there would probably be less hesitation. What I wish, though, is that those situations never happened.

I cannot say that I wish I had not been involved in those situations. If it hadn't been me, it may have been somebody else. If it was nobody, things may have been worse and more people may have been harmed or killed. I firmly believe that my actions saved more lives than they cost.

There are trade-offs. That innocence may be gone, but I now have a bank of experiences that give me an edge in certain things. I know I can survive harsh conditions. I know what it's like to not eat for days, and that it won't kill me to skip a meal or six. I know that will and determination can get me through things that seem insurmountable. I know that humor can save your soul.

I know evil. I saw it first hand. I also so some of the deepest compassion and good. War can bring out the best and worst of people. It's like a flood or tornado. Look at all the people who rallied when Katrina hit New Orleans. My own direct experiences fighting the Monument Fire and volunteering to help evacuees attest to similar. The fire brought out thieves and looters. It also scared away apathy and banded communities together.

Yes, my innocence is gone. With it is my youth. I no longer see things the same way. But now that I have the perspective I do, I've concluded that I'm better off without them.

Make me see, make me listen, make me wonder
Make me feel, make me dream and not surrender

Through this I learned one very important life-lesson. Letting go does not mean forgetting. It means learning to remember that it's just a memory, a lesson, an experience. It means knowing that it made me who I am now, and I would not be "me" without them. Letting go means not clinging to them. It means not dwelling on those things an keeping the present locked in the past. Letting go means freedom.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Texas morns the passing of David A. Fowler

David A. Fowler was an American patriot and US Army veteran whose life of service did much to make Texas, the nation, and  the world a better place. His work will be forever remembered, and he will be  sorely missed.

David A. Fowler served on the Texas Governor's Office Committee on People with Disabilities.

Pundits and activists on both sides of the aisle like to point fingers accusing the other side of not caring about disabled people. The reality in Texas is this is not true of either side, in aggregate. Certainly there may be individuals on each side who don't prioritize issues related  to the disabled as heavily as others. But looking at the big picture, across the spectrum, the facts show equal compassion on both sides.

The Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities is one example of bipartisan efforts to improve the quality of life and opportunities for prosperity for disabled persons. The current Attorney General, who is running for Governor this year, is another example. State senators such as Leticia Van de Putte demonstrate more empathy. Regardless of her political motivations, Van de Putte did sponsor key bills directed at providing better opportunities for disabled veterans, in particular.

David A. Fowler worked seemingly tirelessly both as a committee member and with various non-profit organizations to better the quality of life and provide better opportunities for prosperity to disabled persons.

Fowler's extensive work and history as both a Soldier and as an activist working towards those goals is best summarized in the press release from Governor Rick Perry's office. It is with humble hearts and deep sadness that the press release is presented in its entirety below:

The Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities is deeply saddened by the recent loss of our long-time Committee member  and friend, David Fowler.  David was an insightful and passionate disability leader in Texas and nationally.  David died this past weekend from complications from a respiratory illness.

David A. Fowler was a retired U.S. Army Veteran who served as the National Vice President for the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the President of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Texas Chapter. He previously served as the Vice President and Advocacy Director of the Texas Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America and as a Commissioner on the Houston Commission on Disabilities. He was a member the Disabled American Veterans and the Army 82nd Airborne Division Association. Mr. Fowler attended Houston Community College.

David was admired by all who knew him for his powerful commitment to full inclusion and participation for people with disabilities, especially veterans with disabilities. David championed legislation for veterans with disabilities that led to improved access to services and programs in Texas and nationally for veterans with disabilities. 

David had been involved with Paralyzed Veterans of American for over 20 years.  He believed in “paying it forward” and devoted his life to mentoring and advocating for veterans who are paralyzed due to a spinal cord injury.

David enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division.  In 1984, he was injured in a diving accident which resulted in quadriplegia.  His accident occurred before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act; however, the passage of the ADA, in which Paralyzed Veterans played an instrumental role, ensured that all individuals with disabilities would be given equal rights and opportunities. David often educated the public that the ADA opened opportunities for full participation in all areas of public life. David said,  “[Going] to a movie without being told that I was a fire hazard, being able to go into the front door of a restaurant [and] being able to go back to work” are just some of the many benefits that he experienced. “It was like the world was finally welcoming us,” he said.

David participated in a variety of adaptive sports.  He was an active participant in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) in 1991 and used adaptive equipment to bowl, according to David, “better than he could before he was injured.”  In 20 years, David never missed the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in which he competed in power soccer, slalom, wheelchair races and power relay events.  After attending his first Games, Fowler was seized with thoughts of, “If I can do this, what else can I do?”  He thought, “How can I pay back this organization that is improving my life?” David was a featured athlete on the General Mills Cheerios box sold in military markets as the Gold Medal winner of the 2007 National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

In 1991, he became actively involved in the Texas Chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America (TPVA) in many capacities, including service as advocacy director, vice president, president and national director. Fowler also served on several committees for Paralyzed Veterans of America, including the Field Advisory Committee. Over the years he was an ardent leader for PVA.  At the urging of many veterans, and with the support of his wife, Marilou, he was elected as Paralyzed Veterans’ national vice president in October 2011. “Even though the responsibilities come with a lot of trials and tribulations, the reward is great when you realize that you made an impact on someone’s life,” he said. “I’m paying it forward for the next guys coming behind us, just like the people 27 years ago did for me.”

David was appointed by Governor Rick Perry in December of 2006 to the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD).  David was an active and influential member of GCPD, including making policy recommendations to the Governor and Legislature related to veterans services in Texas.  David also served as an advocate on the United/Continental Accessible Travel Advisory Board, helping the travel industry understand the unique issues related to air travel for people with disabilities.

Fowler was involved in his local community by serving on the Houston Commission on Disabilities and other committees that had input regarding accessibility in the local stadiums and the Metrorail transit system.

Our thoughts, prayers and sincere gratitude go out to David’s family at this difficult time, especially David’s wife, Marilou, who has been his steadfast partner and best friend throughout his life. 

In lieu of flowers, a memorial endowment fund has been set up through the National Paralyzed Veterans of America. The David Fowler Memorial Endowment will assist in educating clinicians about spinal cord injury, researching better care and assisting Veterans with satisfying careers.

Memorial Donations can be sent to Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), David Fowler Memorial, 801 Eighteenth Street, NW Washington, DC 20006-3517  (

Mr. Fowler, some day we'll meet in the Elysian fields of The Fiddler's Green. We'll drink a toast to Gary Owen punctuated by two words:  "Hooah! Airborne!".

"To us and those like us -- damned few left"